Cover Reveal & Book Excerpt #RRBC Writers’ Conference & Book Expo 2017. Suzanne Burke AUTHOR BOOTH. “MIND-SHAFT” #Paranormal #Anthology #RRBC #IARTG #IAN1 #KU #RRBC_ORG

 

RRBC WRITERS CONFERENCE BLOG PROMO DAILYHello and welcome! I’m both excited and delighted today! The Rave Reviews Book Club Writers’ Conference & Book Expo is finally here!  It promises to be an exciting time.Thanks for stopping by.  I can also be found here and at my Author Booth on the WC & BE site Author Booth RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB WRITERS’ CONFERENCE & BOOK EXPO as I reveal the cover of the newly edited edition of MIND-SHAFT. My Paranormal Anthology.

Mind – Shaft is an eclectic Anthology of Paranormal short stories in the paranormal sub genres of #Thriller #Suspense #Romance #Supernatural & #Horror.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

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Suzanne Burke resides with her daughter and grandson in a small country town located hundreds of miles to the west of her previous home in Sydney Australia.

Suzanne had long wanted to write, life interrupted and she didn’t begin her journey into the world of writing until she was in her early fifties.

Suzanne has written her memoirs under the author name of Stacey Danson, both her non-fiction books have ranked in the top 100 paid in Kindle on Amazon. “Empty Chairs” and “Faint Echoes of Laughter” continue to earn wonderful reviews.

Suzanne writes her powerful Thrillers “Acts Beyond Redemption” and “Acts of Betrayal” and her new Paranormal anthology “Mind-Shaft” as S. Burke.


 I’m delighted to share my latest book as I present my first adventure into the world of the Paranormal. I have included below a Complete short story from the Anthology for your reading pleasure.

Here we go! COVER REVEAL! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

My thanks to Cover Creator Eeva Lancaster: EEVA LANCASTER on TWITTER

Mind-Shaft Kindle Cover HIGH DEFINITION

BLURB:

An Anthology of Paranormal short stories. An eclectic and exciting mix of Thriller, Romance, Supernatural, Horror and terrifying Suspense.

Sisterly Love. … Paranormal Horror. After the tragic murder/suicide of her parents, Pippa, at just Nineteen-years of age, finds herself taking on the full responsibility for raising her fifteen-year-old sister, Emma. Emma is … more than just a little different. The body count is increasing. Nothing and no one is as they seem.

Halloween Homecoming …Paranormal Supernatural. A Halloween party is the perfect venue for serving justice on the menu. Leighton Caulfield and his Lawyer are about to get their just desserts. In a way that nobody is prepared for.

A Place So Cold …Paranormal Suspense. Children are missing! Time is running out. Can the stranger from Australia lead the rescuers to them in time?

Spin … Paranormal Thriller Doctor Cameron Christopher is concerned that his patient Holly Daniels is caught in a downward spiral into complex Dissociative Disorder. Using Hypnotherapy he takes her back to explore when the nightmares began. Nothing in his experience as a Psychiatrist prepared him for what lay dormant … and waiting.

The Director’s Cut …  Paranormal Romance beyond time. Award-winning Director, Christopher Manning is searching for far more than a location for his next blockbuster. The emptiness that has permeated his entire life is crying out for resolution. Join him as he seeks the answers.

Mind-Shaft … Paranormal Supernatural Victoria Denton served revenge swiftly and without mercy. Her future happiness seems assured. If only the past would remain where it should.

To celebrate my cover release this eBook is available FREE from today (October 22nd) until OCTOBER 26th inclusive. Simply click the Amazon Link at the end of this post!

I have included a Complete short story from the Anthology for your reading pleasure.

The Paranormal Thriller short.

SPIN

By

Suzanne Burke.

 From “MIND-SHAFT” A Paranormal Anthology.    

Jenny Rivers looked over with concern at the woman sitting hunched in the corner of the waiting room. Her worry increased as Holly Daniels began rocking to and fro with her arms wrapped tightly around her slim body. Holly had been muttering something unintelligible to herself for a while now, and Jenny wanted to offer her some form of comfort.

“Holly. Doctor Christopher won’t be long, now. You arrived a little early for your session today. Can I get you a glass of water, or perhaps a magazine to read?”

Jenny wasn’t certain if the agitated woman had even heard her, as the muttering continued, now higher in pitch. It was a disconcerting sound. Jenny had worked here a very long time and was accustomed to witnessing unusual behavior. But, Holly had been deteriorating steadily over the past few weeks, enough to have Doctor Christopher reschedule his appointment times to fit her in again this morning.

Jenny was relieved when her boss completed his current session, she smiled up at Dan Jefferson as he left the Doctor’s room and busied herself setting his next appointment time.

She knew it wouldn’t be long before the Doctor buzzed and asked her to send in his next patient. She could count on the man being on time, he never allowed his sessions to go beyond their allocated hour.

Her intercom lit up, and the doctor’s deep voice requested that she send in the next patient.

“Holly, Doctor Christopher will see you now.” She spoke loud enough to be heard above the ranting.

The woman didn’t respond.

Jenny hesitated before leaving her desk, she wasn’t meant to interact with the clients apart from a greeting and making further appointments.

But the woman in the corner was clearly unable to hear her. Jenny approached her and coughed loudly to gain her attention.

The look in Holly Daniels eyes caused her to take a step back. She was unaccustomed to this patient being anything less than cooperative. “Holly? Holly?”

The woman shook her head as if in denial, then responded … “Holly? Yes … Yes, I’m Holly. I’m Holly … aren’t I?”

“Yes, you’re Holly, dear. The Doctor will see you now.”

The painfully slim woman stood then, and keeping her arms wrapped tightly around herself she walked unsteadily across the room and into the Psychiatrist’s office.

Jennifer resumed her seat, and in a moment unusual in her recent experience, she checked that the silent alarm indicating that security was immediately required was clearly switched on. She hoped fervently that there would be no need to use it. Something about Holly’s behavior had made her usual, calm and unruffled self, feel more than a little jumpy this morning.

Doctor Cameron Christopher checked his watch as his patient entered the room, automatically setting the timer to buzz discretely when her session came to an end.

He masked his shock at her appearance, but not his concern. It had only been five days since they’d last spoken and his patient appeared to have aged years in that short time frame.

Forty-three-year-old, Holly Daniels had been experiencing night terrors and this continued deterioration was very concerning. He’d consulted several colleagues, and after lengthy discussions had made the decision to use hypnotherapy to attempt to get to the crux of the problem that was making this woman so visibly ill. His concern was that it may not work at all, each client responded differently to hypnotherapy and it was quite possible that his patient may not be receptive.

He hesitated to increase her medication, it hadn’t assisted her so far, and increasing the dosages would only continue to mask the rapidly escalating signs of complex dissociative disorder.

“Come on in, Holly.” He indicated the high backed chair next to his desk.  Sit down, please, Holly, please, be comfortable, I’ll be with you in a moment.

“Comfortable? Yes, I can do that. Is it safe here?”

“Yes, Holly it is a safe, my dear. You have nothing to be concerned about I assure you.”

The woman shook her head as if only just becoming aware of where she was now sitting. “Doc? I’m in trouble here. I don’t understand what’s happening to me. I’m afraid all the time. Can you stop it?” She looked carefully around the room. “Do you want me to lie down on the couch?”

“No, Holly, we don’t work that way, do we? Unless you’d feel more relaxed that way, my dear. You must do what makes you feel the most at ease. Hypnotism is nothing to be afraid of. Do you recall we discussed the process last week when you were here? Let me just check my notes. These nightmares of yours have been recurring for several weeks now. They appear to have increased in frequency. What we’ll do together is take you slowly back to when they first began, to see if we can’t isolate an incident in your recent past that may have caused your subconscious to respond in this way. They are occurring how often now?

“They are happening every night now … I can’t sleep, I’m so afraid that I’ll have it again”. Her voice was shaking.

“Is it always the identical dream, Holly? With each one being exactly the same, or does it vary?”

“It’s getting worse. Maybe, ‘cause I’m so damned tired, Doc. I feel cold all the time and when I wake up, I’m freezing. Hell, Doc … it’s summer … I just shouldn’t feel so achingly cold.”

“Your physician can find no identifiable ailment causing those chills, Holly. Let’s assume for now that these dreams are the cause, and get them under control for you, shall we, hmm?”

His patient didn’t respond.

Doctor Christopher noted her appearance; she had paled visibly in the few minutes since she’d entered his office. He decided to press on. “Do you recognize anything or anyone in the dream, Holly?”

“Well … sort of … it kind of looks like a fairground with lights and Ferris wheels that my folks used to take me to when I was a kid. But, Doc, the colors are all blurred together, like a painting that got wet as it was starting to dry. Do you understand? All the colors are running together.”

“How do you feel talking about it?”

“I’m afraid. I’m cold; I’m always cold. It doesn’t make any difference if I sit in front of a heater, my hands are icy and my breathing seems to freeze in the air. And the screaming, the screaming is terrifying. I can hear it no matter whether I’m awake or trying to sleep! I put music on to distract me and leave my lights burning all night long, but it just keeps on … I need you to make it stop, Doc! Please … make it stop. I can’t do anything, I’m so tired all the time, and I keep hearing the same voice over and over again. I don’t know where it’s coming from, but I know it’s not my voice. Over and over again. I hear it even when I’m awake now. It’s frightening me, I don’t seem to be able to make it stop. Maybe I’m going mad, Doc! Am I crazy?”

“No, don’t think of it that way, my dear … it’s simply a nightmare, something in your subconscious may be triggering it … that’s what we will attempt to discover. Are you certain you understand the process, Holly?”

“Yeah … I guess. Like you said last time, you hypnotize me and we find out what these nightmares are all about. Can we just do this please Doc? I want this shit to stop.”

Cameron Christopher pushed a form across the desk to his patient, “Sign the consent form then, Holly, and we’ll get started. “

Holly grabbed the form and the pen, “Where … here?”

“Yes, just where I’ve indicated with a cross, dear” He pointed, “Yes, that’s right.”

The woman signed it and pushed it across the desk. “So, do you dangle a watch or something that I have to look at?”

“No, no, my dear, nothing like that. You just relax and listen to the sound of my voice.

“The sound of my voice will make your body grow heavy, your arms will grow heavier … heavier; you hear nothing else, only the sound of my voice … nothing else, just my voice. Yes, Holly … yes, that’s good, you are so tired. Your arms and legs are growing heavy now. You are completely safe, Holly, just safe and relaxed and comfortable.”

He watched his patient begin to slump in the chair. “Yes, that’s it. Good, Holly, now you can feel your heartbeat slowing. You feel totally relaxed. Totally safe. Heavier …heavier, you are in a state of deep relaxation now. You can hear the sound of my voice, gently now … calm. That’s it, Holly, …yes. That’s it.”

“Where are you now, Holly, can you see?”

“Holly can’t play. She’s been bad.” The doctor flinched and then leaned forward, the voice was not Holly’s, it was a male voice and appeared to be quite young. Cameron Christopher took a deep breath trying to stem his excitement, and then slowly continued the questioning.

“Bad? What did you do, Holly, that was bad?”

“Holly can’t play. She’s been very bad.

“Where is Holly?”

“She’s in the bad place. She didn’t play right, she was bad. Bad, Holly.”

“Where is the bad place?”

“Everybody knows the bad place. You know the bad place. We all know the bad place.”

“What is your name?”

“Names don’t matter! Unless you are bad. Holly was bad.”

“What did Holly do that was bad?”

“You don’t know? You belong with Holly … in the bad place.”

“Tell me about the bad place.”

“Nothing breathes in the bad place. There’s no air. No air… no care … all gone.”

“Are you in the bad place?”

“Stupid, Holly. Stupid, bad, Holly. No air … no care … all gone.”

“Can Holly leave the bad place?”

“Nobody can leave. Nobody can. It’s bad. I’m sad … all gone.”

“You left the bad place … didn’t you?”

“Nobody can! Stupid man! Stupid, bad, man.”

“Why am I bad? What did I do?”

“You made Holly bad. You made Holly try to leave. Stupid man”

“Tell me about the bad place … can you see it from where you are?”

“Everbody can see it. Spinning wheels and candy floss. Lights and noise … and, them.”

“Them?”

“No air. Them. No care…them. All gone …………… Them.”

“What do they look like?”

“Musn’t look! Must not, lookedy-look! Noise and lights and spinning wheels. Bad Holly, to look. Now she stays.”

“What did Holly see? Did she see them?’

Holly… don’t look! Holly don’t! Holllyeeeee. Holly … All gone.”

“Gone where? Where did she go? Can you see?” The Doctor’s once calm voice began to tremble.

“Round and round, round and round … lights and noise … round and round.”

“Is Holly on the spinning thing … going round and round?”

“Holly is spinning! … Spinning away! Spinning with them.”

“Can she come back?”

“Nobody can. Spinning up … round and round. She looked! She lookedy-looked. Bad, Holly!”

“Can she see you?”

“Me?”

“Yes … yes, can she see you?”

“I … I don’t kn … can you see me, Holly? Holllyeeee can you see meeeeee?”

“Did she answer?”

“She’s been bad. Sad. All gone.”

“Can you see her?”

“Mustn’t look. It’s bad, to lookedy-look.”

“Don’t you want to see her?”

“NO! No air… no care … all gone.”

“She needs to come back, now.

“All gone.”

“Holly needs to come back to the safe place, now.”

No … all gone Alllllll gone! Lookedy-look … all gone.”

“She can’t be gone. I’ll help her. I’ll help you too.”

“Help, me?  Too late … all gone.”

“No, no, it’s not too late. The bad place is gone. You can look. See the bad place is gone now.”

“No … it’s here.”

Cameron Christopher took several deep breaths, attempting to calm himself. He needed to regain control. When he spoke again the edge of desperation was more muted.

“Holly …? Holly! Listen to the sound of my voice, dear. You are coming up through the levels of deep relaxation. Listen to my voice as you emerge feeling refreshed and safe. Nice and slow … nice and easy. Listen to the sound of my voice; only my voice. … That’s it. Good, Holly. … Slowly now, you will awaken feeling refreshed and safe on the count of three. One … two … three.”

“Ahh…back with us.” His relief was palpable. He whispered, “Thank God” then continued, “Good, Holly, very good. How do you feel now?”

“Feel?”

The doctor was shattered to still hear the young male voice. Something was wrong here. Something was terribly wrong. “I need you to feel safe now, Holly. It’s time to come back from that memory.”

“Holly dear, are you feeling relaxed?” The doctor’s voice held a last vestige of hope.

“No more Holly; Holly was bad. No air… no care… Holly all gone.”

“Oh, Sweet Jesus … Holly! Holly? Holly?”

***

Jenny Rivers looked at her watch. The next patient was waiting, the current session should have ended by now. She listened intently for a moment, caught unprepared by the agonized screams shattering the silence. She remained rooted to the spot, rendered paralyzed by the sound.

The silent alarm began flashing …

She froze as she entered the room, the stench was unfamiliar and overwhelming, making her gag. It was desperately cold in the room. The screams so loud, she covered her ears to protect them from the sound. She tried to take a deep breath but there was no air, her lungs became depleted.

The doctor’s chair and the chair the patient should have been sitting in were spinning so fast that the motion was blurred … a flash of blue-green light momentarily pulsed and encompassed the entire room. The screaming became strangled and distant.  Jenny watched on, gasping for air. Shaking her head in desperate disbelief as the spinning gradually slowed. Both chairs were empty. How could that be? The only exit from Doctor Christopher’s office was the one that would have brought them straight past her desk.

The police were baffled. The videotaped session consisted of spiraling lights on fast forward, and the audiotape gave them answers of sorts, none of which were acceptable by any laws familiar to them.

The secretary had been briefly questioned, but the woman was hysterical, beyond any help they could render.  The paramedics immediately transported her to hospital with sirens blaring, she was in deep shock and her core body temperature had dropped alarmingly. Her oxygen saturation levels were desperately low.

Another patient waiting for his now overdue appointment relayed quite a story. The shaken man spoke of lights flashing and a man and child screaming, he confirmed that he’d seen no one leave Doctor Christopher’s office.

No one at all.

***

I hope you love my new cover as much as I do! Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

For your FREE copy of MIND-SHAFT click on the following link …

THE FREE PROMOTION HAS NOW ENDED.

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CONTACT SUZANNE BURKE

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Thank you for making the time to join me here today! I look forward to responding to your comments and questions.

 

 

 

 

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“Halloween Homecoming.” A #Paranormal Short Story. From “MIND-SHAFT” Paranormal Anthology. @pursoot

Halloween for SHORT STORY CONTEST!(1)

Halloween is fast approaching, and I’m in the mood to share some Halloween fun with everyone.

The following short story is featured in my Paranormal Anthology “Mind-Shaft”

I hope you enjoy it!

Halloween Homecoming

By

Suzanne Burke

He stood all of six feet, a powerful man, powerfully built. When he was on the attack, he came at you head on, with a sneer on his face and nothing in his eyes.

Leighton Caulfield, the name was enough to make board members shudder and rush to check their retirement funds.

The man, if indeed you wish to think of him as such, the man had no discernible attributes. He ran the corporations he controlled with an iron hand and no compunction. It was said by many that knew him, that should the owner of a lesser company driven to the wall by Caulfield’s greed—should such a man resort to suicide in shame … Caulfield would celebrate the event, by ensuring that the remaining families lost everything they owned, his punishment was incomplete until that was achieved. The man was—evil, coldly—terrifyingly evil.

I had watched good men die, at their own hand. Yet, the hand that loaded the bullets or provided the overdose was attached firmly to Leighton Caulfield’s right arm.

His left arm controlled a blood-sucking piece of shit, who carried the title of Lawyer. Kelsey Monroe, earned big money to ensure that his boss was untouchable.

The takeovers were hostile … but legal. The tactics were not. The stand-over merchants were violent men. They could never be connected back directly to Caulfield.

They were employed to stop goods deliveries, mishandle stock, and threaten clients … relentless in their destruction, until a once profitable company had their jugular exposed. It was the moment that Caulfield cherished above all else, the moment of vulnerability that sent him in for the kill. He thrived on it; he laughed about it and sent flowers to the widows of the men he truly broke.

The monster must be stopped. He had eluded investigators for years. Paying many off handsomely and allowing them early, wealthy, retirement.

Those with integrity intact were few. Kelsey Munroe, was the best lawyer in the business. Linking Leighton Caulfield to any legal wrongdoing was an impossible task.

Those options not being available reduced the ways of dealing with him to just one.

He had to die. Monroe would keep him company.

I needed to discuss the time, place, and method of execution with my colleagues.

The four of us agreed upon all, we simply awaited the opportunity.

It presented itself in late October; Caulfield was having a Halloween party in his mansion, paid for with blood.

The room was crowded with the usual bunch of sycophants and artists, the beautiful people who had no desire to offend the big man by not attending.

The party was in full swing—in every way.

Most guests were heavily indulging themselves with the Moet et Chandon, or any other beverage their tainted hearts desired. The smorgasbord followed no theme; it was a selection of Quail, Pheasant, Lobster, and Black-caviar, if it was expensive and could be bought it was laid on. The man had no style, no panache … he simply had the best of everything … to him that meant class.

We watched and moved carefully around the room, attracting little attention and remaining together. My three companions entered the library unseen and awaited my signal.

I watched Caulfield’s head of staff answer the telephone and hurry across to his boss. Leighton listened, and waved the man away … Mr. Caulfield was clearly agitated.

He strode across to Kelsey Monroe, after a brief discussion, they both headed for the library. I smiled in satisfaction. Here we go. I followed them into the room.

Leighton picked up the telephone, “Hello, hello—what is this—hello?” He slammed the receiver down. “Do you know what the fuck is goin’ on here Kelsey?”

“No idea, a Halloween prank—maybe.”

“Yeah, yeah—a prank, it had better be a damn prank!”

“What exactly was the message?”

“The guy on the phone said he was F.B.I. and I needed to have you come to the office with me to take the call, so it would be all legal like.”

“That’s it—that’s all?”

“Whaddya mean—that’s all—he said he was F.B.I for fuck’s sake!”

“It was a prank—Leighton—the federal boys don’t work that way.”

“You’re sure?”

“That’s what you pay me for—of course I’m sure!”

“Good, good—damn it’s cold in here, let’s get back inside, I got a hot woman and a hard dick.”

“You always have a hard dick, Leighton.”

“You had your chance, Kelsey.”

“Let’s get back to the party. What, is, that disgusting stink?”

“Yeah—what is that? It stinks like I dunno—like somethin’ died.”

Kelsey reached for the door handle and screamed in pain as he touched it, “Sweet-Jesus, what the—I burned my hand, I burned my hand on the fucking door!”

“Show me—shit man, that’s burned the skin right off. What the—what’s goin’ on? What’s happenin’ here?” He ran across to his desk, grabbed a hand full of paper then hurried over to the door. Using the paper as a barrier he tried the handle, the paper ignited, he dropped it with a yelp! “Fuck me—what!” He spun around the room looking for something to blame it on.

I moved forward from the corner where I had been watching in amusement, “Well, gentleman, happy Halloween.”

“Oh dear God … what is that, a costume? …Yeah … It’s a costume, Halloween party—Halloween costume; it’s good fella, really good, so take the mask off, who are ya really?” Leighton’s voice cracked on the last four words.

“Fuck, Leighton—fuck, that’s no freaking costume I know that voice—its Bill … Bill Gardner!”

“Don’t be so fuckin’ stupid Kelsey, Bill Gardner blew his brains—oh shit!” Leighton moved behind his desk and pulled open the drawer; he removed the 9mm Glock and aimed it at what was left of my head!

I started laughing; I was enjoying this—“You going to shoot me—hey, Leighton? Oh, this should be great … ‘go ahead make my day’! I’ve always wanted to say that.” He fired four shots and stood looking down at the gun as if it had an answer to why I was still standing there.

“Leighton, Leighton—get a grip man. Just take it easy!” Kelsey sounded quite lawyer-like and reasonable—that simply would not do.

“So—um Bill? What is it you want? You are doing this for something, a reason …what is it?”

It was time to stop messing around with these two. My three friends joined me.

“Well now gentleman, I believe you have cause to remember my friends here as well—let’s see now, in order I think; Tony Draper, you can see the noose almost severed Tony’s head. Phillip Westcott, Phil, was not a great shot, but still blew the back of his head out. And last but no means least, Gregory Parker, smart man our Greg—tablets and booze, you know Greg you look a little better than the rest of us … shame about floating in the river for a week, kind of messed up the clean job.”

Our combined shrieks of laughter reverberated throughout the room. Both Kelsey and Leighton were spewing up everything in their guts, which did not trouble us any—stink was something we were used to. Leighton made a break for the floor to ceiling windows—sealed shut. We were having ourselves a fine time.

I walked over and through Kelsey; stopping mid-body to let him get the feel of his guts rotting while he was still alive—his scream was blood-chilling but as I did not have a drop, it bothered me not at all.

Meanwhile, Greg had taken hold of Leighton’s hand and was plunging it in and out of the jelly substance that had once been his body.

It did us the world of—well let us just say we enjoyed it.

“Okay, my friends … let us see if our toys are ready to play our way.”

“Whaddya want—anythin’—I swear—everythin’ whatever you want …anything!” Leighton repeated lamely.

“And you, Mr. high-priced-lawyer man—what about you? Will you agree to anything we want, hmmm?”

He did not look a well man, his face had gone quite gray, “Yes, anything—you ask.”

“Oh, that’s just wonderful. Wonderful. If you will both go across to the desk … you will find a neat pile of paperwork, all on your personal letterhead, Leighton, just requires signatures … yours and the lawyerman’s.

“How the fuck—who typed these?”

“Shut up Leighton, for pity’s sake—shut up and sign!”

“Oh …no need to read them—gentleman—I assure you. Just sign them—right now, you wouldn’t really enjoy seeing us angry, trust me.”

“It’s done, done—so what now—are we free to leave? It’s done—signed.” Leighton’s voice had taken on a whining whimpering edge that was rather endearing. I personally would have enjoyed watching them both crawl and plead some more. However time … whilst unimportant to my three cohorts and I, was relevant to these hideous excuses for men.

“Well done—gentleman, I am pleased.” This brought a sickly smirk from Leighton and a look of resignation to Kelsey Monroe.

“Gentleman if you will stand here and um—let me see, yes—that should do, Mr. Lawyer man you stand just about—here.”

“What—we can go now, right? I mean we did everythin’ you wanted didn’t we? So we can go?” Leighton Caulfield was babbling.

“Leighton—you are a fucked in the head fool! They are not going to let us go. Can’t you see that you damned asshole?”

“Tsk, Tsk, Mr. Lawyer man, such language.”

“Mr. Caulfield—Leighton, you are going to shoot your friend Kelsey here in the head. Aim true, we don’t want it to miss.”

“What—why—will you still let me go?” He looked across at his friend and shrugged.

“It’s about what I was expecting, do it you bastard—but know this … I’ll be with you every moment of every day until you die.”

They were the last words spoken by Mr. Kelsey Monroe, lawyer man. Considering how badly Leighton Caulfield was shaking, the shot was damned good … almost mid-forehead.

“It’s finished—I can go—right?”

“Oh—I just need you to do two more teensy things … Leighton. Firstly, you need to sign this document.”

“Then—can I go?”

“I’ll give you an out … Leighton.”

“Good—good, where do I sign?” He affixed his signature and gave me a triumphant smile.

“Okay—I’m outta here—right?

“Not—quite—one more thing. Take the gun—place it in your mouth—and pull the trigger.”

“But—no—you said—you said you’d give me an out! You said …?”

“I lied. Do it.”

He cried like a baby, sniffling and whining—we all let him feel us from the inside.

He pulled the trigger.

CNN Breaking news…Billionaire Businessman Murder/Suicide pact. Letter left.

“I can never make full restitution for the wrongs I have committed but I will do my best. My will has been altered and witnessed by my lawyer and lover, Kelsey Monroe. To the families of the men, I destroyed with my greed, the full return of their businesses and all profits made since my takeover. To my loyal staff a share in all remaining businesses. In addition, full profit share and superannuation backdated till date of employment.

“I cannot continue to live this life. I cannot bear to be without my beloved Kelsey; he must die with me.

Leighton Caulfield.

😈😈😈

All in all, a most satisfactory Halloween.

Halloween scary for post!

Next year—well, let us see what that brings—shall we? 😊

MIND-SHAFT LATEST COVER 2017

 

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Suzanne Burke on TWITTER

 

 

 

“Hidden by Shadows” A short-story from my upcoming Anthology ‘Front-Line Heroes.’ #RRBC #PTSD

DEPRESSION

My latest work in progress is an anthology of stories dedicated to the bravery of men and woman worldwide. ALL those that silently and without fanfare hold down the Front Lines. ALL the front lines. On the streets of any town, anywhere, you’ll find them, The Policeman, Paramedics, Firefighters, Nurses and Doctors and all their support personnel. Those on the battle-fronts in foreign lands, and those on the battle-fronts of streets peopled with others that have slipped through the cracks and crevices of the world we now live in. The many brave souls that endure the lasting, life changing flashbacks, and battle each and every day with the nightmare that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These are their stories.

 

 

Hidden by Shadows.

by

Suzanne Burke

 

Davey Minchin rubbed his gritty eyes hard, but nothing erased the things he had seen in his sleep.

He couldn’t stop the images flashing on fast-forward through a brain now too weary to block them.

He reached across for his glass and found it was empty, “Oh, for fucks sake.”

He clambered up from the litter-strewn floor and headed into the kitchen, avoiding the mess on the counter as he reached for the bottle of Jack Daniels, now almost empty. He held it up to the light that shone valiantly through the smudged and dirty window, wanting to confirm the fact that he’d need to head for the bottle shop soon.

He had no idea what time of day it was. He walked to the bedroom, glancing at the alarm clock next to a bed he couldn’t remember having slept in for quite a while.

“God damn it!” he uttered the words, disgusted with himself for having been away from reality for yet another lost day. “It doesn’t matter.” He spoke aloud seeking the reassurance of the sound of his own voice.  Knowing that the other voices clamoring in his head to be heard would lay mercifully dormant once he’d had a few drinks.

He hurried now, filled with the urgency to top up his supply of memory blocking booze.

He glanced down briefly at what he was wearing, content that he wasn’t too dirty to be seen on the street. He pulled on his cleanest pair of gloves.

He ran a brush through his thick, still curly hair; still shocked at the sight of all the white that now grew there.

He turned away, opened the door, and headed outside.

***

He glanced briefly around at his environment, seeking assurance that no one he knew was in view.

He took the longer walk, studiously avoiding the Gas Station on the block that would have had him reach his destination much faster. The smell of fuel was something he refused to deal with yet.

The guy behind the counter looked up as he entered, “Mornin’ Davey! What’ll it be today, buddy?”

“I need to stock up, Bill. I … I’ve got some buddies comin’ over. So, I guess I’ll maybe need a couple of bottles of the JD, and the Bacardi, and a case of beer.”

Bill Eckhart looked at him, trying without success to mask the concern on his face. “Sure thing, buddy.”

Davey turned and gave Bill access to his backpack; the man behind the counter removed it gently and placed it next to the register. “I’ll drop the case of beer around for you a little later, Davey.  You want a mixer for the J.D and the Rum?”

Davey hesitated a little too long before responding, “Mixer?” he laughed. “Yeah, I guess, mixer … sure.”

Bill just nodded, and headed out back to fill the order.

Tara Farrell looked up from the invoice she was checking, “What’s up?”

“Davey Minchin is back in for an order.” He said.

“So soon?” her voice expressed her concern.

“Sometimes I hate workin’ here, Tara. I hate the shit that we sell, and what it does to good people that didn’t earn it, you know?”

She shook her head sadly, “Yeah, I know. Davey’s one of the good ones, ain’t he.” It was a simple statement of fact, not a question that required any answer.

“Yup. He is that. Best fill his order now I guess, and let him get back on home before the snow hits.”

“Uh-huh. Yeah. I guess.” She looked back at her invoice with a shake of her head, trying to dislodge the sadness.

Bill bagged the order and returned to the front counter. “You and your buddies havin’ a poker night, Davey?”

“What? Oh, yeah … yeah we are.”

“I expect your luck is due to change soon, Buddy. You just keep hangin’ in there, okay?”

His customer just nodded and handed over the money. Bill placed the bottles of alcohol carefully in the backpack;  then as always helped his customer struggle into it, stealing himself every time he did it, worried that he’d somehow hurt this man.

Davey gave him a smile, “Thanks, Bill … See ya.”

“You take care now, Davey.”

“Yup … planning on doing just that, buddy.”

Davy headed back home, the long way.

One or two of his neighbors called out a greeting, he raised his left arm as best he could and gave them a wave.

He picked up his pace and only felt safe when he strode into his own driveway.

He didn’t look at the overgrown lawn, or the dead plants that sat accusingly in the untended garden.

He let himself in to the empty house he hadn’t bothered to lock.

He walked past the bedrooms that had once been overflowing with laughter and toys.

He didn’t look at the framed photographs that lined the walls of the hallway.

He opened a refrigerator now empty, except for a few mangled slices of old cold pizza, and a foul-smelling container of what had once been Chinese takeout.

Before he poured his first drink of the morning, he charged his cellphone. He’d call out for a take-out Italian order later.  If, he remembered.

His frustration grew as he struggled to open yet another bottle with fingers that couldn’t respond to his brains orders to do so.

He pulled off the gloves; he didn’t need to cover the ugly burn scars from himself.

He washed out a glass, refilled it, and sat on the sofa seeing nothing as he began to pour the booze down his throat.

He heard the siren in the distance and shuddered, unable to block out the sound. Davey reached across and flicked on the radio, turning the volume way up to drown out the peripheral noise.

***

His cellphone rang and cut through the haze he was encased in, he answered it on reflex, “Yeah?”

“Davey, it’s Doctor Peters. How are you?”

“Hey, Doc. I’m doin’ well. What can I do for you?”

“Well, son … you’ve missed the last two appointments. I was a little concerned.”

“Sorry, Doc. I guess I should have called you. I … I’ve had the flu virus that’s doin’ the rounds. Haven’t felt much like headin’ out in the cold.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, son. I would like to see you though. Can you make it tomorrow? I’ll make it later in the day, when it’s warmed up a little. Would that suit you?”

“Oh, hell, doc. Sorry … I’m headin’ out of town for a few days. Tell you what, I’ll call you as soon as I get back, how would that be?”

“Out of town? Where are you headed?”

“Someplace warm.”

“Davey, you aren’t really going away are you? Son, you’re isolating yourself again. Are you taking your anti-depressant medication?” The doctor’s voice was clearly worried.

Davey looked at the full glass in his hand. “Yeah, doc, I’m taking my meds. Look, I have to go now. Somebodies at the door. I’ll catch up, soon. Okay?”

“But, Son …

Davey disconnected the call.

“Why the fuck can’t you all just leave me the fuck alone!” The words echoed back from the dark empty rooms.

He drank the full glass of straight rum and took a couple of deep breaths. He knew in another glass or two he start feeling almost nothing.

Then came the time he gave up on any pretense at dignity, and drank bottle two straight from the bottle. Until he was feeling nothing.  Nothing at all.

He welcomed oblivion as one does a dear friend that they trust.

***

The car ahead was speeding. Davey Minchin looked at his own speed; he was doing the speed limit and the Corvette screamed past him as if he were stationary.

“Moron!” Davey hissed, automatically reaching for his cellphone. He punched in the number.

“Division 21, Sargent O’Keefe.”

“Hey, Jay. It’s Davey Minchin.”

“Hiya, Cappie how’re you doin?”

“Never better, buddy. We have an idiot out on 75 thinks he’s drivin’ in the Daytona. He’s headed east. It’s a Corvette, so God only knows what it tops out at. The speed he’s doin’ he’ll reach the overpass off ramp really soon.

“Thanks for the heads up, Cappie. I’m on it. We good for poker Friday night?”

“Planning on some winnings, buddy?”

“You know it. Catch ya then, Cappie.”

“Yup.” Davey ended the call.

He peered through the thick fog, dropping his speed on instinct when he recognized the approach to the stop lights he knew were a little way ahead.

He heard the crash before he saw it and picked up speed in that direction. The wreck ahead of him kicked his adrenaline into hyper-drive.

He hit the speed dial on his phone, “Station 23. What is your emergency?”

“Pete, it’s Davey. We need full crew out on 75 … The lights on the overpass exit. Three-car pile-up, get the Paramedics.  The police are on their way, but that’s for the speeder, call O’Keefe, and have him send out more cars.”

“Gotcha, Captain. Are you the only assist on the scene?”

“The only trained one, affirmative, Pete.”

“Good luck. The crew, are on their way.”

***

Davey hit the ground running, and could smell the fuel in the air.

Jesus!  A ruptured tank? Shit!

The corvette was concertinaed from the imploded front windscreen to the trunk. Davey knew even as he felt for a pulse, that he would find none. The driver had a steering column skewering him in place like an awkward bleeding mannequin. It would have been fast, at least.

Davey moved on towards the next vehicle; his trained eyes already accessing the incredible level of damage the out of control Corvette,  had left in its speeding wake.

What had once been a family wagon was now bent like a boomerang; the driver’s side door now met the passenger side with the body of what once had been a young woman crushed in between.

He was on autopilot now, and called out, “Everyone else okay out here?” as he became suddenly aware that the vehicles that had been close behind on the exit ramp had rear-ended, and the stunned, but otherwise undamaged passengers were now exiting their slightly bent cars.

“We need, blankets, canvas, anything we can lay these folks down on, back at least fifty-feet away from the wrecks.” He sniffed at the air again, “No smoking, we may have a ruptured tank here.” He yelled it to the onlookers.

He heard a cry and spun to locate where it was coming from. Sweet Lord, that’s a baby! The plaintive cry was coming from the wagon. Davey covered the few feet in an instant and cringed as he realized the sound was coming from the floor behind the dead passenger.

The door was crushed metal and would need the squad to arrive with the Jaws-of-life to have any hope of getting it open. He ran to the other side of the vehicle, there was a narrow gap between what had once been the bench seat in the rear and the crumpled mess that was once the front of the car

The infant was on the floor, inside the upended baby-capsule, and wrapped in a blanket, and the cry grew weaker with each second. Davey silently thanked God when the sound of the sirens heralded the arrival of the experienced crew.

The overpass was now jammed with people, many had left their cars and now stood at the edge of the railing gazing down with shock and dismay at the scene below them. Many were openly crying. One of the distressed onlookers took a pack of cigarettes from a side pocket and lit it; sucking in the nicotine to quieten his fast beating heart.

All eyes were now riveted on the surreal sight confronting them as the lone man struggled to remove an infant from the wreckage …

The nervous onlooker watched transfixed, unthinking and doing what long habit had trained him to do … he flicked the lit butt of the cigarette over the railing…

Davey’s troubled hands searched the darkness for the infant. The crying had stopped. It seemed to take an eternity before he freed the baby from the restraints of the capsule.  His thankful shout of “Yes! Hold on, little one!” was heard with gratitude by those close by. He felt the baby underneath his fingertips … his hands wrapped around the blanketed infant, and he began extricating the child, very carefully avoiding the jagged metal all around them, that would cut to the bone.

The lit cigarette ignited the small river of fuel seeping from the ruptured tank as Davey had just secured the small helpless bundle in his muscled arms; and he’d turned to hurry away with his charge to relative safety.

The fire-flash caught him and spun his body backwards, with his last lucid memory of searing pain embedded in his consciousness.

The fire fighters from his own station were on the scene moments later, and one of the closer onlookers had covered him with a blanket and tried desperately to extinguish the flames.

The baby was safe, Davey had somehow thrown himself face down and the infant was shielded from the flames, bruised, but otherwise untouched by the explosion. Far too young to understand the loss of its mother.

***

 Davey awakened himself with the sound of his own screams.

Sitting up … still wildly disorientated; he was frantically patting at his now useless right arm, attempting to extinguish the flames that infiltrated his nightmares night after sleepless night.

He looked around to get his bearings … It’s okay … I’m here. Home. Yeah, right, home.

He reached a gloved hand across to the bedside table. Deciding against the anti-depressant medications and narcotic pain-relief that sat there, gathering dust. He’d stopped taking those weeks ago, or was it months? Didn’t matter anyway, the booze worked better. He was pleased to find the glass still half-full of the straight Jack Daniels he’d come to prefer. He wondered idly and not really caring, just how long his liver would hold out under the onslaught of the things he used just to get him through one more day.

He missed his wife, and he ached for his children.

The long months of repetitive surgery, and all the efforts of those at the rehab unit for almost a year, had left him with his right arm still withered and useless. Fit for only filling the fabric of the longed-sleeved-shirts that he now always wore. Not wanting or needing the horrified looks from passersby, or the children who stared at him as if Halloween had just arrived.

He only left the house now to top up his booze supply.

His other hand and wrist had been scarred; but some movement and flexibility remained. He couldn’t make a fist, but he managed to wipe his own ass. I’m grateful. Bonus! The bitterness filled his tone more often of late. He’d never regret what he’d done, it was all he’d ever wanted to do. But sometimes the bitterness in his throat threatened to choke him.

He looked at the cotton gloves he used, more now to stop others from witnessing his anguish at the disfigurement, but even more so for the abiding sense of utter uselessness that he now lived with twenty-four-hours of each long, lonely, deteriorating day, every time he looked at his once athletic body.

His wife Marcie, had tried. Lord knows she’d tried, she’d been with him every-step-of-the way. Until the day came when she had no heart left to give to a man that was already lost to her.

His kids became accustomed to him spending hour after hour locked away in the room he had for his physio sessions.  His friends and colleagues had raised funds to kit it out with everything necessary to work out daily … everything that is, except his will to go on doing so.

He could no longer work in the field he had chosen since he was old enough to understand that his father and his Grandfather had been firefighters, loved ones he’d been proud to call his own.

It was all he had trained for, it was all he knew.

He had tried. Nobody that watched him push through the pain ever doubted his desire to return to what he loved to do.

His body would never completely recover. He was no longer a part of the high functioning team he had once been so proud to Captain.

His friends from the station-house and even some from his college football team had rallied around, the lawns were mowed and the gardens tended, the woodshed was always kept full.

His buddies had all come at first, with their wives there to give Marcie and the children all the support they could offer.

Davey tried hard, but he began to resent their presence, the conversations peppered with stories from the Station or the sports they played regularly had begun to make him feel the anger that frustration only heightens and enriches.

The medications he took vegged him out until the days and nights blended, in a never-ending procession of exhausted snatches of sleep.

The flashbacks came uninvited, his wife and children all caught up in the sounds of despair they could hear coming from the room he now frequented without their presence.

Marcie had stayed longer than most would have, and then she had taken the boys and moved up north to live with her parents. Recognizing before he did, that to stay would destroy the love she and his sons still cherished.

They had gone in the summer, and the year had spun ever onward in and out of the seasons. While Davey Minchin slowly started to drink himself into oblivion … the oblivion he now craved.

Davey stood unsteadily and made his way out to the kitchen, avoiding the walls in the hallway filled with photographs of a life he no longer recognized as part of the fabric of his existence.

He used his left hand to slowly drag out a box from the back of the walk in pantry. He could no longer carry its weight, so he rummaged one handed through it until his hand identified the shape he was after.

He took the paper bag and placed it on the coffee table.

He stood and  returned to the hallway and gave a left-handed salute to the images. “Sorry dad.”

He returned to the kitchen and took the new bottle of Jack Daniels from the shelf.

He sat quietly in front of an electric heater, no longer able to tolerate the burning logs in a fireplace that took him into the flashbacks again.

It had taken him weeks of visits to different Doctors and Drugstores before he was satisfied; he had enough of the mix of medications that he knew would take him forever away from the pain and the memory.

He painstakingly opened the boxes and lined up his solution ready to be taken.

He took them all.

Hours passed by as he sat quietly waiting. Until at last, finally, he felt nothing. Absolutely nothing at all.

***

The phone rang in a small house in the suburbs, and the man ceased playing with his son and made a grab for it.

His young face was pale when he turned his attention back to the three-year-old boy playing happily on the sitting room floor with his blocks.

He hugged his son to him and again felt the deep sadness at the loss of his wife.

But he had his boy. He had his boy. The gratitude he felt towards the man who had saved his child at the expense of his own safety was constantly present.

Now Davey Minchin was dead.

The man hugged his child to him and made a silent vow to make his little boy aware that heroes really existed.

There were many others who gathered after the funeral who took a private moment to look at their own families and hold them tighter. In silent thanksgiving that men like Davey Minchin would go on saving other lives at risk of their own.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘Human Disinterest’ Part 3. “Aftermath” The story ends. From my upcoming Anthology ‘Front-Line Heroes.’ #RRBC

Front line-heroes HUMAN DISINTEREST PIC

My latest work in progress is an anthology of stories dedicated to the bravery of men and woman worldwide. ALL those that silently and without fanfare hold down the Front Lines. ALL the front lines. On the streets of any town, anywhere, you’ll find them, The Policeman, Paramedics, Firefighters, Nurses and Doctors and all their support personnel. Those on the battle-fronts in foreign lands, and those on the battle-fronts of streets peopled with others that have slipped through the cracks and crevices of the world we now live in. The many brave souls that endure the lasting, life changing flashbacks, and battle each and every day with the nightmare that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These are their stories.

If you missed PARTS 1 and 2 of HUMAN DISINTEREST here is the link.

 

PART THREE : OF HUMAN DISINTEREST

AFTERMATH.

 

Melisa Doyle was incapable of speech for quite some time. The film crew finished up, said their goodbyes, and headed back to the studio. The laughter they normally shared after a shoot was absent. Melisa had the distinct feeling that they’d be having more than their usual amount of after work drinks this night.

Jenny was talking quietly to Deke, away from the rest of the group now huddled around the fire. Melisa glanced over and saw the woman give Deke a hug. He hugged her back. She watched him raise his hand to the rest and he headed off alone into the darkness beyond the perimeter of light given by the fire.

Melisa stood, and without speaking, she walked across to where Brad was standing in front of the food truck.

“You doing okay, Melisa?” He asked softly.

She didn’t respond.

“Melisa? You okay?” he repeated.

The young woman appeared to hear him then, “I’m okay, Brad. Thanks.”

“It’s never easy, hon. You hear these things out here, and it just doesn’t get any easier, no matter how many times you hear it.” He patted her on the arm. “Coffee’s still hot if you’d like one.”

“Please, yes. Yes, that would be good. Thanks.”

“Come and help yourself to cream and sugar, I’ll get you a cup.” He entered the van and busied himself, to give her a moment longer to pull herself together.

He caught sight of Jenny with Rusty at her side sitting with old Davey Kelso, he saw the old man nod at whatever Jenny had said, and she moved on one-by-one, till she’d spoken with all the folks around the fire, and then she headed back in the direction of the van.

He took the styrofoam cup with the freshly brewed coffee outside and handed it to Melisa Doyle, she accepted it gratefully and was sipping at it when Jenny joined her.

“Brad?” Jenny said, “Any chance of a cup of that hot brew for me as well please, buddy?”

“You got it. You want it black?”

“Yeah. It could be a long night.”

Jenny walked closer to where the reporter stood. “Well now, I think it’s time I called you, Melisa. What do you think?”

The reporter looked at her, “I’d like that … Jenny.”

“Good. Take it a little easy on yourself, you hear. You did a great job back there. Thank you.”

“I just don’t know how you do this, Jenny. How do you deal with all of that pain, day in and day out?”

“We deal with it, because somebody has to. We keep on dealing with it for the same reason. It doesn’t get any easier. But, Melisa there are a great many folks in organizations bigger and smaller than ours that all keep doing it. Simply because somebody has to. Somebody has to care.”

The younger woman shook her head sadly. “How can I have spent my life in cities like this and never really looked at it? I feel so damned stupid, Jenny.”

“It’s not stupidity that makes folks turn a blind-eye, Melisa. It’s self-protection. That isn’t going to change overnight, no matter how good our intentions may be.”

“Will Deke be okay?”

“He’ll be okay, tonight. He needs to be alone with himself for now. I keep a close eye on him, when I can.”

Jenny gave the girl a quick hug. “Are you up for any more, tonight, Melisa?”

“No, I don’t believe I am. Not yet. But I’ll be back. I have a feeling that the network might run with this one alone. I’m heading back to the studio to view the film, I promise you, nobody will edit it. Will Deke want to see it?”

“I’ll ask him. But, somehow I don’t think he’ll want to. Call me tomorrow morning, let me know how it goes with your boss, okay?”

Jenny smiled at her, and continued, “I’ll have Brad give you a lift back. He needs to brief the next shift before they come out, and then he’ll come back and collect the rest of us. You did just fine tonight.”

Melisa nodded and waited for Jenny to talk to Brad, then, when he was ready she climbed back into the van and headed back to her own safe world.

***

Melisa’s hunch had been correct; the network felt that the story was powerful enough to be aired alone.

She rang Jenny early the next morning to check on Deke and to ask if he wanted to see the final print of the show.

“I’m pleased that they reached that decision. I think it’s wise. I spoke to Deke again very late last night; he doesn’t know if he wants to see it. I’ll need to let him make his own choice about that. Maybe the group will come in here to the warehouse when it airs. I can set up a large screen T.V. I doubt they’ll be up for it, but I’ll ask.”

“Thanks, Jenny. I’ve been thinking hard since I left you, is there something I can do, I mean there at Street Angels? Anything at all, I don’t mind what it is?”

“I’m certain there’s a million things you can do, and I’ll be pleased to have you, for whatever time you can spare.”

“Good. I’m available this afternoon. I’ll come over, is that okay?”

“I’ll be here till four. See you then. Oh, Melisa, when will the show go live?”

“They want to do a heavy promo, so at this stage I’d say three weeks. I told them we needed it to air before the onset of winter. Maybe there will be some donations that might help out as a result of it.”

“Yeah, well you never can tell. I’ll chat more a little later.”

“See you then.”

***

Three weeks later.

There were an odd assortment of people gathered in the warehouse. The large screen television was mounted on the wall, and an eclectic mix of donated chairs formed a semi-circle in front of it that night.

Melisa Doyle was seated next to Jenny and Brad. Further around the front-row-semi-circle, sat Kelso and four of the folks that had been gathered around the fire that night.  All the volunteers that weren’t out on the night-shift had come in and prepared food for everyone, and then seated themselves and waited with all the others.

The noise of various conversations quieted suddenly as nine o’clock approached.

“Here we go.” Melisa spoke softly. She watched Brad take Jenny’s hand in his own, wishing she had one like it to hold on to.

Nobody spoke when the show ended. The muffled sounds of people attempting to control the tears that had caught them unprepared was all that echoed around the room.

Jenny recovered faster than most of them, and she stood with a sad, sweet smile on her face. “Who wants coffee?” she asked, already on her way across to the bench where the urn had been set up.

The young voice from the back of the room surprised her, “I’ll have one of those, thanks, Miss. Jenny.” Said Deke.

“Deke! I didn’t see you come in. Come on over and help yourself, there’s food left as well.”

“Thanks, that sounds good to me. I’ll be right there.”

She watched him walk across to Davey Kelso and hand him a handful of cigarettes. The old man took them, and offered the boy an old hand to shake, “You did good, boy. You did good.”

The smile on the boy’s face was unshielded, and for a brief, precious, moment, the others in the room caught a glimpse of what could be, if only this kid caught some breaks.

Outside the southerly wind had turned bitter as the last week of fall drew to its inevitable end.

Melisa came over to Jenny, unable to hide the concern that was etched clearly on her pretty face, “Jenny, we don’t have enough bunks left down in the shelter for all of the folks. It’s too cruel to make them go back outside in that cold.”

“Honey, there are never going to be enough beds. That’s the hell of it. They will make the choices of who stays and who goes back to watch over their turf.”

Melisa just nodded … wishing she didn’t understand the wisdom these folks had, or where it had come from. The last three weeks had ripped the blinkers from her eyes, and she could no longer hide.

It took a couple of hours before all the choices had been made and this group of survivors split up and each headed to a different destination.

Melisa became aware that her cell phone was vibrating in her pocket, suddenly remembering she had switched it to silent when the show had come on.

“Melisa Doyle” she said, her voice vaguely irritated. Most of her friends would never call her so late.

“Melisa, it’s Connie, you might want to put this on speaker for Ms. Thurston to hear. Tell me when that’s done please …

“Jenny! Connie Farrell on speaker for you.”

Jenny nodded and joined her as Brad went off to answer the warehouse phone.

“Go, ahead, Connie, she’s listening.”

“Great! Ms. Thurston, you might need to come over to the studio, we’ll send a car for you. We’ve had to call extra staff in to handle the calls that are coming in. It’s an unprecedented response unlike anything we’ve experienced on anything we’ve ever aired. I need your instructions on where to direct these calls, or instructions on how best to have these folks make the donations they’re offering. I can have a car there in ten-minutes. Can you come in? Please.”

Jenny looked shell-shocked for a brief moment, “Well, I … yes, yes of course. I’ll wait out front, shall I?”

“Wonderful, thank you, Ms. Thurston. Melisa? Can you come in as well?”

“Sure thing, Connie. I’ll see you soon.” She ended the call.

Jenny turned to her, “I wasn’t expecting a reaction, let alone a big one. I … well yeah, let’s just see what happens I guess. I’ll just change my shoes.”

Melisa grinned broadly when she automatically looked down at Jenny’s feet; she wondered how she’d failed to notice the fluffy dinosaur-feet slippers till now, “Your version of ‘Jimmy Choos’, Jenny?”

Jenny’s happier laugh was a pleasure to hear, “I’m all class, aren’t I.”

Melisa grew serious, “Yes, Jenny. Yes you certainly are.”

Jenny turned to Brad, “Can you lock up please, hon?”

He was laughing, “Jenny … the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. I get the feeling we won’t be locking up anytime soon.”

***

Jenny was driven back from the CNN studio at around 3.00 a.m. She climbed out of the warmth of the luxury vehicle and into the icy cold of morning.

She was weary, excited and hopeful all at the same time.

She let herself in made herself a pot of coffee, she knew already that she couldn’t sleep, and besides that, I do love my coffee.

She curled herself under a warm throw on the sofa, her laptop open, to keep responding to the emails that had gone overwhelmingly insane on her account.

The numbers had caught her unprepared, and, as she’d been doing  for hours now, she had to read each one, respond to it, and allocate it to a file labelled by type of donation pledged.

CNN had been putting up info breaks with all the hotline numbers for the donations, and as requested by Jenny Thurston they had asked out-of-state folks to take their food donations, and offers of blankets and sleeping bags to any reputable charity, operating within their own cities and towns.

***

Melisa Doyle arrived at the warehouse at 7.00 a.m, not surprised to find a line of folks already waiting, to either volunteer themselves, or make a personal donation. After all the calls she had taken had slowed down a little, she was too excited to do anything but come here. She knew instinctively that Jenny would already be busy trying to make sense out of the unexpected chaos.

Brad was looking pleased and exhausted, sitting quietly on his own for a well-earned, but very brief break.

He looked at her as she entered, “Welcome to the Land of Oz, Melisa.”

She grinned, immediately visualizing singing Munchkins in her mind.

“So where’s the good witch of the north?” she asked with a giggle.

“Follow the smell of the coffee-beans, honey. I haven’t seen her this happy since … come to think of it, I’ve never seen her this happy.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet! Brad, wait till you hear what calls I’ve been getting! Come on, you’ll want to be there when I tell her.”

Jenny saw them coming and waved them over, her concentration all on the call she was responding to. She ended it and turned to face them. “Melisa, you look like the cat that swallowed the canary. Guilty with pleasure, yet. So … tell me, what’s happening.”

“You know all those big ego’s we spoke of, the celebrities I’ve done shows on … well some of the big names have decided to get together and have a benefit concert. They’ll cover the costs, and all proceeds from ticket sales will come to Street Angels, with the only proviso being that a Trust fund be set up for Deke and kids like him, to pay for any counselling and all their education! Do you believe that? It’s enough to make me believe in miracles again, Jenny. And … and, CNN are planning a telethon with all proceeds donated to be split across all registered charities here and throughout the viewing area.”

“You’re serious aren’t you? I … I don’t know what to say.” And she promptly burst into tears.

***

The calls, emails and letters had only just begun to slow down a week later.

Jenny, Brad and the rest of the volunteer staff had worked in shifts twenty-four-seven, and the imperishable foods had been sorted and handed out.

The blankets that had been delivered from a large bedding manufacturer had gone out with the freshly washed used ones, that the public had given.

They still had a small stockpile waiting for any new folks that had been added to the numbers.

Other charities in the city had also reported a higher than normal donation event since the special had gone to air.

The older folks like Kelso and the very young ones, often with their entire families now homeless, were donated the sleeping bags that would help shield them from the elements.

Deke had managed to stay out of the limelight, keeping close to his group and watching the goings on around him and being pleased at what he was seeing.

Jenny had spoken to him about the funding and the number of people who had offered him a home. He needed time to absorb that. Jenny knew he’d need a great deal of counselling, but the when of it needed to be his choice alone.

The excitement of the past few weeks had left her depleted of energy, but more hopeful than she could recall being for a very long time.

It was after midnight again before she called it a night, and she laughed on finding Brad asleep with his head on his desk in the office.

“Hey, sleepy-head. C’mon, wake up, I’ll fix you a coffee for a change.”

She waited downstairs on the small sofa they’d set up for the volunteers to take a quick nap on, if they got the chance.

Brad wandered across and dropped onto the sofa beside her.

They sipped their coffee’s silently, gathering their own thoughts for a while.

“We won’t lose as many this winter, honey.”

“The best thing of all, is knowing that people do care, Brad. They just needed a little reminder that we all bleed red when we are cut.”

“Yup. Another coffee?”

She flashed her smile at him.

“Always.”

***

 

Melisa finished her shift at Street Angels and had showered and dressed ready for the studio. Jenny had just arrived back in and was ready to start her own day.

Melisa had been hesitating for a couple of weeks before she finally decided to ask Jenny the question that had been hovering in her consciousness since the night of the show.

She approached it cautiously, “Jenny, may I ask you a personal question?”

Jenny looked interested. “Well … sure, I guess. You want to know how much coffee I drink in a day, right?”

Melisa didn’t laugh.

“So, okay. It was a nice deflection though, I thought. What do you need to ask me, honey?”

Melisa took a breath. “You were out here once, weren’t you, on the other side of that fire?”

Jenny hesitated for a long moment “Well now, your instincts have sharpened. Yes, Melisa … I was. A long time ago, now.”

Melisa looked over to where Brad was standing, trying hard to appear like he wasn’t listening. “Jenny … sometimes happiness can be right under our noses, if we only get brave enough to look.”

Jenny followed her gaze, and her skin flushed a flattering pink.

“You could well be right, honey. Maybe I’ve been wearing those blinders as well. But for now I could sure use a coffee. You want one?”

Melisa smiled. “Always, Miss. Jenny.”

***

 

“Human Disinterest.” A short story from my upcoming Anthology ‘Front-Line Heroes’ #RRBC #IARTG #IAN1

 

Broken hearted

My latest work in progress is an anthology of stories dedicated to the bravery of men and woman worldwide. ALL those that silently and without fanfare hold down the Front Lines. ALL the front lines. On the streets of any town, anywhere, you’ll find them, The Policeman, Paramedics, Firefighters, Nurses and Doctors and all their support personnel. Those on the battle-fronts in foreign lands, and those on the battle-fronts of streets peopled with others that have slipped through the cracks and crevices of the world we now live in. The many brave souls that endure the lasting, life changing flashbacks, and battle each and every day with the nightmare that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These are their stories.

Human Disinterest

by

Suzanne Burke

PART 1. The Offer.

Jenny Thurston hung up the phone, then sat in her creaking office chair and gazed longingly up at the brief glimpse of sky visible in the confined space permitted to a two-story building surrounded by towers of concrete and glass.

Brad Levinson hesitated momentarily outside the door, and then he walked heavily, the sound of his intrusive feet deliberately loud to gain his boss’s attention.

“’Sup, Jenny?” He asked.

“I had a phone call, just now. CNN want to do one of their ‘A Day in the Life of…?’ series.”

“Wow, Jenny … I mean, hon, that is huge!”

“Oh, it is huge alright. It’s not a focus on me or our work here they’re after; they want to do a three part series based on interviews with our street folks. They want me as the as head of Street Angels to gain them introductions after they have carefully chosen their preference. Jesus, Brad … they don’t give a crap, that just want someone guaranteed to spike the ratings.”

“Well that would have been a fast conversation. You didn’t threaten them, did you … Jenny?” He looked at her face and found his answer, “Oh, Jenny … not again?”

He was trying hard not to laugh and failed miserably.

“Winters coming fast, Brad. I don’t have time for this shit. You know we stand to lose a few. The donations always slow down around now.” Jenny smiled and then said, “Anyways, I made them an offer.”

She stood then and stretched her lean frame, “Let’s go over those rosters again for tomorrow night. You know it’s going to get crazy. Friday night and a full moon both at once. I’ll need our most resilient on duty. Can you contact the guys for me, please?”

“Whoa, go back a second, you made them an offer? Please tell me it wasn’t one they couldn’t refuse.”

“Yeah …Don Corleone, I’m not.”

Brad just grinned and said, “Coffee first?”

“Always.”

He laughed again. Jenny was like this most of the time. The other times weren’t so hard to witness knowing that this Jenny …his Jenny would be always come back.

The coffee mugs were washed, and the roster argued over and finally completed before Brad approached the subject of the CNN offer again. “C’mon … tell me, what did you say?”

“The repeatable stuff?”

“Oh, hell. C’mon, Jenny, spill it.”

“Simple stuff really, I get to choose the folks they speak to; and this Melisa Doyle, the woman conducting the interviews … she spends some time with me first. No cameras.”

“Do you think they’ll do that?”

“I doubt that this little ‘Human Interest’ special will be enough of a ratings booster to bother. I don’t think they’ll be in contact, except to say ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’”

“Did they talk about donations, relevant to the story?”

Jenny looked stunned … “Oh, hell. I guess they didn’t get around to that; I may have been a little abrupt. Besides, they wouldn’t agree. It would cramp their style too much.”

“Hmm … I guess we wait and see.”

 

***

Jenny was wearier than usual this morning. She moved reluctantly under the covers testing her limbs before she slid silently out of her warm bed.

She checked the clock on the wall, reassured as its strangled old bell clanged through the morning silence. “You and me both, buddy.” She commiserated with the worn timepiece.

It was barely seven am, and Jenny was anxious to learn the final outcome from last night’s patrol. She and the ‘A Team’ the Street name the folks they looked out for had given the staff and volunteers of Street Angels, had had a long, bad, sad night.

Jenny had finished her shift barely five-hours-ago, and some of the younger and physically fit volunteers took the 2.00 am till 8.00. am stretch that was usually the ass-end of a bad night.

She was caught up in those thoughts when her home telephone jangled on its perch in the sitting room.

“Hello, am I speaking with Jennifer Thurston?” A vaguely familiar voice asked.

“Who is this?”

“Ms. Thurston? This is Connie Farrell from CNN … we spoke very briefly earlier this week. About the ‘ Day in the Life of … program …?”

“Yes?”

“We would like a chance to speak to you, about your proposal, that is. We believe we can agree to your terms. What day this week would be suitable for you?”

“Give me your number. I’ll speak to my staff, then I’ll get back to you. It may not be this week.”

“We would like to have the show underway very soon. Is there any way …?”

Jenny interrupted, “I’ve said I will get back to you, Ms. Farrell. Good morning.” She hung up.

She dialed Frank Daley, her friend, and occasional legal advisor. She grinned, knowing in advance that he wouldn’t miss an opportunity to ask her out on his version of a date, with privileges attached.

After convincing a disappointed Frank that this wasn’t a booty call, they agreed to meet and talk about the possible ramifications of proceeding with this type of hyper-publicity.

***

The machinery was in place some three weeks later. Jenny was finally reasonably content with the outcome. Content enough to speak to a few folks out in her small slice of this city.

CNN had tried to stipulate the types of people they wanted. Jenny had exploded. “This is not a damned Hollywood casting for people that fit your vision of what real people living in this situation look like and sound like!”

She’d stood  … all five-feet-seven of her ready to lash out.

The CNN producer had called a truce, and suggested a lunch break to allow everyone to cool down.

Jenny refused to haggle about it. “I know these folks pretty well. I let you make the choices, you’ll end up with the blow-ins that will do or say anything for money. You’ll end up with folks that anyone with good instincts will recognize as a fucking fraud.”

It was finally agreed that Jenny would choose the people best able to contend with being asked intimate questions.

She also insisted on meeting and spending some time with the popular host of the program. Melisa Doyle had a sound reputation as a fair player. But then, her world was permeated by celebrities that all clamored for her individual attention.

Jenny needed to gain a measure of the woman. She wouldn’t chance her street folks being subjected to any form of ridicule. They had that every day, all day. She would spare them yet more of the same if she could.

***

“Are you gonna cut her any slack at all, Jenny? Brad asked carefully.

He watched her draw back from an automatic denial. “I can’t answer that … till I get to know her a little.”

“So … you don’t know anything about her, and she probably knows very little about you apart from the fact that you run this place … well no, you are this place. I’m certain she hopes that you measure up to her expectations as well.” Brad said gently.

“Ouch!  … But …yeah, yeah … I guess that’s a fair call.”

“She’s in the reception area. I’ll bring her up.”

“Why do I feel like I’m being ambushed here?”

This time it was Brad’s turn to be blunt. “Boss-lady people need to understand better. Don’t let your need to protect your street babies keep a possible way of reaching that understanding from happening.”

“Shit, Bradley! You’ve been hangin’ around me too long!”

They were the first words Melisa Doyle heard as one of the volunteers ushered her upstairs to the office of the head of the Street Angels.

Brad extended his hand to the woman, and stood aside to allow her to walk ahead of him into the room.

Jenny decided to behave herself. Brad caught the expression on her pretty face and wondered how long that would last.

“Ms. Doyle, this is Jenny Thurston.” He said. “Good luck.” He left the office with that ambiguous statement hanging in the air.

Jenny stood, “Come in please, Ms. Doyle. Take a seat. Can I arrange a coffee for you, or perhaps tea?”

“Coffee, please. Cream and two.” The elegant woman took the proffered seat and continued, “We are going to be seeing rather a lot of each other. Do you think we can drop the formality? Please, call me Melisa.”

“Thank you, Ms. Doyle. But let’s leave it at formal for now.” Jenny looked her over, “You’re younger than I thought.”

The woman wasn’t certain where to go with that statement. “This business ages you fast.”

“Hmm … . Just why are you doing this particular series, Ms. Doyle? It’s far removed from the glamorous celebrities you are accustomed to featuring.”

“Well, CNN thought that …”

Jenny held her hand up, “No, I asked you why YOU are doing this. What do YOU hope to achieve?”

“I … I suppose, that is, well … I …” She floundered and a red flush made its way up her elegantly made up face.

“Yes, please go ahead.”

The woman recovered sufficiently to respond. “I’m doing this series because my network have instructed me to do so.”

Jenny smiled. “Thank you. That’s honest at least. So, what experience have you had that might prepare you for what you’ll be dealing with?”

“I deal with huge ego’s each and every day. Apart from needing to watch, catch, and stop myself saying yes too often, I guess I have only media interpretations of street life as a guide.”

“Are you willing to learn more? I mean really learn, not just observe?” Jenny’s face gave an indication of just how important the question was.

“Yes … yes, I …yes, yes I am.”

“Okay. Are you ready?”

“What … you mean right now?”

“You need to see the streets during the day, from the perspective of the people that survive there. It becomes a different experience at night. You need to see both. Is that a problem?”

“My crew?”

“No … no camera’s. Not yet. Do you take a crew uninvited into the home of your other guests, Ms. Doyle?”

“No.”

“I thought not.”

Jenny assessed the younger woman, “You’ll need to change your clothes.”

“Oh … of course. But these people will still know who I am.”

“How many of these people do you think have television sets, Ms. Doyle?

“Oh, I’m sorry. That was a rude supposition, wasn’t it?”

Jenny gave her a small smile. “Stupid, and rude. You did say you dealt with ego’s, Ms. Doyle. That’s not what you’ll find out here. Make no mistake about this … these people you may meet will catch you out in a falsehood faster than you can imagine. So … no bullshit. Are we clear?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I’ll meet you back here in an hour. Wear comfortable clothing; you’ll be doing a lot of walking.”

***

Brad was at the wheel of the van and patiently waiting. He knew that the early afternoon warmth would soon make way for the southerly wind. Soon now and with little warning, the winter would arrive. He hated the winter. They lost good people each year, and the loss repeated itself …again and again … just like the seasons.

He watched Jenny and the Doyle woman walk across to the vehicle, pleased to notice that the anchor-woman was now wearing jeans and a hoodie, her hair was scraped back in a pony-tail. Oh, crap … she looks about twelve-years-old. I hope Jenny doesn’t eat her alive.

“Where to, Boss-Lady?” He asked as the two women clambered up and into the van.

Jenny flicked a look at her watch. “It’s too early for the move to the night spots. Head into the main drag, please, Brad.”

Brad just nodded and maneuvered the van out and into the traffic.

She turned to Melisa Doyle, “Are you an observant person, Ms. Doyle?”

After a moment to digest the question the young woman answered, “I think I am. Is that what we’re doing now, testing my powers of observation?”

“I need to know what you see.” Jenny responded.

“Brad, pull over and let us out at the next set of lights, please.”

The traffic slowed them a little, building fast now as the early starters finished their shifts. Public transport upgrades had eased the congestion some over the past few years, but the exhaust fumes still hung tenaciously in the afternoon air.

The two women climbed out, and Jenny lead the way to an alcove, it gave them a clear view of the opposite side of the city street.

“I want you to watch them. There are two of the folks I’m familiar with right in front of you. I want you to watch them for a while, and then I want you to tell me what it is you see.”

Melisa Doyle nodded her understanding. She leaned back into the sandstone wall, and focused her attention straight ahead.

Fifteen-minutes later, Jenny called a halt. “Okay, now turn away and face me, and tell me about them.”

“Which one do you want me to start with?”

“Which ever one caught your attention first.”

Melisa Doyle took a breath, and began.

“I noticed the guy with the dog straight up. The man looked to be somewhere between thirty-and-forty-years old. I couldn’t tell his height too easily, but from the length of his arms, I’d guess he was well above average height. His hair was long and blondish brown. He wore a baseball cap, but I couldn’t make out the logo. He had two other hats, one in front of him, and one in front of the dog. I think the dog was a Labrador. It looked in better shape than he did.”

“Is that all?”

“He smiled all the time, like it was a mask plastered to his face.”

“Anything else grab your attention?”

“No … I … no, I don’t think so.”

“And the other one?”

“It was a woman, I think. It was hard to be sure because of the layers of clothing. The hair was very long and hung across the shoulders in dark matted strands. She wore a pair of large sunglasses, and she didn’t look up once. Um … she had some sort of plastic container in front of her. She was stooped over, I’m not certain if that was because of her age … or her state of mind.”

“Uh-huh, now … tell me, which of them collected the most donations in that fifteen-minutes?”

“I don’t think … . Oh, no, wait … yes, that’s right; the dog had two people stop and drop something in the hat in front of it.” The woman’s face suddenly flushed a deep, unflattering red as she registered what she had just said. “Oh. … Oh my God.”

“So please, tell me …are they just dog-lovers, Ms. Doyle?”

Melisa Doyle’s face mirrored the sudden understanding. “Oh … sweet Lord. They think the dog has no choice … to be there on the streets. But they think that the human must have one.”

“Yes, Ms. Doyle. Some people firmly believe that the human element could be somewhere else if they chose to be.”

“That’s wrong.”

“Wrong? I understand and so should you that this action doesn’t make them bad people. I believe that the state of our current world has desensitized a lot of good folks. The violence, the divisions within their own once safe environments. That’s all they see everywhere they look… on their televisions each night … and on their social media outlets, each and every hour of the day. The passers-by make no eye contact, Ms. Doyle. I understand it as much as I deplore it. That desensitization is becoming common place throughout our entire species.”

“How do I help the public connect?”

“The best you can do is make them feel forever grateful that they are in a safe, warm, hunger free environment. Perhaps that lost empathy will surface for a short while.”

“They don’t look because they don’t want to be contaminated by the pain?”

Jenny nodded. “Something like that.” She almost whispered the words.

She checked on the time, “Let’s grab a coffee. The exodus starts just after the rest of the city workers head on home.”

“The exodus?”

“Coffee, and then we’ll talk, okay?”

Melisa had to agree, but she was clearly anxious to learn more.

The café wasn’t busy, not yet. However it would soon be filled with the folks that either had to catch a later bus or train, and wanted a spot to sit for a while, or those that had dates or appointments after dark. The folks that didn’t utilize the many cafes would frequent a club, or a bar, needing a hit of booze in order to face the crowded, tiring commute back to the familiarity and safety of their homes. Even if that home was not what they’d dreamed, worked and hoped for. It was still a place to call home.

Coffee had been ordered and drunk in silence, and the empty cups waited to be cleared from the table before Jenny spoke again.

“So … the exodus. Just before full dark, or if the weather turns angry, most of the street-folks leave the day spots that have sheltered them. The store-fronts, and bus shelters in the center of town are far too dangerous at night. The smarter ones, the long term folks that have been out here for years, and occasionally some of the newer folks, all head for their own patch of turf. That doesn’t guarantee them safety, but it gives them a fair shot if something bad goes down.”

“They have the same area every night? The reporter asked.

“That’s what they try for. The ones that seek safety in numbers tend to remain in a pseudo family group. That’s how they come to think of each other when they’ve been out here too long to have had any further contact with any other family they may have had once.”

“Can you show me?”

“Yes … I can show you, but be aware it’s not pretty, and the situation can turn dangerous very quickly. We do all that we can do to counteract that possibility, but there are times when even we are taken by surprise.”

Jenny looked at the other woman hard. “Knowing that, are you still wanting to go on?”

“Yes. I am.”

“Okay. You must listen to what I say, and do as I tell you. Don’t deviate, don’t speak unless invited to do so. Understood clearly?”

“I think so.”

Jenny nodded her agreement and messaged Brad to pick them up two blocks east. “We’re taking Ms. Doyle on a little guided tour of the red zone.” She said when he responded, “Bring Rusty, and the night crew.”

“Are you certain about this, Jenny? I mean she can’t be prepared, no one ever is the first time.” Brad’s usually soft voice held sharp concern.

“I think it’s past time for ordinary folks to see this.”

“Will it make a difference?”

“I guess I’m not prepared to gamble that it won’t.”

“See you in twenty-minutes?” Brad responded.

He was there in fifteen.

***

The women re-boarded the van. This time it held three others to be introduced. Two rather large young men, named Tag, and Davey … and an older woman named Betty who smiled at her, saying no more than a “Hello”, with a quick handshake included.

The other member of this night-shift crew extended his paw to be shaken. Brad smiled at Melisa Doyle’s obvious surprise.

“This is Rusty. He’s our bodyguard, and sometimes he’s the only reason we are granted entry into their world. Many of the folks crave the comfort of just petting him.”

The German Shepherd settled himself comfortably in his own space, and the odd contingent headed further into the red-zone.

***

Melisa Doyle looked out the window and watched the neon rainbows begin to ignite the streets.

She thought she spotted several homeless folks along the brief journey down to the edge of the dockland that bordered one small bay in the midst of the concrete citadels.

Brad brought the van to a stop and the motley group assembled in a semi-circle and waited for Jenny to allocate them their patch for this shift.

“The food van will swing by around seven-o’clock, Ms. Doyle. We do it then to catch as many as possible here and waiting, before the bars, clubs and pubs start spewing out the fueled violence.”

“That makes sense. Do the numbers fluctuate much?”

“Depends on the season. Winter is the harshest out here. The numbers increase noticeably if the crowd offers a fire, plus the added security of simple numbers. Summer isn’t as difficult; if they make it through the cold. We always lose people in winter.” Jenny shook her head roughly to dispel the memory of too many seasons when death had taken members of these, her street family.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Do you see the small group in the clearing in front of the overpass?”

“Uh-huh.”

“I think you may want to talk to one or two of them. I’ll ask them … and if they consent, I’ll give you some guidelines to consider while you are with them. Agreed?”

Melisa Doyle nodded. “Yes. I understand, and I agree.”

“Good. Wait here. I’ll let you know when you can come over, if they agree.”

***

Jenny took Rusty off his lead, and he walked quietly beside her as they covered the ground to the group of people now attempting to get a fire burning in their prized 44-gallon-drum.

“You’re too early for dinner, Jenny-Wren.” The man coughed and spluttered when he started to laugh.

“Damn it, Kelso, and here I am all dressed up and ready.”

He grinned at her and called out “Rusty, come here, boy. Come say hello to old Kelso!”

Jenny gave the dog a brief pat, “Off you go, Rusty.”

The dog was happy to obey.

“Pull up a piece of grass, Jenny-Wren … sit with us for a while.” Kelso patted the ground near him.

“Thanks, Kelso.”

Jenny selected a spot in the half circle and perched herself. She collected her thoughts before speaking and then, spoke clearly and gently, “I’ve come to ask you folks permission to let a television reporter talk to you. Well, maybe two of you. It will be filmed to be aired in Prime-time. I’ll be with her the whole time.”

“Another one of those shows. It doesn’t make a difference, Jenny-Wren. You know that better than most.” Kelso almost spat the words.

“Can we risk that, Kelso? What if it does? What if even a few of the viewing public were galvanized into doing something constructive to help?”

“Won’t happen. Count me out, Jenny-Wren. My life is nobodies’ business but mine.”

“No problem, Kelso.”

Jenny looked around at the gathering. “Anyone? I don’t know yet what way this lady will approach this. But I do think she’ll at least try to listen and hopefully ask questions that you can willingly answer.”

A few of the group turned away and towards the fire now burning brightly.

But a few were still listening.

“You think this might help?” The voice was strong.

Jenny tried to mask her surprise at its owner speaking at all. “Yes. Yes … I think it may. But, you have plenty of reasons to stay out of that sort of spotlight. This isn’t something that you need to be doing.”

“They can disguise my face, yeah?”

“I’ll insist on it, if this is something you’re certain about.”

“I think maybe it’s time. I’ve been hiding too long.”

“I’ll bring her over; or would you prefer to talk away from here?”

“Nothing these folks are going to hear will shock ‘em. I’d like it if you sat in though, Miss Jenny. This reporter might need a translator.” The laugh was cynical.

Far too cynical a sound to be coming from a twelve year-old boy.

***

Human Disinterest Part 2

The Interview

PART TWO … The Interview.

Jenny stood; still concerned at the turn this had taken. Nothing had prepared her for this volunteer to come forward. She looked quickly back at him sitting there watching her. He trusted her to be there with him while he spoke to a woman as alien from his world as it was possible to be.

She walked back quickly to where Melisa Doyle stood waiting.

“Ms. Doyle. I have someone who is willing to talk to you. His face will need to be disguised or hidden. That is the only way it will be done. Can do?”

“Yes, absolutely. The crew? I mean, he may not be willing to talk to me more than this once. I’d like it to be recorded if this person consents. Please.”

“He gets the final say before it goes to air. There is no point to this exercise if the network plan on censoring or editing it before airtime. I suggest it be programmed late in the evening. With viewers warned beforehand of what they may hear. I’ll talk to him now, and on that basis I’ll okay him going ahead.”

“Do you hold that much sway with these folks?”

Jenny shrugged. “I guess you’ll need to ask them that. Now are we agreed?”

“I need to get the crew here, and of course I’ll need permission from the network to okay the lack of censorship and editing.”

“I wouldn’t leave it too long. I’ll talk to him once you have that assurance. How long will your crew take to get here and set up?”

Melissa Doyle was already hitting the redial on her cell phone. “Give me a moment and I’ll give you a time.”

Jenny listened in on the call, and the reporter put the response from the network on speaker-phone to allay any fears Jenny Thurston may have about her rules being implemented. She was surprised that all the requests had received such a firm and committed yes in response.

Melisa Doyle then spoke to her crew. She turned to Jenny, “I need an hour. Is that a can do, Miss Thurston?”

“I’ll ask.”

Jenny did so and returned very quickly. “He’s agreed. He’d like me to be present at all times. I’ll introduce you to him now. Are you ready?”

“I guess I have to be, don’t I?”

Jenny just nodded and said, “The others might consent to talk with you. Be aware that they’ll be watching and listening, even if they seem too distracted. So … let’s get this done shall we.”

***

Melisa Doyle followed the woman, careful not to glance in the direction of the others that sat in a semi-circle watching covertly. Jenny stopped in front of a young male, and with a warm smile of encouragement in his direction, she made the introduction.

“This is Deke, Ms. Doyle.”

The young man didn’t stand. He extended his hand and the anchor-woman shook it with no hesitation. “Hello, Deke.”

“I seen you on the telly, in the window at the electrical store. You look better than you do on there. What’s your other name?”

“Melisa.”

“Jenny says you’ll look out for me. How you gonna cover my face?”

“We have the technology to blur out your features, Deke, we can also disguise your voice if you wish.”

“Nah, that don’t matter so much. I have some smokes somebody gave me, you want one? It might help you look less like a stray dog caught in car headlights.”

“I don’t smoke, but thank you. Do I really look that way?”

“Yeah, just now you do. Can the technology cover over that for you too?”

“Pretty much. The crew will try and present me as professionally as they can, and they can cut to a shot that says that about me.”

“That’s kinda cheating, isn’t it?”

Melisa Doyle was a little unprepared for his blunt observation, and clearly intrigued to hear more of what Deke had to say.

“I’ll just call you, Melisa. How long till you get them cameras here?”

She was about to respond when the television van bearing the CNN logo followed the Street Angels food truck into what passed for a parking area.

“I guess that’s about to happen. Do you want to eat first?”

“The older folks go first. Then, if there’s enough I’ll have something. It’s funny how folks like things to have a little familiar comfort around them. These older folks still remember that stuff. The respect they had once, you know?”

“Can we wait now for a moment, Deke? The crew will take no time at all to set up. Then I’ll do an intro piece to tell the viewers what we are doing here; then, when you’re ready I’ll ask you some questions. You only answer the questions that you choose to answer. Is that okay?”

“Yeah. Okay.”

It took a little more than fifteen-minutes for the crew to be satisfied that they were set up for optimal filming. The lights attracted the eyes of those in the group that had until then kept their faces averted.

Jenny sat out of view of the camera, but still close enough to intervene if she felt it was needed. She hoped that her judgement of the younger woman didn’t let her down.

The introduction wasn’t lengthy, and pretty much what she expected.

Then Melisa Doyle sat on the ground near Deke, and began.

“How old are you, Deke?”

The young man thought about that for a moment, “I guess I’m around twelve, maybe thirteen.”

“You guess? Don’t you know?”

“Not for certain. I can remember back to a sort of party thing. There was cake, with maybe four candles. That was a long time ago.”

“How long have you been out here, Deke?”

“With these folks, you mean?” He asked.

“With these folks, and before that?”

“I’ve been in this spot now for two summers, and last winter.”

“Since you were around ten, or eleven?”

“Yeah, pretty much. I guess that’s around the right age.”

“Deke, can you tell us where you were before that?”

The boy glanced across at Jenny. She nodded slowly, “Only if you want, buddy.”

“I guess it’s important, ‘cause most folks that will maybe be watchin’ this, well those folks will have ideas of their own. That’s fair I guess.” He nodded to himself as the thoughts began to clarify themselves. “I had a mom and a dad just like everyone else does. We lived in an apartment building not too far from here. I remember we had heating, and food that weren’t spoiled. I remember we had a television, and I had toys. There was no rats in that building.”

“That changed? Can you remember when it started to change, Deke?”

“It’s a bit jumbled together, like some bits just don’t fit.”

“Just talk about what you remember. Those pieces that are jumbled are part of it too.”

“Okay. I do remember my dad comin’ home drunk. I remember that first time, ‘cause I’d never seen my dad drunk before. He was crying. My mom told me that he had been laid off from work. She said he was just sad, ‘cause he’d been there a long time. She said not to worry about it. She said everything would be just fine.” He shook his head as the memories started to resurface.

“And was it, Deke? Was it just fine?”

“In the beginning it was okay, you know? I kinda liked him being around all day. He’d say it was lucky that he had his rainy-day-money. He’d watch the television with me and stuff. He had a drink sometimes at night. He didn’t think I knew about that. I saw the bottles and asked him about the stuff that was in them. He said it was just somethin’ he had so he could sleep. He started to sleep a lot. It got to be that I only saw him maybe once or twice in a day.”

“How did your mother deal with that, do you know?”

“Mom … well she would always tell me it was okay. Till it wasn’t okay any more. I’m thinkin’ that that rainy-day-money wasn’t meant to last through a storm that big. They started screamin’ at each other. It was loud enough for the folks upstairs and in the apartment next door to pound on the walls and yell at them to just shut the hell up. The cops came, and they was okay at first. It was like they understood, some. As long as my mom told ‘em that nobody was hurt here, they kinda looked at me with that sad look they get sometimes, and then went on about their business.”

“Did it get worse then?”

“Not straight away. My mom found out she was havin’ another baby. I remember her tellin’ me I was gonna have a little brother or sister. I don’t really know how I felt about that back then. But … my dad … he cried a whole lot more. I heard him promise my mom that he’d get a job. I heard a whole lot more stuff that I didn’t understand too well, back there and then. But I did understand that he gave it a shot. ‘Cause things did get better there for a while. He got a job some place, and was so worn out when he got back home, he’d just fall into bed. He kept at it though. He did. The power got turned back on. I remember just being happier for a while there. I figure as long as I had food in my belly and the screamin’ had stopped … well, you know, I guess I figured everything would go back like it was.”

“Did it, Deke?”

“It did.” He watched her face. “No, really, it did, for a while. It must have been for a few months at least, ‘cause my mom had my baby-sister, and her and my dad seemed to laugh more again. Then it changed. It wasn’t a slow thing that creeps up on you when you’re not watchin’, you know? It happened before I had time to gather some peace from being almost back to the way it used to be.”

“Did you ever have a visit from Child Protective Services, Deke?”

“I think maybe this lady that came by was with those folks, but she came when my dad was workin’ again, and we had food and power and stuff. I didn’t see her no more after that.”

“ What happened, then, Deke? Did your dad keep his job?”

“I think he would have. But … he’d met up with some new folks. I don’t know where exactly he met them. I don’t know if they worked at the same place he did, but I doubt it. It don’t matter anyways I guess. Not now.”

The young man lit another treasured cigarette, and then passed the near empty packet across to Jenny. Melisa Doyle watched the pantomime that passed between them, and then she saw Jenny quickly move over and hand them to an older man, one of the ones now watching on. He took them with a smile, and raised his hand and snapped off a salute. “Thanks, Deke.”

The young man gave him a grin and needed to say nothing in reply. It was simply understood.

“Is he your friend, Deke?”

“My friend? Yeah, you know somethin’ he probably is at that. We kinda all look out for each other, those of us that still can.”

“Can you tell me what changed at home, Deke?”

The young man looked sadder than any twelve-year- old had a right to look. Melisa Doyle was worried that he couldn’t continue and the silence dragged on …

“Deke, we can stop now. It’s okay.”

He looked back at her and managed a crooked grin. “Nah. Folks maybe need to know this shit. Maybe it will help ‘em a little bit, to give ‘em an idea, you know?”

“When you’re ready, Deke.”

“Yeah, okay.” He sat up a little straighter and continued, “So, like I said there was new folks comin’ and goin’ in the house, seems it was always full to busting with folks. Some stayed for a while, and some only came to the door and disappeared quick before I saw who they was. My dad didn’t seem to mind it a bit, and he didn’t sleep much anymore. He was wired up all the time, you know? He moved different to what he used to do. Like he was all jerky and faster. Mom just seemed to get all caught up with my little sister and me, and she stopped talkin’ a whole lot of the time.

“Anyways …  I was told to stay in my room when anyone came, and the telly was good company you know? But … sometimes I needed to use the bathroom.” He took a deep breath, before he went on. “One time there was this small plastic bag thing sitting on the counter in the bathroom, it was kinda like a sandwich bag only real small … I picked it up and opened it to see what the white stuff was that was in it, it smelled funny. Anyways, someone came in and I got a surprise and I dropped the open baggie thing in the toilet bowl. Then there was just a whole lot of screamin’ and the guy that had come in hit me in the face, and I bled. My dad came rushin’ in, and saw me bleedin and cryin’ and I thought he’d pick me up to see what was happenin’. But he just shoved me out of the bathroom, and screamed at my mom to get me the fuck back to my room.”

“You know now what is was, don’t you?”

“Hell, of course I do. It was cocaine, it has its own special look. So does crystal-meth … ice. That’s how my dad was earnin’ enough money to keep the apartment and buy food and pay for the shit he was shootin’ into his veins. He was dealin’ … and he was using as well. That ain’t never a good combination, Melisa.”

“Deke, what about your mom? What was she doing while you were being hit? What did she have to say about it?”

“She just put iodine on my face, and told me never to touch anything I saw around the place. She was sad, I reckon. Then she’d tend to my little sis, who was startin’ to walk by then. I was in charge of makin’ sure, Casey … that’s my sisters’ name, Casey. I was in charge of watchin’ her and makin’ sure she didn’t touch anything at all.”

“How long did this continue, Deke?”

“For a long time, it seems. Casey was startin’ to talk. She was so sweet. I took to takin’ her out when the weather was kind. I used her pram, you know … the ones that the little kids sit up in? I’d pack us up some food, and we’d go to the park closest to home. She loved to feed the ducks. I figured gettin’ her out of the apartment was a better idea than havin’ to keep her cooped up in my room all of the time. I pinched some of my dad’s rainy-day-money and I got her juice and sometimes those little packets of sherbet, those ones that go all fizzy and sweet on your tongue. She loved that sherbet.”

“What were your parents doing at those times, Deke?”

“Dad was only home at night; he was dealin’ pretty full on, and using much more stuff to get him through the days. My mom was gettin’ to be real skinny lookin’ and she said it was just losin’ the weight she put on having Casey, but she looked bad. She still cooked every night, but I didn’t see her eat. Pretty soon she stopped cookin’ at all, and I’d bring her a sandwich in her bedroom after I fed me and Casey. I learned how to change Casey’s diapers, and I’d get ‘em as clean as I could manage. The washing machine was broke. Dad said he’d get it fixed, but that didn’t happen.”

“Was your mom using Ice or Cocaine, Deke?”

“I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think so. I asked her one time, and she just shook her head, she said she’d go see a doctor ‘cause she was feeling sick all the time.

“I pretty much took care of Casey by myself then. I had her sleepin’ in my bed with me, so I’d know when she moved and I could see what she was doin’. I guess I figured that would keep her safe.”

Melisa Doyle caught the tone in his voice, and looked across at Jenny Thurston. The woman had tears rolling down her face.

The reporter hesitated for a long while before she asked the next question.

“Did it keep her safe, Deke?”

“No… .  No … it didn’t. Came a time, I got sick. The chicken in the refrigerator had tasted funny, but you know, I was hungry. I just made Casey her favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But, I ate that chicken.  I was pukin’ and needin’ the toilet all of the time for a couple days, or maybe three. Dad had the place full of those people that he hung with, and he just said for me to feed Casey and take her to my room. I was dizzy and I hadn’t had anything to eat for a couple of days, cause it made me puke worse. I guess I passed out cold.

“I woke up sometime in the early mornin’ to the sound of my mom screamin’. I rolled over and Casey wasn’t there. I got out of my bed as fast as I could manage and made it out to the sittin’ room.

“Casey was layin’ there on the sofa, and my mom was shakin’ her and screamin’ but that baby didn’t open her eyes. I ran over and touched her, and she was cold. I grabbed my mom’s cell and I hit 911. My dad was cryin’ … but he grabbed the phone off me and yelled that he’d take her to the hospital. He didn’t want the paramedics in the apartment.

“I recall screamin’ at him,  Dad, we ain’t got no car no more! Mom, please Mom  … it will take too long! My mom was past listenin’, she held Casey and she was rockin’ her back and forward like she did when Casey was just a baby. I ran to my dad and started pleadin’ with him to let me call 911. He pushed me hard and I fell. I got back up and I guess I went kinda crazy and started kickin’ him and punchin’ him …  and then he punched me in the face, and I guess I went down for the count.”

Melisa Doyle was crying openly now. She stopped the crew filming for a moment and wanted to offer comfort to the child man she had in front of her. The look on his face stopped her in her tracks. In her entire life she had never witnessed such desolation. One of the crew pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket with hands that shook. He lit one and walked across and offered it to the boy. Deke took it without comment and allowed the stranger to light it.

Melissa Doyle didn’t even try to pretend she wasn’t openly crying.

“Deke? We’ll stop now. Okay?”

NO.” He stood up. “By the time I came around I knew she was already dead. That baby girl was already dead. There was lines of cocaine on the coffee table, with little hand marks in ‘em. That baby had white powder around her little mouth and all over her fingers. I think she maybe thought it was her favorite sherbet, you know. She had blood comin’ out of her mouth. My dad wasn’t there, he’d run off. My mom was still holdin’ Casey and croonin’ and rockin’ just like baby-girl was just sleepin’. I rang 911. They got there real quick, but it was already way too late for them to be able to help. My mom went with them in the ambulance. They wanted me to come in the ambulance, but I stayed and waited for the cops to come.

“ I told them everythin’ about my dad, and his dealin’ and I gave them a whole bunch of names. They found drug stuff all over the place. The cops was kind, they were as gentle as they could be, and a couple of ‘em looked real shook up. They told me that I would go with them to the station, and they would have someone from Child services come over to see me, after they had me checked out by a doctor.

“They was busy, going from room to room looking for anything to help this make sense; while they waited for a lady cop to arrive to sit with me.

“I took off. I ran as hard and as fast and as far as I could. I just wanted to run and run and never look behind me.

“I’m still runnin’ I guess.” The boy was quiet now. The German Shepherd came over and sat beside him, and Deke stroked his head.

Melisa Doyle leaned forward, “Deke, your father … what happened? Do you know?”

“They ain’t never found him. He was a weak man. So if he’s dead it wouldn’t surprise me. But if I find him first the cops won’t need to bother none.” He left that statement to stand on its own.

“The others, the ones that came to your apartment?”

“Some of them got busted. Some of them are still out there someplace, if they ain’t left the country by now.”

“Are they after you, Deke?

“I don’t know, Melisa. I doubt they was far enough up the food chain of dealers to be bothered. I guess I just have to keep watching, you know. But, I was just a kid, back then. I’m all growed now. So maybe not.”

“Where is your Mom?”

“S’far as I know she’s in a place for folks that are gonna die soon. She has the cancer right through her brain. It weren’t her fault, Melisa. I was in charge of lookin’ after Casey. I gotta live with that.”

Melisa Doyle clearly wanted to say something to reassure him that that wasn’t the case at all, the look on his face stopped her.

“How have you kept track of what was happening, with your Mom, Deke?”

“That don’t matter. I guess maybe there is just some good folks in this world. Sometimes they don’t stand out from the rest, and sometimes they just do. So let’s just say I got real lucky and I met me some of those ones that stand out. Okay?”

“What will you do, Deke? Is this where you want to be?”

“Here? I don’t know, Melisa. I guess I just keep going and hope maybe to make some sense of this fucked up old world. I just gotta stay alive long enough for that to happen.”

“Deke, is there anything you’d like to say to the people watching this show?”

“No … I guess I’ve already said it.”

Melisa Doyle leaned across and extended her hand. “It’s been an honor to meet you, Deke.”

He just nodded … and Melissa said “Cut.”

***

Part 3 … “The Aftermath” will be posted tomorrow. I do hope you’ll join me here.

 

 

“Pulse!” A short story from my upcoming Anthology: “Front-Line Heroes.” #RRBC #IARTG.

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My latest work in progress is an anthology of stories dedicated to the bravery of men and woman worldwide. ALL those that silently and without fanfare hold down the Front Lines. ALL the front lines. On the streets of any town, anywhere, you’ll find them, The Policeman, Paramedics, Firefighters, Nurses and Doctors and all their support personnel. Those on the battle-fronts in foreign lands, and those on the battle-fronts of streets peopled with others that have slipped through the cracks and crevices of the world we now live in. The many brave souls that endure the lasting, life changing flashbacks, and battle each and every day with the nightmare that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These are their stories.

 

Front-Line Heroes … An Anthology of short stories.

PULSE.

By

Suzanne Burke 2017.

Chad moved gingerly, his bruised ego competing with his other more visible bruises for distinction.

He’d once believed he could hold his liquor better than most guys his age, but his heaving stomach rapidly turned that hopeful little daydream into a blatant lie.

He made his way to the bathroom, pleased with himself for a moment as he looked around his small apartment, and found contentment by the order he found there.

He avoided the mirror this morning. His hands were too shaky to risk a shave.

The shower revived him to a reasonable degree. Orange juice and strong coffee took care of the rest.

He flicked a look at his phone,  checked a couple of missed calls, but nothing urgent needed his attention for now.

Today was already planned, based on an assumption that the few drinks with the guys and girls from his future work place couldn’t possibly result in feeling less than the six-feet-four, well-muscled and lean persona that belonged utterly to Chad Williams. Ego is such an inconvenient thing. The thought made him smile for a moment.

He shook his head to clear it a little: he’d need to get moving if he wanted to see and map out the sections of the city that would most likely need his attention two nights from now.

He glanced across at the uniform and jacket that hung on the hook outside his wardrobe. The jacket, large and in screaming yellow with Paramedic emblazoned across it to identify him to anyone that needed to know why he was wherever they ended up.

He’d not so long ago worn a different uniform in a very different theater of combat.

“Old habits die hard, that’s how it goes down. I need to take the pulse of my new terrain, do you get that?”

He’d spoken those words to the paramedic he’d be riding with in just a few short days.

“Yeah … Oh yeah, I get it.” Katrina Georgiou gave him a brief smile. “But …” She stopped to better form the question, “I’m gonna be ridin’ with you, Chad. I need to know what you’re bringin’ with you from your past, into my current equation. Do you get that?”

“So … why did I choose to leave? Is that what you need to know?” He asked, with a mask rapidly descending over a face once young, but rapidly ageing.

“Yeah … that’ll about cover it.” she’d said.

Chad had considered his response for a few long moments. His face reflected sadness accompanied by a firm resolve. “When you do your job … you do it for strangers, and the chances of you being called to attend someone you know and care deeply about are minuscule at best. Would that be an accurate assessment?”

She nodded her head, “If you mean family, I’ve only ever heard about that happening, maybe twice or three-times in my twenty-three-years on the job. But, I guess there are many different layers of caring … aren’t there?” She questioned gently and then continued, “Go on.”

“The people that I saw, the dead and the dying, the ones I could help and the ones it was too late to offer anything but  a prayer for, … a thankful prayer that death had been mercifully fast to take them. They weren’t nameless strangers. I ate with those men and women; I played cards and shot the breeze about baseball, and basketball and whatever other damned sport you care to name. I laughed with them and occasionally at them … and then far too often … I watched them bleed.

“So, here I am. These folks we’ll try and help, these folks will be strangers. Strangers I can tend to, to the best of my ability, and when they have been handed over to the hospital I can walk away without the need to hear the ones that care, the ones remaining, cry out their despair.” He looked into her face and saw the beginnings of understanding reflecting back at him from her kind eyes.

She touched his arm, “You’ll do me just fine.” She stood then and offered her hand, “Welcome to your new battle station, Chad.”

He shook the hand that she offered and left her.

He had uncharted terrain to explore. He’d grown up in this city, but he knew her pulse had changed.

He was almost done … only a couple of the dockyard places remained to  be looked at more fully.

The pulse of the city had slowly revealed itself to him,   making itself known to his hyper-alert senses.  He recognized the heartbeat of this city he’d been born in … and over the course of three long days and nights he began to recognize the areas that could explode with testosterone-fueled rage, or the rage of futility … for he knew too well, that rage had its own unique pulse.

Fear signaled a different beat again, the fear pulse came with a residual echo, as if hopelessness had its own sounding chamber.

The visual images of fear burned themselves into his core memory … .

He would save them for later.

Partly satisfied that his recon had given him at least some parameters to work with, he crawled into bed and finally slept. The sunrise heralded the beginning of his new tomorrow.

He watched it rise, and spent the day quietly; his shift began at 2100 hrs … 9.00 pm he corrected inside his military trained head … . He wanted to be, needed to be … must be, on premium, optimal, alert.

He was a little tense on the drive in, and pulled over and breathed through it before he continued.

Katrina  Georgiou,  acknowledged him briefly “We already have a call out, Chad. I’ll fill you in once we get underway.”

Chad climbed up into the ambulance and seated himself in the shotgun position beside her.

“Ready to rock n’ roll?” She asked.

“Let’s do it.”

She nodded and drove out.

She pulled expertly into the heavy traffic of a Friday night in this city, and hit the siren. She grunted in satisfaction as cars began to pull over to let the ambulance through.

“Okay, Chad, here’s where we’re at. We have a Police officer down.  Multiple shots fired, officers responding report  that our patient is on the pavement at the entrance to the old art-gallery off George and Park. No movement detected.”

“We first in?”

“Looks that way.”

“Understood” … “ETA?”

“Four minutes.”

Katrina pulled the ambulance expertly into the boundary already set up by the responding officers.  It was bordered shoulder-to-shoulder with a blue breathing wall of police.

The officer on the sidewalk was around fifteen-yards from the edge of the police presence.

Katrina spoke up, “We need to get to the casualty.”

The officer in charge nodded his head. “I understand that. He’s my man, but we still have a shooter somewhere in that alley. The rear access is covered, so our shooter could be more than a little desperate right around now.”

The body on the sidewalk moved slightly, an arm suddenly extended to drape itself across the side of the man currently facing them.

Chad looked at the blood rapidly pooling on the sidewalk.

“Oh fuck … he’s gut shot.” he said half to himself. “We don’t have time for this, guys. He  could bleed out pretty quickly.” He looked at Katrina and she gave him the yes nod he’d hoped for.

The cop in charge looked at them hard for just a moment “God bless you both.” He turned to his men. “Let’s do this … Jesus … okay, move … on my signal” He gave it, and put both he and another two officers in the direct line-of-fire to escort the paramedics the short distance to the fallen man in blue.

No shots came at them,  and Katrina and Chad set to work.

They were both on autopilot now … focused only on what they needed to do to give this one the very best chance of surviving.

“We’ll need the gurney to move him.” Katrina spoke softly.

“It’ll take too long, Katrina. I’ll carry him, if you go ahead of me and hold the drip feed lines. Yeah?”

She agreed and they prepared him hurriedly for the necessary dash to the ambulance. Both of them focused only on what was ahead and not what could well be waiting to kill them all from behind.

The cops closed ranks and provided them a brief shield, falling back into line with a rapid but pleased glance from the others still waiting to be ordered to move in.

Katrina climbed in to the driver’s seat once they had their patient secured, and Chad sat alongside the unconscious man and willed him to hold on.

The sound of a second shot startled them both, and not waiting to hear more, Katrina revved the vehicle, set the sirens screaming …  and got them all the hell out of Dodge.

The casualty made it the hospital and was still alive when he was handed across to the ready and prepared E.R staff.

***

Chad joined Katrina outside and was grateful when she offered him one of her cigarettes.

“That was quite a christening.” Katrina said as she lit up his Marlboro.

He looked down at his hands, relieved and a little surprised to find that they were steady.

“It was the same, wasn’t it … that Pulse beat you were talking about?” She asked suddenly.

He was surprised … then felt suddenly guilty at feeling that way. “Uh-huh … yeah, yeah …  it was.”

She reached for his arm and gave it a gentle squeeze.

“You do know that those boys in blue will be buying you beers for a long while to come … If you let them that is. Will you let them in close enough to allow that, will you let them be grateful, Chad?”

Chad checked his pulse rate, and then gave her a weary smile.

“I have no choice. Do I? Can we check on him before end of shift?”

“Welcome back to the land of the still living, Chad.”

Chad just nodded his head.

Ready or not … He had finally come home.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Alexis in Blue” A short story from my upcoming Anthology “Front-Line Heroes” @pursoot #RRBC #IARTG #IAN

My latest work in progress is an anthology of stories dedicated to the bravery of men and woman worldwide. ALL those that silently and without fanfare hold down the Front Lines. ALL the front lines. On the streets of any town, anywhere, you’ll find them, The Policeman, Paramedics, Firefighters, Nurses and Doctors and all their support personnel. Those on the battle-fronts in foreign lands, and those on the battle-fronts of streets peopled with others that have slipped through the cracks and crevices of the world we now live in. The many brave souls that endure the lasting, life changing flashbacks, and battle each and every day with the nightmare that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These are their stories.

 

Alexis in Blue

 By

Suzanne Burke

I have always been one of those people that should never be around bleeping car alarms, or crying babies.  There is just something about the urgency of those sounds that creates a twitch in my brain and a frown on my face.

The restaurant was crowded.  The food was good.  My date was not, he had pulled the old left my wallet at home number on me again, and I was pissed as hell about it.

He left.  I stayed.  The phone rang.  The booth was just off to my right.  It rang and rang and my twitch and frown deepened.  I got up and walked over and into a nightmare.

“Yes” I said.

“There’s one born every minute.”  It was a male voice, flat, and cold.  It continued, “Well now, I expected a woman to pick up. I figured it would be a woman, women always stick their noses in where they’re not wanted.”

“Fuck you, whoever you are.”  I said about to slam the phone down.

“NO!  Not a smart thing to do, lady.”  The voice screamed.

“I’ll play.  Why not?”

“Because, you stupid bitch, you activated the timing device on a bomb when you picked up the phone.”

I remained silent.  The words unscrambling themselves in my alcohol-infused brain.  “Bull shit, creep.  Ha ha, I’m not buying it.”

“Too bad, bitch. That pretty blue dress is gonna get all covered with blood and brains. Such a pity.”

My brain kicked into overdrive.  This bastard could see me.  He was watching me.  I looked around me fast, trying to see who it might be.  Whoever it was, they had to be on a cell phone.

“Well,” he said, what do you think?  Which one of us is it, bitch?  Huh?  C’mon bitch, figure it out; which one of us are you talkin’ to.  Which one is gonna blow you and all these other assholes to hell?  Talk to me, bitch.  Don’t make me push my little button too soon.  Where would the fun be in that?  I like to have fun.”

I couldn’t afford not to play the sicko’s game.  If this was a game.

“What do you want?”

“Ah, see now, that’s better.  Play nice.  It can be fun; you just have to find a way.  Can you find a way, bitch?”

Sweet Jesus, what the hell do I do?  What if it’s real?  What if there is a bomb?  “What do you want?  Please, tell me what you want?”

“Oh, you disappoint me, you already asked me that.  Shouldn’t disappoint me, I don’t like it when women disappoint me.”

I swallowed the bile that came up in my throat, I had to think, think. My stupid brain wouldn’t respond.  What could I say?

“Um—my name, is Alexis.”

“So?”

“So, what’s your name?”

“Boring and stupid.  Is that all you can come up with?  My name is Alexis.  I can tell you my name, but I won’t.  How ‘bout you guess my name.  Yes, that will keep me amused, for a while.  Alexis has to guess my name.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Wrong!’

“Please, why are you doing this?”

“Wrong!”

My knees were shaking and the nausea was threatening to overwhelm me. Why didn’t anyone come near?  Why couldn’t they see?  I looked frantically around again trying to make eye contact with someone, anyone.  Please, please why can’t you see?

“Um … Robert.” I said, trying to keep my voice from breaking.

“Do I sound like a Robert?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t know.  Can you give me a hint?  Please.  Will this stop if I guess your name?  Why would you do this, do I know you?”

“Oh—poor little bitch.  Poor little bitch in a blue dress.  Poor bitch wants a hint.  Will I give you a hint? Lemme think ‘bout it.”

What can I do?  Think … dammit … think.  Keep him talking, keep him talking.  This place has to close.  Someone will get suspicious; surely, someone will wonder why I’m on the phone so long.  Keep him talking.

“If not, Robert.  Then give me a hint.  Play fair.  Or don’t you know how?”

“Wrong answer, bitch.  Nice try.  But gettin’ me mad ain’t a good idea.”

“Then give me a hint, please.”

“Say sorry.”

“I … I’m sorry, please.  Don’t do this.”

“Pleadin’ won’t help, bitch.  What is my name?”

“Frank.”

“Wrong answer.”

I could feel the tears running down my face and turned around so people could see them.  Dear God, please someone look at me.  Can’t you see?  That woman, that woman in the leather jacket she is looking at me.  I nodded my head at her.  Yes, yes.  Please come see.  Please. No! Don’t give me me an embarrassed smile and turn away.  No, no no.

“What is my name, little bitch in blue?”

“I don’t know … I don’t know! Please why, why are you doing this?  Why?”

“It’s time.”

“Ti … time … no … no …! Time for what?”  I screamed into the phone, a couple of people looked up, and looked away again quickly.

“Time for all the people to pay.  Alexis in the blue dress.”

“Pay for what?  What did they do to you?”

“Too late—too late, it’s done.  Nobody cared, Alexis in the blue dress.”

“I—I care!”

“Of course you do … you are going to die.  Everyone cares when they are about to die.”

“Then–why don’t you tell all these people, why they must die?  Punish them like you are punishing me.”

“Tell all the people?”

“Yes, yes.  Tell all the people. You want them to be afraid, don’t you?  You want them to suffer with that fear like I am before they die. Don’t you?”

“Make them afraid.  All of them?  Yes … NO!  What is my name?”

“Look, look around you.  More people are leaving.  They never got to care what happened to you.  They never got to be afraid.”

I said a silent prayer that he didn’t just push the damned button.  My instincts told me it was suddenly more important to confuse him. He appeared to be rattled just a little.

“What did they do to you to make you hate them?”

“I don’t hate.  I don’t feel anything.  They have to pay.”

“Because … because you don’t feel anything?”

“Yes—Alexis in the blue dress.  Because I don’t feel anything.  They did that.”

“Who is they?”

“People.  Just people.”

“But, why me? Why these people in particular?  What did I do to you?  What did the woman and that little girl in pink do to you?”

“Wrong—no more questions.  Just answers, get it?  What is my name.”

His voice was becoming agitated.  No longer cold and flat, it was raised in protest at my questions.

“George, is it … George?”

“No.  This is boring.”

“You will die too, won’t you?  You are here in this restaurant, watching every little move I make. So, you will die too.”

“Yes—of course.  No matter, I feel nothing.”

“You don’t feel pain?”

“I feel nothing.  No more questions.  I’ll give you a hint.”

“What if I don’t get it right?”

“Get it right.  Alexis in the blue dress.  Do you like music?”

“Yes, yes I do.”

“Do you know music?”

I thought hard before I answered.  “No—not very well.  I just like music, that’s all.  If you give me a hint, and I get it right what will you do?”
“What will you do?”  I repeated.

“I’ll stop.”

“You’ll stop the bomb from detonating?”

“Yes.”

“Why should I believe you?”

“What choice do you have, Alexis in the blue dress?”  He laughed.

The terror had gone. I’d replaced it a with a desperation that was tinged with acceptance.  I was going to die.  These people were going to die. How dare he decide so many fates.
More couples left the restaurant.  The woman in the leather jacket looked at me again, I mouthed the word…  Help.  Again, Help.  I couldn’t risk signaling her in any other way.  He was in here.  Watching me.  Watching everything, I did.

She looked at me oddly.  Then she picked up her purse and she and her male companion left the restaurant. She gave me a brief backward glance as then disappeared from sight around the screen near the entry door.

I could barely breathe.

I had wet myself and all I could do was stand there in silent unobserved humiliation. Was this how my life would end?  I hated knowing that it was.

The restaurant was emptying, faster now.  It was getting late.  Time was running out.  The waiters were going around to the occupied tables and soon after a few of the customers here and there got up and made their way slowly outside.

That was good, I was relieved it might end up with just me and some staff perhaps.  The woman and the little girl got up to go.

“What are you doing?”  His voice was querulous, agitated, different.

“Nothing—you can see me!  What does it look like I’m doing?  Nothing—right.  Just waiting for the hint.”

I looked around, again.  Damn who was it; there weren’t many of us left.  Five males, four females and the staff.  Was it one of the staff?  What good would knowing do me?

“So—come on—what is the hint?”

“I’m thinking!”  He raised his voice angrily this time.  I had rattled him.  I don’t know how.

“C’mon, c’mon.  If I’m going to guess your name, I need a hint.”

“Wait!  Are you in a big hurry to die? Alexis in the blue dress.  How old are you?”

“Why does that matter?”  I have to stall him now.  The longer I can keep him occupied the more people would get out.
“I asked how old you are?” he was angry.

“And I asked you why that’s important.”

“Tell me!” he screamed.

“I don’t think I will.  You have to give me the hint.  You said you would, now you will not.  If you are a liar, why would I believe you about the bomb?  I think I’ll just walk out of here.  You have had your sick fun.”

“Tell me your age and I will give you a hint.”

“How old do I look?”

“Stop it!  You must answer the questions.  Don’t ask them.”

I looked around; several of the waiters appeared to be going off duty.  Why had no one questioned me still being on the phone?

I saw him!  It had to be him, or one of the staff.

No! It had to be him.  He sat at the back of the restaurant, alone.  That’s why he couldn’t guess my age.  He was too far away to be sure, or even close.  But, was the bomb on him, or planted?  I couldn’t let him know that I had figured out who he was.  I must not.

“I’m thirty.”  I lied.

“That’s better.  That’s young.”

“How old are you?”

“As old as time.”  He sounded weary, fed up.

“What is my hint?”  I pushed it.

“Purple Haze.”

“What?”

“Purple Haze.”

I watched another couple of people that could only have come from the kitchen walk out the front door. One of them still wearing the white cap of a kitchen hand. There was none of the laughter and good natured ribbing you would expect to hear from people finishing work and heading elsewhere.

I realized then that they knew.  Someone had tipped them off.  Maybe the woman in the leather jacket.  The lights were all still blazing.

“I said, Purple Haze.  Alexis in the blue dress.”

He was so focused on me I don’t think he had noticed that hardly anyone remained in the restaurant.  I turned around and looked in his direction.  I couldn’t make out detail.  He was in clear line of sight from me.  Sitting behind the table.  His hair was dark and long.

“Answer me.”  He screamed again.  “What is my name?”

Jimi, it must be Jimi.” I screamed the name.

“How? How … did you …?”

I put the phone down on the bench.  I wanted to run like hell.  But I forced myself not to.

I walked outside, slowly in an sleepwalkers mist … straight into the arms of the bomb squad member ushering the other occupants to safety.

Everyone but Jimi was out.  I sobbed in the arms of the big guy in the full kefla suit.  I threw up, and then had to sit; I was grabbed by two more big cops and carried to the barricades down the block a piece.

Jimi exited the restaurant.  There were cops and bomb squad people everywhere.

Jimi was in a wheelchair.

“I feel nothing,” he had said.

“Oh God” I screamed … “He’s gonna do it…please, please, no! No, he’s gonna do it!”

The blast knocked a few cops off their feet.

I remember crying out, “NO!” and then I passed out cold.

I awoke in hospital, groggy from the tranquilizers.  The woman that had called the cops was sitting beside the bed.  So was my ex-husband.

“I … who was he?”

“Later, Alice,” said my ex. “Rest up okay.  Just rest.”

“No dammit—no! I need to know?”

“His name was James Fredericks.”  The woman said, flashing her badge as she spoke.  “You are one brave woman.  How did you know to lie about your age?”

“You’re a cop?”

“Yes, I was off duty last night, but as soon as I realized there was a problem we put a tracer on the phone line and listened in.  Then, we started very slowly getting people to leave the restaurant, just one, or two at a time.”

“How did you know the answer?” she asked.  “I mean it was an ambiguous hint, Purple Haze.  What is that?”

“A song by Jimi Hendrix.  I’m a child of the sixties.  As soon as he asked me about music, and my age, I figured he was gonna try and make it something I wouldn’t know. I love music.  And Purple Haze was a favorite.”

“He was a Nam Vet wasn’t he?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Not all of them came home.”  I whispered sadly.

I cried for Jimi.

I cried for all the Jimmies.

***