Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!: APPRAISE versus APPRISE

Writers Unite!’s mission is to offer a haven for writers to share their work and hone their craft. As the writing process is our focus, author, and WU! admin, Lynn Miclea has created a series of “tips, tools, and tidbits” about writing for our members or anyone interested in writing to help improve their writing. Check the menu bar for any tips you may have missed or click on this link.

Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image from Pixabay.

APPRAISE versus APPRISE

People often mix up the words appraise and apprise. These words have different meanings and uses, and this should help to use them properly.

Appraise is a verb that means to determine, assess, or estimate the value of something. The “praise” ending sounds like praise. If you mean to determine or assess a value, use appraise.

Examples:

  • She wanted to get the ring appraised.
  • He needed to get the car appraised before it was sold.
  • She asked for the house to be appraised before she made an offer.
  • That man will appraise the diamond and tell me what it’s worth.
  • He will appraise the house and then we can sell it.
  • She asked to have the vehicle appraised.
  • He decided to have the watch appraised to know its value.
  • After getting the jewelry appraised, she set a higher sale price.
  • He had the painting appraised and was astounded at the value.
  • The agent went there to appraise the property.

Apprise is a verb that means to inform, tell, or notify someone. The “prise” ending sounds like prize. If you mean to inform or tell someone, use apprise.

Examples:

  • His boss apprised him of what was needed.
  • He has been apprised of the facts in the case.
  • She was apprised of what he had been doing.
  • He needs to apprise his family of what happened.
  • She did not apprise her boss of the sale falling through.
  • He made sure to apprise his team of the latest development.
  • The police were apprised of the situation that developed.
  • The doctor apprised the patient of the outcome of the surgery.
  • After the meeting, the boss apprised the group of the outcome.
  • She investigated and then apprised her client of what she found.

If you mean to determine or assess a value, use appraise.

If you mean to inform or tell someone, use apprise.

After getting the house appraised, he apprised his client of the value.

Please look at the chart for an easy summary and helpful reminder.

I hope you find this helpful. These tips and more grammar tips and tools are also on my website and blog. Thank you!
Website – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
Blog – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/

D. A. Ratliff: On Thin Ice

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images used are free use and require no attribution. Image by ajoheyho from Pixabay.

On Thin Ice

D. A. Ratliff

The hissing and knocking sounds coming from the boiler woke me up each morning. At least I couldn’t complain that there was no heat. The apartment was hot, so I kept the bedroom window cracked to let the freezing air drift inside to temper the heat.

The boiler noise was not the only sound that woke me. The scraping of skate blades on ice had invaded my sleep for the past few mornings. I slipped out of bed, grabbed a robe, and padded to the window.

The skater was there as he had been since last Thursday. A tall, slender man glided across the ice as if skating on air. His long strides and graceful turns mesmerized me. He wore the same gray hooded coat and jeans that he always wore, and despite his movements across the ice, I had never seen his face. I watched him for several minutes until my alarm went off—time to get ready for class. With a last glance at the skater, I headed for the shower.

Note to Angie Barnes, me, never accept a guest professorship in Minneapolis in the winter. For a Florida gal, it’s cold. I bundled up in a scarf, toboggan, two layers of gloves, tights, slacks, two sweaters, thick socks, boots, and a newly purchased down-filled parka. I had to look like a Yeti on steroids. Let’s just say that getting behind my car’s steering wheel was difficult.

The drive to the forensics department in the Health Sciences building was short, and the car heater barely had time to get warm. I parked in a stickered guest parking space and ran for the door. Walking into the department, a chorus of, “Hey, Florida gal, how’s the weather?” greeted me.

“Just peachy.”

Dr. Aaron Tomblin, who taught DNA analysis, followed me into my office, bringing a cup of coffee with him. “Here, Dr. Barnes, thaw out with this.”

I took a sip, savoring the flavor. “I am taking this Tim Horton’s coffee home with me. Delicious. Please call me Angie.”

“And call me Aaron. Sat in on your class yesterday but had to go home right after. Great lecture. When Dr. Marsh died and left us with no one to teach trace evidence, we were worried if we could cover the classes.”

“Thanks. I’m glad that your dean and mine decided that I could come to help you out.”

“Yea, good thing they went to grad school together. Well, I have a class to teach myself. Catch up with us in the faculty dining room for lunch.”

My days had settled into a routine after only two weeks into classes. I taught two classes three days a week at ten a.m. and three p.m., and the university permitted me to work on my research project while there. I took advantage of the new source of research material, and the forensics department had opened their data archives to me.

I had also fallen into a routine. I woke early, made coffee, and watched the lone skater on the pond each morning. It had been bitter cold for at least a month, and I wondered what he did with his mornings when the weather warmed and the ice thinned. I assumed there were numerous indoor skating rinks in the area that he might use.

After my class on Wednesday, I met up with a few of the faculty and staff, and we headed to a local restaurant for a birthday lunch for Aaron Tomblin, who had become a good friend. His wife Jeanine, who also works for the university, met us there.

After we were seated and ordered, Jeanine turned to me. “Aaron has told me how much he and everyone are enjoying having you here for the semester. Any chance you might consider staying on at the university?”

Before I could answer, Leah, a department secretary, responded. “No way. Have you seen how many layers Angie is wearing when she gets to the department? If so, you would know this is not her climate.”

I laughed. “I’ll admit I’ve been cold since I crossed the Tennessee border on the way here.”

Another faculty member chuckled. “We need to get you out into some winter sports—skiing, ice skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling, lots to do.”

The image of the ice skater from my apartment flashed in my mind. “I have to say, ice skating intrigues me. A man ice skates every morning on the pond beside my apartment. It looks like fun.”

Jeanine smiled. “Then we will plan an ice skating outing this weekend for you. It will be fun.”

The following day while I was reviewing research data, Aaron dropped by my office, bringing coffee.

“I see you know how to keep a friend happy.” I took the coffee mug from him, and he sat across the desk from me. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit, Aaron?”

He bit his lip. “Jeanine told you yesterday that she works in student housing. She isn’t part of the department that placed you in temporary faculty housing, but she’s familiar with that building. Last night, Jeanine asked me if she had heard you correctly that the man you mentioned was skating on the pond outside your building. She manages the building next door for grad student housing and the contract that students sign clearly states no skating on the pond. It’s too dangerous.”

“From my bedroom window, I can’t see any warning signs. Do you think he doesn’t know?”

Aaron looked uncomfortable, and it was making me a bit anxious.

“Angie, Jeanine says the access to the pond from the residential buildings is well marked, and there are signs. University scientists determined that the pond is hazardous as the ice doesn’t freeze evenly due to the wind patterns. Besides, risk management had a meltdown over allowing any potential for liability to the university.”

“It seems so strange to hear that and yet watch this guy skate so confidently across the ice.”

“Does he look like a student?”

“I haven’t seen his face, but he appears young, but I’m not certain.”

Aaron shrugged. “Jeanine’s concerned enough to let campus police know so they can check it out.”

That night I slept fitfully, dreaming about the skater as he methodically skated over the ice. When I awoke, I was anxious and raced to the window. The sun was just peeking over the horizon. I waited for a few minutes to see if he showed up but gave up and headed to the kitchen to make coffee. Returning with a mug of hot coffee, I decided to check again before showering.

He was there, gliding across the ice with grace. I stood mesmerized once more, watching him. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement and pressed against the window to see better. Approaching the pond were two campus police officers. I thought they would stop him, but they stood at the edge of the icy surface and did nothing. The cracked window allowed me to hear their voices but not make out their words. Never once did they raise their voice or call out to him.

Inside my warm apartment, insulated from the frigid cold, an icy chill raced along my spine. Why didn’t the officers make him leave if he had broken campus rules? I glanced at the clock. I had to go as I had office hours for students on Fridays at eight a.m., and I was in danger of being late. The skater mystery would have to wait.

~~~

True to their word, on Saturday, my fellow faculty members dragged me to an ice-skating rink where I proceeded to show my lack of ability in winter sports. I spent most of my skating adventure sitting on the ice, not gliding on it, but by the time we left, I had managed to learn how to stay upright.

We headed for a sports bar afterward for dinner. Appetizers and pitchers of beer were on the table when Jeanine asked me about the skater.

“The campus police called me yesterday afternoon to tell me they didn’t see the skater when they checked yesterday morning. Did you see him?”

I froze for a second. How could I admit that I saw the skater when the officers seemed not to see him? “I did, but I overslept a bit and didn’t want to be late for office hours. I didn’t check until right before I had to leave. I guess the police must have been there too early.”

“Probably so. You should call the police if the guy shows up again for his safety.”

“I will.”

~~~

Sunday, I slept late. I honestly did not want to look out the window. I remained rattled about the police not seeing the guy. I stayed in the living room all day, where temptation wouldn’t cause me to look out the window. Just before bed, I took a peek—no one was on the ice.

I didn’t look at all on Monday morning. On the way to the department, I kept beating myself up. What I was thinking couldn’t be possible, but thinking back on the skater’s movements, I realized he repeated the same pattern all the time and wore the same clothes. No. I was being silly. I was wrong. There was an explanation. But I was beginning to think that I was losing my mind.

Teaching classes on examining trace evidence kept me focused during the day. I avoided my cohorts, snuck out for lunch, and planned to make a quick dash home after my three p.m. class. When I returned to my office to get my things, Dr. Jason Goldman waited at my door.

“Dr. Barnes, may I have a few minutes?”

“Of course, please come in.”

Dr. Goldman sat, and I noticed he had an accordion file in his hand. He took a shallow breath. “This morning, I had breakfast with Dr. Tomblin regarding a seminar we are planning. Dr. James joined us, and Mariam and Aaron chatted about the skater you saw on the west campus pond.”

My heart was thumping wildly, and I tried to remain stoic as he continued. “I teach forensics anthropology, and what they told me triggered an old case. I want to ask you a few questions.”

My throat was dry, but I managed to speak. “Of course, what would you like to know?”

“I understand that you see a man skating on the west campus pond in the early morning.”

“Yes.”

“Could you be more specific?”

“I keep the window cracked because it’s hot and stuffy in that building, and I kept hearing a scraping sound. It always occurred at daybreak, and one morning, I got up to see what it was. From the window, I saw a man skating on the pond.”

“Can you describe him for me in as much detail as you can remember?”

“Uh—he was about six feet tall, slender. He had wavy, brown hair and wore jeans, a dark gray coat, and a gray hoodie sweatshirt.”

“What did his skates look like?” 

I closed my eyes as I tried to visualize the skates. “They were black, looked scruffy, worn.”

Dr. Goldman didn’t respond. Instead, he opened the accordion file, removed a document, and offered it to me.

My anxiety level rose, and I tried to tamp it down. I hope he didn’t notice that my hands trembled as I took the file.

The document was a police report dated twenty-seven years ago. The subject was a missing person report, and as I read the information about the missing man, I found it increasingly difficult to breathe. The line “last seen wearing” gave the exact description of the skater I had given Dr. Goldman.

I raised my eyes. “Dr. Goldman, what is this? You can’t seriously think that the man I saw skating is this man? I don’t… I don’t understand.”

He inhaled deeply, and I sensed I wasn’t going to like what he was about to say.

“Dr. Barnes, I have been a forensics anthropologist for thirty years and have become an expert in finding drowning victims that have been missing for a long time, especially here. Minnesota is known as the land of 10,000 lakes. The exact number is 11,842 lakes, and if you add ponds and wetlands, that number tops 28,000. So, I have a lot of experience.”

“And you think this young man,” I glanced at the paper, “Douglas Watson, drowned in the pond next to my building?”

“I have always suspected that he did. I had helped the local police a couple of times before, and since Watson’s last reported location was near a retention pond on campus, they called me in.” He shifted in his seat. “It should have been easy, but it wasn’t. He was last seen on the corner by a campus bus driver who saw him walking toward the pond with skates slung over his shoulder. The police checked the pond after he was reported missing by his roommate, but there was no sign of broken ice or him.”

“What about his regular shoes? Were they ever found?”

“No. His roommate said Watson kept a drawstring bag with him when he skated to put his street shoes in, but we never found it near the pond. Someone likely found the bag and took it. The police think it was a sign he was never there.”

“Why no evidence of broken ice where he might have fallen in?”

“If you think it was cold now, on that day, the windchill was about ten below. I spoke with one of our meteorology professors. He said that if Watson had skated across a thin piece of ice and fallen through, it was so cold that the ice would have refrozen rapidly. Over thirty-six hours later, when he was declared missing, we had another foot of snow on the ground. No trace of him walking to the pond or skating on it.”

“What makes you think his remains are in the pond?”

“Call it a gut reaction, but when Aaron and Mariam mentioned your story of the ice skater, I knew.”

“Dr. Goldman, you realize that you are expecting me to think that I saw the ghost of this man. I can’t believe that.”

“I know it seems preposterous, but I assure you, it’s the only explanation. You need to know that I’ve successfully found bodies because I’ve listened to the families. Many have told me they had seen their missing loved ones near the areas where they drowned. I thought it ridiculous until I followed their leads and found the remains.”

“Have you looked in the pond for Watson’s remains?”

“I got permission several years ago but found nothing.”

“Then why now?”

“During the summer, construction teams repaired and refurbished the drainage pipes that lead to this pond that holds runoff piped from other areas after heavy rain or flooding. There are two other retention ponds on campus. I suspect that the body became wedged under one of the pipes, and perhaps the construction somehow released it.”

“And now, you think he’s trying to tell us he’s there?”

“Yes.”

“Dr. Goldman, Aaron’s wife sent the police to remove the skater I saw. I watched them arrive, and the… man was on the ice. They didn’t see him, but I did. Why?”

“I have no answer to that. I do think that some people are more sensitive to spirits and see what others cannot see.” He took the police report from me and stood up. “I’m going to the Medical Examiner to tell him my suspicions and to the university to obtain permission to use a new sonar device I acquired to search the pond. If I’m right that you saw the ghost of Douglas Watson, you have helped bring his family the truth and closure, and that is what we strive to do.”

After Goldman left, I thought about the responsibility a forensics technician holds. Police investigators expect us to provide the evidence to bring criminals to justice and closure to victims’ families. I never expected assistance to accomplish that goal would come from a ghost.

~~~

Under a cloudless Florida sky, I walked across campus to my first class of the semester. I returned home in June and jokingly told my friends and colleagues that I was only now thawing out from my winter in Minnesota. The truth is that I miss the friends I made there. Fortunately, I am engaged in research with two of the professors in the department, and Aaron and Jeanine and their kids spent two weeks with me during the summer. We visited several Florida tourist attractions I rarely had time to enjoy, and they plan to return for a week in December to attend Christmas with the kids’ favorite mouse.

Besides the cherished friends I made in Minnesota, I feel a satisfaction I didn’t expect. Dr. Goldman’s efforts led to the recovery of the skeletal remains of Douglas Watson. He had kept my name out of the process for obvious reasons but notified me of all developments. As he thought, the remains were wedged under a pipe strut but disturbed during the summer repairs. Goldman sent me a copy of the note he received from the family expressing their gratitude. For forensics professionals usually working behind the scenes, it is a great honor to know the impact we can make.

The hot sun was beaming down, and, happily, I did not need my enormous winter parka stashed in the back of my closet. I was glad to be home. Yet, despite the unrelenting cold, I miss Minnesota and the grace of a mysterious ice skater.

Please visit Deborah on her blog: https://daratliffauthor.wordpress.com/

Lynn Miclea: Giving Back

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images used are free use and require no attribution. Image by ajoheyho from Pixabay.

Giving Back

Lynn Miclea

Sitting on the bench at the edge of the frozen lake, Shari let out a long sigh. Trying to push away feelings of loneliness and despair, she blinked back tears. She needed to forget Tom. He had cheated on her, blamed her for it, and then broke up with her. Even two months later, sometimes the sadness still overwhelmed her. How could she ever trust someone again? Was a good relationship even possible?

She stared out at the icy scene and shook her head, ignoring the biting wind that swept her hair across her face. It didn’t matter. She needed to simply decompress and get over him. The view of the lake helped her relax and let go of the anguish. There had to be better days ahead. And for now, she needed to simply enjoy the day.

As she gazed out over the frozen lake, she became aware of a solitary man skating across the slick ice. His graceful moves on the ice were mesmerizing and she could not look away. There was something soothing, calming, and even exhilarating in watching him skate so effortlessly and beautifully.

Focusing on the young man skating, she began to relax. He was easy to watch and it was gratifying being lost in his movements. Handsome and graceful, he flew across the ice with flowing, elegant moves. After watching him for an hour, she felt relaxed and more at peace. She sent a silent thank-you to the young man, and she left.

Over the next week, she found herself drawn to the frozen lake at the same time every day, hoping to see the attractive stranger. He was there almost every day. She had no idea who he was or what his story was, but she felt like she could watch him skate for hours and never be bored. Watching him helped her believe that a better future was possible.

She wondered what he did when he wasn’t on the ice, and she was lost in her thoughts when he suddenly skated toward her and slid to a stop in front of her at the edge of the grass.

He looked at her, a shy smile on his handsome face. After hesitating a few moments, he waved at her.

Biting her lower lip, Shari smiled and waved back. His smile grew wider, and then he turned and skated off.

Heat moved through her, and she was even more intrigued now. Whoever he was, something about him touched her, and she wished she could have a chance to get to know him. Maybe not all men were bad.

The following day, she couldn’t wait to get to the lake, and she arrived early, eager with anticipation. Not seeing him right away, a wave of disappointment moved through her, and she wondered if he would show.

Then he was there, smoothly skating across the ice, and she could not stop smiling. He seemed to look right at her, and she tentatively waved. His face lit up and he waved back, then skated toward her. Was he carrying something? She wasn’t sure.

He reached the edge of the grass and gave a small smile. “Hello.” His voice was deep, smooth, and warm.

Feeling excited but also shy and wary, Shari licked her lips and answered softly. “Hello.”

“I’m Kevin. What’s your name?”

“Shari.”

He nodded. “Do you ice skate?”

She shrugged. “Not since I was a kid. I liked it back then, but I fell and hurt myself and never skated again.”

His smile grew bigger. “Would you like to skate with me?”

“I don’t have—”

“Here. I have something for you.” He brought one hand forward from behind his back and held out a pair of white ice skates. “See if these fit.”

“But …”

He walked across the grass to the bench where she sat and held them toward her. “They were my sister’s. You look about her size. Maybe they’ll fit you.”

“Are you sure? I—”

“Yes, please.” He sat down next to her, and his voice was warm and soft. “I would be honored if you would try them.”

“Okay.” Shari took off her shoes and tried on the skates. At first they seemed a bit loose, but when she stood up, her feet filled them out better, and they were surprisingly comfortable. “I think they fit.”

“They look good on you.” He stood up and held out his hand. “Shari, would you please join me?”

“I don’t think I’m very good, and I’m still a bit scared of the ice, and—”

“Please.” His face reflected kindness and hope, and she felt herself flush.

She took his hand, and the warmth of his hand enveloped hers, spreading through her.

He led her down the grass to the ice and supported her as she gingerly stepped onto the smooth surface of the frozen lake.

She looked nervously at him. “I’m a bit scared. I haven’t skated in years.”

He still held her hand, and he squeezed it gently. “It’s okay, I’ll help you. You’ll be fine.”

Feeling a bit wobbly and unsure, she glanced at his face. He was watching her, ready to support her and hold her steady.

Kevin smiled and leaned toward her. “Just relax and let me lead you.”

Standing just behind her and slightly to one side, his arm firmly around her, he guided her farther out on the ice, starting slow and gradually building up speed. Feeling supported and stable in his arms, she relaxed into a skating stance and let him lead her.

As they glided over the ice, she felt nervous but giddy, and she became more comfortable as they skated. His firm support helped her feel comfortable and confident, and she enjoyed it more and more as they skated. They flew across the ice, the wind brisk on her face, and she wondered why she ever stopped skating all those years ago.

His voice was reassuring as he leaned in and relaxed his grip. “Just relax and keep going. You’ll be fine. Trust me.” Then he spun around in front of her, his hands firmly holding hers, as he gracefully skated backward, pulling her forward. His eyes sparkled and shone with delight as he watched her.

At one point, she began to wobble. He laughed, spun back behind her, and, supporting her firmly, guided her across the ice as though it were second nature to him.

Elated and exuberant, Shari felt like they were flying. She felt her soul and spirit soar, as they swiftly and effortlessly moved and danced across the frozen lake.

About thirty minutes later, he guided her back to the grassy bank, and he gently supported her as they walked across the grass and sat on the bench.

He squeezed her hand. “Thank you for joining me and for trusting me. I hope you enjoyed that.”

She laughed. “Thank you. That was amazing and so much fun. And you are incredible — you skate so well. How are you that good? And why are you out here every day?”

“I am a skating instructor, and I love to skate. I teach ice skating at a rink a few miles from here, and, when the weather allows, I come here on my own for the pure joy of it.”

“You are beautiful to watch.”

His eyes sparkled. “So are you.”

Shari giggled nervously. “You said these are your sister’s skates. She won’t mind me using them?”

A deep sadness moved across his face. “She was injured a few years ago. She used to love to skate. But she was in an accident and never fully recovered. Then …” His eyes watered and he looked away for a minute before he could continue. “She died last year.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“But this is good. You have given her skates new life. She would be happy to see them being used.”

“Was she as good as you are?”

He smiled. “She was very good. She used to compete in various competitions.” He shook his head, lost in thought. “After her accident, I used to take her, in her wheelchair, out on the ice, and I’d push her around. She loved that.”

“You were very good to her.”

He gazed into her eyes. “Would you please have dinner with me?”

***

Over the next few months, their friendship quickly blossomed into a passionate and intense romance, and Shari moved in with him a year later. Two years after that, Shari gazed into Kevin’s eyes. “You’ll be okay,” she said to him.

Kevin shook his head and sighed. “I know, but it’s so frustrating. I hate the recovery from surgery and not being able to do what I love. I need to skate.”

“I know, sweetheart. But you’ll be fine. The knee replacement surgery was successful, and now you just need time to recover.” She stroked his face. “And I’ll help you every step of the way.”

“Thank you,” he said softly. “I just wish I could put on my skates and fly across the ice again.”

“You will. Just give yourself time to heal.” Shari sat up straight. “Hey, I have an idea. Do you remember what you did for your sister?” He turned to look at her, and she continued. “You pushed her in her wheelchair across the ice. I can do that for you.”

“What? No, that’s not—”

“Please let me do that. You’ve spent your life helping others. And you do so much for me. Let me do this for you. Please.”

Kevin gazed at her and then smiled. “Are you sure?”

“Yes! Absolutely. In fact, let’s do it now.”

He laughed. “You can’t be serious. I can barely walk right now.”

“Exactly. And that’s the point. This will bring joy back and remind you of what you have to look forward to.”

He fixed his eyes on her and then finally nodded. “Okay. Maybe that will lift my spirits.”

Thirty minutes later, Shari parked the SUV next to the frozen lake. Heart pumping with excitement, she got the wheelchair from the back, brought it to the side of the car, and helped Kevin get into it.

He snorted. “This is weird.”

“This is amazing,” she answered. “You’re gonna love this.”

She put on her ice skates and wheeled Kevin to the edge of the ice. “Ready?”

“I guess.” He chuckled. “It feels strange, though.”

“Hold on,” Shari said. “I’m not a skating expert like you, but this will still be fun.”

She pushed the wheelchair onto the ice, held onto the handles, and skated forward. The chair kept her stable and boosted her confidence, and she skated faster, gliding the chair out into the middle of the lake, sliding across the smooth surface.

Kevin started laughing. Then he whooped and hollered and laughed more as they flew across the ice.

Finally, Shari headed back toward the grassy area, skating and pushing the chair as she went. When they got back into the SUV, Kevin turned to her. “I can’t thank you enough for that,” he said.

Shari smiled. “You’re very welcome. I loved that too.”

Kevin let out a long breath and stared out the window.

After they were back home, Kevin reached forward and ran his fingers through Shari’s hair. “That was amazing, and for so many reasons. First, I was able to experience a little of what my sister felt all those years ago.” He shook his head. “And even more than that, you brought me such immense joy and showed me what I have to look forward to. I was so caught up in fear and pain and frustration … but you changed all of that into a positive. You gave me hope again. Thank you.”

“I’m glad, sweetheart. I would do anything to help you.”

He gazed at her. “Hey, can you do one more thing for me?”

“Yes, of course, anything. What is it?”

“Would you please marry me,” he murmured.

She smiled and kissed him. “Yes. A million times, yes.”

“And I want to get married on the ice.”

She laughed. “That sounds perfect.” She kissed him again, lingering there. “The ice has given us so much.”

“Yes, it has. And this is a way of honoring that and giving back.”

“I wish your sister could be here.”

His face softened. “We are honoring her as well, as her skates helped to bring us together.”

“Yes, and we met there on the ice.”

Kevin picked up her hand and gently kissed her palm. “And you woke up something in me that I didn’t think I could ever feel. You are incredibly special.”

Shari blinked back tears as her eyes burned. “And you helped me learn to trust again and to overcome my fears. You are very special too.”

She leaned in and pressed her lips to his, the kiss deepening and growing more passionate. “Giving back is a good thing.”

“It sure is,” he murmured, as he reached for her and kissed her again.

—————————————–

Copyright © 2021 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit Lynn’s blog and follow her at – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/
Please also visit Lynn’s website for more information on her books – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
And please visit her Amazon author page at – https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Miclea/e/B00SIA8AW4

Kelli J Gavin: The Winter Cabin

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images used are free use and require no attribution. Image by ajoheyho from Pixabay.

The Winter Cabin

Kelli J Gavin

Understanding that he was upset with me yet again, I knew to just leave him alone. Whenever we disagreed, he wasn’t up for a fight. I appreciated the fact that he had lost his will to argue and walked away. I was worn out and did not possess an ounce of the energy it takes to engage with him. 

Jonathan may be the smartest, most articulate man I have ever met. He graduated with honors in three years and then went on to receive two doctorates in the following four years. When he began to mansplain a simple concept, I sarcastically addressed him as “Dr. Jonathan” so that he would cease such obnoxious behavior. When he persisted, I reminded him that all of those degrees were absolutely not granted in the fields of common sense or how to pick up on social cues. 

Wondering how long he would be out on the ice again, I knew that I needed to find something to keep me busy. After picking up two or three discarded books, I walked back to the picture window at the front of the cabin. This cabin that I adore has been in my family for as long as I can remember. Because we both didn’t mind the winter chill, we tended to be the only family members that planned multiple excursions up to northern Minnesota and the Gunflint Trail each winter. Enjoying the fact that we didn’t have to compete for space with my siblings or parents, we usually spread out throughout the cabin and sometimes even slept in separate rooms. Piling the beds with warm quilts and lighting a fire in both fireplaces helped keep us comfortable during our long weekend stays. 

How was someone so tall and strong, so elegant? The way he crossed leg over leg, and glided in a perfectly straight line for such a long distance, made me believe he would, at some point, just keep skating away from me. When he grimaced to himself mid conversation and then said something like, “Let’s take a break” or “I’ll be back soon,” I knew that he would soon bundle himself up in every warm winter clothing item he brought with us and grab a hat, mittens and scarf from the basket by the front door. His too big parka zipped to his chin, he exited with his skates over his shoulder. He liked the bench to the left of where the dock normally resides in the summer. I had never been sure why he gravitated to that bench, but when he sat and methodically removed his tall winter boots and began to put on his skates is when my breathing had usually returned to an expected and normal rhythm. 

I had always loved Jonathan. Since the moment we met. But I believe our love had changed somehow, even evolved into more of a comfortable companionship and mutual admiration rather than burning desire. I am sad to say that I enjoyed his silent companionship more than anything. When we played cards, watched a movie together or even read in the living room. Conversation wasn’t required. We may have looked at each other fondly while together, but neither of us felt compelled to speak anymore. He always kissed me each morning, when he returned from work and at night before bed, but that may have been the only times he touched me, and I was okay with this. 

As I watched him step carefully onto the ice, he did a few gentle glides and then furiously began his endless cycle of crazy eights. Over and over again. I began to wonder if he ever became dizzy from his repetitive paths. If he did, he didn’t show it. Clapping his hands over his head a few times, I understood he was trying to warm himself up and increase the blood flow in his arms and hands. His movements were so predictable, I realized that his predictability is what calmed me. Yet annoyed me all the same.

 When Jonathan came in from the ice, he was silent, as expected. I had prepared a simple lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup and apples. He smiled at my own predictability displayed on the small table in the kitchen. As he stowed his hat, mittens and scarf and removed his boots on the mat to catch the melting snow chunks, he looked at me, but said nothing. He never broke eye contact as he hung up his parka on one of the many hooks haphazardly nailed to the wall by the door. 

When he walked to the kitchen to meet me, he sat and we proceeded to eat in silence. He didn’t even attempt to make a connection, but then neither did I. Five years together and this is what we had come to. Silence while eating grilled cheese and tomato soup at the table in the cabin’s kitchen. 

“I am going to say something that neither of us want to hear or say. I love you, but I am no longer in love with you. I think you feel the same. I think we need to take a break. I have located an apartment and taken out a 3-6 month flexible lease. I can move in when we get home. I think we should use this time to decide what is next for both of us,” Jonathan calmly explained.

I didn’t cry. Not one tear. I reached out and touched his hand before I was ready to speak. Staring at my soup, a rush of emotion flooded me. It was a relief. It was the feeling of hope. It was a release from all the worry. It was needed.

“Thank you. For making this decision for us. To be honest, I don’t think I could have done it. But thank you for knowing that we need to do this. Thank you for enabling both of us to take the needed next step in our own lives.” 

Jonathan held my hand firmly and then pulled it to his lips and kissed it. “I respect you and myself enough to know that we can’t keep doing this. This silence, this walking on eggshells. And also, there aren’t any great skating ponds back home. I need to skate when I am frustrated. Where am I going to skate back home if we were to stay together?”

I began to laugh. Not just a giggle, but full on laughter. The tears came quickly as Jonathan began laughing. I was so thankful at that very moment for his awkward sense of humor. Laughing while parting ways wasn’t something that I ever expected to happen. 

We laughed a bit more together as we chatted and finished our lunch. It registered to me that this was the last time we would be at the cabin together. And I was okay with it. We began to pack up our belongings and pick up around the cabin knowing we would be returning home a day early. I wasn’t concerned about what Jonathan would think, but as he drove, I reached out and held his hand for the better part of our drive back to Minneapolis. I knew it was the last time we would hold hands. 

Now, ten months out, things are so much better. I enjoy my work again, I have made new friends and I joined a women’s art co-op. I am excited to spend this time with my family at the cabin this winter. When my brother’s kids run amuck, I won’t be overwhelmed and wish I hadn’t come the same weekend, but will welcome the chaos and all that comes with it. My parents were so glad I agreed to a family getaway weekend and even came a day early to prepare the winter cabin and make sure the refrigerator was full to welcome all the hungry mouths that would need to be fed. I am thankful for my family, for the cabin and for blustery winters which bring a thick sheet of ice to the lake. I am also thankful for my mistaken sightings of Jonathan skating his repetitive crazy eights. I know he isn’t there, but I will always love the memories of when he was.

Please visit Kelli on her blog: https://kellijgavin.blogspot.com/

SUCCESS PHILOSOPHIES WITH DR. CHUBACK EPISODE #20

In our quest to assist writers in becoming the best you can be and remain motivated, we would like to introduce you to John Chuback, M.D. A cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Chuback found his goals waylaid by his lack of motivation. In a series of interviews with Paul W. Reeves, host on Impact Radio USA, Dr. Chuback discusses “The 50 most powerful secrets for success in and out of the classroom.”

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Please click on the link below to hear Episode #20, the concluding episode in the series, and start enhancing your journey toward success today.

DR. JOHN CHUBACK, a cardiovascular surgeon from New Jersey, joins us in this series to celebrate the release of his book, “The Straight A Handbook – The 50 Most Powerful Secrets For Ultimate Success In And Out Of The Classroom”.

Throughout this series, they will cover each of the 50 chapters in detail, each of which will guide you toward success in all that you do in life.

On this segment, the final segment in this series, Dr. Chuback and Paul discussed chapters 48, 49, and 50.

Enjoy!

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Audiobook on Audible

The Straight a Handbook: The 50 Most Powerful Secrets for Ultimate Success in and Out of the Classroom Audible Logo Audible Audiobook – Unabridged

Written by John Chuback, M. D.
Narrated by Paul W. Reeves, Ed. D

Click for Audible version on Amazon

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Previous Episodes of “Success Philosophies With Dr. Chuback”

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Dr. John Chuback

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Dr. John Chuback was born and raised in Bergen County and graduated from the Dwight Englewood School. He earned his medical degree from New Jersey Medical School at UMDNJ, in Newark. Dr. Chuback then completed a five-year General Surgical Residency at Monmouth Medical Center (MMC). Dr. Chuback is the author of Make Your Own Damn CheeseKaboing, and The Straight A Handbook.

All books are available on Amazon. com. 

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Impact Radio USA

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Welcome to ​IMPACT RADIO USA, where we strive to  provide the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Our goal is to keep you as the most informed and entertained Internet Radio audience.

As we are continuing to add content on a daily basis, please feel free to click on the “LISTEN NOW” button at the top of the page to hear us 24 hours a day.While you are here, please check out all of our links to our shows, our podcast page, our blog, and learn how YOU can host your own show with us.  Thank you for listening to IMPACT RADIO USA!!!

Impact Radio USA ListenNow

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Paul W. Reeves 

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Paul W. Reeves is an author, radio talk show host, educator, composer/arranger, and professional musician!

Listen to “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA and visit Paul’s websitehttps://paulwreeves.com for more information on his books and CDs.

https://www.impactradiousa.com/

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Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!: SIGHT, SITE, and CITE

Writers Unite!’s mission is to offer a haven for writers to share their work and hone their craft. As the writing process is our focus, author, and WU! admin, Lynn Miclea has created a series of “tips, tools, and tidbits” about writing for our members or anyone interested in writing to help improve their writing. Check the menu bar for any tips you may have missed or click on this link.

Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image from Pixabay.

SIGHT, SITE, and CITE

People often mix up the words sight, site, and cite. Although these words sound alike, they have different meanings and uses. This should help to keep them straight.

Sight is a noun and means vision or ability to see or something you see. You have sight and you can see sights. If you mean vision, then use sight.

Examples:

  • The sunset over the ocean is a gorgeous sight.
  • After struggling with an injury, he was grateful to get his sight back.
  • She loved seeing all the sights when on vacation.
  • He went to the doctor and hoped his sight had improved.
  • She thought there was no end in sight to the rising prices.
  • His sight was not very good at night.

Site is a noun and means a specific place or location. If you mean place or location, then use site.

Examples:

  • This is a great site to have a picnic.
  • That is the site where they are filming a movie.
  • He loved visiting various historical sites.
  • She looked around to find the perfect site for the wedding.
  • He couldn’t wait for people to check out his new site.
  • She pointed to the site where it all happened.

Cite is a verb and means to quote, mention formally, or refer to a source. It can also mean to summon to a court or issue a notice of violation. If you mean to refer to a source or issue a citation, use cite.

Examples:

  • After becoming CEO, he cited many businesses that helped him.
  • White writing her paper, she was careful to cite her references.
  • The police brought him in for questioning and he was then cited.
  • He repeated the quote and cited the original author.
  • The students were reminded to cite their sources on their papers.
  • She reviewed the document and noted the resources that were cited.

Here is another hint you can use to help.
Sight
 can be associated with eyesight. If it involves vision or seeing, then use sight.
Site can be associated with situate. If it means a place or location, then use site.
Cite can be associated with citation. If it is a verb meaning to issue a notice or to quote something, use cite.

Please look at the chart for an easy summary and helpful reminder.

I hope you find this helpful. These tips and more grammar tips and tools are also on my website and blog. Thank you!
Website – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
Blog – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/

WRITE THE STORY December 2021 PROMPT!

Welcome to Write the Story!

The plate of spaghetti had quite a ride in November—from the scene of a shoot-out, a romantic meal, to a family tradition. Thank you to all who wrote a story and all who read the stories!

Now on to the December 2021 prompt. As we close out our third year of Write the Story!, thanks to everyone, authors and readers, who continue to make this project a success.

A reminderWU! created this project with two goals: providing a writing exercise and promoting our author sites to increase reader traffic. We ask that you please include a link to the Writers Unite! blog when you post your story elsewhere. By doing so, you are also helping promote your fellow members and Writers Unite! We encourage all of you to share each other’s stories to help all of us grow. Thanks!

Write the Story! October 2021 Prompt

Please note: the images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by ajoheyho from Pixabay

Here’s the plan:

  • You write a story of 3000 words or less (minimum 500 words) or poem (minimum 50 words) and post it on the author site you wish to promote. Don’t forget to give your story a title. (Note: You do not have to have a website/blog/FB author page to participate, your FB profile or WordPress link is fine.)
  • Please edit these stories. We will do minor editing, but WU! reserves the right to reject publishing the story if poorly written.
  • The story must have a title and author name and must include the link to the site you wish to promote.
  • Send the story and link to the site via Facebook Messenger to Deborah Ratliff or email to writersunite16@gmail.com. Put “Write the Story” in the first line of the message.
  • Please submit your story by the 25th day of the month.

WU! will post your story on our blog and share it across our platforms— FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. The story will also be available in the archives on the WU! blog, along with the other WTS entries.

We ask that you share the link to the WU! blog so that your followers can also read your fellow writers’ works.

The idea is to generate increased traffic for all. It may take some time, but it will happen if you participate. The other perk of this exercise is that you will also have a blog publishing credit for your work.

—————–

Paula Shablo: Spaghetti Face

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images used are free use and do not require attribution. Image from Pixabay.

Spaghetti Face

Paula Shablo

A rite of passage in our family is when a child is old enough to feed himself that first spaghetti dinner. Generally speaking, this happens around the time of a child’s first birthday; in fact, spaghetti was, and still remains, the most requested birthday dinner for the children in the family, regardless of age.

For some reason, this was one of my father’s favorite things to do. He’d get the camera ready, knowing a baby was going to be fed the wonder food of the ages. He’d encourage the chaos of eating those long, tomato sauce drenched noodles.

Once said child was covered from head to toe with spaghetti sauce and stray noodles, the “Spaghetti Face” portrait was taken. Giggles were had by all witnesses, and Dad could hardly wait to get the pictures developed.

We children had our pictures taken and continued the tradition with our own kids. It was always fun to look back at the first spaghetti dinner experience.

As I said: a rite of passage.

I loved the fact that several of the photos of my own kids were taken by my father. He got such a kick out of it.

Recently, I realized that somehow, the tradition has been lost. I have grandchildren now and don’t have a single spaghetti-faced pose of any of them.

This is unacceptable!

I spent a few days going through old photographs, scanning the spaghetti faces, and sending them to my kids with little notes: “Remember this? Why don’t you take some of your kids and send them to me?”

One daughter shot back this note: “My kid is twenty-one. Do you think I can get her to pose NOW?”

Well…

I love a challenge.

This morning I scanned spaghetti-faced photos of myself, my siblings, and my kids. I sent them in messages to all the grandchildren. My note: “Your parents have neglected you. Spaghetti face photos are mandatory in this family. Please recreate the photos they should have taken of you at this age and send them to me. It will be the perfect Christmas present!”

And now, I wait…

Please visit Paula on her website: https://paulashablo.com/

Kenneth Lawson: A Night In L. A.

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images used are free use and do not require attribution. Image from Pixabay.

A Night In L. A. 

Kenneth Lawson

By the time I finished another cup of coffee, the pills and caffeine had begun to work. My head had stopped pounding enough so I could sort of move without the room spinning. 

I did remember the girl—long black hair, kind of skinny. She was friendly, offered to buy me a drink. That was all I remembered, a fuzzy picture of her smiling and a beer set in front of me. 

Something else came to me. She made a nod to her right. There was no one there except the waiter, a kid barely old enough to drink. Then something else came to me. She’d pushed a mug toward me. The pounding in my head wasn’t from the beer but the Mickey I’d been given. I’d heard they could leave a hell of a headache. They were right.

She’d made sure I drank the beer with the Mickey in it. No wonder I didn’t remember anything, but knowing all this didn’t get me out of the jam I was in. No one would believe me anyway. Hell, I didn’t believe me.

I checked my holster. My gun was still there. At least she didn’t take it. I pulled it from my holster and dropped the magazine. Eight rounds. A full mag. Good. I checked my spare mag. It was missing a bullet. Seven rounds. I froze. 

It was all clear to me. There was a body somewhere with my bullet in it. 

I usually carry a spare magazine with me. Whoever replaced the magazine with the fresh mag knew it would appear I hadn’t fired any bullets. It wouldn’t be until they looked closer that they would find a slug missing. 

I considered what to do. Not carrying that gun was a good start. So, it and the magazines went into the safe. I slid a different pistol into the holster when the door rattled with a loud knock.

I spun the lock on the safe and left my office. “Coming.” The front door rattled in the frame.

“Yeah, what do you want?” 

Los Angeles Detective Lindsay plowed his way into the room as I stepped out of his way. He stopped in the middle of the room, chomped on a cigar, and eyed me. “St. James, where’ve you been since last night?”

I thought fast. “I met a client at the Long Arm Bar on Seventh street.”

“Yeah, right, a pretty one?” Lindsay insinuated.

“I didn’t notice. I was working. What do you care anyway?” Although I had a pretty good idea. I glanced at Brenda leaning against the kitchen door frame where the remains of last night’s spaghetti still sat on the table. I’d left in a hurry.

“We found a body with one of your bullets in it.”

“How do you know it’s mine?”

 “Ballistics matched it with the slug we recovered from your gun after last year’s shoot-out.”

“Who’d I kill today?”

Lindsay pulled his notebook from his coat pocket, flipped pages, muttering to himself as he tried to read his writing.

“Raymond Chambers. You know him?”

“Yeah, sorta. He tried to hire me months ago to do some work for him. I turned him down.” 

“My, you’re noble all of a sudden.” Lindsay sneered.

“I didn’t like the guy. He was mean, arrogant, and an asshole. So, I turned him down on the spot.”

“And came back to kill him.” 

“After six months? Get real. Even you don’t believe that.”

“I believe your bullet is in him. That is all that matters.”

I did meet with Chambers but left him in mid-martini. Who would have seen me there?

Branda went into the office and returned with my appointment book. “Here. He met Chambers at the bar and then left. He noted the time. If he’d accepted the case, we would track the hours he worked.” She shoved the book in front of Lindsay. He grabbed it and pawed through the pages. When the detective closed the book, Brenda snatched it from him and said she would return it to the office. With a glance at me, she left.

“See? I didn’t see him again after that.” I reminded him as I tried to think of who else I’d seen that morning.

Larry Pine. Yeah, he was there at a table not far from us. I passed him as I left. He had no love for Chambers or me. He’d had a couple of dames with him, but then he usually had a dame or two with him. 

But Lindsay was right. Why wait six months?

I leaned against the table nearest me, both to hide the safe and help keep me upright. Lindsay’s barging in here hadn’t helped my head any. I took a long swallow of half-cold coffee to buy myself some time to think. 

Lindsay fiddled with the notebook in his hands and acted like he was looking for something in one of the back pages of it.

“When did Chambers eat my bullet?” 

Lindsay glared. “About midnight as far as the doc can figure for now. And eat is right. You shoved the barrel of the gun in his mouth and blew half his head off. It was a god-awful mess.” 

I’d seen what a forty-five can do at close range. The bullets are big and slow, but they plow through bone like a battering ram. I didn’t need any more descriptions.

“Where’d you find the bullet?” 

“In the wall behind what’s left of his head. It hit a stud, or it’d kept going.”

“Look, it wasn’t me. Here.” I pulled the pistol from the holster and handed it to him. 

Lindsay dropped the mag and smelled the barrel. “Mmm, it’s clean.”

“Yeah, I keep ‘em clean. Hasn’t been fired in ages.” That was true.

He handed it back to me. I slid the mag back in and dropped it back into its holster and waited. 

“So?”

“So. You never answered my question. Where were you last night?”

“I told you, I met a dame down at the Long Arm Bar. She wanted to hire me.”

“To do what?”

 “Find her boyfriend. At least that’s what she said.”

“And?”

I thought for a minute. “I told her no. I didn’t believe her. Her story didn’t add up, and she had too much cash on her.” I made that part up. We never got that far before I had the beer with the Mickey in it, but Lindsay wouldn’t believe me, so I didn’t try to tell him—yet. 

“This girl, she have a name?” 

I fumbled around on the table next to me and found the notes I made when she called. “Yeah, Lori something or other, I couldn’t understand what she said. It was over the phone.” Again, I was making part of the story up as I went along.

“So, this Lori calls you, and you go running to her?”

“Well, no, I told her I was busy, and couldn’t meet her right away, so we met later at the bar.” 

“What time?” 

I glanced at the small clock on the far side of the room and tried to remember. “’Round ten-ish, I think.” 

“Okay, for now. Find this Lori and get her to back your story.”

With that, Lindsay left, not bothering to close the door. I stared at the open door, cold coffee in my hand, and wondered what had just happened. Shit. I was in trouble.

Brenda came into the living room and kissed me on the cheek. “I know you didn’t do it.” 

“Thanks, hun.” I pulled her closer and gave her a proper kiss. 

Releasing Brenda, I slid the bolt home to lock the door. I didn’t need any more uninvited guests. As a PI, I often worked on the wrong side of town and Lori from last night was definitely from that side. Right now, I needed to find out more about the Chamber killing. An eyewitness would seal the deal and get me in the slammer for a long time. I needed to find them too. 

After taking more headache pills with my cold coffee, I grabbed my old sports coat and headed out. My car was an old Ford with mostly rust and gumption holding it together, but it always started.

~~~

I considered some options, one being that Lori probably left town right after I passed out, but I headed for the Long Arm Bar anyway. Hopefully, someone would remember me being there last night and who she was. I expected the bar to be closed, but I knocked anyway. I heard noises inside, so I banged louder. 

“Yeah, what do you want?” The muffled voice sounded aggravated. 

“I need to talk to you.”

The door cracked open, and a short skinny bald man peered out at me. “What’s so important?”

I pulled my ID from my pocket and showed it to him. 

“PI—big wow.” He didn’t move the door.

“You were working here last night?”

“No. I decided to sleep here just for the hell of it. Yeah, I was here, so what?”

“I was here last night. You remember seeing me here? About ten-ish?”

“Why should I remember you? The place was packed. I don’t even remember crashing in the back room.” 

That I understood, a busy night is a long night, and it all runs together. “Look, I need to see if anyone remembered me here last night. I met a girl…”

“Good for you.” 

‘Not that kind of girl. She was supposed to be a client. Tall, skinny, long black hair?”

“Shit, that describes half the dames here.” 

I decided to stop being polite. I leaned against the door, pushing it open a little more. I remembered the kid, the waiter.

“Look, I’ve had a bad night and morning. I’m not in the mood for your games. I was here last night. A tall skinny kid, barely legal age, served me the beer. You got a kid like that working here?” I shifted my weight a bit to show my holster enough that the butt of my pistol was visible. 

“Yeah, a new kid, just started a couple of days ago. Benny, I think his name is.”

I pushed the door open further, and he stepped back to let me pass. Standing in the doorway, I looked around and spotted the back corner booth where I’d been. I walked over. “I was in this booth. Benny served me a beer. Where did he come from?”

“Hell, he served a lot of beers last night.”

“Yeah, I know.”

He followed me to the booth and stood off to one side as I slid in and looked around. Trying to remember as much as I could, but most of it was a blur. 

“You want something to drink?”

“Coffee?”

“Yeah, I got that.” He disappeared, leaving me to try to remember more about Benny or Lori.

He returned with two cups of coffee. I nodded at the seat across from me, and he sat down.

“You never said where Benny came from,” I sniped.

“Oh yeah, sorry, He walked in off the street looking for a job, had an ID that said he was over eighteen. I was short a bar hand, so I hired him.”

I sipped the coffee. “What time’s he coming in today?”

“About four, to help open up.”

“He won’t be back.”

“Huh?” 

I let it lie. “You got paper on him?”

“Yeah,”

“Get it.”

He slid out of the booth and returned with an employment record for one Benny Long. I copied all the information on it and handed it back to him.

“What do you mean he won’t be back?”

I didn’t answer him. He’d find out soon enough. Thanking him for the coffee and information, I left.

I figured the address was fake, but I had to check it out anyway. The address was on the far side of town. It took me a while to get there. 

Pulling in the driveway, I noticed the lawns were unkempt, and the entire street appeared abandoned except for a couple of houses. Cars and remains of cars sat in the driveways and lawns were half-buried in weeds.

I loosened the pistol in its holster as I got out of the Ford and focused on the address listed on Benny’s employment record. I eased onto the half-rotted porch, and a familiar aroma greeted me. Great, he was probably as high as a kite by now.

Listening at the door, I slid my pistol from its holster and dropped the safety. After a couple of deep breaths, I banged on the door. 

“Benny!” I yelled over the radio blaring inside. I heard a scuffling noise, and the radio stopped. I banged on the door so hard that it shook the window next to it.

“Benny! Open up, or I’m coming in!” 

The door screeched as it slowly opened, revealing Benny wearing only a set of undershorts. I ignored his lack of clothes and pushed the door the rest of the way open and led with the pistol as I barged in. Lori was on the bed in the corner, covered up only by a sheet. That I didn’t expect.

I motioned for Benny to sit on the bed. He stumbled to the bed and sat down.

“I’m assuming you know me.” They nodded yes.

There was no point in lecturing them, so I cut to the chase. “Who hired you to frame me last night?” 

They looked at each other, and I continued. “Come on, you two didn’t cook this up all by yourselves. Someone put you up to it. Once done with you, you’ll end up as Chambers did. Think, man!” I half-shouted to cut through the fog that was their brains. 

They were too out of it to comprehend anything, so I ignored them and searched the room. A table held a pile of weed and other drug stuff on it. I didn’t touch it at all.

A dresser sat in the corner. In the bottom drawer, I found a pile of bills. Pine paid them enough to keep them high for quite a while. Along with the cash was a slip of paper with a name and phone number. I copied it down. 

Benny and Lori remained on the bed, half-naked as I closed the door. Five minutes from now, they would forget I was there.

The name on the paper was familiar—Larry Pine. He was at the club when I met Chambers and ran drugs and hookers for the last couple of years. I’d run into him a couple of times, and when he sent his goons after me, I beat the crap out of his men. Pine didn’t like me at all because I couldn’t be bullied or bought. 

As for Chambers, I knew his reputation for being mean as hell, and while technically most of his operations were legal, he did put up a good public front. I knew better. I’d cleaned up after a couple of his messes. He’d tried to hire me as a bodyguard six months ago. I don’t usually do that work, and while money was tight, it wasn’t so tight that I wanted to be around him. Word was Pine was trying to move in on Chambers’s operations, likely prompting a mob war. He knew I would be all over him if he started a war, and framing me would get me out of his hair—all the better for him.

Larry Pine’s base of operations was downtown. I parked in front of the commercial building where he had his headquarters. Shoppers wandered in and out of the shops along the tree-lined street, shadows cast by the late morning LA sun. They were unaware that Larry Pine operated a gambling, loansharking, and prostitution business three floors above them. An operation I was about to shut down.

I opened the trunk on the Ford and pulled the shotgun from the rack. I fed twelve-gauge slugs into the bottom loading gate, pumping the slide and chambering a round. I glanced around as I slammed the lid down on the trunk. No one paid any attention. 

I glanced behind me as I heard a car pull up. I’d made a call for backup and to protect myself. A man exited the car and walked toward me. “Ready?”

I nodded yes, and we went inside the building and took an elevator to the third floor. A hard kick opened the door to Pine’s office and surprised the two guards carrying shotguns. I swung my shotgun to the right, catching the first one on the left shoulder, snapping bone, pushing him against the wall. His gun hit the floor as I kicked it away. Another kick with my boot and his face turned red as blood poured from his nose and mouth and he lost consciousness. 

The second guard tried to raise his gun, but I shoved my barrel into his stomach so hard he lost his breath and stumbled back into the hall. Leveling my shotgun at him, I mouthed for him to be quiet. He nodded and dropped his gun. My partner tugged the guard’s tie off, used it to tie his hands behind him, and hung his hands over the fire hose wheel in the hallway. 

I motioned to my accomplice to follow me down the hall toward Larry Pine’s office. We stood on either side of the door, listening as the sound of laughter filtered through the door.

I nodded and leaned in to kick the door open. The door banged against the wall behind it as we stepped inside. A glance around the living room told me we had been right about the drugs. I ignored the girls sitting on the couch. The guard inside tried to charge me, but my shotgun bucked in my hands, and a slug found its way into his gut, sending him falling back to the nearest lounge chair, dead. The girls screamed and fled to the other side of the room.

Larry sat at a small table digging into a heaping plate of spaghetti. He knocked over a glass of wine as we burst into the room. He said something but my ears were still ringing from the shotgun blast. I got the gist of it—Larry was not happy.

I ordered him to stand up, and he did so without a fight. Detective Lindsay pushed Pine into the hallway, yanked his hands behind him, and cuffed him, informing him he was under arrest for the murder of Raymond Chambers and attempting to frame me. 

Officers took Chambers away, and Lindsay turned toward me. “I was sure you were guilty, but after you called, I had Benny and Lori picked up, and recovered the cash and the note you found. That convinced me you were telling the truth, and they admitted they drugged you and gave Pine your gun. Pine returned it after he killed Chambers, and Benny drove your car home. Lori followed and picked him up.”

“Thanks, Lindsay.”

As he walked away, he called out, “Until next time, St. James. Watch yourself.”

I always do.

Author Note: This short noir mystery is based on Kenneth Lawson’s continuing character, Private Investigator James St. James. Enjoy and please check out Kenneth’s blog for more James St. James mysteries.

Kenneth’s blog: http://kennethlawson.weebly.com/

Lisa Criss Griffin: Going Rogue

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Going Rogue

Lisa Criss Griffin

The inmate of cell 18 paced the perimeter of his prison walls impatiently within the forgotten wing of Science Camp #917 of District 9. He had made every effort to maintain his strength during his prolonged incarceration. Evan Mullohan’s hope of regaining any semblance of freedom had almost died, until he recognized his childhood friend Tom accompanying the new scientists brought into the camp to increase the production of the highly potent and addictive Excito-Regeneration Elixir. 

Tom Gutierrez had been an Enforcer, just like himself, until a freak lightning storm shorted out their AI units. Tom had gone missing and was assumed dead after an extensive search in the surrounding desert. Evan fought the implantation of a new, functional AI unit viciously, unwilling to surrender the return of his own thoughts to the mindless obedience the AI units imparted to their human victims. He had been thrown into this dark, dank cell while the AI specialists made repairs to the more cooperative Enforcers whose AI units had only slightly malfunctioned. 

The intoxicating ruby red liquid, ERE, was highly coveted and craved by the elitists and the leaders of the Global Cabal. It was made from elements in the blood created by incredibly cruel and inhumane torture of the human/lizard hybrid inmates of the Science Camps. The more intense the torture, the greater the intoxicating effect of the ERE. Evan still had to cover his ears to block out the spine-tingling, guttural screams drifting past his cell on a regular basis. 

Tom had come to his cell after midnight that first day, whispering to him through the cell door that he was part of an extensive clandestine rescue operation. He had asked Evan to be patient while they put their plan in action, and reassured him there was a place for him in their operation. There had already been an issue of some sort with Dr. Nutter, one of the original staff scientists, but it had been effectively managed with a plausible explanation by one of Tom’s team members. 

Dr. Nutter had also been part of the unsuccessful endeavor to implant a new AI unit in Evan. It had been a bloody battle, and somehow, Evan had lost his ability to speak during the unsuccessful surgical attempt. He now had another reason to seek revenge on the evil, sociopathic scientist. If he ever regained his freedom, Dr. Nutter would pay, and pay dearly.

The desert sun finally ended the current day in a blazing display of indescribable shades of red. Evan lay shivering in the corner of his cell. Although he wrapped himself in the thin blanket provided, he was always cold at night. He sighed and turned over on the hard, chilly floor. The quiet of the isolated wing he was lodged in was deafening. He could hear every little sound, from the skittering scratches of a multitude of rodent feet to their disembodied squeaking. Sometimes he could even hear the ominous rustle of large nocturnal cockroaches eagerly searching for food.

Evan lifted his head in surprise when he heard the soft creak of the metal gate at the entrance of the prison wing. Footsteps came down the hallway, stopping in front of his cell door. It was after midnight, and whoever this was, it was not Tom. The footsteps were different, and Tom would have called out to him by now. Individual hairs prickled, then rose across Evan’s scalp while goosebumps covered the rest of his body. His heart pounded in his chest. A key rattled in the door lock. He lay back down, every muscle in his body ready to spring into action if necessary. 

The tumblers in the heavy lock clicked. Evan closed his eyes to indiscernible slits, not realizing he was also holding his breath. The door creaked in protest as it opened. A shadowy figure stepped inside, leaving the door slightly ajar. The man pulled out a syringe and held it up, squirting a few drops of the contents out of the end of the sizable needle. The visitor stepped forward, moving stealthily towards his apparently sleeping victim. Dim moonlight from the cell window flashed across the visitor’s face before he reached Evan’s prostrate form.

Rage burst through Evan’s mind as he recognized his old nemesis, Dr. Nutter. The malevolent creature had come to finish him off in his sleep! The coward. The scientist crouched down by the still form on the unforgiving floor of the cell, poised to administer the lethal injection.

Evan’s arm shot up, grasping Dr. Nutter’s arm and throwing him off balance.

“What the…?”

A feral growl rumbled from Evan’s throat, surprising them both. The syringe rattled across the hard floor, rolling to a stop just out of reach of either man. Evan leaped on the astonished assassin, pinning Nutter on his back. The scientist panicked, his legs flailing helplessly as the former soldier pressed him firmly onto the cold, hard surface. Evan reared back slightly and treated the evil man to his specialty, a nasty right uppercut to the jaw. Nutter’s eyes rolled back in their sockets from the impact. Evan gave him one more well-placed whack in honor of his friend, Tom. 

He quickly jumped off the scientist, grabbing the syringe. He waited until his assassin’s eyes fluttered open. The malevolent scientist focused in sudden terror on the slowly descending syringe. Evan plunged it directly into the man’s bulging jugular and quickly pushed the plunger. Nutter’s face contorted in horror before his body began to convulse. Foam formed at the corners of his mouth as he struggled in vain to breathe. His body stiffened in one last, long, stiff seizure before his heart stopped beating. An eerie, wheezing sound drifted across Nutter’s purple lips as his body relaxed from his final death throe.

Evan staggered away, the syringe dangling from his fingers. He straightened as he finally caught his breath, running his free hand through his shaggy mane of hair. Leaving the syringe by the door, Evan dragged Nutter’s dead body into the corner, turned it towards the wall, and covered it with his thin, dirty blanket. He retrieved the syringe, carefully opened the creaky door, and stepped into the doorway. Evan glanced furtively in both directions before he slipped out of the cell and down the hallway.

Dr. Nutter’s living quarters were surprisingly clean and lush. Evan stripped off his filthy clothes and slipped them into a trash bag. He reveled in the delight of a long, hot shower and the therapeutic results of soap and shampoo. He trimmed his beard and shaggy mane but left his hair long so he would not be immediately recognizable. Since he was usually clean shaven with a buzz cut, the difference was impressive. Nutter was about the same size as Evan, so he chose a nice outfit from the scientist’s closet. A plate of spaghetti sat invitingly in the fridge. The thin soldier licked his lips as he ate with gusto. It was possibly the best spaghetti he had ever tasted. Evan decided to hack into the man’s computer while he cleaned up evidence of his presence.

He opened Nutter’s emails, surprised to find correspondence between General Mitchell and Dr. Nutter as the most recent entries. Mitchell, who was over District 9, reported directly to the Czar of World Region 1. Concerned, Evan began reading the email thread, growing more apprehensive as he continued to read. According to the email conversation, Nutter was working on some new liquid horror to perpetrate on his innocent victims. The correspondence revealed enough information about the concoction to cause the former soldier to growl a foul expletive out loud. 

Nutter also suspected a rebellion was afoot and mentioned both a possible adulteration of the ERE and some regressive physical changes he had recently noticed in the hybrids. Damn! Tom and his colleagues were terribly close to being outed. It would only be a matter of time before the General looked into Nutter’s accusations. He had to warn Tom! And he had to get out of this place quickly before he lost any sanity he had left.

Evan Mullohan used the computer to print out a short note explaining Nutter had to leave unexpectedly due to a pressing family issue and left it on his desk. He packed a small bag of clothes, toiletries, Nutter’s phone, laptop, car keys, and billfold. He also discovered a collection of full ERE vials and a separate small vial filled with a clear, but slightly sparkling liquid in a protective carrier, which he carefully added to his bag. Maybe they would come in handy at some point.

It was now almost four in the morning. He needed to be as far as possible from this hell hole before dawn. Evan walked back down the prison wing, tasting the rising bile in the back of his mouth as he thought about what he had to do. The cell door groaned softly as he opened it. He forced himself to approach the figure in the corner under the thin blanket. He nudged the body with his foot. Nothing. He gave it a good kick just to be sure. Nothing. 

Evan pulled the syringe from his coat pocket and rolled Nutter’s body over. The scientist’s lifeless eyes stared at the ceiling. Evan sucked in a deep breath, sliding the needle back into the man’s neck vein, and pulled the plunger backward. Dark blood filled the syringe. He removed the needle and used a thin layer of blood to write a short message on the dead man’s forehead. He waited until the blood dried before turning Nutter back on his side. Evan replaced the thin blanket and closed the cell door on his way out.

The former soldier adjusted Nutter’s hat to cover his long hair. Evan stopped momentarily to slip the syringe into a sharps container as he made his way out of the building to the parking lot. He fingered the key fob in Nutter’s coat gently, watching as the lights on a nondescript sedan lit up briefly. Evan forced himself not to run, although his heart felt like it was going to burst out of his chest. He noticed his lungs and throat tightening from his increasing anxiety. If they caught him now, he doubted he would survive. 

The door to the sedan opened easily. Evan gently slid the bag into the passenger seat, purposefully not looking up in case there were cameras that could identify him. The motor roared to life. He slowly made his way out of the parking lot, giving the sleepy guard and the ever-present camera a wave that concealed his face as he drove out of the lot and onto the main road.

The next step in his mission lay in the closest city. He was going to have to pay General Mitchell a visit, whether he wanted to or not. Ahhhh, freedom! Freedom was so precious. Evan’s forced incarceration and the return of his own ability to think and make his own choices had brought the real value of freedom home to the very depths of his being. He was willing to give his life for the future freedom of his fellow countrymen. He had to neutralize Mitchell somehow before the covert rebellion could be revealed.

It was just past dawn when he entered the city. He knew Nutter had family in this city, so the use of his credit card here would not be considered unusual. Even so, Evan had to be careful. He stopped for breakfast in a nice section of town. Nutter enjoyed a higher standard of living than most due to his sensitive position with General Mitchell, and the Czar of World Region 1. Evan would need to act the part in every way to avoid detection for as long as possible. The restaurant was not far from General Mitchell’s gated residence, so the parked car would be reasonably accessible if he needed it later. 

He finished his meal, tipped the server, and walked to a nearby park. A secluded bench with a view of a pleasant fountain tickled his fancy. Evan sat down, forming a plan in his mind and sifting through possible scenarios while he watched the water cascade in the middle of the large pool. He shivered slightly in the crisp autumn air.

Something cold and wet unexpectedly nudged his hand. Evan almost jumped out of his skin before he realized it was just a dog. The large dog had kind eyes, yet there was a pleading look to his face. Upon closer inspection, the dog looked thin and unkempt. Evan’s heart went out to the disheveled animal. He knew what it was like to be hungry and unable to stay clean. 

He had purchased a couple of muffins for a snack later in the day. He pulled one from his coat pocket, unwrapped it, and gave it to the hungry dog. The bowser ate it quickly and looked back at Evan expectantly. He scratched the animal gently behind his ears, and to the canine’s delight, forked over the other muffin. The dog licked every errant crumb from the ground, helped himself to a drink from the fountain, and returned to sit by his new friend. 

Evan’s hand unconsciously petted the dog as he found himself lost in thought once again. It finally registered that his hand was running across a collar hidden under the animal’s unkempt hair. The collar had some sort of strange-looking device built into it. Evan examined it more closely and found a name hidden on the underside of the loose collar. 

“Roth”

Roth was undoubtedly this poor dog’s name. Looking around to be sure nobody was near, Evan valiantly tried to say the dog’s name. It came out as a gravelly whisper.

“Roth?”

The animal looked up, relief flooding his big brown eyes. He stood, his tail wagging with excitement. He nudged Evan’s hand and licked it.

“Are you lost, Roth?”

Evan could have sworn the dog nodded his noble head, answering his question. He cleared his throat, feeling the strain of his harsh whispering. He had always loved dogs. It had been a very long time since he had interacted with one. Surely this sweet, lost dog was a good omen. He resumed petting Roth, who eventually lay down on the decorative bricks by Evan’s feet as he continued to ponder his alternatives.

It was mid afternoon when Evan returned to the groomers to retrieve Roth. Whatever he ended up doing about General Mitchell, he would see that Roth was properly cared for while he searched for his owner. A small bell tinkled as Evan entered the shop door. The conflicting smells of fragrant shampoo mixed with wet dog assailed his nostrils. He would be glad to get out of this place. He smiled at the young girl behind the desk.

“Is the dog I brought in ready?” he croaked hoarsely in his gravelly voice.

“Name?” The girl asked disinterestedly, smacking her gum loudly while perusing her cell phone.

“Roth.” 

“Mmmmkaaaay. Just a minute.”

The girl disappeared through a door that led to a back room. The curious aroma of wet dog and shampoo intensified and wafted into the lobby before she closed the door behind her. Evan turned around, his eyes scanning the street through the picture window. After a few minutes, he sauntered over to a large bulletin board on one of the walls. 

The cork was covered with ads for animal toys, doodads, and gewgaws. There was also an advertisement offering new puppies for sale, and a dog walking flyer. The flyer caught his eye. It covered part of a faded picture of a lost dog. He removed the aged notice of the missing animal, gasping in surprise. It was Roth alright. A much cleaner, plumper, and happier looking Roth. There was also a substantial reward for the safe return of the dog to its owner. 

The door to the grooming area opened. Evan nonchalantly stuffed the old notice into his pocket. The groomer escorted Roth around the counter, handing him the new leash attached to Roth’s collar. Roth sat down at Evan’s feet, beautifully groomed, with complete adoration pouring out of his large brown eyes as he gazed up at his benefactor.

“That is a nice, well-behaved dog, mister. He cleaned up real well. It is a good thing you finally found your dog. Looks like he could sure use some food and lots of loving.”

Evan nodded his head in agreement and paid for Roth’s grooming, leash, and a few dog treats in cash. 

“Thank you very much! Please bring your dog back in anytime!”

Evan smiled, then he and Roth were out the door in a flash. He did not want to be memorable. The former soldier fingered the faded notice in his pocket, unable to believe his luck. This wonderful dog belonged to the very man he needed to get in to see. Roth was…General Mitchell’s beloved, missing dog.

Both the man and the dog enjoyed the walk from the groomer’s shop to their destination. Colorful, errant fall leaves crunched under their feet on the brick sidewalk. Sunshine warmed the cool, crisp air, and they soon found themselves standing in front of an ornate metal gate.

The strange device embedded in Roth’s collar proved to be an electronic passkey for the gate in the high wall surrounding Mitchell’s opulent home. Evan removed the faded flyer from his pocket, his hand grazing the small vial of clear, sparkling liquid he had confiscated from Nutter’s living quarters. Dr. Nutter had aptly named his new concoction: “The Final Free Choice.” Evan stood on the General’s doorstep, his hand poised on the doorbell. Roth looked up at his rescuer, his tail wagging excitedly. Evan Mullohan pressed the doorbell button with renewed conviction and waited patiently, quite curious as to what General Mitchell’s last free decision would be.

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