Adventures for the Average Woman
Price: $2.00 IDEAGEMS ® December 2005
A MONTHLY PUBLICATION OF SERIAL FICTION AND FACTBASED ADVENTURE TALES PRINTED WITH EARTH-FRIENDLY RECYCLED MATERIALS
Volume 1, Issue 2 Inside this issue:
Time To Cozy Up
Time to Cozy Up
So, it’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving filled your fridge with enough leftovers to destroy any chance of a diet. Now it’s the mad dash to spend all you have for frivolous holiday trappings and gifts. Are you ready to face the in-laws and brave a taste of Aunt Helga’s dietetic stone-hard fruitcake? Shudder. Before the madness sends you to the far corner of the closet curled up in a fetal position, take a healthy dose of fantasy from this month’s issue of AFTAW. Curious about Claire trapped in a snow-bound cabin with a desperate felon on the lamb? To see if she digs her way out of her dilemma, read the continuation of “Boundary Waters.” Wanna know what happens to poor Arna who has just wit
Natalie and the Blue Dragon
The Spoiler, Part II The crime scene at the Olde Towne Taverne had yielded all it could. Jack had gone back to serving drinks while Detective Savage worked from her desk. She had just gotten off the phone with the Baltimore police who said they would fax copies of the 9-1-1 call officers had responded to in the E. Pratt Street parking garage on May 10, 2002. As soon as she put down the receiver the phone
nessed the hanging of a woman in her uncle’s old theater? Has she fallen into the clutches of a murderous cult? Find out in “Mystery of the Majestic.” Can a savvy female detective decipher two-hundred year old trace evidence to find a historical novelist gone missing? Follow the trail of clues in “The Spoiler.” Don’t forget Katie’s graphic adventure where a noble knight on a fiery steed rescues her from the corporate dungeon in “The Adventures of Katie Madigan.” Then there’s little lost Gina and her new roommate Clive, the cross-dressing vampire, in “Neomodern Nosferatu.” And what is the anniversary surprise in Viv’s trunk? You’ll need to read “Silver Bows” to find out, but I warn you, this one’s a bit naughty and kinky.
Boundary Waters 4 (You’re not touchy about that sort of thing, are you?) Since it is the season of giving, we’ve dug deep for spare change to bring you more pages with more stories, plus a postcard you can mail in to subscribe. (Sorry, you’ll have to pay for postage.) Also, Cytheria wants to have a word with you. Read her column. We hope you enjoy our tales of intrigue and wish you an intriguing and adventurous holiday season of your own. -- Cytheria Howell, Author/Editor and Incurable Romantic
He grinned the grin all men do when they either encounter Renee or sail into the Chabdrys Straits.
chirped like a nestling for more regurgitated worms. Renee picked up. “Detective Savage.” “Hey Renee, this is Howie down at the lab. Got something interesting for you.” “I’ll be there in two shakes of a gator’s tail.” Renee slapped the receiver in its cradle and flew out of the station. It took her twenty minutes to get to the forensics lab. She
was greeted by the man who called her, Howie Opstrund. He was portly fair-haired boy in a white smock. He grinned the grin all men do when they either encounter Renee or sail into the Chabdrys Straits. “Got something peculiar off that shot glass.” “What is it? A print? DNA” Renee chomped at the bit. (continued on page 2)
Mystery of the Majestic
Katie Madigan and 8 the Errant Knight
A Word With You
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The Spoiler (continued from page 1)
The problem was that the more time passed, the less chance there was of finding Marsha Tucker at all.
“No prints other than that of our victim but there was this.” He handed her a paper. Renee took the computer printout of the electro-spectrograph analysis. She skipped over the complicated chemical names and read the lay nomenclature: “Ethyl alcohol, morphine, papaver somniferum, saffron, castoreum, diambræ, ambergris, musk, and nutmeg.” “What is that? A new street drug or a perfume?” she quizzed. “Well, it used to be a commonly used drug and a legal one. It’s something that hasn’t been manufactured for over a century,” Howie flatly stated. “What?” Renee pestered. “Laudanum, the opiate of the masses up until the end of the nineteenth century.” “Where would you get this stuff?” Her nose crinkled with curiosity. Howie shrugged. “Beats me. Probably made in someone’s sink for all we know.” “Think you can trace any of these?” She snapped the paper for emphasis. Howie offered up another shrug. Renee tossed him a thank you as she rushed out the door. Back at her desk, she scaled the mountain of cases. She had reports to write up and phone calls to make regarding other investigations. She found herself slipping down the slope to the ledge that held the Marsha Tucker file. “Howdy doody,” greeted a handsome voice. Renee looked up to see rookie cop, Caleb Ross. He had a box of pastries from Le Bon Pannier that he was considerate enough to bring all the way to her desk. She knew what he was up to and she was flattered. He set the box on the highest column. A sheaf of paper that had been hanging precariously from one of the folders drifted down to the floor. Caleb’s quick reflexes caught it before it hit ground. “What’s casto-room?” he mispronounced as he chomped on an elephant ear. Renee nibbled a cruller she had selected.
“It’s pronounced castor-ee-uhm.” “Yeah, and what is it?” His dreamy dark eyes squinted at the unconceivable word. “The scent glands from a beaver’s anus,” Renee callously blurted. Caleb spit half-chewed ear into his napkin. “You could have given me a heads up! Gawd!” Renee chortled and nearly choked on her cruller. She took a swig of police-station sludge to wash it down her throat. Caleb tossed the paper back on top pf the pile of documents that teetered on Renee’s desk. “I don’t think I dare ask about that other stuff. I won’t be able to eat lunch.” He checked his watch. “Wups, gotta go. Charlie’s waiting downstairs and I said I’d only be a minute. See ya,” He threw a salute from the brim of his cap and winked with blatant flirtatiousness. Renee sat her desk and rummaged through files of unsolved cases: a robbery in Terrytown, a mugging on Bourbon Street. Piles of case folders piled up on her desk. She had too much do and too little time to do it in. Worst of all, there was little room in her busy schedule to squeeze in the Tucker case, but Renee was sure to bend the space-time continuum to solve it. The problem was that the more time passed the less chance there was of finding Marsha Tucker alive or at all.
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Adventures for the Average Woman
Natalie and the Blue Dragon: A Fairytale for Grown-up Girls, Part I The bitter wind worked its cutting edge down to the bone. A nasty gust spat stinging snow and sleet into Natalie’s face. In defiance, she drew up the collar of her overcoat and muttered beneath her muffler. “Damn Maine winters!” Her thick legs trudged through the three-foot drifts covering the theeblock trek from the Portland Public market to her humble home on Cumberland Avenue. It felt like climbing Everest. Her bag of comestibles weighed heavy in her arms. Her breathing grew labored. It wasn’t easy for a middle-aged black woman of great girth to trundle her way through a raging nor’easter. Natalie pushed and strained to make it up the hill. She was determined to beat the elements before they beat her. The wind whistled and wailed. The snow spun like a dervish. The street was eerily quiet and devoid of traffic. A raging blizzard never kept Mainers from conducting business as usual. The Public Market wasn’t exactly bustling that evening, but it wasn’t deserted either. There had been people coming and going. Where were the riders and the striders now? Natalie stumbled. Her bag of goods spilled into the snow. She fumbled to retrieve the cans of soup and vegetables in the thick mittens covering her hands. A slap of cold air struck her face. Tears came to her eyes. Natalie sat in the snow bank and cried. Her long hard day combined with the battering storm had brought her down. “This isn’t fair!” she raged as a small can of peas escaped her grasp to sink deep into the snow. “All I want is to get back to my miserable house to make and eat a lousy bowl of vegetable soup!” Her almond eyes peered up into the dark snowy sky. “Haven’t you let me suffer enough with barely enough money to survive? Now you take away my meager supper?” Cold wet nipped the skin beneath the layers of clothes. She struggled to right herself. A fierce blast knocked her to her knees. “Two blocks from my house, and you just want me to lie down and die. Fine. Just goes to
Volume 1, Issue 2
Natalie felt light as a feather as he pulled her to her feet. She marveled at the large blue beast standing behind the tall warrior angel.
show how a poor ol’ Creole gal from New Orleans has no right to live in the Great White North.” Propped on her numb hands and knees, she hung her bundled head over the soft chill mound of white where she saw the past forty-seven years flash before her bleary eyes. “Natalie,” sounded a deep sonorous voice. “Get up.” Natalie’s eyes embraced the warm blue glow that surrounded her. Oddly, the snow was falling but didn’t land on her. It was though a huge shield covered her from above. She caught the glint of metal poking up through the snow and followed its vertical length upwards to see two great hands grasping the hilt of a great sword. Her swaddled neck craned to peer up into the chiseled face of a man with long dark hair. He looked down at her with piercing but loving eyes. Behind him flexed a large pair of wings, and over his shoulder snaked the knobby head of an enormous blue dragon. Natalie blinked and fell back on her plush behind onto the cushion of snow. “Who?’ she peeped, “How?” The towering angel extended a brawny hand to help her to her feet. She looked past the thick wrist band along the bare muscular arm up to the powerful biceps and broad shoulders. A cascade of long dark hair flowed freely down to his breast. He raised an eyebrow and smiled sublimely. “I am Askuwheteau, ‘he who keeps watch.’” Natalie felt light as a feather as he pulled her to her feet. She marveled at the large blue beast standing behind the tall warrior angel. “This is Kesegowaase, meaning ‘swift one.’” He turned to face the long muzzle of the dragon. Natalie silently mouthed the unpronounceable names and tried to comprehend the strange phenomenon besetting her. Logic dictated she should be cold, yet she was toasty warm. She should be damp and covered in snow, but her clothes were crispy dry. Instead of snow drifts at her feet a blue mist swirled. Outside the invisible dome the snow streamed earthward -- like an inside-
out snow globe. “Am I dead?” she boldly posited. Askuwheteau chuckled. “No, not in the least.” With hands on hips, she questioned his veracity. “Then I must be delirious with cold ‘cause I know this cannot be happening. Warrior angels and blue dragons simply do not exist!” “I’m surprised you’d doubt what you see. We’ve been revealed to you before, remember?” Natalie wracked her brain until she remembered the spiritualist at a healing session. He had described a tall warrior angel with a blue sword hovering behind her and told her he was watching over her. “If you can’t believe your eyes,” Askuwheteau cajoled, “how about your touch? Here. Pet Kesegowaase standing before you.” He pulled the mitten from her hand and set her trembling fingers on the dragon’s snout. Natalie flinched at first but found the soft warm nose soothing to caress. The dragon’s warm breath blew into her palm. “He’s not going to spit fire at me, is he?” “No. Why should he?” assured Askuwheteau. “He’s beautiful,” Natalie exclaimed wideeyed and wondering. She slowly withdrew her hand. “Why are you here? I mean, why come to me now?” “We’re here because you needed our help as much as we need your help.” “My help? How in blue blazes could I help you? I can’t even walk three blocks home in a snow storm with an armful of groceries!” She looked around. “You sure you have the right person?” “But of course. You are Natalie Beaumont, a descendent in a long line of native Creole folk in the ancient dwelling of spirit beings now called New Orleans. You are the person for our mission.” Continued in our next issue. Subscribe today!
Boundary Waters, Part II
A cupola of ice and snow covered the vast forested cathedral of the land. Snow buttressed the shifting curves of the rural road. Towering pines vaulted the storm’s high ceiling. Claire steered to make the upcoming left turn into her private drive. “Look out!” But his warning came too late. The Durango careened off the lip of the icy highway and into a ditch waist-deep in snow. Fine powder danced and twirled in the headlights in a wintry ballet to the accompaniment of howling wind and creaking branches. “How far are we from your house?” he asked. “About a half a mile.” She cut the engine and clicked off the lights. “What are you doing?” “You want to die from carbon monoxide poisoning?” She squeezed her eyes shut and mentally kicked herself for automatically complying with years of conditioning from growing up in a far northern clime. She should have let the toxic gas put her out of her inevitable misery. He pulled out the small key from his breast pocket and unlocked the cuff clamped to the wheel. “We can walk it. Get your coat on.” “What? We’ll freeze to death out there!” He picked up his gun and aimed it at her. “We’ll freeze to death in here.”
Claire pried the gun from his frozen fingers and searched his jacket pockets for the key to unlock the cuffs.
Claire pulled on her parka and explained, “Look, it’s obvious by the way you dressed for this journey that you are unfamiliar with the dangers of severe winter. Even though half a mile seems like a jog in the park to you, it can mean a jaunt with the Grim Reaper to us out there. People have been found frozen to death just a few feet from the doorsteps of the houses they tried to reach while walking in subzero temps shortly after their cars went off road or broke down.” He ignored her frenzied caveat. “Got a flashlight in here?” “In the glove box.” She pulled on her own gloves. He found it and checked its beam. “You can be our guide in the storm.” He clicked the open cuff onto his wrist, linking her to him. “Let’s go.” He fought the wind to push open the door and dragged her out into the dark deep freeze. Claire bunched her parka around her face to keep the stinging cold at bay. The handcuffed pair trudged and stumbled through thigh-high drifts. What would normally have been a casual twenty-minute hike from the main county road doubled in effort and time. She could feel the man stiffening up and slowing down and feared his collapse at her cuffed hand, which would anchor her to the frigid earth. “Come on, keep moving. We’re nearly there,” she encouraged bracing him up by the waist. Her knees were beginning to buckle when the beam fingered the wooden door to her home. She pushed open the door and stumbled inside with the man’s weight coming down on top of her. His incoherent murmuring was a sure sign of hypothermia. Claire pried the gun from his frozen fingers and searched his jacket pockets for the key to unlock the cuffs. She patted his cheeks but found him unresponsive. For the next two hours, he rode the shifting wind and snowy dunes of consciousness. Frigid drifts buried him; then icy grains blew from the promontories and recesses of his face to expose him to the air and light. He
felt fingers trailing along his nose, lips, and throat. His eyes slowly opened to an amber glow. When his focus adjusted, his mouth widened with a silent scream. From across the room, the glassy eyes of a disembodied head cast a dead stare. He turned to see a tortured torso sans limbs. With all his strength, he fought off the quilts enveloping him and raised his stiff curled fingers to his face. His hands appeared as useless stumps for the thick mittens covering them. “At last, you’ve come around,” Claire sighed with relief. “Here, try to drink this.” She raised the back of his head and held a steaming cup of broth to his lips. He sipped and shivered. “I can’t move my fingers.” “I know. You’re suffering frostbite and hypothermia. We’ve got to get your core temperature up and restore circulation to your appendages.” She gently forced down the rest of the broth. “Now let’s tend to those frozen digits. Here, sit up.” She helped position him upright on the plush leather sofa and carefully peeled off the mittens. His hands had the feel and pallor of porcelain. She delicately placed them in a bowl of water. “God, that burns! Does the water have to be so hot?” the man screamed. “This is cold water. It seems hot because of the extreme cold in your tissues. Keep your hands in the bowl and let me see your feet.” She rolled down the thick woolen socks that she had bundled over his feet. “Nothing’s turned black. That’s a good sign.” She set his icy-white feet into another bowl of water on the floor. She figured him to be in his midtwenties. From the base of his musculature she looked up to admire his Rushmore visage gritting impeccable teeth. She marveled at the rocky tension in his jaw. She ogled the smooth symmetrical features rising above the bandana below his chin. A thick forest of dark hair hugged his crown. (continued on page 11)
Adventures for the Average Woman
Neomodern Nosferatu, Part II The taxi ride to Gina’s one-bedroom apartment in the high rise on Piney branch Road proved tense. The “ordinary” African man driving the cab fixed his eyes on their reflection in his rearview mirror more than he did on the road. It suddenly dawned on Gina that, according to vampire lore, Clive wasn’t casting a reflection. Gina squinted to see what the driver was eying. To her amazement, Clive’s image appeared in the mirror. She looked at it, then at Clive. He ambushed her commentary with a mouth-plugging kiss. Gina let go a mute squeal before succumbing to his ploy. He looked out of the corner of his eye to see the cab driver avert his eyes from the moment of intimacy then scanned the eastern horizon for the subtle hues of dawn. The cab careened down Georgia Avenue to Blair Street then meandered up Piney Branch to the Willows Apartment complex. Once inside, Gina set to defending her honor. “What the hell was that?” “What?” he asked. “God, I gotta lose this dreadful footwear.” He pulled off the clunky boots. “Is this a closet?” He opened a door in the entryway and set the boots inside. “All that kissing and groping? Gina followed him as he explored her dwelling place. “Sorry, but the driver was getting suspicious,” Clive explained as he closed the blinds on all the windows. “Since you were going to let on about my reflection, I had to do something. Sorry if I embarrassed you. Is this the boudoir?” “The what?” She traipsed behind as he hurried to shut out the encroaching light of day. Clive shed the garments he had gathered from the theater, set his false teeth on the stand, and crawled under the sheets. Gina gaped in horror. “What are you doing?” “Climbing into bed,” he replied with undo flippancy. “Not in my bed! Not with me!” she ranted. “Don’t you have a coffin to sleep in?” Clive sat up against the headboard in a model’s pose with his left elbow resting on a pillow and cheek poised against the knuckles
Volume 1, Issue 2
“As for me, after having been buried while asleep more times than I care to remember, I have made comfort a prime directive in my life-after death.”
of his hand. “Gina, my love, did you see me bring a coffin?” “You said all you needed was a closet. Well, here it is.” She flung open the door to her walk-in. “What? And sleep on the floor in all that clutter? Gina, please. I am too tired to have this discussion. I beg of you, my sweet, come to bed.” He patted the covers with his right hand and stared at her with sultry hypnotic eyes. Gina found herself falling under his spell. As though standing outside herself, she watched her hands slowly strip off her soiled jacket, skirt, hose, and blouse. “I thought you guys needed to sleep in a coffin containing soil from your country of origin,” she said in an attempt to fight the daze. Clive left her the comfort of keeping her undergarments and mentally lured her to his side. “That’s nothing but Vampire superstition,” he corrected as he held up the sheets and blankets. “We dropped that habit over a century ago.” He placed an arm behind her neck and nestled close. “As for me, after having been buried while asleep in my coffin more times than I care to recount, I have made comfort a prime directive in my lifeafter-death. Do you know how hard it is to claw your way out from under six feet of earth? I usually had to lie and wait for grave robbers to exhume me. Never will I ever repose in one of those death boxes again. Now, close your eyes.” He reached up and gently passed his hand over her eyelids to make them shut. Gina fell asleep in the embrace of a man for the first time in four years. The next day, Gina’s jugular was still untapped, and Clive had built a cozy nest for himself inside her walk-in closet. Clive had been true to his preternatural word and not violated her body or her virgin throat. That night at eleven forty-five, he met her in front of the imposing six-story building with the name DataTrak Corp. International carved into its marble façade. It stood like a headstone at the spooky end of Bonifant Street in Silver Spring. Donning the garb of a dapper gent, he escorted her home on the last scheduled bus.
For fear of being speared, Clive kept to the apartment except to forage in his old nesting grounds in the rundown theater district for bedding and some proper clothes as soon as the sun had set. He would only venture out again when he’d feel the need to feed. Gina didn’t ask about where or how he did this. She was simply relieved she was not on the menu. While checking the papers for better job options, she ran across news bits about the rising number of unexplained deaths in the Metro DC area and wondered if her roommate had anything to do with them. She told herself not to think about it. She was slowly coming to terms with residing in the middle of a war zone between night stalkers and human hunters. She was but a timid creature trying to survive in the metropolitan jungle, and if her survival meant teaming up with a blood-feasting beast, so be it. Gina touched her crucifix pendant and crossed herself. She set the paper down on the kitchen counter and continued to read while she prepared a midnight salad. Using a sharp chopping knife, she hacked at carrot. Suddenly, the knife slipped and sliced her fingers. She flung on the tap and rushed cold water over the gash. The blood flowed down into the drain. In the pane of the small kitchen window she saw Clive’s reflection as she had in the taxicab’s rearview mirror the night before. “How come I can see your reflection? I thought….” The gore of her hand caused her to swoon. Clive stepped up to the sink to steady her, but Gina caught herself before falling into his arms. He looked over her shoulder to study the flood of red. “I’m physical and quite opaque,” he said in a distracted manner. “I cast a shadow. Isn’t it logical that I should reflect an image? Are you okay?” “I guess.” She wiped away the dizziness with the back of her undamaged hand and diverted, “What else isn’t true about vampires?” Gina reached for a paper towel to wrap around her stinging fingers. Clive took the bloody bundle into his palms. “Well, for one, the myth that we (continued on page 6)
Neomodern Nosferatu (continued from page 5) vampires have to kill our victims when we feed or turn them into one of us, as though we were spreading a contagion.” He peeled away the paper bandage. Gina flinched. “What are you doing?” Clive held fast to her mutilated hand. “You’ve cut your fingers and they’re bleeding. Let me suck the wounds clean.” Gina resisted. “No way! You’ll make me one of you!” He held fast. “Yet another in a long spool of misinformation spin. There are over six billion Os on this planet and less than a million vampires. Granted our numbers have been increasing as of late but not at the exponential rate as you Os and rabbits reproduce. Look, I can only transform an O, a human, if I am impassioned by them. Otherwise, they just suffer a nasty bite, slight anemia, and perhaps an allergic rash. But that’s it.” He raised her hand to his mouth. Gina’s hand and voice trembled. “But what about the bodies they’ve found?” “Ah yes, those. Well, it is true that we can suck the lifeblood out of a body, but only bingers and gluttons do that. It’s really stupid too. Why kill the cow that gives you sweet crimson milk? Now, don’t flinch. This won’t hurt.” Before she could react, he pursed his lips over the cuts and slathered the blood with his tongue. He released her hand with a delicate slurp. “See? All clean.” He tore off a fresh sheet of towel and rewrapped her throbbing digits. “Did you know that vampire saliva contains natural antiseptic? That’s why bite wounds never get infected.” Gina cuddled her offended hand against her bosom. “I thought it was because you can’t get anything when you’re dead.” Clive brushed back a snarl of hair from her sweat-beaded forehead. “You’re not going to die, not from my bite at any rate.” Worried what his stare would do to her, Gina dropped her eyes from his. She found she had lost her appetite and slunk off to bed. She awoke the following morning to find she had not transformed. Her reflection in the mirror showed how her canines remained the same short, dull, human bicuspids. Still, she felt run
“It’s hard to get a date in a town where all the men who are cute and clean are either gay or bloodsucking vampires.” down and the thought of typing eight hours straight into a database with hacked-up fingers didn’t help pick up her spirits. She decided to call in sick. To make the most of her one day off in months, she raided the freezer for a tub of black raspberry chip ice cream coated in a thick blanket of frost then settled into the creaky couch for a night of creepy TV. At sunset, Clive strode out of the closet. He was dressed in a black silk kimono that softly sighed as he moved. He noted Gina in her sweats anchored to the couch and commented, “You’re not working tonight?” Gina wiggled her Bandaid-covered fingers at him. “It’s Friday night,” Clive observed. “Why on earth would you want to fritter your youth away sitting around watching Buffy reruns and eating Häagen-Dazs?” Gina gulped down a spoonful of cold creamy delight and said, “If I’m too sick to go to work, I’m too sick to go gallivanting about. Besides, It’s hard to get a date in a town where all the men who are cute and clean are either gay or bloodsucking vampires.” Clive plunked down beside her. “Ugh, how can you watch this drivel?” “What? It’s funny. She kicks vampire butt!” “This is what I’m talking about. It’s shows like this that reinforce all the old stereotypes about us being fiendish monsters.” Clive folded his arms across his chest and huffed. “Those female vamps that were chasing me fall into that categorization, wouldn’t you say?” Gina qualified through a razz-filled mouth. “Yes, and they give the rest of us a very bad name.” Clive stood up. Fixed on the TV action, she asked. “You going out tonight?” “Yes, I’ve been invited to do a show at a private club.” He looked at the Rolex on his wrist. “And I am running late. Got to get dressed.” He headed back into the bedroom. Thirty minutes later, he stepped out in a red sequence gown with matching pumps. A platinum blonde wig covered his head and shoulders. To cover the glaring garb, he
threw on a black velvet hooded cape. “How do I look?” “I hate a guy who’s got better looking legs than I do,” she quipped before adding a caveat, “You’re taking your chances going out like that, you know.” “I’m prepared.” He held up a large black leather bag. “All my manly gear is in here.” She stuck her spoon straight up into the frozen treat to wave emphasis into her concern. “Yeah, but you got to get from here to wherever it is you’re going without being conspicuous. What if my neighbors spot you like that?” He leaned over and planted a bright red lipstick stain on her forehead. “Say I’m your rich eccentric Aunt from Poughkeepsie.” “My aunt’s neither rich nor eccentric and lives in Iowa.” She wiped the mark from her pale flesh. “Iowa then. Don’t wait up.” He sauntered down the hall and out the door. Gina slurped on her spoon and scrunched her brow. She asked herself how Clive had acquired his new wardrobe and accessories. Did they come off of his victims? And where did he get his money for cab fare and other expenses? Gina dug down to the bottom of the carton and pondered the gruesome possibilities as the buff TV-show vampire killer drove a steak through another dark feeder’s black heart.
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Adventures for the Average Woman
Mystery of the Majestic, Part II Arna had to get a grip and figure out how to escape this madhouse or else meet a similar fate at the hands of what she took to be dancing homicidal maniacs. She twisted and turned in an effort to extricate herself from the muscle man’s hold. A finger tapped her on the right shoulder. Arna stopped squirming and turned her head. There beside her stood the woman who’d just been dropped off the hangman’s gibbet. “Jee-sus Herman Christ on a cracker!” Arna’s eyes and jaw gaped. “You… you… you’re not…!” “Dead?” finished the woman. “Why would you think that?” “But... but I just saw…,” Arna pointed to the tube curtain, “and you--” The hanged woman sidled up to the tall muscular troupe manager with the long dark hair. She linked her slender right arm with his left, and gave him a peck on the cheek. “So, you know this callow cowgirl then. Aren’t you going to introduce us?” She gazed at Arna with the smugness of a house cat eyeing a vole. This ultra-thin woman who could escape death had the clear advantage. The man arched his right eyebrow in subtle umbrage at her snide remark and chided, “Now, now.” He gave the woman a kiss on the lips and gently pulled away from her. “You’ll have to excuse Lily. She’s a great escape artist but a little,” he searched for the word, “ignorant on modern demographics. She shouldn’t assume that women sporting Western apparel are necessarily connected to the bovine industry.” Lily took a step forward. “Likewise, one should not assume that women hanging from a scaffold with nooses around their necks are necessarily,” she tilted her back and let it drop for effect, “dead.” He addressed Arna with cool professionalism. “Marque D. Sade, master illusionist and manager of this troupe. Sorry to have caused you such undue stress. No hard feelings, I hope.” He held out his right hand in the traditional gesture warranted for first-time social encounters. Her nervous glance traveled to the extended hand, over the wrist band and up the
Volume 1, Issue 2
“I’m afraid I got bad news for y’all.” Aran tensed her jaw. “You’re gonna have to take yer whips ’n chains and go play elsewhere.”
muscle-toned arm that led to the broad shoulders and the collared muscular neck to the noble head that bore the handsome face with its high brow and thick dark mane. His dark brown deep-set eyes were accented by black eyebrows whose ends hooked up slightly toward the crease that extended vertically above the bridge of his long nose. Arna thought this feature a smidge too broad for his thin face. His smile belied years of expensive orthodontia. The true nature of his cleft chin remained hidden to all but the learned in the arts of cosmetic surgery. “Mr. Sod, huh? And this must be Missus Sod. Y’all sure y’ain’t in the landscapin’ business?” Humor quashed her fight-or-flight impulse. She awkwardly hooked her trembling hand onto his. In order to avoid future misapplication of his stage name, he adverted, “Marque. Please, call me Marque.” “Mark.” Her mind’s eye saw it written as the good Lord had intended in the Gospels. “That comes as more familiar to my tongue.” She withdrew her hand and tamed her fear. “So, uh, what sort of show is it that you do then, where ya string up women and all?” Her widening eyes scanned the whole stage area to behold the Mephistophelean spectacle. Besides the gibbet there was a wooden wheel with barbed spokes, a torturous stretching rack, ropes on pulleys, narrow metal cages, a huge glass vat, whipping instruments, various types of restraining devices, and one enormous spherical structure toward the back of the stage whose function she couldn’t quite fathom. Like a monstrous tinker toy, every component connected and turned in synchronization with a teeth-gnashing sound. “I mean, is this considered legal in Stillwater County?” Marque humored her with an explanation the average professional wrestling patron could appreciate. “We’re magicians. This is my crew. Meet Lily Q,” he nudged her. “That’s ‘Q,’ not ‘Sod,’” she emended and gave Arna’s hand a single tight shake. “And I’m an escapologist, not a magician.” “I can see you’re still shaken by your experience with my performers. Let’s say we go up to my, uh,” he corrected himself,
“your Uncle Armand’s office to continue our conversation in more comfortable environs. He led Arna off stage and up a rickety flight of stairs. “Are you hurt?” Marque noted her uneven gait. “Busted my leg in a car accident three years ago.” “Sorry to hear that,” he commiserated. At the top of the stairs he pushed open a heavy creaking door. “Is this Uncle Armand’s office then?” Arna quickly changed topics. She could not emotionally afford to engage in the maudlin retelling of the tragic crash that had taken the two dearest loves of her life. “Yes, it is,” he affirmed and gestured that ladies should pass first. The office of the late Armand Yutter was a long narrow room with a single window at the far end. Its wall-to-wall memorabilia consisted of posters, props, film canisters, autographed pictures, and shelf after shelf of books, scripts, novels, and things thespian. Marque directed Arna to her uncle’s chair behind the cherry-wood desk. The dark brown leather creaked with pleasure to receive such plump dumplings in its lap. Arna respectfully took off her Stetson and laid it atop the clutter of papers that buried the polished desk top. She propped her handtooled leather bag against the cold black screen of a computer monitor. He chose not to sit. “So, Ms. Yutter…” “Arna.” “Arna, I take it you have come here to assume responsibility for the Majestic. I can assure you that I, my cast, and crew are more than pleased to work with you and will do the utmost to see that your transition into the world of theater is--” “I’m afraid I got bad news for y’all.” Arna tensed her jaw. “You’re gonna have to take yer whips ‘n chains and go play elsewhere. I’m closin’ her down and movin’ to sell.” The words flew like poo in his face. “Aren’t you being a little hasty? I mean, you just got here and --” (continued on page 9)
The Adventures of Katie Madigan: Katie and the Errant Knight
In our last installment, Katie made a wish to be rescued from her ogre of a boss. Now, a knight crashes into the office to carry her off from her cubicle imprisonment.
THIS CONTEMPORARY GRAPHIC THRILLER CONTINUES IN OUR UPCOMING ISSUES. SUBSCRIBE TODAY! Page 8
Adventures for the Average Woman
Mystery of the Majestic (continued from page 7)
“Y’all’ll be getting’ the papers tomorrow mornin’ from Mr. Levitt’s office. I imagine you’d have thirty days to pack up and clear out, find yersef another place.” Marque sucked in his lips and with a slight pop restored them to their original fullness. “That soon, eh? Wow.” She offered up her rehearsed reason like a dose of sugar for bitter medicine. “Now I know how much this place has meant to y’all, not to mention to my family, but upon reviewin’ with Mr. Levitt the costly upkeep and my uncle’s debts, I just can’t fathom how in the hell a woman of my extremely limited experience – and by limited I mean, nonexistent -- in matters of property, let alone theatrical, management, could possibly have any other choice other than sell it for the best possible offer--” “Best offer from Blue Earth Developers, Incorporated?” The pronouncement of the company moniker sparked an angry flare in his eye. Arna looked quizzically. “Yes, how did you--?” “Know?” he finished for her. He planted both palms down on the desk top. His dark eyes stared at her through a veil of wavy black hair that had fallen free from the tie at the back of his head. “There’s not much in this small Montana berg that one can keep secret for long. B.E.D. besieged your uncle with bids on the place for years. Those development whores have been desperate to turn this,” he weighed the words “historical” and “dilapidated” and chose the former, “end of town into high-end condo timeshares, shopping emporiums, and casinos.” He stood up straight and stared into space to continue his monologue. “But old Armand, may he rest in his inebriated wellmeaning bliss, never did venture to sell. ‘Marque,’ he’d tell me, ‘I don’t care how deep in debt or how high their offer, I won’t sell her. The Majestic is the last of its breed, a remnant of the Wild West heritage of this town. Tearing her down with a bull dozer would be like tearing out my heart with a meat hook.’” Marque half-sat on the left corner of the desk and brushed the strands of hair from his forehead. He directed his gaze at Arna. “Your uncle fought like hell to preserve this
Volume 1, Issue 2
“The Majestic is the last of its breed, a remnant of the Wild West heritage of this town. Tearing her down with a bull dozer would be like tearing out my heart with a meat hook.”
place. He opened a business, fundraised, and sold memorabilia on eBay. He hired my troupe of dedicated, highly skilled performers who have been gaining public acclaim with a strong potential for turning a profit. All that we ask is that you give us what your uncle promised: the chance to prove ourselves as a draw that will get you the funds you need to keep the theater standing.” Arna looked down at the pointed toe of her left boot that was gently worrying the plush red oriental carpet beneath her feet. “You don’t have to remind me how much this place meant to my uncle.” She looked up at him and fought back her tears. “But the fact is I don’t have a home here in Blue Earth. There’s no more family to come back to and no place for me to work. Where the hell would I live and how the hell would I pay for this… this,” she threw hands in the air and looked at the ceiling, “mega white elephant? Hell, I can barely pay rent for the dump I call home in Tuckers Corner. I cain’t even afford a single night in that sleazy motel out on Route 78. I’ve been sleepin’ in my Wrangler for the past two days. And from what I hear, my uncle’s house went into foreclosure months ago.” She pushed herself deeper into the chair and wished it would swallow her whole. Her glance shifted to a lone rabbit’s foot hanging off a hook on the bookshelf to the right of the desk. Her fingers fondled the severed foot. Nostalgia washed over her face. Marque opened up both taps and let his charm flow. “Arna, Arna, Arna…” “That is my name, and it is plum wore out already.” “Don’t you see it?” He held his arms out to his sides and looked around the room. “See what?” “The answer to all your problems.” She eyed him warily. “It’s right here. You can work here and try on your uncle’s mantle, so to speak. Also,” he walked toward the windowed end of the room, “there’s a comfortable sofa over here, I mean until you can get better situated.” “Oh, rah-ight,” she drawled, “like I got a clue on runnin’ this asylum. I have absolutely, no background, trainin’, or experience, let alone the desire to deal with weird theatrical types. No offense, but y’all are just
a tad beyond what’s socially acceptable in my humble point of view.” Marque masked his chagrin. “Admittedly, this will be a different world for you but you could learn and--” She stood up and squinted at him. “What makes you thaink I’d even wanna be associated with y’all, especially after that frightful spectacle of which I surely got an eyeful today? I’d think y’all’d be anathema to any decent folk in this here town. You’d certainly be to me.” Arna was impressed with herself for remembering the fifty-dollar word she’d learned in Bible study. “Is that how you feel about your dear departed Uncle?” He goaded.“If the shoe fits his skanky dead foot. I am just so relieved that his baby sister, my mother, may she rest in peace, didn’t live to see....” Tears began to well along the brims of her lower eyelids. Her thoughts had run smack dab into the hard wall of realization: her uncle’s sudden demise had foisted this dire situation upon her. “If’n he hadn’t’ve gotten behind the wheel of his four by four with a fifth of bourbon to his lips, rammed that tree and gone through the windshield at a fastball pitch.” She lowered her head. “The coroner could only ID him by the picture on the expired license in his wallet. All that was left of him was a pulpy mass not much worth examining.” He rummaged through the clutter, pulled out a box of tissues and handed it to her. “I can see you’re tired after your long trip and upset over your recent loss. Look, why don’t you rest awhile?” His dark eyes searched hers in the manner that would have caused anyone of his female fans to melt like butter on a hot muffin. “I’ll take you to dinner, and we can discuss some options.” Arna smirked. “Funny how perfect strangers in town are all comin’ up with that same generous offer. You’ll just have to take a number ‘cuz there’s a whole lineup ahead o’ you.” “Lineup?” “Sure thaing. First there’s that lawyer, Mr. Levitt. He wants to go steppin’ with (continued on page 12)
Silver Bows, Part II & Conclusion Viv applied generous quantities of mascara and liner around her sea-green eyes then thickly lacquered her lips with shocking red smudge-free lipstick. She brushed and perfumed her auburn-hair-from-a-box before stripping naked but for a pair of black stilettos. She made sure to empty her bladder before taking her place on the chair inside the bright red upright steamer trunk. Once settled, she pulled the lid to the angle whereby she could gather in enough light to see her reflection in the mirror. In her hands she held strips of satin which she began wrapping around her ankles and legs. She looped each band to cover her entire body and tied a large bow over her breast. She wrapped another band about her head, covering her eyes. Between her bright red lips sat a second silver bow. Heaving a sigh, she pulled the door of the steamer trunk latched shut. Sitting in the trunk’s stuffy confines, she listened to her own breathing. The combination of the alcohol, sensory deprivation and limited air supply provoked a release of pleasurable sensations she had never known before. Footsteps pounded up the stairs. Her breathing picked up the pace in anticipation of her beloved husband’s arrival. She imagined she could hear Harv’s jaw gape upon seeing the tall red trunk gift-wrapped for him on their anniversary. She thought she heard the bedroom door close and lock. Sequence of sweat bejeweled her brow as the trunk lock clicked opened. Viv noted his labored breathing and imagined the sight he must be taking in of her. She let go a high-pitched grunt to the feel of his hands firmly grip her flesh. He pulled her from her seat in the trunk and made her stand on her high heels. He carried her to the bed and placed her prone on her back. Mute awe prefaced the unwrapping. He set about the task slowly and silently, relishing her subtle moves and stifled squeals at the touch of his hands working the great breast bow free. One by one, the satin loops slithered softly from her form. Viv arched on her elbows and moaned in delight through a mouth stuffed with silky
Footsteps pounded up the stairs. Her breathing picked up the pace in anticipation of her beloved husband’s arrival.
satin. She heard sounds of undressing – the rustle of cloth, the unbuckling of a belt, the unzipping of jeans. Through the haze of hormones and vodka dawned a dim realization. She felt the soft fur of his chest as he embraced her in his brawny arms. She swallowed hard from the hard suction on the soft tissue of her neck. Viv let go a shrill stifled shriek. Harv didn’t wear jeans. Moreover, he was hairless and flabby. So who --? He loosed the bow from her mouth and smothered her with sumptuous kisses laced with the aroma of fermented hops and barley. Viv preferred to remain speechless and receive his labial ministrations. The unseen lover peeled his lips from her mouth to blow a soft hush past her left ear before making rapturous love to her. For the first time in her life, Viv climaxed. Viv heard him getting dressed and waited for his next move. He quickly bolted up and stole from the room before she could unwind the satin from her eyes. She removed the sash and stared at the beige ceiling while she basked in the afterglow. She eyed the digital alarm clock glaring 12:31 at her with glowing incrimination. She had entered the confines of the trunk a few minutes before noon. Viv got up. She showered and tossed on an unflattering navy blue sweat suit with white stripes along the seams. She removed all the ribbons and bows from the chest, along with the note and trunk key and stuffed them in a box inside another box that she tucked away deep in the back of the closet under a pile of still more boxes. She brushed her guilty pleasure from her hands and padded down the stairs to the kitchen where she found Harv rummaging through the cabinets. “Viv, hon,” he said with his butt crack facing her. “Didn’t I have an extra case of beer hidden in here somewhere? I thought I bought some on sale last week.” Viv glanced at Jake, their strapping young tenant, who stood leaning against the counter next to her foraging husband. She shied away from his handsome, knowing
smile and replied, “I don’t recall you bringing home an extra case --just what’s in the fridge.” She noted how the page bearing her invitation to her husband had vanished off the writing tablet. “I coulda sworn I bought that shit on sale.” He stood up. “Oh well, guess I can run down to the market and pick us up some. The game’s gonna start in an hour. Guess I can make it there and back in time.” Harv listed ever so slightly. “I don’t think you should drive given the state your in,” she flatly opined as she poured herself another Bloody Mary. “Want one?” she offered with an eye cast in Jake’s direction. She batted at the blush rushing her cheeks. “Having one of those hot flashes again?” Harv accused as he pulled a set of car keys from the hook labeled “hers.” “Why are you taking my car, hon?” Viv demurely interrogated. “I just waxed the Corvette, dear,” was his only reason. He pushed through the screen door and ambled out to the garage. Viv sipped silently as Jake studied her. The sound of Viv’s Volvo rolling down the driveway gave pause to the intensely awkward moment. They both watched through the kitchen window as Harv honked the horn and waved for Jake to join him in the hunt for brew. Jake and Viv turned to face one another. “Mrs. Robinson,” he said in a low sultry tone. “Yes?” Viv said. He reached up, took her cocktail from her hand, and toasted, “Happy Anniversary. Hope you liked your present.” He downed it in two bobs of his Adam’s apple then licked away the thin red line of residue edging his upper lip. He set down the empty glass and set out the door. Viv watched him hop into the Volvo to ride off down the block with Harv and pondered the disturbing implication of his celebratory remark. Did you like this one? Let us know. To read more sultry, sexy stories subscribe to AFTAW today!
Adventures for the Average Woman
Boundary Waters (continued from page 4) The lichen of beard growth covered his chiseled jaw. Dewy tears glistened in the corners of his eyes. He likewise surveyed her topography. His eyes glided over her smooth moon face with its lake-blue orbs then slid along the streaks of silver cascading down the flow of long brown hair that spilled over the foamy white of her cowl-neck sweater. Shiny silver ski pants and pink furry slippers finished her frontier ensemble. Claire stood up and smiled knowing she would make molds of his perfect parts before mutilating him to make him hers. She gently draped one of the fallen blankets about his shivering shoulders and walked over to the open area leading to the kitchen. “Where are you going?” he called after her.
A Word With You I sincerely hope you enjoyed our November issue. (If for some reason you missed out, then feel free to order one by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org). As you can see from this month’s edition, we have added more pages for more content which means more cost. Your purchase of a year’s subscription will certainly help keep the story-telling project going. So, are the stories grabbing your interest and leaving you wanting more? Let us know by sending your comments to the email address mentioned above. We’d love to hear from you!
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Volume 1, Issue 2
He looked around the gloomy log house at the gruesome spectacle of anatomical appendages lining shelves and hanging from ceiling hooks. “To get you more broth. I’ll be back.” A few minutes later, she returned with a fresh cup. “Here,” she offered. He cried to touch the cup with his tender hands whose wet skin shimmered like sequence. Claire set the cup on the coffee table and slipped the mittens over his fingers. “Try now.” She saw him bring the cup to his lips and drink. She pulled his feet from the water and wrapped then in a towel. “Where’s my gun?” He looked about frantically. “I tossed it into the snow.” “And the handcuffs?” “Them too.” He sighed wearily and set the cup on the coffee table carved from a tree stump. He pulled the blankets tight. “Why didn’t you just toss me out in the snow with them?”
“That would be murder, or at the least, depraved indifference.” “I’m sure the authorities would deem it a case of self-defense.” He eyed her through thick dark lashes and noted her silent consternation. “I suppose you’ve already called the cops.” Claire dried his feet then covered them with the heavy socks. “The phone’s out along with the power.” He looked around the gloomy log house at the gruesome spectacle of anatomical appendages lining shelves and hanging from ceiling hooks. To continue reading this serial story, order your copy of AFTAW now! To see how it all began, order Issue 1. Only $2.00 an issue or $15.00 for twelve issues. Don’t delay!
Cytheria Howell wants to make AFTAW’s objectives and ambitions clear and invites you to write in with stories or ideas for future issues. It is our intention to present a variety of serial stories and articles à la the days of yore when pulp magazines and dime novels were all the rage. Granted, the economy has changed and so has the technology, but the escapades we put into print are eternal. Most of our tales are made up, but some are true or based on truth. To wit, our January issue will feature an article on women in the world economy. We will also begin a tips column to help women troubleshoot computer problems. We’ll include a true story of love lost and found — after forty years, along with fresh artwork and tailor-made tarot cards.
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Of course we will continue our on-going stories while we search for new material from our talented readers. It can be a fantasy or a true-life adventure like battling a slumlord or fleeing a carjacker or even hacking your way through lines of savage customers to get a refund for an unwanted holiday gift! Our only requirement is that it be tasteful and woman-centered. We can’t pay for your creative fare at the moment, but as soon as we have the means, we’ll pay. Also, we beg that you be patient for a reply. Our staff is small but very devoted. We know the success of AFTAW depends on you! Need a Web site at an affordable price? Call 301-587-5400.
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Boldly go wherever your imagination takes you… Even if it’s to embarrassingly naughty places you only dare read about while sitting in the walk-in closet with the light on… Or off.
Mystery of the Majestic (continued from page 9) me tonight. Then the pastor from Armand’s church. Hell, his sausage fingers and porky neck sported enough gold to feed a country in Africa. Even the creepy ol’ funeral home director who gave me the urn asked me, but he kinda smelled and looked like he’d dipped once too often into the formaldehyde. And last but not least, some guy in fancy duds named Mendelssohn.” “Bryce Mendelssohn?” Marque hissed the name. “Yeah, that’s him. He said he was my uncle’s friend. He gave me his card and told me to call him today, even though it’s Sunday, so as we could discuss the business of sellin’ my uncle’s estate.” Marque growled. “Bryce Mendelssohn was never your uncle’s friend. In fact…,” he saw his anger was not helping to win her over; he adopted an apologetic timber, “Arna, I’m sorry you missed you uncle’s service. I think it would’ve opened your eyes to--” “To what? That my uncle was a royal weirdo and a social deviant?” she spat. “I heard it all from that nice well-dressed
Arna reached for her hat. Marque’s fingers clamped tightly around her wrist. “I’m afraid you’re not going anywhere.”
church-goin’ Mr. Mendelssohn who seems to have a righteous interest in this place, if you know what I mean.” Marque didn’t want to go into the prejudices he and his kind had to deal with at the hands of button-down entrepreneurial types like Bryce Mendelssohn. He dealt with them as minimally as possible. He was thankful for surly old skunks like Armand who could keep the wolves at bay with a flip of his tail. “I’d check out what’s under that sheep’s clothing, if you know what I mean.” He looked away without further explanation. “Look, I don’t need to put up with any o’ y’all’s bullshit. I done drove twenty-nine hours with a total of two hun’erd seventy-eight dollars in my purse and sixty-three cents in my jeans’ pocket -- two hun’erd of which had to go into repairin’ the radiator on the Jeep -- and all I got for my efforts were a bunch of glad-handers, a folder full of legal papers, a set of keys half of which don’t work, and my Uncle Armand’s ashes in a decorative can which is settin’ in a cardboard box in the back of my Wrangler. I didn’t get even a plug nickel, just a worthless debt-ridden theater and a fistful
of worthless stocks not worth the ink printed on paper in today’s economy. And you want to buy me dinner? Well, mister, that is what I call one big fat guffaw. I’ll be laughin’ all the way to the poor house on a full stomach.” She quelled her hysterics. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, seein’ as the phone here is outta order, I have to get me to a payphone so as I can set up a meetin’ with Mr. Mendelssohn who I know is the most likely man to haul me up outta this pile o’ hog shit I have been pushed into face first.” Arna reached for her hat. Marque’s fingers clamped tightly about her wrist. “I’m afraid you’re not going anywhere.” To continue reading this serial story, order your copy of AFTAW now! To see how it all began, order Issue 1. Only $2.00 an issue or $15.00 for twelve issues. Yay!
Adventures for the Average Woman
Published on Dec 16, 2005