Prelude to Piracy

golden gate bridge

A black-and-white photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge – circa 1930s

“My grandfather was a wonderful role model. Through him I got to know the gentle side of men.” –Sarah Long

Keisha’s body jerked as she woke up. She remembered falling, but everything was dark and still around her. No, not everything.

“Miss Davis, you’re going to be fine. You just had a frightful dream, is all.”

“Josiah? Where am I?”

“Your cabin, Ma’am.”

“How did I get here? I was on the Bridge.”

“Pa found you passed out at the Helm.”

“Passed out? I thought…” She faintly remembered being chased by someone in a diver’s suit. She must have fallen asleep again.

“You’re not to blame,” the child replied as if he could read her mind. “There was a fault in the air return for the Control Room. You weren’t getting enough air.”

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Raising Lazarus: A Book Review

lazarus

Raising Lazarus by Aidan Reid

I just finished reading Aidan Reid’s novel Raising Lazarus and I must say I am impressed. I’ve read other works of his including “Sigil”, “Pathfinders”, and his short story “Spectrum”, and I think “Raising Lazarus” is his best authoring effort to date.

There will probably be a few “spoilers” in my review, so if you don’t want important plot points revealed ahead of reading “Lazarus,” stop reading this review now.

The novel follows college student Molly Walker, who, as part of writing her University thesis, interviews an incarcerated male prostitute named Lazarus. After he is released, she continues to be fascinated by him and throughout the first half of the novel, they casually pursue each other, with Lazarus slowly letting Molly into his world.

The novel moves back and forth between the present and seven years ago when Lazarus was a refuge in Syria being harbored by a Catholic Priest, giving the reader the opportunity to compare “past” Lazarus with who he presents himself as today.

Eventually, Lazarus reveals that he believes he is the Biblical Lazarus, the man who was resurrected by Christ after being dead and entombed for over three days.

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Treasure Hunter

timbuktu

Among Timbuktu’s places of study is the historic Sankore University – Photo Credit: DBImages, Alamy Stock Photo

Deidra Maher whored her way through France and Spain to earn passage across Morocco, Algeria, and finally to Mali. Since inheriting the cipher from her great-granduncle as his only living relative, she spent the next five years accomplishing what he had failed to do in twenty. Shon Knowles certainly had a keen mind but not a brilliant one, so the secret of the cipher eluded him. However, his great-grandniece was considered a prodigy, though an undisciplined one, yet it still took her half a decade to master the ancient code.

It was unusual for a woman to travel alone, even a European one, in Islamic nations, but she was now posing as a reporter covering the first Festival au Désert to be held in the region since 2013. Making her way through the horde of residents and tourists along Askia Mohamed Boulevard in Timbuktu, Deidra arrived at Hotel Colombe 2, a modest but adequate accommodation. She only planned to stay for a day, two at the most. For the present, comfort was her main interest.

The city had once been a hub of Islamic learning many centuries past, but eventually began to decline and finally collapsed under the heel of French rule. Yet, the cipher contained a map to what Knowles believed were long forgotten tunnels under Mosquée Sankoré. All she had to do was break in.

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The Truth She Never Knew

N’Nonmiton

Photograph of N’Nonmiton warriors also called Dahomey Amazons found at Messy Nessy Chic website – Photo credit unknown

“Of course I broke your taboos. You sent my Mommy and Daddy away into the Eye. Why didn’t you let me go with them? Why did you let me live?”

“Dear Alice, of course we didn’t banish them through the Eye. We couldn’t. It was your Father. He deciphered the ancient Runes. They escaped us through the Eye thinking we were going to kill them. We only meant to scare them from our Land. Your Mother lost her grip on you before she could pull you in after your Father. Then the Eye closed and they were gone. Only you remained.”

Alice Ruth Killingray fought back tears of grief and rage with trembling as she stared into Okoyi’s eyes. She had been a mother to Alice since she was nine-years old after she had been abandoned for a second time because the Wanawake, the mysterious tribe of women warriors, had once again defended the sacred national treasure they called the Eye.

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Telltale

two cups of tea

Found at bothellnaturalmedicine.com

“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.

Pretending

lake rotoroa

Lake Rotoroa, New Zealand – Found at The Venturing Angler

How many times must we tell the tale?
How many times must we fall?
Living in lost memory
You just recalled

from “Pretending” written by Jerry Lynn Williams
Performed by Eric Clapton

“Janice, please stop pretending. We both know you stopped loving me a long time ago. Every time I try to talk to you, you act annoyed, as if you can barely stand to be around me.”

“It’s not like that, Harry. It’s not you. It’s me.”

“That’s what they all say when you really mean when it’s me, Harry. You’re just playing games.”

Janice and Harry had been married for 35 years. They’d raised two kids together. Ben got married and divorced in less than a year and was now on this third tour of duty with the Marines in Afghanistan. Elizabeth married Raoul two years ago and was expecting. It would be their first grandchild, but then again, they weren’t going to get that far.

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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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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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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 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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