Sunday, February 17, 2013

Steph and the Ghost

Enjoy a short side story of Stephania the best friend of Danielle Labouleaux of The Body Hunters

Stephania opened the pantry door in the kitchen to put her mop away.  She turned around and screamed.  The confederate soldier standing before her was a bloody mess and the hole in his temple was an oozing wound where a bullet was still lodged. His blonde hair barely concealed the wound and his grey uniform was tattered and dirty. He was no more than a boy, 18 or 19 possibly.  He didn’t say anything to her; he just stood in his ghostly form with pleading blue eyes gazing at the basement door. 
 She’d seen him a few times before but only for a few seconds at a time. It still jarred her nerves every time he appeared. She had asked her roommate Danny who was a psychic and used to this sort of thing about the spirit and she blew it off saying he was harmless. Regardless, Stephania had enough of his antics and decided to confront him once and for all.
She stood looking at the apparition wagging her finger as she scolded him. “You, stop scaring me! I don’t know this thing you want.” She said in her deep Sicilian accent.  “What you think I can do for you?”  
The ghost to her surprise acknowledged what she said.  He hung his head down in shame for scaring her.   “Look at you! Coming to me this way, all bloody and disgusting! How you expect me to help eh?” 

 The young soldier smiled at her as light shimmered around him. Stephania stood in amazement watching his features change from grotesque to handsome; he now stood before her in a clean uniform and flawless face.  He leaned in closer to her and whispered in her ear.
“I’m Malachi.” He said. “I need you to help me.”  The specter said in his deep southern gentile accent. The air around him was cold. Stephania could see her own breath in front of her. 
“Malachi?  No, no! I no good at this, there are others here they can help Ok? I talk to them for you. They will help you.”
Malachi gave her a frown. He shook his head back and forth.  His voice registering just above a whisper. “It has to be you, please Stephania.”
She stood startled seeing through his frame. But locking into his eyes as he once again came close to her.  “How do you know my name?” she asked.
“I live here.”  He whispered. “I know everyone who lives here.”
“Then you know I don’t do this speak to ghosts thing. I am not psychic. Why you come to me?” Stephania tore her eyes away from his and turned to walk to the kitchen sink where a pile of dishes waited.  Malachi followed her and sat himself up on the counter.
“I like you, you’re very pretty.” He grinned. “I like the way you talk and walk, I like the way you smell.” Malachi leaned over like he was going to kiss her.
Stephania stopped her dish washing and looked at him. The last thing she wanted was to be hit on by a ghost.  She threw a dishrag at him only to see it hit the back of the counter wall. 

“You are just a boy!  You watch your mouth! Or I not help you.“  She stood staring at the ghost with her hands on her hips. “I’m losing my mind; I’m talking to a ghost!” She threw her hands up in the air. “Please go to Danny she can do so much for you.”  She said waiving her hand at him, shooing him away. 
Malachi smiled a boyish grin. “But I do really like you! And only you can help. You are close to me. You are part of my family.”
“What? No no! I not close to you! All my famiglia in Sicily, so tell me how should I be famiglia to you?  You no paisano!” she resumed doing her dishes.
Malachi laughed. “Stephania, just trust me. I know you are in love with Victor and he is my family.”
“Then go to him, why you haunt me?”  She put her hands back on her hips waiting for him to answer.
“You’re so much prettier to look at!” Malachi laughed at his own joke. “Victor doesn’t believe in ghosts and doesn’t see me so I need you to convince him that I need to be found. Please Stephania!”
She gazed at him confused. “Found? But you are here, I see you. What you mean found?”
Malachi jumped down from the counter and walked over to the table. “Please, make yourself a cup of tea and I will tell you.”  Stephania sighed and did as she was told figuring it was going to be the only way her almost invisible visitor would leave her alone. Soon she was sitting at the table with a hot cup of tea and Malachi telling her his history.
Malachi joined the confederates in his home state of Georgia and after one year he decided to desert.  He snuck his way into Savannah under an assumed name where he fell in love with Emily. She was the beautiful auburn haired daughter of a local merchant who helped hide runaway slaves. They had created a false room in the basement of the stately home Stephania now shared with Danny.  When approaching confederate army men came snooping around looking for homes that were part of the Underground Railroad, Malachi would don his old uniform and give misinformation to throw them off the scent. 

The plan worked well till an old school chum recognized him and knew him as a deserter. Luckily the home’s extra occupants were gone and the house was empty at the moment except Emily and her parents. The confederates checked the home’s interior for any evidence of runaways.  Unfortunately for them there was some. Torn and dirty clothing that had been carelessly forgotten in a small cubby hole was found.  Malachi was marched to an encampment where he told a tale of deserting for the love of the beautiful Emily. After hours of enduring torture he stuck to his story knowing he was going to be executed for deserting anyway. He saw no sense in living anymore. Emily and her parents had been executed with a single shot to the head for hiding runaway slaves. His own truth was that he was an abolitionist and tried to sabotage the confederate army from the inside, passing secrets to the Union army and spying for them. He had deserted when his sergeant heard there may have been a mole in their midst. Malachi was brought back to the home where he was executed in the same manner as his beloved and her parents, buried alongside their bodies in the basement. The home was ransacked of all of its goods and left abandoned for 10 years after the Civil War’s end.
Stephania sat stunned by the story. She could have sworn Malachi was crying. He told her that his spirit was stuck in the home and he couldn’t find Emily or her parents.  He recounted the day he felt Victor Turner’s presence at the home and knew he was a descendant. He was some 5 times great nephew or something like that, Malachi told her.  Victor had been recommended by a friend and subsequently hired by the girls to remodel and restore the home. Victors tearing down to the original walls and fixtures  had brought Malachi’s ethereal state to a stronger presence, enough for Stephania to actually see him even though she could see through him.
“What you want me to do for you?” Stephania asked. She had forgotten he was in spirit form and tried to reach out for his hand but hers fell to the table unable to grasp it. Malachi touched her face, his spirit entered into her being, his hand gliding through her like a knife through butter. The sensation chilled her but she didn’t pull away.
“Tell my nephew to find me. Find Emily and her parents, maybe then we all can be reunited and leave.  Well, after the wedding of course.”
“Wedding? Ghosts get married?” Stephania wondered how that would work.
Malachi laughed and waved his hand in front of her. The room spun as Stephania fell into a deep sleep her head now resting on the table. Malachi showed her in her dream state a future that was meant for only her to see.
“Steph, Steph ! wake up!”  Danny shook Stephania in her chair, as she groggily lifted her head and cleared the cob webs from her eyes. 
“Where is he?” Stephania asked as she frantically looked around the room. “Mio Dio, I think I should be losing my mind. All you psychics! Now you got me seeing ghosts!”  Stephania laughed pulling her long hair from her face.
“What ghost?” Danny asked.
“You know I tell you about him before, the grey coated man in the army, except this time he tell me many things. “ Stephania relayed to Danny the story he had told her of his desertion, Emily and the story of his demise. Danny sat with her hand to her mouth stunned at the revelation of the history of her house.
“Steph, I think we should have Victor do it! Let’s dig up the basement!”
“You want me to dig up the basement ma’am?”  Victor Turner said to Danny as he came through the back door. He leaned over and gave Stephania a quick kiss.  “What are you looking for?”
“Buried treasure!” Danny said with a sly smile.
Malachi smiled from his perch on the counter. Danny gave him a discreet thumbs up. The two of them had finally found a way through Stephania to release him from his earthly prison.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Aiden Stone, Marine

Excerpt from The Body Hunters

The three Humvees spit up chunks of gravel and sand as they navigated the winding streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. The city was a combination of a modern metropolis mixed with post apocalyptic ruins straight out of a futuristic movie. The heat could only be described as pure unadulterated hell. It permeated the metal innards of the three military vehicles that made up the convoy. The elite US Marine unit had just provided assistance to the US Army in pushing back guerillas terrorizing civilians in the nearby area. The mission had been a success, resulting in multiple casualties for the insurgents. Nearly unscathed, the squad of Marines was headed back to base.

Sergeant Aiden Stone sat alongside the driver in the lead Humvee with sweat pouring down his face in streams. He ought to be used to the merciless rays of the sun by now. His roots were native Hawaiian. An alpha male to the core, during his senior year of college he decided to be one of the few, proud, Marines. Excelling at everything he put his mind and body to, Aiden quickly made sergeant in his company. Trying to keep the peace in Afghanistan, he was now in his third tour of duty. As usual, his squad mates were talking major trash, and he was stuck playing referee. He had been with this squad for the past six months, and they were definitely his band of brothers. Good or bad he could count on them, and they could depend on him.

"I'm telling you, that chick was all up on me." Private Owens said. He was also known as Huck. The squad had nicknamed the Kentucky native Huckleberry Finn or Huck because of his country bumpkin ways. He had spent the entire ride obsessing about a particularly curvy female Army mechanic back at base.

"You think every chick is after you." Private 1st class Mason Jones, or Jonesy, drawled sarcastically.

"What does she want with you anyway?" Sergeant James Carpenter the driver asked, adding his two cents to the conversation. "I heard she's hot for her old man back home."

"That's right: At home. She's probably got months before she gets to leave. Ain't nothing wrong with a little lovin' til then."

"Somebody is gonna kick your 90-pound ass, I swear," Jonesy who was married and had a thing against cheaters said. His wife back home was his heart and soul and the very thought of cheating deeply offended his sensibilities.

"Hey, Do I have to come back there and separate you two?" Aiden finally said, keeping his ocean blue eyes on the road and the unfriendly faces in the landscape around them. Even though the US military was there for the greater good, there were still some Afghanis that didn't appreciate their presence.

"Sorry Sergeant Spam." Huck apologized.

"I asked you not to call me that!" Stone looked at Huck with one raised eyebrow.

Aiden's subordinates had found out about his love for Spam, which was a favorite dish in Hawaii. He'd grown up loving the meat in the can, which his mother had used in alot of her soul food dishes. Since they they wouldn't leave him alone about it.

"Yeah sure Boss Spam!" Huck was elbowing Jonesy in the ribs while chuckling loudly.

"Shut it guys! Hold up! I don't like the looks of these civvies!" Aiden noticed that several civilians who had been milling about had quickly vacated the streets and gone into their homes. You could sometimes tell the mercurial moods of the Afghanistan atmosphere by the way the locals behaved. "I need you two to stay frosty. I've got a bad feeling and there's no telling when I might need one of you to man the .50-cal."

The .50-cal was the mean looking roof mounted machine gun positioned on top of the Humvee.

"Sir, yes sir." The two repeated in unison. Now they too were alert to everything that was going on around them.

"Carpenter, what is that?" Aiden squinted out the driver's side window, the glare from the windshield obscuring his vision.

Carpenter saw the hooded figure also, his eyes widening in horror. "What the f--"

His words were cut off as the Humvee was rocked by an explosion from a rocket propelled grenade. The explosive missile hit the vehicle dead center, sending deadly projectiles of shrapnel flying. Like miniature diamonds, shards of glass pelted the marines as the Humvee was knocked off its wheels. The Humvee was flipped on its right side, as it's highly vulnerable underside was peppered with heavy weapons fire. Ready to ignite a spark, highly combustible fuel dripped from the tank and flames danced along the side like demons.

Even though he was wearing his helmet, Aiden felt like he had been struck in the head with a boulder. His entire body was jolted by the impact. A vice grip of pain held Sergeant Stone's ribs as he coughed up blood. Momentarily deaf and disoriented, he didn't hear the other vehicles in the convoy open fire on the ambushing insurgents. Though his other senses were deadened, his nose worked just fine and he could smell diesel fuel. The cabin started to fill with tendrils of gray smoke. Things just went from bad to horribly worse. Clumsy, bloody fingers fumbled for his safety belt as he called to his squad mates.

"Carpenter, Jones, Owens, sound off!" He coughed, his tongue feeling like it weighed fifty pounds. He had to help them get out and fast! Otherwise this fuel leaking truck would become their coffin.

Finally freeing himself from the harness, he scrambled around the interior of the vehicle, desperate to save his fellow Marines. "Carpenter!" He shook the driver hoping to shake him into consciousness. The Sergeant's neck was moving loosely on his shoulders. The private's mangled face came into his view, and he could tell that the man was already dead. He cursed aloud. The outer skin incinerated, the entire left side of Carpenter's face was a bloody, gory, mangled mess!

"Get out." Carpenter's corpse uttered, his remaining eye open and focusing on Stone. "You gotta get out. It's not your time."

Even though his ears were ringing and he could hear nothing else, the clarity of Carpenter's words was crystal clear. Stone wondered what kind of hell he'd stumbled into. Shaking off the terrifying hallucination, Stone checked the other passengers. One look and he could tell they were also deceased. A ragged sliver of metal had buried itself in Huck's neck. Thick black blood oozed through the wound like oil. Jonesy's eyes were wide open and unseeing, a single bullet wound on the side of his head.

"Ya gotta get out, Boss." Huck gargled, ichor bubbling from his mouth. "Go, go. Get out.

Please tell my wife I love her. Please." Jonesy uttered, his dead eyes focused on Aiden.
Deeply disturbed, he climbed over Carpenter's body, urgently pushing the driver's side door open. After several tries, the door opened on its own filling the interior with harsh sunlight. Strong, friendly arms lifted him out of the death trap and to safety. Hurriedly they hustled him onto a nearby sidewalk. As a field medic checked his vitals and tended to his wounds, his saviors started to go back for the others. The exploding Humvee knocked them all off their feet. The marines had killed the ambushers, but the price had been the lives of three marines

Danielle Labouleaux meets Aiden Stone

Excerpt from The Body Hunters

Who the hell could that be at this hour? She grumbled to herself. Surely Gerard would not have forgotten his key. She padded in bare feet to the big oak door letting the coolness of the ceramic tiles chill her feet. The bell chimed a third time.

"I'm coming!" She yelled with alot of attitude in her voice. If it was one of Gerard's reality show producers coming to kiss his ass some more, she was going to blow her top!

Danny swung the big oak door open and was startled by the sight. Two men stood in the doorway, one in a dark blue suit that looked like he had gotten it off the rack at some bargain bin. He was kind of pudgy and average height. His Hispanic features made him look like any number of men that lived in the area, but he also looked like he was right out of high school. The second man was totally different and exotic. He stood at the doorway, one large arm on the doorjamb, looking extremely casual. He was a mountain she noticed. He has to be at least 6'4, she thought to herself.

"I'm Agent Aiden Stone ma'am, and this is Agent Alejandro Ramirez. I believe we spoke the other night."

I didn't know mountains could talk. Danny mused to herself, "And I believe I told you I wasn't available, Agent Stone."

Stone had the gall to look amused. "And I believe I told you that I needed your help before you hung up on me."

"You're an agent you say?" Danny retorted, never letting the door handle go. "I can believe Agent Ramirez is an agent, but you Agent Stone, really? Jeans and a polo shirt? I was unaware of the new dress code policy at the bureau. OK boys out with the shields."

Danny was not one to mess around; she was a civilian now and for all intents and purposes was practically free of the Bureau. Whatever they wanted from her, they were not going to get it.

Alejandro fumbled with his wallet in his back pocket trying to look more experienced than he was. It was clear he was a rookie. Agent Stone stood straight, and all 6'4 of him made her realize how small she now felt. His skin tone was the color of a deep Hawaiian tan and he had a very island feel about him. She could almost smell the coconuts and ocean breeze about him. He stood before her looking very smug and confident. This irritated Danny as she watched him reach into the front pocket of his impossibly tight jeans, lifting his polo shirt slightly to show a little of his tight abs. She found herself staring a little and turned her head away feeling some heat on her cheeks. Both men now had their badges in front of her and she pretended to inspect them.

"Are you happy now?" Aiden asked, his tone sarcastic.

Danny folded her arms across her chest. "OK, fine, what do you guys want?" she inquired, growing more irritated by the moment.

"Can we come in?" Aiden asked. "As I said over the phone I need help on a cold case. We need to talk to you about it, just to pick your brain."

Figuring that the only way to get rid of the two G men would be to let them in and hear their story, Danny decided to let them in only for a few minutes. It would be kind of awkward explaining to Gerard why the Feds were standing on their doorstep.

Danny led the way to the great room with the big round chrome wall clock that now chimed 9:15 pm. Not wanting to keep them there any longer than she had to, she purposely failed to offer them anything to drink. Agent Ramirez was looking around the big room and was just grateful to be out of the heat.

Aiden Stones introduction

Excerpt from The Body Hunters

Aiden Stone's muscular calves begged for mercy as he pushed back against the leg press, but he gave no quarter. The sled-style leg press was killing him, sweat pouring down his brow and face soaking his gray-colored tee shirt and matching shorts. Fire burned from his solid calves all the way to his muscled thighs, but it didn't bother him. It was a good burn. After a few more reps, he decided that he'd had enough punishment for this workout. After mopping his sweaty brow with the end of his tee shirt, he realized he had an admirer.
A pretty blonde with a pixie cut had been watching him since he had entered the workout room. She had tried her best to look like she wasn't watching him, but being a former Marine turned FBI Special Agent, being watched was one of those things he couldn't miss. Matter of fact, he had seen her watching him for the past few weeks around FBI Headquarters.

"How you doing?" He asked while wearing a wicked smile across his mouth, as she moved up and down the elliptical machine. His hands were gripping the towel around his neck.

"Good. How about you?" She returned breathlessly, a coy smile working across her face.

"Not bad at all." he returned, eyeing the way her breasts in the tight fitting leotard bounced in time with the machine's rhythm.

They took a few minutes talking shop, and Aiden managed to charm the essential stats out of her which of course staring into his eyes she gave up freely. She had been an agent for two years investigating white collar crime at the New York FBI headquarters. She was in the midst of tearing down a massive ponzi scheme operation. She was headed down south to see if she could gain any mroe traction in her investigation. The Bureau shipped you where you needed. Such was the life of a special agent.

Aiden and the female agent made plans to go out to dinner if their schedules allowed, maybe even going back to her hotel room for a little bedroom aerobics he hoped. Neither of them was looking for anything serious and that was just the way he liked it. She would be leaving in a few weeks, and he wouldn't have to worry about the awkwardness of sleeping with a coworker, even if she did work in a completely different division. He wasn't about to let a woman get under his skin, and he wasn't looking for any kind of a steady girlfriend. He was having too much fun being on the loose.

Aiden was a player, of course, but that didn't mean he hated women. Being the only male child in a family of three sisters, his parents had taught him how to cherish and respect the female gender. He loved women and enjoyed spending time with them, but he wasn't the fall in love and make an ass out of yourself type. Over the years he had made several friends with benefits, and they still remained friends. At nearly thirty-five years old, he was beyond the love thing with the buying flowers, romance and the unicorns farting rainbows shit.

With his looks, Aiden was never for want of female company. His ruggedly handsome visage was attributed to his mother, who was a combination of African American and Irish genes and his father, a native Hawaiian surfer dude from the big island of Hawaii. He was six foot four with the solid musculature typical of island natives. He looked like he should be twirling fire knives at a luau wearing nothing but a loin cloth. Frequent visits to the gym kept his physique in prime shape, giving him a rippled body. His eyes were as blue and intense as the waters that surrounded the island where he was born. Skin the color of damp Hawaiian sand covered his body, and he kept his naturally straight dark brown, bordering on black, hair cropped close to his head.

After tormenting his body at the FBI Headquarters fitness center, Aiden stood under the hot spray of the locker room shower. The water felt good against his slightly sore muscles as he thought of home being under the waterfall letting the droplets run down the full length of him head to toe. Emerging from the shower with his skin still steaming, he wrapped a towel around his waist and proceeded to get dressed in front of his locker.

His former Bureau mentor and ex-partner Steve Sims complained, "Damn it jackass, would you please put some clothes on!" He was changing out of his own workout gear. "You're making the rest of us look fat."

Aiden laughed heartily, pulling his black polo shirt over his head. Permanently cynical, Sims had been the one to show Stone the ropes when he joined the Bureau. The FBI veteran had been a special agent for ten years and like Stone had retired from the military.

"I told you, give me one month as your personal trainer and you'll need a bat to keep the women off you." Aiden said.

I need another woman like I need a hole in my head. I got a daughter in college draining my bank account, and I have a wife who can't stay the hell out of the mall. Yet for some strange reason I'm happy. Go figure! Fat and happy! Ha! You'll find out one day though."

"I don't think so, Sims. You know how I am." Aiden strapped on his holster and Bureau issued Glock 23 pistol. "I do my thing and I'm in the wind. It wouldn't be fair to the ladies to not share all of this!" He ran his hand down his body like he was showing off a new car at an auto show.

"Just wait kid. Someday some woman is gonna get your knickers so twisted you won't know which way to turn!" Sims zipped up his blue dress pants and tucked in his off the rack white collar button down shirt.

Aiden shot him a look saying he didn't believe a word he said. "Sure, Sims. I'll see you around. Alright old man?"

"Yeah OK ladykiller! Keep that nose of yours clean, kid."