books, Cereal Authors, Fiction, Karen Vaughan, Mystery, review

A LOOK AT LEFT FOR DEAD BY KAREN VAUGHAN-ONCE A CORPSE MAGNET ALWAYS A CORPSE MAGNET

Left for dead 2 for Amazon  Things are really starting to heat up in the Fitz family. Gerry’s cousin, and best buddy is left for dead after a beating. When the thugs responsible find out he didn’t die, the game is on to keep Pete safe until he has to testify. After finding a body on a mountain trail in cottage country Laura helps a local police officer solve the crime while waiting for the birth of her first baby.

WHAT ONE READER SAYS ABOUT LEFT FOR DEAD

Left for Dead by Karen Vaughan, is witty and intelligently told mystery story. It’s the 6th in the Laura and Gerry mysteries series and a delightfully penned book.

It seems even pregnancy will not stop Laura Fitz from being a corpse magnet, as she stumbles yet again onto another dead body. While Laura is talking to the police, she receives a phone call from hubby. Apparently, Laura’s gift or curse for discovering the dead and becoming embroiled in the nasty affairs of the murder has rubbed off on to Gerry, for he has found his cousin near death.

The Fitz’s have once again become entangled in murder, mayhem, the lives of others along with the danger it entails. But, through it, all Laura remains her witty self. Gerry doesn’t fair as well as his love for Laura and their coming baby upset his judgment at times. After all, it is difficult to be objective when the life of one’s wife is on the line.

REVIEW FROM AMAZON BY MARTA MORAN BISHOP

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AVAILABLE AT AMAZON FOR $2.99

Cereal Authors, Character Quotes, Karen Vaughan, Mystery

AN EXCERPT FROM DAYTONA DEAD MEECHAM DECIDES TO GO STRAIGHT.

Front cover of daytona deadDAYTONA DEAD WAS ONE OF MY FAVE BOOKS TO WRITE –OK WHO AM I KIDDING THEY ALL WERE.  IN THIS EXCERPT CREEPY COP DAVE MEECHAM IS ON A MISSION TO GET THE 40’S CHEVY OWNED BY KILLER T FORD SPECIALLY CLEANED. HE TAKES HIS WIFE ANNABEL WITH HIM AND THE HAVE A HEART TO HEART ABOUT KILLER T. FORD HER BROTHER AKA DUANE.

Meecham and Annabel were having fun in Jacksonville. He explained that Duane needed the car looked at, to make sure it was up to snuff for an upcoming vintage car show. While waiting for the Chevy to be worked over and cleaned up, Annabel shared a few thoughts about Killer T Ford that she had never told anyone before. 

“I’m amazed he trusts you with his special baby!” 

“Don’t you think I am trustworthy?” Meech looked at his wife and frowned.

“Yes, Dave, you are, but Duane doesn’t trust anyone with anything.  You have no idea, about a lot of things about my brother, Dave.  He ran a numbers racket out back of the car shop while in high school, played craps in the boys change room and had a sex club going with the cheerleaders.  I found out about that when we found the peep hole in the shower room by accident.  We didn’t tell anyone at first till we got proof for sure, but one day we taped the guys talking about taking Ruthy McNab, a junior cheerleader behind the bleachers. Skill Norton admitted to the rape.  My brother is not exactly honesty personified. He knows he can’t be trusted and therefore, he trusts no one.”

“So what happened?” Meecham was incredulous that Ford would sink that low.

“After hearing about Ruthy we understood why she left town suddenly. Later we heard she and the baby died in a botched abortion. So we took the Dictaphone to the school principal and subsequently the sheriff’s office. Skill did time for the rape. My brother got expelled from school for the sex club and the numbers racket and he testified against Skill”

“How do you know all this?”

“David, for the love of Pete, I lived with the toad for the first fifteen years of his life. He’s my baby brother, but he is a dog with the women, cheats at cards and he ran a chop shop out of daddy’s garage. He learned to race stock cars by stealing them. Mike Fowler, our daddy caught him one time and nearly killed him for taking off with one of his prized babies. It was a vintage 1929 Nash roadster. Papa had him buck-ass naked when he found him driving that car ‘hell-bent for leather’ up in Tallahassee. I came home from school one day in my senior year to find daddy tearing Duane a new butt-hole. My brother was begging for his life and swore up and down on a stack of mama’s Bibles he would never steal again if dad would stop beating on him. Dad did stop. Duane turned around after yanking up his pants and cold cocked daddy and left home that night. He changed his name from Fowler to Ford and never spoke to dad again.”

Annabel gave her husband a look and warned him not to get dragged down into Duane’s world. “I know you have done some things for Duane, Dave. Things you could lose your badge over, or even worse get your sorry ass killed by my brother. I can’t prove it but I just have a feeling he is into some things pretty deep and I don’t want to risk us getting hurt by his actions. Go back to Miami and try to join forensics again. Let’s get the hell out of Daytona before we both end up very dead.”

“You’re serious about this aren’t you Annie?”

“Yeah, Dave, I am.  I need you alive. My brother is a fantastic driver; a genius with cars, but deep down he is still a bastard.  Mama nearly died after he left, and Daddy never told her why.  It would have killed her if she knew the crap her baby boy was into. Daddy and I kept that secret ‘til daddy passed on. Now it is my secret alone. I don’t dare even tell mama that he lives nearby.” Annabelle placed her hand on her husband’s arm and pleaded for him to get out from under Ford’s thumb.

Annabel was weeping by now and Dave hugged his wife and promised her all would be well and he vowed to himself to stop being a bastard and help nail his brother in-law, provided he himself didn’t get caught.  At that moment, he had never felt closer to his wife.  Sure she could be a nag, what woman wasn’t? But then again he was no prize either.  He now knew more of the Fowler/Ford family dynamics than he ever had before, even after fifteen years of marriage. Duane didn’t come around to family gatherings and BBQs.  And Dave sure didn’t invite the brother in-law to events where his law enforcement friends and colleagues would be invited, as he wanted to keep the connection between them unknown.  He really didn’t want people to figure out that he was criminally connected. This was going to change as he had plans to better his station in life and get out from under Duane’s thumb.

AVAILABLE FOR SALE AT AMAZON IN PAPERBACK AND KINDLE

books, Cereal Authors, Displaced Detective, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Sherlock Holmes, Stephanie Osborn

Excerpt — The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival by Stephanie Osborn

by Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

This is not your father’s Sherlock Holmes…

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is a science fiction mystery in which brilliant hyperspatial physicist, Dr. Skye Chadwick, discovers there are alternate realities, often populated by those we consider only literary characters. Her pet research, Project: Tesseract, hidden deep under Schriever AFB, finds Continuum 114, where Sherlock Holmes was to have died along with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. In a Knee-jerk reaction, Skye rescues Holmes, who inadvertently flies through the wormhole to our universe, while his enemy plunges to his death. Unable to go back without causing devastating continuum collapse, Holmes must stay in our world and adapt. Meanwhile, the Schriever AFB Dept of Security discovers a spy ring working to dig out the details of – and possibly sabotage – Project: Tesseract. Can Chadwick help Holmes come up to speed in modern investigative techniques in time to stop the spies? Will Holmes be able to thrive in our modern world? Is Chadwick now Holmes’ new “Watson” – or more? And what happens next?

~~~

“…This is a really bad time for me to leave console at the moment, hon.”

Caitlin shot her a hard, annoyed look.

“You can’t be considering it,” she said flatly. “All hell is breaking loose here. I don’t care if the President needed you five minutes ago! You have to stay here!”

“Chill, Cait,” Skye tossed an aside to her friend, phone held absently to the side of her face with her shoulder as she tried to read the scribbled note Timelines handed her, around annotating her clipboard. “I’ve got more to do than I can shake a stick at now. I’m…what?” she said, staring at the note. “Software! Check the focus subroutine! Make sure it’s initiating at the correct point in the program! The last thing we need now is a software glitch causing a delay in timing. If that’s happening, no wonder the induction element’s hosed! Hardware, make sure the circuit’s clear! Holmes, I’m sorry, I can’t make it right now. I don’t have time to catch my breath down here.”

* * *

Holmes listened closely, not only to Skye’s direct comments, but also to her asides and commands, and to what he could hear of the remarks made to her. He covered the mouthpiece with his hand and informed Jones and Smith.

“It appears matters are not going well in the Chamber.” He punched the speaker button on the phone so the other men could hear. Then he returned his attention to the sounds coming from the phone. “Skye, what is happening?”

* * *

Skye watched as her teammates fought with the recalcitrant apparatus. One of the Hardware console members, Chad Swann by name and a longstanding friend of Skye’s, moved into the center of the room to check the circuitry of the monoliths. Skye grabbed her clipboard, flipping to the malfunction shutdown checklist, where she scanned the list, trying to determine the seriousness of their
situation.

Vaguely she heard Holmes’ query, but didn’t have time to devote to it. Still, she managed to find two spare brain cells to rub together, and replied abstractedly, “We’re having a malfunction in the induction element system. We can’t keep it focused…”

“Skye, we need you to make a call! Shut down, or put it in a holding pattern and troubleshoot?” Caitlin interrupted. Skye juggled phone and clipboard, trying to assess the checklist for priority red malfunction modes.

“Holmes, I’ve gotta go,” she said into the phone. “I need to figure out how serious this is—”

“DR. CHADWICK! We’ve got a GRAVITON SPIKE!” Sequencing shouted.

* * *

Smith and Jones watched as Holmes’ expression grew more and more grave as he listened to the sounds on the other end of the line. They heard Skye’s attempt to break the conversation, and Holmes was about to answer in the affirmative when they overheard the exclamation from Sequencing.

Holmes paled as they heard Skye shout, “Chad!! Get out of there! NO! EMERGENCY SHUTDO—”

The line went dead.

Instantly the entire building shuddered hard enough to knock books off shelves and send Skye’s chalk tumbling from its rack on the blackboard, smashing into dusty white shards on the tile. The three men grabbed for heavy furniture to avoid being flung to the floor.

* * *

When the quake subsided, the three men sat staring at each other, shaken. Holmes felt almost lightheaded, his grey eyes wide.

“What happened?” Jones demanded. “Did that earthquake have anything to do with Project: Tesser—”

“Emergency shutdown,” Holmes snapped out, leaping to his feet. “Graviton spike.” He didn’t fully understand the significance of the graviton spike, but from his reading of Skye’s quantum mechanics text, which perforce contained a significant amount of particle physics, he knew what a graviton was, and strongly suspected it was connected to the quake. “I am going down to the Chamber,” he declared in a tone brooking no argument. “The two of you may come, or stay.”

* * *

“Is your authorization in?” Jones turned to Smith.

“Your duty officer entered it into the system when I arrived this morning,” Smith observed.

“Good. We’re coming, Holmes,” Jones declared.

But Holmes was already out the door and down the hall, headed for the elevators at a dead run.

Jones and Smith sprinted behind.

~~~

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival is available in print and ebook (all formats), and the first four books of the series have been released in a collected ebook edition, The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus. Book 5, A Case of Spontaneous Combustion, is a 2014 new release. All of them are suitable for gift-giving!

-Stephanie Osborn
http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Fantasy, Fiction, Literary, Musings, Mystery, Ramblings, Romance, Ruth Davis Hays, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized, YA

Where the Winds Blow — Part 10

by Ruth Davis Hays 2011

Computer issues have delayed the monthly post, but here it is.

Passions set aside in the wake of tragedy, Lauralei waits for news of her recovering brother as well as the fate of her beloved. After Galian suffered the consequences of baiting his stepbrother ‘Khiall, the head of the Khnyghtsyde family imposed a serious punishment on the attacker of his son…

 

It was not until days later, when ‘Khiall was repeatedly missing from the family meal table, that his stepsister was able to ferret out information of what had befallen him. The servants and family members were amazingly tight-lipped. But, Lauralei’s entreaties wore away at the old gossiping housekeeper, Kora, who offered all she knew one afternoon in the courtyard while tending the laundry.

The half-breed faerlin had been held down and beaten with a cane stick until it broke over his back, a particularly dreadful punishment. Restricted to the cellar for an undetermined amount of time, his recovery was slow. The old housekeeper was permitted to slip him bread and water twice a day, but she said it would be anyone’s guess how long Solomen would hold him in account for Galian’s suffering.

Days and nights passed listlessly after that report. Lauralei agonized over ‘Khiall’s absence, and she was not alone in her protests. Ammarron took to wearing a dark veil over her beautiful face, a symbol of her sadness to remind her husband that she still had issues over how he treated her son on the whole. Galian began to join them at the table and was moving about the house, albeit at a slower than typical pace. His wounds would leave long scars on his face and neck for the remainder of his days. Sarrah, in her usual unthinking way of trying to inject levity into the situation, joked that now they could tell the twins apart.

Yet, two more weeks crept by with no sign of ‘Khiall rejoining the household. Lauralei wondered if Solomen even cared whether the young fae ever saw the light of day again. Deciding to take up the matter with those that had the most influence, she at last spoke with her father’s wives.

Eventually, after a period of twenty-three days, the heart of Solomen was softened by the females’ petitions, and he let ‘Khiall out of the cellar.

The boy looked wretched. Although her father still declared that ‘Khiall was a pariah, the women of the house descended upon him, cleaning wounds and ministering to his needs.

~~~~~

Follow more adventures from the world of Jorthus on jorthusbooks

and the website Books of Jorthus

Fantasy, Fiction, Literary, Musings, Mystery, Ruth Davis Hays, Sharing, Uncategorized

“The Storm Inside” by R Davis Hays

I apologize for my absence on Cereal Authors; it has been a strange and hectic couple of months. Not that my fellow authors here are not busy themselves, it is just that each month I struggle with what to post and then in the swirl of catastrophe or conflict, I end up missing my day completely. There is no good excuse. But, to make up for it, I offer a short story rather than a mere sliver of a longer tale. This is a brief yarn built off of my fantasy series, Translations from Jorthus. I hope that you will enjoy and forgive my neglect. 🙂

 

“What do I care where I belch?” Came the loud, insolent boast as the towering ogre swayed over the spittle-dampened bartender. “I apologize to no man!”

The well-dressed, though tussled, human beside the beast shrugged regretfully, paid the bartender, and began their exit from the Vomiting Myrmidon Tavern. He knew this display was the signal that his large companion had consumed enough to be manageable on the road, but too much to still mingle with good society. Trevalin Dun’Malcolmn slapped the rumbling back of the ogre and bid farewell to the patrons that had suffered their company thus far on this stormy evening. It had been nice to be inside a cozy pub with warm ale and cool food, but he would surrender this comfort in order to prevent a bar fight, which was exactly what his fellow traveler was searching for with his crude words and even cruder etiquette.

“Come along now, Bastid,” the seasoned fighter coaxed as he tossed a few more silver pents to the owner in apology. “We have business to attend, do we not?”

“Right!” Bastid roared proudly, lunging to his uncertain feet. He knew the previous upset in the room was not his problem; it had been clear that the puny little human barkeep was simply standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Plus, someone seemed to be shifting the floor under his boots. “Insufferable town,” he muttered (not quite under his stinking breath) as he pushed Trevalin aside to get to the door. The ogre came spilling out of the pub doorway with some effort and, for the moment, the low building looked to be earning its name.

Trevalin stood behind for a breath on the rainy, mud-filled street of Oppintyne, worrying with the golden clasp on his silver wolf-pelt cloak. The rain tickling his face made rivulets of reflected gaslight from the porch dance across the intricate artwork carved in the silver of his right hand. The glove, an artificial extension of his lost limb, had been a gift from the Fae Folk of the Northern Wood for services rendered, even though it had been earned at great personal cost; decades of his life lost among the trees and mists of that forbidden land. He had been grateful for the mercy of the Fae. Few humans that stumbled into their realms ever reemerged; yet the delicate movements of the metal fingers, while a marvel of design mixed with the majiks of mind and spirit, only reminded him of his loss and what he may never feel again: the comfort that he was completely human.

Pulling on his tan leather hood, tugging it low over his amber eyes, Dun’Malcolmn peered along the quiet streets waiting for his large, over-indulgent friend to remember their new mission and sober up enough to not make it into another carnage-strewn, unnecessary fiasco. He had partaken of a good amount of ale himself, but only to the point of numbing his fear as well as silencing the voices in his head that nagged him to return to his family estate and face the dreary inheritance that was waiting to suck the remainder of his life away until he died alone, bitter, and clutching after his own hollow ecstasy inside a tapestry tomb. The despondent nobleman shuddered each time he heard those voices.

From the looks of it, the pale green ogre had forgotten that he even had a business partner and was lumbering up the road in search of the next open pub door. With a heavy sigh, Trevalin stumped after him, the puddles rewetting the layers of caked dust and mud on his thick leather boots and threatening to soak through to his feet and make him miserable on the long vigil that lay before them this night.

Oppintyne was not a friendly town. Pressed up against the wooded borders of Yarna, it stretched out to the abandoned trade roads in thin, desperate piles yearning to not be forgotten by the world, as the twisted timbers at its back swallowed large portions in choking dark ivy and curtains of moss that fluttered gently, like tattered shrouds in the moonlight. The fallen signpost greeting travelers had once been an inviting, cheerful cherry color, but now was the smeared lip rouge and cracked skin of a trembling harlot that warned the unsuspecting of its hidden shame.

The ogre and the wandering knight, however, were not here to judge or taste of its wares. Rumors of fortune had tempted them to follow the lonely path to this town; and as far as the darkened, slender, amber eyes of the man could tell, the rumors were proving true. Citizens here were seeking help; eager for deliverance from a shadowy haunt that crept through their recent nights, dragged their old and weak from street or porch, and cackled like a shrill, drunken banshee until they hunkered in their hovels; eager to offer all that their lives had accumulated in order to pay for their safety.

Earning that payment was assured for the two adventurous travelers. Bastid, upon hearing the complaints and tales at the pub, had claimed it to be the work of a rabid wolf immediately, but Trevalin knew wolves too well. His thoughts were caught by the hoarse whispers of one old, gnarled man sitting near the fire, as the orange tongues had spit and hissed with dripping fat from the venison above them. The retired farmer had hinted at a humanoid beast, deformed and hungry, lurking between the shadows, slipping up to claw the juicy eyes and suck the marrow from fractured bones. A ghoul, someone gasped. This creature did not sufficiently satisfy the knight either, since ghouls, by legend, kept to eating the flesh of the dead; they sought victims that did not struggle. What stalked the darkness around these homes was not wolf or ghoul, but it was outside of  nature … like him.

The odd pair of hunters made their hiding place just outside the dim glow of the small village, rain masking their scent as they curled deep in unkempt weeds that managed to stand taller than the ogre’s broad back. Watching and listening, until Trevalin felt his eyes grow thick and the pat of dripping water from the branches above counted out a lulling rhythm. Darkness slid over his vision. A shriek of appalling laughter ripped him back to the world.

In the next instant, Bastid nudged his arm with a snort in the direction of the village. Trevalin followed with a glance, his heart beating wild and rough. Movement near the darkest edge of the wood. A human-like beast skulking in and out of the tree line, a vague object dangling from its jaw. Its gait was quick, but unsteady, using its thin arms as much as its legs.

“Perhaps that old kook was right,” the ogre hissed in a low rumble. Trevalin gave him an astonished look. He had thought that the ears of Bastid had closed to others’ opinions as soon as the big rogue had made his own conclusions, but his strange companion was continuing to surprise the knight.

Inspecting the creature as it drifted out into the wood, Trevalin shook his head. Something still was not right. “Does look like a ghoul, but they are scavengers, not predators,” he whispered up to the ogre, who was already beginning to rise in pursuit. “Whatever has been killing folk here—”

A meaty hand yanked the knight into motion. “They’re paying for a ghoul hide, we’ll give’em a ghoul hide. Why do you always make these things harder than they have to be, Dun’M?” Bastid grumbled.

Trevalin hushed his reservations and his step as he followed the unusually light-footed ogre beneath the black and creaking forest. Their cringing prey was swift; hiding quickly in the pits of slick roots, it relied on this ability without the cognitive thought that its pursuers could not only smell its unholy stink of rot and sweat, one of them could also see the faintest body signature in the dark. Bastid was world renown as the best bounty hunter for good cause, and he plucked the hissing, pitiful bone-sucker from the bowels of the tree trunk before they heard the town clock strike the midnight hour.

As the big ogre twisted the ghoul’s head off in irritation at its flailing and scratching, Trevalin caught the half-chewed limb that fell from the thing’s lips. A child’s pallid arm.

“It’s fresh.” The knight choked back vomit at the thought. His attempt to drop the tiny appendage failed, streaking his mind with revulsion as his artificial fingers refused to release their hold. He wished to be gone from here; there were too many strange feelings colliding inside him. Fortunately, his partner did not catch onto his unease.

“But he don’t have blood on his hands or breath,” snorted the ogre, tossing the crumpled corpse of the ghoul carelessly into a bag for the villagers. “Maybe they’ll pay double if we can snag another one.”

“Your acquisitive instincts know no bounds, do they?” Trevalin marveled, quelling emotion with banter. The bounty hunter took this as a compliment before tracing the ghoul’s journey back to Oppintyne.

Night had enveloped the glistening boards of the tiny, shivering city as it tried to hide its superstitious nose beneath the bedcovers, untouchable by the spiny fingers of the unknown. Residents could hide, but not so their town’s splintered secret. The two hunters stopped as they both recognized the visible remains of a struggle beside a rickety outhouse. The tracks of the ghoul had not been far away. Though the drizzle had washed the blood deeper into the earth, masking the stain and dripping trail that screamed out the facts of another fight, Bastid had picked up the subtle stench of fresh blood and feces, which was not wafting from the lime-sprinkled privy, as easily as Trevalin had seen the two divergent trails in the thick mud. Furrows from kicking heels dragged by flat, smashed footprints of a four-legged animal, in the opposite direction from the tentative scratches of the scavenger they had executed.

The blue moon hid her face in shame behind rounded towers of black clouds as Trevalin carefully slid his long sword free from its sheath, his amber eyes flashing warningly to the ogre in the hesitant red glow of the smaller moon. He felt sure that they would need the advantages that his father’s charmed weapon bore. The thump of his heart hard against his stiffened leather breastplate was uncomfortable and rapid. Bastid led the hunt. The ogre’s keen senses searching the night for the fading signature of the child’s body, if not anything else. Dun’Malcolmn stepped carefully behind.

Signs of a voiceless resistance led them deeper into the town, between sleeping buildings, to the backside of the lower houses. The disgruntled decay of this forgotten edge was quiet, except for the flapping of loose boards caught in the storm’s after-breeze and the ravenous snuffling of a nameless beast devouring its wretched prize.

The winds changed against them and the meal was ended abruptly. Scents are acute on the damp air and theirs were no exception. Bastid froze with one hand up. The moment before they knew whether it would flee or charge was agonizing, but brief.

Trevalin saw the shaggy blur strike from his left, out of a shattered stable, knocking him to the ground as it latched onto the ogre. Their dual growls mingling to insanity as the human saw his partner flail huge arms, trying to grab at his back. Try as he might, Bastid could not pluck the scratching, snarling form off him.

Leaping out of the muck, Trevalin slashed; his blade connecting with soft fur and slobbering jaws, knocked it loose from the ogre. Light from a distant flash in the sky brought their opponent into clear view for an instant, and then hid it in shadows once more. It was a hunch-shouldered, dog-like beast; stripes raked through its long, disheveled coat. A thick mane circled its pointed, drooling snout and flat cone-shaped ears. Trevalin did not have time to try and place the name that tickled his brain at the sight of it, for he was its next target.

With a lunge of long forearms and jagged teeth that flattened him, it filled his vision; caught by instinct he was suddenly grasping it by the neck. Its claws tearing at his leather, spittle washing his face, the knight’s body strained to keep hold as the beast was frantic to escape his silver hand. The mechanism tightened in his panic, squeezing off its squeaking howls. Trevalin’s thoughts strayed from the confused horror of identifying it or surviving; they were filled with imagined flashes of faceless, defenseless victims that had not had the strength to fight back against its hideous strength. Innocents, the weak, those that could not fight … Trevalin felt his hand crack its neck before Bastid had even gotten close enough to rip it from his grip.

Bolting up, gasping in his harrowing victory, the knight felt drops fill the air to a downpour. His blood was pounding through the shell that was his body, pulling life back into his spirit. The tingle of the beast’s flesh and bones still reverberating in the silver of his false arm. He could feel it; could actually feel something there. His heart beat faster.

Then he smelled it. An odor he recalled from the depths of his childhood. Burnt hair and skin. Looking down, Trevalin saw smoke rising from the fingers of his metal glove. Matching them to five scorched marks on the fur, he realized that it had suffered from the silver more than the strength. A were-beast, a morphanthrope like his father.

Trevalin’s heart skipped a beat and froze again, his elation gone as the rain washed long strands of cursed hair away from the transforming body. The small, thin arms lay inert and pale. The snout revealing its true cherubic shape and soft, golden hair. Lifeless, innocent brown eyes stared up into the knight’s amber ones and asked the eternal question in silence, Why? Why was I this way?

That question had echoed in Trevalin’s mind for decades …

 

For more on Translations from Jorthus, visit:  http://jorthusbooks.wordpress.com/

Mystery, Sci-Fi, Stephanie Osborn

Stephanie Osborn Presents The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident

Excerpt: The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident an SF mystery by Stephanie Osborn

This is Book 3 of the Displaced Detective Series. Book 4, The Case of the Cosmological Killer: Endings and Beginnings, which is a continuation, just came out in ebook format and will be released next month in print.

~Stephanie Osborn

http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

Prologue—Encounters

“Leeming Tower, this is Blue-One-Niner; Tower, this is Blue-One-Niner.”

“This is RAF Leeming. Go, Blue-One-Niner.”

“Tower, I have visual at one o’clock low, approaching coast along south-southeast heading; range, estimated twelve klicks. Request verification and possible change of altitude.”

“Blue-One-Niner, this is Tower. Please repeat visual info.”

“Tower, Blue-One-Niner. Visual at one o’clock low, estimated range ten klicks and closing.”

“Blue-One-Niner, Tower. I thought you said twelve klicks.”

“Tower, One-Niner. I did; it’s incoming.”

“Blue-One-Niner, radar shows no other aircraft in your vicinity.”

“Leeming, better look again. It’s right there, range now…HOLY SHIT! It just accelerated! Range now seven kilometres and closing fast! I am executing evasive manoeuvers! Climbing to twelve thousand metres! Bogey heading south-southeast, nearing coastline…”

“Copy, Blue-One-Niner. Evasive manoeuvers; you are cleared to twelve thousand. Be advised, radar still shows no—hold one! Where the bloody hell did THAT come from?! Contact Fylingdales—you did? They don’t? Roger that! All other traffic on this channel, this is Leeming Tower; please move to Channel Four immediately. Blue-One-Niner, this is Tower! Do you still have visual on bogey?”

“Roger, Tower! Closing fast…”

“You are authorised to pursue and bring down, peaceful preferred. Scrambling backup.”

“Copy, pursue and bring down. If peaceful refused?”

“You are authorised to use whatever means necessary. If peaceful refused, consider hostile.”

“Roger that. It’s passing below me now. Turning to pursue.”

“Copy that. Blue-One-Niner, can you identify aircraft? Radar signature is…inconclusive.”

“Uh…Tower, that visual is an inconclusive, too. It doesn’t look like any bloody aircraft I’ve ever seen. In fact, it doesn’t even look like an aircraft…”

“Description?”

“It’s a…big fuzzy ball, glowing kind of…yellowish-orange. And moving like a bat out of hell.”

“Blue-One-Niner, please repeat last transmission. It sounded like you said a big fuzzy ball?”

“Affirm, Tower, that’s exactly what I said. Think…giant tennis ball, only more orange. Still approaching coastline near Scarborough… correction! Bogey has changed heading! Damn! Stand by, Tower…”

“Leeming Tower standing by.”

“Tower, this is Blue-One-Niner. I don’t know what the blazes they’ve got, but it’s way the hell more manoeuvreable than my Typhoon. They just executed a sharp turn to port, and I do mean sharp! I overshot by several miles inland, trying to make the turn. They are now paralleling the coastline, bearing southeast.”

“Roger that, Blue-One-Niner. We…saw the turn on radar…”

“Yeah, you probably see something else, too.”

“Roger that. Bogey is…ACCELERATING?!”

“Like that bat out of hell—on warp drive. Punching ‘burners…”

“Blue-One-Niner, this is Leeming Tower. Report.”

“Leeming, this is Blue-One-Niner. Sorry, mates, she’s outstripped me by a long shot. Keep ‘er on radar as long as you can, and try to anticipate and scramble interceptors. I’ve already almost lost visual.”

“Roger that…”

* * *

Inside the radar room at RAF Fylingdales, the Officer of the Day discussed the situation with his chief technician.

“Are you sure?” the OD pressed his radar tech.

“Positive, sir,” the tech replied, grim. “We’ve been watching it for the last five minutes, ever since it showed on radar. The only thing I know of that can travel that fast is a blasted Space Shuttle, and even they couldn’t make manoeuvres like this ruddy thing is making. We’re gathering all the radar data on it

we can, profiles and such, but so far, we’ve not been able to put a plane close. Blue-One-Niner got a good visual on it, but that was sheer dumb luck.”

“What kind of craft was One-Niner in? Recon?”

“A Typhoon, sir. And the bogey left it in the dust, even on full afterburners.”

“Bollocks!” the OD exclaimed, shocked and gawking. “Left in the DUST? A TYPHOON?!”

“Like it was sitting still, as near as I can tell from air-to-ground transmissions. Radar supported the assessment, too.”

The OD thought hard for several moments.

“Any idea where it’s headed?”

“Yeah.” The techie scowled.

“Well?”

“You’re not gonna like it.”

“Tell me anyway.”

“Bentwaters.” The engineer gazed solemnly at his superior. The OD blanched.

“Bugger. Get the brass on the bloody horn!”

* * *

Deep beneath the seemingly abandoned RAF Bentwaters base, ciphered telephones were ringing off their hooks. Frantic officers and enlisted personnel scurried about, attempting to ascertain under what sort of threat they were operating.

The underground facility itself was under full lockdown, with absolutely no sign of life visible to the outside.

And that was precisely how they wanted it.

Far overhead, in the deepening twilight sky, a glowing golden sphere floated, searching.

* * *

In the Headquarters of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the Director General was in her office, reviewing the dispatches as soon as they arrived.

“Not again,” she muttered under her breath, obviously deeply concerned. “I thought we were done with this decades ago.”

“Doesn’t look like it, madam,” Captain Braeden Ryker noted, subdued, handing her another report. “All hell is breaking loose out there, by the sound of it. Some of the public reports are probably spurious, and some of it—seventy-five percent, I’d say—likely due to hoaxes and copycats and just plain power of suggestion. But that still leaves the remaining twenty-five percent as real. We’ve got jets scrambled all along the coast, and except for the initial intercept, which was accidental, not one of our aircraft could even get close enough to see the thing.” He looked down at the paper in his hand. “We did luck out on one point. Our local field office got a heads-up from Fylingdales at the same time they notified Bentwaters, and Gregory got his ass in gear with record speed. He mobilised a field team in time to have a gander at the object. They’re still in the field, so we don’t have word yet.”

“Is it still out there?”

Ryker glanced again at the communiqué in his hand.

“Not according to the latest information, no, madam.”

“Get a detail out there and start looking into the situation.” The director shook her head, obviously gravely concerned.

“What about…?” Ryker began, then added candidly, “Do you want me to override Gregory, madam?”

“No, I want you to work WITH him,” the Director declared with a wave of her hand. “Get some of the Headquarters experts out there right alongside his team—specialists, to aid him in his assessment, not supersede him. I know Gregory. He’s a good man, with a good team. I simply want all the data we can gather. I want to know what this thing is, where it’s from, what it’s after, and I want to know five minutes ago.”

“Right away, madam,” Ryker nodded, exiting swiftly.

* * *

The field excursion team filed into the back of the nondescript office building, entering an equally bland conference room. They appeared to be college students and young professionals, clad in jeans or chinos and shirts, carrying attaché cases or backpacks, as appropriate. When the last of them arrived and the conference room door closed, they turned to the man in the corner.

“Here we go again, Gregory,” the field team lead sighed, shaking his head. “It’s the Halt transcript all over again, right down to the imagery in the night vision goggles.”

“Any feeling of intent?”

“Definite intent,” another remarked. “It was…looking…for something. A natural phenom doesn’t sweep a grid pattern. This bugger did. Nice and precise, too.”

“Blast and damnation,” Gregory sighed. “What was it looking for? Any ideas?”

“That’s the prize question, isn’t it, boss?” the second field investigator shrugged. “If we could answer that, problem solved, and on to the next issue—which is, what to do about it?”

“Yeah,” Gregory muttered. “Well, boys and girls, get your reports together fast. Headquarters is breathing down our necks. Word has it the Director General herself is involved, and you know to whom SHE reports. We’re likely to have help soon. In fact, some experts are supposed to be coming down from London as we speak, to work alongside.”

There was a collective groan from the room.

“All right, boss,” the team lead noted. “Everyone, laptops out, reports in half an hour. Type fast.”

* * *

Ryker came into the Director’s office at speed, bearing the collected dispatches from the field office.

“Here you go, madam,” he noted, handing them to the Secret Service director. “The latest on the phaenomenon. I can’t say I’m pleased with the way this is headed.”

The scowling director scanned through the reports, speed-reading. “Ah, I see your point. Are the subject matter experts on their way?”

“They are.”

“Very good. Dismissed.” As Ryker turned to leave, she changed her mind. “Ryker, wait a moment.”

“Yes, madam?” He stopped, pivoting smartly on his heel to face her once more.

“Your…friends…in America…” She pondered briefly.

“Williams, madam?”

“No, the scientist and a certain detective.” She threw a small grin at the agent.

“Ah,” Ryker grinned back at her, “Dr. Skye Chadwick and Mr. Sherlock Holmes.”

“The very ones. What are they doing at the present time?”

“I don’t know offhand, madam, but I can contact Williams and find out,” Ryker said. “I have strong reason to believe they may be coming across the Pond for a visit after the first of the year, however. Are you considering calling them in on this?”

“Possibly,” the director confessed, looking over one of the dispatches. “Certainly they possess the specific expertise necessary to look into so abstruse a problem as this. They…” she paused, staring at the paper in her hand. “The night vision goggles showed a HOLE in the middle of the object?” She raised her head, gazing at Ryker in astonishment.

“Yes, ma’am. It makes no sense, I know, but that’s just like it happened back in 1980.”

“And you have every confidence in Chadwick and Holmes.” She eyed Ryker sternly.

“Yes, ma’am,” Ryker responded smartly, with confident emphasis.

“And this is really THE Sherlock Holmes?”

“Without doubt,” Ryker smiled. His certainty was almost palpable. Despite this fact, the Director sighed without enthusiasm.

“Very well. Yes, Captain Ryker. Contact Captain Williams and have him ascertain their availability. Provide Williams with a detailed abstract of events through appropriately secure channels, and see to it he briefs Holmes and Chadwick on the matter as soon as possible. Ensure they are instructed to stand by in the event they are called in on the case.”

“Consider it done.” Ryker snapped off a salute before spinning and exiting the office.

Chapter 1—Detective Diaries

October 30

This is certainly not my usual notion of working out my thoughts.

Then again, it was hardly my idea.

To cut to the heart of the matter: In recent nights, I have been having a recurrent dream—more a nightmare, really, I suppose, though it lacks the standard horrific setting and characters. In it, Watson, dear old chap, searches all London for me, yet even when I respond to his calls, even when he is face to face with me, he can neither see nor hear me. It is quite annoying, all in all—and, frankly, not a little disturbing. Skye seems convinced it is my subconscious response to being forcibly yanked into a new continuum and having all contact severed with my former life, friends, and family. There may, I suppose, be something to that.

Nevertheless, it was her idea to keep a journal. I am not normally one for such things, save perhaps in order to record specifics on a given criminal, and when she suggested the idea, I merely smiled, nodded, and went on constructing my second beehive. It is, of course, far too late in the season to do much with it. But the first beehive is already occupied by a healthy swarm of honeybees, and I intend to have this, and one more, ready come spring.

I am quite sure my disinterest was patently evident upon my face; Skye is nothing if not observant. But my dear Skye is also nothing if not determined. And so this morning I found myself presented with a blank journal.

It is a handsome thing; bound in soft brown leather with an illustration from the Book of Kells embossed upon the covers. So she seems to already know of my family’s Anglo-Saxon origins. At any rate, it is too bonny a gift to ignore, nor would I wound her by so doing. She believes it will help—and perhaps, a great perhaps, it will. It cannot hurt, I suppose.

So the reticent detective sits here writing upon his drawn-up knees, unaccustomedly bemused, trying to decide what one says in such a journal. I should ask Skye, saving she appears to be already asleep. Her

golden hair is spilled across the pillow beside me, and her eyelashes are quivering, denoting her dreams, without doubt. Would that I could read those quivers as I read her expressions, as I read marks in the soil; but I fear they will ever remain a mystery to me. She is a delightful thing, is my Skye. One would never guess she is nearing the thirty-ninth anniversary of her birth.

Which brings up another consideration: It is one week until her birthday, and I have yet to acquire a suitable gift. I find I am again torn, as once more, the detective and the artist do battle over this relationship.

* * *

Holmes looked up as the grandfather clock chimed in the hall. “Eleven o’clock,” he breathed. “Now I understand how Watson could lose track of time, when he was setting down one of our cases.” He closed the journal and laid it and his fountain pen on the nightstand. He spared one more fully illumined glance at the lovely face lying beside him on the pillow before turning out the lamp.

Then he uncurled his “desk,” stretching his long legs under the covers with a sigh as he slid deeper into the bed. Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective, late of Victorian England, turned toward Dr. Skye Chadwick, hyperspatial physicist of 21st century America, pressed a soft kiss against her sleeping forehead, and drifted off to sleep.

Fiction, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Stephanie Osborn

The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival

This is an excerpt from the first book in my critically acclaimed science fiction mystery series, the Displaced Detective. Book 4 in the series comes out in November, with at least three more planned, quite likely more. The books are available in trade paper and pretty much every ebook format currently known to mankind! Purchase links are on my website, http://www.stephanie-osborn.com

-Stephanie Osborn

~~~

The Arrival

Prologue—Objects, Subjects, and Beginnings

 

A tall, dark figure, clad in formal Victorian eveningwear, strode briskly down the shadowed street, casually swinging his silver-embellished walking stick. No carriages had passed in the last half-hour, and only one hansom cab had wandered by ten minutes before, its horse’s hollow hoofbeats echoing between the buildings. The gas street-lamps were long since lit, but between them were patches of deep darkness, patches entirely too broad for comfort in these circumstances. Beneath the brim of his silk top hat, eagle-sharp grey eyes darted about, studying the shadows, alert and aware. For well this man knew that danger lurked in the gloom this night, danger peculiar to him alone; and he was alone. So very alone.

But not for long. He was headed to a specific destination. To the one man he knew he could trust, the one man who would stand at his side regardless of danger—for had he not done so, many times before? Was not this the reason for the deep, if largely unspoken, bond of friendship between them?

His friend would help. There was no doubt in his mind on that point. Already today two attempts had been made upon his life, and well did this man need help.

 

“Not far now,” the words breathed past thin, pale lips. “Almost ther—”

 

The words died on said lips.

 

A hulking, brutish shadow materialised from the alleyway in front of him.

 

The elegant man in the top hat ducked just in time to avoid the lead-weighted bludgeon that swung through the space his head had occupied fractions of a second before. Instead, the silk hat took the brunt of the blow, flying across the sidewalk and into a puddle in the gutter, its side crushed. Flinging up his cane and grasping each end in his hands, the gentleman dropped into an Oriental horse stance, and prepared to do battle.

 

“’Ere, now,” the other figure said, in a coarse growl. “Hit’s th’ end o’ you, it is. Me superior won’t be ‘arvin’ it, an’ Oi means t’ see ‘e don’t ‘arve ta.”

 

“You can try,” the gentleman replied, calm. “But better men than you have tried, and here I stand.”

 

A guttural, angry sound emerged from the assailant, and the cudgel swung again, this time with enough force to crush bone. Deft, the gentleman caught it with the center of his cane, but to his chagrin the walking-stick, his weapon of choice in many a similar street altercation, chose that moment to give up the ghost. It snapped in two, splintering and cracking. He snarled his own irritation, and flung the pieces aside when he realised there was not enough left to use as a decent weapon.

 

Then he began to flit and weave as the other man smirked and lunged at him, swinging the club repeatedly, as hard as he could. It was a dance of death, and one wrong move by the gentleman would have serious, possibly fatal, consequences.

 

But the man in the evening dress was not without weapons; no, his best weapons were permanently attached to his person. The alert grey eyes watched, looking for some opening; and when he saw his chance, he struck like lightning. A fist shot out at the loutish face, catching the hit man squarely in the mouth just as he realised his danger and started to shout for help. All that came out was a grunt, however, and the assassin fell to the pavement as if pole-axed, with both lips split.

 

The gentleman hissed in pain, grabbing his fist with his other hand for a moment to let the worst of the discomfort pass before examining the damage.

 

“By Jove, he has sharp teeth for such a troglodyte,” he murmured, peeling off the ruined black kid glove to expose the bloody knuckles beneath. “Completely through the leather and into the flesh. I shall have to have this disinfected, for certain. No time for that now. Go, man!” He turned swiftly to resume his journey.

 

A crack resounded from the brownstone close at hand, and the man felt a spray of stone chips strike the side of his face. He flinched, and a sharp curse left his lips. He took to his heels and rounded the corner of the street, then disappeared into shadow.

* * *

Not ten feet away from the gentleman, though invisible to him, an elegant blonde woman in a white lab coat stood between tall, electronic towers. Behind her, concentric rows of computer consoles were manned by two dozen scientists, engineers, and technicians. Surrounding all of them was a huge, domed room carved from solid pink granite.

 

The woman stood for long minutes, silent, watching.

 

Finally one of the technicians broke the electronic silence.

 

“So, Doc, whaddaya think?”

 

“What do you think, Jim? How were the readings?” The woman turned toward him.

 

“I’ve got bang-on, Dr. Chadwick,” Jim noted, glancing down at his own console, brown eyes darting about as he surveyed his readouts. “But I can’t say for everybody else.”

 

“Rock steady at Timelines,” someone else called.

 

“Sequencing looks good…” another said.

 

“Software’s running nominally.”

 

“Hardware’s humming right along…”

 

On it went, from console to console. Finally the woman nodded.

 

“Perfect,” she purred in deep satisfaction. “We’ve got our subject. Page Dr. Hughes and have her come down.”

 

“On it, Doc,” Jim grinned, reaching for the phone.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1—Water Falls Through Wormholes

 

“Are you sure, Skye?” Dr. Caitlin Hughes, the Project Director, a roly-poly redheaded woman, murmured to the attractive woman at her side.

 

“I’m sure, Cait.” Dr. Skye Chadwick, a tall, athletic, well-proportioned blonde in her late thirties, and Project: Tesseract’s chief scientist, tucked an escaped strand of long spun gold behind one ear; the rest remained in the thick French braid that draped down her neck. “We’ve dinked all the way around it for several months now. We’ve got the alternate continuum thoroughly mapped out, and we know what we’re doing. All systems are fully operational and running like the proverbial top. It’s time to go in and observe firsthand. We’ll watch the actual event, then send in an exploration team.” She turned and met her friend’s bright green eyes. “Don’t worry. Washington will be more than satisfied.”

 

“Oh, I’m not worried about that,” the project manager waved away the reassurances. “I just don’t want you or any of the team getting hurt if something goes wrong.”

 

“Nothing will go wrong,” Dr. Chadwick said, almost in a whisper, but with confidence. Dr. Hughes took one look at the blue eyes, glancing between the clipboard full of notes and the information on the monitors, and realized Skye was concentrating on the preparations. Caitlin waited for a few moments, allowing Skye to follow through on the prep work before speaking again.

 

“I can’t believe you actually found an alternate timeline like this one. It’s…well, it’s fascinating. The similarities, and the differences…”

 

“Yeah,” Dr. Chadwick chuckled. “You know, the parallel universe concept has been around a long time, and it looks like we’ve finally managed to prove it. I’ll be glad to get this done and the sanitized paper written and published on the matter. It’ll blow the community wide open, not to mention the whole field of research.”

 

“Watch out how you write it. If you’re not careful, your colleagues will think you’ve gone off the deep end and believe that TV show is real.” Dr. Hughes laughed.

 

“Oh, you mean the time gate thing they film up in Canada?” Dr. Chadwick grinned mischievously. “Whose idea was that, anyway? It’s made for one of the best covers for a classified project I’ve ever seen.”

 

“Nobody you’d know,” Caitlin smirked. “Friend of mine in the Pentagon came up with it. He’s a real smart-ass. Fun guy, but full of it.”

 

“You don’t mean Mike Waters, do you?” Skye snorted, a decidedly amused, if unladylike, sound.

 

“The very one. I didn’t know you knew him.”

 

“Hell, yeah. Met him when I was in Washington two years ago for that conference. I don’t think I told you, but he made a play for me. We even dated once or twice, but it didn’t work out. I never could figure out how he wound up in D.C. instead of L.A., though.”

 

“He said it was more of a challenge.” Dr. Hughes shrugged, then paused. “This is going to be really interesting, Skye. I mean, aside from the proof of concept, you’re going to get to watch one of your heroes. In action, no less.”

 

Dr. Chadwick nodded, the expression on her face depicting decidedly mixed emotions.

 

“Yeah. I can’t believe he’s real. But you know, there was this science fiction author…he theorized that our literature is reality elsewhere, and vice versa. Lemme think…who the hell was it…? Somebody famous…Oh! Robert Heinlein! You know, his ‘World as Myth’ concept. And an Argentine writer named Jorge Luis Borges first introduced the concept, sorta, even before quantum mechanics did. So I guess it makes sense after a fashion.”

 

Dr. Hughes listened, understanding the notion; but she knew Chadwick better than to be easily diverted, and she scrutinized her friend, then pursued the issue. “This is hurting you.”

 

“He’s going to die—for real—and I get to watch it. I mean, in this continuum, there isn’t a happy ending after the Falls. Wouldn’t it hurt you, if he was your hero?” Dr. Chadwick shrugged.

 

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess it would,” Caitlin sighed, sobering. “Why are you doing this particular timeline, then?”

 

“Because the team voted, for one, and for two, it’s the only one we’ve found where the incident isn’t…spied on. The…compatriot, henchman, whatever you want to call him…got rounded up, in this particular scenario. There’s only the two men, and we’ll be the sole witnesses to what really happened. When it’s…over, we’ll send observers in, take a good look, record some data, and pull out. We’ll be the only beings in the multiverse with an actual record of what happened.” Skye shrugged, trying to appear indifferent.

 

“Oh,” Caitlin said, subdued.

 

“Dr. Chadwick, Dr. Hughes, it’s ready,” Jim the technician called from across the large underground room.

 

“That’s our cue,” Dr. Chadwick noted, managing to approximate a cheerful smile, addressing the room at large. “Everyone please stand behind the yellow line until the doors open. No food, drink, flash photography, or video cameras are permitted. Once aboard the ride, please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times until we come to a full and complete stop. Otherwise, they’re apt to end up in another universe somewhere without ya, and wouldn’t that fry your noggin?”

 

Outright laughter ran around the room, and Dr. Chadwick added, “Checklist out!” She raised the clipboard she had held absently in one hand for the last several minutes while she talked, scanning over it.

 

“Checklist…” the nearest experiment controller parroted.

 

“Checklist out,” the next nearest vouched.

 

“Checklist here…” and so on, around the room.

 

“Go/no-go call,” Dr. Chadwick announced. “Processing?”

 

“Go.”

 

“Software?”

 

“Go.”

 

“Timelines?”

 

“Go.”

 

“Sequencing?”

 

“Go…”

* * *

Ten minutes later, all was in readiness. Caitlin and Skye exchanged silent, eloquent looks. Caitlin “became” Project Manager Dr. Hughes, who nodded authoritatively. Dr. Chadwick accepted the unspoken permission to proceed.

 

“Sequencing, bring us to observation mode,” the chief scientist ordered.

 

“Going to observation mode,” the Sequencing position noted.

 

Dr. Chadwick checked off a block on her clipboard.

 

The room in which they stood was underground, deep beneath Schriever Air Force Base outside Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Chamber, as it was called, was the most secure facility in the United States, even more secure than Cheyenne Mountain, some miles to the west, newer, and far more advanced technologically. The underground facility was composed of a single large central chamber and eight smaller support rooms clustered around the main room, all carved of solid granite. Skye, Caitlin, and their companions occupied the central chamber, while support teams manned the equipment in each of the secondary rooms. Outside the complex, high-speed elevators and a network of corridors terminating in security airlocks covertly connected them to the rest of the base.

 

The center of the huge rock-hewn room stood empty. The controller consoles huddled close around the periphery, but eight large columns, monoliths of titanium steel and circuits, surrounded the empty center. Upon Dr. Chadwick’s order, a hum began, moving sequentially around the room from column to column as the system powered up. A carbon dioxide laser beam shot out, interlacing the monoliths in the classic hypercube design, exchanging data, forging them into one coherent unit. In the volume of space contained within the high-tech Stonehenge, vague, three-dimensional, ghostlike images flitted.

 

“Locus,” Dr. Chadwick called to the appropriately-labeled console, “dial in to Switzerland. Meiringen. The Falls.”

 

The images translated in a dizzying kaleidoscope, then settled on an almost holographic image of a tall, multi-tiered waterfall high in the Swiss Alps.

 

“Timelines, shift to Continuum 114…” Dr. Chadwick checked off a block on her clipboard. No change was seen, save that the hologram flickered momentarily.

 

“Continuum 114,” the Timelines position called. “Date?”

 

“Year 1891 of the Current Era, month five, day four,” Dr. Chadwick answered. Another check.

 

Multicolored flashes darted through the hologram for several minutes, then settled.

 

“Time?” came the request.

 

“13:30 Greenwich Mean Time.”

 

“Copy, 13:30 Greenwich,” Timelines answered.

 

The falling water sped up to a ridiculous rate, then suddenly slowed to a complete stop. After a moment, it resumed a normal flow. Abruptly two men could be seen on a ledge near the top of the falls. One—tall, thin, dark-haired, grey-eyed, handsome in an austere, hawk-like sort of way—sat quietly on a rock only yards from the pinnacle of the path, clad in Victorian-style tweed traveling clothes. A sturdy hiking staff rested against the side of the rock on which he sat, and he calmly scribbled something on a notepad. The other man was older: Balding, stoop-shouldered, almost reptilian in movement and appearance, clad in black, waiting patiently along the downward path, and in a subtle, almost menacing way, blocking it. Before them, the falls leapt down in tiers for over six hundred and fifty feet. To one side, a gleaming, wet rock wall; on the other, a sheer drop.

 

“Track subjects. Initiate recording. Begin silent protocol,” Dr. Chadwick ordered in an absent voice, her eyes fixed on the image in the center of the room. “Sequencing, foc

us, please.”

Suddenly the images in the center of the room became more than images. They solidified.

 

Skye and Caitlin tiptoed forward until they stood right outside the ring of monoliths, looking between two of the columns at the active tableau. Skye tensed, face drawn. Caitlin divided her attention between the events unfolding within the monoliths, and the pale, strained expression on her friend’s face.

* * *

The tweed-clad man studied his handiwork for a moment, then nodded to himself. He stood and removed the pages from the notepad, then placed them on the stone, weighting them down with a handsome silver cigarette case produced from a pocket. He studied the positioning, then adjusted case and papers. A small shift in the location of the hiking stick seemed to suit him at last, convincing him it would now draw attention to the objects resting on the dark grey stone. Then, with a grim, set jaw, he turned to his companion.

 

“Well,” he murmured, “shall we complete this unsavoury little business?”

 

“We shall,” his older, black-clad companion agreed coldly.

 

The pair turned and walked to the very end of the path, wet with spray from the falls. Tweed Suit, pale but calm, turned and faced Black Coat. With a fierce, angry growl, Black Coat launched himself at Tweed Suit, a murderous gleam in his eye. Tweed Suit dropped into a martial arts crouch and closed with his opponent, but despite Tweed Suit’s greater strength and skill, Black Coat’s fury gave him a strength that was equal to his opponent. The pair grappled, teetering on the very rim of the precipice.

~~~

Again, the book is titled, The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival, by Stephanie Osborn. It’s available through Amazon, Barnes-Noble, Blackwells,and other venues in the US and UK. Links may be found on my website:

http://www.stephanie-osborn.com