When Erica Walks in Darkness

portal

© 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

grasshopper

© @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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Diminished

grasshopper

© @any1mark66

Everyone told me shrinking an object or a person while maintaining that object’s original properties is impossible and they’re right. Planck’s constant prevents it. That means no Ant-Man, Atom, and no little subs like in Fantastic Voyage.

Surprise. I’m only six-inches tall. This grasshopper doesn’t know I’m standing in front of it because I’m not. I’m a hologram. My perceptions have been projected into a half-foot tall holographic matrix.

Fascinating, except for one thing. I can’t disengage from the matrix. I’m stuck inside the projection of myself in my backyard.

“Hello, tiny.”

“Helen?” What…how can you see me?”

“I arranged your little accident.”

“What? But why?”

“When I come back from my business trip in three weeks, I’ll discover you were killed in a home lab accident. Tragic for the widow, but I’ll inherit your fortune and your hunky lab assistant, Harold.”

“Helen, why? I thought we loved each other.”

“You’ve always loved your gadgets more than me. You never even noticed me screwing Harold practically under your nose. Go hop around with your friend.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of November 28, 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I think I’ve written a few stories prompted by photos of insects lately, so how could I make this one different? Well, when I was a kid, I really did read the old 1960s comic books about Ant-Man and The Atom and was fascinated by the idea of being able to shrink way down in size. Also, one of my favorite science fiction movies to this day is the 1966 film “Fantastic Voyage.”

However, as I very briefly explained, Planck’s constant prevents real-life shrinking (learn more at PhysicsForums.com and this BoingBoing.net article).

However, if you could create a holographic matrix of the correct proportions and then project your perceptions into the construct, you would experience being small without actually being small (at least as far as my fake science goes).

Just don’t let your two-timing wife know. Otherwise, you’ll end up like our hapless and nameless scientist.

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

Now read Diminished: The Expanded Story.

The Most Dangerous Predator

chicago

Chicago skyline – stock footage

Mikiko heard and smelled them coming. The contact wasn’t with them but she’d been told they would arrive about now. When the door was kicked open and half a dozen heavily armed agents burst into the room, Sienna jumped halfway off of Fleming just as his hand emerged from the underside of a chair holding a Glock 26. He’d already been rapidly reaching for the weapon before the agents abruptly entered but to Mikiko, he might as well be moving in slow motion.

Sienna was on her hands and knees staring at the door, the agents behind her were still running in, and Timothy Fleming was now swinging his arm up from under the chair in the process of attempting to aim at Mikiko.

She moved her arms slightly and fired. Although his head and chest were now exposed, Mikiko avoided those targets. She could have permanently crippled Fleming by firing into his shoulder joint, but instead shot his right deltoid. At nearly point-blank range, the impact was astonishing, sending searing waves of pain through his arm, neck, and chest. He immediately released the Glock and reflexively shielded his wound with his left hand. She could have crippled him for life or even killed him. Why mercy? For Sienna’s sake or her own?

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The Mauritius Robbery Affair: Another Shot

Port Louis

Port Louis, Mauritius – Found at Mauritius Life

Chapter Eight: Another Shot

“He gave up his two mates so we should have this case tied up fairly soon, Ian.”

Police Lieutenant Winston Permalloo on the island of Mauritius where this whole mess began had finally gotten a break. A DNA sample of one of the four robbers who had been in Krista Bernham’s flat the night she was assassinated was matched up with a petty thief named Cassam Denmamode who was subsequently arrested in the aftermath of yet another heist. His attorney suggested he might be better off turning over his two accomplices rather facing a murder rap alone.

“What did he say about the fourth man, Winston?” Ian didn’t need to speak louder just because it was an international call, but decades of habit were difficult to break.

“Their boss, though Denmamode doesn’t know much about him. He planned all their jobs, emailed them their instructions for the robberies, and in addition to what they got for each haul, wired additional funds for them into an offshore account. The three we have here are small timers, but whoever put them up to this was a stone cold professional.”

“Qian.”

“Quite, Ian. It seems clear that the robberies were just a front for the real objective, the assassination of Ms. Bernham. Once that had been accomplished, the fourth man disappeared again and he stopped sending them any further crime plans.”

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The Mauritius Robbery Affair: God Rolled the Dice

north korean train depot

Chapter Seven: God Rolled the Dice

Four Months ago – Pyongyang, North Korea

Jun Ho was only six-years old and this was his first train ride. Daddy couldn’t come, but Mommy said they were going all the way to Russia.

Soo Mi took her only child by his hand as the train pulled into Pyongyang station. It would take eight days to reach Moscow and anything could go wrong in that time. She showed the forged identity papers to the conductor. It was unlikely her husband would suspect they’d attempt to escape this way.

Her son was so excited as they took their seats. He giggled when the train started moving. They would never see North Korea again. Her long assignment as a sleeper agent was over. She was taking her precious boy and North Korea’s astonishing nuclear secrets back to the west with her.

Her husband, a Major in the Korean People’s Army, would search for them in vain, or so she prayed. If they were caught before reaching safety, given what she knew, both Soo Mi and her little boy would be killed immediately. The North Korean military couldn’t risk the information getting out in the open. That’s why it was so important for Jun Ho and her to reach home.

Today – London

In 1963, a John le Carré novel was published called The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and later made into a movie starring Richard Burton. The novel had not been on Krista Bernham’s book shelf and the only reason Ian Dennis thought of it was the messages that flashed on his computer screen. He had sent out a coded query that anything having to with North Korea, nuclear weapons, high level assassinations, Kim Jong-um, and related topics trigger an alert that would be routed to him. Since this was, for the most part, internal information, he wasn’t fed details, but he was given a contact so he could further inquire.

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The Mauritius Robbery Affair: Messenger

nicosia1

© Dickelbers/Wikimedia Commons

Chapter Six: Messenger

Ian Dennis flew into Larnaca International Airport on Cyprus, but he had another airport in mind.

In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus and the Nicosia International Airport, once the island’s principal air hub, was the site of extremely violent encounters between Turkish and Cypriot forces and was heavily bombed. Today, it is deserted, officially closed and, located within the UN controlled buffer zone, has been declared a Protected Area used as the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping force.

Fortunately, Ian has a few connections at the UN and in Cyprus security so he arranged for a private visit. He had a meeting this morning with her.

She stepped out from behind a security wall at what was once the Health Control centre.

“I see you continue to abide by the rules of British punctuality, Ian.”

“And you remain mysterious as ever.” He indicated a direction by waving his right arm and she joined him on an uncharacteristically casual stroll through the ruins.

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The Mauritius Robbery Affair: The Woman is Deadly

Chapter Five: The Woman is Deadly

“Phillip is at football practice, but Marcie and Roger are right here, Ian.”

It was good to hear Evie’s voice again. They’d divorced not because they lost their love for each other, but because of the stresses of his career. Even if he’d have quit MI6, his history with the agency was such that he’d always attract the “interest” of certain parties. He’d never be completely safe, and as long as he lived with his family, they’d never be safe either.

“It’s okay, Evie. I’d love to talk with them.”

“Here. Let me put you on speaker.” Then in the background Ian heard her say, “It’s Daddy calling.” He could hear Marcie and Roger squeal.

“Daddy, Daddy, how are you? When are you coming to visit?” Little Roger was all of five and always full of enthusiasm. He didn’t recall a time when Ian actually lived at home or the family living in London at all.

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The Mauritius Robbery Affair: Patterns

Port Louis

Port Louis, Mauritius – Found at Mauritius Life

Chapter Four: Patterns

In spite of Ian Dennis’s determination to keep working, he found his brain too clouded to concentrate on even the idea of addressing Krista Bernham’s work. Krista was a brilliant researcher with the unique gift of taking data which seemed absolutely unrelated and finding patterns that even the most complex computer algorithm might not associate.

After her divorce from Malcolm Bernham, she moved with her son Ian from their home in Edinburgh to the island of Mauritius. Frankly, she could work from anywhere with internet access that could be secured by her employer, but her grandmother was originally from the island and she found she wanted to go “home.” Krista recalled visiting “old Gran” many times as a child and loving the beauty, the serenity, and even the profound loneliness of living on a tiny bit of land surrounded by thousands of kilometers of ocean.

She thought raising her only child here might give him a better life than in the UK. That might have been true for many other mothers of many other sons, but not for Krista Bernham. She had been set up on Mauritius with a cover identity by the British Secret Intelligence Service, provided with very expensive, highly secure hardware and software with which to work, and for the past five years, had broken some of the most profound and delicate intelligence cases for SIS.

Now she was dead. The only witness to the murder, her eleven-year-old autistic child Ian, a boy the MI6 agent had befriended and then further traumatized for the sake of his investigation.

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