#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.

#Short Story “Why can’t we be friends?” How do we explain prejudice to young children?” #RRBC @pursoot

BLOG CASPER AND CHARLIE USE THIS IMAGE

How do we explain prejudice to young children? How sad it is that that question even needs to be asked. This is a short story I have written to share with my young grandson.

Meet Casper and His Best Friend Charlie.

BLOG CASPER AND CHARLIE TUMMY.jpg

“Charlie, why are they saying I have to go away? What does away mean, Charlie?”

“Well, Casper, away, um—away, is someplace where I can’t be with you. I’m not too sure about the why—but I think maybe they are a little, afraid.”

“What are they afraid of, Charlie?”

“Well, I think maybe they’re scared because we’re sort of …  different?”

“I don’t understand. What does different, mean?”

“Um, different is … like, you are small … and I am bigger.”

“Oh … I still don’t understand. We’re buddies, aren’t we?”

“Yes … we sure are; we’re the bestest of buddies. But Casper you will get a whole lot bigger.”

“Bigger? Like … um, like my daddy is bigger?”

“Yes—like your daddy is bigger, that is different.”

“But, Charlie, you will just gets bigger—like I do. Won’t you?”

“Well—no … I don’t think so, I think I’m already as big as I can get.”

“Charlie, I don’t understand. Why … why are they afraid of that? Do they think I will squish you—when I sit on your tummy?”

“Weeell—maybe you might squish me just a little bit.”

“So—um, we can fix that, Charlie. You can sit on my tummy—cause you won’t squish me when me I’m big like daddy.”

“I …I … Well I’m not so not sure that would be okay.”

“Why, Charlie? I, don’t get it.”

“Well, maybe … maybe it’s, ’cause … um, we are different in some other ways.”

“Okay … so we make the different stuff go away, and we make everything the same.”

“I don’t think we can do that, Casper!”

“I don’t understand.  You are my friend; you make me laugh, and you let me sleep on your tummy. Why are they afraid of that?”

“Maybe the same stuff is just not as scary as the different stuff is.”

“Charlie, I’m sorry—but I still don’t understand it. What can be so … different?”

“Well—maybe it’s  ’cause I eat green stuff … an you eat, um … meat stuff.”

“Oh, okay—I see. Um … no I don’t. Why is that scary?”

“Well, maybe they think, maybe they think—um—that you might wanna eat me.”

“Oh—you make me laugh, and laugh, Charlie, you’re so funny.”

“I wasn’t doing the funny-funny, thing, small one.”

“You means they really … really think that I would eat you?”

“I think so, Casper”

“Do they eat meat, Charlie?”

“Yep, at least I think some of ‘em do.”

“Do they eat … do they eat their friends, Charlie?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Then I don’t understand it. If they don’t eat their friends, what is different? Why are they silly-scared that I would eat you?”

“I’m just not sure, Casper.”

“So—what else is so different, Charlie?”

“Well, I look different than you do.”

“Do—all their friends look just like they do?”

“No, I don’t think so. But maybe—maybe, they only have friends who are all the same. So no one can be silly-scared of being more different.”

“I still don’t understand it—Can I only have friends that are exactly the same as I am?”

“I think maybe … yes, Casper.”

“I don’t like that … I think that’s so silly-silly. Charlie, how else are we different?”

“Well—mmm—I’m not sure?”

“I can’t think of differents—but I can thinks of sames.

“What sames cans you think of, Casper?”

“Well, Charlie, if you get hurt, you cry, and go tell your momma … just like I do. Don’t you?”

“Yes, I do.”

“And if you cut yourself you’ve got that red blood stuff that comes out all icky … just like I do. Don’t you?”

“Well … yes, Casper, yes I do.”

“So, more sames—than differents—hey, Charlie?”

“Differents, are more scary for them, Casper.”

“Why don’t they just close their eyes … ’cause then, well, then they wouldn’t see, the differents?”

“Casper … that’s a good idea … but, I dont think it would work.”

“Why, Charlie?”

“’Cause—um—they would have to keep their eyes shuts all of the time … and that would silly-scary them even more?”

“Cause … they would falls off cliffs or something, Charlie?”

“Uh—huh, that would be bad, Casper.”

“Charlie? Will the sun still wake up over the trees, if we be friends?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Will it still go to sleep, behind the big hills, if we be friends?”

“I think so.”

“Will we still have a mommy and daddy, Charlie?”

“Yes, Casper.”

“Will we still have other friends, Charlie?”

“Charlie …  Will … we still have other friends?”

“I … just don’t know about that for sure, Casper.”

“Oh—that is too, too sad, Charlie. It be water in my eyes sad. ‘Cause I like my other friends too.”

“I know, little buddy.  It makes me crying sad too.”

“Charlie, I’m silly-scared now—what do we do?”

“I don’t know exactly, Casper. I am thinkin’ about it very hard.”

“Charlie, I don’t want to be your unfriend. Maybe we can run away, someplace where they do not care about those differents things … where they just care about the sameness. Do you think we can, Charlie? Where is a place we can go?”

“I have never, ever heard of a place likes that, Casper.”

“Never … ever?”

“Not ever, Casper.”

“Charlie? Charlie … you think maybe we can find one, if we look, and look … and look some more?”

“We can try. Are you sure you want to go looking and looking?”

“I am surely-sure, Charlie. I thinks if we look long and look real hard … we’ll maybe find us a place, a place where the sames are more special than than differents.”

“Casper, my little buddy, when did you get to be so smart?”

“When I decided to be your friend, Charlie.”

“Charlie?”

“Uh—huh, Casper?’

“Charlie, why is the sky up?”

“That’s a whole other conversation, Casper.”

 

***

I plan on continuing using Charlie and Casper in future stories I write for my dear little Jacob. They will hopefully mature as he does. I do hope you enjoyed this one. Thanks so much for stopping by.

 

 

Book Review “Password” by Staci Troilo (A Nightforce Security Novel) @stacitroilo @StoryEmpire #Thriller

Hello and welcome to my Book Review of “Password” Book 1 (A Nightforce Security Novel)

STACI TROILO PASSWORD COVER

BOOK REVIEW “Password” by Staci Troilo

Meet the author

STACI TROILO BIO PIC

Staci Troilo grew up in Western Pennsylvania writing stories and poetry in her free time, so it was no surprise that she studied writing in college. After receiving creative and professional writing degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, she went on to get her Master’s Degree in Professional Writing, and she worked in corporate communications until she had her children. When they had grown, she went on to become a writing professor, and now she is a freelance writer and editor living in Arkansas with her husband, son, daughter, and two dogs.

Staci is a multi-genre author and an Amazon bestseller. Her fiction combines dark, dangerous heroes and strong, capable heroines woven together into a contemporary tapestry of tantalizing romance. Compelling villains and gripping mysteries engage the reader from page one of her novels and her short stories feature ordinary characters conquering the odds in extraordinary situations.

When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s probably playing with her dogs, relaxing poolside, or working in the kitchen. She loves to cook and bake and is an award-winning recipe developer.

STACI TROILO PASSWORD COVER

BLURB

Some passwords protect more than just secrets.

Danny Caruso was glad to be back in the United States, back to his regular job. Back to his comfortable routine of all work and no play. But when his friend Mac asks a favor of him, he can’t refuse. He owes the guy everything. So he accepts the job, even though it means a twenty-four/seven protection detail guarding a particularly exacerbating—and beautiful—woman.

Braelyn Edwards is careful to stay out of the spotlight, preferring to hide in the background and skip the trappings of a vibrant social life. But her privacy is threatened when there’s an attempt on her life and a bodyguard is foisted on her. Compounding problems? He doesn’t just want to protect her. He wants to investigate every detail of her life, starting with her top-secret job.

Danny casts his sights on Charlie Park, her coworker, her partner… the one man who knows all Braelyn’s secrets. She’s frustrated by the distrust until she realizes jealousy fuels Danny’s suspicions as much as instinct and proof. One of them is right about Charlie—but by the time they figure it out, it may be too late to save their relationship. And Braelyn’s life.

 

MY REVIEW 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟This book packs more than just a punch!

As with any book I read by an author I haven’t yet read, I approached this one with the expectation of reading a thriller and was delighted to find that author Staci Troilo has delivered something far more complex and well evolved than many ‘thrillers’ offer.

I enjoy fast-pacing, and this one rocks along at a perfect speed. This author hasn’t forfeited the complexity of character development. Both Braelyn and Danny are stand out characterizations, with all the clever and subtle shadings that make the reader care and empathize with them.

The dialogue between them was rapid-fire, as they defended themselves from each other, and the heat that developed between them permeated each page of this well thought out and cleverly plotted story.

Author Staci Troilo has the deft touch that allows the reader’s thoughts to head in one direction quite deliberately … only to slam down the presupposition that the plot would be one to easily guess.

To divulge more of the storyline would spoil this read for some, and I enjoyed it far too much to deprive anyone of the pleasure I’m certain they’ll experience within its elegantly constructed pages.

I’m so looking forward to reading the next book in this series. Staci Troilo now has another avid fan.

Author Contact Links

Author Website

Staci Troilo on TWITTER

“Password” on Amazon.com

Staci Troilo AUTHOR PAGE on Amazon.com

Staci Troilo on STORY EMPIRE

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

MEET THE AUTHOR:

cropped-best-prfile

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Mind-Shaft Kindle Cover HIGH DEFINITION

BLURB:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Paranormal Thriller short.

SPIN

By

Suzanne Burke.

 From “MIND-SHAFT” A Paranormal Anthology.    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The woman didn’t respond.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His patient didn’t respond.

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

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

“How do you feel talking about it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where is Holly?”

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

“Where is the bad place?”

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

“What is your name?”

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

“What did Holly do that was bad?”

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

“Tell me about the bad place.”

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

“Are you in the bad place?”

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

“Can Holly leave the bad place?”

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

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

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

“Why am I bad? What did I do?”

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

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

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

“Them?”

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

“What do they look like?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can she come back?”

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

“Can she see you?”

“Me?”

“Yes … yes, can she see you?”

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

“Did she answer?”

“She’s been bad. Sad. All gone.”

“Can you see her?”

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

“Don’t you want to see her?”

“NO! No air… no care … all gone.”

“She needs to come back, now.

“All gone.”

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

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

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

“Help, me?  Too late … all gone.”

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

“No … it’s here.”

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

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

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

“Feel?”

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

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

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

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

***

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

The silent alarm began flashing …

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

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

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

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

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

No one at all.

***

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

Halloween for SHORT STORY CONTEST!(1)

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

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

I hope you enjoy it!

Halloween Homecoming

By

Suzanne Burke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He had to die. Monroe would keep him company.

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

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

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

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

The party was in full swing—in every way.

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

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

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

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

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

“No idea, a Halloween prank—maybe.”

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

“What exactly was the message?”

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

“That’s it—that’s all?”

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

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

“You’re sure?”

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

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

“You always have a hard dick, Leighton.”

“You had your chance, Kelsey.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How the fuck—who typed these?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s finished—I can go—right?”

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

“Then—can I go?”

“I’ll give you an out … Leighton.”

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

“Okay—I’m outta here—right?

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

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

“I lied. Do it.”

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

He pulled the trigger.

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

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

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

Leighton Caulfield.

😈😈😈

All in all, a most satisfactory Halloween.

Halloween scary for post!

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

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

DEPRESSION

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

These are their stories.

 

 

Hidden by Shadows.

by

Suzanne Burke

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So soon?” her voice expressed her concern.

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

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

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

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

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

“What? Oh, yeah … yeah we are.”

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

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

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

“You take care now, Davey.”

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

Davy headed back home, the long way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Out of town? Where are you headed?”

“Someplace warm.”

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

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

“But, Son …

Davey disconnected the call.

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

“Division 21, Sargent O’Keefe.”

“Hey, Jay. It’s Davey Minchin.”

“Hiya, Cappie how’re you doin?”

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

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

“Planning on some winnings, buddy?”

“You know it. Catch ya then, Cappie.”

“Yup.” Davey ended the call.

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

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

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

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

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

“The only trained one, affirmative, Pete.”

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

***

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

Jesus!  A ruptured tank? Shit!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

 Davey awakened himself with the sound of his own screams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He took them all.

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

***

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

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

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

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

Now Davey Minchin was dead.

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

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

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Front line-heroes HUMAN DISINTEREST PIC

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

These are their stories.

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

 

PART THREE : OF HUMAN DISINTEREST

AFTERMATH.

 

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

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

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

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

She didn’t respond.

“Melisa? You okay?” he repeated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You got it. You want it black?”

“Yeah. It could be a long night.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Will Deke be okay?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“See you then.”

***

Three weeks later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jenny! Connie Farrell on speaker for you.”

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

“Go, ahead, Connie, she’s listening.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

She grinned, immediately visualizing singing Munchkins in her mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad wandered across and dropped onto the sofa beside her.

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

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

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

“Yup. Another coffee?”

She flashed her smile at him.

“Always.”

***

 

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

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

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

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

Melisa didn’t laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melisa smiled. “Always, Miss. Jenny.”

***