Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Life's Journeys

By Laura Rittenhouse
Chick Lit, 339 pages
Cover art by Pat Evans

At 29, Sophie's future is clear, she’ll rise through the ranks to take the reins of an international conglomerate determined that neither mortal man nor corporate games can thwart her.

Not, anyway, until an international merger diverts her climb down a cul-de-sac where one hurdle too many provokes her to fight back.


Ron is a great guy to work with and I rely on him to brighten my day with his high spirits and sharp wit. I’d call him a morning person but I think maybe he’s a twenty-four-seven person. I suspect he actually likes what he’s doing and who he is. I’d give anything for that outlook today.

As I’m cramming my oversized handbag into the undersized drawer designed for pencils, Ron swivels his chair to face my desk. He speaks to my rear end which may have some impact on his mood. “Tomorrow is payday and I am so glad. I’m tempted to resign because this place is driving me mental, but knowing that I’ll earn my scrap tomorrow, helps me soldier on.”

I smile to myself, maybe Mr. Sunshine suffers like the rest of us after all.

“Okay, I’ll bite. Something not right in your world?” I say this as I remove my backside from Ron’s field of vision and place it in its ergonomically designed chair. Maybe I’m not such a horrible friend after all. I still have the capacity to notice a friend in need when I see one.

“What do you mean ‘not right’?” he squawks. “What’s right? I work for two of the dumbest men in IT at a company designed to support the greed of the capitalist world, my daily tasks are mind-numbing and I suspect that in twenty years I’ll be working at this same desk, looking at this same computer and probably sitting in this same chair. At the risk of repeating myself, what’s right?”

I try to rise to the challenge, but you have to admit, it is a rather large challenge. “Possibly accurate, but that’s not the same as true. You’ve withheld part of the story which is the salary you will draw to have your mind numbed over the next twenty years until you see the light and demand a desk by the window.”

“Great, that’s a big help.” Ron sweeps his arm expansively across the half-empty sea of cubicles. “And I thought I had nothing to look forward to here. But I see I missed out on a nice silver lining; another day, another dollar, another chance at a desk with a view.”

“That’s the spirit. With thinking like that, We Shall Overcome. Hell, we might even make a career of it.”

Ron holds up one hand to stop my taunts and wraps his other arm around his waist with great melodrama. “Stop right there. I can’t stomach listening to your career aspirations this early in the morning. When you are a mighty, powerful, boss of some international conglomerate, you can hire me and give me an office with a huge window overlooking the harbor, a fantastic salary package and some work that doesn’t actually put me to sleep. Then I’ll let you go on about careers all you want. Until then, I’ll keep bitching about my bosses, dreading my daily grind, and fantasizing about a life less ordinary.”

It’s obvious that Ron isn’t as upbeat as I imagined. Maybe it’s all relative. Lately he seemed upbeat compared to me, which made him seem totally glass-half-full. Anyway, who wants to sit next to an eternal optimist all day? I find it comforting that Ron agrees with me that this company and the jobs within it are not anyone’s idea of a dream—actually, it is a balm to my troubled soul. Maybe my impatience and sometimes-doubt about my career-path aren’t that unusual. Maybe I’m not the only one wanting more from the universe and wanting it now.

Suddenly all is right with my world again. Like I said, I love working with Ron. And I like my job. Soon, maybe not soon enough, but soon anyway, DK will be behind me and I’ll be facing the challenge of my next assignment, my next customer, my next step on my career ladder.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Wings of the Past

Wings of the Past  
By Suzanne M. Hurley
Women's Fiction - 379 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald

Zoey Avery thinks she is happy, until wedding thoughts infiltrate her marriage-phobic mind. Complications explode when she realizes the groom in her dreams is not her current boyfriend, but a man she hasn't seen in thirteen years. Confused, she sets out on a journey to uncover the truth of her heart's desires.

"Hey, Marta." I leaned closer. "How weird is this? Lately, I've been having all these wild, crazy thoughts about getting married."

There, I said it.

I'd finally voiced out loud what I'd been thinking about for the past three months, still not believing that I-Zoey Avery, dedicated work-a-holic extraordinaire-would suddenly find myself afloat, lost in imaginary worlds, daydreaming about tulle and veils and gowns. Marta had gotten engaged six months ago, so I figured she'd be the perfect one to talk to about this.

"What'd you say?" she yelled. "I can't hear you over the music."


Karaoke was in full swing at the Black Lagoon Bar in downtown Burlington, Ontario, and a trio of businessmen slugging back beer, jackets off, ties askew, were singing and gyrating to Gangnam Style. We were at our usual table, way at the back where it was quieter, for our weekly martini and chat. Karaoke night was new and Gangnam Style was revving the crowd up more than usual. The bar was the rowdiest I'd ever seen, with most people trying to emulate Psy's moves. Go figure-it just happened to be tonight, when I had something serious to discuss.

"I want to get married," I yelled, just as the song ended. My words rang out, hovered, and I swear every person in the bar turned to look at me. It was one of those 'time stood still' kinda moments, only not in a good way.

"Hey, I'll marry you."

I looked over to see a jean-jacketed man straddling a stool, leering at me. He looked totally out of place with his wide-brimmed cowboy hat, scuffed boots and scruffy beard.

Oh no!

He clambered off and swaggered over to our table, slowly and dramatically, as everyone in the room began clapping and cheering him on.

I could feel my face redden.

Did they think this was planned? That it was a real proposal?

"Hello, gorgeous," he said, tipping his cowboy hat.

I watched in horror as he slid a cigar out of his shirt pocket, pulled the band off and got down on one knee. Holding up the paper ring, he placed his other hand against his heart, exclaiming, "Will you do me the honor of marrying me?"

Immediately, the crowd started chanting, "Say yes. Say yes."

"It's not real," I screamed out. "I don't even know this guy."

Frantic, I looked around for some help but my best friend Marta, ignoring my dirty look, was laughing so hard, tears streamed down her face.

Oh hell, I knew it was in fun and in another place or time I might have found it hilarious, but not tonight. I was in somber mode.

"No, thank you," I said firmly, shrinking down on my chair, wishing I could disappear.

A groan echoed through the room. Someone led a chorus of boos, another hissed.

"Well, you're an old sourpuss," he said, looking indignant, as he stood up and swaggered on over to a young woman yelling, "Hey stud, I'll marry you."

Fortunately, another trio, this time women, jumped on stage and grabbed the microphone.

Good. Everyone would get off my case and focus on the new singers, but much to my horror they started singing Bruno Mars Marry me, urging on the new love match, all the while shooting daggers at me every five seconds. I sunk even lower in my seat, anymore and I'd be on the floor.
Marta, wiping away her tears, sputtered out, "I must be hearing things. Did you really say you want to get married?" She started to laugh even harder.

Glancing over at the singers to make sure they weren't going to stop any time soon, especially since I was about to answer Marta, I was happy to see they'd given up on me. Instead, everyone was now clapping for cowboy guy who had dragged his latest conquest onto the dance floor and was hamming it up, serenading her with exuberant gestures that went along with the music. Judging by her giggles, she seemed to be loving it. I decided I was in the clear.

"Just thinking about it," I answered.

Okay, to most people, the idea of getting married one day, or living with someone, or even looking for a relationship, was the norm. As evolved as us women were supposed to be, a lot of females I knew still dreamed of their wedding day and had been since they were tiny tots. Over the years, I'd been privy to many of their confidences at sleepovers, coffee dates, parties, or late night chats on cell phones. Dreams flew high as they conjured up long, flowing gowns, handsome grooms in tuxedoes and sentimental, teary-eyed vows in churches, barefoot on the beach, in the backyard, living room or any other favorite place of their choice. And of course, ear-splitting receptions that lasted all night and let's not forget-lavish honeymoons in exotic places, unless it was a destination wedding and they were already in paradise.

Oh sure, times had changed and lots of people lived together first, often for financial reasons, sometimes forever, but wedding days still seemed to worm their way to the forefront and multiple, endless plans were made. Especially, if they had children or were deciding to have them.

I was not among the norm.

I did have a boyfriend-Liam O'Reilly-even lived with him, but wedding plans did not exist in my take on life. I never thought of them-not even once. Nada. Never entered my mind. In fact, if even a whiff of a vow drifted up into my conscious level, it was crushed instantly in my quest to be the best ever vice principal to the teenagers at Maitland High, as well as a humanitarian to the many causes dear to my heart. Yup, I was one of those hard working, do-gooder types of people and proud of it. I was happy, content and thoroughly enjoying life.

So why, seemingly out of the blue, would marriage thoughts come crashing down, disturbing my sleep, my focus and turning me into a tired, confused, old hag? At least, that was how I felt lately-like tiny fissures were spreading throughout my perfect world, exhausting me and throwing me off kilter.

I just didn't get it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Letters to Mary

Letters to Mary
By Marge Burke
Historical Women's Fiction - 579 pages
Cover art by Richard Stroud

Mary Crouch and her two young children are as much casualties of the Civil War as the soldiers themselves. Mary is afraid of losing her Daniel, afraid of all the dangers she must face with her children, and of failing at the work it will take to keep their lives going. What her trials prove is that Mary is as courageous as Daniel.

Mary struggles to keep her focus, longing for words of love and encouragement but receiving empty words on the pages of Daniel's letters. Daniel's journey takes him to southern battlefields; Mary's journey is one of determination and faith, and finding answers from very unexpected sources.

Daniel got off the train and stood on the wooden platform of the Pittsburg train station, watching great gulps of gray smoke puff into the air. A white fog rose to meet the smoke, lifting from somewhere underneath the engine. In the dim light of the early September morning, it looked to Daniel as though the train were an apparition, a ghostly object that did not really exist.

The great black engine slowly began to move, and Daniel stood watching as his last link with home clattered off down the tracks, headed back to Albion, to his Mary. He shifted his knapsack to his other shoulder, trying to ease the burden. He realized suddenly that the weight he struggled with was not on his shoulders but deep in his chest. It threatened to suffocate him, and he gulped in several deep breaths. His thoughts swirled around him like the gray smoke.

He glanced around him at his regiment. Most of the men on the platform with him looked as disoriented as he felt, although a few were relaxed and joking with each other. Daniel could see Sergeant Prentis across the platform by the depot, conversing with another officer. He watched as the senior officer saluted and then turned and strode off. Sergeant Prentis lifted his hat from his head, rubbed his other hand through his matted hair, and replaced the hat snugly. Then the sergeant turned toward his new recruits.

For the next several minutes the soldiers stood at attention, struggling to understand all of the information being hurled at them. Daniel heard the how to, where, when, why, why not, cannot, do not, who, and in what condition he was expected to perform. The words buzzed around him like a swarm of bees.

Daniel was used to hard work and considered himself in good physical shape, but standing erect with a fifty-pound knapsack slung across his back for so long at a stretch was taxing his stamina. Out of the corner of his eye he caught the slight shifting in the position of the men down the line.
"Eyes straight ahead, soldier!" Sergeant Prentis barked.

Daniel snapped his eyes forward.

The train ride from Girard to Pittsburg hadn't been as uncomfortable as Daniel had expected. He had heard horror stories of men being piled into cars shoulder to shoulder with no room even to sit down. They had all been seated, for which they had been thankful, and had even been served a breakfast of biscuits and fruit. It was undoubtedly the last bit of comfort they would experience for a long time.

Laying his head back in the seat, he had closed his eyes and transported himself back to Mary and little Alice, standing in the yard where he had left them. Alice had his black felt hat nestled on her head, and she could barely see out from under it. Daniel's breath caught in his throat as he saw again the unshed tears glistening in Mary's eyes as she struggled for composure. Daniel knew she did not want his last sight of her to be one of despair or anger. His Mary. He loved her for a thousand reasons, and he could have named them all right then.

He could still hear Charlie's loud good-byes at the station as he and Uncle Minos had seen the train off. Daniel had leaned out the window, waving his army issue hat from the train window above the crowded platform.

"That's my pa, the one waving to me," Charlie had proclaimed to anyone who would listen. "He's going to fight Rebs."


Daniel jumped, bringing his thoughts back to the present. He focused on the wide eyes staring him in the face. Sergeant Prentis spat his words so that Daniel felt a spray of accompanying spit showering over him. The sergeant then continued his tirade at the other soldiers. They dared not move.

The gray skies began to close in around the soldiers on the platform, and a fine mist materialized out of nothing. It was not rain; it was just there, like a thick fog suspended above the ground. Despite his hat, Daniel felt the dampness against his face, even settling on his eyelashes.

Sergeant Prentis glanced upward, scowling. It was as if he dared the skies to defy him. Finally he drew his men into two columns and sent them marching from the platform onto the muddy street in front of them.

Daniel's backpack weighed him down, and his feet sloshed in the mud, making a sucking noise as he lifted them. What was really only a mile stretched out like two, and when they finally stopped to make camp he was surprised to find it was barely ten o'clock in the morning.

The great wooden building in front of the recruits offered little comfort. When the command to fall out came, each man trudged up the steps to find a place to call his own. Daniel was appalled at the sight that greeted them. The floor was covered with ashes and mud. Straw from old mattresses was strewn about, matted together and dried in clumps. Cobwebs clung to the corners and the windows. Tobacco spit stained the walls and floors.

A cold dampness permeated the room, even though the windows had been boarded up from the outside elements. The stench was overwhelming. He gagged at the rot and waste and turned away.

"Move in, there, Crouch," called a voice behind him. "It's wet out here."

"At least we can breathe outside," Daniel muttered as he stepped into the building.

"Your first assignment, men," Sergeant Prentis spat, "is to get this place in shape. You'll find supplies in the lean-to outside the back door. Snap to it. We don't have all day!" With that, the sergeant stomped through the archway and disappeared into the mist.

"Maybe the mist will swallow him up, and he won't come back," muttered the man beside Daniel, looking for a clean place to drop his knapsack. Instead, he walked across the room and stuck it on a protruding nail. Daniel and several others did the same. It promised to be a long afternoon.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers
By Shari Rood
Suspense/Thriller - 341 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald

Henry Peterson is trying to change his ways. After his escape from the nightmare he created in Virginia, he is turning over a new leaf in Florida. He meets the vivacious Shelby Taylor and he thinks he may have found the latest girl of his dreams. When she disappears, he goes on a frantic search for her that leads him halfway across the country, deep into a snowy winter storm. Can Henry find her and, perhaps more important, can Henry keep his sanity as the weather closes in around him?

Rex Roland is minding his own business when a boy claiming to be Henry's brother shows up. At first he thinks it's an opportunity to get into an old pal's good graces but as things go bad, Rex soon realizes that helping the boy might be just another disappointment.

Henry pulled into the parking lot as the rain came down. It was all a bit too familiar. He wanted to get in and out and leave this place forever. After spending the last couple of months in North Carolina, deep in the woods, he had come to an understanding about the way things were. He walked long trails that went through old growth forests and along the river and made peace with himself.

~ * ~
It was nearly five o'clock and already getting dark. He waited, studying the rain as it ran down the windows and gutters of the building and spilled out across the brown, dirty grass. He thought about going to get something to eat and coming back later when there would be less people on duty. He pulled out of the parking lot and headed past the diner. The railroad tracks and the trash-strewn grass looked exactly the same as it had in November. He slowed down and looked in the window, and saw a young couple having dinner, waiting for the evening train.

He sighed and kept going. There was nowhere in this town he could get a bite to eat; he'd be spotted immediately. He drove past the feed store and the dying downtown with its empty spaces and for sale signs. He grabbed a pack of crackers from the passenger seat and ate them.

He drove past the cemetery and held his breath like he'd done when he was a kid. A silly superstition. He wondered if she was buried there or in Lakeland and then quickly pushed the thought out of his mind. Still, the image of flowers and hymns and a funeral procession, and a girl with chestnut ringlets in a flowing gown passed through like a ghost and he had to turn on the radio to break the spell.

It was dark then and he turned on his headlights. The windshield wipers were frantically scraping away the heavy rain that was starting to turn into a slushy mess that sounded like BBs hitting the car. He pulled back into the parking lot of the Caitland Nursing Facility and slowed down. He paused for a moment before driving his car around to the back of the building.

There were two cars in the lot and he joined them, parking next to a white Kia. He took out a well-worn envelope that contained a key and Rex's almost illegible scrawl. The note said: Thanks buddy. You're the best. Catch you on the flip side.

Henry held the key in his hands and looked at it thoughtfully. "After this, things are going to change." He said it like an affirmation and nodded as if to drive the point home.

~ * ~
Once inside the building, the scent of bleach blended with a darker smell. He tried not to sink into despair. He looked at the old clock on the wall. It was a round, institution-style clock. A kind he was quite familiar with. It was nearly six. There was an orderly watching TV, sitting on one of those spinning doctor's stools and a nurse standing next to him with her hands on her hips. "You know, Al, that girl doesn't have the sense God gave a mouse."

"She'll wise up; just watch."

"Bet you ten bucks she don't."

"I'll take that bet."

Henry took silent steps along the corridor. He slipped into the room and gently closed the door. There was a dark heaviness that pervaded everything, giving it a palpable weight. He saw the man lying there and started to reconsider. He knew he owed Rex but he didn't want to slip. He was finally starting to feel like himself again. No voices or hallucinations. Months of personal reflection and simple, clean living had cleared his head. Backsliding wasn't an option.

He quickly walked over to the man. He noticed his waxy complexion, the look of decay and atrophy. His thinning hair was oily and smelled rancid. He wondered how long it had been since they had bathed him or done anything even remotely kind for the wretched soul.

He pulled a pair of rubber gloves from his pocket and put them on. He touched the tube that lead from his body to a machine and squeezed it for a moment. How to do this? He suspected that an alarm would sound if the man's breathing stopped. He eyed the spare pillow that was sitting along with a brown blanket on a shelf and for a moment had an image of holding it over the man's face. He wouldn't put up a fight. His stomach rolled at the thought and he felt inside his jacket to reassure himself that it was still there. An injection then. He took out the kit he'd brought. He hated needles, but he'd practiced on an orange a few times the week before. "I can do this," he said with gritted teeth. Rex had filled him in on a few details…a pertinent one, the man was diabetic. An overdose of insulin would be quick and since he was in a coma already, painless. Henry didn't want him to suffer. He was done causing people pain.

He took out the bottle, carefully unwrapping the syringe. He drew the liquid into the needle and leaned over the man. "This will be a kindness. I promise you."

He felt the man's arm for a vein. He wasn't an expert but they felt thin and spidery to him. He also didn't want the mark to be clearly evident. He lifted up the man's right arm and quickly shoved the needle into his flesh until it hit its mark. He pushed the plunger and then laid his arm back on the bed. The sheets were yellowing and he felt sorry. Nobody deserved to waste away, unloved and uncared for. "Well, I've taken care of that," he said as he quickly packed up everything and stood.

"It really is a kindness. I know you would thank me if you could," he whispered.

He slipped out the door and saw the nurse, her hands still on her hips, the guard still sitting on the doctor's stool.

"I told you she was on to him. I've always been a student of human behavior. I could see it coming a mile away."

"A real know-it-all, ain't you?"

"Either way, I win…"


The guard cackled with delight as he took a drag on his cigarette. Henry was pretty sure smoking wasn't allowed. For a brief moment, he felt a flash of anger and thought about putting a bullet into the back of the guard's head. Oh well, he thought, at least that poor man in the room won't have to suffer in such an awful place anymore.

"Pay up, ten bucks. Victory is sweet."

Henry backed down the hall and hid in the shadows by the door, waiting for the right moment. He had left the back door open a tiny crack and inched toward it slowly.

"Yeah…You got me this time but mark my words; payback will be such a bitch."

"Dream on, sweetheart."

Henry took three steps and was out the door. He eased it closed and locked it. He walked through the rain to his car, got in and drove off. The night air was murky and the fog was starting to creep around the edges of the parking lot. He smiled. He was leaving Virginia. Things would be better. Someplace warm. Someplace sunny. That was where he was headed. He couldn't wait. A new start…it was what he'd always wanted and now he was going to have it.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

My Name Is Aphrodite

By Vera Berry Burrows
Mainstream, 290 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald

Rodi Bartlett sits on a plane taking her to the land of her conception. She can’t call it the land of her birth because when her mother was sixteen years old, she had flown back to England from Corfu at the end of two weeks in the sun, unaware she was pregnant. When her mother, Adele dies young, details of the father, Cory Demetriou are exposed in her will and he has never been told of his daughter’s existence.

Rodi’s relentless search for the father she has never known, takes her to Corfu, mainland Greece and beyond. Filled with determination, setbacks, hope and love, this is the story of a young woman's quest to fulfil her mother's dying wish, but will Cory Demetriou accept her as his daughter twenty-six years on?


Rodi looked at the postmark on the envelope for a long time before she found the courage to open it.

11 October 1982

Dear Miss Bartlett,

We are in receipt of certified copies of your birth certificate, your United Kingdom passport and of your mother, Adele Bartlett’s will. It is not possible for us to supply information without legal proof of relationship to a citizen of Greece, but we understand the nature of your enquiry. Taking into consideration that the identity of the person you claim is your father cannot be proven, personal details of that person may not be disclosed.

She sat down and handed the letter to Jake. “Damn and blast the Cypriots,” she declared acidly. “I somehow had a feeling this might happen. The gist of the previous communication from them more or less warned me.”

Jake took her hand. “What can I say, sweetheart?” he asked. “I’m as disappointed as you are, but we’ll just have to re-think our plans.”

“All our research so far is up the Swanee, she said despairingly. “I don’t know what else we can do. We traced him to Cyprus, but now we don’t know whether he was there or not.”

“Reading between the lines,” Jake said, “I think he definitely was there. They actually said they cannot disclose personal information which to me means they have that information on file, but are unable to let you have it.”

“Do you think we should go to Protaras?” she asked without the previous enthusiasm she had shown earlier in the search.

“I don’t know,” Jake told her. “Let’s sleep on it and work out what we should do in a couple of days. In the meantime, we have some work to do before we can take our winter leave and some intense negotiation with the real estate guy if we are to buy the house overlooking the bay in Paleocastritsa. We don’t want to miss out on that view.”

“No, we don’t,” Rodi agreed, “but we’ll have to change those pink walls! Why would anybody want a bright pink house? Five bedrooms all with en suite will be perfect. We could open our own hotel!”

“I don’t think so, darling. Those bedrooms are for our family and friends, not to mention our children.”

“Hold on, Mr Saunders. Too many things on the agenda before then,” she said laughing.

“Well, at least I got you smiling again,” Jake said as he hugged her and kissed her cheek. “Come on, Hotel Helenya needs us.”

~ * ~

Moving into the house put the search on hold. The pink villa was transformed into the white house and most of Rodi’s furniture was transported by container ship to Corfu and then along the dusty roads to their new home. By the beginning of December, everything was in place including new furniture for the master suite and a new kitchen with all the latest integrated appliances.

“We’ll spend a wonderful Christmas in our first home together,” Rodi announced at breakfast on the first day of their winter break.

“We’ll enjoy that,” Jake agreed. “I can’t believe how much has happened since last Christmas. At least this year we don’t have to go north to visit my parents!”

“Will they be sad that we’re not in England for Christmas?” she asked.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “They’re used to me being away. Even before I met you, I didn’t always go home for Christmas. Usually one of the team invited me to stay and for a time, that was preferable to Mum trying to set me up with most of the available girls in Rivington.” He paused, coughed deliberately and then continued. “That is, all the available nice girls in Rivington. Mum’s choice and mine never matched...until now.” He winked at the young woman who had made him happier than he had ever been.

“Thanks, babe,” she said and blew him a kiss across the breakfast table.

“All thanks should go to you for applying for a job on my team,” he said with a grin, “but I’ll take some of the credit for seeing your potential straight away.”

Rodi laughed. “You are incorrigible...” She paused pointedly. “...but I like you!”

“Only like?” he asked with affected offence.

“Play your cards right and I might just improve on that before the day’s out,” she told him.

Jake shook his head slowly. “What are you like?” he asked. “But what are we going to do about the search, babe? We’ve been so wrapped up in the house, we haven’t thought about it for a while.”

Rodi rested her elbows on the table and cupped her chin in her hands. “I never stop thinking about it, Jake. I can see no way of getting further with the Cyprus information other than trying to find the hotel where he worked. I know it might sound mad, but do you think we could find a list of hotels in Protaras and simply phone them and ask? It would be cheaper and less time consuming than going there, especially if we are on a wild goose chase.”

“I think that’s an excellent idea,” he said excitedly. “I’m not sure how we’ll find a list of hotels, but we could see if Telly at the hotel will allow us to use the computer. There might be a database for Grecian Tours hotels. It’s worth a try.”

“That’s a brilliant idea, but failing that, we can get a whole pile of holiday brochures and see what turns up for Protaras in those,” she added. “Let’s see what we can find before we start sorting out Christmas.”

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Diary of the Tenth Man

By DB Dakota
Suspense, 336 pages
Cover art by Pat Evans
Original design by DB Dakota

The customs computer earmarks the construction man for deportation and officials do not specify why. But the stockade’s padre reveals a shortage of job openings for immigrant builders. To fix the immigration crisis will the US deport its own citizen constructors, to make room for Mexico’s?

“It doesn’t matter who, just reduce the number of bodies competing for jobs. You are just another body in the way. Everyone knows this, why don’t you know this? You of all people.”


“All right, why does it take two indeed? I must spare Alita. I cannot cause her to kill.”

If she can do it, I can do it. I must assassinate Nilov. Myself! For the Church—and take my chances on Hell. It is His Church and it must be saved. It is alive in Mexico but the Azers will destroy it. They must be stopped!

But now the worry of QC taking Nilov’s place, QC or any of the other resilient ex-Reds down there by the pool fawning over the concierge Hada, teaching her a new tongue she believes to be Slavic. Their Persian is spreading through the hills already, where the rejuvenated KGB-trained mullahs hold forth, rounding up peons for Cabeza’s shepherds. They distribute Korans printed in Spanish with dollar bills between the pages. Guard this book with your life, the peons are told, for in your new world ahead a solemn revelation awaits: The ancestor of Jesus and the ancestor of Mohammed, they were the same. In America you will be closer to God. Does that bother Cabeza? No, he has his own Cabeza religion. Like Nilov, they do not care.

If not QC or any of his kind already here on the rancho, what’s to prevent new waves of rial-rublemen from replacing Nilov once he is dead? And there would be, one Muslim right after another. What is a mere Nilov to Azers? Baku is well aware of the welcome mat at the rancho. They will keep sending more Nilovs bearing gifts of anointed gold for Cabeza-Matias. Already he has traveled to the Caucasus to accept the toasts of the ayatollahs, and was a hit like no other.

“Can it be, Dear Judge and Maker of all that is, that I must now think the unthinkable? Must it be Matias instead? Must it be Matias who goes?” Tell me no, tell me no!

“And who, Dear God, would for any reward, for any price, put the old padre in his grave? Is there a single living soul who would do such a deed—other than me? Please, Father, please!”

As long as there is a Cabeza with his hand out for the rial, there will rials and rubles for the asking. And certain takeover of Mexico. Certain devastation of the Church.

Yet if there is no Matias there will be no cause—and the cause must go on. Does it take his personality to run things, his skill, his delicate hand? Is it necessary to have him? Can I do it?

Can I take life, the very life, of another man?
There are certainly enough advisors here, not counting the Azer connection, to carry on, to help me when Matias is gone. We must make sure the starving and helpless cross the Rio, the fence. They will die in their tracks if we don’t—and wither the Church by default.

But the Church must multiply in America. The work Cabeza has started—the smugglers, the monastery, the cruise lines and buses, the Greek’s fishing fleet, the ID cooks and their studio-stores, the computer invasion… All must all go forward.

But can these enterprises succeed if he is no longer around to guide them? They must. A way must be found.

Matias’ sun is setting—consider this: He doesn’t even have a parish now, since I took over St. Silverius. He cannot be relieved of any post; he has no post. Someone will always be found to hold services on the compound.

Matias is a renegade Catholic now, a mercenary, and nothing more—as far as the Church is concerned. He’s now ex-priest status in collusion with a treacherous virus… heresy, gnawing away at his miracle soon to devour him too when his railroad is taken over by the Azer outlaws.

Vatican support and lira could be withdrawn but he’d merely hold out both hands for the Azers to fill, accelerating the exodus—which would delight Cabeza—but Islamize the Latinos.

Does that mean Latins have no free will as to their religious choice? Or no religion at all? Afraid so. Their culture has both deism and theism built into it. The alternative is risky and why we war.

There is no choice: Cabeza Matias must be replaced—with haste. We must install someone who refuses to drink from the heresy fountain.

Who can be trusted to reject their subsidy? Am I the only one? Again, must it be me who takes his place? Who else on this planet will take it upon himself to dam the tide of tainted capital and send the Azers packing?