Candy Cane Christmas

Christmas was Denise’s favorite holiday. That’s not unusual since it’s almost everyone’s favorite holiday, but her story was unusual. It was the Christmas season when her parents adopted her twenty years ago on December 21st, 1998. The anniversary of that with Christmas following soon after was always the best part of her year.

In the last two years though, she had lost both of her parents – one to cancer and one to what she can only describe as a broken heart. Since her Dad died in June, she had been dreading this Christmas season. That was, until around October when a little girl who was seven years old named Tiffany came through the agency she worked at. She was orphaned (both parents died in a plane crash) and had no other relatives to take care of her.

Denise worked at an adoption agency, because had it not been for an adoption agency helping, she never would have met the people who raised her. She wanted to give back, and she felt like this was how to do it.

When she met Tiffany, Denise felt an internal tugging to help. She had always planned to adopt, in a way of honoring her parents, but she planned to wait until she was married and a little older. After she heard Tiffany’s story though, she knew that it was her time now. So, she started the process of adoption (it tends to go quicker when the child is orphaned and when you work at an adoption agency). The Judge had planned to sign the official adoption order on December 19th, but Denise had explained the significance of the 21st, and they all agreed that it would be special to share that date together.

Tiffany had been living with Denise as a foster situation for a little over a month though. She was adjusting, but she didn’t come without issues. She had nightmares almost every night, and she was constantly anxious that something was going to happen to Denise. With everything Tiffany had been through, Denise told herself that it would just take a little bit of time.

The Judge did sign the Order of Adoption on December 21st, 2018, and the girls celebrated with a big lunch at Tiffany’s favorite restaurant in the city, followed by ice skating and a visit to see Santa. Denise was excited to help Santa out and give Tiffany the best Christmas she could afford on her salary. As they left, Tiffany stuffed several candy canes from Santa’s elf into Denise’s bag and took her hand. This little girl was so happy now, and so was she.

That next day Tiffany and Denise spent hours baking cookies and cakes for Christmas, and watching Christmas movies. Any doubts Denise had in the beginning about going forward with Tiffany’s adoption dissipated. She felt like nothing in the world could ruin this Christmas for them.

That night Tiffany had one of her nightmares again. It was different this time though, because once Denise woke her up Tiffany didn’t seem to snap out of it like she had every other time. Denise tried to go back to sleep, but she couldn’t get her mind to settle down. When Tiffany had one of her episodes, it always left Denise a little shaken. It was hard to describe, but her eyes were blank and she didn’t say anything when Denise tried to talk to her about it.

Denise went into the kitchen and made herself a glass of hot chocolate. She sat at the table stirring the marshmallows in her mug, wondering what she could say to help her.

Denise heard footsteps and turned around to see her new daughter in the doorway of the kitchen holding a sharpened candy cane.

“Merry Christmas” Tiffany hissed as she lifted the candy cane in the air and charged toward her.

Ghosted

Monica was so excited she could barely sit still while Meghan was curling her hair. Meghan had been her best friend for over a decade, and today she had surprised Monica with tickets to a ghost tour while on their vacation in New Orleans. AND today just so happened to be Friday the 13th.

Monica had been a fan of all things supernatural her whole life. If it was weird or spooky, she was going to watch it. She was starting college in the fall, and she wanted to study Criminology. If it had to do with murders or mysteries, she wanted to know about it.

The girls had decided to venture to New Orleans for their first solo “adult” trip. The fun nightlife, the history, and the good food had landed them in New Orleans. The first two days had been fun, but with this surprise Monica had no doubt she would have the most fun tonight.

Monica knew Meghan didn’t believe in ghosts, but she loved her friend for being willing to sit through this for her. They finished getting ready, and went outside. Their hotel was right off of Bourbon Street, so they didn’t have far to walk to get to the carriage ride.

Five minutes later they were hopping up onto the carriage and listening to the tour guide’s instructions.

“When we get off at a stop for a guided walk through, please remember not to stray. These are old buildings and not all of the floors are stable. Not only that, but you may encounter a couple of spirits that aren’t happy you’ve disturbed them,” said the guide with a wink.

Monica’s eyes lit up, and Meghan shot her a glance. Monica knew Meghan would complain, but she couldn’t promise she wouldn’t explore the parts of the tour that were “off-limits”.

“Don’t look at me like that Meghan,” smiled Monica. “I won’t get us into any real danger. It’s just made up right?”

“I’m more worried about falling through an old floor board than a ghost,” said Meghan.

A few minutes later they were in the carriage slowly moving along. The guide went over the usual historical talking points, pointing out which buildings people claimed to see or hear things in. The carriage came to a stop outside of a dark alley beside a large, industrial type building.

“Okay, everyone off. This is our first leg of the walking tour; follow me!” said the guide.

Everyone filed along behind the guide through the alley and into a side door of the building.

“I wonder what this building was for,” mused Meghan.

The tour guide heard her question. “This was once a canning factory. It closed about thirty years ago though.”

“Why did it close?” Monica asked.

“Over the course of a year, six people were murdered here,” the tour guide said in a creepy voice that made their skin crawl.

“Did they find who did it?” another tourist asked.

“No,” said the guide. “The legends say that the murderer still comes back here occasionally. There have been a few unexplained disappearances in recent years near here, but the police have never been able to link them. Rumor has it, the murderer comes back every Friday the 13th and waits on someone to find him.”

Meghan shifted uncomfortably beside Monica, but Monica was too interested to notice.

“Oh, oh will we get to see where they were killed?” asked Monica.

“We’ll walk above the area on a raised level, but do not stray off of the path,” warned the guide.

“We’re definitely going to look around,” whispered Monica to Meghan. “What could actually happen to us?”

They walked along until they were raised above the area the guide had told them about. Monica looked around and there was an entry to a staircase to her right. She grabbed Meghan by the shoulder and pulled her into the staircase.

“Monica I’m scared, I don’t think we should do this,” whimpered Meghan.

“Don’t be a baby. We’re just going to look around and then we’ll go right back before they even know we’re missing,” said Monica.

Reluctantly, Meghan followed Monica down the stairs into a large room full of machinery. They were about to turn around a go back to the group when Monica saw a hat near one of the machines. It looked fairly new, so she wanted to check it out, thinking it may belong to one of those missing people the guide mentioned.

They creeped along and Monica reached for the hat. It was Pelicans cap, and she had been right- it wasn’t old at all. Monica looked up and as she did, a shadow ran along the back wall.

“Meghan,” hissed Monica. “Someone just ran by.”

“I’m sure you’re just seeing things Monica, but I’m really creeped out. Can we please go?”

Even Meghan had to agree that she was feeling uneasy and wanted to get back to the group. They turned to go back towards the staircase when they heard a thud.

“Don’t look back just run!” screamed Monica.

The girls ran as fast as they could, but when Monica reached the door to the stairs and threw the door open, she saw that Meghan wasn’t with her anymore.

“Meghan! Someone please help! She screamed.” Meghan ran up the stairs to find the tour guide and the group for help, but she couldn’t find them.

They were gone and no one heard her scream.

Outside, one of the tourists remarked that the girls were gone.

“They probably just took off for Bourbon Street,” said the guide. “Happens all the time.”

“Told them not to wander off,” the guide muttered under her breath, as she steered the carriage forward.

 

 

Happy Friday the 13th friends!

Help Me Write This Book

For most of my life, I have had it in my head that I am going to be a published author. Generally, if I get something in my head I am going to dwell on it until it gets finished. The problem with writing this first book has never been my lack of desire to write it, but  that I have never been able to nail down a genre. I have a lot of different interests, and I hate the thought of being tied to one type of book. Some days I want to write a mystery, and others I’m more drawn to a fantasy, magic type book.

Your first book is going to set the precedent for your audience and for the people interested in publishing it, and I want to make absolutely certain I’ve got it right before I do it. So far, what I have is an idea for a book. I have an outline and I have the names of characters. The theme ties in my love of mystery and what I experience (to an extent) as a lawyer. John Grisham is an author whose ideas have shaped me, and being that he is an attorney also I think molding my career as an author after him makes sense.

I have always envisioned writing Nancy Drew type novels, so I’m thinking of this more as if Nancy Drew grew up and became a lawyer, what would her life be like?

I’d gladly accept any advice you might have for writing your first book. I imagine it won’t be nearly as easy or go as smoothly as I have pictured in my head. The big ideas are easy to come up with, it’s the details I struggle with sometimes. Any helpful tips or things you wish you had known when you started your first book would be a huge help!

I have to start somewhere, so I may as well start now. Maybe I’ll be able to cross this off of my bucket list before I turn 30 in a few years!

Thunder Rolls

When Molly returns from a work trip to Syria, she meets a cute guy named Preston online. But the hours following go from flirty to deadly…

Molly normally liked when the weather was bad. She preferred the rain to other types of weather; she always got her best writing done when there was thunder and lightning in the background. She just didn’t have it in her tonight.

After a couple of hours trying to get through the piece she was writing for work about her recent trip to Syria, she called it a night. She had about a page and a half to show for her efforts, but it would just have to wait.

She went downstairs to feed her cat and pour herself a glass of wine. Molly palmed her glass of Cabernet as she leaned against the counter. Her sleep schedule was still off from her trip and she knew she wouldn’t sleep for hours. She grabbed her cell phone and pulled open one of her dating apps. She had a message from a guy named Preston.

“How is your night going?” he wrote.

He was cute and she was bored so she responded with “It’s good. Just drinking some wine and relaxing.”

They chatted for a few minutes, and Molly went and plugged her phone into the charger in the hallway. Molly took a long, warm bath and when she went to check her phone, her heart fell into her stomach.

“That pink robe looks good on you” the message read.

Molly ran to the front door and made sure it was locked, and then she sprinted to the back door and latched it. She had a lump in her throat and her hands were shaking as she typed out “how did you know I’m in a pink robe?”

But no one messaged back.

Molly went up to her room and locked the bedroom door behind her. She checked under her bed and in her closet and when she was sure no one was in the room with her, she grabbed her pistol out of the nightstand by her bed and loaded it. She didn’t want to call the police over what was probably just a prank anyway.

She sat on her bed clutching the gun, trying to calm herself down.

Her phone beeped. “Why do you look so nervous Molly? I’m not going to hurt you; you can put your gun down.”

Molly let out a cry, and quickly muffled her mouth with her hand. She thought about calling her ex-boyfriend Danny, but after she had broken up with him before her trip he made it clear he didn’t want to speak to her.

Just as Molly was about to call the police, her phone beeped again. Another message from “Preston.”

“Call the cops and I will kill you. I can see you.”

She could feel the warm, salty tears streaming down her face. The sound of glass breaking downstairs pierced her thoughts. She grabbed her phone, ran to her closet, and barricaded herself in it. She didn’t have anything to lose, so she called the police.

“911- what’s your emergency?”

She kept it short. “There’s a man breaking into my house, I’m at 473 Cherry Lane, please hurry I’m in my bedroom closet with a gun.”

“Okay ma’am, there’s an officer not far from you. He will be there as quick as he can. Stay on the phone with me. Do you know how to use your gun?”

“Yes, I think so. I have it loaded.”

“Okay, just don’t panic. You’re going to be fine.”

“Oh Molly, where are you?” teased the intruder. “I thought I told you not to call the police?”

She could hear him opening doors and getting closer. The voice sounded familiar, but through the closet walls everything was muffled. She heard her bedroom door shake. Whoever the man was couldn’t get it open. He threw himself into the door a few times until it broke open. Molly held her breath, not knowing what to expect. She was thankful she had a dresser in her closet that she had been able to push in front of the door…maybe it would delay him more until the officer could get there.

Her hands were shaking as she backed herself into the wall of her closet and braced the gun in front of her. She had only shot it a couple of times, but she figured at such a close range, she wouldn’t miss. She didn’t know if he was armed or not, but she wasn’t going to wait and find out.

“Oh Molly, this wasn’t very smart. I’ve got you cornered now. Those cops you called won’t get here in time.” he said.

She saw a knife plunge through the door. He stabbed it until he had made a whole big enough to see through, and as soon as she saw his eyes and the knife, she shot.

Her ears were ringing and tears were streaming down her face but she was alive and no one was trying to get through the door anymore. Before she could stand up she heard a voice coming up her stairs asking if she was okay.

“Yes, yes I’m okay. I’m the one who shot,” she screamed out.

She stood up, knees shaking and pushed the dresser away from the door so she could get out. When she opened the door and saw the officer she knew she was okay.

Then she looked down, and saw Danny on the floor. She hit her knees and cried out, finally realizing why she recognized the voice.

Over the next couple of hours, after several officers combed through her house, she learned about Danny’s plan. While she was in Syria, he had used his key to her house to set up cameras and microphones, so he could watch every move she made. He knew where she was and what she had been doing for the days since she had been back from her trip. They didn’t know the point of the dating profile, other than to make her feel even more vulnerable, and make her think it was someone else torturing her until he revealed himself. They found his car a block away with ropes and tape in the trunk.

The only thing he didn’t think through was that she could have a gun, because she had never told him.

Outside, the thunder rolled.

Just Another Maniac Monday

If you ask my family and friends, they will be the first to tell you that if my television is on, it is likely on the I.D. Channel (Investigation Discovery). I have always loved watching any show dealing with crime, murder, mystery, etc. When I was younger, my mom introduced me to mystery books, and as I got older, Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew turned into Agatha Christie and Lois Duncan.

I am fascinated by serial killers, and I am keenly aware of how odd it is to write that. In another life I would be a profiler for the FBI on serial killers. The closest I ever came to that was taking a “Psychiatry and the Law” class in law school. My paper for the class included several different serial killers and the legalities of their cases- from the things that were missed throughout their lives to their actual trials and sentences.

Honestly, they are all terrifying. You don’t get lumped into the category of serial killers without being scary. In terms of which serial killer scares me the most though, I would without hesitation say John Wayne Gacy. The man dressed like a clown for parties and charity events, and ended up killing around thirty-three young men. Have you ever seen anything more terrifying?

“The Killer Clown”

john-wayne-gacy

No, you have not. He is the real life version of Pennywise, and just from writing this post I will likely have a nightmare about him tonight.

For me the scariest part about serial killers is their otherwise normal existence. Most of them lead normal lives with families and jobs. No one is ever the wiser about their real personalities, until they are. Often, the scariest monsters are the ones who look just like us.

Hopefully your Monday is less horrific than “The Killer Clown”!

 

 

Writer’s Block

It feels strange to call it writer’s block, because there are a lot of things I want to write about. Writing about not being able to figure out what to write about is obviously ironic. I feel like my mind is being pulled in many different places. I want to write murder mystery. I want to write about my trips to Disney. I want to write about every political thought that goes through my head. I want to write about this new Keto diet. I want to write about all of these different ideas, but I don’t know where to start and I don’t know whether anyone even wants to read them. I don’t want to be someone who just writes things for other people to read and then forget about. I have always wanted to write things that leave an impact and help other people.

I think the harshest critic any writer faces is himself. How do I make myself vulnerable enough to share parts of my brain with total strangers on the internet, when half of the time I don’t even like what I have in front of me?

Write what you know. Easy enough right? It’s not, because what I actually know and what I think I know are two completely separate things. I know my opinions and I know my perceptions. I think many people confuse knowing things and thinking they know things, and I strive not to be the person that shares things just because I think I know them as being correct. If law school taught me anything, it was to keep my mouth closed about things I only think I know. Just because it’s my opinion and just because it’s a strong one at that, does not mean that it’s right. Just because a bunch of other people on my Facebook all seem to coincidentally have the same views I do, does not mean it is the right view. It also does not mean it’s the wrong view.

I have been asked by several different people why I don’t talk politics as much anymore. Frankly, I’ve disengaged myself because I enjoy my friends and family not hating me. You cannot say anything in this particular political climate without making someone angry. I choose not to feed the beast. Every time I see a political debate on Facebook it makes me ill, because there are a bunch of people who know half-truths arguing like they are experts in the particular field, and if anyone has the audacity to express a different view they act like the person has committed a crime against humanity. To reiterate, just because you have a different opinion than someone else, does not make you right. There is very rarely a time in life when there is no middle ground on something. If you are unwilling to compromise in your views regarding politics, or anything in life, you will never grow as a person. Our government was not set up for one set of people to always be 100% right. We were set up to compromise and to find solutions.

So it’s tough to write what I know, because although I am not necessarily concerned that anyone reading it would be offended, I do have enough respect for other people to know that not everything I say on a topic will be right. Understand, I still have every strong opinion I have ever had on a subject in any field I have ever discussed before. I am just a little more selective in what I share and who I share it with now. I want to write things that people enjoy, and I am struggling to find my voice about what topic that needs to be in.

I will not set out to lecture anyone on any topic as a twenty-six year old. I do not have the life experience, nor do I have the desire; except maybe about Disney World, I’m pretty good at that.

 

 

Christmas with Bobby

December 21st, 1987- Justin

Justin’s parents didn’t stay anywhere for long. The Johanssons had lived in Florida and North Carolina in the last five years. He was twelve, so he had never lived in one place for very long.

They were writers. They could live wherever they wanted. Justin’s social life was not of consequence to them. Justin mostly stayed to himself, because he was never in one place long enough to make friends. He was into history, and most of his spare time was spent reading a book about some war or in the library looking at pictures from one.

Justin reached for the front door of the two-story, brick Victorian house that they were going to be renting. The door was heavy and a deep, rich mahogany. The owner had left a Christmas wreath hanging on it.

Justin took his coat and hat off and put them on the coat rack just inside the entryway. Since they were virtually nomadic, his parents opted out of owning furniture and instead only rented a house if it came furnished. They brought with them whatever would fit into their van, and if it didn’t it got left on a curb in whatever state they were fleeing. As long as Justin had his books and his supplies for painting his model battle figures, he didn’t pay much attention to anything else.

He walked around the house looking into each room and then made his way up the spiral staircase. He could choose between two different rooms. He chose one that had a brown, four post bed and a fireplace. There was a bookcase with a set of books on the top shelf and a stiff chair in front of it with a tall lamp.

That afternoon he unpacked his clothes and his figurines and books; when he was finished, he went outside to look around. There was a tire swing and an old shed, and then there was a pond about a hundred yards away. He went to the edge of the pond closest to the house and sat down.

As Justin was staring at the lake, he heard leaves crackle and he turned around expecting to see his mom or dad. It was a boy who looked about Justin’s age. He had brown hair, dark brown eyes, and he was dressed in jeans and a brown sweater.

“Hi, I’m Bobby,” the boy said.

Justin assumed he must be from one of the houses down the road so he stuck his hand out for the boy to shake.

“I’m Justin. We just moved in today.”

Justin invited Bobby in. He wanted to show him the figurine collection and all of his books. He walked into the kitchen and asked his mom for two glasses of lemonade and a plate of cookies, and then he and Bobby ran upstairs.

December 21st, 1987- Rhonda

Two glasses of lemonade. Maybe he was just thirsty, but she was worried it was starting up again.

They moved a lot. She knew it sometimes upset Justin, even though he didn’t show it. When Justin was younger, the moves were easier. He was more easily persuaded by the promise of new adventures.

The first few moves were about the experiences and making a better life. The last couple have been to escape the experiences of th past lives.

She hoped this latest move would be one of the last ones. Her husband, Raymond, loved the thought of settling down in Maine, and he was tired of running.

December 22nd, 1987- Justin

Since there wasn’t any school because of Christmas break, Bobby said he would be back over the next day. Bobby was quiet and didn’t have much to say when Justin asked him questions, but Justin was just glad to have met someone before he had to go to the new school- at least there would be a familiar face.

Justin waited on the front porch, and at about 10:00 a.m. Bobby came walking down the driveway.

They spent the afternoon inside. It was too cold to stay outside. Bobby told him about how he had been the new kid last year, and he didn’t have many friends either.

“All the kids here play hockey. My dad is in the military so we move a lot too. I can’t even skate,” said Bobby.

Justin felt like someone his age finally understood him. For the rest of the afternoon and the next day Justin and Bobby painted figurines, and went and explored the property around the new house.

Justin was going to ask his mom if his new friend could spend the night.

December 22nd, 1987- Rhonda

Justin walked in and he looked excited.

“Hey honey, get washed up for dinner. It will be ready in twenty minutes.”

“Okay. Can Bobby stay for dinner and spend the night Mom? I was hoping he could help put up the Christmas tree and decorations,” an excited Justin asked.

Her face fell. “Sure, I’ll set an extra plate for him.”

She talked to her husband that night when they were doing dishes and Justin had gone to decorate the tree.

“Baby, what are we going to do? We’ve been here two days, and it’s the same problems as always,” said a tired Rhonda.

“I don’t know anymore Rhonda. They said anything could trigger it,” he sighed. “I’m done moving though.”

December 23rd, 1987- Justin 

His parents didn’t like Christmas. He knew that, but he still loved celebrating, so he was excited to get a small tree (that his dad begrudgingly went and got for him) up and decorated last night just in time.

Bobby had gone home that morning after breakfast, but he said he would come back tomorrow so they could hang out.

Five years earlier (Denver, Colorado): December 24th, 1982-Rhonda

Her life was shattered. She sat next to Jonathan praying and rocking back and forth. It had been an accident- just an accident. She wouldn’t let herself think anything else.

Justin stood at the top of the stairs staring blankly into space.

December 24th, 1987 (Morning)- Rhonda

Justin didn’t remember that Christmas Eve in ’82. He didn’t remember his brother either. The doctors ran tests and they talked to him for months after it. They finally just said that he had disassociated himself, and that anything regarding his twin brother or the incident seemed sort of like a dream to him.

From the outside looking in, Justin seemed like a normal twelve year old.

The last five years around Christmas Justin would see people who weren’t there. They were all boys about his age. They thought if they moved that Justin’s “friends” would go away, but they never did. The doctors had put him on medicine, but the medicine made him violent, so Rhonda took him off of it.

When they lived in Florida, he had pushed her husband down the stairs on Christmas Eve for telling him that his friend “Dustin” didn’t exist. They chalked it up to it being the anniversary of Jonathan’s death, but it seemed like every anniversary, Justin had some type of outburst.

She hoped as he got older, things would improve, but it seemed like the delusions were just getting stronger. She was terrified to take him to a hospital though, because she knew they wouldn’t let her leave with him. She had lost one son, and she was determined not to lose another of her babies.

December 24th, 1987 (Afternoon)- Justin

Bobby showed up around 4 p.m. and they were upstairs in his room looking through some of the old books that had been left in the bookcase.

Justin could tell his mom and dad didn’t like Bobby. They didn’t speak to him at all, not even a “hello” until Justin called them out on being rude. They forgot to offer him anything to drink or eat unless Justin asked. It was ridiculous. He knew they were in their own little worlds writing, but that wasn’t an excuse.

He wasn’t going to lose his friend like they had run away all of his other ones. His Dad had said Dustin didn’t exist; he obviously did. He just didn’t want Justin forgetting about Jonathan. How could he forget Jonathan? He had ruined his life. He had broken Justin’s new toy he got, and when Justin got mad and pushed him, he fell down the stairs and died. Justin didn’t mean to do it. He just meant to hurt him.

Everyone blamed him for it. They didn’t want him having any friends, or having anyone to talk to. They just kept taking them away from him.

Not this time.

He heard his Dad coming out of his room.

December 24th, 1987 (Night)- Rhonda

She sat with her husband’s head in her lap; he was still breathing but it was shallow and he was weak. She screamed in agony when she saw Justin at the top of the stairs. She didn’t know why she bothered to even look up. She knew when she heard her husband screamed what had happened.

“Baby please don’t leave me,” she wailed.

She could hear the sirens. For the first time, she prayed they would take her son away too.