This is a real love story wrapped in colorful intrigue.
The following is an excerpt for your consideration:
Celebrities and High Rollers came from all over the world to the grand opening of the most talked about gaming resort since Monte Carlo. The Hotel at Sundance Lake had been booked for more than six months by invitation only guests. Private jets of every size and shape filled the executive terminal and transient parking areas of McCarran International Airport. The overflow was directed to the Henderson Executive Airport a short eleven miles south. As an entourage of limousines made their way along the highway to Sundance Lake the outline of a pyramid rose from the water, and cast an eerie shadow across the Hotel and Casino at Sundance Lake.
The Pyramid is rumored to be the home of the Ghost at Sundance Lake. It was first seen by the Resort’s architect during the final stages of his design. Many local residents have seen the phenomenon for the last year and a half but regard it as an illusion or some kind of desert anomaly or mirage.
Resort clientele congregate in the hotel lobby, the casino lounges, and on the veranda that separated the main casino from the lake while they wait for the official opening. The Grand Opening Gala would start with the casino opening, which is scheduled for one hour before sunset.
Intrigued by the Pyramid shadow, and the stories that the Ghost would appear at the Grand Opening, many of the clientele moved to the veranda. Suspense heightened as the sun started to set over the mountains.
. . . . . . . Happy that the day’s work was over, Michael maneuvered his classic 300SL up the winding roads and into the hills where Darci lives. The clock in the dashboard indicates that he still has more than enough time to arrive before 7:30. On the seat next to him is a single Sterling Silver rose. He had instructed the florist that he wanted something simple, but special, for this lady with ‘just a few of the baby’s breath twigs’, and a lavender ribbon.
The worsted slacks and patterned Armani silk shirt, topped with his leather flying jacket, was about as casual as he would be on their first date.
He drove into the cul-de-sac at the end of the road. The address between a single carved wood door and the garage was difficult to see. “This should be it,” he told the SL as he backed up, then eased forward onto the short drive. A motion sensor turned the light on over the door and verified the address.
He pushed the illuminated button, and stepped back.
When the door opened, he was greeted by a smile and scintillating eyes that invited him in before a word was spoken. Michael felt a quiver inside his chest and an instant connection with this intriguing woman.
Darci stood motionless in the dimly lit entry hall presenting a different image than their two previous encounters. Her hair was piled on top of her head, fashioned loosely with narrow tresses on each side of her face. She wore a simple patterned full-length skirt, topped with an elegant teal colored silk blouse. “Hi, Michael Orcini,” a delightful voice broke the spell. “Welcome to my home.” She stepped aside allowing him to enter.
Michael moved through the doorway, paused, and with a shy, almost boyish transferring of weight from one foot to the other, presented the single rose.
“My favorite,” she said with a softness that matched the rose itself, “my absolute favorite in the whole world. How did you know?”
“It was the most beautiful at the florist. It seemed appropriate.”
“Help me get a vase down from the cupboard.” He followed her down the stairs to the main level where full height windows of the two-story living room exposed the entire length of the breath-taking Las Vegas light extravaganza. They paused for a moment, then without a word continued on through the dining room and into the kitchen. “There on the top shelf, the tall tear drop crystal in the center.” She pointed, as he opened the glass door of the cupboard. He reached in and looked back at her with a questioned look. “Yes, thanks,” she said, being quite able to reach the vase herself.
Darci put some water in the vase and arranged the ‘baby’s breath’ around the rose. Satisfied, she picked up the vase and walked into the living room. “Here by the window.” She glanced at Michael, “I’ll move it to my bedroom later.”
Michael became aware of a small dog, sitting on a loveseat in an alcove, staring at him, but not making a sound. “Who are you?” he asked, not really expecting an answer.
“That’s Puca T. Say hello to Michael, Puca.”
“Arf. Arf.” The little critter responded in a sound matching his size.
“Hello Puca T.” Michael went over and sat next to him, and petted him on the head.
“Arf. Arf.” Puca laid his chin on Michael’s lap.
“I think he likes you. He doesn’t usually like strangers. I’m famished.”
“Me too! Ready?”
“Then, let’s get going.”
Darci picked up an exquisite Indian shawl, and handed it to Michael. He unfolded the woven artifact and placed it over her shoulders, allowing his arms to fold around her for a brief moment.
“Thank you, sir,” she said, catching his eye as she glanced over her shoulder.
When they reached the top of the stairway she stopped and set the alarm.
They drove down the winding road. “This must be a scary drive in the winter with ice and snow on the ground,” Michael commented, shortly before he reached the bottom of the hill, and headed away from the bright lights of the ‘Strip’.
“Everyone on the hill is up in arms about this road. We’re constantly trying to do something about it. It’s been going on for a long time. This time I’m heading up a committee to get some barricades installed along the edge. They probably won’t do anything about it until someone gets killed.” . . . . . . .
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An Exciting Self Help eBook Adventure
* * * * * * *
Chronicle of Unchangeable Changes
An Interplanetary Tale of Two Worlds
Anza Qi is available now
but you can have a sneek preview.
A little taste to wet your literary senses!
Long before the events of this story, Daiyu, the Black Jade, attempted to take control of the Sun Star parallel planets Earth and Theia. Nous, the cosmic voice responsible for planetary balance, defeated Daiyu casting him out of his four-dimensional world to the Space-Between Dimensions.
The secrets to planetary balance are locked in the Chronicle of Unchangeble Changes on Earth, and only accessible through the Tome of Legends on Theia using the Sacred Oglala Crest cipher. Subsequently, Nous switched the Tome and Chronicle leaving the cipher on Theia to thwart the use of its magic where it remained for millenniums until an unbalance occurred making the Sacred Oglala Crest vulnerable to claim by anyone.
Access to the all powerful Chronicle of Unchangeable Changes has been handed-down to the 'Chosen One' throughout the ages to safeguard the equilibrium of the synchronistic planets.
Anza Qi, a thirteen year old Chinese-American boy on Earth will soon learn that it is his destiny to be the custodian of the ancient secrets.
* * * * * * *
It is morning, the temperature outside our Starcruiser Totfote is about 2.7 Kelvin, and pitch dark as our interplanetary travel takes us from Alpha Centauri toward the Sun Star. Planet Theia is seen chasing Planet Earth, collides and both planets spin-off a Moon. Theia bounces back taking place as Earth’s identical parallel planet on the opposite side of the Sun. All the planets in the solar system spin faster and faster indicating the passing of millenniums.
Our Starcruiser experiences a potholed ride as it passes through a Coronal Loop and catches a Solar Wind, which catapults us toward Planet Theia. Totfote kicks into hyperdrive with a bang, rocketing past the Sun in a Time-Space Continuum as the spinning planets are slowing down. As we get closer, we see an image of another planet, a fourth dimensional planet that fades and disappears as we pass.
From the cockpit, we see the ground whiz by as Totfote evaporates leaving our presence on Theia. As Interlopers we can observe, sometimes we can be heard, but can never be seen.
Two identical planets on the opposite side of the Sun with almost identical and synchronistic occupants and happenings is an unusually strange phenomenon, but a fourth dimensional planet with composite synchronistic creatures is an anomaly that causes one to think that our Universe is a lot more than meets the eye.
An equilibrium child, Nous, (an Epicene) that moves in and out of the parallel worlds, is the Keeper of Planetary Balance, and lives on the World of Anon. The Interstitial World of Anon is a four dimensional resultant aberration of the lost days of February 29th and 30th combined from the Earth/Theia calendar, and a collection of all composite inhabitants from both planets.
The Worlds appear to be 100 years apart, but are always in the present time, which makes it logical to transport something or somebody to the other planet without disrupting the past or future. This Trans-Dimensional travel phenomenon was created near the beginning … shortly after the ‘Spinoff’. Theia spun backwards 100 years. However, this does not preclude the imbalance that occurs when any person or object transports between Parallel Planets. Any imbalance must be corrected by the return of the person or object or its counterpart before the next February 29th or the planets will be destroyed. Interlopers and their spacecraft must also leave or face destruction, unless they undergo the RSR (Replication Synchronization Ritual).
The equilibrium child's interplanetary travel does not affect planetary balance.
We are drawn to a happening in a Theia countryside.
It’s a cool winter day in Twentieth Century Midwestern U. S. A. countryside on the Planet Theia as stable boy Dimitri Talbot returns to the Softwind Farm stable riding the prize thoroughbred stallion, 'Runs Like The Wind'.
Emera Softwind, a remarkably young looking 50’s Lakota Indian Grandfather is walking into the stable with his traditional cane wearing bluue jeans, a multi- colored shirt and moccasins as Dimitri dismounts. He witnesses the stableboy stuffing a crest into the pocket of his jeans.
“What are you doing?” he asks.
“Nothing sir,” he responds.
“I saw you take that crest from the saddle. You know that it’s a Sacred Oglala Crest from Golden Elk (Lakota Medicine Man and Shape Shifter), and must remain with the saddle while it is transported to the White Buffalo Calf Woman festival.”
“You crazy old man, I took nothing.”
“You put it in your pocket. Now give it here, and we’ll be done with it,” he demands.
“I took nothing that isn’t mine.”
Dimitri turns and runs out of the stable laughing.
Emera raises his cane and shouts, “Come back here or I’ll put a curse on you. I’ll change you into a bird, an appalling raven,” he commands raising his cane higher.
The tall and lanky Dimitri stops; his long sandy hair settles on his shoulders as he takes off his cowboy hat. He turns and walks slowly to the stable pushing past Emera, “I can put on curses too, so be careful.”
“I will turn this horse into a statue, and send him to the other world.”
“What do you know of the other world?”
“I know about the Tome of Legends and the magic of the Sacred Oglala Crest.”
“NO!" shouting, "that’s impossible. You're lying," he looks puzzled, “the Tome is in the other ---”
“The other world,” Dimitri's face tightens as he lies, "I have been to the other world."
The powerfully built Emera grabs his arm and turns him around with a quick move. “Give me the Crest.”
Dimitri pulls away and starts to run out of the stable.
Emera, with a determined look, raises his cane. A breeze comes up and unfurls a Tribal Waluta attached to the top of the Vision Quest Cane. He begins chanting 'Great Spirit, take away this bad boy, send him to Earth' in her Lakota tongue, “Wakatanka, aye, aya sica hoksila, aya sica hoksils icu Makoce,” louder and louder, over and over until a small twister forms, and locks-in on Dimitri stopping him in his tracks.
Dimitri grabs the horse and shouts 'change to a statue' in Lakota, “yuto keca kakapi,” as the horse morphs into a bronze statue.
The twister scoops up the bronze statue and Dimitri, who Opal has changed into a Raven, sending them into space with a sonic boom.
As the Raven and horse start to go up into space Dimitri cries, “You crazy man, you’re starting a ... ,” his words fade.
In the shadows of the stable, the foreman Nicholas Gray Wolf is quietly watching the happening.
Emera's grandson Xandr Softwind and his cousin Yellow Flower are on horseback in an adjacent meadow; Xander is wearing a traditional Lakota leather shirt, blue jeans and moccasins while Yellow Flower is in a typical bneaded wool dress and skin boots. They feel the shockwave, and race to the Softwind Farm.
The curious thirteen-year-olds dismount quickly and run into the stable.
Xandr, a handsome soft-spoken full-blooded Lakota boy hugs his grandfather as Yellow Flower stands by quietly, “What happened, are you okay, Lala?” asks the boy.
“I’m just fine. It’s that terrible stable boy.”
“What did he do? Where is he?”
* * * * * * *
Daiyu, the Black Jade, is watching the happening in his Cosmos Comprehender while Katipo, a slender shapely female, with silky-black waist length hair, in a black form-fitting outfit with a Latrodectus emblem on her chest, wearing Latrodectus Bracelets, stands at his side. Daiyu is an overwhelming figure more than seven feet tall with a soft and inviting smile on his classic face. Weird as it may seem he instantly changes appearance with his moods and becomes a ghostly malicious entity with great powers that can destroy with hand-launched thunderbolts as fast as light speed.
Katipo was born of Chinese-Lakota ancestry in a forbidden interaction between occupants of the parallel planets who met on the four-dimensional world Eartheia. Her parents of high political stature traveled from Earth and Theia respectively to attend a yearlong Interplanetary Leadership Council. Her parents had to return to their respective planets when the conference was completed; Katipo remained on Eartheia, because to live on either planet without a counterpart would cause an imbalance.
Eartheia was inhabited by wayward Karmic beings from both planets serving as keepers of the Karmic causality records and Council Chambers. Anon reinstated these beings as composite Ea'ians, which populated the planet He renamed after Himself.
At the time of Katipo's birth Daiyu, with restored karma, was in good favor with the Immortal Unknown and raised her as his daughter on Anon with his human wife Wachiwi. After Wachiwi passed, Daiyu reverted to the way of the Zgach and was exiled once more to the Space-Between taking the child Katipo with him.
Born in the fourth dimension allows Katipo 'limited-time visits' to either planet without causing imbalance.
RSR is not allowed for Space-Between or four-dimensional inhabitants.
* * * * * * *
The Black Jade throws a Thunderbolt at the raven and statue changing them into fluid forms.
"The sacred crest is mine for the taking," he says turning his head away with a sinister smile as he commands Katipo. "You will go to Earth and retrieve it.
* * * * * * *
We, the invisible interlopers, are amazed.
Solo, our pilot asks, “What just happened?”
Duo, the navigator, replies, “Let’s see,” as his Universal Portal Prompter materializes. Duo’s fingers move like a flash over the futuristic keypad. The screen is scanning through a variety of images and captures a three-dimensional event of a Raven and the bronze statue of a horse traveling in space; multi-snapping at the screen in an attempt to jump out of the Prompter.
The trans-dimensional happening is destined for the Twenty-first Century mid-western U. S. A. Planet Earth.
With a brilliant flash of light and thunderous clap, the fluid Bronze Statue of the horse, 'Runs Like The Wind', pass through the roof of an abandoned barn on the Bancroft-Qi Farm.
Our Starcruiser materializes. Suddenly without a word from our pilot or navigator the Universal Portal Prompter expands, sucking us into it with a zap, and we find ourselves traveling through a space-time continuum arriving on Planet Earth simultaneously with the raven and bronze horse. Totfote dematerializes as it did before, but this time leaving us disorientated and wondering what's going to happen next.
* * * * * * *
In an adjacent meadow, a synchronistic winter day on the Planet Earth, thirteen year old Anza Qi and his cousin Qingling, also thirteen are riding their horses and hear the deafening sound. Anza, an expert rider who appears to be awkward in his baggy pants and sneakers makes a sharp turn toward Qingling summoning her to follow with a simple follow-me movement of his head as he jambs his heels into the horse's side. Qingling responds without a word and they race to the Qi Farm stopping in a cloud of dust.
Anza’s grandfather, Phir Q, a tall youthful and noble looking man with a black moustache and goatee matching his silky black shoulder-length hair, which seems to meld into the collar of his black leather jacket, witnessed the thunder and flash and rushes from the farmhouse getting to the old barn as the kids dismount. They walk slowly and cautiously into the barn. They stop when they see the bronze statue. Phir intuitively knows the statue came from Theia, and that it’s going to be trouble.
Anza, Qingling, and Phir Qi are synchronistic duplicates of Xandr Softwind, Yellow Flower and Emera Softwind, but of Chinese descent.
“What’s happening Yeye?” The timid wide-eyed Anza asks with the endearing Chinese word for grandfather.
“It has happened. The worst.”
Qingling shouts with an impatient tone, “The worst what? What’s going on?”
Anza looks at the statue and says, “That statue wasn’t there before," turning back with a quick glance at Phir he asks, "where’d it come from?”
Solo speaks, “How’d we get here?”
Duo speaks with a finger to his lips, “Quiet, they might hear.”
Qingling looks around, and asks, “Who said that?”
Phir Qi looks around with a quizzical frown and whispers to Amber, “We’ve got some interlopers.”
Anza looks around uncertain as to what he's looking for and shrugs his shoulders, “Inter what?”
Phir searches the barn with suspicious eyes spotting the Raven perched in the rafters, “This is not good. Come along," he turns and leaves the barn with the kids obediently behind. They go into the country style kitchen, “There are homemade cookies on the counter, anybody hungry?”
The petite Qingling tosses her pink-banded cowgirl hat onto the seat of the kitchen chair revealing her waist length pigtail black hair with bangs as she darts to the refrigerator, “I'll get the milk.”
Phir unconsciously stares out the kitchen window at the old barn. A concerned look fills his ageless Chinese face as he realizes that the time has come to pass his legacy on to Anza, and educate him in the way of the Chronicle of Unchangeable Changes.
He turns to the kids sitting at the table and looks at Qingling, “You should get on home. Your parents will be worried. I'll have Nigel bring your horse around,” he talks into his cell phone, “bring Q's horse around.”
Qingling looks up, “Okay, but?”
“No buts, off with you.”
Phir is quick to command his grandson as Anza and Qingling start to run out, “Sunzi! He raies his voice a little, "I want you to stay.”
The kids hug, and Qingling runs out, mounts her horse and rides away.
Phir sits staring down at the table as Anza quietly washes the dishes setting them aside to dry; knowing not to ask any questions. He hangs his towel and looks at his grandfather with questioning eyes.
Phir looks at Anza and whispers, “Come with me. It's time. But first, go and get the silver box from my room. It's in the top drawer on the right.”
Anza runs off, and returns with the silver box. Phir takes his arm, and leads him to the Grand Room, which is filled with ancient Chinese treasures. They stop facing a paneled wall.
Phir waves his hands and arms as he incants 'open portal' in Chinese, “Dakai ménhu,” the wall becomes transparent and a Secret Room appears. Phir takes Anz's hand, “Come Sunzi.”
Anza is squeamish and frightfully resists as Phir leads him through the wall into the obscured room.
"What is this place?"
"It is the Chamber Obscura, a very secret place."
* * * * * * *
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a Short Story
The silhouette of a late model coupe suddenly looks like a homecoming bonfire against the waterfront warehouses as two men run to a waiting sedan, and drive off.
Mario Francino openly ran his 1960’s numbers racket with the right cops on his payroll, but had to conceal his homosexuality from them and the mob by keeping a gorgeous doll on his arm when he was in public.
“Come here Mats,” Mario summoned his lover. “You’ve already put your newspaper to bed, now it’s my turn.”
Mats Harudner publishes a small, but powerful Jersey daily newspaper, and uses it to ensconce his underworld relationships. A married man, he also conceals his sexual preference from the public eye.
“D’you want me to burn up your bed like Pauli and I did to Julie’s car?” He moved across the bedroom of their apartment hideaway.
“The bitch had it coming. Your fire and our cops will cover what really happened to her. Knaugh will take the fall. Besides, you’re still in Chicago. Remember?”
“I know that wasn’t her in the car. So who did we do?”
“Just a whore. Come here.”
The Police Captain ranted on about the mob and their blatant disposal of those who got in their way, as Sgt. Joe Monday quietly puffed on his cigar in the small, dimly lit, smoke filled squad room.
“It was Francino and his boys that done this. Bring him in, and that, that, what’s his name? The husband?”
“Knaugh. Kevin Knaugh.”
Knaugh didn’t care that Julie was sleeping around, but openly rebuked her sexual adventures. Drunk as usual, Kevin Knaugh waited for more than a week before reporting his wife missing. Francino knew he would, and that would make him the prime suspect.
The well-orchestrated hit was just the beginning of a plot to take over the entire waterfront district. Julie Knaugh knew most of his plans about the waterfront, his relationship with Mats, and was tired of being his beard. She told him that she wanted in on the take from the district or she would sing to the cops. Having his alternative lifestyle, and the takeover plans, exposed was never in the cards. The take-over had to be hostile, systematic and precise, and in true Mafia convention, but on his terms. Francino wanted her out of the way. He knew that Mats would do just about anything that he asked, and he did. The trouble is; how long can he trust Mats.
Mats loved twisting the truth, and had the perfect outlet for his perverted mind. Without thinking about the consequences, he immediately published a series of daily articles, which profiled a list of convincing events that diverted attention to Kevin Knaugh and the district’s Gaudino Family. The stories were so believable that the District Attorney sidestepped the normal investigative procedures, obtained warrants, and had the cops start to round up the district Family. But the cops weren’t quick enough. The Gaudinos retaliated with their first wave of attack: A mini blood bath smokescreen implicating an insignificant gang. The DA, once again, redirected attention, but now to the street gangs.
Julie Knaugh’s murder was moved off the front page, and soon disappeared altogether. Much to Mario Francino’s surprise, Harudner succeeded in redirecting the investigation by embellishing Francino’s accolades, and endorsing him as a candidate for city council.
The other newspapers countered with their own accusations. There were front-page accounts suggesting Harudner’s involvement with the numbers racket, and one reporter’s byline insinuating that he was involved in the cover-up of the Julie Knaugh murder.
The small squad room was packed with uniforms and plain clothes. All of them sucking on their cigarettes, and cigars, drinking coffee, and talking amongst themselves when the captain entered.
“I want you to get everything that you can on this Harudner character.” The Captain demanded. “Where he goes. What he does. Restaurants, country clubs, the works. He’s married, but I’ll bet that he sleeps around. Find out who he sleeps with, and, and get pictures. Lots of pictures.”
“What’s with him, Cap?” One of the blues asked.
“He’s making too much noise in his newspaper. The DA thinks that he’s up to his shorts in the Knaugh murder.”
Mario Francino took Harudner’s plan, and ran with it, all the way to the city council. Harudner didn’t prepare himself for Mario’s necessary image. Mario found a respectable woman and publicly proposed marriage in the middle of a Town Hall meeting.
“We have to be discrete now that you’ve got me running for city council.” Mario turned over, and got out of bed. “My fiancé doesn’t know about us, and I want to keep it that way.” He stood by the window, and looked back over his shoulder. “Is that clear?”
“Are you giving me an order, master?” Mats looked away as a woman might, with a small pout. “Are you?”
“You’re married. You know what it means to save face. People don’t understand, especially the Family.” He turned back to the window. “It’s a jungle out there, and I don’t want to be the one that’s hunted.”
“Nor do I. But we’re in this together.”
“Just remember who faked his trip to Chicago, paid the desk clerk to bring the register here for you to sign, and get it back before anyone knew that he was gone. All the evidence leads to you.”
Mats jumped out of bed, and began pounding on Mario’s chest. “You never wanted me. You set me up. You used me to do your dirty work. To have Julie killed. The fire, everything.” He began sobbing like a child. “Get out. Get out.” He ran around the room gathering clothes and shoes, and threw them at Mario. “Get out. Get out.” He swung his arms like a girl that was trying to hit an imaginary invisible marshmallow monster, pulling back so that his arms wouldn’t stick.
“Get out, and don’t come back.”
“You’re just upset.”
“Get out.” He tried to kick him, but missed.
Mats sat on the edge of the bed for what seemed like hours. He remembered. He was still registered in the Chicago hotel. Nobody knew that he was back, except Mario. Then like a bolt of lightning, he got up, showered, dressed, and left the apartment hideaway. He quickly drove the short distance out of the city to his country home. The recovering alcoholic went straight to the liquor cabinet, and downed a few shooters to bolster what he was about to do. The rifles hadn’t been out of their case in years. Where did she put the key? Thea was organized, so it would be in a logical place. “Think like her,” he ordered himself. “Of course,” he said out loud, “her desk drawer.” It only took a moment, and he was out the door and then back again to get the bullets.
It was dark when Mario returned to his oceanfront home. Mats waited in a closet off the study. Mario poured a drink and sat at the desk with his back to the closet. Mats quietly moved toward the desk. As Mario took the last swallow, Mats lowered the barrel to the base of his skull and pulled the trigger. Mario never knew what hit him. The answering machine interrupted the telephone ring, and Mats listened as Mario’s fiancé talked about their plans for the next day. With his concentration disoriented by the call, Mats left and failed to pick up the spent cartridge.
Mario’s fiancé found the body the next morning. She also discovered the cartridge as she searched the room for trophies of her brief relationship. Somehow, she had the presence of mind to give the cartridge to Manny Guadino. Gaudino knew who owned the vintage rifle.
Curiously, Mats Harudner’s newspaper had only a small byline, while all the other local and national newspapers carried the front-page story of the candidate’s gang style assassination.
Mats received a late night call from Manny Guadino. “We need to talk tonight. Meet me at the docks, behind my warehouse. There’s a pay phone at the end of the pier. Ten o’clock.”
Mats Harudner’s heart began to beat faster and faster with the anticipation that he was accepted into the Family for getting rid of the Guadino competition. It was already nine-thirty, and he had to hurry. He put on a dark suit and a dark shirt, and a white tie that he saved for this occasion, which he always knew would happen.
Mats Harudner stood facing the ocean as the limousine pulled up by the warehouse. He waited.
“Mister Harudner”, comes a familiar voice, “over here.”
Mats Harudner turns to see Guadino flanked by a dozen men in black.
Manny Guadino raises his arm.
All twelve men raise their guns.
“I did it for you ... for the Family.”
Manny lowers his arm.
All twelve fire their guns.
“You never were Family.”
Short Stories by William Nona include: 'Retribution' (above), and 'The Idea'