Category Archives: Writing

Lynn Miclea: Shimmer

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 are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Steve Bidmead of Pixabay.

Shimmer

Lynn Miclea

Ryan laughed and punched Scott affectionately on the arm as they trudged along the beach, their feet sinking into the soft sand. Getting away for the day and going to the beach was the best idea. And going with his best friend was even better. Now fifteen years old, they had been best friends since grade school, and they loved walking along the beach and talking about everything and nothing. Living in walking distance of the beach was the best thing.

Scott guffawed and pushed back at Ryan.

As they made their way down the sand toward the water’s edge, Ryan suddenly stopped and sucked in a breath.

Scott glanced over at his friend. “What?”

“Look.” Ryan pointed in front of them.

“Where? I don’t see …” Scott’s eyes grew large. “What the …”

Ryan glanced around. The rest of the beach was empty — there were no other people around. Just the one bizarre scene in front of them that he could not comprehend. He stared at four empty beach chairs — normal, blued-striped beach chairs. Beach chairs which had slowly risen about six inches into the air.

He smacked Scott. “Do you see that?”

Scott nodded, then quietly answered. “Yes, I see it. But how is that possible?”

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe it’s just an illusion.”

Ryan licked his dry lips. “If it is, it’s a hell of an illusion.”

As they watched, the chairs rose higher and now hovered about one foot off the ground. The space between the chairs seemed shimmery, as though a soft haze of light settled in the air where the chairs floated.

Scott bent down and picked something off the ground. “I want to try something,” he said quietly. He bounced a small rock in his hand a few times and then threw it into the shimmer between the chairs.

The rock disappeared with a soft fizzle. Ryan’s mouth fell open. “Did you see that? It disappeared.”

Scott nodded. “I know — it didn’t land anywhere or come out the other side, it just disappeared. It’s like some kind of vortex.”

Ryan gestured toward the sand and spoke with quiet intensity. “Throw another one.”

Scott found another small rock, picked it up, and bounced it in his hand a couple times. Then he threw it into the strange vortex.

Both boys gasped and jumped backward as a scaly claw reached out of the shimmer, caught the rock, and pulled back, quickly disappearing.

Ryan felt his throat close up. “What the …”

Scott grabbed Ryan’s arm. “We gotta get out of here.”

“But what was that?”

Scott’s voice shook. “I don’t know, and I don’t wanna know. We need to go.”

“Wait. Let me try.” Ryan looked around. Spotting a small, round stone, he picked it up and felt its weight, shaking it in his hand a few times. Taking a step forward, he lobbed the stone into the vortex.

A scaly claw reached out of the shimmer and grabbed the stone, but this time did not pull back. A gray scaly face materialized in the vortex, piercing black eyes staring at them. A sense of malevolence and evil permeated the area. The claw made a quick flicking movement, and the stone was thrown back at them, with such velocity that they heard it whiz past their heads and slam into a tree fifty yards away.

Yelping and whining, the two boys quickly turned and ran back across the beach to the trees and parking area, tripping over their feet and gasping for breath. As they reached the edge of the tree area, they turned and looked back over the beach.

The four blue-striped beach chairs abruptly fell back to the sand. Two small rocks appeared in the air and fell. A diffused glow glimmered in the air a few seconds and then vanished.

The beach now looked pristine, as though nothing had happened. Four blue-striped beach chairs sat in the sand, facing the water, appearing innocent and safe. A few seagulls glided by as though it were an ordinary day.

Scott turned to Ryan. “Did that just happen? You saw all that too, right?”

Ryan nodded. “Yes. Unless we both experienced some type of hallucination.”

“No. Look.” Scott pointed to one of the trees.

Ryan turned and leaned in to see better. A fresh sliver in the bark was clearly visible, and on the ground below it sat the smooth stone he had earlier tossed into the vortex and which had been swiftly thrown back. It was real.

A soft luminescence shimmered around the stone.

Scott and Ryan grabbed at each other, turned, and ran through the parking area and into the street. Sweating and breathing heavily, they walked toward their homes, not saying a word.

Finally arriving at Scott’s house, Ryan looked at him. “I have no idea what that was and I’m freaking out.”

Scott nodded, his face pale. “I don’t think I want to go back to the beach for a while.”

“Me neither. Maybe we can just walk down by the park next time.”

“Maybe. If my heart will ever slow down again.”

Ryan gave a small laugh. “Yep, you and me both.”

“And we don’t tell anyone what happened, right?”

Ryan shook his head. “No one would believe us anyway. We would just sound crazy. I wouldn’t believe it myself if someone told me any of this. So yeah, we can’t tell anyone.” He took a deep breath. “But one day I’d like to know what actually happened out there.”

Scott chuckled. “I don’t think I want to know. And I hope we never find out.”

“What? You really don’t want to know?”

Scott shook his head. “No. Because the only way to find out would be to have more substantial contact with … with … whatever that was. And I’m not sure any of us would survive that.”

Ryan let out a long breath. “Good point. You’re right. Let’s hope it was a freak of nature and it never comes back. And I agree. I don’t think I ever want to know what happened out there.”

After saying goodbye, Ryan turned and headed home. Almost at his house, he stopped and stamped his feet to remove the excess sand. As he turned up the driveway, something got his attention, and he glanced behind him and gasped.

Some of the sand, now on the sidewalk, shimmered with a soft glow.

 —————————————–

Copyright © 2021 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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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 visit her Amazon author page at – https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Miclea/e/B00SIA8AW4

Lisa Criss Griffin: A Moment On The Beach

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 are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Steve Bidmead of Pixabay.

A Moment On The Beach

Lisa Criss Griffin

The warmth of sunshine slides across my face,
A salty wind whips the ends of my hair.
The roar of the waves rumbles and tumbles
Just beyond the reach of my blue striped chair.

Seabirds step lively as the water rushes in,
A plump jellyfish rolls up, lying near.
The tinkling of shells glide in on a swell,
While light, foamy bubbles pop by my ear.

For an instant, a shy, sleepy sand crab
Peeks above the edge of her safe, dark hole,
Watching tiny, translucent rainbow pearls
Float delicately by her beachfront home.

Cool, refreshing water slips to my feet,
Kissing my sandy toes with a wet caress.
Slowly it hesitates, then melts away,
Leaving me with the salty memory…
Of a delightful moment on the beach.

Copyright © 2021 Lisa Criss Griffin
All rights reserved

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Please visit Lisa on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorlisacrissgriffin

Chester Harper: Transformation and Trouble 

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 are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Steve Bidmead of Pixabay.

Transformation and Trouble 

Chester Harper 

Jay padded into the kitchen to make the morning coffee as he pondered the strange dream still vivid in his mind. He, Columbine, Foxx, and Willow, his mother-in-law, were all at the beach sitting in fabric beach chairs. There was an uneasy tension in the air that Jay couldn’t quite figure out. Suddenly, Foxx transformed into a gull. Shock, surprise, and delight erupted within Jay’s heart. As he watched, Willow and Columbine transformed, then he followed suit. They flew, happily enjoying their freedom. He awoke with a feeling of joy and contentment. What did the dream mean? 

Jay felt Columbine’s arms wrap around him as she kissed him on his bare shoulder. “You know when Jasmine gets older, you are going to have to wear something around the house.”

“Jay no like clothes,” Jay replied, a glimmer in his eyes. 

“That works for Foxx, not you, Sweetheart.” Columbine smacked Jay on his bare butt. “The coffee is about ready. Did you sleep well?” 

“I slept like a baby.” Columbine stopped. “Why do people say that? Babies don’t sleep through the night. It makes no sense.” 

“It’s because they have no concerns or worries to keep them awake.” Jay kissed her forehead. 

“Oh. I never knew that. How did you sleep?” 

Jay poured coffee and spread cream cheese on bagels as he divulged his dream to his pretty auburn-haired wife. 

“I have no idea what that could mean. We need to talk to Mom. She’s better at this sort of thing.” 

Foxx walked into the kitchen, naked as his father, and crawled up into Jay’s lap. “Daddy naked like Foxx.” 

“Foxx, we need to go see Grandma. Eat and then get dressed while I get the babies ready.” 

Foxx and Jay responded as one. “We no like clothes.” 

“Go!” 

Foxx and Jay left the room laughing. Columbine looked at their retreating bare bottoms and just shook her head. 

***

Warming her hands on her second mug of coffee of the day, she watched her mother and father work together to put together fruit and zucchini bread on a plate. Adam was shirtless and Columbine wondered what it was with the men in this family and clothes. 

“Mom, I told you we ate before we came. You don’t need to fuss over us.” 

“You probably had a bagel and cream cheese. That is not a proper breakfast for a nursing mother or a growing boy.”

“Yes, Mother.” Columbine wondered if her mother had read her mind about breakfast. Her powers, like all society females, grew stronger as she aged. 

“And no, I’m not reading your mind. I’m your mother. I don’t need to read your mind.” 

“You’ve known everything I’ve been thinking so far.” Columbine chuckled. “Are you using your powers without knowing it?” 

“No, I just know you.” Willow and Adam placed the food on the table and sat down. “Foxx is watching the twins in the den. That should keep them all occupied. The twins are trying to crawl and Foxx is hovering like a mother hen.” Jay sat at the table with his in-laws and wife. 

Jay placed fruit and bread on his plate and poured coffee from the carafe. “Adam, your chest hair is almost as gray as that arrowhead you wear.” He took a bite of bread, rolled his eyes at the flavor, and washed it down with coffee. “No offense.” 

“None taken. Gray hair is a sign that you’re still alive.” Adam sipped his coffee. “What brings you by today? We love seeing you and the kids, but you seem preoccupied.” 

“Jay, tell them your dream. See if they can make sense of it.” 

Jay related his dream to them, amazed that it was still as vivid in his mind as when he dreamed it. They sat in silence for a few moments before Adam asked Willow, “What do you think, Honey?” 

“Well, I think it may be a sign of our future.” Willow sipped coffee and continued. “Foxx was the first to transform, then the rest of us transformed. You had feelings of joy and contentment when you woke up.” 

“Yes. Exactly. What do you think it means?” 

Willow gazed into her son-in-law’s eyes. “What do you think it means? It is your dream.” 

Jay stared into his coffee. “I’ve been thinking. Foxx’s transformation in the dream mirrors his transformation into a recessive male. His joy, our joy, must mean it is successful. I think it is a sign that we need to proceed.” 

“But the side effects…” 

Jay placed his larger hand over Columbine’s petite one. “Possible side effects. Not definite. Not even probable.” He patted her hand. “He’ll be ok. I promise.” 

“You’ve never led me wrong. We need to notify Dr. Blackoak.” 

***

Several weeks were spent trying to find a donor match for Foxx. Dr. Blackoak felt that a blood donor match would increase the chances of the DNA binding with Foxx’s stem cells. “Jay, if we can’t find a match…” 

“No. This has to work. We will find a match, even if we have to go to other settlements.” Columbine had not seen Jay this determined since their time in Memphis. A lump came into her throat as she thought of Auntie. Loud knocking prevented any further discussion. “Who in the world could that be? We have this place all to ourselves.” Jay punched in the code to open the hidden doorway.

“Newt, Sundew, come in. It has been too long. How are you?” Jay hugged and pounded Newt on the back. “Columbine, look who’s here from the outer reaches.” Newt and Sundew Forrest owned the farm on the far western edge of the society land. They were gatekeepers in the same manner as Jay and Columbine. They had very little family in the settlement and visited rarely. 

“We are well. It is good to see you, as well. How is your family?” 

“Very well. Would you like some coffee or tea?” Columbine sensed something amiss in the way Sundew kept looking around, not quite making eye contact. “How are Venus and Reed?”

“That is why we came. We wanted to speak with Adam or Jack. Are they around? This is the security office, right?” Now Newt was acting peculiar. 

Columbine took Sundew’s hands in her own. “Come have some coffee or tea and tell us what is bothering you. The security offices have moved, but I’ll call Daddy and Jack to come here.” 

***

They enjoyed their coffee while Newt and Sundew expressed concerns about their adopted children. 

“Venus’s nightmares were beginning to come less and less frequently. Reed never really had any nightmares. Now…now they are both having nightmares every night. Venus says Egret contacts her and says he is going to kill her and everyone she cares about. Reed has the same nightmare.” Sundew wrung her hands as a tear rolled down her cheek. “Reed cannot remember his family, and he never had any dealings with Egret.” 

“We are concerned that he’s causing the dreams.” Newt motioned in the direction of the facility that housed Egret’s stasis chamber. 

“How? Do you think… Could he?” Columbine turned to her father and brother. 

“I don’t know. This is more in your mother’s wheelhouse. Can you get her here?” While waiting for Willow to arrive, Newt and Sundew asked about the changes taking place in the main settlement. 

“Why were the security offices moved? This seems like a fine building.” Even though all of the settlement was built underground, they still referred to the individual areas as buildings. 

“During the Egret crisis we needed a larger facility with more meeting space that was closer to Headleader Buck’s living quarters. When the crisis was over, we never moved back here.” Adam’s face lit up as Willow walked into the room. “I’m sorry you were not informed of the move. I’m just glad Columbine and Jay were here today to hear you knocking.” 

“I began to wonder if I had the right tree when Jay opened the doorway.”

“I’m so happy we were here. I would hate to miss seeing you both. It’s been too long,” Columbine said as she offered more refreshments to all. 

Accepting more coffee, Sundew let her gaze peruse the various papers scattered over the tabletop. “What are you two researching here?” 

Jay and Columbine exchanged knowing glances. “We are looking for a match for our son, Foxx. A blood type and antigen match, if possible. It has to be a recessive male who is willing to donate blood for us to use to isolate the Esau gene. We want to bind the Esau gene to stem cells from Foxx and then infuse them into Foxx. The result should be Foxx becoming a recessive male.” Jay stopped talking as the couple looked at him quizzically. 

“Foxx wants to be a recessive male,” Willow provided. 

“We have undoubtedly been away too long.” Newt looked at Jay. “Who is Foxx?” 

“Foxx is our eldest son. We adopted him before we had the twins.” 

“You have three children?” Sundew shook her head. “We definitely need to visit more often.” 

The next hour was spent catching the Forrests up on events in the main settlement, including the circumstances leading to Foxx’s adoption. The couple also shared the reason for their visit with Willow. 

Willow reached out telepathically to see if she could sense anything unusual from Egret, aka Edgar Wildman. He occasionally radiated hostility towards the more sensitive folk in the settlement. Her emotionless face went pale and her eyes widened. “He is there. He tried to block me, but he was not expecting me to be strong enough to resist him and penetrate his block. His body is in stasis but his mind is very active.” Willow rose from her chair. “Adam, we need to call an emergency meeting. If he can reach Venus and Reed, I have no doubt he will try to contact an outsider. We cannot let that happen.” 

“Thank you, Willow, Adam, all of you.” Newt shook hands all around. “I feel better knowing you are going to look into stopping Egret.” 

“No, Newt. We will stop him. Again.” 

“Thank you, Jack.” 

“Is there anything we can do to repay you,” Sundew asked. 

“Do you know of any outlying recessive males that might be willing to be tested and then donate?” 

“I think I may, Columbine. My brother, Buckeye, may be willing. We were part of the Boggy Creek settlement, so our genetics is a little different. I’ll contact him. He is quite the hermit, but I think I can convince him.” 

“Thank you.” Columbine hugged Sundew. “You don’t know how much this means to me.” 

“We all want our children happy, don’t we?” Sundew broke the hug and she and Newt started their journey home. 

***

“Mom, this is hard. He looks like a specimen in a bottle.” Columbine’s voice hitched as she looked at Foxx in the embryonic chamber. 

“I had the same feeling when your father was being treated.” Willow’s voice was soft with emotion. “I fell in love while he was in that very chamber.” 

Very fine hair covered Foxx’s entire body. Buckeye had indeed been a match and the treatment progressed rapidly. Another forty-eight hours and he could be taken out of the chamber to complete his transformation without the aid of the chamber.

“I can just barely sense him in there, but he doesn’t seem afraid.” 

“Sweetheart, I know he is your son, but I can still sense a little more than you just due to my age. I’ve sensed fear, a time or two, but I have been able to reassure him while giving more sedation.” 

“I’m so glad you are his primary nurse, Mom.” Columbine hugged her tightly. “I can hardly wait for the day he comes out.” 

As they stood looking at Foxx, Columbine asked her mother, “Has there been any progress in stopping Egret from contacting Venus and Reed?” 

“As far as we can tell, he stopped when he was discovered. The council refuses to take action until he proves it is warranted. I can’t sense a block when I try to contact him and he refuses to communicate with me.” 

“I don’t trust him…even in stasis.” Columbine shuddered. 

“Nor do I, my dear, nor do I.” 

As the women left Foxx, his eyes opened and he sneered in a very uncharacteristic manner. His face went neutral and his eyes closed as his grandmother turned to look at him, concern showing on her face. 

Two days later: 

“Mommy, Daddy, I slept good.” 

Columbine hugged her son as he raised an arm and stared at it. “I’m a puppy!” The entire room laughed at his exclamation. His next statement silenced the entire company and sent ice through their veins. “Grandma, who is Edgar Wildman? Why was he talking to me here?” Foxx tapped his head. 

“Oh my God, no,” Columbine choked out as one of the nurses fainted.

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Paula Shablo: Empty Beaches (No Ferry Today Part 3)

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 are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Steve Bidmead of Pixabay.

Empty Beaches (No Ferry Today Part 3)

Paula Shablo

Monique started cleaning up the dishes and the grill after Margo left the cafe with Devin, Melvin and Junior. She had resisted the urge to run down to the beach and see them off. It felt to her as if doing so would reinforce the feeling that she’d said goodbye to them forever.

That was ridiculous, of course. It wasn’t that far across the reach, and even with Devin’s little outboard motor it wouldn’t be long before the skiff landed at the docks on the mainland.

Barnaby and Elvin took the twins, Paul and Pam, and went down to the beach. Lou Ann stayed to help Monique. Jessica gathered up dishes before leaving with Bill and Vivian to go through the little island village and check on the other residents.

Lou Ann looked up from the tabletop she was washing. “How long do you think they’ll be gone?” she asked, voicing the very question going through Monique’s mind. “I mean, it’s not that far, but…well, I don’t think they’ll just turn around and come back, do you?”

“Margo wants to go home and get her cat,” Monique replied, trying desperately to sound nonchalant. She wondered if the delicious lunch she’d just eaten was going to stay down. Her stomach was in turmoil; she was that tense. “Her boyfriend is away.”

“I don’t know why this is upsetting me. It’s probably nothing.” She went to the sink to rinse her washcloth. “It’s just…it’s so odd, looking out at the beach and seeing…sand.”

That was an odd way of putting it, but it was also true. Summer days were not generally empty beach days. Normally, the sand was covered with blankets and umbrellas and people of all ages.

Monique started washing the plates and silverware by hand. There’d been so few people it wasn’t worth loading up an industrial sized dishwasher. She couldn’t remember ever washing dishes by hand at The Beach Bar, even in the off-season. The locals were good customers in the winter, and on the coldest days you could still expect the flatlanders to ferry over for a drink and a few laughs in the evenings.

Technically, Monique was herself a flatlander—she’d lived on the island for a few years, but she wasn’t a native. “Has the ferry ever not come before, Lou Ann?”

“Not that I can remember.” Lou Ann pinched her lower lip, thinking. “Mama’s been here forever, of course. She might know; or Dad.” Lou Ann’s parents lived on the other side of the island. “I tried to call her, but my phone’s not working.”

“Try the landline.” Monique tapped her own forehead impatiently. “Why didn’t we think of that before?” Lou Ann went to the end of the bar and lifted the receiver to her ear. Her eyebrows shot up. “Dial tone!” she exclaimed. She punched numbers and waited. Then: “Dad? It’s me. Hey, has there ever been a time when the ferry didn’t show up here?”

There was a pause as she listened to her father talk. Apparently, he had a lot to say.

Monique listened half-heartedly to a one-sided conversation that consisted mostly of “Uh huh,” and “Really?” and “Hmm.” It might have been an interesting monologue, but all she could do was wonder if she might be able to call Margo on her cell from the landline when Lou Ann finished talking. She wasn’t hopeful.

***

Bill and Jessica slowed their pace for Vivian, not so much because she was tiny and therefore short of stride, but because she obviously didn’t see well, and they didn’t want her to bump into or trip over anything. Jessica tucked the older woman’s hand into the crook of her arm, unconsciously leading her in much the same way Melvin Samples had done for his wife the last few years. “Aren’t you sweet,” Vivian said, reaching across her body to pat Jessica’s arm. “It’s the cataracts. I’m scheduled to have them taken care of next month…”

“Oh, that will be wonderful for you,” Bill said, his rumbling baritone alive with enthusiasm. “My mother had hers done, and she sees everything now.”

“Well, that’s the plan,” Vivian agreed. “But…”

“But…?” Jessica prompted.

Vivian sighed. The trio mounted steps to knock on the first of many doors, doing their neighborly wellness checks. “I have a bad feeling about this…situation.”

An elderly woman answered the door. The three visitors tried not to display their relief and failed.

***

Barnaby and Elvin stood ankle deep in the calm waters of the beach, keeping an eye on the rambunctious twins.

Walking down from the bar, they’d noticed a row of beach chairs someone had left unattended. Elvin looked back at them now, squinting. “One good gust of wind, and those are goners,” he declared.

Barnaby shrugged. “Don’t know who they belong to,” he said. “Guess we can take them back to the bar with us in a while.”

“You think they were there all night?”

“I suppose.” Barnaby didn’t care. All he cared about was that Lou Ann and the twins were with him, safe. “It was a quiet night.”

“Yuh.” He shielded his eyes with both hands and peered across the reach. “Can’t see the mainland,” he remarked. “Is that fog?”

“Maybe.” Barnaby frowned. “I don’t see the skiff anymore, either. Do you?”

“Nope.”

They gave each other uneasy looks. It didn’t seem like there had been enough time for the skiff to have gotten as far as the fog bank they believed they were seeing.

“Is Dev’s outboard that fast?” Elvin asked.

“Maybe that fog is closer than it looks.” Barnaby bent and splashed water on Paul and Pam. They squealed with delight and splashed him back.

Elvin kept quiet. Barnaby didn’t talk much, and appeared to be deep in thought—playing with his kids was just his way of taking a moment for reflection. Knowing this did nothing to ease the fear Elvin felt building in the pit of his stomach. He looked back at the empty beach chairs and wondered who had left them there. It was unsettling to see them there, absent the sunscreen-smeared bodies and towels and drinks.

After a few minutes of play with the toddlers, Barnaby straightened up. He flexed his neck and back and then took a good long look across the water.

“Yeah, I reckon the fog is closer than it looks, Devin’s outboard is stronger than we think and they’ve been gone longer than we realize. I haven’t been timing them, have you?”

Elvin thought there were a lot of “maybes” implied in Barnaby’s musings, and they all amounted to nothing more than wishful thinking. But when you came right down to it—what else did they have? “No, I haven’t looked at my watch all morning,” he replied. He grinned, but it felt false on his face. “Cuz I left it home,” he added.

Barnaby let out a laugh that sounded as false as the smile on Elvin’s face felt to him. “Me, too, buddy.”

“They’re probably docking as we speak.”

“I hope so.”

Elvin sighed and looked out across the reach again. “How long do we wait before we officially get scared?”

“Officially?” Barnaby made a few lunging splashes with his kids, avoiding the question for a few moments. Finally, he looked back at his friend. “Dude, I am already scared—officially.”

“Yeah.”

***

Devin adjusted the rudder slightly, frowning at Melvin, who was leaning over the bow of the skiff. “Mel, sit back,” he ordered. “You wanna flip this bitch?”

Melvin glared back over his shoulder. “I ain’t that heavy,” he growled. “We should be able to see the docks through the fog by now!”

“It’s not fog.” Margo spoke so quietly it was difficult to hear her. Melvin sat back, as ordered, and looked at her. “Can’t you smell it?” she asked. “It’s smoke.”

“Ayuh,” Devin agreed. “I been trying to ignore that. Thanks a boatload, Margo.”

“Think nothing of it,” Margo replied flippantly. She sighed deeply, and it was impossible not to notice the shakiness of her breath. “What could cause that much smoke? Do you think it was a dock fire?”

“Mebbe.” Devin and Melvin exchanged meaningful looks. “But we’d have heard the sirens, even across the reach…”

“That’s a lot of smoke.” Melvin stretched himself over the bow again, much to Devin’s dismay. “I think I see something.”

“The dock?”

“No it’s—oh, shit!”

“What? What?”

The little skiff bumped something, turned slightly to the left and bumped something else. Margo leaned over the side and looked down into the water. She screamed.

Bodies floated all around them. 

To Be Continued….

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

D. A. Ratliff: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

D. A. Ratliff

Photo from Pinterest. Image source unknown, credit to the orginal creator.

Location is vital in all facets of our lives. Comfort, convenience, commute, and community are essential considerations when selecting where we wish to reside. When writing, it makes sense to consider the impact of where we have our characters live.

Location can be more than the physical terrain in which we set a story, although some places can take a back seat to the plot. However, the setting is another tool in the author’s arsenal to add depth to the story. The choice of locale sets the period of the story, when and where it takes place. It affects how the characters behave, speak, and reflect on the society where they live. More importantly, when needed, the setting can become another character creating a mood and emotional tone.

A few inquiring minds have asked me what is so appealing to me about New Orleans and why I set so many of my stories either there or in Louisiana, where my upcoming novel, Crescent City Lies, is set. After all, I’m from South Carolina, a beautiful state with its own vibrant culture and uniqueness. It also has faults, as do all places, and those faults in a community can also add depth to your story.

When deciding on a setting for a story, the flavor of Louisiana draws me into its spell. Nothing like the sultry summer heat in the south, when life slows down, and the humidity rises. The spicy aromas and comforting palate of Cajun food and the smooth sounds of New Orleans jazz are alluring and set a mood that seems to touch my writer’s passion. Wicked antagonists, flawed heroes, and enticing strong women seem to belong in the bayou or the French Quarter.

In reality, I love the beach. Ribbons of sand lapped by waves, air tangy with salt, majestic pelicans soaring against a cornflower blue sky. My heart lies on the shore, rejuvenated by the sun’s heat. My soul rests in the bayou.

Image by D. A Ratliff

I am fortunate to live in an area that some people call paradise—if you consider heat, humidity, sun, and ocean paradise. I do! As the photo above shows, expansive sky, lush vegetation, a body of water, and a bench to enjoy the quiet beauty sets a mood just outside my door. Not to mention, there are ducks, sea birds, and two resident alligators to add to the ambiance.

I suppose we choose where we want our stories to unfold for a myriad of reasons. Genre certainly plays a role and can dictate the amount of world-building necessary to create the foundation you need. A cozy mystery often occurs in a small town, a detective murder mystery in a city setting, but let your creativity decide what works for your story. How descriptive you should be depends on how important the location is to your storyline. For instance, a city with the ambiance of a New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco, or San Antonio becomes a character within the story, adding depth and mood by using the uniqueness of the environment to enhance the plot. The same for small towns that can provide coziness and character to the story.

My thoughts always seem to be on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, the Battery in Charleston, or an Atlantic beach in Florida, all locations which spur my muse. Let those places you love inspire your muse and your stories.

Image by Oliver Weidmann from Pixabay

Please visit D. A. Ratliff on her blog: https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/

Lisa Criss Griffin: The Catch Of A Lifetime

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 are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Steve Bidmead of Pixabay.

The Catch Of A Lifetime

Lisa Criss Griffin

Sunlight sparkled across the clear, cobalt blue water, casting beams of light through the partially buried shipwreck just offshore of the barrier island. The barnacle encrusted ribs of the old wooden boat thrust upward in protest, and were visible above the ocean surface at low tide. Sea creatures of all sizes, varieties and colors congregated in mass, within and around the shelter the sunken vessel offered. Yes, it was a good day for hunting.

The Predator swam slowly, circling the artificial reef in interest. Her increasing hunger pangs encouraged her to make a decision. Without warning, she turned, thrusting her streamlined body forward and snatched an unfortunate fish in her jaws before gliding up and over the wreck. She chomped her meal a few times before swallowing, and vanished into deeper water.

The smell of a fresh kill traveled through the current, alerting other predators of the possibility of a meal. The sunken ship was a popular place. It was one of the few structures close to shore offering refuge to smaller fish from the dangers lurking out in the open sea. The locale was a favorite haunt of schools of whiting and spot. A sizable group of small silversides flashed in unison as they fed on the rich plankton flowing through the water. Little crabs and other crustaceans stealthily roamed the wooden planks, feeding themselves while scanning for danger with constantly moving, watchful eyes. 

A small octopus quickly changed colors, blending in with the dark, variegated wooden rib she was resting on. The cephalopod was now virtually invisible, perched on the top of the rib. As long as she didn’t move, predators would be unaware of her presence. It was a good thing. The dinner bell had rung. The predators were arriving.

A few bluefish made quick work of the unsuspecting school of silversides, who broke into several groups in terror, fleeing into the relative safety of the bowels of the ship. A variety of sharks snatched less agile whiting and spot, swimming away with their prey still wiggling in the clasp of their serrated jaws.

The Predator also returned. Her hunger not quite satiated, she surprised a mullet as she cruised around the side of the ship. She ate it in a couple of gulps, and continued her search for food. A plop in the water on the beach side of the wreck caught her attention. The smell of fresh blood aroused her senses, and she was curious. She shot over the ribs of the sunken ship, completely unaware of the still, camouflaged octopus only inches away from her body. A piece of fresh fish slowly drifted downward from the ocean surface towards the sand. A layer of silver scales flashed in the sunlight, triggering her attack.

The Predator opened her mouth, sucking in the falling piece of flesh before clamping down on it. A strange, tugging sensation pierced the side of her jaw as she turned back towards the shipwreck. She shook her head side to side, confused by the sudden drag on her ability to swim. She changed direction, heading out to sea.

It was a struggle to swim forward. Every inch of The Predator’s body rebelled against this sudden loss of propulsion. The tug in her jaw grew painful. Her eyes scanned the cobalt blue water surrounding her nervously. Her energetic thrashing was bound to catch the attention of other predators. A fear she had not felt since she was small, flooded her mind as ominous shapes began to materialize in the distant blue haze. She turned and fled towards the shore, surprised to find her propulsion restored. She swam quickly, darting and weaving as she turned in a different direction. Her pursuers sensed her panic and were closing in for the kill. 

The Predator felt the sinister tug in the side of her mouth as she unexpectedly found herself flailing against the unseen force once again. Something bumped against the lower tip of her forked tail. She felt a sharp nip as she tore herself free. Desperate, she shot to the surface of the ocean and propelled herself into the air. She had skyrocketed many times before, but it always had been in pursuit of her prey.

The sunlight glinted off her tiny scales, revealing the subtle greenish-blue coloring of her slender upper body, fading to a lovely silver across her belly. The Predator was an unusually large specimen of her kind. Her unexpected flight through the salty air was breathtaking. She crashed into the water and ran towards the shallows before leaping out of the water a second time to throw off any remaining pursuers. Her iridescent scales gleamed in the bright light as her streamlined body completed a magnificent arc above the breakers. 

Once she re-entered the water, she zigzagged through the waves. The Predator had shaken her pursuers, but now she was having trouble propelling herself back out to sea. Her frantic sprints and jumps, along with the strange inability to swim where she wanted to go, left her exhausted. She flipped her tail in futility several more times, only to find herself washing up on the beach. 

She lay helpless on the wet sand, staring at four seagulls hovering overhead. A land creature as long as she was, towered over her. Three smaller land creatures joined The Long One, making excited noises. The Long One pinned her to the sand and jiggled something out of her jaw. The next thing she knew, The Long One unceremoniously hauled her up by her tail into the air, struggling under her weight. She wiggled in protest and gasped.

The three small land creatures made some clicking sounds along with their excited noises. The Long One groaned and eased her back down into the edge of the water. A wave washed across her gills, reviving her slightly. She wondered what the chattering land creatures would do with her. She was getting weaker, and felt her life force beginning to fade.

To her surprise, the small land creatures grasped her gently and slowly slid her back into the water. The Long One held her steady as the oxygen in the water flowed blissfully through her gills. One of the small land creatures stroked her gently. The Predator could feel her energy returning. When she revived, she flicked her tail. The Long One let go of her. Her ability to swim unimpeded had returned! She gratefully made her way through the waves and disappeared underwater on her way out to sea.

~ ~ ~

“Wow, Dad! This has to be the best fishing trip ever! That fish was huge!”

“Yeah, it sure was, kids. That’s the biggest king mackerel I’ve ever seen in my entire life! It was unbelievable! Hey, tell me your favorite parts of this fishing experience. Justin, you go first.”

“It was totally awesome when that giant fish jumped way out of the water, not once, but twice…and right in front of us too! Oh, man, I wish we had a video of that!”

The family murmured in reverent agreement as they walked through the golden sand to their blue striped beach chairs. They flopped down in the chairs, tired but still excited about the huge fish.

“What about you, Jeremy? What was your favorite part?”

“Watching you trying to hold that humongous fish up, Dad. It was as long as you are tall! I got some great pictures of you struggling to hold it up. You should have seen the crazy expressions you were making!”

“Alright. Alright,” his father chuckled. “That giant mackerel was really heavy! I’m glad you guys have pictures to prove our big fish tale. You know, NOBODY would believe us without those pictures! And what about you, Jennifer? What was your favorite part of this fishing trip?”

“Well, ummm…I think…saving her and then letting her go. She was really big and beautiful. She fought so hard to live! It was the honorable thing to do, wasn’t it, Daddy?”

“Why, yes. Yes it was, honey. It was certainly an honorable way to treat…the catch of a lifetime.”

Copyright © 2021 Lisa Criss Griffin
All rights reserved

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Cheryl Ann Guido: It’s Been a Hard Night’s Day and I’ve Been Workin’ in a Fog

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 are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Steve Bidmead of Pixabay.

It’s Been a Hard Night’s Day and I’ve Been Workin’ in a Fog

Cheryl Ann Guido

“Keep digging, Lana!”

Lana Love took a step back and leaned on her shovel. Exhausted, she drew the back of her hand across her sweaty forehead. A pristine beauty only hours earlier, her long blonde tresses now clung to the sides of her face and the short, glittery red dress she wore hung torn and dirty. “I can’t do this anymore.” She picked up her six-inch black stilettos and turned to leave.

A strong firm hand wrapped around her upper arm yanking her back. Lana winced as long brightly polished nails dug into her soft flesh.

“You’re not goin’ anywhere. You got us into this mess and as usual, I gotta clean up after you. But this time, you’re gonna clean up after your own damn self. I’m only helping.”

“Helping? Who are you kidding, lazybones.”

Candy Cane threw her rake down. “Who you callin’ lazybones? When you showed up on the street broke and hungry, who took you in? Who showed you the ropes? Who got you offa drugs and who taught you how to roll a drunken john, huh? You’da been dead by now without me.”

Lana sniffed. “Yeah, so what? My family has money so I’m not used to manual labor.”

“Mmm hmm. Well then, you shouldn’t have run away. Now, they’re out of the picture and all you got is me so keep digging!”

“It’s your mess too, Candy. You were there.”

“You’re the one who put too much phenobarbital into his drink. You were only supposed to put enough in to knock him out, not kill him.”

“Pfft. Who uses phenobarbital anymore anyway? There’s lots of drugs to do the job but no, you had to use that stuff.”

“Look Lana, I may live on the street but I don’t do drugs. I seen too many friends OD. I only know about phenobarbital because of Marilyn Monroe.”

“Marilyn Monroe OD’d.”

“Yeah, I know but that’s because she took too much. ’Sides, one of my foster mothers, a nurse, told me they give it to hospital patients to help them sleep. So, I know if you do it right, it works.”

Narrowing her eyes into tiny slits, Lana grabbed her shovel and resumed shoving it into the grainy sand then tossing the contents onto the beach. “If you do it right, it works,” she mimicked.

Candy snorted then recalled what had gotten them into this hot mess in the first place.

They made a striking duo, Lana, a fair-skinned, blue-eyed blonde, girl-next-door type and herself, a sexy dark queen with flawless skin, huge eyes and short cropped hair. They always wore flashy clothes that clung to their hips accentuating their curves. At almost six feet tall with legs that seemed to go on forever, they made it a point to always wear thigh-high side-split skirts. Those skirts became their trademark and caught the eyes of many high rollers much to the dismay of the other working girls.

Candy suspected that the bartender was onto them, so she made sure to take care of him once in a while for free. He never let on. It had been a lucrative lifestyle, at least until now. With this last mark, Lana screwed up royally.

This time, after Lana slipped the drug into his drink, the mark began to convulse on the bed. As his body spasmed, white foam bubbled up and dripped out of the side of his mouth. The two women panicked and in desperation, Lana pounded on his chest while Candy screamed that what Lana was doing wouldn’t help the poor guy. Finally, the man’s body grew still, his unseeing eyes wide open in an obvious death stare. After they cleaned out his wallet and room safe, which to their dismay only netted a total of about two hundred dollars, they emptied his big suitcase and shoved his body inside. Candy remembered the way Lana winced at the cracking sound of his bones being broken as she arranged him in an entirely unnatural position.

Fortunately, a luggage rack had been left down the hall. She sent Lana to fetch it, then the two of them struggled to lift the suitcase onto the cart. Damn that guy was heavy, she thought. After several attempts, they successfully flipped it onto the rack. Candy then poked her head out of the doorway and declared the coast to be clear. They rolled the luggage rack down the hallway and rang for the elevator. Once they reached the lobby, they wheeled the cart out of the elevator but were stopped by a bell person who asked if they needed help. Candy had replied curtly that they did not, but the hotel employee was insistent and pushed the rack out through the entrance door.

On the portico sidewalk a valet approached them to fetch their car. Although the ladies did not own a car, luckily their mark did and Candy had been fortuitous enough to remove his keys before shoving him into his makeshift coffin. Handing him the keys like they were her own, she waited while he fetched the car. She tipped the bell person twenty dollars and thanked him for his help.

After the valet returned with the shiny red mustang convertible, he opened the trunk and with great difficulty, put the suitcase inside, all the while muttering something under his breath about there being rocks inside. Candy ignored his comment and motioned to Lana to get into the passenger seat. The attendant stood in front of her with his hand out. Miffed about his cheeky comment, she only tipped him five dollars for his efforts. He didn’t look happy.

As they drove away from the hotel, Lana began to panic. Her breaths came in short gasps as she sputtered out a question asking how they were going to get rid of the body. Candy had also been trying to come up with a plan. Lana suggested that they rent a boat and dump the guy into the ocean but Candy nixed the idea pointing out that there was no way that they could lug that heavy suitcase from the car and down a pier without being seen by the rental attendant or somebody else for that matter. Besides, it was only a little after midnight. No rental places would be open and they couldn’t take a chance on waiting until morning.

The hotel was located on the boardwalk so it made sense to bury the guy somewhere on the beach. Candy turned onto the street that dead ended at a beach entrance. She parked the car, took a deep breath and told Lana that they were going to get the suitcase out of the trunk, drag it up the ramp leading to the boardwalk, then push it down the steps to the beach. From there, they would work together to get it to the edge of the water and shove it into the sea. It wasn’t the best plan, but it was the only one she could come up with.

The process of getting that suitcase out of the car and onto the beach was no simple task. After a bit of a struggle, they lifted it onto its side and rolled it over the edge of the trunk and onto the pavement. Thankfully, the suitcase had wheels so it was easy to pull it up the ramp and across the boardwalk. At the top of the steps, Candy gave it a hard kick and it tumbled over and over down the ten steps then landed on its side in the sand. Next came the hard part. Tugging it across the beach was almost impossible. The trunk kept getting stuck as it pulled copious amounts of sand along with it. Each of them had tripped several times and became covered with clingy damp sand. By the time the girls reached the water’s edge, they were both gasping for air. With their last bit of strength, they had pushed the suitcase into the water and watched as a wave devoured it. Thinking they were done with it, they started back but the suitcase came barreling onto the shore with an incoming wave and slammed into Lana’s legs knocking her down. Boy, was she pissed. Time for Plan B, digging a hole and burying him. Plan B, however, didn’t provide for the necessary tools.

Lana vehemently protested about being left alone with Mister Body but Candy ignored her rants. She climbed back up the steps and visually searched the boardwalk. There were restrooms a short distance away. Hoping she would find something useful, she hurried down the boardwalk. Upon reaching the bathrooms, she quickly checked both men’s and ladies’, but found nothing, not even a plunger.

She was about to look elsewhere when she spied what appeared to be a little maintenance hut beside the restrooms. The door was locked. However, a small window provided access. Using the pointed heel of her shoe, she broke the window, tapped out the rest of the glass and climbed through. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. Groping around she moved boxes of toilet paper and cleaning supplies until finally she hit pay dirt, one shovel. Well, she thought, one is better than none. Snatching it, she headed back toward the window. Her foot caught in something, sending her crashing to the floor. Pulling herself to a standing position, she rubbed her arm which had taken the brunt of the fall. Her eyes instinctively searched for the culprit that had taken her down, then she chuckled. Well, what do you know, a metal rake. This could be useful. After quietly dropping the two tools onto the ground outside the window, she wriggled through and headed back to Lana.

“Hey, now who’s slacking off?” Lana’s irritated voice brought her out of her reverie.

“Sorry.” Candy resumed raking the sand from the growing hole. Poor Lana was dripping with sweat. At some point, she had removed her dress and continued shoveling wearing only her bra and panties.

“This is impossible, Candy. We should have rented a boat.”

“I already told you why we couldn’t do that.”

“Yeah, but we’re never going to be able to dig deep enough to bury this chump and the sky is getting lighter. It will be morning soon.”

“Quit complaining, shut up and keep digging. If you shoveled as much as you talk, we’da been done by now.”

They continued to dig for another thirty minutes. By that time, the sun was just beginning to poke its head above the horizon. Candy knew it was now or never. “Okay, that’s enough.”

“Whew, finally!” Lana threw down her shovel.

Once again, working together, they pushed the suitcase into the hole. It wasn’t deep, but it would do. Candy grabbed her rake. “Okay, start covering him with sand.”

“What? Are you kidding? Let me at least catch my breath.”

Candy glanced up at the sun which was now fully above the horizon, bathing the shore in a soft red glow. “We don’t have time. Hurry up. Some people are walking this way. Goddamn tourists. The ocean ain’t goin’ nowhere. Don’t know why they gotta go to the beach so damn early.”

With a low growl, Lana grabbed her shovel. Between the two of them, they covered the suitcase in just a few minutes leaving a slightly rounded mound. Lana rolled her eyes. “Are we done now? I’m tired. I really gotta sit down.” She didn’t wait for Candy’s reply. Instead, she plopped down right on top of the makeshift grave.

By this time the family of four, a man, woman and two young boys, arrived at their location. Candy reached down and yanked Lana to her feet, then cheerfully called out. “Good morning!” It sounded carefree yet the father simply stared at them without returning the greeting. His eyes traveled across the tattered shreds of Candy’s black satin dress, then to Lana’s scantily clad body, then down to the rake and shovel lying on top of the sand. Candy’s eyes shifted from side to side while Lana stood frozen like a deer in headlights. Candy licked her lips then grinned. “Rough night. Um, we’ll be going now.” She elbowed Lana who grabbed her dress and shovel. Candy wrapped her fingers around the handle of the rake. Both of them took a step or two backward as Candy, still grinning, waved at the gawking family. They spun around and strode as quickly as they could back across the beach and up the steps. Upon reaching the top, they propped the tools up against the railing and breathed a sigh of relief.

“He knows, Candy.”

Candy shook her head. “Don’t be silly. He don’t know nothin’. He’s probably just wondering why we look like this.”

“Candy, I’m scared.”

“Stop it. Nobody’s ever gonna find him, at least not while we’re still around.” As she finished her sentence, she turned her head toward the ocean. “Oh shit.”

“What?”

“Look where they set up their beach stuff.”

Lana also turned, then gasped, eyes bulging. “Shit!”

Four chairs sat in the sand directly in front of the mark’s grave. Lana began to pant. “Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. Candy, we have to do something. They’re for sure going to find him. Look, that one kid has a shovel and pail. What if he starts digging and …” Candy clamped her hand over Lana’s mouth.

“Stay calm. Let’s just watch for a while. The car isn’t far so we can make a quick getaway if we need to.”

The women leaned against the railing watching in silence as the family spread out their gear.

“Kinda early for you girls. You both look like hell.”

Both women spun around simultaneously as he eyed the rake and shovel. Candy recognized the cop. He worked at the casino as a bouncer in his off hours. She didn’t know him well but he always said hello and never bothered them while they were working although he was well aware of their trade.

“Officer Rick, uh, yeah. Tied on a good one last night. Woke up on the beach looking like this. Go figure.”

“Well in your line of business it’s not surprising.”

“Yeah, it goes that way sometimes. We’re just waiting for the concession stands to open so we can get some coffee, then we’ll be on our way.”

“Uh huh. Did ya bury something in the sand?”

Lana bit her lip as Candy’s eyes wandered over the tools. “Oh those? They were there when we got here.” She shrugged.

The police officer nodded. “Gotcha.” He picked up the tools. “Maintenance guy must have forgotten them last night. I’ll just put them back where they belong.” He tipped his hat. “Well, be careful ladies. Wouldn’t wanna have to write up a five because I found your dead bodies somewhere.” He roared at his own joke.

Candy inhaled. “Nope, wouldn’t want that.”

“Okay, see you girls tonight at the club. But hey, get cleaned up first. Ain’t no johns gonna want y’all lookin’ like that.” Once again, he broke out into raucous laughter then resumed his stroll down the boardwalk, rake in one hand, shovel in the other.

Lana frowned. “Smart ass.”

Candy shrugged then turned back toward the ocean.

The family appeared to be in distress. All of them were out of their seats, jumping around and swatting their hands in the air. Some tiny dots buzzed around them.

Lana stifled a shriek. “Oh my God, flies! They’re swatting at flies. That body must be getting ripe.” She grabbed Candy’s hand. “C’mon. we gotta go, Candy. Now!”

“Wait. Look. They’re packing up and leaving. We’re good.” Candy exhaled loudly. “Okay, let’s go.”

A loud steady beep stopped her in her tracks. The sound was coming from the beach. Horrified, the women watched as an elderly man running his metal detector back and forth across the sand approached the little mound. Mouths open, the pair stared, eyes glued on the old man. Sure enough, as the detector swept across the bump, the beeping became a loud steady tone.

Candy fixed her gaze onto her partner’s bulging eyes. “Did you take off his wedding ring?”

“No. Did you?”

“No. Shit. Run!”

***

A week later, Candy and Lana sat at the bar of the Lucky Dice Casino. Randy the bartender poured each of them a shot of bourbon. “Did you girls hear? Some old guy found a body buried in the sand on the beach last week. I heard the dead guy was staying here at the Lucky Dice. My buddy the concierge told me that when he didn’t check out on time they went up to his room, found it a mess but he was gone. After he got dug up, he was ID’d as the guy in the room.”

Lana swished the liquid around the sides of her glass afraid to look Randy in the eye. “Really.”

The bartender leaned across the bar. “Yeah, really. You two know anything about that?”

“Nope.” Candy shook her head.

“You sure? Y’all were pretty cozy with him here at the bar. I saw you leave with him too.”

Both feet firmly on the rungs of the bar stool, Candy stood and stretched across the bar until her nose was almost touching his.

“So? When we left, he went his way and we went ours. Bug off Randy, or no more freebies. Got it?”

Randy held his hands up. “A’ight, A’ight. I got it. I ain’t sayin’ nothin’. I like you girls, I ain’t gonna get you in trouble. But maybe you oughta lay low for a while.”

Candy downed her drink. “Yeah, maybe we oughta.” She stood up. “C’mon Lana. Let’s get outta here.”

As they made their way toward the door, a big burly man stepped in front of them. Even out of uniform, Rick was intimidating. “Evening, ladies.”

Lana forced a smile. “Evening, Officer Rick.”

“Shucks, it’s just plain Rick tonight. So, y’all heard about the body on the beach, right?”

The women nodded in unison as he continued. “I’m guessing whoever killed him used them tools I asked you about to bury him.” Candy’s heart began to pound as he continued. “And since y’all told me you didn’t know nothin’ about them tools, I never mentioned it to my Captain. Nor did I mention that y’all were, well let’s just say, not your usual gorgeous selves.”

Lana’s mouth dropped as Candy gulped and bit her lip.

“Yeah, poor dude was fulla some drug, I think they said phenobarbital. Weird, huh? Well anyway, just thought y’all oughta know.”

“Thanks, Rick.” Candy’s voice shook slightly.

“Y’all have a nice night now.”

“You too.” Lana’s face had drained of all color. She clutched Candy’s hand as they exited the hotel.

“Oh, and hey.” The girls turned back around. “Y’all owe me one.” 

He smiled and winked as Lana choked, “He knows, Candy.”

“Nah … ya think?”

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Riham El-Ashry: Rock of Hope

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 are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Steve Bidmead of Pixabay.

Rock of Hope

Riham El-Ashry

On an ancient beach of that old city, a woman in black sat on that very old rock. The tide has used its magical tools to carve a spectacular shape out of it. People visited the beach especially to see that rock. It gave the beholder a feeling of a lamenting person. The place was not opened for swimmers, but for taking photos of the rock. 

Rumors have spread about this remote shore: “No one comes back alive. Nereids protect the waters and drag anyone to the deep sea.” But though those stories defied any logic, many people in the city believed them to be true. That beach remained deserted of swimmers except those who were unaware of the situation. Those victims whose tragic deaths proved there was such a curse. 

But the woman in black sat on the rock every day till the sun dipped its blazing, burning disc into the water. There at the distance where the devil lived. There where he feasted on the dead, and the darkness and despair of the living. She cursed the sun every evening for disappearing from the sky, leaving her to hope for another day. Hope was not a welcomed idea, but rather a ghost haunting her heart till the next morning. For each night she wished that the morning would bring back her missing son. Hope filled her soul and occupied every inch of her body. And when it died at sunset, she felt pain snatching her heart. 

Amal hated the sea, the sky, and the sun. She hated the rebirth and re-death of hope the most. At some point, she thought she would even wish for the terrible news to reach. Sorrow and despair seemed easier sometimes than clutching onto false hope. 

On one day, she remembered, her son left their little house for the big, old city. It was a dream come true. He would study in a remarkable university. This was a huge step, a success that Amal bragged about and was proud of more than Salah himself. 

And days passed, dreams turned to nightmares. While Amal was hanging the laundry on top of her small house, a black crow landed near her. It hoarsely cawed and pecked the floor. It stayed for some minutes despite her effort to dismiss it.

“Go away. Fly away, you ugly bird. Don’t you dare bring your bad omen to my home,” she uttered impatiently. 

The crow looked at her in defiance and flew high and soon vanished from sight. Shortly, the dreadful news arrived. At first it was, “Your son is missing,” her neighbor informed her in the evening. 

“Listen, Amal, they said he went to the beach with some of his friends and didn’t come back.” 

Sadly, the full story was told. The young men went to the beach, that deserted one. Though they knew no one swims there, they couldn’t resist the warmth of the water. 

“Come on, guys, let’s swim and have fun,” Amady said. “I can swim very well. No worries then.” 

Excited about the water and the good weather, they followed Amady except Salah who refused and stayed on the sand watching them. 

“I’ll wait here guys.” Salah had many dreams. He was a very ambitious young man who wanted to have his own business after completing his studies. Living in such a big city was, in itself, a great move and a different experience in his life. But he liked it and hoped to… 

“Help!!!” A scream brought Salah back to reality. 

There, among the waves, Salah could see a head popping up and going down under the water. Amady’s arms moved in every direction. When his head surfaced in the water, he gasped for air but nearly got salty water into his lungs. The other two guys tried to grab him out, but it was so difficult for them. 

“Salah, help us save him.” 

The three of them exerted much effort but in vain. Amady was heavy and the panic made his rescue even harder. They thought he was lost, till that moment that changed everything. He got his hands on Salah’s arm, held it tightly and pulled himself up trying to inhale some air. And Amady was saved, but no one saw Salah coming out. 

“We’ll search for his body along the beach. We’ll hire divers to find him in deeper waters,” his dad wept. 

“We must have his body back to bury him,” an uncle replied. 

As long as they searched, no body could be found. After some days when nothing appeared, an old woman in the neighborhood said that his mom should go to the beach every day and call him till he returns. 

One morning, Amal realized that the sea had drowned all the hope she had left. 

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Enzo Stephens: Invasive Species

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 are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Steve Bidmead of Pixabay.

“Invasive Species” is the sequel to the April 2021 WTS about Eggsy. For the story as to why Eggsy is not happy, please read the original story

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Invasive Species

Enzo Stephens

Siskiwit Lake, Wisconsin
May 19, 4:45 am

The folding chairs were arranged… just so.

All in parallel, facing out over the dark, fathomless waters of the small lake; standing as sentinels in the pre-dawn silence punctuated by the occasional hyperactive striped bass doing a bellyflop.

The legs of the chairs rested unevenly on the rocky shore, as if sudden movement by an occupant would send any one of them tumbling on its side, which just wouldn’t do at all.

First off, said occupants were heavy as hell. 

Second, said occupants were also out cold. Dead weight, which is a bitch to sling around, regardless of how strong a man is.

Hands and feet triple-wrapped with nylon twine and duct tape; a couple more pieces wrapped around their respective heads that closed off flapping mouths. Loose lips sink ships, so wrap those mofos up good ’n tight!

The morning sun was still in hiding; probably wouldn’t make an appearance until 6:15 or so, providing a little freedom for some deep thinking.

Some retrospective.

A little time to ponder the crap in life that was best avoided. Like family. Doctors. Pain-in-the-ass brothers who thought they knew better, and made no bones of publicizing their self-perceived superiority.

Yeah.

Some time to think. He strolled about 40 yards back away from the shore to his car; a relic from the ’70s, affectionately known as a “land-yacht.” The massive trunk-lid stood upright like a teenaged boner waving in the fading moonlight.

He clunked it shut and leaned against it; the land-yacht squeaked in protest as he yanked a doobie from his jacket pocket and blazed up.

“Edgar, how many friends do you actually have?”

“No idea, Doc. A few I guess.”

“Can you tell me their names?”

This line of questioning was making Edgar uncomfortable, mainly because he really did not have friends. Most folk couldn’t get past their visual perception of him, and frankly, Edgar didn’t blame them one iota.

First off, he was big. Not as in muscle-bound weight-lifter big, but more like tank big. As in huge slab of man-tank. Not quite off-putting in and of itself, but lo, that was only the beginning.

Because there was his head; a story all by itself. Huge, dented on the right side with an odd shelf of skull bone overhanging the nape of his neck; his ears were askew and the top of it almost came to a point.

Nice, huh?

But wait! There’s more.

It was blotchy brown and speckled. And not a hair to be found, not counting the tufts that sprang up from the back collar of his shirts.

Speaking of shirts, there was the constant heavy sweat that stained them within just a couple wearings, and of course, where there’s sweat, there’s a lil bit of the ole stinkeroo, of which Edgar was all too conscious.

The only way Edgar would be on The Bachelor would be as a joke.

The grand finale to this entire ensemble was that Edgar toted an intelligence quotient of over 160.

Ergo, with a lifetime of rejection from peers of all sorts and genders, coupled with a piranha-like wit, Edgar had no shortage of nastiness to dole out.

And still, his doltish brother coined Edgar his nickname and he chose to live with it with as much grace and aplomb as he could muster.

Eggs. Eggsy.

Still, despite Edgar’s wildly superior intelligence, there were events in his life that took a massive toll on his heart, as emotional maturity was simply not one of his strong suits.

Such as when Mom died.

Per her wishes, she was cremated, her ashes dumped in a ceramic jug that his nephew hand-painted and Edgar took that ceramic jar and lovingly placed it inside a backpack that he wore everywhere, even to work at the high school.

That jar-in-the-backpack idea came from the good doctor Killian, and Edgar liked it. Mom was always there, and Edgar felt like he could talk to her anytime he wanted, and so he did.

Good idea, Doc Killian.

“I’m sorry, Edgar, can you repeat what you just said please?”

“I said ‘good idea, Doc Killian’.”

“So, what about your friends?”

“I dunno. A few. Some folks I talk to. I have a lot online.”

“That’s not the same.”

“Well DUH!”

“Don’t get sarcastic, Edgar. Look, people need social interaction that’s face-to-face, in person. They need Touch. Feel. It’s a Sense for a reason, right?”

Eggsy grew sullen at the doctor’s light scolding, saying nothing.

“All I’m asking, Edgar, is for you to get out a bit more. See people, talk to them. Show them that appearances are deceiving, especially in your case. And always, always keep this in mind…

“You are NOT a monster.”

God I hate you!

“Now, clearly something’s bothering you more than usual, so talk to me.”

And there it was. Something was indeed bothering him, and the images replayed in his remarkable mind again.

Butler striding down the hall, his face contorted in anger, his posse fanned out to either side, while trailing behind him, a slim little teeny bunny named Karen, who was likely Butler’s girlfriend du jour.

Butler punching his mom’s ceramic jar out of Eggsy’s hand.

The jar shattering on the glistening floor, Mom’s ashes splaying out everywhere.

The soul-crushing sense of loss.

The non-stop crying.

Yeah, something was bothering him.

The weed was good. Strong, yet mellow, suffusing his mind with a breezy calm as a steady stream of smoke flowed from his nostrils in the still morning air.

The sun would be busting up soon, and it would be time to get this show on the road, baby!

Eggs pinched the ember between hard, calloused finger and thumb, pulled a roach-coach out of his coverall pocket, popped the lid and dropped the stogie-stump inside; the first of the day, and by golly it was an absolutely fine way to start the day. Better than a mug of that shitty Starbucks crap.

Grande my ass. Foam this, frap that, and soy milk! GAK!

He strolled to the driver’s side of the car, reached inside for a couple things, clunked the door shut and wandered back over to waiting chairs and the resting occupants.

Eggsy stood beside them, looking out over the serene lake, taking in the soft mists wafting up; trying to spy the obtrusive striped bass flipping and flopping all over the place as he dug another hooter out of his pocket and sparked it up.

A nosy mosquito zeroed in on the light from the flame, buzzing around the sudden cloud of smoke. Eggsy absently swung his hand in the bug’s general direction.

Yeah, one hooter was good, but two be better!

Such is true in life, although Edgar only had pictures and the internet to really attest to that truism, for the guy was still pure, as he liked to call his unsoiled condition.

No girlie-girls ever rode his bony-baloney. It used to sadden him; now? Not so much.

It’s like, why bother? 

Sure, he could pay for it, and lots of those girls are pros and would give him a good time regardless of his fugly head, but…

But…

There was nothing to it.

It would be nothing more than a release. Like blowing one’s nose or taking a dump.

And that’s not what Edgar McMichael wanted.

He took a powerful drag on the weed. The spleef. Clouds fluttered in his head; a gentle buzz that was beginning to make his eyes feel small.

Then he realized what was in his hand. Papers. He held it up to his face in the gray pre-dawn light.

It was a poem, and it was so bad that it actually offended him. He hacked and spat. 

The author’s name jumped out at him; Karen Wilkerson, and lookee there! Karen Wilkerson was right there in that very chair, bound and gagged with her beau, her screw-buddy, her loving meathead, Butler.

Eggsy turned away, casting his faraway gaze across the lake. A loon called out, a few skeeters zipped around, the sun was encroaching and both Karen and Butler were stirring.

“Hey guys, let’s party!”

Eggsy leaned down to Butler’s eye level and blew a cloud of weed smoke into his face.

Nothing.

He straightened up, took another deep drag and repeated the offensiveness with the lovely, blond Karen.

This time he was rewarded with a slight cough and a fluttering of her long lashes. She was a cutie, no doubt, and not for the first time did Eggsy question his plan.

But then the image of his mom’s ashes mixed with pieces of shattered ceramic sifting through his catcher’s-mitt sized hands stung him and he stood, a surge of rage washing over him.

Karen opened her eyes and they literally sparkled in the dim morning light, like a sapphire in the mud. She spotted Eggs and her eyes grew wide with fear. She squirmed against her bonds, but the little filly wasn’t breaking free of those bad boys anytime soon, no siree.

“You needn’t waste your effort there, beautiful. You’re decidedly pretty, but also — and I’m judging this next statement by this ridiculous drivel you penned right here, as stupid as a shoelace.”

Eggsy turned to spy a brightening of the Eastern sky, yet still below the horizon. He took another drag on the wonderweed, stubbed it, parked it in the roach-coach and turned back to the quietly sobbing girl.

“I’m guessing that if your utterly luscious mouth were unfettered, you’d be crying and asking me what I want.”

She just stared at him with saucer-like, cerulean eyes.

“Well, gorgeous, your crime is guilt by association. You’re with him.”

Eggsy’s words finally hit home in her brain, and she shook her head frantically, blond tresses flipping about.

“I hate liars too. And you’re a liar. Plus, there is this garbage…

“‘You tease my soul with your words as you tickle my tonsils.’

“I choose not to proceed with this; it provokes my gag-reflex.”

He stepped before Butler, his left hand rocketing forward to whack Butler’s cheek with a jarring slap. “Wake up, asshole.”

His eyes fluttered. Eggsy waited. Then they focused in on Eggsy, and widened in sudden fear, and Eggsy laughed; a deep, boogery sound that hurt the ears and the brain.

“Yeah, you know what’s up, don’t you?”

Eggsy laid a sheet of paper upon which scrawled his girlfriend’s loving prose on Butler’s lap, then dropped a couple pebbles from the beach on it to hold it in place ere the wind take it for a ride, muttering, “Yeah shitbird, you’re gonna regret doing what you did to Mom; she’s gone, she’s fucking gone and you’re gonna pay, you are so done…”

He rested the other piece of paper on Karen’s lap, repeating the process with the stones. The goodies weren’t going anywhere.

Now comes the coup-de-grace.

Eggsy lifted an eight-ounce bottle that contained clear liquid from its resting place on the beach, turned to face the upper-edge of the rising sun, then turned back to the bound couple with crappy poetry resting on their respective laps and smiled.

It was an ugly smile; all teeth and zero love. 

He twisted the screw-cap off the bottle, stepped over to the good football captain Butler and upended it, spilling dollops of clear, viscous liquid all over the paper resting on his lap.

For good measure he flicked a bit over Butler’s minutely flinching head and splashed some down over his cheek.

Satisfied, he stepped over to Karen and splattered her paper, then tossed a bit more in her hair, then ever-so-carefully, dribbled some right on the very tip of that cute little upturned nose.

Eggsy stepped back, admiring his ministrations. Then he upended the bottle again and stepped behind the couple, striding back several yards, until the bottle was empty. He flipped it toward a small mound and strolled back over to the whimpering, sobbing pair.

Eggsy stood before them, just a few feet from the shoreline of the placid lake, then hunkered down as he fished another doobie out and applied flame.

“This is nice, don’t you think?”

Muffles, rustling, but certainly no conversation.

“You know if it were earlier in the year and it was a bit colder, well that’d be a good time to do some trout fishing. As it is, you can expect it to be bass mating season.

“I always liked this lake. I could really spend two whole weeks up here without seeing a living soul. That’s why this lake is the best.

“One time I saw a younger guy on a kayak, one of those colorful fiberglass ones. You could tell he was a noob with that kayak. Just figuring it out, and I suppose that’s something else this lake is good for. Learning how to handle watercraft before getting out on the big waters, and Lake Superior is some freaking big water.

“Any hoo, the putz flipped the kayak and didn’t know how to right it without disembarking, and these waters are cold as hell. Dude didn’t look like he was wearing a wetsuit, so soon as he got his shit right, he paddled that bugger into shore, loaded her up and see-ya-later-bye.

“People today are spineless.”

Eggsy turned toward the pair, who had grown more quiescent since Eggsy visited the contents of the bottle on them; watching him warily, as if that would make one shit-bit of difference.

“Okay, I think I’ve screwed with you enough; kept you in the dark way too long. So here’s the news for you, and you’re gonna love it.

“I mean that with all sarcasm.

“I don’t know if you lovebirds follow the local news here at all, but there was a story a couple years back about ‘invasive species’ plaguing our region.”

He looked at the pair, awaiting recognition and receiving nothing of the sort.

“No? Okay then, I suppose I have to spell it out for you. The invasive species that news report spoke about is fire ants.

“Lemme tell ya, those are some vicious little bastards. One bite and you’ll feel it for days.

“Now behind you, oh I guess maybe eight to ten feet away is a thriving nest of those bastards; all humming and zipping all over, building and spreading and reproducing and most of all — and here’s where the plot thickens for you young lovers, searching for food.

“‘Well gee, Eggsy,’ you might say. ‘That’s no big deal, why would that be of interest to us? Now why not cut us loose and we’ll have a laugh over this really super fine joke and we’ll all go grab a malt, and boy oh boy Eggsy you really did teach us a lesson and all.’

“Except that stuff I threw all over you is Karo corn syrup.”

He stood up to let that sink in, and it did with thundering impact. Tears literally squirted from Karen’s eyes and Butler renewed his struggles with intensity. But they were both well socked in, and Karen knew it.

A slight motion behind the couple in their beach chairs caught Eggsy’s eye; a quick little nit of motion in red.

The festivities were about to begin, and as Eggsy strolled amiably back to his land-yacht, fishing another hooter out of his pocket, he realized that the weed was making him powerful hungry. He remembered a diner about an hour or so back toward Minneapolis.

Maybe some bacon and eggs. Maybe an omelet.

Nah. French Toast slathered in Karo. The dark stuff.

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Please visit Enzo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011

Lynn Miclea: Abduction

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 are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Steve Bidmead of Pixabay.

Abduction

Lynn Miclea

Dawn sat in the blue beach chair and stretched out her legs, her toes wiggling in the soft, warm sand, as the sun soothed and warmed her on that bright, sunny, relaxing Saturday. She glanced at her husband Michael sitting next to her, the sun on his face, his eyes closed. Their four-year-old daughter, Melissa, giggled happily as she played in the sand next to them.

Dawn sighed, listening to the ocean lapping onto the shore with a soft whoosh. Smells of warm sand and tangy salt water permeated the air, and she took a deep breath as she relaxed in the comfortable beach chair, looking out over the soft golden sand and the deep blue of the ocean.

Her thoughts briefly drifted back to her previous marriage. A shiver ran through her, and she was glad she had divorced that abusive and controlling man. It was tough getting out of that marriage, but she finally got a restraining order against him, her divorce went through, and she trusted that it was over and she would never see him again.

Shaking her head to clear it, she looked over at Michael, grateful that she was now married to someone kind and caring. It was worth all the pain and difficulty to get away and find him. Michael might be a cop, but he was more sensitive and caring than any other man she knew. Married to Michael for five years now, they had a beautiful daughter together, and she hoped days at the beach would build happy memories for her. She glanced at Melissa, her curly brown hair in pigtails, happily playing in the sand. Life was good again.

Dawn looked up as a man approached them from the side and started talking, and he then asked a question. He somehow looked out of place, but she couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong. Why would he ask her where the refreshment stand is? Why was he fully dressed? Something just did not make sense. But wanting to be helpful, she pointed in the direction, and told the man where it was. Glancing at her husband, she saw him frown as he looked at the man talking, a touch of concern on his face. Then he looked at her, shrugged, and smiled.

***

Melissa patted the warm sand with her hand and scooped up more sand with her pail and shovel, creating hills for her doll to walk on. She loved the feel of the warm tiny grains falling from her hands, and she giggled, her soft pigtails bouncing in the gentle breeze. She loved days at the beach. She noticed a man approach her mommy and daddy, and her parents turned to talk to him. Unconcerned, she went back to playing in the sand.

Melissa ignored the man and continued patting the sand and walking her doll on it. This was fun. The warm sand felt good to play with. A strong hand suddenly grabbed her, and as she tried to gasp and cry out, a hand was clamped across her mouth so she could not yell. Terror and panic flooded her as she was quickly carried away.

Terrified and panicked, she desperately struggled to free herself and fight back. Where were Mommy and Daddy? Did they see? She tried to scream, but nothing could be heard past his powerful hand across her mouth. She squirmed and struggled, but the man holding her was too strong, and he rushed with her down the beach as her little legs futilely kicked behind her.

***

The strange man thanked Dawn for helping, and he turned and leisurely walked off.

Not thinking too much of it, Dawn turned around to check on Melissa. Something was wrong. Her stomach flipped. Melissa was gone. Where was she? Did she run off? No, she would never do that. What happened? Panic hit her. Was the person talking to them a diversion? Was their daughter taken by someone?

“Michael!” Her voice was harsh and desperate. “Melissa is gone.”

Michael jumped up, eyes searching the beach. A few people were walking, playing catch, or splashing in the water. No one was running. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Where was Melissa?

His face was serious as he shifted into cop mode. “That was deliberate. She was taken.” He scanned the beach, on alert, face tight and focused.

“Melissa!” Dawn called out. “Melissa!” Her body shook and it was hard to breathe. Someone had her baby! Why? Where was her sweet baby?

Her eyes scanned the water and the beach. “Melissa!” Her voice was hoarse with fear and desperation. Her beautiful, precious daughter was not visible anywhere.

Michael’s hand immediately went to where his firearm should be, but he remembered he left that locked up in the car along with his radio. He turned to Dawn. “Call 911,” he said urgently. He took a few steps forward.

Dawn took out her cell phone and punched in the numbers. “I don’t see her,” she murmured as the phone rang and her call was quickly answered.

“There!” Michael pointed down the beach at a distant figure, and he took off at a sprint.

Finished with her call, Dawn hung up the phone. Even though cops were now on the way, panic flooded her. She desperately searched the beach. “Melissa!” She called out again, her voice breaking. Stifling a sob, she whispered, “Where are you, baby?”

***

Melissa kept struggling and crying, tears running down her face. The man carried Melissa farther down the beach to a woman at the far end. “I got her,” he said to the woman.

The woman nodded. “Good. We’ll teach that woman not to cross you.”

The man cleared his throat. “My ex will suffer for leaving me. I will never forgive her. This is just the start of the pain I will cause her.”

He placed Melissa on the blanket and pointed at her. “You, shut up and stop crying. Stay quiet and don’t make a sound or you’ll regret it.” His voice was harsh.

Where was Mommy? Panicked, unable to sit still, Melissa wailed and tried to scurry away, getting a few feet down the beach. “Mommy!” she cried out in terror.

The man raced after her and grabbed her, then slapped her across the face. “I said be quiet and don’t move!”

Melissa froze in shock and then screamed, her hands moving to her stinging cheek.

“We need to get out of here now,” the woman warned, as she reached for the blanket and their few belongings.

The man picked up and carried Melissa and held her with a firm grip. “You’re coming with us.”

Melissa screamed again and kicked as hard as she could. “No! Mommy!!! Daddy!!! HELP!!!”

***

His eyes focused on his target, Michael raced down the beach, passing people sunbathing on the sand or splashing in the water, people who were oblivious to what was happening. Rushing forward, he remained fixated on his target.

“Stop him!” he called out as he began to close the distance. “He has my daughter!”

He could hear Melissa screaming, and he raced forward. “Stop him!” he shouted to those as he passed. “Help me! Stop him! He kidnapped my daughter!”

“Daddy!” Melissa called out, flailing her legs in the air.

“No!” The man shouted, enraged, as Michael closed in on him. “You can’t have her. She’s mine now!”

Why was he somewhat familiar? It suddenly hit him. He remembered a picture of Dawn’s abusive ex-husband, Ron. This was him, a little older and scruffier, but it was him. He was sure of it, and it was time to take him down, but he could not endanger his daughter further.

Michael drew close to the man who held his daughter. “Put her down,” he commanded.

“No!” the man shouted back.

“Daddy!” Melissa wailed.

Michael pointed at the man. “Release her and things will go easier for you.” He waited a few beats. “Release her now.”

“No! This is Dawn’s fault, and she must suffer for what she has done.”

“Let her go,” Michael said, his voice deep. “Now.” He saw a bald man move forward behind the bad guy and kept talking to cover up what was happening. “Come on now, do the right thing. Let her go. You won’t get away with this.”

The bald man lunged and grabbed Ron around the waist. Ron loosened his grip on Melissa, and the girl squirmed out of his grip, dropped to the sand, and ran to Michael. “Daddy!” she cried out.

“Stay here, sweetheart. Don’t move,” he said quietly to her. He could hear the sound of sirens getting closer. Backup was here. That was good.

The bald man pinned Ron on the beach and sat on him.

A heavy-set woman came closer. “You can’t hold him. He didn’t do nothin’. He was here with me the whole time.”

Ron turned his head toward her. “Quiet, Doris. Don’t say anything.”

“Ron, I’ll help you no matter what it takes.”

Michael gestured to the woman. “Who are you?”

The woman puffed out her chest in defiance. “I’m his girlfriend. And I’m his alibi.”

Ron shook his head. “Doris, quiet. Please.”

The man who had recently distracted them with the question walked up. “Hey, what’s going on?”

Doris looked at him. “Arthur, good, you’re here.”

Michael peered at the woman and pointed to Arthur. “Who is that?”

She took a step forward. “That’s my brother, and he ain’t done nothin’ wrong neither. Let us go. We have a right to leave. You can’t hold us here. We’ll sue you for assault.”

Michael shook his head. “Lady, all of you are in a heap of trouble.” He glanced behind him and saw four uniformed officers running toward them with Dawn at their side.

“That’s him,” Dawn was saying. “The man on the ground is my ex, Ron. And this guy,” she said gesturing to Michael, “is my husband, and he’s a cop.” She spoke fast. “And that guy is the guy who distracted us with a question. It was a setup.”

Melissa ran to Dawn. “Mommy!” she cried.

Melissa picked her up and held her close. “I’m here, sweetie. You’re safe now.”

Michael thanked the bald man for helping, and the bald man nodded. “I’m a marine, and it was both my duty and my pleasure to help. Couldn’t let this guy get away with that.”

Michael turned to the officers and filled them in as to what happened, as they brought out their handcuffs.

The officers yanked Ron up from the sand, put his hands behind his back, and locked the handcuffs in place. “You’re under arrest for kidnapping, assault, reckless child endangerment, conspiracy, violating a restraining order, resisting an officer, and possibly a few other charges.” They then handcuffed both Doris and Arthur. “And both of you are under arrest for conspiracy, kidnapping, and aiding and abetting a criminal act.”

Dawn let out a big sigh of relief as she heard the words floating in the air. She held Melissa to her and kissed her cheek. “Are you okay, sweetie?”

“He hit me,” Melissa declared.

“And abuse of a minor,” the officer added as he firmly held Ron in place.

One of the officers faced the bald man. “Can we ask you a few questions and get a statement from you, sir?”

The man nodded. “Absolutely. I’ll do whatever I can to help.”

Michael turned to the officers. “Thank you for responding so quickly. I sure needed the backup.”

One of them responded. “Good thing we were close by, and glad we could help.”

Three of the officers led the three handcuffed people away, heading toward their vehicles. One officer stayed behind and gestured to the bystanders on the beach. “I’m going to take a few statements before we leave.”

Michael gave a quick nod. “Good. And I’ll come to the station shortly and give you my statement and do what I can to help.”

As the officer nodded, Michael looked at his wife and daughter, concern showing in his face. “Are you guys okay?”

Dawn nodded. “We’re fine. A bit shaken up, but okay.”

“Good. We’ll do everything we can to make sure this is the end of it and he stays behind bars and can’t bother you again.”

Dawn blinked tears away. “I hope so,” she whispered.

Melissa buried her face in Dawn’s chest and sniffed, and Dawn held her tight. “We’ll keep you safe, sweetheart,” she murmured into her daughter’s hair.

Dawn turned to her husband. “Thank you for helping take him down and save our daughter. Thank you for keeping us safe.”

Michael’s eyes grew wet as his face softened. “I would do anything to help and protect you. Both of you. You’re my family.”

Dawn shook her head. “This was my fault. I should never have—”

“No.” Michael quickly interrupted her. “This is not your fault. You did nothing wrong. He is a sick man, and this was a criminal act. What he did was his choice and is not your fault.”

“Thank you.” Her voice was soft. “We’re so lucky to have you. You really saved us.”

“No,” he answered. “I am the lucky one. First, I’m glad I saw him and caught him before he left. And I’m really glad backup got here so quickly. Thank you for calling 911.” He shook his head and then continued. “And I’m lucky because of you. You saved me. You give my life meaning and depth and joy. You light up my world. I don’t know where I’d be without you.” He paused a moment, glancing toward the ocean, then turned his gaze back to his wife. “And you deserve someone who will treat you well. Always.”

Dawn nodded as a tear slid down her cheek.

Michael leaned forward and wrapped his arms around his wife and daughter. “The two of you make everything worthwhile. You’re the most important people in my life. Please don’t ever forget that.”

Speaking past the lump in her throat, her voice was thick. “You are that for me, too. For both of us.” Dawn let out a long breath as they turned and slowly walked back to their beach chairs.

Maybe it was finally over. Maybe they could just be a happy family again. But for now, they could at least enjoy some time at the beach.

—————————————–

Copyright © 2021 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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