Warg Part II

       Wyatt awoke to the tangy twinge of iron in his mouth, his lips sticky. He didn’t know what had happened but he felt clinging fur on his chest. Jumping and thrashing thinking the beast was still on him. He tried to free himself from the heavy musky blanket crushing him. There was some yelling in the distance he couldn’t understand. Terror drove him like a wild animal kicking and tearing at the heavy corpse until finally he was able to worm his way out from under it. Once free he scrambled backward until he banged into the heavy timber wall of the tavern. The impact must have shaken something loose for at that moment he realized it was dead. He stared at dull black eyes and a massive red tongue lolling out of its mouth. Wyatt’s head dropped between his knees and he vomited all over himself.

    The world swirled like a dark storm as he sat there spinning. He couldn’t fight it when he suddenly felt himself heaved upward. His toes dragged along the floor as he was carried off.

***

    Light off the fire flickered and hot tendrils of air licked his cheeks. Eyes cracked and blurry fire mites performed for him, dancing and leaping in the flames. Another pop, and he was awake. Wait…he rolled over, the bear-skin rug was warm beneath him…

    Leaping from the rug he skipped and fumbled until collapsing on the floor. His heart pounded so hard it hurt his ribs. Shadows pranced along the walls as he tried to get his bearings. Muffled voices came from below. He noted a small, neatly made bed in the corner, wash basin and dresser and realized he must be in a room at the inn. Someone must have brought him up there after the attack from those things. It sounded like an argument was going on downstairs.

    Rising from the floor Wyatt noted his body’s complaints with a grimace. His legs felt as if he’d just finished a back to back of the Spring event. The trials never punished him this badly. His forehead felt tight and his hand brushed against a flaky, cracked scab covering gash in his scalp. He found stitches under his blood caked brown hair. More exploration revealed another set across his ribs, almost fifty in all. His left hand was dressed as well, it was tender to the touched but it still worked.

    Slowly, like an old decrepit man he inched his way down the two flights of stairs, the railing ended in a jagged mess six steps from the bottom. Negotiating the destruction with his battered body was and excruciating exercise. The light hurt his eyes and he put a dressed hand up to shield them. There were maybe twenty people crowding the remains of a wide oak bar. The arguing abruptly ceased. Hushed whispers snaked through the air. All eyes were on him.

    From behind the bar stepped Mrs. Darrow. A large woman wrapped in a soot-blackened dress. She gently checked his wounds.

    “Didn’t ‘xpect ta see you so soon Wyatt, ya alright?” she asked, her hand feeling his forehead.

    “A bit sore mam,” he answered, “Where are my folks?”

    The plump woman shot a nervous look back toward the bar. Out of the crowd came O’Hare, his father’s cousin. Wyatt had never seen him without a beaming wild grin shooting out from his thick red beard until this moment.

    “Come with me son,” he said taking him by the shoulder.

    There were at least a dozen pyres poised for remembrance on the hill at the end of the village. Many wept and prayed at the feet of the deceased. O’Hare said nothing as they walked through the village. Even when Wyatt faltered at the foot of the hill O’Hare remained silent; his firm grip on Wyatt’s shoulder gently pushed him on.

Wyatt stood silent, head bowed in front of three waist high pyres. Numb, Wyatt stared at the three shrouds. They were tightly wrapped so he could not see what had truly happened. His father and mother lay to either side of Nina, his little sister. Glistening white cloth streamers connected the three bodies. He stared at them, his mind distant, coldly replaying his last memory of them. His father had been hurt, but he was alive. His mother and Nina had stood amongst the rubble, not a scratch on them. How?

    “You killed the creature that attacked your father though from what we can figure as you were fighting in the tavern, more entered your home. That’s where we found them.”

    They were just preparing for supper…“Did you get the beast that did this?” Wyatt growled.

    O’Hare sighed and kicked at a rock, “They escaped us,” he replied hoarsely.

    “What were they?” Wyatt asked.

    “Don’t know, never seen anything like it.” The older man’s voice faltered.

    “How many did they kill?”

    O’Hare coughed clearing his throat, “The twelve here, three more are still missing, Bennet, Fiino, and the Bruche girl.”

    Wyatt nodded slowly, his burning eyes were locked on the three funeral pyres. Slowly, he limped to each one starting with Nina then his mother and finally to his father. He kissed each one softly on the forehead then stepped back. Wyatt’s eyes flowed like the twin rivers and he could barely breathe. After a long moment he took up an unlit torch and flint from the base of his father’s pyre.

    At the center of the three pyres he knelt. He lit the torch and bowed his head. It wasn’t until the dressing on his left hand began smoldering did he finally stand and step to Nina’s pyre. Gently the flames caressed the kindling until it ignited. He lit his father’s last, laying the torch at his feet.

    “Find your way safely home and be welcome back to the source from which we come.” Wyatt prayed for their souls. He stayed with them until the heat of the three engulfed pyres forced his retreat. O’Hare was standing stoically as he watched three gray-white plumes commingle and the disappeared into the night.

    “I leave at dawn,” Wyatt said softly. He did not wait for the older man to object.

To be continued…

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Warg Part I

“The beast growled and swiped at him. Leaping back, a banister caught him at his waist. There was nowhere to go. The beast took a playful step forward, pawing at him. He swung with a grunt catching it in the shoulder. The beast yowled and barked but the blow had little effect. “

So since I have been playing around with the fantasy genre as of late I figured I would share a short I came up with. While I was editing it occurred to me that this might work well as a serial so I’m going to release this story in segments. ‘Warg,’ is a horror/fantasy read following Wyatt a young villager who survives a viscous attack by a pack of giant wolves. His family is killed, his friends are killed. Left with nothing he decides to hunt the monsters down. I hope you like it. Here is part I, I will release a new segment every two weeks.

Warg


     Wyatt dropped the last load of wood next to the forge then stretched and groaned. Pulling his arms across his chest one after the other his muscles tingled and burned. He dunked a ladle in the water bucket hanging from a thick support beam and gulped down it’s contents. The water was warm and stale, but it felt like a crystal spring after a long day of stoking the fire and pounding metal with his father. They had started the fires before sunrise and it was now dusk.

    Horses needed shoes and four plows needed blades. With the planting season in full swing farmers all over the lake country were snapping tools on the stones and shale hidden in the dark lake country soil.

    A sharp hunger pang answered the water as it hit his stomach and he noticed a plume of gray white smoke rising from the chimney of his family’s modest home. If his nose had not been so full of smoke and soot the smell of the stag stew his mother and sister were cooking would have reached him. His mouth watered regardless.

    Walking through one last time he found a lone horse shoe resting on the second anvil, his anvil. There would be hell to pay if it was there in the morning when they started up again. Waylon, Wyatt’s father, had been the Smithy in Albion since before he was born. Waylon insisted that a sloppy forge led to sloppy work; rule number one was tidiness. Wyatt could not remember how he’d managed to leave it out like that. He and his father had been so busy the last month that there were a lot of things he’d missed, not to mention the call ups.

    Early spring was the yearly call up. When every male of age was given the chance to serve in the regent’s forces. Wyatt was arguably the fastest, one of the strongest, and possibly best with a bow in all the lake country. A season never passed where there was not a new award adorning his bunk in the family’s small cabin. And never did a stag pass within reach of his bow without ending up on his mother’s table.

    All winter the debate raged. His father served a tour, and was decorated. Why should he be any different? Waylon argued there was no time, the family needed him at home, at the forge. That was bunk, four years is the commitment, Wyatt argued. Four years is a life time his father would rule.

    On the day of the call up his father had forbid it, and his mother had cried. At the door of the cabin he stood, duffel on one shoulder, bow and quiver on the other. The standoff was unlike any ever seen in the Smither home. It ended with Wyatt backing down, like he always did. There was no arguing with Waylon Smither, he was always so calm and cool that he just drove his opponent mad. Thinking of it still made Wyatt boil. Three of his closest friends had gone, Ried, Terr, and Glenn all accepted and were now off doing God knows what. They weren’t stoking a fire all day; That was damn sure.

    He was undoing the knot of his heavy leather apron when a distant snap echoed from the wood behind the cabin. Every fiber in Wyatt Smither ignited at once and he froze, stretching his hearing. Slowly he gently draped the apron over it’s hook and stepped out the wide double doors of the forge. He could hear a heavy rustling and snapping. Something big, a stag. He gave it another second. A big stag. Quietly, he retrieved his bow and a quiver of arrows from the doorway. He slung the quiver over his shoulder and was knocking an arrow when he felt rather than saw three huge bodies shoot past the door heading into the village. He was barely out of the forge when he saw a giant brown beast crash through the door of his cabin. It happened so fast he was stunned. A monster just shattered the door to his family’s home. His mother and little sister were screaming. He didn’t realize he was moving until he noticed the fletching of an arrow at his cheek. He was in the doorway of the cabin and staring down the shaft of an arrow as his father roared and crashed into a wall under the massive battering of a thick fur covered limb. He fired. Another arrow was knocked, the first lodged deep between the beast’s shoulder blades. He and the beast met eye to eye as it turned its attention on him.

TWING!

    The second arrow entered its gaping jaws and punched through the back of its head. With a choking gurgle it collapsed in spasm on the splinters of the family dining table.

    Wyatt’s mother and sister whimpered and held each other. His father was groaning and moving very slowly. There was blood staining the back and shoulder of his tunic. Wyatt’s ears were ringing. Wait, his mind scratched the thought through the shock of the past few moments. There was something else…

    There were three of them!

    Stumbling over the wreckage of the cabin door. He heard hysterics, and yelling throughout the village. He ran toward a cacophony of destruction that seemed to come from everywhere.

Halfway down the path he found Master Tambey laying on his back. The man was starring wide eyed at the darkening sky. His bowels were showing. As Wyatt reached the village center at the tavern three men flew from the window adjacent to the front door. A powerful roar pierced his ears. He heard wood splintering inside.

    He entered quickly and broke to the right, his bowstring taught, arrow ready for flight. A lamp had broken and started a fire on the other side of the room. He thought he noticed a torso sticking out from under wreckage on the floor. Somewhere he heard pleading,

    “No…”

    Another beast had master Brauer cornered, it followed him, playfully swatting at him as it walked along the bar. He shot as soon as he saw it and chided himself for being hasty. A rushed shot is a wasted shot. His father’s voice echoed in his mind. The arrow protruded from the beast’s belly. It turned and ripped it from its side. With a berserk shake of its head the reddened arrow flew across the tavern and the beast sprang at him. Wyatt dove out of the way before being skewered by glistening black claws. He hit the floor of the tavern hard and rolled over something soft that grunted beneath him. He bounded to his feet and found Talmadge, a farmer from up north. The older man spewed frothy blood and reached for him pleading. A massive paw drove the man’s head to the floorboards with a wet crunch and Wyatt was face to face with the monster.

    Monster was the only description Wyatt could use to describe this thing. Similar to a wolf but on all fours, it stood almost as tall as a man. It’s jaws were like pincers lined in glistening needle-like teeth. Covered in brown fur two tall pointed ears stood on top of its head. Its eyes were ebony orbs so black and cold they froze his blood.

    The beast paused, it seemed the thing was savoring what it had done to Talmadge. Was it amused..? Wyatt’s bow was gone and his arrows were strewn about everywhere. His hands floundered blindly behind him for anything he may use as a weapon. Grasping something wooden almost the width of his arm, Wyatt hefted an oak table leg. A splintered peg protruded from it about two inches.

    The beast growled and swiped at him. Leaping back, a banister caught him at his waist. There was nowhere to go. The beast took a playful step forward, pawing at him. He swung with a grunt catching it in the shoulder. The beast yowled and barked but the blow had little effect. Wyatt fought a desperate panic rising within him. The beast reared up on its hind legs, paws wide, jaws gaping and collapsed on him like a tsunami of fur and teeth.

To Be Continued…

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The Window (Short)

Hey, I really liked the female protagonist in this story so I figured I would share. It’s another one of the shorts I found in my files. Here you go, let me know what you think.

The Window

 

Behaviorally speaking, there is no difference between a five-year-old boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and a thirty-five-year-old accountant accused of raping and murdering a twenty-one year old bartender. The two mirror each other in movement, posture, responses. Tapping feet, shifting eyes, slumped shoulders. These movements betray their secrets. They try to put up a strong front; to deny their truth, both know what the outcome will be. Each can feel the ‘other shoe’ poised over their heads waiting to drop. The only difference between the two is a matter of time. Where the five year old will fold under the withering gaze of grandma in moments, the thirty-five year old thinks he’s crafty, ahead of the game. He requires a little more convincing.

    The way he slumps in the cold hard metal chair; one leg outstretched, his left arm crooked over the seat back. He looks calm. The expensive black suit says he is important, and the smug grin shows he believes it. His eyes angle toward the dull gray metal table, feigning indifference. He’s checked his watch three times in the fifteen minutes he’s been in there. All of that is betrayed, however, by the subtle movement of his lower lip. Beneath that smug, half grin, he gnaws on it like a wolf chewing though his leg to get out of a trap. This is where time comes in.

    He gnaws on his lip. After a few minutes his left knee starts to bounce ever so slightly. His eyes fix across the table. He just noticed the file, a simple manila folder. The word Subject precedes his name, and a thick stack of various forms hide beneath its cover. One form peeks out from under the off-white cover. The title reads, Search Warrant. His name is at the top of that too.

    His eyes dart to the window and he catches his own reflection. There’s a lack of confidence he can’t bear to see so he turns back to the warrant. Yearning to see without overtly straining, he reads as much as he can. Only three lines of text are available to him. When he scans the text his eyes flash wide, though only for a micro second. Instinctively, his right hand snaps to his left collar bone. He doesn’t consciously realize he is trying to hide the deep gashes that stretch from the base of his neck to his chest. He looks back to the window. His eyes are wider now, like the eyes of a person who realized they just stepped out in front of a bus. He is searching for help, searching for hope. It only takes a moment for him to recover.

    On the other side of the one way glass she looks once more at the photo in her hand. Swollen, closed eyes, black, blue, purple, the bloody pulp was once the beautiful face of Shannon Wells, twenty-one, bartender. She could quote the Medical Examiner’s report by letter and verse. Shannon Wells was a fighter, and that made Detective Kate Mills smile. Shannon died as a result of manual strangulation coupled with an intracranial hematoma. The medical examiner found mounds of ripped skin, not Shannon’s, buried under her fingernails. Shannon also had a chunk of areola lodged in her trachea. The girl fought for her life, no one could ask for anymore. And she had had a lot to live for.

    Shannon was a scholar in the truest sense of the word. Daughter of a single father; her Mother, Maya, died while delivering her. Shannon was valedictorian of a class of less than a hundred students in a speck of an upstate New York High School. She led her high school soccer team to a state title her senior year then shot out of town like a rocket. Despite being wooed by every major team in the NCAA, Shannon hung up her cleats in favor of Physics. She was a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a full academic scholarship. Shannon studied Physics by day and slung drinks at night to make ends meet. Then she met Anthony ‘Tony’ Chapman. The crime scene examination showed forced entry through a shattered door frame. Holes in the sheetrock, a broken coffee table, and shattered television showed Tony liked it rough. Alex Newton, Manager of the Thirsty Owl where Shannon worked picked Tony out of a line up and remembered Tony hovering around Shannon until closing time the night before she went missing.

    Tony is a proud product of South Boston, and he has a record. He married once however that marriage ended with facial reconstruction for his wife, a restraining order, and ninety days in county jail. It seemed Tony liked to hit his girls, and the wife wasn’t the only domestic trouble he’s been a part of. Interviews of former girlfriends yielded adjectives such as scumbag, Napoleon, sadist. Mills also found a south side hooker named Tina who pressed charges on him for assault a few years back. The assault failed to stick since Tina was a hooker. Tony liked to make himself feel strong at the expense of his girls.

Kate watched her quarry for another moment then knocked on the window three times. Slow and deliberate, the rumble of the heavy plate glass was like the sullen drone of a death toll. It’s an utterly unproductive gesture, lends nothing to the coming interrogation. The initial volley in an unmitigated psychological war Detective Kate Mills was about to unleash on this trapped predator.

Tony shot out of his chair at the rumbling staccato, eyes like saucers, he looked at the window, toward her. She smiled. Tony likes it rough. Tony ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

    Detective Mills secured Shannon Wells’ photo to the file that will bear her legacy and turned from the window. Thirty-five or five, little boys do not change. Tony Chapman is about to realize he has been caught with his hand in a very dangerous cookie jar.

END

Don’t forget to check out my books here. My new novel Where Angels Sing just came out in October.

Where Angels Sing Cover

 

Author Spotlight: Mark Bacon’s Desert Kill Switch

Desert Kill Switch Front cover final smal

Mark Bacon is a former crime reporter turned novelist. His newest release Desert Kill Switch is the second offering in the Nostalgia City Mystery Series and bears a look. Attached is the synopsis and other information about Mark and Desert Kill Switch.

Synopsis

A life-and-death chase across the Nevada desert in the middle of August highlights the action in Desert Kill Switch a complex mystery spread across the southwest

On an empty desert road, stressed-out ex-cop Lyle Deming finds a bullet-riddled body next to a mint-condition 1970s Pontiac Firebird. When he returns to the scene with sheriff’s deputies: no car, no body.  Does the answer lie in Nostalgia City where Lyle works? The Arizona retro theme park re-creates—in every detail—an entire small town from the early 1970s.  It’s complete with period cars, clothes, music, hairstyles, food, shops, fads, restaurants—the works.

Lyle swapped his job as a Phoenix homicide detective for a cab in Nostalgia City when the anxieties and disappointments of police work nearly pushed him over the edge.

Nostalgia City VP Kate Sorensen, a former college basketball star, is in Nevada on park business when she gets mixed up with a sleazy Las Vegas auto dealer who puts hidden “kill switches” and GPS trackers in cars he sells—mainly to low-income buyers.  Miss a payment—sometimes by as little as a few days—and your car is dead.  Maybe you are, too.

When Kate’s accused of murder in Reno, Lyle arrives to help his blonde, not-quite-girlfriend and they plow through a deadly tangle of suspects and motives.  Kate and Lyle hit one dead end after another as they struggle to exonerate Kate, catch a blackmailer, save a witness’s life, and help find the missing corpse.

Praise

“In Desert Kill Switch, Lyle Deming, an ex-cop who drives a cab in a retro theme park, and co-worker Kate Sorensen, are unexpectedly thrown together again when Kate becomes a murder suspect. If you like fast-paced mysteries, nasty characters and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing to the end, this is a must read!”

“Love this book! I was so happy to be back in Nostalgia City, the retro theme park. Bacon’s protagonist Kate Sorensen is a three-dimensional character, who stands up to challenges without being ‘super woman.’ This is the kind of book where you keep saying ‘just one more chapter.’”

Mark’s Bio

Mark S. Bacon began his career as a southern California newspaper police reporter, one of his crime stories becoming key evidence in a murder case that spanned decades.

After working for two newspapers, he moved to advertising and marketing when he became a copywriter for Knott’s Berry Farm, the large theme park down the road from Disneyland.  Experience working at Knott’s formed part of the inspiration for his creation of Nostalgia City theme park.

Before turning to fiction, Bacon wrote business books including Do-It-yourself Direct Marketing, printed in four languages and three editions and named best business book of the year by Library Journal.  His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express News, and many other publications.  Most recently he was a correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Desert Kill Switch is the second book in the Nostalgia City mystery series that began with Death in Nostalgia City an award winner at the 2015 San Francisco Book Festival.

He taught journalism as a member of the adjunct faculty at Cal Poly University – Pomona, University of Redlands, and the University of Nevada – Reno.  He earned an MA in mass media from UNLV and a BA in journalism from Fresno State

As always don’t forget to check out my new book, Where Angels Sing: Spoilers Book Two.

Where Angels Sing Cover

 

Human Trafficking

Any good story has to have an underlying bedrock of truth.

Brothers Keeper

In my novel Brother’s Keeper I follow undercover ICE Agent Charlie Bowman as he infiltrates a human trafficking ring. In the book women from the far east are kidnapped off the street and transported in cargo containers to the Port of Charleston then distributed throughout a criminal network. It’s all fiction, but any good story has to have an underlying bedrock of truth.

In the novel I have the victims taken in a foreign land and shipped like animals to the U.S. but I came across this story the other day and thought it bore further study.

Picture1

This is a case where my alumni at the FBI used undercovers to catch a guy outside of Atlanta who tried to hire a couple of thugs to murder one woman and kidnap another.  According to the article the subject was planning on kidnapping his target to pimp her out as a human slave. This story hits pretty close to home. When you see a movie or read a book like Brother’s Keeper where human trafficking is part of the story it makes sense that the actual victims are from somewhere else. Sure they end up in the US and a bunch of other places around the world where they are exploited in a variety of ways but to think of an american girl kidnapped and made a slave here doesn’t compute. Not here right? This case can really give one pause.

I tend to believe that over the career I’ve had and some of the cases I have worked that I am pretty hard to surprise. When I was researching Brother’s Keeper some of the stats I came across related to human trafficking were staggering. The brutality and the tactics used to force another human into modern day slavery are pretty bad too but the shear scope of the problem is what really got my attention. When I began writing Brother’s Keeper human smuggling was just a means of making my bad guys as awful as possible. When I was trying to get the reality of human smuggling right I really learned something though. I’m not going to bury you with stats but it is worth mentioning that today human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar business. There are over 4.5 million people forced into sexual exploitation in our country every year, and 300,000 of those are under eighteen and bought and sold on the commercial sex market.

I’m not big on preaching but the practice of human trafficking is something that the average person doesn’t see, and doesn’t think about, so it doesn’t exist in their world. Sadly you probably run into modern human slaves a lot more often than you think. before I close here are some things to look for that may be indicators of a possible human trafficking scenario: (Courtesy of the www.polarisproject.org)

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

References:

http://m.waff.com/story/36575966/decatur-police-fbi-arrest-man-in-alleged-human-trafficking-plot

http://arkofhopeforchildren.org/child-trafficking/child-trafficking-statistics

https://polarisproject.org/recognize-signs