So you can read my books

Friday, February 26, 2010


Unless you're feeling suicidal, you should never ask a nauseated, pregnant co-worker, "What is romantic to you?"

So Nick, ever one to throw caution and self-preservation to the winds, asked our pregnant co-worker, Kelli, that very question. She fixed him with a look that Custer must have gotten very tired of at the end. "I don't know."

"Sure, you do. Everyone knows what's romantic to them."

Kelli gave him a look that should have left welts. "I don't."

It was too early for hurricane season so I interceded, hoping to fend off the coming storm, "Maybe Kelli feels towards the romantic as the Supreme Court feels towards the pornographic. It's hard to define, but you know it when you see it."

But that incident got me to thinking : what is romantic to me may not be romantic to you. So since this blog is about my novels, I started to think of the chapter in my novel, FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE, that my beta readers all assured me was both moving and romantic. Since, like Nick, I sometimes throw caution to the winds, I am submitting it to you blog readers. What do you think?
{FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE is a speculative Noir thriller. An alternate history, if you would, of what could have happened after Katrina but didn't -- in a plane of existence where the supernatural exists. And who is to say that it doesn't exist in this one?}



"I also want to encourage anybody who was affected
by Hurricane Corina to make sure their children are
in school."

First Lady Laura Bush, twice referring to
"Hurricane Corina" while speaking to
children and parents in South Haven, Miss.
{September 8, 2005}

I didn't get to sleep one day through, much less two weeks. Too much to do. Luckily, Gov. Blanco was so ineffectual, there was no need to visit her to get her to do anything. She would have mishandled anything I had gotten her to do anyway. I just let her preen in front of the cameras as she claimed to be handling the crisis with “great precision and effectiveness.”

After her saying that, Gov. Blanco was lucky that the Soyoko were still sleeping off their feasting in the Center. I might have asked R’lyeh to show the govenor in her bedroom what precision and effectiveness looked like in the last bloody seconds of her empty, shallow life.

The week that followed my visits to Bush and Nagin was a blur of too many demands and too few hands. But Renfield and I managed. Old Swartz came steamrolling in, busting heads and butts. He left me alone, and I wisely kept a low profile, keeping to the shadows, trying to make his work easier not harder. But considering the labors of Hercules he was attempting, he was finding the Big Easy anything but easy.

And I went about my work in the shadows.

But now, after a whole week, he had sent for me. He had picked an odd meeting place : the Tulane campus. It was a mess but relatively dry considering Katrina. Renfield insisted on going with me. He was worried that I was pressing myself too hard and my senses were dulled by fatigue. But in an odd way, it was the exact opposite. Weariness over-rode the unconscious filter I put on what Rind's blood showed me.

With the soft voice of twilight, ghost music sang in my memory. It was accompanied by the chorus of the whispers of the wind from the listening sky. I closed my eyes. New Orleans was timeless, especially to me with the blood of Death in my veins. My transformed eyes only told me the truth, and the truth was not what I wanted to see. So I closed my eyes, and for a moment the truth was what I wanted it to be.

Meilori was back in my arms, supple and vibrant, the peach velvet of her cheek nestled against mine. She pulled back to murmur "Beloved."

Slanted eyes looked up into mine, seeming like jade quarter moons waiting to rise. Her smile was a promise of wicked delights to come in the evening hours before us. And my heart quickened.

Her hand lightly squeezed my gloved one. Her head bent forward, and soft lips tickled my ear. And we were dancing, dancing as if our bodies were the wind given life. It had taken me a hundred years, mind you, but I had learned to be a damn fine dancer. The firm body in my arms had been ample incentive.

Some moments lose their way and grope their way blindly back from the past into the present. Such a moment swept me up now. Meilori and I were dancing across this very grass. I had paid a prince's ransom to pry King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band out of Tulane's old gymnasium to play out here under the stars. In my mind, I could hear young Louis Armstrong on cornet, see the pleased faces of the other dancers stepping lightly all around us, and hear Meilori's low laughter. How amused she had been at being flirted with on the front porches of Jelly Roll Morten, Buddy Bolden, and Papa Jack Laine earlier that day. Those same houses had somehow survived Katrina, though not without damage. I made myself a promise I would see those places repaired.

Renfield rasped beside me, "Sam, are you doing this?"


I opened my eyes and went very still. The speechless shades of a long-gone night whirled and wheeled all around us. That long-ago evening was replaying itself before our eyes. Renfield and Magda were laughing as they danced beside Meilori and me. Outraged dowagers bent heads together, their silent tongues wagging at the sight of a priest and nun openly dancing under the watching stars.

Renfield sighed, "I'd forgotten how your face looked happy."

I looked at my ghostly double, envying him the sheer delight in his eyes. "I'd forgotten how it felt."

The sound of my words settled an old score with truth, and the evening shades slowly faded from sight. I shivered. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Renfield look wistfully at the disappearing Magda in his own double's arms. I sighed. Some truths were best seen only by starlight.

Renfield shook his head. "Remember the last dance of the night, Sam?"

I nodded. "Yeah, I remember. Don't understand it. But I remember it."

"Why did Meilori shush you off like that to dance by herself -- as if someone invisible was dancing with her?"

I sighed. "Haven't a clue. But it was a sight. She was so graceful, so full of sad love."
Renfield frowned, then nodded. "Sad love? Bloody Hell, you're right. I could never pin down the expression on her face until now. But sad love says it all."

"All. And nothing. I still don't understand the why of it. Just that she was so hauntingly beautiful as she danced."

Renfield made a face. "She could have been washing clothes on a rock, and you would have found her beautiful."

"I may have many sorrows, Padre, but the memory of Meilori is not one of them."

Renfield was about to say something, then looked off to our left. I followed the path of his eyes. I smiled. Swartz. Not that I called him that to his face, mind you.

He was a career soldier, full of discipline and respect for tradition and position. He was striding purposedly and brisk towards us, holding a plastic jug of some sort in his right hand. I smiled broader. It was a water jug of all things.

He stopped abruptly right in front of us. I smiled even wider at his clothes. No insignia or rank on his uniform of desert combat khaki, but it was starched and pressed as if just out of the cleaner's. I nodded to his clothing.

"Well, General, trying to bring on a dry spell with that?"

"Very funny, McCord. Though I am technically with FEMA, not the Army, the victory in Desert Storm is recalled whenever anyone sees me in this uniform. And I will use every asset at my disposal to get the job here done."

I smiled easy. "You'd have made a hell of a Texas Ranger given the chance."

He smiled very slightly. "I hear the same thing of you."

The smile dropped off his face as if too heavy for the moment. "Next time, McCord, you see me about to be killed, let me die. I do not want to go through something like this ever again. Dealing with bureaucrats is like being nibbled to death by ducks."

I sighed. "I couldn't think of anyone better for the job, General."

He studied me. "How did you persuade the President to select me anyway?"

"Who told you I persuaded him?"

"He did. He told me your voice was key in selecting me as the new head of FEMA."

Renfield smiled crooked. "You could put it that way."

Schwartzkoph frowned, but I waved away his protest before it could get out. "I neither blackmailed nor coerced the leader of this country."

His steely blue eyes narrowed. "You phrased that rather oddly."

"Let's just say he's not the man his father was."

He nodded sadly. "Which of us is?"

I shook my own head. "Certainly not me."

Renfield pointed to the water jug. "Sure, General, but don't be telling me you've been reduced to moonshining?"

Schwartzkoph pointedly ignored the smirking priest and looked at me. "A mutual Apache friend of ours requested that I ask you to meet me here where there are no mirrors or reflective surfaces to tell you that he is an Indian giver."

Crap. My world had just gotten deadlier. In that repeated message, Elu was telling me several things. All of them bad. First, he was in trouble. Second, there were ears that might overhear Swartzkopf and could use mirrors as Elu did. Third, the second fact meant that others from the mirror world were here in New Orleans. Add the three up, and you got the unstated message : "Give me back my knife now!"
With Renfield frowning, I bent quickly, pulling Elu's knife from the top of my right boot. I gouged a small pit in the dirt with the black blade. I looked up at Schwartzkoph. He didn't have to be the engineer he was to know what he was to do with the water. He popped open the jug and hurriedly splashed the water into the small hole.

"Bloody Hell!," sputtered Renfield, as Elu's bloodied fingers shot up from the reflective surface of the hastily made puddle.

I swept my hand behind me, pulling from the small-of-the-back holster the .50 caliber Desert Eagle I had taken from one of the Russian mobsters. I tossed it beside Elu's bleeding fingers. His other hand shot out from the water, grasping it. I heard him whoop his war cry as both blade and automatic were wrenched under the water too shallow for them to logically disappear as they both had. Then, the water erupted upwards like a blowing volcano. As I waved the boiling clouds of steam away, I saw the small hole was empty and dry.

"Stone the crows!," muttered Renfield. "What was that all about?"

My face felt stiff. "Like this planet, the mirror world can be a deadly place."

I rubbed a weary hand across my face. "Maybe deadlier than I thought. Elu just let us know that the mirror world has ... agents here on this planet. Maybe that is where DayStar comes from."

Renfield's face grew dark. "You know where DayStar comes from, Sam."

I shook my head. "You think you know. But the jury is still out for me."

Swartzkoph shook his own head. "You know, McCord, before I met you, my world used to make sense."

"I envy you, General."

"Envy me? What on earth for?"

"At least your world made sense once. Mine never has."

He reached out and squeezed my shoulder firm. "We all have times when the soul inside us rattles in the dark. You just adapt, make do. Like you will have to make do without me come the end of next week."


"Bush may be my commander-in-chief, but his ideas for this city run counter to what I believe best. I will not be a figurehead while helpless people are left to needlessly suffer."

I nodded. “I knew he’d pull back as soon as he could. What surprises me is that you accomplished more in one week than I thought you could do in two.”

His jaw firmed. “I will do even more in this next week. After that, the charade begins.”

I shook my head. “By then, private corporations I’ve contacted will start pitching in. In another two weeks, my club will be up and running.”

Swartzkoph raised an eyebrow. “Hardly a priority, McCord, with all the hurting people in this city.”

“You misunderstand, General. I’ll be able to start my pay-per-view internet concert of the jazz greats. The profits from that non-stop concert will funnel into a Katrina Relief Fund.”

Swartzkoph seemed doubtful. “I don’t know how much money that will pull in.”

I smiled wide. “Worldwide? Quite a bit. When you factor in that most of the jazz greats playing will be dead ones.”

I called upon Elu’s and Rind’s blood within me and misty shapes began to form all around us. Young Louis Armstrong, cornet under his arm, slapped my shoulder.

“Be glad to be there, Sam.”

Dizzy Gillespie shimmered beside him, his trumpet sparkling in the starlight, his beret set at a rakish angle. Jelly Roll Morten, his eyes dancing with “Spanish Tinge,” laughed at Swartzkoph’s startled jump. Charlie “Bird” Parker winked at me, holding his saxophone tight.

Cigarette hanging from his lips, Duke Ellington drawled, “You provide the piano. I’ll provide this old body. New Orleans is our mother. And we aim to be good sons.”

Swartzkoph looked a haunted question at me. He wanted to know who these spectral visitors were. And the hell of it was that I didn’t rightly know. Just because I had summoned them, didn’t mean I knew. Were they my friends drawn from my heart’s memory when they were young, or could I reach out into the night and bring them to a remembrance of shadows? Think you know the shape of death? I did once. I was wrong.

I thought it a dark tunnel at the end of life, whose end was blazing light. I found it to be a cloud that filled the horizon with flickers of black light and scarlet winds. Thickly it spills over ocean and land, sweeping up all in its billowing path. And even that glimpse is misty, flawed with things my mind cannot contain.

I spoke softly to them. “Give me two weeks, and we’ll put on a show like none has ever seen before.”

Louis swiped at his forehead with a white handkerchief. “Time ain’t what you think, Sam. Nor is the reason we’re here. You open those doors. We be there. Now, you owe someone a last dance.”

He turned to the others. “Boys, we’ve got us an empress to play for.”

There was a movement of shadows to my left, and my heart hollowed out as Renfield breathed, “Dear Lord above.”

Meilori’s shade danced open-armed in front of me.

What does love look like? What is its color? A white flash of fright. A billowing wave of warmth, its reach beyond the microscope and further than the length of hope. Is it a jewel sparkling in the night? Or a whisper murmuring within the corridors of the heart?

Once more Meilori danced across the velvet grass, her empty arms beckoning to me. Her soft voice carried like a specter in the dark. Her words brushed by me and into my soul.

“Beloved, one last dance.”

And I finally understood her dancing empty-armed that magic evening so long ago. She had seen me, as now I saw her. Perhaps she thought me the ghost of a future me, dead and searching for her. And not understanding completely, still she took me in her arms.

As I, not understanding completely, now took her in mine. She smiled, brushing soft lips against mine. And my jazz friends began to play in a heart-clasp of sound.
Love is not a shy beast to be caught but a rare moment to be treasured. It burns within each cell, a living seed of hope. Its rays invisible to most, seen only by the searching heart.

Meilori was in my arms, and her love was a sheath that kept me whole. She lightly kissed me. I almost felt it. We danced through the embrace of shadows. And for a very short moment, I was home. Home.
Currently, I am listening to "Begin the Beguine" by Tony Martin. No, I'm not that ancient. But I am a fan of CASABLANCA. Here's looking at you, kid.

P.S. I have just entered the "Dear Lucky Agent" contest given by the website Wish me luck.

Thursday, February 25, 2010



Anais Nin, the enigmatic French author famous for her journals spanning 60 fascinating years, wrote : "Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world dawns."

It would be hard to say whether King Solomon was made more alone by his many wives or by the prison of his throne. Nonetheless, King Solomon wrote : "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up."

Friendship. It is what is so very lacking in today's cyber-society where everyone is twittering, but no one is listening. Or giving a damn. They are hunched over their blackberries, waiting impatiently for the message to end so they can jump in with, what is essentially, a "Listen to me!"

Because so few of us have it, friendship and its portrayal are what will bring us back to a novel over and over again. I know that it is the case for me. And for the friends I talk to.

Frodo and Sam. Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Spencer and Hawk (from the always entertaining Robert B. Parker series.) Elvis Cole and Joe Pike (from the Robert Crais fascinating detective series.) Bill and Ted. Calvin and Hobbes.

Family is a crap shoot. Love cools. But friendship endures.

Friendship is one of the cornerstones of my surreal Noir, FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE. Two friends : Samuel McCord, agnostic undead Texas Ranger. Renfield, haunted revenant priest. They have known one another since Istanbul was Constantinople and honor still had meaning.

Both love mysterious, beautiful, deadly women. McCord would say all beautiful women are both mysterious and deadly. His love is Meilori, a being from another plane of existence. "Born of stardust and the sea" as she once told him.

And Father Renfield loves Sister Magda, the nun who serves with him in his church. Of course, there is a unique back story there. But I'll let Sam tell it :

{At this point in the novel, Sam is helping Renfield clean up his church after Katrina, musing on his past relations with the Vatican} :

I'd had a pretty good relationship with the last Pope. I'd fought Nazi's with him back when he was studying in that underground seminary in Poland. I smiled thinking of how he posed as a priest while only a seminarian. And how he gave false baptismal records to fleeing Jews in the underground. He called it his elective course in the humanities. I sighed as my chest grew heavy. He was gone. Another friend was gone. It seemed just when I started liking somebody, they left me.

A shout of dismay brought me out of my musings. One of the statues in the main sanctuary was toppling over. And a nun was directly underneath it. Cursing under my breath despite the surroundings, I raced as fast as my bad right knee would let me. But I made it in time. Barely.

I grunted as I caught the marble statue of Jesus struggling under the cross with a bit of a struggle myself. But I managed. Being careful not to crack it, I shoved it back into its ornate niche. Now, I was kind of unsure if he was who he said he was.

And on top of that, it was only a representation of him, mind you. Still I knew my strange luck. If I handled the statue carelessly, it would turn out he was the real deal. And I was kind of uncertain how He would feel about some of the trails I had blundered down in my life. Best to err on the side of respectful caution. I looked down at the nun.

"Magda, you've got to be more careful."

Sister Romani looked up at me with deep eyes of summer seas from out of the kind of face that had men embezzeling from orphanages and starting wars. Her thick, silky black hair cascaded through the modern habit that had been brushed back on her head by my shoving her out of harm's way. There was a single one inch wide streak of moon-silver along the right side close by her temple -- a gift of sorts from Estanatlehi, whom the ancient Greeks had named Gaia and whom I now called 'Mother.'

Magda tapped the worn leather pouch of nails hanging from her rope belt. "He would never have harm coming to me from His statue."

I arched an eyebrow. "You stole those nails from that centurion over two thousand years ago. You think He has that long a memory?"

"Of course."

"That's what I was afraid of," I muttered.

I studied her intently. She'd been there. I felt a weight ease off my chest. I could ask her.

"Magda, did you see --"

Her face grew sad. "Him emerge from the tomb? No, Samuel, I was on the run from the Romans at the time and for some time afterwards. I just take it that He truly did rise since I am still alive some two thousands years later."

I bit back the words from my tongue and kept from telling her that her still living came from Estanatlehi. In love with language as much as she was, she had been fascinated with the parables of Jesus. And she took Magda's theft kindly and had rewarded her. I sighed. Still no answers. It was getting to be a frustrating tradition with me.

"Magda!," panted Renfield as he rushed up to her, out of breath more from fear than running, especially since he didn't breathe anymore.

He took both of her hands in his. "You must be more careful."

"You men, oh, foo on the two of you," she laughed, squeezing his hands lightly and not letting go.

"'Fu' is Mandarin for 'Good Luck' you know," I smiled at the two of them.

She made a face at me. "And you with that musty Jesuit education of yours."

"Well, they weren't exactly Jesuits."

She snorted, "Nor would I guess that you were exactly the best of students either."

"Reckon you got me there."

But she wasn't looking at me anymore. She and Renfield only had eyes for one another. Their fingers were still entwined as were their hearts. Long before they had become priest and nun, they had been man and wife. Each had entered the Vatican's service in response to my worst enemy's first demand to end their son's misery and curse. His second demand was for Renfield to assume that curse -- to become the vampire he still was.

DayStar, my worst enemy, being what he was, had still found a way to take their son from them anyway. But both Magda and Renfield were as good as their word. They remained true to both of their vows that they had taken -- though it took some doing to reconcile the two into a working system. But the pair had found a way, filled with hunger and hope, mind you. But isn't that much like life for the rest of us? The street people in the church were still and silent. They knew the story. And me? I felt hot tears blur my vision. I had failed my best friend.

I should have been smarter, should have figured out some way to defeat DayStar, found some method to save my friend's son, and to end the curse which tormented him hourly. He deserved a better friend than me. And me? I didn't deserve for him to call me 'friend.' I deserved to be called the monster I was. And you know what they did to monsters.


I'll let Mark Twain have the last word on friendship : "Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of joy you must have somebody to divide it with."

At the moment, I am listening to "Into the Dark" by Jesse Cook. He is a Toronto-based Nuevo Flamenco guitarist, born in Paris to Canadian parents. It spins the mind. He was raised in the region in southern France known as the Camargue, growing up with the sounds and influences of Gypsy music {probably why my cat loves his music.} Check out his site on myspace : I especially like the second youtube video on Jesse's page. Hey, c'mon, check it out. You don't want a gypsy curse, do you?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Ever since I started mine, I've been reflecting on them. I've come to the conclusion that in essence, a blog consists of : Me. Me. Me. More Me.

And wow! Even more Me!

Oh, and let's not leave out the Comments -- which is blog-speak for "Enough about me. What do you think about me?"

But it occurred to me that we carry a blog around inside us all the time. An awareness of ourselves that can be either good or bad, discerning or self-serving. It all depends upon how truthful we are to that one person we lie to most : ourselves.

And I focus on that tidbit of reflection in my {C'mon, this is my blog. You didn't think I could stray too far from me, now, did you?} ... in my surreal Noir tale, FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE.

It is the first night of Katrina. The Convention Center is being turned into a living nightmare by drunken young men from the streets. Samuel McCord is angrily approaching them, and he is about to unleash hell. While it is certain that they have acted badly, those around them have not. But all of them are in the condition too many humans live out their whole lives : frightened confusion.

And as Sam walks towards them, his thoughts become his own blog :

I looked into their hollow eyes. Like most folks in this day and age, they had gone about their lives, quietly trying to swallow the fear that their lives had somehow gotten out of control and things were falling apart. Now, their worst nightmare had come to life before their eyes. Their predictable world had crumbled right in front of them. Their next meal was no longer certain, much less their safety. What did Al Einstein tell me during that last chess game?

"The true tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he still lives."

Then, I heard the squalling.

I made a face. As I have stated before, I am not a nice man. For one thing, I hate screaming babies. The more of them I hear, the more I want to lash out and hit something.

Maybe it was because I never had one of my own. Maybe it was my sensitive hearing. Or maybe it came from me being a man. Men just naturally want to fix whatever they see that is broken. And I couldn’t do that with a squalling baby. Most folks get downright cranky when you snatch their howling baby out of their arms to see what is broken with the damn thing.

And there were a lot of babies crying as I stepped onto the water-covered sidewalk. I made a face, and those closest to me cringed. I have that effect on a lot of folks. Go figure.

My better self urged compassion. I found it odd that there was a me that I couldn't see, that walked beside me and commented on my thoughts, urging kindness when I would be cruel. I made a face. I was too old to go crazy. Hell, at my age I should already be there, holding the title to my very own asylum. But then, in an insane world, only the mad are sane.


So there is another snippet of my novel -- and my theory that all of us write a daily blog in our minds with a running commentary of the people and events that color our days. By the way, in case you're wondering : my day insisted on coloring outside the lines. But I believe Mark Twain would remind me : "When you remember that we are all mad, the mysteries all disappear and life stands explained."


Currently, I'm listening to "Where Are We Going From Here?" sung by Candice Night of BLACKMORE'S NIGHT, a Renaissance-inspired folk rock band created by Ritchie Blackmore, formerly of DEEP PURPLE. On October 5, 2008, the two were married after 19 years together at a castle overlooking the Hudson river. Ritchie is quoted as saying, "This is the first wedding I've attended where I'm not looking for the exit sign." Give their website a look and a listen : . You might like what you hear.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Arthur Schopenhauer was born on this day in 1788. Who you say? Don't look at me like that. Mine is just the kind of mind that remembers these sort of things.

He was the German philosopher known for his atheistic pessimism {maybe the two go together?} and for his philosophical clarity. One of the things he wrote that sticks with me is : 'Reading is equivalent to thinking with someone else's head.' And if that allows us to think outside the box of our own perspective, is that such a bad thing?

Another historical note : Today in 899, Arnulf of Carinthia was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Formosus in Rome. But his rival, Lambert of Spoleto, kept the throne anyway. I bet Bush would have loved to have repeated that bit of history. What did Edward Kennedy say? "Frankly, I don't mind not being president. I just mind that someone else is."

And because I'm a Science Fiction/Fantasy writer, I know the following : Every morning since its construction in the 13th century B.C, the first rays of sunlight would on this day {and again on October 22nd} illuminate the innermost shrine of the temple to -- cue the spooky music -- the Sun god Amon-Re at Abu Simbel, Egypt. Strange footnote : because of their remote location the temples were unknown until their discovery in 1813. They were first explored in 1817. All I can say is that somebody sure had no sense of curiosity. Or maybe there was a -- again cue the spooky music -- a curse.

Hey, I'm a writer. I think like that.

I'm listening to "Born" by OVER THE RHINE. I'm getting ancient. This innovative band favorite of mine is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The leader, Linford Detweiler, recently did an interview with Stereo Subversion where he says he recently has started composing songs based upon his reflections of this band's long life : "What have you done for the last 20 years? Did any of it really matter? Why are we still doing this? What are we doing with our lives?" Good questions for all of us to ponder. Check out their website : Just don't tell Linford I think his wife, Karin Bergquist, still has a sexy voice.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Human beings are never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.
- Laurens van der Post.
I swear. Usually at the news. Sometimes when I think of Mankind, I get the mental image of a six year old sitting behind the wheel of his father's car, his head barely above the dashboard, his tiny feet almost, but nt quite, reaching the petals -- with whose functions he is vaguely familiar. Hey, Dad, don't sweat it. I know what I'm doing. Yeah, right. How many times have we heard those exact words from politicians all down through history?

But with Mankind, the engine is running, and the child is just about to engage the gear shift. Now, what exactly does D and R stand for?

Plagued by breakdowns, shut down for months, CERN's atom smasher is being scheduled for restart : at three times the speeds it had formerly attained, staying at those speeds from 18 to 24 months -- you know when it broke down all those times at much slower accelerations. All to re-create the conditions of the Big Bang {just the term I want to hear concerning a 16 mile collider with a nasty habit of breaking down.}

I may be hazy on all the details of quantum physics. But I am quite fluent in Murphy's Law. I've seen the wonderfulness that followed when even scientific professionals ignored that law.

I'm all for advancements in science. As a child with double pneumonia, I was saved from death by some of those advancements. The cynic in me just notes that every breakthrough in science has been perverted for the military. And when said research is centered on re-creating the conditions of something called ... The Big Bang. Yeah, you get the idea.

Besides you all know the old fable of the frog and the scorpion -- and how well it turned out for the frog -- and for the scorpion for that matter.

Scientists are hot in the pursuit of the secrets of the universe in Geneva. I can hear the universe using the voice of Jack Nicholson : "You can't handle the truth." And seeing the mess we've made of things with those secrets of the atom we have uncovered, the universe might just have a point.
I think there's a new lawman coming on TV that is in the vein of my character, Capt. Samuel McCord


Some of my friends have been asking me to put a whole story on my blog, so I hunted for my shortest one - SOMETIMES YOU DON'T :

Her eyes. They were the color of the burned-out ends of lonely days. It seemed I had tried to forget them my whole life. Right at the moment they were giving me a look that probably would have set driftwood on fire. Luckily I was more dense than driftwood. And yes, that was a joke. At my expense. Like most of my life.

The dark quiet of her office trembled like the grasp of dying fingers. “You’re a fraud.”

“You mean me being a red man in a white man's world or the Psychic Reader sign on my door?”

Her voice was a velvet sneer. “Psychic? Puh-lease, you don’t believe in the supernatural any more than I do.”

I shrugged. “My clients do. That’s all that counts.”

“Clients. You mean marks, don’t you?”

“Clients. They hurt. I help as best I can.”

She studied me as if I were a bad purchase she had made. “You don’t remember, do you?”

I arched my right eyebrow in a question. It wasn’t exactly a lie. It just wasn’t the truth.

Her eyes sifted me like flour. “First, you were in all my elective classes in high school. Then there you were in all my classes at the University of Houston. Harvard was the same story. I thought you were following me.”

“I was following the money.”

Her eyes became nearly as sharp as the memories I was trying to keep from my face.

“Like all the other men in my life.”

“Not you. The scholarships.”

The breath bled from her in a sigh. “But then you stayed in Boston. And I -- I had family obligations.”

When she had said family she meant family in two ways. Blood. And crime. And yes, that was another joke. A deadly one. At everyone's expense.

The “family” she now ruled dealt in both blood and crime. She just dealt it out with more elegance than had her father -- as she had for nearly a decade and a half.

She had been the fantasy of every male in high school, student and teacher alike. In college she had been a vision. Even now Victoria was a striking woman. There was an almost tangible stillness to her of deep mountain lakes and silent shadows.

Her words were so soft I had to strain to hear them. “When we are young, what we want is so simple. We want it all.”

Her face suddenly became a map of her past life which told me nothing I wanted to hear. “And in trying for it all, we lose what is right before our eyes.”

Her wet eyes suddenly saw me again. “What all did you want, Mr. Winters?”

“Very little. Not to be alone. To be loved. To finally belong.”

Her lips curled. “And you did not get even that.”

“No. No, I didn’t.”

For some reason she couldn’t meet my eyes, and as is so often the case when the pain is too close, she distanced it by intellectualizing. “We awaken at dawn, hungry for the far horizons of freedom and the power to do what we want. Forever out of reach, they mock us until we find ourselves yearning for a path back to dawn … to start again with wiser heads.”

Her words hit me somewhere beyond memory and below the level of speech. But her obvious pain begged me to try and relieve it with clumsy words anyway. Still I had no faith in my own and instead used those of Lord Byron.

“I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs,
A palace and a prison on either side.”

I received the usual response I got when I tried to help. “What the hell was that?”

I fought my own sigh. There were times when I felt like a mime and the whole damned world was blind. Like now.

When you find yourself in a hole, a good rule of thumb is to stop digging. But one look at her face killed that notion. Her eyes. Damn, her eyes. Born of strange sins, they yearned for more than loneliness, yet seemed to expect nothing less. For them I had to try one more time.

“You have to learn to let the wind blow through you.”

“Have you been doing drugs?”

I shook my head. “You can’t forget the consequences of your choices any more than you can stop feeling the wind blowing upon you.”

“Is this leading anywhere?”

“Depends upon your resolve.”

Her face hardened. “I have filled graveyards with my resolve.”

There was nothing for me in her words so I let them hang there in the near darkness of her office. “If you learn to let the wind blow through you, you will take away its power to knock you down.”

Her eyes hollowed even more, and her voice was little more than a husk. “How do I do that?”

“If you let the memories of your mistakes blow through you without letting them catch on your anger or your pride, you will not feel them. You will learn from them. And learning from them, you will break the cycle of repeating them.”

I smiled sad. “Perhaps you might even start down a new path toward a better tomorrow.”

It hardly seemed possible, but her voice became even huskier. “Tomorrow? How many of those do I have left, fortune teller?”

She thrust out her hand palm up. I had spent long years counseling the dying. I knew the pallor to the skin, the shadow to the eyes. Victoria was just beginning to show the signs.

I couldn’t resist doing what I had dreamed of doing for long years. I took her hand gently in mine. It trembled in my fingers. I traced her long, long lifeline and fought to keep the pain of the irony from my face.

“Victoria, the doctors have already told you the answer to that question.”

She stiffened and tried for a smile, almost making it. “But you have a better bedside manner.”

She sniffed, gently pulling her hand from mine. “I am throwing a party of sorts at the Country Club tonight.”

Her smile flashed like a knife from the shadows. “Repaying old debts as it were.”

It became almost human as she looked deep into my eyes. “Luke, my car will pick you up this evening. Eight O’ Clock sharp.”

Her own right eyebrow arched. “You do still have a decent tuxedo from your days as a respected Boston psychologist, don’t you?”

“I was never respected, only tolerated. The token Native American on the staff.”

She nodded. “Yet you still insisted on acting like the hero of some Frank Capra movie. I hear it finally did you in.”

I smiled sadder. Did me in? It had brought me back to the town of my birth to hold the hand of the woman I had loved all my life and could never have.

“I’ll be ready.”

Her eyes went to the shadows and within her fears. “Are any of us ever ready?”

“We Frank Capra heroes are.”

I walked away, her eyes looking at me with something I couldn’t quite pin down.

Two minutes after eight found me in the back of a limo that was so spacious I was surprised my voice didn’t cast echoes. The driver looked puzzled at me. His face was creased in the hard lines of a sneer that didn’t match the uncertainty of his eyes.

“You an Indian, ain’t you?”

“Yes. Lakota.”



“Oh, yeah, them. They won the Little BigHorn, didn’t they?”

“Yes and look where it got us.”

I looked up through the window and whispered, “The sky takes off her clothes and cries in stars.”

He looked at me odd. “You went to Harvard just like the boss, huh?”


“It shows. Most of the time I don’t understand half the stuff she spouts. Just like you now.”

He shook his head. “I’d die for her. But hell if I understand her.”

“She’s lucky to have you.”

His shoulders straightened. “That’s what she says.”

As a young Lakota I had neither the blue blood nor the new money to be allowed on the grounds of the Country Club. A modest little monument to the greed and prejudice of the White Man only a little less large than a football field. As the limo drove down the winding road which led to its mausoleum of a parking lot, I fought down a shiver.

The black mists curled and creamed in the night air like an unspoken fear trying to form itself on the edge of consciousness. A trick of the polluted air, the moon of blood leered down upon its reflection on the black waters of the bordering lake. Ripples of long bloody fingers cascaded from the sides of a large boat heading to the beach.


I had seen it in Victoria’s eyes when she had spoken of unpaid debts. I shook my head. The present sum of our lives was always the result of a past equation of someone’s subtraction, another’s addition, and the division of our own efforts. Not all of the equation was our doing. But what we did with the sum was.

Hate was like taking poison and hoping the person who offended you died of it. Maybe I could persuade Victoria of that before things got ugly. I shook my head. And maybe I did live my life as a Frank Capra hero. I shrugged. There were worse paths to walk.

The driver dropped me off, rolling away into the night mists. A waiter, stiff and disapproving, led me into a modest drawing room the size of Missouri. Rubies and diamonds sparkled on ivory throats and wrists like drippings from the sea. The low rumble of the latest pop music was muffled by the rise and fall of empty conversation and brittle laughter.

I looked around at the ebb and tide of desire upon wealth, greed upon opportunity. The social elite milling through the room seemed to be talking against a darkness that pressed in on them or pressed to escape from within them.

I was suddenly caught up in a sense of unreality as if the world of harsh sun, cold mountain, and hot desert had slipped out of reach somehow. It wasn’t the first time. Fact was I had lived most of my years in Boston in that twilight world.
My years. A long trail of disconnected moments that had failed to add up to a life.

A voice, that had it been a face would have cried out to be hit, suddenly sneered beside me.

“It is only the superficial qualities that entice. Man’s deeper nature always is rancid in some fashion. Isn’t that right, Dr. Winters? Oh, I forgot. You lost your license, didn’t you?”

I turned slowly. Dr. Winwood, the city’s leading psychologist. His block chin jutted out at me like a blunt instrument.

His steady smile was a mask he wore, behind which his calculating mind peered out, weighing and sifting the blush here, the furtive glance there. His smug face said he knew the number of the hairs on my head, the sins of my past, and the bills in my mailbox. Obviously, he had too much free time.

“And still his success rate is higher than yours, Winwood.”

I turned to my left. Victoria, elegant in a retro-Titanic gown that was suddenly all the rage, one arm tucked behind her back. As always the sight of her hit me like a physical blow.

Her body was as slim and slight as the branch of a birch. Her shoulders were the white of mountain peaks. Her long, sparkling gown blazed under the bright lights as if spun from fresh-shed blood. And her face? Her face. It was beautiful and terrible beyond any singing of it. I found myself holding my breath.

She was one of those haunted-eyed women you attached your own hidden wounds and silent sorrows to. I tried not to lose myself in her green eyes in whose depths the monsters swam. The monsters that drive us or haunt us or both.

Most found those eyes frighteningly cold. But that was just a polished front to hide the fact that they’d lost their way a long time ago. Perhaps my own eyes looked the same.

Winwood’s face closed up like a fist. “That is Doctor Winwood, Miss Ruach.”

Victoria brought her hidden arm out from behind her. Her hand held a rolled newspaper. It still smelled of wet ink, fresh paper. She smiled with her lips only and smacked him in the chest with it.

“Tomorrow’s newspaper. I promised you bitter tears, Winwood. I keep my promises.”

He hurriedly unfolded the paper. It started to tremble in his fingers. I read the headline : WINWOOD DISCREDITED.

The beauty receded from her face, leaving only the terrible. “The mayor’s wife? Really, Winwood. You hated him, and you’ve just insured his re-election.”

I watched Winwood deflate, his face crumbling under the weight of tomorrow. I turned to Victoria. She was drinking in the sight of the crushed man like fine wine.

“Don’t do this to yourself, Victoria. Let the others go. Tomorrow --”

“May not come for me if a certain rival has his way.”

Her smile became that of a wolf. “But tonight? Tonight is mine!”

And it was. Her slender arm looped in mine, Victoria walked elegantly among the guests, dispensing cruel, poetic justice. Hushed whispers echoed from the terrified men and women before us. Whimpers of anguish, soft sobbing haunted me in our wake.

“Please, Victoria, not for their sakes but for your own, stop this.”

Her eyes were hot pools of near madness. “Where were the pleas for mercy when the wolves closed in on you in Boston?”

“They didn’t take anything of real value from me.”

“Your license. Your way of making a living!”

“I make a living now.”

“You call what you do a living?”

“I still help people. Funny. My success rate is higher as a psychic reader than it ever was when I was a psychologist. Guess people trust the supernatural more than science.”

“You live in a hovel.”

“I live simple maybe. But that’s good. Keeps me centered.”

“You perhaps. But I am not the saint you seem to need to be. I need more. My life, being what it is, has been spent mostly in dreams of revenge. Now they become the nightmares of those who so well deserve them.”

Her eyes became as hard and flat as polished jade. And on she went. Her face was glowing with a joy that was almost pain. I know it was painful for me to see.

The limo driver walked hurriedly over to us just as a state senator fell backwards into his seat, his hand clutched to his chest. “Miss Ruach, Hamartolos is here.”

Victoria smiled like a cat spoting a lame mouse. “I told you he’d come tonight. He couldn’t resist springing his trap in the midst of my own. Are the grounds unguarded?”

“Yes, ma’am. Don’t you want us to put up a little fight?”

Her face darkened. “Not one of my men dies tonight. You understand? Keep them off the grounds.”

Her face became a mask of ice. “Is the launch hidden that brought her?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Are you protecting her?”

“Hell, who’s gonna protect us from her?”

She patted his seamed face gently. “You only have to abide her for a few more moments, Eddie.”

“Yes, Miss Ruach.”

He walked away a few steps. He stopped, rubbing the back of his neck. Slowly he turned around.

“I - I been with you since you were a little one. And -- and --”

Victoria’s eyes grew deeper, colder. “And?”

“And I hate to see you this way. That’s all. It’ll come to no good.”

Her icy face thawed a bit. “Luke has been telling me the same thing.”

He flicked a glance my way. “Knew I liked him for some reason.”

Victoria made a shooing motion with a slender hand. “Go, Eddie. You won’t like at all what is to happen next.”

He went. But he didn’t like it. I couldn’t say I cared much for what had been hinted at.

Who was this mysterious Hamartolos? Was he the rival Victoria mentioned? I caught my first sight of him as a woman bank president sat sobbing in her chair, the proof of her embezzelment scattered about her designer shoes.

Escorted by five men whose eyes were holes into nothingness, he strolled lazily through the pale guests like a happy lion. He was almost as pretty as his smirk crowed to the world. Tall, muscular, he was a bronze Apollo, garbed in a tuxedo.

He gestured to the guests. “So you’ve managed to humble the mighty have you? Cattle. The lot of them.”

I sighed, and he turned to me. “Oh, the defrocked psychologist. Well, saint, what do you see when you look at them if not cattle?”

“Unique souls. Each one a story of hope and loss that would fill a book. Each one an island of promise and worth.”

He spat on the polished floor. “You’re a hoot, you know that?”

Victoria seemed all eyes as she turned to me. “You really believe that?”


She looked sick. “Some men are too gentle to live among wolves.”

Hamartolos’ lips pulled up in a smile that would have looked natural only on a shark. “Oh, neither he or you are going to live that much longer, babe. The boys upstate aren’t too crazy that you’re checking out with Aids. They won’t squawk much if I hurry the process along and sweep up your territory at the same time.”

I was surprised his teeth weren’t needled as he laughed. “Quick, clean. They like that. No headlines. No law. Only one little lady drowned in the lake.”

He shook his carefully groomed head. “Your boys even knew the score. They’ve split and left the way wide open for us.”

Victoria smiled, and the blood went cold within me. “Oh, the way is certainly wide open.”

Hamartolos’ men pulled their guns, aiming them straight at him. “What the hell?”

Victoria smiled wider. “Simple economics. Why should they kill for you when if they kill for me, they each will receive enough money to live like a king abroad?”

“Even you ain’t got that kind of money!”

“I see fear does wonders for your grammar. No, seeing how Aids is robbing me of my wealth, I decided to use it all while I had it.”

“You’re gonna kill me? Here? In front of all these witnesses?”

“To save themselves from ruin they will gladly become blind.”



The last had come, not from Victoria, but from another blonde. Her face belonging on a movie screen, she moved with the grace of a swan right up to a dumbstruck Hamartolos.

“Gloria! Your face. It’s -- it’s --”

The blonde vision, looking oddly innocent in her simple dress, slowly held up a slim automatic. “Just like it was before you threw acid on it.”

She frowned in mock concentration. “What was that you said? Oh, yes. No doc in the world will fix this face. Ever!”

Victoria laughed, and it was a sound I never thought her throat could make. “But times change, medical science advances. True, the operations are illegal here in the states, what with the use of the flesh of fetuses. But in Amsterdam? All sorts of operations are legal there. Isn’t that right, Gloria?”

And death was on the air like the taste of ashes as Gloria husked, “Yes. Even those operations that turn studs into fillies.”

Hamartolos went pale. “You wouldn’t! You couldn’t!”

Gloria stiffened. “Those were my exact words when you accused me of cheating on you, remember?”

She jerked her automatic at the dead-faced men. “Take him to the launch, boys. We got ourselves a long flight to Amsterdam.”


He struggled, for all the good it did him. I felt dead inside. Too much had happened. I couldn’t process it all.

Victoria turned to her guests. “Scoot. It appears I won’t be needing your blindness after all. Go home and wait for those ill-fated chickens. They’re coming home to roost. Go! Scat!”

They just stood there. “Leave while I’m still in a good mood.”

They left.

She turned to me. “Only one left to punish.”

I nodded, though I didn’t understand my sin, and said low, "For each man kills the thing he loves.”

Victoria drew in a ragged breath at my words. Her hollow eyes seemed to sink into her face. Slowly she pulled an ornate dagger from her waistband, walked to within an inch of me, and proved she, too, knew Wilde’s poem.

“Some kill their love when they are young.
And some when they are old.
Some strangle with the hands of lust,
Some use the hands of gold;
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.”

Her lips were but a layer of skin from mine. “I would rather do this upon my bed. I have living quarters here.”

All that I had seen had made my mind a frozen lake. I knew this was madness but the knowledge couldn’t seem to break through the cold surface of my shock. I let her lead me from the room, down winding halls, up carpeted stairs, down darkened hallways until we were in her private quarters.

I went even colder. I barely saw the furnishings, only that they were elegant and expensive. The walls. My God, the walls.

There were newspaper clippings in frames all over them. Of me. All my quixotic crusades. All my victories. All my awards. My final failure to beat the proud and the callous. All of me.

The point of the dagger traced a line along the left side of my throat. “I loved you, Luke. From high school I loved you.”

Her face became ice. “Father knew it. He sent me away from you over and over again.”

Her eyes grew remote. “Eddie killed him for me.”


“Yes. Luke, he was a monster, wanting me for himself.”

Her face screwed up in self-loathing. “Himself!”

She pressed her body up against mine. “But I loved you. Always. Why do you think you won all those scholarships to the very schools Father sent me to?”

She blinked back tears. “But I was too smart for myself. With Father’s death, I was dragged back here to the family “business.” Here! While you stayed in Boston where I had lured you.”

The point of the dagger stopped and pressed hard into my neck. “You never married. Why?”

I tried for a smile and almost made it. “Don’t you know?”

“No! Then why did you never come back?”

“You never showed me a sign that you cared.”

“My enemies would have killed you if I had.”

I nodded slow. “At least it would have been a fast death. I’ve been dying a slow one for a long time now.”

I flicked my eyes to the knife at my throat. “It’s only fitting that yours be the hand to finally end it for me.”

She stopped fighting the tears. “You don’t understand.”

Her head sank until I only saw the top of her blonde hair. “The Frank Capra hero only wins in the movies.”

She raised hollow eyes to me. “I won your victories over the wolves in Boston over and over again. Me!”

“You?” And my mysterious winning all those years finally made sense.

“Yes, me.”

I frowned. “Until last year.”

“Yes. Until last year.”

She sucked in a ragged breath. “These past years desire became a disease or a madness. Or both. I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me and passed on. I forgot that every action makes or unmakes you.”

“You contracted Aids.”

“Yes. And there you were in Boston, living the life of the hero that I had purchased for you. Me! And I was dying, and you were so alive. So -- so I stopped.”

She pulled me down to her soft bed and sat so close her perfume filled my head. “I regretted it the moment I saw how you took it, with dignity and grace. Where I had stooped to lashing out at an innocent.”

“I’m not that innocent.”

“Only you would say that of yourself.”

She flipped the dagger expertly, handing it to me. “Eddie will take care of my body. End it quickly for me. It is your revenge to take.”

Once again my expectations had been suddenly tossed on their heads. My mind felt thick with cotton. And my lungs seemed to have forgotten how to draw in a breath.

Revenge. I looked down at the blade. It felt heavy in my hand. I studied it for long seconds. Sharp, cold, unyielding. Like revenge.

Was this how I wanted the night to end? Was it?

Victoria gently closed her fingers around mine and whispered, "Do it. Do it! Please don't leave me to waste away. Let me die quick, clean ... in the arms of the man I love."

In the arms of the man she loved.

"Please," she husked.

I slowly raised the knife towards her heart. Her lips pulled up into what seemed more a raw wound than a smile. She managed two words.

"Thank you."

I managed a few more words than two. “Remember what Wilde said of revenge? That the best revenge ...”

Using the sharp point of her knife, I made my own zipper. The sound of the parting fabric actually sounded like one. I carefully cut her gown from the high neck, between her breasts, down her firm stomach.

"... is to live well."

Her voice became a taunt whisper. “What are you doing?”

“What I’ve dreamed of doing all my life.”

“Are you insane? I’m infectious!”

“I’ve been infected with you my whole life.”

“You’ll die.”

“But before that, you and I will have lived.”

“You idiot!”

“Southwest champion.”

Her lips were all I had dreamed they would be, then she pulled back slightly, her voice a husk. “I thought in Frank Capra movies you lived happily ever after.”

With her in my arms, the world finally made sense. “Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you just live for the first time.”


Well, there's an entire story. Hope you enjoyed it, everyone. And while on the subject of Native Americans, I believe Luke Winters would enjoy the painting "Arapaho Moon" by David C. Behrens. Check out his website. He has prints of it for sale even. I would have posted the picture here, but it is copyrighted. Luke would even ask you to look : You won't be disappointed. You might even mention I sent you there.

And if you're wondering how it turned out for Luke, here Josh Groban's voicing Luke Winter's future thoughts ;

Saturday, February 20, 2010


When Gypsy, my cat, starts wearing sunglasses because she doesn't want passers-by on our terrace to recognize her, I know it's time to clean up the apartment a bit. Hey, I'm a bachelor. We have different standards of neat.

Our landlord obviously cares about our cardio health so he has the apartment trash bin several time zones away. One day I will need a passport to get there. Anyway, I rounded the pick-up truck parked in front of the bin, only to have the bent-over drunk hidden by the vehicle heave all over my shoes.

And that's when I knew it was going to be one of those special days.

She was pretty -- for a drunk that had spewed all over my shoes that is. Alcohol on the breath is hardly attractive. When the smell comes from vomit, it's hardly an aphrodisiac. But I thought I recognized her from the complex. The way she was swaying, she wouldn't make it back to her apartment on her own. The Good Guy reflex kicked in.

"Do I know you?," I asked.

"God, I hope not," she moaned and staggered down the street.

And that's when I knew it was going to be one of those extra special days.

I felt like the punchline in that old joke ...and the pig got up and slowly walked away.

I watched her make it to the convenience store directly across the street and heaved a sigh of relief. Now, she was their problem.

I took off my shoes and dumped them in the trash bin as well. I walked the long way around back to my apartment to keep from provoking the Hound of the Baskervilles at the near end of my terrace. His owner sounds like he will hit him to quiet him whenever he barks and bays as I pass by. And while the dog looks like a cross between an anvil and a Clydesdale, I remember Shadow.

Shadow was a minature Chow from my days when I had a house. A neighbor abused him to make him a mean watch dog. All he did was break his spirit so the man put the dog out on the streets. In our city, the pound kills Chows without trying to adopt them out. I figured the poor little guy had had enough tough breaks.

I lured him into my backyard with food. He would never come into my home, never let me touch him. But he followed at my heels, wagging his tail and happy to see me outside, never coming within reach of my fingers. Fingers that could curl into a fist. But he was always at my heels whenever I was working in my backyard. So I named him Shadow.

When my house burned down, I was out of commission from the burns for a few days though I made sure the backyard gate was secured. Upon my return to the backyard, I found someone had poisoned Shadow. And then, after two years, I was finally able to touch Shadow's soft black fur when I delivered him to my vet to be taken care of. And, yes, my eyes are wet while I'm writing this.

So I took the long way back to my apartment on sock feet to protect the Hound of the Baskervilles. When I got to my apartment door, I reached for the apartment keys tucked under my belt to find them missing. They had dropped off somewhere along the long way around. I would have to walk on sock feet in search of them.

That's when I knew today was going to be one of those extra, extra special days.

Gypsy coolly viewed me through the window with one eyebrow arched as if to say, "My brain's the size of a walnut. What's your excuse?"

I laughed and said, "I'm human. That says it all." She arched the other brow as if agreeing with me. Like I said, it is one of those special days.
I'm listening to the reflective "Shape of My Heart" by Sting {Gordon Matthew Sumner.} He is a longtime activist for the hurting, composing and singing "Driven To Tears" while still with The Police -- it was an angry indictment of apathy in the face of world hunger. He kept on with his crusade for those in need ever since. On January 22, 2010, he once again sang "Driven To Tears" during the global telethon HOPE FOR HAITI. Check out his website


"May it be when darkness falls,
Your heart will be true."

Darkness falls in all manner of ways. Disaster. Death. Disease. They play no favorites. Is any shoulder strong enough when the clouds cry?

I blend historic fact in with supernatural shivers, focusing on a battered man trying hard not to buckle under the darkness in FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE.

Each chapter begins with a true quotation of the times, then blends in with Samuel McCord's struggles with questions of honor and enemies in the shadows.



"The looting is out of control. The French Quarter is
under attack."
- New Orleans councilwoman, Jackie Carlson
{August 30, 2005 }

-- As Councilwoman Carlson spoke, President Bush was playing
guitar with country singer Mark Willis in San Diego. Bush
would return to Crawford, Texas for one more night of taking
it easy before cutting his vacation short.


As I made my way down the flooded street towards the Convention Center, I looked up at the full moon. It seemed closer than civilization or any semblance of rescue. If there was to be any help for those suffering at the center, it would have to come from me.

As I waded along into the night, the black mists curled and creamed in the humid darkness like an unspoken fear trying to form itself on the edge of consciousness. A trick of the thick air, the moon of blood leered down upon its reflection on the dark waters of the flooded street. Ripples of its long bloody image flowed from the floating dead body of a cat, looking like fingers caressing its kill. The cat’s death apparently hadn't been pretty nor was its corpse. The night became colder than it should have been. Much, much colder.

Rind, the Angelus of Death whose blood had mingled with mine ,whispered in words only I could hear. “At night the dead come back to drink from the living.”

I didn’t need Rind to tell me that the night was not my friend. Too much death had happened too recently. Spirits, lost and angry, were walking beside me. Torn clothing. Hollow eyes of shadows. Sharp, white teeth. Long, writhing fingers slowly closing and unclosing.

Because of Rind's blood in my veins, I could see them slowly circling, hear their trailing, splashing steps behind me, feel the heat of their sunken, hungry eyes upon my back.

Were they soul-echoes, mere refracted memory of a will? Or were there such things as literal ghosts? Just because I could see them didn't mean that I understood what they were.

I turned the corner and came upon the startled, fragile grace of a too-white egret standing alert in the middle of the flooded street, staring back at me. Its long sleek neck slowly cocked its sloping head at me. Then, gathering its huge wings, it launched itself into the air with its long black legs. I saw the spirits of the dead around me longingly stare after its curved flight of grace and freedom into the dark sky. I watched with them.

I felt a tug on my left jacket sleeve. I looked down. My chest grew cold. The dead face of a little girl was looking up at me. Or rather the face of her lost, wandering spirit, her full black eyes glistening like twin pools of oil. Her face was a wrenching mix of fear and longing. She tried to speak. Nothing came out of her moving lips. Looking like she was on the verge of tears, she tugged on my sleeve again and pointed to the end of the block. I followed her broken-nailed finger. I shivered.

She was pointing to her own corpse.

I took in a ragged breath I didn’t need to compose myself. The Convention Center would have to wait. I had sworn a long time ago that no child would ever ask my help without getting it.

A haunted singing was faint on the breeze. Somewhere the dead had found their voices. I nodded to the girl’s spirit and waded to her corpse, the force of the rushing flood waters having washed it up onto the sidewalk and against a store front where it slowly bobbed in place. I saw the girl’s spirit out of the corner of my eye, studying the shell of flesh she had once worn. Her head was turned slightly to one side. The expression to her face was sorrowful and wistful at the same time. She pointed again.

I followed the broken-nailed finger. A rosary all wrapped up in the balled fingers of her left hand. She gestured sharply, then looked at me with eyes echoing things I did not want to see. I nodded again and kneeled down beside the girl’s swollen corpse. I pried the rosary loose, wrapping it around the fingers of my own gloved left hand.

I looked up at the girl’s spirit. She just stood there frowning as if in concentration. Her brow furrowed, and her jaws clenched. I could swear beads of sweat appeared on her ghostly forehead.

I jerked as suddenly guttural words were forced from the long-dead throat of the corpse at my boots. “T-Tell M-Mama ... peaceful now.”

And with that, she looked up into the night. I followed her eyes. She was looking at the retreating body of the egret slowly flying into a filmy, billowing cloud. I looked back to her spirit.

She was gone.

“I promise,” I said to the empty night.

Where had she gone? Had her spirit held itself together just long enough to pass on those words of good-bye to her Mama? Was her soul flying alongside that oblivious egret slowly evaporating within the filaments of that cloud? Or was she finding out the truth about the Great Mystery that haunted me still?

I had no answers. Only more questions. Questions in the dark.


I am listening to Myleene Klass's haunting piano interpretation of "Now We Are Free" from GLADIATOR. After her shot at success from a British form of AMERICAN IDOL ended due to feuding within her band, she had to reinvent herself from a pop singer to classical pianist -- and succeeded. She is an inspiration to all of us who will have to re-invent ourselves several times in our adult lives. Check out her website and wish her luck on her upcoming baby.
Thank all of you for dropping by. Have a healing weekend. Roland

Friday, February 19, 2010


I've always been fascinated with Mark Twain. In fact, I wrote two stories about him and my undead Texas Ranger, Samuel McCord. Here's the beginning of the second story, A DEBT TO PAY :

From the moment we draw breath, we owe a debt. Only for a time do we get use of the earth, rain, and the other assorted odds and ends that go into our making. Like the leaves, we bud and grow, drawing life from the sun and its tears, gathering capital on the investment they have put into us. Then, like the leaves, we grow brittle and drop to the dark and bloody soil, returning its loan for the next soul round the pike. Debt paid.

Or is it?

No, in my mind, there’s replacement, then there’s payment with interest, for what else would the world be investing in you but to get some good out of the giving?

You think such thoughts when you ride the high, lonely mountains. There is something to them that reminds you that man is but a recent add-on to the world, that there are things older, wilder, more awesome than the puny critter that swaggers about like a child waving a crude wooden sword, the hero of his own delusions. And all the while, closing in on that deluded child is the embrace of the Eternal, that final night of all life.

I glanced over at the fitfully sleeping Sammy Clemens.

I ran my gloved fingers along the volcanic soil beneath me. This mountain was new if such a monstrous, high place could be called such. I looked over to Sammy, still tossing in an uneasy sleep on his bedroll, his unruly red hair looking like nothing so much as a fiery lions’s mane. Or a wig made from the feathers of a dozen of those parrots that dozed above us.

Damn, but I felt ancient. It seemed only yesterday that he had been twelve years old and close to being murdered as his father had been. I had saved his life then. And cursed it, too. I had meant well. But we both know what road is paved with those intentions.

Now he was nearly thirty-one. I still couldn’t get used to that moustache he had taken to wearing. I felt my face go tight. I remembered the hollowed-out look to his gray-blue eyes back in San Francisco. I had crept into his hotel room to surprise him with the receipt for the outrageous sum he had let the unpaid rent get to. The sight of him with that Colt pressed up against his temple was burned into my mind. Had I been but a heartbeat slower, Sammy would now be dead.

Hell of a friend I would have been. But I could only be in one place at a time. And some of those places were certain death for a human. I had been so sure I had left him secure. But Sammy had a way of sailing from safe waters into treacherous, deadly ones. I had taken to calling him Mark Twain, the name river men used to denote the place where the Mississippi went from secure to deadly.

The smoke of our campfire began to tickle my nose. Sammy stretched. I waited. No. He didn’t awaken. I kept on watching. Good. He kept on snoring. He still slept-walked. I didn’t need him wandering, addled-minded off into the deadly blackness after all the hard work this trip had cost me. I had jury-rigged this newspaper reporting of the Sandwich Islands to save his life, while salvaging his pride at the same time.

I sat in the far shadows of the fire. Being a Texas Ranger for over forty years had taught me caution, for even the undead could die the final death. That was how I spotted the native woman creep up soundless from out of the darkness and sit in front of our fire. Her odd white dog sat beside her silent as a shadow’s passing. I had never seen the breed before. But he sure was big. He looked as if his father might have been a bear -- if those critters had roamed these islands. But it did make me wonder what his parents actually had been. Elephants maybe.

She stared at Sammy, the fire playing odd shadow-games on her dried walnut face. Her dog, however, turned and looked right at me in the blackness I had carefully wrapped around me. Apparently not carefully enough.

Sammy stirred and half-rose on an elbow, muttering to me as if I still sat by his side, “I tell you, Capt. Sam, these islands have the most magnificent, balmy atmosphere in the world. Why I swear I am surprised it does not rouse the dead from their moldy graves.”

He stiffened as he noticed my absence and the presence of the aged woman and her monstrous dog -- both of whom had neglected to bring their shadows along with them.

He cleared his suddenly thick throat. “Ah, speaking of which -- why, hello, madame. If you had just sent us a telegram, a letter, a carrier pigeon even, announcing your state visit, you would not have found me in so disheveled a condition. Ah, did you know that you and your delightful horse seem to have misplaced your shadows? Ah, Cap --- CAP!”

“Right behind you, Sammy.”

“H-How far behind?”

I smiled. Same old Sammy. When we were alone, it was always Capt. Sam. But in front of others, even something supernatural like now, his pride would only let him call me Cap.

He kept on, his voice trying, and failing, not to shake. “Cap, I have ransacked this island until I cannot walk for the saddle sores. I have surf-bathed til I nearly drowned. I have ridden by moonlight through a ghostly plain of sand strewn with human bones and contested with the shades of slain warriors there. But, Cap, I positively insist that all our visitors must have shadows!”

The old woman said nothing. The crackling embers reflected odd in her glittering eyes as it did in her dog’s , if dog was what it truly was. I drew in the night. I suddenly knew her.

She was death. Not the Angelus of Death. My blood would have burned had she visited. No. She was just my promissory note to life coming due.

Not that it bothered me over much. I breathed in the night breeze, the still of it, the life of it. In this wilderness there was no greed, no vanity, no hypocrisy. Only a lasting throb of green growth. And the eternal quiet. I always knew that this was the way I would go. A knife or a gun in hand, my teeth bared at the enemy like an old wolf falling away into the endless void, defiant and fighting to the end.

But not quite yet.

Sammy depended on me. And I would not let him down. I would save him. Then my spirit could be caught up on the wings of the night. It even pleased me a little to think of myself drifting at peace into the endless depths between the stars.

The old woman turned towards me and croaked, “Your time is not yet come, MoonHair.”

I smiled. Now that was a first. Though my hair was indeed the color of the moon and had been since I had seen my family butchered at fifteen, I had never been called by that name.

Sammy chortled, “Moonhair? Cap, is that your Injun name?”

The old woman’s eyes stabbed into him. They were dark waters over whose black liquid surface only the breath of hate stirred. She smiled. It was not a pretty sight.

“That would be Dyami, prattler.”

Sammy flicked unsettled eyes to me, and I whispered, “It means eagle.”


I'm listening to the haunting melody "Autumn" by Ryan Stewart from his beautiful album, EQUANIMITY. I believe America, the world itself, may be in its Autumn. Perhaps this thought stems from me knowing that on this day in 1776, THE DECLINE & FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE was published.
Because I believe all of us are standing on the threshold of something that befalls every person, every civilization, but with each at a different cost. We move through the moments but are far them. And as the night descends, it feels as if we are leaving home. I'm swept up in a sense of the missed opportunity, the lost chance, the closed door. In my mind, I hear Bette Midler singing “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” as I did when I sloshed alone down the flooded streets of Lake Charles that night after Hurricane Ike.

“Broken windows and empty hallways,
A pale dead moon in a sky streaked with grey.
Human kindness is overflowing,
And I think it’s going to rain today.”

Brrr! Well this will teach me to listen to haunting music before I go to bed. May the twilight hold itself back for just a few seasons more for all of us.

Ryan Stewart is a classically trained composer who has composed for FACEBOOK, GEICO, and recording artist Paul Cardall {also worth checking out.} Check out Ryan on his website

Thursday, February 18, 2010


 {Image Courtesy of Stevie Z Photography}

Friends have asked to see a bit of my novel, FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE. So here are a few paragraphs from the first chapter.

“Our Nation is prepared, as never before, to deal
quickly and capably with the consequences of
disasters and domestic incidents.”

--FEMA chief Michael D. Brown - March 09, 2005

Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans August 29, 2005


It rained lies and death today.

I stood knee-deep in water outside my French Quarter jazz club, Meilori’s. It was a place in which almost anything was likely to happen and in which almost everything had. 

Inside, the fifty-one survivors of Katrina that I could house were huddled in shivering, too quiet clusters. 

Words have no meaning when a city dies. Nothing much does.

My soul stretched tight across my chest. Everything I saw in the shadows spoke to me ... in threats. 

The sudden, short explosion of an unseen gun. A quick, sharp scream in the distance. And the blue spurt of a lighted match at the far end of the street. 

My city bled slowly in the ripples of the flooded streets.

Somewhere distant in the hot, red darkness a shot rang out. Another called out to it like a wolf. But it came from a different direction.

I smiled bitterly. The predators had crawled out from their boarded shelters. They knew the restraint of law had died this day. Soon they would come for me.

You see, I had enemies. And not all of them were human. But that was all right. I wasn't human either.
If you like what you read, let me know. If not, let me know how I could improve. Thank all of you for caring to drop by.
Here's a song about hope and Hurricane Katrina :