Vancouver’s mayor is found brutally slain in Stanley Park. His family missing.With no clues to either, an enigmatic old native, claiming to be a shaman, shows upswearing he knows the answers. Plays tag-your-it and disappears without a trace. After a night of drunkenness a reporter wakes up in a part of town he’s never visited and begins investigating why he’s having strange nightmares of a life not his. Which begs him to question the validity of the urban myth, when you get drunk enough you don’t remember anything you did? Could it be possible there’s a place where spirits might take over to have a little fun on their own? A slain Hell’s Angel returns from the dead seeking vengeance and he ain’t happy. An ancient witch/succubus has been set free from her imprisonment and will stop at nothing to return to our realm. She never was happy. The streets of Vancouver threaten to explode in gang war. And for cavalry to the rescue, a boatload of ancient gods arrives. Only they’ve been out of action for over two hundred years and haven’t quite grasped the concept of modern civilization. So begins Carol Ainsworth’s first day on the job as a detective. Some days it just doesn’t pay to quit smoking, drinking, or having illicit sex. Or in her case the age old question, how do you find a disappearing shaman who doesn’t want to be found. Which makes staying in bed or engaging in alligator wrestling suddenly seems like a much safer idea, especially as her boss is far less than happy. In fact he’s downright pissed, and he hired her.
Shaman’s Lure, (By Muse It UP Publishing) March 31st.
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Comments From Writers From the Authonomy Website
I started reading your Opus and thought I would give you my cent and half:
The first thing that jumps here is the style. Is a moment by moment perception where every moment is a dangling act promising the next to have the same urgency….
….. and that you deliver.
The jewel of the narrative however is on several fronts:
The time and care you take in setting up place. How you carefully use words as utensils so as not only to describe….
…..but to set up atmosphere…
The character descriptions shine through their specificity, the use of “he does this…he does that” to paint a character’s emotional map is something many writers aspire to, few know how to get it done right…..
Finally, there is a dialogue, from time to time it misses a note here and there, but in most instances it moves the plot, arching the narrative
Some of my favorites:
“like Harleys in heat”
“like a thief caught in the headlights” is usually “like a deer”
“Like squat walrus dreaming…..”
“Egg Fu Yung” I have never seen this which is why I liked it. If wanted to read about things I have already seen, I would take the subway…lol
“darkened with tint”
“Ben closed his eyes…. this characterization in ch 3 is one of your best….wildly idiosyncratic, specifically concrete. Leaving a clear emotional map in the reader’s mind
Though I haven’t been at Authonomy all that long I have learned that one’s book can appear on someone’s shelf, only to vanish the next day, or soon thereafter, without one ever hearing from the author. But as my work has been on Mr. Talaber’s shelf for some time now, I guessed he must mean it. So I’ve started reading Shaman’s Lure. I’m glad I did!
This is classic crime action prose. But now I’m growing frustrated. Not quite angry, but getting there. Because I have a lot of authors I owe reads too, but few whose efforts grab me like this does. Why on Earth is it not on more bookshelves?? Popularity at Authonomy is a mystery to me. It’s going on my shelf right now, and staying there, at least until I can complete this engaging book with its colorful but dark cast of characters. And most likely it will stay there a good deal longer.
Slapped on a bunch of stars for good measure, and anticipate adding more before I’m done!
I found this to be an excellent mystery story from the word go. What I do like about the author is the very detailed description that runs throughout it.
‘Somewhere in English Bay a tugboat honked its horn and seagulls squawked. Mist rose in cold and clammy waves threatening to engulf the city and park, reminiscent of scenes from The Fog.’
I could feel that I was there on this cold lonely night with Carol as she tried to make sense of everything at the crime scene.
‘Exhaling , she realized a good slow smoke was something a non-smoker could ever understand.’
These are good phrases that really open out the book at an early stage.
Love the old fella who turns up in the dead of night, there’s an automatic mystery here for the reader.
He talks with some amount of intelligence at times even though he annoys Carol immensely by interfering with her ongoing investigation. But he’s certainly got her attention by his unusual ramblings.
To me, this is a very good read, well written with a compelling storyline as well.
I think that this will go far…but I would do…It’s my kind of book—excellent!
Full stars and will shelve very soon.
One Off, Sir! The Secrets of the Forest (Series)-Cosmos 501. The Secrets of the Forest (Series)-The Time Zone.
Much of this is topical and reads like Canada’s newspaper. I enjoy the story and the verisimilitude. Backed!
Great title, Frank. Awesome pitch. It gives us all the information we need to dive straight in.
There is a clear story-arc in the first chapter where we meet Detective Ainsworth reminiscing over a cold October night. With relatively little description of Carol, I like her to begin with. Mayor Cole Bridge is dead and his wife and daughter are missing. But Charlie may have some answers.
There’s a professionalism to this book, a ‘feel’ – if I could give it a name – that sets it above other crime novels on Authonomy. You’ve clearly done your research and you are a natural writer. The tone is darkly gripping and extremely entertaining. Never did I get the sense ‘where have I read this before’. So it’s unique and cleverly told.
I would suggest some descriptive sentences could be shortened to give the narrative a little more punch. And it would certainly elevate the pace. You are a master of description, its poetic and beautiful.
Strong characters we want to get to know and Larry, for me, is the most fascinating of these. I like the jumping back and forth between them. It adds a certain awareness of what’s to come. Is this book already available on Amazon and if not, why not?
High stars, Frank. I will be back to read more chapters after returning other reads.
The Snare of the Fowler
Frank, I have read three chapters and I like it. You can write and you have a good crime thriller here. The short preamble worked for me because it did what I believe prologues should – it gripped me. I would end Chapter 1 at “Hang on, old man.” It is a great hook and gives a shorter, punchier first chapter, something which I feel works well for a crime thriller. The movement back and fore between characters works well. Your writing is very good when you describe Vancouver – I have visited the city and stayed close to Stanley Park. You have nailed this part and I could see myself there – excellent!! I have starred highly and will carry on reading – a place on my shelf beckons, I feel. Best of luck!
The Anger Within
Well composed, with graphic scene and character descriptions coupled with a fast flowing plot. Lots of different themes are explored in the opening chapters which gel together to form a cohesive story. I do like the concept of mixing crime with erotica. It gives the novel an added dimension like in the film, Blue Velvet. Highly starred.
A great crime thriller in which I thought I was right there in the story. I enjoyed the character descriptions as much as I enjoyed the narrative voice of the story. It’s an amazing premise and I think your voice suits not only this genre, but also the book. The pace is well suited to it also and I think if you get on this site and push the book it could do so well in the near future. Well done and big stars,
British Army on the Rampage. ( B.A.O.R)
I read the first chapter, which has strong and vivid descriptive passages. I enjoyed the portray of Carole the most because of the gritty realism – it made me feel as though I was in the classic thriller/detective genre. I liked the fact that the first chapter switches point of view, keeping the reader’s interest, and I assume that all the threads interweave throughout the book. Fantasy is not really my genre, preferring to read novels fixed firmly in reality, but for anyone who enjoys a good thriller/ghost story this is for them.
Hey Frank, I’m afraid I’m not going to be much help with this comment. You’re writing is very colorful and full of description. It is laced with commentary and personal beliefs which I found fascinating. You have achieved a certain level of suspense and anticipation as we get to know more about the characters and how they fit into the story.
I am going to put you on my watch list and read more. You’re style is unique and your editing is thorough. I could not find anything but minor fault with structure or grammar. Good Luck!
I liked this. I lived in Vancouver for a year so this brought me back. I like your descriptions and found the pace to be just what I like.
The first thing I loved about “Shaman’s Lure” is the powerful imagery. It’s beautifully written and very descriptive. I can picture all of it. Another thing I noticed was the “feel” of the story. It definitely “feels” like a crime novel, which is good. I definitely liked how you began the story and then rewinded time. It makes me anxious to find out what happens between now and then! Your writing is elegant yet it’s not pretentious. The alliteration is great, too! I’m looking forward to reading more, and I’ll comment as I go along!
This is really good. You do a fantastic job of setting the mood. And of characterization. I think you’ve really got something here, and I’m giving you a very rare five stars for this.
Kenneth Edward Lim
Frank, You’ve put together a gritty book flavored with primitive urges and mysticism. As I followed Carol’s foray into the realm of shamanism, I realized that it took a special touch to pull off a complicated plot the way you did. Your prose was concise and powerfully descriptive, your dialogue lively, and certainly, your photographic mastery of the fixtures and streets in Vancouver’s hub, in clear evidence. Thank you so much for a delightful read.
Kenneth Edward Lim
The North Korean
Hi, I finally managed to get time to look at your book. Sorry it took a few days. :( I’ll comment as I read since I find that the easiest way to keep track. Please don’t be offended by any suggestions. After all, they will just be my thoughts. You can always ignore me if you think I’m wrong or stupid. ;) (Sorry in advance for any typos, but my keyboard’s a bit knackered:() Chapter 1: Gripping little prelude. I wonder what the hell’s going on. I guess I’ll just have to read on and find out. ;) Great description of English bay. The sounds and sights make it real in my mind. Reading on… Oho a murder. The mayor, no less! Now I’m interested. No leads. It sounds like a bit of a mystery what happened. Even more interesting. ;) 1 tiny nitpick here. I think you should be wary of starting sentences with gerunds. eg in “Grabbing her flashlight, she started towards…” it’s implied she does both actions simultaneously. I think, in this case, something like “She grabbed her flashlight and started towards…” would be clearer. Reading on… Who’s the old man? That was unexpected. And where the hell did he come from? V strange… I’ve a tiny suggestion here. I’d only use italics for thoughts if you need to offset them from the rest of the text for some reason. The change in font can be visually distracting for the reader. In general, I think it’s better to slip thoughts into the text as unobtrusively as possible. Reading on… The old man is an oddball, isn’t he? But he seems to know something. Interesting. The Red Dwarf reference came out of nowhere. I almost laughed out loud when I read that bit. ;) Folks? Intriguing section end. I want to read on and see if there really were more murders… Wow the next scene moves the pace up a notch, doesn’t it? I almost feel as if I was just slapped. Looks like we’re caught in the middle of a chase. Oh… it was just a vivid dream. Or was it? Then a woman breaking free from an abusive relationship. Hmm I wonder if the violent man she’s running from could be the killer. Interesting. Then we get what seems another dramatic dream. What’s going on here? I’ll have to read on to find out… Chapter 2: More on Ben’s weird dream. I bet he’s wondering if he’s even sane by now. Then a sleepy Carol trying to get her head together. A mysterious new body. Hmmm could this be linked to the 1st murder? Ah now it looks like Ben’s and Carol’s story’s are crossing. What are the odds of a reporter finding a body. I wonder, did he kill her? Was the native from earlier involved? Still no daughter to be found in the park. Hmm the Angels’ bar is nearby, though. Suspicious. It looks like things are really coming together now. By the end of the chapter, I feel sorry for Carol. I think she’s exhausted and has v little life. And I suspect things are about to get v dangerous for her soon… OK I better stop commenting in depth now as this comment is getting huuugggeee. I enjoyed what I read. I think you do a great job of building tension with your short sharp sections and mysteries within mysteries. I like the way you keep the reader guessing. I can imagine your audience reading this far too late into the night, driven by desperation to find out what happens next. ;) I’ve rated your book v highly, and hope you find an agent/publisher soon. :) Best of luck,
I like the way you keep the reader guessing / short, sharp chapters.
You have a writing style that works well for a professional thriller. Great sense of setting and dialog and a fast start. I like the Carol character. She’s a good protagonist. It’s great that you get to the mystery right away. I think it would be good to mention a bit more about Carol’s opinion of the mayor early on. Was she a fan of his? Did she not like him? Is it insulting to the police force that they couldn’t protect the mayor and his family?
You switch from present tense to past tense when you change scenes. That is generally a bad idea and it’s rarely done. It’s best to stick to one tense unless you have a valid reason to change. For instance, I’ve seen Lee Child write most of a book in third-person past tense but when he has a scene from the killer’s POV he tells it in first-person present tense.
This is great work. I’ll back it.
A fine detective story; I was most taken by Carol, and I liked the fact that her thought processes are mapped out while she speaks to people. Things are only ever above board through her point of view; her confusion and her attempts to unravel the riddle of what happened to the mayor are ours, and this keeps the tension of the mystery. Of course, your blurb hints at other, more bizarre things coming into the story.
As I promised I comment on “Shaman’s Lure”. All the more it is a pleasure to comment on a book you like. The pitch starts with a question, which is rare on this site … rare and therefore catching.
I love your prologue, with each sentence like an invitation to read more. A woman-detective abusing smoking? Nice. I love the way you present Carol’s thoughts in italics, showing us how she reasons.
Here’s an idea that might help you make the book more appealing – a book cover. I mean, the picture is fine, but with a good cover your book will win more readers. Perhaps you should put a picture of a totem-bird alone? That might do the trick.
I know “Shaman’s Lure” is in process, so the best of luck with it.
What I really like is your introduction of Carol. You just plop her right into the story and you’re really good at giving us enough characterization to interest us, without stalling the story to tell us. She seemed, from the beginning, to be an actual person. You are great with setting the scene, with giving details–I really felt that you appealed to all the senses in your descriptions of Vancouver. You have a great rhythm to your prose, a good pace for this crime story, just keep working, be judicious about cutting, make sure a detail is needed or cut it. A fantastic start though!
The Qualities of Wood
Shaman’s Lure – A well written gritty crime novel. Chapter 1: Opens with a recurring nightmarish dream that shakes journalist, Ben, night after night that is then followed by an apparently disconnected crime scene. CSI and the local police force have carried our preliminary investigations, taped the area off and moved on. Carol, appointed to head the team has stayed behind. Something is niggling her. Many questions remain unanswered, the most pressing of which is, what has happened to the mayor’s wife and child? Enter mysterious Charlie Stillwater. Chapter 2: Larry, is introduced, raising many queries in the reader’s mind. Is some evil force inhabiting him or is is just an alcoholic who has lost touch with reality? Chapter 3: Murders that have been committed may be no ordinary murders. Malignant entities from the spirit world begin to make their presence known and felt. It would appear, no one is who they seem. Summary of three chapters posted: Good descriptive writing that verges on poetry at times. Settings, atmospheric, well crafted. Characters: Realistic, personalities shine through, though I felt the police were a little stereotypical but Charlie Stillwater, in particular, was very well drawn. Dialogue: realistic, Charlie Stillwater’s enigmatic conversation with Carol, particularly good. There are a lot of good hooks to draw a reader on and the story line, though little clues are scattered in the chapters, will keep a reader guessing.
Beautiful and artistic passages make this a joy to read. You’ve captured the essence of Vancouver, and dropped a hard cop in the middle of it.
I notice you change tenses often, going from present to past. You do it at the first scene change, and I wasn’t sure it was deliberate. Near the end of the chapter again you go from past tense to present, and this time it’s in the middle of a scene. It’s a bit of a distraction.
Great read! Many stars!
The Sun and the Saber
Carol’s hand quivers closing around the cold metal of her revolver as she stares
at the middle-aged man sitting at the bar. Sunlight filtering in from behind casts his
face in shadow and highlights the cigarette smoke curling around his head as he
ignores the incessant nattering of the old native lady sitting beside him. He pulls
another reluctant drag. His handshakes, red flares from the end of the tobacco, and
regret oozes forth in cloying streams of gray haze. Carol flicks off the safety and
rises to erase months of searching.
In the background a hard-rock song rages.
Its guitars crying …
…like Harleys in heat,
drenched in the blood of betrayed angels.
Memories of a cold October night spring to life, like bats born in hell returning
to roost, playing themselves over in her head once again
Carol looked out over the seawall from the knoll in front of The Teahouse near
Stanley Park’s Third Beach. The restaurant behind her dark and cold, the parking lot
empty this time of night. The ground beneath her boots squelched; a typically damp
Vancouver fall night.
Somewhere in English Bay a tugboat sounded its horn, seagulls squawked in
response. Mist rose in clammy waves threatening to engulf the city and the park,
reminiscent of scenes from The Fog. So far the only disturbance was a family of
raccoons foraging, stopping their prowling to stare at her like a thief caught in the
headlights. Through the trees the occasional duck and Canada goose honked from
Lost Lagoon, as if laughing at her cold plight. Vancouver sounds she’d grown to
know, having patrolled the park in a cruiser many times before recently graduating to
the rank of detective.
She sipped from her to-go, designer coffee cup and sucked back another drag on
her cigarette, hoping the wildlife wouldn’t report the recently outlawed activity.
“Pretty soon I’ll have to go out of the city limits just to have a drag.” Exhaling, she
realized a good slow smoke was something a non-smoker could never understand.
The languorous affects of the sheer senses-numbing inhalation of nicotine was
comparable to the heady effects of wine’s more lubricous and seductive aspects
during moments of intimacy or pleasure. Sometimes a cigarette was better than sex,
she thought, even when you can get it with a decent partner. Which wasn’t often;
being a cop and single didn’t exactly add up to a full date calendar. Only the cigarette
didn’t help this time.
Nearly three a.m. Twenty-some hellish hours since the body of the City’s mayor,
Cole Bridge, was found near the memorial to Pauline Johnson in a sheltered glade
next to The Teahouse Restaurant. Yellow police tape cordoned off the area behind her
where he’d been found brutally butchered, throat cut by what forensics knew was a
short-blade knife. So far no leads—no clues.
His daughter and wife were now known to be missing, but whether they were
victims, hostages, or possible perpetrators was still an unknown. The city sat waiting
for grim answers as Carol thought the worst and shivered, from the damp but also
from her fears sinking in. The more time that elapsed, the greater likelihood the news
wouldn’t be good.
Still, it was at least peaceful here. The swish of cedar and pine aromas filling the
air with an earthy sensuality and saltwater spume gurgling against shore rocks belied
the fact that they were actually in the middle of a bustling city. Somewhere out there,
on the misty waters, ocean tankers sat like squat walruses dreaming of engorging on
salmon runs. Whoever preserved Stanley Park, probably some stuffy old English lord,
was a genius. It had become a focal point of beauty, enticing many tourists, and was a
major contributor to making Vancouver one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
But in this case, the woods definitely had its darker, secluding aspects of malevolence.
Her first big case and, while being a detective had its fun moments, she’d already
learned that most of her time was to be spent on obs, shivering in the dark. Waiting. It
took boring to a whole new level. With the cleanup crew not scheduled until the
morning, she’d volunteered to do the graveyard shift over the thoroughly investigated
crime scene. Last thing they needed was the dead mayor’s blood pool on the front
pages of the tabloids.
Carol yawned and butted out her smoke. Sipping her cooling coffee she tugged
the belt of her overcoat tighter, wishing she’d put on another layer. A glance at her
watch told her she had another couple of hours here. Lost in the frantic pace of
forensics and media, a clue existed, always did—only she hadn’t found it yet. There
had to be something they’d overlooked, something she’d missed.
Grabbing her flashlight she started toward the Memorial again when a voice
cracked the air.
“But one can’t keep a watched pot from boiling over forever.” An elderly voice
shattered the stillness.
Carol jumped at the stark gruffness from the direction of the darkened trail that
broke her dulcet meanderings of being at peace. Her right hand instinctively set down
the coffee and reached for her gun. Most of the people around the park at this time of
night were usually crackheads. Trouble of some sort, anyway.
An elderly native man shuffled forward into the dim glow cast into the fog by a
nearby lamppost. Leaning heavily on an ornate, Orca-headed cane, twin braids of
white fire streamed down his back from under an old, outdated Expos baseball cap
heavily studded with various pins. A blue-jean jacket and pants that needed washing
weeks ago if not pitching in a dumpster, together with a western-style, checkered
shirt, completed the ensemble.
“Most interesting death.” He hummed and hawed walking around the area, careful
not to tread beyond the official yellow tape. Noting that the statement didn’t elicit a
response from the detective, other than a disapproving glare, the native man added,
“Nice night, if it don’t rain.” His breath rose in white mists, dispersing into the chill of
the night, and still eliciting no overly enthusiastic response. “You’re not very chatty.
Sea Otter got your tongue or are you bound by those inane legal contracts that says
you can’t comment to the public?”
What would an elderly native fellow be doing out at this time of night and how’d
he sneak up on me? “Look, buddy, this is a crime scene. Detective C. Ainsworth.”
She flashed her badge. “No offense, but you need to beat it.”
“I know, on both parts,” he grunted, “and none taken. Caught you on the TV.” He
turned his gaze back to the night sky. “But I guess rain only matters if you’re not
aquatic or amphibious.”
He changes subjects in mid-sentence; probably a little mad, touched in the…
“Touch the stars, you can, on nights like this.” He waved his cane over his head,
even though there wasn’t a single star to be seen in the overcast sky. “Charlie
Stillwaters, native ska-ga or, as you white folk affectionately call us, shaman. A term
originally meant for Mongolian Healers, but I think, as you can see I’m not
Mongolian, nor even remotely Chinese. Although I do fancy a good egg foo yung.
Can’t beat the Chinese for food. You ever wonder what they eat for takeout over
there? Shall we go for some Canadian tonight? Ohhh, I’d murder for some back bacon
and pancakes smothered in maple syrup.” A disgusted frown crossed his face as he
stuck out his tongue in a feigned display of throwing up.
“Look old man.” She rose, not in the mood for banter to distract her from
deliberations, realizing he was either whacked out on alcohol-laced mouth wash,
Ecstasy, or just plain whacked. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m here on police
business and would prefer to be alone. It’s been a rough day and tomorrow doesn’t
look much brighter. So like I said politely earlier, you need to leave this area.”
“Hmmm. No clues then,” he said, turning to stare back at the old trees along the
trail, apparently losing interest in Carol. “It’s been written ‘We cannot choose what
we are—yet what are we, but the sum of our choices?’”
Carol experienced a mental double-take. The eloquent voice didn’t match the
image before her of some grubby old hobo. He talked in the slow, clipped native
tones, but it was becoming obvious to her that more intelligence resided under that
ball cap than the originally estimated two pinches of blue smirf shit.
Catching her interest she decided to engage him in conversation. Besides, the park
bench and pine trees of the local environment weren’t exactly much company. Even
the raccoons had left her. “Yes, I think I’ve heard that quote. Aristotle or
“No, Rob Grant, co-writer of the Red Dwarf series. Brilliant stuff, English TV,
smart comedy too, ‘specially compared to American comedy. The Brits play more on
words and make you think, highbrow stuff. However I suppose I should let you go.
Busy day and all.”
He was flaky, but no dummy. “Yeah, you’re right. Tough day and still no
answers.” His words rattled through her head; without her realizing, she’d spilled
some of the case out. “Hang on, what made you think of using that quote?” She’d
hated philosophy in college, preferring the more direct hands-on courses, like the
“Simple. Someone in your situation can’t be greater than the choices you made to
arrive at the sum of your parts to get to this point in your life. In other words, you can’t
look outside the box if you’re not conscious enough to know you’re stuck in one. Of
course, that doesn’t explain the whole synchronicity thing. Great album. By the
Police, oddly enough. Good night, Detective.” He started back down the dark trail,
leaning on his cane, as the mist began to swallow him into its shifting curtains.
What a load of crap. Okay, reserve judgment on the soundly intelligent part, there
were some brains there, but the man sounded borderline psycho. More pressing
matters. Where to start tomorrow? We haven’t any clues and there isn’t anyone left to
check out, at least not until we find the wife and daughter. No one at all. God!
And she feared the worst, sensing the wife and child were also here, as their house
revealed no one and the family SUV had been discovered in the parking lot near the
“Only it’s whom or, more precisely, what,” Charlie called out from the shadows
edging the light cast by the lamposts. “We have a native saying that when you’re
chasing squirrels there’s more than one tree to climb and more than one squirrel to
chase. Some just hide in better places, or in their case, trees.”
“Then you got any bright ideas, non-shaman shaman man?” Carol shielded her
eyes from the glare of the bulb, squinting into the dark, trying to pick out the old man.
Weary of his baiting and bantering, suddenly the company of only trees and park
benches seemed appealing and sedate.
“No, Detective Blinders, but if you know where to look, I’m sure you’ll probably
find your killer of these folks. Sorry for wasting your time.” Carol just caught his
image highlighted under the bright moon ghosting through the mists and scattering
clouds. Carol blinked, swearing as his figure wavered, thinning, blending into the
mists as if it wasn’t really there.
“Crap!” She rubbed her eyes. “Either too much coffee or not enough sleep. What
a nut job. A few poles missing in his teepee…” Retrieving her cup Carol gagged on
the now-cold coffee. His words echoed back at her. He’d said folks? She clicked on
her flashlight and marched down the trail. “Hang on, old man.”
* * * *
Two vans accelerating wildly shatter the serenity cast by the Harley’s beefy growl
cruising along the open highway. Its skull-capped rider glances in the mirrors hung on
the long-handled chrome bars. Windows darkened with tint; they pull alongside him,
one slightly ahead, forcing him closer to the metal guardrail on his left. The roar of a
third van gunning its engine behind him sends a lurch into his guts. His Sunday cruise
has gone terrifyingly wrong.
The lead van accelerates, moves over, and blocks his escape to the front. Another
glance in his mirror reveals the one behind is closing the gap fast. He hits the brake,
attempting to dodge behind the van on his right before this avenue is blocked too, but
the last van is too quick; it swerves into his lane. Four barrels open in a hungry, airgulping
Reminiscent of starved hyenas chasing down an injured gazelle, the van’s throaty
carbs cackling in glee as they close the space between him and freedom on all three
Ben tries to hug the guardrail at a hundred clicks an hour. Sparks ignite in a
myriad of colors as he contacts the rail, trying to buy even an inch of freedom. Only
that inch doesn’t exist in this lifetime as brakes fry on steel and the very air shoots
skyward as day vanishes in a haze of GMC obscuring chassis.
Metal groans under protest, pain screams its voracious voice, legs crumple
backward, bones popping like guitar strings and the raw stench of fuel from rupturing
tanks fills his lungs, along with blood and betrayal. Glass shards splatter like neon
fireworks and cold asphalt caresses his body with its sandpaper claws, tearing away
life and consciousness.
* * * *
Ben lurched awake. “Why? Why can’t I get this dream out of my head?” He
gulped down water and stared into the shadows cast by the dim nightlight. “Two
nights in a row. It’s so bloody real.”
Wiping his forehead, Ben realized he’d awoken at the same point last night.
Crushed up against the guardrail, body being grated into hamburger. “Why a bike?”
He preferred a more luxurious ride, like his BMW, and had never ridden a bike. Hated
Only two hours to get some decent sleep before his workweek began. Ben
yawned and turned off the light, preferring darkness to the wavering shadows. Some
psychobabble believers would, he knew, insist this nightmare represented some
horrendous past event. Only whose? Because it sure as hell wasn’t his.
* * * *
Across town a woman cries as she packs a few belongings, preparing to leave the
house, her home, for the last time. Swollen lips throb; she’s had enough from a man
who says he loves her but doesn’t know how to show her. Instead he allows his anger
to get in the way of explaining his emotions, and reverts to his fists and brute force to
exert his will. She wipes away the tears, wincing at the shooting pain from her
She stares at the last letter he’d written to her, explaining how he loved “his Dear
Yolanda” and would do anything to earn the money to make her happy. It took her
years, but she realized he was a dreamer and always would be. Maybe that’s why he
carried that inane hunting knife in his belt. He never went hunting. She feared that
knife. The letter was two days ago. She sobbed, it was so hard giving up. Replacing
her sunglasses she zips shut the final case and marches down the stairs to the waiting
“Where to?” The cab driver pretends he doesn’t notice her battered features
leaking into his rearview mirror. He’s learned not to get into things he’s seen too
many times before.
Tears stream down her face. Outside, the day is pleasant. Children play in
sprinklers, lawnmowers hum, and the tang of fresh-cut grass hovers over the edge of
quiet suburbia while inside her own world hell drags its razored talons through her
heart yet again.
Yolanda stares into the street, unable to answer.
* * * *
Lightning’s jagged voice shrieks through nerves. Thunder bellows retribution’s
rage like Harleys shifting gears into the night. Strings yanked taut holding him begin
to snap. In the darkness hyenas cackle in gleeful mirth. Tendons of reality tear away
like cobras striking.
Larry spun away, experiencing the sickening sensation of falling through
unending darkness. He’s flung around like tissue paper in a gale, as the final umbilical
cord tethering him to purgatory’s demons recoiled away.
Too late, oh so too late, for in hell’s all-consuming hunger even angels die.
Betrayal’s stench burned vengeance in his mind like tattoos etched in acid.
A crying woman holding her crushed cat, its one eye dangling.
Fires erupting within, licking at his soul and all he once held dear.
Naked blood of innocents; his own family’s, spilled.
Memories that stopped him from leaving and dragged him back here. The need to
exact his revenge on the despicable man who performed the deeds holding him in this
time and place.
Not to mention the code. Angels always stuck together, even in retribution.
He refused to go, someone had to pay.
A final staccato echo of gunfire.
He gasped for air, like a drowning man. Heart thumping in response.
Guts heaved heavenward. Raw whisky’s reek burned down his throat.
He could taste again. Through the pounding in his head, Larry fought to focus.
Opening his eyes to neon light as urine’s vileness caught in his nostrils and the
porcelain-white toilet stared back. He threw up again.
Time’s mistress played harsh games with revenge, and to time’s abeyance of his
soul. He dry-heaved what little was left of bile and alcohol, wiped his mouth and
staggered to the sink. His head throbbed in migrainic pulsing. An unrecognizable
reflection glared back from the pockmarked mirrors. Swaying on his feet, he gripped
the counter top, trying to gain his bearings as the world spun around and hell slowly
vanished into the thrum of pounding background music. A cold splash of water on his
face, a couple of deep breaths, before trying a few nervous steps. The pounding in his
brain subsiding, Larry headed for the exit.
He was back.