Thursday, December 1, 2011



By: Terri Talley Venters

“We must be getting close, I see the magnesium veins in the rock walls,” Victoria said. She led her boyfriend/colleague down a labyrinth cave system outside of Paris, France.

“Let’s be careful, we don’t want to ignite this mine,” Tommy said. His sandy-blonde hair glowed in the beam of light from Victoria’s headlight. His untamed curls framed his handsome, green-eyed face.

“We’re fine, we’re using battery powered lights, not gasoline lanterns,” Victoria said. She pointed to the light on her headband covering her long dark hair.

They came to a mining tunnel and stared incredulously at the low height.

“Why would they make such short tunnels? We’re going to have to crawl through on our hands and knees,” Tommy said.

“I thought you liked me on my knees,” Victoria smiled, teasing her man.

“You owe me a back rub later for making me hunch over like Quasimodo to get down here,” Tommy said. He smiled suggestively at Victoria, winking at the recollection of prior rub downs and where they often led.

Tommy stared into Victoria’s ice-blue eyes and couldn’t think of anywhere else he’d rather be, than cave exploring with his beautiful girlfriend and fellow archaeologist.

They crawled through the shaft for a hundred yards. Just as Victoria felt claustrophobic, the tunnel opened up to a large cavern. Victoria stood upright again and brushed the debris off of her toned limbs.

The cavern appeared as is if someone currently mined it. The scaffolding and ladders went from the floor to the fifty-foot ceiling.

Tommy shined his flashlight along the cavern walls, its beams bounced off of its treasure like tiny prisms.

“Are those?” Victoria asked.

“Diamonds,” Tommy said, finishing her sentence. He retrieved a small chisel from his excavation kit and tapped at the rock surrounding the precious gem. A diamond as big as his fist dropped into his eager hands.

“Incredible, look at all of them. The diamonds I can see in the room alone must be worth a billion Euros,” Victoria said.

“I never knew such an abundant supply existed, and in France,” Tommy said.

“I wonder who owns all of this? They must be withholding to avoid flooding the market and deflating the price of diamonds,” Victoria said.

“You know, I think I know who owns this, assuming the land owners above also own the mineral rights. Look at what is located directly above us,” Tommy said. He handed Victoria his hand-held, techie-nerd GPS device.

“We’re right below Euro Disney,” Victoria said.

“I feel bad for stealing from a mouse. But this will fund our digs for the rest of our lives,” Tommy said as he pocketed the diamond.

“Shhh, I hear something,” Victoria said. She ducked behind a mining cart and hid from the intruder. She grabbed Tommy’s strong bicep and yanked him down beside her.

“Oh, crap! Who are these men? They look like, no, it can’t be,” Tommy said. His chiseled-jaw dropped to the floor, along side Victoria’s.

They stared incredulously as a group of miners entered the gem mine. Their short stature and bearded faces made them look comical, yet familiar. They sang a catchy tune as they started their work shift.

“They’re dwarves,” Tommy said, without taking his eyes off of the unique, yet unmistakable workers before him.

“This explains the short height of the mining tunnels and scaffolding. They look just like…” Victoria said, cut off by Tommy’s words.

“I know, only there’s more than seven working here today,” Tommy said.

Victoria and Tommy watched the dutiful dwarves arrive to start their shift. They grabbed their pickaxes and prepared for their day digging diamonds and precious gems out of the rocks beneath Euro Disney outside of Paris, France.

They continued singing the familiar song in unison “Hi Ho….”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011



By: Terri Talley Venters
Minerva awoke to the soothing sounds of the sea, just as she did each morning. As an early riser, she thrived on the solitude of her early morning swim. She meandered through the palace as her family slumbered. Arriving at the terrace, she jettisoned herself into the peaceful serenity of the open water.

She began her routine at mach speed, waking her body and mind up as her lithe form cut through the water like a spear. Feeling invigorated from the aqua sprint, she dove towards the depths of the sea.

She swam at the ocean bottom, admiring the tiny seahorses with their tails wrapped around the plant branches. The sand, undisturbed, sparkled as the rays of the morning sun breached the water's surface, illuminating the ocean floor.

Minerva froze, spotting a great white shark a hundred yards away. She prayed the carnivorous creature wouldn’t sense her presence. He appeared occupied with a bloody carcass at the surface. Her eyes scanned the surface above her as more sharks joined the great white and his feeding frenzy.

A dark shadow loomed over her, blocking sun’s rays. Scared, Minerva looked up, knowing the shadow’s source before she verified the terrifying object above her--a boat.

She swam away and headed home, wishing she’d never left the safety of Atlantis. But a wall of rope came towards her, it extended from the surface to the floor with its sides angled towards her.

She knew the dangers of the net; she’d witnessed it capture her fellow Atlantians. She retreated backwards, away from the dangers of mankind’s fishing net. She sensed a presence behind her. Fearful, she turned to face yet another enemy, the great white shark.

The enormous creature swam towards Minerva, trapping her between the net and his carnivorous intentions. He lunged towards her, but missed her in his closed-eye frenzy. She darted around the great beast, never taking her eyes off of the predator. She realized her mistake as the ropes of the net caught her fin.

The shark floated away in retreat, thus avoiding the net. But Minerva saw the net close around her struggling form. She stopped wiggling as the hopelessness sank in. Tears flowed as the net lifted her up towards the surface.

Crunched together with a mixture of fish, she saw the morning sun as the net rose Minerva out of the water and onto the wooden deck of the fishing boat.

“Captain, we’ve caught a mermaid!”

Saturday, October 1, 2011



By: Terri Talley Venters

Roy’s palm sweated as he held the pistol in his hand. He stood in the dark alley, adorned in his finest suit and top hat. He stood back-to-back with his opponent and waited. Waited to live or waited to die?

He recalled the events of the evening and regretted his actions. He shouldn’t have challenged Sir Thomas. Roy’s adversary proved himself the finest shot in South Carolina. But unfortunately, Thomas proved himself many times in this very alley and sent a handful of Charleston’s finest gentlemen to an early grave.

But as a gentleman, Roy faced no other choice. Thomas said the unthinkable and insulted the honor of Roy’s fiancée, Sarah. Roy immediately defended Sarah’s honor and challenged the English nobleman to a duel.

“Gentleman, begin,” Roy’s best friend and “second” said.

Roy started pacing away from Sir Thomas.

One, two, three…

Time stood still as he paced to his death or paced to his victory? He thought about running down the alley and disappearing into the dim light of the breaking dawn. He’d live, but endure the brand of a coward for the rest of his life.

Four, five, six, seven…

He contemplated turning around early to fire on his opponent. He needed to outsmart the Englishman, but cheating would only lead him to the gallows to be hung for murder.

Eight, nine, ten!

Roy stepped wide to the left and quickly turned around. He pointed the pistol at Sir Thomas and fired with confidence. He watched Thomas fly backwards in the air and into the brick wall of the alley, landing dead with a lead bullet in his chest.

160 years later

“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, look,” David said.

The eight-year old jumped up and down excitedly as he pointed towards the brick wall of Philadelphia Alley in Charleston, South Carolina, also known as “Bloody Alley”.

“What is it, Honey?” the mother asked.

“I just saw a ghost,” David said.

“Don’t be silly, sweetheart. There’s no such thing as ghosts,” she said, shaking her head incredulously at the active imagination of her son.

“But the man said,” David said, referring to the ghost tour guide.

“He just said that to scare little boys and gullible tourists. You didn’t see anything,” she said.

“But, mom, I did. I saw a black shadow float across the alley and disappear into the wall,” David said, pointing to the digital camera.

“Were you taking pictures again?” the mother asked.

“Yes, Mommy,” he said.

He clicked the camera into view mode and tapped the back arrow. He held the camera up high so they could view the pictures together.

“You took a video,” she said, impressed with her son’s technical gadget skills.

David tapped on the play arrow of the camera to start playing the video he'd just recorded of the alleyway. They watched in unison as the dark shadow of a man in a top hat flew back into the wall.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Carbon Copy


Terri Talley Venters

Lilly Allen, NYC reporter, has brains, beauty, and a trust fund. She hopes the love of her life, Grier, will propose soon. Lilly has it all, or so she thinks.

Grier Garrison, Create Life executive, is running the company while his father, Dr. Michael Garrison, awaits a heart transplant. Grier knows the truth about Create Life and its shady side business. He fears that Lilly and her twin brother, Luke, are in danger.

While working on two unrelated news stories, stolen newborns and cloning, Lilly discovers a shocking connection. Horrific things are happening, but who is behind it all?

Coming soon from

Thursday, September 1, 2011



By: Terri Talley Venters

Sophia bolted upright in bed as the room shook around her. The light fixtures rattled and the pictures fell from the walls. She peered out her window overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Pebble Beach, California. Everything appeared normal on the west side of her home on the famous Seventeen Mile Drive.

“Danny, get up! It’s another earthquake,” she said. She nudged her lazy husband and ignored his reluctant groans.

“It’s not even a 5.0, go back to bed Sophia,” he said. He rolled over and placed the pillow over his ears to block out the sounds of his nagging wife.

“Listen to my Irish immigrant. You’ve lived here a year and think you’re a native. I’ve lived in California my whole life and this is it. This is the ‘Big One’, ” she said, making finger air quotes.

“Oh, alright,” Danny said.

He climbed out of bed and pulled his flannel pajama bottoms over his tanned legs. He clicked on the remote control and watched their big screen light up to Fox News. He rotated the enormous flat screen towards the sliding glass door, allowing them to view it from the outside.

Sophia put on her silken robe and walked out unto the first floor terrace. They stood safely outside as they heard the shocking news report.

“A 12.0 Earthquake hit greater Los Angeles this morning. After shocks are reported as far north as Vancouver, and as far south as Baja. This is the ‘Big One’ predicted by geologists,” the newswoman said.

“We should be okay this far north,” Danny said. He wrapped his arm around Sophia to comfort her.

“Tsunamis,” she said, staring at the ocean.

“This cliff is at least 200 feet high. We’ll be fine on high ground,” she said.

Crack! Crack! Crack!

Sophia turned to Danny, her face turned white with fear. The earth trembled beneath their feet. “What was that horrific sound?” she asked.

“I don’t know, it sounded like thunder, but only from the ground,” Danny said.

They whipped their heads back towards the television.

“The San Andreas fault is shifting along the entire coast of California. The western plate is moving towards the Pacific,” the newswoman said.

The live aerial footage showed the enormous crack in the earth’s surface. It moved like a lightning bolt and crackled like thunder. The crack widened as the western side of the fault floated towards the Pacific.

The television turned black as the power failed.

“The geologists were right. They said when the “Big One” hit, half of California would fall into the Pacific Ocean,” Sophia said.

Sophia and Danny held hands as they watched the earth beneath them drift away from the Continental United States and fall into the sea.

Monday, August 1, 2011



Cornelius stood guard at the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina. He sat in his usual spot, perched on the rooftop, guarding the west entrance of the estate. Thousands of tourists traversed the long hallways each day to gawk at the Gilded-age opulence of the largest, privately-owned home in the United States.

Cornelius protected the estate with over a hundred others. He took his duties seriously. He and his coworkers never moved an inch during their twelve hour work shifts. But staying perfectly still proved easier than expected, especially since Cornelius recently turned one-hundred years of age.

As the next group of tourists appeared on the rooftop, Cornelius noticed a child who appeared about eight-years-old.

The small boy held his Mother’s hand, pointed at the guard and asked, “Look at that one, Mommy, why is he so ugly?”

“Michael, sweetheart, it’s not polite to point and say mean words,” the boy’s mother said, rolling her eyes, incredulous of the words pouring from her child’s mouth.

“It’s okay, Mommy, he can’t hear me,” Michael said, looking up at his mother to make his point.

“I know baby, but let’s practice our good manners just the same,” she said.

“Can we walk to the edge with Daddy and look? Please?” Michael asked, pleading with his pout lower lip.

“No, Michael, Mommy is too scared to look over the edge. I don’t know why your father insisted we take the rooftop tour with a small child. It’s so windy, and I’m terrified you’ll blow right off the edge,” she said, squeezing Michael’s hand.

“Please notice all of the gargoyles perched along the rooftop of the Biltmore. Each one is different, and some even boast voluptuous breasts like this one here,” the tour guide said, pointing towards the female gargoyle. She gave the men a few seconds to admire the taut nipples of the statue and shoot a few perverted pictures before continuing with the tour.

“Some gargoyles are used as waterspouts to divert the rain water, while other serve as guards to protect the estate. I’ve worked at the Biltmore for over thirty years. And every so often, I notice the gargoyles are perched in a slightly different spot than they were the day before,” the guide said.

“How do the gargoyles switch places,” Michael asked.

“Magic,” the guide said, smiling as she tossed the sandy blonde hair of the adorable blue-eyed boy.

Cornelius refrained from chuckling at the tour guide’s comment. He’d noticed it too. The gargoyles did appear in different places on occasion. But while the guide found it magical and amusing, it infuriated Cornelius.

Cornelius heard the sound of wings flapping and cursed silently because he knew the noise belonged to a pigeon. Those damn “rats with wings” proved the bane of his existence because they were stupid, loud, dirty, and pooped everywhere. He crossed his fingers, and prayed the pigeon pooped in a territory belonging to another guard. The last thing Cornelius wanted was to clean pigeon poop after his shift ended.

“Mommy, look. The toes on the gargoyle just moved,” Michael said, pointing.

“No, Honey, you’re imagining things. Gargoyles can’t move because they’re statues guarding the estate,” the mother said.

“But the lady said sometimes the gargoyles switch places,” Michael said.

“Why do you listen to the tour guide and not me when I tell you to clean your room. She merely teased when she said the gargoyles switched places," the mother said.

“But I saw…” Michael said.

“It’s just your overactive imagination. Come on let’s go. Mommy and Daddy are anxious for the wine tasting at the winery,” the mother said, pulling Michael away.

The group of tourists exited the rooftop for the last tour of the day. Dusk loomed ahead and Cornelius looked forward to the end of his long shift. Although his duties at the Biltmore Estate seemed important, the job itself felt easy. But sitting in the same place twelve hours a day for the last one-hundred years proved exhausting.

After the sun set and the darkness of the night settled in, Cornelius watched the last of the tourists and the guides leave the Biltmore, shutting down for the night. Cornelius breathed an enormous sigh of relief. His stomach growled with hunger as he contemplated what to eat for dinner--venison, lamb, beef, game or fish?

Tonight he felt like dining alone. His tough day guarding the rooftop put him in a foul mood. He felt antisocial and hoped none of the other guards took offense for his craving solitude for a few hours. He could always meet up with the others later.

Cornelius watched the last of the Biltmore workers vacate the grounds until sunrise tomorrow morning. He wiggled his toes and rolled his shoulders to help alleviate the cramping in his limbs from sitting perched all day on the rooftop without a single break.

When the coast looked clear, Cornelius, the gargoyle, extended his wings. He jumped off of the Biltmore rooftop and flapped his powerful wings through the air, flying into the darkness of the night.

Friday, July 1, 2011



By: Terri Talley Venters

“Hello President Putin, thank you for meeting me,” President Chen said. Although China’s newest leader spoke fluent Russian, both parties agreed to speak the language of their common enemy--the United States of America.

“Hello, President Chen. The Iron Curtain collapsed decades ago and yet we meet behind closed doors. I must say, you’ve piqued my curiosity,” Putin said.

The most powerful man in Russia presented China’s President with a bottle of his best vodka and immediately poured two glasses. He gestured for her to sit in the chair opposite him to join him for a drink.

“We need your help,” Chen said. She sipped the vodka as it warmed her fifty-year old belly.

“The most populated country on the planet needs the help of Mother Russia?” Putin asked. The sixty-year-old man placed his fingers on his thin beard, rubbing it in deep thought. He drank most of his vodka pour in one gulp, following the Russian custom.

“We need your help to take over the United States of America,” Chen said. Her black slanted eyes stared at Putin to convey her seriousness. She needed to work twice as hard as her male constituents to prove her worth, even after her victorious election to become the first female leader of China.

“How do you plan to accomplish such a monumental task?” Putin asked.

“The United States is bankrupt beyond recovery. They ran their deficit up to infinity. They print more money than they can back up in gold. They issued Treasury bills to raise money. China started buying all of the zero-coupon T-bills years ago,” Chen said.

“Zero coupon means they owe you more than they paid because it doesn’t include the interest until the back end?” Putin asked, confirming what he already knew.

“Yes, many T-bills are due, and they can’t pay. So what do you do when you can’t pay your debts?” Chen asked.

“The creditor takes possession of the debtor’s assets,” Putin said. He shifted his eyes as his mind comprehended the revelation.

“The United States owns land, structures, and all of the gold in Fort Knox and the Federal Reserve. But most of the real estate is owned by the Americans,” Chen said.

“You are correct, but most Americans mortgage their homes. The bank owns the property until the mortgage is paid in full. If the payments cannot be made, the bank repossesses the land and structure,” Putin said.

“And who owns the banks? The federal reserve took over all banks since so many failed during the mortgage crises,” Chen said.

“The government turns over the banks to China and you control the interest rates,” Putin said, marveling at the genius first female president of China.

“I won’t even need to raise the interest rates because the Americans cannot afford to pay their mortgages,” Chen said.

“They have no money because the U.S. Dollar becomes worthless. They have no jobs because our Chinese companies will only hire Chinese and Russians,” Chen said.

“The Chinese take over the homes, jobs, and the lives of the American People,” Putin said.

“And the Russians as well. We need your help. More importantly, we need your military support,” Chen said, she finished the last of her vodka and nudged the glass towards Putin to indicate her interest in another round.

“Mother Russia helps China invade the United States of America, in exchange for what?” Putin asked as he obliged Chen’s nonverbal request for another round of Russia’s drink of choice.

“The entire Eastern coast of the United States,” Chen said. She sipped on the vodka and appreciated the liquid courage to broach the subject of her controversial plans.

“I like it,” Putin said with a nod of approval.

“We have a mass foothold in the States already. Every Chinese restaurant in every strip mall across the nation is actually a sleeper cell awaiting instructions for a hostile takeover,” Chen said.

“Brilliant, Miss Chen. Russia invades the East coast, and China invades the West coast,” Putin said.

“And the Americans get squeezed into the middle,” Chen said, finishing Putin’s sentence.

“Exactly, but I do have two conditions,” Chen said.

“I’m listening,” Putin said.

“China and Russia share the use of NASA’s launch facilities,” Chen said.

“Of course. We both use the Florida, California, and Texas facilities equally. It only seems fair. What else?” Putin asked.

“China wants all of its foreign nationals to be granted safe passage to the west coast,” Chen said.

“I don’t see a problem with that,” Putin said.

“Including all of its women. Millions of our Chinese infant girls were adopted by American parents. Many of them are grown and are now of child-bearing age. We need them for breeding with our overabundance of Chinese men,” Chen said.

“Ah, I see, with all of the space on the west coast, you no longer need to enforce your mandate of one child per couple,” Putin said.

“Yes, I hated the policy and never married because of it. I couldn’t bear to ever face the possibility of giving up my child simply because she was born a female. I decided to devote my life to politics in hopes of finding a way to rid China of the horrific mandate,” Chen said. Her eyes moistened from the confession.

“So how do you propose we keep the Americans out of our repossessed lands?” Putin asked.

“We set up borders to keep them between Denver and Chicago. The Southerners may try to head south to Mexico, if the Mexicans will accept them. And the Northerners will probably flee towards Canada. Or they can find their way in the vast nothingness of the new Middle America,” Chen said.

“How ironic to think that the Americans will be treated as they treated the Native Americans centuries ago. It’s Karma,” Putin said, nodding his head with approval of the dramatic irony.

“And now we use your ‘Iron Curtain’ to border our new Eastern and Western Territories. We build a cross between the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall to contain the Americans in Middle America,” Chen said.

“To Iron Curtains,” Putin said as he raised his newly poured shot of vodka into the air.

“To Iron Curtains,” Chen said as she clinked her vodka-filled glass with Putin’s to toast their plans to take over the United States of America.

“Da svi dan ya, Putin said.

“Sayonara,” Chen said.

“Good-bye, United States of America.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Copper Blade

“Copper Blade”
A Liam O’Hare Mystery
by Cherie Reich

I crouched close to the body, careful not to disturb the blood soaking into the Oriental rug. My fingertips pressed against his neck. No thump-thump pattered. With my watch face, I detected no breath. Lord Carrington the third was most definitely dead, although I could’ve surmised it with the amount of blood and, of course, the dagger embedded into his chest.

My companion paced around the room, only giving a precursory glance to the decease. He sniffed the air before examining an empty display case upon the oak desk.

“Find anything, O’Hare?”

“Hmm.” He rubbed his chin before leaning very close to the case. “How long do you presume he’s been dead, Johnson?”

I checked Lord Carrington’s fingers and arms. The blood was still damp, his flesh cool but not cold. “Rigor mortis hasn’t set in. I would estimate perhaps an hour, not much longer than that.”

“Hmm.” He straightened so quickly I jumped and almost planted my knee into the crimson stain.

“What is it?”

“I believe we need to speak with the residents at Ravenwood Manor.” He strode toward the door, only a faint hint of a limp detectable.

“Shouldn’t we contact Scotland Yard first?” No matter that the family called upon us first. This was a matter for the constable, not a former detective and a professor.

“They shall arrive shortly to arrest the murderer.” Without further word, he opened the door and exited the room.

Liam O’Hare’s confidence unnerved me, but I didn’t doubt him. The Irishman had a keen eye for details I never could see. I gazed around the room. Besides the empty glass case and the dead lord, I couldn’t fathom who committed such a crime.

“Don’t worry, old chap. We’ll find out who did this to you,” I whispered to the deceased.


Four people crowded into the study, not including Liam, myself, and the former Lord Carrington.

Lord Carrington’s son, James, wrapped a sturdy arm around a quite young Lady Carrington. She clutched a dainty handkerchief in her hand and leaned against her step-son. The maid who discovered the body cringed in the corner. Sobs shuddered through her slight chest as she buried her face in her hands. Last was the butler, a one Mr. George Thomas, stood pole-straight and stoic. Not a whisker twitched on the man’s face.

“This is the entire household, correct,” O’Hare inquired, his steely gaze soaking in every detail. I pondered what stories he saw with this group.

“Yes, inspector.” James Carrington moved his hand lower to his step-mother’s waist. “We have a cook as well, but Sally left a couple hours ago. George and Lydia live in-house.”

“No one else has entered this house since the cook left and we arrived?”

“George, have you let anyone else in?” James glanced toward the butler, and I followed his gaze.

“No one, sir.” The man spoke in dry, somber tones. Either he had a respect for the deceased within the room or was as dull as a weathered hansom.

O’Hare tapped his finger to his lips. “Then one of you is the killer.”

The maid let out a wail like a keening hound. I caught the butler’s eyes widening before the mask slid over them. Lady Carrington clutched to James.

“No, it can’t be.” She eyed the butler and maid, squinting with suspicion while her complexion paled.

James entwined his fingers with hers. “My step-mother is correct. There must be a fifth person here. Perhaps someone has broken into our home. None of us would murder my-my father.”

He swallowed audibly, and I noticed the first flicker of grief in the man’s moistening eyes.

O’Hare leaned against the desk and tapped along the empty container. “Do you recognize the weapon, my lady? Did it not come from this case?”

Her gaze flitted toward her husband. She wavered and I reached out a hand to steady her.

“Would you care for a seat, madam?”

“Oh, no, no.” She shook her head as if dispelling a nightmare. Her hand slipped from James’ and she twisted a rather large diamond ring around her finger. With a sigh, she said, “My husband acquired the copper dagger during a trip East. He said it was some ancient artifact. I paid little attention to it. He was always acquiring trinkets on his travels. As for the case, it did hold the weapon. Someone must’ve removed it.”

“Yes, someone must have.” O’Hare agreed before focusing his attention on Carrington’s son. “Sir, what did you remove from this desk?”

“What? Nothing’s missing.” James’ eyes darted around the room.

I followed his inquiry as well. I didn’t see anything missing, although the maid gave a loud snuffle. I should’ve offered her my handkerchief, but I didn’t.

O’Hare pointed toward the desktop. “A paper was placed here recently. Your father signed something, a document, I presume. His marks are fresh. So what did you take?”

His jaw clenched and popped. The two men stared each other down, and I started to move between them before he reached into his jacket pocket. “All right. Father was signing a document. It was a business proposition for me to journey to France and oversee his new winery. I told him I wanted to remain in England, but father was father. When he got something in his head, he wouldn’t let it go. When I saw the signed document, I took it. I figured it would be null and void if it was never discovered.” He removed the paper, showing it to O’Hare and me.

“Henry never told me you’d be leaving for France,” Lady Carrington said, taking James’ hand again.

“I didn’t wish it.” He smiled at her, and I raised an eyebrow toward O’Hare.

He didn’t pay much heed, though. “And, Mr. Thomas, when did you last see Lord Carrington.”

“It was after dinner, sir. We passed in the corridor, and he requested to be alone in his study and I was to see no one disturbed him.” His voice remained as flat as a collapsed accordion.

“So, you were the last person to see him alive, then,” O’Hare asked.

“I presume so, except, of course, for his murderer.”

“Of course.” O’Hare chuckled slightly and shifted away from the desk.

A bell rang and all of us startled except for O’Hare and the butler.

“Mr. Thomas, would you be so kind and escort the constable and his detectives upstairs?” O’Hare ambled across the room and opened the door.

“Of course, sir.” The butler gave a slight, stiff bow and left.

“Mr. O’Hare, we preferred that you and Dr. Johnson handle this case. It is a delicate matter,” James said.

“Do you know who did this to my h-husband?” A couple tears trickled down her cheeks.

“Yes, I do, and please, gentlemen come in.” O’Hare ushered three men from Scotland Yard into the now claustrophobic office.

“O’Hare, by George, what are you doing here?” The constable threw up his arms, smacking one of his detectives in the stomach.

“I’ve solved Lord Carrington’s murder.”


I almost chortled when the constable rolled his eyes, but I was too keen to discover the murderer in the room.

“Who is it?” Lady Carrington’s voice was barely above a whisper.
I held a breath as I followed O’Hare’s gaze. He appeared like a hound on the hunt, but I still couldn’t follow his logic. Did the butler do it? The maid? His son? Or his wife?

“Constable, I suggest you arrest Miss Lydia Faircloth in the murder of Lord Carrington.”


O’Hare removed a flask from his overcoat. The harsh scent of whiskey wafted through the air. I preferred scotch myself. He sipped the liquor while the hansom bumped along the road.

“Well, O’Hare. Don’t keep me waiting any longer. How did you know the maid did it?” I leaned forward to catch every word.

“Whom did you suspect?” He twisted the lid onto the flask.

I thought about it. “I must admit I suspected the butler, although I thought it was clear that Lady Carrington and her step-son might be having an affair. They appeared particularly close.”

“Indeed, they did and are.” He ran his finger along the bridge of his nose. “Of course, neither realized Lord Carrington was diddling the maid. The butler knew, so I didn’t suspect him to interrupt his master.”

“Not even for blackmail?”

“No, not even for it.”

“Then how did you know?”

“Simple, Johnson. First one on the scene is the first suspect. The maid sounded the alarm.” He massaged his knee seconds before I heard the first splatter of rain upon the roof.

“Was that all?”

“No, of course not. Lord Carrington trusted his murderer. There was little fight. He advanced toward her, making it easier to slide the unsuspecting dagger into his chest. No blood anywhere except the carpet, so his killer stood in front of him and toppled him over.”

“Anything else?” I collapsed back, unable to fathom how much information O’Hare took in.

He shrugged, a slight grin quirked his lips up. “The scene was tidy. Not a smudge of a fingerprint upon the glass case. Only a maid would pay such attention to details.”


Cherie Reich is a writer, freelance editor, and library assistant living in Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies. Her horror novelette Once Upon a December Nightmare is published by Wild Child Publishing. She is a member of Valley Writers, James River Writers, and the Virginia Writers Club. For further information, please visit her website,, and blog,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Aurora lounged in a cocoon of luxury. She caressed the soft skin of her curvaceous figure. Her exposed belly appeared flattened with muscles. A long, silk skirt hung low around her hips. Her beaded brassiere sparkled with sequins. Colorful scarves adorned her head. Long black hair hung to her waist, shimmering under an exquisitely jeweled headpiece.

She couldn’t complain about her exorbitant surroundings. Rich tapestries draped the walls of her bedroom. The enormous bed easily accommodated ten women. Plenty of room for a sultan and his harem. But only she occupied its satin sheets and vibrantly colored silken pillows.

Her head, cradled in opulence, dreamed of escaping from her solitary confinement. She’d lost track of time. How long had she been here? She craved human contact. Imprisonment kept her from the outside world. With no windows and no doors, Aurora nearly lost her mind.

She could never leave this room. Not unless her master allowed it. She wondered what had happened to him. Hours turned to days, days into weeks, and weeks into months. What if he never returned? Did anyone else know he’d trapped her in this room?

Aurora heard a noise just outside her bedroom walls.

“Aurora, I’m home,” her master said, his voice resonated the air.

Aurora smiled with anticipation. She couldn’t wait to see him, couldn’t wait to abandon the solitude of her surroundings.

She stood up and adjusted her scarves just so. She checked her appearance in the mirror, pleased with her beautiful reflection. She walked to the center of the room, waiting for her master to release her.

Aurora’s eager form shifted into a gaseous state. The helium rose her spirit up into the air. She ascended upwards, exiting through the roof of her bedroom. She landed before her master. Her form relinquished it’s gaseous state, returning her to a human-like existence.

“Hello, Master,” the genie said, finally released from her bottle.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Luke kicked off his flip-flops and wiggled his toes in the hot sands of Playalinda Beach. Holding his brand-new Billabong surfboard, his sky-blue eyes scanned the glassy waves pounding the purity of the shores at his favorite place to surf. Playalinda Beach, part of Canaveral National Seashore, remained unblemished from any commercial development which tarnished most of Florida’s beaches.

He inhaled the salty scent of the ocean as the mist of the crashing waves lightly sprayed his face. He tossed his head to the side to remove his overgrown, sun-streaked, blonde hair from his eyes. He examined the waves, smiling at their four-to-five foot peaks as he contemplated the optimal place to put in his six-foot surfboard.

Turning to the left, he looked north towards New Smyrna Beach, the shark-bite capital of the world. Luke enjoyed the view of nothing but waves, sand, and vegetated dunes diminishing in the horizon. He turned to the right to a view just as beautiful, plus one Space Shuttle nestled against Launch Complex 39A off in the distance at Kennedy Space Center.

After deciding to start slightly north of his current location, he speared the tip of his surfboard into the sand, allowing it to stand upright. He slowly removed his Def Leppard T-shirt from his tanned, muscular upper body and threw it on the sand along with his towel. He removed his car keys from his Lightning Bolt board shorts and wished he had a girlfriend to tote all of his crap.

He opened his small canister of Zinc Oxide and dipped two fingers into the thick, cold goop. He rubbed the white sun-protection on his nose without a thought about protecting the rest if his body from the harmful rays of the sun. He grabbed his wax and slowly rubbed it on his surfboard. Luke inhaled the coconut aroma as he meticulously covered the areas where he’d soon plant his feet to ride the waves.

He grabbed the leash connected to the surfboard and secured the velcro strap around his left ankle. He pulled his surf board out of the sand, tucking it under his arm as he walked north about fifty-yards. He trekked through the sinking sand of the shoreline and tossed his board flat into the water. After guiding his floating board until the water reached his thighs, Luke lay his torso on the board and paddled through the glassy waves.

The water temperature felt perfect, warm enough to avoid the hassle of his wetsuit, yet refreshing enough to invigorate him. His arms stroked through the water as he paddled towards the open Atlantic Ocean. As the remains of a crashed wave rolled towards him, he automatically submerged the tip of his board into the water while simultaneously lifting his powerful upper body to allow the wave to flow between him and his board.

Luke paddled past the waves and sat up on his board. His legs dangled in the water as he admired the unusual clearness of the salt-water. He watched the bait fish swim briskly below him and almost wished he couldn’t see the bottom of the ocean floor. He silently debated if he wanted to see what swam in the waters beneath him; sometimes ignorance is bliss.

He regretted watching Shark Week on the Discovery channel the night before. He wished he’d never learned the close proximity of sharks to the shores of Florida’s beaches, or how sharks often confused the dangling limbs of surfers on their boards with edible seals. Luke couldn’t risk the ridicule of his friends calling him a pussy because he felt afraid to go into the water, so he sucked up his fears and said a silent prayer.

A rush of excitement filled his lungs as he saw a perfect wave rise towards him. He rotated his board to face the beach and dipped his arms into the water to paddle towards shore. He felt the wave lift him and the board up as the force propelled him forward. Luke placed his hands on the board and his strong forearms quickly pushed up as his feet automatically planted themselves on the rear half of the board.

Luke kept his knees bent as he squatted on the board. Using his hips, knees, and feet, he rotated the board back and forth as he rode the four-foot wave perpendicular to the shoreline. With the wave tunneling behind him, he rotated the board up, attempting to catch air. He felt the board coming out of the water and rotated the board back down onto the wave. He wiped out face first into the wave, swallowing salt water as the board leash yanked him towards the shore.

Praying nobody he knew witnessed his wipeout, he stood on the ocean floor in waist deep water until his bearings returned and his head stopped spinning. His ankle throbbed with pain as he recalled the fin of his board scraped him during the wipeout. He lifted his injured limb out of the water and examined the small amount of blood oozing out of the scrape.

Something swooshed near his legs, and Luke prayed the cause was merely the swirling current from the recently crashed wave. He hopped back up on the board and paddled out beyond the breaking point of the waves. He sat on his board, letting his feet dangle in the water below.

Luke saw the shark fin about twenty yards out, swimming perpendicular to the shore. He gently lifted his dangling legs out of the water, cursing for not remembering something so simple as blood attracts sharks. He lay on his floating board with all of his appendages safely out of the water, praying for the recognizable bull shark fin to pass by.

In an instant, the fin turned towards the shore, heading straight for him. Oh shit! Luke paddled frantically, scared to have his arms in the water, but more scared to risk floating on a surfboard as a shark swam towards him. As he paddled faster than he ever thought humanly possible, he heard the screams of sunbathers watching in horror from the shore.

Luke never looked back to gauge the shark’s location, he just kept paddling. He felt a strong force lift him up as his board and body rose. He knew the feeling all too well. He’d just caught a wave. Squatting up on the board, he rode the wave all the way to the shore. When the board fins dragged the bottom of the shallow waters, Luke hopped off of the board and onto the safety of the sandy beach, never looking back.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Penelope stood in the attic of her ancestral home. She loved the hexagon-shaped stained glass window which dominated the top floor of her Victorian Mansion in the Garden District of New Orleans. She stood at the antique wooden podium and looked down at a group of tourists gawking at her home. She wondered if they knew how close they were to getting cursed today.

Penelope opened her spell book with the utmost respect, just as her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother did before her. Her lineage, along with her powers, traced back to the seventeenth century.

Penelope put the finishing touches on her love potion, and raised her arms above her head. She recited the words from her spell book, enjoying the ritual of her craft. It surprised her to run out so quickly. She kicked herself for not brewing the love potion in bulk sooner than today. But with Valentine’s day coming up, the orders poured in. With word of mouth increasing her sales dramatically, she barely scrounged enough ingredients together to make her final batch.

She heard a knock at her door. Are you kidding me? She closed her spell book and covered it with the black, embroidered silk cloth. She descended two flights of stairs, growing impatient with each subsequent knock her visitor delivered. If he only knew who lived here.

Penelope checked her appearance in the foyer mirror, her long black hair hung straight against her tall slender frame. Her creamy white complexion made her mismatched eyes stand out. Although most believed her one blue eye and one green eye made her a freak, Penelope knew it a sign she inherited the strongest powers of Witchcraft. Her family prayed to birth girls carrying the blue eye/green eye trait.

“Good afternoon, Ma’am. Are you Penelope Manchester?” the man asked, tipping his hat like a Southern Gentleman.

“Yes, I am,” she said, admiring his good manners. Maybe he knew, after all?

“My name is James Toliver, identification 1975690. I’m an agent with the Internal Revenue Service,” he said.

“You're with the IRS?” Penelope asked.

“Yes, Ma’am. Our office made several attempt to contact you. I’ve telephoned and sent letters, but I haven’t heard a response. I’m glad to see you are alive and well, Ma’am. But I hope to schedule a time to meet with you to discuss various tax matters,” he said.

“Sure, now is as good of a time as any. Please, won’t you come in?” Penelope asked, only because he acted so nice to her.

“Thank you, Ma’am. You have a lovely home,” James said, entering the enormous mansion and marveling at its exorbitant furnishings and décor.

“Thank you, would you like a cup of tea?” Penelope asked.

“I’d love some, if it’s no trouble, of course,” he said.
“Excuse me while I put the kettle on,” Penelope said, disappearing into the kitchen.

“How did you find out about me?” Penelope asked, returning to the agent in the living room.

“When I audited a friend of yours, he tried to deduct your spell casting services from his income. He showed me a receipt for $5,000. Did Kyle Smith pay you to curse someone? He said it was a necessary expense for his business. Never in my 30 years with the service have I witnessed such a ridiculous deduction,” the agent said.

“Oh, yes, I remember Kyle. Did he tell you if it worked?” Penelope asked. Her blood boiled with anger.

“I didn’t ask, that’s not my job. I have a copy of your tax returns for the last several years, and I’d like to ask you a few questions,” the agent said, his tone turned harsher.

“My CPA, Terri, prepares my taxes. All of my income derives from my great-grandmother’s Dynasty trust,” Penelope said.

“Yes, I can see, your taxable income exceeds over five-million dollars each year. But I’m afraid you’re not reporting all of your income,” James said.

“I don’t understand, I pay over a million dollars in taxes every year. How much more do you want?” Penelope asked. She felt furious to pay the government so much money, especially after the way the authorities treated her ancestors.

“Do you earn money from your potions and spell casting services?” James asked.
“I suppose, but it’s nothing compared to the income I receive from my trust fund,” Penelope said.

“I’m afraid you must pay taxes on your income derived from all sources. However, your accountant can deduct your costs related to your, uh, business,” James said.

“I have to pay taxes on the money I make from Witchcraft?” Penelope asked, trying to control her anger.

“I’m afraid so,” James said. He turned his head towards the kitchen as the tea kettle whistled.

“Excuse me while I see to your tea,” Penelope said.

She hurried to the kitchen and removed the boiling water from the stove. She poured the steaming water in the tea pot, feeling furious at the nerve of this man. Taxing my Witchcraft income? Seriously?

Penelope took the back stairs straight to the attic, carrying her teapot with her. She retrieved her dark magic spell book from the bookshelf and blew off the dust. Her family only practiced good magic, but they made exceptions for demons and bad people. She felt this man fell under the latter.

She found a potion she’d never used before and lacked confidence in its success. She scrounged the required ingredients together and placed them in the steaming pot of tea. Penelope lit a candle and raised her arms above her head as she read the words to cast the spell.

As she closed the pages of her ancestral spell book, she added a sprinkle of arsenic to the Tax Man’s tea, just to be sure.