Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer Short from Alison Bruce

Little Monsters

“My name is Olivia and I hate my mother.”

Okay, I don’t really hate my mother... not all the time. I do hate that she insisted I get a job this summer. I’m friggin’ fifteen. The only jobs I’m eligible for are lame: paper route, baby sitting and summer camp junior counselor.

Been there done that on the paper route. My perfect older sister had a route and I used to help her. I was going to take it over when she got the co-op job at the cable station but the circulation manager didn’t like my black fingernails and pierced eyebrows.

Babysitting was out ever since I told my charges where babies came from with illustrations and a hand-made flip comic. One of the reasons I didn’t argue about the job interview mom set up was that I figured I was a shoe-in for being shown the door.

Summer camp. Junior counselor. Unpaid, training position. They couldn’t legally hire kids under sixteen, but they could get them to volunteer as slave labor so they didn’t have to hire as many real counselors.

“You can get your community service hours taken care of,” said mother.

“I want to volunteer at the blood bank.”

“You tried that already. They thought you were too creepy. Maybe you could wear something other than black to the interview.”

I stared at her.

“Okay,” she said. “But no skulls.”

Mother can only be pushed so far, so I nodded. I showed up at the interview in black cargo shorts, black flip-flops and, under my black hoodie, my favorite Tru Blood t-shirt with cut-off sleeves to show off my Supernatural tattoo.

Half an hour later, I walked back to the car, dragging my hoodie. Mother looked up from her eReader and sighed. “Seriously, Olivia. You wore that to a job interview?”

“I got the job.”

I started Monday. It didn’t take me long to find out why they were desperate enough to hire me. Not one of the rug rats was older than five. Mother always said my terrible twos lasted till I was in kindergarten – maybe longer.

“Yeah, but did I bite, scratch and pounce on people all day?” I asked her after my first day. “Did I ask stupid questions all the time? I mean ALL THE TIME. Seriously?”


“Why didn’t you kill me?”

“If I killed you, you wouldn’t have learned anything.”

Then I did something that totally went against my nature. I asked for advice.

“Be patient and firm,” she said. “And don’t back down.”

I hate to admit it, but mother was right. By the end of the week I could catch Tyler mid-pounce and dodge Cassidy’s repeated attempts to bite my ankles. Two weeks into the job and I had Sylvania twins using their words instead their hands, more specifically, their claw-sharp fingernails. I couldn’t stop Clio from asking why, but I slowed her down by telling her to google it. Then I was called into the office to see the boss, Tisha.

Tisha was drop-dead gorgeous. I needed dye, a straightener and lots of makeup to get what she had going naturally. Her hair was long, silky smooth and jet black. Her skin pale and perfect. It gave me second thoughts about my tats and piercings.

“So, how is it going Olivia?” For once she was not her cool, collected self. In fact, she looked nervous.

“Okay, I guess.”

“You remember that health form you filled out?”

“Uh. Yes. Sort of. You just wanted my doctor’s name and any allergies, right?”

“Exactly. We always follow up with the doctor’s office but we were a bit busy and...”

“And what?”

“You’re human. We don’t generally hire humans, and when we do, we don’t place them with the younger children.”

“Excuse me?” I had a hand on my cell phone, ready to dial 9-1-1 if this got any weirder.

“They don’t have as much control. A scratch here. A bite there.” She looked sheepishly apologetic. “They aren’t old enough to understand.”

“Understand what?”

“I should have realized when I saw the scars. Humans don’t heal as fast as us.”

I shook my head. Was I being punked?

Tisha explained.

“So here I am,” I told the group, spreading my harpy wings, extending my hellcat claws, covered in fur and feathers with a fang-a-licious smile. “It’s worse because of the full moon. Most days I can pass as human. But seriously, I could kill my mother.”

“Don’t do that,” said the Monsters Anonymous facilitator. “If you kill her, she’ll never learn.”

Alison Bruce has had many careers and writing has always been one of them. She is the author of mystery, romantic suspense and historical western novels. Her next book, Hazardous Unions, co-authored with Kat Flannery, will be released September 7, 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer Short from Melodie Campbell

July is Hell

I came back to the squad car with two coffees, both black.

Bill was fanning himself with yesterday’s newspaper.  “It’s frigging middle of the night, for crissake.  How can it still be so hot?”

I shrugged.  “July is hell.  Always will be.”  I passed him the cup of java.

“This job is hell,” Bill muttered, leaning back in the seat.  His thick body showed the wear and tear of thirty years on the job. He removed the lid carefully and threw it on the dash.  Then he sighed. “I’ve got bad news for you.”

I was alert now.  Looking keen.

His grey eyebrows creased into a frown.  “You know that perp who raped those young girls back in March.”
I nodded. Of course I knew.  We had worked that case around the clock.

Bill looked at me, then quickly away.  “They got him off on a technicality.”

I cursed. We’d tracked him for weeks.  We knew he was guilty, even if he had worn a balaclava.  It was all in the way he reacted when we arrested him.  You just know. That smile…

“I know,” Bill mumbled.  “Damned lawyers. Time for me to get out of this hellhole.  Do something positive with the rest of my life.”

“So you’re really going to retire, then?”

He nodded.  “This case made up my mind.  I’m finished with it.”

He looked over at me.  “You have your own decisions to make.  You’re young.  You sure you want to stay in this game?”

I made a point to look serious.  “It’s what I do, Bill.  What I’ve always wanted to do.”

He shook his head.  Then he took another sip.  “Just be careful you don’t get completely disillusioned, like I am.  It’s not healthy.  Letting scum like that go free, on a technicality.”  He snorted in disgust.

“He’ll go to hell when he’s dead,” I said evenly.

“You really believe that stuff?”  Bill’s voice was soft.  “Well, you just go on believing it, Chris.  Maybe it will keep you sane.”

I doubt it, I thought to myself.  I doubted it again when I took a knife to the perp’s throat the next night.

It only took me a few hours to track him down.  That’s the advantage of being a cop and a woman.  You know how to find people, you know how to kill, and you know how to cover your tracks.  

He was going to hell all right, but I swear it was just as hot here.

Melodie Campbell got her start writing comedy. She has over 200 publications including 40 short stories and five novels. Melodie has won six awards for fiction and is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. She is the author of The Goddaughter series and the Land's End books.

You can follow Melodie at

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer Short - Lyn Horner

Dev's Golden Goddess

Dev Medina prodded a half buried soft drink can with his big toe while a frothy wave rippled around his bare ankles then receded. What was the matter with people, dropping litter everywhere as if the planet were nothing but a convenient garbage heap? Frowning in disgust, he bent to pick up the can and shook water and sand from it.

He turned and, looking to his left, scanned the grass strip bordering the swath of tawny beach, searching for a trash bin. His gaze bumped into a raucous group of teenagers playing beach volleyball, brushed over an elderly couple strolling along the greenway and a man jogging with his dog at his side. Not seeing what he was looking for, he swung his head to the right and quickly spotted a receptacle. He took a step toward it but stopped, frozen in place, gaze caught by a figure in the distance.

She -- it was a woman, he could tell -- shimmered beneath the hot summer sun, appearing almost ghostly, making him wonder for a moment if she was a mirage created by his tired, squinting eyes. Transfixed, he realized she was no figment of his imagination as she drew closer. She took her time, scuffing at the sand, occasionally tossing her long golden hair over one shoulder and glancing out to sea or up at the gulls flitting here and there across the sky. Her skin matched her hair color, and the sarong draped around her tall form was of the same golden hue splashed with a jungly pattern in darker gold and green.

Suddenly, as if sensing his gaze upon her, she looked his way. Dev stopped breathing for a few seconds. Pulse rocketing skyward, he couldn’t force his eyes to turn away even when she frowned at him. She paused briefly then strode straight toward him, long golden legs making short work of the distance between them. Her frown had turned into a killing glare by the time she halted, not more than six feet away from him.

“It’s rude to stare, mister,” she snapped. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you that?” Pressing pretty pink lips into a thin line, she jammed balled fists onto her hips, hips that were nicely rounded, Dev noticed. He also admired the swell of her breasts, rapidly rising and falling at the moment. She was a picture of feminine indignation, all directed at him.

“She shore did, little lady,” he replied, greatly exaggerating his Texas drawl. Delighted by her furious amber glare, he idly juggled the can he was still holding and grinned. “But I kinda forgot my manners when I saw you come struttin’ along.”

“Strutting!” She dropped her hands to her sides, fingers splayed as if preparing to claw his face. “For your information, I do not strut. And don’t call me ‘little lady’.”

Dropping his good ole boy act, Dev ruefully bowed his head. “Sorry. No insult intended, ma’am, and I apologize for staring. But if you don’t mind me saying so, a beautiful woman like you should be used to admiring stares.” Glancing up, he saw her eyes widen in surprise at his abrupt change of attitude.

“I-I accept your apology. And thank you for the compliment, Mr. . . .”

“Medina, Dev Medina, ma’am. And what might your –”

A shrill sound ripped Dev from the sunny summer beach. He jackknifed up in bed, not realizing where he was in the dark. Where had she gone, the golden goddess whose name he hadn’t had time to ask?

The harsh ring came again, jarring him fully awake. With a curse on his lips, he reached for the phone on the stand beside his bed, yanking it from the cradle before a third ring sounded.

“Yeah!” he growled.

“Whoa there, pal. Did I interrupt something?”

Recognizing Todd Butler’s voice, Dev scowled and rubbed his eyes. “Only a damn good dream.”

Todd’s laughter galled Dev, but he held his temper in check. “What’s up? You didn’t call just to heehaw at me, did you?”

“Naw. We’ve got a job and it can’t wait ‘til morning. We need to be airborne in an hour or less, so up and at ‘em, Sunshine. Meet me and the others at the hangar. The chopper will be ready to take off.”

“Okay. I’ll see you there.”

Dropping the phone back on the stand, Dev dressed quickly, gathered up his gear and headed out into the sultry Houston night, wondering where this assignment would take him and the team of oilrig fire fighters – and when he would meet his golden goddess. Meet her he would, without doubt. Dreams like the one he’d had tonight, so graphic in detail, didn’t happen often, but when they did he knew they’d come true sooner or later. In this case, he hoped it would be soon, very soon.

Lyn Horner resides in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and several very spoiled cats. Trained in the visual arts, Lyn worked as a fashion illustrator and art instructor. After quitting work to raise her children, she took up writing as a creative outlet. This hobby grew into a love of historical research and the crafting of passionate love stories based on that research.

The author says, "Writing a book is much like putting together a really big jigsaw puzzle. It requires endless patience and stubborn determination to see your ideas come to life, and once hooked on the process, you're forever addicted."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Short by Kevin Thornton

The Key to the Locked Room

There were four of them in the Strangers’ Library, the only room at the Diogenes Club where talking was allowed. The two brothers, a contrast in physical appearance, were obviously related by the similar steely look on their faces. The younger one was lean and aquiline, restless; the other was stouter, owl-like and predatory. He looked as if he was used to giving commands while his brother gave off the air of someone who ignored them.

Opposite them sat a small man dressed in the black of a priest out visiting. He wore a cheap suit, socks and plain shoes, with an ill-fitting shirt of the same colour and a biretta by his side that was patchy and worn. Alongside him, the tall man known sometimes as Duroc was an elegant contrast. His evening wear fitted perfectly, the bowtie rakish, the whole giving off an élan only the French seem to be able to carry.

“Monseigneur,” he said to Father Brown. “The conversation drags. Regale us with a mystery that is not of the faith.”

The others said nothing, their quietude taken as assent.

“Perhaps then, a locked room tale,” said the priest, “one that displays an apparent impossibility that is easy to spot if only you step away from human nature.”

“A miserly Squire has a room at the top of the stairs; solid walled and roofed, one door only and no windows. It is where he keeps his gold for he distrusts banks, and he has the only key to the unique lock. It may be accepted that the only mortal access to the room is through this door, off a landing, bare except for a window some forty feet away.”

“Every evening he is up there surveying his ill-earned gains. It is a spare room, save for the glint of bricks of gold lining the shelves. There is a desk and chair, a lamp, a ledger and atop of this his service revolver, almost as if it were a paperweight.”

“Now, as is the way of these tales, he has three nephews, Thomas, Daniel and Edward, each of whom hope to inherit. They live with him, their parents having died, and he treats them abysmally, so it is no surprise they harbour dark thoughts toward him. Only the possibility of the inheritance keeps them near, and they, in attempting to outdo the other in ingratiating behavior, had lain to rest all fraternal love that may once have existed.”

“The Squire amuses himself by playing them off against each other, and the resentment and hatred all four of the family members have for each other is palpable.”

“One night they hear a gunshot. Ned and Dan run upstairs to find Tom already at the door, struggling with the handle. ‘Over there, Dan,’ he says pointing to the key on the window sill. ‘Bring it to me.’ Dan does so and they burst in to find the Squire dead. It looks like suicide, except he is holding the gun in his left hand and he is right-handed.”

“Alors, said Flambeau, “the plot, it er, how you say?”

“Thickens,” said Holmes.

“The Police are called,” the priest continued, “and they determine it a murder. The scientific evidence is such that suicide is precluded.”

“How was it done?” he continued. “How did someone get into a sealed room, kill the Squire and escape the nephews? And how did the key end up outside the door?”

“It is an impossible crime,” said the Frenchman.

“There is no such thing,” said the younger Holmes. “One of the nephews is the murderer.”

“What about the key?” asked Mycroft.

“Ned and Dan said that Tom could not have done it from the time they heard the shot until they arrived at the door. It was only seconds before they had raced to the top.”

They sat and thought, two of the greatest intellects in the empire and perhaps one of the two best retired criminal minds. Occasionally one would stir, as if to say something, then, having paused, would subside again into the elegant green upholstery. All the while the little priest sat, placid and patient. It may have been possible to detect the tiniest of glints in his eyes, but probably not.

Eventually the slight grinding of Mycroft’s molars subsided, the sucking on the cherry wood pipe of his brother ceased, and the Frenchman, quiet enough all this time to have seemingly changed nationality, found his élan once more and gestured disparagingly to the prelate.

“Tell us then,” said Flambeau as the other two feigned good grace.

“Tom did it,” said the priest, “although who knows if the other two would not have done the same, given the opportunity. He saw a chance to sneak up behind his uncle and he hit him on the side of the head as he was opening the door. It was the left side, which was his undoing, as he had to disguise the mark. He left his uncle on the floor, placed the key on the window sill, went back in, picked up his Uncle’s gun, shot him through the bruise then walked out the room.”

“So how did he lock the door?”

“He didn’t,” said the Priest. “He pretended to unlock a door that was never locked”

“Aha”, said Mycroft, “but you told us it was a locked room mystery. Strictly speaking it was not.”

“That, then, is the impossibility to which I referred, the one none of you suspected from a man of the cloth. I lied to you.”

Kevin Thornton hopes one day to write the ultimate Locked Room mystery. This is not yet it, but it is closer than the one before. He lives in Fort McMurray.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer Shorts - Margery Scott


This scene is the first meet between the hero, Trey Morgan, and the heroine, Claire O’Doyle. Trey won 50% of a saloon in Rocky Ridge, Colorado, in a poker game, and has come back to Rocky Ridge to sell his share to the other partner, expecting it to be Conor O’Doyle, a man he’s known all his life.

Out of the corner of her eye, Claire saw one of her girls, Eliza Baines, approaching. "There's a gentleman wanting to see you," Eliza said, her glance sliding to a tall, dark-haired man leaning against the bar near the door. "I tried to take care of him, but I don't think he wants what I have to offer."

Claire's brows lifted. "Really?" This was the first time any man had turned Eliza down

"He says that's not what he's here for. He has business with the owner."

Claire almost laughed. She'd never met a man who wasn't interested in the pleasure a woman could give him. Claire disliked this part of the business. She wished the ladies who worked for her didn't have to offer themselves to men to survive, but she was well aware that if not for her, they'd be out into the street plying their trade. At least in The Lucky Shamrock, there was safety, a warm bed and a full stomach.

Claire wove her way through the tables, all the while studying the stranger. Clean-shaven, the hint of a cleft in his chin, dark eyes ringed by the longest lashes she'd ever seen on a man. His white shirt had obviously just been laundered, and the dark red brocade vest and black frock coat told her this was no ranch hand. Broad shoulders tapered to a narrow waist and long, lean legs. Altogether, he was a pleasing sight, not at all like most of the men who spent their evenings in her saloon.

She held out her hand as she approached. "I'm Claire O'Doyle. Eliza tells me you’re wanting to speak to me."

"You're not Conor," he said. His gaze slid the length of her.

She squirmed under his scrutiny. "No, I'm not. He passed on seven months ago. I'm his daughter, Claire."

The smile on his face faded, and she wondered if she was imagining the sadness that appeared in his eyes.

"My condolences," he said. "I didn't know."

"And you are?"

"Trey Morgan." His eyes sparkled with good humor as he wrapped his fingers around her hand.

A sudden burst of heat sizzled up her arm. "What can I do for you, Mr. Morgan?"

"Is there somewhere more … private …" he began.

Claire straightened to her full height, which was still several inches shorter than his. "Mr. Morgan, I'm sure Eliza or Betsy would be happy to take care of you—"

He laughed. "I don't want a woman," he said. "At least not right now. It's business."

What kind of business could this man possible have to discuss with her? She turned and led him through a door at the rear of the saloon and into a small office beside the kitchen. He followed her and closed the door behind him.

Claire's heartbeat fluttered. She reached into the pocket she'd had sewn into her dress, wrapping her hand around the handle of the Derringer she kept there. She'd never had to use it, but there was a first time for everything. And she'd do whatever she had to do to defend herself. "Now, Mr. Morgan. What is it you want?"

"Call me Trey," he said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out the folded piece of paper with Shamus's signature on the bottom. He handed it to her.

Her eyes widened as the words sank into her brain. "What … why … that's nonsense …"

"Oh, it's absolutely true." He grinned, then added, "Partner."

Trey is available in Kindle format on, as a Nook Book at Barnes & Noble and in other eBook formats on Smashwords.

Born on the Scottish borders, Margery now lives on a lake in Canada, but travels as much as possible searching for the perfect setting for her next novel. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her wielding a pair of knitting needles or a pool cue.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Shorts - Catherine Astolfo


Ali and I

Alison was a voice. Just a voice (even before the TV show, The Voice). We’d never met in person. We were both on the Board of Crime Writers of Canada, which meets via Skype, since our members are spread all over the country. How on earth, I asked myself, could I be immediately drawn to a voice?

Yet I was. Something about the earthy, witty, honest tones made me think Ali and I could be friends. I loved that she was irreverent, unafraid to speak her mind, and really smart. Plus she could drink coffee all day long and still sleep at nights. My hero.

Suffice it to say, that when we finally met in person, we were already on the road to friendship. Social media does that these days. Recently I read that there are two schools of thought on the effects of online connections. They were talking mostly about Facebook, but I assume the results would be similar for other Internet sites. One opinion is that people become depressed, isolated and ashamed when they indulge in online socializing. On the other hand, some believe that social media is good for us, bringing together people who would not otherwise be connected, and allowing outlets for introverted folks.

For me, online socializing or meeting has so far been a good thing. Alison is a great example of someone I began to like simply by hearing her voice. Once I got to read her writing, and connect on other social media, I liked her even more. We still don’t get to see one another in person too often, but I enjoy her company immensely. I don’t have to miss her, since I can connect online.

What turned out to be even better was that I liked Alison’s writing and she liked mine. It can be awkward when that doesn’t happen, but when it does, it’s magical. Sharing the joy and the disappointment or success of the writer’s life brought us even closer, in a relatively short period of time.

Having friends in authorship is extremely rewarding. Even though our writing is quite different, it’s still like working for the same company. The rewards, the work, and the angst are very similar. Sitting in a Tim Horton’s telling Alison my writer troubles restarts my muse immediately. In my latest book, Sweet Karoline, I even have a character named Alison.

Sweet Karoline’s birth was a long and hard labour. Sometimes it’s like that. You certainly don’t end up liking your baby any less. In fact, you often like them best (just don’t tell her siblings). After four Emily Taylor mysteries, I went to a standalone. It was much more difficult than I thought, but Anne, the main character in Karoline, refused to be part of a series.  She’s quite headstrong. Fortunately I have friends like Alison who understand that kind of blockage and that sort of willful character without thinking you’ve gone insane.

Now back to getting ready for Sweet Karoline’s coming-out party. Online primarily, of course. And guess who will be there?

For all the news about and links to Catherine, visit her website: She’d love to online socialize with you, too!

Catherine Astolfo is one of my heroes too. She's not only a wonderful writer, but she's an indomitable spirit and wonderful friend... which is why I know she won't mind when I stick a promotional banner below her post. ;)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer Shorts - Brief Interlude

Captain's Log

Or how I met your father because of Star Trek

Yes kids, your father and I were Star Trek geeks.


Okay, still are. We used to dress up in Starfleet uniforms and role play...

Yes, I know your dad still does that but he's a vampire now... Or is it a vampire hunter? Spy? Jedi Knight? Look, he's my ex now. You can't expect me to keep track.

No, hon. That's not why he's my ex. Not exactly.

See, when we met, I was Captain and he was a Lieutenant. We were fighting the Dominion War (in a manner of speaking) and you know how things are in war time. Okay you don't know. Use your imagination.

He was a tall, handsome redhead. He thought I had the most beautiful green eyes...

Yeah, I know. My eyes are blue. He was a little confused.

Anyway, the war was going badly. The stress of sending people into danger was kinda getting to me - at least that's how your father wrote it in his story. He read it aloud in our writing group and ... ahem, anyway, it was all very romantic even if he did get my eye colour wrong.

Then the war was over. We had a daughter to raise and real jobs and real life. We didn't stop loving each other, but we didn't bring out the best in each other either. He wanted more adventure. I had a ship to run. The Lieutenant became a diplomatic attache with a secret life. The Captain was, and always shall be Captain. In fact, I was just talking to the Chief Engineer about some of the weapon's modifications on the refit.

What? You don't want to know? You want to watch an episode of Supernatural?

Fair enough. I'm a part-time demon hunter too.

Captain Bruce

In another life, Alison Bruce was captain of the Guelph Star Trek Club - USS Welfen. She lost her captain's jacket but she still has the maternity uniform from when she had to do a costume appearance while pregnant with her first child.

Currently, she is the author of Under A Texas Star, Deadly Legacy and Hazardous Union - the last of which was written with Kat Flannery and is being released by Imajin Books in August 2013.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Shorts - Gloria Ferris Kicks off the Summer


By Gloria Ferris

Viper watched the woman slip between the cemetery gates. He had been waiting for a long time, ever since he figured things out.

He had memories of her babbling to the moon and waving a wand around on the day he was buried. A year ago today. And he was still here. Well, tonight she was going to fix it so he could leave.

His girlfriend had taken his Rolex before they slammed his coffin lid shut. To remember him by, she told the undertaker. Greedy bitch. But, it didn’t matter. For some reason, he knew things, dumb things, like times and dates. It was June 21st, about ten o’clock and just getting dark.

The moon was three-quarters full and waxing – another stupid thing he knew, and who cared whether the moon was coming or going? June 21st was important to witches, though. This one’s name was Lily. Too bad he was dead because he liked big blondes.

He watched Lily drag a heavy sports bag behind her and set up an altar on a table gravestone. It was time to introduce himself.

Lily shivered and glanced up from her preparations. The silhouettes of branches waved in the warm breeze, and the outlines of granite markers stretched out in front of her. She heard the faint rattle of chains.

A shadow detached from a tall monument and the rattling sound grew louder. Lily’s heart slammed against her ribs as the shadow drifted closer. When the shape of a man appeared in front of her altar, she screamed and gripped her wand tighter.

“Who are you?” Her voice came out as a squeak.

“The name’s Viper, Lil.”

He wore a sleeveless leather vest with multiple chains holding the front edges together, and a Hells Angels patch on the chest. A black bandana covered his head. Colourful tattoos of naked women and dragons snaked up his arms, and red licks of flame curled around his neck.

“I have a knife.” She picked up her ceremonial two-edged dagger. If she ran, she might make it to the gates. Could she actually use the dagger if he caught her?

The biker laughed. “I’m dead already, Lil. I’ve been waiting for you to come back and fix your screw-up.” His mirth faded as he read the title of the book on the altar: Magic for Newbies.

If this was a ghost, Lily decided she could just pack up and leave. The dead couldn’t hurt you. “Why do you think it’s my fault you’re – ah – earth bound?”

“I died, I’m still here, and you were standing in that spot this time last year chanting witchy stuff. I heard you.”

“How do I know you’re really a ghost? This might be some kind of joke.” For the first time, she was sorry she had left the coven in a huff and set up as a solitary practitioner. Backup would be helpful right now.

Viper folded his arms and moved closer. “See this do-rag on my head? The mortician used it to hide the hole where I hit an overpass bridge doing a buck thirty. I can take it off and let you look. Or, you can try and stab me with your sissy blade.”

Lily decided against either of these options. “Okay, I believe you. I don’t think I’m responsible, but I’ll try and help. Give me a minute.”

She consulted her manual, and then busied herself preparing a batch of Spirit Portal Incense from cinnamon, lavender and wormwood. Hopping over to a recent burial, she grabbed a handful of loose earth. Just for good measure.

Viper stood with arms crossed, watching closely. He was making her nervous, and that made her chatty. “You know, this ritual should really be performed on Halloween when the veil between worlds is the thinnest. Today is the Summer Solstice, time for new forms of life …”

“I ain’t waiting until Halloween. By dawn, I aim to be riding a brand new Harley with straight pipes and all the chrome St. Peter can rustle up. I’m going to ride with my bros. Forever.”

Lily glanced up at him worriedly. “The afterlife may not be what you think. Our energy merges with the elements — earth, fire, water, and air …”

“Bullshit, Lil. I don’t want to hear any of that New Age crap. Let’s get this over with.”

With a box of salt, Lily drew shapes on the bricked path. Around a pentagram she drew a circle, leaving a narrow opening. “Step through the breach and stand inside the pentagram.”

She poured the incense into a silver bowl and lit it, then set it on the ground beside Viper. She closed the gap in the circle with more salt. “We’re ready to begin.”

Lily raised her arms in the V position. “O, Lady of the Moon, look upon this wretched soul. Grant him passage from this shadowy vale and welcome him into the realm of your blessed elements …”

Viper shifted as the smoking bowl vibrated, then tipped, spilling its contents over his feet. Before he could tell her to shut up about the elements, a bright light poured onto him from the sky. He closed his eyes. His body quaked and shivered, and every cell exploded. He was on his way! Soon, he’d see his buddies, Stork and Randy, who fell in a hail of Bandito bullets a couple of years ago.

When he opened his eyes, he was still in the cemetery. Lily stared at him, hand to her mouth. He looked down at himself.

Yeah, somehow, he was going to kill her.

Lily watched as the little – something – kicked the salt aside and staggered drunkenly towards her. It reached back over its shoulder and straightened a tattered wing, then fluttered up to her altar. It was naked and black as tar all over. Maybe she shouldn’t have dropped that handful of earth from the grave into the Incense.

A choking noise came from the tiny body. “Ptui!”

Lily scarcely breathed as it coughed up a black wad that hit the ground with a wet thud.

“Graveyard dirt don’t taste so good,” stated the being. A flame shot from one clawed hand and ignited a nearby bush. The next instant, a stream of water spurted from the other claw and extinguished the fire. “Cool.”

It turned and blew the marble angel right off a tombstone fifty yards away. “Alright!”

“Viper?” What she had done? Earth, fire, water, and air.

“Well, babe, you really screwed up this time.” The elemental creature stretched its slit of a mouth into a leer. “Guess I’ll be staying with you for a while. I hope you’re a Sons of Anarchy fan.”

A former technical writer, Gloria’s first paranormal mystery, Cheat the Hangman, won the 2012 Bony Blithe Award for best light mystery. Corpse Flower will be published this year and she is working on a sequel. She occasionally writes a short story or novella just for the heck of it.

Twitter @GloriaFerris