Sunday, December 16, 2012

Is God to blame?

The nation and the world were devastated this week when a gunman opened fire and randomly killed adults and children at an elementary school in Connecticut. Since that day, we have all gone through and continue to go through our own mourning. In the last few days, I have heard many people ask, "Why would God let this happen?" and "If there was a God, this wouldn't happen," and "God did this as punishment."

This all made me think about God, the role He plays in our lives and more importantly it made me think of those who state that there is no God and who use situations like this as an example of why they believe the way they do. I hope you will indulge me as I try put into words my answer to these people.

I think we can all agree that every person has choices. I prefer to call this 'free will.' Everyday, every moment of every day, we make choices that change our lives in one way or another. These choices alter the rest of our lives in tiny ways or in grand ways, but each choice has its consequences. For those of us who believe in God and know Him to be a loving, forgiving God, we believe that He gave us free will: the right to choose between good and/or bad. Each decision we make can be catagorized as good or bad and alters our walk through this life.

Good brings with it love, truth, freedom, happiness, comfort, and ultimately--life.
Bad brings with it hate, lies, captivity, sadness, pain, and ultimately--death.

The choices that the young man who was responsible for this heinous act chose veered him away from the good, away from the Light, away from God and led him towards the bad, towards the Dark, towards Satan.

God never said that we would not have sadness, that there would not be death, but He did say that if we put our trust and our lives in His hands that He would walk us through the sadness and through death to happier times and ultimately to Eternal Life.

I don't have any answers to why this or any other tragedy happens. In the same way that I don't know why war must occur and that our soldiers must die, but I do believe that God cries harder than we do when tragedy and death strike. I do believe that God's heart breaks when He watches his creation make choices that cause them to walk down a path that leads them further from Him. And, I do believe that He waits with open arms to welcome us back when we ask for forgiveness, when we change the path we are walking on, and when we cry out to Him for mercy and grace and love and forgiveness.

I'm not trying to stand on a soapbox and preach. Trust me, I have as many faults as anyone and probably more than most, but I also have faith in a loving, forgiving God who forgives me of my indiscretions when I ask with sincerity and welcomes me into His arms when I have strayed like the prodigal son. We all, regardless of faith or religion, need to learn to not put our ultimate trust in ourselves or in others, but to put it in something, someone who is greater than we are. We need to put it in God.

My thoughts and prayers are with all those whose lives were touched by this and every other senseless death. I pray that those involved and those of us who look on in disbelief look towards God for comfort and that we all find a way to continue to see the good in people. I pray for the souls of the departed and that they are all in their heavenly home with God.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Holiday Season or Twilight Zone. Maybe both

We have entered that time of the year called the holiday season. I can picture Rod Sirling standing in his suit, hands folded in front of him with a dead pan expression saying, "Welcome to the holiday season." In the background, the theme from the Twilight Zone can be heard. For those of you too young to remember, the Twilight Zone was a weekly horror series on TV where there was always a twist at the end that you never expected (it had nothing to do with vampires or Team Edward). The holiday season is a twilight zone unto itself. How? Let's see. . .

From some time in the middle of November to just after the beginning of the following year, people change. Their normal hectic lives become even more hectic, yet their easily frustrated, grumpy personalities somehow become more tolerant.
As the weather becomes colder, people who are not "people persons" begin to smile and their frosty personalities start to thaw.
Those who are not generous during other times spend countless hours searching for just the right gift to buy people who they only see once a year. They may even give money to the homeless person on the corner who they swore at (under their breath) just a few weeks ago.

Why the change? I'm sure there are as many theories as there are people, but I like to think that during the time we call the holiday season, we become more human. We take a step back and realize how blessed we are. Starting with Thanksgiving, we give thanks for what we have. This enables us to want to help those less fortunate and somehow changes us. This thankfulness changes us and makes us want to reconnect with those people in our lives that we haven't had the time to see or talk to in the past year.
This feeling seems to grow as the December religious holidays draw near. We remember our values and that in turn makes us think about our parents and grandparents. Thoughts of how they conducted their lives makes us want to be a little bit better than we have been.
This seems to culminate with the celebration of the new year. But as the ball drops, the bubble bursts. We start to think about how we want to better ourselves in the coming year and we set New Year's resolutions. The problem is, no matter how noble these resolutions are, we usually choose those that are unreachable. As soon as we break the first resolution, the air squeezes out of the balloon and it, like our lives, flies about at breakneck speeds on a collision course with anything that gets in its way.

I love the holiday season. The time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, which in my life reaches its pinnacle at Christmas is a time of reflection, a time of thanks, a time of love and a time of blessed birth. This holiday season let's do what we have done in past seasons, but this year, when the ball drops, instead of resolutions, let's just try to keep the spirit alive.
Happy Thanksgiving,

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Would You Do, If I Sang Out Of Tune. . .

I heard something the other day that made me think of a Beatles tune. You remember the song. It was on the Sergeant Pepper album and sung by Ringo. I think it was the first song after the intro.
The lyric went something like this:
"What would you do, If I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?"
The song popped into my head when I read that some big name authors, including someone I had admired (notice the past tense), were writing their own reviews under false names. When this was first brought to my attention, I was dismayed. Why would good writers sink to such practices? Then, I went through denial. Maybe the person who broke the news got it wrong or was talking about the wrong person. Finally, I became angry. As an author, I know the highs and lows of the writing industry. One of the greatest highs is when someone reads your work, the work you have spent months (years) pouring your heart, soul, and sweat into and tells you and the world how much they liked it. In my frame of reference, to fake a review is similar to stealing someone's work. I don't care what excuse these writers gave for doing it; none would suffice.
So, we're they punished? Good question. I don't know the answer. I do know that they are still being asked to speak at prestigious writers' conferences. I do know that they are still being tauted as "best selling authors."
I know I am about to go off topic, but stick with me . . .Why is it that Lance Armstrong can pass over five hundred drug tests (he was even made to take one while his wife was in labor) and when he is found guilty of taking performance enhancing drugs by a shady board who used partial witnesses, he is stripped of every title he had ever won and was forced to give back his winnings, but these authors are not asked to give back their awards or give back their royalties.
Just a thought.
(New lyric)
"What would you do, if I faked my review, would you still read my books?"
I, for one, will no longer be reading these authors.
Until next time,

Friday, September 14, 2012

Starting Fresh

I have often wondered why so many authors continue to write about the same characters with each new book. Truth be told, the characters become like family. You have so much to tell about them and you want to continue to share their stories with your readers. So it has been for me, I have written four books about the Phantom Squad: three novels and one novella. I am approximately half way finished with the rough draft of the squad's next adventure. I am passionate about it and feel it may be my best story line yet, but . . . new characters keep knocking at the door of my imagination. I have tried to ignore them, but they won't go away. I had to finally open the the door and let them in.
I have put the Phantom Squad aside for awhile and have begun to write a new story with all new characters.
It is with great excitement and some anxiety that I have begun to put pen to paper and fingers to key board to write their story. As with all my stories, I know where I want their story to begin and I have some idea of where I would like it to end, but I have no idea of how to get there. Only time will tell.
It is only a matter of time before Brent and Seven come banging on the door of my imagination and insist that I finish their story. I can only hope that all of the characters, new and old, can live synergistically in my imagination until I have a chance to finish both novels.
I will update you from time to time on the new characters and ask for your opinion.
Until then, keep reading and keep the door to your imagination open. You never know who might walk in.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

CURSED DAYS, chapter two



Brent Venturi, the Ambassador and the deciding factor in a possible holy war was thirty-five thousand feet in the air. Having left the Vatican a mere three hours ago, Colonel Venturi, the Phantom Squad and the directorate of the SIA, (Strategic Intelligence Alliance), the world’s most covert intelligence agency, were on their way home for some well needed rest.

Only two weeks ago, Brent had almost lost his life while defeating The Omega Butcher indwelled with Satan’s spirit in a battle which had been predicted since the first century of our Lord.

The light above his seat glowed an incandescence that could only mean one thing—insomnia. The cabin of the SIA’s 707 was dark except for the one light. All others on the flight had found the peace that accompanied sleep. Too many thoughts buzzed Brent’s brain for him to relax. His eyelids grew heavy, but he fought the urge to close them. There was too much to think about, too many decisions to be made, too many lives depending on his decisions.

I used to think putting my life in God’s hands would make things simpler, he thought.
A slight grin materialized on his face. A face etched with lines not normally found on a 36 year-old. Then again, he was no normal 36 year-old. Brent was this generation’s Ambassador, the heir to a secret that had been kept since the time of Noah. Brent was also God’s chosen, the one who had to go up against Satan in a battle for man’s free will. . . and now this. Rubbing his eyes, he could almost feel the dark circles that rode the top of his cheek bones. His eyes ached with a dryness that came with lack of sleep and more stress than he knew what to do with.

From the outside, his life was one to be admired, one that others would want to emulate. But from where he sat—things were different.

 He looked about the cabin at those who were the closest to him, his family, some blood born, others love born, all God sent. Brent blindly reached beside him for his coffee cup. A sip of cold coffee made his facial expressions twist in pain. Why do we let Seven make the coffee? he thought. We hope that somehow, someday it will turn out different, but. . .  

He swallowed as he grandfather’s words came to mind. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.”

Brent looked down at the dossier on his lap. He inhaled a deep breath, a breath that brought with it answers. Closing the folder, he reached up, shut off the light and tried not to think about the arguments to come. Twenty minutes later, exhaustion won the battle over consciousness and he fell into a fitful slumber.

 I will post chapter three next Friday, August 31st.
Please help spread the word' "Cursed Days" is being released on Tuesday, August 4th.
Until next week, keep reading and never give up on your dreams,




Monday, August 13, 2012

"Cursed Days" chapter one

"Cursed Days," Book three of the Trilogy of The Chosen will be released on September 4th, 2012.
In honor of its release, I have decided to post the first few chapters of the book on the blog starting with chapter one.
Enjoy and please let me know what you think. If you like it, tell everyone you know, if you don't, tell me.


Red walked at a brisk pace. Head pointed straight ahead, chin tilted downward. This was neither the time nor place to be looking people in the eye. With purposeful strides he never wavered from his intended destination.

Traditional Palestinian clothing; an ankle length robe, a throbe and a kaffiyeh, a black and white turban adorned his body. He kept his hair covered so not to look out of place. Everyone he passed seemed angry. It didn’t matter which side of this narrow strip of land you were on, all the people wore the same expression. It had been years since he’d been home, since he walked the streets of Khan Younis. The city was now the second largest along the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian stronghold.

His eyes darted back and forth with the urgency of a medic after a suicide bombing. Never relaxed. Always alert to his surroundings. Years of training made these movements instinctive. Though his posture was tense, his mind was free. Free to think how he truly felt.

“Fools,” he mumbled under his breath. Simple minded fools. Whether their messiah is Mohammad, Jesus, or someone else, they are all limited in their thinking. The time has come for all of them to bow to a new messiah.

An evil grin crossed his thin parched lips. Thoughts of grandeur trounced about his head. Red’s pace slowed as he entered the ruins of a once grand structure. Inside al-Qal or the Khan as outsiders called it, his pulse slowed and his sweat cooled. The building, once the centerpiece of a thriving trade route during the Ottoman Empire was now more ceremonial than functional. Much of it was in disrepair.

It was here that Red would meet with Omar. A meeting that would change the world. The lower he descended into the bowels of al-Qal the more anxious he became. He took a deep breath, inhaling centuries of dust. The dust of wars fought. Wars won and wars lost. His chest extended, shoulders back, he walked with a confident air.  His mind always funneling thoughts.

The Khan, this building, it is like the Brotherhood of Gaza. Once it was great, but time and circumstance have not been kind to either. Red’s upper lip rose on the left side in a sly smile as his next thoughts raced through his head. But unlike this building, the Brotherhood has begun its resurrection. In the next few days all the world will know of us and they will bow to our magnitude.

Entering the final passage, he took on a new persona. One of servitude. One that would acquiesce to his superior.

Red stood in the domain of the one who led the Brotherhood. He was silent and looked at the ground. Omar would speak first. He had been his trainer for eleven years, from age seven to eighteen. Red’s head bowed, his eyes rotated upward, glued to the man walking around the room. The feeling was electric.

“Are you sure of your Intel?” Omar asked. He spoke with a coarseness that sounded like his throat had been scarred or he had spent too many years in this dust filled underground grotto.

Once spoken to, Red was free to raise his head and speak to his mentor as an equal. “I stake my life on it,” he answered in a heavy Irish brogue.

Omar stopped—stared. One look from his steel-grey eyes made Red weak. Daggers pierced his soul. It took every bit of fortitude to remain stoic and not cower like a child.  

The old man waited to see how his protégée would react, how he would answer.

“All prophesy is in place,” Red said. “The Brotherhood knows the Ark of the Endowment has been recovered and now ‘The Enlightenment’, the time written by John the Revelator has passed.”

Omar’s bushy brow elevated in response. He paced about the chamber, hands clenched behind his back. In his eighties, he still moved like a young man.  “They say the new Keeper of the Keys—The Ambassador, is a gifted man. A man like David. A man after God’s own heart.”

The left side of Red’s mouth quivered with hate. “He is still a man. All men bleed. . . and die,” he replied.

The old man shook his head.  “This one’s different. He defeated Satan in battle. He is no ordinary man.”

Red licked his cracked lips, biting his lower lip to help him remain calm. He had to choose his words wisely. “I’ve heard him speak, watched him breathe, saw his wounds. He is only flesh and blood.”

Omar ran his branch-like fingers through his scraggly grey beard, nodding in slight agreement.

“How confident are you of our man on the inside?” he asked. “The Brotherhood has waited centuries for this day. We will only get one chance.” He took a step closer to Red. Eyes fixed on his chosen one. The one chosen at the age of seven to one day recover the Ark of the Covenant. He stood so close that Red could smell the Turkish coffee on the old man’s breath. “You know what failure means?” Omar said.

Lip quivering, almost spasmodic in movement, Red inhaled through flared nostrils. Teeth gnashed as the words spilled forth. “Death to me, my team and our destiny.”

“My faith in you is strong,” Omar said, stepping back, “but your emotions run high.”

“I’ve managed to keep them in check for the past five years in that hellhole,” Red shot back.

“Mmm,” Omar groaned. “That hellhole is why we know that the time is right to reunite the Trilogy of the Arks.” He stopped stoking his beard and continued to pace. “This man on the inside, he has been there for a long time.”

“Sixteen years,” Red said.

“You have no doubt of his loyalty?”

“He is loyal to the Brotherhood.”

Omar again responded with a flick of an eyebrow. “Your team, where are they?”

“We know from the scrolls translated by our scribes that the search begins near Jerusalem. They are there. Waiting on me.”

“When will the hunt begin?”

“As soon as the name of the first messenger is revealed,” Red said. Omar opened his mouth to speak, but the younger man didn’t give him a chance. “We believe in the next twenty-four hours.”

Omar returned to his seat. He stared at his desk. The scrolls appeared to stare back at him. “Join them. The time to lift the curse has begun. The time for world domination has arrived.”

Inside Saint Peter’s Basilica a similar conversation was ongoing.

“Has there been any word from The Ambassador?” the pontiff asked.

“Not yet, but Brent will not fail us,” Cardinal Bullini answered.

The Pope rose from his knees and sat back in the pew. “I wish my faith was as great as yours.”

“It’s not faith, your eminence.”


The cardinal blessed himself and he too sat back in the pew. “The scroll of Enlightenment, both of the lost Arks in his possession, the words of Arch-angel Gabriel: this is why I know he will take on the quest.”

The pontiff stood and looked down at his faithful servant. “I only hope he makes his decision soon. Time is not on our side.” Cane in hand, he walked toward the exit without looking back. “Evil finds a way,” he said. His final words echoed about the vast basilica. “Evil finds a way.”

Until next week,

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Phantom Squad, the prequel to the Trilogy of The Chosen has been released as a free e-book. You can find it at the following sites with more to soon follow.
Again, I wouls like to thank my publisher, Suspense Publishing, for releasing a free book.
Happy reading.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


On Tuesday, August 1st, 2012, "Phantom Squad," prequel to The Trilogy of The Chosen will be released as a free e-book from Suspense Publishing. I would like to thank Suspense for their generosity.
Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Until next week,

Friday, July 13, 2012

Words and Meaning

It is said that meanings do not reside in words, but in the people who use them. This made me think about a movie I have seen no less than fifty times, Eddie and The Cruisers. It's one of those cult classics that I can't turn off if I happen to be channel surfing and run into it. It's about a band from the Jersey Shore in the fifties or early sixties who have a bit of success with their first album. Their second, is trashed by their record company. The lead singer and song writer, the heart of the band, dies in a car accident and the band dissolves. Twenty years later, the band's music has found a new popularity and there is a search for the lost tapes of the second album.

Why the synopsis? So I can get to one line from the movie that has always stuck with me. A reporter asks the piano player and lyricist of the band why he stopped writing music. In response the man crosses his fingers and says, "words and music." He then uncrosses his fingers, spreads them wide, and hesitates for a dramatic pause and says," without the music there are no words."

Words and music . . . You can take the same words, put them to different styles of music and get a totally different emotional response from the listener. It's the same with words and meanings.

Take the word, Freedom. To those of us who have been privileged to have been born in the U.S. or any other free country, we probably don't give it much thought. It is inherent to who we are, what we do, and how we act. Ask someone who has immigrated to this country from one where freedom was just a dream and you will probably get a detailed, tear filled response.
If you have never been incarcerated, freedom is something you take for granted. Ask someone who was just released from prison and they will tell you a different story. They might tell you that freedom is being able to take a hot shower when ever you want, or that freedom is the smell of freshly cut grass, or the ability to touch and see your family whenever you want. Whatever the answer, it will be much different from one who has always been free.

Words have no meaning, only the people who use them do. Just something to think about.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Finding the Right Fit

How many of the writers out there have tried participating in a critique group, but have found that it wasn't for them. You didn't feel comfortable so you decided not to go back. Well, finding the right critique group is a lot like finding a great pair of shoes. You know you have found the right pair when you slip your feet in them and they feel great. If you have to shoehorn your foot in and you start thinking, hopefully they will stretch, then it is probably time to try on another pair.

I have had the privilege in participating in many critique  groups over the past eight or so years. I belonged to one that I loved a couple of years ago, but my schedule changed and I wasn't able to continue to go. In the past year or two, I have 'tried on' many others, but I always felt as if I was shoehorning my way in. Don't get me wrong, the writers in these groups were excellent, but the fit just wasn't right.

Last night my schedule was such that I had the opportunity to go to the group that I had once been a part of. As I was gathering my materials to go, apprehension started to grow. What if the group had changed? What if it was not as I remembered? I had to shake off a lot of nerves in order to put myself in the car and drive to the meeting. When I walked into the Wellington Writers Critique Group I was happy to see familiar faces as well as many new ones. The group has flourished under Caryn's leadership.

I sat and listened to a variety of writers. I was surrounded by humorists, memoirists, novelists, and poets. I had the privilege to hear the work of two young writers, between the ages of thirteen and fifteen, who left me slack jawed and amazed. These young ladies have a huge future ahead of them. I will find out their names and post them next week. They were that good.

What I loved about the group was their honesty and humility as well as their purpose. They are writers helping writers. I learned more about my writing in those two hours than I had in the past year. The honest and constructive critiques were eye opening.

If you have never read your writing out loud to a group . . . do it! You will pick up mistakes as you read and the unbiased ear of those around you will pick up even more.

So, what is the moral of this little story? There are a couple. One: all writers regardless of skill or success can benefit from joining a critique group, and two: if the group doesn't fit, if you feel as if you are shoehorning yourself in, try on another and another until you find the perfect fit. You will be happy you didn't give up and your writing will improve dramatically.

Until next week, go try on some shoes.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer: A time of deadlines and deadends

The official start to summer has begun. The signs are everywhere, from temperatures over one hundred degrees in the northeast to Hurricane Debby in the gulf of Mexico. The sweltering heat isn't the only thing that makes me sweat during the summer months. The excitement of manuscript deadlines and deadends cause me to perspire faster than ninety degree afternoons coupled with ninety percent humidity.

To be honest, I love deadlines. They force me to amp up my writing and stir my imagination. I just finished the edits and emailed the third book in the Trilogy of The Chosen, "Cursed Days," to my publisher. It will be released in the beginning of September.

My deepest thanks to my editor, Starr Reina, who is also an incredible writer. Look for her new suspense thriller, "One Major Mistake," to be released this summer. I have had the honor of reading it in pre-release and it was so good, I stayed up all night in order to finish it. It is an amazing book.

Where was I? Oh yeah, deadlines. Now that the edits to "Cursed Days" are finished, it is on to the next deadline. I was very excited when my publisher asked me to write a prequel to "Cursed Blessing," the first book of the trilogy. It is to be a novella on how the Phantom Squad was formed and will be released one month before "Cursed Days." It will be available as an e-book and it will be free! Needless to say, I am busy writing in order to have it finished in time for edit and publication. Did I say I loved deadlines?

Now for the deadends. I started a new novel a while back and wrote about half (200 pages) when I realized I was cornered. I had come to a deadend. In order to get to where I wanted the story to go, I needed to backtrack at least one hundred pages and rewrite the plot. Even though this can be a frustrating experience, it is also invigorating. It's like a puzzle. It seems so daunting when you first spill the pieces from the box, but as you begin to put the framework together, you start to visualize where other pieces may go. Before you know it, you can see the finished picture in your head and it spurs you on to the completion of the puzzle. Deadlines lead to new undiscovered roads and to new adventures.

So, as summer commences, so do the deadlines and deadends, but more importantly, the adventures brought on by both begin anew.

One more thing: thank you to everyone who commented on the covers for "Cursed Presence." The new cover, available now is shown below.
Until next week,

Friday, June 15, 2012

Help Me Choose a New Cover for "Cursed Presence."

It has been too long since I posted to my blog. Sorry. I promise to be more consistent (I'm aiming for once a week). "Cursed Presence, book two in the Trilogy of the Chosen" is about to be released in Europe. The publisher and creative designer are down to two options for a new cover. I would love your input on which cover you prefer. There are tight time constraints due to the release date so please let me know which one you would pick by Monday, June 18th.
Thank you.
Next week, I will have some exciting news on the upcoming release of "Cursed Days, book three and a sneak peak.


Friday, February 3, 2012

A huge thank you

It has been a very exciting week. As most of you know, Cursed Presence was released on Tuesday, January 31st. Please help spread the word. The book had a great first day push and I have received a lot of wonderful comments. Thank you to everyone. I'm curious what you think of the spiritual content of the book. Do you like the inspirational content or do you find it a turn off? I understand that everyone is different and whether you like it or not, I would love your feedback. This goes for either Cursed Blessing or Cursed Presence. If you respond and let me know your thoughts, I'll randomly draw two names and send the winners a signed copy of both novels. Please include your e-mail address so I can  contact you and get some information if you win. Please sendyour comments to
Winners will be announced on Saturday, February 11th, and for the next three Saturdays.

Now for a totally different subject. This Sunday is the Super Bowl. Having  grown up in Boston, I admit to being a big New England fan. Being a Patriots fan can be very polarizing. People seem to either love them or hate them. The same goes for the Giants. I don't know if it's the personnel or the areas they represent, but either way it makes for a fun rivalry and hopefully a great game. So whether you are a New England or a New York fan, forget the diet for the day and enjoy Super Bowl Sunday.

Until next week,
J. M.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chapter Four of Cursed Presence: welcome back Phantom Squad

Chapter FOUR

      Brent’s phone vibrated while he lunched with Chloe, Seven and Maddie at the Loft.“Hey, Joan, what’s up?”
     “Brent, President Dupree needs to talk to you and Maddie at headquarters immediately. He says it has to do with a personal and national matter.”
     “Did he give any other details?”
     “No, but he sounded a little shaky, almost scared. I’ve never heard him like that before.”
     “We’ll be there in ten minutes. Have him waiting on the line when we arrive.”
     “What was that all about?” Maddie asked.
     “I don’t know. John needs to speak to us right away. We’ll have to take our lunch to go.”
     “Can we come?” his wife asked.
     “You and Seven have the highest government clearances, I don’t think the president will mind.”
     Maddie had excused herself and headed over to talk to Benito, The Loft’s owner. “Bennie, I’m sorry, but we have to leave. We have to get back to work, pronto.”
     “Don’t-a you worry,” Bennie said in a very heavy Italian accent. “I’ll have your food delivered as soon as it’s-a ready.”
     The foursome headed to SIA headquarters. Anyone who walked through the doors of the renovated warehouse assumed it housed a think-tank and an institute of heightened awareness where religion, philosophy and politics were studied.
     Joan greeted the crew as they walked through the door. She let them know President Dupree was waiting for Maddie and Brent on the line, as requested.
     “I transferred the call to conference Room A,” she said.
     The conference room held only a large round table and sixteen chairs. Maddie had insisted on round tables in all conference rooms so every participant felt equal. As in every other room, it was devoid of all insignia or other identifying symbols that would reveal the building’s true identity. That was Maddie’s first executive decision after she was confirmed by congress as the director of the Strategic Intelligence Alliance, the most covert intelligence agency in the world.
     The lack of insignia was security overload since the high-tech system incorporated in the building’s design made break-in virtually impossible. Every door, every piece of equipment, responded to palmer recognition or voice activation. In the off-chance that security was compromised, a nerve gas would automatically be released from the ventilation system, causing temporary paralysis to anyone inside the breached area.
     They all took seats around the table, their eyes fixed on the bright light blinking on the red phone. The direct line to the president.
     Maddie leaned forward and pressed the intercom button. “Good afternoon, Mr. President, sorry to keep you waiting. I’ve placed the call on video phone. Can you see us okay? Brent is here as you requested. Chloe, and Seven asked if they could join us, as well. If you prefer, they’ll give us privacy.”
     “I can see everyone just fine. It’s good that everyone is there, this matter will ultimately concern all of you.”
     “Sir,” Brent said, “it sounds as though this is more of a personal situation than a national one. Are you okay?”
     “I’m fine, for now. This is a personal matter, a very personal one, as a matter of fact. But it’s also a matter that greatly concerns the safety of all Americans. I don’t know how to put this delicately, so here it is.”
     As the four awaited the bad news, they watched the president take a long, deep breath and exhale slowly. The four could feel the tension transfer into the room. They all stared at the screen, awaiting the President’s words.
     “The Omega Butcher has escaped.”
     “What!” The look on Brent’s face was one of shock, but it was felt by each one of them. The Butcher was a prolific serial killer who stalked college campuses in 1999 through 2000. The last person he kidnapped was the president’s daughter, Charlotte.
     “We don’t have all of the particulars yet. We know he escaped shortly after 5:00 a.m. this morning. So far, we know of three victims; all dead. During his escape, he killed a doctor, a guard and a bus driver.” The president’s voice started to crack. “Brent, he left a note.”
     “Can you read it, sir?”
     “I will, but first let’s dispense with the formality. We have been through too much together for you to call me sir.”
     “Done,” Brent said. “Now the letter, please.”
     The President cleared his throat, his voice shakier and more frightened.
     “It says,
               President Dupree,
               First, let me offer you my congratulations on your
               election. The last time we spoke you were just a lowly
               vice-president. I’m sorry for the mess I left behind,but
               I was in a  bit of a hurry, you understand. Soon I will be
               taking my rightful place in this world, doing my father’s
               But first, I have some unfinished business to attend to.
              Foremost, there is that sorority harlot. Unfortunately,
              I was interrupted the first time I tried to cleanse her of her
              sins. I’m sure they have multiplied since our last date. She
              will be first on my agenda. Then there’s the matter of that
              hero of hers. He must be dealt with severely.”

      Chloe gasped and squeezed Brent’s hand.
      The President again cleared his throat before continuing.

              I know that our much-loved president will get this message
              to you, Venturi, so listen up. Come and find me. I’ll be waiting.

      The President’s voice trailed off.
     “John, I don’t understand…”
     “Just a moment, Brent, there’s more. After I finish, I’ll answer all of your questions. The Butcher goes on to say,

              When all is complete, I will take my place alongside the one
              true god, the one who set me free.

             P.S. Say hello to your new wife for me, Venturi. On second
             thought, maybe I’ll say hello myself.

      “That’s all of it,” the President said. “My God, I can’t believe this horror is starting up again. My daughter is finally leading a somewhat normal life. It took four years of therapy just so she could feel safe enough to leave her house in daylight hours. How am I supposed to tell her that this maniac has escaped and that he’s coming after her?”
     The room was silent. No one could miss hearing the emotion and dread in the president’s voice. The circles under his eyes seemed to have darkened in the few minutes they had been in contact. Each wanted to reach out and comfort their leader, their friend, but no one knew what to say.
     When the silence seemed most deafening, Brent spoke. “John, we’ll get through this together. First, I have questions, and I need honest answers.”
     “Give me a second Brent.” To help collect his thoughts or possibly to stall for time, the president took a drink of water. Sighing, President Dupree spoke. “I imagine you do. Ask me anything. There are no more secrets. I’ll tell you everything I know. But the information I give you does not leave that room. Understand?”
     Brent, Seven, Chloe and Maddie looked at one another and nodded their agreement.
     “We all understand, Mr. President,” Maddie said. “Brent, since you’re more familiar with this subject, why don’t you lead the discussion?” She was right. Brent knew much more about this matter. In fact, he was the only one among them who had faced the Butcher before his capture.
     Brent scribbled notes on a piece of paper. When Maddie broke in, he barely heard her say his name.
     “Hmm, I’m sorry, Maddie, could you repeat that?”
     His preoccupation surprised everyone. If ever there was someone consistently in the moment, it was Brent. Maddie knew this wasn’t the time to reprimand him, so she repeated herself.
     “Since you’re more familiar with the subject, I’d like you to lead the discussion.”
     “Thank you, Madam Director, I appreciate that.” Brent looked down at the paper he’d written on and inhaled deeply to clear his mind before he spoke. “John, how does someone escape by bus from Monteque Penitentiary? It’s an island prison.”
     “He didn’t—I mean, he wasn’t at Monteque.”
      Brent’s calm exterior cracked at the unexpected news, and showed in the tone of his voice.
     “What do you mean? The court mandated it. He was to be imprisoned at Monteque until the date of his execution.”
     “I know, Brent. Like you, I was at the sentencing. But things didn’t go as ordered. Remember, I was vice-president at the time. President Morrow was a lame duck. He pushed for initiating a pet project of his. His legacy, he’d thought. He was convinced that criminals like the Butcher could be rehabilitated…no, wait, that’s wrong. He felt they could be reprogrammed back to right-minded individuals with rigorous therapy. And I use the term ‘therapy’ loosely.”
     At this point, Brent completely lost his cool. He pounded his fist on the table, causing everyone including the president, to jump.
     “What the hell are you talking about?” he yelled. “Cut the political crap and speak clearly.”
     Chloe placed her hand on top of Brent’s balled-up fist, hoping to calm him. Instead, he yanked his arm away and stood. He slammed the chair into the table.
     “Are you telling me that President Morrow convinced Congress that it was a good idea to rehabilitate or reprogram, as you put it, this psychopathic killer?”
    “Calm down, Colonel. Remember who you’re talking to. It was my daughter who was left emotionally scarred by this man.”
     “With all due respect, I’m well aware of your daughter’s scars. I wear the physical scars from her rescue.”
     “Gentlemen, please,” Maddie interjected. “We’re all aware of the past events. Let’s keep our heads in the present. Colonel Venturi,” Maddie said using a tone of authority, “please sit down so we can continue.”
     Brent snapped his head around and glared at Maddie. He continued to scan the room. Chloe looked up at him with big doe eyes filled with fear. She’d never seen him lose his composure like this.
     Brent looked at Seven, his best friend, the man who trained him. The man he most admired. Seven’s face was emotionless, as if he were on a mission. He gave Brent a nod of assurance that conveyed understanding. A nod that said this was neither the time nor the place. A nod that helped ground his emotions.
    Brent sat down and looked around the table, first at his wife, then at his closest friends, the people he considered family.
     “I apologize for my outburst. Mr. President, please forgive me for any disrespect.”
     “No disrespect taken. Let’s forget the formality and get back to the situation at hand.”
     Brent nodded, his shoulders dropped, a sign that he was more at ease. “Thank you for understanding. Please fill us in on how McFarland was transferred from Monteque and from where he escaped.”
     “I’ll begin with your previous question. President Morrow did not seek, nor did he receive congressional approval. He enacted executive privilege and bypassed the Congress altogether. He’d been convinced by an old college roommate, a preeminent psychiatrist, that this type of criminal could be reprogrammed with the proper combination of psychotic drugs, counseling and E.S.T.”
     “Shock therapy. For real?” Brent said.
     “I’m afraid so.”
     “So, where could they possibly have taken McFarland, and any others they deemed programmable where nobody would be able to track them? I’m assuming there are others in this ‘study’,” Brent said.
     “There were five others, and they were taken to the place the government takes everything and everyone they want to make disappear.”
     Brent closed his eyes, thinking about the last remark. Seconds later, his eyes shot open .
     “John, are you telling me they were taken to 51—to area 51? The prisoners or whatever they are called are housed at Dreamland?”
     “Yes, that’s what I’m saying. A complete underground facility known as the Dreamland Project. It houses prisoners, correction officials and medical staff.”
     “My God,” Brent exclaimed, rising from his chair. He paced the floor. “We’ll need all the information you have, official and otherwise on the Dreamland Project. I want to talk to this doctor, President Morrow’s old college roommate.”
     “The information on Dreamland is on its way to you. I’m afraid you won’t be able to speak to Dr. Osgood. He’s the doctor the Butcher killed.”
     “Great,” Brent said, in a sarcastic tone.
     Maddie held up a finger, wanting to speak but not wanting to interrupt. Brent saw and nodded.       “Madame Director, please, go ahead.”
     “Thank you, Colonel. Mr. President, what can you tell us about the event that took place at the facility last night?”
     “The transcripts are being e-mailed to you under the Pentagon’s password, but this is what I know. In Dr. Osgood’s notes, he wrote that he was close to a major breakthrough in McFarland’s case, that his maniacal behavior could be traced back to his childhood. That information, in detail, along with treatment protocol, is included in the e-mail. I had the video streamed directly to you detailing the entire incident. You’ll see why he was moved to the infirmary. That’s where he escaped from.”
     As the president spoke, Joan walked into the conference room carrying a laptop and a USB cord. She immediately sensed the tension in the room. It was so thick, she thought, she could reach out and hold it in her hand. “I thought you’d want to see this as soon as it came in.”
     Maddie smiled. Joan had an uncanny ability to know what she wanted before she knew herself. It was one of the things she loved most about her.
     Joan returned the smile. They’d become very close over the past year, though neither knew exactly why. There existed between them a special bond not unlike a mother-daughter relationship, sprinkled with a sorority sister-type friendship.
     She placed the computer at the far end of the table and connected the USB cable to a port built into the table. The wiring had been designed so anything that showed up on the computer monitor was transmitted directly to a screen by way of USB or Ethernet. Immediately, a large screen descended from the ceiling at the front of the room.
    “Would you like to view the e-mail or go straight to the video, Colonel?” Joan’s question was moot. She already knew the answer. Brent despised reading off a computer screen, he wanted e-mails printed out before he read them.
     “The video please, Joan.”
     “Mr. President, I’ve gone ahead and linked the video straight to the Oval Office. If you watch your screen, you’ll see the same thing our team here is viewing.”
     “Thank you, Joan, that’ll be very helpful.”
     “If everyone’s ready, I’ll dim the overhead lights before I start the video.” Not waiting for a response, she clicked the start button that automatically dimmed the lights, and headed toward the door.
     “Joan,” Maddie said, “you’re part of this team and welcome to stay.”
     Noting the concern on the faces of the people she knew best, she decided to stay and see what all the commotion was about. As the room faded to black and the video started to play, she took a seat next to Maddie.
     The first images were of someone sleeping on a bed. The wide-angle lens took in a view of the entire cell. A LCD numbers on a digital clock displayed at the bottom right corner of the screen moved in rapid sequence. Hours turned into seconds. When it slowed down to real time, they recognized the Omega Butcher for the first time. He twitched involuntary with spasmodic muscle contractions. Eyes glued to the screen, they watched the contractions become more frequent, more forceful.
     The violent movements were accompanied by sounds emanating from the prisoner’s throat. As the contractions became more agitated, the prisoner’s voice grew louder and deeper. What started as a murmur became incoherent screaming. The butcher leapt from his bed and stood in the middle of the cell. The screaming and thrashing continued as two guards entered.
     The team was riveted to the screen. They watched the large, heavily-muscled guards struggle to subdue and control the small, waif-like prisoner. Tackled, McFarland was placed in a straitjacket. A man wearing a white lab coat rushed in, presumably, Dr. Osgood. A needle was thrust into the prisoner’s hip. The Butcher slumped to the mattress, silent and still.
     “Can you zoom in, Joan?” Brent said.
     “Sure. Which part?”
     “The beginning. Zoom in on his face. I want to see his eyes.”
     “Why the eyes?” the President asked.
     “A hunch. I want to check something.”
     “Okay, here we go,” Joan restarted the video, this time zooming in for a close-up of the Butcher’s eyes.
     “Slow it down, Joan. Frame by frame, if you can.”
     She did as Brent asked, slowing the speed until they could view it in ultra-slow motion.
     Brent raised his arm to get everyone’s attention. “Everyone, watch his eyes and listen to the tone of his voice.”
     At first, Maddie, Seven, Chloe and Joan seemed surprised at how peaceful and innocent Jonas McFarland appeared as he slept.
     Frame by frame, the video slowly moved. Soon, the captivated viewers heard a whimper coming from Jonas’ throat. At the same time, they witnessed a barely visible muscle twitch in his chest.
     His eyes opened.
     They leaned forward trying to get a closer look. The color of his eyes were Unique. Crystal blue.
     “Oh, my God,” Chloe gasped. “They look like blue diamonds, they actually sparkle.”
     Maddie leaned in further. “Are they real? They look like contacts.”
     “They’re real,” Brent said. “Keep watching.”
     McFarland’s voice grew deeper and louder. It was as though some mysterious, intrinsic quality was transformed. The manner in which the sounds were delivered was suddenly different. His voice went from one of innocence to one full of guilt and hatred. From soft and child-like to angry and curt. Simultaneously, the contractions became abrupt and violent.
     Brent glanced at the others. They were mesmerized by the gyrations and forcefulness of the muscle spasms.
     He implored everyone, “Shift your attention from his movements back to his eyes.” They watched with astonishment as the Butcher’s eyes became darker, no longer light blue, now a deep-bluish purple. The next transformation made them appear almost black. When he moved his head the lights in the room reflected a glimmer or spark of red. The spark spread, like a single ember growing into a forest fire until the iris was a glowing flame.
     Everyone in the conference was shocked and awestruck. Everyone except Brent. They shifted in their chairs, uncomfortable in their own skin.
     “Concentrate,” Brent said.
     Everyone’s attention returned to the screen. What they witnessed defied explanation. McFarland’s pupils morphed, losing their humanity and becoming serpent-like. When the change was complete, Jonas had become the Butcher. He was in full, mouth-frothing rage.
     “Stop the video, Joan.”
     Seven, a man of action, had enough of sitting still. His frustration for what he just witnessed was vented in his words. He stood and pointed at the screen. “What the hell was that? And how did you know it was going to happen?”
     Brent looked at his friend. “I’m not sure what it was or what it means. At least, not yet. And to be honest, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen until I watched it with all of you.”
     Brent combed his fingers through his hair, brushing it away from his eyes. “When we apprehended the Butcher, I thought I saw the same thing occur, but in reverse. I was going into shock from the pain caused by the hot oil burns and my mind and body were shutting down. At the time I wasn’t sure if what I saw was real, or imagined. When I woke up three days later, I wasn’t able to differentiate between what I had seen and what I’d experienced in my nightmares.”
     Everyone was quiet. No one knew what to say. They stared at the table, each imagining what Brent had gone through. Brent didn’t pick up on how uncomfortable they felt. His gaze remained focused on the screen.
     President Dupree broke the silence. In a fragile voice, he said, “Brent, after the rescue, weeks after, when Charlotte was finally able to speak, she said there were two men present in the room, two, not including you. She would lie in bed and repeat over and over, ‘Two men and one, two men and one.’ Like some sort of mantra. Her doctors dismissed it as post-traumatic stress disorder. Now, I’m not so sure.”
     “John, why didn’t you ever mention this before now?”
     “I—I just believed what the doctors told me. Why? Do you know what she meant?”
     “She wasn’t saying two men and one, she was saying two men in one. She saw Jonas transform from a soft-spoken, juvenile young man into a demon.”
     “Oh, my God.” The President’s voice cracked. “She was right—and I didn’t believe her. After that incident with the doctors, she became angry and refused to speak to any of us.” He sniffled, then cleared his throat, audible signs that he was becoming emotional. “Even today, she doesn’t talk to me often. Our relationship has never been the same.” Everyone in the room could hear the president pacing the floor of the Oval Office. “Now what do I do? I can’t let her relive that nightmare. I just can’t.”
     Before the President could say another word, Brent interjected, “She won’t. I won’t let that happen.” Changing his tone to a softer, more empathetic one, he added, “John, please, listen to me. Get in touch with your daughter and tell her about the escape before she hears about it in the news. Tell her in person. Have the Secret Service bring her to you, under false pretenses, if necessary. Just make sure you tell her in person.”
     “Of course. But why are you so adamant about it?”
     “Because she’ll run if she finds out any other way. I know all too well what kind of effect this news will have on her. Believe me, if she is not in your custody, she’ll try to run and hide from him.” Brent hesitated, choosing his next words carefully. “But she won’t be able to. He’ll find her if she tries to hide from him.”
     The tension in the room grew thicker with Brent’s words.
     “Please do exactly as I say,” he continued. “Once she’s with you and you’ve explained the situation, put her on a plane and send her to us.”
     “Why down there? That doesn’t make sense. The Butcher is looking for you, too!”
     Brent paid no attention to the President’s remarks. Keeping his demeanor calm, he said, “Because it’s the only place she’ll be safe.”
     “I want her here with me,” President Dupree said. “I’ll triple her Secret Service protection.”
     “With all due respect, sir, she won’t be any safer. Listen to me. I know you want to protect her. This is the only way. It’s what you must do.”
     “Give me one good reason why and I’ll agree. Tell me why she’d be safer there with you than here with the best protective force in the world.”
     Brent almost told him about the tunnel system, but that would divulge the secret of the Endowment and in turn put the President in harm’s way. That was something he wasn’t prepared to do.
     “I can’t. As a friend, I’m asking you to trust me. I would never put Charlotte in harm’s way. If I wasn’t sure this was the best plan of action, I wouldn’t have brought it up. John, I’m asking you…no, pleading with you to trust me. The only place Charlotte will be safe from that maniac is here, with us.”
     The President’s voice was a quivering mess. “As God as your witness, Brent, do you swear this is the only way? I couldn’t live with myself if that animal got hold of her again.”
     “As God as my witness, I swear.”
     The President was silent for a moment. “What do you need me to do? I can put her on Air Force One this afternoon, and she’ll be there tonight.”
     “Whoa, slow down,” Brent said. “First, have the Secret Service pick her up at work. Send someone she trusts. Tell her whatever it takes for her to go with them to the White House. Then you tell her what happened. Keep her in D.C. until tomorrow evening.”
     “Why so long?”
     Brent hesitated, he knew what he was about to say wouldn’t go over well. “I need to give the Butcher enough time to make his way from Nevada to D.C.”
     “Are you insane?” the President yelled. “I’m not jeopardizing my daughter’s life so that we can wait until that madman is close by.”
     “John, please listen to the entire plan. I would never ask you to put Charlotte at risk. Okay?”
     “Go ahead,” President Dupree said, “but so far, I’m not on board with this one bit.”
     “Replace her with an agent disguised as Charlotte. Have her follow Charlotte’s schedule to a tee. No deviation whatsoever. She’ll live in her condo until stage two of the plan. Move Charlotte today, to a safe house located at 721 Piedmont Drive in Arlington.”
     “Who lives at that address?”
     “The less you know, the safer you are. But you can be confident she will be safe.
     At 8:00 tomorrow evening, Charlotte will be transported from the safe house to a hidden airstrip. At 9:00, she will board a non-descript Lear jet and fly directly to another hidden airstrip in Palm Cove. I’ll be waiting for her.”
     Joan typed as Brent talked. They had worked together for so long, she knew when to record his conversations.
     “Got that, sir?”
     “Got it.”
     “At the same time your daughter is being moved, the decoy and her Secret Service escort will leave her house and be driven to Air Force One at Langley, where the plane will depart at 9:00. Its destination will be your vacation compound in San Diego. Is everything understood?”
     “How can you be sure Charlotte won’t be followed to this safe house, or be seen leaving it?”
     “Because you will have her and the agents transported from the White House in one of the laundry trucks which will be parked at the entrance to the underground bunker.”
     Shock shown on the president’s face. “How do you know of the bunker and its location, Colonel?”
     “Trust, sir. This will only work if you have total trust.”
     “All right. Forget the question—for now.”
     “Once she’s at the safe house, she’ll be taken to the plane by way of tunnel. The house is built on top of a vein of the underground railroad.”
     “How do you know about this place?” As soon as the words left his mouth, the President knew he wouldn’t get a straight answer.
     “You’re just going to have to trust me.”
     “I do.”
     “So we’re clear on the plan?”
     “One more thing. All communication is now Level Four. Do you still have that satellite phone I gave you?”
     “The one you said I’d probably never need? Yes, it’s in my safe.”
     “Have it with you at all times. If you need to contact us, use channel thirteen. From this point forward, all communication goes through that channel only.”
     “How do I know our conversations won’t be monitored?”
     “It’s a Phantom Squad-issued phone. No other satellite phones exist with that bandwidth. There is no safer form of communication. For extra security both parties, will always answer with the code phrase, ‘John 3:16’.”
     “Got it. And Brent?”
     “Yes, sir?”
     “God be with you. All of you.”
     “Thank you, Mr. President.” They all heard the dial tone, signaling the President hung up. The video connection went black.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chapter Three of "Cursed Presence"

     We are ten days away from the release of Cursed Presence and I am very excited for the launch. I have posted chapter three below and will post chapter four mid-week. Thank you for your patience and please let me know your thoughts on what you read.

J. M.

Chapter THREE
      Dr. Osgood took Jonas’ pulse and blood pressure, marking them in a notebook. Next, he took three vials of blood from his left arm. I’ll run a toxicology screen to see if any of the experimental drugs could have built to toxic levels. That would explain the psychotic episode.
     He walked to the lab bench on the opposite side of the room, unaware that Jonas awoke; first one eye opened, then the other.
     Fully awake, eyelids half open, Jonas scanned the room, making sure not to move a muscle. If security was watching, he appeared sedated.
     Jonas’ heart beat quickened as his vision locked on to Dr. Osgood. A hate unlike any he’d known built inside him. His teeth clenched and his heart pounded as if it were trying to breach the restraints of the rib-cage. Nothing was more important at this moment than to kill. It was the only way to satiate the hunger and the loathing.
     His muscles tensed in anticipation of attacking his prey when he was held back by an unseen force. Something strong and heavy pinned him to the table. Although he saw nothing, he felt it breathe; a hot, dank, foul odor. He felt the heat on his face.
     As the force moved closer, the smell made him want to vomit. Knowing he had lost the battle to get up, he gave in to the invisible force. As his body relaxed, the pungent odor made him feel euphoric. His nostrils flared as he inhaled more of the intoxicating scent.
     The being was so close that Jonas suspected he would be able to taste the spirit’s flesh if he stuck out his tongue. The euphoria spread throughout his body while, at the same time, the fury subsided.
     The spirit, his friend, spoke to him in such guttural tones, the words seemed to carry weight. Not yet, my son. Your time has not yet come. You must be patient.
     But when, my father?
     Before the sun rises in the east, you will be a free man. Free to do my bidding. Free to bring about a new reign of terror, one that will bring me out of the shadows and into the light. One that will bring hell to earth.
     Dr. Osgood, oblivious to what was going on, ran the blood samples through the computer in a process that separated the chemicals in Jonas’ blood. While he waited for the readout, he had the distinct feeling he was being watched.
     Turning to where Jonas lay, he could have sworn he had seen Jonas smile. Rubbing his temples, he thought, I need sleep. My mind is playing tricks on me.
     It was 4:00 a.m. Dr. Osgood was no closer to discovering the reason for Jonas’ peculiar behavior than three hours earlier. He’d run blood tests, CAT scans, EEGs and nerve conduction tests, all to no avail. All came back negative; dead center in the middle of the normal range.
     He was so tired he felt he could fall asleep standing up. He yawned as he walked over to the gurney. For what seemed like the millionth time, he took the inmate’s vitals and for the millionth time, they read normal. His pulse and blood pressure were so consistent it was spooky.
     Opening his notebook he wrote,
     The only significant findings at this time are: there are no significant findings. The patient’s pulse and blood pressure have not deviated one beat since I first took them. That strikes me as very odd.
     Placing the notebook on the lab bench, Dr. Osgood walked over to the overstuffed recliner used for hypnotherapy sessions. He massaged the back of his neck. I’ve got such a headache. I just need a little sleep, then I’m sure things will seem clearer. With that, he closed his eyes. Within seconds, he’d fallen into a deep sleep.
     At 4:55, Jonas felt the weight again on his chest. This time, inhaling the beast’s breath did not calm him, in fact, it had the opposite effect. Jonas felt anger build within him. He lay on the flat surface while his disgust for the world churned within. The beast moved close to Jonas’ face, so close that the air became thick and putrid.
     It’s time, my son, it moaned. It’s time you took your rightful place in the world as the son of the Dark One. Jonas felt his ‘father’s’ lips on his as it breathed into his mouth. The breath held the unmistakable smell and taste of death; decomposing flesh, but not human flesh. The smell was much more acrid, so subhuman in its qualities that it had an eternal essence.
     As the sour, fetid breath filled his lungs, Jonas felt it course through his bloodstream. The further it progressed through his body, the further his mind moved into the past. Every evil thing his aunt had ever done to him flashed through his mind. Memory-driven, intense hatred filled his heart to such an extent he had no doubt it was time to extract revenge on those who caused it to happen.
     As quick as the weight came, it was suddenly gone. Jonas’ eyes, fiery red, opened wide. His pupils dilated.
     In one swift move, Jonas leapt. In an instant he was at the doctor’s side. Though he wanted him to feel the pain and torture he had known, he knew there was little time.

     Jonas glanced at the clock: 5:02 a.m. He had to move fast. He had a ten-minute window, from 5:00 a.m. to 5:10 a.m., when the security cameras were disabled to accommodate a computer backup.
     Unzipping his jumpsuit, Jonas stepped out of it and immediately removed Osgood’s clothes. He slipped into the doctor’s scrubs. Next he put his prison jumpsuit on the dead body, feet first, up to the doctor’s hips. 5:05.
     He allowed the body to fall back into the chair. At the lab bench, he grabbed a Bunsen burner and sparked the flame to life. Returning to the body, he burned symbols into the doctor’s chest. He tossed the burner back onto the bench. Time was in short supply. He lifted the doctor’s body off the chair, pulled the jumpsuit up over the lifeless torso, fed the arms into the sleeves and zipped up the back.
     Jonas carried the body fireman-style to the gurney. He arranged it in the same position he’d been in minutes earlier, making sure to turn the face away from the security camera.
     As he finished, the security camera came back to life. The security officer thought Dr. Osgood was struggling with the inmate.
     “Everything okay, Doc?”
     “Just fine,” Jonas replied in a dead-on imitation of the doctor’s voice. “I’m attempting to make the patient more comfortable. After I write a few more notes, I’ll leave for town, to the county hospital. I need to run more expansive blood tests. Send someone in ten minutes to escort me off the grounds, please.”
      “Sure thing. Ten minutes.”
     Jonas placed the straightjacket and shackles on the body, making certain his face was turned away from the camera. Then he tore a piece of paper out of Dr. Osgood’s notebook, scribbled a note, and tucked it inside the straightjacket.
     Finished, he walked to the lab bench. Pretending to trip, he smashed his nose on the top of the table, and caught the attention of the security guard.
     “Doc, are you okay? Are you hurt? Should I call one of the nurses for you?”
     Pulling himself up, Jonas moaned. He covered his face with his hands. Blood ran through his fingers. He grabbed a towel to cover his face and stop the bleeding.
     “No, but I may have broken my nose. Please send the guard now. I’ll have it looked at while I’m at the county hospital.”
     “He’s on his way.”
     Thirty seconds later, the door swung open. In walked Mickey.“Whoa, security wasn’t kidding when they said you busted your nose. Let me take a look.” As he reached for the towel, Jonas jerked away.
     “It’ll be all right,” he said. “The bleeding has just about stopped. If I remove the pressure, it may start again.”
     “You’re the doctor, I guess you know what you’re doing. How about I get you outta here and onto that bus?”
     “Perfect. That would be great.”
     On their way out of the room, the guard glanced at the body lying on the table. His head partially covered and turned toward the wall.
     “How’s our boy?”
     “Resting comfortably. I placed the jacket back on him for safety. He’ll be out for another five or six hours. I’ll be back before then, so I don’t want anyone disturbing him.”
     “No problem there. I want to stay as far away from that one as possible. Besides, I’m punching out myself as soon as I walk you to the surface. I’ll pass on your message to the next shift.”
     The two men walked out of the infirmary and headed down the hall to the elevator. They were six stories under the earth’s surface. The ride took a full minute to bring them to ground level.
     During the ride, the guard couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.
     When he stepped out of the elevator, Jonas said, “I should be back around 9:30 or 10:00, depending on the bus schedule.”
     Bus schedule, Mickey thought, there is no bus schedule. It picks up on demand. Slowly, he brought his hand down to his gun belt and yelled, “Prisoner 54112, put your hands above your head and turn around slowly.”
     Jonas did just as he was told and dropped the towel. He abandoned using the doctor’s voice, choosing to speak in the same guttural tone he used earlier. “Not a good idea, Mickey.”
     With a speed and dexterity, cat-like in nature, Jonas brought his leg up, kneeing the guard in the groin. The force of impact caused Mickey to drop the gun. He doubled over in pain.
     Quickly, Jonas used the opportunity to reach for Mickey’s head. In one fluid movement, he snapped the guard’s neck, killing him instantly. Jonas quickly covered Mickey’s mouth with his own and inhaled deeply. The guard’s spirit satiated Jonas’ hunger for death. Once Mickey’s spirit was completely captured within Jonas’ demonic state, he dropped the body on the elevator floor.
     The hour, still early, the lobby of Dreamland was empty. Jonas carried and deposited Mickey’s lifeless form in the stairwell. Whether it from his added strength or from the loss of the guard’s soul, the body seemed lighter than he expected. Jonas liked the way it felt and he hungered for more. Exiting Dreamland, Jonas saw the sun make its rise over the horizon and he remembered what the Dark One had told him.
     “Before the sun rises again in the east, you’ll be a free man.”

(Chapter Four Wednesday)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cursed Presence: Chapter Two

There really isn't much to say. You will find chapter two of Cursed Presence below. It will be published on January 31, 2012 in both e-book and print. Look for it everywhere. As a special promotion for the upcoming launch the publisher had discounted Cursed Blessing. It is now available in all e-book formats for only $.99. It will only stay that low for a short time so please take advantage of it.

Chapter TWO

      Later that evening, long after lights out, he heard his ‘father’s’ voice. Deep and guttural.
Tonight is the night, my son. It is the night you begin your ascent to the seat of honor. Prepare yourself.
     Still asleep, his muscles began to involuntarily contract. First, a slight tremor coursed through his body. Then his limbs twitched. His hands and feet followed, jerking up and down in quick, sudden movements. Fully awake, the twitching grew more exaggerated. Soon the spasmodic movement contained itself to his torso, it quaked with such force the security officers were afraid he would injure himself. Soon, he convulsed to such an extent that his entire body rose above the bed before crashing back down.
      An officer grabbed the in-house phone and dialed #001. “Doc, you better come see this.” No response. He pushed the panic button that rang in Dr. Osgood’s residence and summoned the guards.
      “Doc,” security screamed, “there’s something wrong with 54112. Looks like he’s having seizures.”
      Dr. Osgood threw off his bed covers and grabbed the phone. “On my way. Nobody is to enter the cell until I get there, understood?”
      “Yes, sir, I’ll relay that message.” He turned his attention to the intercom. “All personnel are to stand down, I repeat, stand down. No one is to enter cell 54112 without Dr. Osgood’s permission. This is a direct order.”
     The thrashing settled into a rhythmic movement, the muscle twitching took on a certain cadence. Standing in his cell, he stared directly at the security camera. Following each contraction or thrust, a non-intelligible noise emanated from his throat. The more he screamed and convulsed, the more non-human he appeared. His mouth foamed and his eyes rolled. His mouth and eyes were as white as the rest of his room.
     Dr. Osgood stormed into the observation room. Without addressing the security guard, his eyes locked on the screen.
      “What’s going on, Doc?”
      He looked away from the live feed long enough to answer. “I can’t be sure. I think he may be having some sort of physiological reaction to the major breakthrough that occurred in yesterday’s treatment session. He must be restrained before he self-mutilates.” Osgood  bit the corner of his lower lip in concern. He may be having an adverse reaction to the drastic increase in the psychotropic drug dosage I administered.
     The guard took immediate action and depressed the intercom button. “Attention, we have a Code One in cell 54112. Restrain the inmate and wait for further orders from Dr. Osgood.”
     Osgood left the observation room, and ran down the hall toward the incarceration wing. By the time he arrived, the inmate had already been placed in a straightjacket. The restraint however, did nothing to stop the convulsions, nor did it stop the screaming.
     When the doctor looked at the inmate, he swore the man was telling him something, but all he heard was verbal chant that was neither intelligible nor communicative. The doctor was so concerned with the quality of the voice, he didn’t pay attention to the words or utterances. He was accustomed to the man’s non-emotional, high-pitched, effeminate voice. This voice was base and guttural. It was though someone else’s voice was coming from his patient’s mouth.
     “We’ll have to sedate him,” Doctor Osgood said, pulling a syringe from his lab coat pocket. “Hold him down.”
      The guards grabbed the inmate. With every ounce of their strength, they pinned the already-restrained inmate to his bed. Dr. Osgood injected a fast-acting sedative. The effect was almost immediate.
     “Get a gurney and transport him to the medical wing. There, I’ll be able to run some tests.”
     The prisoner was lifted from bed to gurney where he was strapped down and shackled for safety. The guards wheeled him to the psych ward, or ‘laboratory,’ as they called it, the same area they had retrieved a calm, well-mannered prisoner seven hours earlier.
     The doctor, the only person with keys to this area of Dreamland, ran ahead to unlock the doors to the medical facility. By the time the guards arrived with the inmate, he was busy filling another syringe with two more medications.
     “What’s that, Doc?”
     “A long-lasting sedative. Roll him on his side, please.”
     As they followed the doctor’s orders, 54112 awoke and immediately began screaming and thrashing. Angrier and harsher than before.
     “My God, hold him down before he hurts himself!”
     “We’re trying,” the first guard yelled. “It’s not him we’re worried about.”
     Struggling to hold him still, the other guard yelled, “You’d better be quick with that needle.”
     Dr. Osgood drove the two-inch needle deep into 54112’s hip.
     “Argh,” the inmate screamed as the needle penetrated his muscle. Doctor Osgood depressed the plunger, releasing the medication into the man’s bloodstream. Within seconds the fight left him. He lay still and quiet as a corpse.
     “Is he dead?”
     “No, but he’ll be dead to the world for about twelve hours. You can let go of him.”
     With hesitation, the guards released prisoner #54112, half expecting him to wake up and start his wild movements again. They stepped back and took a deep breath, relieved their fears hadn’t come to fruition.
     “Excuse me, Doc,” Mickey said, “but if you don’t need us anymore, we need to report back to our posts.”
     “Hmm?” Dr. Osgood’s mind was elsewhere.
     “Hmm, yes, I apologize. You’re dismissed. Thank you both for your quick response.”
     “That’s what you pay us for,” Mickey said. He looked at the unconscious inmate, “Are you sure he’s not gonna wake up soon?”
     “Highly unlikely. Jonas…” his voice trailed, knowing he had made a mistake. Dr. Osgood hesitated for a second, waiting to see if either guard reacted to what he had let slip. When they didn’t, he continued, “Inmate 54112 will be out for at least twelve hours because of the sedatives he just received.”
     As the guards turned to leave, the doctor said, “One more thing. Please remove the restraints so that I’m able to perform the medical tests I need.”
     They looked at each other, disbelief on their faces, then at Dr. Osgood. “Doc, that’s not a good idea,” the second guard said. “You saw how violent he became, even after you gave him that first shot.”
     “Jim, I appreciate your concern, but I know what I’m doing. Please remove the inmate’s restraints.”
     Jim looked at his partner and shrugged. “The Doc’s in charge, Mickey. Let’s do as he says.”
     “Whatever. Let’s just get it over with and get out of here. This place gives me the creeps.”
     Once they’d removed the straightjacket, Jim said, “I’m gonna leave the jacket here, just in case. If he stirs, hit the panic button. We’ll be right back.”
     “Thank you. You’re dismissed.”
     On the walk back to their posts, Jim said, “Hey, Mickey, did you hear what he called him?”
     “Yeah, sure did,” Mickey replied in a muffled tone. “He called him Jonas. That psycho really is the Omega Butcher. I never would have believed it.”
     “Me neither. He’s so small. He looks almost like a boy, ya know?”
      “Yup, I was thinking the same thing. Where the heck did all his strength come from?”
      “I don’t know, but we now know how he was able to overpower those poor girls.”