Among the Shine Clan

Among the Shine Clan by Dellani Oakes – Part 28

among the shine clan cover“Do you greet all your female guests with a pile of clothing and a personal visit?”

He chuckled eyeing her almost hungrily. “No, just the special ones.”

He faltered as she walked over to the bed, dropping the towel and dressing unashamedly. She was tall for a woman, broad shouldered and strong. Muscles rippled under her pale skin, the light casting highlights and shadows across her breasts and thighs.

Karl sighed longingly, wanting to touch her. This was what had gotten him in trouble before, her smooth, creamy complexion, hair like golden honey and her eyes, dark, stormy, blue-grey like the ocean in a hurricane.

Half dressed, she sat beside him on the bed, staring in his light grey eyes. He had aged a lot since she had last seen him. Of course, he had been eighteen at the time, and that was nearly sixteen years ago. Time had been hard on him. His brown hair was going grey at the temples. Her hand fluttered involuntarily to move a wisp of hair from his forehead.

He caught her hand in his, kissing it gently, his lips seeking hers. Instead of falling into his embrace as she dearly wanted to, she moved away from him. Resisting him was so hard, but she must. She had never dated married men. Many of her ideals had lapsed over the years, but that one never had.

“I’ve missed you, Hannah.”

“Oh, you certainly seem to have, Karl. I’ve been gone sixteen years, and you have a child fifteen years old? I see you missed me for a week?” Her betrayed her hurt.

“I’m sorry, Hannah. I didn’t want to. The marriage was planned, you know that. Even if you’d stayed, I would still have married Uta.”

“You have four children, Karl. You don’t look like you are hurting for attention.”

“The sex is meaningless, Hannah. I never stopped loving you. You’re still so beautiful. You set me on fire!” His voice grew husky as he rose, walking to her.

“You have a wife and four children! Aren’t you worried your snooty little wife or one of your precious children will walk in on us?”

“Uta took the children to the park. I told her you and your friends needed a quiet house to get a few hours of sleep.”

“How kind of you, that is exactly what I need. Did it occur to you that I might not love you any more?”

Her words caught in her throat, forcing the bile in her stomach to gag her. She couldn’t lie to him, but this time she had to be strong.

“I was young, Karl. I made a mistake and paid dearly. I served my time and lived to tell about it. I’m not that girl any more, enamored of a handsome, gallant, intelligent, charming young man.”

“Was I all those things to you, Hannah?” He moved closer to her, touching her arms gently with his fingertips.

“Karl!” The name was a sob. Uta stood in the doorway.

“It’s not what you think, Uta,” he babbled.

“It looks as if you’re talking to a woman who’s nearly naked. What am I to assume?” Her face was tight with anger.

“Assume the worst, Uta,” Fiddlestix spat. “Just like you assumed Karl and I were sleeping together! Well, for your information, we never had sex. Not for lack of wanting to, but your little trap snared us before we could. You stole my youth, my love, and my life from me, Uta!”

Throwing on the rest of her clothing, Fiddlestix ran down the hall, banging on the doors of Blacksmith and Buzzard. Both of them answered in various stages of undress, eyes bleary.

“We’re leaving,” she told them. “I no longer feel welcome here. Mr. Fumler has promised us an escort. Get dressed. Karl, I’ll expect your team downstairs in fifteen minutes.”

Karl nodded, walking off toward the stairs. Uta stood glaring at Fiddlestix, hands balled into fists.

“Don’t ever come back, Hannah, or I swear to you…!”

“Don’t threaten me, Uta.” She pointed one powerful metal finger at Karl’s wife. “Don’t make that mistake. I’m not the girl I was. If you didn’t have children, I’d have killed you already. But a child needs its mother.” She pushed past Uta, nearly knocking her down, as she hurried outside toward her bike.

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Among the Shine Clan

Among the Shine Clan by Dellani Oakes – Part 29

among the shine clan coverFiddlestix ran toward the river less than a mile away. There was a special place there she had always gone when she was upset. Her feet carried her there automatically, tears streaming down her face. Collapsing into a heap on the damp bank, she heard footsteps following her, but she did not look up, assuming it was Karl.

“Hey, chica,” Blacksmith’s voice was so unexpected, she stopped crying. “Listen, we gonna go now, or what? The men are asking about you. Let’s get out of here, okay?” He helped her stand up, eyeing her appraisingly. “He meant a lot to you, huh?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

His smile was gentle, warm with understanding. “There’s other men out there. Maybe you’ll find another one who’ll treat you right, eh?”

“Do you ever have regrets, Dario?”

“I have many. What kind?”

“Where you wonder what it would have been like to settle down and have a family?”

He laughed sardonically. “Sometimes, when I am very drunk, I have these thoughts. Then I find a pretty girl, have lots of sex and tequila and I feel better. We aren’t meant for that kind of life. Other people live like that. Not us.”

They had returned to the bikes and found themselves surrounded by muscular men dressed in camouflage uniforms. Karl was sending his best men with them, and for that, Fiddlestix was grateful.

Karl kissed her cheek, hugging her tightly to him, not wanting to let her go. “If you need me, you know how to contact me, Hannah,” he whispered before releasing her.

“Yes, Karl.”

“Hannah, I’m sorry….”

Fiddlestix pushed him away, turning abruptly from him. Flinging her long leg over the motorcycle, she kicked it into action. The Harlich men flanked the companions. Once they were on the road, she approached the man in charge, talking to him on her headset, explaining what had happened the night before with the Noir. His perfunctory nod punctuated the conversation.

“So, Hannah,” he said finally, switching to a private channel. “Does this mean you’re coming back?”

“No, Dirk, I’m not.”

“Because of Karl?”

“Not entirely.”

Dirk had been Karl’s best friend in those days. He knew about her disgrace, though many didn’t.

“I can’t go back to how things were. I’d fooled myself into thinking I could recapture my past. That doesn’t work.”

He nearly whispered into the microphone. “Do you still love him?”

“I thought I did, but no.”

“There are many other men around, Hannah. You don’t have to be alone unless you want to.”

She chuckled, making a rude gesture at him. “True. What’s funny is I’ve already had an invitation from someone else today, other than Karl, I mean.” She pulled ahead of him.

Puzzled, Dirk gunned his motor, trying to catch up. She wouldn’t reestablish conversation, no matter what he asked her.

They took side road, heading south. They would catch the remnants of I-95 and ride north, around the Noir territory. It was relatively safe here, as Château Noir had no hold on this area, not yet challenging the Harlichs for control. Given the hazards, the Noir didn’t really want it anyway. Alligators, snakes, panthers, sinkholes, quicksand and bogs made it one of the most dangerous areas in the county if not the state. The road was good, maintained by the Harlichs.

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Among the Shine Clan

Among the Shine Clan by Dellani Oakes – Part 27

among the shine clan cover

The four of them walked quietly to the front door, which flew open as Karl’s hand touched it. A smiling child, who looked to be around six years old, greeted him by jumping into his arms, yelling loudly.

“Papa’s home! Everyone, he’s brought guests! Hello, Papa. I lost a tooth!”

Karl chuckled, putting the little boy down gently. “I see, it’s a magnificent gap. I’ll show you how to whistle through it later. Where’s Mama?”

The boy grabbed his father’s hand, dragging him toward the kitchen. A pretty, slight figured blonde woman moved toward them from the stove, pushing a stray lock of hair from her brow. Smiling, she greeted the men, but Fiddlestix was awarded a wary glance of a territorial female. Her mouth formed a prim line of disapproval.

“Hannah, how good to see you after all these years.”

She took Karl’s arm in a possessive grasp, dragging him to sit at the head of the table. The men sat near him, while Fiddlestix was squeezed between two of the older children, a boy and a girl who looked around fifteen and thirteen, respectively.

“Delighted to see you as well, Uta,” she snapped, obviously nothing of the kind. She looked daggers at Karl, who would not meet her gaze. Judging by the ages of the children, he certainly had not mourned her going for very long.

“Meet my little ones, Hannah. The smallest one is Alder. The strapping lad to your left is Karl the Sixth. Papa insisted. We call him Fritz. The lovely young lady to your right is Nixie and the baby is Lottie.”

“Lovely to make your acquaintance,” she remembered to use her best manners in front of Uta.

Even as children, they disliked one another. It had been Uta’s interference which had gotten Karl and Hannah in trouble, for she had told her parents that she had seen them together in the woods. Uta was a jealous, spiteful person, and here Karl was married to her! Had it not been Uta’s home, and table at which she sat, Fiddlestix would have risen, dashing from the room in tears. She wouldn’t give Uta the satisfaction. A glazed smile plastered itself on her face as she ate.

Breakfast was soon over, and a servant showed Buzzard, Blacksmith and Fiddlestix to their rooms. Baths were hot, steaming with fragrant herbs. Fiddlestix lowered herself into hers, hoping she would drown and save her from killing Karl.

“He couldn’t have waited more than a couple of months!” She muttered loudly. “I’ll bet he was in her pants before mine even got cold! The nerve of that man, the absolute, unmitigated gall of that man! Just goes to prove, all men think with their genitals!”

A soft tap sounded at her door.

“Who is it?” She snapped.

“It’s Nixie, Miss Braun. I’ve brought up some towels for you. Shall I leave them by the bathroom door?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Certainly, Miss.”

Fiddlestix heard the door click shut and wondered how much of her tirade Nixie had overheard.

Drying off, she wrapped a towel around herself as she moved about the bathroom. A sound in the bedroom startled her. Had she not been in Karl’s house, she would have activated the pistol in her arm, but it could easily be one of his children.

Holding the towel tightly around her breasts, she peeked out the door, glancing around the room. The door was shut just as Nixie had left it, but there were cloths in a pile on the end of the bed and Karl was sitting beside them, staring at her. There was an odd expression in his eyes.

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Among the Shine Clan—Part 26 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverFiddlestix and her companions have arrived in the Harlich territory, only to find that the former leader has died. His son, Karl the Fifth, is now in charge. Unsure of her welcome, Fiddlestix hesitates.

Karl chuckled. “We have both forgotten our manners. Your friends probably don’t speak a word of Dutch, and here we are babbling incoherently while they wait patiently for us to stop.”

He switched to English, reaching across his massive desk, shaking hands first with Blacksmith and then with Buzzard. “I am Karl Fumler, but I expect you know that.”

“Dario Estiban,” Blacksmith said simply.

“Tyree Delsin,” Buzzard supplied.

“Welcome to you both. So, back to why you are here,” Karl sat at the desk, folding his hands in front of him in a gesture like his father.

“We had such a time getting here, I nearly forgot our errand,” Fiddlestix said with a laugh “I come on behalf of another party. His wife is missing, and he asked the three of us to come and leave a message for her, with you.”

“I don’t know how I can possibly be of any help, Hannah. But I shall be happy to convey a message if I can. Who is the woman?”

“Her name is Scarlet Obert Varin.”

His expression hardened slightly, but he kept his aplomb. “And the message?” His manner of speech got very clipped.

“He asked me to repeat his message exactly: Tell them to have Scarlet contact me in the old way.

“That was the extent of it? And for this you three risked your lives? Ridiculous! You could have called me for a message like that!”

“No, I couldn’t, Karl. We both know that you wouldn’t have spoken to me on the phone. Any message I might have left for you wouldn’t have been delivered.”

He couldn’t contradict her, they both knew the truth.

“Varin, he sincerely wants to hear from his wife?”

“Yes,” Blacksmith interjected. “Mr. Varin worries for her safety. When he was unavailable, Mrs. Varin went into hiding.”

Karl nodded sagely. It was a familiar enough scenario in these uncertain times. “I’ve never met Scarlet,” he replied simply. “However, I do know those who might. I will see what I can find out for you. I’ll circulate the message. Scarlet will contact her husband if she is able. Now that you’ve dispatched your errand….” He seemed ready to launch into a long conversation.

“Karl, we’re rather tired. May we stay until midday?” Fiddlestix asked kindly. “Most of the Noir will be asleep by then.”

“Very well. If you like, I can send a few men with you. The Noir don’t disturb us.”

“Why don’t you move against them?”

“I can’t declare war on them when they’ve not harmed us. The second they step across that line, Baker and his bevy of lunatics will die.”

He took another deep breath, preparing a rant, if Fiddlestix didn’t miss her bet. Instead of allowing it, she cut him off again.

“Karl, if you don’t mind, I think my associates and I could use a bath and a meal.”

He chuckled. “Of course. I apologize, it’s been so long since I saw you. All your needs will be seen to, Hannah. You will all be guests in my home. Please, follow me.”

He led them to a beautiful, Tudor style house. Fiddlestix’ eyes glittered as she gazed at her old home. It was just as she remembered. It was a rambling, solid home with a high and big windows. Flowering vines clung to the walls and two massive trellises flanked the front door. These were covered with dark red roses and confederate jasmine. It looked so much the same, it made Fiddlestix want to sob with homesickness.

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Among the Shine Clan – Part 25 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverFiddlestix has been hired by Donan Varin to find his wife. She, and two bodyguards, are on their way to see the Harlichs south of Daytona. But first, they have to go through the hostile Chateau Noir territory. Their leader has put a substantial bounty on Fiddlestix’ head.

They turned east, skirting the shoreline. The night-sight helped a lot. With luck, they would make it to the Harlichs without Bobby knowing they were there. Luck wasn’t with them. A guard station caught them by surprise. They weren’t as startled as the guards were. The disorganized men were dispatched in short order. However, the noise alerted the other stations. The hunt was on and they were the quarry.

“Press the yellow button,” Blacksmith said.

They hit the yellow buttons and a turbo boost kicked in, spurring them to speeds well over a hundred. Flying blindly through the woods, they dodged trees, holes and bogs. The map could not update fast enough, so it was a combination of blind faith and guesswork. Despite the boost, the guards were closing. Knowing the terrain helped their pursuers. It was going to be close.

“Ride together and hit the orange button!” Buzzard cried.

A clicking whir and Fiddlestix saw something fly from the rear of her bike. Nothing happened until the first of their antagonists entered the zone/ Shrapnel filled mini bombs exploded, riddling the group with razor sharp steel springs and rods. Others scattered a field of whirring motion sensor razors. Pandemonium ensued behind them, slowing their attackers.They road at a furious pace, making their way through the woods on prayer and adrenaline. A few more miles flew past and the going got somewhat smoother.

“We’re in Harlich territory.” Blacksmith announced, slowing his bike. “Noir won’t follow us in here.”

“There should be a guard station about half a mile to the west,” Fiddlestix told them. “I think it would be better to announce ourselves formally, don’t you?”

They displayed the orange sashes openly, riding confidently to the Harlich compound. A guard detached himself from his surroundings, weapon leveled at Fiddlestix’ bike. She stopped as soon as she saw him. Setting her kickstand, she rose slowly. Hands well out from her sides, she walked forward. Removing her helmet and goggles, she squinted at the men, looking for familiar faces. She saw none.

“State your business,” the guard yelled in heavily accented English.

“I seek an audience with Meneer Fumler,” Fiddlestix replied in flawless Dutch.

Meneer Fumler does not see just anyone,” the guard replied. “Who are you?”

She cleared her throat before replying, unsure of her welcome. “Tell him, please, that Hannah Braun wishes to speak to him.” Once her name would have opened any door here, but now she feared just the opposite.

“I’ll check. Wait here.”

The guard was back in less than five minutes. Opening the gate, ushered them in. The sun was just peeping over the river as they walked onto the compound.

“Your bikes with be tended. Follow me.”

It had been so long since she had been here, yet little had changed. The buildings were sturdily built of limestone and coquina. The houses were in orderly rows, neatly trimmed yards in front of each. All the houses faced a huge center square where the office buildings stood.

Fiddlestix forced herself to watch the guard’s back as they walked along. As they reached the main building where Karl’s office was, a flutter of fear passed through her.

“I will announce you.” The guard left them outside the door. He returned a moment later, beckoning them to follow.

Fiddlestix stood before Karl’s door, taking a deep breath, trying to relax before entering. The guard opened the door, standing aside for her to walk through. She was completely unprepared for who stood on the other side of the desk from her. This was not the fatherly figure she had anticipated, but the smiling, boyish face of Karl the Fifth!

He stepped around his desk, arms open for a welcoming hug. “Hannah, it’s so good to see you! I’d heard you were back.” He ushered her to a seat. “Why have you waited so long to come see us?”

“I was unsure how I would be received,” she replied shyly.

“I see.” He looked pensive for a moment, then curiosity took hold. Karl looked at them expectantly. “What brings you here? I assume that this is not just a social visit?”

“It’s such a surprise seeing you. I expected Papa.” She could not help falling into the old, familiar pattern of speech.

His face clouded and it was his turn to hang his head. “He died, Hannah. Cancer is indiscriminate.”

Impulsively, she reached across the desk, taking his hand in hers, squeezing gently. “I know you miss him. He was a fine man. Where are my manners? I haven’t made introductions.”

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Among the Shine Clan – Part 24 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverVarin tells Fiddlestix that he needs her help to find his wife. According to him, she is the only one with connections to two groups: The Shine Clan and the Harlichs. He refers to it as a blood bond. He offers to send his bodyguards with her, if she will accept the job.

“Time dribbles away from us,” Varin interjected. “If you are finished reminiscing, I need you to give Karl Fumler of the Harlichs a message.”

“What’s the message?”

“Tell him to have Scarlet contact me in the old way.”

“Nothing more?”

“No. She’ll know what to do.”

“And the Shine Clan?”

“The same, please. If she’s able, she’ll get in touch.”

“Mr. Varin, I will get your message delivered. What they do with it from there, I can’t guarantee.”

“All I ask is that you contact them. When it’s done, you will get the balance of your fee. Half of the money has been credited to your account.” He showed her confirmation of the transaction.

“Thank you, Mr. Varin. All right boys, let’s go!”

They road to Varin’s estate on the outskirts of town, in paranoid silence. After Varin was left in the care of his other bodyguards, Blacksmith led Fiddlestix into a large garage where three tweaked Harley’s waited in silent glory.

“They are the fastest bikes on the road,” Blacksmith said proudly. “Silent as shadows, armored and capable of projecting a force shield around the rider.”

“Sweet!” She walked over, touching them admiringly. The dark blue one appealed to her the most, but she did not want to seem picky. “Which is for me to ride?”

Blacksmith chuckled, pointing a stubby finger at the blue bike. “How about that one?”

“Works for me,” she tried not to sound too pleased, but her dark blue eyes twinkled happily.

Buzzard handed her a set of biker leathers complete with boots, gloves and goggles. The goggles had infrared, motion sensor, night vision and spectra-graphic capabilities. She couldn’t figure out the purpose of this setting, until she looked at Buzzard through them. She could see every piece of cyberware in his body. All of it showed red. His weapons showed up a dull blue.

“Crazy!”

“Ready?” Blacksmith was already sitting on his bike, looking like a big kid. Buzzard sat on his, making it look like a child’s toy.

“I was born ready,” Fiddlestix chuckled, putting the goggles on and switching to night-sight and swung her leg over the bike.

Fiddlestix and the bodyguards hit old US-1 and turned left. Their destination was about forty miles south in what had once been the sleepy little town of Oak Hill. It was now the last stronghold of decency left in all of eastern Volusia County, the Harlich headquarters.

The Harlich Brotherhood was started by the great-grand-father of the current leader, Karl Fumler the First. Karl Fumler the Fourth was now leader of the small, isolationist society. He ran the community like a military organization.

In a way, Fiddlestix was looking forward to a visit with Karl. When her own parents died, he raised her like his own. His son, Karl the Fifth, was three years older than she. From the time she was ten, they doted on one another. As teenagers, their interest changed, ending in disaster. Caught in a compromising position. She was given the chance to leave quietly and join the military, or live in disgrace. In comparison to being shunned, the Army hadn’t sounded too bad.

“Approaching the first Noir checkpoint,” Blacksmith told her on the headset inside the helmet. “We off road it for a few miles.”

“Won’t they catch us on their senors?”

He chuckled softly. “Really, chica, did you think Mr. Varin would send us in defenseless? Press that white button by the throttle.”

Fiddlestix saw an array of different colored buttons on her handlebars. She pressed the white one. A shimmering cloud enfolded her and the bike, undulating slightly in the wind of their passing. The two men also initiated their shields, grinning at her surprise.

“The boss knows how to spend his money,” Blacksmith added gleefully.

The bikes were almost noiseless, and their shields made them virtually undetectable on surveillance equipment. They were on side roads now, following them in short spurts. Occasionally, they would go off road to detour around the guard stations.

The line for Harlich territory was less than three miles away when Blacksmith slowed to a stop, cutting his engine. Getting off his bike, he handed them extra ammunition. He also gave them an orange sash.

“Don’t put that on until we hit Harlich territory. The configuration shows we are visitors, asking for safe passage. They’re supposed to honor it.”

“They will, as long as we don’t do anything stupid,” Fiddlestix assured him. “Karl insists upon treating everyone as a guest. But if we give him a reason, he’ll kill us himself without a qualm.”

“Nice fellow,” Blacksmith muttered.

“That nice fellow was like a father to me once,”was her terse rejoinder. She mounted her bike, kicked the starter and waited for them to do the same. “So, what do we do if we run into any of Bobby’s boys?”

“First, we hope we don’t. Barring that, we play nice unless they don’t mind their manners,. If they don’t….” Blacksmith shrugged casually.

There was no safe road where they were going, so they turned east, skirting the shoreline, doing their best to avoid swamps, lagoons and gullies. The night sight helped a lot, as did the three dimensional map of the terrain their bikes projected for them. It operated on the same principle as Doppler radar, and updated immediately, warning of hazards ahead of them. The going was slow, but so far they had avoided the Château Noir. With luck, they would make it to the Harlichs without Bobby knowing they were there.

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Among the Shine Clan – Part 23 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan cover

Fiddlestix, now out of the military, is a solo for hire. She’s been approached by a man named Donan Varin, the Contractor King. He has a problem, and he wants her help. He’s accompanied by two bodyguards, Buzzard and Blacksmith.

The bodyguards stepped forward. Buzzard laid a restraining hand on her shoulder. Blacksmith detached her fingers from his employer’s shirt front.

“I would hate to hurt a lady, but if you do that again, ma’am, I’ll end you,” Buzzard said in a mild tone.

Shrugging their hands aside, she stalked away from Varin. “You still haven’t said what you want.”

“I hear you’re connected.”

“Maybe you heard wrong.” She lit another cigarette and waited, feigning disinterest. The set of her broad shoulders gave her away.

Varin shook his head. “You have a relationship with two groups I most need to contact. Not many can boast the same.”

“I have many acquaintances. Which ones?” She blew smoke at him casually, as if he didn’t have her full attention.

“The Shine Clan and the Harlichs.” Varin looked smug.

“I don’t know who you mean.” It was a feeble bluff.

“You know exactly who I mean. My wife also has connections with them, which is why I need your help.”

“Maybe she wanted to leave you, Varin. Did that occur to you?”

He shook his head adamantly. “Scarlet would never do that.”

“What connection does your wife have with them?”

“The same as you, blood bond.”

Fiddlestix fell silent, waiting.

“The name Scarlet Obert Varin should elicit a distinct response from both organizations.”

“Hannah Braun officially died years ago, Varin. I don’t know if my contacts will be expecting a call from me.”

“All I ask is that you try. I will pay you handsomely.”

“How handsomely?”

He named a figure that made her mind boggle. That got her full attention.

“Half now, half when the job is complete.”

“You are aware it’s a face to face. I can’t just call and expect them to talk to me.”

Varin nodded again. “I am aware of that. The boys will accompany you.”

“I’m ex Special Forces, I don’t need bodyguards.”

“It would make me feel better knowing you had company.”

Fiddlestix cracked an uncharacteristic grin, running her fingers through her short, platinum blonde, spiked hair. “I’m touched, really. But I can handle myself.”

He shook his head, adamant. “Since your last contact with the Harlichs, things have changed. Château Noir now owns most of the nearby territory. They have an open contract on you.”

“Château Noir, huh? Interesting development. When did they change the name from Black House Anarchy?”

“Two years ago,” Buzzard replied.

“You want us to go now, chica?”

“As much as I hate to admit it, Blacksmith, yes. Bad Ass Baker and his boys would like to grind me into dog food, alive.”

“Bad Ass Baker?” Buzzard looked confused. “Our intel says a guy by the name Shogun Corbett runs Noir.”

“Skinny guy with black, greasy hair and covered in tattoos with multiple piercings?”

“Yeah.” Buzzard said.

“That’s Bobby. He must have upgraded his moniker when he changed their name to Château Noir. In my day it was Bobby Alvin Baker.”

“I understand you two used to date?” This from Blacksmith.

“He had much better hygiene in those days,”was her cryptic reply. “He also was pretty bad ass in bed.”She winked at Blacksmith, who chuckled.

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Among the Shine Clan Part 22 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverFiddlestix has left the military and is now freelancing as a solo. Her path leads her to Daytona Beach, where she’s sitting in a bar, waiting for something to happen.

As if on an unspoken signal, the three men approached her table, in a non-threatening manner. The bodyguards kept their hands well away from their weapons, moving in to flank the corp. He stopped by her table, asking permission to sit with a gesture of his hand. A sharp inclination of her spiked blonde head indicated he could. Taking a seat on the rickety chair, he leaned across the table in a conspiratorial manner drawing unwanted attention. Fiddlestix pressed her thick soled boot against his seat, pushing it away from the table, tapping his testicles in the process. Getting the idea, he moved back.

“Is there somewhere more appropriate we can talk?” Even his voice was medium range and uninfluenced by an accent.

Fiddlestix was formulating a snide, snappish reply when he reached up to remove his glasses. For the first time, she saw something of him that wasn’t dull brown. His eyes were a startling, vivid green. The expression in them was one of desperation. Her manner changed rapidly from sarcastic to curious.

“Sure.” she said softly.”Low’s got some private conference rooms downstairs.”

The tall, ugly one nodded slowly. The short one looked around quickly, assessing the room before Fiddlestix and the corporate rose from the table.

“Lead the way,” the short man said with a thick Hispanic accent.

Remaining wary, she strutted toward the stairs leading down to the private, secure conference rooms. They were the only aspect of Low Blow Gonzalez’ dive bar that was high tech and sophisticated, laced with a security system that made Fort Knox look like it was made from Tinker Toys. They entered one of the rooms, locking it with a code that Fiddlestix tapped in. The room would remain sealed until she released it.

The corporate took a seat in one of the broken down chairs, inviting Fiddlestix to sit. Knowing the instability of the furniture, she chose to stand instead.

“How can I be of assistance, Mr…?”

He had failed to introduce himself. Fiddlestix refused to deal with people whose names she did not know.

“Smith,” he replied with a furtive look at his bodyguards.”These two gentlemen are Blacksmith and Buzzard.”

“Your real name. I don’t deal with people who hide things from me. You want my help, be honest.”

“Donnan Varin,” he admitted quietly.

“The contractor king?”

Varin had forged an empire by building substandard housing for the poor. Dozens of lawsuits were pending. To avoid controversy, he went into hiding. Now here he sat bold as brass, begging for her help.

“Yes,” he muttered. “But it’s not what you think.”

“Mr. Varin was indisposed for awhile,” Blacksmith explained.

“A lot was done in my name,” Varin said fixing her with a commanding gaze. “My affairs were mishandled by people I thought I could trust.”

Fiddlestix propped one foot on an unsteady chair, lighting a cigarette while she waited for him to continue. Instead, he turned to Blacksmith, eyes pleading.

Blacksmith stepped forward. “What Mr. Varin is trying to say, is that while he was indisposed, things went wrong in his business and his wife disappeared.”

“Define indisposed. How could all this happen without his knowledge or consent?”

“I was medically incapacitated.”

Fiddlestix was getting annoyed, which usually meant she got violent. “That didn’t explain at all. I want plain English, Varin, or I walk.”

“Well, I was dead.”

“Dead?”

He nodded nervously. “For a period of five years, I was dead. This body is a replacement, the first one died of a rather dreadful disease.”

“You’re a clone?”

“Yes. You see, I had my former body held in stasis until I could reunite my body with my psyche.”

“Spare me the details. It sounds like it’s bordering on metaphysical, let’s not go there.” She turned away, waving her hand, ending the discussion.

“I badly need your help, Miss Braun.”

Fiddlestix whirled on him, grabbing his shirt. “Don’t ever use that name! Hannah Braun is dead.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Among the Shine Clan, Dellani Oakes

Among the Shine Clan – Part 21 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverIt’s time to go. Fiddlestix had to make a clean break, running away from Deacon. Only her sense of duty to her people has made her go back. She couldn’t let them face McLain alone.

McLain was waiting at the tarmac to meet them. He didn’t look happy. When he saw how few of the cyber warriors she’d brought home, he was even angrier. “Those men are worth a million apiece and you killed them?”

“They were a threat, sir.”

“You know what I think, Master Sergeant? I think you’re the threat.”

“With all due respect, sir, you’re full of shit. You sent us in there knowing what we were up against. You know what I think? I think you sent them there on purpose.” She clapped him on the shoulder in a friendly fashion.

“You can’t prove that,” McLain growled, jerking away.

Fiddlestix smiled as if to say she could do exactly that. Without another word, she marched back to her quarters. McLain ran to his quarters and began going through files on his computer. He put in a call to Frieze, bellowing at the younger man to come help him destroy the evidence. A few moments later, there was a knock at his office door.

Without bothering to check who it was, McLain yelled, “Come in!”

Fiddlestix entered, surrounded by military police. “Take the general into custody.”

“Yes, Master Sergeant.”

They surrounded McLain who yelled and protested. “You can’t prove this. You can’t prove a damn thing!”

“But I can, sir. You haven’t hidden your tracks very well. That little device you’ll notice on your arm was very helpful.”

He looked at his arm and saw she had placed a nearly invisible surveillance device on him. Everything he had said and done since getting in his office had been recorded and sent to a judge, including copies of all his files.

“General McLain,” the MP said quietly. “I’m afraid I have to arrest you now, sir.”

McLain left without an argument. As he passed Fiddlestix, he spit in her face. She smiled sweetly, wiping the spittle on his jacket.

“You haven’t heard the last of me!”

“That’s true. I’ll see you in court, sir.” She gestured to the MP. “Take this sack of shit out of my sight.”

“Yes, Master Sergeant.”

Fiddlestix watched them lead McLain away. He turned once to glare at her, but she hardly noticed. Instead, a sweet melody filled her head as she watched the sunset. She felt Deacon’s arms around her and she smiled knowing that some day she would go back to Shine Peak. One day, she would go home.

Daytona Beach, Florida 2052

Fiddlestix sat with her back to the wall, in the corner of the dingy, ill lit room, watching the crowd surreptitiously. No one came to Low Blow Gonzalez’ Bar because it was a popular night spot. They came to find work, but more often found trouble. Dressed in dusty biker leathers, she fit right into the sleazy, dirty atmosphere with ease, just as she intended. Keeping a low profile, she continued to scan the crowd. Dim figures moved around the room. Some drifted in the vicinity of her seat, but a glare from her and they quickly walked away, slouching into their collars, hands shoved deep in pockets. Her battered weapon and formidable cyber arm convinced them to move on.

Paper fluttered on the bulletin board near the abruptly opened front door. A dozen hands dropped to an odd assortment of lethal weapons. None drew, waiting. A trio of men walked in. The first was tall, muscular and singularly ugly. The second was short, squat and wore a black duster that dragged the ground. The third looked like a lower level corporate; medium height, weight and build. His hair was a nondescript shade of brown. His eyes were covered with dark glasses. His suit was dark brown with a beige shirt and rust colored tie. In other words, innocuous.

Once it was established that the newcomers weren’t there to start something, the customers returned to their conversations. The corporate stood behind the other two men, while the big one moved forward, scanning the room slowly. His gaze traveled the perimeter of the room, coming slowly to Fiddlestix’ location. Another step toward her, and she had her weapon in her hand. She aimed at him under the table, casually tipping back in her chair to get a better shot.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Among the Shine Clan – Part 20 by Dellani Oakes

among the shine clan coverThere is a wonderful party after the ceremony. After a special dance, Deacon takes Fiddlestix back to bed. The following morning, Jasper wakes them again, because it’s time for her to go home.

“I don’t want to go, Deacon. I wish I could stay with you forever.”

“You could, Hannah-Belle.”

“I’ve got commitments, Deacon. I can’t walk out on them.”

“I know, baby, I just don’t want you to go.”

“I’ll come back.”

“You promise?”

“Cross my heart,” she whispered, her voice catching in her throat.

“I’m gonna hold you to that promise, Hannah. You stole my heart right out of my chest. You can’t stay gone, a man can’t live with long without his heart.”

“I’ll give you mine then,” she placed her hand on his chest.

She could feel his heart beating strong and fast. Suddenly terrified by the idea of commitment, she kissed him one last time and dashed from the room. Deacon followed her to the door, stopping just outside the compound as she and her people prepared to march down the mountain. Their air transport, sent by Captain Bark, would pick them up near their drop point and take them back to their base.

Deacon raised his hand, whistling to catch her attention. The sharp, shrill sound rent the air. Fiddlestix turned and grinned, raising a hand to wave goodbye. Deacon blew her a kiss which she returned. One last, fond look and she ran to the head of the formation, bellowing at her troops.

“Move it out! Double time. Don’t make me wait!”

“Yes, Master Sergeant!” they yelled in unison, speeding up.

The last Deacon saw of her was her spiky, blonde hair bobbing at the head of the column. That faded into the mist that hung over the mountain top. With a heavy sigh, he turned and walked disconsolately back into the compound. Jasper ran up behind him, nearly tackling him.

“Yo, big brother! You’ve got a meeting at 1100.”

“Yeah? So what? Maybe I’ll cancel all my meetings today.”

“No can do, bro. Life’s got to go on, Deacon. Even if she’s gone, you can’t stop doing your duty.”

“I know. It’s duty got me into this, it’s duty that will keep me going until she comes back.”

Punching his brother in the arm, he walked to his office. He sat behind the desk that had been his father’s and grandfather’s before him, wondering what else life had in store.

Fiddlestix had to force herself not to keep looking back. She knew Deacon would stand at the door until she was out of sight. If she looked back at him, she didn’t know if she’d be able to stand it.

Kaz jogged up next to her, puffing hard. “Master Sergeant, can we slow it down a little? Some of us, me included, can’t keep up. I’m hurtin’ bad. If you don’t slow down, I’m gonna drop dead. Hell of a note to live through the battle, and die of exhaustion.”

Fiddlestix laughed and slowed down. “Sorry. I had to make a clean break. If I hadn’t, I don’t know if I’d have left.”

“You could have stayed.”

“And make you face McLain alone?”

Kaz looked wistfully back at the mountain peak. “I wouldn’t have minded staying myself, Master Sergeant.” He sucked air in sharply. “Damn, that girl was fine! I could have stayed my whole life and never been sorry a day. When I get out of the Army, I’m going back. I’m going home.”

“I’m not the settling down kind, Kaz. It was fun while it lasted, but it’s not the life for me.”

“You might surprise yourself, Master Sergeant. I seen the way you looked at Deacon. You ain’t gonna admit it to yourself, but you’re hooked on that big, blond hillbilly.”

“And I suppose you aren’t hooked on Betsy?”

“I’m gonna marry that girl and have a passel of pretty, redheaded babies.”

“I truly hope you can, Kaz.”

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