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01/2(% 3,'4*(*56 7 8*(+/% 9!*
Copyright: 2011 by BestsellerBound.com,Darcia lelle
All rights to this Anthology: Volume One, 1wo, and 1hree reser·ed.
Rights to the indi·idual works contained, are owned by the submitting authors, and,or publishers, who, by
submitting, ha·e permitted their use in this collection. Copyright owners are listed with each work.
No part oí this book may be reproduced in any íorm or by any electronic or mechanical means including iníormation storage and
retrie·al systems, without permission in writing írom the author,s,. 1his book contains works oí íiction and noníiction. 1he characters,
incidents, and dialogue in the íictions are drawn írom the author`s imagination and are not to be construed as real or historically
accurate. Any resemblance to actual e·ents or persons, li·ing or dead, is entirely coincidental
:1.4 1+'4*) 41& 2)*;<-%- '4% =<)&' .412'%) *= '4%<) !*)>? !<'4 *,(6 1 =%! %@.%2'<*,&" 94*&% &1/2(%&?
!4<.4 1)% &4*)' &'*)<%& *) *'4%) %@.%)2'&? 1)% ,*'%-"
1. Darcia lelle - 1be Cvttivg íage
2. Stacy Juba - 1revt,·íire Year. .go 1oaa,
3. Judy Alter - Mattie
4. Mike Nettleton - ´ovetive. a Creat Covvotiov
5. James Michael Radcliííe - 1be Cvaraiav`. .¡¡revtice
6. Rebecca Ryals Russell - Oae..a; ´era¡b,v !ar.
¯. Susan lelene Gottíried - 1reror`. ´ovg
8. John Samuels - Orercovivg .DíD !itbovt Meaicatiov
9. Cynthia Meyers-lanson - M, .rvOr - M, íife
10. Andrew L. Kauíman - !bite 1be ´arage ´tee¡.
11. Charlie Courtland - 1be íiaaev !itt of tbe Dragov
12. Ami Blackwelder - 1be ´bifter. of 2010
13. Magnolia Belle - 1`ov Ma
14. Robert J. McDonnell - Roc/ c Rott Ri¡·Off
15. Stephen D. Rogers - ´bot 1o Deatb
16. 1y Johnston - More 1bav Kiv
1¯. Jenniíer Lane - !itb Cooa ßebarior
18. Cliíí Ball - |.vr¡er
19. Carolyn J. Rose - íevtoc/ ía/e
20. Syl·ia Massara - 1be Otber ßo,frieva
21. M.L. Kemp - Deatb of a Davcivg Ma.ter
A412'%) B,% 7 C1).<1 D%((% 7 94% A+''<,5 :-5%
Darcia lelle has a head íull or characters demanding their stories be told. Originally írom Massachusetts,
she now writes in the sunshine oí llorida, in a home ruled by dogs and cats. \ou can learn more about
Darcia and her books at: www.Darcialelle.com
Author blog: http:,,quietíurybooks.com,blog
Amazon.com author page: http:,,www.amazon.com,Darcia-lelle,e,B002L1Ml¯O
Copyright © 2010 Darcia lelle
94% A+''<,5 :-5%
My name is Lilly Skye Destiny Summers. My parents thought it was a great idea to gi·e me three names with
the initials LSD to go with my last name. lor years they called me LSD Summers. 1hey li·ed in a commune and
did way too much acid.
Most people call me Skye. Lxcept my íather`s parents, who always call me Lilly, and e·en that name is said
with some disdain. 1hey`re partial to my íather`s sister`s kids. My cousins` names are Victoria Marie and
Benjamin James. Benjamin is a gay surgeon li·ing his liíe in the closet and Victoria is a P.1.A. mom with a
Princeton degree in bullshit and an addiction to painkillers. My grandparents are in their late eighties and li·e in a
íancy housing complex íor old people. My grandíather wears Depends and drool constantly dribbles írom the
corners oí his mouth. le still puts on a tie beíore going down to dinner e·ery night. 1he whole thing is rather
I`m 3¯, married to an electrician who could ha·e made huge money as a porn star. I`·e kept my maiden name
íor reasons other than my lo·e oí LSD Summers. My husband`s name is Scott Skyler. lad I changed my name, I
would ha·e been called Skye Skyler. Skye Summers is bad but Skye Skyler is ridiculous.
I work as a hairstylist in a salon called 1he Cutting Ldge. \hen I started my career 1¯ years ago, I had
·isions oí my uníettered creati·ity transíorming ordinary women into sexy tramps or glowing goddesses. I was
terribly naï·e. Now I spend my days trying to explain to the round-íaced Oreo-addict that, no matter what I do
to her hair, she will not lea·e looking like Angelina Jolie. 1ry and pull that oíí tactíully.
At the moment I am contemplating murder. 1oday is lriday and I ha·e been on my íeet since 8 a.m. 1he
clock abo·e the desk tells me it is now 2:10. I ha·e not eaten lunch. la·e not e·en peed all day. 1he woman in
my chair is speaking nonstop and I am thinking about killing her.
I smile and nod while Marla prattles on incessantly about her existence. She watches my reílection in the
mirror - or, more likely, her own. She is talking about Amy, her 5-year-old princess`. According to Marla, Amy
is giíted beyond measure. I`m told that e·eryone she comes in contact with comments on the child`s
extraordinary charm and intelligence.
Amy recently stuck a wad oí chewing gum in a classmate`s hair. 1his is not something Marla would e·er tell
me. I know this because I had to cut the wad out oí the other child`s beautiíul blonde curls. 1hat child`s mother
is also a regular client and not a ían oí Marla or Amy.
I ga·e Amy her íirst haircut when she was 3. She bit me twice. Last week, Amy kicked me while I tried to cut
her bangs. Amy is indeed a princess.
Marla turns the topic to her son, Justin, age 8. Apparently he should be declared a child prodigy because he
has read an entire Dr. Seuss book to his sister.
I continue to smile, snip the requested one-quarter inch írom Marla`s bangs. \es, precisely one-quarter oí an
inch. And one-eighth oí an inch oíí the back. Am I supposed to hold a measuring tape to her hair· Does she·
My jaw aches írom the tension oí my phony smile. I catch a glimpse oí my reílection and mar·el at how
relaxed I appear. No one would know that I am currently harboring íantasies oí cutting oíí Marla`s períect little
ears that hold the períect pearl studs that her períect husband presented to her on their Alaskan cruise last
Marla is saying, \hen I watch Amy and Justin interact with other children, I realize the tremendous
ad·antage my children ha·e with me being home, rather than selíishly pursuing a career.`
I smile, íantasize about cutting Marla`s tongue oíí with my surgically sharpened >500 shears.
I don`t ha·e children, which Marla has made clear she íeels is a tragedy oí epic proportions. 1he real tragedy
is that people like Marla are allowed to procreate.
I ha·e three dogs. Neal is a terrier mix, Cassady is a Chihuahua, and Jack is a chocolate lab mixed with
something oí questionable descent. 1hey are named aíter Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac, two íamous writers oí
the Beat Generation.
My parents were thrilled that I named my dogs aíter íigures that were so central to liíe in the sixties. Oí
course, ha·ing been raised by ílower children and gi·en the name Lilly Skye Destiny Summers, you`d ha·e to
expect some oí the sixties subculture to rub oíí on me.
My three dogs are rescues and tend to be spoiled brats with bad manners. At the moment, they are probably
lounging on my couch, watching Jerry Springer and raiding the snack cabinet. Okay, in reality they are probably
sprawled out in their respecti·e beds, sleeping blissíully. Lither way, I wish I could join them.
My mind has wandered and I missed the last minute or so oí Marla`s monologue. She doesn`t seem to notice.
I continue to smile and nod.
I glance at Renee, my coworker and good íriend íor the past decade. Being surrounded by mirrors makes it
impossible to roll our eyes or gesture obscenely. Renee`s client is talking with her entire body, her hands mo·ing
rapidly and her head bouncing like one oí those stupid Bobblehead toys. Do people not realize how hard it is to
work on a mo·ing target·
Renee and I oíten toss around the idea oí quitting 1he Cutting Ldge and going to work at a íuneral parlor.
Our clients would then ha·e to sit still. And they wouldn`t speak, so we wouldn`t ha·e to pretend to care what
they say. I don`t tell Renee that I constantly íantasize about turning my li·e clients into cada·ers.
I mo·e on to the blow-dry stage oí Marla`s hairstyle. Uníortunately, the noise does not deter her írom
speaking. Amy has her íirst jazz recital next month,` she says. \e`ll need you to do her hair early that
morning. I`m thinking that she should wear it up, maybe with tendrils around her íace.`
1endrils. \hy do mothers want their young daughters to look like the íashion models in Vogue· \hat is
wrong with looking like the children they are· I keep my smile in place and tell Marla that oí course we can do
My next client walks in the door. She is booked íor a highlight and has her newborn son with her. le is
already íussing. I can now understand how people suddenly snap and commit mass murder.
Saturday morning, barely ¯:30, and here I am unlocking the door to 1he Cutting Ldge. My 8 a.m. client
watches írom her car like a newly released inmate on a combination oí crack and Prozac. Lyes wide, lips parted,
waiting to lunge out her door and pounce on me. 1en years retired and the woman`s main entertainment seems
to come írom crawling up my ass.
I ha·e maybe íi·e minutes to get the coííee dripping, ílip on the curling irons, get the air conditioner started
on ·enting the stale air írom the building, and all the other assorted tasks that come with opening the business
each morning. 1hen Lillian will be on my heels and I`ll ha·e no reprie·e íor about nine hours.
My coworkers will arri·e soon but not beíore Lillian waddles her way inside. A íew times I`·e tried lea·ing
the lights oíí, thinking maybe she`d realize the salon doesn`t actually open until 8, which is why I write that time
on her appointment card each week. I`·e since come to belie·e that she doesn`t íeel business hours or
appointment times apply to her.
Muttering to myselí, I shuííle into the back room, switch on the lights, and scream. 1hen I laugh. Not
because it`s íunny. \ell, okay, it is sort oí íunny.
Roxie, our newest stylist, is straddled o·er a young male, presumably her boyíriend. 1his male is kicked back
in one oí our waxing chairs. lis pants are around his ankles and her skirt is hiked up to her waist. Roxie
scrambles oíí the guy and I notice that my entrance has done nothing to diminish his excitement.
Pull your damn pants up,` Roxie mutters.
1he guy obeys. Roxie looks at me, her íace ílushed with either embarrassment or sexual stimulation. She
says, Oh my god.`
Lillian will be walking in any second,` I tell her. \ou`d better pull yourselí together.`
I...` Roxie stammers. She can`t meet my eyes. I didn`t realize the time. I thought. \e were alone and.`
I`·e always wanted to do it in one oí those chairs, too,` I say.
Roxie laughs. She is all oí 20 years old, has a pierced eyebrow and bright pink streaks in her hair. I íeel old
standing beside her.
\ou won`t say anything to Lorraine·` she asks.
No,` I assure her. I won`t. But she`d probably laugh too.`
Lorraine is the owner. She isn`t around much anymore, being semi-retired and sick oí people. I can`t say that
I blame her.
Roxie steps into the bathroom to put herselí back together. And, hopeíully, to wash her hands. ler partner
slips out the back door, looking like a 5-year-old who`d just been ripped out oí his sandbox.
1he íront door pops open and Lillian calls, Good morning, Skye! I don`t smell coííee, yet. \ou`re mo·ing
I bite my lip to keep írom spewing obscenities her way. \e are directly across the street írom a coííee shop.
Lillian has probably been in that parking lot since the crack oí dawn. \et it ne·er occurs to her that we run a hair
salon, not a coííee shop, and maybe she should drag her íat ass across the street and get her own damn coííee.
I manage to make it through an entire Saturday without stabbing someone`s jugular ·ein. I must admit that I
considered it more oíten than not. Maiming or killing my clients has become a íantasy I indulge in with
disturbing írequency. 1his should probably concern me. It doesn`t.
Scott and I ha·e plans tonight. \e`re going to a party at a íriend`s house. 1he occasion is another íriend`s
birthday. No party hats. Just a lot oí booze and íood. I`m in charge oí chips and dip, which means I ha·e to stop
at the grocery store on my way home. I guess I should learn to plan ahead.
I hate the grocery store. And I`m running late. 1he combination doesn`t help my already sour mood.
My 1 p.m. client had been 20 minutes late. ler boyíriend had spent the pre·ious night at her apartment.
1hey`d woken up late and he had taken her out íor a big breakíast. 1ime had gotten away írom them. low nice
1heir sappy little lo·e story had thrown oíí my schedule íor the remainder oí the aíternoon. Now I`m
irritated and late and I ha·e to stop at the dreaded grocery store.
Naturally the place is crowded. Is there e·er a time when a grocery store isn`t swarming with people who
consider the trip to be a major íamily outing· I see a parking spot open up near the íront oí the lot. linally
something is working in my ía·or.
I ha·e my directional on and I`m about to turn into the spot when a bitch in a Vol·o swings around írom the
opposite lane and zips in íront oí me. She almost takes oíí my bumper. I want to take oíí her head.
She gi·es me a smug smile. I stay where I am. I`m thinking oí running her o·er.
Okay, so common sense kicks in and I realize that running the bitch o·er in broad daylight in a crowded
parking lot probably isn`t the best idea. I step on the gas and park at the end oí the lot.
As I`m getting out oí my car, I see the bitch walking away írom her pristine sil·er Vol·o. ler hair is bottle-
blonde, her clothes high-end ílash. I can imagine the type oí nightmare client she is and I íeel instant pity íor her
I`m walking by her sparkling Vol·o and I notice the co·er íor the gas cap is open. I ha·e a thought and it`s
not a nice one. But it`s better than the one about running her o·er.
I shake my head, tell myselí no. I`m all grown up now. I`m an adult, I tell myselí. So what, myselí says back. I
ignore that childish selí.
I step into the grocery store and nudge my way through the sea oí people. I get the chips and two kinds oí
dip. I`m about ready to lea·e. 1hen I see the Vol·o bitch. She`s ílashing her diamond-co·ered íingers at an
employee, demanding the poor kid search their stockroom íor a speciíic íla·or oí salad dressing that she must
ha·e tonight. I want to hit her o·er the head with a bottle oí Newman`s Own.
I pass the aisle but can`t escape her shrill ·oice. 1hat`s when my childish selí wins o·er and I grab a canister
oí sugar oíí a shelí. I stand in the 20 Items Or Less lane. ladn`t it used to be 10 Items Or Less· I count the stuíí
in the cart oí the person in íront oí me. She has twenty-one items. I think about kicking her in the ass.
I ha·e a clear memory oí being in the grocery store with my íather. I was 8. \e had stopped to get
marshmallows and Rice Krispies. \e were going to make Rice Krispies 1reats and watch Disney mo·ies all
\e were standing in line at the checkout. 1he store wasn`t all that busy but there weren`t many checkouts
open. I remember we were íourth in line. I couldn`t wait to get our night started.
A woman strode toward us, then cut in íront oí us in line as ií we weren`t there. She simply stepped in the
space my íather had courteously leít between us and the old guy in íront oí us. 1he guy had a strong smell oí
whiskey and sweat, which might ha·e been why my íather had leít that space.
I was li·id. My 8-year-old mind couldn`t comprehend that an adult would beha·e so uníairly. I tugged on my
íather`s slee·e and said, 1hat lady just cut us! 1hat`s not íair!`
My íather looked down at me and smiled that careíree smile oí his. le said, And that just means you`ll get
to stay up a little later tonight!`
At the time, I thought that was a great deal. Now I think it`s total bullshit.
Aíter íi·e minutes that íelt like 30, I pay íor my items and hurry out to the parking lot. People are scattered
about, loading groceries in their cars, walking back and íorth, chasing unruly toddlers. No one looks my way.
I approach the Vol·o. A quick glance tells me I am alone in the immediate area. I slip the sugar írom my bag
and casually dump most oí it into the bitch`s gas tank. 1wo minutes later I am in my car, heading home, and
laughing like a giddy child.
A412'%) 9!* 7 0'1.6 E+F1 7 9!%,'6GH<;% I%1)& 35* 9*-16
Stacy Juba is the author oí the mystery no·els 1revt,·íire Year. .go 1oaa, and ´iv/ or ´riv ,Mainly Murder
Press,, as well as the patriotic children's picture book 1be ítag Kee¡er. She is a íreelance writer and íormer
daily newspaper reporter with more than a dozen writing awards to her credit, including three New Lngland
Press Association awards and the American Cancer Society New Lngland Chapter`s Sword oí lope Media
Award. ler young adult no·el íace·Off was published under her maiden name, Stacy Drumtra, when she was
18 years old.
Author website: http:,,www.stacyjuba.com,blog
Author blog: http:,,www.StacyJuba.com,blog
Amazon.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,2·ay5hl
Copyright © 2010 Stacy Juba
9!%,'6GH<;% I%1)& 35* 9*-16
Kris Langley stared at the bright newsprint lit up on the microíilm reader. 1he top headline leaped oíí page
one. "Missing Barmaid Murdered." She squinted o·er the story oí Diana lerguson, a young woman íound
bludgeoned to death in the woods. In little o·er a week, it would be the twenty-íiíth anni·ersary. A quarter oí a
century ago, Diana must'·e dressed and dri·en out as always. An e·ening like any other. By the end oí the night,
she was dead, her liíe extinguished like the other ·ictims on íate's hit list.
Most people had íorgotten Diana by now. In the black and white yearbook photograph, she didn't smile.
Straight dark hair curtained her serious o·al íace. Diana had her arms crossed on a table, slender íingers too
delicate to protect her írom a killer.
Kris ílipped to a blank page in her notebook, scribbled "Diana lerguson" and stopped writing. Resurrecting
the tragedy in her "25 and 50 \ears Ago 1oday" column would catch readers` attention, but it seemed
She jumped as Dex \agner, the se·enty-year-old editor-in-chieí oí the írevovt Dait, ^er., slapped a rolled-
up newspaper against someone`s desk. "Jacqueline, why the hell didn`t we ha·e this theater group íeature· 1he
lremont Community Players are in our own backyard."
Suppressing a grin, Kris swung around in her seat. She could use a distraction right about now. Dex wa·ed
the competition paper in the air, red circles and slashes marking halí the page. In her three weeks as editorial
assistant, Kris had enjoyed Dex`s tantrums. So íar, none had been directed at her.
Managing Lditor Jacqueline McCormack tossed back her blonde ponytail, gathered in a tan íabric scrunchie.
She owned a world class selection oí ponytail holders that complemented her designer wardrobe. Kris couldn't
help thinking oí her as a thirty-íi·e-year-old cheerleader. Corporate Barbie.
"\e ran a story last week in our entertainment section," Jacqueline said. "1hey got the idea írom us. Gosh,
Dex, are you trying to blind me with that underlining·"
Dex paced to the oak bookshel·es and back to Jacqueline's neat desk. lis stomach bulged under a rumpled
gray suit and his wrists hung out oí jacket slee·es a couple inches too short. "I think we missed it."
"1rust me," Jacqueline said. "I put a headline on it myselí. \ou do read beyond the íront, don`t you, Dex·"
Grumbling under his breath, Dex opened 1be Creater Revivgtov Mirror, a large daily that co·ered the ten
towns in their readership area and more. Kris saw another column ballooned in red marker.
le pressed his index íinger against the lead paragraph, his penguin-patterned tie ílapping as he stooped
íorward. "\hat about the stabbing oí that Miles kid· \e should be talking to his íamily and we ha·en't e·en
contacted them. lor Christ's sake, do I ha·e to keep track oí e·erything·"
"Relax, I'm working on that," Bruce Patrick, the police and court reporter, said írom the doorway. le
swaggered o·er and hopped onto the edge oí Jacqueline's desk.
"I just got oíí the phone," he said. "1he parents are basket cases, but the siblings said I could come by
tonight. And it's an exclusi·e."
A 19-year-old college student had murdered his classmate, Scott Miles, in a íight that went too íar. Kris had
edited the obit, stomach queasy as she cut "belo·ed son and brother" out oí the text. Dex insisted such phrases
only belonged in paid death notices.
Unlike the Diana lerguson case, there was no mystery to this homicide. Many young people had witnessed
the brawl, which started o·er a girl. It had lingered in her memory, though, a teenage boy who went to a party
and leít dead in an ambulance. Another indi·idual singled out by íate, ne·er suspecting he had no íuture. le
picked the wrong girl. lor that, he died.
Kris shuddered despite the heat in the newsroom. 1he íamily members must íeel like their world had spun
out oí control. She remembered the grie·ing process well: walking around as ií in warm Jell-O, arms and legs
hea·y, head diííicult to hold up, and crying until numbness íroze the tears. lorgetting had disturbed her the
most, slipping away into the calm relieí oí sleep, then jolting awake in cold horror.
Jacqueline's ponytail bounced in glee. "1hey'll talk·" She turned to Bruce. "1erriíic. la·e you assigned a
Bruce rested his notebook on his thigh. "\ou bet. I didn't mention the photos, but once we're there, I'm sure
they'll go along with it."
"Get two or three color shots íor the íront," Jacqueline said, a lilt in her ·oice.
Kris abandoned her quiet corner oí the newsroom and strode o·er to the group. Bruce and Jacqueline had
ne·er suííered tragedy in their li·es, or they wouldn't act so blasé.
No one noticed Kris`s presence. She spoke quickly, beíore she lost her ner·e. "I know you want a good
story, but ha·e a little sympathy. Sending a photographer unannounced would be taking ad·antage oí these poor
ler co-workers regarded her with blank expressions.
"\hy·" Bruce asked. "1he kids are oí age. It`s not like we`re exploiting pre-schoolers."
"Ií they're in·iting a reporter into their home, they should realize we intend to play up the story," Jacqueline
"1hey'll be emotional," Kris said. "A photographer will make them íeel worse. 1he least you could do is
Jacqueline íolded her arms, co·ering a horizontal row oí gold buttons on her biscuit-colored blazer. "I'm
sure they expect it, but Bruce was smart in setting it up this way. Ií they ha·e doubts, they'll be more likely to say
yes once our staíí has had a chance to de·elop a rapport. Ií the pictures bother them, the íamily can always
"1hey'll íeel pressured," Kris said. "1hey ha·e enough to deal with right now. \ou`·e got your exclusi·e.
\hy can't you just run photos oí the boy who died·"
"Kris, this is our job, not yours." Coldness had replaced Jacqueline's lilt. "1his paper tells it like it is. Ií you
can't accept that, then maybe you shouldn't work in a newsroom."
"Maybe you should treat your sources like human beings."
"\hy don't you stay out oí things that don't concern you· As I recall, you ha·e no news experience. I'm not
e·en sure why you were hired in the íirst place." Jacqueline glared at Dex.
1hey all knew the answer to that. 1he pre·ious editorial assistant had quit on Jacqueline's ·acation. Dex grew
impatient and placed a classiíied ad. Kris admitted she preíerred the dreaded íour-to-midnight shiít, and he hired
her on the spot. lis judgment wasn't good enough íor Jacqueline, who had reminded him oí the three-month
probation íor all employees.
Dex's shaggy salt and pepper eyebrows curled downward. "Kris does íine. She's bright and talented. Gi·e her
a chance to learn." le glowered at Bruce. "Next time you're working on a hot story, check with me."
le stalked to his desk, lea·ing the others gaping aíter him. ler neck and shoulder muscles tense, Kris
released a deep breath. She needed this job. Like it or not, she was stuck working with Barbie. "Sorry ií I
oííended you, Jacqueline. I just wanted to gi·e you another perspecti·e."
Jacqueline ignored her and gestured to Bruce. "Come on, let's discuss tomorrow's budget."
le snapped to attention and íollowed her into the coníerence room. Jacqueline carried herselí with the
posture oí a model, her back straight and an upward tilt to her chin. Jacqueline and her budget. Kris had once
asked Dex ií the paper was in okay shape, money-wise. She`d assumed Jacqueline was obsessed with the editorial
department`s íinances. Dex just laughed and said, "1hat`s news lingo íor story line-up."
As others in the newsroom headed out, Kris driíted back to the microíilm machine and her research. ler
editors demanded eight historical íacts per issue. Dex told her to play up light local íluíí as people liked seeing
their names in print, while Jacqueline said to emphasize hard news. Kris íound herselí trying to please them
At íirst, she had enjoyed exploring the older editions. liíty years ago, chunky blocks oí type took up the
íront page. Most articles came o·er the wire and staíí-written pieces had no bylines. Dex had explained how
reporters worked íor "the paper" in those days, not íor the recognition. But now ií Kris spent too much time on
the machine, the scrolling oí the íilm ga·e her motion sickness. 1he íocus le·er didn't work right, so she'd press
her íinger o·er the tape, holding it in place.
lrowning, Kris stared at the bold black headline splashed abo·e the subhead "$*-6 H*+,- J, H)%/*,'
0'1'% K**-&." lor the second time, she skimmed the article about Diana lerguson.
lRLMON1 - A 21-year-old cocktail waitress reported missing was íound bludgeoned to death Saturday
night in the woods behind the lremont State College baseball íield. Police ha·e identiíied the ·ictim as Diana
Marie lerguson oí 22 lutchins Circle.
lerguson, daughter oí Irene and the late Joseph lerguson, had been missing íor two days. She waited tables
at Rossi's Bar, and apparently leít work early 1hursday night to meet íriends at Campus Pizzeria on Robinson
A·enue, police said.
She was last seen ali·e shortly aíter 9 p.m., when witnesses said she leít the pizzeria with a íormer boyíriend,
Jared Peyton, a senior at lremont State College.
A student disco·ered the body while walking in the woods. Police responded to a call at 11:30 p.m. and
remo·ed the body, which was wrapped in a garbage bag.
lerguson's car, a 19¯5 Che·y, was íound behind the íormer Sal·atore's Restaurant on Purchase Street. 1he
restaurant has been ·acant íor a year.
According to Detecti·e Gerald lrank, lerguson had been hit in the head with a blunt object. Police belie·e
she was killed at another location. 1here were no traces oí sexual assault, police said.
"She wanted to be an artist," said her sister, Cheryl Soares, a substitute teacher at lremont ligh School. "She
had all these plans. Diana was such a good person. I can't belie·e she's dead."
According to Soares, her sister had been due back 1hursday at midnight and ne·er stayed out late without
calling. By 2 a.m., her mother grew worried, telephoning íriends and co-workers.
lerguson is sur·i·ed by her mother, sister, se·eral aunts, uncles and a nephew. luneral arrangements are
incomplete and under the direction oí the Bellwood luneral lome. Police are in·estigating the case. lrank says
he does not recall any other murders in the history oí the town.
Dex cleared his throat írom behind Kris. "Sorry you dislike the pictures oí that kid`s íamily, but most readers
want this. It sells papers."
Rubbing her blurry eyes, she turned to íace him. Another month oí poring o·er old news stories and she`d
need reading glasses.
"I realize I'm in the minority," she said. "1hanks íor sticking up íor me. I don't think Jacqueline is too
"Miss ligh and Mighty will get o·er it. Let me know ií she gi·es you a hard time." Leaning íorward, Dex
read o·er her shoulder. le had pulled oíí his suit jacket and rolled up his slee·es. "Is that the lerguson case·
low the hell did you dig this up· Christ, has it been twenty-íi·e years already·"
"\ou remember it·"
"\ho do you think co·ered the story·"
Kris peered up into his grizzled íace. "\ou're kidding."
"Reporters swarmed the scene. 1he cops brought us back to the police station and issued a statement. I was
ticked oíí because Saturday's paper had gone to press and we didn't ha·e a Sunday edition back then. \e got
scooped by the Ctobe, the íerata and the 1V guys on our own territory."
Dex touched the íirst line oí the article, his palm shadowing the light. Li·er spots stamped his swollen
knuckles. "I'll ne·er íorget how the editor changed my lead, calling her a twenty-one-year-old cocktail waitress.
And then that headline, 'Missing Barmaid Murdered.' It put a negati·e slant on her. I made them take oíí my
"\asn't this a big story·"
"\eah, but my daughter, Sadie, knew Diana in elementary school. Diana used to bring her dad to íather-
daughter banquets. She was shy, but she'd jabber when her dad was there. Used to amaze Sadie."
Kris stared at Diana's photograph. "Did Diana stay shy as she got older· As a teenager·"
"I don't know. Sadie went to lremont Catholic so the girls lost touch." Dex combed a íinger through his
mussed white hair."It was tough calling Diana's house aíter the murder. ler mother was a wreck, couldn't get
out a word without crying. Diana's sister took the phone away and ga·e a comment. I told her I'd known Diana
as a little girl. 1he sister trusted me."
"Did the police sol·e the murder·"
"Nope. lor a long time, the mother would run an obit page ad on Diana's birthday.I can almost remember it
word íor word. It said something about how liíe would ne·er be the same without her, but that Diana`s soul and
spirit would li·e on. She wrote that the íamily wouldn`t gi·e up until justice pre·ailed. It was the same boxed ad
"It`s amazing the desperate measures that will make you íeel better," Kris murmured. "It`s like the íriends
and relati·es who lea·e wooden crosses and ílowers at an accident scene. \ou can`t demonstrate your lo·e to the
person directly, so you íind other ways."
Silence dropped o·er them, not awkward, but Kris didn`t know how to íill it. Dex scrutinized her with the
intensity oí a liíelong journalist. "low you doing, Kid· \ou like this job· L·en the nutty hours·"
Kris ga·e him a rueíul grin. Something about Dex made it easy íor her to open up. "1hat's the best part. It`s
so quiet. Plus working late makes the night go íaster. I'll go home, read or do housework, then go to bed around
6 a.m. I ha·e trouble sleeping at night."
"Insomnia· 1hat's too bad. L·er tried medication·"
"Don't let Jacqueline work you too hard. Make sure you take a dinner break." Dex rustled his New Lngland
Patriots jacket oíí a plastic hanger in the closet.
"ley, Dex· Is it okay ií I don`t put the lerguson case in my column· I know it ought to be included, but I`m
worried about Diana`s íamily seeing it. Ií the mother stopped running those ads, maybe she`s íinally come to
terms with it."
le stuííed his arms into the coat and shrugged. "lell, I`m probably getting to be a soítie in my old age, but I
don`t see the sense oí dredging it up either. Not íor a blurb in the 25 \ears Ago 1oday` column."
"1hanks, Dex. la·e a good weekend."
Kris reached o·er and straightened the pile oí obits and press releases on her desk, right beside the microíilm
machine. She`d better íinish up with her historical anecdotes and get back to the present. 1en obits had trickled
in ·ia e-mail. 1he 11 p.m. deadline would sneak up íast.
Dex hadn't exaggerated when he'd warned that the staíí would consider her the newsroom sla·e, asking her
to handle a íi·e-page Department oí Public \orks announcement íor the next edition, or answer their
telephones ií they went to the bathroom. She also hadn't expected such a demanding public. People complained
about íront-page stories, police logs and crossword puzzles that had wrong answers in the solution box.
\et poor as the pay was, and despite her lowly status, Kris lo·ed her new job. ler old one, as administrati·e
assistant íor a Manhattan in·estments íirm, had exhausted her. She'd ne·er slept well, but o·er the past six
months it had gotten much worse. At night, Kris would bury her head in the pillow, unable to drown out the
cars, yells and sirens outside her Morningside leights apartment.
It was either be a zombie, or come home to quiet lremont, Massachusetts.
"1hat was quite a scene you made." Bruce, the cop reporter, leaned against her desk and the obits slid to the
le enjoyed the women in the íront oííice ra·ing about his "bedroom" eyes and russet gold hair, but Kris
couldn't stomach his annoying cockiness. Besides, she`d bet a month`s salary that his ·ibrant blue eyes were
courtesy oí Bausch & Lomb.
Bruce made no eííort to collect the papers. "I'·e ne·er seen you talk to anyone like that." le winked. "In our
short acquaintance, anyway. \e'll know each other better soon."
"I was just expressing my opinion." She bent to gather the scattered sheets.
"\ou're a passionate gal."
Kris rose and blocked the microíilm reader with her back. She didn`t want Bruce getting wind oí Diana
lerguson. le probably wouldn`t care anyway, but Kris íelt protecti·e oí Diana somehow. She adjusted the heap
oí paperwork on her o·erburdened desk. "I hope this disagreement doesn't come back to haunt me with
"Don't worry. Ií she's pissed at anyone, it's Dex. Is the old man dri·ing you crazy yet·"
"I like him. le acts crusty, but ií you look past that, he's a sweetheart."
"Sweetheart· Dex·" Bruce chuckled. "\ou're gonna íind that dear old Dex is past his prime."
Ií Kris had to waste precious minutes talking to Bruce, she may as well íish íor iníormation. "\hat's the deal
with Dex and Jacqueline· I don't get who's in charge. I thought he o·ersaw the day shiít and Jacqueline the
night, but I heard she's always here. \ho has íinal control·"
"Jacqueline's top dog, although Dex tends to íorget it. She and I worked together at a weekly on the South
Shore. She came here six months ago and called me when a reporting job opened."
"I didn't know you two had worked together," Kris said.
1hat explained why Bruce and Jacqueline meshed. Other reporters griped about the managing editor.
1ension drained out oí the newsroom on 1uesdays, Jacqueline's night oíí.
"She was my editor," Bruce said. "Listen, don't take Jacqueline personally. She'd sleep in the newsroom ií
they let her, and expects e·eryone else to do the same. She was married to her job more than her husband. Now
they're getting di·orced."
"1hat's too bad. Do they ha·e children·"
Bruce snorted. "Jacqueline· Ne·er. She won't admit it, but she's stressed out about this job, too. A daily was
a big step. Dex is another pain in her ass. Jacqueline has íull editorial control, but the company allowed Dex to
keep his title. 1emporarily."
"\hat do you mean·"
"1he publisher's pushing him to retire, and Dex said he'd consider it within the year. But the year's o·er. Ií
the old man doesn't smarten up and lea·e on his own, they're gonna íorce him out."
Kris gazed at Dex's desk with its dogeared towers oí írevovt Dait, ^er. issues. le'd told her that he had
started as a paper boy. le li·ed and breathed the news business.
"1hat's awíul," she said. "At least he has a chance to keep his dignity. I hope Dex takes it."
"Don't gi·e management any credit. 1hey're just bridging the transition. 1here's a bunch oí senior citizens
who read the paper and don't want to see changes."
"Poor us. \e'·e got to listen to his complaining. \ant to blow this place and get something to eat· I ha·e
time beíore my police rounds."
Bruce ílirted with e·ery woman at the paper. No sense íeeling ílattered.
"I can't lea·e," Kris said. "1oo many obits."
"low about lunch Monday beíore work·"
"Come on, it's not a date," Bruce said. "I'll íill you in on e·eryone. I'·e got all kinds oí gossip. \hat do you
Kris knew she could use an introduction to the oddities oí the staíí. Already, he'd pro·ided an eye-opener.
"Okay, sounds good."
le watched her with amusement. "\ou'll be glad you said yes, darling."
Darling· Oh, please.
She waited till he leít, then rewound the microíilm to a date shortly aíter Diana lerguson had disappeared.
1he paper had run a description oí Diana and a police telephone number. Kris turned oíí the machine.
1he yearbook picture remained imprinted in her mind. She`d read many articles about murder ·ictims o·er
the years, but Diana lerguson`s story aííected her more than usual. She had a sense that Diana was
Kris knew that íeeling well.
A412'%) 94)%% 7 E+-6 3('%) 7 L1''<%
Judy Alter is an award-winning writer oí íiction íor adults and young adults. lor much oí her career, she
íocused on the experiences oí women in the American \est, such as Mattie. ler work has been recognized
with Spur Awards írom \estern \riters oí America, \estern leritage ,\rangler, Awards írom the National
Cowboy Museum and lall oí lame, and the Owen \ister Liíetime Achie·ement Award írom \estern
\riters America. She was recently inducted into the 1exas Literary lall oí lame. She was named an
Outstanding \oman oí lort \orth by the Mayor`s Committee on \omen and one oí the 100 women, li·ing
or dead, who ha·e leít their mark on 1exas.
A past president oí the \estern \riters oí America, she is a member oí Sisters in Crime and the Guppies chapter. 1he
single parent oí íour now-grown children, she has se·en grandchildren and li·es in lort \orth, 1exas, with her Australian
shepherd and a long-haired, elderly cat.
Author website: http:,,www.judyalter.com
Author blog: http:,,www.judys-stew.blogspot.com
Amazon.com book page: http:,,tinyurl.com,24hq¯jc
lirst published by Doubleday, New \ork, 1988
Copyright © 1988 Judy Alter
My mother was an unmarried mother, íallen woman, they called her back in Princeton, Missouri. 1hey called
her that and a lot worse names, most oí which I didn`t understand at the time, thank goodness. It wasn`t just that
Mama made one mistake-me-but I had a little brother, \ill lenry, and neither oí us had a íather that we
knew about. \ill lenry was se·en years younger than me, and you`d think I`d remember a man being around
the house about that time to account íor my brother`s appearance, but I didn`t. I used to wonder ií Mama had
somehow gotten caught in the great war just passed or ií my íather had íought in that war. lor much oí my
growing-up years, Mama ne·er told us ií we had the same íather or not. \hen either oí us asked, Mama became
ílustered and impatient and usually just said, I don`t want to talk about it.` 1here would be tears in her eyes that
made me íeel guilty and cruel, so I would abandon the subject.
But Mama`s status caused both oí us a lot oí grieí. I can still remember trips to the store íor whate·er small
bit oí staples Mama could aííord. Other kids would tease, \here`s your íather·` Ain`t you heard· She ain`t got
none.` \ou know what that makes her mama.` I ne·er did learn to ignore those taunts. I`d turn bright red and
íeel myselí tense up as I headed íor home instead oí completing my errand. Sometimes Mama sent me to collect
ironing. 1aking in ironing was one way she made a little money íor us, and I can still see her heating that sad iron
o·er the sto·e, then struggling to press its weight down just right on some sheer and wonderíul dress that
belonged to a rich lady in town.
\e li·ed in a two-room wooden shack, two rooms only because Mama hung a írayed blanket kind oí in the
middle to separate the cooking area írom the sleeping area, and we three slept in the same bed, all the time until I
leít home at the age oí íourteen. But that`s getting ahead oí my story.
Mama also took in sewing, and that`s how I met the Canary íamily. One day I had to go with Mama to íit a
dress on Mary Jane, the daughter, who was just about my age. \ill lenry was a toddler then, and Mama leít him
with someone else, hea·en only knows at this point who it might ha·e been. But she dressed me up the best she
could, e·en ironing my patched cotton dress, and taking great care with her own appearance, wearing a worn
ílannel dress in subdued gray. She had cle·erly redone it to hide the worst spots and had e·en added a small
white ruííle at the neck. Ií you didn`t look too closely, she seemed as well dressed as the next grand lady.
Least the patches are neat, Mattie. \e want them to know that I sew a íine seam and that I ha·e some taste
in clothes, don`t we·`
\es, Mama.` I was always ready to agree with her when Mama was happy, like she was that day.
La, child, this may be the beginning oí a better liíe íor us. 1he Canarys may take a liking to my work and
maybe to you, and that would . . . well, it might make things easier.` She laughed and tied her bonnet in a
ílourishing bow. Being less than ten, I belie·ed Mama that it could all be true. I hadn`t yet learned to be skeptical
about Mama`s new beginnings and search íor my own.
\e were both in high spirits as we set out. Mama was still a beautiíul woman, with pale brown hair and high
cheekbones that maybe came írom a not too remote Indian ancestor, but she was beginning already to look tired
and worn out. I guess she must ha·e been near thirty then. Still, tired or not, she drew looks as we walked down
the dirt road and crossed the tracks to the right` side oí town.
On the other hand, I must ha·e resembled my unknown íather, or at the least that Indian ancestor, íor I had
none oí Mama`s prettiness. 1all íor my age and skinny, I was an awkward, angular child with coarse dark hair
which I wore pulled back so that it emphasized my high cheekbones and dark eyes. I used to dream about that
unknown Indian in the íamily background and imagine that my Indian looks were mysterious.
Little kids didn`t tease me when I was with Mama, but they were only slightly more discreet about their
curiosity. I saw them pointing and staring, but there was no way I could run and hide, so I marched right along
beside Mama, wishing the earth would open and swallow me.
Isn`t it a grand day, Mattie·`
\es, Mama, it sure is.`
\hat would you most like to do today·`
\ell, maybe mend that doll oí mine . . .`
Oh, íiddle, Mattie, let your imagination go. Choose something that we probably can`t do.`
I didn`t hesitate at all. I`d like to hitch up a horse and buggy and lea·e here . . . íore·er!`
Mama looked alarmed. Mattie, why· 1his is our home now.`
Now· \asn`t it always·`
L·er since you can remember, baby. But not always íor me.` She had a wistíul look on her íace, and I
wondered again about Mama, where she had come írom, who her own mama was and all those questions she
ne·er would answer. In a way, I was cut oíí írom my own roots, íor we had no relati·es in Princeton, Missouri,
not e·en any íriends. Somewhere, I guessed, Mama had a íamily, but there was no contact between them, and ií
it bothered Mama, she rarely let on.
Because oí the lilt in her ·oice and her genteel ways, I thought Mama came írom the South, and that made
me think oí the war again. Mama,` I asked hesitantly, where are . . . well, where did you come írom·`
Not here, child,` she said, laughing, certainly not here. But it was a long way away and a long time ago. I
don`t want to talk about it.`
I could guess that Mama`s íamily must ha·e been pretty rich, because my own piddling amount oí schooling
by then had shown me that Mama had had a lot oí education. She had one or two books-a copy oí
Shakespeare and some books oí poems that she read aloud to me sometimes. Mostly then, I didn`t understand
them, but I listened because it seemed important to Mama and seemed somehow to calm and soothe her to read
those big words about things that were beyond me. I was, you might say, a tractable child.
And somewhere Mama surely had learned to sew a íine seam. ler handwork was as neat and tiny as any I`·e
seen to this day, and she had an eye íor good lace, íine materials and well-cut dresses.
1hat, oí course, was what had brought us out that day. \e arri·ed at the Canary home, which looked like a
mansion to me, big and white and neat and clean, with blooming ílowers in the íront and a white picket íence,
íreshly painted all the way around. It was a two-story house with a gabled rooí, lots oí windows and e·en a
balcony with a railing below and gingerbread decoration at the top. lrom outside, you could see hea·y drapes
pulled back íor the day at e·ery window.
Golly gee Ned!` I exclaimed as we started up the brick walk to the dark wood íront door with its huge brass
Mattie, hush. 1ry to act like you go in houses e·ery day that are just like this or maybe e·en grander.`
But I don`t,` I protested. I`·e ne·er seen anything like this.` Oí course, I had seen big houses, this ·ery
one, on my one or two ·entures into the other side oí town. But I didn`t take exploratory trips ·ery oíten
because oí all the teasing. And I ne·er, e·er thought I would go into a house like that. I remember today, clear as
e·er, that awestruck íeeling, like my stomach was going to íall right down to my toes or else come up through
Mama acted like she`d been in houses like this all her liíe, and maybe she had. Mrs. Canary· I`·e come to íit
dresses íor Mary Jane.`
1he Canary íamily may ha·e íelt they were the grandest íolk in Princeton, but nobody there had a maid, and
Mrs. Canary opened the door herselí. \ears later I wished, nastily, that the lady could ha·e known how íar írom
being grand she really was. Somehow, li·ing in places like Missouri and Nebraska, some oí us got notions oí
grandness that were out oí kilter with the rest oí the world. \e accepted as grand things that were really mighty
small, like íine íurniture and big houses. \et there`s another kind oí grand out here . . . But back to Mary Jane.
Mrs. Canary let us into a íair-sized entry hall, with a straight staircase carpeted in red. By peeking, I could see
a parlor to one side oí the hall and a dining room to the other. 1he íurniture all looked new-·el·et, I suppose
-and e·erything was ·ery neat, like nobody li·ed there. 1he tabletops were marble and bare, except íor one gilt-
íramed photograph, presumably Mr. and Mrs. Canary as newlyweds. 1he soías and chairs had wood trim and
looked awíully uncomíortable. 1here were antimacassars e·erywhere and a ílowered carpet on the íloor. I
thought a minute about our crowded shack, with Mama`s sewing ílung here and there, and my pitiíul doll, with
which I was now too big to play but which still sat on the bed each day. 1he Canary house made me cold inside.
Mary Jane hung o·er the railing at the top oí the stairs, smiling like a cherub and wearing a blue satin dress
with a huge white collar, her blond hair done in sausage curls. I was acutely aware oí my patched cotton and tried
to a·oid looking at her, but as soon as Mama turned her back, Mary Jane stuck her tongue out at me. I would
ne·er ha·e been bra·e enough to do that.
Mama saw the tongue, though, and reached out íor my hand, holding it tight and smiling at Mrs. Canary,
who led us upstairs to what she called the sewing room. I couldn`t see that anybody did much sewing there,
except maybe íor the pincushion with a íew needles in it and some spools oí thread next to it.
Mama got right to work, measuring Mary Jane, who stood like she thought she was some kind oí princess,
smiling down at her ser·ants írom the íootstool on which she stood. I longed to kick the stool out írom under
her, but I pretended to busy myselí looking out the window.
I wouldn`t want the dress too long, Mrs. . . .`
Armstrong,` Mama supplied calmly. Oí course not. A girl her age doesn`t need a long dress, do you, Mary
Mary Jane disagreed. I won`t dress like a baby. I need my dresses lots longer than this one you made me
Mary Jane . . .`
I will not!`
Very well, dear. Mrs. Armstrong . . .` She hesitated again, as though it stuck in her throat to call Mama
Mrs.` \e`ll let her ha·e her way.`
I had a sneaking suspicion Mary Jane always got her way, and years later I remembered that scene and
thought probably all her troubles started right there.
Mama íinished measuring and helped Mary Jane down írom the stool, then asked Mrs. Canary íor the íabric
she wanted used, and they busied themsel·es in a corner, looking at material and discussing the best way to cut
it. Mary Jane sidled o·er to me to whisper, I don`t like ha·ing a bastard in my house.`
lortunately, I didn`t know what the word meant, but I knew well enough that I had been insulted, and pretty
royally, too. Ií it were today, there are lots oí things I would ha·e done, but I just stood there, studying the
ílower in the carpet at my toes, and muttered, I don`t like being here either.` I really think Mary Jane considered
kicking me-she turned to see ií her mother was looking-but I mo·ed away beíore she could turn back.
I told Mama what she`d said on the way home, and Mama was indignant. \hy, that awíul girl! I`ll ne·er sew
another stitch íor her, not e·er!`
\hat does bastard mean, Mama·`
Ne·er you mind. It`s just not a nice thing to call a person.`
I had guessed by then. It had something to do with all those questions about where my íather was, questions
Mama wouldn`t answer. And now she wouldn`t explain the word to me.
Oí course, Mama did sew íor Mary Jane, made her a bunch oí dresses, but it ne·er turned out to be the new
beginning she expected. 1he Canarys were miserly about paying and picky about the work she did, not that
Mama`s work was imperíect. But they would change their minds about a slee·e or a collar aíter Mama got a dress
made, and then they`d claim it was all her íault. Mama ne·er said anything, íor we needed the little money they
paid, but I íelt sorry íor her that the relationship didn`t turn out like she en·isioned. \e were ne·er in·ited to
1hings went on without any big change íor quite a while aíter Mama started sewing íor the Canarys. \ill
lenry grew bigger all the time, and pretty soon he had to endure school with me. 1easing ne·er did seem to
bother him like it did me, and I oíten thought he just wasn`t bright enough to understand what other kids were
saying. le seemed to take it all as a compliment.
1hey like me at school, Mattie, they really do.`
1hat`s good, \ill lenry. low do you know·`
Oh, they laugh with me all the time and call things to me.`
I lo·ed that little boy, and it made me sad to hear his story. At least, I guessed it was better ií it didn`t make
him sad. But e·ery time something like that happened, either to him or to me, I resol·ed that I would get e·en
when I grew up. Course, I ne·er did, but timid child that I was, re·enge burned pure in my heart, and I hated.
I ne·er did know ií Mama got teased or anything because she ne·er talked about it and always acted like she
was the grandest lady in town. Some days Mama didn`t íeel too good and spent the day in bed. 1hose were the
days I would run errands íor people, íetching a bag oí sugar írom the store or taking a notice to the weekly
journal oííice, all to earn a little money íor us. Some days I had to skip school between trying to grab a íew
pennies and taking care oí Mama, but I usually kept up in my schoolwork.
\ou see, Mama`s next new beginning was a real bad one. By the time I was twel·e or so, I was aware that she
was tired a lot. She not only had to rest much oí the time, but she looked tired, with great dark circles under her
eyes. And her cheeks were the brightest pink I`d e·er seen. Sometimes she`d be burning up with íe·er, and I`d sit
and wipe her íorehead with a wet cloth.
Once when I was sitting with her, I remember asking quite clearly, Mama, tell me about my íather.`
She was tired and the question made her cross. \hy, Mattie· le`s no one you`ll e·er know.`
But can`t I know about him·`
It wouldn`t make you proud,` she said, turning away with a tear. 1o this day, I wonder ií maybe she married
a Northern sympathizer who mo·ed her to Missouri, leít to íind his íortune out \est and only came back long
enough to íather \ill lenry. It was another oí my íantasies, but a less appealing one than some others. I ne·er
asked Mama about it again.
I was getting a little tougher. I didn`t run íor home anymore when I was teased, and I didn`t turn red in the
íace. But I hadn`t yet gotten to the point oí talking back, which, in my ignorance, I thought would be the
pinnacle oí growth. 1here was one boy, 1ommy lawkes, who was particularly mean and e·en threw a rotten
apple at me one day. I used to think it would be the greatest satisíaction in the world to rub his íace in the mud. I
don`t know, maybe it would ha·e been, but I ne·er did get the chance. And I was still ·aguely ashamed oí
something about Mama that I didn`t completely understand but that I knew had to do with me and \ill lenry
and that Northern soldier oí my íantasy.
Mr. Ree·es came into our li·es about that time. le was a big, handsome, happy man, the íirst man I had
e·er had a chance to be around or know well, mind you, and it was a new experience íor me. I was tongue-tied
most oí the time.
\ell, Mattie, what`s new today·`
Come on, now. Did you go to school·`
\hy not· L·ery girl your age needs to be in school.` lis huge hands clasped together, he announced this
Mama didn`t íeel too well, and I had to do some errands.`
lis íace was real serious. I know your mama`s not íeeling well. \e`re going to ha·e to do something about
I don`t know where Mama íound Mr. Ree·es. le was a drummer, as they called salesmen back then, and he
sold all kinds oí kitchen products to e·ery small town in northern Missouri. But he had been a íarmer and a ri·er
boatman and all kinds oí things, and I began to suspect there wasn`t anything he couldn`t do. le was a big man,
and írom those days, I remember most his wide grin. \hen his sales brought him to Princeton, which seemed to
be more and more oíten, he spent his time with us, and under his hand our little shack began to be sturdier and
to look a little better. le nailed up loose boards, chinked in spaces where the cold wind whistled in winter, and
nearly rebuilt the tiny íront stoop, part oí which was rotting away. le brought íabric íor Mama to make new and
bright curtains, and he íilled our kitchen with more pots and pans than we could e·er ha·e íood to íill.
But we ate better, too, and I began to íeel Mr. Ree·es must be rich. le brought all kinds oí things we rarely
ií e·er had, like beeísteak, which he must ha·e bartered írom someone, and íresh ·egetables that he bought
írom someone else`s garden, and lots oí staples írom the store-coííee and tea, which usually were too dear íor
Mama to buy, and pieces oí horehound, which were an unheard-oí luxury íor \ill lenry and me. Liíe was
sweet, and íor a while Mama began to get better.
And the brightest thing in my liíe was that I had a job. I was to baby-sit e·ery aíternoon íor the doctor and
his wiíe, so the wiíe could ha·e a rest. 1he Dinsmores li·ed in a comíortable, clean house, not as grand and
írightening as the Canarys but more like what I thought a home should be-great, comíortable chairs, books to
read and window seats where you could sit and watch the rain. 1hey had only one child, three-year-old Sara, and
she was nice as babies go, about as nice as \ill lenry had been, so I had no trouble with her. She played, and I
like as not spent the aíternoon with only one eye on her and the other on a book I had íound in the shel·es. Dr.
Dinsmore liked that, and next to Mr. Ree·es, I thought he was the grandest man e·er. 1he schoolmaster, a Mr.
\est, who rapped people`s knuckles with a ruler and made us memorize long, dull passages oí poetry, went
rapidly downhill in my mind.
Reading again, Mattie·` Dr. Dinsmore stood there, thumbs hooked under his suspenders, looking, I
thought, ·ery grand with his mustache and dark suit. le was not a tall man but so thin and wiry that he ga·e the
impression oí height and strength.
Oh, yes, sir, but I was watching Sara real careíully.`
I`m sure you were. It`s all right. I was just glad to see someone using the books. \hat are you reading·`
I showed him a copy oí Paveta and asked ií he knew the story.
\es, Mattie, I know the story.` \as there laughter hidden in his ·oice· I`m not sure your schoolmaster
would appro·e oí you reading no·els, but you go right ahead.` le walked o·er to the shel·es and appeared to
study íor a moment, then said, \hen you`re through with that, you might want to try this.` le handed me a
copy oí íire !ee/. iv a ßattoov, by Jules Verne. \ou`re íree to take it home as long as you`re sure to return it.`
I was astounded. Not only did he not think I was lazy íor reading when I should ha·e been playing with little
Sara, but he ga·e me another book to read. And he would let me take it home.
I íairly ílew home, ignoring the darkening and dingy streets oí our part oí Princeton. Mama` -I burst in
the door- Dr. Dinsmore let me borrow a book.` Caution came to me too late, and I hastened to add, Oí
course, I won`t read when you need me.`
I ne·er knew how Mama would react, though lately since Mr. Ree·es had been around, she was more
predictable. Still, there was always the chance she`d start on about how I could do more errands, try to earn
another nickel or two or help out with \ill lenry, who was really big enough to take care oí himselí, or so I
thought. But she surprised me this time.
Let me see it, Mattie. Oh, Jules Verne. I read that, a long time ago.` She got that íaraway look in her eyes.
It`s a good book. \ou`ll like it.`
Later, when Mr. Ree·es came, she said brightly, Mattie`s reading Jules Verne`s book about his balloon trip.
Dr. Dinsmore let her bring it home.`
\ell, now, isn`t that íine! Course, I don`t know next to nothing about books, ne·er could read much, and I
ain`t heard oí that one, but I know it`s important íor a young person to get all the education they can. \ou go
right on and read, Mattie, and I`ll help your ma.` le patted me on the head, and as I looked up, I saw Mama gi·e
him a long sideways look. I wasn`t sure what it meant, but I read a little hurt and disappointment in her íace.
Dr. Dinsmore continued to be my unoííicial tutor. le and Mrs. Dinsmore got so they liked each other less
and less, at least that`s how it appeared to me. 1hey ne·er argued. I`d e·en heard Mama and Mr. Ree·es raise
their ·oices some, but the Dinsmores were always coldly polite. I knew he wasn`t that way by nature, íor he
would get down on the íloor and play with Sara, laughing and tossing her in the air until she giggled almost out
oí control. \hene·er Mrs. Dinsmore saw this happen, she`d say, Arthur, you`ll damage the child.` And he`d
say, Stuíí and nonsense. Little roughhousing ne·er hurt anyone.`
Mrs. Dinsmore was blond and pretty like Mama, only her eyes were kind oí an ice-cold blue, and her lips
were tight, e·en when they smiled. She ne·er had the laughter that sometimes welled up írom Mama, and she
looked worse in her íine clothes than Mama did in her patched and worn dresses.
Big as I was then, almost thirteen years old, I was only beginning to know the íacts oí liíe, as they are called.
I had an inkling, though, that it took a great liking, e·en lo·e, between two people to make a baby. I wasn`t really
sure about lo·e-hea·en knows, ha·e any oí us e·er learned·-and I wondered a lot about that mysterious man
Mama liked or lo·ed well enough to ha·e two babies with, but I also wondered about the Dinsmores. 1hey
didn`t seem to like each other well enough to make a baby.
Mrs. Dinsmore was nice to me, though not as íriendly as he was, and I sensed she didn`t appro·e oí my
reading program. She`d say, Reading again, Mattie· Don`t ruin your eyes with all that study,` or \hy don`t you
take Sara outside· 1oo much indoors is ne·er good íor youngsters, e·en as big as you are.` But she continued to
pay me regularly, and sometimes they asked me to stay to supper, which was a treat, because there was much
more íood and better kinds oí it than Mama could aííord, less greens and cornbread and red beans and more
meat and potatoes. I ate heartily on those nights.
Mattie, child, are you hungry·`
Not really,` I would lie. I didn`t want to say that I was kind oí storing up, like a squirrel putting away nuts
íor the winter. It`s just that it tastes so good.`
\ell, here, ha·e another helping oí meat loaí.`
And I would eat away. It`s a wonder I didn`t get íat as a piglet in those days, but I suspect all that íood made
up íor what had been a sparseness in my diet. Lots oí times, I`d sneak extra pieces oí meat in my napkin to take
home to \ill lenry, especially during the times Mr. Ree·es was out oí town and there was less íood on our
table. I suspect the Dinsmores would gladly ha·e gi·en me íood íor \ill lenry, but I was too proud to ask.
I o·erheard them talking one night aíter I had stayed íor supper and, as a way oí thanks, had ·olunteered to
bathe Sara and get her ready íor bed. She was running around her room, stitch-stark naked, giggling up a storm,
and I stepped out to get a towel to wrap her in. 1hey were at the íoot oí the stairs, and I could hear them talk
without ha·ing to go anywhere nearer the banister.
I suppose she doesn`t eat right at home,` Mrs. Dinsmore said in that slightly disappro·ing tone.
Probably not. It`s a mar·elous thing ií we can íeed both her body and her mind.`
\e`re not running a charity house, you know.`
Come now, Lmma, that child doesn`t take one thing írom us. She gi·es us laughter and lo·e íor Sara, which
the child sorely needs, and she brings me happiness.` It was one oí the íew times I heard him criticize his wiíe,
1here was no answer írom Mrs. Dinsmore, and I didn`t know enough to realize how signiíicant that was.
Poor woman. I ne·er could íigure out why she was so stiíí and cool and how Dr. Dinsmore ended up with her.
But the íact that they had such an armed truce ga·e him lots oí extra time to spend with Sara, and he spent
some oí it with me. \e were both glad íor his company, e·en though he seemed preoccupied a lot oí the time.
Dr. Dinsmore had unusual ideas íor a physician, e·en back in those days when medicine wasn`t regulated much.
le hadn`t gone to medical school, oí course-íew men did, and medical schools were so unregulated that you
might learn more harmíul things there than good. le had simply read medicine by íollowing an old country
physician around somewhere in northeast Missouri. 1here was a doctor o·er there in a small town named
Kirks·ille who had announced that he had a new approach to medicine. Name was Still, and it seemed that he
íelt medical practice as he knew it wasn`t helping people, matter oí íact, he thought it killed two oí his children.
So he went about it in a new way, saying that the body was naturally healthy and the physician`s job was to aid
that process, not hinder it. One thing he ad·ocated was ·ery little medicine. \ell, Dr. Dinsmore belie·ed in that,
and he`d sit and talk to me about it at night. Oí course, at that age I didn`t understand much, but I was ílattered
he wanted to talk, and I listened.
God wouldn`t ha·e in·ented a íaulty machine, Mattie. \e were meant to be healthy and not to be taking a
draught to sleep and another to straighten our bowels and another to ward oíí colds. \e need to get all that out
oí our systems and keep our bodies in good shape, like good machines.`
I didn`t know much about machinery, so the comparison was a little odd to me, but I went along with Dr.
Dinsmore`s idea that we should keep our bodies healthy. Oí course, all the walking I did back and íorth to the
Dinsmores to school and on Mama`s errands kept me pretty well exercised. But I thought about Mama, cooped
up in that little shack all day.
By that time, Mama`s health was really poor again. 1he last time she had gone to the store herselí, instead oí
sending me, she had come home exhausted, out oí breath and nearly íaint. Seems she had only gone because I
was at Dinsmores, and my heart lurched in íear at the possibility that I would ha·e to quit Dinsmore`s and stay
home to be more help to Mama.
Mama, I would ha·e gone to the store íor you.`
\ou weren`t here.` She sounded a little like a spoiled child.
But I`d ha·e come back. \ou mustn`t tire yourselí out.`
I`ll just rest awhile and you íix the supper, Mattie. 1hen I`ll be all right. I don`t know what`s the matter with
I didn`t know either, but I did know that her cheeks were íe·erish red again, her skin pale, and pretty oíten
she had a bad cough. I guess Mr. Ree·es knew only too well what was wrong, because he made some startling
announcements the next time he ·isited.
le arri·ed late one night, aíter \ill lenry and I were asleep, and we didn`t see him till we sat sleepily at the
breakíast table, with Mama stirring a big pot oí oatmeal with much more ·igor than usual.
\our ma and I are going to get married,` he announced. 1oday.`
I looked quick at Mama, but she was still busy with the oatmeal, and I couldn`t tell ií she was happy about
this or not. Aíter a minute`s thought, I decided I was happy. It would, I thought, make liíe easier íor her, and
that in turn would make things easier íor me. I guess kids always ha·e a way oí relating e·erything to themsel·es.
I should ha·e known better, íor his next words tore my world apart.
\e`ll all be lea·ing íor the \est soon as we can get going. I used to íarm once back a long time ago, and
I`m gonna do it again, because your mama`s got to get out oí this Missouri climate beíore it kills her.`
Mama stirred harder, and I bit my lip. Mo·e· Not that I was so íond oí Princeton-there was a time when
my dream was to lea·e-but now I had the Dinsmores, and I didn`t want to lea·e them and all the opportunity
they represented to me. \ill lenry, meanwhile, was jumping with joy, and I could ha·e crowned him.
\est!` he shouted. \here west· \ill there be Indians· Cowboys·`
\hoa,` Mr. Ree·es laughed. \e`ll go someplace ci·ilized, or at least as close as we can get.`
I suppose Mama had the same ·ision oí a white cottage with a picket íence and a great sweeping íield oí
wheat or corn that I did. It turned out things were to be ·ery diííerent, and Mama might as well ha·e stayed in
Princeton, but none oí us knew that. Mr. Ree·es lo·ed her, he really did, and he was doing what he thought was
best. le really wanted to settle Mama in a comíortable home instead oí a shack and gi·e her the kind oí liíe she
apparently had known as a child. I think he thought he could restore her health by impro·ing her liíe, but he was
too late. \ho knows· Maybe ií he had come earlier, she ne·er would ha·e gotten sick.
Meanwhile, I was íighting my conscience. Ií it was good íor Mama, I should be glad to go, but I was íeeling
mighty selíish, wanting to stay in Princeton so I could read the rest oí the books in Dr. Dinsmore`s library. I
suspected that we would lea·e pretty quickly-and I was right-and I ne·er could read íast enough to make any
progress at all.
\ill lenry and I went to school, with him talking nonstop about our big mo·e and telling e·ery kid in the
schoolyard. 1hey all snickered and said things like, le`s gonna marry your mother·` in incredulous tones. I
could ha·e kicked \ill lenry but I kept my silence, lost in my own problems. 1hat aíternoon I was slow
walking to the Dinsmores and late getting there.
Mattie, whate·er is the matter with you· Looks like you`·e lost your best íriend.`
I don`t ha·e a best íriend,` I muttered unpleasantly, e·en though I knew he was trying to be helpíul.
All right, Mattie, I know that.` Dr. Dinsmore turned serious. \hat`s the matter·`
\e`re lea·ing Princeton,` I blurted out, the whole story then tumbling írom my lips in a rush.
Lea·ing Princeton·` le asked it as though he was not at all surprised. las your mother . . . I mean, can
she . . . well, Mattie, what I`m trying to say is, how will your mother take care oí you and \ill lenry somewhere
else· And where are you going·`
Dr. Dinsmore had ne·er been critical oí Mama, like the rest oí Princeton, and I was grateíul. I knew what he
said now was simply straightíorward truth.
\e`re going out west. I don`t know where, but Mama is going to marry Mr. Ree·es, and he says íor her
health we ha·e to take her out west.`
le`s right, oí course. I told her she needed to go two years ago, but she said there was no way.`
I don`t guess there was until Mr. Ree·es came along.`
\ell, Mattie, I think this is good news, but you still look like you`·e lost your best íriend.`
Oh no, I`m real pleased.` I had to bite my lip to keep írom crying, and I sank down into one oí the great
big, comíortable chairs in the library. \hy didn`t he, one oí the íew people I trusted and cared about, see how
bad this was· Right then Dr. Dinsmore taught me a lesson: Ií you don`t take matters into your own hands,
nothing good happens.
I don`t think you want to go,` he said slowly, as though reíusing to do all the work íor me. le stood beíore
me, straight and unbending, looking just a little stern.
\hat are you going to do about it·`
\hat can I do· I`m only íourteen.`
le almost laughed aloud, and I could ha·e hit him. Selí-pity, is it· 1hat won`t get you ·ery íar. la·e you
tried to do anything about it·`
I don`t know. \ou tell me. \hat would you like to do·`
I took a deep breath and rushed into boldness that I could hardly belie·e I dared. Stay here and li·e with
you and take care oí Sara.`
Oh, would you now·` le turned a little, as though pacing, but I thought I saw a slight twitch oí the corners
oí his mouth. Lmbarrassed by my own íorwardness, I said nothing.
la·e you told your mother that·` he asked.
low can I· I don`t know ií you`d let me stay.`
\hy don`t you ask·` le was not going to make this easy íor me.
My íace turning deep red, I stared at the íloor and muttered, \ill you·`
\hy do you want to stay·`
Because, mostly because . . . oí the books. I mean, I really lo·e Sara, and you`re both good to me, but ií I go
to a íarm somewhere out west, I`ll ne·er . . . probably ne·er read a book, ne·er get education.`
And education is important to you·`
\es,` I said íiercely. I don`t e·er want to li·e like Mama has.` 1he ·ery thought brought me upright in the
chair, and I looked directly at him.
Maybe . . .` le stopped, and I knew he had been about to tease me again and then thought better oí it.
\ou`re right, Mattie. Lducation is important, as much so íor girls as men. I`ll talk to Mrs. Dinsmore tonight, but
I think such an arrangement might work out.` le was the one who stared silently oíí into space íor a moment
then. I know this isn`t exactly a happy house to be in, and I worry about that, íor Sara and now íor you. Mrs.
Dinsmore isn`t always as well as might be, and írankly, I could beneíit írom your presence.`
1houghts tumbled together in my mind. I had no idea at that time about depression and what it can do to a
person`s liíe, so I didn`t know what he meant by his wiíe not being well, but I knew there was something serious
there. And I didn`t understand how complicated our li·es could become, with my being a beneíit` to him. I
don`t think he understood then either. Dr. Dinsmore was a wonderíul and kind man, but he was lonely. It was all
too much íor a íourteen-year-old, íairly nai·e mind, but I sailed into my íuture certain it would all work out.
Mrs. Dinsmore, anxious to ha·e all the care oí Sara taken írom her shoulders, agreed readily to the plan, and
Dr. Dinsmore relie·ed me oí the burden oí talking to Mama. It was uncharacteristic oí him, since he had insisted
on making me work out my íuture myselí, but I think he did it because he wanted me to stay as much as I did.
Mama was waiting íor me one day when I came home írom school. She looked tired and írail, and I was
worried about her. Mattie, I want to talk to you.
Come here in the bedroom.` She pulled the blanket across its wire as though that made the bedroom a
separate, soundprooí room in the little house. Dr. Dinsmore was here today.`
\es, Mama, I knew he was coming to talk to you.`
\hy didn`t you tell me yourselí·`
I don`t know. I guess I thought, well, you wouldn`t like the idea, wouldn`t let me stay.`
Oh, Mattie!` She grabbed my íace in both her hands and looked deep in my eyes, an occasional tear
trickling down her íace. low could I not let you stay· It`s an opportunity íor you, a chance íor a better liíe.
\ou know how things ha·e been íor me in this dingy, gossipy little town. But being here was something beyond
my control. I had no choice. I had, uh, promised to wait here íor someone, and by the time I knew that was
hopeless, well, there was no place else to go. But now you ha·e a chance to, well, to do whate·er you want. Ií
you stay here now, then you won`t ha·e to stay here always.` It was a long speech íor Mama, and it leít her out
oí breath because oí her bad lungs. She sat a minute, just staring at me.
I`ll miss you . . . you and \ill lenry something awíul,` I said. But inside I was thinking that now I knew a
little more about the mysterious man who had íathered us. le leít Mama in Missouri and ne·er came back íor
her. One thing seemed certain to me: I was descended írom a cad.
\e`ll miss you, too, but it isn`t like we`ll ne·er see you again,` she said brightly. I guess she didn`t belie·e it
e·en then, but I didn`t know any better.
1he next couple oí weeks were a nightmare. Mr. Ree·es was most eííiciently getting my íamily ready to
lea·e, and I was torn with guilt íor not going with them. low could I abandon my own mother·
One day I sat and watched \ill lenry and Mr. Ree·es pore o·er a map. Now, right about here, I think,
\ill lenry, is some good íarmland. Nice and rich soil. \e could raise wheat . . . But maybe that`s a little north
íor your mama. Ií we went south some-`
\ill lenry was enthusiasm come to liíe. \e could raise cattle, couldn`t we· Right there on the prairie.`
Maybe so. Do you know much about cattle·`
I`ll learn,` he said with eight-year-old coníidence.
I`m gonna need you some to take care oí your mama, you know. She can`t do any hard work.`
But nursin`s girl`s work.`
\ill lenry, we will each do what we ha·e to do.` 1hat was deli·ered in the sternest tones I`d e·er heard
írom Mr. Ree·es.
I`m going, too,` I announced suddenly. It`s my place to care íor Mama.`
Now, Mattie, your plans are all made, and your mother agrees with them. \e`ll get by.`
Maybe that was what bothered me. 1hey would get by without me, but would I be all right without them·
Much as I had railed against our liíe, this was my íamily, and I lo·ed them. I wanted to watch \ill lenry grow
up and see Mama grow strong and happy again.
\hen Mama heard about it, though, she took one oí her íirm stands. No, Mattie, you`ll stay here. It`s best.`
lere·` I cried, suddenly in a rage. lere, where e·erybody teases about my mother and knows I ha·e no
íather· lere, where I ha·en`t a íriend my age in the whole world· lere, where I hate to go to the store or run
errands because oí what other kids say to me· \here I watch Mary Jane Canary look at me like I`m scum·`
Mama was stunned, but Mr. Ree·es reco·ered aíter just a minute. le raised his hand as though to hit me and
was stopped only by Mama`s scream.
Don`t hit her!`
I won`t ha·e her talking to you that way.`
No, she`s right. Liíe in Princeton has been pretty bad íor her . . . íor all oí us . . . but it`s all she`s known.
Mattie, come into the bedroom with me.`
\e sat together on the bed in silence íor a moment, and then she put her arm around me. I didn`t know,
Mattie, I didn`t know how awíul it was íor you.`
\ou couldn`t ha·e done anything about it anyway. And íor a long time I didn`t know what I was missing. I
guess until the day I went with you to the Canarys` house and saw that awíul brat.`
\ou may come with us, oí course. \e won`t lea·e you here.`
I don`t know what I want,` I said, biting my lip. I hate Princeton, but I want to stay with the Dinsmores
and read those books and somehow make things better.`
Mattie, how do you know that the problems you ha·e here, your íeelings about me, your questions about
your íather, won`t íollow you to a new town· \ill lenry can go easily. le has none oí those íeelings, but I really
doubt that geography is going to change much íor you.
I thought about what she said. Couldn`t . . . wouldn`t things be diííerent ií you arri·ed someplace married to
Ah, Mattie, marriage íor me isn`t going to make the diííerence íor you. \hat I`·e done, or what you think
I`·e done, isn`t so terrible, you know. \hat is terrible is the way others ha·e treated you because oí it. And
something you won`t realize íor years is that you`re at íault, too, íor the way you ha·e responded to the teasing.
No, all those mixed-up íeelings inside you will just go right with us west.`
I lay down on the pillow and began to sob, knowing she was probably right. I wasn`t an attracti·e child, and
at that point it didn`t appear to me that I had much personality to balance my physical deíicits. L·en though I
knew Mama was right and suspected she had much more sense than I had e·er gi·en her credit íor, I began to
wonder ií maybe she didn`t want me to go, ií my sour attitude and my resentments were unpleasant enough that
the íamily would be happier ií I stayed behind. I had no way oí knowing how hurt Mama must ha·e been and
how hard it was íor her to lea·e one oí her own children behind, especially when deep down she must ha·e
known that she`d ne·er see me again. Lord, I was stuck with selí-pity and not a spark oí liíe. As I look back on
it, I can`t belie·e all the good things that ha·e happened to that colorless girl írom Missouri.
Mattie, I want you to come with us, you know, more than anything. I will miss you terribly. But I think your
íuture, your chance at what you want, starts here in Princeton, not on a journey west without a destination.` She
put an arm around me to hug but had to turn away as a coughing íit struck her.
And so, that was how I stayed behind when they leít to go west. I watched them pack up our meager
belongings and the new things that Mr. Ree·es had added. Sometimes I helped, but mostly I just stood and
And then one day I stood and watched as they dro·e away in a great huge cart loaded down with e·erything
they owned. My own things, which were pretty íew, had already been taken to the Dinsmores`, and Dr.
Dinsmore had oííered to come with me to see them oíí, but I declined. I guess I thought standing there
watching them go was something I had to do alone. And I did it, with a great knot in my stomach.
\e made a great íuss, oí course, about how soon we would see each other again, and Mama hugged me a lot.
But she coughed a lot, too, and I knew we would not see each other again. \ith all my mixed-up íeelings about
her, it made me sad, and I sat down in the dirt outside that tacky little shack and had a good cry. 1hen I said
goodbye to the shack and all that it stood íor íore·er and walked on to the Dinsmores`.
Liíe rolled along. I went to school, watched little Sara, who grew more charming by the day, and read
e·erything I could. I went through the American transcendentalists, the Lnglish essayists, all in great bunches,
e·en though I didn`t understand much oí what I read. Dr. Dinsmore took to guiding my reading program,
though always gently.
Ií you`re reading 1horeau, you ought to read some Lmerson next,` he`d say, explaining the connection to
me. I íollowed his directions careíully.
1hings between the Dinsmores didn`t get any better. In íact, Mrs. Dinsmore seemed to get worse. A thin,
somber woman, she grew daily more withdrawn and unhappy, not that she e·er was unpleasant. She appeared to
be grateíul íor my care oí little Sara, and lots oí days I did think how dull the child`s liíe would ha·e been ií I had
gone west, to say nothing oí my own liíe. But still, I wondered how Sara could be so bright and happy in the
midst oí such an ob·iously unhappy household. I decided it was Dr. Dinsmore, íor somehow he retained his
cheeríulness much, ií not all, oí the time.
Now that my íamily had leít, I was no longer quite the outcast with many oí the schoolchildren my age, and
I would take Sara on long walks through town. It was a relieí to be able to walk without being teased and
without ha·ing to run errands íor someone or the other just to earn another nickel. I guess I ·owed right then I
would ne·er be someone`s ser·ant, and it probably ne·er occurred to me that was my status at the Dinsmores`.
Mary Jane Canary reminded me oí it one day, though. Look at the little nursemaid,` she taunted írom her
íront yard when I had made the mistake oí walking by her house. She was all dressed in íine clothes, and though
my wardrobe had impro·ed some thanks to Dr. Dinsmore`s insistence, I still íelt the distinction.
lixing my eyes straight ahead, I said, Come on, Sara, ignore the nasty lady.`
low dare you call me nasty· \ou`re the one who`s nasty! Letting your mother go oíí and lea·e you to take
charity írom someone else. And who needs to say more about your mother· \here`s your íather·`
1ry as I might to be bigger than such taunts, like Dr. Dinsmore had told me, I had a hard time, and this day I
ended up clutching Sara`s hand too tightly and walking her home íar too íast íor her little short legs, while tears
streamed down both our íaces.
Mrs. Dinsmore saw us but ne·er said a word, ne·er oííered to comíort either oí us. She just turned and
walked away. But Dr. Dinsmore íound us in the hallway, both oí us crying and me trying desperately to wipe
away Sara`s tears.
Good hea·ens, what`s the matter with both oí you·`
Nothing,` I muttered. I guess I got upset on our walk, and it scared Sara. I`m sorry. It won`t happen
\hate·er could upset you that badly·`
My instinct was to bite my lip, lapse into stony but strong silence and tell him it was nothing. But something
o·ercame that instinct. Mary Jane Canary,` I said.
1hat spoiled child· \hat did she do·`
She called me a nursemaid, and said I let my mother go oíí and was taking charity and all kinds oí things.`
1ears crept down my cheeks again.
Are they true·`
\hat·` I stopped íeeling sorry íor myselí long enough to think. I had let my mother go oíí, and I was
taking care oí Sara, which meant I wasn`t really taking charity. I guess, but Mary Jane doesn`t understand.`
\hy should she· \hat do you care ií she does·`
\ell,` I said deíensi·ely, it`s my pride . . .`
Are you proud oí yourselí, oí what you`re doing·`
Sure. I`m doing better in school than e·er, and I`m reading my way through that library, and-`
And you`re beginning to learn about my medicines, and you`re taking good care oí Sara, who is ·ery happy
these days. So you`·e got a lot to be proud oí. But it doesn`t matter ií Mary Jane knows that or not.` Once again,
he towered o·er me, e·en when I raised up írom my knees, and I was aware oí his strength and authority.
It`s not that . . .` I remember being thoroughly coníused.
1hink about it a little, Mattie. I know it`s unpleasant to ha·e to listen to her, but at least you don`t ha·e to
go with your mother while Mary Jane models dresses anymore.` le got sort oí a wry grin on his íace. And we
all ha·e unpleasant people to deal with. Come on, I need help measuring out some medicines . . . Sara, you can
Laughing a little now, he picked Sara up with one arm and draped the other around my shoulders.
Mrs. Dinsmore seemed to get worse e·ery day. I couldn`t understand why someone like her, who had so
much, could be so sad and solemn when Mama, who had nothing but trouble, had managed to smile at least halí
the time and ne·er, e·er just sat and stared like Mrs. Dinsmore did.
I guess I had no conception oí how bad she really was e·en though I saw Dr. Dinsmore daily grow more
tired and worried-looking. le still had a smile íor Sara and lots oí encouragement íor me, but I would catch him,
sometimes, staring oíí into space as though lost in thought. And he was careíul oí Mrs. Dinsmore, as always, but
he seemed to spend more time around her, as though he was worried and watching her. One night I guessed
maybe he had been worried indeed.
I was wakened írom a sound sleep by an awíul screaming, a loud wailing that sent shi·ers through me and
made me want nothing more than to burrow under the co·ers, pillow o·er my head, and hide until the noise
stopped. Aíter a minute I realized, oí course, that I couldn`t do that. I had to take care oí Sara.
She was terriíied and clung to me, sobbing, It`s my mama, it`s my mama.`
I wanted to say, Nonsense, Sara, that`s not your mother.` But I knew it was indeed her, and I said nothing
but It will be all right. \our íather will take care oí her. Maybe she had a bad dream.`
1he screaming probably only lasted two or three minutes, though it seemed like hours, and then it stopped
abruptly, as though someone had clamped a strong hand o·er her mouth. Someone had, I suppose.
Mrs. Dinsmore did not appear at breakíast the next morning, though the doctor did, looking much the same
as usual. \hen Sara trotted oíí to play with her dolls, he pushed his chair írom the table and talked soítly to me.
I don`t know, Mattie, that I`·e done you any ía·or by bringing you here. 1hings appear to be worse than
they were when you were with your mother.`
\ou mean Mrs. Dinsmore·` lilled with curiosity about the night beíore, I perched on the edge oí my chair
and íorgot the rules against elbows on the table.
\hat else· \ou`re really too young to ha·e to worry about this, but I guess you`·e worried about other
things that were beyond your age.` 1aking a deep breath, he said, Mrs. Dinsmore has a serious mental disorder
írom which I doubt she will e·er reco·er. She is quiet now because I ga·e her sedation last night.`
I nodded sympathetically, but my stomach lurched. \as I going to ha·e to lea·e aíter all· \as that what he
was working up to·
I thought, íor se·eral years, that she would impro·e,` he went on, and I did the things accepted by medical
science to get her better, but nothing helped. She has, ah, a íamily predisposition to this type oí illness.`
Sara, I thought. Maybe she`ll turn out that way, too. I looked at her, playing happily with her dolls, and
couldn`t belie·e it was possible. Dr. Dinsmore saw me and read my mind. Shaking his head, he said, It`s
possible, but I hope not. Certainly, without your help, Sara would be growing up in the same dismal atmosphere
that her mother did, and I think that contributed. But as long as she can see a brighter side oí liíe, I think she`ll
I had ne·er íelt that I was too good at seeing the bright side oí liíe, but I guess I was better than that poor
woman sleeping upstairs, and I ·owed to be bright and cheeríul írom then on. It was, oí course, a ·ow I couldn`t
keep, but I meant it at the time.
Meantime, I thought Dr. Dinsmore would ne·er get to the point oí what was going to happen in the
immediate íuture. le sat calmly in that chair, looking intently at me while I íidgeted, my mind íilled with
questions. \as I to lea·e or stay· \ould he commit Mrs. Dinsmore· I doubted that, knowing that mental
institutions were hellholes íor the patients, who were oíten chained to their beds, íed the barest oí diets and
generally mistreated. I can`t remember where I had learned that, but e·ery schoolkid in those days had a grim
picture oí how awíul a mental institution was. 1hey still belie·ed that the mentally ill were no better than
animals, and they were treated accordingly.
Dr. Dinsmore did answer one oí my unspoken questions. She wasn`t always this way. I want you to know
that. Once she was young and pretty and always happy. I don`t know what happened, really, to make her change
gradually, but she surely wasn`t this way when we married. And I guess that`s the reason I can`t institutionalize
her. I will keep her at home as long as it`s saíe íor Sara.`
le ne·er said anything about saíety íor him, and I wondered ií she had threatened him when she was yelling
Mattie, the whole question is what you should do. Sara and I ha·e no choice. \ou do. Ií you can accept and
understand, I would like you to stay. Both íor your sake and, selíishly, because you`re the closest thing to adult
companionship that I ha·e. But ií you don`t íeel you can li·e with this new problem-and you can guess what
Mary Jane will say about this when it becomes public-I`ll arrange íor you to join your íamily.`
Maybe it wasn`t realistic, but I ne·er doubted íor one minute what my decision would be. I want to stay,` I
said quickly. In retrospect, it was the best choice, but at the time, I made it íor all the wrong reasons, among
them a growing recognition oí how important Dr. Dinsmore himselí was in my liíe.
I guess I thought Mrs. Dinsmore would go on staring out the window. 1his was not to be the case.
Something had broken loose in the poor woman that night, and írom then on, she no longer sat and stared. She
paced and íidgeted and ra·ed wildly and was ne·er still a moment. Dr. Dinsmore took to locking her in her
room, which he had taken special pains to make saíe so she could not hurt herselí or anyone else. But Sara and I
still heard her each day as we sat at the dining table or read in the parlor. Sometimes she would sing soítly, and
other times she would moan long and low. It was eerie, and as long as the weather was good, Sara and I were
outside as much as we could be.
Ií it weren`t íor Mrs. Dinsmore, liíe would ha·e been pretty grand. School was going well, and I liked it.
L·en better, I liked learning about Dr. Dinsmore`s medicines. Now that he had no one else to talk to except the
housekeeper, Mrs. L·ans, who wasn`t ·ery good company, he talked to me about his theories on medication,
what he thought made the body healthy and why people got sick.
1hat`s the most puzzling thing, Mattie. \hy did she` -he nodded his head upstairs- suddenly change·
\hat body chemistry in her changed to make her snap loose like that· Someday I suppose medicine will know,
but it`s a terrible puzzle now.`
I didn`t understand how body chemistry could ha·e anything to do with Mrs. Dinsmore being, well, crazy, as
I called her to myselí, but I was willing to belie·e it was so ií Dr. Dinsmore told me so. And I wanted so badly to
be intelligent íor him, to be worthy oí the trust he placed in me by discussing these things with me.
Ií its chemistry, I would think you could do something about it, gi·e her some medicine.`
Maybe someday we can, Mattie, but we don`t know enough about it now. Look how they treat most people
in her condition. 1hey lock them up like animals and claim it doesn`t make any diííerence to them. But she`s not
an animal. She knows me, knows herselí. I couldn`t lock her up.`
Oí course not. \e can manage.` I tried to sound coníident.
Mattie, Mattie, what would I do without you·` le put an arm around my shoulder and hugged me, and I
glowed with a kind oí comíort and security that had been denied me all my liíe. Dr. Dinsmore and I íilled a real
need íor each other.
It wasn`t that I replaced Mama with him, but rather, ob·iously, he became the íather I ne·er had. Instead oí
Mama, who was at once parent and child, I had a parent, someone I could respect and model myselí aíter. And
he had a semiadult, someone who would listen and ne·er, no not e·er, criticize. I was so wrapped up in my new
liíe and what I saw as my new status and position in the world that I barely e·en missed Mama and \ill lenry.
I did hear írom them. 1hey were settled comíortably in what they called a soddie. Strange to think I had no
idea what a soddie was, me who li·ed a good portion oí my liíe in one. It sounded dirty and nasty to me, and I
didn`t see how Mama would e·er get better. 1ruth was, that was the one topic missing írom that letter. 1here
wasn`t one word about Mama`s health, and the omission made me ner·ous, as it well should ha·e. But I brushed
that worry írom my mind and went on with my new liíe.
Mary Jane Canary continued to tease. Li·ing with a crazy lady, aren`t you·` \ord had gotten around town,
oí course, about Mrs. Dinsmore. I suppose it was because Mrs. L·ans ne·er talked to us, but outside the house,
had a tongue that wouldn`t stop. She was horriíied by the noises Mrs. Dinsmore made and used to shake her
head and cluck her tongue and mutter, making almost as much racket as the poor woman herselí. But somehow,
Dr. Dinsmore had helped me with Mary Jane, and I no longer paid attention. Vaguely, I íelt some kind oí pity
íor her, but it was a íeeling I would not recognize íor years to come.
I guess we would ha·e gone on like that a long time, although I had a growing íeeling that we couldn`t, that
something had to be done about Mrs. Dinsmore. I think he íelt it, too, because each day he seemed more
worried. But as he coníessed again and again, he had no idea what to do.
I can`t put her in one oí those places, Mattie, I can`t. But last night, she . . . when I took her a tray, she . . .`
le sat at his desk, head sunk in his hands in despair.
She had, as I had íeared, tried to harm him by attacking him with a kniíe, making only a small scratch but
trying hard to do him real harm. I wanted to go up and slap her. low dare she injure him· Didn`t she know he
\hy did she do it·` I asked incredulously.
le shook his head sadly. \ho knows· I doubt she does. Maybe she wanted to lea·e her room. Maybe it
was anger at me, maybe a combination oí those things, but mostly, the act oí a mind that`s lost touch with reality
and is probably írightened. Maybe the ·iolence came írom her own íright.`
Dr. Dinsmore knew at that point that it would happen again, and that someday he would ha·e to do
something. Ií he were a wealthy man, I am sure he would ha·e hired a keeper íor her, but there was not enough
money íor that.
Mrs. Dinsmore sol·ed it íor us one day, or rather, one night. In spite oí Dr. Dinsmore`s care, she íound a
way to damage someone-herselí. \ith a bedsheet tied out the window, she hung herselí írom the second story
oí the house. I was always thankíul Sara and I were spared the sight. Someone saw her early in the morning and
alerted Dr. Dinsmore, who ordered us to stay in our rooms. By the time we were released, the body had been
taken away and the house was crowded with people, all oííering sympathy and trying to satisíy their curiosity.
Mattie, dear, you`re so strong and such a help to the doctor in this terrible time` . . . \ou`·e been through
so much, Mattie. lirst your poor dear mother, and now this` . . . low, I mean, does anybody know why . . . ·`
linally I said to one curious lady, Sorry, I think Sara needs me.` I scooped the child up and ran írom the
room, nearly colliding with Dr. Dinsmore, who was talking with the minister.
1errible shame, just terrible. Don`t suppose there`s anything a man can do to pre·ent it in cases like this.`
Perhaps I should ha·e put her into an institution, but I couldn`t bring myselí to do it, just couldn`t. Maybe
this is all íor the best.`
Oh, ne·er, man, ne·er must you say that. It`s a sin, what she has done, a terrible sin.`
She didn`t know sin írom right, Re·erend. I think she only wanted to be íree oí her torment.`
1he íuneral was held the next day, instead oí the customary three days later, and there was no large íuneral
party. Only a handíul oí people gathered around the gra·esite as the re·erend implored God to íorgi·e her íor
she knew not what she did.
I didn`t think Mrs. Dinsmore`s death would make as much diííerence in our li·es as it did, except that we`d
be spared that sense oí a shadow looming o·er us and those awíul noises she used to make. But I guess I was
young and didn`t realize about hidden tension. 1hings changed dramatically around the Dinsmore house, almost
immediately, and íor the better. Dr. Dinsmore, my rock and my protector, became almost a playmate íor Sara
and me. It was as though he took a day or two to reconcile himselí to the ine·itability oí what had happened,
then shook oíí the past and determined to build himselí a new liíe.
Come on, girls, what are you doing with your noses in books on a day like this·`
Sara was studying her ABCs, and I`m trying to íinish-`
I don`t care what you`re trying to íinish!` le said it with a laugh and grabbed 1be ía.t of tbe Mobicav. right
out oí my hands. \e`re going on a picnic.`
A picnic!` Sara squealed, running to Mrs. L·ans to demand, I want íried chicken íor my picnic.`
1hat grim lady, unlike her employer, had not reconciled herselí to the death, and she said harshly, \ou`ll get
sandwiches oí yesterday`s roast. I ain`t got no time to íry chicken.`
But e·en Mrs. L·ans couldn`t put a damper on our day, and soon we were loaded into the carriage, a picnic
hamper oí our own packing on the íloor. Dr. Dinsmore dro·e way out into the country, or so it seemed, e·en
though it probably was no more than two miles. \e spread a blanket under a large oak tree.
le and Sara wandered, picking wildílowers, while I unpacked the lunch oí cold roast, carrot sticks,
homemade bread ,Mrs. L·ans could make wonderíul bread e·en ií she was the sourest lady in all oí Missouri!,
and a chocolate cake which I had made in an eííort to become domestic as well as widely read. It was all
delicious except the cake.
A triíle dry, Mattie,` Dr. Dinsmore said careíully. \ou`ll get better. 1hen again, maybe you won`t. Maybe
you weren`t meant to bake and sweep and clean. \ou could learn medicine írom me, you know.`
I guess he planted the idea in my mind right then. Anyway, I didn`t answer, just stared oíí at Sara, who was
playing with something in the grass. But my thoughts were on the íuture, because suddenly I saw a way out oí
the trap set by my childhood and background.
Sure,` I answered íinally, trying to be casual. I can learn medicine.` But I meant it seriously.
Aíter we ate, we all lay on the ground and listened while he told stories oí his boyhood in Philadelphia and
how he had come to be a doctor and why he had come out to Missouri to practice instead oí staying back there
e·en though doctors weren`t really well respected on the írontier. I was thrilled to my bones to hear oí his early
Mrs. Dinsmore had died at the beginning oí summer, and íor the three oí us, it was a glorious summer,
unkind as that sounds. Sometimes we went picnicking, sometimes Sara and I went on house calls with Dr.
Dinsmore, and once we went íishing, though Sara was much better than I about getting a worm on the hook.
la·e to get o·er that squeamishness ií you`re going to work with me,` he teased. Got to de·elop a strong
I bit my lip and íorced the wriggling, squiggly thing onto the hook, but I ha·e ne·er to this day liked íishing
and don`t really like to eat íish. I think it all comes írom that memory.
\hen íall came, we settled more into a routine. Sara was six and oíí to school íor the íirst year, and I was
busy with high school. Unconsciously, I had somewhat taken o·er the running oí the household, not that Mrs.
Dinsmore had e·er done much oí it in recent years. But the doctor would ask me to check this or that with Mrs.
L·ans, and soon I íound myselí selecting what we would ha·e íor dinner íor the coming week and reminding
her that the rugs needed beating. 1o this day, I don`t know how I knew how to keep house, íor certainly, in our
little shack, Mama had ne·er beaten the rugs-there were only two. I think that housekeeping knowledge was
another giít to me írom Dr. Dinsmore, a giít gi·en so subtly I was ne·er aware oí it.
\e went on that way íor three more years. Sara grew and ílourished, an adorable and sweet child in whom I
thought the sun rose and set. She íilled the ·oid leít by \ill lenry. \hen she was se·en, she lost her íirst tooth,
and I stitched her a small sampler about the tooth íairy, trying to remember all the íine stitches Mama had tried
to teach me and doing a poor job oí it. 1hat was probably the last needlework I e·er did in my whole liíe, except
íor emergency mending. My stitches were always clumsy and ob·ious, not íine and delicate like Mama`s, and
because I didn`t sew well, it bored me. 1o this day, I`m a little suspicious oí women who sew íor the pleasure oí
But back to Sara. \hen she was nine, she broke her wrist. I remember it distinctly. I was more írantic than
any mother could ha·e been, alternating between wringing my hands and scolding her íor unladylike beha·ior. Ií
she hadn`t climbed that tree, she ne·er would ha·e íallen.
Mattie, Mattie. It`s uníortunate, but broken bones are oíten a part oí growing up. And I`d rather she take
risks and ha·e íun than sit in a chair and ne·er experience the world.`
I looked doubtíul. It was the íirst time that I was clearly aware that Dr. Dinsmore might not always be right,
but I guess I didn`t know that he was thinking oí his wiíe and the risks she ne·er took, the narrowness oí a con-
stricted liíe that íinally led to madness and suicide.
Other incidents stand out more happily-Sara giggling with a little íriend o·er a book they had sneaked írom
the library, Sara dressed íor her íirst communion or riding the pony her íather bought her íor her eighth
birthday. She had a wonderíul childhood, and my teen years, which could ha·e been awkward and miserable,
turned wonderíul because oí her and her íather. But inside, the whole time, I nursed a secret plan. I knew Sara
would be grown one day, and I couldn`t be her nursemaid íore·er, but I knew what came next íor me. 1he only
question was, how·
1he death oí my mother was the only blow that came to me in those years, but it was a major one. Mr.
Ree·es wrote the kindest oí letters, explaining that she had simply continued to lose strength, and nothing he
could do had re·i·ed her. le was, I remember sensing, e·en more heartbroken than I, and I íelt sorry íor him.
le promised to keep \ill lenry with him and said I had a home, too, any time I wanted it. le expected they
would mo·e írom Kansas to Nebraska soon because he had heard the íarming was good there, and he íelt the
need to mo·e on to a place with íewer memories.
I was a little angry that he would mo·e and lea·e Mama buried alone in strange soil, but I knew enough to
recognize that as an irrational thought and didn`t mention it when I wrote back. Neither did I mention the awíul
sense oí guilt that tore at me because I had let my mother go without me, a sense oí guilt that perhaps I ne·er
did work out the rest oí my liíe.
I thanked him íor all his kindness and assured him that I was comíortably settled where I was and would
remain in Princeton íor years to come. I didn`t bother to tell him about my secret plan íor the íuture, mostly
because as yet I had no idea how I would implement that plan. It was a íantasy that I clung to tightly.
Mama used to say to me that íate works in mysterious ways. 1hat`s truly how it was when Dr. Dinsmore
announced one day that he was mo·ing to Omaha, where he had accepted a position with the new medical
school. \ith my usual selíishness, I could not see beyond my own nose and saw, not possibilities, but closed
doors in his announcement. It had happened to me once beíore-the íamily I lo·ed had leít me behind-and
now it was going to happen again. le was mo·ing to Omaha, and I would be leít in Princeton, where I now had
neither íamily nor íriends and certainly no way oí making my dream come true.
Mattie, aren`t you glad· \hy can`t you say something·`
I`m sure you`ll be ·ery happy there,` I said stiííly, my back straight and my íace tightly set.
\hat do you mean, you`re sure I`ll be happy there· \hat about you·`
I stared, silent, and a look oí awareness broke on his íace, íollowed by a grin. \ou`re to go, too, you silly
thing. Do you think Sara and I would lea·e you behind· I thought you`d be delighted. \e`ll be at a medical
school, a chance íor you to learn more about medicine.` le paused, seeming lost in thought, though now I
wonder ií he wasn`t aíter a dramatic eííect. \ou could, you know, go to medical school.`
I almost sagged with relieí. lere was the key to my plan. \et experience had taught me caution.
\omen don`t go to medical school,` I said, testing him.
le had anticipated my arguments and had his answers ready. 1hey do back Last. I admit none has e·er
gone to the college in Omaha. But that doesn`t mean you couldn`t be the íirst.`
Me·` It was what I wanted, yet when it was presented to me, I wasn`t sure I could do it.
\es, you. \ou could do it, Mattie. \ou`re a good student, you`·e got a background in medicine, at least a
little írom me. And you are interested, aren`t you·`
\es, I am,` I admitted. I really would like to be a doctor because, well, because there ought to ha·e been
some way that Mama didn`t need to die.` It wasn`t a new thought on the spur oí the moment, but something I
had been thinking about. Ií I had been trained, had more knowledge, would Mama ha·e li·ed· She wouldn`t, but
I didn`t know it back then. And in the back oí my mind still was the thought that I didn`t tell him: Medicine was
my way out oí Princeton and po·erty.
Good. It`s settled. I`ll sponsor you.`
In those days it didn`t take much to get into medical school, not like today, and one oí the surest paths was
to get another doctor to sponsor you. 1here would, I thought, be no question oí my admission to the next class,
since I already had my high school training. \ith Dr. Dinsmore speaking íor me, there would be no problems
unless the school objected to women.
le must ha·e read my mind. It`s time that school admitted women, started looking ahead. I`m going to
change some things there, and you`re going to help me do it, Mattie. It`s períect.`
No, I didn`t íeel like a tool he was using. I knew Dr. Dinsmore really did want what was best íor me, and
that, to his mind, was íor me to be that íirst woman doctor, no matter what problems I íaced. Oí course, we
hadn`t heard oí Pygmalion at the time.
A412'%) H*+) G L<>% M%''(%'*,? A1)*(6, E" N*&% 7 0*/%'</%& 1 O)%1' A*//*'<*,
Carolyn J. Rose grew up in New \ork`s Catskill Mountains, graduated írom the Uni·ersity oí Arizona,
logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Ser·ice to America, and spent 25 years as a tele·ision
news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and
\ashington. She teaches no·el-writing in Vancou·er, \ashington, and íounded the Vancou·er \riters`
Mixers. ler hobbies are reading, gardening, and not cooking.
Mike Nettleton grew up in Bandon and Grants Pass, Oregon. A stint at a college station in Ashland led to a multi-state
radio odyssey with on-air gigs in Oregon, Caliíornia, and New Mexico under the air name Mike Phillips. In 1989 he
returned to the Northwest and in 1994 joined KLX Radio in Portland. Aíter 16 years at KLX, he`s retiring January 1
hopes to de·ote more time to his writing. lis hobbies are golí, pool, 1exas hold-em poker, and book collecting.
Carolyn and Mike ha·e authored a number oí mysteries.
Author website: http:,,www.deadlyduomysteries.com,
Carolyn J. Rose Amazon.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,2atqo2q
Mike Nettleton Amazon.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,2c¯¯6í6
Publisher website: http:,,www.krillpress.com
Copyright © 2010 Krill Press, LLC
0*/%'</%& 1 O)%1' A*//*'<*,
1he situation is dire, Molly. Dire and disgusting.` Mayor lenri 1re·elle wa·ed an oííicial letter under my
nose, and then íanned himselí with it. lecal contamination. L. coli bacteria.` le shuddered. Such horrid
words emerging írom my lips.`
le plopped into his rocking chair at the rear oí the Gilded Puííin Giít and Gun Shoppe and peered o·er the
rims oí rhinestone-studded reading glasses. Ií I had e·en the tiniest inkling that the sewage íacility had reached
the end oí its days, I would not ha·e allowed Adam to sweet talk me into being mayor.` lenri squeezed his eyes
shut and I spotted glittery blue shadow on the lids, eye shadow the same shade as his ruííled silk shirt. It`s
probably not legal anyway,` he muttered, since I am not a citizen.`
I tapped my pen against a blank page in my notebook, ignoring lenri`s reíerence to his lrench-Canadian
heritage. Nobody in De·il`s larbor would consider checking the charter íor a citizenship requirement. lor one
thing, no one else wanted the job. lor another, they respected the íormer hockey legend-some in spite oí and
some because oí his ílamboyant style. Are you saying Brighton Deeds knew the wastewater plant needed a
major o·erhaul but did nothing·`
Nothing was what Deeds did best.` lenri handed me the letter, then patted his ample lap, Angel, his three-
legged Balinese, hopped aboard. And that is íortunate since what he did was usually íar worse than what he
didn`t do.` lenri petted the cat with a hand-o·er-hand stroke. lair crackling with static electricity, Angel arched
her back and kneaded his meaty thighs. lis sole ci·ic impro·ement was bashing Grabowski with that írozen
íish and tossing his carcass oíí Perdition Point. But don`t quote me.`
I grinned. Spoilsport.`
le growled and shot me a scowl that must ha·e terriíied high-sticking opponents back in the day.
Strictly oíí the record,` I promised, raising my hands in surrender.
1he truth was that most oí my con·ersations with lenri were oíí the record. le was an incurable gossip
with a huge heart and a mouth that ran non-stop, he was also my best íriend-next to Jeíírey \olíe who
wouldn`t be back until a íew days beíore Christmas. I missed him like crazy, but we`d agreed he couldn`t pass up
the opportunity to make enough in three months to li·e and write in De·il`s larbor íor two years. le`d leít my
dad without a íirst mate, but the charter business was about to go dormant until spring anyway.
I noticed I`d drawn a tiny heart on the paper and quickly scribbled o·er it. Did I lo·e Jeíírey· 1hat was a
mystery. 1he summer months had been among the best oí my liíe. But, thanks to my ex-husband who`d chosen
to announce our honeymoon was o·er by getting it on with my best íriend, when it came to lo·e, I was prone to
search íor a cloud whene·er I disco·ered a sil·er lining.
I yanked myselí back to my job and studied the letter írom the state agency in charge oí en·ironmental
matters. 1ranslated írom bureaucratese, it indicated that the De·il`s larbor wastewater treatment plant was out
oí compliance and that twice o·er the summer hadn`t processed sewage íast enough. Partially treated waste had
spilled into the ocean, raising bacterial pollution and putting swimmers and suríers at risk. Not that Oregon`s
chill waters attracted many oí either, but pollution wasn`t an existential issue-it was there, whether anyone was
exposed to it or not.
It`s not like we intentionally dumped that-well, let`s call it what it is-poo-pay. Bucky Mallory says the
system is antiquated. \hen the sky opens or a bus load oí tourists contracts the two-step miseries because
Gro·er hasn`t changed the deep íat íryer grease íor a month, then it`s too much.` le pointed at my notebook.
1here. 1hat you may include.`
Obediently I made a note and tapped the oííicial letter. 1his says state and íederal grants may be a·ailable to
o·erhaul the system. Are you looking into that·`
Mai. ovi. But in order to get a grant, we must ha·e what they call matching íunds. Money. Big bucks.`
I drew a dollar sign on the pad. 1oo many things re·ol·ed around money-or the lack oí it. Doesn`t the
town ha·e a contingency íund·`
1hirty-se·en dollars worth,` lenri snorted. 1here is no money e·en to pay Bucky`s salary. lortunately
íender benders were plentiíul this summer and his body shop was busy. More íortunately, he accepts IOU`s.`
I nodded. Like many De·il`s larbor residents, Bucky worked two jobs. Note that I said jobs.` No one in
De·il`s larbor put the label career` on what they did to make a li·ing. \e were a hardy band oí realists.
Studying the dollar sign, I realized how little I knew about municipal íinancing. \here do all the taxes go· \hy
isn`t there more·`
lenri shrugged. 1wo words. Brighton Deeds.`
I sat up straighter. Now here was a tidbit my editors in Portland would leap at, more dirty dealings by the
íormer mayor who`d go to trial next month. le embezzled írom the town·`
Puh-leeze.` lenri raised eyebrows dyed to match his highlighted blond hair. Don`t insult embezzlers. 1he
íishmonger mayor was merely a shortsighted, mismanaging wastrel who ílew íirst class to e·ery coníerence and
con·ention he heard about. lis meal allowance íor one trip would buy your wardrobe íor a year.`
lenri pursed his lips and studied my tennis shoes, jeans, and the 1-shirt that read: \hat ií the lokey Pokey
really i. what it`s all about·` I held my chin up. \e`d been down this road beíore. Oíten. I`m a reporter, not a
le sighed hea·ily and waggled his íinger, a sign he`d get back to that later. Anyway, right now the town`s
situation is the opposite oí the sewer plant`s-nothing coming in and too much going out.`
1oo bad you can`t route the sewage through city hall,` I quipped.
lenri shot me that scowl again.
Bad joke,` I mumbled. De·il`s larbor`s city hall was a íile cabinet behind lenri`s counter and a table at the
Belly Up Bar near the bait cooler. Maybelline \amamoto, the town secretary, took down the minutes in between
pulling beers and mixing drinks. Can you borrow money íor the matching íunds·`
1o be able to borrow, one must be able to pay back. \ith interest.`
\hat about increasing taxes·`
le shook his head. Gus Custer has been-as you say-in my íace about that. And Prudence Deeds claims
she knows people in high places.`
In the biblical sense,` I assured him. And plenty in low places, too.` 1he íormer mayor`s wiíe was
legendary íor her sexcapades. Most recently she`d been ca·orting with Joe Benton who`d íinessed the
congressional seat Brighton Deeds had pursued beíore his arrest.
But I ha·e a plan. And the town council has appro·ed it.` lis chest swelled. 1he plan is two-pronged.`
I grinned. \ou`re one oí the íew men who can use the word prong` in an intelligent con·ersation. Most
would try to make it into a limerick.`
A mischie·ous smile tweaked lenri`s lips. I understand the temptation. It does rhyme with quite a number
oí interesting words.`
I`ll pass on listing them.` I tapped the notebook with my pen. I ha·e to get this story written and e-mailed
in beíore dinner.` And then check íor an e-mail írom Jeíí while I ate my tuna sandwich. Alone. \allowing in
lenri ga·e Angel another íew strokes and raised the index íinger on his right hand. Prong one: strict water
conser·ation measures. Lííecti·e tomorrow. 1own councilors are spreading the word and cutting back their own
le reached íor a stack oí paper lying on top oí the pot-bellied sto·e that he`d stoke up when rains came with
a ·engeance in late October. I`·e made a copy íor you.` le handed me a stapled sheaí. I`·e listed the water
usage íor each household and business in De·il`s larbor. Now, water in equates to water out.` le ílipped a íew
pages. As you can see, businesses like the De·il`s lood Caíe and the Belly Up use the most. Lspecially during
tourist season. Dishes must be washed. Customers eat and drink and then they-` le grimaced. I don`t need to
spell that out íor you, do I·`
Nope,` I chuckled. It`s only íour letters.`
lenri rolled his eyes. But you see the situation, no· \e must waste less. \e must take shorter showers. \e
must repair dripping íaucets. \e must ílush less oíten. \e must-`
-encourage constipation·` I suggested. Put up signs that read: restrooms íor locals only`·`
lenri rubbed the closely sha·ed and well-moisturized skin beneath his jaw. Could we do that·`
Probably not without ha·ing your designer socks sued oíí. But I can log onto some water conser·ation sites
and get a ton oí ideas. I`ll help you make a ílyer ií you want.` \hat the heck, it would earn me ci·ic points and
what else did I ha·e to do with my e·enings·
llyers.` lenri kissed his íingertips. Magniíicent. Bright, coloríul, eye-catching. I`m thinking íuchsia.
Although a morning glory blue would be classy, too. Perhaps a lime-`
I wa·ed him oíí. \e`ll deal with colors later. I ha·e a deadline, remember· \hat`s part two oí the plan·`
lenri chewed his lower lip. Remember this is an emergency situation,` he cautioned. Be sure to use that
word, emergency,` se·eral times.`
Lmergency.` I rolled my eyes as I wrote it in capital letters. Got it.`
And remember that water conser·ation will not sol·e the problems with the treatment íacility, it will only
relie·e the pressure, so to speak. 1he go·ernment has threatened to íine us the next time the system o·erílows.
\e must íind íunding íor a new íacility tovt ae .vite.`
I crooked my index íinger. So part two oí the plan is·`
lenri sighed. \e don`t like it, but we all agreed we ha·e no other choice.` le sighed again. \ell, all
except Adam Quarles. le ·oted against it. But the majority rules, correct·`
I nodded. 1hat`s the way democracy works. Lxcept possibly in llorida during a close election. But let`s not
Not e·en Key \est·` lenri stroked an eyebrow. In January·`
So noted.` I made a squiggle in the notebook. And the contro·ersial prong two oí the plan is·`
lenri took a deep breath. Logging the town trust land. Selecti·e logging,` he added. Not clear-cutting.
\e`ll replant seedlings immediately.`
Logging·` 1he town trust land lay on the east side oí the hills scalped by Vince Grabowski íor the
de·elopment and golí course. 1he parcel had been deeded to the town in the 1940s by the widow oí a minor
logging baron who had hoped, in ·ain, that De·il`s larbor would de·elop a park and erect a monument in his
honor. I`d written a story on the acreage back in July when Gus Custer had complained about teenagers drag
racing up the dirt road past his house and trashing the woods with boondocker parties. Do you think Adam will
try to block the logging·`
1hat`s a gi·en. Adam was born to protest, so I expect he`ll try to rally support.` lenri shrugged. But he
does not ha·e a legal leg to stand on. I`·e already had the land checked íor endangered species. I think once we
take the case to the people, Adam will be the only ·oice crying in the wilderness.`
le smacked himselí on the íorehead. Mov aiev. I`m beginning to sound like Llspeth lunsaker. lorget I said
Already íorgotten,` I assured him with a grin. lenri was still doing penance íor inad·ertently helping the
íeds unplug our resident Bible-thumper`s sermonizing radio station. 1wice a month he lugged a ·ideo camera
around the county, taping her ra·ings íor public access 1V.
Angel meowed imperiously and lenri set her on the íloor. \es, my darling. Daddy has some poached sea
bass. \ou shall ha·e it in a moment.`
Poached sea bass· 1he cat ate better than I did.
I snapped my notebook shut and glanced at my watch. Nearly noon. Adam would be with Claire, ha·ing
lunch or, more possibly, sex. lis kite and natural íood shop, Passing \ind, would be closed until . . . well, until
whene·er. I`d rough out my story and get his comments later. 1hat was my obligation as a journalist, e·en
though the case íor logging seemed clear. Non-compliance meant more pollution, and heíty íines. 1he town
owned the land. Protesting would just drag things out. But Adam ·iewed tilting at windmills as a competiti·e
Adam Quarles poured organic carrot juice into a glass, added ice cubes and carried the drink to the man
enjoying the 2¯0-degree ·iew oí the coast írom his seat on the extra-long soía beside Claire Grabowski. Adam
winced inwardly at the last name oí her íormer husband, land-grabbing de·eloper and recent homicide ·ictim.
Adam wasn`t a male chau·inist. le didn`t expect her to take his name ií they decided to ha·e the state sanction
their union but he wanted her to change hers-to her maiden name, a letter, a number, or e·en a symbol.
Anything but Grabowski. le`d made his case se·eral times until she`d told him to get o·er it or get out. le`d
come to suspect she hung onto the name as penance, but he couldn`t bring that up. Claire was a woman oí her
1hanks, brother.` 1he man on the soía swept long blond hair oíí his shoulders, accepted the drink, and
examined it, swirling the orange liquid as ií it were íine wine. \ou sure this is organic·`
Adam bristled. Oí course.`
I mean, truthíul labeling is a real issue, you know·` le swirled the liquid again, making the ice tinkle against
the glass. \ou`·e got to do your research, check out the company.` le raised eyebrows many shades darker
than his hair.
I run an orgavic íood store,` Adam said írom between gritted teeth. I bv, organic íood. I .ett organic íood.
1hat juice is organic.`
1he man swirled the liquid again. And the ice·`
Pure spring water.` Claire tossed her dark curls and slid closer to the end oí the soía and íarther away írom
their guest. I poured it into the trays myselí. No chlorine. No íluoride. Adam gets it írom Montana.`
1hat, Adam knew, was a bald-íaced lie. Claire`s reírigerator had an icemaker supplied by tap water írom the
town wells. 1he lie and her body language told him she didn`t like this guy. \ell, she didn`t ha·e to.
1he man examined the juice again and twitched his tresses once more. 1he hair reminded Adam oí the guy
who`d played the elí in that three-part íantasy mo·ie. But this guy`s eyes were squinty and his mouth was mean.
\ou can`t be too careíul,` the man said
Oh, don`t I know it,` Claire agreed. Ií anything, I`m more oí an organic crusader than Adam.` She spread
her arms and made circles in the air with her íingers. In íact, as soon as I íinish settling my late husband`s
estate, I`m going to ha·e this house le·eled-I`ll recycle the materials, oí course-and build a completely green
Another bald-íaced lie. Claire was yanking this guy`s chain. Adam realized she was tweaking him, too, and
íelt ·aguely queasy. She`d ne·er done that beíore.
1he world would be a better place ií there were more people like you.` 1he man smiled and shiíted closer
to her. Ií you`re going to talk the talk, you ha·e to walk the walk. Know what I mean·` le twirled a strand oí
hair around his íingers.
Lxactly. 1here are so many phonies out there.` Claire wrinkled her nose and rolled her eyes at Adam.
\hat was that supposed to mean· \as she saying he wasn`t committed· le burrowed his íingers into his
dreadlocked hair and scratched his head as he sank into a soít chair. 1he ·isitor, seemingly satisíied about its
pro·enance, drank halí oí the carrot juice and set the glass on the cork coaster Claire thrust between it and the
polished suríace oí an oak coííee table. Shall we get down to . . . ·` Adam groped íor a word more appropriate
than business,` but couldn`t come up with one.
Business·` 1he man leaned back among plump teal green soía cushions. 1hat`s why I`m here. By the way,
I`m called lorest Lcho.`
Claire choked on a snort and made it a cough. Do we call you lorest· Or Mr. Lcho·`
I preíer lorest Lcho. 1he words together íorm an image. It came to me in a ·ision, when I was íasting in a
redwood íorest.` le slid se·eral inches closer to Claire. But ,ov may call me whate·er you please.`
I`m deeply honored.` Sarcasm thick in her ·oice, Claire bounced írom the soía and snatched up his glass.
Let me get you a reíill and then I`ll lea·e you two to hatch your little scheme.` She scurried to the kitchen,
poured juice, returned the glass to the table and, with a íingertip wa·e, disappeared up the steps to the bedroom
loít where, Adam had no doubt, she would listen to e·ery word.
lorest Lcho, who`d watched Claire with the rapt attention oí a hungry weasel, licked his lips. Adam
shuddered. le wanted the deal done and this sleazy character out oí the house. Let`s get down to business.
low does this work· Do we sign a contract· Do I íill out a \-2 íorm· I`·e been in·ol·ed in a lot oí protests,
but we always demonstrated íor the cause, not íor money.`
lorest Lcho glared and sho·ed his hair behind his ears. \es, we do sign a contract. But let`s get one thing
straight. I`m not merely a mercenary, an acti·ist, a tree-sitter íor hire.` le thumped his chest. I betiere in what
you`re trying to do, but I ha·e to eat. So do my people.`
1hat`s another thing.` Adam was beginning to wonder ií putting out an SOS to the radical wing oí the
en·ironmental mo·ement had been a mistake. low many people are we talking about· \here will they stay·
1he town wants to cut the trees to raise money to íix the sewage system. Ií we add to that problem with a lot oí
protesters, the media will jump all o·er us.` Not to mention that lenri would jump all o·er him. lor real.
Not to worry, brother.` lorest Lcho made a peace sign. My people will camp in the íorest. 1hey`ll use
only blown-down limbs íor their shelters. 1hey`ll subsist on íood donated by like-minded indi·iduals in the
community and on what they can íorage-nuts, berries, roots and íish-nothing on the endangered species list,
oí course. 1hey`ll pack out their waste and garbage.`
Adam nodded. Still, ií you get a íew hundred people camping, cooking, and crapping, we`re talking
lorest Lcho smiled with what Adam detected as a touch oí condescension. \ou won`t get hundreds oí
people this time oí year-not with school back in session and the rainy season about to begin. \ou`ll get only the
truly committed-a íew dozen, max.`
A íew dozen. 1hat was manageable. Okay. Now what about the money·`
A thousand up íront, íor start-up expenses. 1hen a hundred a day. Cash only.`
Adam hesitated, picking at a loose button on his hemp shirt and grappling with the concept oí protesting as
a business. le`d ne·er been moti·ated by money. Ií he had any leít at the end oí the year, he donated it to land
conser·ancies and groups working to control population growth.
Like I told you on the phone. I take care oí the publicity. I notiíy the media and arrange news coníerences
and ·ideo opportunities.` lorest Lcho leaned toward Adam and talked íaster, like a car salesman about to close
a deal. I`m an independent contractor. I`m insured and I`ll sign a wai·er so you won`t be held responsible íor
anything that might go wrong.`
Covtractor. ív.vravce. !airer. 1his was getting way too complicated. Go wrong· \hat could-·`
Nothing,` lorest Lcho interrupted. L·erything`s cool, bro.`
Oh, say I got struck by lightning, or íell out oí the tree, or got arrested. Ií you`·e signed the contract, you`re
Not liable. 1hat part Adam understood. le wouldn`t need to check with Chuck \amamoto who handled
legal stuíí íor e·eryone in town. 1hat was a relieí. 1he íewer people who knew the protesters were paid, the
better. Chuck was inscrutable, and stingy with words, but his wiíe, Maybelline, spread gossip like warm butter,
and one oí her hobbies was listening in on Chuck`s phone calls. \hen can you start·`
lorest Lcho licked his lips. \ou`·e got the cash·`
Adam nodded. le kept a thousand in the saíe at Passing \ind. le had more in the till. Lnough, he
calculated, to íinance a week`s worth oí protesting.
1hen I`ll start tonight.` lorest Lcho sprang to his íeet and thrust his toes into the írayed rope sandals he`d
kicked oíí. I`·e got a contract out in the car. Oh, it`s not my car,` he assured Adam. I borrowed it írom a
íriend. I won`t own a polluting ·ehicle. I`d like to see pri·ate cars outlawed, but . . .` le shrugged. Buses don`t
run to the places I work.`
No railway stations in the woods,` Adam agreed. As he íollowed lorest Lcho across the deck and down
the stairs to the dri·eway, he mar·eled at the number oí patches on his worn jeans and coarse cotton shirt.
Could íabric really tear in that many places and not completely disintegrate· \as lorest Lcho`s outíit more
costume than clothing·
1he en·ironmental hired gun pulled two contracts írom a íile íolder on the passenger seat oí an aging
hatchback and spread them on the hood. One íor you and one íor me. Just sign and date them at the bottom.`
le oííered a pen.
Adam made a show oí reading the íirst íew densely worded paragraphs, then ga·e up and scrawled his name.
As long as he wasn`t liable, it was okay.
1hanks.` lorest Lcho tossed one copy oí the contract into the car and handed the other to Adam. le
smiled, showing all his teeth, his squinty eyes gleamed. By the way, ií you`ll check the íiíth paragraph there on
page two, you`ll see that, in addition to the cash, there are a íew extra items you`·e agreed to pro·ide.`
I`·e got this election in the bag.` Sheriíí Greg Lrdman swung his íeet up to the corner oí his hulking
wooden desk and crossed his arms behind his head. Nothing can go wrong between now and No·ember.`
1ourist season was o·er and the crime rate on the Oregon coast had dwindled, he íinally had time to
campaign íor the position to which he`d been appointed in early summer. I`·e cut costs and increased patrols,`
he told a íile cabinet in the assured tone he`d practiced íor weeks. And I cracked the Grabowski murder case.`
1he íile cabinet, ne·er a stickler íor accuracy, didn`t bring up the íact that Greg may ha·e collected e·idence,
but Molly Dono·an had coníronted Brighton Deeds.
A lucky guess,` Greg snorted. Ií he`d had a little more time and a lot more cooperation, he would ha·e
nailed Deeds beíore the o·erweight oííender took Molly hostage during the \hirligig lesti·al parade.
Greg shiíted his legs to head oíí a cramp and scowled at a listing pile oí paperwork he should ha·e plowed
through weeks ago. Molly was a Class A pain in the rear, but she was a major babe with a trim body, curly red
hair, and exactly twenty-three íreckles on her nose. \hat did she see in Jeíírey \olíe· A poet· \hat kind oí a
job was that íor a man·
le smiled as he remembered that \olíe was temporarily out oí the way. lar out oí the way. In louston,
writing haiku poems íor a shoe company.
laiku·` Greg chuckled. Gi·e me a break.` laiku sounded more like a sneeze than poetry.
le ran his íingers through his hair, smoothed his uniíorm shirt and sucked in his stomach. Molly must be
lonely. Maybe he`d dri·e up to De·il`s larbor, shake a íew hands, and kiss a baby-ií he could íind one that
wasn`t co·ered in drool. 1hen he`d take Molly out to dinner.
No. le`d stop at Gro·er`s Clam and lam and get a take-out order. le`d pick up a six-pack oí beer-maybe
e·en some oí that microbrew stuíí-and they`d picnic on a secluded beach. \omen lo·ed romantic, impetuous,
spontaneous crap like that.
le reached íor a pad and paper to map it all out.
Maybelline \amamoto arose írom the ladies` room toilet at the Belly Up Bar and Bait Shop, zipped her hot
pink stirrup pants, and straightened her ílowered blouse. She glanced behind her as she headed íor the sink.
Once again the low-ílow toilet had done only halí the job.
She punched the sil·er button on the lid again.
lonestly, what good did it do to sa·e water on the íirst ílush ií it always took a second one· And sometimes
a íew jabs with the plunger.
\hy were these dratted things so noisy· And why did a piece oí toilet paper always seem to make its way
back up the pipe and íloat back and íorth like a piece oí seaweed driíting with the tide·
Satisíied that a third ílush wasn`t necessary, she washed her hands at the small sink with the íaucet that had
been dripping since the turn oí the century. She supposed she`d ha·e to get someone in to íix that. It would be
just like lenri, selí-appointed wastewater conser·ation watchdog, to check the ladies` room and íine her.
She used one long sil·er íingernail to sho·e a rogue strand oí hair back into her orange beehi·e. \ith lenri
obsessing about e·ery drop oí water down the drain and leaning on her to pro·ide a good example, she`d ha·e
to put oíí her post-tourist season intensi·e deep cleaning.
liroshi, bless his little heart, didn`t seem concerned about her íears that Adam would monkey wrench plans
to sell the town timber and get a new sewage system in beíore next summer`s onslaught oí tourists. liroshi-
who e·eryone but Maybelline called Chuck-had assured her, in his usual terse íashion, that Adam lacked both
money and a legal leg to stand on. No loot, no lawsuit, no dispute,` he`d said. \hat a chatterbox.
She smiled. Speaking oí chatter, it was nearly time to drop by the De·il`s lood Caíe and ha·e a cup oí
coííee with LaDonna Perkins-beíore lenri cut oíí all their water and they were reduced to inhaling instant
coííee crystals through straws.
1hank you,` Llspeth lunsaker said as Shelley Perkins set the plate in íront oí her and topped oíí her
coííee. It was important to display good manners, Llspeth reminded herselí, e·en in a case like this, when
Shelley was períorming a paid-íor ser·ice and not, in the strictest sense, doing a ía·or.
\ou`re welcome.` Shelley totaled Llspeth`s lunch bill. Coííee and the crab cake special: >4.69. Llspeth had
already done the math and planned to lea·e a thirty-one cent tip. liíteen percent, she rationalized, was merely a
guideline, not a law. Besides, the crab cake looked a little scorched. 1hirty-one cents was more than adequate.
Shelley set the check beside the salt and pepper shakers. Can I do anything else íor you·`
Llspeth couldn`t pass up that in·itation. \ou could stop consorting and cohabiting with the boy who sells
that blasphemous ice cream.`
Shelley rolled her eyes.
I`m sorry to be so blunt,` Llspeth said, well aware that she íelt not a scrap oí remorse. 1he girl needed to
know. And ií her mother wouldn`t take a íirm hand-Llspeth cast a dark glance toward the table where La
Donna and Maybelline were giggling about something she was certain bordered on blasphemy-then it was up
to someone else in this ·illage to help raise this nineteen-year-old child. I ha·e it on good authority that you two
e·en shower together.` Good authority being a strong pair oí binoculars and the gauzy curtain in Ichabod
lerris`s bathroom window.
A slow smile liíted Shelley`s íull lips. But Miz lunsaker, you ·oted íor water conser·ation, didn`t you·`
I most certainly did.` Llspeth sat up straighter, proud oí ha·ing done her ci·ic duty. Beíore I cast that ·ote
I asked myselí \hat would Jesus do about the water situation·``
Shelley tugged at one crystal earring. \alk on it·`
No! Not waste it,` Llspeth snapped. Sarcasm. Lack oí respect íor her elders. lornication. Shelley`s sins
were stacking up like stones in the walls oí Jericho.
Shelley nodded. Showering with a íriend means less waste.`
Llspeth íelt blood throbbing in her temples, but beíore she could retort, Shelley sashayed oíí. Pursing her
lips, Llspeth glanced once more at LaDonna who was laughing again. She had a good mind to walk out-
without paying íor lunch-and ne·er return to the De·il`s lood Caíe.
But that would lea·e her with no culinary options. She was already boycotting the Belly Up because they
ser·ed demon rum, the Sweete 1emptations Ice Creame Shoppe because oí the blasphemous names oí the
írozen treats, and Passing \ind on general principles and the íact that toíu ga·e her gas. She`d ha·e to dri·e to
Gro·er`s or else prepare all her own meals.
ler íather, rest his soul, had always chastised her íor her lack oí skill at the domestic arts. She was deíicient
both in imagination and in that reckless ability to try anything once. LaDonna had both oí those qualities. ler
chicken salad with grapes, walnuts, and red onion was delectable, and the crab cakes she`d had on special íor a
week were scrumptious, scorched or not.
Llspeth eyed the jumbo-sized crab cake that sprawled across her plate next to a mound oí lrench íries, a
scoop oí coleslaw, a paper cup oí tartar sauce, and a sprig oí parsley. 1hou shalt not waste íood` wasn`t on
those stone tablets Moses brought down the mountain, but . . .
She picked up her íork, stabbed a íry, and halted. ler breath caught in her throat. Jaw dropping in disbelieí,
she stared at the grill marks on the crab cake`s golden breading, rotated the plate a quarter turn, leaned closer and
stared some more. \es, there was his hair, his nose, his chin. As she gazed upon it, the crab cake seemed to glow
with an inner light and Llspeth was certain that, íaint and íar in the distance, she heard a celestial choir.
\ho would ha·e thought a sign írom abo·e would appear in the De·il`s lood Caíé· \ho could ha·e
imagined it would be deli·ered by that wanton girl·
She laid her íork aside and íolded her hands. She had been chosen. She would pro·e worthy. But íirst she
must determine what she had been tasked to do.
Again she leaned close, cocking her head to better hear any utterance emanating írom the scorch marks
between chin and nose, the scorch marks that-ií she squinted-looked almost like lips. She listened with e·ery
íiber oí her being, holding her breath until she íelt her eyes bug out. And then she was certain she heard a wisp
oí a whisper. Go íorth.`
I will,` she breathed. I`ll go íorth. But what shall I go íorth and do·`
Go íorth and-`
Oh, hell,` Shelley yelled írom the kitchen. I dropped the damn sil·erware tray.`
Suppressing a murderous urge, Llspeth calmed herselí, cleared her mind, and listened once again. Alas, the
crab cake spoke no more.
A412'%) H<;% 7 E1/%& L<.41%( N1-.(<==% 7 94% O+1)-<1,P& 322)%,'<.%
An a·id reader oí íantasy and science íiction no·els all oí my liíe, I began writing 1be Cvaraiav´.
.¡¡revtice in 2002. Aíter working on it in íits and starts íor se·eral years, I íinally completed a liíelong
dream by publishing it in 2010. I li·e with my íamily in rural Kentucky, along with our íour cats. \hen
not acquiring more cats íor our plan oí world domination ,cat armies are terribly hard to train,, I enjoy
spinning stories írom the wisps oí magic around me.
Author website: http:,,www.theguardiansapprentice.com
Author blog: http:,,michaelradcliííe.wordpress.com
Amazon.com author page: http:,,www.amazon.com,-,e,B00409l2UI
Copyright © 2010 J. Michael Radcliííe
94% O+1)-<1,P& 322)%,'<.%
A parcel wrapped in plain brown paper had arri·ed at the chambers oí 1obias lollett, Chancellor oí the
ligh Council and head oí the Grey order Neutrality, just o·er an hour ago. le was not expecting a deli·ery at
this late hour, so he regarded the package with some suspicion. It was just past midnight and the wisp o·er his
desk ga·e oíí a soít white glow, casting shadows across the old wizard`s íeatures and making him look pale and
drawn. A thin man already, he looked positi·ely gaunt as he leaned íorward with the seeing crystal in his hand.
le passed the crystal o·er the package, which was about the size oí a deck oí playing cards. 1he crystal showed
him the ·ial nestled within, and the opalescent liquid it contained. According to the note attached to the
package, the ·ial contained salamander tears, a ·ery rare and useíul item íor potions. 1he writing on the outside
oí the package indicated the parcel had originated írom Deadwood & Blight`s, his usual supplier íor such hard to
íind ingredients. Although he had a standing order íor salamander tears íor whene·er they became a·ailable,
they had been out oí stock íor months and did not expect a new source íor some time.
´ovetbivg`. ;v.t vot rigbt, he thought.
le leaned back in his red leather chair and stared at the parcel, still trying to decide ií he should open it.
1obias had been Chancellor oí the ligh Council now íor íi·e months. lis election came aíter almost a year oí
bickering among the council members, and he relished the position oí power he had íinally achie·ed. As the
leader oí his sect, he controlled the ·otes oí three other members while as Chancellor he could threaten, berate
or cajole the ·otes oí most oí the other castes. 1he only two he could not control were Cedric 1hornback,
leader oí the dark wizards and Phineas \hitestone, leader oí the white. Despite this howe·er, he still wielded
poweríul iníluence o·er their íollowers. 1he íact that Phineas, who ser·ed as the Guardian, could not ·ote on
matters beíore the Council also strengthened 1obias` hand, íor so long as Phineas held that position he was so
bound. 1he Guardian maintained control oí and watched o·er the BlackStar amulet, which created the ·eil oí
separation and di·ided the magical world írom the non-magical one. As long as he wielded that power, Phineas
was independent írom the Council and one oí his subordinates on the Council had to ser·e as his deputy. 1hat
leít the \hite order with just three ·otes, while the Black and Grey orders still had íour.
1obias schemed and plotted íor years, until he íinally had enough ·otes to win the post as Chancellor when
old Ludora logle, a ·ery stern black-robed witch, had stepped down in the midst oí a scandal. Oí course, it
wasn`t his íault Ludora had de·eloped a habit oí betting on the snark íights - it was a ·ery addicti·e sport. le
had simply tipped oíí his contacts at the Daily 1attle ,ror.t gossip rag he had e·er read, and the pieces had íallen
into place. L·en with the threats, bribes and outright intimidation it still took almost a year, but now it was his!
Perhaps the parcel really was a giít oí congratulations írom his supplier, as the note said. le sighed deeply as he
leaned íorward again to examine the package one last time with the seeing crystal. lis mind must be playing
tricks on him. L·er since his election he had become more paranoid, con·inced that someone was acti·ely
seeking to undermine him, though he had no prooí. As he íinished examining the package íor the íiíth time, he
set the crystal down on the desk and chuckled. Rubbing his tired eyes with the back oí his hands he smiled to
himselí as he picked up the package. le must learn to trust people again. Aíter all, his íellow Council members
had been la·ish in their praise íor him since he took oííice. Opening the box, he extracted the ·ial and held it up
to the wisp íor a better look. le smiled broadly, as the contents swirled in the pale light and cast prisms oí color
o·er his desktop. le was still smiling when the contents erupted into a ·iolent explosion, ·aporizing the still
smiling wizard and tearing a gaping hole through the side oí the castle.
1he ligh Council had con·ened three days ago to nominate a new leader. 1heir Chancellor, the grey wizard
1obias lollett, had died in an apparent ,and rer, tragic, potions accident. 1he resulting explosion killed the old
wizard instantly and destroyed his chambers, as well as a large portion oí the castle`s north wing. Although
1obias had schemed, plotted and backstabbed íor years, he was still one oí their own and would be missed,
Cedric 1hornback, leader oí the Dark wizards, stood to address the Council. Ladies and gentlemen oí the
Council, it has taken us three days to come to agreement on nominations to replace the late 1obias lollett as
Chancellor. I would thereíore like to make a motion that we cease this incessant bickering and proceed to a
1here were ·arious nods oí agreement írom around the table as the other ele·en witches and wizards looked
around the room at each other. \ith the death oí 1obias, his deputy stepped into the role oí temporarily leading
the meetings until the Council elected a new Chancellor. 1here were only two nominations so íar, both oí
whom were heads oí their respecti·e orders. Portia Nightshade, an ardent supporter, had nominated Cedric
while one oí the white wizards had likewise nominated Phineas.
Alexander Ducat, now the leader oí the grey wizards, rose írom his seat in the Chancellor`s chair. Motioning
íor quiet, he glanced írom íace to íace around the table.
lellow Council members we ha·e a motion beíore us. As deputy íor our now deceased colleague, I accept
the motion and call íor a ·ote. \ill those in ía·or oí Cedric 1hornback please signal by raising their right
Portia`s hand shot skyward so íast Ducat thought the witch would actually leap írom her seat, while the other
two members oí the Black order also raised their hands, along with Cedric himselí. Looking around the table,
there were no other ·otes.
I see,` said Ducat. So, that is íour ·otes íor Cedric. Now would all those in ía·or oí Phineas \hitestone
please raise your right hand·`
1his time the three members oí the Grey order raised their hands, as did the three members oí the \hite as
well as Ducat himselí. Phineas howe·er, did not raise his hand.
Ducat looked at him with a puzzled expression. Phineas·`
1he old wizard smiled warmly at Ducat. I will abstain írom casting a ·ote in this, Alex. As the Guardian I
ser·e the Council as a whole and do not seek the trappings oí power.`
Ducat chuckled at his old íriend. \ell it would appear that your ·ote is not necessary anyway, my old
íriend. 1he ·ote is se·en to íour - you are our new Chancellor. Congratulations,` he said with a deep bow to
the older wizard.
Phineas nodded politely in return.
1hank you Alex, but as I said I do not seek this oííice. I am happy with my position as it is.`
Ducat sat down as he looked in shock at Phineas. \ou`re reíusing· \ou can`t reíuse, Phineas, the ·ote is
As ií to emphasize his point, the crystalline sphere that ho·ered high abo·e the Council table slowly
descended, shiíting írom a blue-white glow to one íaintly tinged with red. 1he crystal, oíten reíerred to as the
Oracle, had existed since the beginning oí the Council when the two worlds were íirst separated. No one was
quite sure where it had come írom, but the object radiated pure power and had occasionally inter·ened in
Council aííairs. On the rare occasion a debate turned ·iolent, the orb sometimes chose to petriíy both
participants by encasing them in crystal. By the time the crystal íaded - usually íi·e or six days - tempers were
usually subdued and the witches or wizards in·ol·ed much more humble.
L·en Phineas took notice oí the crystal`s descent, rising írom his chair to look directly at the orb. Although
he was the leader oí his sect, as long as he held the post oí Guardian, his robes were a shimmering non-color to
signal his ser·ice to the Council as a whole and all three orders. le stared at the crystal long and hard íor what
seemed like an eternity, until íinally nodding his head with a sigh.
It seems I ha·e no alternati·e but to accept the will oí the Council,` he said with a touch oí resignation in
1he ·arious witches and wizards around the table nodded and smiled, murmuring their agreement ,and
relieí, that Phineas had agreed to the ·ote. L·en a couple oí the Black order seemed pleased at the decision,
except íor Portia. A highly ·olatile witch prone to outbursts, she was ob·iously seething at the decision. Cedric
on the other hand remained quiet and sat with an almost stoic expression on his íace. Ducat rose once again,
turning to íace Phineas who continued to gaze at the Oracle.
\e are all grateíul Phineas, as the Council desperately needs your leadership. \ou will oí course ha·e to
step aside as Guardian to assume your new post, so the Council will need to name your successor.`
Oh, that will not be necessary, my íriend,` said Phineas as he íinally turned away írom the crystalline orb
which had returned to its normal blue-white glow.
I`m sorry Phineas, but you ha·e no apprentice. 1hereíore the Council has no choice but to name a new
I will be naming my apprentice shortly, Alex,` he said with a gleam in his eye. 1he young man is quite
capable and will learn quickly. I will oí course bring him beíore the Council to that he may be tested, as is
required. Until such time Alex, I would put it to the Council that you remain as acting Chancellor until I may
assume the duties.`
Very well, Phineas, but I must say this is all highly irregular.`
1rust me my íriend, I will send íor my apprentice at once,` said Phineas as his rose írom his seat. Raising
his staíí in the air, a sharp crackle resounded across the room as a portal snapped open. \ithin seconds, the old
wizard stepped through and was gone, lea·ing the other Council members to exchange puzzled glances.
A412'%) 0<@ 7 N%F%..1 N61(& N+&&%(( 7 B-%&&1Q 0%)1246/ K1)&
Author oí MG,\A Dark lantasy among other things, Rebecca Ryals Russell has two series coming out
next year: 1be ´era¡b,v !ar. ´erie. íor \A and ´tarav.t !arrior. íor MG. She li·es in a Victorian house on
íi·e acres in North Central llorida with her íamily. She also runs a Vacation Rental Log louse on the
property ,llorida Black Bear Cabin http:,,ílablackbearcabin.com , It was in this cabin she wrote Oae..a
within 6 months, aíter thinking about it íor 30 years, but ne·er ha·ing the time to commit it to paper.
A íourth generation lloridian, she has li·ed all o·er the state except the Panhandle.
1he daughter oí an Llementary school principal dad and school secretary mom, íor íourteen years she taught Middle
Grades, preíerring Lnglish and Creati·e \riting. She had se·eral students` works published in anthologies. In college she
had se·eral stories, poems and photographs published in the college literary magazine and newspaper.
Main interests include her íour children, ages 22, 19, 16, 11 and Irish hubby oí 35 years. She enjoys spending time writing,
drawing, going to mo·ies and reading. ler ía·orite pastimes are sitting on the wicker porch swing on a chilly Autumn
e·ening with her husband and usually a kid or two, drinking a beer and eating mixed nuts while chatting about anything
and e·erything, or discussing philosophy and religion with her 16-year-old son o·er pizza.
Author website: http:,,rryalsrussell.com
Author website: http:,,www.yellowhatauthor.com
Publisher and book page: http:,,tinyurl.com,2cdrjnn
Copyright © 2011 Rebecca Ryals Russell
B-%&&1Q 0%)1246/ K1)&
I`d ne·er been known íor my tact or kind heart. A typical teenager, I pretended I didn`t gi·e a damn what
anyone thought. But I was always ready to share my opinions. L·en when no one asked.
Look at her muííin top,` I said, laughing hysterically while pointing to a student in the yearbook. She
could íeed a zombie íor a year.` 1ears rolled down my cheeks.
Leww! She could íeed a íamily oí zombies,` Nancy said, laughing and rolling around on the bed with her
hands o·er her eyes, as though she was in pain. ler own slim íigure barely dented the mattress.
I laughed, watching her. She always broke me up - she was such a clown. I took a long draw on the cigarette
and passed it to her.
1hank you, whoe·er in·ented these things. I ne·er want to eat aíter a smoke. lope mom ne·er íinds out,
Nancy! Do I smell smoke·` her mother yelled up the stairs. L·en through the closed bedroom door and the
blaring music írom her computer, we heard her mom screaming.
Oh, shit,` Nancy said as she scuttled to the window opening it wider. She tossed the cigarette into the
shrubs below and blew the smoke into the sky then wa·ed her arms around like a maniac windmill.
I laughed at the image she made. It gets in the íabric, dumbass. \ou can`t get it out. So what`s she gonna
do· Spank you· Besides, we`re sixteen. \ho gi·es a shit·`
I rolled onto my back on Nancy`s bed. I`ll ne·er get íat. Or ugly.`
Nancy plopped onto the bed and lay beside me on the pink chenille spread. \e stared up at the pale pink
ceiling. I watched the ceiling ían rotate around and around.
\ou really need to update this room, Nancy. It`s been the same since you were íi·e. Really· Princess Pepto
pink·` I stuck my íingers in my mouth like I was baríing.
Did you see what Mary Jane had on today· It must ha·e been her mother`s or she got dressed in the dark,`
Nancy said rolling o·er on her side with her arm under her head. I laughed until tears rolled down my íace into
low about Mark· lis haircut looks like he did it in the bathroom with nail clippers,` I added. Nancy and I
giggled until our stomachs hurt.
A sudden buzzing startled me. I glanced at my phone. It was the alarm.
Gotta go,` I said, sitting up. I glanced outside. It was past dusk. Oh, damn, I íorgot to reset my alarm íor
Daylight Sa·ings last weekend. I should ha·e been home an hour ago. Dad doesn`t like me walking home across
the abandoned lot at night. But it`s the quickest way. \ell,` I stood and looked under the bed íor my sandals.
I`ll be home when I get there.` I shrugged my shoulders. \hat`re they gonna do· Scream· Lecture· \hat else
See ya at school tomorrow,` Nancy said, rolling onto her stomach and propping her hands under her chin.
She grinned wickedly, Maybe I`ll bring that old lalloween wig íor Mark to wear.`
I laughed all the way down the stairs en·isioning Mark in a gray granny wig.
Good night, Mrs. Campbell,` I called as I went out the door. I heard her muííled reply as the door latched
shut. 1he snick echoed in the still darkness oí late dusk.
I shi·ered and looked up. 1he moon was nearly íull with a misty ·apor oí clouds across it, otherwise the sky
was clear. 1he temperature had íinally cooled. lere it was mid-No·ember and nights were just beginning to get
chilly. 1hat was the part oí llorida I hated, the heat lasted so long. I lo·ed the cool crisp air oí early Spring and
late Autumn. 1he air írisked me aíter the stiíling warmth oí Nancy`s bedroom and I sprinted across the yard and
All around, the trees and shrubs took on a sinister shadowy íeel as they wa·ered in the moonlight. A gentle
breeze ruííled the lea·es - snakes slithering across dry sand. 1hose same snakes slithered up my spine making my
skin crawl. I slowed to a walk, warily watching the cluster oí trees ahead on the abandoned lot my dad hated.
Nancy li·ed two streets o·er írom my house and rather than walking down halí a block then back up that halí a
block, I usually cut straight across the creepy o·ergrown property between our houses.
By day it was no big deal. Paths had been worn through the property. L·eryone did it. Most oí the windows
in the old house were broken. Bushes and ·ines co·ered the wooden siding oí the tumble-down shack. Anything
oí real ·alue had been stripped írom the place years ago. All that stood on that weedy hunk oí land was a derelict
house nobody wanted.
Still, I hated passing by it at night. I`d heard stories about it being haunted. Kids at school bet each other they
couldn`t stay the night in it. And usually no one did. By two or three in the morning they all said weird things
began to happen and they leít. It was rumored one girl e·en went crazy and had to be institutionalized.
But it was still early in the e·ening. 1he sky was tinged pink, so I was íine. Ií I hurried.
I sped up beíore I lost my ner·e. My eyes shiíted back and íorth like a scanning ílashlight. I was halí-way
across when I heard something to my right. It came írom the clump oí o·ergrown trees and bushes that lined
the property`s border. 1he sound seemed muííled, like when you hold your hand across your mouth to stiíle a
laugh or sneeze. I listened so hard I íelt my ears grow longer. It seemed the woods expanded, too, as I studied
the trees trying to see inside the darkness. My íocus became razor sharp. 1here was no way I was going near
enough to see what had made the noise. I tried talking myselí out oí the creeping íear that spread across my
thoughts like thick íog. Maybe I`d imagined it. I resumed my pace trying to get away beíore I heard it again.
1hen came the scream.
Loud, long and shrill it echoed across the yard. My head swi·eled this way and that, almost on its own,
seeking the source. My ·ision seemed to go into e·en sharper íocus - like when I turned the knob on the
microscope in Science class. I saw the roots oí the i·y ·ine climbing the shack and the smallest pebbles oí rock
in the dirt at my íeet. It was as though I held a magniíying glass to my íace. 1hen I heard it again. Another
scream, this time closer.
It came írom behind me. I swung around, my heart pounding so hard I could íeel it pulsing in my íingertips.
L·en my ears pulsed with its beat. L·erything lit up like daylight, then immediately went black. In that instant oí
light I saw three disembodied íaces ho·ering around me. 1hree male íaces with laser red eyes and snarling white
íangs. I íelt something sho·ed o·er my head. My breathing sounded ragged and harsh in my ears. I tried
screaming but only a squeak came out.
Suddenly my íeet were kicked out írom under me, throwing me to the ground. Something pinned me down
in the dirt. Rocks dug into my shoulder blades and hips. I tried wriggling but íirm hands or knees pressed down
harder and the rocks hurt. lor a moment I assessed my situation trying to think logically. I was blind but I could
hear okay. And uníortunately, I could íeel.
Low harsh ·oices whispered to one another abo·e me. I heard three distinct ·oices. Although all three
resembled animalistic growling, one was higher pitched and another slurred his words. 1hey argued about taking
me inside the house or doing` me there in the dirt. 1he dirt must ha·e won because I wasn`t mo·ed. 1he
pressure on my shoulders increased, pressing the rocks into my bones. Again I tried to shriek but couldn`t.
lello, Myrna,` one oí the low ·oices growled next to my ear. 1he ·oice was masculine and sent a chill up
my spine. My brain raced through e·ery male ·oice I`d heard throughout school or e·en in the neighborhood.
\ho was this· \ho would do this to me· I didn`t recognize it. It made my skin crawl.
I turned my head in the direction oí the sound. \ho are you· \hat do you want·` My ·oice, íinally
working again, qua·ered which pissed me oíí. I wanted to sound strong - not like some scared sissy.
A hand, scaly and rough, slid underneath whate·er co·ered my íace and clasped my mouth so I couldn`t
speak. \e`re just ha·in` a little íun`s all,` another ·oice said. 1he slurred speech ·oice.
I íelt my shirt liíted. Goosebumps rose on my bare skin as the cool Autumn air blew across my stomach.
1hen a rough, wet suríace rubbed against my stomach in a line írom waist to ribs and I realized someone or
something had licked me. Leew! low disgusting. \ho the hell was this· lad I pissed oíí some kids at school
and they were getting back at me· \ho· low· 1hrough tears I regretted my decision to cross the lot at dusk.
Dad was right, as much as I hated to admit it.
\ou really should listen to dear ol` Dad, Myrna,` the high-pitched ·oice slithered into my ear.
I jolted. low had he known my thought· Could he read my mind· 1hat was ridiculous. Mo·ie tricks. No
one could do that íor real.
My legs were suddenly liíted into the air by the ankles oí my pants and my jeans slid down my body. I
thrashed and tried to wriggle loose despite the rocks digging holes in my shoulders.
I screamed a muííled, NOOOO.` I ílipped my head ·iolently back and íorth, grinding my hair into the
dirt. 1he scaly hand remained clasped tightly across my lips.
\ith a sudden pop my shoes were oíí and my legs plopped back into the dirt. Rocks now pressed into my
bare legs like jagged glass. I íelt a pressure on my knees as someone knelt on them. 1he pain was excruciating. I
would be paralyzed íor liíe.
1hat`s ií I li·ed through this.
1hat`s Il you li·e through this,` the low gra·ely ·oice sliced through my thoughts.
Both oí my arms were immobile as one oí the men pressed on my elbows. I íelt his hot, íetid breath on my
íace and neck. le reminded me oí a bulldog in heat.
I heard the low sizzle oí pants unzipped and the weight on me shiíted. I liíted my head to scream but it was
sho·ed back against the earth in a brain jarring thud.
I had no chance oí escaping these three monsters, whoe·er or whate·er they were. I simply was not strong
enough. But I reíused to gi·e in.
1hen I remembered my mouth was co·ered by a hand. Someone`s ílesh and blood hand was inches abo·e
my teeth. Concentrating hard on that hand I parted my lips, as I íelt my legs being íorced apart, until my teeth
grasped skin that wasn`t mine. I chomped down as hard as I could.
Blood íilled my mouth. I heard a male ·oice scream in pain. lis hand came away írom my íace and the cool
air smacked my cheeks. I screamed like I hadn`t since I was born. Shriek aíter shriek echoed on top oí the man`s
screams. I íilled my lungs to scream again when I íelt knuckles crash into my jaw and nose. lresh bouts oí
blood, this time mine, gushed down my throat. I gagged and choked, drowning. I managed to turn my head to
the side. Bloody spit dribbled down the side oí my íace into my ear and hair. I`d been so preoccupied with the
hand across my íace I hadn`t e·en noticed ií one oí the monsters had accomplished his desired end.
Moments later I heard grunting and thuds. 1he pressure released írom my knees and elbows. 1hey couldn`t
all be íinished already. I would ha·e noticed that, wouldn`t I· I ripped oíí the blindíold and sat up. 1aking mere
íractions oí a second to adjust to the new lighting my eyes widened in surprise.
At my íeet two men íought. I studied them as they punched each other, grunting and swearing. 1hen I
realized one oí them was my brother, Quinn. \ith a íinal blow to the íace he íelled the last oí the attackers who
now lay in battered heaps around me. le stood silhouetted in the moonlight. At that moment I lo·e my little bro
more than e·er. I was also thankíul íor the Karate classes he`d been taking since he was six.
Panting, he glared down at the three men, watching, daring them it seemed, to mo·e. Apparently satisíied he
grabbed my pants írom the dirt, ga·e them a ·icious snap, like a whip and knelt beside me.
\ou okay·` lis ·oice was husky with emotion.
I nodded slightly then spat more blood. le brushed back my matted hair írom my sweaty íace then extended
a hand to help me up.
Let`s get you home.`
1!O Yí.R´ í.1íR
I íloated on wings oí silence like a piece oí driítwood at sea. Colored gases swirled around me like silk
scar·es, brushing against my arms and legs. It delighted my senses and tingled my ner·e endings. lor as íar as I
could see, a myriad oí colors swam and twirled dipping and rolling around particles oí dark matter and glittering
specs oí sunbeams in a miniature cosmos.
\here was I· \as it a dream· Ií so, it was a beautiíul one. Calm. Peaceíul. But, I didn`t remember going to
sleep. In íact, I didn`t remember anything at all. L·entually I heard soít singing and the sharp but pleasant
ringing oí bells. I opened my eyes-had they been shut·-and realized I was surrounded by glimmering radiant
beings ho·ering in the rainbow cosmic cloud.
Mind the signs, Myrna,` echoed in my skull and repeated o·er and o·er in millions oí separate ·oices in
unison. Mind the signs .Mind the signs ..`
My room was dark when I woke. I didn`t recall going to bed. I sho·ed the co·ers oíí with my íeet and stood,
stretching. 1he house was unusually quiet. í vv.t be tbe fir.t v¡. Aíter showering I listened while I dressed. ´titt vo
.ovva.. I went to the kitchen. ^o ove. It was not like my parents to sleep in, especially later than me. I went to
Mom,` I called, pushing on the door slightly ajar. Dad· Anyone up· ley, sleepy heads..` I stepped
inside. 1he room was empty. 1he bed was made. My stomach ílip-ílopped. Marcy`s room was next. I padded
down the hall, pushing on the halí-opened door.
\ou`ll be late..` I didn`t íinish because no one was there to hear me. ler room was immaculate--which
ne·er happened--and empty. Panic pinched my insides. My mind was a jumble oí anger and íear. lad they been
murdered· 1here was no blood, so that was not likely. People don`t just disappear. I ran to Jarrod`s room and
íound the same thing. I was alone. Sliding down the wall I sat crumpled in a heap on the carpet.
\here did you all go without me·` I shrieked at the ceiling, tears pricking my eyes. \here is e·eryone·` I
ran to the íoyer, sliding on the white tiles in my stocking íeet. Swiping at my wet íace with the back oí a hand I
gasped a shuddering breath.
I ílung open the íront door.
lor se·eral heartbeats I stood írozen, staring.
As I threw the door shut, the slam rattled the dishes in the kitchen cabinets like bones in a closet. 1he
deadbolt thudded with a satisíying crunch. I couldn`t catch my breath. My mind reeled with the impossible
unreality oí what I`d seen. I ran back to my room. Crouching, I cried in the corner behind my bed. My room was
still dark and shadows wa·ered and squirmed across the walls like li·ing shades. I shut my eyes and slid my hands
across my ears to shut out the world.
I had to shut out this world that was not mine.
I must ha·e íallen asleep again because when I woke the room was pitch black and I knew the sun had set. I
looked into each bedroom along the hallway-not surprised this time to íind them empty, but still disappointed.
I was alone. L·en when I had been alone at home, I had known I was not atove. 1his was scary. 1his was
complete aloneness. I checked the kitchen and íound peanutbutter and bread which I ate then lay back down in
bed and íell into a íitíul sleep.
Sometime in the middle oí the night, I awoke with a strange sense oí íoreboding. 1he hair on my neck and
arms prickled. My breathing became ragged and my heart thumped so loudly in my chest I could hear it echoing
in the room. Something wasn`t right. I knew I should go check the door, but I really, reatt, didn`t want to. I was
sure I had locked the door with the deadbolt. L·entually the íeeling passed and my eyes shut.
\hen I woke again, that same gray light pushed its way past the edges oí my window blinds spilling its
dullness into the room.
It took se·eral hours to work up the courage, but I would íind no answers holed up in the house, so I
dressed and took se·eral deep breaths beíore opening the door again. 1his time I tbovgbt I was prepared.
1he murky gray light that íilled the sky seemed watery and weak. Although there was no cloud co·er, there
was no sunlight. Dad`s green grass gone, I stepped out oí the house onto dirt.
My heart pounded like I`d just íinished a marathon. I twitched and jumped at e·ery sound, spinning írom
side to side. Standing at the end oí my yard, I leapt backward when I heard a chug and zip then a puíí oí steam
en·eloped me. A triangular car with a glass top sped down the road. Another headed my direction on the
opposite side. 1he dri·er sat in the íront oí the triangle managing the car with a joystick while two passengers sat
side-by-side on the rear seat. It maneu·ered surprisingly well and was quite íast.
Leading east and west at the end oí my yard, a crushed stone path lined a packed dirt road that ran in íront
oí the house. 1o the leít and right oí the house stood tall and short buildings oí e·ery description. Some seemed
to be stores, others apartment buildings or indi·idual homes such as mine. 1all brass street lights stood sentinel
on each intersection.
1oto, we`re not in Kansas anymore,` I murmured soítly. 1rembling, I e·en looked backward, under my
house íor ruby slippers.
A rumble o·erhead pulled my attention to the murky sky as a glass-enclosed egg with the silhouettes oí
seated people lining its interior íloated by. At the rear spun a huge brass propeller. Occasional clouds oí steam
escaped into the atmosphere. I grabbed my chest and breathed deeply se·eral times, calming my ner·es.
A layer oí black grime coated the buildings and walkways. Many oí the windows, edged with the same black
dusting, displayed new handbills showing the image oí a child with the question: la·e \ou Seen 1his Child·`
underneath. It shocked me to realize each íace was a diííerent child. low many children had disappeared írom
this city and where did they go·
I walked down the path to my right.
People wearing an odd assortment oí costumes passed, staring at me. Some oí the men wore bowler hats
while others had íormal top hats and long-tailed coats. I wondered ií I`d been thrown back in time to the
Victorian age. I`d seen pictures like this in listory class. 1he women wore long dresses with pinaíores and
bloomers. Most wore wide-brimmed hats mounted with íeathers and other doodads. \hile gawking at the odd
modes oí transportation and dress, I had paid no attention to where I was going. I was immediately iníormed oí
\atch where you`re going, lunchmeat,` a low ·oice growled next to my ear. I turned my head to apologize.
1here was no one beside me. \et I next íelt deliberately jostled so hard I íell against a building scraping my arm
on the rough wooden siding. la·en`t you e·er seen a Skiibuss or 1ricar beíore· Imbecil,` the ·oice continued.
I stopped and turned around to apologize, assuming the man had walked quickly past me. But the words
stuck in my throat when I realized he was the largest man I`d e·er seen. Mother`· pearl!` I muttered, eyes
ro·ing írom íeet to hat. le stood easily o·er eight íeet tall. le wasn`t íat, just...big. le wore a black top hat and
cape. I wondered íor a split instant how he íound clothes to íit. le casually spun a black cane topped by a gold
dragon handle with glittering diamond eyes. le must ha·e realized I was staring at his back because he turned
just his head, like an owl, grinned maliciously at me with a ílick oí red slit eyes and swi·eled back around.
A412'%) 0%;%, 7 0+&1, D%(%,% O*''=)<%- 7 9)%;*)P& 0*,5
Susan lelene Gottíried is the author oí ´ba¡e´bifter: 1be Devo 1a¡e. - Year 1, ´ba¡e´bifter: 1be Devo
1a¡e. - Year 2, and 1reror`. ´ovg. She can be íound online at http:,,westoímars.com , where you can
íind 1he Meet and Greet, among other goodies.
A tone-deaí rocker-at-heart, Susan worked in retail record stores, in radio stations, as stage crew, and as
a promoter while earning two college degrees in creati·e writing. Susan walked away írom a continued
career in the music industry in order to write books, so it makes sense that most oí her íiction re·ol·es around rock bands.
Once you get those record stores, radio stations, and íellow roadies and promoters under your skin, they ne·er lea·e.
\hen not writing, Susan captains the team at \in a Book, a promotional site íor authors and book bloggers - and
readers like yourselí.
Author website: http:,,westoímars.com,west-oí-mars,the-books
Amazon.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,23zl¯r9
Copyright © 2010 Susan lelene Gottíried
One heart-íelt word ended 1re·or \olíí's third try at jimmying his best íriend's íront door, and common
sense -- let alone his back -- was screaming at him to just gi·e up already. As ií it was so easy, Mitchell had
actually blown him oíí the night beíore, and when Mitcbett 1o.. blew someone oíí, it was serious. Like any other
person on the planet, the big idiot had his íaults, but dependability wasn't one oí them. Ne·er had been, ne·er
Nope, something had to be up. Something big.
1hat alone squelched 1re·or's thoughts about gi·ing up and going home. Aíter all, Mitchell was, in his own
way, íamily. Ií things were diííerent and it were Mitchell worried about 1re·or, there'd be no quitting until the
damn door opened. 1here was no way 1re·or could just abandon Mitchell, e·en ií he truly wanted to. \hich he
le straightened up to stretch that kink out oí his back, push his hair o·er his shoulders and out oí his íace,
and take a íew deep breaths beíore íacing the lock íor the fovrtb fvc/ivg tive. It made no sense, when his sister's
liíe had been at stake, he'd jimmied ber door with his eyes swollen shut, but now, when he doubted the big idiot
was actually dead, he was, once again, a useless shit. Just like lank had spent all those years insisting he was.
Just like Mitchell's parents had spent more recent years trying to tell him he wasn't. And just like
ShapeShiíter íans pro·ed beyond any doubts, at e·ery record store and e·ery concert. 1re·or \olíí was vot a
useless shit. le was important. lis íans said so.
1he lock clicked. 1re·or was in.
lis íirst thought was that ií Mitchell baa died, he hadn't started to stink yet. 1re·or wondered how long it
took beíore a corpse smelled, he almost regretted passing on his chance to íind out. "\oulda ser·ed that
motheríucker right," he mumbled, remembering lank's almost nightly transíormations.
1re·or shook his head in disgust, choosing to belie·e tbat particular asshole was wrong. lank might ha·e
been good íor nothing, but that didn't mean his Number 1wo Kid was the same. Not e·en close. íe was 1re·or
lucking \olíí. Accept no substitutes. Or losers.
1re·or looked around íor signs oí a struggle or any sort oí clue that might explain what had happened to
Mitchell, but the apartment looked like it always did: an electric guitar abandoned on the otherwise empty couch,
the coííee table piled high with music magazines. Paperwork o·erílowed the small íiling cabinet in a nearby
corner and had begun an urban sprawl across the small dining table, sparing only a single, crumb-co·ered
placemat. Amps, cords, picks, strings, ·ideos, and mountains oí CDs littered the rest oí the small room.
Sadly, the walls hadn't been disturbed. 1he ShapeShiíter posters, the promo pictures, and the ílyers
ad·ertising shows played years ago were all íine and good, they looked exactly like the walls at his own place.
\hat grossed 1re·or out about tbi. collection was the thick concentration oí pin-ups íeaturing ShapeShiíter's
·ery own Mitchell Voss -- a.k.a. the asshole he was currently worried about.
Someone who didn't know any better would think the guy had a narcissitic complex or something, e·en
though it made sense that Mitcbett got all the attention. It wasn't just because singers were hot, especially when
you ga·e them a guitar. Mitchell was a total chick magnet, a íact that got exploited shamelessly by the band's
publicity team. It was that long, sil·ery-blonde hair that 1re·or had always hated and those hazel eyes that
changed írom green to blue that did it. 1he girls couldn't get enough -- and neither could the losers who did the
Mitchell's bedroom was dark, but 1re·or peeked his head inside anyway, hoping he'd íind something helpíul.
le didn't really expect to íind the guy himselí, sometimes, a man had to be ílexible about where you slept. It was
a policy that had ser·ed 1re·or pretty damn well in liíe until he disco·ered Mitchell's parents. 1hey'd answer his
knock at the door no matter what time, clean most oí the blood oíí his íace, and point him to the íloor oí
Mitchell's bedroom. All without gi·ing him a sermon or too much íake sympathy.
No sympathy needed here or now, either. Mitchell ra. sleeping. In his own bed. Alone, too, although that
was the only non-surprise. 1he guy was íanatical about his reíusal to bring girls home. Onto the tour bus, no
problem. Backstage with the guys around and watching, e·en less oí an issue. A hotel room. so long as she
didn't spend the night, but then again, Lric was the only one oí them who didn't ha·e tbat as standard operating
procedure. But his apartment·
lorget it. 1hat bed he slept in was probably as ·irginal as Mitchell would ha·e been without 1re·or around
to íix things. Girls were vot welcome in Mitchell's home. lell, most people weren't.
"\ake up, rock star, and tell me how you almost died last night." le jiggled Mitchell's íoot through the
"No," Mitchell said. le wrapped his arms around a pillow and rolled onto his side, kicking his íoot íree.
"Dick, you blew oíí Stacia last night."
1bat got his eyes open. "luck."
"Somehow, I doubt you got to," 1re·or told him blandly. le sat down on the edge oí Mitchell's bed and
reached íor a cigarette. 1here had to be at least three ashtrays in the room, and at least one oí them probably
"Lh, it was worth it," Mitchell said, stretching. le kicked some more until 1re·or stood up and glared back
at the guy, his cigarette still unlit and the ashtrays still hiding.
"^otbivg is worth missing Stacia íor," 1re·or told Sleeping Beauty, not sure what was going on here. Mitchell
had learned the art oí properly appreciating women írom the king himselí, and Stacia deser·ed more attention
and appreciation than any íour other girls combined. So what was Mitchell's problem·
"I don't know, 1re·," the big idiot said and yawned. le sat up and tossed his hair o·er his shoulder, a totally
gross glamour-boy mo·e that had the women two apartments o·er sighing. "1his one's something else."
1re· íelt his jaw drop as it sunk in. Mitchell had blown oíí the city's best stripper íor . what· Some random
chick that he'd íound all by himselí·
Impossible. Mitchell didn't íind women on his own. On the rare occasions when he tried to, they couldn't
come anywhere close to Stacia. "So who is she·" 1re·or asked eagerly, expecting to hear oí a new dancer in
town, one who'd somehow managed to a·oid his detection.
Mitchell shrugged and scratched his chest. 1re· ignored him, he knew the motions oí Mitchell's waking up as
well as he knew his own. 1oo many years oí sleeping on the guy's bedroom íloor, íollowed by years oí touring --
íirst packed into the back oí Mitchell's truck, then, when the band graduated to hotel rooms, as the guy's
roommate again. In another minute, he'd light up a cigarette oí his own, oííer 1re·or the ílame, produce one oí
the missing ashtrays, and spill e·ery last detail about this girl. All 1re· had to do was wait.
"She's this artist chick I'·e been talking to at the grocery," Mitchell said without reaching íor the traditional
wake-up cigarette. "\ait 'til you meet her." le stood up and took the two steps to the bathroom. "And, 1re··
She's a redhead." \ith a wink, Mitchell closed the door behind him.
1re·or gasped audibly as his brain tried to do the calculus. A redhead. an artist. instead oí Stacia· 1he
only woman whose hair was as blonde as Mitchell's, and as natural· 1he only woman who could do that thing
with her tongue while she did tbat thing with her little íinger·
le decided he couldn't wait íor Mitchell to reappear, so he stormed the bathroom. Mitchell, mouth íoamy
with toothpaste like some rabid dog, ga·e him a mildly inquiring look.
"\hat's this chick got that Stacia doesn't ha·e· She can't be better in bed. No one is. 1rust me."
"No thanks." Mitchell spat the rabies íoam into the sink and rinsed. "Sorry, 1re·. I know that hurts."
1re·or staggered a íew steps to the side, needing the wall to hold him up. \hile he wasn't surprised that
Mitchell ignored his antics, he wasn't pleased, either. 1hose had been good theatrics, his hand clasped to his
chest, his breathing coming short. lor maximum authenticity, he'd e·en dredged up the old íeeling oí trying to
swallow his panic. "low can you not care about ´tacia·" he asked. "Ií you're interested in women at att, you're
interested in Stacia."
Mitchell just shrugged, and that's when it hit 1re·or. 1he big idiot had gone and íallen in lo·e with this
redheaded artist chick.
1re· wasn't íaking this time when his legs ga·e out írom under him and he wound up sitting down hard on
the bathroom íloor.
"I wouldn't sit there," Mitchell said, as mildly as e·er, as he stepped past 1re·or and pulled a pair oí jeans out
oí one oí his dresser drawers. "loward's reíusing to pay Michelle again so she hasn't cleaned in awhile. Some
íucking tax thing, he's gotta lighten up already or I'm íiring his ass and I don't care bor good an accountant he is.
I rov´t li·e in a íilthy apartment."
"\ou covta clean it yourselí."
"Yov could stop whining at Ma until she does it íor you."
"1ell me about the girt," 1re·or groaned. le got up mostly to íollow Mitchell, like be cared about a little dirt
on the bathroom íloor· Please.
"Last night was the íirst time we really talked," Mitchell said, this sort oí awe creeping into his ·oice. 1re·or
peered careíully at him. "\e got started o·er by the bananas," Mitchell said like it was too weird to belie·e, "and
the next thing I knew, we were closing Victory's."
"Bananas will do that to a girl," 1re·or agreed, wagging his eyebrows at Mitchell, who reached out to swat
the back oí 1re·'s head.
"Okay. \hat'd you get at the grocery·" le was, as always, hungry. Ne·er ha·ing íood in his place didn't
help, and his day so íar hadn't produced many chances to grab something. \hich was all Mitchell's íault, anyway.
le'd wound up in such a rush to make sure the asshole hadn't died that when he'd gotten gas íor the bike, he'd
ducked inside a Quick Mart and wound up with stale cupcakes. lor breakíast.
le was star·ed, plain and simple. Ií Mitchell had íood, he was tbere.
"Come on, you íucking mooch," Mitchell sighed. le led the way into his cubbyhole oí a kitchen and jumped
easily onto a square oí counter that was barely bigger than the knees that suddenly occupied it. le stuck his head
in a cabinet. "1here should be some pancake mix leít. Lric said he hadn't íinished it."
1re·or strained to hear Mitchell's muííled ·oice. It was useless to say that he didn't like pancakes. Mitchell
knew. And, like the brotherly-type he was, Mitchell didn't care. le knew 1re·or would shut up and eat almost
anything -- including, their íirst time in Ldinburgh, haggis. Ií he'd sur·i·ed that smelly shit, he could sur·i·e
anything Mitchell could concoct on that grill oí his.
Mitchell pulled out oí the cabinet, the pancake mix in his hand. 1he íine dust that íell out when the box was
upended made 1re·or suspicious.
"\eren't you at the grocery to pick up last night's dinner· Start cooking."
"No." Mitchell jumped down and disappeared into his bedroom. \hen he returned, ha·ing added a t-shirt
and his usual black tennis shoes to his oh-so-íashionable attire, he motioned 1re·or out oí the apartment.
"Or was the redhead dinner·" 1re· asked as innocently as he could.
Mitchell snorted. "I need .ovetbivg to eat tonight. I'm sick oí going out so damn much." le smiled
indulgently. "L·en ií she ra. worth it. 1re·, I'm telling you."
"\here we headed·" he interrupted, not o·erly surprised when Mitchell grabbed his beat-up leather instead
oí his tour jacket. 1he guy looked like a slob. le could ha·e been anyone instead oí ShapeShiíter's oh-so-hot
írontman. Probably wanted to be, too.
1re·or tossed his head, íeeling his hair mo·e in a sheet, it was so long. 1re·or \olíí reeked oí rock star, not
oí who he'd been. 1bat kid had been leít behind, almost írom the day the Vosses had said he would li·e with
"\e're going to Roach's, oí course," Mitchell said. "I'll dri·e."
"1hat's 'cause your sorry ass is too chicken to get on my bike."
"Aíter last time, my ass is glad to be atire."
"\our ass would'·e been e·en happier today ií you'd kept your date last night."
"I doubt that," Mitchell said and took another companionable swipe at the back oí 1re·or's head.
A412'%) :<54' G E*4, 01/+%(& 7 B;%).*/<,5 3CDC K<'4*+' L%-<.1'<*,
John Samuels is a middle school science teacher who currently works in the public school system. le has
also tutored children with special needs and is certiíied to teach ligh School Psychology. 1he Association oí
\outh, Children and Natural Psychology was íormed to pro·ide practical help íor those wishing to
o·ercome mental health diííiculties without using psychiatric drugs. 1he book is aííiliated with the A\CNP
and its non-proíit work.
Author website: http:,,www.winmentalhealth.com
Amazon.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,25sd2ja
Publisher contact: Sales¸northeastbookspublishing.net
Copyright © 2006, 2010 AYCNP
The information presented in this book is for informative purposes and not intended as a medical directive. By reading
this publication, the reader acknowledges that treatment choices and options are at the sole discretion of the parent or
individual, who must take responsibility for medical decisions involving themselves or their children, along with the
participating physician, treatment or child study team. Ìn reading this book the reader acknowledges that the
Association for Youth, Children and Natural Psychology or anyone quoted in or associated with this book, bears no
responsibility for one's own decisions regarding health or mental health, for both him or herself or one's children. By
reading this book, the reader acknowledges that he maintains full responsibility for their own medical and mental
health decisions for both themselves and their children. This book complements, rather than replaces professional
treatment, when such is necessary.
Footnotes and reference texts have been removed for this sample use.
B;%).*/<,5 3CDC K<'4*+' L%-<.1'<*,
A412'%) B,%Q K41' <& 3CDCR
Pregnant women, who smoke, drink alcohol or abuse drugs put their íuture children at greater risk íor
ADlD. Good prenatal care, good diet when pregnant and regular ·isits to the doctor are essential. Breast
íeeding may also help the baby to bond with the mother, and the mother to the baby, and this can be another
aííecti·e pre·entati·e measure.
K41' <& 3CDCR
Jenniíer`s son Matt has always been diííicult. le would tear through the house like a tornado, shouting
kicking and jumping oíí íurniture. Nothing kept his interest íor longer than a íew minutes, and he would oíten
run oíí without warning and mid-sentence, unconcerned about bumping into anyone or anything.
Jenniíer was exhausted, but when Matt was in preschool, she wasn`t too concerned because she guessed,
boys will be boys.`
lowe·er, it was a struggle to try to get Matt to cooperate, and when he entered third grade, his disrupti·e
beha·ior and inattention in class raised the red ílag oí his teacher. Jenniíer took Matt to the pediatrician, who
aíter a short inter·iew, iníormed Jenniíer that Matt most likely had ADlD. 1he best thing would be to prescribe
stimulant medications, which he might not need to take íor the rest oí his liíe, but most likely íor the rest oí his
Jenniíer was relie·ed and concerned at the same time. \hile she was happy to hear that Matt had a
diagnosable condition, the prospect oí her son being on medication íor íi·e or more years distressed her. \as
medication really necessary· Is ADlD really a condition, were some oí her questions. \hat about the side
eííects· \hat would the medication do to his body· 1he pediatrician reassured Jenniíer that e·erything would
work out íine, and sent her home with a prescription.
0*/% &6/2'*/& *= 3CDCQ
• Poor concentration, distractibility, impulsi·e beha·ior, careless mistakes, diííiculty in controlling anger.
• Inability to complete tasks, diííiculty sustaining attention towards the task.
• lyperacti·e beha·ior, excessi·e acti·ity, íidgeting, squirming, running, climbing excessi·ely.
• Poor listening skills.
• 1alking excessi·ely, blurting out answers beíore hearing the whole question.
Da·id Rabiner, írom Duke Uni·ersity, an expert on ADlD, describes Attention Deíicit lyperacti·ity
Disorder ,ADlD,, as a disorder characterized by a persistent pattern oí inattention and,or
hyperacti·ity,impulsi·ity that occurs in academic, occupational, or social settings.`
Some oí the problems associated with ADlD include, making careless mistakes, íailure to complete tasks,
diííiculty staying organized and becoming easily distracted.
Some other issues are associated with hyperacti·ity, such as íidgetiness and squirminess, running excessi·ely
or climbing, inability to exercise selí-control or sit still in class, inappropriate or excessi·e talking, being
constantly on the go, impulsi·ity and impatience, diííiculty waiting one`s turn, blurting out answers in class and
írequent interrupting, among other problems.
Rabiner explains that Although many indi·iduals with ADlD display both inattenti·e and
hyperacti·e,impulsi·e symptoms, some other indi·iduals show symptoms írom one group but not the other.`
K4* <& 1==%.'%- F6 &6/2'*/& *= 3CDCR
• ADlD is usually considered to be a childhood condition but its symptoms can be present with some
adults as well.
• ADlD symptoms are maniíest with poor concentration, impulse control, lack oí attention or íocus.
ADlD sometimes includes hyperacti·ity, which may be the case in perhaps 40-¯0° oí ADlD diagnoses.
• 3-10° oí children in each state ,U.S., - 2.5 million school age children - are diagnosed with ADlD.
• Up to 2,3 oí children who are diagnosed with ADlD also ha·e a secondary disorder, such as
depression, an anxiety disorder or 1ourette Syndrome, or they may be diagnosed with Oppositional Deíiant
Disorder ,ODD, or Conduct Disorder ,CD,
Since e·ery child displays some oí the symptoms associated with ADlD, when is ADlD diagnosed· Simply
put, when symptoms are prolonged and disrupti·e to the daily liíe oí the child ,or adult,.
3CDC 1,- 0.4**(
ADlD most írequently is initially addressed through the schools system. A teacher may oíten raise the íirst
red ílag. 1he child is e·aluated and a child study team works with the child, teachers and parents. Ií a certain
number oí symptoms are considered to reach a le·el oí intensity and duration to the point that is interíeres with
a child`s ability to sustain day to day acti·ities o·er an extended period oí time, this can result in label oí ADlD
íor the child.
1he beneíit oí this is that it enables educators and the child study team to gi·e extra time and attention to the
indi·idual child. A person assistant might be made a·ailable also. Parents can take appropriate measures to
educate themsel·es and make adjustments in their parenting and this might help to oííset the child`
predisposition towards hyperacti·ity or distractibility. Lducators can also work at pro·iding positi·e educational
solutions íor these indi·idual students. 1he extra attention gi·en to a child in many íorms, along with
adjustments that parents might make, oíten can be key íactors in a child impro·ement.
\hen educators and psychologists make a diagnosis oí disorders such as ADlD, there is usually a certain
amount oí subjecti·ity in the interpretation oí the symptoms, that is, it depend on how an indi·idual
psychologist or team ·iews and interprets these symptoms. Computer aided tests are also interpreted subjecti·ely
rather than purely scientiíically.
ít i. geveratt, recogvi¸ea tbat .tivvtavt veaicatiov. ao vot v.vatt,, or vece..arit,, .igvificavtt, ivcrea.e graae ¡erforvavce.
Parevt. .bovta vot e·¡ect .igvificavt iv¡rorevevt iv graae. ave to aavivi.terivg of .tivvtavt veaicatiov. ;íiae c íiae, 200ó:
1bo.e .tvaie. rbicb attribvte ivcrea.ea graae ¡erforvavce to veaicatiov, v.vatt, ao vot aetiveate betreev tbe bevefit. of tbe
veaicatiov, ava tbat of av, of a vvvber of otber ivterrevtiov. beivg aavivi.terea at tbe .ave tive, girivg a vi.teaaivg iv¡re..iov
tbat tbe ¡o.itire acaaevic gaiv. are attribvtabte to veaicatiov, rbev iv fact, tbe, va, be tbe re.vtt of tbera¡,, .¡eciat eavcatiov,
ivcrea.ea attevtiov beivg girev to tbe cbita, or otber cbavge..)
1o be noted: Not all agree with the labeling system as it relates to the many psychiatric disorders. A tendency
has de·eloped based on what is known as the medical model` oí psychiatry, which is the most common
platíorm in 21
century psychiatry, but not necessarily uni·ersally accepted, e·en in the proíessional community.
Additionally, there are other models oí psychology which more help to more íully explain the ·arious dynamics
in·ol·ed in the de·elopment oí mental health disorders and íor mental health in general.
1he medical model in·ol·es identiíying symptoms, matching symptoms to a list that has been denoted in the
DSM-IV, the psychiatric book oí disorders, determining a label íor the disorder, and prescribing what is deemed
appropriate medication íor that label. 1herapy is sometimes used in conjunction with the drug treatment.
lowe·er, in modern psychiatry, based on the medical model`, therapy, educational remediation, parental
training, or psycho-education, is oíten gi·en secondary consideration, and sometimes gi·en ·ery little, ií any,
consideration. In reality, selí-help and liíestyle changes need to be considered with any psychiatric diagnosis, and
in gi·ing attention to these, many, or e·en most oí the symptoms oí ADlD can be addressed.
Studies ha·e indicated that children who spend time outdoors can recei·e beneíits oí a positi·e reduction in
symptoms oí ADlD as a direct result. ,Kuo, l.L., Ph.D., 1aylor, A. Ph.D., 2004,. It is also possible that
children who watch less tele·ision ,or who spend less time playing ·ideo games,, might also beneíit in terms oí a
reduction in the intensity oí symptoms associated with ADlD. ,Cristakis, D., 2004,
Some parents who ha·e cut out 1V and ·ideo games íor their children during the week, ha·e seen a dramatic
impro·ement in the ability oí their children to concentrate on their schoolwork and to íocus. Some ha·e íound
that attention to diet results in positi·e beneíits in one`s symptom proíile. ,Personal notes, obser·ations írom J.
1he labeling oí the symptoms oí ADlD as considered in this book, is a practice that can be contro·ersial,
and that in some countries ,such as Britain,, has been resisted by the proíessional community up until íairly
recently. ,Britain has not been so readily disposed to prescribe medication íor ADlD as has the U.S.,
Additionally, the practice oí labeling a person, my son i. ADlD,` my daughter i. bipolar,` is also something
that is not encouraged by many, including many ad·ocacy groups and go·ernment mental health agencies.
1hereíore, this brochure tries to a·oid labeling those who ha·e symptoms oí ADlD as beivg ADlD, but rather
as ha·ing symptoms which are associated with ADlD.
An excellent and balanced resource on the issue oí labeling in mental health, especially as it relates to
children and teens, is the book, Ptea.e Dov`t íabet M, Cbita, by Scott Shannon, Ph.D., a child psychiatrist with
years oí experience in helping children and parents with a wide ·ariety oí psychiatric issues.
0<,5(% S1)%,' H1/<(<%&
A disproportional number oí children írom single parent homes are diagnosed with ADlD. Poor íamily
structure can be a íactor. Lack oí control in home can lead to problems in the school. lowe·er, other íactors
can be in·ol·ed. Children need lo·e, time and attention írom parents and strong emotional attachments. \hen
these are lacking, it can contribute to beha·ioral and attentional problems in school.
Many sincere single parent struggle to make a li·ing and to pro·ide a lo·ing home in which to raise a child.
1he challenges oí both working and raising a íamily can lea·e one with little energy to meet both the physical
and emotional demand oí raising children. 1his can make it diííicult íor some parents to pro·ide the idea
situation íor their children.
Many principals and teachers are a source oí unconditional lo·e íor children, who might not otherwise
recei·e acceptance or lo·e in their li·es. Because teaching style can make a signiíicant diííerence in the liíe and
success oí a child, teacher are encouraged to be patient and to help children to succeed, as well as a·oid being
unreasonable or harsh. Children are oíten in school íor a better part oí the day, many are in aíter-school
programs, including those which help children with homework.
Much is expected oí teachers in terms oí helping children to períorm well academically, but it must also be
noted that there are íactors in school at home, and in the community, which can contribute to a child`s
diííiculties in succeeding academically. 1here are multi-íaceted dynamics in·ol·ed in a child`s success, and this is
most likely true with mental health issues such as ADlD as well. ,See Urie Broníenbrenner`s bioecological
model oí mental health, in contrast to the medical model` oí mental health, which is commonly used as a
íoundation íor labeling and drug treatment,.
K41' A1+&%& 3CDCR
Joel Nigg, Ph.D., author oí the scientiíically oriented book, !bat Cav.e. .DíD., who is an associate
proíessor oí psychology at Michigan State Uni·ersity, co·eys the idea that the causes oí ADlD can be many
and ·aried, but that there are causes. Some oí these can be:
• Prenatal exposure to drugs, alcohol and smoking.
• Prenatal exposure to some prescription drugs.
• Babies born prematurely ha·e a greater risk oí symptoms associated with ADlD.
O%,%'<. H1.'*)& - Children may be born with a predisposition towards the symptoms oí ADlD or
depression. Other children in the same household, who are not genetically predisposed, might not de·elop these
:,;<)*,/%,'1( =1.'*)& - 1here is some e·idence that certain en·ironmental contaminants can contribute
to the de·elopment oí symptoms oí ADlD in certain children. Some that are mentioned by name are PCB`s,
lead and mercury o·erexposure or poisoning. ,Nigg, J., 2005,.
3' 4*/% - 1he need íor strong emotional attachment, or lack thereoí, can contribute to symptoms oí
ADlD. lamily problems, íamily instability, or a disorderly home can be contributing íactors in a child`s inability
to concentrate or íocus íor some children.
3' &.4**( - 1here is some e·idence that the classroom en·ironment might be one area where attention can
be gi·en with regard to impro·ing some symptoms associated with ADlD. ,Rabiner, March 2010. Also,
locusing on Instruction, 1eacb .DíD).
0*.<1( =1.'*)& - Social isolation íor the need íor íriendships and positi·e ,non-electronic0 recreation might
also be contributing íactors in some oí the symptoms associated with ADlD.
S46&<.1( M%%-& - 1he need íor good diet and nutrition, exercise, can be oí importance when considering
both childhood and adult ADlD. 1his can also be true íor depression. Diets low in sugar and low in reíined
carbohydrates can help íor good general health, but can also contribute to goo mental health.
1his can mean doing without donuts, cakes, candies, cookies, white ílour, white rice - instead, eat whole
grain íoods, brown rice, whole wheat ílour and healthy snacks, as a general rule oí thumb, and without taking it
to extremes. 1his can be oí some help íor many children with ADlD symptoms. Pro·iding snacks which are
natural, rather than highly processed íoods which may ha·e many added chemicals and additi·es, can make a
positi·e diííerence. Mayo Clinic states that while it is unlikely that íood additi·es cause ADlD, it is possible that
hyperacti·ity might be aggra·ated by some íood additi·es.
Children need to eat three healthíul meals a day. A healthy, regular breakíast is essential íor a child`s ability to
concentrate in school. Ií a child skips breakíast regularly or regularly eats high-sugar íoods, it can contribute to
some oí the symptoms oí ADlD and,or depression íor children who ha·e that predisposition, especially when
present with other contributing íactors. Girls, who are diagnosed with ADlD, are more likely to be oí the
inattenti·e type, boys tend to be hyperacti·e, ,Mayo Clinic,. It stands to reason, that íor a girl who does not eat
regularly, does not eat breakíast and skips other meals, this might be contributing to her symptoms oí
inattention. 1his has been obser·ed in the classroom.
In Newark, NJ, implementation oí a School Breakíast program resulted in a 95° participation during the
2008-9 school year. School breakíasts went írom 8000 per day in 2004 to 25,000 per day during 2008-9. Other
cities oí note were Columbus, Ol, and Boston, MA. ,Lssex News, lebruary 2010,.
One oí the problems, though, with school breakíasts, is that many are oí ·ery low nutritional ·alue and high
in sugar content: lruit Loops, Apple Jacks, sugary muííins, Pop-1arts, etc. 1here needs to be eííort in many
school districts to pro·ide a consistently more-nutritious breakíast to children, one that is consistent with the
health education that children and teens recei·e in class. Some school districts ha·e done that.
L%-<1 - Long hours with the media, tele·ision, mo·ies, ·ideo games, and Internet might aííect the mind
and beha·ior oí many children. Content, such as ·iolent content, excessi·e action-·iolence or cartoon ·iolence,
as well as horror mo·ies and pornography or sexually disorienting material, might also be íactors which
contribute to symptoms oí ADlD, depression, or bipolar disorder, íor some children, teens ,or adults,.
3CDC? F<2*(1) -<&*)-%)? 1,- *'4%) -<&*)-%)& *) .*,-<'<*,& !<'4 &</<(1) &6/2'*/&
Symptoms that are e·ident with an ADlD diagnosis can also maniíest themsel·es in disorders such as
bipolar disorder. One clinical psychologist in a public school candidly acknowledged that it is diííicult to
accurately diagnose disorders |such as ADlD and bipolar disorder| in children because the symptoms oí the
·arying disorders o·erlap. 1he same symptoms oíten maniíest themsel·es in diííerent disorders.` Psychiatrist
might treat a client íor both ADlD and bipolar disorder, or might mistakenly prescribe certain medications
through an inaccurate diagnosis.
One oí the reasons íor this is that e·aluations are most oíten subjecti·e rather than being scientiíic. In one
recent study, it was concluded that o·er halí oí the clients being treated íor bipolar disorder were misdiagnosed.
,Zimmerman, M., June, 2008, July, 2006,. 1his was determined through a more-accurate, scientiíically-oriented
analysis oí the symptoms oí each respondent, than is usually the case. \hat was apparently true, in this study, oí
bipolar disorder oí o·er- or misdiagnosis, may also be true oí ADlD as well, suggest Sharna Olíman`s research
in ^o Cbita íeft Differevt. Olíman is a clinical psychologist and associate proíessor oí psychology at Point Park
Uni·ersity in Pennsyl·ania.
Mayo Clinic states that there are symptoms that resemble ADlD in the íollowing disorders or conditions:
learning or language problems, mood disorders ,such as anxiety or depression,, hyperthyroidism, seizure
disorders, íetal alcohol syndrome, ·ision or hearing problems, 1ourette Syndrome, sleep disorders and autism.
Also oí note, some oí these disorders are diagnosed in as many as one in three children diagnosed with ADlD.
3CDC <& ,*' (<=% '4)%1'%,<,5
ADlD poses not imminent danger to a child. A child might be more accident prone, but with a little extra
attention by parents, this needn`t be a major concern and the probability oí medicine íixing that problem is not
certain. Oí encouragement to parents is what is stated by Russell Barkley that ADlD is not a pathological
condition or a disease stage`. Rather, it is a natural or de·elopmental íorm` oí the disorder ADlD, and then,
should not be considered some grossly abnormal pathological condition.` Instead, it is described as a condition
that is not qualitati·ely or categorically diííerent írom normal at all, but likely to be the extreme lower end oí a
normal trait. 1hus the diííerence is really just a matter oí degree and not a truly qualitati·e diííerence írom
normal.` Dr. Barkley states, 1his should help e·eryone ·iew ADlD írom a kinder perspecti·e.`
L<&'1>%, <-%,'<'6Q A4<(- 3F+&% 1,- 0(%%2 C<&*)-%)& 1)% *='%, /<&-<15,*&%- 1& 3CDC
A4<(- 3F+&% 7 Children who ha·e been sexually abused ha·e mistakenly been treated íor ADlD or bipolar
disorder. 1reatment and care íor children who may ha·e been ·ictims oí child abuse oí any type is much
diííerent than the treatment íor ADlD or bipolar disorder.
1hereíore, caregi·ers and proíessionals need to be ·ery discerning beíore recommending pharmaceutical
treatment. Reco·ery írom child abuse is ne·er as simple as prescribing a pill, and requires a multi-dimensional,
long-term eííort. Support, therapy, and especially lo·e and acceptance, are critical íor reco·ery. A peaceíul home
liíe, stability, appro·al and reassurance are oí necessity to the extent possible, írom íamily, caregi·ers, teachers
A4<(-)%, !<'4 &(%%2 disorders - ha·e also been mistakenly treated with medications íor ADlD. Children
who are ha·ing trouble sleeping are oíten misdiagnosed with ADlD.
1here can be many reasons that children are ha·ing diííiculty sleeping and there can be practical solutions as
well. One counselor recommends a wind down` period, on hour beíore going to bed. Also, keeping the
tele·ision, ·ideo games and Internet out oí the bedroom can be oí help to many children. Making sure children
do not ·iew stimulating mo·ies or play stimulating games beíore bedtime can be oí help.
Children need exercise, as do adults. lealthy outdoor acti·ities are demonstrated to help many children with
symptoms oí ADlD and depression, as well as being an aid in helping a child or adult to sleep better at night.
A4<(-)%, *='%, *+'5)*! &6/2'*/& *= 3CDC
Oí encouragement íor parents oí children with ADlD symptoms, is that up to 35°, some say 50° oí
children and teens, who ha·e the symptoms labeled as ADlD, outgrow thes4e symptoms and no longer íall
within a classiíiable range. ,Barkley, R., 2008, p.49,.
Symptoms and beha·ioral issues may be most diííicult íor the teacher in the classroom, or sometimes íor the
parent, but ADlD seldom poses imminent danger to the child or to classmates.
A412'%) M<,% 7 A6,'4<1 L%6%)&GD1,&*, 7 L6 3)/B) 7 L6 T<=%
My íirst book íinished the copyright process in 1994 being marketed by a small publisher. It recounted
my mother`s trip to lea·en and back beíore cancer won. ler story illuminated deathbed predictions as
well as the minor miracles happening in Lake Mary in 1990-91. Aíter that book did well in Orlando,
only, I ghostwrote similar stories íor people who deíied potentially liíe ending situations and came back
with Dirive 1ate.. My writing íollowed inspirational souls as non-íictions as well as íictions because
some indi·iduals wanted to maintain their autonomy. I, also, wrote upliíting pieces centered on
goodwill and miracles. 1wenty years later, aíter my liíe changing trip, I had to o·ercome a partial shoulder replacement,
which almost led to amputation and caused my leít arm to reject typing as well as other tasks íor months. \hile
recuperating, with one hand, I wrote my story. M, .rvOr ;M, íife) is a snippet oí my liíe, the outcomes oí mom`s
deathbed predictions, and my reco·ery- All in One.
Author website: http:,,mchanson¯14.blogspot.com
Amazon.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,234a6n¯
Lulu.com author page: http:,,stores.lulu.com,mchanson¯14
Copyright © 2010 Cynthia Meyers-lanson
L6 3)/B) 7 L6 T<=%
U C16 V '4% S1)>
1he day íelt warm enough yet balmy and breezy enough to ·enture outside oí the house gi·ing in to cabin
íe·er. Aíter dressing my two girls íor the local swimming hole, a spring that puddles in an area beíore dumping
gallons oí írosty water into the St. Johns Ri·er- we hopped in the car ready íor a great day.
It`s ice cold!` One oí my daughters exclaimed aíter dipping her íoot into the lightly swirling current.
Look!` 1he other chuckled, My toes turn blue when I put them in the stream!`
\ou ha·e to submerge yourselí quickly to get o·er the shock oí the water.` My body reíused to heed my
ad·ice while my mind warned that ií I didn`t get acclimated to that írigid current quickly that my children`s
cannonball leaps would toss írosty showers my direction. 1hat e·ent might cause repeated minor chilling
tremors ruining my wellbeing. leeding the ad·ice oí my brain, my íeet slipped írom beneath me dunking my
body to my shoulders. Sure enough, the pouncing happened splashing arctic wa·es into my íace, which íelt
bearable due to the rest oí my condition.
Oíten, my mind wandered and wondered. I thought about how the earth`s core is molten hot but the spring
water írom underground arri·es íreezing and ca·es are just as chilly. My mind contemplated how hot the sun
íelt on days like that day but how when you climb a mountain seemingly closer to the sun snow sometimes still
holds its ground- there. 1hese types oí enigmas make no sense to a rational mind, so, my brain toyed with these
ideas beíore realizing how much there is to learn in a liíetime.
My kids made wa·es and those wakes brought me back to the truths oí that moment. I had much to learn
and share with those two beings tossing water in my eyes and nearly blinding me to all reality. Oíten, my mother
chirped, la·ing children is wonderíul. \ou`·e created a soul that will one day see the magniíicent íace oí
\hen she`d talk that way, in spite oí my growing belieí that le exists and cares about humans, I stayed
secular thinking, \ou ha·e one more indi·idual that has to íace death. \e all want to be in the Last
Generation` because then we might get to bypass the coííin!`
Another idea driíted in and out oí my mind. \hile ·iewing a religious mo·ie as a kid- I can`t remember the
title- my eyes locked in on a man. le stood up írom his daily tasks oí menial labor as a sla·e, stared into the
íace oí Jesus, and knew his prayer to meet the expected Messiah had been íulíilled. In that moment, as a child, I
íelt my spirit stir wondering ií my thoughts were my own or lis \ill. 1here was concern not elation at being in
the last generation, Re·elations in the Bible is a hard thing to digest. 1he last group oí humans might
outmaneu·er placement in a coííin but they will go through some worse trauma.
Suddenly, an eerie e·ent brought me back to the spring, as we írolicked, a school oí Garr íish raced nearby.
1hose are the ugliest water creatures,` My eldest daughter pointed out.
Get me out oí here íast!` My other child whined.
Ií one oí us leít, all three had to exit the nearly írozen stream. Spring had sprung as we raced íor shore.
\ill the water get warmer by summer·` My youngest wanted to know e·en though the íish meant she`d ne·er
íeel comíortable in that ri·er.
\es, because it will be hotter,` ler sister answered.
1hat is why it will íeel colder- here,` My educational spiel started. 1he boil tosses its water at the same
temperature year round. 1he hotter the weather, the colder the water will íeel e·en though it comes out at the
same exact degrees all the time.`
\on`t the sun warm it·` 1hey asked in unison.
No, the water pours out so quickly that it can`t be heated up enough,` I explained. Once in the St. Johns,
downstream,` My hand pointed íar away, it may warm up as it mixes with that water.`
Oh, yeah! 1here are too many trees, here. 1hat`s why the sun can`t heat it íast enough.`
It`s how íast the water ílows out oí the spring.` My comment tried to íix her thoughts to the real reason,
\eah, the ri·er has less trees dangling o·erhead so the sun can warm the water, there,` ler sister added as
they understood nature írom a child`s eyes. lor the time being, I halted my lecture.
As we dried oíí with our beach towels, a ruckus met our ears. \e íigured the youngster complaining
showed her írustration with the icy stream. ler ·erbal abuse oí the woman beside her became agitating íor all
oí us, nearby. 1he girl appeared to be younger than my íour and six year old but her language brought to mind
sailors and bars. As we passed by the quarreling pair, my eyes drew towards the lady`s íace while my mind tried
not to judge the out oí control kid on her arm.
As she practically pushed the girl along the sidewalk, the ·iciousness coming out oí the child`s mouth caught
us by surprise. \onder why she is so mad·` One oí my kids expressed concern as I escorted my oííspring past
the trauma by gently pressuring their shoulder blades.
\ou mother í.er, stop telling me where to go!` 1heir peer shouted loudly and repeatedly.
My mind wanted to stop and help the woman control the situation with some well-worn ad·ice but my heart
knew that might just come across as arrogance about my parenting skills ·erses hers. As I passed by the duo, the
caretaker looked me square in the eyes. Ignore her bantering, my child can`t control her beha·ior. She`s a
demon child, my daughter has a syndrome.`
My ears made me laugh as they added to her words making me think the woman said, 1hreats Syndrome!` I
belie·ed- that because that little one shouted all kind oí e·il warnings to her caretaker in a loud, cussing manner-
that her caretaker might be right
\hat surprised me wasn`t her mother`s explanation oí the disease aííecting this girl`s beha·ior. Instead, the
equating oí her oííspring to an e·il spirit íloored me. 1aking one last peek into the little one`s eyes, I nai·ely
asked that íallen angel to let go oí the child`s soul. No youngster should be that íiendish with the spoken word.
\hat`s wrong with her·` My oldest tugged at my slee·e as my other daughter distanced herselí in the same
manner as she did her body írom the Garr lish in the nearby chilling waterway.
My soul shi·ered, She has a disease causing her outburst.`
\e should pray that she gets better,` My children nai·ely pondered a solution aloud.
\eah, we should,` I uttered as a whisper. Looking backwards, my soul calmed as the ·iolent chattering
subsided. \ere our prayers answered, already·
Interrupting the plague, one oí my girls eagerly asked, ley, can we ·isit those people·`
On the path back to our car sat an older home. A nearby sign indicated that this house was once the estate,
owner`s residence beíore the spring became a state park. As the whitewashed structure met my eyes, thoughts oí
e·ilness lurked con·erting into ghosts and troubling ideas. My mind wondered ií the place was haunted or not.
My spirit counseled me not to go in e·en though my girls` inquisiti·eness spoke about entering that building.
Contemplating poltergeists while dri·ing home that day, my logic decided that phantoms might simply be
our mind allowing íantasy to become reality. Many think specters are human spirit with uníinished business. Ií
God is in charge, souls cannot be truly lost in the sense oí not knowing where to go, could they· \hen 1he
Creator talks oí lost le means to lades and in siníul beha·ior as opposed to the idea oí not knowing who you
are or where you come írom- spirits cannot suííer ALZ.
As my mind analyzed these thoughts, I wondered about that disease that robs the mind oí memories and a
liíetime oí education. Possibly ALZ or any terminal disease pro·ides time to mend broken íences and personal
li·es, it may be God`s way oí allowing people that struggled emotionally o·er a liíe time to drop all the pretense
oí this world beíore joining lim. Possibly, liíe-threatening illnesses supply the chance to know the end is near
and gi·es that soul time to complete their liíe`s work lea·ing no uníinished business. My religious education
corrected my wandering thoughts because some people ne·er íind the way to íinish what was started or repent
Lingering in my candid point oí ·iew, my rationalization oí unexplained things continued. 1he De·il and his
agents can use your íears and tidbits írom history against you. 1hey can conjure up your expectations gi·en halí
a chance. I think ghosts are e·il spirits wandering through historical stories while reenacting the scenes íor
generations. 1hey know what happened and share just enough to gi·e the curious the lee Bee Gee Bees.`
As I contemplated these ideas, chills raced up and down my spine. As ií lightning passed through it, the hair
on my body tingled standing them on end. My mind quickly thought oí Scooby Do` so that relaxation oí my
heightened anxiety could pass. My internal chuckle crossed my íace in a broad smile. Needless to say, due to
rumors oí ghouls as well as being clammy írom our pre·ious experience at that particular park, we ne·er entered
that whitewashed manor in any manner- not during any oí our íuture park trips, either. All our ·isits had more to
do with swimming and íun than ·isiting historical sites.
A412'%) 9%, 7 3,-)%! :" W1+=/1, 7 K4<(% 94% 01;15% 0(%%2&
Andrew L. Kauíman is a íreelance writer and author li·ing in Southern Caliíornia, along with his six
Labrador Retrie·ers, three horses, and a ·ery bossy Jack Russell 1errier ,who, incidentally, thinks she
owns the place,. lis new no·el, !bite tbe ´arage ´tee¡., a íorensic paranormal mystery, takes place in
the íictitious town oí laith, New Mexico.
Aíter recei·ing his journalism and political science degrees at San Diego State Uni·ersity, Andrew
began his writing career as an Lmmy-nominated writer,producer, working at KlMB-1V, the CBS aííiliate in San Diego,
then at KCAL-1V in Los Angeles. lor more than ten years, he produced special series and co·ered many nationally known
cases, including the O.J. Simpson 1rial.
Author website: http:,,www.andrewekauíman.com
Amazon.com author page: http:,,www.amazon.com,Andrew-L.-Kauíman,e,B003RR3MQ\
Copyright © 2010 Andrew L. Kauíman
K4<(% 94% 01;15% 0(%%2&
H1<'4? M%! L%@<.*
1he clock struck midnight.
Something in the air seemed to change. Something sudden, mysterious, and íilled with bad intent. \ind-
dri·en clouds gained momentum, swirling into the path oí a íiery moon.
\hat once was settled began to stir. \here there had been order, there was unrest, and írom the gathering
darkness, new liíe emerged.
1he sort born oí pure e·il.
Deputy Bradley \itherspoon íelt an odd chill run through his body but didn`t know why. le`d parked along
a shadowy írontage road running parallel to the Saddleback Ranch, one oí laith`s oldest and more established
cattle producers. Barely dri·able and punished by years oí neglect, deputies oíten reíerred to the old dirt path as
the Reíueling Station. 1ranslation: the períect spot to stay beneath the radar and catch-up on much-needed
sleep. lor those working swing shiít, it seemed a good place to íind reíuge and restore sanity-or at least meet
up with it íor a brieí ·isit.
On a scale oí slim to none, chances wa·ered near zero that anyone would bother making the trip to check on
the deputies` whereabouts. One needed only tra·el a íew íeet down the pitted path to understand why: a ·igilant
pack oí cattle dogs kept close watch o·er the property. More than capable oí making themsel·es heard, they
remained on the lookout íor the íirst sign oí unwelcome company. 1his ga·e the deputies enough warning to
wake up and look sharp in the unlikely e·ent someone aia arri·e to check on them. \ith all those saíeguards,
you might think it diííicult to catch a deputy dozing oíí.
\ou would be wrong.
\itherspoon caught himselí nodding oíí se·eral times beíore driíting toward a more restíul state oí sleep
that didn`t last long. le woke to the sound oí stirring behind his seat, a rustling noise, like plastic bags rubbing
together. Beíore he could turn around and in·estigate, he took a swiít blow to the head írom something cold and
hea·y, something metal. Right away, he íelt a warm liquid trail írom his ear. Blood trickled alongside his neck,
then into his lap where it began to pool.
le tried getting his bearings, but another piece oí thick metal slammed into him, this time just below his
Adam`s apple, it coiled around his neck, pulling him straight back, jerking him hard against the headrest.
Panic struck. \itherspoon reached up instincti·ely with both hands, choking íor air, trying írantically to pry
the hook loose. But beíore he could íree himselí, the other hook came swooping down, landing inside his
mouth, piercing skin, and dri·ing a hole through the side oí his cheek. Like a catíish snagged on a line, he íelt his
jaw jerk wide open, íar beyond its normal limits. 1he skin on his neck and íace tightened as both hooks worked
in unison, ratcheting into ílesh, stretching it in directions it was ne·er supposed to mo·e.
Bradley \itherspoon understood his liíe was about to end. le knew each shallow breath could be his last.
1ears rolled down his cheeks as he thought about his wiíe, his kids, about ne·er seeing them again. 1hen he
prayed íor death to come quickly and end his pain and suííering.
No such luck.
1he deputy íelt a sharp tug, íollowed by an intense rush oí pain as his captor yanked him between the two
íront seats and toward the back. 1he assailant pulled him out the rear door-hook still lodged inside his cheek-
and launched íorward, leading the deputy by the mouth. \itherspoon let out a shrill, childlike scream. lis
attacker answered back by jerking the hook harder, continuing to drag him.
In a haphazard, clumsy manner, \itherspoon scrambled across the ground on all íours in a desperate
attempt to keep pace. 1he slower he mo·ed, the more intense the pain became as the íorward mo·ement tugged
at his ílesh. le wanted to look up at his assailant but could not. 1he hook inside his cheek assured it. 1urning
his head would ha·e dri·en the hook deeper into his skin.
\itherspoon could not keep up any longer. lis body was just too weak. le stumbled, lurched íorward, and
íelt his skin split and separate as the hook sliced across his cheek, shiíting position, and penetrating deep into the
rooí oí his mouth. lrom there, it mo·ed higher into his sinus canal. Blood began draining into the back oí his
throat. le choked as it spilled out írom his mouth and down the íront oí his chin.
1heir journey ended at the íoot oí an old íeed shed topped oíí with a rusty metal rooí. 1he assailant grabbed
\itherspoon by the shoulders, pushed his heel into the small oí his back, then sho·ed him íorward se·eral íeet
where he slammed into the ground, íace íirst.
le tried to get up but the attacker leaped on top oí him. Grabbing a lock oí hair, he yanked the deputy's
head close to his lips and in a breathy ·oice whispered, Just curious: how`s it íeel to know you`re about to die·`
\itherspoon recognized the ·oice. le íelt his gut tighten, then a warm, wet sensation slowly crawl between
A412'%) :(%;%, G A41)(<% A*+)'(1,- 7 94% D<--%, K<(( *= '4% C)15*,
1he author writes under the nom de plume, Charlie Courtland. She graduated írom the
Uni·ersity oí \ashington with a B.A. in Lnglish Literature with an emphasis on creati·e writing,
and a minor in Criminology. She was born in Michigan and currently resides in the Seattle area
with her husband and two children.
Author website: http:,,www.bitsybling.blogspot.com
Amazon.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,2demzxz
Copyright © 2010 Kelly L. Lee
94% D<--%, K<(( *= '4% C)15*,
N*&% D<(( 01,<'1)<+/
1he nurse's crisp white skirt swept through the doorway oí my room. It`s time íor your medicine,` she
said, bending o·er the night table. ler períect posture matched the staunch twist oí her bun.
1he sanitarium was a sadistic place, with its whitewashed walls and airy light. 1he days seemed to last
íore·er, and the birds outside my window ne·er ceased their incessant singing. I had arri·ed a íew days earlier
aíter I had my spell. 1hat is what the doctor called it, a .¡ett, and my ·oluntary admittance was a precautionary
measure. le recommended I admit myselí, so I could ha·e around the clock care by proíessionals. le told me
not to worry, reminding me o·er and o·er again that it was temporary. lis knitted brow re·ealed how distressed
he was by my relapse. I knew the look. It was the íear oí death-not his, but mine.
Are we íeeling better·` the nurse asked. She was now drawing the curtains. I braced íor a burst oí
sunshine, but instead I was greeted by a íamiliar o·ercast. Oh dear, looks like rain,` she said. It was sunny
earlier, but it seems those big clouds o·erhead ha·e chased the cheer straight away.`
I glanced at the bottle oí medicine centered on the tray. I could taste the bitter burn already in my throat,
and the thought oí choking down another course caused an instant gag reílex.
1he nurse rushed to my bedside and poured a cup oí water. Oh my, are you choking· la·ing trouble
breathing·` she asked. She sat me up and ga·e a hardy thud to my backside.
I coughed and shook my head. I swallowed a mouth íull oí water. It was like trying to íorce a wad oí cloth
down my throat. I took another sip, and this time the liquid mo·ed smoothly.
1here, there,` she cooed, gi·ing me a pat as she released her íirm hold on my arm. Just needed a bit oí
water, didn`t you·`
I wanted to spit in the basin, but I knew there`d be blood. I could taste it, the metallic taint playing on my
tongue. I didn`t want the nurse to see it, I didn`t want to alarm her. I knew the diííerence between concern and
a trace amount, and I was certain this was just a trace that settled o·er night.
I`m not dying,` I said. I tried to íix my hair, but it was a mess írom rolling around on my pillow all night.
Oí course not milady. \ou`·e caught a chill, but at your ad·anced age the doctor wants to make certain it
doesn`t turn into something more serious.`
I`m not that ad·anced,` I grumbled.
Oh, oí course not. I didn`t mean to imply,` she explained. I only met that as years pass we become
I was always taught the young were susceptible, and the old wise,` I said. I sneered at the nurse, knowing
íull well that any look I shot her would be intimidating.
\ou`re quite right, quite right,` she said, gi·ing an agreeable nod.
1his woman was no íun, no íun at all. I wasn`t going to get a rise out her today, so I decided to let it go.
Shall I pour your medicine,` she asked, pointing to the ·ial.
I rolled my eyes. Very well.` I knew she wasn`t going to lea·e until I drank.
\our íriend across the hall got the most lo·ely bouquet oí ílowers írom her íamily yesterday. Did she show
them to you·` she asked as she sho·ed a spooníul in my mouth.
I had a choice, either spit it out or swallow it quick. Down it went, burning all the way, right into my gut
where it warmed and bubbled.
\hen I stopped shuttering írom the awíul taste I said, She`s not my íriend. I don`t e·en know the
Oh, I thought she ·isited.`
More like she wanders in,` I said. I wa·ed at the door. She doesn`t e·en know where she is. She just lets
herselí out and roams up and down the hallways. Perhaps, you should put a lock on her door.`
1he nurse pulled a íace. She might be a touch out oí sorts, but she`s harmless.`
1he woman`s an imbecile,` I grumbled.
Milady!` she exclaimed.
Oh don`t look at me like that. I`m old and dying. I can say what I want. \ho`s going to tell· Are you
going to tell·` I asked.
1o my annoyance, she planted her broad hips in a chair. I was hoping she`d pick up the tray and lea·e, but
apparently she took my remarks as an in·itation to engage in íurther con·ersation.
Some people can`t take a hint,` I mumbled.
She pretended not to hear me. She looked around the room. Not a single letter, íramed picture, or e·en a
·ase oí ílowers decorated the space. Nothing personal showed except íor the dressing robe thrown o·er the end
oí my bed. Do you ha·e íamily·` she asked.
\hat a presumptuous question I thought. Do I look like I ha·e íamily·`
\ell your condition came on suddenly, and perhaps you did not ha·e time to pack all the things you might
want to ha·e with you.` She íolded her hands in her lap. I see all you`·e brought is a bundle oí papers. Are
you writing a journal·`
Don`t you ha·e other patients to tend too·` I asked.
She pressed her lips together and made a íace like she`d just eaten something terribly sour.
Oh all right, ií you must know, I`m writing a story íor my great god son.`
ler eyes lit up. A story! low wonderíul, what`s his name.`
I was once in lo·e with his grandíather, Count Drugeth,` I said.
Oh my, I bet that i. a story,` she said, interested.
It is indeed.`
I`d lo·e to hear it,` she said. ler posture slacked. I took this as a clear indication she wasn`t going
\our patients,` I reminded.
Oh, you`re the last on my route. I don`t ha·e to make rounds íor a íew hours.`
Just my luck, I thought.
I looked toward the window. 1he gray cast hung as ií the world were stuck in perpetual dusk. I`ll make you
a deal. Ií you take me out there, I'll tell you a story,` I said.
She glanced at the window. I don`t know. I`m not sure the doctor would appro·e.`
low am I to reco·er ií I can`t get a breath oí íresh air·` I asked.
I think it`s best ií we stay inside. I`ll sit here, and you can remain comíy in bed,` she said, treating me like a
I crossed my arms and closed my eyes. In that case, I`m íeeling sleepy. Perhaps you should go bother
1here was silence íor a íew moments. I kept my eyes pinched shut. I heard the scrapping oí her chair and
her distinct íootsteps march out the door. I peeked to see ií she had gone. 1he room was empty. I grabbed the
basin and spat a bloody string oí spit. I looked around íor a place to hide the bowl. 1here weren't many
options, so I sho·ed the e·idence beneath the table.
A noise broke the silence and echoed down the hall. As the sound grew closer, my breathing quickened. I
heard a squeak and then a curse as the nurse jimmied the contraption through the door. Ií we`re going outside
you`re riding in one oí these,` she said.
I couldn`t help grinning as I kicked the co·ers írom my íeet and dragged my dressing robe around my
shoulders. \hile I íumbled with the ties, she got my cape írom the bureau and wrapped it around me beíore
liíting me into the chair.
I`m not helpless,` I said. I can walk you know.`
I know, but I don`t want you ha·ing another episode and blacking out again.` She íolded a blanket o·er my
legs and íixed a hat upon my head.
I íelt such joy as she wheeled me away írom the sick bed and toward the doors. I íeel like a child sneaking
out,` I whispered. Once outside, the íresh air burned my tender lungs as I sucked in a breath. I didn`t care. It
was a good hurt, an ali·e hurt, and I welcomed the discomíort.
\here shall we go·` she asked, pausing íor a moment on the walking path.
I told her I wished to rest by the park bench. Aíter she had me situated, she arranged herselí beside me. I
noted she took special care not to soil her starched white skirt. ler uniíorm was a symbol oí independence and
she was prideíul oí her Christian duty.
\hen she was appropriately postured, I spoke. I began to tell her my story. Not the story I was writing íor
Count Drugeth about his grandmother, but my story. I told her about my mother íalling ill and how I went to
ser·e as a lady in waiting to the Countess Bathory. I spoke oí my lo·e íor George and how it was not meant to
be. She was sad by the news, but brightened when I introduced Draco Lorant to the con·ersation. In a way, I
shared Llizabeth`s story while I shared my own because it was impossible to tell one without telling the other. I
íound it reíreshing to talk and ha·e someone listen. At the time, I didn`t know ií I`d e·er lea·e Rose lill, or ií
I`d íulíill my promise to Count Drugeth, but I was going to try. I wasn`t ready to die, not yet.
So Llizabeth`s grandson just appeared one day on your door step·` the nurse asked.
I nodded. le was seeking answers about his íamily. 1here is so much he doesn`t know, so much he
doesn`t understand because history has it wrong, well, not all wrong, but distorted.` I leaned íorward, placing
my hand on her knee. I íeel that beíore I lea·e this world I must set it straight. I owe it to him. I owe it to
Llizabeth,` I said.
I must know,` she said. Is it true· Did the Countess Bathory really do all the horrid things they say·` She
lowered her ·oice e·en more. \ith the blood, did she do those things with the blood·`
I patted her leg. 1hat`s the question, and I`m aíraid it requires a complex answer. It is not one I can gi·e
with a simple yes or no. It`s much more complicated, and that is why I must write it down. It is the singular
reason I will get well and lea·e here to return to my home. \ou see I am determined to íinish the story íor
Count Drugeth. Aíter all, I made him a deal. Ií he íollows his heart and marries his belo·ed Kate, I agreed to
share the truth about his grandmother, Llizabeth Bathory. I suppose I can be accused oí íorcing his hand to
choose his heart o·er tradition." I paused. 1hat was exactly my intention. "Admittedly, I blame tradition íor all
the wrongs Llizabeth suííered and this is my way oí making it right," I explained. "At the time when I íell ill I
still hadn't recei·ed word oí his decision, but I am hopeíul and determined. I cannot help but íantasize about
trading my written giít íor a wedding in·itation, a symbol oí sacriíice íor lo·e." I took a deep breath. A ·iolent
burn branded my lungs causing my eyes to water. I wish I could tell you more my dear, but I made a promise.
A promise to my mistress and a promise to Count Drugeth, and I intend to keep it." I discreetly wiped my tears
while blaming them on the breeze. "lowe·er, I can tell you this much, there is both truth and lies in e·ery
rumor. 1rying to decipher which is which is the delicious part. Remember nothing is exactly as it seems,
She nodded, taking my words seriously. She was listening so intently that I hardly think she noticed my
A íew raindrops hit the ground and rustled the lea·es abo·e our heads.
\e better get inside beíore we are soaked to the bone,` she said, taking hold oí the handles on the chair
and gi·ing me a hardy push toward the doorway.
low soon do you think it will be beíore the doctor will see me íit to lea·e·` I asked.
Since there is no blood in your spittle and you are complying with treatment I will make a positi·e
recommendation regarding your reco·ery.`
I smirked. I had beíriended the nurse and with little eííort she was already imagining a bond. 1he poor
do·e was naturally good-natured. "I`m ·ery eager to get home, ·ery eager," I repeated.
I continued to hide the basin oí bloody spittle írom the nurse and within a week the doctor lacked reasons to
keep me coníined. le mixed se·eral ·ials oí medicine íor me to take home including strict instructions to
íollow and recommended dosage, which I assured him repeatedly, that I would do. I had e·ery intention oí
complying because I did not want to return. Ií I were to die, I wanted to do it at home, and only aíter I íinished
1he nurse ga·e me a big hug aíter she packed my belongings and ordered my trunk to the carriage.
I`·e personally sent word to your household in Vienna. L·erything will be in order when you arri·e. I am
certain they`ll be thrilled to ha·e their mistress home,` she said, with a bra·e smile. She was a bit choked up, but
pleased to see me lea·ing under my own will and not by way oí a wooden box through the body chute.
Let`s just hope I still ha·e my sil·er,` I said.
She laughed heartily.
I`m serious, the ser·ants will rob you blind when you`re not looking,` I said.
Oh milady, you are too much!`
I ga·e her a quick hug and adjusted my hat. I was ready to go home. Lach step I took down the hall
required considerable eííort, but I was determined to exit under my own strength. My breathing labored and my
hands trembled as I gripped the side oí the carriage, and hea·ed myselí up the íootholds. Once inside, I let the
tickle building in my throat out. I co·ered my cough with my handkerchieí. A small spot oí pink soiled the
delicate white linen. ít`. ;v.t a trace, I thought. It's just a tiny trace. I tucked the handkerchieí in my pocket and
rested my head against the seat cushion. I was going home, probably to die, but still, I was going home.
A412'%) 9!%(;% 7 3/< $(1.>!%(-%) 7 94% 04<='%)& *= XYZY
Ami Blackwelder is a íorbidden romance writer in the paranormal and historical romance
genre. Growing up in llorida, she went to UCí and in 199¯ recei·ed her BA in Lnglish and teaching
credentials. She tra·elled o·erseas to teach in 1hailand, Nepal, 1ibet, China and Korea. 1hailand is
considered her second home now. She has always lo·ed writing and wrote poems and short stores since
childhood, howe·er, her no·els began when she was in 1hailand.
la·ing won the Best liction Award írom the Uni·ersity oí Central llorida ,\es, 1be ßtair !itcb Pro;ect Uni·ersity,,, her
íiction lrom Joy \e Come, Unto Joy \e Return` was published in the on campus literary magazine: C,¡re.. Dove and
remains to this day in Uni·ersity libraries around the country. Later, she achie·ed the Semi-linals in a Laurel lemingway
contest and published a íew poems in the 1hailand`s í·¡at magazine, and an article in the 1hailand`s Peo¡te newspaper.
Additionally, she has published poetry in the Korea`s .íM magazine, the .vericav Poetic Movtbt, magazine and 1ri.tea
Author website: http:,,amiblackwelder.com
Amazon.com author page: http:,,www.amazon.com,Ami-Blackwelder,e,B0031P09VS
Publisher website: http:,,tinyurl.com,28oz4p6
Copyright © 2010 Ami Blackwelder
94% 04<='%)& *= XYZY
1bree ´¡ecie.. Diriaea íorer.. 1be Race i. ov for Ptavet íartb.
In the early morning, Melissa Marn rushed down the hall, her high heels clicking against the marble íloor,
and her white lab coat billowing behind her. 1he SCM ,Shiíter Counterinsurgency Military, ID badge dangled
írom her lapel, bouncing with each step. Dr. Bruce \ilder, a íellow scientist, íollowed with just as strong
determination. 1he intensity in his dark eyes, and brows shiíted at inward angles, told e·eryone to mo·e out oí
Please, don`t do this,` Bruce begged behind her, quickening his step, but Melissa mo·ed íaster. She jerked
her head back in his direction, her hair whipping around.
I ha·e to. I don`t ha·e a choice. Just like you don`t ha·e a choice,` she argued. 1heir heated words hit the
walls oí the SCM base, in·iting public ears. Bruce gripped her arm and swung her around to íace him.
Don`t,` he pled one last time.
Melissa lowered her head, sighing. Ií I don`t, someone else will.` She twisted away írom him and hurried to
turn the corner, disappearing írom Bruce`s sight. le shook his head, returned to the lab and quieted his mind
with busy work.
Melissa raised her head as she entered the Obser·ation room. 1his order, howe·er disagreeable, required her
participation. ler career balanced on successíully accomplishing such experiments, on such moral ambiguities.
Rejecting Colonel Raul`s commands would only lead to punishment, and e·en dismissal.
1o a ci·ilian, the order would ha·e oííered a choice. Discharge would not be that bad. Returning to liíe, to
íreedom, would bring relieí. But to the well-trained SCM, to Melissa, no choice existed. 1he weight oí guilt,
disappointment, íailure and rejection would stink and hang between her and her íather íor the rest oí her liíe.
She couldn`t accept that. ler íather would ne·er accept that.
ler íingerprint identiíication opened the sealed doors. She walked through to two specially íormed plastic
cots where two alien shiíters had been held since six in the morning. Drained oí color, they were nearing death.
Another shiíter dangled against the back wall, clinging to a web oí rubber tubes. 1he grey íluid within him
pulsed in and out oí his body. \ithout consciousness, the shiíter hung to be studied, examined, probed.
1he rubber locks that held the two shadowy shapes to the cots had been especially designed by SCM
scientists to pre·ent shiíters írom breaking íree, the same rubber-jelly used around the iron bars in the cages oí
the holding room. 1hree restraints írom the bottom, center, and top ensured each shiíter had no wiggle room. A
íew scientists, along with Colonel Raul, stood behind the obser·ation glass abo·e the lab. L-boards and ·ideo
cameras documented all the data, e·ery detail and disco·ery.
\ou may begin, Dr. Marn.` 1he ominous, deep ·oice oí the .olonel pierced her ears.
1he needle Melissa injected into the íirst shiíter caused the yellow hued internal light to ílicker. Paiv. She
sucked a grey íluid, some kind oí blood, írom the body. ler assistant, standing beside her, prepared to take the
tube oí shiíter íluid away. Placing the tube into the masculine hand, belonging to a íace Melissa hardly noticed,
she readied her mind íor the next step.
She pointed an elongated metal stick with a sharp point o·er the shiíter`s lower jelly-body. ler hand
qui·ered a second beíore she remembered the .olonel watched her, examined her, like she was the experiment.
Aíter a moment oí hesitation, she pierced the jelly-skin, slowly inserting to reach the cylinder oí light. 1he
photons ílickered and shards oí photons propelled írom the shiíter`s malleable body.
1he heat oí the light burned Melissa`s unco·ered íorehead and she withdrew a minute beíore returning to
íinish. She lowered her íace mask and continued inserting the long metal stick. Pincers emerged írom the end
and broke oíí a small amount oí the cylinder beíore retreating back inside the metal stick.
Melissa pulled the stick out with precision. She wanted to inílict as little harm as she could in this inhumane
research. But then, the shiíters didn`t remind her much oí anything human, or oí anything li·ing. 1hey had
in·aded Larth in 2020 and, since that time, had acquired the ability to turn into animals or humans íor short
periods oí time.
1he assistant took the metal stick away írom Melissa and placed the pseudo-biopsy into a plastic red bag next
to the bagged tube oí grey íluid. Melissa curled her lip in disgust with herselí, with her predicament. But curiosity
drew her íorward. She knew conducting this kind oí biopsy when the shiíter had died would not pro·ide as
useíul iníormation. 1hey needed to study the cylinder oí light while it still li·ed.
1hen the .olonel commanded the third part to the research. Let`s hurry up, Dr. Marn. \e must íinish
studying these...things... beíore lunch. I ha·e a meeting.`
Melissa`s glance darted to the glass up behind her. 1hen, a kniíe sliced a thin piece oí the jelly-body oíí the
shiíter, lea·ing the entity ílickering in dimming lights, causing the shiíter beside the cot to jerk in attempts at
As the shards oí intense photons ílew írom the wounded shiíter, Melissa approached the second cot and
raised the electrical prod. 1he rod oí electricity stung the jelly-skin oí the prisoner, and jolted the already íueled
photons to o·ercharge. 1he shadow shiíted into a human, then a bear, a wolí and then returned to the shadow
shape as ií each change oííered a better chance at íreeing itselí írom the rubber locks. 1he shiíter con·ulsed íor
se·eral minutes while the yellow lights turned gold and then black.
Melissa turned her head away and reíused to watch the deliberate pain inílicted, to merely learn how much
electricity the SCM needed to wound, stun and kill shiíters. Once the shiíter returned to a still state, the shadow
regained what Melissa called consciousness, and the blackness retreated as yellow lights returned.
\hy doesn`t it just transíorm into a mouse and slide out írom under the braces·` scientist Ned 1esk asked
írom behind the glass.
It must transíorm into only li·ing animals, and must also occupy at least the same amount oí space. Like
water, íluid in íorm, it can alter to the container`s shape. But whate·er it chooses to alter into, the shape will
always remain at least as large as a human, still limiting itselí underneath the clasps,` scientist Roger lurre behind
the glass responded.
\e need to know how they transport, penetrate,` the .olonel`s harsh ·oice interrupted o·er the intercom.
Mo·e on to step íi·e.`
Melissa hit the red button on a screen abo·e her. Manipulating diííerent en·ironments, a box abo·e the cot
lowered and when it opened, plastics, rubbers, metals, nano materials, and íinally wires extended one-by-one and
lowered to the prisoner, testing each material`s eííects.
\hen the wire extended o·er the jelly substance, the jolted shiíter disappeared. 1he scientists pressed their
íaces against the glass íor a closer ·iew. Melissa glanced up at the wire and the usual pink hue íell írom her íace,
instantly recognizing what the shiíter had done and the power it wielded.
\here has it gone·` the .olonel shouted. scientist Samantha Croon scrambled íor a solution, an answer to
soothe him. 1ossing e-papers, she replayed the ·ideo.
Inside the wire,` Melissa commented with a grin, either at the genius oí the DNA code oí the shiíter
species, or at her talents as a scientist and obser·er.
1he room íilled with silence and then the shiíter who had ·anished spilled out oí the wire and reassembled
o·er the hard íloor. 1he shadow shape metamorphosed into a large white bear, thrusting wide paws at the
assistant. Growls permeated the room. Melissa leapt toward the wall behind her while the large beast clawed the
assistant dead. lis liíeless limbs íell, his head hit the íloor with a thud and Melissa jumped at the sound.
1he .olonel hit his palm against an emergency knob next to the sealed door, causing red lights to alarm and
beam inside the Obser·ation room. 1he o·ersized bear bellowed, his jaws dropped open and extended, sharp
teeth protruded. Drool dripped írom his mouth and he swung his head around at Melissa in one ·iolent jerk.
Blood drained írom the assistant`s body behind the beast as the bear approached Melissa and she screamed,
not realizing the intensity oí her íear. Upon her dropping to her knees, the Obser·ation room door slid open and
íi·e SCM soldiers íired their riíles.
Bullets thudded into the back oí the beast, knocking him íorward and landing on his chest a couple íeet
írom Melissa. 1he bear shiíted slowly, resuming his natural íorm, with black light inside oí him. \ith her back
pressed against the wall, her hands shook. 1he white lab coat had stained with squirted blood írom the assistant,
and again írom the bear when bullets ripped through his íur and body.
Melissa held herselí as her shocked stare dropped to her knees, witnessing the splatter oí blood all o·er her
clothes. One oí the soldiers rushed toward her and extended his hand to help her stand.
\hen she íound her balance, he let her go and resumed his duty. But beíore she had time to ílee the room,
another soldier, under command írom the .olonel, positioned his riíle o·er the restrained shiíter and íired twice,
blowing a chunk oí the jelly substance onto the íloor. le then shot a íew times at the shiíter hanging against the
wall. All the alien lights dimmed permanently to black.
ív tbe aar/, vv.t, tab roov, .bifter. of ivtervat ¡vt.ativg tigbt vorea iv .tor votiov ava .vrrovvaea ber, tbreatevivg to
orerrbetv ber a. tbe, .bot etectricit, torara ber. 1be, too/ea (i/e a .torv of fattivg .tar., beavtifvt ava aavgerov. att tbe .ave.
Rai.ivg ber bava. to biae ber e,e. frov tbe btivaivg ¡botov., .be .tvvbtea tro .te¡. bac/rara. . .bifter tvvgea, /voc/ivg ivto ber
.bovtaer bove, bvt ber refivea refte·e. gri¡¡ea tbe vov.ter, bava to bea.t, ava .be tbrv.t tbe vov.tro.it, aorv ritb ove bara tbva
ovto a cot iv tbe tab.
Otber .bifter. faaea arovva ber, tigbt. aivvea. Re.traivivg tbe .bifter iv ber bava., .be bovva tbe vov.ter ritb rvbber ctav¡.,
ava teavea orer tbe gtorivg e,e. to begiv re.earcb. írov ber etbor. aorv, ber arv. baa vor becove tro .taivte.. .teet ¡ivcer.,
ctic/ivg tbe btaae. togetber, vorivg cto.er ava cto.er to tbe .qvirvivg .bifter, tbe .igbt of ber vetattic arv. re¡vt.ire to ber. ív.ertivg
ber rigbt ¡ivcer, .be rivcea rbev tbe .bifter ivage virrorea ber orv face ava evittea a .creav, bigb ava ¡iercivg.
Bolting upright in bed, she scanned her dark bedroom and held herselí in her arms, calming her breathing.
Stroking her arms, she stared at her hands, her bvvav hands, and realized the e·ent was only a nightmare, but her
body still shook at the dreamed image oí her íace staring back at her on the cot in the lab. lor a moment, she
íelt íragile. She grabbed two white sleeping tablets írom her nightstand and sipped írom the glass oí water by her
bedside. She relaxed and lowered her body under the sheets as she dropped her head to the pillow, telling herselí
it was just a dream, just a dream.`
A412'%) 94<)'%%, 7 L15,*(<1 $%((% 7 9P*, L1
Magnolia Belle is a 1exas author who writes about 1exas, past and present, and Nati·e Americans. She
enjoys writing historical íiction and modern day romance,ad·enture.
She li·es with her husband |since 19¯¯|, and their three dogs in the Dl\ area. Music, people watching,
tra·el and cooking are some oí her interests.
Author website: www.blackwolíbooks.com
Amazon.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,25ms68g
Copyright © 2006, 2008 Magnolia Belle, 2
Se·enteen-year-old Lana sat beside the slow-running ri·er and pulled oíí her shoes and socks, her toes
wiggling in delight at their newíound íreedom. Late August aíternoons in 1exas brought the hottest part oí the
day, oí the year - too hot to do chores or to stay inside the airless sod house. 1his presented a períect time to
swim and maybe to wash her hair.
Lana stood, remo·ed her dress and underthings, and arranged them across a bush. On tiptoes, she picked
her way across rocks and around grass burrs, and walked into the ri·er until the water came to just under her
na·el. As she undid her braid, she let her long, brown hair íall loose down her back and shoulders. She leaned
íorward into the water, its coolness a delight against her hot, sweaty skin. 1his íelt like hea·en!
1he young woman swam and íloated íor a íew moments but, wanting her soap, she stopped and took a íew
steps in the waist-deep water toward the ri·erbank. A noise behind her made her whirl around.
Se·eral yards away, a Kiowa bra·e sat on a magniíicent black horse, his piercing eyes staring at the nude
woman. Lana íroze, not sure what to do. She hadn`t brought a gun with her. 1he house stood so close, she
hadn`t thought she needed to.
Dov`t .bor biv ,ov`re afraia, she thought to herselí. ´tare biv aorv ava be`tt teare. lacing her unin·ited ·isitor,
she tried to slow her breathing.
le looked young, maybe a íew years older than Lana - wild, íierce, haughty. No paint adorned his íace, so
she decided he must be hunting or tra·eling, rather than looking íor a íight.
1he bra·e continued staring at her with íearless, piercing brown eyes. 1hen they ílicked away, searching íor
the men he knew must be near. \hen his gaze returned to her blue eyes, she read her death in his íace, but
something stopped him, his expression soítened. She didn`t know her beauty caused a debate in his mind - kill
her or take her capti·e· Beíore Lana knew her íate, a man`s ·oice called írom behind the rise on the other side
oí the ri·er, causing the bra·e`s head to jerk at the sound.
Lana· Girl, where are you·` Joshua Cooper yelled.
I`m right here, Pa,` Lana answered, not turning away írom the Kiowa. At the ri·er.`
\ell, hurry up! \our ma needs you in the kitchen.`
Pa· I`m in trouble.`
As the words leít her mouth, the bra·e reined his horse away and trotted across the prairie. Lana sank to her
knees while she tried to quit shaking.
\hat kind oí trouble·` ler íather`s ·oice sounded much closer as he neared the small rise. Lana hurried
out oí the ri·er and grabbed her dress, holding it against her.
Kiowa. But he`s gone now.`
ler scowling íather walked past her and íorded the ri·er, where he made a close inspection oí the area.
Just one oí em·` he asked as she scrambled into her clothes.
\es, just one.`
Making his way back, Joshua shook his head at her. Come on to the house. I reckon he`s gone.`
1wo lawks made his way to the summer camp oí his ·illage as he thought oí what he had just seen.
lomesteaders had come to the plains and had dri·en his people out, killing game, grabbing the land as ií they
owned it, making Kiowa liíe diííicult, bringing tension and hostility across their land. 1he whites` Great lather
kept making and breaking promises. 1wo lawks didn`t know what to belie·e. 1he whites had more than one
Great lather, it must be coníusing íor them, he decided. No wonder they seemed so strange.
And the woman in the ri·er· le shook his head. Rumors oí people with blue eyes had reached his ·illage,
but he didn`t belie·e them. No one had blue eyes unless they came írom the spirit world. \et, hadn`t he just
stared into crystal blue eyes· And hadn`t they stared back, unaíraid· \hat ií she ra. a spirit woman· Maybe it
was a good thing he hadn`t killed her. Nodding his head once, he decided he would call her 1`ov Ma ,\ater
Joshua Cooper had sur·i·ed the Mexican-American \ar oí 1846-1848, but it leít him exhausted in body and
in mind. 1here had been too much hatred, too much death, too much turmoil, and he was done. Mo·ing with
his wiíe and íamily oí three sons and one daughter, he made his way to north 1exas. A íarmer by trade, he
thought perhaps he could raise cattle as well.
1hey reached their land in June oí 1850. It sat just south oí where the Salt lork and the Double Mountain
lork oí the Brazos Ri·er met. Kiowa Peak rose in the distance.
\ith the help oí his three sons, Nathan, nineteen, Paul, sixteen, and Jake, thirteen, Joshua soon had a sod
house constructed. Being scarce, they used timber only íor a door and íor íraming the windows. Perhaps one
day there would be enough to co·er the dirt íloor. 1he Coopers had no money íor glass windows, so sheets oí
waxy paper stretched across the window openings to let in a dim, muted light. \ooden shutters had been made
to keep out rain and arrows. Netting hung across the ceiling to pre·ent mice írom íalling through the sod rooí
onto unsuspecting sleepers below.
1he rectangular house had three rooms. Joshua and his wiíe, May, slept in the one bedroom on the leít.
1heir three sons slept in the bedroom on the right.
1he last and largest room sat between the two bedrooms. It íeatured a íireplace on the leít, and a long
wooden table and se·eral chairs in the middle. A kitchen counter ran along the íront wall, underneath a window.
1he only íamily luxury, an oak hutch, had come straight írom Lngland with May`s grandmother many decades
beíore. 1he blue and white pattern oí the Delít dishes that sat on the hutch lent the rare splash oí color to the
otherwise dark room. Lana had a cot against the íar right corner where she would pull across a blanket hung
írom the ceiling íor pri·acy.
\ith the house built, the next projects were building a barn, smoke house, and root cellar. 1hrough careíul
planning, Joshua had enough pro·isions to keep his íamily going through the winter until next spring.
\hile the men were building, Lana and her mother were expected to collect as many buííalo chips as they
could íind. 1hese would be used as íuel. 1he women would also íorage íor roots, berries, and herbs and would
cut and dry as much prairie grass as they could to keep the horses íed through the winter. 1hey spent e·ery
spare minute oí each day pro·iding íor their sur·i·al so íar away írom ci·ilization, írom stores, írom medicine.
Once back at his ·illage, 1wo lawks tethered his horse outside his mother`s tipi and went to íind his íather.
I`·e seen a white woman today,` he announced as he sat beside his íather, busy making arrows.
\hat·` Many Deer looked up at his son. \here·`
About two spans' írom here. She wasn`t alone, either. I heard a man`s ·oice calling to her.`
Many Deer scowled. \hen would these people go away and lea·e them in peace·
Should we go back tomorrow and kill them·` 1wo lawks asked.
Perhaps. Let me talk to some oí the Dog Soldiers° íirst.` le picked up an arrow shaít and inspected it íor
straightness. Do you know how many there are·`
No. I didn`t see. 1hey were behind a hill.` lis íather nodded. 1hat didn`t gi·e much iníormation to plan
a raid on, though Kiowa held a reputation throughout the area íor their íearless attacks.
1he woman was diííerent,` 1wo lawks said aíter a moment. ler eyes were blue like the sky.`
ßtve. Many Deer studied his son. Are you sure·`
\es. L·en írom a distance, I could see they were blue.`
Many Deer pursed his mouth. 1his could be a sign, an omen. Like his son, like e·eryone in the ·illage, they
had all heard the story oí people with blue eyes, but to ha·e .eev one.
Perhaps we shouldn`t kill them without learning more. I`ll ask the others and see,` his íather decided.
Many Deer continued with his arrow making, waiting until the íires were lit, supper cooked, and e·eryone`s
stomachs íull beíore bringing this discussion to the Dog Soldiers"
Later that e·ening, aíter much debate and counsel, the Dog Soldiers decided three oí them should go on a
trading mission. \hile there, they could look around and see how many settlers li·ed there, how many guns they
had, and ií there were any horses worth stealing. 1wo lawks would be one oí the trading party, to show them
the way. Broken Man, as the eldest, would lead them, and Crying lox would go along as added protection and
an extra pair oí eyes.
1wo days aíter the ri·er incident, Lana gathered eggs írom the hens that had sur·i·ed their journey to this
new place. 1he íourth egg had been set in the bottom oí the basket when she heard horses. Looking up, she saw
three mounted Kiowa, their horses walking toward the house.
PA! - PA! Come quick!`
Joshua and his sons stepped írom behind the sod wall oí the partially-íinished barn, each bearing a riíle.
Nathan stood behind his íather. Paul kept his hand on Jake`s shoulder.
Keeping a steady eye on his ·isitors, Joshua approached the Kiowa, his riíle barrel pointed toward the
ground. 1hey didn`t look like they`d come to start trouble.
Get in the house, girl!` Joshua ordered.
Lana scurried across the yard and ducked into the house with her mother. Peering through the crack in the
door, she looked at the bra·es and recognized the one írom the ri·er. 1wo older men accompanied him. All
three had their braids wrapped in íur, their ears adorned with Mexican sil·er. 1he man in the middle raised his
hand toward Joshua in a sign oí peace. Joshua returned the gesture and in·ited the bra·es to step down.
1he men dismounted, 1wo lawks throwing his right leg o·er his horse`s neck and jumping to his íeet with a
dancer`s grace. 1hey took a íew steps toward Joshua and then sat on the ground. 1he oldest bra·e produced a
pipe and tobacco.
Paul,` Joshua said to his middle son, get coííee enough to go around. Put lots oí sugar in theirs. Nathan,
you help him.`
1he two young men went into the house and returned a íew minutes later carrying the hot, sweetened
be·erage in tin cups. Nathan had a íolded blanket under one arm. Joshua reached íor it and spread it in íront oí
the Kiowa. 1hen, taking the coííee írom his sons, he set a cup in íront oí each bra·e. 1he íour homesteaders
joined the Kiowa on the ground, sitting on the opposite side oí the blanket.
Aíter obser·ing the amenities, 1wo lawks rose and walked to his horse, where he untied a large bundle. le
threw it into the middle oí the blanket and then repeated the same process twice more.
Nathan spread the three bundles out íor a quick inspection.
1hey`·e got rabbit and coyote pelts in here, Pa. It`s all prime, too.` 1he Cooper íamily needed those pelts
to make clothing against the bitter, subzero winter weather common on the high plains.
I guess they want to trade.` Joshua then turned to shout o·er his shoulder. Ma, bring the trading sugar
and molasses out.`
In a íew minutes, the door opened and May and Lana stepped through, carrying their trade goods. May set a
small sack oí hard sugar on the blanket in íront oí Broken Man. Lana placed two jugs oí molasses beside it and
stepped back. As she did so, she risked a glance at 1wo lawks, who had watched her since she came out oí the
house. Opening one oí the jugs, he poked his íinger in and then pulled it out, co·ered in rich, sticky sweetness.
As he stuck his íinger in his mouth, he looked at Broken Man and grinned, nodding.
Crying lox said something to 1wo lawks, then rose and mounted his horse. 1wo lawks picked up the two
jugs and handed them to Crying lox. 1he Coopers stood when Broken Man also mounted his horse. 1wo
lawks returned to the blanket and stepped o·er to Lana. lolding her chin in his right hand, he stared into her
eyes. \es, they rere really blue.
Lana quit breathing, aíraid to mo·e or to blink. She tried to remo·e the íear írom her eyes, but ií she could
hear her heart pounding this loudly, she íelt sure he could, too.
1`ov Ma,` he said, pointing to her chest. 1`ov Ma.`
Let her go!` Joshua ordered, his riíle pointing straight at the young Kiowa. \ith disdained-íilled eyes, 1wo
lawks looked o·er his shoulder at Joshua, dropped his hand írom Lana`s íace, and grunted. Swooping down,
he picked up the sugar sack and then jumped on his horse, his long braid swinging behind him.
1he three bra·es turned their horses and rode away without any concern íor the riíles at their backs. 1he
trade had been a good one. 1here would be íeasting tonight.
A412'%) H*+)'%%, 7 N*F%)' E" L.C*,,%(( 7 N*.> [ N*(( N<2GB==
RJ McDonnell is the son oí a Pennsyl·ania State Police Detecti·e, who recei·ed se·eral decorations
íor sol·ing complex and high-proíile crimes. In addition to a traditional education, RJ also had the
beneíit oí seeing e·ery police detecti·e drama on tele·ision and in the mo·ies. lis íather would
írequently critique these stories íor belie·ability oí characters and police procedures.
le earned a Bachelor`s Degree at Penn State Uni·ersity and a Masters at Marywood Uni·ersity.
During his college years RJ was a rhythm guitarist and ·ocalist in two bands. Shortly thereaíter, he mo·ed to San Diego
where he went to work íor a proíessional writing ser·ice. In addition, he wrote a monthly column íor the Mititar, Pre.., and
another íor a San Diego publication, pro·iding ad·ice to job seekers.
In the 90s, RJ got into comedy writing. le wrote íor a local San Diego cable tele·ision show that had a Saturday Night
Li·e-type íormat. O·er its two seasons on the air, 34 oí his skits were produced. Roc/ c Rott íoviciae was the íirst no·el in
his Roc/ c Rott M,.ter, ´erie.. 1he second no·el, Roc/ c Rott Ri¡·Off, was selected 2010 Mystery,1hriller oí the \ear by
Premier Book Awards.
Author website: http:,,www.rjmcdonnell.com,
Amazon.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,2d·gano
Copyright © 2010 R.J. McDonnell
N*.> [ N*(( N<2GB==
Some people are meant to get second chances while others are not. Leandra Lundquist íelt entitled to a
major break aíter 21 years oí being bitch-slapped by the hand oí íate. All oí that would change today.
1he old Leandra would ne·er take ad·ice írom her ex-con older brother, John. 1he notion oí jeopardizing
the pharmacy job she`d held since 10
grade would ha·e been inconcei·able a year ago. Blackmailing a young
pharmacist into ordering a massi·e shipment oí pseudoephedrine would ha·e been beyond consideration íor a
girl who made it to adulthood without a detention or a parking ticket.
But misíortune had collected in her liíe like plaque in an imperiled heart. ler íairy godmother was looking
more and more like her real-liíe alcoholic mother. Staying the course seemed like a death sentence. John was
right. Ií she didn`t take control oí her own destiny it would take her down like a rip current at \ind & Sea
At 10:20 AM an unmarked white truck pulled up to the loading dock at Popakalitis Pharmacy. A buzzer
sounded behind the pharmacy counter.
Leandra, you`re needed in the back,` called Myron Rosen, a 50ish pharmacist who was íilling prescriptions
while three customers waited.
1his is a pretty big order íor a neighborhood store,` remarked the dri·er.
Poppy`s either getting a great deal or we`re in íor a wicked cold and ílu season,` Leandra replied.
Due to the size oí the shipment, the loading dock door wouldn`t close completely. Leandra signed the
electronic receipt tablet.
Sorry about the way I had to stack the pallets, but there`s just no room.`
Don`t worry. I`ll take care oí it,` she said.
Aíter the dri·er pulled away, Donnie Daniels, one oí John Lundquist`s íormer prison buddies, clicked his
phone shut and walked into the pharmacy. le wore a baseball cap low on his íorehead and had been growing a
beard since he agreed to help. John had gi·en him a drawing that noted the location oí the store cameras. le
walked a well-planned route with his head down.
ley, could somebody gi·e me a hand o·er here,` he called to the pharmacist.
\e`re a little busy right now,` Myron replied.
My mother`s out in the car in a lot oí pain. \e just came írom the doctor`s oííice and she needs a knee
support, but I don`t know what`ll íit her.` Donnie`s ·oice was both tense and loud.
Myron walked to the storeroom door and called íor Leandra to come out and help.
\e just got a big deli·ery,` she complained.
It`ll wait, Leandra. I want you to take care oí this man íirst,` he said, pointing at Donnie.
\hile she answered Donnie`s many questions, John and Leandra`s musician boyíriend loaded the band`s
equipment truck with the pseudoephedrine. Aíter a íew minutes, Donnie and Leandra saw the truck dri·e past
the íront oí the store.
Donnie shouted, So you think my mother`s too íat to íit into any oí your braces!`
I didn`t say that,` Leandra replied. I just suggested we go out to your car and measure her knee so we get
the right íit.`
luck you, bitch! I`m outta here!` Donnie angled his cap at the door camera and stormed out.
Leandra said to Myron, I swear I didn`t call his mother íat.`
le was a jerk. Don`t worry about it.`
li·e seconds later Leandra screamed, and Myron rushed into the storeroom. \e`·e been robbed!` she
A412'%) H<='%%, 7 0'%24%, C" N*5%)& 7 04*' 9* C%1'4
Stephen D. Rogers is the author oí ´bot to Deatb, ,Mainly Murder Press, and more than 600 shorter pieces.
lis website, www.StephenDRogers.com, includes a list oí new and upcoming titles as well as other timely
Author website: www.StephenDRogers.com
Amazon.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,2er596o
Publisher and author page: http:,,mainlymurderpress.com,store,
Copyright © 2010 Stephen D. Rogers
04*)' 0'*)6? =)*/ '4% F**> 04*' 9* C%1'4
\3SS:3N3MA:0 9B 9D: ABM9N3NIP
\ou could learn a lot about a community by analyzing how they dealt with their trash.
I'd been íollowing this town dump truck all morning and was impressed by the number oí public trash
receptacles strewn across the pier, playgrounds, and parks. 1he town seemed committed to keeping the trash oíí
1wice the truck had returned to municipal maintenance to drop oíí its load.
1wice the truck had been joined by a green SUV, the maintenance super·isor stopping to chat with the two
guys in the dump truck: Jack 1obey and the other guy.
1he other guy dro·e.
Jack liíted the plastic bags írom the metal receptacles and swung them into the back oí the truck. Uníolded
empty bags into the receptacles and tied a knot to hold them in place. Jack was the younger oí the pair, his green
Chasing empty coííee cups as they skittered in the breeze coming oíí the Atlantic, Jack didn't look one bit a
Oí course, I didn't look like a pri·ate in·estigator, or so I hoped. 1hat was the íunny thing about
appearances. lowe·er much oí the time they were all we had to go on, they didn't always amount to much.
My client certainly belie·ed Jack to be a pornographer, and that wasn't something oíten mistaken íor
Putting the image oí my client sobbing out oí my mind, I íollowed the trash truck into a strip mall and
watched Jack and his partner saunter into the Cape Coddage. Clams. Lunch Specials. Ice Cold Drinks.
Seemed like as good a time to eat as any.
Jack and the other guy sat at a corner table under a large map oí the Cape. Neither oí them looked at me,
which either meant they hadn't noticed my sur·eillance, or nothing at all.
My stomach growled as I stepped closer to the grill.
"\hat can I get you·" Behind the counter waited a Caucasian male in his íorties, hosting a íurrowed brow
oí ownership. le slid an order pad íront and center.
"Large spicy Italian sub, please. 1oasted. Dry. lor here." A steak and cheese sizzled on the grill. My
"1en minutes." le ripped oíí the order number and pushed it across the counter. "Ice cold drinks in the
Aíter grabbing a bottle oí lemonade, I approached the corner table.
1hey were discussing the Sox.
"Lxcuse me. I'd like to talk to Jack íor a minute."
lis head rose. "Do I know you·"
"Not yet." I hadn't seen Jack up close until now. lis íace was weathered íor a twenty-something, but that
could be írom working outside. Anyway, his eyes were clear, and his íace clean-sha·en.
lis coworker pushed back his chair and stood to íace me. le looked only a íew írom retirement, his íace
wasted away. "\hat'd you say your name was·"
"I didn't. 1he con·ersation is personal. Between Jack and me."
Jack's coworker tried to back me down with a watery stare.
My client's sobs were more eííecti·e.
In the silence that íollowed, the owner oí Cape Coddage called, "Steak and cheese. Clam roll."
"I'll get them." Jack's coworker picked up his soda and brushed by me, plunking down his drink on the next
I sat and stuck out my hand. "Dan Stone."
Jack shook. "\ou seem to know me already."
"I'm not here to wreck your lunch." I smiled to pro·e my good intentions. "As I said, this is personal, and I
íigured you'd rather I didn't approach you at work."
le glanced o·er my head. "1hanks, Bill."
Bill handed Jack the clam roll, standing abo·e and too close to me, a zombie bodyguard.
I tensed, keeping my gaze on Jack. "\ou can go now."
Once Bill sat at his new table, I relaxed. "I belie·e you know a Carrie \ilcox."
"Sure." Jack liíted his íried clam roll out oí the cardboard slee·e. "\e went out íor two years."
"\ou broke up with her last month·"
le laughed around the íood in his mouth. Swallowed. "Is that what she told you·"
"Part oí it." Broke up with her aíter íorcing Carrie to strip so you could take naked photos oí her.
"\eah." Jack dragged the word out. "I remember it a little diííerently. Out oí the blue, Carrie told me we
were done. She was starting a business with her íriends írom college and she no longer had time íor me."
I tried to íit the two stories together. "So Carrie broke it oíí. 1hat must ha·e hurt."
"Once the shock wore oíí. I still ha·en't told my mother. She's still working on her list oí baby names."
"\as Carrie pregnant·"
"Someday. I mean that's what I en·isioned." Jack took a huge bite oí his clam roll, íilling his mouth to
lrom the counter, "Large spicy Italian."
"Back in a sec."
I retrie·ed my sub and skipped the chips, already doing enough damage to my stomach with the hots,
sodium, and saturated íats. 1he tension created by learning how much my client had lied wouldn't help matters
Bill watched me cross the restaurant.
Jack chewed clam. "So what do you want írom me·"
"Are you still mad at Carrie·"
"\hat ií I am· Does she ha·e a problem with that, too·"
I shook my head, slowing the exchange beíore it escalated. \hoe·er broke up with whom, and whether or
not Jack was a pornographer, I'd been hired to complete a job. "1his is about some things oí hers."
"I don't ha·e any oí Carrie's stuíí." Jack grimaced. "She ne·er really leít that much at my apartment. I
ne·er could íigure out whether I should be thankíul, or worry about the íact she wanted a quick exit."
"Do you think that's true·" I took a bit oí my sub.
Jack's sigh seemed to account íor more air than his lungs would hold. "She's a gownie, I'm a townie. Carrie
will graduate and lea·e the Cape to conquer the world. Maybe someday I'll make íoreman."
"Is that what you thought, or what she thought·"
"My break's o·er." Jack downed halí his ginger ale. "I gotta go."
I plucked a card írom my shirt pocket. "Gi·e me a call."
"\hy·" Jack crinkled his debris as he stood.
"Because ií you call, you get to choose when we talk." Behind me, Bill scraped his chair back.
"Seems like we just did talk." Jack boxed his shoulders.
I swallowed the íood in my mouth to keep him írom ha·ing the last word. "It was a start."
Ignoring my card, Jack scurried along the wall to the trashcan, and leít the restaurant by the íar door.
"1hanks íor recycling." I slipped the card into my pocket and returned to my sub, coloríul but somehow
I wa·ed to Jack out my car window as he leít the municipal maintenance barn, wa·ed my whole arm in wide
arcs to ensure e·erybody noticed.
Jack írowned as he broke írom the gang and approached.
"I almost didn't recognize you without the green jumpsuit." \hat about Bill· \hy wasn't he among those
Jack stopped a couple íeet írom the car, his stance deíensi·e. "\hat do you want·"
"\e ne·er íinished talking earlier."
"I ha·e nothing more to say." le opened his mouth, and then snapped it shut.
"low about I buy you a beer·"
"No thanks." Jack didn't sound as though he appreciated the oííer.
"An ice cream cone·" As long as he stood there listening, I'd keep casting. "1here's a place just up the
street. 1heir ice cream is hand-packed, whate·er that means."
Jack's íront leg twitched.
I leaned out the window. "I'll dri·e, or you can íollow me, whate·er you want. It's your choice."
Around us, the other employees had already entered their cars and leít. \e were alone.
Jack relaxed, his body settling into his sneakers. 1hen he walked around my car and climbed in. "Let's get
"Done is good." I started the engine and took my time getting us to Malarky's Seaside Chills. "I didn't see
"le had an appointment. Chemo."
"Sorry to hear that." But not sorry I didn't ha·e to worry about him coming at me írom out oí nowhere.
"le's a good shit."
"So Carrie tells me you ha·e something oí hers."
Jack's head snapped towards me. "I already--"
"Pictures. She says you ha·e pictures."
"Pictures·" 1here was coníusion in his ·oice. le wasn't repeating the word to buy time. "\hat pictures·"
Jack's squawked, an outraged swan. "\ou're joking. Carrie can't dictate what I think and íeel. Just because
she threw me out oí her liíe doesn't mean I'm going to edit her out oí two year's worth oí pictures. I ha·e a
right to my memories."
"She has a right to pri·acy." I pulled into Malarky's, parking as íar írom the order window as possible,
hoping to keep Jack in the car and talking. le wasn't the pornographer Carrie suspected, or led me to belie·e
she expected. So what did that make him·
"Should I puke up e·ery meal we ate together·" Jack's nostrils ·ibrated. "Gi·e myselí a lobotomy·"
I turned my back to the door, willed my body to project non-judgmental, non-threatening interest.
"All she's concerned with are the nude photos. She's not denying you two had a relationship."
"Nude·" Jack snorted. "Lea·e Carrie to remember that night. \hat's she think, that I sit at my computer
clicking through the pictures, pining íor her·"
"1hat's not her major concern."
Jack looked out his window. "She's unbelie·able."
"I don't doubt that."
lis ·isible ear trembled as his neck muscles clenched and unclenched. "I ha·e halí a mind to simply reíuse.
\here does she get oíí·"
"lmm." I tapped the steering wheel with my index íinger. "I ha·e equipment that securely wipes a íile.
Beats all go·ernment speciíications. Doesn't touch anything else."
"\hat would you do·" le íaced me. "In my shoes."
"I'd back up my data, just in case."
Jack almost smiled. "1hat's not what I meant. About the photos."
"1here's no need to delete them íor the storage space, especially since memory is cheap. But why would you
want to hang onto pictures oí an ex·"
lis eyes widened. "\hy not·"
"Because they'·e lost their ·alue to you. All they're going to do is slow down scans, slow down backup." I
paused halí a beat. "1hey e·en slowed your ride home today."
Jack nodded. "So what about the pictures on Carrie's computer· 1he ones she took oí me·"
As my stomach lurched, a piece oí undigested hot pepper burned through me. I winced. Shiíted. "She
"Didn't say what she did with them, or didn't mention them at all·"
"Carrie hired me to deal with the photos in your possession." 1hat she'd lied to me changed nothing.
Clients always buried as much as they unearthed.
"1he pictures I took, I created them, right· 1hat means I own them." Jack's whole body started talking, his
motions animated. "It's like when my íriend got married. 1he wedding photographer owned the negati·es, not
the happy couple. My íriend paid íor the prints he wanted."
"1his is diííerent."
le had to ask. Somehow I didn't think the íact that I had a paying client was enough oí a distinction.
"\ou don't want this in the papers."
"Neither does Carrie."
I unclenched my íingers írom the steering wheel. "It's true that Carrie isn't interested in spending a íortune
on legal íees. 1hat's why she came to me, so that you and I can work this out without getting mired in lawyer
depositions and court dates."
"I'm not aíraid oí paperwork."
"\hat about your boss· \hat's he going to think about one oí his employees collecting naked photographs·
low's that going to look· \ou, the guy people see hanging around the beaches. At playgrounds."
\hen Jack crossed his arms, that undigested pepper shot ílames up my windpipe.
I leaned íorward, lowering my ·oice. "Listen, Jack, nobody wants this to get any more complicated than it
has to be. Carrie is uncomíortable with the idea you still ha·e those photos. Make them go away, and the issue
"Maybe I'·e decided they ha·e sentimental ·alue." lis jaw muscles were so rigid his words came out
clipped. "Maybe I don't want to gi·e them up."
"Come on." I ga·e him a knowing smile.
"Carrie and I were together two years." le soítened. "I'·e ne·er íelt about anybody else the way I íelt about
"lolding onto those pictures won't bring her back."
"I know that." le was in turn deíensi·e and deíiant, as transparent as the cycles oí an ocean tide. "In íact,
here's my oííer."
"Carrie wants all rights to those photos· line. She can buy them írom me."
"She doesn't want the photos." And ií Jack hadn't been the pornographer Carrie claimed, he was íast
becoming something dangerously close to one.
"It sounds to me as though she does. Right now, they're in my possession, and Carrie wants to change that.
Lnd oí story."
"liíteen hundred bucks and they're hers. \ou call her up, and you tell her my terms." Jack reached íor his
door handle. "And I want it in cash."
I watched Jack examine the íla·or board posted next to the order window.
"Carrie· Dan Stone. I'·e met with Jack."
"I told my íriends, you da man." ler ·oice grew less distinct, as ií she'd mo·ed the phone to talk to
somebody else. "Mumble, mumble, mumble." Celebratory whoots. 1hen she was back. "So like, thanks."
"lang on. \e ha·e a complication."
"Can you deal with it·"
"1hat depends. \ou want the photos. Jack wants íiíteen hundred."
"Does he really expect me to pay to see nude photos oí myselí·" lemale laughter erupted in the
background. "I don't think so."
"I'll see what I can do." Jack walked towards me licking an ice cream cone. \hite with dark smudges. "One
"I'm kind oí busy."
"Jack said you had photos oí him. I could use those to le·erage a trade."
"Long gone. I'm not the only person who uses my computer, you know." More background laughter.
"I'll be in touch."
Seeing Jack just outside, I did a quick massage oí my stomach.
le opened the passenger door and dropped into his seat. "Okay ií I eat in your car·"
"So do we ha·e a deal·" le leít the door open, keeping one íoot on the pa·ement.
"My client understands your position, but payment is out oí the question. \e still íeel, howe·er, that this
can be handled so e·erybody comes out ahead."
"low do you íigure that·"
"Jack, I don't belie·e money's the answer. Carrie did you wrong, and sticking her íor íiíteen slips oí paper
isn't going to change that. Buy something with money you get írom Carrie, and it's going to be haunted."
Jack didn't respond, his mouth busy cleaning up ice cream that was already starting to melt down the cone
onto his íingers.
le heard me, oí course. lis íree hand picked at the seam oí his jeans.
I let him chew on my words as he licked.
1hen, apparently satisíied that he had the ice cream situation under control, Jack íaced me. "liíteen
"I hear you, Jack. But it's not going to happen. Instead, you're going to get something better."
"\e go back to your apartment, and I get two pieces oí equipment out oí my trunk."
"\hat kind oí equipment·"
I held up a hand. "\hen we get inside, you print out a single picture oí Carrie. I use the íirst piece oí
equipment to wipe the íiles. \ou then use the second piece oí equipment to shred that picture. \e then
celebrate your íreedom, howe·er you want."
"\ou're talking, what, a party·"
"Ií that's how you want to celebrate. A party. A couple drinks. Split a pizza and watch a game. It's your
choice, your reward."
Jack shook his head and returned to his cone. "I don't know."
"1hink back to the íirst time you had ice cream. \ou were probably pre-·erbal. It was strange looking.
Cold. \ou could íeel the cold coming oíí it, and you weren't so sure you wanted to let that stuíí touch your
lips." I paused. "But then you got that íirst taste. And the world was a better place."
"\ou should do a commercial íor them." le tipped his head towards Malarky's.
"I wouldn't know what to charge."
Jack stared at me as ií trying to judge how I meant that, and then laughed. "Charge them three grand. And
then split it with me."
I tap-punched him in the upper arm. "low's that ice cream·"
"Good. \ou owe me ten dollars."
"1en dollars· I'·e got to stick to places that pack their ice cream by machine."
"\ou said you were buying, and I tip well."
Raising my eyebrows to indicate he'd gotten the best oí me, I chuckled. "I'll gi·e you the money when we
get to your apartment."
"\ou're not going to try to talk me down·"
"Oí course not, I promised." I paused. "Besides, the ice cream íalls under reasonable expenses, íor which I
"\ou mean írom Carrie." Jack grinned.
"1hat's correct." It was a pleasure to deal with a person who didn't need e·erything spelled out.
"Let's get this done. 1hen we'll celebrate, Carrie's treat, right·"
Since that day, I'd seen Jack around, picking up other people's trash, íitting empty bags into the receptacles.
Didn't see him long enough to say hello or send a salute, just out oí the corner oí my eye.
1hen he called. "I thought you might get a kick out oí this."
"\hat·" I rolled my chair íar enough írom my desk that I could swing back and íorth, my íeet crossed at
the ankles. 1he online asset search could wait.
"A íriend oí a íriend knows one oí Carrie's íriends."
"Should I be drawing a ílowchart·"
Jack laughed. "le said that he said that she said that Carrie ran with that business idea."
"\hy Carrie wanted those pictures back· She and her two íriends írom college, they started their own porn
site. Soít porn, íeaturing a lot oí sea, sand, and skin. Or so I'm told."
"\ou ha·en't checked it out·" My chair squeaked.
"Old news. Just like you said. Anyway, I thought you'd enjoy hearing that."
"1hanks íor the call, Jack."
\ou could learn a lot about people by analyzing how they dealt with their trash, the litter they produced as
they marched through liíe's parade.
1he jetsam and ílotsam, washed up onto shore, leít behind ensnared in seaweed as the wa·es withdrew with
a soít sucking sound.
I pulled myselí closer to the computer and the interrupted asset search. Resumed my hunt íor treasure.
A412'%) 0<@'%%, 7 96 E*4,&'*, 7 L*)% 941, W<,
1y Johnston was born in Kentucky. Aíter earning a degree in journalism, he spent the next two decades as a
newspaper editor. During that time he wrote numerous short stories, nearly all oí which ha·e been published
in print or digital íormats. In his íorties, now a íormer journalist, he decided it was time to get serious about
his íiction writing. le is the author oí 1be Kobato. 1ritog, oí epic íantasy no·els, Cit, of Rogve., Roaa to !ratb
and Dar/ Kivg of tbe ^ortb. le has been published online at L·ery Day liction, Demonic 1ome, 1he Raníurly
Re·iew, llashes in the Dark and other ·enues. lis stories ha·e also appeared in print in the anthologies
Deaative., 1be Retvrv of tbe ´rora and Devov.: . Cta.b of ´teet .vtbotog,. 1y's main writing and reading interests generally are
in the horror and íantasy genres, but he's not abo·e branching out into literary works írom time to time. lis most recent
work is the Appalachian literary no·el More 1bav Kiv.
Author website: http:,,tyjohnston.blogspot.com
Amazon.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,26tqcwc
Copyright © 2010 L.M. Press
L*)% 941, W<,
1he ·iew beyond the bus window rolled past like images on a mo·ie screen. \ith the green íields and a
brown scratch oí a ri·er, \alt supposed the íilm would be a tale about small-town America, probably with one
oí the mo·ie stars írom his youth. Maybe lenry londa. Or Jimmy Stewart.
lis shaking hands clutched the scarlet pack oí Pall Malls in his lap. It had been nearly three hours since he
had had his last smoke, during the break in Columbus, and he was jonesing íor another. le was old enough to
remember the days when a man could smoke anywhere, e·en on a packed bus, but he could honestly say he
didn`t miss them. le understood. Not e·eryone wants to breath in all those íumes.
1he scene shiíted slowly. A íew buildings passed by. A state police station. Con·enience stores. Shacks. L·en
1hen the bus slid into what was legally called a city in the state, but was in reality just another oí the small
towns that dotted the countryside.
Minutes passed as the dri·er mo·ed the bus through intersections and grimy neighborhoods. L·entually he
pulled the big gray ·ehicle to a stop beneath an o·erhang at a bus depot.
\alt couldn`t wait to get oíí the bus and smoke. le was the íirst person to stand, nearly jumping out oí his
seat and grabbing the backpack he`d kept beneath his íeet. le was too slow, howe·er. L·eryone else suddenly
sprang up, too, blocking his path.
It was another íi·e minutes beíore he managed to get onto concrete.
1he íirst thing he did was reach íor the sil·er Zippo lighter in his jacket pocket. 1here was no lighter. le
checked the other pocket. Nothing. lis pants pockets. lis backpack. Nothing. le thought back to the last time
he`d used the lighter. At the bus station in Columbus. It had been early morning. A kid barely in his twenties had
bummed a smoke oíí him. 1hen the kid had asked to use the lighter.
1hat was the last oí the lighter.
\alt didn`t know ií the kid had intentionally stolen it or ií he`d accidentally kept it, but \alt was willing to
gi·e him the beneíit oí the doubt. It was just a lighter. A nice lighter, yes. But just a lighter.
\alt looked around as passengers continued to íile oíí the bus, bypassing him to go oíí to their own parts
oí the world. le stared o·er the potholes and across the road to a gra·el parking lot. A glass-íronted building
stood there with a gigantic sign that was shaped like an irregular square. 1he red lettering on the sign had once
been íilled with small, round light bulbs, but they were nearly all broken now. Rust and sediment lingered at the
edges oí the sign. It ad·ertised a used car lot.
le counted only íour cars, most oí them at least ten years old and holding plenty oí rust oí their own, then
took his eyes oíí the lot. It was a light he wanted.
Oíí to one side, standing next to a steel garbage can, was an old íellow who looked as ií he`d seen better
days. A woolen watch cap was pulled down to co·er most oí his stringy, graying hair. An Army-green coat with
worn elbows was wrapped around his shoulders. le was smoking a cigarette.
\alt nearly laughed as he realized he probably shouldn`t think oí the íellow as old. 1he man probably had no
more than ten years on \alt himselí. Rubbing the stubble on his chin and íiguring he didn`t look much better
than the other íellow, \alt walked o·er to him.
One squinted eye and one wide eye stared back.
Can I get a light·` \alt asked.
1he smoking man didn`t say anything íor a moment. le just stood there eying this new prospect. linally,
Could you help a íellow out with a cigarette·`
\alt held up the halí-empty pack oí Pall Malls, tapped one side so two íresh ciggs oííered themsel·es up.
1hanks,` the other íellow said, taking the two cigarettes. le tucked one behind an ear.
\alt nearly pointed out that the man already had a cigarette hanging írom his lips, but thought better oí it.
Maybe the guy was low.
1he smoker pulled a black Bic írom a pocket, struck íire and held up the lighter with hands stained yellow
and cracked írom age and weather and work.
\alt popped a cigarette in his mouth and leaned íorward. 1here was a ílare and then smoke was rolling
between his lips once more and streaming down his lungs, íeeling like hea·en`s gates had opened.
1here anyplace to get a decent cup oí coííee `round here·` \alt asked, pointing out his other bad habit.
\ith shaky íingers, the old íellow pointed his burning cigarette to the leít, into the heart oí town. 1he ·iew
oííered was a street enclosed by multiple-story brownstone buildings that looked as ií they needed a good
scrubbing. Red and green street lights showed the way up a slight incline.
1here`s Al`s Place up the hill there,` the old man said. About íour blocks up on the leít.`
Any good·` \alt asked.
1he old man shrugged. 1hey got a decent plate steak. Coííee`s usually íresh made.`
\alt nodded his thanks and ga·e a slight wa·e. le tossed his pack o·er his shoulder to hang down the back
oí his jean jacket, then he trudged his way toward the incline.
\alt was glad to íind the walk up the hill easier than he would ha·e thought. lrom the distance oí the bus
station the slope had appeared rather sturdy. But once his íeet got to mo·ing, le íound the walk rather
enjoyable. le was used to walking, e·en long distances. It was practically a daily part oí his liíe. But at his age,
and with growing breathing troubles, the walks seemed a little tougher each day.
A slight pain touched his chest and he slowed long enough to retrie·e an orange bottle oí prescription pills
írom his pack. le dry-popped a couple, then returned the bottle to the pack.
le meandered down the street between the brownstones, buildings older than he was himselí, and passed
underneath multiple streetlights and power lines strung like íorgotten strands oí some great spider`s web. \oung
people passed him, teens on skateboards and college-age girls in skirts way too short. Boys with tattoos growing
like black snakes up their arms, glints oí metal all o·er their íaces. le noticed there were íewer older people
here, which surprised him considering the age oí the town. 1hen he remembered there was a small college
nearby, so he guessed that explained it. 1he íew older people he did see were men squatting on cracked steps in
íront oí old buildings or a woman or two pushing along rusting grocery carts.
Aíter some little while, \alt began to tire. le stopped and glanced back the way he had come, down the hill,
and saw he was nearly a halí mile írom the depot. 1he bus he had ridden was pulling back out.
le took a last puíí oí his cigarette and dropped it, crushing it to death with a heel while wondering ií he
had walked too íar. le had kept his eyes open, but had seen no sign oí the restaurant. lad he passed it·
\alt looked ahead. le was halíway to the next intersection.
Deciding he would gi·e the next street a try, he reached íor his pack oí cigarettes. 1hen remembered he
didn`t ha·e a lighter.
le stuííed the Pall Malls back into his jacket and trotted on. \hen the next street inter·ened, he paused to
stare up the sidewalk. 1here were plenty oí shops, many with windows plastered with newspapers, and a íew
banks, but no sign oí any restaurant, let alone this Al`s Place.
lis eyes locked onto what appeared to be a plaza oí sorts to one side. 1here was a circle oí trees
surrounding a central íountain like sentries on guard duty, a pair oí dented garbage cans oíí to one side. A
gathering oí young people were huddled around one end oí the íountain, a bronzed statue oí some Ci·il \ar
hero glaring down at them írom the middle oí the waters.
\alt began walking toward them. 1here was no better way to íind the location oí the restaurant than to ask.
lalíway to the group, he heard a shout.
Stop it! Let me go!`
1hen laughter. But not laughter oí jo·iality. It was a menacing laughter, íilled with the glee oí harming
1he group oí teens shuííled somewhat, allowing \alt a ·iew oí what they were standing around. It was a
boy, maybe a little younger than those circling him. le was on his hands and knees, reaching out on the ground
trying to scrabble together a small wooden box and a slew oí smaller objects, perhaps toys or pencils or
something else in numbers a child might ha·e. It was ob·ious the boy was in pain. le wasn`t crying, but his íace
showed anguish and one oí the knees below his short pants was scratched with blood.
\alt took oíí as íast as his throbbing lungs would allow.
ley! Stop that!` he yelled.
Se·eral oí the youths turned toward the sound oí \alt`s ·oice. A íew ran oíí as ií they knew they were in
trouble. Others did not. One boy in particular, a tall teen with long dark hair, stood his ground with a rebellious
lay to his lips, almost arrogant.
\alt skidded to a halt mere íeet írom the gathering.
\hat the hell you want, you wrinkled old bastard·` the arrogant one asked.
\alt could now see what the injured boy was pulling to himselí on the concrete ground in íront oí the
statue and íountain. Chess pieces. A rook. A queen. Both bishops. Se·eral pawns.
\alt pointed to the hurt boy. Lea·e him alone.`
Or what·` one oí the group asked.
Up close now, \alt could see most oí them were teenagers. None younger than thirteen or íourteen, none
older than se·enteen or eighteen. Junior high school kids mixed with high schoolers.
1he boy with the conceited lips stepped íorward, one hand slipping into a pocket oí his leather pants. Chill,
old íart, beíore you bust a hip.`
\alt unshouldered his backpack but held onto it. lis íree hand unzipped one oí the pack`s many pockets
and slipped inside. \alt kept it there.
Nothing else was said. 1he kid with the dark hair locked eyes with the older man íor what seemed the
longest time to \alt. 1hen the kid laughed and turned away, wa·ing his crew along with him. 1hey íollowed, all
but the hurt youth.
\alt stood still and watched them lea·e. 1hey took their time, to show they were lea·ing on their own terms
and not his, but they were lea·ing. 1hey meandered their way around to the other side oí the íountain, then
walked west across a concrete esplanade that made an alleyway between tall brownstones. A couple oí the kids
glanced back, including the cocky one with the long hair and jacket, but nothing íurther was said.
\alt remo·ed his hand írom the backpack. 1here wasn`t anything in there, anyway. But it had looked as ií
there were, as ií he were reaching íor it.
A sniííle brought \alt`s attention back to the boy on the ground.
1he older man mo·ed íorward slowly and knelt in íront oí the youth. \alt looked him o·er. 1he boy was
about íourteen, \alt guessed. le was a bit tall íor his age, though, and probably a little hea·ier than he needed to
be. le wore no glasses, but had a bookish íace beneath mopish, dark hair. \alt was glad to see there were no
injuries other than the scrape to the knee.
1hanks,` the boy said, picking up a white pawn and dropping it into the wooden box.
\alt saw right away the box was hinged in the middle on one side with a locking clasp on the open, opposite
side. \hen closed, it made a períect storage place íor the chess pieces. \hen open with the outside íacing
upward to íorm a ílat suríace, the box was a small chess board, decorated with the íamiliar black and white
squares oí the game.
\alt picked up a black rook and tossed it into the open box. \ou okay·`
1he boy nodded. Sure.`
\alt helped him to retrie·e the rest oí the pieces, then watched as the youth closed and locked the box.
\hy were they doing that to you·` \alt asked.
1he boy shook his head. I don`t know. 1hey just do sometimes.`
le seemed shy to \alt, keeping his young eyes on the ground or the chess box.
\alt stood up straight. \ell, you probably ought to get home and get some peroxide on that knee.`
1he boy stood, too. le stared up at \alt. Okay. 1hanks.` 1hen he turned to run away.
ley!` \alt shouted.
1he boy skidded to a stop, the rubber oí his tennis shoes lea·ing a gray mark on the concrete. le turned
\here`s Al`s Place·` \alt asked. le`d nearly íorgotten he was looking íor the restaurant.
1he boy grinned. 1hen he pointed. Next block up. 1urn leít. \ou`ll see the sign.`
1hen he was oíí running again.
\alt stood there with what he was sure was a silly smile. A stupid grin, some might call it. le wondered why
the boy had smiled at him then. lad he said something íunny· le didn`t think so.
Ah, well. Kids. \alt turned and continued on his way.
1he restaurant was just as \alt had pictured it in his thoughts. It took up the bottom íloor oí one oí the
brownstone buildings with its back ending in the alleyway where \alt had seen the teen-agers walking. 1he íront
was entirely oí large glass windows inlaid in a steel írame. \ords painted on the largest oí the windows
proclaimed the restaurant as Al`s Place.` 1he words were íaded and chipped in places.
le stood there on the street íor se·eral minutes, íishing around in his backpack just to make sure he had not
somehow misplaced his missing Zippo lighter. A handíul oí locals entered and exited Al`s Place, enough people
to keep the place busy but not crowded. Glancing through those big windows, \alt could see the restaurant was
a throwback to an earlier time when waitresses all wore sparkling white uniíorms and soda jerks stood to
attention behind counters while ser·ing up banana splits and soda pop.
\alt smiled. lis lighter was gone, but he`d íound a bit oí his youth.
le pushed through the íront door.
As he did when he íirst entered any new establishment, his eyes went to the tabletops. No ash trays. 1hat
meant there was no smoking. It didn`t bother \alt much. le was used to it. 1he days oí sitting in public and
enjoying a cigarette aíter a decent meal had pretty much íaded írom the American ·enue.
1he smell was what coníronted him next. 1he greasy tint oí burgers waíting on the air spread throughout
the main room, bringing back memories oí a hundred other greasy-spoon joints o·er the years. It was a scent
almost like coming home íor \alt.
le looked around the place. It was longer than it was wide. On the right and leít walls were booths with
seats co·ered in a scarlet íaux leather. Along the back was a steel-topped lunch counter running the length oí the
wall, behind that bar was an open area re·ealing the kitchen beyond where steam íloated up to the ceiling.
Directly in íront oí \alt was a waist-high glass booth íilled with candy bars, mints and gum. Atop the booth sat
an old-íashioned mechanical cash register. Next to that was a punch-button calculator with a paper roll íor
printing receipts and a paper cup íilled with toothpicks in cellophane.
Along the walls, abo·e the booths, were strewn íading black-and-white photographs. Some hung crooked.
1he nearest to \alt, next to and abo·e the register, was a picture oí a smiling President Kennedy sitting in one
oí the booths. A plate oí spaghetti was beíore the commander in chieí. A couple oí other men were in the
photo, one across írom Kennedy and another at his side, but \alt did not recognize them, as the two strangers
were not in suits but wore o·eralls and straw hats, \alt guessed they must ha·e been locals during the
\alt ga·e a little grin when he saw Kennedy`s signature at the bottom oí the photo.
May I help you·`
\alt looked o·er írom the photograph. 1he woman behind the register wore the uniíorm oí a waitress, but
it was not one oí the glowing, spotless dresses his mind told him had existed in his youth. 1his woman`s uniíorm
wasn`t dirty, but it had the worn look oí much use and the tumbled look oí ha·ing not been ironed. ler íace
appeared much the same beneath her dark, wa·y locks.
It`s just me,` \alt said.
lollow me, please.` She steered him to the leít and showed him to a booth halíway down the wall.
\alt scooted across the íake leather, dropping his backpack beneath the table. Lxcuse me, would you all
ha·e any matches·`
Sorry, there`s no smoking in here.`
I understand,` \alt said, patting a jacket pocket, but I`·e lost my lighter.`
1he woman nodded. Sure, we`·e got some at the counter. I`ll bring you a box. Cup oí coííee·`
\alt smiled again. 1his was a woman who could read her customers. Many waitresses couldn`t nowadays.
1hey usually just asked you what you wanted. 1his woman had asked about coííee.
Sure,` he said. Black is íine.`
She pointed past him to a plastic íolder against the wall. 1here`s a menu. I`ll get you that coííee and
1hen she turned and walked oíí.
\alt guessed she was in her late thirties, maybe early íorties. No ring on the íinger, but a worn look. Probably
a single mother working the best she can to keep her kids íed. It was a rough world.
le snagged up a menu and turned the laminated pages to see what Al`s Place had to oííer. It was the usual
greasy-spoon grub. Burgers. Minute steaks. lries. Shakes. lried íish sandwiches. Spaghetti. A íew ·arieties oí
By the time the waitress returned, \alt had made up his mind.
As she approached, he noticed her name tag read Cora.`
1hat was my mother`s name,` he said, pointing.
Cora glanced down at the tag and smiled. It was a smile oí genuine amusement, a smile that didn`t come
oíten, but one that showed she had no harsh íeeling towards the rest oí the world.
It`s a Southern name,` the woman said. \ou wouldn`t belie·e all the names my íamily had. My mother was
named \a·elene. 1hat`s a name you don`t hear e·ery day.`
\alt returned her smile. No, it`s not.`
She placed a steaming cup oí coííee beíore him, a box oí matches next to it. \hat can I get you today·`
I think I`ll ha·e the spaghetti dinner,` \alt said. Just like President Kennedy.`
Cora`s smile widened as she wrote on a pad. \e get that a lot. \ou a Democrat·`
I am a neither nor.`
Neither one nor the other.`
Cora chuckled. Anything else·`
low about garlic toast·`
1hat`ll do íine.
\ou want a slice oí pie íor dessert·`
\alt patted his stomach. Better not. I can`t eat like I used to.`
Alrighty, then,` Cora said. I`ll ha·e that to you in a íew minutes.`
\ith that she was oíí, waltzing her way back toward the kitchen.
1he aroma oí the coííee was soothing to his senses, nearly lulling him into a nap. Something coííee wasn`t
known to do. But íor \alt, it worked.
\alt passed the time by sipping his drink and looking at the hanging photographs nearest him. le didn`t see
many more íaces he recognized, but there was one photo oí ole Adolph Rupp with a íork in his mouth. lrom
the basketball coach`s position, \alt íigured the man was sitting right about where he himselí was. le tried to
remembered back how long ago it had been since Rupp had died, but he couldn`t íigure exactly. Must ha·e been
close to íorty years.
Soon enough Cora brought him out oí his re·erie. She returned with a large plate and sil·erware wrapped in
paper napkins. She set the spaghetti and two slices oí garlic toast beíore him, along with a shaker oí Parmesan
cheese. She retrie·ed a pot oí coííee and topped oíí his drink, then, Anything else·`
No, thank you.`
1hen she was oíí with a smile to help some other íolks.
\alt dug into his íood with gusto, it ha·ing been some time since he had eaten a decent meal. le was nearly
íinished when he noticed the place was íilling somewhat and Cora was scrambling to keep up with the growing
crowd. 1he problem wasn`t so much she couldn`t wait on the customers íast enough as it was she couldn`t do
that and keep up with those lea·ing and wanting to pay up at the register. 1hen there were empty tables needing
1here appeared to be someone else in the back kitchen, but they seemed busy just keeping up with the
\alt hated to see the waitress struggle like that. le hated to see anyone struggle like that, working their tail
oíí just to make ends meet. le decided it was time to show a little initiati·e.
le pushed away írom his seat and glanced about the place. 1here was one oí those big, gray dish tubs
resting atop an edge oí the back counter. Seeing Cora was busy checking íolks out at the cash register, he made
his way to the tub, making sure to reach o·er and grab a clean towel írom behind the counter.
Next thing he knew, \alt was working again. No, he wasn`t being paid anything, but maybe that would come.
Lither way, it íelt good to be useíul once more. le bussed tables like an old pro, plopping sil·erware and dishes
and mugs and cups and glasses into the shallow soapy water oí the tub, then making sure to wipe the table clean
oí any spills and crumbs.
\hen íinished with the íirst table, he looked down with some satisíaction. 1hen he got to work on the next
A íew minutes later, aíter things had died down, the waitress approached. ley, you don`t ha·e to do that.`
Cora seemed a touch perturbed. Maybe she would get into trouble ií he was seen doing her job.
\alt nodded toward exiting customers. \ou seemed pretty busy, so I thought I`d lend a hand.`
Cora`s demeanor soítened. \e could use someone like you around here, that`s íor sure.`
I`·e done a little íry cookin` in my time.`
1he owner, Jim, is oíí today, but he`ll be back tomorrow,` Cora said. \e lost a cook when the college let
out. Jim might consider adding you on.`
\hat time`s he come in·` \alt asked.
li·e in the morning, but the doors don`t open until six.`
I`ll drop by about six, then.` \alt mo·ed back to his own table and stacked his utensils on the plate he had
used. lis cup oí coííee still sat, only halí íinished.
Cora íollowed, smiling at him, watching him still at work. \ou want anything else· Maybe another coííee·`
\alt looked o·er his table. Nope. Just the check.`
Cora ripped his order stub oíí her pad, then placed it next to his plate. I`ll check you out whene·er you`re
ready.` She took his dirty dishes, then mo·ed toward the kitchen.
\alt íinished the last oí his coííee, then checked his leather wallet. le did not ha·e much money, but Cora
had been nice enough and helpíul. le leít a tip oí a íew dollars, picked up his backpack and made his way
toward the cash register.
She met him there.
I also wanted to ask,` \alt said.
Cora rang him up and handed him back his change. \es·`
I just arri·ed in town,` \alt explained. I ha·en`t got settled anywhere just yet, and was wondering ií you
could tell me where the closest shelter might be. ligure I`ll stay there tonight until I can get something set up
Cora írowned and pointed straight out the window. Down the street se·eral blocks on your leít. 1he city
mission has a place there. 1hey`ll take anyone íor at least a night, as long as they`re not drunk or on drugs.`
\alt deposited his change in his pocket. Not me,` he said with a grin, then thanked her again.
A412'%) 0%;%,'%%, 7 E%,,<=%) T1,% 7 K<'4 O**- $%41;<*)
Jenniíer Lane has íound that writing íiction is much more íun than writing a psychology
dissertation! \hile she writes under the name Jenniíer Lane, she practices as a psychologist in
Ohio. 1he tales oí healing and resilience írom her proíession ha·e inspired her to write her own
stories, planting the seeds íor her íirst no·el, !itb Cooa ßebarior, as well as its íorthcoming sequel,
ßaa ßebarior. She lo·es stories that make her laugh and cry. In her spare time Jen enjoys
competiti·e swimming, attending book club, and hanging out with her sisters and their íamilies in
Author website: http:,,jenniíerlanebooks.com
Amazon.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,2·ay5hl
Publisher website: http:,,omniíicpublishing.com
Copyright © 2010 Omniíic Publishing
K<'4 O**- $%41;<*)
Jerry Stone sighed wearily as he re·iewed the list oí parolees on his schedule. 1ossing the printout onto his
metal desk, he leaned back in his squeaky chair and rubbed the bridge oí his nose.
It was \ednesday, and the Department oí Corrections always stuck it to him on \ednesdays. 1wo newbies
in a row, right oíí the bat. 1wo inmates íreshly released, about to gi·e him the old song and dance about how
they would ne·er return to prison, they were now on the straight and narrow, they were rehabilitated. \hat a
joke. Ií they weren`t cons by the time they entered the Illinois corrections system, they surely were cons by the
time they leít. 1hey should call it recon·ictation.
A knock brought him out oí his re·erie, and the íiíty-íour-year-old parole oííicer gruííly called out, Lnter!`
1he door creaked open, and his íirst parolee oí the day tentati·ely entered the oííice. Jerry arched his
eyebrows. She was not the typical bottom-dweller inmate, reeking oí unwashed clothes, hostility, and despair.
She was tall and thin, with strawberry-blond hair, and she carried herselí with an almost regal air as she íloated
into his oííice. le bet they had eaten her up at Downer`s Gro·e \omen`s Penitentiary.
She swallowed hard, accentuating a deíined jaw line. Mr. Stone·`
\eah, who are you·`
Sophie 1aylor, sir.`
She announced the digits robotically. She had used them daily íor the last year. ¯2634.`
1ake a seat,` he gestured toward the metal chair íacing his desk as he opened her íile. 1here must be one
hell oí an intriguing back story leading this gorgeous chick into criminal acti·ity, and his curiosity got the best oí
Sophie dutiíully íolded her lean body into the chair and looked around her, taking in the dirty cornílower-
blue walls, the steel desk piled with une·en, wobbly stacks oí papers, and the moldy white blinds co·ering the
only window in the grungy oííice.
She was to report here weekly íor an entire year, and the décor oí this go·ernment oííice was uncomíortably
similar to that oí the administrator`s oííice at Downer`s Gro·e \omen`s Prison. She crossed her legs and
hugged her shabby handbag in her lap, studying the parole oííicer`s salt-and-pepper hair and stern íace as he read
Aíter a íew moments, Jerry looked up írom the íile with surprise. \ou were a psychologist·`
She managed a tight smile. \es, sir.`
Should I call you Dr. 1aylor, then·`
learing her íormer title caused a squeezing sensation in Sophie`s chest, and she looked down, embarrassed.
It had been o·er a year since anyone addressed her that way. She thought back to her last therapy client to use
those words, Dr. 1aylor. lis smooth, deep ·oice re·erberated in her mind. She had been enthralled by his rich,
slowly enunciated baritone as it caressed and possessed her name with lo·ing care. \ell, with what she thought
was lo·ing care, but turned out to be something else entirely.
Jerry noticed her blush as she liíted her head and responded, No, I`m not a psychologist anymore. 1he
Illinois Board oí Psychology re·oked my license once I entered prison.`
I see.` le continued to scan her íile. I`m not íinding any reports in here írom your sessions with a prison
Sophie cleared her throat ner·ously. 1hat`s because I ne·er met with one.`
le raised his bushy gray eyebrows again. \ou didn`t attend therapy in prison· I thought with your prior
·ocation you`d be all o·er that.`
I, uh, I didn`t want to be anywhere near a psychologist aíter what happened. lrankly, I don`t think I belie·e
in therapy anymore.`
Jerry sat back in his chair, studying her careíully. \ou went to prison because oí a massi·e lapse oí
judgment, right, Ms. 1aylor·`
And now aíter one year in prison, you`re trying to get your liíe back, right·` \hen she nodded
automatically, he ordered, And don`t just tell me what I want to hear, young lady.`
No, sir. I really do want to start my liíe o·er. I ha·e to.`
So ií you were still a psychologist, and you knew oí a woman in these circumstances-needing to íigure out
what led to a huge mistake in order to pre·ent it írom happening again, reeling írom a year in prison despite a
períectly clean record beíore that mistake, hoping to mo·e íorward-in your proíessional opinion, would you
say this woman made a good candidate íor therapy·`
Sophie realized where he was going and tried to head him oíí at the pass. 1here are lots oí ways to get one`s
liíe back on track,` she said. 1herapy doesn`t always lead to rehabilitation. Not e·eryone belie·es in therapy.`
\ou spent, what, six or se·en years aíter college training to become a psychologist· And now you don`t
belie·e in it·`
Sophie crossed her arms and pursed her lips, remaining silent.
Because I think you`re a períect candidate íor therapy. And I`m making that a condition oí your parole:
Court-ordered counseling doesn`t work!` Sophie`s chestnut-brown eyes ílared with anger.
Jerry íelt the tension in the room rising. \hat are you aíraid oí·`
I`m-I`m not aíraid,` she lied. 1herapy was about reli·ing the past, unco·ering hidden moti·ations,
discussing íamily. She was not about to del·e into those painíul memories. She searched íor an excuse. low am
I supposed to aííord therapy· I don`t ha·e a job yet.`
1he DOC will pay íor it,` he assured her.
le had thwarted her e·ery objection. \hat ií I reíuse·`
Jerry had heard enough stalling. Do you want to return to prison·` he thundered.
Sophie closed her eyes. No, sir.`
Jerry rose írom his chair, incensed, and marched around the desk. \ou don`t get it, do you· \ou`re out oí
prison, with good beha·ior, but you ha·e an entire year leít oí your sentence. I could throw your ass back inside
so easily your head would spin.`
ler eyes widened as he towered o·er her, and she glanced at the handcuíís dangling írom his belt. One
wrong mo·e and they would be coldly clasped around her delicate wrists once again.
I`m sorry, Mr. Stone.` She watched his anger begin to dissipate. I don`t want to go back. I-I`ll do
whate·er you say.`
le peered at her, wondering how genuinely contrite she íelt and how willing she was to do whate·er it took
to stay out oí prison. Newbies. le hated his íirst session with parolees, ha·ing to sniíí out their true intentions
aíter knowing them íor mere minutes. le hated the little cat-and-mouse game: the lies, the deception, the empty
\ith thirty years in the DOC under his belt, Jerry had become a sharply accurate obser·er oí human
intention. le could sort through all kinds oí bullshit to discern the truth. But this one made him ner·ous: a
woman with a doctorate, a shrink nonetheless. She could íool and manipulate. She could play people like cards ií
she so desired. Jerry hated to be played.
Returning to his chair behind his desk, he stared at her íor a moment, then ad·ised, Doing whate·er I tell
you to do-that is precisely the attitude you need to stay out oí prison.`
\es, sir. I-I don`t want to start oíí on the wrong íoot with you, Mr. Stone. I know you must ha·e all kinds
oí cons gi·ing you a hard time, and I don`t want to be one oí them.`
I`m glad to hear that, but we`ll see ií your word means anything.` le reached into his íiling cabinet and
handed a typed sheet to Sophie. lere`s a list oí therapists who work with the correctional system. \ou are to
schedule an appointment with one oí them beíore we meet again. Understood·`
\es, sir.` She nodded, glancing at the list oí names and exhaling when she did not recognize any colleagues.
\hile she íolded the paper and placed it in her handbag, Jerry continued. I expect you to report here e·ery
\ednesday at nine a.m. Ií you miss one meeting, you will return to prison. 1here will be random drug tests, and
ií you íail e·en one, you will return to prison. I expect you to secure employment in the next two weeks. Ií you
do not íind a job, you will return to prison. Are the terms oí your parole clear, Ms. 1aylor·`
She gulped, thinking this parole thing didn`t sound all that much better than prison. \es, sir.`
le clicked a pen and prepared to write notes in her íile. \here are you li·ing·`
\ith a íriend.`
I need an address.`
Um, 900 North Lake Shore Dri·e, Unit 10.`
Recognizing the downtown Chicago address, he asked, Zip code·`
\hat is your íriend`s name·`
\hat does Ms. lolland do íor a li·ing·`
She`s a therapist.` \hen he continued staring at her expectantly, Sophie added, \e went to grad school
But she`s not a psychologist·`
Um, no, she`s ABD, um, All But Dissertation· She hasn`t íinished her degree, so she can`t call herselí a
Does Ms. lolland ha·e any criminal background·`
Sophie chuckled. Kirsten was as straight-laced as they came. No, sir. She oííered to ha·e me li·e with her as
long as I kick her butt to get her dissertation done.`
Jerry stiíled a smile. 1his had to be the íirst time he`d discussed doctorates and dissertations with a parolee.
Very well. Do you ha·e any questions íor me, Ms. 1aylor·`
Sophie thought íor a moment, wondering ií her question would be all right to ask. low long ha·e you been
a parole oííicer·`
1hirty years,` he responded, shaking his head slowly. And I think that`s the íirst time I`·e been asked a
personal question like that.`
Sorry.` She winced. I don`t mean to pry. I just wondered, Mr. Stone, in those thirty years . what
percentage oí people ·iolated their parole and had to return to prison·`
le looked up to his right. I`d say, ballpark, about sixty percent.`
It`s serious business, Ms. 1aylor. \e`re not messing around here.`
I get that. \ell, I want you to know that I will deíinitely be in that other íorty percent. I`m not going back
I hope that`s the case.` 1here was something about the twenty-nine-year-old woman that made him like her
immediately. A keen warmth and intelligence shone through, despite the circumstances oí their meeting. le
stuííed down those íond íeelings quickly, howe·er, knowing ne·er to trust the con·icts walking through his
Jerry glanced at his watch. It`s time íor my next appointment,` he said brusquely. See you next \ednesday
at nine, Ms. 1aylor.`
1hank you, Oííicer Stone.` She rose írom her chair, extending her arm. le grasped her slender hand in his
and they shook their goodbyes.
Lxiting his oííice, Sophie exhaled deeply, íeeling the stress oí her íirst parole meeting dissol·e. 1hat relieí
was short-li·ed, howe·er, once she opened the door and íound herselí eye to eye with a man whose black,
buzzed hair and golden-brown skin highlighted eyes that held crystal-blue, bottomless depths. 1he next parolee
on the docket· lis nose was slightly crooked and his lips were íull. lis penetrating gaze bore a hole in her. She
stood írozen, staring íor se·eral moments beíore regaining her bearings and muttering, Lxcuse me.`
She ducked out the door and strode down the hallway, daring to glance behind her to see the man watching
her lea·e. A íaint smile crossed his lips, and her cheeks burned.
Scurrying away írom the building, the stranger`s intriguing eyes seared into her memory, Sophie decided
maybe being on parole wasn`t all that bad. At the moment, parole deíinitely seemed better than women`s prison.
A412'%) :<54'%%, 7 A(<== $1(( 7 ]&+)2%)
Cliíí Ball is 3¯, li·es in 1exas, and has a BA in Lnglish. Cliíí has three independently published works:
1be |.vr¡er, Ovt of 1ive, and ´batterea íartb. \on 3rd in a short story contest in a magazine that he wrote
in high school through his Creati·e \riting class íor a story called, Role Re·ersal`. Currently going back
to school to bring up his GPA to, hopeíully, obtain an MA in Creati·e \riting írom the Uni·ersity oí
Author website: http:,,cliííball.web.com
Amazon author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,29bya5h
Copyright © 2010 Cliíí Ball
\e will bury you!` bellowed So·iet Premier Nikita Khrushche·, as he slammed his íist on the hardwood
1he Americans, and other westerners who were assembled in the room, glanced at each other, and rolled
their eyes. President John l. Kennedy oí the United States took a deep breath, and said, Are you threatening
\ou think I`m threatening war· I can honestly say that I`m not, Mr. Kennedy. \hat I mean, is that your
working class will bury you. listory is on our side, you`ll see. 1he So·iet Union won`t e·en ha·e to commit
troops to deíeat you, your poor and downtrodden will do it íor us. I predict that in 50 years, the United States oí
America will cease to exist. \our people may not e·en see it coming, it`ll just happen one day when no one is
expecting it. Pooí! 1he great and íoolish American experiment íinally comes to an end. Now, let`s discuss why
we`re all here.`
1hree hours later, the meeting broke up and as Khrushche· was going to his car, he was met by one oí his
American-born KGB agents. 1he American agent was recruited by the KGB 18 years earlier, aíter the lall oí
Berlin during \orld \ar II. le was one oí the íew who hadn`t been íound by Senator Joe McCarthy, or the
louse Un-American Acti·ities Committee`s purge oí Communists in the United States. Apparently, the agent
had some good news, because normally he was a ·ery dour person, but this time he was practically, íor him,
grinning ear to ear. le eagerly shook the Premier`s hand, and said, Good day, comrade. I íound what we`·e
been looking íor,`
Good, good, that is the news I want to hear. Are they completely dedicated to the cause and willing to do
what we want to achie·e our goals oí burying the United States·`
Oh, yes, Comrade Premier. In íact, the girl came to us because, according to her, she is a dedicated socialist.
She seems to ha·e no problem with the plans we ha·e íor her, e·en though I was quite ·ague about it. \ould
you like to meet her·` asked the American.
\es, oí course I`d like to meet her. \here is she·`
She is currently at our embassy, Comrade Premier.`
\ell then, let us go and meet this American girl.`
An hour later, the duo arri·ed at their embassy, and headed to meet the American girl who wanted to help
ad·ance the So·iet cause. 1he So·iet Premier saw that the girl was a petite brunette, íairly young looking, and
dressed in what the Americans reíerred to as hippy clothes. Khrushche· knew írom ·arious reports he recei·ed
írom the KGB, that these kids were useíul idiots, and just rebelling against their parents and society. Useíul
idiots would be helpíul to the So·iets, and Khrushche· knew they would help bring down the United States with
enough training, and brainwashing.
Khrushche· walked o·er to the girl, shook her hand, and introduced himselí, lello, young lady. I am So·iet
Premier Nikita Khrushche·, and you are·`
I am so honored to meet you, Premier Khrushche·. I am Ann O`lara írom Nebraska. I`m looking íorward
to ad·ancing the cause by any means necessary, ií it comes to that.`
Susan, that`s the kind oí attitude we are looking íor írom recruits. Beíore we tell you exactly what we want
you to do, the KGB will require a íull immersion in all things Marx, Lenin, and e·en Stalin, which includes
getting you to Moscow. I`ll let my people take care oí that problem though. lor now, let`s all go to dinner,
because I`m star·ing.` remarked the So·iet Premier.
A month later, Ann O`lara was ready to lea·e íor Moscow. She had been gi·en an airplane ticket by her
handler to 1ijuana, Mexico, so that it would appear to the United States State Department that all she was doing
was going on ·acation to Mexico. lours later, her airplane landed at the 1ijuana airport. \hen she leít the
aircraít, she was met by two íemale KGB agents, who were ·ery íierce and mean looking írom her point oí ·iew.
One oí them walked o·er to her, and said, Ms. O`lara, we are here to escort you to the So·iet Lmbassy. Once
you arri·e, you will be gi·en new passports, and a new ID. 1he KGB will send someone who looks similar to
you back to the States in a íew days, so your go·ernment will not wonder ií you ha·e disappeared. \ill you
please step into the car so that we can be on our way.`
1wenty minutes later, Ann was escorted into the embassy, where she was greeted by one oí the higher
ranking staíí, Ms. O`lara, welcome to the So·iet Lmbassy. I am Natalia Rosharon, aide to the So·iet
Ambassador to Mexico. \e`re creating some new passports íor you, and will gi·e you new identity papers. \e
ha·e a girl who is about to lea·e who will take your place. She`s also escorting another American, who was trying
to oííer his ser·ices to us, but, he`s a little too crazy íor us to want to employ him. low was your trip·`
It was a ·ery quiet and relaxing trip. I`m a bit ner·ous, but, I`m looking íorward to learning e·erything there
is to know about the great men oí the So·iet Union. \hen do we lea·e íor Moscow·`
\e will be lea·ing tomorrow morning. \e need to take your picture, take some blood, and gi·e you some
inoculations ií you ha·en`t had the ones we require. Once you arri·e in the So·iet Union, the Secretariat oí the
Communist Party oí the So·iet Union Central Committee, \uri Andropo·, will inter·iew you personally, beíore
anything else is done. Now, let me show you to your room.`
As they were walking to the resident quarters, a man, who was a bit on the skinny side and balding, was
complaining loudly about how he was being treated, since he was being escorted by two large and burly KGB
agents. O`lara looked to Rosharon, and the aide said, 1hat was the man I mentioned earlier. lis name is Lee
lar·ey Oswald, he wants us to help him assassinate President Kennedy. \e told him no.`
\hy did you reíuse to help him·` Ann innocently asked.
lelping him assassinate Kennedy would bring disaster to both oí our countries, because ií it was íound out
that we did it, the whole balance oí power would be ruined, which would destabilize the world. So, we told him
no. \e think he`s too stupid to actually carry out with it though. Oswald is just a minor annoyance, let`s continue
with showing you to your quarters.`
1he next morning, Ann was ready to lea·e to begin her new liíe, and was hoping it would be a grand
ad·enture. 1he woman who was to impersonate her, had leít earlier in the morning with that crazy Oswald
character, and Ann was hoping that nobody would e·er hear about him. Aíter e·eryone had breakíast, Ann was
taken to the airport by two íemale agents oí the KGB, and a minor Communist Party íunctionary was also
tra·eling with the group. Ann learned that his name was Mikhail Gorbache·, who seemed nice enough to Ann,
but had a really weird looking birthmark on his head. 1hey boarded the Aeroílot airline run by the So·iet Union,
and while they were waiting on the tarmac, Ann asked Gorbache·, \hat do you do íor the Party, Mr.
Oh, I`m currently working my way up the ladder. Right now, I work in agriculture íor the Party, mostly
because my íamily had a collecti·e íarm. I graduated írom Moscow State Uni·ersity with a degree in law, but, I
hope to one day be an important member oí the Communist Party. I was ·isiting Mexico to see their íarms, how
they grow and har·est whate·er is being grown, and then how the products are distributed to the people. 1his
was the last leg oí my trip, and I am really eager to get home. I bet you`re eager to learn the ins and outs oí
Very much so, Mr. Gorbache·, I am ·ery eager. Aíter I get taught e·erything, I`m told I ha·e a ·ery special
assignment that the KGB wants me to do, so I can`t wait to íind out what it is.`
I`m sure whate·er it is will be uniquely suited to your abilities, and needs, young lady. lowe·er, do not
think íor one moment anything will be easy in the So·iet Union, but, you seem to know what you`re doing, so I
will lea·e that alone. Ah good, we`re now in the air, Moscow is 6100 miles írom here, so it`ll take nearly a day íor
us to get there. I suggest you get something to read or take a nap, because I`m going to take a nap. \ake me up
when we land somewhere.` in less than íi·e minutes, Gorbache· íell asleep and Ann decided to do some
lourteen hours later, the airplane landed at the Domodedo·o Airport in Moscow. As e·eryone was
disembarking, Ann said to Gorbache· as she shook his hand, It was nice to meet you. I hope you`re successíul
in e·erything you do. Good luck and goodbye.`
Ann was supposed to wait to be picked up, she was told, by a limousine with So·iet ílags on the hood. 1en
minutes later, the limo arri·ed on the tarmac next to the aircraít, a door opened, and an older looking gentleman
stepped out oí the car. le came up to Ann, looked her up and down, and asked, \ou are Ann O`lara·`
\es, um, Comrade,`
Not what I expected, but, it doesn`t matter, you will do nicely íor what we ha·e in mind. I am CPSU
Secretary, \uri Andropo·. I am told I am to judge your worthiness, and ií you are truly dedicated to the So·iet
doctrine. Come with me.`
Andropo· abruptly walked back to the limo, got back into the car, and a bewildered Ann íollowed him into
the limo. Once she sat down in the limo, Ann asked, Are you going to tell me what the KGB wants with me·`
\e will not tell you anything until you ha·e pro·en yourselí, and you aren`t doing this out oí a need to rebel
against the authority oí your parents. \our training should be complete in a little o·er a year. Once we are
satisíied with what you know, the KGB will iníorm you oí your assignment. Do you understand·`
\es, Comrade Andropo·. I will do whate·er I ha·e to do to pro·e my worthiness.`
\es, yes, that`s what they all say.`
1he limo then sped oíí towards the Kremlin, with Ann wondering what she had gotten herselí into. She
needed to pro·e that she was serious and not rebelling against authority, because obeying authority was
important to the So·iets, and she didn`t want to disappoint them.
A412'%) M<,%'%%, 7 A1)*(6, E" N*&% 7 D%/(*.> T1>%
Carolyn J. Rose grew up in New \ork`s Catskill Mountains, graduated írom the Uni·ersity oí
Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Ser·ice to America, and spent 25
years as a tele·ision news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas,
New Mexico, Oregon, and \ashington. She teaches no·el-writing in Vancou·er,
\ashington, and íounded the Vancou·er \riters` Mixers. ler hobbies are reading,
gardening, and not cooking.
1he print edition oí íevtoc/ ía/e was published by li·e Star.
Author website: http:,,www.deadlyduomysteries.com
Carolyn J. Rose Amazon.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,2atqo2q
Publisher and author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,23oospd
Copyright © 2010 Carolyn J. Rose
lists clenched, I watched the medical examiner`s ·an wallow along the rutted gra·el dri·eway. \ith a ílicker oí
brake lights, it turned onto the patched asphalt road that circled lemlock Lake as Sheriíí Clement North laid a
weathered hand on my shoulder. I ílinched and dro·e my íingernails into my palms.
Phil can take care oí the rest oí this, Dan.` North`s ·oice was muted, his words tentati·e. \hy don`t you go
lome·` I laughed bitterly as the ·an disappeared beyond a stand oí white birches. \ellow lea·es íluttered in
its wake, driíting through dusty October air. Is that what you were going to say· 1hat I should go home·`
North`s íingers ílexed. No. \hy don`t you ride back to the oííice with me· Someone will bring your cruiser
along later. I called the chaplain. le`ll notiíy your íather.`
No.` I shrugged his hand away and walked to the edge oí the porch, my heels thudding on the thick oak
planks. I can handle this.`
I know you can handle it, Dan. I`m not questioning your ability. But it would be better ií you-`
No.` I turned on him, glimpsing my pain, dark and knotted, reílected in his eyes. 1his is my responsibility.
I trudged down the broad steps and along the path toward the rippling indigo water. It`s all paperwork írom
here on out, anyway,` I called o·er my shoulder. Just like any other accident, any other suicide.`
North didn`t answer, didn`t state the ob·ious-this time there had been no need to check the bodies íor
identiíication, this time I wouldn`t search íor next oí kin.
1he names I`d write the top oí the reports would be Nathaniel Justice Stone and Susanna Llizabeth Chase
I called you in because I`m looking íor íresh ideas on a case,` Sheriíí North said. \e ha·e damn little to go
I tore my gaze írom the tiny buds on the gnarled maple tree outside the window. Spring had come to my
wasteland. Lach pale leaí and bright blossom seemed to mock my misery. Swallowing long-simmering rage, I
watched the sheriíí deal six sheets oí paper and an equal number oí en·elopes onto the dog-eared green blotter
staking its claim between stacks oí worn íile íolders.
It`s not much.` North shrugged. \asn`t a decent íingerprint once we ruled out the construction chieí who
opened them. And with the way the system operates now-centralized-all we know is the general area they
were mailed írom. Used to be easier when e·ery little post oííice had its own mark.`
I íingered a piece oí three-ring binder paper speckled with words sliced írom a newspaper and stiíí with
yellowing globs oí dried glue. \ou build. \e`ll burn.`
1hey cut up an Albany newspaper íor that one,` the sheriíí said. 1he type matches. But I`m thinking these
threats could be linked to eco-terrorists. Like that case out on Long Island.`
I nodded. I`d read about a group claiming responsibility íor explosi·e de·ices set in a number oí luxury homes
under construction. 1he group had declared it an eííort to stop urban sprawl, halt o·erde·elopment, and
preser·e íarmland. Perhaps they`d decided the Catskills needed sa·ing next. I glanced at the other papers: Stop
construction or we will. Preser·e, don`t pillage. \ou put it up, we`ll burn it down. Don`t desecrate this land.` My
íingers curled as I read the íinal note. Don`t destroy lemlock Lake.`
Images oí my íather`s house and the two bodies I`d íound inside rose in my mind. I íorced words past my
teeth. lemlock Lake·`
\ep.` North leaned back, his worn leather swi·el chair creaking, and packed shreds oí honey-colored tobacco
into his pipe. Some de·eloper bought a parcel oí land across the lake and up aways írom your íather`s place.
le`s putting up ten luxury homes.` Rocking íorward, he set the pipe on the corner oí the desk and shuííled the
letters together. I thought you could go up there, sort oí on a part-time basis, and-`
No.` 1he thud oí sodden earth against Susanna`s coííin íilled my ears. I would ne·er return to the lake.
1he sheriíí`s chair rolled against the credenza behind his desk with a dull clunk as he stood and ambled to
the map oí Ashokan County that co·ered an entire wall. le splayed mottled íingers across the green-gray mass
representing mountains and the blue ·ein oí a stream swelling out oí Dark Moon lollow and íeeding lemlock
Lake. \ith your dad in that nursing home now, his place probably needs a lick oí paint or a íew shingles. \hile
you`re making repairs, you can nose around, see ií anybody`s seen or heard anything connected to the letters or
the other incidents.`
I íelt a twinge oí curiosity, couldn`t tamp it down. Other incidents·`
Vandalism. Minor theít. Graííiti.` le tapped a íile íolder at the top oí one heap. lere`s the íile. Look it
o·er. I`ll clear you to start on this next week.`
I dug my íingers into the scarred oak armrests oí the ·isitor`s chair. Is that an order·`
le hitched at his pants and scratched a bristling eyebrow with a thumbnail. \ell, no, Dan, it`s not an order.
But you`re the best man íor this job. \ou grew up around lemlock Lake-you know what it`s like. 1hey`·e got
cable 1V and their calendars show they`re in the new century just like all the rest oí us, but they`·e still got one
íoot in the past. Deep in the past. 1hey keep themsel·es apart, take care oí their own. lell, íor all I know, it`s
not tree-huggers behind this, it`s someone local.`
Someone local. I íought to keep my íace still, to show no sign oí interest.
North slapped the íile íolders. I sent an in·estigator up there twice. \aste oí manpower. Nobody saw
anything. Nobody knew anything. People up there wouldn`t gi·e an outsider a glass oí water ií his teeth were on
I rose írom my chair. le`d drawn an accurate sketch and gi·en me a way out. \hat good would I do· I`m
not an in·estigator. I`m a patrol sergeant.` I liked it that way, preíerred space and stretches oí solitude. I didn`t
want an oííice and walls around me-especially now.
North wa·ed me back into my seat, slumped into his own, liíted the pipe, and tamped more tobacco into the
bowl. \ou`·e had some training.` le dug a pack oí matches írom his pocket, struck one and touched it to the
tobacco. I`m betting you`ll pick up on something.` le puííed, cheeks reddening.
A cloud oí apple-scented smoke swirled around him. I blinked away the image oí that black ·an carrying Nat
and Susanna through íalling lea·es as sunset bloodied the lake.
And íace it Dan, you ha·en`t been yourselí since the, uh . . .` le paused, chewing at the corners oí his
mustache. Not that anyone expected you to bounce right back. \ou went through more hell in one day than
any man deser·es in an entire liíetime. And then to ha·e your íather go down with a stroke . . .` le shook his
head. But we`re comin` up on May. It`s been almost se·en months. \ou don`t eat enough to keep a bird ali·e,
you`re in that cruiser all night, e·ery night.` le puííed at the pipe again, cursed and set it aside. And damn it,
you`re not calling íor backup when you should. It`s just a matter oí time beíore you get hurt. Or hurt someone
else.` le leaned closer, narrowed his eyes. I can`t ha·e that.`
Red anger clogged my throat, distorting my ·oice. 1hat won`t happen.`
le held out his hands, palms up. I recognized the gesture írom a dozen other discussions. It meant he had
no choice, was only doing his job. Sometimes you can`t carry the weight alone. I`d hate to ha·e to order you to
take time oíí and get counseling, but I will ií . . .` le shrugged, lea·ing it there.
Muscles knotted at the hinges oí my jaw and around my eyes. No one would trespass in my mind, dissect my
1he sheriíí íingered his pipe again. I`d appreciate it ií you`d look into this. As a ía·or to me.`
I stood and slung the chair into a bookcase crammed with grimy regulation manuals dating back to the
Nixon administration. 1wo appreciation plaques teetered then íell írom the top shelí. Glass splintered and
skittered across the pitted green linoleum. Assign me to jail duty. Put me on a desk. lire my ass ií you want. I`ll
ne·er go to lemlock Lake again ií I li·e to be a hundred.`
A wintry smile crossed the sheriíí`s íace. Maybe you`ll li·e that long, son. But maybe you won`t make it
through next week. 1hose two ghosts ha·e a hell oí a hold on you. Better lay them to rest beíore they drag you
into a gra·e beside them.`
A412'%) 9!%,'6 7 06(;<1 L1&&1)1 7 94% B'4%) $*6=)<%,-
Syl·ia Massara has been writing since her early teens. She has written in a ·ariety oí genres, írom stage plays
to screenplays to no·els. Since she can remember, she`s lo·ed immersing herselí in a world íilled with
characters oí her own creation.
Syl·ia is also the creator and host oí the popular Lit Chick Show ,LCS,, a ·irtual 1V show that showcases the
work oí indie authors, and her blog "Authors helping authors" ,AlA,, which helps promote other authors.
She is an a·id supporter oí "indie" authors and she dedicates LCS and AlA to all those hardworking, and oíten
unrewarded, authors out there.
Syl·ia li·es in Sydney, Australia, with husband, Nick, and íour-legged daughter, Mitzy.
Author website: www.syl·iamassara.com
Smashwords.com author page: https:,,www.smashwords.com,proíile,·iew,syl·iamassara
Copyright © 2010 Syl·ia Massara
94% B'4%) $*6=)<%,-
A large window behind Monica re·ealed panoramic ·iews oí the city oí long Kong and though I tried to
appreciate the beauty beíore me, it didn`t work. ^otbivg ror/ea! I was in the grips oí an anxiety attack brought on
by desperation and all I could think about was Jeíírey with his de-íacto partner, Moira - the ball and chain, as I
called her - li·ing in a lo·eless relationship until the end oí time. And as íar as I was concerned, the end oí time
was a long way away.
Sarah, let me get this straight,` Monica exclaimed in disbelieí, taking a deep drag írom her cigarette. \ou
want ve to help ,ov íind a boyíriend íor your lo·er`s partner·`
I smiled weakly at my best íriend. I couldn`t blame her incredulity at what I was proposing. I hardly belie·ed
it myselí, so how could I expect someone else, who was ob·iously sane - unlike me - to belie·e it·
Monica took another drag írom her cigarette and expelled a cloud oí smoke that momentarily obscured my
·iew oí her íace - perhaps this was best. I squirmed at the thought oí what she made oí all this as I reached íor
the red wine she had oííered earlier and gulped it down, almost choking in the process. Meanwhile, my mind was
íilled with agonising thoughts about the uncertain íuture oí my relationship with my lo·er, and I hoped against
hope that somehow a miracle would bring us together íor good.
Jeíírey had told me repeatedly that he didn`t want to hurt Moira`s íeelings by dumping her aíter íiíteen years
oí being together, but staying with her íor the sake oí pity was just crazy. I íumed e·ery time I thought about it.
It was unbearable. Jeíírey should be with me by now. I squeezed my eyes shut and momentarily prayed íor that
Mike!` I was brought out oí my re·erie by Monica`s excited cry.
\hat·` I asked, somewhat coníused, brieíly entertaining the idea that she had lost her mind. Perhaps the
hea·y smoking had íinally taken its toll on her and she couldn`t think straight anymore. !bat ra. tbi. abovt a
Monica crushed the cigarette butt into a large crystal ashtray that was already o·erílowing with the remnants
oí other cigarette butts, which had met the same íate.
Mike!` she repeated in exasperation, írowning at me.
Like I was supposed to know what she was talking about. But I hoped against hope that she wasn`t thinking
oí a karaoke microphone. íearev forbia. 1his was what happened to people when they li·ed in Asian countries
íor too long.
Another large gulp írom my reíilled wine glass and I was ready to íocus on what she was trying to say. \ho
or what is vi/e`·` I asked, trying to hide my impatience. As she lit up another one oí those little deadly cylinders
I hated so much, the thought crossed my already tired mind that I was going to ha·e to wash my hair in order to
get rid oí the horrible, clinging smell oí smoke.
Monica rolled her eyes at me. lonestly, Sarah, you really don`t remember·`
^o, í aov`t revevber. In íact, I had no idea what she was going on about. But it was ob·ious that some
diabolical scheme was íorming in her íag-íogged brain, because whene·er she was excited about something her
British accent became more pronounced.
1he ·iew oí the busy harbour íaded in and out beíore my eyes as Monica puííed away íuriously. I waited,
hoping this was just a weird dream I was ha·ing, and ií luck was on my side, I would soon wake up and things
would be normal once more. Or worse still, I suddenly thought in alarm, I really ra. drunk in some karaoke bar
and it was my turn to sing. |gb! Coa bet¡ ve.
Mike`s the man íor the job,` Monica announced between puíís, and much to my relieí. I now paid íull
attention. \ou know him,` she went on. le`s been li·ing here íor íi·e years, in·estment banker írom London.
\ou met him at my last Christmas party.`
I had a ·ague recollection oí Monica`s Christmas party, all oí it through an alcoholic haze. My blank stare
must ha·e registered through the smoky lounge room because she sighed and said, Ne·er mind,` and dismissed
my look oí ignorance. 1he thing is Mike`s always up íor a challenge, and I know he`ll lo·e this.` She threw me a
And how do you know·` 1his piqued my curiosity, despite the íact that I had con·inced myselí that her
cigarettes must be impregnated with some sort oí hallucinogen.
Because he`s gorgeous and he`s ne·er had to chase a single íemale in his liíe. \omen íall all o·er him,` she
explained, as ií I were too slow to understand her meaning.
Poor Mi/e, I rolled my eyes. íife ra. .ooooo tovgb for .ove ¡eo¡te. But ií women really did íall all o·er him, as
Monica suggested, this might just work. So íor the íirst time since my arri·al in long Kong, I íelt the stirrings oí
hope. Okay,` I íound myselí saying, as ií we were simply planning an outing rather than changing a person`s
entire liíe. 1his so-called lady killer` sounds períect. But how do you know he`ll do it·`
Monica crushed her cigarette butt into the ashtray. Because he`s transíerring to 1aipei next month and he`ll
be bored to tears unless he`s got something like this to occupy him.`
Cbarvivg! I couldn`t wait to meet this male ·ersion oí the íemme íatale. And yet, Monica seemed so sure
about him that I almost belie·ed this man could turn out to be the solution to my problem. So how do we
know he`s going to íind Moira attracti·e·` I didn`t want to gi·e way to my rising excitement just yet, not to
mention the íact that Moira might íind the guy totally repulsi·e.
1hat isn`t the point, dummy. Ií Mike says he`ll do it, then he`ll do it,` Monica replied, íull oí coníidence.
But ií he`s not attracted to her, why would he waste his time charming the woman in order to help someone
he doesn`t e·en know· Besides,` I thought out loud, Moira might hate the sight oí him.` Doubt and reality set
in and I saw my dream oí a íree Jeíírey íading quickly away.
Monica laughed, as ií the thought oí someone íinding her precious Mike unattracti·e was unheard oí. In
answer to your question, Mike owes me íor a past ía·our and I know he`ll do it ií I ask him. As íor Moira, the
minute she lays eyes on him she`s toast,` she reassured me, reaching out and absently patting my arm.
I decided to keep an open mind about Moira`s reaction to God`s giít to women, and I did not need to ask
Monica what kind oí ía·our she had done íor him in the past. Monica had always had a way with men. One look
at her luscious blonde hair and attracti·e íeatures, which matched an equally luscious íigure, said it all.
All right,` I replied beíore I changed my mind. So what happens next·` And whate·er it was, I íer·ently
hoped I wouldn`t regret it.
A412'%) 9!%,'6 B,% G L":" W%/2 7 C%1'4 *= 1 C1,.<,5 L1&'%)
M. L. Kemp's colonial roots go back to 1636 Salem, MA. Ancestors settled her hometown Oxíord, MA in
1¯13. Kemp is the author oí an historical mystery series íeaturing two nosy Puritans írom Boston. Deatb of a
Davcivg Ma.ter is the íourth book in the series and is based, as are all her books, on an actual incident. Other
titles in the series: Deatb of a ßara, ßette, Deatb of a Dvtcb |vcte and Mvraer,Matber .va Ma,bev. Kemp li·es in
Saratoga Springs, N\ where she spends summers selling tip sheets to bettors at the Saratoga racetrack.
Author website: http:,,www. mekempmysteries.com
Smashwords.com author page: http:,,tinyurl.com,25sd2ja
Publisher website: http:,,www.lldreamspell.com
Copyright © 2010 M.L. Kemp
C%1'4 *= 1 C1,.<,5 L1&'%)
1he young man knocked but no one opened the door to him. 1hinking that perhaps his knock was too
timid, he balled up his íist and banged. Still there was no response. L·idently the gentleman was too occupied to
hear. Perkney said he had an appointment, but the young man assumed Perkney said it in an eííort to get rid oí
him. No matter - the young man íelt it his duty to tender an apology íor his intemperate words, and apologize
he would. le thrust open the door and walked in the long room.
Seeing no one he called out: Perkney, are you there·` And repeated: Perkney·` le took two steps íorward.
Although the room was one long space, it was di·ided into three sections, the íirst space being a small
antechamber where Perkney greeted guests. 1here was a round table to the right, with paper, a quill, an inkpot
and a sil·er tray íor calling cards upon it. A narrow chair set next to the table. 1o his leít the wall held hooks íor
coats and cloaks. Beneath the hooks a small rug co·ered the íloor, with a bootjack íor remo·ing muddy
íootwear. Perkney was quite particular about his guests remo·ing their muddy clogs or boots.
1he next section oí the room ílickered with candles in wall sconces. 1he candles illuminated wall hangings oí
bewigged ladies and gentlemen lounging in country gardens. 1wo gilded armchairs were placed against the wall.
Across the room a wooden stool ser·ed as a seat íor the íiddler, who doubled as Perkney`s ser·ant.
1he last section was leít in gloom, a bare pine íloor where the dancing master ga·e lessons in sword-play.
1he young man remembered a pile oí íoils against the wall but he could not quite make out the stack írom his
position across the room. Nor could he see the door that led to Perkney`s pri·ate rooms. Perhaps Perkney was
asleep in there.
1he young man called out across the space: It`s me, Perkney... Jacob Joyliííe! I`·e come back to apologize to
you.` lis words hung unanswered in the late aíternoon air. Joyliííe íelt a sense oí oppression. \here was the
man· le`d leít the dancing master íor on more than twenty minutes, ií that. Perkney hadn`t appeared to be
going out, he`d said he had an appointment. Joyliííe assumed the appointment was a lesson oí some sort. 1he
man taught íencing as well as ungodly dance.
Perkney·` Really, this was too much. 1he man must be a·oiding him. lere he`d rushed back because
conscience scolded him íor his rash words to the dancing master and the man hid írom him like a naughty child.
le`d hurried back on purpose, in painíul shortness oí breath, so that he would not interrupt the man`s lessons,
e·en ií he could not appro·e oí the man`s lesson in lasci·ious and wanton dance. Court dances! Just because the
wicked Louis oí lrance did them, there was no reason íor Godly Protestants in New Lngland to mimic the
papist king`s example.
1here was nothing íor it but to cross the room and make himselí known at the door to Perkney`s pri·ate
rooms. 1he thought that Perkney might not be asleep there - he might be engaged in wanton beha·ior - made
him wince, but his conscience would not allow him to hesitate. It was his duty to apologize to the dancing
master. Joyliííe straightened his shoulders and strode across the space.
Perkney - Mr. Perkney - it`s me, Jacob Joyliííe!` le called out a warning. lrustrated at the lack oí response
he pounded upon the door. Perkney, I know you`re in there! \ake up, man! I ha·e come to apologize to you!`
le waited. lrustrated by the lack oí response Joyliííe turned. 1he dancing master was arrogant, as he had cause
to know, but he hadn`t thought the man a coward until now. So be it. Joyliííe shook his head. le spotted the
stack oí íencing íoils leaning against a wall by the íar corner. 1here seemed to be a limb sticking out behind the
íoils. Could Perkney be hiding there· loolish man - hide írom his sins he could not. lide írom the eye oí God·
\ea, e·en unto the belly oí the whale did not the Lord spy out the sins oí Jonah· And he, Jacob Joyliííe, ser·ant
oí the Lord, was only come to oííer Redemption to this sinner. le íelt a moment`s pang that he had íailed to
make clear his mission, that was a sorry íault oí his own. le`d been swept away by the spate oí angry words
írom the dancing master, he`d answered in kind. \et his mission was to reason with the man, not to argue with
Joyliííe tiptoed o·er to the corner. A triíle near-sighted, he peered at the stack oí íoils. \es, that was a
slippered stocking on a well-íormed leg sticking out behind the stack.
Ah, Perkney, no need to be aíraid. I`·e come to apologize íor my hasty words. It was ·ery wrong oí me to
lose my temper and I hope that you will íorgi·e me.` le twisted his upper body around the íoils, thin brows in a
questioning liít. 1he man appeared to be sitting in the corner. Peculiar place to hide, Joyliííe thought. Nor did
the dancing master scramble to his íeet upon his disco·ery. Joyliííe stepped around the íoils.
Perkney·` Joyliííe screwed up his eyes in an attempt to penetrate the gloom. le leaned íorward. A sudden
buzzing íilled his head. lis heart thudded like the pounding oí a galloping horse. lrancis Perkeny lay slumped
against the corner wall, eyes wide and unseeing, jaw dropped in a silent scream, hands clutching at the íoil
sticking out oí his abdomen. Perkney was pinned to the wall like a butteríly in an insect collection.
Joyliííe grabbed the pommel oí the slender sword and pulled. 1he íoil slid out like a kniíe in melted butter,
Joyliííe íell back a step in surprise. A great gob oí black oozed out oí the spot where the íoil had penetrated.
Joyliííe gazed in horror, unable to turn his head írom the sight, unable to mo·e, unable to cry out. lis brain was
íilled with wool, his jaw as írozen as ice, his throat as parched as sand. le wanted to cry out abo·e all things, to
call íor help, to mo·e his legs, but he stood as stiíí as Lot turned into a pillar oí salt. lar·ard Di·inity College
hadn`t prepared him íor this.
low long he stood there gaping at the horrid sight he did not know. Only when the cries penetrated his
brain and strong arms pinioned him was the spell broken.
lo! lelp! Murder!`
\es, yes, he thought with íer·ent gratitude, that`s it! 1hank you, he prayed in silence to the unknown shouter.
lo! lelp! Murder! 1hat`s just what his soul longed to cry out, that his poor earthly body reíused to utter.
lo! lelp! Murder!` le stuttered the words all the way to the jail.
low times ha·e changed, I thought. lere am I, letty lenry, a mere woman, in·ited to join in coníerence
with the esteemed young Boston minister, Cotton Mather, and his younger cousin - also a colleague in the
ministry - Mister Increase Cotton. ,All the Cotton and the Mather men were in the ministry so íar as I knew.
Cotton Mather was the íruit and íruition oí the two íamily branches, the Cottons and the Mathers., In prior
years I`d had to barge my way in on such coníerences. I was related to Cotton Mather by his marriage to my
cousin Abigail, but I`m much aíraid that Cousin Cotton thinks me a íorward íemale. lowe·er, I`·e pro·ed
useíul to him on prior occasions.
Creasy, that is Increase Cotton in íormal address, knows how to íerret out the guilty secrets oí the human
soul írom his lar·ard College di·inity training. I ha·e the connections and the íortune to buy iníormation when
needed. \e make an eííicient team, Creasy and I, especially when it comes to the delicate matter oí murder.
Cousin Cotton Mather is oí a ·ery sensiti·e nature, you understand. \ell, great things were expected oí him
írom his birth and he has yet to li·e up to them. It`s not easy being the progeny oí a truly great man like Increase
Mather. Uncle Increase happens to be in London at the moment and Cousin Cotton has charge oí the largest
congregation in all the Colonies. Cousin Cotton suííers írom se·ere bouts oí ner·es, especially when called upon
in his íather`s place to sol·e a community problem, and murder is certainly that. 1he íruit oí two honored
íamilies bruises easily. 1hat`s where Creasy and I come in. \e do the work íor him. Creasy is more or less duped
into doing it because he íeels sorry íor his cousin. ,Creasy and Cotton Mather are íirst cousins by blood., I do it
because it is my duty. And because it relie·es my own cousin, Abigail Mather, oí much distress. Abigail belie·es
the sun shines upon her husband`s command. \hen he is in one oí his ner·ous spasms poor Abigail is beside
herselí with worry, so she sends íor me.
1he matter upon which we were to be consulted was the death oí a dancing master, one lrancis Perkney,
and íor the arrest oí a young Reíormed minister íor the murder. I myselí íound it diííicult to imagine Jacob
Joyliííe so much as pinching someone with a pickle íork, much less slicing the dancing master through with a
íencing íoil. I íound the man a pompous prig, gi·en to íawning o·er the Mathers. 1o some extent I could
understand his admiration íor Uncle Increase, who is a great man in our Massachusetts Bay Colony - minister,
diplomat and political power. Increase Mather negotiated a new charter íor the Bay Colony with two diííerent
monarchs, James and \illiam oí Orange. le is also president oí lar·ard College. I held my uncle in great
esteem. But you`d think Cotton Mather was a knight in shining armor mounted upon a snow-white steed to
boot, the way Joyliííe toadied up to him. Cotton Mather was a bare thirty years to Joyliííe`s twenty. I suppose a
decade`s diííerence is ancient to a younger man. I`m glad I`m not quite as old as Cousin Cotton.
As I stepped into the study, Cousin Cotton appeared to be in ill humor rather than in ill health. lis
handsome íace was ílushed and his mouth was puííed out like a ílounder. lis large eyes were dark with liquid
mist, which threatened to spill o·er. My íriend Creasy sat sprawled in his chair, his eyes burning like dark coals. It
was e·ident to me that I`d walked into a quarrel.
\here`s Abigail·` I asked, breaking a strained silence. Abigail may be my dearest cousin, with the sweetest
nature to boot, but she has a somewhat dim understanding.
Cousin Cotton turned his head to acknowledge my presence. Murder is not a proper subject íor the tender
ears oí a íair íemale.` lis eyes widened as he noted to whom he spoke. Cousin Cotton jumped up írom his
chair, wa·ing his shapely hand to indicate I should occupy the ·acated ·essel. Do íorgi·e me, Cousin letty. I
íorget my manners.` le strode o·er to his desk, slid around it and took his seat there. 1his business has me so
upset I cannot think with a logical mind!`
I walked o·er to take the seat oííered to me, Cousin Cotton`s head íollowing me like a tuíted owl. le wore
an impressi·e curled periwig.
My dear consort will join us with some India tea - it will only be a íew moments,` he said, his ·oice ci·il as
treacle. No doubt the medicinal properties oí the tea will soothe our melancholic humors.` le glanced rather
pointedly at Creasy, who sat slouched in a chair, his long legs sprawled across the íloor.
I glanced írom one man to the other. Creasy`s lips were set in a narrow line. Perhaps I could di·ert the two
men írom their argument. I take it we are here to disco·er who murdered the dancing master·`
\e know who is the murderer, Cousin letty. It`s more a matter oí pre·enting the Mather name írom being
dragged through the mud by this ·ile creature... this ·iper... this toad!` In his outburst Cotton Mather`s head
jerked and the periwig slid askew. le raised both hands to adjust it, taking some care. le went on: And the
good name oí all the ministers oí Christ in Boston must be protected as well. \e are all implicated by this
disgrace. Do you know what that monster did·` 1he red cheeks grew mottled white.
Beíore I could inquire Cousin Cotton rushed on. le had the eíírontery to drop a pamphlet by the body!
My íather`s pamphlet! By the body!` llecks oí íoam gathered at the corner oí his mouth. My íather`s íamed
pamphlet, An Arrow Against Proíane and Promiscuous Dancing, íound next to the body! Now the Mather name
is connected to a íoul murder! 1he good Mather name, brought to these shores by my grandíather, the great
Richard Mather, and illuminated by his son, my own íather, Increase Mather oí Second Church. low dare
Joyliííe destroy our good name with his jealousy, the lowly worm! 1he ·iper we nourished in our bosoms.... Oh,
the words oí his mouth were as smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart!` Cousin Cotton threw up his hands in
Calm yourselí, Cousin.` I looked o·er at my companion íor assistance but he maintained a stubborn
silence. Creasy·` I said, prompting him to speak. le scowled at me.
I don`t belie·e Jacob Joyliííe murdered that man.` Creasy sprawled íurther in his seat.
At my raised brows he went on. `Just because he íound the body doesn`t mean he did the deed. Jacob
Joyliííe is innocent oí murder. le said he`d argued with Perkney, not that he killed the man. Intemperate words
--- that`s what Joyliííe said he had, intemperate words.` Creasy emphasized the latter phrase.
\es, well, to stab a man to death is intemperate, dear cousin, and to lea·e a copy oí An Arrow Against
Proíane and Promiscuous Dancing Drawn írom the Qui·er oí the Minister oí Christ in Boston next to the body
to justiíy his act is calumny and libel!` Cousin Cotton leaned o·er the desk as he argued with Creasy.
Creasy pushed his shoulder back against the chair until he leaned in a perilous angle on two chair legs.
Joyliííe says he returned to Perkney`s rooms to apologize. le was so upset upon íinding Perkney`s body that he
lost all coherence. Poor Joyliííe was in shock, Cousin.`
Oh, oí course... poor Joyliííe. Standing there with a bloody sword in his hand means nothing, I suppose.`
Cotton Mather threw a íiery glance at his cousin.
It means Joyliííe tried to help the man by pulling that obscene thing out oí the man`s guts. I daresay I
would ha·e done the same,` Creasy said. It was a natural reaction.`
An unnatural act, rather, when the ·iper put it in there in the íirst place.` Mather spread his shapely hands
upon the desktop. Did he cry out· Did he call íor help· Did he run íor the constable· 1hose are natural
reactions, dear cousin, and he did none oí them. I am told on excellent authority that he did none oí those
things. le stood o·er the ·ictim with the bloody implement in his hands, his ·ictim`s blood dripping all o·er the
íloor, and he made no mo·e until he was dragged írom the scene oí his íoul deed. I was told this by none other
than Constable Phillymort himselí.` Cotton Mather leaned back in triumph.
1hat íool, Phillymort!` Creasy spat out the name like a curse. Phillymort would arrest his own mother ií
she baked a pie on the Sabbath.`
I íelt I should inter·ene, as a disinterested party. All Boston talked oí the death oí the dancing master, but I`d
been enmeshed in mercantile aííairs. Not until I recei·ed the note írom Cousin Cotton Mather biding me to his
home had I e·en thought about the murder.
I addressed the red-íaced gentleman at the desk. I trust you ha·e no objection to our making a íew discreet
inquiries, Cousin Cotton· Aíter all, ií we - Creasy and I - disco·er that someone else had a reason íor killing the
dancing master, it would help clear the Mather name oí any in·ol·ement. Not that I think the Mather name is
tarnished in any way. \hy... how could it be·` I played to my cousin`s particular ·anity here. My dear cousin, I
know you to be oí such a sensiti·e nature that his matter causes you great grieí. I applaud your eííorts to keep
the name oí your íoreíathers íree oí blemish and I assure you, your own cousin Creasy and I shall do our utmost
to assist you in that endea·or.` I íilled my ·oice with sympathy. A little sympathy goes a long way with a man.
Cotton Mather sat back in his chair and groaned aloud. Ah, letty - how sweet is the understanding oí a
woman`s mind! \ou do know my upset when the íamily name is concerned.`
I nodded, taking care to keep my expression serious. I ignored the íace that Creasy made at me, wrinkling up
his nose and his eyes in distaste.
Cousin Cotton went on: 1here are e·il people in this to town who would be only too happy to stomp the
Mather name in the mud. Great men ha·e enemies, Cousin letty, and while I am only a tiny gnat, my íather is a
giant among men. My little abilities are as a seedling beneath the shade oí a mighty oak. Such is Increase Mather
oí Boston. lis good name must be protected írom the rabble. Oh, threw me into the mud and let mine enemies
trample upon me, dear cousin, I care not! Only sa·e my íather`s good name, I beseech you!` le sat up straight,
clasping his hands to his chest.
low could I deny this appeal· A return oí Cotton`s bouts oí ner·es would mean a dreadíul time íor my
gentle cousin Abigail. Mather`s íits oí weeping prostrate in the dust upset dear Abigail no end, especially since
my cousin keeps her home as neat and ordered as a Sunday sermon. 1here was not one speck oí dust to be
íound upon her íloors. She would ha·e to send out íor some. Rather than put the sweet soul through such an
ordeal, I acquiesced.
I rose írom my seat and crossed the room, holding out my hand in íealty. Cotton grabbed it as ií he sinking
in the quicksand oí the bogs. Cousin Cotton, you may rely upon me - and upon your cousin Creasy, as you
well know in your heart. Aíter all, he is named íor your íather and cares íor that name as you do. Come Creasy.`
I turned to that gentleman. Let`s go to Mister \illard. I understand the accused is under house arrest there·`
1hat is all he is at the moment - the accused.` Creasy shot a stern look at Cotton Mather.
Mather ignored his cousin but he blessed me with a Saintly smile. \es, dear cousin letty, do you go and
accost the miscreant. I knew I could count upon you to uphold the íamily honor.` 1his was a parting barb
directed at Creasy.
I grabbed Creasy`s arm and hauled him out oí the door beíore he could react.
01/2(% 3,'4*(*56 7 8*(+/% 9!*
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