Friday, May 31, 2013

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 49: Lawyers, Guns, and Money Part 10

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Lawyers, Guns, and Money Part 10

Huevos rancheros. Tortillas. Some yucca. Maybe even a little chorizo.

These were the things I dreamed of while breakfasting on beef jerky out in front of the safe house.

Thank God for coffee.

I stood up to stretch. The clothes I'd found in the house-- a pair of tan linen pants and a gray t-shirt with Freddy Fender's picture on it-- almost fit. They didn't hang right on me, adding to the unease the morning brought with it.

Pilar, dressed in yet another black wifebeater and jeans, kept looking my way but didn't ask until she finished her breakfast.

“La perdida,” she said. “The one you had after we left Aurelio's. You had it again last night. Do you want to tell me about it?”

“Want?” I finished my coffee and set the bowl on the ground beside me. “No. I don't want to. But I will.”

I gave her the gist of it.

New York. Home. The Russians. The cops. Roksana dead. Falling.

She listened while she cleaned and loaded the two automatic pistols she'd collected from the gun locker inside the house.

“Is that how you remember that day?” she asked.

“That's how it happened. I saw the two Russians leaving the building and the cops showed at the same time. I ran up and found them standing over her in the bedroom. They arrested me on the spot.”

We sighted a dust cloud in the distance, cutting the conversation short.

The rumble of an overworked engine soon followed.

She slid the clip home and moved up to the gate.

I drew Antonio's revolver from my waistband and took up a position beside her.

She smile as a familiar red pickup came into view. The smile faded as it rolled through the gate. We counted only two people in the truck-- Diego and Manuel, the Indian brothers.

They parked next to the motorcycle and climbed out.

Both men looked haggard and jittery. Manuel had a bloody bandage wrapped around his left forearm. Each of them had a rifle slung over their shoulder.

“Los otros?” asked Pilar.

Diego shook his head.


He looked down and shook his head again.

“Pero tenemos una sopresa para usted,” said Diego. He nodded to his brother.

We followed Manuel to the back of the truck.

“Ayudame,” he said as he hopped up into the bed and extended his hand to me.

He hauled me up so I could help him get their prisoner out of the truck.

The man was tied up with rough hemp rope and hooded with a burlap sack. His clothes-- vaguely paramilitary gray uniform pants and a black t-shirt-- marked him as one of the men we fought in Abandonados.

Diego handed Pilar a badge attached to a laniard.

“Federales?” she asked.

He nodded.

“Tienen su padre, Pilar.”

She glared at him and then nodded. The brothers led their prisoner into the house.

I looked at the truck. I hadn't noticed the bullet holes before.

“They have him, Mateo.”

“Federales? You mean police?”

“In a way. These are not... official police. The Federales contract out work where they do not have bases of operation.”

I looked at the truck. I hadn't noticed the bullet holes before.

“Your father's employees are willing to die for him?”

“They are soldiers. They know what is expected of them.”


She smiled-- a sad kind of smile-- and placed her hand on my shoulder.

“Did you think we only grew coffee, Mateo?”

I let the breath I'd been holding out.

“I suppose not.”

We stood together in silence for a moment, then she took my hand.

“Mateo, I must interrogate this man. You do not have to come with me if you choose not to.”

I had to think about that, but not for long.

“I go where you go,” I said.

Diego and Manuel left their prisoner tied to a chair in an empty room at the back of the house.

The only light streamed through a tiny window high up on one wall.

Pilar walked right to the man in the chair and pulled the sack off his head.

I stayed by the door.

One of his eyes was swollen shut. Dried blood was visible around both of his ears.

He blinked and looked all around.

She let him see the gun in her hand, then leaned in close by his ear, speaking too quietly for me to hear.

He sat up as straight as the rope allowed him to and closed his eyes.

She repeated her question.

Same response. Nothing.

“Donde esta Don Gerardo?” she demanded.

No answer.

“No hay tiempo para esta mierda,” she said.

She fired a bullet into his left knee.

He screamed and bucked, almost upsetting the chair.

“Donde?” she repeated as she moved the gun toward his other knee.

The man groaned something inarticulate.

She pulled the trigger.

He howled, his one good eye bugged out with pain.

She pressed the gun against his shoulder.


He broke, talking faster than I had any chance of picking up.

She asked him for clarification a couple of times and then looked up at me.

I nodded. It was all I could manage. I put my hands in my pockets to cover up how badly they shook.

“He is being held in a warehouse in the city. We must go to the capital.”

We made good time, driving against the end of day egress, and hit the city just before nightfall.

Even after all it'd been through that red pickup still had more to give. The engine roared as I steered around corners and through traffic circles on our way to the warehouse district.

I remembered how to get there in general terms. Pilar gave me directions when we got close.

The streets near the warehouses were already emptied out. We passed a couple of cargo trucks on the way in but that was all.

We parked in front of a bodega several blocks away from our destination and walked the rest of the way.

Exterior lights burned in front of most of the buildings we passed. Our building was dark.

The place was falling down, with as many windows boarded up as were left intact. The chain link fence around the property was rusted and broken.

We found a hole big enough for us and approached the warehouse.

“What's your plan?” I asked.

“We go in the front door,” replied Pilar. “If they are any good they already know we are here. There is no reason to sneak around.”

Broken glass crunched beneath our feet as we reached the front of the building.

We had our choice of a loading bay grate or a metal door marked, “Oficina.

Pilar shot the lock out of the office door and opened it.

We stepped into a dark, wide open space.

The hum of electricity buzzed loud and clear. I fumbled around the first wall I found until I located a light switch.

Weak florescent light snapped to life, revealing a crumbling, barren warehouse. The floor was marked and stained where heavy equipment once stood. Dozens of wooden shelving units sat empty.

“There's nothing here,” I whispered as we explored the entire facility.

The sound of a car door slamming shut jolted us out of our disappointed funk.

“The lights, Mateo.”

I ran to the wall and hit the switch.

The big room fell dark.

We heard voices coming from out front.

Pilar grabbed my hand and we beat feet to the back door.

I got there first and shouldered it open. We hit the blacktop just as whoever got out of that car burst into the warehouse.

We ran for it, wriggled through another hole in the fence and headed for an alley near the end of the street.

The guys behind us were quick.

And armed.

Bullets skipped off the street as we cut through a graffiti-covered courtyard and lunged headlong into the alley.

Pilar pressed herself against the near wall and pointed her guns back the way we'd just come from. I took up position on the far wall and readied the revolver.

We opened fire the second we made them out, backlit by one of the few working streetlights in the area.

They stopped and scattered.

Pilar and I looked at each other and resumed our flight.

A car sat idling across the street from the mouth of the alley.

It was a classic muscle car, painted matte gray with black hood stripes and silver spoiler.

A large black man in a light brown guayabera got out of the car and stepped around to the passenger side.

“Joshua Rucinsky?” he called out.

Pilar grabbed my hand, stopping us at the curb. She aimed Antonio's revolver with her other hand.

The driver opened the back door and leaned against the car. The light from the bare bulb streetlight shone off the Peacemaker in his big fist.

Voices sounded behind us, angry voices shouting in Spanish. “Come on, man,” he said. “If you're Josh Rucinsky, jump in and we'll jet out of here.”

Our pursuers spilled out of the alley and stopped short.

Nature's got a way of letting you know when there's something you need to stay away from. Or someone.

This guy fit the bill.

“If you're not, well... lots of luck!”

He beamed at us and spread his arms out wide.

Pilar holstered her gun.

“It is a nice night for a drive in the city,” she said.

I glared at the guys smirking and lounging at the mouth of the alley behind us then followed her to the car.

“I'd ask for your gun, miss, but I think you'd give me trouble.”

“You think right.”

“You drive,” he said.

She cast an appreciative eye over the car as she got in behind the wheel.

He hustled me into the back seat, and pulled the door shut after him.

“Now, ma'am,” he began, “you do know how to drive a manual--”

The engine roared and we rocketed away from the curb.

He laughed.

“Where do you want to go, Senor...?” asked Pilar.

“You can call me Quinn. Tell you what. I just got here, haven't had a chance to see much of the city, so show me the sights.”

“Si, Senor Quinn.”

He gave me the once-over.

“I'll take that revolver, man,” he said. “Wouldn't want any... mishaps... in my ride, now, would we?”

Pilar looked over her shoulder and nodded at me.

I handed the gun over.

“Gonna need that back,” I told him. “It belonged to a friend of mine.”

“Sentimental value. I get that.”

He opened the cylinder, pocketed the bullets, and handed me the empty piece.

Pilar took the next right. Hard.

“Take it easy, willya?” groused Quinn.

“A car like this one is not made for taking it easy.”

He looked at me and chuckled.

“1969 Olds 442. Can't disagree with you. Just don't wreck her. I got a long drive home when we're done here.”

He took a few minutes to collect his thoughts while Pilar zipped through the empty streets of the factory district.

The man took up a lot of room, huge through the shoulders and thick around the middle. Sweat beaded on his bald head.

The Peacemaker trained on my gut never moved, though the Olds jumped and rattled with every bump in the road.

“Sergei sends his best,” he said.

I sat all the way back and exhaled.

“That tells me everything I need to know, doesn't it?”

“Pretty much, Josh.”

I saw Pilar's inquisitive eyes peering at me in the rear view mirror.

“Sergei Lubov. My father-in-law. Former father-in-law. Who sent you to bring me back to New York.”

“He hired my partner and me to find your ass, which my partner did. Got a call that he had eyes on you but there was a... complication.”

“Don Gerardo,” I said.

Quinn grinned.

“You got a good head for this, Josh. I do believe you missed your calling.”

Pilar made a smooth right turn onto a well-lit, busy avenue.

Neon lined both sides of the street, advertising everything from empanadas to mezcal to fortune-telling.

Everything was as I remembered it. I'd spent the first five months of my time in country in this city. It was a good life, until my face started showing up on the news. I missed it.

A three-piece band played in front of a white concrete fountain halfway down the block. Those among the young, hip crowd that weren't already hanging around the musicians appeared headed that way.

“So that was you in Abandonados? Your guys, anyway?” I asked.

“You mean the Federales? Not directly. But we did tell 'em where we thought they'd find you.” He nodded toward Pilar. “And your father.”

He turned back to me.

I caught Pilar's eye in the mirror. She had a death grip on the steering wheel.

“Normally, they'd never touch Don Gerardo, but since he's now harboring a known fugitive...”

“Where is he being held?”

She sounded calm.

Quinn had the danger sense to know better. The Peacemaker stayed on me but his eyes were on her.

“My sources said he'd be here in the city. I'm guessing yours said the same.”

“The place was empty, Quinn,” I said. “There was no one there. Other than the hoods you saw chasing us.”

“Then you don't know where my father is,” stated Pilar.

“I'm afraid not. The Federales got no reason to keep me in the loop.”

We rode in silence, each of us considering what the others revealed.

“Now,” continued Quinn, “I haven't heard from my partner in a couple of days and I can't find him, which is bad since finding people is my line. Men like him are not inconspicuous.”

“Mirabeau Lamar Blaylock,” I muttered.

“That's right, Josh. You wouldn't happen to know where the man's at, would you?”

I stared. He stared right back.

“He tortured my friend,” said Pilar. “He paid the price.”

“Tortured your friend.” He looked at me. “You mean with his own hands?”

“Si, senor.”

I nodded my agreement.

Pilar stopped short, knocking Quinn and me around the back seat.

“Is that going to be a problem?” she asked over her shoulder.

He took a deep breath before answering.

“I think we can all agree that Beau, for lack of a better term, fucked up. Sergei's a sharp guy. He wanted dope on Don Gerardo, wanted to find out who he was dealing with before sending in the heavies, find out if it was gonna blow back on him in New York.”

She hit the gas, cruising under some elevated train tracks.

“If Beau worked you over, man, I'd say he had it coming.”

“I'm glad to hear you say that, Quinn. What now?”

The metal trestle supports blurred one into the next as the big engine chewed asphalt.

“You're not gonna like the what now, Josh. Sergei wants you brought to Brighton Beach but he said if the job went sideways we were to settle it down here. I think it's gone about as sideways as it can get.”

He raised the Peacemaker.

My eyes flashed toward Pilar. Hers stared back at me in the mirror.

“Izquierda!” she yelled as she floored it.

I flung myself as far to the left as I could get, landing hard against the door.

Quinn slid forward, almost off the seat, as she braked, threw it into reverse, and hit the gas.

The tires squealed and the suspension screamed.

I ducked.

Quinn flopped to the right as she crashed the Olds into the concrete base of a support column, crushing the back end. The passenger side took the worst of it.

The window shattered as the big man's head slammed into the glass. The trunk, the door, and most of the quarterpanel caved.

The Peacemaker, covered in blood, landed on the seat.

I sprang forward and grabbed it.

Quinn groaned once, twitched, and went still, splayed out half in the footwell and half on the back seat. Bone stuck out of his broken left leg, right through his pants.

I fumbled with the door handle and fell out of the car.

I couldn't hear much through the ringing in my ears and I felt like I was going to throw up. When I got to my feet my legs didn't want to do what I wanted them to but I managed to spin around enough to see that no one was coming our way.

“Pilar,” I groaned as I opened the car door.

She was out cold, bleeding from her nose and an ugly gash above her right eye.

I stuffed the Peacemaker in my waistband to get her free from the seatbelt and down to the ground.

She didn't move as I sat her up against the car.

I felt for a pulse and found one, good and strong, and she came to a few seconds later.

“Buenos dias,” I said, feeling stupid with relief.

She looked at me out of one eye. The other stayed shut tight.

“Mateo,” she whispered.

“I'm here, babe. I'm here.”


“I think he's dead.”

“Mateo, I cannot feel my legs.”

I took a look down her body.

“They're there, Pilar, looking as great as ever.”

I didn't mention the blood staining her jeans, from the right knee down.

“Hang on a sec.”

I ducked back into the car. Quinn hadn't moved. I reached around his body and snatched his wallet.

“Mateo,” groaned Pilar.

I pocketed the wallet and ducked out.

“Help me up, Mateo.”

I knelt down and draped her arm around my shoulders and got my arm around her waist.

She was on her feet but I had all of her weight.

“We gotta move,” I said.


“One thing at a time. I'm still working on how. Don't worry, Pilar. I got this.”

I drew Quinn's Colt with my free hand and drunk-walked Pilar away from the ruined 442.

Accordion music drew us toward the center of town.

Pilar and I made slow progress and it only got slower as the adrenaline rush wore off.

I didn't like the way her right leg dragged behind her as we hobbled-- it reminded me of the pain in my own knee and made it harder to keep the nausea and dizziness at bay.

Traffic picked up as we got closer to the square, two, three cars at a time. Their headlights did the work the streetlights couldn't be bothered to.

Nobody paid us the least bit of attention as we staggered along.

“All right,” I said. “This is where it gets interesting.”

I leaned Pilar against a post and limped into the middle of the street as one lone car-- a twin-tone Pinto held together with Bondo-- turned the corner.

I pointed Quinn's gun at the driver, keeping the gun on him as I moved around to his open window.

“Necesito su coche!” I hollered.

The driver, a bespectacled, heavy-set man who resembled Antonio, rolled his eyes at me before he put it in park and got out of the car with his hands raised.

I hurried him to the curb at gunpoint.

He kept his mouth shut and shook his head, all too familiar with crime in his city. Didn't mean he wasn't scared. It showed in the sweat on his face.

I pulled out Quinn's wallet and handed him all the cash in it.

The wad of bills would buy the man five piece-of-shit Pintos, if that's what he wanted.

I didn't wait around for a reaction. I scooped Pilar into my arms and carried her to the car.

He watched from the curb as we took off.

I drove around for a while, just trying to get my bearings. I never had a car when I lived in the city, never had to drive anywhere. Things look different from behind the wheel than they do from the sidewalk.

Pilar stirred in the passenger seat, her eyes half-open.

I cut across town, sticking to side streets as best I could, heading for the docks.

I knew a lot of people down there, people who'd help a guy out with a minimum of questions. I'd heard tell about a doctor who took care of people who couldn't go to the regular hospital and was pretty sure I knew who might help me find her.


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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, May 30, 2013

Michela Walters Week 49: The Weight of Fame

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: The Weight of Fame

I stood upstage, waiting for the light to appear through the fog, my cue to start the opening riff of our headlining song. Standing here, trying not to cough from the man-made smoke, I waited like I did every night. I was so tired of the monotony of our perpetual concert touring schedule. Same show, a different town, a different crowd, yet it all felt like horrible case of deja vu. Nothing changed aside from venue. The song list, the green room demands and the never ending stream of ladies wanting to be with me, or another guy in the band. I went to bed each night with my name being screamed out by the bevy of beauties at my disposal, ringing in my ears. All I needed to do was flick my finger at one of them, and they would be on their knees ready and willing to do my bidding. And it was completely exhausting. It was draining to be surrounded by adoring fans when there was only one person who I desperately wanted beside me, and she wasn’t there. And it wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own.

My loneliness weighed down my heart, my bones, making it feel like I was dragging around a boulder. I missed home even though I was barely able to remember what that was. I hadn’t had a physical location to call my own in over two years. Not since our first single hit it big, and eventually our band became a globally recognizable name. That was when the tour started and when I’d left the one person who actually loved me enough to let me go and follow my dreams.

Back then, we’d opened for bands that toured around our midwest town or sang in small dumpy divebars with our head in the clouds, imagining a day when someone would discover us. A viral video of us opening for the Black Keys helped us start headlining our own gigs. Now we sold out arenas and football stadiums. Most nights I barely got a glimpse of anyone past the first four rows. Deafening screams singing lyrics I could barely remember, sang back to us. We had it all. A Grammy that was shoved deep in a bag in a storage locker told me so. But what exactly did I have?

Sure, my band mates were like brothers to me. We’d started our garage band when we were still in high school, playing at friends’ graduation parties, and then we all ended up playing the college club scene, struggling to keep up our grades while still pursuing our dream of making it big one day.

And when that day finally arrived, we certainly weren’t prepared for it. The money, the drugs, the over-adorning fans not to mention the pressure our record company was putting on us to repeat our debut album’s success. The sad thing was, if you’d asked me ten years ago what I wanted to be, I would have said a famous rock and roll singer. Now that the dream had actually come true, I really wish it hadn’t. I missed the simplicity of making music for the sake of making music. Not caring if anyone other than the three of our band mates liked it or not. Sure, we enjoyed when the crowds at the small pubs liked our music, but ultimately the creative direction was all our own. Now there were executives, producers and a wealth of other people to make happy. We were popular enough to bring in money, but not successful enough to tell all those honchos exactly what they could do with their opinion.

But that wasn’t even the worst part. I’d let Mary slip through my fingers. She’d told me to go when Los Angeles came knocking, saying if things didn’t work out, she’d still be here. The problem was that we had all of our dreams come true, and I’d let that success go to my head. I let myself think that I was too big to go back home. No, not home, but too big for sweet, innocent Mary.

The light flashed up, cueing me to begin my song. Stepping out from the darkness, my fingers unconsciously began playing and I once again stepped onto the treadmill of fame, hoping one day to get off and back to my Mary.

If she was still waiting.


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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, May 29, 2013

Sarah Aisling Week 49: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part Fifteen)

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part Fifteen)

Ciel tilted her head and eyed Janice dubiously. “Your aunt? I don't understand.”

“My Aunt MJ. My parents haven't spoken to her in a long time. She's . . . really fucked up.”

Janice's comment drew a rude snort from Ciel even as certain things clicked into place for her.

The mentally disturbed aunt who bore a striking resemblance to Madeline Strohm—and apparently Janice herself. A woman on the fringes of their family for years, so far removed Mr. Strohm didn't seem to be aware of the accident that disfigured her or the fact she was married to Professor Jeffries.

“Oh, dear God,” Ciel whispered, pressing a hand to her mouth. How painful must it have been for Melinda Jeffries to find out her own beautiful, nubile niece was in the midst of an affair with her husband?

“What is it?”

Ciel grabbed Janice's hand hard and leaned in close, unsure how much of their conversation would be overheard. “Your aunt is Paul's wife. Do you realize how sick all of this is?”

Ciel pulled away, and Janice reeled as if slapped. She covered her face with shaking hands and remained perfectly still for a few minutes, leaving Ciel to wonder what was going through her mind.

Janice's head snapped up, her blazing gray eyes meeting Ciel's troubled blue ones. A high keening that dissolved into an outraged sob streamed from between her blue-tinged lips. Two red patches bloomed over the translucent skin of Janice's cheeks, and a huff of air that reminded Ciel of a bull readying itself to charge blew through her nostrils.

Janice hopped off the cot and began pacing back and forth, her hands curled into white-knuckled claws. “That bastard! How could he?” She stopped and faced Ciel, jamming balled fists against her hips. “He said he loved me! But I was—what?—a substitute for his demented and disfigured wife?”


“Shit! Did he know all along who I was? Did he seek me out for some twisted fantasy?” Janice clawed at her own face, thin lines of blood beading up in their wake.

Ciel lurched up from the cot and grabbed Janice's wrists. “Stop! Janice, stop it!”

Janice snapped out of it and blinked. “Sorry. It's just . . . I love him.”

“We're sixteen years old!” Ciel shrieked, shaking Janice. “Wake the hell up! What he did with you was wrong!”

Janice's face fell. “It didn't feel wrong. It was beautiful.” A wistful look misted her features.

The flicker of anger that had come to life earlier inside of Ciel ignited into rage, and she slapped Janice across one blood smeared cheek. “Really? Even when he pushed you to your knees in the janitor's closet and made you feel like a whore?” When Janice gaped like a fish, Ciel was encouraged to go on. “His crazy wife has us both locked away in this bunker in case you haven't noticed! Who gives a shit if he used you? Will it matter when we're dead?”

“Dead? Aunt MJ wouldn't hurt us.”

“Oh, no? What do you think she's going to do with us then? Huh, Janice? Did you drink her funny Kool-Aid or something? 'Cause from where I'm standing, we're in a shitload of trouble.” In her mind, Ciel pictured Melinda Jeffries wiring up the bunker like a bomb. There would be nothing left of them but scraps of flesh and rivulets of blood amongst the rubble.

A steely determination filled Ciel. If Janice didn't realize what a danger Melinda Jeffries was, then Ciel would muster up enough cunning to get them both out of this alive.


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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing 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, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

J M Blackman Week 49: The Rabbit Hole--Part 2: Trust the Esper

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: The Rabbit Hole--Part 2: Trust the Esper

With the vodka bottle safely within reach (and my phone right next to that, though who I could possibly call, I couldn’t fathom), I picked the letter--seemingly from me--back up.

Dear Me,

I had a really hard time deciding how to address this to myself. Should I use my name? A nickname? I figured I’d just use “me,” since that’s what we call ourselves in our head. I also figure that once we start calling ourselves Aniyah instead of me, we have even more troubles than what’s ahead of us now.

I stopped reading for a swig of courage. It probably made more queasy than it did brave, but I needed a distraction. Because if I, or whoever the hell this was, kept calling me and them “us,” I was going to lose my shit.

Tired of hearing “us” yet? I think this is about where I started feeling nauseous. But I haven’t even gotten to the good part yet. We’re going to do this in two stages. First, I’m going to convince you that I am who I say I am. Second, I’m going to tell you about the danger you’re soon to be in, and how to avoid getting killed when the time comes.

Step 1: There is a scar on the side of your right knee. You got it trying to get down your Matt’s dad’s Playboys when you were 14. You fell in their closet and hit your knee on the edge of a trunk. And you couldn’t ever tell anyone because you couldn’t admit how stupid it was to try and get those just because Matt said it was a good idea. Then, you never spoke to Matt again. He still emails now and then to see if you’ll explain why you won’t talk to him anymore.

I didn’t put the letter down, though that was my first instinct. No one knew this. Matt knew it, but this wasn’t his handwriting. He didn’t know where I lived now. And he certainly didn’t know that I’d stopped talking to him over the Playboys. I mean, I’d gotten over it in a couple years, but then I felt so stupid about not talking to him that I couldn’t strike up a conversation. Once he contacted me, I didn’t have the courage to admit how stupid the whole thing had been and that sometimes, I still missed hanging out with him.

Step 2: This next part is harder than the first. It’s the most unbelievable part of this. Yes, even more unbelievable than the fact that you’re reading a letter a letter from yourself. It’s the whole reason this whole thing is even possible.



In two days, there’s going to be tear in space, or time, or matter, or something, that makes it possible for all of the creepy crawlies we’d ever imagined to come true, or rather to join our plane. I don’t understand the science behind it. I’m not sure if it’s science at all. It seems to go beyond anything we’ve ever been able to explain. I would call it magic if I believed in such a thing. Then, again, magic does exist now. So I suppose that almost answers that question. Or does it?

Whatever. Things are going to get ugly. First, the world is going to try to act like it’s not happening. They’re going to try to explain the deaths and accidents and disappearances with the everyday evil around us. But the truth is some of it is real evil. And still some of it is tragically a result of misunderstanding. But either way, this first part of our new world is dangerous. Not only because of all the new players, but because if you try and get help, you will be put away.

In fear, we will quiet our own people to keep the elephant in the room out of the public eye for as long as possible. You cannot go the police. No matter what happens. But you are going to need help.

There is someone to help you. His name is Sam. He is an Esper. He has many skills, but one is teleportation. He can move through space and time. Literally. He brought me back to leave you this message. It’s kind of a form of cheating the universal rule of no tampering with the past--that’s a real thing, by the way. I am changing your knowledge of the future, but you were going to make these next few decisions all by yourself. I’m just trying to make it as easy as possible. Maybe save a few lives.

I know that’s a lot. That’s why I wanted to give you a warning. You can handle this, though. You will.

Trust the Esper. Trust Sam. And for God’s sake, just jump.



I tried to take it all into stride. Really I did. But after ten minutes of sitting there, clutching the letter, I sprung up from the couch, buried the letter in my winter clothes’ drawer and fell into bed. I barely kicked off my shoes before I passed out. I’d never felt so drained in my life.

When my alarm went off in the morning, I had forgotten about the strangeness until I saw the vodka and ziplock baggie on my coffee table. I didn’t know what to do about the letter. There really wasn’t anything to do about it, anyway. Anyone I could possibly tell would think I was pulling a terrible prank. My explanation as to how it so was not a prank would only make me look crazy.

Instead of attempting to do any such thing, I went to work. By 5, I’d almost managed to feel normal. I figured I’d better soak all the normal up I could get, because if any bit of that letter was true, I wouldn’t get much of it in a little over 24 hours.

I stopped by BJ’s on the way home, as usual, but this time, Ahmed greeted me. He never said anything to me except “thanks for your business.”

“How’d you do that?” he demanded, leaning out of the window amongst the newspapers, magazines and books. I stopped short of walking into the store behind him.

“Do what?” I asked.

“Get back over here so quickly? And I told you, that was the last Sparkle Jerry Cherry. You’ll have to wait until next Wednesday for more. Did you change clothes?”

“You didn’t...this is my first time here today,” I said slowly.

“What joke are you playing at?” he demanded, clearly not amused.

“None. I...” I wiped my hand over my face. “Sorry, a little crazy today. I did just come by, didn’t I? I had to double back for something I left at work. And...and I just stopped out of habit, as usual. I’ll keep that in mind this time. No more Sparkle Jerry Cherry until next Wednesday. See you then.” I walked off quickly before he could answer. Once I hit the corner, I ran.

Either I was going to catch myself, or another note. Or I was going crazy.

Easily any one of those three.


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J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacheri 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, May 27, 2013

SJ Maylee Week 49: Lyrics Required

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SJ Maylee’s’ Choice: 1

Title: Lyrics Required

Four weeks in a row Henrietta had met John down by the river and each week he played her his love songs. She could listened to him play all day and today was no different. She tapped her toes and swayed back and forth, enchanted by his music.

The first time they’d met, he told her each song he wrote was about a woman who’d captivated him. Ever since, she’d hoped he play a song about her, but he never did.

Last week after their listening session, she’d found the courage to take him to the gallery that had one of her pieces on display. It was the first time a gallery had accepted her work.

He’d been sharing his art with her and she’d trusted him with hers. They were partners now. Maybe wanting something more was foolish. She lowered her head a little and tried to breathe through the emotions tossing her about.

“Henrietta.” He tugged on the collar of his shirt. “Can I play you something brand new?”

“Of course.” She shook her shoulders and prepared to critique his work, like a faithful partner should.

The song was beautiful, it made her want to get up and dance, but it was an instrumental. Only his songs about unrequited love had no lyrics. She looked up at John and he was watching her.

When the song ended, she asked. “What’s the name of that one?”


A smile spread through her like the sun in the morning. She handed him a pad and pen from her purse.

“What’s this for?” He tilted his head.

“You need to write some lyrics.”


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SJ Maylee believes hearts are meant to come together and find love. As a writer she has a tendency to break hearts, but she always glues them back together. You can follow her at @SJMaylee,


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Miranda Kate Week 48: Gone

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Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Gone

The scorching wind ruffled his hair and irritated his face; he didn’t take any notice. John stood in the desolate cemetery at the foot of his father’s freshly covered grave, hands clasped in front of him, tears rolling down his face; oblivious to the outside world.

Jack hadn’t been an old man; it had cut him down in his prime. And John had expected him to beat it, even convinced himself that he would. His dad was invincible, his dad could do anything; his dad was a superhero! But the truth had to be faced now he was standing here looking at his grave stone; his dad was human and as fallible as the next person to the ravages of such a destructive disease. And now he was gone.

John’s whole body jerked when a hand landed on his shoulder. Caught up in his grief he hadn’t heard anyone approach; it was Michael.

“Hey John, I thought I’d find you here. Come on back to the house. Your mum needs you.” He didn’t push John; he just stood patiently waiting for him to collect himself.

“I can’t believe he’s gone Michael, you know?” Michael nodded gently, letting John talk. “I thought he’d be able to fight it, rid himself of it. I mean he was my DAD, Michael, he could do anything!”

Michael didn’t say a word. He knew that there were no words to comfort John, nothing he could say that would make a difference, so he simply listened.

“When mum first told me I thought she was being melodramatic; I thought there was bound to be something that would work, that would stop it, that dad could take, you know, to break it down. But she was right there wasn’t. And now he’s gone.”

John paused trying to contain his emotions, but they got the better of him and he started to sob. Michael put his arm round his shoulders and squeezed them tight. John spat out the rest of his feelings through his sobs. “And all I could do was watch him go, just fade away, totally fucking helpless! Totally fucking useless!”

The tears came thick and fast. He could no longer speak. Michael pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to him in silence.

They remained there for some time, staring at the wreaths of flowers, waiting for John’s tears to stop. Then they slowly walked back to the house.

John and Michael had known each other all their lives. Their mothers had been best friends at school, so they’d grown up together and were like brothers. If they didn’t see each other every day, they spoke on the phone. Not a day passed without contact.

So when Michael had called John up at work one afternoon a couple of years later, in a complete state, John had dropped everything and gone straight to him.

When he walked into Michael house, after letting himself in with the spare key, he heard sobbing coming from upstairs. But just as he was about to head that way he noticed Michael in the lounge sitting on the edge of the sofa, tears streaming down his face, staring into space.

After a quick glance at the stairs John entered the lounge. He’d realised that it was Michael’s mother crying upstairs and a renewed sense of dread filled him.

He sat down next to Michael and put his hand on his shoulder. Michael registered John’s presence with a slight turn of the head and started to explain what had happened.

“He was right here John, right here, talking to me.” And that was enough, John knew what had happened, but he let Michael tell him.

“Mum was sitting there,” he pointed at the armchair by the door. “And his image went all funny, sort of opaque. We knew before he did, you should’ve seen his face John, when he realised what was going on - the panic! Then mum started screaming.” He paused remembering. “He won’t be back, John, I just know it. He won’t be back.”

“Oh come on Mike, you don’t know that.” John tried to comfort him.

“No, he won’t, I can feel it. There’s no point living like that, in constant hope - no point at all.” His tears had dried up.

John didn’t like it. “You can’t think that way Michael. There’s always hope.”


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Friday, May 24, 2013

M L Gammella Week 48: Canvas

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M L Gammella’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Canvas

Fumes from fresh paint hung in the air. The room looked like something from Jackson Pollock, there was paint everywhere in various colors, just strewn about without any rhyme or reason. Most appeared to be on various canvases that were around the room, but it looked like the artist missed quite a few times.

“If this is supposed to be art, I don’t get it,” my partner said beside me as we walked into the room gingerly.

“Me either, but stuff like this sells,” I replied.

The flat appeared to be empty. No movement besides our own steps could be heard.

“Who lives here again?”

“Melanie Phillips, according to the landlord that called us,” I replied.

I looked around the room again before I continued into the next room. “Ms. Phillips? Are you here? It’s the police. We received a call.” My voice echoed through the hallway without any response.

The smell of paint faded as I walked down the hallway, only to be replaced by a sharp metallic scent, like iron.

“Craig, get over here. I may have something,” I hollered over my shoulder.

The smell most reminiscent of blood was overwhelming as I stood outside a door slightly ajar at the end of the hallway.

“What is it? Holy crap, is that blood?” Craig asked, quickly joining me.

“I think so. Not sure yet.” I withdrew my firearm from my hoster and called out again. “Ms. Phillips, are you here? Are you okay? Can you hear me?”

WIth a gentle nudge with the barrel, I pushed the door open and wished I hadn’t.

“Holy crap,” Craig repeated, shocked.

“Who would do this?” I asked myself as I carefully stepped into the room, trying to avoid any blood pools. “Radio for the coroner, will you?”

Craig nodded and walked into the hallway, all the more eager for a reason to get away from the horrifying sight. Too bad I didn’t have that luxury to look away. Someone had to figure out who did this.

A woman, Melanie Phillips I assumed, or what was left of her, was very clearly dead. Her blood had been used to paint the room, similar to how the main room was, except the person had used her limbs to apply the paint. A lock of hair was dried in a clump on a bed frame, her arm tossed in a corner. Those were only the first things I saw. THere were much more. I began taking pictures of the scene with my camera phone. I would be able to download the pictures later back at the station.

Craig returned to the room while I was finishing my pictures. “Wait, did they really stake her head?” Craig looked green. He was still a rookie. I had money that he’d be puking in the alley within a few minutes.

“It appears so, but based on the amount of blood on the top of her head, it looked like the person that did all of this, decided to paint using a really big brush.”

That did it. Craig gave me one final panicked look before he bolted. He didn’t make it to the alley, but he did manage to find the deceased woman’s bathroom and leave her with a piece of art in her toilet.

I shook my head and took some more pictures. It was going to be a long day to sift through all of the evidence. Then, the hunt for the killer would be on.


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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.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kimberly Gould Week 48: Remaining

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Remaining

You might think I lived in the country, a tiny shack of a house, dirt path, rickety fencing. You’d be forgiven for the mistake. This place is quite ramshackle and the city wishes I would let them tear it down. I won’t, though. It’s full of too many memories. I can’t bear to part with it. I deserve something new, better, but I’m still clinging to this little place. If only I still had the man I shared it with instead of his memory. If I did, I might move on, with him. Together we could cross the river and build a new place in one of the new neighbourhoods.

It’s been years since he left me, years tied to this corner of earth. It wasn’t his fault. He couldn’t stop fate. Just like I couldn’t fight what happened to me.

I sometimes see him by the river, walking with his latest loves, but he’s faint and shadowy, a whisper of the man I once knew. It doesn’t stop me from staring at that shadow and remember spending time with him on the banks.

It really is time I moved on, let the city have this place. Not for the first time, I get up and make my way out, past my house, past the river, to the edge of town. I stand there, one step away from what comes next. One day, I will take that step and pass beyond this life. Until then, I will continue to terrify anyone foolish enough to disturb me in my misery.

At least our daughter survived.


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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, May 21, 2013

Samantha Lee Week 48: Rings

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Rings

I look down at the ring she wears and barely resist the urge to snarl. It is true that Savannah wears many rings, including one with a small cameo of some goddess of the dead and another formed like a coiled snake. It's only one, however, that commandeers my interest. "You've wed."

Oblivious to my reaction, she smiles, her joy and contentment a virtual beacon. I want to slap her. "I have. Spur of the moment thing in Vegas. We were married by Elrond!"

"I beg your pardon?"

"It was a Tolkien themed chapel," she explains. "Tru thought it would be ironic or cheeky or something. I thought it a bit...cheesy, but it was worth it to see Tru in an Aragon costume."

"How lovely for you both," I tell her, hoping the words sound more sincere to her ears than they do to mine. "I must admit to being a bit surprised; I had thought you were talking things slow."

She gives me an incredulous look and laughs. "Slow? Malika, it's been over two hundred years. Any slower and we'd start moving backwards!"

I clear my throat and cast about for some plausible reply. "Yes, of course, by mortal standards, an eternity. By our own, however, it's not even a drop in the bucket."

"And if we were to wait for that bucket to fill, Mal, we'd be waiting a true eternity. Besides, we're already Mated. The wedding was only a formality. No big deal."

I sigh and relent; to push harder would be to incite suspicion and what's done is done. Savannah may be powerful, may be ancient, but the intricacies of spellwork still elude her. To time, two centuries is nothing. To magic, the bond of marriage is like an open portal, entwining the life of my Queen with that of her lover, now husband. My spell, my plan would never work now, not without putting Savannah at risk as well.

Drat it all to Hell and back.

"I wish we could have had a proper wedding, of course," Savannah nattered on. "One with guests and cake and feasting...perhaps one day if I ever regain what I've lost we'll renew our vows and do it right the second time around. Anyways, Mal, what was it you wanted to see me about?"

I sigh, my hands tied. I needed to return to the library, to the books, and find a new means of undoing my Queen's lunacy and folly before it disgraced us any further. It was my duty, after all, and my purpose. I could not and would not fail.

"Oh, Barnabas threw a shoe, is all," I told her, gesturing to indicate her favourite stallion. "The smith is coming in a few days and Barnabas ought to fine but I thought perhaps it prudent to have the horse stabled until then."

Savannah glances from me to the horse and back again, her expression confused, her eyes intent. In a blur of motion, Savannah is suddenly beside Barnabas. With dark, blood hued hair and honey-tanned skin, she stands out in stark relief next to the white horse. With a snort, Barnabas lowers his head and condescends to be pat by his mistress. After a moment, Savannah shrugs and concedes the point. "As long as he and the others are happy and healthy, Mal, I defer to you about their care. You know that. Anyways, if that's all, I have to be off. Honeymoon. You understand. I'll see you later."

She leaves and I sigh, happily dropping the glamour of the stable girl. Precious, pretty little princess, always making my work so difficult.

I hope she appreciates all that I do for her.

And all that I will.


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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ruth Long Week 47: How To Rob A Thief

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: How To Rob A Thief

“I’m sorry the transition was so sudden,” Haley said, from what she hoped was a safe distance. “I’m having a bit of trouble with forward calibrations.”

He turned and fixed her with a cool grey stare. “One minute, I’m walking through the theater with a woman on each arm and the next I’m standing at the edge of a wheat field with a stranger. Your faulty calibrations couldn’t possibly get any worse.”

Her cheeks flushed. “Actually, they could, but I’m sure you have some pressing questions about the situation -”

He interrupted her. “Is this part of that new witness relocation program that nobody is supposed to know about but everybody is talking about?”

She blinked. “Relocation?”

“Never mind. Let’s try something easier. Are you going to refund the thirty cents I paid for that movie ticket.”

“Oh. Well, I hadn’t thought of that. If you’ll just let me explain -”

“Do you know who I am?”

She rolled her eyes. “Of course -”

“Then you’d better hope your backward calibrations are more precise than your forward because if I’m not back inside the Biograph in sixty seconds -”

“I can’t put you back.”

He came towards her. “What’s going on here?”

“I can’t put you back or they’ll kill you again.”

He stopped. “What?”

“Please, let me explain it to you over a cup of coffee in town.”

He grabbed her arm, fingers harsh, knuckles white. “What about Polly and Anna?”

“They’ll be fine. The only person who dies today is you. Well, if you’re there, that is.”

He loosened his grip. “There being Chicago, which this isn’t. So, where are we?”


He let go of her and eyed their surroundings. “This isn’t 1934 either, is it?”

“No, it’s 2005.”

He rubbed his neck. “Lady, I believe I’ll take that cup of coffee now.”

She let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. “Listen, I know this is a bit much at the moment but it’s better than what fate had in store for you.”

He nodded to the compact car beside the road. “That yours? My Terraplane has so much more style and power. So far, the future is far less impressive than I’d imagined.”

“In that case, I guess you don’t want to drive,” she said, heading for the car.

“Oh, you can bet I’m going to drive. Toss me the keys. And quit looking at me like I’m going to hurt you. Yeah, I’m ticked off and not sure what the hell is going on, but I have never raised my hand to a lady. My voice, maybe a time or two, but never my hand.”

“I know,” she said, getting into the passenger seat and buckling up. “I read that about you.”

He put the key in the ignition but didn’t turn it. “You read about me?”

“Sure. Read everything I could get my hands on. Biographies. Newspaper clippings. Court records. Medical examiner’s -”

The cold gaze came back. “Go on. Tell me how I die.”

She held his gaze. “Three bullets as you leave the theater.”

“Do I suffer?”

“Death was instantaneous.”

“Tell me it wasn’t Purvis.”

She shook her head. “No, it wasn’t.”

“Well, damn him anyway, and that rat bastard Hoover too.”

He started the car, pulled onto the road, and drove in silence until a town loomed on the horizon. The kind of town with picket fences, manicured lawns, and Detroit’s latest product in the driveway.

“Take a left at the first stop sign. There are a couple coffee houses and a half dozen restaurants. Pick whatever you’d like.”

“You going to tell me your name?”

“Haley Merritt.”

“I’d say it’s a pleasure to meet you but I’m not so sure yet.”

She eyed the passing restaurants. “Any of these places look good to you?”

“What are those,” he asked.

She followed his gaze. “Oh. They’re drive-thrus. You place your order from the car, pick up the food at the window, and drive off.”

“That’s what I want. Look at these people. Look at their cars and stores and cafes. I’m not getting out of this car and sitting down to dinner across from them.”

“See that sign with the green circle? Pull in there. And use this card to pay. Your money is no good here.”

One of his hands came off the steering wheel and punched the seat. “My money is no good here? My money? The money I gained by the force of my personality? The money I built my legacy on? The money I fought and bled and nearly died for? Damn, you, Miss Merritt. Damn you to hell.”

Other than the few words it took him to order their drinks, he didn’t speak again until he pulled the car into a hotel parking lot at the end of town. “Now, we can talk things out here in the car or up in one of those rooms, but we aren’t going anywhere or doing anything until we get this situation cleared up.”

She fussed with her watch. “This isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.”

His laugh was a short bark. “I don’t know what ‘this’ is yet but easy isn’t even on the drawing table.”

“I think better when I’m walking,” she said, glancing up at him.”

He opened the door, dropped the keys in his pocket, and came around to her door to help her out. But instead of letting her move away from the car he pinned her in. “Who are you?”

She held as still as possible. “I already told you. Haley Merritt.”

“That’s your name, not who you are. I want to know what you do? Are you one of Hoover’s agents?”

“No. I’m a scientist.”

“What kind of scientist hijacks a man’s history?”

“A desperate one.”

He tipped her chin up. “What would make a smart gorgeous woman like you so damn desperate?”

“My mother is sick and there isn’t anything I could do to help her.”

He moved, leaning up against the car beside her.”Is sick? Couldn’t help? You’re tenses are all tangled up.”

She sighed. “This time travel thing gets confusing.”

“You’re telling me. I’ve been doing it less than an hour and I already want to punch something.”

“I’ve been inside three years in the last two hours. I left 2012, retrieved you from 1934, and brought us to 2005, to a neutral point before the trouble started.”

“I suppose tenses are the least of your problem, hmm?”

She smiled up at him. “I read that you were good humored. Didn’t expect to get to see it.”

“You didn’t bring me here for entertainment though, did you? What is it you want me to do?”

“The reason I can’t help my mama is that the bankers drained thousands of retirements accounts, including my parent’s, and now they don’t have the money she needs for treatment. I brought you here to help me steal my dad’s money before the bank does.”

“I don’t understand.”

“If I could steal dad’s retirement fund and put it somewhere secure, it will be there when they need it. And I got to thinking, who better to rob a thief than the greatest thief in history?”

“And why would I help you?”

She put a hand on his forearm. “Because if you do I promise to retrieve Billie for you.”

He sucked in his breath like she’d punched him. “Shut up.”

“But I can get to her before they arrest -”

He grabbed her around the waist and pinned her to the car.“I said shut up. I told you I’d never raised my hand to a lady but if you say her name again, I’m not sure I can stop myself.”

“Forgive me. After everything I read, I thought that I had figured out how to motivate you to, that offering you the one thing -”

“That’s just it. You figured. You used your little scientific brain to analyze me like a lab rat. Another faulty calibration, Miss Merritt. Emotions like love and passion can’t be measured or quantified. They can only be experienced and demonstrated.”

She had no rebuttal for that.

“And while we’re clarifying things, won’t my presence here, outside my timeline, change history?”


“No? Just like that? So everything science taught us goes out the window because Processor Merritt says so? Even if she only says so because it suits her, because it’s what she hopes for, because she wills it to so?”

“I said ‘no’ because I haven’t seen any adverse effects.”

“And how many tests have you run? How times have you gone skipping through time? And who, besides you, is collecting and analyzing the data for all these trips?”

She kicked the dirt. “Do you really care? I just saved your life. Who are you to complain or question me?! And who are you to deny me a favor?”

“I’m the man who may have lost his legacy because of you. And I ask you again – for what?”

“For a fresh start. Isn’t that what everyone wants?”

“Not me.”

“You’d rather I left you there to die, gunned down in the street like a rabid dog and laid out in the morgue for thousands of gawkers to parade past?”

He let go of her and stepped away. “You’re a real piece of work, lady,” he said, heading for the sidewalk, “and trust me, I’m using that term loosely.”

She went after him. “Wait! Where are you going?”

He kept walking. “Got nowhere to go, thanks to you, but you said walking helps you think and I’m hoping it does the same for me.”

“Please help me save my mother, John. I can’t sit by and watch her die a long slow painful death.”

“Have you thought any of this through? You stole my life to save your mother’s. You stole my legacy and money to preserve your family’s legacy and money. You’re so focused on getting revenge - “

“Damn straight! I want to bring those bankers to their knees! I want their every waking moment to be filled with terror and their nights spent sleepless for fear of nightmares, and who terrifies banks more than John Dillinger?”

He came to a stop. “How do we even know what my name evokes at this point, Miss Merritt? Maybe yanking me out of the Biograph changed everything in that timeline. Maybe disappearing from your timeline changed everything. Or maybe screwing with the timeline this year fixes your parent’s financial problems but causes other problems for them?”

“I’m not a bloody idiot. I harnessed time, damn it! And all those years I was working on it, breaking the laws of physics, I was also researching you, going over the details of you life again and again, to reassure myself you were the right candidate. I spent years focused on this goal, passing up work promotions, a social life, and even the hope of having my own family. I gave up everything for this.”

He grabbed her wrist and pulled her towards him. “I’ll do it on one condition.”

“Yes. Whatever it is, the answer is yes.”

“You might want to let me finish before you give your answer. My condition is that you come with me.”

“To rob the bank? No! Absolutely not!”

“Unless you get your hands dirty, my little science whiz, I won’t employ mine on your behalf.”

“But - I wouldn’t have any idea what I was doing.”

“Haven’t you heard? 2005 is a brave new world, one where you open yourself up to experience and let emotion wreck you. And then you get up the next day and do it all over again.”

She closed the gap between them until she was so close her breath agitated his eyelashes. “Fine. I’ll dirty my hands with you, Johnnie, but when we’re done, I’m going to take you to Billie’s grave and you are going to stand beside that little white cross and pay your respects.”

He raised his hand to her, sank it into her hair like an anchor, and crushed his mouth to hers.


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Saturday, May 18, 2013

JB Lacaden Week 47: The End of the Road

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JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The End of the Road

The street was as empty as the sky and the air was as chilling as the approaching darkness. I stood at the end of the street; behind me was the unfinished bridge that led to nowhere but a very deep fall and some nasty-pointed rocks. It had remained unfinished for about five years now—no one knew why, no one bothered to ask. It was blocked off from traffic so accidents could be avoided.

I blew on my hands to keep them warm but I knew it won’t do them any good. In my ears, The Beatles were singing ‘Eleanor Rigby’. I turned around and stared at the space that lay across the half-built bridge. There was the continuation of the road and the road went on straight for a bit. It then zigzagged a bit and trees had appeared on its sides. After that, it was an upward climb and on top was the downward part. I started imaging the part after the downward part. That was when I felt someone tap me from behind.

I turned around and there she was in all her imperfect beauty. I removed the earphones from my ears and hang them around my neck.

“Hi,” she said. Her cheeks were red from the cold and I could see her breath in front of her.

I smiled (it was impossible not to smile when you’re looking at her). A year had passed and time had done her well. I said “hi” back. “You waited long?” she asked.

I shook my head. “Nah, just got here about the same time as you did,” I lied.

Without warning, she got down and sat cross-legged on the ground. She patted the space beside her, motioning me to sit by her side. I ran a hand through my hair and I sat down.

Our eyes stared at the everything that lay before us. The silence that had settled wasn’t uncomfortable at all. It was quite the opposite. The silence was a blanket that had fallen over our shoulders and it warmed us from the coldness of the night. The road stretched long before us. On its left side were trees with leaves turned brown by the changing of the season. Beneath the trees, the grass was littered with dried up leaves. On the right side was the river—steadily flowing towards the direction of the unfinished bridge. At the end of the road stood the town, our town. Lights from the many windows of various buildings and houses slowly came alive one by one, like fireflies.

She let out a sigh and the blanket of silence flew away. “Thank you,” she said.

I gave a nod. “I’d do it all over again if given the chance.”

From the periphery of my vision, I saw her look at me. I turned my head and looked at her. The blueness of her eyes were as deep as the sky hanging above us but, unlike the sky, hers was filled with stars—I saw them, I really did, and they blinked and twinkled and danced. Amidst the stars, I saw traces of melancholy.

“It’s not the end of everything, you know,” I whispered. Images flashed in my head. A star filled sky, her smile, the whiteness of the snow that blanketed the road, myself lying on the ground.

Tears formed at the edges of her eyes and they remained there for a while as she willed them not to fall. But fall they did. “I know,” the words were mixed with sobs and the sound of a broken heart beating.

I held her face in my cold hands and I brought her closer to me so our foreheads were touching. Both of us had our eyes closed and I whispered to her words—words that reflected the intense longing I had for her, the incalculable love that lived in my being, a love reserved only for her, the pain of leaving her broken and forlorn. I whispered to her hope and dreams and strength. I whispered to her comfort and love and the future. Where words fell short, my touch and my kisses and my tears spoke. I don’t know how long we remained like that.

When all my words and feelings had been poured out, we stood up and brushed the dirt from our pants.

“You going to be OK?” I asked.

She didn’t answer right away. She looked at the town and the ever growing number of lights appearing. “I think I’ll be fine,” she finally said. Somehow, I believed her. “Two years. Two years passed us by.”

“No. Two years passed you by,” I said laughing. “Time hasn’t touched me since that night.”

From somewhere far, the sound of cars rose and fell like waves from the sea.

“You’ll be fine,” I said.

“I’ll be fine,” she agreed. “Next year. Same time and place?”

I shook my head. “I think today’s the last time we’d see each other. Two years had gone by. You’ll be fine.”

“Today’s the last… Before I went out of the house, before I went her, somehow, someway, I thought to myself that today would be the last,” she said. Thank you. For that night, for saving me.”

I nodded. “If given the chance, I’d do it all over again.”

“I know,” she said. “Goodbye?”

“I think so.”

The night had fallen completely and I watched her standing alone at the end of the road. She shoved her hands into her pockets and started walking back to town. Above her, a single star blinked and twinkled and danced.


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JB Lacaden dreams of someday being a published writer. He currently resides in Manila, Philippines. He's a lover of comic books, science fiction, and high fantasy. Check out some of his works at and follow him at @jblearnstowrite.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 47: Lawyers, Guns, and Money Part 9

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Lawyers, Guns, and Money Part 9

Guys in matching body armor, toting matching automatic rifles crashed into the cantina, three men per door. They wore bandannas over their faces.

Pilar let them all clear the thresholds then opened fire.

She emptied both guns in the time it took me to say, “Holy shit.”

Five men lay dead on the floor with oozing head and neck wounds. The sixth limped back to the front porch, bleeding and dragging one useless leg behind him.

Everything went quiet.

Pilar stood straight and still. Only her trigger fingers and her eyes had moved.

The clink and clatter as she swapped clips cut through the ringing in my ears.

She tossed the revolver to me.

“Does Antonio have more bullets for that?”

“Beneath the register,” croaked Antonio.

The big man shambled out of the back room and pointed.

He looked worse standing than he had tied to the chair. I hadn't noticed how much blood had seeped through the front of his shirt. A wet, gurgling cough followed each labored breath.

I broke the revolver open the way I saw Pilar open Beau's Peacemaker in the basement, loaded it, and tossed it back.

There were four bullets left in the box, which I stuffed in my hip pocket.

She moved to the far wall and helped herself to the one fallen rifle she could reach without getting shot.

I guided Antonio toward the back wall.

“Who did this to you?” I asked.

He didn't answer me.

She leaned out for a look through what was left of the door and pulled back just ahead of the barrage.

The bullets pinged off the cash register and took out Antonio's television.

When the shooting stopped she waited for a three-count then spun and returned fire, emptying the rifle.

“Six left on this side, Mateo,” she hissed as she ducked back inside.

I sidled up to the dockside door and knelt down low beside a corpse, unashamed to use a dead guy for cover.

The guy's rifle-- and those of his pals-- sat in no man's land, just out of reach.

I counted three bogeys on the dock, two to the right, one to the left, all holding rifles. None of them wore body armor.

I moved away from the door and put three fingers in the air.

Bullets flew in through the back door, shredding the bar, shattering the few bottles that hadn't already been broken.

“We must go,” said Pilar.

“You must go,” replied Antonio. “Leave me here. Without me you might escape. With me we all die.”

The man was right. Didn't mean I wanted to leave him behind.

Neither did Pilar.

They argued about it in Spanish, or rather, she argued.

He waited her out then said his piece.

Four words.

“Yo soy muerto, sobrina.”

Sobrina. The word sounded familiar. Where had I heard it before?

Something thudded against the floor, near the front door.

Something metallic.

A grenade. Just what we needed.

We watched a second grenade fly in through the shattered front door. And a third.

“Mierda,” grunted Pilar. She made for the dockside door, Antonio's revolver and her own automatic out in front of her.

Antonio took a deep, heaving breath and beat her there.

Four more grenades hit the floor, this time from the back side.

“Vaya con Dios, sobrina,” he said as he lurched out to the dock before either Pilar or I could grab him.

We cursed and bolted after him.

The bad guys fired the second he made daylight.

Antonio stopped, held upright by the bullets slamming into his body. He stayed on his feet until the gunfire stopped and then fell, dead before he hit the boards.

Pilar burst out of the cantina, both guns ablaze.

The three gunmen I'd spotted went down. The four I'd missed sent a lot of lead our way.

I got off my one shot with the sawed-off then grabbed a hold of Pilar and jumped into the canal.

The cantina exploded as we hit the water. Most of the dock went up with it.

Debris and a bunch of bullets followed us in.

We went down in the fetid, reeking muck and stayed there, working hard to put distance between us and whoever was still alive back at the dock.

The canal curved just north of the cantina and we made it around the bend before we had to surface.

My lungs burned and my eyes stung as we splashed out of the water and onto the hard-packed dirt bank.

Pilar reached into her shirt and came out with Antonio's revolver in her hand.

I dug into my pocket and pulled out the four bullets.

She accepted them without comment but smiled at me while she loaded the gun.

We stayed down low and listened.

No gunfire. No voices. Nothing coming our way.

When we sat up Pilar turned toward the plume of black smoke rising over Antonio's cantina.

“Gracias, mi tio,” she said in a hollow, angry voice.

“Tio,” I repeated. “Sobrina. He was your uncle.”

“My mother's brother.”

“Lo siento, Pilar.”

I put my hand on her shoulder.

She nodded and put her hand over mine.

“We need to move,” she said.

“Getting away from the canal would be good. First place they'll come looking for us.”

She nodded and squeezed my hand.

We climbed over the embankment and took off at a fast walk through the outskirts of Abandonados, keeping to a wooded path just off the road.

There were very few houses out this far. We'd hit farm country. It was a hardscrabble life, tilling rocky ground in tropical heat, but the people out here made it work.

The terrain was greener than it was brown and the houses scattered around the landscape looked more permanent than the shacks and huts in town.

The area seemed as deserted as Diego Street. Explosions and automatic gunfire have a way of doing that.

We hid behind a hay bale to rest and get out of our soggy shoes.

I stripped off the borrowed guayabera and fashioned a pouch to carry them in.

“I don't think Hector's gonna want this thing back,” I said.

Pilar chuckled. “I am sure he can talk his sister into making him a new one.”

She looked at the wounds on my chest and stomach.

“We should get those cleaned as soon as we can.”

“Same goes for your wrists.”

We set off barefoot across the field.

She turned toward the farm we'd just left and grabbed my arm.

“Do you see that?”

I took a good look. Didn't see anything.

She pointed.

The late day sunlight glinted off something metal. A motorcycle. It sat parked next to a lean-to behind the nearest house.

We ran back across the field.

The bike was old and not as shiny as it looked from afar but it had all the essentials-- two good tires, a seat, handlebars, and an engine.

Pilar had the thing hot-wired in seconds.

“You know how to ride one of these?” I asked.

She kick started the thing and grinned at me.

“Of course you do,” I said as I got on the seat behind her.

She opened the throttle and off we went.

I threw my arms around her waist and yelled, “Guy's gonna be pissed when he gets home and finds his ride gone!”

“I know whose farm that is,” she yelled back. “He will be compensated.”

I shut up and settled in. The canal stink did nothing to diminish the feel of her body against mine.

It wasn't long before we hit the badlands.

The only signs of life were the lizards watching our approach from their perches on the rocks.

Empty brown land surrounded us, flat lines broken up by arroyos and low rock formations. The horizon seemed a long, long way off, no matter which direction I looked.

We switched up just after sunset, taking a moment to watch the blue sky turn orange and then gray.

I hadn't been a on motorcycle since I was a kid but good memories and the sweet pressure of Pilar's arms around my middle made it easy. Didn't hurt that the bike handled like a dream. That guy was really gonna miss his ride.

The terrain appeared even emptier as the moonlight gained strength. The wind picked up too, blowing dirt and rocks at us as we cut through the darkness.

Pilar had me stop when we got to a tree, the only one we'd seen since we left the woods outside of Abandonados.

It wasn't much, just a gnarled skinny trunk with two spindly branches and some long dead leaves.

She rubbed my shoulders as we idled next to the tree.

“We are nearly there, Mateo.” She pointed to her left. “Ten miles more.”

I revved the engine.

“What are we waiting for then?”

We pulled up in front of a small adobe house ten miles later.

A low stone fence with an open gate stood between us and the house.

I went right through the open gate and parked beside the house.

“What is this place?” I asked as we got off the bike and walked to the door.

“A safe place,” she replied.

“A hideout, eh?”

“Something like that.”

She held her hand out for me. I took it and we stepped inside.

The first room was as spartan as they come.

No furniture. No lights. Just enough moonlight got through a couple of ratty windows. Another door led to the rest of the house.

Pilar fished a key out of her pocket and let us in.

The room we entered was pitch black dark. And quiet.

She locked the door behind us.

A flare of red and yellow light brightened the room for a second and then dimmed as she lit a candle.

“No electricity,” she said, taking me by the hand.

We turned to the right and went into a small room-- a washroom.

She set the candle down on a countertop and lit some more candles.

The soft light reflected off the mirror over the counter, making the adobe walls glow.

“Wait here,” she said. She disappeared out of the room.

I went to the edge of the old-fashioned porcelain bathtub and took a seat.

A spout sat at one end of the tub, connected to a wooden pump set-up. Well water, I assumed.

Pilar returned a few minutes later, naked, holding some towels, a bar of soap, and a bottle of tequila.

I forgot to breathe for a second.

She smiled.

I recovered and started working the water pump while Pilar climbed into the tub.

The water was cool but not cold, warmed just a touch by the hot sun.

She wet and soaped and rinsed my chest and stomach while I drew the water, gently cleaning the cuts and stitches.

When the tub was full she handed me the tequila.

“Take a small drink. Then give me the bottle.”

Liquid fire slid down my throat. I closed my eyes and shook my head. When I opened them again my pants were on the floor and she had the bottle.

“Take my hand,” she said.

I did so and gave it a squeeze because I knew what was coming.

She poured tequila over my chest. I clenched my teeth as it sluiced down, burning the worst of the canal out of my wounds.

When she was done I got into the tub with her and washed the gouges in her wrists.

Her eyes never left mine as I gave them the tequila treatment.

The soap was home-made and abrasive but it felt wonderful to get the grime off me.

Pilar took her time getting me clean and I returned the favor.

She trembled when I ran my fingertips down her neck and across her back.

I trembled when I ran my fingertips down her neck and across her back.

She got out of the tub first and reached for a towel.

I watched her in the mirror as she dried off.

She smiled when she saw my reflected face looking at her. She turned and leaned back against the counter.

The flickering candlelight gave her skin a golden red sheen.

The towel hit the floor.

I stood and stepped out of the water and dried the last of the canal off between the tub and the counter.

My towel joined hers on the floor.

She raised her hand to stroke my face.

I grabbed it.

Surprise flashed in her eyes, but only for a second.

I pulled her to me and kissed her, the fingers of one hand entwined in her hair. I felt her nails on my back and kissed her harder.

She didn't resist when I picked her up and sat her down on the countertop.

“There is,” she gasped, “a perfectly good bedroom just down the hall.”

I said nothing and pulled her closer to me.

She grinned.

“I see,” she said as she wrapped her legs around my waist.

Another kiss, slow and languorous, ended the conversation.

The sun was up by the time we made it into that bedroom down the hall

Like what you just read? Have a question or concern? Leave a note for the author! We appreciate your feedback!

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, May 16, 2013

Michela Walters Week 47: Sawdust Memories

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Sawdust Memories

The musty smell of dust and wood shavings always permeated her nose, tickling it and forcing her to sneeze a few times each time she entered her father’s sacred space. Dragging a finger across the workbench that had sat empty for the last three months still tugged at Valencia’s heart. She wished above all else that her Papa was still alive to chase her out of his workshop, chiding her about the dangers that all his tools could administer. Instead, all Val ever saw when she came in here was the beauty of every handcrafted thing her father had built with his own blood, sweat and tears.

She smiled wistfully remembering how happy her dad would get when he completed an especially challenging, but lovely piece of furniture. He’d spent more time in their detached garage, turned workshop than he ever did in the house. A habit that eventually caused her mother to walk out after having made a special dinner for their anniversary that her father never came in the house for. Valencia knew she should forgive her mother, but wasn’t sure if she really needed to. She’d walked out of Val’s life, leaving her with a man who was her whole world. If it had been the other way around, she likely would have been crushed and probably suicidal if her father had left her instead.

Now, she just wished she had some sort of family left to be apart of. Even though she was twenty five, she hadn’t been ready for the grim news that her beloved Papa had died of a massive heart attack while slaving over his laythe, putting the lovely, albeit final touches on the legs of a dining room table he’d been working on. She’d saved that unfinished work, unable to part with his final masterpiece. It took up more space than she had in her tiny apartment, but loved the delicate yet sturdy table more than anything else she’d had in her possession.

Glancing back towards the workbench, she exited his shop one last time. Tomorrow was the estate sale. A precursor to the eventual sale of her dad’s house. It had been refinanced and mortgaged to the hilt, and the only way Val was going to get out from the mountain of debt her father had accumulated over the years was to sell it. She was thankful that while the home was old, most of the things that normally wore out by now had been replaced or refurbished by her handy father.

With a quiet click, the door shut behind her. She trudged back up towards the house, knowing she still had hours of work to do inorder to get ready for the sale. Amid the thoughts swirling around in her mind was a deep wonder if she’d ever find another person in her life as perfect as her father had been. The ache in her gut instinctually gave her the answer she’d known yet dreaded all along.


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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, May 15, 2013

Sarah Aisling Week 47: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part 14)

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Got a Secret . . . Can You Keep it? (Part 14)

Ciel's mouth hung agape as Janice rushed across the room and gripped her upper arms, giving her a shake.

“Did you just call me 'Mrs. Jeffries'?”

Frightened, Ciel only managed a nod.

“Bitch!” The venomous expletive was directed to a corner of the room, not at Ciel. “Liar!” Janice let go of Ciel's arms, balling her fists and pacing in front of the metal shelving, muttering curses. An old, fragile book was knocked to the floor and ignored. She seemed to forget about Ciel's presence in the bunker.

The metal door slammed shut with a banging echo, causing both girls to jump. Metal tumblers clicked home, sending a gunshot of finality ricocheting around the room. Janice raced to the door and beat her fists against its impenetrable surface, screaming until she was hoarse. Ciel stood helpless and watched her friend, unable to reach out to her due to the restraint shackled to her ankle.

Eventually, Janice placed her back against the metal door and slid to a seated position on cold concrete. When Ciel finally took a good look at her friend, she gasped, covering her mouth with one hand. Tear tracks stained Janice's alabaster skin, but what shocked Ciel to the core were the gaunt planes of her face and the sunken eye sockets with purple shadows marring the delicate skin beneath. Janice had lost a lot of weight, something not readily obvious beneath the baggy jeans and hoodie she wore.

“Janice . . . where have you been? I've been so worried. Your parents—they're heartbroken.”

Janice tipped her head up and swept her arm out, indicating the bunker. “At first I stayed here. Just recently I graduated to an above-ground cabin, and I'm allowed small amounts of fresh air.” She glared up at the corner again and raised her voice. “Convicts in prison get treated better!”

Ciel curled up on her cot and started shaking. The bunker must be bugged, and Janice was aware of the location of the device. “I'm scared. Please stop yelling at Mrs. Jeffries.” It was obvious to Ciel that if the woman had kidnapped two young girls, she was mentally unstable. She hadn't killed Janice or Ciel yet, but she might change her mind any moment.

Janice rose to her feet and made her way over to the cot, sitting down beside Ciel. Rather than embrace or comfort her friend, Janice's gray eyes burned with an intensity that scared Ciel. “Why do you think she's Paul's wife?”

Ciel swiped a few stray tears from her cheeks and glared at Janice, a flicker of anger taking root inside her. “I don't think, I know. Melinda Jeffries drugged me.”

“But why?”

Ciel looked down at her fingers as they twisted together. “I was stupid. I—I just wanted to find you! It was a foolish thing to do, but after school, I hid in the back of Professor Jeffries' SUV while he wasn't looking. When he got home, his wife wanted to use his car to go to their farmhouse. I tried to sneak away after, but she caught me.”

“What did she do?” Janice's eyes were wide with awe.

“She asked me if I . . . if I had a thing for her husband. I told her no. Then she pretended to be friendly and made me a cup of hot cocoa.” A few tears spilled down Ciel's face, and Janice held her hand. “Sh-she pretended to call my m-mom to pick me up, but I w-woke up locked in h-here.”

The two girls held each other. Ciel sobbed into Janice's hoodie. Janice rested her chin on Ciel's shoulder, her troubled gray eyes turning stormy. She stroked Ciel's flaxen hair, genuinely sorry her friend had been dragged into the middle of such a twisted situation.

“I'm sorry, Ciel. You shouldn't be here like this.” Janice's tone held an equal measure of sorrow and bitterness.

“Neither should you! Thank God you're still alive.”

Janice leaned back, her serious gaze capturing Ciel's full attention. “A lot of things are beginning to make sense to me now, and I'm afraid it isn't good news.”

“Wh-what do you mean?”

“Melinda Jeffries is my aunt.”


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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing 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, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook