Friday, September 19, 2014

"Killing the Dead (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #2)" by Scott Marlowe (Short Story)



Genre:  Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  Some say the dead should stay dead. Not everyone agrees.

The priests purged one of their own with holy fire. Now they need the Assassin Without a Name to finish the job.

In this short tale, an assassin is hired to kill the already dead.

Excerpt:

"I AM AUTHORIZED TO OFFER you double your normal rate because this job is a bit…abnormal."

I put my wine glass down, letting the smoothness of the '74 Crusus Sabeler slide down my throat and settle in my stomach before I responded. "Abnormal how?"

I'd been enjoying a bottle of the Shiraz when I saw the man poke his way through the wineshop's front door. That he was looking for me, I'd no doubt, for after a quick scan of the room's interior he headed straight for my table, asked my permission to sit, then did so. Right away, I saw that there was something different about this gent. He was middle-aged, with the thinning pate and speckled gray to prove it. The skin of his face was white from lack of sun and he had the smooth and uncalloused hands of a scrivener or scholar. Neither profession earned enough to cover my fee. I was about to tell him so when he introduced himself. He said his name was Father Kem, here as a representative of a church whose name I promptly forgot. A holy man, come to see me? Abnormal indeed.

He'd arrived incognito, dressed in a white tailored shirt, embroidered vest, and plain trousers. Despite the lack of a cassock, I wondered for a brief moment if he'd come to absolve me of my sins. No such luck. He was here to add to them.

"We wish you to dispatch a man…who is already dead."

I narrowed my gaze at that, taking another sip of my wine and hoping it would make the words replaying in my mind clearer. It did not. "You want me to do what?"

Kem's lips turned in a brief smile. "I understand you may think me cracked. But, I assure you, the request is genuine, as is the proposed fee. The man you are to, ah, kill, is—was—named Ashunde Roe. He was a bishop amongst our clergy before he met his end. That end, as you might imagine, is of considerable importance, for Bishop Roe was purged."

That was the clergy's way of saying he'd been burned alive. It was a fate experienced by only the worst of sinners: dark witches, demon-mongers, necromancers, and probably some others I didn't want to know about.

"Ashunde strayed from our ranks," Kem said. "He was caught delving into the debaucheries of necromancy."

Ah, necromancy. I spent my time sending people to their graves. Necromancers spent their time raising them. A vicious cycle by anyone's measure.


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Friday, September 12, 2014

"Fine Wine (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #1)" by Scott Marlowe (Short Story)



Genre:  Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  Abelard has made enemies. The Assassin Without a Name is sent to deal with him. But death isn't always the answer.

In this short introductory tale, an assassin makes a deal.

Excerpt:

ABELARD ATE A LOT. THAT was why, after I'd slashed my knife across his belly, I half-expected his bulbous stomach, chock full of the tender roast, broccoli, soft rolls, and the most delicate shiraz I'd ever sampled—all served just an hour before by his fat merchantship's very own staff—to come tumbling out like a too swollen jellyfish. But something about the cut didn't feel right, and though Abelard clenched his hands to his gut and fell to his knees as I expected he would, there wasn't even a single, glistening trickle of gastric juice seeping out from between his fat fingers.

Seized by a moment of disbelief, Abelard gasped when realization of what had happened hit him. It's not every day a man falls prey to an assassin, especially after having just wined and dined said assassin at his own table. It's not a usual part of my fee, the wining and dining, but I don't pass it up when it can be arranged.

His lardship moaned, and fell to his back, still clutching his gut. Strange that there was no blood…

I sighed. Killing a man when he was down was too much work. Not very sporting, either. "Get up," I said.

"Why have you betrayed me, my friend?" Abelard asked between moans as he curled himself into the fetal position.

I'd passed myself off as a fellow merchant, come to the city to move some goods. "I did not betray you," I said, "for I was never loyal to you in the first place. Now, get up." It was a hard thing to ask of a man who'd just been eviscerated, but Abelard appeared to be holding his insides in well enough, so not completely out of boundaries, I thought.

"You've killed me, my dear, dear friend. I bleed, and soon I shall die."

I sighed again. I'd been warned about Abelard's theatrics.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

"Shadowcursed" by Gelo R. Fleisher (Novella)



Genre:  Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:   Bolen is a thief, plying his trade under the spires of an ancient and sprawling city. Worried that he's growing too old, Bolen has lined up a risky job, just to prove that he can still pull one off.

Tonight, he's going to break into a nobleman's vault and help himself to its contents. What he doesn't know is that inside is the key to a secret as old as the city itself.

Kings have killed for it, demons have coveted it, priests have prayed for it, and in a few moments it will be in his hands. And when it is, the adventure of his life will begin.

Excerpt:

All through the city, the first signs of daylight made themselves known. Streaks of pale orange climbed the thatch and stone of its crooked skyline, and the night mists began their daily retreat back into the sea. As the fog burned away, the smell of salt water remained and soaked the pungent aromas of urban filth with a sour brine.

Over muddy streets matted with straw and excrement, bleary-eyed merchants carted their wares to market, and weary tradesmen shuffled off to fisheries and storehouses. City watchmen in their chainmail shirts, and apprentice mages in high-collared robes, watched the bustling crowd without interest.

Bolen’s eyes stung with sleepiness. The short, unassuming man was one of the hundreds wending their way between complaining oxen, chanting Sothay priests, and the upraised hands of beggars. His short, wiry frame moved unhurriedly, ignored by the lurching mob.

Bolen had lived his whole life amid the rhythms of the city and they comforted him, in a perverse way. It was a city of stolen dreams, his among them. Yet to see it stir, the same as it did every day, was like the taste of cheap wine on the lips of a drunk. No longer exhilarating or satisfying, but at least comforting in its reliability.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

"A Long Way Home" by Anna Drake (Novelette)



Genre:  Suspense

Type of Short Story:  Novelette

Summary:  Newly minted widow, Angela Clark, learns that while her husband may be dead, her enemy is terrifyingly alive. Angela's challenge is deciding whether she wants to live or die.

Excerpt:

I stared at the gentleman seated opposite me. Dark hair with wisps of gray at the temples. Aquiline nose. Narrow face. Expensive, tasteful suit, done up in a conservative, gray fabric. He wanted to know why I’d come.

“My husband, Jeffery,” I said, “died not quite a month ago. He was stabbed to death. He’d been walking home from our store after closing.”

Dr. Ivan Gregory placed his hands on his desk and nodded. “A violent death is always upsetting. But you say you’re not sleeping. You’re not eating. You need to understand those are normal reactions after what you’ve experienced. It will take you time to recover from this kind of shock. Grief has its stages.”

“But Jeff was murdered. Someone deliberately robbed him of life. Can you explain to me how I’m to get over something like that?”

Gregory offered me a reassuring smile. “I grant you murder complicates things. What you’re feeling at this moment is no doubt nearly overwhelming. But if you’re willing to put in the effort and time required, you can recover. You mention murder. So let’s begin with how you feel about your husband’s killer."

“Jeff was only thirty-four. We were deeply in love. We were thinking of starting a family. How do you think I feel?”

“Anger is normal under these circumstances. I take it the killer hasn’t been caught, then?”

“No.” My voice sounded strained even to my own ears. “Whoever did this is still running around out there. Free to do whatever they please.”

“And that bothers you?”

I leaned forward toward this man seated behind his wide, dark, teak desk. “Of course, it does. I know this doesn’t sound nice. But I want this killer hunted down. I want to be sitting there in court when the jury’s verdict is announced. I want to see the murderer flinch as he or she learns the price they’ll pay for taking my husband’s life.”

“I see.” Gregory scratched a few notes on his pad of paper before returning his gaze to my face. “There are websites online that can help you with this. They’re places where people left behind after a murder can share their stories with each other. Have you heard of such sites?”

“Actually, yes.” I repositioned myself in my chair. “I even have a list of some. My mother tracked them down. But I took that piece of paper she gave me and shoved it into a drawer. And I’ve never so much as looked at it since.”

“You don’t think visiting a few of the websites could be helpful to you?”

“No,” I said. Then I added in what was almost a whisper, “I’m not sure even sure I want to know.”

“You enjoy holding on to your anger?”

“Maybe,” I admitted. “At least this way, I feel something.”
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Friday, August 22, 2014

"Hustlers" by Claire Chilton (Novella)



Genre:  New Adult Romance

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  Her first heist was perfect until romance got in the way... 

Ellie Phillips doesn’t want to go to university. She wants to keep running cons with her father and her brother, Jimmy, just like she always has. When she strikes a deal with her dad to run the perfect heist, she bets her future on the result.

All she has to do is dig up the dirt on a shady millionaire. To do so, she needs to get into his hotel and snoop around. Unfortunately, when she runs into the mark’s son, Matt, and falls for him, she lets her guard down and everything starts to spiral out of control...

Excerpt:

“We need to talk about you being more responsible.” Ellie Phillips widened her eyes when she heard her father’s voice echo through the Bluetooth device in her ear.

“Is now really the best time to discuss my future?” she asked as she scrambled through the tight space of an air vent. The silver shaft felt claustrophobic as she crawled through it, and every movement caused a metallic thunk to echo down it.

“It’s as good a time as any,” her father said.

She shook her head as she reached the grill at the end of the tunnel. “I really do think this could be a conversation for another day,” she muttered as she reached into the pocket of her black jeans and pulled out a small, electric screwdriver. She began unscrewing the vent.

“You’re eighteen now. It’s time you started thinking about taking on some responsibility. You can’t keep doing cons forever.”

“Why not? You did,” she muttered as she dropped the grill into the office below and then lowered herself out of the crawlspace in the roof and into the room beneath her.

“What?”

“Nothing,” she mumbled as she dropped through the hole and landed in the middle of an open-plan office. She ducked down, crouching in the dark as she scanned the office with her pulse racing. The room was empty.

“I’d like you to start thinking about your future. I’d like you to start taking on a bit more responsibility.” Her father continued as she narrowed her eyes, checking for shadows moving on the walls. Nothing moved. She breathed a sigh. The alarms in the office were disabled, but she needed to make sure there weren’t any guards wandering around.

“I think you need to stay out of trouble and go to college.”

“What?” She widened her eyes again before lowering her voice to a whisper. “Are you getting senile dementia or something?”

“It’s a perfectly reasonable expectation that a father should have for his daughter.”

She shook her head as she stood up and hurried over to the nearest computer terminal. “Given the current situation, I don’t think it’s a realistic expectation. Is Jimmy ready?”

“I’m ever-ready, sweetheart.” Jimmy’s voice echoed through the Bluetooth.

“You’re up,” she said as she switched on the computer and plugged in the USB. She brushed back a wisp of dark hair that had escaped her ponytail and was tickling her cheek.

“You need to stop being a little criminal and start thinking about your future,” her father said.

“I have a future.” She frowned at the shadows near the door then quickly crouched behind the desk when one of them moved. There was someone else here.

“You can’t con your way through life.”

“Why not? You did,” she whispered, staring at the door.

“Damnit, Ellie! I’m serious.”

“So am I. If you want me to be more responsible, let me manage this job.” She paused for a moment, unsure of why she’d said that. She didn’t really want to manage anything. It was about time she did, but she was reluctant to take on that kind of responsibility. Since she’d turned eighteen, her father had been nagging her to think about the future, and the only future she could envision was one as a hustler, just like her father.

She frowned at the shadows, and her pulse raced as she watched a large guard heading toward the open doorway.

Crap, maybe I should learn to manage breaking and entering first.

She closed her eyes for a second, mentally kicking herself. If he came into the office, he’d find the grate from the air vent on the floor. It wouldn’t take him long to work out she was in here.

“What’s going on?” her father asked.

“I might be busted,” she muttered out of the side of her mouth as the guard stepped into the room. She hitched her breath when he reached for the light switch.

Buy this book on Amazon.  Be sure to check out the author's website!

Friday, August 15, 2014

"Another Place" by Clare Young (Short Story)



Genre:  Children's Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  A young boy, accompanied by his toys, goes on a quest to find his lost dog.

Excerpt:

The bowl was empty and the basket was empty. When Tim came home from school, he found his father sitting at the kitchen table holding the red collar and leash.

“There’s something I have to tell you,” Tim’s father said, and Tim knew it must be bad because his father was sitting at the kitchen table, not on the living room sofa as he usually did. The kitchen table was for words and news and talks; the things his father was in charge of. Tim placed his backpack near the back door and sat at the table, waiting for his father to begin.

“Something has happened to Luke,” his father said, “which means that he’s gone somewhere. Somewhere nice, but somewhere he can never come back from.”

Tim thought for a while. “Like a holiday?”

“Not quite. On a holiday you come back home again, but Luke can’t come back home again,” Tim’s father cleared his throat and pushed the red collar and leash into the middle of the table.

“Why can’t he come back home again?” Tim asked. Perhaps Luke couldn’t come home because he was lost; he didn’t even have his collar with his name and phone number on it.

“Because,” Tim’s father paused, and Tim thought that maybe his father had taken Luke for a walk and then left him somewhere. “Because he can’t. At some point everyone goes to a place they can’t get back from. It will happen to me, your mother, and you one day. Today it has happened to Luke.”

“But where’s he gone?”

“Another place, far from here, where he has lots of friends and family. He won’t be lonely.”

Tim thought, and got upset, because Luke was his best friend so why would he want to leave? Tim left the kitchen table, ran upstairs and lay on his bed and cried. He cried because he couldn’t understand why Luke would want to leave; they had so much fun every day, apart from when Tim was more interested in playing with his toys.

After a while, Tim sat up and yelled out to the wooden Sailor boy, Steve, who stood on top of Tim’s bookshelf.

“It’s not fair!”

“What’s not fair Tim?” said the wooden Sailor Steve.

“Luke’s gone and he’s not coming back,” Tim said.

“Where Tim? Where has Luke gone?”

“I don’t know, somewhere else.”

“Oh, don’t cry my dear,” Daisy Rag Doll, climbing out from beneath the bed, joined in. “I’m sure we can find him.”

“I don’t know,” Tim said, wiping his nose on his sleeve.

Daisy Rag Doll climbed up on Tim’s bed and shuffled over to him.

“Don’t do that dear, use a handkerchief,” she said, handing him one of her own.

Tim wiped his nose properly, and wooden Sailor Steve climbed down from the bookcase to join Tim on his bed.

“I think he may be lost, and that’s why he can’t come back. Dad was holding his red collar and leash, and he...” Tim became upset again and buried his head between his knees.

“Now now Tim, don’t cry,” Daisy Rag Doll softly patted Tim on the back.

“If he is lost, then we can go find him. We shall find him!” Sailor Steve said

Buy this story on Amazon or Smashwords.

Friday, August 8, 2014

"Take Off Your Mask" by Mary Pappas (Flash Fiction)



Genre: Drama

Type of Short Story:  Flash Fiction Collection

Summary:  People wear masks. They hide who they really are. Why do they do that? What is more painful, trying to take off the mask or keep on wearing it? 

Five women pretend to be something they are not in this fiction anthology.

Short stories about dangerous relationships.

Nothing is at it seems.

Excerpt:

“Thank you, but my idea of having fun includes going home, reading a good book and sleeping early. Maybe some other time.’’

‘’For God’s sakes Brenda, why do you insist on living like a nun? How are you ever going to meet someone if you never go out?”

”I met enough men in my short life, Gina. I know how that story ends, so I don’t want to see a repeat.’’
“I know you have been hurt by those jerks who disappeared from your life with no explanation. But not all men are like that, Brenda! Somewhere out there, there is the right guy for you, but you have to go out to meet him!’’

“The right guy for me exists only in the romantic novels I read. So, I have actually met him. He will just never meet me.”

“You don’t really believe that, do you?’’

“I really do. Reality is scary, Gina. Sometimes, you have to make your own reality in order to survive.”

Buy this collection on Amazon.