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Free Chapter: Chapter 1 of “Prisoner Prodigal Pawn” by Robert Sparkman

 

Chapter 1

So there they are in all their glory; smug, and pompous, and reeking of attitude. The so called Founders rarely seen together, Elton Mozingo thought as he glared at them and finished his lite beer. The Founders minus one, he was quick to add. Today is indeed a special day as the wheels of justice begin to turn for my father. He turned away from the trio, and walked through the small crowd of co-workers, and the many minions and friends of Bill Baxter, as he headed towards the free bar, and the caterer’s table.

“Another lite beer please,” Elton said as he dropped another dollar bill into the fishbowl and refocused his attention on Bill Baxter, who now stood alone in front of a line of well wishers.

“Hey Elton, how’s your drink?”

“Not bad Shirley. Let me buy you one,” he said, laughing at his joke.

“No thanks. I pay for my own. Always have, always will,” she said. “Another gin and tonic, please”

“This must be an especially sad day for you as one of the Founders of the firm. Eighteen years you’ve been with Bill, right?”

Shirley nodded before taking a sip of her drink.

“That’s a long time, but I’m sure that some keys to his success must have rubbed off him and on to you over the years. I guess that makes you the sole keeper of the Baxter & Baxter dungeon of secrets, and skeletons now, unless you’re leaving with him?”

“And what exactly do you mean by secrets and skeletons, Elton?”

“Secrets to the firm’s success, and bodies discarded along the way. Quane’s fast rise from gofer to next in line for Tribal Chief…”

Shirley took a step toward Elton, and beckoned him closer with the wag of a finger. He leaned forward, and lowered his head to catch her whispered words.

“If I were you Elton, I’d be careful of what I say about certain people, and failing that I’d be especially careful about who I say certain things to.”

She gave him a cold blank stare, then turned and walked away. Elton straightened his posture, smiled and took another sip from his drink. No sense in stopping now, he thought. He turned and refocused his attention on Bill, and stepped into the line of well wishers. He squinted from the glare of the setting sun, beaming through the tinted glass windows of the Old Town Bank Tower. The bright red and orange hues that crowned the five volcanic peaks of the Sandia Mountains, cast a broad shadow that made the rolling foothills appear to be a sea of blood, as wave upon wave rolled upon the shore.

He soon found himself at the head of the line and face to face with Bill Baxter, the 62 year old founder of the Baxter and Baxter law firm, who was retiring and entering the realm of politics to run for governor. He stood in front of Elton, tall rail thin, with a sinewy build, and a toothy ready-made campaign trail smile. But for the gray hairs that bracketed his face, he could easily pass for a man in his mid to late thirties.

“Elton,” Bill said as he extended his hand. “So how’s Albuquerque’s next super attorney?”

“I don’t know Bill. Next time I see him I’ll ask.”

Both men laughed.

“Now come on. With Liz as your mentor you’ll make senior partner in no time, and will be running this joint.”

“I have a long way to go before I can even think about filling your shoes, Bill.”

“It’s not my shoes that I’m worried about you filling,” Bill said with a wink. “You and Liz have put in some long hours together of late.”

What a creep, intimating something like that between me and his wife.

“The long hours is time well spent,” Elton said.

“Ah yes, the investigation of missing funds from the casino. So how’s that audit going? Any leads?”

“The more I dig the dirtier the dirt gets. It’s the same old story you know. Money begets greed, and greed begets corruption. And those in positions of power are the most corrupt. I’ll put the pieces together soon enough.”

“You can be more specific than that Elton,” Bill said as his smile faded away.

“I’m not there yet Bill. The details are hazy, but the mighty will fall, soon enough.”

“Careful son. Some things are like sacred burial grounds, and are better left alone,” — Bill leaned forward. His face was expressionless, then he narrowed his eyelids as if he was squinting, and furrowed his brow — “out of respect.”

Elton wanted to walk away as he felt the people in line were becoming agitated from all of the time that he was taking up with the man of the hour. But just as he stepped back, Liz Baxter surfaced seemingly out of nowhere, and stood alongside Bill. She wrapped her arms around his upper right arm, tilted her head and offered a wonderful smile.

“So what are you two discussing so intently?” she said.

“Seems your junior mint here has been digging around in old Tribal affairs, and now espies corruption in every dark corner.”

Liz’s jaws tightened briefly and her nostrils flared as she turned her attention towards Elton, and just as quickly her facial features softened.

“Need I remind you how sensitive this matter is? Now is not the time or the place to be discussion it.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t…”

“Don’t be so hard on him dear,” Bill said. “But Liz is right, Elton. There will come a proper time, and place for us to finish our discussion.”

Bill flashed his toothy grin, and looked past Elton at the people in line to greet him.

“Come dear, there are some other people that you must see before they leave,” Liz said.

“Take care Elton,” Bill said before walking down the line of well wishers, and shaking their hands with Liz at his side.

Elton watched them walk away. That didn’t go well. Liz was pissed, he thought.

He turned, and walked down the aisle away from the firm’s reception area to his office. The Baxter firm occupied a long rectangular suite of office spaces on the 11th floor of the Old Towne Bank Tower. The firm’s reception area was located in the middle of the space and separated the junior attorneys’ offices from the senior attorneys’ offices. Elton Mozingo took one last look at the Sandia Mountain range before he stepped into his office. He loosened his tie, slipped it over his head and hung it on the coat rack next to his sports coat. He double checked the pockets of his sports coat making sure that his keys were still there. He hated the way they jingled in his pants pocket. As soon as he sat down at his desk, the door to his office slammed shut. A startled Elton looked up to see Liz Baxter standing in front of him with her feet wide apart, and her arms akimbo. Her long black hair fell over her shoulders as she looked down at the floor, and walked toward his desk as if she was counting her paces; slow, steady and straight. She lifted her head, and looked directly at him.

“What in the hell did you tell Bill? I told you not to discuss the case with anyone!”

“Nothing. I was just making small talk…”

“Small talk? I should think not. Was Quane there the entire time that you were talking to Bill?”

“Quane?” Elton said. “I didn’t see him.”

Liz dropped her hands to her side, and took a step away from his desk.

“Elton, he was standing right behind you, listening to every word you said.”

”I didn’t say anything that would jeopardize our case.”

“The investigation needs to be kept quiet, Elton. I fear our findings will disrupt the gentle order of things around here.” She hesitated for a moment. “There are confidences that we are obligated to keep, for the good of the firm, and for the good of the Tribe.” She started to walk out of his office then stopped, and turned to look at him. “Have you seen Kylee?”

He shook his head, “No, I haven’t.”

She looked at her wrist watch. “She’s working on a project for me, that’s related to this. If you see her, tell her to find me,” she said before leaving his office as abruptly as she had entered.

Elton was flushed with anger and resentment after the scolding Liz had given him. He stood up, then leaned forward, and placed the palms of his hands on top of his desk. He lowered his head and stretched the tension from his neck before dropping himself back into his black leather chair. He spun around making a full circle. So Quane was standing behind me, listening. That’s interesting. His anger was replaced with a prideful grin, “Successful contact made with the Founders,” he smirked. “I’m off to a good start — upsetting the gentle order of things, as she put it.”

He spun around again making a half circle, stopping to stare at the painting on his wall, a picture of an Edowaquah Sandpainting that had been given to him by a childhood friend as a spiritual blessing, when he was hired by the firm. It showed stick figures that looked like something a child in kindergarten drew. The figures were surrounded by symbols in the shapes of circles, and crosses. Other symbols were in the shapes of animals, all painted in dull earth colors. The figures and symbols were surrounded by three borders, one on each side, and one on the bottom to keep evil spirits away. The top of the painting was left open to let in good spirits. Elton didn’t believe much in Tribal mysticism despite being part Edowaquah. In fact, the thought of using the painting as a dartboard for his sharpened pencils crossed his mind again. But the painting also provided him with a fond childhood reverie of the bedtime stories his mother told him about the Edowaquah who were able to turn themselves into animals. The witch people they were called. Never look a witch in the eyes as they will steal your soul. She would tell him those stories to make sure he would close his eyes, and fall asleep faster. He cracked a smile as he thought of his dad and his two word response to all of this spirits from beyond stuff – bull shit.

He threw his head back against the headrest; well that’s what you get for not believing dad. His grin vanished as he was reminded that he often took his father’s position in such things. As he sat in his office away from the festive activities down the hall, his mood darkened as he was reminded of his greatest fear – having what happened to his dad happen to him.

Elton’s physical features belied his mixed heritage. His thick black curly hair and wide bulbous nose presented his father’s African American blood that coursed through his veins, while his dark eyes and cankered caramel complexion showed his mother’s Native American heritage. His stocky physique was packed tightly into a 5′ 9″ frame. Physically, he was neither imposing, nor was he inconspicuous, but women found his exotic, islander like looks a combination that was difficult to resist.

“Hey Elton, you having fun yet?”

Elton spun around in his chair to see Kylee Miguel, one of the firm’s paralegals, who had just stepped into his office.

“So where have you been hiding yourself?” he said.

“Oh, I had to take care of something. Some firm business.”

“Like what?”

“Nothing important.”

“Hmmm, come here.”

She closed the door, then walked towards Elton’s desk. Her dark slacks and navy blue blouse fit tight, but comfortably on her slender frame. She sat on the center edge of his desk right in front of him with her legs spread apart.

Elton leaned back in his chair, creating a little more distance between them.

“Liz is looking for you. Says you’re working on some special project.”

“I’m surprised she mentioned it to you.”

“Why’s that?”

“The fewer people that knows about it, the better. Least that’s what she told me.”

Kylee slid off his desk, and took a seat in a side chair.

“In what way? Trust her to keep a secret, and not betray a confidence? Yeah, I do.”

“Do you trust her to do the right thing if the firm got caught up in something illegal? You know, would she turn over records, evidence, people?”

“What are you getting at Kylee? What are you working on for Liz?”

“Just some boring research. B o r i n g,” she said spelling out the word.

“It’s so boring yet you have to keep it secret? Come on.”

“You’re too smart for your own good sometimes, Elton. But I need to discuss it with Liz to see how she wants to handle it, or even if she’ll want to handle it.”

There was a moment of silence as Elton waited for Kylee to speak. He could sense that there was something else that she wanted to tell him.

“I have a compact disc hidden in my desk. I call it my c y a disc. I just want you to know about it in case…” she said as she bobbed her head from side to side rather than finish her statement.

“In case of what? Are you in danger of some kind?”

She shook her head. “No. Nothing like that. Like if I get fired or something. See, my dad knows stuff about the people here. You should talk to him.”

“You mean you’re ready for me to meet your father, finally?”

“Sure, why not?”

Elton studied her demeanor. Her father had always been off limits. Why the change now, and the change of topic. She fidgeted in her chair and looked away. Her body language had morphed from frisky and flirtatious, to serious and nervous. And like flipping a light switch, she went back to being frisky.

“Come Elton, no more serious talk for now. Since I missed out on most of the fun here, maybe you and me can make our own kinda fun. I’m feeling, you know, in the mood and adventurous. Let’s celebrate Mr. Baxter’s retirement in our own special way.” She had kicked off a shoe, and was rubbing her bare foot against his leg.

“Right now?” Elton said with a wide grin.

“Let me make the rounds, show my face to everyone, and say goodbye to Bill. I’ll meet you in the conference room in about fifteen minutes. I have a new tattoo I want you to see,” she said through pursed lips.

Kylee got up from her chair, stepped into her shoe, walked in front of Elton and ran her fingers through his hair as she passed by him.

“I’ll see you in a bit,” she said as she walked out of his office, looking back at him over her shoulder.

As Elton looked up, he thought he saw a figure jump away from his office sidelight, but didn’t give it a second thought. He sat back in his chair and remembered how Kylee made his first day at the office less nerve wracking than it otherwise might have been, when he first started working for the firm. She had been tasked with getting the newbie’s office up and running, and they hit it off well that day. At 25, she was the youngest person at the firm. She had a lean body with short bright blond hair, and dark green eyes. Her complexion was not unlike his. She was like a sunflower, bright and notable, projecting positive energy. Besides that, they both had a lot in common, namely they were both bi- racial, and estranged from their fathers. But she was much further along in restoring that paternal relationship, than he was. She had a sharp mind, and wanted more out of life than waiting for a paycheck every two weeks. Her only worry seemed to be whether the tattoo over her left ankle would hinder her move up the ladder of success. Her other tats were well hidden, and for special eyes only, she would say to him. Two weeks later, they had stayed late after work, and had capped off the marathon work day by having sex in the conference room. And many more times since.

Elton stood up and adjusted his pants, and tried to calm down with a mental cold shower. He stepped out of his office and looked in the direction of the conference room. I wonder if she’s there, waiting for me already? Would she be sitting, standing or lying on the conference table? Would she be naked or fully clothed? It varied. Sometimes she was eager and did not want to wait to get started. Other times she would tease. He walked past the free bar and the catered table, and past the office reception area. Everyone was in a festive mood, and gave him no attention. When he was certain that no one was watching him, he opened the door and slipped inside the conference room in one seamless motion. Kylee had taken off all of her clothes, and was sitting on the edge of the long mahogany table, with her legs crossed. Her pants and thong were in a heap on the floor beneath her swinging feet. She uncrossed her legs, and gently rubbed her flat abs and shaved pelvic area.

“You like my new tattoo,” she said.

The tattoo was centered between her naval and pelvic area and depicted a gray coyote howling at a bright yellow moon.

Elton dropped to his knees, and pulled her closer to the edge of the table. She placed her legs over his shoulders, and her hands behind her, arching her back in anticipation. He moved his face closer to her pelvic region. She stifled her moans of pleasure that accompanied each quivering pelvic thrust, as best as she could, then she reached forward and ran her fingers through his hair, before holding his head firmly in her hands.

The party was still going strong as Elton emerged from the men’s room. He glanced at the conference room. The door was still closed. He had left Kylee there to get dressed. He strode over to the catered table, and placed some buffalo wings and chips onto a paper plate.

“How’s the grub?” Elton turned to see Bill standing beside.

“Terrible,” Elton said, “but it’s free.”

Bill laughed. “Nothing’s free in life son. Everything’s got some kind of a price attached to it.”

“Seems I’ve heard that before, most recently,” Elton said.

“I haven’t seen Kylee, today,” Bill said. “Have you?”

“I saw her briefly, not too long ago. She stopped by my office. Said she was late because she had to run some errands and stuff.”

“I tell ya, I’m going to miss her most of all I think,” Bill said. “Don’t get me wrong. Shirley is a treasure, my Swiss Army knife, but Kylee is one hot little nymph.”

Bill gave Elton a gentle nudge in his rib cage with his elbow.

Elton suppressed the food in his stomach that started to come up. It never occurred to him that Kylee might be sleeping with Bill. He started to reply, but was interrupted by a woman’s scream, and the crowd of people that began to gather around the entrance to the conference room.

“What the hell!” Bill said as he raced towards the commotion.

Elton stood momentarily frozen. Beads of sweat popped onto his brow. He dropped his plate onto the floor, and staggered towards the conference room. Damn, I hope she’s dressed.

“Call nine – one – one!” somebody yelled.

When he was close enough behind the crowd, Elton stood on his toes, and gasped.

“Oh my God! It can’t be. No way!” he said below the commotion.

He turned away, and placed a hand over his mouth as a bitter taste surfaced in the back of his throat. He fell back behind the crowd, and staggered away.

“Has anyone called nine – one – one?” He heard a voice shout.

“It’s Kylee,” he heard another voice say, confirming who he saw.

As more people gathered around, Elton stumbled away from the crowd, finding support against the receptionist’s desk. He turned, and faced the door, then looked back at the crowd surrounding the conference room. His legs trembled. He was stuck between wanting to assist, and wanting to run, horrified by what he saw. He found himself at the door, leaning his full body weight against it. He turned the knob, and stumbled outside regaining his balance in front of the elevators. He pushed the down button. A door opened immediately. Elton Mozingo hesitated. He looked back at the door to the Baxter and Baxter Law Offices, then turned away and jumped into the elevator ahead of the closing doors and fell against the back of the elevator wall. He closed his eyes. The image of the naked body of Kylee Miguel, sprawled out on the table was etched into his mind. What looked like his necktie was wrapped around her neck. Her eyes were wide open, mouth agape. The elevator came to a gentle stop, the door opened and Elton found himself in the lobby. He bolted from the Old Towne Bank Tower wishing for a sudden surge of people and traffic. The best place to hide is in a crowd, he thought, but he was one of the few pedestrians walking about in downtown Albuquerque, at that time of the evening. He struggled to get a trembling hand into his pocket.

“Damn! I left my keys in my jacket.”

The sirens in the distance grew louder with each hurried step he took. He turned down a dark side street. What the hell is going on? Why am I running? Kylee is dead. I was the last one with her. There’s evidence to prove it, he thought. Fingerprints, my tie wrapped around her neck, and…. He turned his head to look behind him. Who would do this? Maybe I shouldn’t have run away. They’ll think that I did it. He thought of his dad. Like father, like son. A car horn blared as he stepped off the curb.

“Watch where ya goin!” someone yelled out of the passing vehicle.

“Prisoner Prodigal Pawn” can be found on Amazon.

Free Chapter: The Dead Bank Diary by Anna Schlegel

 

Chapter 1. Igor

Moscow, June 1998.
Igor, an ex-intelligence serviceman, was waiting for me at China-town metro station. He had a swollen red face with bloodshot insane and drunk eyes. He smelled of sweat and alcohol, his face was burning. When drunk he usually looked like a bevvied bed bug, as if he’d sprinkle with the blood in your face once you press on him. He grasped me by the elbow with his sticky hot palm and turned me to face him. He was speaking in his usual manner, eye to eye. I kept listening, without looking away from the bloody gauze of his eyes, where blindly like a fly in netting was beating the apple of his eye. I got used to this. He was bluffing. Even being sober Igor lied wholeheartedly, with confidence and shamelessly, like children do.

Catching up on some crazy story on a night flight with five million dollars in exchange for rubles, and a platoon of machine gunners, he added casually just to make sure:
– I got a wooden leg. Want to see it unfastened?
– There, stop flirting, – I slightly pushed him away, sneaking out my elbow.
– Why, you don’t believe me?! You know where I had to fight?!

We came out of the tube into the grasping blind heat. The sun was falling on blindly all over the place; there was no shelter, no chance to rest my eyes onto some shade. Everything was equally lit with dim white sunlight. Igor’s white shirt made me blink; I had no wish to lift my eyes. My glance stopped at his moist red neck bearing beads of sweat. I had no wish to listen to Igor. He was talking of his being wounded in Chechenia and how he lost his leg. Pure bullshit. His leg was well intact and hairy.

Everyone knew he got his worst injury from his wife. Having learnt of his adultery, she hit his balls with a sharp toe of her shoe. Fright, pain, swelling, all was gone long time ago. But for a good while after, when putting his hand in a pocket, he was still imperceptibly scratching his healing ball. This habit remained. Some male instinct made him thrust his hand into a pocket and touch, to make sure it was all safe and sound inside, and then slightly scratch it.

However, he loved his wife he had been with for twenty years. He was long since living alone in different places, but did his best to visit her with a sober mind and not empty-handed. As many others, having seen the death, he was artless and naïve. He felt uneasy coming to see her empty-handed. And then unnoticed he would pull a five hundred note from his wife’s purse, and seating himself at the table, handed it over to her, saying, – Well, that is all I have until they open me a credit line. She started hiding her purse and marking the notes, so Igor imperceptibly turned into an alcoholic.

It was absolutely impossible to make any deals with Igor. How did he could draw me into this currency exchange? Eventually, we reached. The bank was on some industrial site. Their hall was empty. From the doors it reeked of the heat from the street with its sugary smell of cob brick. Imbecile as he is, Igor. We were not even allowed in for negotiations.

After some fooling around Igor came up a young female clerk:
– Listen, I am a veteran. I lost my leg. I’ve got to pee.

And he was allowed upstairs. From what Igor heard hanging around the conference room, the deal was bollocks. The bank could not accept money into their depository. There used to come a cash-full vehicle, the money was counted and then vehicle left for the depository of Guta-Bank for exchange. The vehicle came back and the cash was recounted. But at the time of exchange at Guta-Bank the cash was left unattended by security. Two hours of talks and bargain…
Leaving the bank we both concurrently spitted.

– Let’s pee over here, – Igor waived sideways, towards the dusty shrubs.

My cell started ringing. It was Nikita. His voice was hardly getting through the noise of the airport, from far away.

– Ann, listen. You know here in the airport I met some guy and he died. Just a normal guy, we just talked a little. It seems he was a courier. It happened so I’ve got his parcel. There was an old bond of a million dollars inside. I sent it to Arcady’s address by DHL. It will soon come. Go get it through…

– Nikita how did it happen you got that bond on you?

– … I took it accidentally.

– You mean you have stolen it? You know what you put you foot in…?! – I screamed as if I wanted to thunder down the airport hubbub that felt like creeping into my head.

– Not stolen. I took the parcel and thought to give it over to… There was no address. So you get it through… – Nikita cut me short. – I am no good at bonds. So see you, they have announced my flight number.

He rang off.

– Igor… this bloody idiot has stolen a million dollar bond …and sent it to Arcady. A million dollars in one note! How do you like this shit?

– Your ass is going to be the shooting mark, – Igor clicked his tongue.

– Let’s get to Arcady’s place fast.

– I don’t care where drink vodka, – said Igor. – And Nikita is a walking shithouse so all kind of shit sticks well on him.

We exchanged looks unwittingly and quickened the pace.

By Arcady’s house in the black archway there rushed a dog, dirty yellow like the evening sun on the asphalt. I used to see him here quite often. The dog darted out in a shivery bent silhouette, soaked the corner with a fine jet, sparkling for a second in the sun, and then ran away, hopping and looking back. I threw my head up. From below one could notice the windows wide open, the dim crystal chandelier over the table, flashed scraps of some visitors and the juniper smoke coming out.

Arcady used to burn birch logs and juniper in his fireplace, and grill kebabs. There was no big gathering, however the rooms were filled with scuffling, the sound of chairs getting set back, clinking of dinnerware, rusting of husky smokers’ voices coming from the stairwell. People walked out for smoking, the street-door kept incessantly creaking and banging on its old over-strained door spring, letting the smoke puffs inside. And heavy echo was coughing in the depths of the corridor.

Somehow people managed to get adjusted to this kind of life, but Arcady could not. Having lost their ministerial portfolio some of them went to make business in undergarments. Arcady however, after losing his deputy chair in a huge corporation, still could not find his place. Arcady was trading in useful contacts. He was either getting old or lazy. One way or another, he was damned to make people meet and get his fees on such brokerage.

Arcady was not my father but we have been close since childhood, I got his habits and he was the dearest person in my life.

Today Arcady was winding up some of his bric-a-brac that was a good few, in order to repurchase another apartment. That is the apartment of his brother residing abroad. Arcady accustomed to consider it his own property, all the more so these apartments were just next door.

– Arcady! – My voice got lost in the depths of his corridor.

– This is for you, – and Arcady handed me a bulky envelope.

From the envelope pattered out a doubled old bond exposing its worn out folds to the light. Right in the center it was bearing an oval portrait of Ulysses S. Grant just like on fifty dollar bill. The upper frame of the portrait was decorated with frostwork monograms slightly obliterated in the middle. Under the portrait there were coupons laid in rows. The old paper was amazing. It was issued by the Federal Reserve System of the United States in 1934, for one million dollars. So many zeros! The note warmly lit showing its water-marks and somewhat played in the light changing its colour from paludal to green-grass.

Involuntarily I rubbed my cheek against it. It felt a little crusty, as a shelve-warmer atlas a little hardened with humid air. I could even smell out a subtle stale odour usually coming from long-time packed old clothes in the flea market, or the last-year leaves dumped under the snow. And then there was a smell as if hundreds of human fingers had touched it before. It was so abraded and crumpled that seemed having changed hands over and over again.

And I do love the odour of cash! I just liked how money smells. I used to enjoy tumbling even a one-hundred note in my palms, and then unwittingly bring it right to my nose. Oh! This note however smelled something unusual. This must be the smell of big money.

Bullshit! I have never seen a one-million dollar in a single note. In was such a big and beautiful note… and with so many coupons.

The envelope also contained some other faxed cover letters. They said: The bonds were issued prior to the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944 by the US Government as US gold bonds to be traded in exchange for money to third parties or used to repay a debt. The United States Government guaranteed these bonds with the US gold reserves.

The cover letters also included the Gold Bullion Certificate and the Treasury Certificate, where the US Treasury confirmed the relevant gold security amount and quality. The whole lot was enclosed with a Global Immunity Certificate.
The Global Immunity copy read: In virtue of the power in them here unto enabling the United States of America to determine and to contract in a manner appearing as a loan which shall be known as Federal Reserve Bond series 1934. The locator and redeemer will be free from criminal offense and be duly covered by complete immunity documented for the safety of all parties concerned.

The bearer of these bonds acts as a lender while the United States Government acts as a debtor. For over 50 years these bonds have been in free circulation. They were free from charges, mortgage or other encumbrance by third party rights. No rejection of claim on the part of the United States was acceptable, nor withdrawal of debt acknowledgement. All this text came under signed and sealed.

Bullshit. If the bond itself was a faxed copy I would rather think it was no better than another 10-million dollar Fed, a copy of which I just recently had on my hands. It was still somewhere lost among other copies. I remember having crumpled up this paper and my intention of casting it to the wastepaper basket but I still changed my mind, thinking …I could come across the same after a long while and smile. With a similar feeling I had folded and kept my old luxury dress in the wardrobe. There was nowhere to dress up. It was out of fashion. But still I could accidentally see it while sorting out my wardrobe and remember of those nonchalant and wealthy times, so I could cry hiding my face in that robe.

– Handsome forgery. I didn’t know it could be so good. Just as good as real, – said Igor, taking the bond to his eyes, and fumbling it against the light. – At one time there were many of this kind in the market. So many we were sick and tired of.

– You think it’s the same fake note? – I was disappointed.

– Really handsome! Wonderful! A million dollar in a one note! A bearer bond! Never seen anything better, – Igor laughed. – And you what were you thinking?

– I was thinking the same, until I took a smell … that smell… it smells of money! It smells of a million dollars!

– It smells of crime, – chuntered Igor, handing the bond to Arcady.

– And this is not the fake note that used to be out in the market, – Arcady said.

– This one is different. That note was of 100-million dollar face value. Don’t you remember? But Fed has never issued anything over one-million worth. And this one is exactly one million. Humble indeed. Never thought I’d be holding it in my hands. I heard these bonds were used to repay Russian national debt.

– How many of those were there? – I asked.

– Up to twenty billion worth, – Arcady said, recollecting that story. – I am not an expert of course, but… Michael, you are not yet going? – cried out Arcady in the kitchen way.

– Michael?

I was thinking Arcady made up his mind to sell another print by Falck cherished against a rainy day, and this was why he was calling for Michael. I looked at him uneasily, but Arcady just waved aside and smiled. Michael only came to chat and kick the tires.

Michael, a fine art expert and connoisseur, was sitting in the corner of the kitchen with his bony arms across and his fingers intertwined, with a smoldering cigarette. From afar he seemed tied up in a knot. He stood up, going round mindlessly and moving sweepingly like a stuffed doll. He approached his face with high cheek bones sinking under grey temples, clicked the lighter and knotted up again, seated next to mine. By the way, with all his shapelessness Michael turned out attractive to females. In his youth Michael would strike in the face without much talking. He would only take off his specs. And he never cash in on his clients. He was original, as per one of his friends’ evaluation.
Arcady pushed away some tea cups with a motion of his hand from the table corner.

– Here, look, what a wonderful forgery, – Arcady unfolded the bond in front of him.

Michael took the bond paper close to his eyes, narrowing and flickering up and down the monograms as if probing the same.

– Unbelievable. It’s an artwork, – he whispered over the note.

– All American bonds of that time look similar to this one. And dollars too, – it didn’t ring any bells to Arcady.

– I haven’t seen any others, Arcady. And this one was not done yesterday. Its age is between 1940 and 1960. This banknote is a real masterpiece. And if it’s forgery it is obviously an artwork by a famous forger.

– Who must be dead by now, – Igor remarked.

– That is for the better. So his name is long time well known to everyone. His style and touch looks familiar to me, over here… – Michael carefully tapped on with his bony finger the conglomerate of white monograms intertwined as a knot of worms, drifted to the upper edge of the line curved just above the portrait.

– Style and touch? On a bond paper? – Arcady asked again dubiously.

– Just like the master’s style and touch… You know the touch of a certain painter never gets changed, just like his fingerprint. No matter what he makes paintings or money… The touch remains. I visited an exhibition of a Russian painter Smirnov in The Tretyakov Gallery, three years ago. It was brought from Austria. There is a museum of his with all his works. And you know what? Smirnov used to make handmade dollars. He would wash off the ink from a one-dollar note and make a hundred instead. He served his time in jail, came out. Lived under a different name, kept refreshing his documents and died in Vienna… And his touch was remarkable.

Michael went to search for his spectacles, took his magnifier. And for a rather long time, adjusting the specs and the magnifier kept looking with his keen eyes at the bond.

– There is nothing to look at, Michael, its all clear. Let us have a drink, – and Igor poured him some whiskey.

– Yeah, we’d rather have a drink, – agreed Michael, taking off his specs and putting aside the bond paper. – But, I had better smoke…

Michael kept smoking grass out of his college time habit, when appraising an unknown artwork by-sight.

– It’s immaterial what kind of note is this, – voiced Arcady in a frigid and sober tone. – What is important, every bond has its owner. No matter if its payable to bearer or not. And the owner is now looking for it.

And he was right. All promissory notes, all papers, forgery or not, meant a real person, with actual or paper funds. And if this paper funds like in this bond case were too big, that meant the money owner was a millionaire.

This had nothing to do with the long time deceased forger. The bond belonged to a live person. This bond came out not by chance. It must have dropped out of a deal, of a major transaction, where it would get exchanged for something and get back to sleep in the bank depository vault for many years. This was not a market transaction. It appeared to be a deal between two parties who know each other well. The bond could be getting transferred from one bank to another. So the transaction was aborted. It might have been a million dollar deal.

– Well, that’s real shit. So who may be the owner? – Igor asked following Arcady.

– It’s hardly a criminal transaction, – Arcady started speculating. – The criminal world was not allowed to buy-up the government debt. This should be the intelligence agency case. We’d better find the owner fast. And give the bond back. It’s just like keeping the bomb under the bed.

– And how do you find the owner? – I wondered.

– Well if you don’t find him, he will find you, and that’ll be worse, – retorted Arcady.

– Let us find the body in the first place, – resolved Igor. – The courier was dead in the airport? Let’s go there.

Into the Darkness by Fox Lee (Chapter 8)

 

 

CHAPTER 8

“The man who does ill must suffer ill.”

- Aeschylus

Rheinhold faded back in from his waking dream as he heard another thump from underneath him. He wasn’t five years old anymore, and he hadn’t seen his father since then, yet he was afraid. He flipped the switch on the desk lamp, and heard a muffled ‘pop’ as the light bulb sparked and then burned out. He knew that he should leave, but something told him that he had to see what was making the thumping noise under the floor.

He fumbled around momentarily in the dark and then found the penlight that he kept on the desk in his work area and clicked it on. The penlight shed a relatively meager amount of light onto the wooden floor.

Rheinhold knew that the Nazis often kept hidden storage areas underneath their meeting places for storing weapons caches and documents. In fact, he found some very interesting military plans in the hidden rat-hole that ran below the last building that he had inventoried. Still, a couple of new Nazi maps, or an old grenade or two definitely should not have been enough enticement to overcome the fear that crept into his empty stomach as he sat in the dark with only a penlight. He clicked off the light and sat momentarily on the hardwood floor. The faint odor of urine from his piss soaked pants brought Rheinhold back to reality. He clicked the penlight back on, and stood up to leave.

As he passed his desk, Rheinhold heard a faint shuffling from underneath the floor. It sounded like it was closer than the bumps he had heard before. A sinking feeling started to crawl from his guts up into his throat as he stood listening. Then he heard a sound from deeper below the floorboards. “What the fuck?!”, he whispered to himself.

Then he heard it again. It sounded like a woman laughing. As a matter of fact, it sounded eerily like the voice of the dominatrix from his favorite porn site. Rheinhold relaxed somewhat when he heard the feminine voice. The image that he had conjured up of the spirit of some unnamed Nazi soldier with chains on his arms and legs haunting the crawlspace under the building didn’t seem as scary after hearing the sexy woman’s laughter. He still could not imagine a situation that would lead to the woman of his wet dreams actually hiding out underneath the Nazi building, but he figured that maybe he would find out for himself.

He trained the fading beam from the penlight onto the floor beneath his desk, and traced each gap between the floorboards back to the far wall. A glint of metal between the third and fourth boards caught his eye. Looking straight down the gap, he saw two hinges set below the level of the floor. He huffed with effort as he slid his ancient hardwood desk against the far wall. “I’ll be damned!” He thought as he blew the dust off of the outline of a small square that had been cut into the planks.

As he scanned his office for something to pry up the trap door with, he heard what sounded like another female voice moaning from below. “Hold on, ladies, I’m coming,” Rheinhold whispered. He felt something stirring in his wet boxer shorts. “Easy boy..” He said with a smile.

He grabbed the large metal scissors from the cup on his desk and wedged the blade between the planks of the floor. The metal blade bent slightly as the trap door lifted out of place with a loud creak. A smell of undisturbed dirt escaped from the crack in the floor, and a wisp of dust danced in the dim beam of the penlight. There was another smell, too. Unfortunately for Rheinhold, the faint smell of death from below didn’t register, as he was too busy fantasizing about the possibilities of a rendezvous with two whores in the dungeon-like area below.

He held the penlight in his mouth as he put both hands under the lip of the trap door and lifted with everything he had. The door flew open and Rheinhold’s heart leapt in his chest as it crashed onto the floor behind the hinges. He caught his breath as he shone the penlight into the blackness below. He saw nothing but more swirling dust under the trap door.

Removing the seal from the ancient tomb caused a cold draft to emerge from the dark tunnel into Rheinhold’s office. He felt a chill under his wet pant legs as he dangled them below the trap door, and then slowly lowered himself down through the opening. He felt his loafers brush the dirt floor of the tunnel as he hung from the floor of the office, and he looked down with the penlight in his mouth. Then, he let go and dropped into the pitch blackness of the tunnel.

A shuffling sound came from the dark, some distance below him. He pointed his penlight at the noise, but the fading beam only extended about ten meters into the stifling murkiness. Rheinhold briefly wondered what two beautiful porn actresses would be doing in this God-forsaken hole, then he smiled as several different scenarios came to mind. All of them he imagined were appealing. Yes, they were indeed!

With renewed vigor, he followed the penlight’s beam, descending slowly down the dark tunnel toward his impending doom. As he approached the chamber at the end of the tunnel, Rheinhold noticed that the beam from his ten year old flashlight was quickly fading. Had he changed the batteries since he bought it at the gas station in 1999? He didn’t think so. ‘Oh well’, he thought. ‘I have ladies waiting.’

He kept his left hand on the wall for balance, and continued forward as the light died. He hoped he’d be able to find the women in the complete darkness. Actually, it might be better this way, he thought. He wasn’t the most handsome of men to start with, and there was also that dark stain in the crotch of his pants, which he didn’t imagine most porn princesses would find attractive. And, to be honest, Rheinhold didn’t intend to give the sluts the opportunity to deny him the pleasure he deserved. If they didn’t put out immediately, he would just take what he needed. Who the hell was going to know down here anyway? He smiled at the thought.

As Rheinhold crept slowly past the entrance to the chamber, he heard something rub against the rock wall behind him. He froze as he tried to determine exactly where the noise came from so that he could make his move and pounce on his prey.

There was no sound whatsoever. He held his breath and listened. As his ears attuned themselves to the lack of audible sensation, he was able to make out a faint raspy breathing. In and out, in and out. The breathing definitely did not belong to a hot and bothered woman. Instead, it sounded more like the labored wheezing of his neighbor’s twelve-year old pit bull, usually just before the damned thing freaked out and tried to latch onto anybody that got within twenty feet of the sidewalk going by its house.

Finally common sense started to leak into Rheinhold’s frayed mind, as he realized that whatever was at the far end of the black hole was now coming towards him, and it probably was not going to be pleasant when it got there. He could not help but flash back to his childhood again, when he had been helpless with terror in the cellar of his cottage, with some unknown monsters approaching in the dark to eat him.

This was different though. He was a grown man now, and noises in the dark shouldn’t scare him. Yet, he knew that the object that was coming toward him was much larger than a raccoon this time. He listened helplessly as it steadily approached – one heavy step, followed by a sliding noise, as if the other leg was dragging slightly on the rock floor. The thing’s breathing was also getting louder and faster as it neared.

Rheinhold silently turned around in the pitch dark and tried to find the wooden pillars that he had seen at the entrance to the room while his penlight still worked. He could feel cold sweat emerging from his forehead as he furiously slid his hands along the rock wall. He had to get out there!

He could not find anything besides the rough stone walls of the chamber. Tears started to roll down his face as he whipped back around to listen for whatever was coming for him. He cowered back against the hard wall of the chamber and started to sob as he realized that now it was directly in front of him. He still couldn’t see it, but the breathing sounded like a freight train. The thing had to be huge!

In his mind’s eye, he could almost sense the immenseness of the beast. In a last ditch effort, Rheinhold clicked the switch on the penlight again and slammed it against the rock wall. It flicked on just long enough for Rheinhold to catch a glimpse of the monster, and it was much worse than anything he could have imagined. The thing looked like it was possibly once a man, which made it even more terrifying than a make-believe monster. This was real, and it was coming to kill him.

The image of the giant was etched into his brain like the red dots one sees after looking straight into a camera flashbulb. He could think of nothing else as his legs turned to jelly and he slid down the wall, landing on his ass on the stone floor. His mouth opened and shut in the darkness, but nothing came out. He felt a voiceless scream leave his lungs as he felt two incredibly huge hands painfully latch onto his shoulders and effortlessly lift him off of the ground. He felt his feet dangle in the air briefly, and then one of the hands left his shoulder, grabbed him by the throat, and slammed him backward into the rock wall. He saw thousands of swirling stars appear in the blackness as his head slammed against the stone.

The smell of decaying flesh brought him back several seconds later. His eyes slowly refocused, and he realized that the giant’s gruesome face was only inches from his.

He shook in terror as the beast’s beady yellow eyes pierced his own eyes, and seemingly bored right into his brain. The thing raised his other hand and lifted a lantern up to its hideous face. Rheinhold could see the flame from the lantern reflected in the eyes of the monster.

He knew that if he wasn’t able to overcome the bowel-locking fear that gripped his whole body, he would be slammed against the wall one more time, and that would be it. He had to do something, yet he knew that he had no hope of physically overtaking the huge being. He had to outsmart him. It made him tremble even harder than before, but Rheinhold knew that he had to take a better look at the beast, and see exactly what he was dealing with.

It looked to Rheinhold as if the man-beast had been underground for an extended period of time – its skin was drawn and pasty white. Its body frame was immense, with very broad shoulders and thick sinewy arms. Its hands were huge as well, he noticed as he looked toward the lantern. Thick black hair seemed to shoot out of the rags that looked to be a child’s private school uniform top, and ran all the way down his arm to the tips of his Wilt Chamberlain-sized fingers. The knuckles were enlarged, and thick yellow claw-like nails dug into his frying pan sized palm.

Rheinhold’s mind raced as he mustered up all his gall and looked into the hideous face of the beast. He relaxed momentarily as he realized that it didn’t appear to be pissed off, or insane. Instead, it looked almost bored, like it was reading an instruction manual or a textbook that contained only information that he already knew. Maybe Rheinhold had a chance after all!

As he dangled limply from the outstretched arms of the beast, Rheinhold tried desperately to free his own vapor-locked brain. He didn’t even know if the thing could talk. It looked human. Well.. sort of human. Maybe it had been underground for so long it wouldn’t be able to understand him. Maybe…

YOU WERE GOING TO ASK ME SOMETHING?

Rheinhold gasped. His eyes flew open in surprise as the voice he heard echoed between his ears. He looked down in horror, and made sure the thing’s mouth wasn’t moving. It wasn’t. The voice had come from inside his own head. He closed his eyes again, and mustered all of his courage. “Wh- Who are y-you? What d-d-do you want with me?”

Rheinhold felt the hand around his throat tighten uncomfortably, then loosen.

YOU ARE RIGHT TO FEAR ME. I AM FEAR ITSELF, SENT HERE TO RID THE WORLD OF HUMAN SIN. I HAVE ALREADY TAKEN WHAT I WANTED FROM YOU, WORM.

Rheinhold felt a trickle of warm blood start from his left ear, and ooze slowly down the side of his cheek. He felt the beast lift him even higher off of the ground, and as the bald spot on the top of his head brushed the coarse stone ceiling, he knew he was about to die. He looked down and saw the beast looking back up at him, with an evil grin on his face. Rheinhold shook in terror as he hoarsely uttered his final words in German – “Der zorn Tuefel… der zorn teufel…..”.

Rheinhold was suddenly cast downward with tremendous force. The beast laughed as he slammed the German face first onto the stone floor and heard a satisfying crackling noise as the weakling’s backbone broke in several places. A large pool of dark red blood instantly appeared beneath Rheinhold’s broken skull. He twitched one last time, then lay still.

As he stood watching the crimson lake grow, the beast mulled over Rheinhold’s last words. “Hmm.. Der zorn teufel. The Devil’s fury. Zorn…Zorn. I like that!” He lifted the lantern up as it began to sputter, and as both the lantern’s flame and Rheinhold’s life faded into darkness, Zorn walked up the tunnel, pulled himself up through the hole in the floor, and entered into the unsuspecting world of the twenty-first century.

Stop Looking Under My Dress by Stu Jerris

 

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Reflections on Marriage

Tale Teaser

On a lazy, hot, sunny day,
The proud, distinguished frog asks the toad:
“Will you marry me?”
The offended, yet sensitive toad croaks,
“Hell, no!”
“Why not?” asks the disbelieving frog.
The frog desperately tries to impress the toad
And shows off his firm torso, thanks to some recent plastic surgery…
But to no avail.
The toad seems repulsed and disgustedly mutters,
“Dude, I’m a toad half your age, you pervert.”
Now Let’s Reflect on Marriage…

1
My wife asked me
What I learned
From fifty years of marriage…
So I told her.
I learned…
We all make mistakes.

2
My wife told me
She found a better man.
I told her…
“So did I.”

3
You know you are in the sh*t house
When even the dog won’t look at you.

4
Just because you are married
Does not mean you are together.

5
I didn’t realize my wife was a psychic
Until I married her.
Every other sentence
Out of her mouth is
“I told you so.”

6
My wife placed me on house arrest…
She refuses to be seen in public with me.

7
Marriage is God’s way of saying,
“Go f*ck yourselves.”

8
The choice between
Marrying for love
Or marrying for money
Is simple…
Take the money
And love yourself.
Don’t be a moron.

9
I married you
So my parents wouldn’t think I was gay.
Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner,
But at least the kids are grown.

10
I love you with all of my heart.
That’s why I’m a bitter man.

11
I never wished harm on anybody…
But you inspire me.

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Department of Temporal Adjustment by Veronica Tabares

 

About the Author

Veronica R. Tabares studied archaeology at the University of Washington and received her degree. She and her husband have raised four children in Seattle, Washington. Department of Temporal Adjustment is her fourth book.

Synopsis

Vanessa is a young woman with a lot on her plate. She’s the wife to Tony, the mother of three daughters, and, recently, she’s become a student at the University of Washington, where she hopes to get a degree in archeology. The thing is, Tony just went back to school, too. Needless to say, it’s a juggling act to balance life on the home front with her homework, course load, and required lab hours. To make it happen, Vanessa often finds herself on campus late in the evening, which normally doesn’t bother her until one night, in the early morning hours, a noise coming from a janitor’s closet startles her— then drives her nuts. Tired beyond belief, nearly dead on her feet, Vanessa can’t help but be curious to see what the sound is. By playing hooky for a moment, she accidently
steps through a time portal that transports her into the future—and on a post-sequential adventure in which the fate of the world rests on her shoulder.

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Chapter 6

“Do you want us to escort you to your car?” the security guard questioned gently.

I looked at him and smiled. Here was a man who was perfect for his chosen
profession. He was kind, polite, and there was real intelligence shining from his soft blown eyes. In my opinion he was the perfect security guard. You could not help but feel safe in his presence. Not only did he have a nice fatherly face, but he was big enough that any football coach would have been crazy not to have recruited him for the high school team.

“Yeah lady, if you feel scared we can take you to your car,” the second security
guard chimed in.

My gaze shifted to the smaller man, and I had to fight to keep the smile on my face. This man did not engender trust, safety, or calm feelings of any kind.

About the kindest feeling I could dredge up when I gazed at his rodent-like visage was sorrow that the poor man had to go through life at such a disadvantage. Not only was he puny, but his resemblance to the rat family certainly did not instill trust—or tolerance.

The more I thought about it, the more I knew I should feel sorry for this guy. He
must have been the last person chosen for the team at every playground game as well as the last boy left standing at dances.

I had no clue as to his background, but this puny little man exuded guile and
dishonesty. He gave off weird, creepy vibes that warned everyone in the vicinity that they had better beware, a predator was near.

If I spotted this guy following me down the street, with his squinty eyes and shifty look, I would find a safe haven as quickly as possible, all the while hugging my purse tightly to my side.

These uncharitable thoughts flooded my mind for a full two seconds before my better self regained control.

Who was I to pass judgment on this weasel-like little guy? And purely on his looks alone. For all I knew he might not have a vile bone in his body. He might have dedicated his life to helping others feel safe and secure as they go about their campus life. He may spend his time taking care of his ailing mother, entertaining sick children at hospitals, and donating regularly to the food bank. He may be a veritable saint hidden in the skin of a sad sinner.

I needed to focus on what ultimately mattered—that security was here when I
needed them. They had responded immediately to my phone call, and they were thorough enough to start by validating my right to be in Denny Hall in the middle of the night. As soon as they were satisfied that I was not an interloper they checked the premises for trespassers. But they had been unable to find any evidence of other people either in the building or near it.

I should have felt glad that whoever had paraded past had not left any damage
behind. Instead I felt foolish. I could tell that the guards thought I was spooked by the loneliness of the building. They thought I was afraid of my own shadow. They believed that the group I had seen marching past was just my overactive imagination in hyperdrive.

And maybe they were right. It was, after all, their job to know what was going on around campus in the middle of the night.

“So lady, we need to make our rounds. What’s it gonna be? Do you want us to
escort you to your car, or can we get on with our work?”

The security guard’s squeaky voice interrupted my charitable thoughts about
him, and the uncharitable ones came flooding back. He was really an  unpleasant and despicable specimen of a human being.

I scrunched up my face in thought. It was now two o’clock, and I still had a lot of lab work to complete. I could take the guards up on their offer to escort me to my car, but that would mean that I would need to stick around again tomorrow night. Or, I could suck it up, stop being a baby, and complete what I needed to complete.

When I thought about it, it was a no-brainer. The group I thought I saw out of the lab window was probably the work of my sleep-deprived, overactive imagination.

“It’s okay. I think I’ll just stick around here for a few more hours,” I replied.
* * *
Two more hours of concentrated work on the never-ending project and I finally
had it completed. To say that I was happy to be done did not even hit close to the mark. I was ecstatic, blissful, jubilant, euphoric, and of course, dangerously exhausted. If I did not know that this room would be filled with students in a few hours, I would seriously consider curling up in a corner and taking a long, long nap.

But then again, my husband probably would not appreciate it if I did not show up. Not just because most husbands become worried if their wives stay out all night, but also because I needed to be there to watch the girls in the morning so that he could go to his classes.

Now, while I still had an active brain, was the perfect time to head home.  Driving in my sleep was a habit I did not want to acquire.

I gathered my backpack from the corner of the lab, and had just put my papers inside when that annoying humming noise returned.

What could possibly have made that strange noise?

I gave myself a slap on the face, both to wake myself up better and to knock  some sense into me.

“Repeat after me,” I said aloud. I felt sure that the sound of a human voice, even my own, would help me understand the words better. “It is none of my business. None of my business, do I hear. None…of…my…business!”

Unfortunately, I knew that mysteries were a weakness of mine. I could ignore them when I had a deadline to meet, but I had just finished the project…

I blame it on my early reading material. I was reared on Nancy Drew and Trixie
Belden novels, and as I got older I graduated to Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. I could not ignore a strange noise or an unusual sight. I was compelled to investigate. Or, as I found out earlier tonight, call security.

But I had already called security one time tonight, and had been made to feel the fool. Besides, what would I say? There was a strange noise?

The more I thought about it the more I realized that investigating this particular strange noise only made sense. I’d be spending many more hours alone in this basement before I finally attained my degree. Not knowing the source of that strange, whining, humming noise would drive me batty and distract me from my work.

I only had one course of action open to me. I zipped up my backpack, threw my
shoulders back, and marched over to the lab door determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious sound.

The cold of the door knob activated the sense that must have fallen asleep sometime during the night while I was completing the project—common sense.

What kind of detective boldly marched out to investigate possible nefarious activity? What could I have been thinking? Were all those hours spent studying the methods of the greatest fictional detectives for naught?

I took a moment to take stock and realize that my heart was pounding madly.  The thought of investigating a real mystery had sent adrenaline rushing through my veins.

But I did not need the energy provided by adrenaline, I needed caution. I needed to regain control of myself before I took another step.

I took a deep breath and cautiously let it out. I was pleased to feel my heart rate
begin to slow, and that feeling of excitement begin to cool.

After a few more breaths I felt more in control. It would not do to make a lot of noise just as I was about to begin my investigation. It might warn any intruders of my presence. Then I might never find out the source of that strange noise.

I knew I could sneak out of a dark room easier than a lighted one, so I flipped off the light switch. Then I hunched my shoulders forward to get into stealth mode. I was ready to sneak and pry. Spy and investigate.

I slowly turned the handle. I listened for sounds in the hallway. All seemed clear.

I eased the door open excruciatingly slowly, and as soon as I had it open an inch I cautiously looked through the opening. It was completely empty.

I gently swung the door wider until I could squeeze my entire head through. I could now see the entire length of the hallway.

Strangely, I was disappointed. All that caution for nothing. There was no one in
sight.

Most disappointing of all was the lack of the humming noise. When had it stopped? I had been concentrating so hard on not being seen or heard that I had not even noticed that it had ceased.

I stepped into the hall and gently closed the door behind me, carefully locking it so that it would be safe from the intruders, if they really existed and chose to return.

It was that exact moment that my body decided that it had had enough. Fatigue hit me and I could not resist a yawn. My brain suddenly felt foggy, and I realized that not only was I very, very tired, but I had not eaten in over ten hours.

No more time to play around with kid games. I’d just walk calmly down the hall, out the door, and straight to my car. It should be safe enough by now. Even crooks were probably asleep this close to dawn.

Everything would have been fine and dandy if the humming had not started up again just as I passed the janitor’s closet.

I gritted my teeth in frustration. Was someone playing some sort of cruel joke
on me? Was there a camera hidden nearby, waiting to record my reactions? Was there a psychological experiment being perpetrated in the bastions of the archaeology department?

Frankly, right now, I really did not care why the noise existed. Strange noises in
the middle of the night no longer interested me in the least. The possibility that the psychology department had invaded archaeology space did not worry me. I was simply too tired to play Nancy Drew.

I had one thing, and one thing only on my mind—my bed. More than anything else in the world right now, I wanted to go home, curl up in my bed, and get some glorious, restful slumber.

Well, maybe there was a second thing on my mind—that stupid noise! I could not help but wonder why that irritating sound was coming from the janitor’s closet. I was absolutely positive that no janitor in his right mind was in that closet at this time of night. All the sane little janitors were safe and sound in their own little beds, fast asleep.

So I had to wonder, who or what was in that closet?

I stepped back a pace and took a long, hard look at the closet door.

That was odd. I’d never before noticed the plaque over the door. I knew that every door on campus was labeled with a similar plaque that stated the purpose of the room. But I’d never noticed that this one did not actually mention janitor or facilities or custodial at all.

“DTA?” I muttered to myself. “What could DTA stand for? Maybe something like Dust, Trash, and…and…and what? Appliances? No, that doesn’t make any sense.”

Okay, so the Nancy Drew syndrome had resurfaced. I felt absolutely compelled to have a little peek inside that mysterious closet.

Just in case the closet was inhabited, I resolved to open the door very slowly and very quietly. If I was successful, whoever was inside the closet should never notice my presence. Or at least that was my hope.

Besides, one little peek could not hurt.

 

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Dark Chatter by Andrew Branch

 

About the Author

Andrew Branch teaches French and literature at Columbia University. His novels often reflect his interests in the Middle East and England, two places between which he split his childhood, and their relationships with the United States, where he was born and has spent his adult life.

Synopsis

Quicklime Petterson is still kicking around campus two years after commencement. But as the post-college daze is petering out, an offer comes in: pen a porn script for the policeman who just busted him, get his charges dropped. With no time to workshop, the erstwhile English major pounds out an introspective, Oedipal flesh-flick entitled “Conceptual Tart.” The project attracts a tween star in search of an edgy role, and media frenzy ensues. As the would-be one-off deal threatens to become a vocation, Quicklime attempts to find the honest career he meant to start after college, amidst growing renown as a pornographer.

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Chapter 7

Peter James was sweating at the seals of a noose-neck dress shirt, bear traps for cufflinks. The shirt impeded him entirely by virtue of its undersizedness; it had no stiffness, but was wilted with the starchless zeal of an “Atkins Dry-It” cleaning franchise. Peter wore the shirt earnestly.

Across the table sat a square-set man with a fleshy red tan, poking a pencil at Peter. The man’s idiom was in a wide orbit around standard business English, and his Georgia accent made a zero-gravity environment for heavy words.

“Now, I’m going to tell you one more time this ain’t easy. I ain’t never sent a college graduate over there that didn’t want to come right back.”

“It won’t be a problem, sir.”

“And you’re gonna be takin’ orders. Everybody thinks I mean like takin’ orders at Starbucks. But guess what? Not everybody gets to work at Starbucks.” He poked his pencil at a pile of paper. “See that? That’s a general employment contract. Gen-er-al.”

Peter perceived a pause he had to fill. “General.”

The rest of the conference center where they conducted their business was chattering. It was a low-paying job fair and a meat market; mostly bosses who liked employees raw, fired them quick, threw on the next ones in their place. Man meat had to be wooed before chewed, which made for the endless
interviews and background buzz of the production line’s seduction line.

“General,” the man was saying. “Everybody’s seen the TV report about how Starbucks imports white baristas to make their Dubai shops all American on the inside. Nobody remembers that I also gotta supply all the princes that hire an American to keep around the house and give orders to just for the hell of it. That’s what ‘American Retail in Dubai’ is really about.” The man leaned forward. “You see yourself being able to handle that kind of national, racial, and patriotic degradation all right?”

“Yes.”

“’Course you do, that’s why I keep hiring the college types.” He looked at a clipboard. “Smoke? I got an employer wants to know.”

“No. Definitely not.”

“Great. Come on, let’s sign this.”

A paper pile was proffered, Peter peeled to the last page and scribbled. Then the Caucasian-trader held out his hand and Peter went to shake.

“Hang on. You’re sweating so much I can see through your goddamn shirt. Who’s tattooed on your arm?”

Peter looked down. It took him a long time to think of an answer. The man’s eyes searched.

“John Galt.”

“Who’s that?”

Peter smiled, all nose-wrinkles. “John Galt’s like the Johnny Appleseed of Dubai. This is an artist’s interpretation I sketched up myself. I’m a fan, you know, of the Dubai Dream.”

“Johnny Galt.” The interviewer said the new name with the bewilderment of Ecclesiastes in a Sunless Sun tanning bed. “How the hell am I supposed to sell you as an American with Johnny Galt and his Dubai Dream on your arm?” He tuttutted through his two front tobacco stains. “Employers are damn sure going to have a look at your teeth before they buy you, and they’re going to see that.”

“Yeah,” Peter said, “but you never tried to pass them Arabs with ‘I heart NY’ shirts on, so when you bring them a mislabeled American they better believe its real.”

“That’s good. I’m going to use that if I get more Americans with Johnny Galt tattoos.” He stuck his hand back out. “I’ve got to find fifteen more bodies before the fair closes. Shake and go, you’ll get your plane ticket in the mail.”

Peter loosened his tie and tossed his hair out, “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’m eager, I’m going to Dubai today.”

The man laughed for a second, staying still from skull to toe. Then he shook his head. “It doesn’t work like that. I’ve got a deal with an airline. I don’t reimburse.”

“I don’t expect you to. I’m going to put it on my credit card.” The debutant emigrant stood up and launched the latest attempt to shake. The employer’s arm—suddenly listless like a long-pining lover whose interest reciprocates—went to his side.

“I’m doing this at a loss,” Peter said, “because I’m someone who wants to work. I believe in the ‘American Retail in Dubai’ vision. So email me with the place I need to show up for work, I’d like to start as soon as I can.”

The interviewer stared; Peter sighed. “Look, I’m afraid to make this commitment and I want to get it over with.”

The hiring hand went out, with as much enthusiasm as a cuckoo clock. “Welcome to ARID.”

Peter grabbed it and shook up and down. “I’ve got to go book a car,” he said.

He walked away, drawing his cell phone and dialing a limo service as he hummed the song from their commercial. He apologized to the pizza man that picked up, then hung up, then called a tort lawyer. Phone numbers were associated with a jumble of jingles in his head, which were merrily unorganized; if he dialed to the wrong tune he laughed and recommitted
himself to just not calling 911.

When the law firm answered again he apologized and entered into a binding verbal contract to cease calling commercial numbers without the assistance of an operator from that day forward. The operator service connected him to
the limo service and the limo service said they would send a long one.

Peter had speed-walked as he misdialed, and was standing on the curb spitting vegan tobacco by the time he had arranged his ride. While he waited he waxed raw about the temperature of hookahs and about breathing through his mouth in unair-conditioned desert rooms. He was resigned to keeping his word to the sexy BMW driver, but he still looked for loopholes and lifestyle tips.

Raw veganism was his personal first orthodoxy—he was heading to the cradle of them all. He asked Billy’s thermophobic carrot in the sky that his diet come off as a kindred asceticism to people of the cooked, with their kosher and their hallal.

The limo was a stretch LeSabre. It drifted up to the curb like a placid amusement park ride and the driver opened the back door with an automaton’s sense of ceremony.

The inside was black and plush everywhere, as though its luxury upholstery had been grown from a truffle-rich cutting of the roots of the Ray-forest; the black was actually leather, such that in point of fact the vehicle was an inside-out cow. Peter stepped in.

“The airport,” he said, and pulled the door closed himself.

He did not think of caipirinhas, but rather just opened the bar. They stocked all drinks but his. His focus was on getting down as many as he could. Sipping was chipping away at a pronounced fear of flying.

The automobile had all the amenities applicable to alcoholism. In a limo over bumpy roads, however, even a man with a complimentary stirrer mixes drinks like James Bond. Peter closed his eyes, filled his cup and lay back on the leather, letting the ride shake him.

Sometimes he looked out the window. The suburban neighborhoods scrolled by but did not differ, like the timeline of an era where not much changed. Peter was approaching his future in the limo and the views were as self-same as memories of the parts of his past too far back to distinguish.

He wobbled up to his feet and popped out the sunroof on the approach to the airport. Holding back his hair and surveying the world, he called down into the cab:

“I see big green signs, like the exits on an interstate, but we’re nowhere and the roads go in circles and there are no eighteen wheelers. It’s a beautiful highway, go slow on it.” He fell back into the compartment, laughed and poured a drink. “I wonder if it’s up for adoption.”

When the driver dropped him off he wrote a big tip onto the credit card printout and wandered very luckily across a few lanes of traffic, then through the great glass facade of the terminal. The building had the crowded, herd-in-a-hall feeling of an abattoir, and it was the place whence “cattle class”
departed. This coincidence was a capstone to all the other little horrors of aviation, which were, collectively, bad enough to license a luxury purchase if it would ally them; Peter picked first class.

The Arab airlines were rich and had big planes. He could see them from far away and they looked like they took crashes as well as SUVs. He went to the desk of the nearest one and slid his elbows on the counter.

“Ticket to Dubai, please, ma’am.”

The airline’s outfits were imagined after the model of another Salomé—a Salomé who disrobes with the promptness of a waiter. This Salomé sheds a veil like a layer off an infinite onion, never telegraphs the start of a countdown, and projects asymptotic purity. She has seven veils but men despair of her nakedness and leave after three.

The woman thus dressed said to Peter:

“You would like to purchase a ticket to Dubai?”

“Please, ma’am.”

“Do you have identification?”

“Yes,” he said. “But I want to lay the facts out while I feel up to it. I know the questions your going to ask me. Class? First. Leaving? ASAP. Seat? Middle, so there’s some cushion on my sides in the unlikely event of an emergency. You’re
going to need to know these things. Do you remember the answers?”

“In all cases,” the woman said, “we need to begin with a piece of identification.”

Peter’s ticket was SSSS when sold. He confused his security screening with a sobriety test and tried to stand up straight.

The agent said: “Have you been drinking?”

“Yes. I’m afraid of flying, you see. Peur en avion, they taught us at Andover.”

He got an erection during the pat search and they pushed him through to the lounge. There were free drinks and people of obvious wealth across a whole spectrum of its over- and under-allocation to plastic surgery.

There was a girl at the bar with sheets of red hair and freckles that heckled her smoothness of skin. Peter sat one chair away, and the gap gave the establishment a weeknight vibe. The bartender asked him what he would have.

“A caipirinha.”

“I’m sorry, sir?”

“Damn. Do you think you could approximate? Lime and sugar and alcohol?”

He got a Vodka and Sprite.

Citrus fertilized liquor, which became a fuzz on Peter’s tongue. It grew from a sensation to a state—his insides were upholstered in steel-felt. He was watching the girl, who was sloppy in a sundress. Peter, panting, pictured jealously how
much drunker than she he would look in the dress: dress wearing drunk was the level he needed to get to to feel good about flying.

The girl might have heard him thinking. She frogged over one stool on just her arms, the way gymnasts move on a pommel horse, looking like Rosie the Riveter at a prom. She said:

“Boy, you seem wasted.”

“But you do too.”

“Me?”

“You. Girl.”

“You’re mistaken,” she said. “You must know that if you see me behind a highball glass, I am only into the gin as a side-effect of being hooked on tonics, which is something all precocious girls are these days. And I am certainly precocious.”

He seized her hand, smiling. “That was a pretty thing to say.”

“Perhaps you think so, but you won’t remember it.”

He put his spare thumb in his mouth, bit down and tried to think of something thoughtful. He said:

“I’m afraid of flying, and I try hard not to be conscious for it. The views out an airplane are beautiful, but I work so hard to miss them that I get about a two-hour cushion of blackout around the awful levitation itself.” He moved the spare spitty hand onto hers. “I’m sorry, anything beautiful anytime soon is going to be collateral damage.”

The girl’s voice became conspiratorial. “Pretty things don’t get created or destroyed. They’re in parts of your brain that shrink but never go away, like fat cells. Alcohol dehydrates them.” She leaned forward, and Peter’s head lolled lucklessly towards her breasts. He seemed to fall into a cleavage crevasse—boarding was a blur that ended next to the girl, and he was black in-and-out drunk after that.

He took his eight-hour flight in decontextualized body bits, like a butcher’s workday. There was soft, hazy belly, shoulder, lap, breast, his own arm dug into his cheek and drooled on. The girl had goose-down abs, which cradled his face through her sundress; at times he would start, sit up, and her hand smoothed his head back to place. There were songs sung in his ear or just stuck into his head, it was unclear which. When he remembered that her name was Sophie he thanked her that she helped him sleep.

Once he clearly thought: “Do they just let you hump in first class?”

Near the landing the captain said: seats up, belts buckled, sleep is over. Peter did it groggily. He saw Sophie was still in the seat next to him and she took his hand; for a second he looked down, like a boxer punched after the bell. She said:

“You’re still afraid of flying the morning after.”

They sat straight and they held hands over the span of the armrest (which was one coach seat wide). They stared at the puffy leather headrests ahead, as flight attendants paced by in a prison-patrol pattern.

“Have you been here before?” Peter said.

“I live in Dubai.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m learning to play the ukulele.”

“That’s— spritely.”

Bright rays were pissing through the window as though to remind the flying machine that it was still under the sun. Sophie unhooked their palms and recoiled.

“Why aren’t you more hung-over?” he said.

“I’ve been pretty consistently tipsy, and I still am.” She noogied him with her free hand. “You slept through mimosa service.”

“That’s embarrassing. I’ll give myself reparation libations when I find a hotel.” He paused to preface angling for a place on her couch. “Do you know a hotel?”

“You never told me your story.”

“I think I did,” Peter said. “You’ve forgotten as much of the night as I have. We’ve been feeling intimate on the strength of a lost conversation, one we know only it by its effects.” He leaned in, about halfway to a kiss. “We could call it ‘dark chatter.’”

The plane shot into free-fall through a cloud. Sophie clamped back down on his hand. She dug in her ragged nails, so deep Peter knew their imprint would remain in his charred flesh after the crash. Then the plane caught the air under its wings and they did not speak for a long time.

“I’m holding your hand because you’re afraid of flying,” she said later. “I’m usually a smidge too hedonistic to feel bad about other people suffering in visually entertaining ways.” It was true that Peter looked extraordinary when he went pale and clammy. “So why do I care about you? We could hypothesize that it’s because we did some bonding while we were drunk, then we forgot doing it—but ‘dark chatter’ would be a thoroughly stupid name for it.”

He moved them back to the content of the conversation. “I probably told you that I got on a plane in Oregon with just my gold card and the clothes I’m wearing.”

“With a gold card you can get a room in any of the tall buildings that are shaped like things other than tall buildings. Just have a taxi take you to one of those.”

The jet bumped onto the runway and Peter felt a rush recede as held hands drifted home to their attached humans. He took his own left in his right for methadone.

“Where can I hear you play ukulele?” he said.

“On my blog. It’s called Sophiestry.”

“But where can I see you play?”

“In the videos section,” she said.

She stayed in her seat when they got to the gate, looking stuck. Peter hesitated, but his urge to beat the rush from coach compelled him to go. As he glanced back, Sophie was still still, surrounded by a throbbing throng of thrombosis-section types. Then she reached up to tap the flight attendant call button.

 

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’13 Heroes by Lovey Shareese and Dominique Wilkins

About the Authors

As women of God, we are constantly studying His word to draw closer to Him. As mothers raising children who also require guidance, we thought that rewriting the bible stories was an excellent way to reach our children and other people who don’t traditionally read the bible. In addition to this project, we have also written Command Me- Not-our rendition of God’s Ten Commandments. Please take the time to read that title as well. We pray that as you read this book, God gives you true understanding and knowledge of His word. We also pray that after reading this book that you thirst for a closer relationship with God.

For those who do not understand the bible when you read it, we ask that before you open the bible, pray and ask God for wisdom and knowledge of His words, so that you have a clear understanding and are able to share with others the true meaning of what you have learned. As you take this journey with us, please
know that we do not proclaim to have any theological credentials, nor do we feel that we are in a high place looking down on others. We just know that the word of God is something that we need to share. Again, these are purely our interpretations and another way for us to “Honor Our Father Who Art in Heaven: Amen!”

Lovey & Dominique (Your stories’ messengers)

Synopsis
What’s your favorite bible story? Who is your hero in the bible? In 2013 we can use the bible to get through everyday life. Imagine David and Goliath or Ruth in our world today. Well, don’t imagine anymore! Read ’13 Heroes and get to know them today!

Free Chapter

Noah’s Ark

(Genesis 6-10)

At seventy years old, Nolan Gatsby was known “as the neighborhood
weirdo.” Whenever he interacted with others, he would ask, “We are living in our last days. Will you be ready for His return?” Because he did that, people felt he did that, he deserved to be labeled as a weirdo. No one would ever actually answer his question; they would just shake their head and ignore or poke fun at him.

They attributed his almost-death to his eccentricity. Everyone who lived in
Dallas had heard the story about how, when Nolan was a baby, his mother had had him sitting in a small wash bucket inside the larger tub, preparing to bathe him, when she had been interrupted by someone ringing her doorbell frantically.

She had already pre-heated the bathroom for his bath, and since the water
was low, she decided to let him sit there for a moment, playing with his rubber
ducky, while she ran to answer the door. She did not want to take him out of the
warm temperature and into a cool one with wet hair. She would return in just a
moment.

When Mrs. Gatsby opened the door, she found a woman there in hysterics,
screaming that she had an accident in the street and needed to use the phone to call for help. Mrs. Gatsby was immediately caught off guard by the stranger’s request but directed her to the phone as she bombarded her with questions. She needed to know if she could help in any way with the injured until the ambulance arrived.

Meanwhile, Nolan was kicking playfully in the tub when his foot kicked the
water knob up into the “on” position. The water filled up his bucket and drowned him. Outside, the ambulance had arrived seven minutes after the call, which was great in view of the fact that Mrs. Gatsby had no idea how long her baby had been under water by the time she found him.

She ran back down to the ambulance with her baby’s limp body in hand,
screaming the entire time. A hush fell on the crowd that had gathered around the accident scene as another show began to unfold before their eyes. They watched Mrs. Gatsby yank the ambulance door open and jump in with her baby. The paramedics initiated CPR on the baby to revive him. It hadn’t been long since he stopped breathing. During the period when his heart had paused, God sat in his sun room, holding Nolan in his arms as he rocked gently in a chair and whispered, “My son, I love you. I have great plans in store for you. Go home, and whenever you can and as often as you can, tell everyone that you know about me. Tell them that I love them too.” Ever since then, Nolan had established a special connection with God, and he loved him always.

When Nolan got older, he loved to build things. His mother made sure he
always had a puzzle or model airplane, boat, or anything he could construct. He
had a large supply of Popsicle sticks that he used to build cabins and communities with. Kids always bullied him and teased him for being different and talking about God all of the time, so he usually kept to himself. One day, he met Wendy Leach, who was teased because she was different too.

It only made things worse when people found out that she loved Mother
Nature and collected bugs and various creatures to study. When Nolan met Wendy, she fell in love with him simply because he gave her a beautiful model butterfly in high school. Not long afterward, they married and had children who also loved the Lord.

The older Nolan got, the worse the bullies became. People grew to care less
about each other and even less about God. The world was overrun with murderers, prostitutes, child molesters, you name it. God was hurting and often told Nolan about his pain until it built up so much that it had manifested into anger.

When God had had enough, he told Nolan to build a massive boat because
he would destroy the city with water and start over. Nolan understood exactly how God felt. He often got frustrated when something that he built did not turn out the way he wanted it, so, plenty of times, he destroyed his projects and started over too.

Nolan and his children spent years building this massive vessel. When he
finished, it was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet tall. He added only one door and one window, while his young sons, who helped, felt the need to install a stereo system onboard to pass the time away, just in case they had to stay long. His wife designed a long countertop in the eating area for everyone to dine comfortably. Everyone added something personal to it. Even some of the guys at Home Depot jokingly added suggestions to their project. When it was finished, both Nolan and God were very proud of it.

Many people laughed and shook them off as crazy when they heard of the
project. They joked: “Starting your own cruise line?” or “I heard of dirt bikes, but not dirt boats!”

Everyone laughed. They laughed even harder when Nolan warned them that
God was not happy and would destroy the city. As Nolan built his ship, Wendy
collected two of every animal and insect that she could find. She made sure to get one male and one female. Before they boarded the ship, Nolan gathered his kids and their wives and family. He also tried to collect as many people outside of his family as he could save, but no one wanted to come.

They showed up, but not to get in. They stood outside and laughed and
jeered. The news reporters recorded while others took pictures with their camera phones.

Sure, the weatherman predicted a hurricane coming but also said that it
would be a level one and would pass over the area quickly. It would be no different from before. But when Nolan and his family entered the ship and closed the door behind them, the clouds immediately darkened the sky to set the mood, while the thunder rumbled, rumbled providing the beat for the show. It came down hard and it seemed to come from every direction with the help of the wind gusts up to 75 mph.

Nolan watched as the weather quickly did its damage. The rain killed
visibility immediately, but since he was prepared, Nolan had already installed a
window wiper to clear his view. He watched the puddles rapidly become pools,
the ground could not absorb it fast enough. The water in the streets overflowed
over and splashed on top of the dirt and grass. Basements flooded, forcing people up and outside. Those who lived in the ground-level ranch houses were the first to head to their roofs. The cars and busses floated away on the lazy river. People stood on top of their cars, using them as rafts, trying desperately to hold on.

The jeers had turned into cries for help and pleas of permission to board
Nolan’s ship as the nearby river overflowed and began to uproot whole houses,
washing them away. Nolan watched with a sad heart until he saw a tattooed man, sitting high in a tree, allow a woman and a baby to float by him with her arm outstretched and did not try to grab her hand. He had had enough. Even in their last days, they could not find it in their hearts to be humane.

Nolan shook his head in sadness, knowing that the way the rain came from
above and how the river continued to overflow that even that tree would not save him. Mr. Selfish Gangster would be dead too.

Back on the boat, with the shade drawn, they sang gospel hymns and held
prayer while they waited for the storm to pass. They stayed on the ship for week. The only time they felt bad or sad was when they remembered the devastation outside. After a while, the rain stopped, and the sun came out. It was as if the boat had floated to a new land because all they saw was water. Sometimes, they would see the top of a building or a light pole. They needed to wait until the water completely receded before they got off. When they did, they did not have to worry about mosquitoes and other problems in the aftermath. God had destroyed everything. They were all that was left to reproduce and start a new race of people, animals, and insects, raised to love and reproduce.

Immediately after dismounting the boat, before doing anything, Nolan led
everyone in a prayer of thanks to God for his grace and mercy. When he finished, God drew a beautiful rainbow in the sky in response to say, “You are welcome. I promise not to ever flood the Earth again…”

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Read Chapter 3 Right Now ! : Jack Canon’s American Destiny

Find it on Amazon: Jack Canon’s American Destiny

Book Description

It’s the steamy summer of 2016 in Washington, D.C. just days before the  Democratic National Convention. A long and painful recession has left ordinary  Americans suffering, spawning the hottest Presidential Contest in history. Jack  Canon, a man born into privilege, a witness to great social injustice is going  to be President of the United States–no matter what! Desperate and corrupt, the  leader of the free world orders a hit to slow him down. The plan backfires–the  wrong people are dead–a manhunt points to the unthinkable–The President of the  United States.

Sample Chapter

Change is seldom easy, but moving into our new offices the final year of the  campaign was anything but hard. Sandy decorated our campaign offices with style,  comfortable furnishings, light- colored woods, and plenty of glass. She said her  taste was as big as my pocketbook, and lucky for us, friends of the campaign had  donated plenty of cash to do the job right.Sandy popped her head around the door. Dressed in a black skirt and form-fitting zebra print blouse, she carefully positioned the toe end of her  black stilettos toward the floor to keep the door from closing. I could just see  the faint line between her toes as her foot was flexed.

We had a tight spring closer installed right after one of my senior staff  accidentally left the door ajar. There are a lot of sensitive issues discussed  in here we would never want the rest of the office to know.

“Jack, you’ve got senior staff in 20 minutes.” Sandy’s voice had an almost  musical quality. She rarely spoke to me in anything but the most dulcet tones, a  trait which matched her pleasing personality.

“Hey, Sandy,” I jumped up from my seat and moved quickly towards her.

“Come with me; I want to show you something.”

“What’s going on, Jack? You seem excited.”

I didn’t answer – instead I led her gently by the arm toward the seventh  floor elevator. We passed several staff members busy working at their desks,  each calling out like dominoes, one after the other, “Hey Jack.” I smiled and  gave thumbs up as Sandy and I hurried past.

“Damn, the elevator’s busy; let’s take the stairs.”

“Do we have enough time, Jack?” Sounding concerned as we turned the corner.

Ignoring the question, I pushed open the door and started down the steps.  Sandy had one hand gripping the cold metal railing and her other digging into my  arm for support, luckily she had short nails. A couple of years ago, I mentioned  I didn’t like the plastic ones she was wearing. The next day she came into the  office, plopped both hands down on my desk, and said, “I cut my nails, Jack!”

It was hard for her to move fast in high heels with her skirt fitted snug  just above the knee. She managed by holding tight to my arm, scuffing along,  taking quick small steps.

“I’m parked on the third floor of the parking garage. Keep going; it’s only  one more floor.”

“Jack, I’m out of breath,” Sandy said as I pushed open the door to P3.

We entered a large open area to see a shiny sports car parked alone.

“It’s my new car; you like it?”

“What is it?”

“It’s a car,” Teasing, knowing what she meant.

“I know it’s a car, what kind is it? I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Don’t feel bad. I didn’t know either; I had to look it up. It’s French made,  a Bugatti. The guy that delivered it said it’s one of a kind.”

Sitting before us was a machine that pushed the envelope to unreal. Lines so  amazing it seemed to be in motion just standing still. The Bugatti Veyron is  basically a street legal racecar. Exciting as all hell to drive. I never dreamed  I’d own an automobile that could hit a top speed over 250 miles per hour. Truth  is, before last night I didn’t even know I wanted one.

My version was custom painted black metallic with shiny chrome over dazzling  wheel rims in a wave pattern over the single door. The porcelain moldings formed  a body impossible to duplicate with steel alone. The styling was accentuated by  a triple round grill that gave the car personality and elevated the handcrafted  masterpiece to a work of art. To say this car was rare was an understatement;  I’d seen only one similar car and that was in a magazine. The Bugatti was hot, a  real head turner, all eyes were on it as I drove to the office this morning.

Sandy said, “It’s beautiful, Jack When did you get it?”

“They just dropped it off last night.” I ran around the car and opened the  passenger side door for her.

“Sandy, get in. Let’s go for a spin around the block; we’ve got time.” She  tried to enter, first sideways then lowering herself gracefully as far as she  could. Instead, she ended up plopping down, practically falling into the very  low seat. She crossed her legs, trying to get situated and buckled in. The seats  were so steeply angled, they looked like twin toboggans racing downhill.  Watching Sandy try to get comfortable, I thought cars like these are not made  for long drives or tight skirts.

Sandy warned, “I hope you’re gonna take it easy, Jack?”

“Engine on,” I spoke. The car was outfitted with prototype voice activated  control. The engine obeyed, immediately humming to a start. The understated  throatiness of the exhaust stood in quiet contrast to all the glass packs out  there trying to Sound Street tough. All the gauges lit blue and the dials went  to the hilt before settling down. The windows looked like mirrors from the  outside and the interior cabin was nearly sound proof.

“Hear that purr?” I revved up the 16 cylinder 1000 horsepower engine, flooring the accelerator several times, burying the tach.

“Look at this thing Sandy – it doesn’t red line until 12,000 rpm!”

Sandy was admiring the leather wrapped interior, running her hands over the  dash settling on the round vent of the chrome airstream.

“We won’t need the air conditioner today,” I joked.

“You think? – It’s like 40 degrees outside; I should’ve brought a sweater.  You hurried me out so fast I didn’t have time to think. ”

I told her, “You won’t need it in here; the cabin heats up in seconds.” The  car must have been equipped with some type of radiant heat system.

I flipped the dial and we were warm almost immediately.

Sandy said, “I wonder how they do that; I freeze waiting for my car to heat  up. You know, Jack, I never thought I’d say this about a car, but this one is  sexy… I guess some guys need this sort of thing.”

I sank back into the driver’s seat richly upholstered in a diamond patchwork  of raised blond leather. The headrests had the Bugatti Logo richly embroidered  to adorn the center. Everything in the cockpit was chrome or leather trimmed  with a fragrant new car smell.

It’s always amused me that people are willing to pay many times the intrinsic  value of an item just to obtain the status of a brand. This was not one of those  times. We were seated in an example of excellence, worth every penny of the $1.6  million price tag. It wouldn’t have mattered what they called it.

“Reverse,” I eased off the brake. My left hand barely guiding the wheel, I  backed the car from its lone parking spot.

When I arrived this morning, the first and second floors of the garage were  nearly filled with cars so I took the third level to have it all to myself. I  knew I was gonna take at least one person for a ride today!

“Drive,” I said, and with both hands on the wheel at ten and two, I asked  Sandy, “Are you ready?” Before she could answer, I pressed my foot down on the  pedal. The tires spun, smoking for a second on the slick cement floor. I smelled  the hint of burning rubber as we laid our first 10-foot strip.

We were off!

“Hold on, Sandy,” I warned as we slowed quickly to negotiate the first turn.

“Please be careful,” Sandy pleaded as we tore through it. The thick rear of  the car fishtailing, tires screeching, turn by turn we made it to the ground  level. We tested the acceleration, racing full throttle the entire length of the  floor. I hit the brakes hard, skidding

right through the exit booth. The attendant raised the traffic arm just in  time.

Ceramic Brake Pads, built to withstand enormous heat, allowed the car to stop  faster than it accelerated. Sixty to zero in a mere 2.3 seconds…on this stop, I  could’ve used another tenth of a second for Sandy’s sake.

“Oh my God, Jack, you almost hit the bar. You’re the last guy on earth that  should own a car that goes this fast.”

“Oh Honey, I knew we weren’t gonna hit the bar. This car was made for this  type of handling.”

I really did know it as fact. In practice this morning, me and the kid worked  it out. I slipped him a twenty.

“You think that was fast, you haven’t seen nothing yet!”

“No, I really have,” Sandy grabbed tight to the armrests.

Looking only to my left I hit the gas and we flew out into the street.

“Jack, are you sure…?”

I answered by putting the pedal to the floor, “We’ll just take her around the  block.”

We could feel only mild vibration as we tested the claim of zero to sixty in  2.5 seconds. We were momentarily pinned back in our seats.

“Wow!” I said. Driving as fast as I could, barely stopping at one corner before speeding up to the next, each time announcing to Sandy how fast we’d  gotten up to.

“She just kept saying “You’re gonna get us killed.”

“The last run was our best, Sandy, sixty-eight!” I told her, proud of myself.  When we got back to our starting point, we turned into the garage. I stopped  briefly, thanked the attendant and grabbed a ticket.

Sandy said, “Pleeease, Jack, can we just take it easy now?”

The cockpit was relatively quiet, even with all the commotion we created.  Tires screeching, rear end fishtailing, burning rubber all the way to the third  level.

On the way up, I told Sandy, “It sounds worse than it is!”

“Off!” One final command and the powerful machine instantly fell into motionless repose.

“Jack! Driving with you feels like sitting in a rocket sled perched on a banana peel. I feel like I just lifted off in the space shuttle. You’re  impossible! Really, Jack, you try sitting in the death seat with someone driving  like that! I nearly put my foot through the floor trying to stop the car  myself.” Sandy threatened with a look like she’d never get in my car again. This  time I think she meant it.

“We have to take the elevator. This skirt is too tight for me to climb stairs.” I was laughing, exhilarated as we hurried towards the exit. Sandy was  trying her best to keep up, one hand on my shoulder the other on my arm for  balance. I pushed the button and showed her my watch, “See we made it.”

“Jack, we’ve only made it to the elevator,” she said slightly exaggerated,  out of breath. She was shaking a bit. I grabbed her by the shoulders and looked  down deep into her eyes.

“Don’t worry, I sent everyone a text before we left to hold off for 20 minutes. I just wanted to take you for a ride and have some fun. Wasn’t that an  awesome adrenaline rush?”

“I just didn’t want them to blame me for making you late.” Sandy’s eyes were  a little watery. She grabbed a tissue out of her purse and dabbed them dry.

“It wouldn’t have been your fault. Don’t cry Honey; I’m sorry you’re upset.”

“I’m not crying. Sometimes you’re a little wild Jack, really! When did you  even decide to buy that car? Usually you have me check around…”

I cut her off, “It was a gift. Somebody Bud’s been working with, they just  dropped it off.”

She cocked her head to the side and, wide-eyed, looked at my face, “Who would  just give you that?”

I explained, “One of our key supporters in the East. I’m anxious to meet him.  He’s throwing us a big fundraiser the night of the New Hampshire Primary in  Upstate New York. Bud’s working out the details. I want you to come with us;  it’ll be fun. Maybe you’ll meet some rich guy that drives his Benz like a little  old lady.”

“Very funny, Jack. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with driving the speed  limit. The way you drive, you’re gonna get somebody killed. Why did he give you  the car though?”

“He wants to be sure that when I’m president, I’ll take his call. The car is  his way of introducing himself. I’m not about to keep it. I’m gonna auction it  off for charity after the election.”

“That’s some introduction, Jack. They sure know your weakness. I wish someone  would give me a car.”

“Sandy, the super rich are drawn to power like moths to a flame.”

“Do you know what this means?” Sandy looked into my eyes, “You’re going all  the way!”

I reached to her shoulders, “Sandy, we’re goin’ all the way!”

“Jack, I can’t wait until you expose these people.”

I started daydreaming about my speech… The wealthy want the status quo to  continue, hoarding trillions… they move in a world that few people get a  chance to see. We’ll get a big taste of that up in New York; that’s one of the  reasons I wanted Sandy to come. She’s never seen this before. I wanted her to  see this unbelievable wealth first hand.

Most Americans have no idea that the richest 1% control 50% of the income.  The system is so broken. We have thirty-eight million kids who go to bed hungry  every night while the wealthy in this country can’t figure out where to park  their extra Mercedes.

“Jack… have you heard anything I said?” She knew I was deep in thought and  hadn’t heard a word.

“Sandy, my parents have friends who would be embarrassed to stay too long in  their winter homes for fear the neighbors would think they’d lost their minds or  gone senile. All while millions of Americans are homeless. It’s messed up.”

“It’s awful, Jack The rich are so selfish they only care about themselves!”

“Well I’ll tell ya one thing, nobody has ever done anything about it.”

“The only thing I worry about, Jack: if you speak out against them, how are  you going to get big donations for the campaign?”

“It’ll be like taking candy from a baby. It’s human nature. Every billionaire  thinks he’s the exception and we’re not talking about him. You won’t believe how  fast the donations roll in.”

“Jack, you know what I’ve never understood?”

“What, Honey?”

“What don’t they have with all that money?”

“Peace of mind…they worry about what they might lose. You’ll see. They get  jittery when administrations change and they’ll pay huge money to the  frontrunners. For insurance, they have access to whoever wins the Presidency.  You watch.”

“Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“Next time I drive.”

Continues…

Excerpted from “Jack Canon’s American Destiny” by  Greg Sandora. Copyright © 2013 by Greg Sandora. Excerpted by permission. All  rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without  permission in writing from the publisher