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Two New Releases!

Posted on September 22, 2014 at 12:20 PM Comments comments (0)

 



We are thrilled to be sharing Marc and Kathy Holland's new one act play, Unclaimed Baggage. What do you do when your ride home from the airport doesn't show, but a complete stranger does? Mona Lisa Blake, a fledgling artist, deplanes to find a nondescript C.P.A., Dennis Arnold, waiting. Dennis also is in possession of her boyfriend's cell phone. Their styles clash, their metaphors mix, and sparks fly, especially when they try to match wits with Sarah, the wise-cracking and seemingly omnipotent airline employee. Book a seat for this romantic comedy and buckle up. There's turbulence ahead.

This is Marc's fourth play, and once again his brilliance shines!

Because we didn't want Marc to feel lonely today, we also are re-releasing Redemption by Mary Cote. Corruption and manipulation are running rampant when Father Adamo Bianchi returns to Rome to attend his mother's funeral. He is sure that his two younger sisters are condemned to eternal damnation because of their activities. Abuse of power, indulgences, espionage and murder all become integral aspects of Adamo's life while he disregards the moral virtues that propelled his vocation. Will he sacrifice his sisters on the altar of lust for Crimson silk?

Holy Orders be damned! Chiara knows what is happening inside the walls of the Papal Palace, and it is anything but holy!

This new, updated version is available at all the regular outlets.

 

 

It's Release Day

Posted on May 27, 2013 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Lt. Col. Trip Anderson was first introduced to us last year in The Red of Flowing Blood I See, a novel about a draft dodger trying to avoid the Vietnam War. He makes a return appearance in a prequel to that book, Trip Anderson, USMC: The Road Less Travelled. This book follows Trip’s journey from boot camp when he was 18 all the way through to the Vietnam War and how he came to be involved with Chuck. It spans his service fighting in the Greek Civil war, essentially the start of the Cold War, his time in Trieste, then sees him in China as the forces of Chairman Mao finally take control of that country and finally takes him to Korea – the forgotten war. Along the way, he develops bonds with his brothers in uniform, he fights beside them, he buries them and he leads them. He learns the role politics plays in the performance of his duties, and he is forced to accept that not all injuries heal, not all memories fade.

 

TRIP ANDERSON, USMC: The Road Less Travelled

Chapter 1

Vietnam 1966

There wasn’t much left of the hootch. There was never much left of them. “It’s always like this… every side of town is the bad side of town in this god-forsaken country.” Major Trip Anderson cautiously pushed past the rag that served as a door. He was immune to the stench of urine, mold, rot, all magnified by the stifling summer heat. He strained to listen, sure he had heard something. On the floor lay a woman, bloodied and still. Anderson’s throat tightened, his eyes narrowed. He wanted to turn away, to shut out reality, but he knew better.

The source of the noise was already evident, but until he checked the hootch thoroughly, it had to wait. There was little inside: a mattress, a low table, a mat on the floor. He checked under all of them, released a breath then moved to the woman’s side.

“Hey, there.” He smiled at the child, too weak to cry, as he waved away swarms of flies. “It’s okay. I won’t hurt you.”

Kneeling in the dust, he first held out a grimy finger that was instantly grabbed. He then picked up the little girl, cradled her, kissed the top of her dirty head. Looking over her, he examined the mother, knowing there was no need to check for signs of life; there would be none. “She probably took her last breath two, maybe three, days ago.” He reached out, brushed the hair back from the woman’s forehead. “Your mother was beautiful, little one.” He had seen this many times, but it would never be routine. It was clear hers had not been an easy death.

He opened his canteen, dribbled a tiny stream of water near the baby’s mouth, hoping she would drink. When she didn’t, he used the corner of his shirt to wipe her little face, smearing the layers of the baby’s existence. Large brown eyes gazed up at him; vacant orbs devoid of sparkle or shine.

“Major?” Lance Corporal Jamie Duncan stuck his head in the hootch then fell silent.

“Is there a goat or something out there? Something we can get milk from for her?”

Duncan shook his head. “No, Sir. The place is deserted.”

Anderson nodded. Duncan disappeared without a word. The baby whimpered, reaching an emaciated arm toward Anderson. He leaned closer, felt the fingers run over his weathered face. “You look like a BethAnn, Sweetheart.” He whispered to the child. “I knew a girl… I fell in love with her – she had beautiful dark eyes, too. She was a BethAnn… sweet as the scent of flowers in spring, a smile that could light up the world.” He started to rock back and forth, at first uncomfortable then giving in to the movement.

Her breathing slowed then stopped.

“You had such a short little life, Sweetheart; didn’t count on any of this, did you?” A tear fell from Anderson’s cheek, landing on the tiny face. “I’m sorry I couldn’t have helped you, couldn’t have done more.” He kissed her again then set her gently in the crook of her mother’s arm, straightening the tattered clothes on each. After getting to his feet, he adjusted his pack then walked to the door without looking back. “Jesus Christ, when will this fucking shit end?”


View the book trailer for Trip Anderson, USMC: The Road Less Travelled.

Trip Anderson, USMC: The Road Less Travelled is available in print, digital and Kindle formats.

The Cabochon Team Returns in Green Gold

Posted on February 20, 2013 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Andi, Ryan and Brad are back, this time in Ecuador at their Oro Verde emerald mine in Green Gold.



1 – ARMY OF ME



“A dame! Can you believe it? They are sending a god damned dame down here!” Joe Hundretti kicked at a rock on the dirt path, clenched fists jammed deep in his pockets.

“Makes no sense to me, Joe. What the hell are they sending her down here for?”

Joe stopped, glared at Paulie Zaputo before he looked past him at the small dirty faces staring at him from the shack where they had stopped. “Lazy brats! Don’t you have work to be doing?” The faces disappeared inside the hovel. The men started walking again. “She’s some sort of security specialist who is coming down here to tell us how to do what we do… from a fucking skirt! She’ll know suntans and fucking shoe designers but what the fuck is she going to know about mining? Not a fucking thing… but we have to listen to her?”

Paulie waved it off. “She is a bean counter. Permita a su conde nuestros frijoles.” He laughed then swiped a huge hand across a brush bristle moustache. “Enrico will meet us at the helipad with the truck. We would hate to see her high-heels get dirty.”

Joe frowned. “It’s bad enough them coming down here without a fucking clue, trying to tell me how to run the mine… I’ve done it for fucking years. I know more about this Oro Verde than anyone… but to send a god damned dame down here, and tell me I have to answer to her? That isn’t going to happen.”

Paulie shrugged. Whatcha gonna do? We have to deal with it.”

Joe hitched up his waistband, straightened his spine. He licked his palm, ran it through his thinning hair then smiled. “I will charm her. She is a woman. She thinks with her panties.” He stopped again, eyeing Paulie. “You will be on your best behavior? She is here to talk primarily about security; that’s your department.”

“She will find nothing wrong.”

“Tarleton says it’s because of the economic climate and that they are getting some information that there could be problems with the Columbians. If that’s the case, she is just going to look at the security set-up then leave… I hope.”

“She will find nothing wrong,” Paulie repeated, nodding towards the helicopter approaching.

Dust was kicked up, blurring the sight of the blue bird for a moment. Once it had set down, Andi Matthews stepped down.

“Ai chi wa wa! Look at that!”

“Mi Dios.” Joe straightened again, wiped the sweat from his palms onto his suit pants. His wide smile deepened the creases at the corner of his eyes. “She can count my beans any day.” He cupped his hand over his mouth, breathed into it then smelled. With a nod of satisfaction, he strode towards her. “Welcome to Oro Verde, Miss Johnson. It is an absolute pleasure to meet you.”

Andi smiled, her blonde hair buffeted about her face by the backwash of the rotors. “Señor Hundretti?”

“Call me Joe.”

“Joe, I’m Andi.” Hands on hips, she took in her surroundings. “I’m looking forward to the tour.”

“Is this your first time at a mine?” The words dripped from his lips.

“An emerald mine, yes.”

“What qualifies you to come down here to look at our security?” Paulie demanded, his eyes running over her repeatedly.

She stopped, turned to him with a smile. “Mr…?”

“Zaputo. Paulie Zaputo.” He offered his hand. She did not shake it.

“Paulie has been in charge of security here for many years, Miss Johnson. He is very qualified and competent.” Joe’s eyes bounced from the stony face to her smiling one.

She moved to stand eye to eye with Zaputo. “My qualifications are that I was asked to come down here by the President of Cabochon Incorporated to review what is in place here. He has my resume. I would expect that you would be more than happy with that for now, and not question him or the senior management, at least not in that tone. If you want to see it, to reassure yourself that I might know my ass from a hole in the ground, please feel free to call him and ask for a copy of it.”

Joe pushed his way between them, smiling at Andi, turning his head to glare at Paulie. “Now, now. Enrico is on his way up here with the jeep. We can drive you back to the house so you can freshen up and perhaps rest before the tour? Fatima will have a wonderful meal prepared as well for you. You must be tired from your trip.”

Andi turned her back on Zaputo. “That would be very nice, but I would prefer to walk, if that’s okay. I have been sitting for too long.”

Joe nodded, fanned his arm to the side, presenting the roadway they would walk down. “As you wish.”

#

“This is where you’ll be staying.” He pointed to a large two-storey home at the end of the street. “This is the foreman’s home… my home… but the top floor is prepared for visiting guests. I am sure you’ll find it most comfortable.”

Andi nodded. “I almost feel guilty staying in something so opulent… the staff houses are, well, some of them are in need of…”

Joe waved off her concern with a chuckle. “I have to keep them that way. The weather here is agreeable, so they suffer no harm. If I fix everything the minute they break it, they come to expect it, are careless, deliberately break the doors, the windows… this way they respect that they have to be careful with Cabochon property.”

He led her up the stairs; the door magically opened. A small girl stood on the other side, moving out of the way to allow entrance for the guests. Andi smiled down at her.|

“Esmee will show you to where you will sleep.”

Enrico tossed Andi’s bags to the little girl, almost toppling her over in the process.

Esmee smiled valiantly, juggled to get a better hold. “Miss will please to follow me?”

As they started up the stairs, Andi’s hand found the little girl’s shoulder and rested there gently, but she said nothing until they had reached to top step. “Esmee, you speak English very well.”

The little girl beamed. “Thank you. I still have much to learn.” She opened a door then stood to the side to allow Andi through. The room was nicely appointed, as nice as any standard hotel room, but nothing more. A queen-sized bed with a beautiful hand-sewn quilt was front and center, with a dresser on one side, a desk on the other and a sitting area with a couch and two overstuffed chairs in front of the large picture window. It faced northwest, away from the town and the mine, but provided a view of the surrounding mountains and the majestic Sangay. “You can see the volcano from here. At night it is very boo… boo…”

“Beautiful?”

Esmee nodded. “Yes.” She struggled to hoist the suitcases up onto the bed.

Andi reached out and helped her, smiling warmly and reassuringly at the girl to eliminate any thoughts that there would be repercussions for her lack of performance. “How old are you, Esmee?” Andi sat down on the edge of the bed and locked her eyes on the little girl. A thin face and long dark hair surrounded a pair of soft brown eyes.

Esmee thought for a moment, struggling with the numbers. She then counted her fingers, first in her own language then hesitatingly in English. “I am eight,” she finally announced proudly.

“Do you go to school, Honey?”

“No, Miss. There is no school here. My mother works in the house for Señor Hundretti and she teaches me when I am not working.”

Andi frowned slightly. “What other work do you do here?” She looked around her in an effort to coax the girl to talk. “The house is so clean and there is only one person living here. Señor Hundretti has no family here with him.”

Esmee beamed with pride. “I help with the laundry and the cooking. I help outside in the yard, I keep the fires lit and clean. I also do floors and I can even sew now.”

Andi laughed. “You are very talented and very smart, Esmee. Do you only do these things for Señor or does your family live here in the house as well?”

Her eyes widened. “Oh, no, Miss. We have our own home near where the heli… heli…”

“Helicopter?” Andi urged.

“Yes, near where the helicopter lands. We leave here after supper and come back in the morning to make breakfast for him and his company. Then we begin to clean up. We give Señor his…”

There was a knock at the door and the youngster’s eyes widened with fear. She ran to the door and opened it, trying to scoot through while avoiding the hand that she appeared to instinctively know was waiting to make contact with her. Joe’s hand found her ear and pushed her head into the doorframe. The child said nothing as she shook off the bump then ran down the hall.

“Dinner is ready. I must apologize for her. She forgets her place… often, but she is making some progress. I hope that she wasn’t too much of a nuisance.” Joe’s voice was smooth and condescending.

Andi pushed her way past him. “She was no bother at all. I like her. She’s sweet.”

Joe nodded. “We have a meal prepared in the dining room. I hope that you have a good appetite tonight. Fatima is a very good cook.” He laughed and patted the slight bulge above his belt as if to offer proof. “I had thought of giving you a better tour of the camp but realize that perhaps you would rather have a soak in a tub and freshen up from your long trip. I believe that you are probably feeling the effects of the warmer climate, the higher elevation. That will drain you also.”

“I look forward to whatever Fatima has created. After a meal I will be more than ready to see your camp.” She continued to smile. …You condescending prick.

“Very good.” He escorted her into the dining room, pulled out her chair. As she sat down, he politely pushed it towards the table. “Instead of drinks before we eat, I opted for wine with the meal. I hope that you approve.”

“That sounds wonderful.” She watched as the three men took their seats around her.

“I thought you would agree. You seem much too delicate, too classical to want anything other than wine.” A woman appeared and Joe nodded for her to fill the wine glasses. He went through the typical charade of smelling the cork, searching for the wine legs on the side of the glass as he swirled then sipping, rolling the liquid around in his mouth before acknowledging what a wonderful vintage it was. “This is from my own private reserve. I trust that you will find it exceptional.”

Andi raised one eyebrow then nodded. “I am sure I will.”



Green Gold is the second in the Cabochon Incorporated Adventure series. It will be released for purchase on February 22nd, 2013, in print, digital and Kindle formats.

 

CABOCHON Novel Preview

Posted on August 20, 2012 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)


Cabochon, the first in the Cabochon Incorporated Adventure series, will be released on August 22, 2012.

Chapter 1 -- No Warning to Her Flight

“I hate this boat almost as much as I hate the damned water around it.” Hands shaking, Andi struggled to gain her sea-legs.

She glanced out the porthole of her cabin. The Los Angeles skyline was what most people would have seen, the city spreading and smoggy, the sun just barely peeking over the mountains on the horizon. How many people had Andi heard babbling about the way the sun dances on the waves, gold ribbons sashaying across the water, warming, welcoming a new day? That was not what she saw. There were only two things outside the window: the one she craved and the one she loathed. “It’s like Midas is reaching down and touching the water. It looks magical, but it doesn’t fool me for a second. I know exactly what it is… a wolf in sheep’s clothing. There’s a lot of that going on around here.”

What she craved was freedom, the ultimate goal. She loathed what kept her prisoner, that great hurdle between The Brotherly Love and the shore. A shiver ran up her back, almost causing her to abandon her plan. “Remember the goal.” She forced herself to kneel on the bed to look out the window at indigo ink water. A large wave rocked the boat, almost knocking her to the floor. She pushed down on her legs for balance. It was the jolt she needed to remind her that this was Sunday; this was her only chance.

“Pay attention!” she reprimanded herself. “There’s no time for distractions or mistakes. I’ll get one shot at this, so I can’t blow it...” The thought slipped through her lips, barely above a whisper, but too dreadful to think, or let anyone hear. Her head spun at a sound from above. It was only the breeze playing with a curtain. The sound took on a voice, first mocking then screaming inside her head, walking her through the process: Get your ass in gear. She slipped off the double bed, held her arms out for balance then dropped her short silk nightshirt to the floor.

The image in the mirror stared back at her. “Who are you? Look what you’ve become!” Her blonde hair fell in waves around her shoulders, reaching down to her tiny waist. The image reflected across the room made her cringe. Most would find nothing wrong with what they saw – muscles toned, skin supple and clear, complexion naturally light, now tanned a golden brown, accentuating the hair. Her dark blue eyes didn’t lie, didn’t deceive. They once sparkled back; now they seemed shallow, empty, unseeing. Those eyes watched her from every angle, hundreds of them as they reflected off the other mirrors scattered in the small bedroom. She held her hands over her stomach, trying to hold back the wave of nausea she felt.

“Look at that. Yeah, a real beauty. Beauty is as beauty does. Based on my actions, or lack thereof, I have nothing to be proud of. Beauty? It’s a curse. I have the cat by the ass, don’t I? I have closets full of the best clothes money can buy. I had the world at my fingertips, didn’t I? Whatever I wanted was right there, but I sold my soul to get it. It wasn’t worth it.” She ached to scream, tired of the same conversation. “I hate you! I hate everything about you. I hate what you’ve become, you cheap slut.” The voices raged inside her mind.

A tear crept down her cheek then the boat rolled, reminding her of the mission. For once, maybe the boat would be her friend. She pointed at the mirror. “I’m not done with you, but it has to wait for now. I’ve got a hell of a mess to clean up. You’re part of that, and you know it, so be prepared. I’m coming for you next.”

She eased open a closet. “Oh God, don’t let anyone hear me.” Her hands were shaking as she rooted through the clothes, pulled a shirt on then grabbed a pair of shorts from the dresser. She couldn’t help herself – she snuck one more peek at the mirror. Her shoulders and her bottom lip slumped at the sight.

“Oh, damn it, why did you do it? Why did you give up your career for this? Why did you sell yourself short, play the dumb blonde to keep him happy? I’m as much at fault for this clusterfuck as he is. If I am honest with myself, I know that, and I have to do something to fix it. I let it happen.” Choking back that emotional aggie in her throat, she pulled on some clothes, stood, and examined herself once again. “Why do I keep doing this? It never changes. No matter what I put on to cover who I am, it will never change.”

She shook her head. Resignation or disgust? She wasn’t sure – maybe both. “Okay, let’s get this show on the road.” She pulled open the drawer of the bedside table, jiggling it past it’s stops. Before removing it from the carcass, she looked over her shoulder, waited, listened for any movement in the hallway outside. She knew everyone was asleep, drunk, stoned, dead to the world. “Don’t be so fucking stupid.” The drawer slipped out. She flipped it over and tugged the key from the tape holding it next to the bottom. “The key to the kingdom. I hope I know what the hell I’m doing. It has to work. It if doesn’t, God help me. God help all of us.” She kissed the key and slipped it into her front pocket.

“Oh God, this has to work. This is the only way. Don’t let me fuck this up like I do everything else. Okay, swallow. Remember the plan. This is work, so I have to focus.” A deep breath was accompanied by a shiver. She opened her eyes and reached for the knob.

“Slow and steady”. She held her breath, watching her feet as she braced one on each side of the once-lush red carpet that lined the hall. Her toes were curled inside her shoes. “For Christ sake, don’t stumble now.”

Stepping carefully, eyes constantly scanning, she worked her way down the corridor, assessing each door as she passed. I wish I could see through the doors to make sure everyone inside is asleep. Her eyes always returned to her main target – the large oak door at the end. A crystal light fixture tinkled, mocking her, reminding her that the future and much more depended on her executing this last job without error. If I fail, there will be no turning back.

Under dawn shadows, the hall was a mile long. Outside the oak door, she pressed her ear against the cool wood. No sound came from inside, no music, no muffled snores, no laughter. What about his cigar? She inched her nose closer to the jamb, breathing deep, checking for the scent of that familiar fresh cigar smoke. The stench of stale smoke and alcohol from all these other rooms has never been able to overpower the odor from Aubrey’s cigar.

“I’m sure it’s empty. It has to be empty.” She pulled the key from her pocket, held it up, hoping for divine consecration. She slowly pushed it into the lock. Sweat poured, burned her eyes, ran down her jaw. Don’t drop the key. Violent tremors in her hand made it almost impossible to get the key where it needed to be. Deep breath. She steadied one hand with the other, bent on shaking knees, and aimed for the center of the knob.

The lock clicked. Holy shit! Not so loud! She froze, sure the noise had echoed off the walls. Mouth dry, she waited to learn if anyone else had heard it. Jesus, the last thing I need is Joe or one of Aubrey’s other henchmen charging down the hall to stop me. She took one more deep breath to calm her nerves and pushed on the door, opening it only enough to allow her to see into the room. It was empty. She squeezed her body close to the frame, stepped over the threshold, and clutched the wall. I made it. So far, so good.

“Fourteen minutes. That’s all I need.” She took mental pictures of every surface, of the position of every piece of furniture. He would certainly notice anything out of place. That’s the way he is. That’s why no one knows what the hell he is doing. The son of a bitch is anally attentive to detail.

“I can do this.” She chewed on her lip. Damn, why do I always do that when I’m nervous. Aubrey always corrected me about it, hated that I did it.

The goal was right there. Fourteen minutes. She sat gingerly in his prized luscious leather chair. It swallowed her up. Aubrey always demanded the best of everything. The leather chair, the burled walnut desk, even the pens in the drawer – nothing was cheap as long as it was meant for his use. She turned on the computer.

While the laptop booted, she spun in the chair to face the credenza along the wall behind her. The window offered a view to the west where rays of early morning sun danced on gentle blue Pacific waves. The water lapped rhythmically against the yacht in some constantly ironic and bizarre lullaby. She shuddered. “I hate that sound. I will never miss that lap lap lap sound once I’m free from this hellhole.” One hand grasping the handle of the drawer, one resting against the face to ensure safe movement, maybe to muffle a potential noise… or maybe I am afraid of what I will find in there. “Don’t squeak! Come on, don’t let me down now that I’ve made it this far.” It slid easily. She pulled it open the rest of the way. “I suppose the thing about being anal is that it makes people predictable, and God knows Aubrey is that!” She pulled out an unmarked flash drive, turned back to the desk, slipped it into the USB port and let her fingers fly over the keyboard.

“Fourteen minutes. That’s all I need.” She had already timed it. “Probably the most significant fourteen minutes of my life. Shit, I can’t blow this.”

The computer was logged off, the chair back to its original position; she went through the checklist in her mind. “Okay, now get the hell out of here.” Her heart raced. Maybe this is the end of the torture, the chance of a new start to rebuild what I have sacrificed, the ability to atone for my poor judgment.

She stepped back into the hallway, pulled the door closed. Her movements light and gentle, as if passing an open pen of lions at a Roman coliseum, she started down the hall. It was done. She had what she needed. Now I just have to get it where it needs to be.

70th Anniversary of Dieppe

Posted on August 19, 2012 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)



In recognition of the WWII Allied landing on Dieppe, we are sharing a chapter from the literary novel Ayne regarding this event. The chapter is based on notes written by the author's uncle, who was there for the battle. Ayne is the story of Blake Calder and his years as a front line combat soldier in WWII. May the men who wore a uniform and gave all they had to protect us never be forgotten.

Chapter 24

“That was Christmas… Christmas number one. It was wonderful. We trained more, for months, and I admit to being more focused, driven. …then things changed. It was August, and we were definitely at war.” I looked at Lili, debated if I should stop the story here. Her interest was intriguing, bordered on distracting, but not enough to make me forget the next part of the story. I leaned against Hector, hoping to draw on his strength.

“It was the middle of the night. Salt water bit at my face, smashed into my senses, intruding on my thoughts of popcorn, sweet apples, pumpkin pie, fudge… I hadn’t smelled or tasted any of those things for a long time, but they were all I could think about that night. Funny thing about smells… they trigger the damnedest memories, and they stay with you forever. I tried to focus on the mission, a nice little dance number the brass called ‘Operation Jubilee’. ‘Operation Jubilee’ – who the hell comes up with these asinine names for killing sprees? I tried to focus, but with each bump and roll of the landing craft, it was home I wanted to concentrate on. We would be the first Canadian troops to see any action. We were the first to take the Churchill tanks into battle. We had our orders, they were clear, and I had a responsibility to concentrate on them. I couldn’t. I knew my duties, my priorities, but I yearned for domestic clichés.

“There was to be no noise as we crossed the English Channel – absolute silence was essential. Even the most innocent whisper could carry far on the water at night, and that could have been disastrous to the mission.” I grunted derision at the folly of it all. “In our briefing before leaving, we were told over and over again that the success of the mission depended almost exclusively on the element of surprise. What a load of garbage that was.

“It was black on that damned boat. The metal sides were high, the men, for the most part were tucked down below them, sprawled on the floor. There wasn’t anything to do, nothing to say; all you were left with was whatever happened to be going on in your head. I tried to keep my men together, but it wasn’t easy. I’ll never forget how dark it was… lonely, calm, quiet…the kind of night perfect for sitting or sipping, maybe even a bit of wooing, but all we could think about was what lay ahead… and the fact that we really had no idea what we were walking into.

“Of course, never one to follow orders, Skippy had to be the one to break silence. All I could do was shake my head as I listened to him throwing up over the railing. He wasn’t the first to involuntarily purge his stomach on that trip, some men succumbing to nerves, some to fear, and some to heaving of the waves, but Skippy… he did it with style, groaning, retching… it almost made me want to join him. To give credit where credit was due, though, he did manage to keep his mess over the railing… he was one of the few to find a spot low enough to even see over. The damned boat reeked. So much for apple pie and pumpkin… the acrid smell burned my sinuses while bile and chipped beef sloshed around on the floor.

“I tried to focus. I closed my eyes, blocked out the smells, concentrated on the mission at hand, but the gentle roll of the water soon had me back in the little cottage, the music playing, Ayne and I dancing. The flowers blooming outside sent wafts of fragrance floating in through the window each time the curtain fluttered in the breeze. With each time round the room, the background changed until the Christmas tree was sparkling in the corner, the scent of flowers replaced with ginger and shortbread. Morgan was there, providing the music, playing what I was sure had to be Ayne’s violin.

“The thought of Morgan jarred me, brought me back to the task at hand. This particular operation was the allied forces’ strongest attempt to break the German lines so far. I was sure the 408th would be up in the clouds above the shores of France. It was entirely possible that Vince could also be in the area. Perhaps the St. Croix had been assigned to help with this offensive, along with the Royal Navy. Vince could be out there, in the same damned water, just beyond arm’s reach, bobbing around and waiting for his crack at the enemy.

“As I said, the walls of the landing craft were tall, too tall for most of the men to see over. My men were some of the first on, and they went to work to find the best spot to sit. We had created a vantage point, boxes and sacks and whatever else we could find near the back where our tank waited. Thinking about Morgan and Vince had me trying to get my bearings, but everything was inky – the sky, the water, the other boats traveling with us were all shrouded in black. It sent a shiver down my back – that eerie feeling that something bad is lurking out there, just where you can’t see it. Across and below from where I was sitting, I could just make out the image of a very young soldier hunched over, his elbows resting on his knees, beads steadily slipping through his fingers as he mumbled yet another decade of the rosary. He had been through it at least four times already. Further down, some of the men were kibitzing, silently poking and kicking at each other while they attempted to relieve some stress.

“People will say that waiting is the worst… waiting for anything. The anticipation is what kills you. It’s not true. The waiting was hard; it was long and tedious and the mind does some crazy things to you under those circumstances. Not knowing what to expect, not knowing how to prepare… it’s all hard, but it doesn’t kill you.

“When we had formed up and made our way onto the landing craft, I had no idea how long it would take to cross the Channel, but so far it had been a quick eternity, taking forever while at the same time passing all too fast. The anticipation of actually doing something other than training, of perhaps making the first true dent in Germany’s armor, fought with that nagging fear of the unknown, of wondering if perhaps we were walking into a devil’s playground. It was the same feeling I had on the day my mother was buried; I was anxious for the whole thing to be over and yet dreading having to say goodbye to her for the last time. Now I wanted the time to linger, to give me a chance to think about home, about my family, about my Ayne and Rowan. I also wanted to get this job over and done, because until we had accomplished it, there would be little chance of a future worth thinking about.”

I paused, the thought of what might have been my future colliding with what had been my past. The good-byes – so many of them, all too soon, flashed, created a lump in my throat that I tried to swallow.

“I had no idea what time it was… time really had no meaning, no significance because it was going too fast and too slow at the same time… when I thought I heard shots being fired. I was sure I saw flashes of light, but they would have been quite a distance away. At least, I thought they were far away… I had no idea where anything was though, disoriented by black everywhere. The sky melted into the water, nothing defined. We were stretched out one hell of a long way, so it could have been someone on one of our own landing craft that shot, nerves and the tossing of the boat perhaps causing the breach of protocol. My heart leapt out of my chest with the realization our whole mission could be in jeopardy if someone on shore heard those same shots. They stopped as abruptly as they had started. I tried to tell myself that it wouldn’t be important. I was already playing that game – you know, that one where you try to convince that little voice inside you that it was wrong to be alarmed. That’s the wrong game to play when you’re a soldier.

“Eventually daylight had snuck up on us. There was a faint glow in the east, and although they were still very slight, the shadows and shapes were becoming more discernable with each tick of the clock. Tick, tock, tick, tock – the knot tightens in your stomach with each one. The looks of confusion and concern on other men’s faces said they had come to the same realization: we were losing the protection of the cover of night. Thankfully, shore was in sight. For the first time, I was starting to see the true scope of Operation Jubilee.

“Ahead of us were landing crafts. Beside us, behind us, as far as the eye could see, we had an endless supply of clones, a sea full of soldiers waiting to land. I learned later that there were more than two-hundred-and-fifty vessels carrying men to battle. The sight was overwhelming. Then came the faint hum in the air, a hive of mechanical bees in search of pollen, miniscule planes swarming in the early morning skies over Dieppe.

“I knew our time to land would come, but my crew had been strategically placed by Major Huffman. He wanted to give me an opportunity to record the images of the ‘valiant and victorious allied forces as they stormed the beaches of France’. That was exactly what he said. I remember the words – will never forget them. This operation was pivotal for Canada’s military. We made up almost eighty percent of the total contingent of Operation Jubilee. Huffman, and probably the brass higher up, believed this battle would bolster the morale and confidence of the Allied troops. Canada wanted this victory to secure her political and military position with the other dogs of war. The world needed to see this effort; it would give them hope that the ‘fascist terror’ could be and would be stopped. It was all a load of crap.

“Up on my perch, I pulled the camera from my pouch and started shooting pictures, recording the efforts of these brave, strong men. I steeled myself, slapped on my photographer persona as the tailgates dropped on the first wave of landing crafts. Soldiers on foot charged into the water as the mighty Churchills came to life, groaning, belching smoke. Bombs were exploding everywhere as the air force softened up the landing area and provide cover for the ground troops. To them fell the duty of protecting the soldiers on the ground, drawing attention upwards, keeping the enemy at bay as it stayed crouched behind sandbags and shelters, dividing the German forces, giving them so many targets to shoot they could not be effective with any one of them. Smoke screens laid down by the Royal Navy were also meant to help our troops land safely.

“The noise was deafening, the gates of hell flung open to attack every sense possible. The sound of bombs, guns, screams, multiplied a thousand-fold by the second. Our craft was too far away for the men to appreciate what was happening on the beaches – they were busy getting themselves ready for when our wave was called. Cordite and smoke filled the air, mingling with dust, dirt, the spray of water gluing it all to our skin, washing it into our eyes. I wanted to catch the looks of determination on the faces of the soldiers who charged into the water, their weapons held high to keep dry, their heavy boots splashing as they hit the water at a run.

“Something was very wrong, though. A giant hole opened in the pit of my stomach. I lowered the camera, let my eyes sweep across the entire beach as I tried to grapple with the reality of what was happening in front of me. We were still too far out to think of disembarking, but we were close enough for me to already recognize the carnage that lay before us. Some of the other men had gathered around, watching, wondering why we weren’t getting into the fray yet. It was taking too long to get us close enough to fight. I remember looking at some of their faces… at the shock… the panic… then with the look of realization, the processing of what the hell was happening… the helplessness.

“The water was red with blood. Helmets floated past like giant fishing bobs, some tapping gently against the side of our boat. In the middle of the action, mighty tanks, giant, unbeatable fighting machines, were struggling hopelessly on the beach. They couldn’t get beyond the shingle bank and the sea wall. It was as if they had gotten caught on flypaper, spinning the treads, groaning, but unable to move at all. Men from the first wave were littered across the beach, floating in the water, many of them shot the second the gates on the back of the landing craft had started to open. They hadn’t even seen what the hell was coming or where they were supposed to be heading.

“A few, very few, managed to keep running towards the seawall. My mouth was totally dry, I was unable to swallow, to bloody breath, as I watched the first men pass the barbed wire spread out on the beach. They had been able to reach the wall, attempted to signal a warning to the next wave, trying to tell them to stay where they were, to abort the mission, but their efforts were too late.

“The men of Charlie Company, myself among them, could do nothing but listen to the sounds of carnage, smell the death, watch the disaster play out in front of them. At times, because of the smoke and dust, we could see nothing but an incredible display of flying overhead as the Allied pilots were engaged in a mishmash of dogfights. I could see it all, sat and watched, tried to record it, until Chuck grabbed me by the waist and pulled me to cover among the sacks. Bullets were flying from every direction, the water dimpled a million times over, as if we were caught in a summer hailstorm on the lake.

“I reminded myself again that, despite the massacre and destruction, despite the danger, I had to get out there and record as much of this as possible. I had to. How else would we know what the hell went wrong? How would anyone learn anything from this hell if someone didn’t keep a record of it, a record that had no political agenda? If we were all to die, then at least there had to be something to help the next batch of soldiers to step into this bloody cesspool. I recorded as much as I possibly could, reminded myself why, but still found myself paralyzed by the horrendous slaughter of that first wave.”

Boys, every one of them, and I watched them die. They died; I lived. I watched, took pictures, threw up more than once, but it always came back to those same two irrefutable truths; they died, I lived. After all these years, I still grappled with that one. I sighed, a pointless attempt to calm the onslaught of emotions.

“The military is nothing if not consistent, especially when confronted with disaster. We had watched the annihilation of Alpha Company. There were too many fatal flaws in the plans for Operation Jubilee. You would think it would be enough to make the powers-that-be reconsider the attack. Any sane man knew the battle was lost before it had even begun… hell, there was no battle. It was a damn Thanksgiving turkey shoot and nothing more. Popgun practice at the fair and we were the unwitting targets.

“But true to form, as shocked as we were to see what happened to Alpha, it was nothing compared to the feeling that went through us as we watched Bravo pulling up close to shore and opening the gates of a fresh wave of landing crafts. Alpha didn’t know what was happening… but those poor sons of bitches, kids, nothing more, in Bravo had seen, and knew without doubt what they were walking into. They counted on someone with a brain to stop it from happening, to understand that the recon information was wrong, that we had been set up. They counted on someone to say ‘stop!’ That didn’t happen, though. They were soldiers, good soldiers, great men. They followed orders. God bless them, they followed orders. Even still, just thinking about it makes me furious, makes me confused, makes me want to scream. What a god damned waste.

“The smell of burned flesh and blood was becoming too much for a lot of the men to take, breaking the last bit of stamina they had been exercising against the sight of the massacre. Poor Skippy couldn’t stop puking now, puking and crying, then puking some more. Young men were gunned down before even getting one boot in the water. Naval crews on the landing craft were gunned down at their posts, only to be quickly replaced by others who were almost guaranteed the same fate. Many of the crafts were damaged, riddled with bullets, and some of them were totally disabled, disappearing into the water.

“I made the mistake of looking down at the water around us. You could see only small spaces of red water. It was hidden under a mass of bodies, hundreds of bodies floating in a sea of blood. They bumped against each other, slammed into the boat, tangled themselves with others in the waves created by exploding munitions. The limbs, floating by without a body, were incredibly hard to see… and the heads… some of those boys actually had their entire heads blown off their bodies, their heads floating past us.

“Our landing craft turned and the gate started to drop open. The men started to drag on bodies, looking for people who were hurt but still alive, and hauling them into the boat. When we looked up, we could see German’s swarming the tanks on the beach, disabled scrap heaps. The men aboard those tanks were sitting ducks, waiting for either death or capture. I wasn’t sure which would be worse, to be honest with you.

“Operation Jubilee would certainly go down in the history books. There had been no opportunity for us to take out coastal defense guns. The enemy’s heavy and light anti-aircraft guns remained completely intact and there would be no attack on German machine gun nests. The ridges and the surrounding towns had not been secured, despite that being the plan at the outset. The beach would not be held, no beachheads would be secured or defined. In total, the mission was a disaster, all objectives nothing more than pipe dreams, great plans on a piece of paper in some office that were the subject of absolutely no previous recognizance.

“Green, White, Red and Blue beaches, as they had been codenamed, were one giant blood-red killing field. The Germans made no effort to discriminate – the men of the Royal Canadian Regiment died beside the South Saskatchewan Regiment, the Cameron Highlanders and the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. They didn’t give a shit. They had been delivered a huge contingent of allied troops. The only thing our generals forgot was the god damned silver platter to serve us on.

“Small assault boats were starting to race into the middle of this mess, the crew’s intent to rescue as many men as possible from the shores. Those crazy guys didn’t think for one moment about their own safety, or if they did, they didn’t dwell on it more than a second.

“Then the order came: there was a new objective. The men piloting the landing craft joined in the attempts to rescue our boys. Under incredible, constant fire from the Germans on shore and in the sky, with only a smoke screen provided by the navy, they moved back towards the beach to pick up whatever survivors possible. Some of those men went in over and over again, returning to the shores as many times as they could in an attempt to keep Canadian soldiers out of enemy hands.

“Finally the landing craft turned away, left Dieppe, and all those boys, behind. My God, that was the worst feeling in the world, that feeling of abandoning them, turning our backs on them. My knees started to buckle, so I sat down on a crate and looked at the faces around me. The men, every one of them, had these blank expressions, the pale, gaunt look of men who had looked straight into hell and had seen the devil smile back at them. The trip back to England, after almost twenty-four hours of hunger, fatigue, frustration and shock, would never be remembered by many of those men. They had become old men in the space of a few hours. None of them would ever be able to regain their youth again. I realized the men might not recognize the changes in themselves, but they would be more than obvious to their families once, with the grace of God, these boys returned home. I prayed. For the first time in a long time, probably since my mother had been killed, I prayed. ‘Please, God, if you are really there, allow these men to return home. Grant that You spared them today for some wonderful but yet unknown purpose.’”

I whispered the prayer one more time, looking up through Hector’s branches to the clear sky beyond. I swallowed the pain, the anger, trying to be nonchalant as I ran a finger under my eyes. When I looked up, Lili’s eyes were also wet. She looked like she had felt my terror, lived my nightmare. Shame crashed through me, for my language, my anger. I pushed myself up, walked to the bluff, looked to the water for some answers, some solace. It was wrong of me to say anything, to share this hell with her. I should have shut up right then, spared her, but I didn’t.

“In the middle of nowhere, ocean around us, I suddenly realized that, by now, reports of the battle would be reported on every radio in every home in Scotland, as well as in Canada. Families would hear about the hundreds of men killed or taken prisoner, would spend days, even weeks, worrying, grieving. I pulled out a pen to start a letter to Pa. The family had enough to worry about with Vince and Morgan, who were most likely also part of this military abomination. Just thinking about them made my heart stop. Vince and Morgan were probably out there, could be floating in the water, might not be dead yet, but perhaps dying.”

“Ay’m so sorry.” Lili sniffled. She looked away, tried to distract herself by running her fingertip along a deep fissure in Hector’s bark. “Why did it fail so badly, Blake? What really went wrong?”

I took a deep breath, blew out my cheeks and shrugged. “What the hell went right? I suppose the first thing was that we had lost the element of surprise. A German naval patrol had seen us coming. We found out after the fact that there had been no proper recognizance of the beach prior to the operation. The landing conditions were unknown, although some officers had offered their ‘best guesses’ as to what would be encountered in the shallow waters of Dieppe.

“Almost five thousand men were involved in the raid. Just shy of four thousand of them actually landed on the beach. Almost one thousand men lost their lives in the blood bath; almost two thousand were taken prisoner. The first men arrived on the shores at five in the morning, and by nine o’clock, less than four hours later, the Canadian forces involved in Operation Jubilee had been decimated – but it felt like forever. Time had no significance as men stood in turn, sacrificing themselves on the altar of some damned five-star who had only visions of his name in history books. Funny enough, no one knows that name. No one wants to be associated with that disaster. The Air Force, involved in one of the largest air battles of the war so far, had also suffered huge losses, as had the Navy. Those boys running the boats were fearless, tireless, a Godsend to us.”

I made no attempt to hide the contempt in my voice. The day after the attack, it was forgotten, never to be spoken of again, and who the hell would change that? There were so many killed, the rest of us never wanted to think of it again, but there was an obligation to honor their memory. No one ever did. “August 19th, 1942 was Canada’s ‘day of infamy’, the day Lord Louis Mountbatten would so charmingly refer to as ‘the turning point in the technique of invasion’, the day that Hitler would refer to as ‘the first time the British have had the courtesy to cross the sea to offer the enemy a complete sample of their weapons’. I’m not sure which reaction offended me more, which one still offends me more. I suppose, though, there is nothing about war that I don’t find offensive.” I reached for her hand; it was icy cold so I held it tightly with both of mine as I looked into her eyes. “Lili, pray to God or whoever the hell it is that dreamt up this world. Pray you never have to see what I’ve seen. Pray your children will never see what I saw that day. Do it for me, so I know at least something positive might still come out of that disaster.”

 


The Red of Flowing Blood I See by Mary Cote

Posted on May 24, 2012 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Chapter 1

A twig snapped back, delivering a sharp smack to Chuck Franklin’s cheek as he turned to re-examine the path already trod. “Where in the hell am I?” He started forward again, his feet weighing twenty pounds each. The pack on his back, although empty of food, seemed heavier than when he started this trip. “Miles and miles of nothing. Why the hell would anyone willingly do this?” He stumbled over another tree root. “Shit!”

Dropping his pack to the ground, he sat on a fallen tree trunk, rubbed his hands through long, dirty hair and sighed. “I’m gonna die out here and no one will know. Any minute now some hungry bear is gonna lunge outta the brush and I don’t give a shit. Let him eat me. Get it over with. At least I won’t die with some commie bullet in my back. You hear me! Come and get me. Get it over with.” He shook his fist at a tangle of berry bushes, but his challenge went unanswered.

Exhausted, he lifted one ankle, rested it on the other knee, and massaged his foot through worn shoe leather. The smell caused him to turn his head. He groaned. “If I take ‘em off, I’ll never get ‘em back on again, and I can’t walk through this crap in my socks. There has to be someone living in this God-forsaken country.” He looked around and shook his head. “Which country? How the hell will I know?”

He checked the backpack again, but knew he would find nothing to eat. He had gone through the motions seven times now, but the results were the same. His stomach growled in reply, urging him to find some berries again. “I’ll puke if I have to eat one more damned berry. I need food.” Resigned, he let his foot fall back to the ground and pushed himself off the log. Berries were better than nothing. He found a bush, picked a handful and slapped them into his mouth then stopped mid-chew. Head tilted, he strained to listen then smiled. He spat, wiped a grubby sleeve over his face, grabbed the pack, and started walking.

The sound was calling him. He was defenseless: he the ship, she the siren. She was singing to him, her voice growing in strength with each step he took.

Chuck stopped short of the clearing and watched. She was hanging laundry on the line, singing with the radio, rocking her hips slowly. Auburn hair hung to her shoulder blades, waved back and forth. With her full skirt, a lacy top, and bare feet, she was no fashion model, but also nothing to be cast off out of hand.

Oh my God! People! I’m somewhere! He ran his fingers through the mop on his head, combing it with filthy nails, took a deep breath, smiled, and breeched the tree line. She hadn’t heard him, so he moved closer, stood behind her, and cleared his throat.

“Ahem, excuse me…”

She screamed, spun to face him, clothespins flying like shrapnel as she dived to grab the radio. In what seemed a well-practiced move, she shut off the little transistor and slipped it into her pocket. He stared at her eyes, wide with fright. She clutched a wet towel to her chest as she backed away from him.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. I’m Chuck…” He held out his hand, but she didn’t respond to the pleasantry. Sheepish, he slipped it into his pocket, tilted his chin down and tried again. “I was just passing through. I heard you singing.” Still he got no response. “Look, I’ve been walking for a long time. If I could just get a piece of bread or something, I’ll be on my way.” He waited, watched her vacant expression, felt his frown growing. “Oh, to hell with it. Forget it.” He brushed passed her and headed toward the street out front.

“Wait.”

He stopped, but his frustration at being already snubbed prevented him from turning around.

“I’m… I’m sorry. You surprised me. I thought you were my uncle. When I saw you weren’t, I thought you were… Forget it. It doesn’t matter. I’m sorry I was rude.” She draped the towel over the line. Crouching, she gathered the scattered clothespins into a basket. Chuck turned then retraced his step, stooping to pick up more of the stray pins on the way.

He searched for some common ground. “You like Herman’s Hermits?” He nodded to the radio in her pocket.

She smiled. “Yeah, they’re sorta groovy, but…” she lowered her voice and looked around her. “...My uncle forbids me to listen to any ‘modern garbage’.

“Ah.” He nodded, dropping the pins into the basket. “Look, I just need some food. I’m starving. Then I’ll get outta here.” He hesitated, stood up, hands on hips, and looked around him. “Maybe you could tell me where exactly ‘here’ is?”

The girl wrinkled her face. “Here? It’s Sundown. I just arrived here a few weeks ago. If you don’t have to stay, don’t. It’s dead around here.”

“Sundown…?”

“Sundown, Manitoba, you silly. Where the hell…” she startled, looked around again, cringing. “Where the heck else would it be? Where are you heading, anyways?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. Just traveling, I guess; seeing the world, looking for a new place to call home. Now, about that food…?”

“Sit over there.” She pointed to a bench across the garden, watched as he plodded towards it then she ran into the house.

“Sundown, Manitoba,” Chuck mumbled to himself. “Canada. I actually found the damned country.” He looked around. “So, this is Canada. Now what the hell do I do?” He sighed, leaned back and thought about roast beef, mashed potatoes and cornbread.

“Here.” She was back, proud and smiling as she passed him two egg salad sandwiches and a large glass of milk. Dropping to the ground, she crossed her legs in front of her, straightened out her skirt, and gazed up. “So, what’s it like?”

“What’s what like?” He spoke around a mouthful of bread, his interest more in the eating than the talking.

“Running away. I think I might like to as well. Maybe we can run off together? What are you running from?”

He swallowed hard, chased the food down with a large gulp from the glass. “I’m not running away. What on earth would make you think that? I got an invitation to a party that I just didn’t want to attend, and I knew some people would be mad, so I figured, since I wanted to see the world anyways, what better time than the present. A new start sounded like a great idea.” He crammed more food into his mouth. “What about you? What’re you gonna run from? You’re not old enough to run away.”

“I’m fifteen!” She threw a cautious look around her again. “I have to run away from this place.” Her face fell, shoulders slumped. “See, my mom and dad were killed in a car wreck a couple weeks back. My brother – his name’s Marty – and I got sent here to live with my uncle. How old are you?”

“A lot older than you are. You still have school to finish. Make sure you finish school.” He wagged a finger at her. “It can’t be that bad here with your uncle, and the town can’t be that bad… it’s probably pretty laid back, homey. I bet not much happens around here. You probably don’t even have a police department here.”

She frowned again, gave him another once-over then laughed. “Man, you are strange. Where the heck are you from? We don’t have police departments… we have RCMP. Not right here in town: They’re stationed in Steinbach, about an hour north of here. When we need them, we call and they come around. We don’t need them very often, though.”

Chuck nodded. His day was getting better by the minute. “What about work? Is there work to get around here?”

She shrugged. “Don’t ask me. I told you, I just got here myself, but my uncle knows everyone here. He might be able to help.”

“Help with what, Julia?”

The deep voice startled them both. Chuck jumped to his feet, his hand reaching for his backpack in one smooth movement. Julia was also standing, brushing the grass off the backs of her legs and trying to look respectful.

“Who’s this?” her uncle asked, having received no answer to his first question.

Chuck gulped, stuck out his hand, and stepped forward. “Good afternoon, Father. My name is Chuck Franklin. I was passing through, and your niece was kind enough to offer me some food and a place to sit for a moment.”

The priest accepted the handshake, appraised the guest. “Hmm, well, it looks like you could use a shower, a shave, some clean clothes and some sleep as well. You said you were traveling?”

“Yes, Father. But I was thinking Sundown might be a good place to set down some roots, start a life of my own.”

He nodded, knowingly. “It’s a good town. Quiet, off the beaten path. Depending on what you’re looking for, it could fill the bill. You’ll need a place to stay for a day or two, some work, and some food. You’re skinny as a rake.” He turned to his niece. “Run in the house, Child, and make up the guest room on the main floor. Then you better get some supper on. Mister Franklin and I will be here in the garden, chatting. I imagine then he’ll want to freshen up. Look sharp, Child.”

Julia trotted off. Chuck watched her climbing the stairs to the kitchen. When he turned back to the priest, he realized he, too, was being watched.

“I’m Father Donovan Flaherty. That’s my niece. Her brother is around here somewhere. I hope he doesn’t make a nuisance of himself to you.” He started to walk towards the garden, his expression signaling that Chuck should follow. “I know why you’re here. I have no intention of judging you on that. You are welcome to stay for a while, so you can figure things out, but there will be rules. The first is to keep your nose clean, especially in regard to my niece. She’s had a tough go of it, and I’ll not tolerate anyone trifling with her. She’s young and impressionable. There are repairs to be done here, the cemetery needs some attention, and the gutters on the rectory need to be cleaned. Maybe by the time you get that done, we’ll have found work for you, if you’re planning on staying around.”

“Yes, Sir.” Chuck clutched tighter to his pack.

“And while you are here, there will be no drinking, no partying, no swearing, you will, under no circumstance, go upstairs in the house, and you will attend church. I don’t care if you’re Catholic or not; you’re under my roof, living off the kindness of my parishioners, so the least you can do is know and respect who we are. You don’t have to believe, but you have to understand and respect. If you have any drugs in that bag, get rid of them, and keep them away from my nephew. He has enough temptations already; he certainly doesn’t need that one. If you have that damned draft notice in there, get rid of it as well. I have a safe you can store it in if you must keep it for whatever reason, or I have a fireplace you can burn it in, but for all our sakes, get rid of it.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Father Donovan bent to evict a milkweed from his petunias. “Get to know everyone here. There are some who will be more than happy to help you. There are some who would gladly see you hanged, and would take great pride in tanning your hide and dragging you back to the other side of the border. It’s up to you to figure out who is which, but don’t be fooled by first, or even second impressions. Now, let’s get you inside.”

Welcome to Canada... and Father Donovan’s boot camp. Chuck followed the priest up the stairs and into the house.

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The Red of Flowing Blood I See will be available for purchase on Monday, May 28th, 2012.