Public Safety Writers Contest Short Story Non-Published
Honorable Mention – HARD TIME
Ben had learned to play Cribbage with his father, the one form of recreation the two shared. The game became a passion for Ben—adding and playing combinations of cards came easily to him. He was as proficient at the game as his father had ever been. Jim never shared his brother’s interest in the game. Prisoners were allowed to have playing cards, and although gambling was forbidden, it flourished throughout the camp. Ben was not a poker player but liked to gamble. Taking a wood-stave from an old water barrel, he carved a cribbage board. It was far from perfect, but it worked well enough. Jim played when Ben couldn’t find anyone else, which wasn’t often. Many of the prisoners were skilled players. Although Ben far outclassed his opponents, he was smart enough to let others win often enough to keep them coming back. His prowess kept the brothers in cigarettes, the prison currency.
Once the roadway was twenty miles into the swamp, their keepers no longer spent nights at the inmate camp. Instead, at nightfall, they parked a truck a mile or so from the camp. Two guards armed with shotguns and revolvers took turns sleeping and watching while the others stayed at their encampment of shacks. It worked well for them. They were paid to have four present within the inmate’s encampment at all times. It didn’t work as well for the convicts, especially not for Ben. Within days of arriving, Ben was attacked after the guards withdrew for the night. Finished with their evening meal, the brothers were getting out the Bull Durham for a smoke when a half dozen other inmates approached.
“Howdy, boys. I’m Pete. Me and my friends are here to welcome you to our little piece of heaven.”
A bull of a man, Pete was doing life for rape and murder. The acknowledged leader of the prisoners, Pete, was a vicious degenerate. He took pleasure in beating and raping weaker men.
“I’m Jim, and this is my brother Ben. What can we do for you?”
“Interesting that you should ask. It’s your brother that I want, we’re gonna be special friends.” Pete motioned to his followers, who surrounded the brothers.
Jim and Ben were on their feet in an instant. “What do you mean, your special friend?”
With a smirk, Pete answered, “What it means is that you and I are going to get to know each other really well, punk. When I want a piece of ass, you’re gonna give it to me.”
Now in a fighting stance, Ben shouted, “Over my dead body.” Jim stepped to his brother’s side.
“Little shit on my dick, little blood on my knife, makes no difference to me,” Pete growled as the men attacked.
Jim was as strong as an ox, but not fast. Ben, not as tough, was faster on his feet. They got in a few licks before three men pinned Jim and Pete kicked him into unconsciousness. Ben was helpless and unable to stop the others.
Once Jim was unconscious, Pete and two others dragged Ben to Pete’s tent. The one real tent in the camp.
Inside, they stripped Ben naked and left him alone with Pete. “Like I said, a little shit on my dick or a little blood on my knife. Tonight it’ll be your shit on my dick.” He rolled the semi-conscious Ben onto his stomach. Straddling the helpless man from behind, he bent forward, Pete whispered, “Feel that? Get used to it. You’re gonna get a lot of it.”
When Pete was satisfied, he dragged Ben outside, threw his clothes out, and went to join his friends for a smoke. “Nothing like a smoke after a piece of ass,” he joked.
Ben managed to pull himself up, get his clothes on, and untie Jim, who had been bound after being knocked out. From then on, they were often subject to Pete’s brutal attacks. The brothers got stronger and managed to fight off some of the attacks, but were only seldom successful.
Three months into their sentence, Ben had suffered as much as he could endure. Jim, twenty, and Ben, seventeen, decided to kill Pete.
One night, Jim was settling down to sleep when Ben turned to him. “Jim, if we don’t do something, I am going to kill myself.”
Jim was awake and alert. “Whatta you mean?”
“I can’t take it anymore.” The two talked late into the night. They agreed escape was impossible. Even if they got away, they knew they would be caught and brought back to the chain gang.
“What if we kill Pete?”
It is with pleasure that I welcome Jordan Bernal as a guest blogger.
Jordan is a long-time friend and mentor. She writes fantasy with elements of mystery and romance. We are sharing two of her fantasy stories today.
The first, The Keepers of Éire (Celtic Dragonriders Book 1), is a modern-day fantasy. For centuries dragons have protected Ireland, their existence kept secret with the help of earth magic and their human riders. Now that secret is threatened as the bodies of four riders are found at sacred Irish sites. Christian Riley, a man with secrets of his own, is haunted by vivid dreams of each slaying. Devan Fraser, an American searching for her Irish heritage and the meaning of an inherited dragon ring, stumbles into the mystery of the murders. Christian’s only memento from the mother who gave him up for adoption is a dragon pendant that matches Devan’s ring. Together they discover their destinies, the truth of dragons, and the depth of honor and loyalty people will go to protect the ones they love.
Jordan’s latest work, The Keepers of Alba (Celtic Dragonriders Book 2), will be released on September 1, 2020. Devan Fraser, the only rider with the magical ability to hear and bespeaking all dragons, is thrust into the middle of a deadly conflict, decades in the making. Separated from her beloved, Christian Riley, she finds herself in a desperate race against time. Can she decipher the obscure meanings outlined in an ancient prophecy and escape a crazed madman before feuding clans destroy Scotland? Or is it already too late? Is the magic that sustains all dragonkind destined for extinction?
Jordan has allowed her protagonist, Devan Fraser, to tell us about herself and the exchanges she has with the author. To keep some control over where Devan goes with the interview, we’ve given her a few questions.
What was life like before Jordan started pulling your strings? I hate to say it, but my life was boring, with a capital B. You see, I was a researcher at a local university until budget cuts took away my position. So, no job and not many prospects. I started looking for a new job when my parents were killed in a vehicle accident. Oh, and I had just broken up with my fiancé, Rick. Rick will tell you just how much of a bore I am as he spouts all my flaws.
What’s the one trait you like most about yourself? Something that I’ve recently learned about myself: I’m fiercely loyal. Once I believe in someone, I am that person’s strongest advocate. It takes a massive falling-out for me to lose faith in someone I trust.
What do you like least about yourself? That I’m a bit too needy. I tie my self-worth into how much I’m needed. I don’t do well with confrontations. I’m more likely to step back from a situation and thus not deal with it. I’m also a bit too trusting. I’m still a work-in-progress and have my doubts at times, but that’s life, right?
What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you? You mean, besides leaving the U.S.A on barely a whim, travel to Ireland by myself, and then finding out dragons do exist? Well, I did learn I have a special magical talent: I can hear and speak telepathically with all dragons. That ability led to saving a bullied wingless dragonet, Grayson. It also led me to become a dragonrider with the Tuatha Dragon Clan.
Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about? Not really. My author, Jordan, really knows me, probably better than I know myself. And while Jordan’s constantly putting me in dangerous situations, I’m learning how strong, intelligent, and courageous I can be. Though, I do wish I didn’t have to be bruised and battered so much in the learning. Oh, and I was a bit nervous about how quickly I fell in love with sexy Irishman, Christian, but I’ll not argue too much as the loving is fantastic.
What is your greatest fear? To be alone. Truly alone. When my parents died, I had no one. I was an only child, and my grandparents and uncle on my mother’s side had all died before I was born. I don’t know anything about my father’s side of the family, as he never spoke of them.
What makes you happy? Being needed. Belonging. Especially belonging to the Tuatha Dragon Clan, being a partner to my dragon: Dochas, and being Christian Riley’s friend and lover. And by belonging, my confidence in my abilities is growing.
If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why? Of course, I’d want to have my parents still alive. I miss them terribly. There’s so much I want to talk to them about, or enjoy a walk on the beach, or share a cozy evening sitting by the fire. But without my losing them, I wouldn’t have gone on this wild and crazy journey to Ireland. I wouldn’t have met the love of my life, Christian. And I wouldn’t have become Dochas’ rider.
Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why? Kiely, Padrick’s mother. Kiely is a . . . well, let’s just say she’s a master manipulator as well as a bit of a prejudiced gobshite (I’m learning a few choice Irish slang words).
Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why? I can’t think of anyone. I’m finally who I was destined to become. I get to fly adragonback, so my love of flying is set free. I’m madly, wildly in love with my sexy Irishman. Now, if Christian and I can stay a few steps ahead of the killer—at least until we can stop him—my life would be perfect.
Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog? When Jordan Bernal says she was born on the wrong planet, she’s referring to the third planet in the Sagittarian Sector, known as Pern. So clear and descriptive was Anne McCaffrey in her Dragonriders of Pern series, Jordan was transported into the body, mind, and soul of Anne’s characters. Jordan came away knowing she was destined to be a dragonrider; to hop from one foot to the other on the hot sands of the hatching ground awaiting a dragon of her own. She fantasized about the air currents lifting the dragon she rode, soaring over cliffs and chasms, embracing the joy and freedom as together, they broke gravity’s harsh leash. And most of all, Jordan knew she was meant to create stories with a new set of dragons and dragonriders.
Jordan’s enduring love of dragons and her pursuit of her Celtic heritage inspired her to write and publish novels in her Celtic Dragonriders series through her independent press, Dragon Wing Publishing. Jordan’s website is http://www.jordanbernal.com.
What’s next for you? Lots more adventures (i.e., dangerous situations and personal growth) in The Keepers of Alba (Celtic Dragonriders Book 2) due out September 1, 2020. As you might guess from the title, most of this story takes place in Scotland. Maybe I’ll get to learn about my father’s family after all. I do wonder if I’m related to Jaime Fraser of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Wouldn’t that be awesome! He’s so handsome, for a highlander from the 18th century. But my Christian’s all I need.
What’s on the horizon for you and your author? I’ve had a whirlwind (exhausting, yet exhilarating) seven and a half months (eleven years for Jordan) in The Keepers of Éire & The Keepers of Alba. In between these two novels, I made a guest appearance in Reluctant Paladin—a middle-grade anti-bully story that Jordan published in 2017. I know Jordan won’t keep me at loose ends for too long. After all, Dochas, Christian, and I, along with my other dragon and rider friends, must save the magic from extinction throughout the Celtic lands. That said, it takes Jordan quite a while to write my story. And she’s committed to serving as president for her writing club for at least one term.
Author-Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? Devan covered just about everything, but I’ll expand on one thing: the length of time between novels. As a reader, this can be quite frustrating. Believe me; it is for a writer as well. Yet I just can’t write much faster. These novels, except for Reluctant Paladin, are over 120,000 words long. And I have health issues that require me to utilize voice recognition technology (DragonDictate. Yes, I speak Dragon) to tell Devan’s and Christian’s stories.
On top of that, I’m meticulous in my world-building and character development. I find I’m often researching something or some place to use in the novel. All that .takes time. I promise I’ll be as quick as I can in getting Book 3 of my Celtic Dragonriders series written and into readers’ hands.
How can readers reach you?
Thonie Hevron invited me to be a guest on her blog today. Visiting this award-winning author was fun and an honor. Thonie writes police procedurals and thrillers; please visit her at https://thoniehevron.com/.
Her latest novel, By Force or Fear, is available on Amazon.
.The shocking end to a hostage situation brings a courageous Sheriff’s Deputy to the attention of a powerful young judge. His obsession grows as she pursues a violent killer in the Sonoma wine country. After losing almost everyone close to her, she finds out the judge’s offer of security isn’t as interesting as she thought. As she closes in on the murderer, the judge’s own trap snaps shut, nearly killing her and her partner.