The Pernicious Pachyderm

Victoria Benchley

Chapter one

A Gruesome Discovery 

Duncan adjusted his kilt, nervous energy threatening to overtake his calm exterior. He stepped on the rubbery hose just as the thing moved, wrapping itself around his foot. Teetering, he tried to keep his balance as a wave of dread engulfed him. Without thinking, he held his breath as a means to obliterate the strong odor of wet hay and animal that permeated the air and filled his nostrils.

 
“Step on the tusk, Sahib!” the boy yelled, tempering his strained tone with a forced smile. The lad’s words triggered the expulsion of air from his lungs, and he gasped for breath, trying to quell his alarm and remember the instructions given to him moments before. Instead, he panicked as the beast’s trunk shifted, and he grasped the animal’s long ivory tooth, clinging for dear life. He never should have agreed to this. The creature had finished off one person already. A barrage of encouragement from others had persuaded him that he’d been given a unique opportunity, something no one present would ever forget, a welcome distraction from morbid thoughts that might taint the occasion.

 

 

The pleats on the side of his kilt flounced as the elephant boosted him higher, forcing him to bend at the waist while still clutching a tusk. Compelled to release his hold on the ivory or risk falling, he leaned into the monster and grabbed at an enormous ear. The coarse hair on its leathery hide scratched the exposed skin on his leg like steel wool as the behemoth propelled him further into the air.

 

Taken by Storm

Anna Argent

Oklahoma, January 15

 

The flabby man had stayed crouched for hours in the same shadowy corner of the library where Isa Telwyn worked, which was odd, because it was obvious that he didn’t know how to read.

 
The large encyclopedia looked tiny in his huge, warty hands. He hadn’t turned the page since he’d arrived, but he kept peering over the top of the book at Isa like he was trying to figure out if he knew her. But the really strange part was that he didn’t seem to realize he was holding the encyclopedia upside down.

 
Closing time was minutes away, and he didn’t look like he was going anywhere soon. His bulbous body sat folded into a creaky oak chair that strained to hold his mass. The cowboy hat he wore was too small for his round head, but it shaded his face, leaving only an impression of sagging skin, wiry whiskers, and oddly-shaped eyes.

 

Wind howled outside as the winter storm front closed in. Tiny pellets of ice clicked against glass panes that had protected the books for so long they were rippled with age. The smell of old paper and aging wood wafted through the building as the fierce wind worked its way in through drafty cracks in the aging brick and plaster walls.

 
The buzzing fluorescent bulbs overhead hadn’t been replaced in years. There weren’t as many as there should have been, thanks to cost-cutting measures, leaving the whole space a labyrinth of shadowy mazes with high bookshelf walls. Even the utilitarian carpet on the floor seemed to absorb light as well as it did sound. Footsteps were muffled, but the creak of aging boards underneath was easy to hear all the way from the back wall to the check-out desk.

 
Mrs. Bird, the library’s oldest employee, shuffled toward the front desk, eyeing the strange man. Her white hair had thinned, but she still twisted the little wispy bits into a bun that was more bobby pins than hair. She settled her crooked hands on the back of a rickety chair too large for her shrinking frame. “It’s seven,” she said to Isa, confusion clear in her tone. “Why is he still here? Everyone knows we close at seven.”

 
“I don’t think he’s a local,” Isa said. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “In fact, I don’t think he can read. I bet he’s been sitting over there all day, trying to work up the courage to ask about our classes.”
“Classes are on Saturday. It’s Tuesday.”

 
Isa stifled a grin at the seriousness of Mrs. Bird’s statement. She’d lived in Silver Gulch her entire life, and after eighty-eight years had a hard time remembering there were other places on the planet where people could exist. This town—this library—was the center of her universe, and Isa feared that if she didn’t get out of here soon, she would end up just like Mrs. Bird sixty years down the line.

 

 

Shatterbones

Robert Brown

Chapter One

Blue Haze

*Link-In Initiated*
12:37pm
Washington D.C.
The distinct popping sound of gunfire can be heard echoing through the armored and reinforced interior of Air Force one. Four Secret Service agents rush up the stairs into the President’s traveling office at the top of the jets cabin.

 

The President is pushed through the communications room and into a corner of the lounge just outside the cockpit door. The agents take positions around the room hoping to save the President’s life. Two other people in the office follow protocol and crouch to the sides of the aircraft to stay out of the agents line of fire to the stairs. The third man, General McKinnon draws his own weapon and takes position in line next to the agents. They all await the approaching threat to enter or for the all clear to be given.

 

“What’s happening out there? Is it terrorists? Did someone sneak on board with the press pool?”
A violent shutter reverberates through the 747 followed by the sudden loss of gravity as the plane begins to quickly descend toward the earth. Shouted warnings are given over the intercom as the President and his men are thrown against the ceiling of the craft.

 

“Massive depressurization detected. We are making emergency descent to eight thousand feet.”
Immediately after the aircraft begins its controlled fall, the noise of gunfire ends and the clamor of screams and shouting echo up the stairwell to the men. The President watches lead agent Barlow holding his hand to his ear, getting filled in on his earpiece even as he works to steady himself on the ceiling and readies for the gravity to return.

 

A chill runs along the Presidents spine when he sees the fear etched on the face of this man he thought was made of stone.

 

“It’s still heading to the President. We have to move him into the cockpit!”
“Get ready Mr. President. The pilot is leveling the plane and will open the cockpit door. As soon as you are inside, they will lock that door, strap you in and we’ll continue our descent.”

Treasure of Saint-Lazare: A Novel of Paris

John Pearce

Treasure-of-Saint-Lazare-Cover-EBOOK-180K

 

There was only one witness, and he was not a good one — the busboy at a new restaurant in the nearby arts colony walking back from the bank. He heard a sudden shout and wheeled just in time to see a large black car accelerate around the corner – “kind of a big SUV, but not as big as a Hummer, maybe a Lincoln” was what he told the patrol cop who first responded to his 9-1-1 call. “It hit the old man right in the center of the front end and sent him flying.”

The old man, Roy Castor, had not been thrown far and with luck he might have survived if he’d been thrown the same direction as his hat, which flew left onto the grassy median. But the impact tossed him to the right like a broken stuffed toy and his head hit the curb with a sickening hollow thud.

“Man, I dropped a melon on the kitchen floor last week and it sounded just like that,” Arturo said, adding his view that the old man was dead when he hit the curb. In fact Roy didn’t draw his final breath for another hour, in the cold and remarkably empty emergency room of Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

“The dude went by real slow and looked at me, ” Arturo told the detective who arrived later. “I don’t think he saw me until after he hit the old man, then he just floored it and screamed around the corner to the right and he was gone. That’s when I ran down to the old man and called you guys.”

Thom Anderson, the Sarasota police detective who had drawn the case, thought it a straightforward hit-and-run. An overpaid and overeducated punk kid, Thom figured, with a job selling insurance or houses or stocks, had run over an old man crossing in the middle of the block, panicked, and fled. He would probably turn himself in the next morning, ashamed and completely lawyered up, maybe with his equally overpaid father beside him.

His moment of panic would cost him a fine and a few months of probation and might cost him the fancy job. Thom had seen it more and more often as Sarasota had gentrified, and he didn’t like it any better this time than the last.

In Your Face

Emisch Oghma

In Your Face: What's Yours Saying About You?: A modern guide to determine anyone's character and emotional history by [Oghma, Emisch]

 

Chapter One – What do we know about the face?

When we look at a face, what do we see?

We see the shape of the face and its features – eyes, ears, nose and mouth – and maybe an expression appearing glad, sad or mad. Maybe they are excited to be there with you!

But what if there is much more you could be reading in that face? This book will help you interpret a person’s character and emotional history – and life potential – simply by looking carefully at the shape, features and expressions of their face. That’s the promise behind
Siang Mien (translates to face reading), a Chinese Ming Dynasty system of interpreting faces.I have created this easy-to-use guide with a modern, Western audience in mind. Read on and learn what your face is saying about you….

How did the Siang Mien masters do that?
That is a very interesting question. The elaborate Siang Mien system was created over many centuries of observations
and practice. The masters were certain the human face records every emotional reaction you’ve ever had, from birth. Emotional responses to situations – for example, think of a smile or a frown – create muscle memories that over time create deeper facial lines. The stronger and more pronounced the line, the more often that emotional reaction has occurred in that person. The masters also taught that certain birth characteristics indicated karmic (previous life) patterns. So each person’s face reveals a combination of pre destined and acquired character and potential. Siang Mien masters isolated the facial features and contours into categories inspired by the four elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth. After many centuries of observations, they could attribute a meaning or pattern to each facial characteristic.

The Last Road Home

Danny Johnson

The Last Road Home by [Johnson, Danny]Maybe it wasn’t true. “Come on, Junebug, it’s all right, don’t be afraid.” Grandma took my hand. Inside the house, a late afternoon shadow stretched like a long rectangular arm across the living room carpet. The Coke bottle Daddy used for an ashtray was stuffed with cigarette butts, and sat on the coffee table. Momma’s rocking chair waited for her; I pushed on the painted wooden arm to hear it squeak.
Two applejacks left over from Friday sat in a plate on the kitchen stove; this time of day the house should smell like fresh made sweet tea and supper cooking. I looked on the back porch, but nobody was there either. In the bathroom, I touched the last pencil line where Momma marked my height every year on my birthday. In their bedroom, I lay on the pillow to smell her. My head knew they were gone, but my eight-year-old heart didn’t yet.
Grandma sat beside me, tears rolling down her face; she’d cried a lot in the last two days. “Let’s go find what you want to carry home.”
In my room, I got the cigar box from my closet while Grandma packed clothes in paper bags. When her arms were loaded, she stood at the door. “Ready to go?”
“In a minute.” I went back to Momma and Daddy’s room, looked in her jewelry box and found the silver gum wrapper necklace I’d made for her in school. “Okay.” I stopped at the bottom of our steps and picked one of the red roses Momma had planted in the spring.

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