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.”

(more…)

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Archaeology 101 – Chapter 1

Khait yanked at the ropes binding him to the stone table.  To his surprise, they failed to give even the slightest amount.  He frowned, then began struggling in earnest.  The last thing he remembered was a woman pouring him wine.  There were a half-dozen black-robed figures moving around the room.  One of them came toward him with a knife.  Khait blinked as the figure began cutting off his clothing.  Then he smirked.  “Ah, it’s going to be like that, is it?”  He licked his lips.  “You know, if you wanted to pl…”  He cut off as a woman came through the door.  “Oh.”

“Tighten the restraints.  He needs to be still.”  She waved a hand at one of the robed figures.

He grunted as the figure obeyed.  “Isis, look, I’m certain this is…”  His eyes widened as she drew a knife of her own, and cut open his arm.  “Isis, you and I go back a long way, and…”  She touched her finger to the blood, then began using it to draw a glyph on his chest.  “Isis.  Isis.”  He started shaking his head.  “This isn’t…”

“You…”  Her eyes gleamed with an unnatural light.  “Were warned.”

What he hoped was a charming smile came to his face.  “Look, I get that you are angry, but why don’t we just —”

“Your antics have jeopardized us all.”  She shook her head.

“I…”  He winced as she worked the blade again to draw more blood.  Though he knew it would do him little good, he tried to summon up his magic anyway.  He felt as though he were trying to get purchase on ice.  “Isis, you don’t want to do this.  You want to just eat me and go one with —”

“Eating you…”  Isis rolled her eyes.  “Would do me little good.”

“Little good?  You’d get a good meal, I’d be out of your hair, you win.”  He tried struggling again, but the restraints prevented him from moving.  They pulled at his joints, straining them until just breathing was painful.  “Isis —”

“I’m well aware killing you is not an option.”  She leaned down until her lips were near his ear.  “Usariel.”

Not good.  Painful or not, he started thrashing.  He even managed to nearly pull his arm free before it was yanked down and secured again.  He opened his mouth.  “Isi—”  Metal was forced between his teeth, both gagging him and holding his head in place.

Isis stood.  Her eyes had left the masquerade of humanity behind, and glowed with green fire.  She set a gemstone on his forehead.  Power seemed to wrap around him, and then it started to tear.

Behind the gag, he screamed.

(more…)

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 1

A tentacle shot out of the dark water, wrapping around Viktor’s leg and yanking him off his feet.  Her hand grabbed for his, and she heard him scream as his wrist slipped through her fingers.  Behind him, the water was boiling and frothing as something writhed beneath the surface.  She lunged, trying again to grab her brother before he was dragged beneath the surface.  She screamed his name and then —

“Natalya.  Natalya.”  Someone was shaking her.  Her eyes snapped open.  A moment later, a light came on, and she closed them again against the sudden brightness.  “Natalya?”

She forced herself to take some deep breaths, then slowly sat up.  “I’m alright.”  She exhaled.  “I’m alright.”

Greg nodded, then gently rubbed her back.  “I’ll make some coffee.”  He rose and stepped around Adele.

Adele wheeled herself all the way into the room.  “Sorry, sugar.”  Adele came over and patted her hand.  “I heard you yelling but I couldn’t get into my chair and…”

“Why are you apologizing for…”  She glanced down at herself, then promptly grabbed the covers and yanked them up to hide her breasts.  “Shit.”

“It’s not the first time he’s seen you topless.”  Adele shrugged.  From the kitchen, a few banging sounds could be heard.

“Six years old and playing in the sprinklers doesn’t count.”  Natalya sighed.  She could tell her face was crimson.  “I’m going to buy some pajamas.”  She stuck her tongue out at Adele.  “Just not old lady ones like yours.”

“Hey…”  Adele pointed at her nightshirt.  “Don’t knock Minnie Mouse.”  She guided the wheelchair back, then turned it toward the door.  “I’m going to go rescue Greg from the coffee machine.”

“I’ll be there in a minute to start breakfast.”  Natalya sighed.  “After I commit seppuku from humiliation.”

(more…)

Escapade: Chapter 1

“WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”

Michaels and Gabriel both ducked reflexively before looking at Ted.  Ted chuckled.  “I think she found the —”

“I’m perfect!”  Laura came flying through the door waving a sheet of paper.  She shoved the paper into Micheals’ chest.  “Perfect perfect perfect perfect perfect.”  She spun around in a ballet twirl before throwing herself into Gabriel’s arms in a swoon.  He caught her, rolling his eyes as he did so.  “I’m perfect!”  She grinned up at him.

“Holy shit.”  Michaels looked down at the paper.  “She’s uh…”  He chuckled.  “Not kidding.”

“I could use a little context.”  Gabriel raised an eyebrow.

“SATs.”  Laura straightened.  “Perfect score.  1600, bitches.”

Which means our little girl is going to college, Erilon’s voice echoed around them.

“Wait.”  Laura blinked.  “What?”

“Pretty much any college she wants.”  Michaels nodded.

“But uh…”  Laura shifted her weight.  “College costs um…”

“You let me worry about the costs.”  Ted immediately shook his head.

Pfft.  Give me five minutes and it won’t cost you anything.

“We want to keep things legal, Erilon.”  Ted sighed.

It’ll be legal.  Ish.

“No.  Totally legal.”  Michaels folded his arms.  “I don’t want any problems cropping up during her presidential campaign.”

Oooh, running one of those sounds like fun.

“Let’s start small.”  Laura grinned.  “I’m gonna be mayor of this place first.”

“I’m…”  Gabriel exhaled.  “A little scared.”

(more…)

The Duchess: Chapter 1

Three separate lords had now presented invitations to her.  Duchess Vitalia sighed.  The worse part was her uncle, the king, had looked in her direction whenever the word ‘alliance’ came up.  She hadn’t disposed of one useless old man just to get stuck with another.  Any husband the king saddled her with would mean trouble, as would the sycophants after her wealth and position.  If she did marry, it would have to be on her terms, and none of those louts would agree.  Many of them seemed to think she would benefit from a ‘governing hand’.

Adding to her current frustration was the fact she dare not relieve her frustration with her lover.  Not with so many eyes about.  Durante was both base born and a bastard, and it was scandalous enough merely having him as her groom.  Marzia, her maid, was lush enough, but she was in the mood for something else.  And any husband she ended up with would likely insist both they and Gian be sent away, if he didn’t come up with a pretense to have them killed.  Her not so sadly deceased husband had killed her lovely Nico.

She picked up her drink, then noted Marzia was staring down at the tournament with a small smile.  “Someone caught your eye?”

“That count who annoyed you earlier was just unhorsed.  He is not happy.”  Marzia’s smile became an open smirk.  “Not happy at all.”

Vitalia followed her gaze to see the sputtering count.  It took her a moment to determine who had unhorsed him.  She hadn’t been paying attention to the games.  The knight was young, and his armor battered as though it had seen war rather than just tournaments.  “Who is he?”

“I believe that is Baron Orso’s second son, your grace.  I’m not sure of the name…”  Marzia tilted her head.  “Something foreign.  His mother was Ipruci or Gaebli or something.”

“I’m surprised he was allowed to compete.”  She frowned at the scene.  “Though that seems to be the count’s issue as well.”

“The boy has ridden well.  He’s in the running for…”  Marzia trailed off.  The count was clearly pleased at whatever the tourney master had decided.  The handsome young knight looked frustrated and angry as he turned and stalked away.  “He has been disqualified.”

“Pity.”  Vitalia settled back into her chair.  “I rather liked the thought of Count Servo taken out by an upstart.”

(more…)

Blood and Ashes: Chapter 1 (Sequel to Dragonlord)

“I…”  Aurel stared at him.  Then he shook his head.  Then he stared at Bastien some more.  “He what?”

“He did give me permission to tell you, though that’s probably because he figured out I was going to anyway.”  Bastien nodded.

“Alright.”  Aurel slowly nodded.  “I…”  He closed his eyes, then reopened them.  “Gods above, if he…”  He took a deep breath.  “If he knew this, why the hell didn’t he just deal with Rutger years ago?”

“That…”  Bastien blinked.  “Is a very good question.”

(more…)

Awaakan : Prologue

Ice coated blades of grass crunched beneath his bare feet as he ran.  He kept the moon on his left, praying that if he kept going in the same direction he’d eventually run into a road or trail that would take him to safety.  Isaac stumbled to a halt, catching himself on a tree.  Thankfully, it wasn’t far below freezing, though the air was cold enough to stab at his lungs.  Barefoot and wearing nothing but tattered jeans, he needed to find shelter.

Unfortunately, that was the least of his problems.  Isaac surveyed the darkness behind him.  The moonlight reflected off the icy ground.  He wasn’t sure if it were April, or still March.  He looked down, and let out a few curses.  The frozen ground had opened cuts on his feet, and he was leaving a trail of bloody footprints.

A twig snapped.  Isaac shook his head as he grimaced and started moving again.  The twig had snapped for no reason other than his pursuer wanted Isaac to know he was there.

There, ahead, lights.  A thorn cut a shallow gash in his arm as Isaac pushed his way through the brush.  His feet nearly slid out from under him as he stumbled onto the icy concrete of the parking lot.  The lights were headlights.  A security vehicle.

“What the…?”  An older man in a guard uniform was coming toward him.  The guard started drawing a sidearm.  “Are you alright?”

“Please…”  Isaac kept moving.  He’d made it three steps out of the woods when a hand came down on his shoulder and halted his progress.  He tried to twist away, and was yanked back.  Another hand wrapped around his head and clamped down over his mouth.  The hand on his shoulder shifted to grab his wrist and twist his arm up behind him.

The guard blinked in confusion.  “Sir?”  The sidearm was still half draw.

“Just a trespasser.”  His captor’s voice was calm.  Isaac began struggling in the man’s grip.

“A tress –” The guard started shaking his head.

“A trespasser.”  The man’s voice was firm.  “Just a trespasser getting what trespassers deserves.  Don’t worry about it.”

Isaac’s eyes widened in terror as the guard gave a blank nod before sliding the sidearm back into its holster.  “Don’t worry about it.  Just a trespasser getting what trespassers deserve.”

He thrashed in the man’s iron grip and tried shouting protests through the hand clamped over his mouth as he was dragged back into the woods.

Dragonlord : Chapter 1

“You need to hurry.”  Guard Captain Aurel guided the young duchess toward the passage.  The little girl was bravely trying not to cry.

Bastien swallowed past the lump in his own throat.  The attack had come suddenly.  Most of the guard had been cut down in the initial onslaught.  Duke Harald had welcomed his half-brother and retinue with open arms.  Now the duke was dead in the great hall, poisoned along with half his men.  Phillip’s mercenaries were slaughtering the remaining soldiers.

It had been pure luck they hadn’t been swept up in the initial attack.  Little Nadja had crept out of her quarters to visit her pup in the kennels.  She was clutching the little dog as if the puppy was all she had left in the world.  A glimpse of the carnage around the castle showed she might be right.

They were almost to the secret tunnel when a shout revealed they’d been spotted.  Bastien turned to look at his father, then at their position.  “I can hold them long enough for you to get her out.”

“Bastien…”  Aurel started to shake his head.

He looked from the girl to his father.  “The king knows you.  You’ve a better chance to get her to safety.  She is all that matters now.”

Aurel clearly wanted to argue.  Then he gave a furious shake of his head.  His voice was thick.  “Gods guide you, my son.”

“Safe journey, Father.”  His sword hilt felt cold in his hand as he drew the blade, preparing to buy his father time.

(more…)

Daniel : Chapter 1

Matthias set the wad of newspaper beneath the two logs on the fire, and lit struck a match.  He stayed crouched long enough to be sure the wood was going to light, then rose.  The cabin was secure enough that he hadn’t bothered to relight it earlier.  He’d have to turn on the propane tank and generator in the morning though, if he wanted hot water.  He shrugged, then sat down, letting the gun rest on his knee as he waited for the would-be thief to wake up.

It didn’t take long.  Maybe a minute.  The kid came awake with a jerk, and immediately began yanking at the handcuffs securing him to the column.  “Knock it off.”

The guy’s eyes widened when he saw Matthias, and he swallowed.  The expression on the dumbass’s face was almost comical.  “Who the fuck are you?”

“Kid…”  Matthias rubbed his forehead with his free hand.  “If I’d broken into a cabin only to get put in a sleeper hold by a guy twice my size that I never saw coming, then woke up handcuffed to a post with a gun pointed at my face, I’d like to think I’m smart enough to be a bit more polite.”  He leaned forward.  “So, the question is, who the fuck…”  He narrowed his eyes.  “Are you?”

“I didn’t know anyone was here.”  The kid started shaking his head frantically.  His blue eyes looked frantic.

“Sure, you didn’t.  Who are you?”

“Look, you can just let me go, and you’ll never see me again, I swear.”

“Let’s try this one last time.”  Matthias stood, setting his sights at right between the thief’s eyes.  “Who the fuck are you?”

He swallowed.  “Daniel.”

“And you were breaking in because…?”  Matthias raised an eyebrow.

“Needed supplies and…”  The kid swallowed again.

“Supplies are in the kitchen.  You were after something else.”  He shifted to aim at the kid’s kneecap.  “Who sent you?”

“Nobody sent me.”  The kid drew his knees up to his chest.  “I needed money.  I was looking for that or something I could sell to…”  The kid cringed.  “Please don’t kill me.  I was just trying to get enough for gas and maybe a motel and oh god.”  He was shaking now.  “Please don’t kill me.  I swear I didn’t know anyone was here.”

For the love of…  The guy looked like he was about to start crying.  “And of all the places to rob…”  He shook his head.  “You came here?”

“It was far away, nobody would see me and…”  The kid’s voice caught a little.  “I’ve never robbed anyone before and…”  He shook his head.  “It would take the cops a while to get here and not a lot of people use the cabins in the winter and I didn’t think anyone was here and…”  He shook his head.  “Please, I won’t tell anyone about this, I swear.”

Matthias started laughing.  “All the places to break into, you pick mine.  That’s…”  He shook his head, and holstered the gun.  He could smell the waves of terror coming off the guy.  “You poor stupid fuck.”  He started pacing.  Even if he did feel like killing some hapless teenager, disposing of a body in subzero temperatures with three feet of snow on the ground didn’t appeal to him.  And another storm was on its way.  Kid would have no choice to stay in town, and if he talked to the wrong person…  If they knew enough to be in town he was already screwed.  He walked behind the column and started digging the keys out of his pocket.  The kid tensed, then relaxed again when Matthias started removing the cuffs.

“I won’t say anything, mister.  I swear.”

“Good.”  Matthias leaned in close.  “Saves me the trouble of pressing charges.”  The kid flinched.  “Get up.”

The guy stood up, swayed a little, and promptly passed out onto his floor.  Matthias sighed.

(more…)

Ash: Chapter 4

Ash shivered a little in the night air.  The temperature outdoors was starting to drop a little at night.  Autumn was coming.  The notion made his stomach twist.  It had been the beginning of summer when he’d been abducted.  It wasn’t outright cold yet, just cool.  And he hadn’t been allowed to put on clothes since his had been taken from him.  Sima might have allowed it, but Carol had objected strongly to the idea of him being allowed any clothing at all.  He shivered again.

“Are you cold, Ash?”  Sima petted him.

He made a small whining noise.  The collar hadn’t been activated in a while, but the last time he’d attempted to speak had netted him another two days in the box.  She unhooked the leash from her chair, and started walking him back to the building.  He started to follow his mist…  Sima.  Her name was Sima.  He was a cop, not a dog.  She led him into her room, and patted the foot of the bed.  He climbed up and curled into a ball.  She laid down and went back to her book.

It was getting cold.  It was past July, then.  He’d missed his father’s birthday.  The big five-oh.  He felt tears prick the back of his eyes, and blinked them back.  His friends were likely going on with their lives, now.  Making plans for the upcoming semester, starting new jobs.  His father had wanted him to meet someone who worked in the filing room.  A nice girl who’d supposedly made the cookies to die for.  Not so subtle hints about settling down and starting a family.  What was his father doing now?

They hadn’t been laying there long when Sima suddenly sat up.  “Oh, I almost forgot.  I got you something in town.”  She went to her dresser and took something out of her purse.  He looked down at what she set in front of him.

A bright blue plastic squeaky bone.  Her hand ruffled his hair.  “A new toy for my good boy.  Do you like it, Ash?”

It was a bright blue plastic squeaky bone.  It was a dog toy.  Her hand tightened in his hair, pulling the strands just a little.  “Do you like it, Ash?”  There was an edge to her voice now, a small note of threat.

The toy squeaked when he bent down and picked it up in his mouth.  He squeaked it again.  Sima smiled, and her grip on his hair once again became a pet.  “I knew you’d like it.”  She settled back down with her book.

His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  He was not her pet.  He was a cop.  He was not a dog.  The box was cramped, and dark, and painful.  He just had to pretend, so she didn’t put him back in the box.  He settled back down on the bed and began chewing on the corner of the bone.  His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  He was not her pet.  He was a cop.  He was not a dog.

(more…)

Ash : Chapter 1

Lisa smiled as the man on the tattered mattress moved slightly.  She rose, and walked over to look down at her prize.  He shifted again just a little, and then his eyes flew open and he began thrashing at the restraints.  His hands were cuffed behind his back, and a second pair of cuffs secured his ankles.  The third set had been used to fasten the other two sets together.  “You’re going to hurt yourself it you keep that up.”

He shifted to glare angrily in her direction.  Whatever he tried to say was muffled by the rag she’d stuffed into his mouth.  She smirked, then removed his ID from her pocket.  “Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  That’s quite a moniker.”  She ran her thumb over the badge.  “You don’t really look like a Bernie.”  He had a muscular, athletic build from what she could see.  Definitely not the type she’d expect from such a frankly nerdy name.

Muffled grunts were all that answered her as he continued testing the cuffs.  She shrugged.  “Or a Rudy, for that matter.”  His eyes narrowed.  She licked her lips.

“He looks a bit confused.”  Carol chuckled.  The man on the mattress squirmed, trying to look over his shoulder at her.  Carol was leaning near the door, watching with some amusement.  “I’ll bet he’s a Berg.”

“What about it?”  Lisa walked over to crouch near the mattress.  “You a Berg?”  She reached out to touch the collar of his uniform and he managed to pull away.  The sounds he was making were most likely curses, and he was openly glaring at her now.

“So, tell me, what did he pull you over for?”  Carol raised an eyebrow.

“I was doing five over.”  Lisa smirked.  “Couldn’t risk them running my ID and his trainer was going to do it ‘by the book’ instead of just telling me to slow down and go on my way.”

The man on the mattress started making cursing noises and pulling at the cuffs again.  “Hey, now.”  Carol’s voice was sharp.  She sat down on the mattress and grabbed his forearm.  “Knock it off, you’re already bleeding.”  She shook her head and looked up at Lisa.  “You’re going to need better restraints.”

“Wasn’t exactly planning on taking a prisoner.”  Lisa shrugged.  She reached forward to brush her fingers through the man’s dark blond hair.  He immediately pulled away and growled something from behind the gag.  “He was just a bit too pretty to pass up.”

“What happened to the other one?”  Carol examined the prisoner’s abraded wrist.  The prisoner managed to pull his arm away.

“Double tap.”  Lisa shrugged.  “Once I had this one in the trunk the old man had outlived his usefulness.”

More sounds came from the captive.  Carol reached up, grabbed his hair, and yanked his head back.  “I suggest you start considering how to preserve your own life.”

“So, which is it?  Berg, Rudy, or Bernie?”  Lisa leaned forward and yanked the gag out of his mouth.

“Fuck you.”  He spat the words at her.  “You murderous bitch, I —” He struggled, but with Carol holding him by the hair Lisa had no problem shoving the gage back into his mouth.

“He’s not very cooperative.”  Carol made a tsking sound.

“That can be changed.”  Lisa smiled.

(more…)

Wren and Adam : Chapter 1

“You are such a pig.”  Wren shoved Mark away from her and zipped her top back up.  Wearing the thing had clearly been a mistake.  But it had set her back fifty bucks and she wanted to look good for Adam.

“Your girlfriend’s a prude.”  Mark snickered as he looked over her head at Adam.

“Stop being such an ass.”  Adam glared at him.  When Mark reached toward Wren again, Adam caught his wrist.  “I said knock it off.”

“We’re out tonight to have fun.”  Mark rolled his eyes, then sighed and looked up at the driver.  “Why’d you invite the stick in the mud?”

“He’s my brother, jackass.”  James shrugged.

“You’re the one who didn’t want to sit in the back.”  Vince laughed.  He had his arms draped over both Meg and Susan, and they were giggling.

Mark put his hand on Wren’s knee and Adam grabbed it and shoved it back at him.  “James, pull over.”

“What?”  James glanced back at him.

“I’m changing seats with Wren.”  Adam shrugged.  “Hopefully, Mark can keep his hands off me.”

“I’m going to kick your ass.”  Mark flipped him off.

“We’re never going to get there at this rate.”  James growled, but pulled off to the side.

Adam opened the door and slid out.  He turned and offered Wren a hand.  Mark smacked her on the ass as she started climbing out of the van.  “Fuck off, Mark.”  Adam glared as he caught Wren to keep her from falling.

“That fucking hurt, you…”  Wren shook her head.

Mark rolled his eyes, then leaned over and shut the door.  Wren heard it lock and banged on the window.  “Don’t you…”  Adam started cussing as James hit the gas pedal at Mark’s urging.  “Oh, you fucking…”  He ran a hand through his black hair.  “Do you have your cell phone?”

“My purse is still in the van.”  Wren folded her arms.  “Along with my jacket.”  She shook her head.  “Why the hell are you friends with that asshole?”

“Good question.”  Adam stripped off his windbreaker and offered it to her.

“Thank you.”  She sighed down at the strappy sandals she was wearing.  They were going to get ruined.  “Will they come back?”

“Fuck if I know.”  He took a deep breath.  “I think there is a gas station a couple miles up the road.”

(more…)

Gabriel : Part 1

He was still buttoning his shirt when his eyes fell on the file sitting on his kitchen counter.  Plain, manila, and taunting him.  His cell phone sat atop it.  Gabriel walked forward, staring at the thing.  Then he reached for his phone.  It blinked to life before he touched it, open to the map application.  A place several miles out of town.

Gabriel took several deep breaths before looking at the name on the file.  “Roske.”  He sighed, then picked up the phone.  He dialed Angela’s number.  “Hey sweetie.  It’s Gabe.  Look I hate to do this, but something just came up with a case.  Can we take a rain check on tonight?  Call me.”  He stabbed the end button.

The map popped back into view.  He stared at it for several seconds before heading into the living room to find his keys.

(more…)

Primitive : Chapter 1

The bars of the cell were more than just steel.  Captain Oscar Guerin glanced at the creature within.  It stared back at him with irritatingly calm green eyes.  The steel bars of the last cage had been bent, enough that the beast inside had been able to force an escape.  It had killed four good soldiers before they’d managed to hit it with enough sedative darts to drop it again.  The thing only looked human.

He’d been furious when he’d confronted those in charge of the operation.  Bad intel and insufficient preparation got people killed.  Security around the creature had been revamped to his specifications.  The titanium alloy bars of the cage were now set close enough together that the creature could not reach its arm through.  The lock was electronic with a number code.  Entering a different code would cause the floor of the cell to deliver an electric shock to disable the creature.  The floor would deliver the same shock if force were applied to the lock without the code being entered.

Guerin smiled as he crouched a little to look the thing in the eye.  “I know you can understand me.  They are going to vivisect you while you are alive and watching, take you apart to see how you work.”  The creature merely smirked at him.  He thought about activating the shock just to wipe the expression off its face.  Then he shrugged, shifted so the camera couldn’t see him, and opened the front of his trousers.  The stream of piss landed in the thing’s food and water, and it growled at him before lunging forward and knocking both to spill out of the cage.  He gave it a smirk of his own.  “What, not hungry?”

(more…)

Truth and Shadows : Chapter 1

She took a deep breath, then checked her tape recorder again and did another mic check.  Everything was still in working order.  And just in case it wasn’t, she still had her notebook.  Though the guards had insisted she use a felt tipped pin instead of anything that could be used as a weapon.  That made her even more nervous.  What the hell was she doing here?

The job advertisement was something she would have passed by, had she not still be flying a little high from her little adventure under the pier.  She’d almost called him up when she realized she’d forgotten to give him back his handcuffs.  They’d been sitting on her desk when she’d fired off the resume.

Diana Valerio, intrepid girl reporter.  Ace reporter.  Oh god, there were footsteps coming down the hall.  She set the pen back down and pasted a friendly smile on her face.  Somehow, she managed to keep it on as the guards set about securing the prisoner to the other chair.  Unlike hers, it had been bolted to the floor.  The man they were shackling to it looked every inch the stereotype of a scary black man.  He was well over six feet in height, with pounds of prison muscle packed onto this frame.  A scar ran down the left side of his face, from hairline to jaw, and she was surprised to see he still had the eye.  She could see tattoos visible on his neck as well as on his clean-shaven head, and from the looks of things his nose had been broken several times.

His hands were secured behind his back with heavy duty manacles, and his ankles were also fastened to the chair.  The guards didn’t stop there.  They also put leather straps on his legs and chest to keep him firmly fastened in place.  She found herself hoping he didn’t get an itchy nose.  Then she found herself hoping the restraints weren’t actually necessary.

As soon as the guards left the room, she took a deep breath.  “Mr. Viteri, thank you for agreeing to my request for an interview.”

“Ma’am.”  He inclined his head in her direction.  He shrugged.  “Guy in the cell next to me owes me ten cigarettes.”  His voice was surprisingly soft and pleasant, with a bit of a drawl.

“Um…”  She tilted her head.  “May I ask why?”

“Told him I was going to be talking to a woman named Diana today.  He bet me you’d be more Amanda Waller than Wonder Woman.”

“I hope he pays up.”  She smiled.  “Is that why you agreed to an interview?”  Her new boss hadn’t expected her to get the interview.  The man before her had turned away dozens already.  Given the man’s predilections, she was fairly confident her looks weren’t why he’d agreed to meet with her.

“Forty requests this month.  But yours started with a please and ended with a thank you.”  He shrugged again.  “I am a southern boy, ma’am.  Good manners go a long way.”

“I will keep that in mind.”  She nodded.

“You also pointed out that you hadn’t read the books already written about my case.  Just the trial notes.  Said you wanted to get my side of the story without risking their influencing your views.”  He smiled.  “That’s the part that got you the interview, ma’am.  Reporters should have an open mind.”

“Thank you, Mr. Viteri.”  She took a deep breath.  “Would you like to start?”

“I’ve got some time.”  He winked at her.

“Alright then…”  This time the smile was genuinely friendly.  She’d been worried he was going to be hostile or confrontational.  This might go well.  “Shall we start in high school?”

“Rather not.”  He shook his head.  “High school set the scene, but it isn’t really where things got started.”

“Your lawyer cited bullying…”

“Ma’am, I think the fact that I’m in here kinda suggests he wasn’t a great lawyer.”

“Fair point.  So, set the scene for me.”  The tape recorder was running, but she picked up the pen anyway.

“I was bullied in high school.  Skinny, broke, nerdy, black, and gay.”  He nodded.  “Pretty much the absolute lowest you could get in Bailey.  I skipped a few grades on account of the nerdy, or things might have been different.”  He glanced down at himself.  “I was kind of a late bloomer.”

“I see.”

“Thing is, that’s a common story.  You can walk down the street and run into a dozen people with the same one.  High school had good parts and…”  He looked up at her.  “It bother you if I cuss?”

“I want your words, Mr. Viteri.”

“High school had good parts and shit parts, and on the whole, it didn’t bother me too much.  But like I said, it sets the scene.  I got bullied particularly hard by a bunch at the top.  You know the names.”

She looked down at her notes.  “Timothy Bradford, Elliot Mercer, Arlo Velin…”  She looked back up at him.  “Paden and Tobias Grady.”  She didn’t miss the slight flicker across his eyes at the last name.

“High school is the time in your life when you’re still figuring out who and what you are.  Where you start making your first real decisions.  But it doesn’t define you.  That part comes a little bit later.  So, uh…”  He chuckled a little.

“Mr Viteri?”  She raised an eyebrow.

“Sorry, it’s just…”  He took a deep breath.  “You asked where my story starts and uh…”  He shrugged, making the shackles rattle a little.  “Hope you’ll forgive me for not being able to resist, but uh…”  He smiled.  “It really did begin on a dark and stormy night…”

(more…)