Book Review “The Convict and the Rose” By author Jan Sikes. #RRBC @rijanjks #RWISA #Inspirational Biographical Fiction.

Welcome to my second Book Review of 2018.

RRBC HOP The Convict and the Rose by Jan Sikes (2)

The Convict and the Rose by Jan Sikes.

Please meet Jan Sikes!

BIO PIC JAN SIKES

From the Author

Writing this book was a challenge since I wasn’t personally present in prison. However, I researched endlessly to come with accurate information and details to write each scene.

Since this is a true story, it is super important to me that the facts be correct. I enjoyed doing the research, because that meant digging through boxes of letters, volumes of writings and remembering stories I was told.

During this research, I ran across some song lyrics that I’d never seen before. I’d never heard Rick Sikes sing them or mention them, but they were so powerful, I knew I had to get someone to put music to them. That person turned out to be Jamie Richards and the day we went into the studio was pure magic. He completely captured the emotion in the song, Forty Foot High.

This book is the sequel to my first book, Flowers and Stone.

The 3rd Book “Home at Last” is now available.

 

BOOK COVER THE CONVICT AND THE ROSE JAN SIKES

BLURB

Award winning Biographical/Fiction sequel to Flowers and Stone. Luke and Darlina find their love severely tested as they struggle to overcome enormous odds.

When Texas veteran musician, Luke Stone, finds himself behind bars with a seventy-five-year sentence, he is filled with hate, anger, and rebelliousness. He’s lost everything that he treasures, including the woman who holds his heart.

How has it come down to this? He’s spent his entire life writing songs and making music, filling dance halls and bars from Texas to California. But, when he refuses to tell the FBI what he knows about certain bank robberies that he possesses knowledge of, they make sure he pays dearly.

Broken and alone, in a prison of her own, Darlina Flowers struggles to find a way to live without the man she loves so completely.

Over the next sixteen years, Luke and Darlina each search for ways to somehow survive the fate life has hurled them into.

In an effort to dull the pain of living with only half a heart, Darlina gets involved in drugs, then follows a guru and tries different relationships, but nothing fills the void.
Several years pass before Luke makes up his mind that prison will not break him. He crawls up from the bottom one tiny step at a time, determined to be and do something worthwhile and discovers artistic talents he never realized he had.

The Convict and the Rose inspires hope and shows how anyone can turn a negative dark situation into a positive one. But more importantly, the story portrays a love that goes beyond earthly confines and proves how persistence and faith come with their own sweet reward.
Join Luke and Darlina as they continue their epic journey with love as their constant North Star and freedom as the driving force.

MY REVIEW: Some books reach in and take your soul into their keeping. This book is one of them.

I have read and reviewed Flowers and Stone and was delighted to do both. The book lingered in my memory long after I completed reading.

Some books reach in and take your soul into their keeping. Flowers and Stone was one … and The Convict and The Rose has captured me again.

This journey towards growth and a deeper understanding is one very special reading experience.

The anguished struggle of two-fallible, and all too human people as life hands out its own deranged sense of justice is at times painful to read.

This book provoked anger, sadness and a deep sense of empathy in me. It in turn delighted me, and made me cry, and then continued to invade my senses long after the ending.

There is a depth of love between these two damaged souls that defies the limitations of time.

The drug abuse is a road many of us have taken in times of the darkest despair, the struggle to overcome it and move clearly distant is an epic one, as is the final understanding of the violent reactions of Luke to his imprisonment.

Life knocked these valiant people to the ground again and again.  BUT they didn’t stay down for the count.

It takes guts to do that … and to keep right on doing it …

We are permitted to glimpse inside their darkness and anguish …and grow with them as the love and faith that they share takes them from that darkness and into the warmth and the light.

A wonderful, moving and intensely memorable story of love!

The Convict and The Rose on Amazon.com

Book 1. Flowers and Stone on Amazon.com

Book 3. Home at Last on Amazon.com

Contact via:

Email:  rijan21@gmail.com

Twitter:  @rijanjks

Facebook:  Author Jan Sikes Books

Blog/Websites:

Award Winning Author Jan Sikes

Writing & Music

My TOP 5 Fiction Reads of 2017. #RRBC #AuthorShout #IARTG #IndBk

Hello and welcome to My TOP 5 Fiction Reads of 2017.

 

TRUMPET FOR BEST READS LOUIS ARMSTRONG
When Only The BEST will do.

 

It was a difficult task selecting My Favorite Reads of 2017. I have read and reviewed many books in this rapidly disappearing year. I select my reads from diverse places. Yet it doesn’t surprise me at all that those I rank in my top ten Indie-books of the year are all to be found at Rave Reviews Book Club. Why? Because the standard of excellence of each book is outstanding.  That is what I’ve come to expect with each book I purchase. The reviews are always honest and constructive.

What is the X Factor for me? Ah! For me it’s that shining place outside of myself, a wonderous reality that some authors take you to as willing captives. A place where the story has me so utterly committed to it that putting it down would be followed by a rebellion against my need for sleep.

It’s when an authors words linger in your memory in a voice you could clearly hear as their characters voices.

It’s those pristine moments when you find yourself invested in the outcome of the journey.

It’s when ALL of your senses become heightened, it’s when the pleasure of reading it comes to an end … and you feel richer for having read it … yet bereaved by its absence.

That’s MY X-Factor.

I will be listing my TOP-FIVE-READS separated into Fiction and Non-Fiction.  (Non Fiction FAVORITES Will be listed here TOMORROW.)

TODAY I SHARE MY TOP FIVE SELECTION FOR WORKS OF FICTION

Counting down from

NUMBER 5. 

 “OUR JUSTICE” Book 3 of the JOHN CANNON TRILOGY. BY JOHN W.HOWELL @howellwave.

COVER OUR JUSTICE BY JOHN W HOWELL

BLURB …The terrorist leader and financier Matt Jacobs figured out a plan to eliminate the President. He is relying on John Cannon’s stature as a hero to help him carry it off. John finds himself walking the fine line of pretending to help Matt while trying to figure out a countermeasure to the plan.
The third book in the John J. Cannon Trilogy brings together two strong wills for a showdown. The question to be answered is who will feel the satisfaction that the achievement of justice delivers? John, Matt or neither?

MY REVIEW HEADLINE  🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 A Riveting Action-Packed Thriller.

A Brief excerpt from my review  …

“Author John W. Howell doesn’t disappoint on any level.

His characterizations are cleverly subtle, allowing the reader to visualize the potent scenes without overwhelming them with too much description. This author commands the attention with a clear gift at plot structure, and superb pacing that will leave you immensely satisfied as Our Justice reaches its unpredictable and shattering climax.

I believe this talented author has another book in a totally different genre coming out soon.

I will be waiting eagerly to read it.

THAT BOOK is ‘Circumstances of Childhood” available now.

PURCHASE ANY OF JOHN HOWELL’S Books here on AMAZON.com

All works by JOHN W. HOWELL on AMAZON.COM

NUMBER 4.

“FINDING BILLY BATTLES”

An Account of Peril, Transgression, and Redemption (Volume 1)

  by RONALD E YATES. @jhawker69

Cover Billy Battles by Ron Yates

BLURB:

Western Kansas 1860 Billy Battles is born on a remote homestead just off the storied Santa Fe Trail More than one hundred years later a great grandson inherits two trunks filled with Billy s personal effects Also in those trunks are several startling journals that chronicle an astonishing life that until now was obscured by the murky haze of time and Billy s deep rooted desire for secrecy The journals tell of a man both haunted and hunted who in a desperate search for peace and redemption journeys far from the untamed American West to the Far East South America and Europe They meticulously describe Billy s interaction with a wide assortment of men and women some legendary a few iniquitous and many lost to history They also recount his participation in such cataclysmic events as the Spanish American War turmoil in French Indochina and violent revolutions in Mexico and South America Complying with Billy s last request the great grandson assembles the journals into a compelling trilogy that reveals a man often trapped and overwhelmed by circumstances beyond his control but who nevertheless manages to persevere for ten decades When a great grandson inherits two aging trunks and a stack of meticulously detailed journals penned by his great grandfather he sets out to fulfill his great grandfather s last request to tell the story of an incredible life replete with adventure violence and tragedy The great grandfather s name is Billy Battles a man often trapped and overwhelmed by circumstances beyond his control For much of his 100 year long life Billy is a man missing and largely unknown to his descendants His great grandson is about to change that As he works his way through the aging journals and the other possessions he finds in the battered trunks he uncovers the truth about his mysterious great grandfather a man whose deeds and misdeeds propelled him on an extraordinary and perilous journey from the untamed American West to the inscrutable East.

MY HEADLINE FOR REVIEW… 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 A marvelous book to be treasured and read over-and-over again.  

An EXCERPT FROM MY REVIEW;

“This talented author has crafted characters that engage the reader immediately, we are willingly taken into each scene, we see the characters there, all breathing, moving … and sounding a particular way, the visualizations in this book are superb.

Character depth connects us immediately to the roguish and beautifully layered persona of Billy Battles. The man is revealed with great skill throughout the book. Peel back those layers and recognize the man that dwelt beneath that skin.

I thoroughly enjoyed the journey into the old west and those well-known characters that greeted me there.

This marvelous blend of fact and fiction is a book to be treasured and read, over-and-over again.

NUMBER 3. “JAZZ BABY” by BEEM WEEKS. @beemweeks

JAZZ BABY BOOK COVER

BLURB:

While all of Mississippi bakes in the scorching summer of 1925, sudden orphanhood wraps its icy embrace around Emily Ann “Baby” Teegarten, a pretty young teen.

Taken in by an aunt bent on ridding herself of this unexpected burden, Baby Teegarten plots her escape using the only means at her disposal: a voice that brings church ladies to righteous tears, and makes both angels and devils take notice. “I’m going to New York City to sing jazz,” she brags to anybody who’ll listen. But the Big Apple–well, it’s an awful long way from that dry patch of earth she’d always called home.

So when the smoky stages of New Orleans speakeasies give a whistle, offering all sorts of shortcuts, Emily Ann soon learns it’s the whorehouses and opium dens that can sidetrack a girl and dim a spotlight…and knowing the wrong people can snuff it out.

Jazz Baby just wants to sing–not fight to stay alive.

MY BOOK REVIEW HEADLINE 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 A beautifully written and perfectly captured slice of time.

An EXCERPT from my REVIEW.

What happens when an author weaves a timeline with such devotion to detail that the reader can smell, hear, taste and feel the ambience? Jazz Baby is what happens. Author Beem Weeks seduces the reader with the perfection of both the dialogue and the dawning of an age that will live on as long as memory exists.

His characterization of Baby Teegarten is utterly perfect, her determination to succeed in a sleaze filled world is based on her absolute certainty that she has a voice that will move people, a voice that will transform the darkest of nights into glistening, gleaming candles of perfection.

PURCHASE JAZZ BABY ON AMAZON.COM

 

NUMBER 2. “THE GLADE” By HARMONY KENT.@harmony_kent

BOOK COVER THE GLADE BY HARMONY KENT

BLURB:

“Readers who like to curl up during the long winter evenings and feel the delicious chill of fear running up and down their spines need only turn to The Glade to have all their expectations fulfilled.

The Glade is a horror story in the mould of Stephen King, and rendered the more so by its faint echoes of Pet Cemetery and the even stronger resonance of the pervasive malignancy of It.”—Review by Brian O’Hare

This gripping, edge-of-your-seat mystery/thriller will have you thinking twice about booking that idyllic cottage in the country. Nothing in this woodland paradise within the Forest of Dean is what it seems.

The Wenstrops have it all: health, wealth, and happiness. Until everything falls apart. Helen gets arrested for murder, and yet is either unable or unwilling to give a defence. During her detention, vital evidence goes missing and tensions run high.

Meanwhile, in the woods, malignant forces gather power.

This sensational second novel by acclaimed author Harmony Kent will have you alternately laughing, crying, and gripping the edge of your seat as this roller-coaster ride of a plot unfolds. It will keep you guessing through its many twists and turns, and hijack your attention right up until you turn the final page. This book has it all: murder, intrigue, the supernatural, a broken marriage, a love affair, courage against impossible odds, suspense, and high drama.

“Expertly written, the book keeps you guessing at every turn. What can I say? You really have to read this book … if you’re brave enough!”—Review by Fantasy Queen

The Glade is an IndieB.R.A.G.Medallion honoree, and an Official Selection for the New Apple Book Awards 2015.

Praise for Harmony Kent:

“Kent gives the reader mystery, intrigue, sex, action and characters risking their lives for a greater good. Kent’s writing is an immersive experience.” T. Dewhirst (Rabid Reviews)

“With a very contemporary voice, Ms. Kent has found a place in this genre as she easily entertains and captures the reader…” J. Malinoski

“Kent…is a master of her craft. There is magic in her writing.” J. Brooke

MY REVIEW HEADLINE

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟Don’t miss this unforgettably terrifying walk on the edge of sanity.

An EXCERPT FROM MY REVIEW

I find that reviewing the Paranormal genre presents the reader with a challenge. To negotiate a pathway that navigates between what the human brain can perceive as possible, and what that same brain will render improbable.

I look for that ‘improbability’ factor to be challenged when I read Paranormal.

Author Harmony Kent has nailed that challenge, and she has done it beautifully with a style and pacing that caught me up instantly. Her intensely visual descriptive ability caused me to shiver, as ‘The Glade’ became palpably, demonstrably alive.

The author takes you to the shadowy places that permeate nightmares. This author has an empathy with, and an understanding of, the human psyche, and more specifically those unspoken things we as a species all fear.

PURCHASE BOOK BY HARMONY KENT ON AMAZON.COM

NUMBER 1

“One Dyke Cozy” By Rhani D’Chae @rhanidchae

BOOK REVIEW COVER RHANI D'CHAE ONE DYKE COZY

BLURB

People come into our lives for a day, a season, or a reason…
“Shy taught me to fight like a champion, love like a poet, & live like it was my last day on earth.”

One Dyke Cozy touches on the lives of two girls, Gabby and Shy, from their first meeting as children to Shy’s untimely death.

This novel contains profanity and adult situations.

MY REVIEW

 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟  One Dyke Cozy has to be in my top 5 of books read in 2017.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading and reviewing this author with her works ‘Shadow of The Drill” and “A Perilous Thirst” … in consequence I was excited to find this gem waiting to be read.

Have you ever read a book that touches every exposed nerve of raw emotion? That’s precisely how ‘One Dyke Cozy’ affected me.

The wonderful and at times harsh moments of honesty shine between these beautifully written pages. Author Rhani D’Chae has a rare gift of perception, a gift that enables her to dig deeply into her characters subconscious and elevate that character to a place where they become as real to the reader as their own reflection in a mirror.

Shy is a gay female, learning to survive in a world that still whispered the word gay behind closed doors, and then only in selected company. The existence of gays was barely acknowledged by people afraid that to allow these human beings their right to be different would somehow contaminate their closeted perceptions of a ‘pristine’ world.

Gabby is a child of that pristine existence, and her friendship with Shy will take her to places where her loyalty to her friend will be tested again and again. The author holds your heart in her hands with every word that she pens.

If you seek a book that will reach deep inside you, that will both touch and confound you, then you will find that right here.

One Dyke Cozy has to be in my top 5 of books read in 2017.

Do yourself a favor … read it, it will stay in your memory for a long time to come.

***

Contact Via:

PURCHASE “ONE DYKE COZY” on AMAZON.COM

Email:  RhaniDChae@gmail.com

Twitter:  @RhaniDChae & @RhaniDChaeBooks

Facebook:  https://m.facebook.com/rhanidchaeauthor/

Tomorrow December 30th I will feature My TOP 5 NON-FICTION reads of 2017.

I do hope you’ll join me.

 

 

Christmas on the streets. The truest meaning of Christmas. Christmas morning 1966: 2:00 A.M. #RRBC #IARTG #IAN1

BEAUTIFUL BABY DOLL FOR BLOG CHRISTMAS 2017

Thank you for joining me. Whenever the darkness of our crazy old world threatens to overwhelm me I remember the times when the wonderful spirits of good people who saught only to give joy with no expectation of return enriched my life. I share this precious miracle with you each year that I am able. My Christmas gift to all those that may despair or have lost faith in the belief that most human beings are intrinsically good.

CHRISTMAS MORNING 1966: 2:00 AM.

The Christmas season is the harshest of all when you live on the streets.

On ANY streets … In ANY town.

A miracle happened in our small dark world that hot and steamy Christmas morning all those long years ago.

It was not a ‘miracle’ of biblical proportions, yet for us, it was a miracle that we would hold in our memories forever, to be taken out and looked at whenever life grew harsher.

I have taken the chapter from my memoir, and I am sharing it with you here.

I hope that it makes you nod in understanding.

I am smiling through my tears as I remember…..

 “Faint Echoes of Laughter” Book 2 of the “Standing Tall & Fighting Back.” Series. Non-Fiction. Memoir.

Chapter 7

Christmas was barely a week or so away, and the mood wasn’t good.

Christmas out here meant different things to each of us I guess.

My memories of Christmas’s past were all bad. Even last year when I’d been on the streets alone for barely a month had bad stuff attached to it, yet it hadn’t been nearly as bad as the ones I had lived with back in the home I called ‘hell central’.

I asked Baby Jenny to come for a walk with me down to see Big Mike. I wanted to ask him if he could scrounge up some leftover decorations to put up in the ‘palace’ to lighten the mood up a little.

He gave me a thoughtful nod, and said he’d “see what he could do.”

He spoke to Jenny…”I swear you get prettier every day, Jenny. Don’t let Sassy here teach you any bad habits.”

Jenny grinned at him too shy to respond.

I kept my mouth shut except for a “Gee thanks … Big Mike”

He smiled and wandered off, and we headed back up to the palace. We spent a lot of time outdoors during the heat of the summer. The cooler breezes from the water were good. The heat inside our metal home was dreadful.

When a week had passed and we hadn’t seen Big Mike we figured that he had forgotten. It was disappointing, but he didn’t owe us anything; and after all, he had helped us out with Momma and other stuff like wood for the fire in winter, so we didn’t really expect the decorations, we just hoped for them.

Jenny was extra quiet. I wondered if she would ever be able to talk about why she was here. I didn’t ask her. I hadn’t discussed my background with any of them, even Jamie. So I understood that it was not open for general discussion.

Christmas Eve dawned fiery red. It was going to be a very, very, hot day according to the radio forecasts, with a cool southerly change expected later in the evening.

We all headed up to Hyde Park very early and took a Christmas bath in our favorite fountain. At least the palace wouldn’t stink quite so badly for Christmas day.

It was tempting to just jump in the ocean so close to the Palace, but Big Mike had warned us all about the sharks, so we didn’t dare.

Sydney Harbor wasn’t the safest place to swim. We planned on heading down to the Botanical Gardens for a swim in the lake that evening. We figured there wouldn’t be many people around because it was Christmas Eve.

The sky began to look dark and threatening early in the afternoon. The southerly buster was heading up the coast rapidly. We were all unusually quiet and sitting around outside in the shade of the container when we heard the sound of vehicles heading toward the Palace.

We headed around the front to see who had arrived and watched in stunned amazement as Big Mike and two of the other guys whose names I can’t recall, began unloading boxes of stuff from their cars and placing it in the shaded opening of our tin home.

Big Mike looked uncomfortable; if possible, he was even gruffer than usual. “You lot need feeding up, so we brought you some stuff.”

We were all too stunned to say much at all, these hard men were all smiling and a little red-faced. I swear if they could have, that they would have scuffed their shoes in the dirt like little kids with embarrassment.

Big Mike shook Jamie’s hand and accepted the ‘thank you’ from him.

I was speechless which wasn’t a common occurrence, I just grinned like mad and gave the guys a hurried “Thanks.”

They were the unlikeliest Angels you would ever see, sweaty and dirty after a long hot day’s work, the sight of them unloading the Christmas goodies and punching one another in the arm in a gesture common amongst males remains etched starkly in my memory.

Big Mike reached into the front seat of his car and pulled out a parcel that was wrapped up in Christmas paper, with bright ribbons attached. He walked over and handed it to Baby Jenny.

She looked confused and wasn’t sure what to do with it.

“The women picked this out for ya, little one.” Big Mike said.

Jenny still wasn’t sure what to do.

“Go ahead and open it, Jenny,” Jamie said.

“Um, later. Later. Okay?” she replied looking very unsure of herself.

She looked at the men, and gave them one of her sweet smiles, “Don’t matter what it is. I never had a present before, so…Um…Yeah, thanks, thanks a lot.”

The men seemed to understand that she needed to be alone when she opened it.

As for the rest of us, we tore into those presents and boxes like there was no tomorrow…squealing in delighted surprise with everything we found.

There was more food than any of us had ever seen.

Tinned Hams, fresh pineapples, cherries, and plums. Cooked Turkey and Cranberry sauce …with all the trimmings. Fifteen red t-shirts all large sizes. Paper plates, and plastic knives and forks, a can-opener. A Cooler packed with ice, a radio, and spare batteries. A big crate of beer and bottles of Coke.

That night, we all huddled around the new radio; it was bigger and put out a better sound than the small transistor we had been using, we sat drinking the beer and singing our version of Christmas carols, none of them repeatable. Trust me.

Jenny sat on her sleeping place; she was a little tipsy as well having been allowed one-half of a small bottle of beer. We glanced at her as she picked up her present and watched the look on her face as she unwrapped it.

It was a baby doll, all soft and dressed in bonnet and booties with a pretty pink knitted dress. “Just what we needed, another fuckin’ mouth to feed,” she said…but the smile on her face could have lit up the entire city.

We were fed, content, and a little overwhelmed and unsure at the kindness of these people.

Typically, we questioned the motive behind it. We all wanted to believe that maybe, just maybe, they had done it for no motive other than the wish to make this Christmas a good place for us to be. It was an alien experience but a welcome one.

We had only sampled a little of the huge amount of food, deciding to save the rest for Christmas Day

That night we were all tipsy. Strangely quiet as we bedded down for the night. I think we were all a little overwhelmed by the generosity of these men.

It was around 2.00 am Christmas morning I guess when I felt something was wrong. Whatever the something was, it wouldn’t let me sleep. I couldn’t place it immediately. It was a strange sense of something missing, and it troubled me.

Jamie was on watch; I climbed over the others and hunkered down next to him. Jamie smiled at me and said, “You too hey, Sassy?”

“Yeah, I guess–what is it? Something’s different.”

We sat a while just listening. Then Jamie said, “Oh shit! It’s Jenny, she’s not crying!”

My heart was in my mouth. Jamie grabbed the torch and we played it across the others, several of them were already awake, and wondering what the hell was happening. Jenny had cried herself to sleep every night since she’d come to this place. It was a sound we all tried not to hear. She couldn’t be comforted, we weren’t permitted that close. She’d been here for two years now. Jenny was around eight-years-old.

Jenny lay on her side, sound asleep with both arms wrapped around that doll so tight there was no space between them.

That was the first time I had cried in a very, very, long time. I glanced at the others, without exception we were all affected the same way. No one wanted to look at anyone else, shit we were supposed to be the toughest kids on the block! Hell, we were the only kids on the block. That Christmas was the first real day of Jenny’s childhood. From then on, Christmas became Jenny’s birthday.

I’d like to tell you that a miraculous change came over her. That she was instantly transformed. In a make-believe world, she’d be outside singing all the hits from ‘The Sound of Music’ and wearing a pretty new dress and shoes.  But this is the real world, and the changes took place over time.

Jenny named her doll, Francine.

The greatest change of all; was that, from that night, for all the years that Baby Jenny remained in our world, she never cried herself to sleep again.

***

Many years have passed since that long ago Christmas Eve. My darling Jenny has gone.

So many of my Christmas Eves’ over time have been special ones. But the one I recall with tears of happiness on my face, and a smile in my heart … is this one.

Jenny lost her battle with life in September of 2008.

The doll Francine was buried with her.

Thank you for being here. I wish each and every one of you a peaceful, serene and joyous Christmas, no matter where on this planet you’re from.

Faint Echoes of Laughter here on Amazon.com

KOALA CHRISTMAS

 

“Oops!” The crazy stuff I write when I need to cut loose. @pursoot #IARTG #RRBC #BloggersBlast

Oops.

Hello, lovelies! You all know that I write seriously strange stuff when I need to just cut loose for a while…So here I am again, visiting the crazier than usual zone. Uh-huh … Yeah, so here we go!

 

“Oops!”

I guess we all have those moments in life, you know the ones that you are certain to regret as soon as you recall whatever the hell it was that you did! Yeah, those rugged and dark times when you indulge in something legal or otherwise that you just HAD to have. My ‘Oops’ moments were continuing to create havoc.

The room stank. Body odor and cigarettes blended with stale booze.  My stomach was unimpressed that my sense of smell was still working.

I dry retched.  I shut my eyes and tried to remember just where the hell I was.  Hell seemed an appropriate placement, it sure was hot enough.

The memory hung there just beyond reach.  It troubled me somewhat, no matter how drunk I got, I had never blacked out before. It was a stupid thing to do.

The stench in the room increased.  A light came on.  What I saw made me wish myself unconscious again.

The thing sat in a stairwell.  It wasn’t quite a dog.  If it were, it was the ugliest one I had ever seen.

My first thought was, I hope to God this is only a nightmare. I pinched myself hard, and unfortunately, I felt it. The fetid odor of wet fur and old blood encouraged that notion.  My nose didn’t usually intrude itself in my dreams.

I moved, happy that I could do so.  I moved further.  The doglike thing emitted a sound that gurgled up through its throat; it spewed from its mouth, a combined growl and groan combined.  I shivered despite the enfolding humidity of the room.

It was angry and afraid.  Never a good combination in a nightmare that stank.

I shuffled myself backward on my ass.  I felt behind me in the light coming from where the thing sat.  My hands touched something cold and solid; I turned my head slowly to look, not wanting to attract Stinkys’ attention.  The scream I let rip, blew that scenario right out of the cellar.

The carcass had once been a female.  Now it was just a gutted thing crawling in maggots and covered in a congealed mess of intestines.  The genitals were the one remaining identifier.

I had attracted my ugly companion’s attention.  He—she … or it, moved onto a lower stair, the stench wafted over me as it moved.

Staying silent was hardly an option.  I was good with things with four legs as a rule.  Better though if I had a clue as to what I was dealing with.  It appeared to be a combination of an animal and an even uglier animal.

I guess if I looked that scary, I’d be pretty pissed as well.

I was deciding between throwing up or wetting myself, neither option was terribly attractive.

Good old Stinky had moved closer and was now only a couple of feet away.  He wouldn’t need to eat me.  The toxic fumes coming from him would decalcify my spinal column long before his sharp teeth could.  This thing made ‘Jaws’ look like a sardine with attitude.

I weighed up my options, trying not to glance behind me at the last person who made the wrong choice.

The trouble being of course that Stinky may well be the best deal I had.  I hate negativity; I decided to go with the easiest choice.  I stood and remained still.  My knees were shaking.  This didn’t assist in portraying myself as a solid “Terminator” type.  Stinky had a set of wedding tackle hanging between his legs.  It, was a he.

Stinky dropped to the floor.  He sat there making hideous sounds, his saliva pooling into a sticky mess in front of him.

So far so good, he had been conned by my immense physical presence.  Then again, he may just be tired from all that eating human beings stuff he’d indulged in.

I tried for the soft approach, hunkering down and talking in a calm controlled manner as I extended my hand, “So, Stinky, how’re they hangin’?”

“Rumplefargl.”

“Whoa—the old ‘Rumplefargl’ huh?  Tough break, Stink. Hey, buddy, I understand.  Us guys have gotta stick together, which given the amount of saliva you’re making, is a distinct possibility.”

I sat down completely, wanting, of course, to make him more comfortable. Plus my knees had turned to marshmallow and simply wouldn’t hold me up any longer.

Good ol’ Stinky must have figured I was cool. He put what passed for his head on his front paws, and looked up at me gently with eyes only ‘Stephen King’ could invent.

“Rumplefargl?”

I had to be careful how I responded to this one.  Suppose he was asking permission to turn me into a maggot-ridden mess like my other cellmate. Or worse yet, it could be a marriage proposal.

I gave it some thought, and then went for the psychological approach, “So with all this ‘Rumplfargl’ going on, Stink, when do you get a chance to just have time out alone? You know, just hangin’ out with the other things from hell and shootin’ the breeze and each other?”

He appeared to consider my question.  He stood and hurried over to the stairwell, “Rumplfargl.”

I followed him. Hell … why not?  I doubted whatever was up the stairs could be as disgusting as where I was.

I was so terrifyingly wrong.

I tried shutting the door again as a chorus of “Rumplfargl” greeted me.

“Oops!”

OOPS BABY

 

 

 

 

 

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

Halloween for SHORT STORY CONTEST!(1)

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

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

I hope you enjoy it!

Halloween Homecoming

By

Suzanne Burke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He had to die. Monroe would keep him company.

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

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

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

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

The party was in full swing—in every way.

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

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

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

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

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

“No idea, a Halloween prank—maybe.”

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

“What exactly was the message?”

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

“That’s it—that’s all?”

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

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

“You’re sure?”

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

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

“You always have a hard dick, Leighton.”

“You had your chance, Kelsey.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How the fuck—who typed these?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s finished—I can go—right?”

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

“Then—can I go?”

“I’ll give you an out … Leighton.”

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

“Okay—I’m outta here—right?

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

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

“I lied. Do it.”

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

He pulled the trigger.

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

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

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

Leighton Caulfield.

😈😈😈

All in all, a most satisfactory Halloween.

Halloween scary for post!

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

MIND-SHAFT LATEST COVER 2017

 

MIND-SHAFT on AMAZON.COM

Suzanne Burke on TWITTER

 

 

 

‘Uh-oh! an interview with a cross-dressing, Al Pacino loving Crocodile named Cyril. Just for the hell of it.

CYRIL FOR BLOG ON WELCOME TO THE WORLD

For the bold and the brave and the uninitiated … This is the sort of stuff I write when I need a break from the real world …

Good Luck!

Smiley face large

For those of you that haven’t had the  …” Novel ” experience of meeting Cyril, please allow me to introduce you.

Perhaps it would be best if in my capacity as Cyril’s, um … Creator {No offense, God} I have decided to interview Cyril… (well … you’ll see) and you can get to know him a little, more or less.

Morning, Cyril! Welcome to your interview my friend.

Morning?  It’s morning? Why wasn’t I told? I’m simply not prepared; where’s my breakfast?

 Now Cyril, watch your blood pressure.

 Blood pressure, can I die from that? Am I dying. How odd. What does one wear when one dies?

 Cyril, settle down, buddy, your face is turning red, in a greenish sort of way.

 Red…eeek! No, that will never do, I never wear red. Does dreadful things for my complexion. Red indeed. Sooo last season. Not about to happen.

 Oh, I don’t know mate, it kinda matches your eyes.

 Very droll, imbecile. YOU shouldn’t have allowed me to drink that entire bottle of J.D. What were you thinking?

 It’s hard to resist a drunken 28ft long crocodile, especially when he is sitting on your chest at the time.

Oh, give me a break. You know I like company. Reality check, you don’t seriously call that a chest,  Now, that lovely girl type person … oh, you know the one on ‘Modern Family’, you know the one? The dark haired stunner…Now she has a chest.

 Careful, green buddy, we wouldn’t like to misplace all those wonderful Al Pacino downloads would we?

Eeeeek, Soooz, no! Is that even legal? You wouldn’t. You couldn’t! Yes ,you would. Noooo! I’ll behave … I’ll even wear non-designer. What? Wait, no, cancel that remark. I’ll…promise not to fart in mixed company.

 You do enjoy Mr Pacino … and of course we then have Mr. Brando. Tell me did you enjoy the movie last night?

Enjoy? Tsk, I hate understatement. The Godfather … sigh! So romantic. And of course they are BOTH in it…I dressed for the occasion. Do you have any idea just how difficult it is for me to wear TAILS? Seriously?… Ah, but nothing less would do. Tell me, what happened to what was left of the horse?

That was make believe Cyril.

Make believe what? ‘A horse is a horse of course of course.’

That’s from ‘Mr Ed’, Cyril, be original, can’t you?

You want original? Soooz, you are talking to a 28ft long crocodile … who is wearing a pink sun hat, Gucci sunglasses, and a Givenchy designed T-shirt, not to mention drinking VB beer from a stein. And, you want Original?

Point taken.

Taken where?

No … it’s an expression.

“I got 46 expressions …soft as soap and tough as leather and that’s 46 more than all those Barrymore’s put together!”

That’s Streisand, from ‘Funny Girl’.

I love Babs.

Perfectly understandable. I have another Brando movie up for you to watch tonight.

Ooooh, I must dress, is it another romance, like the Godfather?

Not … exactly. It’s called “Last Tango in Paris.”

A musical! How stunning … Brando in another musical. Oh I am soooo excited. What does one wear to a musical?… The Carmen Miranda,perhaps. I simply can’t wait!

Neither can I.

Soooz! You’re smirking … why are you smirking? Weird things happen when you smirk like that! SOOOZ!

***

 

‘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.”

***