Photographs: Chapter 1

Russell looked down at the photograph in his hand.  The image was old, yellowed, and wrinkled.  He looked up again.  In the photo, the building had been a bar, with sign of active light.  The colors were faded, and it had been uninhabited for probably a decade.  Yet it was the same building.  The angle of the mountain behind it was right, and the trim around the windows was dingy and battered but recognizable.  At some point, over twenty years ago, his father had stood in this very same spot.

Carefully, he tucked the photograph away and took another look around.  The coffee shop on the other corner was clearly of newer construction, but the bookstore across the street looked like it has been there for centuries.  He took a deep breath, and headed over.

He was pulling his phrase book from his pocket when the man behind the counter gave him an annoyed look.  “I speak English.”  His accent was thick, but the words were intelligible.

“Thank you.”  Russell smiled.  He hesitated a moment, then pointed.  “Do you know anything about the bar that used to be just across there?”

The man gave him a considering look.  “It closed five years ago, after the fire.  Why?”

A fire.  Naturally.  The first real lead he had, and it caught fire.  Russell exhaled.  “My father visited this area before I was born.  He liked the bar enough to have some photos of it.”  Russell shrugged.  “Thought I’d stop in for a drink while I was in the area.”

Something briefly flickered across the man’s face, and he gave Russell another look.  “This is a bit off the path for tourists.”

Alright, the guy was willing to chat a bit.  Or maybe he was bored.  The shop was otherwise as empty as the street.  “Yeah.  I had a hard time finding it on the map.  I, uh…”  He swallowed.  “My father, he uh, he died.”  At least that was the assumption.  “When I was ten.  I thought I’d retrace his footsteps, see…”

“Finding a connection.”  The man’s face warmed a little, and he offered his hand.  “Otto.”

“Russell.”  He accepted the handshake.  “Yeah, that’s the intention.  Can you, uh…”  He smiled.  “What made the bar special?”

Otto twitched his shoulder.  “Beer was good.  But uh…”  Otto took a deep breath, then brushed an imaginary speck of dust off his counter.  “Mostly it catered to a particular sort of crowd.”

“What kind of crowd?”  Russell raised an eyebrow.  His mother said his father had been a soldier once.  “Military?”

“Some, but uh…”  Otto shifted his feet a little awkwardly.  “It attracted those of a certain persuasion.”

“Musicians?”

The other man gave him an annoyed look.  “Men with preferences.”

“Prefer…”  The wheels clicked in his mind, and he felt himself start to blush.  “Oh.”  He winced.  “Oh.”

“Mmm.”  Otto nodded.

“I don’t suppose you know anyone that…”  He winced again.

“That sort tended to want to go unnoticed.”  Otto shook his head.  Then he frowned.  “Though the landlord that rented it to the bar is still around.  Not sure what you’re looking for, exactly, but he might be able to let you in to take a look if you ask politely.”  He started looking around the counter, then after a moment produced a business card.

“Thank you.”  Russell accepted it.  “Uh…”  He looked around.  “If you’ve got a book on the history of the area…”

“It’s not in English.”  Otto smiled as he led Russell to a shelf.

“I’ve got google translate.”  Russell accepted the tome and paid.  Then he tucked the book away before heading back to his vehicle.

Continue reading Photographs: Chapter 1

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War: Chapter 2

“So how was the luncheon?”  Michaels smirked at his partner.  Gabriel just narrowed his eyes.  The mayor’s wife patted his ass.  “I told you to spill coffee on the chief’s desk, but you didn’t listen.”

“I do not miss political functions.”  Stephan shook his head and looked up at Gabriel.

“You had to go to a lot of them?”  Michaels glanced at him.

“Only black guy on the force.”  Stephan shrugged.  “I got dragged along to all of them.”  He looked over his shoulder.  “Magda had to go to, until they hired…”  He frowned.  “What was her name?  Pretty blond girl with the…”  He gestured in front of his chest.

“Violet.”  Ash supplied the name.  Stephan smirked at him, and Ash rolled eyes.  “They were very noticeable.”

“Yeah she was…”  Stephan chuckled.  “Almost out of uniform a few times.  Good cop.  She’d bat her eyes, bend a little forward, and next thing anyone knew the suspect had babbled every bit of information they had.”

“I seem to recall a certain someone walking into a pole the time she wore a mini-dress for a sting.”  Magda grinned.  She caught Gabriel’s arm as he tried to go past into the house.  “Where are you going?”

“To change.”  Gabriel glanced down at her.

“Sorry partner.”  Michaels patted his arm.  “They took a vote when they learned you were in dress uniform.  You’re not allowed to do that.”  He looked over at where Matthias and Ted were coming up the stairs.  “Erilon voted on your behalves.”

“So, it was one to…”  Gabriel turned to count heads.

“Nah, it was unanimous.”  Michaels grinned.  “I like picking on you.”  He put his hand on Gabriel’s shoulder.  “Remember, our job is to serve and protect for the forces of justice and democracy.”  He turned back to the grill and started putting burgers onto plates for Matthias and Ted.

Gabriel started toward the door again, and Magda stepped into his path to block him.  Daniel and Laura came up the stairs, and Daniel started snickering.  Gabriel exhaled and looked up at the sky.  “She showed him the photo?”

“She showed him the photo,” Michaels confirmed.

“What photo?”  Matthias raised an eyebrow.

“Oh for…”  Gabriel took a deep breath, then he shrugged.

Michaels nearly dropped the plate he was holding when Gabriel simply started unbuttoning the jacket of the uniform.  “Uh, partner?”  He blinked.  “What are you doing?”

“Stripping.”  Gabriel continued unbuttoning the jacket.

“You’re…”

“Is anyone…”  Gabriel looked around.  “Going to stop me?”

“Hell no.”  Matthias grinned, then put an elbow on Ted’s shoulder.  Ted was running a hand down the front of his face.

Continue reading War: Chapter 2

Banana Bread aka Delicious Procrastination

I had a story that needed to be typed and three over ripe bananas.  I did the only logical thing.

3 bananas, ripe, mashed
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, large
1/2 cup shortening or vegetable oil
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (the original recipe called for it, but I don’t add it)
1 teaspoon vanilla(I substitute chai concentrate, or add chai concentrate as well)

Preheat the oven to 350F

You can cook this in a 9×5 loaf pan, or as muffins.  Muffins take a lot less time to cook, but I never feel they turn out as well.   Combine the sugar, oil, and eggs.  Beat in the bananas.  Add the dry ingredients.  If you want, you can add a half cup of walnuts, raisins, dried cranberries, or some mix of all three at this point.

Pour into the pan and bake for 60 minutes.   Check for doneness via toothpick.  If done, remove from pan.  You’re supposed to let it cool, but if I waited until it cooled I’d never get any due to the number of friends I have that are half piranha.  Let it get to acceptably warm, then slice and let some butter melt on it a bit.  Enjoy.

I intended to take a picture to add to this post, but my aforementioned piranha friends have no appreciation for art.  So have a kitten instead.

Nebula

As I have been distracted by being quite literally chained to my desk, I decided to return to outer space for a tutorial as I didn’t have an image in mind to start out with.  It’s a variation on a theme I’ve already explored, only this time using a photograph of clouds rather than generating clouds using Photoshop filters.

My results?

Planet-Nebula

I wanted a green nebula, but as you can see it doesn’t work quite as well as the blue.  The advantage of this, however, is that I can there are plenty of stock photos of clouds or similar patterns that can be used to give the nebula a specific desired effect.  Or, in a pinch, I can always go out and take my own cloud photos.  Those taken during a lightning storm could yield interesting results.

Album Cover – Splatter

A friend fancies himself a musician, and asked me to consider making an album cover for him.  With that in mind, I decided to try this tutorial.

Since I don’t actually have a decent picture yet of his band performing, I used this stock from BeckyStock on DA.

My results?

Splatter-Portrait-1

In retrospect, I should have gone with picture that showed more animation and brighter colors.  It’s a good image, just not right for this particular project.

War: Chapter 1

He shuffled a few papers together in a pile on his desk and then set them aside before grabbing a different stack.  Rather than invest Mr. Ishi’s money directly into the center, he’d set up an investment fund.  From that, he funded several types of scholarships and grants.  Security deposits for kids getting their first apartments, emergency car repairs, clothes for seeking employment, and other needs.  It was rapidly becoming one of his favorite parts of the job.

Actually deciphering the applications, however…  Ted rubbed his eyes and winced.  Maybe he should have listened to Monica about having them be only online, but not all the kids had access to computers.  He’d set up a small computer lab there at the center, but perhaps he should consider expanding it.  Ted exhaled, then set the applications in a folder.  Magda and her crew would be arriving sometime today.  Perhaps he could convince Daniel and Ash to help.

There was a light rapping at the door.  “Come in.”  Ted looked up, expecting to see Margaret.  Then his face broke into a wide smile.  “Rebecca.  I wasn’t expecting you until next week.”  He stood up.

His ex-wife returned the smile.  “Plans changed at the last minute.  I hope you don’t mind me just dropping in.”  She shrugged, then looked around.  “Last time I saw this building it looked like setting it on fire would be doing it a favor.”

“We’ve put a lot of work in over the past couple years.”  He walked around the desk.  “Let me show you around.”

“Just show me to whatever room is emitting that heavenly smell.”  She nodded as they stepped into the hallway.

Ted laughed.  “Sister Margaret teaches a cooking class.  I believe this week is brownies.”  He gestured for her to follow him.  “And since she is a nun I suppose heavenly is accurate enough.”

Rebecca smiled warmly as he introduced her to the class.  He referred to her as an old friend rather than explaining to everyone that she was his ex-wife.  And it was true enough.  They’d been friends once, and after putting their disaster of a marriage behind them they’d managed to become friends again.  The kids let her taste the brownies, and she praised them all.

After the kids filed out, he turned toward her.  “So what does bring you to town?”

“I realized I’m still paying rent on that storage unit on Fifteenth.  Since I don’t recall what is in it, I thought I should check with you before heading over.”  Rebecca shrugged.

“I remember it being a lot of boxes that we never unpacked after we moved from Oregon, but beyond…”  He frowned, then waved a hand.  “That might be where all those linens are.”

“Oh, the ones we collected in Europe?”  She started nodding.  “I think you’re right.”  She gave him a hesitant look.  “Dibs?”

“All but the French ones?”  He raised an eyebrow.  Magda was going to be staying with them, after all.

“Deal.”

Continue reading War: Chapter 1