Part Twenty-Seven of Angel Maker: The Visit by Barry B. Wright

Ahead, twenty-nine Edgestone Road loomed. Once, its grounds had stood alone; reluctantly, over time, it had been forced into the lesser company of others. A caste within a framework of its own making, the grandiose dwelling’s pores had once oozed with majesty and pomp. Its lustre vanquished, the building’s chinked outer skin was now snarled in unkempt vine. The elites who had played, lived and eaten behind its walls would have become, for the most part, invisible scratches in footnotes to history had it not been for coin paying curious who walked in their past.

The Wolseley came to a stop in front of the museum. A woman who was weeding and planting in one of the front flower beds stopped what she was doing and looked up.

It had been a very long time since he had either spoken to or seen her. Still, Collier knew that the woman was her. Taking in a deep breath, he let it out slowly and sat back in his seat.

To say the surroundings had changed would have been an understatement. The long, winding, tree-lined drive to her home no longer existed. In its place was a residential neighbourhood packed with housing.

Collier had been aware of the financial short-falls that had short-circuited the rising star of the Moodie household. Except for the patch of land where the home stood, the City of Bournemouth had expropriated the remainder for an undisclosed amount.

Exuberant sounds of children from the nearby school grounds were refreshing to his ears as he exited the vehicle. There’s something soulfully cleansing and hopeful about their sound, he thought, while he waited for the others to join him.

“Inspector?”

“Ah? Yes, Captain Hall?” he replied, distracted. His gaze attended the route along which they had just travelled.

“Is there something wrong?” she enquired.

Collier’s reply was hesitant and thoughtful. “I hope not…but…I think we may have been followed. The car at the far corner, it parked shortly after we arrived and no one has exited.” The troubled expression on Captain Hall’s face forced him to look at her in an askance manner.

“Sorry, it’s not like me to mess up like this. Quite honestly, I did spot it when we exited the pub. But, I never much gave it thought,” she lied.

“Should I check it out, Gov?” Sergeant Snowden volunteered, moving in the direction of the vehicle.

Captain Hall’s outstretched hand stopped him. “I think it better we carry on with our business,” she interjected. “Don’t you agree, Inspector?”

“Can I assist you with anything?” Louise called out through the iron-rod fence. Tilting her head toward the sign on the gate she continued. “As you can read, we’re closed today.”

Collier glanced at Captain Hall and whispered. “Do you have any idea why Klaus Becker would have left the package here?” She shrugged. “We’re here on official business, Miss Moodie,” he shouted back before returning his attention to Captain Hall. “Don’t you think…considering the uninvited visitors…it might be wise to give me the rest of the code?”

“Planning for the worse, are you?”

“I recognize that voice. Official business, is it? And, what kind of official business would you be up after all these years, Sandy Collier?” chortled Louise, opening the gate and waiting for his arrival.

About to turn away, Captain Hall grabbed Collier’s arm. “The first five lockers touched only twice. That is, prime numbered lockers touched only twice.”

Collier smiled. “Got it. You don’t trust many, do you?”

“I don’t trust anyone?” she retorted with a cold stare. “The Sergeant here should stand guard.”

Collier nodded and he could see that the Sergeant agreed.

“Nothing’s changed,” commented Louise as she ushered them through the opened gate.

Astonished by her remark, Collier replied: “Louise, everything’s changed.”

“I meant…” Quickly, she dropped what she was about to say. “Follow me, then.” She led them along a path to a nicely appointed patio at the rear of the building and encouraged them to sit at one of the wicker seating ensembles that had an umbrella. “If the sun’s bothersome don’t hesitate, “she encouraged, indicating the closed umbrella. “I’ll tidy up and join you. I won’t be long.”

Collier watched her as she entered through a door that at one time only servants had used. Life takes curious twists and turns, he mused. He couldn’t deny, there was a part of him that wished he had stayed in touch. A tinge of sadness grabbed him when the door closed behind her.

Twenty minutes later she joined them carrying a tray of tea and goodies. She wore sandals and a flowered summer dress that rippled in the gentle breeze. This was in stark contrast to the boots, cover-all and headscarf under a wide rimmed hat she had worn earlier.

As she approached, the sun’s rays danced off the golden sheen in her freshly groomed hair. Barely a wrinkle creased the delicately formed features of her face. A pearl beaded necklace adorned her neck.

For a surreal moment, time stretched backwards for Collier. He could not take his eyes off her.

Placing the tray on the table in front of them, she sat in the wicker loveseat opposite. “I made those,” she said proudly, pointing to the cakes on the plate. “I guess a lot has changed, wouldn’t you say, Sandy?”

He smiled and nodded. “Gardening, too, I thought you’d be the last…”

“I know,” she interjected, “the last to be caught dead doing such a thing. Me too. But, my gardener got up and quit before Christmas.”

“Who was he? Maybe I can have a wee chat with him,” Collier replied. He could feel her eyes scrutinizing him.

“Your civility is insulting to me. And from what I know about you, and it’s quite a lot, demeaning to you. So, enough of your small talk, let’s get to why you are here,” she insisted. “You said earlier it was official business.”

Captain Hall, sensing Collier’s sudden discomfort, shifted forward in her chair and asked, “Klaus Becker, how do you know him?”

For a moment, Louise said nothing as her gaze shifted between them. “It’s best that I show you. Come inside.”

They followed her along a narrow hallway, past the washroom and bedroom, to an open area that contained both living-room and kitchen.

“Did you see where she went?” he asked.

Collier and Captain Hall glanced at each other in disbelief as they surveyed the room.

“I’d ask you to sit,” Louise called out, “but I think you’d need a map to find your way in and out of this labyrinth of furniture and what-nots. Stay where you are, I won’t be long.”

“I think…her voice came from somewhere over there,” Captain Hall chuckled, pointing in the direction she thought it came from. “Did you know she was a hoarder?”

“Not a sausage,” he replied. “I just hope you’ll have easy access to the vault.”

Louise’s hand appeared from behind a wall of mahogany furniture and Indian rugs waving some papers. “Got it!”

When she joined them, she handed Collier a dog-eared old photo. “As you can see that’s me and my brother, Reginald. Do you recognize the person beside him in uniform?”

Collier took the photo for closer scrutiny. Shaking his head, he handed it back.

“I’m not surprised. Quite dashing, don’t you think? I had a big crush on him, then. That’s Klaus Becker except I knew him as Peter Townsend. Before my brother, Reginald, passed away, he visited a lot. I guess that’s why Reginald did this.” She handed Collier a deed to the property in which Reginald had signed over ownership to Townsend. “The week before Klaus…I mean Peter…died in that explosion he signed it back to me.” She handed him the second document. “Now that surprised me. Mind you, our home had long since been turned into a museum and not much of the original property remained. As you can see,” she continued, sheepishly, “I attempted to save as much as I thought prudent to preserve the Moodie legacy.”

“Is there a vault or safe on your premises?” Collier enquired.

“In the museum section there is,” Louise replied. “Why?”

“Do you have access?” Captain Hall asked.

“Not to the safe but I do to the museum. It’s in the Co-ordinator’s Office. My key opens both.”

“Would you mind getting it and giving it to Captain Hall?”

A mischievous smirk appeared on her face and she said: “It’s right here tucked warmly and safely between my peaks.” She undid her necklace and handed the key over.

When Captain Hall left, Louise turned to Collier holding out her necklace. “Do you mind?”

“I’ve never been very good at doing this,” he said as he fumbled a few times before successfully placing it around her neck and closing the clasp.

“What happened to us?” she asked.

“Me. Lila. Everything. Do you remember telling me “focus on what you love doing, the rest will follow”?”

“I do. It was out on that patio in the loveseat where I was just sitting.”

“What I wanted to do wasn’t what you or your family wanted me to do.” He took her hands in his. “And, you didn’t see it. Or, didn’t want to see it. How could I have expected anything different?” He sighed and let go of her. “Like all youth, you were rebellious against your family. As was I against mine. We were just instruments in each others flight to independence. Our love…our infatuation…was its vehicle.” Movement outside the window distracted him. “Are you expecting someone?”

She shook her head.

Collier ran down the hall and outside onto the patio. Captain Hall’s voice yelled his name from inside the house. He had no time to react. The pain in his head was crippling. And he fell, uncontrollably, into a dark, inky deep well.

 

 

Part Twenty of Angel Maker: Third Party Malice by Barry B. Wright

Man in the Shadows Two

Happenstance had changed Lynn Hall’s life. Her lifelong goal—a career in Foreign Service—had come to an abrupt end four years ago when she stumbled and shot herself in the leg during a hunting expedition in the Kizilcahaman District of Ankara, Turkey.

She glanced at ‘Cuthbert,’ her wooden prosthesis, lying on the table beside her.

The past according to her way of thinking was better left where it was, in the past, and forgotten. Still, the memory she wished forgotten clung steadfast and fresh as yesterday. This vulnerability was concealed by a carefully crafted façade.

Captain Hall was a controlling and cerebral person; emotion of any kind made her uncomfortable. It wasn’t that she eschewed empathy, quite on the contrary; it was more that she had never connected it to herself. Feeling sorry for oneself was a luxury that she could ill afford especially since war appeared more imminent.

Sullenly, she stared at the inflamed stump below her knee. Unaware of the tears that streamed down her cheeks, she continued to gently apply the soothing cream to her stump. Strange, she thought, as she examined it. My eyes have always been either closed or directed elsewhere. Why did I do that?

She already knew the answer in its fullness.

Placing the lid back on the jar of cream, she stopped what she was doing and sat back in the chair.

Time washed through her until no more tears could flow.

She glanced at the wall clock. Two hours had passed.

Gathering up several tissues she wiped away her tears, throwing the soggy ball into the wastebasket. With a deep sigh, she rewrapped her stump and attached ‘Cuthbert.’

Standing at the bedroom window and seeing her reflection she smiled and said “I’m okay now.” And she knew that she meant it.

A light knock at the door startled her. At first she thought it was her imagination until she heard it again. It was three in the morning. Had she awakened Inspector Collier and his wife? They had been kind enough to open their guest room to her overnight. Her face flushed with embarrassment.

In a barely audible tone, she called out: “Yes?”

The door opened slightly and Lila poked her head into the room. “Are you alright, dear? I don’t mean to be nosey but I…thought… I heard you crying.”

“Everything’s okay, Mrs. Collier,  I didn’t mean to…”

“Shush, no need to apologize.” Tucking her dressing gown across her chest and readjusting the waist strap, she broadcast a large smile. “I’m often rumbling around this house at the strangest hours, especially when Sandy’s not home.” She fell into a brief silence. “Nasty stuff about our niece…I’m going downstairs to make myself some tea and have one of those custard tarts. Should I count you in?”

Captain Hall nodded.

“Jolly good then,” Lila replied rubbing her hands together. About to leave, she stopped herself in mid flight.  “Would you mind starting the coal fireplace in the living room?”

“Consider it done, Mrs. Collier,” Lynn assured her, without the slightest hint of hesitation.

“Lila…please call me Lila.”

Lynn was stoking the fireplace when she heard the front door open and close. The rattling of dishes and the high pitch whistle of the kettle suddenly stopped. Splintering floor boards and low exchange of whispers melted away along the hall toward the kitchen at the far end of the house. Unable to decipher whether the exchange of words were happy or sad, she forced herself to concentrate on the fireplace. Hopeful that the news about their niece would be good, she crossed her fingers and continued to poke at the fire. The tray of goodies being placed on the table behind her startled her.

“Oh…I…” Lynn almost lost her balance attempting to stand. A sharp burning sensation traveled up her stump leg and briefly settled in her hip. She smothered the sensation to flinch.

“We didn’t mean to startle you,” Lila injected, proffering her hand.

“I’m alright, really I am.” She fussed with her clothing. “It’s so not like me to let my mind drift off like that.”

“We have good news.Though the doctor thinks it’s best to keep her in the hospital a few more days, Diane is alright. ” Lila wrapped her arm around Sandy’s and gave it a tearful hug.

The explosion at the Cricketer’s Arms had taken an emotional toll on both of them. From the moment the Inspector had learned that his niece had been found among the rubble, he had never left her side.

Arms fully extended, Lynn embraced them.

Happy tears flowed between them until Lila, stepping away and wiping her face with her apron, said: “I’d better finish what I was doing. I’ve decided we’re going to have a picnic right here in front of the fireplace to celebrate.”

“Picnic? At three thirty in the morning? You’re daff, girl,” replied Sandy in astonishment.

“Maybe so, Sandy, but nevertheless it’s going to happen.” She grabbed a large multi-colored knitted blanket from the back of the couch and thrust it in his direction. “You, two, move the coffee table back and place this rug neatly in front of the fireplace.” Satisfied that it had been done to her liking she turned to Sandy. “Remember, Sandy, what you agreed to in the kitchen. You’ve got five minutes. And I’ll set the timer to keep you honest. So make your minutes count.” With a large smile on her face, she scurried out of the room and down the hall to the kitchen.

Flummoxed, Lynn searched the Inspector’s expression for clarification.

Lila bellowed from the kitchen: “You’re on the timer now, Sandy Collier.”

During the ordeal of the last twenty-four hours, uncharacteristic bags had formed under his tired eyes. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his pipe and pouch of tobacco. After he had filled his pipe and lit it, he began.

“Does the name Pavel ring a bell? A balding, possibly Eastern European, heavy set fella in his early forties with thick, round glasses.”

Captain Hall stared at him long and hard before answering. “Pavel Sudoplatov comes close to that description.”

“Who is he?”

“He’s a NKVD operant. Up to recently, he worked only out of the Rotterdam area. But, about a month ago, one of our agents sighted him in London. We put a tail on him but he shook it off a week ago.”

“Any idea why Pavel would have been with the hospital administrator, Klaus Becker?”

“Is Becker alright?”

“No, Captain Hall, he isn’t. Klaus is very much dead.”

A brief silence reigned between them.

“Do you remember me telling you, Inspector, that the NKVD and British Intelligence are often at cross purposes? He nodded. “Well, this is one of them. And it’s a doozy SNAFU.

The timer in the kitchen went off.

“Otto Imhoff,” she continued. “I mentioned his name during the drive home from Lambton Manor the other night?”

“Wasn’t his coded signature on…?”

“That’s right,” she interjected. “Klaus was a double agent and he had discovered Otto’s identity. On the day of the explosion, he was supposed to transfer the dossier on Otto to me. Earlier that very same day, I received this envelope. In it was a letter with a riddle.” She handed him the envelope.

He carefully examined it. “Do you normally open at the side?”

“Yes. Why are you asking?”

“This envelope has been opened and resealed. As you can see here there are two distinct glue lines along the seal. By the way, how did you know it was from him?”

“By these triangular three dots, Inspector, in the upper right corner of both the envelope and note.”

He carefully scrutinized the riddle:

 

You have everything you need to solve this. There are 100 lockers each hiding a single word. You and 99 others are each assigned a number 1 to 100.

# 1 opens every locker

# 2 closes every 2nd locker

# 3 will change the status of every 3rd locker (that is if the locker is open, it will be closed; if the locker is closed, it will be opened.)

# 4 will change the status of lockers 4,8,12,16,20,24,…

#5 will change the status of lockers 5,10,15,20,25,30,…

Etc.,

# 99 will change the status of locker 99

#100 will change the status of locker 100

The words in the lockers that remain open at the end will help you crack the combination lock on my locker.

 

“Was this his normal manner of communication with you?

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Have you already solved this riddle?”

“I have, Inspector.”

“”…combination lock on my locker” Then, do you know where the locker is?” he asked, returning the envelope and letter to her.

She shrugged. “First time I’ve heard about it. I’ve been his contact barely a year. And the few meetings I’ve had with him, four to be exact, were at carefully chosen out of the way places.”

He chewed on the end of his pipe. Pulling aside the curtain on the living room window, he peered through the slit.  “Hmm… Perhaps you hadn’t chosen carefully enough.” He stepped aside to allow her to survey the street.

The figure she saw, as if on cue, disappeared into the shadows of the housing opposite.

She sat on the far arm of the couch, her shoulders slumped and facing away from him.

“There’s no time here for self-chastisement, Captain. Accept it, and move on.” He heard her sigh and watched her straighten up. “Let’s assume, like you, that they’ve already cracked this riddle. Then the locker location is the only thing missing.”

“Klaus was too careful to leave that kind of information lying around in his apartment,” she added as an afterthought. She heard the rattling of dishes coming down the hall. “If Otto was onto Klaus…”

“Then, there’s good likelihood that both the NKVD and Otto have you under surveillance.” Collier tapped his pipe on the ashtray and returned it to his pocket. “And, they think you will lead them to the locker.”

“If Klaus knew that he had been found out by Otto, and the riddle supports that, where did he conceal the information about the whereabouts of the locker? He must have thought it would be obvious for me to find. And something else, Inspector. Why did Pavel kill him?”

“Times up, Sandy Collier, open this door,” Lila called out.

“I fear that I may have put you and Lila in harm’s way. But, right now, there’s no time to explain, we must get to the morgue. I think I know where he hid it.”

 

 

 

 

Part Nineteen of Angel Maker: Cricketers Arms by B. B. Wright

Bournemouth Pub Explosion in Angel Maker

Famished and well past noon, Diane Waumsley parked her bike outside the Cricketers Arms on Winham Road. Securing the bike with her combination lock, she entered the pub.

She wore a woolen sweater with a slight roll at the neck and flared pants. One pant leg had been tied off to prevent it from becoming ensnared in the bicycle chain. A bob of her long hair was enclosed in a loosely knitted snood which held it close to her nape.

It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the dim interior. There were booths on both sides and tables in front of her. The smell of spilt beer and fish and chips permeated the air. Her stomach gurgled. It was busier than she expected.

Someone at one of the tables called out: “Don’t be shy lass, come in and sit with me,” he suggested, patting his lap.

“Put a sock in it, Gordie. Leave the girl alone,” the bartender bellowed from the bar. “Or you’ll be out on your duff.”

It was a straight bar counter painted brown with thick yellow imitation graining on the front panels. Four yellowish white china handles with shiny brass atop stood up from its counter. Behind the bar rows of bottles and glasses reflected themselves on shelves along a large mirror.

The bartender-proprietor leaned on the counter. “What can I do for you young lady?” he asked, watching her approach him.

“Have you got a menu?” Diane asked.

A broad smile filled his face. “Nothing fancy here,” he replied. “That’s it…” he continued, thumbing toward the sign beside the bar. “But…”

The signage written in chalk read: Fish and chips, BLT and ham sandwich.

He came around the bar and erased the first two. “We’re fifteen minutes away from the two thirty closing,” he said with a shrug. He waited for her reply.

“Two, then, please, wrapped to go.” she replied.

A heavy set man strolled into the bar with a box under his arm. Before he sat at one of the booths he tilted his cap; the bartender-proprietor returned his salutation with a slight dip of his head.

“Two ham sandwiches it is. You must be hungry?” She nodded. Distracted by a group of men at the far table he yelled out: “Enough there… you blokes finish up and get on your way. As for the rest of you, the same goes. I want you all gone by the time I return. He smiled at her. “We’ll see what we can put together for you out back.”

Pressing his fists in on either side of his waist he put on the stiff, stern demeanor of a drill sergeant and waited until the tables began to clear. The pub almost empty of clientele, he disappeared along the hall beside the bar.

“Miss Waumsley? What a surprise. Please, join us.”

This unexpected and familiar voice took her by surprise. She glanced at the mirror. Klaus Becker’s reflection greeted her from around the arm of one of the booths. She turned to face the hospital administrator. Not knowing what to say, she nodded and smiled back. He continued to beckon her to join him. Half looking back for the bartender, she walked to his table.

“What a coincidence, we were just talking about you…I mean your uncle,” Klaus said cheerily. “Do you normally come here?”

“No, it’s my first time.” She glanced back at the bar. “Actually, I’m on my way to see him and I’m in a bit of a hurry.”

“Forgive my rudeness, this is my friend Pavel. He’s come all the way from Murmansk. Are you sure you don’t want something to eat, Pavel. Maybe I can get this establishment to put together something for you.”

Pavel declined.

On the table was a handsome box of chocolates with the Ukrainian crest on it. Klaus noticed Diane eyeing it. “Perhaps you and Inspector Collier might like some?” He reached out to undo the wrapping when Pavel’s hand stopped him.

“I do have another box, Klaus. If you’ll tell me where to have it delivered, I’ll send it around today.” He glanced at his watch. “Now, I really must go. Supper at Bournemouth pier this evening is set, Klaus. There’s nothing you need to do. I am very pleased to meet you, Miss Waumsley.” He said standing. “I’m sorry it had to be so short. ” As he shook her hand, his attention was diverted behind her. “I think your sandwiches may be ready. Remember to always do what the bartender tells you, it could mean the difference between life and death,” he chortled.

“Pavel, what a strange thing to say,” complained Klaus. “Explain yourself.”

“All I’m saying is that a great deal can be learned from listening. Unfortunately most people don’t listen but bartenders generally do.”

“Here’s to listening then.” Klaus agreed and lifted his glass of Burton in salute.

Pavel smiled, bade Klaus farewell, and exited the pub.

The bartender gestured to Diane for her to join him. After a brief conversation, he escorted her down the hall beside the bar.

Pavel was a safe distance along the street by the time he heard the sharp explosion. A timing device had detonated the bomb in the chocolate box.

Consequences by B. B. Wright

Unsplash Four

“Where are you going?” I dared to ask as I watched her put on her boots.

“Out,” she retorted.

I glanced at the window. “Winter’s on the war path. Are you sure that’s a wise choice?” A cavalcade of chills rippled up my backside. “You’ll barely see beyond your nose. You’ll get lost.”

She peered at me through a curtain of auburn hair. Whatever she was about to say I could tell she was sizing me up for impact. You get to know those things after living together for a year. We planned to marry in the spring.

I slowly backed away. My only comfort at that moment was the pleasant warmth of the fireplace against my backside.

“Maybe that’s what I want…to get lost.”

My heart sank.

She cocked one eyebrow. “Anyway, what’s wrong with my nose?”

Ugh, I thought, I’m caught in a double whammy. Diplomacy should have shot to the top of my list but my genetics lack dearly there. I have always been told to speak from the heart. Begrudgingly, though, I have learned that my fate is generally more akin to the poor bull in the china shop. Well here I go into the valley. Mine is not to reason why, only just to do and …die? Hmm.

“I’m sorry…I shouldn’t’ve done it.” I tried to muster a smile. “Judith, we can work this thing out. Stay. There’s a nice fire. Your favorite wine is on the counter. And goodies are in the fridge. What do you say? Huh? Oh, and by the way, there’s nothing wrong with that cute pug nose of yours”

Figuratively speaking, an iron curtain suddenly thwacked between us.

“If you think you can placate me with a romantic fire, goodies, wine and appending my appearance to a boxer or pug dog, you’ve got another thing coming.”

Ouch! Calling her a pugilist or a flat nosed wrinkly faced pooch was not my intention.

“Button nose, I meant button nose.” My legs felt like they were being seared by the fire.

She brushed aside her hair and stared at me. “Babies, young children and maybe some teens but adults, no, adults don’t have button noses, Arthur. Now, let me finish.” She held up her hand to silence me. “What’s happening has nothing to do with any of this and you know it. You broke the honesty and trust between us the moment you read my diary. You did it without my permission. And then you had the gull to lie to me.”

Tears bubbled up in the corner of her eyes.

I drew up a chair beside her and sat down. “I’m sorry. I’m such a schmuck.”

“Yes you are.” She looked at me long and hard.

Words stuck in my throat. I could only shrug and shake my head. An eternity of silence passed between us. Her demeanor softened.

“Arthur, please help me. I’m trying to comprehend why you did it.”

I stood up and walked to the window in the living room. Winter’s fury continued to rage outside. “I could say I was thoughtless, in an unthinking sort of way.” I turned to face her. “But, unthinking it was not. Foolish, yes, but my actions… were deliberate. The truth, sometimes, can be a bad thing. This is one of those situations.” I returned to the chair beside her and sat down. “Judith, I have loved you from the first moment I saw you. And still do, even more so. Yet…I allowed doubt to get in the way of that love.”

“Doubts about me?”

“Yes,” I sighed.

“I see… I don’t know what to say.” Taking off her jacket, she neatly placed it over the back of her chair and walked to the kitchen counter. She offered up the bottle of Bordeaux.

I nodded.

When she returned, she handed me my glass and suggested we move the couch so that it faced the fireplace. After we had done that I threw a couple of logs on the fire and joined her. For a long while neither of us spoke. We sat sipping our wine.

There are four essentials to a healthy relationship: trust, honesty, communication and cuddle time (non-sexual touching). And I, being the idiot I am, demolished the first three. What can I say? The curiosity bug had bitten me. To be honest, I have always wondered what she wrote in her diary every day. It had become just too damn tempting not to have a peek. When I saw her with that other guy… well… that just broke the camel’s back. Jealousy did the rest. Who was he? Huh-huh! I thought. There is justification! As I saw it, I now had my moral compass to rifle through her diary.

“Arthur?”

“Uh-huh.”

“What kind of doubt?”

Taking in a deep breath, I curled my leg up on the couch and faced her. “Who was that guy I saw you with last Wednesday outside SideKicks Café?”

I could see a smile curling up at the corner of her mouth. “So that’s your excuse.”

“You deny it?”

She shook her head. “I’m disappointed in you. No, I won’t deny it. What I don’t understand is why you didn’t just ask me? Instead, you let your imagination run away with you.”

She stared at the fire, rolling the goblet between her hands.

“You’re leaving me for that other guy?”

She turned so sharply to face me I recoiled. “That other guy was my brother, you jerk.”

History Tends Everything by B. B. Wright

reflection in a window

Aaqif rolled onto his side and reached out. The impression left by her body was filled with cool warmth and the lingering sweetness of her scent. He feigned sleep. Through the slits in his eyelids he watched her at the bedroom window.

She glanced at him. Then, she turned back.

Etched on the window pane was the mirror image of her face as she peered upon a landscape she did not see.

Seating his head upon the palm of his hand, he called out her name softly: “Zahra.” Had she heard him, he wondered. “Penny for your thoughts.”

“Only a penny?” She sighed, continuing to gaze out the window. The usual lilt in her voice was broken and joyless. “Our pasts, Aaqif, swallow us up. Nothing will be forgotten or forgiven. Too many years, too many years say it is so.”

Scrambling out of bed, Aaqif embraced her. “Shush…shush my love.” She trembled in his grasp. “What is wrong? I’ve never seen you this way before.” He drew her tighter to his breast.

“I’m afraid… for us,” she sputtered between gushing sobs.

Aaqif led her to the edge of the bed and they sat down. Several minutes passed without a word being spoken. Only her soft whimpering resonated through the silence.

“Do you remember the days I wept love poems for you?”

She swept her cheeks dry with her hands. “I pretended that I had not read them.”

“I knew you did. Your eyes couldn’t hide the truth.” He cupped her face in his hands and stared into her eyes. “You told me you burned them. Did you?”

“They are safely tucked away in here and here,” she replied, touching her head and chest. Her demeanor suddenly changed, almost panic driven, as she wrapped her arms around him. “Sheikh Nimir al Nimr…his execution… has changed everything for us.”

He sighed. “Only, if we allow it.” Gently, he kissed her forehead. “Breathe deeply. Now, again. And, again. Better?” She nodded and smiled. “You’re right, we are our pasts. But, Zahra, that’s our advantage. Don’t you see? We both share a deep understanding of those pasts. It means today and all of our tomorrows will be whatever we want them to be. Nothing will smash our love, Zahra, nothing. Not even the execution of the Sheikh.”

She stood and walked to the window and scanned the streets and tenement buildings below before sitting on the sill facing him.

“Are you okay?” he asked. “You look…distracted.”

“Okay?” She shrugged. “I’m not sure.”

“Zahra? We must give it a try. We can’t give up now. I know our histories do not smile kindly on us, yet here we are, you a Shiite and me a Sunni. Now, I call that hope.”

The cityscape and its activity below the window captured her attention again and she lingered for awhile before replying. “Are we being naive?”

He bit hard on his lower lip while he gathered his thoughts. How to answer her? He too shared her diet of fear. “Our love crosses our history’s divide. In that lies the wisdom no matter how soon death may be. Tomorrow we will leave Spain and travel a thousand light years away to begin a new life.”

She slipped off the sill and took his hands in hers. “It won’t be far enough.” She crossed her arms and returned to the window. “Our families’ reach is long. Their dogma fuels their journey.”

“What is it that garners your interest there?”

“Death and hope burnt into a desert filled with loneliness.” She looked through her reflection to the two men on the street below. When he arrived at her side, she pointed out the answer to his query. “That is my husband and my brother.”

.
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Author’s Corner: An Interview with Sherry Bagnato

picture Bagnato

Welcome to Author’s Corner, Sherry!

Let’s whet the interest of potential readers. Before we begin,  please share an excerpt from your novel Happy Endings.

Happy Endings cover picCHAPTER TWO (Excerpt)
Carol and Barry: A Look
Love doesn’t cure everything, does it?
“Carol? Are you there? I just heard about Barry. Please pick up.” The sound of a sob being swallowed.
Carol spit into the sink, and scrambled to the phone.
“Sadie?”
“What happened? Why didn’t you tell me? Three months you kept this to yourself?”
Why did she?
_______________
Ifs. If only it were not true.
After they’d finish speaking, Carol fled to her bed, and buried herself in the darkness and warmth of her flowered comforter. What was it Sadie said?
“Listen to me,” Sadie’s voice had been fervent and high. “He loved the edge. That was his story. To sit at the top of the building and calculate the drop down was what he lived for. It was always there, Carol. Fast forward twenty-two years later and surprise, he’s still the same. People don’t change. Did you think he would be different? Listen to me. There is NOTHING you could have done to stop what happened, and there is nothing left for you to fix. ”
Not true, she wanted to scream. If she connected the series of events, and filled in the jigsaw puzzle composed mainly of shades of black cut outs then perhaps she could surrender to the death of her brother. The demise of the man blown to bits on the beach, torturous souls left behind could be capitulated too by the act of fill in the blanks..
She pulled the comforter up to her nose. The scent of fabric softener prompted memories of him way back then. Everything back then smelt of April Fresh fabric softener. The yellow and white checkered tablecloth, dish towels, pillow cases, Barry’s denim jacket. Dolly used it like perfume. If she could, she would have misted their little bungalow with it and created a force field around it for her Barry.
You can’t tie thoughts down, and snare them to the ground. Like clouds they float here to there, and eventually the darker ones filled with weighted putrid memories descend closer, a hairs breadth from your left shoulder.

Happy Endings is a page turner. Your excerpt is an example of what I call a ‘wow factor’ common throughout your book; it compels the reader to read on. Thank you, Sherry.

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I am a reluctant writer who agonizes over every story I tell. I published Happy Endings in November 2014 and was  pleasantly surprised by the feedback. Recently, I won second prize for my short story Aisha Unbroken for the on-line magazine-Big Pond Rumours. I have extended myself this year by taking on the writing of two new novels simultaneously. The real story will be if I can stay awake long enough to see them published. I am a writer by night and a Communications Specialist by day to pay the bills. A mother of two, along with two dogs and three cats, I love to fund raise and hike. I also have a reputation for jumping into any body of water that’s in my way!

Q: What did you want to be when you were a child? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

A: When I was a child I wanted to be a lawyer, doctor and writer. Since I was not great in the sciences, I ruled out doctor. Because I had to read my stories out loud in class, I was extremely inhibited about becoming a writer, so I tried to become a lawyer and ended up in advertising. Over the years I wrote a few stories, a couple of very bad books. It was then I decided to be a real writer.

Q: Are you a pantser, a plotter or a little of both? Give us some idea how you plan the overall structure of your novel and your approach to each chapter.

A: I must admit I have no plan when it comes to writing a novel. My second novel which I am working on is a mystery, and I don’t plot it out. I let the characters talk to me, and allow their personalities to carve out the story. In my third novel, which I am writing concurrently with the second, it is more methodical because it follows a timeline. In some ways it’s a much easier novel to write, even though the subject matter is more difficult.

Q: How do you go about getting the ideas for your novel?

A: I am an idea’s writer. I may be sitting with someone having a coffee and they may be talking about a specific situation. Suddenly I have an incident that needs a story. Or, it may be a person that is experiencing something, and that person will of course need a brother or perhaps need to be killed. It’s always interesting where your imagination takes you.

Q: What is your favorite part of writing? Is there a least favorite part?

A: My favorite part of writing is to see it in print or the beginning of each chapter. Sometimes, when I am experiencing a Zen moment with one of my characters, I absolutely love writing. For the most part, I find it excruciating.

Q: When you are in the midst of writing a novel, what does a typical day look like for you?

A: When I am in the midst of writing, I do all the chores around the house or go for a run, before I can sit down and put fingers to keyboard. Depending on how well the words come I will work from an hour to three hours a day. Three quarters of the way through, I will step it up and spend 5 hours a day on it.

Q: Do you prefer to read in the same genres you write in or do you prefer to mix your readings with other genres? Why?

A: My reading choices are very eclectic. I enjoy a variety of genres depending on my mood and the topic. For me, it is truly about how engaging the story is, rather than the genre.

Q: What is most difficult for you to write? Characters, conflict or emotions? Or is there something else? Why? And how do you overcome it?

A: I think the most difficult part for me to write is characters. I am a visual person and the challenge is to ensure your characters are real and not television versions of themselves.

Q: Sometimes the manuscript for a first novel never sees the light of day. Do you have any manuscript(s) hidden away? If you do, what keeps the manuscript(s) in the drawer?

A: I have two novels sitting on my laptop that will never see the light of day. They lacked depth, and I lacked the experience to give it the require complexity and beauty it needed to tell the story well.

Q: Having achieved your goal to be a published author, what is the most rewarding thing? Is there a downside? If so, what was it for you?

A: The most exciting thing about being a published writer is to see your story or novel in print. After that, it is a great privilege to listen to readers’ feedback. I sell many books through book talks, and I love to hear what characters the readers identify with and why. I get great constructive criticism from readers.

Q: Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

A: I always suffer from writer’s block. The way I get around it is to exercise or meet up with people; anything that will revitalize my spirit. Writing is an incredibly difficult process, and it is important to keep positive.

Q: What inspired you (Where did you get the idea from?) to write Happy Endings?

A: I am always attracted to flawed characters. Happy Endings is a reflection of that. For me, it is a story of what people do to create excitement in their lives and to just survive. Hidden behind a single act of murder, are lives that are skewed, flawed, and not representative of people we know.

Q: How likely are people you meet or know to end up in one of your novels?

A: Guaranteed someone will end up in my novel with or without knowing it.

Q: What was the most difficult thing you found in the writing Happy Endings? For example, in order to capture the realism for the characters and the situations, writing sometimes involves research and preparation before the novel is written. Did you go through any special preparation to write Happy Endings?

A: The most difficult thing in writing Happy Endings was agonizing over whether I was telling a good enough story. It is a complicated novel that jumps around and I wasn’t sure if I could make it work. I researched the character Aisha quite extensively to give her a life of her own. She was my favourite character as a result.

Q:  What is next for you? In other words, what are you presently working on?

A: I am currently working on two novels. The first one is titled “Blessed Are The Peacemakers”, a mystery about a serial rapist. The second novel is a fictitious memoir. It’s really exciting to be working on two very different pieces of work.

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you learned on your road to publication? And, what advice do you have for future novelists?

A: Work. Work. Work. It is a difficult process, and it is so important to gain skills to sell your work as well as write it. So many writers who have self published have great novels that go unnoticed. Use social media to your advantage!

Q: Is there anything you would like to add that I may have missed?

A: Writing is a joy and a curse. Stick with it.

Q: Where can readers find your books?

A: Happy Endings is found at:

Amazon.com;
Blurb.ca;

And by ordering directly from the author: sherry.bagnato@rogers.com.

Thank you again, Sherry, for taking valuable time away from your very busy schedule. It has been a pleasure meeting you and I look forward to your next novels.

Transitions by B. B. Wright

TransitionsWinterToSpring

Transitions

by

B. B. Wright

 Thick grey ominous clouds float languidly overhead.

The outstretched straw-colored fields push against the swollen pond whose overflow like a ribbon runs across the open land scaring its surface.

Coniferous, once center stage in a winter of white, is forced aside by buds on fingers and arms of hopeful deciduous striving to meet spring’s promise. Tucked in their shaded background, tail-end snow lingers.

Winter’s wind, unwilling to decease, lays a white veil hardened by sharp pellets of ice and rain across the landscape.

Heroically (for they cannot turn back), nature’s shoots venture through last fall’s leafy blanket whilst in the nearby woodlot upon its paths the luxurious purple and white trillium wait to blossom.

Sadly, song birds have not yet arrived to herald this awakening. Or have they sought shelter to hide against the roar of the wind-train across the meadow to crackle the woods beyond?

Bird feeders, once filled to the brim with seed and suet, skip and somersault empty along the same track while the roller coaster of unwelcome snow squalls bullies the sun’s ephemeral moments.

Shutters slap to the rhythm of winter’s last dust as day melts into night and night dives into dreams of tomorrow’s fresh warm transitions