||A Shadow of Time
If you like the paranormal, and creepy haunted houses with a dark romantic twist, venture into the estate called, Shadow Ley.
“Shit,” Kellyn O’Brien complained as she negotiated another turn. The foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains had more than their share of winding roads. At the five-mile marker, she found the turn off to Reservation Road. A quick left, then a right, brought her to a wrought iron gate that barred her entrance. Shutting off the engine, she glanced back at Scott. Her two year-old son slept with a sippy cup clutched in his hand as if his life depended on it.
Getting out of the car, she approached a gate that stood at least six feet high and was topped with heavy spikes. Grabbing the rigid metal, she gave it a good shake. The lock held while rust-colored needles fell on top of her like rain. She glanced around, unnerved by thick pine trees and underbrush. It looked as if the gate hadn’t been opened in ages. All was dark gray and green, spider webs dancing in spiky boughs.
A razor-sharp wind picked up, blowing her scarf across her face. She whipped it away as she stumbled over a rock. Without notice, her stomach gave way to morning sickness that only occurred in the afternoon, and she retched painfully. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she approached the Prelude where her newly awakened son babbled at an invisible presence in the back seat. Her heart sank as she realized he was up to his tricks with his imaginary friend, Man. She opened the driver’s side door and sat down.
Scott giggled. “Man!”
Covering her weariness, she glanced back at the empty seat next to him. “Man?”
“Yes. Nice man.”
“Very nice man.”
Kellyn’s hands shook as much from the cold as from exhaustion. Closing the car door, she peered out the window. The solicitors had promised her the gate would be unlocked for her arrival. She sighed. Trouble was something she had come to expect. Life had been challenging, first as an orphan, then as a foster child. She considered herself toughened, relished challenges, and met head-on whatever circumstances came her way. She thought herself emotionally strong, but the death of her husband and the strain of her pregnancy had stretched her resilience almost to the breaking point.
“Cain I hep ya?” a tobacco-thickened voice asked from outside the car.
Startled, she glanced up, instinctively clutching her purse as she rolled down the window. An elderly man stood before her dressed in filthy corduroy pants with a small, stained, gray T-shirt that read See the Grand Canyon Today! His coat was at least two sizes too large and hung on a skeletal frame. The old man scratched his beard then sucked on his teeth.
“You Kellyn?” he asked, sticking his head toward the opened car window.
She stared back at large canine-like yellow teeth, chipped and stained. “I’m Kellyn O’Brien. Are you Henry?”
He nodded and his glasses slipped down his nose. He pushed them up with a gnarled, blue-veined finger. “Sorry ’bout keeping ya out here. I was busy up at the house ’en just made it to the gate.”
“Can you let me in?” She wondered at his voice. For a moment, it had sounded odd—bereft of emotion and tinny. She laughed at herself. Fanciful thoughts for a pregnant woman, she mused.
Needles crunching underfoot, the air perfumed with pine, Henry muttered to himself as he fumbled in his pocket. He withdrew a thick iron key and unlocked the gate. It swung outward before coming into contact with a large pinecone.
“Widdamaker,” Henry said, puffing. Visibly distressed, he pulled the pinecone from between the gate and the dirt. His legs shook with the effort.
“What?” With her head poked out the window, she shivered in the cold, almost missing his last remark. Thick heavy clouds roiled overhead, threatening rain or snow.
“Widdamaker cone,” he yelled. His large fingers curled around the heavy seedpod as he walked toward the car. “No good for nothing, ’cept to hit ya on the head ’en knock ya out.”
Concerned, she clicked the shoulder harness into place and relocked the car door. Scotty opened his pudgy hands as she glanced at him in the rearview mirror.
“I see, Mommy?”
She shook her head, catching his eye. “No, Scott. It’s dirty.”
The old man continued, “You watch out for these things, missus. They can kill a grown man. Or woman.”
||A Song Apart
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.
||A Tempest in Texas
IN THE WOODS ACROSS THE HIGHWAY AT THE TUCKER RESIDENCE - AN EXTREMELY DETERIORATED HOME - HALF-HOUR LATER
Lars pulls up to within fifty feet of the Tucker’s house and hits the horn.
Lars hits the horn again.
Are you sure this is the right place?
It doesn’t look like anyone lives here, does it?
If anyone lives here, they have to be living like animals.
The front door to the house opens and a large man steps out with a rifle across his arm, but not pointing at the truck.
RICHARD TUCKER (50’s) a large man with a big belly. Dressed in ragged clothes and a dirty appearance.
Lars Lindgren here.
(whispers to Reggie)
I see a couple guns sticking out of the windows.
Lars steps out of the truck and lays his pistol on the seat where he can reach it.
Lars Lindgren and Reggie Carston here. I’m Lars. I would like to have a little talk.
Well, well, well, if it ain’t the rich neighbors from across the way. What you wanna talk about?
Food. And intruders.
We have plenty of food.
That’s good to hear. How about intruders?
We don’t got intruders. We send them all over to yore place.
That might explain things then. We seem to be having a lot of intruders, including your boys. Your boys seem to be doing a little poaching on our side of the highway.
My boys hunt where the food is. It ain’t poaching.
Does that include my garden and smokehouse?
Richard doesn’t reply.
(to Reggie, just above a whisper)
Don’t you have deer around here?
Maybe we’d have more if you don’t plant so much damn corn.
How do you know how much corn I plant?
(to Lars, again just above a whisper)
This doesn’t seem to be going very well.
No it’s not.
Okay, Richard, we’re going to leave now. Try to keep your boys on your side of the highway, will ya?
Richard doesn’t answer.
Lars gets into the truck to leave and Richard goes back inside. Immediately, shots are fired from the house.
||A Test of Faith
Andrea Hamilton is a very happy, thirty-five-year-old married mother who is living the American dream. She has always been her family's rock, but when she finds herself on the other side of grief when her beloved husband Clayton is killed by a drunk driver, she is consumed with deep despair despite her caring family's best efforts to comfort her. But the loss of her husband is not the only challenge she faces. She has discovered she is pregnant--a much hoped for gift from God that is now bittersweet. In addition to that, her twin sister is engaged to be married--to Clayton's brother. Although happy for them, their joy reminds her of what she has lost. Even with the support of her devout parents and her wonderful, spiritual family, Andrea feels that her heart can never heal, as this is the greatest test of her faith she has ever experienced.
||A Time for Hope
In her poignant and insightful new novel, Maxine Billings explores the nature of faith and of friendship, and the ways in which each can change us -- and even save us . . . Two years ago, Hope Mason discovered her husband was having an affair with her best friend. Crushed by his betrayal and by her friends' lack of emotional support, Hope threw herself into working to provide for her three teenagers. With a full-time job at Mercy Medical Center and a part-time position at the local supply store, she's got no energy for socializing. Besides, Hope has learned her lesson about friends: the fewer you have, the better off you'll be. When Hope is put in charge of training Tyla Jefferson, the new emergency room clerk, she resists the younger woman's efforts to befriend her. Confident, bright and filled with optimism, Tyla is everything Hope used to be. But Tyla's life is not as uncomplicated as it appears. And as these two very different women gradually open up to one another, sharing their pain and their joy, Hope wonders if she can learn to trust again -- in friendship, in God's purpose in her life and in the promise that dawns with every new day.
||A Walk in Time
"This story is about Ben Crowley a young teenager who grows up in the ghettos of large cities. From the time he was young he was out on the streets. Going from one situation to another. Learning life the hard way as he spent his days and nights trying to build a name for himself. Going from one young lady to another getting and gaining the attention of the opposite sex.
Ben learns to fight for what he wants and believes in on the mean streets in the inner cities. Always looking for a place to call home. A place without bars and locked doors. Ben is always walking his mind back and forth in time.
In the end he realizes what life had meant for him to have and enjoy. Ben would find out the hard way, as he always had."
Requiem- for RMW
Her decline coincided with falling
Temperatures in cold February.
The funeral on the 24th day of
That month in colonial-era parish.
No coincidence for that date
For I knew it very well.
On the feast of Matthias, apostle
chosen by casting of lots
we took leave from near and far
from one of family, not by blood.
An unknown casting of lots-
Perhaps not so, but by plan
She, second mother, later friend
mentored me unknowingly
later marveling at what I,
Proteus-like, had become.
For a summer once I lived
near Matthias’ shrine in city
set in valley near winding river
resembling my native state.
For decades returning in roles
Ever-changing to her house
near another river and valley
altered by post-war growth
now rooted in recollection
as others will possess it.
Sisters, let us embrace once more
on the gentle hill and let us
stand in the cemetery and give
thanks for the lot that was cast
that united one on the fringe
with incomprehensible grace
Arthur Turfa, © 2016
The torturing hot African sun was directly overhead, beating down on the bleached, arid, dust-filled savannah. Everything it touched seemed to shimmer, radiating remorseless heat. There was no escape. This was not a place to be; only mad dogs and Englishmen were out at this time of day. The small group sheltering under the acacia bushes were neither mad nor Englishmen. But they were here. Greed the major factor for their presence in this unforgiving landscape.
Tsavo National Game Reserve was either hot and dry or wet and flooded. Full of wildlife: from the giant Rothschild giraffes (with their extended necks and distinctive orange and brown fur), to the gangs of unruly warthogs running through the bush, with their twenty offspring chasing each other's short, wiry, curly tails. The current season was the hot one. Everything stood still. The heat was intense, burning the red dusty soil, making it so hot your head felt like it would burst. Water was scarce, down to a few soured, mud clogged pools. But change was in the air. Huge black clouds gathered in the far distance over the Taita hills. When it finally broke, the deluge would come, washing the heat away, changing the dust to thick red mud. Flowers would rush to enjoy their short time to bloom. The watering holes would fill, and the great migration to the south would start. But now there was no respite. The deserted plains carried on forever in every direction, small stubby bushes and acacia trees the only haven from the intense sun. The savannah was as quiet as a graveyard at this time of day. Everything that walked, flew, or slithered knew to stay still and hide away until the sweltering ball of heat in the sky moved through its arc. Only later would there be some relief.
Under the cobalt blue, cloudless sky a nearly seven-foot-tall, gaunt, ebony tribesman was standing stock still. Perched on one leg, motionless. Frozen in time. Thick plaited curled ringlets of hair covered in cow grease hung down his back. A red and black tartan robe was draped over his shoulder and secured at the waist with a long leather thong. On his hip hung a fourteen-inch, brown, battered, hide scabbard, holding a razor-sharp blade. His feet were wrapped in sandals made from old car tires, with more leather wrapped around his ankles. From head to toe, this formidable warrior was covered in beads of many different colors: wrapped around his neck in bands, plaited into his dreadlocks, around his wrists and ankles, all making for a very impressive site. Finally, in his right hand, was a wicked looking spear with a six-foot-long, worn mahogany shaft and a blackened steel point. He was standing with his eyes closed, head cocked to the left and mouth slightly open. The puffs of wind gusting across the arid savannah had suddenly changed direction, veering almost 180 degrees. This could be trouble. The Masaai warrior was not concerned for himself. He had carefully smeared buffalo dung all over his body before they had left. It was the Muzungus, the stupid white men, that would cause the trouble. If he could smell their sweat, the prey, about 40 yards in front of them, would pick up the scent in seconds.
In the third exciting installment of the William Brody African Ocean Adventure Series: African Paradise:
As drifter William Brody makes his way into a dusty, noisy African town, he expects to do more of what he’s always done - fishing, scuba diving and enjoying the ocean life. But when Brody finds himself suddenly embroiled in a terrorist plot to kill hundreds of innocent people at a major tourist spot, the Hotel Paradise, he can’t just walk away. He has to do what he does best: save the day!
Outnumbered, outgunned and out-manned with the clock ticking - circumstances far too familiar for him by now - Brody and his crew dive right into the thick of the things once again!
With lives on the line, guns blazing and stakes even higher than ever, can he and his ragtag crew do what it takes to face his deadliest enemy yet or will this be the end of the line for Brody?
Enjoy this face paced adventure today! Although this book is the third part of a series, it is also enjoyable as a standalone novella.
Sitting perfectly still, totally relaxed suspended in space, Brody was 50 feet down, according to the depth gauge strapped to his arm, in crystal clear water sat motionless and waiting. His Rolex Submariner was counting off the seconds; so far one hundred and twenty had slowly ticked past, free diving is all about relaxing, you stop thinking, sitting in a trance like state, a Buddha hanging serenely in the ocean, holding a six-foot pole with a razor sharp spear!
His lungs were relaxed and full, life was all around him in the depths constant movement and color from every direction. The current was very slight pushing him to the North East, his body felt warm even at this depth. Glancing up to monitor his position, clearly visible above, the small wooden sailing craft was safely anchored to the reef. Earlier he had slipped off the boat swimming until the bottom disappeared into nothingness, taking a deep breath then duck-diving, finning for a few strokes, until the lead weights around his waist started slowly pulling him down.
Hassan was sat on the boat fiddling with the engine nervously, tidying the ropes and sails, continuously glancing at the place where his new customer had just disappeared. They had met on the Jetty a few days earlier, Hassan had spotted this new ‘Muzungu,' a white guy, jumping off the weekly ferry. Hassan approached with his best tourist grin plastered across his face and offer to help the newcomer with the dive tanks and other equipment, as usual, this quickly flourished into finding accommodation and a bite to eat. Hassan usually earned his daily cash catching fish, but Brody had come to dive. They made an agreement, Brody would hire him and his dhow with the small rusty outboard on a daily basis until he left the island. Giving Hassan a regular stable income for his mother, father, and sister, plus himself. This deal sat well with Hassan it was guaranteed money, a rare thing on the Island, he figured he could also do some fishing while he waited on the boat.
Brody’s watch was still ticking away the seconds, he had about a minute left, he loved it down here. So silent and peaceful, away from the dreams and memories he fought against daily. His lungs started to tighten, looking up again to the bottom of the boat; it seemed to be getting further away with every second ticking by, but Brody always wanted to push that little bit more, always one more step. He held on, then taking careful aim, the lovely Coley Coley was swimming about twenty feet away from him in circles, interested in this motionless creature just sitting, not swimming, not moving, not breathing. Brody aimed and fired, the bolt from the spear gun was dead on target, just behind the pectoral fin, it went straight through the fish’s heart. Brody’s practiced aim was proving to be unstoppable here, but the water was crystal clear he could see the bottom another sixty feet below him.
The fish was easily 12 pounds, a good size, there were a ton of them living off this reef. Brody believed in free diving for fish as this seemed fairer than using his tanks, at least the fish had some advantages over him in this alien environment.
The Coley Coley struggled then went limp, they were known for being the least energetic of the large eating reef fish in tropical oceans, Brody quickly dragged it in then started for the Dhow above.
When His head broke the surface, it was still only 07:00 but the temperature was already nearly 100 degrees, he felt the tropical sun burning his head immediately. Paddling to stay afloat Brody threw the line to Hassan, who gratefully took it and started hauling in the dead fish before the Sharks got a scent of it.
Hassan shouted, “Hey boss that was long, I thought you had joined the fish and swam away!”
Hassan always hid his fear that his boss and paymaster would disappear over the side and never come back!
He was a Swahili, the coastal tribe of East Africa, born in the water, they were natural boatmen, and could tell the weather, the wind, and tides before they could walk. They knew the best reefs, fishing spots, mooring points and also the best of what the town had to offer. Hassan had led Brody to a lovely secluded house or shack depending on the way you looked, it was on the beach and quiet with just the wind in the palms and the waves lapping on the shore, he had taken it without a second glance.
Brody did four more dives for fish that morning, he only wanted one but knew Hassan would be able to sell them in the market, his family would eat well tonight. Brody also knew the Swahili’s were so generous he would get more food than he could eat, cooked by Hassan’s mother, so the sentiment was not entirely altruistic.
After the last dive Hassan coaxed the outboard back into life which took a while, Brody pulled the big stone anchor off the bottom, and they set off back across the lagoon.
Brody sat on the small wooden deck of the boat gutting the fish as they slowly headed back towards the village where his shack was. The journey would take about an hour as the outboard had seen much better days and was just being prayed over too last until they reached home. He had gutted so many fish it was second nature; his mind started to wander. He was so lucky to have found this place, a tranquil paradise in the middle of nowhere; he could live peacefully and forget the past he so wanted to lose.
William Brody was born in the UK, in North London on the estates near Wood Green. The place was good enough, his mother and father both wanted the best for him. His dad worked for the local council, and his mom in an insurance office on the high street. Life was all right, a bit mundane but okay, Brody enjoyed school but was not so good at the education part. Sports, especially swimming, was great but sitting in the classroom was not so much fun. His reports always said that he could do better and must try harder. The inner cities didn’t have a lot to offer Brody, inheriting his father’s wild Irish ways he longed for the outdoors. When the school offered outdoor pursuits or camping his name was at the top of the list, every Friday his bike would be loaded with camping gear, cycling off into the evening, not returning until late Sunday night.
Whenever school was too much, he would head down to Canary Wharf on the Thames and watch the boats go by, smelling the tidal river as it raced in and out. His dream was to join the Merchant or the Royal Navy and sail the seas for the rest of his life; he could think of no better way to spend his days, afloat on the water he loved so much.
On his sixteenth birthday he applied for the Merchant Navy but was turned down as his grades in school were frankly rubbish, plus the few scrapes with the law did not help. The next stop was the Royal Navy, the recruiting officer was acting the same way.
The Sargent said, “Look, lad, you can do better at these exams and come back after a couple of years.”
Brody was not happy he asked out of exasperation, “What else is there?”
The recruiting Sargent looked him up and down, then said, “Well lad, you look damn fit, what about the Royal Marines.”
He had not thought about them before, it would be at least near or on boats. One second later the forms were signed, his dad breathed a deep sigh of relief and handed the lad over to the Royal Marines.
With a jolt Brody was back to the small fishing boat, all the fish had been gutted, they were only a few minutes from the small jetty. Hassan expertly maneuvered the Dhow up against the wooden poles. They landed the five Coley Coley, Hassan immediately seemed to find a basket made from coconut fronds, they appeared to use them for everything, then raced off along the dusty track towards the small fish market. Brody knew Hassan would get a good price for the fresh fish, the local boats had not left before 04:00 this morning it was a good eight hours round trip.
Hassan gave one of the fish to his younger sister to take home to their mother for the feast tonight. Since Brody had landed on the Island, their fortunes had changed, they were starting to enjoy his company, the rent from the little house on the beach also helped.
Brody collected his gear and headed off down the beach to his pad, it would be noon soon, this place would touch one hundred degrees, combined with ninety-five percent humidity, no fans or air conditioning made the situation almost unbearable. He usually found some shade and slumped in a hammock for the rest of the day or wandered the beach looking for interesting shells. Often meeting local fishermen, sitting on the beach mending nets, chatting with them was enjoyable, they did not have a word of English nor him Swahili, but they were good natured and happy to have someone with new stories to tell.
The Marines then the Special Boat Service had instilled in him the importance of learning the language and culture, mixing with the locals was second nature. Brody sat and patiently learned one word after the other, earlier in the week the old men had taught him ‘Samaki,' the Swahili word for Fish, he was going to use that tonight at the meal.
Right now all he wanted to do was head back to the little house and take a snooze, free diving was always tiring, the dull ache inside his head was growing as he wandered back to the shack. Although this was a strictly Muslim Island, the elders always managed to find a local drink called ‘Mnazi’ made from fermented coconut juice. When he got to the shack two old men were sitting on the porch, they had gnarled fingers and hands like tree bark, once fishermen but were too old for that hard life now. They mended nets, sharpened hooks and told stories about when the fish were bigger, and the ocean was more terrible. They also liked to sneak a drink, with three wives each and who knew how many children who could blame them! These old reprobates had snuck off and decided Brody’s house was a good idea, they could blame the ‘Muzungu,’ white man, if they got caught.
The ‘Mnazi’ was sweet like treacle, the old men had three small wooden cups with short hollow sticks for straws poking out of the top. The bottom of the straw had old sail cloth wrapped around the base as a filter. The ‘Mnazi’ came in ancient, battered gourds and was dutifully poured equally into each cup, pieces of coconut husk floated on top of the milky drink. It did not smell so good either but it was potent, the trick was to hold your nose for the first couple of shots then the smell seemed to disappear.
They had a good haul, Brody knew he would drink too much. The sweet, rough liquid was intoxicating, Brody had drunk his fair share of booze over the years, it had caused problems in the service on more than one occasion, but had all been covered up and glossed over as he was a good soldier. But that was then, and this was now, he was his own boss, no demands rules or regulations.
They enjoyed the drink; telling stories in English and Swahili as the alcohol flowed, he understood the Swahili much better, and them English. After four hours they were like old friends all the gourds were empty, they were just formulating the best plan ever, to steal a boat and head for the mainland for more booze. When Hassan came trotting down the path towards them he was horrified that the old guys had made Brody drink, they didn’t care and were falling asleep in the house.
Brody was drunk slurring his words, thinking he knew what he was saying, he was speaking to Hassan in Swahili that made no sense. Hassan left them to get his food the plan was to invite Brody for dinner with his parents, but as they were strictly Muslims, this would not be a good idea.
The second exciting installment of the William Brody African Ocean Adventure Series: African Treasure:
After rescuing the kidnapped village girls, Brody has been hailed a hero by the people of Pemba. In thanks for his bravery and leadership with their safe return, he’s presented with an old wooden sailing dhow. Back to living the dream on the island, Brody’s days are filled with sailing the coastline, diving, fishing and enjoying life to the fullest…that is until his life is turned upside down once again…
A crazy race for lost treasure….
When diving one day, Brody finds himself fighting for his life against a school of sharks. Narrowly escaping death while trapped in an underwater cave, he discovers the hilt from a sword. After some investigation, he realizes this is part of a larger haul, so the hunt is on! But the Kaya Bombo - a radical Islamic group – also have their eyes on the prize. They want the treasure to return the island to Sharia law and will not let anyone or anything get in their way.
Time’s running out…
Now it’s a race against time as Brody battles the terrorists and the ocean to find the treasure and escape. With bullets flying, Brody will do whatever it takes…but only if he can manage to stay alive long enough to claim the prize.
||Against Her Will
A hand touched Donna's arm as she walked past. She shuddered slightly, then heard a familiar posh almost public school voice calling her name. David Wallace, her boss. Her eyes closed for a second, and she muttered, oh no, under her breath.
‘Got a minute?’ he asked, raising his eyebrows expectantly.
‘Sure David – is there a problem?’ Her heart sank as she glanced up at the clock behind him. It was already ten past five. Why did he always do this just as she was about to leave?
‘Yeah - it’s this customer report of yours. We need to have a chat about the analysis you’ve made. One or two of the trends you’ve shown seem a little unusual, to say the least.’
‘OK, let me get my notes,’ she said with a frown.
‘Bring them to my office, would you?’
Gritting her teeth, she realized what this would mean. A dissection of her whole analysis, bit by bit; which knowing David, would probably tear two weeks’ work to shreds.
She went back to her desk to fetch the necessary paperwork, cursing him for doing this to her yet again. The realisation of how meticulous he was made her fear the chances of leaving before six o’clock were virtually nil. Just what she didn’t need when she was supposed to be going out with Blake at seven-thirty to celebrate their forthcoming engagement.
David gave a little smile on her return, making her cringe.
‘Pull up a chair, Donna.’
She sat down, paperwork in front of her, and proceeded to try to clarify her analysis.
Every minute detail had to be explained, so determined was he to find out exactly what she’d done. All the figures had been checked and rechecked, so there couldn’t be a mistake in the analysis – could there? As time passed her nerves began to fray.
Her fingers drummed on his desk, and she almost felt like crying, as David droned on and on, with no apparent conception of how late it was. The clock on the wall struck six-fifteen. The man wouldn’t shut up. It seemed like he didn’t want to go home. Which wasn’t surprising, considering he lived on his own and appeared to live and breathe work, expecting everyone else to do the same.
Ever since he’d interviewed her for the Statistical Analyst job, two years ago, she’d noticed his keen interest in her work. Obviously having seen something beyond her supposed beauty. But now she suspected this interest was more than just work orientated.
To his credit, he knew his subject inside out, but when he found a couple of little errors that changed her analysis completely, she almost died with shock. How stupid must she have looked right in front of him? God knows what he thought.
Finally he stood up and smiled faintly, much to her relief. ‘All right Donna, let’s call it a day, shall we? Thanks for staying behind, I really appreciate it.’
‘Sorry I messed up.’ She gathered up her papers as she rose.
‘Think nothing of it. We all make mistakes, don’t we? Even me, believe it or not. Have a good night.’ He gave her a warm smile, then hesitated as if he was about to say something else. But he didn’t. Nevertheless, she felt slightly uncomfortable, as on occasions she’d caught him gazing at her. If ever he’d asked her out – heaven forbid - she’d die! Thank goodness he didn’t, she thought as she made to leave.
‘Donna!’ His voice was loud and made her jump and turn round. ‘Can I give you a lift?’
The colour on her face began to change to red again. ‘Er... well...’
‘It’s on my way home – honestly.’ He stared at her with a slight grin on his face.
‘No, it’s all right, but thanks anyway.’ She quickened her pace, almost running towards the main office door.
‘Oh come on, Donna - ’ he shouted after her, but she didn’t stop. Didn’t dare. Or was she overreacting to his friendly gesture?
Making her way hurriedly down the corridor, she reached the lift, pressed the button, and waited for it to arrive. It seemed to take forever – her heart thumped against her chest, fearing she’d miss her train. At last the lift arrived. Once she was inside, she drummed her nails on the chrome handrail as the floors ticked away, took out her phone and tried to get in touch with Blake, but couldn’t get through to him. Damn.
Finally the doors slid open, Donna rushed through, still annoyed at herself for being late.
When she got out of the building she was surprised to see how dark it was. Then she heard the sound of someone’s footsteps clattering behind her. Oh my God, was somebody following her? But when she glanced round there was no one there. Then walking on, she heard it again. She closed her eyes for a second, and sighed, thinking she was getting paranoid, then quickened her step, intent on getting to the station as quickly as possible.
This was all David’s fault – for not being willing to accept the fact she didn’t want a lift and making her feel on edge. When people got overfriendly, she felt uncomfortable and embarrassed. Why they thought her attractive, she found it hard to work out, even though she’d been told this from an early age. There’d always been remarks about her slender figure and turquoise eyes.
As she walked at a brisk pace, she looked at her watch, wondering if it might be possible to make the six forty-five train back to their flat. That would leave her half an hour to get ready, but it’d be a close run thing.
She crossed the main road, hurrying towards the subway, glad the sound of footsteps seemed to have gone. Hopefully, whoever it was had given up, or maybe she’d imagined it.
Dusk was fast approaching, the streets were deserted and grey. A spot of rain pricked her forehead. She pulled her jacket together and hurried to the mouth of the subway where the muffled words to `Let it Be` rang out. The entrance looked empty and dim apart from the busker sitting cross-legged on the pavement. His out of tune guitar sounded so bad it made his voice sound good. Donna smiled to herself as her heels clicked on the concrete.
Although walking through this subway made her a little nervous, she was in a hurry. No way did she want to be late for the meal. Blake would think... she didn’t know what he’d think. Sometimes he had problems dealing with other men liking her, no matter how many times she reassured him. But the idea he might consider David Wallace a rival was too ridiculous for words.
If only she could contact Blake, it wouldn’t matter. She pressed the keypad on her mobile again, intending to let him know she was running late, but his phone still seemed to be switched off. Shit.
At the end of the subway, she saw a figure standing there, his head covered by a hood. As he coughed, a hand appeared in front of his face. The lights above him were bright, but Donna didn’t look his way until he suddenly spoke.
‘Got the time darling?’ His muffled words made her jump.
He sounded young. There was a strange sweet smell close by, that made her want to puke and quickly get by.
It was six-forty, leaving her five minutes to get to the station.
‘Nearly quarter to seven,’ she mumbled, scurrying past.
As she hurried on out of the subway towards Dexford train station, suddenly, out of nowhere, an arm bent and tightened round her neck, and she was dragged into a long narrow alley, that stank of stale pee and uncollected garbage. She started gurgling at once, finding it almost impossible to scream or breathe, when a gloved hand closed around her nose and mouth. Terror spread through her body as she panicked and struggled to get free. Was this a mugging or something much worse? Oh my God, don’t hit me, she prayed. Best give him whatever she had, and hope he’d let her go.
He pulled her to one side and into one of the nearby derelict buildings, then yanked her up by her long blond hair. A fist thumped into her stomach, causing her to crumple and gasp in pain.
Wild large eyes glared at her through a balaclava helmet.
He snarled and gave out a high-pitched chuckle as if he enjoyed frightening her like this.
‘Oh no... please leave me … alone. Take whatever you want… but please don’t hurt me,’ she begged, pushing her handbag towards him. She tried to get up but was still in his grasp, his hand gripping her arm so tightly she winced in pain.
‘Stuff your bloody money – pretty lady,’ he hissed in a strange gruff voice.
All a tremble, she pleaded for mercy. Ignoring this, the man smashed his fist into her face. Warm blood trickled down her nose. She whimpered, before striking her again several times in the ribs, and on the chin. The pain was so excruciating, she could hardly draw breath.
She battled desperately to get up from the filthy debris filled floor to run. But he was too quick, and caught her by her coat, forcing her back onto the ground. Soon he was on top of her, kissing her roughly about the face as she tried to avoid his horrible greasy lips. His gloved hands clutched her breasts hard, making her clench her teeth and whine in agony. He ripped her blouse open. Buttons flew off in all directions.
Donna sobbed, shockwaves of hysteria surged through her. Oh God, if only someone would help her. This was unbearable, unreal - was he really going to do this to her. Surely not? How she wished Blake were here. Please... oh sweet Jesus... help me, she thought. She’d rather die than have this happen. How could this monster violate her like this?
In her desperation, she raked his arm with her fingernails, and went to gouge his eyes, but his hand grasped hers, wrenching it back with such force that she wept in agony. The man laughed hideously at her futile efforts to stop him. He was so strong, and well able do whatever he wanted to her. She was simply too weak to prevent it. Please God, make him stop.
Suddenly he moved his hand away, towards his own body, and fumbled with the zip of his trousers. She tried desperately to wriggle free, but he caught hold of her ripped blouse, and slapped her on the face with the back of his hand. Her nose went numb, and she tasted her own coppery blood. She tried to raise her head, but he pressed his body down hard almost suffocating her.
As he continued, she closed her eyes, trying to shut out the horror of what was happening to her. Unable to defend herself in any way, she lay there passively, wanting it over as quickly as possible. But it seemed to go on forever. And the pain deep inside was torture, like some hot blunt instrument splitting her in two. She felt his balaclava clad face close to her own, spit from his mouth trickled onto her cheek. There remained a foul pungent sickly smell about him that repulsed her.
Finally, he uttered a great groan of exquisite pleasure, stopped, and giggled. Donna shuddered, lying prostrate on the ground.
He got to his feet, breathing in deeply, and stared down at her. ‘How does it feel? Bitch! Not so pretty now, are you, eh?’ He growled.
Cold eyes stared at her; and widened with desire again making Donna’s heart flutter with dread. Her mouth flooded with sour saliva and bile come up through her throat. He began to kick her in the stomach, her legs, face, just about anywhere – and when he’d finished, he looked down at her and gave out a high-pitched laugh that almost sounded like a hyena. That same vile odour remained on him, and then he was gone.
She remained on the ground, hardly able to move, relief at being alive passed quickly. She needed to cover herself up. Her whole face began to swell up like a balloon - in fact she hurt all over and found it difficult to breathe. Her private area was deadened by what he’d done. Dear God – she felt so sick and unclean. Why had this happened to her? If only she could wake up from this horrible dream.
It took some time, but at last she staggered to her feet, wrapping what was left of her clothing tightly around her. Leaning against the wall, unsteadily she stumbled forward out of the building.
When she heard what sounded like a gang of youths approaching, her heart lifted, in the hope they might assist her. They looked across at her, some of them giggling, while others preferred to look the other way.
‘Please... help me,’ she begged, but in reply they made lewd remarks, before walking past. Weeping, she found their behaviour incredible.
Donna didn’t see the man whose arms she fell into. She glimpsed a grey beard, and a woman with her mouth gaping open.
‘Oh my God!’ the man exclaimed. ‘What on earth...?’
‘I…I…’ she whispered, tears streaming down her blood soaked face.
‘Harold – she’s been attacked. Look at her face and clothes. Oh you poor thing. Quickly - call the police and an ambulance!’ the woman shouted, covering Donna with her coat. She placed an arm round her and guided her out to a nearby bench. Donna heard Harold mumble something into his mobile phone.
She shook with ague, her body aching all over. As she glanced up, a crowd of people had gathered, talking, staring as if she was some kind of freak show. Why did they have to gawp at her in that way? She just wanted them to go away and leave her in peace.
Soon after hearing the sirens, Donna saw the flashing lights. The ambulance stopped close to where she was sitting. Two figures dressed in green uniforms emerged and rushed through the crowd to her. One, bent down and put an arm round her, and introducing herself as Anne, a paramedic, began to talk to her, but Donna couldn’t take in what was being said. Finally Anne helped Donna up and guided her towards the ambulance, then assisted her to climb inside.
Lying down, Donna was relieved when the doors closed and the vehicle left the scene of the attack. After what only seemed a few minutes, they arrived at Dexford General Hospital.
From there she was taken to her own room, where she was undressed and examined by a female doctor.
After they’d patched her up, they allowed her to wash herself in a shower, which she did over and over again in a valiant attempt to rid herself of the filth all over her.
Once she was in bed and had taken the sedative the doctor had prescribed to relax her, she drifted in and out of sleep, waking intermittently with vivid visions of the man’s evil eyes and the wicked laugh behind his balaclava helmet.
Sometime later she got up and went to the en-suite bathroom, and staring at herself in the mirror, she sobbed at her swollen face and bandaged nose. This brought it all back to her, and again terror swept over her. That horrible man had made her feel cheap and used. She’d never be the same again, and wanted to die.
Back in her room, resting on top of the bed, she kept her eyes closed, wishing the pain would go away. The sound of someone entering the room caused her to open her puffed up eyes, to see a plump policewoman with a round face, rosy cheeks and an easy smile, standing before her.
‘Hallo Donna.’ Her voice was soft, her large grey eyes widening with concern and compassion. ‘I’m Jill Meadows, Dexford police. Sorry to disturb you, at a time like this. I know you need to get some rest and it’s late, but I just wondered if you felt up to answering a few questions, about what happened to you.’
Donna didn’t answer, she just wanted to be left alone.
‘So how are you?’ Jill asked.
She burst into tears.
The police woman reached out to touch her hand, but Donna pulled back in a flash.
‘Look, I can see you’re upset. You have every right to be. But you’ll be fine, no one can hurt you now. And I promise we’ll be working day and night to find the man who did this to you. But to do that we need your help. I realise how difficult this is, but important to know exactly what happened while it’s still fresh in your mind - I believe it could make a huge difference. Could you try do that for me?’
She didn’t respond.
‘Please, Donna. I appreciate you’ve been through a terrifying ordeal, but it’s vital you tell us whatever you can. Come on try - for me and all the other girls out there, who are at risk until he’s caught.’
‘I... I can’t talk about it.’ She shook her head rigorously, breathing in and out deeply.
‘I know you don’t want to, my dear, but if you try really hard you can – believe me. There’s no point in bottling this up inside. Tell me about what he did. Or his next victim might not live to tell the tale. Is that what you want?’
She began to shake violently, biting down hard on her bottom lip. Jill Meadows was right. She had to talk about this, but it was so horrific, so humiliating; she felt too ashamed to say anything.
‘How about a drink?’ Jill asked finally. After a few seconds silence Donna nodded.
‘What do you fancy?’
Jill poured her a glass of water from the jug on her bedside table. Donna took a small sip, then gave it to Jill to put back on the table.
‘You will get over this – but of course it will take time. You’re young and strong, so your injuries will heal quickly. But what you’ve experienced can have devastating effects, mentally as well as physically - you’ll need counselling from someone specially trained in rape trauma.’
Donna pulled a face and shook her head.
‘I bet a girl like you must have lots of admirers.’ Jill seemed to be trying a different approach.
She didn’t even want to think about that.
‘You have a boyfriend?’
She nodded timidly.
‘Thought so. His name’s Blake, isn’t it?’
‘Hey, that’s a nice name. He’s a bit of a hunk, I noticed.’
‘You think so?’ Donna mumbled, unable to look Jill directly in the eye.
‘Really good looking – shame I’m not ten years younger.’
She gave a slight smile, but this small talk did nothing to calm her down, instead it made her nervous. She felt herself going hot.
‘Been going together long?’
‘Five years,’ she sighed still without looking at the police woman.
‘That’s a long time for someone so young. What - were you childhood sweethearts?’
She shrugged her shoulders.
‘That’s sweet. You’ll be glad to know he’s waiting outside with your mum and dad.’
She creased up, suddenly afraid again. ‘I don’t want them to know... everything.’
‘I realise that, but remember they love you dearly, so they’ll be very sympathetic and understanding. And can give you all the love and support you need right now.’
‘But it was degrading and I feel so dirty.’
‘There’s no reason for you to feel like that - honestly. You couldn’t have done any more than you did, and in the circumstances, I think you were very brave - ’
‘We were going out… to celebrate our engagement. Blake must have thought I’d stood him up,’ she blurted out, biting down on a fingernail.
‘Oh dear – that’s a shame! Well, he knows you didn’t stand him up now. He’s been worried sick – I can’t tell you how relieved he is that you’re still alive, and out of danger.’
‘He’ll go spare if he finds out the truth.’ She turned away to bury her face in her hands. ‘Oh God, what have I done to deserve this?’ She wept softly.
‘Nothing, love. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Listen, I don’t like to keep on at you, but I have to ask you again about what happened. Come on now - just take your time – I’ve got all night if need be. Let’s start with when you finished work tonight, shall we?’ Jill said, a notebook in her hand ready.
Donna closed her eyes and started to tremble; she didn’t want to do this, but it seemed she had no choice. It was so demeaning having to reveal all the intimate details, but Jill was so patient and supportive, Donna got through the ordeal. And once she began to open up, she was able to tell Jill everything she could remember.
It came tumbling out. All the unthinkable disgusting things that vile man had done to her. She was distraught at times, but could describe everything in great detail except for his appearance.
‘Thank you Donna, it takes a lot of guts to speak about this. I’m very proud of you.’ She smiled at her when it was all over. ‘Forensics are going through your clothes right now, and we’ve taken samples of what’s under your fingernails and from your vagina. Hopefully, if they can get his DNA, it’ll be on file. I’ll arrange for a police artist to come and sit with you in the morning, so we can get an idea of what he looks like. Is that all right, love?’
‘I... I didn’t get a good look at him. He wore some sort of mask, a balaclava I think it was; I only saw his piercing eyes. But I… I can’t even tell you what colour they were, because it was dark, and I was so frightened.’
‘Doesn’t matter – like I said, any of these tiny details might come to you in time. Remember even without a description, it’s possible we might find evidence from the samples we’ve taken. It may not be as difficult as you imagine.’
The very thought of having something of his in her body, something that might grow into... Oh sweet Jesus, hoping to God the morning after pill she’d taken earlier had worked. The alternative didn’t bear thinking about.
‘Right then – maybe it’s time I left you in peace. You’ve got more than enough to cope with right now. In the morning I’ll get all this typed up, you can read through it and sign it if you’re happy. I’ll speak to you later then, love. I expect you’d like to see your family now. They’ve been waiting for quite a while.’
‘What – yes.’ She twitched nervously.
How could she face them? They’d want her to tell them about it. And what about Blake? If only she could let him take her in his arms and make all the pain go away. But she didn’t think that was possible. And neither did she want him or anyone else seeing her smashed up face and body. Yet it seemed she had to.
‘OK. Now, if you need me any time, night or day, call this number. It’s my direct line.’ Jill gave her a card. Then just before leaving, she hugged Donna, who wanted to cry again.
As she lay there, she began to breathe erratically, panicking over having to face her family. She couldn’t prevent herself from shaking. Oh God, would she ever stop being afraid?