Rachel took a sip of water and heard a tender voice. "At long last we finally meet." Water dribbled from the glass onto Rachel's chin. She wiped her chin with her hand and turned to see Cole. He looked the same the last time she saw him. Same short brown hair and dark brown eyes that could hypnotize anyone. He wore a gray suit, with a white button shirt and black tie, the first time Rachel had ever saw him in a suit. She couldn't believe Cole Ashton; her ex-boyfriend was standing in front of her. Feeling uncomfortable, she began to fidget; running her fingers through her hair. She didn't know what to say or do.
Finally Cole broke the silence. "Hey, Rach."
"Hello, Cole." Rachel took another sip of water.
"I'm sorry about your mom."
"She was a great woman." Cole picked up a cracker
"I've been hearing that a lot lately."
"It's true, she really was. I've always thought a lot of her. She was always nice to me, treated me like I was her son."
Rachel took a few more sips of water. It was no secret that her family adored, actually loved Cole. They always thought he was the perfect man for her. It broke their hearts more than it did hers when she and Cole broke up. But Cole remained a close friend of the family. Whenever Rachel called home, her mother would give her updates about Cole. Even though Rachel acted like she didn't care, she was curious about what went on in his life. "She treated everyone like they were family."
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It was difficult, the incredulity she feigned, for Callm to speak, clearly at that. But he need only consider her poor bastard lover lying dead at her feet for him to find his voice. “Stay exactly where you are.”
Actually, to be truthful? What iced his brain? He had retreated to some place beyond that. Because this was his life, wasn’t it? To stand here looking hard. The defender of the glen. Whatever the cost. Whatever the consequence. And it was always going to be that now, so long as the tinker chief sat on Lochalpin’s doorstep. Peace? Jesus Christ.
He dragged the back of his hand across his nose. A crowd, armed with whatever they could lay their hands on, had swelled from nearby doorways. People were used to him and his men chasing raiders down this end of the glen. They weren’t used to him killing his own.
“It’s all right, Maisie. Go back indoors.” He huffed out a breath. “He’s not a McDunnagh. And that… Hell that…” That he could fix. “That’s not even a man.”
He’d waited for this. For four damn days he’d waited for this. Discovering her bedecked in a McDunnagh plaid and half his bed pelts, only added to the fury storming through his veins. He’d feel calmer when he’d dealt with that aspect of things at least.
She stepped back against the door frame, lifting her chin, as he strode crisply through the crimsoning snow toward her. The devious creature was used to being without clothes, although the flinch as he snatched what covered her, the flinch was masterful. Christ. He’d never seen a flinch like it. What did she think? She could throw her arms around his neck and he would forgive her?
“It’s a woman.” He flung pelts and plaid to Wee Murdie. “Now isn’t that so, Princess?”
She asked the driver to turn around. Her cabbie could not drive fast enough to suit her. When she walked through the lobby of the Cinema 18, everyone was buzzing. She ran toward the crime scene but authorities had closed the hallway where she had been attacked. Her superhero had vanished.
Too late. Now what? Brandi’s hands were still shaking. Her palm felt cold against her forehead. Then, deep in thought, she was startled to hear a raspy male voice behind her.
“Brandi? Hi, my name’s Cody.”
She turned around. Her stomach, still in knots, leaped into her throat. His chiseled face was handsome in a home-on-the-range sort of way. His sculpted cheeks were partially masked by a rough-hewn beard — the obvious cover-up for scars visible through his whiskers. His nose had been broken at least once. This guy had been in some fights.
The Pirates cap he had worn earlier was now in his back pocket and his sandy blond hair wet around the sides. Did he know that his shirt had turned pink on the front? The blood spatters had faded together, partially washed off by heavy rains.
Was she face-to-face with a superhero? He was not as tall as she remembered. His fiery eyes that could have intimidated Lucifer earlier were now softer, like quiet blue waters. He offered his hand, but his shallow, forced smile told her he was not certain how she would respond. Was his shyness just an act?
Whew! His extended hand was attached to a massive forearm. His neck was wide and muscular, his body built to last, rough-cut from head to toe — a description that would make good print in her eyewitness report for the Gazette.
“I wanted to thank you,” Cody told her, “for savin’ my life earlier.”
She could hardly believe her ears. Was it a come-on? Was his voice naturally that raspy, or just a poor attempt to imitate Batman?
“You want to thank me? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”
She extended her hand. It was cold and unsteady. Would he notice? His handshake was warm, ardent, but gentle — the same paw that had just mauled three professional tough guys. She tried to swallow her stomach back down into place but her mouth was too dry.
“Well, I would’ve been a sittin’ duck if you hadn’t deflected that guy’s arm. You showed presence of mind and courage.”
“Presence of mind and courage?” She snickered. “You mean for a girl?”
What if you were destined to leave Earth and take your place as the rightful ruler of a planet in a galaxy far away?
Destiny knows no boundaries in this explosive, epic space adventure of honor and deceit, love and loss and high-stakes battles with vicious foes. Will Aric save his home planet's people, who wait in peril for the young king to return and claim the empty throne? Will Jade prove to his people that she's worthy to be their royal queen?
QUEEN OF CEREN is April M. Reign's third futuristic science fiction romance novel in the Human Alien Species Hybrid (HASH) series.
Why read 7 short stories?
7 is a special number for people all over the world. There are 7 days in a week; 7 deadly sins, 7 virtues; 7 colours of the rainbow; 7 Wonders of the Ancient World – and, of course, the 7 year itch!
These 7 stories are special, like the number itself.
Why an extra ½?
We all like a little extra and this extra comes with a bonus.
You get to decide how the last story ends. ‘The Night Before Christmas’ leaves Emily with a choice – and it’s not an easy one! Read her story and go for what you want to happen. Wonder what you’ll decide.
Grimly he shuffled forward a decisive five centimetres. Nothing was ever going to change the world or his place in it. Just one second of courage,then it would be over. He would be over, on his way to the pavement and certain death.
“I don’t want you in jeopardy. Is that so hard for you to understand?”
“We’re in a war. I’m a criminal. Is that so hard for you to understand?
We’re fresh out of those bubbles you like to put me in.”
“You don’t have to help them hurt you, Lareina. You don’t.”
“No. I can get to them first.”
“That’s what I’m for.”
There was nothing to say to that. They were silent.
Silas knocked once and let himself in. If he cared what they thought of his intrusion, it didn’t show. “I’m here to interrupt your little powwow.” He directed his conversation to Christian. “I know you’re a big man, all scary and shit. But that don’t mean a damned thing around here.” He slapped two pills down on Lareina’s nightstand. “Your antidote. You better take it within the hour.” He ignored her raised eyebrows, keeping his focus on Christian. “You’ll need one of those every night for at least a week. Here are your choices…You can be a part of the solution, or you can wake up and start chasing us again. But I have to say you really are shit at it. You ain’t that hard to elude. So give it a good think.” He turned to leave.
“Silas!” Lareina wanted to laugh. She sooo wanted to laugh. She put a restraining hand on Christian. “You drugged us?”
Silas glanced back, unrepentive. “My way is effective, decisive and keeps you out of the mix. You can’t think straight with him around, anyway. Maybe you need to be asleep.”
“Boy, I’m going to beat the snot out of you.” Her uncontrolled grin nixed the threat.
“When I’m in the market for a mosquito bite, I’ll let you know.” He let himself out.
Silas was Silas. Lareina knew that when she collected him. She created him. Damn, he was good.
Christian was another matter altogether. He hadn’t said a word. That was never a good thing. “Christian?”
It took a minute before he responded. When he did, it was devoid of emotion. He snapped his eyes at her, deeply sincere with his intent. “You might want to start getting unattached and resign yourself to knowing I’m going to kill him. I’m informing you now, so when it happens you will be able to recall I warned you.”
Lareina felt a chill.
The old, beat-up Chevy pickup came to an abrupt stop about a foot from the back of Ruby’s prized Jeep. She scowled with disapproval as the driver shoved open the door and dropped to his booted feet before the engine even had a chance to shut off.
"Help you, miss?" he asked, with a slow, deep twang, wiping the dirt from his hands with a handkerchief he’d pulled from his back pocket.
She squinted against the midday sun a little harder now as his voice rang a touch familiar. She watched him for an over-long moment, the mother cat twisting her lithe body around his legs in greeting. Sweat glistened on his tanned, muscular arms as he bent to pick up the kittens that came out to join their mother.
She smiled. There had to be something special about a man who elicited the love of animals. He was at least six foot two, and built like he could lift a hundred pounds straight over his head with no problem at all. A smudge of dried mud followed the line of his strong, stubbled jaw. He could be the most handsome man Ruby had ever seen. Not a sophisticated, city kind of handsome. More a Russell Crowe, gladiator, kind of handsome.
The irritated scowl returned to his face after he put the tiny, tabby kittens down, almost like he’d just remembered he wasn’t pleased about being pulled away from something important. This made him all the more interesting. Part of Ruby was glad she'd been such a bother. The day just became more intriguing.
“They’re adorable. And they seem to like you.” She tried to break the awkward silence.
Curious, soulful green eyes peered out from under his dusty Stetson hat. He gazed first at her well-worn Justin cowboy boots, then slowly up her long legs to the khaki shorts, pausing momentarily at the denim shirt she had tied loosely around her waist, showing just a hint of pale skin. His gaze stopped momentarily at the mess of red-blonde hair she’d pulled away from her face, before he finally met her eyes.
Ruby held her giggle as he finished his perusal, not wanting to make him self-conscious since she’d recognized him. Billy MacCallister. Had to be. My, how he’d grown from the runny-nosed brat who used to follow her around so many years before. He’d been the pain-in-the-butt, kid brother of her best friend.
But, this grown up Billy MacCallister was a whole different creature. Mercy, he’s definitely a full grown man now. Ranch life looks good on him.
"So," Ruby avoided his eyes to keep him at a disadvantage for just a bit longer. She reached down to pet the dogs again, calming them. "How's your sister these days, Billy?"
He stopped wiping the dirt from his jeans and searched to get a better look at her face.
"What's the matter, Billy? Think you're seeing a ghost?" A smile crossed her lips.
"Ruby?" he asked, quietly at first then louder. "Ruby?" This time with unashamed excitement. Billy took two long-legged strides toward her, tilting his hat to get a better look. "Well, look at that, it is you."
Before Ruby had a chance to respond, he lifted her off the step and twirled her around, not caring at all that she now wore half the dirt he once had all over him.
The enticing scent of musk shampoo, salty sweat, and horses swirled around her, drawing her in. How could a man smell that good after working in the mud? It took all her strength to keep from leaning in and making a fool of herself. He smelled like home to her and she had to admit, it felt good to be held.
"Billy, good grief, put me down." She tugged at her shirt to keep it down, embarrassed. The pups jumped up, anxious now to play, as Ruby tried to gain composure. Not an easy task when being twirled around by a handsome cowboy.
"Ruby Lattrell, it’s so good to see you. How the hell are you?” The honest joy in seeing her poured from him. “Oh my God, you look fantastic!" He set her down and brushed the hair away from her face, looking her over now with those same hungry eyes he'd had as a love-struck kid.
She glanced away, self-conscious. When she finally mustered the courage to gaze up at him, she couldn't help but return his infectious smile. There was no worry there, or pretense. The tiny lines around his joy-filled eyes showed only that he knew how to smile. How to laugh. Something she’d forgotten how to do a long time ago.
"Well, that’s certainly more of a welcome than I expected." She stepped back to get some space and a better look at him. He had to be coming up on thirty now. Strapping. Still driving his mom crazy with that unruly chestnut hair tucked behind his ears, no doubt. Same innocent, broad smile that held secrets.
He continued talking and following her every move, anxious to know everything all at once. Where had she been? How had she stayed so perfect? Finally, he realized she hadn’t said a word. He stopped then, smiled that secret smile again, his eyes slowly filling with concern. "Ruby, I'm sorry I'm just going on. How are you? Are you all right? Oh Lord, I'm so sorry about your grandmother."
Ruby flushed when he caught her staring. "Oh, I ah, I'm fine. Thank you, though. I can’t believe she is gone. This place will be really weird without Granny Rube here." She took a step back toward the door, gathering herself, hoping she'd find the key in the usual hiding place so she could make a graceful exit.
"You don't act fine." He caught up with her, supporting her elbow like a real southern gentleman. "Let's get you inside."
Ruby didn't protest. She kind of liked the fuss he made. This was someone she'd known for nearly all her life. It felt good to know he'd missed her.
"Just wait till Claudie finds out you're home. She's going to just die." He reached behind the rusted iron pot for the key and turned it in the lock. "She's not living out here anymore. She's got a place in town. Married a nice city guy who moved here from Arizona, Mike Calloway. They bought old Fike's Market and fixed it up real nice. Doing real well with it. She likes living in town so much better than out here." He kept talking as he closed the door behind them.
The familiar smells of the house hit Ruby first, distracting her from what Billy was saying. Gingerbread cookies, Pledge furniture polish giving off an ever-present hint of lemon.
Ruby stopped in the entry, closed her eyes, and visualized her mother and Granny Rube laughing in the kitchen, handmade aprons tied around their waists, shoving cookies in that old Wedgewood oven, sharing private giggles.
Ruby stood for a long while as she replayed the memories over in her mind, only vaguely aware Billy had gone silent and held a supportive hand at the small of her back.
"Welcome home, Ruby," he whispered, his sweet eyes searching hers.
She didn't know why, but just then she couldn't keep herself from turning and wiping the dust from his cheek, feeling more true compassion from this one understanding look than she'd ever felt before.
"Thanks, Billy." She realized suddenly her eyes filled with tears. "Thanks for making me feel so welcome. I'm glad to be home."
She felt as if she’d stepped back in time. She was just a teenager when she left home almost two decades ago. Nearly everything in the house remained in the same place. The fireplace room still held the same worn velvet couches and mahogany side tables. The faded ivy wallpaper she'd helped Granny hang curled at the corners where moisture and age had gotten to the glue. The heirloom rug passed from her grandfather's family, now worn and fraying around the edges.
The same photos capturing a more innocent time continued to be displayed on the dusty river-rock mantle. Yellowed images of Granny Rube's parents looked too small and frail to have endured such a rough pioneer life. Next to that picture, Ruby saw the photo of her Grandpa Mac, taken only days before he was trampled to death by his prized bull, Heathen.
Ruby picked up the tarnished frame and held it close, realizing only now how handsome a man her grandfather had been, tall and lanky, his deep set eyes full of the devil. Reminded her of her mother.
"Granny used to say it served him right to get taken by the one beast on the ranch that was ornerier than him." Ruby wiped the dust from the frame and replaced it back on the mantle in the exact place it was before. "Momma told me Granny put Heathen down herself with a twelve-gauge shotgun the night he killed Grandpa Mac, but I still don't know if that's true. She had such a flair for the dramatic, it was hard to tell fact from fantasy."
"Your granny was a good woman, Ruby," Billy finally offered, a measure of respect in his voice. "Always remember that. She helped me out more times than I can count."
"I'm just sad I missed so many years with her. All I have are old memories of how things used to be. Silly stuff like, I remember when she calmed Jake and me during those hell-raising thunderstorms, and chased us into the pond when we were driving everyone nuts because we were so bored." Ruby turned away from the photos and took in the room once again. "She always had time for us. I can't believe I let her die alone."
Lars instructed Eileen to stay where she was and to keep well hidden. He then worked his way to the left of the house. Not seeing anything, he moved closer to the rear of the house. Near the woodshed, Lars could see a body beside the woodpile. It was Ronald. Lars moved back around to the front of the house and took his position behind a large tree stump, which hid most of his body. Lars pulled the hammer back on his rifle and aimed at the front door. He let out another wolf howl. The three men came out again. This time the first two men out the door had guns. Lars aimed at the first man and squeezed the trigger. He quickly reloaded and fired at the second. Both men fell immediately while the third ran back inside the house. Lars hurried back toward the rear of the house and caught the third man running out the back door, heading for the woods. He made it halfway to the tree line before Lars dropped him. Lars ran up with his rifle ready to shoot again, if necessary. It wasn’t. The man was dead, blood oozing out of the hole in the center of his back. Lars hurried back around to the front of the house to check the other men. Lars had been dead on when he shot those two as well. Lars poked the bodies with the end of his rifle. There was no movement.
Lars cautiously peered inside the front door and then walked in―ready to shoot if necessary. The house was silent. There had been only three men, and Lars had taken care of them in short order. He went into the bedroom and found Sara on the bed lying face up, naked with a gunshot wound on her forehead. The pillow under her head was soaked with blood. He moved closer to the body. There was blood between Sara’s legs and she had marks on her arms and face. Bastards! Lars shook his head in disgust and covered Sara with a sheet. He then headed back to the woodshed. Ronald was lying face down in the dirt beside the wood pile. There was blood on the leg of his jeans and two blood spots on the back of his shirt. He still had the ax in his hand. Lars guessed the men had sneaked up on Ronald and shot him in the back. Then they raped and killed Sara.
Lars walked back to where he had left Eileen. She had watched Lars cut two men down in a heartbeat, and she had heard the shot ring out from the back of the house. She was crying when Lars reached her. “We need to call the police,” she said.
“And how do you suppose we do that?” he replied.
“I don’t know, but we need to call someone.” Eileen cried, as he led her all the way to the house.
“That’s not how the world works anymore,” Lars informed her. “There is no law anymore.” Her tears let up as she thought about what Lars said. Eileen was shocked at how a man who could be sweet and gentle could be so cold-blooded. But she knew Lars had done what he had to do.
Lars took Eileen into the bedroom where Sara lay. He pulled the sheet back. He wanted Eileen to see what he had seen. He wanted her to know exactly why he had done what he did to those men. When Eileen saw Sara, she became hysterical. She screamed and her whole body began to tremble. Though she only looked at the body a few seconds and then turned away, Eileen saw the bruises on the arms, legs and neck of the pale and slightly bluish body. She saw the blood and matted hair between her legs. Eileen then understood the trauma Sara had suffered through. Lars grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her toward him. He gave her a big bear hug, but a bear hug was not going to comfort her much now. They just stood there for a while and Eileen finally began to calm down and her trembling lessened. Lars pulled the sheet back over Sara’s body, and then went back outside. Eileen followed, softly crying.
Lars found a shovel and chose a nice spot to bury his friends. He began to dig. As Lars dug the graves, Eileen sat on a stump and thought about what had happened. Sara was such a beautiful woman. That could be me, she thought. Lars is right, there is no law out here to help us. We must help ourselves, and if we fail we will die just like Ronald and Sara.
Eileen got up, drew her pistol and found a target to shoot at. It was only a discolored spot on a nearby tree, but to her it was an attacker. She pulled the hammer back and fired at the spot. She fired again and again until her pistol was empty.
“What the hell are you doing?” Lars demanded.
“I’m killing an intruder,” she replied.
Lars just stood there in his hole looking at Eileen as she reloaded her gun. Again, she fired at the spot on the tree. When her gun was again empty, she walked over to the tree to check on her accuracy. Lars got out of the hole he was digging and walked over to the tree as well.
“Well done,” he stated.
“Thank you,” she replied.
Eileen could see ten holes in the tree, all within the dark area she had chosen as her target.
“What brought this on?” Lars asked.
“I’m not going to end up like Sara,” she replied. “Hell no! That is not going to happen to me.”
Lars smiled, then returned to his hole digging leaving his red-faced partner to her target practice. Eileen reloaded her pistol three more times and unloaded it on the tree. She then reloaded the gun again and stuck it in her holster.
An hour later, Lars had dug two holes side by side near a large elm tree. Eileen couldn’t help Lars wrap the bodies in blankets for burial. She was still very distraught and her crying continued intermittently. As Lars placed the bodies into the makeshift graves, Eileen picked some flowers she found at the side of the house. Lars began to fill the two graves with shovelfuls of dirt. When he was finished, Eileen gently placed the flowers on top. They both just stood there for a moment. Lars mumbled some words, and then turned to Eileen again and gave her another hug.
Eileen followed Lars back into the house. He looked around and gathered all the ammunition he could find and placed it into a cloth tote. Lars also found two .357 magnum pistols, which he put into the bag. He then gathered up the guns lying beside the dead men and a couple rifles Ronald had that Lars didn’t want to carry all the way home. He hid these in the woodshed where he figured no one could find them. Then Lars went back to the dead men. One by one he dragged them out into the yard. Lars closed the doors to the house, turned to Eileen and told her it was time to get back home.
“Are you going to just leave these men out here in the yard?” she asked.
“Coyotes and buzzards need to eat too,” he said. “Now let’s get home.”
Again, Lars seemed so cold-blooded, but she did not say a word.
Lars led the way back home, and for a long time, Eileen didn’t say a word to him. Finally, about halfway home, Lars stopped. He laid his bag and gun down against a log and turned to Eileen. He took her by the arm and pulled her close to him and gave her another bear hug. Eileen still felt shocked, hurt, and sad for Sara and Ronald. “I’m sorry,” he said. Eileen began to whimper a bit, and Lars gently pushed her back and looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry you had to go through this,” Lars said. “It couldn’t be helped. If I had not done what I did, the same thing might have happened to us. We could have ended up just like Ron and Sara.” Eileen nodded her understanding, but she could not help feeling the new feelings she was now experiencing.
Eileen had never seen anyone killed. She saw people killed on television and never gave it a second thought. To see two men buckle as bullets tore through their flesh, splattering blood everywhere, became very real for Eileen today. She felt their pain as she jumped from the echoing report of Lars’ rifle. She felt the pain of the man who ran out of the rear of the house as well, though she never saw the man get shot. This was something she would never forget.
The one feeling she was not having was fear though. Her stomach was in knots, but she felt safe with Lars. Lars was a gentle man, but when necessary, he transformed into a killing machine. He could take care of himself, and he could take care of her, she imagined. Or can he? Ronald couldn’t protect Sara. I can learn to shoot like Lars, Eileen thought, but can I kill another human being? I must. I don’t have a choice now, unless I want to end up like Sara. Eileen managed a small smile and pulled Lars back to give him a hug. “We had better get going,” he said, and they continued their trip home.
Lars and Eileen worked together to make dinner. They didn’t mention their ordeal throughout the meal. When they were finished, though, Lars suggested they go out on the porch. “We can talk some more while we watch the sunset,” he said. Lars refilled and handed Eileen her glass of tea, got his, and together they walked onto the porch.
Eileen was first to talk, “I know why you did what you did. It’s hard for me, but I know it was necessary.”
“We can’t take our safety for granted anymore,” Lars said. “We cannot assume everything will work out for the best around here. We need to get real serious about our safety or we may not live long.”
“Do you think we’ll have more intruders?” Eileen asked.
By the time Savvas arrived at the copse in Filothei, the police had already cordoned off the area. Two ministers, the High-up Chief and the Press Secretary of the Government were waiting at the crime scene. The head rookie bypassed the representatives of the Intelligence Service and grasped the hand of colleague Jacob Oldman.
“What do you mean, good morning?” queried Oldman.
With greying hair, thick moustache, squared shoulders and serious expression, the taciturn Oldman was the most senior officer in Homicide. “Come see,” he said in a fatherly tone, pointing at the victim’s Rover. Gus Black, the President of the party in power, was slumped at the wheel, with two contact shots in the head. Three hours earlier he had dismissed his bodyguard and driver. Black’s door was closed, the rear door was not. The gun used to shoot him had not been found, and neither had the revolver he kept in the glove compartment or his personal belongings.
“How do you feel about robbery after murder?” whispered Whitebrow, who had crept up as quietly as a cat.
“It’s likely,” said the senior officer.
The Chief pulled Savvas aside.
“What do you think?” he asked.
“Did the Honourables remove his personal belongings?”
“You know the answer to that.”
“They thought they would round off the crime scene, eh?” chuckled the head rookie and swore at the “good for nothings” for tampering with the investigation.
In his opinion, the passenger door had been broken into by an amateur; someone who must have known how long Black would be unaccompanied. If it was someone the victim knew, it was likely they would sit beside him. Otherwise, the threat of a weapon would have been enough to get them into the car. The perpetrators had preferred to break in and hide behind the driver, leaving mud smears with DNA. And as it hadn’t rained for days, it was probably transferred from a garden.
“Black must have been followed by at least two people,” said Stretch. “When they saw him head towards his vehicle, one hid in the back. We’re looking for a thin, short and flexible person, who jumped up as soon as the politician turned the key. He didn’t let him drive far due to the increased police presence in the area, killed him and hopped onto his accomplice’s motorbike. This was indicated by the narrow tire tracks behind the Rover. The victim must have been at one of the villas nearby. It smells like a political crime committed by an amateur.”
“We’ll get caught up with professional liars. Zeus, take note. Your theories are for my ears only. Oldman is in command of the investigation, I’ll explain your role to you in private,” said the Chief, and returned to the huddled VIPs.
Officially he was in charge, unofficially…
“Clearly one coroner won’t suffice,” murmured Oldman, motioning to the Crime Scene Investigators to stop snickering, as no less than three coroners pulled up.
While they were waiting for Black’s driver and bodyguard, Savvas decided to consult with the representatives from local police station, certain they would be aware of the quirks of their citizens, many of whom were involved in politics, be it front and centre or behind the scenes. It turned out to be no secret that the victim often visited Claire Vane, who lived 200 metres from the scene of the crime and another 200 from his own villa. Although she was Black’s closest associate, they had not been instructed to inform her of his death.
The head rookie updated Oldman, who requested Savvas handle Vane.
:: Warm-blooded Constituent
In the meantime, the police had blocked off the roads leading to Black’s residence. Savvas asked the patrol car to pass by the house first. Arriving there, he saw the victim’s wife in a red convertible waiting for the garage door to open. It was 4.55 am. The patrolmen had some very interesting gossip about the “brand-new widow” Lola Black and the Vanes. Among other things, the latter’s husband, former MP Vane, had moved to the city centre “to serve his female constituents better”.
His “official wife” was sleeping. Her house was like a bungalow with large uncovered windows, which offered the perfect view into the sitting room. The head rookie walked through the unlocked gate and rounded the garden. There were puddles in a few areas from a recent watering. He requested that Forensics take a sample of the mud for comparison with the trace found in the Rover and to search for footprints and other evidence. Ringing the doorbell, he heard Claire Vane’s voice a few seconds later.
On hearing about Black’s death, she burst into sobs. However, she quickly regained her self-control and systematically asked for details. She then proceeded to make telephone call after telephone call. Her authoritarian words testified to her anger and antagonism. To Savvas she said that Black had also been a close friend of her father’s. The previous evening they had shared a bottle of wine, chatting easily. He must have been killed just a few minutes after leaving her house. Claire flatly rejected the possibility that it was an organised political crime, or that the perpetrator was a friend or colleague.
“Politicians kill with their words,” she stated. The only possible explanation was an entirely unpredictable action by a warm-blooded constituent. The “only possible explanation” was interrupted by the sound of her telephone.
“Yes, I know… an officer is here now… I don’t care… it’s your problem,” she said, hostilely.
Her husband, wondered Savvas. Was he asking for an alibi? He looked at her questioningly. She wasn’t going to enlighten him. He expressed his condolences and bid her goodnight.
“You are completely different from the woman who opened the door to me,” he said.
“Please explain, Mr Kallinis.”
“I met three Claires this evening. One opened the door, warm from her bed. Another expressed her deep grief on hearing about the murder of her closest friend. Now I’m bidding farewell to a disciplined, dynamic scientist. I won’t mention your political standing in case you misunderstand me.”
Before shutting the door behind him, Mrs Vane took his mobile number saying, “We will meet again.” There was no doubt in his mind that she was flirting with him.
THE MANCINI SAGA. A family of six close Italian siblings each has a compelling story of romance, danger and mystery that could tear them apart or bring them together.
What if the woman you love is kidnapped from your vehicle during a traffic accident?
When famous actor Antonio Mancini meets famous paparazzi Candace Moore, he doesn’t expect to fall in love with the beautiful, passionate photographer of the rich and famous. Candace is thrilled when Antonio embraces her and the demons in her closet.
On the night that Antonio proposes to Candace, their car is involved in a massive car accident. When Antonio wakes in the hospital the following morning, the investigator tells him that he was alone in the car at the time of the accident. Against medical advice, Antonio flees the hospital and starts to search for the woman who accepted his proposal. One clue after another brings him closer to discovering the truth and proving his sanity.
Setting aside her fear of the motorcycle, Luna embraced Nico, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist as if to prevent him from unraveling. When he pulled to a stop, she dismounted too quickly, and Nico caught the bike as it became unstable. Instantly, his eyes blazed and she noticed the momentary glare of admonition, but uncharacteristically, he didn’t scold her. Killing the engine, he inhaled deeply and his body uncoiled with the sound of the waves. Luna took off her helmet, releasing her hair into the cool mist blowing off the ocean. Closing her eyes, she could taste the salt on her tongue. All her previous attempts to get through to him had been abruptly curtailed. Ranting, he had called her an idiot and crazy, or he’d just hung up on her. Alone with him now, she hoped he would confide in her.
Holding hands, they walked silently along the deserted beach until Nico began to speak. His words spilled out like a confession, the way they did when he was in church with her. “I did a lot of shit, Luna, and I’ve distorted myself…I don’t even recognize who I am anymore. I’m more depressed than ever.”
“Please, Nico. You are a medicine man. A shaman. Great healers are often wounded. This is who you are, but you don’t have to destroy yourself.”
“Luna, I let everyone down. I fucked up. But I’ll get myself back together…and I will earn their respect back.”
Luna kissed the back of his hand, knowing the intimacy of an embrace would make him uncomfortable. “I’m here for you, Nico—whatever you need.”
When he turned to face her, there were tears in his eyes. “Luna, she’s a liar and she played me…she broke my heart.”
Luna understood he meant Élodie, and she could feel the weight of his sadness. There weren’t any words to say that would make it better. This time, she held him close, her cold nose against the warm skin of his neck.
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When Glints Collide takes a group of unknown to lesser-known writers (myself included) and combines their talents into an eclectic anthology of Sci-Fi, Horror, Paranormal