A man of little words - Editor
by Christian Riley
Sam Nolan took his breakfast of cold salmon and buttered toast every morning at the bottom of a two story house three miles north of Kenai Harbor. There were no windows in the basement of that house from which to study the blue sky, yet that proved to be a small blessing for the giant man; for all the years he came to work at this outpost, Sam found little favor for the endless daylight which accompanied it.
He stood six-four, with a strong back and plate-sized hands, and could work men half his age straight to their graves. His eyes knew the inside of every processing plant in town, and his arms knew the motions of any commercial fishing job Alaska had to offer. Sam Nolan never had trouble finding work in Kenai Harbor during those lively months of the year.
There were locals who lived near Sam, and they all knew him by sight, many by name, and a few a bit more than that. One man could rightfully claim that Sam Nolan was even his friend, if it were in his nature to do so. Yet if you asked any one of those locals if they thought Sam was a tough man, your answer would be a simple one.
But Sam didn't need anyone to tell him he was tough. He remembered that day he sent three men to the health clinic for talking the way they did to that young girl. "They bore an ill-favored manner on that woman, of which I took offense to," was his reply to the officer-in-question. Sam Nolan was a man of little words, but when he did speak, it seemed everyone heard what he was saying. He slept in his own bed on that night.
Woman of the night - Editor
by L Young
It had been so long since Ariana felt fear, it took her a moment to recognise it. Her life, hidden among the masses of Vedlam City had become so habitual fear never played a part. But tonight something was different. Ariana could feel herself being stalked.
Her last encounter with a Hunter had nearly killed her, but after a long bloody fight the Hunter's age worked against him. Out of respect Ariana left him broken, but alive, cursing her with every labored breath. Whoever or whatever was hunting her now, it wasn't Alric. He was old then and that was thirty years ago. No, this was someone new.
This part of Vidlam was a crumbling assortment of warehouses, taverns, brothels and gambling dens bathed in the stench of human filth.
Ariana had always been so careful, supplementing her diet of animal hearts with men she picked off the street. Men no one would be likely to miss like beggars or foreign sailors. She even made sure to take them to that isolated section of tenement buildings she owned, far from where she actually lived on the East end. That had been her custom, week in, week out for ten years. Not a sign of suspicion. It was what Ariana loved about Vedlam - the anonymity. In a city of a hundred thousand people it was hard to stick out.
She could go months without encountering her neighbours and no one cared. But now someone was watching. They'd seen her lead men away. Men who never reappeared. And now they had decided to take action. Well she could too. Hunting had been a regular part of her life since the curse brought her back after she succumbed to fever all those years ago. Her parents thought the stories about red haired children who died coming back as cannibalistic Dark Fey as just that - stories. It turned out they were wrong. Nightmares about digging her way out of her grave still haunted her sleeping hours. The easy kills had made her rusty, but the instinct was still there.
Ariana eased her way deeper into the jumbled crowd of sailors and dockworkers. Normally every noise, every person was an opportunity to feed. Now they were threats.
As befitted her purpose of attracting prey, Ariana was wearing a dress with a plunging neckline topped with a black cloak to keep her warm. No matter what people believed, she still felt the cold.
Beauty Loves Warts
The curse of beauty - Editor
Beauty Loves Warts
by Christine Irving
Some women would give anything to be beautiful, but Myra was cursed with beauty so extreme that it gave her no peace. Her hair alone doomed her. Each strand differed slightly in hue and texture from the next. Color flowed and sparkled through her moving tresses like wind sweeping across a field of wildflowers. Her skin darkened or paled according to the light or her mood. No one could classify her race. Some men swore her nose could alter definition when they turned their heads, preventing them from memorizing the beloved features. Only her body never changed its welcoming contours. Her hips remained generous, breasts full, waist narrow. Age made no inroads on her beauty; it simply enhanced, richened, buffed and glossed the glow.
Gallant men galloped to the rescue every time she leaned out the top window of her tower to scrub the window panes. Young women hid among her rose bushes leaving gifts of poetry, seed cakes and candles so that her front stoop never ceased to resemble an altar. Once, two would-be knights hacked each other to death on her front lawn. She had no friends, no lovers, no gossips, no mentors; not even a paid companion. The servants inevitably succumbed to bribes or sold stories and pictures to sleazy magazines and newspapers. Her beauty left women fearful, bashful, envious or enraged. Ordinary men believed her a goddess and never dared an approach. Assertive ones tried to take, own, protect or exploit her. Experiencing no relationships, she lacked social skills and so rejected as false the few genuine offers of friendship she did encounter.
She traveled constantly for several years, hoping to avoid notice, but gaping and grasping never ceased. Myra retreated to armchair explorations searching for remote outposts, which no one else dreamed of visiting. In preparation, she ordered ice picks, down sleeping bags, mosquito nets and a jackknife weighing twelve ounces, which transformed into forty-four configurations. Night after night, she poured over terrain maps, plotted travel routes, reserved airplane tickets and camp grounds; more often than not cancelling plans at the last minute.
Survivor: South Pacific
Whale of a tale - Editor
Survivor: South Pacific
by Tyler M. Mathis
The ship began to rise, ever so gently, listing slightly to starboard. Jonathan Meade shook off his distant dreams of home and gripped the wheel tighter to keep the Annabelle Starbuck from drifting off course. The ship continued to rise and list. Odd indeed, such a rolling swell on the calm equatorial seas.
The lookout, high in the topgallant crosstrees, shouted something unintelligible. “Speak sensibly, man!” Meade said. The shouting continued, with several foremast hands joining in to form a chaotic chorus. Meade followed their pointing fingers to port.
He had never seen anything like it in his twelve years at sea - a towering wave as high as the crosstrees. The Annabelle Starbuck rose with the sea, listing sharply to starboard as she tried to crest the nearly vertical wave. A million gallons of roaring water drowned out the terrified cries of the crew, Meade included, as the wave crashed over the Annabelle Starbuck. Meade’s last thought was a prayer for his wife and daughter back home in New Bedford.
How will they survive without me?
The question echoed in Meade’s head as he was knocked about in a maelstrom of crushing saltwater. He tried to swim, to survive, though he knew it was pointless to fight the fury of the sea.
Saltwater gushed from Meade’s lungs in painful, retching spasms. Searing sunlight once again burned his face. The Pacific had reassumed her peaceful facade. Alive? The very thought was inconceivable. Meade found just enough energy to tread water, though he wondered why he was even bothering. All that remained of the Annabelle Starbuck, whaler of New Bedford, was a scattering of flotsam and a few corpses bobbing on the placid surface of the ocean.
A beefy hand grabbed his shoulder, spun him around. “Mr. Meade!” someone said. “He lives!”
Meade was too weak to look up at his savior. He saw only a stone spear point hanging from an intricately braided leather cord, the ancient missile oscillating before his face like a hypnotist’s watch. Ogle, Meade thought, as strong arms lifted him from the sea and dragged him aboard a whaleboat that was nearly swamped with water. Two other survivors were attempting to bail out the boat with sodden hats.
Nothing Less of Evil
It coulda happened this way...Editor
Nothing Less of Evil
by Steve Olley
The first time Robert Kennedy met Jimmy Hoffa they almost came to blows.
It happened in Detroit back in the summer of 1956, when Kennedy was Chief Counsel on the McLennan Committee and Hoffa was Vice President of the Teamsters Union. Kennedy showed up at the Detroit offices of Teamsters Local 299, with Pierre Salinger and Carmine Bellino. They turned up with official warrants to search the premises.
Hoffa was in a meeting with his shop stewards, when Kennedy began hammering on the door. A gruff voice cursed loudly, a chair pushed back, and then a thickset tough looking guy in his forties opened the door. Three men stood before him, led by a young guy in a crumpled white suit
“What the hell do you want?” Hoffa said. “I'm in a meeting with my stewards."
"It'll have to wait," said the guy in the white suit. "We're coming in right now."
Kennedy moved forward.
"Like hell you are!" said Hoffa, standing his ground.
Kennedy tried to push by the stocky guy before him, but Hoffa pushed him back out into the hall. Kennedy came straight back at him, and again Hoffa pushed him back. When they came together a third time, both men looked ready for a fight. But it was not to be; another man appeared behind Hoffa and said in a calm voice:
"What's the problem, Jimmy?"
“This guy’s the problem, George.”
George stepped forward.
"I'm George Fitzgerald; I'm an attorney, what's the problem?"
The young guy pulled a document out of his inside pocket.
"I'm Robert Kennedy. I'm Chief Counsel for the McClellan Committee, this is a subpoena. I want all your books, records and other papers."
Would You Say I Do?
Crime can be fun! - Editor
Would You Say I Do?
by John W. Lasanich
"Just who the Hell are YOU?"
Blinking rapidly, I attempted to ascertain where I was. Firstly, I appeared to be laying down. Secondly, the surface I found myself on was not comfortable. Thirdly, a wedding dress hanging over me stared in my face. Fourthly (Is that a word? Oh, it is now.) a rather angry brunette women fumed at me. Looking into her blue eyes, I smiled apologetically. "Dear me. I seem to have arrived in a most unusual fashion."
"Get off the table!"
Swinging hurriedly off the table at the scream, I stood, assessing my surroundings. Groaning, I realized I was in a wedding hall. Judging by the appearance of everything, a Terran wedding hall. A further groan issued when I noted it was early 21st century Terran, and the woman appeared in her early 20s. Terrible music during this period would soon assault my senses, if this woman before me did not.
Realizing some form of explanation might be required, I smiled again. "Why hello there, Norville Kaden at your service. Terribly sorry for the unconventional entrance. I seem to have been blasted out of my nap to here."
Rounding on me, the women snapped, "You almost ruined my wedding dress! You made a mess of the whole table!" Eyes flashing in pure anger, she looked into me. Deciding for once to be charming, I said humbly, "Simply your servant Miss, and a mere mistake. Inspection-"
"Get out of here! OUT!"
Running for the nearest exit, I stopped only when a corner hid me from view. Panting and checking for holes, I frowned in thought. Somehow, something yanked me out of a rather comfy chair, dropping me on a rather uncomfy table. Shaking aside the thoughts of how rude, I pondered as I walked.
Flicking my wrist, the temporal locator popped out. My initial assessment held true: Earth, November 2011, Fremantle, Western Australia. Odd place, I mused, to find oneself tossed in, especially the bit about the wedding. More thoughts followed a trip over a trash bin into flowers. Dusting myself off, I strode purposely, mindful of the glances of onlookers.
The Survivor Kind
Love zombies? They love you, too - Editor
The Survivor Kind
by Jeff Bull
Even from a distance, they were the unlikeliest survivors I could have imagined. The man … well, I was assuming it was a man only because of the flat, scrawny chest … was covered head to toe in black latex. Every single inch of him was sheathed in one of those S&M sex suits. A black hood covered his head and face and there was a zipper over his mouth. He stood about six-three and was extremely thin. But then, most of us were these days. Food was getting scarce. A machete hung from a canvas belt wrapped around his waist and he had an old bolt-action hunting rifle slung over one shoulder.
The woman appeared to be in her mid- to late-fifties. She was maybe five-four and had somehow managed to keep her grandmotherly roundness. She had thinning blond hair and wore a bright purple pantsuit. Strapped to her chest in a baby bjorn was what appeared to be a stuffed anteater. She had two pearl-handled revolvers holstered in a beautifully tooled leather belt and was holding a cordless hedge-trimmer in one hand.
It was nearly noon and a faint breeze rustled the red and yellow leaves in the gutter. Tall, bare-limbed trees lined both sides of what had once been an idyllic suburban street.
A few seconds before, I’d caught movement out of the corner of my eye and unslung my shotgun. Once its reassuring weight was in my hands, I’d frozen, my heart pounding in my chest, my fatigue washed away in a flow of adrenaline. About a block and a half away, two people had just turned the corner.
If they were actually people, that is.
The Shadow Opal
We all love power - Editor
The Shadow Opal
by Whitney Soares
Voices echoed in the hallway. Rory ducked behind an old cherry wardrobe and crouched in the darkness, slipping his hand into his robber’s pouch to quiet the bright clink of silver. The glow of candlelight grew, and through the chink in the door, he could see two maids, their heads together. The light and their low-pitched voices faded as they passed the door and disappeared around a corner. Rory straightened and allowed himself to breathe deeper. The family hadn’t returned yet.
He crept to the door, his padded shoes making soft chuff sounds on the wood floor. They had been Bridgette’s idea--shoes that wouldn’t echo but had enough sole to protect his feet. Stealth was a thief’s greatest asset, and Rory had cause to silently praise her cleverness several times a night.
Rory pulled the door open and edged into the hall. Faintly, he could hear the maids in the master suite. They had closed the door, but he knew what they were up to. Same as he was, in a way--lowly folk messing in the gentry’s things. In the maids’ case, they played in the mistress’s wardrobe as soon as the housekeeper was asleep. The difference was that they would put the things away good as new in an hour. Rory would not.
The maids would get a fright in a few minutes when they rummaged in the lady’s jewelry cabinet and discovered that not everything was there. Rory wondered what they would do: start an uproar now, or hightail it back to bed and hope no one looked at them when the lady started shrieking in the morning? Probably the latter. Not even the trauma of a robbery would distract the housekeeper from punishing them in the first case.
Rory started down the hall toward the attic stairs he’d gotten in from. Tonight’s round was nearly finished--in fact, he decided this would be his last house. He liked to clear off a couple hours before the rich folk started filtering home, while the city guards were still in stupor from the midnight lull.
The attic door creaked as he pulled it open. He slipped through it and made for the window without bothering to pull it closed behind him. The night breeze greeted him as he pushed the window open and clambered out onto the roof. The rain had stopped, but the tiles shone slick in the lamplight filtering up from the street below.