Tag Archives: Science Fiction

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a Sale—The Mesomorphic Woman Part 2

 

Having decided my next story would be a dystopian short that drew inspiration from Cyberpunk and Steampunk, I envisioned a biosphere orbiting Venus, a once utopian society that had succumbed to decadence and decay. 

A fad on the space station/biosphere Audallis had the citizens dressing and speaking as if they lived in the Roaring Twenties and early 1930s. 

Yet, with a muscle-bound heroin, I chose to draw from the subgenre of feminist SF. 

Recently, I had an industry insider incredulous at the fact that I had a story included in a feminist publication, and not just included, included as the lead story! How did that happen, she inquired? You’ll have to wait to at least part III to find out that piece of trivia. Oh yeah, you’re in for the long haul. Haha! 

For many years, I’ve tried to stay away from politics. The old saying is you should never discuss politics or religion in polite company. And my politics have changed over the years. 

While earning my original undergraduate degree (an associate’s, later, I earned my bachelor’s) I took gender issues classes, women’s lit, and psychology of women. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) had a phase where she was reading the current feminist books. I studied them and referenced them for my papers. The professors loved me, as you could well imagine.

I infused the narrative with what I had read during my college days. 

I never completed the initial draft of the story. Finding myself 8,000 words deep, and with my day career taking off, and eating up much of my time, I decided I had completed my initial goal of racking up my first rejection letters. I felt oddly satisfied. 

I’d written half a dozen short stories, sent them to market, and received positive responses for my efforts. Had I made a sale? No. But I was sure if I continued on I would. I was right, but back then it was easier to give up than face failure or even success. Maybe success seemed scarier. I had built up the story in my mind and trusted it would make me as a writer. It seems funny now but part of me felt that if I finished that story, publishing would welcome me with open arms and Hollywood would pay through the nose for a movie adaption. It was a great fantasy. 

A couple years went by. Long workdays as a security manager monopolized my time. Business writing replaced creative work. Then I was promoted into human resources in the same company, and a normal nine to five schedule left me with lots of extra hours to fill. I could finally sleep nights without worrying about a pager going off. Like Neil Diamond, “I felt an emptiness deep inside.” I couldn’t remember what I had liked to do outside of the day job. 

At first, I returned to martial arts. Even though I have always loved martial arts, training didn’t quell my emptiness. 

I discovered the horror community online, a group of writers who had gone underground after the 1980’s horror fiction implosion. 

Reading through the message board they frequented, I decided it was high time I returned to writing. I dusted off my old manuscript, the science fiction story with the working title, Violent Fall, and felt complete once again. 

Finishing the story sent me on a very long journey to see it published. 

We’ll talk about how that happened next time.

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The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a Sale—The Mesomorphic Woman Part 1

In 2012 and 2013 the floodgates opened with numerous story sales and publications. I even published my first novella, an ebook. Then I lost momentum. Everything from that time is a scramble in my brain. I had a death in the family that threw me for a loop, multiple projects, and high hopes.

It began with the sale of a short story originally envisioned and started in 1996, then finished and rewritten in the year 2000. I never imagined how long it’d take to sell that story. Yes, 12 years to sell it and 13 years to see it in publication, if we only count from the year of the rewrite. 

I’m sometimes asked when you should give up on a story. It’s a hard question to answer. Some stories sell quickly, some take longer, and some never sell. In this business perseverance is everything. 

The origin of the story begins much earlier than even 1996 though. The first inkling arrived when I was in high school. Back then, a new game show appeared on the air later at night, at least in my market. The program, American Gladiators, pitted superhero type muscle men and women against your run of the mill athletic but common Joe and Janes. 

 

The contrast reminded me of Joe Buscemma’s depiction of the superhero vs. the ordinary person in How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. 

how-to-draw-comics-the-marvel-way-page-38

While watching the program, an idea hatched. Raye Hollitt (Skin Deep), a female bodybuilder who used the stage name Zap, inspired me. 

Zap

Wouldn’t it be interesting to cast her in an action film like the ones in which  Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger starred? I decided the world was not ready for that idea, and besides, I didn’t know how to write or submit a screenplay, anyway.  

80s icons

Around 1996, with the 1980s horror fiction implosion far behind me, I returned to reading Science Fiction. I picked up copies of science fiction magazines, read Neuromancer,  and caught up on some 80’s SF I had missed. 

Neuro

While perusing an issue of Science Fiction Age, I read a steampunk story and used it as the model for the tone of my next manuscript. Continuing to take my cue from that story, I mirrored not only the mood, but the female lead. Unfortunately, after looking through a pile of back issues, I haven’t been able to identify the story that inspired me. 

SF Age

As I wrote, the muscular female idea reemerged and Irina Kira was born. I remember reading or thinking Kira was a Russian name that meant Strong woman. Although, Kira, from my research for this post, means “leader of the people.”  

I decided a Russian first name, Irena, which means peace, matched one theme of the story. Leading the people into peace seems à propos, but what happens after the end of the story is up to your interpretation. 

 I envisioned a muscular woman living in what had once been a utopian society within a biosphere orbiting Venus. A popular self-help book of the time, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, inspired me to use Venus as the location for the orbiting biosphere space station.  

Men from Mars

Looking for a name for the biosphere/space station, I dreamed up the Audallis Sphere. It sounded like something out of a SF story. 

I came up with a history of the biosphere and the science behind Audallis’ artificial gravity, neither made the completed manuscript.  

Then I chose to include a controversial idea that would forever change the direction of the manuscript. 

We’ll talk about that next time.

 

The Language of Ice by David North-Martino

The Language of Ice by David North-Martino ©2011, 2019 

The Language of Ice originally appeared in Extinct Doesn’t Mean Forever.

She wakes while the rest of the tribe is sleeping. Yet she knows she’s in a dream. Lucid dreaming? Is that what they call it? But the world she has entered is so real, 360 degrees of sight and sound, temperature and smell. She huddles with the group, their body heat providing most of the warmth, while a low-burning fire, sputtering at the lip of the entrance, provides the rest. There is muskiness to their presence, but it is not an unpleasant odor, and she feels comforted by the fact she is not alone. 

Carefully, so as not to waken the others, she rises and stands above them. She has seen them before, but the symmetry of their faces and the angles of their bodies are so much more beautiful, so much more robust, than a modern human could ever imagine. In the dream, she realizes she, too, is one of them. She pads across the frigid rock, every muscle fiber speaking of the latent power coiled within her limbs.

 When she reaches the fire, she feeds a few pieces of wood into the flames; they pop and crack as the fire sears off bark, searching for the pulp inside. She does not want to leave the warmth, but something compels her to move on. 

Outside the cave, the winter stillness greets her. The bloated moon sits atop the hills. She has never seen the moon so large. 

Another crack, another pop registers in her ears, but not from the fire this time. Something or someone moves in the darkness, watching her from somewhere out of sight.

~~~

There is a moment between sleep and wakefulness when an alarm clock creates a vacuum, a ripple in time as the alarm prepares to sound. 

 Cassie opened her eyes at that moment, just before 6 AM, caught in the confusion between her dreams and waking thoughts. Then the alarm rang out, clearing the muddle as she scrambled to shut it off. She buried her face in her pillow, resentful at how exhausted she always felt after a lucid dream. It was like she lived a full day in her dream world and now, without rest, had to pull another shift in this one. 

She forced herself to rise and face the morning chill. The old brownstone could be a brick oven in summer and a freezer during winter. During the two years she had lived in Boston, she had upgraded the appliances and even had the floors refinished, but for heat she still relied on cast iron radiators. Since the chinked walls and single-pane windows didn’t retain heat, she was left with a symphony of banging and clunking every time the hot water flowed through the radiators. 

Like every morning, she showered quickly and ate a soggy bowl of cereal. The TV droned in the background. The weather reporter made her usual prediction for cold, and what else could there be in January? Cassie was just happy the snow had held off. 

~~~

No one looks at you in the city. Eye contact has been banned by some unwritten rule. During the walk to the T-station, she kept her gaze to herself — watchful but not focusing on anything in particular. She had memorized this walk; it was the same repetitive journey she could have traversed in her sleep whether her dreams were lucid or not. 

The trick to riding the subway, she’d found, was to pick a spot, any spot, somewhere between her fellow passengers’ heads or somewhere above them and stare at that location for the remainder of the ride. Today, she chose a spot above and to the left of a guy who stood in the stairwell and just a little to the right of a sign advertising Harvard Extension School classes. She’d tried other tricks, like the business woman, diagonally to her left, absently paging through a newspaper, or the young guy with his eyes closed pretending to listen to an iPod. But no matter what she did, she could never lose the uncomfortable feeling of sitting with strangers and pretending not to look at them. 

In the small town in Vermont where she grew up, the winters were colder but the people warmer. Here, people advanced and receded silently, like glacial ice. 

Once the subway train reached its destination, Cassie exited. The routine was so ingrained in her now she no longer saw the sign for Science Park, only moved like an automaton into the throng of morning travelers. 

The nameless, faceless people of the street became the nameless, faceless patrons of the Boston Paleontology Museum. The only difference Cassie could see was that she had a special duty to serve the ones on the inside. 

“I brought coffee,” Jonathan Frost said by way of greeting. He was a twenty-one year-old graduate of Boston College whom she had accepted as an intern mostly because he was intelligent but also because he was cute. He handed her a large, clear cup with a straw.

“Iced?” She arched her eyebrows and swirled the cup to emphasize the clacking of the cubes. 

“Everyone likes iced coffee,” Jon said, deadpan serious. She could never tell when he was joking or if he ever got her sense of humor. Not unusual for an anthropology major. Depending on her mood, she thought it either annoying or charming.

Armed now with caffeine, she unhooked the rope that kept the general public from entering the exhibit area and ushered him in. 

The rest of the day was filled with the final preparation for the grand opening of the Neanderthal exhibit. Through collaboration with the Boston Museum of Science, the pieces came on loan from the American Museum of Natural History, the Chicago Field Museum and the Natural History Museum of London. Two weeks ago, the crème de le crème had arrived: a complete skeleton of a woman from the Ice Age. 

That’s when my dreams began, Cassie thought as she touched the glass case that held the remains of a simpler time. 

“Did I tell you I’ve been having strange dreams?” Cassie asked, staring into the brightly lit case that cast harsh shadows in the half-light of the exhibit area. 

“I don’t think so, Ms. Caldwell,” Jon said absently as he arranged plant fossils in another case.  

She hated when he didn’t call her by her first name; it made her feel old. Plus, at twenty-nine, she was only eight years older than him. 

“Since the remains arrived, I’ve been dreaming that … that I’m a Neanderthal woman.” Cassie felt her cheeks redden. She tried to laugh it off. “Sounds kind of silly saying it out loud.” 

“Your mind’s been on this for weeks,” Jon said as he carefully arranged a delicate fossil. “Seems normal to me.” 

“These dreams are different. I don’t know how to describe it. They feel real.”

“The human mind can’t differentiate between what’s real and imagined.” Jon unpacked another fossil. Cassie looked at him. The low light pulled at his flesh adding, in that moment, ten years to his face. Sometimes she wondered who was older, who was more experienced. 

“Sometimes they feel like another reality.” 

“Your brain’s just sifting through all your short-term memories, storing them, trying to make sense of them.”

“Okay, professor.” Cassie tried to smile. This was one of those times when Jon went from charming to annoying.

“I took an undergrad psychology class,” Jon said as though that gave him all the authority he needed to render a diagnosis. 

“Well, you’re probably right,” Cassie said not wanting to talk about it any longer. “I’m going to head out a little early today. You mind finishing up?”

“That’s what you don’t pay me for.” 

She thought she caught a hint of a smile. 

“Hot date?”

“No. Unfortunately. I’m just tired.” She was tired, and distracted, and maybe it was more Jon than her dreams. She knew he got together with some of the other interns for drinks after work. She hadn’t been so lucky with her peers. It seemed when it came to working on a business level with colleagues things went pretty smoothly, but she had trouble bridging the gap between business and friendship. Her boss had told her she’d need to do that before she would ever be considered for a director position. 

On the way home she stopped into a Portuguese convenience store. Under the fluorescent lighting, the fruit looked darker, less appetizing, but she picked some apples and a bunch of grapes anyway. Experience had taught her they had some of the best fruit in the area despite the presentation. A box of ostrich jerky also went into her cart along with a package of trail mix. When work was busy, they could stand in for lunch — or even dinner. 

The Indian man behind the counter spoke to her as he rang her purchases. She smiled to feign understanding, even though his thick accent rendered his words unintelligible. 

~~~

Under leaden skies, she gnaws on meat from the bone of a freshly killed elk. The warm flesh tastes gamey but satisfies her hunger. Men, women and children squat with her, filling their bellies with life-giving nourishment. Some speak between mouthfuls or laugh in delight about the hunt. When she opens her mouth to speak only a shrill animal cry rings into the air. The others shuffle away from her, cocking their heads in confusion. Not knowing what else to do, she continues chewing and stares into the fire. 

She doesn’t remember beginning her meal but she does remember the hunt. The women who were not with child or had none to care for joined the men. They had trekked through the snow with spears at the ready, waiting for some creature to offer itself to them. 

A man they called Jimal had the gift of calling animals. He contorted his face and pursed his lips and made the sounds of prey. It was another language she couldn’t speak. She wished for the power of speech — not to call for food, only to call for a mate. She felt a terrible loneliness. Because she was not quite like them, her tribe kept her at a subtle distance, fearing what they did not understand.  

Jimal hunkered down pulling his furs closer to his skin and gave another call to the wind. Like magic, an elk appeared and snorted steam from its nostrils. They rushed it, impaling the animal with their sharpened spears. And they praised it as it wailed in its death throes, soaking the ground beneath in blood. 

Now, they treat the meat like the luxury it is and feel blessed that on this hunt no one has been injured. Many hunts ago, a man called Ugathar had been mortally wounded by a mammoth’s flailing tusk. They had buried him with all the items he loved in life to comfort him into the great sleep. 

Fresh meat is always welcome, but they have also mastered the art of smoking and salting so they can survive during times of least abundance. In milder temperatures, they pick berries and sometimes larger fruits, drying and curing them much like they do animal flesh so their skin does not turn yellow in the winter.

All her memories of the hunt flee when she hears the snapping of twigs and the rustle of something just beyond her vision. The others hear it too. The strong grab for their spears and prepare for whatever is about to come. 

~~~

Cassie opened her eyes. Not at the insistence of the jarring tone of the alarm clock, but to the sound of static buzzing over a talk radio personality, the white noise so overpowering it made his voice unintelligible. 

Impatiently, she shut off the radio alarm, thinking she must have hit the wrong button when she set it the night before. Looking around, she saw that drab walls had replaced the wide expanse of Neanderthal territory. But she was still cold.

Jon was right, it seemed. While the realization saddened her, it also left her relieved. Shopping for food yesterday had informed her dreams. No matter how real they seemed, that’s all they were — dreams. How long she would have them she didn’t know, but she could rest assured that her memory wasn’t regressing somewhere in time. She only had the real world and her real challenges and struggles to deal with. And wasn’t that enough? Did she really need more than her day-to-day life? 

Yet the emotional remnants of the dream, that feeling of icy loneliness, continued to haunt her. 

During the familiar bout with cold cereal, she tried to watch the morning news. Static whispered through the speakers. She flipped through every station — all the same. She couldn’t even listen; white noise captured all the sound. She worried about sunspots and mused to herself about Mercury going retrograde, but reasoned in the end that it was only the cable company messing up the signal again. 

The subway train shook and rattled, hummed and screeched, vibration communicating from the track into the passengers. This time Cassie found a spot above and to the left of a rider facing her. In her peripheral vision, his eyes appeared to be looking right at her even though they were not, yet she couldn’t seem to vanquish the feeling. 

At the exhibit, throngs of patrons entered while she watched from a dark corner. She buttoned her sweater; even all the body heat that radiated from the crowd couldn’t take the chill from her bones today. 

The cacophony of voices echoed off the walls and the ceiling. She couldn’t understand them; all she could do was watch. Children ran from mothers who scolded them, couples held hands and strolled through the bedlam trying to reach the brightly lit case, and all, no matter how bored some looked, marveled at the woman who had traveled from another age to be with them today. 

Jon walked over to her and gave her a knowing smile. 

“You were right,” Cassie tried to say over the din. 

Jon just motioned to his ears and shrugged his shoulders.

~~~

A group of five men more refined in their looks than the males in her tribe approach them cautiously. Like them, the strangers are similarly dressed in skins and furs tanned from animals that had provided them food and now provide them warmth. Their faces hold a regal symmetry and are painted with what her waking self would recognize as manganese dioxide — brownish-black streaks beneath each eye to catch the glare of the sun. They hold spears as agile as their bodies must be, and whether they are friend or foe, no one in her tribe can tell. 

They call out, but neither side can understand the other. That doesn’t matter to her, though, and for perhaps the first time in her life she isn’t afraid. 

One man stands out to her and his eyes compel her to approach. The others in her tribe call out to her. She hears them only dimly and can’t understand their words — but even if she could, she wouldn’t care. Dropping her spear, she trusts that simple act of supplication to convey the understanding that she means no harm. In acknowledgement, the men lower theirs as well.

The man with the compelling eyes watches her as she walks toward him, and she can’t tell if it is confusion or recognition that shows on his face. The same face with dark eyes; narrow nose; and thin, inviting lips that she, having now found, can’t imagine being without. And she finds the ability to say these words that mean nothing and yet mean everything that she has ever wanted to say and has ever wanted to express: 

“Unka sabo uv.” 

And all he can do is stare. 

~~~

She watches her life unfold from this moment as her tribe integrates with the early humans. Love blossoms in the spring and grows stronger in the summer. The birth of a new spring also brings the birth of her child — one, like so many others, that heralds the birth of the modern human race. For the first time, she is alive, so alive that the heartache intrinsic to a harsh existence is as fully realized as her new-found joy. She allows it all to wash over her; at least she isn’t cold anymore.  

~~~

Cassie sat, enjoying an iced latte in an outdoor café. Spring had arrived and today the weather was as idyllic as it had been in her childhood. She wasn’t cold or warm but in that perfect place between extremes. Looking out at the passers-by, she thought she caught a glimpse of someone familiar walking down the far sidewalk. But his features were obscured by distance, telephone poles and other walkers. 

Cassie left her cup on the grated metal table and walked past the partition that corralled the patrons who drank their drinks and continued their conversations. She hurried across the street, approaching the man at an angle. 

He dressed similar to her in a navy suit and dark shoes. In his face, she saw familiar dark eyes, narrow nose, and thin lips, although this face was slightly fuller and the beard had given way to a clean shave. And she found the ability to say these words that meant nothing and yet meant everything she had ever wanted to say and had ever wanted to express:

“Unka sabo uv.”

And the man in the suit could do nothing but stare.

–Fin–

 

 

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a  Sale—The Language of Ice: Part 2

I need to make a retraction. I didn’t wait until 2011 to market my story The Language of Ice as previously stated. Looking back at my Fiction Submission Log, I discovered that I actually began sending the story out in 2009, not long after writing it, and racked up five rejections before finally selling it and receiving my acceptance letter on February 11, 2011. 

Anyway, I don’t have notes on how I found the publication. Maybe I stumbled upon it on Duotrope or Ralan.com. Either way, I noticed an open call from a new anthologist who had been a member of the Science Fiction Writer’s of America (SFWA). She’d had stories accepted professionally by Marion Zimmer Bradley (this was long before some allegations came out about Bradley and her husband. I’ll leave you to research it if you’re interested), before transitioning into a copywriting job. At the time she had just retired from her corporate career and was looking into what opportunities were available to continue her creative writing career from where she had left off. 

Extinct Cover2

Now going by the pseudonym Phoenix Sullivan, she decided to enlist a cadre of international authors to create a Science Fiction e-anthology titled Extinct Doesn’t Mean Forever to support her SF novel SECTOR C that she was looking at publishing through her own imprint, Dare to Dream Press. 

Sector C

Extinct Doesn’t Mean Forever, with its theme of returning from extinction, seemed like a good fit for The Language of Ice, but I figured it would just end up being another rejection on the long road to publication. 

I sent it out, like I always do, by first reading through the manuscript, fixing anything I may have missed, sometimes giving it back to Patty for a second read through, and then formatting the story per the guidelines (GLs). 

Once that was complete, I wrote out a cover letter. At the time, I was sending all stories through email. I’d included a targeted cover letter in the body of the email, and attach the manuscript as a Word document.

With everything in order, I sent it out and hoped for the best. There was nothing to do but continue to keep writing and submitting, and of course, wait. 

I received an acceptance letter in approximately 24 days! A few days later I electronically signed the contract for publication and was asked to write what amounts to a back cover blurb describing the story without giving anything away. 

Here’s the blurb:

When a Neanderthal skeleton arrives at her museum, Cassie learns a woman dead for thousands of years still has something to teach the living – THE LANGUAGE OF ICE by David North-Martino

Then I was asked to send a bio. A few days later I received something that would change the way I wrote forever—a line edit. A line edit by a pro author turned editor no less.  

In the interest of time, Phoenix had already made the revisions. That required me to take a copy of my original and read through with highlighter in hand. Before I worked on that task, I read the corrected proof she had sent me. I thought it read even better than I had remembered. 

Of course, it did! Phoenix had given me some masterful revisions. Now with that said, I think my voice may have been bled out a little, but I have to say I learned a lot from that line edit. It helped me to understand what I was doing right, and where I was falling short. How I could create more clarity for the reader, and how I could sand off the rough edges of my writing style. 

This is what writers need. They need mentorship. As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know. You need to have eyes before you can see. I am forever grateful for that line edit. It helped make me the writer I am today. 

The Language of Ice ended up being published in the Dare to Dream Press first edition of Extinct Doesn’t Mean Forever, the second edition from Steel Magnolia Press, and was also released as a short story in ebook format. 

Language of Ice

The anthology supported the Save a charity which gave me the impetus to send out press releases. I met some wonderful writers from around the world and learned a lot about the publishing business. 

For the first time ever, I began to receive royalty checks. They were small, but it was very cool to get money when the anthology sold. 

The anthology is now out of print and the rights to the story have reverted back to me. Should I post it here for all to read? Let me know in the comments. 

I’ll see you next time. 

***

For posterity I’ll include the Table of Contents with all the blurbs below: 

1. Jase was her ghost in the machine, a shaded memory captured in synthesized pixels. Near enough to see, too distant to touch. Could they still connect? – LAST SEEN by Amanda le Bas de Plumetot

2. She didn’t realize how deep her loss ran, until a saber-tooth cat helped heal the past and point her toward a future she didn’t know she needed – PAST SURVIVORS by Sarah Adams

3. Vesna discovers from an unexpected source just how old the dance of love truly is – FOOTPRINTS ON THE BEACH by Aleksandar Ziljak

4. John doted on the French touring car he’d lovingly restored. Can his dead wife teach him other things are worthy of his love too? – THE RESTORATION MAN by Simon John Cox

5. When a single mum returns home to Tasmania with her young son, her efforts to settle back in take a strange twist – A DARK FOREST by Jen White

6. Keeping a baby dinosaur secret from prying TV people and scientists is no easy task, except when your family have been keeping sacred traditions secret for generations – MY OWN SECRET DINOSAUR by Jo Antareau

7. When a Neanderthal skeleton arrives at her museum, Cassie learns a woman dead for thousands of years still has something to teach the living – THE LANGUAGE OF ICE by David North-Martino

8. With human hunters closing in, Kerg concocts a desperate plan for survival. Just one problem: he isn’t the only one looking out for family – TWILIGHT OF THE CLAW by Adam Dunsby

9. Lucia doesn’t believe in angels — but she might believe in a little boy cloned from a forgotten race – THE ANGEL GENOME by Chrystalla Thoma

10. Geri’s father finds the remains of an alien culture, proof we’re not alone. But he leaves Geri feeling more alone than ever – IN RING by Scott Thomas Smith

11. Had it been left to protocols rather than human ingenuity, Commander West’s expedition might have overlooked one of Mars’ greatest treasures – BONES OF MARS by D Jason Cooper

12. Endless Power, Inc prepared Angel for the physical dangers of harnessing a new energy source. But no one prepared him for how to cope afterward – HUNTING THE MANTIS by Adam Knight

13. Bridges of meaning built through symbols alienate as much as connect. But the Virtual Bridge Sri plans could reconnect the lost hopes of a dying civilization – CONNECT by Kenneth Burstall

14. Fleeing with the last remnants of the Oshen race, Indigo has only one chance to ensure his people are never forgotten – INDIGO’S GAMBIT by Adam Israel

15. When his pampered world loses the technology it depends on, extinction looms faster than lonely survivor Levo could ever expect – BLOOD FRUIT by Shona Snowden

16. When a new bio-weapon in the wars on drugs and terror gets out of control, can the supplier really be held responsible? – A THORNY DILEMMA by Rory Steves

17. Capturing mammoths was all in a day’s work for Deke. The saber-tooth cat, though, was going to require something bigger than an elephant gun – INVOICE H10901: 3 WOOLY MAMMOTHS by Robert J. Sullivan

18. After George makes a momentous discovery, the distractions start piling up. His wife cooks up a surprise to remind him love is always worth sacrificing for – DISTRACTIONS by Peter Dudley

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a Sale—The Language of Ice: Part 1

The year 2011 was a great one for me. I finished my coursework and graduated magna cum laude from UMASS Lowell with a Liberal Arts Degree with concentrations in English and psychology. I also decided to ramp up my writing and submitting efforts and ended up landing another fiction sale with a story I had written but had never planned to publish.   

The story that would become The Language of Ice was originally inspired by an article in the April 1998 issue of Discover Magazine; Entitled: New Women of the Ice Age. The article purported to recast prehistoric women as more active than passive in roles that were believed to be traditionally held by males. 

Discover 1998

Originally, I imagined the story idea as a screenplay. In my mind’s eye, I saw a group of archeologists and anthropologists standing around a table, addressing a group of reporters, and making assumptions about a female skeleton. Then the camera slowly zooms into and through the bones.  When the camera emerges on the other side, we see this ancient woman when she was alive and how she may have actually lived her life. 

I imagined the story like it was a movie. I had the opening, but nothing else. 

The idea stayed with me, but I didn’t do anything with it. 

Then sometime in the mid-2000s, I watched a documentary that dramatized the theory of early humans interbreeding with Neanderthals. They showed a neanderthal female tenderly touching the face of an early human, and that’s when The language of Ice was truly born. 

With all my college coursework mounting, I didn’t have the time to explore the idea. Then I ended up taking an advanced creative writing class to satisfy part of the requirement for my English concentration. The class was geared toward publication, but interestingly enough, the professor didn’t have any publishing credits. My puny two published stories at the time dwarfed my teacher’s experience, along with everyone else in the class. 

One student balked when I said I only had two writing credits. It didn’t seem like much to me, I had been to writing conventions where I got to hang out with best-selling authors who had published on upwards of fifty professional books. 

The professor wanted us to write a literary story with an eye toward publication. I’m a genre writer and didn’t have any ideas that boarded on straight literary fiction. Then I thought about the woman of the ice age idea that I had been carrying around since the late 90s, and it collided with the neanderthal idea exploding into a full-fledged story. 

Since it had to be literary, I wanted to make the story somewhat ambiguous. I decided to create a narrative where the main character, a museum curator, begins to think she might have been a Neanderthal woman in another life. Is she imaging the whole thing or is she having a spiritual experience? The whole point was to let the readers decide. 

When I passed in my story homework, my teacher liked it, but she wanted me to make the story ending more concrete. If she had been a paying editor, I would have been happy to oblige, but I was doing so well in the class and disagreed so fervently with the direction she wanted to take my tale, I decided to pass in my homework sans those revisions. She wasn’t exactly happy about it, but I think I still got an A. 

With school still taking up so much of my time, I put the story away and didn’t even think about looking at it until 2011. 

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After graduation, I’d have the opportunity to submit my manuscript, created for an English class, to an anthology filled with the stories written by a cadre of international authors. 

And I was vindicated! I sold that story with the original ambiguous ending!

I’ll tell you more about how that happened next time. 

Wolves of Vengeance Sample: Chapter 5 (Captain Amanda Rann)

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Wolves of Vengeance

CHAPTER 5

Amanda had mixed feelings standing in front of Crone again, but she had a job to do and she would be damned if she wasn’t going to carry it out to completion.
“I told them I’d bring in a team of hunters to track down whatever did this,” Amanda said.
“Very good, Captain Rann,” Crone said pushing a small jewelry box across the table toward her. Silver captain’s bars gleamed on top of black velvet.
“I don’t understand, sir,” Amanda said, but she did and she wasn’t sure she liked it.
“I’m promoting you, which as you know comes with the obligatory raise in pay grade,” Crone said and then smiled. “Congratulations Captain.”
“You’re putting me in charge of a team?”
“Yes, you’re going to be commanding a small infiltration team of five men…”
“Men, sir?” Amanda asked. “I’m going to be commanding a team of male soldiers?”
“That is correct and they won’t like it either. But you are the only one I have at my disposal that I feel is capable to pull off this mission. Besides, I don’t think we have time to pull in an experienced team from California.”
“These men have never done special ops?”
“Oh, they’ve done special ops. They just haven’t done paranormal ops. I guess there’s a first time for everything.”
Amanda didn’t like the sound of that. Tackling unknown Papas (code from the NATO phonetic alphabet for paranormal creatures, just like Tangos were used to signify terrorists) was tough enough, doing it with an inexperienced team was just next of suicide.
“I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right,” Crone added. “You’re bound to take casualties. But these men know they’re expendable and they’re willing to do what it takes to protect us and this great nation.”
“Hoo-Rah,” Amanda called out automatically. It had been drilled into her and it gave her strength just saying it. And she needed all the strength she could muster.
***
Crone didn’t waste any time. He drove her personally by Humvee to a once abandoned aircraft hanger, now a hulk of weather-darkened steel. The airstrip hadn’t held up as well. Dead weeds waited for resurrection in the cracks of the tarmac. A test awaited her in the cool confines of the hanger. She knew the men also waited. And she was ready.
She entered the hanger ahead of Crone, her stride and her breathing matching her determination. She felt completely in the moment, in her element. All thoughts of family, of strife, disappeared and she felt prepared to do her job for God and for country.
“Colonel on the deck!” Spittle sprayed as Amanda barked the command.
The team snapped to attention.
“At ease gentlemen,” Crone said as he walked in and stood next to Amanda. “Meet Captain Amanda Rann. She will be your commanding officer on this mission.”
One soldier, with lieutenant’s bars, smirked.
“I think the Captain has a few words for you before we begin,” Crone barked.
Amanda took a breath and stepped forward.
“I see you all like wearing pussy-puke grins on your faces. I know you think you’re above being commanded by a woman,” Amanda said. “I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. And as a gesture of my goodwill you may all speak freely before it’s time to shut the fuck up and get the job done. Who’s first?”
No one spoke. Her verbal violence of action had created an awkward silence. Then the Lieutenant took a step forward.
“Where are you from, ma’am?” the soldier asked.
“That’s Lieutenant Skakes just so you know, Captain,” Crone interjected.
“I’m originally from Indiana, Lieutenant,” Amanda replied.
“And I can speak freely without fear of reprisal?”
“Have at it, Lieutenant,” Amanda said.
“I think I speak for the rest of the team when I say we don’t like being led by no popcorn Captain,” Lt. Skakes said.
Laughter burst from the team. Crone’s steely stare brought them back to composure.
“Popcorn Captain? Why don’t you explain what you mean by that,” Amanda said, keeping her face expressionless. The Lieutenant hesitated but quickly regained his confidence.
“Ma’am, I hate to offend your delicate ears, but I know I popped a lot of corn when I was stationed in Indiana. If you know what I mean,” Skakes said, his grin growing wide. The smirks returned to the faces of the team.
“You look like a pretty big man, Lieutenant. I have a proposition for you.”
“You’re propositioning me?” He looked back at his team incredulously, and that elicited more laughter.
“That’s right,” Amanda said, slipping out of her bomber jacket. “You’re in line for a promotion. I’ll give you a chance on getting it quicker than you expected. Come take the command from me.”
“I don’t think that would be right, Ma’am, seeing you’re much smaller than me. And female.”
“Take the command from me or be led by me. It’s your choice.”
Skakes looked to his team and then to Crone as if pleading with someone to tell him what to do. He had allowed her to drag him into a no-win situation. If he won, how much respect would he gain by beating up a woman? But if he lost…
“Okay, but I’ll go easy on you,” Skakes said.
Amanda knew she would have to put the fight into him before she finished him. If she didn’t, she would never earn the respect of the team. Still, he was a big guy, if he connected…
Skakes tentatively stepped forward, while the other four men fanned out creating a semi-circle. Amanda took a step forward with confidence.
Skakes put his hands up like a boxer and walked clockwise following her movement. Amanda kept her hands down and her mind in a relaxed state of awareness. She could tell Skakes was eager to get this over with.
Skakes’s nervous energy finally got the better of him and he stepped toward her with a right hook, his hand open as if to slap her down.
Amanda lifted her left arm exposing the ulna bone by turning her wrist outward. Her arm intercepted his strike. He winced when the soft portion of his lower arm slammed into the unyielding bone. She knew he wouldn’t want to do that again.
Amanda immediately twisted her hips and thrust her arm out hitting the bridge of his nose with the heel of her palm.
Blood exploded from the Lieutenant’s nose, and he grabbed it as he took a step back.
Fury burned his cheeks. Skakes rocketed at her, blood flying from his nostrils, teeth gritting. Adrenaline dumped into her system as his fist made a straight line for her face.
Waiting until the last second before impact, Amanda stepped in diagonally past his punch, allowing his fist to fly over her right shoulder as she used her body momentum to hit his lower sternum. He sucked wind. Then she raised her knee and stamped down diagonally through his knee joint. A sickening crunch echoed in the hangar. The force of the impact drove his knee along with his body to the floor. Skakes screamed.
She could have easily stopped, let the medics take him away. That, of course, wouldn’t have been enough of a demonstration.
She stomped him with her boots breaking ribs, spraying more blood, dislodging teeth.
Crone took out a cell phone and called for the medics. Everyone stood in silence as they came and carted away Skakes’s twitching body.
“Who’s the next in command?” Amanda asked when the medics were out of earshot.
They pushed a hardened soldier out of the group who had suddenly lost his nerve.
“What’s your name soldier?”
“Master Sgt. Doggel, Captain.”
“Well Master Sgt., congratulations. You’ve just been promoted to Lieutenant,” Amanda said never taking her eyes off him.
***
“Lieutenant Doggel, why don’t you introduce the team,” Amanda said after Crone had left her to her business.
“Yes ma’am. The man to my left is Private First Class Duncan Clarke. When he played football in high school, they called him Icebox. We call him the same.”
Icebox nodded and gave her a wide grin.
“Ma’am,” he said, his deep voice filling the hanger.
“The man on the other side of Icebox is Sgt. Robert Garcia, as you can tell the ladies find him easy on the eyes so we call him Diamond, you know, after the girls’ best friend.”
Diamond winked at Doggel and shrugged his shoulders. This brought on light laughter from the team.
To my left you’ll find Shooter Jackson. He’s got a cool name so we just call him Shooter. I almost named him Toothpick because he’s always sucking on one of those things and it’s driving me up the wall. Man has an oral fixation or something.”
Shooter gave a two-fingered Cub Scout salute.
“And what do they call you?” Amanda asked.
Doggel smiled.
“They call me Lieutenant,” he said.
“Good answer,” Amanda said, her lips upturning into a smile. “I think I’ll call you Dog, Lieutenant. Any problem with that?”
“Not a one, Ma’am.”
“Good. Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, we need to get into the thick of it. The things I’m about to tell you are above Top Secret. They’re so far above Top Secret the President has to have a need to know.
“You are now part of a paranormal elimination team.”
“Like Ghostbusters?” Shooter asked. More laughter from the team.
“No. Not quite. I’m talking about parasitic entities, entities that are made up of non-corporeal energy, that have attached themselves to a host. In this instance, they’ve possessed dead dogs. They’ve already killed one victim. There will be more unless we stop them.”
“That’s like some serious Exorcist shit there,” Icebox said.
“You can’t be serious,” Shooter said, his toothpick bobbing over his lip as he spoke.
“I know many of you will have trouble believing this right now,” Amanda said. “You’ll believe soon enough. If you don’t wrap your head around it, you’ll die out in the field.”
She had seen it happen before. A paranormal event could create panic or instill shock, destroying unit integrity. That’s all it took for someone to get killed.
“All we need to know is how do we kill them,” Icebox said.
“You can’t kill them with ordinary ammunition. We have ammunition that’s been able to put down creatures like this.”
“You’ve done this before?” Dog asked.
“That is correct,” Amanda said. And she had, but in truth, this wasn’t like facing a common enemy. Paranormal creatures were all unique and what destroyed one wouldn’t necessarily annihilate another.
“Hoo-Ra, then, Captain,” Icebox said.
Amanda gave the rest of the situation report providing them with detailed maps of Wellington along with a thick packet of information on what had worked on other missions.
“If there are no other questions,” Amanda said. “It’s time for us to get our asses in gear and train.”
***
“My name is Ralph Edinhart III, PhD. I am well aware that trilobites of your ilk call me the Geek.” The Geek wore a rumpled suit a size too big, a couple days worth of scruff stood out in unsightly patches on his face. “I’m fine with that. It’s my job to provide you with the state of the art weaponry and systems that you need to complete your mission.”
Amanda and her team stood inside the hangar; soon it would be converted to a training area designed to let them practice real world scenarios while also creating unit integrity, a bonding that the team would need to perform as a single unit, a spear to lance the enemy.
They wore the best armor system the United States military had to offer.
The process began by donning sweat-whisking undergarments. On top of that they wore standard issue black Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs), similar in construction to that of SWAT teams. They slipped comfortably into a computerized armor system that protected the outer potion of their limbs, along with their chest, abdomen, and groin, while also enhancing their strength and agility. A computerized helmet and visor allowed for real-time heads-up monitoring of vitals, GPS mapping, and infrared and thermal displays of the surrounding areas. A backpack provided a CPU and batteries that monitored and powered the cooling system and electronic armor features. A small ration of water, contained in the backpack, supplemented a sweat and urine recovery system that provided continuous hydration through a straw underneath the lip-mike. The gun system also connected to the CPU.
“I don’t like this,” Amanda said.
“What’s not to like,” the Geek asked befuddled.
“I’m a KISS girl,” Amanda said.
The Geek furrowed his eyebrows.
“Keep It Simple Stupid,” Icebox said.
“How do we know this thing won’t break down in the field? If the system short circuits, the exoskeleton will freeze up and render us immobile. And the weapon system will be useless.”
The team looked at one another, nodding their heads in agreement.
“There’s nothing to worry about. Even in the unlikely event of a malfunction, you’ll be able to hit the fail-safe. That’s the plunger right there. Hit that and you’ll be able to leave the armor. With this equipment, statistically speaking, we’re talking about a 90% less casualty rate. The suit will even carry a wounded soldier 50 meters through use of the exoskeleton alone. We’re talking twelve hundred pounds of tensile strength so you should be well protected. You’ll also be carrying a computerized assault rifle with auto targeting that shoots 9mm silver tipped bullets.”
“I hear ya, Doc. But I still don’t like it.” Still, she had to acquiesce, she couldn’t argue with the possibility of lower casualties. She’d have to carry her Glock just in case.
“Wait a minute,” Icebox said. “Silver bullets? Like the Lone Ranger?”
“Just like in legend, we’ve found that paranormal creatures can’t be hurt by much, but they can be hurt by silver,” the Geek said. “We believe it has something to do with the subatomic structure of the silver interacting with the subatomic structure of the creature. Only a small amount of silver is practical in the manufacturing of the ammunition. The core of the bullet is lead.”
“That means we may have to hit these things multiple times to take them down,” Amanda said.
They spent the rest of the day learning to work as a team, clearing rooms, and engaging virtual paranormal wolf creatures that the Geek seamlessly integrated into the surrounding environment through their visors. The technology wouldn’t see civilian use for another twenty years. He monitored the missions from an observatory room jutting from the side of the hanger.
After executing the program over, and over again,, they had effectively won every situation without a scratch.
That bothered her. They had gone up and down this application looking at a host of scenarios and every single time the mission went right by the numbers. No one was injured, everything went according to plan. That just didn’t speak to reality. Shit always happened in the field and she couldn’t believe these things would be so easy to kill, even with special ammo.
She wanted to run it again, run the damn thing into the ground. But the team needed rest. In the morning, they would head to Wellington and begin their hunt.
“Hey Doc,” she called to the Geek through her lip mike. “The good news is we’re done for the night. The bad news is you’re coming with us.”
“I didn’t sign on for that,” the Geek said, voice cracking. “Why do you want me? I’ll only be in the way.”
“There’s only five of us. We’ll do all the heavy lifting. All I need you to do is babysit in the command van.”

Buy Wolves of Vengeance here.

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Wolves of Vengeance Sample: Chapter 3 (Amanda Rann)

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Wolves of Vengeance

CHAPTER 3

Lieutenant Amanda Rann sat on a wooden park bench. She wore a World-War II-style leather bomber jacket that covered a concealed carry, subcompact .40 caliber Glock 27 holstered in the rear waistband of her jeans. Nine rounds of special ammunition waited in the magazine ready to protect her and the country from the unique enemies she and her team hunted.
Out here, in the park, she looked the part of a typical mom—but in a secret unit of the United States Special Forces, she was a highly trained soldier. And Rann didn’t run, that’s what they said. She didn’t run from anything—except maybe her family.
Rebecca, her seven year old, and Holly, who had just turned ten, took turns on the slide. They loved the playground and Amanda couldn’t think of a better place to bring them, for their last visit together before she deployed.
Her smile, as she watched them, belied the melancholy of her emotions. Her marriage to Rod had turned sour, something she swore would never happen. Unfortunately, and perhaps understandably, the long-term deployments, along with all the secrets, had taken their toll.
Rod didn’t know where she went, how long she would be gone, or what she did in service to the country. Many times, she would have to tell him it was only a training exercise. He had always been able to see through the lies, and he resented them. That led to him resenting her.
“Mom, do you have to go?” Rebecca asked, waking Amanda from her thoughts. Rebecca had traversed the distance between the slide and the bench without her knowing. On a mission, a lapse in awareness could get her killed. Once in the field she would have to put aside all thoughts of her family if she hoped to survive.
“Yes, honey, I do. I’ll be back though. Mommy’s got to go to work.”
The gravel crunched behind her, just beyond the short metal fence that separated the playground from the parking lot. Amanda looked over her shoulder, not surprised to see Rod’s Chevy Tahoe pulling next to her Jeep Wrangler two door Sport.
Holly ran over to where Rebecca stood. Amanda got off the bench, squatted down, and gave them both a big hug. Tears didn’t flow. Amanda knew they should, but the emotion she once felt didn’t come as easily as before. Her work had made her numb.
“I love you both. Be good for Daddy.”
Rod walked through the opening in the fence and over to them. He brought with him a palpable tension.
“Hey, sweethearts,” Rod said. “Why don’t you girls start walking over to the car? I’ll catch up.”
The girls did as he said, Rebecca looking back a couple times as they walked away.
Rod had let his beard go scraggly. His hair was a little shaggy, and his loose fitting clothes made him appear lazy, aloof. Rod had always had a carefree way about him, very different from the men she encountered in her work and maybe that’s why she had been interested in him. Maybe she just didn’t want to bring her work home. He looked the part of an English professor, the part he played every day at the local community college. They had been a strange match, a PhD and an instrument of the DOD. Somehow, though, their differences had complemented, now they just grated on both of them.
“How are you doing, Amanda?” Rod asked, putting his hands in his pockets. When had they gone back to first names? She remembered when they only answered to honey and sweetheart.
“I’d be better if I wasn’t leaving for God knows where.”
“Then don’t go,” Rod said. They had had this argument dozens of times. Now it seemed they would have it again even if it were just by rote.
“It’s not that simple, and you know it.” Amanda’s face tightened and she felt a knot forming in her stomach. “I have a responsibility to my country.”
“What about your responsibility to Rebecca and Holly?” He looked down as he spoke, as if he understood the cruelness of his words.
“That’s really low, you know that, Rod?” Now she wanted to push him down and kick him in the balls. “What am I going to do, just not show up, go AWOL? I can either serve out these last two years deployed as the government sees fit or I can serve it out in the stockade.”
“I asked you not to reenlist…”
“Yeah, yeah. You asked me a lot of things.” That’s it. He could take his guilt and cram it. At the time of her reenlistment, the military felt like a big part of her life. She couldn’t have imagined life as a civilian. Reluctantly she acknowledged to herself that in those days she still identified with being a soldier more than being a mom. She had no regrets about reenlistment. Those years had gone by quickly. Now, the challenge would be serving the additional four years in the reserve.
Rod shook his head and walked away.
She watched him get back into his SUV, and then it was hard to see him or her girls behind the light tint of the windows. Rod pulled away taking two parts of her with him.
Amanda took a deep breath as she watched the Tahoe turn the corner and disappear out of sight. She had a job to do, just like she had told Rebecca, and Rann didn’t run, not from her duties—just from her family.
***
Amanda spent the drive to the compound in numbing silence, she didn’t turn on the radio to block out her thoughts, and she didn’t try to suppress her rising anger.
The GPS sent her south from her adopted hometown of Nashua, New Hampshire to the uneven asphalt roads of Massachusetts. About forty minutes later, she had reached her destination.
The old military base in Ayer stood abandoned—at least that’s what the government wanted people to think.
Driving her Jeep onto the access road, she followed it to where a guard station stood, a sentinel to a forgotten time.
Amanda flashed her ID and the guard opened the gate. She sped past him without a second glance.
Before budgetary cuts, Evans Air Force Base had housed a thriving military community. Amanda had had the chance to visit in its heyday, back when the movie theater bustled with soldiers and families looking for an escape from their everyday lives. Now the brick and concrete building stood void of all life. The marquee boards stood empty, waiting for a time when they would be needed again. Sadly, she knew that time would never arrive.
Amanda drove through the ghost town of military housing until she reached a nondescript concrete building that showed a semblance of life only by the few cars parked in the lot. The resources leveraged to the building and personnel had remained so sparse even Old Glory stood absent from the flagpole.
Inside the building, a civilian receptionist looked up from a romance novel and greeted her.
“Colonel Crone is expecting you.”
Amanda walked the lonely corridors following the receptionist’s directions. She knew Crone would have appropriated the best office space possible for his pay grade, and she wasn’t disappointed when she arrived at the spacious room. Someone had made a placard from duct tape, his name written on it with a Sharpie.
Fully furnished, the corner office would have been well sought after real estate back in the day. As of now, only an old desk and a couple of chairs stood out among the empty space. At least the two big windows let in a good deal of sunlight.
Amanda sat down in the plastic chair in front of Crone’s empty desk.
She didn’t have to wait long before Colonel Crone arrived; he wore a jovial expression, but she knew he was frowning on the inside. He walked in all spit and polish, even his bald head gleamed.
She stood to salute but he just waved her off, waiting until he was seated before speaking.
“I have an intel mission for you, Lieutenant,” Crone said. “We’ve been getting some very strange reports out of Wellington, Massachusetts, and some energy fluctuations.”
She didn’t like the sound of that.
“Energy fluctuations? Does that mean what I think it means?”
“That’s what I need you to find out. I need eyes on the ground. I can’t trust the tech-geeks on this one. You’ll be given a cover and whatever equipment you need. You leave ASAP.”
When you had to do something you didn’t want to do, only one response remained available in the military.
“Can do,” she said, hoping that she would go to Wellington, find nothing, and get back to her normal life, but all the while knowing that nothing ever happened that easily.

***
Amanda didn’t waste any time grabbing her gear and heading to Wellington. Crone’s staff had made all the arrangements earlier.
As soon as the killing hit the local morning paper, an operative—who worked double duty as an assistant district manager for the Red Arrow Animal Control Services Inc.—called the police to offer their services and remind them of their state government contract, just in case anyone forgot and tried to award the business to a friend. (They had real staffed offices, not P.O. Boxes and actually had critter wranglers who did what the company claimed, all the while most of the staff remained unaware of the clandestine operations going on in the background.)
Amanda procured one of the Red Arrow vans stored in a hanger and allowed the GPS to show her the way. No reason to make the trip any more difficult than it had to be. An hour and a half later she found herself on Castle Road parked behind a black Dodge Charger.
Amanda got out of the van and approached a handsome, well-dressed detective. She found herself immediately attracted to him even though suave dress had never been her style.
“Detective Callahan?” she asked.
“I know you were probably expecting a redheaded Irishman.”
Amanda laughed despite herself. She wasn’t one to let her guard down, but with him, it seemed natural.
“Don’t worry, Detective. I’ll try not to make an ass of you or me.”
Callahan chuckled. “I like you already. Military?”
“You can tell?”
“You talk like military, you have military bearing.”
“Arrow hires a lot of ex-military. Takes one to know one?” Amanda said raising her eyebrows.
“You’re not making an ass out of either of us by assuming that. Desert Storm. And you?”
“I’ve been around.”
“I’m sure you have. Mysterious. I like that.”
Amanda gave him a wry smile. “So what am I looking for here?”
“Seems a wild animal decided to use one of our residents as a chew toy. Now the victim was a real shit bag so I really don’t care ‘cept, of course, to keep our citizenry safe. I was hoping you could tell me what did this. I have a witness saying she heard what she thought sounded like a wolf.”
“Wolves aren’t native to this area. Anything’s possible, I guess. They’re finding Great White Sharks right here on the east coast now, just like in the movies. Can you show me the tracks?”
“You see, that’s the funny thing: didn’t leave any tracks.”
“That is a funny thing,” Amanda said trying to act surprised, but she wasn’t and that didn’t portend anything good for the people of Wellington. “Maybe your people missed them. It happens all the time. They can be really faint. I’ll do a sweep of the area and look for all the signs. If you want, I can meet you back at the station with my findings.”
“Sounds good to me. I’m up to my eyebrows in paperwork. But I better at least show you the crime scene and get you situated so you know where to look.”
“Lead the way,” Amanda said, but she really wished he would just leave. She couldn’t get her gear and begin her real job until he left. He would ask too many questions she couldn’t answer.
They walked through a thicket of woods until they came to a clearing.
“This is where we found the body,” Callahan said, his hands automatically clasping behind his back, as if the memory of the crime scene took control over his limbs. Amanda had seen the behavior many times before with detectives.
“Seems like a real peaceful place,” Amanda said.
“It was,” Callahan said. “Well, I’ll leave you to do what you do.”
“Detective? When I’m done here I’ll need to view the body.” Amanda knew she was pushing believability, but she needed all the information she could get to make an accurate conclusion.
“Aw, you don’t want to do that.” Callahan puckered his lips and shook his head.
“I’ve seen my share of dead and mangled. I assure you I’m no shrinking violet.”
Callahan laughed. “I bet you ain’t. Okay, meet me at the coroners at say 4:30 pm. That give you enough time?”
“I’ll see you at 16:30 hours, Detective.”
“Call me Adrian,” Callahan said and then smiled.
“Amanda,” she replied.
He nodded and then walked back to his car.
As soon as the detective had left the scene, she returned to her van and grabbed a rucksack full of equipment.
Back in the clearing, she pulled out an EMF detector and checked the residual electromagnetic field. The needle spiked as she passed the detector over the ground. Shit! Her heart sank and her stomach felt like she had swallowed a stone. She looked around, no high-tension wires or anything stood out that would explain such a high level.
In an open outdoor area like this, the magnetic field would dissipate within a few days. She could just go back to Crone and tell him she didn’t find anything, go back to her kids, hope this spike was just a one-time thing.
Amanda climbed into the driver’s side and shut the door. She noticed that, on the other side of the street, a little girl sat on the sidewalk holding a red bouncy-ball. The little girl stared at the woods intently.
Amanda got out of the van walked across the street and then squatted beside her so she could look the little girl in the eyes.
“What’s you’re name?” Amanda asked.
“Sheila,” the little girl said looking down at the ball she held.
“That’s a very nice ball you have, Sheila. And a very pretty dress. Can I ask you a question?”
Sheila nodded.
“Did you see anything last light?”
Sheila nodded again.
“What?”
Sheila turned to her and enunciated very clearly and harshly.
“Wolf.”

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