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Connections eMagazine

May 2019

Message from the Editor The Purpose of this eMagazine is to connect readers and bloggers with authors. This is a FREE seasonal magazine that is produced quarterly. I hope you’ll take the time to look around. There are some amazing authors, great promos and tons of free stuff included in this edition.

"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure

Island." – Walt Disney

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Subscribe Lesley-Ann Jones... Meet Lesley-Ann Jones; the acclaimed biographer of Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and Marc Bolan. Her debut memoir ’Tumbling Read more... Dice’ is startling, funny and agonizing.

Click pictures and images throughout the publication for Additional information


Blogs | Stories •

“The person who deserves most pity… is a lonesome one on a rainy day who doesn’t know how to read.” – Benjamin Franklin

Paige Carter

Haunted Restaurant in Fort Erie, Onterio—The old Bank Bistro

Battery Bob

Winter Spirit

Silence is Golden

I Saw Her: A short Story

Hot Deals — .99 Cents Author Tips and Tricks

The Moon-la luna– stirring the soul

Free Books

Why Review?

My Books are gonna get me divorced Short Stories: Why I write them What Are the Odds on That?

The Sign of the Dragon

Out of Control


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EDITOR... Melanie P. Smith

PRODUCED by… MPSmith Publishing

Melanie P. Smith

Fussy Librarian

Sarah Stuart

Mom’s Favorite Reads

DM Wolfenden

Jennifer Reynolds

Cate McKoy

Penny Luker

Yvonne Glasgow

Paulette Mahurin

Rhonda Hopkins

P.A. Rudders

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LESLEY-ANN JONES ‘Because journalists are human too …’ TUMBLING DICE, the debut memoir by the Sunday Times Bestselling author of ‘’Bohemian Rhapsody: The Definitive Biography of Freddie Mercury’

The Gloria Gaynor of the written word, she survived not only the toughest street on Earth and near-fatal illness but also life-changing divorce, culminating in the killing of her lawyer. TUMBLING DICE offers, at its heart, the evolving psyche and growing awareness of a green-gilled hack on a quest for exclusives and a thrilling lifestyle, but essentially, of course, for love.

Read an in-depth interview in Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine

For further information, review copies, interviews or to commission features:

laj@lesleyannjones.com @LAJwriter #TumblingDiceBook

In this startling, funny and agonizing book, Lesley-Ann Jones relives the glory days and walks again on the wild side with tears, laughter and a whole lotta love.

Lesley-Ann was both the glamour and the guts of rock journalism. No one got closer to the story, nor nearer to the core of a crazy time. She was there and she was all there. – Robert Elms, broadcaster, BBC Radio London

www.lesleyannjones.com


Available via...

- amazon.com - amazon.co.uk - lesleyannjones.com


This is the definitive biography of Freddie Mercury. Written by an award-winning rock journalist, LesleyAnn Jones toured widely with Queen forming lasting friendships with the band. Now, having secured access to the remaining band members and those who were closest to Freddie, from childhood to death, Lesley-Ann has written the most in depth account of one of music's best loved and most complex figures. Meticulously researched, sympathetic, unsensational, the book will focus on the period in the 1980s when Queen began to fragment, before their Live Aid performance put them back in the frame. In her journey to understand the man behind the legend, Lesley-Ann Jones has travelled from London to Zanzibar to India. Packed with exclusive interviews and told with the invaluable perspective that the twenty years since Mercury's death presents, Freddie Mercury is the most up to date portrait of a legendary man. From mod folk artist to flower power pixie elfin to the king of glam rockers, Marc Bolan was the ultimate chameleon. His farreaching musical and stylistic influence is more relevant today than ever with hits such as 'Ride A White Swan', 'Children Of The Revolution', 'Get It On' and 'Hot Love' as fresh and exhilarating as when first released. At the peak of his popularity during his lifetime Bolan was outselling Jimi Hendrix and The Who, and yet relatively little is really known about the hypnotic, enigmatic 20th century boy turned 21st century icon. At last, in the 35th anniversary year of his tragic death, Marc Bolan represents the definite biography. Here rock biographer, Lesley-Ann Jones, paints a meticulous portrait of the T-Rex front man. From his childhood growing up in Hackney to his untimely death at the age of 29, Bolan's life was one of relentless experimentation and metamorphoses. Hallucinogenic drugs, wizardry and levitation, alcoholism, tax evasion and a spectacular fall from grace were to punctuate his short life, as he continued to strive to reinvent himself and his music over and over again. Lesley-Ann has been granted access to those who knew Bolan best, including his partner and the mother of his only son, Gloria Jones and his brother, Harry Feld.


It was almost impossible to be at a gig, party, reception or other rock-related shindig from the late ’70s, ’80s and beyond without seeing Lesley-Ann. She was everywhere, and seemed to know everyone, from rock stars to hotel doormen. I remember once, at the infamous Sunset Marquis hotel in Hollywood, wondering if LAJ was in town, only to have her suddenly appear from behind a large potted palm at breakfast. LAJ lived, loved and breathed rock’n’roll, and brought the extraordinary stories she uncovered, and was often a part of, to Fleet Street with the skill and confidence of a true insider. Smart, tireless, indefatigable but always with a maverick’s smile on her face, Lesley-Ann Jones might be the closest to a rock’n’roll legend that newspapers have ever produced. Martin Townsend, former Editor, Sunday Express.

Brilliant, unputdownable, a tour de force. The best book about celebrities that I have ever read. I wish I’d written it. Simon Napier-Bell, rock manager, the Yardbirds, Marc Bolan, Wham!, Sinead O’Connor, George Michael. In the world of celebrity journalism, Lesley-Ann Jones can confidently claim to be an A-lister herself, with a reputation and a glamour to match many of the stars she’s encountered. She’s shared their fast jets, luxurious hotel suites and VIP booths, kept a few of their secrets and spilled a lot of others. The golden era she chronicles in her thrilling memoir has been largely lost to social media and smartphone journalism. Between the covers of ‘Tumbling Dice’, however, it’s still Access-AllAreas: to their lives, and to hers. Sarah Oliver, journalist, Mail on Sunday. Searing, raw, vivid, compelling! ‎This is as real and as outrageous as memoirs get. Jones's account of celebrity journalism, Fleet Street during its heyday and some of the biggest scandals of the age is 100% accurate, and all too true. I know: I was there. I worked with her. The way in which the author sets these explosive revelations against her own sometimes devastating private life is shocking and heart-breaking. Do yourself a favour and read this book: all human life is here. Stuart White, former US Editor, News of the World, and best-selling author of 'Death Game' and 'Kiss of the Angel'.


A unique portrait of the globally revered artist and the extraordinary, complex man behind the legend.

His music thrilled the generation it was written for, and has entertained and inspired every generation since.

'Through several interviews with Bowie she evocatively portrays his fascinating life, often with a tenderness you wouldn't expect.' Daily Express

HERO: DAVID BOWIE is an intelligent exploration of the man behind the myths and the makeup told from the very beginning. Respected music journalist and biographer Lesley -Ann Jones knew David Jones from the days before fame, when he was a young musician starting out, frustrated by an industry that wouldn't give him a break and determined to succeed. Here she traces the epic journey of the boy from Bromley born into a troubled background to his place as one of the greatest stars in rock history. Jones has interviewed numerous friends and associates of Bowie, many of whom have never spoken publicly about him before. Drawing on this new material and meticulous research, the real story of Bowie's family background is told; the true inspiration behind the creation of Ziggy Stardust is revealed, and we learn how his marriage to Angie ended in agony following his comeback from a near fatal drug addiction. Jones also revisits Bowie's tragic relationship with his brother and his deep bond with T Rex frontman Marc Bolan. Bowie's rebellious nature, his many sources of inspiration and creativity, and his complex, intense personality are discussed here, creating a unique and compelling portrait of an extraordinary man. This is Bowie as you've never seen him before.

'An intriguing book. This is a personal friendship in writing. The knowledge divulged here is an endearing and powerful tale of a man who conquered the entire entertainment industry with his creative force.' Variety


Author | Photographer | Adventurer


Paige Carter is a police procedural series. A new episode is published each month starting in April of each year with the season finale occurring in December.

In Progress

Season 4 has now begun and is available exclusively on my website. Subscribe to my blog to receive an email each time a new episode is posted.

Read Now... Now that General Porter and his team have neutralized the national security threat, Dax’s team of militants try to come to grips with life as a civilian. Can they go into business together and remain friends? Paige stuggles to deal with major changes in her personal life while she continues to solve local crimes. And, why is Dax keeping secrets?


Mount Haven: Thin Blue Line Book 1 Available in Audiobook, eBook, and Print When Evil finds her, will the hunters become the prey? Rowdy Cooper is a cop, born into a police family. Then tragedy strikes. Will the move to Mount Haven prove therapeutic or lethal? Bailey's on the run. So far she's been able to keep her secrets and fly under the radar. Will that all change now that there's a new sheriff in town? She loves Mount Haven but is it time to run...again?

Buy eBook Audio Sample

Audiobook


NEW RELEASE Imprinted Lorimar Shifter Series Book 1 (Novella)

Willow is looking for a new start. Gavin just wants to be left alone. When their worlds collide they get more than either of them bargained for. When two world collide‌ can they resist temptation?


Why You Should Review Books.. By Mike Billington This will sound self serving but stick with me because this really isn't about an author's desire to get more reviews for his books. It's about that small percentage of people who actually pick up a book and read it. It's about some of the reasons why they should review those books. Simply put, doing so will enrich your reading experience and will also, probably, make it more enjoyable. The reason: If you plan to review a book you'll read it more carefully. You'll take the time to know the characters, follow the narrative, examine the plot, and admire (or hate) the writer's style. But, you might say, I do that anyway. The question is, do you really? Chances are the answer to that is "no." Instead, it's much more likely that you'll blaze through a book while you're trying to cram yet one more thing into the next 24 hours. You'll skip a chapter or two, gloss over a few pages that might contain important insights into the minds of the characters but which, for one reason or another, don't seem to be interesting. Why is that? If you're an American reader - and, sadly, there are precious few of them - you've been raised on television programs in which, for example, complex crimes are committed and solved within roughly 48 minutes. You've been raised in a culture that puts a higher value on brevity than it does on content and background. We weren't taught to appreciate nuance, shading, or motivation. Instead, just like the fictional Sgt. Joe Friday of "Dragnet" fame, we were raised with the idea that story doesn't matter.


"Just the facts, ma'am," Friday intoned week after week to his television audience. What he was really saying is that motivation isn't important; that circumstances don't count. He was saying that human beings - arguably the most complex and complicated life forms on the planet - can be reduced to the ones and zeros of a computer program. And now that we live in a digital world, that mistaken belief has become all but sacred text. Twitter, Instagram, and many other forms of social media put limits on the amount of story you can tell, for example. Instead, they want you to write what amounts to a headline and then provide your cyber audience with a link to a longer article that you hope someone will actually click on and then read. But I'm here to tell you that brevity is not natural when it comes to human beings and their need for context. Their need for storytelling. The men and women who painted on cave walls understood that need. They understood at some level that it was/is important to create a narrative and not just state the bald fact that a Mammoth was killed. How was it killed? How many hunters did it take to kill it? Were any hunters injured or killed in the pursuit of the animal? How many days did it take for the hunt to be successful? The answers to these questions can be found on cave walls across Europe. It comes down to this: Life is more complicated than a series of bullet points and to fully appreciate that fact we need stories. And, just as we need stories, we need to read them carefully to understand what the writer is trying to tell us about the human condition. So, my advice to you is to write reviews of the books that you've read, or at least to read them as though you were actually going to take the time to review them. You'll get more value from the books you read if you do. And that, as Joe Friday might have said, "is just a fact, ma'am."

Mike Billington, author of "Blood Debt"

I'm the son of a Protestant minister and an engineer who spent nearly 50 years as a journalist before retiring. Since retirement I've continued writing and currently have seven books on Kindle and am working on a couple more.

Find More from Mike Billington on Goodreads... https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7827793.Mike_Billington/blog


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The Moon – La Luna – Stirring the Soul ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass’ summarised from a letter Anton Chekhov wrote to his brother, this quote has resonated with not only my writing style, but also with my love of the Moon.

The moon is paramount in The Seren Stone Chronicles and appears in different phases and forms within all three books. It’s been an inspiration to me since I was small and used to gaze up at the sky and imagine reaching for the silver globe… La Luna has been the muse for many a poet and writer and will continue to stir the soul while she sits and guards our night sky. The full moon occurs every twenty-nine and a half days, so every few years there are thirteen full moons, this extra full moon – the second in one month – is known as a blue moon, hence the phrase once in a blue moon. As the moon’s cycle is over twenty-eight days, every nineteen years we’ll have a February with no full moon, known as a black moon. I’m rather fascinated by the names of moons, and each month has a name given by the ancients to describe the manner of plants, animals, and weather during that phase.


I am equally inspired by the names given to moons that orbit our planets… All my Amaranthdragons are named after moons or myths associated with the moon. It left me with a bit of a problem when I finished rewriting my final novel in the series. A dragon named Sedna had to be renamed, because Sedna in the early 2000’s was thought to be a moon connected to the planet *Pluto, but Pluto’s demotion to a dwarf planet in 2006 meant Sedna then became a dwarf planet too instead of a moon. *Note: Pluto will always be a planet to me… Did you know that Mercury and Venus have no moons? Earth has just one: Luna. Mars has two called Deimos and Phobos. Jupiter, on the other hand, has seventy-nine moons; her biggest are named Io, Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede. Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system, larger than the planet Mercury. Europa also appears to be the best suited to finding an environment which could support life within our solar system beyond our earth. These four moons are spherical, but Jupiter’s other moons are generally rough shaped pieces of rock.


Titan is Saturn’s largest moon, she has sixty-two moons, and Titan even has its own atmosphere. Titan is huge in comparison with Saturn’s other moons, and a theory believes there may have only been two moons but one broke up possibly creating Saturn’s rings and inner moons. Saturn’s moon Mimas is its most cratered and the Herschel crater gives it a Death Star look! Uranus has twenty-seven moons which are named after Shakespearian characters: Titania, Oberon, Umbriel, Ariel, Miranda…and more. Neptune has fourteen moons and its moon Triton is as big as Pluto. I love how Shakespeare has influenced the naming of moons! So many names are associated with our own moon. The Roman’s know Luna as Diana and Juno. Artemis, Aphrodite, Selene,and Hera are Greek Goddesses, Egyptian association with Isis, Hathor, and Seshat. She is known as Sedna by the Inuits, and Shing Moon by the Chinese, and the Celts named her Morgana. I have a gorgeous teeny tiny book on the moon, which sheds light on this celestial object. This quote from the little book echoes my own romanticism of the moon: The sun pours the light of consciousness over the world; the moon reflects the opposite: the dark of the unconscious.Such a beautiful and evocative proclamation which completely echoes my own sentiments. Countless myths and legends are associated with the moon giving it an enigmatic and mystical aura, which draws us to moon gaze and contemplate. I love standing beneath it, watching and leaving the world behind.


Recently I had my first chance to watch a lunar eclipse in a clear sky. I’d researched eclipses just the day before, for the close of my trilogy, and on 21st January I set my alarm. At 11.30pm when I‘d retired for the night, the wolf moon had glistened large, a super moon close to the earth, in glorious light, and now at 4.30am it shone as a sliver, a bright crescent as the shadow of the earth moved across its surface. Within minutes the shard disappeared and the moon shone as a whole as totality swathed it deep rust red. It wasn’t long before it disappeared behind trees, but the sight of the lunar eclipse will remain with me as one of the wonders of nature. The moon is vital to the health of our planet – it rules the tides, and due to its gravitational power must have a subliminal affect over our lives too. We are made up of a high percentage of water ourselves, and where the moon influences the earth’s oceans, it’s scientifically likely it influences us and our moods too. It is said it influences poetry, emotions, intuition, energy, rain, reflections, meditations, memory, healing, plant life, farming, weather, and time. The moon, waxing and waning, evokes reverence and wonderment. How does the moon affect or inspire you? What do you love about the moon?

I love family time, walking our excitable German Shepherd, our cats, beaches, photography, art and last, but not least, writing.

You can find additional Articles on her website https://thelastkrystallos.wordpress.com/


Author Romantic Suspense

Sarah Stuart lives on the edge of a quiet English village where wildlife sightings are common, though becoming less so. She is a qualified adult literacy tutor and has written short stories, in addition to other resources, for her students. Her published articles have been in magazines dedicated to wildlife and dogs. The Royal Command series, her debut into full-length fiction, was well received. and the books have won a number of awards. Her latest series, Richard and Maria, draws on more personal life-experience, and reflects Sarah’s love and concern for animals. The books are romance, suitable for a younger audience, but suspense remains a powerful driving force. Royalties from sales and Kindle Unlimited page reads are donated to animal charities.

Three Against the World | Book 1 FREE May 10th—14th Two Face the World | Book 2 On Sale $0.99 May 10th—16th


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.

http://valtobin.com/wp/

Haunted Restaurant in Fort Erie, Onterio — The Old Bank Bistro Restaurants are great places to hunt for ghosts. When I was taking a course in mediumship in 2010, our teacher, Doreen Virtue, explained to us that some spirits like to hang out in places where people are indulging in or enjoying the things that the spirits used to enjoy. Eating and drinking are common pleasures, so restaurants and pubs are frequently haunted. The Old Bank Bistro in Fort Erie, Ontario, is one such establishment.

Image: The Old Bank Bistro in Fort Erie, Ontario Courtesy of Bob Tobin

History of The Old Bank Bistro The town of Fort Erie sits in one of the most haunted regions in Ontario. Old Fort Erie was the site of one of the bloodiest battles during the War of 1812, and Bridgeburg, where the Old Bank Bistro is located, is the oldest part of Fort Erie. The entire Niagara region has a haunted past and it is difficult to go anywhere in Fort Erie without rubbing shoulders with the ghosts of days gone by.

The Old Bank Bistro, located at 41 Jarvis St., takes its name from its origin as an actual bank. Built as the Stirling Bank in 1924 by Richard Baxter, who died in 1926, Baxter sold the bank to the Bank of Montreal. Present owner Peter Koutroulakis bought and renovated the building, opening the Bistro in 2004. Koutroulakis has found that, while the original owner may have sold the bank, he never left it.


Mischievous Ghost or Angry Tenant? When I visited the Old Bank Bistro for an investigation on April 23, 2011, with the Paranormal Investigation Society of Toronto (PIST), we found an active site with a fascinating history and probably more than one ghost. A tenant living above the restaurant reports activity in his unit. Restaurant patrons tell stories of encounters with Richard, but he is described by Koutroulakis as a friendly ghost. Certain parts of the restaurant have cold spots or can give you the feeling that someone you can’t see is nearby. The women’s washroom was one of the places where a couple of investigators (myself included) felt there was something to investigate. One of the women taking readings with an EMF meter said it was showing evidence of activity, though there was no proof that it was related to spirit activity. The Old Bank Bistro Investigation Meetup page describes incidents attributed to the Bistro ghost that would be considered attention-getting but mostly harmless: “Richard has been known to open large heavy doors, turn on the stoves, slam cupboard doors, and even move the Christmas tree across the attached apartment floor. He is often seen waiting in the lounge area, observing the patrons before vanishing from view” (Accessed January 25, 2013). The one activity that could be considered dangerous is turning on stoves. But so far, no harm has come from any of the activity there.

Go for the Ghost, Stay for the Food One of the advantages of investigating a restaurant or pub is that at some point, you can eat. We had dinner at The Old Bank Bistro and it was worth driving to Fort Erie just for the food alone. They serve steak, seafood, and Italian dishes, all of which look and smell wonderful. The only problem for me was that when I’m doing an investigation, I prefer to eat vegan, and the menu did not list any vegan dishes. But the waitress assured me that this would not be a problem. They were able to create a delicious vegan pasta dish for me that I enjoyed thoroughly.

While I didn’t get to meet Richard Baxter that night, I did get the sense that there was spirit activity there. The restaurant’s décor consists primarily of pieces from the early 1900s, and with the lights off for the investigation, it made me feel as though I might have stepped back in time, not as though Richard Baxter has stepped forward. If you are ever in the area, stop by The Old Bank Bistro and have a meal. Perhaps Richard Baxter will join you.


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DM Wolfenden No one looks for pain, but some women seem to attract it. Jolie Winter’s and her cousin, Debbie are more than family, and when you have someone that close they can sometimes lead you astray. Debbie sets Jolie up on dates with some disastrous results. Then, Debbie, gets sick, and Jolie finds herself adrift, turning back to her first love, Dave to anchor her from the storms in her life. But what good is an anchor if it’s dragging you under? And is Jolie strong enough to leave the man she thought so perfect to find a love that offers life, not death? Set in modern-day suburban Britain, Winter’s Day investigates the tough issues of love and abuse, strength and dependence. Multi-layered and emotional, it takes the reader for a roller-coaster ride of the human psyche in all its glory, drenched in gritty realism and laugh-aloud humour.

Winters Day Romance | New Release


Paige 2—Episode PaigeCarter CarterSeason : Season 2 Episode 2

Ancient Thievery

Paige stretched out on her comfortable lounge and took another sip of coffee. The sky had begun to develop that mystic hue that formed just before the sun rose over the mountain. There was still a hint of smoke in the air but at least the fire had been contained. The thunderstorm that sparked the flame in the backcountry had been brief, but the aftereffects could have been devastating. They got lucky this time. After nearly forty-eight hours of stress, anticipation and overtime, the fire was finally contained. The Fire Chief believed it would be completely out by the end of the day. On an upside... the smoke would make an already majestic display by Mother Nature, an even more vibrant and beautiful sunrise. It was just one of the many things she loved about living outside the city. Another was the quiet mornings that made her feel like she was the only person in the world at the moment. She knew she should get up, head inside and start her morning ritual before checking back on duty, but she needed a few more minutes of solitude and this last cup of coffee first. The past two days had been long and stressful. By the time she stumbled into the house last night, she thought she’d sleep like a baby. Not so much. She was worried about Jericho. He hadn’t been the same since she’d given him that letter. Initially, he refused to talk about it. Now, he was back to mysterious trips and unscheduled days off. At least this time she knew he was spending a few days at his fishing cabin. Should she stop in for the private chat she’d been needing? Maybe. Fate would make that decision for her today. If it was slow, she might head to Ephraim later this afternoon. If not… She didn’t finish that thought because her cell phone began to chime. She glanced at the screen and saw it was Dean. With a sigh, she prepared to answer... sure this call had just made the decision for her. “Hey, Dean.”

Continue Reading Pg. 94 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


Battery Bob Another taster story from my upcoming Canine Tales, Book Two in the Creature Tales collection. As can probably be assumed from the cover, many of the stories sit firmly in the blood and gore horror category, but sitting alongside them are several softer and more heart-warming ones. This is one such story … Billy Marston had been a butcher’s boy before volunteering for France. At only 15 yrs. old, he’d lied about his age to join up, not that the recruiting sergeants inquired too closely when they suspected something amiss about a barely five ft tall youth claiming to be 17. They would inwardly smile at the would-be recruit’s naivety at thinking they had fooled anyone yet admiring their decision to try. It was just the sort of courage that would be needed for what was facing them Billy wasn’t alone in doing that, so eager were most young men at the time wanting to go fight and for their country. But then, the real fighting had barely started yet, they still had no idea; everyone thought it would all soon be over and they’d be home in time for Christmas. After a mere twelve weeks’ training in some god-awful cold army camp along the South coast, Billy was passed out as ready and fit for action, a junior Gunner and assigned to an artillery battery. Mum and dad, his little sister, Ruby, and the family dog, Bobtail, were all there to see him off for his journey to France.

Although the family dog, everyone knew Bobtail was really Billy’s dog. The two had been inseparable before Billy had gone away for his basic training. In fact, Billy’s mum and dad had joked he’d miss that bloody dog more than them.


Whether that was true or not, the little terrier had whined and moped around the whole time Billy had been away and seeing him once more was the first time since the little dog appeared happy. The truth was, Bobtail had no intention of being separated again from the boy who had raised and loved him from the first day he had opened his eyes as a tiny hand-sized puppy. “Hey, boy, be home before y’know it, Bobtail,” Billy was telling the dog, stooping down on one knee to clasp his arms about him in one last hug before boarding the troop ship. Bobtail was licking at the boy’s face and hands, furiously wagging its tail just like he used to as an excited puppy before reluctantly having to give up his attentions as Billy rose to his feet. Like countless other parents that day, Billy’s mum and dad watched tearfully as their young son, still more boy than man, proudly marched across the gangplank with the last of his comrades to board the troop ship bound for the war in Europe. Billy’s parents weren’t the only ones with tear-filled eyes. Bobtail too watched anxiously, seeing the figure of his beloved master disappearing from sight. He’d already spent twelve long weeks absent the boy’s loving hugs and playful belly rubs, determined not to be so any longer… A sudden and unexpected pull of the leash that Billy’s little sister was holding him by saw the dog break free. Cheering roars of approval accompanied Bobtail’s mad dash across the gangplank just moments before it was pulled away for the ship to set sail. There was no way the captain or anyone else was going to delay the troop ship’s sailing while they searched it just to return one little dog. For better or worse, master and dog were both now bound for France … “Well, Gunner Marston, this is a fine [Expletive] mess, ain’t it boy?” the young soldier’s sergeant was bellowing at him, trying to mask his amusement with his sternest face and tone. Billy stood fixed to the spot, sure that he was more afraid of his sergeant than he would ever be of the whole German army.

Bobtail stood beside his master as if to attention too, his sorry ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ soulful brown eyes looking up at the human making all the noise. Despite the shouting, Bobtail could see kindness in the human’s eyes, sensing this was a good human beneath the stern exterior.


Sgt. Rickman looked down at the dog, their eyes meeting. He also had a dog back home and understood the bond that existed between Billy and the sorry looking dog looking back up at him. Still, he had to at least make some show of punishing the young gunner for the dog’s presence aboard the ship … “Well, Marston, if you think the ship’s crew are gonna look after yer pet mutt y’can think again, laddy!” The sergeant paused for effect … “I can tell y’now if this were a longer trip, the little fella would be fish food now!” Billy took an involuntary swallow, convinced Sgt. Rickman had some horrible punishment in mind. “Still, what’s done is done. He’ll be your responsibility. You’ll be the one feeding and cleaning up after him, and sharing your bunk and rations in case yer thought the army was gonna pay for his grub?” Relief swept over the trembling young gunner, much preferring to keep Bobtail with him than be locked up in some room out of the way. Still, all he could think to say was: “Yes, Sergeant!”

“Okay. Be on yer way then,” the sergeant huffed, and then just as Billy was about to turn away, Sgt Rickman gave him a wink, and a hint of a knowing grin before he left. A beaming smile swept across Billy’s face as he and Bobtail made their way back to the troop quarters. “Thanks, Sarge,” Billy had answered before closing the door before him, anxious to be away before the sergeant changed his mind. Sgt. Rickman sighed and shook his head gently from side to side, wondering what would become of the two of them once they got to the front. He wasn’t hopeful about their chances … They were a bit cramped in their bunks, but the boy soldiers all gave quite a cheer seeing the two of them come in. Little Bobtail had become a firm favourite among the lads, many of whom were no doubt missing their own dogs. Perhaps Bobtail was a little reminder of home for them? Needless to say, they all chipped in with scraps and titbits from their grub for the little dog that had become their unofficial mascot. Bobtail absolutely loved all the attention and fuss he was getting. Of course, he still loved Billy the best, but this was like a whole new family for him, and he loved them all.


It wasn’t long before the troop ship was docking, and they all were marched off the ship to waiting trucks for the short drive to where their real soldiering would begin.

Bobtail was clearly becoming a little agitated, the sound of guns and artillery already in earshot even before they’d boarded the back of their transport. Billy held him close, and Bobtail seemed to calm down, safely wrapped up in his master’s arms. “It’s okay boy, nothing’s going to hurt you, you’ll be safe with me, I promise,” Billy said softly, though far from sure he’d be able to keep that promise. Billy had been overjoyed to see Bobtail across the deck, but only now was he beginning to realise how much danger the little dog had put itself in by dashing aboard the ship to be with him. If it had been in his power to do so, Billy would have whisked the little dog right back home that moment. Unfortunately, it wasn’t; whatever the enemy had to throw at them, they would face it together. Billy doubted the little dog would ever be totally at ease with the sound of the guns and artillery shells, the sirens, or any of the deafening sounds of frontline warfare. He was immensely proud though of the way Bobtail was coping, no longer whining or barking at them now. In fact, Bobtail seemed to be coping a lot better than he was. Until now, Bobtail had pretty much kept out of the way other than to follow behind his master. No one seemed to mind the extra couple of feet the unofficial battery mascot took up among them in the trenches and had now taken to calling him ‘Battery Bob.’ Even a few of the officers had taken to throwing Bobtail the odd titbit from the scarce rations, grateful for the morale boost he seemed to be giving the men. After what they’d seen and done in the few days they’d been there, they had long since left their ‘boyhood’ behind them, however much they might have lied about their ages. “We need a volunteer to run a telegraph wire to our forward battery trench to coordinate our advance,” Sgt. Rickman said as he addressed his troop. It wasn’t the sort of assignment anyone wanted to volunteer for. The trench the sergeant was referring too was some three hundred yards across the field of fire of snipers and the constant bombardment of the Jack Johnson artillery shells, so called for the black billowing smoke that accompanied their detonation. A man made for too big a target running across the no man’s land, and stealthily crawling made him too slow a one, either way making for an unenviable task. Nonetheless and knowing full well the danger, Billy stepped forward … “Good lad,” Sgt. Rickman said.


In truth, Billy was the last one he wanted to volunteer. There were older and more seasoned soldiers better suited to the job, but he didn’t have time to argue and wouldn’t have been doing Billy any favourers showing him favouritism. “Pass me the wire-roll end as soon as I climb up top,” Billy told the sergeant. Unnoticed by anyone, Bobtail trotted after him as Billy edged himself up and out over the top edge of their trench before someone passed him the wooden rod to which the one end of the telegraph wire was attached. Billy’s job would be to keep hold of it while it unfurled from the wire-roll back in the trench as he crawled through the mud-soaked and barbed wire strewed land. No one had any illusions as to Billy’s chances of making it, but equally, he had to try. “Shoo, get back down, back in the trench, boy” Billy urged the little dog that had followed him up, trying to shoo him away with his hand too. For once, Bobtail ignored his master’s commands. Bobtail had seen others of the ‘family’ he’d grown to love try crawling across the no man’s land with such things … they hardly ever came back. Bobtail lunged towards him, grabbing the rod and wire between his teeth before scurrying off into the night. Being little, Bobtail was no greyhound, but he could still run and dart in and out of the tiniest holes in the ground way faster and effectively than any human could. Billy wanted to shout out to the little dog to call him back but knew that would only attract enemy fire in their direction. Sgt. Rickman too had popped his head above the parapet to see what was happening …

“What the f…?” Sgt. Rickman started to say. “I’m sorry, Sarge, he just grabbed and run off with it before I could stop him.” “It’s okay, lad, he’s going in the right direction. And honestly, he’s already got a lot farther than I thought you would, Marston,” the sergeant added, giving Billy a gentle nudge of the arm. Bobtail completed the task like a seasoned professional, darting this way and that, occasionally stopping to take cover in one of the bomb blast craters before continuing. The whole operation took less than five minutes. Through their field binoculars, Sgt. Rickman and Billy watched Bobtail make it all the way to the forward battery trench. Five minutes later they watched the plucky little pooch start on its return run, this time carrying a letters pouch, probably containing more detailed communications from their forward battery. “Good, good dog, great job, love you little fella,” was all Billy could blubber over and over again, hugging and stroking Bobtail the moment he landed practically in Billy’s arms from jumping back down into the trench. Sgt Rickman took the letters pouch from around Bobtail’s neck to take them to the officer in command. From that moment on, Bobtail was regarded as much a part of the artillery battery as any human soldier, a canine combatant that had won the hearts and admiration of its comrades.


* Following the latest offensive, Billy had been catapulted headlong into one of the abandoned makeshift trenches by an exploding artillery shell. Knocked unconscious by the blast, Billy just lay there for several hours, assumed to have been killed by the rest of his battery which had been forced to retreat … Billy had no idea what was washing over his face. He knew it wasn’t the poison gas, he’d either be dead or retching up his insides if it had been. “Urgh,” Billy exclaimed in mock disgust, yet he really couldn’t have been happier. He would have recognised that wet slobbering tongue anywhere, though he did have a moment of panic, wondering if he was, in fact, dead and now reunited with his beloved Bobtail in heaven? But no, the dog’s scent and smell were that of a breathing flesh and blood creature. They were both still in the land of the living, though from behind enemy lines, probably not for much longer Billy feared. He may have been alive, but the pain in his leg and blood-stained uniform was a sharp reminder their chances weren’t good. He knew he’d lost a lot of blood, and the effects of that were causing him to drift in and out of consciousness. Bobtail licked at his face for a few moments. It surprised him when a second later the faithful dog suddenly turned tail to run back in the opposite direction towards their own lines of defense. Billy was confused, though pleased Bobtail might have a chance of getting back to safety. A moment later, Billy passed out. By the end of their time at the front, Bobtail had saved dozens, possibly hundreds of lives from his many runs between the trenches and across enemy territory, carrying vital information, and locating wounded soldiers. Bobtail hadn’t deserted Billy in running back to the battery trench. As he’d done many times before by now, Bobtail had been sent out to use his acute sense of smell to try and find the wounded Billy in case he was still alive. Bobtail hadn’t failed and led Billy’s comrades right to him before their return to the UK to treat Billy’s injuries.

* Bobtail had no idea what all the fuss was about, other than he couldn’t remember being happier, having so many lovely people patting him, giving him treats, and smiling. He wasn’t so impressed with being plonked on a podium and some human he didn’t know placing a ribbon about his neck. Some metal thing was hanging from it too, but Billy seemed okay with it given the beaming smile and look of pride across his face.


If Billy was happy then so was he, though he was tempted to pee over the other human’s arm to show his annoyance. Thankfully he didn’t. “In honour of the brave actions of Bobtail, also known to his many friend and comrades as Battery Bob.” At that point, there was a spontaneous roar of laughter and approval from many of Billy’s and Bobtails’ comrades from the frontline. Bobtail gave a loud bark too, his tail wagging furiously in sync with his persistent yapping. This was Bobtail’s moment, and Colonel Smythe who had been giving the speech wisely allowed the crowd their moment … Smiling and giving a gentle rub and pat of Bobtail’s head before continuing: “I take immense pleasure in having presented our canine hero here with this medal for bravery in having saved innumerable lives and to express how proud and grateful to him we all are.” The villagers and crowd cheered their agreement. Amid the cheering, Sgt. Rickman shouted in his loudest and most terrifying Drill Sergeant voice, “Three Cheers for Battery Bob.” After several rounds of ‘Hip Hip Hoorays,’ Colonel Smythe concluded his speech with six simple words … “Battery ‘Bobtail’ Bob, we salute you.” ***

https://rudderswriting.com


By Penny Luker Her first thought, when she awoke from the long sleep, was for her son. He was in danger. He was nearly eighteen and due to inherit his trust fund. Shirley knew she must get to him quickly and warn him. She looked around her. Snow lay on the ground, three inches deep, but she wasn’t cold. There was an old man kicking a ball against the side of a gravestone. Perhaps he looked a little bored, but he glanced her way and nodded. He seemed affable enough and the fear from the strangeness of her surroundings ebbed. The light from the moon cast a silvery glow, which made everyone seem ethereal. She laughed silently to herself. Most people were heading for the lych gate, so she followed the increasing crowd, leaving the man pounding his ball against the solid marble headstone. She wandered down the hill, away from the church and through the village, past the shops and the school, to the quiet lane where she lived. It was chocolate box pretty, with the white covered houses and trees. The large Georgian house that had once been her home, had lights blaring and seemed to be calling her onwards. As she drew closer she could see the light came from downstairs, which suggested that Gerald was still up. She automatically went to the front door but of course it was shut. What could she do? He wasn’t going to answer the door to her. Creeping quietly up to the window she peeped inside. There he was sitting, asleep in the armchair, with his mouth open and his legs splayed. On the nearby table was a tumbler of the whisky he loved so much. It seemed as though nothing had changed, but how was she going to get in? She looked down at her clothes. The pale blue silk pyjamas were what she’d been wearing the last time she saw him, not her best dress that they’d placed on her for the long sleep. So could living spirits walk through glass, she wondered? Now was the time to find out. She drew herself up to her full height, gathered her courage and walked straight through the window. She’d expected to feel some resistance, or some sensation of substance, but there was none. Her mood lifted a little but she knew she must reach her son. An image of the old man from the graveyard, kicking the ball – with the timing of a grandfather clock, flashed through her mind.

She made her way upstairs and found her son, Robert, fast asleep on his bed. The room was its usual mess – a sort of organised chaos. His guitar was carefully propped up by a chair and there were clothes spilling over from the laundry basket. The only difference she could see, was there was a picture of herself, stuck to the wall with blue-tac. Shirley watched him as he slept and all the love she felt for him surged through her. Death didn’t kill love, she thought. That was good to know. Suddenly his eyes sprang open and he sat up with a start.


With the quickness of youth, which she envied, he spoke. ‘Mum, I’ve so missed you. Is it you? How did you get here?’

‘Oh I’ve missed you too my darling Robert, but I have a feeling that we haven’t much time. I’ve come to warn you. I think you’re in danger. I don’t know exactly how he did it, but your stepfather poisoned me. I thought he loved me, but he just wanted our money. On your birthday you will inherit some money from me and he’ll want it, if he hasn’t already spent it. You must leave.’ ‘What old Gerald, I’m sure I can handle him, although now you mention it, he’s getting me to sign some papers tomorrow. He said it’s so the trust fund can be transferred to me.’ ‘Robert you must leave now. If you don’t sign, we don’t know what might happen.’ Robert looked thoughtful. ‘I wondered why we weren’t using a solicitor.’ He threw his legs out of bed and stood up towering over Shirley. ‘I wish I could hug you,’ he said, ‘but you’re looking a bit translucent.’ ‘You know I would give you a bear hug if I could, but we mustn’t waste time. Please pack a bag and go to your Aunt Cathy. She’ll look after you. Will you do that for me?’ Robert looked a bit exasperated, but he picked up a back pack and started loading clothes, both clean and dirty into it. ‘I’ll go to Dad’s. I’m seeing a lot more of him these days. He’s really sorry, well, about… you. And he’s made it clear that he wants to be in my life and be there for me. I’ll be safe there.’ Shirley thought about his dad. There was still a little part of her that loved him, even after he’d gone off with the glamorous Gloria, from the finance department. She looked a little less glamorous nowadays, with two children under three, Shirley thought, surprised she could still feel bitchy about her. She liked the fact that even in death, she was still herself. Yes Robert would be safe there. His dad would look out for him. ‘Good idea. I’d say send him my love, but he’d think you were mad.’ She smiled and Robert gave her his lop-sided grin. ‘Now we must be quiet going out or we’ll wake Gerald.’


‘No need to worry about that. He’s drinking really heavily these days. He never wakes up until about four in the morning. I hear him banging up the stairs to go to bed.’ Robert put the bag on his back, adjusted it, picked up his precious guitar and they started down the stairs. As they were going past the living room, where loud snores were emanating, Robert whispered, ‘What poison did he use to kill you?’ ‘He used my heart pills. He must’ve ground them up and put them in that curry we had the night I died. I can’t think of any other way. I’m not absolutely sure how, but it was definitely my pills.’ Robert placed his guitar and bag by the front door and quietly made his way back to the living room. Gerald’s computer was on and he was logged into Facebook. Robert looked over to her smiled, typed a short message on the laptop and pressed send. The rasping snores continued uninterrupted from the armchair. Shirley quietly studied Gerald and noticed that he’d put on a lot of weight. He really did look out for the count. She’d thought he was her knight in shining armour, picking her up from the depths of despair after Roberts dad had left her for a younger woman. He’d been so kind and attentive, but she realized now he’d had his own agenda and ambitions. The clues had all been there. He liked the best whisky, expensive cars, dining out and spent money at a rate far beyond his earnings. There was no point in dwelling on her lack of insight. When Robert went to leave, she said, ‘Be safe my lovely son. Have a wonderful life and know that you are loved so much.’ ‘Are you staying here, mum? Why would you want to stay.’ ‘I think I should say good-bye to Gerald. Don’t you?’ she gave Robert a cheeky laugh. ‘Yes,’ he grinned. ‘I may just take a gander through the window. At least he can’t hurt you any more.’ The closing of the front door awakened Gerald. He looked around him and took another swig of whisky. Shirley drifted around the room and hovered within his sight until he noticed her. She’d have rather been dressed up, than in her pyjamas, but it didn’t matter now. She wasn’t trying to seduce him. ‘What the devil!’ he said. ‘Good evening, Gerald, I guess you weren’t expecting a visit from me.’


‘How did you get in?’ ‘Through the window. It was actually quite easy. Are you missing me Gerald? Shall I come and visit you every night?’ ‘You always were a troublesome bitch. This is my house now. You don’t own anything, any more now do you? And dear lofty Robert is going to sign over control of his money to me tomorrow, which is a good thing. I won’t have to get rid of him. He doesn’t cost too much. He’s normally off playing his bloody guitar with some band or other. Now why don’t you go back where you belong. Get out of here,’ he said grabbing the arm of the chair and trying to stand up. ‘Now that’s not very friendly. You promised to love me, but I guess that was all a lie. I’m such a bad judge of people. You just wanted my money. What a shame you didn’t ask. I’d probably have given it to you.’ ‘Yes, you really are so stupid, but I’d still have been saddled with you and I wanted a fresh start; a chance to meet someone young and fit. Besides I didn’t want to be grateful to you for the rest of my life. Thank you for the meal, darling. Thank you for the car,’ he mimicked. Thud, thud thud, Shirley heard. It was the sound of the old man kicking his football. She knew her time in the house was running out. A siren could be heard getting louder, and closer, outside. It broke the total silence that only snow brings. Gerald rubbed his forehead as if he couldn’t make sense of what was going on. ‘Oh dear, have you got a headache? Too much whisky? Not enough home cooking?’ asked Shirley in an ultra sympathetic voice. ‘How tiresome for you.’ ‘Just get lost,’ Gerald muttered. There was a loud pounding on the front door. ‘I think that must be for you,’ said Shirley. ‘It could be the police. You see it would seem that you sent a message out on Facebook to all of our friends, saying how you administered poison to your wife, so that you could get your hands on her money. Confession is so good for the soul, don’t you think, Gerald. I’m so glad you owned up. I suspect the police will send somebody round to the back door as well, so I think you need to let them in.’


At that moment the door flew open and Gerald found himself surrounded by police. At the same time Shirley found that a force was pulling her back towards the graveyard, but she didn’t mind. Her son was safe and her husband would at last pay for snatching her precious years with her son. The sound of the wind swished by her, but it wasn’t icy, as it should have been. ‘I miss you,’ Robert shouted as she was was pulled backwards through the air, right by where he stood. She managed to blow him a kiss. She landed unceremoniously on the white ground near her headstone. The old man was still kicking the ball in a regular beat against his large marble stone. ‘I took the liberty of bringing you back so you wouldn’t be late,’ he called over to her. ‘You have to be back asleep before first light, or you’ll be stuck here until someone rescues you. Believe me that’s not a good thing.’ ‘I didn’t know there was a time limit, but I sort of felt there would be. Thank you for looking out for me.’ ‘No worries. I’m guessing you managed to say good-bye to your loved ones and sort out any outstanding affairs.’ ‘Yes. I think I did,’ she smiled. ‘You’re the lucky one then. You’ll be on your way to eternal life and freedom.’ ‘What about you?’ ‘I stayed out too long and I have to stay here until nature knows I’m sorry for disregarding the rules and until someone rescues me.’ Knowing that she had no idea how to help this stranger, she said, ‘Oh you poor man,’ as she reached out to put an arm round him. Surprisingly her arm didn’t go through him and she could feel his sadness. All the years of his loneliness flitted through her mind and then the world wobbled and the two spirits flew to the stars in an instant. There was no sign that anyone had been in the churchyard, except an old ball that moved occasionally with the wind. I’m writing this blog to share some of my writing. You’ll find stories, poems, reviews and updates on my books You can find additional stories on their website https://pennyluker.wordpress.com/


Shore Haven Short Stories CHILDHOOD’S END: Kayla was your typical high school student until her school closed, her family died, and the world filled with creatures she couldn’t dream of surviving on her own. She does, though, but only by doing the unthinkable.

Coming Soon

HOSTAGE: All Jason and his people wanted to do was get proof that they have a vaccine against the zombie virus to those threatening to destroy their world to keep the outbreak from spreading. But nothing ever works out as planned.

A ZOMBIE-APOCALYPSE NOVEL The citizens of America know life in a post-apocalyptic world isn’t easy and leaves little reason to rejoice. Therefore, when Samantha’s baby sister graduates from college, a trip to Liberty Island seemed like the perfect way to celebrate. Nothing could have been more wrong. Shore Haven, a newly built, self-contained refuge, was meant to be a source of security for what was left of America’s future. The compound’s founders, Jason and his uncle, Jasper, are shocked when a second, even more destructive event arises, causing them to open the facilities doors to the populace sooner than planned. Samantha, Jason, and those few who survive soon discover they have more to fear than the dead rising, as the rest of the planet is determined to keep the turned from reaching their shores…no matter the price.

Read Sample Chapters

New Release


A Shore Haven Short Story Sadie refuses to stay trapped on a zombieinfested island for the rest of her life. Every day she leaves the safety of the hotel she’d holed up in when the outbreak began to kill the turned and to find a way off the island. Every day she finds nothing but death and destruction…until one day she doesn’t.

For ten years, the people of Valeterra have watched a plague sweep across their world, killing nearly every supernatural creature in its path. As scientists from both the human world and Valeterra work on the way to stop the plague, the Valeterrian government is working on the way to repopulate their world with babies born immune to the disease.

Valeterra Series Book 1

In her thirties, single, and a bit of a bigger woman, Valerie has given up on ever finding love. She’s resigned herself to running her bookstore and growing old with only her baby sister. When a strange woman comes to her store with a story full of parallel universes, supernatural creatures, and plagues, and a proposal for how Valerie can help save Valeterra from extinction, Valerie is sure the woman is insane. Valerie’s opinion changes, though, when she loses her livelihood. Sad and angry, she throws caution to the wind and embarks on a journey that she fears will either kill her or break her heart. Jackson lost his first mate over fifty years ago. He knows his world is in peril. He knows his pack is on shaky ground, but all the alpha wants to do is wallow in his grief. When he discovers that his second mate is a human woman who is also immune to the virus sweeping Valeterra, he has some hard decisions to make. He doesn’t want a new mate. He also knows that he can’t deny his second chance at love and the first real chance his world might have at eventually recovering from so much death.

Now Available on Audio @ Aubible.com Read By Scarlett Mayson


Shifter Supernaturals | Book 1 He’s a cursed shapeshifter who’s being hunted by a witch. She’s the human caught in the crossfires. Saving his life and breaking the spell may cost both of them their lives.

Outcast Supernaturals | Book 2

She’s the outcast of her family. He’s the shapeshifter who knows why. Telling her the secret will change everything.

Captive Supernaturals | Book 3 She’s a divorcee, looking to escape her life. Casen and Bane are the men who want to love her. Max sees her death as a way to start a war. The fates have plans of their own.


Him Suspense | Thriller What do you do when you have a secret no one believes? How do you escape a life of abuse and degradation? If your only choice is to kill or die, can you take another’s life?

Alone Post-Apocalyptic When everyone you know is dying, how do you go on living? When the world collapses, how do you rebuild it? Get it now to find out how one woman gives hope to the handful of people who survive the world’s largest pandemic.

Saying Goodbye Paranormal Romance Childhood sweethearts thought they would have a perfect life together. What they didn’t plan for was the car accident that took Michael’s life and leaves Erica alone. Can they live with the sacrifices they must make in order to get back the future they lost?


If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar works on Renny deRoot’s Place… http://rennydegroot.com/


Cate Mckoy is an upstate New York native. She's a hybrid of a traditionally published/Indie author and screenwriter. She is a multi-genre fiction writer.

She also has several screenplays under her belt and a children's series for PreK third grade. She continues to write in the Romantic-suspense and Thriller genres.

Do you like heart pounding action, steamy romance, and mystery? Get it All-In-One with Cate McKoy’s multi-genre books


Coming May 2019

Lt. Rick Racuanelli, hunts the stalkers and saves the stalked


Jack Gard and Catlyn Lyte’s budding romance begins in high school. Although Jack cares for Catlyn, he refuses to get into a relationship with Catlyn because of her age. Then Catlyn is assaulted, and her world is torn apart when Jack sides with his best friend, giving him an alibi. Devastated, Catlyn flees Newburgh, NY.

Twenty-five years later, someone is assaulting and killing young, African-American women in Chief of Detectives Jack Gard’s hometown. Working against an escalating killer, Jack requests help from a special division of the FBI.


Enter Supervisory Special Agent Catlyn Lyte. She has always done her job well but is wary of working with someone she doesn't trust. Nevertheless, Sparks fly between the two officials as Catlyn puts herself in the path of their quarry. Can two ex-friends try to bury their differences to solve, not only the mystery of the Newburgh Slasher, but also the mystery that ruined their budding romance twenty-five years ago?


I Saw Her: A Short Story As much as I don’t want to frame anyone’s judgements or personal views on this story, I will say that it is based on people’s perceptions of one another and fantasies they allow themselves to indulge in. However, it is also about knowing when those fantasies end, especially for a man coveting a woman.

There she is. I saw her at the gym yesterday, running on the treadmill in front of me, long dark hair swaying side to side as she ran to the beat of an unknown song playing from her headphones. Now, here she is, waiting for the tube. My tube. I have never seen her here before. Is that strange? Could she be following me? I have never seen her face. I wonder if it’s pretty. I hear my brother’s voice in my head, letting me know that I sound ridiculous and misogynistic. What does it matter if she’s pretty? Coincidences like this just do not happen to me. She is my soulmate. As the tube breezes to a halt, she stumbles backwards. I smile and shake my head. She’s so cute. She gets on, and I board the same carriage one door down. I can tell that she is playing a game on her phone, winning. The pulse in her neck quickens. She is breathtaking. Her face is still frustratingly blocked by another commuter’s bag. She prepares to exit the tube at Marylebone. I do the same. I follow her, brushing past confused and dazed London first-timers, not even bothering to take in the latest book advertisements colouring the musty grey walls of the station. I watch her gait as she bustles along with her fellow commuters onto the escalator. Her movements are so graceful it’s intoxicating. I am so fixed on her that the blur of the faces passing on their way down does not draw me in as it usually would; I don’t concern myself with whether they’re wondering if life is really worth it, or merely what they’re having for dinner tonight. As I reach the top, I take in her body bit by bit. She’s wearing chunky black boots with a low heel, black skinny jeans with a light pink leather jacket casually slung over her shoulders and an oversized black handbag. Her hair hangs to just below her shoulder blades. I wonder what is going through her mind. Has she done anything important today? I bet that everything she does is important. Following her is exciting. I mirror her actions, taking out my Oyster card when she does, swiping through the same barrier. I walk right behind her around the coffee shop in the middle of the station, then past House of Chocolate and outside.


Not realising where she is headed, I nearly bump into her when she stops at the bus stop. She doesn’t notice the near-collision, and I take this opportunity as she turns to check the bus times on the digital board, to look at her face. It is stunning; wispy black hair framing a heart-shaped face of soft skin the shade of a perfect latte. Her eyes are two smoky quartz gemstones, reflecting the early evening sunset. She turns away to answer the phone, which I hadn’t heard ringing. I gage that she’s speaking with her mum, who she promises to visit this weekend. Her voice is gentle, but deep and controlled. A voice you would take orders from in an instant. I imagine her giving me feedback on my writing as I twirl her hair, distracting her, that lovely giggle filling the room, transforming into a whole-hearted laugh as we transcend into a tickling war. What a perfect scene. What a wonderful woman. The bus pulls up and I notice her frantically texting. We step onto the bus side-by-side, me giving her as much room as possible. I follow her up the stairs where she takes the front seat. Perhaps she is new to the city, or simply just as transfixed by it now as she was when she first arrived. The time for my bold gesture has arrived. “Do you mind if I sit here?” I hear myself ask, gesturing to the empty seat beside her. She shakes her head and smiles, moving her bag to the ledge in front of her, propping her feet up next to it. “I know that there are other seats available, but I love watching London at sunset.” She looks at me for a moment and I hope that she isn’t too put off by my boldness. “I completely agree,” she nods, “I love this city more every day, and it’s only been two years.” This personal omission takes me by surprise. “These views have been entertaining me my entire life,” I disclose. She turns again to her phone. I am about to offer to walk her home off the bus when I see the text over my shoulder. It’s from ‘Jamie’ with a little heart by the name. ‘I’ll meet you off the bus, honey. We can get takeaway tonight then… [wink face]’. I feel a lump form in my throat. “Well, this is my stop,” I tell her, pressing the button. “Have a good one,” she smiles. I get off the bus and wander aimlessly for a while. She’s not mine, I concede, and check my phone for the next bus home.

Sophie Emmy You can find additional information on her website https://romanticsrebelsandreviews.wordpress.com/author/sofieemmy/


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The Truth Finder | Book 1 This is the story of Earth in the fifth millennium

The Visualizer | Book 2 Book 1 in the Future Earth series, The Truth Finder, was Vrail’s story, and he appears again in book 2, as do many other familiar characters. However, the tale centered on the battle for the Kingdom of Light is told by Seek, and her mother, Autumn. For me, there are two tests of a good sequel. It can be read as a standalone – even if I have read the previous book, it is likely to be months ago if I have been on the lookout for the next publication – and not all readers will have read book one, and the story is equally strong. With The Visualizer, yes and yes; it’s been worth the wait for an even more captivating exploration of Earth in an all too believable post-apocalyptic future. The people live, the settings are vivid, and the machinations of the evil-doers and their motives are clear, but can Seek prevail over her own grandfather and his self-seeking wife?


The Visualizer, continues the story of Earth in the fifth millennium. It is the story of Seek, a visualizer, who can change her appearance and the appearance of the world around her. But all gifted people are vulnerable to exploitation by those in power. She is the grandaughter of the Ruler Grettison, who has been deposed from the city of Mizair. Grettison is planning war to regain his position, by attacking the people there now. Can Seek prevent the war?


I am a Scottish lassie by birth and now live in France and Suffolk. My passion is writing. Before becoming an author, I was a photographic model, modelling for a wide range of products, including Ducatti motorbikes and 7Up. I was also the vampire in the Schweppes commercial with plastic teeth.

My Books are gonna get me Divorced I love books. I collect them. What's wrong with that, huh? Nothing. But Hubby doesn’t agree. He’s “sick” of having to tiptoe through tottering towers of paperbacks to get from one side of the room to the other.

Let me explain. I'm like cat woman. I don't mean the Cat Woman, I mean the elderly neighbour who takes in abandoned cats when nobody wants them. I'm like that with books. People who don't want them bring them to me. And I can't say no. I’ve read some fascinating stories which I wouldn’t normally have chosen. For instance, this one by Auberon Waugh (Haven't heard of him? Neither had I.) The back section was mouldy, so I had to tear it off. Then I got into the story - it's really funny but because I'd removed the back pages, I now won’t know the ending. I've discovered Elizabeth Taylor (the author not the actress), South Riding by Winifred Holtby, Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay, Mr and Mrs Bridge by Evan S. Connell, and The Liars' Club by Mary Karr, etcetera, etcetera ... My books are breeding like rabbits. And I'm having to hide them from Hubby. I stack them behind curtains and in the bottom of cupboards. It doesn't help that I go to this charity emporium called Emmaus (I'm in France) and all the expats who are going back to the UK dump their books there – thousands of them. Since the French folk are not interested in English books, I have the place to myself. It's just ME! The added bonus is, the books are only 20 centimes each, so I come away with bags and bags and bags.


Last Saturday, my Hubby finally went berserk (his voice went up an octave) so I promised I would donate my books back to Emmaus. Problem is, it's not easy donating to Emmaus - it's such a rigmarole of parking, queueing, then handing your stuff to the right person. So, instead, I sidled into the book section and secretly put the books back on the shelves. (Imagine yourself going into your high street bookshop, buying up twenty books, going home, reading them and then tiptoeing back into the shop to surreptiously put them back on the shelves). I have to go. Hubby has found a cache behind the boiler and he doesn’t sound too happy... Right, I’ve just got back from “having a word”. Hubby told me the books are no joke. He said: "It’s intellectual clutter. It’s stultifying, suffocating." He said I’m like one of these eccentric old men in tartan slippers who hoard and don’t answer the door. Then, when Social Services do break in, they find him dead on the floor with his flat filled to the ceiling with piles of newspapers. Hubby’s description gave me a cold chill. Is that how he thinks of me? Is that how I'm going to end up? But I don’t want to be that old man in tartan slippers!

Does anybody want a book?

If you enjoyed this article, you can find similar articles on her website

https://www.alisonbrodiebooks.com/


Yvonne Glasgow has been a published author since 2008, a published poet since sometime on the 90s (if you don't count the poetry book I “self-published� in first grade), and a freelance/professional writer since January of 2000.

A fun children's book about taking adventures and learning about friendship


Possessive Repose

No Longer Fighting With Myself A collection of 145 poems by Yvonne Glasgow. These are a conglomeration of previously published and never-beforeseen poems. Within these pages you will find all of the poems from Yvonne’s former poetry books; ‘Fighting With Myself’ and ‘Observations of the Living.’ This collection also includes some poems from ‘My Life In Haiku,’ as well as some that she published online in various places.

An eerie collection of short stories and poetry. Within these pages, beware. You will find ghosts, vampires, serial killers, werewolves, and all of the other things that go bump in the night. You'll even find some science fiction and aliens too!


Over the last few years, I’ve written tons of short stories! I started writing them soon after I had my first child. As a new mother, I found it difficult to get the focused, sustained time and attention I needed to write a full length novel, so instead I started writing something short. I ended up really liking short stories, both to read and to write, because they can pack such an emotional punch in such a quick period of time. Short stories are also good way for writers to explore different genres or writing styles without committing to an intense project. If you normally write serious, dramatic novels, you could try writing something light-hearted or funny in a short story. I've written short stories about minor characters or aspects of a world I might later use in a novel. That allows me to flesh out these side characters and give them more depth, and it can help with world-building. It can be tricky with science fiction or fantasy stories because often the worlds we create in speculative fiction are unique to our imaginations. This is why many fantasy writers spend so much time "world-building," or writing about the setting of their stories or novels. For short stories, our world-building needs to be economized as much as possible. We need to suggest the nature of our world in a few words, or else our "short story" quickly swells into a novel with a limited, short-story plot. I handle this by trying to keep the world entirely within one character's perspective. If that character knows little about the nature of magic or a scientific discovery, then I don't give the reader an explanation either. It's often more dramatic and emotional if characters don't completely understand what's happening to them, or how things work. Life is often bewildering. While writing short stories is a fun challenge, reading them wonderful too! I love many short stories by writers such as Connie Willis and Neil Gaiman. I also like reading multiauthor anthologies such as Black Swan, White Raven, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, or the Nebula Awards Showcase books, which have some really excellent science fiction. Books like these can also help you find new authors whose writing and story telling you admire.

Of course, if you enjoy short stories, I hope you’ll read my book, Sapience, as well! Lunarian Press is a small press that publishes science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.

You can find additional stories on their website https://www.lunarianpress.com/


What are the odds on that? - Flash Fiction Howard Jackson was a careful man. He had to be to have gotten away with his twenty-seven murders to date. Today he was hoping to add number twenty-eight to the tally. The young man sitting alone at the table in the service station diner looked a promising candidate. Howard estimated him to be in his late teens, or at most, his early twenties. He doubted if the young man had enough money for another coffee, having watched him nurse the one he had for over an hour. It wouldn’t be long before one of the staff insisted he buys another or be on his way. With the rain now pelting down outside, Howard was optimistic, knowing the weary hitch-hiker wouldn’t relish the prospect of walking however far to the next rest-stop. He had a knack for spotting the most vulnerable and trusting ones. “Another coffee or something? Howard asked, having strolled over to the young man.

“They’ll be asking you to leave otherwise,” he added by way of reassurance. “Uh? Oh right. Yeah, thanks, mister.” This was going to be so easy, Howard thought to himself. “So, how far you going? I’m driving south if that’s any help?” “Yeah, sure would be … and thanks for the coffee too. I was dreading having to start walking in this weather to wherever the next truck-stop is.” Howard and the young man drank up and made their way to Howard’s car in the customer parking lot. “Grab yourself a candy bar or a soda from the glove compartment if you want?” “A soda would be good. And you? You having one too?” “Nah, I’m good thanks, I had enough in the diner.” With the rain at full pelt, Howard was driving slower than he usually would. The young man continued to sip at his soda. An hour into the journey, the young man looked like he was nodding off. Howard pulled into a layby, confident the sedative had done its job.


Howard had long since discovered strangers were more ready to accept food and drink from a stranger in their car if it was in a sealed container or wrapper like a soda can or candy bar. The screw cap soda cans were of his own design, practically indistinguishable from the real thing, and the candy bars had each been injected with a liberal dose of etorphine, a powerful animal tranquiliser. Administering it via a soda or candy bar reduced the speed with which it took effect, but it was a safer alternative to risking the recipient putting up a fight if Howard failed to inject the drug at the first attempt. Howard hadn’t forgotten the one that got away, his only failure some six years previous when the sixteen-year-old intended victim hadn’t accepted either the soda or a candy bar and escaped after managing to block the etorphine-filled syringe with his rucksack. From that day on, Howard made it a rule not to proceed if the victim didn’t accept one of the drug-filled sodas or candy bars. With his intended victim seemingly fast asleep, Howard got out of his car to retrieve certain items from the trunk: a length of rope chord, some industrial strength duct-tape, and a surgical scalpel. As expected, the young man still appeared completely out of it – Etorphine was a thousand times more potent than even morphine. With that in mind, Howard felt quite confident it was safe to proceed. He intended to strip his victim naked, and then use the rope and duct-tape to fully restrain and gag him. And then there would be Howard’s favourite part, a brutal assault and mutilation of the vilest kind of the victim’s lifeless body. First though, he reached down to begin unbuckling the young man’s jeans. What followed was most definitely not part of the plan that had succeeded on 27 previous occasions … “Not this time, mother [Expletive]...” the young man said, ramming a solid uppercut under Howard’s chin before dragging him out through the adjacent car door. Though not as effective as Howard’s etorphine-filled soda can, not that the young man had actually drunk any of it, the upper-cut had stunned his would-be killer sufficiently for the young man to quickly bind and gag the weaker and older Howard with the minimum of fuss or resistance. Oddly, the tone of his voice wasn’t loud, angry, or the outraged sort you might expect from someone unexpectedly finding themselves in that situation. If anything, it was eerily calm and controlled, much like the way he went about slitting Howard’s throat before dumping his body in the trunk of the wouldbe killer’s own car, sending both to a watery grave several hours’ drive later.


Oh, he’d been careful alright, but just a little too careful this time … it never occurred to Howard that someone else might have similar thoughts on their mind, and the same obsession with not getting caught. After all, what were the odds of a highway-driving serial killer picking up his opposite number among the waifs and strays of the hitch-hikers? The twenty-two-year-old young man had been killing the likes of Howard along the highway from the age of seventeen, barely a year after hitching his first ride at the tender age of sixteen. It was Howard’s attempt at adding the young man to his tally of victims six years before that had set the young hitch-hiker on his path of seeking out and slaughtering men like Howard … Howard’s fate had been sealed the moment he’d been recognised in the diner … by the one that got away.

*** For more stories like this and a whole host of other genres besides, stay tuned for … Flashbulb Moments, scheduled for late 2019 …

https://rudderswriting.com


Strong, well-constructed plot, memorable and relatable characters

Delivered a great sense of vindication coupled with satisfaction

A compelling, hard-to-put-down read


Paulette Mahurin is the Amazon international best-selling, award winning author of seven books. Her books have ranked in the top ten best-sellers for literary fiction and historical fiction for the last five years. Her latest book, released in April 2019, Irma's Endgame, revolves around current medical and legal issues that Mahruin draws on from her professional life.

When newspaper headlines screamed in large bold print that one of the world’s leading heart-transplant surgeons, Peter Dayton, was arrested for the death of one of his transplant patients, shock waves were felt around the world. Particularly impacted was an attorney, Irma Mullins, who found it inconceivable that the man she once loved could have committed the heinous act for which he had been arrested. Determined to find out what happened, she embarks on a course of action to uncover the truth. But when all paths lead to one dead-end after another, and Dayton continues to maintain his innocence, she detours. Through desperation, frustration, fear, and determination she grasps at thin threads for anything that might uncover facts to help exonerate Dayton. What she ultimately discovers is both shocking and unbelievable. Written by the award-winning, international best-selling author, Paulette Mahurin, Irma’s Endgame is a story of friendship and loyalty, of betrayal and revenge, of mystery and discovery, of enmity and love. It is a narrative that shakes the very core of the scientific ground we all walk on and proves that what we think is real is not always solid terrain. This is a novel that will be remembered long after the last page is finished.

New Release


The Sign of the Dragon The stones rocked inside Arla’s gnarled hands and clattered to the table. The old hag’s forehead creased and Talita’s parents leaned forward with expectation. When the runes were tossed at her birth the expression on her parents’ faces said it all Arla’s finger shook as she read the symbols and sealed Talita’s fate. *** It began with herbalists working with essential oils to calm her fervent spirit and treat thickening patches of skin. But as ridges hardened Talita fought her childhood with rage and passion that threatened fire. Scales decorated her body and wing buds began to push through her shoulder blades, and it ended with the ashes of surgeons glowering in the scorched dust of her furious breath. Copper hair glinted in sunlight as her parents closed the book on her burgeoning puberty and iron doors became her prison gates. *** “’tis true love that will release her,” Arla’s last hurried words rang through Talita’s parents’ heads and suitors were summoned as their daughter turned from teen to adult. But when faced with the abomination that swept through the Eastern wing of the castle every man turned tail and fled. Talita watched the exodus from her window and curled her wings about her. She wasn’t sad at the sight of the fleeing men, but loneliness and desire bit deep within her belly, roiling like a black cloud on a thundery day. The time had come and as night fell Talita rocked the bars at her window, gently teasing dry brick and clay with her fingers until the iron rods bowed and fell free. Moonlight filled the room and Talita cast a last glance behind her. The bed, a huge four poster, sat swathed with drapes of dusty velvet, scorched and singed, lost amongst the vastness of the room. A mirror blackened with soot reflected tears and frustrations and fury. Her wardrobe doors lay broken on the stone floor, discarded clothes strewn like ghosts of fabric, torn and beyond repair. Her life lay in tatters of dreams and destruction.


She released the binding cloth that swathed her body, no more a piece of clothing than a mere mantle, and climbed onto the windowsill. She crouched swinging her tail, coiling it about her. She remained hunkered, one hand clinging to the last bar for a moment, then stood and leaped, spreading her wings and soaring up into the sky. Storybooks told her that dragons lie to the north and she dropped into the cold currents that pulled her from home. She flew for days, stopping to rest in caves and sleeping by burning logs, and each day her limbs grew colder and her scales spread further. Her hair thickened like wire and coursed down her spine like a bronze, wavy waterfall. Finally, after weeks of solitude, beneath the crescent moon, far, far in the northern lands Talita whirled and somersaulted, and called with every fibre of her being. Her call echoed and in the still night air an answer sounded, echoing back with vigour and urge. Talita danced and a dragon as red as rust wheeled before her, drenched in moonlight and stardust. Flames lit the indigo sky and embers flickered in their wake and Talita discovered her release. Her last human traces vanished with bronze spines prickling down her back and her tail swished with ardour and arrow barbs. The dance beneath the moon heralded a new beginning. *** “And that’s how grandma met grandpa…” soft words left the dragon’s mouth and she smiled as the baby dragon snuggled at her side and yawned, his needle teeth clashing as he closed his mouth and his eyes. “True love,” she whispered as her son fell asleep. “That’s all it took.”

Find more stories like this on Lisa’s website https://thelastkrystallos.wordpress.com/category/fiction-2


Amazon | Goodreads Rhonda Hopkins worked within the Family Court system for twenty years, ten of those as a custody evaluator. She has extensive knowledge of child abuse and neglect, experience in forensic interviewing, and she is a certified family mediator. During her years working with families, Rhonda saw firsthand how confusing most litigants found court to be. NAVIGATING FAMILY COURT: IN THE BEST INTEREST OF YOUR CHILD is the result of Rhonda wanting to share her experience with others so they might have a little peace of mind during the stress of divorce and/or custody litigation. Rhonda is also an award-winning fiction author.


Regular Price $9.99 The better prepared you are, the less stress there will be for you and your child. Navigating Family Court: In the Best Interest of Your Child, written by Rhonda R. Hopkins, a twenty-year veteran within the family court system, will offer the following insights:

"...free of legalese, Rhonda R. Hopkins gives insights on how to get through a family case in the best of ways during the worst of times...I would advise any parent going through Janet M. Denton, Director/Attorney the family Family Court Services of Tarrant County court sys-

$2.99

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*What to Expect When You Go to Court *What Things a Judge Might Order *What is Involved in a Custody Evaluation *What to Do if there are Issues Involving Drug/Alcohol Abuse, Child Abuse/Neglect, or Domestic Violence *Information on Mediation, Parent Education, and Counseling *A List of Things You Should Gather for Easy Access *Tips on Co-Parenting *And More!

May 1-30, 2019 for a limited time


Out of Control

Her glasses fell to the table. He lunged forward, grabbing her wrist as she attempted to retrieve them. Despite herself, she cringed, anticipating the next blow. It did not arrive. Instead, he grasped her other wrist, holding both together in front of her face. She held her breath, wondering what he would do next. Nothing could have prepared her for the change in him. For a long moment, he wrestled her hands backwards and forwards, staring at her, eyes flashing. His face changed. The anger left his eyes. As if waking from a nightmare, he dropped his gaze to where his hands clamped her wrists. Relaxing his grip, he let her hands drop to the table. He collapsed into the chair opposite hers, buried his head in his hands and began to sob. His shoulders shook with emotion. The terror, which had overwhelmed her moments ago, was replaced by a surge of sympathy. She rubbed her wrists to ease the pain. Her gaze never strayed from his pitiful figure as she retrieved her glasses. Without inspecting them for damage, she replaced them on the bridge of her nose. He was still shaking, though his sobs had eased. He emitted an anguished groan and beat the table with his fists. *** It had all begun months before. The demons that plagued him first showed themselves one sunny weekend. They'd spent the day walking in the hills behind her sister's holiday cottage in Wales. Afterwards, she had stayed in the cottage to prepare a meal whilst he went to the nearby pub to buy a bottle of rosÊ. She sang as she sliced chicken breasts, wept chopping onions, whistled a merry tune as she grated ginger, and crushed cumin and coriander seeds with the pestle and mortar she'd found in the back of one of the cupboards. While the dish cooked, she showered, sprayed his favourite perfume behind her ears and in her cleavage, and put on his favourite dress—the one he'd given her for her birthday. She hadn't liked it at first. The style revealed far too much thigh. She never really liked her legs, thought them too muscular, the result of all the running she used to do—and that neckline, way too low. She wouldn't dare wear it in company, but she was happy to wear it to please him. Back in the kitchen, she removed the dish from the oven to check progress, replaced it, and glanced at the clock. It should be ready just in time. She set about laying the table and folding serviettes the way she'd learned years ago whilst working as a waitress to support herself at university. She put the plates to warm, polished the cutlery, and placed the wine glasses.


Satisfied that everything was ready, she wandered out onto the terrace. The sun was about to disappear behind the hill they'd climbed earlier. The tower of the little church was just visible through the trees. Above it, a full moon smiled dimly in a pale blue sky. The clock in the tower was obscured by the branch of an oak tree, but its chimes were easily heard. Eight o'clock. He should be here by now. She shivered. In the kitchen, she turned off the oven— leaving the dish within to keep warm. From the bedroom she fetched a cardigan, which she placed around her bare shoulders. She wandered over to the small bookcase. Her sister had provided a few paperbacks, gleaned from a secondhand bookshop in the town, to entertain clients. She selected a volume and flicked through the pages. The reviews on the back cover stated that the book would 'grip from the first page to the last.' She turned to the first page. She was half way through the second chapter when she noticed the smell of burning. The people staying next door must have returned and lit the barbecue. She wondered what was keeping Jim and hoped the chicken would not be too cold to serve when he arrived. Still, she could quickly reheat it, she mused. By chapter four, it was getting dark and the smell of burning food had reached an overpowering intensity. She rose, intending to switch on the light. With horror, she saw the smoke drifting from the oven door. It couldn't be. She was certain she had switched the oven off. She swore out loud. There were two switches, side by side on the wall, adjacent to the cooker, both with pilot lights. One served the oven, the other the water heater. She'd switched off the water heater, leaving the oven on a high setting. The chicken would be inedible. She clicked the correct switch this time. She pushed the terrace door wide, before tentatively opening the oven and flapping at the acrid smoke with a towel. Her cardigan slipped from her shoulders. It was at that moment that Jim finally made an appearance, reeking of alcohol, his face flushed, eyes red-rimmed and sparking with anger. The words he used were not ones she would care to repeat in polite company—any company. Plenty of F's and C's. When she answered his question about what she was doing whilst his dinner had burnt to a crisp with the single whispered word, 'reading', he had repeated it several times with increasing volume, before asking what she was reading which had so distracted her. (His exact words were ones she remembered well, but could never utter). She pointed to the book resting on the worktop, open, but inverted, so as not to lose her page. Revealing the lurid cover. He picked it up, provided his own damning verdict, and used it to beat her around the face and head. A paperback cannot do much damage when used as a weapon, but the back of the hand that held it was hard. She raised her arms to protect herself. He dropped the book and grabbed her wrists in a gesture that was to become familiar in succeeding weeks. Now, his anger was directed at her appearance. He called her a slut, a tart. She tried to protest that she'd dressed this way to please him—that elicited another slap. He wanted to know what she thought someone he might have brought home from the pub would have made of her appearance. Did she think he wanted people to believe he lived with a whore? He grabbed the front of her dress and pulled hard. It tore, exposing her breasts. She tried to hide her nakedness, but he grabbed her wrists again, this time pulling her hands down to her sides. He demanded she leave the room. She did not hesitate to comply, but ran to the bedroom where she hugged the pillow and puled the duvet over her shoulders, sobbing uncontrollably.


*** It was daylight and a blackbird was serenading his partner from the branches of the pear tree when she awoke alone. She splashed cold water on her face and examined the bruises in the mirror above the basin. Careful application of foundation would conceal the discoloration—but not the swelling. Where was Jim? Could she summon the courage to face him? Surely, by now he was regretting his behaviour? She donned a dressing gown. Should she walk to the kitchen quietly, taking him by surprise, or make a noise to forewarn her presence? She chose the former. The door to the terrace was still open, the smell of burning still lingered, a painful reminder of the previous evening and the fact she had not eaten since their light lunch the day before. The oven door hung open, the dish still on the shelf, carbonised chicken breast visible through the gaps in the dried-on sauce. The book lay on the floor against the Welsh dresser. She bent to pick up the cardigan from between the oven and the table. Still taking tentative steps, she approached the living room, expecting to see Jim asleep on the settee. She would leave him there, brew some coffee. The aroma would wake him and ... then what? She need not have worried. He was not asleep on the settee. Nor, when she looked, was he on the terrace or in the small garden. The car was gone, however. What was he thinking? She had not heard the engine. What time had he left? Was he still drunk? The thought that he might have crashed the car, wrapped it around a tree, or was lying injured in some Welsh hospital gave her pause. After last night, did she care?

She brewed coffee, made and ate toast, and tried to analyse last night's events. Her efforts were in vain, she failed to come up with an explanation for Jim's behaviour. She had never seen him even mildly irritated. His equanimity was one of the things she most loved about him. She was shocked as much by his transformation as by the manner it had manifested itself. The more she thought about it, the more she felt saddened by the loss of the Jim she knew. That, she discovered as she showered, hurt more than the physical wounds he'd inflicted. She pulled on jeans and a T-shirt. Straightening the duvet, she discovered the torn dress. Her eyes filled with tears. Part of her wanted to destroy it, but she would not give in to such irrational emotion—that would make her no better than Jim. She needed to find him, if only to retrieve the car so she could return to the Midlands in time for work tomorrow morning. What if he was already home without her? What would she do? Where was the nearest station? Cardiff? How much would it cost to go there by taxi? How frequent were trains to Birmingham on a Sunday? If she got to Birmingham, how would she complete the journey? Bus? Another expensive taxi? Damn Jim and his tantrum! This could turn out to be an expensive weekend.

*** She found the car on the pub car park. She'd intended to ask in the pub about local public transport services, but there was the car, beside the stile which led to the mountain path. She peered through the driver's side window. No key in the ignition. That didn't matter—she kept a spare in her handbag. Should she take the car or await Jim's return? She supposed he'd taken the footpath. But why bother to take the car for the half-mile trip from cottage to pub?


A battered Corsa entered the carpark and pulled up near the pub entrance. A young woman got out and knocked on the front door—the barmaid arriving for duty. The pub would be open soon. She would be able to get a soft drink, sit at one of the outside tables, and wait for Jim to return—nothing alcoholic in case she needed to drive. The footpath disappeared behind a bluff less than fifty yards from the stile, before re-

appearing much higher up. She scanned the higher part of the path but could see no-one. She looked at her watch. She'd give him an hour. If he had not returned by then, she'd take the car and leave. He could have the problem of making his way home by public transport. As she sipped a cola, she wondered if that was what she wanted. Had last night's shocking performance exposed a dangerous fault line in their relationship? Would it be best if he never returned? She dismissed the thought. At the very least, she wanted the opportunity to understand the reasons behind his irrational behaviour. If he failed to return, she would never know. Anyway, whatever the future held for them, she could not leave him on the mountain. What if he fell? Perhaps, even now, he was lying injured somewhere on the mountainside. Far from driving away and abandoning him, if he did not appear soon, she should report his absence. Her heart began to beat faster at the thought of police, mountain rescue crews and paramedics filling the carpark, and helicopters chopping the air above. What would she say to the police or whoever she first spoke to? He'd left the car in the pub car park. She'd be asked about his frame of mind. How much would she admit about last night? For the first time, it struck her that buried among the range of confused emotions boiling within her was one she ought not to feel, yet could not deny. Shame. She could not reveal everything about last night out of shame. Domestic violence was something that happened to other people—people of low intellect, lacking education, their lives constrained by low incomes, unemployment or too many children, none of which applied to her and Jim. They were professionals with good salaries and a nice home in a leafy suburb, not some run-down council estate. Their university education should have provided them with the tools to deal with problems rationally, not angrily or inarticulately. Good grief! What was she thinking? She didn't even know what the problem was, never mind facing it rationally. It had come from nowhere, well, maybe not nowhere, but from somewhere deep within Jim's past; somewhere he'd kept hidden from her—perhaps even from himself. More than ever, she wished he would appear from around the bluff, his long strides bringing him to the stile, which he'd clamber over, sitting briefly on the top rail, before jumping down and coming to embrace her. And, if he did, how would she react? The car park was beginning to fill up, groups of young men in casual clothing, couples holding hands, and numerous families made their way in. The air filled with the sound of idle chatter, laughter, and the smell of roasting meat as someone in the pub's kitchen opened a window. Two men and a girl, all wearing shorts and backpacks, approached the stile. She watched as they disappeared behind the bluff. Her eyes were drawn to where the path reappeared. There was a figure coming down the mountain. Was it Jim? She couldn't be certain at this distance, but something about his gait told her it was almost certainly him. That jumper the man was holding looked like Jim's. He disappeared behind the bluff. Her heart rate increased as she prepared herself for his arrival in the car park .


Had he seen her? Did she want to be seen? Was that a wave? His arm raised above his head, moving from left to right and back in an exaggerated gesture. What was she going to say to him? Now that the meeting was imminent, she wished she'd stayed at the cottage. The possibility of retreat had vanished the moment he'd seen her. At the stile, he hesitated and sat for a moment on the top rail. The thought came to her that he felt as nervous as she did about the encounter. She rose from the chair and walked slowly towards him. He slid down from the stile. “I didn't expect to see you here.” “What did you expect, Jim? That I'd run away like you did?” “No. I don't know. I thought you were still at the cottage. I was worried about you.” “Worried about me? That's rich after what you did.” “I'm sorry … so sorry. I didn't mean. ...”

“You were horrible. Evil. I didn't recognise you.” “I didn't recognise myself.” They were standing near the car. He reached for the door handle, threw the sweater onto the back seat and sat into the driver's seat, swinging his long legs under the steering wheel. For the first time since he'd got down from the stile, he looked directly at her. His eyes reminded her of a chastened dog, pleading. “Back to the cottage?” She nodded, stepped around the car, and took her place in the passenger seat beside him. They drove the short distance in silence. Once inside the cottage, she went straight to the fridge. “You must be hungry. There's bacon and eggs.” “No. Not yet. I need to explain.” He sat on the edge of the settee. “You wasted food. You left it to burn.”

“That doesn't justi—” He held up a restraining hand. “No, let me finish. You are right. Nothing justifies the way I behaved, not the drink, not the way you were dressed, not the burning of the food.” He stood up, walked to the window, and turned to face her. “Something got into me. Someone at the pub made me angry. I shouldn't have taken it out on you.”


“You were gone a long time. If you'd come back sooner. ....” “I know. I should have walked away, not let them get to me.” A thought struck her.

“Were you in a fight?” “Not a fight, no. Just a couple of young thugs who decided to tell the world they didn't like being in the company of someone like me.” “You've always been so good at ignoring that kind of thing.” “I know. And I did last night, at first—but they kept it up. The more they had to drink, the braver they became. I was determined to stay my ground, show them I had as much right to be there as they did. If I'd walked away, that would have been like ... like giving in to their hate. I was determined they would be the first to leave, and they were. It made me so angry. When I came home and saw the wasted food and you ... not seeming to care ... I'm sorry.” “Oh, Jim. Come here. It's me who should be sorry. I thought I'd put the oven off. I used the wrong switch.” She took him in her arms and felt his body shaking with emotion. Anger and shame at the ignorant racism of the thugs mingled inside her. ***

That had been months ago. Now, here she was again. This time, the reputed racism of ignorant pub patrons could not be blamed. There must be something else. If only she could work out what it was. In the past months, there had been occasions when he'd been jostled on the street by a bunch of teenagers. That had been followed, about four weeks later, by an incident in the supermarket. Last month it was a football crowd which had riled him. Each time he'd held his anger in until he arrived home, then vented it on her. It had always involved the gripping of her wrists. She'd taken to wearing jumpers with long sleeves to hide the bruises. She ought to leave him, but couldn't. That would make him believe that she was racist too. She owed it to him to remain loyal, to be there to comfort him whenever the bigots chose to have a go. She'd suggested they move away, find some place where the people were not racially prejudiced, but he'd refused, saying that would be giving in. Then there was the business about Julia. His sister had come to stay for a fortnight. They'd gone out together, the three of them, and never encountered the kind of hostility he claimed was shown to him whenever he was alone. Come to think of it, she'd never witnessed such behaviour when she was out with him. Was he making it up? Why would he do such a thing? She needed to understand. If she didn't make the effort now it would be too late. She rose from the chair. Moving around the table, she placed a hand on his shoulder. He didn't move. “What is it, my love? I know it's not what you claim. It's something else. But what?”


He raised his shoulder as if to shake off her hand. “Don't touch me. Leave me alone. I've done something terrible.” He paused, then, his voice almost inaudible, continued. “You'll hate me when you find out.” I'm starting to hate you for the repeated assault. “What could you have done that's worse than your violent outbursts?” “Lost it,” as if only just recognising the double meaning in his words, he choked back a giggle, “lost everything, not just my temper. The house, the car, and every penny of our savings— it’s all gone, or about to go.” She couldn’t think of anything to say. Surely it wasn't true? This was another ruse to gain her sympathy. How could he say the house had gone? They were in it. The car was still sitting outside on the drive. Despite herself, she glanced out the window. Yes, there it was, the late evening sun glinting off the roof. “What are you saying? How? When?” “Tomorrow. The bailiffs will be here tomorrow. I owe hundreds of thousands. They are going to repossess it all … and it still won't be enough.”

“They can't. They won't make me homeless, even if you do owe that much. Anyway, how could you have got into so much debt without me knowing?” “Gambling online. Poker, craps, horse-racing, dog-racing, even the results of football games. The more I lost, the more I invested in the next game in hope of recouping my losses. I used the house as security with two different lenders.” “That's not possible.” “It is, believe me. There are lots of places you can borrow, besides the legitimate banks.” “But you've always been scornful of those sorts of organisations, the way they exploit the poor with astronomical interest rates.” Before she finished the sentence, she already knew the worst. Of course, it wasn't just the original debt that was the problem. The interest will have been piling up, too. “Can't you declare yourself bankrupt? Then they will have to write off your debts.” “Not these people. They are dangerous criminals—or they have contacts who are.” “There must be something we can do.”

“I've tried everything. There is nothing left, short of robbing a bank. Unless ....” “No! Never! You can take away my home and everything I possess, but I will not let you do the same to my parents.”


What was she—they—to do? Her jewellery! It was stored securely in a wall safe—Jim knew the combination. How long was it since she'd last opened the safe? Too long. Jim said he'd lost everything. There was no need for her to ask if her jewellery was included. Her grandmother's necklace, her great aunt's wedding ring. All, no doubt, encased in some pawnbroker's display cabinet. Damn Jim and his gambling. Those things were priceless, the memories they invoked were worth far more than the monetary value of the pieces. She turned away from the table and walked towards the window. It was her turn to feel an uncontrollable anger. She fought to contain it. She was surrounded by potential weapons, weapons she would have gladly used to kill Jim. The contents of the knife block, the heavy based frying pan; she was strong enough to wield either. But that would solve nothing. The red mist lifted slightly as she realised there was something she owned whose value Jim would not have recognised. With her back to the window, she faced Jim. “Okay. Here's what we will do.” She opened a drawer, took out a roll of parcel tape, and slammed it down on the table in front of Jim. “Those empty boxes in the garage, the ones we collapsed and saved after our house move years ago, I need three ... no, four.”

Seeing him hesitate, she insisted, “Go, now! Bring them to the library.” It didn’t take long. Jim lowered the back seat of the car and stacked the boxes inside. They drove to the coast. Jim pulled up in a deserted car park. “Call of nature,” he muttered, as he opened the door. She smiled, watched him walk towards the single storey building and disappear through its portal. She also needed to relieve herself, but women are so much better than men at controlling such urges. She settled into the driver's seat, put the car into gear, and released the clutch. The ancient volumes in the four boxes would give her the new start she needed. She didn’t glance in the mirror, didn’t see Jim waving frantically behind her, or even notice the full moon hanging above the low roof of the toilet block.

Connect with Frank Parker through his website https://franklparker.com/


P.A. Rudders UK based writer, author, blogger, and book reviewer. Born in London, United Kingdom. Having retired, he now lives in Wales, where he enjoys his love of the outdoors as well as pursuing his passion for creative writing.

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Ancient Thievery

Continue Reading | Episode 2 “Paige,” he said hesitantly. “I’m sorry to call before your shift but I was wondering if there was any chance you could check on early. I’m on a call and I think I need your help.” “Okay,” Paige stood and made her way into the kitchen. “Is everything okay?” “It’s not an emergency or anything,” Dean added quickly. “You don’t have to dash out of the house or run code or anything. It’s just... well, I need your opinion on something and I’m not really sure how to handle this. I’ll wait until you get here and make sure they don’t touch anything just in case you can find some clues or something.” “Now you have me intrigued,” Paige admitted as she took her stairs two at a time. She dropped onto her bed and snatched up the notepad she always kept next to the alarm clock. “Give me the address.” Dean rattled off his location. “Looks like you’re close. Should take me fifteen minutes tops. See you when I get there.” She disconnected, grateful she decided to shower before heading out to enjoy the morning. Now for the uniform, gun belt, boots... getting dressed alone would take five of the allotted fifteen she’d allowed herself. She moved to the mirror, ran a brush through her hair and quickly pulled it into a ponytail. That would have to do for today.

*****

Exactly fourteen minutes later she pulled into the driveway and parked her vehicle behind Dean’s marked unit. Before she even climbed from the car, Dean was through the front door and approaching her in the drive. “The house belongs to Pearl Ledbetter. She’s an elderly lady, I believe she’s in her late eighties,” Dean began. “Anyway, last month she fell... broke her hip. The poor woman wasn’t discovered for three whole hours. Her neighbor, and apparently best friend, found her. Mrs. Pembroke... that’s the neighbor, her son is doing the repairs. Great guy and the local church donated a new stove.” “Dean,” Paige said, trying to remain patient. “You lost me at Ledbetter. I’m glad the community has stepped in to help the woman, but why am I here?”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “Oh,” Dean shrugged. “Sorry, it’s been a rough couple days and I’ve had entirely too much coffee and not enough sleep. Let’s head to the kitchen and I’ll show you. The workers pulled the old stove away from the wall then called me immediately. I want you to get the full effect.” He turned and took off toward the back of the house. Paige frowned but followed. She stepped into the kitchen and moved around the old stove. A large section of wall had been left open to allow easy access to the gas line. Once the stove was pushed snug against the wall, it created a perfect seal. Good thing, Paige saw shredded paper - an indication a family of mice had probably taken up residence in the wall. She maneuvered around the ancient appliance and crouched to get a better look. Just inside the wall to the right of the opening was a large object wrapped in plastic. She reached around and grabbed the flashlight she always carried on her belt. The instant the light hit the object, she could see it was a large cash of money. She raised the light and spotted a second bag situated directly behind the first. The second stack accounted for the shredded paper. The tiny rodents had worked their way through the plastic on one corner and helped themselves. The nest was still there but to her relief, it was vacant.

Paige stood and took a couple steps backward. “Who found it?” “I did,” a middle-aged man standing behind Dean told her. “I’m Patrick Weller. I volunteer at the church when I can. We pulled out the old stove and I moved in to disconnect everything when I spotted the loot,” he frowned. “It doesn’t make any sense. Pearl has been struggling just to pay the bills for years. The preacher has even stepped in a couple times and paid the electric bill before the power company shut it off.” He shook his head as he stared at the mysterious packages. “Pearl never married, she doesn’t have any kids and she proudly told me she was twenty-eight when she bought this place. How’d that get in there?” “That’s what we’re here to find out,” Paige assured him. “Other than you, who touched the stove?” “Uh... Derek, we were going to disconnect the old one while the rest of those guys brought in the new stove.” “Okay, so only the two of you?” Paige pressed.

“Yeah,” Patrick nodded. “But the preacher was here the other day trying to get the thing working. He said it was no use, three of the burners were shot and it would cost more to fix than it would to replace it. He had a line on a new stove that was marked way down since it was last year’s model and decided that was the way to go.”


Ancient Thievery “Not that it matters,” Paige glanced around the kitchen. Someone was just a little over half way through a fresh coat of paint and there was a stack of updated linoleum in the far corner. “Why all the renovation? I thought the owner was old and recovering from a fall.” “Mrs. Pembroke talked Pearl into renting out the home,” Patrick supplied. “The docs say she can’t live alone and they want her to relocate to the care center. But, Pearl is broke and can’t afford the monthly fee. Diane, that’s Mrs. Pembroke... well she thought if we updated a few things, we could get enough money in rent to pay for Pearl’s care. Diane just lives next door so she decided to take on the landlord duties.” He took another glance at the stash of money. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance Pearl could use the cash in that wall to help pay the care center bills?” Paige knew the question would come eventually. “Probably not. Unfortunately, that money looks new to me. Which means it was probably taken from a bank.” “You mean someone robbed a bank and stashed the money in Pearl’s wall?” Patrick asked in shock.

“It looks like that’s a very distinct possibility,” Paige moved forward. “Based on the amount of time it’s been in there, I doubt I can retrieve any evidence but I’d like to try.” She turned to Dean. “I need a tech out here immediately, Heidi would be my first choice if you can swing it. Let’s see if we can lift any fingerprints off the stove. It’s a long shot but whoever put the money in the wall had to move the stove to do it. We know we’ll find Patrick and Derek’s prints. Let’s see if we find any others.” “And the money?” Dean asked. “After Heidi gets photos and does what she can with the stove, we’ll pull out the bags and take them back to the office. The plastic could contain prints as well. Then I’ll take over and see what I can find by way of forensic evidence inside that hole. I’m going to be here for a few hours. Why don’t you make arrangements for Heidi to respond, then head home? You look pretty beat.” “Thanks, Paige,” Dean said, relieved. “I came to the same conclusion as you did. I think that money was obtained from a bank robbery. The bills look new and those on top are marked 1981. I hated to call, but I was sure you’d know what to do as far as contacting the feds and all.”

“No problem,” Paige assured him. “I was up anyway, might as well get an early start. Tell Heidi not to contact anyone. I want to handle this myself and I need a little time before word gets out. I’d like to do my best to bring Sean in, he’ll be easier to work with.” “Great idea,” Dean smiled. “Agent Wilkens gets along great with the boss which is always a plus.” He frowned and considered. “Do you think I should call him? Jericho I mean, to let him know what we have here.”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “Why don’t you call Margie? She’ll need to know what’s going on in case someone calls and I think he’s checking in with her while he’s away. She can fill him in for us.”

*****

Four hours later, Paige had gone over the scene with a fine tooth comb. Heidi hadn’t been able to pull anything off the stove but the fresh prints they knew would be Derek or Patrick’s. The two bundles of cash had been carefully placed in large bags and transported to the station. It would take at least another day for Heidi to go over them thoroughly. Inside the wall, Paige had collected a couple strands of hair and there was a small blood stain on one of the two-by-fours. She’d have it analyzed but it was going to be impossible to know if the blood came from the robber or some construction worker that had built the house decades earlier. She called Sean directly and asked him to run the serial numbers through the system. That way, if anyone had a flag on the money it would be traced back to the Salt Lake field office. It had taken some fancy negotiating but Sean finally talked his boss into assigning the case to him. He was due to arrive any minute. Paige was looking forward to working with her old friend again and Sean was looking forward to spending a little time with his sister and her baby. The front door swung open and Agent Sean Wilkens made his way past Margie with a smile and dropped into the visitor’s chair Paige had positioned next to her desk. “Fancy meeting you here,” he said as he casually settled into the chair. “Not really,” Paige smiled. “It’s my office.” “Right,” Sean shrugged. “So, tell me what you’ve got.” Paige pulled out an evidence bag with a section of the two-by-four secured inside and handed it to Sean. “You took a piece of her house?” “I took a piece of an old board,” Paige corrected. “Don’t worry. I replaced it already. The guys doing the updates said it would be easy to install the new board where the old one used to be.” “Give me the receipt,” Sean held out his hand. “I’ll turn it in for reimbursement.”


Ancient Thievery “It’s not necessary,” Paige disagreed. “It cost less than ten dollars.” “And if you don’t, some overzealous defense attorney will use it against us to try to make this investigation personal somehow,” Sean insisted. “Okay,” Paige pulled out the receipt. “You’re right.” “What was that?” Sean grinned. “I’m not sure I heard you correctly. It sounded like you said I’m right, but I know I must have heard it wrong. No way Paige Carter would concede to being wrong, especially not that quickly.” “Yeah, laugh it up... mark your calendar, put a star on your forehead... whatever. Just don’t expect it to happen again anytime soon.” “Duly noted,” Sean studied the evidence bag. “What am I doing with this?” “It has blood on it,” Paige advised. “Could be the robbers, could be a construction worker, and could be somebody else entirely. I just thought we should see if your lab could test it and tell us who it belongs to.” “I’ll ship it off tonight,” Sean dropped the bag into a leather briefcase and pulled out a file. “Here’s what I found.” He set the large envelope on her desk. “You’ll want to go over it yourself but here’s the short version. Two guys go into a bank.” “Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.” “The jokes on us,” Sean frowned. “They got away clean, bank out of Kentucky thirty-five years ago. I watched the video, it’s old and grainy but obvious the job was pulled by two males. I’d guess in their twenties by the way they walk and act during the hit. They were in and out in a matter of minutes. Didn’t bother with the tills, forced the manager into the vault, each man snagged a prewrapped bundle of cash and walked away with 1.2 million... hundreds to be exact.” “That sounds about right,” Paige confirmed. “Heidi’s still going over the packaging but we can take a look if you want. Mice got some of it, made a luxury nest out of the shredded paper but other than that, it looked like they hit the bank and dumped the cash. What I can’t figure is why they never returned.” “Could be a million reasons,” Sean surmised. “They could have got caught on another job, could have killed each other off, could have decided it was too hot in the states and headed for some tropical island. I’m hoping the first dip they took, they got attacked by a shark and disappeared without a trace.”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “There are too many could be’s... and you know I’m more of a factual, evidentiary kind of gal,” Paige stood. “Let’s go back and see what Heidi has for us.”

*****

Paige was still smiling when she pulled into her drive. She missed Sean Wilkens and was glad they still got to work together every once in a while. She was just stepping through her front door when she smelled the delicious aroma of beef on a hot grill. Barbecue time. Paige unhooked her duty belt and draped it over the couch, then she unbuttoned her uniform shirt just enough to slip it over her head and dropped that on a kitchen chair. She was out the back door and headed for her neighbor’s back porch in record time. “Hey,” Dax glanced up and saw Paige approaching.

“Hey yourself,” she smiled. “Don’t suppose you have enough for one more?” “Of course,” Dax assured her. “We... and by that I mean he... hoped you’d get off in time to join us,” Zeus said with a grin. “It was all in the plan.” “I’m glad I didn’t disappoint,” Paige climbed the back stairs and settled into a lounge chair. “I’m starving!” They were just finishing up dinner when a car pulled into Paige’s driveway. “You expecting company?” Dax asked. “No,” Paige stood to get a better look at the driver. The instant the woman climbed from the vehicle, Paige was darting across the yard. “Looks safe,” Zeus decided.

Dax frowned. “Yeah, it is.” “So who’s the hot brunette?” Zeus asked. “Carmen Fennelly,” Dax answered. “But I’m not sure sending her out here was a good idea.” “Who sent her?” Zeus pressed.


Ancient Thievery “Porter,” Dax glanced at his friend. “Carmen got herself into a little trouble. I’m sure Nathan sent her out to visit an old friend to get her out of DC for a while. They’re trying to track down the bad guy but, unfortunately, he’s being more elusive than anticipated. But Paige has enough trouble, she doesn’t need more of it following a friend out from the big city.” “I’m sure he knows what he’s doing,” Zeus suggested. “I mean, you said Nathan Porter was extremely protective of Paige. He wouldn’t do anything that would put her in danger.” “Sure he would,” Dax disagreed. “If he thought I could handle it.” “You sure?” “No, I’m annoyed,” Dax admitted. “The guy that’s after Carmen already killed a cop. I doubt he’d hesitate to kill another one.” “Clearly, I’m missing a lot of details,” Zeus said as the two women returned to the porch. “This is Carmen,” Paige introduced. “And she’s amazing but a little crazy. This is Dax and Zeus.” “I know Dax,” Carmen said as she turned to study Zeus. “Name fits.” Zeus grinned. “You have no idea, sweetheart.” Paige rolled her eyes but smiled. Humble was not even in Zeus’s vocabulary. “Carmen is going to stay with me for a bit. She’s had a long day so I’m going to show her to her room, get her settled and everything. Thanks again for dinner,” she was about to leave when Dax stopped her. “Wait,” he said, descending the stairs to stand in front of her. He pulled her against him and gave her one of his mind-blowing kisses. “Goodnight. How about breakfast? I’ll buy, you take care of the coffee?” “Sounds good,” Paige said, still a little breathless. She ignored the smirk on Carmen’s face as she made her way back to her own place. “You’ve been holding out on me,” Carmen said the instant the back door slammed shut. “And you didn’t come all the way to Utah for a vacation,” Paige countered. “Why don’t you show me to that room,” Carmen changed the subject. She had strict orders from Nathan not to involve Paige in this mess. She was going to do all she could to comply.


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “Thought so,” Paige said knowingly as she made her way to the stairs. “I’m sure you’ll tell me when you’re ready.”

*****

Paige stepped into the office and was halfway across the room before she realized Sean was already there, sipping coffee and waiting for her to arrive. “Apparently, the locals keep different hours than us professionals,” Sean grinned. “Yeah,” Paige dropped into her chair. “Us amateurs need an extra hour or so to get motivated.” “What’s the plan for the day?” “I want to head over to the care center and see if I can talk to Pearl,” Paige told him. “I know she’s old and she could be senile but sometimes the elderly recall details with amazing clarity if you ask them about something that happened years ago. It’s just the here and now they have trouble with.” “I agree,” Sean stood. “I also want to see her house, the hole the bags were stashed in and I’d like to walk the area a little. See if the thieves left any other clues.” “Like?” “I don’t know, stashed something in an old barn or something,” Sean said, frustrated. “I spent hours last night going over every inch of that file. The original agents were thorough. I’m afraid if there was something to find, they would have found it.” “I did the same,” Paige admitted. “Oh, Carman is in town.” Sean frowned. “Really? Why? That girl’s city slicker through and through.” “I don’t know,” Paige admitted. “She’s hiding something but she’ll spill her secrets soon enough. In the meantime, I agree with you. The guys were thorough. I didn’t find anything that could help us in their original file. But we have evidence they didn’t have. We have the money, but we also have Pearl. Which is why I want to talk to her. It seems unlikely a couple strangers snatched over a million in Kentucky, made their way to Manti, Utah and shoved that much cash into a hole they just happened to discover in a stranger’s kitchen. There has to be a link. We just need to find it. The robbers could be relatives or an old family friend that stopped in for a surprise visit.


Ancient Thievery “Let’s go,” Sean stood. “We can hit the house first, then stop by the center.” “No,” Paige followed. “I want to go to the center first. I called, she should be finished with breakfast and the receptionist said it’s best to visit as early as possible.” “Care center it is,” Sean pushed through the front door. “You riding with me?” “Sure,” Paige agreed as she slid into the passenger’s seat. Pearl Ledbetter was a no-nonsense kind of woman. Her mind was sharp as a tack, it was her body that was deteriorating. She’d heard about the money and was expecting the police to come calling. “I’ve been thinking,” she told them. “Preacher Wilson told me what little he knew. Said the men believe the money is old. Someone must have stashed it there without me knowing about it. I mean, if I’d been aware... well, even I couldn’t resist testing a little out. Would have beat eating peanut butter and jelly for two months straight,” she smiled. “I’m with you on that,” Paige agreed. “We’ve determined the money was stolen in the early eighties out of Kentucky. Do you recall having a visitor sometime after May in eighty-two?” “Eighty-two?” Pearl was clearly trying to remember the time. “Can you call in that nice nurse? Tell her to check my charts and see what year I broke my left leg.” Sean stood and left the room. “How did you break your leg, Pearl?” Paige asked. “Oh, it was silly really,” Pearl sighed. “I was out in the old orchard picking cherries... that would have been sometime in June. I planned to make a half dozen pies and donate them to the church fundraiser the following week. The ladder was a little old, but I thought it was sturdy. Anyway, the leg on one side cracked just enough to make it wobble and I took a tumble, fell right through that large branch and landed funny on my left leg. The break was pretty severe, at least that’s what I was told. I was in my fifties at the time and sweet Doctor Talbot said my bones had already started to become brittle. He patched it up and was adamant I start taking one of those calcium vitamins every morning. Still take them to this day.” Sean stepped back in the room. “You broke your left tibia in late June 1982.” He exchanged a look with Paige before settling back into the chair. “Pearl was just telling me about her broken leg,” Paige advised. “With that kind of break, how did you manage on your own?”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “Oh, it was difficult,” Pearl frowned. “I struggled some for a day or two before my sister’s boy, Crosby showed up to help. All the good it done, that boy stuck for exactly four days before he went off and disappeared. Now that you mention it, I don’t think Sally ever did hear from him again before she passed. Heart attack got her when she was only fifty-seven. It was such a shame, too young for something like that if you ask me.” “I’m sorry for your loss,” Paige said sincerely. “What can you tell us about Crosby?” Sean asked. “That boy never did have a lick of sense, that one,” Pearl began. “He was always finding trouble somehow. Took after his daddy that way. It surprised me when he showed up on my doorstep but I was grateful for the help. Until he took off just like his daddy a few days later,” Pearl paused. “Oh?” she said in surprise. “You think Crosby had something to do with that money?” “What do you think?” Paige asked.

“Could be,” Pearl admitted. “Like I said, he had a way... that boy could sniff out trouble a hundred miles away. I was fit to be tied when he up and disappeared. Sally was devastated, Crosby was her only boy and she could never see just how much he was like his father. Made excuses even had her daughter, Payton, clean that boys messes up after the fact. Payton, now that girl is an angel. Successful lawyer in Denver these days. Too busy to live life if you ask me but at least she has time to mail out those fancy Christmas cards every year.” “And you said Cosby just disappeared?” Sean said, trying to get the woman back on track. “Right,” Pearl became quiet and got a far-away look on her face. “Said he was going out for a walk and never came back.” “And have you or Payton heard from him since?” Paige asked. “Not a word,” Pearl said confidently. “Payton is sure he got himself dead somehow. I know Sally insisted he was just in another country trying to find himself or some such nonsense. I would never wish that boy harm, but I thought it was more likely he got himself thrown in prison somewhere. Could be here, could be Mexico and that’s why we never heard another word.” “When we leave here,” Paige patted Pearl’s hand, not knowing exactly how to respond to her last statement. “We’re heading out to your place. Do you mind if we take a look around? I mean, a more thorough look? If you want we can get a warrant, or you could just sign a release for us right now.”


Ancient Thievery “Oh,” Pearl shook her head. “There’s no need for a warrant. You take a look, do what you need to do. I have nothing to hide... I mean, you already found my only secret. And that one was so well kept even I didn’t know about it.” Sean pulled out the standard form. Pearl called for a nurse to help and within minutes Paige and Sean were heading out the door with a license to search every nook and cranny of the old Ledbetter place. Once again, it was going to be a long day.

*****

While Paige and Sean made their way to the Ledbetter property, Dax took a break from staining his front porch to make a phone call. “I know why you’re calling and I won’t change my mind,” Nathan Porter said in answer.

“She has a right to know,” Dax argued. “Knowing will put her in danger.” “Not knowing will put her in more danger,” Dax pressed. “I’ve made my decision and Carman better stick with it,” Nathan said firmly. “She knows what will happen if she disobeys my directive.” Dax took a minute to inhale air through his nose and back out. He had to keep his cool or this conversation would end in disaster. “Carman will obey your order. Not because you threatened her with reassignment back to the dungeon, but because she respects you. It’s going to kill her, but she’ll keep the secret because you told her to.” “And you?” “I also respect you, but I respectfully disagree,” Dax provided. “And if you won’t change your mind and let Carman explain things, I’ll do it for her.” “You also work for me, soldier.” “That’s where you’re wrong, and right,” Dax consented. “I do work for you, but I’m no longer a soldier and I will not blindly follow anyone ever again... damn the consequences.”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 Nathan remained silent for several seconds while he tried to come up with a solution they could all live with. He was bluffing, it had nearly taken an act of God to get Dax Hamilton on his team. He would not lose him over this. “I’d like to hear your side of the argument,” he decided. “That one’s easy,” Dax relaxed a little. He’d won that battle, but they were still at war. “Paige is already dealing with a threat of her own. She’s going to need to be even more alert to help Carmen deal with her own threat. The man is a terrorist and he’s after the woman squatting in the guest room. Paige has a right to know, to make plans, and ensure security for both of them. We both know what happened last time that man took a cop by surprise. Is that what you want for Paige? You want the guy to approach her on the street while she’s on a call, or worse set up an ambush with a routine call? She needs to know everything and deep down you know I’m right.” “I want to protect her,” Nathan said softly. “I’ll help you do that,” Dax agreed. “But not this way. Keeping her in the dark is not protecting her, it’s endangering her.” Nathan sighed. “I sent that girl to Utah to hide out where it’s safe. You know the instant Paige knows Carman is in danger, she’s going to jump right in the middle of it.” “Maybe that’s the perfect place for her to be,” Dax offered. “I mean, so far your guys have come up with nothing. Maybe Paige will see a different angle, something we’ve overlooked. She’s the best. I suggest we use that to our advantage instead of risking her life with good intentions.” “Alright,” Porter gave in. “Tell her, you and Carman bring her up to speed. You better be right about this Hamilton. If anything happens to that girl, I’m holding you personally responsible.” He disconnected the line. Dax hung up shaking his head. Apparently, it had completely escaped the good general that he was the guy who sent a ticking bomb to their little community. Nothing would happen to Paige, he’d make sure of it. Now, he had a spunky Cuban-American to bring up to speed. *****

Paige and Sean had been walking around the Ledbetter property for nearly two hours when she spotted what looked like an old mine. “Hey,” she called. “What’s up?” “Does that look like an old mine?” Paige pointed toward a structure on the side of the hill about a hundred yards away. “It’s boarded up, but clearly accessible.”


Ancient Thievery “There’s nothing over there but trees and large scary bushes,” Sean scanned the area just to be sure. “Right there,” Paige pointed again. “Yeah,” Sean frowned. “I heard you the first time. There’s nothing there. You’re seeing things, must be the heat.” “You’re blind,” Paige disagreed. “Must be old age.” Sean was grinning as he moved in next to his sassy friend. His eyebrows shot up in surprise the instant he spotted the structure. “Wow, how did you see that? Good find.” Paige shrugged and took a few steps in the opposite direction. The structure disappeared. “You think anyone knows it’s there?” “Beats me,” Sean shrugged. “One thing’s for sure, it’s not easy to find. Let’s check it out. You know, it’s possible the kid was out here looking for a better hiding place and spotted that structure. It’d be a perfect place to stash the money until it wasn’t so hot. It’s also possible he fell to his death in there and never left.” “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Paige warned. “It would explain his disappearance but there were two men involved in the initial crime and he had all the money for some reason. It’s just as likely guy number two followed Cosby out here and knocked off his partner because he wanted the loot for himself... a double cross maybe?” “True,” Sean agreed. “But where’s the body?” Paige slipped through a large opening in the boarded up entry to what appeared to be an old mining operation. From the size of the shaft, it must have been large and likely productive. Sean followed and the two of them used their flashlights to maneuver their way around the dark cavern. “Wait,” Sean reached out a hand to stop Paige’s progression. “Can you hear that?” “Sounds like water,” Paige observed. She began to flash her light around the manmade cave until she found a small tunnel that shot off in the opposite direction of the main section. “In the mood for a little detour?” “Absolutely,” Sean said, clearly excited. Paige approached the smaller opening and shone her flashlight on the ground. “Are you seeing what I see?”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “Drag marks.” She swung the light slowly around the area they were standing. There was a clear path where something large had been dragged sev-

eral feet

then disappeared down the smaller tunnel. They were currently standing in a large open cave area. The entrance tunnel had been long and narrow but ultimately opened up into this elaborate cave. From this section, you could continue in the same general direction as the original tunnel, or take a fork to the left. Both tunnels led deeper into the center of the mountain. The smaller tunnel seemed to skirt the base of the mountain and apparently connected with some kind of water source. “What do we do?” “What do you mean?” Sean asked. “I mean, something was dragged here,” Paige said impatiently. “It could be evidence.” “Or it could have been a horny teenage boy bringing his girlfriend to a secluded spot to scare her and then make out in privacy.” “You’re such a guy,” she rolled her eyes. “There is no indication any local teens hang out in here for fun.” “How would you know?” Paige once again used her flashlight to circle the area. “Where are the empty beer cans? The graffiti? The red plastic cups?” “Okay,” Sean shrugged. “You have me there.” His gaze returned to the drag marks. “Just in case, take a few shots with your camera. I’ll shine the light for you. Then we continue on that way and see what we find. If it turns out this is a crime scene, we’ll come back and do a more thorough search. We’ll just be careful where we step and watch for anything out of place along the way.” Paige didn’t like it, but Sean was right. They didn’t even know if it was a crime scene. First, they needed to follow the drag marks and see what they found at the end. Once the marks were documented as well as could be under the circumstances, the two friends carefully made their way into the small tunnel. They both hugged the wall and were careful not to step on any of the disturbed dirt. It was soft here, not the same hard surface they’d encountered in the entrance tunnel or the black, mostly rock surface of the large cave area. The tunnel curved, then wound back the other way and ultimately opened up again. Paige stepped out of the narrow channel and moved to the right. She slowly waved her flashlight across the expanse, stopping on what was clearly a human skeleton. Sean stepped in beside her and sighed. “Definitely a crime scene,” he let out another sigh. “You think it’s Cosby?”


Ancient Thievery “Probably,” Paige took a step forward. “And murder.” “Right,” Sean agreed. “I’m guessing he didn’t drag his own lifeless body into the corner like that.” “Not likely,” Paige moved closer. “If he came in here on his own, he would have simply walked out on his own. It’s just bones, but I can’t see any breaks, no sign of injury... other than the part about being dead that is.” Sean smiled. “There is that. Guess we better call it in.” “No service in here,” Paige held up her phone. “We’ll have to head back out, secure the area and call in Heidi. I guess I’m going to have to interrupt the Sheriff’s fishing trip after all.”

*****

Once again, Paige got home late. It was starting to be a pattern. One she needed to break. Jericho had been unavailable all day. He finally checked in just as they were finishing up at the scene in the tunnel. He assured Paige he’d be back in the office bright and early tomorrow morning. Paige stepped through her front door and jumped at the sight of the trio relaxing in front of her big screen TV. “Guess when I said to make yourself at home, you took that to heart.” Dax stood and moved to greet Paige. “Rough day?” “We found a body in a cave,” she whispered. “And on top of the death, for some reason, the entire county is blaming me. Apparently, nobody’s been murdered in Sanpete for decades and then I show up and bodies are dropping like flies.” “So it was a recent incident?” “No,” Paige yanked off her duty belt. “That’s the thing. If it’s who I think it is, the guy was killed over fifty years ago. How is that my fault? I wasn’t even born yet.” “How can I help?” Carmen asked from the couch... where she sat, practically in Zeus’ lap. Paige considered. “Well...” “Just tell me, I’ll jump in,” Carmen insisted. “It’s the least I can do. Especially since we need to talk about something important.” Paige studied her friend. “I need to track someone. His name is Cosby but I don’t know anything more. I believe that’s our victim... and our suspect.” Carmen frowned.


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “One of the bank robbers ended up dead?” Dax provided. “Right,” Paige smiled at Dax. He always got where she was going with very little clarification. “His mother’s name is Sally and she’s Pearl Ledbetter’s sister. So, I’d guess Ledbetter is Sally’s maiden name but she had a husband, don’t know his name or even where he landed.” Carmen was jotting down notes. “I’ll see what I can find and leave it on the table so you’ll have it first thing.” “Let me dump this stuff upstairs and then you can hit me with... whatever you guys are stressing over,” she turned and made her way up to her bedroom. That had been a lucky break. She knew Carmen said she was on vacation, but Paige didn’t believe it for one second. If Carmen Fennelly had earned a vacation, she’d be sipping margaritas on a beach somewhere enjoying the heat, the men and the surf. Might as well use her if the woman was offering. By morning, Paige would know everything there was to know about Pearl Ledbetter’s troubled nephew. Once she dumped the work gear, she decided to change. Within minutes she was clad in jeans and a loose t-shirt. She glanced at her bare feet, shrugged and returned to the living room, dropping into the chair next to Dax. “Okay, spill it.” Carmen glanced at Dax, who reached out and took Paige’s hand. “Carmen is in a little trouble, because of her job, and Nathan thought it would be best if she hid out here for a bit. Just until they find the guy that’s after her,” Dax began. “Way to dump this on a person, gentle like,” Carmen scowled. “I appreciate the effort Dax, but seriously? Maybe you could just let me handle it.” “Start at the beginning,” Paige watched as the two of them exchanged glances, clearly working to come up with a way to explain the situation. “First, the guy. Do you know who he is?” “Yes and no,” Carmen sighed. “Look, this guy... well he sought me out. Started pushing his way in, you know?” Paige smiled. “Fatal mistake.”

Carmen blinked and swallowed hard. “Turns out, it was fatal for Brian.” “What?” Paige asked, confused. “Brian was killed in the line.” “We believe it’s all connected,” Dax provided. “He’s

dead because of me,” Carmen said. Her voice hitched and Paige realized just how upset her friend was.


Ancient Thievery “I looked into Brian’s death, for you. I talked to his lieutenant,” Paige disagreed. “Brian was ambushed on a call, he was working an extra shift on the road and was ambushed when he arrived.” “Because of me,” Carmen repeated. “Because of his connection to me. He was lured out on a routine call and ambushed because he knew me. A message for me.” “I need to know everything,” Paige decided. “Because that doesn’t make sense.” “A couple days before Brian was killed, this guy contacted me out of the blue,” Carmen began. “He started talking about... well things,” she glanced at the two guys in the room. “You know, the things I’d done in a previous life. The hacking stuff.” “Okay,” Paige nodded. “I get it.” “He said he knew me but I can’t remember ever meeting him, not even online. At first, he was acting all suave like he thought I’d be up for a little side job,” Carmen explained. “When I told him that was a long time ago and I wasn’t interested, he got nasty. He said he had proof I was a criminal and that if I didn’t cooperate and tell him everything he wanted to know, give him information when he asked, he’d take his evidence to my boss.” “And you told him where to shove his threat,” Paige said flatly. “Basically,” Carmen confirmed. “I also asked him how he thought I got the job. I mean, I’m working for the feds because I got into trouble on that one...thing.” She glanced at Zeus then refocused on Paige. Paige laughed. “Yeah, that one thing... the one that looked really good on a resume when interviewing with the FBI.” “Anyway,” Carmen shifted, uncomfortable with the turn in conversation. That hacking job was a long time ago but seemed to be the job that would haunt her to the grave. “I gave him a piece of my mind and wasn’t very subtle in my rant. He got nasty right back, so I hung up on him. I thought that would be the end of it, but two days later Brian was ambushed on a call.” “Where’s the connection?” Paige still wasn’t convinced. “I still don’t see it.” “The number the guy called from was in Chicago,” Carmen provided. “It’s the reason I answered in the first place. I thought maybe Brian was calling from a new number.” “And?” Paige pressed. “And he left something at the scene, a calling card I guess to make sure I knew he was the one that killed Brian.” “What kind of calling card?” Paige asked.


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “There were a couple things,” Dax picked up. “One had to do with the job Carmen doesn’t want to talk about. The other was a little strange. It took us a while to figure it out. He left the right pointer finger from a man that was killed a month earlier. A guy that had been dealing in small arms in the area.” “What does the finger of an arms dealer have to do with Carmen?” Paige was thinking, turning the information around in her mind and still coming up short. Something was missing. “The arms guy was funneling guns. Some to local gangs, some to outsiders, most to suspected terrorists,” Carmen said softly. “We were working the case, tracking the guns, which led us to Chicago. And to me... and Brian.” “Did you bring Brian in on that?” Paige asked. “No,” Carmen said immediately. “We kept our jobs separate. Both of us dealt with confidential stuff and most of our conversation occurred on the phone. I guess when you do this... as long as we’ve been doing it... you get a little paranoid.” “It’s not paranoia if they really are watching you,” Paige grinned. She sobered. “I’m still not buying it. The connection’s too weak, what am I missing?” Carmen frowned. “Isn’t that enough? I mean somehow he found out about that job I did and thinks he has an in. Thinks he can get inside information, so he tries to blackmail me. When that didn’t work, he murdered my boyfriend and made sure I know he was the one that did it.” “Sure,” Paige shrugged. “I get all that and still, I think it’s a stretch.” “How did he know about the job if he wasn’t researching me?” Carmen countered. “He was looking for a weak link and hit on me. When I refused, he murdered someone important to me to get my attention.” “What are you thinking?” Dax asked, this was exactly the reason he wanted to bring Paige in. Sure, he needed her to know there could be danger, but she also had a sharp mind and her way of reasoning things was completely different from anyone else he’d ever met.

“I’m thinking anyone could discover that crap about Carmen and Senator Fryberg,” Paige sat back and considered. “Fryberg?” Zeus asked. “Why does that name sound familiar?”


Ancient Thievery Paige smiled. “Chuck Fryberg was a blithering buffoon who believed walking over the ‘little people’ now and again was his right... as he was such an important Senator and all. Unfortunately, he walked on the wrong person and she hacked into his personal computer. A few days later, a certain tabloid printed a rather scathing article along with multiple compromising and embarrassing photos of the good senator engaged in some rather questionable... intimate behavior. That same week, the local cops received a tip that the distinguished gentleman – not - had an illegal porn stash on his hard drive, custom wrapped with a small sample of the goods. He resigned, but the entire incident was a huge spectacle and left him ruined. His political career was anyway.” “Right,” Zeus drawled. “I remember that now. You were responsible?” He looked at Carmen in admiration. “No,” she frowned. “He was responsible. It’s the only time I ever pulled a job for personal reasons and it came back to bite me. In fact, it’s still coming back because a madman is stalking me because of it.” “But I don’t get it,” Zeus pondered. “He said he’d rat you out. But that incident was so public why would he have to?” “Because the FBI kept their knowledge of the hacker a secret,” Paige answered. “As far as anyone knows, the identity of the leaker is still unknown.” “But they know?” Zeus realized. “They know,” Carmen sighed. “They always knew. I made a mistake. That’s what happens when you get emotionally involved. I made a mistake and they caught me. A job should just be a job, no emotional baggage.” “And that mistake got Carmen the best job she ever had,” Paige grinned. “And provided a means for her to meet her best friend in the whole world.” “Okay,” Carmen agreed. “It wasn’t a total disaster.” “I know you guys have gone over this a ton,” Zeus finally said. “And there’s stuff I don’t know, but I’m inclined to side with Paige on this one. Knowing about a public incident doesn’t mean the guy targeted you specifically.” “Then how do you explain it?” Carmen asked. “I think it happened in reverse,” Paige decided. “I never met Brian, not in person, but I spoke to him. You talked to me all the time about him. I think he was a good cop, a good detective. The gun running was occurring in Chicago. Their activity led you guys there. Brian no longer did undercover work, but he still had a lot of contacts.”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “He did,” Carmen agreed. “Remember about six months before he was killed, you told me some guy hooked up with him out of the blue to give him details about a murder. Details that helped solve the case. Brian had contacts on the street, in the gutter. If someone was running guns out of his city, chances are good he’d hear about it,” Paige provided. “They checked his case files,” Carmen disagreed. “We’ve gone over this. His supervisor checked all his files, all his notes, call logs, everything. He wasn’t working a gun case.” “Not that you know of,” Paige pushed. “I don’t understand,” Carmen told her. “I mean you are thinking like a fed,” Paige grinned. “Brian was a street cop, a good one. Sure, he had connections. He had guys that would feed him information for a price. Like the murder. He followed up on that murder tip, made sure it was legit before he passed it on to the case agent. I have loads of stuff I’m working at any given moment and some of it would never pop if you were looking into my files. That’s how a local cop works. You’ve got tunnel vision. You’re thinking about the way it works in Quantico, at the Bureau. You have to think like a local.” “You think Brian stumbled onto something,” Dax considered. “Something he decided to look into himself before he went to his admin and started yelling terrorism. You think he hit on our case and whatever he discovered got him killed.” “I do,” Paige was going to go with her gut. Her gut was telling her that was the more likely scenario. “I think someone came to him with info... one of his CI’s. I think he decided to check it out before he took it up the chain. And, I think it got him killed. I also suspect that’s where the suspect got Carmen’s name in the first place. Carmen’s number would be all over Brian’s phone. A simple cloning device would give the dirtbag access to Brian’s contacts, emails, text messages. No actual contact was even necessary.” “So Brian stumbles onto something and starts digging,” Dax nodded. “He’s discovered somehow and the bad guys start digging into him. They hit on Carmen and decide to take a risk. Hackers are known for working in the gray, they think it’s worth a shot. A snitch on the inside would be gold. They call, it’s a no go and a couple days later Brian is dead. Could be a message, but it could be he landed in a viper pit and got himself dead without anyone knowing. Akmed then decides to use the situation to his advantage and tries to scare you... and, at the same time, lead your colleagues in the wrong direction. It worked. We’ve been spinning our wheels trying to find a connection all this time. A connection that doesn’t exist.” “Akmed?” Paige asked.


Ancient Thievery “Yeah,” Carmen nodded. “And before you ask, yes... he’s a known terrorist. At least he’s been known to associate with terrorists. He’s in the country illegally and he’s in hiding. We don’t know how to find him but he’s been tormenting me for months.” “Tormenting how?” Paige asked. “Leaving gifts, and I use that term lightly, in front of my apartment door,” she glanced at Dax. When he nodded she continued. “I’ve sensed someone following me to work but haven’t actually seen anyone. The final straw was when he sent a bouquet of explosive flowers to the office.” “Explosive flowers?” Paige asked. “Personalized flowers made out of explosive material,” Carmen answered. “The entire building had to be evacuated so the bomb squad could dispose of the horrible thing.” “And that’s when Nathan sent you here?” Paige surmised. “What did he do to make sure the guy didn’t follow?”

Carmen smiled, she knew her general well. “I’m supposedly lounging on a beach in Bali.” “If I’m right, and this guy tracked you down through Brian, he’s going to know you didn’t fly to Bali.” “I flew to Atlanta,” Carmen explained. “My ticket said I was laid over for three hours before I boarded a commercial jet to Bali. I actually left the commercial section of the airport, got on a train... can you believe it? I’ve never been to Atlanta before but you actually get on a train, the airport is so huge. I made my way to the private, luxury jet area and hitched a ride secretly with one of Nathan’s friends. He dropped me in Salt Lake and I was greeted by an agent with that junker out there. Seems they were just about to auction the thing off before Porter convinced them to loan it to me. Once I return it, they’ll sell it to the highest bidder.” “But he will still know you didn’t board the flight to Bali,” Paige surmised. “No,” Carmen objected. “I forgot that part. Another woman boarded the flight in Atlanta under my name and returned under a different name. We’re in the clear.”

“Who knows you’re here?” “You, my overachieving ex-agent, local cop hero,” Carmen told her. “Your hot neighbor and Nathan. That’s it... well, Zeus. We were afraid of a leak in the agency so as far as anyone knows... I’m vacationing in Bali.”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “Good,” Paige relaxed. “That’s good. I doubt there will be any trouble here but we’ll all stay alert.” She turned to study Dax. “Reading between the lines, Nathan planned to keep this a secret... from me.” “He worries about you,” Carmen answered. “He’s afraid once you know, you’ll push your way in... end up right in the middle and the last thing we wanted was another dead cop... especially when that cop would be you.” “Thanks for changing his mind,” she told Dax softly. “Anytime,” he grinned. “It was the right thing to do.” “You in trouble over it?” “Naw,” Dax smiled. “He threatened Carmen with the dungeon, but dark places don’t scare me. In fact, it’s where I do my best work.” Paige laughed but under the humor, she knew Dax was telling the truth. Which meant it was time to have another heart to heart with Nathan Porter. It was seriously past time things changed. “You look tired,” Carmen stood. “I’m sorry we dumped all this on you after such a rough day.” “I’m thinking you could use a little TLC,” Zeus also stood and took Carmen’s hand. “Darling, why don’t you walk me home and let’s give Dax a chance to pamper the little lady a bit.” “Call her a little lady again and I’m pretty sure your recovery is going to be set back about three weeks,” Dax also stood. Carmen laughed and pulled Zeus toward the door. “Don’t wait up,” she called on her way out. “You don’t have to stay,” Paige told Dax. “But if you have the time, I’d like to show you just how grateful I am for intervening with Nathan.” “I’ve got time,” Dax pulled her into his arms. “But no thanks is necessary. Like I said, it was the right thing to do.” “You sure you’re not in trouble over it?”

“I’m sure,” Dax leaned in and gave her the most gentle kiss she’d ever had. “He threatened to fire me, I said okay, he changed his mind.” “I’d question that with anyone else, but somehow I think that’s probably exactly how it all went down,” Paige grinned. “I’m glad he’s found someone who frustrates him just as much as I do. It’s good for him now and again... not getting his way, I mean.”


Ancient Thievery “I agree,” Dax took her hand and led her up the stairs.

*****

The following morning, Paige was sitting at her desk going through the information Carmen had left her when Jericho entered the building, disappeared into his office for several minutes then appeared again in the open doorway. “Paige,” he called. “I need a moment.” Paige jumped to her feet and was across the expanse that separated them in record time. She stepped through his door and started for a chair when he stopped her. “Close the door, please.” Paige paused, turned and gently pushed the heavy door closed until she heard the soft click of the latch. She moved to the visitor’s chair, confused and a little worried. “I know I haven’t been myself since we had our last talk,” Jericho began. “The information you gave me, the handwritten note from your mother... well, let’s just say it knocked me back some. I needed my space, a little breathing room to adjust, to take it all in and decide where to go from here. I appreciate your patience, I now that couldn’t have been easy.” Paige just sat there, not knowing how to respond to that. Jericho gave a humorless laugh. “Must be a Carter family tradition.” “What is?” Paige asked, confused. “The silence, it’s deafening. Your mother used to do that to me,” he sobered. “When I was in the doghouse. She’d let me flop around a bit before she put me out of my misery. Guess you inherited that particular trait. I can take it, I suppose I deserve the hot seat. You don’t have to let me off easy.” “That wasn’t my intent,” Paige frowned. “I was just... I don’t know, I guess waiting, taking it all in, listening to what you had to say.” “I have a lot to say,” Jericho admitted. “Some will have to wait for a better time. I think we should try to have regular update meetings, a regular meeting where we go over things and update each other on any progress we’ve made. I haven’t made any by the way. I’ve ruled a couple things out but haven’t learned anything that could help.”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “Oh,” Paige realized the mysterious trips were somehow connected to her mother’s murder. “I was wondering, mom talked a lot about Tracy in that letter and alluded to something bad happening to Tracy. Do you know what she meant?” “Not entirely,” Jericho admitted. “Tracy, Samara and Chaya were inseparable in high school. Something bad happened to Tracy their senior year, something Chaya wouldn’t even tell me. Right after graduation, Tracy died.” “How?” “That’s the million-dollar question,” Jericho smiled. “Speaking of which...” “I assume you just switched gears and you’re referring to the case. I’m tugging a few lines on that and will fill you in later this afternoon,” she provided. “Okay, good enough.” He thought about Tracy Douglas. What he knew about the girl was next to nothing. “Tracy was killed when she fell, or was pushed, over a cliff up the canyon. Most of the town has accepted it as an accident, or suicide. A few are positive there was foul play. Chaya was a hundred percent in the foul play circle.” “She said she was going to the factory to retrieve a photo Tracy had left,” Paige recalled. “Something that was supposed to provide answers. Do you know if anyone ever found it?” “Not to my knowledge,” Jericho sighed. “And after all this time, it’d be a miracle if we could.” “I agree.” “Well,” Jericho stood. “That’s all. I just wanted to say thank you for being open with me about the letter and I’m sorry I withdrew immediately afterward. Mostly, I wanted to thank you for your patience.” “You’re welcome but that’s not necessary,” Paige assured him. “I’ll let you know what I learn about the million dollar murder. A friend of mine was able to find a substantial bit of information on our mysterious Crosby Miranti. I’m still going through it, but once I know more, I’ll fill you in.” She took a minute to make sure her boss was up to speed on the current case and then returned to her desk to ponder what she’d learned. So, Tracy had to be the third person in the photo she found, the one that spooked Samara that day at the flower shop. Hadn’t Samara mentioned Tracy? What did it all mean? At the moment, Paige had too many mysteries running through her brain. She’d never solve this case if she let her mother’s murder and Carmen’s terrorist push their way to the forefront. And with that reminder, she returned to the office and filled Jericho in on her house guest, the possible threat and the need to keep it all a secret. She was a little surprised when Jericho agreed and told her he’d find a way to keep his men’s eyes open for suspicious activity without mentioning Carmen, the FBI, or national security.


Ancient Thievery “Margie won’t even know,” he assured her. “I think it’s best if we kept this just between us. Last thing I need is General Nathan Porter breathing down my neck because I endangered his girl.” “I’m my own girl, but I think that’s the best call... at least for now,” Paige grinned. “And anyway, you just might give as good as you get.” Jericho was still laughing when she left the room.

*****

Paige was tired, dirty and grumpy. Sean had called within minutes of finishing up with Jericho and asked her to meet him back at the old abandoned mine. They’d spent the entire morning and half of the afternoon combing every inch of that place without finding a single clue. “Now what?” Sean asked.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m done here,” Paige wiped the sweat from her face and sighed. “There’s simply nothing here. I don’t think I’ve crawled around in the dirt that much since I was three.” “I agree,” Sean pulled a bandana from his pocket and wiped his own face. “You said Carmen found something?” “Actually, I said Carmen left me a packet this morning,” Paige corrected. “So far, I haven’t found much to tug. Crosby’s mom, Sally, married Ford Miranti when she was fairly young. It’s cutting it close, and I could be wrong, but I think it was one of those shotgun weddings.” “What was that?” Sean teased. “Did I hear you say you could be wrong? Twice in the same week?” “Ford stuck for a couple years then bailed,” she continued... ignoring the jibe. “You’ll need to look at his sheet for yourself, but basically he was in and out of jail for the next twenty years. About six years after his kid disappears, Ford lands in prison for good. Convenience store robbery gone bad. His partner shot the clerk who ended up dying. Miranti got life and is still rotting in a cell. My guess, he’ll die there.” “Sally Miranti?” “Just like Pearl said,” Paige started to walk toward Pearl’s house and her car. “Sally died from a massive heart attack. She had a modest life, left everything to her daughter... Payton.”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “Right,” Sean fell in next to her. “The snooty lawyer with three last names?” “Worse,” Paige grinned. “She’s a hyphen... Miranti-Chadwick. I always want to add the third to the end of that for some reason.” Sean laughed. “Okay, so the family’s in the clear.” “For now,” Paige agreed. “I still have the dirt on Crosby to go through. Pearl said he was a trouble magnet and judging by the depth of the stack Carmen left, she was right. I’m going to head back to the office and sift through it all... see if anything jumps out as a possible lead. You still headed up to Salt Lake?” “Yeah,” Sean ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “Our bone expert insisted on a one-on-one. She thinks she found something important. I think she’s being her typical drama queen but the SAC ordered me in. I’ll be back tonight, how about we plan on hooking up in the morning? It will give me time to deal with the bone doctor and you time to finish up with Carmen’s report.” “Sounds like a plan,” Paige stopped for fast food on her way back to the office, sure it was going to be another long night. Several hours later, Paige was still sitting at her desk, skimming through information on Crosby, his family and several acquaintances. She nearly fell out of her chair when Jericho barked “Go home,” before disappearing out the door. She glanced up, considered and decided to ignore him. Didn’t sound like an order... more like a request. She’d put in another hour here, head home and quiz Carmen about a few of the documents. She’d have to start the morning out at the care center notifying Pearl they’d found her nephew in the old mine. Something she didn’t look forward to but it had to be done. She had wasted nearly an hour today, driving out to the center, only to learn Pearl was having a bad day and the doctor wouldn’t allow any visitors that might upset her. He offered to break the news himself, but Paige needed to know if Crosby had met with anyone, or maybe had a visitor just prior to his disappearance. In all likelihood, Pearl wouldn’t remember something that happened so many years ago, but she had to try.

She flipped the page and once again saw the names David Beckett and Heath Hackshaw. Both men had extensive records dating prior to the robbery and after Crosby’s death. However, once Miranti disappeared, the two men didn’t appear to cross paths again. At least not in a criminal arrest sense. She’d have Carmen follow up on that as well. See if the two men ever lived in the same area at the same time. Both were currently in prison. Hackshaw for a home invasion in Tennessee, Beckett for numerous drug charges.


Ancient Thievery Paige stood, gathered up her notes and made her way to the door. It was time to call it a night. All things considered, she’d had a productive day. They had finished searching the mine, and she had two prime suspects in her robbery/murder case. Time to head home, have a glass of wine and spend a few hours with a good friend.

*****

Paige looked up when Sean stepped into the office. “You look tired... and grumpy.” “That’s because I am tired and grumpy,” Sean dropped into her chair. “Any luck on the trip up north?” “Some,” he admitted. “But it was a long way to drive for very little information.” Paige waited. Sean dropped a set of photos on the desk. “The ME has ruled it a homicide. The bone expert has determined our guy was killed by a blow to the head with a blunt object.” “We already knew that,” Paige frowned. “The caved in skull is what I like to call... a clue.” Sean smiled. “That’s not the part I learned. Patience never was one of your virtues,” Sean paused. “Our expert has determined our guy was hit in the back of the head with some kind of hammer or odd shaped rock. He goes down, that blow alone would have killed him, but our guy’s not taking any chances. So, once Crosby is sprawled on the ground, dead. The killer takes a couple more swings, striking him in the right temple with the same object. He’s then drug by his legs down that tunnel and dumped in the corner.” “How could they possibly know he was drug by his legs?” “Something about a dislocated knee,” Sean swiped his hand through the air. “I didn’t need to know how. She’s the expert.” Paige laughed. “And you call me impatient. You never could sit still long enough to understand the details.” “Well,” Sean continued. “Now all we have to do is find something smaller than a hammer with a square end that a guy could swing a couple times and kill his buddy. That thing about no honor among thieves...” Sean paused. “Guess that’s true when it comes to over a million in cash.”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “In my opinion, it’s true with much less.” Paige settled into her chair and considered. “There were a lot of tools out at the mine. We pretty much ignored them because they belonged and we figured the usual, butt of a pistol when he didn’t get the answers he needed. I guess we need to head back, see if any of the pokey things match up with this...” she held out a close up of Crosby’s skull. Well, at least they were assuming it was Crosby. “We’ve been working under the assumption that’s Crosby’s dead body. What if Crosby’s the killer?” “Doesn’t track,” Sean disagreed. “He’s the only missing, disappeared, person reported in the area during that time.” “But they weren’t from this area,” Paige argued. “For the record, it doesn’t track for me either. But we can’t rule out the possibility. Unless your team has already identified the remains.” “Not conclusively,” Sean admitted. “Everything matches up with records at the time but we’re still trying to get a judge to sign off on a warrant for his medical history.” “The sister won’t grant permission?” “One word.... lawyer,” Sean said shaking his head. “Right,” Paige didn’t need more. “So, let’s head back to the mine. I also want to stop in at the care center and see Pearl. The docs wouldn’t let me in yesterday.” “Why?” “It’s a longshot, but I want to see if she remembers any visitors... that Crosby might have had out here just before he went missing.” “Won’t hold up,” Sean warned. “We can ask, but any attorney worth his weight will get it tossed. She’s an old, sick, decrepit woman.” “Redundant much?” Paige pushed away from her desk. “Don’t forget your photos,” she said as she walked away.

*****

Once again, Paige found herself making her way through the narrow tunnel that led to the ancient mine. The two friends walked in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Once they stepped into the large open area, Paige flipped on the spotlight style flashlight she’d snagged from the back storage room at the office. She cautiously moved forward and stood in the spot where the drag marks began.


Ancient Thievery “Okay,” she turned to face Sean. “The partner wants the money back, Crosby’s resisting. Crosby turns to walk away and whack... he’s hit in the back of the head. The partner used so much force, he’s killed instantly but he wants to be sure. Whack, whack... two more strikes.” “His head would have been caved in at that point, no question the guy’s dead,” Sean added. “So, did he bring the weapon with him? Or was it something he had on his belt or in his pocket and he used it in the spur of the moment?” Paige frowned. “I was thinking it could be one of the tools over there but that wouldn’t work. Unless...” “Unless it was premeditated,” Sean concluded. “They walk in, the killer snags a tool off the old cart over there and waits for his chance. They argue like you said, Crosby turns to leave and bam... he’s dead.” “It’s the only thing that makes sense,” Paige decided. “I mean, if he walked over during the argument, Crosby’s going to notice and he would never turn his back on the creep. If he used one of those tools, which is a big if at this point.” “Let’s start looking,” Sean decided. “The end has to be smaller than a hammer and square, not round like your typical, garden variety domestic hammer.” “Redundancy again,” Paige observed. “Hum, never noticed that about you... before, I mean. When we worked together.” She slipped on a pair of gloves and moved to join Sean. He was standing in front of a utility cart of some kind, his flashlight was shining directly into the bin section of the cart. “There have to be at least fifty tools in there.” “Probably,” he agreed. “But it’s not like the guys going to bash his friend’s brains out, drag him into the back to avoid discovery and then come back here and bury the weapon in the bottom of the cart. If it’s here, he just tossed it on top on his way out.” “Makes sense,” Paige added the beam of her light to the small area. She was about to give up when something caught her eye.

“Let’s check the other room,” Sean suggested. “Where the body was found. He could have left it in there.” “Wait,” Paige said urgently. “There’s something in here.”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2

Sean grabbed an empty bucket sitting next to the cart and began pulling out picks and chisels. It only took a minute to see what Paige was after. There was what looked like a hammer but smaller wedged between several pickaxes and smaller circular chisels. “What if we just dumped it? Tipped the cart over and let the tools fall onto the ground. It would be easier to pick through them that way.” “Okay,” Paige agreed. She couldn’t think of another way to get to the tool she wanted without removing the others one at a time. The two of them moved to the back side of the cart and together, with a significant amount of effort, finally tipped the cart on its side. Metal tools clattered to the ground. The sound of metal hitting metal echoed throughout the room, the echoes almost unbearable. Paige covered her ears and waited for the noise to subside. “Great idea, Einstein.” Sean shrugged. “Worked didn’t it?” Paige crouched down, searching for the tool she’d been unable to dig from the collection. Within seconds, she found it. As she stood, she set the object in the palm of her hand and held it out to Sean. “One possible murder weapon coming up. What is this thing anyway? It’s strange that there’s only one in the entire group.” “Matches, though,” Sean decided. “Let’s bag it and get it to the lab. If that’s what he used, it should have blood and hair mixed in with all that rust.” Paige glanced back at the mess they’d made. “What do we do with that?” “Nothing,” Sean decided. “We still have the opening secured so nobody can get inside. Until we say different, it’s an active crime scene. Let’s leave them in case we need to come back.” Paige considered. Sean was right. The Feds had provided a sturdy barricade with a padlock to secure the area. Unless you had a key, there was no getting into this space. “I guess it should be okay.”

*****

Paige pulled into her driveway and was greeted by her neighbor. “To what do I owe the honor?” “Nothing special,” Dax took her hand and guided her toward his place. “I just thought you might be hungry, so I got dinner.” “You got dinner?” “Yeah,” Dax grinned. “Your favorite... Dirks BBQ.”


Ancient Thievery “I can’t say no to Dirk’s,” Paige agreed. They stepped into an empty house. “Where’s the dynamic duo?” Dax frowned. “They’re on a date, apparently.” Paige grinned. “You don’t approve?” “I just hope Carmen understands what she’s getting into,” Dax told her. “Zee, he’s the love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of guy. I like Carmen, I don’t want her to get hurt.” “You might like Carmen, but you don’t know her that well if you’re worried.” “Meaning?” Dax asked. “Meaning,” Paige settled into a chair at the table. The food smelled amazing. “The closest Carmen has come to having a serious relationship in all the time I’ve known her was with Brian. And that only worked because she was in Virginia and he lived in Chicago. It lasted because of the distance.” “So you don’t think she’s serious?” “I think she’s an adult and if she wants to have a little fun while she’s in town, and Zee is willing, what’s the harm?” “She seems pretty broken up about Brian,” Dax pushed. “You sure they weren’t serious?” “Oh, they were as serious as Carmen would allow.” Paige studied Dax, wondering what had him so upset. “Brian talked about moving to Virginia, applying with the Bureau. Carmen always talked him out of it. Our eccentric computer geek was comfortable with their arrangement. She liked having a guy, but not having him... if you know what I mean.” “I do,” Dax settled across from her. “I won’t worry about it if you say she’s fine. I just think underneath all those bright pink streaks in her sassy hair and crazy jewelry lies a truly good person. I don’t want to see Zee mess with that.” “And the same goes for Zeus,” Paige countered. “He’s a great guy, a little on the chauvinistic side but I think that’s mostly for show. He gets a lot of mileage out of the shock value. I also think Zeus hasn’t met the right woman yet.” She frowned. “And now I’m just as worried my friend is going to break your friend’s heart as you were in reverse.” Dax grinned at the convoluted explanation he understood perfectly. “Then let’s both stop worrying and let them figure it out for themselves. Like you said, they’re both adults. Eat, while it’s hot. You had another long day.”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 Paige and Dax were just finishing up with the dishes when Paige’s phone rang. She looked at the display, Sean, and answered on the second ring. “What’s up?” “Our lab found blood and hair on the hammer,” he jumped right in. “Apparently, it’s a rock hammer. Miners and geologists use it to split rock to determine the composition of the fossils under the surface.” Paige grinned. This was something that would fascinate Sean and bore her to tears. “So we found our murder weapon?” “We did,” Sean said confidently. “The blood is the same type you sent from the two-by-four in the wall. They’ll still have to run the DNA, see if it’s a match but it’s looking like Crosby snagged himself on a nail or something when he stashed the loot.” “Did they find anything we can use to identify the killer?” “Thought you’d never ask,” Sean said, clearly gloating. “We have a print.”

“Seriously?” “Belongs to one Heath Hackshaw.” “I knew it!” Paige exclaimed. “It was between Hackshaw and David Beckett but my gut was telling me Hackshaw. His crimes were always more violent. When do we go? To Tennessee?” “I’ve made arrangement for a transport tomorrow, ten o’clock if you can be ready.” “Where?” “Ephraim Airport,” Sean advised. “I’ll be there,” Paige assured him. “We staying overnight in Tennessee or coming back tomorrow night?” Paige smiled when Dax wrapped his arms around her waist, a purely male thing to do at the moment... scratch that, it was a clear sign of possession and either gender was capable of doing it. “We’ll play it by ear,” Sean decided. “If we need to, the Bureau will pick up the cost. I’m hoping when he’s confronted with the evidence, he’ll just confess and make things easy.” “You’re dreaming Wilkens, the man’s a hardened criminal. He’s not going to tell much but we might get enough to figure it out ourselves,” Paige grinned. “We can discuss it on the way, I need to call Jericho and let him know what’s up. Tolman’s going to want in, work something out with the AG on the charges.” “Be sure to tell that guy of yours any overnight rendezvous will include separate rooms.”


Ancient Thievery “Okay,” Paige smiled. “I guess that will work if you’re sure the Bureau can’t afford two rooms we can share for one night.” “Paige,” Sean warned. “He’s standing right there isn’t he?” “Yep,” she laughed. “Tell him the truth, I like my teeth.” “See you in the morning,” she clicked off and turned to deal with that ‘guy of hers’. She wasn’t entirely sure how she felt about that.

*****

Heath Hackshaw was uncooperative and defiant. Sean explained the evidence they had against him in the bank robbery and pushed his buttons about the lost money. It worked, the man was pissed and dumb enough to talk... initially. “All this time it was right there, in the old ladies wall and you walked away empty handed,” Sean laughed. “How does that make you feel? A low-level street thief outmaneuvered you, left you with nothing while he took it all. I bet he’s living the high life on a tropical island somewhere laughing it up as he remembers the fool that helped him get rich.” Hackshaw sneered. “Crosby Miranti’s the fool.” “Yeah? How so?” Paige asked. She looked around the room. “Don’t see him locked up in this hellhole.” “The guy’s a petty thief,” Hackshaw snapped. “You think that idiot planned the hit?” “He walked away with the cash didn’t he?” Sean pushed. “You can’t prove I had anything to do with that bank job,” Hackshaw grinned. “But if I did, the only reason that kid ended up with the dough was dumb luck and police harassment.” “I don’t follow,” Paige told him. “Stupid cop was off-duty,” Hackshaw barked. “Don’t you guys ever just hang, leave the job at the office and enjoy a beer or something?” “I enjoy a beer now and then,” she looked at Sean. “Don’t you?” “All the time,” he said casually.


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “Not this guy,” Hackshaw continued. “Always hounding, always just around the corner looking for a reason to throw me in a cage.” “You got arrested,” Paige realized. “Had a couple outstanding warrants,” Hackshaw grumbled. “Petty crap that any decent cop would let go. Not Deputy Mike Stratford. No, he couldn’t let anything drop. Hauled me in for a week before my attorney could get me out.” “And by that time, Crosby was long gone,” Sean provided. “He took the money and ran.” “Not so long,” Hackshaw grinned. “Not so gone, either. The kid thought I didn’t know.” “But you did know about his Aunt in Utah,” Paige prompted. “You figured he’d go out, lie low and disappear.” “I’m sure that was the plan,” Hackshaw said confidently. Nobody would ever find that kid’s remains.

“So you had to kill him,” Sean dropped the hammer. Hackshaw’s eyes grew wide, but he didn’t speak. “You lured him out to the old mining operation and bashed his head in,” Sean continued. “Yeah, we found the body already and it’s covered in evidence. Evidence that points directly at you.” “I want my lawyer,” Hackshaw mumbled. Then he wisely kept his arrogant, condescending mouth shut.

*****

It was nearly ten o’clock that evening. Paige watched out the window as the small plane descended, then finally touched down on the runway at the Manti-Ephraim Airport. To say it was a long day would be an understatement. Hackshaw hadn’t said another word. The local AG got involved and charges were filed in federal court for the bank robbery. Tolman was insisting he wanted the murder case to be handled locally. It was all over her pay grade, so Paige decided to let the attorney’s fight it out. She was still thinking about the irony of the situation as she descended the stairs and headed for her car. Crosby double-crossed his partner, watched him get arrested, then split and never looked back. Well, until Hackshaw showed up and killed him of course. The two thieves got nothing for their trouble. Well, nothing good. One ended up dead, the other spent the past fifty years completely broke, in and out of prison. Over a million in cash so close... yet so far.


Ancient Thievery Then there was Pearl. All that money right there, waiting to solve all her problems, just out of reach for over fifty years as she struggled month after month to pay the bills. The only good thing to come of the whole mess was the reward. Money Pearl Ledbetter would receive in a few weeks if all went according to plan. Paige was glad, it would help pay the fee at the care center. Plus, Diane and the guys would have a little extra time to get the house updated and rented. She couldn’t wait to tell them the good news. The Feds had already started the paperwork, thanks to Sean. Pearl Ledbetter would soon be the lucky recipient of fifty thousand dollars. The reward had originally started out as two percent of the total take, but twenty years after the theft, it was bumped up to five percent, then forgotten. Not a bad return on the small investment of an outdated stove. Another good thing, Hackshaw was going away for good. Paige doubted he’d ever see freedom again. Tolman was sure he could prove pre-meditation and he intended to throw the book at the murdering thief. She was sure there was a story there. The local DA seemed awfully upset about a crime that occurred before he was born. She didn’t mind, the man was a menace and deserved to die in an eight-foot cell. She was just approaching her car when a man stepped from the vehicle parked next to her. She paused, shifted her purse for easy access to her weapon, then relaxed. “Should I be worried?” “Not at all,” Nathan Porter stepped forward. “Come give an old man a hug. I hear you caught the bad guy.” “Well,” Paige smiled as she hugged the closest thing she had to a father. “It wasn’t that hard, he was already caught.” “That’s my favorite kind,” Nathan smiled. “Harder to run that way.” “Why are you here, Nathan?” “I think you’re right,” he said softly. “About Brian.” He glanced around but decided even if someone was trying to listen, the noise from the airport would drown out their conversation. “Nothing we’ve been able to confirm outright yet. But a friend, a colleague of Brian’s in the area, he found a guy... one of Brian’s contacts on the street. We’re working on it.”

“And you’re here to talk to Dax about all this?” “I’m here to talk to all of you,” Nathan corrected. “I was wrong to exclude you. Officially, I’m here to visit with an old friend and see how she’s doing. It’s been too long, Paige. I missed you. And maybe while I’m at it, unofficially, I can get a little insight on a touchy situation.” “How long?” Paige asked. “I don’t mind, I love having a house guest but how long?”


Paige Carter Season 2—Episode 2 “Could be months,” Nathan admitted. “Even if we get this one guy... the operation is big. Their organization is careful and meticulous. We can’t take any chances. Plus, I figure I have one team member out here, it’s not that big of a deal to have two.” Paige smiled. If Carmen was going to be here for several months, she just might talk to Diane Pembroke about renting a house.

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Connections eMagazine May 2019 Edition  

Vol 5 Issue 2 - Our Valentines issue... - Connections eMagazine is a FREE publication for those who love to read and the authors who make it...

Connections eMagazine May 2019 Edition  

Vol 5 Issue 2 - Our Valentines issue... - Connections eMagazine is a FREE publication for those who love to read and the authors who make it...

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