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Spotlight – The ‘Real’ American Diet

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About the Author

Kevin C. Alston

Born & raised in the small town of Mullins, SC, by God-fearing parents who instilled religion into his life at an early age, he’s had an insatiable appetite for knowledge since birth. God blessed him with a keen, analytical mind, & an almost feverish desire to help others. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran, married to the love of his life, with five wonderful kids, & a deep passion that still burns within him to help the less fortunate, through whatever means necessary. The correlation between what we eat & the epidemic-like rise in diseases of today has the author on an impassioned mission to get to the bottom of what he thinks is a big conspiracy by our government & Big Business.

His latest book is The ‘Real’ American Diet.

Website Link: http://diet4america.wix.com/real ,

https://youtu.be/sQ8LOeFoj68

Twitter Link: https://twitter.com/kcasrkev1

Facebook Link: http://facebook.com/kcasrkev

 

About the Book:

Title: THE ‘REAL’ AMERICAN DIET
Author: Kevin Alston
Publisher: Xlibris Publishing
Pages: 48
Genre: Memoir/Nonfiction

The Real American Diet

BOOK BLURB:

This book is a culmination of the author’s life, but mainly the past 10 years, where personal tragedies have led him to discover more about the correlation with food, nutrition & the diseases of today, & how it affects us all.

This program is an experiment of sorts, with the author using himself as the guinea pig, with positive results having been discovered, & hopefully, in time, even bigger positive results yet to come.

Between our government & Big Business, we, the people, are already involved in an experiment. It’s like a big laboratory. With all of the harmful toxins that are allowed in our air, food, & water, diseases are at epidemic-like levels, & the author, for one, would like to know if there is more to this than is being told to us. It speaks volumes when other nations refuse to accept grains & meats from us, or at least it does to the author.

Most of the ailments we suffer from today emanate from our guts, & our poor diets keep the sickness-wheels turning, costing each of us millions of dollars, a whole lot of heartache, pain, & suffering. It’s time to make a change, & that change started with the author’s experiment on himself.

 

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Real-American-Diet-Kevin-Alston-ebook/dp/B0794MPWWD/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=The+%27Real%27+American+Diet+kevin+alston&qid=1552343215&s=gateway&sr=8-1-spell

Book Excerpt:

Genesis 1:29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is] the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

IF YOU’VE BEEN dieting forever with very mixed results, then you’ve finally come to the right place. These lifestyle changes that I am recommending will be like no diet that you have ever attempted, so if you combine what I’m about to teach you with the proven methods that Dr. Joel Fuhrman teaches you in his books—Eat to Live is the best one to start off with—you will be well on your way to attaining your goal of losing the dreaded weight that you have been desperately seeking to get rid of for so long.

Book Trailer

https://youtu.be/sQ8LOeFoj68

VBT – MAMMA’S MOON

Tour Banner_MammasMoon

Mamma’s Moon

by Jerome Mark Antil

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GENRE: Literary Fiction

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BLURB:

A bond that can only happen on a dance floor happened in a cafe off Frenchman Street among four unlikely characters: a man who was about to die; his friend, an illiterate Cajun French yardman; and two of the most successful women in New Orleans.

Aging Captain Gabriel Jordan, retired, was given two months to live, three months before he met “Peck”–Boudreau Clemont Finch–a groundskeeper on the back lawn of his hospice on Bayou Carencro, Louisiana. It was at the hospice that Gabe told Peck his dream of seeing the Newport Jazz Festival before he died. They became friends, and Peck offered to help grant his wish by taking him there.

And they began their journey.

It quickly became a journey with complications and setbacks. They saved each other many times, but they were in turn saved by two extraordinary women: Sasha (Michelle Lissette), a real estate agent in New Orleans’s posh Garden District, and her best friend, Lily Cup (Lily Cup Lorelei Tarleton), a criminal attorney.

Less than a year before the events in Mamma’s Moon, Gabe and Peck wandered into Charlie’s Blue Note, a small jazz bar in a side alley just off Frenchman Street, where the music was live and mellow and the dancing warm and sensual.

Here they encountered Sasha and Lily Cup, and amid the music, the dancing, the food, the flirting, and the cigar smoke, the four formed an unusual and lasting friendship that would see them each through a series of crises, disappointments, life-threatening situations, and moments of great joy and satisfaction.

BookCover_Mammas Moon

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EXCERPT

Did you murder the kid, Gabe?” Lily Cup asked. The aging army captain, veteran of Korea and Vietnam, lowered his newspaper just enough to see over the entertainment page.

Close the door, honey, AC’s on,” Gabe said.

In a tight, black skirt with a tailored matching waistcoat and white Nike walking shoes, she leaned and propped a black leather briefcase against the wall by the door. She stood like an exasperated tomboy, adjusting and refastening the diamond brooch on her lapel.

I heard you’ve been walking with a cane, dancing man.  What’s that all about? You’ve never carried a cane. You jazz dance for hours a couple of nights a week and Sasha tells me you started carrying one everywhere you go when you don’t need one. It’s smelling pretty premeditated to me, Gabe. What’s up with the cane thing?”

Does Sasha know about this morning?”

I haven’t told her anything. She’d have a canary.”

Gabe lifted the paper again to read.

I need to know if it was murder,” Lily Cup said.

I don’t want to talk about it,” Gabe said.

He closed the paper, folded it in half, and in half again. Dropping it on the arm of the chair, he stood and left the room.

Define murder,” he said from the kitchen.

She tossed a handbag and white driving gloves onto the other chair, lifted Chanel sunglasses to the top of her head.

Gee, I’ll have to think on this one. Hmmm…Oh, I know. How about the police have a cane with blood on it and there’s a dead man.”

It’s a walking stick. My cane is over by the door.”

Well now it’s a goddamned murder weapon. They checked for prints, and yours are the only prints on it, and their guess is the lab will say the blood has his DNA.”

Gabe came out with a coffee urn in one hand and his finger and thumb through two empty cup handles. He held the cups out for her to take one.

No more,” Gabe said.

You’re rather nonchalant for the spot you’re in. Why’d you clam up on me like that at the precinct? It didn’t set well with any of them. The DA entered a charge of second-degree murder. The police chief put out a warrant for you from lunch at Brennan’s.”

He held the empty cups closer to her.

Just made it. Chicory and cinnamon.”

If you had television you’d have seen it—‘Daylight killing on St. Charles Avenue.’ It’s all over the news, freaking out the DA and the Visitors Bureau. No telling how many videos from streetcars going by will wind up on You Tube.”

That’s enough,” Gabe said.

People can live with violence after dark. That’s expected in any city, but when it’s in broad daylight, forget it. The DA pushed for an early docket with a magistrate and it’s Tulane and Broad for you at nine a.m. tomorrow.”

What’s Tulane and Broad?”

Magistrate Court. Congratulations, Gabe, you made the big time. You have to appear before a magistrate to hear the second-degree murder charge against you.”

She took an empty cup in one hand, pinched his arm with the other.

Look me in the eye and swear it wasn’t murder,” Lily Cup said.

This some kind of technique they teach at Harvard Law, Miss Tarleton?”

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AUTHOR Bio and Links

AuthorPicture

JEROME MARK ANTIL writes in several genres. He has been called a “greatest generation’s Mark Twain,” a “write what you know Ernest Hemingway,” and “a sensitive Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.” It’s been said his work reads like a Norman Rockwell painting. Among his writing accomplishments, several titles in his The Pompey Hollow Book Club historical fiction series about growing up in the shadows of WWII have been honored. An ‘Authors and Writers’ Book of the Year Award and ‘Writer of the Year’ at Syracuse University for The Pompey Hollow Book Club novel; Hemingway, Three Angels, and Me, won SILVER in the UK as second-best novel.

Foreword’s Book of the Year Finalist for The Book of Charlie – historical fiction and The Long Stem is in the Lobby – nonfiction humor. Library Journal selected Hemingway, Three Angels and Me for best reads during Black History Month.

Before picking up the pen, Antil spent his professional career writing and marketing for the business world. In this role, he lectured at universities – Cornell, St. Edward’s, and Southern Methodist. His inspirations have been John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, and Ernest Hemingway.

Website: http://jeromemarkantil.com/blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012149166797

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jerome-Mark-Antil/e/B0046C4AOK

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RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY

Jerome Mark Antil will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.


Enter to win a $10 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflcopter giveaway

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Tell us about you as a person. 
I’m 6 foot 10 inches. My feet haven’t been in bed in sixty years. I’m a devotee to literacy – have sponsored writing contests for more than 20,000 school students. I’ve donated cases of books to VA Hospitals in every state, thousands of books to schools. My boyhood home is now a county park (Delphi Falls) in upstate New York…just 79 miles from Elmira where Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn and 7 miles from Cazenovia where L. Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In college I sold compositions. I would get $3 for an A; $2 for a B; $1 for a C. No charge for a D or F. I quit college and a full basketball scholarship to write and this adventure is in my non fiction biography The Long Stem Is In The Lobby. (Foreword Book of the Year Finalist – Non-Fiction Humor)

If you could hang out with one famous person for one day, who would it be and why?
Living – Ron Howard; Dead – Ernest Hemingway.

What’s the story behind your latest book?
Two unlikely friends in New Orleans face issues. Old Gabe, a black retired army captain, jazz aficionado and dancer finds himself charged with murder. Young Peck has earned his GED and the love of his life wants to meet his mother. Problem is, he ran from the swamps and bayous and an abusive childhood when he was nine and has decided to try to go find his mother, at least his roots.

What is your writing process?
I get up at 6AM, I make coffee for me and my lovely wife muse and then I go to my studio and type words until around 1PM. If I’m writing about New Orleans, I will play some jazz – mostly Joe Williams. I walk away with a couple thousand words a day – a part of a path to an ending I outlined before I started the book.

Tell us about your main character.
Peckerwood Finch – KIRKUS says he’s a Cajun French Forrest Gump. He was illiterate – just earned his GED – ran away from abusive home at 9 – earned his keep selling fish and turtles to restaurants, sharpening blades and mowing lawns. He’s now 25.

If your book was to be turned into a movie, who would play the lead role and why.
Samuel L. Jackson, he can dance. Scott Eastwood, he’s a young Peck

What are you working on next?
TALL JERRY – Legend One of The Delphi Falls Trilogy. My Pompey Hollow Book Club series takes on Harry Potter…aiming over the heads of Potterheads targeting the Boomers.

What advice do you have for other writers who want to get the word out about their book?
Keep writing. Create a website and blog constantly.

What is your favorite book on your shelf right now?
Cannery Row, John Steinbeck. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote. Movable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

Do you have any special/extraordinary talents?
I’m a great cook. I’m a great researcher. I can remember crawling on the floor in diapers.

You are given the choice of one super power. What super power would you have and why?
Convince the young that reading can give them great confidence and peace of mind – take them anywhere.

List 5 things on your bucket list:

  • Write every day.
  • Go to Paris.
  • Write a Broadway play.
  • Pulitzer.
  • Nobel.

Where can readers find you on the web?

www.jeromemarkantil.com

Any final thoughts?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlMC-gBVcis

VBT – DISCUSSION OF A DECENT DREAM

TourBannerFS_Discussion of a Decent Dream

Discussion of a Decent Dream

by E. Curtis

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GENRE: Dark Fantasy

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BLURB:

In the fall of 1789, on the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales, a dense, persistent fog enshrouds the village of Ingleton. Shadowed spirits hide in the mist and bedevil the townsfolk, heralding a tragedy that has befallen one of their own.

Edmond continues to search for Alexandra, his fiancée, who disappeared the same night that the mist set upon their town. Presumed dead by all others, he visits Alexandra’s empty grave, desperate for any hint of what has become of her. Weary from the sleepless nights on his quest, no longer able to stay awake, Edmond falls into a dream before her headstone and there obtains clues from Alexandra as to her whereabouts.

Haunted all the while by a malevolent spirit, Edmond follows the trail that Alexandra left for him and enters the underworld, only to learn that he has been there before, and in fact, quite often. But more, he discovers how he is to blame for Alexandra’s disappearance.

A dark literary novel rich in imagery, Discussion of a Decent Dream unearths the consequences of a child’s decision to surrender his heart in exchange for unholy power and transcendent knowledge.

Discussion of a Decent Dream is a Finalist in Britain’s Wishing Self Book Awards in the Adult category.

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Cover_Discussion of a Decent Dream

EXCERPT

We ignored the portent that crept into the countryside the day she disappeared. But in the weeks that followed, with no answers as to what had befallen her, with no assurance that she still lived, we came to understand, and most saw the worst in the blanket of mist that stopped time and shut us out from the rest of the world.

I had just turned twenty-one the summer of 1789 when Alexandra went missing. And after all our fruitless searching, in need of some direction, I snuck, under the cover of night, into the yard where her parents had laid their sorrow to rest. Falling to my knees before the stone of her empty grave I spoke with reverence, not for the hallowed ground, but for the call that brought me, as though somehow she could hear me.

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AuthorPicture

AUTHOR Bio and Links

E. Curtis draws on personal experiences of the otherworldly for his writing. Through dreams, visions, and waking encounters, his exposure to darkness has motivated him to detail what he has come to know of the preternatural. While a few short pieces have been published on an online literary magazine, Discussion of a Decent Dream is his first novel.

Website: http://discussthedream.com/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/ECurtisBooks/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/discussthedream

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/discussthedream/

The book is on sale for $0.99 during the tour.

Buy link: www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B07BTHW1SY/

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GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE

One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card.

Enter to win a $50 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blast – MIMADAMOS

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Chadi Ghaith will be awarding a copy of Mimadamos: The Eden of Choice, (US only) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Lebanese author Chadi B. Ghaith brings beliefs that were held in secrecy for a thousand years to awareness in Mimadamos: The Eden of Choice (Fifthscience Inc., July 5, 2017). Ghaith’s book revolves around an ancient triangle of the most significant characters on earth, paralleled by three of the most significant forces in life, and their combined story in space and time. Journey through this fable and explore the ideas that have mystified mankind for centuries: good and evil, heaven and hell, the beginning and end of the world.

Did the ending precede the beginning? Are we only here on earth to comprehend its machinations? Is there room for choice to shape our destiny in the wake of fate and its brutal logic? Mimadamos is a unique, philosophically-rich fantasy which journeys through the depths of conflict and harmony that we understand as the spirit. It decodes the magic of the most ancient scripts known to man, the symbolic fall from Eden and the long anticipated armageddon, revealing a logic so unique that it brings history to its conclusive end.

Read an Excerpt

As the door closed each night, dimming the light from the hall to a narrow beam, Destiny’s heart would flutter a staccato beat. She would clutch the blankets, drawing them up to her ears and nose, and shiver. Eventually the hour grew late, her wide eyes grew heavy, and her sister’s regular, slow breathing lulled her into slumber as well.

Her mother’s smiling face greeted her dream self, leading her on a path through the garden to the small pond where fish glided beneath the ripples. “See the fish?” her mother said.

“Look at the gold one! Do you want to touch it, Destiny?”

A much younger Destiny leaned across the edge of the pond toward the fish. She touched the cool water.

“Do you want to hold the fish?”

The creature swam nearer; Destiny scooped the fish from below with one hand, a trick her father had taught her. She laughed as the fish flopped, mouth gaping, slippery in her pudgy child hands.

“Kill it,” Mother said.

Destiny frowned and looked to see whether Mother was serious.

“Squeeze it until it dies in your hands. It has not the rights of life that you and I have. It is just a fish. Don’t be stupid, girl.”

Destiny shook her head, the fish wiggling free to fall with a plop into the pond. As she stared at her mother, the woman’s features melted into those of a woman Destiny didn’t know.

The strange woman sneered at Destiny, her face melting again and growing dark with hair, the teeth elongating and yellowing. The eyes glowed red, and the person grew larger than her father.

Destiny screamed, paralyzed.

Her sister kicked her under the covers, startling her from the nightmare. Destiny’s heart raced, her body drenched in sweat.

“Wake up,” her sister grumbled, turning over to face the other way.

About the Author: CHADI B. GHAITH has spent many years introducing an ancient mind science called Fifthscience to the public; Mimadamos is his first attempt at translating the magic of Fifthscience into a modern narrative. He is a native of Lebanon; however, he acquired his high school and university levels in Texas. Ghaith studied Arts and Film at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He now lives in Beirut with his wife and three children.

Website: https://www.mimadamos.com/.

Facebook: https://facebook.com/chadighaith

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mimadamos

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mimadamos-Choice-Chadi-B-Ghaith-ebook/dp/B073SFYFQQ/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1

Chadi Ghaith will be awarding a copy of Mimadamos: The Eden of Choice, (US only) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Spotlight – The Old Man’s Request

The Old Man's Request banner

About the Author

Joab Stieglitz

Joab Stieglitz was born and raised in the Warren, New Jersey. He is an Application Consultant for a software company. He has also worked as a software trainer, a network engineer, a project manager, and a technical writer over his 30 year career. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Joab is an avid tabletop RPG player and game master of horror, espionage, fantasy, and science fiction genres, including Savage Worlds (Mars, Deadlands, Agents of Oblivion, Apocalypse Prevention Inc, Herald: Tesla and Lovecraft, Thrilling Tales, and others), Call of Cthulhu, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and Pathfinder.

Joab channeled his role-playing experiences in the Utgarda Series, which are pulp adventure novels with Lovecraftian influences set in the 1920’s.

Website Address: http://joabstieglitz.com

Twitter Address: @joabstieglitz

Facebook Address: https://www.facebook.com/rantingsofawanderingmind

About the Book:

Title: THE OLD MAN’S REQUEST
Author: Joab Stieglitz
Publisher: Rantings of a Wandering Mind
Pages: 117
Genre: Historical Suspense

The Old Man's Request

BOOK BLURB:

An Innocent Favor for a Dying Old Friend…

Fifty years ago, a group of college friends dabbled in the occult and released a malign presence on the world. Now, on his deathbed, the last of the students, now a trustee of Reister University enlists the aid of three newcomers to banish the thing they summoned.

Russian anthropologist Anna Rykov, doctor Harry Lamb, and Father Sean O’Malley are all indebted the ailing trustee for their positions. Together, they pursue the knowledge and resources needed to perform the ritual.

Hampered by the old man’s greedy son, the wizened director of the university library, and a private investigator with a troubled past, can they perform the ritual and banish the entity?

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

Book Excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

June 18, 1929

Final papers in hand, Anna emerged from the Edison science building and made her way toward Olson Street to catch the trolley to the house she was renting on the other side of the river. She was petite, with dark bobbed hair, and smooth pale skin, and wore a fashionable blue, knee-length skirted suit, white blouse, and a loose, black necktie which flapped gently in the breezes blowing eastward off the slow-moving Woolley River.

It was another typically beautiful day, warm and dry, in Wellersburg. About halfway across the quad, she spied Father O’Malley approaching hurriedly. “Hello. Father,” she said with a smile, her Russian accent revealing her origins. “Is it not a fine day?” O’Malley, a tall, slender man with short, curly brown hair, usually had a warm, engaging smile, but today his expression was grim.

“Jason Longborough is in the hospital again,” O’Malley said. “It doesn’t look good, and he’s asked to speak to you with some urgency.” Anna was concerned and a little surprised. The ailing trustee of the university had been her champion in the faculty selection committee last summer, but she had neither seen nor spoken with him since that time. He was directly responsible for her appointment to fill Dr. McMahon’s chair for three years while he and his team were on their expedition to Australia. Longborough was also instrumental in Father O’Malley’s appointment to the Ancient History department to fill similar vacancies during the Egyptian expedition, which was to occur concurrently.

“Of course,” Anna replied without hesitation, “I will just drop off these papers in office.”

“He may not hold out that long. Please come with me now. It may be your only opportunity.” With that, the priest took the pile of exam papers from her and led the way toward the Reister University Hospital.

Anna was born Tatyana Trevena, the sole daughter of poor Russian immigrants. In exchange for passage to Brooklyn, the sixteen-year-old was married to the much older, exiled Fyodor Rykov shortly after their arrival in America in 1912. Rykov was an old world man. He treated his young wife as his property and she lived in submission to him until he died of a heart attack two years later.

Tatyana inherited a modest fortune. Wanting to be more American, and having the means to do so, she adopted the name Anna and attended Columbia University, where she studied Anthropology. She completed her degree in three years and went on to pursue a doctorate. In 1924, she did field research for the Russian archaeologist Aleksey Sergeyevich Uvarov in Gnyozdovo, a part of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, the site of a ring of 10th century Viking settlements.

Upon returning to the United States in 1926, Dr. Anna Rykov, expert in the Varangians, or Russian Vikings, found that there was little interest in a female professor, especially one of Russian descent, who had done field work in the Soviet Union and could have potentially been a Bolshevik. When Jason Longborough reached out to her with a temporary position at Reister University filling in for tenured staff while they were on a three-year expedition, she gladly took the offer.

There were many new instructors at Reister. Among them, Anna met Harry Lamb and Sean O’Malley. Dr. Lamb had just completed his residency at Reister University Hospital and was teaching Basic Anatomy to first year medical students. Father O’Malley was well-versed in Middle and Far Eastern history and served as an Ancient History instructor. Anna, Harry, and Sean were all new to the area, and the three quickly became friends exploring their new home together.

She was enjoying the small college-town life in Wellersburg and its uncrowded streets. The people of Wellersburg were courteous and friendly, even to a Russian immigrant, on account of the more cosmopolitan influences of the university. She enjoyed the peace and tranquility of a small town where everyone knew everyone, and no one locked their doors.

The hospital room was small and dark, illuminated by a lone window on the far side of the room. Jason Longborough lay in his bed. The withered old trustee was frail beneath his shock of gray hairs. He had looked much stronger when Anna had seen him last. Now his yellow complexion and paper-like skin clearly indicated his infirmity. Dr. Harold Lamb stood over the patient, taking his pulse. Lamb was taller than average and muscular, with broad shoulders and short, black hair neatly parted on the right. He wore a blue, pinstriped suit and a yellow tie under his lab coat. The doctor smiled slightly when the two entered the room. Longborough was alerted to their presence by the closing of the door.

“It was good of you to come,” the patient said with some effort. “My time draws to an end soon, and there is a grave matter from my past that must be addressed.” Some strength returned to his voice. “I fear I have become too feeble to attempt it myself, and wish to enlist your services in this matter.” He sighed heavily.

“How can I be of service to you, sir?” Anna asked. While she was indebted to Longborough for her position at the university, she was hardly acquainted with the man. What could a businessman like Longborough need of an archaeologist?

“Sit. I have a story to tell you.” He gestured to two chairs by the side of the bed.

“I’ll be back to check on you later,” Dr. Lamb said as he started for the door. Suddenly, with uncharacteristic dexterity, the ailing trustee reached out and grasped his wrist.

“I wish you to aid me as well, Doctor.” His gaze was fixed on Lamb’s eyes. The physician left the room, and a moment later brought a chair in from the hall.

“I can spare a few minutes, but then I must complete my rounds.”

“This is not a long story.” The trustee cleared his throat and Anna poured a glass of water for him. He took a few sips from it, and then cleared his throat again. “Back in the spring of ‘71, when I was a freshman here at Reister, I came upon an interesting upperclassman named Brent Hanke, an amateur occultist.” He coughed painfully.

“Five of us formed a group to explore the secrets of the unknown. We called it ‘the Cabal.’ It was quite innocuous at first, but after a while other students became disturbed by our activities, and so we bought an old farmhouse in Stuckley for some privacy.” He coughed again and took another drink of water.

“It was at the farmhouse that things grew out of hand. Brent Hanke’s family was in shipping, and as a result, he was able to obtain rare and unique items from the Old World. He used these trinkets to keep us interested. Among these was a small gold box of Russian origin,” he indicated a length of about eight inches with his bent fingers, “that contained a piece of amber. According to a ritual he found in an ancient tome, this amber could be used to contact a powerful oracle. Being precocious lads, we set out to cast the spell at the farm and seek our fortunes.”

Longborough’s subsequent coughing fit caused the onlookers to jump, and Dr. Lamb went to call a nurse, but the old man recovered quickly and motioned for them all to sit again. After a few fairly deep breaths and another drink of water, he continued his tale.

“It was clear that night in March of 1871. I remember the full moon illuminating the living room of the farmhouse so brightly that Brent was worried that there might be too much light. Still we continued, lighting the fire in the fireplace as well as several candles, and drawing a pentagram in chalk on the floor. In the center, Brent placed the amber. As designated observer, I sat in a corner and wrote down the events of the evening in my journal. The others sat in a circle and recited the incantation while Brent threw some foul-smelling powder into the fire.”

“This continued for nearly two hours. Finally, something happened. A plume of smoke arose from the amber and it began to melt. Then it came!” Longborough began to hyperventilate. Dr. Lamb sprang to the bedside and adjusted his position, putting the patient’s head back to open his throat. After a moment of coughing and wheezing, Longborough recovered.

“It was insubstantial.” The trustee’s voice was still agitated. “Barely perceptible in the moonlight, but it was there. And it made a horrible growling sound. Brent threw some of the powder on the creature, and all chaos broke out. Most of us were paralyzed by the sight. John Dalton, however, rose to his feet and stepped forward to embrace the entity. The creature grasped his head in its indescribable appendages and twisted it with a terrible snap. Then it threw the head back to land in Homer Cunningham’s lap. Homer’s face turned white and he began making that chirping sound.” Longborough stared off into space for a moment.

“Roger Furlong apparently doomed us all,” he continued after a pause. “He destroyed part of the pentagram. Free from the bonds of its confines, the creature burst from the house with the force of a hurricane and was gone.” He stopped to catch his breath. “Nevertheless, Hanke believed there was still hope. The spell bound the creature to the house, so it would have to return, and the many glyphs and warding symbols Hanke had previously carved into its structure allowed the creature to only inhabit the attic.”

“Mr. Longborough,” Doctor Lamb said with skepticism, “this kind of superstitious fantasy is probably what caused your condition in the first place. You were probably enjoying the effects of some hallucinogenic drugs this Hanke character threw into the fire.”

“John Dalton was found decapitated the next morning.” The aged and frail patient bore down on Lamb with a look of rage. “We staged an accident with a carriage and said he was run over. The authorities believed us, and they took Homer Cunningham to the Old Oak Sanitarium. He was never released. Brett said that if the spell is cast again in reverse, the creature could be destroyed, or at least sent back to where it came from . That is what I want you to do.”

“Still,” Dr. Lamb continued, “you can’t expect us to believe that reciting some ancient poetry will lay a ghost to rest?”

Anna was divided. The story was completely unbelievable, especially by a scientist such as herself, but how could she deny the request of a dying man?

“You want us to cast this spell?” Father O’Malley asked indignantly.

“Yes,” Longborough said, his features calm and sharp, “I do.”

“By all that is holy, that is the worst kind of sacrilege.” But Sean O’Malley was not a typical parish priest. He was a Professor of Ancient History specializing in the Dark Ages. His training had been under the tutelage of Father Christophé, the exorcist from Martinique regarded as the Church’s leading “expert” on the activities various “nameless cults.” O’Malley was more than prepared to accept Satan’s intervention in the sorry affairs of this once gullible youth. The sly smile from his lips surprised his two colleagues. Finally, he said, “But I accept your request.”

“Are you crazy?” Lamb exclaimed. “This delusion has gone far enough. It’s nearly killed this man. Father, I think we should let this matter, and this patient, rest.” He rose and started off to return his chair to the hall.

“What difference does it make?” Anna asked in earnest. “Mr. Longborough believes that there is threat to all in Stuckley. If it is just a fantasy, then all that will come of it is the easing of his conscience for the unfortunate incident with his friends.”

“Then you’ll help me?” the old man inquired of Anna with hope in his eyes.

“Yes, sir,” she said, holding his hands in hers. “I owe it to you for all you have done for me.” He smiled.

Rykov and O’Malley cast questioning glances at Dr. Lamb. He looked at them incredulously, and then back at Longborough, who returned his gaze with a pitiable look. After a moment, he sighed and said, “O.K., I’m in. But nothing is going to happen. You’ll see.”

“You don’t understand,” the patient started. “You must believe in the innate power in all of us. You must tap into that power to perform the ritual. Only if you are committed will the spell be successful. If you fail, the creature will be released from the house! The little remaining power I can still muster won’t be able to keep it there much longer. Whenever I let my guard down, it got out and killed someone.” He started to gasp and wheeze. Immediately, Dr. Lamb burst from the room to get assistance.

Longborough indicated the drawer of the nightstand beside Rykov and she picked up a locked metal box from it. Then he removed a key from around his neck and handed it to her. “Take these,” he said with the last of his breath, “it is all the help I can give you.” With that, his breathing became erratic. Moments later, Lamb returned with some orderlies and a nurse and ushered the pair from the room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Why Defining Your Setting is Important

A lot of would-be writers set out to write a specific story: a fantasy with wizards and dragons, a spy thriller with a megalomaniac villain out to conquer the world, a vampire and werewolf love story, etc. These are all fine ideas, but where they take place is just as important as the characters and the plot.

Just as you want three-dimensional heroes and villains, a well-developed setting is imperative for your story to come to life. Locations are more than an address. They are sights and sounds, past and current events, the physical and emotional sensations that are evoked. All these aspects add to the reader’s immersion into the environment.

For example

The agent’s’ eyes were stung by the smoke as they descended. The remote darkness was broken by the flames of the nearby village that had been their destination. The sounds of machinery announced the passage of the column of troop carriers, the smell of exhaust filling the air as they carried the villagers away.

This scene implies a lot of things that the author needs to know and bring out in the narrative. Where does the story take place? When? Is this Nazi occupied France, post apocalypse Colorado, or Alpha Centuri Prime? Are the agents parachuting, in an aircraft, or falling from orbit in drop pods?

Filling out the details of the environment allows you to add “reality” to your story by making the reader part of the scene rather than just an observer. When the reader experiences sensations in addition to the characters’ thoughts and actions, and a clear understanding of things such as the environment, the weather, and the social and political situation will make a scene come alive.

In my books, I have selected a very specific time and place: immediate pre-Depression New York. Through this lens I can present attitudes, experiences, personalities, and perspectives that are unique. My heroine, Dr. Anna Rykov, is a woman, a Russian immigrant, and a professional. These qualities present specific challenges to her in 1929.

The choice of genre is the first step. An even bigger decision is the setting. An author needs to understand the environment in which the story takes place to present a complete picture to the reade

Spotlight – Material Things

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About the Author

Larry Spencer

LARRY SPENCER published his first novel, The Tipping Point Of Oliver Bass in the summer of 2017. A story that covered the life of a pathologically arrogant, wealthy young man who sets off on a journey of self-discovery, family tragedy, and sexual conquest in a modern California noir backdrop. Spencer has been a Writer’s Guild of America member since the late 70s, having written and produced a multitude of highly successful TV shows, which culminated into writing several feature films. He was then encouraged to pen his second book, Material Things, a story based on true events that takes place in the 60s &70s and tackles organized crime, drugs and embezzlement during a time when bellbottom pants ruled the fashion scene. He lives in Valley Village, California.

Visit his website at www.larryspencerauthor.com.

About the Book:

Title: MATERIAL THINGS
Author: Larry Spencer
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 367
Genre: Fiction

Material Things

BOOK BLURB:

Larry Spencer’s riveting, interlocking narratives circle the lives of Matthew Street, Jon Lewis and Christopher Styles, in a 1970s California backdrop that takes them from owning and operating a fashionable clothing boutique into the gripping world of an FBI under cover operation, drug trafficking, prostitution and a nefarious criminal element, that brings to light a Mafia contract killer, who’s out to bump off a stoolie in their midst.

Material Things is based on true events surrounding the store that introduced bellbottom jeans to a hip Southern California crowd and how it became, not only a cottage industry but also an arena fraught with danger and moral strife that put the store and it’s owners under close scrutiny after an alarming number of felonious activities surface.

The climax is anything but conventional as Matthew, Jon and Christopher are confronted with a life threatening reality that they never imagined could happen just by selling bellbottom pants.

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Book Excerpt

It’s 1:15 a.m. in California, so you can bet this call was not a frivolous inquiry about the weather. It had to be serious, and Matthew was guessing this was one of those rare holy crap moments that jolt you out of your comfort zone. Someone had died. Someone he knew. Either in an awful twisted-like-an-accordion car wreck or a body was found in a shallow grave somewhere in the Mojave Desert. With his ear pressed to the receiver, Matthew waited with trepidation for the news—he was right on target, speculating death. Chris, his voice at a low pitch, tells him that their estranged friend and former business partner, Logan Alexander, shot himself in the head this last weekend.        

   “Accident?” Matthew asks.

Intentional. In his garage. In front of his car and the lawn mower,” he says. 

Spotlight – My Last Baggage Call

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About the Author

Glenn Powell

Sergeant First Class Glenn W. Powell (Retired) is a native of Toledo, Ohio. He enlisted into the United States Army in 1982 and retired in 2002. During his military career, he served as a heavy vehicle driver, a squad leader, and non-commissioned officer.

In September 1991, SFC Powell joined the George HW Bush White House as a chauffeur, and in 1992, was promoted to transportation coordinator for the white house Press Corps, serving in the Clinton Administration.

In December 1995, he assumed the duties of transportation supervisor for Air Force One.

In January 2001, during his service under President George W. Bush, SFC Powell was transferred to the White House Military Office, Customer Support and Organizational Development where he served as deputy director.

SFC Powell retired with distinction from the Military in 2002. He received numerous awards and decorations throughout his service, including the Legion of Merit Metal, Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the United States Army Achievement Medal with four oak leaf clusters. He received U.S. Service Ribbons for both domestic and overseas service.

Glenn and Ronda Holloway Powell have been married for 25 years, and have three sons, Darius, Warren, and Glenn, II. They reside in Virginia.

His latest book is My Last Baggage Call Aboard Air Force One: A Journey of Sacrifice, Service, Family and Friendship.

For more information, or to contact Glenn Powell regarding availability for speaking opportunities, please email him at glennwpowell@aol.com. Visit his website at: http://www.gwpowell.com

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About the Book:

Title: MY LAST BAGGAGE CALL ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE
Author: Glenn W. Powell
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 226
Genre: Memoir

My Last Baggage Call Aboard Air Force One

BOOK BLURB:

This exciting memoir chronicles the life and memories of SFC Glenn Powell, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army, and 10-year veteran of the White House where he served under Presidents George HW Bush, President William J. Clinton, and President George W. Bush.

SFC Powell was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. He says his real-life journey began in 1982 when he bypassed his high school graduation to join the U.S. Army. That journey would take him from Fort Dix, New Jersey, to Manheim, Germany where he met Ronda Holloway, a young, beautiful soldier and fellow Ohioan, who has been his wife and soulmate for 25 years.

Powell’s poignant and inspiring story includes both, his own memories, and memories from some 50 white house colleagues, family members and lifelong military buddies who enriched his life, and made an indelible impact on his journey. SFC Powell’s story is that of a restless young man who grew up in a working-class environment with ample opportunities to journey down the wrong path. Yet, thanks to his childhood village –the many role models whose lives exemplified the best in American values—made all the difference in his journey.

Except for that “village,” of his childhood, Glenn believes his story might have had a different ending. The hardworking citizens living purpose-filled lives, served as a buffer against the discontent and civil unrest plaguing the rest of world. The centerpiece of that village, Glenn says, was his parents who, while they never lived under one roof, both loved him unconditionally.

Margaret Powell was a young single working mother, and a constant reminder of the importance of working toward excellence at one’s chosen career. She would become Kroger Stores’ first African American manager. His father, a prominent entrepreneur in the Toledo area, would remain a constant in Glenn’s life until the end.

Glenn says these lessons sustained him throughout his journey – from the pampered child, to the responsible teen, to the ambitious young soldier, to the doting husband and father; and the loyal and “never say never” Sergeant and aide to the President of the United States of America.

My Last Baggage Call Aboard AF1” chronicles a most amazing journey that magically transformed Glenn Powell’s life, and so richly impacted those who knew him.

Glenn W. Powell was a featured speaker on The Christian Authors on Tour TV Show. Hosted by Leroy Mckenzie Jr. and Lynn Pinder. Watch the CAOT TV replay of the interview: https://youtu.be/1OfUReG_VAk

Purchase My Last Baggage Call Aboard Air Force One by Glenn W. Powell

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https://www.amazon.com/Last-Baggage-Call-Aboard-Force/dp/1986878406

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https://www.amazon.com/LAST-BAGGAGE-CALL-ABOARD-FORCE-ebook/dp/B078KQ9Z89

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Book Excerpt

A Soldier’s Story 

Shortly after I turned 18, I enlisted in the army. Around that time, I learned that the young woman I’d been dating was pregnant, so going into the army would be an opportunity to provide for my child. The army sent me to Fort Dix in New Jersey for boot camp training on April 22, 1982. It was the perfect enlistment site for me.

Because of the popular television show, Dallas, I had in mind that I wanted to go to Fort Hood, Texas and meet JR Ewing. Not only did I meet Larry Hagman, the actor who played JR, but I also met the entire cast at one of the big Dallas malls. That was in the 80s when the networks spent money to have cast members show up to greet their fans, and when fans could easily get a photo with the stars. Meeting JR had been on my mental bucket list. Later I learned that “Klinger” from Mash and Danny Thomas were both from Toledo, and so I added them to the list.

In 1983, I re-enlisted and chose Hawaii as my next army stint. There for 18 months, I’m convinced that the Hawaii move helped me look long and hard at myself and my future. In Hawaii, I decided I needed to better myself. I enrolled at the Wahiawa Community School for Adults and got my high school diploma. My mother was so disappointed when I didn’t graduate from high school, so I did it as much for her as for myself.

My long transportation management career began in Wahiawa. I was one of a large number of applicants who applied for a temporary mission of driving for the Sergeant Major for the division. He was the senior enlisted man at the post. I beat out the other candidates for that position. Later, I drove for the one-star general at the post. After that, I returned to my unit and worked as the battalion mail clerk until he left in 1985. While there, I met friends and mentors who would help me decide on my career journey. That same year, I was asked to re-enlist, and First Sergeant Herbert Harris became a lifelong mentor and friend. Sergeant Harris recommended that I choose Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia for my re-enlistment. I remained at Fort Eustis from April 1985 until January 1988.

I became a squad leader, and for the next six months, I managed a squad of truck drivers in and around the base. After that, I was set on transportation becoming my specialty, but my career trajectory changed some when I was appointed to head up NCO Training, where I was responsible for the training of 270 soldiers.

Around this time, I met First Sergeant Fletcher Walker. He was sent in to straighten out our company, and he did just that. He would stand up at the top of the stairs with his hat covering his eyes, but looking down at us. Sergeant Walker was a ‘soldier among soldiers,’ an airborne paratrooper, a Vietnam Veteran who had been shot three times. There was no one more surprised when he chose me to run the training.

I knew he had high expectations, and I was determined not to disappoint him. He was the kind of leaders for whom soldiers would fight and die. He was a true hero who taught me how to be a soldier and a man. He shared a lot about life with me. I imitated him in many ways so much that everyone would call me “Baby Walker.” I met his family and it was an honor. He retired as a Command Sergeant Major.

Spotlight – A Broken Reality

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About the Author

Rob Kaufman

As a child, Rob Kaufman was always fascinated by the stories recited by those around him and the words used to tell them. As he got older, his need to tell his own stories grew, as did his ability to share them in exciting and captivating ways.

However, he wanted to share more than just stories. His primary desire was to create characters with whom people could relate, while at the same time bringing them through a journey from which most would crumble.

His degree in Psychology was the first step toward getting beneath the surface of the people in his life. What followed was a lifelong search for what makes people tick – what forces them to become evil when deep down in their heart of hearts, they are yearning for love. Rob’s characters walk this search with him, deep into the human psyche, creating psychological thrillers from every day events.

Rob’s second book “One Last Lie” continues to receive great praise and is selling well in both electronic and paperback formats. His current book, “A Broken Reality” is much darker than his first, with characters who hold bits and pieces of strangers he’s known, friends he’s had and personal tragedy he’s lived through.

“This book hits home for me,” says Rob. “There were a few pages that made me laugh out loud as I wrote them… and many that made me cry. And the great thing is, I’m finding that many readers of this book are experiencing the same emotions.”

Through social and other media, Rob hopes to get “A Broken Reality” into the hands of millions, so that they, too, can experience the ups, downs, twists, turns and final tragedy that has helped make this book a Five-Star contender.

Website Address: www.AuthorRobKaufman.com

Blog Address: http://authorrobkaufman.com/blog/

Twitter Address: @RobKaufmanCT

Facebook Addresshttps://www.facebook.com/AuthorRobKaufman/

About the Book:

Title: A BROKEN REALITY
Author: Rob Kaufman
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 320
Genre: Thriller/Suspense/Psychological Thriller
A Broken Reality

BOOK BLURB:

On a fateful night in the dead of winter, an unimaginable tragedy changes the lives of two families forever. How will they manage to deal with reality while stopping the sociopath who is pushing them toward the edge of sanity?

Ten-year-old, Danny Madsen, has been missing for four days when Jesse Carlton begins his own search for his godson on a frigid, snowy night. Driving along a deserted rural road, Jesse hits a stretch of black ice at the same time Danny appears from the thicket. Unable to control the car, Jesse slams into the boy and watches helplessly as Danny’s body flies back into the dark brush.

When Jesse regains consciousness, he has no recollection of how he and his car wound up in a ditch. However, there’s a witness: Charles Hastings, the sociopathic kidnapper who chased Danny through the brush and into the path of Jesse’s car.

Hastings takes this chance to set up Jesse so he’ll take the fall for both Danny’s disappearance and death. And so the mind games begin–an onslaught of psychological manipulation that devastates Jesse, his wife, Danny’s parents and the cops’ investigation. Inexplicably, the torment continues even after the primary suspect is killed and the rollercoaster of emotions and confusion seems never-ending until the final and devastating truth is revealed.

If you like gripping, suspenseful page-turners that keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end, this is a must read!

Link to book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Broken-Reality-Rob-Kaufman-ebook/dp/B07HRYRSBP/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1538875993&sr=8-1&keywords=a+broken+reality+kaufman

Link to book on B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-broken-reality-robert-kaufman/1129769311?ean=2940156129126

Book Excerpt:

Danny Madsen had been missing for four days, and hope was fading faster than the weak sunlight giving in to the cold night ahead. Worse, there’d been intermittent periods of snow and sleet throughout the day, creating slick surfaces on unlit county roads and leaving behind asphalt without traction or boundaries.

Like every other evening since the boy’s disappearance, the approaching dusk put a damper on the search effort. Each was another day past the critical “48-hour window,” another night for Jesse Carlton to fight back tears of frustration as he crawled the icy streets of Hingham, Massachusetts in his silver BMW, looking for the ten-year-old boy the Amber Alert described over and over as white with blond hair and blue eyes, weighing fifty-six pounds and standing about four feet six inches. When last seen, they’d always add, he was wearing a bright blue North Face coat, blue corduroy pants, Nike sneakers and a backpack with the name “Danny” stitched into the left shoulder strap.

Danny’s description echoed in Jesse’s head as he made the right off of Main Avenue onto Forest, which passed the hundred or so square acres of conservation land. He didn’t need the Amber Alert to picture Danny. He’d recognize him the instant he saw him since he’d known the boy from the day he was born. Jesse had long been best friends with his parents, Becky and Don, and Danny had become the son Jesse and Melissa tried and tried for but could never have. They’d become so close to the Madsens, in fact, that they’d purchased a home up the block from them, sight unseen, when Becky and Don told them it had come on the market. It was apparent to all of them that the less distance between the families, the more fulfilled their lives would be.

It was this honorary parenting of Becky and Don’s only child that had Jesse driving the streets and highways in and outside of every neighboring town for the past four nights—pursuing leads he’d overheard cops discussing at the Madsen home, following up on hunches he’d get after scouring the Internet for clues from past abductions. Each evening as he began his search, Jesse prayed he’d be the one to bring Danny home safe, sound and emotionally intact.

Jesse knew his nightly searches were pointless, but he could no longer bear pacing the floor at home or sitting in the Madsen’s cop-filled living room waiting for another bullshit tip, another clue that led nowhere but deeper into heartache. Melissa spent her nights comforting Becky while Don worked with the police to pursue every potential lead. Jesse’s need to do something, anything, forced him into his car each night with dissipating hopes and, by the way things had been going recently, unrealistic dreams.

The last person to see Danny was the school bus driver who watched him jump down the vehicle’s steps four days earlier, just three blocks from Don and Becky’s. And that clue was as solid—and as clear—as mud.

Jesse turned off the radio and clicked on the high beams. The pavement was pure white from the newly fallen snow, and there wasn’t another car anywhere to be seen. In front of him was blackness; behind him was blackness; on each side, nothing but blackness. How did he expect to see anything out here, let alone find a scared and freezing kid? He didn’t know, but it didn’t matter. This was the only action he could take that made him feel like he was actually doing something to help.

The yellow light poles every 300 feet or so did nothing but offer a blurry glow that barely reached the road. And now that a smattering of snow had started again, the soft crunch of flakes beneath the tires filled the silence with an eeriness that sent a strange tingle sliding up Jesse’s neck.

On either side of Forest Avenue lay the Terrence Ford Conservation Land, acres and acres of brush, swamp and trees with a few neighborhoods dotting the outskirts. Since the homes were hidden behind the dense thicket and prodigious pines, they were usually invisible to Forest Avenue drivers. Tonight though, even in the deep blackness of this night, he could see their pinpricks of homey yellow light, which, like the rickety poles lining the road, was nothing he could see by.

As he passed the two-mile marker, his phone rang, jolting him from his concentration. The display on the dash showed Melissa’s cell. He took a calming breath and pressed the button on the steering wheel. “Hey, babe.”

“Where are you?” Melissa sounded almost panicked, her voice trembling.

“What’s wrong? What happened? Where are you?”

“I’m at Becky and Don’s. They just got a call from Agent Rivera…hold on.”

He tried to be patient, but after a few more seconds of muffled voices he couldn’t hold back. “Missy!” he yelled and banged his fists on the steering wheel. “For Christ’s sake, what did Rivera say?”

“Sorry, Jesse. I’m just getting more details.” The muffled voices he’d first heard faded away as though she was moving into another room. “Someone just called the hotline from somewhere out in Hingham. It was an older woman who lives—”

Jesse felt like his heart skipped a beat. “I’m in Hingham! Where in Hingham, Missy? Where?”

“Oh my God, Jesse. Wait, I wrote it down.” His pulse pounded against the side of his neck as he waited for the crumpling of paper to stop and her words to start again. “Okay, the woman lives on Tower Road off Route 228, on the east side of that conservation area.”

He brought up the GPS and frantically searched for 228. “I’m like five minutes from 228—five minutes. I’m literally on the other side of the woods.” His voice was shaky. “I’ll put Tower Road in the GPS.”

 “She says she saw a boy fitting Danny’s description running past her house a couple of hours ago. She didn’t call right away because she wasn’t sure.”

Jesse let out a shout of frustration. His shallow breaths quivered in his throat. “Shit, it’s starting to sleet,” he said. “I’m on Forest right now. It runs parallel to Route 228. I’ll turn around and work my way toward Tower to see if I can meet up with one of the units.”

“Jesse, please be careful. I don’t want you getting stuck in the middle of nowhere.”

“This isn’t nowhere, Missy—it’s Hingham,” he said with a sigh, knowing there was nothing he could say to help quell her anxiety. She was a worrier, plain and simple. It was something he’d become accustomed to and had learned to be patient with, but tonight his nerves were too raw, his patience too thin.

“Jesse, sleet means ice. Ice means slippery. Slippery means…”

Missy,” he snapped. He bit his lip and took another breath. “I’m going to turn around and head back toward 228.” He gazed into the darkness to his right, wishing there was a road that cut through the conservation area. “Once I get there, I’ll give you a call. Until then, sit tight. This could be the break we’ve been hoping for.”

“Oh God, Jesse. I hope so. Please be careful. I’ll wait for your call. I love you.”

“I love you, Babe,” he replied, making sure to sound as composed as possible as he disconnected.

Jesse was once again alone, the soft muffle of the car engine filling the otherwise empty silence. Keeping safety in mind despite his own anxiety to find the boy safe, he made a careful K-turn in the middle of Forest Avenue. The tires slipped a bit on the icy road, so he let up on the pedal allowing the car to straighten itself out. When he faced south, he stepped on the gas again and drove as fast as he could without completely losing traction.

Jesse could see the lights of Hanover Mall through the melting snow on the windshield. The liquid dripping down the glass made it look as though the lights were dancing, shimmying back and forth to the steady beat of the tires crunching the ice beneath him. He glanced at the speedometer: 25 mph. If he could keep up this speed, he’d be back at the intersection of Forest and Main within four minutes.

A faint smile crossed his lips as he remembered finding Danny’s favorite Spider-Man action figure in the back seat earlier that week; Danny must’ve dropped it the day Jesse helped out Don and Becky by picking him up from rehearsal for his school’s play. The toy had been right in the middle of the seat, and he wondered if he could reach it—maybe it would change his luck, somehow attract Danny to him.

Jesse reached back, fumbling around, trying to reach Spidey. Nothing. He leaned further and slid his open palm along the seat. Still nothing. Angling backward as far as he could, he patted the floor mat behind him in hopes that the figure had slid during a turn.

No luck.

A quick glance showed the tiny superhero jammed into the corner of the back seat. Spider-Man was tonight’s lucky charm; the idea felt right, and it would help him find Danny. It was a superstitious and even desperate move, but doing things by the book had so far turned up nothing.

“Gotcha!” he cheered when he snagged the action figure’s foot. He turned back toward the road to see a black figure stumbling out from the brush in front of him. In less than a second, the headlights shown on the figure’s face—it was Danny.

Horror seized Jesse by the throat and he gasped as he slammed on the brakes. The car went into an immediate spin, flying directly at Danny whose eyes went wide in the headlights. Jesse felt a thud against the back panel of the car. He screamed, the view from every window only blurred streaks of light. He tried to focus, to spot Danny somewhere in the whirl of his surroundings. But the boy was gone. He screamed again, his cry now muffled by the airbag exploding against his face. He squeezed his eyes shut, feeling the BMW skid off the side of the road and nose-dive into a shallow ditch filled with snow.

As the car lay on its side, ruined engine still ticking, Jesse could barely hang on to consciousness. Images and sounds swirled through his head: the screech of metal dragging along the pavement, Danny’s face hitting the window, the sickening thump as the car smashed sideways into the little boy’s body.

“It didn’t happen,” Jesse whispered. “This is a dream,” he panted. “Just a dream.” He repeated the words again and again until the weight of his eyelids became unbearable and he closed his eyes, allowing the sound of his sobbing to lead him gently into his own personal darkness.

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