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

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

 

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

 

The Off Switch

By Suzanne Burke

From the upcoming anthology “Closure”

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

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

Jake didn’t believe in magic.

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

***

He watched his target carefully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melinda was long dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You shot him?”

“Uh-huh. Yes, I did.”

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

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

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

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

Jake died where he stood.

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

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

The price of closure came at great cost.

She paid the price and moved forward.

***

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

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

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

 

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

Man in mask

 

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

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

 Subterfuge.

By

Suzanne Burke.

The day felt wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry! Just … sorry!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bell rang eight, then nine.

Soon, it said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I put my gun to my head.

#

 

Book Review: “I’ve Always Loved Women” by Rhani D’Chae @rhanidchae #NewRelease #Short Story #RRBC #RWISA

Hello and welcome to my book review of the latest release by Author Rhani D’Chae.

BOOK REVIEW COVER Ive Always Loved Women by Rhani Dchae

Meet the author …

IMAGE RHANI D'CHAE

Rhani D’Chae is a visually disabled writer who was born and raised in Tacoma, WA. Because of her failing eyesight, she no longer reads as much as she used to, but she does enjoy falling into the worlds created by other Indie authors as often as her vision will allow. Shadow of the Drill is her first published novel, and is the first in a series that revolves around an unrepentant enforcer and the violent life that he leads.

She enjoys chatting with readers and fellow writers via Social Media sites, and loves getting comments and other input from those who have read her work. She is on Facebook, and also on Twitter, @rhanidchae. Also, if you have the time, please stop by her blog: rhanidchae.wordpress.com.

BOOK REVIEW COVER Ive Always Loved Women by Rhani Dchae

BOOK BLURB:

Danny’s life is changed when he begins a relationship with Kat, a woman trapped in an unhealthy marriage. When she decides to give her marriage another try, Danny realizes that his mission in life is to save women like her from the men who abuse them.

My Review: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Short, Sharp and decidedly deadly.

If you love nothing better than a short riveting read be sure to take a look at this latest offering by talented author Rhani D’Chae.

This author’s work always dares to take the reader into unexplored territory, this short story is no exception. As always Author Rhani D’Chae steps into the psyche of her characters, her depiction of the thought processes of women that fall victim to domestic abuse is insightful and sadly accurate.

The characters of both Kat and Danny are well developed, and as with all her books the climax when it comes packs one hell of a punch.

I recommend this short read as a great way to spend 30 minutes of your time.

***

talent-spotter-images-links-for-liza-oconnor

I’ve Always Loved Women on Amazon.com

Amazon Author Page for Rhani D’Chae

Author Rhani D’Chae on Twitter

Thanks for joining me here today. I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Look Back in ANGER … Move Forward with DREAD. A brief exploration of me. #RRBC #RWISA #IARTG

BANNER LOOK BACK IN ANGER

 “The best predictor for future behavior is past behavior.”

Have you read and heard that statement as often as I have?

More importantly however, is, do you recognize and believe it?

Has your past behavior resounded through time to continuously affect the way you respond to life, right here and right now?

Mine certainly has.

I’ve headed this post “Look Back in ANGER … Move Forward with Dread.”

Therein lay my challenge to myself.

Make no mistake, I have held onto the fierce anger I learned to feel before I was taught to write my own name.

It has raged inside me forever, or so it seems.

It is relentless, soul consuming and unapologetic in its efforts to deny me peace of mind.

I have loathed it … and I have nurtured it.

For it has become comfortingly familiar to me, much like an old friend that I recognize, and in that recognition I’ve invited it to re-visit me over-and-over, and over again.

I seek answers within the rage, knowing in advance, that there are none to find. For I know from whence that rage stems.

I rail against it, I abhor it … I recognize the damage that it offers my future self, and in an instant I deny that recognition.

For I have sought comfort in the unrelenting familiarity I find within these boundaries I have set myself.

The anger, helplessness and utter frustration that I’ve recognized and clung to, have not enriched my existence.

Nor have those raging reactions and emotions enriched the existence of those that have loved me in spite of it.

It is not only for myself, but, for them, that this morass of soul devouring rage has to change.

I can NOT go backward in time and alter the situations that crafted my rage.

I can NOT undo the damage that life’s fickle hand has dealt me.

I can NOT forget or forgive those that perpetrated their evil betrayal on an unsuspecting child.

But … I CAN learn to reshape that rage into a renewed sense of purpose.

I CAN learn to channel that sense of purpose into a passion that spurs me on to do better.

I  CAN permit myself to love those that love me … and do so unconditionally.

I CAN allow myself to again trust in my own judgment.

Until, ultimately, I CAN move forward into a future unclouded by dread.

Yes, it will be difficult, and, Yes, it will present me with challenges.

But the rewards of attaining this freedom from rage  will enable me to pursue personal goals I’ve long wanted to acheive.

It will grant me the permission to feel pleasure in its final accomplishment.

Now THAT is the future I want. THAT is the future I’ll aim for.

That gives me reason to smile.

 

 

 

 

When Anxiety Whispers. Have we forgotten how to be human? #Living with stress. #RRBC #PTSD #STRESS

ANXIETY WHISPERS

When Anxiety Whispers.

We all hear those dark whispers, those paralyzing moments of anxiety. It comes with the territory of living in a society set on fast forward when the pace of everyday life becomes so frantic, so overwhelming, that we begin of necessity to sacrifice something intrinsic and necessary within us.
The days we live now are filled with the marvelous inventions of the internet, but has the pace of our knowledge grown beyond our capacity to understand its repercussions?

I make full use of everything available to me and, yes, I am grateful for the brilliant minds that opened my small world up to so much more than I’ve ever dreamed of. I acknowledge that connectivity, I understand that we are living in an age where no one need be isolated, those folks too shy or encumbered by ill health either physical or mental to be able to connect with others of our species by interacting on a personal level now have an outlet, a way of joining in on life’s conversations.

I get that we are privileged; I understand and accept that this is indeed an amazing transition from an age where television was a new invention, and not every home had the telephone available.
But … my concern is this … we are human, we are warm-blooded creatures, we need contact with others of our species the way a seedling needs rain. We are becoming isolated but not insulated from the world we now live in.

Has our humanity diminished as we shut ourselves inside our gated communities, or triple lock the doors of our homes? Where bars on the windows are commonplace, and we alarm our houses and insert surveillance cameras’ just so we can grab a few hours sleep at night. We live in fear of those that would take our cars, our electrical equipment, our goods and chattels, fear of the dark figures possibly armed that may invade our only safe haven.

But what of the fear of stolen identity?

My anxiety stems from my growing awareness, an awareness of a disconnection, a step back from human to human interaction. I witness every day the people around me, with earplugs firmly in place and concentration and awareness of their immediate environment depleted, where they check an app on their iPhone to discover if the weather will be sunny or if rain is on its way. They can no longer remember if indeed they ever knew what it is to look simply look at the sky and have long forgotten the smell of rain pending on the wind.
They scurry by with heads down and absolute focus on their cellphone, they walk out into oncoming traffic, surprised and annoyed when someone in a car suddenly blares the horn.
The price we pay for our new world is enormous. Those anxious whispers catch the unprepared and inexperienced traveler and hurtle them full throttle into sleepless nights and stress-filled days.
Those of us that delude ourselves that our world is malleable to our wishes, those that struggle on despite the imprisoning chains of our existence, these are the people that at times pay the highest penalty of all.
For we begin to lose sight of the precious moments as we battle each day. We forget what the dream was to begin with, as we attempt to manipulate life to fit our own agendas.
Where did the days disappear to, when did the nights become just another stretch of time to endure?

When was the last time you laughed with the simple delight of living? Did those you love hear you tell them that you loved them today?

Are you so busy working, traveling each day to a place that you’ve grown to detest, to find that one precious moment in time to just take a deep breath and be quiet within yourself?

Did you notice the seasons changing? How did the summer end and the leaves begin to turn golden, without you witnessing and rejoicing in that precious life-cycle?

When did your child grow to be so tall? When did your friends stop calling? When was the last time you all got together and caught up on sweet memories for just a brief while? Don’t you miss that shared laughter? Don’t you miss those hugs of acknowledgement or concern?

The dark whispers grow darker with no light to stop them.

The feelings of being unable to deal with the task of just surviving each day grow large and ever darker as those anxious whispers spiral out of control.

When did you begin to need a drink each night in order to relax in your own home?

When did just one or two drinks cease to create the resultant deep breaths that you crave?

When did your iPhone replace a face-to-face conversation? How is it that your partner has now gray in their hair? How did that happen without you witnessing the transition?

We stand to lose far more of our dreams as our world grows more frantic.

When does it stop? Do we have the capacity to alter that state of being?

I embrace the technology but my concern grows for the generation now coming.
Will all the Science Fiction writer’s be proven right? Will our growing super-technology deplete what we have always valued in each other, to a point where the word human is only recognized as a label to pinpoint what planet we came from?

If we can but step back one pace, make a time and a space and a place to recall how it once was, and value that memory. If we can scent the wind and feel the rain on our faces again. If we can stop by at a friend’s home simply to say “Hi, I’ve missed you, how are you today?”

If we can turn off the television, the laptop, the Ipad and the iPhone for just an hour each day, and sit together again at the dining table and make eye contact and heart contact once more.

If we can treasure those brief moments together of fellowship and connection, then perhaps those anxiety whispers will still.

We’ll render them useless as we reclaim the dreams … and our lives.

Make the time, take the time, make those anxiety whispers lessen as we recreate briefly a world where human touch, and the simple joy of companionship is again treasured.

It would only take a brief moment of your time. Surely, that’s not too much to ask.

Is it?

 

“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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“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.

***