Missing

Henry sat dumbfounded. The phone receiver swung down from his hand. His mouth gaped open, and the wrinkles hung off the jaws of his seventy-year-old shocked face.

“Hello, is anybody there?” came the voice of the young woman with whom he had been speaking.

Henry blinked and put the receiver back up to his ear. “Yes, Becky. Did you say you have no record of me working at Richmond Defense?”

Becky’s voice sounded empathetic, “That’s correct, sir. What years did you say you worked at the company?”

Henry put his forehead against his hand and shook his head slightly as he talked. “I worked there from nineteen-hundred-and-sixty to nineteen-eighty-two.”

“I’m afraid that’s quite impossible, sir.” Becky now sounded almost condescending. “The company wasn’t founded until nineteen-eighty-one.”

Henry clenched his left fist and threw himself against the back of his chair in frustration. “I know when the company was founded, young lady, I was one of the first ten people John hired.”

“John who?”

Henry stood up and his knees popped with the pain that shot up his leg. “John Richmond, the founder. How long have you been with the company? They don’t teach you about its founder anymore?”

Becky’s voice grew tense. “They teach us each and every thing about Richmond Defense. I don’t like your insinuation that I don’t know how to do my job.”

Henry began to pace, “Fine, then what do they teach you?”

Becky’s voice grew a little more pleasant. “The company was founded in nineteen-eighty-one by Garcia Richmond who named the company after his father, John. He, and two friends, Richard and Jerry, merged their three companies one year ago to combine the might of their specialties. Our specialty is small arms. Do I need to tell you what models of guns we make as well?” Becky’s voice became flat, “I assume you already know that information since you worked here.”

Henry was dumbfounded. He stood there alone in his home office looking out his window. Was he going senile? He had begun to forget the little things, like his grandkids birthdays. Henry looked down at his desk. There, laying under his computer monitor was a stack of pay statements from his 401K. He was not going senile, but he could not figure out why the company would change its history. At least now he knew why his check was a week late. Henry cleared his voice, “Young lady, Becky, I have a stack of 401K payment stubs in front of me. I am looking at my computer screen and the screenshots I’ve made of my withdrawals from the company. I’m indeed a former employee, and I’m not confused. I would like to know why I’m no longer in the company’s systems.”

Henry heard Becky exhale loudly into the phone. He smiled because he knew he had her. “Please hold,” was Becky’s only response, and then a click and old muzak filled his ear before he could respond.

Henry paced his room, stopped and spoke to the ceiling, “What can be taking so long?” He continued wearing out the floor in his home office. A moment later Becky’s voice returned.

“Henry, I’ve been talking to my manager. We do have you in our system. In fact, I am sending someone over there right now to hand-deliver the check. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Henry was about to respond but the phone clicked, and the line was dead. He sat down in his chair. His old body ached from the stress he had put it through. She never even explained all those mistakes, thought Henry to himself. I still don’t know why I was missing, or why the company says I never worked there. A few moments later there was a knock at the door. Henry forced his sore, tired bones out of his chair to answer the door. He opened the door, and a man in a nurse’s uniform smiled and then stuck a needle into his neck. Henry winced, the room spun and turned black.

The rising sun met Henry’s eyes as they opened. His bed felt comfortable against his old body. The white linoleum appeared to be freshly mopped. Over next to the window his iPad and notebook sat neatly on his empty desk. Henry got up, stretched, and walked slowly to the shower. After his shower, there was a knock at his bedroom door. A young man dressed in a white nurses uniform stood before him. “How are you feeling this morning Mr. Smith?” asked the young nurse.

“Just fine,” responded Henry, and then he stopped and looked harder at the young man. “Do I know you? You seem familiar.”

“I’m Chuck, sir. Don’t you remember us talking about my son Lewis?”

Lewis, wasn’t Lewis who I worked with, thought Henry to himself. Yes, Lewis and I were testers together on the .50 caliber sniper rifle back in the early seventies. Henry replied, “I’m sorry, Chuck, the only Lewis I remember is my old testing partner.”

Chuck smiled, and then responded, “It’s okay, sir. This will help you to remember.”

A white cotton ball appeared from Chuck’s left hand. It felt cold and wet against Henry’s skin. Chuck’s right hand came up, and before Henry could move a Chuck sunk the needle end of a syringe into his small wrinkled arm. Henry felt dizzy, and Chuck helped him to his bed. “Just rest, sir. You’ll wake up in a couple of hours, and everything will be clear again.”

The bed felt comfortable against Henry’s body. It reminded him of home. “Home,” mumbled Henry as his world grew darker, “I want to go home.”


Check out my debut novel being released October 30th: https://gmacwriter.com/books/

 

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In The Dark Wood

Cyrus walked with his head down. The familiar dusty trail had given way to mud, leaf litter, and ruts of the unexplored forest floor. The sun was disappearing. Cyrus kept trudging along the natural path. He was not concerned with getting back. He hoped he never saw home again. Mary had humiliated him in front of all of their friends. It was true that he lost his temper at work and given his boss a right cross to the jaw, but Frank had it coming. Who was that guy to think repeating a rumor about Mary and Lewis being together was a good idea? Frank was lucky he was still breathing.

Cyrus could not understand why Mary was so upset that he lost his job. Why would she want him working for that jerk? Well, he was confused until Lewis showed up an hour later at his doorstep. The epiphany of truth cut through his heart like a sword, a very dull and painful sword. Lewis’ smirked as he pushed Cyrus out of the way and made himself at home. To add insult to injury, a string of ten friends followed him inside. The cowards had wanted to make sure Cyrus avoided doing something stupid to Mary or Lewis.

There was not much Cyrus remembered after that, just walking. Mary’s voice hollered for him to come back, and Lewis laughed in a tone that ripped his heart apart with a feeling of despair and hatred he had never known. Cyrus finally stopped when the woods grew so thick the trail disappeared. Moonlight broke through the black sky, but Cyrus knew that it would do him no good to force his way through the branches and saplings in front of him. To his right, several limbs and twigs snapped, and there was a crunch in the leaf litter. Cyrus looked over and saw a figure dressed in white walking towards him.

As the phantom came into view, Cyrus realized it was no phantom at all. Olivia walked up and gave Cyrus a long, compassionate hug. Her dark skin formed a silhouette beneath the white sundress in the moonlight. Her short tightly curled black hair highlighted her strikingly beautiful face. Olivia’s large black eyes glistened as she stared into Cyrus. She seemed to reach in and soothe his very soul.

“How did you find me?” asked Cyrus.

“Where else would you go?” answered Olivia. “You need to be careful, the woods and the swamp aren’t like they were when we were kids. A few more yards and you’re in alligator country.”

Cyrus nodded, “I’m aware. I was trying to decide whether to push on or not.”

“Why would you want to do a fool thing like that?” asked Olivia.

Cyrus leaned against the tree that brushed against his shoulder. He crossed his arms and tried to pull the tension from his back as he remembered his day. “I thought you heard about what Mary and Lewis did to me. Not to mention, losing my job. I owe Frank a big apology.”

Olivia reached over and gently stroked Cyrus’ bicep. “Frank’ll forgive you.”

“Forgive me? He fired me,” said Cyrus.

Olivia nodded her head, “I know, but you both got heated. I have it on good authority he’s planning on taking you back tomorrow. He heard about the stunt Lewis and Mary pulled tonight. Frank’s good people, most people in town are. You’re going to be okay. I think it’s Mary and Lewis who need to worry about where they’ll be living.”

Olivia took a step forward and leaned toward Cyrus. Cyrus pushed himself off of the tree towards Olivia. Her cool dark lips felt soft against his pale warm cheeks. Lewis turned his head, their lips met, and the two embraced. Olivia’s breath smelled like jasmine. Cyrus closed his eyes and held her there for a while. He finally released her and exhaled. “I wish we could be together.”

Olivia’s voice had a sad undertone to its beautiful lilt. “I do too, but you know what trouble we caused as kids.”

Cyrus’ voice was tense, “What they did wasn’t right. You know, a lot of people blamed Lewis’ dad.”

Olivia tilted her head. “Speak of the devil. I believe Lewis is looking for you.”

Cyrus scowled, “How would he know to come here?”

A smile spread across Olivia’s face that ran a chill through Cyrus’ body. She pointed to their right from where she had approached him. “Go stand over there about five yards. There’re some trees you can hide behind.”

“What about you?” asked Cyrus.

Olivia’s voice spoke barely above a whisper, “It’s time to teach daddy’s boy some manners.”

Cyrus walked over where Oliva had pointed. The forest floor was wetter and a bit muddier. He could see Olivia’s sundress glowing in the moonlight. She glided past the saplings closer to the where the alligators nested. Cyrus was about to say something when Lewis’ voice broke the silence to his left.

“Where are you, boy? When I find you, I’m gonna do to you what my daddy did to your no account girlfriend. Mary is mine, and we’re gonna make this a quick and easy separation.”

To his right, a man’s voice responded, “You ain’t got the guts, come and get me.”

Cyrus heard the sound of footsteps moving quickly towards Olivia, and then saw Lewis’ silhouette in the moonlight. He was moving at a quick pace until he tripped on a rut while trying to make way through the saplings. “What’s the matter, don’t know the swamps?” The deep voice asked, and then a cackle sent a shutter through Cyrus. Lewis yelled, cursed, and climbed his way out of the wooded trap. “Where are you?” screamed Lewis, and he continued to move forward.

Cyrus could no longer hide. What if something happened to Oliva? He stepped from behind his hiding place and quickly made his way to the branches. Through the contour of the limbs and moonlight, he could see Lewis jerking his head left and right as he kept a deliberate pace forward, and then Lewis stopped and stood straight and still. The ghostly white moonlight caught Olivia’s dress, and she appeared to almost float in the darkness.

“What, do you think you can hide your old boyfriend!” screamed Lewis, and he dove at Olivia.

“No,” hollered Cyrus and he tried to reach through the limbs. To his horror, Lewis passed through Olivia and tripped over something in the dark. With a growl, and then a scream, Cyrus watched the giant mouth of an alligator open and then snap shut on Lewis’ skull. He covered his face and tried to block out the sound of bone collapsing against teeth. Cyrus focused on trying to breathe and not release the contents of his stomach. The smell of jasmine filled his nostrils again. Cyrus opened his eyes. His beautiful love stood before him.

“Did you have to do that?” asked Cyrus.

Olivia nodded, “There was a gun in his pocket. He would have killed you and then that would have been you, instead of Lewis over there.”

Cyrus sighed and dropped his head. He felt Olivia’s cold dark fingers lift his chin. Her lips sent a thrill of electricity through him. “I miss you so much.” bemoaned Cyrus.

“One day, my love. One day we will be together as God intended. He’s promised me. Now clean yourself up at the spot we used as kids, it’s still safe, and get yourself to town. Everything will be okay. Just do me one favor, stay away from women like Mary.”

Cyrus took Olivia’s hands into his own. “I can’t find a good woman. There isn’t any woman as good as you. I miss you so much. Maybe I should come and join you.”

Olivia’s eyes grew wide, and she shook her head, “Don’t you dare! Don’t you go pining away for me and do something stupid. You know exactly where to find me, and I’m always here for you. Find yourself a good woman, or live alone, but don’t go off and do something stupid.”

Cyrus nodded once and dropped his head. He could feel Oliva looking at him. He raised chin up and met her lips for a long kiss. His world filled with jasmine, a breeze shot through his body, and she was gone. With a sigh, and tears in his eyes, Cyrus made his way back to town.

Doctor Joshua Zeev’s Goodbye

Joshua straddled the flat gray picnic bench. The eight-year-old boy’s tears had soaked Joshua’s button-down blue dress shirt, and he would not have time to change clothes before catching his flight in Greensboro, NC to Los Angelas. Joshua’s tears had flowed beyond his cheeks and dampened his once freshly starched collar. The dull brown and green grass, gray dirt, gray trees and overcast sky seemed fitting to the mood. Joshua looked through his blurry eyes across the street at the Family Duplex home. Family, he thought. I was like a father to so many children here, but now I’m just another adult abandoning them for my selfish ambitions. God forgive me, but I have to help the Browns.

The boy began to scream, “You can’t go, Joshua! I won’t let you!” His small fists beat against Joshua’s chest. Each blow caused Joshua’s heart to hurt, but not his chest.

“Bill, you stop that this instant.” chastised Joshua. “You know better than that. What about your temper?”

“I don’t care about my stupid temper. I just care about you. You can’t go, Joshua.” Bill began to weep again and buried his head back into Joshua’s wet shirt.

Joshua stroked Bill’s thick black locks with his left hand and gently patted Bill’s back with his right. “There, there. I’m not leaving forever. I’ll be back before you know it.”

Bill’s young voice was muffled by Joshua’s shirt and chest, “Do you promise?”

Joshua kissed the top of Bill’s head. “I promise.”

Bill looked up and wiped his nose and cheeks on his sleeve. “When?”

Joshua grabbed both sides of his face and kissed his forehead, and then released his head. “I don’t know, but I’ll come back, I promise. Doctor Adam will be cross with me if I don’t.”

“I’ll be cross if you don’t.”

Fear quivered down Joshua’s spine. Bill could not lose hope. If he lost hope, he might decide to lash out. A nightmarish thought penetrated Joshua’s mind. If Bill lashed out the beast that he had buried inside might find a way out. If that happened, and he was gone… Joshua stopped himself from thinking any further.

Joshua took Bill’s face into his hands again and directed the boy’s blue eyes to look directly into his own. “Bill, you have to promise me never to be cross again. If you love me, promise me that no matter what happens, you’ll remember everything I’ve taught you.” Joshua searched Bill’s eyes for any sign of anger.

Bill’s eyes still dripped with salty tears, but he managed to smile. He suddenly leaped up and kissed and squeezed Joshua’s neck as hard as he could. Joshua enjoyed the temporary reduction in oxygen. He wrapped his arms around Bill’s waist and clutched the young man. The two let go of one another.

“I’ll be good, Joshua. I know I’ll see you again, you promised.”

Joshua picked Bill up and rotated him away from the picnic table’s old wooden bench. Bill let himself slip from Joshua’s grip and his feet plopped down on the dusty gray ground.

“There you are, young man, I’ve been looking for you.”

Joshua looked in the direction of the chapel to see Dr. Adam walking towards them. Adam continued to address Bill, “Please report to the chapel.”

Bill nodded and kicked at the dirt, “Okay,” he gave Joshua one last sad look.

Joshua responded, “I’ll see you.”

Bill smiled, “I know,” and then he took off running towards the chapel.

Dr. Adam sat on the picnic table with his feet on the bench and looked down at Joshua. “Well, it appears Bill took that well.”

Joshua looked down at his tear stained shirt. “It could’ve been worse.”

Dr. Adam leaned back on his right arm. “Joshua, are you sure you should go? I mean, you’re playing a dangerous game, my friend. Memory suppression has never been an effective means of hypnotherapy. What if that thing, whatever it is in Bill’s head, gets out? The state frowns upon chaining up children in the basement.”

Joshua clasped his hands behind his head and smiled, “I don’t think chains could hold Bill. Anyway, I didn’t suppress his memory. I just gave the demon inside him something to do besides torture a child. So far, it’s working. If there are any signs of trouble call the Browns or my cell phone, and I’ll be on the first plane home.”

Dr. Adam asked, “So, does this mean you’ve changed your mind? You don’t want me to suppress Bill’s memories of your therapy sessions after you’ve gone?”

Joshua released his hands, let his body recline back and raise his feet off the ground, and then he rocked back forward and let his feet smacked the dirt. “Oh, that. No, I haven’t changed my mind.”

Adam sighed, looked up at the dormant trees and then looked back down towards Joshua. “I would never question your ethics my friend, but I’m not sure I understand why you want Bill to forget those sessions.”

Joshua’s right heal tapped momentarily in the dirt. “Just trust me. There were things discussed. Things I don’t want him to remember without me here.”

“You don’t think I’m up to the task of following up?” Dr. Adam cleared his throat. “Seriously, Joshua, if you were any other man I would be insulted.”

“Please, as my friend, trust me.”

Adam nodded, sat up and then leaned forward with his arms rested on his thighs. His head hovered only a few inches above Joshua. “Do you think Bill and Harold’s issues are due to their mother?”

Joshua shrugged, “I don’t want to say officially. There are some similarities, and there are some significant differences.”

Adam’s eyes locked on to Joshua. Joshua felt like his friend was attempting to bore into the hidden thoughts inside his head. “If you aren’t sure, why are you going to California, and why did you tell the Browns you can help Harold?”

Joshua rested his left hand on the picnic table and began to drum his fingers against the splintered wood and stared at them. His friend had asked him a fair question, and Joshua could not think of a definitive answer. He sighed and looked back at Adam. Adam’s eyes remained fixed on him. Joshua cleared his throat and said, “Well, what I did is working for Bill, why won’t it work for Harold? Besides, Harold has his forever family. When I met the Browns, I could tell they love their son. In fact, they love him enough to come all the way across the country to try and help him.

Compare that to what Bill has. His mother left him a prisoner here. She promised to come back, and we both know that will never happen. Bill’s only family is this orphanage.”

Adam nodded, “Yes, April has more than a few demons herself. I doubt she will ever return for Bill, but you could fix that, you’re his guardian.”

Joshua smiled and said, “Wrong, you’re Bill’s guardian now, and you won’t do it for the same reason I won’t. What if we’re wrong and she does come back? No matter how bad things get, we’re both suckers for hope.”

“I prefer to think of myself more as an optimist than a sucker,” said Dr. Adam as he sat up and stretched his back.

Joshua relaxed, put his left elbow on the picnic table and leaned against it. “Fair enough. Well, Bill, you and I have our hope, but Harold has the Browns. If that doesn’t give Harold a leg up over Bill for this berserker behavior, I don’t know what does.”

The orphanage’s old, white fifteen passenger van pulled up. It looked as empty and hollow as Joshua felt. The two men got up from the picnic table and hugged. “Joshua, you take care of yourself and get back home.”

Joshua nodded and said, “I’ll be back before you can miss me. You take care of my Panthers’ gear until I get home.”

Adam laughed, “Oh, it’s already hanging in my television room, but really, they’re horrible compared to the west coast teams. Are you sure you want to hang on to that stuff? You’ll be a Forty-Niner’s fan before you know it.”

Joshua gave Adam a mocking scowl, “Aren’t you a fair weather fan. Besides, I’ve heard rumors they’re finally getting rid of Capers. The team will rebuild.”

Adam nodded, “Uh-huh. Well, I get dibs on your Panthers banners when you switch teams.”

“Never gonna happen.”

Both men laughed as they made their way to the van. Joshua hugged Adam and got into the vehicle. Joshua nodded to the driver, and the van slowly made its way down the street. A tear escaped Joshua’s right eye as they passed under the old iron “North Carolina Children’s Home” sign. He refused to look back as the transport made its way to the Greensboro airport.

 


Do you want to know what happens? Pre-Order the first novel in the series. “Joshua and the Shadow of Death”

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My New Book Trailer

I am very excited to share my debut novel’s book trailer. If you are in the U.S. it is available for pre-order today via my website at https://gmacwriter.com/shop.

If you are outside of the U.S. pre-order options should begin appearing by mid-August. I am partnering with Ingram-Spark who has many global partners they work with.

The novel is releasing October 30, 2018.

Enjoy the trailer, it’s only 37 seconds.

Joshua and the Shadow of Death

Please note tomorrow Lucius will be reading you one of his stories.

Guarding The Innocent

Steam poured from under the hood of his Ford Focus. John stood there cursing himself. Earl’s voice played over in his mind, “John, you better summerize that little car. It’s gonna get real hot this year, let me tell you.” John kicked the car’s front tire, and his foot bounced back. “Idiot” grumbled John to himself.

He looked down the road in hopes of seeing the tow truck he had called for earlier. The hopeful sound of a truck engine was non-existent. John looked at his watch, had it only been five minutes? It would be at least another hour before anyone showed up if he was lucky. Why did I use that dirt road? John thought, I could have stayed on the main road, and it would have been easier. Stupid.

At least the moon was full so that he could be on the lookout for snakes crossing the road. The heat and humidity were so thick on this southern summer night that it formed a low-lying mist that covered the ground and extended into the dark woods. John swatted at the occasional mosquito and the gnats that continually buzzed his face. He began to pace back and forth, hoping to break free of their incessant buzzing. Twenty feet from his car the cloud of bugs seemed to dissipate.

John stopped and tried to relax. The sound of frogs singing back and forth, and an owl hiding somewhere in the forest helped his nerves to settle. John began to breathe more naturally, and then a twig snapped just inside the tree line. John started to walk back towards his wounded car slowly.  He listened carefully, trying to estimate the size of the hidden animal. A moment later a figure emerged from the dark woods.

A woman stumbled into the light of the moon. She had red clay covered hair, but John could see golden strands of blond locks poking through the muck. Her mud smeared face was hardly recognizable, and a white sundress clung dirty and wet against her body. She walked stiffly towards John, and he froze. Everyone had heard the stories about the woman in white. It had been used for decades to scare teenagers from parking with their dates in the lonely woods. John could barely breathe.

“Help me,” she said. “I need help.”

John felt light-headed and didn’t move. She stumbled up and grabbed his shirt with her dirty hands. “Please help me, somebody tried to bury me alive.”

John grabbed her wrists. She was human and very much alive. Her skin was slick with mud and sweat. The woman’s frightened blue eyes pleaded with him. “Please help,” she said again.

“What’s your name?” asked John

The woman gave her head a quick jerk to the right. “Rebecca, Becky. People call me Becky. I need help.”

“I have a tow truck coming. Are you hurt?”

The woman looked and felt about her body. “I think I’m okay, but my legs are sore.”

“How did you get out here?”

Becky looked back at John. “I can’t remember.”

Becky started trembling, and John put his arms around her. “It’s okay. You’re going to be alright.” John could feel her ragged breaths. He held her until her breathing became more regular, and released her. “Tell me what you do remember.”

Becky looked around. John could see she was trying to get her bearings. “Well, I was at a bar and met this guy. His name was George, John, Jason, Jeff.”

“Jim?” asked John.

Becky nodded, “Oh no, where’s Jim?”

She ran back towards the woods screaming, “Jim, Jim, where are you!” Her voice echoed back for several seconds until the forest became a cacophony of “Jim.”

John walked over to her and put his hand on her shoulder, “Please, stop. There’s nobody else out here.”

A colony of bats flew overhead, and then the forest was silent. “Is it possible Jim did this to you?” asked John.

Becky stood there silently thinking. “No,” she said. “I can’t remember what happened to Jim, but he wasn’t with me anymore at some point tonight. Another man put me in the back of his car.” Becky looked around and noticed John’s car steaming on the roadside. Fear enveloped her face, and she pointed at the Focus, “Oh God, it was you. You put me in the back of that car and raped me. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t scream. Then you tried to bury me, but something scared you, and you left.”

John shook his head and raised his palms up in surrender, “I promise, it wasn’t me.”

Becky stepped back towards the woods, “Yes it was. I remember your hands and your disgusting shirt that smells like rotten pork.”

John sighed and shook his head, “Why did you have to remember?”

“Get away from me,” screamed Becky.

John’s clenched his fists as he approached the retreating woman. The sound of a branch breaking behind him stopped his movement. Becky’s expression changed to one of relief and then fright. John spun around. A woman with wet raven hair stood before him. Her black eyes seemed to disappear into nothingness. A pure white gown hung loosely from her body.

She spoke with a  guttural growl and pointed her finger at John, “It was you.”

John screamed and the black-haired woman pulled John into the woods so quickly that Becky thought they had simply vanished. The wildlife in the woods screeched and hollered in harmony with John’s cries, and then everything was silent.

Becky folded her arms in front of her and slowly made her way up towards the road. The headlights of a truck appeared on the horizon. A tow truck pulled up and stopped between her and the wounded car. A large man got out of the cab and Becky trembled at the thought of what might happen next.

The driver rushed around with a cell phone in his hand. “Don’t worry ma’am. I’m calling the police right now. I’ll get an ambulance here too. I don’t know what happened to you, but help is on the way. Feel free to sit over there on my truck’s bumper until they get here. I’m gonna check out your car and stay right over there until help arrives.”

The driver headed up towards the car with the cell phone in his ear. In a few minutes, she could hear sirens fill the distant air. Becky sat on the rear bumper, bowed her head and began to weep. She was safe at last.


Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day – summerize

Broken Lives

David stared at the computer screen. His mind was shattered, and his heart was broken. Tears trailed down his cheeks. Had it been a year since Susan’s death? “Why?” he asked out loud to the empty room. He knew nobody was there answer him. Just like there were no answers to his wife’s murder.

The website Justice for Susan had been created by a group of helpful web developers to pull together clues about the fateful day of Susan’s murder. On the day of her death, David was away at his office, and Susan was home working in their bedroom. She was a freelance web developer for various companies. According to the police, the attacker walked into the house through the unlocked front door.

The front door was never locked. It was one of the perks of living in a gated community in an otherwise rural area. The perpetrator made his way up the stairs towards the bedrooms. The police believed Susan heard the footsteps at some point and walked to the bedroom’s doorway. The attacker fired two shots. The first bullet hit Susan in the shoulder, and the second passed through the drywall and embedded itself in the far bedroom wall. She staggered back, and the attacker kept coming. One more bullet hole embedded in a stud over the bed showed the only other projectile to miss. The rest of the ammunition landed in Susan’s body.

Nothing was taken. David found his wife’s bloody body contorted on the floor when he arrived home. The rust color stain in the carpet still testified to that fateful moment.

“Why shut the website down?” David stood up and began pacing. The website was instrumental in finding new clues. The police said they were closing in on the killer. What would happen now?

David had gotten to know the community of developers that maintained the Justice for Susan website. Many of them had worked with his wife. They were now a family and often communicated with one another. That link would soon be broken when the website shut down. This site had not only been a cache of clues; it had become a lifeline to David’s sanity. Many of the developers had contacted David to help him through his loss. Over the past year, others had heard of his plight and joined the website. Some wanted to be sleuths, and others were people who had lost a family member unexpectedly.

David picked up the phone and tapped in the often used phone number. Charles’ familiar voice answered on the other end. “Charles Wallace.”

David continued his pacing. “Charles, this is David.”

“Hi, what’s going on?”

David leaned up against the wall and stared at the notice in his email. “I just wanted to know why you are taking down the website.”

There was a pause for a few seconds, and then Charles said, “Who said I was taking down the website?”

David pushed off the wall and sat down in his chair. “I assume you did. I have an email saying the website for Susan is being shut down in a few days.”

“Oh, yes. I didn’t realize the email had already gone out. To be honest, David, after a year I just felt like we’ve done all we can do. After all, this site doesn’t run for free, and the donations have slowed down.”

David’s eyebrows crinkled, “I don’t understand. Just last week Denise said she received a check for several thousand dollars to keep the website running.”

“Yeah, well, that fell through.”

“It was a bad check?”

Charles’ voice seemed to have a touch of glee in it. “Something like that. I’m sorry, but we all have work to do, and most of us agree it’s time to move on. I have talked with the police on an almost weekly basis, and they have more than enough clues to solve the crime.”

David started tapping his desk with his left index finger. “What do you mean? How can you possibly know if they have enough clues.”

Charles’ sarcasm dripped through the earpiece of the phone, “David, I thought you of all people would have figured this out by now. She was your wife after all.”

The room began to spin, and David grabbed his desk with his left hand. “You killed her?”

An audible chuckle cut through his hearing, and then Charles said, “You’re taking the fun out of it. It’s not worth my time to have to spell it out. Normally, I would have just walked away, but since I’m no longer anywhere you can find me I thought I would be merciful. I like you David, and I liked Susan. That’s why I picked you both.”

David’s left hand clinched into a fist, and he slammed it down on the desk. The keyboard skipped for a moment, and trinkets tumbled over. “I will find you.”

Charles laughed. “No, no you won’t. You had a year. I gave you every chance in the world. I created a whole community to find me, and nobody figured it out.”

“But, why? Why us, why Susan?”

“David, one day you will understand what an honor it was for me to choose you. I only pick the best a brightest. I bring a little suffering into their lives and make them better for it.”

David pulled in long breaths of air and tried to stop the room from spinning. “We will find you.”

Charles paused for a moment, and then answered, “Perhaps. If anyone can find me, you might be the one. I hope you do; I like you, David.”

David started to respond, but pulled the phone away and hung up. He began to dial the detective who was assigned to Susan’s case but stopped mid-dial. There would be time for that. A smile crept across his face. Charles had made David better in the last year. David had taught himself web development as well as deep search skills. During that time he had found another community. This community worked independently of Charles’ little group. Now that he knew who the killer was they could comb the globe to find him.

Susan would get justice, and so would Charles’ other victims, if there were more. Finishing his post to his international brotherhood of sleuths, David dialed the detective’s number. It was only a matter of time now, and that fact replaced David’s rage with a sense of peace.


 

Alone in the Woods

Billy stood behind an old oak tree relieving himself in the forest. The cool, dry air of the passing cold front had been a welcomed change from the hot, humid day. The campfire was just within Billy’s view. He watched Lauran sit there by the fire. She had bleached blond hair that hung in tight wet curls with droplets of water that fell from their tips. Lauran had gotten caught in the storm that Billy had avoided by hovering in his tent.

After the storm passed over, Billy was able to recover his campfire. Lauran appeared out of the woods thirty minutes later. Her hollow gray eyes penetrated Billy’s heart with sadness when he looked into them.

Billy muttered to himself about lousy timing and attempted to hurry up his business with the tree. He was not sure where Lauran had been, but he knew she needed help and could not stay alone out in the woods. His small two-man tent might feel a bit too personal, but he would have to convince her he would keep her safe. The campsite was only a half a mile from the road. He would take her to authorities in the morning so she could get checked out and call a loved one.

Billy finished and walked back to his campsite. “I’m sorry, ” he said. “I was not expecting company and had a few beers before you arrived.”

“Oh,” responded Lauran. “are you upset about something?”

“What? No, it’s not like that.” Billy pulled up a log he intended to burn later and sat across from Lauran at the fire. “Why would you think that?”

Lauran shrugged, “I don’t know. Jerry used to drink when he was mad. Unfortunately, he’d just get angrier.”

Billy pointed at Lauran with a stick he had just picked up. “Who’s Jerry? ”

“He was my boyfriend.”

“Does he always take you hiking dressed like that?”

“What’s wrong with the way I’m dressed?”

“Most people don’t wear a sundress to hike in.” Jerry tossed the stick back on to the muddy ground.

Lauran looked down, picked up a stick and drew an arrow on the ground as she spoke. “Well, I needed to get away from him in a hurry. Jerry doesn’t mean to be angry. He’s had a hard life. Jerry grew up without a father, and his mother’s boyfriends would beat him. She kicked Billy out on his seventeenth birthday. He’s a hard worker, but it’s tough to hold a job when you never even finished high school. I guess all his hardship made him a hard man.”

Billy sat quietly and listened. He was concerned Jerry might be nearby. “Is he looking for you?”

Lauran shook her head. “Not anymore. I was finally able to escape.”

“Then why are you in the woods?”

Lauran shrugged, “I’m just trying to figure out where I’m supposed to go now.”

Billy nodded his head. He noticed her playing with a silver heart-shaped locket. Lauran looked up from her twiddling fingers and said, “Jerry gave me this locket. He worked two months to save up the money. What makes a man love someone so deeply and hold on to so much hate?”

Billy picked up a nearby twig, looked up at Lauran and shrugged, “I don’t know. Maybe he couldn’t let go of his pain. You know, forgive his mom or those boyfriends.”

“But he became just like those men.”

Billy nodded, “That’s how hate usually works. It grows inside until it twists you into the very people you despised. I hope Jerry can get some help before he hurts somebody.”

Lauran let go of the locket, and a tear trickled down her cheek. “He already hurt me, but I’ve forgiven him. Besides, I won’t have to worry about him anymore.”

Billy asked, “Does he live nearby?”

Lauran shook her head, “Oh no, he’s at least fifty miles away.”

“How did you end up here then?”

“Jerry brought me up here.” Lauran was about to continue to story, and Billy held up his hand.

“Excuse me. I’m afraid I need to get rid of some more beer.”

Lauran gave a slight smile and looked away. Billy got up and felt a bit awkward as he rushed to the tree. His bladder was not in a joking or social mood. As he finished watering the tree he looked around its trunk to look at his beautiful but sad new friend. To his surprise, she had disappeared.  Billy quickly zipped up and rushed back to the campfire.

He looked down and noticed three equally spaced arrows leading out of his campsite. Billy picked up his flashlight and began to walk where the arrows were pointing, but stopped. What if this is a trap?  Billy considered the fact that Jerry could still be with her, but why would they lead him away from his campsite? He was just as vulnerable by the campfire.

Billy grabbed his taclight and hunting knife and left the camp. There were no footprints on the trail. Billy backtracked and walked the perimeter of his temporary shelter, but the only tracks he could find were his own. Intent on solving this mystery he prepared to follow the arrows once more. Billy checked his right pocket to confirm his cellphone was there. Pulling it out he found the signal a solid four bars, just as it had been earlier in the evening.

The trek through the woods was treacherous even with the flashlight. Ruts, roots, and mud made for slippery walking. Fifty yards from his tent something caught his heel and Billy went sprawling into the mud. He picked the taclight off the ground and wiped the dirt away from it. Looking back, Billy instinctively jerked his leg away from the pale human hand sticking stiffly out of the mud. He backpedaled on his hands and feet ten more feet before stopping to catch his breath. Billy reached in and pulled out his phone. He called authorities for help.

Rangers and the state police arrived thirty minutes later. They found Billy leaning up against a tree. He was muddy and pale, but he did not leave the body. A ranger took a shovel and began to expose the corpse slowly. As the mud started to clear strands of bleach blond hair began to stick up in small places out of the mud. Billy watched as the ranger reached down and pulled up a silver heart-shaped locket.

A nearby state policewoman grabbed Billy as his knees buckled.

“Are you going to make it?” she asked.

Billy forced himself to stand up. “Yeah,” he said in a shaky voice. “I think the guy inside that locket killed her. His name is Jerry.”

The ranger walked over, “How do you know?”

Billy pointed towards the body, “That’s what she told me.”

The ranger looked over his shoulder at the corpse and back at Billy. “I doubt it. She’s been dead at least a couple of weeks.”

The policewoman gently took Billy by the shoulder. “Why don’t we get you out of here. I think you’ve been through enough.”

Billy wiggled free of the officer’s grip. “Just promise me you’ll follow-up on that locket.”

“Don’t worry, we’re going to follow every lead.” the officer responded.

Billy nodded, and the two of them started the half a mile trek to the road.


 

Newly Discovered Inspiration

Thin, that’s how Greg would describe it. He felt stretched thin. It seemed like everything in his life had been pulling him in different directions. There were the endless deadlines that his job as an independent author had piled on his shoulders. These were self-imposed milestones for his books, marketing, and publishing. He stared at his computer screen but was unable to form any words. The Spring sunshine streamed through his office window and beckoned him outside. With a sigh of surrender, Greg left his office for the warm sunlight.

He took a walk to the park twenty minutes away. The air was dry with a slight hint of Winter still hiding in the Spring breeze. Greg began his stroll along the concrete walking path inside the park. A couple of families were taking advantage of the pleasant weather to get their young children outside. Laughter and squeals of delight wafted along the wind. Greg took in the pink, white, red, and purple flowers.  Green buds were filling the once gray sticks that made up the trees surrounding the park.

Greg smiled and thought, this isn’t helping me find my story, but it’s helping me be less productive. Greg approached a fork in the path and decided to venture into the new forest pathway to see what additions had been made to the park. He rounded the first right turn and sitting there was a young woman at a picnic bench. She looked up at Greg, and he could see a tear flowing partway down her cheek. She smiled and said hello.

“Hi, are you doing okay?” Greg asked

“I’m alright,” sniffed the young woman.

Her pale blue eyes that seemed to glow and they pulled Greg in. Her thick blond hair fell just below her shoulders. Although her dress appeared dated, it fit her perfectly.

He stuck out his hand, “I’m Greg, may I sit down.”

The woman reached up and shook Greg’s hand. Her cold skin felt nice next to Greg’s warm palm. “I’m Lydia. Yes, please have a seat.”

Greg sat down next to her. He was not sure if it was the flowers or her perfume, but the fragrance had enchanted him. Greg cleared his throat and said, “I don’t normally just sit down to speak with women I don’t know, but you seem upset.”

Lydia reached over and touched Greg’s hand. Her fingers were cool to the touch, and her hand seemed to send electricity up his arm. Her glowing blue eyes stared into his, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for anyone to find me.”

Greg pulled back his hand, “Oh, please don’t be sorry. I walked up on you. I can leave.”

Before Greg could stand up, Lydia grabbed his arm. Her cold hand sent goosebumps up his bicep and down his spine. The sensation thrilled him. Greg hoped she would never let go. Lydia said, “No, please stay. I would love to chat awhile. I’ve been alone for a long time.”

“Me too,” said Greg. “Work has been killing me. It seems like the harder I work the more money I lose.”

Lydia let her hand linger and then slid it slowly away from Greg’s arm as she spoke. “Oh? What kind of work do you do?”

“I’m a writer. Well, I’m a new writer. Lately, it just seems like I’m spending money on everyone else to publish my book instead of people paying me to read the story I spent months on. It’s got me pretty discouraged.”

Lydia took his hand. The electricity returned and the self-pity that was weighing him down seemed to lighten a little. “Don’t be discouraged. We have to have hope. It’s the only thing that has kept me here for so long.”

Greg’s eyebrow lifted slightly. “I’m sorry, but you don’t look old enough to have been anywhere for very long.”

Lydia smiled, and the world seemed to glow around them. “You’re very kind.”

Greg continued, “Well, all the stress has given me writer’s block. It just seems like everyone wants my time or money and now I don’t have anything left to create my stories.”

Lydia dropped her eyes down towards the picnic bench. “I understand. That’s how Julio felt. He was always working on the farm. From dawn until dusk you could always find him in the field. He told me he needed to support us, but he worried me. Julio would be out plowing a field in the heat of late spring behind a team of horses.”

Greg sat in silence for a moment and tried to make sense of what Lydia was sharing. What does she mean by plowing with a team of horses? Greg asked, “What happened?”

Lydia looked up at Greg. Her eyes glistened, and tears began to flow. He was not sure, but her eyes almost seemed to glow brighter. “Julio collapsed in the field late in May. He was dead by the time I reached him.”

“Where did that happen?”

“Here,” said Lydia. “Right here.”

Greg was worried Lydia was mentally ill. “Do you mean here in the park?”

Lydia shook her head. “No. This land was a field before it was a park. It was our farm a long time ago. Julio died right here. So, I keep coming back, hoping he will return to me someday.”

Greg felt a chill cut through his entire body. He wondered if Lydia was dangerous, and how he could get away to notify authorities and get her some help. Greg tried to calm her down. “Perhaps he is in heaven. Maybe he’s waiting for you.”

Lydia’s renewed touch on his hand sent a wave of panic and energy through his body. “You’re sweet,” said Lydia, “but Julio promised me he would never leave this earth without me. So, I’m hoping and waiting.”

Greg nodded, unsure what to say or do. Footsteps to his left caused him to turn away to see who was coming up the pathway. A young couple walked back and nodded their heads hello to Greg. Greg nodded in return and turned to Lydia, but she had vanished. Greg stood and searched the nearby area, but Lydia was gone. He began walking back home. As he walked, he prayed Lydia would find peace because she had helped him find his inspiration once more.


 

Many things too mysterious

Not everything can you know;
Not everything can you understand;
Not everything can be explained
To you;
Must you know it all?
What you cannot understand,
You cannot understand;
Leave it;
Others may understand;
That’s okay;
Ours is a complex world;
Many things too mysterious;
And no one can know it all;
We will only know some
And leave some.
Don’t rack your brain
Too much to know everything.