Monday, April 29, 2024

The Horoscope Writer by Ash Bishop - A Delightfully Screwy Murder Mystery... Until It Was No Longer Funny...

 . . . and there is a Catskill eagle in some souls That can alike dive down into the blackest gorge And soar out of them again . . .

Abbattista simply laughed again. “Come in, Bobby. I’ll answer your questions about the tiger, but first I want to show you what we were doing.” Abbattista led Bobby through an indoor/outdoor recreation room with an indoor/outdoor pool. Diffused light filtered through the staggered wood roof and made the water sparkle. The pool was roughly twenty yards wide everywhere except the center, which branched out another five yards to accommodate lap swimming. Above the pool was a loft full of recreational equipment. Bobby noted several frames on the wall as he passed. Abbattista’s degree (in English Literature) from Princeton University; a series of horse racing pictures—one a giclĂ©e of a photo finish, the horse in focus stretching its neck for the tape; a picture of Abbattista decades younger with President Ronald Reagan at some kind of rally; a Latin phrase that read Mensus eram coelos, nunc terrae metior umbras. Mens coelestis erat, corporis umbra iace; and finally, a dollar bill, framed off-center in a cheap wooden frame. In the context of the other materials, Bobby thought the dollar quaint, and a little bit cheesy, but maybe Abbattista was that kind of guy. The Latin phrase was stenciled onto a small two-inch plaque. With Abbattista and Timur walking a few steps ahead of him, Bobby took the plaque from the desk and put it in his pocket. They continued outward, through a glass door separating the recreation room from the backyard, the lawn sloping toward the Pacific Ocean. Ahead, Bobby could see four other men standing near a chalked circle in the grass. Each of them held a bamboo shaft. Behind them a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree view of the ocean signaled the end of the property. The men were an odd bunch. One was nearing seventy years old. He was wearing a servant’s uniform, stripped down to a white tank top undershirt and black dress pants. He had sweated through his undershirt, making it transparent, and his hairy, soft, brown chest was showing. Two of the men were younger than Bobby, in their early twenties. One of them spun the bamboo stick casually in circles, his eyes never leaving Bobby’s. The fourth man was enormous. He had the kind of body that could only be achieved through a careful diet, constant weightlifting, a healthy dose of powders, proteins, herbs, and vitamins, and also jabbing a syringe full of steroids into your thigh once or twice a week. His hair hung down over his eyes in tight brown ringlets, and he had circles of blood splattered on the chest and sleeve of his shirt. Abbattista spoke to the old man in the tank top, “Tamba! Give me your stick, please.” Tamba handed his bamboo shaft to Abbattista and looked at him expectantly. “We have a new sixth; you may go back to work.” “Thank goodness,” Tamba said. Abbattista threw the shaft to Bobby who caught it instinctively. 

“Are you familiar with the fourteenth century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?” “I’m a little behind in my reading of fourteenth century poets.” “What poetry do you read?” “Busta Rhymes?” “You’re even a little behind on your hip-hop,” Abbattista said. “Sir Gawain is not a very interesting piece. It has a little bit of fun homosexual subtext. A tiny bit of chaste heterosexual eroticism. Some decent alliteration if you can get into the old English. They made a movie recently. It was . . . okay.” Bobby remained silent. He watched Abbattista, who was beaming with a great sense of satisfaction and anticipation. “What’s remarkable about the poem,” Abbattista continued, “is that it gives us our first real indication of the effects of feudalism on Anglo-Norman society. The knights in Sir Gawain are bored. They lack the physical challenges of farming or defending the realm; they lack the instinctual struggle for survival that was characteristic of the heroes in earlier poems such as Beowulf and Gilgamesh. So, not having real problems, they begin to challenge one another to complex social and physical gaming. I can decorate my wife more beautifully than you can, or I can make a ludicrous promise and then work an entire year just to keep it, all in the name of honor. We’re doing the same thing here. We’re gaming.” 

“Are you bored, sir?” Bobby asked. “Why don’t you step into the circle, Bobby?” Bobby looked at Abbattista. He glanced around at the other men, who were all looking back at him. Then he stepped into the chalk circle. “Charles, get in there with him, please.” The big mass of muscles swept curly hair out of his eyes and joined Bobby in the circle. Bobby raised his bamboo shaft and held it between himself and Charles. “Bobby, you and Charles try to stay in the circle. We’ll try and get you out.” “You better be able to cover my back,” Charles said in thick, clipped English. Bobby realized he wasn’t fighting Charles, but rather alongside him. He spun completely around and set himself square. From both his ten o’clock and two o’clock, the young men were advancing, bamboo held upright. Behind Bobby, Timur and Abbattista advanced on Charles. One of the young men came in first, swinging his stick low at Bobby’s feet. Bobby brought his own down fast enough to deflect the blow, but the other man stepped quickly in to level a shot at Bobby’s head. Bobby got the stick just high enough to send the swing glancing harmlessly above him. The first man struck again, a quick shot at Bobby’s shoulder. It connected and Bobby felt pain course through his chest and up into his throat. The second man darted in again, jabbing the end of his shaft at Bobby’s neck. Charles spun in a circle to defend Bobby, deftly parrying away a weak jab by Abbattista. In a fluid motion, Charles smacked the second young man solidly on the nose, splitting it. The man stumbled back; blood appeared beneath his palm and dripped onto his chin. “I owed you that one, Rife,” Charles grumbled. The first man advanced again on Bobby. Bobby easily parried his attack and then struck back, connecting a weak strike on the man’s kneecap. The young man with the busted nose, Rife, came forward, fire in his eyes. He hit Bobby’s bamboo shaft so hard it almost vibrated out of his hand. While Bobby was trying to reset himself, the other man struck him on the shoulder, sending him to his knees. Bobby stood up again quickly and swung a wild arc; his attackers dodged backward, out of the circle. 

“When does this end?” Bobby said, his breath ragged. “When you’re out of the circle or we give up trying to get you out.” Charles turned his head to whisper to Bobby, “Abbattista’s stick is thicker and heavier, be ready for that when he comes at you.” Bobby didn’t have time to respond. Rife was advancing again. He and the other man were coming at him at the same time from different angles. He could hear the clacking of wood against wood as Timur and Abbattista struck at Charles. Bobby wanted to walk out of the circle, but he doubted he’d get his interview if he did. Rife struck Bobby in the calf. Bobby instinctively lowered his staff to defend his legs, and the other man took advantage of the opening, swinging a berserk thrust at Bobby’s head. Bobby felt the wind whoosh past his face and realized that had it connected, he’d be concussed, at best. When Rife darted in for another blow, Bobby planted his shaft in the dirt and swung himself around it. Rife’s strike glanced harmlessly off Bobby’s bamboo, and he wasn’t positioned to protect himself from Bobby’s legs. Bobby connected firmly with Rife’s kneecap, and the other man crumpled to the ground. 

“Well done, Bobby,” Abbattista said. “We haven’t seen that move, even from our Olympic fencer.” Rife lay groaning on the ground. “Should we make sure he’s okay?” Bobby asked. Abbattista lowered his shaft and walked to where Rife lay. He leaned over him and wiggled his kneecap. Rife groaned loudly in protest. “I’ll get the medic.” Abbattista motioned toward the house. When Bobby turned to see where he was pointing, instead he saw Timur’s bamboo shaft, winging its way directly into his face. Bobby managed only to look upward, catching the full brunt of the impact on his chin rather than his nose. The first thing he saw was an explosion of stars, then all the color drained out of the backyard, and then the grass came up fast and cradled his body. Far off in the distance, just before he blacked out, he heard Abbattista say, “Well, I guess nobody said stop, did they?”


Point your reader in a certain direction, and they’ll do the rest. The less educated and disciplined they are, the more their imagination will compensate.”

I thought the above quote was very telling, even more so these days... If we read, choose certain games to always play, watch only one type of television; e.g., only those with some kind of violence in it, we begin to form a certain bias, a certain body of knowledge that, if allowed, will form our perception of life from then on... Imagine, if you would, that those who read their horoscope each day, or the conservative Fox news daily, or even the Old Testament routinely, that you may have kept your mind from exploring the heights and breadth of the knowledge that is available to all of us...

Thus it was for the past  Olympian Winner, who had left the physically oriented world to embark upon his true desire--to write--that he was confronted with just how many people shared his personal goal, while, at the same time, newspapers were losing status as the predominant news source as television and the Internet had shown that it could reach people faster and more reliably... The only problem being that, often, the one things that had been ensured in the printed world was that it was research and documented before it went to print... Now, those who chose different reasons or goals for their programs often found that truth was not even relevant...

But for a mystery, a murder mystery in particular, there at least needed to be a body... Thus, The Horoscope Writer opens when Detective Leslie Consorte was called to a crime scene--one that began at one point and extended at least three miles--quite gruesome! But that was not why Bobby Morgan Frindley. Age 26. BA. Journalism. University of Southern California. GPA: 3.72 was reading the newspaper. He was looking for a job and was trying to write a resume for a news media internship, but got no further than his name and education. He had no experience. But wasn't that what an internship was for? He would try for it! Even so, as he entered the building, he whispered, "said, “God? I know I haven’t prayed since July. I know I don’t really deserve a favor, per se. But, uh, please help me get the job here? Amen.”

But it was his notoriety as a champion that got him recognition from the editor, no less... who had been his fan--even cheered for him! But then didn't see him as working there. Until he heard somebody scream, the horoscope writer quit! Suddenly Milo had a new writer right in front of him... So, while, Bobby might have even read his horoscope that morning before he had left home, he acknowledged that he knew nothing about astrology, or how to read them... Soon, he was writing his first horoscope, for himself: Writing as Ask Ambrosia:  Bobby wrote: “Libra—You will make significant forward progress only to find yourself suddenly lost in a strange, new land.”

He was given one bit of worthwhile advice. Contact a local astrologer and see if she would help him slide into his new role. Bobby hit it off well with her, maybe too well, since he was willing to admit he was more than half-way in love with his neighbor across the street... only problem she was married and her husband was in the service... Bummer! Still the astrologer agreed to help him... But it was one of those bad nights for his neighbor and she begged Bobby to dance and keep her awake... And then notice of an email caught their attention...

Before he even could get started, Bobby received a message. It was a list of horoscopes along with a warning. If he didn't print them, one of the predictions would come true. If he ignored them, all of them would come true... 

Bobby couldn’t resist her drunken enthusiasm. Music filled the apartment, and they danced together on the landing just outside her small kitchen. Bobby swung his arms and elbows, grooving his feet in wild, drunken patterns. Sarah laughed and spun in a loopy circle, shuffling around the small makeshift dance floor. When she finally collapsed next to him on the couch, they were both sweating. He thought the night was over, but Sarah struggled to her feet again and dragged Bobby by hand to the laptop. Bobby was flushed from landing the job, and the alcohol, and Sarah’s attention. He wasn’t quite ready for the good day to end, despite growing steadily loopier from fatigue. Sarah opened the web browser, found the Ask Ambrosia email, and hit the Reply button. She said, “The inaugural email of the new Lady Ambrosia is ready, Captain. You dictate, I’ll write.” Bobby cleared his throat and began to dictate, “Dear Whac-a-mole." Sarah giggled. “You want me to read you the message again? To help you organize your response?” “Yeah. Just read the best predictions though.” Sarah peered into the glowing monitor. “Well, someone’s obviously trying to do your job for you. There are twelve wonderfully imaginative predictions here. The first says: ‘Aries—Mars, the planet of initiative, is your ruler and subruler.’” Sarah paused dramatically, a smile twitching onto her lips. “‘As an indirect result of those energies, you will be torn apart by an endangered Indonesian tiger.’” Sarah burst into fits of laughter. She was drunk, Bobby reminded himself. So was he. She continued, “The next one is: ‘Taurus—You are both fierce and gentle. A white bull. But you are too young, on the cusp of the third house. Your immaturity and lack of foresight will lead you to great harm. In fact, you will be gang-raped on the property of the Theta Rho Kappa fraternity house at San Diego University.’ I really don’t like that one, it’s not funny or anything; it sucks. I’m sorry I read it. There’s a short one about a brush fire. It’s the Virgo.” Sarah glanced at Bobby and their eyes locked. She blushed, then looked quickly back at the screen...

It had been during that drunken night, that they had gone too far... not only with each other, but, as Sarah, laughing, thinking it was all in fun, had sent those horoscopes forward to print!

Setting off chaos and madness as first, one horoscope came true...and another... predictions of violence or fortune--it didn't matter because everybody "believed" what was being written! Soon the terror was affecting everybody! Now police vehicles were appearing from all directions, as horoscopes proclaiming treasure started hunts across the lands... It didn't matter that violence was a part of all of it!

I have to ask, is this a sign of our times, when fake violence in fiction is no longer just fake. That it is being incited for other purposes, mostly by people who are no longer able to separate out good and evil. This is a book that clearly ensure readers know the difference... Because Bobby has God behind him...

“But there is something you haven’t done yet. You haven’t shaken my belief in the existence of God. When I threatened you over the phone two nights ago, you said I hadn’t ever met the horoscope killer; you said how could I believe that I was that special? But I had met you. I’d even had dinner with you...  I’d had my own experience with performance-enhancing drugs. I’d even recognized their effect on the body of the tiger. Every step of the way, God showed me exactly what I needed to see. God brought me to this moment for the purpose of stopping you.”

I have to ask, is this a sign of our times, when fake violence in fiction is no longer just fake. That it is being incited for other purposes, mostly by people who are no longer able to separate out good and evil. This is a book that clearly ensure readers know the difference... Because Bobby has God behind him...

This extraordinary novel not only gives you a mystery to solve, a question about those who choose astrology to guide their lives, but, more importantly, lets us know that when we call upon His name, in faith that God will provide needed guidance, He will do exactly that. It's unique, it's scope is expansive, and, yet, exactly what we need to know today... God's Truth. God's Love.


This extraordinary novel not only gives you a mystery to solve, a question about those who choose astrology to guide their lives, but, more importantly, lets us know that when we call upon His name, in faith that He will provide needed guidance, He will do exactly that. It's unique, it's scope is expansive, and, yet, exactly what we need to know today... God's Truth. God's Love.


Saturday, April 27, 2024

An Opinion Piece - On Lady Justice: Women, The Law, and The Battle to Save America by Dahlia Lithwick - A Must-Read For Women!

Freedom is a dream
Haunting as amber wine
Or worlds remembered out of time.
Not Eden’s gate, but freedom
Lures us down a trail of skulls
Where men forever crush the dreamers—
Never the dream.
—pauli murray, “Dark Testament”

I’m not sure if my involvement in causes, benefits, marches, and demonstrations has made a huge difference, but I know one thing: that involvement has connected me with the good people: people with the live hearts, the live eyes, the live heads.
—pete seeger

I sometimes think of the Supreme Court oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt on March 2, 2016, as the last truly great day for women and the legal system in America. There are, to be sure, many such glorious moments to choose from, both before and after Trump, but as a professional court-watcher I had a front-row seat to this story, one that offered a sense that women in the United States had achieved some milestone that would never be reversed. The landmark abortion challenge represented the first time in American history that a historic abortion case was being heard by a Supreme Court with three female justices.

Buried in that story is the truth about how legal decisions involving women, their salaries, their bodies, their educations, custody of their children, and their votes have been framed in American courtrooms until very recently: by husbands and fathers with good intentions and staggeringly low information. We lucked out. We got contraception and access to military schools, the right to our own credit cards, and all sorts of equal rights over the years...

And then it was gone. With the death of Justice Ginsburg in September 2020; the seating of three committed anti-choice justices by Donald Trump in the years since Whole Woman’s Health; and the reversal of Roe in June of 2022, that case will now likely stand as a high-water mark we may not soon see again in the courts, or in women’s constitutional progress. It has become, at least for me, a marker of the end of history, but in completely the wrong direction. In a matter of weeks after Whole Woman’s Health came down, constitutional history began to unravel quickly.

So, what does an opinion piece mean as opposed to just being a review? And I may use a liberal amount of sarcasm, just because... So, I'm talking about the present and future more than the book itself, based upon what is covered in the book... OK? Feel free to make comments, ask questions, or just your thoughts and feedback on this "opinionated post" LOL

Readers, I highly recommend Lady Justice, especially to all women around the world.  Recently in a conversation with my best friend, we mutually came to a conclusion that America should become an Amazonian Country... Why? Because everywhere we were looking, we saw women in government, state and federal, who were "doing their job!" Wow, yes, that's all, they are doing their jobs! As opposed to many men, especially in politics, and especially in Congress, who are, on the norm, slow to act, slow to research and use Truth, and slow! Seriously! So, if this is true, don't we need to reconsider how women are, today, being treated?!

I watched as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg fought her battle to...stay alive... She had every right to expect what would happen if she was no longer on earth to protect the rights of women... And it did! Could she have saved the Supreme Court from overturning Roe. I'll wager that she would have! Instead, what we have now seen over and over and over regarding the highest court in our country, is that it has become seriously flawed... And no longer, a Court that could be Trusted. In fact, Ginsberg is not even mentioned in this book, which is, of course, not a book of historical events... Rather a book to tell us just exactly what has occurred over the last nearly decade! One of the first cases was, I discovered, the prosecution of hundreds of individuals who were participants the Virginia protest case in which a woman was killed by automobile! Few details were provided however.

Basically, this book is just about women doing their jobs... You know, the ones that need to get done routinely and based upon extensive research and documentation! The one, also, that would never get publicized much because they weren't handled by a man... men who, for whatever reason, have continued to assume dictatorial roles in just about anything they do...  A man like the past president of America.

I added a video above just for a little light humor, along with much of my sarcastic comments, LOL, but, as well as an awareness that we women MUST look toward our future in ALL things. In my opinion, the future of America now has little to do with Trump. In fact, he is merely a distraction of what is actually happening across the nation. You feel it, don't you? There is much more violence... There are many more guns in the hands of many who should never be allowed to touch them. And more people are dying in America due to guns than at any other time, and only in America! Children are more aware than many would think they are. It is clear that at a certain age, somewhat between toddler and going to schools, they are hearing what is being said... Many know the name of the former president...

I remember early in his administration, there was a story, perhaps true or not, but seemed to be something that could really happen these days. A young boy was chastized at school and then at home for bullying another student. At home he calmly said, I figure if the president can do it, then it must be the "right" think to do... Indeed, there is much for the average citizen these days who can question, what in the world is happening in America!

Importantly, there has been a major shift of the far right in moving backward. They want to eliminate all the advances that have occurred over the last 2000+ years. They claim they want to make america great again... You know, when white men ran everything, including all families, all businesses, and all potential future advancements. Now, many white men such as the former president, who was quite open in his actions regarding women, including rape, for which he has been convicted, and for defamation, which he has also been convicted, and which is now being considered as part of a criminal trial now underway in New York... Men want the old days--they don't want them because women and blacks in particular in America will be able to take advantage of any new advancement...and maybe learn more, even more than their men who want to savor all that power... their violent toys...

I've learned that it didn't start in 2015, prior to the election. That was just when a former reality star decided to claim power over America... And succeeded, even though he was not chosen by the majority of Americans...

Now, here's the first questionable issue... Election Fraud--manipulation of the voting apparatus, gerrymandering, and any other scheme that can be used to attempt to keep women and blacks from voting... That, by the way, doesn't mean that they also don't want Jews, Immigrants from any place that does not have white citizens, preferably also male,, 

It is just that they learned by 2015 that women and black women in particular have a strong coordinated effort to "bond..." You know what I mean, right? We've all bonded over one thing or another... First women wanted to vote, so everybody bonded together and we got the right to vote... at least to a great extent, but there has always been holdouts who continue to reject advancement... Then the MeToo Movement...

This book spotlights Stacey Abrams! Of course, I've also started reading her books once I knew that she had started under a pseudonym, but it was her presence, her ability to communicate, and our being able to see clearly that she CARED! that brought us to her... But I didn't know what had happened to her after not winning the position of governor... Well, they now call her The Game Changer! 

And, after that election, when she was offered other jobs in the federal government, she chose to stay and continue exactly what she had been doing. Only nation-wide! Everybody knows her name--or at least every woman knows her name... This book talks about a number of women who are taking on the illegal manipulation of things like redistricting, the effect of the census... all those "routine" things that none of us really entirely understood since, perhaps, our state was fairly stable most of the year...or just didn't broadcast what was being done to ensure redistributing was handled to ensure that those people "they" didn't think should be allowed to vote, became of little consequence to the overall state voting activity... that they wanted...

Now think about this. Right Now! If your state is a primary red state, it is my understanding that those who vote red will ensure that if you, who live in that state, but are fed  up with what has happened since, say, for instance, Roe's overturn, then you just might have been redistricted out of your vote not counting much for the state's results... If you are confused, well, just know that I am too. However, what I do know and am quite familiar with is that, Donald Trump did not win the popular vote!!! Hillary Clinton did!!! Yes, in 2016, it was only the Electoral Votes that elected Trump into a presidency like no other in our country's history! And now I know from reading this book, that people in power who want to make sure they win will lie, cheat, maneuver, and downright invent electors, if they can get away with it to make their candidate win! Did you know, for instance, that it was a conservative Supreme Court, who confirmed the second Bush president, who was NOT the popular vote winner... And, I have to ask, do you begin to see a pattern that it is only the Republican Party that does these types of obfuscation? At least during the last decade... I refuse to look further back than that... History is history and cannot be changed. But you can use historical and present events to ensure something doesn't happen again...

Thus, I've turned this book into an opinion piece. If you have not yet read any book oriented toward the Trump Years as President or, very important, what happened on January 6th to attempt to change the results of the 2020 election during which Joe Biden was elected as the new president. Lady Justice gives you a great overview of legal actions taking place during that time... On the other hand, if you have kept yourself fairly up-to-date on current events incited or implemented by the republican party, I want to spotlight those issues that concern me the most...

The governor signed this bill! I've just finished reading a novel about this issue... Watch for it soon!
This is the latest effort by republicans to maneuver events related to the election...This is not lying, this is real, this is the truth--part of the conspiracy by MAGA to ensure that Donald Trump would win the election in 2020! (Concurrent planning with the January 6th insurrection planning!) Also now moving toward beginning the trial. Other states have also filed suits against fake electors activity as part of the 2020 election overthrow... Please be sure you are on alert for the 2024 election, no matter how you vote... Make sure your vote counts! Frankly, I believe that most of America knows what is going on to vote...but when we know the type of shenanigans' done by the republican party, by white christian nationalists, by Putin to again provide disinformation and be involved in the next election as Russian was indicted for in the 2016 election.

Let's look at another state--Wisconsin as well as other states, including Georgia which are also moving toward heading to trial.

Lithwick points out that one of the the first thing done was the banning at the border potential immigrants from certain countries... But, sometimes, Trump was stopped by law... He then began to appeal--more appeals for two reasons. First to possibly delay action Trump didn't want to happen. Or, to disagree with the law and begin to figure out how to get around Laws!

Also, you need to be watching as to what the Supreme Court announced related to Trump's case about he should be immune for...anything..."

Readers, please be alert and do your research... If this case is that Trump is determined to be immune of all issues during his administration, then we will KNOW THAT THE SUPREME COURT HAS BEEN COMPROMISED! No man is above the Law... Don't let the republicans give you the slighted idea that this could be different for the past president! To me, this has NO basis for even being considered...if you follow the law!

I know, I know, you are all concerned about being able to buy your groceries, for paying for bills! At the same time, however, if we are all now cognizant--mindful--of the facts that are being performed illegally across the nation, you will undoubtedly also realize that without our freedoms, without our ability to vote and act freely and honestly with no fear of corruption, especially as women, non-whites or non white nationalist christians, the entire core of America's democracy will be criminally taken over as the new Supreme Courts Justice opined, then we are leading to the Oval Office being nothing about a location for a criminal enterprise, headed by the 2024 republican candidate (the latter part of this sentence is my clarifying opinion of her judgment)...



Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Vincent Chough - Was Jesus Political? Deeply - Sermon on the Mount from Matthew


Was Jesus Political? Deeply

Why did they follow him? Why did they follow that poor Nazarene all those centuries ago? When the multitudes came to hear the words of the preacher, they didn't get stirred up. There was no shouting, chanting, marching, or flag marching, or flag waving. Instead, there was peace. There was calm. And there was power.

Jesus preached all that was good about God. He gave hope to the downtrodden. He told them God was on their side, and that yes, one day there will be judgment. But for now, the Word of God had become flesh and was standing there among them. The Holy Spirit was working in their hearts, minds, and souls.

Later, when they cheered the Nazarene upon entering Jerusalem in triumph, some may have hoped for a political victory. But instead, Jesus went to the cross. He opened his arms to forgive those who persecuted him. He spilled his own blood for the oppressive political and religious actors of the day. And his victory was much greater than we can imagine. In the end, some came to believe in the Son of God.

What does this say to us today when we protest and march for or against gun control? Or abortion? Workers rights? Political corruption? Civil rights? What does this say to the part of us that only wants to complain and criticize? What does this say to the part of us that wants to seize power foolishly thinking this is how to serve God's kingdom? As we cry out for justice, does a thirst for vengeance contaminate our hearts?

Examine the scriptures. Jesus spent nearly all his time praying, healing, and teaching. He answered criticism with authority. He once cleansed the temple. But the majority of his action was spent among the people, with the poor in spirit.

When he finally faced horrific political and religious oppression face-to-face, what did he do? Jesus voluntarily gave himself up and died. This was the will of his father.

Jesus was killed since he was considered a threat to the system. Many others during this time also paid this price, and none of them were the Messiah. Crucifixion was used to punish enemies of the state, agitators, and those with no civil rights. So in the news of his day, Jesus' death was not remarkable. What made his death unique occurred on an entirely different level.

Jesus did not cry out for political change. He knew the overthrow of one system would only lead to another and then another. All governments and systems are Babylon, and if we place all our faith and trust there, then we commit idolatry. Certainly there are some truly interested in serving their fellow citizens, but no government or nation is God.

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel cried out to have a king so they could be like other nations. Legislation does not save souls. So much energy and activity get wasted in politics. We believe we are striving for a greater good, but many times we are misled. Meanwhile a chosen few line their pockets with money and give their cronies a place of privilege.

Jesus' message was simple. Believe in me. Receive God's mercy. Stop sinning. Stop the hypocrisy. Go right now and help your neighbor. Make disciples and share the Good News. Love one another.

Go back and read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me.

Where is the political manifesto? It's not there--at least not in an obvious way. Instead, Jesus demands that all political systems justify their behavior. Even more, he asks all humankind to do the same. And he knows we fail many times. This is why he went to the cross.

What would happen if we placed all our efforts into directly helping someone in need? What if we stopped pouring money into political causes and used it to help someone we know personally? What if we marched into places of poverty to find out exactly how to help with our feet on the ground? What if our campaigns focused on finding a lonely person who needs company? What might the result look like? It might look like the Kingdom of Heaven.

Maybe this would unmask the corruption of the rulers. Maybe it would reveal our own selfish tendencies as well. Jesus was stripped naked to fully expose the deep injustice of this world. He died poor, oppressed, and humiliated. This is his political statement.

It's as if Jesus came to say, "Look at what the sins and selfishness of the world do to the weak and vulnerable. Look at how God chooses to show you this--not by power or control--but through love and forgiveness, even forgiving those who commit atrocity. The Son of God died for it all. He absorbs it all into his wounded side. And if this does not wake you up, even if someone rises from the dead, your hearts will remain hardened."

So let us go preach all that is good about God. Let us give hope and help to someone in need. Get your hands dirty and have skin in the game. God is on your side.

One day we will all be judged. But for now, the Word of God nourishes us. Let the Holy Spirit work in our hearts, minds, and souls. And may our political manifesto be the crucified and risen Christ.

You can use my content if you acknowledge me as the author and provide a back link to my site.
God bless you,
Vincent Chough

Thank you Vincent Chough for permission to share your words here... My readers know that I have been deeply troubled about how, it seems, even our faith is now being used within political propaganda, often with lies...

Please read Matthew and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount again, as above, as you consider where we are in America today...

I Read The Kingdom, The Power, and the Glory
Look for it and other books via the search column to the right...
Note: This is not the planned post for today...
This just might be a God Incident for YOU...
God loves all, though we may be different in race or religion. 
He merely asks us to Tell people about Jesus and what He preached...
I Speak Jesus...
I speak His Truth, His Love...

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Monday, April 22, 2024

The Secret Pianist: Sisters. Traitors. Spies. An Historical Novel by Andie Newton


Both men leaned in, only to back away in shock after reading about the Monsigny performance and their special guest of honor. Smith took his glasses off. “Date and time of Hitler’s whereabouts.” “My God, sir. This is proof we can’t stop now!” Guy smiled broadly. “We have to call the Air Ministry, get a flight in the diary.” Smith shook his head. “Afraid not.” 

Prologue - Somewhere over France 

The pilot had been trained to fly his RAF Whitley over enemy territory at night, memorizing the bends of the French coastline, the railways, and the location of the villages, while trying to avoid German emplacements. He was prepared for almost everything that night except for a change in the weather. Thick clouds blanketed the moon, dangerously concealing the cliffs along the shore and threatening not only the crew’s lives but the fifty special agents he was ordered to drop over Belgium. It didn’t take long before the pilot had flown off course, lost above enemy territory with only a vague idea of where they were when anti-aircraft fire popped against the fuselage. Tink, tink, tink, tink… As the pilot struggled to keep his crew alive and the aircraft steady in the air, he got annoyed with himself for even flying at all. Why was he taking such risks for pigeons? Pigeons indeed. He’d had quite the discussion with his supervisor about the birds before he’d taken off from the airfield at Newmarket. Nobody at the Air Ministry thought messenger pigeons would win the war. Nobody. He’d heard the few pigeons that survived previous missions had flown back with hand-drawn cartoons and personal messages to family, but no hard, usable intelligence. Definitely not information that was worth his life or his crew’s, he’d decided. He shouted to one of the crewmen in the back. “Dump the cargo!” “But we don’t know where we are, sir!” he answered. “We’re turning around,” the pilot said, hands white as chalk gripping the yoke, “and I’m not taking those birds back up again! Dump the bloody things!” A barrage of enemy bullets punched holes in the wing. “Now!” he barked. The crewman pushed the pigeons out of the plane as the enemy fired—all fifty of them, individually packaged in tiny bird boxes with parachutes like agents of war. “Rest in peace, you poor little buggers,” he said as they spiraled toward their doom. 


The story begins in 1944 and the German soldiers have invaded France. As is known, war brings nothing but misery for the citizens in a country--no matter which country it is... We meet the main characters--three sisters who have lost much and have been forced to become seamstresses in a little shop which barely provides for their needs... But it is now night and Gaby has heard noises in the house and hurried downstairs to discover what is happening. It was known widely that the German soldiers would often visit homes, taking anything and everything they wanted. But why had they picked this house? Perhaps they knew there were no men? She shivered at the possible ramifications...

When she discovered that it was only Martine, her sister, she felt both relief and disgust. Martine was just coming from the basement, she was dirty and was hesitant to explain what she was doing. She had to ask, "are you hiding a boy." which could really cause problems. But, no, that was not the case. Even as they stood there looking at each other, an outside noise made them stand rigidly, counting steps, trying to determine how many there were... Two were talking to their neighbor, who was a bossy, nosy French woman, and two were heading to their home...

Both of the sisters now worried, would they search the basement which, of course, had something to hide, even though Gaby didn't know what... And, of course, a search soon began, moving about, one plunking on the piano which Gaby greatly resented. But it was she who thought fast enough, telling them don't forget to check the closet, maybe they needed a coat? Interested in buying one? Explaining that they were seamstresses who used the old coats for patching others which were damaged and could not be replaced due to the rations...

But it was that late visit that was to begin confusion and turmoil for the women who now was seen as being able to provide something that, indeed, a German leader needed... He wanted her to teach his step-daughter how to play the piano!

It was wartime, and while everybody hated the invaders, there were those who were French who either willingly or not were forced to connect in some way with the invading troops. Good French refused. But if somebody was forced into it, they were seen as Bad French... Which could lead to problems in getting the rations that were due them. That was already a problem for the sisters who had, as a firm agreement by the three, chose to share rations with a mother who needed help given her son's health.

Gaby had tried to refuse to teach the little girl, but the Commandant knew of this arrangement and threatened to take it away if Gaby refused his request.

And what was in the basement? Why, it was a pigeon, a carrier pigeon in fact; and it had been thrown out of the plane, but saved by Martine... Of course, Simone's, a sister who was now home from sneaking out to meet her beau, plan was to eat him! But Martine knew that the pigeon was used to spy and was thinking about how to help that happen! And soon that pigeon was flying back to its home...

Bombing had occurred and Martine realized that it had hit where the map that had been attached to the pigeon had designated! The sisters pledged together, they would work with the pigeons whenever they came across one--or went out and captured those locked in by their neighbors--they would become spies!

A loss by Gaby had earlier forced her to reject her schooling, her future in music...But now Gaby was also forced to go to the home of the Commandant where she would teach... If she was seen going into his house, she would forever after be called a bad French...But even there, Gaby was caught in secrets when she realized that the little girl had already been taught in her former life, but is afraid to reveal that...

And as Gaby taught, they would in secret allow the little girl to play what she wanted--hiding when the Commandant was in the house, bound by running scales or picking out the notes one by one...

But now, Gaby was also seeking possible secrets that could be sent out via the pigeons...The sisters had been able to hide a small radio and waited for a message. Beethoven's 5th was the signal!

And among all that, a man fell in love--in love with a woman who had created such a beautiful piece of music that he could not help but fall deeply in love... For Gaby had once created the masterpiece and the music was now being used to prove her identity... and before the book ended, they were to meet! What a beautiful additional plot to the book! And, how I wished that there was really a creation on piano that was later named and published... Sadly, only the love it produced was to remain...

People's lives change during wartime. Not because they want to have them changed, but because, sometimes, those who seek power or those who are greedy or violent... bring it about...

It is impossible to read The Secret Pianist without thinking about what is happening across the world today. Hitler's leadership of the country was quite familiar to what we are watching each day... Putin for instance, a president of Russia who seeks power over more territory and decides to invade Ukraine...

Iran's Hamas attacks a music festival in Israel, but, is really unprepared for fighting against the power of Israel. However, the Prime Minister of Israel, who was already being pressured to vacate his position due to his desire for power, a willingness and seemingly desire for violence, no matter who may be killed... is going beyond what is necessary...

In the United States, under a former president who chose to use violence to stay in office also reflects how war can affect an entire country... when his followers attacked the nation's Capitol to try to stop finalization of the election!

Andie Newton, however, succeeds in centering in on just those who wish to stop the violence and are willing to work behind the scenes to make it happen. Many are doing that today. But Newton's novel, while difficult to read, knowing that people are being killed, starved, and more too horrible to mention, and there are so many mere citizens of a country affected, is a wonderful way to enter into history to see just how, exactly, ideas such as carrier pigeons, can be conceived which are able to stop and, hopefully, prevent a longer war than necessary. Her story is wonderfully developed within a devastating framework. The characters are wonderfully drawn, especially those who are participating as Spies (very hard to determine who is good and bad French) or as Traitors... And, of course, for me, using music as a central role throughout the book deserves Kudos for excellence by the author!

This historical novel has no actual scenes of violence. I can recommend it highly for those who, especially these days, want to learn more about how things can occur behind the scenes. The three sisters are delightful in their different personalities, yet who, through a difficult period, chose to maintain a sisters' promise to not act unless they all agreed. A difficult thing that rarely occurs, but which had to be accepted during such a time of devastation. Again, conceptually, this writer presented us with a novel that has much to share and much to think about! It is highly recommended!


Sunday, April 21, 2024

Guest Book Review Presented by Carl Brookins, Writer - Blessed Are The Dead: A Gabriella Giovanni Mystery by Kristi Belcamino


Chapter 1 - ANOTHER BOYFRIEND PISSED off at me over a dead body. Or in this case, two dead bodies. The silence on the other end of the line confirms it.
Snapping my cell phone shut, I swipe my keycard and hurry in the back door at the newspaper office. The smell of fresh pizza makes my stomach grumble as I pass the cafeteria, but there’s no time to eat. Deadline is looming. I forget about my limping love life—­the clock is ticking. The paper goes to bed in three hours, so I’ve got to hustle.
Entering the newsroom, a jolt of excitement surges through me. It’s that special friction, that palpable energy in the air that is always present close to deadline. Giant windows, black with night, reflect the bustling activity around me. A big-­screen TV with its volume muted dominates one wall, and smaller TVs hang from the ceiling throughout the room, blaring local and national news. The room smells like burned broccoli and musty books but still manages to always feel like home. It’s where I’m meant to be.
“Giovanni, you got seventeen inches,” my editor, Matt Kellogg, hollers. Nobody at the Bay Herald ever calls me Gabriella. In the news business, you are your last name. Luckily, I like mine.
I want more space, but there’s no use arguing. He’s right. It’s sad, but it’s the same old story we’ve all seen before—­big-­living San Francisco businessman up to his Gucci eyeglasses in debt kills his wife, then turns the gun on himself.
The momentum of the newsroom engulfs me, sending adrenaline soaring through my limbs. The space hums like a beehive. Deadline is the one time you can find nearly every metro reporter at a desk. Most are pounding the keyboard, flipping through notebooks, or talking on the phone, getting last-­minute quotes for their stories. Our desks are in gray cubbies with low walls so we can see each other and the rest of the newsroom.
I catch snippets of different conversations floating in the air. Our political reporter is losing patience with someone on the other end of the phone line.
“Now come on. You know that’s a bunch of bullshit,” she says. “We’ve known each other for ten years, Jeff. You never once said it was off the record. You know the game. You know the rules. This isn’t amateur night here.”
Across the room, the sports department erupts in cheers as an Oakland A’s batter hits a home run on the big screen. One of the investigative reporters slams down his phone, stands up, pumps his fists into the air, and yells to no one in particular, “Fuck yeah. Fuck yeah, you motherfucker. I knew I’d catch you in a lie. Now it’s going in the paper, you douche bag.”
Nobody except the reporter right beside him even looks up. He only does so to scratch his chin. I keep walking. A veteran reporter lifts his head. “Thought you had a hot date.” We both like to cook, and I had tantalized him earlier with descriptions of the birthday dinner I was going to make for my boyfriend.
“Murder-­suicide,” I say. He nods and turns back to his computer.
My teeth clench when I see May DuPont, the night police reporter, at the cop reporter’s station, two desks with a stack of police scanners between them.
I try to straighten my skirt and smooth my hair before I get to my desk. It’s useless. It’s been a long day. I’ve already filed two stories for tomorrow’s paper—­a car crash and a brush fire—­and the traces of hiking after firefighters cling to me. My hair smells like smoke, and small bits of grass have adhered to my sandals.
Each morning, I dress nice in an effort to create la bella figura, like my Italian mother taught me. But by the end of the day, this is what I’ve become—­smelly, rumpled, and bedraggled.
May, a waiflike twenty-­four-­year-­old is—­as usual—­dressed in a Brooks Brothers shirt and crisp slacks. A getup she was probably born wearing. She’s an upper-­crust heroin-­chic girl—­pretty much the opposite of me. My boyfriend, Brad, says Sophia Loren’s got nothing on my curves. It sounds great in theory, but the truth is even at my fighting weight, all that extra padding makes me feel like an elephant next to girls like May.
I give her a cursory hello before I log onto my computer. “I’m writing a story you missed about a bank robbery,” she says without looking away from her computer screen. “The editors might put it on the front page. It was a take-­on style.”
“It’s called take-­over,” I say.
May’s fresh from her master’s program in journalism at Berkeley. The gossip in the newsroom is that her dad is sleeping with the executive editor, Susan Evans. I stare at the huge pearl studs in her ears.
Every night, May manages to dig up some crime that slipped by me during my day shift, and she makes damn sure the editors know I missed it. She’s only been at the paper seven weeks, but I already get the feeling she thinks my job is the next rung on her ladder to success.
Her job—­the night cop reporter—­is the lowest beat at any paper. I’ve been there. But I also put in the time to get where I am today—­the day cops reporter. And it involved working long hours for near-­poverty wages at several rinky-­dink newspapers. I didn’t have the luxury of attending grad school, then being snatched up by a big daily paper because my dad’s screwing the editor.
May’s mother is dead, and I’m sorry for that, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to hand over my job. She’s not the only one who’s had to deal with tragedy around here.
“You have black stuff on your forehead,” she says, getting up and heading to the copy desk.
Must be soot from the fire. I’m about to grab my compact mirror when something on the police scanner makes me pause. The crackle of the scanners switching from channel to channel is a comforting sound, like white noise, that usually fades into the background if it’s just routine radio traffic.
This time, the officer’s high-­pitched and out-­of-­breath voice calling in a felony traffic stop alerts me. The scanner frequency shows it’s Berkeley PD. Within a moment, the officer is calling Code 4—­all clear—­so I turn back to my computer. But then I hear something that makes my fingers freeze on the keyboard.
“Rosarito PD says the girl’s eight years old. Mom says she never came home—­” More routine traffic about the felony stop interrupts the dispatcher’s voice.
My stomach is doing loop-­de-­loops as I lean over and try to see which department was talking about the girl. I punch in the frequency for Rosarito PD on the other scanner, but the channel is quiet.
I dial the Rosarito Police Department watch commander—­the sergeant on duty overnight while the main office is closed. No answer. He must be out on the streets patrolling, so I leave a message, saying I heard something about a girl who didn’t come home today.
In my years as a reporter, every instance of a possible missing child has ended up being a misunder- standing. Most times the kid lost track of time or didn’t tell someone he wasn’t coming straight home.
In the silver-­framed photo hidden in my desk drawer, Caterina’s pink lips and dark eyes are surrounded by a halo of black hair. My sister looks solemn, wise, and beautiful, even though she’s only seven. I remember thinking she looked like a bride when I pulled myself up to look into her casket and saw her lying there in the lacy white first-­communion dress and veil she never had a chance to wear.
What I heard on the scanner made my face flush and my insides somersault, but I know it’s rare that a child is kidnapped and killed by a stranger. Every once in a while, I hear something like this on the scanner, and it ends up being nothing. I hope this little girl just forgot to call home. I make the sign of the cross, and May, sitting back down, gives me a snarky look.
The clock shows it’s 9 P.M. I’m running out of time. I got the basic details about the murder-­suicide at the press conference earlier except for the identities of the dead. A source at the morgue slipped me the names, but I’m going to have to get one more off-­the-­record confirmation before Kellogg will let me run with them. I dial homicide detective Lt. Michael Moretti and speak fast before he can protest, reeling off the two names I have.
“If I print them, will I be wrong?”
“You were at the press conference. You heard me. We’re not releasing the names. Sorry, kiddo.”
At twenty-­eight, I’m too old to be his daughter, but he always calls me that. Moretti and I bonded a long time ago on the Italian-­American thing, but his blood pumps blue. He’s been a cop longer than he hasn’t. It took years for him to believe me when I said I’d go to jail rather than give him up as a source.
“I don’t need you to tell me the names.” I try to sound as logical as possible. “I just need to verify them. Besides, you know the Trib is going to run the names.”
I cringed earlier when I saw a reporter from the San Francisco Tribune at the crime scene. When the bigger paper swoops into our territory and scoops us, my editors don’t like it. I hate it.
Moretti makes a guttural sound. “Did you see those gray hairs on my head tonight? About ten are from you. Don’t you have anyone else you can pester?”
I do. I have some crack sources—­cops who call me, and say, “Hey, there’s a dead body in Civic Park, try not to beat the homicide detectives there.”
But this is Moretti’s case.
“Another cop already gave it up,” I say to convince him. “I just need confirmation. How about this? If I have the names right, don’t say anything.”
Silence. I wait a few beats, twirling the phone cord around my fingers.
“Okay, I’m going with it,” I say, bright and cheery. “Thanks. Anything else going on tonight? Heard something about Rosarito.”
He takes a minute to answer. “You didn’t hear this from me.”
“I know, I know.” I roll my eyes even though he can’t see me.
“An eight-­year-­old Rosarito girl didn’t make it to school today —­”
“What?” My stomach gurgles and churns. Sweet Jesus, if Moretti knows about it, this might be the real thing.
“She hasn’t even been gone twenty-­four hours. Too early to say if it’s legit or not. Rosarito PD hasn’t issued an AMBER Alert. They’re waiting to find out if she turns up at grandma’s or a classmate’s house.”
He’s right. It’s probably nothing. But dark memories overwhelm me. I do some deep breathing to try to relax, but my heart is racing. I’ve avoided a story like this so far. I don’t know if I’m ready. I don’t know if I will ever be ready.
“Listen, gotta go,” Moretti says. “Remember, you and I didn’t talk tonight. Omerta.”
“Very funny,” I say, but he’s already disconnected. Omerta, an Italian word, refers to the Mafia’s code of silence.
I hang up and dial Kellogg. “Rosarito cops might have a missing kid.”
“Yeah?” He sounds interested. “You got this confirmed?”
“Not yet. Working on it.”
“Get it nailed down.”
I have no sources in the Rosarito Police Department. Because the city lies on the periphery of our paper’s coverage area, we only report unusual or high-­profile crimes that occur there. The watch commander hasn’t called me back, so I punch in the number of the department’s public-­information officer. She works banker’s hours, but if a child is missing, she might be there. No answer.
I dig up an old file of Rosarito cop numbers and find a main number for investigations. Nothing. Only voice mail. Then I try an old reporter’s trick and start dialing numbers, each time changing the last digit of the main number. It works. Although no one picks up, I leave messages for six detectives.
I try the watch commander’s line one more time, then call 911 dispatchers in Rosarito to ask if they can track him down. The dispatcher is in a good mood. “Sure, I’ll send the sergeant a message for you,” he says.
With an eye on the clock, which is nearing ten, I dial Kellogg. “I can’t get anyone from Rosarito to confirm a missing kid. Can’t we go with it anyway, citing an anonymous source? My source is solid.”
“No can do. Evans would kick up a shitstorm.”
Kellogg used to be ballsy. He never cared what senior editors would think or say. That is, until Susan Evans was hired as executive editor two years ago. I heard he was up for the job, but they hired her instead. Ever since, he’s been walking around mopey and fearful like a puppy that was kicked. I miss the old Kellogg.
“It’s late,” he says. “I needed your story half an hour ago. Get cracking, Giovanni. You can track down the missing kid—­if there is one—­tomorrow.”
He’s right about one thing—­it’s past deadline. I stare at the blank screen and try to figure out a lead. If you don’t draw a reader in with that first sentence, you’ve lost him. Editors have drummed this into my head for years. I’ve trained myself to come up with a lead driving back to the office on deadline, but tonight my mind kept wandering to Brad eating his birthday dinner alone. And now, in the back of my mind, much further back than I’m willing to go right now, a little girl’s familiar face peers out at me. I shake the image off and try to concentrate. May’s voice beside me makes it even harder.
“Oh, stop it,” she says. She laughs and fiddles with her silky scarf. “I do not. I’m usually in bed by then. Let me know if you make an arrest tonight. I would love to put it in the paper with your name as the arresting officer. Talk to you soon.”
I close my eyes and tune out her girlish giggle, thinking about the man who killed himself and his wife tonight. And even though it would kick my story to the front page, I leave out the most salient detail about the slaying—­the man was wearing nothing but lipstick and high heels when he offed his wife. My morgue source slipped me this sensational little morsel. Although I know I’ll get in trouble with the editors if I leave it out, and the Trib has it, I can’t do it. As soon as I found out the ­couple had small children, I knew I wouldn’t print it. Those kids are going to have enough to deal with as it is.
I try to imagine the wife’s last moments of terror. The details of her frantic 911 call revealed she was hiding from her husband in a closet. I’m sure she prayed the police would show up and save her, like in the movies. One thing I’ve learned is that the world is rarely like what you see on the silver screen. The most outlandish and nightmarish stories are the ones that happen in real life.
I file the story in the editing queue and hope I’ve scooped the Tribune on the murder-­suicide story, especially by getting the names confirmed. Tomorrow, I’ll try to find out more about the ­couple for a follow-­up story.
When I became a police reporter, I decided that every single person I wrote about deserved more than just their name in the paper when they died. Every time I sit down with a family who has lost a loved one, I give a shit. And they can tell. The shitty part is that I feel like a fraud. Maybe because I’m forging a relationship that is not real. Maybe it’s something else. Even though I really do care—­it still boils down to my trying to get a scoop and a front-­page story.
Sometimes I wonder why anyone grieving would ever talk to someone like me. Maybe they sense the darkness I keep hidden deep inside. Maybe there is something in my eyes that shows I’ve already been to hell and back. I sit on their couches and take notes as they cry into tissues and flip through photo albums of the loved one they lost, sharing intimate memories with me—­a stranger.
Before packing up, I make one last call to the Rosarito watch commander. He doesn’t answer. I grab my sweater and bag. Before I leave, I force myself to turn to May, who looks at me with a little smirk.
Seeing her smarmy look makes me hesitate. Although the thought of writing about a missing child sends waves of panic through me, I also don’t want May to get a scoop based on a tip from my sources.
Unfortunately, I know I need to cover my ass with the editors by giving her a heads-­up.
“Keep an ear out for a missing kid in Rosarito.”
“Another story you missed?”
I stop and narrow my eyes at her. “It’s a tip. From a source. Do you know what those are? They’re what you get when you prove yourself. They take years to develop, so maybe someday you’ll get your own source. Or maybe not. Cops don’t trust just anybody.”
And I don’t trust May as far as I can toss her little waiflike body. The first week she was here, she “forgot” to give me a press release I’d been waiting for all day about a big drug bust by the DEA. It was the final piece I needed to top a story I’d been working on all week. After I left, she wrote up the information from the press release and put her byline on the story instead of mine. When I confronted her, she lied about when the press release had come over the fax. My source later told me he’d sent it earlier in the day, and the time stamp on the release backed him up. When I complained to Kellogg, he simply shrugged and changed the subject.
Tonight, I stare at May for a few seconds and walk away before I completely lose it. I hover nearby as Kellogg reads my story.
Kellogg’s six-­foot-­tall body is scrunched into his cubicle, like a giant brown teddy bear among the dolls at a child’s tea party. I stand beside his desk staring at the pictures taped to the fabric wall of his cubicle: school photos of his two sons, who live with their mother. They go to some fancy private school in Marin County. His ex manages to squeeze every penny she can out of Kellogg, claiming she needs it for the kids. He sleeps on the couch in his one-­bedroom apartment to make sure his boys feel like they have their own bedroom at his place.
I wait, shifting from foot to foot. Finally, he’s done.
“Looks fine. No questions.”
I turn to leave, but he stops me.
“You couldn’t get the missing kid confirmed?”
I shake my head no. When I see the concerned look in his eyes, I wait, wondering if he has something else to say. But he immediately turns to his black-­and-­green screen. He’s onto editing another story.
An odd mixture of frustration and relief flutters through me as I walk to my car. Although I want to avoid writing about a missing kid, my failure tonight amounts to my missing a scoop on what could potentially be a huge story on my beat. And underneath all those emotions, there is also a tiny flicker of worry gnawing at me when I remember the look in Kellogg’s eyes.



By Kristi Belcamino
ISBN: 9780062338914
Released, June 2014 by
William Morrow

Gabriella Giovanni is a young reporter on the West Coast. She’s assigned to the Crime Beat at her workplace, a medium-sized daily newspaper in the California Bay area. Her time is mostly spent chasing law enforcement calls and trying to get background and context from distraught citizens who have just experienced a major calamity.
What her editor and others around her don’t know is that she is driven by a calamitous similar event earlier in her own life. Part of her job, while fending off at least one other reporter who wants her position at the newspaper, is to do careful background on the perpetrators of some heinous crimes. Her fragmented career is also playing havoc with relations with her boyfriend.
It's apparent that author Belcamino knows the landscape in which her protagonist operates. As the novel progresses and Giovanni begins a deeper dive into the background of a man who is probably a serial killer, we begin to see tendrils of the reporter’s back story and possible connections with some of her reporting targets,
The story plays on family and other relationships with skill and logic. The writing is excellent and moves the reader forward through events with precision and heightening tension. The character are well-defined and nicely developed. Giovanni’s growing intimacy with a jailed felon, core of the story, is carefully handled so as to gradually entrap the reader. The Bay Area descriptions are well-placed and serve to enhance the power of the emotional story.
Ultimately, family elements, the pressures of the job, and the power of the incarcerated killer, come together in an overlong but powerful and satisfying climax. The careful talents of this author are on prominent display and I look forward to reading the next book in her series.