“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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Book Review: “The Contract” by Gwen Plano & John W. Howell. @HowellWave @gmplano #RRBC #IARTG

Hello and welcome to my REVIEW of “The Contract” By Authors Gwendolyn M Plano and John W. Howell.

BOOK REVIEW THE CONTRACT COVER

Meet the authorsBOOK REVIEW IMAGE GWEN PLANOGwen M. Plano, aka Gwendolyn M. Plano, grew up in Southern California and spent most of her professional life in higher education. She taught and served as an administrator in colleges in Japan, New York, Connecticut, and California. Gwen’s academic background is in theology and counseling. Recently retired, she now lives in the Midwest with her husband and enjoys writing and travel.

Gwen’s first book is an acclaimed memoir, Letting Go into Perfect Love. Her second book, The Contract between heaven and earth, is a thriller fiction novel, co-authored by John W. Howell. It is available now for pre-order. Author Jan Sikes read the manuscript and wrote that “The Contract is the perfect blending between the physical and unseen world with unbreakable bonds between human and spirit.”

And John W. Howell

John Howell Headshot

John began his writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive business career. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. His first book, My GRL, introduces the exciting adventures of the book’s central character, John J. Cannon. The second Cannon novel, His Revenge, continues the adventure, while the final book in the trilogy, Our Justice, launched in September 2016. John’s fourth book Circumstances of Childhood, launched in October of 2017 tells a thriller story of riches to rags, football, Wall Street, brotherly love, redemption, and inspiration with a touch of paranormal to keep you riveted. All books are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

John lives in Port Aransas, Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

Blurb

The earth is threatened with a catastrophic political event which could result in international warfare and destroy all life on the planet. In heaven, a divine council decides that extraordinary measures are essential. They call for an intervention that involves two souls returning to earth. The chosen two sign a contract that they will work to avert the disaster.

     Brad Channing, a Navy SEAL, and Sarah O’Brien, a teacher, become heaven’s representatives on earth. The story follows them as they individually and then together face overwhelming obstacles and eventually end up on a strategic Air Force base in California. It is there that they discover a conspiracy to assassinate the President of the United States. The terrorists have a plan for global dominance and they are determined to complete their mission. Although military leadership appears to have the President’s best interests at heart, it is not clear who can be trusted and who should be feared. The action is rough and tumble as Brad and Sarah try to figure out the culprits for the plot that will turn into a worldwide conflagration unless stopped.

My Review: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟Fast paced and action packed … this book will satisfy even the most devout thriller readers.

I was both excited and curious to read a book co-authored by two authors who have earned my admiration for each of their books. Authors John W. Howell and Gwen Plano both have resoundingly earned five-star reviews from me for their individual works.

Their total diversity of writing styles and genres would have presented them with a challenge when undertaking to co-author this work.

I’m delighted with the outcome. They’ve met and exceeded my expectations.

This book goes beyond man’s earthly desires to dominate and control his environment. It takes you to the dark places fueled by man’s thirst for absolute power.

It shows you the joy of the heavenly plane, and the release from pain that it offers.

Brad Channing, a Navy SEAL, and Sarah O’Brien a nurse are chosen by the divine council of heavenly elders to become their representations on earth.

The reader is taken on a thrill ride as the story develops, each of the characters are beautifully crafted and intensely visual, with wonderful dialogue moving the book along at a great pace. The character development is outstanding.

The relationship between Brad and Sarah develops over a relatively brief span of time, as they are thrown together by circumstance, and make the decision to stay together by choice. Their tender and developing love for one another is deftly handled, adding the depth of warmth that the story demands.

This work has been meticulously researched, and all references within it add to the utterly convincing terrorist threat, and the dark forces at work in the corridors of power, bringing into question the motives of players that may have been seen initially to have no hidden agenda whatsoever.

Fast paced and action packed … this book will satisfy even the most devout thriller readers.

The conclusion was intense and utterly believable. These authors have amalgamated their individual skills into a first-rate work of fiction.

This work stands tall in celebration of good people willing to lay down their lives to protect and defend their country and the principles on which it was founded.

I found this to be a riveting reading experience, and one I can wholeheartedly recommend.

 

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

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

“The Alternative”

The ALTERNATIVE BANNER HEADLINE FOR COVER REVEAL BEST

The Alternative

The Alternative
by S.Burke

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

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

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

It is NOW available for Pre-Order

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

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

Cover Created by Eeva Lancaster at The Book Khalessi

Presenting “The Alternative” A Thriller Anthology.

“The Alternative”

THE ALTERNATIVE COVER IN HIGH RESOLUTION BEST

BLURB:

The Alternative.

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

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

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

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

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

These are their stories.

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

An excerpt from Chapter 1. Picasso.

February 1990.

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

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

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

***

 NEW YORK JULY 2015

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

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

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

***

THE ALTERNATIVE IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER

“The Alternative” on AMAZON.COM

Suzanne Burke Amazon Author Page

On TWITTER.

On Facebook.

My Blog

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

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

Book Review Jan 2018 “Red Ground: The Forgotten Conflict” by Ken Fry @KenFry10 @EevaLancaster #IARTG #Thriller

BOOK REVIEW COVER RED GROUND BY KEN FRY

ABOUT THE AUTHOR.

BOOK REVIEW BIO PIC KEN FRY

Bestselling, and multi-award-winning British author, Ken Fry, holds a university Master’s Degree in Literature and has extensively traveled around the world. The places and events are reflected in his stories and most of his tales are based on his own experiences.

He was a former publisher before deciding to retire and devote his full time to writing. He lives in the UK and shares his home with ‘Dickens’ his Shetland Sheepdog.

Fry has published 9 mystery suspense thrillers to date: The Chronicles of Aveline, Disjointed Tales: A Collection of Eccentric Short Stories, The Patmos Enigma, Red Ground, The Lazarus Succession, Suicide Seeds, The Brodsky Affair, and 2 short stories, Check Mate, and Is That You, Jim? (Free)

The Patmos Enigma and The Lazarus Succession are #1 Bestsellers in Christian Fantasy, Religious Mystery, Religious Fiction and Biblical Fiction on Amazon UK.

Awards:

#1 Best Indie Book 2017 by Read Free.ly (The Lazarus Succession)
Official Selection in Historical Fiction, 2017 New Apple Summer eBook Awards (The Lazarus Succession)
2017 IAN Book of the Year Awards WINNER in Christian/Religious Fiction (The Lazarus Succession)
2017 UK International Novel Writing Competition, Runner-Up (The Brodsky Affair)

Join Ken Fry’s Circle of Readers and get free books and discounts:
http://www.booksbykenfry.com

BOOK REVIEW COVER RED GROUND BY KEN FRYRed Ground: The Forgotten Conflict: A Blood Diamonds Thriller

BLURB

Vast deposits of diamonds and oil are found in land overlapping both Sierra Leone and Liberia. A scramble ensues to secure the mining and drilling rights of both commodities. Leading the race is the Mining Earth & Ocean Corp.

To amass and control this wealth, the creation of an illegal state called Salonga is proposed. The nominated ruler, backed and supported by the MEO, is a former RUF commander – General Icechi Walker, known as ‘Body Chop’ – a suspected mass murderer involved in countless atrocities.

To secure power, Body Chop, with the help of the MEO, engages the protection of a private mercenary army.

Disgraced, virtually bankrupt, ex-Sgt. Alex Dalloway is hired to join the mercenary brigade tasked to protect the newly elected President of Salonga. He has a personal quest to locate the Army officer who tortured him and killed his men years ago in the jungles of Sierra Leone. He begins to suspect the former RUF commander’s involvement.

With the promise of diamonds upon the completion of their contract, Dalloway and the rest of the mercenaries must decide if they will close their eyes to the atrocities, or fight to stop Body Chop’s rule of terror.

MY REVIEW: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Uncompromisingly brutal and utterly riveting.

This is the first book by author Ken Fry that I have read.

It won’t be the last.

Make no mistake, this work is uncompromisingly brutal, because it needs to be. The devastating pages of the dark history of Sierra Leone don’t allow for compromise.

The characterizations are brilliant and shattering, this author has a deep empathy and an understanding of the dark motives that drive the most inhuman of our species.

This is not pristine matter prettied up for mass consumption, these people are at times horrendously real, and horrifically brutal. Author Fry explores the deepest of emotions and he does it in a way that will alternatively shatter you, and have you moved to tears with its poignancy.

This book is a journey into the darkest of man’s motives and is unforgiving in its depiction of greed, the lust for power, and the driving thirst for vengeance.

It is bloody and brutal and brilliant. Take the journey. You won’t forget it anytime soon.

I’m off to grab another of Ken Fry’s works.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR

Ken Fry on TWITTER

Purchase Red Ground on AMAZON.com

Amazon Author Page for Ken Fry

Join Ken Fry’s Circle of Readers and get free books and discounts:

 

 

 

 

 

“Consider YOUR Verdict!” Is this a glimpse inside the mind of the writer? Or something else entirely! You decide. #RRBC #IARTG #IAN1 #IndBk

Justice shadowed

Welcome to my first post of 2018! I do love sharing some of my quirkier shorts. Just like this one.

The Verdict

By

Suzanne Burke.

Ladies and gentleman, of the jury, I have been wrongly accused of Murder in the first degree. I stand before you and state my case. My defense, if you will. Your duty, as I see it, is to listen, assess and decide.

Were these incidents murder? Pre-meditated, willful murder? Or justifiable homicide?
Abraham Lincoln is attributed widely for the adage, “He that represents himself, has a fool for a client”  I am a fool such as this.
My ability, if indeed that’s what this is, is to read minds—selected by me of course. I cannot only read their thoughts, I have the power in my keeping to alter them. I have the choice of what I see … and what I deem to be a thought unnecessary.

I have the power to change those thoughts.
As I am sure you can imagine, I carry an awesome responsibility on my shoulders. I have the power to change these lives, to irrevocably set a chain of events in motion that may indeed bring these people to an early demise.
Make no mistake, I have done so several times.
Is there then not blood on my hands?
Have I done so without thought or pity?
That depends entirely on how I am provoked.
This then is my curse, my fate. An obsession has eaten into the very marrow of my bones.
Are they victims? Perhaps, they are.

I prefer to refer to them as puppets. Yes, I like that term. It fits perfectly.

They are the puppets and I am the puppeteer.

Like an orchestra, they must obey my commands, what choice do they have, I control every thought and in consequence every action and reaction that they have, I am both the puppeteer and conductor.
Can I maneuver one to kill another? Oh yes, yes indeed. Is that conspiracy to commit murder?

Alternatively, I prefer to think of it as Murder/Suicide.

You are the ones who will decide, I will simply provide you with the instruments with which to make those decisions.
My little puppets were such fun at first, thinking silly thoughts and reacting to them, without contemplating the end result of their stupid reactions and undignified manner.

I simply assisted them to reach a different conclusion. A different action, provoking, of course, an alternative reaction.
In some instances, I freely admit I went perhaps a little too far.
Death and death at the hands of another is not a pleasant thing to witness. However, witness it I did.
I stood back after having set my puppets in motion and watched as they murdered, slicing through the jugular vein and watching as their victims’ lives ebbed away.
Does that witnessing make me the murderer?
Could I have entered their troubled distorted minds and changed the outcome?

Yes, I have that ability.

The fact that I chose not to intervene Ah, yes …does that make me responsible for the choices they made? I helped them put the plan into action; they made the decision by their behavior.

Pitting one against the other is a joyous game to play.
The power is intoxicating.

A husband or a wife caught cheating, does one not need to seek revenge?

I have been gentle with a few of these pathetic puppets and enabled them to work through the poor delusion that they actually have a life.
The vengeance is perfect.

They must remain together; forever tortured by the doubt that infidelity creates.

Do you find that harsh?  I doubt that anyone of you would be able to not at least think about revenge.
Have I caused murder to happen?
Have I blood on my hands?
Do I sleep at night?

“Yes, no and no”…it is up to you the jury to decide which of those questions has which response.

One of my alleged victims was screaming loudly and piercingly annoying, I simply made the screaming stop.

It does tend to be difficult to make that dreadful sound once your throat has been slit.

Each puppet becomes another challenge, these new puppets with vibrancy and color and life to burn, they are the greatest challenge of all. They offer me their thoughts and then battle with my invasion, turning on me and fighting back every step of the way.

Ah, such exhilaration! The wonder of the game when I am pitted against someone I take a liking to.

It is a wondrous, joyous event; I journey ever deeper into their minds and souls, creating white-hot pleasure within them that they have no choice but to share.

Whilst ever they continue to burn so brightly, they remain in my circle of friends. Fettered and spoiled as all my true friends are, I allow them freedom from responsibility; I enhance their lives and make them rich and vibrant. They meet every need of any person, they live, laugh, cry and sometimes they die.
However, life as you all know is full of disappointments.
Perhaps some fools need it.
Not I….!
If foolishly they disappoint me, or, if they should lose that vibrancy, that color, become brown, dull, uninteresting, flat and boring. Then I will turn their lives upside down. Until they scream with rage at my perceived injustice.

T’was, not my doing, I gave them thoughts and feelings that should have allowed them to live and love throughout their lives.
Disappoint me…and you die.
Simple … yes?
No petty discussions or pleading for mercy at my feet.
I do not often change my mind…or the inevitable outcome of their betrayal.
I offered them the magic of life.
They did not live up to it.
I made my choice … and voila, they ceased to exist.
Therefore, Ladies and Gentleman, I leave the verdict in your capable hands.
Am I a murderess, a homicidal maniac perhaps?
Or a writer…whose characters will never learn to behave as they should?

You Decide

 

 

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

HEROES LOGO

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.

***