Gemini, Part 2, by Chris Finora

#amwriting #credit #shortstories #stories #Virtual reality #VR #writing

“It’s Amanda Styles calling from accounting.”  “Yes?” I replied reluctantly. “I’d like to talk to you about some inconsistencies that have been flagged on a few of your transactions if you have the time.” A few inconsistencies on our transactions?  What was she talking about? All of our transactions were monitored and verified through Skycap. “Now’s not the best time, Amanda. If it’s pressing could I call you back in about fifteen minutes?” Fifteen minutes should be enough time to run a query on all of our accounts and their recent activity and transactions.  I didn’t wait for Amanda to reply, I needed to move now. As I went to hang up the phone the last thing I heard from Amanda was a plea, “…I just need two bits of information.”

I launched my query and let it start to hunt on its own.  I looked at Jim. He was deep into Skycap, but I couldn’t see where he was or what he was doing.  I knew that I needed to start poking around the Barber Shop. I clicked back on the icon and opened it up.  There was the pole and the sign in the window but now there was something new. A mailbox was now hanging next to the door with an envelope poking out of the top of it.  I clicked on the envelope. “Please Enter Password,” it prompted. Password? What fucking password? As I stared at the screen contemplating my next move the letter suddenly vanished.  I quickly tapped the mailbox. Nothing happened. I tried again and nothing. I looked over at Jim who was now standing up with his jacket on and was packing up his briefcase. After stuffing some folders inside he fired in his box of tic-tacs, clipped the flap shut, and walked off.  As with every absent minded techno-flunky, Jim had walked away without locking his computer. I shuffled over and sat down at this terminal. I wasn’t worried about the optics as I’d spent countless hours on Jim’s machine installing Skycap. On the menu bar was an icon of a wooden log.  I clicked on it, opening up a new screen that gave me access to Jim’s Skycap data-“log” and history. At the bottom of the heaping pile of code was the final line “@#type-cast/open,mailbox^letter-true,open-true,content-false”. Like a scalpel, I used my mouse to highlight the last word “false” and typed “true” over it and hit enter.  Bang! The letter flashed instantly onto Jim’s screen. It read simply, “It’s time for a shave and a haircut, six bits. Meet me at the same place. AA.” 

I looked at the odd message and I immediately started recognizing some of the recent and familiar artifacts of the seemingly random.  The riddle that troubled Jim so much, “What do you call a barber that will only shave his patrons but not himself?”. Jim’s admission that “all I need is this AA meeting”.  Even Amanda’s desperate plea as I hung up on her that she just needed “two ‘bits’ of information”. The pieces were all familiar but I couldn’t fit them together, except for one surety.  The “AA” meeting that Jim had referred to was clearly not the Alcoholic Anonymous gathering that I’d envisioned taking place in the basement of some nearby church. “AA” was Albert Andrews, but who the hell was Albert Andrews? A quick Google search confirmed that Albert Andrews was, in fact, a Jeopardy champion back in the inaugural NBC 1964 season.  He’d since passed, by way of a boating accident incidentally. In an attached photograph from his high school yearbook was a classmate’s inscription “the smartest guy in the room”. My mind was in fourth gear. “The Jeopardy champion isn’t the smartest guy in the room”. Those were Jim’s words. That’s when the red message started to flash. My query, which I’d forgotten about amongst the chaos, had ended.  What I saw excavated my soul.

Seven accounts had been snared in the net cast by my query.  I didn’t recognize any of the account numbers–they weren’t the accounts of our largest customers.  Those I could recite from memory. I punched in the first 5-digit number on the list. “Firemetrix”, located in Waltham, Massachusetts.  I didn’t recognize Firemetrix nor did I recognize the name of the registrant. Amy Matheson. I quickly pulled up the other six accounts.  It was the same thing. I recognized neither the firm name nor the registrant. I did recognize one unique detail consistent across each account.  They all showed a net credit. That was odd for clients that are consumers of our products and services, as they paid for those purchases through their account.  There should have been a consistent stream of both debits and credits. A summary of the account’s activity showed a disturbing trend. Within each account there were a series of transactions that were initiated by the client and then, around four hours later, reversed by Jim.  That explained why no money had been transferred into the accounts, as there were no funds to settle because Jim’s reversals were done at the same prices. I was puzzled. How did these accounts find their way into credit situations, and what was Jim up to?

The answer to the former question was easier to find than the latter.  Rather easily I discovered that the “take-on” transaction that each account initiated was effected in a foreign currency and then settled back in US dollars.  The reported prices are down to 2 decimals, though the foreign exchange conversion is calculated out to four decimals. The curious discovery was that the actual funds were being settled to six decimals, outside of the reported prices in Skycap and our firm’s official ledger.  When I dug further, I noticed that the currency rates on the take-on and take-off trades were different out to the sixth decimal with the money always in the favor of the client. The lightbulb of recognition suddenly flashed in my head. The nickname that I gave decimal places when I created Skycap was “bits.”  Six bits! I immediately recalled the sign in the Barber Shop window: “What do you call a barber that can shave his customers but not himself?” Of course! The barber was obviously Jim. Then I remembered the message in the mailbox, “it’s time for a shave and a haircut, six bits”.  

The size of the credit associated with a six-bit differential on the foreign exchange on one transaction was small, almost de minimis.  It was certainly not grand enough to attract attention from Audit & Control (A&C). However, over multiple transactions and many months, the credits swelled handsomely until, about once a quarter, the money was withdrawn from the account.  The quiet cycle of accumulation and withdraw would register as “normal course activity” under any of A&C’s sniffing software. This “grow-and-harvest” behavior was consistent across each account. Also consistent was that the account’s registrant would always perform the withdrawal.  I was puzzled. Who were these registrants and exactly what web of people was Jim evidently syphoning money into and why? This behavior didn’t fit Jim’s MO. There had to be more to the story. Evidently, there was.

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The Crystal Dragon, Part 11: Train Station, by Edward King

#adventure #china #short stories #stories There are many thieves in the train but I am not a thief.

There are always many trains coming and going, and many people, and much hustle and bustle, and they use this to their advantage, as a distraction. And though my clothes are dirty and my beard is long, though my eyes are weary and my cap is worn, I am simply a traveler and I would never cause another person pain just for my own gain. I am a decent man.

It is summer now, and so the stations are more hot and dusty and chaotic. The cafes, once something of a refuge from the crowds, have been overrun—the tables are all full and even the spaces on the floor are taken, and I’ve heard that by the afternoon there isn’t any tea left at all; although this is hard for me to verify as I don’t touch the stuff.

Summer is also the time when I begin my travels in earnest. In June I will leave Xi’an and take a train to the coast, to Guangzhou where I once had relatives; but I have not been for a long time. I will look them up, I think, but I should not torture myself with old family history as they will want me to. Perhaps I will not look them up.

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The Rescue, Part Two, by David Nees

#action #fiction #post-apocalyptic #shortstories #stories This post contains some disturbing content.

The drinking started. The sounds of the people grew louder as more alcohol was drunk; pretty soon the scene became raucous and violent. Jason heard a number of women scream as the men roughly grabbed at them. The screams became a background noise to the overall din of the encampment. Through his glasses Jason spotted a tent at the edge of the yard, with men steadily going in and out. The noise continued well into the night until around midnight, when it started to gradually quiet down.

Over the next two hours Jason slowly, patiently, crawled through the grass in the field. The darkness helped to hide his trail of matted growth. But even so, he went slowly and carefully, not wanting to make his move until the group had drunk itself into sleep.

He aimed for the tent where he had seen the men going in and out, hoping that Judy might be there and hoping at the same time that she wasn’t. The reality, he guessed, was probably much worse. Even at 50 years of age, Judy was not an unattractive woman. And who knew what code of conduct, if any, ruled this group? Gangs like this acted worse than a pack of animals. They killed not only to survive, but for the joy of killing itself. The violence he had seen in the Miller’s house was the equivalent of what he had read about the medieval times.

They’re like the barbarians who brought down the Roman Empire, he thought. They imagined cruelty and violence towards the enemy was a virtue.

Jason reached the back of the tent and listened carefully for some time. The only sounds he heard were low moans and whimpers. Very slowly, he inserted his hunting knife into the back of the tent and cut a small opening. He put his eye to the slit and tried to see inside. In the darkness it was nearly impossible. He could make out one small figure to the side (Judy?) and another, larger figure lying opposite.

Jason slowly started to slice the tent open. His heart was racing and his breathing became ragged. Still working the knife, he buried his face in the crook of his arm to cover the sound of his breath.

Be calm. Breathe steady.

He repeated this mantra over and over in his mind. When he finished cutting the tent open, he slowly worked his way through the large hole.

As he was pulling himself through, Jason’s foot caught on the flap of material and he fell forward. The larger figure mumbled something as he started to wake up. Without hesitating, Jason thrust his body over the man, covered his mouth with one hand, and shoved his knife into the man’s neck with the other. He jerked and flopped instinctively, trying to get away from the attack. Jason worked the knife back and forth without taking it out of the man’s neck, slashing and cutting the life out of him. After a short struggle, a gurgling sound came out of the man and he went limp. Jason held on for a few more seconds before pulling back — he was dead. He turned quickly to other figure.

“Judy, is that you?” he whispered.

“Jason?” came her weak reply.

“Shh,” he said as he went over to her, listening for sounds outside of the tent. All was quiet. Judy had a blanket thrown over her; underneath she was naked and bound.

“Jason,” she whispered, “they, they … raped me.”

“Don’t talk. I’m getting you out of here,” he whispered.

He cut her bonds with his knife. He could feel the cuts and bruises on her wrists and ankles. He found a shirt which he put over her. Taking the blanket with them, he helped Judy crawl through the opening in the tent. Once outside, Jason had Judy lie down on the blanket. Holding one end, he dragged her behind him as he crawled back along his path. This time he went faster and with less caution, taking the chance that everyone was asleep. Upon reaching the tree line, Jason wrapped Judy in the blanket and picked her up in his arms.

“Hold on, it’ll be a bumpy trip. I’ve got to get us away from here as fast as possible.”

“They hurt me,” Judy said. “Over and over, they wouldn’t stop.”

Then she started moaning. Jason gritted his teeth against her sounds of pain and set out for safety.

It was hard going in spite of Judy not being very big. Jason drove himself on and on, stopping only to adjust how he carried Judy: in his arms; piggy back style; over his shoulders. But always he kept moving — whether at a walk, a shuffle, or a slow jog, he would not stop.

Two hours passed before he arrived at their farm house. He laid Judy down gently in the yard and went into the barn to retrieve a two-wheeled cart he had seen. Next he ran into the house and collected pillows and blankets. He made a padded bed in the cart and lay Judy down inside.

Jason knew she had been bleeding as he carried her, so he gently put a pillow between her legs. He told her to push it up tight to stem the bleeding. Judy was so weak that Jason had to help her. Apologizing for the bumpiness, Jason told her he was going to take her to his camp where the gang would not be able to find them.

“I’ll keep you safe, Judy. They won’t hurt you again.”

“Sam?” she said. “They shot him over and over. They laughed and shot him, again and again.”

Then she collapsed in the cart. Jason set out, running now, towing the cart behind him. He left muddy footprints on the road, but he didn’t care.

I hope they come after me, he thought, grimly.

His mind was getting darker as he ran on, hearing Judy’s moaning in the cart, knowing she was getting weaker and weaker. He imagined them howling after him in a blood lust, just as he imagined him exacting his revenge on them.

He turned up the old logging trail bark road, running, shuffling, stumbling — not stopping. As the grade became steeper his legs got heavier, but he kept going. It was like the worst army training run he had ever experienced. His lungs were on fire; his breath came in ragged gasps and still he went on, even at a shuffle. He couldn’t stop until he got to his camp and tended to Judy. Her soft cries drove him on and on.

At last he arrived. The camp was on top of a steep bank that had been created a century or so ago, when a flat area or “bench” was cut into the hillside to make the shelf for the road bed.

Jason laid Judy down on the blankets from the cart. As he grabbed her, he felt how wet the pillow was from her blood. He wrapped her in the extra blankets she had given him only that morning. Their worlds had disintegrated since that bittersweet goodbye. He roused Judy enough to get her to drink some water.

“Don’t let me go,” she pleaded. “Hold me.”

He took her in his arms, keeping her wrapped tight in the blankets.

“They hurt me deep inside,” she mumbled. “I’m hurt bad.”

“You’ll be all right,” he said. “I’ll take care of you.”

“I’m cold,” she said softly. She was shivering. Jason pulled his extra parka out of his pack with one hand and draped it over her while he kept her held tight in his arms. Gently he rocked back and forth. The shivering went away and she seemed to relax more.

“Don’t leave me up here in the hills … for the animals.” He could barely hear her voice.

“I won’t leave you. You’ll be okay, you’re going to be okay,” he said, he hoped with conviction. “I’ll take care of you.”

“Sam … Sam,” she said. “Why did they have to keep shooting Sam?”

Jason just kept rocking her gently. Judy slipped into unconsciousness. He kept holding her and rocking her for the next two hours as her life slowly slipped away.

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Bacchanalia by E. Young

#bacchanalia #fantasy #haints #shortstories #stories #witchcraft The Magician knew his time was drawing close. For months he had regaled the small bayou town with sleight-of-hand tricks, parlor games, and the odd séance.

But wherever there was people, there was superstition. And like all things children can’t understand, they began to conjure up haints and witches in their heads. They pointed their fingers at him for their nightmares; fair enough, he was an easy target.

The final straw was the Satanic accusations. After they had run through everything else, they accused him of cavorting with the Devil. For the record, he had not being trying to talk to the Old Fiend himself, just his helpers.

But that was all past. Now he was alone in his big, old estate on the water’s edge. He’d let his help go the other night. Despite their protestations of loyalty, he knew they were relieved.

The mob was coming. He knew that because a girl that was sweet on him tipped him off. He thanked her before he killed her, to use her blood for tonight’s concoction.

After each public witch trial, he’d had to give something away: trinkets, ingredients, spell books. Now all he had left were a couple of crystal balls he hardly ever used ‘cept to see out of, and his black cat familiar Michel.

He ran a finger under the cat’s chin while he ate a strip of catfish. One of the crystal balls glowed with the fire of torches, and the other shook with cries of outrage. The Magician rolled his eyes.

The mob was at his door already. He didn’t think they would knock, but he was still ticked when they crashed the door.

“Wizard!” bellowed a bearded old man that looked more “wizard” than the Magician himself. “Show yourself, devil!”

From the top of the stairs, the Magician leaned over the railing, Michel in tow.

“How can I help you fine gentlemen this evening?”

“Don’t play with us,” someone else hissed. “We mean to run you outta here!”

The stone-faced priest at the center of the crowd began muttering the Magician’s favorite church hymn, and when he began to sing along in his pleasing baritone, the crowd went off like a powder keg.

It’s hard to see from the ground with jostling bodies in furious motion, pulling fixtures from walls and snatching curtains down. Even innocent table chairs are chopped and well-stuffed chairs ripped apart and their guts strewn on the floor. Upstairs, the Magician ducks back into his boudoir like a coward. Some men chased him in there. The mob saw this and began to cheer loudly, but their hoorahs died down in the eerie silence behind the cracked door. What had happened? Where was the Magician’s head on a pike?

Then there was screaming, agonized screaming. At least two of the men staggered out clutching their heads and faces. They were splattered with too much blood and oil, and their flesh appeared to be melting. There was a loud whoosh that sounded like a bullwhip crack, and great long tentacles black like licorice whipped out from behind the doors, through the walls. Ten in all, with some flailing angrily and one snatched one of the men back and dragged him inside the boudoir kicking and screaming.

The Magician floated out like the blasphemous creature the town always knew he was, holding a fractured ball of quartz. The ball continued to crack with a childish twinkle like something out of a jewelry box. Upon reaching the center, the ball shattered and sent shards flying every which way in the room. The mob was broken up in a way mimicking the quartz shards, clutching their faces and heads and other soft tender parts that the haunted pieces were embedding themselves into. Faces and hands were cut to ribbons as the shards ricocheted off walls and went through the heavy drapery. The abomination in the bedroom was grabbing people up and shaking them like toys before a child throws them out the basket, dropping broken bodies with thousand-yard stares.The Magician watched the chaos for a while; people were so much like ants in the rain when they were hysterical-like, but not nearly as effective.

Michel pawed at his face.

“Oh! Time to go.”

The other ball he had reserved and now blew it away like sand in his palm. The particles clung to skin and fabric and ignited them in white smoke and blue flames. The Magician took his escape route through a tunnel in his bedroom that led to the undisturbed kitchen and out the back door into the swamps.

Poor Michel couldn’t swim, so the Magician carried him through miles of stinking, sludgy water riddled with alligators and probably more than a few forgotten bodies. But the water and wildlife parted at the Magician’s presence, so at least it was a dry trip. Once, he turned back to look at his former estate and seen the place gone up in a supernatural blaze. Love the place, not the people, he always said.

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B.G.G. by Hugh Centerville

#comedy #funny #Humor #shortstories #stories “Terrific! Super! Beautiful!”

The chief of detectives was euphoric, talking into the phone, and hanging up, he pulled a box of expensive cigars out of a drawer and presented the box to the seventy-something ex-detective across the desk from him.

“For me?” the detective, McGillicuddy said, taking the box.

“The reign of terror is over,” the chief said. “Think that’s not worth a box of cigars?”

Mac nodded, smiled.

“The big one confessed, said it was all on him,” the chief said. “He asked could we take it easy on the other two, since he bullied them into going along.”

“They’re as guilty as he is,” Mac said.

“You think so?”

“They maybe didn’t commit murder but they set the victims up for the big guy.”

“Well, I’d be a fool to argue with you, Mac, with what you’ve done for us, and I’m sorry for doubting you.”

“Oh, it’s OK,” Mac said. He removed the cellophane wrapper from the box, opened the lid, took out two cigars and passed one to the chief.

“To be honest, Mac,” the chief said, after they’d lit their cigars and were puffing contentedly, filling the office with blue smoke, “I didn’t bring you back expecting you’d solve the darn thing. I did it because I didn’t know what the hell else to do. With all the pressure I was getting from the tabloids and the city council and the mayor, I put everything I had into this one and with no resolution, until I recalled what Chief Brown said, when he retired and I stepped into his shoes, fifteen years ago.

“ ‘Whenever you’re stumped,’ Brown said, ‘when you don’t know where to turn, turn to McGillicuddy.”

The chief laughed. “The mayor was apoplectic when I brought you back. He asked how a fellow who couldn’t even use a cellphone was going to solve the worst crime spree this city has seen in years.” He laughed some more, enjoying himself immensely, and sucking on his cigar: “Maybe you can’t work a cellphone, Mac, but you damn sure know what to do with a tin can and a ball of string, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir, I suppose I do,” Mac said.

“When the mayor saw you unravelling your string and tying a tin can to the end, he got all snarky. He asked me was tin cans and string how my detectives communicated and maybe it was time for him to scrutinize my budget, since I obviously wasn’t using it to equip the department. You showed him, didn’t you, Mac?”

“Yes, sir, I guess I did.”

“You’re a genius, Mac.”

“A genius?” Mac said, and smiling: “Sometimes we just get lucky.”

“What the hell gave you the idea?”

“Oh, something I read a long time ago,” Mac said.

“How’d you know they’d be hiding in the park?”

“I just looked for the greenest grass.”

“But a tin can dragged at the end of a string, Mac?”

“They know better than to go after it,” Mac said. “They know it’s a trap but it’s something they can never resist.”

The phone rang, the chief picked up.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Mayor. He’s right here with me. Yes, sir, I’ll tell him, and thank you sir.”

The chief hung up.

“Can you picture yourself, Mac,” he said, grinning broadly, “wearing a sash and a derby and riding in the back seat of a convertible, awash in the accolades of a grateful city?”

“Sir?” Mac said.

“The mayor has nominated you for Troll of the Year.”

Humbled, Mac reached up and rubbed his horns vigorously, something all trolls did, when the elation got to be too much.


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Unfortunate Happenings by Angelica Garza

#families #fiction #sad #shortstories #siblings #stories #tragic Tobin remembered it all; remembered where he was when he got that life-changing call. It was one year ago today, June 12th. The time on the clock burned into his memory. It was something he would never forget. It changed his life; for the worse and forever. He had been through a lot but this probably topped it all.

He didn’t have many people in his life: a couple close buddies, and his little sister, Stevie. She was his everything, and Tobin had basically raised her from the time they were young. Tobin and Stevie had lost their parents when they were really little. He had done everything in his power to take care of her. They had moved in with their Aunt Deanna but God knows she didn’t actually take care of them. She was too busy out doing everything and everyone for her drugs and for her money.

Nonetheless, her house was still a roof over their heads and for that they were forever grateful. His dad was in the Army and lost his life in battle. Their mom, on the other hand, had actually left them right after Stevie was born. She claimed to their father that she couldn’t do this, to tell her children she loved them and left, and neither one of them had heard from her since then either.

Their dad was only on leave at home for a couple of weeks. He had to go back to Afghanistan. Their world had shattered that day. Their dad was the only one they had. Even though he had been away, they always knew he had them in his heart and always loved them. At this time they moved in with their grandparents, their father’s parents, until they were no longer able to take care of them and they moved into an assisted-living facility.

Their grandparents loved them dearly and did what they could to help them out. After them going to assisted living, that is when they moved into Deanna’s. They hated living with her. She didn’t have any respect for the fact they lived there with her. She had a new boyfriend living there every other week, just about. Or maybe it was a new drug dealer every week. Either way it was miserable, and always reeked of cigarettes.

Stevie always begged Tobin to leave there and try and find elsewhere to live. As bad as he wanted to as well, there was nowhere for them to live other than here until he finished saving up his money for them to move out. He often wondered where his mom was at; was she alive or dead? Did she ever think about them? He often thought about trying to connect with her online, maybe. Maybe she would see their pictures, and how well they were doing, and want to be back in their lives. That was a scary thought, though, so he always just brushed those thoughts away and never contacted her.

* * * *

June 12th, 2012, is when he got the call. Almost 11 years to the day they had lost their father. Stevie had plans on this Friday night: she was going to a concert with her boyfriend that night. She had driven so her boyfriend could drink at the show. Since Stevie had gone out, Tobin decided he was going to go out with his buddies too. He was chilling at his buddy’s house with his friends, having a few beers, when she called him to check in and tell him she was just dropping off her boyfriend. She’d be home in no more than a half hour or so. It was about 12:45 am. The show went later than he figured it would, so he was glad to hear from her; he had begun to worry about her, naturally. He told her to be careful and to let him know when she got home, that he’d be home a bit after her probably.

Two a.m. rolled around and Tobin hadn’t heard from her still and she still had not come home. Calling her cell phone did no good, as for some odd reason it was shut off. Tobin started freaking out. That was not like her; she always had her phone with her and never would ignore his calls. Maybe she had bad signal — that was what he tried convincing himself; that was what it had to be. She was fine.

At 2:29 a.m. he got the call. He broke down in tears and had to leave his friend’s house to go to the police station downtown.

“Who the fuck did this? I need to know. This is bullshit and someone needs to pay for this!”

Tobin stormed into the station, tears streaming down his face, screaming out of rage for his sister’s life.

“Mr. Gebhardt, can I please see you over here in my office?” asked Officer Lorenz.

“Are you sure it was her? She was fine, just fine. I just talked to her a couple hours ago, she had just been with her boyfriend, I think you have the wrong person, please. She’s fine right?”

“Sir, I need you to tell me what Stephanie left the house wearing tonight. Did you see her before she left this evening?”

“Her name is Stevie, she hates the name Stephanie, don’t call her that please.”

“Okay. I am sorry. What was Stevie wearing this evening? Any details you can volunteer would be great.”

“I don’t know for sure. I know she straightened her hair today. She went to a concert, so I’m guessing she had on her combat boots and skinny black jeans. Maybe a t-shirt and her leather jacket? I can’t tell you for sure. She went to work this morning as I was waking up so I didn’t really pay much attention. Where is she now? I need to tell her I love her. She’s my baby sister, she’s all I have.”

“Tobin, I need you to please just communicate with me and help me out here, okay? This is the 4th shooting in a matter of 10 days and we need to get to the bottom of this. We need to know who is doing these shootings and why they are. Now, Stevie does not have any affiliation with any gang members or anyone, did she?”

“Are you kidding me? Hell no, she is the furthest thing from that. She is a good woman. She works and goes to school every day. And sees her boyfriend on the weekends, but she is not in any gangs or associates with anyone who is in one for that matter.”

“Okay, I just needed to make sure. I’m not trying to offend you or Stevie. But no one had it out for her? No one she was fighting with or anything?”

“Absolutely not. She had her select friends she hung out with, and they love her dearly. She may have grown apart from them since she is busy with work and school but she isn’t someone who starts shit with anyone. She didn’t deserve this. She is okay though, right? I need to know.”

“Mr. Gebhardt, I am afraid she did not make it. Stevie was found dead in her car. She was shot in the head. A car passing by saw her slouched on the wheel, pulled over to help her, and immediately called 911.”

Tobin broke down hysterically in tears and started sobbing. He started sobbing so hard he could not catch his breath. This was worse than losing his father, and worse than his mother leaving them. The two had gotten so close; they were together all the time and were inseparable. They were best friends.

They had so many memories together. You always hear about those brother and sisters who fight constantly or only get along sometimes. They were not that way at all. He remembered a handful of fights that they had. They had always gotten along. He wasn’t supposed to outlive his baby sister; they always had an agreement she was supposed to take care of him when he got old since he helped raise her. It was their inside joke, but in all reality this killed him.

She did not deserve to die so young. She was so full of life and had so much going for her. She was a good person and didn’t do stupid shit like most of the people her age. She always used her head, and said that she wanted to make her daddy proud. She was a daddy’s girl even though she was young when he passed. But she always loved her daddy.

* * * *

Tobin sat on the couch, dazing off into space, replaying the memory of this night in his head. Tears were rolling down his face. He couldn’t believe that it had been a year; each day dragged past him individually and yet, looking back, time had flown by. He didn’t miss her any less though; maybe just accepted it a little more. He still could not fathom that his baby sister’s life was taken so young and so brutally. His mind flashed back to that wretched night.

* * * *

“Tobin? Sir? I am horribly sorry; I hate to tell you such traumatic news. I know it is a lot to take in and it is never news I want to relay to anyone, ever, especially when it was a precious young woman’s life that was lost. We need your help though, along with the other victims’ families, and we can hopefully catch them. Whoever is doing these horrible acts.”

“I just … this is horrible. She can’t be gone. This is all a dream, right? A nightmare? I didn’t tell I loved her when we hung up the phone; we always do. But I didn’t this time. I thought I was seeing her shortly.”

“I am so sorry. I know she knew you loved her with your whole heart, as I’m sure she loved you just the same. It is unfair that such bad things happen in this world. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Yes. Bring my sister back. This is unreal, Officer Lorenz. I can’t swallow this. I need my sister, where is she?”

“Tobin, she is not here and this is not a dream or a joke, sadly. Can I ask you a couple more questions, though? We will get to the bottom of this and figure out who did this to her, okay?”

* * * *

Tobin just sat lifelessly on the couch. Missing Stevie’s laugh, missing her being there, and picking on him and annoying him like little sisters did. He knew he needed to stop replaying the scene in his head before he wasted the whole day away. Alex was coming home and they were going to dinner. She told him she would be home around four o’clock or so.

Alexis was Tobin’s girlfriend. She knew about Stevie and knew about his whole situation; about losing his dad and his mom leaving them. She was very aware of how close he had been to Stevie. He felt paralyzed; he could not move. Should the loss of his sister be affecting him so much still? He tried justifying it by saying it was the anniversary of her death, and it was only just a year.

He still remembered that night like it was yesterday. He felt as though he had no one when it all happened. His whole world came crashing down on him that night. Tobin was excited to see Alex, though; he hoped she would cheer him up, as he was sure she would. He was madly in love with her, and didn’t know what he would do without her.

She had come into his life about 6 months ago, when they started dating. He had met her through his buddy Drew, who knew him well — knew he needed someone. Alexis was a beautiful woman, inside and out. She was 2 years younger than him and she was just finishing nursing school. She was a good person; he still didn’t know how he got so lucky to have such an amazing girlfriend. She supported him and helped him through anything that came his way, as he did for her as much as possible. They had moved in together and had gotten an apartment in the city.

A skyscraper apartment building off of Madison in downtown Chicago is where they moved. The view was absolutely spectacular; he sat on his balcony every night that he could and enjoyed the view, and had a few drinks. He knew his father would be proud of him for where he was now, and that’s what mattered.

He had become a police officer, and did so with intentions of making his little sister and father proud. He wore his badge with honor, wore it to protect other families from going through the heartache he had experienced from losing loved ones. That was the only thing that gave him peace of mind, knowing he was helping others. No one should have to go through the hell he went through losing Stevie, and he wanted to make sure no one else did, or as little as possible.

Being a police officer in Chicago was hard, very hard, and dangerous at that. But Tobin would not change his job for anything. He had always dreamed of being a police officer, but never in downtown Chicago. He loved his job, though. Loved his family, his girlfriend, and his city, even though it took his sister away from him.

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The Library of Thoth, part 4

#adventure #fantasy #literature #shortstories #stories #zombies


(Read part 3 here!)

Finding myself with no other choice, I left left the Old Man, of whose name I was even uncertain, to his fate, and endeavored back to the Beach to save what I could of the Books.

By the time I reached the sands of the beach, the dark waters already stretched quite some seventeen Yards inland from the site of the wretched ship; and thus I was obliged to wade that distance and later swim to reach the rigging of the ship.

However, when I was halfway up the rigging, I perceived that the ship had called more of those beastly Things from the water; as I had feared, destroying its bodily Crew did not dispel its curse. There now stood one of their number brandishing a most fearsome Cutlass high upon the Deck.

Another stood beside him, dropping a collection of Bombs into the water at my feet, which exploded in torrents of water.

However, I had still my own cutlass tied to its faithful Rope, and this I swung with the utmost compass of my strength at the Fiends above. This succeeded in disarming the cutlass-holding Pirate (the arm, still gripping its weapon, fell into the water like a seagull shot through with a musket ball), and quite Maiming the fellow with the Bombs.

I bethought myself of the destruction that had been wrought by my carelessness—when I brought the multitude of foul Fiends upon Thoth.

Conscious of the redemption I could bring by salvaging the treasure underneath my feet—saving what was left of Thoth—my heart was filled with a passion as if drug from the ocean’s deep.

I finished my climb up the rigging to find myself confronted with more of those foul beasts, brandishing all kinds of makeshift weapons: fearsome Meat Knives, weighty Clubs, rusty Cutlasses. But this wasn’t the time for fear.

I fought valiantly. My cutlass flew like a bird around the deck. It alit first on one fiend, splitting his skull like a crisp Tomato, and then made its purchase on a next and lodged in his Breast. I yanked the blade away and a strange kind of Blood, grey and Translucent, erupted from the wound.

However, the waters still surged underneath the ship, and presently they began to flood the deck upon which I stood. Thinking of the remaining portion of the Library, I dove into the space below the stairs to salvage what I could of the Books.

I swam down those wretched stairs and through the ship’s Corridors until I reached the submerged galley. The green and brackish Water was filled with torn and floating Pages. Some leather Volumes floated in the murk. I fetched one from the water and opened it; I found its pages only filled with Mush. I tried another book, and the contents were the same. I felt as if that pulp, which had once held the writings of a Civilization, was like my own soul: all the teachings once inscribed upon it had been mashed up by cowardice and greed.

I probably would have carried on my futile search until my lungs were filled with black sea, had not I felt a hand upon my shoulder then. I turned to see a billowing white Cloud, and I thought it was some vengeful Angel come to cast me into the deep. But it swirled away to reveal a Face, and I saw that it was merely a Beard. It was the old man from the cliff, come to rescue me!

He pulled me up with a strength unbefitting such an ancient creature. Finally divested of even the will to sacrifice myself, I ended my struggle and let him pull me from the ship.


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L.A. Fadeaway, Part 3 by Alex Kugelman

#fiction #gangster #kanye #scorsese #shortstories #stories #wealth kanye2

by Alex Kugelman

Go back to part 2 / part 1.

“Malibu is only fifty minutes from here, do you mind if we go say hi to another friend?” Eli said, sitting beside me in the Maserati.

I didn’t even move my head; I could have said anything and it wouldn’t have mattered.

After stopping in Malibu, Beverly Hills, Los Feliz and a quick drop off in Calabasas we were finally back at 1264 Coldwater Canyon Road. I lay down in my new room and listened to my heart race against the pressed linen sheets. As casual a day it was, it was still extremely illegal, easily the most illegal thing I have ever done. Eli woke me up at 11 PM and told me that we were going out. I told him that my internship started the next day and he just laughed and threw me a Hugo Boss button down shirt to wear.

“Have you heard of Kanye West?” Eli asked me as we raced down the Hollywood hills in a white Mercedes convertible. I was from Albany not Lithuania, of course I’ve heard of Kanye West.

“A buddy of mine DJ’s for him. We’re gonna go to his house is that cool?” Yeah, it was really cool, way cooler than any social gathering I’d ever been to, but I had my first day of work the next morning.

“Eli, that sounds awesome, but I have to be at work tomorrow for my first day at 7—”

“I thought you said it was an Internship?”

“Yea well technically it’s an interns—”

“Okay then you’re fine, no one gives a shit about internships here, it doesn’t matter.”

We drove in silence for 45 minutes until we reached the castle on the beach. Every partygoer was either a supermodel, or a DJ or knew a supermodel or was dating a DJ. People looked at me differently that night than they did that day. It’s amazing how powerful of an impression a Hugo Boss shirt can have on people.

After six glasses of champagne and twelve meaningless conversations I found myself alone again. Eli was nowhere to be found. I wandered out to a marble deck that overlooked Kanye West’s DJ’s private beach and noticed a girl smoking a cigarette and staring into her phone. She looked up from her phone briefly and our eyes met for a quick second. At first she pretended like nothing happened and then she approached me and silently offered me a drag of her cigarette. I didn’t smoke but I also didn’t want to seem rude so I took the drag and tried to hide the emerging cough building in my chest, but it was impossible. I coughed up a lung as this girl watched in pleasure and laughed at my pain and even took a video of me coughing on her phone. Eli would have been mortified.

“Sorry, that was too good.”She laughed again as I continued to cough.

The mystery girl asked me how old I was and I froze. She would never believe me if I said 21 but I couldn’t tell her I was 17, I decided on 19.

“Nineteen,” I proudly boasted as any 19 year old wouldn’t do. The girl smiled at my eagerness and wandered off back into the party.

I woke up to Eli shaking me in a Malibu guesthouse bathroom. The night had been in a blur and I apparently puked on a $4,000 leather chair. It was 1PM and I was already four hours late to my first day of my internship. A sense of urgency rushed over me and I begged Eli to take me back to LA as soon as possible.

“For what? Oh, you had the mentorship thing today.” Eli casually dismissed my anxiety and assured me everything would be fine, we just had to make a quick stop at a couple of friends’ houses.

We drove all over Los Angeles county that day making drop offs, like the day before and Eli told me that he could make $100,000 in two weeks doing drop offs. The idea of someone that young with that much money gave me butterflies. It seemed unnatural and almost impossible to me, yet Eli was living and breathing proof of my doubts. People treated him like he was a 50-year-old man; he had wisdom, and lots of friends and apparently lots of money.

Doing drop offs with Eli gave me a sense of excitement. I felt important for once, and people began to treat me like they treated Eli. At a pool party in Venice on a Tuesday afternoon I got an email from my internship advisor asking me why I never showed up. I never responded to the email, I was busy, I was playing flip cup with Scandinavian super models.

After riding around with Eli for three weeks he decided that I was ready to make my own drop offs. I never asked him to get involved. He assumed I wanted a bigger piece of the action and he wasn’t necessarily wrong.

“Okay, so just these five places today, they all know you’re the new guy so don’t be intimidated. And if anyone gives you trouble or anything like that just tell them you’re with me and text me.”

With Eli’s blessing I felt unstoppable. He gave me the keys to a brand new BMW 6 Series convertible and told me to be back at the house at nine. My first day at work was very casual; lots of poolside conversations with people who had everything yet did nothing. I made six thousand dollars in four hours, more than double the amount of cash I got for my bar mitzvah and I worked 13 years for that. Six thousand dollars to me was like six hundred thousand dollars. I felt like a young gun. I felt like Eli.

Eli was very satisfied with my performance that first day. He let me keep all the money and said I deserved it. To celebrate we went to Gjelina, apparently the nicest restaurant in Los Angeles, and ate dinner next to Martin Scorsese. Eli was never giddy, he was always calm, especially around famous people, but at dinner he was like a little boy.

“That’s the master of cinema we’re sitting next to. Have you ever seen Goodfellas?”

I shook my head no, even though I realized it would have pleased Eli to say yes, and Eli went on a five-minute rant about why it was the best movie ever made. Mr. Scorsese must have heard a bit of the conversation because he looked over at Eli and Me and smiled as Eli impersonated Joe Pesci. The smile from Scorsese set Eli off and made him look like a little boy on Christmas morning.


A month and a half into working for Eli he told me that we were going to take a little trip to meet the man who runs his operation. I figured Eli was in charge and was very interested to meet the man he answered to. On a Wednesday afternoon a silver Bentley picked up Eli and me from 1264 Coldwater Canyon Road and drove us to a private terminal at LAX.

“Once you fly private you can never go back to commercial.”

Eli smiled and winked at me and we loaded on to a small private jet that we had all to ourselves. He drank gin and tonics on the flight and read Variety while I watched the clouds.

To be continued. Like this story?


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