Thursday, February 15, 2024
Monday, February 12, 2024
Until I figure out what is happening, I must be careful. I must pretend to be out of it, so no one suspects that from this angle—pitifully slumped in this wheelchair—I can spy on them. They must misjudge my mind, so I can see into their hearts and guts.
Spurred by confusion, no one knows where they’re going, and neither do I—but I’m happy to be out of bed and away from my room, happy to be moving, which is why it irks me to be stopped.
I allow myself to take a quick glimpse around me, but can’t turn my head back to see the cop. Instead, I rely on what I know best: perking up my ears. From the far end of the corridor behind me, the nurse cries for him to stop pushing me forward and wait a minute, wait for her. With a zigzag grind along the linoleum floor, he slows my wheelchair down to a standstill.
“I forgot one thing,” the nurse says, breathlessly, upon reaching us. “Here, let me put these mitts on her hands.”
I allow my eyelids to droop, not before noting that the cop seems to be on edge. His shift has ended hours ago, and no one has arrived to replace him, and now, he has this problem on his hands, by which I mean, me. With no donuts at hand, he begins to sound somewhat acidic.
“Mitts?” he grumbles. “What, you think this patient is going to play baseball, or have a fist fight with someone, in her condition?”
“It’s a fight alright,” she says. “With herself.”
He says nothing, which is clearly an expression of doubt. Maybe he’s even raising an eyebrow.
So the nurse goes on to add, “Trust me, we need to protect this patient from doing harm to her own body.”
“You serious?” he says. “If you ask me, there’s no sign of life in her.”
(Volume I of Ash Suspense Thrillers with a Dash of Romance)
Ash finds herself in the ER diagnosed with coma. She has no memory of what has happened to her, but what she can do--despite what everyone around her might think--is listen to the conversations of her visitors. Will she survive the power outage in the hospital and then, being kidnapped out of it?
Friday, February 9, 2024
Sunday, January 28, 2024
Wednesday, January 17, 2024
He lets out a heavy grunt. Sounds like his heart is about to break. Oh, I can only wish.
“Oleg,” I say, “how about, free my hands?”
He lets the baton hang idly by his side, and his eyes start filling with menace. “No vay.”
“Oh well.” I shrug. “You can’t blame me for asking.”
Finally, the shoes are on. I straighten, then rub my eyes, trying to keep the rope from itching my nose. Despite the shadows, I recognize this place. Pointe Dume. Near the top of the bluffs, the path passes right along the edge, skirting a sharp drop-off. Seen from here, the ocean should be sparkling in the distance—but on this moonless night, it looks dim.
I remember how lovely this beach looked from this very spot a month ago, how it greeted Michael and me with a beautiful sunset as we clung to each other, kissing.
Clouds were brushing the horizon copper, their fiery edges sketched in reflection across the vast surface of swirling water. An abundance of wildflowers burst over the shoulder of the bluff, painting it mustard yellow. Tickseed flowers shook their toothed-tip petals, their scent sweetening the salty breeze.
The breeze is just as bitter now—but the fragrance has been lost.
His clammy hand paws at my waist, which startles me into the present. It’s not where I want to be.
“I vill not hurt you,” Oleg tells me, “if you do vat I want.”
I know what he wants to hear, what would turn him on—but I’m in no hurry to say it, because of what would inevitably come next.
Drooling, he hisses in my ear, “Say you vant me.”
And just as I take a fluttering breath, not even sure what would fly out of my mouth, something unexpected happens. A buzz. It vibrates noisily from his pocket. It’s my cellphone, which he’s snatched away from me.
Oleg now has three things to juggle: the cellphone, the baton, and me. He does his best. First, he uses his right hand to lean me against the van. With his left, he sticks the baton under his armpit, grabs the cellphone out of his shirt pocket—maybe he mistakes it for his own—then barks, impulsively, “Vat?”
I hear Rita’s voice, bright and cheery. “Hi!”
His hold on me is somewhat looser than before, perhaps because he’s distracted. The baton keeps slipping from his armpit every time he raises the cellphone to his ear. “Hi,” he says, in apparent confusion.
“Who is this?”
“Vat number you call? Zis is mistake.”
I don’t stick around to hear the rest. Instead, I jerk my elbow sharply out of his hated clasp. And on impulse, I leap off the trail, my body rolling down, bumping over the steep, rocky slope—unfortunately, without the benefit of using my arms for balance.
Oleg is coming for me—his bellow, way up above, is deafening—but at this point, despite getting banged every which way, I feel simply ecstatic. A chill sings around me in the night air. I am free.
Saturday, January 13, 2024
None of the wire characters stirred from their assigned positions on the landscape. But despite being still, they emitted a slight rattling sound every once in a while, as if eager to spring into action. Even Lace seemed to have a vapor of cold breath trembling in the air just outside her mouth.
Staring at them, Michael felt as if he, too, were locked in suspended animation. He missed Ash. He missed hearing her voice. Was it too early to call her?
At any other time, he would not hesitate to wake her up and whisper sweet nothings in her ear. With every word, he would come closer to arousing her. But this morning, what he had to say wasn’t sugary, and it was far from intoxicating.
He had to share a clue with Ash, a substantial clue that sobered him. Michael had derived it from The Artist’s Hand. The scar on its palm could be explained in one of two ways: either Bull had an unusual intuition, which allowed him, somehow, to depict its shape—or else, he was the killer.
So far, Michael had been inclined to set aside his suspicion and give Bull the benefit of the doubt. Even now, there was nothing he wanted more than to go on trusting him. After all, his friend shouldn’t be judged by the same measuring stick as other people, should he? His mood swings, extravagant as they might be, served to fuel his inspiration. In his art, creative forces were tightly coupled with destructive ones.
“The artist’s hand is really invisible,” Bull had told him.
Michael remembered the bandage around his wrist. Was his the invisible hand?
“Long time no see,” Bull had said. “When did you see me last?”
To that, he had added, “I think you don’t care to remember. But sooner or later, it’ll come back to you.”
Did he think that Michael had spotted some detail, some hint of the killer’s identity and might, one day, figure it out?
There would be no urgency to answer any of these questions, if not for Ash, planning to head over to his studio.
“My last model was beautiful, just like you, but she stopped coming,” Bull had told her. “I can always use a new one.”
Michael groaned. Flipping his cellphone on the palm of his hand, he clicked her name. Would Ash disregard his concern, would she treat it as mere jealousy?
There was a ring, a prolonged ring that died out in the end.
He clicked her name a second time.
And just as he was about to click one last time, there was a loud bang on outer side of the garage door. It rolled up as if of its own accord, revealing two figures standing there. They were practically indistinguishable from each other. Same height, same cropped haircut, same police uniforms.
The first cop rubbed his hands together. “This time,” he boasted, baring his teeth in a smile, “we got ourselves a murderer.”
Directing his gaze towards Michael, the other said, “Yes, if the shoe fits.”
Haunted by discovering the body of a beautiful dancer, Michael re-constructs her murder in a virtual reality. Can he bring the mystery to life? Can he solve it in time, before the killer turns on the woman he loves, Ash?