A Family Matter

“Hard Knocks?”  Randy didn’t sound impressed.  “I’m in trouble and you take me to a dive bar?”

“I have it on good authority that the folks here can help.”

“Whose authority?”

Why was he being difficult?  “You don’t want to know.”  I opened the door and gestured for him to enter.

He crossed his arms and held his ground.  “Who?”

“Frankie.”

“Sticky Fingers Frankie?  He’s a mobster.”

“Who else could I turn to?  You want to fake your death and disappear.  It’s not like I could walk into a police station and ask for advice.”

“I don’t like you associating with criminals.”

After the day I had, I couldn’t deal with this.  “Then why did you come to me?”

“That’s a low blow.”

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.  I loved my brother, but if he kept this up he wouldn’t have to worry about faking his death.  “I’m just trying to help.”

Randy was waiting in my kitchen when I got home.  In a panic, he told me he had to disappear.  He had embezzled money from the bank he worked for and was about to get caught.  He got out of the building – along with a duffle bag full of money that he kept on hand – while his boss was talking to the feds.

“You sure these guys can stage my death and get me the papers I need to start a new life? Birth certificate, driver’s license, college degree?”

I nodded.  “Do you still want to go through with this?  You could turn yourself in.”

“I can’t go to jail.  I’d rather die.”

You’d think someone so adverse to jail would stay on the straight and narrow path.

I should’ve turned him in, but he was family.  I nodded at the door.  “Let’s go.”

Courage

Hard abs, glistening with sweat, Andy swung the axe.  He was chopping wood all day.

Ruth fanned herself as she sipped her vodka.  She had been watching him from her kitchen window all morning, enjoying delicious thoughts about the many ways she could get him sweaty.

She hated to admit it, but she didn’t stand a chance with him.  He was young, virile and handsome.  She looked like she had recently given birth to triplets.  Why was the dad bod something to be admired, but the mom bod considered repulsive?  Granted, she had not come by her mom bod by having kids.

She needed to do something about her feelings.  She wasn’t the typical cougar: svelte and rich, so couldn’t attract him with promises of evenings out and fancy vacations.

She thought of Misery, but immediately rejected it.  She wasn’t about to shackle him to her bed.  Unless he was into it.

Some men liked older women.  Some men liked women with a little meat on their bones.  She needed to open his eyes to news possibilities.  A half bottle of vodka convinced her she was right.

Fortified with courage and alcohol, she marched over to Andy.  In no uncertain terms, she described what she wanted to do with him.

His jaw dropped.  “It wouldn’t work.”

Ruth turned red. She wasn’t sure if she was more humiliated or angry.  “It’s fine.  It was the vodka.”

She turned to go, but he stopped her.  “You don’t get it.  My brother Evan is into you.  He’s been meaning to ask you out.”

“Evan?”  He was Andy’s older brother.  He was cute, smart, and shy.

“I shouldn’t be saying this, but he’s had a crush on you for years.  He even watches you in the garden.”

Ruth smiled.  Her day was looking up.

The Funeral

“Hard to believe it’s been twenty years since you walked out on me.”

The voice startled Shane, who was kneeling in front of the casket.

Shane winced.  He wasn’t prepared for Maggie.  “It wasn’t like that.”

“What was it like?”  Maggie wasn’t one to let things go.

“I didn’t expect to see you.”  He blurted as he stood.

“Northampton’s my home”

That surprised him.  “You hated Western Massachusetts.”

“Not anymore.”

“You look amazing.”

“Why’re you here?”

“I’m attending Professor Shacks’ funeral.”

She raised her eyebrows. “You stayed in touch with Graham?”

Why was she annoyed?  “He was my mentor.”

“I was your fiancé, yet all I got was a Dear Jane letter and no forwarding address.”

“Please don’t be bitter, Maggie.  We were kids.”

She sighed.  “I suppose you’re right.  What have you been up to?”

“After grad school, I got my doctorate.  I was involved in a couple of key archeological digs, wrote a few books and was given a slot on the local news.  I’m also curator at the Siegfried Museum of Archeology.”

“You always did fancy yourself to be a real-life Indiana Jones.”

That struck a nerve, and he lashed out.  “At least I actualized my dreams.”

Maggie smile sadly.  “Dreams change.”

“Because you stayed?”

“I married Graham.”

“You’re Graham’s widow?  He’s at least thirty years older than you.”

She smirked.  “From mentor to dirty old man in minutes?  Don’t judge.”

“Why did you marry him?”

“I was alone, abandoned by you.”

“So you married Graham?”

“He was a good man who helped me out of a difficult situation.  You know how strict my parents were.  He was willing to marry me and raise my son.”

His mouth felt dry.  “Your son?”

“Graham was there for his birth, unlike his biological father.”

“I need a scotch.”

It’s A Girl

Waves of pain rippled through my body.  It was worse than I imagined.  What was I thinking, getting pregnant?  It was destined to end in pain.

To be fair, my birth plan involved drugs and a sterile hospital.  I hadn’t anticipated giving birth during a Finnair flight.

Would my baby be American or Finnish?

The stewardess returns with a rabbi, and a priest.  It is the start of a bad joke.  Unfortunately, the joke is on me.

“Mary, the stewardess is back.”  Jack says in a soothing tone.

“I’m in labor, not blind.”  I hiss.  I turn to the new arrivals wondering if either has drugs on them.  I sure as heck need morphine.

I ride another wave of pain.

“That was a long one.”  Jack has been timing my contractions.

“Have either of you delivered a baby?”  I ask the men of God.

“No, but I have four children.”  The rabbi offers.

The priest informs me that he was an army chaplain who served in Afghanistan.

Has he seen a vagina before, or will my who-ha would be his first?

Everyone is looking at me in shock, and the priest is a deep red.  Oops.  I guess I spoke out loud.

Jack pats my shoulder.

“Don’t touch me.”  I grab his tie and pull him towards me.  “This is all your fault.  I hate you!”

The pain is so bad, I want to cry.

I take pleasure in the fact Jack is turning blue.

The rabbi tries to pry my hands away.  “It’s normal for women to say things they don’t mean during labor.  Your rash words can’t be taken back”

“I mean it!”

“You love your husband.”

“I do.  Jack’s my boss.  He insisted I attend this conference.  If it wasn’t for him, I’d be enjoying an epidural!”

 

 

 

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The Night Bear

Waves of nausea rippled through my body, but I valiantly controlled the urge to vomit.  It was my first day on the homicide beat, and I wasn’t about to embarrass myself in front of the veteran police detectives and paramedics on the scene.

I saw Detective Ryan, and waved. “Amber, a moment?”

She looked at me, rolled her eyes, but walked over anway.  “Sally, how’s it that you come from a family of cops but end up a reporter?”

“You don’t want to comment?”

“Kid, your dad is the chief of police, of course I’m going to answer questions.”  She absent-mindedly scratched at a rash.  It looked like poison ivy.

“Who’s the stiff?”  I said with more bravado than I felt.  Truth be told, he was ripe and my stomach objected.

Amber smirked, as if she knew the internal battle I waged.  “The dead man is Roger Wells, forty-three.  He’s been dead for a while.  The ME will give us more info once he examines the remains in a lab. It looks like sharp force trauma.”

I nodded sagely, and made a few notes.  Despite the smell and Amber’s pretentious attitude, I was excited.  Don’t judge me.  This was my chance to make a name for myself and maybe catch the eye of an editor at a bigger paper.  The Greenville Gazette was fine for a recent graduate, but I was ready for more.

Taking out my phone, I snapped a few pictures.  I noticed an envelope sticking out of a nearby bush and reached for it.

“Don’t touch that!”  Amber shouts.  I was pushed out of the way and gloved experts opened it.  Amber read the note.  “Crap!  The Night Bear Struck again!”

My first assignment was a Night Bear murder?  Without hesitating, I called my editor.