Not a fairytale ending – Reboot

It came to my attention that if I was going for the “character” aspect of M.I.C.E. with this post I fell short in bringing it to a resolution.  Check out the description of this element again (see below) then come on back up here.

See?  In this little tale my character is bored with her job and to properly wrap it up I should have showed that she either became satisfied with it or reconciled to it.  Never mind that she was satisfied in other ways…

Consequently, I’m trying a re-write of this post to include resolution.  Let me know what you think.


You have been warned so if you find yourself offended you have no one to blame but yourself.  So there.

Yesterday I posted about M.I.C.E. and included my story based on the milieu element.  I struggled with the I in M.I.C.E. and finally postponed that one, jumping to the C – character.  If you didn’t get a chance to review the elements of M.I.C.E, the character element was described as follows:

character story starts when the character is dissatisfied with their life or some aspect of it, and finishes when they become either satisfied with or reconciled to it.
Example: Most romance fiction.

Here’s my rewrite of Little Red Riding Hood using the character element as my main focus.  One last warning, this is bawdy with a capital bawd so if you are easily offended do not proceed further.  That is all.

When the alarm went off Red groaned and buried her head under the pillow.  Obviously that didn’t turn the damned thing off and it kept pestering her until she stretched her arm over to hit the snooze button.  “Ten more minutes,” she murmured, turning on her side.  Ten minutes later she was still half-awake when it sounded again.  Red sat up and turned off the alarm, then wandered into her tiny kitchen where she lit a joint and poured a cup of cold coffee.  While waiting for the java to nuke she looked into the fridge hoping something delish would have magically appeared.  No such luck.  Her life was pretty darn predictable.  Taking the reheated coffee, she went to grab a shower.

Work went as work did – slowly.  Office work was so boring!  Red wanted to be challenged or at the very least for something exciting to happen!  From her desk beside the window she could see the county park across the street and she daydreamed it was a forest and she was one of the characters in a fairytale like those her grandmother had told once upon a time.  Not a namby pamby princess, she thought.  I’d be strong enough to take care of myself; who the hell needs Prince Charming?  The Wolf though had always fascinated her, she remembered.  As she stared out at the park she caught a glimpse of something moving just inside the tree line.  She thought at first it was an animal but then it, or he – for now she could see it was a man – stepped out of the trees.  Tall, Dark and Muscular continued through the park to the street and Red saw him mount a Harley Davidson motorcycle parked on the street in front of her office.

“Be still my heart,” she mumbled.  “That is the single most attractive man I’ve seen in – well, ever.”  What the heck was he doing back in the woods, she wondered.  Not one to ignore her impulses, Red resolved to find out.  After work she donned her sweater and strode across the street, then into the trees.  As she went deeper the canopy screened the sun and the light dimmed.  Shadows played with her imagination and she shuddered once when she thought there was someone hiding behind one of the trees.  “Come on Red, get a grip.”

Having no idea what she was looking for, Red wasn’t sure how far to go, how long a walk she wanted to take knowing she’d have to make the return trek at some point.  The path grew darker still and she checked her phone for the time.  What?!  She’d been walking for twenty minutes already?  The park wasn’t that big was it?  “Well screw this!  It’s after six and I want a beer dammit!”  Doing an about face, Red began retracing her steps.  She’d gone only a few yards when she came face to face with Tall, Dark, and Oh-So-Yummy.

He wore tight denim jeans with a white tee shirt and leather jacket a la James Dean.  Dark hair waved over one sharp eye and he stared at her predatorily.  Between the hair and his gaze he reminded her of a wolf on the prowl.

“What the fuck?”

“That’s nice talk,” Red replied, cocking one hip and crossing her arms.

“What the hell are you doing out here?” he growled.

“It’s a free country; I’m taking a walk.”

“In those shoes.”  It wasn’t a question but she glanced down guiltily at her Jimmy Choos which were being mutilated by the forest path.

“What’s it to you?  Don’t tell me, this is your territory and you’ve come back to mark it like a…,” she started to say dog but realized that wasn’t quite right.  He was definitely a wolf.

“Like a what?” he sneered.

“A wolf,” she admitted honestly.  “You remind me of a wolf.”

“And what does that make you?  Little Red Riding Hood?”  He raked her with an insolent stare, looking from the top of her deep red hair to her completely inappropriate footwear.  “I think you’d better leave.”  The earlier menace in his gaze was now clear in his voice.

Her Irish temper took control and she closed the gap between them to poke his chest with her finger.  “I’ll leave when I’m goddamned ready Wolf!”  Anger brought red flags of color to her cheeks and her eyes sparked with heat.

The next moment Tall, Dark, and Hunky had crushed her mouth with his and gathered her into a vise-like embrace.  Fingers wove into her auburn hair as he deepened the kiss.  Moments later when their lips parted they were both breathing hard.

Wow, Red thought, holding his eyes and noticing they were no longer threatening.

His voice was raspy and breathless.  “I’m going to fuck you like you’ve never been fucked before!”

Red smiled slyly, pulling out her .357.

“No you’re not.  You’re going to eat me like the story says.”


Some time later, Red took a drag from the cigarette and passed it to Wolf.  Sitting up she looked around for her clothing.  This had been fun but she couldn’t see it going anywhere and she had to work the next day.

“Where are you going?” growled the Wolf.

She glanced at him over her shoulder.  “Home.  I have to get up early for work.”

“So that’s it?  Wham! Bam! Thank you man?”

“What did you expect?  Happily ever after?” Red smirked.  She shimmied into her lace panties and reached for the matching bra.

“Of course not.”  He shuddered at the thought.

“Then what?  Where do you see this going?”

“My place?” he grinned at her.

“All in good time,” she smiled.  “I still have to work tomorrow.”

“Work is overrated.”

“You’re telling me!”  Red pulled her blouse over her head and tucked it into her skirt.

“Why don’t you work for me?”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”  He said it with a straight face but Red cracked up.


“I’m dead serious,” he replied, taking no offense.  He was used to that reaction.  “And I need a research assistant.”

Intrigued now, Red paused with one arm in her sweater.  “What would I need to do?”

“A lot of reading, some typing, organization of my notes.”

“So, office stuff huh?”

“With fringe benefits,” he added, smiling.

“Hmm,” Red traced her finger down his jaw and met his eyes.  “I can live with that.”


Of M.I.C.E. and Wolves

With apologies to John Steinbeck.

The other day Wendy Barron blogged about a workshop she attended on short fiction:  Short Fiction, MICE Quotient, and Nesting Codes.  I found it quite interesting and especially enjoyed the podcast she linked to which you can check out here.  At the end of the podcast there was homework given.  Take a fairytale, say Little Red Riding Hood, and rewrite it using the elements of the M.I.C.E. Quotient.  I don’t have time to reinvent the wheel here; if you aren’t familiar with Orson Scott Card’s M.I.C.E. Quotient go check out Wendy’s blog post; she illustrates it very well.  The podcast is icing on the cake (and only about 15 minutes).

The assignment was to write a one page story based on each element.  Below is my attempt for the first element – milieu.  I hope to work up posts for the other three elements: idea, character and event.  We’ll see how it goes.


The forest was too quiet.  Usually the birds were chirping or there was rustling in the bushes along the path as some small animal scurried through.  But today not even the tree limbs creaked.  Red, normally very comfortable walking through the woods to Grandma’s, was a little unnerved.  The silence was so complete her breath resounded in her ears.

As she neared the Great Oak which marked the halfway point Red paused and held her breath as though that would allow her to hear better.  The silence was unnatural, she thought.  When all the animals and birds grow still it’s because they’re frightened.

“Cut that out,” she scolded herself sharply.  “Get a move on or you’ll be late to Grandma’s house!”  Adjusting her hooded cape, she set off again and if her pace was slightly faster no one except she knew.

Leaving the forest behind a few minutes later, Red entered the clearing where her grandmother’s cabin stood.  Smoke curled from the weathered chimney and Red felt herself relax.  To one side lay Grandma’s carefully weeded garden with its neat rows of vegetables.  An ancient tree shaded the other side of the cabin and Red had fond memories of climbing it with her older brothers.

Crossing the clearing, Red let herself through the gate and started up the walk.  Odd, she thought.  Grandma was usually waiting on the step.  She knocked on the door and it swung inward, startling her.  Red hesitated on the threshold, suddenly afraid.  Stepping inside, she started to call out but inexplicably stopped herself.  If there was an intruder she didn’t want to alert them.

Walking as lightly as she could, Red entered her grandmother’s cozy living room, pleased to see it looked normal.  The squashy sofa and oversized chair were as inviting as ever.  The other furniture gleamed as though Grandma had just finished her dusting.  Beyond the living room, the kitchen was empty but she’d evidently been busy in there earlier.  Grandma’s favorite deep blue mixing bowl was on the counter and the aroma of her peanut butter cookies lingered.  So where was she?

Red started to turn toward the hallway leading to Grandma’s bedroom when she heard a noise behind her and everything went black.

Consciousness returned slowly and painfully.  Red opened her eyes and had a moment of panic when she couldn’t see anything.  Once her eyes adjusted, she could see that she was being carried along like a sack flung over a man’s shoulder.  A mountain of a man, she thought taking in the breadth of his shoulders and how high off the ground she was.

Outraged, she pounded on his broad back.  “What is the meaning of this!”

“I saved you from a certain, horrible death,” said the man without stopping.  “You nearly walked in on the Wolf.”

“What,” she choked on the word.  “What happened to my Grandmother?”

“She’s at peace now.  No sense dwelling on how she got there.”

Red felt her eyes prick with unshed tears.  In the distance she could see the smoke curling from Grandma’s chimney and realized they were back on the trail through the forest.




Maxwell’s – final excerpt … for 2014

I didn’t want to rule out further excerpts completely but I think I’ve about wrapped up Charlie’s story.  I spent some time this past weekend working through a hard copy with a red pen.  I didn’t make it all the way through but managed what I considered some decent progress.  Once I finish that initial read-through and revision I’m going to be trolling for beta readers.  (That’s the term, right?  Beta?  Someone who will read and provide feedback?)

Until that time, here’s a little more of Charlie’s story for those of you who have been following along.  Thanks for reading.

Jeff put the phone down and groaned.  He had hoped he could close up and head home for the night, pick up the Minnelli investigation in the morning.  But a quiet evening at home wasn’t meant to be.  Standing up, he put a fresh notebook in the pocket of his jacket, grabbed his hat on the way out of his office and locked up. 

Hazel’s was close enough he didn’t have to drive but since it was after dark the temperature had dropped some so he took the Jeep anyway.  He’d be headed home from there and it would save him a walk back.  Parking in the first available space, he went inside. 

“Hey Maggie,” he greeted the waitress, touching the brim of his hat in her direction.  He crossed to the booth where Luke and another, older man sat.  “Tyler.”

“Hello Jeff,” Luke said.  He nodded toward the other man.  “This is my client, Leo Delaney.”

Jeff held out his hand and the other man took it, shaking firmly.  “Sheriff,” Leo said.

“Call me Jeff,” the Sheriff said.  “We’re on the informal side around here.”

“Then I’m Leo,” the older man replied.  “Please, have a seat.”

Jeff slid into the booth opposite Luke, removing his hat and setting it aside.  He pulled the notebook from his pocket along with a pen. 

“So Luke tells me you have information I should hear.”

“I think you might find it of interest,” Leo said.  He put the last piece of steak in his mouth and chewed it slowly.  Then he drank the last of his beer and set the glass on his empty plate.  “Your ‘Blockhead’ as you call him, is probably Carlo Dante.”

“Car…, wait, isn’t that one of the shooters Jack testified against?”

“It is,” Leo nodded.  “The reluctant partner of Tony Minnelli.”

“And you think he’s here in Manning and shot Joey Minnelli?” Jeff was confused.  “Why would he shoot his partner’s brother?”

“Because he lost everything while he was in prison Jeff.”

“But wouldn’t that make him want to kill Jack?”  Jeff was scribbling notes as fast as he could.

“You would think so, wouldn’t you?”  Leo took a drink of water.  “However, when Jack ditched me a few months back I started looking into the old case to see if I could figure out what Jack was trying to protect me from.  What I found out surprised me.”

“Are you planning to share it with us old man, or just tease us?” Luke asked, straight faced. 

“Well not if you keep that shit up,” Leo replied, hiding a smile.

“Could you tell just me then?” Jeff asked politely. 

“Of course,” Leo answered, just as politely.  “Don’t let us worry you Jeff; Luke and I mix it up all the time.  He forgets I can beat the hell out of him any time I want to.”

“In your dreams Leo,” Luke said, but he was grinning and Jeff relaxed. 

“So, please go on,” the Sheriff invited.

“Back when Tony persuaded Carlo to go along with him on the DeFranco hit, Vinnie Minnelli, the Godfather was in peace talks with Gino DeFranco.”  Leo could see that Jeff was lost.

“The Minnellis and the DeFrancos were enemies, much like the Capulets and Montagues from Romeo and Juliet,” he explained.  When Jeff nodded, Leo went on.  “Vinnie was tired of the bloodshed and afraid for his daughters.  He reached out to Gino DeFranco with a peace proposal and Gino bit.

“They were negotiating the terms, dividing up territories, et cetera when Tony, who hated the idea of peace between the families, decided to throw a wrench in the plan.  He persuaded Carlo Dante to go with him to take out several of the DeFrancos.”

“You said Dante was reluctant?” Jeff asked.

“Dante has a reputation for being slow,” Leo explained.  “Could be he was mentally impaired, could be he had an undiagnosed learning disability, could be he got hit in the head once too many times.  I don’t suppose we’ll ever know for sure.  But as a result he was easily manipulated, and Tony had always been there for him so he would follow Tony almost without question.”

“Almost?”  Jeff looked up from his notebook.

“Yeah, almost.  Apparently when Tony told him what they were going to do, Carlo balked.  He liked the idea of peace.  He was newly married with one kid and another on the way.  The prospect of peace between the families was like a dream to him.”

“Then why did he go with Tony?” Jeff asked.

“Tony convinced him that Vinnie planned to install DeFrancos in the family business,” Leo said.  “And that he – Carlo – would have no way to support his family.  Dante wasn’t a member of the Minnelli Family, he was what might be called a ‘hanger on’.  The Family owed him no loyalty and Tony persuaded him that with a peace there’d be no place for him.”

“That would mess with a guy’s head,” Luke said. 

“Which was what Tony wanted,” Leo replied.  “Carlo never would have been in that park otherwise.

“And you think the guy who shot Joey Minnelli is Carlo Dante?”  Jeff stopped scrawling notes and looked at Leo.

“Almost certainly from the description you have.”

“But I still don’t understand why he would be after Joey?”

“As I said, while he was in prison Dante lost everything.  His wife died in childbirth.  His children want nothing to do with him.  He has terminal cancer now, which is why he was released late last year.

“And he holds his partner responsible,” Jeff muttered, connecting the dots, “So he went after Joey because Tony’s still in prison and he couldn’t get to him.”

“That’s my theory,” Leo agreed, nodding.  “And I think my theory’s accurate except for one thing.”

“Here’s where I get to catch up,” Luke said, leaning forward.  He glanced at Jeff who was looking up curious.  “He wouldn’t tell me this next part till you came.”

“Except for what one thing?” Jeff asked, meeting Leo’s gaze.

“Except that Tony Minnelli was released from prison last week.”

Too bad about the vodka

A while back my buddy Indian Macgyver over at Chic Prune posted a wonderful photo he’d taken with his phone for a minimalist challenge.  The photo was beautiful but it was his comment about a teeny vodka bottle not being included with the dolls that led to our exchange in the comments which in turn led to this post.  So, go check out his photo and the comments.  Then come on back here and read the story it inspired.  Happy weekend everyone!

Victor stumbled into the dim living room, barely missing the body curled into a fetal position near the end of the sofa.  Damn, his head was splitting.  He should call out sick, he thought.  Then a gauzy shred of sanity hit him and he remembered today was the office holiday party.  Victor had been waiting months to give his boss the gift to top all other gifts. He had to go to work, hangover or not.  What on earth had possessed him to drink all that Scotch?!

After avoiding at least two other lumps on his floor, Victor made it to the kitchen and on autopilot started the coffee maker.  Victor couldn’t see the sunrise because it was overcast but, looking out the kitchen window he also did not see the lacy mist gracefully draping the tree limbs in the backyard.  His head was filled with too much crap to notice the peaceful beauty.  Hell, the party had just started getting interesting at midnight.  What the hell time did he finally get to bed?

Victor opened the cupboard door but there were no mugs on the shelf.  He checked the dishwasher which was empty.  Perfect, he grimaced.  Looking around the kitchen he realized there were dishes stacked on every available surface and overflowing one of the sinks.  How had he missed that on his way in?  And just how many people had been in his house?  Grabbing a mug from a nearby pile he squirted in dishwashing soap and stuck it under the tap to add hot water.  After giving it a good wash he rinsed it carefully and reached for a paper towel.  The roll was as empty as the cupboard.  Victor practiced deep breathing for a few moments, then wiped the cup on his tee shirt.

He reached into the refrigerator to get cream and cringed.  Where had that come from?  Shuddering, he grabbed the quart of half and half and slammed the fridge door.  Victor checked the date on the dairy container and sniffed experimentally.  The cream appeared safe to ingest so he splashed some into the clean cup and set the container aside.  Pouring coffee into the cream served to mix the two well enough he wouldn’t have to hunt for a clean spoon.  When the cup was filled to the brim he set the carafe back on the warmer before lifting the cup very slowly to sip hot, aromatic nectar.

“God I needed that,” he muttered to himself.

“What?” Connie asked as she entered the kitchen.  She wore a camisole with a pair of his boxers hanging low on her hips and he noticed they looked a lot better on her.

“What?” Victor asked, his head still a bit fuzzy.

“You said you needed something,” she replied.  “What did you need?”

“Coffee.”  He took another sip.  “I need coffee.”

“Me too.”  The black-haired beauty went to the cupboard and before Victor could say anything she opened the door and pulled down a cup.

“What the hell?  Where was that?”

“Where was what?” Connie asked, moving to the coffee maker.

“I just checked that cabinet and there weren’t any cups.”

“Are you sure?” she furrowed her brow, giving him a concerned look over her shoulder.  Turning back she poured coffee and lifted the cup to take a drink.

“Of course I’m sure,” Victor growled.  I had to wash my cup because there weren’t any clean.”

“Maybe you just missed this one,” she replied, turning to lean against the counter.  Taking another drink she let her blue gaze circle the room.  “What a mess.”

“That’s putting it mildly,” he commented, nodding.  “I was just wondering how it got so out of control.”

“Well let me think,” Connie began with a slow smile.  “Take a house full of young people, loud music and add alcohol.”  She shrugged.  “I think it was destined to be out of control from the beginning.  At least the neighbors didn’t call the police.”

Victor thought she’d explained it succinctly and he was extremely grateful the neighbors had decided to join the party rather than complaining.  But something, some thing kept niggling at his mind.  What was it he was trying to think of?

“Victor?” Connie raised her voice.  “Victor, are you okay?”

“What?  Oh, yeah.  Just trying to figure out what it is I’m missing.”

“Missing?  Is something gone?  How can you tell?”  She caught his eye and winked, grinning wickedly.

“Ha ha, very funny.”  Victor looked around the room again, hoping the elusive memory would surface.  “I’m serious Connie.  There’s something not quite right; something I’m forgetting.”

“Well I’m sure it will come to you,” she replied.  “Can I grab a shower before I head out?”

“Go ahead.  Use the guest bath and be sure to lock the bathroom door.  A few of the mooches who drank all my booze stayed over and you don’t want anyone wandering in while you’re wet and naked.”  Whoa, he thought, hiding behind his coffee cup.  Did I say that out loud?

She gave him the eyebrow waggle.  “Oh don’t I?”  Victor looked shocked for about a second and then he was laughing out loud.  Connie grinned impishly at him as she topped off her coffee.  “Don’t worry, I’ll lock the door; there was only one guy at the party I had any interest in and he didn’t know I was alive.”

“Oh yeah?  Who was that?” Victor was interested.  He’d known Connie for years and during that time she’d never seemed to stay long with any one man.

“That’s my secret,” she said over her shoulder as she left the room.

Alone again, Victor’s mind went back to what was missing.  Connie was right, he mused.  How in the hell can I tell anything is missing?  If it’s actually a real thing and not only a thought.  Geez.  He refilled his mug and after splashing a bit more cream into it, he returned the carton to the refrigerator.  The party favor was still there damn it.  When Connie discovered a cup in the cabinet he’d already checked he had hoped the grisly offering in his fridge was a hallucination.  Putting that aside for the time being, Victor took a fortifying sip of coffee then put his cup out of the way and got started clearing party debris.

Fifteen minutes later, the dishwasher was full, and what wouldn’t fit was soaking in a sink of hot, soapy water.  Empty pizza boxes and Chinese carryout containers were stacked near the back door ready for the recycling bin.  Sponging off the kitchen table, Victor took a look around.  Not spotless, he thought but not embarrassing either.  He straightened, tossed the sponge into the soapy water and rested his hands on his hips.

“What is it I’m forgetting?” he wondered.

“Huh?”  The tall, grungy-looking blond stumbled into the kitchen looking a bit like death warmed over.

“Hey Stan,” Victor said.  “There’s still coffee if you want some.  You’ll have to wash a cup.”

“Cool,” Stan said.  “You got cream?”

“In the fridge.”  Victor watched as Stan washed and rinsed a cup.  He didn’t bother drying it, just filled it, then set it beside the coffee maker while he opened the fridge.  Victor didn’t warn him, waiting for Stan’s reaction.  “Hey, nice arm!”  Stan added cream to his cup, stirred the contents with his finger and put the cream back.  “I didn’t know Jerry was here last night.”

“Jerry?”  Victor raised his eyebrows.

“Jerry Garza, or Carson, or something.  He has a fake arm; I’ll bet that’s his.”

“Right.”  Victor rolled his eyes.  “Wait, what?  Fake arm?”  He opened the refrigerator door and looked inside.  Well damn, he thought.  Fake arm.

“Sure,” Stan said.  “What, did you think it was real?”  Stan laughed, choking on his coffee.

“In my defense,” Victor replied huffily, “I was still half asleep and hungover.”

“Uh huh,” Stan grinned.  “A likely story.  Hey, aren’t you going to work?”

Victor looked at the clock on the microwave and felt the kick in his stomach.  He was going to be late damn it.  There wasn’t even time for a shower and he still didn’t know what it was he was missing!

After a quick wash-up in the master bath, Victor threw on a dress shirt, khaki slacks and tucked a tie in his jacket pocket.  He ran a comb through his hair and went in search of his keys and phone.  The phone was plugged in where he usually left it so that wasn’t what he’d forgotten.  His keys were hanging on their peg just inside the front door, along with a few key rings he didn’t recognize.  Probably Stan’s and the other two lumps’ he thought.  Victor started to open the door and remembered again the party at work.  He snapped his fingers at the memory because that was what he was missing!  The boss’s gift – which would make him stand out above everyone else!

Victor did an about face and ran for the kitchen, jumping over one body and side-stepping the other.  He went directly to the cabinet above the refrigerator and opened the doors.  Inside was a beautiful, hand-blown cobalt blue and crystal bottle. The lovely blue bottle contained Ultimat, the only vodka in the world – so he’d been told – made from a blend of potato, wheat and rye.  The 750 ml bottle had cost him almost $150!  But Leonard Dearborn claimed to be an aficionado of fine alcohol and once Victor had learned that he had a soft spot for vodka, he knew what he was getting the boss for Christmas.

He reached overhead and carefully removed the bottle from the cabinet.  As he was bringing it down Victor noticed it felt different.  He looked closer and realized it had been opened.  What the fucking hell!?

“That was some fine wodka,” Stan said.  “I was shocked you wanted to share it.”

“I wanted to sha…what?  I didn’t open this!”  Angry and confused, Victor set the empty bottle on the kitchen table before he threw it at something.

“Oh yeah,” Connie added, coming in.  “You did.”

“But it was for Dearborn,” Victor said desperately.  “I wouldn’t drink his Christmas gift!”

“I don’t know what to tell you bro,” Stan replied.  “You said something about what a jackass your boss was and that he didn’t deserve it.  Which, I might add is completely true.”

“Stan,” Connie interrupted.  “There was more to it than that.  Victor was downing Scotch like it was water beforehand.  When we asked him what was up he started complaining about Dearborn making him work weekends through the end of the year.”

“Ah,” Stan nodded, remembering.  “That explains the week night party!”

“Hmm,” Victor said.  “I was wondering why I would throw a party on a Tuesday myself.  But I was planning on the Ultimat giving me an in with him; I wouldn’t drink it!”

“Sober maybe,” Connie said.  “But you were so far gone by then honey, you were practically passed out.”

“She’s right man,” Stan agreed.  “You pulled that bottle out and said ‘I’m going to drink until my internal organs start a revolution and leave.’”

“Oh god,” Victor groaned.  He remembered saying that and a lot more.  “What am I going to do now?”

Stan shrugged.  “No idea.  But Dearborn didn’t deserve it; I’m glad you drank it.”

“It would have been nice if I could remember what it tasted like though,” Victor said mournfully.  He’d never spent that much on alcohol before and he didn’t even get to enjoy it.

“For what it’s worth,” Connie replied.  “It was wonderful.”

“Thanks,” Victor smiled.  “So do I pick up some cheap vodka on the way to work or what?”

“Wait!” Stan said.  “Wait, I’ve got it!”  He disappeared through the kitchen door and they heard a thud and a groan, then Stan hollered back, “I’m oh-kay.”  There was the sound of glass clinking and a door closed.

A few seconds later Stan was back and he was holding an unopened bottle of Smirnoff Vodka.

Victor looked from the bottle to his friend’s face.  “What?  You want me to give him my Smirnoff?”

“Yes,” Stan said.

“Yes!” Connie nodded, realizing what Stan was getting at.  She took the Smirnoff from him and twisted off the lid.

“Great,” Victor said.  “Now how do I give that to him?”

“Watch and learn oh Slow One.”  Stan and Connie shared a grin over that.  Then Stan took the crystal and cork stopper out of the Ultimat bottle and set it safely on the counter.  This wouldn’t work if they broke the stopper.

While Stan held the Ultimat bottle securely, Connie carefully filled it with the Smirnoff.  Thankfully, the Smirnoff bottle was the same size so it completely filled the blue bottle.  Then Stan replaced the crystal and cork stopper.  He dug through Victor’s junk drawer and found a rubber mallet which Victor didn’t know he owned.  As Victor watched, fascinated, Stan tapped the stopper with the mallet, driving it in as far as it would go.

“But aren’t these bottles sealed?” Victor asked them.

“Got me,” Stan said.  “But I didn’t notice any kind of wrapper when you opened it last night.”

“And according to you, Dearborn’s a tightwad,” Connie added.  “I doubt he’s ever shelled out $150 for a bottle of this so how would he know?”

Nodding, Victor looked from one to the other of his friends.  “You guys rock!  How can I thank you?”

“You’re welcome.  Now get out of here, you’re already late.” Connie said, smiling.

“Right!  Thanks again, lock up when you leave, okay?”  Carrying the blue bottle in both hands, Victor headed for the door.

“Hey Vic.”  Victor stopped, looking over his shoulder with raised eyebrows.  Stan finished, “Too bad about the vodka.”

Ultimat Vodka - 2

Time for another excerpt

Thirteen thousand six hundred fifty nine words!  Here’s another excerpt for your perusal and comment if you feel so moved.

At his desk, the Sheriff pored over the notes he’d complied on the murder investigation. It made no sense. What was a complete stranger doing in Charlie’s office? It was obvious, at least to Jeff, that Joseph Minnelli was anything but a tourist. His clothing alone gave that away. Who would believe the guy in the designer suit was here to visit the arboretum or the naval museum?

Jeff heard the bell ring as the outside door opened into the reception area. He listened as Mandy pushed back her desk chair and crossed to the taller counter which spanned the width of the room except for the swinging gate at one end. It was remarkably like the gates you might see in an old courtroom where the witnesses would push through on their way to take the stand. In fact, it had been recovered form the old courthouse before it was torn down several years previously. Jeff liked the connection between the old and the new.

In the outer office he heard Mandy ask how she could help the visitor and then he heard Luke’s voice. Even if he hadn’t heard Luke was in town he’d have recognized that voice. It had echoed in enough of his teenage nightmares, he recalled with a touch of the old self-disgust. Jeff started to stand intending to… what exactly? Staying in his chair, he rubbed his hand over his face. Am I really going to go punch him in the face because he was with Carolyn before me?   God, am I losing it or what? He dropped his head into his hands for a moment and there was a tap on his door.

“Jeff?” Mandy slipped into his office, closing the door behind her. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, just having a little argument with myself,” he smiled. “What’s Luke want?”

“He has information on the murder victim he thinks you might find helpful.”

“Oh really?” Jeff smiled. “Well send him in then. Is there any coffee left in that pot?”

“Well yeah, but it’s from three hours ago.”


“What? I can make a fresh pot…”

“Sure, make a fresh pot but bring Luke a cup of the old pot first please.” His eyes fairly twinkled with the anticipation of watching Luke take a polite sip. Who said he was a goody two shoes!

Jeff stood up, might as well take every advantage he could. Being a few inches taller than Luke might seem like a small thing but it made him feel better. He squared the pile of paper on his desk and looked up to watch Luke enter. Luke tried on a grin, holding out his hand.

“Jeff, nice to see you though I wish it was under better circumstances.”

“We can agree on that,” Jeff nodded. He indicated the visitor’s chair with a tilt of his head and took his own seat. Mandy came in and set a chipped china mug on the corner of Jeff’s desk near Luke.

“Thank you,” Luke smiled pleasantly at her. Picking up the mug he took a healthy drink and manfully tried not to let it show on his face that the coffee was awful.

Jeff raised his brows. “Everything okay Luke?” He watched as Luke forced himself to swallow the sludge. He had to hand it to the guy, the smile faltered just a tad but it stayed in place. Jeff relented in spite of himself.

“Fine,” Luke got out. “Coffee’s a bit stronger than I’m used to.”

“Ah, well we can fix that.” Turning to Mandy, Jeff smiled. “Will you start a fresh pot please?”

Mandy, bless her, got it. She gave him back a smile and nodded. “Sure thing Sheriff.” Mandy exited the office, drawing the door closed behind her.

Returning his attention to Luke, Jeff pulled over a notebook and pen. “Mandy said you had some information about Joseph Minnelli?”

“Yeah. First, he goes or he went by Joey. He was the second son of Alfredo Minnelli. Minnelli was a crime boss in New Jersey a few decades back.”

“Do you have any idea what Joey was doing in Manning?”

Luke hesitated and Jeff studied him. “What is it Tyler?”

“I think he was looking for Charlie’s father,” Luke’s shoulders slumped for a moment, as if all the air had gone out of him.

“Charlie’s father? Who has been gone for over 30 years?”

Luke nodded. “I know it sounds crazy. Actually I’m in town looking for Jack too. Or at least some sign of where he might be.”

Jeff tossed down the pen and leaned back in his chair. “So 30 plus years later you, and presumably Joey Minnelli come looking for a man who walked out on his family. Luke, what’s wrong with this picture?”

“Look, I realize how it sounds. I can fill you in on the background if you’ll give me a few minutes.”

Spreading his hands wide, Jeff met his eyes. “I’m all yours; I can’t wait to hear this.”

NaNo Progress so far

I suppose it could be presumptuous to call it progress, especially since we’re only three days in and I’m already behind the average word count.  Oh well.  I’m having fun.  Below is an excerpt from the NEW and IMPROVED Maxwell’s Silver Bullet (which I’ve decided is a working title; maybe something cleverer will occur; and then again, maybe not).

                Much of the rest of the evening was a blur.  Charlie was pretty certain she’d had another glass of wine and possibly a crab puff or two.  Now, at ten-thirty she stood at her office door fumbling with her keys.  It took four or five tries but she finally got the office door open, slipped into the reception area and stepped out of her pumps.  Leaving the lights out and weaving only a little, Charlie crossed the room to the door of her private office. 

                “Ss..strange,” she muttered on seeing the sliver of light along the bottom of the door.  “I know I didn’t leave that on.”  Charlie grabbed for the door handle and missed.  “Dammit!  Someone’s robbing me blind and I can’t get the fucking door open!”  Focusing, she tried again and this time was able to grasp the handle.  For a brief moment she wondered whether she should confront whoever might be in her office or call the Sheriff’s office.  Curiosity won out over caution and she flung the door wide.  It swung back against the wall, bounced back and slammed in Charlie face.  Angry now, she grasped the handle again and shoved the door open, stepping across the threshold ready to face down the trespasser. 

                Standing to one side of her desk near the French doors was a man.  At least Charlie thought he was a man.  He appeared to have no neck and for a moment she thought he resembled a life sized Rock’em Sock’em robot like her kid brother had played with as a child.  With his hat pulled low it was difficult to see his face but she could tell he wasn’t smiling.  The gun in his hand confirmed it.

                “Wha…what the hell?” Charlie’s voice trailed away as the blockhead shifted until he was pointing the gun directly at her.  Great, she thought, just great.  Drunk off my ass and staring down the barrel of a … what the heck is that?  Beretta?  Could be, but looks more like a Ruger….  Before she could finish the thought he whirled away and dashed through the open French doors.  Footfalls pounded across the deck leading to the boardwalk.  He was getting away! 

                “Stop right there!” Charlie thought she shouted it.  She started toward the doors to go after him but common sense kicked in as she reached the desk.  The body she tripped over might have had something to do with it too. 

Storyteller’s Toolbox – Blogging 101 assignment

As my regular readers know, I’m determined to remain anonymous.  But today’s prompt inspired me to step outside of Janey for a bit and post something I originally wrote about a dozen years ago.  Then a couple of years back I posted this on my other blog. That blog is still available online, though I haven’t posted there in forever.  I went there this morning fully intending to delete it completely.  That didn’t happen; there’s a lot of good stuff there.  Happy memories; rants; wonderful comments from the friends and followers I found.  I just couldn’t do it.  So in order to maintain my anonymity, I deleted only the post this was in from the other blog.  As far as I know, it isn’t posted anywhere else on the Internets; but if you should stumble on it elsewhere just know it’s mine and keep it on the down low please.  Thanks.

G ~ you’ll remember this.  🙂

Fall is not my favorite season.
At least that’s what I tell myself as
I dig out sweaters, scarves, mittens and caps,
making ready for the wild weather to come.
But as the air cools and the days grow short,
I know I’m a liar.

Fall is when I walk instead of ride to the store:
crunchy leaves of topaz and ruby carpet my path.
Crisp, tart apples fill my shopping bag,
along with sweet and sticky caramel cubes.
Tonight the apples will swirl in melted candy,
then march in formation across waxed paper.

And I will linger near dancing flames,
cupping a mug of hot cider and
sinking into my latest mystery novel.
As content as a baby newly fed, or
my ancient, tubby cat, curled in my lap.