The Sunset Limited eastbound in 2004 – Found at Wikipedia

The Eleventh Chapter in the Undead Life of Sean Becker

Jonathan Harker had boarded the Amtrak train hours ago at the station on Folsom Street. He’d never been on a train in his life besides BART and the Napa Valley Wine Train but these were part of the instructions he’d been given. He’d have rather gotten on a plane. Jonny wanted to leave of the Bay Area behind. Watching the scenery roll by all too slowly reminded him of her and she was the one person in all the world he desperately wanted to forget, though of course he never would.

He had met Dolengen months ago at an after hours place called “Delirium.” His best friend Bobby had conned him into it. Bobby knew he’d just asked Lucy to marry him but his “wingman” thought he deserved one last night on the town. Bobby wanted to introduce him to two young women he’d just met, Verona and Dol.

It wasn’t long before Verona and Bobby disappeared and almost against his will, he found himself following the raven-haired Dol into a back room containing few other items of furniture besides a bed.

Dol wasn’t a prostitute but she did want something from Jonny, his sex and his blood. Dolengen looked like she couldn’t be older than twenty-five but she had died a century ago in Central Europe and been reborn a vampire.

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two cups of tea

Found at

“Come James, you call this tea?”

“I call this America John, but I didn’t call you in for criticism.”

When James heard his friend, part of a famous London detective team would be in LA, desperation compelled him to reach out. Now they were seated in the study of his 1920s mansion once owned by a silent movie star sipping a disappointing Darjeeling.

“My wife has been gone a month and the police are useless.”

“I see.” John noticed that James seemed distracted and kept glancing down. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“It’s the damned pounding. It won’t go away, John.”

“James, I know you and Mary hadn’t been getting along. Are you sure she just didn’t run off?”

“No, it was foul play. I’m sure of it. Only you can help me, John. Only you can discover…” He stopped talking, picked up his cup and set it down again. He kept staring down at the throw rug and tugging at his ear.

“I agree, James. I know where Mary went now. She never left. Why don’t you lift up the rug and show me how you buried her body under the floorboards.”

“Then you can hear her heartbeat too.”

I wrote this for the Weekend Writing Prompt #40 – Afternoon Tea challenge hosted by Sammi Cox. For prose work, the idea is to use the phrase “Afternoon Tea” to craft a mystery-themed story solved over afternoon tea that is no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

First of all, I cry foul, because it’s almost impossible to create a credible mystery including clues in a mere 200 words. But since that’s all I had to work with, I felt forced to “borrow” a pre-existing mystery, in this case Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. I remember having to study this story in Junior High and it totally freaked me out.

I also “borrowed” John Watson as played by actor Martin Freeman in the BBC television series Sherlock which I thoroughly enjoy.

Hopefully you got how my character James murdered his wife Mary and then deposited the corpse under the wooden floorboards of his study in his 1920s spanish mansion in Los Angeles (probably something that looks like this). However guilt makes him continually look back at that section of the floor and has him imagine he can still hear Mary’s heartbeat. John, being no slouch, quickly figures out that James wants John to solve the mystery (it had to be quickly since again…200 words).

This being America, we don’t tend to value our afternoon tea as they do in London.


child vampire

Child vampire – Found on Pinterest.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has announced plans to seek the death penalty for a San Jose man accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend’s infant daughter before beating her to death in October 2015.

Wayne Moreno, 25, had been dating the infant’s mother for roughly six weeks when she left 14-month-old Diana alone with him for the first time on October 2, 2015.

After she left, Moreno allegedly spent hours repeatedly sexually assaulting the baby. When Diana wouldn’t stop crying, Moreno beat her – resulting in multiple skull fractures, according to prosecutors.

By the time police arrived at the residence in San Jose around 2:30 p.m. Diana was already dead.

Moreno claimed the infant had been injured falling off a changing table, but an autopsy determined that was not the case. He was arrested two days later.

Moreno has been charged with murder occurring during the commission of forcible lewd acts on a child, assaulting the child resulting in her death and three separate counts of forcible lewd acts on a child.

“Wake up, Wayne.”

Wayne Moreno was in a cell in a secure wing of the Santa Clara County Jail on suicide watch. It would have been impossible to place the high-profile prisoner in the jail’s general population, and although he had not made any explicit threats of suicide, the nature of his case required the Sheriff’s Department take every precaution.

However, they couldn’t have been prepared for the impossible.

“I said wake up, Wayne.”

“Huh? Wha…?”

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Sex, Candy, and Murder

marcy playground

American alternative rock band “Marcy Playground”.

“Jemmy, who’s this bloody tart sitting in my chair?”

“That you, Danno?”

She was calling from the bedroom. Dan had come home high as usual. Having closed the door behind him after spending three minutes just getting the key in the lock, he was leaning back against it so he wouldn’t fall over.

“Yeah, Luv. I say though, who’s the bird sitting in my chair looking like she wants to cut off me neither bits?

“It’s a bloke.”

“Looks like a bird to me, giving off a sort of angry Grace Jones vibe. What, you bringing home transvestite hookers, now?”

Dan laughed frantically as if it were someone else who’d told the joke and he found it fantastically funny.

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Spectacular in Flaming Gold

New Year's Eve San Diego

San Diego – New Year’s Eve fireworks – Found at

Mila’s gown sparkled in effervescent gold as she entered the ballroom that was hosting the midnight gala. She held a glass of champagne in her hand as if she were royalty. From somewhere to her left, a flautist and guitarist were playing Schubert’s Ständchen. It was one of her favorites so he must have arranged it.

She watched Marcelo descend the stairway and then stop at the bottom, his eyes were enchanting like the invitation for a kiss. Mila finished her wine and nonchalantly placed it on the tray of a passing server. She approached him as one approaches a dream or fantasy.

“I knew you would be here waiting for me, Marcelo.”

“Naturally. Otherwise you wouldn’t have come. You hate these garish affairs.”

“But you love them.”

“I love spectacle and this one will be my greatest.”

“Our greatest, my dear. Is your car waiting outside?”

“Of course, angel. I just called for it to be brought to the door.”

“Then it’s time to leave, Marcelo.”

“I quite agree, Mila.”

She took his arm and he guided her way through the crowd and out of the main doors of the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. A valet was just stepping out of the driver’s side of an ebony Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta with crimson trim. Marcelo reached inside his tuxedo jacket and extracting his wallet, tipped the young man more than he could hope to earn in three months.

“Thank you, sir. Thank you very much. Happy New Year.”

Ignoring the grateful valet, Marcelo opened the passenger door for Mila and once she had secured herself, he got in behind the wheel and slowly drove away.

In the first minutes of the New Year, they were racing north on Interstate 5 near La Jolla, a gigantic celebratory fireworks display illuminating the sky behind them, when a brilliant and devastating explosion reduced the Bayfront Hilton to flaming, iridescent rubble and debris. Nearly six-hundred people were killed in just a few moments. Marcelo and Mila would watch the golden spectacle he had created later on the news. This was the first of their astounding mass murders but certainly not their last.

I wrote this for the Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie “Bonus” Wordle for “New Years”. The idea is to use at least ten of the twelve words posted, or some variation of them, in the body of a poem or story. I used eleven only omitting Chanel No. 5. Click the link above to find the full list and to see if anyone else responded to the prompt.

A few things. I did a Google search for “Largest New Years Gala” and quite a few came up in the results. I picked San Diego because it was high on the list and for no other reason.

I chose a flautist and guitarist duet because that was who provided the music for my wife’s and my wedding over thirty years ago and I found it quite beautiful. I don’t remember what specific pieces they played and selected Schubert’s Ständchen because it’s what came up in another Google search.

Marcelo must be exceptionally wealthy because his Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta costs $2.2 million. I thought I’d give him an extravagant getaway car.

Yes, I suppose I could have written a more optimistic “Happy New Year” story, but I’m sure just about everyone else will be or has already done that, so I chose a more sinister theme. At least it’s not vampires this time.

Happy New Year. No, seriously. I mean it this time.

My Semi-Controlled Nightmare


Nightmare wallpaper

“Can you tell me why you did that, Latisha?”

Ron Fielding was sitting in the Elementary School Principal’s office in a chair opposite the six-year-old girl. She had wanted the Principal to sit with them during the interview which was fine, but he hated the idea that his partner Lauri Marin and two uniformed police officers were also crammed into the room with them. He knew the case was likely to go to criminal court so the cops had to be there, but he didn’t think it wouldn’t make it easy for a little girl to tell a roomful of strangers why she lifted up her dress, pulled down her underwear, bent over, and told her classmate Timothy to put his penis in her butt.

“I do it all the time at home when Daddy turns on the camera.”

“What do you mean?”

Ron already knew about the videos. When the janitor caught Latisha and Timothy undressed in the girl’s bathroom during recess, he took them to Principal Kate Barrows and Latisha calmly told her all about how Daddy made movies of her with other grown ups and children. When Barrows called the local P.D., they’d notified State Police, the FBI and of course Child Protective Services, which was how Ron and Lauri became involved. The State and the Feds were actively searching the web for child pornography sites using an algorithm to match the little girl’s school photo with any of those videos. They had also put together a task force ready to raid Latisha’s parents’ home right after this interview.

Latisha wouldn’t be going home after school.

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You’re Too Early

soldier hitler group

Hitler (far right, seated) with his army comrades of the Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 16 (c. 1914–18) – Found at Wikipedia

“Confess, Adolphus. We know you’re an anti-Semite. We know what horrors you are going to commit.”

“Please, Fräulein. I’m blind. I’m supposed to be in hospital. Who are you? Where have you brought me? I’ve done nothing. I’m just a wounded soldier.”

“Rivkah. Leave him in his cell. I need to speak with you.”

She stood suddenly and spun away from the shoddy bed with the terrified soldier upon it.

“In a minute, Barak. I’m busy.”

“Now, Rivkah. We’ve made a terrible mistake and you’re about to make another.”

“Fräulein, who is that with you? What language are you speaking?”

“Fine.” She scowled at her older brother and stormed toward the open door to the dilapidated prison. Barak slammed the door and then secured the rusty lock.

“Wait,” the young Austrian called through the door. “Don’t leave me.”

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When Erica Walks in Darkness


© Sue Vincent

Erica knew she had been down this corridor before but she couldn’t remember when. She wanted to stop, turn around, and go back the way she’d come, but she didn’t recall where she’d been before now. The corridor was cold but it felt warm ahead where the light was coming from.

“Come now, Erica. Don’t dawdle.”

A man’s voice. He sounded familiar but she didn’t know from where.

She took another step forward, then another. She stopped and looked down. A simple, white blouse, plain woolen skirt with the hem down to her knees, black patent leather shoes. She was dressed almost like a schoolgirl, but she knew she was an adult. Erica started walking toward the light again. Then she was at the entrance to the room.

Even standing at the threshold, it was hard to see. There was a fireplace, a piano, chairs, a small sofa, all early 19th century, all very expensive. The portrait over the mantle was of a distinguished gentleman. It was the same man who had called to her, who was standing just to the right of the very same mantle holding a drink in his left hand. He offered it to her.

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Jury Finds Garcia Zarate Not Guilty In Steinle Murder Trial: My Initial Reaction

zarate and steinle

Garcia Zarate (left) and his victim Kate Steinle (right)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF & AP) — Jurors Thursday afternoon acquitted the illegal immigrant accused of killing Kate Steinle as she walked with her father on a crowded San Francisco pier of all charges except for felony possession of a firearm.

A spokesperson for the Superior Court of California made the announcement that the jury had reached a verdict shortly after 3 p.m. Shortly after 4:30 p.m., the shocking verdict was announced that Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was found not guilty of all charges except for the gun possession charge.

Jurors have been deliberating on the case since Tuesday, November 21, after prosecutors and defense attorneys finished their arguments whether Garcia Zarate was a hapless homeless man who killed Steinle in a freak accident or a calculated murderer intent on playing a sick game.

CBS SF Bay Area

Jurors have found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate not guilty of killing Kate Steinle on Pier 14 in San Francisco in July 2015 in the trial that sparked a national debate over illegal immigration.

Jurors reached the decision Thursday in the sixth day of deliberations after first receiving the case last week.

Zarate was found not guilty of first and second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. He was also found not guilty of assault with a semi-auto weapon. He was found guilty of count two – possession of a felon with a firearm.

Steinle was walking with her father and a family friend in July 2015 when she was shot, collapsing into her father’s arms. Zarate had been released from a San Francisco jail about three months before the shooting, despite a request by federal immigration authorities to detain him for deportation.

Fox News

I started writing a story about this but I realized I was too angry and too heartbroken to concentrate. I have been following this story and it is just astonishing that the jury came to this verdict. This is exactly why I have “issues” with these so-called “sanctuary cities.” Garcia Zarate has seven felony convictions. Seven! He was in possession of a stolen handgun, which in and of itself is a crime for a convicted felon. The defense says the .40 caliber handgun “just went off.” I’ve been handling firearms for a long time and they don’t just “go off” spontaneously.

When I’m upset, I process by writing, but this one is over the top. A 32-year-old woman walking with her Dad on Pier 14 was gunned down and collapsed in her Father’s arms. As a Dad to a daughter and a Grandpa to a granddaughter, I am grief stricken and absolutely outraged. I’m going to need some time to process this before I write in order to process this. I’ve written on social issues here in the past with varying results, but like I said, this one is off the scale.

Our justice system says that the jury’s decision must be respected and I can only hope the prosecution files an appeal. If not, then in my opinion, Zarate gets away with murder and San Francisco is his sanctuary city protecting him from experiencing any consequences for his crime. Is this really the ideal we’re striving for here?

Addendum: Having had some time to mull over this issue, I have authored a more thoughtful response to this issue I present for your consideration: Sanctuary and the Death of Kate Steinle.

Diminished: The Expanded Story


© @any1mark66

Sean McNeal adjusted the field intensity setting on his virtual console by another two degrees. “That should do it,” he muttered absent-mindedly.

The thirty-eight year old research physicist had been working in his small home lab for the past week, but the problem he was trying to solve had been plaguing him ever since he was a child and his Dad had shown him that old movie “Fantastic Voyage.” Ever since then, he had been fascinated by the idea of shrinking objects and people down to a tiny size.

The problem was Planck’s constant, which is why people can’t really shrink like Ant-Man. Fortunately, Sean found a way around that pesky dilemma.

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