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Spotlight on Unexpected Outcomes by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

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Spotlight on Unexpected Outcomes by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson Unexpected Outcomes by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson
Series: Angela Panther Mystery #4
Published by the author on September 19, 2017
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 219
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When a frantic 911 call stumps a suburban Atlanta police department, psychic medium Angela Panther steps in to assist. Without a body or a ransom note, the cops question whether there's even a case, but Angela's certain the woman's dead.

With the help of her best friend Mel and celestial super sleuth mother, Angela searches for proof of the woman's murder.

Desperate to connect the dots, she rushes her intuition and comes face to face with the killer, only this time, she's on her own.

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

“I can’t believe I’m gonna die. Please, no. Why are you shooting at us?”

I pulled the trigger and watched as the bullet raced through the air, smacking my best friend in the center of her chest.

I bolted upright; sweat dripping from my forehead, tears streaming down my cheeks, my heart beating faster than ever. I’d just dreamed I’d shot my best friend. My best friend. “It’s just a dream,” I mumbled. “Just a dream.”

My husband, Jake rolled over and rubbed my leg. “You okay, Babe?”

I lay down and snuggled into him. “I just shot Mel in my dream.”

He squeezed his arms tight around me. “We both know that would never happen. You’d be lost without her. It was just a dream. Don’t let it upset you.”

I glanced at the clock. It was four AM, and I knew I wouldn’t fall back asleep, so I kissed Jake and got up for the day, resigned to the fact that I’d be exhausted before nightfall. I shuffled to the bathroom, closed the double doors, and flipped on the light. My eyes sunk like anchors in the blue and black pits swelling below them. Sleep eluded me most nights, and the nights I did catch a few z’s, were restless and fitful, and it showed.

Downstairs I made a fresh pot of coffee and while waiting for it to finish, replayed the dream in my head. Nothing was clear except Mel. Images of gravel and trees flashed briefly, too fuzzy and indistinct to identify with any clarity. My gift was communicating with the dead, not predicting the future, and half of me thought the dream meant nothing. The other half though threw red flags up all over the kitchen, practically screaming Danger, Will Robinson. That half knew the Universe didn’t have a rulebook and the fear of what it could mean crushed my heart like a ton of bricks. Six months ago I couldn’t feel what a ghost felt, but that had changed, so I knew anything was possible, and that scared the bejesus out of me. I powered on my phone and pounded out a text to Mel.

“I had a bad dream,” I wrote.

It didn’t take long for her to respond. That’s how best friends worked. No matter what time it was, they were there when we needed them. “Wow, me too. It was so strange. I shot you.”

My heart raced into the anaerobic zone. I snatched my keys from the key box, slipped on my tennis shoes and bolted out the door and into my car in the garage. Both of us having the same dream wasn’t a coincidence. It meant something, and I didn’t need my spidey sense to tell me that.

I sped fifteen miles over the speed limit and made it to Mel’s house in record time. I killed the lights as I drove into her driveway, and sent her a text. “Don’t freak when the garage door opens; it’s just me.” I’d had the code for years, just like she had mine because best friends shared that kind of stuff.

She met me in her kitchen, her long black hair pulled into a bun, and her feet snuggled into the fuzzy teddy bear slippers I’d bought her for Christmas last year. “It’s a little early for coffee, doncha think?”

I couldn’t speak. I just flung myself at her and wrapped my arms around her neck, holding on for dear life.

“I…I…you’re cutting off my oxygen.”

I softened my vice-hold but didn’t let go.

She broke free and raised her eyebrows my direction. “I’m sorry I killed you, but it was just a dream.” She shuffled over to her coffee maker and grabbed the pot. “Flavored or regular?” Clearly, ending my life didn’t impact her as much as her death did me. Then again, she didn’t know I’d bumped her off too. The double sucker punch would surely knock her out, or at least I’d hoped it would.

I sat at the counter feeling a bit embarrassed for freaking out but based on the changes in my life over the past few years; I was justified. “Either is fine.”

She rinsed the pot and asked again why I’d showed up at such an ungodly hour.

I knew Mel’s dream increased the probability of the Universe giving me a message I didn’t want to hear. Was Mel going to die? Was I? And by whose hand? I couldn’t imagine any situation where I’d kill my best friend, but then again, a few years ago I couldn’t imagine talking to dead people, and that was a daily occurrence.

She placed a fresh cup of coffee next to me. I held it to my nose and took in the spicy, fruity smell, stalling to answer her question.

“So you gonna spill it or are we gonna sit here and pretend you’re just here to hang out at butt-early o’clock?”

“How did you kill me?”

“Why? You do something that would cause me to carry through?” She giggled, but I didn’t think it was funny and my expression told her so. Her smile flipped over. “Come on, what’s going on?”

“I dreamed I killed you too.”

She dropped into the seat next to me. “Well, that’s alarming.”

I nodded.

“I shot you twice in the chest. Some place outside, but I’m not sure where. It was a quick dream.”

“Mine too, and it was the same.” I sipped my drink. “Did I say anything to you?”

She tightened her bun. “I think so, but I can’t remember.”

“I can’t believe I’m gonna die. Why are you shooting at us?”

She pointed at me. “That’s really freaky.”

It was.

“But,” She rubbed my shoulder. “We didn’t shoot each other, and we’re not going to, so it’s all good. Now can you go home so I can go back to sleep? I’ve got a busy day tomorrow. Deadlines.”

“It means something. I know it does.”

She stared into her cup. “I know you’re right, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that we can’t rush the powers that be into telling us what we don’t know. If you’re supposed to find out, you will. If you’re not, you won’t. But I don’t think one of us is gonna bite the bullet anytime soon.” She grimaced. No pun intended.”

“I would never shoot you.”

“Of course not. You don’t have a gun.”

“There is that.”

“But I do.” The left side of her upper lip lifted. “And I know how to use it.”

“So in other words, don’t tick you off.”

“If I didn’t shoot my cheating ex-husband, there sure as heck ain’t any reason I’d shoot you.”

“You didn’t have a gun then.”

“Good point.”

I guzzled the last bit of my coffee and when I stood, hugged her again. “I love you.”

“Who doesn’t?” She joked and squeezed me back as hard as I’d squeezed her. “Love you too.”

I drove home thinking about the dream, the air in the car replaced by an impending doom so thick, if I’d had a knife, I could have sliced it into pieces.

* * *

“I can’t believe I’m gonna die. Please, no. Why are you shooting at us?”

I jumped high enough out of my seat I nearly smacked my head on the ceiling of Detective Aaron Banner’s office. “Oh, my gosh, last night Mel and I dreamed we said the same things to each other.”

He smacked his hand down on the stop button of the recorder, and we locked eyes. “Care to explain?”

I did.

He rewound the tape and played it again from start to finish. The boom of a gunshot echoed through the recorder. Something heavy dropped onto the ground with a thud. A woman screamed. “No, why? Oh my God, no.”

A man’s voice mumbled something I couldn’t make out. Then another man muttered something else, but I couldn’t understand him either. Whatever happened, happened in real time, and it was abominable.

“Why? Please God, don’t kill me. My babies. They need me. I can’t believe I’m gonna die. Please, no. Why are you shooting at us?”

The line went dead.

I rubbed my neck. The call had come into the dispatch center earlier that morning, and Aaron called me in to help.

“It’s hard to listen to. Sounds like maybe two men and a woman, but I’m not sure. Thought you might be able to help us with her identity or maybe the location. We don’t know if it’s a robbery or an assault or if the woman is dead—nothing.”

The woman on the line never spoke to the operator directly, and never said her name. It appeared she was just trying to give clues to what was happening. Because of the shots, time was important, and we didn’t have much of it.

“The operator called back once the line went dead. Got a voicemail for a girl named Sarah.”

“Can you trace the call or find out the billing address for the owner?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Track phone. They’re not traceable. We’ve been calling the number back since we received the call, but it just goes straight to voicemail.” He paused and played the recording one more time. “Usually the phone company doesn’t keep the information on the purchaser, but the carrier gave us the number for the last call. Belongs to a man by the name of Stu Walker.” He tapped a pencil on his desk.

“Have you called him or sent anyone out there?”

“Got voicemail on his line, too. Sent a squad out twice already but no one’s been home. Thought I’d call you and have you come out with me.”

I stood. “Let’s go.”

Aaron and I met a few years back when a little boy’s spirit asked me to give his parents a message. I’d been able to communicate with spirits for some time, though according to my mother Fran Richter, I’d done it as a child too, but as I aged, the gift lessened until it disappeared completely. It resurfaced when my mother died and decided to test the psychic waters. When her ghost appeared to me, I thought I’d flipped my lid. It was even harder when other ghosts came around asking for help with their earthly business. I wasn’t thrilled at first but eventually realized the curse was truly a gift. Ever since Aaron saw my gift up close and personal, I’d been his psychic medium consultant, off the record and free of charge. We’d also become friends, and I was grateful for all of it, but for the friendship most of all.

We arrived at a shabby brown stucco house on the outskirts of town, where the city had yet to pilfer all the farmland from its owners and stack two hundred plus home nearly on top of each other in an upscale, amenities-laden subdivisions. The house was in disrepair, with shutters hanging by a hair and a boarded up window in the garage. A Pitbull sat chained to a tree near the gravel driveway. It was thirsty and tired. I wanted to unleash it and take it home with me. The whole scene matched the stereotype image other parts of the country have of the south. I said a silent thank you to the Universe for the blessings in my life.

Aaron knocked on the door and a young man, maybe in his twenties, with a shaved head and a dark, brown, at least six-inch long beard, opened it. “Yeah?”

My spidey senses sent a smidgen of a tingle zipping down my spine.

Aaron flashed his badge. “You Stu Walker?”

The man’s shoulders curved inward just a bit. “Yessir.”

“We understand you made a call to a woman named Sarah at about 9 AM this morning. Can you tell me anything about that woman?”

He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Uh, yeah. Sarah Rochen. My cousin. Why you asking?”

“We’re trying to locate her whereabouts. Do you happen to know where she is?”

I caught his eyes widen for a millisecond. Had I blinked, I would have missed it. It sent my spidey sense shooting back up my spine like a just lit firework.

He examined the ground near his feet and then shook his head. “I haven’t talked to her since this mornin’, but you might could talk to her ma.”

Aaron took down the mother’s phone number. “Thank you, Mr. Walker. What was your conversation with Ms. Rochen about?”

He rubbed his head. “I told her I might could get her a new car, and she was supposed to call me back later today to go and see it before she went back to Savannah.”

“Do you know why she was going to Savannah?”

“That’s where she lives.”

“Do you know what she was planning to do today or why she was in town?”

He shook his head. “Something ‘bout seeing her kids.” He hemmed and hawed and kicked at the ground. “I don’t know anything about it really, but her ma might know.”

Aaron cut the meeting short. “You got an address for her mother?”

“I don’t know the address, but I could get you there from here.”

“It’s okay. I can get it through my department. Thank you for your time. You have a nice day.”

I smiled at him and followed Aaron back to the car.

In the car I gave Aaron my two cents. “Something’s not right about that guy.”

“He’s just a good ol’ country boy.” He got on his car radio and asked to have an address run on Sarah Rochen’s mother’s cell number. “You have time to go there, too?”

“Sure.”

Based on the address, her mother was only fifteen minutes from where we were. Dawsonville was growing, but there were still a lot of traditional neighborhoods and farms instead of designated subdivisions like mine. Sarah’s mother, LuAnn Jacobs, lived in one of them. Her house, a blue and white, hardieplank sided ranch, sat on a small, weed infested hill. Aaron trudged up the gravel and dirt driveway, and the bumping from the holes in it agitated my sciatica. I rubbed my leg to relieve the throbbing.

LuAnn Jacobs answered the door immediately. “We’re looking to convert, but thanks.” She slammed the door before Aaron could respond.

I giggled under my breath. Aaron however, did not.

He tapped on the door once more. “Mrs. Jacobs, I’m Detective Aaron Banner.” He flipped his badge toward where the closed door met the frame.

She cracked the door open, snuck a peek at the badge, and then swung it open again.

“G’moring, ma’am. Earlier this morning we received a 911 call from a woman who we now believe to be your daughter, Sarah Rochen.”

Aaron explained that the call was disturbing, but didn’t go into any detail. “Have you heard from your daughter, Mrs. Jacobs?”

“Uh, not since breakfast. What’s going on?”

“Do you know why Sarah was in town?”

She clasped her arms across her chest, and in a sticky, almost too sweet voice, said, “Yeah. Uh, she and her husband Larry, they came up from Savannah yesterday, for a visit and maybe to buy a new car.”

A man stood in the doorway behind Mrs. Jacobs. His greasy brown hair was long enough to be pulled into a ponytail at the base of his neck. We made eye contact, and I shivered. The man was scary.

Mrs. Jacobs chewed a piece of gum the way Emily did, her mouth open, making juicy, chomping sounds while she spoke. “Just for a visit. They came to visit.” She explained that they’d come to see their two daughters, and they’d hoped to take them home if they could get approval for the new car.

I forced back the anger brewing in the pit of my stomach. My misophonia—generally coined the hatred of human sounds, and particularly those related to eating—fought to get the best of me, but I refused to let it, instead, focusing on the task at hand.

“Can you explain why her children are here in town?” Aaron asked.

“The county took them away, and they’re living with family ‘til Sarah and Larry get their house in order. They came here so they could get a safe car. Stu was supposed to get them a deal on one.

“When did they arrive?”

“Yesterday.”

“When was the last time you saw your daughter?”

“Last night. She came by to visit with Ashley.”

“Is that one of her daughters?”

“Her oldest. She’s been living with us,” she angled her body toward the man behind her and placed her hand on his shoulder. “My husband Johnny and me, ‘til this whole mess is handled.”

I glanced back at the man and caught him eyeing me again, but he cut away and focused on his wife. The hairs on the back of my neck shot to attention.

“What happened when she came by last night?”

“Nothing. She came by to visit Ashley, and Larry stayed back at the hotel so she could have some alone time with her kid. Also because we don’t want that man here at our house.”

“Why is that?”

“He’s not good enough for my kid or her babies.”

My brain wrestled between her words and the juicy chomping. I wanted to reach into her mouth and yank the clump of gum out like I used to do with my kids, but of course, I couldn’t. I had to force myself to focus on her words, not the chomping.

She said they’d decided to stay at a hotel somewhere about halfway between her house and Sarah’s cousin, Jenny’s house, where her other daughter, Lizzie stayed. LuAnn explained that Sarah told her they’d planned to see Lizzie the next day.

“They got that little two-door thing, and those back seats just aren’t big enough for two car seats, and the seatbelts don’t work neither, so they hoped to get a minivan or an SUV. Stu said he knew someone who could give them a good deal.”

“Is Ashley here with you now?” Aaron asked.

She nodded, and I noticed her husband’s facial expression shift. If I’d blinked, I would have missed it. “She’s in the kitchen eating pancakes. You wanna see her?” She poked her husband. “Johnny, go fetch Ash for them, will ya?”

He stood there for a second, his eyes drilling into his wife’s.

She grimaced. “Please?” Chomp.

A minute later a petite, strawberry blond haired girl ambled over to the door, Johnny’s hand squeezing her left shoulder. She kept her eyes glued to the ground, even though I’d raised the tone of my voice several octaves when I said hi. Her skin was so pasty, I assumed she hadn’t seen the sun in months, and it was unlikely she’d had a good meal in that time either, her face shallow, her cheeks barely there. It made my heart hurt. The good news was she was safe with her grandmother, even though she didn’t appear happy about it.

“Okay,” Aaron said. “So they stayed at the hotel last night?”

“Right, and then they were going to her cousin’s to see Lizzie. I just…I just talked to her a bit ago. She was happy. She was excited to possibly be getting to take her babies home with her.”

“What kind of car were they driving?” Aaron asked.

“Lemme think about that for a bit.” She chewed on the gum like a cow.

“Johnny, what kind of car they do they have again?”

“One of those old Datsuns. A 240Z, I think.”

“That’s right. A gold one. Larry loves that car. He’s torn up that they have to sell it. Too bad for them. Shouldn’t have bought something like that with the babies.” She rubbed her hands together. “Is my baby okay?”

“We’re doing our best to find out, ma’am.” Aaron asked for Sarah’s cousin’s contact information, wrote it down, and then closed his notebook. “We’ll be in touch as soon as we have more information. In the meantime though, if you could write any phone numbers you have for Larry and Sarah, as well as their address, I’d appreciate it.” He handed her his notepad and pen. “And if you hear from your daughter or think of something that might help us, please call me right away.”

She wrote out the information and handed him back his things as he gave her his business card.

As LuAnn closed the door, her husband pushed it back open and stepped outside. “I was you, I’d be looking at Larry Rochen for doing something he ought not to do.” He spoke as if he’d just had a tooth pulled, and his face was still numb, except from the looks of his teeth, it was obvious he hadn’t been to a dentist in years.

Aaron had already stepped away from the door, but he paused and flipped back around. “Why is that?”

He pushed back his shoulders. “Marriage was doomed from the start.”

LuAnn Jacobs opened the door and stepped partially out. “Everything okay out here?”

Johnny Jacobs’s face morphed into a snarl like one of a dog ready to attack. “Get inside, woman.”

Her jaw tensed, and I caught her hands form into fists. She noticed me notice them, released them, and did as she was told.

Back in the car, Aaron called in the make and model of the Rochen’s vehicle and got the tag number. “Set up a BOLO for the vehicle and notify the surrounding counties,” he told his dispatch. He dialed Jenny’s number and put the call on speaker.

“She’s not here,” Jenny said. “She called and said she had something to do before she came by, and she’d call on her way.” She confirmed Lizzie was still there.

Aaron asked her to notify him if she heard from her cousin, but didn’t give any details as to why. I assumed he figured the word would get out soon enough.

“Do you think Larry’s involved?” I asked. “Johnny Jacobs sure threw him under the bus. Actually, LuAnn Jacobs didn’t seem like that big of a fan, either.”

“We usually look at the spouse first in domestic cases.” He headed south on the highway. “We’ll go back to the department, and I’ll find out what we can about him and his family. I’ll get the DA to ask for a warrant to get their financials. See if there’s been any recent transactions since the call, or shortly before. You get anything from the mother?”

I exhaled. “I’m pretty sure I’ve explained the difference between psychic and psychic medium before, so…”

He nodded. “I know the difference, but you’ve got a good—what does Mel call it?”

“Spidey sense?”

He snapped his fingers and pointed at me. “Spidey sense. Figured it was worth a shot to ask.”

“Actually, spidey sense is my term, and I did notice LuAnn didn’t refer to Johnny as Sarah’s father, but other than that, not really. But there’s definitely something off about him.”

“You don’t have to be psychic to notice that. I’m guessing he’s a stepparent.”

“Did her chewing grate on your last nerve?”

He laughed. “The kinds of things I see every day, that’s nothing.”

“Yeah? Well, someone needs to teach that woman some manners. Five more minutes and my brain would have imploded.”

“Glad you didn’t leave me with that mess.”

“You should be. It would have been massive.”

“I bet.”

He dropped me off at my car in the department’s parking lot, and I headed home, calling Mel on the way. “Just hung out with your boy toy.”

“Without me? Rude.”

“Deadlines, remember?”

Aaron and Mel had been a couple for some time, and things were serious between them. They were happy, and I was happy they were happy. After Mel’s husband cheated on her with a younger woman—whom he knocked up and married—she definitely deserved happiness. Though the relationship was a bit awkward for me at first, her dating my uno

“Did you give him a sloppy kiss for me?”

“Yup. A big one, wet, tongue-wrestling one. I think he liked it, too.”

“Oh goodie, because that’s all he’s getting today. These deadlines are gonna be the death of me.” She heavy-sighed.

“You’re working a lot lately.”

“Don’t I know it.”

“I miss hanging out with you. ” My voice bordering on whiny.

“Right back atcha, and you can blame the cheating rat bas—“ She cut herself off. “My ex for that. I don’t get to spend a lotta time with my kids either.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It is what it is. I just don’t like it a whole lot.”

“Neither do I, but you’re providing for your kids and showing them how a single mother steps up, and that’s important.”

“Can you tell them that, please? All they do is complain about me never having time for them.”

“They’re young. They’ll understand eventually.” I knew that didn’t matter at the moment, but it was all I could think to say.

“Well, eventually better come soon because I can only handle so much.”

I decided not to tell her about the 911 call and the connection between our dream since she already had enough on her plate. “Anyway, he’s got me helping him with a possible case. Lemme know when you’ve got time to discuss.”

I made it home just in time for my oldest kid Emily, to ignore me. She’d been on a roll as of late, only talking to me when it was an absolute must. She felt she had reason and to a point she sort of did, but it’d been going on for months, and my patience bucket had reached its limit and teetered on its edge.

A few months back her boyfriend Mike’s mother was killed in a car accident. He was at our house when I found out, and since the Universe had a wicked sense of humor, that’s when his mother’s spirit decided to make an appearance. As the saying goes, the poop hit the fan.

Emily didn’t know about my gift. Jake and I had decided to keep it from her because she bordered a bit on ridiculously overly dramatic to the hundredth power, and what she didn’t know wouldn’t make us crazy. With the death of Michelle Stevenson, Mike’s mom, she’d obviously found out. I’d been working to re-establish trust with her ever since but to no avail. Emily got her stubbornness from me, and sometimes dealing with her was like looking into a magical mirror and glimpsing bits of teenaged Angela and middle-aged Fran and their relationship. It made me want to apologize to my mom.

Repeatedly.

I’d chosen to handle Emily’s latest angst with a slow and steady approach. It hadn’t worked, but I refused to give up. It was better than the alternative; losing my cool, which never worked either, and usually just caused more drama. “Hey Em, how’s it hangin’?” Ugh. My attempts at being cool, calm and collected had such an 80s air to them.

She sat on the couch, I assumed, planning creative ways to ignore me.

My mother shimmered in beside her. “Ah Madone, this kid ain’t ever gonna forgive you if you don’t try and make her.”

I’d already told Emily her grandmother was present more often than not, but she couldn’t see her, and that just made her even more angry with me. Knowing her brother, Josh also had the gift made it a billion times worse, too.

“Your grandmother says I should use force to get you to stop being mad at me.”

“I didn’t say that. I said you oughta make her forgive you.”

“Okay, I stand corrected. She’s saying I should make you forgive me. Apparently, there’s a difference.”

Emily scanned the room for her grandmother. When she couldn’t see her, she huffed and stood. “Can you not? It’s really bizarre, you like, talking to Grandma.” She stomped to the stairs and pounded up them to her room where she drove her point home by banging her bedroom door closed.

“That went well,” I said.

“You oughta drag her back down here by her ear lobe. Time she stops acting like a two-year-old.”

Well then, Ma’s patience had plummeted to rock bottom too, but she was right. I initially thought I’d give Emily some time to adjust to the news, to deal with the fact that ghosts actually existed, and that some of them, her grandmother included, showed up at our house. It turned out my gift didn’t impress her, and she already believed in ghosts. She was peeved we’d kept it a secret, but wouldn’t fess up to what bothered her the most, so all I could do was assume it was that Josh shared my ability. And that was somehow my fault because apparently, I could control what the Universe did. “Why is everything always my fault with that kid? It’s impossible to change something I can’t control.”

“That right there is whatcha call karma. You did the same thing to me when you were her age.”

I rolled my eyes. “I didn’t blame you for everything.”

“You gotta be kidding me. You blamed me for your wavy hair, those child-bearing hips, and remember that whole 1966 red Mustang thing? That was my fault too.”

“Well, actually that kinda was. Had you married that guy I could have had it.”

When I was sixteen, her fiancé Buddy died, she briefly dated a wealthy man who wanted to marry her so badly he told me if I could convince her to, he’d get me a 1966 red Mustang. I gave it my best shot, but couldn’t close the deal, and I never let her forget it.

“I didn’t love him, and I couldn’t help that. I wanted my Buddy, and no one else compared.”

I didn’t understand that until I met Jake. If something–God forbid—ever happened to him, I’d spend the rest of my life alone. My stepmother Helen once said something about my father, and it made sense to me. She said, when you’ve had the best, no one else could live up to that, so why bother trying? I realized my mother never dated anyone after Buddy died, and I understood why.

“I know, but it was a red 1966 Mustang.”

“But it was a red 1966 Mustang. Madone, and it woulda been a loveless marriage.”

“I know, and I get that now, but then all I cared about was myself. What you wanted didn’t even cross my mind.”

She raised her eyebrows.

The irony hit me. I dipped my head back and sighed. “I hate it when you do that.” I poured myself a glass of water and plopped onto a barstool. “I don’t know what to do.”

“You gotta show her that she’s got a bit of the gift, too.”

“But she doesn’t.”

“That don’t matter.”

“Okay then, how do you propose I do that?”

“Ya know, give her a few signs, make her recognize them. Like you got mad at me for doing before.”

Ma had tossed a few pillows, moved a few things on Em’s dressers, and one time she ripped the sheets off her bed after a miracle had happened, and Emily had actually made the thing. Instead of getting the hints, Emily just accused a family member—me—of deliberately messing up her room and of course, snooping. But now that she knows her grandmother is around if Ma did it again, she might realize it’s not me, but her Grandmother, and maybe she’ll think she’s got a little bit of the gift. Maybe being the operative word in that sentence.

“That’s not a bad idea,” I said. “But it’s probably—”

Before I could add to that, she interrupted me. “I’m on it.”

I chuckled, figuring she’d probably headed up to her granddaughter’s room to toss a pillow or two.

I snatched a Diet Coke—affectionately known as Diet Crack in my house—from the fridge and headed to the deck, my place for contemplation and focus. I wanted to try and connect with Sarah Rochen. If she was dead, and I was pretty sure she was, I might be able to concentrate on her spirit and find her. If I was wrong, and she wasn’t, then I was out of luck.

Summoning spirit wasn’t tops on my list of things to do. I could do it, but I didn’t like it, so I avoided it as much as possible. Mel once asked me what I didn’t like about it, and I couldn’t come up with anything other than it made me feel icky. Feeling icky wasn’t reason enough not to do something except workout, so I centered my mind on the photo LuAnn Jacobs gave Aaron and gave it a shot.

“Sarah, can you hear me?” I closed my eyes and thought about the things she’d done since coming to town. “Sarah? Hello? You there?”
The dream played like a movie in my mind’s eye. Me holding a gun pointed at Mel. Mel on her knees, begging me not to shoot her. The gravel, the trees. Pulling the trigger. The booming sound of the bullet exploding from the gun.

I flinched, and my eyes burst open. Sarah was definitely dead. I just had to figure out what was trying to tell me through the dream. Whatever it was, was key to what happened, where we’d find her body, and the answers to the questions running through my mind. And I wouldn’t stop trying to find out until I figured it out.

***

Excerpt from Unexpected Outcomes by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson. Copyright © 2017 by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson. Reproduced with permission from Carolyn Ridder Aspenson. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

Carolyn Ridder Aspenson currently calls the Atlanta suburbs home, but can’t rule out her other two homes, Indianapolis and somewhere in the Chicago suburbs.

She is old enough to share her empty nest with her husband, two dogs and two cats, all of which she strongly obsesses over repeatedly noted on her Facebook and Instagram accounts, and is working on forgiving her kids for growing up and leaving the nest. When she is not writing, editing, playing with her animals or contemplating forgiving her kids, she is sitting at Starbucks listening in on people’s conversations and taking notes, because that stuff is great for book ideas. (You have officially been warned!)

On a more professional note, she is the bestselling author of the Angela Panther cozy mystery series featuring Unfinished Business An Angela Panther Mystery, Unbreakable Bonds An Angela Panther Mystery and Uncharted Territory An Angela Panther Mystery, The Christmas Elf, An Angela Panther Holiday Short, The Ghosts, An Angela Panther Holiday Short, The Inn At Laurel Creek, a contemporary romance novella, Santa’s Gift, a Cumming Christmas Novella and 8 To Lose The Weight, a lifestyle eating program. Carolyn is also a freelance writer and editor with Literati Editing.

For more information, visit http://carolynridderaspenson.com
www.facebook.com/carolynridderaspensonauthor
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Carolynridderaspenson on Instagram
Twitter: @awritingwoman

 

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When the Sky Falls by Joseph Bendoski

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When the Sky Falls by Joseph Bendoski

When the Sky Falls by Joseph Bendoski When the Sky Falls by Joseph Bendoski
Series: Sky Fall Event Series #1
Published by the author on March 24, 2017
Source: Pump Up Your Book!
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 408
Format: Paperback
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In 1938 the War of the Worlds hoax panicked millions of Americans, then in 1988 another fictional media broadcast convinced nearly half of Portugal that sea monsters had risen from the ocean to destroy their cities. A team of CIA agents was sent to study the aftermath of this 6th Skyfall Event in the hope that they could turn it into a weapon of war. When the team consultant turns up dead, everyone scrambles to be the last man standing: the one who will decide if or when the sky falls.

I loved the concept of When the Sky Falls and it was clearly well-researched. Sky Fall Events cause mass panic in a population, but the “news” itself is fictional. It’s a little complicated subject, but fascinating really. The writing style is direct, which works here.

The book starts off with a really gripping scene, which you can read below.

A couple of complaints. First, there are a lot of characters. It was a bit difficult to keep track of them and several of them are not as well-developed as they could be. Second, there was a bit too much violence for me personally, especially in the second half of the book. I guess I just wasn’t expecting it.

Read an excerpt:

Porto, Portugal. October 30, 1988

The lights flickered and went dark, that’s when it started. Luis reached up and adjusted the bulb with his fingers. The hot glass burned his skin. He gritted his teeth as the sensation grew stronger. He doubted the bulb was the problem. The TV, fan and even the street light outside the apartment all died in the same moment. “Is this normal for an earthquake?”

Car headlights flashed through the windows reflecting off Renata’s long, dark hair. “It’s not an earthquake. They already said that.”

Luis let go of the bulb. Only a moment ago, the emergency broadcast system had come on the air. It’s strobing red light, and high pitched siren blared through every apartment. It was followed by men in lab coats being interviewed. They warned everyone that something was coming, and before they could finish the power cut out, the one thing they had said was, “it’s not an earthquake.”

The street outside the window was still lightless, and Luis went to check the fuse box. It wouldn’t do much good. If the entire neighborhood lost power, it clearly wasn’t a fuse, but at least it was something to do.

Renata took his hand. Her fingers trembled. “It’s not the fuses; it’s not our lights. Let it go.” Behind her, the old cement walls were spidered with cracks. They had been like that when they moved in.

“I don’t know what else to do.” He pressed his lips together and looked out the window. Outside, a family loaded into a car; the trunk overflowed as the father kicked at it until the latch held. They piled in, each with a pack on their lap. The mother sat in the passenger seat. In her hands, she held a pistol. Her husband got in, and the car roared to life. A few people emerged onto the street carrying packs, or bags. They all headed east, away from the coast. That’s where the scientist said it would start, on the coast.

“The phone lines,” Renata’s voice wavered, “They use a different power source than the electrical grid, right?” She wiped at beads of sweat forming on her forehead. “For emergencies, right?” She swallowed hard. “I’ll try and call my mom,” She picked up the receiver and held it to her ear. The lines in her face deepened the longer she held the phone. She frowned and jabbed at the disconnect lever several times. “The phones are dead.” Her skin paled. “The phones,” she licked her dry lips, “are dead.”

Luis was still for a long time. Strange muscles deep in his stomach twisted. Something terrible was happening, and he couldn’t do anything to stop it. He didn’t even know what it was. There was a worry in her soft brown eyes; he wanted to protect her, keep her from feeling this way. He walked over and put his hand on Renata’s cheek then kissed her. “We’re leaving.”

She nodded towards the bags they’d started to prepare midway through the broadcast. “Do you think this will be enough?” She rested her head on his chest.

The electricity surged back, lights blazing to life. The TV flashed it’s red warning again. After a moment, it changed to a camera feed from inside a helicopter. A reporter bobbed in and out of the frame. “We’re flying over the city of Vila de Conde, only a few kilometers from Porto.” He pointed to something off camera. “While it seems a much weaker force is headed this way, it will strike here first. That should give us some idea of what to prepare for.” The wind whipped his hair wildly and drowned his voice out. The camera focused in over the ocean. White edges of curling waves shifted as they crashed against the shore. City lights reflected on the water; then the whole city blinked out. “What the hell?” The camera jerked up over the blackened city. A loud guttural cry screeched through the TV speakers, and the reporter’s voice shouted, “What in God’s nam—” The image on the TV shook and rotated like someone dropped the camera, then the screen cut to static.

Every beat of Luis’ heart pounded in his chest, teeth, and fingers. He waited for the static to end, for someone to come back, to tell them what happened.

Renata grabbed his hand; her pulse was rapid; throbbing in the vein on her neck. When she spoke, the words sounded strange like her mouth was dry after hanging open for too long. “What’s happening?”

Through the window, they saw a car slam into the small market across the street. Glass shards toppled down and shattered on the hood. Two men got out and kicked at the remaining jagged edges. With sacks in their hands, they hustled inside and filled the bags with food and supplies. They tossed them into the backseat and doubled back for more. A box of spaghetti fell out of the passenger side and burst open. Noodles splayed out on the pavement, breaking under the boots of the men as they hurried back and forth.

“I need to get something.” Luis rushed to the bedroom and pulled a pistol from under the bed. He loaded it and placed several ammo boxes in a bag before returning to his pack in the living room.

The static on the screen finally ended. A news anchor sat at a desk; sweat dripped down his face. He wiped at his brow. “It’s clear now, from this footage.” A small image on the side of the screen grew larger. It was a distant shot of the city of Vila de Conde. The entire coastal edge was gone. The hotels, resorts, beach houses. All gone. Some bits of rubble smoldered in the darkness. “This has been some sort of attack.” He stopped, and his face became stern. He sprayed saliva as he shouted at someone, “I can’t … God damn it … I can’t say that on TV. No one will believe it!” He shoved the desk over and stood; then turned and walked a few steps towards the back of the set.

A husky male voice came from off screen. “Do you believe it?” There was a pause, but the anchor kept walking. The husky voice spoke again, pleading this time, “Someone has to tell them. They have to know.” He yelled with urgency in his voice, “We saw them!”

The newscaster stopped and looked over his shoulder at the camera. “Tell them to run.” He disappeared off camera, and the screen went to static.

The lights flickered a second time, then went dark. Luis held his hand over his mouth. He stopped breathing for a moment and counted his heartbeats. He waited, but the lights didn’t come back.

With heavy packs strapped to their backs, Luis and Renata staggered into the street towards their car. A traffic jam built up behind the vehicle that had crashed into the market. People dashed inside, stealing food. The narrow European street swelled with a growing mob as they disembarked their cars to investigate the problem.

A man got into the obstructing car and attempted to reverse out. The center of the frame teetered on the curb, and the wheels spun over the slick cobblestones.

A massive man with a thick beard exited his truck. “What’s wrong with you?” He thrust crude gestures with his hands, then stopped and summoned the other stalled drivers to the stranded car. He pantomimed his intention.

Seven men gathered around the small European car and tipped it onto its side, but the vehicle still blocked the road. They shoved and kicked, but the road wouldn’t clear. Thick-beard threw up his hands, gathered his gear from his car and started walking.

Luis’s eyes widened. “I don’t understand it.”

“Do you need to?” Renata gripped his shoulder, the tips of her nails bit into his skin. “They told us to run.”

Abandoning their car, Luis and Renata joined the panicked herd. They ran, shoved and bumped into each other as they maneuvered around the empty cars. The weight of the pack made Luis unstable as people jostled against him. As each person collided into him or reached out to stabilize themselves, his balance wavered. The straps dug deep into his shoulders. The heavy load labored his run. People were constantly pressing past. He made Renata go first so he could keep an eye on her.

A tall man with wide shoulders shoved Luis into the side of a car. He stumbled and grabbed the mirror to keep from falling. Renata screamed. He turned as she plummeted to the ground a few feet away, disappearing into the mad swarm of human bodies.

Luis surged forward ramming people until he found her. He tried to help her stand, but the mob kept pressing forward, and Luis fell on top of her. A foot crunched down on his hand; then a knee jabbed into his ribs. Droves of people crashed against his body. His hair got caught on something, and it ripped a patch from his skull. A trickle of blood dripped from his scalp onto Renata’s face.

Luis pressed his lips to her ear. “The gun is in my pack. Fire the gun.” He didn’t feel her searching the bag, too many hands, knees, and elbows jabbed and thrust into him, but he heard the gunshot, next to his ear. It thundered, and his whole body tensed. The thundering didn’t end. His ear rang, and it felt like someone was trying to hammer a nail into his brain. He saw Renata’s face, she was shouting, but he couldn’t hear her anymore, couldn’t hear the crowd, the waves of pounding feet on stone, just a high-pitched pierce in his ears.

The crowd stopped pressing down on him. They’d backed away. He got to his feet. Renata still lay on the ground. Luis dragged her into the bed of a truck. She cried and kept trying to say something, but he couldn’t hear it. Her face flexed in pain. He scanned her body and saw the ankle. Human bodies, human feet don’t bend like that. The tibia seemed to be jabbing down through the foot, forming a large bulb at the bottom, and the ankle swelled thicker than her leg.

The crowd swarmed back. Luis slumped down beside her. His eyes lingered on her face, her eyes. She couldn’t walk, not on her own. Whatever was coming would catch them. How will you take care of her? Luis took the gun from her hands. He studied the pistol for a long time, its dark oily finish, the weight of it in his hand, a weapon. If he couldn’t run, then he would fight. He crawled out of the truck bed to the car just behind. He rested the pistol on the hood and stared out into the darkness. Luis saw the white curling waves. Whatever it was, came from the ocean, he knew that. He waited a moment, watching the water, trying to see it. Nothing, just darkness. He pulled the trigger then looked at Renata. Broken. Helpless. His eyes welled up with tears. Fight. Even if you can’t see it. Fight. He fired again, fired until the gun was empty.

About Joseph Bendoski

Joe Bendoski study psychology in college and was fascinated by all the insights it provided into human behavior, only to realize most the information never reach people, and when it did, rarely was it in a form that allowed for practical application. He started writing non-fiction, but soon came to understand how few people read that genre and began the difficult transition into fiction writing. His non-fiction works include; the Chemistry of Attraction and the Language of Emotion.
He worked as the head writer for the television show ‘Saved by Grace.’ After being frustrated with comments like “make this scene cheaper,” “What’s my motivation?”, and “Do we need this scene?” he decided to go in to literature.
His latest book is the thriller/espionage/conspiracy/historical novel, When the Sky Falls.

Dead Tide by Leighann Dobbs

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Dead Tide by Leighann Dobbs Dead Tide by Leighann Dobbs
Series: Blackmoore Sisters Mysteries #3
Published by the author on December 6, 2013
Source: instaFreebie
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal
Pages: 291
Format: eBook
Buy on Amazon or Audible
Add on Goodreads

For three hundred years, the Blackmoore house has harbored a valuable secret ...

The Blackmoore sisters learn about this secret from the dying lips of the historian they hired to decipher their centuries old family journal. Too bad he never gets the chance to tell them exactly what he has uncovered...or where to find it.

But someone else knows where to find it, and they are prepared to take it from the Blackmoore’s no matter what the cost.

The sisters are forced to put their newly discovered paranormal powers to the test as they fight off treasure stealing pirates in between figuring out clues from ghosts, decoding an old journal, finding their way through an underground maze and dodging quicksand, bottomless pits and whirlpools.


Oh, and did I mention the dark and mysterious stranger that keeps showing up--is he friend or foe?

Of course, their trusty cat, Belladonna is around to give them a helping hand when they need it ... and she has a secret of her own.

Will the Blackmoore sisters be able to figure out where the treasure is and get to it before the dead tide turns and hides it for another three hundred years?

Mystery, magical power, romance – and pirates. It’s light and fun. This was one of my read-a-thon books and it was perfect. It’s a quick read, maybe a little unbelievable, but that’s okay since it’s so enjoyable.

The sisters are each discovering their own powers, like seeing ghosts or electric fighting powers – yeah, not sure about that one yet. I like how much they care for each other and how well they all work together. The plot is carried on from book #2; they’re hunting for the treasure and so are the bad guys. People end up dead, thankfully none of them. The mystery is not terribly strong here, but the girls and their men make up for it. It does veer strongly toward romance, so if you don’t like a love interest clogging up your mystery, avoid this series. I do enjoy it, when it works right, and it does for me with these stories.

I’m looking forward to reading the next. I think they’ll be heading out west for a book. We haven’t seen the sisters away from their home, I hope the formula works as well when they’re not in Maine.

About Leighann Dobbs

Leighann Dobbs is the pen name of a not so famous author who lives in New Hampshire with her husband, her trusty Chihuahua mix Mojo and her beautiful rescue cat, Kitty. She likes to write romance and cozy mystery short stories and novelettes perfect for the busy person on the go.

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