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Excerpt from The Body Hunters: Paradise Denied-Meeting with the Cartwright’s

Here’s an excerpt from Book 2 in our series, The Body Hunters: Paradise Denied. In this snippet, our psychic detectives Aiden and Danielle meet with the grieving family of Jason Cartwright. Enjoy!

The JTC Technology Corporation campus occupied several hundred acres of San Jose real estate. The driver dropped Aiden and Danny off in front of the company’s headquarters. For a few seconds they stood gaping at the sharp inclines and daring angles of the building’s structural design which looked like some futuristic spacecraft from a science fiction movie. Security officers awaited them as they stepped into the expansive five-story complex. After signing the two of them in, giving them guest badges, and taking Danny’s laptop out of her messenger bag and giving it a once over before giving it back to her, they were allowed to pass into the lobby.

Stepping into the headquarters was like entering a time machine into the future. The building’s interior consisted of polished chrome, black marble and mirrored glass. Twin, glass enclosed elevators were located in the middle of the first floor, while a staircase that looked more like a glass art sculpture offered access to all levels of the building. The sun was nearly blinding, reflecting off the polished tile floor of the lobby. Since it was around lunch time, the atrium was hectic with activity. Mixed among the mundane sea of neutral office attire were what Danny assumed were the more relaxed creative geniuses in their brightly-colored classic cartoon and superhero T-shirts.

A man, no older than thirty of Asian descent was standing in the lobby near a large bronze sculpture of a hand holding a globe. His thin body was pretty much built like a stick figure, his polo shirt and khakis a couple sizes too large, hanging off his lanky frame. The smile he greeted Danny and Aiden with was as inviting as a bathtub full of ice cubes.

“I’m Carter Wu, lead software developer for JTC Technology. Welcome.” He said boringly as if they were stopping him from doing more important work. “If you come with me, I’ll give you a tour of the facility.”

“I thought we were supposed to meet with the Cartwright’s?” Aiden spoke up as they started to follow.

Carter sighed and rolled his eyes, his tone of voice condescending. “Unfortunately, their board meeting is running a little late. By the time our tour is over they should be ready for you.”
Carter didn’t sound very enthused to be doing what some would consider babysitting. With as much heart as an automaton, he gave them the abridged history of JTC Technology.
The company started in Boston, where Jason Cartwright a technological prodigy, was attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT at the age of fifteen. He had programmed his first computer operating system at the age of sixteen. That same year, with his parents insistence he had started JTC Technology out of the family’s garage.

Eight years later JTC was a highly successful Fortune 500 company. Though they were successful in the private sector with their computer programs and consumer gadgets, the bulk of the company’s profits came from their contracts with the United States Defense Department. JTC did everything from create simulators where military recruits could enact crucial combat situations to supply electronics military personnel used on the battlefield.

They were given a full tour of the grounds, which included the Research and Development building located east of the main complex and the programming wing where computer programs were born. With the tour completed, Carter took them to the fifth floor of the headquarters where the board meeting was just ending. Sullen-faced board members were filing out as they approached

“Your guests, sir.” Carter snidely announced to Tim Cartwright, CEO and the victim’s father. “Would you be requiring anything else?”

Tim seemed to narrow his eyes on Carter as if silently reprimanding him and his unpleasant attitude. “It’s alright, Carter, we can take it from here.”

Dismissing the software developer,Tim took Danny’s hand in his own and kissed it. Aiden glared. He didn’t approve at all! Jealousy reared its head in him, and all he could do was to keep glowering at the man. Tim Cartwright failed to notice.

Tim smiled widely showing off a set of teeth worthy of a tooth paste commercial. He was rakishly handsome, the type of man who only looked better with age. He was a few inches shorter than Aiden. His height and wide-shouldered build hinted at a previous athletic career, evident in his stance and the graceful way he moved. His dark hair was surrendering to gray with strands of silver mixed throughout.

He led them into the conference room where Barbara, or Barbie as she liked to be called, was waiting. She and Tim looked to have coordinated their attire, both of them dressed in black power suits. With the shake-up at the company and with their son the brainchild missing and presumed dead, Danny assumed they were trying to keep up a united front for the stockholders.
“Thank you so much for coming.” Barbie welcomed them, offering them a seat at the oblong mahogany table. She took a seat at the table’s head with Tim to her right. Introductions were made all around with the Cartwright’s insisting on being addressed by their first names. Danny and Aiden also offered their condolences.

“Do you have a picture of Jason?” Danny asked.

Reaching into his jacket pocket, Tim produced a picture of his son and slid it across the table to Danny. Jason smiled back in the photo which apparently was taken on his graduation day from MIT since he was wearing his cap and gown. He was a good looking kid, a scrawny carbon copy of his father.

“Is it OK if I keep it?” She asked.

“Of course you can.” Barbie said with a nod.

“We really hope you can help us.” Tim’s jovial expression had softened, his hands clasped in front of him. He looked to be on the verge of tears, worry lines creasing his brow.

“We’ll try our best, Tim.” Danny sincerely offered.

“You two come highly recommended. What is your experience with cases such as this?” Barbie asked.

“Well I worked with both the New Orleans and the New York Police Department along with my brief experience with the FBI as a consultant. I also worked as a contractor with the Federal Government solving cold cases.” Danny said, offering her references.

“I served with the Marines for three tours in Afghanistan. After that I worked with the FBI for two years in their Criminal Investigation Division.” Aiden informed them.

“You were the one with Cassie when she was kidnapped by Gerard right? Weren’t you his fiancée?” Barbie asked Danny. Upon hearing Gerard’s name, she took a deep breath to answer, but Aiden spoke up before she could get a word out.

“Yes, she was, and I was the agent that rescued them.”

“Well then it looks like we’re in good hands.” Tim observed, nodding to his wife. “Hopefully you can help us track down that woman our son was fool enough to marry.”

Danny looked confused. “I thought we were also trying to locate your son? He’s still missing isn’t he?”

Frowning, Barbie waved her hand indifferently. “At this point it’s more of a recovery operation than a rescue. The authorities were only able to recover two bodies from the yacht’s wreckage. They say we may never find Jason’s body.”

“You try to protect your kids, but sometimes they just won’t listen.” Tim hid his reddened eyes with the palm of his hand and started bawling. Supportively, his wife clenched his other hand.
Vengeance blazed in Barbie’s eyes. “Whatever it costs to find that murderous bitch, we’ll pay it. We’ll give you access to our private jet, and we’ll provide you a company credit card to cover any expenses you may incur. Whatever you need, name it and it will be provided to you.”

Danny and Aiden considered the offer to be quite generous, and they were able to come to agreeable terms with the Cartwright’s as far as their fee for their investigative services.
Curiosity got the best of Barbie. “Tell me, you two are working together, but are you lovers as well?”

Danny gave a sharp intake of air, the sound similar to someone suddenly letting the air out of a balloon. “What?”

Aiden stepped in for her, his tone stern and reproachful. “With all due respect, whatever our relationship is, it’s between us. Danielle and I have worked well together in the past, and it will in no way affect how we work on finding your daughter-in-law.” Just because they were rich and paying for their services didn’t give them the right to pry into their personal lives.

Barbie apologized profusely. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend or be so forward. Since that business with Gerard and hearing that you were her rescuer, well there just seems to be a certain kind of chemistry between the two of you.”

“Please don’t mention that monster’s name again. It’s over and in the past now.” Aiden said.

“Please accept our apologies. I can see that would be a very horrible memory. We didn’t mean any harm, right honey?” Barbie nodded in agreement with Tim’s statement.

“Apology accepted, Now if we can get down to business let’s just focus on finding your daughter-in-law.” Danny changed the subject and opened her laptop ready to take notes. “What can you tell me about her?”

“She’s a gold digging, white trash bitch. How’s that for a start?” Barbie spat venomously.

“Ah OK, let’s start with where did she and Jason meet?” Aiden clarified the questioning.

Barbie turned to Tim, and he shrugged. “I think they met when she was still married to Jason’s friend. What was his name?” Tim snapped his fingers repeatedly as if it would help him remember. “What was his name…Winston? Eric Winston. I know for a fact Eric met her at a strip club where she was performing.”

Danny and Aiden exchanged a look. They weren’t privy to that particular nugget of information.

“She was a stripper?” Aiden asked.

Tim nodded grimly.

“She killed him, you know. Shot that poor boy to death and left him in the woods. The animals had devoured him before his body was found.” Barbie informed them, snatching a handful of tissue from a nearby box and blowing her nose. “My poor son. We don’t even have a body to bury. I swear she’s going to pay for what she did.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss.” Danny offered, patting Barbie’s hand.

Barbie sniffled and dabbed at her eyes. “It’s OK darling.”

Tim had since composed himself. “She killed the Winston kid on their honeymoon. Good kid that he was. Jason felt sorry for her and offered to pay for Amanda’s legal defense. The prosecutors didn’t have enough to bring her to trial so they dropped the case. Next thing I know Jason is hanging around with this girl, and last week we find out they’ve eloped.”

“Eric didn’t put her in the will as his beneficiary so his family contested her inheriting his millions. She didn’t follow through with the legal battle because she got her hooks in another rich victim; my son.” Barbie said.

“I think the wise thing to do is start where it all began and track her from there.” Danny said to Aiden. “It’s only been a few days. She hasn’t gone that far.”

He nodded, turning to the Cartwright’s. “You said they eloped to Hawaii?”

“Yes. They were secretly married two days before the boat explosion.” Tim said.

“Jason and the girl used our private villa in Hawaii before the explosion. The police weren’t able to find any leads there and have given it the all clear. You two are welcome to use it. I’ll have it prepared for your arrival.” Barbie said, taking her smart phone and rapidly sending a text message.

“That’s fine. It may take a day or two, though” Aiden agreed. “We need to get back to Georgia, touch base with our government contacts and go from there.

After another twenty-five minutes of ironing out the details and arrangements, both of them caught the waiting Town car back to the hotel.

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Author, Chicklit, Drama, Fiction, mystery, Paranormal, supernatural, supernatural, Uncategorized

Building a Hero

When we went about creating our hero for our first novel, The Body Hunters, we wanted him to be different. The white guy with the unruly hair and the roguish countenance had been done to death and we were tired of the sparkly vampires. Our guy had to be exotic and a man all his own. When Danielle saw him for the first time, we wanted her to be like ‘Whoa!’. I wish I could get a mental picture of what our readers fantasize about when they read about him. I know who we looked to for inspiration when we created him.

Like Danielle, Aiden is psychic, what we call a physical medium who can access the memories stored in objects. Danny may be a prodigy with her abilities, having been formally trained by her Grandmere, but Aiden needs work. She has to teach him how to use his new found psychic powers.

Our male lead had to be an alpha male foremost. It would suit him well since he would be Danielle Labouleaux’s friend, lover, confidant, and protector. Making him a former military man was no question, which would eventually lead to his career as an FBI agent. Though Danielle or Danny as we call her is headstrong and feisty, he needed to be her voice of reason during her emotional crisis.  He’d give her so much leeway to misbehave, before reigning her back in.

We also needed him to reside on 64 Gutter Lane. A hero is no fun without the bad boy edge, so Aiden definitely has a one track mind that runs right into the gutter. His flirtatious comments always make Danny blush and make for some fun banter and situations between the two.

Though he may sound like the perfect man, we also wanted to ground him in reality.  Aiden isn’t perfect, in fact he’s far from it. He’s bad with money and spends it like there’s no tomorrow. He also has a bad temper and can sometimes be a slob. That’s where Danny comes in to help him where he’s weak, while he does the same for her.

Our readers gravitate to him like bees to honey.  Though we wanted women to love our hero, we didn’t think they’d love him to the point of taking his side in arguments and blaming Danny for all their problems. In creating Danny’s soul mate, we may have just created a monster. I’m pretty sure that Aiden Stone would be happy with that.

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Author, biracial, Chicklit, diversity, Fiction, Indie Author, Multicultural, Paranormal, women

Constructing Danielle Labouleaux

When we started writing The Body Hunters we wanted to create a believable heroine and one you could easily imagine as your best friend.  Out the window went the whiny damsel in distress archetype, who can’t think without a male present or the weak female being dominated and controlled by the male ‘hero’.  Our girl is strong, confident, and smart.  She can ask for help, but she can definitely handle things on her own if need be.

When we conjured her up within the depths of our imaginations, we kept in mind those butt kicking females from movies and literature.  Danielle or Danny has a gift, the ability to communicate with the dead, which she uses to help people who’ve been wronged. She’s independent, feisty, and doesn’t dumb herself down to fit in with the crowd or current trends.  She’s also got somewhat of a rebellious streak and likes to do her own thing regardless of what anyone has to say on the matter.

Along with those good traits, Danny is deeply flawed and she doesn’t always make the best decisions. The girl has issues to say the least and she’s far from perfect.  She’s scarred both on the outside and on the inside, like a lot of real people. She’s biracial, white and Haitian-Creole, which couldn’t have been easy growing up in New Orleans and it’s something that we’ll touch on in the third book of our series.

As our series has progressed, we started to pull back the layers to reveal why she behaves the way she does.  I don’t see her dysfunctional qualities as imperfections, but something that makes this character all the more human and believable.  She’s a fun character to write, so hopefully you’ll enjoy her as much as we do.

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biracial, Chicklit, Fiction, ghosts, Paranormal, supernatural, supernatural, women

Danielle and Grandmere’s Afternoon

Here’s another short story featuring our heroine from  The Body Hunters

I head downstairs with a little extra pep in my step this morning.  There’s no school today and I get to hang out with my grand mere.  She has some special project she has to take care of and she asked me to come along.  She could have said she was going to watch paint dry and I would still be excited.  For as long as I can remember grand mere has been my parent, my teacher, my disciplinarian, and my confidante.  Even though I live with my parents, they’re not always around, but my grand mere is always there when I need her.

Other than being family, grand mere and I have something in common: we’re both psychics.  We both have the ability to communicate with the dead.  It’s a trait that’s passed down from generation to generation in the Labouleaux women from way before our family migrated to New Orleans.  My great-great grandmother trained grand mere how to use her abilities just like grand mere trained me.

At five years old I was diagnosed with a life threatening heart illness and while the surgeons were operating on me, I died on the table and was gone for a few minutes before I could be revived.  This event gave me a deeper connection to what grand mere calls the ‘spirit realm’; the place where we’re able to interact with people who’ve passed on.  Grand mere calls me a prodigy and promises that if I continue using my abilities like she taught me, I may be the most powerful medium in the world.  Mwah hah hah!  It’s a good thing I’m not plotting world domination.

I head to the kitchen where my egg and sperm donors, otherwise known as mom and dad are busy getting ready for their day. They have no clue as to my psychic abilities.  Sometimes the things that I’m able to see and do freak me out; so I know my logical father and prim and proper mother couldn’t handle it.

 I’m a product of a mixed marriage, dad is Haitian Creole and mom is white, her family coming from a long line of New Orleans aristocrats.  Dad is an FBI agent and mom is a high society blue blood trying to climb back up the social ladder.  With their busy agendas, it’s a wonder they ever fit enough time into their schedules to conceive a kid.

I follow my nose to the coffee maker where dad has a fresh pot brewing.  Mom is sitting across the table from dad who’s busy with his nose in some of his case file while eating a bowl of corn flakes.  Mom scowls at me, but I ignore her evil look and fill my mug with coffee and a copious couple teaspoons of sugar.

“Danielle, you’re only sixteen years old.  You have no business drinking coffee.”  She complains, peering at me with her violet eyes.

With my back turned I roll my eyes.  If she cares so much about what I have for breakfast the least she could do is have some semblance of food prepared.  Truth is she can’t boil water without causing a three alarm fire.

“I’ll be fine, mother.”  I tell mommy dearest as I stuff a Pop Tart into the toaster.  “I don’t think I’ll stunt my growth or anything.”

“What are you wearing?”  She moves to the next subject of my attire.  Unless it’s got a designer label or comes out of a boutique she doesn’t think it should be worn.  I on the other hand find nothing wrong with my dark jeans with the hole in the knee and my button up cotton top over my tank top.  I am not going to become a debutante, designer name dropping zombie like her so called friend’s daughters.

“What?” I ask.  “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”  Mom hates confrontation so I love pushing her buttons.

“Well, it’s atrocious.  You’re wearing sneakers, those jeans should have been thrown out long ago, and look at your hair.  You have that beautiful hair and you tie it up in a ponytail?  Really, Danielle how do you expect to attract a nice young man?”

“I already have mother.”  I say.  “Why just last week I gave Walter Brady my virginity.”

Mom just about chokes to death on her store bought croissant and dad is up in an instant patting her on the back.”

“Jesus, Danny!”  Dad grumbles, handing mom a cup of water.  “Are you trying to kill your mother?  Juliana honey she’s just joking.”

She looks at me for confirmation that her dear sixteen year old daughter hasn’t yet been deflowered and I’m barely standing I’m laughing so hard.  After I wipe the tears from my eyes I soothe her mind, letting her know I was just joking.

“Danielle you shouldn’t play games like that.”  She scolds.

“Okay, mom, I was just kidding.  Lighten up a little.”  I say, taking a bite out of my hot Pop Tart.

“I swear, you’re meaner than a snake some times, little girl.”  Dad complains, but I can see the laughter in his gold-brown eyes that are identical to mine.  “You bout ready?  I’ll walk you over to Mama’s.”

Luckily for me, Grand mere lives right across the street.  Whenever I needed her, she was never that far away.  As Dad opens the door to her house, the smell of her cooking immediately steps out to greet us as warmly as grand mere.  

She still lives in the same house that dad grew up in and we moved in across the street when I was just a baby.  Her house and decor has been seriously upgraded over the years though.  You see grand mere was a woman of color ahead of her time.  While my grandfather was a fisherman and shrimper, grand mere also had the entrepreneurial spirit, owning her own down home N’awlins style food restaurant.  Tourists would come from miles and mile to pig out on grand mere’s cooking. 

A few years after grandpa passed, a big corporation paid grand mere a pretty penny for her restaurant and her recipes for their own chain of restaurants.  Ever the shrewd businesswoman, grand mere made a ton of money off the deal, enough where she could retire early and still have money left over to take care of the next few generations of the Labouleaux family. 

“Mama, you sure have it smelling good in here.”  Dad says as he walks through the house to the kitchen.  The windows in the kitchen are fogged up because of the steaming pot she has on the stove.  Grand mere is at the sink, picking collard greens fresh from her garden.

My grand mere is pretty jazzy for an old chick.  She’s about my height at 5’ 5’ with a tiny waist and slender build.  She too is biracial, her dark hair now streaked with strands of grey and curled into spirals.  Her skin is a clear and flawless honey gold and she has the same golden eyes as me and dad, another Labouleaux trait. As always she’s wearing some of her colorful vintage jewelry, the type you see Liz Taylor wearing in those old movies.

“Thank you, cher.”  She tilts her head so she can accept Dad’s kiss on the cheek.  “Danielle, do your grand mere a favor and help me pick these greens.”

Obediently I follow her orders, washing my hands before separating the leafy greens from the stems and washing them.  Grand mere stirs the pot on the burner where she has a smoked turkey neck cooking for adding flavor to the greens.  She wraps the seasoned roast she has on the stove in foil before having dad put it in the oven.  As usual grand mere has been working her culinary wizardry in the kitchen.

“Isn’t this a lot of food for just you?”  Dad asks.

Grand mere smiles and pats his pot belly.  “Well you know I try to feed my son and his family every chance I get, cher.  I can’t have you starving to death.  You know that pretty little thing you married can’t cook to save her life.”

I smile to myself.  Grand mere has no malicious intent talking about my mom.  Her not being able to cook is a documented fact in our family.  Grand mere has tried to teach her to cook, but mom is just hopeless in the kitchen.  Training me in my paranormal abilities isn’t the only thing grand mere has taught me; I’m a mean cook. 

Dad leaves a few minutes later and grand mere walks him to the door.  I’m following grand mere’s orders, seasoning the greens and reducing the temperature of the big stainless steel pot. 

“What are we doing today, grand mere?”  I ask as she reenters the kitchen, taking off her apron.

“Consider today part of your training, child.”  She says cryptically.

We get in her sporty little Cadillac and head to the other side of town; the hood so to speak.  Grand mere pulls in front of nice little house that looks like it had been transplanted from a nicer neighborhood.  The two story house with the fresh coat of paint doesn’t seem to belong with the dilapidated housing on the block.

A Hispanic woman who looks to be in her mid-thirties is sitting on the porch in a white plastic chair.  On seeing grand mere she stands up, moving like she just lost a heavy weight bout.  Her eyes are red and by the balled up tissue in her hand she’s been crying.  Grand mere hugs her, whispers something in her ear and takes a set of keys from her hands.  The woman leaves and heads to a house next door and grand mere turns to me.

“What you are about to see is not like anything I’ve ever shown you before.  I don’t want you to be scared, cher.  But I want you to be prepared.  You understand?”  She says with a hand on my shoulder.

I nod dumbly, not quite sure what she means, but okay.  I’m game.

When I was a hard headed seven-year old, mom and dad forbade me from watching the movie Poltergeist.  I didn’t let their warning of the film being too scary bother me and I watched it anyway.  For weeks my immature seven year old brain was having day and nightmares about child eating trees and little girls stuck in the television. 

The scene grand mere and I encounter when we open the door to the house reminds so much of that movie.  It looks like a ghost is having a telekinetic temper tantrum.  Nearly every inanimate object in the room seems to have become animated and alive.  A kid’s collection of Hot Wheels cars have turned the wooden living room floor into their own personal race track and a Slinky moves down the staircase and back up again.  The living room chair is moving back and forth across the floor, while a pile of shattered porcelain lay on the floor.   Upstairs a voice calls for ‘Mama’ as if from the top of Mt. Everest, the voice echoing throughout the house.

“It’s okay.”  Grand mere assures me.  “He’s not going to hurt us.  He’s just scared and confused.”

As a butcher knife sails through the air, I silently hope grand mere is correct and whoever ‘he’ is he means us no harm.  

“Grand mere, what’s going on here?”  I finally get the courage to ask.

“Something bad, cher.  Something really bad.”  She says sadly.  “Are you ready to go into the spirit realm, Danielle?”

I nod my head and we sit together on the sofa, which thankfully hasn’t been brought to life.  She takes my wrist, her finger over my pulse.  We’ve done this before, her venturing into the realm first and me piggybacking on her ‘signal’ right behind her.  Grand mere is strong enough to slip into the spirit realm at will; I’m still learning so my gift requires a photograph to act as my bridge into the realm. 

I concentrate on her ‘signal ‘ and I get the chill that comes with entering the spiritual plane, that feels like someone dropping ice cubes down my back.  When I open my eyes again, we’re inside the house, but it’s not really the house, just a recreation of it.  As most times when I’m in the trance, there is no audio, so it’s important to pay attention to the minute details of the vision.  I’m standing beside grand mere and she silently nods to me; holding her right index finger is a little boy.

He’s probably about five and as cute as a speckled pup as grand mere would say, his big brown eyes looking at up at her.  In much the way I used to when I was his age, he’s tugging on her finger like he wants something.  He points up the wooden staircase; he something to show us. 

We follow our tour guide to what’s the doorway of an adult’s room.  Inside is another representation of our young chaperone and another child about the same age.  Grand mere and I watch the scene unfold as the boys are playing with action figures on the bed.  After a few minutes one of the boys grabs a chair and starts rummaging around the top of the closet.  I’m holding my breath as I see him pull down a shoebox. 

The two boys hover over their prize and pull the lid off the box; inside is a shiny handgun.  Grand mere and I watch the scene unfold, wishing we could change it, but there’s nothing that we can do.  Our little guide’s future is already set in stone.

The two boys toy with the gun, playing cops and robbers or army men, whatever little boys at that age play.  All too soon the gun goes off.  It’s surreal watching it happen with no sound, like watching a silent movie.  The gun muzzle flashes, the brief flare momentarily lighting the room like someone’s taking pictures.  One child drops the gun, his expression one of horror.  The other boy falls to the ground, a blossom of red slowly spreading all over his white tee shirt.  There’s red now all over the carpet, so much red. 

The woman who we saw on the porch is in the room now and I realize she’s the young boy’s mother.  She drops to her knees, cradling her son to her chest, rocking him back and forth.  Grand mere and I are still observing as the paramedics come, pronounce our little friend dead and take him away.  Even though I knew how his story ended, I still was hoping for a better ending.

We step away from the vision and the little boy is crying, still holding on to grand mere’s finger.  Grand mere takes him and wraps him in a hug like she used to when I was little.  She wipes his tears and I’m standing there at a loss, unsure what to do, feeling totally powerless.  This scene is beyond the scope of anything I’ve ever done as far as my gift.

A nearly blinding light opens in the spirit realm, right where the bedroom door should be.  Grand mere walks him to it, but doesn’t step thru it.  On her knees one more time, she rubs his head, kisses his cheeks and hugs him one more time.  I watch as the child walks into the light, looking at us one more time as an older Hispanic man with short grey hair and kindly brown eyes appears and takes his hand. I am instantly understanding this is his grandfather who passed before him. The older man smiles and then they are gone, evaporated in smoke. I feel a couple of tears drip down my cheeks.

My eyes open in my reality and all the movement in the house had ceased.  Things are back to normal or as normal as this broken family can get.

“You okay, cher?”  Grand mere asks as I shake my head, loosening the remnants of the startling scene I’ve just witnessed.  With my gift, I’ve seen death, but never one so young.

“I’m fine, grand mere.”   I say.

We head back outside where the mother is waiting, her eyes nearly overflowing with unshed tears.  Grand mere takes the mother into her arms and the woman breaks down.  My grandmother whispers words of sympathy and encouragement into her ears.  She tells the woman that her boy is finally at peace and she needs to stay strong and keep living.  After a few moments, the woman stands up, her teary eyes and red nose the aftermath of her broken heart.  With a final goodbye, grand mere heads back to her car, but not before promising to call and check up on the mother from time to time.

As we’re headed back home, grand mere tells me what was really going on in the house.  The little boy’s death was so sudden, that he’d been stuck in transition from this world into the next.  His spirit had been acting out, desperate to break through the spirit realm and get to his mother.  Grand mere had to step in and help him move into the afterlife, something she is hoping I will be able to do in the future. I may not she says, I may only be able to help them in their immediate issue but not actually open the door for them to move on. Either way grand mere says I have to heed whatever my gift allows me to do. She explains that just the act of righting a wrong may allow them to go to the afterlife on their own. Some come and go between the earth and the spirit realm several times at will just to have a wrong righted or give a warning at a particular time and place. She is also promised to teach me to discern which spirits really need help and which ones are just trying to get attention for attentions sake, otherwise she says I may go crazy with the visitations.

Coming home, we enter into her kitchen, the roast is now done and the house smells heavenly. It’s close to 2pm and Marcel and Julianna are heading from our house across the street. Mother of course looks perfect with her long brushed shiny black hair and yellow sundress, her sunglasses hiding her sparkly violet eyes. Dad is wearing his plaid dad shorts that come down to his knees and a white polo shirt. What a pair! He is holding her hand as they cross onto grand mere’s lawn. Ugh, now he’s kissing her. Grand mere is watching this hideous display of affection through her dining room window smiling at them. I stick my finger down my throat mocking the scene. Grand mere smacks me on the arm and warns me to behave. Dad opens the door and lets mother go through first. We are having an early dinner because apparently it’s the alien pods anniversary.  Dad settles into a chair in the kitchen after kissing grand mere on the cheek. Mother follows suit.

“Mama that smells wonderful, we about ready to eat?” Dad is patting his belly. “Where did you two go today?” He looks directly at me hoping to catch me flinch. I know his interrogation techniques and I’m prepared to put on my game face.

Grand mere answers. “Cher, we just went to the mall, why are you always so suspicious?”

Mother speaks up on his behalf. “Danielle did you tell your grandmother we caught you sneaking out at night twice this week?”  She’s boring holes in my head with her stare. I have to quickly defend myself.

“It’s not that big of a deal, I just had to give Amy her homework, she’s been out sick. I didn’t want to disturb you and dad fooling around on the couch.” Dad spits his sweet tea all over his shirt as I burst out laughing. Mother is hiding her face behind her hands.

“Danny!” Grand mere admonishes as she smacks me on the back of the head as I pass her to get plates. “Child, I swear you are going to be the death of me!” For the moment the subject of my escaping the prison is forgotten as we set the table for my parents anniversary dinner.

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Author, biracial, Chicklit, Drama, Fiction, Paranormal, supernatural

Danielle’s Afternoon

Here’s another short story featuring our heroine from  The Body Hunters

 I hope you enjoy it!

 

I head downstairs with a little extra pep in my step this morning.  There’s no school today and I get to hang out with my grand mere.  She has some special project she has to take care of and she asked me to come along.  She could have said she was going to watch paint dry and I would still be excited.  For as long as I can remember grand mere has been my parent, my teacher, my disciplinarian, and my confidante.  Even though I live with my parents, they’re not always around, but my grand mere is always there when I need her.

Other than being family, grand mere and I have something in common: we’re both psychics.  We both have the ability to communicate with the dead.  It’s a trait that’s passed down from generation to generation in the Labouleaux women from way before our family migrated to New Orleans.  My great-great grandmother trained grand mere how to use her abilities just like grand mere trained me.

At five years old I was diagnosed with a life threatening heart illness and while the surgeons were operating on me, I died on the table and was gone for a few minutes before I could be revived.  This event gave me a deeper connection to what grand mere calls the ‘spirit realm’; the place where we’re able to interact with people who’ve passed on.  Grand mere calls me a prodigy and promises that if I continue using my abilities like she taught me, I may be the most powerful medium in the world.  Mwah hah hah!  It’s a good thing I’m not plotting world domination.

I head to the kitchen where my egg and sperm donors, otherwise known as mom and dad are busy getting ready for their day. They have no clue as to my psychic abilities.  Sometimes the things that I’m able to see and do freak me out; so I know my logical father and prim and proper mother couldn’t handle it.

 I’m a product of a mixed marriage, dad is Haitian Creole and mom is white, her family coming from a long line of New Orleans aristocrats.  Dad is an FBI agent and mom is a high society blue blood trying to climb back up the social ladder.  With their busy agendas, it’s a wonder they ever fit enough time into their schedules to conceive a kid.

I follow my nose to the coffee maker where dad has a fresh pot brewing.  Mom is sitting across the table from dad who’s busy with his nose in some of his case file while eating a bowl of corn flakes.  Mom scowls at me, but I ignore her evil look and fill my mug with coffee and a copious couple teaspoons of sugar.

“Danielle, you’re only sixteen years old.  You have no business drinking coffee.”  She complains, peering at me with her violet eyes.

With my back turned I roll my eyes.  If she cares so much about what I have for breakfast the least she could do is have some semblance of food prepared.  Truth is she can’t boil water without causing a three alarm fire.

“I’ll be fine, mother.”  I tell mommy dearest as I stuff a Pop Tart into the toaster.  “I don’t think I’ll stunt my growth or anything.”

“What are you wearing?”  She moves to the next subject of my attire.  Unless it’s got a designer label or comes out of a boutique she doesn’t think it should be worn.  I on the other hand find nothing wrong with my dark jeans with the hole in the knee and my button up cotton top over my tank top.  I am not going to become a debutante, designer name dropping zombie like her so called friend’s daughters.

“What?” I ask.  “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”  Mom hates confrontation so I love pushing her buttons.

“Well, it’s atrocious.  You’re wearing sneakers, those jeans should have been thrown out long ago, and look at your hair.  You have that beautiful hair and you tie it up in a ponytail?  Really, Danielle how do you expect to attract a nice young man?”

“I already have mother.”  I say.  “Why just last week I gave Walter Brady my virginity.”

Mom just about chokes to death on her store bought croissant and dad is up in an instant patting her on the back.”

“Jesus, Danny!”  Dad grumbles, handing mom a cup of water.  “Are you trying to kill your mother?  Juliana honey she’s just joking.”

She looks at me for confirmation that her dear sixteen year old daughter hasn’t yet been deflowered and I’m barely standing I’m laughing so hard.  After I wipe the tears from my eyes I soothe her mind, letting her know I was just joking.

“Danielle you shouldn’t play games like that.”  She scolds.

“Okay, mom, I was just kidding.  Lighten up a little.”  I say, taking a bite out of my hot Pop Tart.

“I swear, you’re meaner than a snake some times, little girl.”  Dad complains, but I can see the laughter in his gold-brown eyes that are identical to mine.  “You bout ready?  I’ll walk you over to Mama’s.”

Luckily for me, Grand mere lives right across the street.  Whenever I needed her, she was never that far away.  As Dad opens the door to her house, the smell of her cooking immediately steps out to greet us as warmly as grand mere.  

She still lives in the same house that dad grew up in and we moved in across the street when I was just a baby.  Her house and decor has been seriously upgraded over the years though.  You see grand mere was a woman of color ahead of her time.  While my grandfather was a fisherman and shrimper, grand mere also had the entrepreneurial spirit, owning her own down home N’awlins style food restaurant.  Tourists would come from miles and mile to pig out on grand mere’s cooking. 

A few years after grandpa passed, a big corporation paid grand mere a pretty penny for her restaurant and her recipes for their own chain of restaurants.  Ever the shrewd businesswoman, grand mere made a ton of money off the deal, enough where she could retire early and still have money left over to take care of the next few generations of the Labouleaux family. 

“Mama, you sure have it smelling good in here.”  Dad says as he walks through the house to the kitchen.  The windows in the kitchen are fogged up because of the steaming pot she has on the stove.  Grand mere is at the sink, picking collard greens fresh from her garden.

My grand mere is pretty jazzy for an old chick.  She’s about my height at 5’ 5’ with a tiny waist and slender build.  She too is biracial, her dark hair now streaked with strands of grey and curled into spirals.  Her skin is a clear and flawless honey gold and she has the same golden eyes as me and dad, another Labouleaux trait. As always she’s wearing some of her colorful vintage jewelry, the type you see Liz Taylor wearing in those old movies.

“Thank you, cher.”  She tilts her head so she can accept Dad’s kiss on the cheek.  “Danielle, do your grand mere a favor and help me pick these greens.”

Obediently I follow her orders, washing my hands before separating the leafy greens from the stems and washing them.  Grand mere stirs the pot on the burner where she has a smoked turkey neck cooking for adding flavor to the greens.  She wraps the seasoned roast she has on the stove in foil before having dad put it in the oven.  As usual grand mere has been working her culinary wizardry in the kitchen.

“Isn’t this a lot of food for just you?”  Dad asks.

Grand mere smiles and pats his pot belly.  “Well you know I try to feed my son and his family every chance I get, cher.  I can’t have you starving to death.  You know that pretty little thing you married can’t cook to save her life.”

I smile to myself.  Grand mere has no malicious intent talking about my mom.  Her not being able to cook is a documented fact in our family.  Grand mere has tried to teach her to cook, but mom is just hopeless in the kitchen.  Training me in my paranormal abilities isn’t the only thing grand mere has taught me; I’m a mean cook. 

Dad leaves a few minutes later and grand mere walks him to the door.  I’m following grand mere’s orders, seasoning the greens and reducing the temperature of the big stainless steel pot. 

“What are we doing today, grand mere?”  I ask as she reenters the kitchen, taking off her apron.

“Consider today part of your training, child.”  She says cryptically.

We get in her sporty little Cadillac and head to the other side of town; the hood so to speak.  Grand mere pulls in front of nice little house that looks like it had been transplanted from a nicer neighborhood.  The two story house with the fresh coat of paint doesn’t seem to belong with the dilapidated housing on the block.

A Hispanic woman who looks to be in her mid-thirties is sitting on the porch in a white plastic chair.  On seeing grand mere she stands up, moving like she just lost a heavy weight bout.  Her eyes are red and by the balled up tissue in her hand she’s been crying.  Grand mere hugs her, whispers something in her ear and takes a set of keys from her hands.  The woman leaves and heads to a house next door and grand mere turns to me.

“What you are about to see is not like anything I’ve ever shown you before.  I don’t want you to be scared, cher.  But I want you to be prepared.  You understand?”  She says with a hand on my shoulder.

I nod dumbly, not quite sure what she means, but okay.  I’m game.

When I was a hard headed seven-year old, mom and dad forbade me from watching the movie Poltergeist.  I didn’t let their warning of the film being too scary bother me and I watched it anyway.  For weeks my immature seven year old brain was having day and nightmares about child eating trees and little girls stuck in the television. 

The scene grand mere and I encounter when we open the door to the house reminds so much of that movie.  It looks like a ghost is having a telekinetic temper tantrum.  Nearly every inanimate object in the room seems to have become animated and alive.  A kid’s collection of Hot Wheels cars have turned the wooden living room floor into their own personal race track and a Slinky moves down the staircase and back up again.  The living room chair is moving back and forth across the floor, while a pile of shattered porcelain lay on the floor.   Upstairs a voice calls for ‘Mama’ as if from the top of Mt. Everest, the voice echoing throughout the house.

“It’s okay.”  Grand mere assures me.  “He’s not going to hurt us.  He’s just scared and confused.”

As a butcher knife sails through the air, I silently hope grand mere is correct and whoever ‘he’ is he means us no harm.  

“Grand mere, what’s going on here?”  I finally get the courage to ask.

“Something bad, cher.  Something really bad.”  She says sadly.  “Are you ready to go into the spirit realm, Danielle?”

I nod my head and we sit together on the sofa, which thankfully hasn’t been brought to life.  She takes my wrist, her finger over my pulse.  We’ve done this before, her venturing into the realm first and me piggybacking on her ‘signal’ right behind her.  Grand mere is strong enough to slip into the spirit realm at will; I’m still learning so my gift requires a photograph to act as my bridge into the realm. 

I concentrate on her ‘signal ‘ and I get the chill that comes with entering the spiritual plane, that feels like someone dropping ice cubes down my back.  When I open my eyes again, we’re inside the house, but it’s not really the house, just a recreation of it.  As most times when I’m in the trance, there is no audio, so it’s important to pay attention to the minute details of the vision.  I’m standing beside grand mere and she silently nods to me; holding her right index finger is a little boy.

He’s probably about five and as cute as a speckled pup as grand mere would say, his big brown eyes looking at up at her.  In much the way I used to when I was his age, he’s tugging on her finger like he wants something.  He points up the wooden staircase; he something to show us. 

We follow our tour guide to what’s the doorway of an adult’s room.  Inside is another representation of our young chaperone and another child about the same age.  Grand mere and I watch the scene unfold as the boys are playing with action figures on the bed.  After a few minutes one of the boys grabs a chair and starts rummaging around the top of the closet.  I’m holding my breath as I see him pull down a shoebox. 

The two boys hover over their prize and pull the lid off the box; inside is a shiny handgun.  Grand mere and I watch the scene unfold, wishing we could change it, but there’s nothing that we can do.  Our little guide’s future is already set in stone.

The two boys toy with the gun, playing cops and robbers or army men, whatever little boys at that age play.  All too soon the gun goes off.  It’s surreal watching it happen with no sound, like watching a silent movie.  The gun muzzle flashes, the brief flare momentarily lighting the room like someone’s taking pictures.  One child drops the gun, his expression one of horror.  The other boy falls to the ground, a blossom of red slowly spreading all over his white tee shirt.  There’s red now all over the carpet, so much red. 

The woman who we saw on the porch is in the room now and I realize she’s the young boy’s mother.  She drops to her knees, cradling her son to her chest, rocking him back and forth.  Grand mere and I are still observing as the paramedics come, pronounce our little friend dead and take him away.  Even though I knew how his story ended, I still was hoping for a better ending.

We step away from the vision and the little boy is crying, still holding on to grand mere’s finger.  Grand mere takes him and wraps him in a hug like she used to when I was little.  She wipes his tears and I’m standing there at a loss, unsure what to do, feeling totally powerless.  This scene is beyond the scope of anything I’ve ever done as far as my gift.

A nearly blinding light opens in the spirit realm, right where the bedroom door should be.  Grand mere walks him to it, but doesn’t step thru it.  On her knees one more time, she rubs his head, kisses his cheeks and hugs him one more time.  I watch as the child walks into the light, looking at us one more time as an older Hispanic man with short grey hair and kindly brown eyes appears and takes his hand. I am instantly understanding this is his grandfather who passed before him. The older man smiles and then they are gone, evaporated in smoke. I feel a couple of tears drip down my cheeks.

My eyes open in my reality and all the movement in the house had ceased.  Things are back to normal or as normal as this broken family can get.

“You okay, cher?”  Grand mere asks as I shake my head, loosening the remnants of the startling scene I’ve just witnessed.  With my gift, I’ve seen death, but never one so young.

“I’m fine, grand mere.”   I say.

We head back outside where the mother is waiting, her eyes nearly overflowing with unshed tears.  Grand mere takes the mother into her arms and the woman breaks down.  My grandmother whispers words of sympathy and encouragement into her ears.  She tells the woman that her boy is finally at peace and she needs to stay strong and keep living.  After a few moments, the woman stands up, her teary eyes and red nose the aftermath of her broken heart.  With a final goodbye, grand mere heads back to her car, but not before promising to call and check up on the mother from time to time.

As we’re headed back home, grand mere tells me what was really going on in the house.  The little boy’s death was so sudden, that he’d been stuck in transition from this world into the next.  His spirit had been acting out, desperate to break through the spirit realm and get to his mother.  Grand mere had to step in and help him move into the afterlife, something she is hoping I will be able to do in the future. I may not she says, I may only be able to help them in their immediate issue but not actually open the door for them to move on. Either way grand mere says I have to heed whatever my gift allows me to do. She explains that just the act of righting a wrong may allow them to go to the afterlife on their own. Some come and go between the earth and the spirit realm several times at will just to have a wrong righted or give a warning at a particular time and place. She is also promised to teach me to discern which spirits really need help and which ones are just trying to get attention for attentions sake, otherwise she says I may go crazy with the visitations.

Coming home, we enter into her kitchen, the roast is now done and the house smells heavenly. It’s close to 2pm and Marcel and Julianna are heading from our house across the street. Mother of course looks perfect with her long brushed shiny black hair and yellow sundress, her sunglasses hiding her sparkly violet eyes. Dad is wearing his plaid dad shorts that come down to his knees and a white polo shirt. What a pair! He is holding her hand as they cross onto grand mere’s lawn. Ugh, now he’s kissing her. Grand mere is watching this hideous display of affection through her dining room window smiling at them. I stick my finger down my throat mocking the scene. Grand mere smacks me on the arm and warns me to behave. Dad opens the door and lets mother go through first. We are having an early dinner because apparently it’s the alien pods anniversary.  Dad settles into a chair in the kitchen after kissing grand mere on the cheek. Mother follows suit.

“Mama that smells wonderful, we about ready to eat?” Dad is patting his belly. “Where did you two go today?” He looks directly at me hoping to catch me flinch. I know his interrogation techniques and I’m prepared to put on my game face.

Grand mere answers. “Cher, we just went to the mall, why are you always so suspicious?”

Mother speaks up on his behalf. “Danielle did you tell your grandmother we caught you sneaking out at night twice this week?”  She’s boring holes in my head with her stare. I have to quickly defend myself.

“It’s not that big of a deal, I just had to give Amy her homework, she’s been out sick. I didn’t want to disturb you and dad fooling around on the couch.” Dad spits his sweet tea all over his shirt as I burst out laughing. Mother is hiding her face behind her hands.

“Danny!” Grand mere admonishes as she smacks me on the back of the head as I pass her to get plates. “Child, I swear you are going to be the death of me!” For the moment the subject of my escaping the prison is forgotten as we set the table for my parents anniversary dinner.

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Chicklit, Drama, Fiction, Indie Author, Murder, mystery, Paranormal

Lucius Johnson

 This is a short story featuring one of our, supporting characters, Lucius Johnson, from The Body Hunters. In this story he’s 16 years old and not quite the uptight g-man he is in the book.  Enjoy!

“Lucian Tepes, the headmaster will see you now.” The pretty blonde secretary  sitting politely at her desk is waving me into his office. I know I’m  in trouble, I  have once again pissed off the headmaster and now I’m apprehensively  walking into his office where my uncle Miroslav waits.

 He goes by Mike  now since living in America.  I am surprised to see him and I know that I  must be in real trouble for him to fly all the way to England. He is pissed.  I have broken curfew and disappeared for 3 days. I’m not  telling them I was on a bender in Paris. My parents are dead and it falls to Uncle Mike to look after me. He has  wasted no time squirreling me away to boarding schools all  over Europe. Every time I get kicked out of one school he puts me in another.  He has the money to do so having made his fortune in paper  products in America. I don’t care about him or his money. He really  doesn’t want me around and I don’t want to be around him.

 A few minutes  later and I am packing my things under the watchful eye of the  headmaster and Uncle Mike. Kicked out of yet another boarding school.  I must be setting some type of world record.  With  my shoulder bag and suitcase I am led out the door to the waiting  oversized Black English taxi. This is not going to be a fun ride to  Heathrow.

Uncle Mike is staring me down, he starts to yell in Romanian at me, I yell  back at him to speak English; I refuse to speak my native language. He  gives me a stern look “OK.” he says. “If you want English then we will  speak English, but you boy, will listen and listen well if you know what is good for you.” 

The cabbie seems to be snickering at my predicament. I nod my agreement to my uncle and wait to hear what heavy handed  sentence he plans to lay down on me this time. Another boarding school?  Perhaps Switzerland this time? Maybe Germany? I have been to one in Italy and  two in England already. Why doesn’t he just take me to the States?  I am sure he is afraid I will really act out like the American teenagers he sees  on television.  My uncle is glaring at me, daring me to say something stupid. “You are going to get your wish.” He says to me. “I’m taking you to the U.S.”  I am ecstatic. Finally! 

“Military school?” I yell out and the whole plane turns to look at me. Uncle Mike is hushing me. “You can’t be serious!” I ignore his hushing and yell. In my imagination of what my American life will be, military school was not in the picture.

“You need the discipline.” Uncle Mike says  ignoring his own voice level. The female flight attendant sidles up to  our chairs and squats down asking us to please lower our voices. I see  several people staring at us. Her smile is false and she is giving us a  tone reserved for unruly children. I look away from her. Uncle Mike  reassures her we will be quiet and she leaves us alone. He doesn’t speak to me much after that and when he does, it’s in Romanian. I put the headphones into the armrest jack and  listen to music to ignore him. It’s going to be a long flight.

We arrive at LaGuardia, where my Aunt Helen and their young seven year old daughter Susan are waiting for us. Auntie as I call her is far happier  to see me as she kisses me hello and hugs me tightly. Susan eyes me  warily as if I have antennas on my head as she hides behind her mother  trying not to make eye contact with me. Auntie does most of the talking  on the way to their home in upstate New York. They live in a gated  community surrounded by wooded lands. I’m secretly planning my escape till I see my uncle reading my mind. He mentions something about my visa and  something called the I.N.S. I see it’s not going to be as easy as I  thought. My little cousin is in the back seat with me playing with some of her dolls she calls Barbie. Her sweet blue eyes look at  me suddenly as she asks “Are you going to be my new brother?”  My uncle practically runs the car off the road.

I smile sweetly at her and take hold of her hand. “We are cousins.” I  tell her. “Would you like me to be your big brother?” She nods yes and  fingers the ring on my right hand.

“I know this ring. Daddy has one just like it, but he doesn’t wear it.”  Her little fingers are running over the small ruby eyes of the dragon  head in the ring.

“Yes, I know, I got this from my father, your Uncle Josef. Do you know what  the dragon means?” I am talking really low to her, but not low enough it seems.

“That will be enough!” Uncle Mike barks out.

“She will find out eventually.” I snap back. My Auntie gives me a pleading look as my Uncle glares at me from the rear view mirror. 

“She may find out later, but not by you and not today! Do you understand?”

Susan has a confused look across her face. I tell her it’s just a dragon and that’s all.  My uncle is satisfied with my answer and my Auntie breathes a sigh of  relief. I pat little Susan on the cheek and she continues playing with  her dolls.

We reach the gated community and pull into the drive. The two story house  overpowers my sight as I try to take in its enormity. We enter into the  great hall and my Auntie ushers me into a room she has set up for me. I  am surprised to see how little furniture there is in such a big room;  just a dresser and a single bed. She shows me the closet that could  almost sleep a few more people and she puts my shoulder bag in it. She  sits at the edge of the bed and pats her hand on the mattress beckoning  me to sit next to her.

“Lucian, please while you are here, try not to anger your uncle.” She pleads. “He is not a patient man, you know this.”

“He hates me.” I say dryly. “And I really don’t know why.”

My auntie takes my hand. “Lucian, you know your father and he didn’t get  along and with all that mess in Romania, he just never expected to have  to take care of you. He blames your father for not looking out for his  family and leaving when he had the opportunity, choosing instead to  ignore his duties as a father and husband. He pushed his limits for what  he felt was his own righteous indignation with no thought to you or your mother. He sees in you the defiance  your father had. You just haven’t learned to channel it into something  productive.” Her eyes look weary and tired. “Please Lucian I can’t fight for you if you will not meet me half way.”

“He is sending me away again isn’t he?”

“Yes, he is, I tried to stop it. I begged him to just be a father to you. He  says it will end with you two killing each other. I’m not so sure he is  wrong.” She is now patting the back of my head. “You need a haircut.”  She laughs as she tugs at my locks. “Dinner will be soon, you may want  to freshen up. Lucian?”

“Yes Auntie?”

“Please remove that ring while you are here.” She touches my dragon ring.

“Why, is he ashamed of our family history?” I voice out angrily.

“Lucian, please for me.” I can’t say no to her kind eyes. I take it off and put it in my jeans pocket.

“Thank you.” She kisses me on the forehead before leaving my room.

After dinner Uncle Mike and I are in the living room by ourselves. On the  coffee table he has placed three brochures of military schools. “Pick  one.” He says. “I don’t care which one, just pick one.”

“What if I don’t choose?” I am pushing my luck and I know it. “What then?”

“I will pick for you, no matter what your aunt tells you, you are going to one of them. If you straighten out then maybe we will reevaluate your  situation, but you are sixteen Lucian.  You need to learn discipline and  to be a man.”

“I am a man!” I scream out.

He is screaming back. “You think you are a man, running away to Paris with some girl and being on a drunk for a few days?”

I am totally stunned. How could he have possibly known? I ask myself. “What if I run away?” I try to ask more calmly.

“You only have a  student visa. I will have it revoked and I will see to it you are  deported. So the choice is up to you.” His threat works. “You can take the  brochures to your room and give me your answer in the morning. Go now!” He waves me off with his hand and I decide I am too tired to fight with him.

I am trying to let this new reality sink in as I walk past my little  cousin’s room on the way to mine. The difference is stark. Hers is all  pink and purples, with stuffed animals everywhere. She is seated at a  small child’s table pouring imaginary tea into small cups talking to an  empty chair next to her. She catches my eye and invites me in.

“Lucian!” She joyfully leads me by the hand to the table. “Come meet Mr.  Vandermarliere, he lets me call him Mr. Van for short.”

I am staring at air. “Susan there is no one here. Is he your imaginary  friend?” A tea cup flies off the table and lands against the wall,  luckily it was plastic.

“You’ve made him mad Lucian.” She gets up and stamps her foot at me. “He is getting angry.”

I feel a chilling breeze pass by me. “I’m sorry, Susan, tell Mr. Van I meant no disrespect.”

She is talking to her friend and then looks back at me. “He says he wants  to know why you can’t see him; he knows you have a gift. What gift? I  didn’t see you bring in a present!” Susan is very confused now.

“It’s not that kind of gift.” I explain to her. “It’s like the same gift you  have to be able to see him and I don’t. Do your mom and dad know he is  here?”

“No.”  She says sheepishly as she looks at her feet. “You’re not going to tell are you? Daddy would be mad and send me away like you!”

I reassure her that no, I will not tell and they are not going to send  her away. Another tea cup smashes against the wall. “Please tell Mr. Van to stop throwing things or your parents will come up here and find out  what’s going on.”

“He says he wants to talk to you and you know how to do it.”  She playfully dances around my chair.

“He is right Susan, and if he promises to stop throwing things I will try. Can you describe him to me?”

“He is older than daddy and he wears a black suit with a black hat, he  calls it a fedora. That’s a funny name!”  She  sounds out the word. “feh door a.” She giggles as she continues “He has blood  down the side of his face.”  I am taken aback by  this. I have been taught that children can sometimes see spirits where  adults can’t. I wonder if my little cousin will end up with the same  gift I have.

“Tell Mr. Van I need something of his, did he live here at one time?”

“He did.” She tells me and runs to a knee wall in her room, she slides open the little door and brings me what I presume is Mr. Vandermarliere’s fedora. “Thank you Susan. Tell Mr. Van that I will try in my room. You must stay here, do you understand?” She nods yes and I leave her.

Back in my stark room, I close the door as I make sure no one else is in  earshot of me. I lie on the bed and hold Mr. Van’s fedora on my chest.  I’ve done this a few times now and I never know what is going to happen, but I know enough to be alone.

 Lights shimmer around me as I start to  get pictures, snapshots of Mr. Van. The images are in black and white at first. I am confused by this, but slowly they turn to color. They are  spinning faster like on a movie reel until I am in his presence and he is motioning to me follow him. I follow in earnest as I see we are in a  dark alley, the smell of garbage and old liquor bottles mixed in with  urine assault my nostrils. He points to a body and I kneel on one knee next to it. 

“Is it you?” I ask and he mutters what  sounds like a yes. He points to the fedora and motions me to remove it. I do. One gunshot to the head and half his skull is gone. I start to feel a little sick and walk over to the dumpster and puke. The maggots have  already invaded his head. He is standing next to me and is pointing to  the name on the dumpster. Salvatore Rubbish Removal. He is insistent I  pay attention to this name. He is now pointing to a balled up piece of  newspaper and I go to pick it up. The date shows January 7th 1962. This murder is over 30 yrs old. I feel overwhelmed as I have had  only three other experiences and they were nothing like this or even  this old. “I’ll see what I can do. I don’t have a lot of time you know  that, you know I am being sent away soon.” I explain to my dead  companion. He nods yes and puts his hand on my shoulder. I look back at  the body and see a card sticking out of the jacket pocket. Van’s Barbershop it reads and the address is  visible. I walk to the end of the alley and onto the sidewalk. We are  directly across from the barbershop. I look up and my companion is now  dressed in all white suit complete with an all white fedora, there is an otherworldly glow about him and he is smiling as he disappears. The  scene spins in front of me and I wake up with a start. My head pounding  and there is a little blood trail running from my nose.

“Buna dimineata, Lucian. Te-ai dormit bine?” My auntie Helen asks in Romanian.

“Good morning auntie and yes I did sleep well. Thank you.” I give her a kiss  on the cheek as I head over to little Susan who is eating her eggs. I  kneel down and whisper to her. “Did you see Mr. Van again this morning?” She nods yes and whispers back to me.

“He says thank you.” She kisses me on my nose and I give her a little  laugh. My uncle has entered the kitchen and sits at what I presume is  his usual seat at the table. He eyes me suspiciously as I get up from my knee and  away from little Susan. My auntie places a plate of eggs and sausage in  front of him and motions for me to sit opposite her as she puts a plate  in front of me as well. It smells delicious but the image of Mr. Van and the maggots is staying with me and I am a bit put off by it.

“Did you decide?” he asks dryly and my aunt holds her breath. I decide to look him straight in the face.

“Yes.”  I sit silent. My uncle is staring at me for a few seconds before throwing his hands up in the air.

“Would you like to share your decision with me?”  He is getting irritated and  my auntie kicks me under the table. For her sake I decide not to  continue poking the bear.

“The one in New Mexico.” I say no more to him. I picked that one because  according to the map of the United States, it would be the farthest away from him.

“Good, I will call and make the arrangements. In the mean time you will be  going to work for me and I will hear no argument about it.” He picks up  his news paper and hides behind it. The conversation is over.

I am in the study after breakfast with the phone book. I look up  Salvatore Rubbish Removal. It’s unbelievable as I see they are still in  business. The yellow pages ad says family owned since 1948. Dean  Salvatore proprietor and owner. I must sneak out to use a payphone. It’s a Saturday and uncle is home from his business, but he leaves to run errands. My auntie is busy cleaning. I press little Susan into helping me escape for a little while undetected. 

She shows me the basement and the large  windows that I can climb out of in the back of the house and I do. I  have no idea where I am but Susan tells me there is a payphone a few  blocks away at a little supermarket she remembered seeing when she goes there with her mother. She says she will pretend she is playing hide and seek with  me if her dad returns before I get back. I am beginning to feel real love for this child now. I scramble out the window and run like mad reaching the  party store out of breath. I only have minutes and I have re-gain my  composure. Drawing a deep breath I dial the 911 number and am patched  through to a police detective. I give him the information I know on Mr.  Vandermarliere and Dean Salvatore. I refuse to  give him my name. I hang up and run back to the basement window as my  uncle is pulling into the drive. I am sweating like mad. My sweet little cousin is waiting for me in the basement and leads me up the stairs and to a back staircase in this large house, it empties into the second  floor rooms. I hear Uncle Mike talking to my aunt as I quickly dip off  into my room and lay on the bed wiping sweat away from my forehead with  the sheets. Uncle Mike is at my door.

“Get up off that bed boy! What now you are lazy? I have work for you to do.”

A few weeks later and we are at our usual breakfast seating arrangements, my arms are sore but getting stronger as my uncle now has me loading rolls of paper onto trucks for delivery all over the U.S. I am eating  my breakfast as my uncle unfolds his daily newspaper to hide behind and I see the secondary headline. Thirty year old murder solved. Dean  Salvatore charged in mob style killing. 

Apparently Mr. Salvatore was a  mobster before going legit and was demanding protection money from small businesses in the New York neighborhood where Mr. Van’s barbershop was. Mr. Vandermarliere, a Dutch  immigrant refused to pay and paid the ultimate price for not cooperating. The mob made an example out of him. The article said the murder investigation was given new life when detectives received an anonymous phone call.  I can’t help but smile.

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biracial, Chicklit, Drama, Fiction, Multicultural, Paranormal, Romance

Danielle Labouleaux’s Fight

Here’s another excerpt from our book The Body Hunters  in this scene our heroine, Danielle Labouleaux is having dinner with her fiance’s coworkers and their wives.  Let’s just say these women don’t exactly welcome her with open arms.  Enjoy!

         

              Danny could see she had started chipping away at the ice queen’s cool facade. Something akin to hatred blazed in the woman’s eyes. Cassie, sensing her friend was now at a loss for words, continued the conversation.

            “I absolutely love that dress. Who are you wearing?” Cassie inquired innocently.

            “Alexander McQueen.” Danny responded rolling her eyes. At this point she wasn’t even trying to conceal her annoyance with the fifty questions.

            “What about your shoes?” Tricia asked regaining her voice now that Cassie seemed to have her back.

            “Christian Dior.” Danny could feel that they were working as a tag team, but she had no idea where this attack was going.

            “You must feel so lucky being engaged to a doctor.” Tricia began. “He can buy you all those nice things. You’re living in that beautiful mansion in Sheridan Hills. It must feel so good for a woman of your background to be able to afford the finer things in life.”

            Save for Tricia and Cassie, every mouth at the table was wide open in shock. Danielle pinned both the women down with a stare.

            “I don’t know what kind of ideas you have about me.” She began, sipping from her glass of water. “But, I am nobody’s kept woman. My dress, my shoes, everything I own is mine, paid for with my money, from my job. I’m not sitting around waiting for Gerard to hand me an allowance.”

            Cassie turned beet red while Tricia continued to glare. They were all saved by the ringing of a cellular phone. Everyone at the table checked their pockets or evening bags for the source of the ringing. Thankfully the phone was Danny’s, which was strange since she didn’t get many phone calls save for Stephania or Gerard. She scrunched her nose at the Washington Area code displayed on the caller ID.

“It’s me.” She said holding up the phone. Thank you, Jesus. “I’m sorry, but I really have to take this.  It’s probably WORK!” Excusing herself from the table, she talked to a waitress who pointed her in the direction of the ladies room.

            The ladies restroom was truly elegant with a separate sitting room, complete with a loveseat and comfortable chairs plus makeup tables. Beyond the sitting area was the restroom. Danny checked the lavatory for occupancy, skipping over the one with the Out of Order sign. Satisfied that she was alone, she redialed the Washington DC phone number.

            “Hello.” A baritone, male voice answered. “This is Special Agent Stone.”

            “Agent Stone, this is Danielle Labouleaux. I received a call from you a few minutes ago.” She responded, leaning against the marble bathroom sink.

            “Yes.” He returned in that late night radio host voice. “I’m working a cold case and I was told you could help.”

            “My help? Agent Stone, you must be mistaken. I’ve been gone from the Bureau for years.”

            “I understand that ma’am, but there is a murder I’m working on and Special Agent in Charge Lucius Johnson recommended that I contact you if I needed any help.”

            Danny was outraged. Lucius had a lot of nerve giving her number out to total strangers. “I’m sorry Agent Stone, but Lucius was mistaken. I’m no longer with the Bureau. I work as a consultant, but that’s all. I won’t be able to help you with your case.” She disconnected the call, shaken that the Bureau would try to contact her after all these years.     She didn’t even realize that Tricia, Cassie, Sarah, and Melissa had joined her in the ladies room. It was true;  wolves really do roam in packs Danny mused. She headed for the exit, but Sarah barred her way, folding her arms and staring her down.

            “You think you are so smart. Just because you’re fucking a rich, white doctor doesn’t mean you’ve moved up in the world. You’re still garbage you poor little gold digging nigger bitch.” Cassie was blatantly all in Danny’s face and invading her personal space.

            Amused, Danny cocked her head to the side. “Oh, it’s gonna be like that?”

            Cassie and her comrades were participating in what grand mere used to call ‘selling wolf tickets’. They were basically making a bunch of noise and racket, trying to scare a reaction out of her. Of course, Danny wasn’t the least bit intimidated. She had gone toe to toe with some of the most vicious gang members in New Orleans. No way in hell was she the least bit afraid of these silicone-inflated bimbos.

            “Yes, ‘it’s like that.” Cassie imitated her slight southern accent. “You think you’re so smart. Always having a smart answer for everything, trying to make us look stupid.”

            “You girls make it so easy.” Danny quipped, providing them a curtsy.

            “It’s about time you learned your place.” Tricia said. “The only thing you’re fit for is cleaning toilets.”

            “Go back to the ghetto where you belong.” Sarah added, more than likely trying to fit in with the queen bees.

            “We’re gonna teach your black ass a little lesson.” Cassie threatened.

            As if on cue, Tricia grabbed Danny’s left arm and Melissa grabbed her right. Danielle had a premonition that things were going to end badly, and not for her. If the scene weren’t so childish and ridiculous, it would be hilarious.

            “Where’s your smartass comments now, huh? You think you’re better than us?” Cassie punctuated the question by pushing Danny in the middle of her forehead with her finger. “Just because you’re sucking Gerard’s dic…..”

            Danny snapped.

            The former FBI consultant thrust her head forward, head butting Cassie across the forehead. As Cassie gripped her head in pain, the heel of Danny’s shoe shot out like a blade, taking aim at Melissa’s toes, which were unprotected by her sandals. Screaming, Melissa forgot all about the arm she was charged with holding. Her arm freed, Danny drew it back, sending her elbow right into Melissa’s gut, dropping the woman like a sack of potatoes. Disbelief dawned on Tricia right before Danny grabbed her by her face and shoved her into the wall back first, sending the woman careening into the wall mounted paper towel dispenser and an innocent trash can. Before Cassie could regain her senses, Danny grappled with the woman, kicked open the door to the out of order bathroom stall and dunked her head in the filthy, clogged toilet.

            Seconds later, Danny was back to her senses and virtually unscathed. She dragged Cassie out of the toilet by her hair, leaving the woman sobbing and sopping wet with filth on the bathroom floor. Surveying the damage she’d done, Danny went to the sink to wash her hands and used an alternate paper towel dispenser to dry them. Stunned, Sarah still stood, blocking the doorway. A sinister look from Danny was all it took to move her the hell out of the way.

            “Lesson One, ladies.” She said with her back turned in the doorway. “Danielle Labouleaux is not the one with whom to fuck.”

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