Author Archives: thedarkphantom

‘Copper and Goldie, 13 Tails of Mystery and Suspense in Hawai‘i,’ by Rosemary & Larry Mild

Cover ARtAbout the Book:

In Copper and Goldie, 13 Tails of Mystery and Suspense in Hawai‘i, homicide detective Sam Nahoe takes a bullet in his spine in the line of duty. Disabled, his career with the Honolulu Police Department shattered—what now? Jobless, lonely, and unwillingly divorced, Sam becomes a Checker Cab driver. Seeking a partner, he adopts a rescue golden retriever—with a dollop of Doberman, and trains her to perform neat tricks like growling at a fare who doesn’t tip. He and Goldie cruise Oahu for fares, encountering thieves, kidnappers, vengeful wives, and even killers, compelling Sam to get his private investigator license. His Sunday visitations with his daughter, Peggy, can turn a magical park day into a hair-raising crime scene, but his shrewd little kid becomes a miniature sleuth in her own right. Sam’s Hawaiian heritage provides him with spunk and street smarts. With the bullet still in his spine, he hobbles around on two canes he’s dubbed Cane and Able as he orders Goldie to chase down the bad guys. His favorite snitch, card-sharp Sophie, asks him: “You still walkin’ with them giant chopsticks?” The book includes thirteen individual detective mysteries with pictures.
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About the Authors:

ROSEMARY AND LARRY MILD, cheerful partners in crime, coauthor mystery, suspense, and fantasy fiction. Their popular Hawaii novels, Cry Ohana and its sequel Honolulu Heat, vibrate with island color, local customs, and exquisite scenery. Also by the Milds: The Paco and Molly Murder Mysteries: Locks and Cream Cheese, Hot Grudge Sunday, and Boston Scream Pie. And the Dan and Rivka Sherman Mysteries: Death Goes Postal, Death Takes A Mistress, and Death Steals A Holy Book. Plus: Unto the Third Generation, A Novella of the Future, and three collections of wickedly entertaining mystery stories—Murder, Fantasy, and Weird Tales; The Misadventures of Slim O. Wittz, Soft-Boiled Detective; and Copper and Goldie, 13 Tails of Mystery and Suspense in Hawai‘i.

ROSEMARY, a graduate of Smith College and former assistant editor of Harper’s, also delves into her own nonfiction life. She  published two memoirs: Love! Laugh! Panic! Life With My Mother and the acclaimed Miriam’s World—and Mine, for the beloved daughter they lost in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. On her lighter side, Rosemary also writes award-winning humorous essays, such as failing the test to get on Jeopardy; and working for a giant free-spending corporation on a sudden budget: “No new pencil unless you turn in the old stub.”

LARRY, who was only called Lawrence when he’d done something wrong, graduated from American University in Information Systems Management. In 2019 he published his autobiography, No Place To Be But Here: My Life and Times, which traces his thirty-eight-year professional engineering career from its beginning as an electronics technician in the U.S. Navy, to a field engineer riding Navy ships, to a digital systems/instrument designer for major Government contractors in the signal analysis field, to where he rose to the most senior level of principal engineer when he retired in 1993.

Making use of his past creativity and problem-solving abilities, Larry naturally drifted into the realm of mystery writing, where he also claims to be more devious than his partner in crime and best love, Rosemary. So he conjures up their plots and writes the first drafts, leaving Rosemary to breathe life into their characters and sizzle into their scenes. A perfect marriage of their talents.

THE MILDS are active members of Sisters in Crime where Larry is a Mister in Crime; Mystery Writers of America; and Hawaii Fiction Writers. In 2013 they waved goodbye to Severna Park, Maryland and moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where they cherish quality time with their daughters and grandchildren. When Honolulu hosted Left Coast Crime in 2017, Rosemary and Larry were the program co-chairs for “Honolulu Havoc.”

Over a dozen worldwide trips to Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Great Britain, France, Italy, Israel, Egypt, and more have wormed their way into their amazing stories. In their limited spare time, they are active members of the Honolulu Jewish Film Festival committee, where Larry is the statistician and recordkeeper for their film ratings.

Links to Site  and Social Media:

https://www.magicile.com

https://www.facebook.com/rosemary.mild.1

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosemary-mild-930

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First Chapter: Episode One
Locked In: The Beginning

Today Sam Nahoe caught his third major case since making detective sergeant in the Homicide unit of the Honolulu Police Department. He now wore a gold badge instead of a silver one.
Sam and his partner, Corporal Mose Kauahi, hurried over to a mid-rise apartment house at 2330 Lanahi Place. The call came in at 9:30 a.m. The caller said she’d been trying to phone her neighbor for several days without a response. As a last resort, she went outside and peeked in his first-floor window. She saw him collapsed over his desk.
The detectives met the woman inside the apartment lobby. Sam’s keen eyes assessed her. Waist-length kinky blonde hair, dark at the roots. Fortyish trying to look thirty, and less businesslike than he expected in a lacy pink tank top and short shorts.
She flashed Sam a heavily lipsticked smile. “I’m Doris Haliburton. You can call me Doris.”
Jeez, the broad is actually flirting with me, thought Sam without missing a step.
They followed her down the hall to apartment 1A. Sam tried the door and found it locked. “It’s another one of those steel security doors with anti-pick locks,” he announced. “We’ll have to find another way in. Is there a resident manager here?”
Doris shrugged. “Only part-time. But I s’pose you could try the windows out back.” Without waiting for consent, she started down the hall. Sam couldn’t help but notice the smooth legs, looking decades younger than her sun-creased face. At the rear of the building she held the door open for both men, an exit to a fenced-in backyard. “It’s those two double windows—there and there—the ones on the left.”  Her voice quavered. “He’s in the living room.”
Sam frowned. “Those windows are pretty high. You look to be about five-two. How could you see in?”
“I used my kitchen stool,” Doris answered smugly.
Mose stepped closer. “It would be helpful if we could use it too,” he said. “That is, if you wouldn’t mind, ma’am.”
She flinched at the word “ma’am.” Sam knew why. It made women feel old.
“Yeah, sure, I’ll get it. I’m in apartment 1C. Back in two shakes.”
Mose had no intention of letting Doris out of his sight. He followed her inside, and the two returned with him carrying the stepstool. He placed it below the first set of double windows. The short, stocky detective climbed up only to find that he couldn’t see much past the window sill. He yielded to Sam. Nearly a head taller at six-four, Sam climbed up until he had a clear view into what was obviously the living room. It was furnished with two leather couches, a glass-topped coffee table, and an elaborate entertainment center on the left wall. A rather affluent bachelor pad, he guessed. But in the far right corner against the wall, sure enough, a man’s body lay slumped over a large modern desk.
Sam examined both double windows leading to the living room for signs of forced entry, but found none. He tried to at least jiggle each section, but each one was immovable, locked in place, with self-locking dowels to the right and left. He climbed down and moved the stepstool to the second set of double windows, hoping for better luck. Climbing back up, he peered into a bedroom and tested that set of windows with the same result. He decided entry there would cause less damage than in the more elegant living room.
“We’ll have to get a locksmith for the front door,” said Mose.
“Can’t wait for that. The man may need medical attention,” replied Sam. He removed a pair of sunglasses from his forest-green sport shirt and handed them down to Mose while he mulled over the best way to enter. The Venetian blinds were raised to their full height, so he wouldn’t have to deal with them. Removing his Glock 9mm from its holster, he turned his head away, and ducked to his left as he drove the weapon, handle first, against the lower glass panel, cracking it sharply away from him so that the shards fell inside the room and dropped to the floor. He swept the barrel of his gun back and forth to remove the remaining shards from the frame. Reaching through the cleared opening, he released the pair of locks from their side stops, and slid the tall window all the way up.
“Hey, Mose, would you get me the floor mats from the front of the cruiser?”
When his partner returned with the mats, Sam dropped them over the concentration of glass shards inside the window.
He cautiously planted his size-thirteen shoes on the top step of the stool, then wiggled his backside onto the window ledge. Lifting one leg at a time over the sill, he slid inside. He landed for a split-second on his feet, but his muscular bulk gave way, sending him flopping on his knees. He heard, and felt, the crunching of the shards beneath the floor mats as he landed. Hoisting himself to his feet, he surveyed his surroundings. He had landed next to a queen-size bed with a quilted headboard and plaid comforter. He saw nothing out of order in the room; only an uncluttered bureau and nightstand.
The moment Sam entered the living room, the stench of decay hit him. He whipped out a handkerchief from his back pocket and covered his nose and mouth.
The motionless body slumped over the desk was a male of medium build, narrow-shouldered, wearing a muted-print aloha shirt. He appeared to have been working on his laptop. His head of thinning sand-colored hair lay face-down on the keyboard. The monitor reflected the impact with a string of unintelligible letters and numbers. On the desk he saw documents and spreadsheets in neat piles; nothing else but a tape dispenser and vinyl cup holding ballpoint pens. The printer on the left corner of the desk contained no printouts. Sam leaned over, and with his free hand placed two fingers on the victim’s carotid artery, feeling for signs of life. There was no pulse. But he knew there wouldn’t be. In the middle of the man’s back he found two bullet holes, close together, with accompanying patches of dried blood, obscuring the shirt’s flowered pattern. He hastily backed up when he realized he had almost stepped in blood that had dried on the plush beige carpet. They had themselves a crime scene.

 

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Review: From Idea to Reality: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Meaningful Business Growth, by Jean Paulynice

From-idea-to-reality-FRONT-CoverTitle: From Idea to Reality: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Meaningful Business Growth

Author: Jean Paul Paulynice, MBA

Publisher: PAULYNICE CONSULTING GROUP, LLC

Publisher’s contact info: INFO@PAULYNICECONSULTING.COM

Website: https://www.jeanpaulpaulynice.com/

Genre: Self-help/Inspirational

Publication Date: June 2019

ISBN: 978-1-7330427-1-0   (Hardback)    $19.99

ISBN: 978-1-7330427-2-7   (Paperback)  $14.99

ISBN: 978-1-7330427-7-2   (eBook)         $7.99

Find out more on Amazon.

Jean Paulynice draws from personal experience, revealing the secrets he shares with clients and provides you with essential information as if he were your own personal coach guiding you along the way.

By using this workbook, which has ample space for notes, you’ll be able to brainstorm, self reflect, and develop a plan/strategy, as well as become aware of not only your strengths but also your weaknesses and obstacles. In addition, you’ll be able to join a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.

Written in an engaging, conversational style, “From Idea to Reality” will help push you forward and gather momentum, improving your chances of discovering and fulfilling your true potential and increasing your chance of success. No matter your type of entrepreneurship, this book will be helpful if you’re starting out or would like to take your business to the next level.

 

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Review: It’s Time to Start Living with Passion! My Journey to Self Discovery, by Jean Paul Paulynice

START-LIVING

Title: It’s Time to Start Living with Passion! My Journey to Self Discovery

Author: Jean Paul Paulynice, MBA

Publisher: PAULYNICE CONSULTING GROUP, LLC

Publisher’s contact info: INFO@PAULYNICECONSULTING.COM

Website: https://www.jeanpaulpaulynice.com/

Non-Fiction

Genre: Self-help/Inspirational

Publication Date: May 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-7330427-9-6 (Hardback)      $16.99

ISBN: 978-1-7335601-9-1 (Paperback)    $9.99

ISBN: 978-1-7330427-0-3 (eBook)           $3.99

ISBN: 978-1-7335601-2-2 (Audiobook)   $3.95

 

Do you feel as though you’re on autopilot, going through the motions every day—wake up, go to work, come back home, have dinner, sleep, repeat—without real meaning, depth, and purpose in your life?

 

Even if you have a fulfilling job and earn a good salary, that doesn’t mean you’ve found your passion in life. The problem is, finding your passion can be elusive, especially in our present society where we are constantly seeking external validation from others and are being judged in public platforms more than ever (i.e. social media). Perhaps the wisest statement in this book is that “the moment you start to listen to yourself, you can start shutting out all the noise.” This little book is all about soul-searching, self-analysis, and reflection. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and seek out your passions. Sometimes you have to change your mindset and shift your perspective about things in order for transformation and growth to take place. Likewise, it’s also about the choices you make, not so much the major ones but the little ones you make on a daily basis.

 

In his light, honest, and engaging prose, Jean Paul Paulynice encourages you to do some introspection so you can begin your path toward finding your passion and bliss in life. For those who journal, the reflection questions he asks make very good journaling prompts. A very quick read, under fifty pages, It’s Time to Start Living with Passion! is a little morsel of goodness and wisdom that will help on your journey to self-discovery.

 

 

 

 

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Chapter reveal: Blood on the Chesapeake, by Randy Overbeck

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Title: Blood on the Chesapeake

Author:  Randy Overbeck

Website:  www.authorrandyoverbeck.com

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Purchase link:  https://www.authorrandyoverbeck.com/books

Genre:  ghost story/mystery

About the Book:

Blood on the Chesapeake—Wilshire, Maryland seems like the perfect shore town on the Chesapeake Bay—quiet, scenic, charming—and promises Darrell Henshaw a new start in life and a second chance at love. That is, until he learns the town hides an ugly secret. A thirty-year-old murder in the high school. And a frightening ghost stalking his new office. Burned by an earlier encounter with the spirit world—with the OCD scars to prove it—he does NOT want to get involved. But when the desperate ghost hounds him, Darrell concedes. Assisted by his new love, he follows a trail that leads to the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and even the Klu Klux Klan. Then, when two locals who try to help are murdered, Darrell is forced to decide if he’s willing to risk his life—and the life of the woman he loves—to expose the killers of a young man he never knew.

About the Author:  

Dr. Randy Overbeck is a writer, educator, researcher and speaker in much demand. During his three plus decades of educational experience, he has performed many of the roles depicted in his writing with responsibilities ranging from coach and yearbook advisor to principal and superintendent. His new ghost story/mystery, Blood on the Chesapeake, will be released on April 10, 2019 by The Wild Rose Press. As the title suggests, the novel is set on the famous Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, home to endless shorelines, incredible sunsets and some of the best sailing in the world. Blood is first in a new series of paranormal mysteries, The Haunted Shores Mysteries. Dr. Overbeck’s first novel, Leave No Child Behind, a thriller about the terrorist takeover of a Midwest high school and one teacher’s stand against the intruders, won the 2011 Silver Award for Thrillers from ReadersFavorite.com. Dr. Overbeck is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and an active member of the literary community. You can follow him on Twitter @OverbeckRandy, friend him on Facebook at Author Randy Overbeck or check out his webpage, www.authorrandyoverbeck.com

Connect with Randy Overbeck on the Web:

www.authorrandyoverbeck.com

@OverbeckRandy

Facebook: Author Randy Overbeck

 

Blood on the Chesapeake

August, 1998

The Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay

1

         “You see that widow’s walk up there, with the white railing and the cupola in the center? That’s where they say he died.”

The high school secretary, one Mrs. Harriet Sinclair, stood beside Darrell Henshaw on the cracked asphalt parking lot, her small, blue-veined hand pointing up to the third floor.

Darrell’s gaze crawled up the two floors of traditional red brick and landed on the white fencing of the widow’s walk. He’d noticed the unusual feature of the building when he arrived for the job interview two hours earlier.

Harriett’s high voice continued, “Years ago, a student, some poor young black kid took his life up there. Some history, huh?”

Surprised, Darrell looked at the secretary, who kept her gaze focused on the top floor. She was serious.

Darrell returned his glance to the widow’s walk. The brass-topped cupola shone green in the morning sun and below it, a bare-chested, young black man leaned against the fence, his hands dark smudges on the white railing. The youth stared down and met Darrell’s gaze. Even though Darrell couldn’t read the features on the face three floors up, he was mesmerized. Somehow, an overwhelming sense of sorrow and regret seemed to emanate from the young man and, for an instant, Darrell felt it pierce him. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on edge. He shivered and stared, unable to look away. As he peered up, the figure at the fence shimmered and then disappeared.

Oh, God, no, he thought, shaking his head, and turned to ask Harriet, but she changed the subject, rattling on about some of the less morbid history of the school. “That walk is famous, all right. There was the great piglet race up there and the famous protest streamers on the walk…”

But Darrell stopped listening. He shook his head. He hadn’t felt that…that sensation for years. Ten years. A decade earlier, he’d had a confrontation with another ghost and it had not gone well. It still haunted him and he was not anxious for another visit from the spirit world.

Then, something Harriet was saying registered. “That window up there to the right, that’ll be your office.”

He struggled to find his voice. “My office?”

“At least, if Mr. Douglass likes what he hears when he calls your references.” She winked at him, one gray eyebrow curling like an albino caterpillar. “Our athletic office isn’t much, just a tiny space and away from the gym and locker rooms, but it’s got the best view in the building. I thought you might appreciate the vantage point better from down here.”

He got the job? He couldn’t believe it. After thirty-seven resumes, eighteen phone calls, four failed interviews, he’d done it. And just in time, too.

He stared open-mouthed at the building, trying to keep his exhilaration under wraps, and then remembered the young black man and realized the job may come with some extras. He definitely didn’t want to deal with any extras, but he really needed the job. Before he had time to think about it, Harriet was off.

For the next forty minutes, she took Darrell on a non-stop, guided tour of the empty high school, leading him past dueling trophy cases—one for sports, one for band—through run down classrooms and into a dilapidated gym with collapsing bleachers. Twice he paused, seeing an award or painting hanging crooked, and reached out to straighten it. He stopped himself and then had to hurry to catch up.

Oblivious, Harriet charged ahead, short legs pumping like pistons, all the while regaling him with more stories about the old high school. Darrell was hardly able to catch his breath. At her pace, he felt like he’d done a 5K, zigzagging through hallways and up and down creaking stairs. They finished by climbing two flights of stairs to arrive at the Athletic Office.

Just as they reached the top step, a door in the hall slammed shut. Darrell jerked. He glanced over to his escort, who hadn’t even flinched. Instead, the school secretary asked, as if reminded of something, “Mr. Henshaw, uh, do you believe in…uh, ghosts?”

Darrell’s mouth went dry. She didn’t just ask that.

“What?” he managed.

Harriet shrugged, the collar of her gray dress almost touching the lowest locks of silver hair. “I just asked if you were superstitious. You know, if you believe in ghosts?” She strolled over, turned the handle and pulled open the door.

Darrell fought not to go pale. Could she possibly know about the ghost back home or maybe she picked up on his reaction to the widow’s walk? He fumbled for an answer. “Uh, no more than most, I think. Why?”

Standing at the door, she lowered her glance, as if studying her black flats. “Well, uh, some folks say the school is haunted. Ghost of that student who committed suicide I was telling you about. They say his spirit likes to prowl the hallways at night, ‘specially up here on the third floor.”

Darrell remembered the figure staring down at him from the railing and the prickling hairs on his neck. He studied Harriet. She was serious.

But, when her gaze lifted, the secretary smile was back in place. “What do you expect? It’s an old school. Bound to hold a few skeletons, right?”

Harriet stepped inside the office, burying the subject as abruptly as she raised it. She led him in and Darrell watched as dust mites rose and danced on a wave. The cramped space was small, eight by twelve maybe, with a worn, blue couch under the broad window and a standard gray metal desk and file cabinet on the wall opposite. A lone, wooden bookcase stood facing the door, barren and sad-looking, its shelves sagging.

She moved to the window, pointing, “Great view of the widow’s walk from here, too.”

Several questions pummeled his brain—about what happened on the walk, about the kid who died—but he needed this job, so he didn’t ask.

She plowed on. “I got to leave you here and get back. Give Mr. Douglass a few more minutes and see what he has to say.” Two brisk steps took her to the door.

Darrell thought of one question he figured it’d be safe to ask. “Harriet, you mentioned I was the last name on Principal Douglass’ list of candidates. How come?”

She turned and grinned. “Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that. The answer’s simple, though. None of the rest of the candidates were Yankees.” She waved a hand. “Anyway, you must’ve made quite an impression, ‘specially for a Yankee. Not many get the fifty-cent tour. Enjoyed showing ya around. I’m a good judge of character and I think you’ll do fine.”

“Thanks, Harriet, for the tour and all the background. And the vote of confidence.”

“I’ll see you downstairs in a bit.” Her leg pistons chugged and she disappeared through the open doorway.

Darrell listened to her footsteps echo in the stairwell and, when the sound died away, he said aloud to the empty room, “O-kay, then.” Exactly what he needed. Move half way across the country and run into another damn ghost. His gaze swept the small office and took in the widow’s walk, remembering the figure at the railing and the tingle on his neck. He inspected the entire office for paranormal evidence. He saw nothing, of course.

Ambling over to the picture window, he took in the expansive scene, white posts and railing of the widow’s walk up close—with no young black man standing there—and the water of the Chesapeake shining emerald beyond. He could get used to this view.

He’d take the job and…deal with the rest, if it came.

He strolled over to the door. Something drew his attention and twisting around, he glanced back into the office. A draft of cold air struck him. He shivered again.

         He turned to go, but couldn’t. Standing in the doorway, it felt like his shoes had been glued to the floor. No, it felt like two huge hands were holding his ankles and wouldn’t let him leave. He pulled on both legs. Staring down at his legs, he saw only the smooth cuffs of his dress pants and his black Oxfords.

Ugly memories resurfaced, as if it were yesterday. His uncle’s ghost using him as a conduit. The death of two friends. The crippling of his brother. Oh, hell, not again.

         Sweat dripped down the side of Darrell’s face and he blurted out the only thing he could think of. “I haven’t even been hired yet,” he said in a harsh whisper. “And won’t be, unless I get back down there to see the principal.”

The grip on his ankles released. He opened the door, stepped through and slammed it. In seconds, he hit the stairs, taking them two at a time.

 

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Chapter Reveal: ‘Jordan,’ by Victoria Landis

Genre: Thriller

Author: Victoria Landis

Website:http://www.VictoriaLandis.com

Publisher: BookPainter Press, LLC

Purchase link:https://amzn.to/2HWMs5R

JordanFrontCoverFeb12019

About the book:

When Petra Simmons and her brother, Andy, help a seemingly homeless young woman, their intended good deed immediately changes their lives forever. Within days, it’s clear that the woman, Jordan Crissman, is so much more than meets the eye. Jordan possesses an amazing ability – perhaps the most miraculous ability of all. Petra and Andy realize that, in the current world of viral social media, they must proceed with extreme caution. But how can they best employ the miracle without causing havoc? They plot a careful strategy. Despite their plans, word gets out too fast, and the world comes running – invading and overwhelming South Florida and bringing danger.

Television talking heads pontificate. Pundits opine. Some claim Jordan’s a messiah. Others insist she’s the devil. Massive crowds gather, demanding to see Jordan. Everyone wants her.

But there’s nowhere left to hide. Damaging and horrible rumors swirl. Protest groups march and riot. Mass hysteria reigns.

And people are dying.

VickiSF15Headshot

About the Author:

Victoria Landis is a professional writer, editor, and artist. A 16-year member, and former board member, of Mystery Writers of America, she Co-Chaired the SleuthFest Writers Conference from 2015-2018.

She’s taught at SleuthFest, the Authors Academy at Murder on the Beach, and the Alvin Sherman Library at Nova Southeastern University.

Social Media Links:

Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/VLandisAuthorFB

Twitter: @VictoriaLandis1

Instagram: VLandisArtist

Website: http://www.VictoriaLandis.com

First Chapter

CHAPTER ONE

Sunday 6PM

 
Petra Simmons plucked the last truffle from the day’s sample tray and added it to the other chocolates in the white paper bag.  She handed it to Lettie Hillier, an old friend of Petra’s deceased parents.
     Lettie accepted it with a grin.  “Are you sure you kids are doing okay?”
     “I miss them.”  Andy, Petra’s younger brother, stepped toward them.
     “Losing them still hurts,” Petra said.  “But, yes.  We’re fine.”  She gestured to the bag.  “Open it.”
     It crinkled when Lettie unfolded the top and looked inside.  Laugh lines scrunched outward from her mouth when she smiled.  She winked at Petra.  “Chili-pepper-shaped?  That’s new.  Thanks, Punkin.”
     “You’re most welcome,” Petra said.  “They’re infused with cayenne.  Hope your husband enjoys them.”
     “If they escape being eaten on the drive home.  You kids take care, okay?”
     “Will do.”  Andy held the shop’s glass door open for Lettie, grinned at her as she exited, then locked it.
     Pushing her palms against her temples, Petra sighed.
     The building shuddered slightly for a half-second.
     Petra grabbed the counter.  “Did you feel that?”
     “Yeah.”  He pointed skyward.  “Weird.  Military jet going by?  A sonic boom, maybe?”
     “I didn’t hear any boom.”
     “Me, either.  Maybe it was too far away.  Wasn’t very strong.”  He ambled toward her.  “We don’t get earthquakes.”  With a dramatic flourish, he took a wide stance and stretched his arms outward, as if waiting for the building to shake.  After a few seconds, he went back to a normal stand.  “I think we’re good here.  Why do you give Mrs. Hillier free chocolates?”
     “Because she’s been so kind to us since Mom and Dad died, and she sends all her friends to me for their special occasions.  At first, she argued with me about the freebies.  I’m far more stubborn than she knew, and I won.  So now she calls herself my taste tester.”    She wiped her brow and surveyed the mess around the seating area of three small round tables by the front windows.  “Wow.  That was one hell of a last minute rush, huh?”  Grabbing the cleaning spray and sponge, she realized he hadn’t responded and turned.  “Andy?”
     He’d returned to the door, his back to her.  “There’s a strange chick on the plaza freaking everybody out.  See?  They’re all moving away.”
     Petra came from behind the counter and stood beside him.
     A disheveled woman, her brown hair a rodent’s nest, sat staring at the sky, on the bench ledge of the hexagonal fountain twenty feet from Petra’s Kingdom of Chocolate shop.  She wore a red T-shirt and blue jeans−both ripped and stained.  Her entire body shook for several seconds, then she lowered her head.
     The people nearest her shuffled further down the bench.  A man with two toddlers in tow hustled them off the plaza.
     “Really, I can’t work up much interest,” Petra said.  “Another homeless person.  It’s sad, but too bad.”
     “No,” Andy said.  “There’s something different about her.”
     Andy often misjudged situations and people.  Petra sighed.  “I don’t think so.  She’s only another hard luck story.”
     “She’s pretty.”
     “No.  She’s not,” Petra said.
     “Look beyond the mess.  Come on, let’s see if we can help her.”
     “Please don’t.  I’m so tired.  I want to finish and go upstairs to relax.”
     Ignoring her, Andy unlocked the door and headed outside toward the woman.  He gestured for Petra to join him.
She shot a glance heavenward.  “God grant me patience.”  She ventured out.
     Reaching the homeless lady, Andy knelt to peer under the cascading hair.  “Are you okay?”
     The woman shook her head.
     Nearing her, Petra found her younger than she’d assumed.  Maybe thirty.  And she did have attractive features under the unkempt locks.
     “Do you need help?” Andy said.
     His angelic expression of compassion tugged at Petra’s heart.
     “Apparently.”  The woman chuckled and swept the hair from her face.
     Her voice also took Petra by surprise.  The one-word reply was enunciated in a clear, sophisticated tone.
     “What happened?” Andy asked.  “You look like you fell out of a tree.”
     She hesitated, then leveled her gaze at Petra.  “I really don’t know.  I can’t remember anything.  It’s all blank.”
     Her eyes were a golden brown, almost amber.  Unusual and striking.
     In her peripheral vision, Petra saw the three remaining people on the plaza, now sitting on an iron bench eating ice cream cones.
One of them pointed behind Andy and Petra, and the others’ eyes widened.
     Petra twisted to see a small red fox sniffing and making its way, inch by inch, toward them.  “Andy, very slowly, look behind us.  It’s an actual fox.  Where did that come from?”
     He turned.  “That’s strange.  Don’t make any sudden moves.  Maybe it’s rabid.”
     “No,” the disheveled woman said.  “He’s not.  He’s being friendly.”
     Petra glared at her.  But, in fact, the fox was sniffing its way closer to them as a curious dog would.  She didn’t like the oddity of it.  “I think we ought to go back inside.”
     “All right,” Andy said.  “Come with us, um . . . What’s your name?”
     “Wait a minute.”  Petra grabbed Andy’s arm and pulled him about ten feet away.
     The fox froze, then retreated a few yards.
     Its posture reminded Petra of a spooked cat with its fur standing on end.  Whispering, she said to Andy, “Are you nuts?  We’re not bringing this woman into my store.  It’s closing time.  I’m tired, and who the hell knows what kind of drug addict she could be?”
     “We can’t leave her out here.”
     “Sure we can.  We’ll call security, and they’ll take care of getting her to someone who will help.”
     “No.”  Andy gestured toward the woman.  “We should help.”  He went back.
     “You can be so infuriating sometimes, you know that?”  Unwilling to leave him alone with a possible lunatic, Petra joined him.
     The woman was touching a purplish mark on her left palm.  “I don’t blame you.  Look at me.”  She grinned and displayed her bruised arms.  “I’m a mess.”  Her eyes locked onto Petra’s.
     A strange comforting feeling about this woman enveloped Petra—as though she were with a long-lost friend.
     “Help me up?”  She kept her right arm in the air.
     Petra offered her a hand before Andy could.  “Come on.  Can you stand?”
     “We’ll find out.”  The woman gripped Petra’s hand and pulled herself up.  She twisted her torso.  “Okay.  Much better.  I was so dizzy when I woke up.”
     “Woke up?  Where?”  Petra’s fingers spasmed and felt suddenly warm.  The recurring fear that she’d inherited her father’s arthritis raced through her.
     “Right here.  On the edge of the fountain.  All I know is waking while sitting on it.”
     “Were you tired when you sat down?” Andy asked.  “Tired enough to fall asleep sitting upright on a concrete bench?”
     She gave him a blank stare, while seeming to ponder his question.
     “This is beyond strange,” Petra said.
     “I agree,” the woman said.  “I don’t like feeling this disoriented.”  She blinked.  “I’m sorry, I don’t know how I got here.”
     Petra’s resistance to her lessened.  To her amazement, she felt a growing urge to do as Andy suggested—help her.  “My name is Petra Simmons, and this is my brother, Andy.”
     “Hello.”  She pushed on and patted her legs, then her ribs.  “No broken bones, it seems.  I’m relatively unscathed.”
     “What’s your name?” Andy said.
     The woman’s mouth screwed up to one side.  “I haven’t a clue.”
     The feeling the stranger wasn’t a threat, and was, in fact, someone innocent, grew stronger.  “Tell you what.  I live on the second floor over the shops.”  Petra pointed behind her.  “See?  That bay window is in my living room.  Let us take you there.  You can get cleaned up, and I’ll lend you some clothes.”
     Andy gave her a shocked expression, then smiled.  “That’s a great idea.”  To the woman he said, “Don’t worry.  We’re good people.”
     She nodded.  “I know.”
     “And . . . how do you know?” Petra said.
     She shrugged.  “I don’t know.”
     It seemed the woman was thinking the same way as Petra.  Producing a key from the back pocket of her jeans, Petra handed it to Andy.  “Will you lock up, then come upstairs?  We can do the tally and cleaning later.  And bring my phone and purse, too?”
     Grinning, he took the key, pivoted, and strode to the shop.
     That startled the fox, but didn’t stop him from edging closer.
     A huge black blur swooped in, nipped the fox on the head, then settled on a nearby tree branch.
     The fox yelped and scrambled into the thicket of cocoa-plum shrubs at the edge of the plaza’s parking lot, now backlit by the transitioning oranges, reds, pinks, and lavenders of sunset.
     “Did you see that?” Petra glanced around.
     The three people finishing their ice cream cones nodded, looking dumbstruck.
     “I have never seen a fox out in the open like that.  Or a buzzard attacking a live animal.”  Petra spoke to the ice cream folks.  “That was a turkey vulture, wasn’t it?”
     One of them responded with a weak shrug.
     “Wow.  Freaky animal day.”  Petra gestured toward the alley between the two three-story buildings of the retail complex.  “The apartment entry is in that causeway.”
     They walked in silence to the entrance.  Petra used a passkey to unlock the residence lobby door, held it open for her, then pressed the elevator button.
     Petra studied her as they rode up one flight.  Long hair, in tangled waves, fell to her waist.  Her T-shirt had grass stains along with mud, as did her jeans.  She wore a ripped and frayed pair of canvas sneakers that Petra assumed were once white.
     The doors opened, and the women turned right, going to the end of the hall.
     “I was lucky enough to get an end unit,” Petra said while inserting her key.  “Lots of windows.”  They went inside.
     “It’s beautiful.”  The woman wandered around the combined living and dining space, stopping at the wide bay window facing the plaza and its fountain.  She gestured to the open kitchen and the granite island that separated it from the living area.  “There are four barstools.  Do other people live here with you?”
     “No.  I live alone.  My boyfriend is here a lot, though, and my brother stays fairly often.”  Petra walked to the short hall off the kitchen leading to the two bedrooms and a guest bathroom.  “I imagine you’re anxious to get that dirt off you.  You look like you’re around my size.  A six?”  She opened her bedroom door and went in.
     Another shrug.  “Guess we’ll find out.”  The woman leaned against the doorframe while Petra gathered some clothing for her.
     A stab of doubt hit Petra.  What was she doing inviting this complete stranger into her home?
     “You’re being so kind.  Thank you.”  The woman touched Petra’s hand before taking the neat pile, then entered the bathroom.
     In an instant, the negative thoughts disappeared—replaced by that comforting feeling again.  Petra shook her head to clear it.  “You’ll find everything you need either in the tall cabinet or in the drawers next to the sink.”
 
                                                                           ***
 
Petra was in the kitchen perusing the freezer when Andy came in.
     “How is the mystery girl?”  He tossed the shop key into the raku pottery bowl on the entry table and placed Petra’s purse on the counter.  “We left the store a mess, and I should have stayed to clean it, but I’m too curious about her.”
     “Still can’t remember her name.  She’s in the shower.”  Petra shut the freezer.  “I’ll order pizza.”  She grabbed her cell from her purse.  “But first, I’m calling Ben.”
     “Is he on duty tonight?”
     “Yes.”  When Ben picked up, she filled him in on the woman in her bathroom.
     “What’d he say?” Andy asked after she put the phone down.
     “It’s a slow Sunday night, so he’ll come over himself.”
     The bathroom door opened.  Her guest emerged, smelling of fresh flowers.  Clean, her skin was flawless.
     Andy let out a small gasp, and Petra knew he was smitten.  That was probably not good.
     The woman smiled and pulled at the black tank top.  “A little tight, but thank you so much.”  She held up a hairbrush.  “I couldn’t get all the knots out.  Would you mind trying?  It might be easier because you can see them.”  She came to stand in front of Petra, handed her the brush, and turned around.
     With an inward shrug, Petra accepted the brush and worked through the first of the tangles.  “My boyfriend is a Sheriff’s Deputy.  I’ve asked him to come over.  Maybe he’ll be able to help you.”

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Chapter reveal: ‘Shirtless Men Drink Free’ by Dwaine Rieves

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Title: Shirtless Men Drink Free

Genre: Literary Fiction

Author: Dwaine Rieves

Website:  http://dwainerieves.com/

Publisher:  Leapfolio/Tupelo Press

Amazon

 In Shirtless Men Drink Free, Doctor Jane Beekman has seen her dying mother’s soul, a vision above the bed—a soul struggling with a decision, some undone task, something in this world too noble to leave.  The question that lingers—why?—prompts a shift in the doctor’s priorities.  In this election year, Jane must do what her mother, an aspiring social activist, would have done. Soon, Jane is embroiled in the world of Georgia politics, working to make sure her dynamic younger brother-in-law Jackson Beekman is selected the next governor, regardless of what the soul of the candidate’s dead father or that of his living brother—Jane’s husband—might want done.

Indeed, it is a mother’s persistence and a father’s legacy that will ultimately turn one Beekman brother against the other, launching a struggle with moral consequences that may extend far beyond Georgia. Set amidst 2004’s polarizing election fears—immigrants and job take-overs, terrorists in waiting, homosexuals and outsider agendas—Shirtless Men Drink Free makes vivid the human soul’s struggle in a world bedeviled by desire and the fears that leave us all asking—Why?

Engaging, beautifully written and resplendent with realism, Shirtless Men Drink Free is a standout debut destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.  A meticulously crafted tale that showcases an outstanding new voice in Southern fiction, Shirtless Men Drink Free has garnered high advance praise:

“This is brilliant and rare work, as attentive to an absorbing plot as it is to a poetic, chiseled cadence.”—Paul Lisicky, award-winning author of The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship

“These characters are all too real. Rieves, as Faulkner, McMurtry and Larry Brown, writes people and story that will worm, burrow into you.  Change you even.” —Adam Van Winkle, Founder and Editor, Cowboy Jamboree

“Vividly sensuous, this novel is full of textures, sounds and smells.  Rieves tells a terrific story with the sensitivity of a poet.” —Margaret Meyers, author of Swimming in the Congo

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About the Author

 Dwaine Rieves was born and raised in Monroe County, Mississippi.  During a career as a research pharmaceutical scientist and critical care physician, he began writing poetry and creative prose.  His poetry has won the Tupelo Press Prize for Poetry and the River Styx International Poetry Prize.  His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Georgia Review and other publications.

Links:

www.dwainerieves.com

EXCERPT:

A Fact

If pressed, she just might someday describe the experience as a vision, but that word alone would be insufficient, if not false, for what she had seen above the bed was more than apparition, more than a visual thing. There, sitting beside her dying mother, she’d sensed another presence, a new being, energy membrane-bound, translucent and hovering, alive in the air. The sense was volatility, the struggling with a decision, a choice—most definitely a choice—more why than when, more God than science. There, fibrillating above the bed was a soul. It was her mother’s soul, the very soul of her mother deliberating its only options: whether to stay or depart, this world or another. And in the instant before it abandoned its literal form, whatever her mother’s soul accepted or denied had to have been better than the body below, the face still puffy from chemotherapy, that halo of resurrected hair.

Something else must have mattered in this world, some undone task or rethought decision, something noble in the making, for her soul clearly wanted to stay. But it couldn’t. It simply couldn’t.

Perhaps revelation would eventually prove a more credible label. Or insight. Regardless of what she might ultimately call it, she wanted to believe the whole episode was a lesson for the scientist within her, a gift for the daughter who had to make sense of the inexplicable she’d seen. No. No one would ever believe she had witnessed such agony above the bed, the struggle between what the body demands and the soul needs.

Such thoughts she knew she must keep to herself, that vision or revelation or insight from a few months back, the soul of her mother wrestling with the air.

Tonight, Doctor Jane Beekman is alone. She sits on the back porch at home, a rocking chair helping to hold her there. The sky is closing in yellow, the world that was almost gone. She is motherless now, the backyard calm in disbelief. In the wake of her mother’s final breath, in the air that struggle―why? The question will never disappear and the more she stares, the more the world before her eyes darkens any possible answer.

The air is unsteady, too uncertain. It trembles as if still above the bed, as Jane saw it and forever will. That odorless instant when decision turned gunmetal thin, she will smell it always. The distance between struggle and release, its clamor breathed clean. That morning her husband held her mother’s hand, but never did Price waver, never did his eyes leave the body. Her mother’s soul had battled the air and Jane, she alone was the witness.

Her body demands a reason. Her soul needs more gin.

Chapter One

Leap

Never had she given much thought to politics, never had she pictured what a brief speech might come to. But to understand that trajectory as she ultimately came to follow it, you must first step back a few months, take a determined breath and stand with Jane before a plateau of silvery eyes. The titans have gathered, gawkers shoulder to shoulder, a certificate framed on a tripod far stage right. The words have power, authority—2004 Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year. Lights are low, God and the crowd focused. The podium is all Jane’s, the first slide at her back. On the canvas, a ladder of DNA coils ten-foot-high in Christmas colors. Five-carbon sugars twinkle for emphasis. Base pairs stiffen then jitter like ill-tempered brothers. Finger the laser pointer’s bump and the hot red dot jumps. Control goes with accomplishment. Smile.

Jane is on the stage because she and her husband Price accomplish great things. She is proud of this. Atlanta is proud, no doubt all Georgia. But this award is not about her or Price, she tells the crowd. It’s about their baby, CellSure. It’s about the company’s birth and maturation, teamwork in translational science. She uses that word translational and thinks transcendent. They know what she means. “People, CellSure is a company that can take less than a nanogram of genetic material and in a matter of hours match the specimen to a criminal, a fraud, a father.”

More than once Jane says “genetic material” and each time she sharpens the syllables. “Yes,” she proclaims, “with less than a snippet of tissue CellSure can even diagnose—” She pauses for air, for the air to settle. “Yes, we can even diagnose cancer.” Applause comes. The great polynucleotide pulses. People stand. They point. Jane has become one with her company. She can even diagnose cancer.

“And with more CellSure innovation, I have little doubt that the same tissue indicating a cancer will also identify a treatment. Yes, my friends. The CellSure technology that pairs a precise diagnosis with a precise therapy will make most cancers curable and the few incurable ones truly treatable conditions.” She thrusts a decisive finger into the air. She is transcendent. “Mark my words—as CellSure pairs ingenuity with our city’s fine medical research institutions, Atlanta will become the nation’s go-to hub for hope, a city where the word impossible never crosses a lip.”

People whoop and stomp their feet. They slap shoulders. Strangers hug. The air vibrates, every face catching the glow of the great iridescent molecule, the image secured by the clicker Jane controls with a single finger.

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On the Spotlight: ‘One Taste Too Many’ by Judge Debra H. Goldstein

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Judge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of One Taste Too Many, the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series. She also wrote Should HavePlayed Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly.Debra is president of Sisters in Crime’s Guppy Chapter, serves on SinC’s national board, and is president of the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Find out more about Debra at www.DebraHGoldstein.com .

one taste too many

ABOUT THE BOOK

For culinary challenged Sarah Blair, there’s only one thing scarier than cooking from scratch—murder!

Married at eighteen, divorced at twenty‑eight, Sarah Blair reluctantly swaps her luxury lifestyle for a cramped studio apartment and a law firm receptionist job in the tired town she never left. With nothing much to show for the last decade but her feisty Siamese cat, RahRah, and some clumsy domestic skills, she’s the polar opposite of her bubbly twin, Emily—an ambitious chef determined to take her culinary ambitions to the top at a local gourmet restaurant.

Sarah knew starting over would be messy. But things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by Emily’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with RahRah wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and Emily wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death—being in the kitchen!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Taste-Many-Sarah-Blair-Mystery/dp/1496719476

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-taste-too-many-debra-h-goldstein/1128297322

Books-a-Million:  https://www.booksamillion.com/p/One-Taste-Too-Many/Debra-H-Goldstein/9781496719478

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781496719478

Walmart: https://www.walmart.com/ip/One-Taste-Too-Many/309566204

Hudson Booksellers: https://www.hudsonbooksellers.com/book/9781496719478

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Chapter reveal: ‘Manipulated’ by John Ford Clayton

Manipulated - Cover art

Genre: Political Thriller

Title: Manipulated

Author:  John Ford Clayton

Websitewww.johnfordclayton.com

Find out more: https://www.amazon.com/Manipulated-John-Ford-Clayton/dp/0999548204

About the Book:

Manipulated is a political thriller set during the 2016 presidential election season from January 2015 through January 2017. During these two years, a fictional account of the election is chronicled. The first half of the book provides a back story illustrating an American political system soiled by political parties, a misguided media, and lots and lots of money, all orchestrated by a clandestine organization known as Mouse Trap.​

The second half of the book provides a glimpse at what the 2016 election might have looked like had a different candidate been introduced into the campaign. A candidate not bound to either political party, deep-pocket investors, or Washington insiders. A candidate who had absolutely no interest in the job but is drafted by those that know him best to fix a broken system. A candidate who personifies integrity, character, and humility. A candidate whose core values are guided by his faith.

About the Author:

John Ford Clayton lives in Harriman, Tennessee with his wife Kara, and canine companions Lucy, Ginger and Clyde. He has two grown sons, Ben and Eli, and a daughter-in-law, Christina. He earned a BS in Finance from Murray State University and an MBA from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He is active in his East Tennessee community having served on the local boards of the Boys and Girls Club and a federal credit union, on church leadership and creative teams, and on a parks and recreation advisory committee. When he’s not writing he works as a project management consultant supporting Federal project teams. John is a huge fan of Disney parks and University of Kentucky basketball.

Connect with John Ford Clayton on the web:

www.johnfordclayton.com

www.facebook.com/johnfordclayton

www.twitter.com/johnfordclayton

EXCERPT:

Chapter 1 

January 7, 2015

671 Days Until the 2016 U. S. Presidential Election

 

“No More Hate! No More Hate!”

The chants echoed through the Quad from the two dozen protesters assembled near the campus’s main pedestrian intersection. Situated in the middle of the sidewalk was Dr. Molly Jefferson, the leader of the rabble. Dr. Jefferson’s pride swelled as she admired the growing assembly, who had numbered only six the day before.

“What do we want?!” she shrieked through the bullhorn borrowed from the track coach.

“Justice!” came the reply.

“When do we want it?!”

“Now!”

Dr. Jefferson, dean of the College of Religious Studies at Richfield College, had spearheaded this protest.

“Is hate speech welcomed at Richfield?!” Dr. Jefferson asked the crowd.

“No!” came the compliant response.

Dr. Jefferson felt a great sense of pride that a protest she launched only the day before was beginning to gain traction.

The protestors felt they were part of a larger, important, maybe even historic movement. Little did they know they were all simply being manipulated.

 

***

 

In the Winchester Library, just off the Richfield College Quad, Jeremy Prince had found a table where he could observe the growing protest. He peered through the leafless branches of the Bradford pear trees that stood guard just outside the tinted window. The sun was giving way to the early January sunset, and he suspected the protestors’ resolve had not yet grown to a level warranting a stay past dark in temperatures expected to dip into the low 20s. As Jeremy watched the marchers, he couldn’t withhold the grin that grew to a smile, ultimately producing an unconscious chuckle.

“Shhh,” objected the students sitting at the tables nearby. “Please be quiet.”

“Oh, sorry, my bad,” Jeremy raised a hand of apology. “Won’t happen again.”

Finding the fortitude to suppress his audible excitement was almost achievable, but losing the grin was asking too much. After all, a plan he had hatched two short weeks ago in a fraternity house 275 miles away was now unfolding right before his eyes. Not just unfolding but thriving. And to imagine he was just getting started. He knew he had to channel his energies to his laptop for the next step in his diabolical plan.

 

***

 

 

Richfield Bible College was founded in 1956 by the Southern Baptist Convention. It was situated in a rustic valley in East Tennessee, just outside the small town of Bard’s Ridge, 30 miles from the city of Knoxville. A local farmer donated 60 acres to get the college started. With the donation came a two-story hay barn, which served as the classroom for Richfield’s initial enrollment of 27.

Growth would come quickly to Richfield, as in four short years the freshman class of 1960 swelled to 80. By 1972, the college had grown to occupy over a dozen buildings, including the newly christened Winchester Library. Richfield enjoyed its peak enrollment throughout the 1980s. By 1988, Richfield Bible College’s enrollment rose to 927.

As much success and growth that Richfield had experienced in the 40 years since its founding, the 90s would usher in a decade of turmoil, challenge, controversy, and ultimately profound change.

Pinpointing the exact catalyst for the transformation is difficult, but many point to a seminal series published in 1992 by Knoxville’s largest newspaper, The Knoxville Chronicle. The series ran four consecutive days, each highlighting a Richfield Bible College transgression.

Day one of the series focused on the lack of quality education the Richfield students received. Comparing a Richfield bachelor’s degree with those of other area colleges, the article noted that in a 120-hour bachelor’s degree program at Richfield, students took 90 hours of Bible classes. That first day’s headline read RICHFIELD OFFERS SUB-STANDARD EDUCATION.

The second day’s article focused on equality and diversity, hot topics in the early 90s. Noting that of Richfield’s 875 enrollees, 780 were men, The Chronicle led with the headline RICHFIELD COLLEGE: WOMEN AND MINORITIES NEED NOT APPLY. The article blasted Richfield’s racial uniformity, remarking that after spending three days on campus The Chronicle staff could find only two non-white students.

The third day’s headline read RICHFIELD LEADERSHIP DISCONNECTED AND UNQUALIFIED. The article blasted Richfield’s leadership, noting that its president had no advanced degree. A similar criticism was levied at Richfield professors with accusations of a chronic lack of experience and qualifications. The article’s most biting criticism was of the Board of Trustees, composed of seven men—most of whom had no educational experience and who had rarely been to Richfield. By the time the third article was printed, national publications were beginning to ask for permission to reprint the series.

The last day focused on Richfield’s foundational belief system. Running on Sunday to guarantee maximum readership, its headline read RICHFIELD: VOW OF PURITY REQUIRED, referencing a “covenant” all students were required to sign as a condition of their college admission. This covenant required that students submit to the authority of college educators and administrators and that they commit to 60 hours of ministry service (with emphasis on UNPAID service). Having to accept the Protestant Bible as the inerrant Word of God, students also had to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, and that no one would go to heaven except through Him.

The Chronicle noted other practices it considered Puritanical, such as a prohibition on students engaging in sex and a ban on homosexuals. The Chronicle even included excerpts from an interview with a former Richfield student who claimed he had been dismissed from school after admitting his homosexuality to his college advisor in what he thought was a private conversation.

The series won The Knoxville Chronicle and its author, Delores Jenkins, three Tennessee Press Association Awards, as well as significant national acclaim and attention. It brought Richfield Bible College scorn and ridicule throughout the country as the articles were printed in over 100 U. S. newspapers.

After the series was published, Richfield Bible College was never the same. In just a few months, the president resigned from office. Not long afterward, a mass exodus of faculty followed as enrollment began to plummet from 875 enrollees at the time of The Chronicle series to 550 in just over a year. The snowball continued as the Southern Baptist Convention decided to divest its sponsorship of Richfield, leading to a loss of all seven members of the Board of Trustees. Richfield Bible College was in freefall. Were it not for an anonymous donor, who for three consecutive months made payroll for the remaining staff and faculty, the college might have been forced to close.

In these most difficult times, a handful of remaining faculty members and staff assembled in an emergency session to determine how to pick up the broken pieces of the college they all loved. They knew if Richfield were to survive, a new beginning was required. They decided to hold their initial planning meeting symbolically in the still-standing hay barn, which had been converted to a Richfield museum. Many options were thrown on the table, all involving keeping the college alive. Not a single voice suggested closure as an option.

In times like these, natural leaders tend to emerge; in this case, that leader was the Dean of the fledgling Business College, Joe McArthur. Mac, as everyone called him, listened to the various opinions before writing down a few common concepts he was hearing. After two days of meetings, a consensus emerged of how to move Richfield forward. As frustrated as most were with The Chronicle article, they all admitted some valid concerns needed to be addressed. The first was that the college should broaden its educational offerings and drop the word Bible from its name. Efforts were also made to diversify the college in both the student body as well as in the administration and teaching staff. A new Board of seven trustees consisted of three women, including one African-American, and four men.

Once seated, the trustees selected a new president, a PhD who had over 20 years of educational experience, and who was not affiliated with the Southern Baptists.

Throughout the 2000s, the Richfield College transformation was remarkable. The student body was now 55% female with a growing multi-cultural population. Tattoos and piercings were commonplace at Richfield, which now reflected the diverse culture of most college campuses across the U. S. The curriculum was completely overhauled to be more aligned with that of similar size colleges. Most Bible classes were dropped and were replaced by the Religious Studies Department, which Dr. Jefferson was hired to chair in 2012.

 

***

 

With the most recent cheer, Dr. Jefferson sensed the crowd begin to lose energy. Knowing they didn’t have the experience she did with protests, she recognized this moral stand would be a marathon, not a sprint. She decided it was time to send the crowd away but not before a final word of inspiration.

Stepping up on a park bench, she reactivated the bullhorn, drawing all eyes and ears in her direction. “I hope you all have an appreciation for the historic action that you have started today…and I do mean started…because we are just beginning to let our voices be heard.” Cheers sprang up around her as the original two-dozen protestors had been joined by 30 curious onlookers, not all of whom were fully invested in the movement, at least not yet.

“We all know the sordid past of this institution, a past of exclusion, hate, and intolerance. Do we want to return to those days?!”

“No!”

“That’s right; none of us want to go back to those dark days. And we’re not going to let that happen!” Again, enthusiastic applause filled the Quad.

“If it is the last act I do at this college, I will stop the bigoted, close-minded, hatemonger Elijah Mustang from speaking at this institution! We’re going to bring today’s protest to a close, but I’m going to ask—no, I’m going to plead with—those of you on the periphery listening to my voice to join us tomorrow at noon to resume this movement. We don’t want to go back. We only want to move forward! I truly believe that together we are doing God’s work!”

As she stepped down from the bench, she was greeted by hugs and cheers. She could tell she had reached a new constituency. She prayed that tomorrow’s crowd would be even larger than today’s; the same for the next and the next and the next, until justice was served.

 

***

 

Among those standing in the periphery was Jeremy Prince thinking to himself, “I can’t believe this is actually working.” Again unable to suppress the smile that consumed his face, he took a step back toward the library thinking, “Now, let’s see if the next bait is swallowed as voraciously as the last.” Would he be so lucky?

 

***

 

As Dr. Jefferson unlocked the door to her apartment, she didn’t remember the three-mile drive from campus. She wondered if she had driven or just glided on the winds of change. She had been part of many protests in her career. She joined a movement that kept the ladies’ swim team going at Delaware State, picketed for gender equality pay at the Connecticut State Transportation Department, and was among the throng who successfully got a fraternity shut down for a pattern of abusing its little sisters. However, the Richfield College movement was her maiden voyage as the leader of a protest. She quite liked it and felt she was a natural. In fact, she felt a special calling to this important undertaking. She was a true social justice warrior!

As a single, 30-something college professor with degrees in philosophy and religion, Dr. Jefferson knew the stereotype many would foist upon her: a shrill, angry, unattractive female—a stereotype that many of her colleagues unfortunately reinforced. However, she worked diligently to establish her own persona. She was known as kind, professional, even deferential to her peers. While she had strong opinions, she didn’t eagerly share them. She chose her opportunities wisely for when and with whom to make her thoughts known. At 5’ 2” with a petite figure, she was not an imposing physical presence. She was also a Christian, a fact that brought derision from many of her university contemporaries. Her Christian beliefs were the primary inspiration for her seeking a Richfield faculty position.

She also considered herself significantly out of the mainstream of American conservative evangelical Christian orthodoxy. While she believed that Jesus Christ offered a path to a heaven-like afterlife, she did not consider that the only path. She considered the Protestant Bible a mix of theology, history, and fantasy, much like other holy books such as the Koran and the writings of Confucius and Buddha. In general, she considered herself open to new ideas and teachings; and she read voraciously, always seeking a deeper truth.

Although she normally led with her gentle spirit, Dr. Jefferson held great passion for where she saw injustice and unfairness, especially if a Christian institution was involved. This passion was driving her voice of leadership in the Richfield protest. She knew the history of Richfield’s injustice and how hard those who came before her worked to correct it. Thus, she felt obligated to pick up the baton from the trailblazers who worked for almost a decade to make Richfield the more open, diverse campus it was becoming. The more she learned about Elijah Mustang, the more she was convinced that inviting him to speak at the graduation ceremony was a step backwards from the significant progress already enjoyed. His speaking there could even usher in a return to the college’s dark past. This would be a battle to which she was willing to give everything she had to win.

Receiving her B. S. in religious studies from Vermont State University in 1990, Dr. Jefferson had studied the country’s religious journey from the growth of the Christian Conservative Movement as a political power in the 80s to the backlash and decline during the Clinton years of the 90s. She had even written a paper on Jerry Falwell titled “The Immoral Majority,” making her case for how the Christian Conservative Movement had blurred the lines between church and state, causing major damage to the country in the process. In her doctoral thesis written at the University of North Carolina, she chronicled the Southern Baptist Convention’s rise and decline with a particular focus on Southern Baptist colleges. Now finding herself a professor at Richfield College seemed surreal to her. The notion that she was at the center of such a protest seemed implausible.

Walking through the door of her small, one-bedroom apartment, she instinctively popped a vanilla hazelnut decaf cup in the Keurig and took a seat at the kitchen table. Flipping open the cover to her laptop, she began perusing social media as Anthony, her rescue cat, navigated a figure eight around her outstretched legs. Twitter was her first e-destination, and she was delighted at what she found: “Awesome day on the Richfield Quad.” “Actually doing something to make a difference.” She even found that a hashtag #Richfield Protest had been established. Her movement started a hashtag! Although she knew it wasn’t “her” movement, she felt a sense of profound satisfaction.

Next came Facebook, with similar results: a half-dozen statuses from students with inspired posts, positive comments, and many “likes.” Not a single negative comment or snarky retort was found. As she scrolled through her posts, she found what she was hoping to see: a new post from Dr. Jocelyn Rosenberg, a women’s studies professor, who had befriended her on Facebook a month prior. Although they had only been acquainted a short time, they were obviously kindred spirits. Dr. Rosenberg was the first to bring Elijah Mustang’s transgressions to her attention. This new post was linked to an article in The Chattanooga Observer that included excerpts from an interview Mr. Mustang had given to a reporter in 2011. In this interview, Dr. Jefferson found even more bigotry and hatred. When the reporter asked Mustang about his stance on gay marriage, he stated, “It is my belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s not just my opinion, but I believe the Word of God is clear and consistent on that point.”

“So now he’s deciding what the Word of God is?” she asked her cat, Anthony. Dr. Jefferson had found even more fuel for her passionate protest. She felt her heart race as she quickly typed three e-mails: one to Dr. Rosenberg thanking her for the link to this article and for her inspiration to pursue this issue; another to the president of Richfield College detailing her concerns about Elijah Mustang; and a third to an old acquaintance, Delores Jenkins, now The Knoxville Chronicle’s assistant editor. She sensed what started as a modest protest was about to hit it big. However, she couldn’t begin to predict what the next three days would bring.

 

 

 

 

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Excerpt reveal: ‘The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter’ by Linda Lo Scuro

Sicilian Woman-US-revised.indd

Genre: Mystery/Women’s Fiction

Author: Linda Lo Scuro

Publisher:   Sparkling Books

https://www.sparklingbooks.com/

Purchase link:

https://www.sparklingbooks.com/the_sicilian_womans_daughter.html

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About The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter

When the novel opens, Maria, the novel’s protagonist is living a charmed and comfortable life with her husband, banker Humphrey and children, in London.   The daughter of Sicilian immigrants, Maria turned her back on her origins during her teens to fully embrace the English way of life.

Despite her troubled and humble childhood, Maria, through her intelligence, beauty and sheer determination, triumphantly works her way up to join the upper middle-class of British society.  But when a minor incident awakens feelings of revenge in her, Maria is forced to confront–and examine—her past.

As she delves deeper into her mother’s family history, a murky past unravels—and Maria is swept up in a deadly and dangerous mire of vendetta.  Will Maria’s carefully-constructed, seemingly-idyllic life unravel?  Expect the unexpected in this outstanding new mystery….

The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter is a brilliantly-plotted, exceedingly well-told tale.  Novelist Linda Lo Scuro delivers a confident and captivating tale brimming with tantalizing twists, turns, and surprise, a to-die-for plot, and realistic, multi-dimensional characters.  Thoughtful and thought-provoking, rich and riveting, The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter is destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

PROLOGUE

Rumour had it that Ziuzza, my grandmother’s sister, on my mother’s side, carried a gun in her apron pocket – both at home and when she went out. She wore her apron back-to-front, resulting in the pocket being propped up against her belly. She kept her right hand poised there, between her dress and apron as if she had bellyache. I had noticed this suspicious behaviour when on holiday in Sicily with my family when I was twelve. At that stage, never could I have imagined that she was concealing a gun, while she stood there in my grandmother’s kitchen watching me have breakfast. I never saw her sitting down. She brought us thick fresh milk, containing a cow’s hair or two, in the early mornings and often stayed to chat.

She had a dog, Rocco, white and brown, which she tied to a wooden stake in my grandmother’s stable downstairs. It was a lively animal, snapping at whoever passed it, jumping and yapping. The mules, the rightful inhabitants of the stable, were out in the campagna with my grandfather from the break of dawn each day.

A tight silver bun stood proudly on Ziuzza’s head. Her frowning face always deadly serious. Fierce, even. An overly tanned and wrinkled face. Skin as thick as cows’ hide. Contrastingly, her eyes were of the sharpest blue – squinting as she stared, as if viewing me through thick fog. I was scared of her. Truly scared. And all the other women were frightened, too. You could tell by the way they spoke to her, gently and smiling. Careful not to upset her, always agreeing with her opinions. They toadied up to her well and proper. An inch away from grovelling.

And, I found out the rumours about the gun were true. Ziuzza would come and bake bread and cakes at my grandmother’s house because of the enormous stone oven in the garden. I helped carry wood to keep the flames alive. Did my bit. One day the sisters made some Sicilian cakes called cuddureddi, meaning: ‘little ropes.’ They rolled the dough with their bare hands, into thick round lengths in the semblance of snakes. Using a sharp knife, they then sliced the snake-shape in half, longways, spread the lower half of the butchered snake with home-made fig jam. They put the snake together again, slashed it into chunks. Then the chunks were dealt with one-by-one and manipulated into little ropes by pinching them forcefully into shape with their nimble fingers.

As Ziuzza bent over to wipe her mouth on the corner of her pinafore, I caught a glimpse of her gun. I was sitting at the table sprinkling the first trayful of cuddureddi with sugar. No doubt about it. It was there in Ziuzza’s big inside pocket of her pinafore. While I was looking at the bulge, she caught me out. We exchanged glances, then our eyes locked. She narrowed her hooded eyelids into slits and crunched up her face. I blinked a few times, then looked around for some more wood to replenish the oven, grabbed a few logs and vanished into the garden.

After she received a sickening threat, Rocco’s bloodied paws were posted to her in a box, she, like her dog, came to a violent end. Ziuzza was shot in her back, in broad daylight, by someone riding by on a Vespa. People with line of sight, from their windows to the body, hurried to close their shutters. Nobody saw who it was. Nobody heard the gunshots, though the road was a main artery from one end of The Village to the other. And nobody called a doctor. It would be taking sides. Which you certainly didn’t want to do. Added to that was the fact that Ziuzza at that moment was on the losing side. She was left to bleed to death in the road like an animal. It wasn’t until the dustcart came round that they removed her body because it couldn’t get by. But nobody commented, it was as if they were removing a big piece of rubbish. It was nothing to them. But instead of throwing it away, they took the body to her home. Nobody was in. So they brought it to my grandmother’s house instead.

This was the lowest point in our family’s history. With time, though, Ziuzza managed to triumph through her son, Old Cushi, who began the escalation. And, later, her grandson, Young Cushi, completed it by becoming the undisputed boss of our village, of the region, and beyond. But the transition was not easy. A bloody feud ensued. Lives were lost on both sides. Some might know who Ziuzza’s enemies were. I didn’t get an inkling. Most of the information I came across was from listening to what the grown-ups in our family were saying. And they never mentioned her rivals by name. Some faceless entity fighting for control of the area.

This is just one of the episodes I remember from our holidays in Sicily. There are many more. Every three years, I went to Sicily with my parents. Those I remember were when I was nine, twelve, fifteen and eighteen. The last time we went my mother was ill and we travelled by plane. All the other times we travelled by train because poverty accompanied us wherever we went. I think we had some kind of subsidy from the Italian Consulate in the UK for the train fare. It was a three-day-two-night expedition. I remember setting out from Victoria Station carrying three days’ supply of food and wine with us. Especially stuck in my mind was the food: lasagne, roast chicken, cheese, loaves of bread. We’d have

plates, cutlery, glasses, and an assortment of towels with us. At every transfer all this baggage had to be carried on to the next stage. No wheels on cases in those days. Then we’d get the ferry from Dover to Calais, and so began the first long stretch through France, Switzerland, until we finally pulled into Milan Station. Where our connection to Sicily was after a seven-hour wait.

We used to sleep on the waiting-room benches, though it was daytime, until someone complained about the space we were taking up. The Italian northerners had a great disdain for southern Italians. They saw us as muck, rolled their eyes at us, insulted us openly calling us “terroni”, meaning: “those who haven’t evolved from the soil.” Even though I was young, I noticed it, and felt like a second category being – a child of a minor god. There was the civilised world and then there was us. My parents didn’t answer back. And it was probably the time when I came closest to feeling sorry for them. For us.

            The journey all the way down to the tip of Italy – the toe of the boot – was excruciating. The heat in the train unbearable. When there was water in the stinking toilets, we gave ourselves a cursory wipe with flannels. Sometimes we used water in bottles. Every time we stopped at a station, my father would ask people on the platforms to fill our bottles. Then came the crossing of the Strait of Messina. At Villa San Giovanni, the train was broken into fragments of three coaches and loaded into the dark belly of the ferry. My mother wouldn’t leave the train for fear of thieves taking our miserable belongings, until the ferry left mainland Italy. While my father and I went up on the deck to take in the view. But we had orders to go back down to the train as soon as the ferry left. Then I’d go up again with my mother. She became emotional when Sicily was well in sight. She would become ecstatic. Talk to any passengers who’d listen to her.

Some totally ignored her. She’d wave to people on passing ferries. Laughing and, surprisingly, being nice to me.

Reassembled together again, the train would crawl at a tortoise’s pace along the Sicilian one-track countryside railway, under the sweltering heat. Even peasants who were travelling within Sicily moved compartment when they got a whiff of us. Another event that excited my mother was when the train stopped at a level crossing. A man got out of his van, brought a crate of lemons to our train and started selling them to the passengers hanging out of the windows. My mother bought a big bag full and gave me one to suck saying it would quench my thirst. Another man came along selling white straw handbags with fringes, and she bought me one.

By the time we reached The Village our bags of food stank to high heaven and so did we.

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‘Secret Agent Angel’ by Ray Sutherland

front cover final

Name: Ray Sutherland

Book Title: Secret Agent Angel

Websiteraysutherland.com

Find out moreAmazon / B&N / Kobo

An imaginative and intriguing tale, Secret Agent Angel is a story about how sometimes even angels have to act on faith.

About Secret Agent Angel:  Samuel, a secret agent angel on earth, has to improvise when things go badly wrong—and sometimes, Samuel has to prepare people for a purpose unknown even to him.  From the jungles of Vietnam with porters on the Ho Chi Minh trail, to Omaha truck drivers who befriend an abused boy, to wounded veterans who need to learn to let go of the past, to an accountant tempted to steal, Samuel works with fallible people, trying to get them to see their true strength.

But forty years of angelic missions come to a head when a fire at a snowbound truck stop leaves one man’s faith—and his life—hanging in the balance. The only hope for success rests with the spiritual power of the humans Samuel has tried to prepare for the struggle.  But have they gained enough spiritual strength and awareness?  And if not, does God have a Plan B??

An extraordinary story that will stay with readers long after the final page is turned, Secret Agent Angel is irresistible. Tender and touching, thoughtful and thought provoking, heartwarming and filled with heart, Secret Agent Angel is a powerful story about faith, healing, and the redemptive power of love.

EXCERPT

As always the first thing I knew arriving on Earth from Heaven was the terrible dislocation and confusion of re-entering the temporal stream. It doesn’t matter how many times you make the transition, it’s still a terrible wrench to your mind, almost violent in its effect. I spent a few seconds doing the normal head shaking and a shiver to get over the jolt and to get used to being flesh and blood again and then got down to business. At least this time I was undercover and didn’t have to wear a goofy robe and those wings that glow in the dark. They can be fun, but they’re also cumbersome and a real pain to keep clean.

This time, I looked like a reasonably normal human male, dressed in the regulation shirt and tie like that of a junior manager at a big department store chain or insurance agency. I was in the restroom of a convenience store close to the airport, so I hit the toilet handle to make it seem like I was in there for the normal reason and stepped out. I bought a honey bun, a chocolate bar, and the largest cup they had of orange soda because one thing I envy of you humans is eating and drinking. The Boss sure did a good job when he created that and I always take advantage of it when I’m here to earth.

I come here to Earth pretty regularly. My name is Samuel. I’m an angel.

I sat down at one of the small booths in the store and looked out the window as I ate and drank and waited for my subject to show up. I had timed it right and had just finished the honey bun and half the soda when his car went by, headed home after work, with his three year old daughter in the car seat in the back. I dropped the wrappers in the trash and headed to the car which was waiting for me in the furthest parking place. It started right up which is always a bit of a relief when dealing with a car I’ve never seen before. We’ve got good people doing these things, but sometimes the Boss likes to pull surprises even on us. I remember once when I worked in the fifteenth century in Yemen, I got stuck with a donkey with no training, and that caused me to get stranded in a tiny village where I wound up staying with the local Jacobite priest who had been having a faith crisis. The next morning, he had tried to help me teach the donkey manners while his wife supervised. We were having a conversation about his crisis during a break necessitated by the donkey winning a round, and his wife had exasperatedly broken in with, “You won’t get over this unless you get hit with a sign from Heaven!” Just then the donkey let loose with a kick which sent the priest flying, fortunately with no serious damage to anything other than his dignity. That made him laugh and say that very much like the story of Balaam, the Boss had again spoken through a donkey. That didn’t fix his faith but it seemed to give him the boost he needed and he went on to be a faithful leader in the Yemenite church, doubts and all.

I cut off that line of thought and got back to the business of following my subject. We didn’t have far to go, the store I’d picked to start from was only about a mile from his house and I wasn’t sure he wouldn’t stop in for gas or a loaf of bread. Today though, he went straight home, no stops and without any apparent glances in the mirror, even though a look in his mirror would have shown him a rather dark and nasty trail of smoke coming from his exhaust pipe.

As planned, the last stoplight before his final turn into their subdivision caught him and I pulled up next to him and got a good look. He looked exactly like what he was: a junior level management flunky trying to get on the fast track, with ambitions to reach high and talent to match. But today he looked more than harried and rushed at work, he looked troubled and uncertain. His mind was clearly somewhere else because he didn’t notice the light turn green until the driver behind honked. That let me get in ahead of him and slow down so he had to pass me and I got a good look at the girl, too. Amanda was her name and she was a star pupil at Miss Emmy’s Day Care Center and–of course-spoiled rotten by both parents and all four grandparents and two step-grandparents. She had the sweet look that all three year old girls have, even when they’re starving in the middle of a plague. I’ve seen that, too, and I screamed and yelled at the Boss to let me fix some things but got the usual answer.

Everything was just what I expected. That was no surprise since I watched them before I came over, but it was good to confirm it because, as you can imagine–or maybe not-things look very different when you’re on this side and limited to time and space.

Preliminary recon done, I turned off the main road a block before they did and headed to the big department store in the mall where the wife would be finishing her shift as cosmetics saleslady. They had about decided that she should quit that job since his last promotion and she was thinking about going back to college, hoping to study art and either be an artist or at least to teach in a high school. But her pay, little as it was, helped quite a bit and she was nervous about trying to do without it.

I parked in the closest spot, not very close. I wish the Boss would fix that like He fixed the traffic light but that’s one of his inscrutable ways. It’s not like I need the exercise since I’m usually a perfect physical specimen when I come over in human form.

 

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