New Book: Bluebird at My Window (Dark Fiction/ Psychological)

Welcome to the book tour for Bluebird at My Window, a dark exploration into the human psyche and deep trauma. Read on for details!

Bluebird at My Window

Publication Date: February 15th, 2022

Genre: Dark Fiction/ Psychological

When faced with trauma, how would you react?

Would you survive, succumb, or lose yourself to your own meaning of justice?

Ann was only seventeen when she died. She tried to be a dutiful daughter, to pray, to repent. But it wasn’t enough. Her mother, Diane, didn’t mean to kill her but when she found Ann consorting with devils, she had no choice. She believed the angels—that in the end, the water would save them both. 

But every choice holds weight.

One death, and Arthur is thrown back into the work he wanted to leave. One death, and Richard must face the reality of his choices. One death, and Maddie and Marie are confronted with the hardest parts of love. 

If only good intentions were enough to keep them from the carnage of their own decisions . . .

A dark contemporary fiction drenched in blood, this debut novel from H. Noah has an intricate true crime feeling with psychological depth.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Portland, Maine

Friday, October 14, 2016

Diane Loucks

The water swelled like a second skin around her fingers. Thick flesh-colored tendrils, clinging to the newly pure.

Light scattered through the small window, burning white hot across the chipped tile, curled wallpaper, and filth. Everything within this small house on a hill still festered with the sin of her—my daughter.

She’d fought me as she always had. Her arm draped over the side of the old claw tub, almost at ease, even bent back at an odd angle. I’d forgotten to turn off the water completely, but I couldn’t get up. I was fixed against the ground, watching as the water gathered and fell from her pale fingertips. No more rush, no more panic. Each drop reached slowly to the floor, hitting the tile with a soft pink splash.

It was done.

My naked flesh numbed to the bitter tile as I lay at the tub’s feet. Each fold of skin stretched, suctioning to the floor, holding me in place. Something had gone wrong in the blessing. I’d stripped myself in preparation but she’d refused, made me pull clothing to ribbons as I blessed the water.

When she didn’t wake up, I’d called the preacher. Tried to understand what had happened, why the angels had lied.

But he was useless.

That’s when I slid to the floor, streaking the wall behind me with her blood. Ichor that still clung to my skin and the floor beneath.

Fraud. Liar.

You did the right thing.

                         It should have worked.

It did.

Pure!

Why didn’t it work?

 She’s clean now. The preacher was unholy.

Why hasn’t she risen?

You were the unclean one.

The scream ripped from within me. I wanted quiet, needed it. I scratched my ears, ripping my body from the tile.

The pain worked, but not well enough.

I slammed knuckles into my skull.

Not enough.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

My skull reverberated against the hard ceramic. The sharp ache purified, but didn’t silence. So I kept crashing into it as skin split across my forehead, turning my vision burgundy. It gave me something to focus on, to control.

The demons didn’t like that.

I could hear them in the walls, closing around me. Devils playing tricks as they reached from beneath the wallpaper, touching. I thrashed against them all, gouging holes into the small space. Drywall fingers ripped through flesh as my blood seeped and spilled to the floor, covering hers. The air was suffocating, poisoned, thick, and sandy.

They wanted to silence me.

But still I screamed.

They wanted me quiet, malleable to their will.

Everyone did.

I wanted to fracture the foundation.

Thump

Thump

Thump

I tasted the blood, metallic on my tongue, as it sieved through teeth. Even my voice betrayed me in the end, as screams rasped silent.

My body calmed as shame rippled through me. My eyes trailed back toward the tub, but I couldn’t bring myself to look at her. I watched the drops instead as they spread beneath.

“Liars . . .” My throat, raw and unyielding, graveled to the forced whisper.

The angel said she’d be reborn if I cleansed her with word and water. The passage in question still echoed mockingly.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from your idols I will cleanse you.

I looked back down. The water was staining the floor poppy pink, clear but iridescent as it swelled to reach me. I shrank from its edges, slipping slowly in my own blood as I pushed back, cornering myself. The water couldn’t hide what I did, couldn’t erase her blood, only magnified each feature in rose-colored hues.

This morning had been like the rest. Peace within the daily observances. But the angels knew. Whispered. Prodded me to spy. Helped me catch her as she talked to that unclean deceiver.

I’d warned her how evil hides in the pure things, but she persisted. Fed and entertained that bluebird, but I knew better. It’s why I hadn’t questioned when the Good Book appeared in my hand or why I beat the demon within her again and again. The word of God turning fat and satiated with her penance.

I wanted to stop, but the angels whispered. Pushed me to finish.

To bring her back to the Lord.

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About the Author

They’ve been a massage therapist, social worker, poet, teacher, and more. Picking up a B.A. in Criminology and an M.S. in I-O Psychology. They’ve also lived in Alaska, Maine and many places in-between. They are currently still trying to find a forever place as they travel the US.

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New Book: Winter Dawn (Thriller/ Spy Thriller/ Strong Female Lead)

Congratulations to author Alex Callister on the release of the highly anticipated prequel in the Winter series, Winter Dawn! Read on for more info and a chance to win a $25 Amazon e-gift card and some book swag!

Winter Dawn (Winter #3)

Publication Date: January 24th, 2022

Genre: Thriller/ Spy Thriller/ Strong Female Lead

It is darkest before the dawn..

A hunt to the death. An all-seeing executioner. An unlikely hero.

From the author of the #1 best selling Audible Thriller of the Year comes a totally gripping crime thriller with heart-pounding suspense.

A New York Senator is being hunted.

With the world watching, she has been chosen as Colosseum’s next victim. No one can look away from the chilling new reality show, which awards a huge cash prize to the first person to assassinate its target. No-where is safe. No-one can be trusted. But just when her brutal death seems inevitable, an arrogant 21-year-old arrives from London to protect her. Now Winter is all that stands between the Senator and Colosseum. As dawn creeps in, time is running out for Winter to unravel the riddle at the heart of this sinister game: who is the shadowy Adjudicator of Colosseum, and what is his ultimate purpose?

Meet Winter: she’sthe audacious, hyper-intelligent GCHQ agent with more notches on her bed post than James Bond and more hacking cred than Lisbeth Salander. Winter Dawn is the beginning of the Winter series, journeying back to the start of her story. This time, she’s grappling with Colosseum: a sinister online phenomenon that has gripped the world. It promises a massive cash prize to the successful hunter of its victims, unleashing an unstoppable tide of violence – and the world’s authorities are powerless to prevent it.

When a New York Senator is targeted, Winter is called in to protect her. But with all the world watching, there’s nowhere to hide. No one has ever survived Colosseum. It’s the winter solstice, and as they journey together into the dark heart of the longest night, they soon discover that nothing about Colosseum is what it seems. There are rules, and there is a purpose, if only they can solve the riddle in time. Colosseum is more than a hunt: it’s a challenge. Targets must face their darkest fear or die at dawn.

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Available on ebook, Paperback, Audiobook, AudioCD

Also on Amazon US

About the Author

Alex has spent her career charting the rise of the internet and is fascinated by the dark web and its potential to facilitate crime. An action movie fan, her books are full of cult references. Her kick-ass heroine, Winter, was inspired by Bond, Bourne, John Wick, Vin Diesel, Jack Reacher and many others.

Alex has a history degree, a certificate in creative writing and a murderous imagination. She writes when she gets a chance, which is mainly at night between 10pm and 2am at home in London, with her three Bengal tigers.

WINTER DARK was the Audible Thriller of the Year 2019.

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Winter Series

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New Book: Thine Eyes of Mercy (Fantasy)

I’m pleased to share the next exciting novel in The Birth of the Fae series, Thine Eyes of Mercy by Danielle M. Orsino. Read on for more info and a chance to win a mystery FairyLoot Crate!

Birth of the Fae: Thine Eyes of Mercy, Book Two

Publication Date: December 1st, 2021

Genre: Fantasy

Queen Aurora, monarch of the Court of Light Fae and King Jarvok, Leader of the Court of Dark Fae are exhausted and battle worn after centuries of fighting. A war of attrition   had taken its toll upon their kin and power bases.

What happens when you have to give in to your enemy?

All wars eventually end even magical ones. The Dark and Light Fae have set their elemental magick and weapons down but, all is not quiet in the Veil…

King Jarvok was confident his army could win the war, but at what cost? It was time to act like a King not a power hungry megalomaniac. That was his Creator’s title not his. He reaches out to Queen Aurora, and the Treaty of Bodhicitta is signed.

The treaty promises the Fae will never spill each other’s blood again. Rules for their human worshipers are put into place. The Court of Dark must not interfere with humans in a malignant way, but they can act as gods and goddesses of atonement. The Court of Light can return to acting as advisors to the European royal families, as they have done for centuries.

However, Queen Aurora and King Jarvok will learn that while they were playing war games, their humans have changed and moved away from the old ways.

The two monarchs face unknown challenges in a world where Christianity not paganism is the new power.

Sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you do not.

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Locked Out of Heaven (Birth of the Fae #1)

Ride on the backs of fire-breathing dragons with the Dark Fae and watch the Light Fae play in the shadows of primitive humanity as they build their magical world.
Abandoned by their creator, two factions of powerful angels remain on earth after the Great War with Lucifer. They struggle to comprehend their Creator’s plan while their angel wings, a symbol of their angelic lineage, slowly and painfully decay. With no hope of returning to the Shining Kingdom, two groups of angels denounce their angelic lineage and develop into separate factions – the Court of Light, led by Queen Aurora, a former Virtue Angel, and the Court of Dark, ruled by King Jarvok, a former Power Brigade Angel. The two monarchs have opposing views on how to govern their kin, but the one belief they agree on is that human worship equals power.
Birth of the Fae: Locked Out of Heaven is an epic-fantasy adventure of heartbreak, rebirth, and hope that examines the bonds of family, friendship, and love. It is a fantastic tale of good versus evil in a beautiful world, where the Light Fae and their potent elemental magick are tested by the raw power of the dragon-riding Dark Fae warriors.
They are their own beings and masters of their own destiny. They are the Fae.

About the Author

Danielle M Orsino, destined to be a writer from a young age, was working as a nurse and treating a patient who needed some distractions during long I.V. Treatment sessions. So, Orsino reached back to a forgotten skill, A childhood dream. Danielle had wanted to be a writer and so she decided to tell a story. Little did she know the seed would grow into a fantastically epic adventure of heartbreak, hope and rebirth — Birth of Fae: Locked Out of Heaven. Drawing from her passion for comic books, Cosplay and fantasy along with her expert martial arts expertise, Orsino brings forth an electric and hopeful debut.

Danielle is taking on her biggest challenge to date: taking the story born from the long treatment sessions with a patient into a fantasy book series-Birth of the Fae: Locked out of Heaven. Expanding her love of writing, comics and exploring the world of fantasy novels, she delves into the realm of fairies and retells their origins from a completely new perspective. Orsino has a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Exercise science and is an LPN with a special interest in Lyme disease research. Orsino has been widely recognized from her influence and experience in martial arts realm, training for over 20 years and with over 500 tournament wins, and accumulating national and world titles. She has performed for former President of the United States Bill Clinton and has been featured on “Soap Talk, Fox Five news CBS, TLC and E! With this experience, she worked as a Fight Choreographer on ”Wonder Woman: Balance of Power” and has worked with the likes of martial arts legend Vincent Lyn and WWE marvel and action star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Nothing Danielle ever does is simple, look at what NY times Bestselling author Clete Barrett Smith has to say about her debut endeavor: “After summoning this world into existence through an imaginative force of will, Danielle has scoured every inch of the landscape several times over. Critics often praise a story’s world building by saying that it feels “lived in.” Well, the world of the Fae certainly seems like that because Danielle herself has happily lived there for years as she worked to put all of this together…My favorite part of this story is that it is gloriously depicted in vibrant images.

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New Book: Lucky Jack (WWI Biographies/ History)

I’m so happy to share this book with you today. Please read on for more info about Lucky Jack: Memoirs of a World War 1 POW by Susan Bavey!

Lucky Jack

Publication Date: November 19th, 2021

Genre: WWI Biographies/ History

“One of the perils of being a sniper during the First World War was the likelihood of a grenade going off right next to you and burying you alive”.

Meet Jack Rogers. Born in 1894, he once locked eyes with Queen Victoria and was one of the first travellers on London’s ‘Tube’. An early car owner, he had many escapades on his days out to Brighton, including a time when his brakes failed and he had to drive through central London without them!

His skills as an entertainer earned him popularity throughout his life, and kept him out of the deadly mines while a prisoner during the First World War. At the tender age of 103 Jack earned the title of ‘The World’s Oldest Columnist’ as he began dictating his life’s exploits to a reporter from the local newspaper.

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CHAPTER 37  – A  N A S T Y  B I R T H D A Y  S U R P R I S E

On my 24th birthday, March 21st, 1918, at around 5.00 a.m. a terrific noise began – the German barrage had started. You could hear nothing but gunfire. It shattered my eardrum. Eight of us, all snipers, including my mate Charlie, were in the extra trench, which had been dug by the Royal Engineers. We had been in the trench since the previous night. It was quite some way beyond our frontline and we had been given orders to keep it defended at all costs. Suddenly the Germans started pouring out from their trenches. As German soldiers were shot down they were replaced by others. They advanced towards our front by hiding in small pockets, which they had weakened by constant bombing, not in a straight line as we had expected. They were shelling heavily to the left and right of us, but somehow, miraculously, not on us. Waves of German soldiers flowed past us, just yards in front of us we could see a group of fifty soldiers and another group the same distance behind us, but luckily they didn’t come anywhere near us, as we hid, terrified, in our trench,

watching them. The British soldiers were in full retreat and from our slit in the ground, all we could see was the backs of the German soldiers, as they continued forging ahead. We stayed in our trench like that, surrounded by all of our equipment and everything we owned. We had expected to be in the thick of the fighting and instead there we were hiding in a small trench. At around 11 a.m, a group of Prussian soldiers appeared, part of the ‘mopping up’ party sent to finish off or round up any survivors who had been missed the first time the soldiers went through. They threw some ‘tater mashers’ (hand grenades) into the trench, which luckily missed me, and then came rushing down into our trench. By some good fortune, neither Charlie nor I were killed. We decided we had no choice but to put our hands up and surrender under the circumstances. By now, it was 11.30 a.m. and we had managed to hold the trench since 5.00 a.m. We were terrified and completely exhausted from the adrenaline and extreme emotion. Frank Richards had been hit by a piece of tin between his neck and shoulders and he was bleeding and holding his head. One of the Prussian Guards was a big, fierce looking man with a moustache. He jumped into the trench next to me, with his bayonet fixed and pointed at my stomach. I was convinced my last hour had come. I was absolutely terrified. I said “Goodbye” and waited for his deadly thrust. Instead of thrusting his bayonet into me I heard him say softly, almost gently, “Zigaretten, Kamerad?” He wanted cigarettes.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

Sue Bavey is an English Mum of two, living in Massachusetts since 2003 with her husband, kids, a cat named Midnight, a bunny named Nutmeg, a leopard gecko named Ziggy Stardust and occasional frogs and salamanders.

“Lucky Jack is the first book I have written and is my grandfather, Henry John Rogers’ biography. Grandad lived with us when I was born, until we moved when I was six years old. Then he came back to live with us in my teenage years and we were very close. He was my father’s father, but my Mum diligently collected the newspaper columns he dictated to a local reporter, and kept them in scrapbooks in her attic, where they gathered dust and yellowed over time. A few years ago I moved my Mum into an apartment and found all the scrapbooks in the process. I wanted to get all of those stories into a book for my kids to read. That was the germ of an idea which – thanks to my having time during Covid lockdown – has now resulted in the life story of my grandfather, Jack Rogers being written.”

Sue Bavey

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New Book: They Called Him Marvin (Genre: Historical Fiction/ Historical Romance/ Based on True Events)

Welcome to the tour for Roger Stark’s historical fiction, They Called Him Marvin. Read on for more details and a chance to win a signed edition of the book!

They Called Him Marvin: A History of Love, War and Family

Publication Date: June 14th, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction/ Historical Romance/ Based on True Events

Young lovers trying be a family, but duty called, interrupting them.
He answered. She, with child was left behind.
The war did end, but he never returned.

“They Called Him Marvin” is a history. A history of war and of family. A history of the collision of the raging politics of a global war, young love, patriotism, sacred family commitments, duty and the horrors and tragedies, the catastrophe that war is.

A reviewer explains: “I am a fan of historical fiction, and this story did not disappoint. It was sweet, tragic, personal, and moving. Gradually and almost imperceptibly, the story of two wartime sweethearts begins circling the drain of a tragedy you know is coming. The book begins with the ending, but by the time you get there you have convinced yourself that it can’t possibly be the case. I enjoyed every moment, even the ones that left me in tears.

The letters between Connie and Dean provided a fascinating glimpse into wartime life. Reading the experiences of people both at home and abroad was very engaging. I found myself eagerly awaiting the next letter, right along with the young couple!

Lastly, the book left me with an overwhelming acknowledgement of the universal trauma and tragedy of war. The Sherman’s are not the only family we meet in the book and the weaving together of several different narratives added a depth to the story that’s hard to put into words.

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Excerpt

18 January 1941, The Story Begins

Stanley Carter started all this.

 … I want to help you with your problem of not knowing any one in Salt Lake. Tomorrow I am going to my girlfriends house, come with me, she would love to meet you and then you will know two people here.” Dean answered, “I could be talked into that.”

“We are going to meet up at church and then go to her house.”

 By the end of church the following day, Dean would actually know three people from Salt Lake City. This because Stan’s girlfriend, Carol Woffinden, happened to be the best friend of Constance Avilla Baldwin, who also just happened to attend the same Waterloo Ward of the Mormon Church, who also didn’t have a boy friend, and who was also more than happy to make a visitor feel welcome.

Dean innocently walked into all of this.

 Mormons have a special interest in non-Mormons, or Gentiles as they call them. You see, a Mormon is never far from, or without, his missionary zeal. If you’re not a Mormon and you’re going to hang out with a Mormon for very long, you’re going to get zealed.  For Dean Harold Sherman, it was to be a life altering dose of zealing.

Dean and Connie exchanged 67 letters (50 written by Dean) the night (unbeknownst to him) that his son Marvin was born Dean wrote:

18 February 1945

Good Evening Peaches:

         Hello sweet girl, I sure have been thinking of you lots these days and wishing so much that I could be around to take care of you, and be holding your nice soft hands and giving you lots of moral support, and see your pretty face and look in your eyes and without saying a word, tell you millions of wonderful things that you mean to me.  You do too, Honey, mean so many wonderful things to me.  All the wonderful things a beautiful girl can be and my best companion ever along with being the sweetest wife any guy ever could love. Those are just a few of the things, Darling, which make me love you more every day…

Goodnight Peach Blossom,

Dean

On the day Dean was shot down Connie Wrote:

14 May 1945

My most wonderful man,

            I’m in a rather odd mood tonight Honey, and it is most all about you and Marvin and me.  I have been trying to decide whether or not I would write to you tonight most all evening.  I wanted to, but I didn’t know if I could express my feelings as I would want to, and, as I feel them.  As you can see Honey, I have made up my mind to try.  How well I succeed remains to be seen…

            Then I was thinking of Marvin and wondering just what his talents are going to be.  To have a Daddy such as you, Honey, he will be kind and good, even as you are, a wonderful man.  Honey, I’m really just beginning to realize what a great responsibility we have in teaching and caring for Marvin.  We just have to do it to the very best of our ability.  I know you have lots of ability, Honey, and I hope I have…

         I have a hard time, the past seems like such a thrilling dream of love and happiness.  I wonder if it all really happened, but then I know it did.  And Oh!  Honey how I do love you now and forever and ever ever after with all my heart and soul.  Honey I just can’t express how deep my love for you is.  Its an impossibility.  I love you always.

Good night my husband,

Peaches

Xxxxxxxxxx

10 December 1944, The Same Damn Movie

… In Puerto Rico the crew was quite happy to watch the new release The Lady Takes a Chance starring John Wayne and Jean Arthur. Coincidently when they reached British Guiana the same movie was featured. Not to be deterred the crew again enjoyed the film. When they got to Brazil and it was again the featured picture show, some murmuring occurred. The Corporalies, were feeling cheated.

When they found the movie would be playing at their fourth stop also they complained to Dean.

“Sir, ain’t the Army got any other movies?”

“We know the lines better than the actors.”

“We know John Wayne is going to eat the lamb chops because Jean Arthur cooked them for him even tho he is a beef man.”

“Maybe there will be something new at our next stop,” was the consolation Dean offered.  After crossing the Atlantic The Corporalies showed signs of giving up on the movies.

But in KhartoumThe Corporalies forced into the NCO Club by the searing heat and therefore ‘forced‘ to drink cold beer all day had a terrible yearning, near evening, for a movie.

“Howell, go see what’s playing at the movies tonight.” ordered his fellow Corporalies.

By virtue of being the youngest Howell was often the brunt of such requests especially after three or four beers. He had given up protesting that he was the same rank as them. In fact as the Central Gunner, he was in charge of the other gunners in combat, but as the youngest of four boys at home he felt a strange comfort in re-playing the role with his combat brothers.

“And damn it, don’t come back if it is The Lady Takes a Chance.”

Of course, he discovered that The Lady was indeed tonight’s special feature. On the way back to the NCO Club with the sad news that John Wayne was again eating those lamb chops even here on the edge of the Nile Rivers, he met his Airplane Commander.

“Sir, they are playing that same damn movie here, oh sorry sir, that same John Wayne movie is playing here. We are sick of it, Sir, ain’t the Army got any other movies?”

“Evan, the reason that movie shows up everywhere we go, is that we have been tasked with delivering it to our final destination while allowing each layover airfield to use it.”

Howell stared at his Airplane Commander as his cognitive impaired brain tried to process. The light finally came on for him, a bit dim, but it came on. “Oh, Sir, I see Sir, I’ll tell the boys.”

And off he wandered, not in the direction of the boys, but in the direction of his bunk, taking his comrades threat to not return with bad news seriously.

Available Here and on Amazon!

About the Author

I am, by my own admission, a reluctant writer. But there are stories that demand to to be told. When we hear them, we must pick up our pen, lest we forget, and the stories be lost.

Six years ago, in a quiet conversation with my friend Marvin, I learned the tragic story his father, a WW2 B-29 Airplane Commander, shot down over Nagoya, Japan just months before the end of the war.

Bill Clinton has famously said: “They were the fathers we never knew, the uncles we never met, the friends who never returned, the heroes we can never repay. They gave us our world. And those simple sounds of freedom we hear today are their voices speaking to us across the years.”

Such a man was Marv’s father. A father he never knew. The telling of the story that evening by this half orphan was so moving and full of emotion, it compelled me to ask if I could write the story. The result being “They Called Him Marvin.”

My life has been profoundly touched in so many ways by being part of documenting this sacred story. I pray that we never forget, as a people, the depth of sacrifice that was made by ordinary people like Marvin and his father and mother on our behalf.

My career as an addiction counsellor (CDP) led me to write “The Waterfall Concept; A Blueprint for Addiction Recovery,” and co-author “Reclaiming Your Addicted Brain.”

After my counselling retirement, I decided I wanted to learn more about the craft of writing and started attending classes at Portland Oregon’s Attic Institute. What I learned is that there are an amazing number of great writers in my area, and they were willing to help others improve their skills. I am grateful to many of them.

My next project is already underway, a memoir of growing in SW Washington called “Life on a Sorta Farm.” My wife of 49 years, Susan and I still live in that area.

We raised seven children and have eleven grandchildren. We love to travel and see the sites and cultures of the world. I still get on my bicycle whenever I can.

They Called Him Marvin

Twitter Tags: @author_RStark @RRBookTours1 #HistoricalFiction #Books

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New Book: Earth 7 (Science Fiction/ Action/ Adventure)

Welcome to the US launch tour for Earth 7 by Summer Whitton and Emily Walker! Read on for details and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

Earth 7

Publication Date: November 9th, 2021

Genre: Science Fiction/ Action/ Adventure

El is stuck with no way home and no way to apprehend the madman responsible for destroying his own planet. She is close to losing all hope, until her tracker goes off. An ancient artifact has been activated and it can get her off the planet…

…But only if she gets to it before he does.

Archaeologist, Quaid Daniels has never recovered from the humiliation of his last  Mayan archaeological discovery. He keeps the downfall of his career in his living room—a mediocre petrified box. When he and his daughter accidentally turn it on and realize Quaid was not crazy, they embark on a journey to redeem his reputation.

This story has answers to the secrets of this planet, ancient technology, and a chosen race billions of years older than the world we know. It’s everything you want in a fast-paced science fiction novel and more.

Excerpt

Quaid put his hands in front of him and pushed through the brush. He was surprised to find they’d arrived in another clearing. There was something on the ground in front of Zoe, covered in brush and dirt. He could make out what looked like a path made of rock. Zoe and Jaxon bent down to start clearing away the debris.

“What is it?” Quaid said. He was cautiously excited. His past trauma with fake artifacts had given him some PTSD when it came to new discoveries.

“It looks to be some sort of floor,” Zoe said. “There are blocks and some of them, well, just come look. There’s a symbol. I’m pretty sure it’s the Mayan symbol for fire.” 

Quaid walked over, careful not to trip on some vines strewn across the ground and looked down at the square slabs of rock in front of him. It did look like a floor. The design Zoe spoke of was shiny, like there was something liquid inside of it.

“Is that…Mercury?” 

“I don’t know. It kind of looks like it, but maybe a little shinier. But this is crazy. You would think someone would have found this, exploring out here.”

“How many people do you really think would be out here looking?” Spencer asked.

“A lot, why wouldn’t you want to explore?” 

“Because it’s in the middle of a crazy-ass death jungle that no one wanted to venture into,” Jaxon said, sounding as though he had enjoyed this hike about as much as Quaid had.

“How big is it?” Quaid asked. They had cleared an area four blocks wide, but he couldn’t tell how far into the woods it stretched.

“Only one way to find out,” Zoe said.

The four of them worked on revealing more stones and Quaid pulled out his knife to cut away some of the more stubborn vines.

When they were done, they looked down at five more blocks with the same symbol making it six in all.  They had clearly found something, but it didn’t make sense. It didn’t seem to tie into the artifact, or the Mayan calendar. The fear he’d been experiencing was replaced with adrenaline now. He found himself intrigued. 

“What do you make of this, Zoe?”

“I don’t know yet,” she said, “I’m not sure what kind of element this is. The symbol for fire could be a clue.” 

“Maybe it represents something else,” Jaxon said. “Something you’re not thinking of.”

“These look like torches,” Spencer said, pointing at large rock posts on the sides of the floor. “Lucky thing I have matches.” He produced a match box and, removing one, struck it quickly on the side. 

“Spencer be careful, we don’t know if there are any sort of traps,” Zoey said. 

At that moment, Spencer dropped the match and it landed on the rock beneath him. 

A few of the blocks went up in flames and Spencer, despite his agility, barely managed to jump out of the way fast enough. “What the hell?” He yelped, patting his shirt to make sure he wasn’t on fire.

“Magnesium,” Quaid and Zoe said at the same time.

Look.” Jaxon pointed to the block beside the burning one. The liquid substance previously filling the square had drained out and the block lowered into the ground around a single piece of rough stone. It looked like a lever.

“What the hell?” Spencer said again, even more distressed.

Quaid couldn’t help the smile spreading across his face. “Zoe, it’s a puzzle.”

She smiled back. “You’re right. Burn them all!”

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About the Authors

Summer grew up in the small town of Bellingham WA. Soccer was his life until he started his first of 5 businesses at the age of 25. Sci-fi has always intrigued him, like in when he was in high school there was a documentary about crop circles that he thought was compelling.

But it wasn’t till ancient aliens on the history channel and all the information showing up on the internet, that his imagination and thoughts of writing a book or a screen play came to life. He has always wondered; wouldn’t it be cool if there was other life somewhere else in the universe and even cooler if they weren’t out to kill us lol. Summer hopes to bring a whole new way of seeing what could possibly be out there in all that space and he also hopes he brings fun and imagination to many. Because who knows what’s really out there and it is fun to imagine right?

Emily lives on top a mountain and writes a little of everything, creating new worlds and stumbling around in them. She is constantly losing her chap-stick and is obsessed with the color pink. Science fiction has always been an important part of her life since she read her favorite author, Robert Heinlein at a young age.

Her small family consists of her red-bearded other half and an adorable daughter.

Twitter: @RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours #Scifi

IG Tags: @rrbooktours @earth7_author #rrbooktours #earth7 #scifibooks

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New Book: The Last Cowboy (Historical Fiction)

Welcome to the book tour for historical fiction novel, The Last Cowboy by Han Herrman. Read on for more details and a chance to win a $25 Amazon e-gift card!

The Last Cowboy

Publication Date: November 7th, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction

As the romanticized period of the American “wild” West wound down, most cowboys rode off into the sunset. Hank Miller must follow a different path. In The Last Cowboy, he survives the Civil War, Texas sized desperados, and the great San Francisco earthquake. With a debt to pay, Hank will place himself and his twin sons in great danger in a new, wild and untamed frontier—Morocco!

This is a sweeping tale of a reluctant hero of the West. It is also a story of romance and international adventure, stretching from west Texas to San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London, Tangier and the Moroccan Rif. The novel spans an equally expansive time frame: 1860 to 1912. The backdrop is the American frontier with all its enduring myths and troubling realities.

Ultimately, his heroism earns Hank unexpected wealth, friends on three continents, and the love of an extraordinary woman. Now ensconced in a mansion in the most exclusive neighborhood of San Francisco, Hank has a beautiful wife and three remarkable children. He wants nothing more than to enjoy them all and the highly successful international tour business he and Beth now operate. But a last, perilous mission awaits. Hank has a debt to pay and a friend to rescue in a far off land.

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About the Author

Jan is a retired physician living with his wife, a practicing pediatrician in Southern California. Their children have all flown the coop.

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New Book: Heart of Hope and Fear (Historical Romance/ Historical Fantasy/ Spy Trilogy)

Welcome to the tour for the gorgeous final installment in The Order of the Crystal Daggers series by C.S. Johnson, called Heart of Hope and Fear. Read on for more details and a chance to win hardcover editions of the entire trilogy!!!

Heart of Hope and Fear (The Order of the Crystal Daggers #3)

Publication Date: December 2nd, 2021

Genre: Historical Romance/ Historical Fantasy/ Spy Trilogy

In a moment of desperation and desire, one girl takes a leap of faith to secure the future of her nation — and save her family.

Prague, 1871

Despite the many demands that come with being a member of the Order of the Crystal Daggers, Eleanora Svobodová has plenty of reasons to celebrate. With Lumiere’s capture and Lady Penelope’s reluctant acceptance of Ferdy, not even Ben’s painful ire can completely diminish her joy.

But just as the future begins to look bright, the past catches up to Eleanora and the other members of the Order.

For as they investigate Karl’s disappearance, Eleanora learns the shocking secret about her mother’s final mission—and Lady Penelope’s treachery—just as the Emperor heads to Bohemia to conduct a special tripartite council, despite the threat to his life.

Can Eleanora and the Order find a way to save the kingdom? And even if they do, will they be able to survive a new betrayal from among their ranks?

Full of surprising twists and turns, Heart of Hope and Fear is the final book in The Order of the Crystal Daggers, a historical romance spy trilogy from C. S. Johnson.

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Excerpt

Louis Valoris chuckled as he stirred his tea with a spoon. “I do believe it is time we were formally introduced, Lady Eleanora.”

“It’s you,” I whispered, shaking my head in shame.

“I must say, you look so much like your mother. Even in the moonlight, I would’ve sworn it was her ghost if Lumiere hadn’t found you and your brother last year.”

“Eleanora.” Lady Penelope scowled over at me. 

I gave her an apologetic look, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good. She’d warned me before Louis was crafty and full of cunning, and I’d been completely caught off guard.

“I must commend you on her progress, Pepé,” Louis continued. “But she’s still very naïve, and that’s dangerous, especially for one who carries the weapon of the Order, yet none of its secrets. How do you know she won’t betray you when she learns the truth?”

“Eleanora is a loyal member of the Order,” Lady Penelope said, her voice full of resignation instead of pride. “She will not betray me.”

“It would be nice to see her live up to her mother’s legacy.”

At his disparaging tone, rage and fury rocked through me to my core. Lumiere had told me less than an hour ago how Louis had a hand in poisoning my mother and killing Nassara—and now I knew he’d used Xiana to fulfill his plans.

“The dead deserve some respect, Louis,” Lady Penelope warned, speaking before I could yell at him. “I’d rather talk of the present than the past, now that we’ve arrived at our final rendezvous.”

She reached down and pulled out her own violet-colored dagger in one hand and a pistol in the other.

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About the Author

S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles series, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me.

CS Johnson | Facebook | Kofi

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New Book: Scattered Legacy (Mystery/Suspense)

Welcome to the book tour for Scattered Legacy by Marlene M. Bell! Read on for details and the fantastic giveaway at the end!

Scattered Legacy: Murder in Southern Italy (Annalisse Series) Each Book is a Standalone Mystery

Publication Date: November 4th, 2021

Genre: Mystery/ Suspense

To outsiders, the relationship between Manhattan antiquities assessor Annalisse Drury and sports car magnate Alec Zavos must look carefree and glamorous. In reality, it’s a love affair regularly punctuated by treasure hunting, action-packed adventure, and the occasional dead body.

When Alec schedules an overseas trip to show Annalisse his mother’s birthplace in Bari, Italy, he squeezes in the high-stakes business of divesting his family’s international corporation. But things go terribly wrong as murder makes its familiar reappearance in their lives – and this time it’s Alec’s disgraced former CFO who’s the main suspect.

Accompanied by friend and detective Bill Drake, Annalisse and Alec find themselves embroiled in a behind-closed-doors conspiracy that threatens the reputation and legacy of Alec’s late father – linking him to embezzlement, extortion, and the dirty business of the Sicilian Mafia. The search for the truth sends the trio straight into riddles, secrets, and an historic set of rosary beads. Annalisse leads Alec toward a discovery that is unthinkable, and events that will change their futures forever.

Scattered Legacy is the third in Marlene M. Bell’s thrilling Annalisse series, which weaves romance, crime, and historical mystery into addictive tales to instantly captivate fans of TV show Bones or Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

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Excerpt

The reception area is completely empty, and there’s a smell like metal in damp dirt circulating overhead. Farther in, the ceiling fan is hovering on high speed, and the windows are open.

A dead body inside a warm office leaves an unmistakable odor behind, as did the body Ethan found inside the stall at Walker Farm. Decomp is one smell that sticks with you forever. Adding to the office creepiness, who chose the interior’s decor? We’re surrounded by limestone walls painted an ugly shade of ochre, slightly more yellow and definitely more unappealing than the building’s exterior. The rooms will need another coat of fresh paint to cover a harsh stench known to stick to the walls like cigarette tar does.

No one is nearby, not even the receptionist.

The office cubicles are silent but for a few flapping papers. Not a single desk phone is ringing. It’s like the office decided to have a fire drill midday, and the employees left their computers on and didn’t bother to close folders—open to anyone passing by. Frames holding pictures of sweethearts and children stand by as guardians for the people who are absent from their high-back swivel chairs.

Officer Raffa returns and mutters in heavy Italian brogue, “Il signore is waiting for his… avvocato difensore.” He points to the room with a closed door. “Come, Mr. Zavos. Your friends stay here.”

“Josh is in there waiting for his defense attorney. Back soon.” Alec touches my arm and looks at Bill, sending him a private message.

Alec’s led to a side office, and the solid door closes behind them.

“Is Alec signing autographs, or should I even worry about what’s going on in that room? Has Josh been here the entire time messing with evidence?” I ask Bill.

“Alec’s prepared for all contingencies. I’m surprised they haven’t taken Jennings down to the station by now.”

A few minutes later, Alec emerges by himself. “They weren’t going to allow us to talk to Josh, but I persuaded him. It shouldn’t be much longer.”

For what feels like an eternity, we sit in ladderback pine chairs with brown cushions while Alec keeps adjusting his watch. I don’t know what Alec had to promise the officer. Autographs are fine with me, but if he had to pay him off, I’d rather not know.

“I hope Brad is parked in the shade somewhere.” Alec looks at his watch for the eighth time in twenty minutes and turns to me. “Now that we’re here, they seem to be in no hurry to get rid of us. I’m sorry, Anna. Hold on a little longer.” His smile is an honest one full of regret.

I’ve heard the sentiment from him so often it doesn’t even register with my brain anymore. We both have a lot of work to do in the I-promise-to-do-better department.

The closed door at the back wall opens, and a guy pokes his head out, surveying the room. He’s fiftyish and, with his reading glasses, reminds me of Gen’s studious accountant.

Alec pivots, and his earlier smile vanishes.

“That’s Jennings,” Bill says quietly.

“Yes.” Alec waves to draw the man’s attention.

A confused Josh looks at us and then the floor as if he’s embarrassed. Eventually he settles his eyes on Alec. “I wasn’t sure you’d come. My attorney should be here soon. Come back to the conference room.”

Bill asks Alec, “Is it okay to go on ahead?”

Alec must have compensated the officer well to allow us entry this close to the crime scene.

“Let’s get this over with.” Alec seems queasy.

The three of us move through the aisle between desks and toward the room with a door left open for us. Josh has already gone inside. For someone who wants Alec’s help, he sure doesn’t appear happy or grateful for his effort. A huge effort. This had better not be Josh’s way of buying himself out of the woman’s death. The disgrace of being fired from Signorile after Pearce’s tragedy has to hurt his pride.

There’s news of a deadly virus moving through Europe, and the typical handshake is no longer being used between business execs.

Bill lifts his arm and catches himself. “Mr. Jennings? My name is Bill Drake, an associate of Mr. Zavos. You’ve asked to see him, and we also have some questions for you on another matter.”

“Wonderful.” The man in a sweaty, slept-in polo isn’t thrilled with us staring him down. There’s frost in the room as testosterone flies between glances. No one wants to be the first to break the sheet of ice forming around the presumed blue-eyed killer. Alec hasn’t made any assumptions yet until we talk to him, but Josh’s cool facade feels calculated to me. A superior to Alec, or something like that. For an innocent, I don’t like his peculiar behavior in the presence of a man who’s here to keep his neck from a noose.

“I asked to see Alec. Who are the rest of you?”

He’s behind a chair, using it as a shield to save himself from a CEO who wants to take his livelihood from him again. Or is it because he’s guilty of ending a woman’s life?

Alec pulls out the chair for me, and we all sit at the long conference table with a fancy letter F embellished in the center.

Josh’s temples bead with sweat, and he’s wringing his hands next to a wool felt fedora hat with a band. They seem to be popular in Italy. The guy’s bloodshot eyes and dark circles are sure signs of insomnia and stressing to the max. Wet ovals hang beneath the armpits of his beige shirt.

Alec’s unshakable gaze lands on Jennings, who abruptly turns away.

This meeting isn’t opening well.

Bill addresses Josh. “We don’t have a lot of time. Authorities aren’t thrilled with us questioning you, but they were… let’s say, swayed. Tell us what happened here?”

“She was tied and tortured in my office after I left night before last. I opened the building in the morning at seven and found her lying on her side, strapped to a chair and wrapped in wire near my desk. Lots of blood.” Josh holds a paper towel over his mouth, then uses it to wipe away perspiration. “When I left the building, she was in the conference room. I have no idea how she ended up in the office. Maybe the cat went in there.” He slides the fedora into his lap.

“Who is she?” Alec asks.

“Benita Alvarez.”

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About the Author

“Mystery at a killing pace”

Marlene M. Bell is an award-winning writer, artist, and sheep breeder who resides in beautiful East Texas. Her renown sheep photographs grace the covers of many livestock magazines.

The third book in the Annalisse Series releases in 2021. Scattered Legacy is an international mystery with light touches of romance. Stolen Obsession and Spent Identity, books one and two, received numerous awards including the Independent Press Award for Best Mystery in 2020. Her mysteries can be found at marlenembell.com.

Marlene also writes children’s books. Her first children’s picture book, Mia and Nattie: One Great Team! is based on true events with Natalie from the Bell’s ranch. It’s a touching story of compassion and love between a little girl and her lamb. Mia and Nattie is honored to be a Mom’s Choice Gold Award winner.

Marlene shares her life with her husband and a few dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep: a large Maremma guard dog named Tia, and cats, Hollywood, Leo, and Squeaks. The cats believe they rule the household—and do.

Marlene M. Bell | FacebookTwitter 

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Annalisse Series Flashlight (red)

Biking in Tuscany Wooden Puzzle

Tessilechiti Italian Designer Throw Blanket (51×67 inches) Made in Italy

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New Book: Stranger’s Kingdom (Mystery/Suspense)

Welcome to the book tour for gritty noir mystery, Stranger’s Kingdom by Brandon Barrows. Read on for more details and enter for a chance to win a $20 Amazon e-gift card!

Stranger’s Kingdom

Publication Date: August 25th, 2021

Genre: Mystery/ Suspense

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Politically blacklisted detective Luke Campbell’s last chance in law-enforcement is a job with the police department of rural Granton, Vermont. It’s a beautiful town, home to a beautiful, intriguing girl who’s caught his eye, and it’s a chance at redemption. Even if his new boss seems strange, secretive, and vaguely sinister, Campbell is willing to give this opportunity a shot. And no sooner does he make that decision than the first in a series of murders is discovered, starting a chain of events that will change the lives of everyone in this once-quiet town…

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Excerpt

May 1992

The tall bag of bones swung a vicious right that seemed to whistle in the stillness of the thin night air, scraping through the empty space between my chin and throat, just barely avoiding contact with flesh. Seemingly in the same motion, as if using the momentum from his swinging fist, he turned and dashed off into the dim recesses of the alley he’d been hanging around the mouth of — for hours, if Rosalie Stompanato was to be believed. I had no reason to doubt her.

“Police! Get back here!” Shouting was pointless, but I had to try. I gave chase to the already- vanished figure, plunging after him into the deeper darkness between two aging apartment houses. My fist, which I only then realized I was making, unclenched and I reached for the holster under my left shoulder, muttering, “God damn it.”

It was pushing midnight and in just over nine hours, both Rosalie Stompanato and I were due in court for the attempted murder trial of her mid-level racketeer husband, Thomas “Tommy Stomper” Stompanato. Stompanato, loosely connected to the much larger Castella crime organization, had been on a lot of people’s radars for years, for everything from small-time protection rackets to credit card scams and money laundering for bigger outfits. Major investigations by Albany city police, New York state police and even federal authorities produced charges and convictions against numerous Stompanato pawns, and even a couple of lieutenants, but Tommy Stomper himself somehow always remained clean enough to skate away. It took a domestic situation, a middle of the night, literal knock- down-drag-out in which he pulled Mrs. Stompanato out of their lavish home in suburban Malta and, according to witnesses and Rosalie herself, tried to remove her teeth with the aid of a conveniently placed curb. “Stomper” wasn’t just a clever play on his family name.

When I got the tip about a disturbance at the Stompanato residence from a state-trooper friend, I couldn’t help being just a bit grateful for this bit of rage-fueled stupidity. The man had been so clever for so long that it looked like he’d never fuck up, that we’d never find the crack that would pull open his operation and let us drag him out into the light. For Rosalie Stompanato, it was a nightmare, but a lot of us who were after her husband felt gratitude and guilt in equal measures. One woman’s nightmare was a godsend for multiple agencies.

After the incident, Rosalie Stompanato moved out of her stylish home in nearby Malta to a small apartment in the area where she grew up, inside the city proper. Family and friends she knew there were long gone, but the return to a familiar place apparently brought a measure of comfort. It was understandable and it made both the county prosecutor’s work in prepping her for the trial, and my department’s in protecting her, that much easier. Despite the charges against him, not to mention his associations, Stompanato made bail and his organization worked on. With a trial looming over his head, but no date set, the mobster seemed to keep his nose relatively clean, knowing the state’s attorney would be more than happy to tack additional charges onto the list he was already facing. That and time, as weeks became months, allowed Rosalie Stompanato to make a life for herself unmolested.

“At least the kids are already grown and out on their own,” Rosalie told me once, in a private moment. “If this happened ten years ago…” She broke down without finishing, but I knew what she was thinking.

I kept in regular touch with her after that, partially because I felt she needed the support, but also hoping to pick up something that would further widen the chink in Tommy Stomper’s armor. She seemed to be doing as well as could be expected. She was even starting to feel safe again, she told me — until the night before the trial finally began.

It was past eleven o’clock when I received the woman’s call; I’d given her my home number and told her to call any time, for any reason. She noticed a figure, she said —a tall, gangly man she didn’t remember ever seeing in the neighborhood before, who spent hours standing in the mouth of the alley directly across from her apartment.

“It’s probably nothing,” I told her, as much to convince myself. Tommy Stomper proved he wasn’t stupid, but with so much riding on the events of the next day, maybe he was becoming desperate. “But I’m happy to check it out.”

When I arrived on Rosalie’s street, fifteen minutes after her call, I saw exactly who she was worried about and exactly why. He stood just outside the circle of light cast by a streetlamp, hanging around the mouth of an alley. I watched for a few minutes and he did nothing at all — not so much as light a cigarette, shuffle his feet or cough. He wasn’t worried about seen.

I exited the vehicle and approached.

Closer up, I could see he was a sickly thin young man, skin so pale it almost seemed to glow in the dimness. He wore a faded blue hooded sweatshirt that hung from him like laundry on a line and his hair was short, mussed and unwashed, making it look like blond barbed wire. I’d have bet his diet consisted largely of amphetamines.

The guy’s eyes, watchful and wary, scanned me as I approached. I flashed my badge and said, “Evening.” That was all it took. Those animal-alert eyes went wide and his fist swung out in an arc and then he was gone, rabbiting towards the nearest hole.

My feet pounded the pavement, echoing sharply in the narrow, trash-strewn space, all senses searching for signs of the danger I was rushing headlong into. Light beckoned from a short distance and after a moment, I burst out into the next street. Even the soft yellow glow of sodium lamps seemed brilliant after the pitch-dark of the alley and, as my eyes adjusted, I turned left then right, spotting a figure disappearing around the corner. I followed, telling myself I was being stupid, telling myself I should go back to Rosalie Stompanato’s, make sure she was all right, call it in, ask for additional officers, all while my feet took me closer to where I saw that retreating form.

I turned the corner, saw a flash duck around yet another corner. At the mouth of the alley, I allowed myself an instant’s rest before entering. Even from the street, it was clear this was a dead-end. There was nothing but darkness down this brick corridor — the alley was blocked up midway down.

I drew my weapon, fumbled in my coat pocket for my penlight, flicked it on, then aimed it and the weapon down the length of the alley, sweeping the narrow width of the space.

“C’mon out. There’s nowhere left to go.”

My heart pounded in my chest and there was a stitch in my side, but I felt good all the same.

Stompanato’s intimidation failed, and I caught his crony in the act. Witness tampering charges would be a bonus year or two on Stompanato’s sentence.

There was a rustle behind a pile of discarded cardboard boxes. “Let’s go,” I commanded. “Now.”

The figure rose like a scarecrow in a concrete field, arms lifted in a half-hearted pose of surrender. I flicked the flashlight’s beam upwards; he shied away, blinded by the brilliance, his head turning and one arm flying up to protect his eyes. I shifted the light so I could hold both it and my weapon in my right hand then started forward, plucking a pair of handcuffs from my pocket. With my left hand, I reached for the man’s wrist. Up close, I could see he was barely more than a kid.

“You’re under arrest for disobeying a lawful command, resisting an officer and—” I never got to finish.

The fist I’d narrowly avoided before thrust out again, catching me hard in the right shoulder, a wave of pain and shock jolting down the length of my arm. He was a lot stronger than his frailness suggested. He followed up with a two-handed push that sent me spinning off to one side, banging my other shoulder off of the rough stone wall of the alley, before rushing past, trying again to escape.

I threw out a hand, grabbing a fistful of his sweatshirt. It stopped him, but only long enough for him to half-turn and chop an open-handed blow down onto my elbow. Fresh pain skittered along my nerves, but I didn’t let go, instead raising my right hand, only to discover it was empty. Somewhere in those chaotic two or three seconds, I dropped my gun.

I cursed and struggled for a better grip on the kid’s clothing. He was thrashing wildly, yelling, “Let go! Let go!” his voice shrill and his mind going into panic mode. The decision between fight or flight was no longer his to make, but it seemed as if he was trying to choose both options simultaneously.

“Settle down! Cut it out, God damn it!” I snarled, freeing one hand to cuff him alongside the back of the neck, trying to startle him into a semblance of calm. “Nobody’s going to hurt you, but you’re digging yourself one hell of a hole!”

He ignored the words and continued to flail around. I tried to tackle him around the waist and ended up dragging both of us down to the filthy floor of the alley, where we rolled around for a few seconds, trading a punch a two. We were making enough noise that lights in the surrounding buildings came on. I hoped someone would have the sense to call 911, but even if they did, I knew nobody would arrive soon enough to help me get out of this. I was on my own.

Just as the thought flew through my head, the kid stopped moving. I allowed myself to hope he was coming to his senses at last. Then his hand shot out, straining to reach beyond my head, and when it came back into view, his fingers were wrapped around a chunk of brick the size of a small loaf of

bread. He reared up, holding the thing above his head, prepared to end things between us. In the scant light of the nearly forgotten flashlight, his eyes looked huge and empty.

My own eyes flew all around, frantic, searching for a way out. The other man was straddling my chest and his knees kept me effectively pinned to the ground, but my arms were free and my fingers scrabbled across the rough, cold ground, searching for something, anything, to break this deadlock. They closed around something even colder, something metallic and familiar.

As the brick came down, my fist came up, and the explosion of noise and light only inches from my face all but knocked me senseless.

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About the Author

Brandon Barrows is the author of the novels STRANGERS’ KINGDOM, BURN ME OUT, and THIS ROUGH OLD WORLD. He has published over seventy stories, selected of which are collected in the books THE ALTAR IN THE HILLS and THE CASTLE-TOWN TRAGEDY. He is an active member of Private Eye Writers of America and International Thriller Writers and was a 2021 Mustang Award finalist.

Brandon Barrows

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