In #Gratitude for the 400th Review of my #Memoir “Empty Chairs” It is #Free From Oct 8th, till Oct 12th. #RRBC #IARTG #WritingCommunity.

 

Hello and welcome.

How does it feel when the reviews of your work click over to 400 on Amazon.com?

Now there’s a question I never believed I’d ask myself! My first reaction was stunned. I sat here looking at that number and shaking my head in amazement. Then this tough old girl had a damned good cry.

Why?

Because these people I may never meet in person, made the time in their lives to read of my journey. Then they sat and shared their feelings in a review, and many of them gave me a glimpse into their own journeys. I count myself forever grateful to them. I have been inspired by so many of them as they shared their wisdom.

There are so many marvelous people that have stepped forward and offered their unrelenting support on my writing journey. Many of them are fellow members of #RRBC Rave Reviews Book Club.

I’d like to share a review with you that continues to make me smile through grateful tears. My dear friend and fellow author Gwen Plano made this wonderful clip.

In celebration of the 400th Review, I have listed “Empty Chairs” FREE From October 8th thru October 12th.

Again, my warmest thanks for your kindness and support.

A #Paranormal Short story to celebrate #Halloween “The Sceptic” #RRBC #WritingCommunity @IARTG

 

Halloween scary for post!

Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining me as I share this little sojourn into the realms of the Paranormal. Have a marvelous Halloween, my friends. 🎃

 

The Sceptic.

By

Suzanne Burke 2019.

The set was frantic with activity as always when only two hours out from a live broadcast. The host of the popular documentary series ‘The Sceptic” sat looking over the script that had been meticulously vetted by the station’s army of lawyers. The station could afford the cost of a defamation suit, but not the resultant publicity. One defamation suit had given them a huge ratings boost, but more than that could do the exact opposite.  Show host Harrison Taylor was warned again to stick with the script as much a possible in a live interview situation.

Director Cindy Rasmussen wasn’t looking forward to the discussion she needed to have with the star of the show. She approached him just as the makeup artist finished readying him for the telecast.

Cindy Rasmussen gave the girl a smile and walked into his dressing-room. “Harrison, we need to talk.”

“Can’t it wait till after the broadcast, Cindy? You know I like to prepare myself quietly before we go on air.”

“No. It can’t wait, and you must have been expecting this conversation. You’ve seen the current ratings. You know the network will cancel the show if those ratings don’t improve significantly. This live to air program needs to be riveting! Your future here depends on it.”

“How the fuck can it be riveting when I’m restricted in what I can say?”

“Screw the lawyers! By the time any defamation suit comes to trial, the show will be back on top again.”

“So, are you saying that I can stop pussyfooting around and let this charlatan take his chances with me uncensored?”

The director laughed, “Go for it, but watch the language. No x rated stuff, are you good with that?”

“I’ll keep it in mind.”

“Good.” The woman checked her iPhone. “We need to head out soon.”

“I’m ready.”

***

The cameras were ready to roll, and forty-nine-year-old Harrison Taylor straightened his tie and turned on his blazing smile, giving his huge audience exactly what they expected of the popular host of the must-watch Documentary series; The Sceptic. Harrison Taylor was purported to have debunked more charlatans than anyone now living. Or so said all his press-releases.

He watched and waited and timed his entrance perfectly as always. The cameras focused on his face.

“Good evening, Ladies and Gentleman. In celebration of Halloween and in the spirit of finding and debunking yet another fraud playing on the misery of others, I’m bringing you something special, tonight. I’m going on air live with self-proclaimed Psychic Medium, Sheldon Cain. I’ll introduce you in a moment. Mr. Cain has given his consent to have his premises checked thoroughly for any devices known to assist alleged Psychic mediums with the myriad of deceptions they use to dupe others. That has been done to my satisfaction. Now let’s join the man. I have never met or interacted with Mr. Cain previously.”

The camera panned to a closeup of Sheldon Cain. He had a face the camera loved, chiseled features, good looking and unexpected. He extended his hand,  “Please, Mr. Taylor be seated. May I call you Harrison?”

“Go right ahead.”

Harrison took a long slow look at the room, it was a little shabby and lined with overflowing bookcases. There were two easy chairs separated by a wooden coffee table. Sheldon Cain watched him and then asked, “ I’m having a drink would you care for one?”

“Drink?”

“Hmm, I believe I’ll have bourbon. And you’ll have Scotch, ‘Glenfiddich 12-year-old single-malt, yes?”

“Yes. So, you’ve mastered google, congratulations. No ice, thanks.”

The man gave him a small smile as he handed him the glass and seated himself comfortably opposite.

He reached over and picked up a packet of cigarettes from the coffee table, extracted one for himself and held the packet of Marlboro across to the interviewer. He smiled at the look on his guest’s face. “Did I get the brand right?”

“I was a smoker. But, I gave up years ago.”

The man inhaled deeply and sniffed as he responded and leaned toward the show host, “Realy? Forgive me if I’m blunt. I only smoke very occasionally, and you Harrison, you appear to still smoke heavily. Heavy smokers carry an odor that smells like overfull ashtrays.”

Harrison was visibly offended and tried to mask it, without success, much to the delight of the show’s Director. “I find that comment offensive, Mr. Cain.” He finished his scotch and waited for an apology.

But the man merely gave a small shrug. “I could lie of course if that’s what you would prefer. Do you want me to lie?”

Those watching on drew a deep breath and waited for Harrison to explode. He barely kept a lid on it and responded coldly, “I prefer the truth, no matter what the situation.”

“Ah, perfect. No matter what works for me. Shall we continue? I’ll simply sit here in silence for a while to gain a feeling, a pathway to find your connections to another place at another time if such a pathway has intersected with yours.”

“And then?”

“Relax, Harrison. Help yourself to another whiskey if you’d care to. I’ll speak to you in a few moments.”

Harrison poured a double measure of the good scotch and finished it as he watched Sheldon Cain’s face compose and his features relax and hoped like hell the camera was getting that look. The man seemed to be in some sort of trance, but his blue eyes remained open.

One minute passed and then another and the television host was growing impatient. He needed a ratings winner, and this was moving too damned slow. He poured another shot of whiskey.

The man spoke suddenly. “How did you earn the nickname of Abe?”

Harrison hoped like hell he’d masked his surprise as he responded, “What? I, that is, um, it was my Grandfather’s name and apparently I look just like him. So, the family called me young Abe, or Abel for a while”

“Indeed. Does the name Mike Morgan sound familiar to you?

“Yes.”

“You ran a feature on him for your show. The man was brutalized on every media outlet because of your attack on his credibility. You did that expose based on supposition only. Nothing could be proven against this man. He lost his career, his income, his home and finally his family and his sanity. His attempt at a defamation suit was poorly represented, and the Lawyers from your Network had it quashed inside two days. Mike Morgan took his own life seven weeks later. How did that make you feel?”

“I sent the family my condolences.”

“No, I asked how did that make you feel?

“Feel? The man made his own choices.”

“So, no regret?”

“None.”

“I see. It’s odd, but I can find no spiritual connection to another living human being in the energy you’re transmitting.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Why do you believe that your mother betrayed you?”

“What? How could you kn …?” He felt himself shudder, “Jesus.”

“Tell me about her betrayal. Your mother’s name was Elizabeth. A pretty name for a pretty woman.”

Harrison felt sick, “How could you know that? Those records aren’t available.”

“How indeed? Now, about her betrayal. Tell me about that.”

Harrison hadn’t intended to answer the question, he was ready to deny it. He heard his own voice respond, “She left us. I was ten years old. It was a couple of days out from Halloween and my mom ran off with some guy. She promised she’d be back for me and my brother, but she never came back. She never made contact with me or my kid brother again. My dad never got over it.”

Sheldon Cain fell silent for a long drawn out moment, “She didn’t betray you.  She died. She and the man she left the house with were killed in a car wreck. The vehicle exploded on impact with the rocks below when they hurtled off a cliff face in San Francisco. The two people in the vehicle were incinerated. They were unable to be identified. They are still listed as John and Jane Doe. You need to have the San Francisco police check their records for 11.58 p.m. on October 31st, 1980.”

“Oh, my God. How? Tell me, how can you possibly know these things?”

“Tell me again why you are here?”

“I intend to expose you as a fraud.”

“Go right ahead.”

“I’m not sure how you did this. How could you possibly know that my mother is dead?”

“Are you not grateful to know you weren’t betrayed.”

“Grateful? She still would be alive if she hadn’t run off like that!”

“Your bitterness clothes your life in dark shadows, Harrison. What would you say to her if you could see her?”

“I’d tell her I hate her!”

“Do you want to see her again? Do you want the chance to say that to her face to face?”

“Yes.”

“I can arrange it.”

“What? How? When?” His words tumbled over themselves in fear and a latent excitement.

“You need to tell me something first.”

“Ask me.”

“Why did you take all that money from the people who really do make a huge living from this profession? It runs into many hundreds of thousands of dollars that you keep in a numbered account in Switzerland. Was it on the proviso that you never attempted to debunk them on your show? You guaranteed it would never happen. Are you a fraud, Harrison?”

Harrison stood suddenly, and screamed, “Jesus Christ! Cut the live feed! Do it now!”

The Director held up her hand and spoke into her mouthpiece, “Keep the fucking cameras rolling. This is dynamite!”

A message came back into Harrison’s earpiece a moment later. “Sorry, Harrison. It went out live to air.”

The frantic man stood and looked down at his tormentor, “You’ve just ruined me! You’ve wrecked my career.”

Sheldon Cain stood and smiled at his guest. “I enjoyed every moment of it.”

The camera finally stopped recording the events, and the crew turned away unwilling to face the star of the show. The director was already on the telephone with the head of the network and Harrison heard her delighted response to the call. “Thanks so much! Of course I’m delighted. The response should be enormous.”

A large ornate wall clock ticked over, to 11.50 p.m.

The television host staggered a little as he stormed from the premises, regretting the heavy intake of Scotch as he sat behind the steering wheel of his car. His fury awakened anew and he revved the engine and sped out of the street. He drove like a man possessed with a need to escape, for five minutes. He fumbled in his suit coat for his hidden cigarettes and lit one. He dropped the lit smoke and on reflex bent down to retrieve it from the floor, and the vehicle continued at speed. As the clock hit 11.56 p. m he sped through a red light and was hit head-on by a garbage disposal truck. His vehicle exploded and he was incinerated at precisely 11.58 p.m.

As midnight rang out he and his mother were reunited after thirty-nine years apart. He could spend eternity telling her just how much he hated her.

***

 The tall good looking man gazed around him well satisfied with his night’s work.

He walked outside into the cool air of the early November morning and breathed it in deeply, savoring the taste. He’d store it in memory to play over with pleasure until Halloween dawned again next year. The air where he existed except for one brief sojourn back here once a year was always hellishly hot.

Abel was dead once again. Cain’s deep laughter echoed through the morning. Smoking had finally killed the man. Cain loved Halloween.

#

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons of The Muse. Does your muse have a favorite season? Mine does. #RRBC #WritingCommunity #IARTG

Seasons of The Muse.

Does your muse have a season when it’s at its most active? I’ve discovered that mine does.

SNOW

It’s winter here in the Land of Oz and a quick glimpse out my window confirms what my bones have been telling me all morning, we have more snow on the way. I’ve been awake since 4.00 a.m and have already indulged in way too much caffeine. I’m edgy, and my thoughts are all screaming in unison to gain my attention. I’ve been caught up in a cycle of examining all my past works and the discoveries I’ve made have caused me to faceplant and groan more than a few times.

I’ve learned so much since those early days, and I have so much more to learn. I hunger for that knowledge.

I also began to notice a pattern to my writing, something I’d never consciously thought about had recurred far too many times to be a coincidence.

I discovered that I’d written countless short-stories and six of my eight novels in winter.

I also found these particular works to be my writing at its very darkest.

Seasonal disaffected disorder? Possibly. Yet I don’t venture outside much at all no matter what the season.

I’m beginning to understand why my muse demands so much more of me, why it pushes away any doubts and self-imposed limitations I’m still carrying as baggage. And why it surfaces so strongly when the cold wind blows and the clouds billow outside.

We all draw from our past. Subconsciously reliving both the best of times and the absolute worst of them. The tools our lives handed us back then go into our personal arsenals. We draw those weapons to protect us when survival demands it of us.

Winter honed those skills for me. That’s when my muse first surfaced. I recall sitting around a fire pit with the other street kids and telling stories that made us laugh or punch the air with a “Hell, yeah!”. Taking our minds away from the hunger for a while, enriching us, and connecting us as a family.

I still tell those stories now. Only now I write them down and share them with friends across a far bigger fire pit.

Winter will lash our small town until Mid-October. And yes, I’ve just finished writing another novel. With one more underway. Are they dark? Uh-huh, and then some. The cycle continues.

Grab a moment and share your own insights.

Do you recognize a particular season when your muse fires up and hits hyperdrive? Do you know why that is, or is it always planned that way? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Contact me here:

 

Suzanne Burke Amazon Author Page

On TWITTER.

On Facebook.

My Blog

 

 

 

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

Old Habits image

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

 

Old Habits Die Hard

From the upcoming collection: Glimpses Across the Barricades

By

Suzanne Burke 2019.

 

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

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

Cassie was irritated with herself for even asking the questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When was the last time we spoke?”

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

“Try for three months!”

“Shit. Really? I’m sorry.”

“So, why are you here?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

 

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

silence confuscious

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

The Comfort of Silence

By

Suzanne Burke

From my upcoming anthology

“Closure”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And she had.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellie had at last begun looking forward to her days.

***

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

“What do you want?”

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

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

“Shortly? What the fu …”

What did you say?

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sorry, Ellie.”

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

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

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

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

“But…”

“No, that isn’t it.”

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

“Okay. I got this.”

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

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

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

“I’m hungry.”

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

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

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

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

“Can we eat now?”

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

“Can we have pancakes?”

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

“A stack with maple syrup?”

“It’ll be ready soon.”

“Did my delivery arrive yesterday?”

Ellie called “Yes.” from the kitchen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was time.

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

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

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

The power would be disconnected at 5.00pm.

All internet services had been permanently closed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A birthday.”

“Anyone I know.”

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

His expression registered nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

The Off Switch

By Suzanne Burke

From the upcoming anthology “Closure”

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

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

Jake didn’t believe in magic.

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

***

He watched his target carefully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melinda was long dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You shot him?”

“Uh-huh. Yes, I did.”

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

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

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

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

Jake died where he stood.

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

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

The price of closure came at great cost.

She paid the price and moved forward.

***

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

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

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

 

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“Why?” A #ShortStory #RRBC #IARTG @pursoot

WHY YES.jpg

 

Thank you for joining me as I share a short story from an anthology I’m compiling for release later this year.

WHY?

By

Suzanne Burke

Cassandra pulled the SUV into the parking lot of the old motel. She killed the motor and sat watching the sheets of rain blow and billow in the world outside the safety of the car’s interior. The storm grew louder and added an electric charge to the environment.  Adding its own shades of darkness and volatility to her mood of uncertainty. It had taken the Private Investigator she’d hired months to track down this location, and now she was hesitant, reluctant to discover the truths that may await her. Would the past be best left undisturbed? Perhaps. Yet the questions would remain forever unasked if she didn’t find the strength to ask them now.

Just why she’d made the choice to try and locate her father had made some sort of sense at the outset of this journey.

The answers she’d hungered to hear for twelve long years may now only be one conversation away. Yet she reminded herself one more time that her father had appeared to have no desire to be found. He’d changed his name several times in the years since she’d last seen him. She needed to prepare herself for the fact that he may not be at all pleased that she was here. He may be in no condition to even recall who she was if his drinking had escalated beyond what it had been in the long months after her mother had died.

She’d watched on, too caught up in her own pain of dealing with a world devoid of the loving and reassuring presence of her darling mother to help her father with his own debilitating grief and his agony of loss. She was thirteen years old when her mother had passed and utterly powerless to give him much measure of comfort beyond being there to reach out for if he’d needed it. He never did.

The military had flown him home when his wife’s illness had deteriorated. He’d been with his wife of twenty-years as she passed. Cassandra recalled her desperate need of his reassuring presence in a world suddenly gone mad. She’d sought comfort from him and found him unwilling or unable to offer it.

He’d started drinking heavily soon after the funeral. She began finding him asleep on the couch or the floor, wherever in the house he’d had the final drink that rendered him unconscious.  There was no extended family to reach out to. He and her mother had both been the only child of only children. There were no siblings around her to help absorb the intensity of that sudden stark and empty aloneness.

She’d begun to flounder and withdraw from her old world. Watching her friends interact within their own tight-knit family groups had simply been too painful to witness.

She’d watched her father dive deeper into any alcohol or substance that would give him the numbness he craved.  Money would be tossed carelessly on the coffee table alongside the perpetually full ashtrays and empty bottles. His bong sat alongside the marihuana he smoked with increasing regularity. The glass-topped coffee table was smudged with the residues of the cocaine now added to the mix.

For over a year their only shared conversations were his slurred questions about the availability of food. He seemed content with what she’d managed to purchase and prepare, although he existed on very little apart from the daily replenishment of alcohol he now had delivered. Refusing anything she offered up as a meal if she dared try and recreate a dish that was her mothers. She’d soon discovered that the easiest way to feed them both was a continual stream of cheap food to go or frozen TV dinners. He needed and wanted a relationship with his drug dealer. He craved no such bond with his only child.

He’d always prided himself on his level of fitness and Cassandra recalled all the times her friends had commented on it. Indulging themselves with a comment here and there about their own father’s lack of the determination it took to work out daily as he had done whenever he came home on leave. It now shattered her to see him asleep in his own vomit amidst the stench that went right along with his unwashed body.

Cassandra’s grades had slumped and she began to fail all her classes. Her lack of attendance at school had drawn further attention. Her father’s failure to respond to repeated requests to see her school counselor hadn’t gone unnoticed. The principal had felt he was left with no option but to express his concerns about her continued well being to Child Services.

The welfare folks had come by and her father was too inebriated at 10 o’clock in the morning to even stand up, much less impress them with his willingness to change the situation. His one expressed desire was for them to get the hell off his property and mind their own damned business.

Two days after their visit he was gone. He’d left five hundred dollars on the kitchen bench. There was no note, no explanation, no nothing.

Cassandra sought comfort by telling herself repeatedly that he’d simply gone on another bender. She managed to do that for a few weeks until the phone calls about missed mortgage and credit card payments had begun coming in. The five-hundred dollars kept her fed for quite a while, but she knew it wouldn’t last her much longer.

His buddies had stopped calling by. If no drinks were on offer at the address then they had no desire to be there. The fact that she was a thirteen-year-old girl alone didn’t factor into the equation.

Child services were called in by a concerned neighbor who had noticed her father’s continued absence.  Cassandra had ignored the knocks on the door at first. She’d stayed silent and hidden until the police had arrived and convinced her to open the door.

Cassandra was ultimately placed in a loving and caring foster home. It had taken time and dedication and long months of counseling for her small world to begin again to function. She was lucky and grateful to have them in her life. The abandonment issues she faced as best she could.

It was her upcoming graduation from Harvard that had finally prompted her attempt to locate him.

Knowing that the proud event would be celebrated by her foster family should have been enough. Cassandra acknowledged that and yet knew that somehow she wanted her father to know how well she’d done. It was some half-assed need to prove to the man that she’d managed just fine without him.

She guessed she still wanted and indeed still craved his approval.

Cassandra pulled her thoughts back to the present as she watched a man stagger and lurch his way up the stairs that led to the motel units. He balanced himself up against the rail that bordered the walkway as he fumbled in his pockets. His long grey hair surprised her a little but there was no mistaking her father. She opened the car door and stepped into the rain as the man leaned over the railing and threw up. She shuddered as she watched him open the door to unit 6. Her father’s room.

Even as she walked upstairs she could hear the screams that accompanied her father’s arrival.

She waited till the door had been slammed shut.

She sucked in a deep lungful of air and willed herself to knock on the door.

A woman around her own age answered. She was thin to the point of emaciation and the rolled back sleeves of her dirty blouse showed the dark blue and purple track marks that covered the inside of both arms.

“Who the fuck are you?”

“I’d like to speak to Brad, please.”

“Don’t know no one called Brad. You got the wrong room.”

The man she’d recognized as her father came into view behind the woman and he roughly shoved her out of his way. “Who are you and what do you want?”

Cassandra looked into his face and caught the shock and denial in his expression. “Sweet Lord Jesus you look just like your mother.”

She stood there and waited for more. His eyes filled with an expression she couldn’t quite recognize.

“What are you doing here? What do you want? I’ve got no money to give you.”

“Money?  Dear Lord, is that all you can say? I’m your daughter. I’m not here for any damned money.”

The woman he’d pushed away from the door started screaming. “Did she say she was your daughter? What the fuck? You didn’t say you had a daughter?”

“Shut the fuck up, Kerry. Mind your own business.” He turned and gave her a hard shove and the woman fell backward and landed in a screaming heap on the floor.

He stepped outside and slammed the door behind him.

“If it’s not money you want, why the hell are you here? I got nothin’ to give you.”

Cassandra looked at him without speaking until he could no longer meet her eyes. He moved to turn away.

“You’re quite right. You’ve got nothing to give me. You never did. Thank you for finally helping me understand that. I won’t ever bother you again.”

She had no tears left to shed for the man she’d once believed him to be. He’d died right alongside her mother fifteen years ago. She’s already mourned his loss, now it was time to bury him.

She climbed back in her car and grabbed her cell phone. Craig Bannister answered her call “Hello, sweetheart. Are you okay, did you speak to your father?”

“I’m speaking to the only father I’ll ever need right now.”

She heard the sharp intake of his breath as he responded. “Thank you, sweet girl. I’ve been so proud to be considered your father. Will you be home in time for dinner? I’m cooking your favorite. All the gang will be here.”

“Yes, dad. I’ll be home.”

Cassandra drove out of the parking lot and never looked back.

It was up to her now to lay the past to rest.

She graduated from Harvard with her extended foster family all in proud attendance.

The future waited in all its burgeoning promise. She went forward at last to greet it.

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