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Author Archives: heathstallcup

About heathstallcup

Creator of the Monster Squad and other supernatural tales.

A Story For My Girls

If you follow the blog posts, then you know that I’ve been sharing the ‘dead files’ from my computer. Stories that I lost interest in but at one point thought was a good idea. They’re raw, unedited, unproofread, unpublished.

When I penned the Hunter Trilogy, I was actually yelled at by the lady who edited it (yes, Sheila, I’m talking about you!). She thought I was nuts for not continuing Sven’s adventures. I was ready to move on to other projects…but I had the idea of possibly doing a trilogy of Sven’s child. At the end of the Hunter trilogy, he and his beloved were expecting a child and since Thor knew that it would be a demigod, he shared his power with Sven to give him a fighting chance in raising said child.

As a twist, Sven had a daughter. Every bit as brazen as her father, she was tasked with hunting demigods. The old gods couldn’t suffer a demigod to live as most demi’s powers would eventually exceed that of the gods themselves. They simply couldn’t risk it.

What follows is the first chapter of that story.
And don’t worry, there are more that I’ll share later.  I have to keep dangling the carrot or you won’t come back, right?

HUNTRESS

DEDICATION

For my twin girls. Know that emotions don’t make you weak and that young women need only do what’s right to be the hero of any story.
Keep the faith girls.

1

I am a Huntress. Like my father before me, I hunt my own kind. Not because I want to. Because I was created to. I kill with speed and efficiency.

I am quite good at what I do.

I am Erica Svensdottir.

My pedigree is…muddled.

My mother is a shapeshifter. She prefers to shift into a feline form, but she can assume other shapes as well. She comes from a long line of pureblood shifters. But that only describes her physical attributes. If I had to describe my mother in one word, it would be ‘loving’. She has the biggest, softest heart of anybody I’ve ever met.

My father on the other hand, is the Yin to her Yang. He is large, brutish, unrelenting and a natural born killer. Yet he loves my mother and me with every fiber of his being. He taught me most everything I know.

He is also a Norse god.

Before you shake your head in disbelief, understand that my father was born of Viking stock. He was taught the old ways by his grandfather. He was then conscripted to the Swedish navy and sailed to the new world before it was rightfully claimed by any other nation. It was here, in the new world, that he was transformed into a creature of the night. A vampire.

For centuries, he stuck to the shadows. He lurked along the outskirts of humanity and preyed upon those who wouldn’t be missed. He survived by killing and he was quite good at it.

As the centuries passed, he adopted new ways to survive. He also began hunting and killing his own kind. He became the lead enforcer for the ruling council of the vampires and still holds that position today. Yes, he is a god, but he uses his powers for good. And, as he says, the council has ways of doing things that he couldn’t. Things like creating a valid birth certificate for me. I was born barely five years ago, but I am physically that of an eighteen or twenty year old. That’s difficult to explain to the government.

So how does all of this play out in my pedigree? Well, my father stole Loki’s powers and impregnated my mother. Technically, he was a god when they…created me. After he surrendered his power back to Loki, Thor interceded. When Thor discovered that my parents were expecting me…he ‘shared’ his power with him.

In time, that power grew. He is now equal in power to Thor. He can travel to the nine worlds at will and has taken me many times to meet my extended ‘family’. Thor is…large. He’s also my favorite uncle. I’ve yet to meet my grandfather, Odin, the Allfather, but I hope to one day.

My father trained me from birth how to use the weapons that I now wield. When I surpassed his ability to teach, he took me to the nine worlds and I learned the fighting techniques of the dark elves, the light elves, the trolls and eventually the Valkyrie. My uncle Thor finally intervened. He tested me at the age of five and declared me ready for the tasks they expected of me.

You see, besides being part shifter, part vampire and part human…I’m a demigod. Thor confessed to me that there have been few demigods in history because their power can surpass the gods. Odin refuses to suffer a demi to survive. I think that’s why I’ve never met him. They didn’t want me killed. Or him. I’m not sure which.

Regardless, Thor tasked me with a mission. My father endorsed it so now I hunt my own kind. No, not just demigods, though I would terminate with extreme prejudice any who crossed my path. Rather, any that the gods choose has earned death.

It is not my place to question why.

I had no qualms in taking a life. If they had worshipped their gods properly they would have an eternity to relish their rewards. If they didn’t, they didn’t deserve to suffer this world any longer anyway. Either way, if the gods proclaimed them dead, they were. As efficiently as I could deliver the verdict.

I just didn’t expect what was to come. Nobody ever prepared me for…this.

*****

I had at least a half dozen kills under my belt. I always chose the most effective and most humane way to remove the offender. I sported dual battle hatchets, a short sword and a recurve bow. My father made certain that I was prepared for whatever creature I may encounter by ensuring that one of my hatchets was infused with silver, the other with gold. My arrowheads were forged with both metals. My sword was hardened silver allow with gold inlays. Quite beautiful and extremely deadly.

I loved watching the trolls smith my weapons. I was barely waist high to my father when he took me to the realms and I got to watch them be crafted. They were made specifically for me. It was the best birthday present ever.

I had learned how to sense others before I ever saw them. A vampire causes a cold chill and the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end. Were’s cause a similar reaction, but instead of a cold chill, I feel heat. Angels and Nephilim I can smell long before they are visible. But I had yet to meet another demigod.

Until him.

Thor had called me to him and I answered. I sat under an oak on the edge of Asgard while he spoke. Although I love him dearly, he still awes me when I’m in his presence. Not just his size, but his voice. I can almost feel the thunder in the air as the words escape his lips. It is both exhilarating and frightening.

“There are rumors, Small One.” I warmed at his nickname for me. There were many over the years, but Small One was one of my favorites. When I was little, I thrilled at ‘Princess’ or even ‘Melonhead’, but he first called me Small One when I nearly bested him in battle. I still think he went easy on me.

“Rumors of what, Uncle?”

“Another. Like you.” He stood over me, his piercing blue eyes searching me for comprehension.

I can’t hide my feelings. My face is as expressive as my mother’s and I know he easily read my shock. I slowly came to my feet.

“Another demi? A Norse demi?”

He shook his head and that great mane of hair flowed in the breeze. “No. Not Norse.” He turned and stared off into the sky. I don’t know if he was looking for something or reaching out with his feelings. When he turned back to me, his face was unreadable. “We cannot tell from hence he comes, but he comes.”

“He?” I gripped my bow tighter. “Do you know what he looks like?”

His massive hand rose and he touched my forehead with his finger. Instantly a face appeared in my mind and I was dumbstruck.

Although the transference only took a moment, it seemed like an eternity as I stared at the most beautiful face I had ever seen. Amber eyes framed by dark curly hair, olive skin and a smile that threatened the sun in its brilliance. The pure joy painted across his features warmed my heart and, although I hate to admit it, caused an ache in a place that I didn’t know I had.

“He is of age and his power is growing.”

Thor’s voice shook me from whatever spell I had befallen and brought me back to my reality. I stared up at him and I wanted to beg him to allow the boy to live. A creature of such beauty couldn’t possibly be evil.

I opened my mouth to speak and my throat was dry. My voice nearly cracked when I spoke. “Do you know where he may reside?”

Again he shook his head. “But be cautious Small One.” His giant hand gripped my shoulder and I felt the power flow between us. “He is a demi and whether he knows it or not, there is great power within him. He is dangerous.”

I nodded absently. “I will find him Uncle.”

I love his smile. Especially when it’s genuine. His eyes glimmered as he nodded. “You are ready. Go. Make us proud.”

He vanished and I allowed the wave of power he left behind to wash over me. It’s difficult to explain in words, but imagine being wrapped in a warm blanket and cradled by one who loves you infinitely. That is similar to the feeling I get when another’s power washes over me.

At least, here in Asgard.

*****

I arrived home and went to my room. Although I always carry my bow to Asgard with me, my battle hatchets and short sword were kept in my closet.

I quickly changed into my black hunting clothes and walked downstairs, my weapons tucked away under the long coat I wore. My mother was waiting at the bottom of the stairs.

“Where were you, young lady?”

Crap. There was that tone. Father had warned me about that tone and I chose not to heed his words when I was younger. Now I know better.

I cast my eyes downward. “Thor has another mission for me.”

I may not be as sensitive to body language as my father, but I knew mom’s all too well. Hands on her hips, foot tapping. She wasn’t happy.

“I would appreciate it if you’d let me know where you’re going to be before you just take off.” She pulled her cell phone from her pocket. “How many five year olds do you know of have these? We gave it to you for a reason.”

“Mom, I’m almost six.” I couldn’t believe we were about to have this argument again. I decided it was best to do what my father always does. I bit back what I wanted to say and instead, simply apologized. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

I watched as her face softened, but then her eyes narrowed.

“Why do I hear your father’s words coming from that tiny little mouth of yours?”

I shrugged. “Because he’s wise beyond his years? Some of it rubbed off on me.” I gave her my best innocent smile. It did little good.

“I made you breakfast. I don’t know what Thor has in mind for you, but you need to eat.” She practically dragged me to the kitchen and pulled the chair out.

I did what any self-respecting huntress would do. I listened to my mother. I sat. I ate. I made small talk.

Mother knows better than to ask details about my ‘missions’. The first time I returned from a successful hunt and shared my exploits, she nearly fainted. Father, on the other hand, was just as excited as I was. He urged details until my mother walked out of the room.

Apparently, in her mind, I’m still a child.

I stand nearly a foot taller than her. I can lift the Jeep they bought me for my fourth birthday with one hand and I can out-fight my father. Yet, in her mind, I’m still a child. She just can’t accept my position as a hunter of gods.

She leaned against the counter and watched while I scarfed down the huge meal she had prepared. My mother is many things, but a bad cook is not one of them. She is used to mine and my father’s appetites.

Being a demigod is hungry work.

She sipped her coffee and watched me. I felt her hand sweep an errant strand of hair behind my ear. “If you’re going out, you should really put that mess in a ponytail.”

I should have thought before answering her. “I’m thinking of cutting it short.” I swallowed and wiped my mouth on the back of my sleeve. “It falls out of a pony tail too easily and it gets in my way…” I saw her, mouth open as if in mid-scream. “Did I say something wrong?”

She shook her head adamantly. “You are not cutting your hair.”

I cocked my head to the side and studied her. “But it gets in the way.” I shoved another fork full of food into my mouth. “Father keeps his hair short. Sort of.”

Uh-oh. That eyebrow just hiked up. Here comes another, ‘you’re not your father’ speech.

“You are not your father, young lady!”

I didn’t know that hair was that important. I tried to speak, but my mouth was too full. I knew better than to spit it back onto the plate. Mother hates that. Almost as much as she hates it when we talk with our mouths full.

I chewed as quickly as I could and swallowed. “I know, mom, but…”

She thrust her hand out. She held two pony tail bands. I sighed and leaned back while she pulled my hair into a pile and strapped it in with both bands. I hate to say it, but I think she pulled so tight that it was difficult to blink.

I turned to her and smiled. “Better?”

She huffed and poured more coffee. She doesn’t know it, but I love her coffee. I’m not supposed to drink it because it might ‘stunt my growth’. If humans really grow so much more slowly than I do, you’d think she’d want my growth stunted.

“Where are you going on this ‘mission’ of yours?”

The fork hovered in front of my open mouth. I knew better than to load up when she expected an answer. “I’m not sure yet. He only gave me an image.” Insert fork.

She walked around the table and stood in front of me. “What are you hunting this time?”

I gave her that look. The one that asks, ‘are you sure you really want to know?’ and waited. She didn’t budge.

“A suspected demi.” I sat my fork down and waited for what I was sure was going to be a chastising. Instead, she surprised me.

She stepped close and wrapped her arms around my neck. “Be careful honey. If things seem…different, in any way, step away and call your father. You know he’ll back you no matter what.”

I nodded, unsure how to take her sudden reversal. “Of course.”

I stood and set my plate in the sink. The look on her face was one I couldn’t really read. Fear? Pride? Worry? All of the above?

She gripped me in an embrace. “Be careful.”

“Always.” I gave her a peck on the cheek and walked out the back door. I don’t know why, but mother doesn’t like seeing father or I vanish. She’d rather us go outside first.

Maybe it gave her a feeling of closure?

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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End of an Era?

I stayed up last night to write. This is normal. I do it most nights. But as the sun came up this morning and I continued, I knew that I was close. I had to keep pushing. I had to finish.
Monster Squad is done.
MS10 will be the last we see of our military heroes. The story arc is finished. And I have this sense of…well, almost regret.
Here’s my author’s note that I penned between the final two chapters. I guess my emotions were getting the better of me.

As I come to the end of this chapter, I find myself feeling more than a bit melancholy. For these past six plus years, the characters I created in the Monster Squad stories have been a pretty big part of my life. It’s staggering to realize that this whole journey started in early 2012. Had it not been for a challenge thrown down by my wife, none of this would have happened. None of the other stories that followed would have ever been shared with you the readers, either.
I know that I took a lot of time off and almost walked away from this series completely, however the characters wouldn’t let me. They kept whispering in the back of my mind, telling me that I needed to FINISH their stories. They needed that closure even more than I did.
Those voices called to me repeatedly and demanded that they be heard. So, I set my other, newer projects aside and decided to give them what they wanted. Closure.
As this final offering in the series came into being, it literally took on a life of its own. Dangling threads that I had forgotten about entirely began to be stitched into the final fabric and the story took off in a way that I never could have imagined or even dared hope for.
All in all, I’m quite pleased with this final offering to you, the readers. I feel that the characters have found their closure in a satisfying way and the story arcs have come to fruition in such a manner that you won’t feel cheated.
I hope I didn’t fall short.
Either way, keep the faith, dear reader. And don’t forget to check under your bed.
Monsters are real.

Some of you are either chomping at the bit wanting to get your hands on this newest, and lastest, in the series. Others are probably shocked that you hadn’t heard anything about this since I am the world’s worst secret keeper. Usually by now you’ve at least seen the cover or gotten hints about the story.
No. The cover isn’t even in production yet. I’m sure I’ll share it once it is, though.

No, this one is special. It’s the ending of an era for me. I want it to be RIGHT before I hand it off to you, the readers. This one will go through the toughest beta I have first (my missus) and then I’ll hand it off for editing and polishing.

Am I sad? Yeah…in a lot of ways I am.

Am I happy? You betcha! Now I can concentrate on those other projects that I’ve really wanted to dive into.

Will I ever revisit the series…or the characters?
Hmm. That one I can’t really say. Part of me hopes so. Another part of me says ‘never look back’.

Onward and upward.

Here’s wishing all of you Love, Peace and Bacon!

Heath

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Another Dead End

If you follow my blog then you know that there are…WERE a ton of stories that I had started but lost interest in. Apparently, when I un-updated my computer OS from Win10 (POS OS that it is) back to Win8, I lost a LOT of stuff. I’m still finding out just how much was lost every day. Including a lot of the unfinished stories I had.

You can imagine my shock when I go to search something in Monster Squad 9 only to find that…I didn’t have the finished products any longer. All I had was my original draft. Luckily, I don’t delete emails so I found the edited version, but my COMPLETED copies? Nope. All gone.

Anywho, while searching through the numerous folders, files and drives that I keep, I discovered this little nugget. It was started in early 2015 and it was supposed to be a tongue in cheek addendum to the series. Sort of a MS 4.5…something that fit between the two sagas.

The premise was cute (I thought) with each chapter being the ‘Book of XX’ and labeled like the New Testament books of the Bible. You know…the Book of Matthew (Colonel Mitchell), Book of Mark, First and Second Books of John (Jack’s story), Book of Peters (Evan), Book of James, Song of David, Jacob’s Ladder, Sacrificial Lamb, Epistle of Paul etc. The whole thing was supposed to be clinical notes from a psychiatrist who was ordered to perform a psych eval on the unit.

Okay, it seemed like a fun idea at the time. Maybe not so much on retrospect.

Hey…they can’t ALL be good ideas, right?

Anywho, here’s the beginning of that dead story idea.

1

CLINICIAN’S NOTES

As taken from the taped notes of Dr. David Monteith.

I have to admit that when I was sent to perform these interviews, I honestly had no idea what to expect.  My superior gave me an overview of the personnel I was to assess and for a moment I expected someone to jump out from behind a corner and yell ‘surprise’ or ‘gotcha’ or some other such nonsense.  The very idea that grown men would… could believe in ghosts and vampires and werewolves and, well, just about every other creepy crawly thing that we’ve read about in fairy tales simply astounded me.  Add to that the fact that these men not only believed in such things but hunted them?  Let’s just say that I wasn’t looking forward to this assignment at all.

As I prepared for this task, I collected as much data as I could.  No, I didn’t pack my daughter’s copy of Twilight.  Nor did I pack my wife’s DVD of Dawn of the Dead.  I did, however, research the special forces community to find out if, perhaps, mental illness was common among those returning from the battlefield.  I’ll admit, I was skeptical.  I believe that a large dose of skepticism is healthy, especially when dealing with any subject that touches on the supernatural.

As I prepared to board my plane, I realized that my carry-on luggage contained copious books and files on military, weaponry, special forces operators and tactics.  Being a military field psychologist and not travelling in uniform with these items in my carry-on luggage was probably one of the biggest mistakes I could make.  They didn’t look twice at my Military ID, and as I suspected, I was pulled for a ‘random’ search.  I’m proud to say, I don’t have hemorrhoids.  I also have a very clean colon (according to the very large TSA agent with the biggest hands I’ve ever seen).  Oh, and I’m pretty sure I can cancel my proctology exam next year.  Just a word of warning to others who might decide to fly in the future.

Thanks to my tight-assed superiors, I flew business class.  It beat the military hops and I suppose I should be grateful that they even sprung for the flight. Still, the booze was on me.  And I needed a double something after my thorough search.  Seriously, you’d think they’d at least buy you a drink first.  Or maybe pin you.  Wait, do people still ‘pin others’ or have I just dated myself?  Regardless, at $12 a bottle for those ‘shot sized’ bottles of booze, the stewardess…excuse me, the airline hostess cleaned my wallet of $60 and I still had to sit on one cheek at a time for the entire flight.  When I asked for an extra pillow for my ass, she wrinkled her nose at me and told me that they were ‘fresh out’.  Really?  She was handing them out to others like E at a Pearl Jam concert, but for me and my aching sphincter she suddenly has none to spare.  Remind me to cross her off my Christmas card list.

When the plane bounced across the runway (any landing you can walk away from, right?) I thought my lower intestines were going to fall out.  But I managed to make it off the plane and then it hit me.  Good lord, the humidity in this god-forsaken state is enough to choke a fish.  You can feel this slimy substance start oozing from your pores and it isn’t sweat.  No, sweat is simply salty water designed to evaporate and cool your body.  No, this heat and humidity combination caused something else entirely.  A greasy, oily mixture poured forth in such abundance that I had to forego the baggage pickup and run to the restroom to wipe off my entire body.  It did no good.  All I accomplished was smearing the grease around from one part of my body to another.

My superiors tell me to be ‘vague’ when I do these interviews.  Don’t go into too much detail.  We don’t want people to know ‘too much’.  Don’t give enough information that others can figure things out.  Okay.  Fine.  If you ever catch yourself stuck in this special layer of hell, right between Texas and Kansas, during the summer months, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  You can hear the air conditioners running, but they don’t stand a chance against whatever it is that is happening outside.  Global warming?  Too late.  Global TOASTING.

Okay, enough whining.  I’m off the plane and I’m in one piece.  I should be happy, right?  So, I’m going to do my best to have a positive outlook for the rest of this assignment.  If I can handle this, I can handle anything.  Heck, send me straight from here to Afghanistan or some such.  From the looks of this place, I may already be there.

Bags collected and the guy they sent to pick me up stands out like a sore thumb.  Dressed all in black military uniform and holding a handmade sign with my name on it.  At least he was nice enough to help with my bags.

I’ll admit that the ride to the facility is uneventful.  No monsters or beasties are seen, but there is an awful lot of nothing.  Once we enter the gates, we travel past anything that looks even remotely interesting and wind through narrow paved roads until I’m sure we are about to exit the rear of the military base.  Oh, but no, we stop beside what appears to be an old, somewhat rundown airplane hangar.  I’m almost positive that my driver is trying to pull a fast one when he claims that we’re here and shuts off the engine.  As soon as he does, the heat from outside immediately permeates the black sedan and I’m rushing to get out of the metal sweatbox.

I’m ushered inside and I’ll admit I’m pleasantly surprised.  It’s at least 20 degrees cooler inside the metal building.  Military personnel are hard at work doing whatever it is that they do and I’m escorted to a rear corner of the hangar. I am shocked when my escort leads me to a set of elevator doors.  I wouldn’t have thought that there may be elevators in a hangar this old, but…

My next surprise comes when we step into the elevator and I see the rows of buttons.  Judging by the height of the hangar, it couldn’t be more than maybe three stories tall at its highest, but there are a lot more than three buttons.  When my escort punches the 3 button, I’m once more surprised to feel the elevator go down.  Apparently, things aren’t always what they appear to be.  My escort tells me that he’ll take my bags to my room and I’m met by the commander of this unit when the doors open.  For the sake of this interview, I’ll only call him Matthew.  He’s a very large and imposing figure, but there’s something more to him.  He obviously isn’t keen on my being here, but it’s something that his superiors has asked for and so we’re both stuck with it.

Before I get too much farther into my initial impressions, allow me to explain a few things here.  While it is true that I’m a licensed psychologist, and while I work for the military and am a commissioned officer holding the rank of Captain, I’m not exactly what you might call a stickler for military protocols.  My primary mission is helping soldiers who have returned from the battlefield deal with their issues so that they can either reintegrate into society or be sent back onto the front lines.  That’s it.  I’m not a West Point graduate nor do I have any desire to make the military a career.  In fact, once my graduate school loans are paid off, I’m out of here.  However, with that said, while I’m here, I intend to do my job to the best of my ability.  But now that I’ve been sent here to interview and ascertain the mental readiness of this particular unit?  A unit of men who believe in fairy tales and play with high powered weapons?  This is either the sort of assignment that could make or break me professionally.  People who are this devolved into their own psychosis and have pulled others into it to the point that the United States government is funding their delusion?  I could spend a lifetime trying to delve into their psyche and another three lifetimes writing papers about them.

But, back to the commander of the unit: As I stated, he’s a large and imposing man with a no-nonsense demeanor about him. It’s obvious he doesn’t want me here and it is far too early to tell if he is the key to the collective hysteria or simply a victim.  Either way, I intend to find who or what the primary stressor is that has caused these delusions to take root.  While I have yet to decide which method would yield the best results, I’m leaning toward a series of generic projective testing before delving into the possibility of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  From what I’ve been told, these men are all top notch, trained and well-disciplined operators from nearly every branch of service.  Most, if not all, have gone through rigorous psychological evaluations and while it cannot be discounted that perhaps one or even a small handful could have slipped through the standardized testing, it seems nearly impossible that all of them could have gotten past the string of evaluations that they’ve been subjected to without raising at least some red flags.  In all honesty, I question the validity of my being sent here.

The commanding officer takes me on a tour of the facility and I’m more than impressed.  The sheer scope and size of the command underneath this unassuming hangar is staggering.  Nearly everything that the unit could need, want or desire is contained within the underground facility.  What little that isn’t is easily within reach of the personnel stationed here on the base itself.  From what I’m told, the personnel rarely leave the facility even though they are free to do so at any time.  Some may go ‘topside’ for fresh air runs or for outdoor training, but most find themselves content to remain underground.  The occasional run to the Base Exchange or slip out for a movie isn’t uncommon, but rarely do the men stay gone for long.  Their duties require them to be on call twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

One by one I’m introduced to others within the administration and the unit personnel.  I’m even promised that I will get to meet a certain ‘contractor’ that is guaranteed to remove all doubt from my mind that ‘monsters are real’.  So far, I’ve yet to snicker or belittle the perceived importance of the men or their jobs, but as the day grinds on, I find it harder and harder to keep a straight face.  The unit personnel and their gung-ho attitude seems so misplaced in light of their perceived mission.

Having lost track of time, I’m escorted to my room and as promised, I find my bags waiting for me.  Being underground, it’s quite easy to lose track of time and with the time change from the flight, it has grown late.  I had a quick meal in the underground galley and was more than surprised at the amount of food that some of the personnel had amassed on their plates.  Some went back for seconds and to be honest, it killed my appetite, although the food was quite tasty.  Somehow watching grown men gorge themselves on what could easily feed a family of five or more and then go back and get more killed what little hunger I had.

Sitting alone in the concrete shell of a ‘room’, I’m actually surprised that it doesn’t feel closed off.  The room is well lit, there is ample space and although quite basic in amenities, the bed, desk and chair are adequate for what I will need during my short stay here.  There is a small shelf and bookcase at my disposal and a locker.  Somehow, I’m reminded of Officer Candidate School.  Except there I had a window and a roommate.  And wood floors, polished to a high sheen.

First thing tomorrow I’ll begin my interviews, starting with the commanding officer and working my way down and through the personnel.  While I don’t want to start out with any perceived diagnosis, as that isn’t really my purpose, I want to at least attempt to go into this with an open mind.  Whatever is plaguing this unit, I want to do my best to help them in dealing with it.

Yes, the world is full of monsters.  I need to help them in dealing with that fact so that they can better deal with reality.

2

Book of Matthew

Captain Monteith: “Colonel, I know that you aren’t too happy with my being here, but I promise you, this wasn’t my idea.  I just want to do my job and get out of your hair as soon as possible.”

Matthew: “Right.”  The Colonel seems stiff but somewhat relaxed in his office.  He’s a well decorated officer and apparently a lover of coffee as he continuously refills his mug during the interview.

Captain Monteith: “So, let’s start at the beginning, shall we?  At what point, would you say, did you start believing in ‘monsters’?”  At this point, the Colonel’s face hardens and he’s somewhat hard to read.  I’d almost think he’s glaring at me.

Matthew: “I’d say around the time my family and I were attacked by one.”  His voice sounds bitter and there is obvious hostility.

“So you were attacked?  Physically?”

“Yes.”  Definitely hostile.

“By a ‘monster’?”

“Did I fucking stutter?”  Okay, beyond hostile.  Time to back up a bit and play into the fantasy.

“Excuse me, Colonel.  I meant no disrespect.”  Time for a new tactic.  “If you could try to see things from my point of view.  I’m new to this whole ‘monsters are real’ thing.  So, if you could just bear with me a little bit.  Help ease me into this.”  At this point, his features soften a little, but there is still hostility in the Colonel’s voice.

“It was my fault.”  His face appears distant and it’s as if he is accessing memories that he’s long buried.  “We had gone camping in the woods.  It just happened to be a full moon.  We were all attacked and I was the only survivor.”

“Oh my.”  This was news to me.  Regardless of what may have attacked them, this may have been the trigger.  If Matthew is the primary for this collective hysteria, and if this account that he’s telling me is true…

“The worst of it is, they didn’t even want to go.  I more or less persuaded them to.”  His voice is quiet now.  His sadness seems genuine.

“So you blame yourself for what happened to them?”  This question may be too soon, but my time here is short.  If he can’t deal with the reality of the world, then the reality of this attack and his perceived guilt won’t matter at this point.

He nods his head, almost imperceptibly.  “It is my fault.”  He’s avoiding looking at me as he recounts the events.  “I thought that if we spent a little family time together that it would help draw us together, make us closer as a family.  Instead, I got my family killed.  I have no idea how I survived, but I did.”

He didn’t snap or go off into the deep end, so to speak, so I push a little further.  “At what point did you realize it was a ‘monster’?  During the attack?”

“No, it was too quick.  I never even really saw the creature.  Just hair, a flash of teeth, claws.  Then blackness.”  He takes a short pause either to gather himself or to recollect his memories.  “I came to in a hospital and the docs kept saying I shouldn’t have lived.  Then my wounds started healing faster than they should have.  They detected a virus and thought maybe I was contagious so they isolated me while they looked into it.  What really threw them for a loop was that I didn’t have any symptoms.  No fever, no sweats, no cramping or…nothing.  At least, not until the next full moon.”

“Then what happened?”

“I shifted.”  When his eyes met mine, I actually felt a shiver.  My god, this guy is good.  He almost pulled me into his delusion.  “Lucky for me, I was in the isolation ward.  Nobody was hurt.  But a lot of people saw what happened and it was filmed.  Otherwise, I might not have believed it.”

“And then…”

“And then they had to make a decision.  Either dissect me and figure out what the hell, or…”

“Or what?”

“Or put together a team of the best that we had to offer and start hunting down these ‘things’ that we now knew were real.”  He seems to be relaxing more and his stature is less stiff.  I can still tell that he doesn’t want to be talking about any of this.  “Somebody high up got in touch with other governments and found out that a lot of them already knew.  They already had teams in place.  We sort of flew by the seat of our pants for a while until we decided to take a look at how some of the other teams were run.  After a few years, we all sort of got together and picked and chose the best of each groups and sort of made it a standard.”

“So you’re telling me that other governments have monster soldiers too?”

“Monster Squads.  They’re called Monster Squads.”

“Okay, so Canada and Mexico and…”

“No, we cover northern Mexico and Canada.  We have a pretty broad coverage.”  Okay, that really shocked me.

“You’re telling me that a foreign government gives permission for armed U.S. military to enter their land and, what?  Fight monsters on their behest?”

“Yup.”  At this point, I’m almost speechless.

“And I suppose European countries have similar programs?”

“Yup.”  Why am I not surprised?

 

And that was as far as I got. Nothing spectacular, but it was the idea of emulating the books of the New Testament that had me thinking it would be a fun project. Now you see why the story died.

May it rest in peace.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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If Corson Had Become a Series

Forneus Corson was one of my earliest stand alone novels and I really enjoyed penning it. It was because of that story that I decided to attempt a real thriller. So many had said that they got wrapped up in the thrill of the story that they often forgot it was supposed to be supernatural.

So…after a few asked if I would consider making it a series, I actually sat down and started a follow up. The premise was fairly simple…Forneus Corson would be changing places with his prey. This time, he’d have to go on the defensive and run for his life as the devil sent out bounty hunters to bring him the heads of those demons who broke rank.

Then I quickly lost interest.

Anywho, this is what I came up with at the time and just haven’t brought myself to deleting it from my hard drive.
Yet…

Just keep in mind that this is the story in it’s most raw form. Unedited, no proofreader… not even a second glance.

Forneus Corson: Idle Hands

A stiff Fall wind blew down the long grey sidewalk as shoppers and businessmen hurried along their way.  Traffic never slowed unless some idiot dared jump the curb and try to rush across the road outside the marked lines for pedestrians. To those foolish few, they were met with loud honks and heavily accented curses.

A tall, pale-faced man strode along with the ebb and flow of people as they herded themselves, mindless to the ominous grey clouds above threatening rain.  Temperatures slowly dropped as the season pushed through, dragging winter along behind it, but the gangly gentleman in the long black overcoat never seemed to mind.  He paused at the street corner and watched as more and more people pushed their way along the storefronts, their breath puffing from their mouths like steam from hundreds of tiny individual locomotives.

Turning slightly, he stopped and stared at the front of the antique and collectible book store and allowed the people passing by its doors to simply melt into the background like so much white noise.  Tentatively, he stepped closer to the large plate glass front and placed a gloved hand to the painted surface.  He could almost feel each and every tome in the building.  Closing his eyes, he made a mental inventory and smiled inwardly.  Something was calling to him and he knew he must have it.

Stiffening and squaring his shoulders, the tall man pulled his fedora down tighter and reached for the handle.  A bell above the door announced his arrival and he felt the wave of heat from within hit him like a wall just as the smell of thousands of antique books assaulted his nostrils.  To some, it was an unpleasant odor.  To him, it was as comforting as a newborn baby to a mother.

The tall man stepped further within the store and craned his neck to look around.  He slipped his hat from his head and quickly shook off the heavy overcoat.  Like any other man of his age, he folded it gently over his arm and began perusing the stacks of old books when a young fellow with dark skin approached him.  “Can I help you find anything in particular?”

The tall man turned and gave him a warm smile.  “No, thank you.  I’m really just browsing.”

“If you need help with anything up high, just let me know.  I have a stool over here and I’d be glad to help.”  The young man tilted his head and went back behind the counter to inventory the new arrivals.

Forneus Corson was many things, but first and foremost, he was a bibliophile of the first order.  The older, the better.  Originals were his first love, but he wouldn’t turn down reprints if the item was rare.  He stood amongst the stacks and inhaled deeply.  He could feel something drawing him to it, but he couldn’t quite pinpoint the exact location.  Slowly he moved down the aisle, his hand held out in front of him.  He could feel the pull, the tingle in his palm as something called to him.  His eyes and hand scanned the rows until the tingle became almost a burn.  Slowly, the edges of his mouth curled up as his hand reached for a well-worn leather bound item with no title.

As his hand grasped it, the tingling burn increased with such intensity that he could barely keep a grip.  He slowly opened the book and was surprised to find that it was simply a copy of Tom Sawyer.  His face fell as he realized that he already had this in his collection.  In fact, he had a signed first edition.  This one, while old and in rough shape, was not a first edition and it wasn’t signed by the author.  His brows furrowed as he stared at the tome.  His hand gingerly flipped through a few pages until it came across something that he didn’t expect.  A single sheet of parchment, folded and placed in the middle third of the book.

As his fingers brushed the parchment, the tingle turned into an electric shock that ran up his arm and caused his shoulder to twitch.  Painfully.  The old man paused and cocked his head slightly to spy the shopkeeper still working the new inventory behind the counter.

Forneus turned slightly and unfolded the parchment.  He felt a cold shiver throughout his body as his eyes scanned the document.  Written in the antediluvian language of the angels, Corson had not seen the dead script in centuries…nay, millennia.  What some early theological scholars erroneously called Enochian, the parchment was written in flowing script, and appeared to be in blood.

Corson let out the breath that he hadn’t realized he had been holding and spied on the shopkeeper once more, still toiling away behind the counter. Corson needed to know if the parchment had been penned by angel or demon.  He held the corner close to his face and slipped his tongue out slightly.  One taste of the blood and he knew.  It was human.  This was a demon parchment.

He folded the parchment once again and slipped it gingerly between the folds of his coat.  Thumbing through the book once more, he ensured that there were no more parchments hidden within and slipped it back into the shelves.  He continued to glance about at the various titles, but his mind was on the parchment draped across his arm.

Finally, Corson turned and approached the young shopkeeper.  “Excuse me, my dear young man.  I’m hoping that perhaps you could help me after all.”

The young man set down the book he was working on and gave the pale old man a smile.  “Yes, sir?”

Corson pulled the parchment from his coat and held it out to the shopkeeper.  “By chance, have you seen anything that has writing like this?”

The shopkeeper took the parchment and opened it carefully.  His brow furrowed as he studied it.  His head shook as he scanned the dead language.  “I’ve never seen anything like this.  What language is it?”

Corson gave him a tight smile.  “It’s an extinct language.  But I’m always on the lookout for more examples, or books on ancient languages.  You know, to assist in deciphering it.”

The young man shook his head again and handed the parchment back.  “I don’t recall ever seeing anything like that here, but there is a professor at the university that specializes in ancient languages.  He might be able to assist you.” He turned and dug through a notebook.  “I have his number here somewhere.  He may even have other examples of the writing that he’s deciphered.  It might give you a jumpstart.”

Corson politely waited until the young man handed him a slip of paper with the name and number then slipped his coat and hat back on to fight against the winter chill.  “Thank you, young sir.  I very much appreciate it.”

Slipping the parchment into his coat pocket, Corson tipped his hat and slipped out the front door.  He quickly made his way to an alley and pulled the parchment from his pocket.  As he read through the declaration, he realized, this was only part of the document.  Demons, unlike angels, had a tendency to be quite wordy when writing, especially in the dead language.

As best he could tell, it was a decree.  An announcement to all Hunters.  Rogue demons were fair game, a percentage of their collected souls would be the reward for returning them…

Corson felt his blood run cold.  He was a rogue demon.  He had been for centuries.  There was no telling how old this decree was.  He had no idea how long Hunters had been out looking for his kind.

He quickly folded the parchment and placed it back into his pocket.  He stood quietly in the alley and stared at all of the people walking by, oblivious to him and his world that was, for all intents and purposes, crashing down around him.

He forced himself to remain calm.  While he had collected a fair number of souls, he saved just enough to maintain himself and keep a bit back for retirement.  He was no crossroad demon, nor was he truly a ‘wish granter’.  He simply made things happen, but only for certain types of people.  Writers, artists, musicians…people who might otherwise starve without his services.  Deserving people.  People of the arts.

He flipped the collar up on his overcoat and stepped out of the alley and back onto the sidewalk.  Best to take this problem home and put his mind to work on it over a cognac and a good book.

*

Corson stepped up the stone walkway to the entrance of his Brownstone and checked nervously over his shoulder.  He laughed off his paranoia and unlocked the door to his home and stepped inside.  The warmth enveloped him like a blanket and he quickly pulled his coat from his slender frame.  He hung it carefully in the foyer and stepped into his library, parchment in hand.

Within the walls of his domicile, little could harm him and he knew it.  He had placed enough wards and safety spells around his home that he should be undetectable by demon or angel.  He laid the parchment by his favorite chair and poured himself a cognac.  The large snifter clinked against the aged decanter as he filled the glass and he gently lowered himself into his favorite leather backed chair.  Retrieving the parchment he looked at it again.  The words were always changing, it seemed.  Minor variations here and there, but they could make a huge difference in how the words were interpreted.  He hadn’t seen this language in so long he’d almost forgotten how to read it.

He held the parchment to the light once more and read through it again.  With a sigh he laid it on the table and sipped at the cognac.  His mind wandered back to the old days.  Forneus had once been a Great Marquis of Hell.  He’d held a very important position and had twenty nine legions of demons who served under him.  They did all the dirty work and he got all the glory.  His power came from the ability to allow man to understand and utilize languages and rhetoric.  So much so that even their enemies would soon learn to love them.  He had so enjoyed his job back then.  But then, in those days, mankind was mostly uneducated barbarians.  To see that light come on, to see the recognition in their faces when they realized what they had been missing, it was priceless to him.

Forneus had consumed Corson after King Solomon had constrained him.  Corson had been one of the four principal kings of Hell.  To be constrained by a mere mortal was a complete embarrassment to demons throughout all of creation.  Forneus knew he had to have Corson because he was the King of the West and Forneus had seen the writing on the wall…well, so to speak.  He knew that the West was where the future of mankind was to make its largest leaps.  With his access to the West secured, Forneus had his foot in the door.  He came to the New World himself and began making his own deals.  He bypassed his twenty nine legions and bargained some of the best contracts in the history of demons.

Corson sighed to himself as he remembered how his greatness was downplayed by the others.  He was a fine manipulator, but he wasn’t messy like some of the others.  The possessors, the crossroad demons, the negotiators, the tormentors…they became like rock stars.  In his own despair, he fell off the grid and did something that he thought was unheard of.  He stopped sending his collected souls to Hell.  He kept them.  He consumed them.  He absorbed their power himself.

He knew better than to tap all of that power.  Even with the wards on his home, tapping into that kind of power could easily cause him to be detectable.  He knew he had amassed quite the collection over the centuries.  Many who were famous, skilled and with a wide range of abilities.  He tapped at his chin as he considered the possibilities.  Professional Hunters were nothing to sneeze at. These are the likes to take on angels.  And not just any mind you, but the big guys like archangels.  The likes of Michael and Gabriel.  No, to deal with a Hunter, he’d have to be very careful.  And he’d need backup.

Forneus sipped at his cognac and picked up the parchment again.  The wording had changed, but again, only in a minor way.  The message was still the same.  He folded the parchment and slipped it into his coat pocket.

If he is going to have to face Hunters, he was going to need a small army.  And what better army to have then one made up of renegade demons.  Others, like himself, who were being targeted.  He smiled to himself as his mind formed a plan.  He finished his cognac and placed the glass carefully on the table.  He needed to do some recruiting.  There was strength in numbers.

*

Abaddon stepped into the gloomy bar and stood silently by the door.  He stared into the smoky darkness and spotted each of the other demons who sat in small groups and chatted or sat alone and drank in silence.  Demons wearing the meat suits of bikers, drug addicts or even business men all tended to migrate to this particular watering hole.  It was said that the bar was a sanctuary from all evils, even the evils of other demons wishing to do harm.

He stepped away from the door and approached the bar.  “Something wet.”

The bartender gave him a suspicious look as he wiped out a glass.  “Care to be more specific?”

“I don’t care.  As long as it’s wet.”  Abaddon took a seat at the bar and studied the others in the mirrors reflection.

The bartender set a draft beer in front of him and scooted a small bowl of salted peanuts closer.  “There ya go.”

“Is it always this quiet?” He picked up the beer and sipped from it, his eyes still scanning the mirror.

“On weeknights, yeah.”  The bartender wiped harder at the glass then set it down.  “You smell familiar to me.”

“I should.” Abaddon finally made eye contact and the bartender shuddered.

“T-this is a sanctuary.  No violence here.” He pointed a fat finger at the demon sitting on the other side of the polished wood.

Abaddon simply nodded.  “I’ve heard that.”  He tossed a few peanuts into his mouth and took another drink.  “But I figure you’ll have to leave eventually.”

“Abaddon, there’s no need.” The bartender lowered his voice to a whisper and leaned across the counter.  “It’s been centuries.  Millennia even.”

Abaddon nodded.  “Yes it has.  And I don’t forget.”

“Is there a problem, Barbas?” A demon wearing a biker meat suit asked, doing his best to appear intimidating.

The bartender shook his head.  “No, there’s no problem.”

“I’m going to kill him as soon as he steps out of here.” Abaddon stated flatly.

The biker stared at the somewhat large man sitting at the bar threatening to kill his favorite bartender.  “Oh, you are?” He turned and laughingly called to his biker friends.  “This asshole says he’s going to kill Barbas after his shift.  What do we say to that?”

“You say nothing.” Abaddon waved a hand and each of the bikers collapsed, grasping at their throats, choking from an unseen hand.

“Abaddon!” The bartender yelled at his new patron.  “Release them now!  This is a sanctuary.”

Abaddon waved his hand again and all of the bikers were suddenly sucking in air, their hands still grasping their necks.  The one closest to him crawling to his knees.  “D-did he say, Abaddon?”

Abaddon nodded slightly and continued to sip at his beer.

“Forgive me, lord.  I had no idea it was you,” the biker groveled.

“Beat it.”  Abaddon placed a foot on his forehead and pushed him away.  “As for you,” he pointed to Barbas.  “Quitting time.  You and me.  We have an appointment.”

He stood and walked out of the bar, all eyes on his back as he stepped out into the dwindling sunlight.

 

And that was where I yawned big and pushed away from the story.

Not every word can be a golden nugget. 😉

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Unfinished Business

I think I’m nuts.

I mean, I know I am. Or maybe just a tad ADHD? Either way, I’ve got all of these stories bouncing around in my head and some of them just SCREAM to be released. Others just repeat on a loop until I either use it somewhere or find a way to burn it out of my grey matter. Like a lot of writers, I have more ideas than I have time to actually write them. I could probably fill a library if I could write them as fast as I think them up.

Some ideas, I start…then lose interest. They’ll sit on my hard drive and wait…sometimes patiently, sometimes not so patiently. Hence the Hunter trilogy. That was an idea that refused to go away until I started it. Then it took on a life of it’s own and went a completely different direction than I intended. The three people who read it really seem to have enjoyed it.

Some of those ideas are just scenes and they sit around and eventually get used in one of my series stories or sometimes I can figure out a neat little ending and make it a short. One of my favorites is Gangsters. That idea bounced around in my noodle for a VERY long time until I penned it.

Others…just sit. Unfinished.
And they sit.
And sit.
And…sit.

So I had this thunk. How about if I share some of them on my blog. It would give me something to write about other than, ‘hey, this new book is coming out’ or ‘hey, this book is now available as an audible’ or worse….’hey, I really need reviews’ (I really hate asking for those).

So, what are your thoughts? Would you be interested in reading the unfinished thoughts and ideas that I’ve had? What if I start you off with a short that I really enjoyed finally getting out of my noodle? It’s one of my favorites and I’ve even placed it in an anthology or two.

Let me introduce you to the world of Gangsters…

GANGSTERS

The torrential downpour had petered out and was now nothing more than a fine drizzle.  Anyplace else and the rain would have brought a cleansing, a freshness – that clean smell that only a good hard rain can bring.  But here, deep in the city, the rain left the sewers near capacity, the trash steeping in a cold stew of filth and rot and alleyways overflowing with the detritus from a thousand unnamed origins that can only be found deep in the heart of a true metropolis.
The door above the small diner dinged as the two men entered and shook off their rain overcoats.  They hung their matching fedoras on the hat rack and carefully hung the lamb’s wool coats under them.  Looking about the near empty diner, the two men turned to their right and took the nearest booth to the door.
“It’s been so long since we’ve been down here.” The slightly taller, blonde man said as he reached for the greasy menu. “Do you think they have pie?”
“They always have pie.  Even at this hour.” The darker haired man waved to the waitress and she slipped out from behind the counter, coffee pot in hand.
“It was pouring cats and dogs just a minute ago.  I bet you boys are chilled to the bone.” She flipped over their coffee cups and placed them back on the saucers, pouring the hot coffee as she spoke. “You boys hungry or just come in to warm yourselves?”
The blonde man looked up, his face childlike.  “I could eat three of everything.  I’m so hungry.”
The darker haired man gave her a wan smile and shook his head.  “I’ll just have coffee.  He probably could eat three of everything.  He’s a bottomless pit.”
The waitress popped her gum as she pulled the pad from her apron.  “So what’ll it be, sweetie?”
The blonde haired man looked to his partner.  “May I?”
The other man glanced at his watch then peered out the window.  “Nothing too heavy. Lou will be here any minute and you know how he gets.”
The blonde man beamed as he pointed to the different pictures on the menu.  “This one, and this one…and this one.  Oh, and pie.  Lots of pie.”
The waitress looked at him as though he might have a screw loose.  She glanced at the darker haired man.  “Is your friend all there?”
He chuckled lightly and nodded.  “Yes, ma’am.  Don’t worry.  He’ll eat it all.  And probably want more.”
She shrugged and wrote the orders down on her pad.  “Your funeral honey. You want your toast buttered?”
“Please!” The blonde man nodded enthusiastically.
“Of course you do.” She made note then turned and slipped the order to the cook.
“Gabe, I know you’re excited to be here, but seriously, you act like it’s your first time.  You know the food’s better at the Penthouse. The boss has it catered in all the time and…”
“Mike, this is real food.  Not that fancy stuff.  This is…home.” Gabe picked up his cup of coffee and inhaled deeply.  “Ahh.  See what I mean?  This is just coffee.  Nothing fancy, nothing else added.  Just coffee.” He took a sip and let the liquid roll around on his tongue.  “And good heavens, it’s nasty.  I love this stuff!”
Mike laughed at his friend as he sucked down another drink and grimaced.  “Just stay on your toes, okay?  The boss doesn’t know we’re here and…well, I want to keep it that way.”
“I know.  I’m not stupid.” Gabe carefully set the cup down and gazed at his partner.  “This is dangerous, Mike.  If Lou rats us out to the boss…”
“Or to Junior.  He may not be completely in charge yet, but the boss is grooming him to take his place.  It won’t be too much longer now.” Mike sat back in the booth and shook his head.  “The kid is good, don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes a little too good.  But he’s not the boss.  He’s got a long way to go before he can run an operation like ours.”
Gabe hooked his chin toward the window.  “We’re about to have company.”
Mike twisted in his seat and saw three men head toward the door of the diner.  “Damn it.  I told him to come alone.  If they were followed…”
The door chimed and the three stepped inside, shaking off their umbrellas.  The two henchmen immediately turned and took a seat at the counter leaving their boss at the door.
Lou considered hanging his coat but truly didn’t think that this meeting would take long. He peered at the two men who were once like brothers to him, but now were nearly mortal enemies. He sighed heavily and heaved the heavy coat from his shoulders.  “In for a penny…” he mumbled.
Gabe brightened considerably when Lou slipped in next to Mike.  “It’s so good to see you again.  I was afraid you wouldn’t show.”
“Believe me, I thought about it.” He cast a knowing glance toward Mike.
“I told you to come alone.” Mike’s voice was low but even.
“Why?  So you two could shank me and drag me to the boss as a prize? Hardly.” Lou snorted and shifted in his seat.  “What the hell do you two want, anyway?”
“We want to…” Gabe began.
“Were you followed?” Mike interrupted.
Lou gave him a dumbfounded stare.  “Do you think I’m new to this game, Michael?  Do you think I just fell off the frickin’ turnip truck?  Nothing happens in this city without my knowing it.  And I don’t get followed without my knowing it.  That’s what those two knuckleheads are for.”
Mike inhaled deeply and calmed himself.  “Very well.” He glanced out the window of the diner once more then turned slightly in the booth so that he could see Lou better.  Slowly a smile crossed his face.  “Gabe’s right.  It is good to see you again.”
Lou softened somewhat and allowed himself a brief warm, fuzzy.  “Yeah, yeah.  So, let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?  What did you two risk everything for?  You know the old man is going to have a coronary when he finds out that you broke ranks and came knocking.”
Mike nodded knowingly.  “That’s what we wanted to talk to you about.” He glanced at Gabe who nodded him on. “We want you to come back, Lou.  Come back with us.”
“You know I can’t go back.  The old man banned me from the Penthouse.  If I go anywhere near that place, Security would be on me like ugly on an ape.”
“Not if you took your old job back.” Mike looked at him expectantly.  “If you’d just apologize to the boss.  Tell him you were sorry.  That you were wrong…”
“Oh, hell no!” Lou’s voice rose and his body guards turned to see what was wrong.  Gabe raised his hands to them and got them to settle down.  “I’m not apologizing for something I didn’t do.”
“But Lou, you did do it.  You went against the old man.  Nobody goes against the boss.  You know that.” Mike met his eyes and pleaded.  “Please, Lou.  Junior doesn’t have what it takes to run this place and…”
“And that’s another damned thing.  As soon as I’m booted, he promotes Junior to come in and take my job?  That’s bullshit and you know it.  That kid couldn’t run a popsicle stand in the desert and now he’s going to be in charge of the whole operation?  The import/export?  The security?  The defense contracts?  The protection rackets?” Lou huffed and crossed his arms.  “That’s a fuckin’ insult. I’m better off running my own businesses.”
“But the war, Lou.  It has to stop.  Too many of our friends…they were your friends too.  Once.” Gabe looked to the man and was about to say something else when the waitress returned carrying a stack of large plates.
“Okay sweetie.  Here’s enough food to choke a platoon of soldiers.” She started stacking the plates around Gabe.
“Holy smokes, Marge.  Is all this for us?” Lou gave her a wolfish grin.
“Lou, you sly devil.” She gave him a wink and bumped him with her hip.  “No, this is all for that skinny little fella.  Apparently he has a hollow leg.”
Gabe smiled as he poured hot syrup over the stack of flapjacks.  “I’ve waited so long for this.”
“Lou, you hardly come around anymore.  What? Our cooking ain’t good enough for ya anymore?”
“Sorry, babe.  I’ve been busy with some stuff on the docks.  I’ll be back by soon.  I promise.”  He gave her a wink and a squeeze before she slipped away from the booth.
Mike tried to ignore Gabe as he all but inhaled the different foods.  “Look, Lou, now that the war is over overseas, we need to end the war between you and the boss.  The only way to do that is if you two make up.  And you know what that’s going to take.”
Lou shook his head.  “Sorry buddy.  That just ain’t gonna happen.  I happen to like our current setup.” Lou leaned back in the booth and stared at the dark haired man.  “Besides, the old man?  He’d never believe a word I said.  Even if I came back and told him what he wanted to hear, he’d never…”
“You’re right.  You’d have to mean it.  He’d know it if you meant it.” Mike picked up the coffee and took a swig.  “Look, Lou, it’s 1946.  This isn’t the stone age.  Things are changing. The war is over, the boys are still streaming home.  Things are really about to start changing.”
“You’re telling me!” Lou grabbed his coffee and took a large drink.  “Do you really think I’d rather be a little fish in the organization, or the big fish in my own? Pfft. Easy decision, Mike. What’s the old expression?  I’d rather rule in hell then be a streetsweeper in heaven?”
“But that’s just it, Lou, you wouldn’t be the bottom of the barrel.  You’d have your old job back. You’d be his right hand man.  If he’s grooming Junior, then surely he’d groom you to take over.  I mean, come on, everybody knows you’re more capable. You’re a leader for cryin’ out loud.”
“But I ain’t his kid.” Lou’s steady gaze pierced him.
“No, but you’re his favorite.  Always was and always will be.  Damn it, Lou.  You broke his heart when you turned against him.  Against…all of us.  We all looked up to you.”
“That’s your problem Mike, not mine.” Lou sipped his coffee again and watched absently as Gabe continued to eat.  “Where the hell are you putting all of that?  Don’t you ever feed him?”
“Ignore him.” Mike grabbed Lou’s sleeve.  “Listen to me, please.  Lou, bad things are coming your way. I’ve seen it.” He paused and turned away.  “I mean, I’ve seen the plans.”
“I know what you meant.” Lou continued to watch Gabe.  “I’m sure the old man has some big bounty on my head and is about to hire…”
“No.” Mike’s voice was barely a whisper, but it was enough to interrupt him.  “He’s planning to take out you and all of your guys.  Lou…it’s going to be a blood bath.”
Lou smiled at Mike and shook his head.  “A regular apocalypse, eh, Mikey?”
Mike’s eyes grew wide.  “You know?”
“Know?  For crying out loud, Mike.  Any asshole with a Bible knows what the old man has in store for me.  I can read as well as these hairless apes.”
“Then…why won’t you just come back to the Penthouse and…”
“Because my future is already laid out, Michael.  I can’t, remember?  It is written.”
“That’s not…no.  No. I refuse to believe that.  It may be written, but it isn’t etched in stone.  The future has yet to happen.  You can change it.” He turned to Gabe.  “Tell him.”
Gabe looked up and cracked a grin, a sausage link hanging from his mouth.  “He’s right.” He said with muffled words.  “I looked it up.”
“See, Gabe looked it up.  Until the die is cast, you can change your lot.”
Lou shook his head.  “Mike, I could no more apologize to Him for choosing the hairless apes over us than I could unfall from Grace.”
“But you can.  He can forgive all things.  That, too, is written.”
Lou sighed and sucked down the rest of his coffee.  “I’m afraid you boys are barking up the wrong tree.  I just can’t do it.”
Lou slid from the booth and started to stand but Mike reached out and grabbed his arm.  “Wait.  I need to show you something.”
Lou sat back down, but his face registered the resignation he felt.  “You’re not going to change my mind.”
“But what if one of the casualties in this war ends up being you, brother?” Michael’s eyes pleaded with him.
“Then so be it. It’s the price I’ll pay for not bowing to the hairless apes.” Satan calmed himself by blowing out a long breath then leaned in closer. “Besides, I couldn’t get back in the Penthouse to apologize to him even if I wanted to.”
“We can escort you there!” Gabe interjected excitedly.  “That’s why we both came. With an archangel at each side, we can slip you right through the gates.”
Satan stared at him and then Michael, who nodded, verifying Gabe’s story. He pushed back and leaned hard in his seat. “Sorry fellas. I just don’t have it in me to go back and scrabble at the old man’s feet.  Can you imagine me begging?” He snorted a laugh and shook his head. “It just ain’t gonna happen.”
Michael reached inside his coat and pulled out a folder.  “I took this.  I thought you might want to see it.”
Lou took it and broke the seal across the sides.  Top Secret-Angelic Eyes Only was stamped across the front. He browsed through the pages and a smile slowly formed on his face.  Mike shook his head. “What?  Why are you smiling?  Lou…they’re going to give them their own land.  In just a few short months, they’ll have their homeland back.”
Lou leaned his head back and laughed.  A deep, dark, throaty laugh.  Mike looked to Gabe who only shrugged.  Lou wiped at his eyes and closed the folder, sliding it back across the table to his brother.  “You don’t get it do you?”
Mike shook his head. “No.  I thought that this would upset you.  You went to such pains to have them killed during the war.  Trying to annihilate them all.”
“This is a sign, brother.  One of the seals.  The ‘chosen people’ will get their homeland back.” Lucifer laughed again and tapped his coffee cup for a refill.  Marge slipped in and refilled all of their cups, then slipped back out.
“Please explain to me what you mean.” Mike gripped the folder tightly in his hands.
“This is one of the seals.  A sign of the end times.  In less than a hundred years, the old man and I will have it out for good.  The Apocalypse.” He smiled at the two angels sitting across from him.
Mike shook his head again.  “But that’s a bad thing, Lou.  You lose, remember?”
“Bullshit.  That’s all a propaganda campaign.” He waved off his concern as he sipped his coffee.  “The old man knows he can’t win so he ‘wrote the ending’ himself and called it prophecy.”
“Wait…how can you believe in all of the other prophecy but not that one?” Gabe asked, pushing his plate away.
“Because, I have my own prophets.  And they see a different outcome.  Instead of Junior running the show for a thousand years, I get both the rock, the Penthouse and dominion over the hairless apes for a millennia.” Lou gave them a wicked smile.  “Now do you see why I’d never go back?”
“But, Lou…that’s not how it works.” Gabe pleaded, his eyes on the verge of tears.
“That’s what the boss told you.  But I know better.”
“You really think you can win this war?” Mike asked, his hand slipping into his jacket and brushing the hilt of his sword.
Lucifer’s eyes narrowed as he stared at his brother.  “Remember who you’re speaking to.  I trained you, Michael.  Archangel. Warrior messenger of the Most High.  Remember who taught you how to wield that weapon.”
Mike stared at him a moment longer before Gabe’s foot shot out and connected with his shin.  “This isn’t why we’re here, remember?”
Mike blew out the breath he had been holding and released the handle.  “We only wanted to bring you home.”
“Of course you did.” Lou scooted to the edge again and stood.  He pulled a wallet from his jacket and dropped a pile of bills on the table. He paused for a moment then leaned across the table.  “Just for the record boys, this is how things are going to go.  You two are going to return home and keep your mouths shut.  I’m going to go about my business and the boss is going to let the hairless apes give the Jews back their homeland.  Then I’m going to turn everybody in the world against them.  Not just the Nazis, but every stinking body.
Their neighbors will constantly attack them and attempt to drive them into the sea.  The rest of the world will blame them for being attacked.  Even this road-bump-in-the-history-books country will eventually turn her back on them.  The ‘chosen’ ones…will vanish.  And the boss will have no more reason to choose the hairless apes over his most divine creations.” Lou turned and reached for his coat.  “Thanks for the coffee.” He slipped his coat on and snapped his fingers, alerting the two body guards it was time to go back to work.  “And guys? It was good seeing you again, too.”
Gabe continued to sit at the booth, picking at the remains of the food.  Although he had eaten most of the food delivered, he had lost his appetite when Lou revealed to them the future.  When Marge delivered the pies, he sent all of them back.  Well, except the pecan.  He forced himself to enjoy some of that one.
Mike sat across from him and sipped at the bitter liquid that the hairless apes seemed to love so much.  Watching Gabe devour the human food made his own stomach curdle.  “I’m feeling angry.”
“That’s totally understandable.” Gabe shoved another piece of pie into his mouth.  “Considering the circumstances, I think it would be expected.”
“Why wouldn’t he listen?”
“I think he did listen, he just didn’t care.” Gabe hung his fork over the pie and let it drop, sinking the tines halfway into the ooey-gooey center. “Face it, brother.  He’s too far gone.”
Mike’s eyes shot up and stared at him.  “Do not say that.”
“Why not?  It’s obviously true.  Satan no longer cares.  He’s no longer the Lucifer.  He’s not the light bearer any longer and he doesn’t want to be.”
“But he could be.” Michael sighed and slowly turned his coffee cup absently, his mind racing.  “He just needs to remember what it was like.”
Gabriel leaned back in his seat and shook his head. “He’s been away from the grace too long. I fear the glory would kill him.”
“He’s just bitter.” Michael pushed his coffee away and stared out the window. “Father chose Man over us and Satan can’t forgive that.”
“He had a point though.” Gabriel kept his voice low, his eyes averted. “Father should have chosen us first. We were His first creation. We were His long before He ever experimented with these humans.”
“He gave them free will for a reason.” Michael’s voice took on an edge that caused Gabriel to shrink. “That’s something we were never given.”
Gabriel finally sat up and glared at Michael. “Truly? Then why are we here now? Defying Father’s order and speaking to him, trying to get him to come home?”
“That’s for his own good and for the good of all of mankind. Nobody wants what is coming.”
“But you chose to come here Michael. And I chose to come with you. If that isn’t free will, I don’t know what is.”
Michael waved him off. “It’s not the same. They can choose to live their lives however they wish. We do not have that luxury.”
Gabriel crossed his arms and stared at his brother. “Satan chose. Nearly a third of our brothers chose with him. They all chose to go against Father’s order.”
“And look at what that got them!”
“Yes, exactly! But they had the ability to choose! Do you not see? With choice comes consequence. You have to be willing to pay the price for your decisions.”
“And the humans?”
“They pay the price all the time.  Wrong choices ruins lives daily.  Sometimes they cause death. Sometimes they cause tragedy. Sometimes…sometimes even Father turns them over to a reprobate mind. They’ll never know His grace.” Gabriel sighed as he reached out and grasped Michael’s arm. “We all have choices, brother.”
Michael wiped at his cheek and looked at his tear stained hand. “My heart breaks for him.”
“For who? Father?”
“No. For Satan. He’ll never know true love again.” He wiped his hand on his coat then pushed out of the booth. “It is time. We should return. Father will be angry if He discovers we were gone.”
Gabriel laughed as he pulled his overcoat from the hook. “Do you really think that He doesn’t already know?”
Michael paused and stared up into the clouds. “Then I hope He understands why we did it.”
“He’s a Father, Michael. Of course He does.” Gabriel pulled the door open and the two stepped out into the chill breeze. The drizzling rain had stopped and the clouds broke as the two stepped away from the diner. As a ray of light shown down through the breaking weather Michael pulled his collar up. “I think He knows where we are.”
Gabriel looked up and smiled. “Yes. And He knows why.”
Michael smiled as he patted Gabe’s shoulder. “At least He isn’t angry.” He pulled his brother up close and snapped his fingers. Both men effectively disappeared, having traveled at the speed of thought back home.

As Marge returned to the table to clear the dishes, she shoved the wad of bills that Lou had left on the table into her apron and began stacking the plates into the metal tub to take back to the kitchen.  The bell  above the door rang and Lou stepped back into the diner.  He glanced rapidly around the narrow eatery and his eyes fell on Marge. “Where did the other guys go? Are they still here?”
“You just missed them Sweetie. They left just a few minutes ago.” She pointed her finger down the street to the corner in the direction she had seen them walking. “They went that away.”
Lou turned and practically ran down the sidewalk looking for his brothers.  He slowed as he approached the corner and the smell of ozone hit him.  He knew it was too late.  They had returned home.
He stopped and stared up into the sky.  Clouds had shifted and were closing the small hole that had opened just moments before, the last rays of sunlight evaporating as the rain began to fall once more.  Lou stared up into the sky, turning slow circles as he watched the opening seal back up. “I changed my mind!” he screamed. He waited a moment, his hope building that perchance his brothers could hear his cry. He continued to stare upwards, his hope slowly fading. “Do you hear me? I said I changed my mind!”
Lou felt the despair of being trapped in the role he was doomed to play as his reality came crashing back in on him.  He dropped to his knees on the wet sidewalk and crumpled to his elbows. “Please, Michael…Gabriel…I-I’m sorry.” He turned reddened eyes back to the sky and roared with anguish. “I want to go HOME!”
A passing truck sent a spray of water from the roadside up onto the sidewalk and soaked the figure on all fours. He didn’t even lift his head as he fell to his side and curled into the fetal position. “Damn my vanity, I just want to go home…”

If you were able to force yourself to read all the way through that, then you’re tougher than most. That particular scene bounced around in my head for years…Satan and the two archangels sitting down at a diner…and was supposed to be the opening to a second angelic war story. I ended up deleting the next chapter and closing the story as a short with Lou changing his mind.

And like this story, there have been dozens over the years, most of which were deleted when I cleaned out my hard drive. But a few still remain. If you think you’d like to see them offered here from time to time, drop me a line and let me know. Let me just say that most don’t have endings. They were ideas that never really took root.

Anywho…thanks for dropping by again and I hope you enjoyed Gangsters.

Oh, and if you are an audible fan…Hunter should be approved by ACX any day now.
Just saying.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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I Need a Favor!!

If you’re friends with me on Facebook then you should be well aware that Flags of the Forgotten went live just days ago. This is my first attempt into a totally different genre and to say that it’s intimidating as hell would be an understatement. I’ve always felt that it took a special breed to create a thriller. A true thriller keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the book. Artists like Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn and Brad Thor know how to do this…and because of this, it took me two very long years to complete this project.

I knew I was jumping into very deep (and often dark) waters when I started this project, but it was one that I felt I had to complete, even if doing so meant falling on my face.
Hard.
With an anvil on the back of my neck.

But there it is, for anybody and everybody to read.

Am I proud of it? Actually, yes. I had a lot of friends step up and allow me to use them as characters. I hope I did them justice. I put a lot of effort into this story and according to the betas that read it, I pulled it off. I hope they weren’t blowing smoke to make me feel better.

Flags of the Forgotten

So, what’s the favor?

You know how writers feel about reviews. We live and die by them. I try not to beg y’all for reviews because…well, I just don’t like to ask. If you’re the type to leave a review, God bless you! Some people feel like it’s way out of their wheelhouse to ‘judge’ something that they don’t feel capable of doing themselves. I understand that completely. Putting a story out there kind of sets you up for the abuse anyway, but then to come to your readers with hat in hand and ask for that extra effort? It’s tough on both parties, I promise.

But that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Please, if you read Flags, please, please, please, leave a review. Good, bad, indifferent, it doesn’t matter. Not your cup of tea? That’s okay. I get it. Thank you for reading it anyway. Loved it and thought it was PERFECT? Great! Glad to hear it…and others would like to know too.

Why is this so important? Like I said, this is a totally new genre for me. I’m known for horror/urban fantasy. Thrillers? Not so much. In order to get Flags to pop up on Amazon’s radar, it has to have the reviews. And that’s where you guys come in. You’re the ONLY ones that make that happen. And that’s why I’m asking.

I’ve had people ask if I plan to make Bobby Bridger and his pals a series? That will depend a LOT on how well it’s received. If it’s a turd dipped in chocolate, then it’s still a turd at heart and nobody wants that. Especially me. But if it’s well received and folks dig it? Then yeah…I could see reviving this group for more action and adventure. But the only way that can happen is if word gets out and it takes reviews for that to happen.

So there it is. I’m asking you, my readers, to step up (and out of your comfort zones) and let others know what you thought of the story. For those of you willing to do it, let me take the time to thank you in advance. For those that just can’t being themselves to do it, I do understand and I still love you.

 

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Caldera 5 is LIVE!

If you didn’t take advantage of the pre-order option, you may not be aware that 5 went live last night.

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It’s been less than 24 hours and…I’m already being asked for 6! It makes me laugh and cringe at the same time. I wish I could write these as fast as people read them. But alas, I can’t. However…we MAY be in luck. Kind of. Caldera 6 MAY have already been written and MAY be in the hands of the editor as you read this. I say ‘MAY’ because from here on, everything is out of my hands. I MAY have started 7, but fighting this horrible case of MAN FLU that my daughter brought home has really put a damper on things.

Anywho, I am thrilled to say that the plan is to get Flags of the Forgotten out mid-June. Hopefully in time for my birthday!! (hint-hint to the powers that be) If you’ve been hiding under a rock, then let me tell you, Flags is my crossover baby. I’ve been writing in the horror/urban fantasy genre for so long but I always wanted to try my hand at something along the lines of a political thriller. This one isn’t so much ‘political’ but the betas who test drove it said that it definitely measures up in the thriller department, so I’m running with it!

Okay, enough shameless self promotion.

Here’s a teaser for those who can’t wait for Caldera 6. It’s just the cover, but at least now you’ll know what to look for when the time comes.

Caldera 6

Thank you to all of my new readers for the feedback and the positive messages. You can’t know how much it fans my internal flame and helps drive me to keep pushing on.

Good luck and happy reading!

Heath

 

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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