Monday, December 10, 2018

#MotivationalMonday -- Learning from the Masters



Sunday, December 9, 2018

GARY PHILLIPS’ HARD BOILED DETECTIVE RETURNS TO GRITTY ACTION IN ‘HOLLIS FOR HIRE’ NOW AVAILABLE FOR DIGITAL PRE ORDER!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Award-winning author Gary Phillips put his own mark on the Private Eye genre with his creation of Nate Hollis. Originally a comic character, Nate made the transition to prose and to Pro Se Productions in HOLLIS, P.I. Hollis returns in a brand new collection set to debut December 13. GARY PHILLIPS’ HOLLIS FOR HIRE is now available for pre-order in digital format.

New York Times bestseller Sara Paretsky, Edgar winner Naomi Hirahara, Deadly Ink nominee Sarah M. Chen, hardboiled adept Scott Adlerberg, and new pulpster Phillip Drayer Duncan along with Hollis’ creator and Anthony Award Winner Gary Phillips (Black Pulp, Peepland) deliver tales of a P.I. who Kevin Burton Smith in Mystery Scene magazine called “Slick as spit, big-shouldered Hollis walks the walk and talks the talk…” This edition also includes two previously published Hollis stories by Phillips, “King Cow” and “Hollywood Killer.”

GARY PHILLIPS’ HOLLIS FOR HIRE, featuring a great cover by Jeffrey Hayes and digital formatting by Antonino Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, is available for pre-order in ebook format for $2.99 at https://www.amazon.com/Gary-Phillips-Hollis-Hire-ebook/dp/B07L2HQCVW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543971249&sr=8-1&keywords=hollis+for+hire.

Both the print and digital copies will be available on December 13th, 2018 via Amazon and the Pro Se store at www.prose-press.com.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Free Holiday Short Story -- "Nor Doth He Sleep"



Nor Doth He Sleep
By Sean Taylor
An iHero Entertainment Holiday Story

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As the knife bit into the girl’s back, it pierced to the hilt, and a wet, red stream poured from the incision. Red and green lights from the street decorations blinked into the alley, flicking the scene from gray dirt and faded concrete to colorized extravagance and back to gray again The man watching impotently from a few feet away jerked against the two grunts holding his arms, but he couldn’t pull away. His fiancé lay on the ground, face pressed against the pavement, sputtering and coughing through her tears. On her back sat a third thug, a slug of a man in a denim jacket, his wrists all but rolling fat skin back to cover the cuffs as he played with the knife, wiggling it without removing it from the meat a few inches above the girl’s waist.

“Let her go!” he yelled, but in response all he got was a punch in his gut.

The two guys holding him laughed when he gasped to regain his breath.

“Let her go, damn it!”

Another gut punch.

“Or what? You’ll cry?” asked the tallest of the thugs, a white guy with green hair whipped about like a pretty boy in one of those Japanese comic books.

“Or cough up blood?” said the other thug, a squat muscle-head with fat arms stuck to his otherwise fit torso. “Or puke on us?”

Pretty Boy glared at Fat Arms, and he shut up.

“C- Carlos…” the girl stuttered.

“Hang on, Cynthia,” the man said.

All the while, I lay in the corner of the alley, hoping to God they all just go the hell away.

I had done the hero thing before, even worn a fancy-ass costume, well, fancy for my standards. Pretty sure it wouldn’t have even registered on the scale of guys like Pulsar and The Minuteman or chicks like Living Doll or Fishnet Angel.

Hell, I’d even worked with Doll and Angel since we all lived in the same damn city.

And just like the rest of them, I even had a “secret origin,” just like in the comic books. On the way to throw myself from the top of a worn-out building because of a sucky life and broken heart, I got stopped by some crazy woman who touched my arm and then told me the day I was going to die—four days before my 42 birthday. Only, she promised I’d die as a hero, a hero killed by another hero, one of the so called brightest and best of heroes.

And she’d been right… at first. Nothing killed me. Bullets? Sure, I took ‘em and they hurt like hell, but I got better. Take a punch in the face from a super villain who could derail a train? Lost some teeth and a lot of blood, but I healed eventually. Follow a suicide off a roof to cushion his fall at the bottom? Why not? Same shit, different day, as the saying goes.

That was me. The Grandstander, a.k.a., the “I got hurt but I got better” man. Even had my own goddamn room kept ready at the hospital.

Only last June, I turned 43 here in an alley in Cristol City, lost among the forgotten riff raff huddled beneath old newspapers and other trash in the shadows of the alleyway dumpsters. Very much alive. And very much aware that playing the hero could get me killed. Killed very dead.

No longer a hero. Just another man who had finally grown up and realized his own mortality.

So I quit. No going away parties or citywide celebrations of my time behind the mask. Just there one day and gone the next. The papers had run stories for months speculating about what had happened. Eventually they gave up guessing and just didn’t care anymore. No more “What Happened to the Grandstander?” I stayed hidden. Lost. Forgotten. Sleeping away the terror of death. Just the way I wanted it.

If only these punks would shut up and get the hell out of my alley.

Cynthia started screaming, and that set off Carlos, and the guys holding him tossed him back against the wall and wailed punch after punch into his gut and chest. He shut up fast, but they didn’t stop. After about a minute, when they finally figured he had enough, he dropped to his knees between them, struggling to breathe through what had to be several broken ribs.

I recognized the struggle. I’d been there more times than I could remember.

The slug on Cynthia’s back pulled the knife out and slammed it down again, this time into the muscle of her shoulder. Not as much blood, but a lot more noise from the girl. He jerked her head back, exposing the dirty skin of her neck to the night air, and I thought for a moment that he would slash her lithe little throat. Instead, he covered her mouth with his hand, leaving the knife in her shoulder.

“Zip it, baby, and all I’ll take is all your money, cards and the gadgets and shit you bought for Christmas presents.” He laughed. “Needed a new phone anyway. Saw you leaving Radio Shack when we followed you. Hope for your sake you got one of those.”

“Let… Let her go,” Carlos sputtered.

He was rewarded for the effort with a boot in jaw. A bone cracked. Loud.

“If not, maybe you could give me a little something else for Christmas, baby,” the slug said, grinding against her back.

A car drove by the mouth of the alley, and everything stopped just long enough to make out the music rumbling from a passing car. It was Springsteen reminding the city who was coming to town and making sure Clarence had been “real good” this year.

I laughed.

And immediately realized it had been a really, really bad idea.

Five pairs of eyes suddenly turned to look at me. Two pairs begging for help. The other three pairs biding their time to figure out if I was a threat or a witness or simply the same silent alley decoration they normally encountered.

For about a second, I wondered the same thing myself.

The slug ripped the blade from Cynthia’s back and stood up, pushing his blobbish weight to one knee to hold it steady while he pushed up with the other one. He wobbled a bit, but righted himself more easily that I had expected.

“Fuckin’ A,” he said. “Looks like we got some extra trash in this here alley.” He walked toward me.

I pulled my knees toward my chin and started to sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I kept singing while he walked all the way to me and crouched in my face. His breath reeked of onions and garlic. I didn’t make eye contact. He just stared, not saying anything, and I kept singing, going over the part where all the reindeer loved him a second time just to take up more time.

“Keep singing, Rudolph,” he said. “And remember you didn’t hear shit.” He flicked the knife at my wrinkled t-shirt collar. “And that way you can live long enough to booze it up again tomorrow.”

I felt the crotch of my pants grow warm and wet.

The slug laughed. “He pissed himself. The bum pissed himself.”

I stopped singing. “I did,” I said. “But not for the reason you think. It’s not you I’m afraid of.”

“A big man all the sudden, huh?” The slug cocked his arm at the elbow, knife in ready position. I grinned so wide he couldn’t miss it. He never should have pulled it away from my neck.

The butt of my palm collided with his chin and something cracked. Before he had fallen backwards all the way to land on his ass, I already saw blood draining from the corners of his eyes. I grabbed his hoodie to keep him steady and pulled him to me as I stood up. At six and a quarter in my shoes, I towered over him. My knee, which would have hit him in the stomach had he been a taller man, instead connected with his already busted jaw, and he went limp against me. I grabbed his shoulders and guided his face past the wet spot on the front of my jeans as he melted into the ground.

By this time, Pretty Boy and Fat Arms had let Carlos go and were running toward me. Pretty Boy held a clip-loaded pistol and was raising it at me. Fat Arms swung a military blade from sling on his thigh.

“Get her the hell out of here!” I yelled to Carlos, and as I hit the last word, Fat Arms was slinging his blade toward my gut. I weaved and dodged, but being a hidden and forgotten drunk had played hell with my reactions, and even though I missed the worst of the cut, the blade did manage to rip through my side and take a few inches of skin with it.

Red blood mixed with the coffee stains and dirt on my shirt, and I knew I’d most likely end up with an infection. Stupid.

“Shit!” I yelled and brought my elbow down on the back of Fat Arms’ head. “That really hurts, you dumbass.”

“Shoot him!” Fat Arms shouted, and sure enough, Pretty Boy aimed his gun at my face and pulled the trigger. But it misfired, and I didn’t waste any time running for the son of a bitch and took him to the ground with a dive that landed me on top of him. Taking what little opportunity I had I bit into his shoulder with the best grip my teeth could muster and ripped away what I could of his skin and muscle there.

Okay, it wasn’t what the Minuteman would have done, but we couldn’t all be the fucking Minuteman, could we?

He screamed, and when I covered my ears, something hit me in the back of my head, sending me onto the concrete. When the stars stopped twinkling and the lights came back on the slug had his fat foot crunched on my left shoulder, and Pretty Boy had his black boot on my right one.

“You’re the bravest fuckin’ hobo I’ve ever seen, but you cost me a few hundred tonight…” The slug looked at Pretty Boy and grinned. “…and possibly and hot piece of ass.”

“I don’t think you’re her type,” I said.

“Can I cut him up, Will?” Fat Arms asked from somewhere off to the right beyond my line of vision.

“Fuck that,” said Will the slug. “This asswipe is gonna eat a bullet.”

“Hope you brought ketchup,” I said.

“Listen, Rudolph,” Will said, still wiping blood from the corners of his eyes. “All you hadda do was keep your trap shut, but no, you had to play the hero and so now we—”

“Play the hero.” I laughed.

“What?”

Both feet pushed harder on my shoulders and I could feel the rocks on the concrete dig into my back, no doubt making a lovely painful pattern of indentions across my skin.

“You said play the hero.”

“Yeah. So?”

“I did that before.”

“And it’ll be the last thing you ever did, Rudolph.”

“You’re missing the point,” said, keeping them talking instead of letting them think long enough to realize that they should just pull the trigger already. “I used to play the hero. I played the costume. I played the mask. I even played the name. You see, I was only playing at it then because I didn’t think it would really hurt me, not permanently anyway.”

“He’s nuts, Will,” Fat Arms said. “Let me cut him up. Maybe take one of his nuts. That’ll shut him up.”

“But I’m not playing now.” My smiled went flat. “And my name’s not Rudolph.”


* * *


Carlos was still going on about the fight while paramedics loaded his fiancé into the ambulance. He stood behind the doors as Cynthia’s unconscious body was lifted, gurney and all, and rolled in the open doorway. The light from the fire truck and three squad cars gave him a funky purple glow as the 40-something cop took down his statement.

No doubt using lots of capital letters and exclamation points, if he was really getting it just like Carlos was saying it.

“…like a bat outta hell, I tell you. One minute he’s down on the ground with a gun pointing at his face…”

Me, I was waiting my turn on a second gurney, wondering if I’d ever walk again after Pretty Boy has managed to squeeze off two shots through my left thigh. And I was wondering too just how damn long it took a blonde paramedic with thick full lips to find the damn morphine in the back of the ambulance so I could stop hurting long enough to think about how much I wanted to flatten those lips of hers against my own.

In the old days I wouldn’t have let a second thought pass without just leaning up and planting one on her. But in the old days I didn’t smell like booze and the trash I’d been sleeping in. In the old days there had been a nice line of abs that flowed in one smooth line from my chest across my stomach. In the old days, there had been a trendy coarse stubble on my face and not a mangy tangle of knots that hadn’t been shaved or much less brushed in months.

So I lay there.

“…and the next minute, he’s up on his feet and has the fat one up against the wall. Then there’s all this punching and blood, and I’m still dragging Cynthia out of the alley.”

“Yes, sir.” The cop nodded and kept writing.

“Then there are these two gunshots, and I watch him, I mean fucking watch him get shot in the leg twice, but he doesn’t go down. He just keeps on walking toward the dude with the gun, and he takes it from him and just head butts him in the face, and the guy goes down. One head butt and he hits the ground.”

“Uh-huh.”

I heard the music from the front of a nearby squad car as I waited. Sounded like Judy Garland singing “O Holy Night,” but not quite Judy Garland singing “O Holy Night” at the same time, you know.

“And the last guy?” the cop asked.

“Hell, he couldn’t get out of the alley fast enough, but even with a shot-up leg, this dude runs, takes off  and runs like fuckin’ Jessie Owens or something and tackles the guy and takes the knife away from him.”

“Uh-huh.”

“It was like he’s some kind of, I don’t know, super hero or something.”

Vigilante, I wanted to correct him. Ain’t got no powers, so I can’t be a super hero. Just an idiot in a mask.  A vigilante. But I kept my trap shut. Mostly because I was afraid of what I’d say if the damn paramedic didn’t get the morphine in me soon.

Judy Garland stopped singing, and Louis Armstrong jumped in to take her place. “Zat you, Santa Claus?” he asked. I laughed.

Hell no, I thought. Not Santa Claus, not the Grandstander. Hell, I was barely Larry Moore anymore.

The paramedic returned with a smile and a syringe. I smiled back, mostly with my eyes, because my mouth wouln’t cooperate, and like her eyes lit up they figured out something she’d been wondering about for a while. “Oh my God,” she said. “It’s you.”

“Nah,” I said. “I haven’t been me for a long time.”

“You’re the—”

I shook my head.

Trumpet solo. Drums. Almost a celebration. A big noise anyway.

“You can’t hide it. I know it’s you.”

“Sure, kid. Merry Christmas.” I forced a grin. “So should I kiss you or just bleed to death?”

“What?” she asked with her thick lips.

“Do you think he used to be some kinda super hero?” I heard Carlos ask the cop.

“Don’t know,” the cop answered.

“Don’t tell ‘em,” I whispered to the paramedic as she stuck me with the needle. “Let ‘em guess.”

I decided to kiss her later. If she was lucky.

(c) Sean Taylor


Friday, December 7, 2018

ALIENS, FAE, AND HUMANS COLLIDE! HC PLAYA’S ‘REDEMPTION’ DEBUTS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Where Magic and Science collide. Where Aliens and Fae and Humans coexist and battle. A world like no other thrives, dies, and battles on in the third book in HC Playa’s CROSSROADS OF FATE series-REDEMPTION from Pro Se Productions.

A single instinctive act and Mh’airi’s world changes forever. The last of the Dédanaan, she protects humans from the monsters they didn’t know existed. She keeps to the shadows, knowing she can never really be a part of the human world. Now she has saved Finn, a Fae prince. Has she spared a monster or saved a man? Judgement must wait, for when Finn returns them to their proper place in time they find war raging between humanity and the monsters Mh’airi has spent her life fighting. On all sides humanity faces threats. No longer safely hidden in the shadows, Mh’airi finds herself in the center of Fae court intrigue. Her loyalties are tested as the Tuatha De’ Danann and the not-so-dead Dédanaan take sides along old battle lines placing Earth and humanity in the crossfire. Mh’airi must choose her path, for herself, and for the sake of Earth. REDEMPTION by HC Playa. From Pro Se Productions.

Featuring a stunning cover by Antonino Lo Iacono and print formatting and logo design by Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, CROSSROADS OF FATE: REDEMPTION is available in print at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1790664896/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1543883581&sr=8-2&keywords=crossroads+of+fate+redemption and on Pro Se’s own store at www.prose-press.com/store for $14.99.

The third book in Playa’s fascinating science fiction/fantasy hybrid series is also available as an eBook formatted by Antonino Lo Iacono and Marzia Marina for the Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L2MH44F/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543886225&sr=8-1&keywords=crossroads+of+fate+redemption for only $2.99. The book is also available to Kindle Unlimited members for free.

The first book, DAUGHTER OF DESTINY and the second volume, BETRAYALS, in the CROSSROADS OF FATE series are also available on Amazon in digital and print formats.

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, contact Kristi Morgan, Pro Se’s Director of Corporate Operations, at directorofcorporateoperations@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Get Your Superhero Fiction On This Season!

Are you missing your Christmas fix from iHero Entertainment this year? Then pick up this new seasonal mix of heroic goodness. Just $1!

Now available at Smashwords and coming soon from Amazon,

Enjoy this special collection of holiday stories from the superhero universe of iHero Entertainment and Cyber Age Adventures. Stories feature fan-favorite characters The Grandstander, Ms. Futura, The Boom Machine, and Starlight.

Features the stories:

  • Sin and Error Pining
  • It's Christmas, Baby, Please Come Home
  • Nor Doth He Sleep
  • The Ghost of Christmas Past

Available for Kindle and all ePub readers. And all for a mere buck, a single dollar.

Happy holidays!

Get your copy from Amazon or from Smashwords:
Get your copy here:




Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Nugget # -- Writing Holiday Fiction

If your holiday-themed stories only work if
a reader reads them during the holidays, 
then I dare say they don't truly "work" at all.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Free Holiday Music from the Taylorverse!



Merry Christmas and happy holidays from the Taylorverse!

Here's the gift of free music from my solo projects and my days with the band Nothing Regal. 


Sure, they're available for free streaming anytime, but for the next few days, I'm making them available as free downloads -- just for you.

Enjoy!


Unfit for a King
https://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=13667030

Christmas Must Be Tonight
https://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=13269214

So Long Awaited
https://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=13814425

O Come All You Faithful
https://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=13812169

We Three Kings
https://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=7136237

Silent Night
https://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=7136292

What Child Is This?
https://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=7136304

Go Tell It On the Mountain

https://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=7136331

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Holiday Re-Runs -- Holiday Charity


In light of holiday giving, what are your preferred charities you stand behind? 

St. Jude's Childrens Hospital
http://www.stjude.org

Fans for Christ - it's okay to be a geek and a person of faith too
http://www.fansforchrist.org

Reading Is Fundamental - encourages literacy among people all over the U.S.
http://www.rif.org/

Keep the Arts in Schools
http://www.keepartsinschools.org/

Compassion International - provides food, clothing, and education for third world countries
http://www.compassion.com/

First Book - Helps all children have books of their own.
http://www.firstbook.org

Habitat for Humanity - provides housing for low-income families
http://www.habitat.org/


ASPCA - prevent cruelty to animals
http://www.aspca.org


Saturday, December 1, 2018

Free Holiday Short Story -- It's Christmas, Baby, Please Come Home


It’s Christmas, Baby, Please Come Home
by Sean Taylor

This story originally appeared in Cyber Age Adventures Magazine and is collected in my short story collection Show Me A Hero by New Babel Books.

The woman across the table from me wasn’t really a woman at all. She had no real skin to speak of or any kind of humanity other than the feminine shape she had forced her new body of light and energy to look like. Her arms and legs may have been covered up with regular clothes like the rest of us wore, but the way I could see through the parts of her shiny, twinkling form that weren’t covered by clothing reminded me all over again how she was no longer human.

She was something else.

Just like my baby.

Her name was Nancy Elliot, but most of the world knew her as Starlight. A superhero. A woman who had lost her body years ago and had become a freak.

“We love our little girl, Ms. Starlight,” said my husband, Chris. “It’s not like we don’t want her.” He sat beside me,  his hands gripped together in one tight fist, his muscles as tense as his mind had to be. Putting words into the air for both of us. Trying not to make us sound like monsters. “It’s just that I don’t think anymore that staying with us is what’s best for Mackenzie. I think she needs parents who can understand her situation and deal with it better.”

“It takes one to know one, huh?” asked the Elliot’s attorney, a tall man with dark hair that had introduced himself as either Tom or Thomas or Tommy.

Nancy placed her hand on his shoulder. “I’m sure that’s not the way Mr. Brown meant it.” Her fake face looked calm and compassionate. Like a mother’s face. “I’m sure this can’t be easy for them either.”

Her husband sat beside her, wearing a dark blue suit with white pinstripes. He looked like a lawyer himself, but he kept quiet, saying everything he needed to by saying nothing at all.

“I only mean that Deidra and I aren’t really capable of taking care of someone like little Mackenzie. We’re just just not physically or emotionally prepared to cope with the responsibilities of having a child that can burst into flame at a moment’s notice.”

“No parents are ever prepared for their children, Mr. Brown,” Nancy said.

I wanted to tell her that, although she was right, this went far beyond that. That a few months of sleepless nights or constantly having to clean wet bedsheets were quite a different matter than never being able to touch a child without wearing asbestos gloves and being turned down for every homeowners’ insurance policy we applied for when they discovered our daughter’s unique talent for setting herself and her surroundings on fire whenever the mood struck her.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t. She had lost a son only a few years ago. A normal son. One born to her before she became a freak. And MacKensie Elizabeth Brown, born December 17, 2003, had been my first and was my only, so what right did I have to correct a mother who had been through far more than I had?

So I merely shuffled my hands in my lap and nodded, then I smiled at her and her husband, then glanced back down into my lap.

Our attorney, or more correctly, the attorney we had hired just to take care of the adoption process, rifled through the stack of papers in front of him and cleared his throat. “If you are ready, we can sign the papers now,” he said, reaching into his pocket for a pen. He pulled out four and handed one to me, one to Chris, and one each to Nancy and her husband. “I’ve gone through the trouble of highlighting the areas to sign in yellow and marking them with an ‘X’ as well. A little overkill in preparation never hurts, I always say.”

I took a pen and looked at Chris. He forced a smile and looked back at me, then looked away toward the corner of the ceiling. I dropped the pen onto table.

“Mrs. Elliot,” I asked, trying to sound sincere.

“Yes?” she answered.

I wished then and there that some—What do they call them? Supervillains?—that some supervillain would begin a rampage downtown and Starlight would get a beep on her pager or special phone, or whatever people in authority used to contact super types, and she’d have to leave and allow me a few more moments of motherhood, a few more minutes of being a parent of a child I didn’t need and couldn’t raise.

Just a few seconds more of living without the guilt of giving up on a child I didn’t want to accept the responsibility of raising.

But there was no beep, no call, no interruption. Only her calm, understanding smile that she drew in the air with light in an attempt to make us all feel at ease around her.

“Nothing,” I said. “I thought there was something I wanted to tell you, but I guess there really wasn’t.”

She reached across the table for my hand, and I let her take it, if just to know what her artificial touch felt like. “It’s okay,” she said. “I know this has to be difficult for you.”

Her hand felt somehow cool and warm at the same time, like a weird combination of thin metal and a light bulb. I said, “Thank you,” and let go, then settled back into my chair.

Our attorney distributed sets of documents to each of us, indicating where to sign and what parts of the page we might most like to read over before agreeing to, and I signed as I was instructed, barely listening and centering my gaze on the highlighted ‘X’s on the back page of each form.

After a few minutes, he stopped passing around papers and instead gathered them all in front of him and began to sort them into three stacks. The center stack, the largest of them, for him to file with various agencies and in his off-site storage should Mackenzie ever decide to look us up once she grew up. The two smaller stacks were for us and the Elliots to keep or burn or lose or file away.

There was a lot more talk, all friendly and agreeable and tending to go along the lines of how this decision was really best for all of us, and how Chris couldn’t think of a better couple to raise our daughter, and how much Nancy and her husband had been looking forward to having another child after their youngest boy had died of luekemia. We stood up and hugged each other and cried, and the attorneys shook hands and exchanged a second set of business cards.

And it was over.

On the way outside, I followed a few yards behind the Elliots, watching as they walked to their SUV, like a normal couple. Nancy’s husband opened her door, then closed it after she stepped inside, then made his way around to the driver’s side and got in. I wondered why she didn’t just fly to pick up Mackenzie. After all, that was how they got around, right?

Chris came up behind me and put his arm around my shoulders. I pulled in close to him.

“She’ll be better off. You’ll see,” he said.

“Her hand,” I said.

“What?”

“Her hand. It was like nothing I’ve ever felt before.”

“Really.”

“Yeah, really.”

And the world seemed suddenly normal again.

(C) Sean Taylor