Thursday, September 27, 2018

unbridled

Words for Wednesday is a weekly writing prompt designed to get creative juices flowing. It's been around for quite a while now and we are always glad to see people join us. You can use the weekly prompts any way you like. Use all some or none of the words. The idea is just to become inspired to write...anything...poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction, sci-fi or fantasy. Why not give it a try? This month, Delores is hosting the words, and they can be found (here).
     Sara sat on the edge of her bed, shaking with fear, her hands tied behind her back and the hood still over her head.  She couldn't see what was happening in the other room, but she could hear it and it terrified her.  She didn't know the men who had grabbed her, but she suspected they were from the family that Quigley had taken the money from.  She knew what they had done to him, trying to find their money, and there was no telling what they would do to her know that they knew she had it.

     She also didn't know why they had run out of the room and if it had something to do with the kitchen timer going off (although she couldn't remember setting it for anything), and who they were fighting now.  The list was probably endless considering how many people Quigley had probably cheated in his lifetime, and the amount of money he had taken in his last grift.  If word had gotten out how much he had taken, there would be more than just the Shulaya Clan looking for her.

     The silence was scaring Sara even more than the men had.  She struggled to free her hands so she could pull the hood off her head.  When she was almost free, she heard someone come back into the bedroom, breathing heavily.

     When the kitchen timer had gone off, David had braced himself in the doorframe of the pantry.  He had no idea how many men were in the room with Sara.  He raised his handgun to aim and took a deep breath.

     Four large men rushed into the kitchen with guns.  David was able to shoot two of them in their shoulders before the other two knew where he was and he ducked down as they began firing wildly at him.  Rolling out of the pantry and behind the kitchen island, he shot one of the men in the knee before the other jumped on him from behind.  Just at that moment, half a dozen heavily armed and protected SWAT police charged into the room and quickly took control of the situation.  They were followed by three FBI agents who helped David to his feet.

     "Are you alright, Agent James?"  Without answering, David turned and rushed into the bedroom to check on Sara.

     Hours later, Sara was curled up in a chair on David's deck with a glass of wine, wearing a handmade alpaca wool sweater she had ordered from Bespoke Clothiers the previous winter.  The weather was just beginning to feel like early fall, but she hadn't been able to stop shaking.  She watched the moon begin to set as daylight began to chase the stars from the sky.

     Seeayetee purred in her lap, and Rachel was sleeping just a few feet away in a hammock, covered by her favorite quilt.  David had brought her down there to rest after she had answered all of the FBI's questions.  Her condo was in shambles, the front door had broken off the hinges when the men had forced their way into the unit, and the sliding glass door had been shattered by stray bullets when the men were firing on David.  Blood from the men David had shot was soaked into the carpet and some of the furniture.  It would be days before the FBI unsealed it as a crime scene.

     David stepped out onto the deck and sat down in the chair next to Sara.

     "I know you must be tired of answering questions, and that you probably have some of your own to ask."
     Sara nodded silently but said nothing.
     "I also know that it took a lot for you to let down your fences and trust me with the things you told me."
     "Am I going to prison?"
     "No, you aren't.  We've been watching you since you first met Quigley and know that you had nothing to do with the grift.  He was actually working with us as an informant to get information on the Shulaya Clan.  But we weren't aware that he was also had his own agenda to steal from them.  Once they murdered him, we knew they would eventually come after you, we just had to wait patiently for them to find you."
     "Oh, so you just let them put up a Wanted: Dead or Alive poster with my picture on it and left me alone for them to find?"

     David was silent for a moment.  He knew she was hurt and angry, and that she had every right to be.

     "You were never alone, Sara.  We had people watching you for the past six years.  We couldn't do anything until they made their move because we needed to make sure we got all of them.  We've been building a case, rather, several cases against them the whole time.  You were never in any danger."
     Sara laughed.
     "Oh, right.  Like getting the crap beat out of me was all fun and games?"
     David reached out to take her hand and Sara jerked it away from him.  She was exhausted, emotionally drained and just wanted to be in her own bed.  She arched her back to stretch it and wished she had the ergonomic chair pillow from the office.  It was hard for her to feel anything other than unbridled anger and pain at the moment, but she knew she had a lot to be grateful for.

     "We oversaw the installation of your security system, Sara, and when the wires were spliced by the men smashing the panel, the FBI got an alert that something was wrong.  But you can actually thank Seeayetee for getting me here before them.  If he hadn't shown up on the balcony when he did, I wouldn't have gotten to your condo in time to draw them away from you before SWAT and the other agents arrived."
     "So what now?  When can I get my things out of the condo so I can move back to Ventura?  I'm sure the government is going to seize the condo and all the money, and I'm really actually relieved about that part.  I just want to be able to get my life back again.  So what is your real name Mr. David James?  Is Rachel one of your undercover agents also?  Is that her real name?"

     David bent his head and took a deep breath.
     "It is my real name, but I'm not the same David James that founded the advertising agency.  His last name isn't actually even James.  It was just a fortuitous opportunity for us to take advantage of the merger when we realized that the Clan was moving closer to finding you.  Rachel is actually my niece, and everything I told you about her is true.  When they asked me to take part in this operation, I did so under the condition that she be a part of my cover story so that her life would not have to be disrupted again.  See, both my sister and brother-in-law were in the agency as well.  They died in the line of duty during an undercover sting.  Rachel didn't even have a chance to say goodbye to them."
     "So not only are you okay with putting my life in jeopardy, but also hers?  Wow.  What an awesome uncle you must be."
     "Sara, you can wallow in your anger all you want, but understand something.  We did everything we possibly could to make sure you were kept safe, and we couldn't risk derailing the entire operation.  I kept Rachel close to me because I knew that I would be able to keep her safe.  If my cover had been blown at all, her life would have been at risk whether she was with me or not.  I wasn't going to have her go through all the fear and pain again.  It was weeks of not knowing what had happened to her parents before she was even told they had died."

     A tear ran down Sara's cheek, and David reached over to wipe it away.  This time she didn't jerk away from him.
     "If you want to have me stoned for caring about what happens to her ... what happens to you ... then I will hand you the first stone to throw."
     Sara shook her head no.  "So what will happen to me?"
     "Well, you will have to testify to what you know about Quigley and the grift in Federal Court."
     "In front of the Clan?!?!  They will kill me!"
     "No.  A Federal judge has agreed to accept videotaped testimony from you with your identity and voice disguised.  You will be put into the Witness Protection Program, relocated to a safe place, and given the chance to have your life back."
     "But I won't ever see you or Rachel again, will I?"
     "Probably not.  I can't risk her becoming a pawn to find you."
     "Do you really think they will come after me?"
     "It isn't likely, but we'd rather be safe than sorry.  I think the Clan knows that Quigley was acting alone and that he alone was the informant on their activities.  They just wanted to get to you to get their money back.  It was a lot of money that he took from them.  You didn't see any of their faces and were never a part of any of their illegal activities so you really can't identify them or give us any information that we didn't already know from Quigley.  Going into the program is really more to give you a sense of security than anything else.  I know how afraid you've been."
     Sara sighed and nodded.

     Four months later, safely in her new home with a new name, Skye sat watching shooting stars against the backdrop of the mountains.  The government had seized all of the Shulaya Clan's funds and the condo the money had bought, but surprisingly they had let her keep all of the interest her investments had made.  She had put it all into a savings account that allowed her to live an extremely comfortable life without needing to work, just drawing on the interest each month to buy necessities.  She had opened a guard dog training facility that she operated out of her home and on the 100 acres that she had purchased.

     No one was ever going to sneak up on her again.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

between the pages

     I've been reading this book for the past few weeks.  I keep it in my bag to read a chapter (or two) while waiting for church service to start, laundry to dry, computers to update ...

     Philippians 4:8 had caught my attention before when reading my bible, but not like this book has made me really pay attention.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ~ NIV

     What really grabbed my attention was the first chapter which called [me] out for the use of the word "whatever."  That was really an awakening for me because I had been using that word very extremely incredibly sarcastically 99.9% of the time that I said it.  [I've since stopped using it that way.  Every time I feel it on the tip of my tongue, I bite it.]

     Changing my thinking from "stinkin'" thinkin' to something more positive has made a difference in my outlook, and in that way, also my life.  I think before speaking most of the time now, or at least more than I used to.  I try to not dwell on the negatives, and focus more on the positives.  I'm trying harder to speak lovingly, not sarcastically.

     But true confession time ... I may need to read this more than once, or perhaps get a tattoo on my forearm to remind me.... life can be a challenge at times.

Friday, September 21, 2018

feline fine

Words for Wednesday is a weekly writing prompt designed to get creative juices flowing. It's been around for quite a while now and we are always glad to see people join us. You can use the weekly prompts any way you like. Use all some or none of the words. The idea is just to become inspired to write...anything...poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction, sci-fi or fantasy. Why not give it a try? This month, Delores is hosting the words, and they can be found (here).
     Over the next several weeks, Sara, David James and Rachel had lunch or dinner together at least one day each weekend at one of their beach condos.  While she found herself attracted to him, she refused to allow their relationship to go beyond a professional friendship.  He was after all her boss, and she knew how it would be perceived if her co-workers found out they were having a relationship.

      Tonight, however, was Rachel's 13th birthday, and she had agreed to join them for dinner at an expensive restaurant in Hollywood, followed by an evening of entertainment at the Magic Castle.  It would be the first time the three of them had been out in public, and she knew there was a risk that someone like David James would draw the attention of paparazzi photographers.  Putting a decorative bow on a bottle of perfume that Rachel had wanted, she thought of ways she could avoid having her pictures taken.

     David folded the throw blanket on the sofa for the fifth time and Rachel watched him from the other side of the living room.  Something was bothering him, but she didn't know what it was.  He'd been fidgety all morning and even snapped at her over breakfast which made her run from the table in tears.  He had apologized immediately, but it had put her in a blue mood for her birthday dinner later that evening.

     To try to make up for what he had said, her uncle had taken her to the flower market to help him find flowers for Sara.  He said that it was a special evening and he wanted to make sure Sara didn't feel uncomfortable.  Rachel had shrugged.  It was obviously a grown-up thing because she didn't understand how flowers would make that much of a difference.

      David was nervous.  It felt like he had live voltage running through his veins.  He knew he had to continue to play his part or the whole thing would backfire.  One wrong word, one wrong move, and he could scare her off.  He hoped that the flowers wouldn't be too suspicious since he had never expressed any romantic interest in her.  He knew that if he wanted to get the information they needed from her, he would have to take their relationship a step further to gain her trust.

     Seeayetee wove around Rachel's legs, purring as loudly as he could.  Rachel laughed at him as she reached down to pick him up from the balcony.  "You silly feline!  What are you doing here?  Did you get out of Sara's house?  Do you think you are some kind of exotic tiger kitty?"

     David paused in the living room as he saw Rachel cuddling the cat.  It was odd that Seeayetee was there.  Sara didn't let him out even on her deck unless she was there.  He stepped out onto the balcony and looked up at her condo.  He could see the open sliding glass door, but no sign of Sara.  Moving quietly, he retrieved his gun from the safe he kept in the kitchen cabinet and tucked it under his jacket in his waist band.  Telling Rachel to stay inside with the cat and to not leave or open the doors to anyone other than him, he made sure that all the windows and doors were locked behind him before setting the alarm on his way out the door.

     David pushed the throttle on his Harley as far as he dared.  While their condos were in view of each other on the beach side, they were almost a mile apart from front door to front door.  Reaching her building, he parked quickly and quietly took the stairs two at a time up to her unit.  The front door was open, and he could see the alarm panel had been smashed.  He knew that if she had been on her way out the door when she was surprised, she might not have been able to punch in her panic code before the panel was smashed.

     He slipped into the condo and heard voices from the bedroom and the sound of someone being hit.  It was all he could do to keep from charging into the room, but knew that would be foolish since he didn't know what he would be rushing into.  Stepping into the kitchen, he looked for something he could use to draw them out of the room.  Seeing the cooking timer on top of the oven, he set it for two minutes and stepped back into the pantry where he could watch from the cracked door.

     Sara reeled from the blow to her face and felt her lip split.  The pain was more than she could comprehend.  She had been walking out the door to go to the restaurant where she would meet David and Rachel when she was suddenly picked up and tossed across the room.  Before she could get up or scream for help, she was kicked in the stomach and a black bag thrown over her head.  She felt herself being dragged into her bedroom.

     "So you thought you could trespass onto my property and take my money, did you?"
     "No!  No!  It wasn't me!  It was Quigley!  I didn't know until it was too late.  I have your money.  I have all of it!  You can have it back!  All of it!  I swear!"

     The kitchen timer went off, and she could hear the men in the room rush out.  There was yelling and the sound of something breaking.  Then the sound of gunfire and silence.  Dead silence.  Sara held her breath and waited.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

the doorway

Words for Wednesday is a weekly writing prompt designed to get creative juices flowing. It's been around for quite a while now and we are always glad to see people join us. You can use the weekly prompts any way you like. Use all some or none of the words. The idea is just to become inspired to write...anything...poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction, sci-fi or fantasy. Why not give it a try? This month, Delores is hosting the words, and they can be found (here)
      After Sara recovered from the shock of seeing her new boss within walking distance of the condo that she had kept secret for so long, she began to try to think of ways she could explain it all away.  Before she could decide on a logical excuse, her cell phone began to ring.  It was her boss, David James.

     "Hello, David."
     "Sara.  I thought you lived in Ventura."

     She hesitated for a moment then launched into what she hoped would cause him to ask the fewest questions.

     "I do during the week, but I live here on the weekends."
     "Is it your boyfriend's condo?  I know you couldn't have been making that much in commissions before we merged.  I looked at a condo in the same complex a few years ago."
     "You probably looked at this same unit.  I was told it was the only one that had been for sale in quite a while.  No, I don't have a boyfriend.  The money was left to me by a very close friend who was a bachelor with no family that I know of.  He died several years ago.  I don't like to talk about it because I didn't grow up with money and it has been a real adjustment for me.  It changed my life in so many ways."
     "I'm sure.  With the kind of money that would have left you enough to buy that condo, you are wise to not talk about it to anyone.  You'd have all kinds of so-called friends and family dripping from your family tree or his.  It's the kind of thing that turns into tragic movies on Lifetime."
     "Well, I still spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder because it seems so surreal at times."
     "This person that died, was it the man you thought you saw in the office?"
     "Yes, and that was why I was so shaken up.  I know he died.  I know he did.  So it just really rattled me.  I don't know who that man was, but there isn't any way it could have been Quigley."
     "I guess that explains what you said when you saw him.  Quigley.  That's such an unusual name.   Where was he from?"
     "I honestly don't know.  Neither of us had the easiest childhoods, but then I don't know anyone who does.  We didn't talk much about our pasts and I got the feeling that even if I had asked, he wouldn't have told me.  I don't even think Quigley was his real name."
     "Really?  I thought you said the two of you were close?"
     "We were.  Very close.  But there was a part of him that he never opened up to me.  I think Quigley might have been a nickname and not his actual first name."
     "What kind of business was he in to make that kind of money?  I know how much that condo cost.  The down payment must have been astronomical."

     Sara hesitated.  She'd already said more than she had planned, but he was easier to talk to than she had expected.  She had opened the door, might as well walk through the doorway.

     "I think he was involved in something illegal."

     The silence from David was almost palpable.  She wondered if she had just made a mistake.

     "Are you in any danger?"

     Sara exhaled slowly.
     "I'm not sure.  I think sometimes I'm being paranoid.  It has been years since he died, and that was in New York.  After a few months, I moved to California and started working at Ad Leverage.  It was still more than a year after I started working there that I bought the condo.  This place felt like a mansion compared to where I lived in New York and even the Ventura apartment.  I think I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I have nightmares of the day he died.  Even though they never found a body, there was enough blood in his apartment for them to determine that he couldn't have survived whatever happened, not to mention that they found one of his eyes in his apartment."
     "Wow. Did they ever solve it?"
     "No, it's a cold case now.  I think until they have a body they won't really be able to close it.  There was some other blood found at the scene, enough to indicate that Quigley fought back, but not enough to really injure his attackers.  The only DNA match in the justice system was for Quigley, but not the others.  That was when I realized that he had been involved in something illegal."
     "Had there been any banks robbed or any other robberies of that size that he could have been involved in?"
     "No.  I think it might have been some kind of con game he was playing.  I think that is how he always got money even before I met him.  I never met any of his marks, never knew exactly what he was working on.  He kept me at arm's length of whatever he was doing so that I wouldn't be a liability.  I think he felt that the less I knew, the less I could tell."
     "You never thought about going to the authorities when you found out about the money?"
     "What could I have told them?  I didn't know where he got it, only where he left it.  I think he suspected that whatever he was working on could be the con that got him killed and that was why he trusted me with the money."  Sara laughed softly.  "He trusted me with an unbelievable amount of money, but couldn't trust me with his real name."
     "Is the money all gone?"
     "No.  I spent what I needed to get the condo and cars.  The rest I invested and it has actually grown so that I have all of the money I spent back.  Now I just spend what I earn from my job.  If anyone ever does come looking for the money, they can have it all back.  In fact, I really wish someone would come looking for it.  Maybe then the nightmares would stop."

     Sara kicked off her shoes and rubbed a bunion that was starting to form.  She had her mother's feet.  Of all the things she could have inherited from her mother, she was grateful it was only her bunions.

     "So I guess I've told you more about me than I've told anyone in a very long time.  Do I still have a job?"
     "Don't sound so forlorn.  Yes, you still have a job.  I can't fire you for having a bigger estate than me.  I actually respect your honesty with me.  You didn't have to tell me any of that."
     "I think I needed to tell someone.  I've been carrying the weight of it on my back for too long."
     "Do you think the man who brought the flowers to the office was involved somehow?"
     "I don't know.  It has been a few months now, and I haven't seen him again around the office or noticed anyone strange here or at the apartment in Ventura.  No more strange phone calls.   I think it was just the stress of keeping it all in that made me think I saw him, and maybe I misunderstood what Ann said his name was.  It was probably a wrong number and just some crazy homeless person with a morbid sense of humor.  You know what L.A. is like."
     "You got a phone call also?"
     "Just once, and I think it really was a wrong number.  The guy sounded drunk and probably hit on some girl at a bar who gave him a made-up phone number that just happened to be mine."
     "I can see why you choose to come up here for the weekends.  The ocean can be extremely relaxing.  I'm sure your apartment in Ventura isn't as plush."
     "No, it is just a rental with only enough furniture to keep it from echoing.  I could clump it all together in one room if I wanted, but it is something I can afford on my salary and commissions, and if I need to give up this condo, I can live there quite comfortably.  It is better than the cardboard box and rags I once called home."
     "You really did have a rough life."
     "So, not to change the subject, but really to change the subject... is that your daughter I saw on the deck with you?"
     "No, I don't have any children of my own.  She is my niece.  I've been taking care of her since my sister and brother-in-law died a few years ago."
     "Oh, I'm so sorry.  I didn't know."
     "Not many people do.  Like you, I prefer to keep my home life separate from my work life.  When they died, I moved into her house so Rachel wouldn't have to change schools or lose all of her friends on top of everything else.  During the year, we spend school nights in Thousand Oaks, and long weekends or school holidays here at the beach.  Hold on for just a minute, could you?"
     "Of course."

     Sara heard muffled talking as if David had put his hand over the speaker of his phone.

     "Sara, would you like to come down and have dinner with us?  Rachel is insisting.  Apparently, she has been spying on you for quite a while and wants to meet you."
     Sara laughed.
     "Oh, so maybe I wasn't so paranoid after all!  I think I would really enjoy that.  What can I bring?"
     "How about a bottle of your favorite wine and dessert?  6 o'clock?"
     "Done!  I'll be there with bells on."
     "Oh, one more thing.  She wants to know what your cat's name is."

  

Friday, September 7, 2018

a new friendship

Words for Wednesday is a weekly writing prompt designed to get creative juices flowing. It's been around for quite a while now and we are always glad to see people join us. You can use the weekly prompts any way you like. Use all some or none of the words. The idea is just to become inspired to write...anything...poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction, sci-fi or fantasy. Why not give it a try? This month, Delores is hosting the words, and they can be found (here)
      Sara woke with a scream and felt her breath hitch as tears streamed down her face.  The nightmares were back with a vengeance and it had been more than four months since she thought she saw Quigley.  There had been no sign of him since then and she began to wonder if it had all just been in her mind.

     Sitting on the edge of her bed, with the cat she had begun to call Seeayetee purring on her lap, she whispered to him, "Perhaps it is time to call one of those mind quacks."  Seeayetee meowed in response as if to agree with her.

     After she started the coffee and opened the curtains to the deck, Sara turned the alarm off to the sliding glass door and stepped out into the cool ocean breeze for her morning yoga routine.   The one thing keeping her sane now was the Isla Vista condo, and she found herself wishing she could convince her boss to let her work from home, even if he did think it was in Ventura.

     She had sold the Buick for a deplorable price just to be rid of it, and bought a Chevrolet Sonic in a mundane color of blue that she hoped wouldn't draw any attention if someone was following her.  She used it exclusively in Ventura and Thousand Oaks as she traveled to and from work.  When her workweek was over, she drove to a storage unit in Carpinteria, where she would exchange it for a black Honda Insight she used for the weekends.  The storage unit was about halfway between work and what she considered her home, just enough time on the 101 to see if anyone was following her before she stashed the Sonic.

      Stretching into a long Warrior pose, she forced her mind to focus on the waves breaking on the beach below.  The beach and yoga raveled the lingering nightmare from her thoughts.

     After she and Quigley had split the money they had taken in the grift, she had watched to see where he stashed his cut.  When he had been killed, she had waited for a month before going after it as she was leaving town.  She knew after six months that their friendship had evolved into something more, but neither of them mentioned it.  Part of the grift had always been for the two of them to go their separate ways when it was over.  Truth be told, she really didn't need to work but it was part of her plan to go unnoticed while being able to still be alert to anyone who had tracked her down.

     Movement on the porch of a beach house just down from her condo caught her eye.  Was someone watching her?  She straightened up and stepped into the living room to retrieve a pair of binoculars.  Pretending to scan the horizon like an intrepid whale watcher during their migration season, she casually focused on the house below to see who had been watching her.  Startled to see a similar pair of binoculars being held by a young red-haired girl staring back at her, she raised her eyes as a small freckled hand waved to her.

     Sara had seen the girl frequently on the beach, chasing a small pug that had almost as much spunk as she had at that age and laughing as the two of them tried to avoid the incoming waves.  The girl could have been her younger sister, or even a daughter if Sara had either of them.  She tentatively waved back, wondering if it was a mistake to open herself to someone else, and wondering who her parents might be.

     A man stepped out on the porch with the girl and seemed to ask her something.  The girl turned and pointed up to Sara and as the man turned, Sara stepped back into her house in shock.

     David James?!?!?!?