Bad Choices Make Good Stories is a darkly funny coming-of-age novel based on true events. Oliver, a teenage hacker living in Germany, meets Donna online. She's an American girl living in New York. After chatting and talking on the phone for months, he finally decides to surprise her with a visit. But he soon finds out that things are not what they appeared to be, and that this visit will change his life forever.
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Former Marine sniper Sam Asher enjoys his casual civilian life. He’s content with his mundane job, steady girlfriend, and halfway decent apartment, until tragedy strikes too close to home, in a manner that appears to be related to a nationwide epidemic of creepy clown sightings.
Bent on vengeance, Sam hits the road to track down a deranged killer. Accompanied by his brother Jake, and pursued by an overly ambitious Homeland Security Agent, Sam will need to use every resource, every skill, and every friend he’s ever had to find the madman.
As the “clown crisis” ramps up, receiving constant coverage from the media and keeping regular folks hiding in their homes, a rash of murders takes Sam halfway across the country on his quest for justice. The battle-tested Marine will be sucked into a vortex of madness at the hands of a psychopath, engaging in a battle of will and wits that will test his heart, mind and loyalty.
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“Of all the places you could have ended up, why are you here? Why didn’t you go home?”
“This is home. I’d think you would be happy to see me here, establishing a business, putting down roots.”
“When your roots pull mine out, we have a problem.”
Leslie Baker, owner of Potter Lake’s original hometown beauty shop, the Curl & Dye, has a problem.
Her problem isn’t her dwindling customer base. And it’s not the shifty, shady Mayor of the idyllic lakeside town.
Her problem is a muscular, handsome, 6’4” former basketball superstar with a solid physique and colorful sleeve tattoos. Kade “KC” Cavanaugh is back in Potter Lake following his NBA retirement and the business he’s opened, a slick and shiny co-ed salon, directly competes with Curl & Dye.
KC is all too eager to to pick things up where they left off fifteen years ago, but Leslie can’t forget how he pushed her away after an intimate encounter, then dropped out of college and left her behind for the bright lights of professional ball.
Though she won’t admit it, time and maturity have eaten away at Leslie's anger and her long-buried attraction to Kade Cavanaugh has resurfaced.
With a vengeance.
Now there is a larger problem: Leslie and KC find themselves in the center of a city wide drama, and with both sides of Potter Lake at war and their livelihoods at stake, the two have to stop sniping at each other and start working together.
And maybe, in the process, forget the past and revive a budding romance that was very special...a very long time ago.
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I sensed movement at the door and opened my mouth to let the customer know that we were just about to close. To my surprise, Kade Cavanaugh stood in the doorway.
Earlier in the day he'd worn a pair of shorts that looked like he'd pulled them straight from the dryer and a misshapen t-shirt. Tonight, he wore khaki carpenter shorts and a form fitting black t-shirt that spread over his pecs and hugged his biceps and...whew.
I reached out to grip my chair since I was a little light headed. A lightning bolt of attraction punched me in my chest and rushed through my body so quickly, so fiercely, it took me by surprise.
I inhaled deeply, sucking in a steadying breath before I addressed him. "Evening, KC. I'd have thought your shop would be too busy for you to be over here, checking out your competition."
He smiled, quietly laughing while his eyes surveyed the salon, starting at the reception desk, a plain old desk from Caine Brothers Wood Works. Then he took in the mismatched leather chairs that comprised the waiting area; the salon chairs with peeling vinyl patched with black tape and the shampoo bowl that was a refurbished and redesigned laundry sink.
To the naked, and maybe the more upscale eye, the Curl & Dye wasn't much to look at. But people came to the Curl & Dye for the atmosphere.
"I mean, with all due respect, Leslie..." KC shrugged and gestured toward the small salon. "You're not my competition."
That lofty, lightheaded feeling was zapped as quickly as it came on. I felt like I landed face first on the pavement. There went my moment of attraction.
Tamera stood beside me, her arms crossed. "Look who decided to slum it over on the old side of Potter Lake."
"I’m not… slumming. I hadn't been over here since I moved back and— "
"And you decided to pop in and start some shit with us?"
KC's eyes narrowed and his brows formed "V" of irritation. The glare he gave Tamera gave me an uneasy feeling.
"Tam, why don't you close out the day for me? Pull the receipts and get the deposit ready." I led her to the front desk and pulled out the chair for her to sit.
As soon as she was settled, I grabbed KC's arm and guided him back out of the shop into the warm evening. I heard Tamera grumbling, not even under her breath, as she sat at the desk and began the daily closing ritual.
"What do you want?" I asked him, noticing the enormous black Escalade parked in front of the window. "We're about to close up."
He shrugged a shoulder, tossing his keys from one hand to the other. Back in college he used to do the same with a basketball. "I just... was around and— "
"Bullshit. You have no reason to be on this side of the lake except to be snooping around this shop. So... what? You wanted to gloat? To say some more shit about stealing my clients?"
"I'm not steal—" He heaved a deep sigh and shoved both hands into his pockets. "I felt bad. About earlier. You surprised me by showing up at the shop. I felt cornered and I get mouthy when I feel like that. Listen, I think we got off on the wrong foot— "
"No, I think the foot we got off on was right. You came out here and opened a business in direct competition with mine— "
"That was not my intent, Leslie. I keep telling you, I didn't know this shop was here."
"Well, now you do."
I paused, giving a wide-eyed stare at ruggedly bushy eyebrows, at long, undeservedly lush lashes, at almond shaped eyes, at full lips and well-edged goatee.
Damn, he was fine. Had always been fine but... damn, he was fine.
"Now I do," he acknowledged, with a head nod. "All I'm saying is that we should be able to co-exist."
I gestured toward the building that was The Curl & Dye, catching a glimpse of Evonne and Tamera standing in the middle of the shop watching us talk. I pulled him away from the window, toward the driver side door of his truck.
"It would be one thing if you were just a barbershop. Most of the men in this town do their own hair; they only come to me if they want something real nice. That cheap cut you offer is perfect for them."
He scoffed, but I ignored it. "We can't co-exist because women are going to your shop instead of mine, for services I offer, my mother offered, my Grandy offered for years. Your shop could lose a customer or three and it wouldn't hit your bottom line. I need every client I can get. Your shop is some kind of..."
I shrugged, shaking my head. "Get rich quick scheme, it seems. Except you're already rich, so now you're just being greedy. The Curl & Dye is my bread and butter. It keeps me and my parents in food and electricity and Grandy in good care at Primose Gardens. It's about more than a cheap haircut."
I began to back away from him and his truck and his intoxicatingly sexy smelling cologne. It was making me heady and I was feeling all kinds of really familiar feelings from being too close to him.
"I just want to run my shop, KC."
"And I want to run mine," he responded, a hand splayed across his chest. "What do you want me to do, Leslie? Close up, give up my business ‘cause you got first dibs?"
I sighed, lifting my face to the starry sky. "No," I finally answered, making my way toward the front door. "I want you to stay out of my way. You do your thing over on that side of the lake and I'll— "
"Leslieeeeee!" Gisela's high pitched wail made me whip around, my eyes wide in expectation. She tore through the shop from the back room out to the parking lot. "The pipe busted again! Hurry!"
"Shit!" I hissed, rushing back inside where water was gushing from the back room and quickly spreading through the shop and toward the front door.
"Where's your shut off valve?" I heard KC yell, hot on my heels.
"Behind the washer!" I yelled back. Tamera was already pulling the washer away from the wall. KC helped, easing the old monstrous machine out of its spot and reaching his long arms behind it to shut off the water at the valve. The busted pipe stopped gushing, now just trickling out what was left inside.
Gisela and Evonne grabbed the towels stacked on the shelf and began sopping up water. Tamera grabbed the mop and bucket and began swiping waves toward the drain under the sink.
KC was squatting in front of the pipe, inspecting it. "Looks like it's been soldered a couple of times. Not very well, though. This pipe needed to be replaced a long time ago, Leslie. It’s not to code."
"I know," I said, leaning against the doorjamb. "The last time Jessup was here, they said it was a temporary fix until I replace them." I waved a hand at the mess that was our plumbing system. "The whole place needs to be redone. I just haven't... yet."
"I could probably give you a better fix. At least replace this pipe. It'll buy you some time."
KC looked up at me from his squatting position. His eyes were earnest, his expression neutral. It was as if time had never passed and we'd never had that conversation where I gave him an ultimatum. And he didn't take it.
I chuckled, grabbing his arm, then laughed at the thought that I could pull him up. He was well over a hundred pounds heavier than me. "I don't need you to fix my pipes, KC."
Not those pipes, anyway.
Once he'd slowly made his way up, I urged him out of the shop and toward the front door. "I have a daddy and a granddaddy, and believe it or not, there's still a plumber or two over here. They'll come out and take care of it."
KC stood next to his truck and glanced back at the other girls working hard to clean up the mess, like he didn’t want to leave.
"Go on, get back to your shop. They must be helpless without you telling them exactly how to give that cheap ass haircut y'all do."
"You got jokes." KC chuckled, the sound of it a light rumble from his chest that hit me directly in mine. My feelings were all out of control and I needed this man and his eyes and his laughter and his chest and his cologne to get the hell off of my side of Potter Lake.
He opened the driver side door and climbed up into his truck, slamming the door shut. The truck roared to life a moment later, then I heard the quiet whirr of the window sliding down.
"Not for nothin, but you know my dad is a General Contractor. I learned the business inside and out, growing up. I know my way around a busted pipe and some plumbing, too. Let me know if you need some help. Aight?"
I rolled my eyes and turned to go back inside. I would have to be bleeding and on fire to ask that man for help.
Eastway Academy, a shadowy organization steeped in espionage, values obedience above all else. Although a well-trained agent in his third year, 16-year-old Davy Prince struggles to find his morals when every mission seems to put innocent lives at risk. How will Davy react when sabotage turns an already risky job into an all-out struggle for survival?
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“Camelot is ready. The operation is a go,” a voice crackled through the transceiver in my ear. The mission was being initiated and a part of me was annoyed. Only halfway through my fried chicken, I was still pretty hungry. I hadn’t eaten since the night before, since the plane ride down that morning served no breakfast. Given that I was going to meet with a drug kingpin in a few minutes, the last thing I wanted was for my stomach to be growling.
I sat in the first-floor food court of the Franklin Building, El Paso’s premier commercial block and the headquarters of the global fast-food chain Beef n’ Wings. It was just after noon and the area stirred with visitors eager for their lunch. From my position I could see two other field agents, the only other two in the building. Far off to my right, just outside the crowds and colorful cacophony of restaurants, a hulking teenage boy seemed to have the same idea I had as he snacked on a beef hot dog from one of the stands. He wore a blue hard hat with matching blue overalls and heavy-looking harnesses which clung to his body. At his side he loosely held a squeegee as well as some napkins, presumably for his meal. After taking a big gulp, his lips began to move. It was much too noisy in the food court to pick up any word he was saying naturally, but on the transceiver I could hear him perfectly. “Percival is ready. Let’s get this over with.”
At the booming sound of Leon’s voice, I covered my ear nervously, realizing that there was an elderly couple the next table over. There was a good chance they heard nothing, and an even greater chance that they wouldn’t have cared anyway, but one could never be too careful, especially with jobs in public areas. Far off to my right, near the elevators, a small boy lay crouched in the corner, trying his best to stealthily fiddle with an air vent grate next to him. I was only two years his senior, but people most often mistook him for being far younger. He had long, greasy hair and pale skin, products of his indoorsy lifestyle. Out of the three of us in the building, his T-shirt and shorts were probably the most appropriate for the balmy weather outside. His high-pitched voice rang up in my ear, “Kay’s ready. The grate’s off.”
“Proceed with caution,” a young female voice ordered. It belonged to Mabel, one half of this mission’s ‘Camelot,’ or control center. She and another operative, Charlie, gave orders from a different, undisclosed part of town. On their computers, they watched live feeds of the Franklin Building and the surrounding area taken from security cameras and other hacked equipment.
With the go-ahead, Ozzy checked the area directly around him carefully. Then, he swiftly slipped into the air duct, replacing the grate once inside. I made sure not to look at him directly while he did this, as I didn’t want him to attract unwanted attention. It was at this point I realized that it was my turn to check in. Taking one last swig of soda, I said, “Galahad’s ready. Looking for a visual on the target.”
Our target today pertained to Garret Beauregard, the CEO of Beef n’ Wings himself, whose products I was currently sampling. Since the Academy’s clients are allowed to stay anonymous, we almost never know whom we’re working for or for what reason.
As I scanned the first floor for our very special guest, one final voice rang over the transceiver. This one was female like Mabel’s but much deeper, as well as much more mature, practically adult. “Lancelot is ready. I have a visual of the office,” she said. It was Johanna, who at eighteen was the oldest member of our team. As our sniper, if and when things got ugly, she was the first one to pull the trigger. Even on a crackling transceiver, one could still detect the soft yet ambiguous tone of voice. It was very hard to tell if in the next sentence she was going to compliment you or warn you of your imminent death. “Galahad, the Fisher King’s car was just sent down to the parking lot,” she continued. “He should be in there.”
“Just a sec,” I insisted, practically standing on my seat, trying to look through the ocean of people before me. Then, like the Red Sea obeying Moses, the crowd seemed to thin just long enough for me to spot a bigger-looking man with a white cowboy hat. He, along with a couple of men next to him, wore an expensive-looking suit, not unlike the one I donned that day. “I see him. I have a visual on the Fisher King,” I whispered into my transceiver. “He’s with . . . three other guys. They armed?”
“This is Texas, man,” Charlie replied. “What do you think?”
“Lovely,” I sighed, standing up and throwing away my half-eaten lunch. “He’s headed to the elevator. Permission to pursue?”
“Granted,” Mabel said. Her voice became higher, as it usually did when she knew danger was afoot. “Now hurry up; five men can’t fit in that elevator.”
“Roger,” I responded. Speeding across the food court, I wove my way through the people until I found myself by the shiny elevator doors, standing next to Beauregard and his well-dressed friends. As I waited for the doors to open, I tried my best to avoid eye contact. Beauregard, on an impulse of hospitality, said, “You’re pretty dressed up, sonny. On a hot date?”
I gave one last silent mental grimace before lighting up my face with a bright smile, turning to the wealthy gentleman. Enthusiastically, I spouted, “Haha! Very funny, sir. I’m starting an internship upstairs, so obviously I have to look my very best.”
“Internship? Where?” the CEO pressed.
I produced a crumpled slip of paper from my pocket and read, “Floor thirty-five, room three. It’s with Beef n’ Wings. You know them? The super-famous-surprisingly-nutritious fast-food chain? I love all their meals.”
“Huh,” the president gave a tentative smile. He extended his hand, “Well isn’t this your lucky day? Garret Beauregard, president of Beef n’ Wings, at your service.”
I sucked in, trying to contain all my feigned excitement, “The Garret Beauregard? Founder of Beef n’ Wings? Inventor of the $1.50 menu? Restaurant Monthly’s ninth most powerful man in fast food? David Jones, I’m, like, your biggest fan!” I shook his hand fervently.
Beauregard chuckled, maybe amused by my antics. “I didn’t even know I had fans! Pleasure to meet you, boy.”
“We’re going radio silent on Galahad,” Charlie buzzed in my ear. “Keep on his good side and look for an opening.”
I absentmindedly scratched my ear, switching off my transceiver. My only connection with the rest of my operatives was severed. Now, I was all alone.
The elevator to the right gave a faint ding and the doors quietly spread open. Beauregard, two men from his entourage, and I crammed into the elevator. Just as Mabel had predicted, one of the gentlemen volunteered to stay outside, promising to take the next lift up. Right before the doors shut, I managed to spot Leon, squeegee in hand, breaking from the crowd and departing the building.
As I felt the elevator lift us, there was a twinge of anxiety, realizing that I was now stuck in an enclosed space with three armed men. I was allowed to be nervous. A little nervousness was fine; I was pretending to be a student on his first day as an intern.
“This your first time in the city, blondie?” he asked me, reminding me that I was wearing a blond wig in addition to thick-rimmed glasses to hide my identity.
“You bet!” I said, keeping my enthusiasm high. I brushed my artificial bangs to the side. Out of all the wigs I’d worn over the course of hundreds of missions, this was my least favorite. It was long, got in my eyes, never fit my head right, and suspiciously smelled of cottage cheese. Regardless, wig selection at the Academy was limited, and every one had to be worn once in a while.
“So, you’re from the country, then? Don’t look like much of a country fella . . . which town?”
“Um, it’s a real small town, south of here,” I said, trying my best to stay vague.
“South of El Paso?” Beauregard gave me a very confused look.
“I mean north! Just a little north,” I corrected myself, rubbing my head. “Sorry, my mind’s not working straight today. Still trying to process the fact that I got to meet you.”
“Right, right,” Beauregard nodded understandingly. “Yeah, it’s pretty easy to tell that you’re not south of the border. Be able to smell you a mile away!”
The three men laughed heartily. I forced a light chuckle while the hunger in the pit of my stomach changed to disgust. With another ding we arrived on floor thirty-five and stepped off. For an extravagant fast-food brand, their headquarters looked pretty ordinary. The walls and carpets were white, and the faint but stinging odor of hand sanitizer wafted through the air. “Welcome to where the magic happens!” Beauregard extended his arm toward the lobby, looking like an artist revealing their magnum opus.
“Gee whiz!” I exclaimed.
The president, still flanked by his two men, who I presumed were his bodyguards, approached the front desk and rang the bell, getting the secretary’s attention. “Yes, Mr. Beauregard?”
“Got an intern with me,” the man declared. “His name’s David Jones. I was wondering where I could put him.”
“Intern? Sir, new internships don’t begin until the summer.”
My heart skipped a beat. The moment of truth had arrived. “They said I was a special case when they drove me over here,” I said, injecting myself into the conversation. “Please, just check your computer.”
Marcy shifted her mouse around, making a quick series of clicks. “Okay . . . here it is. David Jones, intern, arriving today . . . ” She looked up at me and then back down to her screen. I whispered a silent prayer to Charlie, the master hacker. A few clicks later, the secretary looked up again. “Yeah, everything looks good. Funny, I don’t remember—”
“Well, everything checks out!” I interrupted. “Where should I go?”
Beauregard gestured to one of his guards. “Samson here will take good care of you, kid. Now, I’ve got a little meeting to go to, but I’ll see you around, okay?”
Not counting on it. “Okay!” I cheerfully chirped. “Oh my gosh, this is all so exciting!”
I followed Samson down a hallway, away from Beauregard and the lobby. He directed me through a door, into a room darker than the hallway. Chairs lined the walls and a vacant table with a picnic cloth sat in the center of the room. “Um, this is where we usually bring interns in the summer. There’d be, like, food on the tables and we’d get someone to give you an introduction. Usually it’s this hot brunette from marketing.”
“Uh-huh,” I absentmindedly nodded, no longer bothering to keep up my fake excitement. As the door closed behind us, I began to fiddle through suit pockets.
Samson, clearly unsure of what to do, continued to ramble. “Yeah, I actually used to be an intern here, once. I was raised right up in Anthony. Wait, where did you say you were from again? ’Cuz I remember—”
Samson’s sentence was cut off as I stabbed a syringe into the side of his throat—one swift and precise movement. As I injected him, the man managed to make a few gargled sounds before collapsing to the floor. I immediately checked for a pulse. Toxins were always difficult, because they needed to be the perfect amount. Too little would have no effect. Too much and you kill the poor guy. After confirming a heartbeat under my fingertips, I quietly dragged him under the table and switched my transceiver back on. “Galahad here. I’m in.”
“Excellent,” I heard Charlie say. “Kay? Do you copy? Time to shine.”
“Roger.” Just as Ozzy’s voice registered in my ear the already dark room went pitch black. I heard the gentle hum of the air conditioning die, leaving a vacuum of silence.
The power to the floor had been cut.
I stepped back into the hallway, listening to the murmurs of confusion in some of the office rooms as I made my way back to the lobby. Beauregard’s office was down the opposing hallway to the right, just out of the view of a befuddled secretary.
“Security cameras are now running on reserve power. We have a visual of you, Galahad. The conference was supposed to last until one thirty, but who knows how Beauregard will react to a blackout. Just get in and get out.”
“Roger, Camelot.” The room itself differed greatly from the rest of what I’d seen from the floor. Looking beyond the expensive chairs and enormous desk you’d expect from an egocentric executive, an array of mounted cattle heads dominated the wall to my right while a single enormous painting was to my left. I thought the latter was actually a pretty nice picture until I realized it depicted a native getting clubbed to death by a settler with the stock of his shotgun. The wall opposing me filtered noon sunlight into the otherwise dark office, making the “art” that occupied the walls cast eerie shadows. I stood for a moment, dumbfounded.
“Galahad, we see you in the office. What’s your status?”
“I’m fine,” I assured, trying to collect myself. “This guy . . . he’s really something, isn’t he?” Trying to ignore the Texan stereotypes around me, I approached Beauregard’s desk and rummaged through the papers left on top of it.
“Find anything?” Mabel asked.
“What do you think?” I said, now making my way to the cabinets. “Why would he just leave it on his desk?”
“I don’t know, maybe he has a bit before going to his conferences,” Charlie suggested. “I mean, have you seen the new Beef n’ Wings commercials? The person who conceived those was clearly high.”
Allowing myself a small chuckle, I furiously tore open every cabinet under and around the desk. All were unlocked and all contained meaningless folders and files; nothing I was concerned with. “The Grail’s not anywhere near the desk,” I said. “Are you sure it’s in here?”
“The intel’s good, I swear,” Mabel retorted, her voice getting excited. “I have the transaction data right in front of me. The pickup isn’t until tomorrow, and it definitely entered that room. Where else could it be?”
Feeling a knot grow in my stomach, I meticulously scanned the room, trying to look in a new perspective as I stood behind the desk. The painting was still horrible, the carpet was the same, and the ceiling was the same. The mounted busts, now to my right, were a different story. As my eyes studied the vacant expressions on the cattle’s faces, it became evident that something was wrong. “One of the heads is crooked.”
“One of the cattle heads is crooked,” I repeated, advancing toward the busts. The more I focused and the closer I got, the clearer it was that my hunch was correct. “The white bull in the center. It must be…” Firmly grasping the horns of the trophy, I began to pull. It was much heavier than I had imagined—causing me to pause to catch my breath at one point while it was halfway out of the wall—but I managed to have the head at my feet within a minute. In its place, I was greeted with a pleasant new surprise. A black, open hole; a gaping wound in the wall. “Can you guys see from your camera what I see?”
“I see it!” Mabel said excitedly, now for the right reasons. “What’s inside?”
My hand reached into the newly opened gap. It wasn’t a built-in compartment, rather a crude cavity created by someone smashing the wall open. As my hand wrapped around an object, I felt my heartbeat quicken. “I have something. Heavy. Leather. Maybe rectangular.”
“Sounds like the Grail to me . . .”
My arm was now almost out of the hole, awkwardly handling the package that had been lodged in the wall. With one final tug, a briefcase slid out of the wall and fell with a soft thud on the carpet. A tepid smile growing on my lips, I brought it over to the desk for a closer inspection in the light. Looking near the handle, my small grin immediately dissipated. “It’s got a lock on it. I repeat, the briefcase has a lock.”
“’Cuz hiding it in the freaking wall wasn’t secure enough for this guy,” Charlie remarked, irritated.
“Yep, there’s a latch here. It needs a three-number code,” I confirmed, examining the mechanism closely.
“Okay, let’s think this through,” Mabel said, now practically panting. “I can . . . I can access old security archives! Yeah! Yeah, maybe one of them has him with the briefcase, and we can zoom in on the numbers . . . ”
Mabel’s thoughts came to an abrupt end when I smashed the briefcase into the corner of the desk, shattering the lock.
“ . . . Or you can do that.”
Taking a deep breath, I opened the case. I was greeted by what we were calling in this mission the Holy Grail, all twenty kilos of it, packed together in six different plastic bags.
“Do we have confirmation?”
“Well, pretty sure this isn’t chicken seasoning,” I commented. “Percival, are you there? It’s time to go.”
Just as I spoke, the office door opened. I turned around, realizing it was Beauregard. The two of us stared at each other, shocked. The room was now dead silent, so quiet that Beauregard could probably hear Mabel buzz, “Green Plan AA-01 has been compromised. Initiate Green Plan AA-07.”
Beauregard was the first to recover from the initial shock. He peeked back into the hallway and, making sure everything was clear, shut the door. “I don’t believe you’re supposed to be in this wing, boy.”
I remained silent, seemingly speechless. Inside I had regained focus, but chose not to show it on the outside. Waiting for him to make his move, I observed his hands and facial expressions, trying to get a read on what he was going to do next.
“Galahad,” Johanna softly crackled on the transceiver. “Get down so I can take a shot. I believe it’s time for the Fisher King to exit our fable.”
“Roger,” I muttered under my breath.
“Well son,” Beauregard sighed, reaching into his coat and pulling out a white pistol. “Sorry ’bout this. Some things are best left secret, hm?”
“Couldn’t agree more,” I said, dropping to my knees.
Just as the president readjusted his aim down at me, the window behind us broke. A dash of crimson burst onto Beauregard’s chest and the man shifted awkwardly. There was a slight pause and a light groan before he collapsed to the floor. Hearing a commotion begin outside from the noise, I hastily grabbed a chair and blocked the door before grabbing the briefcase and waiting by the now-shattered office window. Leon—still dressed as a window washer—descended in a cradle.
“Going down?” he asked, his voice echoing through the transceiver.
“Right,” I nodded. Then I gave one last look around the ransacked room. From the angle I was standing at, only the soles of Beauregard’s expensive shoes were visible as he lay dead on the floor. “Think we’ve done enough here. Let’s go home.”
Clutching the Holy Grail and braving the urban winds outside the building, I descended down to the street, and with it, the promise of escape and safety.
"Divine Comedy" is a comical take on life's medical and personal challenges. Though it is based on a one man's real life, it is in the form of fiction since the fine line between real life and fiction is very thin and can often be crossed.
There are only two ways to react to life’s trials and tribulations:
Either to become frustrated, bitter, angry and feeling sorrow, or to see all events as comical and, somewhat, whacky.
There has never been a day in human existence that did not have surprises and astonishments; how each of us reacts, determines the outcome.
Life is a divine comedy; the line between fiction and non-fiction is very thin and elastic. One can stretch it from fiction to reality or vice versa; another can cross the line all together. This writer finds the difference so fuzzy and indistinct that often he is oblivious whether occurrences are fictional or real; he only sees all things as a form of a divine comedy meant to amuse and charm. He does not mind it at all; to him, whether it is fiction or otherwise is irrelevant; what matters is that it is.
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A BORDER CROSSING INTO UNMAPPED TERRITORY
Mexican agave farm worker Porro Camorra never meant to do anything wrong. He is in love with his girlfriend but when she becomes pregnant, his life is in danger. Fleeing the vindictive wrath of her enraged brothers who have sworn to kill him, Porro runs for the border. But when he reaches the barrier between Mexico and the United States, he finds more than the safety he seeks. As he is thrust into a mystical realm, he must agree to a fascinating and dangerous bargain in order to reclaim his place in the world. Vivid, inventive and suspenseful, Exchange at the Border is a thrilling and colorful exploration of the timeless battle between good and evil with a story and characters that will keep you spellbound.
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Give Africa’s children a place of pride.
Join the movement to stem the destructive cycle of war, poverty, famine, hunger, pandemic, dilapidated infrastructure; abysmal basic utilities and health services, political and economic instability.
Africa Rising: Shedding Black Africa’s Burden is an introspective insider perspective about the burdens that have thwarted progress in Sub-Saharan Africa. Born and raised in Sub-Saharan Africa, Dr. David Ogula reflects on the images and perceptions that have defined Africa for centuries. Images of war, famine, hunger, pandemic, dilapidated infrastructure; abysmal basic utilities and health services, malnourished children, political and economic instability, capture the imagination of the world. Hunted by these images and the urgent need to lead the way toward a brighter future for African children, Dr. Ogula challenges black Africans to take charge of their own development, solve their problems and take control of their own lives and destiny. This is the challenge that present and future generations of Africans must tackle and overcome.
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Why do good girls always fall for the lames?
Meet Zayla - working full time while in school, obtaining her Master’s degree. Zayla has been in a relationship with Chauncey, the love of her life, for the last five years, and things couldn’t be better between the two. Or so she thinks.
Chauncey, the perfect boyfriend. Hard-working, solid, stand-up guy. He runs one of eight of his family's car dealerships and has the perfect woman in Zayla. But is Chauncey hiding a few secrets that could shatter Zayla’s world and put her in the most dangerous situation leaving her fighting for her life?
And then, there’s Chop - the leader of the Jacob’s clan. The businessman who only wants to expand his businesses and make sure his family is straight. Anything outside of that is considered a distraction to him. But what happens when these three lives intertwine in a way none of them could have ever imagined?
Will Zayla live to see her dreams come true? Will Chauncey be able to get himself out the mess he’s made? And where does Chop fit into all of this chaos? More importantly, who is he?
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In the midst of a raging storm aboard a stolen sailboat, Scott and Aiden fight for their lives on the open sea against modern day pirates, hunger, a rapidly disintegrating boat, and mother nature herself. The two desperate teens must find a way not only to survive, but to navigate back home. Their only hope is to salvage a sinking friendship and work together. Their survival depends on it. Red Skies is from Survive, an EPIC Press series.
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Scott lost sight of his best friend, Aiden, between colliding walls of gray seawa-
ter. Had Aiden been washed overboard? Was he dead?
The icy curl of the latest wave pounded into their sailboat, knocking Scott down hard. With the boat’s deck now slick with seawater, Scott lost his footing and smacked his head into the now empty metal cleat next to him. Only minutes ago the rope that had held the torn main sail had been ripped away from the cleat by the force of the winds.
His ears rang. As Scott drifted in and out of con- sciousness, his mind went back to a time earlier that day when life was normal, almost boring.
Even at fourteen years old, Scott knew the harbor wasn’t just filled with boats; it was packed with the dreams and hopes of grownups. Some sailboats were drifting along, shiny and new, and some had not left the harbor in years. A few of the boats were in disrepair from neglect, while some were just well- worn from many adventures. Scott knew when they visited the sailboat that “just stopping by,” as his dad would say, really meant they would be there at least a few hours.
Scott looked out his parents’ car window at the winding road down to the sailboat harbor. The boats lining the dock baked in the afternoon sun
of a blue, cloudless sky. Scott was a passenger along with his mother, and his old friend Aiden. His dad drove, all the while radiating a child-like energy as he talked to them about his newly purchased sail- boat now tied up in the harbor.
“Today we seal up any leaks, boys. Then we do more preparation for our maiden voyage.”
Scott looked over at Aiden, whose face was buried in a computer tablet game. After watching Aiden feverishly tap the touch screen, Scott said, “Looks like we are almost there. What level are you on?”
“Oh, man! I just got another bonus chest with 400 gold and a protection spell.”
“Awesome. Thanks for coming along.”
Aiden didn’t answer, but scrolled through sev- eral screens before finally looking up and saying, “Huh?”
“Thanks for finally coming along to see my dad’s sailboat.”
“Your dad has a sailboat?” Sometimes Scott was embarrassed that Aiden was even his friend. He caught his dad looking at them in the rearview mirror. He must have heard Aiden’s stupid question.
Scott let out a breath. “Yes, Aiden, he has a boat! We’ve talked about it almost every time you’ve been over this summer. Seriously dude, do you even care what’s up with us, or do you just come over to use my computer because your parents banned you from playing anything online?”
“Um . . . little of both. Hey, a boat sounds cool.”
One thing about Aiden was his honesty. Sometimes it was infuriating, but Scott always came to appreciate it eventually. He and Aiden had been friends since kindergarten. Aiden had stood up for Scott against Jimbo Tykes, a third-grade thug who had it out for Scott. Even though Aiden sometimes acted stupid, he had moments of brilliance. And Scott felt bad for Aiden; his parents were basically letting him raise himself.
Aiden looked back down at his computer tablet
as Scott’s dad pulled into a parking spot. When Scott exited the car, he noticed how many people had already come down to the dock to work on their boats. Some families ate picnic meals while others walked along the shore admiring all the boats tied in their slips around the floating dock.
Scott’s dad headed toward the trunk of the car. “Dad? Do you want help?”
“Of course! Let’s put Aiden to work, too.” His
dad turned back and rummaged around a short while in the trunk. He gathered a few supplies and headed toward the dock while Scott’s mom stayed back with the boys.
Aiden looked up at them in confusion and Scott’s mom extended her hand to ask for the com- puter tablet back. Scott thought he seemed sincerely baffled.
Scott’s mom smiled knowingly. “Aiden? It’s best to let me have that so it doesn’t get in the water.”
Aiden handed over the pad and headed after Scott’s dad toward the sailboat. Scott didn’t know if he should stay with his mom or run after them. His mom seemed to know what he was thinking.
“Go on, Scott. Your dad loves it when you help him work on it.”
“Okay, Mom. See you down there?”
“I’ll be right there. I’m going to say hello to Mrs. Hernandez first.”
Scott didn’t need to hear more than that. Mrs. Hernandez would talk his mom’s ear off for an hour, and he would be stuck there with them if he stayed. He bounded over to catch up with Aiden.
The way along the wooden dock smelled like the worst part of the sea to Scott, with barnacles and some kind of greenish slime growing along the sides of the path. When it was hot like this, with no afternoon breeze and a heat that sat over the water, the smell got concentrated in his nose. Aiden and Scott hopped on the boat after his dad and watched as he took out a few things he’d saved to add to the boat’s cabin supplies.
“We’ll be able to take her out for the first time, soon. I figure we can gradually move some of the cans of food and things that won’t spoil anytime soon into the cabin while we clean her up.”
Aiden looked impatient, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He brushed the long strands of black hair from his face. Scott went to the side of the deck and started to scrub the portal of the cabin. This was one of many tasks his dad had assigned him last time they visited the boat.
Scott was so focused while cleaning that he man- aged to tune out Aiden’s obvious boredom for a few minutes. When he glanced up at his friend, Scott was surprised to see Aiden looking with some inter- est at the ropes that kept the sailboat in its place against the dock.
“Do you think you’ll ever actually take this thing out, sir?” Aiden asked Scott’s dad.
“Of course, we are going to take it out, Aiden. There are just steps you have to do first to be ready for any voyage.”
“Couldn’t we go out today, just for a little while?”
His dad paused. “No, Aiden, she’s not ready.”
“But what’s the point of having a boat if it just sits here?”
Scott watched his dad’s patience strain. Aiden sometimes talked like this; he liked to push peo- ple’s limits. Most of the time, Aiden didn’t notice he was doing it. Afterwards, when Scott tried to explain, Aiden’s response was always, “But I was just curious!”
“We’ll take the boat out when it’s ready,” Scott’s dad calmly replied.
“What kind of knots did you say those were?”
Aiden pointed at the nearest knot that held the 1978 Ericson sailboat’s slick white hull in place against the bobbing of the sea.
“That is a cleat hitch. That’s the best kind of knot to use to attach a line from the boat to the dock.” Scott’s dad was smiling; he seemed pleased that Aiden was showing an interest.
“Why don’t they just make a knot? Why do there have to be fancy, special knots for stuff?”
“Because each knot can accomplish a different type of task. If you like, I can show you how to tie one of those.”
“Sure,” Aiden said enthusiastically, and Scott moved over to watch as well. Scott’s dad soaked up the attention—he was practically beaming.
“First, you have to untie it, of course. Why don’t you try it? It will make it easier to show you how to do up a knot if you see how to undo it.” Scott’s dad encouraged Aiden with a wave of his hand in the direction of the dock.
Aiden leaned over and started to pull at the knot. Scott realized this was going to take a long time doing it this way so he bent over the edge of the boat and showed off his skill by quickly undoing the cleat knot.
“Scott! Hey, I was going to do that,” Aiden protested.
Scott’s mom called out to them. “You forgot that
new table for the boat radio you bought the other day, honey. It’s up in the car. I can’t bring it down by myself. Someone want to help me out with it?”
Scott’s dad was up and out of the boat to help her.
“I’ll be right back boys. Then we can take a look at sealing the portals.”
Aiden moved over to the other cleat knot hold- ing the sailboat in the dock and started to undo it. He must have watched how Scott untied the knot and copied him because the rope came undone in seconds.
“Aiden! Dude, what are you doing? You can’t undo both knots or we’ll drift out of the dock. Put it back.”
Aiden popped back up and looked very guilty. Scott felt a wave of panic come over him. He looked up to the parking lot and saw that his mom and dad were now walking to their car with their backs to him. Scott went to yell for them, but knew
they would never hear him now—it was way too noisy, and they were too far away. His dad’s sail- boat, named The Long Wavy Home by its previous owners, was made for the sea. It answered its call once it was untied from its moorings like a race- horse to the field. It started to drift out of the dock quickly.
Scott ran for the rudder. Aiden laughed. “Come on let’s just take it out for a little bit.” “No! Absolutely not!” Scott grabbed the wheel
as the boat slipped out of the dock toward the open sea.
“Come on. You’re the one who says you know so much about sailing. Prove it”
“I know how to sail. That’s not the point!”
Scott looked back at the dock. His dad was a dot in the parking lot, but he could tell that dot was moving quickly back toward the dock.
“Aiden, we need to go back.”
“Come on. You should be able to do this. Just around here.” Scott saw his dad make it out to the dock where his beloved sailboat had been. He was shouting, but Scott could barely hear him. “Scott! Get back here!”
“Dad! Wait there, we will be back in . . . ” Scott looked to Aiden for the rest of the information.
“Half an hour.” “Half an hour!” “Tops.” “Tops!”
He saw his dad wildly waving his hands. The boat was picking up speed away from the dock now. Scott thought he would just take it out for a bit since Aiden had already gotten them out there. He figured maybe he’d use the outboard motor to show Aiden how it was done. By the time his dad had a chance to cool off and see Scott had everything under control, he’d just bring it back into the dock. His dad might even be proud of how well his son handled the boat.
What could happen? he thought as he turned to start the motor that would guide them around and
back to the dock. He wouldn’t be in that much trouble.
It was Aiden’s fault, after all.
The sound of a pulled rope greeted Scott’s ears as he looked over the outboard motor.
“Hey, this knot is a lot easier to loosen than the ones holding the boat.” Aiden smiled as the rope holding the main sail came untied. “Cool.” Aiden continued, grinning. “Okay, you know so much. Show me how you paid attention to all that stuff your dad talks about.”
The silky, white fabric billowed out then gath- ered the wind and pulled the sailboat out into the sea far away from the dock. This was the moment Scott realized that he didn’t really know how to sail at all.
When the unearthing of the Ark of the Covenant results in the discovery of the bones of an angel, a government program seeks out descendants of the divine being. Scientists confirm the existence of Nephilim, descendants of the Divine Bloodline who exhibit unique supernatural abilities. These individuals soon find themselves at odds with society.
Sisters Piper and Wren knew they were different, but after the discovery, the two have evidence to explain their maturing abilities. But the government has the power to condemn and crucify Nephilim, locking them into ADAM compounds across the globe. The sisters are next, and Piper and Wren will need to act quickly to avoid being captured. In order to survive the two must embrace the stigma and master the very gifts that God has bestowed (or cursed) upon them.
Mysterious forces who have been plotting these events for decades shift the balance of power, and soon all parties involved will need to pick a side.
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