The Outbreak of a Monstrous Infection



Terrorism Thrillers, International Mystery & Espionage, Crime Thriller
Published Date Jan 31, 2019

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A monstrous infection is spreading worldwide. Is this a simple infection or a deliberate attempt to ruin the human population, or bio-terrorism? What is this global infection and who is spreading this? To know that, read this suspense-filled book by an Amazon best-selling and hot #1 new-release author of a previous book called The Modern Mughal Mentality: New Strategies to Succeed in India and the Global Marketplace. In the author’s second book, a sizzling science-fiction story, a crime is investigated by the FBI in collaboration with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) of India.






About the Author


Dr. Afshan Naheed Hashmi was born in India and educated both in India and USA. She now lives in Rockville, Maryland, USA. Dr. Hashmi is a Best-Selling author, award-winning entrepreneur, speaker, books, movies, make-up and beauty products Reviewer, as well as Radio and TV show Host, is a successful regulatory, business development and scientific professional with more than a decade of experience. She is the Managing Member of Dr.Afshan Hashmi Consulting Group, LLC. She can also be your Publishing Consultant who will walk you through the whole book development process from the idea to the printed and ebook in your hand. She can also help you to be a best-selling author and can help you in your advertising and marketing needs of your book

To know more about how she can help you in your publishing journey, please email her at

afshan @drafshanhashmi.com.

Her TV show broadcasts on Fox5 Plus whereas her Radio Show broadcasts on number one  women channel W4WN. To know more about her please visit her website: www.afshanhashmi.com, http://www.drafshanhashmi.com and http://www.drafshanhashmisradio.com/


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Auroras. Petroglyps. and Pagans


Science, Archaeology, History
Date Published: March 2018
Publisher: Kronos Press

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More than 100 Years ago, researchers demonstrated that ancient myths and pagan religions are similar throughout the world. Other researchers have known for years that ancient petroglyph images are similar throughout the world. What was not known until near the end of the twentieth century was that scientists could reproduce the petroglyph images in the plasma laboratory.

The laboratory plasma that produced petroglyph images was the type of plasma that creates the Earth’s auroras. That suggests that under certain conditions those images that were drawn in petroglyphs could have appeared in the auroras during ancient times.  Numerous areas throughout the world could have seen similar images in the sky during the same time-frames. Those images combined with their motions and the actions of comets and meteors could have led to the creation of similar myths. The myths led to pagan religions.  No space aliens or supernatural activities were required.

Information in this book includes why some pagan religions thought that heaven was close to Earth, the gods lived at the top of an exceptionally high mountain, there was a pathway between heaven and Earth, there was a trinity of major gods, and the gods had significant events occur on mountain tops.

Details are also included about numerous initial surprises found by space probes and the concepts prevalent in 1950 that led to those surprises. Those concepts also initially hindered the recognition that there was an association between mythology and the ancient sky and the association of auroras, petroglyphs and pagan religions.

Anyone with an interest in myths, ancient religions, petroglyphs, astronomy, geology or the interdisciplinary synthesis of those subjects would find something of interest in this book.



Excerpt

Descriptions of the world axis and the tree of life had some identical characteristics. “The world axis may be symbolically represented as a world pillar, a ladder, a cosmic mountain, a cosmic tree, and so forth.” [Grantham, p.17] In Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Davidson said, “This world had at its center a great tree, a mighty ash called Yggdrasil. So huge was this tree that its branches stretched out over heaven and earth alike.” [Davidson, p.24]

There are stories in many countries about a mountain, often called the cosmic mountain, where the gods lived. The Tree of Life is often described as having characteristics similar to the cosmic mountain. The tree, similar to the mountain, was often considered divine and inhabited by gods or spirits. Its branches reached into the sky and its roots went deep into the earth.

The cosmic tree or cosmic mountain was a link between Heaven, Earth, and the underworld. A ladder was sometimes used as a method of travel from one to the other.

 The Egyptians described “Anubis, who is on his hill, the dweller in the chamber of embalmment, at the head of the divine hall; and all the gods and goddesses who dwell in the mountain of Amentet the beautiful of Hetkaptah (Memphis)”. [Budge, LOAE] [Emphasis added]

 In the book titled Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, Budge quoted: “His mother is Smat, the wife on the mountain, the verdure on the mountain Sehseh. He comes out on the ladder which his father Ra made for him.” [Budge, OAER, p 119] [Emphasis added] Verdure, or greenery, would fit with one of the major aurora colors mentioned previously.

 In another section Budge noted, “The god is seated on his throne as usual, and behind him rises the mountain of Amenti, from the top of which two arms are extended to receive the solar disk. Between the deceased and his wife and the god is a lake, or ornamental piece of water, from the sides of which grow date-palms, etc.” [Budge, OAER, p 45] [Emphasis added] Since the mountain of the gods was sometimes considered to be in the north, what was translated as solar disk may have been a glowing ball of plasma called a plasmoid. That concept would have been unfamiliar to translators.

            Mount Olympus is where the Twelve Olympians resided. They were the principal gods in the Greek pantheon. One Persian sacred mountain example is Harā Bərəzaitī. In Chinese mythology “another sky ladder was the sacred mountain, Mount Kunlun.” [Ganeri, p.7]

Some representations of the mythical mountains had the appearance of cones. Cones were in some cases considered sacred. Certain emblems “are supposed to represent the cone-shaped stones, betyla, from Bethal. The ‘House of God,’ the great worship of the Phoenicians.” Also, “The sacred cone is seen surrounded by the temple court on the coin of Byblos.” [Ward]

It is not unexpected then that, as the magazine Mental Floss in December of 2014 noted, “Nearly every culture has conical headgear. What’s the allure of being a conehead?” (See figure 2.4.)

 In a Saturday Night Live comedy skit in 1993, The Coneheads were space aliens who came to Earth to observe human life. Cone and head may have been fused there first, but cones on people’s heads can be in drawings and on statues for years. The symbolism of the shape is interesting. No aliens are needed.

Cones on people’s heads have been around as early as the Bronze Age. As early as the 23rd century BCE a cone-shaped mountain was depicted on the victory stele of king Naram-Sin of Akkad. The colossal mountain was identified as the abode of the gods. Several stars on the apex identify the rock as the residence of celestial powers. The mighty ruler paid homage to those celestial powers for his victory. [Van der Sluijs, 2005]

A carving thought to be Suppiluliuma II, New Kingdom of the Hittite Empire, ruling c.12071178 BC, contemporary with Tukulti-Ninurta I of Assyria, depicts him with a cone hat. A topor is a type of conical headgear traditionally worn by grooms as part of the Bengali Hindu wedding ceremony. It is cone-shaped and it is believed to bring good luck.

Hephaestus was the ancient Greek god of blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes. In Greek mythology, Hephaestus was the son of Zeus and Hera, the king and queen of the gods. He wore a cone hat.

The Shwedagon Pagoda,Yangon, in Myanmar, is a Buddhist pagoda. It the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi, the Phya That Gyi Pagoda in Bagan, Myanmar and the sixth century tower at Clonmacnoise Monestery, Ireland, by the River Shannon all have cone-shaped tops.

A kasa is any of several sorts of traditional cone hats of Japan often made of straw. A hogeon is a type of Korean traditional cone headgear for young boys aged 1 to 5. A hogeon was worn on holidays such as the Korean new-year.

A tall conical Persian hat is still used by mystic cults and Dervishes. Into modern times wizards are portrayed as wearing conical hats, for example in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

In Central Vietnam, legend says, when a deluge of rain was falling, there descended from the sky a giant woman wearing on her head four huge round leaves as large as the sky itself and stitched by bamboo sticks. This was the Non La Cone Hat which is shaped like a cone.  The leaves protected humans, then still naked, from the rain. The giant messenger from the sky twirled round the leaves on her head to dispel clouds and rains. She taught her followers how to grow crops. One day, mankind dozed off while listening to her stories. When they awoke, the goddess was gone. It is common in ancient myths for the gods and goddesses eventually to disappear.

“What’s the allure of being a conehead?” was asked in the magazine Mental Floss. There is a picture of a recent Aurora that gives the impression of a face with a cone hat. [Mujay] Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists. Common examples include seeing images of Elvis in toast, or animals or faces in clouds.

Figure 2.4 gives an idea of the face with cone hat that seems to appear in the photograph. In the photo, the lines appeared green.



About the Author



Jeff Ransom received a Ph.D. in Plasma Physics from The University of Texas at Austin in 1967 and is a member of the American Physical Society.  In the aerospace industry, he performed research in a number of areas including radio frequency plasmas, electro-optics and reconnaissance, infrared detection, non-destructive testing methods, fiber-optic and polarized display enhancement and missile jamming techniques.  Most of this work was classified, which led him to conduct private research in areas that he could discuss with people in the non-classified world. He published an article related to the plasma part of those presentations titled “Plasma Generated Craters and Spherules” in the IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, Volume 35 Issue 4 Part 1 P828-831 07August 2007.


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Katherine Wyvern – In The Eye Of The Wind




Length: 100,000 word approx.


Blurb

Born in the northern wastes of Kaleva in the middle of a devastating war between light and darkness, Rikko’ has found his way south to the warm shores of the Circled Sea, the first elver to ever turn pirate.

Forbidden by the rules of the Andalouan court to pursue such an ungentlemanly career, Gael can only dream of ever becoming a doctor, and his medical studies remain unfinished until his aunt the Queen sends him on a covert mission to the pirate city of Beyas’kahl.

And here, after one night with Rikko’, all his loyalties are put to the test.

Queen Amata has reigned for three decades, and she always used her men cunningly. But even the best player can miscalculate, and her blunder places Gael first in slavery, then in a naval battle, and finally, worst of all, face to face with Rikko’s darkest and deadliest side.

From such darkness, is there any coming back? Is there any hope of love for Gael, or redemption for Rikko’?

About Katherine

I have entered that age when looking at beautiful male models in their prime makes me a cougar, ahem.

Almost all my heroines are short: that’s because I look at the world from hobbit level. Being so small I am three times more concentrated (read: obsessive) than anybody I know. I am exhaustingly creative in writing, arts, crafts… Sometimes my brain gets friction burns from hurtling at such speed from one universe to the next.

I love animals, plants, and occasionally even people.

Like the Highlander I come from a lot of different places. I was born in Italy but lived here and there and consider myself simply and deeply European. I love Europe passionately, its antiquity, its diversity, its quirkiness. All my books are set in Europe, or alternate versions of it.

I have been writing since I can remember.

Katherine’s Blog:
https://katherinewyvern.blogspot.fr/

Katherine’s Website:
http://meetingivory.wixsite.com/katherinewyvern

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/katherinewyvern

Facebook Author/artist Group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/884796268383313/?ref=bookmarks

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/KatherineWyvern

Or follow her on Instagram @katherinewyvern



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Frank W Butterfield – Chasing Eddie



Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal LinkExclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited

Length: 45,000 words 

Golden Gate Love Stories

Book #1 – The One He Waited For – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Their Own Hidden Island – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Blurb

January 29, 2019

Eddie Smith is a chubby bear of a guy who lives in Daytona Beach and doesn’t work much anymore but isn’t retired.

Whit Hall has just retired as a tight end for an NFL expansion team and lives in San Antonio.

At 52, Eddie feels at home with himself and has learned how to roll with life. He’s happy enough where he is and doesn’t expect much to happen anytime soon.

At 35, Whit is ready for a life that put less of a strain on his body. He’s banked plenty of dough but doesn’t know what to do next.

. . .

About to sit down to his favorite take-out lasagna, Eddie gets a call from a friend who wants to hire him to help Whit figure out what’s next in his life.

Eddie is a kinda, sorta life coach and might be able to help but seriously doubts it.

Reluctantly, he climbs aboard his friend’s private jet and flies to San Antonio. Once he arrives, he ends up getting a whole lot more than he bargained for. Whit Hall is aggressive, he’s angry, and he’s under a lot of pressure.

It’s a good thing Eddie (sorta) knows what he’s doing!

. . .

Now that he’s retired, Whit is looking for the next thing.

He’s set, with plenty of bank. And he’s doing what he can to deal with his parents, who are all up in his business. A lot.

Then, one Wednesday morning, he opens his front door. Before he knows it, Whit is chasing Eddie Smith out of his house, down the street, and even further.

It’s a good thing Whit is (kinda) in shape for this new type of chase!

. . .

Neither man wants to go far…

But unexpected changes are chasing them both…


Wherever they end up going, and whatever ends up happening, this will be the beginning of something new and wonderful for them both.

. . .

This 45K word stand-alone contemporary male/male (MM) romance involves a chubby bear guy and a retired professional football player.

Included:

Some tension…
Hints of a coming-out story…
Medium-heat sexual descriptions…
Slightly nerdy details…
Some metaphysics…
And a HEA (that’s a happily-ever-after)…

Not included:

Much angst…
Graphic sexual descriptions…
A cliff-hanger…


This story is the beginning of a series of contemporary romantic adventures. It ends with the start of one of those, so there are some loose plot points but no cliff-hanger.

Topics: virgin, virgin hero, out for you, first time romance, mid-life transformation, innocent first timer, late bloomer

. . .

Golden Gate Love Stories are all about the lives and loves of men who fall in love with each other and find the one they were waiting for.

Set in the same universe as the Nick Williams Mystery Series and the Daytona Beach Book Series, these love stories focus on the men who come together, find true love, and really do live happily ever after.

Excerpt

He looked at me for a long moment. His violet eyes got more focused and I wondered what was going on in that head of his with its tufted hair on top and strange gray streaks.

I could feel my attraction for him suddenly come front and center. Like always happened, my knees got a little weak and my mouth got dry.

I held his gaze for as long as I could, wondering what was really going on. I knew what I wanted to happen. I wanted something… Like a kiss or more. I was pretty sure he’d been watching me as if he was attracted to me. His eyes always went to my belly, which was a tell-tale sign. Right then, however, his violet eyes were drilling into mine.

As always, I started doubting myself. Maybe I was mis-reading him entirely. Maybe he was just a friendly straight guy. As we looked at each other, all of those thoughts, and more, ran through my head.

Of course, I’d been hired by Bob to do a job and kissing Whit wasn’t in the job description. And it wasn’t ethical for me to kiss him. Not that I adhered to some sort of written code of ethics. I just didn’t think it was respectful of Whit as a client, even though he really wasn’t my client, but that was splitting hairs.

Nevertheless, I was tempted to put my left hand around his waist, but I was afraid how he would react. It was hard to be around a big scaredy-cat who might bite, and hard, at any moment.

So, with all that going through my mind, I stood perfectly still and examined the violet in his eyes, something that was remarkable to look at.

And then, suddenly, it was over.

He turned and looked at the river. After another few seconds, he leaned against one of the trees and crossed his arms. “Knowing this is here is enough to get me to stay.”

“Oh?” I asked, wishing I had some water to drink.

He cleared his throat. “Yeah. I talked to my business manager about putting the house up for sale. He thinks I could make a profit on it, considering that I owned it.”

I looked over at the river, not wanting to show him what I thought of that idea. But, somehow, he knew I had an opinion.

“What?”

“I guess I would never think of paying a premium on a house because a football player had lived there. Not one like that one. You’ve got a historical marker, after all.”

He didn’t say anything. I looked over at him. He was staring out at the river.

“I tried to get the city to let me remove that thing—”

“What!” I couldn’t help myself.

He looked at me, frowning. Shrugging, he said, “Well, I don’t give a shit about how old it is or who lived in it.”

“Well, then, why the hell did you buy it?”

He leaned forward, aggressively. “I didn’t buy it. My mother did.”

I leaned back. “Oh.”

He took a deep breath and then said, “Sorry. I promised Ossler I wouldn’t do that again.”

I knew what he meant, but I wanted to hear him say it. “Do what?”

“Get in your face.” He did look contrite which, on him, was really cute.

“Thanks, Whit.”

He looked down at me and smiled a little. “No sweat, Coach.”

I grinned and shook my head.

He laughed and then patted his belly. “OK. Now, I’m hungry.”

“Me too.”

Author Bio

Although Frank worships San Francisco, he lives at the beach on another coast. Born on a windy day in November of 1966, he was elected President of his high school Spanish Club in the spring of 1983. After moving across these United States like a rapid-fire pinball, he now makes his home in a hurricane-proof motel, built in 1947, with superior water pressure. While he hasn’t met any dolphins personally, that invitation is always open. 


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His Hand in the Storm


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Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Date Published: Dec 22, 2018

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 A MAN COPES ANY WAY HE CAN AFTER KILLING HIS ONLY SON.

His team believes he’s calm and Zen. His boss finds him obsessive. Suspects think him gorgeous but dangerous. They’re all right.

Chief Inspector Gray James is sculpting the remembered likeness of his small son when he receives the call – a faceless corpse is found hanging by the choppy river, swirls of snow and sand rolling like tumbleweeds.

Montreal glitters: the cobbled streets slippery with ice, and the mighty St. Lawrence jetting eastward past the city. One by one, someone is killing the founders of a booming medical tech startup – propelling Gray into a downward spiral that shatters his hard-earned peace, that risks his very life, that threatens to force him to care and face what he has shunned all along: his hand in the storm.

From the prize-winning author comes a psychological, page-turning mystery with all the elements one needs on a rainy night: a complex murder, a noble yet haunted detective, and an evocative setting to sink into.



Excerpt


CHAPTER 1
April 1, 5:30 am

MORE NUMBING PAIN.

At precisely five-thirty am on April the first, Chief Inspector Gray James tucked his cold hands into his pockets, straightened his spine, and looked up.

He breathed out through his nose, warm breath fogging the air as if surging out of a dragon and tried to dispel the mingled hints of flesh, cherry blossoms, and the raw, living scent of the river.

The drumming of his heart resonated deep in his chest – brought on more by intellectual excitement than by any visceral reaction to murder. Because of this, Gray accepted an atavistic personal truth.

He needed this case like he’d needed the one prior, and the one before that. That someone had to die to facilitate this objectionable fix bothered him, but he’d give audience to that later. Much later.

A car backfired on le Chemin Bord Ouest, running east-west along Montreal’s urban beach park. A second later, silence ensued, save the grievous howling of a keen eastwardly wind, and the creak of nylon against wood, back and forth, and back and forth.

Heavy boots tromping through the snow and slush came up from behind. A man approached. Tall, but not as tall as Gray, his cord pants and rumpled tweed conveyed the aura of an absent-minded professor, yet the shrewd eyes – not malicious, but not categorically beneficent either – corrected that impression.

Forensic Pathologist John Seymour looked up at the body hanging from the branch of a grand oak, gave it the eye and said, “Well, I can tell you one thing right off.”

“What’s that?”

“You wouldn’t be caught dead in that suit.”

Gray sighed. “What do you suggest? That I refer the victim to my tailor?” To which Seymour shrugged and got to work.

With every creak of the rope biting into the bough, Gray half-expected the swinging shoes to brush the snow-laden grass; each time the cap-toed oxfords narrowly missed. A grease stain marked the bony protrusion of the left white sock (with a corresponding scuff on the heel – from being dragged?), above which the crumpled brown wool-blend fabric of the pants and ill-fitting jacket rippled in the wind – like the white-tipped surface of the river beyond.

Dawn cast a blue light on the water and snow. A damp cold sank through Gray’s coat and into his bones. Amazing how the usually peaceful beach park took on a menacing air: the St. Lawrence choppier than usual, swirls of sand and snow rolling like tumbleweeds, the sky heavy and low. But a children’s playground lay behind the hanging body, and its red swings, bright yellow slide, and empty wading pool offered a marked contrast to the swaying corpse.

With every flash, Scene of Crime Officers photographed the body and documented what remained: only an exposed skull, framed by sparse hair on top, ears on either side, and a wrinkly neck puckered in a noose. A red silk tie under the hangman’s knot accentuated the complete absence of blood. Blood would have been preferable. The features were stripped to the bone, with eroded teeth set in a perpetual grin as if the skull were enjoying a joke at everyone’s expense.

“White male in his early fifties,” Seymour said. “Well off, by the look of him. Only small bits of tissue left on the cheekbones, lips, and around the eyes. Notice the distinctive gap between the two front teeth.”

That could help with identification.

The custom ringtone on Gray’s cell played “She’s Always a Woman.” Why was she calling him so soon? He stabbed the phone and tucked it back into his cashmere coat pocket before circling the body several times.

“What killed him?” Gray asked.

“The facial trauma preceded the hanging.”

That much was obvious since the rope wasn’t eaten away like the face.

“We can’t know the cause of death until I get him on the slab,” Seymour said. “And before you ask, the time of death is hard to say. Parts of him are already frozen. Maybe four to seven hours ago. I’ll have a better window after I’ve checked the stomach contents and what’s left of the eyes.”

Seymour crouched and felt the victim’s knees and lower legs. “Rigor mortis has set in, probably sped up by the cold.” He rotated the stiff ankles. “Look at these tiny feet. Can’t have been too popular with the ladies.”

Gray closed his eyes and counted to five.

All around, professionals bustled gathering evidence, clearing onlookers and photographing the scene. The park lay sandwiched between the beach and parking lot leading to the main road. On one side, the river flowed eastward in a blue-gray haze, blurring the line between water and sky. On the other, traffic going into downtown Montreal grew heavier by the minute. The road led to his neighborhood, where Victorian and Edwardian homes, bistros, and cafés crunched together for ten hipster-infused blocks.

This park held memories of weekends spent with his wife and son. A lifetime ago. Why did it have to happen here, of all places?

“Did some kind of acid cause the burns, Doctor?”

“Yeah. Parts of the eyes are still there. Almost as if they were left for last. I wonder why.”

Gray could think of a reason but didn’t elaborate.

A gust of wind swung the corpse’s legs sideways, narrowly missing an officer’s head.

“What the hell.” Seymour grabbed the ankles. “The sooner we cut him down, the better.”

Which couldn’t be soon enough. Gray bent down and held the lower legs. He gripped the ankle awkwardly with his right thumb and little finger, the middle three immobile these last three years since the accident, and a snake-like scar running from his palm to his wrist blanched from the cold.

Despite his hanging on tight, the corpse danced in the wind. “Don’t rush on my account, Doctor.”

Finally, attendants cut the victim down and laid him on a stretcher. Seymour hunched over, his blond hair parting in the breeze, revealing a pink, flaky scalp, the grinning corpse powerless to refuse examination.

“Definitely acid,” Seymour said. “Going to be hard for you to trace, since it’s so easy to get. Impure sulphuric acid’s available at any mechanic shop. You find the purer kind in pharmaceuticals.” He flashed a penlight into the facial crevices and probed them with a long, needle-like instrument.

The victim couldn’t feel it, but each stab and scrape made Gray flinch. “Must you do that?”

“Look at these chipped bones,” Seymour said. “Here, next to the supraorbital foramen, and here on the left zygomatic arch. They’re edged off, not dissolved by acid.”

“Torture, right?”

“Could be.”

Gray paced his next six words: “Was he alive for the acid?”

“I’m going to have to brush up on vitriolage. If he were, he’d have breathed it in, and we’d see scarring in the esophagus, nostrils, and lungs.”

Looking around at the flat, deserted beach park, the ropy ebb and flow of the water, Gray said, “He didn’t die here, did he?”

“No. From what I can see, livor mortis indicates he probably died sitting and was strung up later. I’ll let you know after all his clothes are off.” Seymour pushed himself up with his hands, his knees popping like the report of a firearm. “What could the poor bastard have done to deserve this?”

Gray didn’t answer. As someone guilty of the greatest sin of all, he considered himself wholly unqualified to make any such judgment.

His cell played “She’s Always a Woman,” again, and he pulled it out. Images from the previous night played in his mind: her hands flat on the mattress, his palm encircling her belly from behind. And those unexpectedly strong martinis she’d made earlier.

Putting away the phone, he spoke brusquely. “When will you have something ready?”

“Preliminary report probably later today. And I’ll send remnants of the acid for analysis to determine the type and grade.”

As the body was carried to a van and Seymour followed, second-in-command Lieutenant Vivienne Caron approached Gray carrying two cappuccinos from a nearby Italian cafe. Wonderful steam rose from the opened lids, and the dark, nutty aroma drifted forward, the first hint of comfort on this bleak morning.

Her chocolate brown eyes exuded warmth – eyes both direct and shy, their color perfectly matching her short, straight tresses now whipping about in the wind and framing gentle features.

“Chief Inspector.” She addressed him formally, despite their longstanding friendship. The sound of her nearly perfect English was pleasant and familiar, beautifully accented with the musical intonation characteristic of certain Québecois.

Even though she held the coffee before his left hand; he grasped it awkwardly with his right.

“Don’t spill any on that thousand-dollar suit,” she said.

It made him gag. “Why do you always add so much sugar?”

“Because I know that with a juicy case to solve, you’ll be too busy to eat or sleep.”

A moment of silence passed between them, pregnant with history he didn’t want exhumed.

“I have to make sure you’re okay,” she said. “Even if you refuse to… She was my best friend.”

He placed a hand on her shoulder. “You live with Sita’s ghost more than I do. Enough time has passed for me.”

“Maybe. It’s changed you.”

“For the worse?”

Vivienne stilled, her mouth open. “Non. For the better. That’s the problem.”

Her eyes were warm yet partly adversarial. He saw it as the conflicting desire for wanting him to be okay, but not to leave her to grieve alone. She’d once told him the same trauma that had disillusioned her had enlightened him.

“It doesn’t matter what happens,” he whispered.

“Doesn’t matter?” Her voice took on an edge.

“As long as you can control your reactions – it doesn’t matter. Freedom comes from living in grays – no black; no white. No convenient polarities.”

Her eyes pierced his, but he knew, out of respect, she wouldn’t directly say what she thought; that he oscillated between Zen and obsession, contentment and blackness.

She shuffled her feet. “I don’t know how you made that leap, after the tragedy.”

“The worst thing that could ever happen to me has happened. After that, I can either fear everything or nothing – I have nothing left to lose.”

Vivienne didn’t reply.

What right had he to preach when he still experienced unguarded moments which filled his insides with quicksand as that malignant though raced through his mind: what do I do now? How do I fill this day and twenty years of interminable days when everything is for nothing? When this life feels surreal, dissociated as though I’m on a foreign planet with strangers.

Those moments often occurred when he didn’t have a case; they occurred before sleep and drove his nightly obsession.

“Living in Gray?” Vivienne shook her pretty head. “I believe in good and evil.”

“Then where do I fall? Or will you make excuses for me?”

“Non. I won’t make excuses for you. “

Her eyes hooded over; she took a step back. A door slammed between them, again.

“No cell phone, no ID,” she said. “Any footprints or tracks are covered by snow.”

“Let’s have someone check with the occupants of the hospital rooms facing the river.”

Westborough Hospital sat directly across the road. A magnificent feat of engineering, its four glass-walled buildings were connected by skyways. It had taken twenty years of fundraising to build (with its founding director recently fleeing to Nicaragua under allegations of embezzling some of those funds) and took up several square blocks.

Gray forced down the coffee. Already, warmth and caffeine coursed through his system, bringing life to his numb toes tucked inside the slush-soaked loafers. “Did you check with missing persons?”

“Only one recent report matches. Norman Everett of Rosedale Avenue in Upper Westmount. He’s only been gone since last night and reported missing by his step-son, Simon Everett. And of note, Norman’s a doctor at Westborough Hospital.”

Gray’s head shot up. “Missing since last night, and works at this particular hospital? The timing’s perfect. Give me his details. I’ll do the interview myself while you finish up here.”

“D’accord.”

She handed over the number, and he made the call to Norman Everett’s house, reaching the missing man’s wife, Gabrielle.

Before Vivienne could go, a Scene of Crime Officer jumped forward and handed Gray a transparent evidence bag.

“Found this by the tree over there, Chief.”

“How recent?”

“It lay just under the snow. The city cleaned this area recently; hardly any debris around.”

Gray thanked him and looked down at the four by six-inch identity badge, examined the photo, and read the identifying details, gripping it tight enough that his fist blanched. The image blurred for the briefest second before clearing.

Vivienne rubbed her hands together. “What’s wrong?”

He didn’t trust his voice yet. A shoal of uncertainties flooded his chest. The case suddenly became more raw, more urgent, but he’d handle it. He always did. Gray unclenched his jaw and fingers, and handed her the evidence bag.

“The killer?” she asked.

“A witness.”

“Look at that ID. Look what it says. You can’t be sure.”

“Yes, I can.” His tone came out harsher than he’d intended. He could guess her next words, and he’d deserve them. Does anything matter, now? Will you be able to control your reactions? But she didn’t say it. Didn’t point out the one circumstance that sliced his calm with the efficiency of a scalpel. Instead, she met his eyes in a gentle embrace before moving farther up the beach.

Bells sounded from St. Francis, the eighteenth-century cathedral up the road for the Angelus prayer. Quebec had the largest Catholic population in the country, and maybe as a result, the lowest church attendance and marriage rate. But the familiar ringing comforted and smoothed the sharp edges of his morning.

Gray left the cordoned off area, crossed the breadth of the beach park, and headed to the attached parking lot and his car; the black metallic exterior gleamed in the distance.

At one time, the Audi S5 had consumed a substantial chunk of his detective’s salary, but he hadn’t cared. Memories of countless family road trips lay etched within its metal frame.

Still twenty feet away, he pressed the automatic start to warm the engine, just as Seymour summoned him from behind.

The doctor jogged over sporting a wry smile, breath steaming in the cold air, and his long coat flapping. Behind him, the van carrying the body left the parking lot.

“I forgot to ask you earlier – about your next expedition,” Seymour said. “Mind having some company?”

“I failed last time,” Gray said. “Or hadn’t you heard?”

“A fourteen-hundred-kilometer trek to the South Pole, on foot, is hardly a failure.”

“It is if you can’t make the journey back. Anyway–”

A boom drowned out his words. The earth shook, and air blasted towards them, throwing Gray to the ground onto his right shoulder, pain searing up his arm. Chunks of metal and debris flew from the newly obliterated Audi in every direction, denting nearby cars and clanging against the pavement. A puff of smoke shot upward, chasing the flames, leaving the smell of burning rubber and metal hanging in a thick cloud – while cars on the nearby road screeched to a sudden halt. The fire swayed as though alive, angry arms flailing and crackling, spitting sparks in all directions.

“What the hell!” Seymour lay in the snow, his mouth open, his arm up to ward off the scorching heat.

Gray’s car lay mutilated, the black paint graying as it burned. People jumped out of their vehicles to take a look. Vivienne and some officers ran towards him, their feet pounding on the asphalt.

“Someone is damn pissed off at you,” Seymour said, eying his own dented Mercedes. He turned to Gray. “What did you do?”


About the Author

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A MYSTERY; A BEACH; A BEER:  Ritu’s favorite vacation day.

Ritu’s first book, His Hand In the Storm has had nearly 50,000 downloads. It became an AMAZON BESTSELLER  in the Kindle free store and was #1 in all its mystery categories. She needs coffee (her patch for Coca Cola), beaches, and murder mysteries to survive – not necessarily in that order. She won the Colorado Gold Award for the first in the Chief Inspector Gray James Murder Mystery Series, His Hand In the Storm. The book was also a Daphne du Maurier Suspense finalist.

She’s fulfilling her lifelong desire of becoming a mystery writer. Many thanks to all the readers who are making that possible.


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Trapped


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Dr. van Wolfe Saga, Book One
Dark Fantasy, Horror
Publisher: Blacksheep Press
Published: February 2018

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I’m a monster. A literal monster. But I’m a “good” kind of monster. You know, like the serial killers who kill the drug dealers, rapists, and general scum of the earth.

The difference between those serial killers and me? I’m only part human; two-thirds of me is werepire. That’s right, werewolf and vampire. It’s not fun, but I make due. I’m also a therapist; the one these scum pay to… talk to. I listen, sure. But then I have my own personal brand of justice. It gets messy, so if you plan to stick around, might I suggest you wear a rubber suit?


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Other Books in the Dr. van Wolfe Saga

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Moratorium
Dr. van Wolfe Saga, Book Two
Publisher: Blacksheep Press
Published: December 2018


It turns out I have residents in the castle dungeons. They’re pretty helpful and we get along famously. I think I’m going to like having them around.

I’m still trapped inside my own body with these idiot monsters, but there’s good news. Dr. Fleming Heilsong heard about my search for a cure through a colleague and contacted me to offer his help. I can’t lie, this whole thing makes me nervous. I don’t want to die but the werepireism grows stronger every day. I’m fighting for my life – my very soul. Some days I think I’ll lose it altogether and so does Teddy.

How much longer can I hold on? Or will the monsters take control?


Excerpt

Prologue


Let’s go back to how this all started.  Call it a trip back in time, if you like.  About four years ago, I, Dr. Miranda van Wolfe was not a doctor.  I was still in school earning my Bachelor and Master Degrees.  I was also a universe traveler, though I did not know it in the very beginning.

It started with a dream, or what I thought was a dream.  That following weekend, I heard a voice and not just any voice – not something that sounded human, anyway.  It told me it was going to take me to another universe to set things right there, so the universe I lived in and the one I was being sent to fix would merge.  It really started simply and nicely enough.

Then things started getting…weird.  The universe started referring to the trips it sent me on as errands, and finally, the last trip was a mission.  I had saved my friends and family over and over.  I even had a partner until that last mission.  What I did not ever know, until the very end, was that I was not fully human.  During an errand to an alternate universe to save my friend and her family, I fought, and killed, a magical werewolf with my own formidable magic.  During that battle, I had been scratched and magically healed myself.  I was never able to figure out how until my universe traveling days were over about a year ago.  I all just…ended.  Stopped dead in its tracks.  Hah, stopped dead, what a reference, Miranda.

You see, that last mission was a battle for the entire fate of the multiverse.  There was a woman named Venus who was able to control people’s minds just by whispering into their ear.  My partner Xavier and I had gone to this universe (I had also earned my doctorate the day we left for that universe).  So here I am, being sent on a mission with a man-child I am absolutely infuriated with because he missed my graduation that day, and we wind up in some 1940s style Twilight Zone.  I was stuck in a dress half the time and finally managed to get some gear that allowed me to actually fight without flouncing around like a floofball.

Anyway, I got dark, and by dark, I mean my soul almost left me and had I not still had a part of me that was, err, is, human, it would be gone right now.  So Xavier and I had to go meet up with his doppelganger in 1940s Twilight Zone to get whatever information on Venus we could, seeing how he was already under Venus’ mind control.  There is no way to nicely tell you what I did to that poor man, but suffice it to say I did not kill him.  The weird part was he was so grateful to me for saving his life and breaking the mind hold he let me stay with him until this whole mind control business was finished.  He even bought me clothes, fed me…gave up his bed to me!  I am pretty sure I will never again meet a human that incredibly grateful.


About the Author

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Amanda Byrd has a love of horror and borderline obsession with fictional serial killers. She frequently makes Hannibal, Harry Potter, and Dexter references in “normal” conversation. She is also a full-time psychology major. When not writing, Amanda can be found reading, playing video games, or watching shows and movies like Mindhunter, Hannibal, Harry Potter, or Dexter. Amanda currently resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband and two cats.


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