As Professor Jacob’s wife bit into the last pear in the basket, Michael couldn’t help but grin. It had to be the one he’d poisoned and had delivered anonymously earlier today. All he had to do was wait for her to get sick, then swoop in and save her with the antidote hidden in his ring. Professor Jacob would shower him with praise and get him the internship he wanted. He’d become a hero, the top medical student.

It didn’t take long for a reaction. Mrs. Jacob began to gag. Foam sprayed from her mouth. Michael rushed forward to work his magic. Everything was going according to plan. That is until he reached Mrs. Jacobs. Her petite hand clamped around his wrist. Nothing in her appearance hinted at the strength that now cut off the circulation to his fingers. All signs of illness were gone.

“You tried to poison us.”

Words stuck in his throat.  “What… no… I can help….”

Her lips curled back. Long white fangs lined her mouth and her usually blue eyes turned amber. “Then why was your scent all over the fruit?”

Panic made Michael’s stomach clench. He tried to pull free but couldn’t break her hold. Dozens of amber eyes glared back at him when he looked around the room for help. Fur and sharp teeth were everywhere, along with deep rumbling growls.

“You measured the poison for an adult,” said Professor Jacob. His hands grasped Michael’s shoulders, forcing him to the ground. “Our housekeeper’s daughter was only eight. You’ll pay for her death.”

Music began to blast loud enough to make the champagne glasses shake. No one heard Michael’s screams as the pack took their revenge.

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Jessica watched Chad over her paint smudged canvas as he hiked up the trail to Goat Rock. His muscular thighs pumped up and down with the rhythm of the crashing waves below. Same time, same trail, again. Repetitious behavior was sloppy for someone in their line of work.

Hidden below the half squished tubes of cadmium red and viridian paint, lay her weapon. There was a clean shot, but something held her back. Chad looked more familiar than her month long surveillance allowed. His piercing blue eyes held her gaze. Tightness spread across her gut. Instead she picked up a paintbrush and splattered cobalt blue across the canvas. As fine art it sucked, but she wasn’t that kind of artist.

“Hi, Jessica.”

The tightness grew. Never let a hit get close, ever. It was drilled into her, yet she allowed him to walk up and look at the canvas. Her fingers ached to grab her weapon.

“I thought assassins were supposed to kill people, not art.”

Her mouth felt dry. “What do you want?”

“You always were direct. Do you know why they’re after me?”

“You reneged on a contract, and we’ve never met.”

Chad sighed. “Actually we have. They didn’t name the hit until after I agreed.”

“Not my concern.”

“It should be, little sister.” His hand brushed across her face. The familiar gesture caused images to flash through her mind. “They’ve messed with our memories enough. It’s time to stop playing their games and take back our lives.”

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YOUNG ADVENTURERS: Heroes, Explorers & Swashbucklers

Available in book stores on December 1.

Young Adventurers

A wonderful collection of stories by eighteen talented authors.

Living in a post-pandemic world isn’t easy, especially if you can’t remember your past. Sixteen year old Kara returns to the human world after living with wolves for eight years, in A. L. Kaplan’s “Wolf Dawn.”

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Author Interview

Kathy Steinemann interviewed me this week. You can read the interview here.

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“Congratulations, Mr. Baker. You’re officially cancer free. Welcome to the year 3015.”

I grabbed the doctor’s hand and pumped it up and down. Not bad for a recently thawed popsicle. My billion dollar investment to cheat death paid off. Now I’m healthy and far from my nagging ex-wife.

“Thanks doc. Check me out of here. I’m due for a double bacon cheeseburger and a walk on the beach.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Baker, but outside toxicity levels are inhospitable and the ingesting of animal products was outlawed years ago.”

“Aw, heck. Sounds like my ex’s heaven.”

“There’s also the matter of your bill,” said the doctor. “You’re going to have to work off the remainder as an indentured servant.”


“Don’t be alarmed. Your basic needs will be met.”

“So I’m supposed to be some guy’s slave?”

“Only for fifty to sixty years.”

“That’s absurd. I’ll be dead by then.”

“Sorry, but you’re the property of New Life Incorporated until paid in full. The Long-Life serum will keep you young for many centuries. You should feel honored that the president herself requested you as her servant.”

“Well I won’t stand for it. I’m no one’s slave.”

The familiar clicking of high heels made the hair on my neck stand up. I spun around and stared at my ex-wife. She looked as young as the day I left.  My heart pounded as she examined me through narrowed eyes. This was impossible.

“Well according to the law you belong to me.”

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Living in the Baltimore DC area, my home airport is Baltimore Washington International. We know the procedure well for picking up people. Wait in the cell phone lot until your passenger has landed, disembarked, and retrieved their luggage. Then it’s a quick drive to the terminal to pick them up. Fair warning to anyone who tries to wait at the terminal. Since 9/11, airport security has been adamant about the no standing or waiting rule. Passenger not there? Security is on you. So unless you want to drive in circles, you wait in the cell lot.

When we needed to pick up my daughter at Newark International Airport for my nephew’s wedding, we obediently waited in the cell lot until she called, then made a quick drive to the terminal…and waited. Cars sat parked two deep everywhere. There were even cars parked on the loop road leading to the terminal. Traffic just didn’t move. It took twenty minutes to move thirty feet to the curb. It was total gridlock. All of it because cars waited at the terminal curb for people to land instead of the cell lot or parking lot. Airport personnel did nothing to help.

Hello… Newark airport… would it kill you to get security to move people along? I realize that a bunch of flights had just landed, and lot of cars swarmed the terminal at once, but this was more than a sudden influx of vehicles. It was an example of simple inefficiency in utilizing resources.

Newark has many lanes for through traffic and several for pickups. All they need is one or two security people enforcing the no standing zone. If your pickup isn’t there, keep driving. Something as simple as that would keep traffic moving and alleviate the huge traffic jam. Time to wake up Newark.

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Sweat dripped down my back as I studied Smith Rock canyon. I’d tracked Blackjack McDougal all day. The trail had been just a little too easy to follow for it not to be a trap, one especially designed for me. Blackjack was a cheating, lying SOB, but not stupid. He had to know I would come after him. Two weeks as sheriff and the town already questioned my right to the job. After all, it was my ex that robbed the bank and blew up the cavalry commander.

“What do you think, Tin?” I asked my four-legged partner. “Do we wait for X-troop cavalry or take him ourselves?”

Tin’s tail flopped, creating clouds of parched dirt. His whimper echoed my thoughts. There was no way we could do this alone. My shoulders drooped and I turned away, almost stepping on a rattler. Tin growled and we retreated to a safe distance.

“I got an idea, Tin.”

It didn’t take long to make the necessary preparations. The sound of hundreds of rattlesnakes echoed around the canyon followed by Blackjack’s screams. Swaying brush marked Blackjack’s trail as he charged out of the trees and smacked into a wooden fence overgrown with weeds. A full flip landed him at my feet. I grinned and pointed my laser riffle at his chest.

“Problems, Blackjack?”

“Rattlers, hundreds!” Blackjack’s eyes were stretched wider than I thought possible. “For old time’s sake, save me!”

The rattling reached a defining pitch as Tin leaped over the fence and stood over Blackjack, steel teeth bared. Blackjack’s face was whiter than a daisy. I struggled not to laugh.

“Nah, that’s just Tin, my new electronic deputy dog. I reprogramed his bark synthesizer. Always said your rattlesnake phobia would be your downfall. Just be glad I found you instead of those X-troop cavalry robots.”

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