Pursuit

thames

Body being pulled out of the Thames River – found at DailyMail.com

The body of a young woman has been found in the River Thames in Reading.

Thames Valley Police said the corpse was found shortly before 10:00 GMT on Tuesday morning, near the Thames Lido.

She has not yet been identified but officers believe she may have been a recently arrived undocumented immigrant.

Police are currently treating the woman's death as suspicious. According to Det Insp Robert Farming, an appeal for witnesses has been made.

Mikiko Jahn sat reading the BBC news story on the borrowed tablet over and over again, and then after a while stopped being conscious of the words. A photo was run with the story. She recognized the girl from Sebastian Wright’s security file.

The dead woman was a fourteen-year-old Syrian refugee who had been trying to escape to Europe when she and a group of twenty-one other young girls between the ages of twelve and seventeen had been captured by human traffickers. She and four others were routed to the UK, London, specifically to Wright to provide a night’s “entertainment” to a few select delegates at the symposium Mikiko had attended last week.

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Predators in Haven

 

sunset in haven

© Sue Vincent

She couldn’t believe he’d done it again, the assassin-for-hire known to international law enforcement agencies as Hellspite had eluded the American FBI, CIA, and even the unnamed British Agency she was on loan to.

Mikiko Jahn was a unique individual. Six years ago, she nearly died in a nuclear power plant accident and would have if the brilliant and eccentric scientist Daniel Hunt hadn’t saved her, literally rebuilt her from scratch with new and revolutionary processes and materials collectively known as Synthecon.

Now, even though in every manner conceivable, she looked, sounded, smelled, and acted like any other woman, only portions of her brain, nervous system, skeleton, and internal organs were biological…human. The rest, which made up over ninety percent of her physicality, was a set complex biosynthetic structures, maintained by hundreds of thousands of nanoscopic probes coursing through her bloodstream.

After the accident, the Japanese and British governments gave Hunt unlimited funds and resources. They only had two conditions. The first was to give Mikiko back the ability to be human, to interact with society normally, to seem to be the person she had been before. The second was to, as much as the technology would allow, make her more than human, augment her abilities, senses, even her emotions. They had plans for her.

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My Only Night With You

vashti

Queen Vashti

“…I swear you get better looking with every year…your sexual peak, your full figure physique…”

Every year in the Spring, the Queen of the West gave a banquet. It was opulent beyond the dreams of avarice, but the Queen had great wealth which she administered for the benefit of her people. At the banquet every year, she held a lottery. All of the eligible males were required to enter (and they were all eager to do so), all of those unmarried and between the ages of fifteen and thirty. Every year only one man would be chosen to be the Queen’s consort, and only then for a single night. Afterward, the man joined the others from previous years, where they were kept for the rest of their lives in comfort and ease on the nearby island of Stateira.

They were never seen or heard from again and, if the stories were true, they would never willingly leave Stateira and return to their previous existence.

Lugo was in love. Of course, all the men, even those who were married, even boys too young or men far too old, longed for a night with the Queen. She was the very essence of beauty, charm, graciousness, and poise. The image of her body burned in their hearts and minds. The loins of old men long dead were still stirred by even the mention of her name. Men would kill to possess her. Men would surrender their limbs, lives, and souls for a night in her bed chambers.

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Burning Bridges

 

iowa city fire

© J Hardy Carroll

Devon had been lucky to get away before the police came. The bounty hunter killed or maimed twelve heavily armed men when she escaped. He got away with a broken arm.

Time to erase his tracks both in Chicago and here in Iowa City. It would look like an accidental oven fire. All records connecting him to the human trafficking ring would be ashes and he would be long gone by the time firefighters put out the blaze. He’d saved enough in offshore accounts to start over. The bounty hunter did him a favor when she took out the boss.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wissoff-Fields flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to create a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is exactly 100.

This reads as a complete story but is also part of the Mikiko Jahn saga which is growing by leaps and bounds. The events in today’s tale take place shortly after Murder at 900 North Michigan (written also for one of Rochelle’s prompts) and both tales are a bit of foreshadowing of their expanded versions.

I noticed one of the fire trucks in the photo had a sign saying “Iowa City Fire Department” and when I looked up recent news articles about fires in Iowa City, I came up with an article published on the 13th titled Fire causes $20,000 in damage to Iowa City apartment. I also discovered that it’s just over 220 miles from Chicago to Iowa City, so a three-and-a-half hour drive wouldn’t be out of the question for someone escaping a “bounty hunter” who had just busted the major crime ring he had been working for.

To read more stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

The Colonials

pictograph

© @any1mark66

“Wallace, I’ve seen your evidence and the supporting papers, but they don’t explain one critical piece of information.”

“Like if the Chinese had visited America frequently and in numbers from 1,300 BC until 500 AD, why didn’t they colonize, right Hendricks?”

This was a frequent argument between the British and Native American archeologists, however Hendricks had a point. Pictographic evidence of extended Chinese visits to North America included numerous artifacts in Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. So why did they stop?

“I’ve already introduced Dr. Christina Esquivel, Hendricks.”

“Charmed,” though the older man’s tone indicated he wasn’t. “What’s a geneticist have to do with archeology, Wallace?”

Christina looked forward to deflating this air bag. “I’ve just finished a five-year comparative genetic analysis between various Native American peoples and those from the Hubei, Hunan, and Yunnan regions of China. DNA markers are too similar to be the result of chance.

Meaning?” Hendricks’s voice was laced with anticipation and dread.

“Meaning,” Wallace continued, “that the Chinese did colonize America. Indigenous people like Christina and I are their descendants.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge of the Week of November 14, 2017. The idea is to use the image above to inspire writing a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

The pictograph reminded me of articles I’ve read suggesting that the Chinese rather than Columbus or any other European or people from across the Atlantic, “discovered” America, perhaps sometime between 1,300 BC and 1,421 AD depending on which source you consider. Granted the information is highly speculative, but it makes a good basis for a story. The suggestion that there could be a genetic similarity between the Chinese people and Native Americans was also briefly mentioned in my source. To read more, go to DailyMail.com.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Hellspite

scarecrow

Scarecrow of Romney Marsh – from the Official Disney Fan page

“Why the bloody hell wasn’t I notified earlier? Never mind that. I want every available agent to comb Orly. Thomas might still be in the airport. And get people on her daughter’s disappearance. I don’t mean the local police, I mean our people. Tell them they don’t need warrants, they just need to produce results.”

Geoffrey Colins had been in bed fifteen minutes when the cell on his night stand rang. Amanda Thomas had abruptly left London by air over five hours ago, no explanation and certainly not on her schedule. Ever since Mikiko Jahn had discovered her identity and that she was tied to the Shadow Man, now revealed to be high-priced attorney Richard Singleton, his agency had been routinely monitoring her digital communications, but for some reason there was a foul up and the recording of her conversation with her daughter Sienna’s apparent kidnappers hadn’t been reviewed until less than an hour ago. By that time, Amanda’s flight had already touched down at Orly International Airport just outside of Paris. Agency staff reviewed Paris police computer records and discovered that her nineteen-year-old daughter hadn’t attended classes all day long. Presumably, she had been taken very early this morning by parties unknown.

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Audrey of the Sewers

 

sewer

© A Mixed Bag 2014

“Hey, kid.”

Twelve-year-old Jeff Edwards was crossing the street when he heard it.

“Down here.”

He looked down at the sewer drain.

“Come a little closer.”

“What the…?”

“Wait! It’s not what you think.”

Jeff stopped. The drain was securely grated so he figured nothing could get out. Then he felt something. A little vine had wrapped around his ankle. He pulled but was stuck.

“No, stop!”

“C’mon, I haven’t had a descent meal in forever. Getting tired of rats, mice, and dead goldfish.”

“Somebody help me!”

The vine got stronger, growing sharp spines.

“Just a few toes, I promise.”

“Ka-chunk”. Jeff saw Old Man Henderson slamming his ax down on the vine cutting it in two.

“Run, boy.”

Jeff jumped to the sidewalk.

“Figured this thing’d grown back by now.” He was wearing a metal tank on his back. The sexagenarian grabbed the tank’s hose by the nozzle and sprayed liquid into the grate.

“No. Please. Crap, that hurts. Stop.”

The plant’s voice faded. Jeff looked and saw nothing green was there anymore.

“Damn plant,” cursed Henderson. “My neighbor Seymour dumped it in the sewer but the alien keeps coming back. Herbicide’ll put it down. Best run along, Jeffy.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for 12 November 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

When I saw the sewer grate, I immediately thought of the 2017 film It based on Stephen King’s novel. I’ve never seen the film and never will (mainly because I don’t find being scared to death entertaining), but I’ve seen the advertising and the image of the clown peeking out of the sewer drain in the gutter is iconic.

However, I didn’t want to just re-write the same story and seeing a bit of plant life growing out of the grate, I took a look at the 1986 version of the movie Little Shop of Horrors based on the off-Broadway play and starring Rick Moranis as florist Seymour Krelborn.

In that movie (which I’ve never seen either), Seymour used an alien plant he named Audrey II (the original Audrey is his girlfriend) to draw business to his florist shop before realizing that the plant liked to eat human flesh and blood. The film ended when Seymour electrocuted the plant which destroyed his shop. Subsequently, he and Audrey married and settled down in the suburbs. However, a smiling Audrey II bud can be seen among the flowers in the front yard in the movie’s last scene.

I decided to extend that idea, having Seymour find the bud and flush it down the toilet. Audrey II survives, but old man Henderson, having discovered the carnivorous plant and realizing what it was, keeps it in check each spring with his ax and a tank of herbicide. He’d been working in his yard when he heard Jeff scream and, knowing what happened, grabbed what he needed and put Audrey II down for another year.

I just wrote this tale for the fun of it, mixing a serious horror movie with a horror-comedy musical.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

The Acropolis by Night

“You know we could be shot for this Manolis.”

“You’re worried about a Nazi bullet, Stefanos? How about we don’t fall first and break our necks.”

“I’d rather break my neck than hide like a coward from those bastards even one more day.”

The two teens faced the dangers of climbing to the uppermost point of the Acropolis by night in Nazi occupied Athens motivated by a common enemy. Manolis became a resistance fighter to help free his country. Stefanos and his family were hidden from the Nazis by Manolis’s Greek Orthodox parents. Never in the two-thousand years that Romaniote Jews had been living in Greece had the Church been so kind to them.

“We’ve reached it, Stefanos. Untie your end and I’ll get the other.”

“I’d love to see how fucking Tsolakoglou will explain the absence of the Reichskriegsflagge to the Nazis in the morning.”

I’ve taken some liberties with history but not too many I hope.

The Axis powers did occupy Greece starting in 1940 and did so until 1944. Few Greeks cooperated with the Italians and Germans and passively or actively resisted them.

According to Wikipedia:

Active Greek resistance started immediately as many Greeks fled to the hills, where a partisan movement was born. One of the most touching episodes of the early resistance is said to have taken place just after the Wehrmacht reached the Acropolis on 27 April. The Germans ordered the flag guard, Evzone Konstandinos Koukidis, to retire the Greek flag. The Greek soldier obeyed, but when he was done, he wrapped himself in the flag and threw himself off the plateau where he died.

The story about two Greek youths taking the Reichskriegsflagge (Nazi flag) from the highest point of the Acropolis by cover of night is true, however the boys were actually Manolis Glezos and Apostolos Santas, neither of them Jews.

I replaced one of the boys (please forgive me Mr. Glezos and Mr. Santas) with a fictional Jewish teen because many Jews were saved, including the Romaniote Jews who have lived in Greece since Biblical times, by Greek Orthodox Christian families. Again, according to Wikipedia:

The Archbishop of Athens Damaskinos ordered his priests to ask their congregations to help the Jews and sent a strong-worded letter of protest to the collaborationist authorities and the Germans. Many Orthodox Christians risked their lives hiding Jews in their apartments and homes, despite threat of imprisonment. Even the Greek police ignored instructions to turn over Jews to the Germans. When Jewish community leaders appealed to Prime Minister Ioannis Rallis, he tried to alleviate their fears by saying that the Jews of Thessaloniki had been guilty of subversive activities and that this was the reason they were deported.

In response, many Jews joined the EAM-ELAS resistance fighters and worked with their Christian neighbors to oppose the terrible evil of the Nazis. Oh, “fucking Tsolakoglou” refers to General Georgios Tsolakoglou who had signed the armistice treaty with the Wehrmacht and was appointed as chief of a new Nazi puppet regime in Athens.

I wanted to write a story befitting the American observance of Veteran’s Day but the location of Athens, Greece selected by the Pegman didn’t lend itself historically to such a tale. However, reading the history of the Nazi occupation of Greece, I was able to craft my wee tale in honor of all men and women of courage who have risked their lives in the battle against evil, both past and present.

My wife’s parents both served in World War II (her Mom in the Marines and her Dad in the Navy), my Dad was an Air Force vet and my son David served in the Marine Corps. Today I honor their service and the memories of my Dad and my wife’s parents, and all people who have served their countries with honor and distinction. Thank you all for your service.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

Far Too Late

older cary grant

Actor Cary Grant in his later years

“God knows I never meant to hurt you…I never meant take it that far…”

He was the perfect man for her but she was born far too late.

Alec Bristol (born Archibald Leech) died of a stroke when he was 82 years old. Throughout his entire film career, he was the quintessential leading man, suave, debonair, charming. He had first melted Chelsea’s heart at the Anza Classic Movie Theatre when she was only twelve-years-old.

When she was twenty-two, she visited his grave at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park near UCLA. He’d been dead longer than she’d been alive. It didn’t seem fair.

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The Man in the Dark

shadow man

Black soul – Foto Giovanni Dall’Orto – Wikimedia Commons

Autumn 2017 – London

“Here’s what we’ve got from your video and description of the suspect. Amanda Thomas, 48 years old, born Zuhal Amanda Clarke, Father George Sanford Clarke, British, a nationally syndicated columnist and novelist, Mother Aliya Fowler, moderately successful painter of mixed English-Arab descent.”

Mikiko expected to be debriefed or briefed or whatever in some official government office, like the British Secret Intelligence Service building where MI6 was headquartered, but she found herself sitting in an uncomfortable wooden chair with several other people, none of whom she knew, listening to Geoffrey Colins speaking to them in a darkened room in what seemed to be an out-of-business clothing boutique, or rather the break room of said-business. A small, portable projector was throwing images on the blank wall behind him, showing a loop of the video she’d taken last night of the woman now called Amanda Thomas.

She didn’t get back to her hotel room at the Premier Inn Heathrow until after midnight this morning. She’d walked back to the nearest bus stop from the house she’d been watching and then, in her normal identity, got on board a bus traveling in the general direction she had come from. She’d received a text from Colins as to which stop she’d exit the vehicle. Once on the street and with the bus out of sight, she heard a car engine starting two blocks away and then drive toward her. At the same time she got a text from Colins stating “Get in the back.”

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