Across the Realm: Life Always Finds a Way is a story of the clash of two advanced civilizations. In the North, Humans live under a defined system of segregation and rely strongly on science, while in the South, the physically evolved humans live communally and are under the guidance of a deity they call “Mother.”
Separating these two and their land masses is a boiling sea and an impenetrable Southern Force Field. The two sides have been at war for longer than a century and now their planet is facing a catastrophe neither one can handle without the other.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF READ REVIEW
There are several literary genres in Across the Realm: Life Always Finds a Way. Let’s start with Science Fiction, the book’s main genre. The year is 2077 and once again, the North and the South are at war. However, this time the whole world is involved. For decades? Centuries? Millenia? Well, at least yesterday, these two enemies have been trying to invade each other’s hemisphere. One to conquer and stop the war, the other to take over and control them. Even to the point of making them…I can’t say it. This, you will have to find out for yourself. Now, pan over to Greg, the commander of the Northern Hemisphere, as he sits in a room watching a video. In it, Naledi jumps three floors into the air and makes a perfect landing on a corridor up above. Fascinated, Greg watches the video over and over again. Not because of what she has done, but because he finds her beautiful. Thus begins the Romance. Wait, how and where did he get these pictures and who or what is a Nedge? More importantly, what is the catastrophe they are about to face? Ahhh! That is the Mystery of Across the Realm: Life Always Finds a Way. Let us not forget those boiling waters . . . what is it about them or should I say, what is in them? A little Fantasy perhaps! Now for the Adventure—hmmm, I’ll leave that for you to discover.
What makes Across the Realm, Life Always Finds a Way a UNIQUE read is that all of the Genres mentioned above are seamlessly tied together to make an astounding, amazing, mind-boggling, surprising, wondrous story. What makes it ETHNIC is the people of Earth.
Across the Realm: Life Always Finds a Way is recommended for Young Adults 16 plus and Adults
BIO – Isobel Mitton is a Canadian writer born to an African American mother and an African father. She spent most of her life living in other people’s countries. An avid storyteller, she insists that is how she wants to be remembered when she dies. She is a proud nerd and wants people to know that beauty goes with brains!Isobel didn’t choose to be a writer. Writing chose her. In her novels, she seeks to entertain, excite, grip your attention for hours on end and give you food for thought. She wants desperately to take you out of the mundane and into the stars of scifi/fantasy where anything and everything is possible. She is an avid writer of scifi/fantasy novels, comics and screenplays.
She hopes one day to the able to write music and to that end, she is teaching herself how to play an acoustic guitar.
She really hates talking about herself and her past achievements and so she will stop boring the world right now. Besides, there is nothing in her past that beats the present or the future.
Her one wish is that many people read her work. They don’t have to buy it. They just have to read it, because she is a story teller. It is her one true purpose in life.
To find out more about her work and to connect with her personally, check out http://www.acrosstherealm.com
She can also be found on Twitter: https://twitter.com/IsobelMitton
And instagram: IsobelMitton
And Facebook: Isobel Mitton
See you there if you want to part of her crazy self.
Mackenzie Clair is looking for a fresh start. She thinks she’ll find it in her favorite childhood vacation spot, but returning to Donn’s Hill awakens more than nostalgia. Mac regains a lost psychic ability to talk to the dead, and the poltergeist haunting her apartment is desperate to make her use that gift to find his killer.
Aided by her new roommate—a spirited Tortoiseshell cat named Striker—and the ghost-hunting crew of the nationally televised show Soul Searchers, Mac struggles to learn how to use her powers, but she’d better get a handle on them fast, because someone in town is hiding a deadly secret. If Mac can’t somehow divine the truth, Donn’s Hill will never be the same.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF READ REVIEW
Donn’s Hill opens with a bang. Within the first seven pages, the mystery starts. Not in the usual way with the police, a little old lady, or a high profile detective looking at the body and trying to find clues. No, this story starts with Mackenzie Clair, a twenty-seven-year-old woman sleeping in a hotel bed.
Yes, the hotel is sleazy, rundown, and there was a lingering odor of stale cigarettes, but the room was clean and the price was right. Deep into sleep, she is startled by the weight of an intruder as he sits down on the side of her bed.
He makes no sounds, she can’t even hear him breathing, but she knows he’s there because she can smell a foul odor like rotting garbage. What does he want? Why doesn’t speak? Is he holding his breath? She is. After several minutes, she finally gets the nerve to turn on the lights. Her room is empty. What! Did she…? Wait! I’ve got to stop here. You’ve got to discover the rest for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
Donn’s Hill is a paranormal mystery adventure. What makes it a UNIQUE read is the plot. While there are no twists, finding the killer is possible but impossible at the same time. THAT IS SOOOO GOOD!
Donn’s Hill is recommended for Adults and Young Adults 16 and above.
BIO – Caryn Larrinaga is a Basque-American mystery, horror, and fantasy writer living in Utah with her husband and cats. Despite obtaining a degree in Anthropology (which is much cooler than you might think), she explored several career paths before deciding that she had to follow her passion. Suddenly, writing fiction was the only thing that made sense.
Watching scary movies through split fingers terrified Caryn as a child and inspires her to write now. She lives in a 90-year-old house with a colorful history, and the creaking walls and narrow hallways send her running (never walking) up the stairs from her basement whenever she has no other choice but to go down there. Exploring her fears through writing makes Caryn feel a little bit less foolish for wanting a buddy to accompany her into the tool shed.
When her fingers aren’t glued to her laptop keyboard, Caryn also enjoys binge-watching superhero television shows, reading, playing video games, and filling up her phone’s flash memory with pictures of her cats. She loves music, and plays the bass guitar.
Caryn is an active member of the League of Utah Writers and the Utah Chapter of the Horror Writers Association.
the Horse who wanted to be a Unicorn
Illustrated by INSIMA
Luke was a strong, stately, well-built horse who lived in a town with other horses. He enjoyed spending time with his horse-friends in the stable and with the little girls of the community. But there was one thing about Luke that made him feel ashamed and insecure among his friends. His body was covered in dark brown spots from top to toe. Luke figured that there was only one way through which he would feel more accepted among his friends – he had to look like a unicorn, beautifully white and magically majestic.
Old Brownie, the wisest horse in the stable, saw Luke’s sadness and tried to comfort him. He quickly came up with a brilliant plan to help Luke become a unicorn. Luke was very excited to join in the plan, but little did he know that Old Brownie was trying to teach him an important life lesson.
Will Luke realize his dream of becoming a unicorn? Will he be able to deal with the thrilling consequences of being a unicorn? Will Luke’s friends approve of his new look?
A DIFFERENT KIND OF READ REVIEW
We’ve all been there, well maybe not all of us. But you know how it is, one day you step out of the house, and someone doesn’t like, your hair, your clothes, the way you talk, the way you laugh. Simply they don’t like you being you. Of course no one tells you directly. Mostly, you hear whispers or a few come and start making fun of you.
Now do you see what Luke is going through. Hmmm if he only knew. Knew what you ask. Well that he’s really. Oh you almost got me. I don’t want to be the person that gives away the ending. You’ll find out for yourself when you read Luke – The Horse Who Wanted to be a Unicorn. What makes Luke – The Horse Who Wanted to be a Unicorn a UNIQUE read is its ending. Now, you know I’m not going the ending! But, I can’t wait for you to read it.
Luke – The Horse Who Wanted to be a Unicorn was written for First Time Readers (1-8), but Parents, I really feel that some Middle Grade Readers and Young Adults to 15 could benefit from this book.
BIO: Anita Hager (1980-) is a mother of two who lives in a small cozy
town in Norway. She and her husband also share their home with four cats. Her imaginative and meaningful children’s stories follow in the tradition of her Grandmother who read to her when she was a little girl. Now Anita reads her own stories to her two little boys at night and has decided to share them with others.
You will see her love of animals reflected on each page as well as her dream to help children grow up knowing how special they are.
She has created The Be the Magic you Are series of books for children. Books with stories that inspire children to be the magic they are by being themselves and reaching for their dreams. Most of the stories are based on animal characters that combine great stories with great illustrations.
Her saying is “Be yourself and you are always a unicorn! Be the magic you are!”
A Children’s Guide to Rabbits provides information about pet rabbits which is understandable for children, and in a way they can easily follow. The book gives them, a step-by-step guide on how to look after rabbits in their own backyards, from shelter to food to playtime, and everything in between. Later in the book readers are taken on an adventure with Radar and Jupiter. Where they will discover they are smart, adorable and full of fun!
A DIFFERENT KIND OF READ REVIEW
They’re so cute and cuddly, but as shown in A Children’s Guide to Rabbits, taking care of them is a lot of responsibility. Don’t worry, A Children’s Guide to Rabbits shows you step-by-step how to build their home (hutch as they prefer), feed them, take care of their physical needs and playtime, and to simply make them happy. That’s what this book is—simple guidance that children understand. But even I learned a few things, like phishing. Did you know that rabbits could do that? What is phishing you ask? Now you know that I can’t tell you that. I don’t want to spoil it. I can tell you that that rabbit food, (specifically iceberg lettuce) isn’t, because it’s harmful to them. What makes A Children’s Guide to Rabbits a UNIQUE read is that there is a fiction picture book within the guide. It’s called Radar and Jupiter and Their Capilano Back Yard Adventures. The things those two can get into…well, you’ll see.
A Children’s Guide to Rabbits is recommended for all ages. First Time Readers (1 – 8) and Middle Grade Readers to age ten, will enjoy “Radar and Jupiter and Their Capilano Back Yard Adventures.” While everyone will find the Guide very helpful in caring for or deciding to purchase a rabbit as a pet.
BIO Angelina Sommer is a high school student at Carson Graham Secondary. She wrote a book about how to take care of rabbits called, “A Children’s Guide to Rabbits with Radar and Jupiter,” in 2015.The book is unique because it is written for children by a child. She writes in her free time and takes English grammar lessons. She lives in North Vancouver, British Columbia, with her family and enjoys caring for her rabbits. She has owned her two rabbits for around four years. Angelina was “the perfect example of what not to do” when deciding to get a rabbit as a pet. She realized she didn’t know anything about how to take care of rabbits and she needed to do research. The research available was difficult to understand, especially for children. Angelina researched on-line, she met with a vet and she spoke with a rabbit rescue organization in Richmond called Bandaids for Bunnies. She also included an adventure story because the book is for children and she wants them to have fun as they learn. In 2016 she published a story book about her two rabbits, “Radar and Jupiter and Their Capilano Back Yard Adventures.” She also has other interests such as dancing, playing piano and dramatic improvisation. For more information about Angelina and her guide to taking care of rabbits, go to www.radarandjupiter.com.
With a wink and a nod to such movie greats as Thelma & Louise and The Breakfast Club,Snapshots at the Fontaine Motel is about six eighteen-year-old friends in 1996 who seek immediate revenge after one of them is brutally attacked. But when their vigilante justice accidentally leaves the attacker dead, they flee Michigan to save their own lives as the FBI inches dangerously close. While hiding out in an isolated Oklahoma motel, they discover not only themselves, but find love and uncover shocking deadly secrets that will change everything and threaten the very lives they’re frantic to protect!
A DIFFERENT KIND OF READ (REVIEW)
Snapshots at the Fontaine Motel intertwines romance and mystery seamlessly. Although the clues are very subtle, they lead to some very powerful and wicked twists. The story is about six teenagers who have been friends since grade school. When they discover that one of them has been raped by the school bully, five of them decide to take matters into their own hands, and the results are… Ahhh, I almost said too much. To continue, things aren’t always as they seem, and here’s where the twisting and turning begins with an astounding intensity. When it’s all over, the outcome gives you one of those,“Humph I didn’t see that comin moments!”
There are two UNIQUE things about Snapshots at the Fontaine Motel. One is the way television shows, movies, and music from the 1990’s was included. Sometimes as a reference and at other times as part of the story. The other thing was the way you were drawn into the different romance stories of both Jill and Matt.
It’s midsummer. David Elbert’s final semester at the university comes to an end. For this fresh Engineer, the daunting task of saving a company from imminent disaster soon pales in comparison to the multimillion-dollar stash of drugs and money found in a luxurious property he comes to own. His nerves start to singe. Criminals come out of the wood work. Escalation is imminent. When police and drug enforcement agents pop onto the scene, all hell quickly breaks loose. At this point, pure survival instinct takes over.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF READ (REVIEW)
When I started reading Intrinsic Encounters I expected mystery, intrigue, espionage, and a spy thriller. Why? I’m not sure, that’s just what the cover spoke to me. Instead, I got the longest most hilarious first chapter I’ve ever read. It gave you all of David’s backstory. And the things he did as a kid. Hm, hm, hm. His parents way of resolving the problem–priceless. I’m still laughing.
Getting over my initial shock that this was not a mystery was replaced by some well written humor. This hype was immediately replaced as we returned to the present and David presented a more somber mood.
Then Elise came into the picture, David’s girl friend. No, not girlfriend, his friend that is a girl. That is until David realizes his like for her has moved into love. Aaaah, a budding romance. This is a romance novel. Of course not! Let me be clear that relationship does develop throughout the novel, but—there was that thing you know, that thing that centered around Displaytek (the place where David did his internship). That engineering thing that got him there in the first place and was the primary story of the book. Right, Let me explain it more clearly, It was that thing that some of us would label as technology. While others would call it geeky and nerdy. Oh! Or science fiction as those of us who must categorize books into genres would call it.
No mystery! I should have really been let down. But, I like humor. I like romance. Wait, I even like science fiction. Besides, there was a little bit of mystery with that drug thing. Yet, you already know about that.
The UNIQUE thing about Intrinsic Encounters is the suspense. Yes, you heard me, it is a suspense thriller, (my mystery) with lots of action and adventure. When David walks into Displaytek on the first day, and talks to Anje Tille of Human Resources, he asks her what is expected of him as an intern. Her answer is what kept me turning the pages of this book. With characters like Henrik Wang and John Nwosu, Intrinsic Encounters is also an ETHNIC read.
This book is recommended for Young Adults from age 16 and Adults.
Verónica pushes through the other seventh grade kids in our breezeway, speaking over the noise, “María! What’s wrong with Hannah?”
What does she want? Like she suddenly cares about Hannah, cares that the nurse sent her home, cares that her eyes were glassy, her face swollen and her whole body sagging. I begged Hannah to stay home, but she wouldn’t listen.
Thus begins a multicultural novel set in Salinas, California, in which 12-year-old María Cortez discovers her inner strength and uses it to save her best friend, Hannah, a Caucasian girl who lives next door. As the story unfolds, a presumed enemy becomes a friend, a mysterious old women, a curandera, becomes her mentor, she learns why the space on her birth certificate for father is blank, she discovers her Huichol roots and in the end she choses a life career.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF READ (REVIEW)
When I started reading María’s Beads, I thought I knew a lot about Hispanic culture, I was pleasantly surprised to know that I didn’t. I loved the storytelling aspect of María’s Beads, and the way in which certain things were presented in the story. What certain things you ask? You know I can’t tell you, that would spoil the story for you.
I can tell you that she used the same method of an important historical figure to solve the problem of Hannah’s illness. What, you want more information about this historical figure and what she did? Really! So you can be mad at me later for giving away the story. Lets go on.
The UNIQUE thing about María’s Beads is the power Maria receives from the beads and from her lessons with La Curandera. María’s Beads is also an ETHNIC read because Maria learns that her Hispanic roots are a mix of Huichol and Brazilian.
I really, really liked this wonderful, amazing, historical story for Middle Grade Readers 10 – 12 and Young Adults to age 14.
BIO: One evening my wife told me the story of her 13-year-old best friend who lived next door to where she grew up in Salinas, California. One day, she contracted kidney disease, her parents refused medical intervention and the girl died. I was struck by the emotional impact of such an event on a pre-teen. It propelled my wife out of a near-poverty existence and into a life-time career as a medical professional, impacting hundreds of patients. This book is my attempt to capture that motivation for pre-teen girls without the death.
Charles is coordinator and meeting moderator for the Sonoma County Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). He has published three middle-grade novels as well as work in three literary anthologies, Tiny-Lights literary website and the Santa Rosa Press democrat newspaper. He was co-editor of the Redwood Writers 2012 anthology, Call of the Wild, and is an active member of the Redwood Writers a branch of the California Writer’s Club (CWC).
THE STRUGGLE: MOM AND THE SUMMERTIME BLUES Patrice Smith, Donna Smith, Shannon Smith, Charity Smith, and Faith Smith
Illustrator/Artist Patrice Smith
Editor Jermaine Smith
The school bell rings and school’s out. It’s time for summer! You rush out into the hall, say goodbye to your friends and run to the school bus. You just can’t wait for summer to begin. But for these four girls, it’s the complete opposite…
Meet four sisters: Diamond, Sheila, Crystal, and Felicity
Nice girls who loofa school and dread summer. Yeah, you heard right dread summer. Read about this comical tale of how their mother makes their lives miserable during their “fun” summer.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF READ REVIEW
Many, many, times over the last 23 years, my son has accused me of being from another planet. However, there have been too many times to count that I’ve wondered if that was true about him. Okay, yeah, I was there when he was born so,iIn reality this is just the difference in thinking between parent and child. The Struggle: Mom and the Summertime Blues is about such a difference. It is written by four sisters (age 10 – 13/14) who hate summer vacation. Really! They hate summer vacation. Why, you wonder? Everyone knows that summer is all about fun.. You have all these plans in your mind that you’re gonna do this and you’re gonna do that but then Mom has all these things for you to do. Right?
As you start reading Diamond’s story, you find yourself laughing a few minutes later. This theme of gut busting laughter continues on through Sheila, Crystal, and Felicity. Felicity—Oh, I have to stop, no spoilers here.
I will say this, the one thing that makes this book UNIQUE, is that it’s based on fact. As I mentioned before it’s quite hilarious and a lot of fun to read. Kids will identify with everything that has been written by their age appropriate counterparts while parents will enjoy Mom’s redemption.
Another thing I found interesting about The Struggle: Mom and the Summertime Blues was how after being given the project of writing a book about their summer, each girl took on a different identity, and made mom the villain. Why is it always the moms? I guess it’s because we give out the orders, schedule the activities, make the food choices, and—well the list goes on.
Here is a little insight for you kids of eight to thirteen, Mom, in this ETHNIC read featuring African-American characters, gives you a warning to let you know that an adult is now writing the book.If you want to know what your parents are thinking and how they come to some of the decisions they make about your life. READ ON!
The Struggle: Mom and the Summertime Blues is recommend for Middle Grade and Young Adult Readers to age 14. However, parents will love it too.
BIO(S) The Smiths (Patrice, Donna, Shannon, Charity, and Faith r – l) are a Christian family that reside in the south.
Faith Smith-She is the writer for the character, Felicity. She is 10 years old and a Fourth grader who loves to draw and have fun. She also likes to read books and watch movies.
Charity Smith-The writer for the character, Crystal. Charity is 11 years old and a Fifth grader who loves math, trivia, origami, reading, writing, and dancing.
Shannon Smith-The writer for the character Shelia. Shannon loves all things fashion and like her character, she enjoys playing her clarinet. She also loves to eat almonds every day. She is 13 years old and a Seventh grader who can’t wait until she can buy her own house. She also likes to read in her free time. Arts and crafts are her favorite things to do.
Donna Smith-The writer for the character Diamond. Donna loves fine arts like singing, acting, dancing, and cooking. She is 14 years old and in the Ninth grade. She is a very outgoing and creative person who loves to create new things, meet new people and write songs and poems.
Patrice Smith-The writer for the character Mom. Much like Mom, she is a wife and mother of four. She loves to learn and make new things. She is also interested in healthy living, gardening and technology. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana with a B.S. in Human Resources and Family Studies where she studied Marketing of Textiles and Apparel. She is a Master Cosmetologist, an author and a health coach.
The elevator doors closed and, with their mirror finish on the inside, Holly inspected her disguise carefully. The red wig, covering her own graying hair, looked natural. It should for the price she paid. And the tasteful navy pantsuit fit the image perfectly, all very professional. Just as she wanted it. Her clipboard looked official, her gloves, the case. Everything in place.
It really is a shame it’s come to this.
The bell rang as the elevator stopped on the ninth floor, and Holly’s reflected image split in half as a hallway opened up before her. Near the end of the hall was a cart of cleaning supplies. Just what she had been looking for.
On top of the cart was a small transistor radio. Probably Japanese, she thought. They’re always making electronic trinkets these days. Blasting out of the little speaker were the opening bars of ‘Gimme Shelter’. Out of the open door next to the cart came a kid who looked like just the type to be listening to that noise: a greasy-haired young man, whose vacant stare snapped into surprise when he saw her. His name tag read ‘Joey’.
“Is something wrong, ma’am?” he said, looking at her bag and clipboard, his right hand clutching his spray bottle, while his left held a damp rag.
“Not at all,” she said, “you’re just in the room I’m to inspect. I trust the front desk was correct in saying that it’s not occupied?” “Oh yeah, it’s totally empty. Just got done cleaning it myself, so there shouldn’t be anything wrong on the inspection, ma’am.”
Joey looked nervous. She couldn’t have a nervous kid getting in her way.
“My inspection has nothing to do with your cleaning, Joey, though I’m sure you’ve done a fine job. This concerns California State Regulations on hotel rooms. An associate of mine will be up here shortly, as well.”
He nodded his head in understanding, his long hair flopping around as he did so. Where did they hire these people? “No problem, ma’am. You have a good time with your inspecting, then.”
He went on about his business, nodding, and listening to those Rolling Stones of his, taking his cart further down the hall to a room on the other side. It really is a wonder, she thought, how easy it was to get past him. Is a clipboard and pantsuit all it takes for these bums?
The room was 918. She went in, closed the door with her gloved hand, locked it, and sat her black, faux-leather case down on the bureau. She took note of where everything was. The window was across from the door, and at this height, and time of day, it was very unlikely anyone would be able to see inside from the street.
Scanning the room, she took notice of one of the beds. She strained as she lifted up the mattress without disturbing the newly-laid linens as best she could, which were of a garish red. Another stroke of good luck. If any blood should get on them, it would probably not even be noticed, provided it was blotted away quickly. Underneath the bed and box spring was ample space for his small frame, and with the bed skirt across the bottom, nobody would see anything.
In the bathroom were fresh towels, which she gathered up and sat on the bed. Two large ones, two hand towels, and four washcloths. All of them orange. It would probably be enough. It would have to be, in any case. The throw-pillow was dense and thick, which was good. She figured that if he sat on the bed, facing the window, the shot would exit his head and end up somewhere in the corner where a small hole likely wouldn’t be found.
Quickly, she looked outside to see if the No. 6 bus was pulling up. Checking her watch, she still had six and a half minutes, and that’s if it were exactly on time. Ten minutes, then.
Holly went back to her case and unzipped it. From it she pulled the Beretta 70, its magazine, and a silencer. She double-checked the chamber. A gun is always loaded, especially when it isn’t. Seeing that it was clean, with smooth action, she screwed on the silencer, inserted the magazine, and pulled back on the slide to bring one .32 ACP round into the chamber, waiting to do its grim business in less than twenty minutes, give or take.
She hid the gun carefully under one of the pillows near the towels, where Stan wouldn’t see it. Handle toward her for ease of access. Everything was in place.
She would fire, catch his head on the pillow, and wrap the towels around him to stop the blood from getting everywhere. Then, difficult as it would be, she’d get his body under the bed, hope that the gunshot – though suppressed – wouldn’t have aroused suspicion, and make sure everything looked completely normal. With the satchel of money and her own black case, she would exit the room, head straight for the elevator, and leave Los Angeles. And good riddance.
Standing by the window, she had nothing else to do but wait for the bus to come.
One of the new 71 Cadillacs drove by. Bright, shining red. Maybe she’d get one of those when she’d settled down and the smoke cleared.
After all, it was the least Stan could do for her after those years, all those things they’d done. It’s not like she’d even wanted to do it, but he was always so persuasive. “Just think of the quality of life,” he’d say when talking about the ransom money, “no more worrying about anything at all. You’ll have your balcony, overlooking the ocean, fresh sea breeze filling our lungs. It’s all within our reach, honey!”
And, stupidly, she believed it. That persuasiveness was one thing she was happy to have learned from him, and it almost made her laugh that it would be used against him.
The business was far too serious, and far too prone to go wrong for her to start laughing now. If she was to have any freedom, any of life of her own, any kind of distance between past and future, then everything had to go one way and one way only. Sure, part of her hoped that he’d been caught at the drop off. But knowing him, he’d pin her as an accomplice and soon the police would be on her, too. At least she wouldn’t go down alone.
Either way, if he didn’t come off of that bus with satchel in hand, she would leave the hotel immediately and drive for as long and far as she could. She would not be taking any chances.
At 4:12, the bus finally arrived. White with its thin red and yellow stripes across the middle, it stood out among all the other traffic like a big white whale. Several people got off, while Holly looked intently. She counted the people getting off. Three, four, five – where is he? Other people are already beginning to get on. For a second, it was beginning to look like she would need to resort to plan B, but just as a group of three old women were stepping on, there went Stan, awkwardly pushing past them on his way out, satchel in hand.
Holly felt a coldness run through her as she saw him, and once he was close enough to the hotel, she put the radio up to her mouth.
“I’m in room 918,” she said.
He gave a little wave to show that he’d heard her through his earpiece and went into the hotel lobby below her.
Another quick inspection of the room, another ‘play-though’, in her mind of where she would stand, what she would say, and how she would direct him. She breathed heavily, feeling for the first time that it may actually work.
There was a knock at the door a few minutes later. Holly saw Stan through the peephole and opened the door for him, locking it back up after he brushed past her. He was out of breath and sweating in his stark black suit.
“Did you take the stairs up here?” she asked.
“No,” he said, “it’s just nerve-wracking carrying this thing around.”
He slumped the old, brown leather satchel on one of the beds and proceeded to open it. If it was all accounted for, Holly was looking at $750,000 in cash.
“You can see if it’s all there,” he continued, wiping his face with his handkerchief. “I obviously didn’t have any time to count it since the drop. I gave it a quick looking-through to make sure it wasn’t just a few hundreds on top with nothing below. I wasn’t followed, as best I could tell. No funny business like last time, but still, I shouldn’t have chosen a bus. You know, taking public transportation in this town with all of this was taking an awful risk, Holly.”
Indeed, it had been a ridiculous idea, but he was so certain, at the time, that it was better than having a car that could be recognized and remembered. She’d argued against it, but he was already set in his mind. Nothing else she could do.
“Then why did you do it?”
“I couldn’t think of anything else and we were running out of time. But shit, Holly, you have no idea how many people were staring at that case. We’re going to have to rethink our whole system after this one, that’s for sure. This haul will give us plenty of time, though.”
“Just as soon as we figure out where we’re going,” she said. He let out a heavy sigh.
“Holly, why do you think we’re here? Have you been doing anything at all today except sitting around and waiting for me to come? We’re supposed to be a team, remember? And if you can’t get your head together on this, then we’re going to have a problem. A serious problem.”
Holly got up and shut the case, taking it off the bed and making note of how he was sitting, which was facing the bureau with his hands folded. He wasn’t in a good enough spot and she’d have to move him.
“We can discuss it right now,” she said. “Clearly you haven’t thought of anything, either, other than your famous ‘drive to Mexico’ plan, which I’m almost certain is nowhere near as easy as you make it out to be.”
“Damn it! Will you quit hounding me on that? How am I supposed to get anything done if you’re going to be here shooting down every idea I have?”
“And how are we supposed to not attract attention with you yelling like this? Keep your voice down, Stan. It’s dangerous.”
He let out another impatient breath. “Why do I even bother asking you? It would be much simpler if I just took a map and found a place on my own. But no, you have to have some say in it, too. And you absolutely insist on everything waiting until the very last minute. How’s that for dangerous?”
Holly sat down on the bed next to him and lit herself a cigarette.
“You and I both know,” she said, blowing smoke into the rest of the room, “that if you think about something for too long, you worry yourself to death and are liable to make a mistake. I’d give you more time if you could be trusted with it, Stan.”
Stan shook his head as he stared off blankly at the wall.
“You don’t think that having to risk our freedom, and my life, on these pick-ups isn’t enough to earn your trust? Holly, you know I love you, but let’s just get this over with and be done with it. I can’t handle this any more. I don’t even know why I listen to you in the first place!”
Stan got up and paced around the room, wiping his face with his hands in frustration. She couldn’t use this. She had to get him to sit in just the right spot, otherwise one little slip-up could ruin the whole thing. Her stomach was already in a knot, and with every little nervous tic from him, it twisted that much more.
“First you’re going to have to calm down,” she said. “I am calm!”
“You know you need to calm down before we talk about something serious. You need to pay exact attention, remember everything clearly, and be willing to keep your cool when it’s time to act. Right now, though, you’re too agitated, and when people get agitated, they make mistakes. And when people like us make mistakes, it all falls apart. You understand?”
Stan nodded, but he still kept pacing and looking off into space. She got up, snuffed the half-smoked cigarette in the ashtray, and held him in her arms. Even having to do so felt strange to her, as though through her touch he’d feel what it was she was going to do to him. Would he feel her nervousness? Would he react and somehow see her betrayal?
But he didn’t. He softened in her touch, even as far as letting her take off his jacket, and she knew that’s when she could guide him. “I want you to sit down,” she said, indicating one edge of the bed nearest the window, “and look out there.”
Despite the impatience on his part, Stan did as he was instructed.
“So what am I supposed to be looking at?”
“Just relax, Stanley. I know you’re upset, and I know this has been terrible and difficult, but you have to let yourself be calm. I want you to breathe slowly, and look out the window.”
Stan’s breathing began to slow, and she watched him intently. The wrong movement at the wrong time could throw everything off.
“Look out there,” she said, pointing through the window, “what do you see?” “The sky?”
“And what’s significant about that sky?”
“I don’t know, it’s just the sky. It’s clear, I guess.”
“Exactly,” she said, inching towards the pillow on the other bed behind him. “It’s clear, and if you let yourself feel clear, then your future will be clear.”
He swung around quickly to look at her, which made her heart skip a beat. She showed nothing on her face. “Have you been talking with that hippy kid outside?”
She smiled. “Don’t be ridiculous. Keep looking, Stanley. You need to have a clear head or else this whole thing may come crashing down on us. Do you trust me?”
There was an uncomfortably long pause between her question and his answer, which made her blood run cold.
“Yeah,” he said, turning back to the window, “sorry.”
“It’s all right. Just keep looking out there. Or close your eyes. Whichever. Just imagine how nice it’ll be when we’re off in some little town where no one knows who we are, not having to worry about a single thing, because it’s all done. It’s all behind us, without anyone to tell us what to do, where to go, or anything.”
She saw his eyes close as he breathed much more slowly. Without any more hesitation, she gripped the handle of the Beretta 70 in her right hand, and took the pillow firmly in her left. His eyes were still closed. The angle would be just about right.
“Can you see it?” she said, as she raised the gun and pillow into position.
“Yeah,” he said, “I think I can.”
The time had come, as though everything had come down and converged on this one point, with all signs blaring and flashing to do it.
Don’t waste any more time.
Don’t let him turn around, just do it.
As she put her finger on the trigger, there was the sound of the lock being opened and within a second, the greasy-haired cleaning kid came barging through the room.
“Sorry guys, I just forgot my—“
Without thinking, Holly instinctively swung the pistol around and fired at the kid.
The report from the suppressed pistol was still loud, like a car door being slammed, but far quieter than it would have been otherwise.
Two shots missed as he scrambled out the door, but one hit him square in the shoulder. At least that’s what it looked like for what brief a time she saw him. And for a split second, she forgot about Stan.
Suddenly, there was a hand around hers, and she felt Stan up against her, pushing his weight against hers, trying with all his might to wrest the gun away from her.
“What the hell are you doing!?” he yelled as they fell to the floor.
In the struggle, two more shots rang out, one hitting the bed and another shattering the sink in the bathroom. For the tiniest moment, she could see the silencer smoking.
He slammed her hand against the bureau until she finally let go of the pistol. He kicked it away, and though she made a lunge for it, he was already there to knock her, stunned, across the room, where she hit the wall hard.
“So this is how you thank me, huh?” he said, as he got up to his feet, picked up the gun, but saw that it had somehow jammed. He tried to free the slide, but to no avail, and threw the gun into the hallway. “Son of a bitch!”
At this point, Holly knew that it was over, but that was clearly not the case for Stan. His eyes were wild as he darted for the satchel of cash, running out of the room so haphazardly that he even slammed his shoulder into the doorway before racing off down the hall.
Her face stung, but there was more than that. All of the anxiety was long gone. Even the adrenaline from what had just happened was starting to fade, and what she was left with was a confusing emptiness that she didn’t know how to deal with. On top of that, the awkward aftermath was coming down on her, with people in the hallway clamoring to help the young man who had been shot, while hotel security came in to find her sitting in the corner where she’d landed. Once they were there, though, they didn’t seem to know what to do, and just stood watch until the police came.
Stan was caught three blocks away. He’d overestimated his ability to run, especially from two young officers who were more than happy to bring him down. He put up a childish fight, but lost quickly. That’s the way the mind gets in a panic, though, Holly reflected. She, on the other hand, went in calmly and with no words, no melodrama.
It was definitely a kindness on the part of the police to put them in separate cars as they went to the station, though. Looking out the window of the police car, she watched everything go by, the hotel as it disappeared, the cars shining more brightly now, for some reason, and people who had no idea what was going on. And still with that strange emptiness inside, knowing that it would be a very long time before she’d ever be out on a city street again. If ever.
But among all of that, there was something else. It was small, and wasn’t calling much attention to itself, but it was there. At the very least, she wouldn’t have to listen to him anymore. Wouldn’t have to listen to his ridiculous goals, go through with his terrible plans, or even see him again. In that way, she felt that she still got what she wanted. And that was infinitely more than what could be said for him. So, she smiled.