Stephanie Angelea: Three Pigs and a Gypsy

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! 

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( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.) 

Three Pigs and a Gypsy 

By Stephanie Angelea 

Sometimes, the richest people in the country are the poorest. They are the ones who leave their families for the fellow man devoting their lives to people they’ve never met or shaken hands with at the corner cafe. They are the ones who are courageous and brave protecting a great nation in its many battles overseas and at home. For many, it’s a career choice. For others, there was the draft. Fighting in the deepest jungles of Vietnam, for example, four men climbed the ranks from the lowly grunt man to hold important positions, and the government listened to what they had to say without question. Three squares a day with medical and an education for a trade job was a dazzling opportunity no one could pass on, drafted or not. Uncle Sam wanted them and welcomed them with open arms, promising a bright future. A reward for their strength and loyalty. A loyalty that would soon come at a price of blood and death and neglect as the enemy advanced closer, testing the wits of entire units full of soldiers armed with machine guns and knives. The men kissed their loved ones on tattered photos and wore scarves around their necks to remember their wives or girlfriends. Death was everywhere and betrayal didn’t stray far from the barracks. No one bothered to unpack because the enemy was always near to run them out. 

“Dig deep down into that black heart of yours and find that kindness button, Hanky! You need to turn it on and show some serious love for these men so we can get the Hell outta here! By god, when we reach another safe zone, I’ll beat the shit outta you myself, you cranky bastard!” yelled John Pearltree. “Barrett and Vano both are on the verge of killin’ you and I’ve thought about it. I know you to act better!” 

“I can’t help it, I got so caught up in my investigation to find the TRUTH that I forgot to be nice and coddle everyone! The VC was on our ASS, damnit! Lt. Dandry gave them our positions with his back-alley drug deals that got him killed anyhow. It took me a while to find out who was doing what to whom!” scowled Hanky Thompson. “AND, I was trying not to DIE!” 

Captain Pearltree rolled his beady eyes and punched Inspector Thompson. He fell hard to the ground, banging his head on the concrete slab in front of his office. Blood gushed from his temple. The soldiers stopped what they were doing to rush over and watch the commotion, immediately applauding their captain. “Get up you old fool! You know we admire your ass but you get that CORNCOB OUT OR ELSE!” he laughed, angrily shaking the hand of his old friend. 

“Oorah!” the soldiers hooted, stomping their feet. 

“You made me bleed!” Hanky sneered, holding a handkerchief over the wound. 

“You’ll be all right. Ain’t nothin’ harder than your head!” John replied, patting his back. 

Their voices faded and you could hear a pin drop for the briefest moment as tears rolled down their wrinkled faces. John Pearltree, Hanky Thompson, Barrett Lee, and Vano Young warmed their cold hands over the fire barrel. Barrett’s laughter broke the silence of the alleyway between Marlee’s Juicer House and the old abandoned theatre on the corner that stood every bit of ten stories tall. 

“Shhhh, you’ll wake the others, Barrett,” John fussed. 

“Sorry. That story is still funny after all these years,” Barrett softly spoke. “Those were the good ol’ days.” 

“Yeah, at my expense,” cranked Hanky, turning to Vano. “Vano, Esther didn’t come home last night. She’s not in her box and all her stuff is still there. If she were going to move on down the block, looks like she would have taken her stuff, especially with it being so cold,” he continued. 

Vano Young was not only a brave soldier but was at one time an accomplished guitarist playing in numerous bands before he was drafted for the war. As a lone Gypsy, he took a likeness to the others right off and they to him. “I’ll ask Mark to go look for her. We’ll find her, Hanky,” he assured him. 

There they stood in all their glory wearing old jackets full of medals pinned sideways and huddling around the burn barrels watching tourists drift by the narrow eye of their dark home. It was lined with large packing boxes big enough for a body to seek shelter in and tents draped over shopping carts tied to the rusted railings of the fire escapes between the buildings. 

It was early morning and the busy streets of New York were already bustling with taxis and commuters speeding to work. Snooty couples took selfies to commemorate Memorial Day, posting videos “In honor of our soldiers who have fought and are fighting for our freedom! Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts! Let’s honor them! Share this video. Hi!” They’d wave, yelling into their rectangular device. 

“If you want to honor some veterans, there’s at least sixteen of them down this alleyway here! I’ll take you to meet them and you can honor them like in your video,” snapped a tired-looking woman holding folders and a briefcase. 

“Ughhh, bitch!” the tourists scoffed, walking away. 

“You better lose that attitude! I know people!” she screamed at them. 

“Doris, why are you causing trouble so early in the morning?” a police officer asked her, leaning against his patrol car. 

“They called me a bitch, Stan! Really! Me!” she howled. 

“Well, I have known you to be a bit grouchy without your coffee,” he replied. 

“What brings you out this way. My vets in trouble?” asked Doris, breathing into her hands. 

“We received some more complaints about them from tourists and passersby.” He hesitated to proceed. “Mr. Jacobs, the owner of these buildings, is supposed to meet me here.” 

“Sorry to interrupt but I heard my name. I’m Mr. Jacobs. I own these two buildings,” he introduced himself, handing papers to Officer Stan. “I find it odd that so many people have an interest in defending my buildings against homeless people who risked their lives so their mommies and daddies could stay home with them. I mean, it wouldn’t matter if they were veterans or not. I own the buildings and I’m not complaining about them. I haven’t heard any complaints from Marlee either.” 

“I knew my ears were burning, Ted. I saw your lanky self stroll by my window pane,” Marlee sassed. 

“Morning, Marlee. How are you?” asked Ted, kissing her hand. 

“Oh fabulous!” she replied. “Doris, I made everyone their morning fruit and veggie soup plus coffee. The soup is loaded with nutrients and should keep them hydrated and full of energy. It’s so cold out but they can warm themselves by the fires and drink coffee. I packed plenty of styrofoam cups. I also brought more burn barrels for them too and had Freddie put them out. Most of them are so old.” 

“Who are you calling old, missy!” yelled Hanky. 

Horns honked around them, and pedestrians crossing the street yelled at the drivers for not yielding to them and flicked them a bird finger. The daylight was full and the sun shined bright with warmth. Barrett, Vano, and John followed Hanky to the sidewalk, curious to know why a cop and a suit were talking to Marlee and Doris. 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean ‘old,’” Marlee laughed. 

“She made y’all some soup and coffee. It’s different fruit and veggie soup,” Doris said, organizing her papers. 

“Here you go, Hanky. It should be enough for everyone. I hate it’s cold soup again but it’s all I had. Fruits and veggies are becoming so scarce and expensive,” sighed Marlee. “I also made you all some morning coffee. It’s organic coffee but should help warm your core.” 

“Don’t worry your pretty little head about that. We are all grateful to eat and drink something hot. Only a few of us are awake but I want to thank you from the bottom of the heart for all of us,” said John. 

He graciously hugged Marlee and handed the soup baskets and thermos canisters of coffee to Barrett, who distributed them out to each living station, waking the occupants. 

“Miss Marlee, we will surely return all these empties tomorrow,” Vano assured her. 

“I know, sweetie. I know.” She petted him, Vano being her favorite, both being Gypsies and all. Vano would catch her watching him in the alleyway when he played his guitar, and he didn’t mind because he fancied her too. 

Doris pulled Vano aside showing him some of her papers. “I need to get more data on some in your group to put into my system so I can find shelters and apartments for everyone to go to. This data is so vital in keeping up with everyone. Is Esther and Amanda still asleep or have they already made out?” Doris asked. 

“Amanda is up but Esther didn’t come home last night. I sent Mark to look for her,” replied Vano. 

“Did I hear you mention Esther?” asked Officer Stan. “She’s actually why I’m here. I came to let you know she was killed by a car late last night. I don’t know if she was headed here or what, but she missed the curb and fell into the street. A speeding car wasn’t able to stop in time. I came to see if one of you would accompany me to the morgue for identification and so that I can give you her belongings.” 

Everyone gasped and tears began to run down Doris and Marlee’s cheeks. 

“Oh no! Poor woman,” Mr. Jacobs exclaimed. 

“The ME said it was quick so hopefully she didn’t feel anything too much,” stated Officer Stan.

“I’ll go with you,” exclaimed Vano. 

“I’ve got to get back. Denise will have my hide if I leave her alone with the customers too long. She tends to fuss at them,” Marlee snickered. 

Marlee Campbell was a spirit-filled Gypsy woman who owned her Juicer business for eleven years now, renting from Mr. Ted Jacobs. Her health declined back in 2016, so she decided to get healthy and go raw vegan with a few secret cooked meals of healthy choices. Every day, with the help of Denise, Marlee made fruit and veggie soup for the homeless veterans and coffee. Many begged to live between the two buildings but there was no more room, but Marlee and Denise would still help those who could make it to them for food and coffee. One time a day was all they could do and everyone was always grateful. At nights, the soup kitchen down the block served hot soup and cornbread, staying open for a couple of hours after Marlee’s Juicer House closed, but they were not as nice as Marlee and Denise who were always kind. 

“Marlee, may I join you?” Doris asked. “Do you have the Zinger made yet? I love that breakfast Juicer. It’s my favorite.” 

“Yes ma’am, I sure do! Come on in,” Marlee excitedly invited her. 

“Suck up!” Officer Stan hollered at Doris as he escorted Vano to the front seat of his patrol car. 

Doris laughed at him and stuck her tongue out. 

“Officer Stan, if it’s ok, I’d like to stay and talk with the veterans for a while,” Ted pleaded. 

“Sure, come by the station when you’re done,” Officer Stan replied. 

Officer Stan hustled his car into the busy streets and a couple of truck drivers urged him on ahead. No one wanted to upset a policeman. 

“Hi, my name is Mr. Jacobs. What’re your names?” he asked. 

Hanky was the first to respond. “I’m Hanky Thompson. This is Barrett Lee. This is John Pearltree. Vano Young is the veteran who went with Officer Stan. I don’t know his last name. I’ve just always heard him called Officer Stan,” Hanky continued, while everyone shook hands with Mr. Jacobs. 

“How did y’all end up here?” asked Mr. Jacobs. 


“It’s a long story, but my wife took everything I had worked for and left me for my brother. John’s family moved away and left him stranded—he’s not heard from them since. Barrett’s bunch was killed by a car bomb in front of the patio where they dined—he never recovered from it when we returned home from the war, and Vano is a lone Gypsy who kind-of took a shine to us in the war, and we’ve not been able to shake that guitar playing fool yet,” Hanky laughed. “We were all MPs but when we retired and returned home, there wasn’t much left for us here. We weren’t exactly welcomed back with open arms with a job lined up or families to come home to. Since we were police veterans, a lot of the pedestrian hoodlums called us pigs and yelled hateful stuff. They still do sometimes but we’ve been homeless for so many years now, it doesn’t bother us,” he continued. 

“My father was Derrick Jacobs. He was homeless before he married my mother and she helped him learn a trade. It was the best time in his life when he saw her beautiful smile for the first time,” Ted reminisced. 

“He was lucky to have come across her. Is he still alive?” asked John. 

“No sir. He died many years ago but he bought these buildings when he retired from stock trading. I inherited them from him,” Ted went on. “I do know that I want to help all of you, if you will allow me to.” 

“What are you going to do with this building, Mr. Ted?” asked Hanky. 

“Well, seeing that many of you on these blocks need a place to stay and Marlee’s building floors sit vacant—I know she needs help—why don’t we turn it into a shelter for all of you to manage under the supervision of one of y’all, and everyone can work together and help Marlee and Denise,” Ted excitedly offered. 

“Are you sure? It’ll be a great upfront expense,” stated Barrett. 

“I know exactly how we can generate an income so everyone can pay for themselves and maintain the upkeep of the two buildings,” John responded. 

“How in the Sam Hill are we gonna manage that!” Hanky barked. 

“He has no faith in anything. He’s a grumpy old fool! Ignore his ass!” joked John. 

“Here is my card. You get with Officer Stan and y’all let me know what all you need and we will go from there. Here is the extra set of keys I’m entrusting y’all with, and also let Marlee know what’s going on and help tend to what she needs, if that’s all right with y’all,” Ted said, giving John the keys. 

“You trust us with the keys to your building? asked Barrett. 

“It’s not like you’re going to steal it and there are at least three people who have basically vouched for you—a cop, a Juicer owner, and a government caseworker. I don’t think I need any better references than that,” Ted Jacobs laughed. “I’ve gotta run. I’m late for a meeting. I also have three more empty buildings over the next few blocks, if you would like to set those up for people and get them off the streets.” 

“Bless you Mr. Ted. How will we ever repay you?” Hanky asked, tearing up. 

“Make sure everyone is taken care of, follow your friend’s plan and trust in him, and everything will repay itself,” Ted replied, shaking their hands and disappearing into the street filled with cars, utility vehicles, and angry New Yorkers. 

Six months later: 

Spring arrived and the warmth of the evening breeze carried the scents of Jasmine and Lilies throughout the city streets. Everywhere you looked, the mood of the temperamental travelers changed as they stopped to smell the flowers blooming in the window planters outside Marlee’s Juicer House, which had closed early for the evening to celebrate the after-wedding reception next door. The patio furniture was painted white, with turquoise centerpieces on the table and an archway of red roses decorated the doorway. Barrett strung some patio lights of twinkle stars earlier in the day. 

The beauty inside the old dilapidated building from its transformation was remarkable with the first floor sporting a vegan store of microgreens, fruits and veggies, plus herbs to homemade soaps and body bars like you would buy in the country at their Spring Festivals. The rest of the floors were renovated and painted a more homey color with everyone pitching in with specific duties, making it a wonderful sleeping/communal living area. The rooftop connected to Marlee’s Juice House and both were turned into luscious gardens for the stores below. Never again would there be a shortage of fruits and veggies for their soups, nor would the coffee pot have time to empty before a fresh pot was made. 

Out of the ruins, came the gardens. Out of animosity, came love and friendship. A piece of the country that four friends brought together from stubbornness and an agricultural knowledge that only three pigs and a Gypsy could have. 

“Stan, you got yourself a handful with Miss Doris but she’s a keeper!” Ted remarked jumping up on the corner curb. 

“Yes siree, I know that for sure,” Officer Stan replied, as he danced and kissed his beautiful new bride under the starry lights. 

“By golly, I am truly amazed at what you’ve done with the place. Both of them. They definitely needed a facelift. I’m just envious too at the profit you’re turning out of it with the nature store! Kudos!” said Ted, shaking the hands of John, Barrett, and Hanky. “In a million years, I never would have guessed something like this would do so well. Awesome job guys,” he continued. 

“Thank you, Mr. Ted. Everyone pitched in and we are all employed here making the products from scratch, and we’ve shown everyone how we learned to grow food in Vietnam. The other buildings you have up the block are of the same setup. They are doing well too. Those who live in Marlee’s building help her and Denise, so that’s a huge load off Miss Marlee and she is in better health,” said John proudly. “She and Vano will wed next month.” 

“Awww, yes. The sly bugger is serenading her on the far patio with my mom’s favorite song from Gypsy Kings—Djobi Djoba. A beautiful love song,” Ted said, humming its words and grabbing the arms of a pretty blonde and spinning her around the crosswalk. 

Laughter filled the corner blocks of New York’s busy streets where the restaurant chefs raced each morning to buy the fresh produce and herbs for their daily menus. The city life finally took a shine to them, including the tourists who came from all over to see the old veterans and the others who were homeless, featuring them in their videos like part of the family and gave them hugs every day. They were homeless veterans who were stripped of their families long ago, but the faith of a few brought them new ones.

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Please visit Stephanie on Facebook! 
https://www.facebook.com/tjdsam

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Dr. Paul’s Family Talk: Caroline Giammanco

“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” Impact Radio USA

While Impact Radio USA’s “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” program is on vacation, let’s listen to some of our member’s interviews from past shows.

Join host and WU! admin, Paul W. Reeves as he talks with author Caroline Gimmanco from a show broadcasts on June 13, 2018.

Click to listen to the podcast of the radio show interview:  https://pod.co/impact-radio-usa/author-caroline-giammanco-6-13-18

Author CAROLINE GIAMMANCO, called in from Missouri to discuss her previous releases, Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit and Guilty Hearts, as well as her upcoming release, “Inside the Fences”.

From her Amazon page: Caroline Giammanco grew up on a farm in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri. After high school, she attended the University of Arizona in Tucson, earning a Bachelor of Arts in political science. She later completed the post-baccalaureate education program at the University of Arizona. She has taught English in public schools for over twenty years in Arizona, New Mexico and now Missouri. She is the English Department Chairperson at her current high school. She is the mother of two sons, Rick and Kevin, and is active in the lives of Keith’s children, Marissa and Elise. Caroline and Keith plan on living on a small farm in rural Missouri upon his release.

Since this interview, Caroline has published a third book, Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower. The story of her years as a teacher in a state correctional facility, the book reveals the corruption within the fences from both inmate and staff.

​To learn more about Caroline Giammanco and to order her books, please visit the following website: https://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Giammanco/e/B017KQZRU4/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Caroline invites you to visit her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BoonieHatBandit/

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Host Paul Reeves

A product of the Detroit area, Wayne State University, and Eastern Michigan University, Paul Reeves, Ed.D, has spent over 30 years as a professional educator and musician, as well as his work as a radio talk show host and author.

IMPACT RADIO USA provides the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Launched in the spring of 2017, their goal is to keep you as the most informed Internet Radio audience. Click on the link below for the station’s complete show lineup!

http://www.impactradiousa.com
(click on the LISTEN NOW button)

Calliope Njo: The Red Rose

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! 

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( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.) 

The Red Rose

By Calliope Njo

Good grief, that red light always took half a century. Wasn’t somebody assigned to manage these things? God, I hated this. Change already. I had to go downtown to pick up something Grisham Graham sent me.

It’s about damn time it changed. Aliens could have invaded the planet and I still would have been waiting for that light to turn green. A space opened up right in front of the post office. I couldn’t get any luckier. I took care of the parking meter with enough time to pick up that mysterious package.

I had to wait in line of course. I never even heard of a Grisham Graham. I had no idea if he existed, turned out to be a prince from another country or even a two-headed alien. Mom and Dad didn’t mention anyone by that name, not even any uncles or grandfathers. None of the five cousins went by that name. Mom traveled to every major city in the universe. She had at least ten stories for every place she visited and made sure I learned them all. Not one of them mentioned anyone named Grisham Graham.

I made it up front and gave a man that pink slip they left in my mailbox. The postman at the front counter came back with a box with my name and address on it. How? OK, stupid question, but I never met whoever this person is or was.

I got home and changed clothes. “Alexa, play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.”

It started and I had a chance to look at it. Old writing, it had to be calligraphy. Not a problem with a computer. I doubted it was by hand. Who still did that?

The brown paper wrapping came off with a pair of sharp scissors. I used a knife to cut the box open. Two big scrolls in it and nothing else. No letter, computer, box, mis-sent snake, or anything.

The more I opened one scroll, the more a map showed itself. Nothing like I ever saw before with counted steps and sun direction. An address that couldn’t have been real: 133/4 Main and B Sharp Street. No such address existed in this city and I’ve been here since I finished grad school fifteen years ago. I put that aside.

“Alexa, go to Grub Hub and order a pastrami sandwich with Swiss cheese and deli mustard on marble rye.”

I needed the extra fuel to help give me energy to figure it out. I opened the other scroll and it was one long-ass letter. I didn’t know how else to think of it. From the very top to bottom, from the left edge to the right edge was covered. I started to rethink my original thought of how it was written. No printer I knew would be able to fit paper that thick or that long. I stood five foot five and it reached from my head to my feet, as thick as lasagna pasta.

I started thinking about food. I needed my food.

Saved by the bell. I got up and got my sandwich. It never tasted so good. Mom would tell me I ate like a pig and should eat like a little lady. Sorry, Mom, you got me instead. A lady? No. A female human? Yes.

The sun still shone through the window when I started reading it. It was about to set when I finished and oh my God. Granted, whoever this was, could have lied to me but if this was indeed handwritten, that was an awful lot of trouble to go through for a scam. Yeah, I might’ve been naive for that thought but something about it… I don’t know. It seemed too real to be phony.

My day off and I had to be at work the next day. I didn’t have time to travel to Palm Beach to talk to Mom and back. I fluttered my lips. The only other option was to Skype. That way I saw her face as I read her the letter.

“Alexa, Skype Mom.” I waited.

She appeared on the screen. “Hi, Baby. Ready to vacay in Palm Beach? Us women need to spend as much time as possible together. We haven’t done anything this month. I’m wait—”

“Mom, I gotta work.” I held up the letter in front of me. “Who is Grisham Graham?”

She turned and glanced over her shoulder. “I think your dad needs my attention. We’ll chat again.” She disconnected me.

Sugar, I got voicemail when I tried to call her on my tablet. Something happened, and it spooked her. I decided to talk to her about that later.

I spent the rest of the night studying that map until I turned cross-eyed and went to bed. 

The letter lay on my desk for safekeeping to focus on later. I reviewed the map and followed the instructions.

After further review, a stop into a little toy store I never realized existed. An adorable place filled with dolls and trains. The guy at the front counter would lead the way. I chuckled at the memory of the description of a man with a shiny head that stood six heads high. I cleared my throat. “The road is not golden for it is well traveled. Every sun shines on each of the stepstones.” I used the better part of the morning memorizing that passage.

“For every stepstone is a path to the knowledge we all seek.” He walked out from behind the counter and grabbed my hand. I wasn’t a kid so my hand didn’t need to be held. Since I didn’t know where to go, if he showed me the way I would’ve followed.

He led me through a storage room all the way to the back wall. The coffee-shop-sized store had a large enough storage room to fit a Brownstone.

We stopped in front of another door. “It is through this door another journey begins as the path we sought has now been found.” He didn’t use a key, but a series of buttons and levers to be done in a particular order. The door opened. “That is 133/4 Main and B Sharp Street.”

I stepped through to look but he closed the door behind me. It vanished as in it didn’t exist anymore. Shiny black stones led the way to a door.

The grains in the dark wood had separated. Something coated it to make it shine but not only on the surface, deep enough to coat every grain down to the core of that dark wood. What caught my eye was the giant red rose on the door.

I looked at the map again. “The Red Rose Archives. Where all things have answers.”

I rolled it up, and as I hit against my leg for being dumb about not bringing a backpack, the doors opened. Wall, upon wall, upon wall of books and scrolls. I wore my Nikes, but they sounded like I wore heels instead. It sounded weird, but I looked down and they changed to boots.

My t-shirt and jeans changed to a white long-sleeved blouse, brown pants, and a hooded cape. I wanted to run out of there but nowhere to go and no one to show me the way home. Things got too weird. That interest in finding what this was all about vanished.

A circle of tables appeared out of nowhere around me. To say this got freaky was an understatement. “Will somebody please stop with the parlor tricks?”

“Hattie Marigold Matthews. Yes?” a woman asked.

I turned around and a little old lady from Pasadena stared right at me. “Yes?” I hated my name and vowed to one day change it to anything else.

“Oh, come now. Surely you expected this. We will discuss that at a later time because first there is one important question you have to answer. Who sent you here?”

“Uh…Grisham. Uhm…Grisham Graham.” I felt like one of my kids who got caught with their cell phones on.

She nodded and wrote something down. It seemed to take a moment for her to finish. I expected a ticking clock but it never did. Somewhere a cuckoo clock cuckooed nine times.

“I am Sally.” She rolled up the paper and stood from the table. “If we need more questions clarified, we will let you know. In the interim, make yourself comfortable. This is the information ward. The second floor is the important information ward. The third floor is the critical information ward. The fourth floor is the Keepers’ ward. Basement levels one and two hold top secret information only accessible to certain people.” Sally held out another scroll. I wondered if they had computers. “This is your detailed list of items you require, supplies already in store for you, your daily schedule, and your assigned quarters.”

I took the scroll from her. As soon as I grabbed it, she vanished. “Yeah but what if I have a question? Who is this asshole Grisham Graham, anyway?”

I bit my tongue and dropped my head. A fine teacher you are. “I’m sorry. I’m frustrated and confused.”

I turned around intending to find a window. Instead, a hand scrambled across the floor.

“Grisham Graham. Grisham Graham.” It stopped in the middle of the floor tapping its fingers. “Yes. Yes. Yes.” It hopped in the air. “Male. In hiding. Mysterious affairs.” It disappeared into parts unknown after that.

I found that window. Lush green grass went on forever outside the building. What did I get myself into? How do I explain this to everyone? OK, only Mom, but I did not understand what any of this was or even how I ended up with all these scrolls.

Maybe that red light started all of this and that’s how it got its pleasure. A computer would have made this a lot easier. Again with the big and long scrolls.

“I don’t suppose you have coffee. I didn’t see it listed.” I took a quick look around and didn’t notice any pots.

“Would you prefer a little cream with a little sweetness?” a male asked.

It was new. I put down the scroll and stared into the green eyes of a man that held a yellow mug with steam rising. The aroma of coffee arose.

“Oh. Thank you.” I grabbed it with my stainless steel hands and blew on it before I took a sip. “Black is fine. Thank you. Who are you?”

“Hmm. Perhaps I should have expected this. I am Grisham Graham.” He bowed.

Something dropped and broke that caused my foot to get warm. “So… So much for the alien idea.”

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Please visit Calliope’s blog: https://calliopenjosstories.home.blog

Tanja Cilia: The Stranger at the Crossroads

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! 

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( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.) 

The Stranger at the Crossroads

By Tanja Cilia

You know what they say about truth being stranger than fiction? Well, you can believe it’s true.

So there I was, convalescing in Rome, reading Murder on the Orient Express, while on one of those buses that have the middle like an accordion so they can go around corners. Bendy buses, I think they call them.

I was thinking that this would have been the ideal vehicle on which to kill someone — you just sit at the back, with a potential victim, when all the people are in the front half, and do the deed. Then you alight from the door serving the hind part of the vehicle, and Bob’s your uncle.

And then it happened. You know how in another book — or was it another film? — Miss Marple saw a man strangle a woman on another train, and since a body was not found the police assumed she was rambling, what with being old and all? We were just nearing Le Quattro Fontane (the Four Fountains) — that group of four Late Renaissance fountains located at the intersection of Via delle Quattro Fontane and Via del Quirinale, the most famous crossroads of the world — or so the Italians say.

Well — I happened to look out of the window and I saw a bus coming the other way, and — suddenly — I saw a woman stand up, thump a man on the head with what looked like a frying pan, and then she just rolled him out of the emergency door. I gasped and followed the body with my eyes.

Suddenly, from behind the sill of the Fountain of Diana (the only one of the four, as I recall, designed by the painter and architect Pietro da Cortona, for the rest were the work of the fortuitously-named Domenico Fontana), up jumped a man dressed in black from head to toe. He sneezed, and put his little fingers to his lips — I am assuming he whistled in that shrill chav way I hate so much. A Black Maria-like car drew up, the driver hopped out, and together they half-pulled, half-lifted the man into the back. Hecate would have been proud of them.

Our bus rounded a corner — I rang the bell but the driver did not stop. I ran to the front of the bus, but I could not make the driver understand what I wanted him to do. My Italian is patchy at the best of times, and he kept saying something like “Espresso, diretta, non posso fermarmi.” I couldn’t have cared less about his offer of coffee when we got to the terminus — I just wanted him to stop, so I said “Polizia,” and he said something that sounded like “My my my!” and I thought he was telling me I was making a fuss.

Of course, the nuns at the Convent of Saint Elisabeth, at whom I was staying, saw how shaken I was, and they understood what I was saying because a couple of them spoke almost perfect English. They explained that I had inadvertently caught the direct line that did not stop. What the driver had really said was “Mai!” which means “never.”

So they drove me to the police station where I made a report about what I had seen. They found the body a week later, when they dredged the section of the Tiber nearest the place I indicated, weighted and dumped. Later on, the full story was splashed across the papers, on all three RAI television stations and on the Mediaset ones too. The woman was an Albanian hooker, and the man she attacked had been her pimp. The man at the crossroad was her boyfriend — an ex-client who wanted to give her a better life and had hatched the plan. The pimp had been threatening to have her deported, because she was not earning him enough money, and she did not want to go back home.

I had to stay in Italy longer than I planned, but since I was a key witness I was given free board and lodging for the extra fortnight I remained; and of course, my Italian improved no end, in that short period. For a time, I was quite the media star.

This is weird, considering that I am a Maltese nun.

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Please visit Tanja on her blog: https://paperjacketblog.wordpress.com/

Alfred Warren Smith – The Apple’s Core

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! 

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( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.) 

The Apple’s Core

By Alfred Warren Smith

All the way there, the subway car clattering and rumbling, making everyone standing sway a bit drunkenly, Al struggled with his emotions. He’d been gone so long and so much of what he knew, the places he’d haunted and came to know and love, were gone, closed, or about to close.

The city of his youth was gone, relegated to history like ancient tombs and temples under the desert sands.

Welcome home, Ozymandias.

Well, how about Oz, for shorter. Oz was short.

No dude, Oz wasn’t the wizard. It was the name of the place. Like Frankenstein? It’s the name of the doctor, not the monster. 

The train mercifully came to his stop, forcing him to shut down the stupid word association. He got off and just went to the nearest staircase, ignoring the signs that would have put him closer to where he wanted to go.

The fragrances of filed steel, perfumes, sweat, breath, and desperation clung to him like warring auras and followed him outside.

There was a time he loved it all.

He emerged from the station, breathing deep, eyes adjusting to the sunlight, taking in the scene before him: human zip lines still walked at a frenetic pace, as if the sidewalks would disappear if they took too long to get to the next block.

He took in the street view, a concrete canyon filled with high caves of glass and steel, glinting in the sun when the clouds passed.

He was grateful for the shade, even in intervals.

All the nations of the world were here, and he tried not to get too distracted by the skirts, sundresses, and top-button-loosed blouses on the smartly made-up, vibrant women of those nations that walked with determined purpose, on their way to make that purpose known.

He took another look around. This was a city where an impromptu concert or a gunfight could break out any second.

Smiling, he’d had a destination in mind when he got here, but he’d forgotten where it was and why he needed to be there.

Fading away, just like the old haunts…

Stepping out into the flow and rhythm of the street, he was glad that even though all he knew and loved about the place was in the past, and he would walk these long blocks slower than ever before, the vibrancy of the place was still infectious, and he began to hum a medley of songs about the city he’d once called home.

He could leave it behind all he wanted, but he knew in his heart’s core, it would never leave him.

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Please visit Alfred’s blog at https://mywritemind.press/

Paula Shablo: Those Among Us

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! 

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Those Among Us

By Paula Shablo

Some days are harder than others, but the general rule is, they’re all hard enough.

What matters is, I have to work. I have bills to pay and kids to feed, and so I get up each morning and shower and dress. After I gather my things, I take a deep breath and leave my apartment.

Stella, my oldest, is very responsible at 14, and gets the younger kids up and ready for school since I have to leave so early. Thank goodness the bus stops for them so close to our place! I have a lot to worry about, and that is a blessing. They barely have to walk half a block.

I walk three blocks to the underground and take the subway. Until Jim died, I enjoyed the walk, and I enjoyed the subway ride. I would settle into a seat and read until my stop was called.

I can no longer relax enough to read, although I still open a book and hold it in front of my face. Behind the barrier of pages, my eyes dart around the car, trying to discern the living commuters from those among us who should have moved on, but haven’t.

Until Jim died, I was unaware of those among us. Now I see them everywhere. The city is full of them.

They make me nervous.

The first I saw was Jim, of course, but he quickly moved on. It seemed he was only there to say goodbye, and that’s fine with me. He was killed by a drunk driver, but it was never in him to hold a grudge, and so moving on must have been an easy thing for him. I’m grateful he took the time to wave and blow me a kiss before fading away.

But, as grateful as I am for that, it seems to have been a gateway for me to see all the others who haven’t been able to leave, for whatever reason. I dearly loved my husband, but I really wish he hadn’t opened that door, because those among us are disconcerting at best and downright frightening at worst.

Most of them make their ways down crowded sidewalks, walking purposefully along, just like the living, as if they have a destination and tasks to perform. Like most city dwellers, they look straight ahead and acknowledge no one. Unlike the living, though, they don’t have to make that sudden dodging weave to avoid bumps and the occasional dance with the passerby who wants to weave in the same direction you do. They just walk right through!

Those are the disconcerting ones. Sensitive living beings react to being walked through. Humans often stop momentarily, causing those bump and tussle chain reactions you see so often. Dogs bark, or growl at thin air (as far as anyone can tell). Cats completely flip out.

I’ve gotten to where I’m okay with those who have simply kept on keeping on, so to speak. They’re just continuing with what they always did, and except for some minor disruptions, they have no ill intent.

But there are others.

This morning, I got off the subway at my stop and made my way up and out to the street.

He was there. Again. The worst of the worst.

I don’t want anything to do with this crazy piece of work, but he insists on interaction, and he gets me to engage by doing the most outrageous things.

The first time I saw him, he noticed me seeing him, and made a “watch this” gesture before snagging a dog’s leash out of its owner’s hand and dragging the poor thing into a café. A waiter chased the scared animal out onto the sidewalk, where the owner reclaimed him, insisting that he hadn’t let go of the leash, it was yanked away.

No one believed him. It was a two-pound Yorkie, after all—how hard could he yank?

Over time, I have helped an old woman pick up her scattered groceries, helped a student gather her books after her backpack strap slipped loose, and helped a man disentangle himself from the raincoat that flipped up and over his head.

Mischief, at first. But it has escalated. Two days ago he shoved a kid into the gutter. Yesterday he pushed a little girl into the traffic light pole.

I kept an eye on him, shaking with anticipation. I knew he’d do something, but I almost missed it, just the same.

I was with a group waiting to cross at the light. I’d never made it that far without him doing something. I could feel myself bouncing nervously on the balls of my feet, my heart pounding with dread. I was surrounded, and kept losing sight of him.

The light changed, and we all started to cross. I could see a taxi coming toward us, and that was when the baby carriage pushed by the woman just ahead of me lurched into the path of oncoming traffic.

I didn’t see him push it, but I saw him clapping his hands as I rushed to grab the carriage and push it back at the screaming mother just behind me.

The taxi hit me.

I never felt a thing. The mother snatched the carriage away, and the baby is safe. That was all I could focus on.

It sure hurts now. I’m hooked up to machines. I’m broken and battered.

Worst of all, I can’t move. And he’s right here. Standing in a corner of the room, just behind my children, he’s watching and grinning at me.

Whatever he decides to do next, I can’t stop him.

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Please visit Paula’s blog at https://paulashablo.wordpress.com

DR. PAUL’S FAMILY TALK: Carmen Baca

“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” Impact Radio USA

While Impact Radio USA’s “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” program is on vacation, let’s listen to some of our member’s interviews from past shows.

Join host and WU! admin, Paul W. Reeves as he talks with author Carmen Baca from a show broadcasts on October 6, 2017.

Click to listen to the podcast of the radio show interview:  https://pod.co/impact-radio-usa/author-carmen-baca-10-6-17

Author Carmen Baca, from Las Vegas, New Mexico, called in to discuss her latest release, “El Hermano”. From her Amazon page:

“El Hermano takes place during the forty days of Lent in 1928 as José and his cousins conspire to spy on one of the brotherhood’s secret rituals to see what lies ahead for them as novices. José knows his time to join the cofradías (of which his own father is Hermano Mayor) is near, but having seen Hermanos who appear to be in pain after a night spent at the morada, a meeting house and chapel, and having heard stories about those who even died in the past because of whatever went on within the sacred structure, his fear guides him to join his cousins in their clandestine scheme. Little do they know, certain New Mexican legends conspire against them; La Muerte, Saint Death, warns José to leave his future unknown, a ball of fire thought to be a witch crosses their path, and even la Llorona, ghost of the Weeping Woman, and el Diablo, the Devil make an appearance.”

Check out Carmen Baca and her terrific books! Since this interview, Carmen has published three more novels including her latest, Viajes Con Fantasmas and numerous short stories in several publications and anthologies such as Dragon Bone Soup.

Website: https://cbaca55.wixsite.com/books

Amazon: https://amzn.to/32UN7x3

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Host Paul Reeves:

A product of the Detroit area, Wayne State University, and Eastern Michigan University, Paul Reeves, Ed.D, has spent over 30 years as a professional educator and musician, as well as his work as a radio talk show host and author.

IMPACT RADIO USA provides the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Launched in the spring of 2017, their goal is to keep you as the most informed Internet Radio audience. Click on the link below for the station’s complete show lineup!

http://www.impactradiousa.com
(click on the LISTEN NOW button)

Rylee Black: Angelique’s Amore

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! 

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( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)

Angelique’s Amore

By Rylee Black

I made my way down the overcrowded sidewalk stewing that so few moved out of my path. Could they not see that I was in a hurry? Winter was in the air and I’d forgotten my coat when I’d rushed out my door that morning late for a job I despised. On top of that, my day had been arduous, my boss especially hard to get along with, and I’d left work five minutes too late to make the train and was now faced with a long walk home. I wanted nothing more than to get to my apartment, pour myself a drink, and put my feet up.

A sound, carried on a cold gust of wind ripe with smells that only exist in a big city, drew me out of my sullen thoughts. I paused in the headlong rush that was my life, to listen. All around me the cacophony of noise faded to the background as if the city itself wanted to discern what I’d heard as well.

It was in that unexpected, eerie silence that I heard the noise again. Someone was crying. More to the point, a woman was crying. But where was she? The crowd thinned for the briefest of moments allowing me to see a figure sitting on the curb, her feet inches from the rush of traffic. She was hunched over, her long raven hair forming a curtain that blocked my view of her face. It was surreal. Without even seeing her clearly, I knew she was young and beautiful. And for some unknown reason I felt certain she was the woman of my dreams. My destiny.

I shoved my way to her and lowered myself to the curb a foot or so away. Far enough away so as not to frighten her too badly, yet close enough to be heard over the noise of the city around us. I urgently hoped that my being clean cut and attired in a suit and tie would assure her I was of no threat to her safety. I gave her a couple minutes to acknowledge my presence, and when she didn’t, I softly tapped her shoulder.

She glanced up, giving me a glimpse of beautiful brown eyes, red-rimmed and brimming with tears, and full lips, all set in the face of an angel. She looked away quickly, swiping tears from her cheeks as she did.

“Please sir, leave me alone.”

A gentleman would have heeded her request. I couldn’t, I was enraptured. “Tell me what makes you so sad. Perhaps I can fix it for you.”

 “You can’t fix this,” she said on a sob. “I’ve lost mi Amore.”

Amore. That was Italian for love, and the way the accented words rolled off her tongue filled my head with visions of romantic candle-lit dinners with red wine and even redder roses. I’m ashamed to admit that my heart gave a little leap. If she’d lost her love, then perhaps I stood a chance. Though I did hope she’d not lost him to some horrible accident or despicable disease. I patted her back.

“I’m so sorry to hear that. Losing someone you love is never easy.”

She sniffled and nodded her thanks. “He was the love of my life. We’d been together for ever so long. I thought we’d have much more time.”

My heart sank. How could I pursue this beautiful woman when her heart was breaking for the one who was gone? The answer to that was that I couldn’t. But I could be a friend, and she obviously needed one of those right now. I reached over and grasped one of her chilled, trembling hands.

“Come, let me buy you a coffee. I can’t fix a broken heart, but I’ve been told I’m an excellent listener. Perhaps the way I can help would be to be a sounding board for your memories.” Shame colored my cheeks. What kind of man did it make me that I would willingly subject myself to hearing the tales of her lost love just to be able to spend more time in her presence?

I saw trepidation in her eyes, but I also saw a longing. Not for me, but for someone to talk to. I could have sworn there was a bit of interest for me mixed in that look, but deep down I knew that couldn’t be so. My heart stuttered when she withdrew her hand from mine and shook her head.

“No, it wouldn’t be right. I don’t know you. And why would you care to hear my stories?”

In desperation, I stood and held my hands out to her. “Who better to unload your heart to than a stranger who you’ll probably never see again? You’ll be free to share whatever you need to, to help you deal with your pain. All with the knowledge that there’s little chance our paths will ever cross again.”

She looked up at me through long, dark lashes for what seemed an eternity. Finally, she nodded and slipped her hands into mine. With a sigh of relief, I pulled her to her feet and tucked her hand into the crook of my arm. We talked as I led her to a nearby coffee shop. It was the hesitant chatter of the newly acquainted, but to me it felt so right. I learned her name was Angelique and told her mine was Bernard. I thrilled at the way her accent gave my long-detested name a new life.

We settled into our seats at a small table by the window, and parted ways long after the sun had set.

♡❄️♡❄️♡❄️♡

That day was the first of many we spent in each other’s company. Even though it meant a long walk home, each evening I skipped the train and headed to the spot where I’d first found her. At first it was just to meet for coffee. Then the coffee dates gradually expanded into dinners, and then to outings to see a movie or visit a museum.

At first our talks centered around her Amore as she insisted on calling him. I heard of the long walks they used to take. Of evenings spent in each other’s company watching television, sitting in front of their fireplace, or visiting family and friends. Eventually though, talk of her lost love dwindled and we got to know each other.

We talked of her love of cooking and her dream to go to school and become a world-famous chef. I learned she was the youngest of eight siblings, the only girl and the apple of her papa’s eye. She told me of growing up here in the city in a tiny walk-up, all ten of them crammed into an apartment meant for a much smaller family. I reveled in the joy and pride she emanated when she told me how her father’s hard work had paid off and he’d been able to open his own restaurant the year she’d graduated high school. It was through him and her mama that she’d learned her love of the culinary arts.

I told her of my ordinary upbringing in a small town with just me, my younger brother, and my parents. How I’d watched my father toil day in and day out at a job he detested and how I believed that was what had driven him to an early grave. With shame, I told her that even though I’d vowed I would never do what he’d done, that I’d come to the city only to take the first job offered simply to escape the stifling confines of the town of my youth. Falling into the same patterns my father had, only without the wife and children. I told her how I envied her dreams and her goals because I felt I was trapped in a cycle I saw no means of escaping. I confessed to her that my dreary existence had ended the day I’d met her and how now my life was one of hope and happiness.

It was on the day the first snowflakes of winter were drifting dreamily to the ground that it happened. The moment I’d dreaded might come to pass from the first when she’d told me her Amore had simply left one day and never returned. For who in their right mind would simply walk away from such an amazing woman?

I’d spotted her long before she spotted me. I watched as she stood by the curb, clutched her coat around her, and lifted her face to catch a snowflake on her tongue. I knew in that minute, that very second, that I was hopelessly in love with my beautiful Angelique.

 As I grew near, I knew the very instant she’d spotted me. Her face lit up and she sprinted toward me, her arms wide. “Oh, mi Amore, you’ve returned!”

I was a little taken aback by her greeting, but I also knew that amore was a term of endearment. A part of me was upset that she would choose to call me what she’d called him. But a bigger part of me was pleased that I’d earned that place in her heart. I grinned and spread my arms to receive what looked like would be an enthusiastic and fulfilling embrace. I could almost feel her lush body pressed to mine. Taste those full, red lips again. So, it was quite a shock when she swept right past me. With a heavy heart, I turned to see who the lucky recipient was.

As she swept her Amore into her arms, I took in his lush dark hair and the excitement in his eyes. I watched as he placed kiss after kiss on her lovely face and she on his. But even with all that, my heart sang and joy bubbled up inside. For you see my true love’s Amore had floppy ears, a big wet nose, and a long tail that beat the air with his delight. Angelique’s Amore, her one true love, was a dog. A big goofy dog who in taking his foray into the city had enabled me to meet my own one true love.

She turned to me, her face alight with happiness. “Come Bernard. Come meet mi Amore.”

With a light heart, I knelt on the dirty city sidewalk to meet my true love’s Amore.

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Please visit Rylee Black on her website: https://www.ryleeblackbooks.com/

D. A. Ratliff: High-Heeled Justice

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! 

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( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)

High-Heeled Justice

By D. A. Ratliff

Tap. Tap. Tap. 

The staccato click of four-inch high heels striking marble trailed behind her as she negotiated her way through the crowded courthouse hall. She chuckled as she ducked under a man’s arm, his palm pressed against the wood-paneled wall, oblivious to her presence. Even with four-inch heels which barely made her five-four, she was often overlooked.

A bailiff opened the heavy wood door for her, and Stella Sinclair, assistant district attorney for the New York County District of State Court stepped into the courtroom. 

Visitors, mostly gawkers, drawn by the salacious nature of the case were crammed into the gallery. A glance at the tables on the other side of the polished mahogany bar revealed the defense team was present. Ronald Walker and Rosario Mendez. As they sat on either side of their client, heads tilted in conversation, she recalled the horror stories she heard from prosecutors who had gone up against the formidable pair. One seasoned ADA’s hands shook as he recalled a case he tried against them.

Stella took a deep breath. The dynamic duo didn’t scare her as much as the ADA she was trying the case with, Jamison O’Donald, Executive Assistant District Attorney and Chief of the Trial Division. A legend in his own mind and he didn’t mind telling anyone he met what he thought about himself. 

At the desk, he spoke without looking up. “You’re late.”

Heart pounding, she was determined not to allow him to rattle her. “It’s one minute before nine and I was ordered by you to pick up this file at eight fifty-three. I believe I made great time.” 

O’Donald opened his mouth to respond but the bailiff called the court to order, saving her. After the judge declared the court in session, O’Donald continued his cross-examination of a forensic expert hired by the defense. The questioning was tedious as O’Donald chipped away at the expert’s disputes with the police forensic unit and what little evidence had been discovered. She had to admit her partner was good. The expert was squirming. 

Listening to the testimony, she took official notes, also jotting down a few of O’Donald’s better lines. Never knew when his tactics could come in handy despite the fact that she resented him. She had tried to talk to him many times about the direction of the case but he had brushed her opinions away.

As she wrote, she felt exposed as if someone was watching her every move. She didn’t have to look to know who — the defendant, Lennar Cole. She shifted in her seat and glanced toward the defense table. As he had done each day of the trial, he was staring at her. His eyes brimming with lust. Always a crooked grin as if he knew something no one else knew. 

What she knew was that the self-purported innocence he liked to portray to the public was a lie. Just like Momma told her, a man always gives his intentions away if you just look in his eyes. Cole gave himself away. He was a killer and she knew it.

The morning droned on with O’Donald being clever and Cole being sleazy, and all she tried to do was take notes of the examination and avoid thinking about the ice-cold blue eyes staring at her. When the judge called a recess for lunch, she grabbed her billfold and, with a quick back-in-thirty to O’Donald, fled outside. 

It was early May and the day was warm and sunny. She headed for the street vendor to get a hot dog. Erica Peyton, another lowly ADA was in line and she slid in behind her. 

“Stella, hi. How’s the trial coming?”

“O’Donald has the defense’s expert witness on cross, making mincemeat of him.” 

“That boy can talk. I wouldn’t want him to prosecute me.”

“Neither would I. I don’t know. The evidence against Cole is circumstantial and the jury is enamored with him. He flashes that toothy grin at them and looks so innocent.”

“My money is on O’Donald. He doesn’t try the worst violent crimes for nothing.”

Stella felt a chill spread through her bones. She had her doubts.

The afternoon droned on as the forensic expert remained on the stand. O’Donald was methodically destroying the expert and, with each question, he was becoming more pompous.

At three in the afternoon, when the cross-exam and redirect were complete, the judge called a recess for the day. She and O’Donald shared a cab back to the DA’s office and once there she headed for her cubicle.

She slipped off the red patent leather heels and flexed her toes. Her suit might be black but she never failed to make a statement with her shoes. She was about to start typing her notes from today’s session into a daily recap she was keeping on the trial when her phone buzzed. The DA was summoning her and O’Donald to his office. She wiggled back into the heels and headed to the executive staff suite. 

Roger Pettigrew had been elected to three terms as the District Attorney for New York County and no one expected him to lose the upcoming election. His assistant motioned her to go in, and she proceeded down the private hall toward the office. Stella stopped at the slightly ajar office door as she heard her name mentioned. 

“Jamie, how’s Stella doing? She’s been with us for nearly a year now.”

“Smart enough, doesn’t say much. Hard to say if she’s timid or smart enough to keep her mouth shut and learn. She does pay attention and she is always prepared. Just have some reservations.”

Pettigrew responded. “I went to Harvard Law with her dad. As you know, she went to Columbia and wanted to stay here, not return to New Orleans. I promised him I would keep an eye on her from afar but not try to interfere.”

O’Donald laughed. “Since when did you stop interfering?”

They laughed and she took the opportunity to knock, and Pettigrew yelled out, Come in.” 

Smiling, DA Pettigrew motioned for her to sit. “Before we review the case, how’s your dad?”

“He’s well. Enjoying being on the bench.”

“No better man than him to wear the robes.”

“Thank you, sir.” 

Pettigrew removed a bottle of scotch from his bottom drawer. “Anyone like a drink?”

She said no and O’Donald shook his head. “No, stomach’s acting up.”

As Pettigrew poured a drink for himself, he looked at O’Donald. “Where do we stand on this case?”

“I ripped their so-called expert apart today. They have no defense. Walker is going to have to put Cole on the stand and when they do, he’s mine. I will get him to admit he killed her for her money. He was in debt.” 

Stella gripped the arm of the chair, uncertain whether to say what she thought. Her dad’s words kept echoing in her head. You remember that you have a head on your shoulders and the good sense of what is right and wrong. Don’t ever be afraid to speak up when you know you are right. 

It was time that she did.

“I beg to differ.”

O’Donald’s head snapped around and his mouth opened. She knew he was about to blow but Pettigrew stepped in. “Hold on, Jamie. Let’s see what Stella has to say.”

“The evidence we went to trial with is circumstantial. We should have…”

“Circumstantial? You should have said so in our pre-trial prep.”

“I did, Jamie, you didn’t listen.”

Pettigrew threw up his hand as O’Donald rose, his face red. “Sit down.” The DA looked at her. “Tell me what you told Jamie.”

A wave of adrenaline swept through her. If she couldn’t explain herself, she was going to lose credibility. She had to be correct.

“Amy Cole was brutally raped and murdered in her art studio on the estate. The crime scene photos show blood splattered over everything. Only rage could have driven someone to stab a victim so many times.”

O’Donald spoke, his anger evident in his controlled voice. “We have an eyewitness, the gardener, who saw him outside the studio about the time of the murder. Cole killed her.”

“I am convinced he did. But on cross-examination, Rosario Mendez got the gardener to admit he didn’t see the man’s face clearly and that he was going by the man’s body. We went to trial based on that witness and she threw reasonable doubt into the mix. The palette knife she had been stabbed with had been wiped clean, only traces of her blood on it. No fingerprints.”

“It was him.”

“I believe that too, but we have no evidence to back that up. Forensics turned up no trace of blood in the drains, the washer-dryer, the carpet, the bed linen, Cole’s clothes or shoes, or the cars. Nothing on the knife. His fingerprints were in the studio, but she had painted a portrait of him. He was her husband, he would be in the studio.”

Pettigrew rested his elbows on his desk. “You think it was wrong for us to prosecute him?”

“I think the way we have is reckless.”

The DA flashed a weak smile. “What would you have done?”

“I would have played to his weaknesses. Jamie has done a great job of establishing that Cole is an adulterer but we haven’t been able to prove Amy was upset by it. As good as his examination of her friends were, he couldn’t establish that she cared he was sleeping around. His wife was not a glamorous woman. Certainly not the type of woman that he had affairs with, but we know she knew about his escapades yet stayed married to him. But remember she had an appointment the next day with an attorney. She may have finally had enough.”

O’Donald blurted out loudly, “Not a divorce attorney.”

It was Stella’s turn to laugh. “Neither was the attorney you used in your divorce, I understand.”

The ADA’s face turned red, but once again Pettigrew stopped him. “Let her finish.”

“Our biggest problem is that the jury loves him. He makes eye contact with them, charms them into believing he is innocent. It’s the vibe he is sending to them. We needed to show him as the narcissistic bastard he is and that he had a motive to kill her. We haven’t done that.” 

She paused. Maybe she had gone too far, but too late now.

In a measured voice, Pettigrew spoke. “We based this prosecution on the fact that Cole had major gambling and business debts. With her dead, he stood to gain a huge inheritance. Enough to pay his debts off. You don’t think that is why he may have killed her.”

“No, I don’t. She hadn’t left him before so I believe, and I realize it is speculation, he had used his charm on her to keep her satisfied. I think he could calm her down and likely she would forgive him. Her friends testified to that fact. I think she finally got tired of his philandering and told him she was seeing an attorney because she was sick of him. I think he became livid about her setting an appointment with an attorney. Then they fought and he brutally raped and killed her. We needed to show the jury that this murder was about his ego, not his debt.”

O’Donald had all he could take. “You think you can sit here and second guess me? If you felt so strongly about this, why didn’t you tell me?”

“I did. Several times — you didn’t listen.”

“Enough.” Pettigrew looked at O’Donald. “What’s up next?”

“The defense has indicated that Cole wants to testify. Not sure he will.”

Stella couldn’t resist. “Not sure he has to testify.”

Looking at O’Donald, Pettigrew remarked, “We better hope he does. If he does, go after the angle Stella just gave you. The subject has been opened. See if it works.”

~ooOoo~

As it did every morning, the building roar of traffic in Manhattan woke her up. She hadn’t slept well. The scene in Pettigrew’s office kept replaying in her mind. She might have been out of line but she wanted Cole prosecuted for killing his wife. 

She clawed her way out of bed, showered, dressed and grabbed coffee, then a cab. The wakening city spun around her, new skyscrapers and buildings from the city’s past towered above the concrete sidewalks where people scurried to start their day. The thrill of living in the most important city on the planet paled to the reality that a killer might go free. Not the outcome she wanted. 

At the office, she was stowing her purse in her desk drawer when Pettigrew appeared. Her pulse quickened as she had no doubt she was off the case. 

“Stella, you better be right about Cole because you’re it today. Jamie’s in the hospital with acute appendicitis. I could have asked for a continuance under the circumstances but I am not. You have a theory about how to convict this guy. Prove it.” 

Before she could respond, the DA left. Taking a deep breath, she tried to get the involuntary trembling under control. Doing a few deep breaths, she steeled herself to her fate. Time to show what she could do.

Stella opened by stating to the judge that she was prepared to continue for the prosecution.  Rosario Mendez then called Lennar Cole to the stand. Stella watched the jury stare in rapture as the handsome Cole took the oath. Turning them around wouldn’t be easy. 

Mendez first established that Cole chose to testify in his defense, then led her client through a series of questions denying any involvement in his wife’s murder. Stella had to marvel at Cole’s skill. He was making eye contact with the jury, his voice soft, deep, almost sultry, and they were buying every lie. But she wasn’t. 

The defense did not take long, and the smugness on Mendez’s face as she said, “Your turn, Ms. Sinclair,” made her blood boil. Mendez questioned him so that he could show his respect for women. Stella knew better. No man who beds so many women has respect for anything, including himself. 

She stood, smoothing down her dark blue skirt, catching a glimpse of her purple high heels. She had one shot at this and she had to go for it. 

She led him through a few general questions about where he said he was the night of his wife’s murder. This time his eyes were on her, not the jury. Yes, just where she wanted them. 

“Mr. Cole, you didn’t love your wife, did you?”

“Of course I did. We were married eight years.”

“You were unfaithful from the beginning. We all know why you married her — she was rich.”

Walker objected but she countered. “Your honor, the defense’s own witnesses admitted that his wife knew he only married her for her money.”


The judge overruled Walker and she continued. “How many women have you slept with since your wedding day? Ten, twenty, a hundred?” She waited. “More?”

“This has nothing to do with my wife.” His voice a tad sharper, higher in pitch.

“Really. She never cared about the money you were draining from her. Money was unimportant to her. But she did love you. And time after time you rejected her.”

“I did not.” His voice was even sharper.

“But you did. Every beautiful woman you slept with was a direct insult to your wife.”

She paused and bent over to adjust the ankle strap on her right shoe. When she straightened up, she found him looking at her with the look of lust he had given her the entire trial. He was a lech and a killer.

“Remember, her best friend testified that your dead wife knew she was not as glamorous as the women you slept with. She never wore makeup, never dressed provocatively. The fact is Amy was a lovely woman but not your type. She was content to work on her art.”

“I told you. I loved my wife.”

“No, you didn’t, and she finally came to terms with it. Decided that while she might not care about the money, she did care about her own self-respect. She was done with you sleeping with other women, and what was it her friend said — you might sleep with your wife once every few months. Not how to keep a woman happy.”

“Look, I didn’t kill her. It was probably that damn gardener. It wasn’t me.”

His voice shook. He was rattled. 

“I think it was. I think you found out about her appointment with her attorney and confronted her. Her calendar was open on her office desk, the appointment clearly marked. You rushed to the studio and she told you it was over. She was done with your philandering and was going to divorce you.” She walked up to the stand. “She was tired of your lies. You finally got what you deserved and you lost it. You raped and then killed her with the only weapon you could find. A pallet knife — and in your rage, you stabbed her multiple times.”

Beads of sweat appeared on his brow and he was trembling. “I did not kill her.”

“Yes, you did and you enjoyed it.” She turned and walked toward her desk slowly, aware that his eyes were on her. At the desk, she turned and leaned against it, crossing her legs at the ankle. “You killed her because she wasn’t glamorous and she had rejected you.”

His face red, Cole gripped the wooden bar on the witness stand. “You’re damn right I killed the bitch. Buried my bloody clothes, and hosed off the bitch’s blood before I even went back in the house. No trace. I’d put up with her looks and her doling out money to me like it was an allowance. I was the best thing that ever happened to her and she’s going to divorce me. I gave her one last thrill, then killed her and she deserved it.” He rushed off the witness stand, heading for Stella. A bailiff tackled him before he reached her.

The courtroom erupted into chaos, the judge pounding his gavel. “Bailiff, take this man into custody. This court is in recess for thirty minutes. I want the defense counsel and Ms. Sinclair in my chambers in five minutes.”

“Well done.”

She spun around to find DA Pettigrew standing next to her. “Thank you.” 

He walked her to the corridor. “You handled that very well. Jamie isn’t going to like being wrong but I think he’ll get over it. When you’re done here, come see me in my office. I think a drink is in order.”

“I will.” 

She turned in the direction of the judge’s chambers, smiling as her shoes clicked on the floor. Her high heels got her what she wanted — justice.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

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Please visit D. A. Ratliff’s blog at https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/

DR. PAUL’S FAMILY TALK: Kimberly Love

“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” Impact Radio USA

While Impact Radio USA’s “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” program is on vacation, let’s listen to some of our member’s interviews from past shows.

Join host and WU! admin, Paul W. Reeves as he talks with author, editor, and radio host Kimberly Love from a show on 9-27-18.

Click to listen to the podcast of the radio show interview: https://pod.co/impact-radio-usa/author-kim-love-9-27-18

Kim also host her own radio show, “Crushing 40”, live on Thursday at 2:00 pm EDT

(repeated seven days a week at 2:00 pm EDT)

To hear “Crushing 40” and other great shows in Impact Radio USA go to:
https://www.impactradiousa.com Click on LISTEN NOW!

Kimberly Love, an author from Windsor, Ontario, called in to discuss her latest release, “You Taste Like Whiskey and Sunshine”, as well as her upcoming projects and the creative process.

From her Amazon page, “WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK AWESOME? There’s an evil queen, a demented father, some amateur boxing and a trailer park story. Even a silver fox makes an appearance. Why wouldn’t that entice you? If you are looking for something different from the rest of the books out there, something that might make you question your sanity then you will love this book. Seriously!

The comedic and sassy perspective will make you see things differently, and you may even find yourself laughing out loud. It’s a good story and one that I truly believe needs to be told. Period. It’s dark, raw and takes you to a door that keeps all my innermost secrets. I hope that the book makes you laugh, makes you cry, and inspires you to be the best version of yourself.”

To learn more about Kimberly Love and to order her book, please visit her website at:

https://www.kimmilove.com

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Host Paul Reeves:

A product of the Detroit area, Wayne State University, and Eastern Michigan University, Paul Reeves, Ed.D, has spent over 30 years as a professional educator and musician, as well as his work as a radio talk show host and author.

IMPACT RADIO USA provides the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Launched in the spring of 2017, their goal is to keep you as the most informed Internet Radio audience. Click on the link below for the station’s complete show lineup!

http://www.impactradiousa.com
(click on the LISTEN NOW button)