Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ketching up with K-U for Blogging from A to Z with One Word/60 Seconds

This is going to be a multi-letter post starting with K for Ketching up. I know I know it's not
supposed to be spelled like that but hey, making up words worked for Shakespeare. :)

The following Ketching-up entries will be from my One Word/60 Second list. What's One Word you ask? Well, it's actually a fantastic site You are given a single word with a 60-second timer. You are to write as fast as you can what that one word inspires. It's a great way to warm up your muse or even shake a bit of writer's block. Maybe even get a good story starter or prompt to save for later. Okay, now I'm going to Ketch-up, I hope you enjoy the following OneWord/60 Second entries. 

Instead of staking out the local chop shop he could be out with Gina, or Lola. Oh yeah, Lola. He popped the lid off his coffee and tossed it onto the dash with the rest of the night's collection. Maybe this one wouldn't taste like used oil.

After seven hours of crap coffee and no action, he watched the sleek sedan pull up to the garage door. The detective took a tentative sip and sighed as a big man stepped out of the car and straightened his coat, the hood he’d been looking for. He regretfully tossed the first decent cup of java all night out the window and flipped on the flashing lights. At least his wasn't the only date night to get ruined. 

M- Mystery 
The clatter of a coffee cup being set on the desk brought his attention from the files long enough to grunt thanks. This was one hell of a mystery, he had no idea where to start the search for this dame's sister. She was like smoke in fog, and he was one puzzled gumshoe.

The gun trembled slightly in his hand, this was his first day in uniform on patrol. The leather of his new holster still shiny. He was supposed to be sitting in the coffee shop eating donuts not in the middle of a face-off with a gang punk and an AK pointed at his head.

Have some optimism, there’s a silver lining to every dark cloud. That’s what my mother would say when we were frightened of the creatures in the dark. She couldn’t see them so she didn’t think they existed. Even now as I cower under the covers, a grown woman I find myself whispering those words. Could there really be a silver lining to the dark shadow looming over my bed?

Looking down he saw a wooden panel loose on the desk. The jutting corner begging for discovery. Gently he pried at it with the tip of a pin. The panel fell to the floor revealing a compartment. Reaching inside he pulled out a diary, the first line read…. “My God,what have I done?”

The room was quiet but for the sound of water dripping from the corner. It was dark and damp, smelled like dirt, a basement maybe. She twisted and pulled at the ropes on her wrists. A sound from the corner made her pause. Scratch.. scratch...the rustle of paper or maybe cloth then a large rat ran across her feet. She gasped and wiggled her feet as much as the ropes would let her. There wasn't much time left, she worked harder and managed to loosen the knots just enough. Her hands trembled and pulled furiously on the other bonds until the door creaked and a sliver of light crept toward her. He was back.

A routine day in the shop was all I wanted. Just a normal unbothered day of customers, dusting antiques, and inventory. Until the crate arrived, until I opened it. The contents would change everything I knew. No more routine days in the shop.

This part of the jogging path was secluded from the park. Usually, she enjoyed her run in the quiet of the night, but something about the thick copse of trees on each side made her feet move just a bit faster. She felt eyes bore into her back as she broke out into a full run. Her breath panted harder as footsteps began to echo hers from behind. They were getting faster, closer. She didn't dare glance back. Run just run, she told her feet, and they might make it out alive.

The door slammed shut, he could hear the bolt slide into place. "Damn." There was always a reason those mysterious notes say come alone. It was a trap, his gut was right instinct had been right but he came anyway. Now he had two options, wait for his captor to kill him or search for escape.

U- Unplanned  
He stepped back and gazed at the blood spattered on the wall. The victim had been removed but evidence of his violent death was painted dark red across the wall like a high gloss white canvas. The pattern of spray and dots seemed geometric, a kind of unplanned art. Or was it? Maybe the killer fancied himself Monet or Van Gogh. Maybe Dali, the bastard was definitely mad. 

There we go all Kaught up. Oh, you really didn't think I'd stop with Ketch did ya? :D Now it's your turn to try a muse wake up with One Word. Pick one of these words above and time yourself writing for 60 seconds. What did you get? 

Jailbreak: an excerpt from Outlaw Born

Ben growled and pulled at his bonds. He wouldn’t hang here, on some ranch in the corner of Arizona. It was a jail, a nicer furnished one but a jail the same. Ben Mason was a decorated soldier of the Union Army. A man with more honor than Hammond and his Pinkertons could muster in a finger. The fact Ben was now wanted for robbery and murder aside.

 The wooden chair creaked with his efforts, it wasn’t a stout chair. Ben rocked forward onto his feet and fell back to the legs of the chair. He took a breath and rocked again, this time catching his balance. 

Ben stood stooped tied to the chair. “Well, this is effort rewarded, now what?” He raised his head as far as he could as he looked for something to free him. Nothing useful came to sight and his time was close to run out.

Standing like this he could see through the window and the horizon as it began to show color.

With a sigh, he shifted the chair on his back and pushes off the floor falling backwards hard. The old chair split apart, without the structure the ropes fell loose around his body.

Ben groaned and rubbed his scarred shoulder, which took the brunt of the fall. It took a moment for him to untangle his body from the mess. A moment too long, the door creaked open and one of the Pinkertons stepped in.

“What the hell?” He opened his coat and started to draw his weapon.

Ben grabbed a broken leg of the chair and swung at the man’s gun hand. The half-drawn weapon clattered to the floor. Ben swung the wooden leg back as the Pink tried to dive for it.

The wood connected knocking the other man unconscious. Ben watched the Pink collapse on the floor as he picked up the gun. He peered out the window to see four other Pinkertons busy with preparations for his hanging.

Ben moved into the bedroom and looked out the window for any others. It was clear. “One thing you can count on is a Pink being over confident.”

He quietly jumped out of the window, crouched and made his way to the corner of the house. Ben searched any sign of his men. He eased closer along the side of the house.

Charlie and Dawson were tied up next to what was left of the barn. The bastards had burnt it down for entertainment. Smoke and embers were all that remained of the building now. Ben used the smoke as cover to get to the men.

Charlie spun his head at the sound of burnt wood cracking under foot. He relaxed at the sight his friend. “Ben, they’ll be back soon. They’ve got plans…”

Ben nodded as he examined the knots; he needed to cut them free. “They’re busy craftin my noose.”

Dawson glanced out to keep watch as Ben worked. The men felt the ropes give way. Charlie grinned as he rubbed his forearms. “Let’s get the hell out of here, boss.”

Ben nodded to him. “You know where to go.”  He checked the chamber of the Pinkerton’s revolver. Six bullets, there would be no room to miss. Ben could feel Charlie and Dawson at his back as he started to move toward his goal.

He waited a long time to get Hammond in his sight. He wasn’t about to spoil the only shot he may get at the man. “Go, Charlie, get Dawson out of here, I’ve unfinished business.” 

Outlaw Born is a novel in progress this is a little taste of the tale. You can read the first chapters on Watpad. 
About Outlaw Born
The war forced Ben Mason into long separations from family and set him on the battlefield against brothers. His luck left him more often than it came to him. He fought through it all to rid himself of the tarnished name given to him by his father and return home safe to his family. 

What he finds forces him to realize his battle has only just begun. When the law fails to offer justice, Ben embraces the legacy he had fought so hard to escape. Blood is the only path when you're Outlaw Born.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ides of March

It was dark in the alley, the perfect cover to watch for him. The club across the street was alive with music, lights and people. Maybe she should go in… no,  he would come out. She just had to wait.

It was damp and cold after the evening rains, but, nothing she couldn’t stand. There had been too much planning done already to waste the moment. It had to be done tonight. Suffering a bit of cold would be worth it in the end.

Loud music flooded the street when the club’s doors were flung open. There he was, that was him. He walked out alone, no tramp hanging off of him like so many others who had left before him.

He walked into the parking lot next to the club, paid no attention to the rest of the world around him. 

When he paused to light a cigarette she grinned. It was him, he was perfect. She walked over to the lot and smiled at him.

He smiled back. “Good evening.”

She didn’t reply, mustn’t seem so anxious. She walked over to her car she let go of a frustrated sigh as she gazed at her rear tire. “Damn it, not now…”

She sat her purse on the roof before she moved to the back of the car and opened the trunk.  She leaned inside and pulled out the jack and walked around to the flat tire.

He walked over and grinned. “Have a flat, can I give you a hand? No sense in a beautiful woman getting all greasy.”

She laughed and smiled back. “Thanks, I really appreciate it. I’m a serious girl with this stuff.”

He grinned and slid the jack under the edge of the car. “I’ll say you forgot a part. Do you mind if I look in your trunk for the tire iron?”

“No, go ahead. See I told you I have no idea what I’m doing there.”  She grinned then shifted to accentuate her ample form for him.

He smiled and walked around to the trunk. He pulled his eyes from hers and looked in. The iron was way in the back. He had to bend half into the trunk to reach it.

She watched and waited until both his hands were inside the trunk. Quickly, she moved to him and sank a needle into the back of his neck. Her thumb pushed the plunger as she glanced around, to make sure there were no other eyes on them.

In  seconds, he slumped, collapsed half into the trunk. She grinned as she tossed the needle inside then hefted the rest of him. 

For just a moment she paused and looked down at her victim. The rest of the night would be spent in blood as she has done since the betrayal. None leave her now. He will be hers tonight and in the morning, she will bury him near the others. “Beware the Ides of March.” 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Half Excerpt

About HALF
Guarding CEO Alex Blazen during a charity gala was an easy job for Valeska Gorstef...until all hell breaks loose...literally. Forced to face her own darkness, Valeska may lose her only chance to live a human life. Two sides of her soul will be at war. Which HALF will win?
Purchase links:

Valeska stood within the darkness of the room and felt it breathe. The dark was a living creature part of what she was. Her darkness, her vampire, and she hated it. A bit of dust and the stain was all that was left of her father. Once she had thought killing him would free her to live a normal life, but that was just a pretty lie.

After all this time, she still had to exist in the twilight between two worlds. Trapped. She was lost in the past when she heard footsteps and smelled Alex’s cologne before he reached the room. Good. He’ll see the darkness and run. It would be that easy to stop this before I want any more than I can have.

Alex didn’t run. Instead, he walked over, embracing her and kissing her blood covered mouth. All he cared about was showing her it didn’t matter. That he loved her human or not. Plying her lips with his tongue, he gently pushed into her mouth and met sharp fangs.

She tasted fresh blood and pushed him away roughly. “Alex stop! I haven’t fed enough.”

He gazed at her and the concern she saw there was more than she could bear. “I couldn’t. I couldn’t take an unwilling victim, not even a four-legged one.”

He looked beneath the splatters of blood to the pain her eyes held. What horrors she must have endured to survive over six hundred years of life.

She wanted to push him far away. “Don’t you see me? This is Valeska Gorstef. Alex, I can’t change what I am. I can smell the sweet copper scent of blood in your mouth. I can hear your heart pumping more through your veins and I want it. I want to taste you in ways that have nothing to do with passion.”

The video flashed in his mind. “I see the beautiful woman who walked into my office three days ago. I see the dark desire in your eyes. Blood isn’t all you want.”

She shook her head. “Alex, you don’t know what you’re asking.” Valeska felt her control starting to slip.

“No, I don’t.” Alex unbuttoned her shirt, peeled the blood soaked fabric from her shoulders. He pulled off his own shirt and tossed it in the pile. She was dizzy from bloodlust and need. Need to give in, need to love him.

She stood stiff as he embraced her and kissing, caressing first one lip then the other. He was more careful exploring the warmth of her mouth. He licked her fangs tasting the sweet copper in her mouth.

Weakening with the scent of his body so close, she kissed him back him feeling his warm clean skin. They fell to the floor, she rolled over him. “We can’t do this. I have to feed.”

He grabbed her face as he kissed her again. “Then feed.”

Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this April. Be sure to stop by the linky list to discover more awesome blogs . 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Grave Dancer

It was dark in the chapel, a new moon shed no light in the old abandoned building He sat on a pew moved under a window he watched and waited. Tonight he was prepared with camera, recorder, extra batteries, and a thermos of hot coffee to combat the chill of the night.

His hands wrapped around the tin cup absorbing the heat as he took a long sip. It was almost time, almost. He was afraid they wouldn’t come, he wouldn’t see her again. That it had been all a figment of his drunken mind.

Every night since that first one he had waited to see her again. He glanced back out the window he saw a glow fill the ancient graveyard. 

The glow was a soft bluish green like the ocean. The air felt damp heavy as he tossed aside the half full cup to get up on his knees for a better view out the broken window. His camera was in hand as he searched the worn headstones for her. 

The earth below a few of the stones shifted as a mist formed above them, taking shape. Arms stretched toward the sky as feet touched the ground. The figures yawned and moved as if waking from slumber.

He watched from his perch in the window holding up his camera to get the proof he wasn’t mad. They were real. The women there were like wisps of wind, ethereal. He could see them clearly in their ivory burial gowns, their skin fair as fine porcelain. But there was a touch of dream about them as they moved. Shifts in the misty glow would show them transparent.

His interest focused on one as she turned her skirt swirling the brittle leaves over her grave. She seemed to dance to some silent tune, perhaps only her kind could hear. Suddenly she stopped and walked back to her tombstone.

A cream colored rose lay on the aged marble. A soft smile of wonder slowly spread across  her pinked lips. She touched the petals gently as if it would fade away. When it didn’t she picked it up and brushed her cheek against the silken petals before she inhaled the sweet scent. 
A few of the other spirits began to gather to see the flower. Some searched their own stones. She smiled and held it out for them to sniff and touch lightly it had been so very long since anything but decay grew here.

The wind blew leaves around them, though their delicate forms. One jealous spiteful spirit marched over. Around her, the mist seemed darker, and aura of her cruel days in flesh perhaps.

Her hand closed over the petals and crushed the flower leaving only the stem in the sweet spirits hands.

The others began to walk away to play on their night of freedom.  The dark soul raised her chin and moved as far from them as her existence would allow. 

He watched wanting in that moment to run out and tell her not to be sad. The expression of loss on her sweet face was almost too much for his own heart to bare. How was he to know something as simple as a rose would cause so much.

Out the window, he saw her chest rise and fall in a ghostly sigh. The spirit knelt on the dead grass and picked up every petal, caressing it lightly in her hand. When they were all gathered she sat on a cracked marble bench and marveled.

She could still smell the sweet fragrance; the petals were still soft like her favorite velvet gown. She held them to her face and smiled. A petal escaped, slipped through her fingers to float into her lap.

She stood and watched it float gently to the worn earth. Suddenly she raised her hands and spun around tossing the petals in the air. As they fell around her catching on her hair and dress she danced in them.

When they had all fallen she gathered them to dance again in the glow of the mist. Her gown flowed around her, arms gracefully moved through the air, her dark hair flowed free around her shoulders lifting as she turned.

There was no sound but a soft rustle of leaves but he could imagine her joyous laughter. Something made her pause and look up. She brushed a strand of hair from her face and sighed. She gathered up her petals and carried them lovingly back to her grave.

She held her hands over it then slowly turned her palms letting petals fall like soft rain over her stone. With a gentle smile, she yawned and stretched as the mist appeared to grow thicker. Soon the others were in their places as well the mist began to fade until a glimpse of the sun could be spotted over the trees.

There was no more dancing the only evidence of the night being the cream-colored rose petals strewn over the darkened marble stone.

Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter G. Be sure to visit the linky list on the site by clicking on the badge below for more great blogs to follow and read all through April!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Farrier's Fate

The heavy scent of sulfur filled his nose when he walked into the barn. An icy chill slid down his spine as he raised his lantern. A figure stood in the center of the barn. The farrier moved toward it. “You sent for me, sir?”

The figure in black let out a breath from the stump of his neck. Once there was a head there surely. Now only gore and bone, the creature gave off an odor of decay mixed with rose petals. He raised his arm and extended a long finger toward a stall.

The farrier nodded with a half bow before moving to it. He never knew how to address the coachman. The thing must have some kind of supernatural sight to guide The Black Coach on its nightly collection of spirits.

The beast in the stall raised its head as the farrier stepped into its domain. Its muscles flexed under the onyx skin as a hoof stomped and scraped the wood floor.

He reached out a hand and stroked the nightmare's neck. It turned a blood red eye to meet his. The farrier looked away before it could see into his soul. Those eyes could make a man relive his deepest pain.

He set down the bag of tools and pulled on the thick heatproof gloves. They were cumbersome at times but better to deal with the discomfort and aggravation of the gloves than to have his hands burnt with the heat the beasts gave off.

Perhaps it was the heat of their bodies that caused the metal to twist and warp on their hooves.  Their manes and tails looked like hellfire dancing as they ferried the coach. Fables have said they were fallen souls such as him. Others guess they were created from hellfire in the great pit. Or perhaps it was better not to know. His soul knew too much of this place already.

He lifted the hoof between his thighs to examine the warped metal shoe. As he worked to reshoe the demon horse his mind recalled the night the coach came for him. Not to take him to the next life, that would have been a blessing.

He stood over the corpses, his hands dripped in blood and gore. The last victim had taken their final breath and he stood over the body, to watch the eyes fade as the soul left the body. It was then he heard the thunder of hoof beats.

He turned and ran down the alleyway, turned corner after corner until the sound faded. When his lungs started to burn he stopped and leaned against a trash bin to catch his breath. He was sure he’d escaped his fate. Until he felt the darkness around him move.

The farrier looked down the alley and there sitting at the end, waiting for him. The Black Coach, the nightmares stomped and shifted impatient to get on with their task.

The Coachman walked headless over the cobbled ground toward the farrier. What happened next was too much for his mind to bare remembering.

The Coachman’s cold fingers sunk into his body and tore out his coward’s spine.

 The dark creature now used it for his whip. The farrier was cursed to serve The Black Coach until his soul paid for his evil deeds.

He finished with the last tack and dropped the hoof with hands that trembled. He gathered his tools quickly to go back into his abyss until the next time he was needed. This would be his fate for a long time to come.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Evan's Eagle

He walked through the wood and metal skeletons of the airship yard. Rows of dirigibles in various states of repair or construction, workmen shouted for tools or commanded parts be placed. A welder sent bright sparks of metal into the air as his blade cut down into a beam.

Evan brushed the hot sparks from his skin as he turned down the next row. That’s where he saw her, where he fell in love. She was almost finished with her outer framing the gas bag lay empty and lifeless within.

He moved closer careful to stay out of the workers' way. Nothing should delay his first command. It is his turn to defend his country and were her medals for heroism proudly on his chest. He, Evan Alexander Khale had been chosen to captain this airship long before the military recruited him into the dirigible corps.

A mechanic paused his task and pulled a dirty cloth from his back pocket. He recognized the man in uniform and quickly wiped the sweat from his brow. He stuffed the cloth back into his coverall pocket and walked over to the man his hand extended. “It’s an honor to meet you Captain Khale. Are you here for inspection, sir?”

Evan shook the man’s hand, too late in realizing he’d worn white gloves now speckled with soot and grease. “No, inspection. I just wanted to see her progress.”

The worker’s chest puffed up as his thumbs locked around the straps of his coveralls and gazed up at the structure. “She’s a full week ahead of schedule, Captain. A fine bird she is, all the latest technologies.”

He grinned and pulled a flask from his boot. After he took a deep swig, the mechanic offered it to Evan.

Evan took a swig, the homemade corn whiskey was stronger than he expected. The amber liquid caused him to sputter and cough for a moment.

The mechanic gave Evan a sharp pat on the back. “Apologies, Captain. I shoulda warned ya the brew could curl a dog’s whiskers.”

Evan nodded. “That I believe, workman.” Recovered, he righted himself and watched them fill the gas bag. The dirigible began to hover as far as the mooring lines would allow.

The supervisor called for all hands to aid in securing the gondola to her frame. The mechanic grinned and tipped his cap. “Better get back at it. Don’t worry none, we’ll have this beauty ready on time. She’s gonna soar, wait and see.”

Evan gave him a reserved grin back and looked at his girl. Indeed, she would soar like an eagle, and he at her wheel.

Part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge. Be sure to visit the list to discover more great blogs 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Don't Breathe

Victor and Nicholas stumbled down the walk. They leaned on each other; one thought he was holding the other upright. Victor took a deep swallow from the bottle then passed it to his friend.

Nicholas took the offered libation. “Ah, there’s still half of the amber left in there. We must be getting light my friend.”

Victor chuckled. “Light? Nay, well, you maybe. You know what we need Nicky boy?”

He passed the bottle back to Victor. “Oh bloody hell. No, not that.”

Victor grinned a bit lopsided. “Oh yes.” He took a deep breath and began. “Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling…”

Nicholas took the cute as Victor paused for a drink. “From glen to glen and down the mountain side. The summer’s gone and all the flowers dying…”

Victor shoved the bottle back into his friend’s hand. “Och! Take another swig to tune those pipes.”

Nicholas pushed the bottle back and hooked his thumbs into the pockets of his waistcoat as his chest puffed up with pride. “I will have you know, Reverend Blake said my voice could wake angels.”

“No, he said, you could wake the demons in all nine hells.” Victor started to laugh when he saw the policeman pop around the corner. He leaned against the brick wall and smiled. He knew he was to far gone to pass for sober any other way.

Nicholas straightened and tossed the bottle over the high wall. “Evening, officer. Lovely night for a stroll don’t you think?”

“Aye, evening gents. You should be heading on home at this hour though.” The bobby eyed the men, he could see they were a few sheets to the wind. They weren’t causing trouble so why bother with the paperwork of taking them in.

Nicholas tipped his cap to him. “Yes, sir. That’s right where we’re headed.”

The cop scoffed then continued to walk. Once he was gone around the next corner, Victor breathed a sigh of relief. “That was close. Let’s totter on before he patrols back. Where’s our fine nectar, boyo?”

“I tossed it over the wall. I wasn’t going to spend the night in the tank.” He thumbed over the top of the bricks to point where.

Victor pulled himself up enough to peek over. “I see it, still intact even. Good thing you throw like a lass. It landed on a new grave, the fresh turned soil cushioned her fall.”

“Grave? This is Westfall Cemetery? Oh no, I don’t want another drink that bad. The bobby was right it’s time to call it a night, Vic.”

“You can’t be afraid of a few old bones. No one in there is going to bite.” Victor laughed as he started to walk toward the gate of the cemetery.

Nicholas grabbed his arm. “You cannot go in there, it’s past midnight and the moon is high. There’s a fresh grave. We can just walk around the other way and go home.”

The other man shook his head.  “For the love of Pete, the bobby went that way. I’m not getting pinched again because you’re superstitious. “

With a deep sigh, Nicholas conceded. Neither of them could afford to get busted again by the cops for public drinking. “Alright, but when we pass the gate you have to hold your breath. They can pass through a gate, the spirits that is, and steal your body.”

Victor rolled his eyes and walked toward the gate. Just before they got to the rusted iron barrier Nicholas took a deep breath and readied to rush past it.

His friend had other plans, Victor tried the gate and when it gave he pushed it open. The iron creaked and squealed a bit as it swung on hinges that begged for a drop or two of oil. The horrible sound echoed into the night.

Nicholas was so startled he let go of the breath with a bit of a whelp. “What are you doing? You’re going to bring that bob back around.”

He realized he’d let go of his breath and the gateway was open, the ghosts had permission now to roam. As quickly as he could Nicholas drew another deep breath careful to do it away from the gate.
Victor shook his head. “You are mad boyo. I’m not going to leave some spook half a bottle of third shelf whiskey.”

With that, Victor left his pal on the walk and ventured into the cemetery. It was much darker on this side of the wall. There was only one lantern hung along the walk. He made his way through the row of headstones to the fresh turned soil. He could see the glint of moonlight reflecting off the bottle glass. “There you are my beauty.” He turned and called out over the wall. “I found it.”

Nicholas huffed exasperated and worried. “Don’t breathe you, damn fool. Just hurry up and don’t breathe.”

Victor grinned, plucked the bottle from the earth. He took a swig and turned to head back.

There in a moonbeam stood a man a bit older than Victor but finely dressed. His expression was dower as his eyes took in the sight of the man before him. It was a judgmental glare.

Victor coughed having choked on his whiskey. Once his lungs were clear of the burning liquid Victor placed his hand over his pounding heart. “Mister you gave me a fright.  They almost needed to dig another plot.”

Victor chuckled while the man considered him. When the stranger didn’t respond Victor brushed his hand off on the thigh of his pants then offered it. “Name’s Victor Mason, my mate and I just lost our libation.” The silent man made Victor nervous. “May I ask your name, sir?”

The stranger’s lip twitched then he shook Victor’s hand. The stranger’s hand was ice cold and his voice sent a shiver down Victor’s spine. “Jacob Crest. You live here in the village?”

Victor rubbed his palm against his thigh again this time to rid it of that awful sensation. “Yes, all my life.” Something started to feel very off, very wrong. He tipped his hat. “Nice to have meet you, Mr. Crest. I should be going. Early day at the mill and all.”

Jacob nodded and pointed to the headstone of the fresh grave. “Nice, to meet you Mr. Mason. Before you go would you kindly hand me my cane.”

Victor glanced back and saw the cane with a shiny silver bird on top. “Uh… sure.” He stepped back to the freshly covered grave and picked up the walking stick. Just as his hand closed around the shaft a moonbeam illuminated just enough of the tombstone for him to read…

Here lies
Jacob Crest

His eyes grew large and he took a deep breath to shout out for Nicholas….

After a couple more minutes, Nicholas shook his head and called into the cemetery. “I’m not waiting any longer, Victor.”

Victor stepped out with the bottle still half full in one hand and a walking stick topped with a silver bird in the other. “No, need to wait. I’m ready to go home.”

Nicholas looked at his friend, something was off, something was wrong. His voice was an octave deeper than it was before. “Are you alright? Where did you get that fancy cane?”

Victor smiled, it wasn’t a lopsided grin. “I’m fine, it was a gift.”

Nicholas took the bottle and drank as they walked back to their flat. His companion didn’t talk or sing. He didn’t even seem tipsy any longer and refused any of the bottle he’d risked his soul to retrieve. When they reached their door Nicholas fumbled with the key.

With an impatient sigh Victor stepped up and took the key. He unlocked the door and looked at Nicholas who stared back. “Victor… your eyes.”

His lip twitched. “Yes, there are two just like yours.” Victor ushered him in and put him to bed quickly to silence any more questions.

In the morning Nicholas woke and sat, bolt upright with the memory of those eyes. He jumped up and hurried into the next bedroom. “Victor….”

The closet was open and Victor’s best clothes had been removed. His suitcase was gone as were any valuable effects. The photo of his ma and siblings still stood on the dresser, as did his journal. Two things Victor would never have left without.

Nicholas sat on the bed and wanted very much to disbelieve. He knew it the moment he had looked into those eyes. Blue eyes, Victor’s had been brown. “You damn fool. I told ya don’t breathe.”

Part of the Blogging From A to Z Challenge through the month of April. Be sure to visit  the site for the entire linky list of participants and discover other awesome bloggers 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Credence in a Cure

Virginia kept an eye on her son. She could tell when a fit was about to erupt on her poor boy. He was far too young to have such a terrible illness. One she feared he was nearing the end of.

Water sloshed and sizzled as it boiled out and dribbled down the side of the pot to the stove burner. Virginia turned to push the run down automaton out of the way when Toby began to cough and wheeze harder and louder than before.

She rushed instead to the boy. “Mother, the pot!”

The old woman rushed in from the porch as quickly as an old woman could rush. She pushed the pot to the cool back burner. “Not so much of a mess, it’s mostly steam now.”

The old woman looked over at mother and child. Virginia was in an attempt to make Toby take that horrible medicine. She didn’t see that it did her grandson any good. In another few moments, he would have another great fit. The space between these bone-rattling cough spells were getting closer together.

She refilled the pot and pulled it back over the flame to boil again. The old woman wound the automaton back into motion. “This old clunker needs to be replaced, Virginia.”

Virginia smiled as she tucked her son back under the warm blanket. His body calm for now. “Then we might have to replace you. The old clunker just needs a couple of parts replaced.” She glances over at the woman adding ingredients to the pot. “The meal one that is.”

The boy laughed, which started another fit, this one worse than the one before. Virginia started to pour another spoon full of syrup, but the bottle was empty. “Mother, sit with him, please. I have to run to the cellar for a new bottle of medicine.”

The old woman sighed, that swill was worthless. “We could try another of the old remedies. That last one helped for a day.”

“No, those silly superstitions don’t ever work. He needs real medicine. Just sit with him and I’ll go down to look for it.” Virginia sighed as she walked down the cellar stairs.

The old woman looked at the automaton. “Don’t make a mess of it this time.” She shook her finger hard at the clockwork machine and made her way to her grandson’s side.

The small breath the boy took in rattled and wheezed. He looked up at his grandmother, his eyes filled with a knowledge. The knowledge he might not see the sun tomorrow.

It broke the old woman’s heart. He was one of the few joys left in her limited days. He couldn’t leave this world before an old crone like she. Toby’s dog, a shaggy thing that always tracked dirt even when there was no dirt to be tracked, leaped up on the bed to lay next to the boy.

The old woman looked at them both the way the boy absently scratched the old mutt’s head. Would it work? It was a silly old tale, but some silly old tales bore some truth in them. She looked at the cellar door and listened to see if Virginia was still rustling about for the last bottle of foul liquid that never really made anything better.

The old woman hurried into the kitchen and buttered two pieces of bread. She carried them back over and sat on the side of Toby’s bed. The dog’s nose perked up smelling the fresh baked slices.

The old woman grinned softly at her grandson. “I’m sorry, Toby.”

He looked at her strangely as she pet his head. “For what, gran… Ow!”

She kissed his head as she put the strands of hair she pulled from the boy’s head between the slices of bread. “Now feed it to the mutt and say what I whisper in your ear while you do.”

His granny had always been a strange woman, maybe age made her even more so. He sat up a bit more as he listened to her whisper into his ear then offered the dog the odd sandwich and repeated the rhyme. “Eat well you hound, may you be sick and I be sound."

The old woman grinned and kissed his flushed cheeks as she tucked the covers around him. “That’s my boy.”

Virginia closed the cellar door and sighed. “Found it. Mother I wish you wouldn’t reorganize things so much.” She hurried over at the sight of the dog and made a sweeping motion with her hands to shew it off of the bed. “Go on, furball back to your own bed.”

When she looked down at the boy he was fast asleep and seemed to be in a peaceful rest. “He looks so comfortable. It’s been so long since he’s looked this way.”

“He’ll feel better in the morning, I’m sure of it.” The old woman patted her daughter’s shoulder and gathered her skirt to rush to the kitchen as she scolded the automaton for allowing the soup to burn.

Virginia sat close to her son and picked up a book, she was too tired and worried to eat anyway. The dog gave a whimper and what sounded like a cough. She turned and looked at it, then shook her head as she turned back into her book.

The next morning she woke to someone tugging on her sleeve. “Mama, I’m hungry. Can I have eggs with cheese for breakfast?” That small voice a little hoarse but strong sank in and Virginia’s eyes flew open.

Her son stood next to her chair, his cheeks a healthy pink, his eyes bright. The weariness of illness gone, his hand was warm, not cool and clammy. His grip on her hand was strong, not weak. This couldn’t be, could it?

She hugged him tight until he wiggled free complaining as little boys do when they want to be man of the house.

The old woman set a platter of biscuits down on the table and smiled softly when the boy ran over and climbed into a chair. He was well again.

Virginia wiped tears from her cheeks as she started to sit at the table. Something caught her eye out the window. Freshly turned soil in the yard, at one end of the dark earth, was a stick the dog’s collar dangled from it. She turned to the old woman. “Mother, what did you do?”

She watched her grandson dig into the food. The first time in so very long he has eaten more than a few spoonfuls of soup. The old woman gave her daughter’s shoulder a squeeze. “Be thankful one of us remembers some of those silly old superstitions.”

Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter C. Visit the site for the linky list to visit more great and creative blogs as we journey through the alphabet this April. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Bells of Wesley Ring

They stood together on the balcony of their hotel room that overlooked the large city. Dirigibles
carrying their passengers floating through the sky in the distance. Sarah grinned. “What a spectacular view. I’m looking forward to seeing the sights.”

Jonathon slid his arm around her waist with a mischievous expression as he kissed his wife. “I have all the sights I need to see right here.”   

She laughed and wiggled away. “You saw plenty last night and if you want to see more tonight you’ll take me out, Sir Jonathon Adam Hargrove.” She picked up a brochure. “Take me to the Franklin Wesley Gallery first.” 

He smiled. How could he not indulge her? Her life was about to be cut short. “Where ever you wish my dear.” He kissed her taking a long drink of her essence.

When they parted she blushed feeling a touch dazed. “We should order breakfast, I'm a bit lightheaded. Probably all the excitement” Sarah walked over to the bell rope and started to tug when Jonathon rushed over.

His hand closed over hers to stop the pull. “We should go out for breakfast. You wanted to see the city.”

When Sarah moved away to fetch her coat and hat, he slowly put the rope back into place as he watched the bell. When it lowered back into place without so much as a ting he sighed in relief.

His eyes stayed on the bell for a moment as he moved away from it to help Sarah with her coat.

When they stepped outside the paperboy stood on the nearby corner. He rang his hand bell and called out the headline. “California becomes 31st state of America.”

The moment Jonathon heard that sharp ting and tang of the bell he started to tremble. “Sarah, this way, away fr..from that.”

She looked at him, for a second her husband looked as though he’d seen a ghost. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, yes, the café is just this way, my darling.” He guided her down the walk away from the boy and his bell. He attempted not to show too much haste in his efforts.

Sarah noticed he finally calmed when they had gone far enough the ringing was washed away by the sounds of the city streets. It was a very odd behavior for him, he was the calm in their marriage. She had always been the emotional one. She dismissed it with a shake of her head.

Thankfully they reached the café and Jonathon opened the door and the tiny bell at the top tinkled to let waiters know patrons had arrived. He froze in place; his hand trembled on the door handle.

He backed out the door still holding Sarah’s hand. She followed him; she didn’t understand his reactions to these places. He didn’t act this way back home. Maybe the city was too much for him. He’d lived his entire life in the small country town they grew up in. “Jonathan, what is the matter?”

He shook his head and wrapped her hand around his arm and started to walk her down the sidewalk. “Nothing, everything is fine. That café didn’t seem… clean. We’ll find some place better.

She wanted to protest but didn’t as she gripped the side of her skirt and lifted to keep from tripping as he moved quickly away.

They turned the corner and his pace started to slow to a stroll, which Sarah was grateful for. She looked up and smiled seeing the great church with its stained glass and tall bell tower. “How beautiful, may we go inside? I love church glass.”

He paused his walk and followed the line of her sight. “Perhaps later, aren’t you famished for breakfast, my darling?” He would be able to distract her thoughts during the meal into other locations.

“Oh, but we’re here now. I’m sure it won’t take long.” She gripped his hand and dragged him up the steps to the doors. “This chapel must be very old, perhaps medieval.”

His voice was tight as he stood before the great doors with large round glass windows with images of Christ in them. “Perhaps. I think it would be better if we came back later, Sarah.”

She opened the door herself since he didn’t seem to be feeling himself much less gentlemanly. “Nonsense, we’ll get caught up in some other exploration. Jonathon, you are acting very strange today.”

She went inside, his hand still caught in hers which gave him no choice but to follow.

His throat felt tight and he eased his hand from hers to keep from venturing further into the building than just over the threshold. When Sarah looked back to him, he gave her a tight smile. “Go ahead, darling. I will… wait here.”

She cast him back a vexed expression then turned away to explore and look at the glass.

The longer he stood there the more his skin felt as though it were going to melt from his bones. It was hard for him to look at anything for too long it made his eyes ache. He had a great need to rush outside and back to the sidewalk away from all that these ancient stone walls held.

He saw his wife had finally started to walk back toward him. She stopped to speak to a priest then carried on to him. It wasn’t Sarah, Jonathon’s eyes followed, but the priest. He saw the man in his long black cassock disappear behind a door. There was a small brass plate on the door, inscribed… Bell Tower.

He reached out to Sarah in an effort to urge her to walk faster. “Sarah, let’s go.”

She sighed and looked at him. “What has gotten into you?”

He opened the door and they started to step through when the first tone rang through the building, Echoed by the tall open ceiling. It was a deep rich bong of the largest bell in the tower, followed by two higher pitched rings. The sounds began to loop growing in strength and rhythm. 

Jonathon trembled at first, then began to hug himself and crumble trapped in the threshold of the old church. His body shook as he cried out, the sound of a man falling into madness.

Sarah dropped to her knees beside him. “Jonathon… my love what is…”

Her breath caught in her throat and she scooted backward away from him against the wall. This just couldn’t be she’s been so weak and ill through their marriage, surely her eyes had played a cruel trick. This vision couldn’t be real.

One of the parishioners fetched the priest to help the wailing man. He started to kneel down to try and ease the man’s suffering when he saw the eyes. Solid black pools of the deepest darkness known to man. The priest felt his soul tremble as those eyes gazed into his own. He crossed himself and lifted the gold cross that hung over his heart.

Jonathon turned his head away he couldn't stand any more assaults. “Get away.”

The priest stood and ran to the alter. He grabbed the aspergillum and ran back to Jonathon. The priest began to recite prayers to protect those present and rid his church of this horror as he flicked the aspergillum.

Drops of Holy Water fell upon Jonathon. He cried out in terror and agony as the bells continued to ring. He couldn’t take anymore his body arched, mouth opened wide as if to scream. Instead, something else slipped out of the body. It was smoky, the scent of sulfur filled their nostrils as it flew out the door and out to the street.

The priest watched as the demon melted into the cracks. He knew it wouldn’t be last dark soul the Bells of Wesley would terrorize and he said a long prayer of thanks for that. 

Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter B. Visit the site for the linky list to visit more great and creative blogs as we journey through the alphabet this April. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Ship by Any Other Name

Hamilton signed deeply and stretched as he sunned on top of the crates. It was a quiet morning on
their journey. That thought triggered something, it was too quiet. He sat up and looked at the old steamer’s top pipe, not a single puff of smoke.

The water was calm as glass. “Jacob, didn’t you notice the engine’s kaput?”

Jacob sits up from his nap on the bow and cocks his head to listen. “Damn, when did she fail?” He points his finger. “And don’t go sayin I let’er down you didn’t notice either.”

The other man sighed and hoped off the crates and opened the engine doors to have a look. “Just grab the tools and let’s have a look. At least the water is calm today and not trying to tinker about in here with rolling waves.”

Jacob opened a hatch on the deck and pulled out the tool box. As the hatch fell back into place he heard a hard knock against the bottom. He opened the hatch to see what tipped over, but nothing was amiss. With a shake of his head he thought, "I've been at this job too long, now I'm hearing things.

He set the box next to Hamilton who was checking valves. “You know Ham, this tub has given us one issue or another every time we’ve been out. I’m beginning to think that old tale is true.”

Hamilton paused to raise his brow and looked at his partner. “What old tale?”

“You know, the name Amelia. You never give a vessel a name ending in the letter a. It’s bad luck.” He pulled out a ratchet to tighten one of the valves that seemed loose.

Hamiton scoffed. “I never pegged you for a superstitious nit.” He added a bit of grease to the piston. There was another large knock on the bottom of the boat.

Jacob looked at the other man. “Did you hear that?”

Ham shook his head. “Hear what? The only thing I’m interested in is the sound of this old girl belching to life. Turn her over will ya.”

Jacob went back to the helm and pressed the button. After a couple of tries, the engine gave a sputter and puff of smoke as it came back to life. Jacob let go a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding. He put his hand in his pocket and gave the rabbit’s foot a pet for their fortune.

The steamer rocked side to side as if it caught a rough wave. The men grabbed hold to keep their footing. They looked around and out at the water, it was still smooth as glass. The engine couldn’t have caused that. “Let’s get her moving.”

Jacob pulled the lever to slow ahead. The steamer groaned a bit like she was stuck on something then moved forward. Once they were underway, he added a bit more speed. His heart pumped with a faster pace as well. “What in hell is going on Ham?”

The other man shook his head. “It’s nothing, probably just one of those great whites. You know they love the coastlines.”

Jacob nodded, but his gut knotted and twisted all at the same. The deck lurched under his feet again as the bow tipped upward then down. There were more knocks now against the sides of the hull. Like something wanted aboard and were pounding the sides to come in. Or push its way in.

Hamilton slid from one side to the other as the steamer rocked again. He gripped the railing to keep from falling over the side. His mind froze in shock with what his eyes took in as they fell over the edge.

He crossed himself with a trembling hand. “Dear God in heaven.”

Tentacles writhed against the hull of the steamer. The vessel lurched again. One of the large tentacles slung over the bow and began to wrap around.

Jacob cried out in fear and ran to the back of the steamer to jump into the water for a possible escape. When he had climbed the top of the rail a large mass rose out of the sea.

Smaller tentacles writhed in the air; they dripped water and ooze on Jacob and the deck. The mass shifted and an eye as large as the man before it opened.

Hamilton yelled. “Look out, get back Jacob.”

Jacob tried to rush backwards but slipped in the muck dripped from the beast onto his back. It wouldn’t have mattered, it was too late. One of the smaller arms whipped down, wrapped around the man’s leg and dragged him into the air.

The beast shifted again, This time it opened a large beaked mouth. The beak was razored with sharp teeth and a serpent-like tongue which flicked out to sample its find. Jacob struggled in its grip.

Hamilton made his way to the helm. He pulled a revolver he’d fastened there in case of pirates. He wished this were pirates. aimed and held his breath as he fired into the mass of the beast.

The beast only twisted now angry. Tentacles launched out of the water and latched onto the steamer and began to rip into the deck and hull. The smaller arm that held Jacob hovered above the beast's maw. The beak snapped shut then opened wide for its morsel.

Hamilton cried out as his shipmate was devoured. There was no escape the beast had the steamer tight in its grip and it was too large to attempt to abandon ship. He knelt and began to say his final prayer.

Three weeks later….
Old man Gimley sighed as he lit his pipe. He picked up a weathered chunk of wood from his desk and walked down to inspect a new steamer for the Hart Line.

The foreman stepped off the ship to greet his supervisor. “Afternoon, Mr. Gimley. What do you have there?”

Gimley looked at the wood and sighed. “Confirmation of what happened to our missing ship. They found a bit of wreckage, no survivors.”

The foreman shook his head. They’ve had a run of bad luck lately. “The Amelia? That makes four in the last eight months. The Nina, Susana, and the Mina all lost. Mr. Hart is not going to be pleased.”

Gimley nodded as he handed the chunk of wood to the foreman and stepped aboard to begin his inspection.

The foreman turned to the boy in the sling painting the name. “Change that name Tucker.”

“To what sir?”

“Whatever you like just make sure there is no a on the end!” The foreman looked at the wood in his hands and the battered letters on it. Maybe some superstitions have a bit of truth to them. “Poor girl, you and the others were cursed from the start.”

Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter A. Visit the site for the linky list to visit more great and creative blogs as we journey through the alphabet this April.