Tag: flash fiction (page 2 of 28)

Flash Fiction: Executioner’s Bullets

Courtesy Colorado Springs Criminal Law Blog

Getting back into the swing of things with a return to the Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenges. This one is “The Random Title Jamboree“. After I rolled my trusty d20, I started on this. I hope you enjoy it.

He sat in the back of his dingy, run-down van. The metal seat wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t made for long-term sit-downs. Yet he’d stayed there for most of an hour, the late afternoon sun coming through the windshield, staring at the hood in his hands.

There was a quote or a paraphrase that kept coming back to him, from when he’d seen The Godfather as a kid. “There are men in this world who go about demanding to be killed.” He’d seen them first hand. They wandered the streets of the city, hands eager for money or flesh or blood, eyes always alert for the next victim, the next fix. The police couldn’t catch them all. The law wouldn’t hold them all. Prisons failed, rehabilitation didn’t take, and all the while the victims and their families suffered.

Someone had to do something about those repeat-offending skate-on-a-technically thinking-they-will-never-get-caught motherfuckers.

How did his actions make him any different than them?

He looked up from the hood to the rack on the opposite wall of the van. It was one of those panel jobs, with no windows past the two doors up front down the entire length of both sides. The back windows were open but tinted; he could see out through the rear-view mirror but nobody could see in. Nobody could see the rack. Nobody could see the assault rifles, the shotguns, the pistols. He kept multiple weapons to be prepared, in case of damages, jams, or other mishaps. He didn’t want to be in a situation where he had someone at the end of a rifle with no recourse when something went wrong.

He didn’t want to be in a situation where someone caught sight of him and took revenge on his loved ones in response to his justice.

He looked back down at the hood. It could use a wash. It didn’t smell great. More than one criminal had bled on it. Darker spatters marked its black cloth, evidence of several close-range headshots and one incident where he’d beaten a man to death with a lead pipe after a rough struggle. It came with the territory; when you did this sort of thing, you were bound to run into a bad situation. Things got messy. What mattered was surviving.

It didn’t really matter that he didn’t talk to his ex-wife regularly. Nor did it matter that his visits with his kids were supervised. What mattered was that they were protected. Both from any retribution for what he did, and the nature of what he did itself. He stared at the hood for as long as he could stand, closing his eyes when the emotions welled up.

Why was the world like this? Why did it take monsters to hunt monsters? Why did he have to become one when his partner and sister died together in that car bomb? They’d been so happy. He’d loved seeing them together. He still went by their graves to remind himself what was at stake, what might happen if he wasn’t careful… It was just as much a ritual as putting on the hood.

Which he did. Smell and all, he needed it. His family needed it.

He turned his attention to the bins under the racks. The bins containing the bullets. The rifle ammunition, he bought in bulk, mostly because it was cheap that way. But the handgun ammunition, he crafted by hand. He picked up things from pawn shops – jewelry from broken families, heirlooms of dead parents, the evidence of crimes whose victims left their pain unspoken – and worked them into the bullets. Every one meant something. Every one was intended to bring peace. Every one silenced a voice held in an innocent person’s head.

He executed more than scumbags.

He inhaled deeply, galvanizing his nostrils against the smell of the hood and what was coming tonight. Slowly, methodically, he loaded two of his handguns, holstering each at his hips. He then loaded two extra magazines, one for each pistol, which went into the pouch behind his back. He opted for one of the shotguns, a pump-action number with a forward pistol grip, a sawn-down barrel, and a collapsing stock. Its sling went over his shoulder, followed by his hooded long coat. It was cold enough that nobody would question his fashion at a glance. And most of his walking would not be on public streets.

There was another city between the avenues and thoroughfares. One unseen by those who merely existed between their austere offices and boring homes. Like the rest of the city, most of the people there just wanted to find a better life; a measure of happiness that often seemed just out of reach. But in the shadows of the highrises were the people who didn’t just wait for that measure, nor sought it with their own resources – they were content to take what they wanted from those who could not defend themselves.

They needed to know there were consequences to their actions.

He felt the weight of the vest under his coat. He felt the weight of the weapons on his hips, from his shoulder. He felt the weight of the bullets in his heart.

An executioner’s work was rarely done. He was a monster who disposed of other monsters.

And one day, another monster would dispose of him.

Until then, he had bullets enough for every other monster he’d meet tonight.

Flash Fiction: Convocation

Courtesy Terribleminds

As I struggle to return to a regular writing and blogging schedule, a big part of that routine is writing flash fiction every week, usually as part of the Terribleminds challenge. This week, the goal is to tell a story using a photo, or provide a photo for others to use. Upon seeing this photo on Terribleminds, I had to run with one of my favorite concepts – old gods and demi-gods in a new world.

For a long time, both of them stared at the sign. Neither of them said a word.

A rickety old Ford truck rattled by them, the headlamps playing off of the letters, the glass, the metal of the news box. The taller figure, a willowy man looking to be in his early twenties, could not take amber eyes from the black block letters. The shorter, stockier onlooker turned to look upwards towards the angular face framed by the streetlamps.

“You can’t tell me you weren’t expecting this.”

“It’s madness.” The tall person shook his head. “Some of my kin have always treated the secrecy with which we’ve operated for centuries as inconvenient. But this?” Long fingers made an exasperated gesture at the sign. “It’s like she wants to expose the mortals to our realms.”

“I thought you two were on good terms. What happened?”

The taller figure shook his head, reaching into his pocket for a small cardboard packet. He flipped up the top, removed a thin black filtered cigar, and placed it between his lips. A snap of his fingers brought wisps of faerie fire around his thumb, which he held to the stick until the tip glowed.

“That midsummer night all of those turns ago. I still don’t think she’s forgiven me for my conduct.”

That? Are you joking? A few drops of love potion are a petty thing. A bit of rain washes them away. It isn’t worth killing you, and this could put all of us in terrible danger.”

Oberon puffed out a ring of cherry-tinged smoke. “Even so many of us in one place?”

“We are not who we used to be, my young friend. Gone are the days of pungent, sweet sacrifice in the town square, even if the sacrifice was for some petty, selfish end, or arranged to be a form of deception.” There was a short, derisive snort. “As if piling the best bits on top of the offal would work more than once.”

“Mere mortals, deceive the mighty Zeus? Such a preposterous notion.”

“Upjumped whelp.” Zeus was smiling, though, even bitterly, as he prodded the faerie king with an elbow. “Still, my point is that nowadays we must sustain ourselves on scraps. Retold tales and Hollywood casting.”

Oberon nodded. “How often do you get told ‘I thought you’d be taller’?”

Zeus frowned. “I am not that short. 5-foot-9 by the American reckoning. And I used to be taller.”

“We all used to be taller.”

Neither of them spoke for a moment. Oberon finished his cigar, dropping it to the gravel and crushing it under his designer bootheel.

“Come on. Let’s go inside. We’re likely to be starting soon.”

As they walked, Oberon glanced over his shoulder at the sign again. Titania. What are you up to? While his queen was given to experience periods of great melancholy, especially of late, this sort of blatant disregard for the secrecy in which their ilk operated was lunacy. It simply did not fit with how Titania tended to operate, nor did it make sense even in the context of striking back against a perceived wrong.

But if not Titania, then who?

The pair of them entered the hotel’s conference room, rented out and set up for the occasion. There were over a hundred individuals gathered, having arrived from all over the world. Some were dressed in their traditional garb, in flagrant defiance of any modern fashion sensibilities. Others had invested in true top-flight fashions from the current age. Despite some of them wearing different mortal forms, due to one calamity or another, Oberon knew all of them on sight.

“Well, well, well. Aren’t we a brave one?”

Oberon turned slowly. The woman who spoke was of a height with him, gliding silently across the carpeted floor, the dark, textured fabric of her dress taking the shape of her hips and thighs as she moved. Her hair, piled into a stylish coif of curls, was ebony, shot through with silver and snow-white. She studied Oberon with ice-blue eyes, bringing a flute of wine to lips the color of frozen mulberries.

“Hello, Aunt.”

Even in a room full of their peers, Oberon knew better than to speak the name of Mab aloud. She smiled more broadly at him.

“Still cautious, after all of this time? No pleasantries for me? How long has it been?”

Oberon narrowed his eyes. “Not long enough for me to forget your desire to bring all of fae under your heel.”

Mab pouted, for a moment, then looked down at her shoes. “But they’re such nice heels.”

“I am not in a gaming mood. We have many matters to discuss tonight, beyond our personal entanglements.”

“But entanglements lend spice to life, my nephew.”

He shook his head. “Are you here for the price on my head?”

“What need have I for that reward, steep as it might be? You must know that if I wanted you…” Mab’s eyes met his for a long, disquieting moment that smoldered like the embers of a hearth. “…I would already have you.”

Oberon swallowed. Mab was a wily creature, and definitely preferred this sort of persuasion to anything blatant. His eyes narrowed, and he seized upon a more likely notion. “Excuse me.”

Turning, he moved with haste back out into the parking lot.

“Puck! Robin Goodfellow! Stand ye forth!”

Instead of the expected silence, Oberon’s command was met with the immediate appearance of a genteel-looking sprite, of a height with Oberon, dressed in a suit.

“My lord?”

“Were you hoping the hunters would do your dirty work?”

Puck laughed. “If you could handle them, you prove yourself worth of kingship. If not, Puck claims the reward and your throne.”

“Call off the hunters, Robin, and let us have done between us.”

The sprite’s eyes narrowed. “And let you cower indoors with your skyfather friends? Nay, my king. You have much to prove.”

Oberon gestured. A crystal rapier appeared in his hand.

“So be it, Puck. Allez.”

Flash Fiction: The Wreck

It’s been too long since I’ve gotten in on the weekly Flash Fiction Challenge over at Terribleminds. Chuck double dog dared us to write 100 words exactly of original fiction. Here’s what I came up with.

I start to wake up. I remember a lot of noise.

I’m on my side. Glass is everywhere. I smell gas. Blood.

I hear a voices. More noise. Hydraulics whine.

Dark hands reach for me. Bright eyes in a dark face look on in concern.

Part of me reminds me I’m supposed to be repulsed.

They’re inferior, says my father’s voice. That’s why they were slaves.

That made sense this morning.

The black woman says I’ll be okay.

I start passing out again.

A woman’s place is in the home, my father goes on.

Yet neither of us are there.

Flash Fiction: Sorceress of Flame, Part 2

This week’s Flash Fiction challenge over at Terribleminds is to write the second part of a four-part story started by someone else. I picked “Sorceress of Flame” by Toni J, whose site you should definitely check out.

— Part 1, by Toni J —

The magic in dragonflame lingered long after any heat had died away. Lady Sera knelt down and pressed her hand to the ground. The charred earth sent a shockwave through her body. Broken wagons and barrels littered the ground beneath the black skeletons of trees. This place had been a popular trade route not a week ago. Now, it was a grave.

Olvar stood a few paces behind. He picked up a skull, and dusted off the ashes.

“Poor souls. Is this the work of the monster we seek?”

It couldn’t be. Her father was drawing a pact between dragons and men. It would be signed by month’s end. Why would a dragon risk destroying that peace? But, the forest had all the evidence of a dragon attack. She rubbed her arm as she stood up.

“I admit, it feels like the scars of dragonflame. When the villagers described what had been terrorizing them, I didn’t believe it.”

“Dragons are ruthless, uncontrollable beasts. It’s only natural they would stoop to this depravity.”

Lady Sera clenched her jaw at the insult. She’d known many dragons; even the most ruthless could never be called mere beasts.

“I… come. Let us find Juniper. Perhaps we can catch this creature before any others get hurt.”

Olvar spoke a blessing over the skull and placed it back on the ground. They followed the trail of destruction north and west, toward the mountains. A dragon would be impossible to track once it reached the peaks. Lady Sera gripped her staff tight as they approached the shredded carcass of a goat.

“Something isn’t right.”

Olvar sniffed the air.

“Agreed. The meat’s soured, but still smoking.”

“Over here. Another berry bush, burnt to a crisp. The evidence is too evenly spread to be random.”

“A trap, then. Very good!”

He rushed forward, pulling his longsword from its sheath. Lady Sera reached out to stop him.

“Wait! Juniper hasn’t caught up yet. Olvar!”

It was too late. The paladin let out a battle cry as he disappeared into the darkening woods. Lady Sera wreathed her hands in fire as she rushed after him. The magical flame lit the forest around her. She followed the sound of Olvar crashing through the underbrush.

She heard a falcon’s shriek overhead; Juniper’s hunting bird meant the ranger would be near. Soon after, a bellowing wail pierced the air. Lady Sera’s heart sank. It was a dragon after all. Massive wingbeats sent gusts of wind through the trees. When she reached the open cliff, she saw Juniper firing two arrows into the dragon’s right wing. The creature flapped once, twice, zigzagging over the foothills.

Olvar heaved and wiped the sweat from his brow. Bronze blood tipped the paladin’s blade.

“We were close. Next time, the monster won’t be so lucky.”

Lady Sera shook the magic flames from her hands.

“He won’t get far with those injuries. We should rest a while.”

Olvar wiped the dragonblood from his blade and saved it in a vial.

“When you said you were hunting, Junie, I thought you meant boar.”

“Never fear. Hera and I caught four rabbits. Build the fire and you can have two of them.”

Olvar piled the wood and set out bedrolls. Lady Sera struck the flint and bent low to blow on the sparks. They only caused a little smoke. She checked to make sure nobody was watching, and spat into the tinder. The fire sprang up instantly. She sat back to find Juniper shaking her head.

“Don’t waste your mana on our fires. You’re going to run out of replenishment potions.”

Lady Sera laughed, perhaps a little too loudly.

“I’ve never been good with the flint. Magic’s expensive, but it’s easier!”

During their meal, they discussed the scene of the dragon attack, and the creature responsible. Lady Sera had a host of questions, very few she could ask aloud.

“Did you see the dragon, Junie?”

The ranger shifted in her seat.

“It was dark. Must have been a male, though. A real brute.”

Olvar grunted as he tore off a chunk of leg.

“What do looks matter? Tomorrow the beast will die, and we will collect a kingly reward!”

Lady Sera’s appetite waned as she considered the possible dragons in this land. None that she could name deserved death. An interloper, perhaps? Her father would want to know of it. If she could identify him or her, she could alert the dragon leaders. They would lose their bounty, but what was gold compared to peace?

Later that evening, she waited for her companions to sleep. Olvar’s snoring kept the mountain wolves at bay. Juniper’s breaths grew deeper and more peaceful. Once she was certain they wouldn’t follow her, Lady Sera snuck off in the direction of the wounded dragon.

Dragonblood made a pungent trail through the foothills. Each drop reeked like a smelting factory. Where it touched stone, the surface became metallic. Lady Sera’s nostrils flared as she took in the scent. Mixed in with the blood, there was something… else. She followed that new, strange aspect straight into a bramble patch.

She hardened her arm from the thorns while she reached inside. The source of the mystery smell was an arrow. By flamelight, she noticed thin layer of poison coated the barb. She wrapped the arrow in fabric and tied it to her belt.

A low roar rumbled up ahead. Lady Sera took off toward the sound of the dragon. She found the wounded creature a mile later. It thrashed in the underbrush, dragging one wing along the ground. She cautiously approached, staying outside the range of a lashing tail or snapping jaw.

“Great One, I am Lady Sera of the Flame. Please, speak with me.”

The dragon wheeled on her. His golden eyes were clouded over. She held up her fire-wrapped hand to see him better. He staggered toward her; his slick, black scales reflected the orange light. Lady Sera’s eyes widened.


— Part 2 —

For a moment, the grove was covered in an aura of utter silence. Dragon and sorceress stared at one another. Lady Sera’s breath caught in her throat. Her father’s countenance was aggressive, almost feral; had he been so gravely wounded that he was blinded by his pain and his rage? Even at their most calm, dragons were dangerous creatures. Wounded and slighted, they were far more likely to strike rather than talk.

After a hearbeat that felt far too long for its own good, the golden eyes of the dragon cleared slightly. Vertical pupils blacker than obsidian narrowed within molten gold irises. Then, after a moment, she heard what was both a relief and a concern.

Daughter. You are the last presence I expected in this wood.

Lady Sera bit her lip at the sound of her father’s heart-song. In their natural forms, dragons did not have the proper structure in face and throat to make the sounds required for most mortal languages. Instead, when a dragon wished to converse with a mortal (and was uninterested in taking mortal form themselves), they focused their wills into a projection of their part in the song all dragons shared. It sounded like a chorus in Sera’s mind, low and harmonious, dangerous and soothing all at once, the words emerging from the song after a moment of clear, beautiful music.

The concern was that the voice of Vorathrax, her father, sounded somewhat strained. She approached, eyes on the dark ichor that stained his scales.

“Father, you’re wounded!”

Yes. The dragon turned his head to regard the gash in his shoulder. An envenomed arrowhead, slipping past my scales. An expert shot from a practiced archer. One of your companions?

Lady Sera winced. “Yes. Juniper, the ranger.”

Vorathrax chuffed, smoke billowing from his nostrils in brief, singular puffs. Better her than that oaf of a warrior you slum with.

“The wound is deep. You could die.”

I have endured far worse, and you know it.

Even as she heard his words, she watched him settle his four feet into the earth, then turn in a circle three times, reminding Lady Sera of a housecat. As he did, the song she could hear grew in pitch and depth, and she felt a sympathetic chord struck within her own being. Draconic magic was not like the arcana studied by mortals; dragonsong was a fundamental part of creation. As he rested, curling up on the ground, Sera approached. The dragon opened one of his eyes to study her, then closed it again. She slid into the center of the circle created by his body. Her father’s breath rumbled deep beneath the scales of his chest.

“Did you attack that caravan?”

No. Of course not. That was Skarathrax.

Sera nodded. Skarathrax was her half-brother, a young and impetuous dragon. “What set him off this time?”

Farouk and I were teaching him some of our history. He was struggling to pay attention. I chided him. He flew off in anger.

“What were you discussing?”

Some of our interactions with mortal-kind. Farouk and I were sharing stories regarding the songs that change form, for a time.

“Like how you met my mother.”

Just so. The music paused, and Vorathrax huffed again. It was perhaps not the best subject upon which to educate him at this point. He needs to shed soon. He is always cranky before a shed.

She nodded, resting her head on her father’s chest.

Serathrax. The feel of her own name, full and in the music of her father’s blood, made her shiver. You should come home.

“I can’t. The mortals have to be taught that you’re not all dangerous. And you’re far from savage animals.”

And you come into the wild hunting us as part of this education?

“It’s my hope that one day we’d find a dragon who would be willing to share their heart-song with someone other than myself.”

Your optimism has always heartened me. She felt a rumble in his chest; it was a sound of contentment and comfort. But you know, daughter, that those of us willing to mingle with mortalkind are few. And when we do, we prefer to do it in a form more familiar to lesser beings.

She nodded. “I know. But I still have hope.”

For a time, neither of them said anything. Then, her father’s heart-song, more melancholy and soft, drifted into her mind.

How is your mother?

Sera swallowed. “She’s ill. Nothing threatening, yet, but she’s rather miserable. I had to leave her to investigate the attacks.”

Vorathrax rumbled. I should come to her.

“You should stay with her.”

You know such an arrangement is impossible for me.

Anger flared within the sorceress. “You are one of the mightiest of all dragons. There is nothing that is impossible for you.”

I have power, this is true. But as one of the eldest wyrms, I also have responsibilities. Few of us yet live to believe in coexisting with the world, rather than conquering it. Without my guidance, hatchlings like your half-brother are doomed; perhaps not to death, but to lonely and completely destructive lives. I will not abandon them. Not even for you, my daughter.

Sera wanted to protest loudly, to argue, but a tingle at the edge of her senses pushed the discussion aside. Vorathrax felt it, as well, and his head raised even as he uncurled to stand. Lady Sera got to her feet, calling forth flame to her hand. By the flickering light of her arcane fire, she saw two familiar forms emerging from the underbrush, and her heart dropped into her stomach.

“Good work, Lady Sera!” Olvar crowed, the blade of his sword gleaming in firelight. “You found the beast!”

Juniper’s eyes narrowed, settling on the arrow tucked in Sera’s belt. “Something is not right about this.”

Lady Sera held up her flaming hand. A familiar itch tugged at her forehead, and down her spine. Not now, not now… “Olvar… wait.”

Instead, Olvar charged.

Flash Fiction: Bart Luther, Freelance Exorcist

I’m getting back into the saddle with the Terribleminds Flash Fiction challenge, and doing so has me writing the first 1000 words of a story someone else will finish. Hopefully, someone will find this interesting.

I can’t imagine to understand everything that occurs in my life. I can’t account for everything I’ve seen. At least in terms of science. But those aren’t the circles I’ve traveled in, even after I left the church.

Not that me leaving keeps the church out of my life.

The balding priest sitting across my desk from me kept looking down at his hat, his fingers on the brim, perhaps because instructions were embroidered on it in really tiny letters. I rested my elbows on the desk’s blotter and interlaced my fingers in front of my chin. The clock on my wall ticked away seconds quietly. Finally, he took a deep breath and looked up at me.

“Forgive me, Mister Luther. This is not the sort of thing I am used to discussing.”

I shook my head. “It’s okay, Father O’Donnell. This isn’t the normal thing your parishioners deal with.”

“Ah… yes.” His brow furrowed. “I would appreciate it if you did not mention I brought this to you.”

“Right. Because the church would not want to admit that things like this actually exist.”

O’Donnell shifted uncomfortably in the chair. I kept myself from shaking my head or making a retching noise. Instead, I took a deep breath.

“Why don’t you tell me about the problem?”

“The problem is Samantha. She’s the daughter of one of our parishioners. She’s sixteen years old.”

I lowered my hands to reach for my notebook and a pen. “Possessed?”

“I’m not sure.”

I stopped writing. “You’re… not sure? Is it possible she just has a fever or something?”

O’Donnell shook his head. “She is speaking in tongues. Being… abrasive with her parents, when she never has before. She refers to things she could not possibly know. We cannot think of another way to explain it.”

“And how are you keeping the family from telling everybody in the neighborhood their daughter is possessed by a demon?”

“Her father told me of the trouble in confession. I reminded him that what he told me there remained between us, and that his wife and household were also bound by that stricture.”

I chuckled. “No wonder the girl was open to possession. It’s clear her old man isn’t very bright.”

O’Donnell glared at me. “I don’t think I appreciate your tone, Mister Luther.”

“Not the first time I’ve heard that.”

“We don’t have time for this.”

I looked up from my notes. “If you don’t like how I do things, Father, the door is behind you. Best of luck finding another freelance exorcist in the phone book.”

“But you are not listed in the phone book, Mister Luther. The church office has your card on file.”

Some priests, like most nuns, have no sense of humor. “My point is, I am your only option, unless you want to dust off your older texts, launder a fresh collar, and do this yourself.”

“I have no experience with such things. You have a great deal. Which is why you charge such exorbitant amounts of money for your… freelance exorcism services.”

“I also ghost-write inspirational books for churches like yours to sell in their gift shops!” I gave Father O’Donnell my best, cheesiest smile. He glared at me.

“Please. Mister Luther.” He paused. “Bartholomew. She needs your help.”

I sighed. “You don’t have to use the girl to get me to help you, Mike. I’m going to do it.”

“You had your reasons for leaving the church, I know, and…”

“Mike, come on, it’s okay. I’m sorry I was so hard on you. You can relax.”

The priest clutched his hat and let out a long breath. “It has been a hard time for me. I christened Samantha. Her confirmation is in two weeks. Or, at least, it should be.”

That got a smile. “Do you know I still have my confirmation bible?”

The priest started smiling, too. “Still sentimental after all these years, my son? That’s a promising sign.”

“You know I’m not coming back to the church, right?”

“I’m not sure why you left the priesthood in the first place…”

“I didn’t like the view from the inside.” I picked up my valise, opening it to check the inventory. “I still pray every day, Mike, and I do what I can to do right by Christ and my neighbors. But between bilking innocent, gullible people for cash and all of the shady crap the Vatican’s been responsible for over the years…”

Father O’Donnell held up his hands in surrender. “I do not agree with your reasoning, Bartholomew. But I’m heartened to know you’re still serving the Lord.”

I shook my head. “However you see it. Now, what else can you tell me about Samantha?”

Father O’Donnell told me where Samantha and her family lived, the sort of things she’d been saying, and I wrote all of it down. I made a fresh batch of coffee, poured some into a paper cup for Mike with a lid, and handed it to the priest before he left. I returned to my desk and sat.

An actual exorcism. From everything Mike had told me, Samantha was now renting out her head to one of the more nasty denizens of Dis. I dug out one of my source journals and looked through my notes. I had it narrowed down to a few possibilities, but I would need more information before I knew for sure. I closed up my journals and notebook, dropping them in the valise on top of the vials of holy water and my blessed crucifix.

I needed to get myself to Samantha’s family’s house to try and save her. But I also needed to make sure I had all the help I could manage. If I was right, I wasn’t the only one in danger.

So, taking a deep breath, I reached for my phone and started to dial her number.

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