Short Story Tarot Spread

Welcome back!

It has been a bit since I wrote a blog about using tarot for writing. We’ve done a few easy spreads to help create a quite plot outline and to discover traits about our characters. Today we will do a tarot spread to help you write a short story.

If you haven’t yet, make sure you read my first to blogs and check out my videos about tarot for writing:

https://fahuffman.com/2018/10/29/4-tarot-writing-plots/

https://fahuffman.com/2018/10/02/tarot-as-a-writing-aid/

In other news, let’s get down to what we really came here for.

While I really want to talk about the Celtic Cross spread, it is a more advanced spread. Instead of jumping into something that might be difficult to use, I figured I would cover some easier spreads first. Today, we are going to look at an easy 9 card spread to help to create a short story.

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To start you spread, shuffle you tarot cards until you feel like that they have been shuffled enough. While you are shuffle, think about the reason why you are shuffling. Let the cards and the Universe know that you want to get a layout for a short story.

Then lay each of the cards out in the pattern shown above. You can place them face down and flip each over as you get to it, or you can lay it out face up, whichever works best for you.

Card 1: This card tells you who your narrator is. This could mean anything that you want it to be. Maybe you want to know if it’s an omniscient being is watching the story unfold or it could be the protagonist. Who knows, it could be the antagonist.

Card 2: This card tells you the outer persona of your protagonist. This is how they present themselves to the world. This may not correlate with how they truly feel.

Card 3: This card tells you the inner persona of your protagonist. This is how they actually feel. This is their inside and true self.

Card 4: This card tells you how the story will start. This is your beginning.

Card 5: This card tells you about the middle of the story. This is the middle.

Card 6: This card tells you how the story will end.

Card 7 & 8: These cards tell you about two minor characters. You can also pull more cards if you want more minor characters. These characters can end up helping or hindering your protagonist.

Card 9: This card tells you about the main theme of the story.

That’s it. The hardest part is interpreting the cards, but it doesn’t have to be. Practice interpreting the cards before you ever do you first spread. (Easier said than done)

Most tarot cards come with a book that explains the cards, but you can also find information online. The more you do these spreads the easier they will become.

“It’s said that the shuffling of the cards is the earth, and the pattering of the cards is the rain, and the beating of the cards is the wind, and the pointing of the cards is the fire. That’s of the four suits. But the Greater Trumps, it’s said, are the meaning of all process and the measure of the everlasting dance.”
― Charles Williams

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

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Short Story – Pelagia’s Fate

The mountains loomed over the large white castle. The sun eased past the horizon, illuminating the yard. Shrubs with little red flowers lined the wall. Shining yellow and white sprites sprinted through the yard watering the flowers, cleaning the pool, and pruning the shrubs. Above them, at the tallest window, stood a man of 120 years, yet he didn’t look a day over 25.

His long black hair billowed in the wind that rushed through the open balcony window.  His bare chest shined in the growing light. His boxers hung low on his hips, showing off his defined body and the slightest ruffle of dark curly hair.

Padraig rubbed his hand over the tattoo on his ribs. The dark blackbird popped from his porcelain colored skin. The only color the tattoo held was the bright red arrow that hung from the blackbird’s beak. Padraig had been part of the first group that Amon had given their fates to. He had thought it was a ridiculous idea. Never believing that one man had the ability to hand out fates to people with only a simple tattoo, but the tattoo had been free. Padraig had lived for several decades with that tattoo without as much of an inkling that it was going to come true. Then one day it happened. And it continued to happen.

Padraig had grown up in a poor elf family. They lived on the outskirts of Inis and scraped by with the scraps of the nobles. When he was told he would become a noble, his family had been ecstatic. They ignored the other half of his fate, but that was the half that scared Padraig. Once he became a noble, he knew he had to be careful. He didn’t want the evil half to come out. He thought he had managed to escape the other half of his fate. He never got married. He made sure all the people that worked for him were men, but then one day he slipped. That was it. That evil side came out … and he loved it.

The door to his room creaked open. In stepped a beautiful woman. Her long red hair was tied high on her head. She wore a strapless green bikini top with matching bottoms. Across her stomach, a purple spider web held a large black spider. The tattoo shimmered from the sweat that prickled across her skin. Adeline was 70 years younger than her husband, but it had been love at first sight.

Padraig’s ex-wife hadn’t been able to handle his lifestyle. She loved the extravagant places they lived and the fact she was married to a noble, but she hadn’t been able to live with his dark side. She couldn’t take the bad with the good. Adeline could. Padraig’s dark side played right into hers.

“Showing off for the workers?” Adeline asked.

“I just got up, wanted a bit of fresh air. How was your workout?”

“Wonderful. I see you had a good time last night.”

Adeline walked over to the bed and began to ease off the ivory white sheets. Starting at the foot of the bed, she rolled the sheets up into a ball, keeping the blood on the inside. She tossed the blood covered sheets next to a lump on the floor, hidden in the corner. A closer inspection would show that lump used to be a beautiful fairy woman. The only thing that was still recognizable on the body was a black and white tattoo of a tombstone with a black cat sitting perched on top.

“Did you have to make such a mess?” she asked.

“I can’t help it if she wouldn’t stay still.”

“I thought I told you to use the sedative.”

“I like it better when they’re awake.”

“The sedative I gave you allows them to wake up but keeps their body immobile. It also keeps me from having to explain to the cleaners why my husband has such bloody sheets.”

“Just throw them away. I can buy new ones.”

“Throw them away? If we threw away everything that you bloodied, then we wouldn’t need cleaners.”

“Honey,” Padraig, cooed, wrapping an arm around his wife, “Are you jealous?”

“I was just hurt you didn’t let me pick this one out. And she was one of our best gardeners.”

Padraig kissed his wife’s cheek. Wrapping her in a hug, he led her over to the stripped bed.

“Let me make it up to you.”

Far below them, in the deepest and darkest corners of the castle, came a penetrating scream. Darcy darted through the nooks and crannies that he knew so well, chasing after a shiny silver elf. He didn’t enjoy chasing elves as much as he did the others. Elves would glow when they got scared or excited, so they made it too easy for him to find them.

Adeline had lured Darcy into their home with the promise that his fate wouldn’t come true. The day Darcy stepped out of the hospital white building with his fresh tattoo, he had lost all hope. He had always been a gentle soul. His entire family was twisted, evil ogres and Darcy had always felt out of place. When he looked down and saw the large chimera on his left leg, he knew how his life was going to end.

The ugly creature was made up of a lion with a tail that grew into a snakes head, and a goats head growing out of its back. Darcy’s tattoo was more intricate and uglier than any others in his family. His packet had told him that the chimera was seen as an omen for disaster. That was it. Nothing else was explained.

For days, all Darcy had done was wander around the center gardens of Inis. He enjoyed watching the rainbow-colored butterflies race through the flowers. He would help the gardener’s plant pink and purple flowers. Every few days, he would see this beautiful woman with long red hair running through the gardens. It seemed like on those same days his family would show up and mock him. Then one day the red-headed lady came up to him.

“You come with me, to my castle, and you can work as a gardener forever. You’ll never have to worry about your fate coming true. I’ll make sure of that,” she cooed the last part in his ear.

Darcy ran home and packed his bags. His brothers had laughed at him when he told them his plan. His parents weren’t home, and he didn’t plan on waiting around for them. He met the lady back at the gardens and followed her back to the castle.

The first few days had been amazing. He worked outside. He had regular gourmet meals. He had free run of the castle. Then one day Adeline asked him to go to the basement. There was something wrong with the boiler, and she needed him to fix it. As he walked in, the door slammed and locked behind him. He shook the door, trying to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. A hum came from deep in the maze of concrete walls, drawing him closer. He continued to wander through the maze, but the closer he got to the hum, the further away it sounded.

He continued to wander through the maze for days on end trying to find that sound until he had learned the maze like the back of his hand. All of a sudden the humming stopped. Meals were slid under the door for him, letting him know the time and day: breakfast at 8 am sharp, lunch at noon and dinner at 6. Then one day the door opened. The light burned his eyes. He hadn’t seen daylight in a few weeks. When the doors shut, he could hear a quiet sob.

He followed the sob through the maze-like he had the hum, but this time he caught up with it. It was a young giant girl, no more than 20. She tried to run away from him, but he grabbed her, pulling her to the little room he had made himself. He forced her to sit and talk to him. Every time she sobbed, he would smack her to shut her up. The next morning she was gone. A week passed, and then another girl was tossed into the maze.

This continued week after week until he grew used to these visitors, and bored with the interaction. Then they started coming more often, and he became more creative in the way he treated them. He would chase them through the maze until they collapsed. They couldn’t hide, he knew where everything was. After a year, Padraig came to speak with him. He offered him the chance to roam the castle again if he so chose if he would continue to “wear down” his lady friends. Darcy agreed, he wanted to see the gardens again, but he also enjoyed his exercise.

Here he was, 20 years later, and he still enjoyed chasing these women. The shining elf darted into a cave that all the women seemed to find. They thought it hid them. If any ole’ monster was chasing them, it would, but not Darcy. He stopped chasing her for a moment and listened to her cries. He crept up behind the wall and peered over. With a soft tap of his finger, the elf looked up at him before letting out a blood curtailing scream.

***

Pelagia rubbed her hand across the lily tattoo on her shoulder. The tattoo had long since healed, but it still itched from time to time. Her long blond hair was held in a braid that draped over her tattooed shoulder. Her casual blue outfit stood out against her family’s power suits.

She sat at the red oak table that her parents used for family meals. When the kids didn’t come to visit, they used the small breakfast nook in the kitchen. It was the Friday night dinner that Pelagia dreaded sitting through each week. The conversation always turned to her fate. Her parents and siblings would start talking about everything they had accomplished at work. The new rules or laws that they had sent to the elders for approval or the new election they were getting ready for. Then they would look over at Pelegai, see her rubbing her shoulder, and then stare at their food for a few minutes. Somebody, usually her mother, would speak first.

“Honey, stop rubbing your shoulder, you make me worried when you do that,” Brigid said, picking at the roast duck on her plate.

“Sorry, it’s a habit,” Pelagia replied, dropping her arm.

“A bad habit,” mumbled Jarlath.

Jarlath, Pelagia’s father, couldn’t understand her preoccupation with her fate, nor did he understand why she just sat around and waited for it to come true. Of course, she wasn’t sitting around and waiting. Pelagia worked, she volunteered at the local hospital, and she was active in her spiritual group. To her parents, she was wasting her time.

“Sorry, Dad,” Pelagia growled.

“I just don’t see why you can’t come work for me. I need a new secretary, and you just might make it in politics yet,” Jarlath stated.

“I don’t want to. I am happy doing what I’m doing.”

“Then why do you look so sad?” Brigid asked.

“I’m lonely.”

“Then find someone.”

“Mom, I can’t. My damn fate won’t allow me to.”

“You can find someone to be with without having sex.”

“The Universe must not feel the same way.”

“Well, at least you’re still alive.”

“Mom! Really? Every time I’m here you have to bring that up.”

“What? You can’t forget the noose around that flower. You are going to commit suicide one day, so you need to get used to it.”

“I understand that will happen one day, but you don’t have to act so cavalier about it. All that does is make me think that you all won’t even morn me when I do die. You’re already comfortable with my fate. That’s the problem with this stupid system.”

“Do NOT refer to the fate tattoos as stupid. The Universe, elders, and nobles all believe that it is an amazing system,” Jarlath yelled.

“Oh, sure, they think it’s great. The Universe doesn’t have to live these fates, and the elders and nobles have the best fate possible. All I’m trying to get at is the fact that these fates make us worry until they come true, and if you have a fate of death, then your family has already gotten over it before you even die. I want people to miss me when I’m gone. I don’t want people sitting around saying things like, ‘Well I saw that coming.’”

“We will miss you,” Brigid said.

“Sure, you will.”

“If you’re going to sit there and insult your mother, then you can leave,” Jarlath said.

“Fine!”

Pelagia pushed herself away from the table and stormed out the door, slamming it behind her. She wandered her way towards the garden, which had become a weekly tradition. Every time she had a fight with her parents she would end up in the garden.

The garden was a gathering ground of sorts. A large circular hedge marked the garden’s territory. Inside, the garden was full of flowers, trees, and protected plants. As Pelagia walked through the large golden gate the elegant scent of the globeflower hit her nose. The garden greeted her with a sea of pink, blue, and yellow. She shuffled her way to her favorite bench in front of the bog rosemary. As she settled into the bench the tears began to flow.

Pelagia sat and cried for several hours. There were very few people in the garden at this hour, but the few that were there didn’t pay her any attention, except for one. If Pelagia hadn’t been crying she would have noticed the fiery redhead that had been watching her for the last hour.

Adeline loved walking through the gardens at this time of night. Only the most desperate and pathetic wander through, giving her the best opportunity to find help. Adeline had noticed Pelagia a few times before, but never felt it was the right time to approach her. Tonight, on the other hand, seemed right. Pelagia was more upset than she had ever been.

Adeline sashayed over to Pelagia’s bench and sat down. Her gentle hand touched Pelagia’s arm. Pelagia jerked at the touch. Seeing how beautiful the person behind the touch looked, Pelagia relaxed for a moment.

“Are you all right?” Adeline cooed.

“Yeah. Fine.” Pelagia sniffled.

“You don’t look fine. Why don’t you tell me what’s really wrong.”

“It’s a long story.”

“I have time.”

Pelagia looked deep into the stranger’s eyes, searching for a reason why she was interested. She couldn’t get past the ice blue color of her eyes. They pulled her into a trance, and Pelagia started telling Adeline everything. Once Pelagia finished her story, Adeline wrapped a long slender arm around her shoulders and pulled her close.

“What if I told you I could protect you from your fate?”

“You can’t do that. Nobody can. It’s fate.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. My husband and I own that large white castle on the east side of town. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Anyway, we have made it our mission to help innocent people like you stay safe from horrible fates. The work of Amon can be crude and evil, and we believe people should have the opportunity to make their own life.”

“But nobody can possibly keep fates from coming true.”

“If you come live with me, you can work in the gardens there, and you will have a nice little basement apartment all to yourself. You’d have free roam of the property, and not a single person there will cause you any harm. Now, tell me how your fate could possibly come true in a place like that?”

“I suppose it would be hard for my fate to be fulfilled there.”

“Your family won’t miss you either. They’ve already moved on.”

One last tear slipped down Pelagia’s cheek. With a sigh, Pelagia stood and turned toward Adeline.

“I’d love to live with you and your husband. Anything is better than where I am now.”

“That’s my girl,” Adeline said, standing and wrapping Pelagia in a hug.

Adeline took Pelagia’s hand and led her towards the Buckley castle. Pelagia’s eyes grew wide the closer they came. Never in her life had she seen anything as amazing as her new home.

Adeline led her up the huge white marble stairs to the front door. Celtic knots decorated the edge of the iron door. The soft lilt of singing echoed around the corner of the house. The door creaked open as they approached, welcoming Pelagia. The foyer was decorated with gothic accents, red roses, and white candles.  Pelagia eased into the expansive room. Looking up the hall, the lights of the candles disappeared into the darkness. Adeline draped an elegant arm around Pelagia and led her down the hall. The soft echo of their footsteps followed behind as they reached a large steel door.

“Here we are,” Adeline announced.

“Where does the door go?” Pelagia whispered.

“To your room. You get the entire basement to yourself. It’s completely furnished too.”

“Really?”

“Yep. You have free run of the house and grounds as well. Make yourself at home.”

Pelagia reached out and grasped the cold doorknob and pulled the door open. Cool air hit her. A soft whir can from the expansive darkness that unfolded before her. She eased her foot onto the top step. The step was hard. Despite the darkness, she knew it had to be marble. She continued her slow march down the stairs.

Pelagia’s skin started to emit a soft glow lighting the dark stairwell. While she could see where she was going, the glow of her skin casted an ominous shadow along the walls. At the bottom of the stairs, Pelagia ran a hand along the wall looking for a light switch. Her finger slipped over the switch. Lights flicked on overhead illuminating her new home. Pelagia had seen a few basements during her life, but nothing this extravagant.

An expansive living room stood in front of her. A huge flat screen TV hung on the wall. A complete black leather living room suit decorated the floor. Red, purple, white, and pink lilies and irises decorated the tables and walls.

Pelagia stepped through an archway into the kitchen. A cute little breakfast nook was set up in the corner. Marble countertops sat on the cabinets. To Pelagia’s eyes, she had brand new stainless steel appliances. She walked back into the living to the open bedroom door.

A huge canopy bed stood in the center of the room. She found an equally big bathroom to the right. She flopped down on the soft bed and smile up at the sparkling purple canopy. With a sigh, Pelagia started to close her eyes when she heard a low grumble coming from outside her room. She bolted out of the bed and eased through the living room to investigate.

Another growl shook the room; this time sounding further away. Pelagia followed the growl to a large black door on the far side of the room. She slowly reached out her hand to touch the doorknob.

“That doors locked,” Adeline stated.

Pelagia jumped and whirled around to face Adeline.

“What?” Pelagia asked, her heart racing.

“The doors locked. It’s for the boiler room. Nobody ever goes in there except when there is maintenance that needs to be done, but there’s a second entrance so you won’t be bothered.”

“Then why do you have this door?”

“It was put there before we turned the basement into an apartment, and we didn’t take the time to remove it.”

“Oh.”

“I brought you some cookies and milk to welcome you home. I’ll introduce you to everyone tomorrow.”

“Thank you.”

Pelagia took the tray of cookies and milk with a smile. Adeline gave her a small wave as she made her way back up the stairs. Pelagia gave the large black door one last look before taking her treats to the kitchen.

That night Pelagia enjoyed her treats and enjoyed her first night of restful sleep since her 18th birthday. Over the next few days, Pelagia got to know her new home. She made friends with fairies and sprites that worked in the gardens, and the kitchen elf started teaching her to cook. She never once thought of that odd growl she had heard the first night. The large black door didn’t even catch her attention. She was enjoying her life for the first time in a long time, and she didn’t have to worry about her parents butting in. They had no clue where she was, and she wasn’t about to tell them.

The one week anniversary of Pelagia’s move in, Adeline and Padraig threw her a party. They had all of her favorite foods; cookies, milk, honey, several types of berries, and caramel. After she had eaten her fill, and the party started to wind down, Pelagia made her way to bed. She laid for a few moments on her bed and watched the lights around her twinkle. As she started to drift off to sleep a deep growl rocked her bed.

Pelagia sat up. Another growl ripped through her apartment, louder and fiercer. She scooted to the head of the bed with her legs tucked into her chest. As another growl rumbled through the air; a large shadow passed by her bedroom door.

“Hello?” Pelagia called sheepishly.

She was answered by another growl. Goosebumps run up her arms. Easing off the bed, she crept to the door and peered out. The living room appeared as it had earlier. She pushed the door open with a squeak and stepped into her living space. The growls continue in constant succession causing the walls the shake. The closer she walked to the large black door, the louder the growling became. She reached out a shaking hand and grasped the doorknob. The knob wouldn’t turn. The large black door rattled as something hit it from the other side. Pelagia jumped back and ran upstairs.

She ran through the house trying to find Adeline, but she was nowhere to be found. Pelagia hurried into the kitchen, running into Padraig. Pelagia stumbled backward. Padraig stepped back holding a glass of wine in his hand and wearing nothing but boxers.

“You okay?” Padraig asked.

“Yes… No… I mean…” Palagia stumbled.

“Calm down. Why don’t you tell me what happened.”

Padraig sat his glass down on the black marble island and motioned towards a bar stool. Pelagia eased onto the bar stool next to Padraig. With a sigh, she raced through the story of what happened downstairs.

“I’m sure that seemed very scary,” Padraig cooed, reaching a handout and stroking Pelagia’s hair, “But it’s just the boiler room. It acts up sometimes.”

“But something banged on the door.”

“It just sounded like it did. Nobody is the boiler room. Both doors are kept locked.”

“But…”

“Everything is fine.”

Padraig ran a gentle hand down Pelagia’s arm onto her leg. She brushed his hand away and stepped back from the island. Padraig sauntered over to Pelagia, pushing her into the counter. He wrapped an arm around her waist and brushed his hand down her face. Pelagia cringed at his touch.

“You need to relax,” Padraig sighed.

“Let me go,” Palagia shouted, pushing him away.

Pelagia took off to her room. Back downstairs, she ran for her bedroom, planning on locking the door to keep Padraig out, but the door was already locked. She scrambled to find a hiding place, but there wasn’t one. Even the outside basement door was locked where she couldn’t get outside. She turned to look at the large black door again. The growls and banging had subsided leaving her apartment quiet.

The sound of footsteps echoed above her. She ran towards the large black door, knowing it would be locked, but desperate to find a hiding spot. To her surprise, when she turned the doorknob the door easily swung open. Pelagia stepped into the dark, cold room. A sewer smell hit her nose causing her eyes to water. A rumble ran through the room almost knocking Pelagia down. The door slammed closed. Pelagia frantically grabbed at the door, but the door was locked. Turning to face the dark room, Pelagia made her way into what looked like a maze. Another growl ripped through her. She took off running.

“There’s another door,” Pelagia whispered.

The maze shook as Darcy took off. Pelagia ran as fast as she could, trying to get to the other end. The more she ran, the more lost she became. Every wall looked the same. Every turn seemed to lead back to the same cubby hole. The more frightened she became the more her skin glowed.

Out of breath and tired, Pelagia hunkered down into the cubby hole to rest. She hadn’t spotted Darcy. He had learned a while back that the longer his prey went without seeing him, the longer he got to chase him. Nothing was more fun than the chase. Darcy peered around the wall at Pelagia. She sat curled in a ball. Her head pulled into her knees.

Pelagia’s hair swayed as Darcy breathed harder. The smell of his breath caught her attention. Her head shot around and spotted Darcy. With a blood-curdling scream, Pelagia took off again through the maze. Darcy reached out a monstrous hand and grabbed for Pelagia’s shoulder. She shook free and continued her pursuit through the maze.

“I’ve got to stop glowing,” Pelagia whispered to herself.

As she rounded another corner Pelagia tried to calm herself. With thoughts of fruits and flowers, Pelagia’s glow began to dim. Her eyes weren’t used to the darkness, causing her to run into a wall and fall.

Darcy had lost sight of the little sprite when she dimmed herself. She was one of the best victims he had ever chased.

“Where did you go?” Darcy growled.

Pelagia pulled herself up. As she took a step a hot pain ripped through your right leg causing her to scream.

Darcy darted in the direction of the scream. Pelagia limped as fast as she could, but Darcy was too fast and too use to the maze. She could feel his hot breath on her neck. His cool fingertips touched her skin. She jerked away, but her leg gave out sending her tumbling down. Darcy grabbed the wounded girl by the neck. Pelagia kicked and struggled to get out of his grasp, but it was no use. Darcy tossed her against the wall of the maze like a rag doll. Pelagia’s head bounced off the wall sending her into darkness.

***

Pelagia’s eyes blinked open to a searing pain in her head and a blinding light. As her sight cleared a familiar face came into view. Padraig crouched over her. Pelagia tried to move out from under him, but her body wouldn’t move. The only thing she could move was her eyes. She rolled her eyes as far down as she could. Nothing was between her and Padraig. She laid naked under him.

Padraig leaned over her, pressing his hands into the pillow beside of her head. Pelagia tried with all her might to scream, but nothing came out. The only thing she could do was lie there. Padraig continued using Pelagia until she passed out again. That didn’t stop him. For hours Padraig would ravage Pelagia, stopping to rest for a few moments before starting again. Finally, he had his fill and left her.

***

A few hours later, Pelagia came too in the same blinding white room. This time she could move her head and body. She jerked up to a sitting position causing waves of pain to rocket throughout her body. A soft whimper escaped her throat.

“It’s about time you woke up. I was beginning to worry about you,” Adeline cooed from the corner.

Adeline stood at the far side of the room. She wore a long green evening gown that sparkled in the midday sun that shined through the window. Her red hair cascaded around her body. Picking up a glass of water, Adeline glided across the room to Pelagia. Trying to avoid her touch, Pelagia slid across the bed as far away from her as she could get.

“You know, my husband really enjoyed having you. He’d never been with a virgin before. You may have ruined him for any other woman. But the problem is, you’re never going to feel like that again.”

Pelagia tried her best to curl up into a ball, but her leg hurt too badly from her fall. For the first time, she saw what her body looked like. Her thighs held dark bruises shaped like fingers. A stain of red blood covered part of the sheets. Adeline smiled as she watched the fear fill Pelagia’s face.

“Well, I have someplace I need to be. I didn’t dress like this for you. You really should drink some water. You’re probably severely dehydrated.”

Adeline strolled towards the door before stopping.

“Don’t think that can go anywhere. Your buddy Darcy will be watching your every move.”

Adeline left Pelagia alone with Darcy. Darcy stood at the door with his arms crossed wearing nothing but a loincloth. Pelagia accessed the damage Padraig and Darcy had caused. There wasn’t a spot on her that didn’t ache or hurt. The knee she had hurt was black and blue and swollen. Her arms felt like they had 100-pound weights strapped to them. Tears started to flow as she continued to think about what had happened.

She eased herself off the bed and hobbled towards the window. She opened the door to the balcony and stepped outside. The sun was hot on her cold skin and caused her head to pound. Darcy grunted, calling her back inside. Pelagia took one last look outside. She was in the top room of the turret she had noticed when Adeline first brought her to the castle.

Pelagia eased back to the bed and leaned against the post. Darcy stared at the young sprite. He had never been put on guard duty before. In fact, he had never seen what happened to the women he chased through the maze after he immobilized them.

“Excuse me,” Pelagia began, “Where can I use the bathroom?”

Darcy said nothing but pointed towards a bucket in the corner of the room. Pelagia sighed.

“I can’t go in that. Can’t you take me to one of the bathrooms?”

“No,” Darcy grumbled, still pointing at the bucket.

“My leg is all messed up. I’m not going to be able to squat over that. I have a shy bladder too.”

“I don’t care.”

“Please, all I’m asking is that you step outside the door. I’ll manage to squat over the bucket, and you won’t have to watch. There’s no way for me to escape except through that door.”

Darcy growled, shaking the floor. Pelagia pushed herself against the bedpost. Darcy took a step towards her, holding out a hand.

“Two minutes,” he said, raising two fingers.

“Thank you.”

Darcy slipped out the bedroom door, closing it behind him. Adeline and Padraig glided up the white marble stairs. Adeline held a basket of food, Padraig, a bottle of wine.

“She is magnificent. I think I can convince her to be my pet,” Padraig said.

“I’m glad you like her, but what about Darcy? He’s going to miss the maze.”

“We’ll send him someone through from time to time, but he’ll be Pelagia’s guard the rest of the time.”

“That should…” Adeline’s thought stopped when she saw Darcy standing outside of the bedroom door, “What is that fool doing?”

Adeline dropped the basket of food and took off towards Darcy. With a shove of her hand, she sent him flying back into the wall.

“Why are you in the hall?” Adeline screamed.

“She needed to pee.”

“So. You watch her. She gets no privacy.”

“She can’t escape but through this door.”

“You fool. There is a large window and balcony in that room,” Padraig interjected.

“She would fall to her death if she tried to go out that window.”

Adeline grumbled as she pushed past Darcy into the bedroom. Padraig ran in after his wife, looking around. Adeline took off to the bucket, but it hadn’t been used. There was no sign of Pelagia. Padraig tapped his wife on the shoulder and pointed towards the balcony. The doors were open and the white curtains flapped softly in the breeze. Far below them, in the gardens, a screamed rippled up through the window.

Running out on the balcony, Adeline and Padraig looked down to the concrete floor below. A small red stain began to grow as blood rushed out of Pelagia’s smashed skull. Gardeners rushed over to help, but there was nothing that could be done. Her fate had been fulfilled, and all that would remain of her was the stain that would never leave the Buckley’s garden.

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

Short Story – Her Little Secret

The church was filled with family and friends. All of their solemn faces watched me as I walked up the aisle. The summer breeze coming in from the windows whipped my dress around my ankles. My hand reached out and touched the cold wooden coffin.

I shouldn’t have left. No matter how important it had been for me to go to school. I knew my parents were going to have problems, but I hadn’t imagined it would be this bad. I’d only been gone for three months when I got the call from my brother, Charles, Jr.

“Richard is dead,” Junior said.

I didn’t believe him, but I still rushed home. I wasn’t met with a kiss. I didn’t get asked how my trip was. Nobody said I love you. Richard, my husband, was dead. A week before I had left for classes a new ‘family’ had moved in. Vinnie Rio and his wife Maria had introduced themselves to my parents the day I left. They didn’t do or say anything wrong at that time, but I could tell.

My parents, Charles, Sr. and Rebecca, own a deli shop in a nice Italian American neighborhood. That was until the Rios moved in. It was the way they acted. The words they used. The way they walked and dressed. I knew they were part of the mob. What I didn’t know was that Vinnie was the head and that he was willing to do whatever it took to get my parents deli.

He wasn’t interested in making money selling meats. Instead, he wanted the back of the store. The large walk-in freezer to be exact. It was the perfect place for ‘business.’ He hadn’t said anything that day he introduced himself. He waited. He had dropped hints for a few weeks, according to my brother. My dad stayed strong and wouldn’t budge. Richard got involved when Vinnie hit my dad. He started talking for him, and that’s how he ended up dead. But, lucky for me, Vinnie never saw me that day when he came to town.

Junior put his arm around my shoulder leading me back out of the church. A young boy came running up with a phone in his hand. Junior took the phone.

“Hello,” Junior said.

I couldn’t hear what was being said on the other end, but I knew wasn’t good. Junior turned white as a sheet. His hand gripped hard into my shoulder.

“Can I speak to her?”

“What is it?” I whispered.

He waved me off and continued to listen intently. I eased him over to the paisley covered chair before he fell down.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I knelt in front of him, trying to read his face. He looked right at but didn’t see me. I could hear the guests filing out of the church, all of them looking at us with concern. As the last person left, Junior jumped up.

“Put her back on! No! I want to talk to my mother. I…”

“What’s wrong with mom?” I screamed.

Again, he waved me away. He held the phone tight to his ear. The air in the room tense. I couldn’t breathe. Something was wrong with mom and he wasn’t telling me anything. I didn’t like this, but taking the phone from him wasn’t an option. I had to wait, no matter how long it took.

“Okay,” he whispered, before hanging up the phone.

“What’s wrong?” I said, cornering him.

“They have mom and dad.”

“Who?”

“Vinnie.”

“Vinnie? Vinnie Rio?”

“Yes. Dad still wouldn’t give up the shop after they killed Richard. Now they’ve taken them, hostage, until I turn over the shop.”

I wrapped my arm around his shoulder and lead him outside. The sun dipped under the horizon casting everything in shadows. The moon peeked through the red clouds as we walked to my car. We drove to the shop in silence.

Everybody from the funeral would be piling into my house soon enough and I wasn’t ready to deal with them. I had something else on my mind.

Junior and I walked into the deli shop. He grabbed a plate and filled it with different sliced meats and cheeses. We quietly nibbled at the food. Neither of us wanted to talk about the elephant in the room. With a sigh, I broke the silence.

“Let them have the store.”

“What?”

“Let them have the store.”

“I can’t do that. Dad would kill me.”

“If you don’t, they will kill dad. Trust me. Call Vinnie and set up a meeting tomorrow.”

“Why? I don’t know how you could let those people use our shop for their work.”

“I don’t want them in here any more than you do, but it’s the only way this is going to end.”

“I’m not going to do it.”

“Charlie, if you don’t you will never see mom or dad again. Besides, I’ll call him myself if I have to.”

“You wouldn’t.”

I glared at my brother. I was four years older than him, and I had seen and done things that he would have never imagined. I had a secret that none of my family, not even my late husband, knew. He might have felt better if he had known, but I couldn’t risk it.

***

The next morning I hid in the back of the store. The office sat behind the meat counter and had a perfect view of the entire store. I stretched up on my tip toes to look out the window. Junior wasn’t happy. He had repeatedly begged me to reconsider after a while I stopped listening to him.

The front bell jingling and in walked a tall lanky man in a three-piece suit. A little overdressed for a Monday morning. Francis Capo, or as his friends called him, Little Frankie, sauntered up to the counter where Junior stood. He twirled a toothpick between lips before taking it out and tapping the tip on the counter.

“The boss wants to know if you have reconsidered,” Little Frankie said in a thick Italian accent.

Junior took a deep breath and stepped back from the counter. He hesitated too long. Little Frankie slapped the counter.

“Can you hear me? The boss wants an answer.”

“I…” Junior stumbled.

I slipped out of the office. None of the family knew I existed and I was going to use that to my advantage. I had slipped on my most form-fitting little black dress. My breasts poured out the top and my butt looked perky with the help of my sky-high heels. I glided up next to my brother, drawing Little Frankie’s attention.

“Is there a problem?” I asked.

“Who are you?” Little Frankie asked.

“Veronica.”

“You related to him?”

“I’m his older sister.”

“Older sister, huh? I didn’t know they had any other kids. So, you the one in charge here.”

“Looks that way.”

“Vinnie wants an answer. He wants your freezer.”

Junior slipped further away from the two of us. He fiddled around with some of the meats, trying his best to disappear in the shadows of the store. I hated seeing him this scared.

“If the freezer is all he wants, he can have it.”

“I see there is one smart person in your family. It’s a good thing you agreed. I would have hated to mess up a pretty face like yours.”

“You wouldn’t have really hurt me, would you?” I asked, sliding closer to him.

Little Frankie cleared his throat. He rubbed his finger across his pencil mustache with a smile.

“I could think of a million better things to do to you than hurt you.”

“I bet you could.”

Junior coughed. I glanced over to see him glaring at me. I rolled my eyes back to Little Frankie who hadn’t stopped gazing at me since I walked out of the office.

“How about I come back by tonight and take you out.”

“Sounds great.”

With a grin, Little Frankie turned and sauntered out. I could feel Junior’s eyes burning holes through me. Turning my back to him, I strolled into the office saying,

“You have customers.”

***

Late Monday evening Little Frankie pulled up outside a large white mansion. This had to be the Capo house. I had been under the impression that we were going to a restaurant. I didn’t think I’d have to impress the entire family this early on.

Little Frankie walked around the car and opened my door. I eased out, making sure my tight dress didn’t rise too far. I hadn’t changed my dress from earlier, but I had added a leather jacket and pulled my long brown hair back in a ponytail. Frankie took my hand and led me up the stone stairs to the glass front door. A tall bleach blonde woman met us at the door.

She had curves in all the right places, but every inch appeared to be fake. The only thing on her that was real was the diamonds. She smiled the best she could, but her face wouldn’t allow anything to move. Escorting use in, she motioned towards two large red velvet chairs on either side of a long mahogany table. The woman sat at the head of the table, the other end was occupied by who I guessed was Vinnie. The meant the woman had to be his wife. The other two seats were filled by another man and woman. I wasn’t interested in either of them.

“Welcome, Veronica,” Vinnie said, motioning to a maid to fill my glass with wine, “You’ve met my wife, Maria. I hope Frankie has been a gentleman.”

“He has,” I replied, taking a sip of my wine.

“Good. I was extremely glad to hear that you had allowed us access to your store. Your father was quite a hard nut to crack. I’m glad you are smarter. What I was really interested in, though, is why I hadn’t ever met you before.”

“I’ve not been in town for the past few months.”

“I see. Why?”

“I was taking some classes.”

“For what?”

“You do ask a lot of questions.”

“I like to know who I’m dealing with. Your brother, Junior, is it? He’s an easy read. But you, you’re different. You don’t follow your father’s rules.”

“I’ve always done my own thing. I didn’t understand why he so against giving you access to the freezer.”

“Smart girl. Enough talk, let’s eat.”

We ate. The entire night, whatever Vinnie said, we did. Nobody questioned it. The dinner was good, though. Once we finished, with a snap of his fingers, the maids cleared the table and brought us coffee. After some idle chat about nothing in particular, Vinnie turned to me.

“Maria is going to show you around the house. I like you, and I have a feeling you will be around a lot.”

Maria took my hand and led me out of the dining room. Their house was vast and full of expensive furniture, appliances, and decorations. Rooms upon rooms lined the halls of the mansion. Most of which had never been used. Maria stopped short at the top of the stairs. I screeched to a halt barely avoiding her.

“You cannot tell anybody about what I’m getting ready to show you.”

I nodded. We eased down the staircase. Our steps echoed off the white walls. We stepped into a hall that paled in comparison to the rest of the house. I figured the area wasn’t frequented by guests. Nothing was decorated and the air smelled stale. My parents had to be around here somewhere. Maria tapped my shoulder, causing me to jump.

“Now, Vinnie probably wouldn’t want me to show you this, but I thought you might need to know. This is where we keep our little secrets. Promise me you won’t say anything.”

“I promise.”

“Good. Now, let’s get back upstairs before the boys get too lonely.”

***

I sat at the small table in the office of the deli shop and sipped my now cold cup of coffee. Junior had frozen me out. The most I could get him to say was a grunt. Before I left Vinnie’s home the night before they told me they would need the freezer today. I was dressed to the nines again to keep my charade up.

The front door slammed open and the bell clanged. The sound of stomping and shuffling feet sounded through the store.

“What are you doing?” Junior yelled.

A hard thump vibrated the floor under my feet. I ran out to find Junior on the floor of the store. Little Frankie disappeared into the freezer. I crouched next to Junior to make sure he was okay. He yanked his arm away from my touch.

“I told you they were coming,” I whispered.

Junior glared at me. He wasn’t hurt, but his ego was bruised. He pulled himself up and moved to the far side of the shop. A scream rang out of the freezer. I glanced around the door to see Little Frankie and Vinnie roughing up a small wiry man.

“What did I tell you last time?” Vinnie barked into the man’s face.

“I don’t think he understood you,” Little Frankie quipped.

Vinnie nodded at his henchman. Little Frankie raised a skinny arm and drove his fist into the small man’s face. Blood splattered out of his mouth. In a split second, Little Frankie’s fist drove back into his face. Blood burst out of his nose. The tiny man groaned.

“What was that?” Vinnie said, leaning down to the man, but making sure he didn’t get blood on his shirt.

“Trunk. Money … trunk.”

“I think he’s saying the money is in the trunk,” Little Frankie interpreted.

Vinnie turned on his heel and bounded out of the store. Little Frankie turned his attention back to the small man. He drove fist after fist into him until he slumped over in the chair, barely breathing. I felt Junior’s breath on my shoulder.

“Aren’t you going to stop him?” Junior barked, loud enough for Frankie to hear.

I pushed Junior into the office and shut the door.

“Look, I don’t like this any more than you do, but if you don’t keep your mouth shut, you are going to be in worse shape than that man in there,” I whispered.

“You’ve lost your mind.”

Junior stomped out of the office and right into Little Frankie. Frankie slammed Junior against the wall. Frankie’s arm drew back preparing to hit Junior. With a touch of my hand, Frankie dropped his.

“Please, Frankie. He’s my brother. I can handle him. He’s just upset about our parents.”

Little Frankie looked at me; a small smile drew across his face. He released Junior’s shirt. I glanced at Junior. He took off to the front of the store. I rubbed my hand down Frankie’s arm.

“He’s lucky you were here.”

“I know. I’m sorry he doesn’t understand your line of work. I’ll do my best to keep him in line.”

“If you can’t, I’ll have to.”

“I know. Just, give him a little bit. He’ll come around. I promise.”

“You’re going out with me tonight.”

“Okay.”

***

That night Little Frankie took me to a real restaurant. The food was beyond delicious, and it should be for the price they charged. Everybody took extra special care of us. We had no reservation, and the restaurant was full, but we only waited five minutes before the best table in the place was open. Nobody ever brought us a check. After dessert, we left.

Little Frankie wrapped an arm around my waist as we walked down the street. The night air was cool, so I didn’t protest his touch even though I wanted to. A figure moved to the right of me. I didn’t think anything about it. A moment later, Little Frankie was on the ground. A large man threw punch after punch at Little Frankie not giving him a chance to get in a hit.

I grabbed the man by the collar and pulled. He didn’t budge. I swung a fist into his side. Still, he didn’t budge. I stepped back and drove my foot into his gut. He grunted and tumbled off of Little Frankie. A glass stomach, good to know.

Little Frankie struggled to stand. His left eye swelled shut, and blood poured out of his nose. I didn’t like the man, but I could let him die tonight. Once he had his footing, he turned back to the hulk of a man that was still on the ground grasping his stomach. He stomped the man’s stomach causing him to writhe in pain. Little Frankie looked at me, nodding his head, inviting me to help him.

We took turns kicking and stomping him into the ground. Once he passed out, Little Frankie collapsed against the wall. It was my turn to wrap an arm around him. I led him back to the car and sped off towards Vinnie’s.

***

They had their own in-house doctor. This sort of thing must happen a lot. As soon as we stepped inside, we were met by a short man with a stethoscope. He took Little Frankie to another room, leaving me alone at the door. Vinnie stepped beside, placing a hand on my shoulder.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know. Some large man came out of nowhere and attacked him.”

“Sounds like Bubba. That’s not his real name, but he won’t share his real name. He used to work with us, but when I met Little Frankie, I sent Bubba on his way. He’s tried to get the drop on him before but never succeeded. How did you get him off?”

“He’s got a glass stomach.”

“Figures. Big guys always have an easy to reach weak spot. Come with me. I have something to show you.”

Vinnie led me back to the staircase that Maria had taken me down the other day. This time we walked the long hallway. I glanced in some of the open doors. They were small furnished bedrooms, big enough for two people. One door along that hallway was closed. It had to be where my parents were.

The hallway emptied out into a large office space. On the far wall set a large vault, one that should be in a bank. The door was opened a crack. It looked like it was filled with gold and cash.

“This is where it all happens,” Vinnie said in a grand fashion, “Not just anybody gets to see this room. Besides myself, Maria, and Little Frankie, you’re the only other person who has been shown this room without a gun pressed to their head.”

“Why are you showing me the room?”

“Your one special lady. Little Frankie likes you and you proved yourself useful today. I want you to help me. I’ve got a new store, much like your father; he’s a bit reluctant to let me help him with business. I think you can help.”

After explaining the situation, Vinnie left me alone in the office. I had everything that I needed to bring an end to the Rio family. In just a couple of days, I had done what the other officers on the force hadn’t been able to do for years. Every time the police got close, the Rio family would move. This time I had insisted that I take the lead. The guys didn’t like that a woman would be taking over their case, and I suspected that they would be extremely upset that I had finished what they couldn’t.

***

Back home, I slipped to my room unnoticed by Junior. He had been staying with Richard and me long before all of this started. He was watching TV when I came in. I slipped out of my cumbersome dress and slid on my PJs. Grabbing the phone, I called my boss.

“Virgil speaking.”

“Virgil, it’s me, Veronica. I’ve got them.”

“You got them?”

“Vinnie took me to his office today. I have all the evidence we need to put him away. We can take them tomorrow.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m positive. We wait any longer and they could end up getting suspicious, and we know what happens when they get suspicious.”

“All right. I’ll get the guys together. You go in and signal us when you’re ready.”

“Sounds like a plan. See you tomorrow.”

“See you then.”

“Bye.”

“Oh, Veronica.”

“Yes.”

“Good work.”

I hung up the phone with a smile. Unbeknownst to me, Junior has slipped upstairs and had overheard my phone call. He slammed my door open and stormed in.

“Cops! Cops were not supposed to be involved.”

“I’m a cop, Junior. Cops have been involved since the beginning.”

“They’re going to kill them.”

“No, they’re not. At least not anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you honestly think they were ever going to release them? They were just biding their time until they got everything they wanted from us.”

“Yes, I do.”

“This is why I didn’t tell you, or anybody for that matter, what I was doing when I went away.”

“I thought you were a secretary.”

“That’s what everybody thought. That’s how going undercover works. It’s my little secret. I need you to calm down. Mom and dad are going to be fine as long as you don’t do something stupid.”

“I can’t do this. You’ve messed everything up.”

“I’ve mess nothing up. You were never going to give them access to the shop. You were going to get yourself and our parents killed. Richard already sacrificed himself. I’m now a 30-year-old widow. How do you think I feel? I’m taking down the Rio family, and if you don’t promise me that you will behave, I will tie you up in your room until everything is over.”

Junior stayed quiet. He eased back to his room and didn’t say anything for the rest of the day. The next morning was just as quiet. That was until I started to leave.

“Be safe,” Junior said, making his way back up to his room.

“I will.”

The entire family was at Vinnie’s. It seemed as if it was a tradition to gather together when somebody got jumped on the street. Little Frankie could only see out of one eye, and his breaths were shallow from his bruised ribs.

As the festivities picked up, I slipped away from the crowd. I knew my team was waiting just outside of the Rio fortress. I stepped out onto one of the several balconies and stretched. A whistle sounded off in the distance letting me know they had seen my signal.

I reached in my dress and pulled out my gun. After checking the gun, I eased back inside. A second later, the front door busted open. With the distraction on my side, I took off to the staircase. Somebody reached out and grabbed my arm, yanking me around. One of Vinnie’s men hovered over me.

I swung my arm around. He grabbed my arm, causing me to drop the gun. I continued to fight him off, but he deflected every swing. An explosion ricocheted through the house. The giant looked away. I grabbed up a large ceramic vase and smashed it over his head. He took a few steps and tumbled to the ground. I grabbed up my gun and took off downstairs.

“Mom. Dad.” I screamed.

Muffled yells came from down the hall. I took off towards the closed door. I grabbed the knob but it wouldn’t turn.

“Mom, dad, if you can hear me, I need to you move to the far wall.”

Shuffling feet sounded on the other side of the door. I took a step and aimed my gun at the lock. Firing off a shot, the lock blew apart and the door swung open. I stepped inside and saw my mom and dad holding each other in the far corner of the room. When they saw me, they ran and grabbed me up in a hug. For the next minute, I was covered in kisses.

“I love you too, but we have to get out of here,” I said.

“Why are you here?” my dad asked.

“That’s a story for another day.”

I motioned for them to stay behind me as we eased upstairs. Shots bounced off the wall beside us. Ducking against the opposite wall, I glanced around the corner. Little Frankie stood behind a column and fired another shot. I readied my gun and fired at his leg. It glanced off the column missing my target.

Frankie shot at us again, missing by a mile. Having only one good eye made his job a lot harder. I fired again, this time taking out his right knee. He dropped to the floor. I raced to him, never dropping my aim. Kicking the gun away, I turned him on his stomach and shoved my knee into his back.

“I knew you were too good at being bad,” Little Frankie wheezed.

“You kidnapped my parents. Did you honestly think I liked you?”

The house went quiet. My boss stepped around the corner with two officers following him. The house was in shambles. Most of the decorations had been destroyed. The couch was riddled with bullets holes. One of the officers stepped up and handed me a pair of handcuffs. I secured Little Frankie’s hands and stood. Mom and dad eased their way into the room.

“Did you get them?” I asked.

“We did. We took most of them alive. A few were injured, and a couple had to be killed. They hit a couple of our men, but they’ll be fine.”

“Good.”

“Where’s this evidence you found?”

“Down those stairs and all the way at the end of the hall. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take my parents home instead of hanging around here.”

“Go ahead. I’m sure Junior is worried.

***

The three of us stepped up on the curb outside of the deli shop. I could see Junior inside scrubbing the counters. His face was wrinkled in a frown as he scrubbed away his anger. I motioned for my parents to stay outside. The bell rang when I opened the door, bringing Junior’s attention to me. He frowned.

“Why are you here? I thought you were working.” Junior stated, anger rising in his voice.

“I thought I’d bring you present. Especially after everything I’ve put you through this week.”

“What?”

The bell rang again as mom and dad stepped inside. The frown on Junior’s face dissolved into a smile. Racing to mom and dad, he wrapped them in a hug before reaching over to pull me in. We stayed in our huddle for a few minutes more.

We closed the store for the day and spent some much-needed family time together. I explained my whole story and why I had to lie for so long. Unfortunately, Richard never got to find out my secret. He had been a causality that I hadn’t planned on. He wasn’t supposed to get so involved, but the people that killed him were in jail and there was no chance of them getting out.

Short Story – Awaiting Fate

A note before I begin the story This story is posted on my website, but I wanted to make sure that everybody sees and reads my stories. Let me know what you think.

Bright, bleach white walls gleamed around the room. Matching white furniture sat around the room filled with clients. The soft buzzing of a tattoo machine could barely be heard through the wall. Like clockwork, each 18-year-old glanced at the large grandfather clock standing in the corner. Every hour, on the hour, another fresh adult was taken into the back room where their future would be permanently printed on their skin.

Along the far wall sat a family of ogres. The 18-year-old, Karolos, stared at the clock. He had been there since eight that morning. His family had tried to assure him that he had nothing to worry about. The Doyle family had long been given the fate of antagonizer.

Despoina, a fairy, sat with her family. She sat poised on the edge of her seat, ready to jump the moment she heard her name. She too had been assured that she would end up just like everybody else in the Nolan family. They were all destined to be famous. One of the vaguest fates a person could be given, yet everybody hoped to get it. One couldn’t ask for anything more than to be famous, and they didn’t care how they ended up famous. Despoina’s uncle had only recently reached his fate of being famous by murdering one of the high noble’s daughters. Ironically, the high noble’s daughter’s fate had been to die at a young age. Despoina’s mother and father had achieved fame through the family’s diamond business.

A family of sprites sat with their daughter, Pelagia. Again, she had been told time and time again that everybody in the Brady family had always been fated as a politician. None of these young adults found comfort in their family’s words. Maybe the past few generations had been given the same fate, but it all came down to what Amon chose.

Iris, an elf, sat between her mother and father and watched as everybody kept an eye on the time. She didn’t come from a long line of antagonizers, famous people, or politicians. The Quinn family held many different fates. Her father, Elias, was a prophet. He worked with the nobles when preparing for battle. Her mother, Thalia, was a writer. She worked with the nobles, politicians, and other people of importance to write their history, mainly in the form of a poem.

“Why do we still have to do this?” Iris asked.

“Its tradition,” Elias responded, “Since Amon first came to us he has provided us with our fates.”

“Amon,” Thalia started, “Is the son of the Egyptian God, Amun-Ra. He was in need of a home and he liked our aura.”

Elias told his daughter that Amon had powers much like a prophet, but he also had the power of influencing the future. While he didn’t write the complete future for everybody, he did influence it with his tattoos. Amon had left his Egyptian home because he was tired of being overshadowed by his father. He had discovered his powers 100’s of years ago, but nobody would let him use them.

When he left Egypt, he met a lot of new people that he didn’t even know existed. The Gods and Goddess controlled the types of people that were allowed to live in Egypt, and that had been limited to fairies and sprites. His first day on his own, he had almost been killed by an ogre, ran over by a giant, and taken in by a family of elves. The family of elves invited him to stay in the land of Inis. He agreed to stay and was soon swept into their world.

Inis was so different than Egypt had been. All sorts of people lived there; ogres, giants, sprites, fairies, elves, and more. They all worked with each, and their looks didn’t dictate their personalities. Elves, who wore dark, ominous colors, could be good people. And sprites who wore light, friendly colors, could be bad people. These things amazed Amon.

Once Amon had become used to his new home, he started offering his gift. His first customer has been an 18-year-old fairy that was struggling with her family. Raz’s parents had been grooming her to become a seamstress just like all the other women in their family. Raz despised sewing and felt that she was destined for something more. Amon told her he could set her fate all through a simple tattoo. The catch was, she didn’t get a say so. He would speak to the Gods and Goddess’, and whatever the Universe told him, would be her fate.

Raz agreed. Even if her fate ended up being that of her mother’s and sister’s, she could say she at least tried to be her own person. Amon spoke to the Universe and began her tattoo. When he finished, he revealed a large white rose with eight petals. Confused by the symbolism, Amon explained to Raz what it meant.

The white rose meant that she would be a mystic, working closely with the nobles to help everybody understand what the Gods and Goddess’ wanted. The eight petals meant she would live an infinite life. Amazed and thrilled by her fate, Raz rushed home to her parents.

Soon all of Inis had learned of Amon’s powers and people began to flock to him for their fates. Amon became so overwhelmed by their response that he wouldn’t leave his home. He didn’t know what to do. Nobody had ever been interested in his gift before. How was he going to use his gift for the entire land of Inis? The Universe spoke to Amon and told him that he was to provide the fates to 18-year-olds only. Those that were going through the transition from child to adult. Those that needed the most guidance.

Amon went to the nobles and told them what the Universe had instructed. Within the next week, Amon had set up his shop and began seeing all of the 18-year-olds in Inis. After the current young adults had been fated, it became a ritual for every 18-year-old to visit Amon on their birthday. Parents would wake their children early in the morning and rush them to his shop to await their fate. Some only waited for a few minutes or an hour, while others were there all day. Amon only called them in when the Universe told him to.

After a century of serving the people of Inis, Amon was still an important part of their world. Raz was still working with the nobles, and if anybody ever spoke out against Amon, she was there to share the word of the Gods and Goddess’.

Nobody ever seemed to hold a grudge against Amon, no matter the fate he gave them. They all seemed honored. Iris couldn’t understand how somebody could feel honored after being told they were destined to be murdered. Raz could have simply bucked the system and told her mother that she would following her own dreams. Instead, she went to some stranger for a tattoo. That simple act of rebellion had set the future for every young adult in Inis.

“I can tell you what each and every child in this room will be told,” Elias informed his daughter.

Iris rolled her eyes. Elias enjoyed showing off. Predicting things was his favorite pastime, and his answer to any problem. Whenever Iris was sick as a child, she had to listen to her father tell stories about how sick her friends were going to get. If she felt upset about a grade she made in class, he would tell her the grades of her friends. Now, as she waited for her fate, he was telling her what the other people in the room would get.

“That child over there is going to be a servant. That young lady will become a mistress. Oh, and that…”

“Dad, please,” Iris interrupted.

“Your father means well. You don’t have to quell,” Thalia said.

The large white door that led into Amon’s office squeaked open. Karolos stepped out, stretching his left arm around trying to get a look at the tattoo on his tricep. On his arm stood a large black and white tattoo of three interconnected triangles. His parents started at the simple tattoo. Everybody in his family wore a tattoo that showcased a badger in some fashion.

“Karolos,” the receptionist called out.

Karolos turned to look at the purple haired fairy. She held out a piece of paper for him to take.

“You received the Valknut runic symbol for a warrior. The paper explains more of what you have to look forward to.”

Karolos glanced over the paper, and then over at his family. After being told time and time again that he would be just like them, he ended up being his own person. His mother and father trudged over to him. Karolos’ father threw a large arm around his son’s shoulders.

“Well, it’s been nice knowing you son.”

His mother slapped him on the back before following her husband out the door. Karolos’ uncle grabbed the paper out of his hands, ripping it. Karolos looked over at the receptionist. With a sigh, she handed him another paper.

“Avoid them at all costs,” she whispered.

Iris watched as Karolos trudged out the door. She couldn’t believe that his fate had just cost him his family. Letting out a groan, Iris banged her head back against the wall.

“See, he gets a better future than his family,” Elias stated.

“Maybe, but his family hates him now.”

“They don’t hate him; they’re just not allowed to like him.”

“That’s the same thing.”

“No, it’s not. You need to quit being so distraught. Life is the luck of the draw. It’s not something they could have foreseen.”

Iris and her family sat in silence. In the months leading up to her birthday, she had fought with her parents about her tattoo. Neither understood their daughter’s worries. They had both been ecstatic when it had come time for their tattoos.

What seemed like moments later, Despoina stepped out of Amon’s office. Despoina looked down at the side of her leg at the glistening golden apple. Her mother stepped over to the receptionist to grab her daughter’s information packet. She gave her daughter a peck on the cheek and handed her the packet. Despoina looked at the paper in her hand. She frowned. Her father led them out the door as her mother patted her on the back. Iris looked at her father.

“She’s following in her families footsteps. She’s going to be famous, but because she is going to be a mistress to someone of great importance.”

“That’s horrible,” Iris mumbled.

“Look on the bright side, it could have been matricide,” Thalia assured.

A little while later, Pelagia shuffled out of Amon’s office. On her shoulder stood a while lily wrapped in an orange noose. Pelagia’s parents ran to her, tears in their eyes. She took her paper from the receptionist and trudged out the door. Iris looked over at her parents.

Elias explained that the lily meant that she would forever be a virgin. Not because she was going to be alone, but because she would stand up for what she believes in. The orange noose meant that she would commit suicide one day for something noble. Iris knew her father wasn’t telling the whole story, but she was okay with that. The less she knew the better.

The receptionist stood.

“Iris Quinn, Amon is ready for you.”

Iris’ parents patted her on the back as she stood. She eased her way to the far white door. As she made her way closer, the door eased open. Iris stepped into the dark room. The smell of sage and rosemary filled the air. A partition was set up in the corner for Amon to meditate. A large black tattoo chair sat in the middle of the room. A stainless steel table sat next to it. Tiny plastic cups were lined up on the table. The closer she walked to the chair, the more she could smell alcohol and soap. The sound of snapping gloves came from behind the partition.

“Please remove your shirt and lay face down in the chair.”

Iris watched as the chair moved itself into a reclined position. She did as she was told. The black vinyl chair crunched as she laid down. Her skin stuck to the seat, ripping up as she tried to find a comfortable position.

Amon sat down and squeezed cool soapy water onto a paper towel and cleaned Iris’ upper back. Next, he cleaned her back with alcohol. Amon grabbed transfer paper with an intricate design drawn on it. With smooth precision, he laid the paper across her back and smoothed it out. He peeled the paper away, leaving behind the outline of her tattoo. Amon picked up his tattoo machine. He foot pressed a button on the floor, bringing drilling sound from the machine. He dipped the needles into black ink. As he eased them out, black ink slung across the blue paper towel that lined the table.

Once he had his machine loaded with ink, he lined over Iris’ back and drew a permanent black line. Iris craned her neck trying to see what he was doing. All she could see was the blinding overhead lights. The needles tickled across her back drawing line after line on her skin. She tried to follow the lines to figure out what he was drawing, but just as she thought she had figured out the pattern, Amon would switch positions.

What felt like a century later, Amon squeezed the cold soapy water across her back, wiping the excess ink away. A warm, stinging sensation remained on Iris’ back.

“You may get dressed and leave,” Amon said as he stepped back behind the partition.

As Iris sat up, she could feel the swelling in her back as she moved her arms to slip her shirt back on. She glanced around the room for a mirror, but nothing hung on the walls. Again, as she walked towards the door, it opened to let her out. She stepped out into the glaring light of the waiting room. Faces turned towards her, a mixture of concern and worry spread across them. She glanced over at the receptionist who held out a piece of paper. Iris blindly took the paper, and without looking at it, walked over to her parents.

Iris turned her back to them. Her mom eased her shirt away from her back to reveal her tattoo. On her back stood a majestic peacock with its tail feathers spread. Bright blues and greens popped out of the drawing. The peacock wore a chain of bright purple irises. Tahlia spun her daughter around and wrapped her in a hug.

“What is it?” Iris croaked through her mother’s crushing embrace, “Am I going to die.”

“No,” Elias started, “Far from it. You’re going to be an Elvin ruler.”

“Really?”

Thalia pushed the information sheet up so Iris would read it. Across the top, written in gold script, were the words ‘Elvin Ruler.’ The only other words on the paper were clan leader. Iris had hoped the paper would explain everything. Even though it bothered her not knowing how she was going to reach her destiny, she liked having a bit of uncertainty left in her future. Her parents wrapped an arm around her shoulders and led her out the door.

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. I will be making Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles available for free on Kindle in the coming weeks, so make sure you keep an eye out so that you don’t miss your chance.

Short Story – Just Desserts

A note before I begin the story. This story is posted on my website, but I wanted to make sure that everybody sees and reads my stories. Let me know what you think.

Growing up in a large town like Boston made Katie grateful for her new town. Katie moved to Nantucket ten years ago and quickly found her groove. Her cupcake shop, Sweet Treats, was up and running within a year. Now her shop was a staple, and a must try for the tourists.

Katie balanced the purple box of cupcakes in one hand as she unlocked the glass door to her shop. With a bump of her hip, the door swung open releasing the air-conditioned air from the shop. A shadow loomed over her as she walked through the door. She knew that shadow. She caught the door with her foot before it closed in the shadow’s face.

“Thank you,” said the gruff voice of the local-rent-a-cop.

Neil had moved to Nantucket around the time Sweet Treats had opened and had tried his best to become a police officer. The problem was, he was as blind as a bat. They felt sorry for him and gave him a job as a security guard at the Nantucket Cottage Hospital.

“Good morning Neil. I’ll have the coffee on in a minute.”

Every Friday morning Neil would come by just as Katie unlocked the shop. They would have coffee together, and he would help her get the shop ready. She had asked him once why he only came by on Friday. He stated simply, that it was the only morning he didn’t have to go in early. That was Neil, a simple, straightforward guy.

“I’m here on official business this morning.”

“Official business?” Katie asked, sitting the cupcake box on the counter. “Did somebody miss a doctor’s appointment?”

“No, somebody died.”

“It’s a hospital. People die there sometimes.”

“The death didn’t happen at the hospital. It happened at the wine and food festival last night.”

Katie stood silent for a moment. A lot had happened the night before. She had been busy at her cupcake stand for most of it and only had a break when her assistant Amy took over. She vaguely remembered noticing a hubbub around the lighthouse but assumed somebody had a bit too much wine.

“What happened?” Katie asked.

“Mr. Keenan was murdered.”

Mr. Keenan was the president of the bank and an unpleasant person in general. There were a countless number of people in town that had been tricked by Mr. Keenan. Several of the old ladies had lost their savings because of ‘overdraft fees.’ Newly married couples were warned to steer clear of Mr. Keenan’s bank if they were looking to finance a new house.

“Why are you here?”

“The other cops are busy talking to the witnesses, and they asked if I would be willing to talk to you,” Neil replied, looking at his feet.

“Did they really?”

“No, but I think they would have. I thought I could be helpful.”

Neil was always trying to be helpful, and he always wrapped Katie up in his escapades. Most of the time they were simple things like a missing wallet or a lost dog. This was by far the most interesting. Murders were virtually unheard of on the island. Katie pressed the on button and listened as the water began to gurgle in the coffee maker.

“What information were you looking to get from me?”

“I know you were working the festival, and I wanted to find out what you saw.”

“Unfortunately I didn’t see anything. Do you know what happened?”

“Grace found his body at the bottom of the lighthouse. There weren’t any visible wounds, but the police said he had signs of asphyxiation. I’ve heard some people say they saw Margaret fleeing the lighthouse shortly before Grace found him.”

Margaret Fleming was the local good girl. She was involved in every church function. She was the first to volunteer for everything, and she was the best at getting people to donate to a worthy cause. Margaret had never been in trouble a day in her life. Katie had bought her shop from Margaret. Sweet Treats had become a success because of her for two reasons: she warned Katie to stay away from Mr. Keenan, and Margaret loved flyers.

Katie couldn’t see someone as sweet and gentle as Margaret suffocating a grown man to death. It may have been quite a few decades since Mr. Keenan had seen his hair, but he was a large, stout man. He had enjoyed his fair share of Katie’s cupcakes.

“Margaret couldn’t have killed him,” Katie said, pouring them both a cup of coffee.

“That’s what I thought.”

The shop door banged open and Amy came bounding in, tossing her purse on the counter. She grabbed a cup of coffee and turned towards her friends.

“Guess what?” Amy quizzed.

“What?” Katie replied.

“Margaret Fleming was arrested for murder this morning.”

Katie eased her coffee cup to the counter. Stunned, she stared at Amy. Had they even bothered to investigate the murder? There was no way a woman of 50, that weighed 90 pounds soaking weight, could murder a man that weight well over 300. Neil fiddled with a button on the side of his utility belt.

“Well? Aren’t you going to say anything?” Amy asked.

“How did you find out?”

“I just saw them taking her from the library in handcuffs a minute ago.”

Katie darted over to the window and peered out. Neil looked out over her head. Sure enough, there was a cop car parked outside of the library with Margaret in it. Amy was bad for sharing gossip she heard around town, and for the most part, it turned out to be false. But Katie was seeing this with her own two eyes.

People had started to gather around the library to see what was going on. Katie made her way out of her shop and eased her way over. She had to hear this for herself. She wanted to know the evidence they had that suggested Margaret had killed Mr. Keenan. The closer she came to the crowd, the louder their voices became.

“I saw her do it,” shouted some teenage boy.

His mother quickly covered his mouth and shooed him away. Besides a few loud-mouthed teens, everybody else had the same concerns as Katie. There was no way a tiny woman could strangle such a large man with her bare hands.

Katie and Neil followed the cruiser to the police station. They raced inside as they took Margret to the booking station. Sheriff Cox looked up over his newspaper and eyed the two of them.

“What can I help you with?” he asked, looking back at the paper.

“We want to know why Margaret was arrested,” Katie stated.

“Didn’t you hear? She killed Mr. Keenan.”

The Sheriff shoved a powdered donut in his face, washing it down with a gulp of coffee.

“No offense, sir, but do you really think somebody Mrs. Flemings size could have killed him?” asked Neil.

“Nope, but that’s the only lead we have. Unless you two can give us more information, she is our one and only suspect.”

“Can we talk to her?” Katie asked.

“If you can figure out the truth, then, by all means, be my guest. I’m not interested in getting flack from the town for arresting their beloved librarian.”

Katie smiled at the Sheriff. She and Neil made their way over to the booking station. Officer Miles held up his hand, stopping them.

“You’re not allowed back there,” stated Officer Miles, puffing out his chest.

“Let them through,” the Sheriff shouted.

Office Miles stepped back; his chest deflated and motioned them through. Margaret sat behind the cold table in the interrogation room. A dim light shined overhead, accentuating the bags under her eyes and her tired appearance. Katie and Neil eased in the room. Margaret glanced up at them. A momentary look of relief flashed across her face.

Margaret looked down at her hands. The cold grey cuffs glistened in the dim light. Katie sat down at the table across from her. Neil stood behind Katie. Katie reached out a gentle hand and touch Margret’s.

“What happened?” Katie asked.

“They think I killed Mr. Keenan.”

“But you didn’t?”

“Of course not,” gasped Margaret, “Lord knows he was not a nice man, but I could never hurt another living soul.”

“You were seen running away from the murder scene,” Neil stated.

Margaret fidgeted in her seat. She glanced around the room before settling her gaze back on her hands.

“Margaret, if you know something, please tell us,” Katie pleaded.

“I’m not sure what I saw. Why are you two even here?”

“The Sheriff is at a loss for suspects. I suppose it’s easier for him to blame you than it is to open an investigation. We volunteered to help.”

“So please let us know what you know,” Neil added.

Margaret sighed. She looked up at Katie. By the looks have her eyes; Margaret had been awake all night.

“I saw it happen,” she whispered.

Officer Miles led Katie and Neil to the crime scene. The yellow police tape billowed in the wind. The lighthouse was empty except for the three of them. The sun stood high above them.

“I don’t know why you two are wasting your time with this,” Officer Miles stated.

“Do you seriously think that Mrs. Flemings could have killed such a large man?” asked Katie.

“No, but there is nothing to be found.”

Katie and Neil ducked under the police tape. Just inside the lighthouse door, they could see the outline of Mr. Keenan. Police markers laid on the ground, marking what evidence they had found. Katie and Neil looked around, trying to find anything more. All they could find were the same set of footprints and a cupcake wrapper.

Katie took out her cell and took a photo of the footprint. Neil grabbed a tape measure from his belt and measured the length of the print.

“The print is 11 inches long.”

“That has to be too big for Margaret’s foot. Did you match this print to Margaret?”

“I don’t think so. I just booked her. This is the first I’ve been out here. They did measure it though, it’s in the notes. I think they assumed it was Keenan’s print,” Officer Miles replied.

Katie wandered back over to the cupcake wrapper. Bending over, she looked closer at the wrapper. It was one of hers. It came off of her maple bourbon chocolate cupcakes. Margaret never chose cupcakes with alcohol in them, and Mr. Keenan was allergic to chocolate. His cupcake of choice was always the French vanilla. He had been upset last night that she hadn’t brought any with her.

“Do you have an evidence bag for this?” Katie asked.

Officer Miles ran back to the car, bringing back a forensics case. Opening the case, he reached in a grabbed out an evidence bag. Katie took the bag and a pair of tweezers from Office Miles. She eased the paper into the bag, sealing it.

“What are the odds we could find out the size of Keenan’s foot?” Neil asked.

Officer Miles stared at Neil. A moment later, Miles nodded towards the cruiser.

Officer Miles dropped Katie off at her cupcake shop before taking Miles to the coroners. Amy had been running the shop since Katie left. Katie ran into the shop towards the back. Slinging open the fridge, she pulled out the cupcakes she had brought in that morning. She opened each box trying to find the one that had held the maple bourbon chocolate cupcakes. The only ones that were left were the margarita, butter pecan, and toasted almond.

“What’s up?” Amy asked, leaning against the door frame.

“Did you sell all of the maple bourbon chocolate last night?”

“Yeah, why?”

Katie glanced out into the shop. It was packed with the lunch crowd. She motioned for Amy to come closer.

“I think the killer was eating them.”

“Does the Sheriff know you are working on this?”

“Yes, he told me I could. Do you remember who bought them?”

“A lot of people did. It’s one of our most popular.”

Katie sighed. She slumped back against the counter and glanced at her phone. Neil had said he would call when he found Mr. Keenan’s shoe size. Amy started to head back to the front of the store, stopping at the door.

“Actually, I do remember something strange. Just after I took over, somebody bought a maple bourbon. He was in front of Mr. Keenan. When he turned around, he almost ran into him and Keenan went crazy. He started screaming about how he was allergic to chocolate and other nonsense.”

“Do you remember the guy?”

“Not really, but he was tall, dark, and handsome. I know most everybody on Nantucket, and I didn’t know him.”

That was saying something. Amy headed back to the counter as Katie wracked her brain, trying to remember any new men on the island. Margaret had said she had seen everything, but everything she had seen had been in shadows. The only thing Margaret kept saying was the man was tall and had huge hands. Maybe the tall, dark, and handsome man Amy had seen was the tall, shadowy figure Margaret had seen.

Katie’s phone rang. Neil’s face flashed up on her phone. She swiped across the screen and brought the phone to her ear.

“What did you find out?”

“Come outside, I have something to show you.”

Katie ran outside. Neil grabbed her arm and pulled her around the corner. He handed her his phone, images from the coroner’s office stared at Katie. Flipping through the photos, she saw images of the purple handprints on Keenan’s neck, a half-eaten chocolate cupcake, a strand of black hair, and business card. Katie zoomed in on the business card. It read, Need a Home? Call Derrick Shore for Help Today. Derrick Shore? That wasn’t a name Katie was familiar with.

“Miles let me take all the pictures I wanted, but I couldn’t take anything with me. By the way, Keenan’s foot size was 12 inches.”

“I wonder why they took the half eaten cupcake into evidence, but not the empty wrapper,” Katie mused.

“The cupcake was in his mouth, so it came along with the body.”

“He’s allergic to chocolate. Why would he be eating a chocolate cupcake?”

“Maybe the killer shoved it in his mouth.”

“We need to talk to Derrick Shore. Amy remembers some guy getting yelled at by Mr. Keenan, but didn’t recognize him. I bet anything it was this Shore guy.”

Katie sat in the open waiting area of the local bank. A somber hush filled the room. On a typical day, the bank would be filled by the booming voice of Mr. Keenan. Now things sat calm and quiet. An odd feeling of peace and sadness wrapped the room.

Katie had called the bank to ask if they knew of a Derrick Shore. Since the business card looked like it belonged to somebody in the real estate or bank business, somebody at the bank should know something. They knew who Derrick Shore was. He had come to Nantucket two days earlier. Nobody knew why, but he had met with Mr. Keenan the morning of his death.

“Katie?” asked Derrick as he walked out of Mr. Keenan’s office.

Katie stood and reached out her hand. Derrick politely shook her hand and motioned towards the office. Derrick’s dark black hair was slicked back in a neat coif.

“You own Sweet Treats don’t you?”

“Yes, I do.”

“I love you maple bourbon chocolate cupcakes.”

“They are our best sellers.”

“So what can I do for you today?”

“I had some questions about your relationship with Mr. Keenan.”

“This is a small town if a baker is also investigating a murder.”

“I’m trying to help out a friend. So if you could just help me out by answering a few questions, I would greatly appreciate it.”

“I only have a few minutes, but I’d be glad to help.”

“Thank you. How did you know Mr. Keenan?”

“I was going to buy his bank from him.”

Katie hadn’t heard that Mr. Keenan was looking to sell his bank. News like that would have made its rounds on the gossip mill.

“He was selling the bank to you?”

“He contacted me about two months ago; I believe it had just turned 70. He wanted to retire.”

“How did he meet you?”

“We actually met at a convention over two years ago. I had forgotten about him, but he must have kept up with me. He invited me to the wine and food festival last night to talk about things.”

“He didn’t happen to yell at you for nearly hitting him with a chocolate cupcake?”

“Yes, actually, he did. It threw me off guard for a moment, but he apologized later.”

Apologized? Mr. Keenan didn’t apologize. He would knock down a child, and blame the child for messing up his suit. Mr. Keenan must have really wanted to sell the bank if he had apologized.

“Thank you for your time. I should get going now.”

Derrick showed Katie out. The sun had started to dip towards the horizon. Katie’s stomach growled. She hadn’t stopped to eat anything. Katie looked at her watch. It was creeping up on two. Neil should be getting ready for lunch. That would give them time to talk, and eat.

Neil and Katie sat in the hospital cafeteria, a tray of hospital food in front of them both. Katie poked at the spaghetti on her plate. Neil had tried to ask some of the patients about Mr. Keenan’s death but had only succeeded in getting reprimanded. Katie knew Derrick had to be connected to his death somehow. He had big feet, big hands, and black hair. He also had eaten his fair share of maple bourbon cupcakes.

“Mr. Keenan was selling his bank?” Neil asked for the third time.

“Yes, and he apologized.”

Grace Park walked past their table for the fifth time since they had sat down to eat. She worked as a nurse at the hospital and had been the one that found Mr. Keenan. She was also the reason why Margaret was in jail. Grace was the only one that had seen Margaret running from the lighthouse. She paused and turned back to Katie.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but did you say that Mr. Keenan was selling his bank?”

“Yeah, to some guy named Derrick Shore,” Katie replied.

“I meet Derrick about an hour before I found Keenan, and he said that Keenan had turned down his offer. Mr. Keenan wasn’t looking to sell; Derrick was trying to buy his bank.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, he was pretty chatty about it.”

“Neil, come by my shop when you get off work. I have to get back to the bank.”

Katie raced towards the door, bumping into Clyde Owens. Clyde was a hulk of a man. If he hadn’t grabbed Katie’s arm, he would have knocked her to the ground.

“Sorry,” Clyde mumbled.

Clyde worked at the hospital as a maintenance man. His boss had called him early that morning to let him know that he could have the day off if he needed it. Clyde was Mr. Keenan’s nephew. When his mother died, Mr. Keenan refused to take him in, so he was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Chicago. He moved back to Nantucket when he turned 18 in hopes of learning more about his mother, but that proved to be futile.

“It’s okay. It was my fault,” Katie said, sliding out the door.

Clyde straightened his black hair, nodding at Katie as she left.

Back at the bank, Katie ran into Derrick’s new office, interrupting a meeting. A little old lady sat across from Derrick, her hands shaking gently as she looked up at Katie.

“I’m sorry for the interruption, but I have to talk to you,” Katie stated.

“We were just finishing things up. If you can give me five minutes, I will be right with you,” Derrick replied coolly.

Katie stepped back into the lobby. She paced in front of Derrick’s office. Customers stared at Katie, her anxious energy worrying them. Officer Miles stepped through the bank doors. He paused for a moment, looking for Katie. Katie waved at him, grabbing his attention.

“Neil told me you were here. He said you had new information.”

“I’ll tell you once I talk to Derrick again.”

“Who’s Derrick?”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll tell you later.”

The door of Derrick’s office squeaked open as the little old lady walked out. She glowered at Katie as she headed towards the door. Derrick motioned for Katie to come in. Officer Miles walked in behind her, staying close to the door.

“So, Mr. Keenan contacted you to sell the bank?”

“Yes, he did. I thought we went over this earlier today?”

“We did, but I just had an interesting conversation with Grace Park. Do you remember her from the festival?”

Derrick glanced up at Officer Miles. Worry clouded over his eyes.

“Vaguely,” he mumbled.

“Can you guess what she told me?”

“Okay, I lied. Besides Mr. Keenan, Grace was the only one that knew I had approached him to buy his bank. I did meet him at a conference a few years back, and he did remember me, but he was never interested in selling. But that doesn’t mean I killed him.”

Katie looked back at Officer Miles. He had taken out his notepad and was writing down notes. Glancing up, he noticed the worried look on Derrick’s face.

“I think we need to take you in. I believe the Sheriff will be interested in learning more,” Officer Miles stated, removing his handcuffs from his belt.

“But I didn’t do anything.”

Katie finished cleaning the last display case. Since Amy had handled the store by herself all day, the least Katie could do was clean up. Amy sat at the corner table, a cup of coffee in one hand and a margarita cupcake in the other. The smell of pine sol mixed with the coffee creating an almost sickening smell.

Katie slid the cleaning supplies back in the closet and washed her hands. She felt proud of herself. Not only had she cleaned the shop in record time, but she had helped Neil free Margaret. She poured a cup of coffee and made her way over to Amy.

“I can’t believe you solved a murder case,” Amy stated, as Katie sat down.

“I didn’t solve a case, I just freed Margaret. All the Sheriff needed was another lead.”

“I’m pretty sure that Derrick guy did it. He wanted to buy the bank, and Keenan told him no. What better way to step in and take over. He also liked your maple bourbon cupcakes.”

“True.”

Katie took a sip of her coffee. She looked out the window over at the library. She pictured Margaret walking up those steps tomorrow morning. Katie had wanted to go the station with Officer Miles so that she could tell Margaret the good news, but he had suggested she stay behind.

Katie had reluctantly agreed. She called Neil, though. He said he would go to the station once he got off work and let her know how things worked out. Katie glanced at her phone again. A quarter till six. Neil had gotten off work 15 minutes ago.

“Stop looking at your phone,” Amy said.

“I can’t help it.”

“Go to the station if you are that worried.”

“I promised I wouldn’t. I’ll just wait for Neil to call.”

The bell jingled over the front door causing Katie and Amy to look up. Neil walked in. His brow furrowed as he fussed with his phone. Amy grabbed Neil a cup of coffee before grabbing herself another cupcake.

“So?” Katie asked.

Neil blindly sat down at the table and took a sip of the coffee. Katie stared at Neil. Amy shook his arm. He continued messing with his phone, ignoring the girls.

“Neil!” Katie shouted.

Neil jumped, noticing the girls for the first time.

“Sorry, I was trying to pull up the info Miles sent me.”

“Are they releasing Margaret?”

“Yes, but they’re releasing Derrick as well.”

“Why?” Amy asked.

“The footprint didn’t match, and Margaret said his size wasn’t big enough.”

“So we still don’t know who killed Keenan.”

“Look on the bright side, you freed Margaret,” Amy said.

Neil slid his phone over to Katie, a picture of the sole of a shoe shown on the screen. The shoe design was smooth compared to the lined print left at the murder scene. Swiping left, Katie saw a picture of Derrick’s hands beside the image of the bruises on Keenan’s neck. Derrick’s hands were considerably smaller than the bruises.

“It was just a coincidence that he liked the same cupcakes as the killer.”

“What is the Sheriff going to do?”

“I don’t know, he wouldn’t tell me anything.”

“That’s a footprint from the murder scene?” Amy asked, leaning over the table to get a better look.

“Yeah, why?” Katie asked.

“I’ve seen that print before. The nurses and custodians at the hospital all wear shoes like that.”

“Seriously?”

“Mhm.”

Katie looked at Neil. He grabbed his phone, sliding it back in his pocket. Katie grabbed her car keys and led Neil out the door.

“Where you going?” Amy yelled after them.

Neil unlocked the security access door and eased in, making sure it was clear. Katie snuck in behind him, easing the door shut. Neil checked the roster to see who was on duty for the night shift.

“Todd’s working tonight. We shouldn’t have anything to worry about.”

“Why do we have to sneak around? You’re allowed to be here.”

“Yeah, but you’re not. Only hospital personnel can be in the security and nurse locker rooms.”

Neil motioned towards the door. Easing the door open, he poked his head into the hallway. Neil opened the door for Katie to ease through. Neil led them down the hall towards a set of double doors with the words Authorized Personnel Only written across it. As Neil reached for the keypad the doors swung open, barely missing him. Todd Jenkins, the on-duty guard, stepped through.

“What’s up four-eyes? Katie?”

“Todd, hi. I was just… uh…”

“I had lunch with Neil earlier, and I think I left my phone. He was going to go look for it.”

“Through there?”

“Shortcut,” Neil shouted.

“Go ahead, but I’ll expect a free cupcake,” Todd said, winking at Katie.

Katie feigned a laugh and followed Neil through the doors. Neil motioned for Katie to stay close to the walls.

“Todd may not care, but the nurses or doctors might have something to say.”

Katie nodded, staying close to Neil and the wall. Footsteps echoed up the hallway beside them. Neil opened the closest door and shoved Katie in. When the door slammed closed, Kate stood inside a dark custodial closet. Katie leaned her ear against the door trying to hear what was going on. The thickness of the door blocked out all the sounds of the hallway.

Katie felt around for a light switch. Her fingers snagged across the switch, illuminating the small closet. Mops and brooms leaned up against the far wall. Shelves along the walls held hospital gowns and towels. In the far corner, a blue lunch box and matching thermos sat on a small table. Katie stepped towards the little table, investigating the lunch box. The name Clyde was written across the lunch box in black sharpie. Katie eased the lunch box open. Inside was an empty cupcake wrapper, a ball of tin foil, and an empty bag of chips. The closet door opened.

“Come on, hurry,” Neil whispered.

Katie slipped back out of the closet and followed Neil towards the locker room. Neil eased into the locker room, motioning Katie in when he discovered it was empty.

“All the shoes, head coverings, and masks are kept in here. The actual locker rooms are through these two side doors. The women’s on the right and men’s on the left.”

“We just need the shoes.”

“Here, I grabbed an extra one so that you could help,” Neil said, handing Katie a tape measure, “Nobody else should be coming in or leaving for at least 30 minutes, so we shouldn’t have to worry about anybody catching us.”

Katie stepped towards the cubbies that held the numerous pairs of shoes. Some were filled with white shoes, and others held regular shoes. Neil and Katie went through measuring the shoes in each cubby.

“Neil, these tennis shoes are eleven inches. Do you know who number 53 is?”

“I think that’s Clyde’s number.”

“I found his lunch box in the closet you shoved me into earlier.”

“And?”

“It had a cupcake wrapper in it. It was the one I use for the maple bourbon cupcakes.”

“He gets off in ten minutes, and always leaves through the back. We could meet him there.”

Katie nodded, staring at the shoe in her hand. Why would the killer still be wearing their work shoes? They only wore white shoes in the hospital. Clyde should have been wearing his tennis shoes at the festival.

Katie and Neil waited by the back exit for Clyde to come out. They had been waiting for over 30 minutes. Katie was ready to leave and forget about it when the door opened. Clyde walked out, lunch box in hand, and tennis shoes on his feet.

“Clyde, good to see you, can we talk?” Neil asked

“I guess,” Clyde mumbled.

“Do you wear a size 11 ½ shoe?” Katie asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“Just curious. Did you enjoy the festival last night?”

“The festival? I had to work last night.”

The back door swung open revealing a burly, angry looking nurse. In her hands, she held a pair of dirty white shoes.

“Clyde Owens,” boomed the angry nurse, “Would you like to explain why these shoes are dirty?”

Neil took out his phone and turned on the recorder. Clyde looked at the nurse, anger filling his eyes.

“You also disappeared during your shift. You left for your break and were gone for three hours. I said you could go to the festival for a bit, but you had to come back. If I find out you wore these shoes out of this hospital, their replacement is coming out of your salary.”

“I don’t mean to interrupt, but did you say you let Clyde go to the festival last night?” Katie asked.

“Yeah.”

Katie looked at Clyde. A red flush had started to creep up his neck and onto his face. Neil looked over at Clyde’s hands. The skin around his cuticles looked darker than the rest.

“Clyde, did you hurt your hands?”

“Hmm?” Clyde grunted, turning towards Neil and shoving his hands in his pockets.

“Can I see your hands?”

“No, you’re not a cop. You’re a damn security guard. You have no authority.”

“You’re a fan of my maple bourbon cupcakes aren’t you?” Katie asked, bringing his attention back to her.

“Yeah, so what?” Clyde shouted.

“It must be really hard on you today, with your uncle getting killed last night.”

“Not really. We didn’t get along.”

“Did you hear that he was found with one of my maple bourbon cupcakes in his mouth?”

“So, he liked those. Everybody does.”

“No, he was allergic to chocolate,” Officer Miles said as he came around the corner.

When Neil turned on his phone’s recorder, he had paged Officer Miles. Miles had heard the entire conversation.

“No he wasn’t,” Clyde spat.

“Yes, in fact, he was. He yelled at me on numerous occasions that I should get rid of all my chocolate cupcakes,” Katie said, “You, on the other hand, loved them.”

Clyde struck his hand out reaching for Katie. Officer Miles grabbed his arm, pulling it behind his back. Neil grabbed his other arm, inspecting his hand. The palm of Clyde’s hand was tinged blue with bruising.

“How did you bruise your hand?” Neil asked.

“He was selling his bank! First, he refused to take me in after my mother died, and now he is selling his bank to some stranger instead of giving it to his next of kin. I’m stuck working for this bear of a woman for breadcrumbs, while he does nothing but rip off little old ladies.”

“He wasn’t selling his bank,” Katie said.

“Yes, he was. I heard it from some guy named Derrick.”

“That was a lie. Derrick came to him. He wanted to buy the bank from Keenan, but he turned him down.”

Clyde’s head slumped down as Officer Miles clasped the cuffs around his wrists. He looked up at Katie, realization dawning in his eyes.

“How did you figure out it was me?”

“Your work shoes. Had you taken the time to change into your tennis shoe, it would have been a lot harder to figure you out,” Katie replied.

“I kept them on to make things harder. Everybody in the hospital wears them.”

“Exactly, it led us straight to the hospital.”

Officer Miles led Clyde to his cruiser, sliding him in the back seat. Neil put his arm around Katie’s shoulders, giving her a slight hug.

Once back at the station, Margaret identified Clyde as the killer. After she saw his stature and hands, she remembered seeing him in his custodial uniform. As for her fleeing the scene instead of getting help, she had been too afraid to speak. She hadn’t seen where Clyde had disappeared to, and she was worried that he would see her and kill her as well.

When everybody learned that Margaret had been released, they all gathered at her house to welcome her home. Katie and Amy brought cupcakes, and Neil brought coffee.

“Thank you, Katie. I don’t know what would have happened if you and Neil hadn’t have helped.”

“It’s the least I could do. You kept Mr. Keenan from ruining my life, so I owed you one.”

Margaret laughed as she wrapped Katie in a hug. Katie really did love her little island family.

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. I will be making Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles available for free on Kindle in the coming weeks, so make sure you keep an eye out so that you don’t miss your chance.

Millhaven’s Tales of Suspense

The second issue of Millhaven’s Tales is ready for pre-order, so grab your copy today. This is full of suspenseful stories that all mystery lovers will enjoy reading. My cozy mystery, Just Desserts, is published in the journal as well.

I received my free copy last week, and the journal is full of amazing stories from some amazing authors. Not only are there mystery stories in this issue, but you will find crime and espionage stories as well.

There are nine stories in this issue.

A group of thugs bites off more than they can chew when they get interrupted by “Old School.”

What happens when one of your best friends is charged with murder? A cupcake baker sets out to find the identity of the real murderer.

Will a District Attorney be able to accomplish what he set out to do when he faces a multi-generational crime family?

Two detectives discover that more is going on in their town after a body is discovered at the city zoo.

A vigilante goes after a criminal underworld who uses a pizza place as a cover for their dirty work.

In this “Hitchcockian” tale of suspense, jealousy, a cheating spouse, and revenge take center stage.

In an alternate reality WWII story a small group of soldiers saves the world.

What happens when you can’t trust anybody in the underworld poker shows?

The cover story of this issue is a tribute to the Continental Op or Phillip Marlowe.

Pre-order your copy of Millhaven’s Tales of Suspense here.

You can pre-order a bundle of the first and second issues of Millhaven’s Tales here.

Make sure, if you haven’t yet, pick up the first issue, Millhaven’s Tales of Wonder, here.

 

Writing a Horror

I just got finished with another short story. This time I tried my hand at a horror/dark fantasy type story. I’m planning on submitting this to the next issue of Millhaven Press. Whereas all my other stories that have been published through Millhaven have also been published on here, I’m not going to add this one to my website. The only way to read it will be through Millhaven. So, I’ve been inspired to write a little blog about writing horror stories. They can be tricky.

Horror, if you’re not aware, means “an intense fear of fear, shock, or disgust.”

When it comes to horrors stories there are five main things you will find:

  1. They deal with wicked or malevolent characters, phenomena, or deeds.
  2. They cause feelings of disgust, fear, or shock, and a sense of uncanny. This means that things aren’t always what they seem. There is a strong sense of the unknown.
  3. Horror stories will cause intense emotion, environments, tones, and moods.
  4. They have shocking and/or scary story revels and plot twists. All of the evil characters are very, very real.
  5. Readers are immersed in the macabre.

So how can you convey these five things in your writings? Here are six tips to help you.

Strong, Pervasive Tone

Mood and tone are the two elements that create the feeling of your story. The right mood and tone can cause the reader’s spine to tingle before any of the characters have done anything dangerous.

With horror, the frightening and dark tone is typically how most writers go. Making things that shouldn’t move, the move adds a frightening tone. Write a scene that most people aren’t going to want to actually live.

Read A Lot of Horrors

No matter what kind of genre you like to write in, you have to read a lot of books in that genre. While you are reading, you can take notes to see how those writers evoke feelings of disgust and fear. Some great horror authors include Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, and Bram Stoker.

Give Bad People Good Motivation

The bad people in your stories should never be doing things “just because” they can. That’s boring. Give them a really good reason as to why they are getting ready to hurt people. Reveling their reasoning can be part of the mystery as well

Use the Importance of Tragedy

The best way to write horror is to implement tragedy. The best stories will have tragedy as a character flaw seen through stupid choices and missteps. These basics of tragedy have become so obvious is nearly cliche. It’s those moments where you’re screaming “Don’t go in there stupid” because the character is oblivious to their own personal danger.

The important thing is to remember that all the horror-filled scenes all depend on character flaws. They wouldn’t be in their scary situation if they hadn’t made the decision to walk into the woods alone or run to the attic where there is no escape to get away from the serial killer.

Tap Into Human Fears

An easy way to make sure you arouse fear in your readers is to use some of the most common fears out there. Things like the:

  • fear of animals
  • fear of flying
  • fear of the dark
  • fear of heights
  • fear of another person’s unknown desires
  • fear of ugly or disorienting environments

Think of how you can use these types of situations in your stories to evoke a more natural fear in your readers.

Terror VS Horror

Both of these things have their place in horror stories, but you need to know the difference. According to the Oxford dictionary, terror means “extreme fear.” Horror means that you are also causing disgust and surprise. This means that horror should not only have extreme fear but a sense of surprise and revulsion. Here’s a quote from Stephen King:

I’ll try to terrify you first, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll horrify you, and if I can’t make it there, I’ll gross you out. I’m not proud.

There you have it. Try these tips the next time that you decide to write a horror story.

Before you go, check out these links and purchase the first two copies of Millhaven’s Tales.

Get Millhaven’s Tales of Wonder here

Pre-order Millhaven’s Tales of Suspense here

Pre-order a double pack with Millhaven’s Tales of Wonder and Suspense here