Reader Friday: What’s On Page 69?

It’s been a while since we played the Page 69 Game, which was introduced to us by Joe Moore. The idea is that you can tell whether a book is worth reading by turning to page 69 of the book, and reading that page. If you like that page, chances are you’ll like the rest of the book.

So, let’s share page 69 of our WIPs. Does it make the reader want to keep going? (And if you haven’t gotten that far, turn to page 69 of the book you’re reading, and tell us what’s on it.)

45 thoughts on “Reader Friday: What’s On Page 69?

  1. Ooo….maybe I get lucky on this challenge:

    ICE HAMMER, pg 69

    “Thanks for the advice,” replied Brad, his voice flat, gun still trained on the interloper.

    “Do you plan to hold me at gun point forever?”

    Kharzai gestured toward the rifle leveled at him. “I really promise not to do anything to you. If I had intended to do something rude and nasty I would’ve while you were sleeping cuz you were out like lump of coal the day after Christmas. Dead to the world if you know what I mean.”

    He stepped aside a little bit and let Brad see his own backpack and an immaculate looking M-4 rifle leaning against it.

    Brad looked at Kharzai warily for a moment more, then lowered his the gun. “I guess now’s as good a time to die as any.”

    “Whoa, now,” interjected Kharzai, hands raised as if to ward off the bad thoughts, “who said anything about dying? I’m certainly not in the mood for anything like that. Way too young, way way way too young to die.”

    “You live out here?” Brad asked skeptically. “I thought this was a state park.”

    “Yeah, well, things were tough at my last abode,” Kharzai jerked a thumb over his shoulder as if pointing to some place behind him. The direction he pointed was nothing but mountains for hundreds of miles. “I wanted a bit of peace and quiet so I found a nice spot near the river and have been camping for a while.”

    “A while?”

    “Yeah,” Kharzai’s smile stayed fixed, “a while.”

    “You running from the law?”

  2. I like it, Basil. Makes me want to know more.


    Principle Engagement, p. 69

    “Do you attack children now, Tanaha?” Kajika ground the words out. “I have forgiven such offense once. I will not do so again.”

    Any other time, Nantan would have objected that he was no child. But he was too lethargic and raw with grief to make a response.

    Tanaha sidestepped Kajika and shoved a dark glass bottle in front of Nantan’s face. “What do you call this?”

    Nantan, still in a fog, was vaguely aware of some of the tribe watching from their fires. He gazed dumbly at the bottle for a few moments. “Medicine.”

    “White man’s poison.” Tanaha bit out the words and hurled the bottle away.

    Nantan watched helplessly as it shattered into pieces. The crashing sound of the breaking glass at last helped him find his voice. “Not poison. Medicine.”

    His father stared at him in mute surprise, but Nantan could see the storm cloud gathering behind his father’s eyes.

    Tanaha spoke first. “Where did you get it?”

    Nantan said nothing, considering what he should say.

    Tanaha’s jaw muscle twitched. “Where?”

    “The chief of the soldiers brought it.” He heard his father make a strangled noise in his throat and his back stiffened.

    “You brought the white dogs here?” Tanaha shook with anger.

    “Only the chief soldier. To make mother well.” His father turned him so he could look him in the eye. Nantan cringed.

    “My son—you brought this white soldier into our camp?”

  3. This is odd because until you asked, I hadn’t READ my own page 69. Because it is a chapter Kelly wrote and I hadn’t edited it yet. Here is a part:

    The trunk was padlocked. Louis doubted Jennifer knew of a key so he looked around for a crowbar or something similar. He found a spud bar – a piece of metal used in ice fishing – and wedged it in the lock.
    It took him four tries but he finally popped the lock.

    When he opened the trunk, he jumped back at what he saw – a hump of brown fur. It took him a second to realize he was looking at a mink coat and not a dead animal. When he lifted the coat out, he saw a tag pinned to the sleeve. He turned it so he could read it.

    It was an orange evidence tag. Written on it was: Holloway robbery.

    Louis set it aside, shaking his head. Sheriff Halko had probably recovered the coat and for some reason, never returned it to the owner. Probably planned to sell it but never got around to it. It wasn’t the worst thing a cop could do, pinch something from a crime scene, but it definitely told him what kind of man he was looking at here

  4. And here is mine, from Peril by Ponytail, minus the italics for inner thoughts:

    Annie folded her hands on the desktop and leaned forward. “Christine is suffering from bulimia. Normally I wouldn’t betray a client’s confidence, but Wayne tells me you’ve solved mysteries before. Maybe you can help.”

    “Sure, if you tell me a bit more about the disease. I’ve heard about it, but I’m not familiar with the details. ”

    “The technical name is bulimia nervosa. It’s an eating disorder that involves food bingeing followed by purging, and it affects mostly women and teenaged girls.”

    “You mean someone overeats and then vomits it back up? That’s disgusting.”

    “There are other ways of purging, like extreme exercise or using laxatives.”

    “What’s the danger besides too much weight loss?”

    “Left alone, the disorder can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, osteoporosis, kidney disease, heart problems, and death.”

    Those weren’t minor side effects. “What causes it?”

    “Nobody knows for sure. The risks are higher if you’re dealing with a lot of stress, or if you’re a perfectionist type of person. People who admire stick-thin models might develop this problem. Risk factors are also increased if you have a family member who is obese.”

    “Have you met Christine’s parents?”

    “Only her mother. Eleanor brought the girl into me, concerned she was getting too thin. I understand from what Eleanor has told me that Christine’s father is rarely home.”

    “Why, does he spend long hours at work?” Or might his interests lie elsewhere, and the resultant family discord was causing the girl a stress overload?

  5. Well, isn’t this fun. Especially since it turns out I like my page 69. Excerpt:

    I nodded, but I was lost for a moment, trying to remember something, something that seemed important. The car. I looked at the car without really seeing it and somewhere in the back of my mind it registered that this car was the same unmarked police car Dean and I saw when we were dumping body #2. That was interesting. Very interesting. But not what was niggling at me. It wasn’t some thing that was important. It was some one.

  6. “Doctor, how much do you know about the Zeta drug cartel?”
    “Only what I read in the papers and see on TV.”
    “In Mexico, they’re the most powerful force there. Police and military give them a wide berth. The populace lives in constant fear of them.”
    “But that’s in Mexico,” Mark said.
    “Right,” Ames replied. “And in Mexico, it’s not difficult to find them. On the other hand, here in Texas, almost anyone could be a Zeta. Our unit is constantly working to ferret them out, but as for apprehending the gang members who might be gunning for you, as you put it…”
    “I think I see,” Mark said. “You’re fighting an uphill battle already. I guess you’re saying my life and that of my colleagues could be in danger indefinitely.”
    “Not necessarily indefinitely, but I can’t say when it will end. If we can cut off the head of the monster, the tentacles curl up and die. There’s one man in this area that is the chief, or Jefe, of the local Zetas. We’re working had to find him. Until we do…”
    Mark felt his heart sink. “I understand.”
    “I wish we had enough men to provide security for all of you, but you can see our problem. This isn’t our only case. The Zeta aspect of it will probably be turned over to the gang division sometime today. I imagine one of them will be in contact with you soon.”
    And in the meantime, I’m walking around with a bulls-eye on my back.

    • Having successfully managed to irritate really unpleasant on a few occasions in my past I got a uneasy feeling reading this. The knowledge that someone don’t know is likely waiting for you in the shadows, or in a crowd, is one of the most terrifying ways to live.

  7. All these samples are great teasers. I want to read them all. My cowriter and I are finishing up the rewrite of our latest thriller, THE SHIELD. Here’s a taste from page 69.

    He typed in a command at the workstation and the doors slid open to reveal a cave or cavern with striations the color of rust and straw, ochre and terra cotta, from which other passages spread out like spokes on a wheel. But that wasn’t the most intriguing attribute. All about me were objects, both large and small, that appeared to be Egyptian, complete with hieroglyphics, and some possible Asian items. There were stone objects and those made from copper and gold and other metals. Urns, vases, tablets, drawings, and statues. Some items I couldn’t identify. The objects were everywhere, in abundance, like an eclectic museum. My eyes, wide with wonder, swept in every direction. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

  8. When I went back into the studio I was wondering why I handed Jonathan my card. Was it really to help Len? Or was it because I wanted him to call me?


    And that was strange because I hadn’t wanted anyone to call me socially for months. I was on a strict guy diet, and feeling good about that. Lean, mean acting machine, that was me without the need for a social squire. It felt so good to be able to concentrate on my craft alone.

    Which was why I was glad to get back to class and doing improvs. Even though Cody was in there still feeling like he had to play Alpha Dog.

    “Why’d you stop me?” he said when I stepped up onstage.

    “Just be quiet,” I said.

    “He can’t just come in here.”

    “Be quiet, I said.”

    “Oh no. You like this guy?’

    “I’ve got nothing to say to you about it. Why don’t you practice being a chair?’

    Cody McClellan was truly an Erika Cross “Larry Boy,” which is what I call that Lawrence Tierney thing of hers on the side. That’s the only part of her method I dislike. I believe an actor should be able to separate real life and fake life. If you don’t, you can pretty quickly develop into a diva. You can become Joan Crawford.

    I just wanted to be Kris Rachet, Academy Award-winning actress, who goes home at night instead of to the clubs.

    I did not care to become a cliche, the young actress who has to go into rehab at twenty-five, who has a rock drummer boyfriend for awhile and gets his name tattooed on her butt, and then breaks up with him and has to tattoo some Japanese script over the name, and then it turns out the Japanese script means something like Bimbo.

    For what it’s worth, I just wanted to act and live a normal life, even if people think that’s impossible anymore.

  9. From Calculated Risk:

    “I apologize for disturbing you outside our normal communication channels,” she replied, acknowledging their unsecured line. “I wanted to let you know that I’d arrived safely. I would have contacted you sooner, but the station experienced communication issues.”

    One almond-shaped eye twitched. “Issues?”

    “Yes, but it didn’t prevent me from sending your birthday present. It’s on a cargo drone headed for Earth orbit. It left here shortly after I arrived. I wasn’t able to check your present’s condition.” She held her breath.

    Samir went very still. She expected frost to form on the view screen so cold was the displeasure in his gaze. He hated complications, and she’d barely started listing them.

    “Inconvenient. I’ll see the package is retrieved.” He smoothed the front of his immaculate gray suit with long, thin fingers.

    She plunged on. “Unfortunately, your present isn’t complete. Pieces are missing, and other collectors have taken an interest.”

    His hand stopped in mid-stroke. “Other collectors?”

    Kama swallowed. Sweat moistened her palms where they rested on the console. He really wouldn’t like the next news. “There’s also a problem with the grant work I’m to do here for Independent Mining. Seems EcoMech claims to have bought the place, and Leon Goldman came in person to take possession. He has Rafael McTavish in tow.”

    The intensity of Samir’s stare rocked her back from the console.

    “Is Mr. McTavish aware of your presence?” he asked in a deadly calm voice.

    “We’ve been introduced,” she replied.

    “It’s a large station. Enjoy those parts where Mr. McTavish is not found,” he ordered, his brows pulling down.

    “Well, that’s the thing,” she said, her voice rising in pitch. “There’s a bit of a shooting war going on here, and he’s been taken prisoner by the miners.”

  10. Cool idea!
    This is from Fifteen Stone, p. 69 –

    I took 40 to the Beltline, then headed out Six Forks Road to my destination. Dylan was staying out this way while her place was finished, and she told me she’d just walk to the meeting. The area had really built up since the last time I drove through. Some of the streets still had the tree-lined, “tunnel” feel I remembered, but many had given way to strip malls and office parks. I would definitely prefer to stick with the space a suburb like Garner provided.

    The coffee house had a smarmy atmosphere that started with the sign out front. A huge stained-oak number with the name surrounded by silver filigree. “Pour Man’s Respite,” it proclaimed. I shook my head and walked in, assaulted by the stench the moment I opened the door.

    Dylan sat with a thin, jittery man. His dark hair was thinning on top and he had needed a shave for at least three days. Don Johnson, he was not. He wore a tan leather jacket that bunched under his arms and probably should have gone for one size larger. I did give him credit for eschewing the mock turtleneck and beret, despite the 32 oz. coffee in front of him. I never knew they made ‘em that big.

    Certainly explained the shifty way he kept looking around the shop.

    Dylan gave me a half wave and kicked out a chair for me to sit in. It was a cool move. I filed it away to try at some later point, then sat down. She gave me a wry grin and gestured to her colleague.

    “Max, this is George Ibsen. He’s an old army buddy of mine.”

    George lurched forward, nearly spilling his coffee as he reached to shake my hand. I took it, watched to make sure Dylan didn’t kick my chair out from under me before I sat back down.

  11. “What’s going on? What’s the lead?” She closed her laptop and made her way to the bedroom, the phone pressed close to her ear.

    “We have a DNA match. The sample from the Whorley scene is a direct match to your guy.”

    “What do you mean my guy?”

    “Whoever murdered Victoria Johnston, also murdered Jennifer Whorley.” A brief silence passed between them and Kelly imagined the look on Lyle’s face.

    “Are you sure?”

    “Does a bear shit in the woods?” An affirmative would have sufficed, but that wouldn’t be Lyle.

    “I’m on my way.” Kelly ended the call and tossed her phone onto the bed. She slipped on a pair of old jeans and some tennis shoes before heading out the door with the Johnston case file. The wind worked against her and she pressed her curls to her head, trying to smooth out some of the tangles. She cursed her mother for the dominant gene.

    She felt out of place when she stepped out of the elevator wearing blue jeans, and then she realized she’d forgotten to change shirts. Attempts to smooth the wrinkles from her night shirt failed and the bright yellow smiley face on the front stared up at her as if mocking her.

    “Sergeant?” The soft spoken voice of Captain Elliot reached her, but she kept walking.

    “Cooper!” She wasn’t going to be able to avoid him and she felt the heat spread across her face as she turned to face her Captain.

  12. Random pages make for incomplete excerpts, but here’s MS Word p. 69 from my soon-to-be-released thriller Artistocrats and Assassins (technically speaking, ebooks don’t have pages):
    “Cardinal O’Hara,” announced the bishop. “He’s Irish but has been in Rome for years. Many times he’s been in the running for the papacy.”
    “I think the woman’s a British commoner related to the royal family,” said Denmark. “I might have seen her at some function over there.” He looked around the disheveled group. “They’re aiming lower. Guess they couldn’t kidnap the Pope or one of the British royals.”
    Urgell shuddered. “When will this stop?”
    “Whenever Kadar has enough captives to start making demands. That might be when they start the beheadings if they don’t receive what they want immediately.” Netherlands looked at Denmark and Norway. “The two priests won’t be much help. It looks like it’s going to be up to us.”
    “I can’t shoot a gun,” said Urgell, “but I can point one. I also used to box.”
    Netherlands shrugged. “That’s something.” He pointed to his right ear with an index finger. They all heard boots on stairs. “Let’s wait and see what the new priest says.”


    A terrorist flung Stuart’s door open. She looked up from her book as he pushed another woman into the room. She fell to her knees, but soon rose and shook a small fist toward the closed door.
    “Bloody swine,” she screamed. She turned to Stuart. “Who are you? And what are you doing in my room?”
    Stuart studied the new arrival for a few beats. She was a bit mousy and unkempt, but with enough energy to tell the world where to stick it. Stuart smiled.
    “Name’s Pam Stuart. I’m a TV crime reporter. I think the idea is we share the room. You’re British. Should I know you?”
    She gave her name. “I’m a distant cousin of William’s Kate. A commoner usually ignored by the press corps. Who are these bloody bastards?”
    “They’re terrorists, but you probably figured that out already. I don’t know what they want. I overhear things—” Stuart pointed to a vent. “—but only pieces. Shall I just call you Britain? The terrorists tend to call all their captives by their country names—at least, around me. Makes sense, I suppose, because most of them are royalty. Very Shakespearean of them, I guess, although I’m sure the bard wouldn’t approve.”
    “Doubt the bastards know Shakespeare from snake shit. I’m not royalty, by the way, so I shouldn’t be here. Damn them to hell. The British Royal family probably won’t know I’m gone.” She sat on the edge of the bed. “You’re really a TV star?”
    “I’m well known in the tri-state area—those are the states of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York—much less so in the rest of the U.S. But maybe I’m famous enough people won’t want to see me beheaded.”
    Britain touched her neck. “Are you friggin’ serious? How can this happen in Europe?”
    “If I recall correctly, Cromwell did a good job on Charles I, so it’s not unknown in England. And don’t forget the French revolution. Wagonloads of aristocrats paid their respects to Madame Guillotine.” Stuart stopped when she saw the young girl turning green. “These terrorists are going to start making demands, and they’re deadly serious. I’ve witnessed one of their murders already. You and I might be the first to go because we’re not royalty.” Now seeing tears at the corners of the young girl’s eyes, Stuart relented by presenting a possible escape from that gruesome fate. “That will only happen if Europe doesn’t meet their demands.”
    “What demands?”
    “I wish I knew.”

  13. Offered without set up:

    I was glad it was dark so she didn’t see me roll my eyes. I’d spent more than that on gym shoes. This did not involve an AK-47 or a military prototype shotgun.

    “Where can I find him?”

    “Jewel, no! He’s dangerous. This is my problem.”

    “We need to drop the pretense. You and Uncle Jimmy were a lot more than friends. When I called you Aunt Stella, I meant it. We’re as good as family. And since I’ve been here, you’ve treated me right. Let me do this for you. Consider it,” I hesitated over the word that came naturally to me, “consider it a solid. Now, where can I find him?”

    “He has a garage on Second Street, right by the old gas station.” Relief punctuated each word.

    “Stella, I have to ask. Is this a recurring thing? Sorry, but I need to know what I am walking into.”

    Silence except for Simon’s snuffling.

    “I thought it was gone. Del helped me get control of my debts and my gambling. But then he died so suddenly. I wasn’t here. I didn’t get to say goodbye. They took Simon. I don’t know. I just couldn’t resist. But, no, I’ve never borrowed from Richie before. I just had to this time because . . .” She didn’t finish.

    “Because you’ve lost your money?” Like a bad movie, I already knew the end of the story.

    “Yes. Everything my late husband left for me. If I didn’t have this job I’d be living in a Walmart parking lot. I’m so ashamed.”

    I patted her hand in the dark.

    “This I can fix. It’s my present to you and Uncle Jimmy. I can clear the scorecard so you have a chance to get level again.” That wasn’t a lawyer platitude. I really meant it. For the next ten minutes, I finished my drink and pretended I didn’t hear her soft crying over the chirping of the tree frogs. Around eleven she left with only a quiet, “bless you,” in her wake.

    I stayed up until midnight plotting my next moves. Richie Arroyo had two things I needed: Stella’s marker and information about the underside of Cochinelle. I still had a locker of illegal guns under my floor and I wanted a clue on how they got there. If I had to kick his skanky ass to get it, that was just a bonus.

  14. Page 69? Seriously, Joe?

    Here’s my pg 69 from The Last Victim in my profiler Ryker’s first person POV:

    Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
    The next day
    Ryker Townsend
    An abrasive metal sound jolted me awake from a dead sleep. Stunned, I cried out as I thrashed free of my bed sheets. It took me time to realize where I was and what I had heard—the sound of a spoon scraping a skillet.

    I felt like an idiot.

    “Ah, hell.” I collapsed onto the mattress, gasping.
    My heart pounded my ribs and the sudden rush to sit up left me dizzy. My body was on a collision course I couldn’t stop and I hated not being in control. Some people knew how to behave when they were sick. I wasn’t one of them. I fought every symptom, like my defiance would make a difference.

    “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

    “No. Sorry. It’s all me.”

    With the things I see in my job, it wasn’t hard to hear the rasp of metal and not flash on a knife grating the flesh off of bone. Justine’s culinary skills had nothing to do with my mental state and she didn’t look as if she’d taken offense to my alarm.

    “I’m making us breakfast. How are you feeling?” She had a fire in the hearth and stood over a camp stove, cooking. “You look…”

    “Look like what?”

    I really didn’t want to know.

    “You don’t wanna know.”

    Bang on. She’d read me, admittedly not much of a challenge. It sounded like she’d teased me, but the worried look on her face told me she wasn’t joking.

    “I don’t think I can eat,” I said. “I feel…sick.”

    The smell of food made me queasy. I knew that wasn’t a good sign. What the hell was wrong with me?

    “Maybe you’ve got a concussion. From the bump on your head, you must’ve hit the ground hard.”

    I hadn’t been thinking clearly and this morning I felt worse, but I didn’t want to worry her.

    “We gotta talk. Make a plan.” I propped a pillow under my head and winced with every move.

    Justine took the skillet off the stove and sat close enough for me to see her with my bad eyes. The light coming in from the windows was blinding and every squint made my head pound. My misery would be compounded by having to actually think, but I didn’t see a way around that.

  15. Everyone was burdened by a degree of uncertainty. The last, quiet conversations held at FermiLab were still about the feasibility of what was we were about to do.
    The receiver would be turned on remotely in about an hour. It would run until nightfall. If nothing happened, it would be re-calibrated in the morning and then run for the next 24 hours. Adjustments would be made each morning and the unit would be allowed to run for 24 hours until something happened. The same process would be repeated in Tacoma beginning exactly twelve hours after the Murghab facility went online. In this way, at least one field generator would be in operation at all times.
    James, joined by Madihah and Nathan, made a few final adjustments just as the sun crested the Eastern hills.
    “I think we’re ready.” James said, fighting back the chill by rubbing his arms vigorously. Even in the heavy coats, the cold was penetrating and slowed their work.
    A burly, heavily-bearded construction worker – their version of a site foreman – made his way quickly to the massive generator, turned a few valves, cranked a large priming handle, and pulled down the large switch closing the circuit to bring the grid online. Instantly, it roared to life with a sound far louder than they expected. Instinctively, they all covered their ears to shield them from the noise. Madihah glanced at the foreman who was smiling broadly. It was then that she realized he was wearing a pair of large protective headphones. He walked to the trio and handed them earplugs then motioned for them to walk away from the generator.
    “Now, we wait.” Madihah told the group as they began their long walk to the control station. The station sat almost exactly two miles away. Just days earlier, a small booth had been erected on the edge of the vast open field where the generator stood. The land was relatively flat but was made up of fine sand that made walking difficult. Twenty minutes later, the group crowded into the small control booth to wait.
    The operations booth was a small, fully enclosed structure just large enough for all the crew members to fit inside. It wasn’t a comfortable fit, except that a large propane heater pumped warm air through a duct at floor level.

  16. The Cistern p69

    Understatement of the year. She tried not to show her annoyance. “It was something I won’t soon forget.”

    “No, I guess not. How’s your brother doing?”

    “He has a broken wrist, but he’s okay.”

    “That’s good.” Robin’s hands moved around her desk straightening things. “The police were here first thing this morning asking questions about the house. I can’t believe what you found in there. I told them exactly what I told you; the house was foreclosed on last year and we haven’t been able to get in touch with Dan and Kate Linque.”

    “So you don’t know where they went?”

    “None of their contact numbers work at all. I remember something about them heading east, but I don’t remember where it came from.” She tapped a blue tipped fingernail on her watch as if to mention that time was ticking on. “Was there something you wanted to talk about, Chrys? Everything at the house is suspended, of course, pending the police investigation. Even after that I don’t know how we’ll be able to sell it. I do have some other houses if you still want the work.”

    Chrys shrugged her shoulders and scrunched up her face. “I don’t know about that.” She paused trying to find the right words. She wasn’t sure if she still wanted to go through all of that. What would she find in the next house? “Do you know what happened to the family? You said the bank was going to work with them, right? Why would they just leave like that?”

    “I really have no idea. At first it seemed like they were going to work with us, but then they stopped answering my calls, stopped checking in -”

    “A lot of their stuff is still there. It was like they left in a hurry or something. People don’t really leave like that, do they?”

  17. forgave me.”
    Roy took off his hat and rubbed his face. “He might of forgiven you but I haven’t. And you do need me tell you how to proceed.”
    “Bullshit Roy.” Eugene’s voice grew louder. “I’m a god damn doctor, a healer. You ain’t nothing but a cop. You don’t need to tell me how to do my job.”
    “Actually I’m the god damn sheriff of this county and have been for two decades and I will tell you how to do your job.” Roy opened a desk drawer and retrieved a file. “Are you that stupid or drunk to think that I don’t know you’ve been over billing the county for years? Hell you provide invoices for services not even rendered. Have I ever questioned your billings Eugene? Would you like me to start?”
    The silence shattered by sounds of objects breaking and the groans of an old man.
    “You there Eugene? You okay?”
    A rustling came through the phone. “I’m here Roy. Maybe I did have a little too much to drink. Leaning on Francis’ curio and I lost my balance, knocked it over. Broke half her figurines. She’s gonna be upset.”
    “She’ll be more upset if her husband’s ethics come into question and she can’t buy no more trinkets. Don’t you think?”
    “What is it you want me to do Roy?”
    “I need that Mexican buried as soon as possible. Do it tonight. Take him to paupers field and put him in the ground.”
    “You want me to bury him without an autopsy?”
    “The Mexican don’t need no god damn autopsy Eugene. Half his skull’s crushed. Sounds like blunt force trauma to me.”
    “What about his next of kin? You notified them already?”

    (horror – romantic suspense)

    Tatiana shuddered. “I can try again.”

    The woman’s laugh struck shrill and harsh. “If you failed once, whatever makes you think you could succeed a second time?”

    “I will not fail you this time.” Tatiana gulped more panicked air. “Please let me go. No one has been to my apartment and Igor will starve.”

    “And just who is Igor?” her captor asked in a sing-song fashion.

    “My cat.”

    Igor, his white calico face with two rust spots like ink drops, purring in the crook of her arm while she watched her cable shows. One rainy night about a year ago, she spotted his tail, heard his mewling. He crouched under a shattered crate in an alley, peeking up at her with one eye, as the left one had been scratched out. She scooped him up, afraid he might hurt her, but he had been declawed, defenseless against the street cats.

    Her own nails were chewed off, an anxious habit she’d never broken. Wiggling numb fingers, she licked her parched lips. Maybe if she let out more of her fear, showed how frightened she was, the woman might take pity. Women weren’t as harsh as men. They rarely hunted or killed another breathing thing with a beating heart.

    “A cat,” the woman echoed, voice dipping with sarcasm.

    No. No. She must work harder. “I know, he is scrawny thing.” Her accent thickened with the panic in her throat. Desperation and tears flowed unabated. The blindfold pressed against her wet false lashes, and the gummy mascara stung her eyes. “He always spills my plants but I love him.”

    Everything went still. The slight roar from the fan ceased. The piano was silent.

    “Sickle. It is time.”

    The finality of the woman’s voice left no hope. Tatiana spewed what little she had in her stomach, hunching over from dry heaves.


    Right from the start, when she stepped off the bus from Bozeman, she had run with a tough crowd. Long before WWII turned the city on its head, LA was already a wild and crazy place. It was everything Ginger hoped it might be and more. She drank, smoked, played cards and shot from the hip. To Virginia Rafferty, trouble and strife were merely the frosting on the cake. And the girl was a knockout, as they put it, back in the day.

    She knew how to make money and put it right back to work on the street. “If it ain’t out there workin’ for ya, honey, it’s dead meat,” she was fond of saying. That summed up her attitude toward life, which she treated as her own bottomless bank account. She looked the same way at people, too. She expected you to stand on your own two feet with your head on your shoulders and give better than you got. Subsequently, Ginger was rarely crossed. On the other hand, she never hesitated to extend help to complete strangers. Back in the old days of Hollywood, everyone knew Ginger Rafferty, when she picked up the El Dorado Bar and Grill for a song.

    Back then, the joint had been a sleazy operation, but it was located in the middle of all the action. So after taking possession of the El Dorado—collateral for an unpaid debt—Ginger recognized that the shabby club could be the opportunity of a lifetime. Every day, Ginger would march through the front door and park herself at the far end of the bar, where she could keep watch. Almost immediately, success, wealth and fame trouped in behind her. Once she grabbed the reins of the El Dorado, she never looked back.

    Forty years later, Ginger stepped away and sold the entire operation to her two sidekicks—the twins, Precious and Grace—who have managed the club the past ten years.

    “Auntie, have you been up all night again?”

    “Yeah. So what else’s new? What about the party? I wanna hear about the party.”

    “Oh, yeah. It was a great party. Yunno. Everybody was there.”

    “Well, I certainly wasn’t there,” Ginger said.

    “You told me you didn’t wanna go. Otherwise, I’d have come for you, yunno, if you’d said something.”

    “No. No. No. It’s just too much trouble getting dressed up and everything. And then . . . I try to get in bed early.”

    “Whaddaya mean? You’ve been up all night. Right?”

    “Sooo. I wasn’t up up. I was in the bed . . . awake and reading. That’s a completely different thing from being up, Nicky.”

    “So now we’re both up, I could come up . . . go over to Junior’s for a nice breakfast.”

    “No. No. That’s a nice offer, sweetie, But, again, I’d have to get washed . . . and dressed . . . and all of that. Besides, I’m too tired. I’ll probably be falling asleep soon.”

    “You don’t get off the phone you’ll never get any sleep.”

    “So . . . did you have any fun at the party?”

    “You’re not giving up with this, are you? Honestly, Auntie, as far as parties go, it was one of the best this year . . . maybe ever.”


    “Absolutely! Sure it was. The girls had the time of their life showing everything off . . . their little tours. In fact, the house did look really good, inside and out. Everything was fresh and newly painted. The architecture was a bit over the top, as you’d expect . . . and there was Cat’s influence, as well.”

    “Oh shit. Now I’m kicking myself, I didn’t go.”

    “Yeah, you should. And you were sorely missed, too. Everyone was asking about you. Said you shoulda been there.”


    “Oh, yeah . . . but hold on, you’re gonna love this part. I actually met a girl there. She’s beautiful and funny. Vietnamese and European. I think.”

    “Girl have a name, honey?”

    “Well, yes, of course she does. It’s Marci Seagal . . . CEO of the Into the Light Foundation. They’re based in Long Beach.”

    “Yes, Nicky. You forget, honey . . . I know everybody . . . least in this town I do.

  20. “I was thirsty,” he muttered.
    Jim reached for Alice’s drink and opened it before he sat down and opened the other one. Before the tab broke free, soda spewed like a geyser onto the table and his lap. He jumped up, knocking the chair over, and frantically looked for something to wipe up the spill. His thighs were already chilled as the cold drink soaked through his pants. Lucy and Alice burst out laughing. Jim’s face reddened. If he believed in voodoo, he would have been certain Lucy had put a hex on him.
    Lucy passed some paper towels to him and grinned.
    “That’s the fastest I’ve seen a cop move in a while.”
    “Yeah,” Alice agreed, giggling.
    Once everything had been cleaned up and Jim had wiped off his pants as best he could, he sat back down. He could run by his house when he left here and grab a clean pair of pants.
    After a moment of quiet, Lucy broke the awkwardness.
    “Well, Detective, we’re all here now, so whatever you want to ask Alice, go ahead. Just,” she raised her hand, “don’t upset her unnecessarily. She’s been through a lot.”
    Jim nodded, then placed his clasped hands on the table.
    He leaned forward. “What’s that you’re drawing, Alice?”
    “A picture of my daddy.”
    He raised an eyebrow and glanced at Lucy. “Oh? May I see?”
    She considered for a moment, then scooted it toward him. “It’s not finished yet. I still have to color the stars.”
    He looked at the drawing of a man on top of wispy clouds, a bright sun off to the side and stars scattered across the paper. At the bottom were three stick figures.

  21. Mine’s short (which may be for the best), and comes at the end of a chapter:

    Heather took another drink. She lowered the glass and nodded to herself. “Or maybe something or someone was taken from you. So you can’t risk losing anything else.”
    Oh my, Brenda thought. As it still did, even after twenty years and never when she saw it coming, the image of her dead father snapped into place. He lay on his back, on a beach. She was next to him, rocking on her haunches. Nervously patting the back of his hand with the tips of her fingers, too afraid of him to hold his hand. It was summer and night in South Truro, on Cape Cod.
    The river restored itself, black and shiny like the coiling Atlantic waves in her memory. Insight from a woman in powder-blue slippers, Brenda thought, looking at Heather’s feet. It made her feel gratified. And exposed. Intimate in the moment with another. Heather Reese, she thought. Welcome aboard.

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