Tag Archives: suspense fiction

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part VI

 

continuing with the fantasy novel…

Lo returned to the cottage, entered quietly and barred the thick oak door. He walked up the stairs carefully and entered their bedroom. Nal was still sleeping as soundly as

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MAIN CONTENTS DELETED.

If you need this section for reference, please email me at  shatara@telus.net

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Much later, sated and sound asleep, lost to this world, they were awakened by a loud knock on their door.

“Dinner be served. We’d be pleased if ye joined us.” They heard the woman’s footsteps leave their doorway and clack down the stairs. Time to arise and face whatever would be served next, of food and adventure, both certain to come.

End of Part VI

The Ice Queen

(micro fiction)

It was three PM when he finally spotted her, the first time he’d seen her since their brief, angry exchange in the park a week before.  She was standing inside a bus stop, across the two-lane street.  Today the ice queen had long dark brown hair that cascaded down over the broad collar of a light blue Fall coat that came down mid-thigh.  Even with the wig and the makeup she could never hide from him.  He was sure he could always recognize her and when a flutter of doubt crossed his mind he summarily dismissed it.  He wasn’t going to cross the street to be absolutely certain.  The way she held her left hand over her shoulder bag told him she was packing and ready for any sort of trouble.  He’d seen her in action too many times to doubt her speed and accuracy with the 45.  If she spotted him coming across the street, and she would, he wouldn’t make it halfway.

He was leaning on an oak tree, partially hidden, far enough to remain safe.  Though in the moment he utterly hated her, he couldn’t help admiring the tall, slim, straight-backed form and the long bare legs that set his heart pumping and managed to shatter his confidence.  

He was safe right where he was.  This was she, the ice queen; he could sense the aura of her.  She was danger, like a wave pulsing across the street, bouncing off the store front behind him; the worst kind of danger.  Danger by the feelings she engendered in all men.  Danger by association.  Danger by attraction.  Danger by profession.   

The bus arrived, finally.  He stared hard between gaps in traffic but didn’t see her get on board.  The bus left an empty stop.  She was gone, heading south, towards the port.  He tried to see in his mind who was waiting there for her.  He knew, of course, there was someone, but who?  If it was the colonel then she had taken the assignment.  From the marina a fast cruiser would take her around past the point and from there she’d scuba dive and swim to land, on the far side of the border.  If she got caught he’d never see her alive again.  Such a waste.  Such a stupid waste.  He hated himself for refusing to go on assignment with her but he was sick and tired.  He had lost his taste for the excitement of her cat and mouse games.  But not for her.  He was in double jeopardy: he both hated and loved her with equal passion, one never overcoming the other unless or until she died. 

She’d told him in the park, “If you’re not with me, you’re against me.”  When she looked at him, he’d shaken his head and he’d felt the icy hatred she spat in the one word:  “Coward!” and walked away.  That was the last word they had spoken.

 “I better make that call,” and he pulled out a cell phone, hit a button, spoke one word: “Elk” and casually threw the phone under the wheels of a passing truck. 

Then it hit him as hard as if he’d walked into an on-coming car:  Misdirection.  She never got on the bus.  But the message was sent, the phone was destroyed and a totally innocent girl would go to her death tonight because of him, because he didn’t cross the street; because he really was a coward, not because she tricked him. 

He threw up in the gutter.

 

Encounter at Selda’s – a short story

It’s entertainment time, and if you look in the following for anything deeper  than an indoor-outdoor piece of carpet, I guarantee you, you’re wasting precious minutes of your life.
Do you remember the detective genres of the 40’s and 50’s with the corny dialogue and scenes? Here’s an attempt at mimicking one of those… enjoy…   S’T

ENCOUNTER AT SELDA’S
            by Sha’Tara

I don’t know why I noticed her. You’d think I would have had enough on my mind. But the way she stepped across that street, shaking her head, looking up and down, I knew something was wrong. I thought she looked at me, but why should I care? I told myself it was her miniskirt and halter top, but you really got to want to fool yourself to do so, and I wasn’t trying. I’d been fooled enough. Here I was, everything the same as every other day, except, as of 5:00 P.M., I was out of a job. For twelve years, I’d built my position inside Extel, and just after they promised me a management job: re-structure. Replaced by a bank of robots with flashing lights. My good friend, Carlos Rivaldi gave me the boot, just like that. Not even a sorry, just a cold stare from his piggish little black eyes and an envelope from his fat fingers bulging between an assortment of rings. “See you around, Al.” I was torqued. Yeah, I’d see him around, all right, and when I did, he wouldn’t be the one saying good-bye…

It’s not the end of the world; the weather’s hot and I can still run, though it won’t be to the shop anymore. I can still get my dinner special at Selda’s. I’ve got $3000 dollars saved up and I intend to play that for all it’s worth. I force on my T-shirt and after wiping off some sweat, slip into Selda’s greasy spoon. Place is full now, near six. I don’t worry. They always make room for me at the staff table near the back. There’s Dino coming to usher me away from the rest of the crowd: he doesn’t care for my attire, never has, but my money’s good.

“Hi, Elaine!”

“Hi back!” she says between trays and deftly stashing some tips in her glass. Elaine’s OK. We’ve been out a couple of times, but we don’t quite hit it off. My exercising, especially the water sports, scare her, and I won’t be tied down to the land for any woman, so, it’s a stand-off.

I sit at the table and try to think. Damn that Carlos. I’ll see him in hell. “Regular please, only skip dessert this time, OK?”

“Ain’t we the last of the big spenders tonight!”

“We sure are. We got the boot today.”

“You too? But I thought you were getting a promotion? Susan told me…”

“Susan was right: we both got promoted… to the street. Look, I don’t want to talk about it Jody. Do you know that woman in the black skirt just came in, the one Dino is eating raw?”

“No. Ain’t from around. Why?”

“Don’t get testy. Just asking. She was eyeballing me outside. What the hell? Dino’s pointing her this way…”

“It’s your party, big spender. Gotta look after the rest of my customers before they starve…”

The skirt swivels to my table, stops. I motion to the empty chair. She slides into it in one incredibly fluid motion. I scan the menu: shoulder length dark-blonde hair, green eyes (could have been the lighting), short finger nails, pretty mouth, not too big, long neck, medium breasts, well-exposed by skimpy black halter, backless, tanned. A swimmer. My eyes quit roving and my other senses get their chance. She smells outdoor: sunshine, moonlight, salt water and eucalyptus—definitely exotic if not intoxicating.

Me: “Hi!” How’s that for an original?

She: “I was following you when you came in here…” How’s that for a repartee? We are definitely on to something.

“Oh?” A two year old could have figured my next line: “Why?” and hers: “It’s a long story.” Do tell!

“Really…” I’m pretending no interest but she’s gaining fast. My omelet arrives. She orders soup and salad—I should have known. Oh, well, the food’s as good as usual, or as bad. I play the salt and pepper over my plate. She’s watching me, and I get nervous. She sips some water from my glass and lowers her head.

“Can we talk here?”

I look around, focusing on the din and answer caustically, “If you can make yourself heard!” Why am I being so difficult with the lady? Because I haven’t seen her before and she’s tailing me? Because she’s interrupting my dinner? Because I’m in a bitch of a mood and don’t want to talk to anyone, least of all a total stranger, female, desirable and quite likely dangerous to be seen with? Because… Oh, hell…

She sighs. No, I didn’t hear, I saw, and she opens up.

“Rivaldi dumped you, hey?”

I feel a cold shiver up my spine. Suddenly, I am all ears. “What?”

“Carlos – he gave you the boot this afternoon.”

She says it so damn matter-of-factly I nearly jump up and flip the table. “What the hell are you talking about?” She puts her nicely tanned hand on my arm and grips so hard I wince. “Hey, watch it!”

“Relax. I don’t want a scene. I need to talk.”

I know when I am beat and my curiosity is now well beyond retrieval. “Shoot. Whatever it is, it can’t be worse than what’s already happened” and sardonically: “please DO fill me in on the details!”

She sips my water again, sloshing the ice. “Want a beer or something?” I ask, trying to sound casual about it. Didn’t even fool me.

“Thanks! A Caesar, please!”

Quick at accepting freebies; have to watch that.

“I’m Sylvia Rivaldi. Carlos is my brother-in-law. My husband, Bernardo, was the main power behind Extel. Carlos, the front man. He’s been after his brother to break up the company and sell it for parts for quite some time. Bernardo refused. He said he liked computers. Bernardo, being the eldest, always had the last word, until last week, that is…” She reaches for the drink that has materialized and takes a long swallow. I watch the muscles on her extended throat contract and expand and I hold my breath. Even that part is tanned. I imagine very little of that lithe, healthy-looking body is untouched by the sun… or a man’s hands. “…so that’s when he disappeared…” I crash from my lustful reverie to land in her husky voice and my cold toast and omelet. “Disappeared?”

She looks around apprehensively and I think, “Oh, boy, what a ham. Does she think I just got off the bus?”

“Aren’t you listening to me?”

This time I detect a touch of self-pity, perhaps even fear, in her voice. “It’s been a hell of a day and you’re not helping. Sorry but you’re the only person I can trust and you’ve got a stake in this too.”

“Oh, I do?” I drawl the sarcasm out. “Well, that explains everything, don’t it!” She starts to cry and that’s when I begin to take her as the genuine article. Yeah, I’d thought someone’d put her up to this, but it was getting too good. “OK, I’ll listen, if you let me eat.”

“Thank you.” She dabs her eyes with my paper napkin. “As I said, Bernardo disappeared and I became frantic, all alone in that big house. Carlos tried so many times to get me there alone. He calls me and says, “Hey, kid. Where’s big bro? Gotta talk to him pronto.” I told him he wasn’t home and I hadn’t seen him for two days. “That so? Getting lonely? Want company? I could come over and make you comfy until Bern shows up, whadya say?” Forget it Carlos, I say, and he continues, “Well, maybe I will and again, maybe I won’t. Listen, bitch. Don’t think you can order me around. I’m gonna get what I want and you’re part of the picture, get it? Expect me at eight, and have cocktails ready. You’n me gonna party tonight, baby. We sure are gonna party…” and he hung up, laughing like a hyena.

“I was so scared! Then I realized I didn’t know where he’d called from. Maybe he was waiting down the drive for me to make a dash from the house. He knew exactly where I was and I didn’t know where he was. All I knew for sure was his ‘eight’ could mean any minute now. There was only one way out. The house is on a point across the bay and I keep a kayak down in a shelter by the rocks. I packed a few things, then remembered the safe. I found the combination, opened it and took all the cash and important looking papers; stashed the works in my waterproof belt pack and took off. I paddled across the bay and hid my boat in a place I know. I booked into a small beach-front motel and I’ve been watching developments ever since. I have a contact inside Extel and I learned what Carlos was doing. I knew about the so-called restructuring several days ago. I sent messages to Bernardo, but I knew it was useless…”

I raise my hand to stop the avalanche. “So you figure he’s dead?”

“I’m sure Carlos killed him.”

I brush a finger over my lips. She reads it like a pro and becomes absorbed by her salad. I say zip during Jody’s ritual coffee re-fill. She has big ears and a mouth to match. Once she’s absolutely out of ear-shot, I say: “You positive?”

“Yes, damn it. None of what’s happened would have if Bernardo was alive.”

“Seems like your boys like to play rough. Do they have any connections with…”

“You naive? Of course they got connections: all the way to Sicily. Don’t you know you were on the payroll of the Family, for Chrissakes? That Extel was a front for a drug channel from Columbia via Mexico and here? Bernardo was the kingpin and, get this, Carlos doesn’t know anything about the drugs, that stupid oaf!”

“OK. Let’s fast forward to the present. Why were you following me, and what do you want from me: protection from the goddam mob? Are you crazy?” She laughs. Such a beautiful, if unexpected, sound to emanate from that luscious package! For a mourning widow of a recently murdered husband, she presents a bit of a puzzle. “What the hell’s so funny?”

“You! I don’t remember the last time I met anyone as naive as you. It’s so refreshing!” She lets off another peal of laughter, and worse, some of the male customers are mentally taking out their measuring tapes. Already, I feel defensive and jealous and think, “Here we go. I’ll pop someone and never see her again. Women don’t like jealous males, don’t I know it, but I can’t help myself. “Quit that laughing, will ya?” I’m as tense as a startled rattler.

“Sorry!” She looks anything but. “I don’t need protection; I need a partner…”

“A what???” Now I’m shouting!

“Shhh. Carlos did you in like he’s trying to do me. With Bernardo dead, I own that damn Extel. I’ve got the papers. That’s what the fat slob’s after, not to mention me. I want him dead and that’s where you come in, partner.”

She’s so cool, the ice-cubes in the glass are growing! I splutter: “Are you nuts? I don’t know you. I don’t know if what you’re telling me comes from the back of a three dollar bill. D’you realize what you sound like, for Chrissakes?”

“Sure!” She purses her lips and moves in for the kill, her fingers resting lightly on my thigh. “I’ve got something you’d like, and I think we can work together.”

“What you got, I can get any time. This is LA.! And whatever else you got is trouble. I don’t need either.”

She smiles angelically. “You are naive. I love that! I’m not offering sex…” Smiling: “not yet, and as for trouble, nothing ventured, nothing gained!” She unsnaps her belt pack and slides it over her knees. Such shape, even in dimmed lighting. She unzips, pulls out an envelope, pops the end open and reveals a stack of heavy-duty bills. Must’ve been a hundred thou in there. She puts it back, pulls out a folded paper and opening it, traces some faint lines with her index. “What are those?”

“This is the route. Bernardo kept it in his safe and now I’m the only one who has the picture. We’re talking quick, easy millions, but I need a trusty sailor who knows the channels like the back of his hand to man a boat tonight. Did I make a mistake, Roger?”

Impossible! How could she know my real name? I was snared and shrugged helplessly: “No. I’ll get the boat.” She slips me several bills which add up to five thousands. I stuff them under the insole of my sweaty runners and lace up again.

“You’re fabulous!” With a feline stretch, she plants a full-lipped kiss on my mouth. I grope for more of her kelp and palm oil and whatever else she makes available in such tight if public quarters. Too late now to pause and consider a minor question like: “Who really killed Bernardo?” Good-bye Carlos! And inspector Dinsdale you dirty snake in the grass, am I going to have a nice little surprise for you, and this time won’t be me serving time for Uncle Sam.

 

Nancy, Part 2 – a short story

 

Well, I didn’t want to leave you all in such dramatic suspense, so for the time being, I concluded this episode in the life of Nancy the Criminologist.  Enjoy.

Nancy   (Part 2) a short story, by Sha’Tara

Ian seldom questioned his sister. He’d always admired her and there was a special bond between them.  He got up, dressed as fast as he could, “borrowed” the family car which he was entitled to, and drove to the indicated intersection.  When he arrived, Nancy signalled him from a doorway and he pulled the car up.  “What’s up, sis?”

“Got the bastard that did Jenny. He’s inside here.  I told you he was a copper.  Got his ID.  Help me put him in the back seat.”

Together they dragged and carried the still unconscious would-be assailant to the car and shoved him in the back seat.

“What do we do now, sis?”

“We don’t do anything. You walk on home Ian, let me deal with this my own way.”

“You know I never question your motives, Nan, but have you thought this through?”

“No, yes, I’m not sure, that’s the whole point.  I need to be alone with the creep to get my head on straight.  I can’t have anyone else around to screw with my reasoning, OK?  I promise you this, that the car will be back at the house before 6:00 AM.”

“It’s not the car, Nan…”

“Aw, fuck! Go home, Ian.” 

He walked away, dejected that she didn’t trust him to stand by her. What he didn’t understand was that she did trust him, too much.  He was too loyal and that was dangerous.  What she had to do, she had to do entirely on her own.  The consequences would be hers alone. 

She started the car and headed down Heather street. Ian had stopped to watch her go.  He saw her turn and knew she was headed for Belsing’s woods and the swamp below the old quarry.  Fearing he worst, he decided to follow her.  It would be a fair run but Ian, like his sister, was very much an athlete and had run a few marathons.  Six kilometres didn’t mean anything to him.  He began running.  And enjoying it.

As she drove up to the woods, Nancy was thinking about the situation. She knew she had her sister’s rapist in her power.  She knew she could do anything she wanted with him; to him.  The problem was, there were so many ways to deal with the situation.  She wanted to kill him.  She thought about that, then filed the idea for the time being.  She wanted to castrate him.  She thought about that too, and liked it very much.  A woman gets her vengeance where there is no justice.  She looked back at the inert form in the back and heard the man groan, then whimper.

“You nice and comfy back there?” Needling him with sarcasm. “Don’t worry, I’ll be letting you out soon.  We’re almost there.”  She adjusted the rear-view mirror to look at him.  His eyes were open now and he stared back at her without saying a word.  His nose was still bleeding and he was a mess.  “Good!” she thought.  And loudly, “Payback time, Rayburn.”  She’d gotten his last name from his ID.  “I’m going to help you remember the good times you had with my sister.”

“Aw, shit, fuck…” she heard him say, and smiled. “Right you are, Rayburn, you have no idea how right you are.”

The car bounced over the old roadway and she pulled up at the end, near a twisted rusty metal gate that indicated the entrance to “the swamp” as the locals called it; a stinking mess of polluted waters from illegal dumping of herbicides and pesticides, and whatever offal the refuse disposal wouldn’t accept. She opened the door and smelled it.  Perfect, she thought, and took a deep breath. 

It was high enough here that there was no fog. A half moon threw a pale light on the dismal surroundings.  A night bird called, probably an owl.  Omen of death.  She liked it.  She opened the back door and using the switch blade she’d taken from her assailant, cut his ankle restraints.  “Get out of the car.” She ordered, “and don’t force me to help you do it.” 

With his wrists securely trussed up his back there was nothing “Rayburn” could do but obey. He wriggled himself out of the car and slowly stood, reaching a half head taller than the girl.

“This is a great place for our little tête-à-tête don’t you think, Rayburn? It’s private here, so quiet too.  This is where you intended to bring me, isn’t it?  Well, you did, but unfortunately for you, it won’t be quite as much fun as you’d anticipated.  Say something!” She poked him in the stomach with her forefinger.  “I want to hear you brag now…”  She kept goading him.

“God I’m hurting. My wrist, my hands, something’s broken.  My dose is broken too.  I need a doctor…”

“Of course you do, Rayburn. Just like my sister needed a doctor after you were done with her.” 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know you, or your sister.  You’ve got the wrong guy, whatever you’re talking about.  I was investigating a burglary…”

“Oh please, give me a little bit of credit will you? Pitiful denials only make me more angry and what you have to remember right now is, you don’t want to make me any angrier.  I’m on the edge here, Rayburn, and this is looking more and more like your last night on this world.  So, how about a simple confession?  While you’re at it, how about implicating some of your buddies who covered your crimes – and it is crimes – Rayburn?  You raped and beat my sister unconscious four months ago in this place.  Tell the truth, Rayburn.  I’m the avenging angel here and from my point of view, things are going south for you unless you learn to tell the truth, quickly.”

Pivoting suddenly, Nancy flicked open the switchblade in the copper’s face, indicating more pain to come. “I need to hear the truth, Rayburn.  You know the line: “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God?”  You were never charged for raping and torturing my sister, so you never had to perjure yourself on the stand.  However, if you perjure yourself here, you will not live past this night.  I’ll give you exactly five minutes to think about that.  Would you like to know how you will be dispatched?” 

She slipped the knife to his groin and slit his pants open. “I’m going to administer a cure for rape, Rayburn.  Just so you know.  It won’t save your life, but it will give you a taste of what it would be like to go through the rest of your life without any balls.  Like that?”  He yelped as she pulled out his genitalia, pulling the tip of the blade through his pubic hair. 

““Never again, never, ever, again…” she said sotto voce. “Let’s see how many brain cells you have working in your favour tonight.  You didn’t leave them all at the pub did you?  Move over to that rock over there and sit against it – now!” 

He did as he was told, his brain twisting with thoughts on how to extricate himself from a situation he’d never been in. He’d always been the predator, never the prey.  He sat down against the stone.  Helpless.  He’d never thought he’d ever be in this situation.

“Did you notice how much like a tombstone this rock looks? It’s perfect for our encounter, don’t you think?  Now I’m going to cuff your ankles again, so you don’t get the wrong ideas.  Men like you always get the wrong ideas and that would mean a sudden termination.  I’m in no hurry, why should you be?”  She strapped his ankles together once more then moved the knife to his penis and pricked it.  He gasped and let out a loud… “Nooo!”  She laughed in his face. 

“OK, thinking time is over. It’s now confession time.  I’m hoping I’ve convinced you that I mean business.  I’m as focussed on this as you were on raping my sister, then me.  Let’s call it an exchange of determination:  you can relate?”

She walked to the car and pulled out her handbag. Attending lectures meant having a recorder.  She turned it on and slipped it into her coat pocket then returned to the sitting man now in serious agony from his swollen, broken wrist and nose, plus in mortal fear for his life.  It finally dawned on him that this was for real: he was literally staring death in the face.  This was the avenger he’d dreamed about from time to time after his depradations. Twice he’d been caught, twice saved by his fellows destroying evidence and twice posted to a different place.  This time, it wasn’t happening.  This wasn’t going to be about evidence because there was no more need for evidence. 

“Ok, Rayburn, I’m going to ask some straight-forward questions and you’re going to answer each one. Each time you lie, I’m going to do something to you that won’t be pleasant.  Those are the rules, and it’s now my game.  Let’s begin.

“Did you rape and beat unconscious, one Jenny Lowry in the night of August 17th of this year?”

“Yes”

“Did you also rape and beat to death a young school girl in Kane county and consequently were transferred after you friends destroyed evidence that would have closed the case against you?”

“How did you…”

“Shut up, unless you’re answering my question.” The knife flashed in the moonlight and he cringed.

“Yes, I did.”

“And two years before, did you also rape and almost killed a store clerk, one Lucy Miller, and were once more saved from prosecution by the police destroying evidence against you, and were you not then transferred as a result?”

Nancy once again flashed the deadly switchblade in the moonlight. It gave an evil glow.  He looked at it and despite his agonizing discomfort, shivered as if death was literally creeping up his spine.

“Yes, that is also true.”

It was at that moment that Ian came on the scene, panting but intent on preventing his sister from murdering the rapist.

“Nan, don’t do it!”

“Jee-sus!  Ian for Chrissakes!” She straightened up.

 “D’you think I’m a total idiot?  Don’t you realize I set this up?  The police here aren’t all completely corrupt, you know.  Some of them wanted to catch Jenny’s rapist as much as I did.  You know sergeant Blakes?  I told him about my suspicions, that the rapist was a copper.  So he told me he’d keep an eye out; that he had his own suspicions as to who it could be.  I needed a confession, Ian.  I got what I wanted.  I’ve got a recording, and now you’re my witness.  We’re going to take this scum to police headquarters and we’re going to follow through until there isn’t a chance he’ll slip through the bars again.”

“Confession obtained under extreme duress, Nan. Won’t hold you know.”

“It’s not all, Ian. I’ve been investigating this for some time.  I have other witnesses who can identify this copper.  And there’s a particular lawyer who’s very keen on getting a conviction on this creep. 

 “Investigating? What do you mean?”

 “My degree, Ian? Criminology?  This is, shall we say, my practicum.”

 “What about his buddies, the ones who destroyed forensic evidence? You didn’t get a confession on that.”

 “Thanks to you for barging in, Ian, you idiot!” She turned to him and gave him a bear hug.  “Love you, love you, brother.  But don’t worry, those points are going to come out during questioning – at the station.  He’s the type that won’t go down alone if he can drag others with him.  There’s more to this case than rape and murder.  There’s drugs; there’s money laundering; there’s cover-up; there’s several corrupt hands washing each other.”

 “Nan, answer me this: if you’d become convinced there was no chance, no chance at all, that you and Jen would see justice done, what would you have done with him?”

 She pivoted, facing the swamp, and said slowly, clearly, “There’s always room for one more piece of offal in there.”