“Amie and Charlie ran across the field and into the woods. Amie nearly tripped over the dilapidated fence except for Charlie pointed it out to her. She still couldn’t figure Charlie out, it was almost like he expected it to be there. Whenever she would ask him about this he always said it was nothing more than experience or one of his ‘hunches’. Once in the woods, suddenly the idea of nailing a crystal-meth addicted parkour expert seemed really infeasible.
Night had fully fallen. There was no trace of light from the sun at all and outside of their flashlights little else illuminated the eerie woods. Everywhere they looked dark, angular shadows jutted out contrasted against brightly lit tree-trunks making the whole woods look alive and threatening. They tried their best to follow the crashing sounds but they seemed to be coming from different directions all at once. Suddenly, the crashing stopped and they ran towards it. They looked around with flashlights pointing in all directions for a while before Amie slowly trailed her flashlight up the trunk of one of the nearby larger trees. The light hit something black and angular and, as Amie’s eyes followed it, there was more to the shape. She followed it up to a bend and then in joined with another shape and suddenly it turned tan. Amie realized she was looking at the bottom of a black torso
…wearing cargo shorts? It was clearly a pair of typical cargo-styled shorts with buttons and pockets. The problem was they were a good 20 feet up in the trees above Amie’s head. Then Amie shown her light higher and found arms.
…and then more arms…
Amie couldn’t move. She couldn’t speak. Fear paralyzed every part of her body save for her flashlight hand which dutifully trailed the appendages until a head was revealed. Eight black eyes blinked in Amie’s bright light while fronds of what looked like ‘hair’ but moved cast eerie shadows in the sharp light. Suddenly the creature’s mouth snapped wide open.
Wider than could even be imagined…
Rows of razor sharp teeth jutted out of the mouth as the creature screamed something unearthly and leapt away. The scream brought Charlie’s light up but all he saw was the slip of something moving away fast. Amie couldn’t help herself. She collapsed to the ground panting and shivering at Charlie’s feet and held onto his leg with her flashlight pointing up.
That was no meth-addicted-parkour-expert-electrical-engineering-survivalist who likes porn and classical literature…
“Jesus Christ, Amie, what the fuck was that thing?” Amie was whimpering and shivering. It couldn’t be. Amie thought “This is real life. Shit like this doesn’t happen in real life.” Amie slowly answered Charlie
“It’s not human...”
Other books in this genre:
Her fingers touched the pages and held the quill
Lightly they pressed; a panoply of enumerations
Not mere whimsy, but tethered in grit
Fingers and palms held fast the measure of them,
The weight, infinite, She balanced these:
Her virtue, reputation, and devotion to the Divine
Juxtaposed to the demands,
Could she follow them?
Did she dare?
Her nib grazed the page
Ink blotting and boring through porous threads
Seeping down the fluted mahogany leg.
The Public Be Damned
Someone tapped my shoulder as I waited for the light to change on the corner of 23rdand Park. "Excuse me, said a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman from today's Political Science class at Manhattan University. "Your name is Kevin, right?"
"Why are you wearing that shirt?"
I glanced down at the image of Shannon Kistler on the front. "Oh-I like her."
"Why?" She winced.
"Adam liked Eve, Romeo liked Juliet, Anthony liked Cleopatra .. .it's a tradition, I guess."
"But her music is juvenile."
"So I've heard."
The streetlight changed, but my classmate stared at me as we crossed Park Avenue. I walked up 23rd Street to the bus stop at the Flatiron Building, my backpack full of newly purchased textbooks. Halfway up the block, a guy in a three-piece suit who talked on a cell phone glanced at my shirt as he walked toward me. "Wait a second," he muttered. "Man," he snarled at me, "I can't believe someone like you put on that shirt."
"And I can't believe someone like you got off your phone to tell me so."
He frowned and walked away as I continued toward Broadway. At the Flatiron Building 1 stood in my usual nook, watching for my express bus home. The sidewalk was practically empty, but I caught the attention of a curly-haired guy, maybe a year or two older than me, strolling toward Union Square with a friend. The guy tapped his friend's shoulder and pointed at me, but I waved him off before he yelled at me.
The traffic on Broadway was as thin as the pedestrians on the sidewalk. The other Staten Island-bound express buses stopped by the building regularly, but my wait for the X12 was always longer for one stupid reason or another. I already spent a whole year waiting for many things, including the bus, and I knew that wouldn't change any time soon, especially with everything I still had to learn about accounting before I got my BBA
An early September breeze blew through my hair as a black limo stopped at the light on 22nd Street. I couldn't guess who was inside-a bridal party, a foreign dignitary, or a corporate big shot. But I was hypnotized by the long car, watching it roll down Broadway and onto 21st Street after the light changed.
"Excuse me," a black man in a parka and a wool hat said, "you got any change to spare?"
"No, I don't. I'm sorry."
"Hey, you don't gotta be sorry, okay? You don't got it, you don't got it. That's all. You don't gotta be sorry for nothin'. People always gettin' into trouble 'cause they sorry for stuff they can't control, and we got all these world problems because people do a lotta shit they sorry about later. And that uses up a lotta energy, you know? They can use that energy to do other stuff."
He clamped a hand on my shoulder, to my horror. "Look, man," he continued, pointing, "you a young guy. You don't need none ofthat shit, okay? You don't gotta worry about nothin' but the rest of your life. You got lotsa time to do whatever you please, and bein' sorry ain't gonna help you. So you don't got the change, you don't got the change, and that's the way it goes. You don't gotta be sorry about it, okay? Don't be sorry. You got it, don't you?"
Yeah. I'm sorry I apologized. I nodded slightly, trying not to roll my eyes.
"Yeah, you get it." He smiled, showing off his yellow teeth. "You get it. You a good guy. Go get yourself some nice pussy." He slapped my shoulder and marched off.
Oh, no, you did NOT use the P-word on me...
"Hey, mister," a girl's voice yelled, "you got a nice shirt on!"
"Thank-YOU!! HOLY SHIT!!" It was Shannon Kistler herself, calling to me from the limousine sitting at the light a few moments ago. She laughed, ducked inside and rolled up the window. I snatched my backpack and chased after her, but the heavy textbooks slowed me down, and she made a swift getaway.
Two minutes later an X12 finally pulled up. "How you doin'?" asked the driver after he opened the doors.
"Hanging in there, thanks," I fumbled, paying the fare.
"School started again?" he asked, pulling away from the curb.
"Yeah," I muttered.
"You don't seem happy about it."
"I had a long day." 1 would've said why 1 really didn't seem happy, but he'd never buy it.
"Well, pick a seat and take a snooze," he said. "You look like you could use it."
''I'm way ahead of you."
He chuckled as I grabbed a window seat and followed his advice.
"Hello, everyone," I said, entering and dropping my backpack on the stairs. "Hi, Kevin," my sixteen-year-old brother Russell and fourteen-year-old sister Stacy sang while they watched television. "Hi, Kevin," Mom said from the kitchen. "How did the first day go?" "Like the last day of last semester." I hung up my sweatshirt, hearing Dad yell on the phone upstairs. "Dinner will be ready soon," Mom announced. "You can take a quick shower." "I did-this morning," 1 said, walking toward the basement door with my backpack. "Another one will make you feel better after today," she said, stirring the tomato sauce.
Isn't she blunt.
In my bedroom a poster of Shannon hung on the wall above my bed, but I still had no idea why I was smitten with her. Last summer's hit "Dream World" was so cheesy, my stomach spun whenever I heard it on the radio. The lyrics contained no creative thought, and I decided it sounded like a rush job. As the hits came off her first CD, though, I became impressed when I found out she not only wrote songs, but she also had a recording studio in her basement.
Although I was surrounded by thousands of other fans at her concert at the Garden State Arts Center this past July, I never felt so isolated in my life. But when Shannon hit the stage, singing with passion and dancing with enthusiasm, I felt like 1 got my money's worth. Some company would've cheered me up about seeing the show, but my friends weren't interested.
I was drawn to a career in the recording industry, so I took a guitar class as a high school freshman and spent the next summer teaching myself more than I already learned in the class. I believed I could hit it big despite the stories I heard of recording artists busting their asses for success. But 9/ 11 reminded me my head belonged on my shoulders instead of in the clouds, so I chose to crunch numbers without giving it much thought.
I still had a flicker of hope for a musical career, but I was astounded by Shannon's confidence and determination, two qualities I sorely lacked if I wanted anyone to respect me as a performer. Of course, being cute as hell didn't hurt her either.
But those qualities I saw in Shannon didn't matter to some Jewish Society members at school. Avi Cohen and Yaakov Friedman, for example, wouldn't shut up about my shirt when they laid eyes on it. Whenever someone entered the office while the three of us were there during the day, Avi and Yaakov pointed me out. They didn't welcome any other members back or ask them about their summers or their classes. The first words out of their mouths were about my clothes. When I left the office in the afternoon for my Political Science class, they were deep into a conversation about Shannon because 1 saluted her.
Whatever their gripes were, I figured they were disappointed because I didn't want to roll in the hay with Shannon. Back in high school I enjoyed talking about girls with my friends during lunch. But when some explicit details crept into the discussion, I was reminded those views of girls would be useless to me in winning someone over. 1 didn't care if the next man let his libido control him, as long as he didn't expect me to behave the same way. After today, though, I was sure Avi and Yaakov wouldn't be the only ones to hold those values against me.
Nor was it the first time anyone instantly disliked me because I followed my heart. When my family and I moved into the condominium in 1991, Russell and I made friends with the other kids while Stacy was still discovering the world around her. Our arrival inspired the other parents to gather the kids together for activities we might do in summer camp: sing-a-longs, arts and crafts, and games like Duck Duck Goose and Red Rover. I ate it up.
As the sunset over the headland at Kings Beach, an elderly couple watched as the passenger liner “Sun Beauty” sailed out to sea on its next voyage. The couple were in the twilight of their lives, and they had shared a beautiful life together. They had earlier that day, spent time with their children, grandchildren, and their great granddaughter while they celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary.
They shared a bottle of Muscadean, a white wine produced from white Muscat grapes grown in Ballandean, hence the name. A light, easy drinking aromatic semi-sweet white makes it perfect served chilled for that warm summer day picnic. They discovered the wine on a weekend visiting Queensland’s Granite Belt wine region and, at once it became “their wine.” Later on, the owners of the winery opened an outlet at nearby Mooloolaba, and while he could still drive, he managed to call in about once a month.
When the sun had set, he dozed off in his favourite chair, placed to take in the picturesque outlook over the entrance to Moreton Bay. She was comfortable with him dozing off, and she knew he was at peace. Although now in his eighties, they both liked to look back at the uncertain times, at the peak of World War two when they first met, and how over time, their love grew.
Although the population considered Australia to be safe at the start of the war, as Europe and Germany were on the other side of the world. Attitudes changed with Japan entering the war. Japan shared the same Ocean as Australia. Although Japan and Australia were successful trading parties before the war, with Japan attacking Pearl Harbour and making menacing overtures towards Singapore, Australia was now at war with Japan.
When Darwin was bombed for the first time in February 1942, the government played down the damage to the public. The general population knew nothing of other bombing raids at Broome, Mossman, Derby and even Katherine.
After the midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour in May, it had become impossible to disguise that an impending threat became real. This became even serious when rumours began the spread about “The Brisbane Line.”
When it became seriously believed by the government and military that Japan would attack Australia, it needed to be quickly decided what areas should be protected. Because Australia was a vast island with the majority of the population confined to the southeast, in February 1942 General Ivan Mackay drew a line on the map of Australia. This line stretched from the coast north of Brisbane to west of Melbourne. Although no record of the “Brisbane Line” was being activated, many believed, (and some still do) that the line was implemented and all of the country north and west of the line was to be abandoned.
The other item kept from the public, concerned that during the twelve months between May 1942 and May 1943, 25 ships were attacked within forty miles of the New South Wales coast.
The government began to realise that unless they could control panic, large numbers of the population may abandon the major cities like Brisbane.
Because of its proximity to the Pacific battlefronts, Brisbane was the crucial point for resupplying the troops in battle. The Americans developed it as a Major Naval base, including a vast submarine base. In 1942, General McArthur set up his headquarters for the Pacific in Brisbane. Brisbane needed a civilian population to make sure the smooth running of so many essential services.
The government and the military were in a “catch 22” situation. Secrecy needed to be maintained for security, and yet, the population needed to be reassured of their safety. This, compounded by the military distrust of elected politicians, as well as the parliamentarian’s need to placate their constituents. A unique approach obviously was needed.
The member for Port Macquarie and now the defence minister, David Millar called an urgent meeting of his department heads to see if a solution could be found. Because of some of the difficulties, the meeting was held in Sydney. As it happened, in the same hotel that the defence department rented rooms, the senior media lecturer at Queensland University was with colleagues in a get together of their own. Tom Walker was the former editor of a major newspaper who also had extensive experience producing newsreel films. Tom and David were friends from the University of New South Wales, where they both studied. When the defence Minister ran into the media lecturer in the hallway, they made time to have a few drinks and reminisce about their university days.
It was during this time that the Minister started to conceive the basis of how Tom may be able to offer a solution to his problem.
Although they realised, the invasion of these cities by the Japanese would be remote; a specialist public relations unit still should be instigated. It could give reassurance through movies (newsreels) and newspaper articles that would show to the civilian population the defences were in place.
With Brisbane is becoming the headquarters for the allies command for the war in the Pacific, it would become necessary to play down the military importance of Brisbane as a target.
A by-product of these films would be to discourage a Japanese invasion, as they would show the Japanese Brisbane was too difficult a city to invade.
They finished their talk with Tom agreeing to put a concrete proposal together. He needed to show how it would also work including the resources needed. This plan was required to be able to be presented to the War Cabinet by the end of the week.
Being the driven person that he was, Tom was able to put the basis of his proposal together in just two days.
He approached the task as if preparing a lecture for his students. He defined exactly the end achievement needed. What would be the best way of achieving the result? What resources are needed? He was able to present a written proposal two days later.
To reassure the residents of Australia that there was no need to evacuate their homes and thus maintain a steady civilian population to enhance the war effort, I propose to set up the following civilian unit.
1. Reporting directly to, the Defence Minister, this unit will work, in conjunction with the military authorities, but the military shall have no control over the activities of the unit.
2. The unit would make newsreel motion pictures depicting the defence efforts of an area without divulging crucial information that the enemy may not know of.
3. The movies are to be processed and scripted before handing over to the distributors, who will then add the scripted soundtrack using their staff.
4. Regular newspaper and magazine articles are also to be produced.
5. Staff required would be
a. A General Manager to oversee operations and report to the Minister
b. A Cinematographer, who would produce the movies and supervising a cameraman. He would also act as the second cameraman.
c. A Journalist to write articles and the scripts for the movies.
d. A personal assistant to the General Manager who would also act as a secretary and other duties when needed.
e. A driver who must be competent in small boats and all types of motor vehicles. Would also be an aid in labouring and any other tasks as required?
6. The budget would be set by the Minister and vehicles, camera and other equipment to be supplied by the military where available. But the unit would buy directly when needed.
7. The Military are to supply accommodation including living, office and workshop space independently from the military accommodation. The Military is required to provide security for this area.
To his surprise, Tom received a call from the minister that afternoon is telling him it had been approved without alteration. A meeting was set up the next day with the minister and his senior staff. The chief of the defence forces would also be attending.
David told him the cabinet wanted this unit to be operating within a fortnight.
David arranged for Tom to use a parliamentary office in Canberra to enable him to get the ball rolling. Some of the minister’s staff members were allocated to generate all the legal and performance documents needed so that Tom could start with the recruitment. His first need would be for a personal assistant.
David suggested Jill Robertson, 32-year-old, a career public servant with the defence department. She had previously worked for David Millar before he entered politics.
She was married to Colonel Bob Robertson, an Australian military liaison officer attached to the British Air Ministry in London.
Her knowledge of the public service, politics and military protocols would make her invaluable in dealings with government and defence personnel. Not having any ties would enable her to travel as required.
David assured Tom that, as he would be operating a division of the Ministry of Defence and all members of his unit would be paid by the department, so would all expenses. In fact, even though there were shortages of materials and other supplies, Jill would order everything under the auspices of the department. Therefore, all suppliers would, under the wartime regulations, have no alternative than to supply the unit in preference to all others. This would also mean that the unit had priority over the three military branches.
All accounts would be forwarded to the department for payment. This also meant that all the unit’s civilian staff would be treated as Commonwealth Public Servants.
Tom was relieved that he would have no supply problems to hinder the operation.
Ministry Communications Unit
David arranged for an interview and within two minutes, Tom decided that she was ideal, and she wanted the job. Jill transferred to Tom’s unit that afternoon. Jill was an extremely good-looking woman. She stood about six feet tall with a body would make most Australian women envious.
Tom, hearing that the famed Australian filmmaker, Charles Chauvel, was in Canberra that afternoon, had one of his staff arrange for them to meet at the Canberra Hotel.
Although Tom couldn’t reveal much about the unit, he told Charles enough, so it was possible to ask if Charles knew of any suitable candidates for the Cinematographer's role. Charles had no hesitation in recommending Bill Munro, who had worked as an undergraduate cinematography assistant to Charles.
Bill, raised up, on his parent’s farm in central Queensland near Roma, went to boarding school at Toowoomba Grammar and a cinematography graduate from Queensland University. Being 22 years old and single would also be helpful.
As Bill was in Sydney, Tom met with him on Monday morning at an office that Jill acquired near Victoria Barracks.
In two short days, Jill arranged for working offices in Sydney and Brisbane, while the Army provided living and working accommodation near the Eagle Farm racecourse. The army also supplied a car in Brisbane and when required in Sydney and Canberra.
Over the weekend, Jill moved into the Brisbane accommodation while Tom, taking advantage of being in Sydney, met up with his two daughters. Both were staff car drivers at Victoria Barracks, which made it easy to catch up when he was in Sydney.
The meeting with Bill concluded remarkably successful, although he advised Tom that he needed a week to tidy up his current projects. He did, however, know of a young cameraman who would be ideal for them. Tom agreed to give Bill the week to tidy up and then, he was to join him at Eagle Farm the following Monday.
Tom also gave Bill the approval to employ the Cameraman, who lived in Clayfield, the next suburb to Eagle Farm.
On Tuesday when Tom arrived at the Eagle Farm property, he was impressed with what Jill had been able to organise, on such short notice.
She heard of an experienced journalist, Joe Grady. Joe, a feature journalist for the last ten years with the Brisbane Sun, had resigned from the paper with the intention to join the army.
Joe was thirty- years old and married to Joan, a nurse working in the burns unit at Royal Brisbane Hospital. Ninety percent of her patients were R.A.N. and RAAF personnel, injured while on duty in the Pacific. Both were career orientated although, Joe wanted to join the army. Jill met Joan several years ago at a conference, so on Saturday when she arrived in Brisbane, Jill gave her a call. She heard about Joe resigning, and she asked if he would see Tom before he enlisted. They made an appointment to meet with Tom on a Tuesday afternoon. Tom, being familiar with Joe’s work, looked forward to meeting him.
Joe and Tom hit it off at once. Joe could see the importance of the role and, even if he wasn’t to add a by-line to each article he wrote, he was allowed to keep copies for his resume after the war.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Minister arrived in Brisbane and called on Tom. He was impressed with the speed the unit set up. Tom explained that they could not arrange for film equipment until Bill came on board, the following Monday. He explained to David that the only position not filled was the driver.
David suggested that Alf Watson may be suitable.
Alf, a 23-year-old single man, grew up in Port Macquarie and worked on fishing boats. He had driven semi-trailers to market and is a good 'bush mechanic.'
When Alf was rejected by the army on medical grounds, because of his flat feet, he appealed to his local Member of Parliament and family friend (David Millar.)
As David had known Alf as the son of a friend, he never hesitated in recommending him to Tom. “Alf will be an ideal member of his team because of his driving ability, knowledge of the sea and his mechanical ability as well.”
When Tom called Alf, he jumped at the opportunity as he realised, it would be far more interesting than in the army, and he would still be contributing to the war effort.
Alf was on the next train north.
During the first week, Jill set up important meetings with the local Military commanders, where the Minister explained what was about to happen. He instructed them to brief Tom on the entire military (army, naval and air force) tasks surrounding Brisbane. They all agreed the first movies would centre on the sea approaches to Brisbane.
They felt most of the strategy for the defence of Brisbane seaways would be known to the Japanese anyway. There is only one shipping channel into Brisbane, and they were sure that the Japanese would have extensive charts. These would’ve been gathered before the war while Japanese cargo ships regularly carried cargo in and out of Brisbane.
Knowing the shipping routes, it would be a simple exercise for the Japanese intelligence to estimate where shore defences would most likely be located. Tom arranged for the Navy to take him on board for a journey between where they met incoming convoys and the Brisbane River.
This survey journey took place on Tuesday after Bill arrived. The first task he needed Bill for was to make a list of the photographic equipment he needed.
Jill would use her talents to make sure it was all available within days. Tom become amazed at what Jill could organise. He often wondered if Jill knew there was a war on and led to equipment being in short supply. If Jill asked for material, Jill got equipment. The acquisition of a truck and small boat created no problems for Jill.
The rest of that week the unit worked together and settled into their new roles. It was decided that they should wear army style work wear, and they were given “All Area” passes. This allowed them to enter restricted areas at any time. The unit was given the imposing name of “Ministry Communications Unit.”
They all now signed the Official Secrets Act and to make their job easier when moving around they were given talks on a broad range of military subjects covering all three services. They needed to be able to recognise all badges of rank for both Australian forces as well as American forces. They also needed to know operational requirements of the Navy as well as the army.
Their quarters at Eagle Farm consisted of a separate room for each person with shared toilets and showers except for Jill, who had her own. Joe had a room, although he usually stayed at home when not required. In the office block, they all had their workspace.
Alf was allocated an area allotted for his truck. This would be where he parked it, and could do any services that the army didn’t do. He also used a general store room that he stored any timber or other supplies that may be needed.
Bill had a comprehensive workshop where he could store all his equipment and prepare the film stock. All the processing of the film would be carried out at the Milton Kodak Laboratories.
The film, by its inflammable nature, was required to be stored in a special fireproof vault that somehow Jill found.
An American Air Force unit, being next to the Eagle Farm compound was ideal for meals. Jill arranged for breakfast and dinner to be taken at their Officers Mess while, lunch was sandwiches that Alf would collect after breakfast. They often joked about Alf being probably the only driver who ate in an Officer’s mess anywhere in the world. Jill had also arranged for tea making facilities to be available at their compound.
They started the day that they were to have their first journey with the Navy, by having the whole unit being assembled on the Hamilton wharf.
This was the same day that their cameraman, Fred Williams, joined them from the south coast. He signed the “Official Secrets Act” paperwork on the dock. Their vessel, a harbour tug, usually travelled through the channel with every convoy in the case of an incident.
As they departed the port, they looked at Fort Lytton on the southern side of the river. The fort had been erected to protect Brisbane from the Russians in the 1870s. The tugs captain pointed that the North West shipping channel ran from the Brisbane River to Caloundra. After leaving the river, the channel runs northeast to around Cowan Cowan on Moreton Island, and then it turns North West to Bribie Island where it then rounds Wickham Point at Caloundra and heads out to sea.
They saw defences at Cowan Cowan and again at Skirmish point on the Southern end of Bribie Island, and again towards the northern end of Bribie.
At the high points of Caloundra, they could see lots of activity and undoubtedly, a lookout or two. The tug captain told them of the trenches, barbed wire and other measures that extent to well past Currimundi.
On the return journey, they observed the tight formation of the ships in the convoy, and how the escorts weaved in front of the convoy. This was to make sure that no submarines were amongst them. The same procedure took place at the rear of the convoy.
Tom thought that the journey well worthwhile, but he knew a lot more knowledge of the defences would be needed. Before the planning of the projects could start he needed to be more familiar with all the activities around the Caloundra and Bribie Island regions.
A two-day fact-finding mission was arranged to take place on the Wednesday and Thursday of that week.
Tom wanted to have the cameras rolling by the following Tuesday. Meanwhile, there were meetings to be had with the printed press, as well as with the two newsreel companies.
Tuesday morning Tom met with the editors of the two local newspapers and explained his mission to them. They both agreed they would take and publish the articles Joe would write and give them by-lines of a staff journalist. They also knew that being a War Cabinet mission, secrecy of the source along with the need not to alter the transcripts were vital.
After lunch, Tom arranged for the team to meet at the Breakfast Creek Hotel. This was a “getting to know you” exercise. Tom stressed the importance of their job and he could take the luxury of relaxing for the first time since he had run into David. In only eighteen days the unit developed from a concept into a fully functional branch of the defence ministry. Jill commented that, in all her years in public service, she had seen nothing happen so fast.
At the beginning of a semester at the University, Tom had used the following exercise many times. It involved getting everyone to tell their life story to the group. They adjourned to a private room that Jill had organised and with jugs of beer on the table and a supply of nibbles Tom started the ball rolling.
“After I gained my degree at the University of New South Wales, I started out my working career as a cadet journalist with the Cumberland group in Parramatta. As a young man I met my wife, and we had two lovely daughters within two years. I became a feature editor for the whole group in less than ten years. When I was preparing an article to focus on the benefits of the new Harbour Bridge, I happened to stand right in front of the official party. I was amazed at the audacity of Captain de-Grout in cutting the ribbon. This led me to think words could never adequately describe the mood and reactions of the Premier and all the official party. The looks of amazement mixed with anger could not be captured in words alone. This led me to think about exploring the possibilities of working with film.”
“The following year I became editor of the Daily Telegraph and even though I enjoyed the work, I still had this nagging feeling about the inadequacy of the printed word.”
“I stayed there for three years before I joined the Cinesound Company as a journalist working on the scripts for newsreels. This led me to become a producer supervising the story choice and managing the film crews for them.”
“It was about this time that my marriage collapsed, probably because of the long and odd hours I worked, and it left me with the task of raising two teenage daughters by myself.”
“I realised that to bring up the girls, my life needed to be more organised, and I needed to be home far more than in the past. It was around this time that the media studies faculty at the University of New South Wales was put into place. I applied to join this faculty and became the first media lecturer.”
“War came along, and the girls were now young women. They both joined the WRAAC on the same day and now drive staff cars around Sydney.”
“About a month ago I was in Sydney for a meeting when I ran into David Millar, whom I had known from my student days. David suggested we have a few drinks, and it was during this time that the formation of this unit developed. David went back to Canberra and asked me to put a proposal together. Within two days David had presented my proposal to the Cabinet and Cabinet approved it unanimously.”
Jill was next to telling her story. She was apprehensive at first being acutely aware of her husband’s position and careful not to infer that her position in the public service had anything to do with her husband’s station in life.
“I was born in Sydney and spent most of my teenage years at the beach. I love the surf, and I am extremely motivated to be the best of whatever endeavour I undertake.”
“I went straight from high school into the public service as a clerk. I noticed those around me who sought a career in the public service had university degrees. This led me to enrol in a business studies program with a major in government studies.”
“An opportunity arose to transfer to Canberra that I jumped at. After all, Canberra was the place for an ambitious public servant to be.
Canberra was good for me as I started to get promotions even though still studying for my degree.”
“Canberra was also good for me as this is where I met my husband, Bob, a cadet at the Duntroon Military College. We married later that year and made a firm commitment not to start a family until later on.”
“Bob was more of an administrative officer and as it turned out the army is short of young administrators. They had plenty of leaders and field officers but, short of those with highly developed administrative skills. This was good for us as it meant Lieutenant, and then Captain and finally Major Robertson worked at Army Headquarters in Canberra.”
On the side of a dark and desolate Oregon coast road, Thomas James stood by himself hidden in the shadows. Alone and lost in thought, he felt detached. He eventually crumpled to the ground, his legs giving way beneath his large frame. The previous few hours were replaying in his mind like a bad movie. About two hours prior, he got a phone call from the county police. It took him barely five minutes to get to the accident…she was almost home.
Imagine a place where dreams come true and new ones are born. A place where friends laugh, kids smile and new love blossoms. Where walks on foggy ocean beaches or misty woods become memories that will last a lifetime. A place where people and nature peacefully coexist and enjoy the company of one another. A place where lost love can be reborn and lives made simple and perfect. A place where you can get lost in your future and leave the darkness behind. Find that place in Running Northwest.
Set against the unpredictable Pacific Ocean, on the rocky, forested northern coast of Oregon is a story about heartbreaking loss, rebuilding, fate and love. Running Northwest takes the reader on a journey as an unexpected road weaves its way through the life of single father, Thomas James and his 8-year-old son, Daniel. In Michigan, newly single Stephanie Davis is about to begin her own journey down a path she never expected and never even knew existed which will change her life in ways never imagined.
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."
Life can flip in the blink of an eye, but love and passion will find a way to make it right.
Flipping is an award winning romance novel that highlights the power of love to move us forward and the strength of the human spirit to overcome life's challenges.
Be Inspired. Fall in Love.
JonSun and SuAnn are an unlikely couple. But despite their different social backgrounds, they fall in love. From the start, the odds were against them. SuAnn's family has other plans for her future, but their love cannot be dismissed so easily. Defying everything, the couple gets married in secret and moves to California. Good fortune blesses the couple while flipping houses. Their success marred only by JonSun's sudden need for revenge.
The second story is about Christa and her struggles with her disabilities. At a young age, it was discovered that she was profoundly deaf. A cochlear implant gave her a new perspective and she fell in love with Gymnastics. Flipping in the air made her feel alive, and nothing will stop her from achieving her dream of a gold medal. These two stories intersect when JonSun and SuAnn's son, Wynson, meets Christa. They became good friends for many years, and their friendship turns into something more. But a lot of problems stand in their way. Christa receives devastating news which could be a game changer, and Wynson has to deal with his own troubles at home. The question is whether their love for each other will survive these trials.
What gives this novel depth are the parallel themes running throughout. The characters' struggle with their self-esteem are prevalent throughout the book. This creates a richly layered and more interesting novel as the reader recognizes the threads that weaves the book together.
The next evening, Carissa stood outside and beat her flashlight against the palm of her hand. Really? Why did the batteries have to die now? She cursed under her breath and fished her phone out of her back pocket, second-guessing her aversion to smartphones. Her little flip phone didn’t have a flashlight, and the camera flash didn’t last long enough to get anything done. Frustrated, she straightened up and turned to Aden. He’d shown up a few minutes earlier, wondering what she was doing, and even offered to help. He said he could see everything as clear as day.
She looked back at her malfunctioning flashlight, and then back to the man on the sidewalk. She huffed out a breath.
“Okay, Mr. I-Can-See-Perfectly-In-The-Dark, come over here and find the darn thing for me,” Carissa said, rolling her eyes.
His grin wolfish, Aden sprinted up her walkway. “You have to admit it, first.”
Carissa snorted. “Admit what? That you’re a creeper who only comes out at night and likes to spy on me whenever you get the chance?”
He winced. “I haven’t been spying on you. I live across the street. Do you expect me to never look out my windows?”
Carissa laughed, wrinkling her nose at him. His sentiment was oddly close to hers. “Okay, I’ll give you that, but you’re still a creeper.”
Aden stepped closer, closing the distance until she had to look up to see his eyes. She sucked in a breath. He didn’t look socially awkward tonight. “That’s not what you really think. Admit it. You have a crush on me.”
“Pfft. That’s what you think. I’ve said no such thing,” Carissa said, pushing on his chest. “I barely know your stubborn ass.”
Aden didn’t budge. His mouth turned up. “For now.” He looked down at the ground. “How badly do you need that key?”
Carissa slapped her hands on her hips. “Very. I can’t get into work without it.”
Aden reached out and gently tugged on her ponytail. “So, just admit the truth, and I’ll get it for you.”
Carissa rolled her eyes, her mouth twitching. “I’ll just wait until morning.”
Aden chuckled. “Ah, yes, the enviable day. And just how many of those have you had since you lost it?”
Carissa narrowed her eyes. “Two,” she muttered.
He raised an eyebrow at her. Damn the man. He knew she couldn’t find it without his help. “Fine!” she grumbled, “You’re not the most unattractive man I’ve ever seen.”
He stared at her for a moment, blinking, then his deep laugh flooded out, wrapping her in the resonating warmth of his amusement. Aden touched his finger gently to her chin. “You are the most contrary woman I’ve ever met.”
Carissa crossed her arms over her chest and tried not to think about the spark that ignited at his lightest touch. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Aden chuckled again, and turned away, bending down to look on the ground underneath the vibrant orange flowers in her flowerbed. He stood up almost immediately, the tiny metal key in the palm of his hand.
“It looks like it was in your garden the whole time.”
She tilted her head to the side. He was hiding something. “You knew it was there, didn’t you?”
Aden dusted his fingers off and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He flashed her a wicked grin. “If I did, are you going to punish me?”
Carissa smacked his arm, eying his large muscles. “I doubt I would succeed if I tried. No, I think I might be better off running.”
His grin widened, showing a hint of teeth. “I could tackle you before you ever reached the driveway.”
Carissa gulped. The driveway was a fair distance away from where they stood. How could he be that fast? She shook her head, more confused over the fact that she wasn’t scared. Aden was mysterious, and as she noticed the first night she saw him, magnificent. And he also looked a little sheepish. Maybe he wasn’t as cocky as he was trying to seem. Carissa pulled the sunglasses off the top of her head – they’d been there since she started looking...during the day – and hooked them into the front of her shirt to give her hands something to do, something to keep from touching him again.
She wasn’t used to all this attraction bombarding her senses. He was obviously flirting, and she didn’t know how to handle it. He reached out and gently rubbed his thumb over her cheek.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Carissa. I couldn’t,” he said softly.
Her breath hitched, the mental plug in her heart shifting. Her eyes met his, the deep blue of his gaze more shocking than the zap she’d received from the cable box a few hours prior. His thumb left her cheek, slowly tracing the outline of her mouth. Her knees went weak, and she instinctively grabbed his biceps to keep from falling. His other arm encircled her waist, pulling her firmly against his hard chest. His fingers trailed her spine, ending with the lightest of touches to the back of her neck. She gulped again.
His face lowered toward her, his lips moving ever closer to her own. Her heartbeat sounded like jungle drums in her ears, buzzing with the fire of her intense attraction. He stopped, eyes on hers, a breath away from her mouth. His eyes grew brighter the longer she looked. Her tongue darted out to moisten her lips, and his eyes flashed, the light illuminating his face.
Carissa jumped back with a squeak, stumbling backward up her stairs while Aden stared, mouth wide in shock. She shook her head. “I-I’m sorry, Aden. I have to, uh, do laundry.” She turned and ran inside, locking the door behind her with a snap.
She leaned against the wall, her hand over her wildly beating heart. His eyes glowed. Glowing eyes. Carissa closed her own. That was not possible. She’d wanted to know more about him and who he was, but now she had a more important question:
What was Aden?
There comes a point in everyone's life when they realize the fairy tales they have been told are nothing but lies. A little something to help you hide from the cold darkness of the real world. Ellie learned that lesson both, early, and hard. She let go of fairy tales a long time ago. Ellie stopped believing in happily ever after and embraced that darkness. Monsters, on the other hand, she knew were quite real. The world was full of big bad wolves.
There were rampaging beasts. Horrible, cruel, and twisted freaks that had no thought for human life. Devils, who delighted in the pain they caused. Savage fiends who destroyed those tiny pockets of light, of hope, that still by some miracle managed to survive in this bleak existence. Oh yes, there was evil in the hearts of men, and all of them wear human faces.
The past eight months had been quite an eye opening experience for Elliot Jo Fredricks. She experienced pain, both physical and emotional. She cowered in fear so powerful that it gripped her heart and paralyzed her at times. The cold rock of regret still sat in the pit of her stomach. She also felt love, and that taught her just because you're a monster, doesn't necessarily make you a bad person.
Ellie sat in the dark confines of the stolen Cherokee with the creature responsible for each of those lessons. Snowflakes whipped in the car's headlights. The wind blew hard, rocking the SUV, pushing it toward the center of the deserted road. The whistling sound of it ripped through the trees. Vincent took his eyes off the passing scenery to glance at her. His eyes roiling like approaching storm clouds. He touched her hand. Ellie laced her fingers between his and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. The shadows pushed in around them.
Vincent leaned in close, those swirling grey eyes dancing over her face. She smiled through her pain and touched her other hand to the side of his face. Slathered in dried blood, it flaked in places. The contrast made his skin look so pale in comparison. Vincent pressed a gentle kiss against her mouth. A brush of silken lips nothing more. Ellie moved wrong and winced with the ache of it. Vincent hated seeing her like this.
Bruises covered the side of her adorable, heart shaped face. They spilled over her right eye, her high cheekbone, a bit of the side of her button nose. Blood dripped from a nasty cut that peeked out of her hairline. Her long blond hair was falling out of the ponytail she wore. Vincent carefully pulled it free of the rubber band. Let it fall snarled with a few clumps of dried blood over her slender shoulders.
He gathered it, guiding it around the right side of her neck. Vincent pulled her coat open gazing in at the gunshot wound in her shoulder. It was bleeding again. The bandage covering the six-inch long cut on the outside of her thigh was holding well. Only a few half dollar sized circles of blood had seeped through. She was a mess. Vincent frowned. He looked up at the scenery flying by them. They were almost there thankfully.
Vincent caught himself staring at her. He still wasn't used to the fact that she was his. That she chose him. Couldn't get past that not only did she let him touch her without cringing in fear. Ellie demanded he lay his hands on her. Things had certainly changed within the past few months. He ran his thumb across the back of her palm, over her knuckles. The softness of her skin sent a thrill down his spine.
“You need another pain shot?” he asked in earnest, reaching across the tattered seat for her blood stained and ripped black backpack.
Ellie blinked large, apple green eyes with a ring of licking gold around her pupils. “Are you kidding, you pump me full of more of that stuff and I'll go into a coma,” she said through clenched teeth. Moving just that tiny bit sent fire curling in her chest.
“Kind of the point,” Vincent said. His thick brows came down between his lovely gray eyes in a deep V shape.
Ellie held his gaze, chewing her lip thoughtfully. Vincent sighed. He could play this game too, be just as childish, as stubborn. No. He had to take that back. There wasn't anyone he had ever known that could be quite as stubborn as Ellie. “I can barely see as it is, Vincent,” she told him. “I need to be able to aim my gun in case any of the mercs followed us.”
Even the sharp jolts that made it through the drugs couldn't stop her from flying high. Her brother was safe, sitting in the driver's seat. After eight months of dread, spilled blood and death, they had saved him. They tore him free of the vile hospital that took him from her. Experimented on him, and infected him. They turned him into a monster, not unlike the man she had come to love. The man Ellie curled comfortably against.
“You really think they're going to follow us, Squirt? You blew that place to hell,” Edward said looking at her in the rearview mirror. He gave his almost shoulder length, wheat colored hair a flip. “Take the shot, Elliot. You won't let me take you to a damned hospital take the shot.”
Ellie frowned. Happy as she was to have him out of there Edward’s need to take control was seriously getting on her nerves. After everything that happened, he seemed to think the world would fall right back into the line it followed before those mercenaries busted down their front door and stole him away from her.
Their lives were different now. She was different now. Changed irrevocably by the things she had seen. The things she'd done.
“How…how do you know my name?” Her heart pounded. Was it possible he was going to tell her the truth that had so far proved elusive? The one she had held to for twenty-two years? Say, because you’re Cassidy Armstrong, the rightful owner of Barwych? She set the empty glass down on a side table—chipped, in need of restoration, but still worth a bob or two.
“I made it my special business to acquire it from Tilly.”
In itself? It was enough to turn her insides to queasy froth. What made her think they were about to acquaint themselves with the Turkish rug, however, was the casual manner in which he now also acquired the chair opposite. No bow. No hand kiss. Nothing. Just a complete ignoring of her, so she might as well not be there, as he brushed past.
“Do forgive me, Mrs. Armstrong, at times that scratch is painful.” Leveling his gaze on her, he flicked the creases from the knees of his trousers. Then he stretched his long, lean legs across the rug. All the way across. Blocking her exit to the door. “I acquired it in the Portuguese Peninsular. Do you know of such places?”
“The Portuguese Peninsular?” Belle’s mouth dropped open. “Devorlane… Don’t be ridiculous. Why on earth should Cassidy know of such places? She’s a widow for goodness sake.”
“Really?” The flicker in his dark eyes said there was nothing more ridiculous. “You know I find that simply amazing. Doubly, truly amazing.”
While she had not thought it ridiculous before, Cass could see now, that standing here like a frump in crow feathers, he did have a point. She had just been a little too taken up with the way he flicked those creases and stretched his legs to consider that Belle was right to remonstrate. The Portuguese Peninsular? Maybe he did mean the place, but Cass had her doubts.
He knew her all right. And not as Cassidy Armstrong of Barwych, Lord Armstrong’s rightful heir either. So it was vital she cease admiring his trouser creases and find out from where exactly he knew her, so then she could decide what to do about it.
“Name, chair, scratch. It sounds like you’ve acquired a lot of things, my lord.”
His prickling emerald gaze—seventy five carats if it was a day—swept her face. “Oh. Some things are worthier of the pursuit than others, Mrs. Armstrong.”
Ever wonder if mermaids are real?
Skye sure believes. She is one, and she’s recounting their history for the young mermaids.
It’s a history full of heartache and bad choices, in which a tribe—once holders of the sea’s secrets—become a part of her.
Mermaids are real, but what Skye wants to know is if humans are everything she’s dreamed of.
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Tastes Like Murder (Cookies & Chance Mystery #1) by Catherine Bruns Narrator: Karen Rose Ritcher Series: Cookies & Chance Mystery #1 Published by Gemma Halliday