Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Shades of Murder by Lauren Carr


Deep Creek Lake, Maryland - September 6, 2004

“—and in other news…On Friday, prosecutors wrapped up their side in the murder trial for Oliver Cartwright in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.—”
While the radio announcer read off the morning report, David O’Callaghan poured his first cup of coffee. He dumped one spoonful of sugar into his oversized United States Marine Corps mug, a graduation gift from an old girlfriend, bestowed to him upon completing officers training.
The mug lasted longer than the girlfriend. 

Shades of Murder by Lauren Carr
Taking his first sip of coffee, he gazed out the kitchen window of his parent’s cozy lakeshore house to admire the leaves flapping on the birch trees lining the shore. When he squinted his eyes, he could see a hint of gold on the tips of the leaves.

Tomorrow would be his day off to celebrate Labor Day. While everyone else was celebrating it today proper, he would be trying to keep them from killing themselves, or each other, around Deep Creek Lake. 

The radio continued with the news at the top of the seven o’clock hour.

“—Lawyers for Cartwright will begin presenting their defense on Tuesday. Oliver Cartwright has confessed to raping and killing six women in and around the Pittsburgh area during the summer of 2003.”

Six? David brought the mug to his lips for another sip. I could have sworn Cartwright killed seven women. Where did I hear it was seven?

The ring of the phone broke through the chirping of the birds in the birch trees. David didn’t realize he was still half asleep until the hot drink splashed onto the breast of his white shirt. Cursing, he slammed down the mug to send more coffee spilling across the kitchen counter.

“Damn it!” He grabbed the dishtowel to mop up the coffee from his shirt. The phone was still calling out to him while he wiped off his silver police shield.

“Coming!” He grabbed the phone and braced it against his ear with his shoulder while wetting the dishtowel to continue the cleanup.

“Did I wake you?” Hearing the lilt of Archie Monday’s voice coming through the phone line transformed his morning into a good day. Forgetting about the coffee, David stood up straight. “No. You’re up early.”

“I wanted to catch you before you went to work. Robin wants to know if you’re coming over for steaks on the grill after you get off.” That’s a no-brainer.David stepped into the half-bath off the kitchen to check his reflection in the mirror. He ran his hand over his blond hair. She’s on the phone, you dummy. He went back to dabbing at the coffee on his shirt.

“Are you still there?” she asked him.


This isn’t going to work. After tossing the dishtowel into the sink, he proceeded to unbutton his shirt.
“Let me think.” David slammed open the bedroom door in his search of a clean shirt. “Thick juicy steaks hot off the grill at Spencer Manor with two of the loveliest ladies on Deep Creek Lake, or hot dogs zapped in the microwave and a can of beer? What do you think?”

The sound of her laughter almost made him forget about his disgust over the dirty shirt. “What time should we expect you?”

“I get off at six.”

“Wonderful. Bring your swim trunks. We’ll go jet skiing,” she said.

Which means I’ll see you in your swimsuit.
David paused in his search for a clean shirt  to imagine Robin Spencer’s stunning assistant in a bathing suit. It was something he had been yearning for since meeting  Archie Monday. A stern tone in her voice brought him back down to earth. “I should warn you. Robin’s working on a plotline that involves Marine Special Forces. Be prepared for an interrogation.”

Pushing the vision of Archie in a bikini from his mind, David shifted the phone from one ear to the other while shrugging out of his shirt. “Ah, so she’s using me.”

“What can I say?” Her tone was cool. “She’s a woman. We all use men.”

“Won’t be the first time I’ve been used by a woman.” It sounded like she was about to hang up when David stopped her. “What can I bring tonight?”

“Just your handsome self.”

He stopped her again. “Dad tells me that you’re a wine expert.” 

He could hear the laughter in her voice when she replied, “I wouldn’t say I was an expert. Robin knows more about it than I do. But I’m learning. We’re working on expanding the Spencer Inn’s wine list. So we’ve been doing a lot of wine tasting lately. This week, we received a case from Burma. We’ll test it out tonight.”

“Now, I’m intimidated. I was going to offer to bring the wine tonight.”

“You can never miss with a good cabernet sauvignon.”

 Making a mental note to stop by the wine shop to pick up a good bottle of red wine—not the cheap stuff—You don’t serve the cheap stuff to one of the world’s most famous mystery writers and her beautiful assistant—David finished dressing for the second time that day. He strapped on his utility belt with his gun, radio, baton, and cell phone.

Before slipping on his mirrored sun glasses to block out the bright morning rays reflecting off the water, David O’Callaghan paused to admire the platinum blond streaks that the sun and lake water had added to his already light hair. With his face and body bronzed after a summer of working and playing on the water, he looked even blonder than usual.

After taking a quick glance around the house to make sure everything was secured and put away, he stepped outside onto the front porch and locked the door.

Leaving an empty house was not part of his usual routine. His mother was always home during the day, but today was different. His parents had left two days before for a vacation at the Grand Canyon.
That was something else that was out of the ordinary. In all of his twenty-four years, David didn’t recall his parents ever going away together, anywhere, for anything. Police Chief Patrick O’Callaghan would travel to conferences or training, or his mother would check in to the hospital when she’d get sick. Vacation? Together? What brought that on? Maybe Robin knows.

“Hey, kid!”

Author Lauren Carr
Startled, David dropped his keys in the driveway. Out on the road, Police Officer Art Bogart laughed from the front seat of his cruiser. On his way to the station, where he was acting as Spencer’s chief, he had pulled off the road to give David a good-natured hassling.

Bogie was the oldest, and most respected, member of Spencer’s small police force. With the size and condition of a body builder, he had been challenged more than once by a cocky rookie, only to put the youngster in his place by pinning him to a mat in less than thirty seconds. In contrast to his size and strength, a heart of gold beat behind his silver shield.

“You going to work or not? Your daddy’s away, so you decided to play around and be late?”
David knelt down to pick up the keys. “I’m coming. I had to make sure everything was locked up.”
“Well, get your butt in gear, son!” Bogie called out to him from across the driver’s compartment of his cruiser. “There was an accident last night. We have a car that hit a deer on Spencer Lane, rolled, and landed in the lake.”

“Any fatalities?” 

“So far we have a six-point buck. Miracle if the driver made it. No witnesses. A couple of runners found the car this morning.” He waved his arm at him. “Get a move on! Two-point-three miles down Spencer Lane toward Pelican Court. The divers should be there already.”

Bogie hit the gas pedal so hard that the tires spit gravel when he pulled out to speed down the road like he was trying to merge into rush hour traffic. On the shores of Deep Creek Lake, among the Shenandoah Mountains, he was only dealing with the rush minute.

David climbed into his police cruiser to head in the opposite direction, along the tree-lined shore road, to take him to the scene of the accident. 

On Labor Day, the seasonal residents along the lake were waking up to enjoy the last breath of summer before closing up their vacation homes for winter. Meanwhile, up at the top of the mountain overlooking the lake, behind the scenes, the Spencer Inn was gearing up for snow season to start in eight weeks.

Thoughts of Spencer Inn made David’s mind wonder to that of its owner, Robin Spencer, a good family friend, which brought his mind back to that of Archie Monday.

The green-eyed blond had come to work for Robin Spencer while he was serving in Afghanistan. They had only met briefly after he had returned from overseas, before going off to the police academy. Now that he was back home, he considered the possibilities. 

I wonder if Archie Monday likes men in uniform. Robin’ll certainly put in a good word for me. David made a mental note to call the restaurant manager at the Spencer Inn. He’ll know what wine would impress Archie.

Bogie’s voice burst from his radio to jar David back to reality. “Change of plans, kid! Go to the Hathaway Estate on Pelican Court instead. I’ll send Fletcher to take care of the car accident.”
David snatched the mike from the radio.
“What’s at Hathaway’s estate?”

“They got a DB, kid. Dead body.”

David flipped the switch for the lights and sirens and pressed his foot on the gas pedal.

* * * * *

Neal Hathaway’s summer home was the only residence on Pelican Court, a secluded lane that crossed a mountain stream to cut through some thick woods. A rarely used entrance to the state park marked the other end of Pelican Court. Anyone not curious enough to travel the lane would never notice the mansion hidden behind the thick grove of trees.  

The owner and CEO of Hathaway Industries lived behind a brick wall and iron gates with a brass “H” marking them. The estate’s driveway snaked down a landscaped hill to the stone house that had one of the best views on the lake.

David O’Callaghan had encountered more than his share of exposure to murder investigations. With his father being chief of police, and working with the military police in the Marines, he had been called to more than one crime scene that involved a homicide. 

Such scenes had an atmosphere of somberness. Everyone, including the investigating officers, would speak in soft tones with an air of respect for those who had passed on. This, however, was the first time that David had been called to the scene of a dead body at a multi-millionaire’s estate. 

During the short time it took him to drive around the lake to the Hathaway Estate, David tried to recall what he knew about Neal Hathaway. Self-made millionaire. Always wanted to be an astronaut. Was also a science geek. When he failed to become an astronaut, he used his talent for science and rocketry to build what was now a Forbe’s Top 100 company. Hathaway Industries was one of the government’s biggest contractors for launching and maintaining defense satellites. They were also in the race to become the first  to offer private flights into outer space.

Neal Hathaway was indeed a real live rocket scientist. Other than that, David was unsure about anything else. Guess I’m going to find out now.

David drove through the gates and pulled his cruiser around to a multi-car garage with a black SUV parked in front of it. The lights and the sirens failed to break up the fight taking place next to the vehicle. 

Two women were rolling on the ground with their hands in each other’s hair. Judging from the disheveled condition of their clothes and the exhausted grunts they uttered between their high-pitched curses, David surmised the fight had been going on for a while.

With a head full of curly platinum blond hair that looked like a mop, one of the women appeared to be on the losing end of the fight. The shoulder strap of the blonde’s white dress had been ripped off to expose her voluptuous breast. The rest of her garment wasn’t in a much better condition. The side seam had been ripped wide open to show a white girdle.

Even though she was winning, the blond’s opponent wasn’t in much better shape. During the course of the battle, her bright purple mini skirt had been pulled all the way up her hips to reveal that her underwear consisted of a black thong. 

Several feet away, a woman dressed in a housekeeper’s uniform, was pleading for them to stop. When David brought his car to a stop, she yelled over the siren in a thick European accent. “Help, please! They’re going to kill each other.”

Turning off the lights and siren, David threw open the car door. “Okay, that’s enough. Break it up.”
Not seeming to notice him, they continued wrestling with their fingers entwined in each other’s hair.



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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reflection of Secrets by Reyna Hawk

As Daniel drove toward his house something in his gut was telling him the house would be empty; he was hoping his gut would be wrong just this one time.

“Answer the damn phone!” He gruffed as he dialed the house phone one more time. He was a little hesitant upon entering the house. He had been trying to reach Janie for over a week and had yet to get a hold of her. Daniel knew how depressed Janie was when he left because of a work assignment. He quickly banished the thoughts she’d do anything to harm herself or Daniella. 

Reflection of Secrets
by Reyna Hawk
 Daniel angrily read the note Janie had taped to the refrigerator then crumpled it up tossing it across the room. He’d been away on a work assignment for nearly two weeks so he had no clue when Janie left town. He instantly checked his home voice mail, but there was nothing from her, only the numerous messages he’d been leaving for her. She’d never gotten a new cell since the explosion so he had no other means of trying to contact her. He estimated she had probably left shortly after he did. 

  “Well no wonder she never answered. Damn it Janie.” He huffed. Daniel shook his head in disbelief. He had a hunch where she’d taken off to. There was only one place he could think of that she’d feel safe and at peace. Luckily, he didn’t have to be back to work for a few days so he could make the three hour drive to Cherokee to check on her. Daniel quickly threw some clothes in a duffle bag and reluctantly headed back out the door. He’d been hoping for a nice relaxing weekend at home, but that idea had just been shot right out the window. He was going to knock his pain in the ass sister out when he seen her. 

 For the past two weeks Janie had been doing her best to deal with the tragedy of losing her husband. She’d have her moments of feeling normal and then out of nowhere grief and depression would strike and it’d be hard to even get out of bed. Malachi was so sweet and understanding. The instant he came home from work he’d take over caring for Daniella. Janie marveled at how well he was with Daniella and how quickly she’d taken to him. As soon as he walked in the door she’d toddle her way to him with a huge smile on her face. 

Janie always maintained a strong front around Daniella and most the time toward Malachi too. She always made sure to do what needed to be done and not procrastinate on anything. Even though, many days she had to force herself to even shower.

Janie always put Daniella’s needs and wants before her own. She missed Rico so much she had an aching that resonated deep into her soul. She’d give anything if she could go back in time and have him alive and by her side. Yet Janie had resigned herself to the knowledge that was never going happen. She had to move on and make the best of her life and be both mommy and daddy to Daniella. When she was old enough to understand Janie would explain what happened to her father. Until then she would show her pictures of Rico and always make sure each night Daniella hugged and kissed his picture before falling asleep. Janie also continuously sent Rico’s family in Italy pictures of Daniella. She even planned a trip to Italy for them in the next year or so. She wanted Daniella to know her family and her father. She’d never deny any of his family the right to see Daniella and she’d never deny Daniella the opportunity to know them.

 Many times though Janie wondered if she was doing more harm than good. It was hard for her to keep her composure when Daniella would cry for her daddy. Janie didn’t know how to explain to an eleven month old baby that her daddy was never coming back. It broke Janie’s heart to know her baby didn’t understand why her daddy just disappeared one day. One minute he was in the car and the next he was gone. Janie knew Daniella didn’t understand any of what had occurred that day. Her hope was that by showing her the pictures and smiling as she talked about Rico, then Daniella would not cry and sense the sadness of him being gone. She’d explain all of that when Daniella was older. Yet, Janie feared by showing her Rico’s pictures it was just re-enforcing his absence and the confusion of him not being there. This was a chance she’d take though, if it meant Daniella would never forget him. 

Janie had just finished putting her baby girl down for a nap and begun putting Daniella’s toys away that were strewn about the house; when the sound of tires on the gravel driveway had her peering out the window, knowing it was too early for Malachi. When Janie’s eyes spotted Daniel’s shiny black SUV she wasn’t sure if she should be happy or aggravated. Sure, she had missed him but something in her said he was probably furious with her. Janie thought twice before opening the door, but realized it was futile not to. She knew Daniel wouldn’t just leave; he’d either wait until she opened the door or until Malachi came home. She hesitated before opening the door, but hoped by smiling and rushing out to hug him that it would soften his mood. 

Author Reyna Hawk
“Hey you!” she gushed, kissing his cheek.

“Yeah, uh-huh” he sighed

“What the fuck Janie? What you forget my phone number? And where the hell is Daniella?” Daniel asked one question after another with hardly a breath in between. Janie could see the anger swimming in his emerald green eyes. One thing for sure, Daniel showed all of his emotions by his facial expressions.  

“Oh just calm down. I’m fine and Daniella’s fine. She’s sleeping. And I didn’t call you cuz I knew I’d get this. I didn’t do it to worry you or make you mad.  I just can’t stay in that place…” Janie’s voice began to crack as tears swelled in her eyes.  

“Yeah, well you should of at least called ya pain in the ass” Daniel frowned putting his arm around her shoulder to give her a small hug as the two walked into the house. He knew she was upset enough as it was; he didn’t want to add to it by arguing and preaching to her.

Janie wiped the tears from her eyes as she took a seat at the dining room table across from Daniel. From her unkempt hair and appearance he could tell she was still grieving pretty badly. Janie had never been able to hide her feelings from him. From the time they were young children, he could tell when Janie wasn’t
doing well physically, mentally, or emotionally. Daniel studied her pale thin face with its shallow eyes for a brief moment, before saying anymore.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Soul Sisters by Janiera Eldridge

Book Cover for Soul Sisters by Janiera Eldridge

Rebecca Thomas dipped her brush into the small pot of lip gloss and dabbed it softly on her lips. Today had been a long day at the Lola department store. The two rich old bitties that were usually bothering her at the makeup counter had been there earlier. Lord they got under her skin! She checked her watch and noticed there was only forty-five minutes until the store closed for the night. Rebecca turned from the mirror and rolled her eyes when she noticed the door to the ladies room creak open and a beautiful cocoa-colored brunette briskly walk through it. All she wanted was a few minutes of silence but another woman in the bathroom always spelled noise. Damn those pesky ladies room discussions.
The bathroom was painted a soft brown with gold trim around the counters and stalls. There was a small loveseat in the resting area. Rebecca never understood why there was a loveseat, no one ever used it. This powder room was, however, a place of peace where Rebecca could take a few minutes to exhale. Rebecca couldn’t help but turn her head all the way around at such a natural beauty. She whipped her head back to the mirror when she noticed the young woman peering straight into her eyes with a raised eyebrow. She briskly swiped the lip gloss across her lips once more.
“You shouldn’t try so hard to be perfect, it isn’t becoming of anyone,” the woman said, tousling her hair and looking into the mirror. She loosened the curls around her face by gently extending them with her finger. Rebecca looked into her deep, green eyes. She felt the amount of rudeness the woman was showing to a stranger was pretty shocking. She was startled by the woman’s soft, but deep voice. It was deep like hot chocolate, but soothing nonetheless. She felt she had no choice but to listen.
“Well, if you feel that way, then why are you looking in the mirror?” Rebecca rolled her eyes, slipped the lip gloss brush and pot filled with red, strawberry-tasting liquid back in her purse and headed for the door.
“I’m not trying to be perfect,” the woman said, staring at the back of Rebecca’s head. “My beauty comes naturally. Your need to be perfect despite the fact that you are not is imposing on other people’s ability to be comfortable with themselves and I find it very, very rude.” The woman’s face looked like stone but there was a small smirk that formed at the corner of her mouth.
Rebecca wrinkled her nose at the woman’s strange remark. Freak, she muttered in her head. The woman’s nostrils flared, and in the second it took Rebecca to take another step toward the door the woman was standing right in front of her.
“I really despise rudeness,” the woman said tilting her head to the right. “Well, you won’t be a waste. I’m starving anyway.”
In a moment that seemed to defy time itself, the woman grabbed Rebecca by the neck and sunk her teeth into a juicy vein laying right on the neck’s surface. When her teeth punctured the flesh she could feel Rebecca’s butter soft neck break with ease under the skin. Her blood was remarkably sweet and clean. The woman knew that the girl must have been taking very good care of her body. No drugs or cigarettes and very little alcohol. She gradually released her grip on Rebecca’s neck when she felt the pulse slowly die in the rock hard palm of her hands. Rebecca collapsed on the floor like a heap of dirty laundry. She had no time to scream or cry for help and the woman felt lucky. She could enjoy her meal in peace. The only sound anyone would remember hearing was the clicking of her heels against the tile as she walked out of the bathroom. She glided gracefully through the store and disappeared into the hot night air.
Dana’s tambourine-like ringtone blared in her ear as she slept comfortably in her bed. She wiped her eyes and stuck her head out over the bed to see the clock: It was 12:00 a.m. on a Monday night. Who the hell could be calling me? She thought.
“Hello?” She said into the phone. Her voice didn’t seem to be adjusting to the night very well.
“Oh my gosh Dana, did you hear about Rebecca?” Her friend Tasha said loudly. She said it so loud it left her ears tingling. Dana knew it was her friend Tasha because of the extra drama she poured into saying the simple words.
“No, it’s 12:00 a.m. and I’m trying to get some sleep. What did she do now? Did she steal your wallet instead of your boyfriend this time?” Dana chuckled as she propped herself up against the soft feathered pillows crowning the top of her bed. She could feel the fog fleeing from her brain a little at a time.
Tasha and Dana had become instant friends since they started working together at Lola. The only possible explanation for their immediate friendship was that maybe the “opposites attract” rule really was true. They enjoyed talking about everything from men to movies. Even though Dana loved horror movies and Tasha loved romantic comedies they still enjoyed coming together and making fun of the bad movies. They weren’t best friends, that spot was saved for her sister, Ani, but Dana enjoyed every minute of hanging out with her.
“She’s dead,” Tasha said dryly with her voice trailing off at the end, as if she didn’t believe what came out of her own mouth.
“Seriously? What happened?” Dana felt a chill run down her spine, she really couldn’t believe that someone who had been the “it” girl for so long was gone. Questions swarmed in her head: When, why, how?
“I saw it on the news. The cops aren’t releasing what the cause of death was yet. It might be too soon to tell. All the news anchor said was a young woman by the name of Rebecca Thomas was found dead in the bathroom of the Lola department store. They said they suspect foul play but they’re not saying much else.”
Dana shook her head slowly from side to side in disbelief. Rebecca was the prettiest girl to work at Lola. She made men want to leave their plasma TVs behind on a football Sunday just to get a peek of her. They were always dying to see what cute mini skirt she had on that day. Dana secretly felt jealous of Rebecca many days because of how she constantly got the “perfume girl” shift, which virtually meant doing nothing but spritzing rich women with perfume scents as they drifted along through their expensive shopping trips. After days and days of stocking shelves way too high for her slender arms to reach, the “perfume girl” shift was ideal.
Rebecca used to simply irritate Dana but she increased that level to hate when she went out with a young man who had come in the store originally flirting with Dana. Dana spent twenty minutes chatting up the chocolate hunk with dreads when Rebecca sashayed over, batted a few eyelashes and swept him away to another part of the store without saying a word to her. When Tasha told Dana during their weekly Friday lunch together that the man eventually asked Rebecca out, she realized how much she couldn’t stand the girl. Never in her darkest thoughts, however, did she ever wish for the girl to die. Maybe she wished her to get smacked around a little bit to knock her off of her pedestal but certainly not to be found dead. Even at the age of 123 years old, but with the charming and youthful look of a 25-year-old, Dana was envious of Rebecca’s beauty. Her long, golden brown hair and bright hazel eyes with full pink lips were enough to send any man over the edge and off a cliff where he’d never look at another woman again. Dana had given up competing with the beautiful diva a long time ago.
“I-I just don’t know what to say. I can’t believe it. I mean, you know I didn’t like her but I would never, ever wish that on her, on anyone. Well, if they said her name over the air that means her family already knows.” She closed her eyes and laid her head down on the pillow; she was still half asleep but able to feel a twinge of pain from the young woman’s sudden death. For some reason she got the aching feeling that this death was connected to her. She knew Ani had something to do with Rebecca’s untimely death. The shooting pain that bolted up and down her blood stream told her she was responsible.
“Yeah, I really feel bad for her family and for her of course. It seems like it was so sudden. I hope it wasn’t anything brutal. I hope it was something simple and peaceful, like her heart gave out.” Tasha seemed a little too upbeat to Dana.
“I mean, she would be too young for that but, you know what I mean. I can’t imagine it could have been anything like that because she seemed to be the pillar of health.”
Tasha’s voice was and borderline frenzied. It was just after midnight on Monday.
 “Yeah, it’s really a shame. I feel bad for them. Um, Tasha, I’m going to go back to bed, I have to be up early in the morning for work and this is a lot to process, to say the least.”
“Oh, OK honey. Well, try to relax and have a goodnight.”
Before Dana could say her goodnight the phone line went dead. She really hoped Tasha wasn’t offended, but after a long day of snooty customers she couldn’t bring herself to conduct such a spirited conversation that time of night. She really did feel a lot of pain for Rebecca as well as her family and the sleepiness was not helping her get her feelings in order. She pulled the covers over her head and let the darkness drag her full force into a new world.
Despite a peaceful sleep, Dana woke the next morning feeling as if she had hardly slept at all. She dragged herself into the bathroom and stared into the oval mirror. She noticed the bags under her eyes as she pulled lightly on the fleshy folds of skin around them. There wasn’t enough makeup in the world to cover up the dark circles caused by the restless nights behind her.
Dana showered, dressed, applied her makeup and swept her hair up into a bun. She held the bun in place with a blue butterfly pin that still had a few sprinkles of glitter left after all the years of use.
Her mother had given her the pin in 1912. She told her whenever she was sad and felt no one understood what she was going through, she could slip the pin into her hair and all the problems in her world would go away. She also said no harm would ever come to her while she wore it. Dana wasn’t so sure about that part but the beauty of it always warmed her heart. Dana drove to work in a hypnotic haze; she wasn’t sure how she wound up in the Lola department store parking lot but she took a deep breath, grabbed her steaming cup of vanilla coffee and headed toward the door.
The store had an icy and lonely feeling that floated casually through the air, wrapping its numbed feelings around everyone. There were hardly any snooty customers wandering about or cackling groups of women strolling through the store. Dana went straight to the employee lounge without looking anyone in the eye. She put her jet black purse and baby blue coat in her worn down locker. Tasha was sitting at a table sipping on her hot cup of more-cream-than-coffee. She must have showed up early to work again, Dana thought.
“So, how is everyone doing?” Dana said, pulling up a chair beside Tasha. She didn’t expect to be engaged in conversation for long.
“Well, it’s really quiet out there, now anyways. The cops left hours ago but there is still this nasty sense of death floating around in the air. There are not a lot of customers in here today; I’m going to assume they all saw the news broadcast. I wouldn’t want to shop at this store either. It’s not every day a young woman dies in a department store.”
“Well, I’m going to go out there and give it my best. I mean, a quiet day is better than a drama-filled one, right? It’s really tragic, but if the store ends up closing because of this then we’re all in trouble.”
Tasha shrugged and buried her face back into her steaming cup of coffee. After the slow and lackluster conversation, the day got a whole lot worse. Today of all days she was on perfume duty and during the entire time only one customer passed her counter. The little old lady that had sauntered by was notorious among the store employees for not letting any of the Black or Hispanic workers, like Tasha or Dana, help her. Today was no different. When she spotted Dana she simply turned her head and kept walking. Why Dana kept working there when she didn’t need to was beyond her. Keeping up a normal appearance was not worth working the job.
Five o’clock could not have rolled around fast enough. When the shorthand reached the five and the long hand landed on the twelve Dana grabbed all of her belongings from her locker as fast as her arms would let her and nearly sprinted for the door. She didn’t even take the time to say goodbye to Tasha; it would mean she would have to spend a few more seconds in the death trap and she just couldn’t stand to do it. As she gripped the handle of her red 2012 Dodge Avenger Ani suddenly appeared at her side sending a sharp jolt up her spine that nearly knocked her over.
“Why do you always insist on sneaking up on me?” Dana asked, breathing hard. “We need to talk. Get in the car.”
She knew Ani looked exactly like her but sometimes the powers of her emerald eyes were overwhelming. When she was at her strongest they seemed to be bright and beaming like a lighthouse shining over an ocean in the middle of the night. Ani twisted her nose slightly trying to keep her agitation from spreading across her face. She knew she was going to catch some flak for last night’s little incident.
“I’m not going to waste any time getting to the point about this because that would be ridiculous. Did you have anything to do with Rebecca’s death?” Dana demanded.
“Who is Rebecca?” Ani swung her head around and looked out the car window at the orange and yellow leaves barely hanging on the trees that lined the street.
“Don’t play that game with me. You promised me you would only hunt the people who do wrong, who are evil, remember? Rebecca didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Oh really? What do you call talking behind your back saying things like: ‘Oh she’d be much prettier if she did something with herself’? What about the time you told me that hunky guy was flirting with you and she took him right from under your nose?”
Dana straightened up in her seat and refocused on the road as she felt the car drifting over the line. Zeroing in at the back of another car seemed to prevent her anger from building.
“You know what I’m saying. We agreed on murderers, thieves, rapist and pimps, not man stealers.”
“Well, she stole $20 out of your purse one time and you didn’t even see it. Does that count as a thief?” Ani raised one eyebrow and a mischievous smile spread across her face. A subtle glow radiated from her persona, even with all of the clouds hovering in the sky.
“Did you ever think because we’re twins I could be the one caught for the murder and the little bit of difference between our eyes is simply not enough to convince people we’re not the same person?”
Dana was not smiling at all. It simply wasn’t funny to her, although her sister didn’t seem to agree. She enjoyed living a low profile lifestyle but Ani needed to feel an adrenaline rush every now and then. She certainly loved the thrills she got during her bloodiest killings. Drinking blood seemed to get very boring to Ani after a while and she wanted to find some way to spice things up.
“I wouldn’t let that happen,” Ani said, shaking her head and staring out the window. She had been around a long time and was still amazed at all the changes the world was constantly going through. The invention of the motor car astounded her and now there were little computerized telephones that could be cradled in the fleshy dips of her hands.
Ani glared out the window as a woman rushed down the street in a short, red skirt and matching tube top. Her hair looked like it would ignite if a cigarette was lit up next to it from all the carbon dioxide that was floating around in her hair. It must have taken a ton of hairspray to hold the blonde tower together as she paced up and down the block. The woman ranted into a cell phone, complete with annoying hand gestures. Ani could tell this lady really enjoyed her personal drama. Ani was definitely considered a rebel of her time but it seemed like women just didn’t know how to handle their lives today.
“Well, whether you think it could happen or not,” Dana continued. “You really need to think of how your actions affect us both.” She swore Ani’s angry gaze could cut a hole through her glass car window. In half a second Ani turned her head toward Dana. It felt like she was trying to bore a hole in her soul.
“Your maker will be asking questions soon if any of this gets back to him and from there I have no clue what’ll happen,” Dana said, trying to shake the nervousness from her voice.
“So, you mean to tell me I’m supposed to go along with draining small animals for blood every damn time I want to eat? Do you know how boring that gets? And the blood is not nearly as sweet. Not to mention I’m hungry all time because small animals don’t have that much blood. It even takes a lot of deer’s blood to fill up. I’d rather be out chasing a killer and feasting on his blood than an innocent deer. Do you know how difficult this is for me?”
“No, I don’t know because I don’t need blood but I understand that you do. Without you, I’m nothing.” Dana’s voice dropped as she hit the last word. She tried to imagine life without her sister but felt a shock shutter through her body when she realized there would be no life without her.
“All I’m saying is you can’t keep taking people down like this because they piss you off. These are people you know. Just because it isn’t your family doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Be more like those vampires everyone likes, you know, like in the Twilight Saga. I love those movies.” Dana shook her head from side to side and laughed.
“I can’t help thinking about how scared people would be if they knew people like them really existed. I think they’d rather be friends with an alien than hang out with you, I’m sorry. ”
“Yeah, and we don’t glitter in the sun either; although that’d be a really cool feature,” Ani said smiling. People loved the vampires that glittered but she knew they wouldn’t want to see her coming. Dana was relieved the conversation had gone well. All of her car windows were still whole and she didn’t have any claw marks on her arm. Ani had never physically attacked her, but with her sister’s temper she secretly wondered if it were possible. They pulled up in front of their apartment and Ani wrinkled her nose again. Dana rolled her eyes at the thought of what could be running through her sister’s mind.
“What’s wrong now?” Dana asked, tired of dealing with Ani’s diva attitude.


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