GHOSTED – The Drifter Series: Book Four
We have the great pleasure of a visit from Jackie Taylor Zortman. A fine write, Jackie lives in the Colorado Mountains not too far from the Million Dollar Highway, one of the most beautiful stretches of road I’ve ever ridden. Jackie writes police procedural, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction grief.
When you finish check out Jackie’s website:www.jtzortman.wordpress.com
Please tell us a bit about your newest book in the Drifter Series.
Jake rides his Harley again in GHOSTED – The Drifter Series Book #4. He brings his carefully concealed personal secret out into the open for the first time. An untimely and unexpected classified mission in The Tetons of Wyoming takes him away from Kimble, Colorado, at the worst possible time in anyone’s life. His leaving without warning creates hurt, embarrassment, and fury in Tomi. Will it end their relationship forever this time?
Leaving his beloved red Harley behind, Jake has his pilot friend, Stephan, fly him into Jackson Hole Airport in his private plane. Without his cycle, he rents a Jeep to pursue his assignment. An old friend suddenly re-appears in Jackson Hole and indirectly becomes an important fixture in Jake’s world as he finally settles an old score that changes the lives of many beloved people.
Find out what shocking discovery Jake has exposed this time and learn if it turns out to be the wonderful surprise he expected or a total disaster. It’s all there inside the pages of GHOSTED.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels? My 21-year-old grandson fell to his death in the black of night from a mountain ledge. Sixteen months later, I sat down and wrote WE ARE DIFFERENT NOW to soothe my aching soul. It sold like hotcakes and still sells, as needed. I feel Pete lives on through its pages.
As for writing novels, my husband once mentioned he’d like to see a particular case he worked for the Wichita PD as the Senior Homicide Detective as a book. I wrote FOOTPRINTS IN THE FROST, spiral bound it and tossed it on a shelf. Years later, I ran across it, modernized it, and sent it to the Public Safety Writers Association’s Writing Competition in 2014. If it bombed there, it was going into the trash. Imagine my surprise when it won First Place Fiction Book Unpublished. I wrote the sequel, SNOW ANGEL, and it won an Honorable Mention, so I was off and running as a novel writer.
Next, I began writing my JAKE series – he’s a drop-dead handsome hot-shot wildland firefighter with a Harley who is a drifter. He hides a secret and only stops when some place flags him down where there’s a disaster for him to solve. Women want him, and men envy him. I’ve written WHISKEY, WATER & WILDFIRE, WINDS OF CHANGE, ECHOES OF SILENCE & GHOSTED featuring Jake.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? My first non-fiction book was published immediately by Oak Tree Press, as was my first novel Footprints in the Frost, probably because of the award it won.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? I was originally traditionally published by Oak Tree Press and then Aakenbaaken & Kent, but now I independently publish by choice.
Where do you write? I write in my office in the Colorado mountains on my desktop PC and scribble occasional notes by hand when I’m away from the office.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? Depends on the book. My Detective Max Richards is loosely based on someone from real life. The other characters are pure fiction. My Jake character and most of the characters in those books are pure fiction, except for one. A young male friend wanted to be included in the book I was writing, so I put him in, but in a fictional manner.
Describe the process you use for naming your characters? I knew immediately what Detective Max Richards should be like, so he was easy. He’s very much like my detective husband. Everything about Jake came to me totally out of the blue and completely intact, name included.
Real settings or fictional towns? Why? At first, I used only fictional towns. Then I discovered it was okay to use actual towns. I prefer to use a fictional name for the town, that is my base setting. So the answer is, I use both. The reason I prefer fictional towns is that I don’t want readers who know me to confuse fiction with fact. I’ve discovered readers see themselves or people and places they think they know in my books, though they are wrong.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read? Secrets of the Dead by Caleb Pirtle III is my all-time favorite. However, in a different genre, I think Where the Crawdads Sing is a fictional masterpiece.
What’s in the future for you and your writing? Hopefully, Jake will continue to stay with me as I continue to write. Book #5 is already haunting me. I also intend to write another non-fiction book about Mild Cognitive Impairment because it has touched my life via someone very near and dear to me.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? I am a Charter Member of the Public Safety Writers Association, having started with Roger Fulton as The Police Writer. I am also proud to have won ten PSWA Writing Competition Awards since the day I sent that first manuscript in to see if it would sink or swim. I’m also a member of The Rocky Mountain Fictions Writers. GHOSTED is my seventh published book.
Jim said, “If we kill him, and get caught, they will electrocute us. If we kill him, we have to do it in a way that can’t be proved.” He went on, “We gotta make sure the rest of the prisoners know it was us, so they’ll fear us.” They spent weeks coming up with plan after plan.
* * * * *
Ben, the youngest and least threatening on the chain gang, was the water boy. He shuffled up and down the line passing out water from two canvas buckets hanging by ropes from a wooden yoke. A tin cup was attached to the yoke by a cord. The prisoners were allowed to dip bug laden and brackish water twice each hour. Pete reveled in his domination of Ben by forcing him to fill the cup and hand it to him.
Ben said, “We can grind up glass to a fine powder and put it in his cup. It’ll cut his innards to pieces.”
“It’ll cut you, and the guards will see your bloody hands.”
“I’ll carry it in something and slip it in before I get to him.”
“I like the idea, but not glass. There are too many risks. If you get caught, what’ll you say?”
The chain gang was on a particularly tough stretch of the swamp, clearing brush and bamboo. Hardly a week went by without someone getting bit by a snake. Everyone, including the guards, was jumpy. As one of the prisoners put it, “You had-ta look where you was cutting every time you swung your machete. Otherwise, you could-a hit a snake.”
The men carried long bamboo shafts to thrust ahead of where they worked to get the snakes to move away; even the guards had poles.
Ben had read somewhere that finely shaved bamboo slivers could kill a man slowly and painfully with little evidence. In these surroundings, he was sure he could conceal this deadly gift.
“I’ll try bamboo and see if it does the job.”
The next day Ben cut a few inches from his shaft. Working with a jailhouse knife made from a piece of tin, he cut fine shards. So fine, they were almost invisible to the human eye. He wasn’t careful, and a sliver got stuck in his finger. He felt the pain but could not see the offending shard. “Damn, this hurts.”
“How you gonna test it?” Jim asked.
A pack of mongrel dogs hung about the camp surviving on scraps, roadkill, and what they could beg off the prisoners and guards. “I’ll try it on one of the mutts.”
Jim asked, “How can you do that?”
“Easy, I’ll save my meat Saturday and mix in the bamboo.”
Angrily, Jim retorted, “I mean, how can you kill a dog?”
“Easy if it will help get rid of Pete.”
Jim slumped, head down as he whispered, “Oh, God.” After a moment, he looked up and said, “Okay.”
Two days later, Saturday, the one night a week they got meat, Ben saved what passed for meat, ground-up hog, beef entrails, and chicken scraps. Because it was his plan, Ben said, “I’ll do it.” After dinner, he slipped one of the dogs, a mangy collie mix, a handful of bamboo-laced meat.
Ben and Jim watched the mongrel. The first day they saw no change in its behavior. The second day the dog began whimpering and crawling around in pain—the third, it passed blood from its ass and coughed up more—the fourth it died.
Two days later, Ben gave Pete a water and bamboo cocktail. Based on their experience with the dog, they expected some sign on the second day. Pete seemed as healthy as a sadistic bastard can be. Ben thought about giving him another dose of bamboo. Jim vetoed the idea as too risky.
Ben smiled at Pete and said, “How’s the water?”
“What the f*@k are you talking about, punk?”
Ben smiled. He made sure that Pete’s crew overheard the exchange, a conversation he repeated as the day wore on.
On the third day, Pete began to complain of severe stomach pain. Walking up with a bright smile, Ben almost sang, “Hey Pete, you want another cup of water? I fixed it special for you.” Pete declined—by then—it was too late.
By the fourth day, Pete was shitting and puking blood. He couldn’t walk. Even the guards knew he was dying. Once again, Ben offered to bring him water.
It took Pete five days to die.
No autopsy, no investigation, just a quick burial in an unmarked grave: the other prisoners knew Ben had killed Pete, only not how. Life on the chain gang remained hard.
Ben was never attacked again.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/george.cramer
Marilyn Meredith hosted me on her blog today. Her work ethic is unbelievable, and she is lots of fun.
Marilyn Meredith is the author of over forty published novels, including the award-winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. Under the name F. M. Meredith, she writes the Rocky Bluff P.D.crime series. She is a member of MWA, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, and on the board for Public Safety Writers Association. Follow her blog at http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/ and her website at http://fictionforyou.com/
End of the Trail
A Deputy Tempe Crabtree Series Mystery
Deputy Tempe Crabtree joins the search for a missing hiker in the high Sierra. Her decision to help involves her in the complicated relationship of two couples, murder, a threat to her life, and an encounter with a familiar legend, plus help from her friend, the ghost hunter.
Today, Lois Winston, a writer friend stuck without power because of Hurrican Isaias, interviewed me on her blog/website. I had a ball answering her questions. Check out the interview at https://anastasiapollack.blogspot.com/2020/08/an-interview-with-debut-historical.html
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.
Public Safety Writers Short Story Non-Published
Honorable Mention – HARD TIME
The story is serialized in three segments. “Hard Time” was the inspiration for a chapter in A Tale of Robbers and Cops, a historical novel covering fifty years in the lives of two brothers, career criminals, and the men and women in blue who must deal with their crimes.
Hard Time – Part 1
They weren’t killers by nature. Jim Tucker born, in 1912 to Georgia sharecroppers, was three years older than his brother Ben. His memories of home were of a one-room house, a shack really, where he, his parents, two brothers, and two sisters ate, slept, hated, and grew old prematurely. His family survived on less than $350 a year, half what maintained most American families. They were lucky. They had inside running water. The one place where any privacy could be found was the stinking privy out behind the equally foul-smelling chicken coop.
The landowner refused to do anything to ease their suffering. The walls were of roughhewn planks cracked and decayed to the point they no longer kept out the wind or rain. The Tucker’s waged a constant battle with the elements to keep the place livable. Nailing and repairing the wooden walls, applying tar paper, and sheets of tin seemingly did nothing to solve the problem. Their father succumbed to alcoholism and consumption at the ripe old age of forty as the Great Depression began. He left behind a wife and five children to fend for themselves.
Nine months later, their mother remarried a widower who had four children of his own. With eleven mouths to feed, Jim felt it would be easier for all if he left. Ben went with him. Two days later, they stole their first car—their first step in a life of crime.
The following week, broke, hungry, and with nowhere to sleep, they held up a gas station. Immediately caught, there was no trial. The deputy sheriff who arrested them said, “It’ll go better for you if you plead guilty and get it over.”
The judge who presided over their arraignment did not ask or offer them an attorney. Instead, he said, “Boys, the deputy tells me you want to plead guilty.”
Jim answered, “Yes, sir, I guess so.”
“Did you steal the car?”
“Did you hold up Mr. Smyth’s gas station?”
“I guess we did,” Jim began and added, “Yes, sir, we did, sir.”
“It sounds to me like y’all are guilty. How do you plead?”
“Ben, how do you plead?”
“I guess guilty, sir.”
“Son, you have to plead guilty or not guilty, one or the other.”
Sentenced to three years on a Georgia Chain Gang, they endured back-breaking work. The labor was difficult enough without the swamp, inhumane guards, and brutal inmates. Still years away from becoming a wildlife refuge, the Okefenokee Swamp covered 400,000 acres of Northern Florida and Southern Georgia. This shallow peat-filled quagmire was home to more than four hundred species of animals, including alligators, venomous snakes, and panthers.
Assigned to lay down a roadway for what was to become Georgia State Route 94, the convicts cleared a swath of land wide enough for a two-lane road into the heart of the swamp. They suffered immensely from the heat and never-ending swarms of insects. The prisoners had no protection from the elements other than the rotting and mildewed tents, the warden and guards referred to as inmate shelter.
The guards fared little better in the hastily erected temporary buildings moved whenever the roadway inched another five miles into the unforgiving swamp. The warden had a decent home in Fargo, miles outside the swamp. An infrequent visitor, he came to inspect the camp once a month to verify the records of new, released, and deceased inmates. If an inmate was unfortunate enough to die after the warden’s monthly visit, his remains were unceremoniously buried in a shallow, unmarked grave.
Guarding the prisoners was an unpleasant task made even more so by the environment: rain, sweltering heat, humidity, insects, snakes, and any number of other unpleasant experiences. The guards endured constant pain and discomfort. They were generous in passing their pain on to the convicts. One guard was often heard repeating, “If I have to put up with this shit, dem fu%#ers are going to suffer even more.”
Thank you, Public Safety Writers Association, for awarding third place to flash fiction Coming Home. At the end, there is a link about a danger all returning warriors face.
It is five days now, and he is still running. He knows he is running from something; he isn’t quite sure what. It is time to stop running.
It could have been the reception he, along with all the others, received when they arrived at SFO on that cold and foggy autumn day. He had been wearing the outfit for what seemed an eternity, but he had only been in this one for about twenty-eight hours. He had taken a cab into the city, but it had started before then. First, the baggage handler had thrown his bag at him, and then the cabbie acted as though he was another Typhoid Mary.
He found himself confused as he thought, “Why? I’ve only done what was expected of me, why this?”
Dropped off at the Grey Hound Bus Depot, he was treated as a pariah. People stood aside and either glowered at him or backed away. One woman spat at him. He had never imagined a woman could do something like that.
The bar had been no different. After one drink, he began walking. After a few blocks, he found himself in front of a Harley-Davidson dealer. On a whim, he marched inside. Here it was different.
“Hi, welcome home and welcome to Dudley Perkins.”
The salesman treated him with dignity and deference. Maybe that is why he bought an Electra Glide, riding clothes, and a helmet. He threw the outfit into a filthy Dempsey dumpster behind the building. He didn’t go back for his bag.
Now five days later, he is in Southern Utah stopped alongside a lonely highway. Sitting back against the motorcycle, he stares at a stark rock formation in a long-dead seabed. The trees, those that still have foliage, display orange and yellow leaves that shift and drop as a cold wind passes slowly through the lonely valley.
He feels as cold and lonely as the scene in front of him as he says goodbye to a world that no longer cares.
In my last post, I told about taking first place in the 2020 Public Safety Writers Associations Flash Fiction Contest. I am posting the story here today. I hope you enjoy it. After the story, there is a link that explains the danger Peter faced.
Fifty years ago, Agent Orange covered the young lieutenant from head to foot. Not yet known as a killer, his platoon cursed the mess left by the defoliant. Later, Peter laughed at their ghost-like photo images. Now in his seventies, he mused, I’m just another casualty of the Vietnam War. The doctors gave him six weeks.
I have one last shot at Joe. The best time, late afternoon.
Pete needed an experience he could savor. Only a mile to Joe’s, the old man took his time wandering through the forest of changing colors. He first came here on a spring day before he left for Vietnam. The trees had been shielded by leaves in brilliant shades of green—young and strong, much as he had been. Now the approaching winter turned the landscape into a strange rainbow of orange, yellow, red, and brown. Pete saw his cold and bleak future reflected in nature’s cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
Only I won’t be reborn.
He arrived early, perfect timing for an afternoon nap. Joe would be doing the same. A rock shelf provided enough warmth for Pete to enjoy a brief respite from the pain that came with the cancer.
Pete assembled his gear when he awoke.
Joe had been his elusive quarry for many years. Today might be the day.
Standing in the shallow current, Pete made his first cast. The fly dropped with a loud plop.
This won’t do, Joe will never come up for something so clumsy.
Pete’s fourth cast drifted as if on a cloud. His hand-tied mayfly floated to the water’s surface. Joe struck—stronger than Pete ever imagined—much stronger.
Be careful. Work slowly. Joe can break the three-pound test. He has before.
With a skill honed over decades, Pete worked his quarry back and forth, ever closer. Until he slid his net under a still combative Joe, the fish everything Pete could have hoped for in a native Brown Trout—a real trophy—at least eight pounds.
With the compassion of a true sportsman, Pete removed the small barbless hook. He held Joe up to the sky, an offering to the gods. He knelt, and with tenderness bordering on love, Pete gently returned Joe to the swiftly moving water.
This is the best day of my life!