That’s Criminal Podcast

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…

Don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or any other bookstore. My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.



It’s the Little Things

 

Has anyone ever told you that it’s the little things that get you? Maybe you didn’t get in as much trouble as I did growing up but I have been told (usually by Mom) and have told (bad guys during my Cop life) that it is the little details, those fine points that even the most careful of us overlook that end up bringing all our nefarious plans crashing down on our heads. When I think of this I think of wearing gloves to hide your fingerprints. Or if you are a teenager in upstate New York in January, maybe watching out where you leave footprints in the snow when sneaking out at night. Oh I also got caught once when my folks asked me if I was power sliding my little VW down the street during an ice storm. When I denied that I would ever do something like that they gently showed me to the tire tracks that lead directly from the sideways prints on the street to my rear tires parked in the driveway: the little things.

I saw this little gem of an article and had to share. The next time you step onto a subway train, board an airplane, or take someone else’s phone to watch the newest annoyingly cute animal video think about this. “How your micro-biome can put you at the scene of the crime,” by Kai Kupferschmidt from Science Magazine.

Turns out that by the time we are 3 or 4 years we have gathered a unique set of bacteria from the environment we grow up in, and that mix remains fairly stable throughout our lives.

In 2010 a paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers showed that bacterial DNA recovered from computer keyboards matched the micro-biomes found on their owners’ fingertips. The authors also sampled bacteria from nine computer mice and used the results to pick the owners out of a database of 270 micro-biomes.

Did anyone else just squirm a little when they read that?

A paper from 2015 identified that individuals have a theoretically unique microbial cloud that we carry with us, and deposit wherever we happen to go. We shed bacteria constantly spitting it from our mouths, breathing them out. Bacteria are so small that our clothes have no effect at containing them. Whenever we sit down or pick something up bacteria is deposited on that surface and it persists until the next person comes along. In the paper, researchers measured the bacterial cloud surrounding volunteers by placing them in a sanitized chamber and sampling the area around them. What they found was that they were able to identify individuals by this micro-biome we carry with us.

To apply this to the criminal world researchers swabbed places suspects are believed to have touched at crime scenes then sequence captured DNA in the laboratory. Once sequenced the profiles can be compared to a database and individual strains of bacteria can be identified. The mix, or unique ecosystem of different species of bacteria that are identified in the sample from the crime scene can then be compared to a known suspect sample to see if the two micro-biomes match.

In a practical evaluation, researchers in Illinois staged a fake break in then took samples from where the “burglars” handled things in the house. When the signatures from the suspects were reviewed the scientists not only could identify individual micro-biomes, but from residues in the samples determine the amount of alcohol one of the ‘suspects’ consumed each week and that one of them was on migraine medication. Even if the bacterial cloud could not be determined to be individual enough to identify a suspect to the exclusion of all others, (to date a sample size and technique has not been complete enough to try and take an identification based on bacteria to court), how great would it be if traits such as drug use, medication, or drinking habits could be used as leads in narrowing down the suspect pool?

Recently the J. Craig Venter Institute received a $900,000 grand from the National Institute of Justice to build a micro-biome database. That is a first step in evaluating whether or not bacteria can be used to identify someone. Practical application is a long way off.

Regardless I thought it interesting that when we now warn someone that it’s the little things that get you. We really mean it is the little things that get you, like your own bacteria, little.

Reference:

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/03/how-your-microbiome-can-put-you-scene-crime

Don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or any other bookstore. My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.

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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.

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Last Call

whiskey

CAVEAT: I don’t get short fiction. My mind doesn’t seem to work in short bursts of writing a single scene or putting a story together in only a couple of thousand words. That being said I was going through my files and found a couple of old stories that I like. I figured why not share them and see what you think.

My first offering is a short called ‘Last Call,’ it takes a look at a detective having a bad day. He’s treading on the edge of disaster and needs a little gentle advice to set him straight. I hope you like it.

Last Call

            Jack’s gut twisted like a cat falling off a building. He pulled on the brass handle and the heavy wooden door swung open with ease.  His eyes on the ground, he crossed the threshold.  Warm as the womb, smoke, stale beer, and the lingering scent of spilled liquor greeted him as he stepped into the bar.  It was quiet and he kept his head down as he made his way to his stool.  There were two couples in a booth toward the back by the fire place.  Three sets of slumped shouldered men hovered over their drinks as if searching for truth at the bottom of their glass.

He found his stool, snakes in his belly were writhing and kicking.  His head hurt and his hands shook as he settled in.  Bennie, the bartender and owner of Jameson’s Pub watched him from down the bar.  He managed a weak nod toward the older man and in a low voice muttered,

“Bourbon, neat Bennie,” he couldn’t meet the old man’s eyes.

He heard the old man sigh as he limped to the shelf and grabbed a tumbler and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.  He watched him start to pour as tears welled in his eyes and he again had to turn his eyes to the floor.

Go! Now! The voice screamed in his head.  Throughout the day that voice had grown progressively weaker like a clock winding down.  In the end it was over matched by the thirst.  The glass slapping the solid oak of the bar sounded like a gong and snapped him out of his thoughts.  Before him stood the tumbler, half full of the harsh amber fluid.  Flanking the larger glass on either side stood two shot glasses brimming with the same.  Bennie loomed over the five drinks, his tired eyes boring into him.  A hint of sadness trimmed the burning disgust in the bartenders eyes.

“What’s this?” Jack asked.

“This?” he pointed to the shot furthest to the right, “is for Tina,”  pointing to the next shot glass he said, “Sammy,”  Bennie skipped the tumbler and at the next shot glass said, “Jack Junior,” Bennie paused for a minute and studied him.  Then his arm shot across the bar and into the breast pocket of Jack’s blazer.  Smooth as lightning he slipped Jack’s wallet.  Flipping it open before his face flopped a  New York Police Department, Detective First Class shield.  “The last shot,”  Bennie palmed the badge and slammed it into the bar so hard it dented the wood.  “is for your badge ya pathetic son of a bitch.  If your wife and kids ain’t enough to keep you straight I thought maybe the job would.  The last time Tina came to pick you up off my bar I could see it in her eyes Jackie.  She’s done, she won’t be here for you this time.  So here you go.  Drink up, but let’s make it a toast.”  Bennie lifted the shot farthest to the left.  He then leaned in so close Jack could feel the heat of his breath.  Jack stared at the bar. He was shaking.

“But…” he offered.

“No! No But, you selfish prick!  Nobody gives a shit what your pantywaist, traumatic, predisposed, worthless excuse is or will be. Least of all me, and certainly not Tina or the kids.”  He slammed the shot down in front of Jack, alcohol spewing from in between his meaty fingers.  “So what’s it gonna be, Jackie boy,” he whispered.

Jack looked at Bennie. Met him eye to eye.  They were red, swollen, broken.  “You can be a real Son of a Bitch sometimes you know that Lieutenant? It’s a good thing you’re retired.”

“Bein an asshole is the only way I ever got you to learn boy.”

Slipping off the stool, shoulders still sagging, Jack tossed a twenty on the bar and started for the door.

END

Make sure you check out the rest of my titles here. My newest release, ‘Where Angels Sing,’ came out in October.

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The Line Between Fiction and Science Fiction

 

colonizing-another-planet-1024x575

I’m a thriller writer currently trying my hand at the fantasy genre. I don’t know if writing in another universe was the germ that lead me to this question, or if it was one of the many news articles I’ve read lately but I’m wondering; where is the line between fiction and science fiction today?

I imagine thirty years ago writer’s might have been asking the same. For me I remember watching the Tom Selleck movie Runaway, still one of my favorites. In the movie Tom Selleck is a detective in a bureau dedicated to robot crime. He spent the entire movie chasing Gene Simmons (that’s right, Gene Simmons from Kiss was the bad guy) and an army of acid spitting robots around Los Angeles. I remember as a kid thinking robots all over the place would be awesome. At the time, however the reality of the thing seemed pretty far-fetched. Today I have a robot that sweeps my floors chasing dog hair twice a day.

The definition of Science Fiction from Dictionary.com reads: A form of fiction that draws imaginatively from scientific knowledge and speculation in its plot, setting, theme, etc. Science and speculation…got it. So back in the day watching Runaway I was watching a technology based speculation. But what about today? In the last week I’ve read articles about scientists who created beating heart tissue using a spinach leaf. One of Elon Musk’s sponsored companies helped a quadriplegic use his arms to feed himself by implanting dozens of electro-sensors in his head. And Blue Origin released its design for their space tourism capsule. What was clearly the realm of science fiction thirty years ago, is now the mundane. Speaking of which, who does the trooper ticket when a headless Uber causes a wreck?

So now that we are the Jetson’s lets speculate. It’s estimated that consumer technology lags behind the ‘black’ project world by fifty years or so. If we can create a human heart from vegetables and send fat cats into outer space for a photo op, what are we really capable of? Once I finish my wandering through fantasy land one of my characters from Spoilers, and its sister novel, Where Angels Sing is getting his own series. He’s taking on an elitist cabal bent on re-constructing the world in their own image. The bad guys will be using high technology. As I block out my books I have to ask, how high is too high? Where is that line between Sci-fi and reality. I want to keep the new series as a thriller, not sci-fi. Even as I write this I still have no idea.

“We now have the technology to take E.T home,” Ben Rich, the Second Director of Lockheed Skunkworks is reported to have said that in a lecture once. Not sure how true it is but it is a pretty cool quote to think about.

Okay musing over, back to swords, horses, and horns of ale.

References:
http://www.livescience.com/58445-spin…
https://www.thesun.co.uk/living/32013…
http://www.seattletimes.com/business/…
http://www.blueblurrylines.com/2014/1…

Don’t forget to check out my new book Where Angels Sing.

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