Volume 8 Issue 1
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Barbara Fagan Speake Exclusive interview with Barbara Fagan Speake, Crime author of the Detective Annie Macpherson Series.
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In this edition, we are excited to feature an exclusive interview with Barbara Fagan Speake — author of the Detective Annie Macpherson series. So, let’s get started.
Barbara, thank you for taking the time to participate in this exclusive interview. Can you tell us a little about yourself. I was born in Connecticut and grew up in a crowded house, together with five brothers and sisters, only eight years separating the oldest from the youngest. I was fifth in line. From an early age, I remember having an active imagination and as kids we were always inventing games. I also loved reading and the bookcase in the girls’ bedroom held the encyclopaedia set, which I loved to look through. On Saturdays, we were always taken to the library, returning those books we’d read and getting out new ones. It was quite an excursion with six of us picking out books. My love of reading served me well, all the way through high school and on to college. I graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Psychology and then went on to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio to do a master’s degree in social work. It was during the summer of the first year at Case Western (1971) that I got the opportunity to gain some extra credits by studying the British National Health Service. The course included six weeks in Manchester, England doing visits and interviews. On my first night there, I had the great good fortune to meet an Englishman. It was love at first sight. After finishing graduate school, we got married and I settled in England where, apart from some eighteen months in New Zealand, I have lived ever since. We have two grown up children, one of whom lives in the US and the other in the Europe.
When and why did you begin writing? I came to fiction writing through writing non-fiction during a first career as a research psychologist and a second career as a clinical psychologist and senior manager in the British National Health Service. In those careers, I co-authored books and journal articles, and wrote numerous clinical reports, court reports and management papers, over close to forty years. But, although I had that background of academic and clinical/management writing, I always wondered if I had a fiction book in me.
Detective Annie Macpherson Series
Max Power — As much as I need. I’ve been researching one project for 3 years now. Sylva You might surprised children's books need novel, to be researched I haveFae now—published tenbecrime novelsthat since 2005. In my debut Secrets Only Sleep but I am Iconstantly browsing for inspiration and checking facts.Connecticut Research and (2005), created a police department in the fictional town specific of Westford, isintended not just this reading andnovel. books,Itithad canabe observing with children as a articles standalone dual plot lineand andchatting involved both American and or watching the antics of my pets. British characters. Barbara — Some of my especially regarding forensics haspolice been departHowever,Speakes when I came to write myresearch, second book, I couldn’t get that original acquired I'veI used done,itbooks andforconsultations with forensic exment outfrom of mycourses head, so as theread, setting my series with Scottish Detective Annie perts. Macpherson. In the nine book series, Annie is working with her American counterparts, Anything specific I research I go along. initially on secondment and as eventually on contract. She learns a lot from her American colleagues as they do from her. Cathy Donnelly — My first two novels featured real historical people, events and locations, so I did a fair bitplace of research but after that I researchIn asPrimed I go. Asby the Past The first three books take within first, her six-month secondment. there is Annie and her colleagues deal with a vicious assault that leaves a woman for dead. (2011) always a Templar involved in the stories, I have collection booksstalked regarding Annie feels responsible as she didn’t believe theawoman wasofbeing when she first their interviewed her. In the second, Programmed to Kill (2012), Annie and her colleagues are history which I love to re-read. faced with three murders in quick succession, all with the same hallmarks, but all their Ronesa Aveela — In my current non-fiction series, I research every aspect of the topic extensively, using all possible sources I can find. I like to consider it academic research for a non-academic audience. This is the biggest part of the process of creating the book and takes several months. Once I've gathered all the material, I organize it by topic. Only then does the actual writing begin. Val Tobin — The amount of research I do depends on the subject matter and how well I already know it. I did more research on Algonquin Park than I did on psychic abilities when I wrote The Valiant Chronicles because I'd never been to Algonquin Park, but I have a masters in parapsychology.
theorising as to the connection between the three victims is wide of the mark. In Past Deception (2014), Annie and colleagues investigate two kidnappings before one of detectives becomes another victim. Scared to Tell (2015) sees Annie working undercover in a residential unit for people with intellectual disabilities, as she too becomes a target. In Based on Lies (2017) the detectives deal with a series of assaults on the local university campus which have connections with a twenty year old cold case. In Committed to Revenge (2018), Annie and her colleagues investigate another set of murders which at first appear unrelated but are very much so. Punish the Guilty (2019) deals with the aftermath of an historical school shooting from the point of view of the family of the shooter. Whilst investigating a current case, the detectives uncover information about that historical case, which was unknown at the time. My last two novels, Question the Lies (2020) and Face the Lies (2021) explore the mind of a female serial killer, who uses coercive control to ensnare her victims. Although she is caught in Question the Lies, the sequel finds her using her wiles again to escape from custody.
Do you have a specific writing style? I don’t use a lot of description as I sometimes find too much irritating when I am reading books. My readers often describe the books as page turners, fast paced and tense, with characters you can identify with. Several books have prologues and they all have main plots and subplots. Several have italicised chapters, allowing the reader into the mind of the murderer.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Most of my books contain some moral ambiguity. I am less interested in the mystery to be solved then in the reasons why the perpetrator did what he or she did. I often use the
theme of secrets from the past and wrongs to be righted and I like to explore the mind of the murderer which happens to a greater or lesser extent in the different books. I describe my books as psychological suspense, whydunits rather than whodunits.
How much of my books are realistic? As I write police procedurals, I try to make them as realistic as possible, without the procedures getting in the way of the action. I am always at pains to get the forensics right and, in that regard, have done several courses and, for the last few books, have had a former head of crime scene investigations for the police go through the manuscripts for me.
I also like to have both American and British characters so use editors from both sides of the pond. I try and make sure that I don’t put British expressions in the American mouths. But I confess to using British spelling as the books are initially published in the UK.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? I find scenes involving physical assault harder to write, simply trying to get all the actions right so the scene makes sense. Those seem to be the ones I write and rewrite and rewrite. In terms of the process, I think the most challenging bit is shaping a story, working out the plot and how things will come together. As I said before, I describe my books as whydunits because, having been a psychologist, I am interested in the motives behind the crimes, so I like to work out the back stories. Most of my books also incorporate a whodunit element and sometimes a considerable twist. Those are challenging to get right.
Who is your favorite author? I have been a long time fan of Michael Connelly and have read just about every Harry Bosch novel and many of his others. I’ve had the good fortune to hear him speak at crime writing festivals in the UK and have met him at book signings. One piece of advice he gave really stuck with me. It was to be careful about the age of a series character at the start of the series and to consider carefully how much to age them in each book. He mentioned starting Harry out at the age of forty, never thinking he would write over twenty novels, taking Harry through retirement. All nine books in my Detective Annie Macpherson series take place over an eighteen month period and I must credit Michael Connelly for that …
Who designed the covers for your books? My husband started life as a graphic designer, had a career in television design as well as academia and is also a professional photographer. He designs all my covers and takes most of the cover photos.
Other than writing, do you have any hobbies? Since I retired, I split my time between writing, reading and quilting, as well as giving presentations on writing crime fiction. I also facilitate a Memoirs Group of people writing their life stories. I took up quilting in 2010 and have never looked back. I meet with a group of quilters twice a month at our local quilting shop. I have made numerous lap quilts as well as handbags, tote bags and messenger bags. But the two quilts I am most proud of were made for a friend whose husband had died suddenly. She had all his shirts bagged up but couldn’t bring herself to take them to the charity shop. I offered to make them into lap quilts for her. He had been in the Royal Navy and had fought in the Falklands war and had numerous polo shirts with insignias from his various ships. I used those insignias for one of the quilts and she uses it as a wall hanging. I also did another one from his everyday shirts, which she uses as a lap quilt. I will never forget her joy when she saw them.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? My first piece of advice to any aspiring writer is to read. Read books in the genre you want to write in. Think about how characters come across, how the story unfolds. Think about what appeals to you as a reader, as that is a good gauge of what might appeal to others. And learn about your craft. Often in life, we set out to do something new. We must acquire knowledge or seek someone with experience to help us. Then we learn by doing and get better and better with practice. Writing is no different, especially genre writing. In fiction, you are making it all up. I needed help thinking about writing dialogue, creating suspense, keeping the tension up, making people want to turn the pages, plotting, and developing characters. Therefore, I read countless books on writing in general and more specifically on crime writing. I went on courses and I started attending crime-writing festivals to hear authors speak about their craft. Find your own voice. It’s impossible to write like someone else. But you can take pointers from other writers about how to structure your novel, but the voice must be yours. Be inquisitive and stay alert: carry around a notebook. Observing people, their habits, mannerisms, and dialogue. Do your research: although you are writing fiction, things must ring true for your reader. Therefore, it is essential to have the basics of police procedures, forensic evidence, and crime scene investigation, even if you only use a small bit of what you learn. Get your novel written! This may sound strange but sometimes I think I know more people who are ‘writing’ a book, than have completed one. Getting 90-120,000 words out of your head and on to the computer, or on paper is a lot harder than people think when they first start. Your story must be substantial enough to sustain it through a whole book. You must have stamina as a writer to make that first draft happen. Make time for writing, like you make time for other things in your life. Little and often is a good mantra.
Edit, edit, edit. I made the mistake with my first novel of thinking I had a complete manuscript and therefore a completed book. I soon learned that the first draft was only just that. Now I consider the first draft as the process of getting the story told. Then I polish it, repeatedly. I have an editor and from the comments he has made on the different books, I have also developed personal editing notes. He is like a little voice over my shoulder now as I write each book: ‘Did you mean to use that word?; You’ve changed point of view in that paragraph; ‘You’ve repeated that word four times on this page, etc.’ So now, before he sees it, I go through these personal notes and weed out all my repetitions, and the bad habits he’s pointed out in the past. I also do some selective edits, e.g. I go through and examine only the crime scenes and ensure I have all the technical information correct. Then I go through and just look at evidence and ask if I have followed each evidence trail and reported it appropriately. I am also a stickler myself for spelling and grammar and check the drafts countless times, but I also make sure I have proof-readers who go through my books pedantically. I have been known to read a book from back to front. Literally, you start with the last paragraph, and then the last but one until you get to the beginning of the book. It is amazing what errors you find that way … And a final thought… Remember writing is a difficult and lonely business, but also one of the most rewarding. One thing we all realise is that very few writers make it to the bestseller list. For me, what's important is to write the best book I can. Be prepared for a long, but ultimately very worthwhile journey. It's really a series of steps and the hardest as always is starting with that blank page. If you’ve gone beyond that, keep it up. And if you have not yet started writing the novel that’s in your head, stop procrastinating and get on with it. Try and write most days even if it's only a sentence. It will keep the story and the characters alive in your imagination.
Can you share a sample of your current work with us? My ninth novel in the Detective Annie Macpherson series, Face the Lies, was published in November 2021. It starts with the serial killer plotting to escape from custody. Here are the first few paragraphs written from her point of view:
Chapter 1 I goaded her as only I can. Took me a little while to realise I could provoke violence in a woman. Most of my experience has been with men. It worked. I’m here where I want to be, in a hospital, not far from the prison. I grabbed hold of her hand as she rammed the shiv towards my body. She must’ve thought I was trying to protect myself. In some ways I was. I knew how to direct the weapon for maximum impact while avoiding damage to my organs. In the past, I’d studied medical texts and the information has proved invaluable. I was also looking out for a shiv, so knew what to expect when it happened. Toothbrushes are weapons in a place like this. File them to a point and you’ve got yourself a knife. Why am I even in prison? Or, more correctly, in a locked hospital ward that treats prisoners.
I’m here because of all the people who are dead at my hands. I’m here for all the lies I’ve told. Those names I used. The false identities. I’m here because lies have consequences and people believe I must face the lies. OK, the lies may have been wrong but my crimes? Were they wrong? I’ve never seen them that way.
My next project is to revise a collection of short stories published as an e-book in 2016 to which I have added one hundred flash fiction stories of exactly ninety-nine words each. The new book, Shades of Crime: Dark and Light Collected Short Stories and Flash Fiction will be out in 2022. Here are a couple of 99 word stories:
Accused He would have liked to protest but it was pointless. He could see it in the eyes of the jury, especially the women. Even his wife seemed to be taken in. Damn. Maria had been so convincing, he almost believed her himself. Except that it was all fabricated, tiny truths completely misconstrued. Then the two final witnesses: a man who had been through the same scenario with Maria and the psychiatrist who explained her delusional fixation. The faces of the jury changed. ‘Not guilty,’ the foreman announced. The truth: the supposed stalker had, in reality, been the one stalked.
Barbara Fagan Speake Judgement Call
She recalled his personal ad: ‘Widower, early 70s, looking for woman, 50 - 60 for trips out. Must have GSOH*.’ ‘Here’s a revised ad for you, George,’ she wrote in the email. ‘Widower, (as wife killed herself), late 70s, looking for woman to grope and abuse, no trips out, prefer nights in, tormenting companion. GSOH - a red herring.’ She should have realised. He wasn’t the first. She’d been at this game for nearly five years now and thought she’d become a good judge of character. He’d fooled her all right.
Once her locks were changed, she pressed, ‘Send.’ (Note: GSOH stands for Good sense of humour)
Availability of my books All my books are available as e-books on the various Amazon sites under Barbara Fagan Speake. I post progress and news on: https://www.facebook.com/Barbara-Fagan-Speake-Writer-1017508311601634/
Connections eMagazine would like to thank Barbara Fagan Speake for taking the time to participate in this interview. It was a pleasure getting to know you better.
Unraveling Me Becoming Me Series
Another new town. Another new school. Another chance to fit in. Except sixteen-year-old Maya Sullivan has never really fit in anywhere. Especially not at home. With a distant father and a resentful, emotionally abusive mother, she's never experienced what it might be like to be a happy, normal teenager The only person she's allowed to hang out with is her next-door neighbor, Liam Caldwell, and that's only because their journalism teacher requires it for a school project. As they spend more time together, researching their assignment, Maya realizes she feels more for him than friendship. She also discovers that the information they're uncovering is bringing to light some questions about her life. Questions that, when answered, could unravel her world.
Unraveling Me is a clean coming-of-age, young adult romantic suspense novel.
By Rhonda Hopkins
“A great start to the series. You'll meet several immortals, all with different gifts and distinct personalities. Some willing to accept their role, and others not. Get set for romance, suspense, magic. You'll get it all, plus plenty of Greek mythology, with creatures I've heard about, plus other more obscure ones. It's an engaging story that'll sets the stage for more battles to come. Enough descriptions so you can visualize what's happening, without overdoing it. It'll leave you wanting more... waiting for the sequel to come out. “ —Amazon Reviewer
Part Mortal, Part Divinity, Fully Devoted.
The gathering has begun. Six demigods embark on an epic journey of danger, mystical creatures, dark magic, and intrigue. When an ancient prophesy is triggered, the tale of six powerful immortals begins. Legend has it, the chosen six will triumph over evil and restore peace. But first, they must gather together and converge on the land where their parents were defeated. Time is running out, the Titans want revenge, and the future of the entire world is at stake. Meet the immortals -The wiccan, the shifter, the Master of Water, the siren, the healer, the Reader of Minds. Their destiny awaits — if they accept their fate and unite to confront a dangerous enemy in the battle of a lifetime.
Available in eBook and Audiobook Audiobook — https://geni.us/DivergenceAudio
eBook — https://books2read.com/Divergence
A Magical Movie! “Rooted cleverly in Greek Mythology, Divergence is the story of a small band of Immortals and their battle against the evil Pyke and his cohorts of witches and other deadly horrors. Four of the six don’t believe their command of magic is powerful, or that they will be called upon to fight. Beckett, a businessman, narrowly avoids kidnap. The three woman couldn’t be more different or more ordinarily human– a beauty-shop owner, a dog-trainer, and the battered ex-wife of a rock star. Reading is like watching a movie, the descriptions are so vivid... so convincing. Watch the Master of the Sea at work... ride a winged horse... enjoy the rhythm of the poetry contained in the spells…” —Amazon Reviewer
WRITERS’ LIVES Melanie P. Smith Profile and Background – Where do I begin? I am an American multigenre author of Criminal Suspense, Police Procedurals, Paranormal / Fantasy, and Romance novels. I live in Utah and have resided here all my life. Early Years – I was raised on a farm where I learned to work hard and play hard. Once the garden was free of weeds, the cows were fed, and the eggs were gathered — it was time to explore. I spent the daylight hours riding my Shetland pony, swimming in the canal (I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has expired on that one), racing around on our tote goat, and playing softball. Once night fell, it was my time to read a good book or write about my amazing adventures. On the reading front, as a small child, I remember loving the Boxcar Children series. As I got older, I advanced to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Later on, mystery and suspense became my go-to with Agatha Christie and John Grisham. I guess it’s not all that surprising that I now write criminal suspense and police procedurals myself. On the writing front, I’d have to say I’ve always been a writer. Getting lost in a good story helps me relax. At any given moment I have half a dozen plots formulating in my mind. Only the most stubborn and persistent ideas make it onto the page these days. My Career – Writing for fun took a backseat to homework and term papers when I moved to the southern end of the state to attend college. The warmer climate called to me and my adventurous side. I spent my free time hiking and exploring, swimming, and enjoying the area. After graduation, I headed back to Salt Lake. What I thought would be a part-time summer job, turned into a full-time career with the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office. After over 26 years employed with the department’s speciality units, I retired in 2016. Working with the SWAT Team, Search & Rescue, K9. and the Child Abduction Response Team was interesting and rewarding — it also kept me busy. I still had the desire to write, but I just never seemed to have the time. Instead, I found myself utilizing those skills in my work rather than writing for fun.
Why? – As my law enforcement career neared the end, my desire to write for enjoyment grew stronger. One particular story kept screaming to be written. One night, I finally sat down and began to write. Before I knew it Dusk, the first book in my Warrior series was complete. My momentum continued and a short time later After Dark, Book 2, was also finished. I was more relaxed than I’d been in years. By the time I retired, I had completed three of my novels and was working on two more — the 4th in my Warrior series and a stand-alone western romance. Where? – After retiring, I slid quickly into a second career in writing. My basement craft room was converted to my writing cave. I have a comfortable executive chair, large desk and two monitors connected to my computer. The monitors allow me to see my research notes and my manuscript at the same time. The room is comfortable, quiet and provides the perfect environment to foster my creativity.
What? – I write in multiple genres. Criminal Suspense, Police Procedurals, Romance and Paranormal Romance. I use my training and experience to make my stories action-packed and realistic. How? – Pantser or Plotter? I’m definitely a pantser. When I began writing my Warrior series, I decided it would be a seven-book series with characters that were interwoven throughout all the novels. I thought I would need to plot out the storyline in advance to keep the facts consistent. It didn’t work. I meticulously created an outline in Book 1 with notes on how the story in Book 3 would progress. Once I started the third book, my characters protested and went their own way. It didn’t take long to toss the outline and let the story progress naturally. Since then, I just let my characters speak to me. My process is fairly simple. Phase 1 is the story. I just sit down and write. During this phase I don’t worry about details, formatting, or grammar. It’s all about the story. I just keep writing until the end. Phase 2 is dedicated to the details. This is where I focus on adding the sights, the sounds, smells and feelings. I also focus on flow during this phase. Are there plot holes? Does one scene jump to another in a disjointed or unnatural way? If so, I work to fix it. Phase 3 is all about editing. This is where I focus on sentence structure, typos, and the boring technical stuff. Once Phase 3 is complete, it’s time to send the story to my beta readers. Then, corrections made, I toss it over to my editor. The final step is one more round with proofreading. Once I get it back I make the final changes and then it’s time to publish. Writers Block? – This is something I’ve never suffered. I think it’s because I am always working on multiple projects at the same time. At the moment, the first book in a new series just came back from my editor. I completed an article for a magazine I produce. I’m nearly finished with another episode of Paige Carter. And, I’m in various stages of writing three new CONNECT WITH AUTHOR novels and two short stories. I know this might sound like a lot, but it works for me. Maybe it goes back to my busy Website: farm days, maybe my time working in law enforcement is https://melaniepsmith.com/ to blame. Whatever the reason, I function better with a full plate than I do with an empty one. Facebook: Other Interests? – Wow, there are so many to choose from, I’m not sure where to begin. Obviously, I spend a lot of time working on my writing. My second passion is photography. When things get too stressful, it’s time to take a quick trip and enjoy nature and the amazing beauty around me. I’m lucky, Utah has majestic mountains, vast desert landscapes, lakes, historical buildings and five national parks. I also enjoy camping, four-wheeling and exploring the backroads on my Harley.
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Happy New Year! We wish everyone luck, health, and love. We look forward to what the new year will bring even though we don’t know what is in store for us during the days that follow. In Bulgarian folklore, on December 24, families start the process of forecasting the future with their ritual bread. Inside it are hidden lucky charms – messages for health, love, and success – normally wrapped in foil. Everyone in the household hopes to get one and secure their fortune for the entire year. In the past, in addition to such rituals and traditions, our grandmothers and greatgrandmothers knew the power of each herb and how to keep their home healthy and happy. They used herbs and flowers to cast love spells. And love itself is magic. In Bulgarian myths and legends, you can find this magic by using herbs. Herbal rituals could fill many books, but with Valentine’s Day swiftly approaching, I’ve selected a few to help you learn how you can use them to attract love into your life and how to keep it.
Disclaimer: The information in the article is not a recommendation for treatment, but to acquaint you with interesting old customs and historical facts. You should always consult a medical professional before undertaking any herbal remedies.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Based on Bulgarian folklore, if you sprinkle your partner with powdered basil while he or she sleeps, the person won’t cheat. I prefer to use basil for my watermelon and feta cheese salad, but you’re welcome to try this ritual for a little love magic. Common ivy, English ivy (Hedera helix) If you know someone who’s getting married, give the bride a branch of ivy. It’s supposed to bring her happiness in marriage.
Mistletoe (Viscum album) Oh, Mistletoe… I have one in my yard. I never knew how powerful the plant is. Do you know why you need to kiss under the Mistletoe? Shakespeare calls it ‘the baleful Mistletoe,’ an allusion to the Scandinavian legend that Balder, the god of Peace, was slain with an arrow made of Mistletoe. He was restored to life at the request of the other gods and goddesses, and Mistletoe was afterwards given into the keeping of the goddess of Love, and it was ordained that everyone who passed under it should receive a kiss, to show that the branch had become an emblem of love, and not of hate (from: Botanical.com. “Mistletoe”).
In Bulgarian folklore, mistletoe is a sacred and magical herb. In winter, the bushes remain green and fresh on top of the tree host, reminiscent of spring and new birth. If a girl hangs a branch of mistletoe hangs over her bed in the winter, she’ll meet or marry her lover during the year. Maybe give this one a try if there’s someone you long to be with and see if this ritual works. It’s harmless enough.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) If you worry too much about a loved one who’ll be away on a long business trip, place dandelion flowers and seeds into his pockets or luggage. He won’t even think about infidelity. Dill seeds have the same effect.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) “Samodivi,” Bulgarian woodland nymphs, rub their arrows with valerian, so that whomever they catch or wound immediately hates a woman or lover for life. The woodland nymphs wanted the men to love them instead.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) If you burn a pinch of ginger in your home, the relationship between you and your partner will improve. Dill (Anethum graveolens) If a woman washes her face and hands with a decoction of dill seeds, her partner’s love for her will increase. Melilot (Melilotus officinalis) Many songs and folklore tales mention this plant. It helps protect girls from being abducted by the dragon zmey. In Bulgarian folkore, the herb is also used to separate lovers as well as saving someone from zmey’s love. Lentil (Lens culinaris or Lens esculenta)
In Bulgarian folklore, lentil is used in magic love potions. To do this, you’ll need to collect one lentil from forty different shops. After boiling them, knead them into bread while saying, “As I tried to collect 40 grains from 40 shops, so should my husband work so hard for me and love me forever.” Then, when the bread it done, give it to your spouse to eat (from Lilia Stavreva’s Български магии и гадания [Bulgarian Magic and Foretelling], p. 209).
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) Beloved calming Lemon Balm. Besides its great aroma, this herb has a calming effect. Give your love tea made with it to calm them and also nourish their love.
Yellow Avens or Common Avens (Geum) This herb is called an “old herb” (staro bile), probably because it is as old as its love magic. It will not only help you find the love of your life, it’s also used to keep away bad spirits and help you lose weight and get in shape. Stories tell how once pierced yellow avens with his arrows, and then gave it to the fairies so they could enchant and ruin the lives of more than one lover. If you wear the herb, it will enchant everyone around you. That sounds like the movie “Love Potion No. 9” with Sandra Bullock. Iris (Iris germanica) The iris is a magical flower. Whoever takes a bunch of irises and puts them on his belt or hat, his soul will forever remain with the one who wears it. Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) Wormwood is another herb used to separate lovers. A girl who doesn’t want to marry an old bachelor picks up “bitter wormwood” in a dewy meadow and rubs her face it it so that the man will not like her.
An Old Love Charm On St. Luke’s Day, take marigold flowers, a sprig of marjoram, thyme, and a little Wormwood; dry them before a fire, rub them to powder; then sift it through a fine piece of lawn, and simmer it over a slow fire, adding a small quantity of virgin honey and vinegar. Anoint yourself with this when you go to bed, saying the following lines three times, and you will dream of your partner “that is to be”: “St. Luke, St. Luke, be kind to me, In dreams let me my true-love see.” (From Botanical.com, “Wormwoods”).
European wild ginger (Asarum europaeum) Wild ginger evokes a feeling of love. People use this magic grass to cast spells to unite two young people.
*** I hope this information helps you spice up your holiday on Valentine’s Day. As you can see, your love life can be improved just by going to your pantry. Many of the spices and herbs in your spice rack can make both your kitchen and your relationship magic. It’s as easy as pie if you know the power of herbs and seasonings. Our mothers and grandmothers understood the power of herb and used them in everyday life for love, health, and great meals, uniting everyone in the kitchen and around the
I’m working on a new book about the 77 1/2 healing herbs from Bulgarian folklore. It includes information like the above, as well as recipes from Baba Vanga and other famous, trusted healers, as well as more interesting facts about herbs.
Ronesa Aveela is “the creative power of two.” Two authors that is. The main force behind the work, the creative genius, was born in Bulgaria and moved to the US in the 1990s. She grew up with stories of wild Samodivi, Kikimora, the dragons Zmey and Lamia, Baba Yaga, and much more. Her writing partner was born and raised in the New England area. She has a background in writing and editing, as well as having a love of all things from different cultures. She’s learned so much about Bulgarian culture, folklore, and rituals, and writes to share that knowledge with others. https://ronesaaveela.wordpress.com/
Dragon Village lies in ruins. His diabolical aunt is on the loose. Can Theo stop her before she murders him? Demon attacks on Theo’s thirteenth birthday hinder his search for his father. Then, an unexpected present provides a clue to the whereabouts of the king of Dragon Village. But there’s a problem. Theo’s past decisions may jeopardize the rescue mission. He abandoned the people whose skills he now needs. Will he be able to convince them to help? If he can’t, the dragon king will perish, and the demon lord will rule Dragon Village. Forever. Dragon Village Ouroboros is the third book in the thrilling Dragon Village fantasy series. If you like actionpacked, suspenseful, coming-of-age books, filled with strange, mythical creatures, you’ll love Dragon Village Ouroboros. Get your copy and take your own journey to Dragon Village today.
Ronesa Aveela is “the creative power of two.” Two authors that is. Nelly, the main force behind the work, the creative genius, was born in Bulgaria and moved to the US in the 1990s. She grew up with stories of wild Samodivi, Kikimora, the dragons Zmey and Lamia, Baba Yaga, and much more. Rebecca, her writing partner, was born and raised in the New England area. She has a background in writing and editing, as well as having a love of all things from different cultures. Their writing goal is to make people aware of a culture rich with traditions that date back thousands of years to the ancient Thracians who inhabited parts of Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria, and other Slavic nations.
Auction Block Bandit
C.K. Fyfe has always enjoyed a good mystery. Fyfe's childhood love of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys led to a grown-up love of writing cozy mysteries with quirky, funny, and kindhearted characters. Fyfe lives in "The Wolverine State." Much like wolverines, Fyfe's villains have vicious dispositions, but the clever sleuths know how to tame their foes' tempers.
AMAZON FACEBOOK https://bookgoodies.com/a/B09F8HH7K2
As a regular auction-goer, Trixie has seen most everything up for bid, from celebrity pet hair to used rental caskets. A plethora of pieces routinely come and go, with short-lived fanfare. That is, until one winter night, when a hot ticket item disappears, and an absorbing mystery ensues. An amateur sleuth at heart, she plunges in to crack the case.
A Short Cozy Mystery
Author Val Tobin studied general arts at the University of Waterloo, then went to DeVry Toronto to get a diploma in Computer Information Systems. She worked in the computer industry as a software and Web developer for over ten years, during which time she started to get serious about energy work and the paranormal and occult.
What Determines the Course of Characters’ Relationships? A question put to authors on Alignable asked what determines the course of their characters’ relationships. I responded there but thought the topic made an excellent blog post. A lot of what determines the course of a character’s relationships has to do with the character’s psyche at the beginning and how they must develop by the end. When I studied psychology, the person-situation debate always fascinated me, so when I write, I consider who the character is and how they’d react in the situation.
The show Supernatural does this very well. Sam and Dean often react differently in the same situation because they’re different people. They evolve through the course of the fourteen seasons I’ve watched so far, but they remain true to their characters. Even Sam without a soul retains characteristics that make him Sam, and he behaves differently than Dean would in the same situation. This topic came up as well when another author consulted me about two characters he had in one of his stories. They were both so similar they’d behave exactly the same way if placed in the same situation. This meant they were interchangeable, which, in storyland, makes one of them extraneous. When I plan out my stories, often, the characters come first. This was the case in my novel Injury, which focused on an actress at the height of her career. The idea for it grew from an assignment my daughter did back in grade eight. She had to write a biography of a famous person, and part of the assignment required her to create a list of questions for that celebrity. One of the questions she listed was “If you could ask your father anything right now, what would it be?” That question fascinated me, and I considered what it would be like to be a famous actress whose father had abandoned her. Then I thought about what it would be like if the abandonment story were a lie. Her whole self-esteem would’ve formed around the lie she believed, and now she’d have to change her self-talk to reflect the truth.
In the novel, actress Daniella Grayson has always kept herself in the limelight, trying to get the attention of the father she believed abandoned her when she was five. Her past relationships were an unconscious search for a father figure. At the beginning of the story, Dani learns that her father’s remains have been found and her mother was arrested for the murder. Now she must reframe everything she believed about herself, her father, and her mother. All my stories contain characters whose childhoods affected them and whose relationships molded them. A prime example is The Hunted, which picks up the story begun in Storm Lake twelve years after Rachel and her brother encountered the monsters there. How Rachel has dealt with the trauma differs radically from how Jeff deals with it. In Poison Pen, I have three main female characters, all authors, who must reframe their beliefs about themselves and their relationships after one of their colleagues (who is also the brother of one of the three) is murdered in the home he shares with his sister. Each main character had a relationship with the victim, and now he’s not only gone but his killer is still out there. This is a howcatchem rather than a whodunit, so the reader knows who the killer is, but the characters don’t realize he’s a member of their writing group. They all have a relationship with the killer, and the story explores how this murder influences all their interactions. In Gillian’s Island, an Ontario woman going through a messy divorce is forced to sell her island resort. She’s an introvert and must teach a developer from New York how to run the place when he buys it.
Poison Pen image courtesy of Patti Roberts of Paradox Book Covers
There’s an instant attraction between them, but she labels him a playboy based on what she’s seen about him on the internet. She makes a lot of assumptions that affect her attitude and behaviour. At the same time, someone is sabotaging the resort, which complicates everything but also pushes them together. In the Valiant Chronicles books The Experiencers and A Ring of Truth, the two main characters have been together in previous lifetimes but don’t realize it. I wanted to explore the idea that reincarnation exists, and its purpose is to fulfill destinies. The premise is that people keep coming back until they learn what they are supposed to learn to move to the “next level” or they complete some task they were supposed to complete. To sum up: it’s all about the characters, who they are, who they will become, and what motivates them to behave the way they do and form the relationships they do. All of my stories explore relationships between characters because interactions with others are critical to character development.
Val Tobin writes speculative fiction and searches the world over for the perfect butter tart. Her home is in Newmarket, Ontario, where she enjoys writing, reading, and talking about writing and reading. Discover more about Val on her website: https://valtobin.com/wp/
About the Author: Val Tobin writes speculative fiction and searches the world over for the perfect butter tart. Her home is in Newmarket, Ontario, where she enjoys reading, writing, editing, and talking about reading, writing, and editing.
The Magician: Infinity’s End hits the virtual bookshelves on November 1, 2021. It is book two of a new urban fantasy series, Tales from the Unmasqued World, by author Val Tobin. The Magician focuses on student mage Chase Spenser and the complicated turn his life takes when his potions exam goes awry and a demon appears. Readers of book one, The Fool: New Beginnings, will be delighted to find familiar faces in book two even as they get to know and love new characters.
A Unique Twist In a unique twist, each book in the series bases the story on a different card in the tarot’s major arcana. Each book’s title reveals the relevant reference, which plays up the symbolism and meaning of the card. Readers can have fun puzzling out who or what represents the card in the story. Often, more than one character or object signifies the card or its meaning. The Magician revolves around “The Magician” major arcana card, and the main character in this book, as in most of the stories, is representative of the card.
Chase Spenser, as a student mage, embodies the magician on the card in an obvious way. He practices magick, works with elementals, and uses the tools and trappings of a mage. The characters and the plot, together, express the meaning of the card. In an additional twist, a non-traditional tarot deck influences the crafting of the stories. Rather than using the popular Rider-Waite Tarot deck, the stories draw on Ellen Dugan’s Witches Tarot card deck. While all of the cards in Dugan’s major arcana correspond in meaning with the Rider-Waite deck (Dugan based her cards on the classic Rider-Waite-Smith deck), the archetypes used differ on one or two of the cards. For example, Dugan’s deck has “The Shadow Side” instead of “The Devil” since the devil isn’t part of the witch’s belief system.
Excerpt from The Magician: Infinity’s End To whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt from The Magician: Infinity’s End. Chase and his girlfriend, Jaycie, use magick to try to learn who summoned the demon Chase was accused of calling forth during his exam, and as before, it doesn’t go quite as planned: Give me your name. He fixed his gaze on the demon and poured power into the request. It howled, gnashing its teeth so spittle sprayed out. Droplets struck Chase’s face and trickled down his cheeks. He swiped at it with his sleeve. Well, that’s a little too real. Unnerved, he eased up on the connection, but when the image of the demon faded a little, he pushed his energy into a power surge that pulled the demon back into focus. Give me your name. Abassi had failed to get the demon’s name when they’d tried to control it in the exam room, but Chase felt himself getting close. He pushed more power into the connection and used his mind to hold the demon. He reached into the energy that wasn’t his own to draw it out like a loose strand on a knit sweater. Energy sizzled and crawled up his arm, and he allowed it to travel up and through him. He visualized it as a silver thread, and it bore identifying traces of the owner in it like strands of DNA. He got an idea and shouted for Jaycie to empty the water bowl into the libation bowl. “Do it. Quick! And hold it out.”
Water splashed, and she said, “Here. It’s right here.” Chase peered out through squinted eyes and pointed the index finger of his non-dominant hand into the bowl. He streamed the energy through that arm and dumped it out into the container, where it settled into a glowing silver ball. “Set it on the altar,” he ordered, and she did as he bid. But in isolating the saboteur’s energy, he lost his hold on the demon. They heard the front door shatter, and the floors below shook as something massive stormed into the house….
Where to Buy Books one and two are on Amazon, and you can purchase the eBooks and paperbacks or download the eBooks to read for free with your Kindle Unlimited account.
What’s Next? Book three, The High Priestess: Persephone’s Return, revolves around Jaycie Nevil, Chase’s girlfriend. The fallout from Chase’s exam continues to haunt the pair, and Jaycie finds herself trapped in an impossible situation with seemingly no way out. Is she really the inept mage she believes herself to be? Does she have what it takes to save herself, or is she doomed to depend on Chase for the rest of her life? How long—or short— will the rest of her life even be?
The Fool: New Beginnings starts a fool’s journey for human Kelsey Davis and vampire Philip Belanger when Philip’s daughter goes missing and Kelsey’s son drags her into the search for the half-vampire teen. https://books2read.com/thefool
In The Magician: Infinity’s End, magick influences the characters’ lives, not always for the best. While Chase deals with his major issues, Kelsey struggles with the repercussions of a new beginning she was forced to choose.
Dowser Series Box Set by Meghan Ciana Doidge
Lost City by Jeffrey M. Poole Tales of Lentari Book 1
Three bestselling urban fantasies from award-winning author Meghan Ciana Doidge. Dowser 1, 2, and 3 complete the first of three trilogies in the Dowser Series. The magic and mayhem continues in books four to nine.
When a young dwarf child is forced to undergo a challenging quest, three warriors - and a scholar - join together to track down a long lost piece of dwarven history!
The customer looked familiar, like maybe he’d been in the bakery a few times before. The vampire, however, was new.
Rare wildlife! Dragon escorts! Trying to solve the most cryptic scavenger hunt anyone has ever seen is proving to be more difficult than anyone had ever imagined!
Vendetta by Graham Sharp Paul The Guild War Series Book 1 Some call it revenge; she calls it justice . . . Samira Anders is young and out of control; drugs, alcohol, and a prison sentence. But when her father is murdered, she swears to track down his killers.finds herself in a desperate fight for survival, plunged into a world where death awaits every mistake, a world where nothing is what it seems, a world where lies wrap the truth in deceit. https://bit.ly/3LoDXPm
A Josie Bates Thriller The Witness Series
by Rebecca Forster
A prominent judge is dead; a sixteen year-old girl is accused. Attorney Josie Bates can't turn her back. https://bit.ly/3fwBPH7
The Fallen Star
Fallen Star Series Book 1
by Jessica Sorensen
Life has never been normal for Gemma. Only recently, has she been able to feel emotion. And when she’s around Alex, the new guy at school, she can feel electricity that makes her skin buzz. Plus the monsters from her nightmares have crossed over into reallife. https://bit.ly/3gwlHFI
Corpses Say the Darndest Things Nod Blake Mysteries Series By Doug Lamoreux It was a simple job: keep an eye on the minister's wife until she goes safely to bed. Then all hell broke loose. https://bit.ly/3oAICE6
Tempt Me: Adam & Mila #1 Hawthorne Hills Duet Series by Claire Raye Tempt Me is book one in Adam and Mila’s duet and book five in the Hawthorn Hills Duet Series. A two-part, friends to lovers, angstfilled love story. Tempt Me must be read before Trust Me in order to enjoy the full story. https://bit.ly/3HMg1n6
The Big Fang Anthology The Big Fang Anthology. Stories range from laugh-out-loud adventures to who-done-it mysteries, and every story in the anthology has a rescued or adopted animal in it, including dogs, cats, pig, ferret, horse, birds, snake, and bunny.
Located in West Michigan, Harbor Humane Society is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Each year, Harbor Humane takes in over 3,500 animals and has a 100% placement rate for adoptable animals. In addition to taking in stray and owner surrendered animals in Ottawa County, Michigan, they also transfer in animals from other shelters in Michigan as well as from shelters in other states like Tennessee and Louisiana to help with overcrowding or natural disaster situations. An independent shelter, Harbor Humane Society officially took on the responsibility and the duties of a no-kill animal shelter in 2015. Recently, Harbor Humane was featured in “Tails for Joy 2” on the Hallmark Channel.
Contributing Authors: C.K. Fyfe – “A Hare-Raising Haunting” Allison Deters – “Notorious B.U.G.” Melissa H Blaine – “Mullet and the Nope Rope” Cathy Wiley – “Follow Your Nose” Joseph S. Walker – “Like a Good Neighbor” Gabriel Valjan – “Where All the Bodies Are Buried” Steve Shrott – “Catastrophic Crime” Adam Sales – “The Bust” D.L. Rosa – “The Show Must Go On” Michele Bazan Reed – “Sweet Revenge”
c.j. petterson – “Firebug” Jayne Ormerod – “Wag More, Bark Less” Sandra Murphy – “He Was Framed, I Tell You!” Michael Allen Mallory – “The Marks of Zorro” Catrine Kyster – “Landing on His Feet” Shari Held – “The Parrot from Primrose Lane” Wendy Harrison – “Yo Ho Ho” Kate Fellowes – “The Midnight Crier” Tracy Falenwolfe – “Five-O”
All sales proceeds will benefit Harbor Humane Society.
Tammy Euliano – “The Fetch Connection” Lesley A. Diehl – “An Educated Pig” Mary Adler – “The Gentleman Thief”
As you’ve probably guessed, Brian is a tortoise. Brian has many endearing qualities; getting in the way, knocking things over, getting stuck between furniture, and ‘helping’ his mum with household chores, but this is all just a distraction from his greatest skill – escaping the garden! He is also a great source of inspiration, so it seemed inevitable he would get his own story. Bold Brian is the first in the series of the tortoise’s adventures, and follows Brian as he wanders off in search of someone to play with.
The Blurb Brian the tortoise wants an adventure, so one day he escapes from Vicky's garden and wanders into the nearby woods. He meets lots of other animals but is sad to find he can't play with anyone. Poor Brian can't climb trees with the squirrel and he can't swim in the pond like the frogs. He can't run fast and hop like the rabbits. Will bold Brian ever find something he can do?
Illustrated by Sylva Fae
The story features many woodland creatures, including my own pet rabbits and a jackdaw called Jerry, who showed up at our house one morning when Suzanne popped round for coffee. I had great fun doodling the illustrations for this book, often sat under my willow tree watching the rabbits and jackdaws feeding on the lawn as I drew.
Then, I’d take a break and check out the latest escapades of the real Brian, on Suzanne’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Suzanne’s daughter, Kate Robinson, created the colour image for the cover from one of my doodles, and her son-in-law, Martin Robinson did the cover design. Brian’s original owner, Suzanne’s youngest daughter Vicky, is featured in the story and she now shares Bold Brian’s stories with her own daughter. This series really has been a labour of love.
More Bold Brian… Book 2 is written, illustrated, and almost ready for publishing. Brian wanders off to meet up with his woodland friends, but encounters a mystery – there’s a thief in the woods! Brian must act as a detective to solve the crime and bring peace and harmony back to the little woodland. For fans of Brian the tortoise, Suzanne assures me there is a book 3 in the works. My pad and pens are at the ready...
Inside our eMagazine... • Exploring New Worlds
• Parenting Tips
• Wellness and Well-being
• Short Stories
• Activities for Children
• A link to our video
• New Authors
• And so much more...
M OM ’S FAVOR IT E R EA D S IS A N IN T E R N AT I ON A L CO M M U N IT Y ESTA B L IS H E D TO E N CO U R AG E R EA D IN G A M ON G S T A D U LT S A N D
C H IL D R E N WE B E L IE V E T H AT R EA D IN G OF F E RS G R EAT J OY TO P EO P L E . F U RT H E R M OR E , IT IS A COR N E RSTON E OF
E D U CAT I ON
Czech Mate by Tom Benson https://bookgoodies.com/a/B08NY48MNZ
From Beyond the Grave Tuesday 10th June 2014 Edinburgh, Scotland
His parents died only months apart, but doubt overshadows the circumstances in both cases. Will Bryce determine who he can trust and will he find out the truth about his parents’ deaths? Will he solve the mystery set by his father from beyond the grave?
Bryce Crawford is handed a small package left to him by his recently deceased father. At first, the contents seem insignificant, but they open up a world of mystery and intrigue for the artist. A trip to Prague becomes a matter of life and death as Bryce becomes entangled in a web of lies and deceit.
Chapter One Bryce left his small art gallery in the hands of two staff and headed east along the Grassmarket. He was keeping an appointment with his solicitor, but his thoughts drifted once again to the deaths of his parents. Bryce’s mother had been killed in a traffic accident the previous year, but his father had died much more recently and in circumstances which left many unanswered questions. One thing was certain. If it came to light that either of them had not died accidentally, he would be demonstrating skills in areas far removed from oil painting and salesmanship. Bryce paused at the kerbside to look both ways before crossing the road. Fifty metres away, a man in a leather jacket and jeans stopped abruptly mid-stride to turn and look in a shop window. This might not have seemed odd, but for how quickly he’d stopped, and his sudden interest in a funeral parlour.
Alan Wheeler lifted the document from the desk in front of him. “I’ll read your father’s will and testament before I pass you an item I’ve kept securely.” “Please, take your time, Alan.” Bryce nodded and sat with his back straight, his hands clasped on the solicitor’s large desk. The two men had known each other since childhood. Both were thirty-five and a little under six feet. Alan had succumbed to a relaxed, comfortable lifestyle, was overweight, and had a full beard. Bryce was energetic, had a muscular physique and maintained a fashionable stubble. The solicitor read aloud the document from the top of the first page to the final word on the third page. When he’d finished, he placed the sheets flat on the desk and turned them to face his client. He waited and watched as Bryce read the will, then took a pen from an inside pocket to sign and date the accompanying confirmation sheet. “Thank you, Alan. I’m satisfied that all is in order.” Alan pulled the signed sheet around to face him, and he too signed and dated the bottom. “In the course of my duties I’ve held documents and small packages for many clients, but I have to say, I’m pleased to hand this one over.” “Okay.” Bryce nodded as he accepted the padded envelope from the solicitor and stared at the distinctive handwriting. A smile teased his lips as he thought of the care his father took when writing anything. He looked up. “Are you sure you’re all right, mate? You sound on edge, and we don’t need such formality between us.”
“Maybe I’m just paranoid about veiled threats, and passing on secret items.” Bryce squinted. “Now, you’re giving me the impression that this isn’t run-of-the-mill business.”
“This is a special case, Bryce. As you know, our fathers were friends and trusted each other. My father was your family solicitor for many years. I think they’d both expect me to enlighten you regarding my instructions.” Alan unlocked a drawer in his desk, and lifted out a sheet of vellum paper. The sheet contained a handwritten message which he gave to his client. “Thank you,” Bryce accepted the page, briefly met the solicitor’s agitated gaze, and looked down, once again recognising his father’s handwriting: ‘Mr Wheeler, While I do not wish to appear to threaten, I would ask that the package addressed to my son, Bryce, is not seen or handled by anybody but you. If it were tampered with in any way, the consequences would be most unfortunate for whoever deemed to do so. I would further ask that the package is not handed over until the details of my will have been read and accepted by Bryce.’ Bryce paused and glanced at the nervous solicitor before reading on: ‘My life was directly threatened recently, which is why I have taken the step of preparing this message. Due to the nature of the risks, should the package be interfered with, or not passed on to Bryce, I respectfully remind you of our conversation when we last met.’ The instruction was signed, William B. Crawford, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired). Bryce handed the instruction back to his solicitor. “Thank you. I can only imagine you have a good reason for wishing me to see such a message.” Alan inhaled and breathed out slowly. “Your father only spoke to me in person on a few occasions, but at our last meeting, he watched me place the package in my safe and insisted I swear secrecy.” There was a knock at the office door. “Wait!” The solicitor’s tone was sharp, unlike the customary calm tones in which he’d earlier conducted the business of William Crawford’s will. He turned to his client. “I apologise, Bryce.” He loosened his tie and collar before continuing quietly. “Although your father didn’t say as much, I was left with the impression that he was compelled to do business with, shall we say, foreign powers.” “Would you mind expanding on your theory?”
“Your father told me he was working in conjunction with a British government department. He said I should be aware of any new clients who had foreign interests. He suggested that for at least six months, I avoid being interviewed by, or taking on any nonBritish client or any person who might be under a European influence. He also warned against any person who was sensitive about background checks.” “Did my father suggest how to deal with such a thing if it occurred?” “I have a phone number to use and a single word to say before hanging up.” Alan glanced around his small office as if there might be listening devices. “Your father also swore me to secrecy regarding both the number and the codeword.” “Thank you, Alan, and knowing my father’s standards, he’d be impressed.” Bryce stood and lifted the small package in his left hand to place it inside his jacket. “We must get together soon and chat without the red tape, eh?” He reached out with his right hand as the solicitor stood. The two men shook hands. “Thank you, I’d like that.” Alan Wheeler’s eyes blinked several times, and he drew in a deep breath. “Speaking as your solicitor, if you wish to continue your business affairs elsewhere, Bryce, I will understand, but until you say otherwise, I’ll be at your service.”
Bryce saw how far his old friend was from his habitual composure. “It’s been an interesting half-hour, and I think I’ll leave my affairs in your hands.” He glanced out of the window. “How many different buses into Edinburgh use that stop down there?” “There is only one bus route that passes here, but it’s rare that anybody waits for longer than fifteen or twenty minutes. Are you taking a bus back to the city centre?” “No, it was a passing thought.” Bryce walked across the small office to the door. The solicitor looked out of the window. A young man in a black leather jacket and jeans was standing at the nearby bus stop using a mobile phone. The man turned to look towards the building and then nodded as he continued to chat. Alan turned and walked to the door to see his visitor out.
*** Bryce went downstairs and left the building. As he stood outside looking around, a bus pulled up at the stop. Bryce saw the man in the leather jacket shake his head, and the confused bus driver closed the doors before driving off. Bryce glanced left and right before walking left along Dalkeith Road towards the city centre. Five minutes after leaving the solicitor’s office, Bryce paused where the name of the .
main route to town changed from Dalkeith Road to The Pleasance. He smiled as he considered the quaint name for the stretch of road. From humble beginnings, as a local house name in the early 16th century, it had grown into a desirable area for homeownership This was a part of the Old Town which Bryce rarely visited, but he was aware of many points of interest. He looked across at the impressive block of old buildings used by the Edinburgh Students’ Association. It was strange to think that the complex was utilised every August as one of the venues for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Of course, Students’ Association funds had to be raised by many and varied means. As he strolled on down the gradient towards the crossroads Bryce glanced over his shoulder. There was no traffic to prevent him from crossing, but he continued downhill to the traffic lights and pressed the button. While he waited for the flashing green man signal, he absently looked around again. He noted a young man wearing a leather jacket. It was the guy who’d been standing inside the bus shelter near the solicitor’s office. The man paused and concentrated on his mobile phone, which looked out of place. Most young people tended to use their mobile as they walked as if on auto-pilot. When the lights changed, Bryce crossed the road quickly, turned left and crossed again, opening up his pace as he walked up the steep St Mary’s Street. Five minutes later at a busy junction with The Royal Mile, he negotiated a large group of camera-wielding tourists and turned right. He walked a short distance to Mimi’s Little Bakehouse. “Good morning, what can I get you, sir?” The pretty brunette teenager met his gaze. “A pot of tea, and whatever you’d suggest from your cake display, please.” “Would you like something with fresh cream?” Her smile broadened. “Yes, please.” Bryce had chosen a window seat to allow a view up Canongate towards the crossroads. The tea and cake would deal with one need, and seeing the contents of the package left to him would satisfy his curiosity. He wanted to take this next step before returning to the gallery. As he pulled the small envelope from his inside pocket, Bryce murmured. “What are you going to tell me, Dad?” For a few seconds before opening the package, Bryce stared at the immaculate copperplate handwriting. ‘Personal for Bryce Crawford – addressee eyes only’. Bryce thought back to the last short phone conversation he’d had with his father, two weeks previously.
“I’ve sent a package to our solicitor. I love you, Son.” “I love you too, Dad—” Bryce had been saying the words when he heard several loud cracks and the call ended. At the time, the sincerity of his dad’s tone had struck a chord deep in his psyche. Now, as he looked at the envelope in his hand and recalled their final words to each other, Bryce was glad he’d reciprocated. The next time he heard anything about his father was from the police who brought the news of his death. The girl delivered the tea and cake, smiled and left her customer to his snack. Bryce poured a cup of tea, stirred in a sweetener and continued to stare at the envelope, challenging the inanimate object to give him a clue before it was opened. He sipped his tea and used the small fork to lift a piece of cake, but his mind was on the envelope. He dreaded opening it because he had convinced himself it was terrible news. Of course, he’d already lost both parents, so how could it get worse? Only when he’d finished his cake and poured more tea, he relented, inhaled deeply and tore open the package. Bryce withdrew three folded sheets of writing paper, and a small bundle of tissue which was wrapped around a silver key. He turned the key over in his hand, but it meant nothing to him, so he rewrapped it and thrust it deep into his trouser pocket. Bryce read the letter and closed his eyes briefly when he reached the end. He reread it before returning it to the envelope and to an inner pocket. At least now he knew what the key was for, and where to go next. “Bloody hell, Dad,” he whispered and slowly shook his head. “You believed that The Chariots exist.” He finished his tea, and when paying the bill gave the girl a handsome tip. The way she looked at him confirmed the feeling he’d had earlier. Judging by her smile and expression, on any other day when his mind wasn’t elsewhere, he’d be happy to get into a conversation with her. When he left the cafe, Bryce turned left and headed up The Royal Mile towards Edinburgh Castle. After he’d crossed at the traffic lights on the crossroads, he paused to look in a souvenir store window. He’d already spotted something of interest. The same man he’d seen earlier in a leather jacket and jeans was pacing up and down across the street, apparently having a heated discussion on his phone. Bryce stood in a shop doorway and flicked through a carousel of postcards. He used the reflection of the store window to observe the man whom he reckoned was supposed to be keeping an eye on him. The amateur tail stepped back into a doorway, but he was
hardly a chameleon. Bryce grinned as he left the postcards and went inside. From deep within the store, he looked across the street at his unknown admirer. Bryce moved forward to the inside of the window. While shielding his body behind a display, he used his smartphone to capture an image of Leather Jacket.
When he left the souvenir store empty-handed, Bryce looked up and down the street as if considering his next move, and then he turned left and set off uphill. He walked a few metres before taking a short cut through South Gray’s Close, one of many narrow alleyways in the Old Town. Once in the short close, Bryce ran for a few seconds until he was clear of the enclosed area and houses in the lane at the back. He reached St Patrick’s Parish Church on the left and ducked into the small car park where he crouched down behind one of the few cars. Sure enough, two minutes later, Leather Jacket came running past. He paused at the gates of the church, looked around in confusion, cursed, and then headed downhill, where he would once again have to make a decision to go left or right. A simple task had become complicated. *** Bryce arrived back at the Grassmarket, having strolled from the St Patrick’s Church car park. There had been no sign of the shadow he’d spotted earlier. As Bryce approached his gallery, he saw one of his assistants removing a painting from the window. He pushed open the door of Crawford’s Creations, to the chiming of the bell. “I hope you’re not removing that piece to make room for something else.” “Hi, Bryce,” Barbara said. “This one has been bought by an American gentleman. He was sorry to have missed you, but he’ll be coming back later to pick it up.” “Did you suggest we could have it sent to him?” “Yes, but apparently he’s got a fifty per cent stake in a freight container which is headed across the pond next week.” The pretty assistant raised an eyebrow. “Was his interest in Edinburgh, or castles?” “Castles, and he’s increasing his collection, which is why he hoped to speak to you personally. I have a feeling he might want to commission a few more pieces.” “Well, we’ve got plenty of castles in Scotland, and I’m happy to work for a regular customer.” He went through to his small office, leaving her to deal with the preparation of the painting. On the way, he winked at Gordon, the latest addition to the staff. The teenager was studying one of Bryce’s oil paintings which was on display.
Of the three art students who worked for Bryce in his art gallery and framing shop, Barbara had been there the longest. She was twenty and a graphic design student, and though there was no need for painting skill in her course, she loved producing work in acrylic. Barbara often experimented with mixed mediums. Several of her works had sold
within days of being displayed in Bryce’s window. Fortunately for Bryce, Barbara was a great salesperson too. Her increasing ability in the area of customer service was bearing fruit every week. She regularly turned a casual query into a sale or order. Bryce removed the key and letter from his pockets and secured them in the safe. Fifteen minutes later, he’d left the office and was upstairs, where he changed into a paintspattered rugby shirt and old jeans. When he was painting, Bryce didn’t conform to any rules regarding costume. Physical comfort allowed his mind to wander or concentrate as required. A light tap on the door was followed by Barbara’s sweet voice. “Are you decent?” “Yes, come in.” Bryce laughed. “I heard you coming up the stairs.” “I thought I’d check, just in case. Would you like coffee?” “Yes, please, Barbara. Who’s in throughout the afternoon?” “The Temptress, and I nipped up to let you know she’s here early, so unless you want her to take advantage of you, don’t get undressed with the door unlocked.” Bryce was laughing as Barbara’s footsteps faded down the stairs. The Temptress was the nickname Barbara had given to Julia, one of her colleagues in Bryce’s shop. The girls were the same age but where Barbara was pretty and had light brown hair, Julia was a stunning brunette. Ten minutes later, there was a gentle tap on the open door of the studio. “Come in.” Bryce turned from his latest work and smiled. “Hi, Julia. I thought Barbara was bringing my drink.” The attractive young woman walked across the room and placed the mug of coffee on the nearby wooden stand. “I’ve been studying the Old Masters, but I thought I’d start my shift by studying a young master.” She winked and turned to go, but paused to look over her shoulder as she went through the doorway. Her timing was perfect. Bryce was caught gazing at the back of her shapely legs. He grinned and shook his head. Apart from having a beautiful face, Julia could have modelled any fashion. “I’m going downstairs now, Bryce, but if you need me, I’m always available for you.” Her giggling echoed as she descended the stairs. The flirting was regular but harmless and had begun one day when Julia had caught her handsome boss checking her out. Concentration was lost. After the intoxicating presence of Julia, Bryce stopped work, wiped his hands on a rag and lifted his coffee. He walked across the small studio and
stared through the skylight at the splendour of Edinburgh Castle. Occasionally, when he had a tough decision to make, Bryce would gaze at the fortress high above and remember the guts and determination required by fighters through the centuries.
“Planning and preparation.” Bryce sipped his coffee. “Discover who your enemies are and learn their weaknesses.” The artist and dealer was standing in his attic studio in Edinburgh, but his mind was many miles away. He continued to contemplate as long as his drink lasted. When he’d placed the empty mug on the wooden stand, he went back to his work in progress and resolved to engross himself in painting once again.
*** Wednesday 11th June 2014 Bryce used his all-terrain bike to ride casually to work from his house in Mount Castle Drive, in the Abbeyhill area. The journey from the east of Edinburgh into the city was straightforward. When he cycled to work, he didn’t use his racer, preferring to keep the faster bike for his long rides. As he sipped an early brew in his office, Bryce played over his intentions once more. He’d enjoyed an early meal on the previous evening, and reread his father’s message, again and again. Much of the note was cryptic which led Bryce to believe he should avoid recording any of his own decisions. He would commit everything possible to memory. From the outset, three things were clear. Bryce’s dad thought ‘The Chariots’ paintings were real. Secondly, his dad had died in unusual and worrying circumstances. Finally, Bryce was intent on investigating both his father’s death and the paintings. A connection between the untimely death and the mythical paintings was clear. There had been no doubt Bryce would step up to the challenge, but he felt with each reading of the mysterious letter, it sparked a new angle from which to approach the task. He dialled a number. “Hi, Patrick, how are you, mate?” He chatted to the Irishman for a few minutes. Patrick Power, a sixty-year-old local artist, had been associated with the business for many years. He had worked with Bryce’s father before Bryce took over the day-to-day
management. Patrick was originally from Limerick, in Ireland, and had no known relatives. He was successful in his own right but enjoyed the association with the small private gallery. In the same way that the art students were permitted to display pieces for sale in the shop window, so too was Patrick. He didn’t work in the shop daily but was happy to step in occasionally to provide management cover. It had been the
arrangement when William Crawford was running the place, and William had recommended that his son should continue the practice. At ten o’clock, Patrick strolled in and raised a forefinger to his forehead in mock salute as he approached from the doorway. “You’re looking good, Bryce.” “As are you, mate.” Bryce met his friend in the middle of the shop and they shook hands. “Thank you for taking the time to come around.” “I’m always happy to help.” Patrick’s smile faded. “I was sorry to hear about your dad— he was a great man. I was annoyed about not making it to the funeral, but I was—” Bryce held up an open hand. “My dad reminded me recently about your regular visits to Europe.” “We knew each other by reputation for a long time, and it was great that we got to know each other so well.” “I know he felt a strong bond with you.” Patrick was thoughtful for a moment. “Do we have one of your lovely young ladies coming in today?” “Yes, I’m expecting Barbara at half past ten, and she’ll be here until four o’clock. I must ensure she has a break for lunch.” “I take it business is cruising along?” “Yes, I’m pleased to say things are going well. The girls have both sold work this week, and yesterday one of my castle-ruin paintings went to an American.” Patrick laughed. “Aye, you’ll always be able to count on our cousins from across the pond. If there is one type of building you don’t see dotted around America, it’s castles or their remains.” They both laughed and then they chatted about a hundred and one things while they waited for Barbara. She turned up early, as usual. “Good morning,” Barbara said as she crossed the floor. She was wearing a cream blouse, navy mini-skirt and black court shoes. Her long hair was pulled back in a high ponytail. “Good morning, Barbara,” the two men chorused.
“I’ll bring my hot chocolate out here, and you two can disappear to talk in private.” As good as her word, Barbara was back on the floor within a few minutes. She placed her drink under the small counter area at the back of the shop. “I’ve poured you both a coffee.” “Thank you, Barbara,” Bryce said. “Nothing is outstanding.”
“I’ll be fine. Off you go.” She went for a stroll around the open display area, admiring the various paintings and drawings. The two men went through to the office and sat either side of Bryce’s desk.
“She’s a lovely looking girl,” Patrick said, “and I’ve noticed her outfits are no longer so understated,” “When she started here, she asked me if she should wear something low-key, and I asked why.” Bryce smiled and shook his head at the memory. “She said that she didn’t think it would be right for the staff to try to upstage the artwork they were hoping to sell.” “Julia, on the other hand, has always dressed to catch the eye.” “Yes, and I have a feeling she gave Barbara the confidence to do the same.” “They’re both real lookers, even in simple outfits, so I reckon you have those girls to thank for a lot of your passing trade.” “I’m well aware of how important they are, and they’re both talented artists.” “I saw a young fella in here a few days ago.”
“Yes, that would have been Gordon, my latest recruit.” “Is he from one of the universities?” “Yes, he’s a nice lad. He’s only eighteen and not far into his course. Gordon is studying package design, but just like the girls, he’s building a portfolio of personal artwork. He is a dab hand at drawing animals so when he’s comfortable with the idea I’ll introduce his work into the gallery.” “They’re all lucky to have landed a part-time job but especially one where they can display and sell their art.” For a few minutes, the pair discussed how much of an asset it was to a small business to have knowledgeable staff. The conversation drifted to how accomplished both girls were with paint, but neither expected to make a living from their hobby. “I suppose we should get to the reason I asked you to drop by,” Bryce said. “I’ve got a business trip coming up, but as yet I haven’t booked anything.”
“If you’re not mentioning destinations, I’m assuming this one is a bit hush-hush, just like the trips your dad sometimes made?” He laughed. “He would have been a great spy, your dad … always heading off to meet up with a mystery dealer or contact in some foreign part.”
“I’m afraid I’m following in his footsteps on this one. I’ve recently picked up on a lead for a couple of rare pieces, and with respect, I’d rather not tempt fate by discussing the details with anybody. I haven’t finalised my travel plans yet, but if you can step into the breach from this Friday, it would be a massive help.” “Would the three staff continue with their shifts as normal?” “Yes. I have a feeling I’ll be in the UK for a couple of days to confirm some details before I go abroad. Effectively the place would be run by you instead of me for two weeks. If it was okay with you and I confirmed with a phone call, I might need your help for longer. Both girls are capable of working unsupervised, but their studies would prevent them from doing too much overtime.” “I’m not tied down by anything. I’ll come by tomorrow afternoon to pick up the keys and note anything you have to brief me about.” He paused. “Would it be okay to bring in one of my canvasses to work on, you know, for whenever there are two or three of us in the place?” “Of course. Obviously, as usual, I’ll pay you a casual fee for your troubles.” Patrick nodded towards the safe. “I take it you’ll leave me the latest combination for access to that thing in the usual way—a date mentioned in your briefing notes?”
Bryce nodded. “Banking is rare these days because most transactions are completed by card.” The pair left the office and went through to the sales floor of the small, but wellpresented shop and gallery. They shook hands, and when Bryce paused before going back through to the office, he saw Patrick stop to chat to Barbara before leaving. The Irishman might be more than twice the age of the two girls, but he was an incurable ‘ladies man’.
Tom Benson is a creative writer who has published novels, novellas, short story anthologies and a series of five poetry anthologies. He started his writing career in 2007, but in his words, “By then, I had learned enough about people and life to make my writing credible.” Find More from Tom Benson... Website: http://www.tombensonauthor.com/
Damaged A Sam Smith Mystery https://bookgoodies.com/a/B09D57QXYN
Hannah Howe Eight and a half months pregnant. My detective agency was in good hands, Faye and Tamara’s hands, so time to put my feet up and await the Big Day. However, Gabe, my private eye friend from Boston, had other ideas. Hired by Alexander Carmichael III the current head of a powerful Boston dynasty, Gabe was on the trail of Chelsea, Carmichael’s runway daughter. That trail led to Wales - hence my involvement - then on to the South of France. Amongst the glitz and glamour of the South of France events took a murderous turn - someone was making and detonating bombs, and that someone had developed a close association with Chelsea. We found ourselves in a race against time, to prevent an explosion and the loss of many innocent lives, and to return home to deliver my baby.
“If you like psychological detective stories with a touch of humour and romance, you will love Sam Smith.”
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Mindful Monsters All the Rainbow Monsters are Mindful Monsters too, Respecting one another, like all good monsters do.
The Rainbow Monsters are back, teaching you how to be mindful. If you want to grow up as fit, healthy, happy and strong as a monster, join them in their colourful antics. *With new full-page illustrations.
Rerelease Rainbow Monsters is the first book in the series: mybook.to/RainbowMonsters *Also with new full-page illustrations.
Grand Teton National Park by Melanie P. Smith THE HISTORICAL STUFF
The Grand Teton National Park was established in 1929. Today, encompasses approximately 310,000 acres of wilderness and some of the most beautiful scenery in the western United States. It is one of the 10 most visited national parks in the country hosting roughly 2.5 million visitors annually. It is a popular destination for mountaineering, hiking, fishing; and, in the winter, snowmobiling. The 40-mile Teton Range is actually the youngest range in the Rocky Mountains. Ironically, the rocks in the park have been determined to be some of the oldest in North America — giving this unique area both age and youth, relatively speaking of course. Interesting Facts — •
The park is named after Grand Teton, the tallest peak in this majestic range.
Originally, the park was only 96,000 acres.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife visited the area in the late 1920s and fell in love with its beauty. He immediately began to purchase privately owned land in the area to preserve it from commercial exploitation.
In 1930, residents discovered Rockefeller planned to turn his land over to Grand Teton, making it part of the National Park. This did not sit well with the locals. They put enough pressure on lawmakers, that Congress prevented the expansion — putting the entire area in limbo. In 1942, Rockefeller became impatient with the politics and threatened to sell the land to another party. Finally, President Roosevelt used the Antiquities Act to set aside this land without the approval of Congress, designating the 221,000 section of wilderness the Jackson Hole National Monument. •
Congress made several attempts to abolish the national monument, but all were unsuccessful.
In 1950, the monument was combined with Grand Teton National Park — this action was opposed by many locals. A 24,000 acre parcel of land between Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks was added and named John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway. The Rockefeller family retained ownership of the JY Ranch, which bordered Grand Teton National Park to the Southwest. In 2007, ownership was transferred to the park establishing the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve — dedicated in 2008.
There is evidence the Paleo-Indians (migratory hunter –gatherers) spent their summer months in the valleys west of the Teton Range. Along the shores of Jackson Lake, fire pits, tools made of stone, tipi rings, and fishing weights have been discovered — dating back at least 11,000 years. All images © MPSmith Publishing
American colonists who settled in the area in the 19th century encountered Shoshone people living in the vast wilderness, mainly in the mountain regions because they hunted mountain goats and big horn sheep to survive.
John Coulter — America’s most famous mountain man — disappeared from his settlement and his body was never found. After completing the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1806 it is believed he joined two mountain men to further explore the wilderness. Years later, a human-shaped stone was discovered in Idaho engraved with his name and “1808”. The stone has not been authenticated; but, if real, could confirm Coulter’s travels through the Teton Pass and surrounding area during the years he was missing.
An agricultural depression swept across the United States in 1920. Around this time, locals realized that Easterners visiting the area were impressed with the outdoor beauty, wildlife, hunting and ranching practices.
They realized these visitors would willingly pay to experience ranching and farming for a few days. The Dude ranch experience evolved. With the increase in tourism came a need for saloons, gas stations and other services. •
The fastest mammal on land in the western hemisphere is the pronghorn, which is native to Grand Teton National Park and still calls this area home. The pronghorn can run up to 70 miles per hour. Their speed is second only to the African cheetah but they can sustain high speeds longer than cheetahs. Compared to body size, pronghorns have a large windpipe, heart and lungs to allow it to take in large amounts of air when running.
The abundant wildlife in the park includes buffalo, eld herds, coyotes, moose, fox, both grizzly and black bear, gray wolves and bald eagles. At last count, there were six hoofedmammal species, four reptile, 16 fish, 6 bat, 6 amphibian, 3 rabbit, 17 carnivore and 22 rodent species in the park. Although you are unlikely to encounter bear during the winter in the Grand Teton’s, bears in this region do not really hibernate. They enter a deep sleep called torpor, but they can be awakened by loud noises. Bears can be dangerous when startled this way. The best place to sight black bear is around Jenny Lake and Signal Mountain during the summer months. They have also been sighted along the Moose Wilson Road on the Teton Range’s eastern boundary.
THE GRAND TETON MARSHLAND
There are many opportunities to observe wildlife in Grand Teton National Park. In fact, it is one of the best places in the world to spot moose. Moose like to stay close to their food supply, in marshy areas and willow meadows. The Tetons have that in abundance. Moose are most active during the hours of dawn and dusk. There are two locations near Grand Teton you are likely to see moose again and again: the Oxbow Bend Turnout between Moran Junction and Jackson Lake Junction, and MooseWilson Road — which links Teton Village with Craig Thomas Discovery Center. Oxbow Bend has river flats where moose like to feast. You will likely see deer, otters and bald eagles in this rea as well. While traveling Moose-Wilson Road, moose like to spend time along the slopes of the roadside and in the underbrush.
Oxbow Bend, September 2021
Other areas you might find moose are Willow Flats and Christian pond. The marshy landscape provides the ideal food supply for hungry moose. As you can see, we drove through in the middle of the day — not a good time to spot these majestic animals. Maybe next time! But. That’s okay — the views were great.
If you’re going to visit one of the most beautiful areas in the country, you can’t stick to the highway. Venture down a sideroad now and again. You just might be surprised with an awesome overlook or a beautiful landscape. Signal Mountain is a great place to get that amazing panoramic view of the Tetons. In addition to the majestic mountain range, the overlook also gives you a stunning view of Jackson Lake. If you’re hiking, the trail starts at Signal Mountain Lodge. If you have a car, you can take Summit Road. The road winds up the mountain with a large turnout where you can park and venture down a short trail to get this stunning wilderness view of the entire area. Be sure to stop at the overlooks along the way because the lookout at the top of the mountain doesn’t actually look out at Grand Teton National Park. Signal Mountain Overlook at the summit looks out over Antelope Flats and the Gros Ventre Mountains. It’s still an amazing view, but you won’t see the iconic peaks of the Teton mountain range. The view of the Teton range can be found at the Jackson Lake Overview about 0.8 miles before the summit.
Oxbow Bend is a great place to spot moose, but it’s also the home to a huge variety of birds. You will often spot pelicans, Great Blue Heron, muskrats, otters and sometimes bear in the area. On our trip, I spotted the other kind of mammal — human. The river is calm and peaceful and you will often find vacationers kayaking or standup paddleboarding on this scenic waterway. Even without the wildlife, this is a great place to take amazing pictures. In fact, it is one of the most photographed areas in the park — rivaling Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park and Wild Goose Island in Glacier National Park. You will often find photographers at sunrise or sunset — hoping to capture that great shot of the river with Mount Moran in the background. On a good day, the peak can be seen reflected on the surface of the water. This classic area has been photographed millions of times and is probably the most recognized image of this area throughout the world. The autumn colors are world famous with thousands of photographers swarming the region during the last week of September. We visited in early September and you can see in the image above, the colors are just starting to turn. It’s hard to see the Aspens, but within a few weeks, they will be bright gold, yellow and red. If you hit the park at just the right time, the colors are unbelievable and you can’t beat that legendary backdrop of the Teton Mountain Range.
Jackson Lake is a 400 foot-deep natural lake with a dam added on top. The original dam was built in 1907. That dam failed and civilian men from the Civilian Conservation Corp helped clear the shores and burn brush piles during the Great Depression. In addition to providing irrigation water to the locals, this dam is also a great place to get reflective photos of Jackson Lake with the Teton Mountain Range in the background. You can actually walk across the dam to get that great view, or fish the Snake River below. So, if you’re in the area, I highly recommend giving this beautiful wilderness a try. There are over two hundred miles of trails, a variety of wildlife, and gorgeous scenic views around every corner. Whether you’re driving the upper loops, floating the Snake River, or just enjoying a relaxing picnic — Grand Teton National Park is a remarkable place to visit.
Melanie P. Smith — An American, multi-genre author of Paranormal,
Criminal Suspense, Police Procedural and Romance novels. Embark on a rollercoaster journey of discovery.
Find more from Author Melanie P. Smith on her website: https://melaniepsmith.com/
The Curse of Kenyan
https://www.dooleysbooks.com/ Kenyan is a werewolf. He woke in a darkened, mysterious
woodland one midnight in November, and discovers an ancient husband and young boy seek to encounter his whereabouts… and his immortal enemies, vampires. Kenyan stumbles upon a magnificent castle, declared to become his home, his recollection of how he got into the woodlands, or past of becoming a werewolf, turns up fruitless, soon finding accurate interpretation toward his existence and learns gruesome, torturing experiences, leading to his fight for survival.
By Max Power
I’m not destined to be anything I cannot fake. If I can fake it, I can be it, and the fantasy might just turn out to be real. My destination is beyond what results I get from trying, and hidden from the recesses of my imagination. We are after all, just star stuff as Carl Sagan once said, born of that to which we will one day again return. Destiny it seems is only what we can imagine, create, design and dictate. We find it through who we are, what we do, and how we pretend, in order to fool ourselves that we are indeed, anything more than star dust. But this is not a reason to despair. I reminisce about the boy I once was and sometimes I even miss him. That doesn’t mean I want to be him again. There is no me now, that could have come about without reinvention, reimagination and a determination to find joy despite the dark sometimes. For some, their star stuff is a creation, compliments of a God above, others see it swirl through multiple lives as reincarnation, and some see a finite existence where nothing exists but the day. Whatever your truth, we forge our own path whether consciously or not, and our footprints touch the world around us leaving something behind, a trail of our very own twinkle dust as we go. We believe the lie that we are the better version of ourselves and then try to convince the world of that particular interpretation of who we are. Me? I am the lie I have created, that has become the truth made man. I was never meant to be the creature I have become. Left to my own devices, unencumbered by social morasses, I would have turned out much the same or entirely different, who knows. I suspect the latter. Give a monkey a gun and sooner or later he’ll shoot something. Give a man enough choice and he’s bound to get confused along the way. There is no point in trying to fool ourselves, we are all indeed just star stuff.
We are never shadows of our former selves. We are giants to our early incarnations, casting shadows on that which we once were. There is no doubt that we are what we have become by stepping over the bodies of our former selves. Nothing is real, nothing is permanent. We are sprites in the wind, hoping to catch a lucky break. I am not the man I once was and I am glad of it. He was never who I wanted to be. I have lied to myself all these years to get over the next hill, only to discover that it was sometimes only the lie that got me there. I am the little engine puffing upwards with “I think I can” on repeat in my head as I go. In truth I have always doubted way too much, but the lie always got me there and I became someone new each time. Someone who could, when I didn’t even believe it myself. Determination got me only some of the way. Deceit has been my friend. But before you get too excited, the lies I told were to myself and sometimes they helped me fail dramatically. If I have learned anything, it is that the world will not implode if we stop teaching our kids not to fail. Failing is not falling, falling is not failing. We see things as we choose. Sometimes things look better in the morning and raindrops look better by the light of the moon
There is an inherent sadness deep in my soul. A melancholy man like me has no right to be happy, yet I am. Whether it is by fate, chance, desperation or inspiration, it doesn’t matter, I will never reach my destination and I will never fully be me at any given point in time. I am all that I was and all that I might be, caught up in just that moment when you cross my path. That’s all.
When the darkness arrives and overshadows everything else, how do we find the light? When the noise that can’t be silenced, doesn’t just fill our heads but starts to overwhelm, how do we listen to ourselves and find a moment of calm? Our star stuff should be the thing that lets us fly and the thing that keeps us grounded. Never one to assume, I can only talk of my own shimmering dust. The boy I was became the man I had to be and what I had to be, changed many times in order for me to become the man I needed to be. Those versions of me were never easy in transition, but ultimately, I am now the man I want to be – for now at least. Who knows what tomorrow brings and how many lies I will internalise to be whoever I become on my journey though myself? I am star stuff on a journey of infinite possibility, always fearful, but never afraid, always casting shadows on my darkness. I am an imperfect journeyman who has found his smile, knowing there are others in search of the same, telling you that it’s OK for now. It’s OK to be someone else tomorrow, for we are all just star stuff, changing form infinitely. Joy is in the moment and each day is filled with moments to find the joy. I am grateful each morning when I wake. Grateful to be given another day to be whoever I want to be today, the past beyond me, the future to be forged. Thanks for stopping by… fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks twitter @maxpowerbooks Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? Maybe it’s time to pick one up. Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The Woman Who Never Wore Shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy. You can find more details about Max Power’s books here https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
Melody and The Bouncing Shoes By Mandy Shade The Blurb Melody is a friendly happy mermaid but she has never really felt like she fit in. She’s not a fast swimmer and struggles to keep up with everyone. Instead she spends her time exploring her passion for shoes and her creative side. With the support of her best friend Rex, Melody discovers what makes her special and that she does belong after all. This heartwarming story shows children it’s ok to be different, we all have things that make us special and all have a place. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Melody-Bouncing-Shoes-Mandy-Shade/ dp/183934430X/ You can follow Mandy Shade on Instagram and TikTok where she shares book play ideas. Mum_tells_a_tale
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 © Melanie P. Smith
Swindling Nomads “Stop messing around,” Marko barked. “If any of those shops have a silent alarm, the police will be here any minute.” The three teens inside the truck laughed. Russo stopped the truck and waited for Marko to reach for the handle again. The instant he did, he punched the gas. The tires started to squeal, then caught, and the truck lunged forward again. The boy’s laughter increased as they slapped each other on the back and waited for Marko to catch up. “Do it again,” Freddie demanded. “Maybe we should get going,” Russo hesitated. “Naw,” Johnny disagreed. “One more time.” Russo shrugged and waited for their partner in crime — literally — to reach the passenger side of the vehicle. The instant he reached out, Russo stepped on the gas. This time, Marko was able to grab the door handle. He gripped the metal and held on tight. When the truck lunged forward, he lost his footing and went down — hard. His knee collided with the asphalt surface of the parking lot, but he still didn’t release his grip on the handle. The truck continued forward as his leg scraped along the black surface. “Stop the truck,” Freddie called out. “I think Marko’s hurt.”
Continue Reading Pg. 89 This is a continuing storyline. A new episode is published in each issue of the eMagazine - Box sets can be purchased at any eBook store 88
“Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere.” – Mary Schmich
The web is a wonderful tool. There’s instant access to a wealth of knowledge on any topic - including Self-Publishing. Here are a few examples to help authors along the way. Parts of a Book From Cover to Cover: The parts of a book include the front matter, the body, and the back matter. The body is the most significant portion, containing the main narrative. The front matter and back matter are the non-story pages that come before and after the story is told. https://kindlepreneur.com/parts-of-a-book/ 127+ of the Top Free and Paid Book Promotion Sites: Book promotion sites can be a powerful way to get your book in front of new readers, which is why some authors work with as many free and paid book promotion sites as possible. https://kindlepreneur.com/list-sites-promote-free-amazon-books/ How to Write a Book Blurb: It can be tough figuring out how to write a book blurb, especially for new authors. The key is to make it attention grabbing, as it’s a sales pitch to your readers… https://www.thefussylibrarian.com/newswire/for-authors/2019/12/13/how-to-write-abook-blurb-crafting-an-attention-grabbing-summary-of-your-book How to Get Your Self-Published Book Into LIbraries Many of us spent formative years reading in libraries. Certainly, I used to hang out in the local library after school, reading all kinds of things. It was a haven of learning, and an escape for a quiet child who loved reading — and still does! https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2022/01/27/how-to-get-your-self-published-book-intolibraries/ Google Scholar: Need to search for scholarly sites? Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. Search across a wide variety of disciplines and sources. https://scholar.google.com/
Just One Drop: Book 3 Grey Wolves Series by Quinn Loftis Jen has just found out that human DNA is not the only thing that resides in her veins, she happens to share that little pesky werewolf gene, although it isn't more than just a drop. Now she is stuck in Romania with the wolf she loves but can't have...or can she? https://bit.ly/3GC2XyX
Cole The Ride Series by Megan O’Brian
Destined: Book 2 Vampire Awakenings by Brenda K. Davies
Scarlet Malone has lived quietly for years hiding from her past. Then Cole Jackson, Vice President of The Knights MC comes bursting into her life with his gorgeous eyes and fierce determination to have her in his bed and his life.
Determined not to live her parents’ fate as a mated vampire, Isabelle locks herself away from society. Despite her resolve to avoid anyone outside her family, her world is rocked when Stefan arrives. The powerful, stunning vampire is everything she never wanted.
Scarlet’s letting her walls down for the first time in her life. Could Cole really be her happily ever after? https://bit.ly/34s3iHu
The Wolf King’s Bride
by C.A Worley
When Kellan, Wolf King of the North, finds his fated mate, he finally feels he has a true chance at happiness. But an ancient brotherhood refuses to allow an heir of one kingdom onto the throne of another. All four factions in the land of Imperium appear to be involved in a surreptitious struggle for power…while Nora hides a few secrets of her own. https://bit.ly/3B7VJSq
Depravity Beastly Tales Series by M.J. Haag hen Sixteen year old Benella is locked behind the gates of the unforgiving beast's estate, she knows her fate is sealed. Yet, the fate isn’t one she expects. Her encounter with the beast starts a bizarre cycle of bargaining for her freedom, a freedom the beast seems determined to see her lose. https://bit.ly/3LncrSn
Trudge: Book 1
Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse Series
by Shawn Chesser
Cade Grayson finds himself separated from his wife and daughter during a viral outbreak; between them are 3000 miles and millions of infected. Cade must form alliances and rely on his military training to run the gauntlet of undead, as well as the living. . https://bit.ly/3gxHIUD
Appraisal for Murder: Book 1 Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series by Elaine L. Orr
Chocolate Hearts and Murder Fiona Fleming Series by Patti Larsen Fiona Fleming would rather be home with her pug snuggled while everyone else celebrates Valentine’s Day without her. Instead, she’s been recruited to attend another of Mayor Olivia Walker’s Reading, Vermont tourism promotion events. But when the young majority stakeholder in the ski lodge ends up dead, she signs on to help Sheriff Crew Turner uncover the killer. https://bit.ly/3uA5lnG
Can a real estate appraiser in a New Jersey beach town get in this much trouble? Jolie Gentil dumps a husband who put their assets in the toilets that masquerade as slot machines and moves to Aunt Madge's B&B in Ocean Alley. Jolie is rekindling friendships, dodging a low-level wise guy, and (oops!) finding a dead body. Her old buddie Scoobie looks down and out, but he may be smarter than anyone. https://bit.ly/3gFaL8w
Play A Completion Novel by Holly S. Roberts When Killian MacGregor, the hottest quarterback in the NFL, eyes the perfect pair of female legs, he spends an hour tracking the gorgeous woman in a room filled with rowdy teammates until one gets out of line. Will Killian’s bad boy rep and Rebecca’s need for commitment, make this the most impossible PLAY of the season? Or, will Killian’s haunting past destroy the most important game of his life? https://bit.ly/3Je2MvB
Undeniable Series by Ramona Gray All’s fair in love and…whatever this is. This Valentine’s Day, when a cupid accidentally shoots himself with his own arrow, he falls for a siren whose only job is to lure men to their deaths. Charismatic and irresistibly fun, Chance Eroson is a cupid who gets a kick from pairing odd couples and being right about them. Used to getting his way, the only person who shuts him down is the siren who has ruined more than one of his pairings before they started. But his bigger problem is he wants her. He’s always wanted her. Elodie Sirenian uses her power for good, only hunting evil men. But after so long, and so many horrible people, her cynicism has settled deep inside. She can turn on the charm when she doesn’t mean it, and they fall for it. Every single one. Every single time. Except Chance. https://bit.ly/3LpgNZm
This Corner of the Universe TCOTU Series by Britt Ringel When Anelace is sent to investigate accidents plaguing mining operations in a remote star system, Captain Garrett Heskan suspects more than random mishaps are in play. As the mystery unfolds, the stakes turn deadly in a race to expose the true threat while protecting the civilians in the system. Heskan's first command could be his last, as Anelace is outnumbered in her fight for survival. https://bit.ly/34Ou6Sl
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Swindling Nomads Russo slammed on the brakes and was about to get out and check on his friend when the passenger door was flung open and an angry Marko climbed inside. He slammed the door so hard the window shook. “Drive!” he demanded as he glared at the trio. “And, Gino is going to hear about this.” “You’re going to rat us out for having a little fun,” Johnny pouted from the backseat. “That’s cold, man. And it’s a dirty thing to do. We didn’t say a word when you rounded that bend last week and threw Russo out the back. He could have been seriously hurt, but we all just kept it to ourselves.” “That was different,” Marko knew he had a weak argument. They had covered for him, even with the large goose-egg prominently displayed on Russo’s forehead. “How so?” Russo practically whispered. “That wasn’t a job,” Marko insisted. “This was reckless. We could have been caught while you had your little fun.” “Yeah,” Russo kept his eyes on the road. “You keep telling yourself that. One day, you might even believe it. Go ahead, squeal to Gino. But, just know… we’ll all remember it; and, next time, you’ll be the one with consequences.” “I’m not going to tell Gino,” Marko relented. “I would have if the police had grabbed us. We got away though; so, as I see it, there’s nothing to tell.” Russo smiled inwardly, knowing he’d won that battle.
***** Paige slowly woke to the sun on her face as it peeked through the bedroom window. She could hear the birds chirping in the background as a light summer breeze came through the open window and settled onto her motionless body. She smiled and slowly opened her eyes, expecting to see Dax lying next to her. He wasn’t there. She frowned, shoved the light covers away and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Why did he leave so early? She pushed to her feet and made her way down the stairs.
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 The instant she stepped into the kitchen, she smelled the succulent aroma of fresh coffee. She was drawn to the magic machine like a moth to flame. Once she had a cup prepared, she made her way out the front door and settled into her large Adirondack chair, prepared to enjoy her morning ritual. A glance in her neighbor’s direction told her Dax hadn’t gone home. His front porch was filled with three large men. Hawk, Jeeves, and Wooly were clearly working on something. Paige assumed it was related to Zeus. The man was still missing, and they were all frantic and worried. So, where was Dax? Paige stood and moved to stand next to the railing that ran across the front of her house. A movement caught her eye, and she spotted an elderly man headed her way. He looked a bit scruffy and out of place in this neighborhood. He continued up the sidewalk and appeared to be headed her way. A noise at the side of the house drew her attention away from the man, momentarily. She turned and immediately spotted Dax coming around the corner. “What are you doing, now?” she asked. Before Dax could answer, the stranger on the sidewalk reached Paige’s front gate, paused, frowned, looked down at a clipboard he was carrying, then back at her. He realized she was watching him, and his demeanor changed immediately. He tried to act casual and nonchalant — but failed. Something was up with that guy. “I’m looking for something,” Dax told her as he leaned against the railing next to where she was standing. “What?” Paige asked absently as she watched the man disappear up the sidewalk and around the corner. “I was thinking,” Dax focused up the road, wondering what had Paige so distracted. Paige refocused on Dax. “Yes?” “I’ve searched my entire house top- to- bottom for the information Ahmed was trying to deliver. It’s not there, I’m sure of it.”
“So,” Paige considered, “you think he hid it at my house?” “I think he might have,” Dax nodded. “He was watching us, he’d know we are involved; and, with Zeus and Carmen always around, he would need a safe place to stash it until he could touch base with me and let me know where it was. Plus, he had to know 90
Swindling Nomads Nassar was after him. Ahmed wouldn’t keep valuable Intel with him when he was being hunted by a terrorist. A sadistic, ruthless, inhumane terrorist. He would have hidden it somewhere and I think that place might be your house. Do you mind?” “Do I mind him hiding it here, or do I mind you looking? “Well,” Dax smiled as he took the mug from her hand and slowly sipped her coffee. “We really can’t do anything about the first, so I’m asking about the second.” “No, I guess I don’t mind,” Paige yanked the cup of coffee back and took a sip. “Get your own, pal. I need the kick before I head in and get ready for work.” “I already had two cups,” Dax shrugged. “Woke early with the idea and decided to get started.” “You could ask them to help,” Paige motioned to his men.
“Actually,” Dax sighed. “I’m going to give the search a few more minutes then I’ll head over and help them. We need to locate Zee. I’m worried about him, Paige. He’s been gone too long without contacting me.” “I know,” Paige shifted to face him. “For what it’s worth, I think he’s okay. Nathan firmly believes he’s just being cautious and maybe he found something.” “If he found something,” Dax disagreed. “He would have called the rest of us in. This isn’t like him. I think he’s in trouble and can’t call us. And, I think it has something to do with Thor.” “I agree,” Paige leaned over and gave him a quick kiss. “And, I think that should be the lead you follow. Locate Thor and I’m pretty sure you will locate Zeus.” She turned and headed back inside the house. It was time to get ready for work.
***** Paige stepped into the office and glanced around. Where was Gage? She made her way to Margie’s desk to ask. “He’s on a call,” Margie advised. “In fact, you might want to head over and help. He’s over by the Market on Main. Said it’s a mess. Someone hit every business in that area last 91
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 night. Broke windows, stole thousands of dollars of property, and got away clean.” “Nobody gets away clean,” Paige disagreed. “There will be clues. We just need to find them.” She turned to leave when Jericho walked through the door. His face told them all they needed to know. Something happened that morning and the boss was not happy.
“What’s wrong?” Margie asked. “What happened?” “Where’s Clayton?” Jericho said in answer. “He’s dealing with the burglaries down on Main Street,” Margie advised. “When it rains it pours around here,” he turned to address Paige. “I need you to look into something for me.” “Sure,” Paige followed him into his office. “What’s up?” “Mrs. Kidder,” Jericho began. “You want me to investigate Manti’s oldest citizen?” Paige frowned. “What’d she do? Forget to pay for a bag of yarn?” “It’s not that kind of day, Paige,” Jericho warned. “She’s the victim. Some guy, drifter most likely because she didn’t recognize him, convinced her the roof on her house was in need of repair.” He passed a sheet of paper over to Paige and waited for her to read it. “This is way too high,” Paige looked up at Jericho. “It’s an old scam, mostly used by gypsies and conmen. They convince an elderly citizen or a single mom that they need work done on their home, a leaky pipe or a roof repair, demand half up front and the rest when the work is done. Then, they promise to send a crew over in the morning. Instead, they take the money and run.” “That’s the long and short of it,” Jericho settled back in his chair with a sigh. “I agree, eight grand is high. It would be closer to five for the entire job. He bid high, demanded half and walked away with four thousand dollars. Joy Kidder bit and lost. She’s not destitute, in fact, she can probably afford it more than most of our elderly population; but she still took a pretty big hit.” “And it pisses you off on principle,” Paige realized. “Did she have a description of the man?” “That’s where he made his mistake,” Jericho smiled. “Joy may be old, but she’s still sharp. 92
Swindling Nomads The man looked to be in his mid-to-late sixties. She said he was scruffy looking, but she chalked that up to his occupation. Thought if he was out getting dirty roofing houses, he wasn’t going to be clean-cut and wearing a suit.” “About five-eight with a tight beard and mustache?” Paige asked, annoyed at herself for not confronting the man this morning. Jericho frowned. “Do we have another victim already?” “I saw him this morning,” Paige admitted. “He was headed for my house, at least I thought he was. The instant Dax stepped around the corner, he changed gears and disappeared.” Paige considered. “He seemed confused, glanced at a clipboard then focused on me and my house again. Do you think they’ve accessed tax records or something? Maybe they’re working from a carefully planned out list of homes owned by one person… probably females.”
“Why do you say they?” Jericho asked. “You saw one guy and Joy only dealt with one guy.” “Because it’s always a team,” Paige considered. “I’ve worked these fraud cases before. They don’t stick for long. They move into town, take in a pre-determined sum and then they move on to the next town; or, head one state over and start up again. It might be a good idea to bring Sean in on this, see if they have anything in the works on this group. If they don’t, I have no doubt they will. It’s just a matter of time.” “I thought he was still assigned to Porter,” Jericho questioned. “If that’s the case, he won’t be much help on this.” “He is,” Paige confirmed. “And, I doubt he’ll have time to help me work it. But he still has contacts and access to their system. He can at least tell me if a large group of drifters is on the radar; or, if we’re dealing with a group that’s gone undetected until now.” “If they have a pattern, how would they go undetected?”
“Because they choose their victims carefully,” Paige advised. “I think they were going to target me this morning. I made the list because I’m single and live in an older home. They assumed I would be an easy mark. They have access to records but not personal Intel. They didn’t know I’m a cop. Mostly, they focus on the elderly because most of them won’t 93
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 make a report. They’re vulnerable and when they fall for a scheme like this one; they get embarrassed; don’t want to admit to their loved ones they fell for such an obvious scam; and they hide it. Groups like this can operate for years before getting caught.” “You’re approved to call Sean,” Jericho decided. “But I want him to know this is my case and I’m not turning it over to the feds. I want these guys caught and in a cage. This is personal, Paige. Joy…” he wasn’t sure how to continue. “She’s important to you,” Paige provided. “I get it. I don’t know her well, but she’s a great supporter of law enforcement and I’ll do my best to get her justice.” “Thanks,” Jericho sighed. “Do you think that man is still in your neighborhood?” “No,” Paige said confidently. “Because I had a feeling he was trouble and I drove the area before I came in. He’s gone for now.” “Then head over and see what you can do to help Gage on his burglary,” Jericho decided. “From what I hear, there’s a lot of damage and the property value is significant.” “I’ll keep you posted,” Paige said on her way out the door.
***** Paige pulled into the lot of the Manti Market and took a minute to survey the area. There was a lot of damage to the surrounding stores and she wondered why nobody called the crime in while it was in progress. She took another minute to get the big picture before starting across the large parking area. She had only gone a few short steps before Gage was at her side. “I’m glad you’re here,” he admitted. “It’s a mess. I have statements from most of the owners, but I haven’t even started to sift through the evidence. Well, I’m hoping there’s some evidence to sift through. These guys are beyond livid; and if I don’t catch the group responsible, the publicity is going to get ugly.”
“I can’t worry about that,” Paige shrugged. “We’ll catch them because these guys need to be caught, not because it will look bad if we don’t.” “It’s all a part of the whole and you know it,” Gage disagreed. “The mayor is going to be all over Jericho for this. Tilly Hovey is a donor and she’s more upset than the rest. 94
Swindling Nomads Apparently, Mayor Fowler assured her there was no reason to install a fancy security system. Claimed her donation ensured protection at all times.” “Politics,” Paige shook her head. “Guess the mayor is going to learn a valuable lesson as well. Why didn’t anyone call this in last night?” “It’s a small town, Paige,” Gage glanced up when a truck pulled into the lot. “There’s Keith Duvall. I need to go interview him. Anyway, so far none of these shops have alarms. Only one has a camera. Robert Bentley, right there on the end next to the market. He has a small system on the far end of his building, but the camera is angled more toward the street to catch illegal parking. I’ll be surprised if we get much from it. He’s pulling the footage now. Where do you want to start? Collecting evidence or viewing the video?” “I’ll follow you over to talk to Duvall,” Paige decided. “While you get his statement, I’ll take a look around and see if I can find something that will lead us to the perps.”
“Good luck,” Gage grumbled. “So far, I’ve found a lot of damage, but not much else to go on.”
***** Paige made her way carefully around the store. Gage was right, the guys that did this had obviously done it before. She didn’t find any fingerprints on the doorknob, the inside counter or the cash register. She was slowly moving toward the back when Gage approached. “I’m done here,” he told her. “Keith doesn’t have anything that will help, just a lot of anger and frustration like the rest of the victims. Let’s go look at the video.” They made their way further up the sidewalk and stepped into a small clothing store – mostly specialty items. Robert Bentley was working to sweep up the broken glass left when the large display window was broken out completely. A rock rested on the floor about three feet from the destruction.
“Don’t suppose you can get prints off a rock,” Robert said with a sigh. “Sorry, but no.” Paige moved toward the counter. “Gage said you have video. Can you take a minute and show us what you found?” 95
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 “Sure,” Robert rested the handle of the broom against the wall and moved forward. “I looked, already. I doubt there’s anything that will help, but you’re welcome to it.” The two deputies followed the shop owner into a back office. It was small and not meant to accommodate three people, especially when one of them was a large, muscular exlinebacker turned cop. They huddled around the small screen and watched as a group of kids — late teens to early twenties — joked around in the parking lot. They were messing around, not letting one of the kids into the truck. “You need an alarm,” Paige told Robert. “They were out there long enough that if even one of these stores had an alarm, those kids would be in custody right now.” “I thought of that,” Robert said glumly. “And, I even considered installing a system last summer. Then, things got tight and I decided it wasn’t necessary. I’ve now decided it is. Not that it will do me any good at this point.” “Stop it right there,” Paige demanded. “Back it up a bit. Yeah, right there. Do you have a way to take a screenshot of that image?” “I think…” Robert said, playing with the controls. “Okay, there you go.” “Now,” Paige straightened. “Can you print that photo for me? I need to take a closer look at that exact spot.” Gage frowned when Robert looked to him for answers. Gage just shrugged, he never could explain Paige or her methods; so, he wasn’t going to try. The three of them walked out of the room together. Robert paused at a small table at the end of the hall and retrieved a single sheet of paper, handing it to Paige immediately. “I’ll be over at the Market —in the parking lot,” Paige said, hopeful for the first time since she’d arrived. The two men followed her out, still wondering what she saw that they missed. Paige stepped outside and studied the photo. It only took a couple seconds to identify the spot she was looking for. As she approached the location, she spotted the skid marks left by the truck in question. “What will that tell us?” Gage asked, studying the marks but still not understanding what had sent Paige on the hunt. 96
Swindling Nomads “Here,” she shoved the photo at her friend. “You might want that for the file.” She crouched, pulled a pair of tweezers and some rubber gloves from her pack and carefully placed a rock into an evidence bag. “You’re collecting a rock for evidence?” Paige ignored him as she slid a clump of dirt into the same bag. “Paige?” Paige stood and handed Gage the evidence. “I can definitely see pine needles and I think that might be sage. We’ll have to send it to the lab to confirm. I took the rock so they can analyze it as well. I believe they can match the clump of mud to the mud that has dried on the bottom of that rock. If so, it will help prove my theory.” “Which is?” Gage asked, perplexed as he studied the small bag.
“I think they’re staying up the canyon,” Paige continued to study the ground. “I think they parked in a designated camping area or a meadow and got mud on their tires. Then, I think they drove the gravel roadway and that rock got caught in the tread of the tire locking the mud inside until they played their juvenile game that got one of them injured. And, that’s when the rock and the mud came loose.” She came to an abrupt stop and crouched again to study the asphalt. “And here we have some blood and tissue.” She pulled a pocketknife from her kit and began carefully scraping the asphalt until a clump of dried blood and what looked like skin tissue dislodged from the hard surface. She dropped it into an evidence bag and secured it. “Now you have DNA.” Paige was counting on using the results to positively identify their criminals. “How in the world did you find blood and tissue evidence in a parking lot half the size of a football field?” “Patience and tenacity,” Paige grinned and handed the second evidence bag to Gage. “Throw that in the truck and let’s go take a look at the other shops. I doubt we’ll find anything, but we have to look.”
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 It was three hours later when Paige stepped back into the office and headed for her desk. Gage was on his way to the lab and she wanted to take the rest of her shift to narrow down possible targets on her own case. She was sure the conman — or men — would strike again and they would target another single woman or an elderly resident. She wanted to be there when he did. Paige glanced up when Jericho stepped from his office and shut the door. “Go home, Paige,” he ordered. “It’s an hour past shift and I can’t justify more overtime.” Paige glanced at the clock and realized he was right. “I just need five minutes, then I’m leaving.” Jericho approached her desk. “For what?” “I’m generating a list of possible targets,” Paige told him. She waited as Jericho made his way around the desk and stood, reading her list over her shoulder. “It’s a good list,” Jericho admitted. “But you missed Jesse Anderson. He’s ninety-two and a bit senile. He’d be an easy target if they thought to check. I know you said women, but…” “Women and the elderly,” Paige quickly added Jesse to her list. “And he fits the profile perfectly. He’s old and lives alone. I’m going to head out first thing tomorrow. I want to sit down with each of them, determine if they’ve already been swindled and warn them just in case they’re on his list. He has a list, I know it. It’s what he keeps on that clipboard he carries. I could have…” “Not really,” Jericho disagreed. “You had a suspicion, but I hadn’t told you about Joy yet. Even if you had questioned him, you would have been forced to let him go on what you had at the time. Don’t beat yourself up over that. Let’s just catch him now that we know.” “We will,” Paige said confidently. “Because he’s going to hit at least one of these targets and they’ll be ready when he does.” “Goodnight, Paige,” Jericho started for the door. “Keep me posted. By the way, Gage said the lab confirmed your findings. That was sage and pine needles in the clump of dirt you found. They also said, preliminarily of course, that the rock had the same substance. They’ll analyze further but Gage is going to head up the canyon in the morning and look for that truck. At least we got that on camera. It should be easy to recognize.”
Swindling Nomads “Then, I guess you and Margie are on your own tomorrow,” Paige hit print and looked over at her boss. “At least for a few hours. Call me in if something pressing comes up. I can hit the names on my list tomorrow afternoon if I need to.” “I do know how to take a report, Paige. I was doing it before you got your first kiss.” Paige snatched the document off the printer and groaned. “Don’t remind me. It was an experience I’d like to forget.” Jericho was laughing as he left the office.
***** Paige pulled into her driveway and shut down her vehicle; then, she just sat behind the wheel pondering for several minutes. She must have lost track of time because she jumped at the knock on the window. Dax took a step back when Paige pushed open the door. “You okay?” “Long day,” she grabbed her bag and her list, secured her vehicle, then headed for the front door. “You?” “Didn’t find anything hidden around your house, yet.” “But you still think it’s here?” Paige realized. “I do,” Dax followed her inside and waited while she deposited her duty belt and her file onto the couch. “There’s something else we need to talk about.” Paige looked up in surprise. She should have known there was a reason he met her in the driveway. “What’s wrong?” “Nothing,” Dax assured her. “Carmen located Thor.”
“Where?” “He’s holed up in a dive,” Dax settled into one of her lounge chairs. “Some little motel in a small town in Arizona.” “There’s more,” Paige knew instantly. 99
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 “There’s a factory,” Dax began. “It’s just outside of the same town.” “And it’s owned by Reynolds,” Paige knew instantly. “What do you think it means?” “I have no idea,” Dax admitted. “Carmen got me the number to the motel and Thor’s room number. I was thinking of calling… just to see, you know. See if Zee is with him and if either one of them will fill me in.” “But you’re worried he might bolt, again.” “That’s the thing that’s holding me back,” Dax said soberly. “I think I need to go there, to confront Thor in person. It’s the only way I’ll know.” “You’ve already decided,” Paige accused. “When are you leaving?” “Hawk and Carmen want tonight to plan. The team will head out tomorrow,” Dax advised. “They want to check satellites and try to figure out if the manufacturing plant is active. We’ll play it by ear from there.”
Paige didn’t like it; she was worried that Dax would get hurt again and he wasn’t completely healed from Nassar and his horrendous torture sessions. Before she had a chance to say anything there was a knock on the door. She used the interruption to calm herself and shove down the panic and the fear she was feeling. Dax was leaving no matter what she said. She knew him well enough to know that. She swung open the door and spotted Carmen. “Can I come in?” she asked, glancing at Dax. “Sure,” Paige pushed the door wider and stepped back so her friend could enter. “Hey, Dax,” she began. “The satellite images are up. It looks like some kind of secure operation. There are guards everywhere. What do you think that means?” “Well,” Dax glanced at Paige while he considered his answer. He could tell she wasn’t happy about his decision to leave, but he wasn’t sure what she expected him to do. Sit around and wait, hoping for the best; but, expecting news his friend was dead? That wasn’t going to happen. “The place belongs to Reynolds and he does manufacture top-secret military products. It could be where he’s building his drones, or the other military weapons he’s contracted to provide the government. Your guess is as good as mine, at this point.” Paige couldn’t hold back any longer. “Dax, you haven’t recovered yet. I don’t think it’s a 100
Swindling Nomads good idea for you to confront highly-trained military guards that now work for Reynolds. There has to be another way. Wait a few days, try to call Thor and see what he says. You don’t have to do this. Send the guys in to handle it if you’re worried Thor will spook.” “Paige,” Dax began. “Carmen,” Paige pushed. “You know I’m right, don’t you? Do you agree they should wait?” Carmen studied Paige for several seconds but didn’t respond. “You, too?” Paige said in challenge. “I’m not… never mind.” She turned, left the room, made her way through the kitchen, and out the back door. “Sorry,” Dax stood. “I have to deal with this.” “I think you should let me do that,” Carmen decided. “She’s just worried about you; and, dealing with you tonight is just going to set her off.” “What does that mean?” Dax demanded. “It means,” Carmen smiled. “That your ego and your sense of duty will get in the way of your compassion, and that’s the last thing she needs right now.” “Go back over to my house,” Dax decided. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” “Nope,” Carmen headed for the kitchen. “Hawk is waiting for you. He wants to get started on a plan.” She rushed down the hall and picked up the pace as she crossed the kitchen headed for the back door. She paused momentarily, then let out a relieved breath when she heard the front door slam shut. Carmen stepped onto the back porch and settled into the chair next to Paige. “He’s going to be okay,” she began. “You don’t know that,” Paige disagreed. “And I needed your help back there, thanks for the support.”
“Paige,” Carmen sighed. “You wanted to know if I agreed, I don’t. And, I won’t lie. Not even for you. Plus, I think you should be supporting me on this and you’re not. I was there for you when Dax was missing, every step of the way. I never once said ‘hey, you need to wait. Formulate a plan to make sure everyone is safe before you rush in and try to save Paige’s man.’ I worried, I was completely stressed out knowing Zeus would do anything to 101
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 save Dax, even risk his own life, and he wasn’t completely healed either.” “I didn’t say…” “I know Dax is important to you, but Zeus is important to me and he’s missing, now.” Carmen stood and began to pace. “It feels like you are saying Dax is more important. Then, and now.” “I’m not,” Paige sighed. “Carmen, I’m not saying that at all.” “Then what?” “I’m saying…” Paige threw up her hands in frustration. “I don’t know what I’m saying. I just know I can’t go, not right now. We have two big cases at the office and when I called Sean, he said he can’t help. He’s in New Orleans, dealing with the ship Nathan seized.” “I knew that,” Carmen admitted. She sat back down next to her friend. “I’m worried, too. I can see those guys are conflicted, every one of them. They want to believe in Thor, but what is he doing in Arizona? Why is he living in a motel right by Reynold’s operation? Why is he trying so hard to stay off the grid? And what happened to Zeus because I don’t care what anyone says... Zeus hasn’t called me because he can’t. It’s the only explanation and that alone terrifies me.” “Okay,” Paige tried to push her own fear aside and focus on her friend. “I don’t know what’s going on with Zeus. But Nathan is sure that if he has been captured, he’s still safe. He doesn’t believe Reynolds would risk exposing his involvement in their secret operation. He’s under a microscope while Nathan’s team looks into the shipment of drones and weapons they seized in New Orleans. That’s why Sean is out there, he’s working to trace the final destination. Reynolds knows that, and the last thing he needs is more scrutiny.” “Nathan could be wrong,” Carmen insisted. “Of course, he could be,” Paige relented. “But he’s not.” “Why?”
“Because those guards are outside Reynold’s facility,” Paige said confidently. “Whatever he’s got going on inside is tied directly to him. He might capture Zeus and hide him inside; I think that’s possible. But he would never commit a felony on his own property. It’s the reason he enlisted the help of Nassar and Williams – plausible deniability. Either Zeus isn’t there at all, in Arizona; or, he’s safe. I’d bet my life on it.” 102
Swindling Nomads Carmen stared across the backyard for several minutes, considering what Paige was saying and the logic she used to get there. It seemed sound. “Okay,” she finally agreed. “So, conversely, that means if Dax goes after Thor and Zeus, he will also be safe.” “Not if he confronts Reynold’s men on their property,” Paige disagreed. “They have a right to protect the place. In fact, they have an obligation to do so. If those guys go in, guns blazing, they could all end up dead. And, Reynolds will just say his men feared for their lives.” “Paige,” Carmen scolded. “Give them a little credit. You know this is what they’re good at. They’re the experts. They’ve executed at least a hundred missions just like this. And, you’re going to have to start trusting Dax sometime. Trust him on this. He trusts you; I think it’s time you return the sentiment.” “I trust Dax,” Paige argued. “Sure, you do,” Carmen laughed. “That’s why the first thing out of your mouth was you can’t go. You need to relinquish a little control and have a little faith. I realize you only know Dax as the carpenter next door; but, according to Zeus, Dax is the best there is when it comes to planning and running an Op. He’ll be okay. First, because he’s Dax and he’s good. But also because Hawk couldn’t live with himself if anything happened to Dax on his watch. Especially now. It’s simply unacceptable.” Paige did smile at that. “It’s not like I have a say in the matter, anyway. Dax wasn’t discussing it with me. He wasn’t looking for input to make the decision. He’d already decided, and he was simply relaying the plan.” “Is that what bothers you?” Carmen asked. “Because you do the same to him. I don’t think either of you knows how a partnership is supposed to work. This is all new and you’re struggling with the basics. I guess that’s what happens when two strong-willed, bull -headed people fall in love.” “Who said anything about love?” Paige frowned at the knot that had just formed in her stomach. Did she love Dax? Yeah, she did. But she wasn’t willing to voice that particular vulnerability out loud. Not even to Carmen. “Denial is futile,” Carmen stood. “I know you love him, and he loves you. Now, you two just need to figure out how to live with that knowledge and accept it. I’ve got to get back, now. We have to come up with a plan.” Carmen hesitated. “Paige?” 103
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 “Yeah?” “I need you to be okay with this,” Carmen whispered. “I need you to be okay, because I’m terrified; and if I can’t talk to you about it...” “I’m okay with it,” Paige said, feeling a little guilty that she’d reacted the way she did. “We’ll get through it, together.” “Thanks,” Carmen nodded and headed back to the team. She was going to spend the entire night planning. The men would be safe, they had to be.
***** Zeus glanced out the window of his cell to make sure the guards were in their usual positions. One on each end of the hallway, and one directly in front of his door. All clear, business as usual. What was taking the guys so long? He was fine, but what if Thor hadn’t called in reinforcements? With each passing day, he became even more worried about the outcome. There was no way his friend could rescue two people on his own. Not in this facility. Zeus had realized, almost immediately, they had locked him in a different section than the one they were holding Camille in. He was alone with his guards over here. Camille, was on the other side of the building, separated from him by a large cinder block wall. A wall he was slowly chipping away at. He knew he couldn’t break through the thing, but he wanted to make contact. Camille needed to know he was here for her and the team would rescue her — somehow. He just hoped her cell was close enough to his that she could hear his whispers. He couldn’t call out to her or the guards would hear and stop them. He crouched on the floor, pulled out his Benchmade tactical knife, and once again began to chip away at the concrete barrier. He’d have to buy a new one if he ever got out of here, this one was going to be toast. While he worked, he again started to wonder if he’d made a big mistake. Maybe getting captured and leaving the rescue plan to Thor wasn’t such a great idea.
***** Paige was just pulling out of Jesse Anderson’s driveway when her phone started to ring. The ancient old man was a little senile, but he was a character. She had liked him immediately. Paige was still smiling when she said hello. 104
Swindling Nomads “It’s Dax,” he said in greeting. He still wondered if Paige was avoiding him. He had worked late the night before and she was fast asleep when he climbed into bed. When he woke this morning, she was already gone. He knew he should never have let Carmen deal with the problem. Now, he had no idea where he stood with the aggravating, stubborn woman. “Hey,” Paige pulled to the side of the road. This might be a long call and the next house was only two doors down. “Can you meet me somewhere?” Dax asked. “We’re leaving in two hours and I need to talk to you before I go.” “I’m working,” Paige said, still angry about the entire situation. “Paige?” Dax sighed. “Please.” “I need to make one more stop,” Paige decided. “If you can give me twenty minutes, I can meet you at the park on Main Street.” “I’ll be waiting at one of the picnic tables,” Dax agreed. “Thanks.” “See you in about twenty,” Paige disconnected and wondered what this was all about. She continued to sit there for another five minutes, trying to push the frustration and resentment away before she met with her next potential victim. Then, she put the car in gear and pulled into Maxine Taylor’s driveway. Dax was already there waiting when Paige pulled into the park. She was late, it took longer to get the story from Maxine than it should have. Bottom line, they were too late. Maxine had already been scammed out of three thousand dollars. She didn’t tell anyone because her ex-husband was taking her back to court, hoping to get full custody of their children. Maxine was worried that being the victim of a con would make her vulnerable. She wasn’t willing to risk it, not while she was dealing with the pending trouble from her ex. They had another victim, but she was an uncooperative one. Maybe Jericho could talk some sense into her. Paige would ask him once she made it back to the office. She pulled into the spot next to Dax’s truck and headed for the table where he sat waiting. She was fifteen minutes late and he probably arrived early. “Sorry.” “It’s fine,” Dax stood, watching Paige’s reaction closely. She stopped abruptly but didn’t step away, didn’t retreat from his presence, that must be a good sign. “Like you said, you’re working.” 105
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 “What did you need to talk to me about?” Paige asked hesitantly. Dax moved forward and pulled her into his arms. He pressed a kiss to her forehead then shifted so he could look her in the eyes. “Are we okay?” Paige shrugged. “Sure.” “Paige, are we okay?” he asked again. “I don’t know,” Paige admitted. “I’m...” how to finish that sentence? “I know I didn’t handle things the right way last night,” he began. “I...” “You handled things the way you always do,” Paige disagreed. “You told me what you’re going to do. I’ve been briefed on the plan.” “Maybe that’s the problem,” all the things Carmen had said to him the night before flooded his mind. He studied her face but still couldn’t tell what she was thinking. “I’m in love with you,” he finally whispered. “Yeah, I know. It terrifies me, too. But there it is. And I’m honestly not sure what to do about it. I just know I do love you. It was the only thing I kept thinking, while I was lying there on that cold concrete floor, while I was leaving the message in code on the wall hoping you and Zee would find me, while I was running through the woods and again while I was lying on the cold, hard ground with a gunshot wound. I just kept thinking, ‘I’m in love with Paige Carter and she’s never going to know how I feel.’ Then, I got out of the hospital and I couldn’t admit it. I kept waiting, thinking I would know when... or I guess I should say if, you ever felt the same way.” “Why are you saying it now?” Paige was worried he was telling her he loved her because he didn’t know if he was going to make it back this time, and that thought terrified her. “Because I needed to,” Dax shrugged. “I need you to know how I feel about you and I need to know we’re okay. I need you to know I’m going to Arizona because I have to, not because I want to. I need you to know you are just as important to me as Zee. I need...” “I know,” Paige sighed. “And if you haven’t figured out that I love you, too...”
She didn’t finish because Dax pulled her close and kissed her, a long and somewhat desperate kiss. When he finally came up for air, he didn’t release her. Instead, he pulled her closer and held on tight. “I should have told you that sooner, but I didn’t know how. The timing seemed to be all wrong.” His ribs were killing him, he must have pulled something 106
Swindling Nomads the day before while he was searching for the package Ahmed had come to deliver. He wouldn’t tell Paige that though. It would only make things worse and he didn’t want her to worry. “I have to leave today. I hope you understand why I have to do this.” “I do,” Paige took a step back then moved to sit on top of the picnic table. “It’s Zeus, you have to go. And, once I got over my annoyance that you were telling me the plan instead of working together to come up with a plan, I accepted that. I just don’t like knowing that I have no say. I don’t like feeling like we’re two people living our own lives, separately but together.” “I don’t like that feeling, either,” Dax settled onto the table next to her. “I know I’m guilty of leaving you out of the planning. But do you realize how often you do the same to me?” “Carmen was pretty clear last night when she pointed that out to me,” Paige bumped shoulders with Dax. “Is that why you’re so enlightened this afternoon? Did Carmen have her learn to be partners talk with you before you guys finished for the night?” “She did,” Dax smiled. “Guess it worked. She gave me the ‘I know you love her so stop trying to deny it’ speech.” “My friend isn’t exactly subtle,” Paige smiled. “We’re fine, Dax. I understand why you have to go. I’m just frustrated with the timing. I wish I could help. I wish I could go with you, but I can’t. I’ve already found two additional victims this morning. These guys are working fast and if I don’t catch them soon, they might vanish, just pack up and move on to the next town before I can stop them. Then, there’s the burglary that Gage is working.” “Why do you need to be there?” Dax wondered. “Why does it bother you that I’m running an Op and you’re stuck here doing your job?” “Well,” Paige stared at the empty ball field. “When you put it that way, it sounds kind of ridiculous even to me.” “This is my job, Paige. It’s what I do best,” Dax assured her. “I realize you don’t know that. I mean, all you’ve seen me do is rehabbing — in more ways than one.” “You’ve been working with Nathan,” Paige disagreed. “Somehow, I keep forgetting that. And, he’s impressed with your talent and experience. I guess I know you’re good at this. I just worry that’s all. I don’t know what you’re walking into. I don’t know how many men you’re going to be up against; and I just feel like you’d be safer if I had your back.” 107
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 Dax smiled. “I probably would be, but my men will have my back. Can you try to trust me? I know what I’m doing, and after going over the satellite images and the other Intel Carmen dug up, I’ve handled worse in my sleep. These guys are not as sophisticated as we originally believed. In fact, I don’t think those men are ex-military. I think Reynolds is using an amateur security firm. We’ve got this covered. I’m more worried about Thor, truth be told.” “You think he’s muscle for Reynolds?” Paige frowned. She still didn’t believe that, not completely. “I’ve always trusted my men, completely. Now, I don’t know what to believe.” “You’ll figure it out,” Paige said knowing it was true. “Now, I have one more stop I need to make before I head into the office to check in with the boss. And, you need to run through the plan one more time before you hit the road.” “You know me well,” Dax stood and gave her another kiss. “I’ll miss you.” “Me, too,” Paige admitted. “Be careful and call me, okay? I need to know you’re alright. And Carmen is anxious to hear anything you can tell her about Zeus. She’s more stressed about this than she lets on.” “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Dax promised before he climbed into his truck and drove away. Paige watched him as he pulled onto the highway. She continued to watch as he slowly disappeared. She was glad she’d taken the time to meet with him, but now... she needed to get back to work. She was so preoccupied as she approached the next home on her list that she almost didn’t see the man climbing into his truck. She smiled and slowed, allowing the mysterious drifter time to pull in front of her. She’d check on the resident later. Right now, she was going to follow the sixty-something vagabond and see where he went. She left plenty of space between them as she maneuvered through town. They made the turn onto the canyon road and it only took Paige a few minutes to realize they were headed into the wilderness. So, this gypsy was camping out in the back country. Kind of seemed cliché to her but, to each their own.
They had just left the paved section of the roadway when her phone began to ring. She reached out and answered it, never taking her eyes off the truck ahead. “Paige,” Jericho said impatiently. 108
Swindling Nomads “Hey, boss.” “Where are you?” he demanded. “You should have been back hours ago.” “I’m nearly finished with the interviews,” she advised. “I found two additional victims and was on my way to the last home on the list when I spotted my suspect. I’m following him as we speak. We’re headed up the canyon. I’ll let you know when he lands.” “Be careful,” Jericho warned. “Gage is still up there looking for that truck. If you run into trouble, call him. I’d head up there myself; but the mayor called. He’s demanding a meeting. Apparently, he wants answers.” “I have one for him,” Paige offered. “I’m not sure I dare ask,” Jericho smiled. “Tell him to hire Havi full-time,” Paige provided. “Tell him, if he had taken your advice and brought on another deputy, we would have been able to staff the graveyard shift adequately and the kids may have been caught in the act.” “I’m not sure it’s wise to poke the bear when he’s angry,” Jericho grinned. “That’s the perfect time,” Paige disagreed. “Poke him hard and then walk away with the honey. We need Havilland and he knows it. Gotta go, I’ll check in later and let you know what I found.” “Be careful, Paige,” Jericho said again before disconnecting. Paige held back so the driver in front of her wouldn’t realize he was being tailed. He had to know the vehicle behind him was a police unit — it was well-marked. Even if he had missed the markings on the side, he had to notice the large light bar prominently displayed across the top. She was trying to hold back, to make the man think she was just doing routine patrol in the area. If she didn’t make any overt movements, it might work. They traveled up the steep gravel roadway for several miles. Paige was beginning to wonder if he was taking her on a wild goose chase but as they neared Skyline Drive, his vehicle started to slow. Suddenly, he took a turn onto a dirt road. She stopped at the bottom and waited. She knew this trail. It was a dead-end that led to a large camping area in a meadow. When she was sure he was well on his way to his temporary home, she made 109
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 the turn and headed for the encampment. She frowned when she came around a bend and spotted Gage’s truck parked on the side of the roadway. She pulled in behind him and shut down her unit. Gage exited his vehicle at the same time she exited hers. “What are you doing here?” Paige questioned. Gage pointed toward the large camp. “Found my truck. Why are you here?” “Found my suspect,” she pointed to the man that had parked his vehicle and was walking toward the large group. “Then our cases are connected,” Gage frowned. “There are several teens living up here. I was trying to come up with a plan to weed out our burglars.” “They know we’re here,” Paige watched as the entire group stopped what they were doing and focused on the two deputies. “Let’s just go over and have a chat.” The two of them began walking towards the group. “Jericho told me about Joy,” Gage admitted. “He’s more furious than I’ve seen him in a long time.” “About that,” Paige glanced at her friend. “I get the anger on principle, but this has to be more. What’s the story there?” “It... well, it has to do with your mom’s murder,” Gage admitted. “It’s okay,” Paige pressed. “Jericho was a mess after that happened,” Gage began. “He hid it from most of the town but a few people that had always been close to him knew there was more to the story. Now, we know he was in love, but back then...” “He kept it a secret.” “Yeah,” Gage sighed. “Anyway, Margie saw how devastated he was and so did Joy. That lady took Jericho dinner every night for two whole years. She took care of him... still does, I guess.” “And, he’s upset because he feels like he didn’t take care of her,” Paige realized. “Now it makes sense.” 110
Swindling Nomads “How do you want to handle this?” Gage asked. “I want to call Forest,” Paige decided. She paused, pulled her walkie and called their local Forest Service rep. “I’ll be there in five,” Forest advised. “I’m just up the road on Skyline, but I’m not sure how I can help.” “I think they’ve been here longer than the 14 days,” Paige provided. “Can’t you just impound their vehicles for overstaying their welcome?” “They have been there longer,” Forest confirmed. “I stopped by and checked on them sixteen days ago. I could tell they had already been there for several days.” “Did you warn them about the maximum camping limit?” Gage asked over the air. “I did,” Forest advised as he pulled in behind Paige’s truck. “I’ve arrived, wait up and we’ll confront them together.” The minute Forest stepped in beside them Paige asked the question again. “Can you impound their vehicles?” “We normally just issue a ticket and insist they move,” Forest considered. “But can you?” Paige pressed. “I guess, technically I could,” Forest decided. “But these guys would fight it and we’d probably lose the case in court.” “I don’t care about court,” Paige shrugged. “I just want a chance to look at the vehicle so Gage can identify the truck as the one used in a burglary.” “Let’s just threaten them with the impound and see how things go,” Forest decided. He really didn’t want to deal with the hassle or try to justify his actions to his boss. The three officers approached the group as a cohesive unit. “I realize you told us we could only stay fourteen days,” Paige’s suspect began. “I think I was pretty clear on the rules,” Forest said in response. “Yes, you were,” a second man stepped forward. “But you see... one of the women fell ill 111
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 and she’s not up to traveling at the moment. We just need a few more days, then we can move on and you’ll never see us again.” Paige was studying each of the occupants closely. When she spotted the teen in the NFL Jersey, she grinned. “Gage?” “Yeah?” “Isn’t that the autographed Jersey you and Mark gave Mr. Duvall? The one he had hanging on his wall in his sports shop. The one that was stolen in a burglary the other night?” “Yes, Paige,” Gage grinned. “I believe it is.” Paige moved toward the kid and unsnapped the holder on her belt that contained her handcuffs. “Kid, you are under arrest.” “What is the charge,” her suspect demanded. “Possession of stolen property,” Paige said casually. She spotted another boy listening to a new iPod, ignoring the activity around camp. “Gage, cuff him as well. I believe that is the electronic device that was taken in the same burglary a few shops down from Duvall’s place.” “You know,” Gage nodded. “I think you’re right.” “You can’t just march into our home and start arresting our kids on trumped-up charges,” another of the men protested. “I bought that iPod for my son.” “I assume you have a receipt, then,” Gage inquired. “Of course not.” “Then he’s going to be transported with this one,” Paige had cuffed the kid and started for her truck. “Oh, and that guy over there,” she pointed to a male sitting in a chair away from the crowd. “He matches the description perfectly of one of the men seen leaving the scene. He’s going to have to come with us as well.”
“Unless you have a warrant, Marko will not be going anywhere,” the conman moved in front of Paige in an attempt to block her path. Forest stepped forward, thinking he would deal with the arrest, since Paige already had one in custody. “Come on, kid.” 112
Swindling Nomads The conman who had victimized at least three of the town’s most susceptible citizens moved in front of the kid and held his hand out, blocking Forest from proceeding. “You don’t want to do this,” Forest warned. The man took another step forward, pressing the palm of his hand against Forest’s chest in an attempt to stop the apprehension. “That is interfering,” Forest shifted to break contact. “Put your hands behind your back, sir. You are also under arrest.” “This is preposterous,” the man yelled as Forest cuffed him and gave a little push to get him moving. “The rest of you, remain where you are,” Gage advised. “You asked for a warrant, I can make that happen — on the entire camp. I think we have enough PC to convince the local DA. And when Tolman goes after a warrant, he never fails. “What’s your name?” Paige asked the kid she’d cuffed. “Johnny,” the kid grumbled. “And yours?” Paige turned to the man she’d followed up the canyon. “I don’t believe I have to answer that,” he glared at her. “I want a lawyer.” “That can be arranged once we get to the station,” Paige settled the kid inside the back seat and turned to see Gage escorting a limping young man her way. “Tell Tolman you need a warrant for his DNA. He matches the description of the kid in the video and with that limp, I think that’s enough to prove he’s a match.” “I was thinking the same thing,” Gage motioned to his prisoner. “You willing to transport this one while I contact Tolman and wait for the warrant. I’d hate to give them time to ditch the evidence.”
“No problem,” Paige turned to Forest. “You okay with that one?” “I’ll follow you down,” Forest shoved the man into his vehicle then climbed behind the wheel. On the way down the canyon, Paige called Jericho. 113
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 “I’m sending Reed up to help Gage,” Jericho decided. “Dean and Havilland are still at the races and Lovato needs to cover this afternoon. You think he’ll be okay until Logan arrives?” “I think the younger campers are star struck,” Paige decided. “They realized Gage is the famous Clayton linebacker. The adults, they’re behaving for now. It’s a good idea to send Logan in to help, but I think Gage has things under control. How did it go with the mayor?” “I walked away with honey,” Jericho laughed. “And, you said it wasn’t wise to poke the bear,” Paige grinned. “When does Havi start?” “I’ll coordinate that with his chief,” Jericho decided. “I’ll be at the station when you arrive. I want to be there when you talk to the man stealing from our most vulnerable citizens.” “See you soon,” Paige clicked off. “You do know you’re both in a lot of trouble?” The response from the back seat was silence.
***** Gage got his warrant and located the majority of the property stolen in the burglary. Two additional kids had been taken into custody, including the one with the iPod. Jericho had convinced all three victims, including the uncooperative Maxine, to come into the office and see if they could pick their scam artist out of a line-up. They all picked her bearded nomad immediately. Once he was booked and fingerprinted, Paige discovered his name. Gino Pasqual was in the system. No big surprise there. But she hit the jackpot when she located a felony warrant out of Colorado for Gino, a man named Arturo and a woman named Jasmine. They, too, were now in custody. Tolman was pleased with the results, Jericho was happy that $20,000 in cash had been recovered and would eventually be returned to the gypsy’s victims and Paige was happy she was going home on schedule for the first time in a very long time. Well, she was happy until she pulled into the drive and remembered she was alone. Dax and the team were on their way to Arizona. If her calculations were correct, they should be arriving within the hour. She just hoped Thor would cooperate and provide the answers they so desperately needed.
Swindling Nomads She had changed, poured herself a glass of wine and was pondering her options for the evening when her cell phone began to ring. “Hello, Nathan.” “How are you, kid?” “I’m fine,” Paige settled into the chair hoping her friend and mentor had time to catch up. “You?” “I’m... well, I don’t know what I am tonight,” he admitted. “What’s wrong?” Paige was instantly on alert. “Nothing’s wrong,” Nathan said slowly. “It’s just this mess with Reynolds. Your friend, Sean, uncovered the information we’ve been looking for. The ship was headed for the Mediterranean Sea, we knew that but it’s the rest that worries me.” “What did he find?” She knew Sean would figure things out. He was like a dog with a bone when he was on a case. “The drones and the weapons were going to be delivered to militants in Syria,” Nathan told her. “How did Reynolds think he could get away with that?” Paige wondered. “Why would he even try? That’s... treasonous.” “I think he’s in trouble,” Nathan said in response. “Financially, I mean. It’s the reason he was trying to sell that property where Nessar was killed and Dax was rescued. He was counting on the new contract, for the drones. I think he was just hedging his bet, so to speak.” “At the expense of American soldiers?” Paige said in disgust. “There is no excuse he could give that would justify his actions.” “I agree,” Nathan said wearily. “He’s not the man I thought he was. He’s not the friend I thought I knew.” “I’m sorry for that,” Paige realized Nathan was upset over the discovery. He had befriended Reynolds, had vouched for him – more than once – and he was now realizing just how drastically he’d misjudged the man. “Is Sean staying in New Orleans or will he go to Chicago to help with the murder investigation?” They still hadn’t caught the man who 115
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 actually killed Brian, a good Chicago cop who was ambushed doing his job. “I’m sending him to Chicago,” Nathan told her. “He wants to help the locals out there get justice for their man and I think it’s a good idea. I can always call him away if I need him.” “I agree,” Paige wondered if she should mention Dax. “I hear your man and his team are headed to Arizona,” Nathan switched topics. Well, that answered that. “He is. He’s hoping he can get some answers from Thor. I can call you if you want. Once I hear from him, I can let you know what they find.” “I’d appreciate that,” Nathan relaxed. “Now, tell me about your day. Catch any bad guys?” “Actually, I did.” Paige proceeded to tell Nathan about the case with the nomads. They talked for over an hour and when she hung up, she was feeling better. Nathan could always do that, cheer her up when she was feeling down. But, now what? It was too early for bed and she was too hyped to relax in front of the television. An idea hit her; and she went upstairs to grab her shoes. An hour later, Paige was studying the small metal box that she found attached to the underside of her front porch. It had to be the information Dax was looking for. The question was, what to do with it now that she had it. The doorbell rang and she jumped in surprise. Who could be visiting her this late at night? She shoved the box under the couch and moved toward the window, snatching her service weapon off the couch as she went. She peeked out the window and relaxed. Carmen. “I was bored,” Carmen advised. “And, I’m jumpy and impatient. I want to know if they found Zeus already and I know, logically, they haven’t even arrived. The waiting is killing me.” “Me too,” Paige admitted. “I need to show you something. Lock the door and have a seat.” Carmen frowned. Her frown turned to open curiosity when Paige pulled a metal box from under the couch. “What is it?” “I think it’s the Intel Ahmed left for Dax,” Paige admitted. “What should I do with it?” “Well, duh,” Carmen jumped to her feet. “We open it and take a look inside.” “But,” Paige moved into the kitchen and set the box on the table. “If it makes you feel better, just say you turned it over to a member of Porter’s 116
Swindling Nomads top-secret intelligence committee. That would be me. Now, open it already,” Carmen insisted. Once Paige pried open the box, they realized it contained a flash drive. “Should we plug it in?” “Absolutely,” Carmen jumped to her feet and started for the door. “Wait for me, I want to do this on my computer. It’s safer and it will be secure. Then, we call Nathan and report what we find.”
***** The team had just left the freeway, headed for the cheap motel when Dax’s phone began to ring. He was now riding shotgun; Hawk had taken over the driving about an hour before. He glanced at the display, expecting Paige or Nathan. He was wrong. “Hello, Thor. We’ve been looking for you.” “I need your help,” Thor told him. He just hoped he was doing the right thing. He’d spent two whole days trying to find a way inside. Trying to come up with a plan to rescue Zeus and Camille without calling in the team. He finally had to admit, it was impossible. He needed help. “With what?” Dax asked, hating that even that request made him suspicious. “I know it’s asking a lot, but can you meet me in Arizona?” Thor worried Dax wouldn’t come. “And bring the team with you. We need to rescue Zeus... and Camille.” “Camille?” Dax sat up straighter. “As in Vato’s sister Camille?” “Yes,” Thor affirmed. “I’ll tell you everything once you get here.” “Well,” Dax said flatly. “You’re in luck. We’ll meet you at your motel in twenty minutes.”
“I knew Carmen was good,” Thor realized she had traced his phone when he tried to contact Vato. “I just didn’t realize how good. I guess I’ll see you in twenty.” “That was odd,” Hawk said when Dax disconnected. “You think he’ll bolt?” “No,” Dax considered. “We should be ready for a trap, but I think he was sincere. He 117
Paige Carter Season 3—Episode 4 sounded desperate. I believe he does need our help to rescue Zee. The question I want answered is how did they capture him in the first place.” “I’d like to know that, too,” Wooly straightened in the backseat. “But I’d also like to know why Thor is avoiding us. He should have called us before he tried to call Vato. The man is half-way around the world on assignment. What is Thor up to?” “That’s the million-dollar question,” Jeeves mumbled. “Hopefully, we’ll find out in about,” he glanced at his watch, “fifteen more minutes.” “Hope springs,” Hawk said as he took a turn onto the road that housed the motel.
***** “Paige,” Nathan said in answer. “I didn’t expect to hear from you again tonight.” “We found something,” Paige advised. “Carmen has analyzed it and she wants to send you some files. We need to know if she should use the secure network you set up or something else.” “What did you find?” Nathan was now alert. This was important. “I located the flash drive Ahmed was trying to deliver to Dax,” Paige told him. “It has topsecret video. Training exercises that show our drones are faulty. It also shows how to disable them or how to gain control and use them against us. I have clear evidence our enemy has done that on more than one occasion. There are other files, but some of it is in code. I think Dax could probably decipher it, but he’s not here. I mean, Ahmed was bringing it to him, he has to know how to read it... right?” “Tell Carmen to use the folder I set up for her,” Nathan advised. “The one only the two of us can access. I’ll study the material and decide how to handle it from there. Give me a day or two. This ties Reynolds into far more than I originally believed. There are only a few, carefully selected and high-level individuals that know the problems our drones are having. It’s the reason the Pentagon pushed for full replacement months ago. We’ve kept the flaws close to the belt so they couldn’t be used against us by our enemies.” “And Reynolds knew,” Paige realized. “Because he was competing for the contract to replace them.” 118
Swindling Nomads “Exactly,” Nathan sighed. “You can tell the team about this if you need to but nobody else. I need to formulate a plan, but we need to give the men time to deal with Arizona first.” “Why do I think you know more about this mission in Arizona than I do,” Paige grumbled “Paige,” Nathan sighed. “I know more about everything than you do. It comes with age. I’ll call you in a day or two with a directive. Thanks for calling me immediately and goodnight.” Paige went to bed feeling lonely and depressed. Dax hadn’t called. Did he get to the motel okay? Was Thor there when they arrived? Was he cooperative or combative? She tossed and turned for hours before she finally drifted into a restless sleep. The phone rang at one in the morning. It was Dax and he had a lot to tell her. Once he finished filling her in on Zee, Vato’s sister Camille, and Thor’s version of Vato’s involvement, she took over and filled him in on finding the flash drive and what she and Carmen had found inside.