Monday, December 31, 2018

Jenny Twist Gives Readers A Story to Consider for the New Year!

...So when the woman, Mrs Midwinter, had made the appointment for her daughter to have her hair cut, she had jumped at the chance. A child of eleven! Wanting a neat hairstyle for starting at secondary school. ‘A challenge’ the woman had said. 
Apparently the child’s hair was very long and unruly. Marlene mentally rubbed her hands with delight. Cutting was her forte and she so seldom got the chance these days to do a new cut. 
Day after day she trimmed and permed and rinsed and listened to the endless moanings of old women. Today she would have a proper head of young, healthy hair to cut and – who knows? – maybe she would tell her friends and Marlene would get a whole new young clientele. 
She had looked forward to this appointment all day and now it looked as if they weren’t coming. She checked her watch again. Twenty minutes late. She decided that she would make herself a cup of tea and if they still hadn’t arrived by the time she’d drunk it, she’d give it up as a bad job. 
She went into the little kitchen and put the kettle on. As she reached for a cup, she heard the soft ting of the door and muffled scuffling sounds. She turned back into the salon just as a woman with a beautiful head of dark chestnut hair came through the door, dragging a young girl by the wrist. The girl was struggling and making small whimpering noises. 
“Come on, Amanda,” her mother said. “She won’t bite you.” 
“I don’t want to,” the girl moaned. “It won’t like it. It doesn’t want to be cut.” Marlene stood still, watching in amazement. The mother had beautiful hair but that of the child was magnificent – long, thick, golden locks – so long they hung well below her waist, and so thick that they swept out around her like a glittering cloud as the child struggled to get away.
Marlene itched to get her hands on that hair. Oh, this was worth waiting for. She went forward to meet them and the child quietened down as she approached. “Mrs Midwinter?” Marlene said, stretching out her hand in greeting. 
The woman shook her head and kept a tight hold on the girl. “I can’t let go of her,” she said. “Where do I put her?” She looked round the salon distractedly. Marlene took hold of the girl’s other hand and led the pair of them to one of several chairs facing a row of mirrors. 
“Here,” she said but the girl pressed her lips together and refused to move. Marlene looked helplessly at the mother. 
“Come on, Amanda,” the woman said. “Don’t be difficult. You know you can’t start big school with all that hair. It looks awful.” 
Marlene privately thought the woman was jealous of her daughter, whose hair was even more beautiful than her own. So beautiful it seemed a shame to cut it. “Wait!” Marlene put her hand out. “Are you sure you want me to cut it? It’s so beautiful. Can’t you plait it or put it in a ponytail? It seems a shame. . .”  
She tailed off as the woman glared at her venomously. “I’ve tried that,” she said between clenched teeth. “I’ve tried everything. It won’t let me.” Then with a note of pleading. “Please, please will you cut it off?” She pulled back in alarm as a stray lock of her daughter’s hair fell forward across her arm and for a moment it looked as if it were gripping onto her. 
Marlene suddenly realized she’d got it wrong. The woman wasn’t jealous of the hair. She was afraid of it. “OK,” she said. “Let’s get her in the chair.” 
The child fought like a demon, the wild hair whipping round her head as she struggled against them, but at last they got her in the chair and Marlene, still holding onto the girl with one hand, reached out and took her scissors from the shelf. 
The child screamed as Marlene grabbed a substantial lock of the hair. Under her hand, the hair writhed. Marlene was so surprised she almost dropped the scissors. But she was made of sterner stuff. “Right,” she said, grasping the hair more firmly in her left hand and cutting across with her right. 
In her need to restrain the thick lock of hair, she cut blindly, slashing as quickly as she could. The heavy lock fell to the floor, leaving the short hair twitching in the breeze of its passage. 
The woman gasped, the child wailed...

Somehow this short story seemed to be perfect for New Year's Eve. But I wondered how Jenny Twist, a multi-genre novelist, which includes fantasy and scifi, chose to write the book. I was happy to have her include the reason: she had been asked to contribute to an anthology about an inanimate object, and even got the suggestion! I was intrigued even more so I included how the story came about. Note that current events in our countries was the impetus...
Earlier this year my friend, Mary Patterson Thornburg, herself a damned good writer, asked me whether I would be prepared to submit a story to an anthology, the theme of which was inanimate objects taking on a life of their own. Nothing immediately suggested itself to me and Mary said, well how about the president’s hairpiece? I was inspired. I have become more and more concerned with the world political system in the last couple of years and the rise of right-wing governments. There has always been a surplus of dictatorships in the world but it seems to me that it is getting out of hand. In my own homeland, Britain, we have a right-wing government apparently determined to grind the people into poverty. Like many of my stories this one is an act of petty revenge. I hope you enjoyed it.
For me, it was much more simple. I had received a notice of FB connection and realized that I'd never read this author... so I went out looking. You can assume you are correct why I chose this short story... LOL

I was pleasantly surprised how the story began. A young girl and her mother were seeking a haircut prior to starting school. Both knew, as the story tells us, that the hair didn't want to be cut. Yes, that's right. Little Amanda's hair had become alive...

And the reason was quite simple... A bully at school had pulled that beautiful hair and, to protect itself, the hair took control... It's kinda funny when you think of it. Imagine whenever a bully hurt someone else, that part of the body would take over and take revenge... Could stop bullying cold in its tracks...

Marlene, the hairdresser, was in a neighborhood where many of her customers were older women who all looked alike, from the point of view of their hair. So Marlene was thrilled to have a new client with such long, lovely hair... Little did she know when she tried to take a curl into her hands to cut!

Actually, it took both Marlene and Amanda's mother to finally cut off that hair. But the cut was so bad, because of the hair fighting back, well it was a mess. But at least the remaining hair didn't fight and Marlene started over to make that mess into a beautiful new short hair cut that all of them loved. Amanda and her mother left in joyful thanks!

But Marlene turned around and looked at that hair on the floor. First she swept it out of the way so it touched nothing... But that hair was so beautiful...Did she dare? She put it away in a box to see if anything happened...and nothing did. So after some time, she contacted a friend to see if he wanted to buy the hair for a wig...

And the wig-maker took one look and immediately knew who could use a new wig...

Remember, the ending is surprising, while I must add--The Hair Did It! Even inanimate objects become, when worn, what the individual is... Shocking...and Fake News. But a quite engaging story to ponder as a fantasy, don't you think? Readers can't help but find it humorous... And certainly find a bit of satire...  Especially for readers who have the same concerns as the author. Do check it out!


Jenny Twist left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and escapologist's assistant (she was The Lovely Tanya), she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford. 

In 2001 she retired and moved to Spain where she lives with her husband, Vic, and their rather eccentric dogs and cat. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, knitting and attempting to do fiendishly difficult logic puzzles.

In July 2018 she was awarded the coveted TOP FEMALE AUTHOR award in Fantasy/Horror/Paranormal/Science Fiction by The Authors Show

Twitter: @JennyTwist1

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Random Hearts, Latest Edition, Moves Directly Into Human Warren Adler

The classic romance novel that inspired the Hollywood film starring Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas, written by the acclaimed novelist Warren Adler, well-known for his iconic novel turned international box-office hit ‘The War of the Roses.’  Soon to be a Stage Play...

Note: Watching the trailer, I quickly decided I preferred the book...

The aircraft fell in line behind a number of others. Outside, the snow continued to fall and swirl about, sometimes completely obscuring visibility through the windows. Leaning over him, she looked out. “Are we really going to take off?” “They know what they’re doing,” Orson said. A plane’s roar split the air. “Listen to that. We’ll be in the sunshine two minutes after takeoff.” 
“When I’m with you, there’s always sunshine,” she said, caressing him. The plane’s speaker crackled. “The flight tower has given us the go-ahead, folks. Sunny Florida, here we come.”
The pilot’s voice was followed by that of the stewardess reminding them to fasten their safety belts and put the seats in an upright position. They obeyed the instructions, although they kept the blanket over them. “I wouldn’t care if we just kept on flying to the end of the world, forever,” Lily said, entwining her fingers in his. 
“That won’t solve anything. We’d have to land someday,” he said, lifting her fingers to his lips and kissing them. The aircraft lumbered forward and began to accelerate. Some loose baggage bumped in the overhead racks. The great jets roared, and the plane’s body quivered as it charged ahead, flattening them against the seat backs. For an inordinately long time, the plane did not lift.
“Hard getting this baby off the ground,” someone said behind them. Orson felt Lily’s fingers squeeze harder as their bodies waited to sense the lift-off. When it happened, her fingers unclasped, and Orson looked out the window into the mass of white. 
Lily leaned over him. “Soon,” he whispered. She lifted the rose to her nostrils and breathed in its delicate scent. Then the plane began to buck and lose altitude. It became deadly quiet; the sudden terror had paralyzed everyone into silence. 
Even when the big plane sheared a railing off the Fourteenth Street Bridge along with the tops of five cars, there were no screams. Then the plane crashed through the ice with an enormous impact.

Random Hearts

By Warren Adler

I don't know of anybody better than Warren Adler to write on the human condition... Taking things, events, situations that happen routinely in America, he will take readers deeper into his characters, revealing the most intimate of emotions, internal thoughts, or physical actions, daring us to differ in opinion from what he sees as our reality, our lives, living together...

Even as I read, I reveled, knowing, almost immediately, each single event that was going to happen, including the ending. However, that did not prepare me for the "experience" of coming to know each of the individuals I would be meeting in the novel.

Almost immediately, two of the characters are killed in an airplane crash. With the brief introduction, we know that they are very much in love and looking forward to a brief getaway. They leave two spouses behind, not telling anybody where they were going. And they flew under aliases. They were lovers, having an affair... They loved their spouses...but...

And then the mystery begins...

I enjoyed the police officer who was assigned to the task of working with the victims of the crash. When the first body, a female, was found and had to be called a Jane Doe, due to lack of identification, he was somewhat relieved to break the chain of body review and relative notification... Finally, all bodies were recovered. A man was identified by his credentials...who was not scheduled on the flight...

Edward Davis knew his wife was to be out of town for 4 days. Vivien was a homemaker and mother and she and her son said goodbye to her husband as he was leaving for 4 days... As we read about their departure, readers begin to see questions about their relationship; i.e., the relationship between spouses. A good word as we read could be called...content...

So when their spouses were expected home, both Edward and Vivien began to worry. They had heard about the plane crash, but it had been headed for a destination that neither of their spouses was headed... They thought...

We watch as news finally reaches them; they are devastated. Sergeant McCarthy made a decision, which I supported, and brought those two people into a private room to tell them that their spouses were not named earlier because they were traveling under another name and that they had been together...

But answers were needed! And if nobody had known where their spouses were, then they bonded together to find out! How would you feel in this situation? All of the emotional restraints that had been held, sometimes on small things, but now, faced with betrayal, started being considered and pulled out by both Edward and Vivien. Each piece of information was each raged and vented their own emotions... Nobody else could understand...

Adler's sensitivity, his awareness, his ability to realistically create the overwhelming emotions involved--from each character--is exceptional. There is little doubt that readers will grasp the emotional impact of what is happening to the two remaining spouses. And the key to that readers response is Adler's unbelievable, created understanding of what happened, what the individuals were thinking, what the individuals wanted--revenge, and provided that turmoil for us to feel, to empathize, perhaps, but to also sympathize, with all of those individuals who shared this story...a secret story that the world would never know about, yet see the results...

I loved the ending and the moral to the story... I also loved that both Edward and Vivien were included in the emotionally wrought story so that both sexes were emphasized in this, a situation that exists in the human condition of interpersonal relationships... I think this just might be my last "Personal favorite for 2018!" Loved it!


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Spring Thaw by Lauren Carr Provides Novella and Short 2018 Anthology

Readers of Lauren Carr become fans, Avid Fans, often because of her characters. Because she is such a prolific writer, readers will often become enthralled with certain characters. Mine is Gnarly, the first animal character released in her first book. Gnarly oftentimes freely makes his own decisions about what he will do, even when he is being directed differently. Yes, he is a trained, professional who served in the military, but, since retired, he is often off doing what he wants or thinks he should do.

But each characters has been so developed that, even in a short story, we are already prepared to enjoy the story, knowing that we have already met the character. A very enjoyable experience. I'm one of those readers who see "specials" offered by the author so I had picked up two anthology. One six years ago, but hadn't read. I learned quickly that the book had since been updated and one of them had been taken off the market. I mention this because, if you are a fan, I highly recommend you ensure through a review of the beginning pages, that you haven't already read the book, or stories. In Spring Thaw, for instance, we got a novella plus five shorter stories. Prices are always reasonable, but if you're like me who sometimes doesn't remember what I've read years later, it's a good idea which I've gotten into, to check the date of publication...

Charles Town, West Virginia—Six Years Ago 

The blast of the vehicle’s horn sent shock-waves through the darkened church building. In the spacious corner office that had formerly been home to the previous congregation’s pastor, Bishop Lawrence O’Donnell ripped his dark-framed glasses from his round face. “What the hell!” He pointed a thick finger at Liz Jennings. “You’ve created this mess.” 
Liz’s eyes grew wide behind her cat-eye tortoiseshell frame glasses. “I’m the one who kept this church together, which is more than I can say for you.” She pointed a stubby finger adorned with a large rhinestone at the religious leader. 
The horn blared again—this time broadcasting its message in one long continuous blast to the occupants inside the office.
“Liz, I’m ordering you to go shut that bastard up!” the bishop ordered. 
“Don’t.” An elderly man with thin gray hair, Reverend Truman Holmes polished his thick  eyeglasses, put them back on, and peered through the window. “We should be still and pray.” 
“Liz, what did Duane mean when he said you ripped his family apart?” Rusty Patton, the youngest of the church’s two remaining trustees, asked.
“Nothing,” she snapped. “I have known you to—” 
“Shut up!” The vehicle outside erupted with a long ear-shattering blast. “Son of a bitch!” Bishop O’Donnell hoisted his robust frame from the overstuffed chair, stomped to the door, and threw it open. “Damn you to hell, McCall!” O’Donnell’s curse was answered with a barrage of gunfire. Bullets riddled the front of the building.
The window shattered. The two men and woman inside the office hit the floor and covered their heads. They didn’t move until after the roar of the vehicle’s engine died down to a throbbing silence—a sign that the perpetrator was gone. “Bishop,” Reverend Holmes gasped, “are you okay?” He rose onto his hands and knees. His legs too unsteady to stand, he crawled to the motionless body. “Sir?” He laid his hand on the man’s shoulder. 
Something warm and moist soaked the knee of his pant leg. The reverend looked down at the bishop to find three bullet holes in his chest.

Spring Thaw
A Chris Matheson Cold Case Novella 
 Other Mystery Short Stories

By Lauren Carr

Six years ago, Bishop O'Donnell was murdered in Charles Town, West Virginia.  The accused had been convicted and indicted by the Grand Jury...

Even in churches, and sometimes, especially in church, there are evil people who choose to attend for personal prestige and power. Or perhaps they are merely misguided and unable to deal with upheaval that happens. Like when a Bishop is murdered... The church split after that; the investigation began and continued.

Now, the investigation had concluded with the arrest and indictment of Duane McCall. Duane McCall had been a Trustee of the church at the time of the murder. Indeed, he had been there the night the Bishop was murdered... Afterward, when the church split, Duane had chosen to stay with the original group, cutting off ties with all those who moved to another church, including some family.

And more came out about Bishop O'Donnell:

... “His whole speech was anti-American and anti-military. He basically stated that our government was an instrument of Satan training our young people to be killers.” She covered her face with her hands. When she looked up, she let out a breath. “Then he started trashing law enforcement.” 

“If we didn’t have law enforcement, criminals would be running the country.” 
“It gets worse,” she said. “We had the misfortune of landing in the same elevator with Bishop O’Donnell while going up to the dinner afterwards. After Kirk told him point by point where he was wrong in his speech, Bishop O’Donnell let loose with a string of obscenities like I haven’t heard since you bit your grandma on the toe.”

“How does a man like that rise through the ranks in a church—”

 “How did the pharisees and rabbis who plotted to kill Jesus Chris move up through the ranks of the Hebrew church?” 
She handed the mug to Chris and slid back into her seat. “We’re all human, Christopher. That makes us susceptible to falling prey to the wolves dressed in sheep clothing. Unfortunately, so many who don’t know any better don’t realize they’re in danger until they’re being devoured.”

It was Duane's wife who rushed to thank Chris and his family for coming and pleaded for their help... and, of course, further investigation begins in support of finding the truth... It was certainly apparent that lies were being thrown out!

“No big loss there. It isn’t like that pompous SOB was really a holy man.” Her upper lip curled into a snarl. “They were all a bunch of hypocrites.” 

There was a long silence during which Rose Marie stared at her hands. Finally, Chris sighed. “Our culture has come to assume that Christians are supposed to be perfect—or that we think we are—when really, it’s the opposite. We study the Bible because we’re sinners and we want to learn how to fight the sin in our own lives and the surrounding temptation.” 
“If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need to go to church,” Helen said with a slight grin. “We could stay home and bask in our sainthood.”

I was pleased to see Carr tackle a topic that rarely gets a close important message to help readers realize that one must look inward often to see exactly where we are in our life. As always, Carr weaves a wonderful twisting mystery that requires close attention, but throws in humor to make it lighter, as well as letting us know, we've got a life to live and seeing ourselves in a lighter framework often helps us! Even when the topic is...murder...

I wanted to spotlight two other stories, which have Gnarly as the main character. Both are humorous and totally fun and enjoyable. One is about two men who attempt to kidnap Gnarly. The other is when Gnarly gets in trouble for stealing the whole turkey meant for dinner! But all is forgiven when they find out why! By the way, the author give two of the stories from this book as gifts for Christmas on my blog, in case you want to check them out while you considering buying the book. For me, the novella gives us the best story, but each of the shorts give an exceptional reason for letting you know...I highly recommend the book, and this author! Loved all the stories!


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas from Lauren Carr--Sharing Her Short Story, Lucky Dog! Exclusive!

A Mac Faraday Mystery Short
Lauren Carr

This is going to be your day, you lucky dog. Lance Collins admired the clear blue sky overhead before pulling his black Ferrari into the last empty parking space. Rarely was such a prime slot, directly across from the Spencer Inn Sports Club staff entrance, vacant at ten o’clock in the morning. It’s a sign. Things are finally going my way. 
Fighting to keep down the wicked laugh bubbling its way to his lips, Lance grabbed his athletic bag and tennis racquet from the passenger seat and stepped out of his car.  The feeling of good fortune took a dip when the hair on the back of his neck rose to attention. He turned around to find the source of
suspicion in the form of a German Shepherd eyeing him from the front seat of a red Dodge Viper in the carte blanche of parking spaces—that reserved for the Spencer Inn’s owner, Mac Faraday. 
“What are you looking at?” The shepherd narrowed his eyes into a glare. “Mutt.” 
The dog’s snout twitched. His lips rose into a snarl. “My younger brother used to have a dog just like you.” Lance waved the racquet in his hand. “He bit me. You know what I did to him?” The shepherd bore his teeth. “I backed over him with my car … on purpose. When they found him flattened in the road, I cried along with everyone else. No one ever knew.” 
Lance’s voice dropped to a harsh whisper. “Take that as a warning, Gnarly. If I ever catch you in my sights, I won’t be tapping the brakes to slow down—I’ll be hitting the gas pedal.” Gnarly jumped up in his seat to lunge at him with
snarling barks. Lance seized the opportunity to club him over the head with the tennis racquet. To the attacker’s surprise, the dog dodged the blow before leaping back to clamp down on the racquet with his jaws. “Give me that, you son of a bitch.” Keeping his grip on the handle, Lance pulled back in an attempt to retrieve his racquet while Gnarly shook his head like a predator snapping the neck of its prey. The dog’s teeth tore through the strings in the head of racquet.  When it became apparent that he was losing the tug-of-war, Lance resorted to pounding his adversary on top of the head with his fist. 
“You damn son of it bitch. I’m going to kill you.” Gnarly dropped the racquet to respond with barks that sounded like his own canine version of curses and threats. Lance was in mid-lunge for the dog’s throat when he was pulled back by the shoulder. 
“What do you think you’re doing?” Mac Faraday yanked him back to step into the midst of the fight. The sight of his dog being attacked prompted him to take on an assertive nature that the tennis instructor had never seen coming from the former homicide detective turned inn owner—all thanks to an unexpected inheritance from his birth mother. 
Wish I was an illegitimate bastard to a rich, world-famous mystery writer. Taking notice of Mac’s faded blue t-shirt with a worn police academy emblem on his breast pocket, Lance silently swore that when he received his inheritance, he was going to dress in a style more befitting his social status. “Your dog attacked me.” Lance held up the shredded tennis racquet. “Look at what he did. This is a three-hundred-dollar racquet. How do you expect me to give lessons to guests with equipment in this condition?”
“Maybe next time you’ll think about that before trying to hit my dog with it.” Lance could see the German Shepherd, his tongue hanging out, laughing at him behind Mac’s back. Reminding himself that Mac had the power to fire him—and probably would—even if he was a favorite among the female patrons, Lance’s jaw clinched. 
“With all due respect, Mac, your dog came after me.” 
“And grabbed your racquet out of your hand to chew it to bits?” 
“All this without leaving the car?” Mac folded his arms across his chest. “He jumped out of the car, swiped your racquet out of your hand, and then jumped back into the car to shred it?” 
“You shouldn’t be leaving such a vicious dog alone in your car like that,” Lance warned. “Someone could get hurt, sue you, and end up owning this inn.” 
“Not if they’re smart enough to stay away from my car,” Mac replied. “Why do you think I drive Gnarly around with me? His pleasant odor and charming personality?” 
Judging by the low noise he uttered from deep in his throat before hanging his head, Gnarly picked up on his master’s sarcasm.  Out of the corner of his eye, Lance was aware of Police Chief David O’Callaghan, his arms also folded across his chest, watching the exchange.  It’s only a matter of time. Where Mac Faraday goes, Chief O’Callaghan is never far behind.
“You don’t like dogs, do you, Lance?” the police chief asked.
 Giving up on pleading his case against Gnarly, Lance turned to answer. “What? Do you intend to charge me with some hate crime for defending myself against a dog that tried to bite me?” 
David observed the tattered racquet. “No, I believe Gnarly came out on top of that fight. I’m talking about Sparky. Your wife’s maid told us that Kim kicked you out after you tried to poison her Yorkshire Terrier.” 
Lance waited for the rest of the news. Where’s the rest of it? I know you have more to tell me. So say it. I’ve been rehearsing for this moment. Give me my cue and let the curtain go up on my performance. 
When it didn’t come, he asked, “You came out here to question me about Sparky? That was a month ago. Don’t tell me that bitch has decided to press charges against me for trying to kill her yip-yap.” 
“Is that why your marriage only lasted sixty-three days?” Mac asked. “Sparky never did like you. You made it no secret about you not liking him. So you decided to get rid of him.” 
David said, “The vet told us that someone had fed him chocolate. That’s why his kidneys were shutting down.”
“No one has any proof that I was the one who gave it to him,” Lance said. 
“Sometimes you don’t need proof to know what someone is capable of,” Mac said, “That’s why Kim kicked you out. She knew.” 
David chuckled, “What did you do? Give her a choice. You or the dog. She chose the dog and gave you the boot?” 
“I don’t have to take this.” With a show of bravado, Lance turned away from them to toss his racquet through the open window of his car. 
Mac followed him. “Talk about ironic. You’re back to living in your little condo looking down on Kim Weathersby’s lakefront mansion where her little yorkie is sleeping on what used to be your side of the bed.” 
His patience at its limit, Lance whirled around. “What is this about?” 
“Kim was found dead last night.” Lance could see the police chief studying him when he broke the news. That’s why he’s there. He has to see my reaction.  Having prepared for days, Lance gave it to him. The delight he felt when he launched into his performance was similar to that of a child waking up on Christmas morning after having waited weeks for it. 

Lance’s mouth dropped open. He let out a gasp. His eyes were wide when he clutched his chest while collapsing against the door of his sports car. With a sob in his voice, he asked, “Are you serious? … No … it can’t be. Kim … She was my wife. How? How did it happen?” Yes, don’t forget to ask how it happened. They’ll notice if you don’t ask for all the details.
“The maid found her last night,” David told him. “Kim was hosting a dinner party. She had poured a martini and taken it upstairs to get ready. When the guests started arriving and she still hadn’t come down, the maid went up to check on her and found her collapsed on the floor in her dressing room.” “Collapsed from what?” he asked. 
“We’re still waiting for the autopsy results,” David said.
“Can’t be drugs,” Lance said. “Kim didn’t do drugs. She drank. She had to have her martini at four o’clock every day but she wasn’t a lush.” 
He noticed Mac studying him even more closely than the police chief.  Of course he is. He had been a homicide detective for over twenty years in Washington, D.C. Police Chief David O’Callaghan is young. He’s sharp, but still young. That was why he always called Mac Faraday in when it came to a murder on Deep Creek Lake. If anyone is going to nail me, it’s going to be Mac Faraday. 
“You were very well aware of Kim’s habits, weren’t you?” Mac asked. Sound offended by the suggestion.
“I loved Kim.” “She dumped you for a dog.” The corner of Mac’s lips curled. “As a matter of fact, her lawyer tells us that she had an appointment for changing her will on Monday morning. She was disinheriting you to make Sparky her chief beneficiary again.”
“I was here in the lounge with a date last night,” he said. David pounced on the slip. “I didn’t ask you for an alibi. We didn’t even say it was murder.” 
Mac was cocking his head at the tennis instructor.  Behind his master, Gnarly was also cocking his head. The dog had sat back down in the passenger seat of the sport car and rested his front paws on top of the door. He seemed to be enjoying the show.
Is that dog smirking at me?  Lance sucked in a deep breath and regrouped. “Why are you here talking to me then if you’re not asking for an alibi? Kim was only twenty-eight years old. She was healthy. Why else would she drop dead if someone hadn’t killed her?”
David and Mac exchanged glances before the police chief said, “That’s our thought exactly. And you’re right up there at the top of the list, Lance. Whirlwind romance and marriage that lasted only a couple of days past two months. Prenup that’s tighter than a bank vault. She kicked you out with only the clothes on your back and that Ferrari that you got for a wedding present.” “I was here last night. I had a date. You can call her if you need to check out my alibi.” Mac said, “But you were at your wife’s house yesterday afternoon before she collapsed. The caterer had let you in. What were you doing there?” “Same thing I’ve been doing there ever since Kim kicked me out,” Lance replied. “Begging her to take me back. I told you. I loved her. Yesterday, I took her two dozen long stem red roses, just like Ihad every day for the last ten days since she kicked me out. I’m sure you found them there along with all of the other roses that I’ve been bringing her.” David was nodding his head. “The caterer told us that you had sent her out of the room to get a vase to put them in.” Roll your eyes. Let them see how silly this whole line of questioning is—especially when they have no proof. “Excuse me for wanting her to come home and find them on display in the middle of the dining room table.” Mac replied, “And while the caterer was getting the vase, you were alone in the dining room with the bar and vodka. Are you sure you didn’t slip anything into the vodka while you were alone?” Of course, Mac would notice that. “I wasn’t completely alone,” Lance smirked.
“Sparky was there, too.” He showed them the bite marks on his ankle. “That rat bit me and I kicked him. Do you want to arrest me for that, too?” “As you mentioned,” David said, “you and Kim were married for two months. You’re aware of her schedule by now. Friday afternoons, she goes to the salon to get her hair done. Why did you take roses to her when you knew she wouldn’t be there?” Lance shot back with the answer that he had thought out very well. “Because I knew she wouldn’t let me in. But if she hadn’t have died, if I had a chance, I know that she would have taken me back eventually.” He sniffed while willing the tears to come to his eyes. “I know she loved me.” He covered his face with his hands when the tears didn’t come.
The interview ended with Police Chief O’Callaghan asking for the phone number of his date from the night before. After making a show of being confused with grief, Lance brought up the phone number on his cell phone and read it off to him.  “Call me if you hear anything,” he said to David in a pleading voice. 
There was a flicker of sympathy in the police chief’s eyes when he assured him that he would. 
Even if they do know I did it, they have nothing. Without any definite proof, they have to have some doubt. Of course, the timing is suspicious, but that’s only circumstantial. Things happen at the strangest times. People drop dead for no good reason. That’s what happened to Kim’s father. He was only in his thirties when he dropped dead. Why can’t his daughter do the same? So it happened in the middle of a messy break up? Stranger things have happened. Lance was aware of Gnarly watching him with accusation in his dark brown eyes while Mac Faraday backed out of his reserved spot and drove away. 
Dogs have a sixth sense about people. Kim had told him that the night she tossed him out. Sparky had never warmed to him. He didn’t think it was that important to win over a rat dog, until Kim started suspecting that maybe there was something wrong with him that made Sparky dislike him.  
Maybe Sparky resented my taking his place as Kim’s chief beneficiary in her will? Whatever the reason—Yeah, I tried to kill him, but it was self-defense. Didn’t Kim see that I was trying to save our marriage when I fed that chocolate cake to her dog? With a choked voice and grief-filled face, Lance went inside to tell the manager of the sports department that he had to go home. His wife had passed away. 
Stunned by the news, the manager told him to take as much time as he needed. That’s exactly what I intend to do. When he got home, Lance tossed the shredded racquet into the garbage. No more giving tennis lessons to desperate housewives and cougars on the prowl. He dropped his athletic bag to the floor.  This time next week, I’ll be back on the lake soaking up the rays next to my new yacht. With a grin, he set his cell phone on the kitchen table while on his way in to make a celebratory drink.  
Don’t celebrate too much. When O’Callaghan calls, he’s going to try to trip you up again. You need to stay on your toes. He wondered how long the police chief could string out the investigation.  It isn’t like Kim has a bunch of relatives clamoring for justice and wanting to kick me out of her will. She was an orphan. Her father had died when she was a child and her mother was killed in a private plane crash. 
Yep, the hundred-million dollar orphan was the perfect wife—except for her spoiled Yorkie. First thing I’m doing when I move back in is feed Sparky a bowl of antifreeze. 
Time to celebrate with a cocktail. He went into his kitchenette to mix a martini. It seemed most appropriate. After all, it was a martini that brought him his good fortune. All of the ingredients were waiting for him along with a martini glass he had put in the cupboard the afternoon before. 
Since it is Mac Faraday who suspects, he’ll be pushing for a thorough investigation, but that won’t do him any good. He’ll never find the evidence to prove it. According to what Lance had uncovered during his research on the Internet, the poison he had used, an alkaloid toxin, aconite, would only show up with the most sophisticated of toxicology tests. Oh, he was very careful. There was no way it could be traced back to him. He had even done his research on a computer at a public library in Morgantown so that they wouldn’t find record of his research on his computer. Even if they do find the poison, so what? There’s no way they can trace it directly back to me. I made damn sure of that.
Lance ran his fingers across the smooth bleached counters in his kitchen. They weren’t going to find any trace of the poison. It was long gone. He had flushed it down the men’s room toilet at a bar in Oakland, the next town over, where he had taken his date the night before. He held the martini glass up to the light and admired his cleverness. Yes, it was suspicious my showing up at the mansion while Kim was out getting her hair done. I knew she wouldn’t be there. Mac was right.  
As Lance had argued, he had been showing up at the mansion with flowers every day for ten days—long enough to make it not unusual for him to come with gifts in an attempt to win back the woman he loved. Loved. Yes, I loved that spoiled fairy princess.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Lance poured the vodka into the shaker along with the ice. While he shook the mixer, he chuckled so hard that his feet began tapping to the rhythm until he broke into a dance of joy. 
Impressed with the beauty of the roses he had brought, the caterer didn’t hesitate when he sent her out of the room for the vase. That was when he slipped the martini glass he had coated with the poison out from under the tissue in the box of flowers to switch with the one that always rested next to the martini shaker in the bar—the glass that Kim would use to enjoy her four o’clock cocktail. He was about to make the switch when he felt the clamping down of little teeth on his ankle. 
It was all he could do to keep from dropping both glasses. “Get away from me, you little mongrel!”  Sparky held onto Lance’s ankle with his needle-like teeth for all it was worth. It took several kicks before Lance was finally able to punt the Yorkie halfway across the room. Yelping, Sparky scurried out the door.  Excited to get on with his celebration, Lance poured the martini so that he could go out onto the balcony to look down on what would be his new home. Holding up his drink in a toast, he said, “To my lucky day.” He took a sip of the martini. “As they say, every dog has his day.”  The liquid in the glass felt smooth flowing down his throat. Proud of his cleverness, he inhaled deeply only to have none of the oxygen go into his lungs.
Again, he sucked in all the air he could, but his lungs deflated like a balloon having all the air sucked out of it. Lance staggered off the balcony into the living room.  
The rings from the phone seemed to bounce around from one side of his brain to the other. He collapsed to the floor. His fingernails broke off while he crawled across the hardwood floor in his last desperate attempt for salvation. How did this happen? 
Sparky! I shook Sparky off my ankle and turned back to the bar and the glasses were there. Which glass was the one with the poison? Was it the one on the left? But I was so sure—I had planned it so carefully! 
Police Chief David O’Callaghan hung up the phone in time for Mac Faraday to come into his office. Gnarly jumped up into the chair across from his desk. David held up the autopsy report.
“Lance Collins didn’t kill Kim Weathersby.” Mac’s eyebrow rose in surprise. “What did kill her?” 
“Congenital heart defect.” David handed the report to him. “She had a massive heart attack. The medical examiner talked to Kim’s family doctor. It was a hereditary condition. Killed her father. Kim knew about it, but kept it a secret. She didn’t want to be treated like an invalid. No one knew.” 
“And she was drinking vodka martinis?” David held up his hands and shrugged his shoulders. “That was her motto. Live fast, die young, and leave a gorgeous corpse. She went out the way she wanted.”
Shaking his head, Mac lowered himself into the chair across from the police chief’s desk. “I could have sworn Lance killed her. I could see it in his face.” 
He reached over to stroke the top of his dog’s head. “Gnarly saw it. Didn’t you, Gnarl?” 
“The husband looked good to me, too,” David said. “But Kim Weathersby did die of natural causes. Her husband Lance Collins is chief beneficiary in her current will right ahead of Sparky. 
Rightfully, he’s earned everything he’s got coming to him.” 
Laughing, Mac tossed the autopsy report back onto David’s desk. 
“That lucky dog.”


Hey Guys! Party at My House!
The place will be all to ourselves!
Let's Celebrate Christmas!
Gnarly is Coming!
Let's Read "It's the Night Before Christmas"!
and sing Christmas carols!
Presents for Everybody! I'm rich Now!
Wow! I sure am Lucky!

Monday, December 24, 2018

A Gift from Lauren Carr for Christmas! Countdown To Murder - A Lovers in Crime Mystery Short!

A Lovers in Crime Mystery Short 

What did people do before ATMs were invented? Same thing they did before God invented credit cards. They only bought what they had the money to buy…  Cameron grimaced at her reflection in her SUV’s rearview mirror. Her greenish-brown eyes narrowed to accentuate the laugh lines in the corner of her eyes. I sound like my mother. Am I really that old? Isn’t forty supposed to be the new thirty, which used to be middle-aged? Not anymore. 
If I’m so young, why do I sound like my mother? Ordering herself to get on with it, Cameron climbed out of her car and went into the ATM booth next to the shopping center in Robinson Township, outside Pittsburgh. She slipped her card into the slot and punched in the PIN number.  Quick cash? Then I’ll be back here in a couple of days. But then, I don’t like carrying lots of cash. Ah, just go for the whole hundred bucks.  She hit the button for a hundred dollars. The booth’s door opened and closed. In the mirror concealing the security camera, she saw the man pull the hood of his sweatshirt up over his head to hide his face before he pushed up against her. Along with the odor of sweat and cigarettes, she felt the pressure of a gun against her side. Without turning around, she asked his reflection in the mirror, “Seriously?”
“Give me your money.” He moved in closer so that she could feel his hot, foul breath steaming up her short wavy brown hair. “This is why I hate ATMs,” she told whoever would be viewing the security footage.
Laughing, the desk sergeant at the state police barracks in Robinson Township stood up from where he was bent over a schedule when he saw Homicide Detective Cameron Gates barge through the doors with a suspect in handcuffs. She had pulled down the black hood on his jacket to reveal his bloody ears and nose. “Help!” the attempted thief screamed out. “This bitch is crazy!” 
After shoving the suspect up against the desk, Cameron slapped the gun she had taken from him down in front of the sergeant. “Here’s your ATM bandit.” “I’m filing a complaint!” the thief told the sergeant. “Police brutality. She ripped my ear plugs right out of my earlobes—not to mention what she did to my balls. I tell you, if I end up being impotent, it’s her fault. There’s laws against using Tazers there! If there aren’t, there should be. I want a lawyer!” “Get in line,” Cameron said. 
“I never would have tried to rob her if I had known she was a crazy cop!” the thief told the desk sergeant. “Isn’t that entrapment?” 
“Not a cop,” the desk sergeant told him. “Homicide detective.” He clasped the thief by the shoulder. “We have a half dozen victims waiting to see you in lineup.” 
He turned to Cameron. “You know the drill. Let’s get that gun into evidence.”
He took the thief and gun away to booking. 

Once they were gone, Cameron noticed a woman sitting alone at a desk belonging to one of the troopers on duty. While it was not unusual for a citizen to be filing a complaint in the squad room, as well as sobbing; it was an unusual sight to see a pregnant woman with a bag filled with black dead roses.
There’s got to be a story here. Cameron stepped over to the woman. “Hello, are you being helped?” 
With wide tear-filled eyes, the young woman looked up at the detective, dressed in a black pant suit, with a gold detective’s badge clipped to her belt. On the other hip, she wore her 9-mm Colt semi-automatic. “Are you a detective?” 
“I’m Detective Cameron Gates.” She pulled up a chair and sat down. “And you are …”
“Tiffany Ambrose.” She shook the detective’s hand. 
“Boyfriend problems?” Cameron nodded her head in the direction of the roses. “I don’t have a boyfriend.” 
When Tiffany saw Cameron’s eyebrow arch, she grasped her bulging stomach. “My husband died four months ago. He was in the Navy and killed in a helicopter accident in Afghanistan. He was only supposed to be over there thirty days.” She hung her head. “Now he’s gone forever.” 
“I’m sorry,” Cameron said. “My husband is a retired Navy guy. My step-son is a Navy ensign and stationed at the Pentagon.” 
Tiffany wiped her eyes. “Jeff was planning to make Navy his career. His getting killed is theworst thing that could have ever happened to me. My mother never married and I swore that I wasn’t going to live like her. I’ve always lived my life on the straight and narrow. Jeff and I never drank. We didn’t do drugs. We were planning to give our child a good strong stable environment. That helicopter accident ruined my—our whole lives.”
“I can imagine.”  While Cameron waited for her to go on with what had brought her into the police station, the two women sat in silence.  Eventually, Tiffany picked up the grocery bag filled with the dead roses and held them out to the detective. 

“Someone is stalking me. I have this horrible feeling that he’s going to kill me and my baby.”
“Who’s stalking you?” 
“I have no idea,” Tiffany said. “I don’t even know anyone here.” 
“How did you end up here if you don’t know anyone?” Cameron asked. 
“I thought it was a blessing,” Tiffany said. “A couple of weeks after Jeff got killed, I got this e-mail from a human resources lady at Epic Technologies. Somehow, they had gotten my resume and the company president, Stan Frost, was looking for an executive assistant. The salary and benefits were unbelievable. I told them that I was pregnant and they said it didn’t matter. He even offered six months maternity leave.” 
“Even though you were already pregnant when they offered you the job?” Tiffany nodded her head. “They paid mymoving costs and found me a nice single family house in a great neighborhood. I thought it was all an answer to my prayers until these dead roses start showing up on my doorstep with these sick notes.” Cameron peered inside the bag at the long stem dead roses. She counted eleven roses. “Is this all that you have received?”  “One has been on my welcome mat when I have come home from work every day. There’s a note tied to it with a black ribbon.” “Every night?” Tiffany nodded her head. “The notes are getting worse every day. I’m scared to go home.” Cameron reached inside to take out the stack of plain white cards. She read the first note:
Roses are Dead,  
Violets are Blue,  
In Twelve Days, 
you will be dead, too. 

“Slumming, Gates?” the trooper asked when he returned to his desk. An older, career patrolman with a buzz cut, he glared a warning for the detective to not be poaching his case. 
“I was just giving the ATM Bandit a ride here in the back of my cruiser.” 
She handed Tiffany the rose with its card. “Ms. Ambrose looked like she could use some help.” 
“Which is what I’m giving her.” He handed Tiffany a report. “You can sign this complaint and we’ll make sure a patrol car keeps tabs in your neighborhood.”
Eyeing the report, Tiffany looked up to Cameron. “Is that all?” 
“This sicko is making death threats,” the detective said. “His latest note said three days.” 
Tiffany dug out the rose with the latest note attached to it in black ribbon. “In three days, he’s going to kill me and my baby.” 
“Has he broken into your home?”
“Not yet.” 
“No direct contact? You can’t even give me a name of who to question.”
“So after he attacks me and I ask him his name, then you’ll help me?” The tears on Tiffany’s face shone brightly against her red face.  
“Right now,” the patrolman said, “all you have is vague threats.”
“I wouldn’t call a written count down a vague threat,” Cameron said.  His glare ordered the detective to stay out of the conversation.
“It’s most likely some warped bored teenager who lives in your neighborhood getting his jollies by upsetting you.” 
Sobbing, Tiffany Ambrose gathered up the roses in the grocery bag. “I told Mr. Frost that this would all be a big waste of time. I was right. I wish I was wrong. When it’s too good to be true, it usually is. I never should have left Norfolk.” Sobbing, she ran out of the squad room and was gone. 
Cameron tore her eyes from the door through which the desperate woman had run to the patrolman, who rolled his eyes as a comment. Women! 
Men! Cameron thought in reply.
“What would you do, Gates?” the officer called after her when she got up to leave. 
“My job,” she replied. “Find the guy and stop him.”

Countdown to murder. Is that really such a unique Modus Operand? Her morning hours occupied with paperwork, Cameron’s mind kept straying back to Tiffany Ambrose and her tearful exit. 
While the trooper was right in some aspects, a nagging pang in the detective’s gut kept telling her that there was more to this case than a youthful prank to scare a pregnant widow. 
While eating her tuna fish sandwich and bag of chips, Cameron took a couple of minutes to do a search of the crime database for similar MOs of stalkers or killers leaving a single dead rose daily for their intended victims leading up to the murder. 
The search produced an extensive list. Okay. Let’s narrow it down. She typed in the search for “A dead rose, plus a threat in the form of a poem.” 
That reduced it some. 
“A dead rose, plus a threat with D-day being on the thirteenth day.” The list was reduced to one: Eddie Palmer. Suspected in two murders. Convicted in one.  Now that’s more like it. While munching on the chips, She read: Victim One was his girlfriend, who was found murdered on the thirteenth day after receiving a dead rose daily for twelve days. She received threatening poems along with the roses. 
Police suspected but was unable to pin the murder on Palmer, who left their small Kansas town and enlisted in the Marines. Five years later, his then pregnant girlfriend started receiving roses with threatening poems. Thirteen days later, she was found murdered. Stabbed to death like girlfriend Number One. 
Cameron sat up in her seat. This has to be the guy! She continued to read. Eddie Palmer was arrested and, since the victim was enlisted in the Marines, tried in military court for murder. Found guilty. 
It can’t be. He must have gotten out and be up to his old tricks again. 
Eddie Palmer died in prison eight years ago.
It can’t be. Our guy must be a copycat! Cameron scanned the names in the case file for the investigator and those connected with the case. One of them had to be involved with Tiffany Ambrose, whose late husband was also in the military, to be terrorizing her.

She found a name that jumped out at her from the computer monitor. Lead Prosecutor: Joshua Thornton, Judge Advocate General.  Also known as Cameron Gates’ husband. Well, at least I know where to find him.  “Hello, handsome,” Cameron purred into the phone when Joshua Thornton, Hancock County’s prosecuting attorney, across the state line from her jurisdiction, answered the phone. 
“You’re late,” he said. Wondering if she had forgotten about a lunch date with her husband, Cameron snatched her cell phone and checked the calendar. “Late for what?” 
“Our lunch time bootie call.” She could hear the smile in his voice. “Usually, when we don’t meet for lunch, you call at noon and talk dirty to me. But it’s now almost one o’clock.” He uttered an exaggerated sigh. “I guess the honeymoon is over.” 
“I was working,” she explained about her encounter with Tiffany Ambrose in the squad room. “I’d like, for once, to catch a killer before he hits the victim.”
Joshua’s tone turned serious. “How can I help?” 
“Tell me about Eddie Palmer.” There was silence from the other end of the line. “Why are you asking about him?” he finally asked. “He can’t be your guy. He’s dead.”
“Maybe he had a friend or fan who’s emulating him,” she suggested. “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the similarities between Tiffany’s circumstance and Eddie Palmer’s murders.” 
“Eddie Palmer killed women who he had impregnated,” Joshua said. “The father of Tiffany’s baby died in Afghanistan. The only similarity is the roses and threats in the form of poems. I don’t think that’s such an original MO. Look elsewhere.” 
Cameron was grasping. “Can you at least check to see if anyone connected with Eddie Palmer or his case could be using his MO? Look to see if there’s a connection between anyone connected to him and Tiffany Ambrose. Even a cell mate from when he was in prison.” 
“His cellmate killed him. He’s still in jail,” Joshua replied. “But I’ll check. Only because I love you.” 
“I love you, too.” Cameron had no sooner hung up and the direct line on her phone rang.

The caller ID read Stan Frost. Where do I know that name? Tiffany’s boss. The owner of Epic Technologies.  She answered the phone. “Detective Cameron Gates.” 
“Detective Gates, are you the detective that talked to Tiffany Ambrose this morning when she went in to report her stalker?” 
For a rich man, Cameron noted an urgent tone is his voice. He didn’t sound as smooth talking as most rich folks she encountered in her job. 
“Stan Frost,” he replied. “Tiffany Ambrose is my … executive assistant.” 
The detective’s ears perked up when she heard him pause before saying that she was his executive assistant. 
What were you going to say, Mr. Frost? She fought to keep from asking. Lover? But then, Cameron recalled that Tiffany was pregnant when she accepted the job hundreds of miles away and in another state, away from her family and friends. But then, some men love pregnant women. 
“Tiffany just called me,” he said. “She had a doctor’s appointment and has been so upset. So she went home early and that sicko left her another rose and note. She had told me about how you tried to help, so I contacted the police department to track you down. Please. I’m a very wealthy man. I can pay you very well. Can you please help? Can you catch this guy?” 
“What did the note say on the rose?” “She didn’t read the whole poem to me,” he said. “She only read the highlight. Two more days before he kills her.” 

Lieutenant Dugan, Cameron’s boss, was a by-the-book type. Their squad was homicide. Tiffany Ambrose was not dead. Therefore, her problem was not theirs. However, as Cameron had hoped, he saw no reason not to bend the rules in an effort to prevent a homicide instead of waiting for it to happen before taking on the case. 
“How much comp time do you have?” Dugan asked the detective. 
“You know that,” she replied. 
“Take it,” he ordered. “Let’s be proactive for once.” 
Cameron was on her way to her cruiser in five minutes. She had no sooner climbed inside before her phone was ringing.

“I called the prison,” Joshua reported. “Palmer had no visitors, friends, or family. No correspondence outside the prison. Nothing. No warped fans. We kept our cases very close to the vest in JAG. Rarely would we let our cases make the news.”
“Maybe it is someone who was connected with the case,” Cameron said. “Jury—”
“It was a trial in a military court,” Joshua said. “We aren’t talking about common citizens who are taken off the streets. These people had years of military experience, plus psychological examinations. If any of them were psychopaths, it would have come out before they were put on a military panel.”
“So it’s just a coincidence that our proposed victim is pregnant. Her late husband was a Navy officer—”
“Palmer was an enlisted man in the Marines,” Joshua said. “Big difference.”
“Tiffany came from Norfolk, which is where Eddie Palmer’s second murder took place. Plus, the killer is using Eddie Palmer’s MO.” Cameron asked, “Do you really buy that there’s no connection, Josh?”
“Do you want me to come out there?” It sounded like a threat made by a parent nagged into submission by a strong-willed child.
“Yes,” she replied. “Meet me at Epic Technologies. Top floor. Stan Frost, president’s office.”

As hard as she tried, when she did, Cameron could not stop the smile that crossed her face when she saw “her silver fox”, Joshua Thornton, enter the lobby on the ground floor of Epic Technologies. 
Even while making the transition from mid-to-late forties, Joshua Thornton was one of the most attractive men in the room with his head of silver hair that fell to touch the top of his trench coat’s collar. The transition from auburn hair to silver happened during his five children’s teenaged years. Now only one teenager was left at home.
“What’s your plan?” Joshua asked her after a quick hug and kiss in front of the elevators.
“Identify our suspects and see who has a connection to Eddie Palmer,” she replied. “We don’t have a lot of time left. The last note our killer left said Tiffany had only two days left.” She did not like the grimace that crossed his face. “What?”
“Murder Investigation One-Oh-One,” Joshua said. “Start with the victim.” With his hand blocking the closing of the doors, he held open the elevator door for her to step on before him.
“Right now we don’t have a murder victim,” Cameron said. “We want to keep it that way.” 
“Find out who will benefit the most with Tiffany Ambrose out of the way, and that path will lead you to your Dead Rose Killer.”
“Who, I guarantee will have a connection to Eddie Palmer,” she said.
The doors shut and the elevator began its climb to the top floor and Stan Frost’s suite of offices.

“Want to bet?” Joshua asked.
Intrigued, Cameron turned to him. “What do you want to bet?”
“Whether or not our killer has any connection to Eddie Palmer or not,” he said. “If I’m right and the killer has no connection, I win. If the killer does, you win.”
“And what do I win?” A naughty smile crossed her face as she rested her hand around his waist and moved in closer to him. She gazed up into his blue eyes.
He wrapped his arms around her. “Loser gets to be the winner’s love slave for one evening.”
“A bet where there’s no losers? I can get into that type of betting.” She pushed him up against the wall of the elevator and kissed him.
They were in a tight embrace when the elevator doors flew up. At the sound of a woman’s loud gasp, they parted and proceeded to straighten their coats.
A woman dressed in a severe looking gray business suit, which contrasted with her long blond hair and dangerous looking high heels stepped onto the elevator. She clutched a leather binder to her chest. In spite of the humor that Cameron found in the interruption, the new passenger cast a firm glare upon the two of them. She tore her eyes from them to check the buttons for the floor. Her expression turned from chastising to shock. “You’re getting off at the twelfthth floor?”
“Yes.” Cameron smirked at the corporate blonde’s disbelief.
The business woman looked the detective up and down. 
Cameron was not your average fast track employee in the world of hi-tech. “We have an appointment with Mr. Frost.” The detective opened her jacket to give her a glimpse of her badge and gun.
Her eyes wide, the woman looked from Cameron to Joshua, who was more befitting the corporate image. The elevator doors opened and the blonde hurried off as fast as her high-heels could carry her.
“That really wasn’t necessary,” Joshua whispered to Cameron.
“I know but it was too much fun to pass up.” She noticed a smirk on his face as he peered down the corridor where the blonde had escaped. “What? I didn’t know you were into corporate types.”
“I’m not.” Joshua took her arm.
“Then why the grin?”
“I was in the military for a very long time,” he said. “I’ve gotten so that I can spot an ex-military from a mile away.”
“Her?” Cameron shook her head. “No.”
“The way they stand. The way they present themselves. Not only was she military, but she was an officer.”
“I wonder if she was a Marine and knew Eddie Palmer.”
“Palmer was enlisted,” Joshua said. “Unless she was his CO, I doubt it.”

They found the corporate blonde in the corner office suite that was home to Stan Frost. Arrogance replaced her fright. Upon seeing Cameron and Joshua stepping through the door, she announced over her shoulder to the administrative assistant behind the desk. “These detectives say they have an appointment with Mr. Frost.”
“Detective Cameron Gates?” the assistant asked in a congenial tone.
With a nod of her head, Cameron added, “And Joshua Thornton to see Mr. Frost and Ms. Ambrose.”
The assistant picked up the phone to announce their arrival.
The blonde told Joshua and Cameron in a challenging tone, “I have a right to know if any of our people are involved in police matters.” She offered her hand to Joshua, not Cameron. “Hannah Pickering. Vice-president in charge of human resources.”
Seeing Stan Frost coming out of his office, she turned on him. “Mr. Frost, why was I not informed that you had an appointment with the police? I had to find out by walking in on them having sex in the elevator.”
“We were not having sex in the elevator,” Cameron said. “We were groping each other. The elevator is too fast for a couple to complete a full sex act. Maybe you have it set that fast for that very reason. By the way—We’re allowed. We married—” She gestured back and forth between them. “—to each other.”

“Now that we’ve announced our personal business to everyone in hearing distance,” Joshua said, “can we get to the matter of our investigation?” Seeing the pregnant woman behind Stan Frost, he asked, “Is this Tiffany Ambrose?” He stepped forward to offer her his hand. “Joshua Thornton. Cameron has invited me to help her with this case.”
“What case?” Hannah objected. “You mean those stupid dead roses?” She turned to the corporate president. “I told you that this was all a prank pulled by some sicko.”
“Hannah, whoever it is, is threatening to kill Tiffany,” the gray-haired man said. “It’s upsetting and it’s not good for her to be upset in her condition.” He reached around her to shake Cameron’s hand. “Thank you so much for coming. Please come into my office. Whatever it takes to make sure Tiffany is safe …Money is no object.”
“If we’re going to have the police on the premises, then I recommend that I be allowed to sit in on this meeting,” Hannah said.
Stan Frost turned around to regard her with a hard glare that would make any employee remember their place.
“It is my duty to know what is going on with our employees,” Hannah repeated in a firm tone.
Cameron was surprised when the company president turned to Tiffany Ambrose to silently ask her reaction. Tiffany consented with a shrug followed by a nod of her head.
“Very well,” the president said before ushering them into his office.
Before following, Cameron turned to Joshua. “Did you see that?”
“They don’t have your average boss and assistant relationship,” she said. “That’s for sure.”

The top floor corner office provided a view of the airport in the landscape. In addition to the desk and conference table, there was a sitting area where Stan Frost made sure Tiffany was comfortable on the sofa before sitting across from her.
Before taking their seats, Cameron and Joshua made a visual sweep of the office. Seeing no personal pictures of family mementos, they exchanged glances before yielding to Stan Frost’s call for them to join him, Tiffany, and Hannah, who had taken a seat in the chair opposite the company president.
Cameron sat next to Tiffany while Joshua pulled up a chair to sit on the other side of the coffee table.
“Tiffany, I understand you started getting these roses almost two weeks ago?” Cameron took out her computer tablet to open to her notes application. 
Tiffany nodded her head. “I’ve been getting one a day for the last ten days.”
“Eleven,” Frost corrected her. “Today is day eleven.” He directed his gaze at Cameron. “He says in the notes that on the thirteenth day, he’s going to kill her. That’s the day after tomorrow.”
“We’re going to do everything we can to not let that happen.”
Joshua interrupted, “Can I see the notes that he has been sending her?”
“I made copies of every one.” Frost practically jumped out of his chair in reaching for a folder he had placed on the coffee table in front of him. He handed it to Joshua. “Sick psychopath.” As Joshua opened the folder, he corrected himself. “Except the last one that Tiffany called me about. She hasn’t brought it to me yet.”
“I have it in my briefcase,” Tiffany said.
“Can I see it?” Joshua asked.
With effort, Tiffany pulled up to get out of her seat until Hannah slapped her organizer shut and stood up. “I can get it for you,” she said. “Where is it?”
“My briefcase is in my office. On top of my desk.” With a tired sigh, Tiffany fell back in her seat.
Hannah, her organizer tucked under her arm, hurried out of the office. She left the door open. 
“I think we should have the notes you received processed for fingerprints,” Joshua said.
“Sure,” Tiffany said. “I’ll make sure you get them.” She smiled over at Cameron. “The police officer this morning didn’t even offer to do that.”
“It isn’t every day that he runs into cases like this,” the detective said with a shrug. It was the best excuse she could come up with.

“You had told me that you didn’t know anyone in this area when you moved here.”
“No one,” Tiffany replied. “I know it’s crazy, but the position that Mr. Frost offered me was simply too good to pass up.”
“Tiffany has been a treasured asset to my company.” Stan Frost cast her a wide grin. “She’s taken a load off my shoulders. She has a gift for making wise business decisions. That’s not something you learn. It’s something you’re born with.”
“If you don’t mind my asking,” Cameron asked, “how did you find Tiffany? She said that the offer was quite sudden.”
“I wasn’t even looking for a job,” Tiffany recalled with a high-pitched giggle. “My husband had only just died. I was still reeling, not really sure what was going to become of me when Hannah sent me that e-mail.”
Joshua looked up from the notes he was reading to look over at Stan Frost. “Sounds like a real stroke of luck that you got such an offer out of the blue when you needed it so badly.”
“Tiffany has been an answer to my prayers.” Stan smiled over at her. 
Casting a sly glance in Joshua’s direction, Cameron asked Tiffany, “Your husband was in the Navy.”
“He was a lieutenant,” she said.
“And you lived in Norfolk?”
“Ever since we got married four years ago,” Tiffany answered.
“Four years ago,” Joshua repeated. “The Palmer murder was twelve years ago. He died eight years ago. That’s four years before Tiffany and her husband moved into the area.”
“Who’s Eddie Palmer?” Tiffany asked in a worried tone.
Stan reached for her hand.
“A murderer who’s MO was the same as that of the guy threatening you,” Cameron said.
“Then maybe this Palmer guy wasn’t your killer,” Stan Frost said.
“Yes, he was.” Joshua cocked his head at Cameron while replying, “We did get the right guy.” 

“Tiffany!” A plump young man dressed in ill-fitting khaki slacks and a sweater rushed into the office and over to where Tiffany was sitting. He hurtled Cameron, who was sitting in his way, before plopping down next to the pregnant woman. “I was outside talking to Beverly and she told me that you got another death note. Are you okay?”
“She’s fine, Walter,” Stan insisted.
Whirling around to Joshua, Walter demanded to know, “What are you doing to protect her?”
Cameron answered, “We’re going to stay with her until we catch the creep terrorizing her.”
“That’s not good enough,” Walter said.
“Excuse me,” Cameron said, “who are you?” She turned to Stan. “Who is he?”
“This is Walter Bentley,” Stan said. “Vice President in charge of IT, our computer technology.”
Walter hovered over Tiffany. “I think you should come stay with me. I live in a security building.”
Tiffany fought to stand up. “I’d rather stay in my own home.”
Cameron noticed Joshua craning his neck to peer out the door into the reception area. “You don’t need to worry, Walter. We’ll be with Tiffany every second until this is over.”

“Got it!” Hannah sang out in a chipper tone while hurrying into the office. “Sorry I took so long. I had to go to the ladies room. Bentley, you left your binder on Beverly’s desk.” While reaching over Joshua’s shoulder, the vice president dropped the binder onto the coffee table. Its contents spilled across the tabletop. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
Joshua, Stan, and Cameron leaned over to help Walter collect the assortment of notes, much of it looking like gibberish to put back into the binder.
“What the—” Stan Frost uttered a curse while lifting up a note on white stationary. “Why—” Sputtering, he held out the note to Joshua.
“What is it?” Hannah asked.
While Stan glared at Walter, whose face turned white with shock, Joshua read out loud: 
Roses are dead;
Now they are gone;
And so are you.
Rest in peace.
Tiffany shrieked. 
“What—” Walter turned to Cameron for help. “I never saw that before in my life.”
“Walter, how could you?” Hannah asked.
“It wasn’t me,” Walter insisted.
“You’re fired!” Stan said before ordering Cameron, “Arrest him.”
“Not before questioning him,” Cameron stood up. “Walter, we need to talk.”
“I didn’t do it.” Walter was near tears. “Tiffany, you have to believe me. I would 
never do that to you. I love you. Walter shouted, “Someone planted that in my binder. I’m being framed.” He turned to Cameron. “Can’t you see that?”
Cameron took Walter by the arm. “Of course, I see that,” she said. “Let’s go to one of the conference rooms and talk.”
“Tiffany …” Walter begged as the detective led him out by the arm.
Stan Frost shook his head. “I don’t believe it.”
Tiffany’s eyes filled with tears while she rubbed her stomach. “I don’t either. Walter seemed like such a nice sweet gentle man. Socially awkward, but sweet.”
“Those are always the ones you need to look out for, honey,” Hannah said. 
“I need to go call him a lawyer.” Tiffany pulled herself up to her feet.
“Why?” Stan demanded to know.
“Because I can’t believe Walter did it,” she said.
“He was planning to kill you,” Hannah said. “I’ve seen crazies like him before. He’s fixated on you. First chance he gets, he’ll take you out. Believe me.”
“I can’t believe Walter would ever do anything to hurt me.” Tiffany waddled to the door. “I’m going to go call a friend of mine.”
“We have a legal service.” Hannah tucked her organizer under her arm. “I’ll call them.”

Joshua caught Stan by the arm when he tried to follow Hannah and Tiffany out the door. “We need to talk.” The president’s mouth hung open while Joshua closed the door, turned around, and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Do you have something to say to me, Mr. Thornton?”
“When are you planning to tell her?”
“Tell who what?” Gradually, the firm expression softened to one of concern.
“Tiffany,” Joshua replied. “When do you plan to tell her that you’re her father?”
“What—” Stan dropped his fa├žade. “How did you know?”
“I have two daughters,” Joshua said. “Most people, with their dirty minds, would mistake your affection toward Tiffany as something perverted. But I saw it for what it is. Fatherly love. Cameron told me that Tiffany’s mother was single. Riding in like a knight in shining armor right when she needed it—that didn’t just happen. She needed help and your paternal feelings wouldn’t let you not help her.”
Stan Frost went behind his desk and opened a drawer. He removed a yellowed envelope from inside and tossed it onto the center of his desktop. He nodded his head at Joshua. “Read it. It’s all there.”
Joshua picked up the envelope and took out the stationary filled with a woman’s handwriting in cursive. The signature line read Ashley Ambrose.
While Joshua scanned the contents of the letter, Stan told him, “Biggest mistake I ever made in my life. I fell in love with Ashley at first sight. She was my everything, but I didn’t realize it until it was too late. My mother hated her. She was a domineering, prejudiced—even hateful woman.”
“Your mother?”
“But she was my mother.” Stan nodded his head. “She kept calling Ashley a JAP.”
“Jewish American Princess.”
“When Ashley and I became engaged, my mother was furious,” Stan said. “She ordered me to choose. Her or Ashley.” 
Joshua stopped reading and looked across the desk at the company president, whose face was filled with sorrow.
“I chose poorly.”
“You didn’t know Ashley was pregnant,” Joshua noted the contents of the letter.
“She was hurt, which she had every reason to be. She left the area and never looked back.” Stan pointed at the letter. “I never heard from her until she sent me that letter when she was dying.”
“She told Tiffany that you had abandoned them.” Joshua put his finger on the words in the letter. “By the time she realized how much she had hurt Tiffany by poisoning her against you, it was too late.”
“Do you blame her?” Stan dropped down into the chair behind his desk. “I loved Ashley. She’s Tiffany’s mother.”
“Show her this letter,” Joshua said. 
“And make Tiffany think her mother was a lying monster?” Stan shook his head. “Tiffany thinks her mother was a saint. I can’t dirty her memory like that.”
“What else can you do?” Joshua asked. “If you tell her that you’re her father, she’ll hate you for having abandoned her. If you show her this letter, you’ll crush the memory she has of her mother.”
“Now you know my dilemma,” Stan said. “As soon as I got that letter, I hired a private investigator to keep tabs on Tiffany. When she was graduating from college, I was at the ceremony to see her cross that stage. When she got married, I crashed her wedding. She never noticed me.”

“And when her husband died, you swooped in to bring her here and keep her safe.” Joshua dropped the letter onto the center of the desk. “What are your intentions?”
“You just said it. Keep her safe.”
“This is a family run company,” Joshua said. “Do you have any ex-wives or children—”
“I never married,” Stan said. “Ashley was the love of my life. The only heirs I have are Tiffany and her baby.”
Joshua leaned over the desk. “Mr. Frost, think about it. Who has the most to lose now that your daughter is on the radar?”
Stan looked up at him.
“You’re the president of a multi-million-dollar company,” Joshua told him. “You brought her in and made her your executive assistant. Don’t tell me that she’s going to stay that. Don’t tell me that you aren’t grooming her to take this chair when you decide to retire.”
“No one knows that she’s my daughter.”
“But you’re grooming her for the fast track.” While Stan stared up at him in silence, Joshua asked, “Who has the most to lose since Tiffany came here? What about your senior vice president?”
“Not him,” Stan said with certainty.
“How can you be so sure?”
“He’s dying,” Stan said. “Prostate cancer. He’s been out for the last six weeks. There’s nothing they can do. He’s got maybe another two weeks to live.” He added, “No one knows about it.”
“No one?” Joshua asked. “Absolutely no one on this planet knows?”
Stan hesitated. “Except the other vice presidents. Hannah and Walter.” He sat up. “Walter Bentley.”
“Who will take the senior vice president’s slot after the current one passes?”
“Tiffany,” Stan replied in a soft voice.
“If she wasn’t here, then who?”
Stan was silent.
“Whoever that is, has the most to lose by Tiffany’s very existence,” Joshua said. “Or, in other words, that person has the most to gain from her murder.” 

The cell phone vibrated on Joshua’s hip. While Stan gazed up at him with wide eyes, he checked the text message on the screen. “Cameron’s in trouble.”
The elevator doors flew open and the EMTs came rushing out with a gurney between them. 
“This way!” Beverly, the president’s administrative assistant, directed them down the corridor to the conference room.
Lieutenant Dugan came out from the corner of the elevator where he had squeezed on. He followed the EMTs into the conference room where Joshua was bent over Cameron, whose body was crumpled in the corner. “What happened?” the police lieutenant asked.
Stan, Hannah, Tiffany, and the assistant grabbed the opportunity to crowd into the doorway to hear Joshua’s answer.
“She got jumped,” Joshua said. “She was questioning a suspect and somehow he grabbed her gun and beat her with it.”
“We have serious head trauma,” one of the EMT yelled into his radio.
“What about this suspect?” the lieutenant asked Joshua.
“He got away,” Joshua replied.
“Where were you?” the lieutenant shouted.
“Hey, don’t use that tone with me,” Joshua said. “I don’t work for you. Cameron was here on her own time trying to help this woman and I was here because she’s my wife. Now my wife could die and you’re accusing me of—”
“Coming through!” The EMTs plowed in between the two men with the gurney with Cameron loaded on it. Her face was covered with an oxygen mask. A bloody towel was wrapped around her head.
Joshua fell in behind them to follow them out the door. 

In the doorway, Stan grabbed Joshua by the arm. “Where’s Bentley?”
“Gone,” Joshua said. “And he’s got Cameron’s gun with him.”
“If he’s smart, he’ll leave the area,” Lieutenant Dugan said.
“I’m sorry.” Joshua pulled his arm out of Stan’s grasp. “I have to go. My wife needs me.”
Joshua ran down the corridor to slip onto the elevator with the gurney.
Tiffany clung to Stan Frost who turned his attention to the police lieutenant. “What about Tiffany?”
“We’ll do what we can to protect her,” the police lieutenant said. “Problem is, we have a marathon going on in the area tomorrow morning and thousands of runners and their families have poured into the area. Most of my people are on crowd patrol detail.”
“This maniac is loose with a gun!” Stan shouted. “He’s promised to kill Tiffany and her baby. She needs protection.”
“I can stay with her,” Hannah offered.
“Can you take her to your house?” the police lieutenant asked Stan. “Is that secure?”
“Take her there. Stay with her,” Lieutenant Dugan said. “Give me a couple of hours to switch some officers around and I’ll have someone there by eight o’clock tonight. I promise.” 

Stan Frost’s home was a sprawling five bedroom rancher in the suburbs of Pittsburgh set deep in the woods off the main road. By six o’clock, it was dark in the dreary winter weather. The trees looming over the rancher seemed to make it darker.
At the sound of the doorbell, Stan put down the book he was reading and went to the front door to find Hannah waiting on his doorstep. Her briefcase was tucked under her arm.
“I’m sorry to have bothered you at home, Stan,” she said in a breathless voice, “but after you had left, the auditor from the IRS came in. He says you had a meeting for six o’clock.”
“That meeting is scheduled for next week,” Stan said.
Hannah shook her head. “That’s what I thought. But he’s there and he won’t meet with me. I tried to tell him about what has been going on, but he says that if you jerk him around, then he’ll jerk you around. That’s what he said.”
Stan glanced over his shoulder into the house.
“How’s Tiffany?” Hannah asked.
“She’s napping. How, I have no idea.”
“Are the police here yet?” She stepped inside.
He hesitated. “It’ll be another hour before they get here.”
“I can stay with her.” She grinned at him. “I did used to be a Marine. I know how to handle a gun.”
Stan shook his head at her. “You surprise me.”
“What?” she asked. “That I’m woman enough to care, or man enough to step up to bat when I’m needed.”

He took his coat out of the closet. “I guess I should go. Good-bye, Hannah.”
“Good night, Stan.”
Through the front window, she watched the tail lights of Stan’s Cadillac make their way down the long driveway and turn onto the road. After making sure he was gone, she opened up her briefcase. She slipped on a pair of latex gloves and took the nine-millimeter Beretta out. She checked the cartridge in the chamber and made her way down the hallway leading to the bedrooms.
She found the guest in the last bedroom down the hallway, the room closest to the master suite.
Slowly, she opened the door to slip inside the darkened room. She could see the form of the sleeping woman under the covers. Careful not to make a noise on the wooden floor, she crept up to the side of the bed, aimed her gun, and shot repeatedly at the bed.
The room filled with the smell of hot gun powder.
The sound of the gunshots was still echoing in her ears when Hannah became aware of the door to the closet opening behind her.
She was whirling around when the baton hit her across the back of the neck to send her down on all fours next to the bed. The gun was kicked out of her reach. In the darkness, she could see two shadows standing over her.

“Hannah Pickering, you’re under arrest for attempted murder,” she heard Detective Cameron Gates say as she slapped handcuffs onto her wrists.
Cameron Gates? It can’t be. I saw her wheeled out on a gurney after Bentley escaped.
“Attempted?” Hannah asked while Cameron dragged her up onto her feet. She looked over at the bed to see that she had blown away two pillows. 
Joshua Thornton flipped on the light switch.
Hannah blinked at the light in her eyes. “You played me.”
Joshua and Cameron laughed loudly. “Oh, boy, oh, boy!” Joshua said. “We played you good.”
“Do I look stupid to you?” Cameron asked her. “I saw you flipping out when Josh and I showed up at the office today. Why did you think Tiffany wouldn’t go to the police? When playing down your terror game as a prank didn’t work, you knew you had to frame someone else. It was a piece of cake to slip that note into Bentley’s binder and then trip to dump it in front of us.”
“Walter Bentley was the perfect guy to frame,” Joshua said. “He has a crush on Tiffany, plus he was your competition for the senior VP slot, which you knew was coming up. Due to your seniority, you were a shoe in until Tiffany Ambrose came to town.”
“In your job as HR VP,” Cameron said, “even though Stan didn’t tell you he was Tiffany’s father, you were able to find that out with a thorough background check. You knew he was grooming her to be your boss and you just couldn’t let that happen.”
“So you decided to first terrorize her in hopes that she’d go away quietly,” Joshua said. “When that didn’t work, you decided to kill her.” 
Hannah looked from Joshua to Cameron, who smirked at her. “I want a lawyer.”

Joshua and Cameron were enjoying a romantic dinner in their booth at Cricksters, a retro cafe in their hometown of Chester, West Virginia, located directly across the Pennsylvania state line. After a filling dinner of deluxe cheeseburgers and chips, they were sharing their personalized sundae for two.
Grinning, Cameron licked the ice cream and hot fudge from her lips.
Joshua grinned back at her before turning his attention to the dessert. 
“Tiffany Ambrose had her baby this morning,” she announced. “A boy. Guess what she named him.”
“What?” he asked.
“Jeffrey Stanley Cameron.”
He laughed. “That’s a mouthful.”
“Jeffrey was his father’s name,” she explained. “Stan Frost is her father—”
“He told her.”
“Yes.” Cameron smiled softly. “But she already knew. Her mother had told her everything before she passed. Tiffany didn’t know how to tell him. She didn’t know he knew.” She took another spoonful of the ice cream with a generous helping of hot fudge and whipped topping.
“It’s good that it’s all out in the open,” Joshua said.

“It’s never a good idea to keep things a secret.” She met his gaze. “You did see the background check on Hannah Pickering.”
“Yes, I did.” He put down the spoon.
“She was in the Marines, like Eddie Palmer,” Cameron said.
“But they did not serve together,” he said.
“She served in administration,” Cameron said, “human resources to be exact.”
Joshua slowly shook his head. “You certainly do your homework.”
“Oh, yes, I do,” she said. “Remember our bet?”
He nodded his head. “Hannah Pickering was Eddie Palmer’s personnel officer in the Marines when he was arrested, tried, and convicted. His file, including the case file, crossed her desk. It is entirely possible—”
“Conceivable,” she said. 
“That Hannah Pickering stole his MO.”
“So the two cases were connected,” Cameron said.
“Hannah had nothing to do with the Eddie Palmer case.” He shook his finger at her. “When we made this bet, we were talking about a friend or detective or someone who was involved in the case—”
“We never said where the line was drawn,” Cameron said. “We said connected. Hannah Pickering was connected to Eddie Palmer. I was right, you were wrong. I win the bet.”
Joshua fell back in his seat.
Cocking her head at him, Cameron shot him a naughty grin.
“What do you want from me?” He chuckled while he asked.
She gazed across the table at him while she picked up the spoon from the sundae. One of her eyebrows arched as she slowly licked the hot fudge from the back of the spoon.

The End

Merry Christmas from Lauren and Gnarly

and Stevie (as a kitten) and Glenda

Stop by Christmas Day
at Book Readers Heaven for
A Lucky Dog
Celebrating Christmas!