Friday, June 26, 2009

She was as smooth as 20 year old Scotch

It had just been that kind of a week: my car had all but exploded, my brother was being deployed back to Iraq, my parents told us they were getting divorced after 30 years of marriage and I was passed over for a promotion at work. Short of my cat getting hit by lightening I couldn’t see how things could get worse.

Nothing any of my friends said made me feel any better; all I wanted to do was find the bottom of a few glasses in a dark quiet corner of an unknown bar by myself.

Walking through my front door I dropped my keys in the cream and brown bowl that sat on the entryway table, letting the mail fall next to it as I pushed the door shut with my rear end. Simon, my long haired tabby cat, barely opened his eyes let alone getting off the sofa to greet me, and with a sigh I walked down the hall toward my bedroom to change clothes.

I kicked my black pumps into the closet as I unzipped my wool blend skirt, letting it fall to the floor and leaving it in a rumpled puddle. The blazer landed on my antique rocking chair and the silk blouse underneath hit the floor beside it. I caught my reflection in the mirrored closet doors and stopped to stare at what I’d become; a pantyhose wearing, cotton briefs adorned, full coverage white bra drone. What happened to the young wild woman I used to be?

With a sigh I stripped off the nylons before slipping into my most comfortable jeans, heedless of the gaping holes in the knees and frayed cuffs. I pulled a red T-shirt over my head and stuffed my feet into my black biker boots. Scooping up my black leather coat I made my way out of the apartment and back out through the lobby.

Hailing a taxi I slipped into the back seat, slamming my door with another sigh.

“Where to?” the driver asked.

“Drive around for 20 minutes, and then drop me at a bar somewhere,” I said, staring out the window at the fat raindrops that collided with the smudged glass. The car moved and I closed my eyes, letting my head fall backwards and rest against the seat; I was so thankful the driver wasn’t trying to make small talk.

It wasn’t ten minutes later that the car stopped, and I opened my eyes, looking at the driver in the rearview mirror. “Hey, I’d asked…”

“This is where you need to go,” she said without turning around.


“Ask for Sierra.”

Couldn’t I just get one thing to go my way today? With another sigh I dug into my purse for my wallet and the driver waived me off, “It’s on me,” she said. Bonus.

“Thanks.” I climbed from the car and made a dash for the front door, pulling on the brass handle and ducking into the dark interior.

As my eyes adjusted to the dim light I shook the water droplets from my coat and wiped them from my cheeks. The place was virtually empty, and if their expressions as they looked me up and down were any indication, the few occupied booth were full of regulars.

I made my way to the bar and claimed a torn vinyl stool, crossing my arms on the padded edge of the black slab. The bartender made his way slowly to me and asked me to pick my poison.

“Midori sour, and I was told to ask for Sierra,” I said, speaking over the low strains of some old country song, and the bartender raised one eyebrow at me. He turned away and returned with a glass half full of a rich, tawny liquid, which was clearly not the neon green of the midori sour I’d ordered.

“Um, I don’t drink Scotch.” I pushed the glass back toward him, but he ignored it, turning on his heel and walking away down the length of the bar and disappearing into the back room. I slouched on my stool and glared at the glass, even getting drunk wasn’t going as I’d planned.

I felt her approach before I even heard a footfall, turning to watch her make her way across the room. All eyes were locked on her, including mine, and it wasn’t humanly possible to look away. Her dark red hair hung to her waist in thick curls, framing the taper of her waist and accentuating the flare of her hips. Her impossibly long legs carried her toward me while her green eyes stared at me with a predatory weight behind them, making me feel like a cornered rabbit.

She didn’t speak when she reached me; instead she pushed the glass toward me and raised one eyebrow expectantly.

“I don’t drink Scotch,” I said softly, afraid that if I spoke too loudly I’d scare her away.

Without a word she picked up the glass and took a long drink, her eyes never leaving mine. I gasped when her hand shot out and she tangled her fingers in my hair, tilting my head back as she pressed her lips to mine. The pressure of her kiss forced my lips apart and my mouth filled with Scotch that then burned its way down my throat.

When I next opened my eyes I was staring up at my own ceiling. The familiar sounds of my own house filling my ears, and I sat up slowly, wondering if I had imagined the whole thing. I threw the covers back and slid to the floor, heading toward the door, but I stopped dead when I caught sight of my reflection.

My long brown hair had been cut into a steep A-line and had electric blue streaks running through it. I was wearing a blue lace bra and matching lace panties, neither of which left much to the imagination, but it was the single bite mark on the inside of one thigh, more than anything, that made me stare.

Hazy memories compelled me to opened my closet door, and there I found all of my conservative work clothes cut into little bits lying on the floor. Turning around I made my way down the hall, picking up the trail of clothing shreds and following them into the living room where they culminated into a small mountain on the coffee table.

At the peak of the mountain lay a slip of paper, across which was scrawled, “Dreams are meant to be lived, not regretted”

No phone number. No idea where the bar was. No clear memory of what had transpired that night, but this stranger had managed to radically redirect my life in only a few hours. I smiled; she was as smooth as the 20 year old Scotch she’d kissed into me.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Being buried alive was the least of my worries

It was like a twisted Bond movie. I was wrapped up tighter than a child proof medicine bottle, sitting at the bottom of a small cage that was hanging over a giant tank filled with adolescent bull sharks.

I’d made the mistake of laughing when I walked into the room, unable to contain my amusement at the campiness of the arrangement, but that had only gotten me a beating before I was bundled up and packed into the cage. Were they serious?

As it turned out, they were very serious, which they demonstrated by running an electrical current through the metal of my cage. The voltage was increased incrementally until it felt like every nerve was on fire, and I ultimately passed out.

Why was I here? What had gotten me into this situation? What had I done to warrant this treatment? I’d had the nerve to discover a cure for cancer.

I had no idea who the men who had kidnapped me worked for, no idea where I was and no idea why they wanted to keep my discovery a secret; but it all became clear in very short order.

Medicine is big business, and cancer is an enormous piece of that business. Without the need to treat, but only to vaccinate, billions of dollars of federal funding would be funneled elsewhere. That re-direction would make some people’s lives less posh than they were used to.

I’d hidden my notes and journals before heading out to talk to my mentor, Dr. Walter McAndrews at Yale, my Alma Mater. My excitement was kept almost entirely in check by a healthy amount of skepticism, but some leaked out into my voice as I relayed my tests and findings to my old professor.

The look he gave me morphed quite rapidly from disbelief to wariness to anger and finally clearly forced joy; his reaction surprised and frightened me. He had spent the majority of his career working on cancer research, soliciting more funding from the government as well as private parties than anyone else.

He had reached for his phone as he asked me to give him a moment, and his extremely out of character demeanor set off warning bells in my mind. I tried to leave to give him privacy for his call, I tried to tell him my tests weren’t conclusive and I tried to tell him I’d come back another day; he remained insistent that I stay.

His strange behavior turned me on my heel and sent me running for the door. I bolted down the hall, taking the stairs two at a time, but I only made it as far as the lobby before I felt the electric shocks of a tazer in my back seize all my muscles, including my brain and everything went black.

And now, when I opened my eyes I found I was no longer in my cage, instead I was staring up into strange faces. My instinct to run snapped my body into action, my arms and legs jolting painfully against the straps that held me to the table on which I lay.

It soon became clear what they wanted; they wanted my notes, which I wasn’t willing to give them. They tried reasoning with me, beating me and threatening to bury me alive; but being buried alive was the least of my worries when they brought my wife into the room.

She was blindfolded, gagged and her hands were tied behind her back; if I didn’t turn my notes over to them Rachel would pay the price. I stared at her, at the gun they had pressed to her head and their shouts almost completely drown out her whimpers.

A phrase I’d heard over and over throughout my life played through my mind like a mantra; the needs of the many outweigh those of the few. Over and over I reminded myself of this, and I knew that Rachel was thinking the exact same thing, but of course that knowledge wouldn’t over ride her own natural fear of dying.

My eyes went wide when Walter walked into the room, and for a split second I thought we were safe, until he took the gun from the man holding Rachel’s arm. In one smooth motion he removed her blindfold, her green gaze locking on me an instant before he shot her in the head.

I lay there stunned, unable to move or speak, barely able to breathe. My chest tightened painfully at the sight of her limp body lying in a heap on the floor, blood slowly pooling around head in an ever widening circle. Tears leaked from my unblinking eyes and as I watched Walter walk toward me I felt my expression turn smug; I would have laughed too if the bullet had given me time.

I wasn’t there when Rachel’s sister, a nurse in whom I’d confided my discovery, retrieved my notes and saw to it that they found their way into the right hands. I wasn’t there months later when the FDA approved my vaccine, or when it was first administered. I wasn’t there over the years to watch cancer become a memory.

I’d known I didn’t have to worry about being buried alive, and it hadn’t occurred to me to worry about simply being buried.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I picked the wrong day to quit smoking

I was pretty damn sure this was what it felt like to die. My body had gone cold, my skin was clammy and all I could see what a bright white light; clearly that was death, right? Wrong. I was actually disappointed that I wasn’t getting a free pass on my current situation; I’d have much preferred almost anything else to being in my own shoes right about now.

The nausea that rolled over me made me want to throw up with my whole body; and my mind was convinced that doing so would make me feel a whole lot better. Stomach acid burned my throat, my mouth went dry and sweat trickled down my back in a long ticklish line.

My fingers twitched, tightening into a fist and then opening like a flower, over and over repeating the same restless dance. My boots felt tight and my legs bounced a staccato rhythm against the floor with the heels, tap tap tap.

I began to question my own sanity, wondering how a crazy person would know that they were crazy; they wouldn’t, would they? They would just merrily go through life under the firm belief that the sky was green, the grass was red and the birds could talk; who could convince them differently?

I rose slowly to my feet and stared even harder at the white light, convinced that I would meet my demise if I touched it, and yet I couldn’t stop myself from shuffling forward like a hypnotized zombie. Transfixed, I was able to ignore the whooshing of the wind as I stepped into the light, letting it rush and swirl around me, whipping my nerves into a raw frenzy.

Reaching up to my chest I pulled the handle I found there and a huge red parachute deployed above me, slowing my descent. I was used to this, I’d done it a million times, but I’d always had nicotine to calm my anxiety and with a deep, adrenaline saturated sigh I realized I’d picked the wrong day to quite smoking.

I thought I knew who I was

I thought I knew who I was, but then I opened the door and saw his dark face in the rain. It wasn’t the jagged scar that ran from his forehead, over his left eye to the bottom of his earlobe that brought me up short; it was the fierceness of his whisky colored eyes.

The heavy, fat drops fell audibly against the leather of his coat, splashing his cheeks with their shattered selves before running long his jaw to drip from the point of his chin. His crudely chopped hair lay plastered against his head like a black skull cap, and his chest rose and fell with his rapid breathing; he was in a hurry.

I frowned at him, my fight or flight instincts kicking into high gear as I stared into this stranger’s face, and yet I seemed rooted to the spot.

“Can I help you?” I asked, hoping forced civility would keep me from panicking.

He pushed past me in response, striding confidently down the hall and into the living room, his thick soled boots leaving muddy tracks on my cream colored carpet.

“Hey! What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” I slammed the door and trotted after him, my annoyance with his ballsy actions over-riding my compulsion to flee.

He stopped in the middle of my kitchen and cocked his head, listening for… what? I opened my mouth to speak and he held up one finger, effectively shushing me without making a sound, and to my own surprise I actually complied.

His gaze moved toward the ceiling, slowly following a sound that apparently only he could hear from the kitchen to the living room. In the span of two heartbeats he reached out and grabbed me by the arm, turning and running back toward the front door, throwing it open and dragging me out into the sheeting rain.

All my words of protest were lost under the sizzling cracks of lightening, deafening claps of thunder and the steady stomps of his heavy boots against the pavement. We ran two blocks before he ducked into a narrow alley, no light penetrating more than two feet into the blackness, and even the blue bursts of lightening didn’t reach us.

He pressed his back to the tall brick wall, holding me back beside him with one outstretched arm; he needn’t have worried about my running off, I was too out of breath to make a break for it.

The sound of footsteps filtered their way through the rain, their approach slow and steady, but the man to my left kept his gaze focused upward, straining his eyes into the night sky. When I finally heard what he had heard, my heart rate tripled and I didn’t know how to split my focus between the footfalls and the sound of huge leathery wings beating overhead.

A small squeak escaped my lips when he grabbed my wrist and ran further down the alley. Despite the utter blackness he moved like a cat, as if he knew every obstacle that would impede his progress, and he managed to avoid all the scattered garbage, dumpsters and sleeping homeless. I wasn’t as lithe. More than once I tripped and fell to the wet asphalt, scraping unknown amounts of skin off my bare knees before he could drag me to my feet and continue on his way.

By the time he stopped again I was completely exhausted, bruised and bloody. My Transformers sleep shirt and matching boxers were soaked and clung to me everywhere; I’d have been annoyed about it if I wasn’t so tired and cold.

He pushed me back against the wall, and in an impossibly low voice he directed me to stand there and not move. Was he kidding? I was doing good to stay upright. The loud grinding of metal on metal assaulted my ears, but I found I was too tired to be startled; I simply stood there waiting and trying to slow my breathing down.

His hands gripped my shoulders and pulled me away from the wall, lifting my arms and wrapping my fingers around the sides of a ladder before urging me to climb. The metal rungs were slick with rain, the rough metal digging painfully into the arches of my feet, and still he pushed from below.

It felt like hours had passed by the time I reached the roof, climbing over the edge of the brick wall and tumbling down onto the roughly textured roof, scraping more skin off my knees and opening up the heels of my hands to match. He dropped down beside me in a crouch, his leather coat fanning out to lie over my back, giving me a temporary reprieve from the ongoing downpour.

Rising to his feet he grabbed my arm and dragged me up with him, striding to the opposite side of the roof and peering over the edge.

“Listen, I think you have the wrong person,” I said, even my voice weary, “I don’t know who you think I am, but…”

In a brief flash of blue lightening I saw him smile. Climbing up onto the edge of the wall he hauled me up beside him and wrapped both arms securely around my waist, lifting me off my feet. For one frozen moment he held me there, my panicked heart out pacing his own steady pulse, and just before he turned and leapt off the edge into a glowing green light that had suddenly appeared, he said, “You’re the one who will save our world.”

Saturday, June 20, 2009

One Wish To You

The air was heavy with the scent of roses. Night, it seemed, amplified scent and Melody inhaled deeply of the moonlight induced aroma. She wandered slowly along the narrow pathway, the crushed oyster shells softly reflecting the fading star light to guide her on her journey.

She passed trees and bushes laden with the blossoms and buds. The dew collecting on the tips of thick petals, quivered for a moment on the precipice of crimson, pink or yellow cliffs before gravity pulled them to earth where they melted into the rich soil, searching out roots to nourish.

Melody’s sleeves were wet with dew, the cotton of her blouse absorbing the liquid gems as she brushed past the plants on her way to the small stone well at the far edge of the property. This part of the garden wasn’t as well tended as what grew closer to the house and the wild growth, left unchecked, provided a barrier between what her life was and what she wanted it to be.

Dawn threatened to break, quivering on the edge of the eastern horizon, but the pastel blush was still too weak to be called day. Stepping faster, Melody pushed past overgrown heather and Scottish broom, the purple and yellow blossoms throwing their scent in the air as she made contact with them.

As last she came to a low stone wall, spongy moss and tiny ferns growing in the crevasses, and with practiced precision she climbed over and continued on her way. The shell pathway had stopped at the wall, and her feet were now completely silent on the soft carpet of thyme as she hurried toward the small well that stood like a solitary soldier in the center of a forgotten clearing.

No one used the well anymore, and years of neglect had only served to endear it to Melody all the more. Its small sloped roof wasn’t quite as covered with cedar shingles as it had once been, but those that were left were held in place by more moss. The bucket and winch had long since weathered away, falling down the stone throat of the well.

Climbing up, Melody sat on the stone edge, her feet dangling in the black depths of the well. Reaching into her pocket she pulled out a few small, round pebbles; she had made it a habit over the last 16 years to gather them when she went to the river so she could drop them into the well each morning. There was no crime in making wishes, and since she didn’t have pennies to waste, pebbles would have to serve.

Swinging her feet freely in the mouth of the well, Melody watched as dawn fought its way over the hills, beating back the night with bright fists. Pink turned to fuchsia, lavender to purple and yellow to gold, haloing the trees like wooded saints. It was when the light broke over the vast expanse of Wildwood that Melody made her first wish of the day, dropping a stone into the well.

The ancient manor house stood like a protective governess, her arms outstretched to welcome, but hard enough to protect those inside them. The wave of the roof tiles looked like wild red hair, crowning her tall torso and making her quite the imposing figure.

Another wish, another stone fall.

Melody knew that with each dawn came the landlord’s daughter, Hannah. Sitting astride her buckskin gelding she would erupt from the barn for her daily ride across the countryside.

Another wish, another stone fall.

As if cued by the sun she appeared. Her chestnut hair was bound at the base of her head, braids coiled like silken snakes. Her black breeches sheathed her legs and disappeared into the tops of the knee high leather boots, complimenting the blue of her blouse.

Another wish, another stone fall.

Melody watched intently, straining her eyes into the bright morning light until horse and rider disappeared over the hill. Looking down into her hand she pushed the two remaining pebbles across her palm with one finger, her heart steadily beating faster and faster as the minutes ticked by.

Another wish, another stone fall.

Climbing to her feet, Melody stood on the rim of the well, holding onto the rotting roof for balance as she rose onto her tip toes and peered into the distance. The sound of hoof beats was faint at first, and she wasn’t sure from which direction they were coming. The horse pranced out from the thick forest that skirted the clearing and Melody turned, her blue eyes locking with the green gaze that made her heart leap.

Hannah brought her horse up beside the well, reining him to a halt only a moment before leaning toward Melody and the kiss her proffered mouth promised. Melody felt her body flush with heat as she held Hannah’s mouth against her own, gently cupping the back of her head, and she relished the taste of her.

Breaking the kiss they smiled at each other, and Melody held up the one remaining pebble she had, holding it between her finger and thumb. “Only one more wish to you,” she said before tossing it over her shoulder.

The stone echoed, bouncing its way down to the water below while Melody slid onto the horse’s back, her arms wrapping tightly around Hannah’s waist before they rode off to their secret spot to pass the day in a heavy cloud of passion.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Alone but not lonely

Butterfly loved the city. The push of activity, the pulse of the people and the hum of the city itself was a heady tonic on which she fed to keep memories of more unpleasant days at bay. The only daughter of hippie parents she was raised in a commune in the country, separate from the rest of the world and completely self sufficient. They grew their own food, raised their own livestock and made their own clothes. Butterfly was educated by the entire collection of eclectic, and often times eccentric, adults who came in and out of her life.

As a child she never wondered where the grown ups went when they left and didn't come back, simply assuming they were wandering the natural world and would find their way back eventually. As a result of her unconventional education, Butterfly could bake bread, sew and make her own pottery. She could carve utensils, skin a deer and slaughter the livestock when the time came. She was a voracious reader, pestering newcomers to see any books they might have had, and did her math with a stick in the dirt.

She knew every inch of land around her home, every tree and every rock. For hours she would play in the streams, among the ferns and inside hollow trees; alone but not lonely.

She saw her first automobile when she was 17, and marveled at the beauty of the long Cadillac, its glossy black paint reflecting her grinning heart-shaped face back at her. The man who climbed from behind the wheel looked alien to her in his cream colored linen suit, a straw Panama hat perched at a jaunty angle on his head; Butterfly had never seen anyone who looked like that. Her parents were much less excited to see the car, let alone the driver.

The basket Butterfly had made when she was eight was thrust into her hands, and she was instructed to gather blackberries from the bushes at the far edge of the commune just before her parents and the tall stranger disappeared into the house. She mumbled her annoyance at being left out under her breath, scuffing her bare toe in the dirt.

With an attempt at subtlety she looked around casually before hunkering down and running around the back of the house. She knew the adults would be in the kitchen, so she crouched down under the open window to eavesdrop. Her parents were making every effort to keep their voices down, while the stranger's voice carried out the window to echo through the pastures. The stranger was talking about things Butterfly had never heard of: freeways, imminent domain and money.

It was when her mother started to cry and protest being thrown out of their home that Butterfly threw caution to the wind and bolted through the back door, startling the three adults. Her hands were fisted at her sides and her whole body was vibrating with anger, which she directed at the stranger as she bombarded him with every ounce of verbal venom she could muster.

The stranger had stormed off after that, spinning the wheels of the car that Butterfly was no longer in awe of and pelting her and her parents with a spray of dirt and pebbles.

The month that followed was a blur that consisted of packing and moving. Friends Butterfly could remember seeing at home came in their own cars, loading up her family’s belongings or hauling away the livestock. Her first ride in a car was both exhilarating and terrifying as she watched her home grow smaller and smaller from the back window of a beat up Jeep.

When she laid her eyes on a city for the first time, Butterfly was afraid at first, having never seen so many people in one place or having heard such a cacophony of noise, and she cowered in the back seat until her parents assured her everything was fine.

It only took a few days for her trepidation to turn to curiosity and then there was no satisfying her sense of adventure. She spent her days wandering the streets, learning the alley ways and talking with strangers, however, with joy comes pain. Her romances ended badly, she had no common ground with those around her, and eventually her wounded heart hardened.

Her mother never recovered from being forced from her home, and she became withdrawn and silent, no longer the source of light and laughter as Butterfly remembered her to be. The pain and despair eventually became too much and one day she just didn’t wake up; no one could convince Butterfly that she died from anything other than a broken heart.

It was years later that Butterfly learned that the freeway and proposed shopping mall that would have stood where her bedroom had once been had never been built, and her heart dared to swell with hope. Calling in sick to work, Butterfly climbed into her silver Prius and made the long journey back to where she started.

She parked at the gate and walked, her sandals crunching on the gravel and the powdery dirt coating her toes. She crested the hill and her parent’s old house came into view, pulling a single sob from her chest as she stood frozen in place, surveying the land where she had grown up.

“Can I help you?” came a voice from behind her and she spun to stare at the tall man who stood a few feet away. His jeans were torn and faded, his shirt wrinkled and his boots worn; as old as his attire looked, his smile was as bright as a new penny.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t expect to find anyone here,” Butterfly said, smiling back at him as he walked slowly up to stand beside her.

“Neither did I,” he replied, adjusting his hat, “No one ever comes out here.”

“Well, I used to live here when I was a child. I thought it had been torn down long ago.”

The man had grown still, turning his head slowly to stare at her with wide green eyes. “You’re the girl who gave my father hell all those years ago.” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement and Butterfly didn’t know whether to be flattered or mortified so she simply nodded. “He’d made me wait in the car when he came to talk to your parents that day, but I saw you creep around to listen at the window, and then I saw you yelling at him at the top of your lungs; I think you even threw a rock or two.” He was smiling broadly at the memory.

“I behaved badly that day, didn’t I?” Butterfly said sheepishly.

“Not at all, in fact watching you do that was the push I needed to stand up to him myself; that’s why this place was never demolished.”

“I don’t understand,” Butterfly said, her brow furrowed.

“I threw such a fit, and Father got so tired of hearing about this place, that he just signed the deed over to me.” He dug in his pocket and extracted a tattered document, which he held out to her. “I was hoping someday I’d have the opportunity to give this back to you.”

Monkey with a flame-thrower

I walked into the room with my hands stuffed into my pockets. The acrid smell of burnt flesh seared my sinuses, and I involuntarily scrunched my nose in a feeble attempt to ward off the discomfort.

It was the kind of room you’d find in any average American home: Ikea furniture intermingled with older heirloom pieces, mass market paperbacks neatly lined up along the white shelves of a narrow bookcase and knick-knacks in the fairy and dragon vein were carefully placed for easy viewing.

The only thing that didn’t belong was the charred remains of what used to be a 30-something woman lying in the middle of her scorched bed. The poly-blend floral bedding was melted around her, but only in the immediate vicinity of her body. The sides and edges were left unmarred.


I turned to locate the genius who could look at the scene and think arson, finding a tall, lanky man with an unkempt mop of black hair falling into his blue eyes. He wore a black suit and was mimicking my hands-in-the-pockets pose while leaning casually against the doorframe.

“Actually, my first guess was a monkey with a flame-thrower,” I said, quirking one corner of my mouth.

He laughed, deep and rich as he pushed himself upright and walked across the room, stopping to stand beside me and look more closely at the black smear that brought him here.

“So what do you think, Detective Roberts?” he asked, folding his arms across his chest.

It was my turn to mimic his pose, crossing my arms as I turned to look up at him. “You have me at a disadvantage, you clearly know who I am but I don’t know who you are.”

“So no theory?” he asked, dodging my question.

I narrowed my eyes at him, watching him as he squatted beside the bed to get a closer look at the gruesome husk. “I have my own theory, but it’s not one I think anyone would believe.”

He stood up, one dark eyebrow arched, turning to fully face me, “Try me.”

I was skeptical. I didn’t know who this man was; I didn’t know who he worked for or why he was at my crime scene, and despite all this I was compelled to tell him the theory that would have gotten me laughed right out of the station.

“All right,” I said, instinctively glancing around to make sure we were alone, “Spontaneous human combustion.”

He didn’t even flinch, so of course I did out of sheer surprise.

“What makes you think that?” he asked, taking a seat in the white wicker armchair under the window.

“Nothing else is burned or damaged. The fire started right there,” I said, pointing at the bed.


“No, that would have caught the whole room on fire; plus there are no other signs that she was a smoker.” I walked across the room and leaned back against the window sill, crossing my feet at the ankle. “She simply erupted in flame, burned white hot and then burned out.”

It was his turn to narrow his eyes, peering at me from under the dark fringe of his lashes. Rising to his feet he stepped in front of me, invading my personal space and trapping me between the window and the press of his nearness.

“Will you excuse me for a moment?” he asked, his voice low, and I could only nod at him. He stepped out of the room, which gave me an opportunity to breathe again. I pushed away from the sill and walked back to the bed, staring down at the reason I was there.

I turned when he re-entered the room, his long legs covering the ground between us in short order and he stopped a few feet away. His lips twitched in an obvious effort not to smile as he extended his hand to me, “I’m V, with the NSA,” he said, “You’ve been cleared for a promotion.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Limp Kitten

I saw the limp little kitten body and realized it had been drowned; what a shitty thing for any animal lover to encounter. I picked him up and cradled the tiny spotted feline in my hands, caressing his little head and large pointed ears.

I thought I was hallucinating when his tail twitched, and I almost didn't dare to hope that he'd survived his trip into the muddy creek. Having watched way too many shows on Animal Planet I held his mouth closed and blew intermittently into his nose, gently inflating his lungs before rubbing warmth into his body.

I carried on this way for a full minute, breathe and rub, and when he sneezed water out of his nose and then promptly began to mewl I laughed through the tears of joy that had erupted from my eyes. His pitiful little cries were music to my ears, and I quickly bundled him into my sweatshirt and ran home; jumping into my car and high tailing it to the vet.

Several hours, and a few hundred dollars later, he was handed back to me along with medication and care instructions. He was much too young to be away from his mother so I had several weeks of round the clock nursing to look forward to.

That had been five years ago, and never before had there been a better companion than Shakir. He'd grown into a 32 pound adult Savannah, his silver coat was littered with black rosettes and no sound escaped his large ears, especially not the can opener.

He loved to play, attacking my legs as I walked down the hallway with a basket of laundry or leaping on my back as I slept, but he always kept his claws sheathed, careful not to hurt me.

Tucked snuggly under the blankets I drifted off to sleep with the sound of rain on the window and Shakir hogging half the bed. In the depths of my dreams I suddenly felt afraid, registering on a subconscious level that something smelled like smoke; had I left the biscuits in the oven?

I woke suddenly to find Shakir on the floor by the bed, his mouth full of my arm and pulling me out of the bed. I blinked my eyes into the acrid smoke I found myself enveloped in. It seared my lungs and I coughed, trying to catch my breath only to gulp in more smoke.

Shakir bit me harder, drawing blood as well as my attention, and at his insistence I rolled out of the bed, landing on the floor with a grunt. I could hear fire crackling but couldn’t determine where it was coming from, and I started to panic until something solid thumped my cheek.

Reaching out I took a hold of Shakir’s thick tail, crawling on my belly as he led me across the floor. My eyes watered and my throat was raw, but whenever I stopped moving he turned and yowled at me to keep moving.

Hitting the front door with my head I reached up and turned the knob, opening it enough for us to crawl out, and moment later I felt hands lifting me. After a few disoriented moments I found myself sitting on the lawn across the street with an oxygen mask on and a blanket around my shoulders.

The rain had let up and the light drizzle faceted my hair and eyelashes with tiny prism droplets. Under the blanket with me, leaning against my side with my arm wrapped around him sat Shakir, his bright topaz eyes shining up at me; he’d returned the kindness I’d once shown him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I’d been watching her long enough to know what her favorite drink was. I knew her favorite flower, her favorite restaurant and her favorite flavor of ice cream. I knew when she was on her period and I knew when she had gotten laid.

It wasn’t that she was that intriguing of a woman, well, at least not to most people. Her long brown hair was straight and non-descript, blunt bangs hanging in her brown eyes, which she subconsciously swiped at with one un-manicured hand every few minutes. She rarely wore make-up, and preferred jeans and a T-shirt to anything that might show her shape.

No, it wasn’t this woman I was interested in; I was hunting for the person who killed my wife, and this woman would lead me to them.

Grace and I had been married only a few years, and the honeymoon was still in full swing. We couldn’t get enough of each other, always looking for any opportunity to touch, kiss or fuck; location be damned. She’d filled me up to overflowing with passion and love, up until the day she was taken from me by a stray bullet from a bank robber’s gun.

Wrong place, wrong time, that’s what the police had said right before they gave their obligatory condolences and sent me on my way. Not good enough.

That had been two years ago. It had taken me ten months before I got my first clue and another 18 before I found my way to where I now stood; outside a titty bar in Sacramento. I watched Mousey Brown cross the parking lot with her head down and her shoulders hunched; the yellow of the lights casting a sickly tone over cars and people alike.

She spared a glance around as she opened the door, pausing for just a moment before she disappeared into the dark interior of the club. I climbed from my car and followed, only a minute behind, and the bar was dark enough that my eyes didn’t need any time to adjust as the door closed behind me.

The dance music blared while a tall blonde pranced up and down the illuminated catwalk, her full breasts bouncing with her rhythmic gait. I scanned the room, looking for Mousey Brown, but she had vanished. I found a table in a dimly lit corner and settled in, waiting for her to emerge from her hole, and waiving away other women who were selling lap dances.

The music changed as each dancer cycled through: techno, rock and dance poured from the speakers as my eyes passed over the inhabitants of the room for the hundredth time; still no sign of Mousey. Then the flavor of the music changed, it was slow and seductive and familiar. It made me think of dark nights on satin sheets, nights from memory, not from fantasy. Images of Grace lying under me, her skin slick with sweat and eyes lids fallen shut in ecstasy came storming to the forefront of my mind, and my gaze was involuntarily pulled toward the catwalk.

I watched from my lone, dark corner as a tall leggy red head pranced onto the stage. She dripped in black lace. Stockings, garters and thigh high leather boots encased her legs, and her breasts swelled over the top of the lace corset that cinched her waist; she moved like a serpent. I rose slowly to my feet and moved numbly toward the stage; surely my eyes were deceiving me, the lithe curves of the woman before me were familiar, intimately familiar, and my fingers longed to revisit them.

I reached the edge of the stage just as she dropped to her knees and looked up, peering into my face through her curtain of garnet hair with green feline eyes; it was my Grace. I heard a gasp escape her and her eyes went wide, piercing my soul a moment before darting toward the table of men who suddenly stood up and reached for concealed weapons.

Time slowed at that moment, and exploded all at the same time. Grace leapt from the stage and tackled me to the floor, straddling me with one hand pressed to my chest, holding me down. She extracted a gun from the top of her boot and turned, firing at the group of men with the precision of an expert gem cutter, dropping them easily in the darkness.

I stared up at her with wide eyes, her weight familiar on my body, and her scent wafting around me like a secret whispered promise. I reached up and touched her cheek, drawing her attention to me and despite the bar now being empty, the strains of our song continued to play around us. She smiled down at me, bending over until her breasts pressed against my chest and she held my face in her hands.

I had a million questions, but found I couldn’t speak past the lump in my throat, my Grace had been restored to me and I didn’t know how; frankly I didn’t care as I wrapped my arms around her. She saw the questions in my eyes, lowering her mouth and speaking against my lips, “Ask me later,” she said softly before flooding me with her essence.