Monday, December 31, 2012

The 11th Hour (Part 2)

A brief excerpt, as continued from before, from the last chapter in my upcoming novel, Rogue Blood.

* * * * *

Steady silence. Uplifted and ready.

“Hold up, Lieutenant,” Emery said, nodding behind them before edging back to his post at the riot barrier.

As Stanford turned he was greeted by the approach of Alison who was accompanied by Captain Harrishire in full garb wearing a pointed expression. The three met at a crouch and spoke point blank.

“We need to move,” Stanford said.

“Not yet, sir,” the firefighter reasoned. “If you could use our help, that is. We haven’t even tapped the 300 gallons onboard the quint. Let me and my crew get our longest hose up beside you and we’ll shoot a thousand PSI up their ass.”

“Your timing couldn’t be any more perfect,” Alison empathized, watching Stanford mull it over.

“We’s just waiting for a hush to settle after that last outburst. Some of the boys were gettin’ anxious from all the fireworks,” he added.

As if on cue, Emery expressed his doubtfulness to Stanford with a look.

“There’s no guarantee, but it’s only been the odd few that are packing heat,” Stanford confessed.

“That’d been our guess too,” Harrishire said. “‘Sides, we all know the risk. We heard about you guys. How you went in to that burning tenement last week. A few of us were there that day, prol’ly figure we owe ya one.”

Stanford nodded. “We’re in no position to refuse help.”

“Good.” The firefighter momentarily peered over the riot barrier. “Looks like these guys could use a stiff drink.”

Not a person laughed, nor could anyone deny that humor was a confidence builder.

The lieutenant looked down at the receiver then to his sergeant, wondering if he was the only one whose confidence wasn’t shattered. He opened the radio channel and held the receiver out. “Emery?”

“We keep our heads down.” Emery surveyed the field as he spoke. “Teams to the sides, flush against the buildings. Wall at our backs protects the flank. Keep it tight, focus on the center of the street, and stay in parallel step.”

“Positions,” Stanford commanded, then replaced the receiver on Emery’s belt. “Go make ready and meet us back here,” he told Captain Harrishire.

The firefighter hustled back the way he came while Alison remained. Stanford noticed she had a duffle full of renewed medical supplies slung over her shoulder.

“Don’t even say it,” she said. “I’ve come this far, and you can’t do everything by yourself.”

Stanford managed a grin, though the rest of his grim face held firm. He grabbed her arm. “You’re a good soldier.”

Alison tossed her head and smiled sardonically. “I hate war.”

In two minutes the counterassault forces were ready. Frasier, Dawkins, and Lois were lined up on the far side of the avenue with a handful of patrolmen and able-bodied volunteers from the crash site, including a retired cop and an off-duty reservist. On the near side stood Stanford, Emery, and Alison with their small team of firefighters towing a 240-meter, two-and-a-half inch diameter fire hose connected to the ladder truck. Almost fifty meters of the hose was required to bring the nozzle up to the assault point, leaving less than 200 meters for Stanford and the firefighters to wrestle with. And as Stanford flagged his arm directing his companions on the far side, initiating the parallel sweep, so too were the Forsaken lying in wait.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The 11th Hour (Part 1)

A brief excerpt from the last chapter of my upcoming novel:

* * * * *

Tak tak tak tak!

Small arms fire leaps through the crooked spray of a ruptured fire hydrant. Neon blood flies through the air, the swirling red glow of emergency vehicle lights refracting off the gushing water. A fleeing woman is hit in the back, a bullet biting into her spine as she collapses into paralysis.

Brak-ak brak-ak!

A SWAT officer twists in position from behind his makeshift cover, riddling the hostile with burst fire. Another SWAT pitches forward to cover the downed woman, shielding her from further harm. Behind them, fingers bathed in sticky fluid, an EMT fastens gauze to a forehead gash.


A sound that is heard more in the mind fills the place; stifled sobs, and garbled shouts of warning flung in the direction of danger a moment too late. The primal, incoherent rage of a mob echoes off broken storefronts and down the canyon of avenues. The rush of blood and water. The beating of human and inhuman hearts. Staccato fireworks. Together they compose a private orchestra of madness to the afflicted, personal to every one. War.

And Stanford’s SWAT and Alison Merrick were caught right in the middle of it.

“On your feet, Detective,” Stanford grunted. He scooped the woman up at his feet, dragging her to safety. Safety was a single makeshift riot barrier—formerly an emergency stretcher for the injured off the plane—propped against a trestle standing in the gutter.

“He’s up,” Alison breathed, helping the police officer to his feet.

“I’m up,” McEvers announced, eyes blinking furiously. He had taken a partial shovel blade to the forehead while wresting it from the hands of a hostile during an intense struggle. Free flowing blood made his face look as a river map, and blinded his eyes.

Emery made a staying gesture with his hand, trying to restore calm to his allies. “S’alright, Lieutenant, I don’t see any others,” he said, glancing back at the gunman he had shot. Then he rose up over the barrier’s edge and began spraying the street with suppression fire.

The sudden and unprovoked onslaught of the Forsaken had been furious at first. Many of the rescue teams and civilians at the crash site had been forced into fighting out of sheer self defense. The latest one Emery had killed was only the second to be wielding a firearm. By now, wary of the return gunfire by SWAT and police, the Forsaken were only being held in check, viciously testing the defenders’ lines, and using suicide guerrilla tactics to terrorize and surprise the stressed and stranded mass of accident victims and rescue workers.

Stanford looked down at the blonde woman in his arms. She cried between sobs, saying, “I—uh—c-can’t feel my—legs!” He saw that she was wearing jeans and a jersey top—a civilian. One who had come to help in the hours after the crash. Added to the list of those whose lives were permanently altered that day.

“Help her take the victim,” he paused, “to an ambulance,” Stanford said, handing the woman he carried off to Alison. The blonde woman had cringed and made a forlorn noise at the word “victim.” Stanford realized this and quickly repeated himself. “Can you do that, McEvers?”

McEvers, now able to see, nodded while mumbling something, still groggy from his head wound, and ducked under the paralyzed woman’s arm to aid in carrying her.

Shouts and a brief scuffle erupted across the street. There was broken glass and the popping echo of discharged ammunition. A rear view mirror clanged off the riot barrier as a broken segment of brick thudded into Stanford’s upraised arm, there to block his face.

Y’okay?” Emery spat, setting off a few more rounds.

Stanford didn’t answer. It wasn’t the hardness of the brick’s impact that the lieutenant felt. No. It was the softness of the blonde woman’s body as he lifted her. The firm resolve of her spirit to persevere throughout all that had happened. Courage and vulnerability intertwined. It reminded him of his wife—Sarah—and his family. His family who had come all this way to check on him. It informed him of how, unlike all signs pointing to the contrary, everyone was in the same. Either no one was safe or everyone was. Either no one was a potential victim or everyone was. And who would be next?

Stanford crouched beside Emery as the two of them caught their breath. Stanford slapped his helmet off and yanked Emery’s spare two-way off his belt.

“We have to march on them,” the lieutenant spoke into the receiver. “Press them back. Give them something else to target. Not them,” he shook his head, indicating the crash site and the village encamped behind him. “Not us. We can’t sit here any longer.”

Emery copied Stanford’s head shake, but little else.

“Sir, that’s no good!” came Dawkins’s reply. “We don’t have the manpower for that.”

Stanford stared hard at his sergeant, listening for any more feedback.

“Dawkins’s right, sir.” It was Frasier. “I don’t see any way for us like that.”

Lois’s voice came next. “We’re doing all right here, what’s the point?”

Stanford took the receiver down, still eyeing Emery. “What do you say? There a way like that for us? There a point?”

Emery frowned. He knew. Stanford was asking them to stick their necks out to get to his loved ones. Knew that the man had been hurting inside, for a long time. Even with his opposition to the others’ balking dissent, Stanford was going to be voted down three to two. And Emery knew what it had cost him.

“Whatever we do, we stay together on this. Family,” Stanford said. “We need to find a way.”

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Eats, 2012

The wondrous spread.
Candlelit cornish game hens stuffed with a wild rice mix, homemade mashed potatoes, zesty mandarin & sliced almond salad, dinner rolls, and sparkling cider.
The 7-Up was a holdover from earlier in the day—to ease my stomach after a bout with the flu!
Christmas 1 - Flu 0