1 (1) | 3 (1) | 7 (2) | A (46) | B (38) | C (17) | D (47) | E (10) | F (13) | G (12) | H (25) | I (19) | J (4) | K (7) | L (25) | M (35) | N (9) | O (10) | P (10) | R (11) | S (36) | T (137) | U (1) | V (2) | W (14) | Y (2)
Cover Title Sort descending
na bolom Na Bolom: House of the Jaguar

Peter Campbell stared with vacant eyes at the giant fossil skull, not seeing its oblique lines or cavernous openings. Instead, he searched within for the answers he could not find outside himself. Setting down the tungsten-tipped air scribe used to clear away the hard mineral deposits, he leaned against the large oak table and refocused on the skull—a newly discovered predator from the Jurassic age.

As he studied the fossil, his mind wandered back to the jungles of Chiapas, and to Jazmin. He had heard nothing from her in four weeks. Shutting out the sounds of the other paleontologists and archaeologists working throughout the large basement lab, he wondered why. Something was wrong; he could feel it deep in the pit of his stomach. Had she been hurt? Was she sweating through a malaria-induced delirium? Had she been abducted by some South American slave trader? After all, she was a beautiful young woman living deep in a remote jungle. Anything could happen.

Worse yet, the uprising in Chiapas last year still hadn’t played itself out, and the Clinton administration had done nothing to intervene. What if she was lying dead on the jungle floor? How would he know?

His thoughts sickened him. They had agreed he would wait a month to hear from her before taking action, and today was the day. But what exactly should he do? They hadn’t developed a plan. He could call the U.S. Embassy in México. But relying on the government for help meant more waiting. He cringed at the thought.

Snail mail in the backcountry of México lived up to its name, so he’d kept himself absorbed in his work while waiting to hear from Jazmin. The first few weeks had been bad enough. Now he needed sleeping pills at night, and an excess of black coffee during the day.

He knew that getting a letter out from a remote area could be difficult, even though the village was only a few hours’ drive from the nearest post office. “The men and women of the village go into town to trade in the square,” she had said. “Do not worry, mi amor. I am sure the sweet villagers will deliver my letters to San Cristóbal for me.”

Apparently, that wasn’t the case.

Peter grabbed a couple of antacid tablets from a countertop as he walked the few steps to his desk, wiping dusty hands on his even dustier pants. He sat in his swivel chair, absentmindedly stroking the edge of a mahogany picture frame, studying a photo of the two of them. His gaze followed the silky, reddish-brown hair that fell lavishly over her slender shoulders, and tried to remember its scent. Instead, he heard her last words before boarding the plane: “My heart is with the jungle, and with you. You will come to be with me there, no? Then my heart will not be torn.”

He had stood in the terminal not knowing what to say when she turned and ran to board the plane. Her words hung in the air like a darkened cloud. Something had changed. They always spoke of making Colorado their home. She seemed happy to start a new life in Colorado…

“Wow. Now there’s a beauty.”

Peter jolted as someone snatched the photo out of his hand. Standing beside him was Nate Greenburg, in his mid-twenties and already pot-bellied, eyes glued on Jazmin.

“Nice legs.”

Peter responded with a deep, impatient sigh. “Yeah.”

“Not yours. Hers.”

“I caught that, Nate.” He grabbed the photo back. “What are you doing down here?”

“I’m driving your staff to the Dinosaur National Monument to look at the new sauropod discovery everyone’s talking about.” Nate nudged him with the tip of his toe. “You’re the head of the department. I assumed you scheduled the trip.”

Peter shook his head. “Yeah, maybe.”

Nate continued to study the photo over Peter’s shoulder. “She’s quite a catch. What’s her name?”

Peter leaned back in his chair in resignation. “Jazmin. . .Jazmin Rivera.”

“A Latin beauty, huh? I haven’t seen her around.”

“I haven’t seen much of her either.”

“You make a nice-looking couple.”

Peter looked around the room, hoping for an escape, and caught sight of Shelly heading toward him. She pulled long locks of her tightly curled red hair away from her eyes, and bent down in front of him, blocking Nate’s view.

“Are you coming along with us? The field trip’s going to be fun.”

Peter fumbled with the photo, then placed it back on his desk. “Thanks, Shell, but I really have to finish this skull. You know if it’s not mounted and standing in the main entrance of this museum scaring the hell out of women and children by this time next week, John will have my head!”

Shelly cast her all-knowing look. “Peter, just mount the damn thing. It looks fine. No one will know the difference. Since Jazmin left, all you’ve done is work on this project. You’re obsessing.”

“It’s not just the project. Jazmin—”

“Listen, Jazmin grew up in the jungle. She can take care of herself.”

Shelly punched his arm. “The skull’s fine and Jazmin’s fine. Take a
break, big guy. It’ll be good for you to get out and breathe a little fresh air. You need to exercise that rugged body of yours. If I’m not mistaken, I’m seeing a bulge where your belly button used to be.”

Shelly was right. It would be good to get out. He felt like hell, hadn’t exercised in weeks. He guessed Shelly was looking forward to sitting next to him on the bus. But he was obsessed with thoughts of Jazmin, and now something had to be done. He hadn’t told anyone they had agreed to take action today. Not Shelly, not John, no one. He’d hoped it wouldn’t come to this.

Shelly looked over her shoulder and pointed at the skull. “Besides, being around that ugly thing all day would depress anyone.”

Peter smirked, grateful for her concern. “You’d know ugly after staring at dino dung all week. But how, exactly, do you figure following Nate’s big butt around all day will improve my mood?”

Nate wheeled around from where he stood studying at the giant skull. “I heard that. Okay, everyone,” he said, turning to face the large open space of the lab, “grab your things. The magical mystery tour is about to begin.”

Peter looked up at Shelly. “Thanks for the pep talk, Shell, but I’ve got to stick around in case Jazmin calls. She’s supposed to call today.”

“Really?” She shrugged, a disappointed look clouding her face as she squeezed his hand. “Okay.”

He stood and kissed her cheek to soften the rejection.

“All right, you lizard-lovin’ cave dwellers!” Nate hollered. “Time to make your way upstairs and out to the bus.” He gave Peter a mischievous smile. “Good day, Dr. Campbell.”

Peter rolled his eyes and waved as the staff filed through the double doors of the lab. The room went quiet. Microscopes and magnifying lenses mounted on giant swing-arms stood motionless atop overcrowded desks. Countless fossils sat in hollow silence, as if awaiting their caretaker’s return. Now only the screensaver images of dinosaurs leaping and flying across the desktop monitors brought any life into the large space. Peter felt lonely and uncomfortable in the silence. Strange, since he normally felt right at home in a room full of fossils. But not today. Not now. His gaze returned to the photo on his desk.

He sat and rubbed his temples in an attempt to clear his mind. He needed to focus on work. Besides, why should he worry? As Shelly said, Jazmin’s a capable woman. She can take care of herself.

He reluctantly turned from the picture of Jazmin’s smiling face and looked across to the other side of his office at the skull, his constant companion these days. It belonged to a powerful bipedal predator, a newly discovered species of tyrannosaurid, in the same family as the giant Tyrannosaurus rex. Although small for a tyrannosaurid, the skull was massive, nearly three feet long.

Peter stood up, grabbed his coffee and walked the ten steps over to the skull. Leaning against the table, he placed his hand on the rough fossil, trying to regain some enthusiasm for the project. He studied the massive jaw, the window-like openings behind each eye, the extensive line of serrated teeth. (What was it Jazmin had called them? Stilettos in a vise.)

The rest of the body stood nearby. Twice the size of a grizzly, this predator could have shredded the backside of an elephant. But there were no elephants when this creature roamed the earth.

“Lucky elephants,” he mused.

Yes, those teeth were the things of nightmares. He brushed a hand over the fine, serrated edges and winced as a small bead of blood formed on the tip of his finger. They were still sharp after tens of millions of years in the ground. He felt a familiar fear run through his body as he licked his finger.

It had the legs of a giant: eight feet high at the hip, with the tibias measuring twenty percent longer than the femurs—a sure sign of a sprinter. This one combined the ferocity of a carnivore with the speed of a thoroughbred. Dino could run…and kill.

As a scientist, he couldn’t help but admire the way Mother Nature had equipped this monster. It was an evolutionary tour de force, a marvel of Darwinian eat-or-be-eaten engineering. But there was something else about it, something less…objective. Less scientific. Something he hadn’t spoken aloud, not to his peers, not even to Jazmin.

The thing gave him the creeps.

It made him uneasy. He wasn’t sure why, but it had started shortly after the skull arrived at the museum and it persisted. Every time he worked with the skull, a cold fluttering started deep in the pit his stomach, making it difficult to think. His mind often drifted. Then he began to hear things. Animal calls. Footsteps. Once he thought he smelled the pungent aroma of the jungle.

More disturbing still, he felt watched. Or stalked. Like some hidden predator was hunting him.

He never mentioned it to anyone because he knew how it would sound. Hell, it sounded weird to him. Once he heard a deep sonorous growl and jerked to a standstill only to find Shelly standing nearby looking frightened.

Shaking off the interruption, he tried to relax into his work. Checking some of his measurements, he picked up the air scribe and ground away the last of the hard mineral deposits surrounding the teeth.

Finished, he leaned down and looked at it man-to-beast. “Okay, Slasher,” he murmured, “what else can you tell me?”

He looked through the empty sockets of the huge skull and could see the wall beyond. What might the creature’s eyes have looked like? The eyes always intrigued him. What type of vision did possess? Did they see color? Did they see in two dimensions or three? Did they see through the darkness? No one knew. No eyes had survived the test of time. “I’ll bet those big eyes of yours were cold and unsympathetic,” he said. What color were the eyes? Were they green or brown? Jet black? And what might the pupils look like? Horizontal like a gator? Vertical like a cat? Round like a human?

No, he thought. Not human-like.

Then something flickered inside the darkened cavity, a movement, a flash of color.

He half-jerked his hand away. What was that? The hair on the back of his neck raised like an animal’s hackles when his scientific instincts flooded in. He didn’t know whether to move away from it or look at it closer. He waited a second before he leaned in.
There was nothing in the socket. It looked dark again. But he’d seen something, he knew it.

It happened again.

This time, Peter kept his heart in his chest, took two deep breaths, and leaned in as close as he dared.

I’m a scientist. And this is a scientific phenomenon. Something has crawled into the skull and that’s all. Keep your head on, Peter.
Something was there. An image. Had Nate pasted a picture to the inside back of the skull? He’d kill him for that.

He shifted his weight and raised himself to peer into the eye socket on the opposite side of the skull. Another image, blurred and reddish, changed into distinct colors and patterns. It felt as if he were looking through a camera and trying to bring the lens into focus.

“What has that idiot done?”

But even as he said it, the image started to solidify, the shapes and colors became more defined, and he realized this wasn’t a trick. He couldn’t see through the skull anymore.

Peter instinctively pulled back. What was this?

And then he was looking into huge reptilian eyes the size of his fists, staring out from the skull. A fierce reddish color, with black vertical slits running through the middle, like lightning bolts in black. Peter slid off the table and steadied himself.

The eyes remained like giant marbles reflecting the lab’s artificial light, and then, with the alert ease of a predator, they began to shift from side to side. He felt the blood drain from his head.

“What the hell’s going on?”

The eyes shifted back and forth, silently scanning the room from the depths of time. The lab suddenly felt cold and unfamiliar. He tried to distance himself from the skull by stepping back, but it felt as if he was pressed against a wall and he stopped short. Catching his movement, the giant eyes turned in his direction.

Peter froze, but his mind raced through all possible explanations: the drugs he’d taken in the eighties; the homeopathic remedy he recently started; the full-spectrum lights they just installed; the black coffee.

There has to be an explanation.

Unable to pull his eyes from the predator, he felt an ancient terror grip his heart, override his logic, pull him relentlessly into its timeless void. Visions of frightened creatures flooded his mind, familiar visions. Running. . .panting. . .high-pitched desperate cries, a stampede. . .

Suddenly, a voice that seemed to issue from the heavens blurred the scene—a human voice. Distant at first, then recognizable as the intercom’s crackle.

“Dr. Campbell? Are you there?”

Jean, the department secretary. Peter willed himself to take a deep breath.

“Dr. Campbell? You have a call.”

He kept the skull within the edge of his vision.

“Dr. Campbell?”

He reached for the phone and pushed the blinking light. “Yes... Jean, thank you.”

“Thank you? Thank you for what?”

“Nothing. . .sorry.”

“You sound like you just finished running a four-minute mile. Those dinosaurs chasing you around down there?”

He took a deep breath and shook his head. “Something like that.”

“There’s a gentleman on line one. He’s apparently asking for you.”

“Apparently?”

“Well, I think he’s speaking Spanish, but Spanish is all Greek to me. The only thing I understood him say was your name.”

“Okay. Thanks.” He punched the blinking line, avoiding eye contact with the skull. “Paleontology.”

“¿Señor Campbell?”

“¿Sí?”

“Mensaje…de…Yasmin.” The timid voice spoke in broken Spanish.
Peter shot out of his seat and lunged for the handset of the phone, spilling his coffee across his desk. “Damn,” he said in English, then switched to Spanish. “¿Un mensaje de Jazmin Rivera?”

He glanced again at her face in the photo, keeping the savage eyes of the dinosaur skull pushed from his mind for the moment.

“Where is she? Is she okay?”

“La señorita dice de venir pronto.”

“Come quickly? Where?. . .¿Adonde?”

“Villa Lacandón. Pronto."

“Quickly? Why? What’s wrong? Is she all right?”

There was a pause. The man breathed heavily and seemed on the verge of saying something. Had the man heard him? Had he understood?

“¡Hola!. . .Are you still there?”

“Ven pronto,” the man said again.

Peter searched for the right words. “Sí, comprendo.”

More silence.

Peter shouted, “Wait! Who is this? Have you seen her? Is she—”

A click. Then dead silence.

“Damn it!” Peter slammed the phone handset down. With a defeated sigh, he picked it back up and dialed the operator, daring a glance at the giant skull.

Its hollow recesses revealed only shadows.

Nahtaia Nahtaia

After accidentally shrinking a human boy, Nahtaia—a mischievous moon-faery—is stripped of her powers by the Jaydürian gods. With the help of a pine-faery named Oren, Nahtaia must find a way to change the human back to his natural state before her mistake is discovered by the leaders of the fae. But a journey through the forests of Jaydür is long and arduous for an impatient faery with no wings, and even more so for the two traveling with her.

No Pit So Deep No Pit So Deep

She asked the driver to turn around. Her cabbie could not drive fast enough to suit her. When she walked through the lobby of the Cinema 18, everyone was buzzing. She ran toward the crime scene but authorities had closed the hallway where she had been attacked. Her superhero had vanished.

Too late. Now what? Brandi’s hands were still shaking. Her palm felt cold against her forehead. Then, deep in thought, she was startled to hear a raspy male voice behind her.

“Brandi? Hi, my name’s Cody.”

She turned around. Her stomach, still in knots, leaped into her throat. His chiseled face was handsome in a home-on-the-range sort of way. His sculpted cheeks were partially masked by a rough-hewn beard — the obvious cover-up for scars visible through his whiskers. His nose had been broken at least once. This guy had been in some fights.

The Pirates cap he had worn earlier was now in his back pocket and his sandy blond hair wet around the sides. Did he know that his shirt had turned pink on the front? The blood spatters had faded together, partially washed off by heavy rains.

Was she face-to-face with a superhero? He was not as tall as she remembered. His fiery eyes that could have intimidated Lucifer earlier were now softer, like quiet blue waters. He offered his hand, but his shallow, forced smile told her he was not certain how she would respond. Was his shyness just an act?

Whew! His extended hand was attached to a massive forearm. His neck was wide and muscular, his body built to last, rough-cut from head to toe — a description that would make good print in her eyewitness report for the Gazette.

“I wanted to thank you,” Cody told her, “for savin’ my life earlier.”

She could hardly believe her ears. Was it a come-on? Was his voice naturally that raspy, or just a poor attempt to imitate Batman?

“You want to thank me? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

She extended her hand. It was cold and unsteady. Would he notice? His handshake was warm, ardent, but gentle — the same paw that had just mauled three professional tough guys. She tried to swallow her stomach back down into place but her mouth was too dry.

“Well, I would’ve been a sittin’ duck if you hadn’t deflected that guy’s arm. You showed presence of mind and courage.”

“Presence of mind and courage?” She snickered. “You mean for a girl?”

 

Noone Knew Anti-Bullying Noone Knew: Anti-Bullying

An overall book about bullying and some of the reasons why, how to overcome and stop the process from the beginning. No more lives lost. Please, purchase this book and keep it in your homes as a manual to help someone. Spread the knowledge.

Nothing Left but Fear Nothing Left But Fear

Sadistic kidnappers leave unsuspecting deadbeats vulnerable and alone in unfriendly and hostile places. These deadbeats, together with an unsuspecting guest, soon find out they are not actually alone at all! When they realise what’s out there, they are not only left with a deep primal fear, but they are now faced with a fight for their very survival. A gut-wrenching thriller from Adrian Russell which takes readers on an eye-popping journey to a place where mercenary predators lurk at every turn.

MIke Downs - Novacs Race Novac's Race

Early morning fog shrouds the Brooklands race track as Jack takes a new pair of goggles from his track bag. He breaks a cigarette in half and shreds the tobacco. He spits in the goggles and rubs the tobacco around the inside of the lenses.

The fog lifts a little, and Jack signals Carl to crank over the car. He pulls on his cloth helmet and grins at Carl. The engine temperature comes up and he pulls out.

The whole track is still not visible. Some of the men Jack sees on his way to the banking are making the slashing sign across their necks.

They mean cut the run, do not go out. Jack waves back to them.

Out on the track, Jack pulls around the cars that are running to keep the line dry. He motions them to pull in. Two more laps to check and make sure everyone else is off the track. Then comes the boom from the exhaust, Jack is hard on it down the straights. For two more laps, he takes a long lift off the throttle going into the turns.

The men watching are looking at each other as if to say I told you. Then Jack flashes by, a rolling fog envelops the racetrack, and just as suddenly lifts. The throttle lifts are getting shorter each lap. Then the exhaust note does not change. The same men look at each other and solemnly shake their heads. To themselves they think, the Yank just does not learn.

The next lap the car is like a ghost in the mist. Another lap with the engine screaming, the car flashes by like an apparition. Out of the mist, and then swallowed up by it. The engine’s scream does not die this time.

The loudspeaker system barks to life. “Ladies and gentlemen, a new Brooklands outright record,” the announcer says. “The speed is One hundred and forty two point five miles an hour. Brooklands presents another amazing performance. The Yank has done it!”


Jack brings the car down the finishing straight. The people that have braved the weather are clapping their hands above their heads for him to see. Others are cheering and waving, their thumbs raised.

The car stops in front of Carl who makes a wiping motion across his brow. Jack bounds from the car, he is clearly jubilant. He returns the waves, grabs Carl’s hand, and pumps it vigorously.

“I heard the loud speaker system when I shut the engine off. One forty two and change eh, not bad. The engine was turning 83 hundred, she was haulin’ freight.”

“Jack, you’re one crazy bastard, I don’t know how you did it. Hell, I don’t know why you did it.”
 

Mike Downs - Novacs Run Novac's Run

Bruno runs to the platform between the train cars chasing Jack and smashes him across his face with the big pistol. Jack falls back against the rail separating the cars and slumps to the steel floor. The train lurches and Bruno stumbles backward against the door trying to keep his balance. He grabs the door to steady himself and charges back toward Jack. The train slows and then speeds up as it crests a hill. Bruno stumbles on the uneven steel plates of the platform. He is off balance again and comes toward Jack with his head down and his arms outstretched to catch his fall. Jack pulls his knees to his chest, his feet catch Bruno in the stomach. Using Bruno’s own momentum, Jack pushes his legs up and vaults Bruno’s helpless bulk over the rail. The scream abruptly stops as he plummets under the thundering steel wheels.

Maddy bursts through the door and helps Jack to his feet.

“I was sure he was going to shoot you Jack, he seemed to go over the railing in slow motion and then get sucked under the train. That was awful but I could not take my eyes away.”

Jack puts his arms around Maddy and hugs her to him tightly. “It’s ok now baby, we need to think about getting off this thing before we get to the next station. We can’t be far from the border now. We’re coming into another turn let me see if I can see what’s up ahead.”

As the train goes around the turn, Jack can see past the line of cars.

“We are going up another hill with a turn at the top of it. The train will be going pretty slow as it makes the turn. It looks like a hay field on the outside of the turn. That should make for a pretty soft landing. Make sure you clear the road bed.”

Maddy looks down as the countryside flashes by at what seems to her to be an impossible speed. She looks back at Jack with her eyes wide. “What, Jack? Do you think I am going to jump from this train?”

“We’re gonna have to jump off this thing. Don’t think about it, just jump when I tell you. Let’s go, Maddy. Roll when you hit the ground. Come on, get ready it’s slowing down. Jump!”

Now and Then in Tuscany Now and Then in Tuscany

“Mornings were steel edged now, water on the village font ice-crisp. Instead of clear blue skies, tatters of clouds stuck fast between firs on the mountain slopes and leaves on the beech trees dropped yellow and rust to the forest floor. Some days our village floated upon a sea of clouds, forming an island, heralding the separation from the rest of the world that winter would bring.

Before I drifted into sleep, I lay on my sack mattress stuffed with dried corn-cob leaves and contemplated the stars. I wondered if the sky would look the same down on the Maremma plains. It was time to leave. 
Tomorrow the men and older boys would be setting off. Boots had been mended; in fact I had lost count of how many old shoes I had studded with nails to help them last the eight-day journey down mule tracks and dusty mountain roads. Paolo, our neighbour, had a new pair of goatskin breeches and had proudly shown me his stick, whittled from chestnut wood in the evenings by his fireside. On one end he had skilfully worked a hook to yank necks of wayward sheep. Rossella, his wife, had wrapped chunks of pancetta in cloth and he had bought himself a sturdy green umbrella from the fair at Ranco.
I believed Mamma had no inkling I would soon be gone. Part of me felt bad; she wanted me hear her now she understood our brother, Francesco, was never coming back from the battle of Asiago. One of the shepherds who had come to have his clogs repaired told us the newspapers had reported the deaths of 147,000 men. And all for what? At the seminary, during a geography lesson, Fra Alonso had shown us the range of mountains called Altopiano where the battle had been fought. I remember hoping, for my brother’s sake, that those mountains were as beautiful as the Apennines he had left behind here. On the newly-erected monument in the square in Badia Tedalda, when everybody had disappeared after the commemoration service, I had crouched down and run my fingers over the raised letters of my older brother’s name: Francesco Tommaso Starnucci. I wanted to feel close to him, have some sort of connection. But instead all I felt were twenty five cold, metal shapes.
Since the episode with Fra Domenico, I vowed never to return to the seminary in Arezzo and I’d been making secret preparations. I removed Nonno’s moth-eaten wool cloak from the wooden trunk at the end of my parents’ high matrimonial bed. I’d been squirreling away morsels of pecorino cheese and wild boar sausage whilst Mamma wasn’t looking and wrapping them in a rag in readiness for my departure. And nothing was going to stop me.”

Nyras Bully Nyrah's Bully

Nyrah sat up in her bed. She stared out the window and watched the sun play hide and seek. In and out it went, between the clouds, as it rose. She sat with her tiny chin cupped in her hands. Her bony elbows dug into the top of her tiny legs.

Today was the first day of first-grade. Nyrah wasn’t too worried. She knew many of her kindergarten classmates would be in her first-grade class. Suddenly, her thoughts were interrupted by her mother calling her name.

“Nyrah! It’s time to get up.”

“I’m up, Mama,” yelled Nyrah.

She had a unique imagination. She tried to make out the different shapes the clouds formed. She thought one of the clouds looked like a city. “I’m going to name it Cloudville,” Nyrah said to herself. Immediately, she realized she had not gotten dressed. Her clothes were lying on the chair next to her bed. She had put them all together the night before, after she took a bath. She and her family had gone shopping for school clothes, supplies, and backpacks the week before, like they loved to do every year. The only thing left to do was eat, brush her teeth, and get dressed. Her hair had already been braided and hung to her shoulders with multicolored beads. Nyrah realized she wanted to be the first one in the bathroom and raced down the hallway, but her brother and sisters were already downstairs eating breakfast. She had spent too much time daydreaming, and watching the clouds play hide and seek in Cloudville, so she quickly finished what she needed to do. Afterward, she jumped down the stairs, two steps at a time, and made her way to the kitchen.

“Hurry, my little sugar cubes,” her mama said wittingly. That was her pet name for the kids. “The bus will be here soon,” she reminded them. Nyrah sat down and managed to eat a few bites of cereal and strawberry toast, and drink a glass of orange juice. She heard the sound of the bus from a distance. She, along with her brother and sisters, raced upstairs, grabbed their backpacks, and ran to the bus stop just in time to see it barreling down the road.

Suddenly, a girl who looked about six-years older than Nyrah, darted across the street and jumped in front of her big sister Rayne. Nyrah frowned but didn’t say anything. The girl was new in the neighborhood. She had moved in over the summer, and the kids never saw her until now. Nyrah wanted to know who she was. She tapped her on the shoulder, and politely asked, “What’s your name?”

”Puddin’ Tane,” the girl responded smartly. “Ask me again and I’ll tell you the same!” She stuck her tongue out and laughed. Rayne spoke up. “That’s not your name!”

“Yes it is!” the new girl shouted.

By that time, the bus had gotten to where they were, and was coming to a screeching halt. The new girl’s backpack was on the ground. Nyrah picked it up for her, but the new girl snatched it and put it on her back. Her name tag was dangling from the strap. “Brooklyn!” Nyrah said out loud. Brooklyn whirled around. “That’s Brook!” she demanded. Brook stormed up the steps and ran to the back of the bus.