“Old Habits Die Hard” A short-story from my upcoming Anthology. #RRBC #IARTG #WritingCommunity #WritersCommunity

Old Habits image

Hello and welcome to “Old Habits Die Hard” a new short story from my upcoming anthology “Glimpses Across the Barricades”

 

Old Habits Die Hard

From the upcoming collection: Glimpses Across the Barricades

By

Suzanne Burke 2019.

 

Cassie sucked in a deep lungful of nicotine and waited for the coughing to start. She shook her head in acknowledgment of her own weakness and abject stupidity, coughed as expected and finished the cigarette. She grinned at herself. Old habits die hard.

The thought caught her unprepared. Were they all simply old habits? Did she cling to things so desperately only because they were familiar? Was it a comfort to know ahead of time how each would respond in any given situation? If that knowledge gave us the tools to avoid the more painful outcomes, did that automatically presume that we’d use that wisdom?

Cassie was irritated with herself for even asking the questions.

She looked across at her iPhone for answers, already knowing she’d find none waiting.

When had he become just another old habit to cling to?

Cassie drew in a shaky breath as the memory of their last conversation played out vividly in her mind.

The 5th anniversary of their sad farewell was tomorrow. They’d been friends long before they became lovers. Their lives had collided the first time three decades earlier. Each acknowledging the chemistry that lit up a room whenever they were both present. They both smiled at each other and refused to allow that fire to burn. Life moved on and so did they.

Then twelve years ago fate had flung them together again.  What had been intended as a casual fling, a one-night stand, had become a passionate affair that neither of them had attempted to prevent from spiralling out of control.

She smiled briefly as a sweeter image tugged at her thoughts. The first weekend they’d run from reality, they’d danced on a rickety old pier in the rain. It was foolishly romantic and memorably perfect, and so was he. She could hear the music they’d played. “Nights in White Satin” by The Moody Blues had echoed out across the deep water of the bay. They’d made slow sweet love in an old fishing shed, and watched on in shared wonder as a violent summer storm came sweeping up from the south. It played out a symphony with shattering crescendo’s and their lovemaking met and matched its passion.

Cassie reached for the safety of the present moment and whispered into the darkness, “Stop it. Don’t do this. Think about something else.”

She stood then and moved about her apartment, only vaguely aware of straightening things on the mantle that didn’t need straightening, and moving books around in the bookcase that hadn’t required moving.

She walked across to the bar, poured herself a double shot of JD and sat back on her sofa and lit up her bong. The balcony beckoned and she moved into the cool night air and the silence, alternating the hits of good weed and the alcohol and waited for the calm she craved so desperately to envelop her.

Yet the memories continued to invade. She was too stoned to avoid them, and they came at her without pity for her vulnerable state of mind.

Her marriage of thirty years had limped to a final conclusion twelve years earlier. She’d initially clung to the memory of it, allowing her mind to paint much prettier pictures of what had actually happened; she’d clung to it long past its use-by date.

Her lover’s staunch Catholic upbringing prevented his long marriage from taking the same course. He never spoke of it. Cassie never asked the questions. It was so much easier to pretend that their relationship may someday lead to them being together.

The memories flowed now, but not in sequence. The laughter they’d shared echoed through time, and conversations that made sense only to the two of them etched themselves afresh in this place and in this moment.

A jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing. Pieces that she now went in search of.

They’d been fishing and hunting together often. They’d spent so many cold nights sleeping out under the stars, where their shared body warmth sustained them completely. They both loved the sounds of the night. Or the sounds of that long stretch of beach on the hottest summer days on record, swimming just after sunrise, cautiously waiting until the great white sharks had fed in deeper water off the reef. Cassie moaned as the sound of his deep voice surfaced unbidden, “We need to burn this into our memory. So, we can take it out and look at it when the world goes to hell.”

She brushed the moisture from her eyes. She’d never forgotten that moment. He had a way with words that echoed the romance of his soul.

The years had gone by so quickly. She watched and waited, wondering if she’d recognize the end if she saw it coming.

She saw it over five years ago. Phone calls that had begun every new day for years suddenly stopped coming, until they spoke only every couple of weeks. The visits went from a driving need to be together as often as they could steal the time, to a late-night knock on the door heralding a man who had only one need that remained to be met.

Cassie had tried so hard to ignore it, she floundered like a fish out of water on the sands of indecision.

She began wrapping her isolation around her like a comforting shawl.

The knock on her door at 3.30am on a hot summer’s morning had awoken her.

She knew instinctively who it was, and was angry well before she opened that door.

He stood there looking sheepish, then smiled. “Aren’t you gonna ask me to come in?”

Cassie stood aside without speaking and waved him across to the sofa.

He looked surprised as she stood there watching him, “What wrong, hon?”

“When was the last time we spoke?”

He looked away uncomfortably as he answered, “Guess it’s been a few weeks.”

“Try for three months!”

“Shit. Really? I’m sorry.”

“So, why are you here?”

He stood then, “You’re upset. I’ll call you later.”

She touched his arm. “I deserve better than this.”

For the first time in the thirty-plus years that she’d known him his dark hunter’s eyes filled with tears. She barely heard him as he struggled to speak, “Yes, honey. You do.”

She followed him across to the door and he turned and touched her cheek, then tucked a wayward curl behind her ear. He was shaking and his voice wavered as he spoke, “Goodbye, my love.”

Cassie felt the sobs tear through her, and she let them come.

He’d phoned after that, every couple of months and at ungodly hours. She’d register who was calling and declined the calls. The loneliness threatened to overwhelm her at first, she recalled using a telephone box to phone his work number just to hear his deep voice when he answered. She tortured herself like that constantly after they’d ended.

And now, what about now? She grimaced at her own question.

For now, she’d just get herself through the next anniversary.

And just before the alcohol lulled her into sleep on that anniversary morning her iPhone rang.

She was drunk, but not suicidal. She declined to take the call.

*

And for your enjoyment. “Nights In White Satin” by The Moody Blues.

 

“The Comfort of Silence” #New #ShortStory #RRBC #Anthology @pursoot

silence confuscious

Hello and welcome. I have added one more story to my new anthology a work-in-progress. This is the last one I’ll share here until the book is released.  Thank you for joining me.

The Comfort of Silence

By

Suzanne Burke

From my upcoming anthology

“Closure”

 

Ellie sat out on the back deck and breathed in the comfort of silence.

Grant, her husband of ten-years had finally fallen into drunken unconsciousness around an hour earlier, and she’d left him laying on the floor in the pool of vomit that the last bourbon had created.

The days were long gone when she’d struggled and strained to drag his limp carcass into the bedroom. She’d even stopped placing a sofa cushion under his head and leaving a bucket beside him.

It was winter now and starkly beautiful sitting under that diamond strewn canopy. She shivered a little and snuggled down deeper into her quilted jacket. She smiled even as she trembled, knowing how cold his inert form would get laying there on the tiled living room floor.  She’d turned off the air-conditioned warmth everywhere in the house but her own bedroom. A woman has gotta conserve electricity when she can. That thought caused her to laugh out loud in the solitude, she enjoyed that rare sensation and laughed again.

Her coffee had grown cold and Ellie craved another, she stood and stretched languidly before heading inside to the kitchen.

She cast a brief glance at Grant’s now snoring body. He’d curled into the fetal position to ward off the cold. She shrugged and flicked on the recessed lighting above the kitchen island, then busied herself making another pot of coffee.

She craved warmth now and placed the coffee and some Oreos onto a tray and stepped over her husband on the way into the welcoming warmth of her bedroom.

There had been a time as recently as three years back when she’d deadlocked that door and placed barricades against it to keep the violent monster she’d married at bay.

It had taken her the intervening three years of hard soul searching to reach her decision.

Putting it into action was now delivering her a measure of peace.

The few friends she’d managed to keep isolated from the stench of her home life had commented on the change in her. When asked for the reason behind it she’d laughed it off as ‘just taking some me time.’

And she had.

She’d begun meditating and working out a few times every day, to assist in keeping her new resolve on track. She was reaping the benefits tenfold three years in.

It had taken Grant coming at her again with his filthy accusatory mouth and raised fists to at last fuel and light her new ignition switch. Her swift retaliation stunned him into shock and the kick to his abdomen felled him. She savored the sweet vindictive taste of revenge as he lay on the floor in a whining sniveling heap. Another savage kick to his gut stopped the sniveling. That was the sweet start of the solitude.

From a woman who had insisted on cooking any meal he asked for, at any time of the day or night, she’d become his keeper and fed him once in the morning. He’d help his drunken self to the rest if he could make it as far as the kitchen.

Ellie had carefully rearranged all the furnishings to create barriers between every room that a drunk would find difficult if not impossible to navigate.

She had no one but the delivery guy from the local bottle-shop knocking on this door. Nobody to raise an eyebrow at her new version of ‘home beautiful’. It had been another defining moment to be noted and reread in her diary at night for visual confirmation of her latest achievement.

Ellie reached for her coffee, munched on a few Oreos and switched off the lamp.

She calculated around five hours of downtime before the man outside her sanctuary would begin to awaken.

Ellie had at last begun looking forward to her days.

***

The sound of his whining voice awakened her. There was a tentative tap on the door. “Ellie, you in there?”

“What do you want?”

“I just wanted to be sure you’re here.”

“Well, I am. I’ll be there to fix you some food shortly.”

“Shortly? What the fu …”

What did you say?

Silence greeted her question, she repeated it. “Well?”

“I’ll, uh, I’ll see you, um, shortly.”

Ellie didn’t bother to comment further. She showered in her en-suite and took her time dressing. The stench in the living room made her head across and throw the windows wide, ignoring the cold wind that swept in.

She filled a bucket with disinfectant, grabbed the mop and placed both down in front of the man. He was sitting hunched over, still wearing the soiled clothing he’d passed out in.

“I’m not preparing food in this stench. I’ll feed both of us after you clean up your own disgusting mess.”

“I’m sorry, Ellie.”

“Yes, I believe you actually are. What else are you sorry for, Grant?”

The blank look that question created on his face didn’t serve to elevate Ellie’s mood.

“You ask me that every day. And every day I tell you I don’t know. Why the fuck do you keep asking?”

“I’ll keep asking that question until I hear the right answer.”

“But…”

“No, that isn’t it.”

Ellie sniffed at the air and gave him a pointed glare.

“Okay. I got this.”

“Don’t take too long. I’m craving my morning coffee.”

It had taken an hour for the room to begin to smell like the towering pines outside again.

“Ah, that’s much better. Grant, you need to shower and change those filthy clothes. Place them in the washing machine on the longest cycle.”

“I’m hungry.”

“The sooner you act the sooner you eat. Simple isn’t it?”

He muttered something she didn’t catch and went to do as she’d said.

Ellie closed the windows and ramped the heat up to a comfortable temperature.

She was seated on the large sofa drinking her coffee when he re-entered the room. She looked up at his freshly washed and shaved face and for one bitter-sweet moment, she caught a shimmer of the man she’d been so utterly in love with for as long as it took for the fear to kill it.

“Can we eat now?”

I don’t break my promises. What do you feel like?”

“Can we have pancakes?”

“Yes, that’s doable. Sweet or savory?”

“A stack with maple syrup?”

“It’ll be ready soon.”

“Did my delivery arrive yesterday?”

Ellie called “Yes.” from the kitchen.

She heard him shuffle across to the bar, a tinkle of ice and his grunt of satisfaction told her he’d just started on his binge for today. She checked her watch. 7 a.m was early even for him.

The pancake stack she placed in front of him sat cold and uneaten as the booze took back control.

Her diary was added to with the date and time he began and finally stopped drinking for any given day. She flicked back through several years worth and shuddered. His last 90-day rehab had only been three and a half years earlier.

It was just another 3-month break in the cycle. She craved for and enjoyed those breaks. They’d managed to help her hold on to her sanity for a little longer. He’d lasted exactly twelve days at home and every promise made during those sweet twelve-days was shattered as he beat her again night after night.

Ellie had begun planning today from that last night. The paramedics had managed to get her to the hospital in time to save herself, but their unborn child had died at 20 weeks with no chance to begin his tiny life.

If their little boy had lived he’d be three-years-old today.

She watched Grant slump further down into the sofa. His unsmoked cigarette still burning away in the ashtray.

Ellie checked the hour, well satisfied. It was only lunch-time and he was already nodding off to sleep. She knew well that he’d stay that way for two or so hours then he’d wake up and finish his first bottle of bourbon of the day.

It was time.

Ellie pulled the suitcases from under her bed, checked the contents again and carried them out through the mudroom and into the garage. Her other belongings had been loaded into the trunk and the back seat of her new SUV over a period of days. The suitcases fit perfectly on the top layer.

The refrigerator was emptied and switched off and she carried everything out front for the trash collectors to collect later this afternoon.

Ellie began calling to confirm again the arrangements she’d made.

The power would be disconnected at 5.00pm.

All internet services had been permanently closed.

She’d already packed his cell-phone. There was no longer a landline. He had no available contact with the world outside the stupor he lived in.

Their nearest neighbor was a ten-mile walk through rugged walkways to get to, without the car she now owned and would have in her possession.

Grant had been so acquiescent to her requests to place his drunken signature on any documents she’d handed him. Ellie had paced them carefully. The house had been signed over giving her sole ownership months ago now. The real-estate agent she’d hired would be placing the ‘For Sale’ sign up early this evening. She’d given her broker signed consent to have Grant evicted if he was still in residence when the property sold.

Grant had made her a signatory on his only bank account. The balance had made her smile. One hundred-thousand-dollars had been withdrawn slowly and she’d carefully spread it over several offshore accounts.

She placed another call to Grant’s alcohol supplier and canceled all further deliveries.

The sound of Grant belching into wakefulness had her return to the living room.

She watched him suck in the alcohol and surprised him when she held out a glass filled with ice. “I’ll join you.”

“Whoa, really? You! Have a drink? What are we celebrating?”

“A birthday.”

“Anyone I know.”

“You robbed yourself of the right to know him.” Ellie threw the drink back and stood looking down at him. “What are you sorry for, Grant? Last chance to answer?”

His expression registered nothing.

Ellie headed outside without a backward glance. She made one stop on her way out of town.

Every diary she’d ever owned had been copied. Her solicitor had been instructed to hand her written statement and all the proof of abuse over to the police in the event anything should happen to her.

She pointed the SUV east, hit the button on the playlist and sang her happy heart out on the journey towards a new tomorrow.

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“The Off Switch” A #Short Story #RRBC @pursoot … From my upcoming #Thriller #Anthology “Closure.”

#rrbc spotlight final blog piccie .masks coming off for acts of betrayal (2)

 

Thank you for joining me as I share a short story from an anthology I’m compiling for release later this year. I’ll be including a minimum of ten short stories all in some way reflective of the title … “Closure”

 

The Off Switch

By Suzanne Burke

From the upcoming anthology “Closure”

I doubt that too many humans don’t experience the need we appear to have and crave. You know the one? That urgent inexplicable flash of emotion that drives us to connect with someone, somewhere, someplace and at some time on this our journey through the unpredictability of life.

Jake Caldwell shrugged off the raw-edged sadness. He’d read about that need and smiled each time he witnessed it occur around him everywhere he went. He simply didn’t share that craving. He hungered for isolation now. His memory too overburdened with all his failures to connect. He’d tried all of it. Oh, he understood the logic of his species needing to feel part of something they perceived as greater and more knowing than themselves. They grasped desperately at the magic wand of belonging and clung to it long after the spell had been cast and had faded into oblivion.

Jake didn’t believe in magic.

He believed in only what he could see, touch, hear and smell. The peripheral flashes of humanity’s need had touched his life once. So long ago that is was now merely a whisper in his mind and one he refused to allow volume. He’d flicked his off switch as soon as he discovered he had one. He had been young then. It was a brief space in time when he’d still clung to the vague hope that anything he did would echo through time and instill his memory with someone. Jake now felt he deserved to be remembered for all the other things he’d managed to accomplish.

***

He watched his target carefully.

The young woman climbed from the taxi in heavy rain. She grabbed a bag from the trunk. gave a brief nod of thanks to the driver, then climbed the stairs to her second-floor apartment two steps at a time.

He was denied a clear visual confirmation that it was indeed her, as she’d crouched low in her concealing hoodie and entered the apartment without facing him long enough for him to access his facial recognition technology. He had so many available techniques now at his finger-tips to be certain that he had the right target. There were many times when he’d bemoaned that fact, as he’d enjoyed every moment of the hunt. Now … now it was just way too damned easy. The challenge had lessened and along with it his pleasure in an achievement hard won.

Today … it was just a job. It paid for his addictions and his recoveries. The cycle hadn’t paused.

Jake pulled his thoughts back to the present and waited. The sky grew darker and the storm shattered the oppressive silence and shifted the air in an attitude of waiting for the latent violence to cut loose.

He loved storms. He admired their fury and unrepentant volatility. This he understood. This he admired.

He took a brief moment to read his scheduled targets parameters again. He liked to be certain. Mistakes in his line of work would see him terminated. He understood and accepted that. It added to the excitement to know he could die at his first mistake.

Sandra Bartholomew was an attractive woman. A woman that others would follow with their eyes registering lust.

Jake happily acknowledged that. She’d be long accustomed to being watched. One more set of eyes wouldn’t flag her a warning.

She was around twenty-seven. Younger than most of his targets. In fact, this was the first in memory to be younger than his own thirty-year life span.

She had a crowning glory of gold curls that tweaked at his memory a little.

But her line of work ensured she was often featured in the press. That was where the memory was located,  he was certain of it.

He recalled feeling a vague admiration for her at some stage in the last few years. This woman was unafraid to take a stance against corruption. He admired it as much as he knew it was a pointless journey.

***

Night fell rapidly and he watched the lights in her apartment illuminate the area beyond.

At 9.00 P.M she exited and locked the door behind her. The leather jacket she wore would conceal for many that she was carrying a weapon. Unless of course, you knew what to look for. He reached into the waistband of his jeans and felt the reassuring comfort of his Beretta. There was no clear line of site available for him to utilize his rifle. He watched her clamber into the black SUV with assured movements. This woman moved sparingly, each step measured and assured.  A twinge of something distracted him and he forced his mind back to his current assignment with irritation.

He followed her out and into the flow of traffic, making certain that he remained at least three cars behind her. She swung into the parking lot of a bar down on East Broadway. He scanned the area and noted the numbers of CCTV camera’s recording every moment and movement.

Jake smiled at the challenge. He’d need to take her down elsewhere. For now, he’d watch on from inside the bar.

He spotted her sitting at a corner table. She sat alone yet her demeanor indicated she was waiting for someone to join her. He watched the barmen take her order and return with a bottle of red wine and two glasses.

She gazed around with vague disinterest etched into her carefully concealed countenance. This was a player worthy of his undivided attention. He felt a thrill that had been absent for a very long while.

He ordered a double shot of Jack Daniels and swirled it in the ice that accompanied it three times before drinking. Funny how old habits linger without us being aware of them.

She poured another glass and drank it down hurriedly with an occasional glance around to check out how many hungry eyes were watching.

Jake jolted backward as their eyes made contact. “What the fuck?” He caught himself mutter as he looked hurriedly away.

The woman’s looked heralded recognition and Jake needed to move, and move fast.

He stood, swirled his drink three more times before finishing the contents and walked out of the bar without glancing once in her direction.

He hurried across to his car, climbed in and headed out of the area as fast as the night traffic would allow.

He drove for what seemed endless miles before he’d centered himself enough to park off the road in a secluded area many miles from the bustle of the city.

“That’s fucking impossible. It can’t be her. She’s dead, you moron. You saw her die.” He exploded aloud into the darkness as a long forgotten and hated memory surfaced despite his efforts to deny it.

Melinda was long dead.

He could see her lying in a pool of blood alongside the woman who had birthed both of them.

He couldn’t unsee her pretty ten-year-old face etched in shock and covered in blood as she lay broken and bleeding in the nightmare that their father’s insanity had unleashed.

The man they’d been afraid of since birth had shot them both. His mother and younger sister lay dead on the floor, and his father was still standing over the bodies muttering the vile last words. Words they thankfully would never hear. He’d placed his gun on the mantle and sat in the blood and brain matter to watch them bleed out.

“You’re mine” he’d screamed. “You can’t belong to anyone else. Not now.”

Jake recalled the look on the man’s face as he had entered the room unseen and reached without thought of consequence and took that gun from the mantelpiece.

“Father” he’d said as he’d opened fire. He didn’t wait for the first responders to arrive. At the tender age of thirteen, he’d known only to run. He’d stopped running eventually and took his need for revenge out on anything that he contracted to take care of.

How could it possibly be his sister? He’d seen her die, hadn’t he?

Jake climbed from the car and sucked in a deep lungful of air. She’d recognized him too. He knew it. He removed his concealed Beretta and lay it on the passenger seat.

His need for answers at last supplanted his need to stay safe and unconnected.

Jake drove back to her apartment, a little surprised to see her car already in the parking lot. He sat in all his uncertainty for a long time before his need to know had him climb from the car.

He felt the hood and it was cold. She’d clearly been back a while. The apartment was dark.

“Jakey! Put your hands on the bonnet and stay absolutely still. Don’t make me shoot you, big brother.”

“Sweet Jesus, Melinda. How? I saw you die. I saw you both die.”

“No, Jakey. Momma died. The paramedics got me to the hospital fast enough to revive me.”

“Oh, no. Oh, no … I didn’t know. I would have stayed. Please believe that.”

He heard her deep sigh and felt her uncertainty. “Why didn’t you check?”

“I don’t really know. I can only remember the blood and him kneeling there muttering his vile farewells. All I could do was make him as dead as I thought you both were. So, I shot him.”

You shot him?”

“Uh-huh. Yes, I did.”

“Then why was the weapon found in his hand?”

“Oh, Meli, I put it there. I wanted him to only ever be thought of as a coward. Too afraid to accept the consequences of what he’d done. I couldn’t grant him the option of being considered insane and misunderstood.”

He heard her breathe out a shuddering sigh of understanding.”Jakey, oh my, Jakey. Don’t you see? You carry it too … that gene that separates you from the rest of humanity.”

Jake nodded and his face revealed his final understanding. He reached for a gun that was no longer there and the deputy district attorney from New York fired her weapon.

Jake died where he stood.

It would take years for his sister to come to grips with the fact that he’d welcomed that bullet. His weapon had been disgarded in the vehicle. He’d been unarmed and deliberatly so.

That final acceptance was the only comfort she had as she’d moved through the ranks of law enforcement.

The price of closure came at great cost.

She paid the price and moved forward.

***

Jake Caldwell’s grave was isolated and the only visitor came late at night.

She placed no flowers there. But knowing that his poor damaged soul was finally at rest gave her a measure of comfort.

She spent her years searching for the others that had no such connection. She saught always to find them help if help wasn’t already too late in arriving.

 

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“Taxi” By Suzanne Burke @pursoot #Thriller #ShortStory from my next #Anthology. #RRBC #IARTG #IAN1

 

TAXI NEW YORK SHORT STORY

Taxi

By

Suzanne Burke.

 

The plane landed late at Dulles. Very late. The storm that had prevented us from arriving on schedule finally hit and hit hard as I left the terminal. It was icy cold and felt like snow was on its way.

I kicked myself again for drinking so much on the damned plane. I guess I had never really gotten over my fear of flying.  The car was in the long-term car park and considering how much booze I’d had it would need to stay there at least for tonight.

I was thankful that I had been one of the first to clear through security and a lone cab remained at the rank. Heaving a tired sigh I tapped on the window, the driver gave me a grin and opened the locked back passenger door. He saw my baggage and resigned himself to opening the trunk. I threw my bag in and gratefully slid into the rear of the cab, it was warm in here.

“Where to, lady?”

I gave him the address and smiled as he said, “Hey whaddya know…That’s a good long trip, lady. You sure?”

“Uh-huh, yeah…thanks.”

“Plane was late, huh?”

“Yes.”

“Where’d you come in from?”

“Los Angeles”

“Long trip.” This was a statement more than a question.

“Yeah, it was.”

“You out there for a holiday?”

“Business.”

“So what line are you in?”

“Insurance.”

“What sort?”

“Life insurance. …  Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m really tired, can we just get where we’re going, okay.”

“Sure, sure…just making conversation, is all.”

“Thanks, appreciate it.”

I settled back into the corner and closed my eyes; the trip would take at least 40 minutes, longer still on the icy roads. It would be good to get home. The trial had ended ahead of the time allowed and I was back a full three days earlier than planned. I needed sleep and a long hot bath.

The driver was humming happily to himself, I relaxed, he clearly knew what he was doing, and had slowed down to adjust to the dangerous driving conditions.

I was falling asleep.

I felt the taxi stop, a red light I figured, keeping my eyes closed.

I heard the door open, and slam again…

“What the hell! I’m taken, buddy. You see my light?”

“Shut the fuck up and drive!” A male voice exploded from the front seat.

“Sure, sure!Whoa! Easy, man. Whatever you say.”

“What are you doing? This is my taxi.” I was in no mood for crap.

The new arrival turned, seeming surprised to see a passenger…He had a gun clenched firmly in his right hand… “Oh shit, shit shit. A fuckin’ woman, that’s all I need. Shut up and sit back.”

“What? What are you doing? Don’t be a fool!”

He waved the gun at me, “Just shut up.”

“Do what he says, lady…okay? For Christs’ sake. The man’s got a gun.”

The man with the gun was sweating, the beads of perspiration on his face clearly visible in the neon lights of the city street.

I took a deep slow breath and tried to think.

“Don’t be doin’ nothin’ stupid bitch. I don’t much care who I shoot”

“Why don’t you just let us go, and you take the cab?” I hoped my voice sounded calm.

“Not gonna happen. I need the driver. But you are expendable, so shut the fuck up.”

“Do what he says, lady, sweet Jesus! He ain’t kiddin’!”

The gunman was agitated, and it wouldn’t take much to push him into doing something neither the driver or I would like.

“You got a cell? He asked the driver.

“Yeah. Here.” He fumbled as he took it from his pocket. Handing it quickly to the other man.

“All women have cell phones, so hand it across, bitch.”

“It’s in my luggage in the trunk.”

“Why”

“I ran out of charge … it’s dead.” If he stopped to check he’d be a fool. I knew that.

“Give me your handbag …you better be telling the truth. Hear what I’m sayin?”

I handed over my bag. The driver gave me a frightened look. The gunman rifled through it and tossed it on the floor in front, not before removing my purse. “You got lucky, bitch.”

He opened my purse and took out the notes, “Where’s your license? “

“I don’t drive anymore. I had an accident….”

I left the sentence unfinished. I watched him look at my social security card, and that joined the bag on the floor.

He turned to the front and addressed the driver, “Take the next left”

The driver was picking up speed…gradually. I knew what he was doing…smart move, but if we got pulled over for speeding the guy in front would shoot his way clear, he looked and sounded like he had nothing to lose.

“You think I’m fuckin stupid man. Slow it back down…now!”

“Sorry…sorry, take it easy, you make me edgy and I wasn’t watchin’ the dial.”

I slid my right hand inside my jacket. I felt the cell phone nestled against my side. My hand was shaking. I took a slow quiet breath.

The gunman was watching the driver, intently.

My service pistol felt reassuring in the shoulder holster, but the driver would eat a bullet before I had a chance to use it if I made a sudden move.

I said a thankful prayer that I had set the cell to silent on the plane. I’d been too weary to turn it back on.

I withdrew it gently and slowly…hoping I hit the right button in the dark.

My team had a panic button, a number that would answer 24/7. There would be no voice communication. I had to leave the connection open, and hope that the trace would pick out our location. With as much help as I could give.

“Where are you taking us? You’re heading for the river? You’re going to shoot us both aren’t you?’ I raised my voice, pretending hysteria I was close to feeling anyway.

“I’ll shoot you if I have to. Understand?”

“But why? What did the cab driver and I ever do to you?”

“Nothin’! You’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Shit happens. Now shut the fuck up.”

He waved the gun in my face again.

“Okay okay…” I made my voice more tearful… “ Please, I don’t wanna die..not out here…it’s so…so empty…we passed the river, your gonna kill us aren’t you?”

“Jesus, Lady. Shut up! You’ll make him pull that damned trigger.” The driver was understandably shaken.

All I could do now was wait, hoping that I had given the response team a hand with directions and that the global positioning satellite had pinpointed my exact location.

I sat back again. I remained quiet. We were heading further and further away from the city. We had been traveling for the best part of an hour. I made no sudden moves, watching the gunman stiffen as he stared out the windows. He was clearly on the lookout for something or someone. If he was meeting up with anyone we were in even bigger trouble.

“I’m almost outta gas.” Said the driver.

“What?”

“Gas! I’m nearly out!”

“Let me see the gage!” He grunted, “Fuckin’ inconvenient! There’s a gas stop about another 15 miles on. You have to get us there. Understand?”

“Man, I don’t know. The tanks almost dry. I was coming off shift when the woman climbed in.”

I applauded his smarts. He wasn’t coming off shift, he was too thankful for a long haul fare to be coming off shift. I couldn’t see the dashboard. But the gunman could.

“Fuck.”

“Will you let us go at the gas stop?” I asked

The man turned. He had no regret in his voice. He simply said, “NO!”

I knew the driver and I didn’t have much of a chance.

I would need to use my pistol. The Glock was a good gun, and I knew how to handle it…but the subject was armed and it wasn’t just myself that stood to die out here.

I heard the faint sounds of a chopper in the distance, all I could do was hope that it was my team. It had to be something urgent to be flying at all in this weather. Maybe a medivac flight. I guessed I’d know soon enough.

The gas station appeared as we crested a hill and the driver slowed and pulled into the pump.

“Get out, fill the tank. I have the woman and I’ll be watching you every step of the way.”

He turned to me, “Get out slowly, lady. Come round and stand in front of me, and we are gonna stand and watch your friend here real close.”

“You!” he poked the driver with his gun “Fill the tank, pay for it, and get back here. Make it fast. You take too long, she ain’t gonna stay healthy.”

The driver gave me a long look and then unhooked the hose and started pumping. He clicked off and headed inside to settle up.

The gunman had the weapon firmly pushed into my neck. I watched the driver go to the counter. It was then I recognized the guy behind the register.

I knew what had to happen, I saw the driver pocket his change and nod at whatever he was told to do. He exited the station and walked towards us.

“Down!” the single word came from behind and to the left!  I dropped; the driver dropped. I rolled and fired. How many shots I got off I didn’t know or care.

The gunman was on the ground.

The team surrounded his prone form. He wouldn’t be car-jacking anyone ever again.

I stood on legs made of jello and hurried the few steps to the driver.

“You okay? Are you hit? I asked as he scrambled to his feet.

“Life insurance, huh?” He managed a weak smile. “Good name for it.”

My team did what they had to do. The body was covered and I turned to the driver..”You weren’t really out of gas were you?”

“No but that gage has been faulty for months, it always shows empty, I hadn’t got round to fixing it”

He laughed now in reaction. ‘So you’re with, um …  FBI life insurance…?’

“Yup,” I smiled at him. “That’s the one.”

“After we do all the paperwork I’d be pleased to buy you a beer.” I smiled.

“I think we should each get the other drunk. That’s what I think.”

I shook his hand, “Sounds like a plan.”

#

Contact the author.

Twitter:   @pursoot

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/StaceyandSuzie

Blog/Website:

Welcome to the World of Suzanne Burke

 

 

A #Thriller #ShortStory “Subterfuge” an excerpt from my next #Anthology.@pursoot #RRBC #IARTG

Man in mask

 

Hello and welcome! Thanks for stopping by. I’m in a hyper muse-orientated writing burst at the moment. It’s wonderful, challenging and more than a little exhausting. I currently have one novel being read by my marvelous beta-readers. And no less than three new books under construction. Two more full-length thrillers novels and an Anthology of thriller shorts. Crazy? Yup! Guilty as charged.

Here’s a little taste from the Anthology.  It’s dark … as always.

 Subterfuge.

By

Suzanne Burke.

The day felt wrong.

Neither hot nor cold, dark nor light. It was grey. Murky, sweating, drowning, grey.

My mind was made up. A perfect solution to my dilemma presented itself. I took it.

I eased the safety on the Glock and concealed it beneath the covering of the raincoat. It must rain, I needed rain. Rain washes away so many things. Rain and pain, something to gain. The rhythm of the words in my head was pleasing. I played them over and over, seeking comfort from the calm they delivered.

The bell rang out, it was nearing time. Retribution was at hand. I smiled. Retribution, contribution, a solution. Another perfect rhyme to play on a grey day.

I walked past the brown people, the disappearing, disinterested, boring, colorless, brown people. They contributed nothing, no laughter or tears, no vivid recollections of happiness shared. They went about their daily rituals of bus travel, train travel, they sat making no eye contact with the colorful ones. The inferiority of their brownness relegated them to being almost invisible.

Had they ever had color? When in their dreary pitiful lives had there ever been a spark of joy? Had they ever experienced that thrilling rush of adrenaline to bring texture and life to their faces? Faces with dull eyes and downturned mouths. Brown people.

The world didn’t have time or place for their kind. The world was weary of browness, the dull, the ignorant, those that contributed nothing.

The building was lit … brightly shining, luring them in. Come and find color in me, it said. Bring me your invisible selves and I will give you light, it said.

I picked up my pace, the day still felt wrong. It needed to be set right. Taking the brown away was my mission. I must complete it before the rain came.

I could hear a faint rumble. Was it thunder? Oh, yes. Yes! It was not yet close, drifting on the edge of hearing. A Lovers sound in my ears, distant yet filled with the promises of passion to come.

Someone brushed by me, knocking my arm in their haste. “Sorry!” he said. Not stopping to see my face in his hurry towards the building of light. Sorry, sorry, sorry! Always, they were sorry! Sorry for this … sorry for that, they spewed the word out and felt it not a bit.

Sorry! Just … sorry!

I waited, just beyond the opening of the building.  I had such pleasure in watching, waiting, soon all would be well. I would make it so. Me, I, myself; could they not see me? Had I become brown? But no, I know better. I have color and shape, a past and a history. I know laughter, it visits me and comforts my mind.

The late ones come running, all in a bother. I smile at their faces … looking for light.

I am calm as I watch them scurry and hurry, scurry and hurry, they mustn’t worry, another sweet phrase to add to my list.

The package lay untouched, like a virgin bride. No-one had ventured to see what it was. I smile, at their stupidity.

I know, I know, what joy lay in its secret folds. It was my gift. My contribution to the world of the brown.

The thunder bounced again in and out of my mind, not yet fearsome, I was patient. All would be well.

I picked up the package, freshly admiring my work. Brightly wrapped …  it said gift, it said pleasure, come open the treasure.

The bell rang eight, then nine.

Soon, it said.

I entered the building, I sat patiently, my turn was coming.

The thunder grew closer, hummed in my mind, in again, out again … always on time.

My turn arrived. It was out of the light, not blackness yet darker. I sat and talked with the faceless voice. “Forgive me father, for I have sinned.”

The voice came back at told me I was forgiven. I was forgiven and all would be well.

I knew before the faceless voice had confirmed it. Of course, I was forgiven. Why wouldn’t I be?

The thunder roared now, finally. Yes, and then came the rain.

I put down my gift. I walked outside in the rain. Excited and trembling, I pressed the button. The cathedral exploded in tempest and sound, screaming and fleeing, the brown people ran. I waited and watched.

My gift was opened. The brown ones lay dead. I had given them color and the color was red.

I put my gun to my head.

#

 

Book Review: “Slivers of Life” A Collection of Shorts by Beem Weeks @BeemWeeks #RRBC @FreshInkGroup #RWISA

Hello and welcome to my review of “Slivers Of Life” by Beem Weeks.

Slivers

 

Meet Beem Weeks

BEEM WEEKS BIO PIC

Beem Weeks is the author of short stories, poems, essays, and novels. Among his literary influences he counts Daniel Woodrell, Barbara Kingsolver, and Stephen Geez. A pop-culture trivia buff, Beem’s passions include indie films, loud music, and a well-told story. He has also penned a collection of short stories entitled Slivers of Life.

Book Blurb:

These twenty short stories are a peek into individual lives caught up in spectacular moments in time. Children, teens, mothers, and the elderly each have stories to share. Readers witness tragedy and fulfillment, love and hate, loss and renewal. Historical events become backdrops in the lives of ordinary people, those souls forgotten with the passage of time. Beem Weeks tackles diverse issues running the gamut from Alzheimer’s disease to civil rights, abandonment to abuse, from young love to the death of a child. Long-hidden secrets and notions of revenge unfold at the promptings of rich and realistic characters; plot lines often lead readers into strange and dark corners. Within Slivers of Life, Weeks proves that everybody has a story to tell—and no two are ever exactly alike.

My Review: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟Beautifully captured moments in time. A must read.

Moods of darkness and light within these pages take the reader on an emotional roller coaster. Author Beem Weeks first captured my attention with “Jazz Baby” a full-length novel which introduced me to his marvelous and gritty writing style.

“Slivers Of Life” grabbed my attention from paragraph one and held it throughout. This collection is at times devastatingly honest in its portrayal of man’s ability to disown some emotions and replace them with a more acceptable truth.

Author Beem Weeks has crafted tales reflective at times on the outcome of human disinterest and a thirst for vengeance, or the craving for a connection to each other that humankind needs … and he has done it beautifully.

His innate ability to hear every nuance of spoken dialogue and reproduce it so well is his gift to us as readers.

These stories touched me, they evoked thoughts and remembered feelings so strongly that I was saddened when the collection reached its end. That for me is the X Factor! That intangible something that will have me reading and re-reading Slivers of Life for the pleasure it brings and the questions I ask myself when it’s done.

Contact Beem Weeks:

Purchase Slivers of Life on Amazon.

Beem Weeks Amazon Author Page

Contact via:

Email

Twitter: @voiceofindie & @BeemWeeks

Blog/Website:

The Indie Spot!

#CoverReveal #NewRelease: “The Alternative” by S.Burke @pursoot My new #Thriller #Anthology. #RRBC #premium_indie #IARTG Now Available for PRE-ORDER.

 Hello, and welcome to the Cover Reveal of my New Thriller Anthology

“The Alternative”

The ALTERNATIVE BANNER HEADLINE FOR COVER REVEAL BEST

The Alternative

The Alternative
by S.Burke

Available to Pre-Order NOW.
Release Date:  Monday June 18th 2018
Mystery> Thriller & Suspense > Anthology.

It is such an exciting time for an author when releasing a new book! I would be remiss in not sharing my heartfelt thanks to the marvelous people who gave of their time so readily to beta read my latest book. Their valuable insights helped me enormously when crafting “The Alternative”

At long last, I’m able to share the cover and blurb for “The Alternative” my latest Thriller Anthology.   “The Alternative ” is due for release on June 18th.

It is NOW available for Pre-Order

I have many good friends sharing this cover across the blogosphere today and tomorrow, so you’re likely to see it pop up in various places. Thank you to everyone participating in my cover reveal splash, and to everyone dropping by to share in my excitement.   Here’s my new baby . . .

With much gratitude to Eeva Lancaster at The Book Khaleesi for the cover creation.

Cover Created by Eeva Lancaster at The Book Khalessi

Presenting “The Alternative” A Thriller Anthology.

“The Alternative”

THE ALTERNATIVE COVER IN HIGH RESOLUTION BEST

BLURB:

The Alternative.

There are those that cling unreservedly to the lifeboat that believing in Karma hands them so willingly.

They work, they live, and they function in a world that allows them the option of unreservedly trusting that Karma has no deadline.

Until they are handed the spark that ignites them into becoming the instrument of Karma itself.

There are others who have had all they once held to be truths, everything they once stood for and took pride in, torn apart and ripped from them by the hand of a cruel fate.

Then, of course, there are those who believed in nothing and no one, to begin with …

These are their stories.

The stories of people both good and bad, who made the choice to exact “The Alternative.”

An excerpt from Chapter 1. Picasso.

February 1990.

The tall man stretched his arms and flexed his long artistic fingers. He stood back to gain a different perspective of his latest work of art. He’d spent a great deal of time sketching his outline and was well satisfied with the outcome. Perhaps this one would be the perfection he craved above all else.

His other efforts were upstairs in the gallery, and while they were far from his lofty imaginings, they each represented another step forward toward his ultimate goal. He knew this exhibition would prompt worldwide interest, that was a given. His reputation was on the line. That at least was something he valued.

He grunted and moved the newest piece into the workroom. The more difficult application of his talent needed to begin.

***

 NEW YORK JULY 2015

Meredith keyed in her code, shouldered the door open and dropped her briefcase onto the polished boards of the entry. Working on autopilot, she flicked on the light and bent to collect the mail from the floor; throwing it onto the small bureau without bothering to check the sender. She shrugged off her coat and draped it over the arm of the sofa. Too damned weary to be bothered with any external interruptions tonight, she removed the home phone from its cradle and headed to the kitchen to fix enough coffee to sustain the long evening ahead, deliberately ignoring the well-stocked bar. She was well aware that she’d need every bit of concentration she could muster. She removed the Glock from her handbag, and out of habit, she placed it on the coffee table next to the perpetually full ashtray.

Her head was already pounding and she rubbed at her tense neck muscles until her fingers ached. Relief from the unresolved tension still hovered … just out of reach. She held her breath for a moment, stilling her impatience. If all went to plan, this thing would be finally ended. If justice existed at all, it would go well. All the years she’d worked to bring what was the only course left open to herself and the others to completion was coming. ‘Soon now’, was her daily mantra. But the darker visions still danced vividly in her mind’s eye and tormented her rare sleeping hours … it had been that way for almost twenty-five years.

The memory haunted her, dark and unforgivingly brutal. It replayed in clear and explicit detail every time she was forced to reflect on it … and its aftermath.

***

THE ALTERNATIVE IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER

“The Alternative” on AMAZON.COM

Suzanne Burke Amazon Author Page

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On Facebook.

My Blog

Thank you so much for joining me here today. Your support is very much appreciated.

I would be delighted to hear your thoughts and comments below.