Category Archives: Fiction

Stories that contain moments of truth.

Addae’s Birthday Gift

Addae opened his eyes. Dim light was filtering through shutters but the sun was not yet up. His little sister, Echo, was sleeping quietly on a mat beside him. He could hear noise outside. Momma and Lale, Addae’s older sister, were preparing the morning meal. Poppa would already be out gleaning grain in the fields, but would return in time to eat before catching a tro tro into the city for work.

Addea jumped up and ran from the hut. He loved to run. He would run everywhere. This morning was no exception. He looked at the sky. It was pink.

He ran faster.

He would wash himself at the village well and race back before the sun touched his hut. Addae’s name meant Morning Sun. Momma said he earned that name by making her wait all night for delivery.

Addae arrived at the well only to find that Raziya and her mother were already there. Raziyah was two months older than Addae. She was fast, for a girl, but Addae would never concede that  she could out run him. He must have slept too long.

“Greetings, Addae.” Raziya’s mother smiled at him.

Addae bowed his head. “Good morning, Auntie. Hope you slept well.”  Addae was still breathing hard, making it difficult to speak the greeting. Raziya smiled. Addae frowned.

Raziya’s mother drew a pitcher of water from the well and poured it in a bucket. “Does the morning sun withhold its smile from our humble village?”  Raziya held the bucket for her mother.

“No, Auntie.” Addae grimaced.

“That is not much better. Come closer, Addae.”

Addae approached Raziya’s mother. Raziya scowled.

“Today is an important day. You must look your best.”

Addae nodded.

“Bow your head.”

Addae obeyed.

Raziya’s mother poured cool water over Addae’s head and torso. He sputtered, scrubbing his head, then his chest with his hands. He wiped the water and sleep from his eyes and smiled for the first time. Raziya and her mother smiled back.

“I thank  you for your kindness.”

Raziya watched Addae as her mother once again dipped the pitcher in the well. Addae looked up as morning rays touched tree tops.” He must hurry, he thought.  “God’s blessings, Auntie.”

“God’s blessings, Addae.”

Addae sprinted from the well, down a dusty path. He wove between huts with great speed. When he rounded a corner and came upon his own hut, he stopped, abruptly. Something  was different.

He looked to the sky. In spite of not being first to the well he had raced the sun and had won. Morning rays had not yet touched his hut.

“Momma?  Poppa?” he called.

No one answered.

The charcoal fire was burning, serpentine smoke snaking in the gentle morning breeze, and there were cakes on the fire. The clay oven was lit and bread was baking, but neither Momma, Lale or Echo were close by.

Addae entered the hut.

Momma? Lale? Echo?

He heard something outside and ran out of the hut.

“SURPRISE.”

Addae jumped. Momma, Poppa, Lale and Echo were all there smiling and laughing as the morning sun washed over them.  Addae laughed too.

“Greetings, my son, and birthday wishes,” Poppa said.

“Greetings, Poppa, and thank you,” Addae replied.

“We have a gift for you.”

“A gift?” He could see no gift.

“For your birthday,” Echo said, as Poppa drew a bundle wrapped in brown paper from behind his back. Addae’s eyes grew big and Poppa laughed. The paper crinkled as Addae took the package from Poppa.

“What is it?” Addae asked.

“You must open it, brother,” Lale said.

“Your sister speaks truth,” Momma laughed. “Open it.”

Addae beamed then tore into the package. When the paper fell away, he held up a brilliant blue, long sleeved polo shirt with three stripes on it and the word, Adidas.

“Put it on,” Momma said.

“It is Adidas,” Poppa said. “It will make you fast.”

“Addaedas,” Echo said. “like you.”

Addae put the shirt on over his naked chest and they all laughed. It was much too big.

“He will grow into it,” Lale said.

“He will grow out of it,” Momma said.

Poppa smiled. “Run, Addae. Run, before the morning sun climbs too high.”

Behind the scenes

The boy in the photograph was very proud of his  Adidas shirt. He told us it made him fast. He received it for his birthday. His parents bought it at a store in Accra which sold used clothing donated from the United States. In Lubumbashi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I saw one child with a Los Angeles Lakers jersey . I live near Lone Peak High School in Cedar Hills, Utah and was surprised to see a boy in Sierra Leone wearing a Lone Peak High School jersey.

I have been to Africa many times. It is a continent of contrasts not free from turmoil or strife. Yet, in my travels throughout the continent, I have been blessed by many people of kindness, faith and love. The story above is based on a visit to the village of Yamoransah, Ghana. There I met a family I grew to admire in a very short period of time. Their lives are much different from my own. Yet, we share a common desire, to see our children grow up in the light of the morning sun.

African Adidas
While his little sister shyly watches, this African boy stands proud in his Adidas.

 

The Bonneville Salt Flats are Dying

 

Tire tracks on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Tire tracks mar the salt near the Bonneville Speedway. Drive at your own risk.

It seemed like I’d been walking for hours. I couldn’t tell. I lost track of time, long ago. There were signs that others had been here before me, tracks in the salt, but I was alone.

I thought I heard something and stopped to listen. Were my ears playing tricks on me, inventing sounds in the stillness that weren’t there? I couldn’t tell.

My pounding heart was the only sound. All else was stillness. Oppressive, silence.

I was alone.

I began again, and the muffled shuffle of my shoes in the salt beat eighth notes to the sixteenth notes of my heart.

I was thirsty. I needed water.

The Sun glistens on water covering the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The setting sun glistens on the water covering the Bonneville Salt Flats.

I had run out . Yet, I could see it on the surface of the salt, shimmering, teasing, taunting. The closer I got the farther it seemed to be.

If I could  just make it to the mountains.

Bonneville Salt Flats reflections.
Water covering the Bonneville Salt Flats forms a near perfect mirror.

Splashes, suddenly. The sound was refreshing. My steps disturbed a sea of glass. The mirage had not retreated. It was real. The surface stretched for miles. My footsteps sent expanding ripples across the glassy mirror, distorting the sky below me.

Bonneville Salt Flats under water.
A thin sheet of water covers the Bonneville Salt Flats at certain times of the year.

I took two more steps and stumbled. The salt gave way to mud beneath it and my shoes remained behind. I fell to my knees and my pants sucked up water, wet coolness, rising slowly up my thighs. I watched the khaki darken with curiosity, as if my clothes were trying to suck waning life back into my body.

Water covering miles and miles of the Bonneville Salt Flats is only a few inches deep.
Shallow water covers miles and miles of the Bonneville Salt Flats at certain times of the year.

Somewhere inside my head I sensed, maybe even knew, I should not drink this water. It renewed these salt plains. But it was so blue, so clear, and the need was so great. My lips were cracked and my tongue was dry.

I could not resist.

Salt Flats mountain reflections.
A distant rocky mountain reflects on water covering the Bonneville Salt Flats.

I cupped my hands and scooped up the water.  It felt cool on my skin, wet. I opened my mouth and slurped it in. Again, in my head, I knew. I should not have done this.

I was consumed by greed and the reaction was violent. I sputtered and spit. My throat burned. When the brine reached my stomach I retched.

A distant rocky mountain reflects on water covering the Bonneville Salt Flats.
It can be difficult to determine where the earth ends and the sky begins in the perfect reflections of the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Falling forward, my body pushed a large wave across the glass and I broke the surface. The water was not deep. Just enough to cover my face. Salt surrounded me and I looked upon my body, reflecting through the glassy side of a mirror.

When these waters withdraw, others will find evidence that I have been, preserved by salt.

The Bonneville Speedway on the Bonneville Salt Flats used to be thirteen miles long. Now it is only seven. It is not known if the cause of the shrinking salt is due to the depletion of the aquifer as a result of nearby mining, or, from seasonal heavy rains. Nevertheless, the land speed records which have been set in years past must now be accomplished in  shorter distances, as time may be running out on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

My Novel Book Trailer, Death Comes At Night

For all my friends out in the blogosphere, here is the release of my novel book trailer, Death Comes At Night. Check it out.

I’d love to get your feedback.

Death Comes At Night is a suspense/thriller novel guaranteed to get your heart racing and keep you up at night reading. Death Comes At Night, the novel, is available for purchase on Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com or directly from the publisher, Black Rose Writing. For more information email, DeathcomesatnightNovel@gmail.com.

Death Comes at Night Cemetery Reading
James Dalrymple takes a moment to read Death Comes at Night, in the Cemetery.

Credits:
Nate Cummings as Daniel Monson.
McKenna Cullimore as the Woman
James Dalrymple as the Author

Richard Porter, Camera, Sound, Osmo
Anders Piiparinen, Osmo and Grip
Sterling Elliott, Production Assistant
Meagan Piiparinen, Hair and Makeup
James Dalrymple, Writer, Director, Editor, Composer
Special thanks to Don Wadley for use of his farm.

We shot this video on one of the coldest nights of the year. I had intended to use rain in the video; however, the temperature was near 32ºƒ and McKenna was freezing. And, because this was a volunteer effort, I lost the rain.  The cold temperatures did work in our favor as you can see their breath.

Everyone on the crew did a great job. Hopefully, this trailer tweaks your interest enough to buy the book. If it does, let me what you think.

 

Death Comes At Night Book Trailer — James Dalrymple

I am an author and filmmaker and have written a thriller novel called, Death Comes At Night, published by BlackRose Writing. I am putting together a book trailer for the book. The book trailer script is: dcan-trailer_v-2 The storyboard for the trailer is: dcan-storyboard For more information about the book or the author, contact: DeathComesAtNightNovel@gmail.com. […]

Click on this link via Death Comes At Night Book Trailer — James Dalrymple

to access the script and storyboard links on my other site. Thanks.

Moroccan Mint Tea

Women on the Bou Regreg River.
A moment on the banks of the Bou Regreg River in Rabat, Morocco, across from the old city of Salé.

“When did we grow so old?”

Fatima scowled as she handed a steaming cup of mint tea to her sister. Jamila accepted the tea as Fatima settled her bones on the river bulkhead.

“I am not so old as you, sister,” Jamila said, sipping her tea. The tea fragrance carried them back to fall harvest in their mountain  village. As young girls, Fatima and Jamila had worked long hours in their father’s fields.

Now, fall was gone and the damp winters of Rabat pained Fatima’s arthritis. They sat in silence, sipping their tea as the green black waters of Bou Regreg sludged past.

“I do not know why we still come here,” Jamila said.

“Because our husbands do not like it,” Fatima replied and they laughed. There are few satisfying rebellions for a Muslim woman and Fatima and Jamila practiced them often.

“What did the doctor say?” Jamila ventured.

“Youssef is too stubborn to tell me,” Fatima said. She savored a sip of tea. “But I know.”

“What?”

“Prostate.”

“How do you know this?” Jamila realized when she asked the question that she shouldn’t have asked the question. Her cheeks colored and Fatima laughed.

“You are too modest, little sister.”

A gusty breeze fluttered the silks of Jamila’s hijab and she drew the scarf tight under her chin. “Mamma had a remedy for such things,” Jamila said, not looking at her sister.

“I know,” Fatima said. “I have been mixing the herbs with his breakfast meal for weeks.

“You have?” Jamila looked up at her sister, eyes wide.

“What our men don’t know…,” and the sisters giggled as girls.

“Has it helped?” Jamila asked and the women laughed again.

“Shush,” Fatima said. “The Imam will see us laughing.”

“As will the All-Seeing-Eye.”

Bou Regreg River.
The Bou Regreg river divides the sister cities of Rabat and Salé, Morocco.

Fatima shivered in the moist river air as the culture of silence settled on the women. She sipped her tea as a lone seagull squawked above.

“How does Saïd at University?”

“Good. Good. He’ll be home in another month.” Jamila watched a fisherman rowing a worn wooden boat against the current. “And how is Asmae and the babies?”

“The babies are noisy, and hungry,” Fatima smiled. “I love having them here. Asmae says that Hakim wants her to come home.”

“It is too soon.”

“That is what I tell her.”

“She must rest, and feed her little ones.”

“So says the Prophet.”

Jamila took a sip of her mint tea and frowned. “My tea grows cold.”

“As do my old bones.”

Hassan Tower Minaret.
Built of red sandstone in the 10th century, Hassan Tower in Rabat, Morocco, was intended to be the tallest minaret in the world

Fatima and Jamila both twisted their bodies and stood up as old women. When the  Adhan call to prayer echoed across the river they looked up to the minaret.

“The Muezzin is in good voice today.”

“He always sounds good on those days when we aren’t required to be there.” The sisters exchanged guilty smirks.

“Next Friday?”

“Until then.”

“You bring the tea.”

They smiled and embraced.

“Allāhu Akbar.”

“Allāhu Akbar.”

The mournful Muezzin’s call echoed across the cobblestones as the sisters plodded toward home.

Rabat, Morocco cobblestones.
Cobblestones, replaced through the centuries, still provide the foundation for streets in the ancient quarter of Rabat, Morocco.

Death Comes at Night – Great Halloween Read

Death Comes at Night Cemetery Reading
The author takes a moment to read Death Comes at Night, in the Cemetery.

While outside the norm of my usual posts, I wanted you all to know it’s not too late to get your copy of my novel, Death Comes at Night.

It makes a great Halloween read, especially at night.

Death Comes at Night is available for Kindle on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Death-Comes-Night-James-Dalrymple-ebook/dp/B014GCF3MW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1446324523&sr=8-1&keywords=Death+Comes+at+Night

For Nook on Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/death-comes-at-night-james-dalrymple/1122514723?ean=9781612965642

Death Comes at Night is available in paperback, or as an e-book. It is also available at Apple’s iBooks, and on the publisher’s website:

Black Rose Writing

http://www.blackrosewriting.com/suspensethriller/death-comes-at-night?rq=Death%20Comes%20at%20Night

***

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 1:

“In there,” she said.

Daniel shivered.

“What is it? What’s in there?”

She didn’t answer. She turned back to stare inside.

Now I must be crazy.

Daniel Monson had never really done anything crazy in his life. He lived a normal life, a perfect life, sort of.

Good things don’t last.

Shut up.

Go home.

What are you doing here?

Against his better judgment, Daniel stepped around the woman, into the barn.

The light was blinding. He had stepped out of the blackness into a light much darker.

There she was.

The black cocktail dress was torn from her shoulder revealing pearl white skin. A trickle of blood dripped from the corner or her ruby lips. Her arms were above her head as if she were lounging. Her legs were skewed and her black dress was pushed too far up her hips. She had the bluest eyes he had ever seen. She was staring up at him, pleading. He shouldn’t be here. He shouldn’t see this. Who did this?

Run.

He couldn’t run. His arms and legs felt very heavy. He hadn’t realized it, but his teeth were chattering.

So cold. So very cold.

He heard footsteps.

Running.

He turned to look at the woman in the doorframe. She was bleeding on the floor of the barn.

 

Death Comes At Night

Death Comes at Night Novel
Front cover of my new novel, Death Comes At Night

My first novel, Death Comes At Night, is now available for pre-order from the publisher. You can buy the book using this link:  http://www.blackrosewriting.com/suspensethriller/death-comes-at-night

Use promo code: PREORDER2015 to receive a 10% discount. The book will be available as both a hard copy and an ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. It is scheduled for release in two weeks.

Although this may seem like a dramatic departure from my regular blog posts, I wanted you all to know, and to share, and to buy 🙂

It takes a lot of effort to get a new book out there, so, please share this will all your friends and contacts. And, please buy the book 🙂 It WILL keep you up at night. Comments are welcomed. Please be honest 🙂

Here’s what it’s about:

Daniel Monson is about to find that Death Comes at Night.

Driving home from work one night, Daniel nearly runs over a woman standing in the road. Distraught, screaming, she appears to need his help. When Daniel gets out of his car to help her, what he doesn’t know is that she is already dead. From that moment, Daniel’s life spirals out of control. The dead woman has an agenda.

Kill her killer.

Tormented by the dead woman, Daniel is compelled to help. The closer he gets to her killer, the closer her killer gets to him. The hunter is hunted. Daniel’s life is in jeopardy. Then, the killer turns his attention to Daniel’s wife and daughter. Now, the dead woman must help Daniel before her killer destroys his family.

From the book:

“ARE YOU CRAZY?” Daniel said in his most understated yell. “What are you doing standing in the middle of the road? You could get killed.”

The woman turned slowly toward Daniel, arms at her side. She was barefoot, wearing a black cocktail dress, soaked to the skin. She was slender. Her hair was long and dark and very wet. She could have been swimming. Her eyes looked empty somehow, vacant. Daniel couldn’t tell if she could even see him, or hear him.

He took a step toward her.

“Are you O.K?”

She looked right at him.

Then, she SCREAMED.

A blood-curdling scream.

She backed away from Daniel, pulling her arms across her chest. She convulsed in a gag, bending over.

Daniel took another step toward her.

“NO!” she sobbed. “Don’t touch me. Don’t come near me.”

Daniel backed off. Holding his hands out, to show her he meant no harm.

“It’s O.K. I won’t hurt you. I can help you.”

“Help me?” she sobbed. “Help me, please,” she repeated, desperately.

Daniel took a step toward her.

“No, don’t,” she backed up.

Daniel stopped.

“I won’t,” he said. “What’s wrong? What’s happened?”

Her sobs continued.

“I…don’t…know. Something…happened.”

“What? Where?”

She pointed down a muddy road, into the dark woods. Drizzling diamonds glistened in the yellowing headlights from Daniel’s car, still on. All Daniel could see was mud, trees and rain.

“It’s so cold.”

Daniel looked at the woman. She didn’t look crazy, just wet. He was the crazy one.

“Here, take my jacket.” Daniel slipped off his soggy sports jacket and held it out to her.

“Hurry,” she said. She turned and began to run down the muddy road, into the darkness, barefoot. That was crazy.

Enjoy!

Muse 4–Noir Episodic

Franklin Jones was no stranger to trouble. It followed him around like a storm chaser. The wind was always blowing in the wrong direction to catch a break.

DSC00699_700_701_BrickWall_CroppedIt was 3:00 am on the corner of Hollywood and Wilcox and Franklin could hear the music inside the Playhouse Club beating to the throbbing inside his head. She was in there. He knew she was in there. He wanted to go inside. He needed to see her.

Franklin exhaled slowly. He could see his breath and shivered. People say it never gets cold in Hollywood, but Franklin knew that hell does freeze over. He looked up at the starless sky and cursed his luck.

“Don’t fall in love with a singer.”

“Jeff?”

DSC00677_8_9_Open DeliJeff’s lips were still moving. He’d been mouthing the words. He was standing on the corner of Hollywood and Wilcox watching Franklin. He shivered.

“Jeff!” She said it again. Jeff’s eyes rose from the glare of the laptop, straining to focus. “It’s three-o-clock in the morning. What are you doing?” Jill stood in the doorway of his office.

The woman pushed open the door to the Playhouse Club. He recognized her immediately. She winked. Jeff closed his laptop.

“Writing.”

“Writing?”

“Yes, writing.”

Jill took a step closer. “I’m worried about you.” She only came as close as the edge of his desk. “I think we should talk about it.”

Jeff stood up. “I can’t. Not yet.”

The only light in the room was moonlight. Jeff stood in the dark. He could see the shape of her body through her nightgown.

“This isn’t like your other stories,” she said.

“I know. It’s different.”

“You’re different.”

“She’s perceptive, I’ll give her that.” The woman stood in a corner of the room. She still had her dancing shoes on.

“What are you doing here?” Jeff demanded.

“I’m scared, Jeff,” a glint of hurt touching Jill’s eyes.

“Not you,” Jeff said.

The woman in the corner laughed. “Love triangle, Jeffrey?”

“This is not a love triangle.”

“Who are you talking to?” Jill demanded.

Jeff looked at the woman. He had the sense she was beautiful, and, dangerous. He looked back at Jill. She stood there in the moonlight, afraid, vulnerable. They had been together a long time. He wanted them to be together forever. He took a step around the desk and reached to touch her.

Jill stepped back.

Jeff sighed.

“Jill.”

“Who, Jeff?”

Jeff shifted his weight to one foot. He was suddenly very tired.

“My…muse.”

“I’m flattered, Jeffrey.” Jeff held his breath and scowled at the woman.

Jill folded her arms across her chest. “Your muse is a… woman?”

Jeff shifted his weight again. “Yes…but…”

“You used to say I was your muse.”

“You are.”

She doesn’t believe me.

“It’s…just…this story.”

A tear drop caught moonlight in the corner of her eye. “What happened, Jeff? What is happening to us?”

“Nothing’s happening to us.”

“Clearly something is going on with your relationship,” the woman said.

“Be quiet,” Jeff barked.

“She’s here right now?”

“No…” Jeff waved his arms in frustration. “Yes…I guess.” He put his arms on Jill’s shoulders. “You know I’m making this stuff up, right?”

She shrugged him off. “Don’t touch me.”

“But Jill…”

“You can sleep on the couch.” She turned and stormed out.

“How long?” Jeff called after her. She didn’t answer.

“Men are clueless,” the woman said.

“As if you would know.”

“Of course I know, Jeffrey. I’m your muse.” The woman sat down on Jeff’s leather couch, and crossed her legs.

Jeff sat back down at his desk. “Now what?” he said to himself.

“Give me a name, Jeffrey.”

The woman blended into the darkness of the couch. Jeff couldn’t make out her features. Moonlight glinted off her stiletto heals.

“Clara Malloy,” Jeff said. He’d been thinking about her name for a while.

“Clara Malloy,” the woman repeated, slowly. Her voice was soft and sad. She said her name with the melancholy angst of unfulfilled dreams and unrequited love.

Clara leaned into the moonlight. “Thank you, Jeff.” Her eyes were dark, shadowed. Her hair was black with glinting highlights. Jeff could tell her lips were full and moist and dark with lipstick. His eyes lingered, wanting more detail.

“You had better go,” he said.

“But…the story,” she said.

“It’s my story,” Jeff said.

“I’m telling it,” She said.

“Hello there, Joe.” Franklin Jones stood in the doorway pointing a gun at Jeff. “Clara.” Franklin tipped his hat.

“Frank,” Clara smirked.

“What’s going on?” Jeff demanded.

“I saw you outside the club,” Franklin said. “I followed you here.”

“You can’t do that?”

“She’s here. Isn’t she?”

“Who?”

“Charlotte.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You should write this down,” Clara said.

“She’s upstairs, isn’t she?” Franklin demanded.

“You’ve got this all wrong, Frank. Charlotte’s not here.”

Frank’s pearl handle .45 caliber glinted in the moonlight. “You’re lying to me, Joe.”

“Joe? My names’s not Joe. Are you nuts?”

“I saw you talking to her through the window, in her nightgown.”

Realization dawned on Franklin.

“You’re sleeping with her aren’t you?” Franklin pulled the lever back on his .45.

“Not tonight, I’m not.”

“Not ever.” Franklin pulled the trigger. The flash was blinding. The pain was exquisite.

“You should have written this down.”

“Daddy.”

Jeff opened his eyes. Liquid pooled on the keys of his laptop.

Blood.

“You’re drooling.”

Five-year-old Hayleigh stuck her finger into the stream of fluid oozing from the corner of Jeff’s mouth and giggled. Jeff sat up. The QWERTY keyboard checkered his face. “It’s time to take me to pre-school.”

“Where’s Mommy?”

“Not here.”

Jeff stood up. His head hurt. His heart hurt. He checked his body for bullet holes.

“Where?”

“I dunno.” Hayleigh scooted out of his office. “Let’s go.”

Jeff tried to wipe the saliva from his keyboard. He wasn’t sure it would still work..

“I’m losing it,” Jeff whispered as he followed Hayleigh out of the room.

“You should be writing,” Clara said.

Jeff looked back. The room was empty.

DSC00551_WarehouseChair

Muse 3

Jeff signaled and turned left into a gravel lot. He could hear crunching under his tires and immediately felt less substantial. He pulled around back of the warehouse and shut off the engine. It wasn’t quiet. The warehouse was under an overpass. The roar and hiss of cars screeching by just feet above him made Jeff think of banshees howling on the wind.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic.

Jeff stepped out of his car. The ground was wet. It had rained overnight. The gravel sank in the mud just below it.

Quicksand.

The warehouse was abandoned. It had been for a long time. Cinderblock walls were stained with moss and filth. Graphiti-artist-wannabes had practiced here before changing careers. Broken glass windows let the inside blackness out. Jeff crunched around the building looking for a door. It wasn’t locked. The corrugated steel man-door was rusted off its hinges. Jeff pulled on the handle and the door groaned, painfully. The door handle was wet and Jeff wiped his hand on his Levis. He hoped it was only water.

“I knew you would come.” A woman stepped around the corner of the building. Her voice had a note of helplessness to it. Jeff suspected it was put on.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded. She was wearing high heels and an overcoat, forties noir. He didn’t think you could even buy clothes like that anymore.

“The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.”

“Oh come on,” Jeff shouted, “I’m trying to be authentic, and all you do is come up with clichés.”

“Oh, please. You’re the one who put the dead body in an abandoned warehouse. Talk about cliché.”

“I didn’t put a body in there.”

“Not yet.”

“Not ever.”

“You will.”

“I won’t.”

“Then, why are you here?”

“Research.”

The woman laughed. “You should go inside.”

“Why?”

“The body. Remember?”

“There is no body inside this warehouse!”

“Do you always talk to yourself?” Jeff jumped and turned around. A large man stood in shadow just inside the doorframe.

“I wasn’t talking to myself.” Jeff looked over to where the woman was standing. She was still there.

She smiled.

I might be losing it.

“Could you give me a hand?”

DSC00544_JD_Warehouse_shovelJeff squinted against the light to get a better picture of the man in the doorway. He could tell the man had a shovel.

“What do you need?” Jeff asked.

“I’ve got this body in the trunk of my car. I could use your help burying it?”

“WHAT?”

“Now this is getting interesting,” the woman said.

Jeff looked toward the woman. She smiled sweetly. “What are you going to do?”

“Why are you still here?”

“This story’s just getting started.”

“Let’s go.” Now Jeff could now see the man also had a gun.

“You’d better help him.”

“Why?”

“Because you want to know what happens next.”

“I don’t think so.”

“You need to know.”

The large man stepped through the doorway. He had a shovel in one hand and the gun in the other, pointed at Jeff. In the light, Jeff could see he had dark hair, a lumberjack build, three-day stubble and an award-winning smile.

“Cheer up, Jeff. What’s the worst that could happen?” They walked to the man’s car like old friends.

“How do you know my name?”

The man popped the trunk. “I think you know how.”

Jeff didn’t.

The man reached into the trunk and rolled a body over, a woman, blond. The hair on the back of Jeff’s neck stood up. He felt the blood drain from his face. He wanted to throw-up and pass out at the same time. His wife, Jill, stared up at him.

“You take her feet. I’ll take her arms.”

Jeff couldn’t move. He couldn’t think. He turned to look back at the woman.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“You did this. This is your fault. I told you, NOT MY FAMILY.”

“You wrote the words, Jeff. You made it real.”

The man cocked his gun.

Crazy, unhinged, Jeff turned back around and shouted at the man, “YOU’RE GOING TO SHOOT ME?” Jeff took a step toward the man. “SHOOT ME!”

The man smiled. “You’re going to help me.”

Jeff leaped at the man, fury and rage driving him forward.

BOOM. Jeff saw the muzzle flame in slow motion. He watched the bullet enter his stomach, cold, then searing hot. For a moment he felt like he was flying, backwards.

If I hit the ground, will I die?

DSC00548_Warehouse_Leaning“This is my story, Jeff.” Jeff was on his back, looking up. The man stood over him, pointing the gun at his face. “I make the rules now.”

Jeff opened his eyes. It was dark. His heart was pounding in his chest, thumping in his ears. Jeff felt for his stomach, where the gunshot tore into him, slamming him backward.

Nothing.

Jeff could see moonlight through his bedroom window. It was late, quiet. He sat up in bed. Memory of the pain was still there. He wiped sweat from his forehead. He felt like throwing up.

Jill stirred in bed beside him. Jeff tried to calm his breathing, his heart rate.

“You should write this down, Jeffrey.” The woman was silhouetted against his bedroom window, black curves against mini-blinds.

Jeff jumped out of bed, the anger returning, adrenaline pumping.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” Jill sat up, sleepily.

Jeff turned to look at Jill, then back toward the woman. She was gone. He slowly turned back to Jill. “Bad dream,” he whispered.

Jill lay back down. “Come to bed.”

“I will.”

Jeff stepped into the bathroom and closed the door. With the light off, he turned on the faucet and splashed his face with water.

I don’t think I can do this.

He sat down on the floor.

“I’m going crazy.”

In the distance, Jeff could hear the woman laughing.

Muse 2

“What are you doing?” She had an alto’s low, husky voice.

An Ikea Etorre desklamp cast a small, blindingly bright circle onto a mess of three-by-five notecards. The rest of the room fell off into black. Jeff looked up from his desk, into the darkness.

“Outlining.”

She laughed.

He loved the sound. It seemed to resonate somewhere inside him.

“I’m working on a story.” Jeff tried to sound positive. He could hear the lameness in his voice. He hadn’t written anything of substance for a while. Starts and stops. Never finishing.

“Outlining,” he said again, tapping the eraser of a dull number two pencil on the notecards, “is a key component in developing good story structure.” Jeff was channeling his college creative writing teacher. He shivered. It always felt weird when he did that. He wasn’t sure if it was the channeling, or the outlining.

“The Police are looking for you,” she said.

“What?”

“Don’t be so naïve, Jeffrey. They found the woman in a warehouse down on 1st avenue.”

Jeff opened his laptop. “You want me to say that I did it.” The laptop screen burst to life, casting bluish light at him.

“I want the truth.”

“You can’t handle the truth.” Jeff chuckled. He thought he did a pretty good Jack Nicholson impersonation.

“Really?”

“Come on,” Jeff said. “You opened the door for that one.”

“Do you want to know what happens next, or not?”

“Not especially. Nothing you’ve said motivates me to care about a skid row dead woman.”

“Don’t you even want to know her name?”

“No! I don’t. Move on to something else.”

“Jill.”

“What?” The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.

“That’s her name, the dead woman.”

“STOP IT.” Anger was a gas stove for Jeff. Instant on. White hot. “You can’t do that. You can’t use my wife’s name. You can’t use my name. You can’t use my kids’ names, or my brother’s names, or anyone else in my family.”

“I didn’t do it. You did.”

“Shut up.”

“They say she was shot twice, execution style, in the back of the head, then dumped in the warehouse.”

Two gunshots rang out, POP POP. Jeff jumped up. He could feel the reports through the wall. Notecards skittered off the desk into blackness.

“Leave me alone. Get out of here. Go away.”

She laughed.

The sound was wrong, incongruous. Jeff put his hands to his head and screamed.

The overhead light flared to life.

Jill stood in the doorway. “Jeff?”

DSC00519_Notecard_VertJeff stood in the middle of the small office, notecards strewn about the floor. His eyes were haunted. He looked at his laptop, then, over at the couch, then, he looked at Jill. Their eyes met. He couldn’t read her expression. He knew she could read his–fear. She shivered.

“Are you Okay?”

He didn’t think so. “I’m fine,” he said.

Jill cocked her head to one side. It was one of the things he loved about her. He always knew when she didn’t believe him.

“You don’t look fine.”

“It’s just this story.” Jeff wasn’t sure what had just happened.

“What’s it about?” She asked.

He didn’t think he had the words to explain it.

“You. It’s about you.”