Excerpt From “The Knowledge Holder” by Harry Margulies

TKHFrontsmallGreg Simon is an ordinary man, a salesman, a father, a widower, who just happens to discover that he is “the Knowledge Holder,” the one person who knows a great secret the rest of humanity does not know, and with it comes a unique ability to help others. Nothing is standing in his way – except for a team of FBI agents who specialize in national security issues. Greg’s new-found knowledge, if unleashed on the public, would give life a new meaning, and change the world forever.

Chapter 1

The appointment unfolded with tiresome predictability. My client, wearing a finely woven pastel sweater and coordinating pinkish blush of anticipation, sat with an unsettled, erect posture across from me. She had just purchased a new home. With it came the standard new home backyard, which was nothing but dirt.

“Have you had a pool before, Ms. Becker?” A more clever opening I’m sure had not been discovered.

“No, but I’ve always wanted one, and I promised myself this would be the house.” This was really good for me to hear, as I not only had to design the pool but sell it as well. With her comment she was in fact assuring me that I had already closed the sale and that I’d have to be some sort of blockhead to screw it up. In sales lingo, this is known as a laydown. Losing a laydown sale is like missing your mouth trying to take a sip of water. Since my shirt had been soaked more than once, I proceeded with my usual professional presentation and hoped for the best.

Such is the life of a swimming pool salesman, or Design Specialist, as my business card so eloquently misrepresents. My office is situated along a quiet hallway in a medium-sized Phoenix homebuilder’s design studio, pressed between a landscaper’s botanically embellished space, and a lighting specialist’s optimistically luminous showroom. When a contract is written for a new home, the buyers are asked if they have any interest in adding a pool. A yes answer gets them a two-hour riveting sit-down with me, Greg Simon, Design Specialist.

Sales started to crumble for my homebuilder about a year ago, and seemingly the next day you could shoot a cannon through my leather-bound appointment book and not hit a drop of ink. Other reps in my company would have proclaimed impending doom and glommed on to an extra account or a part-time gig hawking suds at Chase Field by now. But fortunately for me, I had strung together a number of good years during the boom—very good years—and was quite content watching my workload atrophy into a part-time job. I wasn’t flush with cash or anything, but my intermittently functioning, fertile shard of brain somehow prevented quintessential me from squandering my hard-earned riches. A few good appointments a month and my wallet and I were both rosy with contentment.

In any case, Ms. Becker and I were getting along pretty well, as was her pool design. That’s when things took a turn.

I thought I was just as boring as hell, since she was nodding off listening to me ramble on about the virtues of an in-floor cleaning system. It wasn’t until she actually fell off her chair that I realized maybe it wasn’t just me.

I rushed around my desk to where she had been sitting, hoping she had just slid off during a mini lapse of consciousness. Who could blame her, with my monotone and all? Maybe it was the immediate change of the shade of her skin to something in the pallid family, or maybe it was the way her eyes were wide open while actually not looking at anything that tipped me off. She was dead. This was not the sort of laydown I was hoping for.

To my credit, I didn’t even consider the loss of a sale as I dialed 911. I was, I guess, more scared than anything. I had never seen a dead person before. I was sure though. As a big fan of television crime dramas, I’d had as much exposure to dead bodies as most detectives or old-timey, half-baked coroners.

It seemed that I had just finished my conversation with the 911 operator when the paramedics arrived. This was a good thing, as I was a little more than weirded out by the corpse on the floor of my office. Just before the cavalry appeared, my head was jumping with thoughts of what I should be doing. Was it appropriate or necessary to be thinking of CPR? Not that I knew how to perform this on someone, but again, you watch enough television you should be able to attempt almost anything. Once, I made chicken piccata after watching some Food Network show. It wasn’t bad really and not as hard to make as I thought it would be.

It turns out, the paramedics did all these things for me, or I guess instead of me and for Ms. Becker. After all was said and done, I was right. She was gone. She was packed up and rolled away. I was left with maybe even a more creepy feeling than I’d had when she was still lying there on my office floor.

***

harry mHarry Margulies has written about romance, money, women, and other subjects he thoroughly enjoys but knows nothing about. The balance of his precious time is misspent as an internationally published cartoonist.

Harry is the proud father of two little girls, Jessica and Jill, who somehow are old enough to have graduated college. He resides in the desert city of Scottsdale, Arizona, where it’s imperative to stay hydrated. He lives with Joann, his wife of thirty years, which is the real reason he drinks.

Click here to buy: The Knowledge Holder

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Celluloid Strangers by Eric Wasserman

Four brothers leave their home in the northeast in the 1930′s and converge in Los Angeles after WWII. A lawyer, a mobster, a screenwriter and a shopkeeper, each of these men makes a profound impact on the emerging world of postwar California as they deal with the impact their shared history has had upon them.

Celluloid Strangers evokes a time and place in American life: Los Angeles before and after the HUAC hearings, blacklistings, and betrayals.

Excerpt:

January 1948 — Los Angeles, California

Morris stared at the sun reflecting off the swimming pool’s surface, wondering what his fraternal twin brother, Benny, needed to see him about. 1938 had faded into 1948 the way a baby yawns; ten years without a word and just the day before the telephone rang.

The pool was clear, like recently cleaned coffee table glass. It was one of those Los Angeles Sundays that reinforced Morris’ conviction to never return to the concrete-sky winters of his childhood. The shadows of palm trees and sequoias in his Beverly Glen backyard collided on the tan patio tiles, creating borders for the ants and spiders that crept out from the rose bushes. A lawnmower from the neighbor’s yard diluted the radio news he had been listening to. The air smelled of fertilizer and the smoke from his Lucky Strike. His lips tasted of the scotch he was sipping.

Morris loved the pool more than the actual house, even though at thirty-five he still carried his childhood embarrassment from not knowing how to swim. As kids in Dorchester, Massachusetts, he and Benny had relieved themselves from the annual August heat by removing their shoes and dipping bare feet into the pond at Franklin Park. Now the pond was dried up, gone—never to be seen again. Morris had thought the same of Benny, until the day before.

When Morris first came to California he told himself that one day he would have a swimming pool of his own to dip his feet into. He now looked about this backyard and felt he had “made good,” as his father, Henry, might have said.

A turn of the wrist, a look to the new Bulova timepiece his wife, Helen, had given him just a month before for Christmas. Benny was late. Morris held his breath; hoped his brother might not show. The lawnmower stopped and the news from the large Philco radio box facing out the patio door could be heard clearly. Helen had bought the wood-sided Philco during the war, when Morris was away, but it still had perfect reception.

THE HOUSE UN-AMERICAN ACTIVITIES COMMITTEE, ALSO KNOWN AS HUAC, IS CONTINUING ITS PROBE INTO COMMUNIST SUBVERSION, CLOSING HEARINGS IN WASHINGTON AND MOVING THEM TO CALIFORNIA. TWO MONTHS AGO HUAC FOUND TEN HOLLYWOOD EMPLOYEES IN CONTEMPT. MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY OFFICIALS CONTEND THAT IT IS NOT NECESSARY FOR HEARINGS IN LOS ANGELES. SUNRISE PICTURES HEAD, LOUIS B. KATZ, STATES THAT HE AND OTHER EXECUTIVES SUPPORT THE CONGRESSIONAL OUTCOME, THAT THE INDICTMENTS HAVE PUT THE ISSUE TO REST, AND THAT HIS AND OTHER STUDIOS CAN NOW CONTINUE WITH THE ENTERPRISE OF COMBINING GOOD PICTURE MAKING WITH GOOD CITIZENSHIP.

Morris looked to his drink. Empty. The news made him wonder about his younger brother, Simon, a contracted screenwriter with Sunrise. Mostly, the lawyer in Morris took over; he wasn’t really interested in Simon, he was curious to learn if his brother knew any of the ten indicted. He was certain his younger brother was no Red.

Another look to his wristwatch. Where the hell is he? Morris thought. He had no desire to see Benny, but he wanted him to be on time. Morris smothered his cigarette in the ashtray, took his empty glass and left the umbrella shade of the patio table to pour another drink inside, trying to recall anything about the last time he had been with Benny.

Ten years. It might as well have been ten decades. It had taken Morris a few moments to recognize his twin’s voice on the telephone the day before. The last time he had heard that voice was when Benny moved from Boston to Los Angeles in 1938. Benny had slept on the couch of Morris and Helen’s one-bedroom apartment on Wilshire Boulevard for two weeks, living out of a suitcase with three changes of clothes and a shaving kit. Their mother had been dead for years. There was nothing left in Boston. Benny had been the last of the four brothers to let go. When he arrived out west, Helen was working as a receptionist in an accounting office; Morris was finishing his law degree as a night school student. After two weeks, Benny said he had made contact with old friends from Dorchester and that he was moving. He didn’t mention where.

Morris knew who his brother had contacted and had said nothing. After that, the last Gandelman boy to move to California vanished. In the time since then Morris had completed law school and heard rumors about Benny; some he wanted to know, others he wished he had not. But he never saw his twin.

Morris went to the front room of the house, stopped and thought of how far he had come in ten years. He worked for almost nothing those first years out of law school and held to the idea that if he could just make a name for himself—a decent, respectable name—he would one day “make good.” When he had told Helen he was going to run for Los Angeles City Council five months ago, she was perplexed. She never thought her husband had a chance. No Jew—not even a lawyer who had taken his gentile wife’s surname—was going to be elected. She tried to conceal her frustration when Morris dreamed aloud: “If I make it to city council I can run for District Attorney, then State Legislature, maybe even Governor after that. If I become Governor, anything’s possible.” Helen admired her husband, but they were living in a two-bedroom with poor plumbing then. Still, she made telephone calls and passed out information literature on sidewalks after work, figuring that every man had something he needed to attempt. She rode the bus from neighborhood to neighborhood; going door to door in her best pin-dots on cinder red dress she bought at Bullock’s. She campaigned as if Morris was running for President of the United States.

When her husband won in November, she was shocked, but not as much as when the mayor announced that Morris G. Adams was to head the City Commission on Crime Enforcement.

This finally gave Morris the joy of telling Helen that she could quit her job. More than that, it gave him the respectability he had desired his whole life. He would have a reputation for being tough on crime. Helen kissed her husband and immediately informed him that he would be supporting somebody else as well: she was pregnant.

Three months later, just after 1948 arrived, Benny had called.

“Got your number from the telephone listings. I heard the good news,” Benny had said in a gravel-raked voice. “Congratulations, Mori. God, you’ve been married almost eleven years now. We were starting to get worried—no kids yet—thought there might be bad blood between you and Helen.” Benny laughed. Morris did not.

Morris had hung on how Benny had said, “we.” He did not want to speculate.

“It’s been a long time, Benny,” Morris had struggled to say.

“Long time, yes,” Benny had said. “We should see each other.”

“Sure. Maybe sometime in February.”

“No, Mori, we should see each other as soon as possible. You free tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow?” Morris had said, more to himself.

“Great, tomorrow it is.” And the clap of Benny’s hand on a countertop rang through the receiver. “I hear your new house has a swimming pool, is that right?”

Morris and Helen had bought the house two weeks before Christmas. They never thought they would ever be able to live in Beverly Glen. Baldwin Hills or Silver Lake had always been the practical foresight.

“Yes, we have a pool,” Morris had said.

“Big man now, that’s what you are, big man living in Beverly Glen. Who would have thought back in Dorchester that one day Mori Gandelman would have a pool? See you tomorrow at noon.” Benny hung up. He had not asked for directions to the house.

***

Eric Wasserman was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, where he attended Lewis & Clark College. He holds an MFA from Emerson College in Boston and is the author of a collection of short stories, The Temporary Life (La Questa Press, 2005). His short story, “He’s No Sandy Koufax,” won First Prize in the 13th Annual David Dornstein Creative Writing Contest, and his work has appeared in many publications, including Glimmer Train and Poets & Writers Magazine Online.  Celluloid Strangers, Eric’s first novel, is set in late 1940s Los Angeles and tackles the anti-Semitic nature of the early McCarthy witch hunts in Old Hollywood. He is currently working on a new novel based on the biblical story of Abraham being instructed by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Eric lives in Ohio with his wife, fantasy writer Thea Ledendecker, and is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Akron.

Click here for an interview with Eric Wasserman, Author of Celludoid Strangers

Click here to buy: Celluloid Strangers

The Phantom Lady of Paris by Calvin Davis

In 1968, a year of worldwide explosive protests, Paul Lasser, an American educator, ventures to Paris on sabbatical to write a novel. There he encounters the mysterious “Phantom Lady of Paris.” Though cordial, she conceals a shadowy past that will change Paul’s life forever, a secret history which unfolds amid a backdrop of café bombings, Sorbonne student riots and the drug overdose death of an American “flower child.” But in spite of these events, there blossoms a soulful relationship between the American educator and the walking enigma, The Phantom Lady, all taking place in the metropolis for lovers and dreamers…Paris.

Excerpt:

Riot scene from The Phantom Lady of Paris

Year: 1968. Place: Paris, France; Latin Quarter; Boulevard Saint German. There Sorbonne students mass for a demonstration against “the educational establishment.” The protest leader is a communist-trained revolutionary, “François the Incendiary,” a human fireball of rhetoric and rabble rousing.

One of the leader’s aides handed him (François) a bullhorn, and he pressed its mouthpiece to his lips. Immediately, Boulevard Saint Germain transformed into a sepulcher: total silence. “Fellow revolutionaries,” the Incendiary bellowed, “Patriots of France”—he paused, the intermission accentuating silence like an exclamation point—“hear my words.”

Cheers exploded, followed by a chain of chants: “François…François…François!” The speaker once more signaled for silence.

“Comrades,” he continued, “comrades.” Again, an explosion of cheers.

“Quiet, let ‘im speak,” a man yelled.

“The time,” François said, “has come, the day, the hour; the moment is at hand! Not tomorrow, as the bureaucracy would have you believe, nor some unnamed future date. Fellow revolutionaries, now is the time when we must end once and for all the university’s inequalities, dismantle its archaic bureaucracy and curricula and make known to the world our grievances.” With a raised fist, he shouted into the bullhorn, “Now! Now! Now!

The crowd responded: “Now! Now! Now!” Beneath the din of the throng edged another sound, the wail of police sirens, but the resonance of approaching sirens didn’t deter François. “We have not gathered here,” he extolled, “to capitulate!” His words were now fireballs of passion. “We shall not be moved!”

“Never!” demonstrators responded. “Never!”

“Nor shall we cower,” intoned the speaker.

“Never!” protestors replied.

“Or be intimidated by billy clubs.”

“No.”

“Or tear gas!”

“No! No!” The crowd chanted louder and louder.

The screech of police vehicles slamming to a stop punctuated protesters’ chants as officers with shields, nightsticks, and gas masks, poured from vans. “Form ranks!” barked the commander. “Double time!” Like automatons, lawmen scurried.

“The presence of policemen will not weaken our resolve,” François the Incendiary orated.

“No!” responded a chorus of frenzied voices.

Officers formed lines on the sidewalk across the street from Gilbert’s. “This demonstration,” the commanding officer bellowed, “is unauthorized. You have sixty seconds to disperse.” No one moved. “Fifty-nine seconds…and counting!”

***

An educator, Calvin Davis spent a year in Paris (1968-69), during most of which time he sat at outdoor cafes on boulevards Saint Michel and Saint German, observing the endless streams of passing humanity and writing The Phantom Lady of Paris, all the while downing countless cups of midnight-black java.  The experience taught him a lot about writing and also how to wear out the seats of a half dozen trousers. So, he’s out of six pairs of pants. No big deal. That’s a small price to pay for bringing such a wonder child into the word…the remarkable phantom lady of Paris.

Calvin Davis is also the author of two other novels; Love in Opposing Colors and The Event at Fourteenth and U: A Christmas Story.

Click here to read the first chapter of: The Phantom Lady of Paris

Click here to buy: The Phantom Lady of Paris

She Had to Know by Coco Ihle

After the deaths of her adopted parents, Arran discovers her long lost sister’s name and, despite a terrifying premonitory dream, embarks on a quest to find Sheena. After reuniting in Scotland, the sisters search for the reason their birth father and his housekeeper mysteriously died and why Sheena’s life is being threatened. Led to a cryptic rhyme rumored to map the way to an ancient hidden treasure buried deep in the bowels of Wraithmoor Castle, the sisters follow the clues. A murderer follows the sisters. Will the secret passages lead them to discovery and triumph, or death and eternal entombment?

 

Excerpt:

Hours of compiling, arranging, rearranging and packing had left Sheena’s body fatigued, but her brain wouldn’t rest. She kept thinking about her father’s unknown cause of death. Something distracting would help, perhaps a book to read. Several were on the nightstand, and she looked through them. The Magus, by John Fowles, she’d already read. The next was Barbarians at the Gate, by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar. No, not in the mood. The third book was most curious. The aged volume of The Nature Library on Birds, by Neltje Blanchan, seemed especially heavy for such a small size. Sheena was immediately intrigued. The front cover had an illustration of a bluebird family: male, female and chick. How odd. This hardly seemed the kind of book her father would read.

The shock came when she opened the front cover. Inserted in a precisely cutout hole in the pages was a gun. Carefully, she extracted the weapon by the wooden grip and held it in the palm of her hand under the bedside lamp to get a better look. “MADE BERETTA USA CORP” was etched on one side of the blue-black metal barrel. The .22-caliber semi-automatic, just like the one she had learned to shoot a few years ago, was loaded.

As she was carefully returning the gun to the hiding place, she noticed a folded piece of yellowed paper tucked in the bottom of the hole. Laying the gun on the bed, she reached in to retrieve it and noticed the edges of the folds were weak and brittle. As she was carefully unfolding them, she felt a firm lump between her finger and thumb. A cracked piece of cellophane tape was stuck to one side of the paper, and under that, a key. A safe-deposit key. Stamped into the flat surface, were the initials, “CMB.” Chase Manhattan Bank on Madison Avenue, a few blocks away, was the bank on her father’s monthly statements. Why wasn’t this key in Father’s study with his other papers?

Turning the book over, she discovered another surprise. Inside this cover was another cut out section containing a small leather notebook, underneath which, a thick piece of cardboard separated the two compartments. She opened the notebook to the first page. In the upper right corner was written, “Oct./Nov.” Centered below was “This Book Belongs To: J.W.B.,” her father’s initials.

She plumped up two pillows and leaned back against the headboard, excited by this new discovery which appeared to be a journal. The entries were sporadically dated, and the writing, in her father’s hand, was scribbled and barely legible, as though written in a hurry. He had used initials rather than full names throughout. She read aloud the last entry dated the week before he died:

“Have the feeling I’m being followed. Yesterday, a car almost hit me outside the hotel. Driver didn’t stop, too dark to see license plate. Wonder if it has something to do with running into P.S. last week? Never liked that greedy snake.”

Sheena’s intake of breath was followed by an icy chill shivering through her body. With pounding heart she looked across the room at the photograph of her parents, singling out her father’s image and said, “What in the world happened to you? Did you die naturally? Or were you murdered?” 

***

Coco, a product of foster care and adoption, spent over fifty years searching for her sister, whom she found in 1994. Thus the idea for SHE HAD TO KNOW was born. She discovered Scottish roots and plays harp and bagpipes, along with piano and cello. The Florida Writer’s Association published a short story of hers in 2009 in their first anthology. Coco is a member of MWA; SinC; FWA; The Alma Society, which aids in family searches; the DorothyL Digest and the Scottish St. Andrew’s Society.

 

Click here to read the first chapter: She Had to Know 

Click here to buy: She Had to Know

The Magic Fault by Paul Mohrbacher

The Magic Fault unfolds in Turin, Italy, where the Catholic Church’s most revered relic has been stolen by a mysterious sect from the city’s cathedral. The theft occurs during the 2004 Salone del Gusto, Turin’s celebration of “good, clean, and fair food” sponsored by the international Slow Food Movement. Tom Ueland, an American Midwest college history professor and journalist who writes about magical thinking, is in Turin to vacation with a friend, Rachel Cohen, an exhibitor at the celebration. He’s also there at the invitation of the Turin archbishop, himself a student of magical thinking. Tom takes up the chase after the Shroud of Turin and is spun toward a resolution he never sees coming.

The Magic Fault will resonate with people who love the drama of European history, with those who follow religious debates, and with people passionate about where and how the world’s food is grown.  Mystery lovers will have fun trying to figure out the resolution before the protagonist does.  And the “magic” theme adds to the mystery.

Excerpt:

He never would have been in that church yesterday if not for one other person. A month earlier, he had received a letter from the archbishop of Turin, a priest named Michael Tucci. Tucci had read an article on magical thinking in the New York Times arts section. In the article, Tom had been quoted as an authority on the topic. He summarized the Historian Norman Cantor’s insights into medieval behavior during the Black Plague of the 14th Century: Christians blamed the Jews for the plague. “Scapegoating is magical thinking,” Tom wrote. “And it goes on today. We blame the ‘other’ for everything wrong in our lives. Religious extremists are often the worst offenders.”

The priest wrote that he was deeply fascinated by the topic and invited him to Turin. Tom wrote back he’d be there in a month. Yesterday was to be the day for the meeting. Tom had decided to check out the famed Shroud of Turin relic first.

Now it looked as though he might not get to see the priest. Next stop: The U.S. consulate in Turin, if there was one. And he needed a lawyer.

Another knock on the door; the big guy barged in and spoke actually using nouns and verbs. “The archbishop of Turin wants to see you.”

Tom looked at his watch — 7 a.m. The cop had brought him a shaving kit, a cappuccino and a bag of fresh bread and rolls. “Get dressed, please, and I will be back in thirty minutes.” “Please” meant something for sure — he was cleared.

 “It’s about time. Is it a trial, the inquisition, what the hell is going on?”

The big cop had undergone a personality change from the night before. He even looked smaller. “The archbishop will meet you in the Duomo. The scene of the crime. Then of course, if all goes well, you are free to go about your business in Torino.”

***

The Magic Fault is Paul Mohrbacher’s first venture into genre fiction. His writing career began as a playwright. His first script for the stage, The Chancellor’s Tale (The Dramatic Publishing Company), won first prize in the 1991 Julie Harris Playwright Award Competition and has received numerous productions and readings. Born in Duluth, Minnesota, he was a Catholic priest for 16 years. He lives with his wife, Ruth Murphy, in St. Paul, surrounded by grandchildren.

(Photo by Andrea Cole Photography)

See also:
Chapter One of The Magic Fault
Interview with Paul Mohrbacher
 

Click here to buy: The Magic Fault

Staccato by Deborah J Ledford — Excerpt #2

front-sta-195x304Three world-class pianists.
Two possible killers.
One dead woman.
Who is her murderer?
Who will be next? 

When acclaimed pianist Nicholas Kalman discovers his lover’s dead body, he sets out alone to find her killer. During his journey, he meets an unwitting female accomplice who soon becomes determined to help Nicholas wield his retaliation. Following a parallel path for justice, Steven Hawk, the deputy of a sleepy Southern county, is assigned to the case. Pursuing the investigation, Hawk finds himself entangled in a world of vengeance, greed and manipulation.

Performed against the backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Staccato transports readers to a behind-the-scenes glimpse of professional musicians, the psychological twists and turns of its characters, and in the end, retribution that crashes in a crescendo of notes played at the literary pace of a maestro’s staccato. 

Staccato is the first novel of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela thriller trilogy.

Excerpt:

Nicholas’s gaze fixed on the open door of the cement block building.

“You don’t have to do this, you know,” Hawk said. “Let her identification be left to her mother.”

Studying his shoes, he said to himself more than to Hawk, “No. I’ve caused enough pain to Aranka.”

Hawk nodded, took off his hat off and clutched its brim.

Nicholas gathered his courage and stepped to the door. After a few nervous breaths he crossed the threshold. The frigid, pungent room spooked him. He shuddered, drawing his jacket tight around his body.

Fully inside the cold, uninviting space, Nicholas’s eyes locked on Elaine’s lifeless body, laid out on an aluminum table in the middle of the room. Taking tentative steps, he reached out. He wanted to rest his trembling fingers on her cheek, smooth the hair from her forehead, but Hawk stopped him with a shake of his head.

Nicholas clasped his hands behind his back to resist the urge to ignore the deputy. He stared at the ashen, waxy, colorless face that barely resembled his lover. “Have you ever been in love, Deputy Hawk?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I mean the sweaty palm, heart pounding, gasp at the sight of her when she enters the room, love.”

Hawk shuffled from one foot to the other. “No. I’m still lookin’ for that.”

“That’s what we had.”

“I’m sorry, Nicholas,” Hawk said. “I really am.” Then the deputy gently pulled the coverlet over Elaine’s body and head.

Nicholas straightened his posture and said, “Take me to Alexander Kalman.”

Clamping his hat back on his head, Hawk led Nicholas from the morgue.

He searched the group of officers and spotted Sampte right away—a foot wider and a head taller than any of the others, even as he leaned on a police car. Nicholas ran to him, grabbed the man he once considered a friend, and swung him around.

“Why?” Nicholas shouted. “Tell me, you bastard. Why did this happen?”

Sampte kept his chin tucked to his chest, refusing to look at Nicholas.

A flash of lightning lit the area, halting all action for a moment. A deafening crack, followed by a train-like rumble, resounded through the trees.

When Sampte raised his head, Nicholas searched the man’s eyes for any clues. Instead, he recognized the flat, resolved gaze, rivaling a look only Alexander could brandish.

To Nicholas, Sampte’s silence seemed louder than the thunder.

Deborah_J_Ledford-114x160Deborah J Ledford is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize. Her award-winning short stories appear in the print publications Arizona Literary Magazine, Forge Journal, Twisted Dreams Magazine, AnthologyBuilder, and two Red Coyote Press mystery anthologies. Her latest stories appear in the Gulf Coast Writers Association anthology “Sweet Tea and Afternoon Tales” and the Sisters in Crime anthology, “How Not to Survive the Holidays.” A flash fiction piece is presented via podcast at Sniplits.

Click here  to read the first chapter: Staccato

Staccato by Deborah J Ledford — Excerpt #1

front-sta-195x304Three world-class pianists.
Two possible killers.
One dead woman.
Who is her murderer?
Who will be next? 

When acclaimed pianist Nicholas Kalman discovers his lover’s dead body, he sets out alone to find her killer. During his journey, he meets an unwitting female accomplice who soon becomes determined to help Nicholas wield his retaliation. Following a parallel path for justice, Steven Hawk, the deputy of a sleepy Southern county, is assigned to the case. Pursuing the investigation, Hawk finds himself entangled in a world of vengeance, greed and manipulation.

Performed against the backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Staccato transports readers to a behind-the-scenes glimpse of professional musicians, the psychological twists and turns of its characters, and in the end, retribution that crashes in a crescendo of notes played at the literary pace of a maestro’s staccato. 

Staccato is the first novel of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela thriller trilogy.

Excerpt:

No. It can’t be . . .

He didn’t have the courage to look at her closely, so he repositioned the body, then dragged the cloth sack beyond her shoulders.

The sweet scent of gardenias and rosewater hit him with blunt force. His gut churned, a lump formed in his throat, strangling his whimper.

Mind racing, he swept the hair from the corpse’s face. He cupped her head in his hands and bent inches from her. Blood slammed to his brain, ringing in his ears deafened him. He managed to utter a guttural growl.

God, no, not Elaine. The one person he trusted completely. She, who had unselfishly relished his triumphs and filled his days and nights with excitement and passion.

He could do nothing but stare at her beautiful, porcelain face, now turned ashen, expressionless. She had been his salvation. He mourned every time they were apart, rejoiced once they reunited. He would never see her again, be with her, love her.

Nicholas wrapped his shaking arms around Elaine’s body and rocked her. Tears coursed down his cheeks. He mumbled her name again and again. After a long time, he lifted her from the tumble on the floor, swept the bag from her body and crumpled the cloth into a ball at her feet. Placing her carefully in a seated position on the passenger seat, he smoothed her hair and took her limp head in his hands. He kissed his lover’s waxen forehead and released her limp body. Pulling the seat belt tight, he snapped her securely in place.

His entire body shook as he shut the door, then paced in front of the car and raked his hands through his hair. Thoughts of retribution filled his raging mind. Vows of revenge rocked the core of his being. He opened his arms and lifted his head to the misty sky. A wail of anguish emitted from deep inside him, rising in intensity until he expelled no more sound. He thrust himself forward and crashed his fists down on the hood of the Porsche.

The cacophony of sound echoed throughout the parking lot, mixing with his strangled sobs.

Deborah_J_Ledford-114x160Deborah J Ledford is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize. Her award-winning short stories appear in the print publications Arizona Literary Magazine, Forge Journal, Twisted Dreams Magazine, AnthologyBuilder, and two Red Coyote Press mystery anthologies. Her latest stories appear in the Gulf Coast Writers Association anthology “Sweet Tea and Afternoon Tales” and the Sisters in Crime anthology, “How Not to Survive the Holidays.” A flash fiction piece is presented via podcast at Sniplits.

Click here  to read the first chapter: Staccato