Stony Creek

Hi, Stephen. Thanks so much for hosting me today. It’s a pleasure to be here talk about my latest release, Menagerie. It’s a mixed-genre compilation of thirteen short stories. Each tour stop features a different title and I tell how the story came about. Today’s story is Stony Creek, a contemporary fiction piece.

I grew up in a small town, and while it’s still considered small, the area is growing. What was once farmland has turned into housing developments. Many parts of Texas are the same as people flock here in droves. Last year, I read an article about an unincorporated community in the Texas Hill Country. Country music fans might recognize the name Luckenbach from a popular song by the late Waylon Jennings.

Like many parts of the state, that area is developing fast. Not surprising, a wealthy developer is looking to capitalize on the popularity of Luckenbach by building a mega-development, distillery, shopping centers, and such. With things like this happening, soon there won’t be any land, and the simple, laid-back way of life that many choose to live will be no more.

Stony Creek is the story of Brooke Hudson, a marketing specialist, who returns to her hometown upon her father’s death. She chose a life in the city, far away from the ranch where she grew up. She soon learns that a real-estate developer wants to buy not only her ranch, Stony Creek, but other pieces of property as well. He wants to build a winery, housing developments, shopping centers, and a resort.

When her boss asks her to convince the citizens of the nearby town of Stanton this development is for the best, Brooke is torn. Ranching has been a way of life for most of the area’s citizens and she hates to see her hometown destroyed by greedy developers. But not doing what her boss asks will result in her not having a job. Below is an excerpt.


Brooke took the long way back to the ranch, driving through the countryside. She needed time to think. To reflect. She drove past the Three Forks, Smitty’s place, and several smaller farms. Many of them had been in the same family for generations. Most of the houses weren’t fancy, but they were home.

The people who lived in Stanton were working-class families. It was a close-knit community. It wasn’t as if they shunned outsiders, but they enjoyed living their lives like their parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents had. They didn’t care about resorts, golf courses, condominiums, and upscale shopping centers. These things would be a detriment to their way of life.

If Brooke sold the ranch, it would be the first step to that happening. She was in tears by the time she arrived home.


King’s. The Tower of London. Glass. What do these have in common?

Each is a famous menagerie.

While this Menagerie doesn’t focus on exotic animals, it does contain a collection of stories that explore various trials people face and how their reactions shape their worlds.

Survivors of haunted bridge. Women who wait while their husbands fight a war. Former partners reuniting to solve a cold-case murder.

These are just three of the thirteen stories in this compendium, encompassing past and present, natural and supernatural, legend and reality. The genres and timelines are varied, but there’s a little something for everyone who enjoys reading about simpler times and small-town life.

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The Perfect Novel to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month!

“The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits”

by Marcha Fox and Pete Risingsun

“Infused with a sense of danger, the intricate plot and dramatic storyline create a breathtaking and intense story.” –Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Review


Charlie Littlewolf knows there’s something suspicious about the accident that killed his best friend. Determined to solve the mystery, he must return to a way of life he’s shunned for decades. Will the Cheyenne grandfather spirits respond before a black ops team kills him, too?






April 20, Friday

5:55 a.m.

It was still dark when Charlie sat before the fire pit the next morning. He made an offering, then began a ceremonial fast. The last time was under Eaglefeathers’s direction, prior to leaving for college. It was difficult. He didn’t make it through the entire four days, even with his grandfather’s encouragement. He berated himself for being young, weak, and foolish.

Upon dousing the fire, he climbed into his pickup to return to the accident site. The headlights swept the road ahead, beams vanishing as they probed empty space beyond sheer drops. Their lethal potential blared through him as never before, fingers tightening their grip on the steering wheel.

When he arrived the traffic cones were gone. It looked the same as always. Vain hopes flared. Was it only a nightmare?

A cliff face loomed skyward beside the cutout as he pulled in, killed the lights, then the ignition. Darkness consumed the cab. He got out and closed the door. Its report rebounded as his rantings had two days before.

There was no moon, dawn’s light occulted by towering rock. Walking blindly bordered on insanity, yet using the truck’s emergency flashers or his flashlight felt wrong. Inability to see the dangers ahead fit why he was there.

His footsteps crunched along the pebble-strewn shoulder as he felt his way to the tailgate. Metal screeched as he pulled it open and sat down to wait for his eyes to adjust.

Stars appeared, starting with the brightest. Jupiter lingered toward the west, Mars and Saturn overhead, flanking the Milky Way. Shadows took shape where the celestial dome ended beyond distant trees. It seemed impossible that starlight alone could light the way, yet it did.

He slid from his perch, crossed the road, and resumed the same position as the day before. The leaves of the aspen to his right sang in the morning breeze.

Jupiter faded as the sky greyed with first light.

Like his anger at Maheo.

Grief, however, remained, his gut eviscerated.

His mind shifted to Bryan. He couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t in his life. Even when life placed them on opposite sides of the globe.

As adolescents they discovered they had the same birthday and declared themselves twins. They shared youthful adventures, the pains of growing up. Teen crushes, and heartbreak. They encouraged each other through hard times, even when geographically separated. Their ability to sense each other’s distress was uncanny, this time no different.

Except this time Bryan couldn’t tell him what was wrong.

There was something he should do.

But what?

Why did the accident occur here? Spirits of all kinds occupied the area. Eaglefeathers made sure he knew its history.

Many years before the government forced their people to leave the land where they were born—land that Maheo gave to them. Rather than go to Indian Territory in Oklahoma or other remote reservations, a small band slipped away and came there.

A few years later white men lusting after silver and gold arrived. Conflicts arose that resulted in them forcing innocent people as well as a small herd of horses to perish in that canyon.

Their medicine man, Black Cloud, blessed the area with protection from further exploitation by the white man. Should any attempt to do so, he would not prosper.

Did Bryan stumble onto the curse? If so, how? He never thought of him as white, yet he was. Had he discovered something? His white brother, like himself, was driven by curiosity and clever at unearthing secrets.

His thoughts halted at the sound of a vehicle approaching on the other side of the road. The coming weekend brought increased traffic. He stood when the driver of a white SUV full of kids stopped and rolled down his window.

“Do you need help?” he asked. “Did your truck break down?”

Charlie forced a smile. If only it were that simple. “No. I’m okay. Thank you.”

The man waved, rolled up his window and drove away, expression puzzled.

He sat back down and contemplated how Bryan and his grandfather had affected his life while the sun crawled across the cloud-strewn sky. At times it felt as if they were standing beside him, that he could see them if he were to open his eyes. Any comfort it wrought, however, quickly collapsed to another onslaught of soul-crushing anguish.

His thoughts stalled at the sound of another car, this time on his side of the road. He got up when it came to a stop and the motorist, an older gentleman, rolled down the passenger side window. The man’s grey eyes were kind and sympathetic.

“Did you know them?” he asked.

Touched by the simple words of understanding, Charlie nodded, any response stuck behind the lump in his throat. The man offered him a bottle of water. It was rude to refuse a gift, so he accepted it and whispered thanks.

He no sooner got settled when another vehicle came along, this time a pickup. It didn’t slow down, much less stop. The dust it left behind invaded his parched throat and triggered a coughing fit. He eyed the water bottle.

No food, no water.

He toughed it out, grateful it was only the first day of his fast.

The sun crept westward, dropping toward the mountain tops beyond the yawning canyon. Eaglefeathers’s absence as well as Bryan’s loomed as the night.

The day felt wasted. He knew no more now than when it began.

As he prayed to close the day’s efforts, lamenting the loss of his grandfather’s guidance, an impression struck at the speed of thought.

Why did you not bring him with you?

He stiffened at the ridiculous thought. How? His grandfather had crossed over years before—

but still lived in the world of spirits.

Of course. How could he be so dense?

His teachings lived on as well.

As he considered the source of the mysterious words, a vision appeared in his mind. The old man had given him many things over the years whenever he and his father, Frank Littlebear, traveled to the reservation to attend a ceremonial sweat, a sun dance, sacred buffalo hat, the sacred arrow, or fasting at Novavose, their name for the Sacred Mountain.

He remembered showing them to Bryan, who compared them to Boy Scout Merit Badges he received as he worked toward the rank of Eagle Scout. Charlie didn’t argue, but knew his were different. They were sacred. Blessed by his grandfather, a strong and worthy medicine man. Each item retained a measure of his essence. Others were handed down, like his medicine bundle.

All were stored in the chest he and Bryan built from local cedar. He bowed his head, ashamed he’d further ignored his teachings. Again it made sense no answers had come. He imagined the old man’s piercing look, awed when rather than scolding peace surrounded him like a blanket in the cool of night.

Return tomorrow with the sacred items. Do that which you were taught and you will receive answers.

His head bowed in humble thanks. Venus winked as a beacon on a far mountain top, waxing crescent moon trailing in her wake.


Marcha Fox

Marcha Fox earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Utah State University in 1987, which facilitated a 20+ year career at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Her interests expand far beyond the world of aerospace and hard science, however. The esoteric realm of metaphysics and all things weird and wonderful hold her interest as well. 

Marcha Fox

When her attempt to debunk astrology backfired, she pursued knowledge in that field. She graduated from the International Academy of Astrology’s professional development program in 2012 and is the sole proprietor of Much of the popular website’s content can be found in “Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology.”

Her previous fiction work includes her epic Star Trails Tetralogy series, which has been highly acclaimed for its family-oriented plot as well as its palatable and STEM-friendly science content described in detail on

Born in Peekskill, New York, she has lived in California, Utah, and Texas in the course of raising her family of six children, now grown. Besides writing, she pampers her two cats, maintains an active astrology practice of international clients, and tries to keep up with her home, yard, friends, and family.

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Pete Risingsun

Pete Risingsun is an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who has served as a spirit helper to medicine men in ceremonial sweat lodges. He’s a proud fifth generation descendant of Chief Iron Shirt, who was a lodge keeper and powerful medicine man.

Pete Risingsun

Born in 1950, he was raised on a small ranch east of Busby, Montana. He attended Montana State University, then worked for Exxon in Billings, Montana for a year before returning home to the reservation as adult education director for the Northern Cheyenne tribe where he also raised black angus cattle and bred championship Quarter horses. He has served as a Tribal Council member and was the first Northern Cheyenne elected to serve as a Rosebud County Commissioner.

He’s the proud father of one daughter and grandfather to two. Pete is currently retired, but in addition to co-writing The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits” he makes and sells sweet grass braids, a sacred plant used in various ceremonies.

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The Choice, by Author Gwen M. Plano, 5-star Review

My 5-star Review


The Blurb: The CHOICE, the unexpected heroes is the sequel to The CONTRACT. Published June, 2019, it picks up where the first book ends, at Begert Air Force Base in northern California.

General Taylor, the base commander invites Admiral Parker to the base to help him determine who is behind the murders of two civilians. It becomes evident that their deaths are part of a bigger plan involving world domination, and the general has an urgent need to thwart that plan.

The General and Admiral become engrossed in a mystery which implicates key D.C. officials. They create a highly confidential team to study the evidence and pursue leads. This team eventually uncovers a traitorous cabal that has as its goal – world domination. The cabal has a membership that includes highly positioned government officials, and as such, they are unsure who can be trusted and who cannot.

I purchased The Choice by Gwen M. Plano (Fresh Ink Group) after seeing its video trailer, and I read it without having read the first installment in the trilogy, of which this is the second. That is risky with any trilogy, but The Choice felt like a standalone story to me, albeit set amid a longer story arc, so I think it still makes a good entry-point. If you only start trilogies at part one, look for The Contract co-authored by John W. Howell and Gwen M. Plano.

The Choice leads with a mystery arising from the ending of the first book. An Air Force base’s commander is working on that with a civilian when members of the President’s Cabinet become targets for assassination. Like with all good thrillers, the closer the closer our heroes get to the truth, the more complications arise, especially when people involved in the investigation become targets.

Gwen Plano straddles suspense, mystery, and at times thriller in this character-centered supernatural tale. The characters felt real to me, with quick bursts of detail rather than bogging down on everybody’s back-story. Commander Taylor reminded me of my all-brass uncle, so the military aspect felt authentic. Donna Parker does a good job making us care about her and the commander. Of course, some romance might blossom, not without complications; and the machinations surrounding a TV expose hit on one of my favorite topics: media manipulation. Author Plano has a comfortable narrative voice, urgent or emotional when needed. I rather liked the ending as a stand-alone, too, and I look forward to reading the third installment. I recommend The Choice as what they call “beach reading,” except this one is good year round.



Growing up in Southern California, Gwen Plano loved learning. She earned four degrees and taught and served in universities and colleges across the country and in Japan. Now retired, she is focused on writing. Gwen’s first book, Letting Go into Perfect Love, is a memoir. Her second book, The Contract, is a thriller co-authored by John W. Howell. Gwen lives in the Midwest with her husband, and when she is not writing, she is traveling, usually to see one of her four children and many grandchildren.  






Twitter: @gmplano

Facebook: @GwendolynMPlano

Review: Author D.L. Finn Ramps Up the Suspense

It’s difficult for any writer to produce sustained suspense in a short story, but D.L. Finn accomplishes that and more quite well in Red Eyes in the Darkness. The story is narrated first-person by a woman who appears to be stalked by their former brother-in-law, the man she believes killed her sister. Worse, evidence apparently planted by him has made her and her husband suspects. Their family and friends have turned against them, and the local sheriff humors her concerns with a mien of suspicion.

The suspense begins with her waking and believing the man she refers to as It is in the house, having cut their power. We hear his voice and see other clues, but have no idea of his intentions, which appear to be to taunt more than pounce. More than leaving us waiting and listening, though, author Finn punctuates the scenes with gunshots, blood, and even more mysteries. Then her husband has a dream offering more mystery. Even when our couple flees the area, the suspense follows them and brings them back.

The book has a satisfying denouement, and it hints at a greater story with supernatural characters living among us. I always enjoy reading work by D.L. Finn. In the era of so much bad writing, it is refreshing to breeze through narrative presented clearly and even punctuated correctly. Her characters are real enough to come alive, and her description conjures imagery without bogging down the plot. My favorites are one-liners like, “My heart was trying to escape my chest while my breath struggled to enter it.” Unlike the narrator’s struggles, my praise comes easily. I highly recommend this as a great stand-alone story of mystery and suspense, but also as entrée to the fantastic worlds of author D.L. Finn.

Order your Kindle edition NOW!


About D.L. Finn

D.L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to the Sierra foothills in Nevada City, CA. She immersed herself in reading all types of books, but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, being surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations vary from children’s books, young adult fantasy, and adult paranormal romance to an autobiography with poetry. She continues on her adventures with an open invitation for her readers to join her.


Welcome to “THE BUTTON” Blog Tour! @DLFinnAuthor #4WillsPub #RWISA #RRBC

Guest Blog Post by Author D.L. Finn! Comment below and win! Woohoo!


The Button Idea.

The “idea” for this book was a question from my husband.

“Do you still have that F*** off and Die button?”

“Yes, I do.”

He laughed when I handed it to him.

It had been tucked away in my closet for years (without the asterisks). It’s a reminder of the “old” me. The one who might have pushed some boundaries. The one with an attitude.

I found this button in Berkeley in the late ’70s or early ’80s. It made me laugh, so I bought it. No, I didn’t wear it on my purse like Lynn in “The Button,” but the message might have been my mindset for a while. Lynn was more forward with her button, but then she had more to deal with than I had.

Now, I have a big collection of buttons in my laundry room. They tell the history of my life and the life around me. I still add to them when I find just the right button with a saying that makes me laugh, a “hey that’s right,” or a memory. I may have lost a few buttons over the years before I realized I was collecting them.

The day when I was asked if I still had this button, I found myself joking: “I should write a book based on it.”

We might have laughed, but the idea stuck. That rebellious side of me woke up and created Lynn. She was far more rebellious than the book showed–she wanted me to tone it down a bit.

Then other ideas started to form. I wanted a character who grew up in an abusive household which Lynn took on. I had some knowledge to bring to the story, too. Then the angel, Zelina, insisted on being with Lynn back in 1976 when she was in a coma. With Zelina came another evildwel and an angel-in-training, Thomas. Zelina made “The Button” a kind of prequel to “This Second Chance” but with a different tone.

“The Button” is not as much of a love story as it is a survival story although there is love, too. After my input Lynn completely took over the story. I’m not sure I would have made some of the decisions she did.

I must point out this is fictional–besides the button. Even the things that did happen didn’t happen the way they did in “The Button.”

So yes, I wrote a book based on a question about a button. And after much reflection, there are no asterisks in my book.


The Button Tour Giveaway: Comment and you can win!

The Button Blog Tour Prizes: 

2- “The Button” Kindle Format

$5 Amazon Gift Card

1-“The Button” Signed Paperback and Book Marker


 D.L. Finn is an independent California local, who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 relocated with her husband, kids, dogs and cats to the Sierra foothills in Nevada City, CA.  She immersed herself in reading all types of books, but especially loved romance, horror and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, being surrounded by towering pines, oaks and cedars, her creativity was cradled until it bloomed. Her creations vary from children’s books, young adult fantasy, adult paranormal romance to an autobiography with poetry. She continues on her adventure with an open invitation to her readers to join her.

D.L. Finn Links:


Facebook  /   Instagram

Pinterest  /   D.L. Finn blog

Purchase Links:

Amazon   /    Barnes & Noble


To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’s tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to book your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HERE.  

Lastly, D.L. is a member of the best book club ever – RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB {#RRBC} and she’s also a member of the very elite, RAVE WRITERS -INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS {RWISA}! If you’re looking for amazing support as an author, or if you simply love books, JOIN US! We’d love to have you!

Thanks for supporting this author and her work!

Meet Marcha Fox, Author of The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51

The Terra Debacle by Marcha Fox is Out Now!

What’s Your Learning Style?

Blog post by Marcha Fox

As I recall, there are three basic learning styles: Auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. I’m somewhere between visual and kinesthetic, so I’m delighted with modern media’s emphasis on graphics. Not being an auditory learner was a major disadvantage when I was a kid. Being ADHD made it worse, plus I had a last name that began with “U”, so was typically seated in the back of the room. Looking back, it’s no surprise I got mediocre grades because, more often than not, what the teacher said did go in one ear and out the other. The one and only time I got sent to the principal’s office was when my 4th grade teacher got mad at me for doodling during one of her lectures. Good ol’ Miss DePalma. Think of her as a young version of Sophia Petrillo on “The Golden Girls.” Everyone was scared of her, with good reason.

Recently, I found out from a retired teacher friend that I probably have auditory dyslexia, which explained a lot. It’s always handy to have a name to pin on your afflictions, somehow absolving the guilt you’ve carried your entire life for being inadequate. So there, take that, Miss DePalma!

To survive, I learned to take copious notes, but never got very good grades, regardless, or appeared particularly intelligent. I was the mouse in the back of the room, wishing myself invisible, terrified when asked to respond to a question. Yet, many years later, I earned a physics degree. It wasn’t easy, especially with six kids at home, but I did it. See? I’m smarter than I look. How I’d love to wave that sheepskin in front of some of those teachers, but by now they’re most likely dead.

This is one situation where I can say, along with Han Solo in the original Star Wars, “Sometimes I amaze even myself.” I was nothing special throughout my public school years, earned mediocre grades, yet I became a “rocket scientist” who worked at NASA for over 21 years. Who would have thunk it?

And again, even college would have been less stressful if there’d been less talking and more visual aids. Words and pictures both have their place. Words, spoken or written, then coupled with illustrations are a powerful tool. Some look upon the advent of graphic novels (somewhere between comics and a full-length book) as inferior, but I’m inclined to defend them, particularly for those who are visually-oriented like myself. If it encourages kids to read when they’re not comfortable with a profusion of words on a page, why not? A similar rationale could be made for audio books. Isn’t it better for them to listen to a good book and discover the pleasure of reading, even if done by someone else, rather than not experience it at all?

If you have children in your life, do you know what their learning style is? Regardless of whether you’re a parent, teacher, grandparent, auntie, uncle, or friend, knowing this could make a tremendous difference in helping a child learn. Give it some thought, then see what you can do to make learning a little more fun, not only for a child, but yourself as well. You might just introduce some future “rocket scientist” currently in disguise as a nondescript, shy child to their educational mother lode.


About Marcha Fox

Marcha Fox is an avid science fiction fan and author with over 20 years’ experience in positions ranging from technical writer to engineer to manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in physics, which was but a prelude to her interest in the unexplained mysteries of the cosmos. Inspired by science fiction to pursue a career in a technical field, she hopes to instill the same fascination in young readers, while providing older ones with classic hard science fiction.

Born in Peekskill, New York, she has lived in California, Utah, and Texas in the course of raising her family, which included fifteen years as a stay-at-home mom before returning to college in her 30s to obtain her degree, a feat accomplished while she still had six children at home. All are now grown with children of their own providing her with 17 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren so far. Never at a loss for something to do, besides writing she’s a professional astrologer who enjoys gardening, her two Bengal cats and a sassy tuxedo, and keeping up with family.


Find Marcha Fox

Twitter: @startrailsiv

Facebook:  @marchafoxauthor



The Terra Debacle:

Prisoners at Area 51

Watch the trailer!


Thyron is a flora peda telepathis (telepathic walking plant) from the planet Sapphira on an adventure gone terribly wrong. The bad decision of a human girl and her maniacal robot companion has stranded them on Earth, where his botanical cousins face horrible fates such as consumption by herbivores, incineration, and brutal annihilation for use as building material.

 Following capture, Thyron is transported to Area 51, where NASA exobiologist, Gabe Greenley, studies his every move, ecstatic with the opportunity to examine an entirely new lifeform. In due course, the scientist makes a ground-breaking discovery, distressed by the fact he can never share it due to his security oaths and research agreement. Eventually, he’s confronted by an even worse ethical dilemma that forces him to make a treasonous and potentially deadly decision.

 Will Thyron’s psychic powers be enough to save him? Is Greenley friend or foe? Or does the exobiologist have a few secrets of his own?

 Find out in this unique combination of hard science fiction, suspense, and a touch of humor populated with memorable characters in a setting loaded with intrigue. Unexpected plot twists coupled with a unique ending make this an unforgettable tale whether you’re a science fiction fan, botanist, UFO aficionado, or simply enjoy a good story.

Find the book at these retailers


Please leave a comment,

and remember to spread the word about Marcha’s books

to fans of sci-fi and all good stories.



One Nice Fall Day by Bruce A. Borders

Welcome to Bruce A. Borders,

my guest blogger today on the RWISA tour.


One Nice Fall Day
by Bruce A. Borders

Not having a good Monday at work, I decided to cut my day short and head home.

Home, my sanctuary. As a single guy, I often retreat to my sanctuary when things
become intolerable, such as today.

Pulling into the drive, I noticed the yard and house really needed attention. I kept
the lawn mowed, but the knee-high weeds were another matter. The house too had long
been neglected. The loose siding and trim boards couldn’t be ignored much longer.
“Maybe next weekend,” I mused.

But then, I’d said that last week too. I’d only gotten as far as hauling out a garden
rake and a tree trimmer before reconsidering and putting them back. Or, maybe I hadn’t
put them away, I thought, seeing my rake in the yard.

Taking a minute to replace the rake in the tool shed, I wandered inside, intent on
taking it easy for the rest of the afternoon. And I did. The next couple of hours were spent
napping. Then, feeling slightly more energetic, I thought I’d give the yard work another
try. And that’s when I found the body.

A male, early twenties, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, lay face down in the weeds,
not ten feet from where I’d walked earlier. Good citizen that I am, I immediately called
911. Within minutes, my yard was swarming with cops and other emergency personnel.
After examining the body, one of the detectives walked over. “You discovered the

I nodded, as another officer joined us.

“Tell me what led to your discovery.”

I related the gist of my activities of the day, such as they were.

Then began a series of inane questions. “You live alone here? Why’d you leave
work early? What took you so long to call 911?”

“You’re acting like this guy was murdered or something.”

“We’re just trying to figure out the timeline and what happened,” one said.

“And to what extent you were involved,” his partner added.

I guess I’ve seen too many TV dramas because the first thing I said was, “So, do I
need a lawyer?”

The cop shrugged. “Depends. Is there a reason you may need a lawyer?”

“I don’t know,” I stammered. “Don’t think so. Just don’t want to be blamed for
this murder.”

“No one’s blaming you—yet.” The officer paused, whether for dramatic effect or
to weigh his words, I wasn’t sure. “Should we be looking at you as a suspect?”

“Of course not.”

The detectives eyed me a moment. “We’ll be in touch,” one said as they turned

They’ll be in touch? What’s that supposed to mean? They’d said I wasn’t a
suspect; was that just to keep me off-guard until they’d had time to gather enough
evidence to build a case?

I shook my head. I must be crazy. There was no evidence. There was no case. I
hadn’t done anything except find the body. I certainly hadn’t killed him.

But, they didn’t know that. And here I was acting all weird. Even I had to admit
my strange behavior and ramblings appeared suspicious. The police likely thought so too.
And that’s how I ended up seeing a criminal defense attorney for a crime I hadn’t

“Sounds like you’re a bit paranoid,” said the attorney after I’d filled him in.

“Paranoid, huh?” I said, somewhat sheepishly.

He smiled. “A little.”

I couldn’t think of an intelligent response, so I just sat there.

“Tell you what,” he said, breaking my uncomfortable abeyance. “I’ll keep my
notes and if you’re arrested, call me.”

“Thanks. Hope I don’t need to.

“If you didn’t commit the murder, they can’t exactly find any evidence.

I frowned. “Although what?”

They could always charge you with manslaughter if anything you’ve done,
intentionally or unintentionally, contributed to the man’s death.”

“Right. I didn’t even know he was there until I found the body.”

“It’s most likely nothing to worry about. But you never know.”

As I stood to leave, he added, “If you are arrested, don’t say anything until I’m
present. You’ve already given your statement. That’s all you’re obligated to do.”

Nodding, I left.

Just talking to the lawyer had helped. The anxiety I’d felt earlier was gone.

Feeling better about my prospects, I drove home and was utterly shocked to find two
police cars in my driveway, the officers knocking at my door.

As I parked, they came toward me. “Mr. Powell?”

“That’s me.”

“Can we come in and talk?”

I hesitated. The attorney had said to say nothing if I were arrested. He hadn’t
mentioned anything about not being arrested. “Depends,” I finally managed. “Am I under

“No,” the officer said. “We just want to clarify a few things with you.”

I repeated what the lawyer had told me. “I’ve already given my statement. That’s
all I’m obligated to do.”

“You’re not interested in helping solve this murder?”

I certainly was interested in solving the murder, but something told me that
“helping” might have an entirely different meaning to them. “I’ve already given my
statement,” I said again.

The officers looked perturbed. “Well,” one said, reaching for his handcuffs. “You
leave us no choice then. Mr. Powell, you are under arrest in connection with the murder
of Vincent Dalhart.”

As the cop handcuffed me, I focused on what he’d said. I wasn’t being arrested
for the murder but in connection with the murder. I wasn’t sure what that meant if
anything. I hoped it meant they didn’t actually think I’d killed the man.

The next two days were a blur of numerous meetings with the detectives and my
attorney. Through these conversations, I finally learned what had happened.

Vincent Dalhart had been stabbed to death. There were four puncture wounds,
evenly spaced. Two had pierced a vital organ. The time of death was uncertain although,
the medical examiner estimated it to be five hours before I, the only suspect, had
stumbled onto the body.

Meanwhile, the police had executed a search warrant for my property, finding my
rake, which they believed to be the murder weapon. Lab testing confirmed that blood
present on the tines was that of the victim. Murder in the first degree was the charge.

To his credit, my lawyer seemed undaunted by the discovery. I told him about
seeing the rake and putting it away. He seemed satisfied. “But the police will want to
know how you didn’t notice any blood on the rake.”

“Yeah,” I sighed. “Not sure how I missed that.”

He shrugged. “Easy enough explanation. The blood was only on the
tines—probably not a large amount. By the time you picked it up, the blood had likely
dried. It would’ve been very difficult to see unless you were specifically looking for it.”

Unfortunately, the police were specifically looking for it, having determined a
garden rake to be the likely murder weapon. And as my lawyer had predicted they
weren’t exactly sold on my account of the events. Instead, they believed I’d used the rake
to murder the man breaking into my house.

With no other options, we prepared to go to trial. My attorney seemed to like my
chances. I wasn’t so confident. Here I was, a guy who’d never even been in a fight,
charged with murder. It all felt so overwhelming.

Then, the next day, things took a surprising turn.

The guard came to escort me to the briefing room where my attorney waited.

“Good news,” he greeted me. “All charges have been dropped. You’ll be released
within the hour.”

I was stunned. “That’s great, but… why? How?” With the direction things had
been going, I found it hard to imagine the police had suddenly decided I was innocent.

“Turns out your neighbor saw the whole thing from across the street. Mr. Dalhart
arrived at your house on foot, poked around; checking doors and windows, then went to
the shed and retrieved the rake. Standing on your porch railing, he attempted to use the
rake to pull himself up to an open second-story window. The window ledge gave way,
and Mr. Dalhart fell to the ground, impaling himself on the rake.”

“But the rake was a good ten feet from the body.”

The attorney nodded. “Apparently, the would-be thief lived long enough to
remove the rake and fling it away.”

I was frowning. “My neighbor watched all this and didn’t even try to help? Or,
report it? Not that I care, really. The thief got what he deserved. But how does someone
just watch all that and not do anything?”

The lawyer shrugged. “People are strange. Maybe he didn’t want to be involved.

Who knows? He’s been arrested and faces legal troubles over his lack of humanity.”

“I would hope so.”

“Just be glad he eventually came forward.”

“I am.” I fell silent then.

The attorney noticed my gaze. “What is it?”

I smiled wryly. “Was just thinking… That window ledge has been loose for quite a
while, banging in the wind. Been meaning to fix it for months, just hadn’t gotten around
to it.”

Eyeing me a moment, the lawyer said, “You might want to keep that information
to yourself.”

©2017 Bruce A. Borders & Borders Publishing

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Last Night by John W. Howell © 2017

Let’s belly up for a pour of taut introspection in this short narrative fiction by my esteemed guest blogger, John W. Howell~~!




Last Night by John W. Howell © 2017


So, with nothing better to do, I figure I’ll stop at Jerry’s place and grab a couple of drinks and a burger. Usually, I don’t go there on Saturday night since there’s a crapload of amateurs taking up what would be considered prime space. I figure since this is a Friday and close to Saturday, it may be packed, but not as crazy as Saturday. It’s the kind of place where everyone minds their business. They’re there for a good time and will likely not notice me. Even so, I go through the door, stop, and have a look around, trying not to make eye contact. I hope that the ball cap and large coat will keep me from getting noticed.  The bar holds a weekday crowd, hanging on each other like they never had a date before. I tighten my eyelids against the smoke and make out four guys near the pool table, and what looks like a couple of girls fetching drinks. I search for a seat beyond the table in the back, but it seems like they’re all taken.

A guy bumps into me as I stand here. I say excuse me, and he looks me in the face. “Hey, don’t I know you?” he says.

“I don’t think so.” I make to turn away.

“Yeah, you’re the sports hero who lost all his money. I saw you on TV.”

“Naw, people always say stuff like that. I’m not him, buddy; trust me.”

He gives me a puzzled look but doesn’t want to push it, in case he has it wrong. I turn away and continue to look for a seat.

Straight ahead lies the bar, and it has a place right in the middle. I move in the direction of the empty place and look over to the other side of the room. The tables look full of happy drunks. Buckets of empties line the bar top, and the barmaid’s trying to sell more. She doesn’t have much luck since most of these people just spent their last five bucks on this outing. Upon making it to the stool, I hoist myself up and lean on the bar.

“Hey, Greg,” Jerry says. “Whadda you have?”

“Evening, Jerry. I’ll have a Gin on the rocks with a water back.”

“Comin’ up.”

I like Jerry’s no-nonsense way of handling things. He doesn’t like small talk and gets right to business. My eyes smart from the smoke, and I wonder how Jerry gets away with letting people kill themselves, when clearly, it’s not supposed to be allowed in this kind of establishment.

“Here you go. Want me to run a tab?”

“Yeah, I would appreciate that. I intend to have another drink and then a burger.”

The guy who thinks he knows me grabs my shoulder from behind. I almost fall off the stool.

“You’re Greg Petros, the big fund manager. I knew I’d seen you on TV. You took a beautiful career in football and ran it into the ground.”

Jerry leans over the bar and lays his hand on the guy’s shoulder. “Move on, my friend. You made a mistake. This guy is nobody. Go sit down and let me buy you a drink.”

“You sure? You called him Greg.”

“Yeah, I’m sure. Go get a table, and I’ll send someone over.”

The guy looks at me one more time but does as Jerry suggests. He believes Jerry’s wrong, but the idea of a free drink lets him get away without losing face.

“Thanks. I didn’t mean for you to have to jump in.”

“No problem. Gimme the high sign when you’re ready for another drink.”

“Will do. Thanks.”

“For you buddy, anything.”

I should mention that Jerry and I go back aways. When I fell on hard times, he became the only one that seemed to give a shit. I take a sip of my drink and wait for the burn in my throat, which signals the good stuff. Here it comes. I take a swig of the water and almost believe life is good. The Gin needs to get to the brain before making any honest judgment.

While I wait for the warmth to go from my stomach to my head, I check out the folks seated on either side of me. They both have their backs turned to me and sit engrossed in some discussion with their neighbor. I figure it’s just as well since I don’t want to go through that old “don’t I know you?” bullshit again. Also, I don’t figure on staying the night, so no use in getting into any long discussions about life.

I look down at my drink and wonder what will happen tomorrow. My daughter Constance wants to come and visit. She lives in New York, and before all hell broke loose, we didn’t see each other often. I missed her so much, and it seemed I had to beg her even to talk on the phone. Now, it’s like she wants to be here every weekend. It’s only an hour’s flight by the shuttle or three by train, so she can come when she wants. I just can’t figure out why she got so clingy. I have my troubles, but it doesn’t have anything to do with her. No use in asking her husband, either. Though a nice enough guy, I always wonder if he has someplace important to go when I visit. He never sits still, and stays busy on the phone or at the computer. He makes a good living, but it seems a person could take an hour to sit and talk. I’d looked forward to some kind of relationship when he and Constance got married. It’ll never happen with him.

When I take another pull at my drink, I notice the burn feels less. It happens every time. First sip initiation, I call it. It’s like the first puff of a cigarette, hits hard then, after, nothing. I decide to let Constance pretty much have the agenda tomorrow. She and I have not had a chance to talk about anything deep for a while. It could just be that she blames me for her mother running off with that guy with the house on the Hudson. He has a title, and the old gal couldn’t resist, but, I think the daughter always felt I should have done something. Her mother’s sleeping with another guy and what the hell can I do about that?

I’ll just go with the flow. If she wants to go out, we will. If she wants to stay in, we can do that, too. I better think about getting some food in the house. Of course, we can always order take out. I need to move on to my drink and let this go. Tomorrow will be what it is. I remember the day she was born. I looked down at her in my arms and promised I would do anything for her. I love her more than life itself, and I hope we can somehow get to the root of whatever’s wrong. She sounded strange on the phone this morning, and I feel helpless to do anything about it. I hope she opens up when she gets here.

For some reason, I feel tired. Perhaps I’ll go ahead and finish my drink. Maybe I’ll just go home and forget the burger. First, though, I’ll just shut my eyes for a minute. My hands feel good when I put my head down.

“Hey, Greg,” Jerry says. I barely hear him. “What’s the matter? You taking a nap? Greg?” I can feel him shake me, but I have no interest in waking up. His voice gets further away, and I think he says, “Oh my God, Sophie, call 911, quick.” Now the room goes silent.




Thank you for supporting John W. Howell along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed his writing, to please visit his Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of his writing, along with his contact and social media links.  WE ask that you also check out his books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about John:


John W. Howell