Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Help Those Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

As I'm sure many of you are aware of, Hurricane Sandy came tearing through the northeastern United States causing rampant flooding and wide-spread power-outages from New Jersey and New York all the way to Cleveland, Ohio and southwards into West Virginia where they received several feet of snow. This storm has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and millions are still without power, and will likely to be without power for several weeks.

One such person in those millions without power is our Wednesday author, Sarah Aisling. She and her family are fine, but they are without power for the foreseeable future.

Please help those that need it the most right now and donate to the American Red Cross. Even the smallest donation will help those who lost everything to those that just need a little help.

There are many ways to donate, which ever is the most convenient for you. Remember, it's not the amount that you donate, just that you do. Many areas have been declared as a National Disaster Area, which will help, but the American Red Cross will get much needed supplies to the people that need it now.

American Red Cross
Online Donations
Texting Donations
Phone or Email Donations

Thank you for your time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

J M Blackman Week 19: “Caste” in The Perfect Role

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: “Caste” in The Perfect Role

She had never considered herself easy to define. She wasn’t the smart woman, the beautiful one; she wasn’t terribly driven or notably lazy. And yet, despite the ambiguity of her nature, she was effortlessly put into a class—one that did not accept artists.

That was too bad, because she was an artist.

She loved music. Not just enjoyed it, but breathed it, ate it, felt it in her fingertips, could taste it in her mouth. So, she went to college for music; there was an artistry to music that caused her to bloom, to ignore the cheap fabric encasing her, the city smog that filled her block. She painstakingly drew each note, a calligraphist as well as a composer, a painter of shapes and noises. Yes, she conceptualized the hymn of her childhood spent with a bowed head. And finally looked up through the drying pages of music to find...herself. And then, her parents disowned her.

It was worth it. She got a job to survive and was hungry most days, at least for food. But her soul was nourished and the rumbling in her belly only punctuated the lilting music of her budding adulthood.

But the physical hunger led to the gaunt face that caught a photographer’s attention.She refused this attention based on how her parents would...

Well, she remembered she’d already been disowned and found herself in front of a camera, unsmiling.

Her eventual-agent told her to show her more teeth, to “fake it till she made it.” She refused. And she didn’t quite make it (which her family managed to contact her to point out); but she did make a small name for herself, enough to be asked to join a group of like-minded people. A symphony orchestra.

And to finally be cast into the perfect role.


J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacher, author rep'd by Gina Panettieri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Jen DeSantis Week 19: To Boldly Go...

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 1

Title: To Boldly Go...

“The fuck is that?” Minner asked, the sweep of his hand encompassing the large screen in front of our eyes which displayed our current location.

“Look like … frozen grass to me,” Shelly said, her head cocked to the side in thought.

“Freaking huge grass,” Minner added, stepping forward. “Is the ship’s camera magnifying, Captain?”

I ran my fingers lightly over the control panel, my eyes searching the landscape in front of me for some clue about what I was seeing. “It doesn’t appear that way.”

“So our ship is roughly the size of a titmouse in a field of frozen grass,” Minner stated, “while we are the size of ants.”

“I think that sums it up succinctly,” I replied quietly.

Several of the crew members murmured curses under their breath, quietly looking around our defunct ship for an exit strategy that wouldn’t come.

“Look,” Shelly whispered, pointing a shaking finger at the screen where something large was cresting the hill in front of our ship.

Clearly the grass wasn’t the only thing that was oversize on this foreign planet.


Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author and host of the #FridayPictureShow. She lives near Philly with her family. In her spare time is an aspiring ninja.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jeffrey Hollar Week 18: Wonderland’s Call

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Jeffrey Hollar’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Wonderland’s Call

Alyse had just been heading out to the corner coffee shop for a relaxing latte and some time to read the paper when she found the envelope on her doorstep.

It was a singularly unremarkable thing really, a pale manila color and not especially large. She picked it up and, upon reading the front of it, could not stifle an agonized yelp. It was addressed to “Alice of the Looking Glass” and had no return address whatsoever.

After all the years, after thinking that hellish time was only a sickening memory, they had found her. She supposed she’d been deluding herself they would ever stop looking for her but, until today, she’d genuinely believed herself to be free of them. Slamming the door closed, she triple locked it before turning her attention to the envelope. Tearing it open, she found a single page of thick vellum and two of the magical cards that were the Wonderland equivalent of photographs.

Tears streamed from her eyes as she realized the first was that dear old curmudgeon, Caterpillar. He had a, decidedly, smug and condescending manner about him but had supplied Alyse with invaluable intelligence enabling her escape. The image showed him on his back, his numerous legs sticking straight up into the air. His peculiar face bore an expression of pain and terror. Belatedly, she noticed his beloved hookah had been stuffed into an orifice quite different than the one he had traditionally preferred.

The image slid from her numb grasp onto the table and she steeled herself for what the second might show her. The tears, if possible, stung her eyes even more forcefully than before. It showed the Tweedle Brothers in a less than favorable way. Their corpulent bodies were covered in blood and, though they must have put up one hell of a fight judging from the cuts and slashes in their flesh, they were also, quite obviously, dead.

They lay atop each other in a travesty of a hug, having been impaled and staked together by what Alyse recognized as one of the spears carried by the Queen’s brutal guards.

Her heart ached recalling the two capering about and laughing. They had provided her with protection, guidance and as much assistance as their limited faculties allowed. Whatever they might have done, they certainly did not deserve to die in such a grisly and demeaning manner.

A cold rage began to build in her heart and Alyse turned her attention to the enclosed note. It was short and very directly to the point.

“This is the fate suffered by those who would conspire against the Monarchy. Unless you wish the deaths of more upon your conscience, you will surrender yourself to the royal agents forthwith. Dawson’s Pier…today…noon.” The note bore no signature, merely a stylized caricature of a rabbit’s head….the mark of the Queen’s covert operatives, the White Rabbits.

Alyse sat to contemplate her options. While she no intention whatsoever of surrendering herself to the minions of Wonderland’s psychotic ruler, she could never permit more of her acquaintances…her…friends to die for her actions of the past.

She changed into sturdy jeans and a comfortable knit top. She wanted comfort as well as mobility for what might well be an extended trip. Pulling on her heavy leather engineer boots, she knelt down and pulled the carved wooden box out from beneath her bed. She’d hoped to never have need of its contents but Cheshire had insisted she take it before she left Wonderland behind. As always, the wily feline had seemed to know more than he was letting on and Alyse had reluctantly taken it.

It was a pistol, of sorts, relying on magical energies rather than technology for its efficacy. It seemed to her like some toy store mock-up of a spaceman’s ray gun but she had no doubt of the very really lethal potential it promised. She had, to appease Cheshire, aimed it at a tree and depressed the trigger, watching the tree completely obliterated in the blink of an eye. She would use it on the damned White Rabbits before allowing them to take her back.

Checking her watch, she knew she’d have to hurry if she was going to get to the Pier and scope out the area before the scheduled meet. She concealed the gun beneath her striped blouse and drove as quickly as possible to the meet.

She sighed as she parked and got her first look at Dawson’s Pier in some time. Frustration boiled up in her as she realized the Rabbits couldn’t have chosen a better location. The pier was awash in a seemingly endless number of people, all enjoying its attractions and the warm fall day. She knew there was a very real potential for many of them to come to harm if she wound up having to resort to force to escape. Well, there was naught she could do but try to recon the area as thoroughly possible and get the drop on her pursuers before they could react.

Wandering about, she tried to appear just another tourist while scanning the crowds for anything untoward. There! Leaning against the chipped-paint support of a railing was the White Rabbit operative.

She had adopted the Seeming of a young girl, complete with a striped sundress and black patent leather shoes. Atop her shoulders was, what most would assume, a face concealed by an elaborate mask resembling a white rabbit. Only by exercising long-forgotten powers of perception was Alyse able to discern that what appeared to be a mask was, in fact, the creature’s true face.

Sliding into a secluded spot near the shops, she watched for what seemed an eternity before detecting no other Rabbit agents. Convinced she’d not been spotted, she decided her only choice lay in “neutralizing” the Wonderland resident and then leaving town to try and lose herself somewhere far, far away from here.

Adopting a classic shooter’s stance, she aimed the fantastical weapon at the furry white head of the Rabbit. Exhaling to calm herself, she was about to pull the trigger, when the agent raised an arm and saluted her with mock respect. Damn! She’d been spotted after all!

Well aware of the uncanny speed and reflexes of the Queen’s magical spies, she fired anyway, hoping for a lucky hit. The creature dodged with casual ease and Alyse swore under her breath as she realized she had lost the initiative and dared not fire again lest bystanders be placed in danger.

The Rabbit stopped, well-shielded by the crowds, and reached into a pocket of her dress for something. Alyse feared some sort of weapon, but realized it was, in fact, what appeared to those around her to be an immense and elaborate pocket watch.

Alyse knew all too well it was a dimensional shift device. The Rabbit was fleeing back to the safety of Wonderland. It offered her a final salute before activating the device, waiting for the portal to coalesce. Realizing she had no reason to do so but unwilling to retreat, she charged directly toward the scintillating circle of energy. As the Rabbit passed through, Alyse made a frantic dive forward. Fate smiled upon her at that moment and her boots vanished into the maelstrom a mere split second before the portal snapped close, leaving no trace of her or the agent for the hastily-summoned law enforcement officers to find.


Jeffrey Hollar is half Klingon, half Ferengi, visiting Earth in an attempt to negotiate a merger. He is currently working on a novella and a collection of zombie stories with his wife, Lisa McCourt Hollar. Jeff writes almost daily for his blog, The Latinum Vault, found at


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cara Michaels Week 18: The Reds

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Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 1

Title: The Reds

“Saints be,” Old Gertrude said from her stall of bolted fabrics and hand sewn quilts. She bumped hard into her table, nearly toppling the simple structure. “The Reds are coming.”

I glanced up from where I finished laying out my wares. More cheap bits of metal and paste than anything else, I still made a decent living selling the pretties to the ladies and girls. They appreciated a bit of shine to brighten up an otherwise dull, dreary life.

For me, the Sullivan sisters—or the Reds, as the superstitious lot around me called them—provided all the shine I needed. The redheaded trio rarely came to town, maybe one market day each month. Towing baskets of dried herbs and flowers, they traded their medicinals, seasonings and incense for grains, fruits, and dried meats.

Why did they catch the eye so? Their beauty alone made them easy targets. People always suspected beautiful women of dark doings. Their cleanliness further marked them as different, from shining hair, to white teeth, to pristine clothes, they added startling color to a landscape dominated by dust, mud, grass, and shit. Above all though, their near scandalous clothes and frank manners set them apart. They didn’t come from our land and people could see as much.

Strangers from a strange land.

I dreamt of lands, entire worlds even, beyond this one. Peoples and places who knew of more than I could imagine. I would give anything to know the world as the Sullivans did.

Old Gertrude crossed herself. Narrow minded crone. As though the girls knew anything about evil beyond what we gave them. They’d never been less than kind and polite during their rare visits.

The eldest of the three, Scarlet, noticed Gertie’s movement and winced. Her flat mouth had forgotten happiness somewhere along the road of life. I supposed she knew too much of cruelty and the vagaries of Fate. God knew, she hadn’t been taught otherwise in these parts. Ginger, the middle sister, she kept to herself more, content to hide in the shadows and smoke. Youngest Ruby had a sweetness about her, something soft and innocent to tempt a lad to dream.

She favored me with a gentle smile and I didn’t deny my dreaming.

The girls made their way to me.

“Good morning, Aidan,” Scarlet said, echoed by her sisters. Ruby’s smile grew as they approached.

“Morning to you, Scarlet,” I replied. “Ginger. Ruby.” I lingered over Ruby’s name, my voice warmer than necessary. “How can I help you today?”

“I’d like something today, Aidan,” Ruby said. She wore a short, flowing dress of ivory just reaching her stocking covered knees. I kept my eyes respectfully above the exposed length of her slim legs. A sleeved shawl of fine, white knit covered her arms. She drew a cachet of herbs from her basket. “I made this for you.”

“Alfalfa, basil…”

“Alfalfa for prosperity, basil is protection against evil.” She seemed nervous, as though I might turn down her offering. “The amber beads are protection from harm, but bring success and prosperity as well.”

“Thank you, Ruby,” I said. “This is quite a gift.” I gestured to my wares. “Take your pick.”

Her misty, blue-green eyes lit up with excitement. She pored over my trinkets, settling on the one thing I hadn’t made. She held out a ring, a plain band of gold smoother than anything I could craft.

Something from another world, like her.

“This?” Her tongue darted out to lick her lips. “May I have this?”

“Of course.” I couldn’t renege on my offer now, though the ring’s sale might feed me for a year. I wanted to ask if she knew the ring, or the world that could fashion it.

“Where did you find it?” she asked.

Her tone didn’t suggest any hidden meaning to her words.

“By the old mill,” I said. “A few years back. Not long before you first came here.”

Ruby smiled. “It looks like our mother’s. She gave it to me just before—”

Scarlet cleared her throat.

“Before we came here,” Ruby finished.

“Then it’s obvious you were meant to find this,” I said.

To my surprise she caught my hand and placed the ring in my palm, closing my fingers around it.

“Thank you,” she said. “I knew you were different.”

The trio headed on to the next stall.

“Different? But—you didn’t take it.”

My words fell on my wares and the small bag of herbs Ruby had left behind. The Sullivans went about their business, and I had no choice but to go about mine.

The day passed, busier than usual, with the milder weather of spring warming the day. I had no time to think on Ruby’s curious behavior. As the sun began to set, I packed up the unsold items. My sights fell upon the cachet, forgotten in the hustle of the day.

“Strange,” Old Gertrude said. “She gave you something but took nothing in return. That’s no kind of business.”

“She isn’t evil, Gertie,” I said.

The woman nodded. “But she is different. Not like us.”

“Not like us, no.”

I opened the bag, inhaling the earthy scents. I almost missed the scroll of paper wound tight and nestled among the dried plants and amber. I drew out the missive, closing the bag and tucking it in the pouch at my hip. Unfurled, I saw the paper had been inked in painstakingly neat letters.

My heart stumbled.

I couldn’t read.

Who could I ask who wouldn’t refuse? Or who wouldn’t cry ‘witch’ or some nonsense over what was written here?

“Here, boy.” Gertie held out her hand.

I reflexively pulled my hand in close to my body.

“Gel’s taken a shine to you, Aidan,” she said. “Best see what she’s about.”

She pried the paper from my hands and rolled it open. Her brown eyes darted left and right.

“Doesn’t write fancy like the monks,” she said. “They ought to take a lesson and make words easier for a body to make sense of.”

“What does it say?”

“I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose.”

“Gertie. What does it say?”

“It says to go find your fate, boy.” She tossed the paper back to me. “At the old mill. You know the place?”

“I do.” No coincidence I’d found a ring reminiscent of Ruby’s mother’s there, then. Perhaps I’d been the one meant to find it.

She nodded. “Best pack up, then. And take the ring with you.”

“The note says all that?”

“You’re not much like us, either. Always been a strange one.” Gertie’s tight smile revealed her uncertainty. She handed me the note. “It says she’ll be waiting for you. Do you need more?”

My fingers clenched tight around the ring.

“Get on, then,” she said. “Find your place. Got enough strange folk in this town without inviting them to stay.”

I headed out of the village.

I didn’t look back.


Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.


Friday, October 26, 2012

M L Gammella Week 18: Another When Part 2 - Jump

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M L Gammella’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Another When Part 2 - Jump

I approached the time point with the trepidation of a sailor in the middle of a dense fog. There was no clear sight ahead, no way of knowing that this was the proper course, just the intuition that I was doing the right thing.

I hoped I was doing the right thing.

Would Margaret understand? Would I frighten her? If I was able to stop the actions that caused her death, wouldn't that be enough? I could return to my time and she'd be there with me, like she was supposed to be before she was so cruelly taken from me.

The way she looked, laying there like she was asleep, nearly unblemished except ... that. The blood-stained bath mat from our home ... so much blood. I shuddered, the memories as fresh as they were the day it happened.

Per the guidance in the book, I dressed in vintage clothing --my own that I never got rid of-- and had a wad of period appropriate paper currency shoved in an old leather wallet. In the breast pocket of my jacket, I carried Margaret's picture with me.

Finding the money had been more difficult than I realized it would've been. The world had done away with paper currency about a decade and a half ago and transferred everything to electronic credits. It was supposed to be easier to create a world economy that way. I still missed the feeling of a stack of bills in my wallet, another outdated item.

It took a few weeks, but I found a antiquities collector who had a large amount of the old paper currency. He said he bought it from a friend within the government when all of the known currency was on it's way to be destroyed. I paid quite a bit for the worthless paper but it would be the only way I'd be able to do anything when I went through the time point.

I was two steps away from the time point. To anyone else, there was nothing special about the cement sidewalk. Really, there wasn't anything special about it at all. It was what you couldn't see that was special. This was where the timelines merged. I had to walk through at just the right time to jump through time.

The Philosophy of Time Travel didn't tell me how to make the device to see the convergence of timelines, but further research had. Any kind of information was available if you had the credits to pay for it. The device I held in my hand only took a week to put together. It didn't look like much, but it worked, or at least appeared to work. I wasn't really sure how it knew that this was where the specific time line I needed merged with present day, but I honestly didn't care.

I had nothing to lose. Men that have nothing to lose do not ask why ... they just do what is necessary to win.

Holding the delicate device carefully in my hand, I closed my eyes, took a deep breathe and stepped forward. The air shimmered around me, almost like feathers ghosting along my skin. Sound was different, muffled and scattered.

I took another step. The device beeped and the air and sound returned to normal.

I opened my eyes.


M L Gammella lives in Ohio with her husband and their three pets. She is currently working on her first novel, a paranormal suspense based in Maine. Please follow her at @MLGammella and visit her website at Onward to the Written Word.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sydney Logan Week 18: Inspiration

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Sydney Logan’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Inspiration

When I saw this picture, my first thought was of the song titled “What the Water Gave Me” by Florence + the Machine.

I’ve always loved music, and because I’m a writer, I love lyrics. I love when lyrics twist and bend, and when words that have no business rhyming with each other somehow rhyme (Eminem is a master at this). I especially love word play—when lyrics say one thing but really mean something else.

That’s why I love this Florence song.

When I bought the CD, I scanned the titles. “What the Water Gave Me” caught my eye because Florence has a knack for word play, and I wondered what the title meant. So I listened to the song, searched the lyrics online, and then listened again.

“Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow
Pockets full of stones”

Pretty, right? Especially with Florence’s angelic, ethereal voice.

Because I’m a crazy person when it comes to understanding lyrics, I did some research on the true meaning of the song. According to the singer, she views water as “overwhelming” in all its forms.

It can flow peacefully. It can roar loudly.

It can give life. It can take it away.

As a writer, I love to write about water, too. My debut novel featured a waterfall, and a pond is important in my second book. I’ve always loved water . . . rivers, especially. Like the one in this picture. I live in the country, and this picture is a perfect example of the river that flows near our house.

We find inspiration in the craziest of places. People. Places. Things. Ideas. For instance, the “pocket full of stones” in the song is in reference to writer Virginia Woolf who, in 1941, filled her coat pockets with rocks before drowning herself. The title of the song is taken from Frida Kahlo’s painting of the same name which was painted in 1938. Decades later, these two seemingly unconnected women inspired Florence to write a song, which just proves that what you do today can influence the future.

Be inspiring.

Be inspired.


Sydney Logan recently released her debut novel, Lessons Learned. She lives in Tennessee with her wonderful husband and their very spoiled cat. Please visit her website at


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kimberly Gould Week 18: Kansas

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Kansas

“We aren’t in Kansas anymore,” Ford joked as he pulled up to the outdoor set.

“Ha, ha,” Lisa replied in a deadpan. They were, in fact, just entering Kansas. The abandoned track was practically on the state line. She was already in costume with makeup on. She noticed the waving grass and worried about her hair. It was going to be one of those days.

“Ford, tell them I’m ready, but I’ll stay in here until they are.”

“You got it.” He opened the door and closed it again behind him. Lisa looked up at the beautiful farmhouse that wasn’t being included in the shots, but made a perfect ‘on location’ prep area. She would retire there after the first takes to have hair and makeup retouched. She was surprised they hadn’t managed to fit it into any of the scenes. It seemed unchanged from when it was built.

The door to the back seat opened and she looked over her shoulder, surprised. The man quickly closed the door and moved to the driver’s seat. “There you are. You’re all set?”

She recognized him now, the man playing her first husband in this film. They’d only had three scenes together so far.

“Yeah,” she said with a smile. “No point in ruining the hair if they aren’t ready.”

“No kidding. Oddly, I don’t have that problem.” He slicked back his silver hair. It must have an entire jar of pomade holding it in place.

“I guess not!” she agreed, laughing. At least someone got a perk from filming a period piece. She loved getting to play a starlet. It seemed, appropriate. Her life was so different from Diana Dors’ that it was hard to believe they had anything in common. And yet, each was listed among the most famous women of the cinema in her time. When her agent had pitched the biopic to her, she’d balked, thinking she didn’t need more exposure as a pinup girl. After reading the script, however, she realized how savvy Diana had been, how intelligent she was portrayed.

A knock on the window was followed by it opening. “Ready when you are,” the aide said. Brad, playing Dennis, exited first. Once she saw him in position, she got out, her dress immediately swirling around her legs. She tried to hold it in place.

The director yelled out. “No! That’s working perfectly, Lisa. Action!”

Lisa walked toward the car parked on the tracks, wondering if maybe it was time for a career change.


Kimberly Gould is the author of Cargon: Honour and Privilege and the upcoming Thickness of Blood. She can be found most places as Kimmydonn, including


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Samantha Lee Week 18: Ghosts and Badgers

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Ghosts and Badgers

In my opinion, a man’s willingness to spend hours standing in a graveyard awaiting a phenomenon impossible to witness is directly proportional to the depth of his feelings for the necromancer who requests he do so. Case and point: I loved Savannah – she was my mate, my wife, my light, my inseparable companion going on two centuries now – ergo I have been stand in this dark, damp graveyard going on three hours now whilst she alternates between pacing back and forth and ducking behind the grave markers, all the while arguing with a spectre only she can see. At present, my darling love is shaking her head and muttering in German as she kneels beside one of the older stones, running one hand along the worn letters carved there.

Suddenly, she pushes to her feet and marches to me, her star speckled, ebony eyes practically glowing with irritation. “I’ve had it,” she declares, switching from the ghost’s German to my own Romanian, “I’ve had enough of that…that…that…badger!

I blink, confused. I reach for her – I am always reaching for her – and tuck a loose strand of her hair behind her ear, my fingers grazing along her cheek as I do so. “Badger?”

She sighs and leans forward, pressing her forehead against my chest. “Have you ever met a badger? They are horrible, grouchy, disagreeable, and ill tempered creatures that would drive even a saint to run screaming in the opposite direction. That is what I am dealing with right now – a badger.”

“So we are here because of a badger’s ghost?”

Savannah pulls back enough to glare at me. “No, he’s a human’s ghost; he just behaves like a badger. An annoying, aggravating, pain in the butt badger who I would very much like to kill if he weren’t already dead.”

This was nothing new. Over the centuries, more than one ghost had turned up with a request, some final act or another that would finally see them laid to rest once and for all. Savannah is a necromancer, the very last of her kind and very powerful, so powerful, in fact, that ghosts are drawn to her, like metal to magnets, moths to flame. There are times, however, when the ghosts are too persistent, their clamouring too intense and, with Savannah’s concentration already a myriad of cracks, she is not always able to cope.

Our current predicament is proactive; it is an attempt to keep Savannah from breaking. At least this time. Her badger came to her a month ago, alternating between demanding she help him and haranguing her for not helping him, for failing him. Ghosts do not need to sleep, do not need to rest. They can do whatever they wish indefinitely, on and on, relentlessly, mercilessly. And the badger is not the first to have adopted such tactics. Savannah said it was time to teach them a lesson.

“Lumina mea, are you certain of this?” I ask her quietly. “This is…this is not something that can be undone should there be regret later.”

Savannah steps away from me and uses one hand to flick her scarlet curls over one shoulder. “This isn’t something I want to do, Tru. I know better than anyone what this means…what this will cost. Do you have a better idea?”

“Unfortunately, no.”

Savannah sighs. “Then, yes, I’m certain. Will you still help me?”

I snort and roll my eyes. “Please, lumina mea, after all this time need you still ask such things? What do you need me to do?”

She looks down at the nearest grave and shudders. “I will never understand the obsession mortals have with their dead. All of these monuments and shrines they erect in veneration, in memoriam – it’s just plain creepy.”

“They are mortal, love. They know their time in this world is limited and do not have the benefit of our long memories. These graveyards – they are a reminder of what awaits them and a representation of their hope not to be forgotten no matter what ravages time might incite.”

“That was rather poetic of you.”

It is my turn to shrug. “When the mood strikes, as they say.”

Smiling now, she moves away, though no further than the next row of markers. “I need you to be my anchor, Tru. My kitties will come, of course, but they may not be in time. I need you to ensure I don’t slip away before they get here.”

I know all this, but she reminds me anyway. Slowly, she begins to move, pacing along the graves. A low, keening note slips from her lips, filling the night air like the echoes of a bell’s toll. Her power flows out with it, mingling with the mist that tangles and shifts about the graves. She is summoning the soldiers whose skeletons lay in the coffins beneath her feet, summoning them because her badger ghost is their commanding office.

They arrive slowly. They begin as distorted shadows, blurring and unformed, and gradually gain substance and clarity. The soldiers stand before their graves dressed in mud splattered rain gear, their rifles clutched in one hand. They watch Savannah as she moves amongst them, a bright splash of colour in the midst of all their colourless forms. She comes to rest where she began, just in front me with her back pressed against my chest. She runs her hand along my forearm, grounding herself in the feel of me, and clutches my hand in hers when she comes to it.

“Are you certain?” I murmur again, wanting to give her another chance to change her mind.

She sighs. “Do you have a better idea?” she asks me again.

I do not. I love my mate, know she loves me, know that if I ask, she will not go through with this. I know also that if we do nothing, Savannah will break. Her hold on what sanity remains to her is tenuous at best and the ghosts are like rats constantly gnawing away at her until she finally snaps. She grows more powerful with each passing day, her attraction strengthening right along with the rest of her abilities. I know what she is, I know what I am, and I know what sort of world it is we live in. What everything comes down to is a single choice: what I can live with and what I cannot live without.

I can live with the knowledge of what my mate is capable of.

Savannah is the woman I love. She reminds me each and every day to enjoy life, to have fun, to be the best I can be, regardless of what form that best might take. She sees me for what I am, the light and the dark, the good and the bad, the demon and the man, and would not change a thing. She makes me chocolate chip cookies whenever it rains because she knows that rain makes me sad and cookies makes me happy. She wears my shirts when we are at home because I once commented how much I love to see her in them. She does and says a hundred other little things each and every day just to make me happy, just because she loves me and because of her, for the first time in forever, I feel…whole.

I cannot live without my mate.

“Is he watching?” I ask.

She nods. “He’s smiling. He thinks I’m doing what he wants.”

“Go ahead, lumina mea,” I murmur, pressing a kiss to her hair.

Immortal or mortal, young or old, we all hold life – our own if no one else’s – as being sacred. We live as if there are no tomorrows, greedily taking in one experience after another and ruthlessly protecting that which we believe to be ours. Savannah is a necromancer; better than anyone she understands death, understands the beginnings hidden in its ending. She knows what she is about to do and understands its consequences, its costs. This is one of those merciless acts of cruelty and viciousness perpetrated against the innocent as a lesson for the guilty. It is one of those cold, heartless atrocities the history books abhor but that history repeats again and again. It is ruthless and unfair and harsh, but it is necessary. The ghosts need to know there are consequences to harassing my mate, just as moths must learn the danger of the flame or perish.

We have a choice, I know this, but the alternative is unacceptable.

Savannah acts, unleashing her power against the innocent soldiers, obliterating their essence, robbing them of their afterlife and ending their cycles of reincarnation. In a single blinding moment they are ended and gone forever.

“I can hear them scream,” she whispers and I notice the tears rolling down her cheeks. “It hurts them, you know, like…like burning them alive until not even ash remains.”

“Is your badger here?” I ask quietly. I wrap my arms loosely around her waist and pull her closer to me, comforting her as best I can despite my body’s lack of heat.

She stares across the graveyard at something I cannot see and nods. “He is. He…he can’t believe what I’ve done, doesn’t believe I’ve actually done it.”

“Have the others come?”

“Yes. Yes, they came. I…I’ll finish this now and…and then…”

“And then we will go home,” I assure her.

“Home,” she says the word like a promise, like a vow, clinging to it like a shred of hope in a sea of misery. I understand.

She unleashes her power once more, though not as much now, only enough to do away with her badger and leave her lesson carved in the trunk of a massive oak at the graveyard’s centre.

Savannah is turned around and hugging me, her face buried in my chest, her arms holding me tight as though she fears I will disappear if she does not keep hold of me. I squeeze her back in reassurance, gently stroking one hand up and down along her spine. Her ghosts always make her doubt reality, doubt my presence and so I strive to ground her in my touch, to show her as best I can that I am real, that what she feels is real.

“I love you, Tru,” she tells me.

I love her too and tell her so. And then I take her home, neither of us bothering to glance back. There is no point for me; I cannot see the ghosts, cannot know what it is they are doing. All I would see is the lesson carved into the tree and there is no need for me to see it; I know already what it says. A word, a single word, and that is all: Learn.

They will not, but the lesson stands. Class dismissed.


You can read my blog - Calliope's Domain - over at


Monday, October 22, 2012

Jen DeSantis Week 18: Panic

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 2

Title: Panic

“It’s all in my head.”

Oh, really?

“It has to be.”

I look down at the string in my hand. Limp, it lays there. It is real. My hand is real. But somewhere up around the middle, something went wrong with the string. It moves. It undulates. And it isn’t the wind.

The air around me is still like I’m stuck in the center of a glass cage. In a vacuum. But the string … it moves.

Sure it does, Frankie.

And who the fuck keeps talking to me?

I won’t look up. I can’t. I can hear the thing at the end of the string reaching and moving in the stagnant air. Its slimy tentacles slap wetly against each other, safely above my head.

Or is it safe?

“Shut up.”

My voice shakes and I hate myself a little for that. This is all in my head. All of it.

“It’s all in my head.”

My voice is steady again, but the thing moves sickly above me and I feel the air ripple over me.

Maybe. The voice, I finally recognize, is my own. That doesn’t make it any safer. And you know that, dontcha Frankie?

I whimper as I feel the thing’s longest tentacle brush my hair. I feel the familiar panic grip my chest as I fight to break out of that glass cage, that vacuum of insanity. I reach out my hand, but no one is there. And the panic, it closes in again.


Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author and host of the #FridayPictureShow. She lives near Philly with her family. In her spare time is an aspiring ninja.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ruth Long Week 17: In The Family Way

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: In The Famly Way

Last patient of the day. He glanced at the chart on the door and smiled. One of his favorites. But the smile faded when he entered the room.

Leaning against the counter, he said, “Good afternoon. Forgive me while I get my bearings. You’re not who I expected to see.”

She smiled, the warmth of it reaching her brown eyes. “Lindsay got hung up at the school and asked me to bring the baby for his follow-up.”

He was quiet a moment, taking her in. Few traces showed of the years that had gone by. Trim. Vivacious. Confident. Casually dressed. Lovely as ever. “So, you’re the mother-in-law?”

Her laugh was infectious. “I try to keep the fire-breathing to a minimum.”

He glances at the children. “I should have known they were yours. They have your eyes. Just didn’t know your married name.”

“Well, I’m back to my maiden name now.”

He wanted to grab hold of that like a kid on Christmas morning, but let it go. “So, what’s it like, being a grandmother?”

“Wonderful. If I’d known just how wonderful, I’d have skipped parenting and gone straight to grand-parenting. Don’t you agree?”

He lifted the baby off the couch. “Wouldn’t know. Don’t have children of my own.”

“Oh but - ”Her hands stretch towards him. “I’m sorry.”

“Me too. Sort of puts a blight on my credentials as a pediatrician, doesn’t it?!”

She shook her head. “Not necessarily.”

“Come on. It’s like a car salesman who rides a bike. But it’s not like I planned it that way. I wanted the job and the kids and the picket fence. Just didn’t pan out.”

Why was he telling her? Wasn’t like she’d opened the door on the conversation. Must be more tired than he’d thought. Long week. Busy schedule. Boring life.

She sat beside the toddler and stroked her glossy curls. “Trust me, Dr. Jacobson, I know all about plans going awry.”

He finished checking the baby’s ears. “All clear. He’s good as new.”

“So, that’s it? We’re free to go?”


“Ben, maybe a lifetime ago, things didn’t come together. But I’m not going to leave this office without taking a chance. So, would you like to get a cup of coffee sometime?”

He looks at the little faces a long moment before lifting his eyes to hers. “Marian Caldwell, I’d like so much more than a cup of coffee but that’s an awful good place to start.”


A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, story-telling in my passion. If you enjoyed reading today's story, please consider checking out my blog, joining my creative community or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cara Michaels Week 17: Miss Me, -Kait Part 12

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Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 1

Title: Miss Me, Kait

Part Twelve: Climbing

Hannah and Chad descended from the truck and somehow got me and Riley into the backseat. Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven serenaded the push-me-pull-you process.

“One of us is going to be climbing that damn stairway if we don’t get a move on,” Riley said. She practically yanked my t-shirt over my head before we settled on the bench seat.

“Ouch, babe. Damn it.” I hissed as cotton pulled away from torn flesh. “I’ve been shot, remember?”

“And I have a broken ankle, probably a concussion, cuts, bruises, and I don’t even know what else.”

The laundry list made me pale. She folded up the shirt into a pad and held it to my shoulder.

“Keep pressure on it. It’s still bleeding.” She swore rapidly under her breath. “But you’re not dying, got it? I’ve had enough of the dead.”

I wrapped my arms around her as best I could. She shifted to hold on to me without destroying my shoulder.

“No dying,” I said. “You’re the boss.

“We need to get out of here, Chad” she said. “Before they come looking for us.”

Chad didn’t need a second warning. He turned the truck around and headed out of the woods. We burst out onto the pavement. Hannah had the truck’s CB in hand, giving updates to the police.

I touched the cut along Riley’s forehead. It would scar, no doubt. She winced, but didn’t pull away.

“How’s your vision?” I asked.

“A little wonky, but good enough to see you.”

“Where am I heading?”

It took a minute to get our position relative to my station. I gave Chad directions and he floored the pedal.

“There’s gonna be all grades of hell to pay for this mess,” I said for Riley’s ears only. “You never should have come after me.”

“Right, right,” she said. “Next time, I’ll let the APB find you.” She patted my thigh. “They didn’t, by the way. In case you missed that part.”

I exhaled a choppy breath.

“No, I caught it.”

“I’ll help you fill out the paperwork,” she said. “Promise.”

“Um, guys?” Hannah’s voice wobbled. “Is this a bad thing?”

We looked out the windshield as Chad slowed to a stop. A police blockade crossed the otherwise empty road. Not local. I recognized the dark FHP cars, spotted the officers positioned for a very one-sided firefight, and the longer barrels of rifles.

How big did this damn thing get? I mean, the senator wasn’t enough? He had to have state troopers in his pocket, too?

“Turn around,” I said. “Now. Hur—”

The windshield cracked twice. Chad and Hannah slumped in their seats. Riley made a noise halfway between a whimper and a scream, a high keening sound that set my teeth on edge.

The air left me. Riley couldn’t run. Fuck, with only two doors on the truck, we’d be dead before we pushed our way over the seats and past Hannah and Chad to get out.

“Out the back,” Riley said, no longer screaming, but calm. Numb. She took my shirt and tied it around my shoulder. “Go, Adam. It’s your only chance.”

“You said no dying. I’m not leaving you.”

“They’re coming, so don’t dick around.”

Officers walked slowly our way, guns at the ready.

“You’re the only one strong enough,” she said. Her hand cupped my cheek. “It’s all on you to make sure we’re not lost for nothing.”

“Riley, no.” Tears stung my eyes.

“I die now, okay? I know. It sucks. But you have to try, damn it.”

“I can’t just leave you here.”

“Then it’s all in vain,” she said. “Everything we’ve done and been through. All the death and pain… it’s for nothing.” She pressed the zip drive into my hand. “I love you. Always. Now go.”

I pressed my lips to hers, hard and fierce. Then I opened the back slider window and climbed my way through with Riley’s help, all the while praying the staties didn’t open fire before I got moving. I edged over the end of the truck bed, trying not to jar the vehicle. With any luck, they wouldn’t notice until too late.

I ran straight back, as fast as I could, using the truck as a shield. The more distance I got between us, the more chance they’d miss when they shot.

One hundred, two hundred paces.

I didn’t look behind me, just veered left into the thickest brush. Gunfire obliterated any other sound, but I didn’t stop. The ground gave way, and I tumbled down. Soupy mud sucked at my body, slowing me.

I had to keep moving.

Please let it be quick. I prayed as I ran. Prayed she didn’t suffer.

I prayed, and I didn’t believe in God. Or any damned stairway to Heaven.

“You’d better believe.” The shadow of her voice touched my mind.

“Oh, no. Please, no.” My eyes burned with tears I couldn’t let loose.

“We cry when we’re done,” she said.

“Okay,” I said, swiping at my eyes. “Let’s finish this.”

The zip drive tight in my hand, I followed her directions. Away from the following troopers. Toward salvation. Justice.


“I don’t care how high I have to climb to get to you, Carson,” I whispered. “I’m coming for you.”


Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 17: Redemption or Bust - Ain’t No Easy Way

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Redemption or Bust - Ain’t No Easy Way

Part 8

Bacon and coffee.

Two of the most comforting morning smells out there. Doesn't matter if you got locked in a car and set on fire. If you wake up to the smell of bacon and coffee you're doing all right.

Pain cut into that sweet olfactory haze as consciousness made its slow return.

Both of my legs were dead asleep. They were still bent at the knee and my feet were on the floor, just like they were when I lay back to rest my eyes for a second the night before.

I sat up and gave my legs another few seconds of snooze time before I stood and lurched out of the room on feet I couldn't feel for the white hot electric shocks that ran through them with each step.

I bit back the cursing that might have taken some of the edge off because Santo was sacked out on the sofa in the living room. He was on his back and letting the drunk snores rip.

There was a little space left at the end of the sofa and I was tempted but the mingled aromas of bacon and coffee had me by the chin whiskers.

I could hear Evangeline moving around in the kitchen. Then she was talking. I stopped when someone answered her.

It was a male voice, deep and powerful. I squelched some more cursing and was on my way back to grab the Browning when I recognized the voice.

Sheriff Orion P. Jones.

I took a second to collect myself and got going again. The man had a perfect right to be in his own house.

By the time I got close to the kitchen I wasn't walking like Frankenstein's monster anymore and I could hear bits of their conversation.

“That man's gonna have to cooperate with me, Evangeline,” said the sheriff.

“What makes you think he's not?”

The air exploded with a loud sizzle and a fresh gust of bacon smell.

“He's holding something back and before you say anything else you should know that he admitted it to me. Swore it wasn't anything dangerous but I'm beginning to doubt Jake's judgment on danger.”

“I'm sure he has his reasons, Orion.”

“I'm sure he does. That doesn't mean I'm gonna let this situation get out of hand again. You, of all people, remember what my predecessor went through with Reubens.”

She didn't say a word in reply.

“And I'm telling you now, Evangeline, it's not gonna happen again.”

More silence, followed by the noise of a plate moving across the counter.

“I want you to go in the bedroom and get him up and moving.”

“That won't be necessary.”

A chair scraped.

“I don't like to be this way, not with you, Evangeline, but I'm the one who decides what's necessary.”

“All right. All right. Jake? Mind coming in here for a sec?”

Sheriff Jones and I exchanged glances and shrugs as I entered the kitchen and dropped into a chair.

“How long you been standing out there, Jake?” asked the sheriff. He resumed his seat at the table.

I shrugged again and blinked in the bright light.

The canary yellow blinds were open and the sunlight smacked me right in the face.

Evangeline slid a plate of bacon and eggs in front of me. She poured me a cup of coffee and sat down across from me.

“Will you at least let the man eat his breakfast in peace, Orion?”

He didn't answer her but he let me get most of the food down uninterrupted by anything but idle chatter.

I could feel his eyes on me while I ate, taking in the burns and scrapes and cuts on my shoulders and arms.

“If I'd seen all of those,” he said, “I wouldn't have let you refuse those paramedics.”

“It's all good, Sheriff.” I drained my cup in one swig. “I had Santo.”

I polished off my bacon and eggs and sat back.

“Okey, Sheriff,” I began. “Hit me.”

Sheriff Jones looked over at Evangeline.

She didn't move. The sheriff didn't push it.

“You're holding out on me, Jake. Whatever it is I want it. Now.”

I cleared my throat. “What's changed?”

“I'm not at liberty to discuss it.”

“Bullshit. You're top of the food chain. You can discuss anything you want to.”

“You gonna make me arrest you?”

“What's the difference? In a cell or in your cabin I'm sitting around doing nothing when I could be out there figuring it out.”

“I thought you weren't working the case.”

“I didn't start this but I intend to finish it. Quid pro quo, Sheriff. I'll give you what I have but you gotta cut me in.”

“I don't have to do anything, Jake. If-- and that's a big if that's getting bigger by the minute-- I decide to allow you to... assist this investigation it will be on my terms and my timetable. Is that clear?”

Sheriff Jones stared me down.

I stared back.

Evangeline shook her head at the both of us.

All three of us sat there and listened to the clock tick.

Evangeline broke the impasse.

“Jake, how many times do you have to get your head bashed in to realize you need help on this?”

I contemplated the grease on my empty plate.

Sheriff Jones cracked his knuckles.

They had me licked and we all knew it. I couldn't do this on my own. Not out here.

I straightened up in my chair and took Marisa's note out of my pocket. I unfolded it, read it over one more time, and slid it in front of Sheriff Jones.

He held his stare for another second and then looked down at the note.

“Jed Reubens' cabin,” he said. “You already told me about this.”

“Not everything. Just before Reubens shot Rosario she was trying to remind me that I had it.”

He read the note out loud. “Why? What am I missing?”

“That 'M'. At first I assumed Marisa just signed it with the initial. I'm not so sure of that now.”

“There's something there in that cabin,” said Evangeline.

“And you think the 'M' is a hint?” He wasn't buying it.

“You asked me what I was holding back. That's it. I don't know what it means either but Rosario died telling me I had it.”

Sheriff Jones read the note again. And again.

“I tried that, Sheriff. That's all there is, no matter how many times you look.”

His phone rang while he was reading the note yet again.

He checked the number and stood up. “Excuse, me,” he said as he left the kitchen.

We heard the front door close behind him as he went out onto the porch.

I slumped in my chair. The fatigue was back, despite the sack time I racked up the night before.

A bunch of things showed on Evangeline's face as she looked at me. Concern. Exasperation. Affection. Pity.

“You're broken,” she said.

“You think?” I pushed away from the table and wanted to leave the room but her eyes kept my ass in the chair. “Let's see. Since I got out here I've been in three fistfights, in a car wreck-- after the guy I had two of those scraps with got shot in the head, had to shoot another guy, steal a car, and go in for questioning. Then I got abducted by a rogue sheriff's deputy, got worked over twice, witnessed another murder, and got dumped in the trunk of my own car, which-- by the way-- was on fire!”

Evangeline sat up straight in her chair and folded her hands in front of her on the table. A dangerous calm spread over her face.

“I don't mean your body, tough guy.”

I felt like dropping my head down on the table. One good burst of energy and I wasted it on a hissy fit.

“What happened to you, Jake?” She put her hand down on my forearm.

“You really wanna know?”

She kept quiet and waited for me to begin.

“I was on the job. A straight protection job, something I almost never take. The woman came to me, said she was afraid for her and her teenage daughter's safety 'cause of her ex-husband.”

“How long ago was this?”

“Eighteen months. She didn't want to go to the police 'cause the guy was something of a local celebrity. Some rich hotshot with pull everywhere. Figured he'd have the police in his pocket. She was wrong about that but she wasn't thinking real clearly just then. She was in the process of packing up and moving out of state with her daughter but the guy wouldn't leave her alone. So she hired me to shadow her and keep him off of her when he showed up.”

I took a ragged breath and continued to look down at the table.

“After a week of this the ex-husband hated my guts but came around less. Then he stopped coming around at all. We relaxed. Then I got a frantic call. He was back and had a gun on him and was threatening to kill the both of them, mother and daughter.”

“Jesus....” muttered Evangeline.

“Yeah. I called up a guy I knew in the police department, a detective named McGinty. Good guy. Someone I trusted and who had reason to trust me. He busted my chops for not coming to him sooner but he arranged to get a team down to her apartment building and told me to wait for him so we could go over together.”

“But you couldn't wait.”

I didn't say anything for a moment. We could hear Sheriff Jones' voice bleeding through the front door.

“That's right,” I said. “There was something in her voice, panic maybe. I couldn't wait. I beat the cops there and went on up. I didn't have to break in. He'd already kicked in the door and when I got inside he had a gun to the woman's head. He started hollering at me and I started hollering back, all the time trying to edge in for a cleaner shot.”

Evangeline's grip on my arm tightened.

“The situation deteriorated and I knew I was going to have to take the guy out. We kept on jawing while I lined up my shot but he was moving, jerking her around. I hesitated. Two seconds, tops. He used those two seconds to murder his wife and daughter.”

Sheriff Jones walked back into the cabin and went into his office.

“I shot him dead. I don't remember doing it but I must've 'cause when McGinty and a bunch of SWAT guys got there I was standing over the guy's body still squeezing the trigger of my empty gun.”

Evangeline remained silent. Her hand slid down from my forearm and linked up with mine.

“It was not your fault,” she said. She meant it too.

“McGinty said the same thing. So did a bunch of other people. Half of me knows that. The other half talks louder and knows which buttons to push to maximize the guilt.”

Evangeline started to answer but choked it off as Sheriff Jones stepped into the kitchen. She did not let go of my hand.

“Bog Island's going to have to wait,” he said.

“Why? What's going on?”

“They found a body.”

Anger came up quickly. I felt my face go hot. Evangeline gave my hand a little squeeze and then let it go so I could get up.

“I hate to ask, Jake, but I need you to identify her, if you can.”

I nodded and shook off the rage. For the moment. I left the kitchen and went back to the bedroom. I chose a black t-shirt that wouldn't show stains if I bled through on it and pulled it on. I also put on the shoulder rig and slid the Browning into the holster.

Sheriff Jones and Evangeline were avoiding each other's eyes when I got back to the kitchen.

“Let's go,” I said.

Sheriff Jones didn't speak until we were out on the main road.

“Felt like I walked in on something heavy back there, Jake. Anything I need to know?”

I gave him a smile that felt wry to me.

“Don't shit me, Sheriff. You're not good at it.”

He nodded. “I'll take that as a compliment. And for what it's worth, I don't think you were at fault either.”

I didn't say anything but I knew he knew what I meant by it.

He let it go and made time through the county.

“What did you find out?” I asked after a while.

“Rosario Buendia is not-- was not currently associated with the Bureau. Whatever she was up to was on her own hook.”

“You actually got them to talk? I'm impressed.”

“It's amazing what not acting like an asshole can get a man in this world.”

“Every job has the proper tool, I suppose.”

I lost track of the turns but we eventually ended up on a long coastal road. There was no beach along this stretch, just reedy, marshy shore.

“And like I already told you, Vern wasn't on the job either.”

“Yeah. I got that feeling from him just before he bought it.”

“That means I've got two rogue law enforcement types running around my county involved in who knows what either with or against the brother of the biggest criminal these parts have ever known.”

“Had. They're both dead.”

“Don't try and cheer me up, Jake. You're not good at it.”

“Fair enough. How about telling me where the body was found instead?”

Sheriff Jones slowed the cruiser and took her off-road into the reeds.

“Right over here. A local out walking his dog found her half-buried. From what my deputy described it sounds like the guy doing the burying got interrupted.”

The sheriff parked next to another cruiser. The medical examiner's black cargo van was parked down closer to the water.

“Before we go any further I'm gonna remind you. You're here to identify a body. You're a witness, not an investigator. For now. Read me?”

“Loud and clear, Sheriff.”

We got out and walked over the rise.

It was a nice vista. Not as pretty as Bog Island but it wouldn't look out of place on a postcard if you took the deputy, the kneeling ME, and the corpse under a white sheet out of the picture.

The ME, a tall Asian woman with a bodybuilder's frame, held a corner of the sheet in the air and talked to a deputy, who wrote down whatever it was she was saying on a small notepad.

I didn't recognize the note-taking deputy. He had short red hair and was built like a linebacker.

Sheriff Jones introduced me to Deputy Marks and Dr. Monica Kamarasane.

“This is Jake Tunner. He's here to identify the deceased.”

Marks took it easy on me with the handshake. Dr. Kamarasane didn't know her own strength. Or maybe she did but was just used to dealing with people who didn't complain if she grabbed them too hard.

She had long hair she restrained with a bright red bandanna that seemed even brighter above the dark blue coveralls she had on. There was a shine in her eyes, something playful that warred with the air of complete competence she gave off.

“You up for this?” she asked me. “We can wait 'til I get her to the morgue and do it there if you're more comfortable.”

“It's all right. We weren't close.”

She looked me up and down for a second and then shrugged and knelt by the body.

“Okay then.” She lifted the sheet clear of the head. “Can you identify her?”

Sheriff Jones kept quiet.

The face was pale, except for the darkness surrounding the wound near her temple. I ran the shooting back in my head but it wasn't a clear image. The placement of the exit wound looked about right but I wasn't sure. I thought about that hooked nose, that smile, and was ashamed to admit I couldn't tell which sister I was looking at.

“It's one of 'em,” I said. “That's for sure.”

“Can you tell which one?” asked the sheriff.

“Let me see her feet.”

The ME raised an eyebrow at me. “Her feet?” The other eyebrow went up.

I hit her with a glass-eyed stare that told her nothing.

She shrugged and went to the other end of the body and lifted up the sheet.

“It's Rosario,” I said. “Marisa's got 'Fearless' tattooed on the same spot.”

The sheriff put his hand on my shoulder.

“All right. Monica?”

Dr. Kamarasane replaced the sheet and stood up.

“It's pretty much a case of what you see is what you get. I'll be shocked if the cause of death is anything other than that gunshot wound to the head. Time of death is between eighteen and twenty-four hours ago. I can be more precise when I get back to the lab.”

“She was not killed here, boss,” chimed in Deputy Marks. He pointed up the shore. “There are some drag marks and smeared footprints coming from that direction. I looked for tire tracks but there are so many it's impossible to determine what's what. You going to call in the state boys, Sheriff?”

“You think I can't handle this?”

I wouldn't have traded places with Deputy Marks for a million bucks right then.

“Get her to the lab, Monica, and let me know if you find anything worth ringing up the state police over. Deputy Marks? I want this scene photographed and mapped out. Your report will be on my desk before you go off shift.”

Deputy Marks let the breath he'd been holding go. “You got it, boss.”

Sheriff Jones turned to me.

“Let's get out of here, Jake.”

We didn't make much conversation in the car.

About twenty minutes into the ride to Bog Island Sheriff Jones turned to me and said, “You have any thoughts on this I'd sure like to hear them.”

“I got nothing, Sheriff. Less than nothing, actually.”

“Nothing,” he repeated.

He hit the gas. I rested my head against the window and let the rolling green landscape lull me into a stupor.

It took us a little over an hour to get to Bog Island.

I felt a little tug in my chest when we passed the pier where I parked my Olds for the last time.

Two fisherman in hip waders stood in the water, just off the pier. They turned to look as Sheriff Jones cruised on by.

“I guess we're not going for stealth,” I said.

“Stealth is overrated,” replied the sheriff.

He proved his point by parking his cruiser right in front of Cabin D.

Tire tracks from the earlier visit were still visible in the gravel and dirt.

Sheriff Jones gave them a cursory look as we went up on the porch. He knocked on the door in that way policemen have of knocking on doors.

Nobody answered the knock.

The place seemed as shut up tight as it was when I was there last. It was still and it was quiet. None of these facts explained why the hair on my arms was standing up.

Something was off.

“What's wrong, Jake?” asked Sheriff Jones.

“Dunno.” I leaned down to inspect the doorknob.

The marks were there. Small scratches all around the keyhole. I backed up and pointed.

“Son of a bitch,” muttered the sheriff.

He drew his service revolver and turned the knob. The door swung open before us.

We looked at each other and stepped inside.

“Sheriff!” he called out as we scoped out the empty living room. His voice bounced off of the walls. The room was empty. No furniture, no carpeting. The only thing on the floor was dust. And footprints. Two sets.

We followed them into a small bedroom that still had a few things in it.

A lavender easy chair occupied the corner by the window. A dust-covered end table sat next to it.

The footprints took us right to the end table.

There was a small stack of books on it. Girls books, complete with charms and pink fabric bookmarks still in them. The pink color on their bindings showed through the dust.

I picked up the book on top of the pile. There was a small rectangle in the middle of its cover without any dust on it.

“We missed it,” I said.

Sheriff Jones chewed on his lip and stared hard at the book.

“Could it be that simple?”

“I think it could. Hidden in plain sight.”

“You think Marisa told them about this?”

“We don't even know what, 'this', is, Sheriff. Besides, if Reubens came to take whatever this is why would he have to pick the lock on his own brother's house?”

“Who else knows to come out here to look around?”

I could only think of one person but I wasn't going to be the one to bring it up.

Sheriff Jones eyeballed me and then left the room.

We checked the other rooms just to be sure. Most of them were as empty as the living room. No drawers to search, no beds to check under.

The sheriff eyeballed me some more as we left the cabin and got back into his cruiser.

“Don't look at me, Sheriff. I'm pleading the fifth. You're intimidating. She's terrifying.”

He started the car and took off down the driveway.

When we passed the pier on the way out Sheriff Jones pulled up close to the shore.

“Stay here,” he growled as he got out of the cruiser.

I did as I was told.

He called the fishermen over and engaged in an animated discussion with them before returning to the cruiser.

“What did they tell you?”

He hit the gas and tore off down the road.

“I asked them if they'd seen anyone else heading that way. They did.”


“You already know the answer to that.”

I nodded.

“Silver El Camino.”


Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career. He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there. You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Michela Walters Week 17: Listen With Your Heart

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Listen With Your Heart


Many people say it transcends language and culture. Bringing people together as a healing expression of humanity. It allows you to feel and communicate without understanding the words. Meaning comprehended through sound, sculpted between notes and tempo all creating a harmonious release that can soothe even the most savage of souls.

I never understood it until I met Marisol. She was like a ray of sunshine brought from the heavens to lighten up the darkness of my life. Even though we spoke different languages, we somehow managed using gestures, pointing and speaking slowly.

Today, Marisol had been frantically trying to explain something to me. After ten minutes of her arms waving between us, and saying the words in Spanish she longed for me to understand, I was still baffled. She knew I was going to have to go back to the States soon, and my heart was breaking over the mere thought of it. We laid together silently in frustration when she sat up suddenly and thrust her earbuds at me, urging me to listen to a song she had put on her mp3 player. Putting them in, I heard a soulful song, brimming with emotion. That was when I finally began to comprehend all she was trying to convey. I was once again amazed at her ingenuity and intelligence, because It had never occurred to me to try music to speak for me instead.

When the song was over, I pulled her against my chest and smiled warmly down at her and replied in kind.

“I love you too.”


Michela Walters is a wife, mother and book enthusiast. She is currently attempting her hand at writing her first romantic fiction novella. You can read her other stories on her blog:


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sarah Aisling Week 17: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep It? (Part One)

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep It? (Part One)

Janice leaned back on her elbows in the soft dirt, a cigarette dangling at a precarious angle from her pouty lips. The acrid curls of smoke burned Ciel’s eyes, but she ignored the sting; she was too excited that Janice was finally going to confide a secret.

Janice's boobs strained against the material of her white blouse, the buttons undone just far enough to show an intriguing cleft. Ciel was flat-chested, so she was fascinated by this and hoped Janice didn't notice her ogling and take it for something other than the envy it was.

The girls were perched in a small cave-like cubby set in the side of a hill in Jacoby Park. The remote, wooded park was located between the school and the neighborhood where they lived. They were both entitled to bus passes since there was no “official” way home that was less than five miles, but if they went through the park, it was only a two-mile trek.

The two of them had walked the paths separately for the past two years. They didn't run with the same crowd. Janice was mysterious and aloof, hanging with the elite of their class even though she wasn't a cheerleader and didn't participate in any extracurricular activities. Boys seemed fascinated by her tangle of wild dark hair and the peeks of cleavage she often showed. Her body was curvy in all the right places, and she rimmed her gray eyes with a thick line of Kohl that came to a point at each corner. She chewed pomegranate bubble gum—the kind with a chewy explosion in the center—and was never without a pack of the oddball flavor, which came from the Yum Bubble factory where her father was in charge of “flavorology.”

In contrast, Ciel felt plain, unnoticeable. Her body type was on the boyish side, and she rarely wore makeup. She was quiet, mousy, and far from popular. Her straight blonde hair hung in lank strands around her pasty face.

About a month ago, Ciel had happened upon Janice hunched against the trunk of a tree crying. Raccoon smudges marred her angular face. She was hostile at first, swiping at her tears and turning away, but when Ciel expressed concern, Janice warmed. She never did tell Ceil what had her so upset, but from that day on, they walked home from school together.

By unspoken agreement, nothing changed. The girls remained virtual strangers at school, simply meeting up for the walk home. They barely spoke the first week. The second week, Janice took out a book of poems. The third week, Janice led Ciel through brambles and sharp branches, loose rocks slipping beneath their feet as they climbed a steep hill until they reached an outcropping. Janice had slid between two rocks and allowed Ciel into her inner sanctum where she hid her journal and other little treasures. When Ciel had asked why Janice kept her most prized trinkets there, Janice's eyes had grown stormy and she'd refused to elaborate.

“So what's the secret?” Ciel shifted impatiently.

Janice sat up and blew a plume of smoke in the musty air. “Anxious much?”

“Well, yeah! Where did you get it?” Ciel indicated the silver bangle Janice was wearing. It was unique, a highly polished diamond cut surface with Zodiac symbols.

“A man.” Janice's lips curved into a secretive smile.


“Oh, yeah. Do you think any of the little boys in our school could afford a bauble like this?”

“Probably not. Who is he? And how old is he?”

“Can't tell you that.”

“Come on!” Ciel slapped at Janice's arm.

Janice started singing a strange little tune. “Got a secret . . . can you keep it . . . swear this one you'll save . . . better lock it in your pocket . . . taking this one to the grave . . .” She glanced sidelong at Ciel, a mysterious look in her gray eyes. “Will you keep my secret, Ciel?”

“You can trust me, Janice.”

She leaned over and whispered, “Professor Jeffries.”

Ciel slapped a hand over her mouth. “No way!”


“Are you two . . .”


“For how long?”

“Since the middle of last year. He was tutoring me in Geometry . . . and one thing led to another. You know.” Janice waved a hand.

No, Ciel didn't know. She hadn't even been kissed yet.

“What's it like . . . being with a man?”

“Way better than the little boys our age—they don't have a clue what to do with it.” Janice threw her head back and laughed, the sound throaty and sophisticated. She glanced down at her watch. “Shit! I have to go.” She tucked her trinkets into the steel box she stored at the back of the cubby, sliding the silver bangle off.

Ciel put a hand out, the first time she'd ever touched Janice's satiny skin. “What are you doing? You can't leave something that valuable out here.”

“I sure can't bring it home with me. If wicked step-mom finds it, I'm dead.”

“Is that why you keep your stuff here?”

Janice looked down, rubbing her finger over the gleaming bracelet. “Yeah. She reads my journal and goes through my shit, takes whatever she wants. Then if I tell my dad, she turns on the waterworks and claims I'm trying to set her up. Bitch.”

“I'm sorry. Do you want me to hold the bracelet for you?”

“Would you?”

“Sure. I'll keep it in my backpack and bring it to school every day if you want.”

Over the next few months, a friendship of sorts developed between the girls, cemented by shared confidences and Ciel's ferrying of the silver bauble back and forth.

On a raw day in March, Janice had detention and Ciel arrived at the base of their hill alone. Stacked up in the middle of the trail were Janice's journal and poetry books. Her journal rested on the top of the pile, opened to a page toward the middle. A woman with dark hair strode away down the path with purpose.

There were pages torn carelessly from the journal, the jagged edges sticking up. Ciel nearly called out to the woman, but something told her not to.

Janice wasn't at school the next day or the next. A week went by. Two weeks. Then a day came when a solitary figure lounged against a tree on Ciel's path home. He was tall and thin, wrapped in a black trench. By the pile of cigarette butts piled at his feet, he was a chain-smoker and had been waiting for quite a while.

Ciel's heart leaped in her throat, and she turned to run.

“You a friend of Janice's?” he called out in a gruff tone but made no move toward her.

Ciel nodded and kept walking the other way.

“Detective Hoffstra. I'd like to have a chat with you . . .” he held up one of Janice's poetry volumes “. . . about her disappearance.”


Sarah Aisling hails from New Jersey and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and awesomely precocious daughter. She’s currently putting the finishing touches on her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook:


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

J M Blackman Week 17: Beginnings

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Beginnings

Janie wasn't sure just how it all had begun. In fact, she was convinced it had always existed.

When she was 10 and she'd gotten her first kiss from Amanda. When she met Gina, who convinced her the angry black lesbian was mostly a stereotype. Mostly. When she met Savannah and knew that it was not a fluke, her attraction, not a coincidence or perversion. Nothing close to an aberration.

But when she met Fiona, something was different. Everything she’d ever felt before suddenly was nothing but the bat of an eyelash, a spark of the lighter versus the explosion of fireworks that absorbed her chest whenever Fiona’s eyes glanced her way. In Fiona’s smile was her every day, in her hands—her heart, beating a frantic tempo like the flapping of a hummingbird’s wings. And on her fingertips, Fiona’s small fingertips, were the lacings that kept her soul intact.

She did what she could to make sure Fiona understood that. Fiona in turn took them to Paris. Janie felt that it must mean she understood. Or it at least meant she felt a shadow of the eclipse that had taken over Janie’s life, a beginning worth remembering, worth capturing and holding dearly, like a photo.

And that was enough.


J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacher, author rep'd by Gina Panettieri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Jen DeSantis Week 17: Magic

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Jen DeSantis’ Choice: 2

Title: Magic

“Watch this.”

Isaac murmured some strange words under his breath and Connie rolled her eyes, but I watched with rapt attention as Isaac’s words took shape in the air in front of him. It was like they were a concrete thing twisting and turning in the space between Isaac and the tree.

His eyes fluttered closed and his raised his hands up. The tree branches fluttered and so many tiny pink bud began to shimmer in the air around us. Connie let a gasp of surprise and I saw Isaac’s lips twitch. As the flowers coalesced and formed a bird above our heads, Connie clapped her hands together in surprise and happiness.

It made Isaac smile and his blue eyes twinkled. I smiled for him, because I wanted him to be happy. But I didn’t need these parlor tricks to see his magic the way Connie did; I felt it all the time. I wished that could be enough for him.


Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author and host of the #FridayPictureShow. She lives near Philly with her family. In her spare time is an aspiring ninja.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Jeffrey Hollar Week 16: First Things First

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Jeffrey Hollar’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: First Things First

Tiana stared, wistfully, at the glossy magazine page preserved from time by the plastic sleeve covering it. It showed a fresh-faced girl demonstrating the process of braiding her lustrous blonde hair into a perfect tight braid along one side of her face.

She remembered the magazine spread with crystal clarity since she was the girl in the photos. It had appeared in the March 2006 issue of Beauty Styles magazine on page 147. It was one of several that had been, strategically, sprinkled throughout that issue. While the intent had been to showcase different hair styling options, it had the unintended side effect of launching her professional photo modeling career as well.

Now, scarce six years later, when she looked in the mirror she could see little more than a ghostly after-impression of that innocent young face. Her skin had a waxy uneven tone to it from too many hours spent under harsh studio lighting and too little care in the liberal use of the solutions required to remove the overdone makeup ensuring the model wouldn’t look too washed out in the finished proofs. It was a necessary evil that had wreaked its ravages upon her with little she could do to mitigate its effects.

Her eyes, to her, seemed no longer to have the sparkle and allure they once had. Sunken into her face, they were rimmed by dark circles beneath that bespoke the fact that she seldom slept very well anymore. The demands of her work schedule made long hours and short nights a requisite for remaining on the active roster of her agency representation. While cosmetics, again, could provide a degree of amelioration, at the end of the day the damage remained.

She noted, with an inescapable feeling of sadness, how perfectly the model’s small, if somewhat bulbous, nose seemed to compliment rather than detract from her clean, girl-next-door simplicity. It was the kind of nose millions of the magazine’s readers had been born into this world with. It was the kind of nose that women went their whole lives thinking was perfectly normal, natural and acceptable when taken in the context of their entire face. It was, certainly, not a bad or an ugly nose. Running the backs of two slender fingers down the bridge of her now-nose, she was forced to admit to herself she could have stood her ground a bit more resolutely and refused when her agent suggested she have it…enhanced. For the last few years, she had crippling sinus headaches and intermittent pain as a result of the cosmetic surgical procedures necessary to make her look more “appealing” and “polished” as her agent had phrased it.

No longer able to look at the old photos without causing further feelings of despondence to overtake her, she got up from the couch and paced her loft apartment. She was feeling, decidedly, unwell and nauseated and wasn’t sure whether to place the blame for it on her self-flagellating trip down memory lane or on the inevitable side effects of the regimen of diuretics, laxatives, energy drinks and antacids that were a major component of her daily eating habits.

Whatever the cause of her malaise, she didn’t dare indulge herself with so much as a saltine to calm the roiling sensation. She’d already ingested her allowed calories for the day and it wasn’t even noon yet. Her modeling contract was most specific about her allowed weight limits and she was hovering dangerously close to exceeding them from the sheer necessity of having to eat something to remain focused and able to function.

She nearly walked face-first into the rough brick wall of the corner in her distraction over everything. She’d been wondering for quite some time now if the sacrifices and the suffering, the discomfort and the dissatisfaction were worth it all. She was at the literal zenith of her career with too few years remaining for her to be a viable candidate for anything but niche jobs that allowed her remaining attractions to be depended upon. She wasn’t sure after gracing so many magazine covers, billboards and other media advertisements she was ready to slip into the obscurity of hand and foot shoots. She liked to think she still had a bit too much pride and self-respect to submit to that indignity.

Unbidden, her arms came up and pressed to the sides of her head as if, in so doing, she could persuade her scattered thought and defeatist sentiments to fall in line and let her concentrate on her preparations for the next day’s shoot. An immeasurable amount of time passed before the epiphany took her and the world seemed, after so long otherwise, to appear to her in stark, crystal clarity.

Retrieving the necessary items, she seated herself at her vanity table and scrutinized her face with an entirely different level of contemplation. Extending the blade of the straight razor, she ran the cool side of the sharp blade along the contours of her “perfect” face. Unable to come to any definitive conclusion on what offended her the most in the mirror’s reflection, she pressed the unyielding steel between her lips and nose and began to slice upward with brutal control.

As blood flowed and the pain began, she distanced her mind from her body by attempting to remember if Christ had mentioned cutting off one’s nose if it offended them or not? She knew he’d mentioned the eyes but she would get to that in time…first things first.


Jeffrey Hollar is half Klingon, half Ferengi, visiting Earth in an attempt to negotiate a merger. He is currently working on a novella and a collection of zombie stories with his wife, Lisa McCourt Hollar. Jeff writes almost daily for his blog, The Latinum Vault, found at


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cara Michaels Week 16: Miss Me, -Kait Part 11

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Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 1

Title: Miss Me, -Kait

Part Eleven: Connected

Something nudged me, urging me—what? Awake? I didn’t remember falling asleep. What did I remember?

A distant haze of pain became… not so distant. Fuck-ing hell, I hurt. Everywhere. Dull aches, sharp pains, and everything in between. I bit down on my lip to keep from screaming like a girl as whatever I laid on bounced me to somewhere between the stratosphere and mesosphere. Something immovable above me rebounded me back to solid ground. How kind. Another jolt—and the powerful scent of gasoline—shook my brain clear enough to realize I’d been stuffed into the already crowded trunk of a car, and my chauffeur didn’t much care about the comfort of his passenger.


“What the—?”

Be there, damn you. Be alive. Hear me.

“Riley?” My hands clawed around. “Where are you, babe?”

Lightning ignited in my shoulder. I covered the pain in self-defense, found the blood soaking my shirt.

Right. I’d been shot. At the well. I’d been pulling Kait out and then—”

“Riley? Riley!” Panicked, I fumbled around the trunk. “Okay, okay. Calm the fuck down, Murray.”

If the car was newer, there’d be a release. If not, I could kick my way out the backseat, or jack up the lid until it popped. There were half a dozen ways out of here. I just had to breathe easy and find one.

And not pass out from blood loss.

Adam, can you hear me?

“Yeah, babe,” I muttered. “I sure as hell can hear you.”

Oh. Lightbulb.

“Riley, you brilliant, beautiful woman.” I switched my voice for thoughts. I hear you. I’m still here, babe.

Oh, my God. Adam?

How am I talking to you? You’re not here. We’re not connected.

Your wallet
. Her words softened, almost lost beneath the noise of the car. I have it.

I shifted around until I could reach my back pocket. Empty. I’d never been so damn happy about losing something.

Don’t be dead, Riley said. Please don’t be dead.

Alive and kicking.
Finding my way out in the dark, with a less than smooth ride to steady me, proved easier said than done, though. For now, anyway.

Where are you?

Trunk of a car. Can’t give you much more, sorry.

She didn’t say anything and I thought she’d gone. Then I realized she sat at the bottom of a well. With my wallet, and less able to help me than just about anyone, including Santa Claus. So maybe it didn’t matter if I lost her.

The hell.

Riley? Don’t abandon me, babe. “I need you,” I said under my breath. Tell me you’re okay.

I’m still in one piece,
she said. A bit worse for wear.

I know the feeling.

Touch the car, Murray.

Do what?

I think… maybe I can find the car through you.

You’re in a well, Riley.

Chad and Hannah came to my rescue. Some of the kids were on your tail, too, but they stopped when Carson’s goon squad dumped Kait’s body. There’s a BOLO on the vehicle, but I’d feel a lot better finding you now, not later. So do me a favor and put your damn hand on the car.

“Okay, okay.” I didn’t know where to touch, so I put one palm down on the floorboard and one on the lid above me. Now what?

Shut your brain off for a minute and let me see what’s around you.

That’s some kind of meditation bullshit, right? I suck at meditating.



Be quiet.

I took a deep breath and tried to still my thoughts. I absorbed every jolt, listened to the hum of the engine and the spin of the wheels. The brakes whined in soft protest as the car slowed. I braced automatically as we turned.

Got you. Riley’s satisfaction purred through me.

For real?


What are we, the fucking Wonder Twins?

Haha, funny man. That would be real amusing except for the part where I spent I don’t even know how long sitting in cold water and believing I’d die there.

I thought back to the goofy cartoon heroes of my childhood. The boy had always taken some kind of water form. Still, the idea didn’t feel so wild. Just talking to Riley in my head had calmed me down. I didn’t even hurt as much.

In short, I felt more like myself.

Calm, cool Detective Murray. A man who could sure as shit get out of the trunk of a car.

Not yet. You’re moving too fast.

You know what I’m about to do?

You think loudly.
I could almost see her shrug in the tone of her words. Get ready to pop the lid. I’ll tell you when to bail.

You got it, psychic guru.

Her mental snort made me smile. With steady hands, I found the cable connecting to the remote release inside the car and gripped it. The second I popped it, a dash light would tell the driver the trunk was open, so we had to be quick. Maybe he wouldn’t notice right off, and maybe he would. I felt the car slowing, heard the breaks protest once again.

Now. Go now, Adam. Hurry.

The lock popped with a soft thunk and I lifted the lid just enough to spill myself out onto the uneven ground. No one behind me to see… or help. Woods all around and little more than a dirt track beneath my feet.

In a crouch, I held the trunk closed. The car began to roll and I followed until I couldn’t keep up. I dove for the overgrown side of the path, watching the busted trunk lid bobbing as the car moved off. Keeping low, I moved deeper into the brush. With the bumpy trail, it wouldn’t be long before the lid opened wide and revealed my escape. It might be even sooner that the driver noticed the dash indicator. I needed to put as much distance between us as possible.

The throatier rumble of a truck engine approached and I ducked down. A red pickup geared for Florida’s swampy off road conditions slowed to a stop. The passenger door opened and a muddy, bloodied woman tumbled out, barely keeping her feet. She heavily favored her left leg. I couldn’t make out her features, but her face pointed right at me through all the trees, right at me.


“Riley.” I bolted up, stumbling back to the trail. “You found me.”

“Always,” she said, her voice thick and strained.

And I found my way into her embrace, and damn nothing had ever felt so good. I might have to work hard to ever let her go again. Broken and battered as we were, I felt stronger, better, more myself, just for being with her. Her arms wrapped around my neck and I held her close, eyes squeezed tight at the feel of her breath and tears hot against my skin.

“I was so afraid I wouldn’t find you in time,” she whispered.

“Of course you found me,” I said. “You’re my goddamned hero, babe.”

“Don’t you forget it.” She leaned back, somehow finding a smile. Reaching down, she drew a plastic bag out of her pocket. Inside, a portable drive sat, cozy and dry. “Now let’s go be Kait’s heroes.”

I pressed a quick, fierce kiss to her lips.

“Remind me to tell you how much I love you when this is all done.”


Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.