The Devil You Know, Part I #52weeks52stories


#52weeks52stories: Week 11

Word prompt: assailant

Word Count: 3634


“I don’t like leaving you alone with that maniac still on the loose. I’m calling Reynolds to cancel.”

“You’ll do no such thing, Francis Bennett!”

Sally grasped both of her husband’s hands in her own, clutching them to her chest.

“You and Bill have worked hard for this. No one believed a couple of baby boomers could compete in today’s marketing madness of social media. You’ll proving all the naysayers wrong. You two beat out national companies to get this meeting and you will not miss it.”

She kissed his hands.

“And besides, even though the thought of this guy still out there in the shadows unnerves me, I’m more concerned for my clients, the poor dears. I don’t fit his profile.”

The list of women attacked by Marbury’s Senior Citizen rapist now numbered four—all 69 to 89 years of age; all widowed; all in poor health or recuperating from illness.

Francis ‘Frankie’ Bennett pulled his wife into his arms.

“I know, honey, I know. But no one knows what drives these sickos… better safe than sorry.”

“And I promise I will be safe. Now go finish packing. If you miss your flight, you know Bill will have a mental break.”

Husband and wife shared a laugh before Frankie kissed Sally’s forehead and left to pack.

She retook her seat at the breakfast nook. She gave the article about the Senior Citizen Rapist another read before closing the browser on her tablet.

Sally didn’t know Pearl Wright, but her heart went out to the eighty-one-year-old grandmother of twenty-three.

Plagued with heart problems, Pearl was a regular client of Angels Assist, the home-care agency Sally worked part-time for as a services scheduler.

It was Angels Assist volunteer, Leanne Brinkley, scheduled to prepare breakfast and do light housework, who discovered Pearl’s battered and bruised body.

Awed the elderly woman survived the brutal attack, Sally also worried about Leanne.

After calling police, paramedics, and Pearl’s family, the perky volunteer went into mild shock and was hospitalized overnight.

Angels Assist staff and volunteers were all concerned with their safety. Staff was requesting security escorts and volunteers were canceling late evening and early morning assignments. Any more schedule changes and Sally would have to add herself to the schedule. She didn’t mind though. With Frankie away, she liked to keep busy, but there was no way Sally would tell him she may have to do home visits. He’d cancel his trip for sure.


After completing her weekly reports, Sally emailed the new schedule to supervisors and Blanche, the owner. She uploaded all the documents to the office server and powered down her tablet, grateful for the technology which allowed her to do most of her job from home.

Pouring another cup of coffee, Sally opened her journal and went to work on their upcoming anniversary banquet plans when the phone rang. The name ‘Kristen’—an agency volunteer—flashed on the caller ID.

“Hey, Kristen. How are you?”

“I’ll be a lot better when I know you don’t hate me.”

Sally’s brow knitted in confusion.

“Hate you? What’s going on, Kristen?”

“I-I… have to cancel my hours of availability.”

Sally’s hand shook as panic gripped her. The thirty-something Kristen was pregnant, expecting her first child after she and her husband tried for years.

“Are you okay, Kristen?”

I’m fine, Sally. Midway through my second trimester without morning sickness or heartburn anywhere in sight.”

She paused.

“It’s just… these attacks on elderly women.”

Grateful mother and child were fine, a hint of annoyance niggled at Sally while Kristen continued.

“I don’t know Mrs. Wright—was never scheduled with her and I only know Leanne as another agency volunteer. But my husband knows Leanne’s family. Her dad was his supervisor years back when he first got hired into the fire department. After he heard what Leanne went through… well, he kinda lost it and insisted I stopped volunteering.”

“Kristen, it’s okay. We’re all unnerved by these attacks and to have one hit so close to home is terrifying.”

“I know, Sally, but – “

“No buts. I hate to even think what could have happened if it had been you instead of Leanne who found Mrs. Wright.”

“That’s what Rory said. We’ve tried so long for this baby, and at my age, the shock alone might – “

“Enough, sweetie. Don’t allow your mind to go there. We’re all grateful Leanne is better and pray for the same for Mrs. Wright.”

“Thanks, Sally. I only had one assignment on this schedule—an overnight tomorrow with a woman recovering from eye procedures for glaucoma. I took it because it was light duty and Rory was scheduled for a four-day shift at the fire station.”

“We’ll get this covered, Kristen, please don’t worry over it.”

Sally pulled up the current schedule.

“This was your only assignment this week. I’ve got next week’s schedule done and you were on for two four-hour respite visits near the end of the week. I’ll have no problem getting those covered. You just concentrate on that sweet baby you’re carrying and putting your hubby’s mind at ease. We’ll all breathe easier when this psycho is caught and behind bars.”

She could hear Kristen exhale over the phone.

“I agree, Sally, and thank you. I’ll be in touch when I can help out again. Take care.”

Sally Bennett smiled as she ended the call. While she hoped the maniac terrorizing the city was caught soon, she doubted Kristen would be volunteering again anytime soon. She’d be a new mom in less than four months, and free time would no longer exist for her.

Sally red-lined the two shifts under Kristen’s name on the new schedule then opened the staff database looking for someone who could cover tomorrow’s overnight assignment on such short notice.

Sally entered the hours of coverage needed, pressed enter, and groaned when no names appeared on the screen.

She’d have to take the assignment.

Sally was good with it, though. She subbed once or twice a month, and Frankie would be away, it would give her time to keep her own caregiver skills sharp.

She was jotting down the address and contact information for Graciela Ramirez when Frankie bounded back into the kitchen.

“I can take you to the airport.”

Frankie Bennett pulled his wife from her seat into his arms. “We are not going to start that again, Sal.” He kissed her forehead. “It’s an hour’s drive one way, parking costs a small fortune, and you can’t go past the security check-in.”

“I know, I know. It just seems as though I’m always telling you goodbye lately.”

“Well, this is the last trip for a while and you know what happens when I get back, right?”

He began to lead her around the kitchen in an exaggerated waltz. “We have an anniversary to celebrate.”

Sally giggled as he spun her around.

“Yes, thirty-two years and we’re still on speaking terms.”

“And don’t forget the fabulous five.”

“As if they’d let us. I know they’re cooking up some big surprise for us. Joanie called, and I could hear it in her voice.”

Frankie laughed. “Five kids and the one who can’t keep a secret is the one who calls the most.”

Sally laughed, but stopped suddenly, running from the kitchen.

When she returned, Frankie was closing a browser on her tablet.

“Doing my job for me, Bennett?”

“No, my sweet sunflower. Just making sure my flight’s on time. Where you run off to?”

She held her hand up, a medicine bottle balanced on her palm. “I knew you forgot these—one bypass surgery is more than enough. We don’t need to go through that again. And what did I tell you about calling me sunflower? Can’t you think of a more feminine flower?”

“Ah, yes, my love. There are more feminine flowers, but they’re also fragile and wilt under pressure.” He stretched his arms toward the ceiling. “But the mighty sunflower is strong and resilient, rising up in the field to provide beauty, shade… and a tasty little snack.”

Giggling, Sally threw the medicine bottle at him.

Frankie caught the bottle of Lipitor. Stashing it in a side pocket of his suitcase, he backed toward the door leading to the garage. “I’d better get out of here while I’m still breathing.”

Sally Bennett grabbed his lapel, kissing him deeply. “Good luck with your meeting. You guys got this. And stay out of trouble.”

He wiggled his eyebrows. “Aw, sweetie. Don’t I always?”


Estelle Ramirez showed Sally around the large well-kept home.

“Mom’s vision is still blurred from the surgery, so even though her television is on, she can’t see the screen. She never misses her Spanish-language novellas, though.”

Sally smiled and nodded once as they approached Graciela’s bedroom.

“I made her favorite dinner—albondigas soup—but she didn’t eat much. There’s sliced fruit in the fridge and sweetbreads on the counter.”

“You done all the work, Estelle. What did you leave for me?”

Estelle Ramirez smirked.

“Trust me, Sally. The queen will keep you busy. She’s independent and spirited. My grandmother and great-grandmother lost their sight to glaucoma. Mami knows she is blessed new medical procedures may help her avoid that.”

Reaching for the doorknob, Estelle tilted her head toward Sally. “That doesn’t make her any less grouchy, though.”

She opened the door and Sally followed her into the darkened room. Even with the low lighting, she could tell it was beautifully decorated in golds and reds with a Latin flavor.

The large queen-size bed was empty, but looking past the bed, Sally saw her charge for the evening.

Graciela Ramirez sat in a gold brocade high-back chair. Sally pursed her lips to hide her grin as Estelle’s reference to ‘the queen’ came to mind.

Despite her diminutive size, the senior Ramirez was regal in her appearance. Her iron-gray hair, swept over one shoulder, was long enough to reach her lap. Long, slender fingers rested on the arms of the chair. Already dressed for bed, Graciela’s winter white robe could put some ball gowns to shame.

Sally’s grandson, Mark, would say Graciela Ramirez was large and in charge.

“Mami, this is Sally Bennett, from the home-care agency. She’s going to stay with you tonight.”

“I do not need a babysitter.”

Sally was struck that despite the thick accent, Graciela’s voice was strong, deep, and clear—not frail and wispy like most of their clients in their seventies.

“Do not start, mami. We’ve argued about it enough. This was the only shift I couldn’t switch this week, and I’m not leaving you alone. I’m grateful for places like Angels Assist. You should be too.”

“I don’t need a babysitter.”

Dragging her hand through her short, dark curls, Estelle then gestured at her mother.

“As you can see, she’s stubborn.” Estelle turned her head, speaking in Graciela’s direction. “But I’m sure she will be show all the grace of her name and the manners she instilled in me.”

“I’m sure we’ll be fine, Estelle.” Sally’s voice held a confidence she didn’t feel. Graciela was a force to be reckoned with, even with limited sight.

“Mami is tricksy too with her language. She likes to play poor old Spanish lady and will refuse to speak English. Ignore her until she does.”

Sally covered her mouth too late and her giggles escaped.

An indignant Graciela raised her hand and pointed in Estelle’s direction.

“Oh, mi hija.”

Resting her fists on her hips, Estelle shot back, “Don’t you ‘oh my daughter’ me.”

Estelle went to her mother and knelt at her feet. She cupped Graciela’s cheek while speaking in a low hushed tone. The senior Ramirez smiled and leaned into her daughter’s hand.

Sally could see the love between mother and child. Their banter was part of that love.

Rising, Estelle kissed her mother’s cheek and turned to Sally.

“She’ll be good… for the most part.” The two women shared a laugh as Graciela feigned a look of innocence.

“Her next meds are due at nine and she must take them all.” She picked up two small bottles from the dresser. “Two drops of each in each eye. They sting and blur her vision even more, but the stinging passes quickly.”

Replacing the bottles on the dresser, Estelle reached for another containing pills.

“She also gets two of these… no matter how she feels. Mami doesn’t have a blood pressure problem, but it has been elevated since her procedures. The doctor doesn’t want to risk any break-through pain exacerbating the problem and wants her to take these as prescribed until he sees her on Thursday.”

Graciela crossed her arms, mumbling and pouting like a petulant child.

Estelle threw her hands up. “I’m going to work, she’s all yours. Call me if you need anything.” She headed for the bedroom door but turned before leaving. “Thank you, Sally. You’re a lifesaver.”

Removing her cell from her back pocket, Sally opened the Angels Assist app and entered the names, dosage, and time for Graciela’s meds.

Sally didn’t have to look up to know the senior citizen was staring at her, sizing her up. Closing the app, Sally gazed out the window at the beautiful twilight caused by the setting sun and knew she was in for a long night.


Graciela Ramirez did not disappoint.

Between numerous requests for snacks and drinks, Sally had caught the spry old woman stumbling through the house three times.

Saying a silent prayer, Sally was grateful when the hall clock chimed at nine.

A new argument started when Sally sat Graciela on the edge of her bed to put in her eye drops.

The client refused to open her eyes.

Sally snapped at the old woman before she could catch herself.

“Mrs. Ramirez! Didn’t your mother and her mother both lose their sight? Is that what you want to happen to you? It seems to me someone as independent as you would do everything they could to keep their sight. And that includes taking your meds.”

Sally saw the look of shame on Graciela’s face as she opened her eyes.

“I-I… am sorry, Sally Bennett. I’m acting like a sullen child. But the drops do burn, and those pills make me fuzzy in the head. I don’t like not being in control of myself.”

Sally Bennett’s heart broke at the sadness in Graciela’s eyes.

“So many of my friends have passed on. And the one who are still here? They wear diapers and have to be spoon-fed. They use mobile chairs and hospital beds.”

She pointed to the foot of her bed.

“There’s a cane there somewhere near the foot of my bed. I stumbled over my house shoe a few weeks ago and Estelle rushed out and bought it for me. I feel like I’m being rushed to the grave sometimes, and I’m not ready for that.”

“Sounds to me like Estelle doesn’t want that either.”

The older woman squinted, trying to focus on Sally’s face. “How so?”

“I don’t think Estelle bought that cane because she thought you were getting old and frail. I believe she bought it for support—to help you with your balance and keep you from falling and injuring yourself… to keep you here with her longer.”

A lone tear slid down Graciela’s cheek, betrayed by the huge grin on her face.

“You are a wise woman, Sally Bennett. I’ve been so busy arguing with everyone, trying to get my way, I never stopped to consider anyone else’s feelings. Especially my sweet Estelle. Thank you, Sally Bennett.”

Graciela then tipped her head back and waited for the eye drops. After Sally finished, Graciela held out her hand for the pain pills and water, taking her meds without argument.

She crawled up into the center of the large bed and Sally was struck by how much the septuagenarian looked like a child in her parents’ bed.

“If you’ll hand me the remote, Sally Bennett, I’ll listen to my novellas until the pills make my brain thick.”

Laughing, Sally passed her the remote.

“Estelle put me in the guest bedroom two doors away. I’m going to read a while then come check on you. If you need me before then, just call out. I’ll leave the door open.”

“I like you, Sally Bennett. I hope you’ll come visit me when I’m not a client.”

“Is that an invitation?”

“I suppose it is.”

“Then I’ll be here.”

Sally smiled as she made her way to the guest bedroom. Graciela Ramirez was a lot like Carol Jean Munson—Sally’s mother. Strong, proud, and independent, she felt both women saw accepting help as weakness.

Grabbing her reader from the side of her overnight bag, Sally snuggled in the easy chair next to the closet. The muted lighting of the Ramirez home had grown on Sally and she reached over and turned off the lamp, choosing to read by the illuminated light of her ereader.


Startled and disoriented, Sally bolted upright. She looked around the dark room, trying to get her bearings.

She laughed at herself after glancing toward the hallway.

Real good, Bennett. What kind of caregiver are you falling asleep on the job?

A swipe of her ereader provided light and the time.

12:50 am.

My word! Has it been almost four hours since I gave Graciela her meds? I’d better see if she’s sleeping or needs them again.

Sally held the reader over the edge of the chair, looking for her overnight bag. She reached for it but froze when she thought she heard a large thump.

What was that noise?

She sat motionless on the edge of the chair listening for the sound again. Hearing nothing, Sally grabbed the bag and tossed it onto the foot of the bed. Reaching for the table-side lamp, she heard the noise again, louder and closer.

No, no! I hope Graciela isn’t up trying to get her own meds. Why didn’t she call out for me? Damn it! Maybe she did, and I was asleep.

Feeling her back pocket for her cell, Sally raced the few steps down the hall to her client’s room.

She froze in the doorway.

A dark figure was on top of Graciela.

Without thinking, Sally charged the bed, launching herself at the assailant. She heard a sharp intake of air as the intruder fell toward the foot of the bed.

Sally took the few precious seconds to drag the small woman from the bed. Not able to tell if Graciela was wounded and too terror-stricken to speak, Sally pushed her toward the bedroom door, screaming one word, “Run!”

With her arms out in front of her, the spry senior bolted for the door, feeling her way down the hall.

Before Sally could follow, she felt a hand grab her arm, pulling her back to the bed. She whirled around, swinging blindly with her free hand. Her punch connected with the intruder, but he didn’t let go. As he pulled her closer, Sally bit the hand clutching her arm. Muttering a curse, he let go and Sally flipped onto her back, kicking her legs wildly.

Her attacker leaned down, grabbing the front of her shirt and flung her from the bed. She crashed into the dresser, slumping to floor.

Praying Graciela had found her way out, Sally knew her time was growing short. Her heart raced as she looked up at the shadowy figure approaching, blocking her path to the door.

His breathing was hard and labored.

Sally froze. Something about him was familiar.

She could see him raising his arm and the hallways light behind him allowed Sally to see he wore a ski mask… and the glint of his knife.

Adrenalin barreled through her body. Sally Bennett would not hand this killer her life.

She kicked out both legs, catching the masked figure in the knee.

As he doubled over in pain, Sally leaped from the floor, throwing herself across the bed and toward the door.

Her assailant recovered quick enough to grab her ankle.

Clawing at the bed, Sally struggle for purchase. As he dragged her across the large bed, Sally grabbed at the low bed railing, but its surface was too smooth to hold on to. Sally still clawed and groped until her fist wrapped around something.

Graciela’s cane!

The middle-aged woman was tiring, but holding tight to the cane, she swung around towards her attacker. The blow made him let go and allowed Sally to turn and get in two more good swings. The intruder stumbled backward to avoid the blows.

Sally launched herself across the bed one last time, this time falling to the floor on the other side.

She popped up, threw the cane toward her assailant and dashed out the bedroom door. She heard the cane clatter to the floor and knew the man was rounding the foot of the bed, but she refused to waste time looking behind her.

Barreling down the hallway, Sally thought she heard the killer stumble and fall, but it was Graciela’s screams that guided Sally to the front door.

Graciela Ramirez had made it out the house and stood in the front yard screaming. Lights came on in several houses, and Sally grabbed her client and headed for the closest one, still not looking behind her.

A woman opened the door and called out to Graciela by name.

It was only then Sally looked behind her… and saw two men from the neighborhood run into the Ramirez home.

She called out to them. “Be careful he has a knife!”

The woman pulled the two women inside and closed and locked her door.

Sally Bennett and Graciela Ramirez stood in the foyer clutching each other tightly, grateful their nightmare was over.


©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved


Touch #52weeks52stories


#52weeks52stories Writing Challenge: Week 10

Word prompt:  friend

Word count: 1193


“Hey mom, look at my rock.”

Jill Morgan, distracted by dinner preparations, responded without looking at her eight-year-old-son.

“That’s nice, Jeffie.”

“And it’s cool, mom. It changes colors, see?”

Jill glanced over her shoulder to see the glow of the smooth orb in her son’s hands change from green to red.

Potato and peeler fell from her hands to the floor.

“Jeffrey Alan Morgan!” What did your dad and I tell you about messing around near the old rock quarry?”

She rushed over to him.

“They shut that place down and walked away without any notice. We have no idea if there are open shafts or toxic chemicals in that place.”

Grabbing the rock from his hands, Jill’s face went blank. The glow was gone, and she held a plain piece of gray slate. She tilted her head down to her son. “Are you playing a trick on your mom?”

His eyes locked on to the rock, Jeffie shook his head. “No, mom. Honest. It changed colors. You saw it, right?”

“I saw something, I’m just – “

Sizzling pops behind her grabbed Jill’s attention.

“Dang it!” She raced to the overflowing pot but was startled by the ringing land-line phone.

“Oh, for the love of…” Sliding the pot from the burner to the counter, Jill stomped across the kitchen to the phone, tossing the stone back to Jeffie.

“You take this thing back to wherever you found it, Jeffrey Alan, and come right back here for a hot bath, just to be safe.”

Rock and child were forgotten as she answered the phone to get a health update from her husband about his dad. Jill didn’t see the red glow return to the rock cradled in Jeffie’s hands.

Frowning, the eight-year-old walked out the back door and sat on the steps. Why did the colors stop when his mom touched the rock?

Jeffie Morgan needed answers. With a quick glance over his shoulder, he hopped from the porch steps, headed for the far back corner of the backyard—the corner on the side of the garage shrouded in bushes and trees.

He ducked down and crawled under the lowest bush, scooting forward until his body cleared the thick branch. Pushing himself to his knees, Jeffie sat up in the small hollow created by the bushes. The denseness of the foliage kept the pocket cool, allowing enough light to stream through the brush so the child could see clearly.

“I know you’re here, Hypo.”

At first a transparent outline, Hypo faded into corporeal form.

The alien sat in the dirt, his thin lower limbs crossed at each of his two sets of knees.

“Why didn’t the rock work for my mom, Hypo?”

The Hypogean extra-terrestrial extended his upper limb to Jeffie, who placed the rock in his two-digit hand.

The stone flashed a bright yellow, rising into the air. As it hovered, Hypo reached out and touched Jeffie’s arm.

Jeffie Morgan wasn’t afraid. He learned soon after finding Hypo near his favorite tree swing two days ago touch was the only way he and Hypo could communicate and hear each other.

“The globule illuminates only for the one who created it and the one it was created for.”

“But why, Hypo?”

“When we met, you were despondent because you thought your elder was losing his life source. I filled the globule with my energy to help you feel better.”

Arthur Morgan, Jeffie’s grandpa, had a heart attack three days earlier and Jeffie’s dad flew to San Francisco to be with him. Grandpa Art was better and would leave the hospital soon, but Jeffie, afraid he’d never see his grandpa again, had sat in his tree swing and cried.

“When my people experience distress, it disrupts their life force. Sharing our energy helps to calm the disruption. I believe your people would call it a boost.”

“I think I understand, Hypo.”

The globule ceased to spin and lowered back into Hypo’s palm. He gave it back to Jeffie.

“Our life forces are different, and this will serve you well into your later years. But, I must caution you again against sharing the knowledge of it. Your people are impetuous and act before knowing the facts.”

“You haven’t told me how you know so much about us, Hypo.”

“We’ve been watching you for thousands of years, Jeffie. In some ways, your people have made great strides. Your technology, though crude, serves you well, But the minds of humans… your thought processes, still hold you back.”

Hypo’s body, a pale coral in color, morphed to deep, dark red.

“I must go now, Jeffie Morgan. The lunar eclipse approaches and it is the only time we can exit your world undetected.”

“What? No, please. Can’t you stay longer? You can stay in my room so you don’t have to worry about the sun.”

Hypo’s coloring returned to his normal shade.

“No, Jeffie Morgan. Even if we didn’t have to avoid direct sunlight, extended exposure to the atmosphere of Etieran—this place you call Earth—would weaken us over time. The moon has no atmosphere, but still has solar exposure. That is why we live inside it.”

Jeffie hung his head.

“Why does your energy darken, Jeffie Morgan?”

“I liked having a friend.”

“Please explain.”

“We haven’t lived in Southbrook very long. My dad’s job sent him here. In San Francisco I had friends and people didn’t care my mom is black and my dad is white.”

A single tear rolled down his cheek.

“Here, they treat me like I’m the alien.” His face brightened at his joke.

“I understand, Jeffie Morgan. It’s something else we’ve witnessed about your kind that bears no logic. The separation of your species based on how your outer surface appears. The mistreatment and alienation… wars fought and life forces lost. Hypogeans do not have this.” His deep-set emerald eyes blinked sideways. “Nor do we want it.”

“I get it, Hypo. I just have so many questions. There’s so much I want to know.”

Hypo’s coloring flashed to deep purple.

“I must go. Hypogeans are in danger of discovery. That can’t happen.”

“But I know about you, Hypo.”

“Yes, you do, Jeffie Morgan, as do many others. When there’s no sense of danger detected, we interact.”

Hypo’s touch on Jeffie’s hand lightened as he faded from view.

“We will see each other again, Jeffie Morgan, and be encouraged. The elder—your grandpa Art—and your parents will be with you for many years to come.”

Hypo’s departure paused and he gripped Jeffie’s wrist with his two digit-hand.

“Take care… my… friend.”

Jeffie was sad Hypo was gone but happy they’d met.

Spreading a few branches on the ground, he placed the globule on them and covered it with a few more. He would follow Hypo’s instructions and keep it hidden.

Laying on his belly, Jeffie crawled from the dark hollow.

He didn’t need the globule right now anyway. Hypo said grandpa Art was going to be fine and that was enough to make Jeffie happy.

Heading for the back door, Jeffie began to run.

He didn’t even mind having to take a bath.


©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Priorities #52weeks52stories


Cinna’s designer heels clicked against the pavement as she left the office building.

It had been a long day. A long disappointing day.

After seven weeks of knocking herself out, the promotion she wanted more than anything went to someone else.

Cinna didn’t deny Elsa had more experience and more seniority at Langley, but the woman’s natural bad attitude and inclination to pick a fight over the most trivial office task would only lead to endless headaches for the accounting department.

She wasn’t looking for more headaches, Cinna wanted to buy a home. The increase in pay for department manager would have made that possible.

Clicking the remote on her car fob, Cinna opened the door to the Lexus and dropped into the seat as though she bore the weight of the world on her back.

Selling her condo would still get her the down payment for a house, but she’d planned on hanging on to it as an investment and lease it out.

Dammit! Nothing ever worked out for her.

She would be thirty-three-years-old next month and wasn’t where she wanted to be in life. She didn’t have her own home… or a husband and children to share it with.

Cinna sent Art Clarey on his way early last year.  After four years together, Cinna knew the hapless optometrist didn’t hold her happily-ever-after.

In no mood to cook, Cinna stopped at Boston Markets, but after several minutes could only decide on an order of macaroni and cheese.

Her mind raced as she returned to her car. What would she do now? She didn’t have a plan B. Cinna wanted forward movement in her life. She thought about checking what positions were available in her field when she heard a noise. None of the other customers coming and going didn’t seem to notice, so Cinna continued on to her car.

She heard the noise again.

Something slammed shut, and someone cried out.

Turning, she followed the walkway to the edge of the storefront.

Glancing toward the back of the parking lot, Cinna saw a woman and two young children. One of the children–a boy– was holding his hand and crying as the woman lifted the lid of the trash bin.

A mother and her two children… hungry and looking for food.

A myriad of emotions washed over Cinnamon Hinkley… shock, disgust, anger, pity… and shame.

She didn’t have the things she wanted, but she had everything she needed. She didn’t have to wonder where her next meal would come from or where she would sleep each night.

A mother and her children.

Cinna didn’t know what led them to this moment in their lives rummaging through a trash bin, but it didn’t matter.

She went back into the store and placed a different order… a much larger order. She couldn’t solve all their problems, but they would not eat from a dumpster tonight.


©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved




“Burned” #52weeks52stories

Dark Alley


#52weeks52stories: Week 8

Word Prompt: Cocaine

Word Count: 3205


“You know the D.A. is going to plead this down or toss it altogether, right?”

Sinclair glared at Tompkins, ready to explode but caught himself. They were both exhausted and pissed off and it wasn’t Tompkins’ fault. And he was right.

“Yeah, I know, dammit. The war on drugs turns into a polite request to cease and desist when your daddy’s rich.”

He laughed as he finished the case notes.


They’d spent the last six weeks tracking down a new shipment of lethal cocaine that was leaving a growing number of dead bodies in its wake. Weeks of interviews and stakeouts paid off in a whole lotta lip and even more contempt. But from the trailer park to the barrio to the hood, they hassled everyone and got a lead on the supplier—a guy named Spence.

Not able to get any more information on the guy the detectives believed they were being played when one of Tompkins’ paid informants called in with a tip which changed everything.

Supposedly, Spence was pulling up stacks and leaving town… and having a going-out-of-business sale and delivering the last shipment himself to customers.

Only a drug dealer would turn illegal activities into a money-saving event.

After sharing the info with their captain, Sinclair pulled all available bodies for backup. As he left the office, he tossed a Kevlar vest to Tompkins. “Please don’t get shot, and if you get shot, please do not die. I hate paperwork.”

Tompkins chuckled and tossed up his middle finger… and the car keys. “Just for that, you drive.”

The tactical team was in position at the stake-out—behind the public library–when, as promised, an assortment of thugs and lowlife began to arrive. A pimped out gun-metal gray Impala pulled up and Tompkins swore under his breath as the riders got out. They were all known felons.

“Can you believe this shit? They can’t live in the same neighborhood or sit down together for a meal, but they have no problem calling a truce over drugs.”

Pat couldn’t believe it as members of a big numbers cartel talked amiably with men from the Irish mob. A pumpkin orange Hummer joined the group, and Court-Case, aka Courtney Casey, stepped out. The head of the local Crips gang was accompanied by two enforcers.

“What the hell did we stumble into, Tomp? No one has mentioned any of these guys. With the lack of information on the street and the number of deaths involved, I figured we were dealing with amateurs. These guys are no amateurs.”

From his position just inside the library, Sinclair glanced around the area, glad there was plenty of backup. The crew assembling in front of them were always armed and thought nothing of shooting a cop.

The last vehicle to arrive was a late-model black Yukon.

A skinny blonde kid not old enough to be out this time of night hopped from the rear passenger door and open the front door.

What the hell?

With a mop of tousled, dark curls and skinny jeans, the last guy to exit the vehicle didn’t look old enough to be out alone either.

The baby-face was familiar but neither Sinclair or Tompkins had arrested him before.

The kid and Skinny Jeans greeted the group of law-breakers and ushered them to the rear of the Yukon. Skinny Jeans’ driver, a muscle-bound weightlifting type, was already pulling out and stacking bags of what Pat assumed were the drugs.

His voice low and clear, Pat spoke into his hand radio.

“Alright, people. I doubt it’s going to get better than this. We’ve got some true bad-asses out there so when I give the signal, move in fast, hard and loud and don’t stop until everyone’s in cuffs. Units 9 and 13, hang three steps back just in case some of these guys have their own spotters hidden -”

Before he could continue, Pat heard Court-Case laugh and watched him slap skinny jeans on the back.

“You’re stand up for a white boy, Spence. Been a pleasure doing business with you.”

Spence? This kid was the mastermind behind the drug operation that killed seven people and had his whole department on overtime?

Gripping the radio, Pat removed his Glock 22 from its holster.

They all watched as the skinny blonde kid offered Court-Case a sample.

Sinclair growled into his radio, “Move in!”

Law enforcement stormed the drug deal. Team members charged from darkened doorways, parked cars, and two even popped out of an abandoned dumpster. Three sharpshooters were focused on the melee from the library’s roof.

Court-Case, the blonde kid, and the Irish Mob guy all froze their hands in the air. The kid was terrified, and the two older men were no strangers to the drill. They knew it was better to not resist, use any info they had as leverage for a deal and live to see another day.

The Latin guy and Court-Case’s two enforcers weren’t as smart and fired at police.

None of them would live to see another day.

The muscle-bound guy tried to make a run for it. He thought he had a chance when he saw the tactical team member chasing him was female. Puffed up by machismo and steroids, he turned and barked at the fast-approaching police officer. “Don’t come any closer, little girl, you don’t want any of this!”

Thirty-nine-year-old Yvonne Baker almost smirked as she caught up with the arrogant bastard.

He swung one of his big meaty arms at Yvonne, which she ducked with ease. After a kick to his shin, a fist to his solar plexus, and an open palm to his nose, the man was laid out on the ground wondering what happened.

Skinny Jeans leaned against the Yukon, arms folded across his chest. He was too calm for Pat Sinclair’s liking.

“Sure, is a lot going on, officers. Who are these guys?”

Pat was almost too stunned to speak. This idiot was going to play the innocent victim.

“Turn around, hands against the truck, feet apart.”

Skinny Jeans feigned a crestfallen look. “Why? What did I do?”

Wayne Tompkins had enough. “You heard him, turn around!”

“Hey, Not so rough! I’m an innocent party here.”

Tompkins completed his search as tactical team leader, Larry Brent, passed the IDs of the dead suspects to Pat. “They’re all tatted, connected, and very dead.”

Pat shrugged. “All their choice. Your team good?”

“Donner took a round through his sleeve and is bitching about having to buy a new uniform shirt. I told him it was better than his wife buying him a suit to be buried in. That shut him up.”

Tompkins made Skinny Jeans sit on the ground next to the Yukon. Without a word he walked over and handed Pat the young man’s driver license.

Pat’s face fell. “Shit. Are you f-”

He was cut off by Luca, Brent’s second-in-command.

“Detective, you want to see this.”

Still reeling from learning Skinny Jeans’ name, Pat stepped to the rear of the Yukon and looked inside. His brow knitted in awe and confusion.

“What the hell is going on?”

The vehicle was filled to the brim with cocaine.

“Creighton has a drug problem, but this town just isn’t big enough for this kind of weight. Is it pure?”

Luca hefted a bag back into the truck. “We’ve checked three bags so far… it’s the real deal. If all the bags are pure and the same size… we’re looking at close to six million street value.”

Tompkins let out a low whistle. “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

Sinclair looked at the college student sitting on the ground. “There’s no freakin’ way he’s the Wizard, either.”

The coroner signaled he was done with the first body and moved on to the second.

“Brent, make sure I get photos from every angle and a sketched layout of the entire location.”

“You got it.”

“Come one, Tomp. Let’s get these guys downtown and try to figure this puzzle out.”

Pat brainstormed as he made sure all suspects were securely in police vehicles and headed for the station.

Connected gang associates, a new body count of ten, more cocaine than Creighton had seen in his entire career, and a nerdy rich kid playing dumb.

Things would get worse before they got better.


Two hours later, Pat Sinclair hadn’t made one connection in the case. Court-Case and the other suspect, who turned out to be Shane Peters, had lawyered up and weren’t talking in anticipation of some kind of deal. The blond kid, sixteen-year-old Elliott Olds—a runaway with no prior criminal record, was turned over to juvenile detention. The only talking forty-two-year-old Harvey Newsome was doing was to complain about “that bitch” breaking his nose.

It was no small shock to everyone to find out ‘Spence’ was Cecil Spencer Delk, a candy-ass junior at the local college with a Breaking Bad complex, and his dad was none other than local millionaire businessman, Cecil Delk, Sr.

Pat sat across the table from junior and senior Delk and the sly, slick, and wicked attorney of the local moneyed crowd, Jay Coolidge.

Wayne Tompkins stood in the corner, glaring at the threesome.

“Detective Sinclair, this has gone on long enough. My son has done nothing wrong and we’re leaving.” Delk, Sr., resplendent is a tailored Tom Ford tux was more annoyed at being pulled away from his gala event than his son being a drug trafficking suspect.

“We’re not done here yet, Mr. Delk. Your son still hasn’t told us what he was doing with known gang members and a vehicle loaded with cocaine.”

The junior Delk slammed his fist down on the table. “I told you Harvey is my personal trainer. After our workout, he was giving me a ride home and said he had to make a quick stop. I had no idea he was mixed up in drug trafficking.”

“Yet, it was you, not Harvey I saw talking with one of the other suspects.”

“Hey, I’m a friendly guy.”

Coolidge decided to join in and earn his retainer. “You have no evidence against my client, Detective. This is an unfortunate situation, and I applaud the Creighton Police Department for its fine work in seizing that drug shipment before it hit city streets. But my client, an earnest, trusting young man from a good family only exercised poor judgment in friends.”

Pat’s anger rose at the smugness of the trio. “If you were coerced or blackmailed into dealing, Cecil, now would be the time to tell me You cannot play with people like this. It’s like playing with an open fire and you will get burned.”

“Are you deaf or just stupid? I told you my son is not involved in this nasty drug business… and we’re leaving.” Delk Sr, stood just as the door to the interrogation room opened. Rick Morgan, precinct captain strode in.

“I’m Capt. Morgan, Mr. Delk, and I’m sorry but Cecil isn’t going anywhere tonight.” He motioned to Wayne to put Cecil back in cuffs.

Coolidge went on the defense. “What is the meaning of this? You have no grounds to arrest my client.”

“Your client was in the company of known felons at the scene of a large-scale drug buy. Conspiracy to traffic and distribute is a good start and will hold him until the feds show up.”

“This isn’t a good career move for you, Capt.” The threat in his tone and words did not go unnoticed.

“Thanks for your concern, Mr. Delk, but you let me worry about my career.” He motioned for Tompkins to remove Cecil from the room.

“We’ll have you out the second you’re arraigned, Cecil, don’t worry,” Coolidge offered. “They’ve got nothing.”

Pat Sinclair looked on in silence, racking his brain for some type of connection in all this for Cecil. Coming up empty, he played his last card.

“Detective Tompkins, just a second, please.”

Wayne paused at the door with the angry young man.

“Cecil, you do know those guys you were with? They’re not friendly guys like you, and they’re also not street punks. They run the streets for their local gangs, but it doesn’t end with them.”

Arrogant to the end, Cecil smirked. “You trying to make a point, Detective?”

Slipping into some arrogance of his own, Pat Sinclair leaned against the doorway. “My point is we picked up two million dollars in cash, and coke with a street value over six million. Your new friends? They deal in hundreds… maybe thousands, but millions? There’s someone bigger at the center of this and they didn’t get the drugs and their money was lost. Someone will have to answer for that.”

“Are you trying to intimidate my son Detective?”

“No, I’m trying to prevent any more lives being lost, Mr. Delk. If your son would just tell us where he got his coke from-”

Cecil kicked the door, pulling against the hold Tompkins had on his cuffed wrists. “I told you it’s not my coke!” With a glare over his shoulder at his father and attorney, Cecil Delk leaned toward the open door. “Get me outta here.”

Pat exchanged a knowing look with Tompkins and their captain before Tompkins took his suspect to booking. Rick Morgan followed close behind.

Delk and Coolidge also headed for the door.

“You must be desperate, Detective, using scare tactics on my son.”

“I’m not desperate and they’re not scare tactics, Mr. Delk. You’re a businessman, think about it. You negotiate for a product and end up without the product and payment. You’d be upset, right? And probably seek legal recourse, right?”

He walked over to the table and gathered his notes.

“People in the drug business don’t take legal action, Mr. Delk, they take lives.”

Delk’s smug facade faltered. He shot a glance at Coolidge, tilted his head toward the door and left without responding.

Pat hoped he was wrong, but Delk’s reaction spoke volumes.


Morgan sat on the desk across from Tompkins.

“Unless we get something solid on that kid, he’s going to walk or get fluff charges.”

Pat shook his head. All that dope and dead bodies… and he wasn’t going to do any hard time for it.

“As it stands now, Casey and Peters will get deals if their info on a couple of cold case murders pans out. Newsome’s going to be stuck with the hard federal time—life—unless he decides to give up his real boss.”

“I don’t think he knows, Capt. I think he believes Cecil is the boss.”

“Then it sucks to be him.” He stood. “But it won’t be our problem for much longer. DEA will show up sometime tomorrow to get the coke and Newsome. I’d love to have you both on-hand, but the commissioner is crawling up my ass about overtime hours. So officially, you two are off for the next two days. I hope this thing is just a bad memory by the time you clock in again.” He waved and headed for the on-call room for a quick nap before having to deal with the feds.

Tompkins scrubbed his hand down his face.

“Damn, I hate this shitty job sometimes.”

“Man, you and me both.” Pat sat up in his chair. “Wayne… before I let this go, there’s one more thing about this case with Delk.”

“What’s up?”

“I believe Delk, Sr. is in it up to his eyeballs.”

Wayne frowned. “Seriously?”

“Not many people in Creighton have the money to do business with this volume.”

“So, he’s guilty because he’s rich?”

“No, because of his son’s reactions.”


“Cecil didn’t say, “it’s not my coke,” he said, “It’s not my coke.” He knows the real owner. And when you took him out of here, the look he threw at his dad was accusatory.”

“Maybe you’re on to something, Pat. But we’ll never know for sure unless something major happens.”

He shut down his laptop.

“I’m gonna head out. Deb’s not over the flu and I need to get the Tompkins crew up and ready for school.”

“Up for school?” Pat glanced at the wall clock.

4:04. In the morning.

“Man, go on. Get out of here. I had no idea it was that late… or early. Last I noted the time was when Cecil’s daddy and lawyer showed up—at twenty minutes after one.”

Tompkins laughed, grabbing his coat. “Well, you could say we’re dedicated professionals more concerned with tracking down criminals than tracking time.”

“No, I think it’s more we’re a couple of schlubs who keep falling for the captain’s “It won’t take long” line.”

They shared a laugh, both knowing they would do anything Rick Morgan asked of them.

“I hope Deb feels better and tell Tyler he owes me a rematch in horseshoes.”

“Dude, I hope so too. Her mom said if Deb wasn’t better by the weekend, she was coming to stay with us to help out.” Tompkins shuddered. “I do not want that!”

“Better you than me! Enjoy the next couple of days off. See ya’ Friday.”

“You too, Sinclair.”

Pat knew Wayne Tompkins was already switching from police detective to husband and father in his head before the elevator even reached the first floor.

He made the last few entries in his own case file notes and emailed a copy to the captain, the desk sergeant, to himself, and to the queue of the records department.

With his part in the case done, fatigue to bore down on the fifty-two-year-old detective. He eased his bulky frame from his chair and stretched. The aches and pains of age joined in with the past job-related injuries and scarring to once again bring thoughts of retirement to mind.

Why do I keep doing this shitty job? I’ve put in my time. Served my community. Tried to be a good cop and make things better. Twenty-seven years is long enough. Let the new guys have it.

Pat grabbed his coat, needing to get home to Carla, the love of his life.


Pat Sinclair was relaxed and in a great mood as he drove into work. The two days spent with Carla were just what he needed. They’d taken a short road trip and made plans for their future. Pat wasn’t looking forward to telling his partner he was putting in his papers and would be gone by his next birthday.

Knowing his quiet time had to come to an end, Pat clicked on his police scanner to get the buzz.

“14, detectives have already left, and on-site cleanup is complete.”

“Identifications, B1?”

“Affirmative. And notifications have been made for the two victims, a white male, late teens-early twenties, and a white male, mid to late forties.”

Pat frowned as the communication continued.

“B1, these were the victims found bound, gagged and killed execution-style last night?”

“Affirmative, 14.”

Pat knew they wouldn’t say names over the police scanner, and he didn’t need to hear them.

He knew.

The Delks arrogance and total lack of street-smarts cost them their lives.

Pat felt bad for the family left behind. But, he had tried to warn them.

If you play with fire, you will get burned.


©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Forgiving Max #52weeks52stories


#52weeks52stories: Week 7

Word prompt: bench


Having the bench in sight gave Ophelia Brubaker an energy boost to make the last few feet to her destination.

With her cane as support, Ophelia eased her brittle bones down onto the bench, grateful she’d remembered a seat cushion this time.

She loosened her light jacket and wiped the sheen of perspiration from her forehead as she caught her breath.

Ophelia looked around the immaculate grounds. The clover green grass had a uniform cut and stretched out around her like an inviting blanket. The trees, birch and oak, provided shade and comfort, their leaves rustling in the light breeze.

“The beauty of this place always takes my breath away, Max. I won’t say it’s wasted because that would be cold and unfeeling… and just plain rude. But, the city parks department could learn a thing or two from the landscapers here.”

She sipped from her water bottle before continuing.

“I spent a long weekend with Loren and his family. Teresa gave birth to his first grandchild Thursday night, and Carl graduated from Southern Sunday afternoon.” She chuckled. “It was quite a busy time. Made me realize how old and tired I am… but I loved every second.”

Ophelia smile faded, replaced by sadness. She looked around the grounds again, her mind prodding, pushing her to stop evading the subject.

At last, her eyes came to rest on the ornate headstone. Tears pooled in her eyes until they spilled down her drawn cheeks.

“You know, my love, I’ve been coming to visit you for twelve years. Updating you on what our children are doing, sharing the names and birth dates of our newest grandchildren and great-children, and telling you which of our friends to expect to see.”

Ophelia pulled an embroidered handkerchief from her bag and dabbed her eyes.

“But I’ve never talked about what was on my mind… what’s always on my mind.” Her jaws tightened. “And it’s been there for over sixty years. We didn’t talk about it when you were here… and I still have trouble talking about it now.”

She straightened her posture sitting erect, hands folded in her lap.

“But we will talk about it today, Max Brubaker. It’s time.”

She stared at the headstone.

“You and I, we had a perfect life together. I loved you with a fierce passion that scared me sometimes. And you… you could read my thoughts, finish my sentences, tell my moods by looking into my eyes. It was wonderful, my love. More than I dreamed I’d ever have.

“When we started our family, our blessings multiplied. I was heartbroken and guilty for the wives whose husbands didn’t come back from the war because mine did. And I was so grateful, Max. So, so grateful.”

“We had sad times. Losing our parents all so close together was difficult. When your cancer was diagnosed in 2004, it almost broke me. And when I lost you in 2006… Max, it did break me. I wanted to crawl into the casket next to you. Only the grace of God and the wonderful children he blessed us with saved me from dying of grief.”

Scooting to the edge of the bench, Ophelia leaned on her cane and stood.

“Some days it hurts to sit as much as it does to stand.” She hobbled around the bench and leaned on the retaining wall.

“The last true bad spot in our lives, Max, was Kerwin.” The name dropped from her lips leaving a grimace in its wake.

“Some families call members like him the black sheep, but Kerwin was so much worse… a cancerous plague spreading and devouring everything it touched.”

She paced the few steps to the end of the bench. “He almost destroyed us, but I refused to give in.” Her gaze returned to the headstone. “And you refused to admit the truth even though you saw it in my eyes. I couldn’t say the words either, too consumed with guilt, shame, and anger.

“But, when you said you had to take your dad to the specialist in Boston and Kerwin would stay with the kids and me and keep the sidewalks and driveway cleared of snow and ice—I’ll never forget that argument.”


“Boston General says the tests take two days. We’ll be on our way back home by Wednesday afternoon.”

Ophelia’s heart broke at the sadness overtaking her husband. “Do they think they can help your dad?”

He sighed, resting his elbows on his thighs. “That’s what the tests are for—to see the exact location of the tumor, how fast it’s growing, and if it’s operable. The only thing Dr. Minor would say for sure is if they do nothing, dad will lose his sight by fall.”

“I’m so sorry, my love. I know Dell is glad to have you with him.”

“I know, Lia. I’m glad I’m here for him too.” Max stood and grabbed another cup of coffee and before standing next to his wife at the counter.

“That winter storm they’re predicting could hit before we get back. I’d feel better knowing you and the kids weren’t here alone, so I asked Kerwin to -”

“No.” She grabbed more vegetables from the fridge.


“I don’t need… I mean there’s no need to inconvenience Kerwin. We’ll manage.”

Sitting his cup down, Max slid his hands around her waist.

“Inconvenience? Honey, he’s my brother. Of course, he’ll help look out for my family.”

She pulled away. “No, Max. It isn’t necessary.”

“Honey, I know you’re not the biggest fan of my brother since he tried to kiss you at Christmas dinner, and I’m sorry for that.”

Max couldn’t see her knuckles whiten as her grip tightened on the butcher knife.

“But he’d celebrated with a bit too much spiked eggnog, is all. He apologized to you when he sobered up.”

Ophelia stabbed at the potatoes and rough-chopped the carrots as though swinging a machete.

“Max, you’re talking about two days. TWO days. We’re two blocks from the children’s school and I’ll postpone any appointments I have. There. See how easy that was? No driving while you’re gone.”

Max stepped away from her, dragging his hand through his stiff buzz-cut. “Don’t mock me, Lia. I’m being serious about- ”

“I’m serious too, dear. The boys walk to and from school every day. If a foot of snow falls, it will take them longer… because they’re kids, and they will play. I can shovel a path to the sidewalk and walk down to the corner and wait for them. See? We’ll be fine.”

“Kids playing?” Max shoved his hands deep into his pockets, stomping around the kitchen. “You’re determined not to take this seriously, Lia. I get it, you don’t like Kerwin. But, remember that storm from last winter? It was supposed to be three to four inches and ended up being nineteen? The city was shut down with power and heating outages everywhere. We were all here together and things still got bad before streets were cleared and power restored.” He slumped against the refrigerator. “I have to know my family is safe. I’m sorry, but Kerwin will stay here.”

Slamming the knife down on the counter, Ophelia Brubaker whirled around to face her husband.

“You’re sorry? You’re sorry?” She walked toward him. “I have to tolerate Kerwin at family gatherings. And I’ve spent years listening to your family make excuses for his bad decisions.” She stopped mere inches from Max, her body shaking from rage.

“You are a wonderful husband and father, but you’re blind when it comes to your brother.” She took two more steps. “I will not have his presence forced upon me in my own home… not even for you. If you think the storm will be a problem, reschedule your father’s appointment- ”

“You know I can’t do- ”

“… then I’ll take the boys out of school for a couple of days and go to my brother’s.”

Stunned by her plan, Max Brubaker grasped for words.

“Lia, I’m just… I need you to work with me. I can’t be two places at once.” He held his arms out to his sides, his brow knitted in confusion. “I don’t know what else to do here, Lia. You act as though you’re afraid of my brother.”

Ophelia didn’t respond, but she held his gaze, fighting to keep her body from shuddering.

But she couldn’t keep the pain from her eyes.

She knew Max saw her pain when recognition dawned on his face.

The seconds ticked by as the couple stood moored in silence.

Embers of relief and hope grew inside Ophelia and calmed her soul. Max knew. At last, he knew. No more hiding her pain. No more fake smiles.

But Max Brubaker held his hands up in front of him… between them… backing toward the kitchen door. “Okay, Lia, you win. I’ll tell Kerwin your brother is coming here instead.”

He turned and walked out of the kitchen.


Tears streamed down Ophelia’s face, remembering that fateful day.

“You broke my heart, Max, and my spirit. If it hadn’t been for the boys, I’d have killed myself. It was too much to live with. Knowing you knew and did nothing. Like your parents, you covered up and ignored Kerwin’s sins, and defended him to anyone who held him accountable.”

She pointed an accusing finger at the headstone.

“Your brother raped me a month before you were discharged! He was smug and arrogant and knew your parents would protect him.” She twisted the handkerchief in her hands.

“I didn’t know what to do… who to tell. I felt responsible for letting him into our home. But he was your brother, Max. I didn’t think…” Her voice trailed off. After several minutes, Ophelia cleared her throat.

“I didn’t want your homecoming ruined, my love. I decided to say nothing until you got home. But even then, I could never form the words. The shame and guilt were just too great.”

“But years later… that day in the kitchen. You realized what I’d been hiding… and ignored it.”

“You put your brother ahead of me… and I hated you for it. Hated you! Do you hear me, Max?”

She clawed at her chest, trying to stave off her own hysteria. She buried her face in her hands, massaging her brow. When she raised her head, her calm had returned.

“I pretended things were okay—normal, even. I’d had a lot of time to perfect fake smiles and false sincerity. The only time I let my guard down was with my children.”

“You pretended too, my love. Pretended you didn’t know—like we’d never had that argument. But, you changed. You never left me alone with him after that and didn’t invite him over the way you used to. I was grateful for that.”

Ophelia paused as a woman a few years her junior walked by.

“Give him hell, honey. He can’t get up and leave.”

The two women shared a chuckle as the younger woman made her way to a bench and headstone of her own.

“We went on, Max. It was hell for us both, but I believe our love is what saved us. My head told me to walk away but my heart wouldn’t hear of it.” She grinned. “So glad I listened to my heart.”

“It all began to make sense right before your dad passed, in a dysfunctional, chaotic way. When Kerwin was arrested for assaulting that woman at his job, your dad stopped all his medical treatments to use his savings for Kerwin’s defense. When the woman dropped the charges, I realized the defense was to pay for her silence.

“It was the admissions your sister made to me when I spent the week in Seattle with her after the Cesarean that brought all the pieces together. I’d often wondered why Katherine made infrequent visits home but figured she was a busy wife and mother. But when she said it was hard for her to visit because she hated her brother, I knew which brother and why. After she told me Kerwin molested her when she was seventeen, and your parents blamed her, your reaction made sense.”

“You weren’t protecting Kerwin with your silence, you were protecting me. If your parents didn’t believe their own daughter, I didn’t stand a chance.”

“It was a bitter pill to swallow, but I did. The aftertaste came back several times over the years, but at least I didn’t blame you… or hate you.”

She took another sip of water, dabbed her eyes one last time and returned her things to her handbag.

“I’ve chided myself dozens of times since you’ve been gone for not telling you, Max… for not forcing the conversation. I just couldn’t make myself do it.”

“Katherine called me last night both happy and angry. Happy because Kerwin died two days ago of heart failure. Angry because he died at home in his own bed. No pain, no suffering. He went to bed and never woke up.”

“Katherine didn’t think it was fair after all the pain he’d brought to so many.”

“I understand why she feels that way, but odd enough, I found an easy peace in your brother’s death. I haven’t seen him since your funeral, yet I always felt as though he was behind every closed door or hiding in the dark waiting for me. It took me sixty years to put everything into place but now I know I was shackled by fear. I hated Kerwin and thought I hated you… but I hated myself more for being afraid.”

A sad smile formed on her face.

“I knew I would come here today and tell you what’s worried my heart for so long.”

Ophelia scooted to the edge of the bench and hoisted her weary body up, braced against her cane. She hobbled across the short narrow path to the granite headstone. She pressed two fingers against her lips then touched the grave marker.

“I miss you, my love, every day. And I forgive you, Max… for allowing me to hide my own pain. It gave Kerwin too much power over me for too long.”

Slow, deliberate steps took her back to the bench. She gathered her things, and with one last smile at Max Brubaker’s headstone, Ophelia left the cemetery for the last time. She would return thirty-seven days later to rest next to her husband… in peace.


©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved



The Marshall Sisters #52weeks52stories

#52weeks52stories: Week 6

The pings and knocks of the beat up Toyota vibrated through Leslie.
She glanced out at the tiny bungalow, her thoughts in rhythm with the car’s motor.
Come on, Pau-la, what’s taking so long?
Come on, Pau-la, I want to go home.
Swearing under her breath, Leslie tried to burrow deeper into her coat. The Toyota’s heater sputtered and hissed almost as loud as the motor but gave little comfort in the dropping temperatures.
I could be home right now wrapped up in my Snuggie, laughing my ass off at Angie Tribeca. But no. I had to be the supportive sister and ride out here to Allen’s house just because she thinks he has some bimbo in there. Damn!
Leslie folded her arms across her chest, slipping her gloved hands into her underarms.
Five more minutes and she was going to kick Allen’s door in. There was no argument more important than her freezing to death.
Come on, Paula!
If Leslie had her way, Paula would have dumped Allen months ago.
Not only was he weird, always picking nonexistent pieces of lint off his clothing, but he was an arrogant ass.
When speaking, Allen’s sentences were peppered with random pauses where he’d wiggle his nose. If the conversation was about anything other than him, the idiot would sniff.
Leslie at first thought the man had a severe case of hay fever. When there was never any sneezing or watery eyes, she was sure Allen had a nasty cocaine habit.
Grumpy and annoyed after an evening of bowling with the smitten couple, Leslie couldn’t hold it in any longer.
“P, why does he talk like that?”
“Like what?”
“All those pauses… and nose wiggles… what’s up with that?”
“Oh, that.” She waved her sister off. “It’s not a big deal. Allen stuttered when he was a kid. The pauses and nose wiggles are tools his speech therapist taught him to focus and pace his words.”
She glared at her sister, incredulous.
“Was sniffing another tool he was taught?”
Paula Marshall giggled. “Isn’t that adorable? I just want to smother him in kisses when he does that?”
Leslie smirked but didn’t respond. She doubted Paula wanted to hear she wanted to smother her boyfriend too… with a pillow.
She fidgeted with the heat vents, attempting to direct the tepid air toward her numbing feet when the back car door screeched as it was opened.
Leslie yelped.
“P, dammit! You scared the hell out of me!”
Paula Marshall dumped two large blue plastic trash-bags behind her sister then jumped in the driver’s seat.
“Sorry, Les.” She tapped the accelerator peddle twice before pulling away from the curb.
“Sorry, Les? That’s all you have to say after I nearly froze to death waiting for you? Why did you insist I come anyway if you planned to leave me the freakin’ car?” Leslie Marshall babbled on, approaching hysteria. “What the hell, P? Say something! I could lose two toes behind this! And what’s in those bags you shoved in the back seat? Am I talking to myself? Is this a conversation for -”
Nonplussed, Paula gave her rambling sister a casual glance. “Shut up, Les.”
Slumping in her seat, the younger sister held in her anger. “I didn’t need to be here, Paula Beth. I could have phoned this in.”
“Leslie, I-I… he wasn’t alone.”
She jerked forward in her seat.
“What? I’m sorry, P, really. I know you liked him a lot.”
Paula slowed at the next intersection as the traffic light turned red. She smiled at Leslie.
“It’s okay… and it’s not a big deal. Yes, I did like him, but I will not be bothered with a man I cannot trust.”
Leaning her head back, Leslie stared at the crimson stoplight, not speaking until the signal turned to forest green.
“What did he say?”
She scoffed. “What could he say? They were half-dressed in that way you knew the deed had already been done. He followed me around whining as I collected my stuff. Pleading for another chance… saying it didn’t mean anything.” Paula gripped the steering wheel tighter. “I’m getting pissed all over again thinking about it.”
“I’m so sorry, P. You deserved better than that. But I’m hella proud of you for standing up for yourself.”
Paula Marshall had been a doormat for a long line of men in her short thirty-two years. She’d been a victim of physical and verbal abuse, robbed of her paycheck and savings several times, and had her identity stolen by one man who claimed he was tracing the Marshall ancestry. It took Paula over a year to get her credit records back in order and the more than seventy-thousand-dollars in fraudulent charges removed.
“Thanks, Les. It means a lot to know you’re in my corner.”
“Always, P. Always.”
They rode in silence, both women lost in their thoughts.
Worry lined Leslie’s young face as she fought to not question her sister further, but lost the battle. Her words fell shaky and clipped.
“Paula, did you know the woman with Allen?”
Nervous butterflies assaulted Leslie’s stomach. She watched her sister’s gaze dart over the road in front of her, a slow menacing grin forming on her lips.
“Oh, yes. I knew the bitch.”
“It was Zoe Cox.”
Anger turned Leslie’s nervous butterflies into smoldering bile. “What the hell? Are you kidding me, P? Dickwad has a beautiful, smart girlfriend who’ll do anything for him and he cheats with the town slut?”
“It’s okay, Les. I took care – ”
“No, it’s not okay! Allen knew what kind of woman she is. And the whole town knows she’s a walking STD-bank. I cannot believe this.” She raged on. “Turn around, P! Take me back to Allen’s so I can kick both their asses!”
With her eyes on the darkened road stretched out ahead of them, Paula reached over and caught her sister’s hand.
“Les, I promised you… it’s handled. By the time I finished with them, they’d seen the error of their ways. This will not happen again.”
Still not convinced but reigning in her anger for Paula’s sake, Leslie folded her arms across her chest, sullen.
As Paula turned onto Renway Court, Leslie didn’t want to get out the car letting her sister believe she was angry with her. The beat-up Toyota sputtered to a stop in front of Leslie’s tiny bungalow.
Leslie’s head hung as she gave Paula a sheepish side-eye glance. “You know, P, the whole thing with Allen was one big cluster, but… what you did tonight? The way you went out there and barged right in? Pretty much makes you a bad-ass bitch now.”
Paula Marshall fell into a giggling fit. “Yes, I am! Look out world! I’m done taking anyone’s shit!”
Leslie shared Paula’s laughter, but something seemed off about her sister. However, she rationalized that her sister had put in a full day’s work, found out her boyfriend was cheating and caught him in the act, and here they sat in a freezing cold car in the middle of the night trying to process it all. Paula had every right to be a little unsettled. Leslie pushed the accusatory thoughts from her mind and reached out to give her sister a hug.
“Get some rest, pretty girl. You’ve had one hell of a day and it will be time for us to do it all again in a few short hours.”
“Thanks, Les. And thanks again for having my back. It may not seem like it, but knowing you were in the car waiting… gave me strength to do what I had to do. Love you.”
“Love you too. Night.”
Leslie Marshall ran into her house without looking back. Closing and locking the door, she sagged against it, thankful she left her heat on. Determined to get at least six hours sleep, she grabbed a beer from the fridge, drinking half of it before she reached her bedroom. After a two-minute shower, Leslie drank the rest of the beer and slid into bed, falling asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.

When her alarm sounded at five minutes after seven, Leslie’s first thought was to call in. She hadn’t used any sick time in over eight months and had only two scheduled days off over her regular two days a week.
But Clarence Milton wouldn’t care about that. He was more than likely giving Stephanie Thompson, his assistant, a major migraine right now… and counting the minutes until Leslie showed up. She didn’t like the pompous news director, but he was allowing her to write and edit more segments. She’d better not chance it and get on his bad side.
Sitting up, Leslie grabbed the remote and clicked on the TV to see how the morning crew was faring. She hoped the morning co-anchor, Dianna Corwin had gotten rid of the assy two-tone hairstyle she showed off two days ago.
WKTT returned from a commercial break and there sat Dianna, assy hair and all, looking like an over-the-hill skater-boy.
Shaking her head, Leslie headed for the kitchen in search of coffee when Dianna’s words stopped her cold.
“We have an update on the grisly double murder WKTT first reported during our 6 AM broadcast. Police have identified the victims as thirty-four-year-old Allen Bailey and thirty-three-year-old Zoe Cox.”
Leslie Marshall stumbled but made it back to her bedside before she could fall to the floor. She crawled to the center of her bed and hugged her pillow close as the broadcast continued.
“WKTT’s Sharon Shuford was able to get a short interview with lead detective, Don Ware.”
“Sharon: Det. Ware, what do you know so far about this double murder?
Ware: Well, Sharon, the coroner puts the time of death at somewhere between 8 PM last night and 1 AM this morning. We believe the person or persons who committed this crime was known to at least one of the victims as there were no signs of forced entry. We also believe it was someone who knew the victims because this was a violent slaughter. This is, by far, the most gruesome crime scene I’ve worked in a decade. It took a lot of rage and malice to carry out this crime and generally, for this to happen, there has to be a personal connection between killer and victim.”
Tears streamed down Leslie’s face. And she had been sitting in the car alone while a murderer was roaming the streets! She rocked back and forth, unable to believe Allen and Zoe were gone.
True, she didn’t care for either of them and just a few short hours ago, she wanted to kick their asses, but that was because of how they betrayed Paula…
Oh my God, Paula!
Leslie leaped across the bed to grab her cell phone. She prayed Paula was still asleep and hadn’t heard the news. She would be devastated. Punching Paula’s number into the keypad, Leslie paused when she realized the newscast had returned to Dianna and she was still talking about the double murder.
“Police have no suspects and no leads in this heinous crime and could use whatever help the public can give. Law enforcement says the blood splatter from a crime like this would be excessive and the killer or killers would be covered in blood. We’re also told there is a chance the killer or killers tried to clean themselves up before leaving the scene. Police say blue trash bags like the ones on the screen now may have been used to hide bloody clothing when leaving the scene. Anyone with information in this case should contact the Pitts Police Department immediately.”
Leslie Marshall dropped her phone, stunned.
Blue trash bags.
Paula put two blue trash bags in the back seat of her car last night.
No way. No way.
Her sister was not a killer.
A murderer.
“Les, I promised you… it’s handled. By the time I finished with them, they’d seen the error of their ways. This will not happen again.”
“It may not seem like it, but knowing you were in the car waiting… gave me strength to do what I had to do.”
Covering her mouth, Leslie raced to the bathroom. Her empty stomach spasmed having little more than bile to give up. She backed away from the toilet until she reached the wall next to the bathtub and slid down the wall with a thud, unable to cry or scream. Her body shook as she tried to push the truth from her mind, and the harder she pushed, the more her body shook. Leslie was unable to control her own limbs and she fell over not realizing she was going into shock.
Her meek, docile, submissive sister was now a bad-ass bitch… who killed two people last night while Leslie waited in the car.
Leslie Marshall was the star witness against Paula… or a co-conspirator.
The buzzing in her head grew and Leslie could no longer sort her thoughts. She let go and fell over the edge into the dark abyss.


©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Farewell to a Grand Lady | #52weeks52stories

Changing gears for this week’s entry to pay tribute to someone very special.

Dorothy Reevers

We said goodbye to a grand lady last week. A woman of old world style, grace, and polite manners. For most of the thirty-six years I’d known her, she was fastidious… meticulous, always doing things the proper way.

She was my mother-in-law, Dorothy Reevers.

When you first met Dorothy, you knew she was a different breed, formed from a mold broken long ago.

Dorothy’s creole features were obvious—fair, mulatto skin, thick, dark hair, and almond-shaped eyes. But when she spoke it left many confused. While her own French-Creole mother barely spoke enough English to manage the household, Dorothy had no European lilt, West Indian pidgin or Louisiana geechie in her speech.  She and her older brother, James, spoke with perfect diction and enunciation. And neither spoke a word of French. Their father, Elijah forbade it, believing their ethnic heritage was barrier enough to a successful future.

Julmiez, Dorothy’s mother, agreed to her children not learning or speaking French, but one thing she wouldn’t compromise on was school. Dorothy received her entire education from kindergarten through college from parochial schools in and around Berkeley, California where she was born. Some of her best anecdotes were about nuns in the classroom… especially Sister Helen Grace. Even after converting to Seventh Day Adventism years later. Dorothy would continue to genuflect whenever she passed a Catholic church.

With her poise and grace, it’s not hard to believe Dorothy was a debutante and introduced to society at sixteen. Her high morals and business-like attitude were greatly admired in the community and she was called upon to mentor to other young debutantes and would even serve as an officer of the Debutante Society.

When I met this incredible woman more than forty years later, I knew she was a force to be reckoned with. I also knew I was being observed… and graded as a daughter-in-law. I won her approval less than a week later after making dinner for her. She fell in love with me after having my lasagna! For the next three decades, I would be required to bring lasagna to all family gatherings, church functions, and even a couple of potlucks at her job.

For most of Dorothy’s career, she worked for the United States Military and in civil service.

Standing only four feet, ten inches tall, Dorothy wore four-inch heels every day of her life until she retired in 1989. She didn’t do it be ‘be’ taller. The few extra inches helped to put things within reach of her tiny frame. Dorothy was independent and self-sufficient and refused to be looked down on because of her stature.

And she never backed away from a fight.

When we met in early 1982, Dorothy and several co-workers had filed suit against their employer, the State of California, for working them in higher rank classifications past labor law limits and without the higher wages for those ranks.

Over the next few years, her co-workers were bullied and harassed into dropping out of the suit. Some retired, others moved away and dropped out of sight. By 1987, Dorothy was the sole plaintiff. And she wouldn’t budge.

As assistant to the department’s director, Dorothy had a laundry list of job duties, and in true job

In this photo, Dorothy is pregnant with my future husband!

intimation tactics, her boss would add others at random. (Never mind some of them fell in line with the very reason employees filed suit to begin with.)

Shortly before her retirement, the courts ruled the state had acted in bad faith and did violate labor laws.

The state also lost on appeal.

As the lone plaintiff, Dorothy won all her back-pay plus punitive damages.

When I congratulated her, she simply shook her head and said, “Dear, what they did was wrong, and you can’t hide wrong forever.”

It was just that simple for her.

As was life.

Dorothy believed in God, home, and family. Even when ill, I don’t know of a day when she missed saying morning prayers. And I don’t mean, “God bless the poor, etc.”, but literally down on her knees at her bedside…with a list of names and their situations!

Having one sibling, and both parents coming from small families, Dorothy had a strong sense of family, and longed for a large family. The mother of four had ten grandchildren, twelve great grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren! And, she doted on each and every one. It was inspiring to see someone get so much joy from making others happy.

But with joy comes sadness and Dorothy was no stranger to it. She lost her dad in 1964 and her mom in 1984. (Julmiez Davis passed away nine days short of her 101st birthday.) Death is a part of life and Dorothy mourned her parents as most adult children with families of their own do while moving on with life.

However, in the early 2000s, her resolve was sorely tested.

In the span of three short years, Dorothy lost her oldest grandson, brother (and only sibling), and her husband of fifty years, Elmer… all to cancer.

They were devastating blows which temporarily impacted her health. Yet, as her health improved, Dorothy appeared to be stronger and more resilient.

But fate wasn’t done with her. In January of 2008, Dorothy’s oldest daughter, and a great-granddaughter were killed along with seven others in a tour bus accident during a high school ski trip.

Dorothy was the epitome of a strong woman, comforting others. She attended a memorial service at her great-granddaughter’s high school, where she embraced and comforted students and faculty… and added more names to her ever-growing prayer list.

However, even the strongest among us can only withstand so much loss, and an emotionally broken heart can only be broken once. If it’s not allowed to heal fully, subsequent turmoil rocks us to our souls, stealing our essence a little at a time.

This was the case with Dorothy. Never fully recovered from losing close family and the love of her life, the losses changed her. Not in a drastic way or by radical measures. But, her smile wasn’t quite as bright. The sparkle in her eyes we all were so used to seeing was replaced by a sadness at burying too many family members who should have outlived her.

Dorothy passed away on January 12, 2018 at the age of 93. While she took medication for mild dementia and a blood platelet problem, she wasn’t ‘sick’ or suffering from a major illness. When she and I last spoke the week before Christmas and I asked how she was doing, she replied, “Dear, I’m just tired.” She went quickly, from a cardiac episode. Paramedics arrived only six minutes after being called but could not revive her.

As I looked around during her memorial service, I realized there was only one person there I did not know. So loved and respected was this wonderful woman, people traveled to Arizona from as far away as California and New York to celebrate her life and say their last goodbyes. Dorothy enriched every life she touched, never expecting or wanting anything in return.

She was a blessing not fully realized until she was gone.


A Strong Heart #52weeks52stories

Heart image

#52weeks52stories – Week #4
prompt: “I’m trying to erase you from my mind…you’re my religion and my belief…“

My body is heavy, weighted to the bed by a cocktail of painkillers, monitors, metal, and casts.

And lying here, even now, I wonder where you are.

Trapped tears pool and sting my eyes, unable to flow past the eyelids swollen shut. A broken wrist and dislocated shoulder keep me from wiping the tears away.

Tears I shouldn’t be crying for you. Tears you do not deserve.

I loved you. For seven years, you were my religion and my belief. Since the day we met rollerblading on the pier, I knew I’d found my soulmate.

To me, you were the smartest man in the world. It didn’t matter to me you failed the state bar exam and I passed. I didn’t blame you for taking your frustrations out on me. I was insensitive for wanting to celebrate my own success. I should have been more considerate of your feelings.

When you failed the exam two more times, I shouldn’t have chastised you for not trying hard enough. You carried the burden of repeated failures. I deserved the slaps for thinking only of myself.

Our night out with friends to celebrate your new position was one of our best times together… until we got home.

I was confused when you threw me into the wall and accused me of throwing myself at your friend, Marty.

You punched me in my side and said I embarrassed you by dancing like a slut, even though I only danced with you.

The next morning, fed up, I packed with one hand, determined to get away from you. Your tears and promises to change broke my heart and I stayed.

Only things didn’t change. I was still your punching bag when things didn’t go your way. When you missed out on a promotion, lost a case or even had car trouble, it was my fault for not being supportive enough; for being too consumed with my own career.

And still, I stayed, making excuses for black eyes and bruises no one believed. That’s when I knew I was as broken inside as you… and I had to save myself.

But I was foolish to believe you’d allow me to walk away.

Your silence made me believe you accepted my decision.

But I was wrong. Again.

I opened my door to you for old times’ sake, trying to be a friend. I didn’t see the first punch coming… or the second, but you swung your fists until I fell to the floor. Trading fists for feet, you kicked with wild abandon, not aiming or caring where your blows landed.

No longer feeling your kicks and punches, I knew I was in shock… and probably dying. But as I slipped into the darkness, I’m sure I heard you say, “You’ll always belong to me. You can never leave.”

I awake to the rhythmic beeps and low hums of medical devices standing watch over my body. My senses are dull, and my thoughts muddied with memories I don’t recognize. I am aware of pain only after I attempt to breathe deeply. The sharp stings ripple deep inside my chest and though still disoriented, I try to keep my breathing shallow.

My injuries are extensive and will take weeks to heal. As the doctor discussed the severity of my injuries and the violence it took to inflict them, I heard something akin to pride in his voice when he said, “Young lady, I’ve seen men succumb to less than what was done to you. Those broken ribs were a problem… we were afraid they would puncture a lung. But that didn’t happen. Your heartbeat was always strong. You were determined to live. You’re a survivor.”

A survivor.

You broke my heart and battered my body. But you couldn’t break my spirit.




The DA contacted me again.

He said you took the deal.

Your sentencing is in a couple of weeks and I’ll be allowed the opportunity to make a victim’s impact statement.

But I won’t.

Because I’m not your victim. I am your end.

I’ll attend your sentencing and smile as you’re taken from the courtroom in shackles.

And then I’ll walk away… with no fear, and not haunted by the way you brutalized me.

It’s said people pass through one’s life as a blessing or a lesson. I’ll remember this lesson… but not the man.

I’m already trying to erase you from my mind.



©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved



Lottery of Life #52weeks52stories

Apologies for posting an incomplete story this week, but a death in the family took me away from writing. Get to know Delia Freeman and look for part two of her story later this week.
#52weeks52stories: Week 3
Word prompt: Lottery
Word count: 1376

Delia Freeman stepped over the drunk on the sidewalk, not sure if he was dead or alive.

There was always a drunk or a junkie or some other lost soul invisible to society crouched against the back wall of Tilly’s Quick Stop.

Delia wasn’t heartless or uncaring to their situation… she was one of them. Once a young woman with a promising future, now caught in the vicious grip of poverty and hopelessness. If anyone looked hard enough, they might see the former up-and-coming college-educated accountant hidden beneath the layers of depression, low self-esteem, and self-hate.

If anyone looked.

She reached the front door of Tilly’s and had to push her way through the usual crowd of drug dealers, con-men, and thieves.

“Hey, Miss Delia. You looking mighty tasty today. Girl, we need to do some conversating.”

Delia cringed and took a step back. The mixture of stale beer and poor hygiene wafting off the wide-eyed crackhead turned her stomach.

“Man, she is a nice piece, but back up off ‘dat. You know she Perk’s woman.”

Perk’s woman. She was anything but his woman. That would mean she was loved and cherished… and wanted.

But Delia was none of those things. She was his financial support, cook, cleaning lady, errand girl, and punching bag. And when she was exhausted, longing for peace and sleep, he’d climb on top of her and rut like the greasy pig he was.

No. She was not Grayland Perkins’ woman. She was his prisoner.

Delia wasn’t held captive by weapons or threats, but the cruel icy fingers of fate.

Glaring at the assembly of lowlife, Delia entered Tilly’s and headed for the beer cooler.

“Evenin’, D.”

Turning, Delia saw the tiny great-grandmother with the sparkling eyes seated in a camp chair behind the counter.

“Hey, Miss Myra. You doing okay today? Those idiots outside not bothering you, are they?”

“We have an understanding—do not darken my doorway unless you have cash in hand. End of story. No one wants to cross a gypsy.”

Delia laughed and wondered how the old woman did it. While crime was rampant in the neighborhood, Tilly’s was trouble-free. The liquor store a half-block away had been robbed three times and had three attempts—all in less than a year. But Tilly’s didn’t even have bars on the windows or a front gate.

Myra Tilly shared counter hours with her children and grandchildren. While she didn’t work weekends, the septuagenarian was behind the counter Monday through Friday without fail.

Reaching the cooler, Delia had a moment’s panic when she didn’t see Perk’s favorite brand.

The last time she took another brand home, the man flew into a rage, accused Delia of open defiance, and choked her into unconsciousness.

Delia touched her neck at the memory and said a silent prayer of thanks when she saw the twelve-pack on the bottom shelf.

After grabbing a few other items to make her lunch for work, Delia unloaded her hand-basket on the counter.

“Baby, you’re too young to look so tired and beat down.”

“I know, Miss Myra. Just waiting for the winds of change.”

“Girl, you can’t wait for change. You gotta’ make it for yourself.” She rang up and bagged Delia’s items. “Keep on waiting and you’ll end up old like me… and still waiting.”

Embarrassed, the young woman dropped her head.

“I know you’re right, Miss Myra. I do.”

“Knowing I’m right don’t help you either. Child, how old are you?”

Delia’s body went rigid, amazed at the timing of the old woman’s question.

“Today’s my birthday. I’m thirty.”

Myra’s face brightened.

“Happy Birthday, sugar! Shoot! I don’t have anything in here even close to a cake.” She snapped her fingers. “Hang on a sec.”

Delia watched, amused, as the petite senior citizen scurried to the opposite end of the counter. Removing something from a lower counter, Myra returned to her customer wearing a triumphant grin.

“I keep a box of these on hand for the few people who pass through my door and understand fine chocolate.”

Delia’s eye widened as she watched Myra drop three bars of pricey imported milk chocolate in her bag.

Myra winked, clapping her hands together. “One for each decade.”

Delia was touched by the woman’s gesture. The big box store she worked for gave her a twenty-five-dollar gift card, and her supervisor bought her a super-pretzel from the store’s snack counter. That had been the extent of her day of birth being acknowledged.

“Miss Myra, that is so sweet of you. Thank you!”

“You’re welcome, child.”

She grasped both of Delia’s hands. “I know you’re supposed to make a wish and blow out the candles on your cake,” she shrugged, “but no cake, no candles, so I’m making the wish for you.”

She tightened her grip on Delia’s hands.

“By your next birthday, I wish for you to be happy and healthy and doing something with your life you love. And if you haven’t found that special someone, I at least want you to be free of relationships… and friendships that are squeezing the life out of you today. This is my birthday wish for you.”

Delia averted her eyes, blinking to hold back her tears. She returned her gaze to the spry store owner.

“This is the nicest thing anyone’s done for me since my mom died. Thank you, Miss Myra. And I promise to keep my eyes open for opportunities to get that wish.”

Myra beamed. “Good!”

Delia gave her friend’s hand one last squeeze, then let go, reaching into her bag and retrieving her wallet. She pulled out two bills and handed them to Myra.

After making change, Myra dropped the coins into Delia’s hands.

Delia reached for the bills, but Myra didn’t let go.

“Wanna do something crazy for your birthday, young lady?”

Delia tilted her head and smirked. “With six dollars? What did you have in mind?”

Myra’s smile grew as she pointed toward the sign next to the register.

“The lottery? Are you kidding me?”

“C’mon, baby girl, take a chance. It’s up to fifty million!”

Delia scoffed.

“I’ve never bought a lottery ticket in my life, Miss Myra. I don’t even know how to play or what’s involved.”

Myra handed Delia a Lottery form. “Most people play their six favorite numbers and add a random number. Or, you can do quick picks and allow the machine to pick the numbers. One dollar a ticket.”

Delia rocked against the counter, staring at the lottery form. What did she have to lose besides six dollars?

“Fine. I’ll do it. Give me six of those quickies.”

Laughing, Myra turned on the machine. “Quick picks. They’re called quick picks.”

Before Myra could press the first button, Delia yelped. “No, wait! Make it five.” She grabbed the pen on the counter and filled in six circles on the form.

She paused, chewing the inside of her lip. She needed a random number.

Myra watched her and chirped in. “Today’s your birthday. Go with that.”

Delia considered the suggestion.

“Miss Myra, when is your birthday?”

The old woman’s eyes sparkled.


“No way! We’re birthday sisters? Now I have to use your birth date.”

Delia filled in the last circle and gave the form to Myra. She marveled at the brisk pace Myra keyed in numbers as she went through the process. So much for the argument senior citizens didn’t get modern technology.

“Here you go.”

Delia took the single slip of paper, confused.

“There are six rows of numbers on that slip. Each row is a ticket. Your chosen numbers are the first row, followed by five quick picks.”

“Look at me, turning thirty and playing the Lottery.”

Delia dropped the ticket with her wallet into her handbag and gathered up her purchases.

“Miss Myra, I walked in here tired and grumpy, feeling sorry for myself, but you made my entire day. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, child.”

“I’ll stop by tomorrow to wish you happy birthday.”

“I look forward to it.”

Delia left Tilly’s feeling better than she had in any recent year. She didn’t even hear the catcalls and lewd suggestions from the corner crew.

Nothing could taint her mood. She was happy.


©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

A Touch of Malice #52weeks52stories


#52weeks52stories – Week 2
Prompt: “Vigilante”
Word Count: 3553

She caught her blurred reflection in the antiquated steel doors of the basement elevator.

Black turtleneck. Black Jeans. Black boots. Jacket and gloves, also black.

But she wasn’t some voluptuous bad-ass fashionista making a statement or setting a trend. She wore black for one reason. It hid blood splatter.

“Give me your knife, Jess.”

She’d forgotten it was still gripped tightly in her hand, blood dripping from its blade to the tarp on which she stood.

They extended their gloved hands, and he took the knife, dipping it into a small container of clear solution.

The blood disappeared.

He tossed the knife onto the tarp with the body and began rolling it up.

Jess stepped off her end and bent to help.

“No. I got this. You look a little shaken up. Scour the area and make sure we leave nothing behind.”

Jess walked around the small area of the underground parking garage but glanced over her shoulder to see Ren complete his task with ease and no emotion.

Was she shaken up?

Jess took one last look into the unseeing eyes of Neil Garner AKA William McNaughton before he disappeared into the folds of the tarp. She couldn’t muster up one ounce of guilt or remorse. She’d sent him to hell and knew she’d join him one day.

Jess grabbed Ren’s ‘tool bag’ and tossed it into the back of the Mercedes. She heard a dull thud and turned to see Ren walking away from the abandoned dumpster.

They climbed into the vehicle and began their return trip.

Thoughts of her aunt, Carmella Gordon, flooded her mind.

Her amazing aunt who’d always been a major part of Jess’ life, was gone, dead from her own hand.

Because of Neil Garner.

The heartless sixty-two-year-old Lothario picked Carmella out of a group of wealthy women attending a charity benefit and stalked her. Running into Carmella by “accident” on several occasions, the conman then asked the youthful seventy-eight-year-old retired physics professor out to dinner and his game began. Courting her aunt, spoiling her with gifts, and convincing Carmella he was in love with her.

Two short months after the senior citizens met, Neil asked Carmella to marry him and she accepted.

Distracted by new love and wedding preparations, Carmella wasn’t her usual watchful self and didn’t realize until it was too late her identity had been stolen.

And Neil Garner was nowhere to be found.

Humiliated and penniless, a bottle of Xanax and a water-glass of vodka was all Carmella needed to stop her broken heart and hide her carelessness.

Shame kept Carmella from reporting the crime and when Jess tried to after Carmella’s suicide, the police were no help.

Interested at first after hearing about the deceased woman’s empty bank accounts and missing property deed, detectives back-pedaled and double-talked Jess on her next visit to the station three days later. Phrases like ‘lack of evidence’ and ‘no complaining witness’ were tossed around.

When Jess said she’d take her story to the media, the captain of detectives took her by the arm, walking her to the elevator.

“Ms. Hunter, I believe you and I want to help you. But our hands are tied. This Garner character has friends and family in high places. We’ve been ordered off this case. Your aunt’s death is ruled a suicide, reasons unknown. I’m sorry.”

Shaking with rage, Jess spoke through clenched teeth, fighting to control herself.

“He took advantage of my aunt, stole everything from her and walked away. He. Must. Pay.”

“I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do.”

“Fine. I will go to the media. And the Internet. I’ll tell my aunt’s story and -”

He grabbed her arm again, pulling her closer to the elevator and lowering his voice.

“No, you won’t. If these people think nothing of threatening an entire police department, what do you think they’ll do to you?”

The weight of his words took Jess’ breath away. Was her life in danger because she sought justice for Carmella?

The elevator doors opened. The detective helped her inside and walked away before the doors closed.

The man was scared.

Her aunt was dead, Neil had vanished without a trace… and all of Carmella’s assets and Jess was furious with nowhere to turn.

Until she found Ren standing next to her Jeep as she left the market one evening.

With a few shadowy details about himself and even fewer about the group he represented, Ren got Jess’ full attention when he produced a file on someone he’d been following for quite some time—Neil Garner.

Carmella Gordon was not the grifter’s first victim. Ren had photos of a half-dozen other women who’d lost millions to Garner.

Carmella’s case was unique because she was the only victim to die. Neil didn’t kill her, but his fraud and theft made him culpable… and made it time to find a permanent solution to the problem of Neil Garner.

Ren was sure Garner had accomplices on foreign soil. The money disappeared quickly, and skilled forensic accountants had failed to find the destinations.

His victims were left with nothing, forced to move in with family or even worse, nursing homes. Neil Garner never served a day in jail or had even been arrested.

Jess was incredulous.

“Why not?”

“Because his real name is William McNaughton, and he is the first cousin of a United States Senator.”

Jess stiffened with rage.

“So, he’s allowed to steal from women with no recourse? Ruin their lives without arrest or punishment of any kind because of who he’s related to?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“That’s not right! My aunt is in her grave because of him!”

Ren didn’t respond.

“You said you needed a permanent solution. What? You going to murder his cheating ass?”

He tilted his head and smirked. “No, Jess. You are.”

She didn’t try to stop the grin growing on her face.


Thirty-four-year-old Jessalyn Hunter was pragmatic and methodical. She didn’t make waves or bend rules. An only child, she was the product of her upbringing by West and Bonnie Hunter—both English professors.

When Jessalyn lost her parents to sudden illnesses eleven months apart, it was her mom’s older sister, Carmella, who kept Jess from sinking into depression.

It was also Carmella Gordon who helped Jessalyn through her divorce, when ex-husband, Randy, decided he liked gambling and sex with random women… and men better than being married to her.

The once-dependable HMO benefits manager had no boundaries during the divorce. When fake apologies and tears didn’t work on Jessalyn, Randy resorted to forgery, attempting to take stock portfolios and life insurance benefits he knew no divorce court would award him.

It was then, Carmella Gordon presented her niece with a large manila envelope.

“I had my suspicions about Randy a few months ago, sweetie, and I’m sorry I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know at the time it was this bad.”

Confused, Jessalyn opened the envelope and pulled out its contents—a thick stack of eight-by-ten color photographs.

She stared at her soon-to-be-ex-husband shooting craps at gaming tables, placing bets at race tracks… and in several different sexual encounters.

Jessalyn looked up at Carmella. “Auntie?”

“I’m so sorry, darling. There was no easy way to tell you.” She led her niece to the sofa and sat her down. “I’ve taught college students for too many years to not recognize the signs. I know the look—wild-eyed and crazed—that comes with too many hits of Ecstasy, too many uppers, and yes, even cocaine usage.

I thought I saw that look in Randy’s eyes when you two came to dinner on Easter, but I talked myself out of it. Randy wasn’t the type, and you’d already know if there was a problem.

Soon after, you confided in me about his late hours and gambling. My concerns returned. My suspicions were confirmed when I stopped by your place early one evening. You hadn’t made it in from work yet, and Randy answered the door… wired. He said he was coming down with something. I told him to get some rest, and I left. And hired a private investigator the next day.”

Jessalyn closed her eyes, stunned at Carmella’s confession. She had been so focused on Randy’s gambling, she’d missed everything else.

“I never planned for you to see these photos, Jessalyn, but after Randy showed his true colors and tried to steal from you, it’s time to play hardball.”

Jessalyn was almost childlike. “What do I do, Auntie?”

“You seal that envelope and have it delivered to Randy’s attorney. And wait.”

“No. I could never do that! It’s too ugly. People will know.”

“Jessalyn Christine! You will do it! Randy already knows what he did, and I doubt his attorney wants anyone to ever see them. Those photos will encourage him to convince his client to walk away before anyone else does see them.”

“Like who?”

“Like his job.”

Jessalyn’s mouth gaped open.

Carmella reigned in her anger and cupped Jessalyn’s cheek.

“West and Bonnie did such a great job raising you. You’re a good, honest, caring person. But Randy is scum. He isn’t going to stop until he gets his hands on your inheritance to squander away and you’ll do nothing to stop him. You’ll be the bigger person—following laws and rules.”

Jessalyn saw a darkness creep into Carmella’s eyes.

“But not anymore. You’re going to play by his rules and have that envelope delivered tomorrow.”

Carmella stood and headed for the kitchen but turned back to her niece.

“Wrong, mean, bad… call it what you will, sweetie. But a touch of malice never killed anyone.”

Carmella was right. Two days after Randy’s attorney received the envelope of evidence, she signed her divorce papers. Randy Gates was not present. After an expedited filing and shortened waiting period, she was once again Jessalyn Hunter and her marriage, a fading memory.

But Carmella Gordon also had it wrong. A touch of malice could kill.

After Ren told her what her job would be, she went from Jessalyn Hunter to Jess, the hunter.

Ren’s vigilante group provided her with everything she needed.


Carmella had looked out for Jess and interceded when her own husband tried to steal from her. The shrewd professor gave Jess the means to protect herself and move on with her life.

But she’d not been there for her aunt.

Between Jess’ job and Carmella’s active lifestyle, niece and fiancé had only met on two occasions. Jess wasn’t there to notice warning signs or discuss the hastiness of the engagement.

She didn’t know he’d convinced Carmella to allow his business-manager nephew to manage their affairs while they took an extended honeymoon and traveled the world.

A document.

A signature.

A life stolen.

A life taken.

It was time for Jess to make it right and hold McNaughton accountable.


Had the police not been threatened and taken off their investigation, they would have found William McNaughton hadn’t gone far. Just twenty miles. And he was now Claude Pierce, retired physician, wooing his latest mark—Leta Howard, an aging star of B-movies.

With Leta having no family, a fading fan base, and a diagnosis of early onset dementia, Jess had to work fast. William would waste no time disappearing with her millions.

Jess became a true hunter. Stalking the conman for several nights at a time, learning his routine. She switched to days, calling off work due to a mysterious back injury she even visited her doctor for. Jess would say or do whatever it took to get justice for Carmella.

Despite the snowy days and below freezing temps at night, Jess continued learning all she could about the cold-hearted scam artist.

She couldn’t believe the arrogance of the man. Cruising around the southland in his S-class Mercedes. Stopping for three-hundred-dollar haircuts and thousand-dollar massages. Spending money he had not worked a day for. Money he’d stolen.

Jess wondered about McNaughton’s well-connected family and his cousin, the senator.

They knew what he was doing. Why didn’t they stop him? His family waited until after he’d defrauded some trusting widow or divorcee then used all their considerable resources to help him avoid jail.

It was cruel.

And it was about to end.


After a month, Jess had the information she needed and called Ren. It was the only time she called the burner phone. They met in a crowded downtown cafeteria during the lunch rush.

“The man has a clear-cut routine, but the only time he’s alone is when he visits Leta on Wednesday evenings for dinner.”

“You’re certain?”


“And ready?”


“Good. And for the record, we knew about his Wednesday dinners with Leta. We just had to be sure about how committed you were to this. You wouldn’t be the first person to get cold feet.”

“I understand.” She smirked. “And my feet are nice and warm.”


Five days later, Ren pulled up in front of Jess’s house. She was out the door and approaching the Tahoe before it stopped.

Jess climbed in and fastened her seatbelt, not greeting or glancing in Ren’s direction until he failed to move the vehicle.

He was staring at her.

“Jess, it’s not too late to call this off.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Not everyone can kill.”

“You’re wrong, Ren. Put in the right situation, anyone can kill. Anyone. With what you do, you of all people should know that.”

Without another word, he pulled away from the curb.


They made the drive in silence.

Three miles from Leta’s, Ren found a spot on a crowded side street and parked. He got out.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes. Be ready to grab the bag and leave the truck.”

Jess sat in the silence and waited. She thought of Carmella and everything which had happened in the year since her death.

It was a hard year. She’d struggled with her lot, slipping in and out of depression. Coworkers and her few friends showed concern, but none were close enough to know the extent of Jess’ pain.

But it was better not having anyone close.

Her nightly activities would have raised alarms and brought questions Jess wouldn’t answer.

Seven minutes later, a dark gray Chevy Celebrity pulled up next to the Tahoe. Jess saw Ren in the driver’s seat, grabbed the tool bag and left the Tahoe. Seconds later, they were on their way to Leta’s.

They exited the Celebrity half a block from their destination and walked the rest of the way. They appeared to be a couple out for a late evening stroll.

Had anyone been around to notice them.

Much like Leta Howard, her neighborhood was crumbling in decay from lack of care and concern. The once pristine and coveted properties were now a Hodge-Podge of vacant lots and boarded up homes, with a handful of buildings dissected into one-room studio rentals of which most were empty. Greedy developers kept watch waiting for the area to take its last dying gasp before rushing in to scoop up the land at cut-rate prices.

Leta’s Tri-level brownstone stood at the end of the block. Despite the missing tiles and peeling paint, it was obvious the building has once been a showplace. Leta purchased the dwelling during the heyday of her film career when she was the brunette with the big blue eyes. She never got the guy and her name never appeared over the title, but with her D-cup bra size and generous hourglass figure, Leta had love scenes—and side flings—with some of the industry’s most popular leading men.

Shrewd to a fault in her younger days, Leta negotiated better deals for herself than her agent did, and she made sound investments amassing a small fortune.

Jess looked around as she and Ren walked down the incline into the parking garage. Leta Howard had the resources to restore her home to its grandeur, but she didn’t have the mind to see it through.

A perfect mark for William McNaughton.

A bare, low-watt bulb cast an eerie glow over the six-stall area.

Ren went to work, laying out a black tarp which almost covered the small area between the elevator and McNaughton’s Mercedes.

Jess leaned against the wall and watched him prepare.

After the tarp was in place, Ren took a slim-Jim from his bag and opened the Mercedes, exposing the wires under the dash he’d soon need.

Returning to his bag, Ren took out a 9mm Glock and attached a suppressor. Making sure the safety was still engaged, he reached out, handing the gun to Jess.

Ignoring the gun, Jess bent down and pulled a seven-inch Smith & Wesson fixed-blade knife from her boot.

She saw the look of surprise on Ren’s face, but also saw that he understood. From beginning to end, this was personal.

He returned the gun to his bag and went to the other side of the Mercedes, crouching low against the wall.

Jess leaned back in the shadows next to the dumpster. And waited. Her eyes never leaving the elevator door.

Twenty-nine minutes later, McNaughton exited the elevator.

He was reaching for the car door handle when Jess stepped from the shadows.

“Neil Garner.”

He turned to face her, the muted lighting giving his white hair and pale skin a ghost-like pallor. The arrogance in his eyes sickened her.

McNaughton opened his mouth to speak, but Ren was behind him in an instant, pulling his arms behind his back with one of his massive hands and covering the suddenly terrified man’s mouth with the other.

Jess plunged the blade into his heart, her eyes never leaving his.

His body jerked as Jess hit her mark. His muffled cries became pitiful moans.

“This is for my aunt, Carmella Gordon.” With a quick flick of her wrist, Jess turned the knife and watched McNaughton’s eyes flutter as life left his body.

Ren held on to the slumping man’s body making sure it fell onto the tarp. He removed McNaughton’s rings, watch and took his wallet and cell-phone, removing the battery. Then he set about his cleanup.


The drive home was another exercise in silence.

Jess re-thought the last two hours, making sure she’d missed nothing.

While stalking McNaughton and learning about Leta’s neighborhood, Jess found out the street changed to curbside trash pickup years before and the bins sat on the other side of the brownstone. The dumpster sat unused in the underground parking area, a rusted out memento to another time when life was full and busy with nights of endless parties.

McNaughton was the only one to use the parking area while Jess kept watch.

Leta Howard only left her home once—through the front door—and by medical transport to a doctor’s appointment. Jess never saw Grace, the forty-seven-year-old agoraphobic who rented the second level of Leta’s brownstone. As far as Jess knew, Grace hadn’t left the home in over twelve years, living by Internet shopping and home deliveries.

McNaughton’s fortune at finding the perfect isolated victim led to his perfect isolated death. The empty street combined with Leta’s diminished capacity ensured it would be some time before his body was discovered and identified.

Jess and Ren left Leta’s in McNaughton’s Mercedes, stopping for Jess to get the Celebrity and follow Ren. They left the Mercedes on another side street blocks away. After wiping the car down, Ren got in the Celebrity and the two vigilante assassins repeated the process with the Celebrity and Ren’s Tahoe.

When the Tahoe stopped in front of her house, Jess reached for the door handle, but Ren stopped her.

“You know my name isn’t Ren, right?”

The corners of her lips twitched.

“I know.”

“And you know you’ll never see me again? Never be able to find me?”

This time, Jess did smile.

“Yes, I know.”

He looked straight ahead as Jess got out the truck. Just before closing the door, Jess looked over her shoulder, still smiling.

“Merry Christmas, Ren.”

He drove away, and Jess made her way up the walk to her front door, past the reindeer and mini-Christmas trees all covered in tiny white lights.

After entering and locking her door, Jess didn’t stop until she reached her laundry room. She stripped out of her black murder apparel, including the knit skull hat which hid her unruly auburn curls, tossing everything into the washer and starting the cycle. Jess pulled a pair of sweats and a t-shirt from a folded pile of clean laundry and padded into her living room.

She slipped into the clothing by the light of her blinking Christmas tree, and just like that, Jessalyn Hunter, eighth-grade history teacher was back.

Jess smiled at the photo on the fireplace mantel of her and Carmella taken during the holidays last year. She caressed the frame.

“Rest in peace, Auntie.”

Turning, she eyed the dozens of mini-gift bags she’d set out earlier. Tomorrow was the last day of school before Christmas break and she promised each of her five classes a party. Including her coworkers and school administrators. Jess had more than two-hundred bags to fill.

Grabbing her tablet off the coffee table, Jess loaded Spotify. She returned to her world, filling bags with goodies as Johnny Mathis sang It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.


©2018, Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved