Thursday, June 07, 2018

Something Terrible - The Bombing of Alfred P. Murrah

Years ago, I wrote a short story called Prairie Justice. I had almost forgotten the story and found it again, recently, while deleting unnecessary files from my computer. As I reread and re-edited the story, details of why I wrote it in the first place flooded my brain.
The year was 1995. During April of that year, a madman blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Building, killing 168 innocent victims, including many children in daycare there. Anne, my wife then, was a fledgling lawyer, having gone to law school late in life (mid-forties). She partnered with Becky S., and we were about to move into our new offices when the bomb exploded.
I had returned home from an early-morning dentist’s appointment. I found Anne sobbing uncontrollably.
I was puzzled because Anne was a trooper. Despite all the bad things that had happened to us, I don’t recall having ever seen her cry. When I saw her that morning, she was crying like a baby.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Something terrible has happened.”
We turned on the TV to a local news station. Their helicopter was heading downtown to check out an explosion that had rocked the city.
“There’s lots of smoke coming from one of the buildings. I think it’s the Federal Building,” the chopper pilot said.
A cameraman was taking pictures. Except for the smoke, the front of the building looked normal. We watched as the chopper circled around the building. When the camera focused on what remained of the north side of the building, Anne and I gasped in disbelief.
“Oh my God!” the pilot said. “Oh my God!”
Days passed, and then weeks. The bombing was like a blow to the head for the entire City. It became all too common to be talking to someone, and suddenly have them dissolve into tears, blurting out some heart-wrenching story they’d kept bottled inside for far too long. Everyone had a story. Everyone was affected.
Shortly after the bombing, Becky sent Anne to interview a deadbeat, druggie client that had been put in jail for beating his wife.
“You may think he’s scum, but he deserves his day in court. He’s your client so treat him with respect, no matter how you feel about him in your heart,” Becky counseled.
Anne and I left Oklahoma City early one morning, heading west to El Reno, the Canadian County seat. I can’t even remember why we stopped there, but I remember the courthouse facilities and the historic town well. Leaving El Reno, we passed a Las Vegas-style bingo hall in nearby Concho. Gambling was in its infancy in Oklahoma. Sixteen years later, it’s rampant.
We drove through the tiny town of Okarche, to Eischen’s Bar. The longest continuously operating bar in Oklahoma was shut down at the time because of a flash fire. We made it to Enid shortly before lunch, finding the correction’s facility ensconced in an old neighborhood.
The jailers brought Doug (that was his first name) into a visitor’s room, wearing an orange jumpsuit, shackled in leg irons, handcuffs and a belly chain. I watched from a distance as Anne talked with him for about half an hour. Wearing her own shackles of lawyer/client privilege, she never told me what they talked about.
Later that night, I wrote Prairie Justice, a short story featuring Buck McDivit, a character that had suddenly invaded my mind. The story is about a crooked oilman and mirrors a real oilman responsible for the bankruptcy of the oil company Anne and I started from scratch. Most of the description in the story actually occurred.
Years have passed since I wrote Prairie Justice. Anne died three years after the Murrah bombing. I wrote Ghost of a Chance, my first Buck McDivit novel, some years later. It was published in 2005. The scar of the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing has faded. Tears streamed down my face as I wrote this story. Buck McDivit is now a real person to me. The Murrah Building scar has faded, and people no longer sob during normal conversation. Maybe, but the bombing still rests like a red blotch on my soul, as I’m sure it does for everyone that experienced that sad day.


###



All of Eric's books are available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and on his iBook author pages, and his Website.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Old Bones - a short story

 It’s a gray day here in Oklahoma, my two kitties, Buster and Buttercup, searching for even a scant patch of sunlight in which to bask. The gloom reminds me of a search I made many years ago that resulted in an eerie discovery.
A chill weekend in November found Gail, my ex, and me deep in a pine forest in southwest Arkansas. A graduate student in geology, my thesis concerned long-forgotten mineral deposits in a sparsely populated corner of the universe. Years before the invention of GPS tracking devices, we relied on a very old Brunton compass to navigate through the stark loneliness of the southern Ouachita Mountains.
Tall trees, mostly pines, covered the rolling terrain. While the Ouachitas aren’t high, rapid elevation changes of several hundred feet are common. We were moving slowly, picking our way through the undergrowth as we traversed an east-west trending ridgeline, looking for an old lead mine hidden deep in the forest.
Gail was short, had green eyes, dark hair and an olive complexion inherited from her French-Acadian parents. Though raised in the New Orleans’ metro area, her athletic legs carried her through the forest as smoothly as if she’d been born there. She was walking ahead of me, and I bumped into her when she halted abruptly.
“How do you know where we’re going?” she asked. “There’s no trail. I think we’re lost.”
I was holding an old topo map in one hand and the Brunton compass in the other. “We’re following an azimuth. The mine should be just up ahead.”
“That’s what you said thirty minutes ago,” she said.
“It’s hard staying in a straight line with so many trees and boulders in the way.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Let’s keep walking,” I said. “We’ll find it.”
I was about to give up when we reached a slight clearing that led down the slope to a roaring stream. There was something anomalous about the rounded pile of dirt located in a bend.
“That has to be it,” I said.
“That pile of dirt?” she said.
“Someone dug that dirt out of the ground and put it there. I think it’s the mine we’re looking for.”
“Doesn’t look like a mine to me,” Gail said.
“Quit bitching and let’s investigate. Even if it’s not the Davis Mine, we can at least take a break.”
Gail had endless energy and rarely ever took a break. As I sat on a fallen log and tossed pebbles into the roaring water of the creek, she climbed up on the pile of dirt and began exploring it.
“This hill’s bigger than it looks,” she said. “It follows the river for at least fifty yards.”
“I’m sure it was built by humans,” I said.
“Hell yeah,” she said. “Look at this.”
Glancing up the hill, I could see Gail had something in her hand.
“What is it?” I asked.
“An old bottle.”
“How old?”
“Real old,” she said. “Looks like something from a museum.”
I left my perch on the stump and followed her up the hill. The bottle was faded green and crusted with dirt. I was still examining it when Gail called again.
“Check this out,” she said, holding up something for me to see.
“What is it?”
“What’s left of a Confederate soldier’s shirt.”
“How do you know that?”
“There’s a brass button still attached with the letters C.S.A.,” she said.
The weathered hill was the talus pile of an old mine. A scar, roughly a half-acre in size, was all that remained of the old mining operation. Vertical shafts had collapsed or were filled with standing water. We soon began digging beautiful ore specimens out of the talus pile strewn with old bottles, broken timbers and a few faded signs of the men that had worked it.
“How did anyone ever find this place?” Gail asked when she finally stopped for a break.
“Prospectors searching for silver in the 1830s found lead and antimony instead,” I said. “This particular mine used horses and slave labor to mine lead for the Confederacy.”
“The old man at the truck stop told us we’d never find this place, and that it’s haunted,” Gail said.
“Well, we did find it. Don’t know about any ghosts, though the accounts of operations at the Davis Mine refer to abuse, torture and even murder of Union prisoners of war conscripted to work here.”
“Then maybe it is haunted.”
“Maybe so,” I said. “The shadows and silence are starting to creep me out.”
“Me too,” Gail said. “I keep looking around, thinking someone’s behind me.”
It was already past noon when we found the old mine, days short and our time limited before we needed to start back to the truck. We took photos and collected specimens, all the while feeling as if there was something present other than ourselves, even if it was only fleeting shadows. The distinct sensation that we were disturbing a place where something terrible had happened was unmistakable. I felt it, and so did Gail.
I jumped when she said, “Oh, shit!”
“What is it?”
“You better come see. I’m not touching this thing.”
She was standing on the top of the pile, nudging something with the toe of her boot. Though mostly covered with dirt, it looked for all the world like a human skull.
“Shit is right,” I said, digging the skull out of the earth with my pick hammer.
“Is that a bullet hole?” Gail asked as I held the skull in my hand.
“Looks like it to me,” I said. “But hell if I know for sure.”
“What are we going to do with it?” Gail asked.
I tossed it into the creek, staring at the rapidly rushing water a moment before answering.
“Forget we found it,” I said.
“Can we do that?” Gail asked.
“I have a thesis to write and no time to participate in a murder investigation. I don’t intend to ever return to this place except maybe in my nightmares.”
“I hear that,” Gail said. “Let’s get the hell out of here before it gets dark.”
Twilight draped the forest when we finally made it back to our old faded green Ford truck, waiting for us on a muddy dirt road. When we returned to Fayetteville, I sent some of the ore samples to the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver for analysis. The results surprised me as I’m sure they would have the prospectors that discovered the Davis Mine. The ore wasn’t just lead and antimony; there was silver present, and it was richer even than ore from the Comstock Lode.
Many years have passed since Gail, and I felt the presence of ghosts at the remote Davis Mine, hidden deep in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. Today, as an overhead cloud cast a shadow on my kittens, sleeping on the hood of my car, I remembered in vivid detail.


 ###



All of Eric's books are available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and on his iBook author pages, and his Website.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

MACHINE GUN - a Memorial Day Weekend Story

 I was in graduate school working on a Master’s degree in geology in 1969 when the first Vietnam draft lottery was held. Having already graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I no longer had a 2-S deferment from the military. My draft number was 38 and I was called up to the military shortly after the lottery in December. I believe in our country but didn’t believe in what I considered to be an absolutely senseless war. Because of this, I declined repeated offers to go to officer’s training school. I went instead to basic training and advanced infantry training at Fort Polk, Louisiana and was on my way to Vietnam by the summer of 1970 as a private. I spent just short of six months in the boonies patrolling the Jolly Trail system near the Cambodian border. During my months in a “free fire zone” I made 52 combat assaults out of a helicopter, earning an Air Medal and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, for both of which I am very proud. Amazingly, I was neither killed nor wounded. Since I was and still am a crack typist—a skill that serves me well now that I’m a writer—I got a job back in the rear as a clerk-typist when an opening came up. After coming home, many years passed before I told anyone that I was a Vietnam vet. This is because Vietnam vets were all thought to be drug-crazed baby killers, and all manner of other nasty things. I don’t know, but I think this was also true for both World War II and Korean War vets. I’m so glad that the perception of people serving in our military has changed for the better. Whatever, I was proud to be of service to the country that I love. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend, and just remember that freedom isn’t free.

Machine Gun

I watched a program on the cable channel Encore about Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsies.  On the show, he played a song called Machine Gun, and it evoked a memory of Vietnam that I hadn’t thought about in years.
I went to Vietnam in 1970 as an infantry mortar man.  For a while, in addition to my M16, I humped the base plate of an 81 MM mortar in the mortar platoon of an infantry line company.  I was in Charlie Company, 1st of the 8th Cavalry, First Cavalry Air Mobile.  We were operating off a hill bulldozed bald amid a jungle of green that could literally swallow you whole.  The Cav had just made their first sanctioned incursion into formerly off-limits Cambodia, and we had dealt a near-mortal blow to Charlie.  For the following months, Charlie played a game of duck-and-run while we tried desperately, and with little luck, to finish him off.
After several months of fifteen days in the jungle, five days on the firebase, and almost no success in encountering the enemy, Brass devised a new tactic of having us fly around in helicopters until we started taking ground-to-air fire.  Once we did, the choppers would swoop down and drop us off in hopes of making contact—something that rarely happened because of Charlie’s weakened state.
During this time, Brass also decided the 81 MM mortar was too unwieldy for rapid deployment, and all of us in the mortar company suddenly became infantry foot soldiers, grunts, 11-bravos; also known as 11-bullet-stoppers.  I was given a twenty-six pound M-60 machine gun to carry since I already had experience toting a twenty-three-pound base plate.  I had never shot an M-60, even during basic training at Fort Polk in Louisiana. This is because mortar men weren’t ever supposed to use the gun.
Around this time artillery began shooting sophisticated listening devices into the jungle using specially designed 105 MM rounds.  Intelligence mapped the locations of these devices, and we soon had a good idea of where there was movement—of a military nature—in the jungle.  The devices weren’t always correct, and we once found a large family of monkeys instead of Viet Cong or North Vietnamese regulars.  This wasn’t always the case.
Reports of intense enemy troop movement in a nearby swamp had the Brass salivating.  My company was soon loaded into choppers, flown to the area and dropped out of the birds. I mean this literally.  With no landing zone cut into the jungle for us to land and deploy from, the choppers hovered 10 feet or so above a large swampy pond while we jumped out.  This was no easy feat while carrying 100 pounds of gear.
We soon found ourselves in a maze of trails and something very anomalous— there was movement all around us.  Charlie wasn’t even trying to cover it up.  This could only mean one of two things: Either we had caught the enemy very much by surprise, or else they had us outnumbered and knew it.  We were all pretty nervous because one thing we had never really done was catch Charlie by surprise.
Our company had about 100 men divided equally into four platoons.  We set up a camp, and then my platoon started out on patrol.  Soon as we were out of sight from the rest of the company we began hearing even more movement.  After months in the boonies, we were all attuned to sounds of the jungle. Now, there was no doubt in my mind that there was a large number of enemy soldiers very close to us, and that they were paralleling our movement through the jungle.  This bothered me and everyone else because we were on Charlie’s home turf—likely smack-dab in the middle of a large enemy camp and staging area.  We could hear movement in every direction, and if I told you that I was anything but piss-in-my-pants scared, I’d be lying through my teeth.
Jungle warfare is like no other.  You can be 10 feet from the enemy and never see him.  You have to rely on your nose, your ears, and your wits because otherwise, you may as well be blind.  My nose, ears, and wits told me we were about to have the living shit kicked out of us and I expected, any minute, to be shredded by AK 47 bullets.  The platoon leader decided on a quick ploy.
I was the machine gunner, the “Gun.”  When Super Sarge tapped my shoulder and pointed to a slight concave just to the side of the trail, I knew my time had come.  We quickly prepared for what we called an instant ambush.  Charlie was following close behind.  My assistant gunner and I set the M-60’s bi-pod and started stringing every round of ammo we had into the gun’s chamber, locked and loaded, ready to kill—and just as likely, I knew, to be killed. It didn’t matter that I’d never pulled the trigger on an M-60. What mattered was that I was getting ready to.  Just as quickly as the sergeant tapped my shoulder and motioned what he wanted, he left the two of us alone on the trail to mow down anyone coming up from behind.  From the sounds we heard, we wouldn’t have long to wait.
I could tell you that we ambushed Charlie, wiped most of them out and sent them dropping their weapons and running for cover.  That didn’t happen.  What did happen is almost as strange but still true.  It was monsoon season in Vietnam.  Every day the skies would part, and rain would fall in torrents—almost like being under a waterfall.  My finger was on the trigger of the M-60, my heart in my throat when it began to rain.  My assistant gunner and I lay there on our bellies for an interminable time, rapidly flowing water soaking our fatigues.  When the rain stopped, there was no sound.  I mean none.  Charlie had taken the opportunity to clear out, and we never heard him again.
 That night we camped in the middle of the swamp, mosquitoes, and leeches sucking our blood.  It rained so hard that Charlie could have gotten close enough to cut our throats and we wouldn’t have seen him.  The next morning the Captain let me shoot the M-60, for practice, while we waited for the choppers to extract us. We stood single file, knee-deep in a wide pool of stagnating water. With five-hundred rounds locked and loaded, I stood like Rambo, the big gun at my waist, and began mowing down vegetation across the pond. I didn’t take my finger off the trigger until the sound of imminent death finally ceased and the pungent odor of spent rounds wafted up into my nostrils.
It was the first and last time that I ever shot the big gun, though I’ll never forget the sound it made or the power of life and death I felt, and that will never leave me for as long as I live.
Tonight, while watching the piece on Jimi Hendrix, I remembered that sound and that feeling, and it chilled my soul.

###



All of Eric's books are available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and on his iBook author pages, and his Website.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Night at the Triple X - a short story


It’s been said that the biggest sex organ in the body is the brain. Years ago, I had reason to confirm that claim.
Miss Carol and I were a number, but we were beginning to get on each other’s nerves. She was smart, confident and good looking. I was simply young and dumb. Even though we worked in the same industry, the biggest attraction we had for each other was sex, pure and simple.
Six months had passed in our relationship, and the attraction had begun to wane. Both of us, it seemed, was searching for a way to let the other down easy. My friend Joel was in town from Colorado and staying with me. I was divorced, but my ex and I had not yet sold our house. We were taking turns staying there until we found a buyer.
Miss Carol’s friend Miss Ann took Joel with her to one of our favorite bars. Miss Carol and I were supposed to join them. It was Friday night, Miss Carol a lease broker who had just returned to town from a week of checking records in Roger Mills County, had been doing her thing during that time, and I mine.
“I just want to go home and go to bed,” she said.
“What about Joel and Miss Ann?” I asked.
“They don’t need us,” she said.
“Let’s drive over anyway. Joel can ride back with me, and Miss Ann can take you home.”
“Fine,” she said, “But I’m not staying.”
On the way to the club, I caught a whiff of her perfume and suddenly remembered why I liked her so much. We were on 10th street, an area in Oklahoma City populated by strip bars and seedy hole-in-the-walls. About that time, we passed a stand-alone X-rated movie theatre.
“Have you ever seen a porn movie?” I asked.
“I’m not ten,” she said.
On a whim, I pulled into the parking lot. “Let’s go in.”
Miss Carol grinned. She was trying to dump me but had just enough kink to consider my offer.
“Okay, Perv,” she said. “You’ll say uncle before me.”
The XXX Theatre was a single-storied building with a very dark lobby. We purchased two tickets from the disinterested ticket puncher who had likely seen it all before. The theater was small and dark and smelled like urine. A naked man and an equally unclad woman were going at it on the screen.
There were probably ten patrons in the theater. All weirdos and not people you’d want to call friends. Miss Carol and I found an empty aisle and settled in to watch the movie. The couple on screen was performing every sex act imaginable, complete with grunts, groans, moans, and even a few screams.
As I began getting into the flick, I put my hand between Miss Carol’s legs, groping her most private parts, fully expecting a slap in the face. Instead, she began licking my neck. Before long, we both had our jeans pulled down to our knees, helplessly locked in the throws of hot, mindless sex right there in the middle of an x-rated theater, surrounded by perverts with their own pants down to their knees. We were shocked back to reality by a raspy voice.
“Real sex ain’t allowed in here. Take it outside, or I’ll have to call the cops,” the man from the ticket booth told us.
I was having trouble discerning the difference between real sex and sex on the screen as we headed for the lobby. Didn’t really matter, faces burning and buttoning our jeans as we went. We were both still hot. Hell! My head was about to explode! I was all over Miss Carol soon as the doors of my car closed. She was as hot as I was, and I’m not sure who was all over whom. Our passion continued, the windows steaming like a sauna when someone tapped on the door. It was a cop. He wasn’t smiling.
“Take it to the house, and I mean now.”
Our ardor hadn’t waned when we made it home, spending the rest of the night locked in hot passion. Joel interrupted our ardor, knocking on the door around two in the morning. I let him in and quickly returned to the bedroom without bothering to hear the story he wanted to tell me.
Do I recommend a triple-X experience? I’ll just say this. It won’t save a relationship, but it’ll sure make for unforgettable memories. Miss Carol and I broke up shortly after our night of red-hot passion. My lust had dissolved and my brain again able to add two and two and not come up with five.

END






Wyatt Thomas and Bertram Picou are recurring characters in Eric Wilder's French Quarter Mystery Series. Check out all the colorful characters on Eric's AmazonBarnes & Noble, and iBook author pages, and his Website.

Blue Norther - a short story

Dark clouds of an approaching Blue Norther gathered outside the window as Linda watched her husband pace worried circles around their living room.
"Please, Ted, don't go out tonight. The weather's awful and getting worse by the minute."
Ted stopped pacing and frowned. "No option. Big meeting at the bank."
"Friday night at seven?
Both Ted and Linda glanced up at their precocious nineteen-year-old daughter Britta. One year beyond high school graduation, she still lived with them. She glanced over the balcony, naked except for a pair of lacy panties.
Linda said, "Britta! Put some clothes on."
Britta pranced back to her room, returning with one of her father's starched white shirts over the panties.
"Hot date, Dad?"
Britta's jesting implication caused Linda's gaze to return to the pot on the stove. Ted didn't seem to mind.
"I have an important meeting at the bank, young lady."
"Even Gramps wouldn't call a meeting on a night like this."
"Your grandfather may own the bank, but he doesn't run it any longer. I'm president now. I call the meetings when I see fit."
"Whoa!" Britta squealed.
"Have you done your homework?"
"I graduated a year ago, Mom. Remember?"
"Just being facetious."
"I have a date tonight with Freddy."
"You can't go out in this awful weather. I won't allow it."
"I'm nineteen. I make my own decisions now. Remember?"
"As long as you live here you should at least listen to your mother."
"Dad, will you please tell her to stuff it?"
Ted glanced at his watch before replying. After winking at his daughter, he said, "Britta's a grown woman. Cut her a little slack."
"Thanks, Dad," Britta said, blowing him a kiss and disappearing into her room before Linda could protest.
Ted cracked the curtain and peeked out the window.
"Can you fix me a drink?" he said.
Linda swallowed her annoyance on the way to the liquor cabinet, pouring one for each of them. She touched his hand when she gave him the vodka.
"You know I don't sleep well when you're away."
Ted returned to the window, ignoring her distress. "How did the weather turn so bad, so fast? The sun was out when I left the office."
Drifting snow had already begun piling up against fences and houses. "Blue Norther," she said.
Ted saluted the snow with a raised glass. "Got that right,"
"See how bad it's getting? Please stay home tonight."
She returned to the kitchen without an answer. Linda was different from her daughter. Soft and silky smooth compared with Britta's lithe body and her all-over tan. Long, bottle-lightened hair draped her shoulders. Britta's hair was short and surfer girl blond. Britta was a chatterbox, Linda introverted to the point of angering her husband.
"At least eat something before you go."
Rattling ice in his glass, he just stared out the window. "Maybe. If the weather doesn't get any worse."
The ringing of Britta's cell phone interrupted their conversation, and she returned to the banister. "Guess I'm staying home tonight. Freddy's battery is dead."
"Good," Linda said. "At least I won't be all alone."
They all turned to look when someone knocked on the front door. Ted opened it, finding a tall stranger waiting in the doorway.
"Help you?"
"Car broke down, and I lost my cell phone in the snow. Mind if I use your phone to call for help?"
"Let the poor man in and close the door," Linda called from the kitchen.
Moving aside, Ted watched him remove his gloves and blow his hands to warm them. The young man's clean-cut good looks calmed any distress Linda may have had as she took his coat and pointed to the kitchen.
"Warm yourself by the stove. You look half frozen."
Britta shattered her concentration when she hurried downstairs to see who was there.
"Now I'm glad Freddy has a dead battery," she said, staring at the handsome stranger.
Ted frowned. "Britta, put some clothes on."
Britta frowned but trotted back upstairs as Linda followed the man into the kitchen.
"Coffee or hot tea?"
Looking at her drink glass, he said, "I'd rather have what you're drinking."
Feeling an inexplicable attraction to him, she turned to the liquor cabinet to mix another drink.
"What do you drink?" she asked.
"Scotch, neat, if you have it."
"The phone is by the coffee pot," she said as she handed him the drink.
Without taking his eyes off her, he raised his glass in a silent toast. It brought an inexplicable flush to Linda's cheeks.
"Phone's dead," he said.
"Can't be," Linda said, concern replacing her facial flush. "Britta just had a call."
"On her cell phone," Ted said, walking up from behind.
Linda jumped. Regaining her composure, she called upstairs.
"Britta, is your phone working?"
"No bars. Sorry."
"Mine's not working either in this lousy weather," Ted said. "Guess you're out of luck. Sorry, we can't help."
Britta called from the banister. "Dad can take him into town. Invite the poor man to dinner, Mom."
"Pardon my rudeness. Will you have dinner with us?" Linda asked.
"Why not?" he said, his smile warming Linda's neck.
"Then make yourself comfy. My pot roast is almost ready."
The stranger smiled again. This time, Ted noticed how it flustered her. She turned away, averting his frown.
"How rude of me not to introduce ourselves. I'm Linda Stevenson, and this is my husband, Ted. The sassy young lady is my daughter, Britta."
For an awkward moment, the man continued staring at her as he squeezed her hand.
"I'm Dan Savage," he finally said.
"I'm going upstairs and try the weather band," Ted said.
"Well," Linda said. "Guess we'll soon find out about the highways. Dinner won't be long."
She smiled when she heard the rattling thump of logs added to the barren fireplace. Feeling almost guilty, she peeked through the door. As if he'd felt her gaze, Savage gave her a look that made her weak in the knees.
"Thought I'd heat things up," he said.
Before she could reply, Ted rushed down the stairs, bundled in coat and gloves.
"Can't wait for dinner. Got to go now. Storm's worsening by the minute. I'll drive you into town, Mr. Savage."
Dan Savage placed the last log in the fireplace and grabbed his coat hanging by the front door. Before he could button up, Britta rushed up from the basement.
"Wait, Daddy. We have a broken pipe downstairs."
Ted banged the door with his clenched fist. "You can't be serious."
"No need missing your appointment," Savage said. "I'm handy with things. I'll fix it for you."
"Fantastic! You go ahead, Dad," Britta said. "Mr. Savage can repair the pipe and then stay the night in the spare bedroom. You can give him a ride into town tomorrow."
Ted glare revealed his inner turmoil. After glancing at the cut of Savage's clothes and hair, he decided he was no ax murderer.
"Great. I'll take you into town tomorrow."
He kissed Britta's forehead, ignoring Linda's folded arms as he went out the front door without a backward glance.
"Show me the pipe," Savage said, interrupting the moment.
Britta led him to the basement. Despite Linda's concern, she experienced an almost forgotten flush of sexual excitement. The feeling embarrassed her as she returned to the kitchen.
Unable to shake her growing sexual fantasy for the young man, she fixed him another drink and took it to the basement. She almost dropped it when she saw his bare chest. Stripped to the waist, he was making final adjustments on an exposed pipe. Britta, sitting on the floor with her arms wrapped around her knees, was also watching Savage's every move.
"Thought you might need this," Linda said.
Sweat trickled down Savage's muscled rib cage. Unnerved by his physical presence, she had trouble averting her gaze.
"Thanks," he said.
Savage stood six inches taller than Linda, had a strong jaw, thick brown hair and probably fifteen years younger. After tipping back the glass, he touched the icy surface to his forehead.
"Fixed," he said.
"You are good!" Britta squealed, wrapping her slender arms around his neck.
Linda's face flushed, jealousy her only emotion as she watched Savage and Britta embrace.
"Follow me, Mr. Savage, I'll show you the guest bedroom. You can shower, and I'll find some of my husband's clothes."
"Call me Dan," he said, untangling from Britta and following Linda up the stairs, into the spare bedroom.
"Towels are in the cabinet. Take your time."
Linda waited in the kitchen for twenty minutes before selecting shirt and pants from her husband's closet. Returning to the guest bedroom, she tapped on the door and then entered without waiting for a reply.
Through the cracked bathroom door, she heard Savage humming a silly tune. She eased it open; senses sharpened as she stared into the steam-filled room, her eyes focusing on his hazy shape. Standing with his back to her, he stared in the mirror, shaving cream on his face and razor in his hand. She watched his naked backside until he stopped humming and turned around.
"See something you like?"
Linda's face flushed bright red. After dropping Ted's clothes to the floor, she hurried out of the bathroom.
"Dinner in ten minutes," she said.
Twenty minutes later, Savage joined her in the kitchen. Though Ted's shirt and pants were too small, he didn't seem to mind.
"Britta," she called. "Dinner is ready."
Wearing a sexy blouse and tight leather skirt, Britta danced into the dining room. "Where you from, Dan?" she asked.
"Here and there," he said, ladling corn from a bowl. "Mostly there."
Britta giggled, and Linda smiled. When they finished eating, Britta went upstairs, and Savage helped Linda with the dishes. They were soon together in the living room, basking in the warmth of the fireplace.
"Does your husband always have meetings on Friday night?"
Savage's question earned him a nervous titter from Linda. "I've wondered that myself."
"The answer?"
Reclining on the couch, knees bent, she rested her head in her palms. The posture caused her skirt to ride up on her thighs. She straightened when she realized Savage was staring at her legs.
"Sorry," Savage said with a smile.
Linda's face was on fire, but it felt good and she realized she didn't want it to stop burning.
"Britta says he's having an affair," she said.
"Is he?"
"Probably. I'll get you something to sleep in tonight."
"I usually sleep in the buff," he said
Linda ignored his comment and Savage stretched out on the couch as she hurried upstairs. He was grinning when she returned.
"You're bigger than Ted," she said, handing him the robe and pajamas.
He winked as he climbed the stairs to the bedroom. "Your husband has excellent taste. I can sleep naked if they don't fit."
Savage's words seared Linda's soul. Flushing with sexual warmth, she waited ten minutes. When he didn't return, she went to her bedroom, shutting the door but leaving it unlocked. Her body blazed as she squirmed beneath the sheets. She finally got out of bed and drew open the curtains.
The storm had more than arrived. She watched, perspiration beading her forehead as drifting snow piled up against the house. After returning to bed, she slipped into a restless dream, returning her to the shower scene:
A steamy mist filled the room as Savage reached for her hand. When he touched her breasts, she awoke, tangled in the sheets and needing a drink. Not bothering with robe and slippers, she arose to get one. On her way to the stairs, she found something amiss.
Ted's office door was open. Peering inside, she switched on the desk lamp. Papers lay scattered on the floor. His floor safe stood open and empty. With trembling fingertips to stifle a scream, she touched her open mouth.
"My God!"
When Linda discovered Ted's gun was missing, her hands began to tremble. She hurried to the guest bedroom and pushed open the door. She gasped when she heard the unmistakable sounds of lovemaking. Not only had the brazen stranger stolen their money, but he was raping her daughter. She reached for the light switch.
"Stop it now, you monster!"
Britta sat bolt upright,  shock on her pretty face. Savage grinned.
"Mother, how could you?" Britta said.
"Get out of that bed," Linda yelled. "Now!"
Grabbing Britta's arm, she yanked her to the floor. Britta curled up in a ball to hide her nudity.
"Thief! How could you rob us and then rape my daughter?"
"You kidding me, lady? The little bitch loves it."
"You're a liar," she said, scratching and flailing with arms and fists as he blocked her blows. When he slapped her and shoved her against the wall, she sank to the floor, wiping tears from her eyes and blood from a split lip.
Britta sobbed, as she lay crumpled in a naked heap beside the bed. Savage wiped the blood from three parallel scratches on his face. Linda crawled across the floor to her daughter. When she tried to put her hands on her shoulders, Britta wrenched away.
"How could you do this to me?" she said.
"Britta, you don't understand. This man is a thief."
"You only want him for yourself," Britta said, her tears returning.
"That's not true."
"I hate you," Britta cried. "Just like Daddy hates you."
Slamming the door behind her, she ran out of the room leaving her mother alone to glare at the thief on the bed.
"I'm calling the police."
Savage laughed, and it chilled her. "Phone's dead. Remember?"
"It was you that cut the line." Savage didn't answer. "How did you know about the money and jewels we keep in the house?"
"Maybe you should ask Britta."
Linda froze. "What do you mean?"
"You think I just met her tonight? We've been going at it like cats in heat for a month. We're taking the money and blowing this burg."
"Liar!"
"Am I? How do you think I managed the broken pipe in the basement?"
Feeling dizzy, Linda sank to the floor as he got dressed. She followed him out of the bedroom and down the stairs where Britta was waiting, suitcase packed. Savage grabbed his coat and opened the front door as the icy wind filled the hallway with blowing snow.
Linda grabbed Britta's elbow. "Where are you going?"
Britta shook loose from her grasp. "Away from you."
"What will I tell your father?"
Pivoting on her heels, Britta said, "Don't bother. He'll know why I left."
"Please stop," Linda begged as her daughter trudged through the snow.
Britta kept walking. Linda followed her into the brunt of the storm. When they reached a car parked on the street, Savage tossed the suitcase into the backseat. Linda grabbed Britta's arm, but she pulled away and climbed into the passenger seat, locking the door behind her. Banging on the window, Linda pleaded with her.
Savage tried cranking the engine until it became apparent the battery was dead. Britta led him to the garage. Minutes later, Linda's silver Mercedes screamed away through the misty darkness, Linda chasing, barefooted through the snow, after them.
***
Ted Stevenson returned next morning, easing his car into the driveway. In front of the house was a red Chevrolet, hood, and windows covered with snow, he hadn't noticed when he left. He also saw something else.
It was Linda, on her knees on the front porch dressed only in her sexy nightgown. Crystals of ice coating her body glistened like broken glass in the morning sunlight. One frozen hand clutched the door handle in a deadly embrace. Paralyzed by horror, Ted stared at her pallid face.
An ironic smile lay frozen on her lips. Her eyes seemed to move, but it was only a frosty reflection. Rushing upstairs to check on Britta, he abandoned her to death's eternity and the frozen kiss of the departed blue Norther.


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All of Eric's books are available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and on his iBook author pages, and his Website.