“Mirror, Mirror on the wall. Who's the fairest of them all?”
“Why, my dear, you are.”
The knife is smooth and cold on both sides. The edge is jagged, and overall, it takes a lot more force than she originally suspected to stick it in just the right spot.
Angling the knife, her force is precise and heavy. Leaning over, it slides into his heart with ease. His initial grunts are cut off by the pillow her left hand holds over his face. Her right hand jams the knife in harder in an effort to stem any last noises or movements. He needs to die.
The pressure of his hand closing around her arm feels like a snake slithering and wrapping its body around her, but it gradually releases and drops to the bed.
“All hail the King,” she whispers.
The knife slides out with a few catches on muscle, skin, and cloth until it comes free with drips of blood clinging to its metal. Moonlight catches the beads of red and makes them sparkle.
Stealing from the room, she hides the knife in the folds of a towel. The same towel which allowed her to sneak the knife past several guards. None of them would suspect her of the deed she had just committed.
The games are about to begin.
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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."
John Arnold and Lily Smoot sat on a bench in the Santa Fe Plaza early that evening....
He looked at her in the dim light. “What are you doing running around with guys like Cummings and Damours, Lily?”
“Cummings is a U.S. Marshal, John. And I wasn’t running around with Damours. We were chasing him. What’s your point?”
“Cummings is not much of a Marshal and you know it, Lil. Is it true you worked in the Nevada brothels?”
She looked up at his face. Clearly his feelings had been hurt.
“Yes, John. When I left Utah, I looked into all the political and military and business management jobs open to teenage girls, but they were all filled. I didn’t meet any guys like you who were single and sitting around that I could safely live off, so I got a job where I could save some money.”
She looked closely and caught his scowl. “John, you're married, and unless you’re offering to adopt me or to start taking care of me, I have to look out for myself. And for my ranch.”
He looked down at her. For the first time ever, he hugged her. “I’m sorry, Lil. You’re right. It might not be appropriate, but I care about you and want to see you succeed.”
She stood up. Bent down to him and kissed him gently.
“Appropriate,” she said, “Is overrated.”
James 'Big Jim' Peck is a professional game hunter in Africa whose life has evolved from wartime encounters to hunting animals; but when a client is killed in a hunting expedition gone awry, he's forced to hang up his guns and retreat to his plantation in the face of an ongoing investigation.
When a rogue Cape buffalo whom villagers believe to be infused with an evil spirit terrorizes local natives, Big Jim is asked to track and kill the creature. With the help of his trusted friend and partner, Caesar Wilde, and American photo-journalist Mary Watkins, they embark on an adventurous journey through the African bush.
After a series of inexplicable deadly encounters the hunters soon realize they are up against a creature unlike any other they have hunted, and it will take all their combined experience and courage to destroy the beast...or be killed!
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 you escaped from a cult and found yourself alone on the streets of NYC.
Twenty-seven-year-old detective Carlo Mancini is your average do-good kind-of-guy with an insatiable appetite for justice. However, Carlo has one personal setback: his inability to let a senseless crime become a cold case. His obsession to uphold the law has led him on a ten-year, dead-end search for the infamous IOU thief.
Twenty-six-year-old Mia Baker lives a normal life: a quaint apartment overlooking Central Park, cherished friends, and Pirate, her one-eyed cat. To most people, Mia’s life seems perfect; but to Mia, that couldn’t be further from the truth—especially when her disturbing past comes back to haunt her.
When Detective Mancini bangs on Mia’s front door, he has no idea he will soon unravel some disturbing truths about himself, and the woman in front of him. One chance encounter can destroy the very fabric of their woven lives when Carlo realizes reality is not always black and white…
. . . Especially when secrets are involved.
Noted Psychologist Sebastian Cork has lived a life full of zest and splendour. At the pinnacle of his career, all should be well, but he finds himself at a loss with no explanation and no desire to fight his way out of it. With his enthusiasm lost and his vitality lacking, Sebastian is unwittingly ejected from his melancholy and at the centre of a murder investigation. Ripped from the safe confines of the place he calls home. Sebastian is surrounded by the slum and the detritus of a life so far removed from his own. Now, he must find a killer before the killer strikes again or worse, finds him. Can Sebastian outwit and outrun a sadistic killer or is he completely out of his element?
A sharp pain jabbed Rebecca Kincaid’s side, and she sucked in a breath. Her hand fell to the hard swell of her belly, rubbing gently. Round ligament pain, she figured, just one of the many joys of being pregnant.
“Chillax, kiddo,” she said to the baby dancing inside her as the pain subsided.
Smiling to herself, she glanced around to see if anyone else was close enough to hear. Some people called you crazy for talking to yourself in public. She caught the eye of a redhead standing beside a stack of Diaper Genies. Dressed in blue jeans and a red flannel coat, the woman smiled. She looked to be in her mid-twenties, older than Becky, but not as old as some of the women in her prenatal classes. The woman’s gaze strayed to the strained buttons around Becky’s baby bump.
“When are you due?”
“Two more weeks and counting.” She grimaced. Being this big, nothing was comfortable. Her back ached, her hips hurt, and even sleeping was hard.
The woman smiled sympathetically. “I know, right? I felt the same way when I was pregnant, like I was Sigourney Weaver in that Alien movie with a little monster just dying to get out.”
“I know what you mean,” Becky said, breaking eye contact.
Truthfully, she hated that movie. Violent and gory. Comparing a baby to a bloodthirsty alien tearing its way out of its mother’s womb, well, that was kind of sick. She was much more of a romantic-comedy kind of girl.
“I have a toddler at home,” the woman said. “Seems like just yesterday I was in maternity clothes, though.”
Becky faked a laugh and turned down an aisle, away from the stranger.
“One night in February 1932, they saw a boy leaving the shop late after the other workers had left. They had noticed that the lights in the shop had not been turned off by the last man they saw leave before the boy came out, and had decided to keep watch on the place. When they spotted the boy with a box, the boy saw them, and ducked behind a corner of the street. When they fired a warning shot to stop him, the boy ran through an alleyway and they gave chase. They lost sight of him for a while and then one of the men saw the boy with the box under his arm. The moon silhouetted him crouching by a corner beam on a first story platform in a building site. They moved to a position that would afford them a shot at the boy and fired several shots. They all saw the boy fall with the box.”
“As they ran to the lot where the boy fell, they saw people were already coming out of some of the neighboring buildings to see what the noise was.
The man with the rifle hid it and the rest of the men split up to search the dark lot. They found the boy but, before they could take the box, the neighborhood men were coming into the building site. They pulled the boy’s body out of view to a dirt berm built up around a hole dug by a support beam.
One of the men grabbed the box from the boy’s grasp. A policeman approached them, the beam of his flashlight moving back and forth scanning the lot. The leader of the killers quickly moved toward the cop to distract him. He stepped around the cop to make him turn away from the other men. Hidden from the cop’s view the other men dropped the box and pushed it along with the body into the hole. One of the men kicked dirt from the pile around the hole to cover the body. The policeman asked what they were doing. The leader of the men said, in a thick German accent, that they had heard shots and were looking to see what was going on.
The policeman turned and ran the beam of his flashlight over the other men. He wanted to know why the man was kicking the dirt. The leader replied that one of the men had just taken a leak there. The policeman walked over and looked at the men, glanced at the dark hole and then told them to go home. He said he would do the investigating.
When they cautiously returned to the site the next night, they discovered the whole area around where they had left the boy, covered in concrete. A policeman also stood guard at the entrance gate.”
“It seems that not only justice is blind.”
Bruno runs to the platform between the train cars chasing Jack and smashes him across his face with the big pistol. Jack falls back against the rail separating the cars and slumps to the steel floor. The train lurches and Bruno stumbles backward against the door trying to keep his balance. He grabs the door to steady himself and charges back toward Jack. The train slows and then speeds up as it crests a hill. Bruno stumbles on the uneven steel plates of the platform. He is off balance again and comes toward Jack with his head down and his arms outstretched to catch his fall. Jack pulls his knees to his chest, his feet catch Bruno in the stomach. Using Bruno’s own momentum, Jack pushes his legs up and vaults Bruno’s helpless bulk over the rail. The scream abruptly stops as he plummets under the thundering steel wheels.
Maddy bursts through the door and helps Jack to his feet.
“I was sure he was going to shoot you Jack, he seemed to go over the railing in slow motion and then get sucked under the train. That was awful but I could not take my eyes away.”
Jack puts his arms around Maddy and hugs her to him tightly. “It’s ok now baby, we need to think about getting off this thing before we get to the next station. We can’t be far from the border now. We’re coming into another turn let me see if I can see what’s up ahead.”
As the train goes around the turn, Jack can see past the line of cars.
“We are going up another hill with a turn at the top of it. The train will be going pretty slow as it makes the turn. It looks like a hay field on the outside of the turn. That should make for a pretty soft landing. Make sure you clear the road bed.”
Maddy looks down as the countryside flashes by at what seems to her to be an impossible speed. She looks back at Jack with her eyes wide. “What, Jack? Do you think I am going to jump from this train?”
“We’re gonna have to jump off this thing. Don’t think about it, just jump when I tell you. Let’s go, Maddy. Roll when you hit the ground. Come on, get ready it’s slowing down. Jump!”
THE PUMPKIN ORB
As I entered the room, my grandson was jumping on my bed. He was laughing, playing and having a good time. The weather outside was awful. It had been snowing most of the morning. He was telling me to take a picture. I assumed he wanted a photograph taken of him. I couldn't have been more wrong. He pointed out the window at a very large bright orange orb floating across the yard. I was stunned, almost frozen in time. I took a couple of photographs as the orb continued to move out of view. When reviewing the photograph, I was in complete shock at what I saw. Now confusion is all that remains as I try to figure out what we just witnessed.
By: Chris King, Paranormal Researcher
Oklahoma Paranormal Research Agency
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