Tag Archives: crime

The Encounter By Cynthia B Ainsworthe

portrait of a beautiful brown-haired woman in a flower wreath sitting in the autumn forest close to the harp

John Drake drove down the dirt road, scarcely wide enough to allow for two passing cars. He slowed down at every sign, hoping he would find the name of the turn located on the tattered, coffee-stained road map. After stopping for the fourth time, he pulled over to what once was a rest stop for would-be campers.

His eye caught the glimpse of something fleeing not far in the woods. A young woman, twentyish, wearing a flowing gown, with a ring of flowers on her head, and a light blue ribbon tied around her neck. Her fingers grazed lazily over the autumn leaves on a nearby tree limb above her head. She stopped and looked at him. Her eyes grew intense and seemed to communicate a sad, beckoning message. John swallowed hard. He sat straighter, and ran his finger between his turtleneck collar and his throat.

Why is she staring at me? Is she lost? There are no spring flowers now. Why does she have flowers in her hair?

As compelling as the image was, he forced himself to check the map again. When he looked up in her direction, she was still there, only deeper into the forest.

His hand shook as he grabbed the keys and got out of the car. He stood a moment, watching her, and then walked around the car to the edge of the gravel, where it met an overgrown path. She didn’t move, but seemed to study his form for a few seconds, before she turned and darted into the forest. His steps grew faster and faster till he was at a slow run.

She disappeared out of sight behind a clump of thick-trunked trees.

John stopped and turned in a complete circle. There was no sight of her. Which way had she gone? It had to be that way. Instinct took over as he trudged through the growth of trees and fallen dead tree trunks hosting clusters of mushrooms crossing his path. Still, no sight of her.
Is she in danger? Does she want me to help her in some way?

A small clearing came into view with an old cabin standing in the center. As he drew closer, John saw it was missing some of the planks used to make the walls, and had no door. The hole that must have held a window revealed that the damaged roof allowed a stream of sunlight to fill its interior.

I wonder if she’s in there? Why is she hiding from me?

John hurried to the cabin, then slowed his pace, suddenly apprehensive. He toured the perimeter, careful where he stepped for fear of finding a hole, or some abandoned well. Coming back around to the front, he noticed a pale blue ribbon on the step to the rickety porch. He bent down, picked it up, and rubbed the satin fabric between his fingers. She is real. This ribbon proves it. He peered cautiously into the cabin. Empty. He looked around again, squinting to sharpen his focus. He could see no sign of this mysterious woman. He stashed the souvenir in his pocket. Her image haunted him. He returned to the car and continued to his destination, hoping to find the peace and quiet he sought for his weekend retreat. Dust kicked up as he picked up speed.

Crossroads came into view, with what appeared to be an old general store on one corner. An old brown pickup truck stood under the shade of an enormous oak tree. John pulled into the makeshift parking lot of packed dirt, and grabbed his map before getting out of the car. He stepped onto the old porch and noted a hand-honed wooden rocker. The sound of creaking wood under each footstep announced his arrival before he opened the door.

John stood a moment, searching for someone to assist him. He spotted an older woman behind a rough-hewn wood counter. He noticed a thin gold wedding band on her finger.

“Hi, Ma’am. I’m new in town and need some directions.” He laid the map on the counter, and pointed to his desired target.

The woman leaned over the counter and studied the map. “Nice to meet you,” she said with a slow drawl. “I’m Mabel. My husband, Henry, is in the back.” She pointed over her shoulder. She took a pencil from the gray bun at the back of her head and made an X on the map. “You are here. You go down this road till you get to a Y. Take the right fork, and the next left will take you to the campsite. You should be able to find your way from there. There’s a sign. You can’t miss it.”

A stooped man with a weathered face came from the back and stood next to her. “Don’t drive too fast in these parts. We don’t fancy road kill ‘round here. Critters got a right to live, and we only kill for what we eat. No huntin’ for city sport—not fair to the animals.”
John shifted his weight. He picked up the map. “No chance of that. I’m here for some rest. I only brought a sketch pad and pens.”

“You’re a painter?” the man whom he assumed was Henry, stroked his chin.

“Yes.” John smiled. “Though I only do that for fun. I’m an investment broker.”

Mabel’s jaw set. “One of them that makes money from others—skinnin’ them alive and they don’t feel it until they’re near dirt poor.”

They’re not very friendly here. I better get moving before it’s dark.

He paused at the doorway, and turned back to the older couple. “Do you know of a young woman in her twenties around here? I saw her in the woods—thought she might need help so I stopped the car and tried to find her, but she vanished.”

The couple exchanged knowing glances.

After a moment, Henry stiffened his posture. “Nope. Don’t know of any person like that. Sure you aren’t seein’ things from lack of sleep? Been drivin’ too long?”

“I know what I saw.”

Maybe he’s right. Stress at work and the long hours driving could’ve played tricks with my eyes.

* * *

The stranger left far quicker than he arrived.

Mabel looked up at Henry. “You think he’ll get to where he needs to be?”

“Don’t know. City slickers can be a bit disbelievin’ with all their book learnin’.” He started stocking the fresh shipment of canned green beans from the cardboard box onto the shelf behind them. “We might not see him again. Might end up like the rest.”

Her brow furrowed, accentuating the look of worry. “I hope not. All-in-all, he seemed like a nice young man.” She gazed out the window. “He might be back for some fixin’s. Might need some spray for all those bugs in the cabin.”

“Don’t go fussin’.” Henry tossed the empty box to the others in the corner. “What’s meant to be will be. Nothin’ no one can do. If we see him again, then we will. If not, it’s nobody’s business.”

“You’re right.” She patted his hand on the counter. “I fret too much over things that’s none of my concern.”

* * *

John hadn’t slept well. He tossed and turned and couldn’t make out if he slept with one dream blending into the next, of it he spent his entire night looking at the shadows and images formed by the moonlight. The vision of the girl in the woods tormented him.

I know she is real. Why can’t I stop thinking about her? Why did that couple at the store act so odd when I mentioned what I saw?

He slung his legs over the edge of the bed, stood up and gave an expansive stretch and yawn. A well-worn coffeemaker stood on the small dresser along with Styrofoam cups, packets of instant coffee, sugar, and powdered creamer. He filled the coffeepot with water from the bathroom sink then poured the contents into the reservoir. He pressed the “on” button to boil the water.

Nothing happened.

He checked the wall socket and re-plugged the appliance. Still nothing—not even the faint sound of gurgling water. Damn it! Now I have to go back to that store and find out where people eat around here. Maybe I can buy a new coffeemaker.

John dressed quickly. He checked his pocket and pulled out the ribbon with his keys. He looked at it briefly then stuffed it into his shirt pocket.

The morning sun nearly blinded him, and he grabbed his sunglasses from the glove compartment. The drive seemed much shorter than he recalled yesterday. He didn’t need a map this time. He drove back to the general store as if he had driven this road numerous times before. I was so lost yesterday. Why do I know these roads so well now? Am I still dreaming?

This is weird.

John pulled into the same parking area. He got out and checked the money in his wallet, and hoped he had enough. He wondered if the older couple would accept credit cards.

He opened the door and walked straight to the counter. Mabel swept off dust with an old rag that must have seen better days.

He cleared his throat. “Ma’am, I was here yesterday asking for directions.”

Mabel gave no indication that he was there, nor that she heard him.

Henry came from the back with a large barrel of pickles supported on a hand truck, and un-packed them toward the entry. “I haven’t seen that young broker man—the one askin’ for directions,” he said.

John stepped toward Henry. “Are you blind? I’m standing right here in front of you.”

“Yup,” Mabel replied. “Guess he’s gone for good. Hope he finds out where he’s supposed to be.”

She brushed away a lock of gray hair from her forehead and secured it with a bobby pin from her apron pocket. “Hate to think he’ll get lost.”

John turned to the woman. “Why are you ignoring me? I am here, right in front of you,” He almost yelled, panic rising in his throat.

“Henry, do you think he really saw her in the woods?” Mabel placed her hands on hips.

“Don’t know. Might have.” He chuckled. “It’s not like he had proof—a picture or somethin’.”

John reached into his pocket and retrieved the blue ribbon. He waved it in the air. “Yes, I do have proof! Here it is. Right in my hand.”

Mabel and Henry took no notice.

What is wrong with these people? Are they purposely being rude? I’m from the big city—that means I don’t exist?

In exasperation, John slammed the ribbon down on the counter. It was his only proof that he had seen her and that she was real, but he didn’t care. What he saw and experienced the day before fell back to second place. He felt a new urgency to be somewhere, but didn’t know where that place was located. He headed for his car.

At the door he paused at the sound of Mabel’s voice, and turned around.

“That man was here. Look, Henry. Here’s the ribbon.” She took it from the counter and handed it to her husband.

“I’ll take care of it. Put it with the others.” He shuffled to a box under the far end of the counter.

“I wonder what he thought when we didn’t say a word to him when he was here.”

“I didn’t know he was here—not until that ribbon. Didn’t even feel a breeze.” A small smile curled at her lips. “Guess he hasn’t learned that skill yet.” She watched Henry carefully place the ribbon in the container. “When do you think they’ll find the body?”

“All depends how well that girl hid it.”

John’s mouth gaped open. They are totally nuts. I’ve entered some kind of twilight zone.

His car was gone.

In its place was the young woman in a flowing nightgown with a blue satin ribbon around her neck. Her arm reached out to him.

© 2016 Cynthia B Ainsworthe

Cynthia has longed to be a writer. Life’s circumstances put her dream on hold for most of her life. In 2006, she ventured to write her first novel, Front Row Center, which won the prestigious IPPY Award (Independent Publisher), as well as garnering numerous 5-star reviews, one from known Midwest Book Review. Front Row Center is the first book in the Forbidden Series.

This novel is now being adapted to screen. A script is in development by her and notable Hollywood screenwriter, producer, and director, Scott C. Brown. Remember?, and Forbidden Footsteps are books two and three in the Forbidden Series. She also contributed to the award-winning anthology, The Speed of Dark, compiled by Clayton C. Bye, published by Chase Enterprises Publishing. Cynthia enjoys retirement in Florida caring for her husband and their five poodle-children.
https://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-B.-Ainsworthe/e/B00KYRE1Q8
https://www.cynthiabainsworthe.com

Finding a Sanctuary for a Novel by Steve Lindahl

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I dedicated my latest novel, Hopatcong Vision Quest, to its setting, Lake Hopatcong, NJ. The story takes place at the same location, in two different eras: the present time and the early 17th century, when the area was inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans. My history with Hopatcong is important because it helps me understand the feel of riding a power boat across a crowded body of water, the serenity of paddling a canoe on smooth waters, the fun of searching for freshwater mussels in shallow water , and the thrill of competing with a best friend for the most skips of skimming stones. The lake has been a friend for most of my life.

I wonder how many others have a sanctuary near water: a different lake, a place by a river or a creek, or perhaps an ocean beach. If you’re one of those people, you understand the meditative pull of gentle water as well as the power of a storm or a flood.

My family bought the lake house in 1928. My grandfather wanted a country home, to get his family out of Brooklyn during the Polio season. He had a place in Connecticut for a time, but wasn’t happy there, so he relocated to an island on the largest lake in New Jersey. The family’s been there ever since.

Lake Hopatcong is where I spent summers when I was a child. I Learned to swim there, to sail, to explore the woodlands, to paddle a canoe, to drive a motorboat, and to take an outboard motor apart and put it back together. I grew up with my cousins and some of the best friends of my life, people I’m still close to today. When I grew a little older, it was at that lake where I met my wife.

In Hopatcong Vision Quest there is a scene where two nine year old children, a boy and a girl, go into a wooded area between a road and the shore of the lake. They are searching for an entrance hole to a muskrat burrow. This is an example of a section of the book that required research as well as a general knowledge of how it feels to approach a lake through a place where people seldom go.

The Lenape people of the late 16th, early 17th century felt a sense of respect and reverence for animals that lived both in and out of water. One of their clans was called the Turtle Clan, named after an animal that fits the description. In the book, the otter, another animal that fits, is the spirit guide of one of the main characters. So a muskrat, a third fit, was a logical animal to include in my story.

I remember, as a child, how I watched a muskrat swimming in front of our dock to a nearby shore, then disappearing into a hole in the ground. This happened many times and is an example of an experience that led to a plot choice. I never went looking for the animals with a flashlight to peer into their burrows, but I did go to the shore though the woods many times for other reasons.

I had to follow the decision to use muskrats with research. I used YouTube to be sure I understood how they swam and other sources to check on their eating habits and the time of the year when the kits are with their mother.

Hopatcong Vision Quest is a past life mystery, a story of two suspicious deaths and the use of past life regressions to discover clues. It’s about the past and present characters and their relationships: friendships, betrayals, and love. It is both a modern mystery and historical fiction, but it is also a tribute to a place for peaceful withdrawal from the troubles of the world, my own Walden Pond.

***

Steve Lindahl’s first two novels, Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions, were published in 2009 and 2014 by All Things That Matter Press. His short fiction has appeared in Space and Time, The Alaska Quarterly, The Wisconsin Review, Eclipse, Ellipsis, and Red Wheelbarrow. He served for five years as an associate editor on the staff of The Crescent Review, a literary magazine he co-founded. He is currently the managing/fiction editor for Flying South, a literary magazine sponsored by Winston-Salem Writers and is also a board member of that organization.

His Theater Arts background has helped nurture a love for intricate characters in complex situations that is evident in his writing. Steve and his wife Toni live and work together outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. They have two adult children: Nicole and Erik. Hopatcong Vision Quest is Steve’s latest novel.

THE STING by Bryan Murphy

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Photo by Awersowy – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5930841

Portugal in the 1970s. Ed Scripps, a young expatriate English businessman, has lost his wife, his business and his money. Now an evil cult, which calls itself Pangaia, has sucked his best friend, Mark, into its clutches in order to get its hands on Mark’s newly acquired wealth. Ed is determined to rescue Mark, and enlists the help of Mark’s wife Simone, and other friends, to try to do so.

Ed took a dark Sagres beer from the fridge for inspiration. He had acclimatised so thoroughly that he now drank his beer cold, even in winter: the chill at the back of his throat added to the impact of that first swig. With the night’s third bottle, inspiration started to arrive. By the time the fifth empty bottle clinked into the waste bin, he had a plan.

In the cold light of day, Ed still thought his plan was a good one. He summoned the group to a meeting that evening and laid it before them. They thought it risky, but feasible. They would do it.

The next morning, Simone went to the bank and wired a significant sum of money from a joint account to the bank’s branch in Vila Abade, for Mark to pick up in person. One of the group, Luís, then phoned Pangaia, declared himself to be a senior clerk from the bank, and asked to speak to Mark. They told him Mark was unavailable but he could leave a message. Luís explained the transfer and said that Mark could collect his money the following day.

Early the next morning, Ed, Simone and Gabriela drove up to Vila Abade in a hired car. They parked near the police station in the small town and walked towards the bank, hurrying to keep out the winter chill as well as to get in position before the bank opened. They took up their places, in sight of each other, but with only one of them visible to the guard outside the bank, should he care to look in that direction.

They were counting on Jorge being keen to get his hands on Mark’s money as fast as possible, and they were not disappointed. Minutes after the bank opened, Ed saw Mark approach it, accompanied by three heavies. Ed pulled his borrowed hat down and hurried towards the bank, taking care to disguise his limp. He was the first customer to enter the bank, and he engaged the sole clerk already on duty in a discussion of how he might open an account there, spinning out the misunderstandings by making his Portuguese more rudimentary than it had been for years. The Pangaia group came in after him and had to wait. If Mark recognised Ed, he did not show it.

A blast of cold air came in as the door opened. Gabriela strode in, looking flustered and anxious. She asked who was last in the queue and started complaining loudly about bank staff always being late for work. The guard raised his eyebrows and closed the door on them. Mark’s escorts glared daggers at the foreigner separating them from Mark’s money. When Ed could spin out his request no further, and gave it up with many thanks to the bored clerk, the Pangaia group moved forward to take his place, but Gabriela brushed past them to the counter.

“Excuse me, I’m sorry, I just can’t wait! Show a little gallantry, gentlemen!”

“Hey! Who do you think you are!”

“Get out of the way, bitch!”

“We’re next! Not you, you stupid cow!”

They did not notice Simone enter. Mark did. He rushed to embrace her. As he did so, Ed started to yell.

“Help! It’s a robbery! Help!!”

Gabriela began to scream. The clerk pressed the alarm button. The guard ran in, gun in hand, and saw the heaviest of Pangaia’s disciples with his thick arms around Mark’s neck. The guard felled him with a blow from the barrel of the gun, then pointed it at the other two heavies who scrambled to tend to their fallen companion.

“Stop where you are! You’re all under arrest!”

The above is an extract from Revolution Number One, the forthcoming novel by British author Bryan Murphy. Bryan welcomes visitors to his website at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu You can find a selection of his e-books here: viewAuthor.at/BryMu

Family Man By Patricia Dusenbury

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A family man and proud of it, Rick Stelljes enjoyed his kids’ dinner table chatter. Johnny’s class took a field trip to the aquarium; Linda thought she’d aced her geometry test.

“Keep it up, Baby,” he told her. “You’re gonna be the first Stelljes to graduate college, and it’s gonna be a big-name school.”

“Daddy.” She smiled indulgently. “Everyone from Windsor Prep goes to a good college.”

Headlights flickered through the drapes; someone was pulling up in front. Richie went to check – people here parked in driveways – and saw the kid next door getting dropped off. He sat back down.

“I’m going to Harvard,” Johnny said.

“You get in, son, I’ll pay for it.”

No one had ever asked Rick about his day at his stinking dump of a school. The smartest kid in the class, he’d made up for it by being the meanest. He would have been dead or in prison by eighteen if Mr. Dee hadn’t taken an interest in him, hadn’t become like a father to him. He’d been working for Mr. Dee twenty years now. Married to Tanya for fifteen. Every day of his life, he thanked God for his good luck.

Johnny and Linda went upstairs to do their homework, and Tanya asked if he wanted an after-dinner drink.

“Not tonight, baby. I’ve got a late meeting.” He pushed back from the table. “Time for me to go.”

“I wish you didn’t have to.”

Rick also wished he didn’t have to. He liked Billy Balfour, but Billy had crossed a line. “I won’t be late. You make sure those kids do their homework.”

“They’re good kids.”

“I know. And you’re a good mom.” He stood and kissed the top of his wife’s head.

Walking through the family room on his way to the garage, Rick admired the leather sofas and the wide-screen TV. At 72 inches, it really was a home theater. When he got back, he and Tanya could watch a movie, something light. He was going to need to decompress.

The monitor mounted on the garage wall showed multiple pictures of a quiet yard and an empty street. Rick pushed a button and a section of wall swung away, revealing the cabinet that held his guns. He selected a Glock 9mm and an AWC Abraxis supressor. The Abraxis didn’t muffle the noise as well as his Osprey, but it was lighter and smaller, which could be important tonight. After another check of the monitor, Rick slid behind the wheel, turned the key in the ignition, and pressed the garage door opener.

Tomorrow or the day after, they’d find Billy, shot twice through the back of his head. The news would call it an execution, and they’d be right. More important, people who might have been tempted to try some free-lancing would be reminded that Mr. Dee didn’t tolerate disloyalty, and Rick Stelljes would have another $25,000 to keep his family safe and comfortable.

 

 

Bio:  Patricia Dusenbury is a retired economist and the author of the Claire Marshall trilogy, which if it had a name, would be called A Path Through the Ashes. The first book, A Perfect Victim, was named 2015 best mystery by the Electronic Industry Publishing Coalition. The second book, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, is a Preditors and Editors top ten mystery. Book 3, A House of Her Own, was released in October.  This nasty little story was inspired by a conversation with a friend who is a criminal defense attorney.  Are you sure you know where your neighbor works?

 

Web page:  www.PatriciaDusenbury.com

Stiletto

Warning:  This story contains explicit language.

 

Gunners_stiletto_01

What happens when society begins to paint individuals in colours they don’t like? Well, I think I have an answer for you. And it begins and ends with my stiletto. This was a blade I had fashioned a few years ago, as part of my Knights Templar collection. But unlike my ceremonial swords and daggers, this piece was battle ready. Good strong steel, utilitarian design—its point proclaiming its wicked function; this triangular blade was made for stabbing.

A stiletto, you see, traditionally refers to a type of knife blade which is triangular in design rather than flat. It’s also longer than an average blade. And while it’s often referred to as a knife, a better term would be a dagger or a sword dagger―due to the cross piece between the handle and the blade. The triangular construction of the blade makes for dull edges. On the other hand, the blade is strong, much stronger than a normal knife. And then there’s that extremely sharp point. It’s this function that makes the blade ideal for stabbing, and in the past it was known to be damned good at passing through the ribs to get at the heart or lungs of an enemy.

The Italians developed the stiletto in the late 1400’s, when the art of the Vendetta, or honor duel, was openly practiced by the noble and the wealthy. A rapier (long, thin sword) would be held in one hand, and a stiletto dagger with wide cross guard would be held in the other. The stiletto could be used to fend off an opponent’s sword or catch and trap it along the cross guard. It could even be used for attacking.

The blade was also made in circular and diamond shapes, but they all had the common needle-like point. So popular were these blades that they went on to be adopted by professional assassins as their weapon of choice, both for the stabbing ability and because the dagger could be easily hidden on the body. In fact, the stiletto was so effective that entire countries banned its use.

And so we come to another reason I had the stiletto made. It was as a thumb-jerk reaction to the Mounties pulling my gun license. You see, I’d grown up with rifles and such, and right or wrong, I’d always felt safer knowing there was that kind of protection in my home. You might ask “Protection from what?” Home invasion, the drunks that have twice tried to break into my home, societal breakdown, war—I could name any number of reasons, and they would all seem somehow less frightening, because I had a good weapon at hand. Anyway, now, due to the onset of Bipolar Disorder and a three week hospital stay, I was suddenly unfit to be around firearms. I had been banned from owning or using them―painted by the same brush as those ancients who would have used the stiletto. Well fuck them; I was going to have protection. And I loved the deliciously circular nature of my situation and weapon of choice.

You see, the situation I alluded to at the beginning of my little story has nothing to do with the original issue of protection. It’s about justice…an eye for an eye. You know, that fucking McGonagle didn’t even get jail time. Road conditions, they said. Black ice, they said. Yeah, that’s why my baby’s chest was flattened. Not because the asshole was driving too fast, but because the road was icy, and Penny had enjoyed a couple of drinks before heading out for the evening. My ass. Penny would never have been that close to the side of the road, drunk or not. She always walked as far away as she could get from traffic. Her mom had lost a brother to a drunk driver, and there was no way Penny was going to repeat the tragedy. No, the fuck was driving too fast for the road condition and lost control of the vehicle. I knew it. So did he. I’d seen it in his eyes—they gleamed when the verdict was announced.

Well, I was going to fix him. No more thinking about it over and over and over again. The time had come to clear my mind. I stuck the stiletto in my waistband, the cold metal burning against my bared flesh, and I headed out. McGonagle was going get it right under the rib cage and straight up into his black, fucking heart.

I waited until midnight. The cops should have gotten their quota of drunk drivers by then. The town would be quiet, but there would still be enough traffic that I wouldn’t stand out. When I got to his place, I left the car on the street and walked up to the darkened house. I wasn’t worried about getting caught, see? But I wasn’t going give the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) a slam dunk, either. Trying to act like I belonged there, I went to the front door and pretended to jiggle the lock with my car keys. I needn’t have worried; the idiot didn’t lock his door at night.

Now for the tough part. There were going be two kids and a wife in the house. I’d cased the place and had figured out everyone slept upstairs. Kids at the back of the house and the parents up front. Their door would be right near the top of the stairs.

I went into the house, took the stairs quietly in my soft-soled Keds, and opened the nicely weighted, oak bedroom door without hesitation, without sound. I was going to get one shot at this, and I wasn’t wasting a second. The streetlights, shining through a large window, illuminated both the man and the woman.

I’m never going to forget McGonagle’s face… My luck, he was sleeping on his back. I walked around the bed, lifted his blanket and I shoved that steel pin as hard and as deep as I could. He made a huff and his eyes opened. I shoved my face into his and leaned into the weapon. It was just like killing a trapped fox. Take hold of the chest and keep the pressure on until the heart stops. He was trying to buck now. I didn’t want to have to deal with his wife, so, keeping one foot on the floor, I laid down right on top of him. There was very little blood. A stiletto is like a wedge, and it doesn’t have grooves for bloodletting and easy removal like a hunting knife has. No, the thing went in and stayed put until I wanted it to come back out.

And that’s why I say it begins and ends with the stiletto. There’s only one place in Canada that makes a dagger like that. If the cops were on the ball, they’d find out I bought one. But it wasn’t going to be a free throw by any means. I paid cash for the blade, used a fake name and had it sent to a U.S. mail drop. We Canadians have a lot of those drops just over the American border. They don’t care what’s in a box. Don’t even care where it’s from.

So, yes, there was that paper trail, but I bought enough in the way of weapons and supplies, I was hoping it was never put together. And when the cops asked me about it, well,  I wouldn’t know what they were talking about.  “I collect swords, gentlemen,” I would say. “Used to collect rifles, too.” Then I’d pause… “No, the only knives I have are a hunting knife and a set of carving knives.” Hopefully they would be stumped.

Anyway, I’m home now. McGonagle’s wife didn’t wake up. Even when the prick shit himself. It’s late, my clothes have been burned, the stiletto’s gone forever. And I’m nursing a double shot of Blair Athol single malt, rare, 27 years-old and the perfect end to a very good day.

 

Copyright  2014 Clayton Clifford Bye

LAST SUPPER by Roger Ellory

 

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For some considerable time, David had known he would kill his wife.

David was a creature of habit, and yet he had learned to accept his anonymity and predictability as a blessing, not a curse.  He rose at the same time, dressed in clothes indistinguishable from those he wore on any other day, ate the same breakfast, took the same route to work.  He filed insurance claims until lunchtime, and then he walked to the park.  Here he sat for forty-eight minutes to read the newspaper, to eat his sandwich, and then he walked back to the office.  To him, this routine had become a comfort.

David had made no definite plans as to the means of disposal for her body, nor how he would explain her sudden disappearance to family, friends and neighbors.  Perhaps he believed that once the deed was done he would be struck by a brilliant solution, a streak of lightning, a bolt from the blue.

David had decided the manner of her death, however.

He would stab her in the eye.

The chosen instrument of death was not a knife, but a knitting needle.  He had bound half its length in duct tape so as to provide a firm grip, yet with six inches exposed he believed that the needle – if driven suddenly, and with sufficient force – would pass directly through her eye and into the brain.  There would be little, if any, blood, and death would be instant.  She had given him fifteen years of comfortable, predictable marriage, and he did not wish to cause her any undue pain or distress.

In fact, David did not think of it so much as a murder, but more of an execution for some unknown crime.

And so it was, on a cool summer evening, that David and his wife sat at the kitchen table to eat.  She had prepared a chicken salad and opened a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.  They ate in near-silence, the stillness punctuated by the odd pleasantry, the fact that rain had been expected but not arrived.

“Perhaps tomorrow”, David had commented, finding it ironic that he was mentioning something of which she would know nothing.

David sat calmly, the knitting needle beneath his thigh.  He felt a sense of philosophical resignation regarding the inevitability of what was about to happen.

There would be no struggle, no raised voices, no desperate drama as she fought against hands tightening around her throat.  There would be no blood spatter, no scuff-marks from frantic heels against the linoleum.

She would find herself at dinner, and then she would be dead.

Perhaps she would not even notice.

“You’re having no wine?” he asked her.

“No,” she said.  “I have a slight headache.  The wine will worsen it.”

It was then that David experienced a sudden pang of something.

She had smiled at him, and smiled in such an innocent and unaffected way, and there had almost been a sense of sadness in her tone.

She could not know what he had planned, for he had planned nothing beyond her death.

She could not suspect him of any deceit.

Each day had been the same.  He had done the same things, expressed the same thoughts with the same words, continued with routines that had remained constant and unchanging for years.  In fact, it was safe to say that the single most defining characteristic of their marriage was that nothing ever happened.

But now he was feeling something.  Was it regret?  Guilt?  Was he even now questioning the determination he had made to kill her?  Why was he experiencing this sense of disorientation, a feeling of agitation in his stomach, a fleeting wave of nausea?

Why did he now feel so weak, so uncertain?

He opened his mouth to speak.

His words were thoughts, but they were not sounds.

She looked at him, the same sense of sadness in her eyes.

The stab of pain in his gut was breathtaking.  It snatched every molecule of air from his lungs and throat.

He had never felt anything like it.

The pain did not last so long – thirty seconds, perhaps forty.

He felt his cheek against the plate of moist salad, and then he felt nothing at all.

David’s wife carried the wine bottle and the glass to the sink.  She was methodical as she washed them, ensuring every grain of sediment was removed from both.

And then she stood in the kitchen doorway, and she looked at her dead husband, and she believed that during the last days – as she had planned his murder – she had felt more than enough emotion to compensate for a decade and a half of feeling nothing at all.

 

As if writing powerful crime novels were not enough, British writer Roger Ellory is also a musician. Indeed, making music may be the greater of his two loves. RJ is guitarist and vocalist with Zero Navigator.  To find RJ’s books in the US visit

http://www.amazon.com/R.J.-Ellory/e/B002IVGFJO/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1403962252&sr=8-1
In England use
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Roger-Jon-Ellory/e/B002IVGFJO/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1403962965&sr=1-1-catcorr

Working by the Sweat of His Brow

I’m not sure where you reside, or if you are burdened with these issues, and I certainly hope not, but there’s no doubt crime is on the rise where I reside–in the city of Houston.  Statistics are not only rising, but startling. According to Neighborhood Scout (2000-2014) one can become victimized by crime at a rate of 60 per 1000 residents. Houston has the highest crime rate in America compared to all communities of all sizes. The chances of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime is 1/17 (Neighborhood Scout, 2000-2014).

For me the realization of these events has become increasingly distracting, and quite fearful.  I’ve begun to notice this more recently due to listening to the morning news. Each morning when we arise, and as a part of our morning routine, my husband turns the television on. Our intent is to capture the weather so as to prepare for proper dress, but we also take notice of other events taking place about us. News reporters spurt out newsflashes and overnight updates of one criminal act after another.  This is quite disturbing, to say the very least.

I’ve learned however, to map my course. Journeying to the grocery or gas pump has now become a job. I have to watch my every move, my back (so to speak), and clutch onto my purse strings. Lord forbid, if my small child is in tow. I’ve learned to practice certain tactics with her if ever distressed.  The reality of this is a “sad state of affairs.”

Yes, I know that crime isn’t new to any of us, but as of late it appears that our communities are inundated with corruption and deceit. Seemingly, these criminals have no care, or regard for the lives of others, and lack a sense of remorsefulness. I have to wonder the mind-sets of the men (generally speaking) who choose to go this route. I have to wonder about the ethics and morals of such individuals and why they feel the right, and privilege to take from others rather than work for the goods they desire. What ever happened to men “working by the sweat of one’s brow?” Wouldn’t they value and cherish their articles more? To take it a step further, how can a man feel good about one-self enjoying possessions that aren’t his?  Where did this sense of entitlement come from?

As I reflect on this topic and the questions that constantly race through my mind these days of recent, I ponder about ethics, morals, and moral principles. I realize, perhaps, most people may use these two words interchangeably, but actually they have two distinct meanings, so I’ll define them.

Definitions:

Ethics:  A set of principles of right behaviors or manners. The rules or standards that lead or regulate the conduct of a person

Morals:  Relates to what a person thinks is right/wrong or good/bad.

When I think about the differences in these two definitions, I have to surmise that a person is morally good according to their personal worldview, or perception of what they believe to be just or right for them. Still, I have to ask, how does one get to this point? What is it that drives one to rob, kill, and cause bodily harm to another? Why would a man commit home invasions — kicking his brotherly neighbor’s front door in, holding the owner’s hostage and taking all their worldly possessions? What happened to his ethics, or did he ever acquire ethics?

Moral issues are the business of our obligation, and debt to each other, but  they also comprise just or fair treatment towards one another, and what rights we have one to another. It appears some of us “got it” while others did not.

Although it may be too late for some, perhaps we can start afresh with our young, teaching them to become ethically and morally reasonable citizens in our society/communities.

With this in mind, it is my judgment that we should be about the business of teaching our children how to conduct themselves morally. I’d like to pose a few tips of how to embed a sense of moral principles within our children, for it is my hope to make a difference, if only a smidgen.

Tips for Teaching Effective Moral Principles

  • Parents should begin by explaining what morals entail. Afterwards, outline targeted principles. These can be taught in phases so that children can have time to practice and take ownership of the lesson.
  • Teach children how to become in-tuned to their feelings and the feelings of family members and playmates. Parents can create imaginary situations, so that children will have the opportunity to get their feelings “in-check.”  This will also allow children to recognize and grasp their feelings and emotions.
  • During interactions with others is a great time to teach how to play fair and recognize the feelings of others. This is a great time to teach how to share and take turns, and also work on potential bullying behaviors.
  • Be sure to implement a plan for accepting consequences for actions. There are rules (laws of the land), and everyone is responsible for abiding by regulations put in place by lawmakers.

Am I “preaching to the choir” here?” If so, how can we reach the neighborhoods and families we know needs to hear and learn these lessons, or will we have to rely and depend on our teachers to help reach and instill within our children moral principles?

These tips and messages can be used for anyone who lives in a city plagued with crime and contention.

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of young children in a desperate attempt to end crime sprees, and vicious crime cycles in our communities. Surely with well thought-out teachings, our children will harbor moral principles that will be instilled within them for a lifetime.

It is my hope that through teachings and role modeling, we can turn Houston crime, and crime in like cities around.

 

Cherrye Vasquez

Cherrye Vasquez

About the author

Author, Cherrye Vasquez, has a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction; a Master of Ed in Special Education; and a BA in Speech Pathology/Audiology. Vasquez specializes in Multi-cultural education and holds certifications in Early Childhood Handicapped, Mid-Management and Educational Diagnostician.

Vasquez is passionate about empowering children, so her platform centers on diversity and bullying issues. She feels strongly that if children are empowered and armed with the tools needed for a deep love of self and self-identity, they will be able to withstand life’s challenges, including bullies.

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http://www.BooksThatSow.com

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Publications:

No Tildes on Tuesday

Clique, Clique, STOP

Diversity Daybook: Journal

Affirmation Daybook: Journal

Guess What? Dear Diary,

Teacher, Teacher, Can’t You See? (a book about bullying coming soon)

Author Motto: Love is the key to Diversity!

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