Get out there with the curious Johnny and his patient Mommy, in this colourful, rhyming book, celebrating all the wonders of the everyday world.
Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date Published: November 2, 2018
Two years ago, Noelle North’s then-fiancé left her waiting at the church on Christmas—her wedding day and birthday. She knows she cannot endure another holiday season at home in Boston. At the urging of four women at the assisted-living community where she serves as health director, Noelle decides to rent Seashell Cottage on the Gulf Coast of Florida for the holidays. She meets Silas Bellingham, the cutest seven-year-old boy she’s ever seen, and his great-grandmother, Althea. Noelle discovers Althea’s caretaker has been abusing her and goes into action, ending up with the temporary care of both Althea and Silas. Becoming part of the Bellingham household has an entirely different series of challenges when it comes to Althea’s grandsons, Jake and Brett, who are having problems of their own with hotels to run and their parents missing in a plane crash. But after sparring with her, Silas’ father, Jake, realizes Noelle is just what he and his family need, and when she finds the perfect Christmas star for Silas, they both know he’s right.
On the Gulf Coast of Florida, Noelle North walked along the white, sandy beach that lined the shore like the fur on her slippers back home. The sun’s heat washed over her, hugging her with its warmth on this early December morning. She unzipped her light jacket and lifted her arms to the blue sky, welcoming the day with an embrace. She had a whole six weeks of freedom from work and her dismal life back home.
Her family had wanted her to stay in Boston with them for the holidays, but Noelle knew she couldn’t endure another Christmas of everyone feeling sorry for her. Two years ago, on Christmas Day, her fiancé, Alexander Cabot, had left her waiting at the church on her wedding day, while he’d taken off with another woman, his best friend’s wife. She’d wanted to die of embarrassment. Even now, thinking of that humiliation, a shudder shook her shoulders, and her stomach filled with acid.
The one thing that had helped her keep going throughout the healing process was the conviction that she’d never fall for a glamour guy again. Besides, at thirty-two and with her grim track record with men, she was pretty sure she was destined to be single for the rest of her life. The thought didn’t bother her as much as it used to. Why should it? She had the freedom to come and go as she pleased, nobody was around to tell her what she could or couldn’t do, and evenings after a hard day of work at the New Life Assisted-Living Community were blissfully quiet.
Noelle stopped walking and gazed out over the water. Waves rolled toward her in a steady pattern, greeting the shore with a kiss and pulling away like a shy child. Above her, seagulls wheeled in circles, their cries shrill in the stillness of the early morning. She watched as a group of sandpipers darted toward the water’s edge, dipped their beaks into the sand for whatever little morsel they could catch, and continued on their way, leaving tiny footprints behind.
A flash of black caught her attention. She turned to see a big dog galloping toward her, yellow tennis ball in his mouth. She braced herself to greet him and then chuckled as the dog circled and ran right by her toward a small figure farther down the beach.
She walked on, watching with interest as the dog ran into the water and came out again carrying the wet ball in his mouth. As she came closer, she saw that the person throwing the ball was a boy whom she guessed was seven or eight.
The boy smiled at her as she approached.
“Your dog is a very good catcher,” Noelle said. “What’s his name?”
“Duke,” the boy said. The dog, hearing his name, came and sat by him.
“And what’s your name?” Noelle asked, thinking the boy with dark red hair, bright green eyes, and freckles was one of the cutest kids she’d ever seen.
“Silas. Silas Bellingham.” He studied her. “Who are you? And why aren’t you working?”
She grinned. “I’m Noelle North, and I’m not working because I’m on vacation for the next month or so.” She glanced around. “Are you here by the water on your own?”
“Naw. My great-grandmother’s over there. See?” He pointed to a woman sitting in a wheelchair on the porch of a sizeable house overlooking the beach.
Noelle smiled and lifted a hand in greeting, but the woman didn’t wave back.
“See you later,” the boy said and ran toward his great-grandmother.
Noelle watched him go, thinking of all her friends’ children back home. Of the four women who had stuck together through everything since college, she was the only one who was unmarried and without children. She’d always wanted a large family, but that didn’t seem possible now. At her age and with no prospects of a husband in sight, she would be lucky to have even one baby.
Trying to fight off depression, Noelle resumed walking. It was bad enough to have been dumped at the altar on Christmas, but that day was also her birthday. With a name like Noelle, she’d always felt the holiday season was something extra special, almost magical, in her life. Until two years ago, that is. Now, Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, and especially Christmas music were nauseating to her.
She walked on wishing her grandmother was alive. From an early age, she and Gran had had a special relationship. In fact, Gran was the reason why, as a graduate of Boston College’s nursing program, Noelle decided to specialize in caring for the elderly. She now headed the health program at an exclusive, assisted-living community outside of Boston. Over the past several years, some of the more active residents had become dear friends. Without them, she would not be in Florida.
Noelle smiled at the memory of Edith Greenbaum confronting her with three of her closest elderly friends. “Now you listen here, young lady,” Edith had said with great earnestness, “it’s time for you to go somewhere, kick up your heels, and have a little fun. I was doing some research on the internet, and I’ve come up with the right place for you.”
Shocked and pleased, Noelle had played along. “And where might that be, boss?”
Edith and the other three women had tittered happily.
“I’ve printed it out for you.” Edith handed her a sheet of information on the Seashell Cottage just south of Clearwater Beach in Florida.
The minute Noelle saw the picture, she knew it was a perfect idea, the perfect place. Sitting on the edge of a broad expanse of white beach, a small, pink cottage beckoned to her.
With its painted clapboards, wide front porch, and two palm trees spreading shade nearby, it was everything she’d imagined in a beach getaway.
“Thank you, Edith,” she’d said with meaning. “I’ll see if it is at all possible.”
“You know we’re right, Noelle,” Edith replied kindly. “It’s time for you to move on with your life. If you don’t do it for yourself, at least do it for us. We’re stuck here. But you’re not.”
Tears stung Noelle’s eyes as she’d embraced each one. It was the perfect time of year for her to do as they suggested.
Thinking of those dear women, Noelle’s spirits lifted and she began to run.
For the second morning in a row, Noelle awoke and stretched, relieved to be away from home. She’d wanted to come to Florida in time for Thanksgiving, but her mother had put her foot down and insisted that Thanksgiving be spent with all four of her children at home. Noelle loved her parents and her three older brothers and their families. But being with them for Thanksgiving had convinced her it was right to come to Florida for the Christmas holidays. Chaos reigned when the whole family was together. Eight nieces and nephews between the ages of one and fourteen were enough to rattle anyone. Even her mother, Jen, went to bed as soon as she could after everyone else had gone, leaving Noelle to do the last-minute tidying.
Noelle put on her fuzzy pink robe, padded into the kitchen, and turned on the coffee maker. Through the kitchen window, she saw that the clouds the weatherman had predicted were marring the blue sky and hiding the sun. Still, with ice and snow back home, the day seemed full of promise.
She took her cup of coffee out to the front porch and gazed out at the water. A sense of peace washed over her. Edith had told her life was full of challenges, forcing people to grow and change. Thinking of the past two years, she realized she’d been stuck in a pattern of self-doubt and hurt. No man, she vowed, was worth it. Edith was right. It was time for a change.
With a fresh resolve to enjoy each day free from the past, she went inside, changed into shorts and a T-shirt, and headed out to the beach. Though the air was cool, the sun felt warm on her face as she headed down the sand at a brisk pace.
Along the shore, egrets were dipping their beaks into the shallow water, retrieving small, silvery fish. Noelle loved their long legs and the orange beaks that accented their white feathers. How long has it been, she wondered, since she’d taken the time to stop and study the beauty around her.
A number of people, children included, were searching the sand at the water’s edge for seashells. Some of the more experienced searchers held net bags that sagged with the weight of their treasures. She understood how hooked some people could be on searching for the best and the most unusual shells they could find. Each shell was truly a gift from the sea.
As she got closer to the part of the beach where she’d met Silas, she slowed. But neither Silas nor the dog named Duke was in sight. Sorry to have missed them, she walked on.
When she reached the long, wooden pier that reached out into the water like a finger testing for coldness, she sat down on one of the benches at the end of it. For a while, she watched fishermen patiently waiting for a strike. She especially liked to watch the young boys and girls fishing. The hope on their faces was priceless.
Yawning softly, Noelle headed back to the cottage. The sea air, sun, and freedom from home were working their magic on her body, relaxing muscles that had been tight too long.
In the distance, she could see Silas and his dog playing on the sand. Picking up her speed, she headed toward them.
Duke bounded toward her. His black paws pounded the sand in steady, eager beats. Wagging his tail, he stopped in front of her, tongue hanging out. Laughing, she patted him on the head. “Hello, Duke.”
She looked up to see Silas running toward her, waving.
Her heart filled at the sight of him. She’d hoped for a little boy just like him one day.
“Hi,” said Silas, beaming at her. “You’re early today.”
“Yes, it was such a beautiful morning I decided not to stay in bed. How are you?”
He looked down, kicked at the sand, and looked up at her with a sour expression. “Mrs. Wicked is back.”
He nodded. “She’s my Nana’s nurse. I don’t like her. She’s mean. She was on her break. And now she’s back.”
“I see. Well, nursing can be difficult,” Noelle ventured to say, unsure what the real problem was in the house.
Silas took hold of her hand. “C’mon! I’ve got to hurry back. I’m supposed to stay right in front of Nana’s house. If I don’t, Mrs. Wicked will be mad.”
Noelle allowed herself to be hurried along.
Standing in front of Silas’s great-grandmother’s house, Noelle studied the old woman.
Even from a small distance, she seemed bowed in spirit and fragile as she sat in her wheelchair staring out at them. Others might not recognize these signs, but from her years of experience with the elderly, Noelle was used to seeing this. On a whim, she turned to Silas.
“Let’s go say hello to your grandmother.”
“She doesn’t talk much,” Silas said with a note of sadness in his voice.
Noelle smiled. “That won’t matter. I bet she’s curious about me and might like a visitor.”
As they walked toward the front porch, a figure emerged from the house. Noelle observed the big-boned, broad-chested woman and guessed that this was the person Silas called Mrs. Wicked.
“There she is,” whispered Silas.
Pretending not to have heard, Noelle lifted a hand in greeting. “Hello!”
The woman did not return Noelle’s greeting and, instead, went inside.
Noelle climbed onto the porch, walked up to Silas’s great-grandmother, and held out a hand. “I’m Noelle North, a new friend of Silas’s. I thought I’d come to say hello to you.”
From among the wrinkles and the downcast look on her face, her blue eyes lit and a smile emerged. “I’m Althea. Althea Bellingham.” Noelle could see how beautiful the woman must have been and wondered what kind of injuries kept Althea in a wheelchair when there seemed so much life to her.
“She’s Mrs. Bellingham to you,” said the woman emerging from the house to stand behind Althea. Dressed in dark slacks and a white shirt, she scowled at Silas and turned her disapproval on Noelle.
“And you are?” Noelle asked, curious about Silas’ name for her.
“Betty Wickstrom,” the woman said with a challenging expression.
Noelle held back a chuckle. Mrs. Wicked seemed such an appropriate name. She turned to Althea. “Maybe someday Silas and I can get you out in the sun for a bit. He and Duke play a mean game of catch.”
Althea nodded and then glanced at Betty.
“She’s doing very well right where she is. Right, Althea? And now it’s time for her medicine. So say goodbye to her.”
Althea’s expression changed to one of defeat.
“Silas, time for you to come into the house,” said Betty.
“No! I don’t want to go inside. I want to stay with Noelle. She lets me play with Duke.”
Noelle smiled at both women. “I’m happy to stay with him for a while longer. Will that is okay?”
“No!” said Betty.
As Althea reached up to touch Betty’s arm, her long-sleeved shirt revealed a bruise on her forearm. “Yes.”
“What happened to your arm?” Noelle asked as calmly as she could while suspicion rolled through her in a wave of unease.
Althea glanced at Betty.
“She’s fine, just a little clumsy, that’s all,” said Betty, waving away Noelle’s concern.
“You hit Nana there,” said Silas, moving closer to Noelle. “I saw you.”
“Why, you little … You know that didn’t happen. That’s where I helped her up from another fall.”
Silas clasped Noelle’s hand and shook his head. “Adults aren’t supposed to lie.”
Noelle knelt down in front of Althea’s wheelchair and spoke softly. “Althea, you can trust me. I’m a registered nurse who helps the elderly where I live in New England. Are you being hurt?”
Althea looked at Betty, turned back to Noelle, and nodded. Then she lifted her shirt. Bruises were everywhere.
Noelle scrambled to her feet and faced Betty, her hands fisted. The burning desire to attack the awful woman was almost overwhelming. Through gritted teeth, Noelle said, “I would suggest you pack up your things and leave now, Betty, or I’m calling the authorities.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” snarled Betty.
“I would, I can, and I will,” said Noelle, flexing her fists. The abuse of the elderly wasn’t new, but each time she saw an example, it made her sick to her stomach.
Noelle turned to Silas. “You stay here with your great-grandmother. I’m going inside to make sure Mrs. Wickstrom leaves.”
Mrs. Wickstrom placed her hands on her hips and glared at Noelle. “You can’t make me leave. You didn’t hire me.”
“If you don’t leave, I’m calling the police. I mean it. I’ve handled cases like this before,” Noelle said, well aware this really wasn’t her business. But she wouldn’t, she couldn’t let the abuse continue. The sight of those bruises felt like a punch to her gut.
“Okay then, I’m not leaving until I get paid,” said Betty.
“Write down what you’re owed, and I’ll see that you get the money. That’s the best I can do under the circumstances,” said Noelle. “It’s the nicest offer you’re going to get because if it were left up to me, you wouldn’t get a dime. You’d get a jail sentence.”
“You have no proof that I did anything wrong,” countered Betty.
Noelle’s smile was cold. “Oh, but I do. I have two very credible witnesses and, if necessary, I’ll take photographs to show the authorities. Now, get your things, and I’ll escort you to your car.”
Noelle followed Betty inside and to a bedroom off the kitchen in the back of the house. She watched carefully as Betty hastily threw her things into a small suitcase. When she’d zipped her suitcase closed, she turned to Noelle.
“What are you going to do about it now?”
Noelle drew a deep breath. “I’m taking your keys to the house and escorting you to your car.”
“And then what?” sneered Betty. “Althea isn’t an easy woman to deal with. Too stubborn, too demanding for her own good.”
“We’ll see about that. Come on, let’s go.”
Noelle escorted Betty outside, wrote down the license number, and stood by as Betty threw her suitcase into the back of a small, blue sedan and climbed behind the wheel. After starting the engine, Betty gave her a middle-finger wave and took off with a roar.
Alone, Noelle stood in the driveway, breathing in and out in a calming pattern to slow her heartbeat. What in the hell had she done? She didn’t know Althea Bellingham. And now she was in charge of her until her family could find other help for her.
She went inside the house and out to the seaside porch. Silas was sitting next to the wheelchair, holding his great-grandmother’s hand. Althea was asleep in the chair. At the sweet sight of them, tears sprang to Noelle’s eyes.
“Hello,” she said softly to Silas. “Mrs. Wicked is gone. Come with me. I need your help.”
Silas followed her into the kitchen.
“Who do I need to call? Where are your parents?” Noelle asked.
Silas gave her a look that was so sad, Noelle’s heart clenched. “My dad is in New York. He’ll be back at the end of the week.”
“Do you have a phone number for him?”
Silas smiled and pointed to a printed list by the kitchen phone. “It’s the one on the top. His name is Jake.”
Noelle studied the mounted paper. Jake Bellingham’s phone number was listed at the top. She picked up the phone and dialed the number.
“The Bellingham Hotel New York. How may I help you today?” came a practiced, professional-sounding voice.
Noelle’s heart pounded with dismay. Bellingham Hotel? The family-owned hotels? “May I please speak to Jake Bellingham?”
“I’ll buzz his office for you.”
After a minute, a feminine voice came on the line. “Mr. Bellingham’s office. How may I help you?”
“Please, I need to speak to him. I’m a visiting neighbor calling from his grandmother’s house in Florida.” Noelle’s pulse sprinted at the idea of telling him what she’d done.
“Please hold, and I’ll see if he can take the call,” his secretary said.
A moment later, Noelle heard a deep voice say, “Jake Bellingham.”
Noelle swallowed hard. “Mr. Bellingham, you don’t know me, but I’m a new friend of Silas’s. My name is Noelle North, I’m a registered nurse visiting from Massachusetts, but not licensed in Florida, and I’m calling to tell you that I just escorted your grandmother’s caretaker out of the house for abusing her. I specialize in care for the elderly and recognize abuse when I see it. I did not call the police. I need to know what you want me to do next.”
“Let me get this straight. You don’t know me, my grandmother, or the woman who was taking care of her. Yet you had the balls to throw her out after, what, five or ten minutes in the house? Is that it?”
“Yes,” said Noelle with a confidence she didn’t feel. “That’s about it. As I said, I am a registered nurse, so I’ve seen too many cases of abuse like this before. She has bruises on her arms and torso that are very telling.”
“Abuse? Really? Put Silas on the phone,” growled his father.
Noelle handed Silas the phone. “Your father wants to speak to you.”
Silas’s eyes grew round. He took the phone and listened, then he spoke in a series of staccato sentences. “Yes! I told you Mrs. Wicked was mean! Yes, I like her! Her name is Noelle and she’s here on vacation. Nana showed Noelle her bruises. That’s why.”
After a pause, Silas said, “Love you too, Daddy,” and handed the phone back to Noelle.
“I had no idea this was happening to my grandmother,” said Jake. “I have you to thank for uncovering the situation. I’ve been mostly away for the last several weeks, and Althea never mentioned any problems with Mrs. Wickstrom. Nor did I notice anything like that. I’m sorry, but I can’t make it home for another few days due to some international legal problems. Can you stay with my grandmother and Silas until I can send someone else to take over for you? In the meantime, who can I call for references on you?”
“You can speak to anyone at the New Life Assisted-Care Community outside of Boston. I handle the health program there. I’m in Florida for a vacation, and as I mentioned earlier, I’m not licensed to practice in Florida, and won’t be able to stay with your family for any length of time, and then only as a caretaker, not a nurse.”
“Until just this weekend, I promise,” said Silas’ father. “And if I can find a better service than the one I used for Mrs. Wickstrom, it could be for only a few hours. Don’t worry, I’ll pay you well.”
Noelle bristled. “You may be used to paying people to do your bidding, but it’s not necessary for me. I’ve done this because I care about others. Not to get your money.”
“Whoa! I didn’t mean … Forget it! I’ll be in touch.”
Noelle hung up the phone, still steaming from the notion that she and her work were for sale when she was just voluntarily helping to resolve a very tough situation.
“You’re going to stay with me now?” Silas asked, giving her a wide smile. “Maybe for a long time.”
“Just until your father can find a replacement,” Noelle said, not wanting to get Silas’s hopes up for something that wasn’t going to happen. She already knew she didn’t like Jake Bellingham.
About the Author
Judith Keim was born and raised in Elmira, New York, and now makes her home in Idaho with her husband and their two dachshunds, Winston and Wally, and other members of her family.
Growing up, books were always present being read, ready to go back to the library, or about to be discovered. Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving all of us in the family a wealth of knowledge and a lot of imagination. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the idea of writing stories early on. I particularly love to write novels about women who face unexpected challenges and meet them with strength.
A hybrid author who both has a publisher and who self-publishes, Ms. Keim writes heart-warming stories of strong women who face challenges and find love and happiness along the way. Her books are based, in part, on many of the places she’s lived or visited and on the interesting people, she’s met, creating believable characters and realistic settings her many, loyal readers love.
Date Published: September 2018
Publisher: Star Born Publishing LLC
A global spectacle of triumph and anguish. A grand pageant of violence and drama. In the future, it is more than just a game, and a mysterious secret society will use it to change the world. America’s game has become the world’s favorite pastime, and she is not just the WFFL’s latest superstar but the future of humanity!
“Perkins pens eclectic and unpredictable works of fantasy that will keep readers clawing through the pages!” Amazon Self-Publishing Review
“Thrilling commentary on politics, sociology with a touch of supernatural and sci-fi!” Scarlett Jensen, Amazon *****
In a world secretly ruled by an organized crime pyramid known as the Octagonal, and while a legend who harbors a dark secret strives for one last shot at glory in the twilight of his career, crime lord Gigi Salerno is the sinister hand casting the ultimate fate of victory or defeat. And, he will utilize any means necessary to ensure the Octagonal remains in control of the world’s most popular game. But when a brilliant team doctor envisions WFFL rosters filled out with AI, Salerno’s masters secretly decide he’s expendable.
Now threatened by the intrepid ambitions of a young sports columnist determined to expose the Octagonal, and faced with the covert maneuvering of a once trustworthy lieutenant and the conflicted loyalties of an unscrupulous general manager, Salerno is faced with a dilemma: he may have to befriend one of his enemies to vanquish his double-crossing masters.
Will he survive long enough to capture what he desires most – the reluctant affections of a beautiful woman?
About the Author
In just two short years as an independently published author, Massachusetts native Stephen Perkins’ thrilling, entertaining, thought-provoking, and sometimes controversial novels have rapidly gained a loyal and rabid audience. While enjoying the books, and for a unique perspective on the news of the world, be sure to check out the blog that is fast becoming everyone’s new source for real alternative news, Newsspellcom.org! Or, stop by for a visit on Twitter @ Twitter.com @RAGEOFWORDS. To discover more exciting titles by Stephen Perkins, go now to amazon.com/author/stephenperkins
The Jeff Bradley Thriller Series, Book 4
Date Published: July 2018
Publisher: Far and Wide Publishing
Saddam Hussein’s missing weapons of mass destruction have been found and are in the hands of an international terrorist group. But which group and where have they stored the gases and toxic waste? And what are their plans for the deadly cargo? An eleven-year-old Filipino girl, Arina Marcos knows the secret. She narrowly escapes assassins sent to kill her and family. And now she is on the run. Hit squads sent to track her down chase her across Asia.
Ex Special-Forces soldier Jeff Bradley and CIA agent Kennedy Patton must protect Arina as she leads them in search of Saddam’s weapons. The trail leads to underground laboratories and a mass grave in the Philippines. Tensions heighten when the US Air craft Carrier Independence II is brought into the conflict.
Then Bradley discovers the deadly truth and the race is on. He and Kennedy Patton must find the terrorists and the ship carrying the lethal cargo. If they fail the cities of Europe will burn and thousands will die.
Other Books in The Jeff Bradley Thriller Series
The Field of Blackbirds
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Published: May 2015
Former SAS soldier Jeff Bradley thought he had left warzones behind when he inherited a vineyard in rural New Zealand. But now his vineyard manager, Arben Shala, has gone missing in his native Kosovo. An enigmatic message tells Jeff that his friend is in grave danger.
Determined to find Arben and bring him home, Jeff travels to Kosovo and finds a lawless state in the grip of criminal gangs. Corrupt officials obscure every lead. With the help of USAID director Morgan Delaney, Jeff delves into the province’s seedy underworld and uncovers a conspiracy of terrifying scale. A web of dark connections links the captors with a terrorist bombing campaign across Europe, and now it is no longer just Arben whose survival is at stake.
Double-crossed by allies, watched at every turn, can Jeff get to the heart of the conflict before the warlords get to him?
The Mark of Halam
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Published: August 2015
USS Ulysses: State-of-the-art nuclear submarine. Deterrent. Target.
When an Olympic medalist is the subject of an attempted assassination, former SAS trooper Jeff Bradley knows his past is once again casting a shadow over his new life. A note left by the assassin confirms his suspicions: Bradley made an enemy back in Kosovo, and the man is out for revenge. But Jeff knows the killer is not working alone: higher up the ranks sits Avni Leka, a terrorist warlord who will stop at nothing to achieve his bloody goal.
And it’s not just Bradley who is under threat. A hijacking leads him to sense something bigger is being planned—a plot that, if successful, will end thousands of innocent lives, and could light the touchpaper of global conflict.
He can’t allow it to happen. But events are spiralling out of control. Bradley knows he must reach the eye of the storm before it tears his world apart.
The Ottoman Conspiracy
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Published: January 2017
Former Special Forces soldier Jeff Bradley is meeting with the mafia in Bari, Italy, to discover the whereabouts of his nemesis—criminal overlord Avni Leka—when he receives a message from an old friend. Barry is on board a tourist bus that has been hijacked by terrorists near Istanbul. Strapped with explosives, it is racing across Turkey to the northern borders of Syria, Iraq and Iran.
The Turkish president will not negotiate. The Turkish military will not allow the bus to cross the border. The hijackers will kill themselves and their hostages if they cannot escape.
Jeff knows it’s down to him to rescue his friend. Joining forces with US special agent Reason Johanson, he faces his toughest test yet: a race against time to track down the bus before it reaches the border.
Along the way, Jeff uncovers a conspiracy that could not only lead him to those responsible for the hijacking but also threaten global security itself. Will he be able to stop the bus in time? Or will they run out of road?
The helicopter swung its light back towards the trio and lit them up like actors on a theatre stage. A voice yelled for them to stop. Arina’s eyes widened as men with rifles ran toward her family.
“Hurry, hurry,” she screamed at them.
“Arina, run away. We are right behind you,” Sarah called.
Arina stayed where she was. Her hands pushed against the fence, her fingers poking through the wire mesh. “Hurry, hurry!”
Sarah and her mother were struggling with her father. The soldiers were getting closer. To her right Arina saw a military jeep racing along the fence line. Arina screamed a warning, but her voice was lost in the din. A soldier standing in the passenger side swung a swivel gun toward them and fired. Erupting dirt followed the flashes of light. Her Papa held his hands in the air and shouted at the soldiers not to shoot. Her Mama held onto her Papa’s arm and Sarah’s hand. Soldiers yelled more orders and her mother, father and sister dropped to their knees. The helicopter turned away as the soldiers surrounded them.
Arina’s fingers slipped from the wire. She knew what she must do. Find Uncle Felipe. She slung the strap of Sarah’s bag around her neck and ran into the jungle. Spikey plant tendrils tugged at her clothes and scratched her arms. She did not slow until the sounds of violence had faded.
About the Author
Award-winning novelist Thomas Ryan is the author of the Jeff Bradley series of novels; The Field of Blackbirds, The Mark of Halam, The Ottoman Conspiracy and The Bomb Maker’s Daughter.
Thomas Ryan has been a soldier in a theatre of war, trampled the jungles of Asia, and lived through the breakdown and civil unrest of Eastern Europe. Armed with these life experiences Ryan turned to writing thriller novels and short stories.
He considers himself a story teller, a creator who has enthusiastically plunged his psyche into the world of creativity and fantasy. With the reader in mind, he weaves colorful characters into the threads of his riveting storylines.
Taking readers on a thrilling journey is what motivates Ryan as a writer.
A Pine Lake Adventure, Book 1
Romantic Mystery, Romantic Suspense
Date Published: March 2017
Publisher: El Cid Publishing
It’s 1964. People in the resort town of Pine Lake, Wisconsin are unnerved when a stranger is found unconscious in the park. He’s taken to the hospital with severe head injuries and subsequently slips into a coma. All efforts to identify him fail. A young nurse is enamored with the sleeping stranger. Waking only complicates matter when the man has no memory of who he is or what happened to him. Together, he and the nurse journey across the state in search of his past.
Other Books in the Pine Lake Adventure Series:
A Pine Lake Adventure, Book 2
Publisher: El Cid Publishing
Published: January 2018
The War is over. Nora Jensen must now work past the horrors of human carnage she experienced as an army nurse. Angry and bitter, she’s turned her back on God and is at war with the army for the physical attacks and abuse she’s had to endure. All she wants is a life free of military rules and regulations, and to no longer be a triage nurse, having to choose among the wounded who is the first to treated, often determining who lives and who dies. A chance meeting with a fifteen-year-old girl could once again put Nora in a life and death situation
From a small town in Wisconsin to the high desert of Nevada, journey with her as she tries to stay one step ahead of the law and those that want to tear her world apart. A lover from the past may be her only ally.
About the Author
Joe Van Rhyn grew up in a small resort town in Wisconsin. In school, he divided his time between sports and the theater. His first love was being on stage. Among his credits, he was Pish Tosh in the Mikado, the Prince in Cinderella, and the villain Cassius Carstairs, in an old-fashioned melodrama. Joe uses his theatrical experience in his writing to create memorable characters, compelling dialogue, and an intriguing story. “Born Yesterday” is the first in a series of novels centered around the small resort town of Pine Lake. “Battle Born” is the second, with a third due out in early 2019
Publisher: Koehler Books
Release Date: October 10, 2018
Twenty years before Murder at Broadcast Park, Stewart Simon own the ABC TV station in Palm Springs. His future general manager, Lisa, was just starting her broadcast career at the ABC affiliate. There was no better place to be in local television in the 80s and early 90s then Palm Springs, California. Home of Bob Hope, President Gerald Ford, and yes, Sonny Bono, just when he began thinking about politics. The TV station in this small resort town and golf capital of the world was at the center of it all.
Read about Lisa’s rise up through the newsroom to sales and eventually how she ended up marrying the second best love of her life….instead of the man that owned her heart. And during all of this Sonny Bono runs for Mayor of Palm Springs (and then cancels Spring Break!).
Enjoy this entertaining read and once again peek behind the curtain of a local TV station through the creative, witty, writing of Bill Evans, a former TV General Manager himself.
Other Books By Bill Evans
Murder at Broadcast Park
Publisher: Koehler Books
Release Date: October 15, 2017
Before this current age of broadcasting acquisitions and mergers, local TV stations were owned by the broadcasters, not investment firms. They lived to tell the stories of their communities. In Murder at Broadcast Park, the CBS station located in the rich resort town of Santa Barbara becomes it’s own story. “We never want to be our own news,” was the mandate from Barry Burke, the station’s news director. Except in this case, people are dying. With three murders, more affairs, but no suspects, investigators peer behind the scenes of the local news. Pull the veil off to find twists, turns, and secrets behind the scenes of this resort TV station and its cast of TV professionals. Nothing is off limits.
About the Author
Bill Evans is a 45 year broadcast veteran turned author. His first novel, Murder at Broadcast Park, released October, 2017. With his experience and insight into what goes on behind the scenes in the broadcast world, Bill’s novels paint a vivid picture of what really happens when the cameras are off.
Bill resides on California’s beautiful Central Coast. He continues to have a passion in the broadcast world and working in local media.
Date Published: September 30th
Publisher: Up and Up Media
“Imagine not being able to sleep without worrying about which country you will wake up in…”
Tagden Fitts has a problem, besides his name. His sleepwalking self is a traveler; a past-time he would rather avoid and his travels are beginning to take over his life. Destroying any chance of a real relationship or career, he spends his time chasing after his own body, dreading the night when he will finally wake up in a situation too deep to handle.
From the Author:
“I wrote this story trying to imagine a character completely different from myself. Someone who hates travel, but is thrust into it without choice.”
In a dark and dusty house in Vancouver, McKay is on his third beer even though it’s only around 7:00 a.m. What does time matter though when you have insomnia from pain and you’re on a disability pension? To McKay, it doesn’t. Days blur into each other and what the sun and moon do is their own business. What does he care?
The disability pension keeps him alive at least, gives him enough to eat and pay bills, plus buy a few beers, but it doesn’t give him enough to really live. He has a decent amount of cash in the bank, but he’s willed that to a charity for orang-utans and feels guilty dipping into that too much. He’d also bought this house before “The Day,” so he has a good spot to rot while the world forgets about him.
McKay looks at the door. The only thing out there for him is a pity. He wishes he had a speech impediment or a more subtle disability than his disfigurement, but he wasn’t given the option at the time of selecting. Maybe if he’d gotten married before “The Day” he would have someone to keep him company, but the truth is, he doubts she would have stayed, and even if she had… what kind of life would this have been for her?
He was glad that Monica had left when she did. It cleared any guilt he would have had to feel for her if she hadn’t.
McKay places the beer down on the table beside the laptop and continues with the game he is playing. At least this keeps him occupied and preoccupied. A few weeks earlier he’d had to get rid of his television because the infomercials were making him suicidal and there was less and less stopping him from making that life-choice every day. Probably the only thing that he’d put on his list of likes is chatting on-line with his friends around the globe.
He has a lot of chat rooms he likes to frequent, but his favorite ones are “I Can’t Sleep,” “Vancouver Cougars,” and “The Hunting Ground,” the latter a way to keep up with his old hunting buddies without them having to keep looking at the ground uncomfortably when they see him in person.
McKay finishes his beer and peels off the label, placing it in a pile beside his easy-chair on top of the bar-fridge, which he opens to crack open another beer. He notices there’s only one case left. He’ll have to do some online shopping later on, but for now, he’s content to play his games and talk to people he’s never met before, imagining what it must be like to live in their lives.
He sighs and leans back, surveying the room that will most likely be his crypt. He wonders how long it will take before they find his corpse when he finally gives up and exits this game, one that he no longer sees as fun. He’s heard of cases where it’s been months before people were found dead in their homes—in some cases their pets had eaten parts of their remains, leaving a nasty surprise for the first person to stumble on the scene. This is the main reason McKay doesn’t want a dog. He doesn’t want to be The guy who was eaten by his dog after he died, but rather The heroic ex-firefighter who had saved many lives but finally took his own.
Actually, he’s kind of looking forward to his death. At least people will remember him for what he was, not for what he has become. Like most people, he’ll have many more friends after he dies than he’s had while living. He just has to choose a date to do it, and pray to God that nothing important happens on the same day, so he stands a chance of making the front page of at least one of the newspapers.
A few years ago he had moved all the furniture into the living room so that the two couches were on each of his sides, boxing him into a cozy nook. He could put everything within easy reach.
He only showers when he has to go out; too rarely. There’s enough space between him and the couch on his right for him to run off to the bathroom. He’d recline his chair to nap on the occasions when the meds kicked in and he could get in an hour or two before the pain from his old burns would wake him up.
The doctors tell him most of his pain is psychosomatic, as most of his nerves have ceased functioning, but this piece of academia doesn’t help him much. Even if they are feeding him placebos occasionally, which they could be, he needs that medication if only as something to do when the pain becomes too much.
With difficulty, McKay gets up, his legs asleep, to put some more wood on the fire. He does this religiously, no matter what the climate. To him, wood chopping is like a hobby. He’s good with an ax. In the Fire Department, you had to be, and he’d been known as a great firefighter even before “The Day.” The day that house had collapsed with him inside it.
Stretching, he looks up at the awards he’s gotten over the years and stares at the last one, the one he got after “The Day.” Is it ironic that the award is printed on the flammable material? He doesn’t know. But he’d gladly surrender reams of awards to be able to have a girl look at him again without flinching.
The room suddenly feels like a shrine and he smiles (something he finds difficult in more ways than one), as he realizes that he’s made it into one. The deer heads, photos of hunting trips, awards for work, trophies for previous sporting achievements—these are not for him, but for the people that will find him. His last pat on his own back. Even the scrapbook with all the articles about himself, lying open at its last page on the couch, is waiting for someone to put in the final news clipping about his death. That way, it’ll be an easy and complete document, to sum up his life for anyone who cares, be they researchers, book writers, or the stranger that will have to give his eulogy.
He doubts that anyone will contact any of his online friends and inform them when he does die, which saddens him a little. The closest people in the world to him are those he’s met in these chat rooms, including Foxy67, Night-Terrors Terry, and Somnambulist Tag. He’d even met a couple of them face to face a few times before. Obviously not Foxy67 though. He preferred not to shatter her illusion of him. Hell, a five-minute meeting with him and she’d spend the rest of her forties in therapy, and he’s sure she’d rather use them being out there, targeting younger men.
Sitting back down in his chair, McKay opens the little fridge to his left and takes out a large stick of salami and a steak knife and starts cutting off a few bites to eat. His eyes flick for the fifth time today to the rifle that’s lying on the couch to his right. Long, polished and loaded, it sits there reminding him of what he needs to do, like a wife nagging about the bins that need to be taken out.
“Yes, yes, I see you,” he says aloud. “I haven’t forgotten you for a second. Just be patient, it will be soon. I just haven’t said goodbye to my friends yet.”
He sighs again and decides that maybe he should stop putting it off. Just say goodbye to his friends as they come online. It’s been a slow news week. Now would be a good time.
Chewing on a piece of salami, knife in hand while staring at his rifle, McKay jumps as the green box behind his laptop starts to vibrate.
Terry Mien is in the jungle. But he is not Terry Mien. He is eleven years old and has a different name. His parents died recently and didn’t die well. He is on his hands and knees, digging frantically with his hands. His fingers are bleeding. He has really picked a bad spot. This ground is hard and he doesn’t have much time. The tears in his eyes are partly because he’s thinking of his parents, partly because he is thinking of his stomach, and mostly because he’s just plain terrified.
In the background, he hears screams and gunfire, which tells him that everything is normal in his world.
Terry’s breathing is hard and the day is hot, but it always is in this country. Not that he has ever seen another land to compare it to. This is the only life he has known but the horror is fresh daily, like the milk he once used to drink. He remembers all the foods and drinks he had grown up with and this only makes him sadder. Now his life only contains rice, water, and pain.
His hole is nearly deep enough, maybe two inches. He hears the men coming. They aren’t very subtle, these men (and they aren’t always men), as they come through the foliage, hacking at anything in their way. Their machetes are blunt and stained, well used and threatening.
The boy quickly reaches into his pocket and takes out the item he needs to bury; his reading glasses. Despite the immediate threat to his life, he hesitates for a second, remembering how much his parents had gone through to buy these. Luckily for him they had fit well on his nose and hadn’t pinched, otherwise, he would have the tell-tale grooves on the bridge of his nose. His hands are still sore from rubbing them hard on trees, to make them look like the hands of a boy familiar with hard work.
He drops his glasses into the hole as he catches sight of the first of a large group of people hacking their way towards him and pushes the dirt down hard. He has no time to push some leaves over the dirt, for the first person in the lead spots him and yells to the rest of his group. The rest of the group rush over behind the first, a few, like the leader, holding rifles with bayonets, the rest running up with their machetes raised.
The boy has no way to escape and even less chance of defending himself as they approach, weapons raised, towards the bush he’s hiding behind. Terry is dizzy with terror, but he knows what he must do. He pulls his shorts down and pushes out a pitiful turd on the spot he has just dug.
Pushing aside the bush with his bayonet the leader is disgusted at what he sees and yells to the others to come over and look. They gather around, lowering their weapons and they all break into laughter. They point at his small penis and make fun of him. The boy just sits there with his head down, hoping that his secretion would keep them from looking around the area and discovering his fatal secret.
The man in the lead puts his bayonet under the boy’s chin and forces him to raise his head and look at him. Staring at his face, Mien realizes that this man is just a boy—maybe only a few years older than himself. He is sweating hard and the red rag tied around his head is saturated. His eyes are dead, a sure sign that, like everyone in this country, his mind has seen too much that it shouldn’t have.
“This is a fortunate day for you kid,” the boy-soldier says. “You might even wake up tomorrow. They gave me a chance—they let me live. All I had to do was kill my parents and now I am a soldier, a leader. Do you have any family?”
“No, they all died of hunger,” the boy replies, his only lie being the way in which his family had died.
By pure coincidence the boy-soldiers stomach starts to rumble, making his face soften a little. “We’re all hungry man, but we’re still alive. Join us and live.”
The soldier reaches into his pocket and pulls out a red scrap of cloth, which he offers to the boy, hand outstretched. Mien stares at the hand with the cloth in it. His eyes move upwards to the gash in the boy’s arm. It must have happened recently, maybe even this week, and it doesn’t seem to be healing. Most wounds don’t in this weather. He wonders if this boy is going to end up losing his arm, but then realizes the only way that’s going to happen is if there are any doctors left in the area to make an amputation. This, he doubts. This boy has no chance.
Then, something strange happens. The breeze stops. The soldiers stop moving. Everything just sort of, stops. Terry looks around. Nothing in the jungle is moving and none of the soldiers even seem to be breathing. A snap of a branch behind the soldiers tells him someone’s approaching and Terry is relieved to see it is his dead mother.
She walks up behind the soldier who still holds out the red rag and she puts her hand on his shoulder while staring at Terry. She stands still for a while, unblinking and a fly lands on her eyeball, which she pays no attention to. The jungle continues to hold its breath.
“He does die and soon, but he dies with his arm still attached,” she says quietly. “He and some of these boys get too brave and go to the border, looking for a fight with the Vietnamese. These boys are untrained and starving and they get cut down without much of a fight. None of us really had much of a chance, but some of us survive, like you. I hope you live to deserve it.”
“I miss you, Mother,” he says, wiping the tears from his eyes. As he does, he now sees that she has a plastic bag over her head, which has been tied on with some electrical wire around her neck. Her breath takes the air out of the bag, the condensation making her face disappear from view.
“I miss you too, child,” comes the voice from within the bag, and his mother’s tears start to fill the bag, making it hard to tell whether she’ll suffocate, or drown from her own sadness.
Terry can watch no more and he puts his head in his hands, sobbing.
The acoustics around him suddenly change and he hears children laughing. He raises his head and sees a bunch of children running around and playing on the other side of a barbed wire fence. It seems like it’s a schoolyard, and Terry, whose name is once again Terry, isn’t crying anymore. He shouldn’t cry in public anymore. He’s a forty-year-old man and he should act his age. He’s a lot taller now, nearly five-foot-ten, and the kids seem so small and innocent. He can’t believe happiness has returned to these parts. He’d believed the extremeness of what happened here would burn the earth and scar every generation to come, but it seems like things are moving on, maybe even progressing.
A smile comes to his face as he watches a girl chasing a boy around on the other side of the fence and he turns around to get back to what he was doing. Staring at the six-story-high pile of skulls, he goes back to analyzing each one of them.
The girl beside him is young, with a big smile, and she looks pretty in her flight-attendant outfit.
“Welcome back Mr Mien,” she says with her professional smile. “Is this business or pleasure?”
“I don’t know,” Terry answers.
“You have to answer sir, or we can’t let you in.”
“One of these skulls belongs to my mother.”
“So then, we’ll list your visit under pleasure,” she says, still beaming.
“Really? You sure that you don’t have any other options on your sheet?” Terry says, surprised. “I mean this is so far from the pleasure that it’s almost business.”
“But you don’t have a business visa.”
“Fine!” he shouts. “Write whatever you like, I don’t care!”
Her smile falters and her words are firm. “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to lower your voice.”
“Sorry, this isn’t your fault,” Terry says, trying to calm down. He takes a step back. As he does, he feels something under his heel snap and he looks down to see a piece of broken bone sticking out of the ground, with clothing still attached. He looks back up at the skull-tower and curses. Now he’ll have to start again.
“I can help if you like,” the girl says, stepping forward and studying the polished, nameless pieces of the people who used to live here. “Hmm.” Her smile comes back. “If I was your mum’s dead, empty cranium, where would I be? Do you remember what her skull looked like?”
“No,” Terry replies. “I never saw it.”
“Wait a minute, I think I found it. That one there,” she says, pointing upwards.
“Which one?” Terry covers his eyes with his hand, trying to block the sun.
The girl groans in annoyance and reaches into her pocket. She pulls out a small, red balloon and throws it at the tower. It hits a skull about a couple of meters above her head and the balloon explodes, covering a skull in dripping, thick, dark red liquid.
“That one!” she says, obviously proud of herself.
“Ah,” he says and stares at it, trying to recognize if it seemed familiar.
The skull, dripping red, slowly starts turning to face him, its teeth scraping on the skull below it, making a horrible grinding sound. Its sockets are empty, but they are staring back at him.
Terry wakes up screaming, wrapped in his sheets. He grabs his chest and his head spins with adrenalin. He tries breathing but feels winded and it takes what feels like a decade for him to slow his heart, take deep breaths, and realize where he is.
His sheets are soaked with sweat, his pillow with tears. He sits on the end of the bed and breathes quietly, fighting to get control of his mind and body.
Turning his head, Terry looks at the alarm clock. It’s nearly 7:00 a.m.
At least it isn’t midnight, he thinks. He never gets back to sleep after one of these dreams. If dreams are what you call them. His doctors always referred to them as night-terrors, but unfortunately, besides having a name for it, the doctors didn’t seem very useful.
He’s run out of sleeping drugs again and it’s killing him. Unfortunately, most doctors are reluctant to hand out prescriptions for the drugs he needs unless he has physical pain. Even the dodgy doctors seem to give him a look, before telling him they’ll only help him out once.
He gets up, walks to his lounge-room in his boxer shorts, and crashes onto his leather couch, wishing it wasn’t leather as he sticks to it. This room he’s in is massive. The whole apartment is roughly the size of a large house and the views are incredible. The front windows all stare out at the Persian Gulf, while the back rooms look out over Dubai. He’s been here a while with wealth rolling in. Real money. Oil money. Long way from being the poor, useless boy he’d grown up as.
People in this area knew him. Anyone looking at him, his place, his job and the way he dresses, would think that he is successful. He doesn’t know, though, what that word is supposed to mean. To most people, he’s met successful seems to mean someone who makes a lot of cash. To him, however, the word means succeeding in all areas of life, and this is not the case with him.
Terry looks over to the pictures near the window. His daughter is smiling so happily that it can only be the smile of a child. His wife in the picture next to it is holding their daughter and she, too, has a smile on her face. He wonders how tall his daughter is now. He wonders how his wife’s jaw reconstruction went. He also wonders about which sex his other child is. The one he’s never met.
His nightmares have taken everything away from him. Well, nearly everything. He still has his millions. He still has this apartment too, for the time being, but once his cash runs out, and it will, he’ll have to sell this place and leave this country. He doubts that he’ll be able to find many more architectural jobs in this country after this contract ends. All that’s left to do will be the editing and printing out of the As-Builts, which his partner will probably end up doing, and then he’ll be on his own. Construction is slowing down.
He isn’t old enough to retire.
He doesn’t like sea travel, always sick on the yachts of his workmates.
He has no idea what the rest of his life might offer, but he’s sure it isn’t anything to look forward to.
Terry opens up his laptop to see whether McKay is online. He usually is. Terry types out a greeting and tells his friend that he hopes he is in good spirits. He also tells him the parts he can remember from his dream and how much he misses his family. He signs off after letting him know that he is okay, and that a walk on the beach will probably cheer him up. He closes the laptop and leans back. Time to get the day started.
After changing his sheets, showering and having some breakfast, Terry goes for a walk on the beach, as promised, and along the way waves back to all the rich people who recognize him. Young people run into the water as the day starts to heat up and he’s glad that there are those out there still enjoying their lives, if only for the present time.
He has lunch at one of his favorite spots and afterward goes into a cinema to catch any film that happens to be playing. He then wanders through some of the upper-class shopping-centers, content with the fact that he can afford anything here they have—happy that he wants none of it. By the time he gets home, it’s late afternoon and he sits down to a pizza and a glass of a Chilean Syrah.
The house is silent. He leaves the lights off. The only light in the room is coming through the curtains. He’s thinking of his future, halfway through a slice of Mexicana, when the green box under the television breaks the peace and starts to vibrate. He walks over to it and picks it up, surprised that it’s doing what it’s doing. It’s been a long time since he was needed by someone. He pushes the red button to stop the vibrating and then walks over to his laptop, pulls out the USB cable from the green box and plugs it in. So which one of the guys needs his help?
The fact that its Tagden doesn’t really surprise him, but what the hell is he doing in China again? Didn’t he say he hates it there?
Despite his confusion, Terry is thankful for the distraction. He goes into his room and gets out his suitcase.
Tina is bored. She wonders if people in the nearby cubicles know she is bored. She groans out loud. Now they know that Tina is bored.
“What’s wrong Tiny?” the annoying redhead Steven in the cubicle behind her asks.
“Worry about yourself Steven, that groan was open for comment to everyone but you.”
Steven opens his mouth, smiling.
“And if you say anything about making me groan, I’ll have you up on harassment charges!” Tina fires at him before he can speak.
Steven’s mouth closes and his head disappears back down into his cubicle.
Just as his head disappears, two more appear on the other sides of her cubicle like a game of Whack the Bunny.
“What’s wrong Tina,” her friend Jana says, pityingly, “The Man got you down?”
“Need a hug?” her effeminate friend Jamal offers.
“Just wanted everyone to know that I’m bored. It’s quicker and more efficient to let you guys know by groaning, rather than electronically. I probably saved some trees and all.”
“We’re all bored babe, we just have to keep ourselves busy, that way the day goes quicker,” Jamal says.
“Why does the homosexual get to call you babe, but when I do—”
“Shut up Steven!” everyone says in unison, even people who weren’t involved in the original conversation.
Steven’s head disappears again.
“So what do you have planned for the weekend, girl?” Jana asks.
“Hmmm… well… Friday night I’ve got a date with a guy I’ve been wanting to go out with for a really long time.”
“Really? Go on, tell us a little more. What’s he like, then?” asks Jana, as both her and Jamal lean further over her walls.
“Well, I met him online ages ago and he called me the other day and wants to meet up. He’s Australian. He’s actually flying here just to meet me. He travels a lot.”
“Got a photo you can show us?”
Tina opens up a folder on her computer and double clicks on an icon. A picture of a handsome guy with a cheeky smile comes up. He looks like he is embarrassed to be in the picture, but the fact that he’d sent it obviously meant that he liked the way it turned out.
“Dreamy,” says one of her friends, but Tina can’t work out which one.
“He’s really funny, smart and has got stacks of interesting travel stories. He posts me some of the weirdest gifts too, I swear. I don’t know how some of them even make it here. Gifts from all the countries he goes to. He’s very sweet.”
“Awww,” her friends say in unison.
“What does he do for work?” Jana asks.
“Well… I guess you could say he’s an entrepreneur. He’s always traveling and he’s always got cash, so I guess he’s good at what he does.”
“Maybe I should get my gear from him,” Jamal jokes.
“He’s not a bloody drug dealer, you knob,” Tina snaps, biting on his bait.
Jamal and Jana both crack up laughing, which makes Tina go red in the face.
“Aw c’mon, we’re just joking,” says Jana, trying to pacify her, and after a second she lightens up a little and smiles.
Her friends’ eyes quickly dart around the office, looking for any sign of management.
“Anyway, I thought I asked you what you’re doing on the weekend, not just Friday,” Jana added.
“Well………..if Friday night goes well, I’ll probably have plans for the whole weekend,” Tina whispers.
“You slut!” Jamal whispers, and they all burst out laughing, trying unsuccessfully to keep it down.
“What? This guy might end up being a keeper. He’s got a very sexy, deep voice as well. I think this is the guy I’ve been waiting for. Someone to take me out of this cubicle and see the world. Paris, Tokyo, New York. Anywhere that isn’t here. I know it’s a bit early to say this, but I think I’m in love.”
Steven’s head pops up, but when he sees the look the trio is firing at him his head slowly sinks down again.
“I can’t wait to see him. I hope he calls me sometime soon. Friday is ages away.”
The three friends go quiet for a second, each in their own world. Violently loud, something behind Tina’s monitor begins to vibrate. They all jump. Tina peeks behind her screen and pulls out a green box which is reverberating like a screaming, new-born square alien.
“What the hell is that?” Jana asks, frowning.
“I forgot that I even had this!” Tina answers, staring at it, trying to remember how she’d gotten it and what it was for. Then it dawns on her. She remembers who had given it to her. She remembers the significance of it going off like this. She remembers what she was supposed to do.
“I remember now,” she says, her face no longer excited. “Some loser I used to go out with gave me this. He wants me to drop everything and go help him ‘cause he’s in trouble.”
Tina’s hand extends and she lets the green cube drop into the small metal bin next to her. “As if, Tagden,” she whispers, angrily.
Her metal bin vibrates violently, causing everyone in the area to stop what they’re doing and stare. She sits with her arms crossed, glaring at her monitor. Finally, she can’t take it anymore and she searches quickly through her bin, trying to remember if Tag had ever mentioned anything about how to turn the stupid thing off.
About the Author
Dean MacAllister runs a writer’s group in Melbourne, Australia. He writes novels and short fiction about the strange and unusual.
He loves to travel, scuba-diving, whiskey and once ate a tarantula. For more of his work visit Deanmacallister.com