How many elements of sadness, from the running loose dog, a sad little boy, and a strong mother figure, can instantly come together to change everyones lives for the better?
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Darker Daze: The Storms within is a collection of short stories that explore that darker side of the human condition. Each story pulsates with tragedy and a sense of desperate hope that only the suffering could understand. Ms. Mabry weaves personal experiences into fictional webs in a way that draws the reader in for a hug, then punches them in the gut. While these stories may be too emotionally charged for some readers, they give voices to the voiceless among us.
Do not shrink away, the demons are not yours...or are they?
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Darker Daze originally started as a small collection of stories I wrote as a type of self therapy. Some of the stories featured wish fulfillment, others took a small element of my own experience and branched out, and still a few were pulled right from my own journal and then crafted into a story with a different ending. Darker Daze has now taken on a life of its own and continues to provide me with a source of cathartic writing.
For each of these stories I was forced to reach into my own personal vault and draw forth the emotions that once threatened to destroy me. I have learned how to wrangle and whip them so they no longer have any power beyond that of a dark and twisted muse.
Some of you have seen those darker days, stood on the very precipice of its slippery slope. You have looked your demons in the eyes and backed away, oh so slowly. You didn't cross that line, but the darkness touched you. It settled into the very recesses of your being. It smolders there, ferments, and rots. When I dig down deep, I can still find it. I draw on it, and it spills onto the page as the darkness no one wants to see although many of us have looked for it ….
Within these pages you will discover the secrets of those who could not fight the darkness. A reflection of blood-spilled secrets that fester. Jealousy, morose, and passionate rage paint each page in shades of despair. Do not shrink away, the demons are not yours ... or are they?
***TRIGGER WARNING: All the stories in this collection contain elements of death, abuse, and suicide that may trigger emotional and traumatic reactions in some people. The stories in this collection are mostly fiction, with some based on the personal experience of the author. Names and places have been changed to protect the guilty. All work copyrighted by A.L. Mabry and may not be copied or distributed without written consent.
All marriages are sacred, but not all are safe.
~ Rob Jackson
I always loved New Years. The promise of new beginnings. The taste of potential and hope. I would scrub the house from top to bottom, telling myself, Out with the old, in with the new, as if just saying the words could make them true. I tried. Year after year after year. Not every end means a bright new beginning. This isn’t the beginning of my story, but that’s not what you’re really here for, is it? Sometimes the ending is all you want.
The shrill alarm slices through my cocoon. My serenity shatters, and I open my eyes. Familiar predawn darkness greets me with its promise of just a little more peace. The bedroom curtain was crumpled on the floor beneath the window and beyond the frosted glass red and green lights twinkle, almost in mocking. With the rest of the house eerily quiet, Mark’s breathing sounds amplified. I lie still for just a moment as the first panic attack builds. It swells in my chest, this violent ocean wave containing “what if’s” and “not enoughs.” I ride it out.
What will the trigger be today, what will set him off? I resolve to be preemptive through my routine. As I roll out of bed, careful not to wake him, I force myself to remain calm.
My swollen ankle twinges. When I go to bed, you go to bed.
My wrist aches. Chicken nuggets? Do I look like a fucking four year old?
My back throbs. You should have known I wanted my blue shirt today!
My scalp burns. Say you like it.
I creep through the hall and check on the kids before I head downstairs to start the coffee maker. While I pull out the ingredients for this morning’s breakfast, I relish the comfort of the most mundane actions. I beat a few eggs and put them in a pan to scramble for Randall and Jenny. Then I prepare Alice’s gluten-free pancakes. I pour the batter onto the heated griddle, then turn to stir the eggs before pouring myself a cup of coffee.
The warmth of the coffee and the stillness of the morning wash over me. I stop for just a moment to savor it. I try to shake off the last of sleep’s drowsy grip. With my calendar and to-do lists spread across the counter, I tackle the day. Mark's lunch is next, so I quickly put it together and place it in the fridge. I pull out chicken breasts to thaw for dinner. Then I remember we had chicken yesterday. I swap it for the cube steaks because Mark refuses to eat the same meat two days in a row. Breakfast and dinner. Check and check.
Every action is repetitive, the soul crushing routine that ensures I see another day. I place three plates on the island bar and pile on breakfast that will go mostly uneaten. Anger nips at the back of my conscious; tired of the servitude, of the compliance. Oh stop it, Holly. This nurturing servitude gives you joy. Without humor, I sigh. Liar.
From the den, the Christmas tree beckons with its shiny baubles and handmade ornaments. I wander in with the remnants of my coffee and gingerly brush aside the tinsel to look at this year’s family photo ornament. The photographer touched it up perfectly, not a bruise in sight. I make a note to tear down the tree before dinner. Mark was strict about “bringing” an old tree into a new year.
Routine beckons, and I return to the kitchen to pull the bento boxes from the cabinet and prepare each of the children’s lunches. With another yawn, I pierce each little fruit gummy with a pretzel stick. Randall and his friends are on a wizard kick, and they should love the little wands. For Jenny, I place a piece of turkey on white bread and top it with a slice of mozzarella. Digging through the drawer full of cookie cutters, I pull out one shaped like Hello Kitty’s bulbous head and cut her food into shape.
Alice’s lunch is next; I start by arranging the ham and cheese egg muffins, and then I add two fruit kabobs. Next, I add stalks of celery filled with gluten-free cinnamon peanut butter and finish all three lunches with a small dish of Greek yogurt. The clock chirps seven times, and I realize I have lingered over the lunches too long and will soon regret it.
I head back upstairs and dress in a rush, thankful I remembered to lay out my clothes. Mark rustles the blankets, and I feel my heartbeat speed up. Rifling through my makeup case, I find the tiny nub of concealer, and blend it over the yellowing bruise. I add a new concealer pencil to my mental shopping list, that will be the fourth one this month. With practiced strokes, I apply my eyeshadow. There is a slight tremor in my hand as I stroke the eyeliner pencil deftly across each eye, but I try to ignore it.
In the mirror’s reflection I see my dress for tonight’s New Year’s party. It’s a horrid shade of green, but the only one Mark would approve of. I had held onto a beautiful red slip dress right up to the register and only the threat in his eye convinced me to set it down. Promise, Holly, not threat. Let’s not mince words.
“I don’t know why you bother; no one cares what you look like.” Mark grumbles sleepily from the bed. “Or maybe you’re trying to catch someone’s attention? Whore.”
I take a steadying breath and brush nonexistent lint from my blouse. In the mirror, I notice a new bruise on my forearm so I grab a cardigan from the closet, the blue one, not the red one. Whores wear red, are you a whore, Holly? I reset the alarm clock for him and head down the hall to wake the kids. While Randall takes a shower, I help the girls get dressed and do their hair. Alice requests French braids this morning, Jenny is happy with simple pigtails. Once everyone’s dressed, I usher them downstairs for breakfast.
This monotony keeps me sane. If I keep following the patterns, I will be okay. For years I hated the fact that the children had so few holidays, but lately I have been more than happy to keep them out of the house as often as possible. Even if this was probably the only district in the country open on New Year’s Eve.
As the kids eat, I gather the spreadsheets and graphs for my presentation, hoping that the extra hours I spent perfecting it last night pays off for me. I touch a bruise and decide it was worth it. With this promotion, I’ll finally be able to leave Mark.
I pile everyone into the car and begin the morning rounds. I drop Randall at the middle school first, then Jenny at the elementary school. Last, I pull into Alice’s rainbow colored preschool.
She spills out of the SUV, and I straighten her hair and fix her coat. I hand her the bright pink lunch box and grab the tuition check from my purse.
I plaster my smile on and take her small hand, reluctance fills us as we head into the school. The bulletin boards are still covered with festive artwork, handprint reindeer, and mounds of glitter. Right away I see the “Coffee Moms” huddled in the corner of the lobby having their morning bonding session. They barely glance my way as I continue down the hall with my sweet girl. Their voices follow us and I pretend not to notice.
“… with her artsy little lunches…”
“…. kid looks like a Gap model…”
“…. probably has a nanny…”
With a hug and kiss, I push Alice into her teacher’s waiting embrace. I rush back through the lobby and drop my check in the box on the desk, careful to not make eye contact with the other moms. I climb back into the sanctuary of my SUV, behind the tinted windows, before I let the tears fall.
The judgment from these women is as unnerving as the invisibility I feel at work. This will change though, as I have this latest promotion in the bag. I reach over to pat my briefcase and panic crashes through my senses.
“He’s right. I am a dumbass. I can’t even remember my own briefcase.” Tension fills my limbs. I have to return home. Maybe if I drive slowly enough, he will be gone when I get there. The digital clock on the dashboard flashes, 8:30. I didn’t have the luxury of taking a scenic route if I wanted to get to work on time. And with everything on the line, tardiness was not an option.
The darkness pushes in on me like a palpable entity. Don’t panic yet. Figure out what is going on. I imagine taking a deep breath to re-center myself before I try to remember how I ended up here, alone, in the dark. I let the memories flow over me like ocean waves, surging forward and then lapping at the edge of consciousness as I orient them.
His grip on the back of my neck is painful as he pushes me back towards the mess. The contents of a shattered coffee cup lie strewn across the peeling linoleum, while his face looms in front of mine. Anger contorts his eyes into those of a savage predator. I flinch as his acidic voice crawls across my skin, and he lists my sins for me as if I could ever forget them.
You lie to me.
You think you can steal my kids.
You sleep around.
You’re a slob.
You neglect me for your stupid job.
With one swipe of his arm, my briefcase joins the coffee cup, and my papers settle onto the spill. My graphs, my proposal, my dreams slaughtered in the muck.
“If you only had a brain, you wouldn't be so damn clumsy. I bet your dumb ass won’t even clean it up right, and the floor will stay sticky for the next week. How did I end up with such a stupid, nasty girl?” The stale stench of alcohol invades my nose, gagging me.
Alcohol? It’s not even 9:00 am. And then I see it, my sweet letter to myself, sitting on top of the others. He found my journal, one thing I thought was safe from his prying eyes. The single page was ripped along the margin and sat atop the small leather book. The prophecy meant to seal my fate, but not like this.
You can do this. You will get this promotion. You will leave and start a better life for yourself. He will not control you forever. Stay strong. Don’t give up, don’t back down.
As I sink to my knees and gingerly pluck the shards of glass from the mess, his eyes burn into my body and fear churns in my stomach. I ignore the pricks as tiny pieces of glass stab into my skin, not wanting him to have the satisfaction of my pain. As I wipe up the last of the brown liquid guilt, I feel his large hands shoving me aside.....
Naked and alone, a young girl flees down a highway. Flagging down a passing car, she collapses before she's able to speak. The mystery deepens when an examination reveals she's recently given birth, and it falls to Detective Nick Cross to find the missing infant. But investigations rarely go in directions veteran detectives expect, and so when a K-9 is brought in, an unmarked gravesite is discovered on the abandoned property the young mother ran. It alerts Cross to the fact that a prolific serial killer is in their midst--one who has flown under the radar for many years. With the girl he dubs "Molly" unable to tell the secrets locked in her head, it's going to be impossible to do much of anything, but the impossible is what Cross does best, and he's not giving up without a fight.
A DAUGHTER IS A DAUGHTER is a non-stop thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Matching wits with the psychologically twisted madman behind the rampage, this is the case that threatens Nick Cross' twelve-year career. Becoming personally involved, he'll let nothing stand in his way to help Molly, not even the re-emergence of a surly FBI Field Agent who has already made his life a living hell the last time they locked horns.
The second in the Nick Cross Mysteries, each entry is a standalone and may be read separately and not in chronological order. If you love Richard North Patterson or James Patterson, you'll love Nick Cross.
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Out of the pitch-black night, the sounds of panting and hard-fought breaths drifted up to the boughs of the trees and down the dirt path where the young girl ran.
Naked and alone, her bare feet slapped the ground, the soles bleeding from the rocks encountered along the way. She cocked her head, trying to discern any noises coming from behind, but it was impossible to tell. The only way to know for certain was to stop and listen.
There wasn’t a chance in hell that would happen.
Life could spin around on a dime. She’d learned that the hard way, and it was that realization that made her plunge towards what she prayed was an end to the suffering.
Heat and sweat rose off her body and mingled with the crisp night air, but there was no time to rest. Danger abounded on all sides, and the dark woods made clear how isolated she truly was. Blind faith fueled the relentless pace as labored breaths turned jagged, and then tortuous. She was out of condition, and her lungs burned from overexertion, but everything depended on her.
She was their last hope.
A brilliant burst of lightning lit up the sky and illuminated the surroundings. The brief sputtering glimpse only amplified how lost she truly was. In the middle of nowhere, she was battling for her life.
A wind kicked up, whipping her long blonde hair into her face. Her fingers tore away at the tresses that covered her eyes and clung to the wet open mouth gasping for breath while her other hand remained clenched in a tight fist. The sharp edge of a rock sliced into her flesh as she whimpered in pain, but her will refused to falter and so she pushed on.
Old ghosts revisited her, but she couldn’t allow herself to get caught up in the past. It was rife with land mines that threatened to explode and sabotage her in her tracks. The present was what she needed to deal with and so she focused on accomplishing the impossible.
A skewed fork of lightning blazed across the sky and allowed another brief glimpse of the unfamiliar terrain, including the road ahead. The winding trail veered to the right and gave her no choice but to follow in that direction. Not slowing down, she leaned into the sharp curve, wondering what awaited on the other side.
The seconds flew by.
Hope rose up from a dark place as defeated spirits caged within lifted and shouted, Amen and Hallelujah. An intrusive thought tried to drown out the elation by convincing her she was delusional and that this was only a mirage. The treasured prize seemed too good to be true, but it was there. The cement under her feet was enough to convince her of that, and if this were a road, it meant people … and cars … safety … and …
The bubble of joy dissipated as quickly as it came. There were no cars or people. There were only miles of paved road for as far as the eye could see.
Where was everyone? Where?
Death stared her in the face, taunting her the way it’d done all these years. It asked why she thought she could win. She had no answer. Why had she thought she stood a chance against insurmountable odds? She’d die here … on this road she ran down. It was her fate.
The fate of a victim.
Twin streams of blinding light blasted in her eyes and splashed across her frail body, breaking the stream of negativity clouding her mind. She could win if she tried, and so she waved her arms, frantically trying to flag the driver down.
Please, dear God! Make him stop!
The oncoming car slowed, but was it a trap?
No! The startled male face behind the wheel was one she didn’t recognize. The woman next to him was a stranger too.
It was going to be all right.
The car doors slammed shut—one after the other.
All she had to do was speak and tell the couple approaching what was wrong and the nightmare would be over. Her lips parted, trying to make a sound, but a debilitating numbness spread, making it impossible for her to do anything but stare.
“Are you okay?” the driver asked. Concern etched the face that was starting to blur.
“Child, are you hurt?” the woman with him echoed, but her face was dissipating and bleeding into a fog.
They were still talking, but she couldn’t answer. Why couldn’t she answer? She had so much to say, but her thoughts scattered like a flock of birds frightened by a shotgun’s blast.
She was shutting down.
“Can you tell us your name?” the man asked as he covered her naked body with his coat.
No, but I want to!
It was her last cogent thought. In the blink of an eye, everything she fought for was lost. Her memory wiped clean, there was only the directive beating inside her head and rallying to keep her going, but she weakened anyway. Her strength drained as an incapacitating dizziness caused her to waver and stagger to the side.
Her legs gave way, her emaciated form collapsing into the good Samaritan’s arms. The pale chapped lips twitched as her heart screamed out for justice.
“H-h--elp …” she whispered.
Sinking the rest of the way into the hole dug for her so long ago, her blue eyes closed and shut out the world that had caused her so much pain.
Chance Washington only has a few things on his mind when he embarks on a trip back to his hometown. Completing the assignment for work that’s sending him there in the first place, helping his mom make progress on her fixer-upper home, and catching up with some of his best friends who he doesn’t get to see often enough. What is not a part of those plans is hooking up with one of his best friend’s little sister. But it doesn’t take long for him to realize that just because you walk into a game with a strategy, doesn’t always mean things are going to go as planned.
Londyn Miller isn’t looking for a relationship; a casual fling more her thing after blowing through the limited dating options in her hometown. But when a handsome – familiar - face returns to town for an extended stay, the decision to pursue him for a little fun is an easy one; as long as she’s sure not to let that fun turn into real feelings while also managing to keep it all from her overprotective big brother.
Just like Chance, Londyn quickly learns that plans and strategy can only get you so far before you’re forced to make in-game adjustments. And when those in-game adjustments evolve into something neither expected, it becomes a race for the finish line that Chance nor Londyn saw coming…
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A new threat to the United States has emerged within its own borders. Deutsche Christen, a powerful paramilitary organization, led by a ruthless ex-Special Forces Officer, Carl Dietrich, is threatening to overthrow the U.S. government and assume absolute power over the country.
Bolstered by the overwhelming support provided by two foreign governments, Dietrich believes his forces to be invincible, and his future rise to power inevitable.
Hoping to garner additional members for his organization, he demands an interview with Sean Carrol, an ex-Special Forces officer and an investigative reporter for the New York International News. Dietrich orders that their meeting be held at one of the Deutsche Christen paramilitary camps. To assure Seans cooperation, he kidnaps his niece and nephew.
Understanding Dietrichs rationale for the meeting and further realizing that his niece and nephew arent going to be released, Sean develops a plan to rescue the children. Desperate, he along with Colonel Gannon, his ex-commander, reorganize his old Special Forces team and create a rescue mission.
While tensions rise worldwide and threats of war loom, panic takes center stage, as the prospect for cataclysmic destruction promises to annihilate civilization as we know it.
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The author of "The Slender Man" brings you a new horror: filled with gruesome killers, their possessed victims, and a lone witness.
Follow the Witness as she travels through a perpetual series of nightmares, haunted by a mixture of pernicious serial killers and their imprisoned, undead victims, known as preta. As she wanders through time and memories shared by the killers and their victims, she fights to solve the puzzle of their connection to each other and to herself. Her only hope of salvation lies in connecting key victims to the souls who can rescue them, thus waking her from the nightmare, but one killer follows the next, bringing forth a new set of victims, a new score of preta, and immediately landing her in a new terror.
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"The poetry of Katie Lewington has just only recently come to my attention, and her simple, observational, and honest poems pulled me right in. Her new chapbook "Here Comes the Sun" is filled with those things that I look for in poetry and writing in general, descriptions of people and places, travels, food, etc. The ordinary things that sensitive folks (and poets especially) find so endearing. I can't wait to read more of Lewington's work!" Nicholas Trandahl, author of Pulling Words.
Experience the thrill of summer, and travel with Katie Lewington through Europe, without needing to move from your seat. It was a summer of reinvention and discovery: from leaving home, to travelling Europe. In 2016 football, politics, and airports dominated the life of Katie Lewington. Thankfully you won't find any poems on Brexit in Katie Lewington's poetry collection Here comes the Sun. You will find one on the Euro's, and the unexpected delights found in Airport baggage queues. Some of the poems in Here comes the Sun make good use of brevity, while others, such as Wi-Fi, are written in a prose style of writing. Here comes the Sun uses simple language in the poems that were written whilst travelling in the summer of '16. The events in the poems mirror the places of their origins, such as in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, the market forecourt of Brugge, and the Brighton Pier.
There is contemplation among the hilarity as the seasons change, summer turns to winter, and the nights become colder, so grab a drink, and your shades, and read HERE COMES THE SUN: TRAVEL POETRY WRITTEN BY KATIE LEWINGTON.
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When the Deringer pistol that shot Abraham Lincoln is stolen and ends up in the hands of a Russian military general, covert agent Blake Deco is tasked by the FBI to head to the Balkans to recover the historical weapon. Meanwhile, the United States media is abuzz with news of the mysterious disappearance of Hollywood movie star, Goldie St. Helen.
After Blake’s return from overseas, he receives a tip from a Mexican friend that a drug lord, obsessed with the beautiful actress, is holding her captive in Tijuana. With the help of a reluctant army friend, Blake mounts a daring rescue. What he doesn’t expect is to have feelings for Goldie—or that a killer is hunting them.
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The tall buildings around Washington, D.C.’s 10th Street overshadowed the historic Ford’s Theatre. Though the building had undergone refurbishment both inside and out, it still seemed slightly out of place in modern America. However, that didn’t stop the throngs of tourists visiting the building that June morning as wispy clouds threaded through the cerulean sky.
It was a crowded weekend day when Abraham Lincoln, in his overcoat, and two Union soldiers, their faces covered with bandanas, stepped out of the van. They meandered past the theater’s five historic doorways toward the modern glass entrance. Everyone assumed they were part of a promotion taking place at the museum. It was not uncommon to see park rangers and tour guides dressed in period costumes.
The man behind the Lincoln mask was Rick Walker—at least, that was the name he was currently going by. Highly educated, the thirty-six-year-old professional thief had a penchant for the fast life. If the assignment was a success today, he’d promised his girlfriend a nice holiday.
Two female park rangers stepped forward when Rick and his companions reached the front of the line.
“You have to get in line, sir. Also, you need to get tickets. Kindly remove the mask and bandanas before entering,” one of the park rangers said.
“I do apologize, madam, but I’m in a bit of a hurry,” Rick said. “I don’t think I need a ticket, nor do I have to get in line given who I am.”
“That’s the only way you’re going to get in,” the park ranger said.
“Well, if you insist, madam, and once again, please accept my apologies.” Rick bowed and tipped his hat, then extended a hand to the park ranger, who instinctively took it.
Rick grabbed her wrist tightly and locked it to his own with a steel cuff.
“What are you doing?” the park ranger yelled, trying to jerk her hand away.
“Getting acquainted,” Rick said.
The park ranger reached for the walkie-talkie strapped to her belt, but Rick snatched it away from her. Frantically, she turned to the other park ranger. “Get security!”
One of the two Union soldiers dropped his prop rifle and grabbed the other park ranger’s hand, then cuffed her wrist to his own. He pulled out a real gun tucked under his waistband and aimed it at her.
Rick unbuttoned the jacket of his three-piece suit and brandished the bomb strapped to his chest.
“Bomb! Bomb!” a young teenager in the line shrieked.
Pandemonium broke out as the screams of panic amplified. People ran in every direction. Those who moved slowly were slammed aside, or knocked over.
Rick pulled the ranger cuffed to him aside. “We’re going downstairs, and we’re going to take the Deringer. Obey your president,” he said in a hollow voice.
“Yes, sir,” the park ranger said as beads of sweat formed on her forehead.
They descended by elevator and emptied into an interactive museum. The wealth of history in the dimly lit space featured original artifacts in glass showcases, furniture, statues, murals, and narrative devices. The visitors already in the museum scattered wildly at the sight of a man in a Lincoln mask displaying a bomb strapped to his chest, a park ranger cuffed to his wrist.
“Show’s over, folks,” Rick yelled. “Go!”
The park ranger guided her captors to a section in the museum where the Deringer floated in an oblong glass case capped at both ends with wood. A mural behind it depicted John Wilkes Booth firing a single shot at Abraham Lincoln as he sat in the theater box.
The Union soldier not cuffed to a park ranger took out a glasscutter from his coat pocket and began to cut a circle in the glass. When it popped free, he inserted his hand inside and yanked out the Deringer.
“We’re going to take you with us. Don’t give me trouble. If you behave, you’ll be back home in time for dinner with the family,” Rick said, dragging the park ranger closer to him. “Understand?”
The park ranger nodded once, nervously.
“Excellent,” Rick said.
They exited through the theater’s main door and stepped out into the empty street. The crowd had dispersed. Some had regrouped tensely a few hundred meters away at both ends. “Cheer up—it’s going to be a fun day,” Rick said, walking toward the van.
The park ranger with Rick raised her voice. “Please, please, let us go. I don’t want to die.”
“Well, behave and everything will be fine.” He opened the side, forced her in and jumped in after her. He shut the door after the accomplice had climbed in with the second park ranger.
The van began to move off.
“Hallelujah!” Rick yelled in excitement behind the mask as he sat at the back of the van. He removed the cuff from his wrist and secured the park ranger onto a railing.
“We’ll be arriving in five,” the driver said after a few blocks. “You know what to do.”
“I sure do,” Rick said as he removed the bomb strapped to his chest. Still wearing the mask, he looked at the hostages. “Don’t worry about the bomb, it’s fake.”
He unhooked a tote bag from the wall and began removing the contents. Facing away from the hostages, he removed the Lincoln mask and slipped into casual attire. He hid his face by putting on a red baseball cap and a pair of dark shades then stuffed the costume into the bag and swung it over his shoulder.
Rick looked again at the park rangers. “Look on the bright side—now you get to tell visitors a different story at the museum.”
The Union soldier in the back with him handed over the Deringer, which Rick slipped into the bag.
The driver slowed down and stopped behind a parked car.
“All good outside?” Rick asked.
“Yeah…all good. I parked a few cars behind us,” the driver replied, looking at the side mirror.
“Okay. Nice doing business with you guys.” Rick pulled open a trapdoor in the center of the floorboard, slid out, and slithered under the parked car in front of the van.
The van pulled away from the curb and sped down the street. After a minute, Rick rolled onto the road, got up, and walked toward the park at Judiciary Square on the Red Line and descended into the Metro.
A day later, Rick sat at a café with his eyes glued to the screen of a laptop, drinking a hot latte with his back against the wall. He scanned the faces of everyone who entered. Though he wasn’t expecting trouble, he remained vigilant.
“Is it in yet?” the tall blonde sitting across from him asked.
He scratched the roughness of his stubble as he continued to stare at the screen. “Not yet.”
Moments later, the figures on his account changed. A new deposit had been registered: ten million dollars.
Rick lifted his eyes. “Darling.”
“Remember, we’re in a public place, so don’t scream.”
She leaned forward. “It’s in?”
Rick wriggled his eyebrows. “Pack your bags. We’re going on a holiday, as I promised.”
Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse is Mike Steeden's first published collection of poetry and features over a hundred poems that are sometimes humorous, serious, satirical, surreal, thought provoking and brilliant! Mike says his inspiration is drawn from his self-proclaimed love of the fairer sex, his passion for 'people watching' (a trait born of his time as a private investigator), social justice and compassion. The net result is that his poems are in essence a cocktail of all these things...oh yes, the important thing! Mike always endeavours to ensure that within his body of work the gals always win out in the end!
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A poem from the book:
THE MAN IN THE BRETON SHIRT
All her life she had wanted legs. Proper legs with feet, ankles, calves, knees and thighs. Yet circumstance had afforded her nought but wheels, small wheels at that. Little wrought iron ones. Wheels that required constant care. Oiling and such like.
Notwithstanding her shortcomings, she got out and about best she could. That is, until the day the local authorities had something of a retro brainwave. They cobblestoned the market square. She lived in a house on market square. So now she prayed for tarmac, as well as feet, ankles, calves, knees and thighs.
Then one day, quite out of the blue the sailor arrived in town. Breton shirt, beer belly. He drank vast quantities of rum, farted constantly, belched with pride, with gusto.
They met in a smoke laden bar, she in a wheelchair (Her wizened auntie had taken her out for some fresh air. Why she chose to go to a bar no one ever knew). The sailor was singing a ribald sea shanty at the time to the accompaniment of an accordion. He amused her. She caught his eye. The accordionist noticed too. A deafening silence ensued. A galaxy of drunkards turned about face embarrassing her more than a little.
A harlot, hanging on to the sailor’s arm for dear life flinched at his rancid breath, yet still held fast. Such is the fate of a girl short of gilders (Perversely, she cast a jealous eye at the girl with no proper legs with feet, ankles, calves, knees and thighs). Regardless his ‘Popeye on spinach’ forearm thrashed the harlot to Kingdom come.
In an instant, the sailor sobered up. Whereas he should have stumbled he straightened himself, walked over to the girl, planted the mother of all kisses upon her virgin lips, clicked his fingers, bellowed skyward at the heavens, and miraculously the girl had legs with feet, ankles, calves, knees and thighs.
With great care and eyes shut tight the girl ran her hands over her new limbs. They felt ever so fine.
When she opened them again she found herself on a yacht on the wide-open sea in the company of a handsome young man in a Breton shirt. From his place at the helm he winked and blew her a kiss.
All was well in her world.
Albinus, the son of a revered Roman veteran Silus, has always longed to be a farmer, not a soldier, and live his days ploughing and reaping the harvests, with his bride-to-be, Licina. But Silus’ has darker ambitions, for Albinus to follow in his footsteps in the army.
But, as the conflicts between father and son come to a head, a growing threat comes down from the vengeful Germanic tribes to the north. Just as Albinus and Licina are about to marry, their settlement is raided by barbarians and Silus and his veteran comrades are brutally killed, while Licina is kidnapped by the raiders and taken to their king as a gift.
Believing her to be alive, Albinus sets out on a quest to find Licina, finally fulfilling his father’s wishes as training as a soldier, even as he is spurred to avenge his father’s death. As the barbarian hordes gather and plan major rebellion against the Romans, Albinus finds a new fighting spirit within him and grows in stature among the legionaries.
Licina meanwhile has a fight of her own, to escape from slavery and find Albinus. Time is running out, as the northern tribes head for Rome, decimating everything in their path…
With historically accurate details and including characters from legend, Adam Lofthouse’s novel recounts the brutal battles between the Romans and the Germanic tribes, while also telling the heart-wrenching coming-of-age narrative of one young soldier within the Roman camp.
Adam Lofthouse has for many years held a passion for the ancient world. As a teenager he picked up Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden, and has been obsessed with all things Rome ever since. After ten years of immersing himself in stories of the Roman world, he decided to have a go at writing one for himself. The Centurion’s Son is Adam’s first novel. He lives in Kent, with his wife and three sons.
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