Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Carol

Around Christmas it seems like every other movie is a remake of Charles Dickens’s The Christmas Carol. He struck story gold when he penned that story and even if he’d never written A Tale of Two Cities or Oliver Twist he’d have gone down as a master storyteller simply because of this one tale.

Begun in October of 1843, Dickens completed the story in just six weeks. He published it in December of the same year, and though he didn’t make nearly as much money off the royalties of that first printing as he wanted, it was still an immediate success. For once popular and literary tastes converged.

In a way that newborn novella caused a revolution. The story is credited with returning joy to a holiday that had become increasingly muted, even somber. The not-so-veiled social commentary on the industrialists of the day was said to hit like a sledgehammer. And at least one newspaper credited the tale with a significant increase in giving to the poor.

For all the cutting edge power that the story had in its day, the story has now been reduced to cliché. When everyone from Hallmark to Disney, to HBO has copied the idea in every conceivable medium it would be all but impossible for the story not to be trite.

Is there any hope that we could still suck some meaning from the marrow of this story?

The message may not be as radical as it once was, but I do think that some of the lessons are evergreen. Have we lived, so that a visit from the ghosts of Christmas past, present or future would hold no terror for us? Do we revel in ‘stuff’ or in people? Would our passing make a difference to someone?

Does our attitude reflect miserly Scrooge, sorrowful Marley, compassionate Bob Cratchit or even the cheerful, forgiving nephew.

Do you keep Christmas in your heart? What does that even mean?

To me, that means recalling the birth of Christ. That the great God, creator of the universe who holds the seas in the palm of his hand, would deign to robe himself in flesh and descend to earth as a newborn, not a powerful warrior king, but an impoverished infant, reliant on the care of human parents to meet his every need. That boggles my mind.

Why would he do that? It all comes back to who he is. He is love. It is his essence. And so it is also the essence of Christmas. It is every virtue, from humility to generosity, from forgiveness to thankfulness. Keeping that in our heart changes us, just as it changed Scrooge. I need Christmas. I need that joyful reminder of all that God wants for us. Of his plan and action in our lives.

Two questions to you, what does it mean to you to keep Christmas in your heart? And, can you think of any name better than Fezziwig?

In the immortal words of Tiny Tim. “God Bless us every one.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

Betsy Bonaparte

Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte had American relations? It’s true.

In 1803 Napoleon’s younger brother, Jerome was a naval officer fighting in the Caribbean. To escape captured by the English he retreated to America, and subsequently went to Maryland to visit a friend. There he met Miss Elizabeth Patterson, the daughter of the wealthiest man in Maryland. After a whirlwind two month courtship, he asked for her hand in marriage. Neither side of the family was enthusiastic about the arrangement, but Elizabeth, known as Betsy, did manage to obtain her parents’ permission. Napoleon Bonaparte wasn’t so accommodating, he had plans for his brother. The wedding went ahead anyway.

The couple were married on Christmas Eve 1803 by the Archbishop of Baltimore and immediately set out to take America by storm. Betsy’s beauty was legendary and she had no problem with flaunting it by wearing fashions that raised many an eyebrow. At one point she appeared in Washington, essentially nude. The white muslin gown she wore had been dampened down until it clung to every… um… feature and she had no other layers on beneath it. An ensemble that scandalized the wives of Washington, but didn’t seem to trouble their husbands at all.

At the news of the wedding Napoleon immediately ordered his brother home. Jerome and Betsy managed to ignore Napoleon’s peremptory summons for a while. As they traveled south to New Orleans, but the time came that they had to respond.

A now pregnant Betsy set sail with her husband, hoping to arrive in time for Napoleon’s coronation. When they came within sight of the coast in March of 1805, their ship was boarded and Jerome was taken off. She never saw him again.

Betsy was denied entrance into France, and Napoleon exerted his influence to ensure that other ports were closed to her as well. She finally found safe harbor in England and gave birth to a son, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, in July of 1805.

Jerome tried to reason with his brother, but Napoleon would not listen and declared the marriage null. He then demanded that Jerome marry a German princess Catharina of Württemburg. Jerome caved to the pressure and married the German, without having his marriage to Betsy legally dissolved.

Napoleon sent a letter to Betsy requesting that she stop using the Bonaparte name, and offering her a small stipend if she would drop her claims, and those of her son on Jerome. She promptly replied that she had come by the name honorably and had no intention of dropping it nor any other right or honor which she was due.

In London, Betsy became the belle of the ball. Every Englishman wanted to meet the woman who so thoroughly got Napoleon’s goat. She returned to Maryland with her young son, but after the Battle of Waterloo she returned to Europe and was feted across the continent for her beauty and wit. She finally secured a divorce from Jerome in 1815 by a special act of the Maryland Legislature.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read Anne's adventures. I've had a fantastic time writing her story (even when you all didn't make it easy on me!) Thanks for being a part of our adventures!

NOW, I'd really love to get some feedback from you all. Did you like the format? The story?

What can I do better or at least differently?

Would you like to see another story featuring Anne? Something totally different? SHould I drop the whole story idea and move on to something else?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 45

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

A flush tormented her cheeks, but Anne notched her chin up. Maybe Erik wouldn’t notice. Jilly would just up and ask him out to dinner. But then, Jilly, had no problem flouting convention. Although… She had just helped bust up a communist conspiracy. That was hardly conventional. She would do it. She’d just open her mouth and.

Anne opened her mouth, but the words stuck in her gullet like fish bones.

Erik waited politely for her to speak. Instead, she shook her head and feigned a cough.

“You okay?”

She nodded weakly. “Fine. Just tired. I’ll see you later, okay?”

He snatched his hat from the table and jumped to his feet. “Yeah. Of course. Sorry, I should’ve remembered.”

Anne stood as well, ushering him to the door. Soon, soon, soon, she would go hide her head under the covers and never come out again.

Erik stopped at the door and turned back to her. He glanced down at his hands, which revolved his hat in endless circles. She saw his grip tighten and then he slapped the hat on his head. In two steps he had her in his arms.

Anne gasped.

His eyes seared her, burning away her embarrassment and her hesitation. He lowered his head. The touch of his lips against hers sent a spiral of sweetness into her heart that banished the terror and grief of the last week. There was nothing beyond this moment. This man.

His fingers tangled in the hair at the nape of her neck, his palms cupping her cheeks. Time compressed and then lengthened. Pulled like taffy by the emotion surging between them.

At last he pulled away a few inches. “Can I see you tomorrow?”

Anne nodded. A dopey smile played at her lips, but she didn’t care. “Mm hmm.” Her brain had turned to mush. There was no chance of putting together a coherent response.

“And maybe the day after that?”

“Mm hmm.”

“And the one after that?”

Anne tore her gaze from dreamy contemplation of his Adam’s Apple to his eyes. “Okay.”

He smiled and his eyes were as bright as Christmas lights. “Good. I have a feeling that I’m going to want to see you every chance I can get.”

His lips caressed her temple. “Good night.” In an instant he was gone.

Fingers raised to her lips, Anne leaned against her brand new door. It wasn’t the end after all. Just the beginning of something new.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 44

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

“Absolutely.” Anne perked up a bit. “Just let me brew some coffee first.”

Erik glanced over at her and grinned. “If anyone deserves some rest, it’s you.”

“I warn you once the tale is told I intend to sleep for at least a week.”

“Then you’ll be happy to know that one of the fellas rousted your super and a carpenter and your door is fixed.”

Anne’s hand flew to her mouth. “Would you believe I completely forgot about the break-in?” She shook her head at herself.

“Well you’ve had other things on your mind.”

“Oh, just Communists and counterfeiters. I can’t imagine how that would have been enough to make me forget that my apartment was ransacked. I’ll be glad to go back to just writing about crooks rather than dealing with them in real life.”

Erik pulled into a prize parking spot and pulled the keys from the ignition, but didn’t climb out right away. He leaned toward her ever so slightly, turning his torso so that he faced her. “If it’s any consolation. I think you’re a way better heroine than Lacey Carew.” He turned away abruptly, and flung open his door.

Heat bloomed in her cheeks, arcing down to a place in the middle of her chest and setting it aglow too. An irresistible grin lifted the corners of her mouth. Suddenly she didn’t feel nearly so sleepy.

He swung open the doo for her with a flourish and offered his arm. She accepted his assistance from the car, and didn’t pull away after she’d emerged.

Perhaps she’d been too forward. She sought frantically for something to fill the air between them. Something nonchalant. Breezy. Fun. Nothing came to mind. “So what did Armstrong and you boss tell you?”

He ushered her inside their apartment building. “I thought your curiosity might be stronger than your need for caffeine.” His gaze held a mixture of pride and humor. “You were right. They were communists. And the scheme was pretty much what we thought. They meant to take the plates that Tom made and set up a press in major cities all over the country. With counterfeits that good, and coming from every angle, we’d have been at a loss. Even if we shut down one operation, it wouldn’t have led to another, because the individuals in each cell were kept separate from one another and had no information about the others.”

Anne fumbled for her keys, but Erik handed her a different set. “New door.”

The only thing to do was laugh at herself. He might as well know up front what a goof she was. “That coffee won’t come a minute too soon.”

Anne led the way to the kitchen, flicking on the lights but ignoring the awful mess in the living room. She found the percolator unscathed but had to rummage before she found the coffee in the midst of pile of jumbled boxes and cans that had been flung on the floor.

She glanced over her shoulder. “Hope you don’t mind it black.”

“The blacker the better.”

“So why did they kill Carol, and what was it about those papers that made them so desperate to get them back?”

“Well that was part of what made this operation such a threat. Seems they have a guy inside the national mint. He figured out a way to smuggle out the special paper that’s used for real currency.”

“Wow, so the fakes would have been almost impossible to tell from the real thing.”

Erik nodded. “Exactly. The panic would deepen as word of spread and no one could be sure whether the money they had in their pocket was the real thing or some forgery. As the concern spread, the dollar would be devalued and, worst case scenario, the markets would crash and spawn a countrywide economic collapse.”

“Then the papers Carol gave me were the real deal from the mint. That was why they were so desperate to get them back. If anyone got a hold of them it might mean the discovery of their inside man.”

“Right again. I was scheduled to meet with Carol on the day she was killed. Her call came in while my boss, Mercer, was at my desk. I just transferred from California, so I’m the low man on the totem pole here, and I get all of the loons. He told me to ignore it. That it was an obvious crank. I was going to, but then I thought it wouldn’t hurt to check it out. She sounded pretty scared and I figured that if I could catch a counterfeiting ring I’d start establishing myself here. So I called her back and set up a meet.

“I played the cards close to my chest since Merecer told me to ignore it in the first place. Turns out to have been a good thing that he didn’t know what I was up to, or he’d have squashed the investigation and us with it. In fact, he tried. When he learned about the support I’d drawn for the operation tonight, he pulled our backup. That was why all the agents disappeared on us.”

Anne poured him a steaming mug of coffee and another for herself. The rich aroma filled the kitchen making his words feel foreign, not a part of the real world at all. “I can hardly believe it’s over.”

“Mostly over. We’ll need you to testify.”

Anne set her coffee down with a plunk. “Wait. If your investigation was under the table, how did you get the money to take the apartment downstairs?”

“I was there that day. The day Carol was killed. We were supposed to meet at a café near the train station. When I saw you hovering nearby after the crash, I thought maybe you were a part of the gang so I followed you home.” He shrugged, looking sheepishly into his coffee mug. “The apartment downstairs was for rent, and I needed a place anyway, so I leased it. I thought I could better keep an eye on you.”

Anne shook her head and took a hefty swig from her mug. “So that day when you came up asking for tools was what? A reconnaissance mission?”

“Sort of.” His voice came out in a croak.

“You were looking through my stuff weren’t you? I distinctly remember thinking things had been moved around.”

He spread his hands. “It didn’t take long to mark you off my suspects list.”

Anne’s heart had pooled somewhere around her ankle socks. So the only list she’d ever been on was his suspect list. Ergh! It was all so humiliating.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 43

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

Anne glanced at the figure prone on the floor. She smoothed her palms against her skirt. Her hands wouldn’t stop shaking. “I think I’d prefer to come with you.”

The semi darkness of the large office seemed to close in around them.

Erik seemed to notice her nervousness. He reached over to turn on the nearest desk lamp. She summoned a shaky smile. Marooned in the circle of light her gaze caught on his.

“Thank you. You saved my life.” He held a hand out to her and pulled her to her feet.

“Then I guess we’re even.” They stood toe to toe. Anne’s heart revved up like it was ready to drag race. She ought to have stepped back, but she was on an eye level with his lips. They quirked up at the corners, looking both hard and soft at the same time. His Adam’s apple bob, and Anne swallowed hard too. Her eyelids fluttered close and she felt warm breath brush her cheek.

At their feet, Erik’s boss groaned and Anne jerked back. “Maybe we better get some—”

“Yeah.” He ran a hand along the back of his neck. “Yeah. Let’s get this put to bed.”

Anne sucked in a horrified breath. He flushed a painful sunburn red. “I meant, mean—come on. They’ll have some coffee going down there and I need some.”

The night devolved into a blur of bland faced men in dress shirts and dark ties, burnt coffee, and incessant questions. As another pair of nameless minions of justice departed Anne rested her head against her outstretched arms. If she could just rest her eyes for a few minutes.

“Anne?” A warm hand rested on her shoulder.

She jerked upright. “Huh? What?”

“Hey, lets get you home,” Erik said.

Anne covered her mouth to hide an enormous yawn. “Oh, okay.”

Erik led her out to the car and held open the door for her. She slid in and laid her head back against the seat. Another yawn wrenched her jaws apart. If she could just go to bed she’d never get up again.

The car dipped to the left as Erik slid behind the wheel. “You want to know what we learned?”

Monday, November 2, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 42

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

Anne’s hand felt as if it had been soldered to the doorknob. Should she tear down the hall in search of help or stay and try to help Erik?

Dear Lord, help me. Help me!

“I thought so.” Erik’s voice held no hint of fear. “It had to be you. You pulled the other agents off the stakeout. I suppose it’s a good thing I played my cards close to the vest until the last minute or you’d have sabotaged the entire operation. Too late now.”

What was he thinking? Surely antagonizing the man with the gun wasn’t the wisest option. Anne finally remembered to breathe and eased the door closed. If she left now, she might not be able to return in time.

“Your problem, Carter is that you’re cocky. You didn’t have the faintest suspicion before a couple minutes ago. And even if you did you waved them away.” The tone carried with it the hint of a sneer.

“Well we both know that you’re not going to get away with it. Armstrong will spill his guts and then you’re done. Shooting me will only make matters worse.”

“But it’ll be so much fun.”

Anne slipped out of her shoes so that she could move silently but also quickly. Half-crouching she crept along the outer wall of the room. She wasn’t entirely certain where he was and it would be better to come up behind him rather than ruin the element of surprise by approaching too obliquely. Now to find something heavy.

“You can’t hate me that much.”

“No. You needn’t take it personally. I just don’t want anyone gumming up the works for me. I’ve got a plane waiting to whisk me to a cushy position in Moscow. No more of the sanctimonious swill I’ve been drowning in for years. It’ll be a positive relief.”

“So why not just go? Why are you still hanging around the office?”

“Oh, I’ve got a job or two to do. Once your witness gets back I’ll kill you both, then I’ll head on down to the interrogation rooms and send the agents home. They’ll actually be grateful for the break.” His tinny laugh sounded more like a cackle. “Then Armstrong and I will collect the fake plates and the juiciest files from this office. Just a little something to ensure a warm welcome in our new homeland. They may give us a parade right through Red Square.”

“More likely a bullet to eat,” Erik said.

“Shut up. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Why don’t you just kill me now?”

“I was waiting for your girlfriend to get back. I’d hate to scare her off. But you’ve tempted me once too many times.”

Anne was only a few feet behind the man as he raised his gun.

“Hey! You looking for me.”

He turned to look at her and she launched the heavy typewriter she’d raised above her head. The muzzle of the gun flashed and Anne’s ears rang with noise of a shot. The typewriter struck his temple eliciting a grunt of pain. He staggered and slumped the floor, the gun clattering free of his grip.

Erik was on him in an instant. He snatched up the receiver of a nearby telephone and used the receiver to tie his boss’s hands behind his backs.

The room whirled and swirled as if someone had tossed them all into an enormous blender. Anne sank to floor. She dropped her head to her knees. So tired. So very, very tired. The temptation to curl up on the floor and go to sleep was nearly overwhelming.

A hand touched her shoulder. “Hey, you okay?” Erik’s voice was as warm and sweet as a biscuit dripping with honey.

Her head felt as if it were a granite boulder but she managed to raise it and meet his eyes. “I’m okay.”

“I’m going to go get some help from the guys downstairs. Will you be okay here or do you want to come?”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 41

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

Anne glanced back toward the door. Still some twenty-five or thirty feet to go. She edged backwards seeking more cover, more anything between her and that voice.

“So where is she?” Faux bonhomie rang in his voice, the forced joviality booming and out of place in the other wise silent office.

Erik stopped motioning for her to come forward. His shoulders stiffening into rigid, alert lines. “She had to step out to the ladies’ room. Time to remove the wire so we can get the tape. Mr. Anderson will be going behind bars for a good long while.”

“I didn’t authorize a wire.” The brash amiability slipped a little.

Erik surreptitiously waved her away now. Anne nodded though he couldn’t see her and continued to back away towards the door. Thank heavens she’d worn loafers. The tap of high heels would have given her away for sure.

“Your policy has always been to use the best equipment for a job. Anyway, no harm, no foul. It wasn’t injured and we’ll have it back in a few minutes.” Erik’s voice was casual, holding no hint of the tension that seemed to radiate off the back of his stiff neck.

Twelve more feet.

“So you caught Anderson?”

“Yep.” Despite the continued insouciance of his tone, Erik squared off, spreading his stance oh so slightly, torso forward as if bracing for an attack. “This thing was much bigger than I dreamed too. I believe the counterfeiting was part of a larger communist plot to destabilize the economy.”

“Hoo boy.” An avuncular chuckle rippled through the quiet office. “You sure you’re not getting paranoid? That sort of story, well, it’s not going to look good to the powers that be.”

“I disagree.” Erik’s quiet response had the directness of a challenge. It hovered in the air between them.

Anne’s fingers brushed the cold steel of the doorframe and she groped for the knob.

“How long do you think it’ll be before the girl gets back?”

Erik jerked his head her direction. “Why don’t I go check on her?”

“No, no. You just stay here with me. I’m sure she’ll be back any minute.”

“I ought to go check that Anderson has arrived.”

“Nah. It can wait. I want to hear more about this hair-brained communist theory of yours.”

Anne twisted the knob slowly, so slowly. She couldn’t make a sound.

Erik’s voice had grown impatient. “It may be even worse than that. I believe there is a traitor in this office.”

Whispering a prayer that the door wouldn’t squeak, Anne eased it open.

“You don’t say.” The wry tone made her shiver in a way that angry never could have.

She glanced back just in time to see Erik make a move for his weapon.

“Nope. Don’t even try it. Hands up. I’ve got you covered, and don’t think for a minute that I won’t shoot you.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 40

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

Anne tipped back in her chair. The voice quieted even more, she couldn’t make out what was said. She turned her head toward the darkened office. Strained to hear. Further. Just a little further.

“They’re gone!”

Anne windmilled wildly her hand striking and then catching hold of the edge of the desk. Panting a little, she returned the chair legs to the ground where they belonged.

Erik appeared from around a row of tall filing cabinets. His scowl was fierce enough to turn someone into stone. Dear heavens, she hoped he never had cause to look at her like that.

“What?” She asked.

“Carol’s papers are gone. I put them in the office safe this afternoon, but they’re gone.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’ll tell you what it means. It means that there’s a dirty rat in this office. Someone’s in cahoots with Armstrong, maybe even pulling his strings.” He sank into his desk chair, hands rubbing at his face as if he could scrub away the suspicion from his mind.

Anne grabbed his hand and looked directly into his eyes. She lowered her voice. “Where are the other men with Armstrong?”

“The floor below this one. We have a small holding cell there, at least until the FBI comes for him.”

Casually as she could, Anne stood. She didn’t let go of his hand, tightening her grip until his brows furrowed. “Why don’t you show me where the powder room is so that I can return your equipment.”

They turned toward the main door.

“What’s going on?” he hissed from one side of his mouth.

“There’s someone in that office behind us. I heard him talking on the phone.” She pulled him faster as they approached the door, a determined little tugboat towing a battle cruiser.

Suddenly his hand was gone, and she staggered forward alone, his voice propelling her now. “Go on and get out of here. Get downstairs and send some of the fellows up to me.”

She glanced over her shoulder to see him reaching to grip the gun in his shoulder holster.

“Ah, ah, ah. Let’s not jump the proverbial gun, shall we Special Agent Carter.”

Erik’s shoulders relaxed and his hand fell away from his weapon. “Hey, Boss. You had me going there for a minute. You don’t happen to have the documents I stowed earlier today do you.”

Erik waved Anne forward with an it’s-all-right gesture, but she remained rooted to where she was. Something wasn’t right. That was the same voice she’d heard in the darkened office. And why wasn’t the man showing himself? Or maybe it was just the crazy conglomeration of filing and shelves and desks that hid him, not some sinister intent.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 39

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

Exhaustion lured Anne like the Pied Piper tempting her to home and bed. But she had the tapes, and she’d heard Armstrong’s confession. Erik would do his best, but what if, in the absence of her statement, someone decided to let Rick go?

No. She couldn’t risk it. Not if there was even one thing left for her to do. She removed Erik’s jacket from around her shoulders and held it out to him. “Thanks. I’d like to go with you and give my statement tonight. While it’s all still fresh in my mind.”

“But you look ready to fall over.”

She didn’t have the energy to argue. Instead, she placed her hand on his arm. “Please. I’d feel much better.”

His gaze caught hers and held it for a long moment. The warmth she found there set her heart fluttering faster. A gentle smile twitched his lips up. “I can’t ever seem to talk sense in to you. All right, come on.” He draped an arm over her shoulder and steered her from the station.

The motion of the car soothed her and she allowed her head to rest against the seat. She awoke to the sound of Erik’s voice, and the touch of his hand on her arm.

“Sorry.” Sheepishly she covered a yawn.

“No need.” His smile sent a caramel sweet spiral through her belly.

She slid toward him and he helped her from the car. The chilly night air seemed less… chilly in his presence. He had a sort of electric personality that exuded verve. He was capable of lighting up any room he entered if he wanted to.

He led her inside and up several flights of stairs. The door he opened revealed a jumble of desks shoved together amidst filing cabinets and stacks of paper and typewriters.

“This is my desk.” He motioned for her to have a seat in the flimsy little chair beside his desk. “Wait here a minute and I’ll go grab some first aid supplies for your legs and hands.”

Anne nodded. She’d almost forgotten. The hurts had melded into a single symphony of throbbing aches so that she could hardly tell one from the other anymore. Erik disappeared into the maze of office furniture.

She sat upright but a moment later her eyes started to drift closed again. Her head bobbed forward and she jerked upright.

“No. I told you I’ll take care of it. But it ain’t gonna be all neat and tidy.” The gruff voice came from behind a half closed office door. No light escaped with the noise and Anne sat up straighter. Why would someone be making a call from a darkened room?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 38

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

Anne threw her head back, hoping to knock him in the face, but Rick wasn’t having any of it this time. His free hand tangled in her hair and pulled her head back even further.

“Nice try, Sweetpea.” A rough shove and she tumbled onto the tracks below.

Shins and palms bruised and bleeding, Anne scrambled to her feet. She had to get off the track. A quick glance up revealed Rick standing above her.

Help me, Jesus! She darted away from his looming shadow. The train was close enough now that she could feel its rumble in the tracks. Its horn blared. She opened her mouth and let out the loudest scream she could. Flinging herself at the wall she jumped trying to gain some purchase, some grip that would enable to haul herself clear of the tracks.

The train rumbled closer. A bellowing, blinding blur of light and steel.

And then a head poked over the edge of the platform. Strong hands gripped hers, and as her feet scrabbled against the wall, dragged her to safety.

The train surged by, slowing to a stop a hundred yards from where Anne sat shaking and swallowing her tears. Erik sat on the ground with her, enveloping her in his arms, and in the soothing comfort of murmured words.

He shrugged and shifted, and a moment later placed his suit coat around her shoulders. Still she couldn’t see to stop trembling. Her head felt too heavy for her body, and she actually considered stretching out on the hard platform and going to sleep.

It couldn’t be though. Their business wasn’t finished.

When she at last spoke, the words came out sounding very small and distant. “Where’s Armstrong?”

Erik pulled away enough that he could look into her face. “It’s all right. We got him. I called in some favors and some of the guys arrived just in time to help nab him before he got away.”

“Do you want to go to the hospital? Your legs look pretty torn up.”

His comment brought into focus the throbbing in her shins. Anne straightened them out to find her stockings shredded and her shins sporting enormous twin bruises, amidst myriad cuts and abrasions.

The mere thought of a hospital made her feel a hundred years old, though. “I can take care of it myself, they just need some ointment and bandages.”

Erik stood and held out his hands to her. “Let me at least help you up.”

She groaned. “That, I will let you do. I think I’m going to be sore for a month.” She stood swaying for a moment, before taking a tentative step away from the edge of the platform. “So what will happen to Rick?”

“I’ll take him to our office and then begin interrogations.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 37

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

Anne feigned surprise. “Oh, you hadn’t figured that out yet? I figured out that you’re part of a plot to destabilize the American economy. And that you killed Carol to keep her from going to the secret service.”

He jerked her closer. “Is that what Tom told you?”

She winced and drew in a breath. Was he trying to rip her arm out of socket? And where was Erik anyway? “No, I figured it out myself.”

“Well aren’t you smart. Too bad it’s going to get you killed.”

“So you admit it? All of it?”

“I suppose so.” His emphasized his nasty tone with another twist on her arm. “Not that you’re going to live to tell anyone about it.”

The edges of her vision were turning fuzzy. Her lungs seemed to have decided to hunker down like a bomb shelter and refused to let air in or out. She had to hang on just a little longer. “What are you going to do to Tom?”

“Same thing I’m going to do to you.”

“But don’t you need him to complete the plates?”

“You just know too much don’t you?”

A pair of men turned the corner chatting desultorily they walked to the edge of the platform to wait for the next train. Rick prodded her ribs with the barrel of his gun. The look he shot like a laser in her direction held no equivocation. If she called for help, he’d kill her, and probably those men as well.

“I told you I know. And I told the secret service too.”

“Well then, I guess they won’t need your testimony.” He dragged her toward the tracks.

A faint grumble came from the mouth of the tunnel as if it harbored a dragon. A dragon that was awaiting its annual virgin sacrifice from the villagers. She tried to retract the image. Her mother had been right. Anne had a morbid imagination.

“Where are you taking me?”

“No where, sweetheart. This is the end of the line for you.”

A pair of glowing eyes appeared in the cave. Tunnel. It was a tunnel and there was no ravening beast inside. It was just a train.

No way she was going to let herself be fed to the monster of Armstrong’s ambition. She just had to figure out what to do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 36

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

Anne’s shoes pounded out a big band rhythm as she darted after Armstrong. They echoed in the sparsely populated station. She tossed a look over her shoulder. Where had Erik gotten to? How could such a tall fellow disappear completely?

The man redoubled his already brisk pace. He turned around a corner and out of sight. Again, Anne glanced around. Where was a policeman when you needed one?

Good grief. Did she have to do everything? No way was she going to get close enough for Armstrong to catch her again. She would hang back and just try to observe from a distance, so that he didn’t escape. She edged to the corner and cautiously peered around.

A hard hand clamped over her mouth. Fingers dug into her cheeks. She tried to pull back but it was useless. He had a grip on her arm now. Inexorable as the tide he dragged her forward.

His voice rasped against her ear. “Did you really think your little double cross was going to work?” His snort provoked a shiver. “If I ever get to the point where an amateur gumshoe, who’s barely out of training pants, can put one over on me, it’ll be time to hang it up.”

His hand covered both her mouth and nose, and again she tried to pull away. She needed air. Her lungs shouted at her. Nothing. No air. She was going to pass out. Jesus.

Her knees sagged and he pulled his hand away slightly. The trickle of stale air was as refreshing as a glass of cold lemonade on a summer afternoon. He must have spotted her somehow and decided to trap her. Dear Lord, she needed help to get out of this one.

He released her arm. “I’ve got a gun. If you yell I’ll plug you. Now, I’m going to take my hand off your mouth. Where are the papers?” He moved his hand to her throat.

Anne massaged her cheeks.

He nudged her with the barrel of his ugly little gun. “Come on.”

She shook her head. “I told you the truth the first time. I gave them to the secret service.” She might as well go for broke. “They have agents everywhere. You can’t—”

“Shut up.” He prodded her harder. “I’d have known if you turned them in. If you don’t tell me the truth, I’m going to shoot you and throw your scrawny little corpse on the tracks.”

His eyes were wide, a thin rim of white showing all the way around. Anne drew in another breath. Whoever stayed cool would win this one. She resisted the urge to lick her lips. They’d win, or they’d get shot. At the moment it was a bit of a toss up.

“I’m telling you the truth. I gave the papers to Agent Erik Carter this afternoon. He took them to his superiors and they arranged for Tom and I to come back and get you to confess your involvement in the counterfeiting plan.”

“Tom.” The single word was so loaded with loathing that it carried the weight of an emotional atom bomb.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bon Voyage to me!

Ladies and Gent,

I am on my way to Sunny Denver, CO. The annual ACFW conference is gearing up and I am abundantly blessed to be a part of it. If you have any desire to write yourself I highly recommend ACFW as a place to learn craft. To be brutally honest, when I first started writing I turned my nose up at how-to books because I thought that writing was a talent from God. Either you had it or you didn't. Those books were for wannabes who would never break in.


God laughed at my presumption and I have since repented of my judginess. Writing is an art, a craft and a trade and to do it well you must learn and practice just as with any other art or craft or trade.

I promise to be back next week with more of Anne's adventures, and I hope to be a better author because of what I learn this week in Denver.

BTW, we're almost to the end of Girl Sleuth, I think. I have a few ideas of what I'd like to tackle next, anyone else want to offer suggestions? What would you like this blog to be?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Huge Book Signing!

During the ACFW conference in Denver next week there is going to be a huge book signing! Over 100 Christian authors will be participating and books will be available for sale. If you are in the area you won't want to miss this special opportunity.

The signing will be held on Saturday, 9/19/09 from 4:00-5:30, at the Mariott Tech Center in Denver. Hope to see you there and just to whet your appetite, here's the list of authors that will sign books:

Carolyne Aarsen
Diane Ashley
Ruth Axtell Morren
Rick Barry
Christina Berry
Lauralee Bliss
Diana Brandmeyer
Sandra Bricker
Margaret Brownley
Candace Calvert
Robin Caroll
Jeanie Smith Cash
Colleen Coble
Brandilyn Collins
Mary Connealy
Shirley Connolly
Margaret Daley
Susan Page Davis
Mary Davis
Janet Dean
Megan DiMaria
Lena Nelson Dooley
Wanda Dyson
Leanna Ellis
Pamela Ewen
Miralee Ferrell
Linda Ford
Tina Ann Forkner
Judy Gann
Jeff Gerke
Rhonda Gibson
Debby Giusti
Sandra Glahn
Elizabeth Goddard
Winnie Griggs
Cathy Marie Hake
Lisa Harris
Mary Hawkins
Roxanne Henke
Cynthia Hickey
Patti Hill
Denise Hunter
Annette Irby
Myra Johnson
Liz Johnson
Jenny Jones
Eileen Key
LAURIE Kingery
Kathleen Kovach
Harry Kraus
Jeanne Marie Leach
Tosca Lee
Julie Lessman
Loree Lough
Elizabeth Ludwig
Richard Mabry
Debbie Macomber
Joyce Magnin
Gail Gaymer Martin
Judy/Jude Martin-Urban/Urbanski
Debby Mayne
Aaron McCarver
Vickie McDonough
Dana Mentink
Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll
DiAnn Mills
Stephanie Morrill
Janelle Mowery
Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Kevin Parsons
Golden Keyes Parsons
Donita K. Paul
Tracie Peterson
Allie Pleiter
Cara Putman
Tara Randel
Deborah Raney
Sandra Robbins
Kim Sawyer
Marc Schooley
Michael Sheehan
Shelley Shepard Gray
Ann Shorey
Beth Shriver
Sandra Lee Smith
Virginia Smith
Betsy St. Amant
Therese Stenzel
Stuart Stockton
Alison Strobel
Michelle Sutton
Camy Tang
Donn Taylor
Janice (Hanna) Thompson
Missy Tippens
Pamela Tracy
Carrie Turansky
Deborah Vogts
Jenness Walker
Dan Walsh
Susan May Warren
Michael Webb
Kit Wilkinson
Lisa Wingate
Beth Wiseman
Kimberley Woodhouse
Lenora Worth
Cheryl Wyatt
Kathleen Y'Barbo

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

ACFW Conference Coming!

"The Premier Christian Fiction Conference"


"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:58 (KJV)

SEPTEMBER 17 - 20, 2009

Bestselling authors, publishing industry representatives, and newcomers to Christian fiction writing will gather in Denver at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s annual conference September 17-20 to compare notes, learn from each other, and encourage one another in the pursuit of publishing goals.

This year’s conference theme , Standing Firm…Moving Forward, will especially inspire the full range of talent and dreams in the ever-changing publishing world today.

This amazing conference will feature representatives from major publishing houses like B & H, Guideposts, Zondervan, Harvest House, Barbour, Steeple Hill, Summerside Press, Bethany House, Waterbrook Multnomah, Marcher Lord Press, Tyndale House, and Thomas Nelson, and top literary agents who will meet with writers and identify promising proposals from both new and veteran novelists. Conferees will have access to publishing panels, professional critiques, and customized workshops based on skills and interests.

The keynote speaker is New York Times bestselling author, Debbie Macomber, who has more than 100 million copies of her books in print worldwide.

Learn more about the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference by visiting Click on the left sidebar on Annual Conference.

Must Reads

  • All the Tea in China-Jane Orcutt
  • In the Shadow of the Sun King-Golden Keyes Parsons
  • Wings of a Dream-Anne Mateer