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.
Review on Amazon by Martha P.
This is the perfect book, I dare to say, for someone who’s looking to read something funny and witty. The characters are not complex except for Avra, the main female character, and I truly liked her. The five criminal cases give the reader the feel, as though the “subject” is changing, and that makes the book more interesting from page to page. I really enjoyed its plot and I think, well, I got hooked!
Other books in this genre:
A week before Mother died, she told me a story about a conversation she had with her grandmother a week before her grandmother died. Mother looked at me in a way I knew meant that she needed me to really listen and told me the story. This how the story went:
She said, “My grandmother knew she didn’t have long to live from her stage-four breast cancer when she looked at me and asked, ‘What would you like from me when I die to show you that there is more to life once you pass?’ I felt shocked but responded, ‘I would like one of your red flowers to show up the day you die.’”
Mother continued, “A week passed and I went outside to the back patio to water plants and in a pot that had an old tree, a red flower had appeared as red and as perfect as could be, just like the one I had asked my grandmother for. I later found out that my grandmother had passed away around the same time that flower appeared.”
Mother then asked me, “Now, what would you like from me when I die to let you know there is more to life once I am gone?”
I knew my mother had been fighting a rare blood cancer for years, but she often talked about dying so it did not come as a surprise that we were even having this conversation.
I replied, “I want a red flower, too.”
Mother smirked and replied, “You do not even like flowers. You are not a ‘flower-type girl.’ You would like something different — you do like chocolate. I know! Chocolate flowers!” Mother said with a big, proud grin.
I looked at Mother, shocked, and knew there was no way she could arrange chocolate flowers. I just replied, “Sure, that sounds like me all right.” I smiled and looked at her — there she was with such a genuine grin and twinkle in her eyes. I kissed my mother on her forehead and took a long look in to her hazel eyes. I wondered when I would have the next chance to see her and whispered, “I love you.”
Mother didn’t respond. She didn’t look well — she had a tint of green and yellow to her skin and her thinning hair was a dull salt and pepper color, cut extra short and clinging to her scalp. She had no makeup on, which told me she just had no more energy. I began to walk out of her room and turned to look at her. I wanted to run up to her, shake her, and beg her to tell me she loved me and was proud of me. But when I looked at her, she was already sleeping.
A week passed, and I was busy working at my real estate office. One of my office phones rang, which was a surprise because I normally don’t give that number out. I answered it, and it was a man asking for Jori. I told him that I was Jori.
He replied, “I am at your home, and there is no answer. I have a floral delivery for you.”
I told him I was 20 minutes from my home and to leave them on the porch.
He said, “I need your signature.”
I said, “Just sign my name, and I’ll come right home.”
He replied, “I can’t leave them out; it’s a hot day, and they are chocolate flowers. I’ll go see if one of your neighbors are home.”
I hung up the phone and grabbed my purse when that same phone rang again. I answered it, and it was my stepdad. He sounded upset.
I asked, “Did Mom die?”
“Yes.” He sounded shocked.
“I will meet you at your house, Dad.”
I grabbed my purse, my cell phone, and yelled to my coworkers, “My mom just died. I am going to go help my dad!” I got into my silver Honda and drove home. I felt a dumb shock but was anxious to get my chocolate flowers while I wondered how my mother arranged a chocolate floral delivery at the exact time she passed as promised. I arrived home to the note on my door to go to the neighbor on the right. I knocked on the door and a grouchy, older man answered. Without saying a word, he went to his refrigerator, opened i t, and said, “I think these are for you.”
He handed me this large bouquet of fruits all cut like flowers and dipped in chocolate.
“It looks like chocolate flowers,” he said with a grin, adding “I had a few, and they are great.”
I held my delivery. I opened the small envelope and read the card:
I appreciate you showing us homes and although it has been months, I woke up this morning with a thought that we should do something nice for you today. I hope you remember us. The Johnsons.
This was a previous client who is a pastor. He never knew I had a mother who had cancer nor did I ever mention the conversation about the chocolate flowers. It had been several months since I had heard from this couple who were considering purchasing a home. I called the client, whom I hadn’t even spoken to for such a long time. I was confused and wanted to know what made him decide to send me chocolate flowers, and why that day, of all days? He said he woke up and told his wife that they should do something nice for someone. He thought of me. His wife was the one who thought of sending me chocolate flowers.
“Do you believe in God?” I asked Dad when I met with him at home and handed him the chocolate flowers. He was so hungry from being at the hospital with my
mom all day that he hadn’t even thought of eating. He sat and ate the entire bouquet by himself without saying a word. At that moment, I knew that the chocolate flowers were for my dad, and at that time I did not know then what I know now:
Chocolate Flowers “the book” was for me.
Gary sat alone in a cell. He could hear others shouting insults through the bars at each other, a mixture of Welsh and Cockney voices. The custody sergeant and one of the arresting officers had been swapping stories of how it had kicked off big time after the match, with fighting all the way from Upton Park to Paddington. Those arrested represented the tip of the iceberg.
Squeezed into a police van, Gary had been denied the return of his walking stick by the arresting officer, who just laughed. “So you can use it on me? Not likely mate, that’s an offensive weapon, that is.” At the station Gary was booked in by the custody sergeant, who made jibes about his “hardness” and asked him if he had anything to say. He was going to protest his innocence, but figured it would fall on deaf ears.
As time passed he sensed his situation was becoming more serious. Scenes of Crimes officers wandered around and he noticed one had his walking stick in a protective plastic covering. Bit late for that, he thought, remembering the way it had been manhandled from him by the cop at the scene. At one stage he heard a couple of thick Welsh accents shout a word that sent a chill through his bones. “Murderers!”
What could they mean? Had someone been killed? Who? Every week there were battles between warring fans but rarely were they fatal. Gary had always considering football rucks a laugh. You could end up with a few war wounds but they earned you extra kudos when you showed them off in the pub later. A life lost, though? A loved one not returning to their parents, wife or kids? That was going too far.
Finally a key rattled in the lock and two police officers came in, roughly hauled him up and dragged him, limping, to an interview room. A tall, stern-looking man with thick black hair was waiting, a tape recorder at his side. Gary was pushed down in the chair opposite and waited for the man to finish reading the papers in front of him. He felt edgy, as if he was being deliberately kept in the dark about something. He rubbed the troublesome knee, which had been throbbing constantly ever since the fight. The officer looked up. “You OK?”
“I’ve got a busted knee. It can be a bit painful.”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t be running around the streets of east London fighting Welshmen, then,” suggested his interrogator. Gary ignored the jibe. “My name’s Detective Inspector Ashley Wilburn. This initial interview is beginning at 8.30pm. Your name is?”
“Gary… uh, Gary Marshall. Do I need a solicitor?”
“We’ll get to that. This is just a preliminary chat. You’re one of the Boxer Boys?”
“Um, no. Not really.”
“You don’t seem sure. You live on the Boxers Estate though?”
“Well… yeah, but…”
“I think you qualify as a Boxer Boy then, don’t you? Care to tell me what happened after the match today, Gary?”
“Hammers won 2-0.”
“It was three actually, but I wouldn’t expect you to know that. Too busy looking for trouble…”
“That’s unfair,” said Gary. “I was heading home with my mates when we were attacked and chased by Cardiff fans. I can’t run because of the leg and they caught me and gave me a good kickin’. End of story.”
“Hmmm,” said Inspector Wilburn. He leafed again through the papers. “Wasn’t quite the end of the story though, was it?” he said, removing a picture and placing it in front of Gary. “Recognise him?”
The face was battered and bruised and splattered with blood, a nasty gash spreading across the forehead. The eyes were closed. Their owner could have been asleep, resting peacefully, though the pillow was tarmac and the blanket made of black plastic.
“No,” said Gary. “One of those Cardiff yobs I guess…”
“He’s dead, Mr Marshall,” interrupted the Inspector. From beneath the desk he lifted Gary’s walking stick, still enshrined in the plastic evidence bag. Gary’s heartbeat quickened, but he said nothing. “Your ‘crutch’, I do believe and, look here,” his finger pointed at the bottom where a dark smear was clearly visible. “That, Mr Marshall, is blood; this man’s blood,” he tapped the picture. “Now I’m no Cluedo expert but I believe I’ve found the body and the murder weapon. All I need to do now is find out who our Professor Scum is. That shouldn’t be a problem either because we’ve some pretty good CCTV footage from one of the local shops. They show a man in a West Ham shirt… come to think of it a shirt exactly like that one you’re wearing – a No 10 on the back – bashing this poor bloke over the head with this stick. Refresh your memory, Mr Marshall?”
Gary looked back into the earnest, unblinking eyes. “Can I have a solicitor now?” he asked.
A woman in Johannesburg returns home from a trip to Belgium. Her dark blue suitcase is mistaken for an extremely similar suitcase belonging to a man travelling to Botswana. Just before going to bed the woman, Aziza, opens the suitcase to find it is not hers, but sees on top a brown paper package containing a box of chocolates. She knows it is not her suitcase but she cannot resist opening the box and eating a chocolate.
Her body is found the following morning when she does not go to work having died from extreme cyanide poisoning.
The police realize that the suitcase has just come on a flight from London, and they trace the other suitcase, her suitcase, to the man in Botswana who traveled on the same flight as Aziza to Johannesburg. He is naturally concerned as he has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and following a visit to an Ayurveda clinic in Edinburgh has just started on a course of treatment with apricot pits, which contain minute traces of cyanide, and in his briefcase he has a half kilo bags of apricot pits!
The police contact Scotland Yard in London, who realize that there may be some connection with the recent theft of cyanide from an agricultural company in Cambridge, with the cyanide eaten in chocolate by the woman in Johannesburg.
The following joint investigation produces several “Red herrings” principally from the players in a string quartette playing in several locations in the east of England, until eventually it is narrowed down to a family in Lincoln, when they learn who purchased the fatal box of chocolates, and then they find a partial fingerprint on the sealing cellophane. But they still cannot determine a motive for the murder, and their problem is how the fatal box of chocolates managed to get into the man’s suitcase when the cities of Cambridge and Lincoln are one hundred miles apart.
Frank Armstrong had lain down on the dining room table before, but in the past he'd always been either sound asleep or dead drunk. Now he was just dead.
I stared at his half-open mouth and washed-out face, and marvelled at the way his body seemed to barely inhabit the crappy suit he always wore. If I were the sort to feel guilty, I might wonder if it had been my fault, him being dead, I mean. But I wasn't.
Behind me, the blonde coughed like she needed attention.
'Why'd you call me?' I said.
'I just...' She shrugged. 'Wanted someone here, y'know? And you were his friend. I thought ye'd want to know.' She pouted at me, then seemed to remember she was supposed to be the grieving widow and turned it into a whimper.
'You call an ambulance?'
I expect they'll send one, but what's the point? He's stone cold.' She sniffed. 'Doctor's on his way.'
Her face was conspicuously free of tears, and even though it was only eight in the morning and she'd probably only been home an hour, I could see she'd taken time to tart herself up before receiving visitors. Only the wonky hairdo and excess luggage under her eyes, showed she'd been shagging all night.
'You think it was..?' I hesitated. 'I mean..?'
'I know what ye mean, bonny lad. Ye mean was it natural causes or did I smack him over the head once too often for being a boring shit?' She sniffed again and dabbed her nose with a hanky. 'No. I expect his heart packed in. Bound to, sooner or later.'
I nodded and wondered if she realised there'd be an autopsy.
Lizzy glanced out the window and made a face. 'Tch, look at that nosy cow. I should've left the nets up.'
I turned to look. A woman across the road was standing at her front door, watching. With two pairs of eyes on her, the offender backed inside and shut the door. As we stood watching, I noticed Frank's car wasn't outside. I didn't say anything to his wife. She had enough to deal with just now.
There was a pause while Lizzy brushed unseen fluff from her blouse. She fiddled with the curtains and wiped a finger through the dust on the windowsill. I got the feeling there was something else in the pipeline.
Eventually, in an oh-I've-just-remembered sort of way, she said, 'You wouldn't be goin past Ronnie's, by any chance?'
When I looked her full in the face, she dropped her gaze to the carpet.
'Wondered if ye wouldn't mind callin at the office? Tellin the lads, an that?' She bit her lower lip the way she always did when she was pushing her luck. 'I made a couple of phone calls, ye know, family an that, but I'm not up to talking to anyone else yet.'
Of course. That's why she'd called me. Not because she felt in need of a friend, bit of moral support, which'd be fair enough, you might think. No, she wanted someone to take the crap that Frank's boss would be dishing up with a hot spoon. Or more to the point, when the brown stuff hit the proverbial and Big Ronnie went ballistic, she didn't want to be in the firing line. The fact of Frank being dead wouldn't get in the way of Ronnie taking back what was his.
'Aye, of course.' I shuffled my feet. 'I should go.'
'I was at Dave's place last night.' She showed me her 'sorry' face. 'I could tell you were wonderin, like.'
She threw her hands up as if the frustration of it all was truly overwhelming. 'I mean how was I supposed to know? Never told me where he was going or nothin.'
'He was at work, wasn't he? So ye did know where he was, pretty much.'
'I knew he was drivin a bloody taxi. Course I did, but...' She ran out of steam and excuses at the same time.
Relenting a little, I allowed her a small slice of benefit-of-the-doubt pie. 'So you weren't here when he died. It wouldn't have made any difference.' I glanced at Frank. 'Not to him.' I started for the door.
'I'll let you know when the funeral is.' She touched my hand. 'Ye'll come?'
It was only then, in that few seconds of human contact, that I felt the tears start. Not for her, mind, not that selfish, money-grabbing bitch. I looked back at the body on the table. 'I'll be there, Lizzy,' I said. And I would be - for Frank.
It has been years since Sebastian has visited any type of fitness or training facility,and even then by invitation from the Olympic Coach, so he looks more than a little awkward with his coat bunched in one hand and a walking stick, in the other.Just to top it off, a jacket and tie aren't exactly perfect gym attire either.Small details like these never really deter Sebastian as his thoughts are solidly focused on the job at hand.Even though he has mellowed and has become a little less self-conscious in recent times,his early, embedded beliefs still linger.His issue with the cane is more about being told what he must do rather than how he looks. How others perceive him is irrelevant; he contemplates such thinking as shallow conceptions of an idle mind; his own head is so occupied with other things there's no room for what he sees as wasted thoughts.
Sebastian is surprised by the enormity of the interior. The receptionist sits at a semi-circular desk directly across from the entrance and to the right and left,small booths sell gym equipment,health food and sports drinks. He informs the receptionist that has an appointment with the manager, Max Martin and she rings through to his office at the rear of the building and then points Sebastian in that direction.
The path to his office leads Sebastian directly through the workout area and his senses fill with an overpowering smell of liniment, the sound of clanging metal and muffled voices of patrons and instructors.He eyes everything around him in a desultory manner, as he strives to familiarize himself with the scene.
Only a few strides along, there is disharmony between a middle-aged pair. She is trying to encourage her partner to stay close and he is making it overtly obvious that he's there against his will. Sebastian slows his pace and continues to observe them.
He will often challenge himself to understand what others communicate with their bodies rather than orally and walking through the gym gives him an opportunity to hone his already exceptional skills. The woman consistently pulls at her jacket in an attempt to prevent it creeping upwards means she is carrying more weight than she would like. As the fellow is quite muscular and lean, Sebastian muses, she may have dragged him along because of her own insecurities. She flutters from one machine to the next in her matching pink tracksuit and joggers like a bee in a floral heaven. In contrast, her partners outfit camouflaged cargo pants and sleeveless checked-shirt isn't your regular gym attire but that of a woodsman, hunter or laborer.
Sebastian is soon bored with these two. Spying a spritely young woman about to board a treadmill,his mood soon changes to one of being inspired, as he ponders the thought of buying one for home. He murmurs to himself, "Mmm. That would certainly save me being late to breakfast again!"
Now Sebastian the 'real deal'; one rather solidly built fellow lays flat on a slab and above him sits a set of gigantic weights, held together with a bar surely way to lean for the enormous discs. A muscular friend, or perhaps trainer, is arched over, ready to take the torturous weight from its racks and lower the bar carefully down. There's no doubt in Sebastian's mind that these to are gym enthusiasts, disciplined and dedicated, something that he admires, even if he has no interest in the activity.
On he goes until his eyes abruptly shift to the right "Well,well, there's hope for me yet!" he exclaims as he catches sight of a massive form of a man trying to keep rhythm with his overlapping stomach on yet another treadmill.Sebastian is so enthralled he doesn't see a rather plump, middle=aged woman cross his path.As they collide, his had flies out and accidentally grabs hold of her ample breast."Sorry, sorry!"
She stands there smiling at him, glances down at the hand that has yet to disconnect from her bosom. Sebastian also glances down then back up. His mouth opens; his forehead wrinkles and he gives an involuntary smile before releasing the object like a red hot ember.To make matters worse he's so flustered he begins brushing down her breast in a reflex action.
"It's fine.You can stop now". She says smiling warmly and gently nodding her head.
Sebastian hesitantly smiles back and then leaves as quickly as he can, no longer interested in anything except his destination.
When billionaire Virginia Ann "Peep" Holler dies, a battle for her estate begins. However, she leaves all of her wealth and Jodi’s Place – a popular Oklahoma ranch dedicated to helping wayward kids – to Abigail Brennan. Abby, a young single mother and favored protege, is elated. But her enthusiasm does not match her experience. After a few bad choices, the ranch becomes embroiled in financial turmoil causing some board members to vie for its ownership. In the meantime, Abby discovers a plot by a local oil baron who wants to seize control of Jodi’s Place, for its rich oil reserves, and end its usefulness to troubled youth. Just when she thinks the inevitable is about to happen, Abby meets an attractive newcomer in town who may hold the key to saving the ranch and helping her out of her dilemma...but not without a price. In spite of the cost, can Abby trust this newcomer to aid her in saving Jodi's Place? Or will Peep's fortune and good name be ruined by forces she cannot control or tame?
Alex and Oliver live in worlds, poles apart; new worlds shaped by a terrible world war and the emerging freedoms of the Sixties. A killer stalks, and five people are drawn into the intrigue surrounding a serial murderer; a series of events set in the Seventies, influenced by the past… a string of events—a daisy chain.
Daisy Chain; an erotic thriller from the masterly pen of Mark Montgomery.
Not long before my mother died, she told me a story I’d never heard before. It was 1965, the year before she married my father. Spring had come to the Northeast nearly a season ahead of itself. By May, the fields rippled with thigh deep, green-gold grasses: sweet timothy, birdsfoot trefoil, clovers, reed canarygrass, ryegrass, and tall fescue. All the kids along Sweet Milk Road knew the species names; they were weaned on the sweat of haying, and my mother and her brother Morgan were no different.
It was a clear, bright Sunday morning—a perfect day for the first cut of the season. The fields around the farm were filled with the buzz and clang of sicklebar mowers and balers while my mother and Morgan stood toe-to-toe in a field of egg-yolk colored mustard blooms. They scrapped with one another on the strip of land between their farm and the Deitman property where no one could hear them. At first my mother laughed at her brother’s suggestion, like a late-comer for Sunday dinner who asks for the platter of fried chicken to be passed, only the plate is empty and the laughter trickles into awkward silence. She pleaded with Morgan, but he was of no mind to hear her. His decision, he claimed, was best for the family: She would marry Michael Deitman on her eighteenth birthday, and their families and land would be united, an isthmus to wealth and stability.
All of that changed when a bullet ripped through the leaves, shearing the air. Before either of them heard the sound of the report, it shattered Morgan’s breastbone and sprayed bright red blood onto my mother Lydia’s face and hair. Morgan looked at her, his eyes filled with terror, as he fell dead into the yellow mustard blossoms.
“Who did this?” I asked.
“Well.” She stammered, of course it was an accident. You have to know that, Joss. Someone was in the high birch grove shooting at the birds . . .”
I didn’t challenge her, but I wondered how she came to believe this. And who could have fired from nearly a quarter of a mile and struck down Morgan with such precision?
During those first three days before anyone else knew what had happened, my adrenaline-driven mother dragged Morgan’s body to the cottage in back of the farmhouse, and hid him in a macabre game of hide and seek—first in the closet, then under the stairwell to the cottage, and finally behind the old woodstove—all their favorite childhood hiding places. While the crows sat in the trees above and watched. On the third day she carried him to the river and washed him in the cool running water, then laid him in the tall grass.
Even when the coroner came to take him later that afternoon, she still refused to believe he was dead. She sat on the back porch all that summer rocking, worrying the floorboards for days that lingered into weeks. She did not cry or speak for months and only bathed in the river.
I think about this story as an April wind blows my red Mini Cooper along I-84 West, then tracks north along the Taconic Parkway. I try to distract myself, turning up the radio, flipping through the FM stations, but still I hear her voice.
“I had no one,” my mother told me. “My brother was the only one left, and then he was gone, too. I convinced myself that he was sitting on Heaven’s back porch. That if I waited on our rear balcony, he’d be back. I don’t know why, but I washed and ironed all of his pajamas and packed them in a suitcase. You do crazy things when you lose someone. I think that suitcase is still in one of the upstairs’ closets.”
She said she’d look for it but never did. I wonder if it’s still there. I try to push away these thoughts by doing what I always do: measure the day by road signs, or how many times I pass the same truck. An attachment from girlhood and those hopscotch counting rhymes from my school days—one-ery, two-ery, zigger-zoll, zan. . . . But on this morning I gauge my time, tapping out the minutes by heartbeat, dropped lanes, or the whirl of the car’s cozy heater and classic rock tunes buzzing in my heart like a lullaby.
It’s what my dad always did back when we all lived in the city—crank up the radio while he drove. He’d holler, “Hey, Paulie-girl! Get in the van.” With my mother scolding, “Paul! Her name is Joss Ellen—not ‘Paulie-girl!’ Not ‘Boy-o’ either!” But that name, ‘Paulie-girl,’ was lassoed around everything I knew myself to be. As a six year old, I was always ready for an adventure with my father, Big Paul.
We’d fly in that rattletrap van with the tunes blaring. He’d bring me to his tailor shop on East Forty Second between Lexington and Third. I’d jump out before the vehicle stopped, and ran through the jangling back door, hollering, “Liam, where are you?”
Liam Michaels was my father’s apprentice and an occasional guest at the farm. He’d drive upstate to play with my father’s jazz group that met there on Friday nights. I’d steal into the millhouse where they played to hear Liam’s melancholy Irish tunes flow across his fiddle strings. I used to beg him to bring his violin to the tailor shop, but he never would. He always said it wouldn’t be proper in a gent’s shop. I’d nod though I didn’t understand why, or what a ‘gents’ shop’ was.
“Liam!” I’d holler again.
“Is that you, Jossy?” he’d ask.
I could never answer fast enough. He’d scoop me up and lift me onto his shoulders, and then stand in front of the tall mirrors. I’d laugh and screech, terrified of being up so high, and hang onto his hair or squeeze my arms around his neck.
He’d cough and choke. “Tell the truth, girl! Are ya trying to kill me, or do you just like me that much?” He’d pull my hands away and grab me around my waist. “Oh my God!” he’d say. “Look at that two-headed thing in the mirror.
“It’s me, Liam,” I giggled, all the while reeling in woozy panic. My dark red curls, just like my mothers, bounced in the mirror images, and stared back at me with my father’s same grey eyes.
“There you are!” he’d point, with a goofy smile plastered across his face and a shock of black hair falling into his eyes. “How’s my girl? What are ya—on a ladder? Come down from there. I got a little bit of ribbon in my pocket I saved for ya.”
My father would barrel through the back door, yelling, “What’s going on in here? Paulie-girl, don’t bother the help!” He’d wink at me and disappear into his office.
He’d check his stock and special order sheets, and then we’d pile back into the van and charge off to the garment district. There my looming father, nearly six feet tall and wide in the shoulders, would haggle with some witless slob over the best gabardine. Daddy would reiterate his secret every time: Look them in the eye and smile, but walk away before you back down. Just be soft with every step. Once he’d get his price, he’d buy remnants of cerise or saffron taffeta to make my sister and me something for school. For Naomi, it would be a blouse with pearl buttons or a crinoline skirt, but for me he’d always fashion something man-tailored: a vest or jacket spit in my father’s image. “Stand still,” he’d say while he’d mark the fabric with chalk and pins that scratched my skin. Back then I never winced.
I’d turn slowly while my father stood, scrutinizing his work, commanding me to stop, or turn, or walk across the room as he’d watch the garment move in the swing of my arms. What emerged would be flawless: pale gray herringbone with pockets piped in apricot, a vivid lining at the pleat. In the mirror, I only saw my father’s eyes, his smile.
Back then, I thought I was special.
On Friday nights, we’d go to the Floridian on Flatbush Avenue for sweet fried smelts with lemony rémoulade sauce. The same diner he used to go to with his own Pops. “Here he comes,” some waitress named Dolores or Ronnie would shout above the din: “The dapper tailor dressed to the nines with his little one.” We’d sashay down the aisle between the tables, he in his striped shirt and red braces, a vest or jacket, shoe-shined and natty. Me in a replica—never a skirt or a bit of lace. Big Paul, square-jawed, with smoke-grey eyes that could darken instantly. would smile at the other diners as if they were his guests, always with the witty comments, tipping his fedora or porkpie, or whatever was perched on his head that evening.
We’d slip into a booth and order drinks: cherry soda for me and Cutty Sark straight up for Big Paul. Before the first sip, we’d clink our glasses while I stared in awe at the myth that was my father. And when our hot plates came out, we’d slather on that tart sauce and slide those sugary fish down our throats, barking like penguins for more. We were hungry. We were the boys out for all we could get.
AFRICA. Where corruption often rules and human life can be the most worthless commodity. Read the story of Sierra Leone and its people in this bloody, harrowing, and heart breaking suspense thriller.
This is a work of fiction, except for the parts that really happened.
Vast deposits of diamonds and oil are found in land overlapping both Sierra Leone and Liberia. A scramble ensues to secure the mining and drilling rights of both commodities. Leading the race is the Mining Earth & Ocean Corp. (MEO).
To amass and control this wealth, the creation of an illegal state called Salonga is proposed. The nominated ruler, backed and supported by the MEO, is a former RUF commander - General Icechi Walker, known as 'Body Chop' - a suspected mass murderer involved in countless atrocities.
As the battle for control of the land unravels, stories spread of horrific bloody massacres and mutilations in towns and villages, many of them by child soldiers. The capital, Freetown, is threatened by a full-blown mindless rebellion led by the RUF.
To secure power, Body Chop, with the help of the MEO, engages the protection of a private mercenary army. But control will not be handed to him so easily.
Disgraced, virtually bankrupt, ex-Sgt. Alex Dalloway, is a major part of the mercenary brigade. He has a personal quest to locate the Army officer who tortured him and killed his men years ago in the jungles of Sierra Leone. He begins to suspect the former RUF commander's involvement.
His personal life in shambles, Dalloway and his troop goes against Body Chop and his supporters, to avenge the death of his men and all the innocent lives lost at the hands of the RUF.
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.
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