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THE FISHING TRIP
CHAPTER 1

kerplunk

“My arms are tired, Durham. I’ve been rowing this boat for the past twenty minutes. My fingers are getting blisters. And if it weren’t so dark you would see I have a huge splinter in my palm. Why is it you always make me do the rowing on these trips?”
“Stop whining, Penny. Do you want to do my job? Do you think it’s easy to do what I do? Do you think it doesn’t tire me to crack someone’s neck with my bare hands?”
“I’m sure it does. I don’t know how you do it. Just hearing the sound of a person’s bones breaking makes me shudder and gag. Knowing I am hearing them release their last breath makes me wanna vomit.”
“That’s how I felt at first, but now I just want to get the job over and collect my pay. You can stop rowing we’re almost there. Pull the oars in and be careful with the poles. I don’t want you to hit this fool on the head.”
“What difference would it make? He is dead right?”
“Yeah, but I want no excess marks on the body or blood in the boat. Give me that rope from behind your back so I can tie this tarp around his body.”
Penny reached behind her and felt for the presence of the rope. Her fingers sliding on the damp wood encountered what she thought was rope, the slimy patches of surface causing doubt and illusions of Water Moccasins to cross her mind. Pumping her bravery she yanked it up, held it far away from her body, and pushed it towards Durham. The heavy weight and wiggle of the object not counteracting her thoughts of clearing the fear from her mind, for all she knew what she held gingerly between her fists was really a snake.
“Here it is, Durham. Stretch out your hand its right in front of you. Damn it’s dark. I can barely see your hands.”
“You tryin’ to say I’m too black to see in the night?”
“No. I know those are gloves you have on. I’m just saying it’s too dark out here tonight. I don’t even know how you know what’s really going on around you. We’ve been on the water three times this week and each time you knew exactly where to stop and it has been dark as all hell.”
“Experience pays off. I’m a creature of habit.”
“Sometimes that’s not a good thing, Durham. It could be your downfall.”
“It will never be mine. Cover your face there’s going to be a big nasty splash when this sloppy fat bastard hits the water.”
As the water rushed into the air and the odor of rot and death seeped in through her nose and flowed quickly and deeply to the pit of her empty stomach, she gagged. The small indention behind her ears began to burn, bile rose to her throat and she fought hard not to release the contents of her stomach in retaliation.
“Oh hell….” Retching fruitlessly, Penny pulled the neckline of her shirt to cover her mouth and nose. “You weren’t kidding. That….damn….water….stinks.” Her retching sounds causing a pause between each of the four words. “How many bodies have you fed to the fishes?”
“Too many to count and if I tell you….well you know the old saying. Hand me the oars. I’ll row back.”
“Thanks.”
Penny gripping the edge of the rocking boat tightly looked around at her surroundings. It was nightmarish dark. No stars, eerie clouds moved stealthy across the sky and a sliver of moonlight peered through the thick foliage of the trees surrounding the spot where the body had disappeared. It was damned spooky. If any kind of water monster wanted to jump up and grab them and pull them into the deep blackness, this would be the perfect spot. They would disappear and no one would have any idea where to search for them. She shivered in the cool darkness; they were as much a part of the shadows as death was a part of the waters.
“Where do you think the bodies go, Durham?” She whispered just in case one of those monsters from her childhood nightmares was more than a figment of her imagination. “I’ve never heard of anyone talking about bodies resurfacing so they must fall pretty deep or something eats them.”
Durham laughed at the fear showing in the expanse of the white in her eyes. She held her arms crossed tight across her stomach, the rocking of her body having nothing to do with the movement of the water.
“You’re not afraid of the dark are you Penny?”
“Hell fuckin’ yeah. Petrified pissless and I’m not ashamed to say it, either.”
Durham chuckled between the strokes of the oar.
“Well, that’s the first time I’ve heard anyone say that. You can stop being afraid. Nothing is going to stick its long slimy arm out of the water and yank you out the boat.”
“That’s not funny at all Durham.” She looked around and shivered even more. “Now that you’ve read my mind I’m really scared. It makes me wonder if you’ve ever seen anything creepy out here.”
“Well, if you must know, sometimes when I’m sitting on the porch of that little cabin up there, I look across the water and think I see a specter of a woman or a girl. I’m not sure which it is.”
“Really?” She didn’t know whether to be excited of afraid. “Where exactly does she be when you see her?”
“I’m kidding Penny, geeze. I’m probably just seeing the smoke from the cigar I smoke. In a couple of minutes we’ll be close to the shore. And don’t worry about any of those bodies coming up because I know for a fact they fall into a huge cavern and just keep on going. The cavern has a vacuum like suction, things go down and nothing comes up. That’s why I always make you stop rowing at the large cluster of branches jutting out at the curve back there. The current is strong and I don’t want to get sucked in. If there were any stars in the sky I would be able to show you where the safety rope was tied. It’s there in case we ever fall into the water. Remind me to bring a flashlight the next time we come out so I can show you. Talk about a scary adventure falling in the lake and catching the ends of that slimy rope at just the right moment, exhilarating. ”
“You get a thrill from danger, don’t you?”
“Yup, I get more of a thrill from getting paid big bucks for dropping sloppy fat bastards in a watery hole.”
“I think the real thrill for you comes from getting rid of perverts. These guys deserve everything they get.”
“You know it. This last one wiggled his way into the life and home of a single mom with three little kids. Poor woman really thought he loved her and all he wanted was to get into her bank account and to rape her children.”
“Sorry bastard.”
“Sorry dead bastard. I hope he rots in hell.”
“You know I think it’s a good thing to get child molesters off the street…hell out of the world, but how are you so sure you’re are getting the right people? What if you make a mistake and take the wrong person on a trip?”
“I don’t worry about it.”
“Wha…?”
“I’m kidding. Duck your head and watch the branches. I do my research every time I get a request for a fishing trip. I check the person and their habits out thoroughly. Almost every one of these guys uses the internet for child pornography. I find what they think are a commonality and build from there. I never take a trip if it seems like the guy is innocent.”
“But who makes the call…uhm request? How do you know they are being honest? What if a person is being set up?”
“I do a thorough search on both sides and I've never made a mistake. Why are you asking me these questions, Penny? Are you starting to be afraid of the water?”
“I guess because you use me as bait. We've been on the water three times this week. I’ve had to sit around and let what I know to be fat slimy child raping pigs, paw me relentlessly and spit lies and profanity in my ear because they think I am an innocent teenager. I sit in a tiny rowboat, in the cold dark of night as you take them through their make-shift trial, sentence, and execution. Then I have to row a constantly rocking boat in the dark with a dead body at my feet. Taking all of these trips is making me believe I’m beginning to get immune to the act of death.”
“I hate to say it, but you will never get truly immune. It’ll probably become easier to accept the act, but believe me it will stay with you. The last girl to be my bait is dead now. She killed herself.”
“Well, I’m not gonna kill myself. How did you get into this business anyway?”
“Again, if I tell you…”
“You’ll have to kill me, I know. You’re like an old movie sometimes with all of your clich├ęs and your ‘theme’ song.”
“Hey don’t knock my having a theme song. The smartest woman I know advised me to get one. It took years to find the right one and it fits. It keeps me focused.”
“Musta been an old lady.”
“Yeah, but you would love her. Whoa….sorry about hitting the platform so hard. Wait a minute before you stand and watch your step as you get out of the water. Every time you get out of the boat you fall.” He chuckled. “Think you would have caught on by now.”
“You would think. It just takes a while for me to get my land legs back and now that it’s starting to rain I really want to move faster. Do you need me to help you tie the boat or something?”
“No, but you can take my phone from my jacket pocket and tell me what the text is saying. Someone is really trying to get in touch with me. They’ve texted ‘bout four times already. Take it and move away from the water. I just bought that phone.”
“I’ll just go up the bank to the parking lot. I’ll be in your car. I’m too cold to stand out here.”
“Fine, and remember not to touch anything. I’ll be there in a minute.”
“I know, I know.”

*****
“Hey wake up. Whatcha doing sitting here with the car door unlocked? Didn’t you hear me tapping on the window? I just decided to try to open the door and you almost fell into my lap.”
“No, I didn’t hear anything.” She slid over to the passenger seat of the car. “I left the door unlocked for you. I thought it wasn’t going to take you long to get here.”
“Sorry it took me more time than I estimated. I had to make sure nothing was left in or on the boat.”
“You weren’t that long. I’m just tired.”
“I know what you mean. So, what did the text say?”
“Someone wants to set up a fishing trip.”
“Are you in? Listen, if you don’t want to do this anymore I understand. What happened with that guy tonight was uncalled for. I tend to forget how dangerous and rough some of them are. I know you have a kid and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“My kid is the reason I help you. You’re doing a good thing, Durham. A real good thing and I’m proud of you. Too many of those perverted bastards out there hurting kids. You protected me better than I did myself. I trust you. Yeah, I’m in.”
“Great.” He released the breath he hadn’t even realized he was holding in with a gush. “I’ll drop you off at your car and then call the reservationist and find out the particulars. As soon as I know what’s what I’ll give you a call and see how to set things up.”
“How soon do you think it will be?”
“Not too soon. These things sometimes take a while. Some of the perves are really smart. They don’t all work alone, you know. What would really make me feel like I’m doing something is to get a large group of the filthy bastards and blow them the hell up.”
“It’s a noble but probably unattainable goal.”
“Ya, never know. Okay, we’re here. You can get out. Don’t forget. I’ll call you so don’t try calling me. It might be a few days or maybe even a week so don’t get antsy and call me, especially not on this cell number.”
“Don’t worry I remember the drill. I go home, get on with my life as usual and when its time, you’ll make arrangements and invite me on a fishing trip.”
“You got it. Now, shut the door it’s raining on my seats. Talk to you later.”
He drove off as soon as the metal of the door connected with the metal of the car’s frame.
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 THE WOMEN OF THE HILL


PART ONE
Initiation

Placing the nearly empty glass of orange juice back on the table and wiping the excess moisture from her palms Bianca picked up her journal and read the words she had just written. The words were an accumulation of at least three years of a relationship and a life time worth of change. Even the names in the journal were fictitious.

*****

I’m not even going to lie to you, yes; I was a whore for Sam. At one time I would have done just about anything asked of me to be a part of Sam’s world. Yes, Sam took care of me and he did a very good job of it, too. The degradation of the arrangement was the horror of it. I guess you would wonder how, huh? Well, Sam is not my lover. As a matter of fact our relationship was not of the intimate kind, at least not physically. The truth is I have never met Sam on a personal face to face level. Every facet of our relationship had been arranged through another.
What distresses me the most about letting Sam take care of me is the reality that for such a long time I depended on him to be my only source of support. From the very beginning Sam gave me everything food, clothing, money, housing, and medical coverage. When he turned his back on me without warning, I was truly devastated. With him, I wanted for nothing. Nothing but a peace of mind that is, because Sam was extremely jealous.
In the beginning, he was like a fairy godfather. Everything he promised he delivered, eventually even this began to pall. He was so demanding. In order to continue receiving support from Sam, I had to report all of my personal and private affairs to his hired financial wizards every three to six months or within ten days if any kind of changes occurred in my life. Sam found it hard to understand that having a minimum wage job, going to school, or getting a hand out from a friend did not generate funds into a bank account. At the crucial moment when it looked like I was about to step out on my own, Sam would turn his back on me. He would toss me to the side like worthless trash with barely enough to survive and then my only recourse would be to crawl back to him for help.
The very first time I came in contact with Sam, life had already beaten and humiliated me into thinking I was a worthless human being. I’d talked myself into having a very low opinion of the sorry way I was living and providing for my six-month-old daughter. We were trying to live off funds acquired before I was terminated from my job as a medical office assistant and it wasn’t working. Things were so tight I was having a hard time keeping food on the table and the bills paid. After three months of scrimping, I was just about ready to give up and move in with my mother and when my friends hooked me up with Sam.
Whenever my girlfriends and I got together for our daily ‘4:00 Bash the Stress’ sessions (which was really our way of legitimizing watching Oprah everyday), I cried on their shoulders. I’d been doing this so often they began to laugh at me as soon as I opened my mouth to complain. Each one in turn advised me to get in touch with Sam. ‘Sam is the man’ said one. ‘He could solve all of your problems’ said another. I heard them say ‘Sam could do this and Sam could do that’ so often that one day as we sat in my living room chewing on chips and watching Oprah, I found the courage to ask…
“Who is Sam?”
“Girlfriend…”
This was Tone’ya Knoes about to answer. Tone’ya is thirty-two years old, the encyclopedia of our group. She’s loud, assertive, and the well-informed mother of two daughters. No truer friend could be found.
With a Humph at the end of the word, she stood in front of me with her hands resting on her well-endowed hips and shook her head from side to side like a broken shutter. She snapped her fingers two times in an arch above her head and clicked her tongue to the rhythm of the snapping fingers.
“Girl, don’t you know anything? Wake up, girl.” She snapped her fingers under my nose.” Sam is the only person that can help you. He takes care of us.” She swung her arm to include the three women sitting in front of the television. “How do you think we all make it?”
“I thought you all had a ‘man’.”
They all laughed.
“Of course we do. The thing is; can we depend on them?” Tone’ya questioned with a smirk.
“No.”
All of the women shouted in unison and laughed even louder. They shared high-fives and fell all over themselves in merriment.
“How many of you here can depend on your ‘man’ to remember that you need your bills paid?” She pounded her fist in her opened palm like a frustrated lawyer making a final statement. “Food on the table, pampers on the baby’s butt and most important…money in your pockets?”
Tone’ya did the snap and arch thing again and everybody in the room cheered while laughingly bemoaning the faults of their men.
“Well, I can.” Skinny Rayne Moore, the youngest woman in the group stood next to the television and put her hands on her hips in imitation of Tone’ya.
Whoever this Sam was, I thought. It was obvious it didn’t matter to him how old or young a woman was. Rayne was just making twenty years old. She shook her shoulders, making her breast bounce heavily and gave a very seductive smile.
We continued to laugh.
“You laugh, but I know my man takes care of me.”
“Who are you talkin’ about girl?”Jenny Needs questioned. “I know you not talkin’ about that fat, sorry ass, cradle-robbin’ Shamel.”
“Honey, please.” Rayne raised her opened hand, in that talk-to-the-hand fashion, towards Jenny.”You know what Shamel is for and he’s not ‘fat’ he’s muscular.” We all snickered. “I’m talkin’ about ‘Sam’.” Rayne ignored our side comments and continued. “Sam will do me no wrong. Sam is the man. Can I get a witness?”
She raised her arms in the air and danced around as if she had gotten the Holy Spirit. Amen sister and you go girl were repeated over and over as we laughed.
“So all of you get something from Sam, huh?” I asked after the laughter stopped. “Did you all meet him at the same time?”
“No.” They all answered together.
“I hate to ask this because you all just don’t seem the type, but do you all sleep with Sam? Cuz I’m gonna let you know right now, I’m not into ‘kinky’.” I quickly added the last so they would know where I stood. Getting help was one thing, selling my butt and odd sexual acts were another story.
“What? Are you kidding?” Jenny giggled. She pressed her hands over her mouth as if she were trying to hold in a secret. “Girl, you don’t know what you’re missing.” She looked around at the other women and began chuckling like an idiot.
“Oh my….” Frankie choked back laughter by making quick fanning motions near her eyes with the fingers of both hands, as she tried to finish her sentence. “Oh, my God we all meet at Tone’ya’s house…” Tears of merriment ran down her face. “Around midnight on the first Wednesday of each month and take turns screwing him on her kitchen table.”
Letting a loud burst of laughter erupt into the room as she finished speaking, Frankie fell backwards on the couch laughing uncontrollably. Her shoulder bumped Jenny who fell on the floor chuckling and snorting. Rayne and Tone’ya stared at me opened mouth before they too started laughing. Rayne, jumped around in small circles in her delight and Tone’ya, in her enjoyment practically skipped around the room. It was a little while before the loud laughter quieted down to giggles, suppressed snickers and one of them could finally answer.
“Girl, I think you need some help.” Tone’ya tapped me on the shoulder in a consoling manner, wiped her eyes and resumed her seat. “I’ll have Sam come over here next Wednesday and we’ll do it in your kitchen.”
The raucous laughter started in the room again. The merriment was contagious and this time I had to join them. Ignorant to what they found so funny, but happy to shed some of my misery.
“Seriously now,” Frankie straightened herself before continuing. “Girl, are you crazy. No one sleeps with Sam.”
Stunned, I looked around the room at the smiling women.
“Okay, so none of you go that way. Thank God. So why does he help?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care.” Tone’ya swiveled her neck side to side. “I don’t ask why when someone is giving me something. I just take it.”
“That’s what I’m sayin’.” Rayne agreed. “If I can get me some money and some help and don’t have to give up no coochie…I’m there.”
Rayne and Jenny high fived each other as everyone else concurred with the statement. Still not convinced, I questioned them further.
“Tone’ya, how long have you known Sam?”
“Let’s see, my girls were three and seven when I first became involved. That makes it three years. John and I had recently separated and somehow he’d gotten into the house and taken everything. On that day, I came home from a horrible day at work. As a matter of fact, I had just been fired, ‘downsized’ as the boss said. Same difference as I see it. John had cleaned me out. He had taken everything, the furniture, the food from the cabinets and even the furniture from the children’s bedroom. To make things worse, when I went to get the girls from the baby-sitter, they were gone. Oh, my God I could have killed John. It is only by the grace of God that he is alive and wherever he is, now. I couldn’t believe he would do such a thing. I was afraid I would never see my children again. This is how it happened, a few days before the big clean out, John and I’d had a serious argument. Major. You know me,” Tone’ya nonchalantly shrugged off her fault. “If it comes to my mind, it comes out of my mouth. God, I can remember that argument, I should say fight, as if it were yesterday…

Bianca took a deep breath and another sip from her class before getting into the story Tone’ya told about her reasons for turning to Sam. The chaos in Tone’ya’s life both disturbed and aroused feelings of anger. Pressing her back into the cushions of the chair, Bianca lifted the pages of the journal closer in order to read the words better. Hoping she’d put in just the right amount of emphasis and recorded it just the way Tone’ya had told it.
*****

"Tone'ya, I've had it with you.” John held Tone'ya pressed against the wall by the grip he held around her throat. “I don't know who the fuck you think you are, but I'm sick of you thinking you can order me around.”
The malodorous smell of his breath rushed through her nostrils and made her want to vomit. Trying to keep herself from gagging, Tone’ya twisted her head from side to side to move her nose from his breath's direct noxious path and he pressed his face closer to hers until the tip of their nostrils touched.
"If you went out and got a job," She belligerently squeezed the words around his clenched fingers. “I wouldn't have to feel like the man in this marriage. I'm tired of taking care of your business. And I am not a dog that you can curse and kick whenever you feel like it. I won't accept it in my house.”
"Yeah, you’re a dog. You seem to keep forgetting you’re my bitch and you do what I say when I say it. You seem to have a hard time remembering that you talk when I say so. You don't know when to keep your mouth shut.”
John stressed the last four words by banging the back of Tone'ya's head against the wall. The pain of her head hitting the wall, and the vibration of the thuds ricocheting through the bones in her head brought tears to her eyes. She could feel that her nose was still bleeding from the slap received when he had slammed the back of his hand into her face. Its warmth was sliding down her lips and dripping off her chin to the top of her shirt. As a matter of fact, her nose felt like it was broken. It hurt miserably.
"Okay. Alright. All right, John. Come on. Let go. You're hurting me.” She implored hoarsely.
Tone'ya pulled uselessly at his arms. Her nails scratching his skin, but not making a dent in his anger. The tears were running down her cheeks and air was becoming harder to drag in around his clenched fingers. She looked into his eyes in useless appeal. John was beyond caring. Turning her head to the right, she could see their youngest daughter standing and broken-heartedly crying in the bedroom's doorway.
"John," She looked back into his eyes. “The baby is in the door. Please stop this for their sake.” She pleaded.
"You're damned lucky.” He pulled her from the wall and shoved her towards the king sized bed where she landed awkwardly. “I'm gonna get me a beer. You better make it your business to hurry downstairs and get my dinner on the table. Come on kid.” Picking up the little girl when he reached the doorway, John carried her out as he left the room.
Rolling over on the bed, Tone'ya pulled her knees up to her chest. Rocking in her pain and anguish, she moaned at the mess her marriage had turned into. It was time to get out. John was becoming more and more violent every day. The love was definitely gone.
She couldn't remember the last time he had even pretended that he cared for her. Anger was the thing that ruled his life. She was living her days trying to believe things would get better. Blowing off his angry outbursts and forgiving him for every burst lip or black eye, he gave her. She truthfully believed things would change when he found another job. Being a man, a Black man without a job had to be hard, a tremendous blow to the ego. But this night was the last straw. A blow to his ego or not, she refused to stay around and have him taking out his pain on her. Wearily pushing herself into a sitting position, she cautiously crossed the room to the bathroom, the queasiness in her stomach causing her steps to falter.
Leaning over the sink, Tone'ya ran warm water on a face towel in preparation of rubbing it across her cheeks. The contact would hurt like hell. She examined her face and neck in the mirror. Her cheeks were covered in bruises and scratches. Welts from the grip of John's fingers were beginning to swell around her throat and she could barely swallow without feeling pain. It felt as if the bones in her throat were crushed. She was just about to wash the blood from her face when she thought better of the idea. Going back into the bedroom, she walked around the bed and to the closet where she pulled the digital camera from its top shelf. Crossing to stand in front of the dresser, Tone'ya watched her reflection's movements in its mirror in order to position herself correctly in front of the camera. Pressing the button, she took two quick shots of her frontal view and shots of each side view. She was going to fix him. Playing time with him was over. John was a sorry bastard. This would be his last time putting his hands on her and getting away with it.
"So, you came down, huh? Thought I was going to have to go up and get you.”
John glanced at her from his position on the couch as she walked down the stairs. He took a swig of his beer as he studied her silently. Without a hint of apology, he calmly looked her over before turning his attention back to the television screen.
“Make sure you don't open your mouth.” He threatened while shaking the can of beer in her direction. “Bring your ass in the kitchen and get dinner on the table.”
Not bothering to make a reply, Tone'ya went to the dishwasher and pulled out a place setting for four.
"Typical bastard," Tone'ya muttered under her breath. “He can sit around thinking he's the man, but this is going to be his last night.”
Pulling one of her larger steak knives from the wooden block holder, she rotated it as she studied its tip before slowly sliding it back in its slot. Nope, she wasn't that angry. She would have to be on the brink of manic to cut off his head and stuff it in the garbage disposal. She hadn't made it there yet.
Silently, Tone'ya set the table and filled the plates with food. She called the children to the table and sat down herself.
"What's your problem?”
John walked into the room and slapped Tone'ya hard on the back of her head before pulling out the chair opposite. Rubbing the offending area and doing her best to stifle the startled cry she wanted to give at the increasing pain running through her already throbbing head and the urge to jump up and stab him in the throat with her fork, Tone'ya nervously answered.
"There's nothing wrong with me, John.”
"I heard you call the children in and you didn't call me.”
"I called you.” She rubbed her hand across her eyes and kept her kept head down as she stared into her plate. “You must not have heard.”
"Yeah, right.”
John answered sarcastically before sitting down.
The meal was a quiet affair. The children kept shooting glances between her and their father. Young as they were, both little girls could feel the tension and neither child said a word until the eldest picked up her glass of milk. After taking a small sip she looked towards her father.
“You know what I was thinking, Daddy?”
Tone’ya immediately stiffened and looked towards the child in consternation. At the age of seven Khandi had a mind of her own and voiced her opinions endlessly. Sometimes to her detriment. Tone’ya shifted her body so that she could be in the child’s view and mouthed the words, shut up, but the child refused to look in her direction. Her belligerent gaze was focused on John.
“No, what were you thinking, Honey.”
John’s glare burned through Tone’ya as he answered the child. She could see the promise of her taking the repercussions for whatever the child said clearly written all over his face.
“I was thinking…” Khandi rolled the glass between the palms of her hands before continuing. “I was thinking that when I grow up I’m going to cut your head off and kill you for the way you hurt my Mom.”
“Continue thinking like that and you won’t grow up.”
John leaned back in his chair and laughed which made the child’s temper snap and she threw the glass of milk in his direction. Landing with a thump and shattering on the table in front of John. Rivulets of the liquid rolled down his cheeks and fragments of the glass lay near and embedded in his hand. Tone’ya quickly jumped up and moved to stand between the child and her father.
“You think I care if you kill me, Daddy?” The child boldly tried to maneuver her way around either side of her mother who blocked her efforts. “People die all of the time and it would be better than living with you and hearing you hurt my mama. I hate you. I wish you would just choke on your food right now so I could laugh while you die.”
“Go to your room Khandi.” Tone’ya, keeping her protective stance between the child and John, moved just enough for Khandi to get away from the table. She looked into the child’s eyes “I’ll be all right.” She turned to look at John who had returned to eating his food as if nothing had happened. “It will be all right.”
Khandi nodded, took her sister’s hand and walked out of the room. Tone’ya sat down and pretended nothing had happened. She knew retaliation wouldn’t come immediately. John enjoyed evoking terror. He would wait until he thought she had relaxed and then he would pounce and delve out whatever form of punishment he deemed necessary. When the children were quiet upstairs in their room, Tone’ya began clearing the table. She slowly pulled the steak knife from its moorings and laid it under a dishtowel on the cabinet. This would be the last night. She stood at the sink and looked out the window.
"Hum, John. Would you go and put the trash to the street, please?"
John pushed his chair back from the table and stood with a self-satisfied grin. He sauntered to her side and hit her hard across the butt.
"That's the way to ask me for something. I run this house. You better remember that.”
He rubbed his hand around her butt and roared with laughter as he walked out of the door.
"You better remember that.” Tone'ya repeated his words in mocking tones and laughed.
Walking to the door, she locked the screen and the inside door. Rushing back to the kitchen window, she gave a small chuckle at the melee happening outside. What John hadn't known was that when she had come out of the bathroom, she’d called the youngest of her three older brothers and told him what John had done. He’d been really pissed off and had wanted to come and beat John then and there, but she hadn't wanted her brother in trouble. He informed her that he knew a few guys who would take care of John for her and she had agreed. Two guys were outside taking turns beating the hell out of John. Violence had never been one of her things, but John had changed all of that for her. He thought he was man enough to fight someone, she had gotten him someone.
It wasn't fair that he should fight a woman. If he wanted to be a man, he should take his problems out on a man. She felt no compunction at seeing his battered body lying on the sidewalk as she rushed upstairs. She packed a bag for him; tossed in one of the frontal view images of herself she had printed out and threw the bag out of the upstairs bathroom window. It landed on the lawn nearest the driveway.
"Don't come back here, John.” She yelled out of the window. “If you do I will have the police here.”
“And so…" Tone'ya looked up at me. “That was the end of the marriage. The next day John broke in, took everything and I never saw John or the children again.”

Bianca laughed out loud remembering how Tone'ya had laughed when she noticed the look of confusion on her face.

*****

"Were you lying, Tone'ya?" Bewildered, I shook my head in wonder.
"No girl," She laughed again. “Everything was true up until the last part. You were sitting there with your mouth wide open and I just couldn't help myself. The S.O.B. did take the girls but he dropped them back later in the night, a sorry scare tactic. John didn't want them then and he doesn't want them now. The smart ass paid for a quickie divorce without a word to me. As I said, he got in the house, cleaned it out and sold the house and everything we had bought together and since I had nothing, I had to join Sam's little circle. I do thank God for Sam. He gives me a house to live in, food to eat, and medical insurance for the children. What else could I ask for?"
"Tone'ya you are so crazy.” Frankie laughed. “I loved the way you sent John running down the street that night. I watched those guys beating him and wished I could have gotten in a few lick. He was a horrible person. Just mean. Tone'ya and I used to live next to each other in our wild married days before we moved here.” Frankie explained. “Those were the horror days. I get to laugh more now than I ever did the entire time I was married.”
"What about you Frankie?" I asked. “How did you get involved with Sam?"
"Well, it wasn't anywhere near as dramatic as Tone'ya's initiation. My ex-husband left when the twins were babies. Leroy says he just wasn't ready to be tied down. Having children in the house on a daily basis would drive him crazy. He pays a small amount of child support and as you know, he comes to get them two weekends out of the month. It works better this way. We're still friends, sort of. At least I don't feel like killing him anymore. Sometimes I could beat him because his walking out on me and leaving me with two tiny babies almost drove me insane. I worked for a couple of years, but I couldn't stand having my children in the sorry childcare system, let alone couldn't afford it. So, I quit my job, took them out of the daycare, and have been home ever since. Four years. I know it was a lot of wasted time, but…" She shrugged her shoulders. “If things work out and I get more people to let me take care of their children, I may be able to kiss Sam goodbye, but right now, I'll just take what he can give me.”
"I guess that means it's my turn, right?" Rayne questioned me when I looked at her sitting on the couch. “Okay.” She stood and bowed to each of us and cleared her throat. "Uhm, uhm I'm really not ready for this interview. Which camera do I look into? Where's the makeup person? Someone should have warned me.” She smiled sweetly and played with the ends of her hair.
"Rayne, I don't know how they call me crazy when you sit there acting like you're on a freakin' talk show. Just tell the story already.” Tone'ya swung playfully at Rayne and purposely missed.
"My name is Rayne Moore.” Rayne ignored Tone'ya and continued her little act. “And the two women that were just in front of the camera were Ms. Tone'ya Knoes and Ms. Frankie Duz. Come back over ladies and wave at the people. Oh, I'm sorry. The camera is over there.” She pointed to her right at an imaginary camera. “Okay, okay.” Rayne laughed. She covered her head with her hands when Tone'ya swung at her again. “I'll just tell the story. As you know, I just made twenty years old last week and I have the most beautiful son in the world. His name is Shamey, really Shamel. He's named after his daddy.” She gushed and smiled prettily. Sighing like a teenager in love with a movie star.
"I don't know what you see in that sorry assed, cradle robbing freak smelly Shamelly. The punk is fifteen years older than you are.” Tone'ya muttered under her breath.
Ignoring the comment, Rayne continued.
"Shamey will be two in a few months. I had him in my senior year of high school. My mom was positively pissed off when I decided not to continue my education, but I listened to Shamel. Dumb, I know. You all know how it is, first male and older than me at that. I just believed everything he said. Shamel promised to take care of the baby and me but so far, it has only been Sam. I've been with him for about a year and a half. I got tired of my parents rating on big Shamel every time he came around and so I hooked up with Sam. He gives me food, money, and medical coverage for Shamey and me. I'm not saying I will be with Sam forever, but right now, it does the trick. I moved into this area at the same time that I hooked up with Sam. It was easy. I joined this program with Housing, they are connected with Sam and I appreciate that. Most of the houses on this street have landlords that deal with Housing and I appreciate that too. This is one of the better neighborhoods. It’s quiet, no through traffic and it’s clean. The children can play in the streets and not worry about being run over. I love it here.”
"Well, you should.” Jenny confirmed. “We all live here and you couldn't find better neighbors.”
"Only thing is living here is like living in a girl's town.” Tone'ya moaned. “Only men in sight are below three feet.”
"Shamel is around all of the time.”
"I can't count that punk. He's a moocher.” Tone'ya dismissed all thoughts of Shamel with the flick of her hand. “It's so private down here. There are how many houses on this end of the cul de sac? Five? My house faces Jenny's and Frankie's faces Rayne's. Phyllis' house is at the end smack dab in the middle. Sure, it has the greatest view of the neighborhood, but I always feel that it sits in the direct path of a reckless driver.”
"That's why I had the big fence put up. Do you think I spent all of that money on those fancy black poles and that expensive security system for its beauty?"
"Naw I thought you bought it to keep out your neighbors.” Tone'ya snickered and caught the shoe I threw at her with one hand.
"Doesn't seem like its working does it? Actually, I put the fence up when Rosie's dad ran out on me. This house is much too large for a woman and one child. It was supposed to be a family home. But now I'm stuck with it and I'm going to be here forever. So, the gate is for protection from cars, thieves, and what you call 'men'. What about you Jenny? When did you get involved with Sam?"
"Not that long ago. I don't think it has been a year. The only real help I get from Sam is medical. He gives me about forty dollars for food because I am a substitute in the schools. As if a sub job will help with four children. It’s hardly taking care of the boys' pamper needs.”
"That's why I told you to potty train those boys.” Frankie wiggled her pointer finger in Jenny's direction.
"I'm working on it Frankie. You know how hard it is. They're one and a half and newly three. The training is just taking a little while. Those boys are not as easy as the girls were. They act like little monsters sometimes.”
"It's only because they know how to manipulate. Peter goes to the bathroom at my house without a problem. What you have to do.…"
"Hey, hey.” I raised my hands and shook my head at the two women. “Hold up a minute. How did we get into talk of potty training?"
"Sorry.” Jenny apologized. “Okay, now that the children's father has run out on us I have to pay rent on my own. Hell, it was hard trying to make sure that they had enough and then pay the bills so I applied for the Housing. I still pay my rent, but now I only have to pay a little more than half of the $800 instead of the full amount. Sam is also supposed to help with getting child support. So far, it's been a joke. I've been to court three times. Twice I sat for three hours and the kids' dad never showed up. They finally came and told me that the sorry bastard had called in for a change of date. Both times, it was the same thing. They never inform the mother. You go and stand in line with a bunch of other women from eight o'clock in the morning until whenever.
You have to sit in the courtroom and listen to everyone else's business and then you're brushed off. I was so pissed that second time I made a futile trip that I refused to leave and waited until I could get a chance to speak to the judge. I told that man how I had to keep taking off work to go there and how I was losing money. I really bitched. Here all the sorry dog had to do was call in with some pitiful excuse and he didn't have to show up. If the mothers don't come, they take away our benefits. To Sam's wizards it doesn't matter if you have to leave your job. I used to think they cared about the kids, but now they have this saying that they represent no one, but themselves. The judge was a pretty reasonable guy that day and he set the time for my next appointment for the afternoon and the little scum can't get out of it. He has to be there or go to jail. I can't wait.”
"Listen, Phyl.”Tone'ya reached over the coffee table, deftly took the television's remote control from Rayne's slack fingers and flicked it on. This was an action that successfully put an end to the conversation.”You can't do wrong with Sam even if you use him for a little while. Instead of you questioning us, go and try him out for yourself.”
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 ABOUT THE BOOK

This is an independent research and education project


Beads on a String-America’s Racially Intertwined Biographical History is a recording of America’s glorious multi-racial history, celebrated within one cover.
Beads on a String-America’s Racially Intertwined Biographical History lauds loudly the accomplishments of all races that helped make America the great country it has become.
It celebrates such people as Hiawatha, who fought for freedom of his people. It applauds Lonnie Johnson who invented the ‘Super Soaker’, Dalip Singh Saund a member of the United States House of Representatives and Rev. Rick Warren who blessed the 2008 Presidential Inauguration. Beads on a String continue with the recognition of others such as, Arpad G.C. Gerster who was one of the first surgeons in America, and Yamato Ichihashi, one of the first academics of Asian ancestry in the United States. Antonio Meucci invented the telephone, Michael Jackson entertained; Minoru Yamasaki second-generation Japanese-American architect designed the World Trade Center, and Amadeo Peter Giannini who founded the of Bank of Italy, which later became Bank of America.
Beads on a String-America’s Racially Intertwined Biographical History never stops celebrating our heritages from the naming of the country by Martin Waldseemuller to the elimination of overt racial discrimination, through education, entertainment and to the glorious day of racial, political and social unification with Barack Obama’s Presidential election.
Beads on a String-America’s Racially Intertwined Biographical History will be a great asset to the educational system as well as in the lives of people all over the world. With the election of Barack Obama as President, it is clear; America is ready for a change. That change should take effect within the history books.

Video1:
The inauguration of President Obama ushered in a giant change in America.
Dr. Joseph Lowery former president of Southern Christian Leadership conference delivers the benediction as Barack Obama takes the oath as the 44th President of the United States of America.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure….”

CONTENTS

Quote- A. Philip Randolph "Salvation for a Race"
Introduction-The Purpose of this book
Quote- Dr John Henrik Clark

Chapter I-America

Quote- Carlos Bulosan "America is in the Heart"
Immigration Timeline
The Naming of America
Discovery of America
The Formation of America
Reason for Colonization
Quote--John Hope Franklin

Chapter II-Slavery and Discrimination

Label My Race Human
The Beginning of Slavery in the United States
Slavery as an Economy
Quote-Charles Evan Hughes
Dred Scott Decision
Racial Discrimination

Chapter III-Voices of Change

The Civil Rights Movement /Organizations

Chapter IV-Biographies of Notable Contributors to America's Growth…

Activism and Abolitionism
Government Leaders
Religious Leaders
Scholars and Educators
Inventors/ Scientist
Artists, Architects, and Designers
Authors and Publishers
Business
Sports
Film, Television, Entertainment and Media
Videos 
A Change Has Come

Yes, We Can

Martin Luther King

From Martin to Obama

Lift Every Voice

We Shall Over Come

Why We Are Proud

We Can Change the World

The Dreams of Generations

Rev. Rick Warren
The Inventor of the Supersoaker

Gone Too Soon/Heal the World
It's a New Day
 

Chapter V-List of America's Contributors in All Areas

Bibliographies
Black Codes & Example
The Author

Salvation for a race, nation or class must come from within. Freedom is never given; it is won.”
Asa Philip Randolph (April 15, 1889 – May 16, 1979) was a prominent twentieth-century African-American civil rights leader and the founder of both the March on Washington Movement and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a landmark for labor and particularly for African-American labor organizing.

The Purpose of This Book


As a homeschooling parent it came across the mind of my youngest daughter to ask about a history book which talks about all the races within its bounded pages. She is a born optimist and hates the way we as adults seem to enjoy racial profiling. I as the mother and her instructor in life wanted to give her what she wanted, but I could find none. So, as a home-school project we decided to write our own, Beads on a String-America’s Racially Intertwined Biographical History.
We chose to use Wikipedia as our “listed” resource because it was established by the people. People with interest in America's history, proud of their own heritage and who believed enough in themselves to gather and write about the people, organizations, and all fractions of society that helped to make America the great nation it has become and if anyone has a problem  with it, they can go in and change history.
What better way, or so it seemed to us to celebrate America and it's freedoms than with a system established by the people with or without its faults and illusions. We believe in America and whenever  we had doubt about the information we did go and check the information out at other sources and found Wikipedia to be pretty much correct on more information than not and the biggest factor was that it was so easy to use. I for one loved the way a ‘list’ of each race was simple to pull up and then research. And hey, I just wanted to see a history book that put everyone's contribution together and not separated by race or hyphenation.
America has had great contributors within every century working hard together and yet each race would like to pull out their certain pages and categorize them into their own history book. And we truly believe if someone has a problem with our choice they would have to deal with it or well, get over it. Our main focus is to try and eliminate the division of a great nation by a single line, the hyphenation.
America as a nation has many problems and yet what other country in the world can attest to the fact that people or dying to be here? There is a dream in their heart to be a part of this great nation and to live in the land of good and plenty as a member of one body. So why do we keep the line of separation as a constant reminder? The hyphenation, which line that separates all races and the word American.
The elimination of the hyphenation that is placed to distinguish White Americans from African (Black), Chinese, Arab, Indian, Japanese and every other race would be an immense triumph for Americans.  That hyphenation continues to put a space between the races that are naturally born and the races that have chosen to become Americans. And we are that, Americans that have contributed enormously to the growth of the great United States. If each of our histories were celebrated everyday and our children were taught to value all histories, contributions, and differences we wouldn't have to wonder what Dr. King would think about us today. We live in different times and we now play on a different game field from or ancestors and we need different tactics to fight the causes of today. Beads on a String- America’s Racially Intertwined Biographical History chooses not to be about a certain color, but about a certain nation, America.
Why is all of the hyphenation and hating going on in America? Why is such a distinction made before we are labeled Americans? African (sorry I don't come from Africa.) Arab, Asian, Black, Chinese, Hispanic, Native. I don't see anything about White-American or European-American. Who made this 'hyphenation' up and why are we accepting a line that separates us? I feel that we as Americans are all equal and held together by a common thread. Like a treasured beaded necklace of different colors held together on a string, we are held together by our necessities and our circumstances and our humanity. Every color helps to make the necklace beautiful. We can never be a totally separate entity. Americans of all colors are so integrated that if we hurt one, we hurt all. Just like that necklace of treasured beads, leave one out and the gap is seen. Break the chain and many of us are lost.
We believe that there are no pure races in America. Once Africans loved and integrated with Native Americans and the White man brought the first boat of Black slaves to America and raped their women, the 'pure' races were put to an end because nine months later, some woman had the first mixed baby. This integration happened again and again within all races. We are such a mixed breed of people in America that it has become hard to distinguish one race from another just by looking in a face. Some Blacks were so light skinned that they married into the White race and no one knew and may never know. Light to White skinned babies were being born and no one knew if they were Black or White and it did not and does not matter because they were born into the human race. Once free, they became American citizens. As does anyone born into this country, or anyone that chooses to come into this country and become an American.
How many pure races are living America? From what we see, love among the races is flowing freely. Don't forget what happened to our fore-parents. Let us not repeat it. Let go of what happened in the past. I am not saying that there is not prejudice in the world. What I am saying is this, when we are fighting for a 'cause' we must remember we are fighting the system and not a person. We have to be diligent in collecting facts, have an unbreakable, unbeatable plan, and remember all of our foes may not be of one color. Pay attention to the present. What we consider 'small things' is happening daily in the schools; on the jobs; in the government. Pay attention so we don't step back in time.  Stop trying to benefit from the past. Everyone that was involved in the mayhem and destruction of the families and the souls of the slaves are dead. We cannot charge nor punish them with anything and if we attack because of racial prejudice we may hurt our own. We take a chance of destroying an uncle, aunt, cousin, brother because roots run deep. We cannot change the past hurts, but we can change the present laws. The heart of man has to be dealt with by God. We should not dwell on the past.  It stirs up hatred in young hearts that should only know peace.  We know what happened to our fore-parents. Let us not repeat it. 
It is time for America to let go of the past and heal itself.  The grieving period should have been over and the healing started. But every year, old wounds are torn open by the words Black History Month. Why don't we teach the children about America's History with everyone included? To me it seems as if only a few Black people are pulled out of the closet, dusted off the shelves and paraded in front of America as if to say, 'this one wasn't worthless', this one wasn't stupid'. Why is the ‘black’ in capital letters?  Is it to point out a person of color has a brain or is it to pronounce to the world we have pride? If there is so much pride in America for Native, African, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Iranian-Americans and other 'hyphened Americans, drop the hyphen and pull together and teach our children that every bead has a purpose and should be celebrated.

 Visit the interview page

If you are interested in reviewing this book, please contact me.

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THE PERFECT SOLUTION--A SUSPENSE OF CHOICES

Anger destroys a relationship.

A teenage babysitter decides to go to college.

A single parent places her child in daycare.

A three year old is mistakenly given to a stalker by his pre-school teacher.

 

When Saturday mornings rolled around Catrine Teddi would bring her three year old son Brhin to eat breakfast at Mc Donald’s. It was an established routine to mark a day of errands and familial bonding. She never paid attention to Mona Boots sitting in the shadows across the play yard watching the little boy.

Mona, deciding she wanted Brhin as her own, spent weeks stalking him and his mother. In her delusion to finally do something right in her life she enters The Perfect Solution Childcare Center and leaves with Brhin-Kristoffer Teddi in her arms. It’s a choice she is prepared to defend.
 EXCERPT

“Austin”

Yanking his coat from the back of the wood slated chair and practically tipping it over with the momentum of his movements, Austin Sanchez practically ran out of the detective's office. Outside of the door, he angrily pushed his arms into the sleeves of his smoke gray leather jacket and jabbed the 'down' button of the elevator.
"Doctor Sanchez." The detective poked his head out of his door. "Don't forget that you have to remain in town. Until your son is found, you are unfortunately considered a suspect."
"I'm not about to forget that too soon." Austin answered in a flat furious tone. He stepped into the elevator and stalled the door's closing by putting his foot in the doorway. "Just keep my name and number close at hand; you may want to put it on your list as a murder suspect before the night is over."
"Listen, Doctor Sanchez, don't do anything you’ll be sorry about," Warned the detective, pointing his pen towards Austin. "You'll find yourself right back up here and not sitting comfortably in my little office."
"Never fear, if I do anything, I can guarantee you I won’t be sorry."  He jabbed his finger into the button that closed the door.
Shaking his head as the doors closed, the detective empathized with Austin's feelings. What a hell of a way to find out you’re a father. He had seen and heard a lot of things during his years as police detective, but this was a new one. To never know that you are a parent and then to get the knowledge when your child is missing had to be a horrendous blow to both your ego and your sense of righteousness.
Remembering the shocked look on Austin Sanchez's face, he had no doubts that the man knew nothing about the child's whereabouts. As a matter of fact, he had been afraid he would have to call the paramedics. The poor guy had looked like he was about to have a stroke.
"Man, what way to find out you are a father," The detective repeated out loud. Slipping his arms into the sleeves of his coat, he too left the building.
Unknowingly echoing the detective's thoughts, Austin stepped from the elevator and walked out of the police station. He was so pissed, the words swirled around in his head at such a rapid pace, he could barely think. If it hadn't been for the fact he was dead tired from spending the past eighteen hours between two different surgeries, he felt as if he could drive straight to Catrine's apartment and beat the life out of her. But then again, he was really tired. He needed a shower, a bottle of extra strength aspirin and a cup of coffee.
From the moment he had gotten home from work and heard the message on his answering machine telling him to report to the detective's office or face the possibility of being arrested, Austin had thought that there was nothing left in the day to shock him. Finding out he was a father and being accused of that child's abduction, had definitely taken him on a trip to another dimension. He recalled each step of the visit with each step he took towards his car.

******

"Come in Doctor Sanchez."
The detective ushered Austin into the cramped little room and directed him to a slate backed chair at a long wooden table. Shutting the door, he sat opposite of Austin with his arms folded, rocking back and forth on the rear legs of the chair. He studied Austin as if he were staring at a specimen under a microscope. Then, without uttering a word, the detective let the chair fall back on all four of its legs, the sudden thud startling in the quiet room. Tapping the unsharpened end of his pencil on the table as he studied the notes in front of him, the detective repeatedly hummed a couple of tuneless notes.
Austin, assuming that this was another form of police psychological torture, nervously glanced around the small room. It was a mess. The clutter made him fill slightly claustrophobic. Shelves, floor, and table were packed with files, office equipment, and other office paraphernalia. There was barely enough room for him to move. Breathing slowly, Austin strove to put on the face of extreme confidence. After all, he had done nothing wrong. He had stolen nothing. No one had died on the operating table while in his hands and he owed no one any money. So what was the problem? Why had he been called here? He could feel himself slipping into the Black man's sense of injustice and fear. No matter how professional a Black man became, the idea of dealing with the law could put mortal fear into his soul.
Examining the tips of his manicured nails and then the tips of his well shined shoes, he waited for the detective to stop the tuneless humming and speak. When the humming stopped, Austin thought he was about to learn the reason for his summons and he sat up straight, but he was mistaken. He watched the detective with a burning anger as the man tossed the useless pencil, pushed back his chair and moved away from the table, crossing the room to the coffee maker.
"Would you like a cup of coffee, Doctor Sanchez?"
"Why not, I guess I have nothing to lose by taking a cup." Deciding to get the show on the road, he employed sarcasm as his tool. "Maybe after that, you will tell me why you requested my company. Unless you called me here because you were lonely."
"No." The detective returned to the table and placed one of the cups he was carrying, in front of Austin. "Loneliness doesn’t happen to be one of my problems. As a matter of fact, my problem is really your problem." He took a sip from his cup.
Copying the detective's moves, Austin irritably took a drink from his coffee. The damned little detective was working on his last nerve. Having to sit at the beck and call of a White man made him want to return to his belligerent, defiant, and ignorant days in the Hood. The gulp of scalding coffee brought his control into focus and he coughed in annoyance. Slamming the cup on the table and spilling a few drops in the process, he then mimicked the detective's rocking movements.
"Doctor Sanchez where is your son?"
"What?"Austin let the chair's legs fall back to the floor with a bang. "I don't have a son. If you called me in here to badger me about some unknown child, then I'm afraid you called in the wrong person." Austin stood to leave.
"Do you know a Catrine Nechelle Teddi?"
"Yes," Austin answered hesitantly before he turned and gazed doubtfully on the detective. "I haven't seen her for a few years, though."
Pointing to the empty chair with an ink pen, a sure sign they were now getting to work the detective resumed his interrogation.
"When was the last time you saw your son?"
"I have never seen my 'son', because I don’t have one." Austin getting more irritated as the moments passed emphasized his response angrily as he ran his fingers through his hair.
"From what Ms. Teddi has told us, you do. The child is three and a half." He picked up the sheet of paper. "He was born on the twentieth of September."
"What?" He resumed his seat slowly, staring at detective in astonishment. "You mean you're telling me that Catrine had my child and she didn't let me know?"
"Is that what you’re telling me?"
"Yes."Austin covered his mouth in shocked disbelief. "How could she do such a thing? Isn't there a law against that or something? How can a woman keep the knowledge of a child from its father and there not be a law against it? Wouldn't that be like kidnapping or something?" He stared at the detective, but did not really see him. His mind, desperately trying to assimilate what it had heard, refused to take in anything else.
"Have you and Ms. Teddi had an argument lately?"
"I just finished telling you that I haven’t seen her in a few years. I'm talking about over four years, here."
"Four years," The detective repeated the words in disbelief. “So you're trying to tell me you don't know where the boy is."
"He's missing? You brought me here, tell me about a child I have never seen and then you tell me that he is missing. Am I going to be considered a suspect? Wait a minute; I am a suspect, right" Austin stood in agitation and paced the room. “Do you think that I took him?"
"Sit down, Sanchez." The detective stood and put his hand on his hip. His solid stance and the hand nearest the gun in his holster intimidating as hell and Austin sat."The mother reported the child missing and we always check with family members, first. You are not the only one we will question."
"I just can't believe this."  Austin shook his head in stupefaction. “Catrine had my child and didn’t let me know. Do you have a picture of my son?" He looked across the room at the detective.
"No, an officer is on the way to meet Ms. Teddi now to get one."  He sat back down. "I won't be able to keep you too long, but I do have a few questions that I want to ask you. I want to ask you a few questions about your activities throughout today. So sit back and calm down."
Taking a deep breath and picking up the cup of coffee so his hands would be occupied, he had spent the better part of the past two hours sitting in that hard bottomed slate backed chair, repeatedly answering the same questions until he thought he would burst with anger and frustration.
"Listen, I don’t know how differently I can answer you. I have never seen him. I have already told you the same thing repeatedly I have no ideas about an abduction. For all I know the child is not even my son."
He had stressed the statement. Losing all patience, but to no avail. The questions continued. Do you know Catrine Teddi? Where does she live?  When was the last time you had any contact with her? How long have you known her?  Do you think she would harm her own child? The same questions, the same answers except for the one that he had no answer for. Why had Catrine kept the boy a secret?
Angrily striding through the parking garage without a glance to his surroundings, Austin walked past his car and huffed irritably when he had to turn and retrace his steps. Pushing the button that activated the engine of his car, he cursed extensively when the car protested with an irritating grinding squeal as it was thrown into the wrong gear.
"When I get to my apartment and take a shower, I'm going to call Catrine," he promised himself aloud as he restarted the car. "I should just pop up at her house. I still remember her address. Hell, I should. It took me damned near a year to stop driving past there. This time, I will be damned if I just pass by."
Fifteen minutes later, Austin was parking his hunter green Chevrolet Crossfire near the door of his apartment when he noticed a police car sitting across the street and cursed again as he slammed the car's door.
"When I get close to Catrine it will be nothing nice," he muttered aloud. "First, I get the humiliating visit with the police and now I have a police car sitting outside of my apartment, watching me as if I’m some common criminal."
Running up the stairs and opening his apartment door, Austin immediately went over to the telephone and punched out Catrine's number with the tip of his middle finger, cracking the nail with the force of his anger.
"Same number," he grumbled when he heard her voice on the machine. "I bet the girl is still driving that dangerous little sporty Jaguar, and with my son in it, no less."
Barely able to restrain himself from voicing his anger and frustration, he left a brief message on her answering machine; he let out an utterance of irritation which sounded more like a growl before slamming down the receiver and began to strip for a shower. Standing rigid under the water and hoping that the soothing drops would calm him, he closed his eyes and turned his face to the stinging hot spray. As the water ran down his cheeks he let himself remember the last night they had spent together.
Over the years that they had been apart, he had dared himself to even bring her name to memory. It had hurt him deeply when their relationship ended and his male pride refused to let him go crawling back. Until the day Catrine had thrown him out of her life, he had not realized just how much she had meant to him. He’d felt as if he would die and had spent many days on the verge of tears. For a man of his years that had been a new experience. He had walked around his apartment with barely enough energy to move. He couldn't concentrate. A terrible thing when you are a surgeon. Finally, he had run to his mother like a wimpy little woman and cried on her shoulders. He told her how clinging Catrine had become. How much the girl wanted him in her life and how much the idea of living with someone frightened him.
"Tin," his mother sat on the sofa looking up at him in barely disguised amusement. She patted the palm of her hand on the cushion next to her
"Honey, sit. You’re hurting my neck. What with me looking up at the ceiling and swinging my head to follow you as you wear out the carpet with your incessant pacing; I may never be able to use my neck again." She laughed and patted the spot again when he scowled. "Honey, if you cared that much for this girl, why in the world did you break up with her? She sounded like a dream to me."
"What are you talking about, Mom? Didn't you hear what I said?  This woman believed that she owned me. Every time I turned around, she was there."
"You mean she stalked you," his mother stated, tongue-in-cheek, almost laughing when he threw his hands in the air.
"No." He stood back up. "No, I mean it was like we were never apart. She was just always there. When I got off work, I went to her apartment or she came to mine. When we could, we ate lunch together. She was just always there, washing dishes, clothes, cleaning the apartment, cooking, relaxing...Mom. Mom, stop laughing this isn’t funny. I just felt… I don't know."
"Loved? Wanted?"
"No, trapped." he sighed in disgust. "Mom you think this is funny but it isn't. No matter what I did she never trusted me. She was always thinking that I am messing around with someone else."
"Was she seeing anyone else?"
"No. As a matter of fact I'm the only one she ever...why am I having this conversation with you? I'm going to Dallas' house. He and Houston are watching the game on television."
"Yeah, you do that. Your brothers could probably help you a lot better than I can. I think that sometimes you forget that I am a woman. And as such I can understand how this girl feels. If I caught your drift, you're the only person this girl has ever slept with, right?" She continued when he put his head down and studied the circle he was making with the toe of his shoe and didn't answer. "Just that fact would make the girl very emotional. She.... Uhm, what's her name?"  His mother stopped in mid sentence.
"It doesn't matter. I won't be seeing her again."
"Right," She scoffed in disbelief. "If it doesn't matter, tell me her name. Would I like her?  How old is she?  Where does she live?  How long have you been seeing her?  Who are her parents? And she doesn't sleep around, huh?  She sounds like a winner to me."
Austin looked at his mother dubiously.
"Mom, don't worry about it. I'll be fine."
"If you answer a few of the questions I would be able to give you an answer.”
"That's okay Mom. Let it pass. I'll be back." He walked backwards to the door.
"Fine, go talk to your brothers. Just don't let those chauvinistic macho older brothers make you feel or do something you'll regret later in life. Let them make you wimp out of your true feelings. Make you believe you are whipped or anything. I know how men get when they’re together. You know I always tell you guys you can tell me anything. This time I think you may have to do this on your own. Maybe even think with your heart and not your head."
He opened the screen and stepped onto the porch. "Yes, Ma’me I will."   He turned and almost ran to his car. Laughing to himself as he got behind the wheel.
Old habits die hard. His could mother always make him admit more than he wanted. Just by sitting and listening. She had never made judgment on them for whatever they had done. She had let them do it to themselves. Using subtle questions, knowing smiles, and well-placed remarks, they had always known how she felt about an incident and what their responsibilities were.
During the many more conversations he and his mother had while he was visiting, he never told her how much he missed seeing Catrine's smile and hearing her tell the corniest jokes. Nor did he tell her how he missed the conversations he and Catrine would have after making love.
And she, as his mother, never dug too deep. She just fed him delicious home cooked meals and sat near him when he was at his lowest. For the two weeks  he lived in her house, moped around, and welcomed her comforting words until she had booted him out and ordered him to go back to work with the promise that his heart would heal and he would live. Austin hadn't believed his mother's words just like he hadn't believed that the last night with Catrine would really be the last.
Three days before that final confrontation they'd had an argument and he had slammed out of her apartment vowing never to return. A vow he had stated many times previously, but had never kept. He had always returned. For some reason they had begun to argue frequently. Especially during the last two months together.
On this particular night, Catrine called him and invited him over for what she called a 'last get together'. She said she wanted to end the relationship on good terms and so he had gone. The candlelight meal had been delicious as was their 'get together'. He had been lying next to her with his eye closed, enjoying the fragrance of her perfume, wishing they didn't really have to break-up, and basking in her closeness and the way she was slowly caressing his chest when her words abruptly scattered the mist of self-satisfaction clouding his brain.
"Austin, don't you think it would be nice if we could be like this every night?" she asked softly.
"Oh, Damn."
Jumping from the bed, he grabbed his clothes from the floor and virtually ran from the room. Standing before the sofa in the living room, he made two futile attempts at pulling on his pants before succeeding.
Shaking his head in an attempt release some of the anger that was about to explode through his pores, Austin returned to the present and reached for the bar of soap, lathered his towel and scrubbed vigorously at his body with exasperation. No matter how he tried he could not by pass his memories. He remembered how Catrine looked when she entered into the living room from the bedroom. She had been securing the belt on her robe and as she tossed back her beautiful shoulder length hair with one hand, her small breast had swelled against the silk of the robe, practically begging for his touch. Giving in to the enticement, Austin stepped towards her and stopped short at the fury bursting from her lips.
"What the hell is wrong with you, Austin?" She put her hand on her hips and removed them just as quickly when the lapel of the robe gaped open to expose her nakedness. Closing the gap, she pulled the belt tighter.
Smiling at her belated sense of modesty, Austin pulled on his shirt. "I'm not the one with a problem."
"Well, it sure as hell isn't me." Her voice rose as did the anger in her face."I'm not the one that jumped out of bed and ran out of the room. You act like I'm trying to take away your freedom. Like you thing I'm going to chain you to a wall or something."  She sat on the sofa and angrily tapped her foot.
"Or 'something' is right. You want to tie me to you."
Austin paced the living room angrily and when he got near the sofa, he picked up a small pillow and threw it against the furthest wall in frustration.
"What in God's name do you want from me?" He asked. "You know I work constantly."
"Damn it." Catrine picked up the pillow and took her time replacing it on the sofa. He watched her as she bent and plumped up the pillow. The delightful shape of her bottom embossed on the silk of the gown.
Smiling to himself, he remembered how Catrine had turned and saw the look on his face and had stiffened, looking at him with a slight sneer from feet to head. She stood in front of him as if she believed she could knock him down to her size and then had the nerve to blatantly prod him in his chest in her anger.
"Austin I want you to be faithful to me and if you can't be faithful at least be honest."
"I am honest with you. Is it my fault you think so much of me that you believe every woman that sees me, wants me?"
Catrine scoffed in amusement."You are so full of yourself, Austin. Do you honestly think you mean so much to me that I have a need to tie you to my side?"
"Hell, yes. Girl you know you love me and you'll love me forever."
"I can get over it."
"Yeah right, I believe that as much as I believe there’s a man in the moon. I don't know how I can be more honest. I tell you my job schedule. You know where I am all of the time. My life is not my own. When would I have time to run around on you?  When I am not at work, I am with you. It's up to you whether or not you believe me. I think the best solution for us is to be apart."
"Austin, I can love you for the rest of my life, but that doesn't mean I have to be a fool for you. You can't give me a clear reason why you won't live here with me and that keeps me from believing you. We don't even have to live here. If you worry because the townhouse is mine, I could move in with you even though this place is larger. Or we can buy something else. We don't have to live here."
"Damn."
The argument became much more heated with each one saying hurtful things until he stormed out of the apartment and never heard from her again.
"And now I find out I have a son and the boy is nearly four years old. I could just beat her." he said aloud.
Reaching for a bottle of shampoo and pouring it in his hair, Austin rubbed the thick liquid into frothy foam with vigorous motions. He could almost feel the many questions banging around in his head. I wonder if he looks like me. Does he have my eyes? Is his smile anything like mine? Does the child have Catrine's dimples? And what about the things he knows? I've missed his first smile, his first step, everything. I wonder if he thinks about me. I bet the poor little guy probably thinks that I hate him. A boy needs a father. I would have loved to be part of his life. I just don't understand how Catrine felt justified in keeping something like that to herself?  How could she have purposely kept me from my child? We could have discussed the possibility of an imminent child, or maybe not. True, our relationship may not have been at its greatest," he mused out loud. "But she could have told me something."
Moving back under the spray to rinse the soap from his hair, he cursed loudly and irritably opened his eyes to try and wash the stinging foam from their crevices. Thinking about Catrine always threw him into a cyclone of emotions. He would fly from longing, to anger, to tenderness and then to frustration because he could never figure her out. Reminiscing about their earlier days was a lure he had done his best not to fall into. Sometimes, as he was doing now, he failed miserably. They had mostly dated and after a month or two, sex had just slipped in. No strings, no ties. Sure, she had been a virgin, but she had taken everything in stride and had not tried to push the status of their relationship into anything more serious until that last month.
Maybe Catrine had known that she was pregnant and having me move in would have been her way of telling me. She should not have let me walk out without telling me that she was pregnant. I could have been with her. I could have taken care of her. I would have loved to see her as my baby grew in her stomach. To have been able to rub her stomach, to feel the child as it kicked joyfully at its surroundings and to run to the store in the middle of the night. She should have told me about the baby instead of ending our relationship by throwing me out of her house and her life.
Stepping from the shower and wrapping one of the two towels hanging from the rack around his waist, he used the other to dry his hair. Rubbing the excess from his face, Austin stared at himself in the mirror.
"Well, she will not be throwing me out this time. I'll be there until my son comes home and for whatever time I feel necessary." He promised his reflection."You need to calm down fellow," he advised his mirrored image. "Maybe I should cut off the beard." He studied one side of his face and then the other. "Catrine has never seen me with it and I might scare the hell out of her. What the hell?" He shrugged. “It will be better than beating it out of her, which would still be better than what I will do to the person who took my son."

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PICTURE BOOKS
I believe the trailer is the best piece of excerpt for each book.
Visit "The Children's Corner"
 




Mhia is so upset about not being able to hug the sun her mom tell her the story of the antics the sun goes through to get a hug and she learns a little science in the end. Who Will Hug the Sun is part of a series of picture books titled IN MY SISTER’S WORLD .










BETWEEN THE TWO OF THEM explores the advantages and disadvantages of being the middle child and shows how Gillean discovers she has the uniqueness of being the only sister with the ability to be either the eldest or the youngest child in the family.




What would you do to ease the fears of your child’s nightmares? In prose and illustrations, NOT A SOUND, NOT A PEEP shows how the family handles the nightmares of Mhia, the youngest child in the family






If you would like to review either of the picture books, please contact me.


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