Fallen One (10)

Stefan Keller – Pixabay

Jared staggered out of Spaulding’s house, his mind spinning and flopping in uncontrollably. The detective stood in the screen door, his head pressing against the mesh, watching as Jared made his way down the steps and to the edge of the street where his motorcycle waited for him.

Spaulding felt his fears renewed and stronger than they had been in years. But now, those fears were going to be shared by someone else. Someone other than that boy’s grandma and him. He watched as Jared picked up his helmet and slipped it over his head, turning back to the house as he did.

They stared at each other, lingering in silent understanding, trapped together in a common horror, neither knowing what to say or do.

Jared sat on the motorcycle as the door closed, Spaulding’s face moving to the adjacent window, the curtains pulled away for him to watch. Jared sat on the bike, his boots on the ground, the kickstand free. He raised it with his heel, his confused, agitated mind trying to figure out how everything had suddenly turned upside down. What began as an escape from his humdrum going-nowhere-life had morphed into an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Putting the bike in gear, he was soon out of sight of Spaulding’s house and its aging neighborhood and sat at the intersection with the highway. The stop sign was slightly bent, its paint faded, and two small bullet holes punctured the right edge.

He looked to the west, with all of its promises of things new and exciting. It was most appealing. The road was empty, wide open, and beckoning him to put his life behind him, including his latest revelations. He gave the bike a little gas, its body lunging against the resistance of his brakes. He looked west again, knowing there was nothing standing in his way, nothing tangible, that is.

The fight between engine and brakes was not the only struggle; his mind, helplessly caught in a replay loop of horror, tried to break free. An open road, fresh air, and Pacific beaches would only give momentary distractions, but in the meantime, his thoughts were bloody and frightening and impossible. A demon. He took a long breath and made up his mind. He would go back and hopefully find Landel. As he pulled out on the highway, he hoped Landel was still there and could help him figure out his next course of action.

When he arrived, Jared climbed off his bike, placed his helmet on the seat, and began a thorough search of the barn and surrounding area. Finding nothing, his search took him beyond the open field and barn into the surrounding woods as he traipsed through the tangled branches and low lying brush, calling out Landel’s name. But after twenty minutes, he returned, scratched up to his bike without having found any sign of him. “Great,” Jared muttered as he got back on the Triumph and started the engine. One last look behind him yielded him nothing but the sight of the barn door slowly swaying in the breeze. Easing up to the pavement, a sense of déjà vu overtook him, his eyes shooting to the right and the west as it did. Squeezing his eyes shut, he shook his head and pulled out, heading east, back to his hometown, to his past, his grandmother, and the truth.

Farms and pastures and the smell of cows blew past him in a flurry, largely unnoticed. His mind blotted out most distractions, thinking instead about Spaulding and his grandmother’s wild assertions of demons, his focus on the road waning. It was as if he were riding on autopilot, the vibration from the road and the whistling of air in his ears all that was keeping him tethered to the present. Not the safest way to ride a motorcycle.

Within the hour, Jared found himself back on little Pacific Avenue, the Rambler wagon still shaded by the old Chestnut tree, a gray squirrel clinging to the side of one of the oaks. There was no seeing inside this time. The drawn curtains prevented that. Venturing into the yard, the squirrel scampered away as he took refuge from the sun under the oak. His heart was pounding, anxiety building a barrier to the front door. The porch was only a few feet away, but it might as well have been a few miles the way he was feeling.

The neighborhood was quiet, closer to death if you were to ask Jared. In the time since his arrival back at his grandmother’s, not a car had driven by, not a soul had been seen. In fact, the only life he had seen was the now-vanished squirrel hiding somewhere high up under cover of oak leaves. Glancing around, Jared noted that nearly all the front yards were fenced and gated. From the sound of things, several of the fences kept back an assault by whiny miniature whelps, yapping and barking at each other. Jared imagined that they all had their noses pressed against the fencing, watching with great interest his reluctance to walk up to the front door.

Pushing himself away from the tree, Jared started toward the porch and the woman whom he had ignored for several years when a dark, horrific sound somewhere around the side of the house stopped him. Turning toward it, he stepped quietly on the grass, careful to avoid fallen branches and leaves. A hedge of Holly rounded the corner of the house to his left. It grew largely unchecked, bushy in its appearance and blocking his view. The frightening sound happened again, and the Holly shook, sending Jared back for cover behind the oak. He watched timidly as the hedge continued to shake, ducking as a frightening screeching noise began. It sounded as if giant fingernails dragged their way across a chalkboard, the neighborhood dogs joining in with their howls.

A crashing sound interrupted it all, and the sound of screaming inside the house sent Jared running toward the house, across the lawn, and up onto the porch. He grabbed the doorknob and tried to turn it, but it was locked. He called out to his grandmother as the screaming continued, smashing his shoulder against the door several times before finally busting the jam and falling into the foyer. Clamoring to his feet, Jared spun around, running to the kitchen and then to the back bedroom, before thumping sounds and more screaming pointed him to the upstairs.

Running to the stairs, he gripped the newel post and vaulted himself upward, his grandmother’s screaming and crying getting louder with every frantic step. When he got to the landing, he found three doors, two on the left and one on the right. He tried the right one first, opening into a bathroom. He was sweating profusely, his hands shaking. Her screaming had stopped, replaced by whimpering and crying. The second door opened into a spare bedroom. “I’m coming!” Jared screamed as he stepped back into the hallway and ran toward the last door.

The door was locked, and he frantically started throwing his shoulder into the door as a great roar caused him to step back, his whole body shaking. “Oh, my God,” he said, launching himself to the door, smashing through it. He struggled to keep his balance while something huge flashed to his left, jumping through the panes of glass out of the window. He ran to the window, only to see the unbelievable as some kind of animal, monstrous in size, ran off and out of sight. Anxiously, he turned around, following the whimpering and finding his grandmother on the other side of the bed, curled up in the corner of the room. Her dress was shredded, blood covering it, her face, and her hands. Her blood.

He pulled a sheet from a freshly dumped pile of clean laundry and wrapped it around her ravaged arm, fumbling with his fun as he called for help.

This story of Fallen One is a first draft. I encourage anyone to provide comments, make suggestions, and point out problems.

What Spaulding shared with Jared was unimaginable. He wanted to flee but found that he was unable to. The more that he learned, the more he had to know it all. And with that, he decides to go and talk with his grandmother whom he hadn’t seen in years.

Comments welcome.

Have a great day.

Rollin

Havoc Tales Volume 2 The Hunt Begins

October is here and the pleasantness of the fall air is starting to take hold here in the southwestern desert. It is a welcome relief.

Havoc Tales Volume 1 The Terror Below is now available in both ebook and print formats for $2.99 and $7.99 respectively. The early reviews are quite thrilling actually, and I thank everyone who has purchased it so far. I also encourage you to write a review if you are willing. Reviews are important to help spread the word about this fast-paced horrific thriller.

The second novella in the series, Havoc Tales Volume 2 The Hunt Begins is well underway with our team, lead by Jack Havoc, preparing to go into this vast new underworld to chase after the creature before it’s too late. If you want to join the team to save the world, then come on board the Havoc train. Get Havoc Tales Volume 1 now, just in time for Halloween.

Havoc Tales Volume 1 Terror Below

Havoc Tales Volume 1, a new novella by Rollin Miller, cover by Rollin Miller

Havoc Tales Volume 1 Terror Below is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo in ebook format. It will be available on other outlets such as Apple in the next day or so. If you prefer to read Havoc Tales in a book format, it should be available from Amazon in about a week. Keep watching for it.

Two people, both Holman and Cassie Boring employees and working on the Transcontinental Water Pipeline project, have been murdered in Southern New Mexico.

Murdered does not adequately describe what has happened to them, but the gruesome details of their deaths will have to remain under wraps—for now.

Jack Havoc and his team have been brought in to uncover the truth about what happened to the victims and to put an end to the threat. They were selected based on their history of willingness to work outside normal boundaries of understanding and permissibility. Follow Jack and the others as they find the truth and, in the process, come face to face with the greatest threat they have ever encountered.

Havoc Tales Volume 1 (fini)

Having finished the first volume of Havoc Tales, I wanted to take a little bit of time with you, talking about the second volume which is already underway, and to share with you my writing space.

So, Havoc Tales Volume 2 is in the works. It picks up a few days after the first book leaves off, with a radical expansion of the team, under the leadership of Jack Havoc. Now, understanding the severe threat that they face, Jack realizes that there is no easy way to eradicate it. They are forced to go on the hunt.

The threat is a formidable creature, faster than you can imagine. Pound for pound, it could easily contend for the title of the most feared and dangerous animal on the planet. To make matters worse, there is evidence that suggests that the creature is not alone, and the number of them could be substantial.

So get your copy of Havoc Tales Volume 1 and prepare yourself for what’s coming next. It will be available in ebook format at Amazon and other outlets before Halloween.

As I was working on the second volume, I thought I would share a photograph of my desk setup and tell you the tools that I use in writing.

After working many years in computer support, I quickly moved away from Microsoft and embraced Linux. I have been using Linux as my desktop of choice for just about twenty-five years now. My computer, hanging on the wall behind the monitors is an older Dell 7010, running the latest version of Linux Mint Mate. Linux Mint has proven itself over the years of being one of the premier distributions of the Linux OS. Highly recommended.

But before I talk about the software that I use, I should point out the framed poster just above the screens with the light glare on it. It is a poster of Raiders of the Lost Ark with Indiana Jones whipping his whip. I have always been a movie, book, writing fanatic, and I am proud to admit that I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, my favorite movie, thirty-two times in the movie theater, ranging from California to Illinois. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen it since.

My walls are filled with small shelves with various things that I have loved growing up. The majority of them are die-cast models of planes, warbirds to be exact, a metal toy dirigible with wheels, and an old notebook with newspaper cutouts of the story of Lt. Col. W. E. Dyess and the Bataan Death March, the tape holding the strips yellowed as well as the newsprint. One shelf has an enamel tin ‘The Adventure Begins’ coffee cup, and one of many metal Hallmark toys, this one a 1930 Custom Biplane.

A 3-D relief of the letter R is hanging, covered in various prints of old Marvel Comics. On the other side of Indiana Jones is a canvas bag hanging from a hook that also has a leather hat that looks like the hat that Jones wears in his adventures. Just below the hat and between the straps of the canvas bag is a framed picture of Mickey and Minney kissing on the pilot’s deck of a steamboat. The rest of the walls have additional hanging monitors, televisions, a large framed copy of the mysterious Piri Reis map, supposedly supporting the theory of ancient crust displacement, candles, family pictures, a framed copy of the cover of my first self-published book, and my tea and coffee supplies.

My wife’s desk is on the other side of our office, but as to what she has on her walls, I will leave that to your imagination. On a final note, I will say that we have two Xbox One S units and all the Wolfenstein and Halo games possible. I’m more the Wolfenstein guy.

Not bad for a semi-retired sixty-four-year-old author, huh?

As for the software, you will see on the far left of the left monitor, a recent find called Bibisco. It is software to help with writing, and though I am still on the learning curve with it, it has already proved very helpful. One of the things that I have found helpful is actually putting faces to characters. It has helped me to visualize them in my stories. Next, you will see XMind 8 opened to a file I call Writing Projects 2021. I have been fascinated with Mind Mapping software for years and have used them in many different applications. Using them for story flow, scenes, and characters in fiction writing is one of those, though to be honest, I have had mixed results. That is one of the reasons for using Bibisco. Low and in front of XMind 8 is a cool little program I have used for four or five years now, Simplenote. It is a great note-keeping application that is free, available for Windows, Linux, and my Android phone. With built-in sync, what’s not to like?

On the right, you see the basic graphic for Havoc Tales that I am still working on in GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), a great substitute to use instead of paying those high prices from Adobe. Finally, overlaying the image is Evernote. Evernote is one of only a couple of applications that I actually pay for, the other being Grammarly. And for those who didn’t think that there is a native application of Evernote for Linux, there is, at least currently in Beta, which this is. Avoiding cost is just one of the wonderful reasons for going open source and Linux.

As for the actual writing, I use LibreOffice Writer. LibreOffice is a wonderful alternative to Microsoft Office and will handle anything thrown at it. And guess what? No cost.

So now that you’ve entered my domain and know a little more about what I use, tell me about your writing space and some of the tools you use when you write. I am always looking out for better ways to stay organized.

Havoc Tales

Jack Havoc and his team, including Arthur James (AJ) Tanner, Rusty (Beast) Belkin, and Teddy (Wrench) Black, have been selected to do what no ordinary sane person would ever consider. Following the brutal and savage slayings of two people in southern New Mexico, Jack and his team have arrived to find the killer and put a stop to him or it.

This first novella in a series titled Havoc Tales will be arriving well in time for Halloween.

Watch for it.

I Love It When I Get the Willies While Writing

I love it when I get the willies while writing. That’s what’s happening right now as I continue writing the first volume of Havoc Tales. Even with the lights on, I have to pause, go to the kitchen, put on a cup of coffee. Something. Anything to steer my mind away for just a few moments and let me calm down.

I’m taking one of those moments to do just that and to remind you that the first volume will soon be finished. This series of novellas follows a team led by Jack Havoc as they face the impossible, the unpredictable, and the horrifying. A throwback to the ’40s and ’50s creature films, Havoc Tales is sure to delight and hopefully frighten you.

Watch for it.

Sewing the Seeds of a Story

TeeFarm – Pixabay

Whether as a young boy you are assembling a model, a chef preparing the evening’s menu, or some haggard woman with a wart on her nose stirring a brew in the deep forest, all are working on assembling that final outcome.

The same is true of the author—assembling ideas, arranging notes, plotting the storyline, creating outlines. But the true magic of the author is not the mechanics of writing per se, but all of the inspirational and experiential tidbits that are thrown in the pot and stirred gently.

The mantra, Write What You Know, is misleading at best. Any storyline can and should possess things that you know about yourself—your reactions, your suspicions, your fears, your desires, your favorites, and so on. Your life is filled with inspiration from things you have witnessed, books you have read, movies and plays you have watched, and music you have listened to. You have driven on a dark stormy night. You have heard the cracking of thunder. You have awakened at night frightened at a sound you have heard or thought you heard. You have held and smelled a baby, you have wept over a calamity, you have cried with joy. All of that, and much more, is within you, the cabinet from which that vital ingredient can be added to your story.

And there are these little anchors which we can apply. Tangible things from our memories or our desires that can be inserted. I call them anchors, for they can become identified with and anchored to the story or to a character in the story. Anyone can write a fresh story about Santa Clause, but I would hope that they bring the anchors of his great belly, his bushy beard, his red suit, sleigh, and reindeer with him. A fresh story attempted about a skinny Santa wearing black, driving a sedan might play out, but it might run into trouble. Who is James Bond without a martini, shaken but not stirred? Who is Superman without a red cape?

One of my favorite authors, Wilbur Smith, utilizes anchors, such as settings in Africa, and a little prop that always seems to pop up, a cheroot for the character to smoke. Stephen King’s anchors are obvious, such as the continual setting of Maine in his stories and the frequent resurgence of Castle Rock.

I draw up my experiences growing up, wordworking with my father, my first cup of coffee, all the coffee ever since, my time in the Marine Corps and my faith in God. Airplanes were very important in my early imagination and often find a role in something I am writing. I also bring in a minimalist approach to technology, such as flip phones, cars and trucks without all the gadgets and chrome. Give me a black mat dash with round gages and flip switches anyday. Even the guns I choose, like writing about Sheriff Woods in Are We Monsters? and Virgin Birth, would be considered simple, opting for single-action handguns and repeater rifles like a Winchester. None of my heroes would wield an assault rifle.

So write about whatever you want to write about. What’s important is what you add to your story, drawn from your cabinet of experience and inspiration. That’s what will bring your story to life and connect with your readers.

Fallen One (09)

Stefan Keller – Pixabay

Detective Spaulding pushed back in his chair, his hands raised to his face, covering his eyes. He remained like that for several moments, pushing against the floor with his feet, rocking. “I knew this was coming,” he said, weeping in his voice. “It all had to come back one of these days.” He pressed against his eyes, wiping them as he did. When he dropped his hands, a different face emerged, one filled with anguish and fear.

“Tell me about my grandmother, Detective Spaulding.”

His head began to wobble, fresh tears appearing. “Detective Spaulding,” he spat, the dribble cascading down his chin. “Not anymore,” he languished. “Not after that case.” He pushed himself up, leaning forward on his knees. “Oh God, I need a drink. Where did my glass go?”

Jared sat back, a wisp of disgust on his face as he watched Spaulding search for and finally find his glass and fill it. The first swallow came hard and heavy. The others followed in hand clutching sips as Spaulding leaned back again, the rocking resumed. His face changed yet again, eyes blinking, as he recalled the memory that was never far away.

“It was on a Saturday,” he began, eyes now wide. “Saturday afternoon when I pulled up at your grandmother’s. The call came from one of the neighbors reporting they heard a terrible ruckus.” He chuckled, the liquor sloshing as he did. “That’s the exact word they said.” He began to fade.

“Go on.”

“I climbed the steps to the porch, looking around as I did. The curtains were closed, and I couldn’t tell if any lights were on. There was only one car in the driveway, which turned out to be hers. I put my ear to the door for a second, listening. Hearing nothing, I knocked and announced myself.” He inched his glass higher and kept it in a holding pattern as fear shoved the edges of his eyes wider apart.

“Then I heard something, barely above a whisper, at least from where I was standing outside. I wasn’t certain what was being said, but it was a woman; that much was certain. And I did hear one word. Help.” The glass broke its holding pattern and rose steadily to his lips, tilting, the golden liquid entering his thin, pale lips.

“I called out and tried the doorknob. It was unlocked, and so I slipped inside, my gun in hand. Once inside, her whimpering could be easily heard. I swept through the house, ending up in her bedroom in the back corner.” He pressed the glass to his cheek. “The door was partly open when I got there. I could see her plain as day in the far corner, sitting on the floor. She was covered in blood and crying.”

Now it was Jared who leaned forward, his mouth open. The exchange of air in his lungs was laborious and loud, at least as breathing could be. He sounded like an overheated dog panting.

“Kicking the door in, I was stunned by what I found,” Spaulding said, pointing in the air, “I saw your mother, her body in a crumpled and bloody heap.” The tears flowed freely now, his voice interrupted by nearly continuous sniffling and occasional throat clearing. He didn’t look at Jared, who by now had turned to stone and yet tremored where he sat, tears trickling down his rocky cheeks.

“As the door swung open, it stopped abruptly. I rounded the edge, clearing the room of threats with my gun leveled, and found what had blocked the door.” He sipped again, a glistening drop clinging to his lip as he pulled the glass away. “Your grandfather was laying there, his clothes shredded and bloodied, a pool of blood surrounding him.” Spaulding looked up at the spinning ceiling fan and took a deep breath. “I, uh—I don’t know if I should tell you too many of the details. It’s really—”

“I want to hear it all,” Jared said, the stone breaking away under his swelling emotions.

“You can’t imagine the blood,” he stammered, leaning forward, reaching for the bottle. His fingers shook as they approached, painting the label with his fingertips before taking the final push and grabbing it. The neck of the bottle repeatedly tapped against the edge of the glass, the liquor convulsing its way out. “It was everywhere.” His finger swept the room, and his eyes followed. “Limbs had been separated from bodies, strewn about the floor. One of your mother’s arms rested in your grandmother’s lap, and she held its hand.”

Jared got up and stepped away, turning his back on Spaulding. He was beginning to doubt his resolve to hear the whole truth.

“You want a drink?”

Jared waved his hand while Spaulding put the bottle back on the table. “You’re grandmother was, oh, I don’t know, calm? At least calmer than I would have been if I had seen my husband and daughter slaughtered like that.”

Jared turned his head part way.

“She was covered in both of their blood. She had no injuries. We found no evidence of another person being in that room, and yet—”

Jared turned around and walked back. “And yet what?”

The two men locked eyes. “I never once believed that your grandmother was responsible for the murders.”

“Then why?” Jared was shocked to hear the detective’s confession.

Spaulding’s tone darkened, his words starting to slur. He pointed at Jared, holding the glass in the same hand, the surface of liquor tossing and turning as he moved his hand. “Well, for one, everyone thought she was crazy.” He let loose a mirthless chuckle. “When they took your mother’s arm away, she started throwing a fit. And when they tried to calm her down, she started ranting about some demon killing her daughter and husband. She kept screaming it over and over again. And just when you thought she would never stop, she did. She smiled, her eyes kind of bugged out, and she started laughing. She began to describe this demon in the vaguest of terms—tall—strong—wicked—piercing eyes, that sort of thing.”

A demon. No wonder they thought she was crazy. “But you obviously didn’t think she was crazy.”

“Now, I didn’t exactly say that,” Spaulding said. “I just don’t think she was responsible.” He slammed the glass down the table and jumped to his feet, taking a moment to get his balance. “How anyone could look at the evidence and point the finger at her?” He waved both hands. “She weighs what, 90 pounds at the most? A 90-pound old woman tore off arms and a head, shredding their chests, abdomens, and legs down to the bone?” Now his head started turning. “There was no way in hell.”

“Then, why was she accused?”

The mirthless chuckle returned, with eyes that matched. “The truth was that there was no way of explaining what happened. Your grandmother, already acting crazy, was an easy target. Just lock her up and bury what really happened. It was deemed best for the town.” He fell down in his chair, the frame groaning in response. “But I couldn’t go along with it. So—here I am.” He grinned.

“Early retirement.”

“Kicked out and told to keep my mouth shut.”

Jared shoved his hands deep in his pockets, stretching his back as he did. As the shock began to subside, he began to tumble it all around in his mind. “A demon,” he said, his eyes glimmering in wonder.

“That’s what she said,” Spaulding said. “Say, by the way, what brought you by my place anyhow? It wasn’t Landel by chance, was it?”

This story of Fallen One, is a first draft. I encourage anyone to provide comments, make suggestions, and point out problems.

Jared continued talking with Detective Spaulding, and what he found out about the murders and his grandmother would change everything.

Comments welcome.

Have a great day.

Rollin

Fallen One (08)

Stefan Keller – Pixabay

It was late in the afternoon, and the neighborhood was strangely quiet. Jared walked the path from the street where he left his bike parked in haste. He ascended the three wooden steps leading to the porch even faster. He now stood on the edge of the porch, the front door to the house only a few feet in front of him, hidden behind the aged screen door. All the windows and blinds that he could see were closed, and those few feet to the door felt like a mile.

He held the crumpled note in his hand. Nothing had changed. He had read it several times now, but he felt compelled to look at it again. A name and an address were all that were there. It held the same address as the faded numbers on the house. The name he presumed was inside, hiding behind closed windows and doors or not hiding at all. Maybe the name was oblivious to his presence on the porch.

Maybe the name wasn’t even living there any longer. Maybe the name was dead.

Why was he so nervous? He had already asked himself that question a hundred times since he left the barn, and still, he hadn’t come up with a good reason. Standing in the presence of Landel, he was more than ready to face his past. And now?

Jared shoved the note in his pocket, his hands falling to his side. His fingers were quite animated as he stared at the screen door. It hung loosely, a little out of square. In its present condition, the screen door wouldn’t do much good. It was kind of the way he felt at the moment.

His vapid finger movements fell limp, giving way to the buildup of courage that had already started at a snail’s pace. A deep breath followed as he lifted his foot and stepped forward, a gust of wind blowing as he did. Now it was only half a mile to go.

With his other foot bringing up the rear, he took another look at the windows, his head jerking sideways, his progress abandoned as he stumbled back to the top step. The curtain was open for only a moment, and only by a few inches, but in that time and in those inches, he saw an eye. It must belong to the name. His fingers started dancing again until he heard the click of the lock and the squeak of the door. He backstepped to the middle tread, the wood groaning under his weight.

The eye reappeared through the screen door along with the rest of his face.

“You are on my porch, so I assume you want something.”

Jared looked down at his feet, off the porch, and on the step. It was an irritatingly small point. He let it go.

“Well?”

“I am looking for Detective Spaulding.”

Both eyes squinted, and a hand appeared, wiping his mouth. “Who the hell are you?”

Dancing fingers curled inward, gently at first. “Jared Cooper,” he said, his mouth suddenly dry. “My grandmother—”

“I know who she is.” The eyes looked this way and that. The door squeaked some more, and the screen door wobbled open. The flesh of Detective Spaulding’s face thrust forward. “Come inside.”

“Jared hesitated.”

“Now!” he barked before letting go of the screen.

Inside, Jared tread lightly, easing the door closed as he looked around the room. It had a certain lived-in look, that is, if you’re a former cop struggling with your past. He saw at least three ashtrays, placed in strategic locations, each of them at the heaping stage. The small table next to the recliner was home to ring stains and a heavy-bottomed glass tumbler holding an inch of amber liquid. The drink’s identity was a mystery to Jared as he looked at several open bottles of liquor on the coffee table and the one nearby on the floor.

His television was on but muted, an old game show in progress. A floor lamp was nearby, its shade removed, the exposed bulb nicotine stained. Clutters of newpapers, magazines, and dog hair filled in the rest of the scene.

He heard a noise in the kitchen. “Grab a seat,” Spaulding said, the sound of running water following.

Moving to the far end of the sofa, Jared chose the dog hair and sat down.

Former Detective Mike Spaulding walked around the corner, his face glistening from the encounter with water, his air slicked back. He almost looked like a new man. He walked into the living room, apologizing for nothing, and fell into his recliner. It received him with a leathery groan.

“You seem—nervous,” he said, offering nothing else. He crossed his fingers and raised his hands, hiding the lower part of his face behind them.

“You—you were the lead investigator in my mother’s murder?”

Spaulding’s eyes didn’t flinch. “And your grandfather’s as well,” he said, making a note of the young man’s omission.

“Uh, yeah,” Jared said, his eyes falling. “I didn’t know him that well.”

“Five years old,” the detective said, “or were you six?”

“It happened a week before my sixth birthday,” Jared said, the tension mounting. He gripped his knees. It didn’t help.

Spaulding dropped his hands and reached for his drink. “Yeah, well, I’m sorry for your losses.” He took a sip and set the glass down, carefully eying Jared as he did. “So, Mr. Cooper, what is it that you want from me?”

Jared’s fingers dug deep into his knees as he willed himself to look up and look Spaulding in the eyes. “I want to know what really happened.”

And with that response, it was Spaulding who now looked away and reached again for his glass. There was a pronounced tremor in his hand as he did. “What really happened,” he repeated, followed by a nervous chuckle. He lifted the glass off the table, where it hovered. He stared into the amber prism of the glass and held his gaze for some time before, in a moment of weakness, his fingers let slip the glass. It bounced on the table, the spray of liquor landing on his arm, leg, the table, and floor. But despite the calamity, he didn’t move. His empty hand was now holding nothing but air.

This story of Fallen One, is a first draft. I encourage anyone to provide comments, make suggestions, and point out problems.

Jared’s first meeting with Detective Spaulding is gripped in tension.

Comments welcome.

Have a great day.

Rollin