Issue 7.2

7.2

CONTENTS of ISSUE 7.2

—PROSE—

Grace Dion: The Devil May Care

Jim Heskett: The Beard

Robin C. Curtiss: Down from Canada

George Dila: The End of the World

Jennifer Fosket: Reckless Burning

Ali Eteraz: Encased

Anthony J. Langford: I Cook the Sausages

C. Rochelle Weidner: A Party to Die For

Joanna Hoyt: The Way Out

Linda Niehoff: Down at the Crossroads

Charles Pinch: Goodnight Irene, Goodbye Nick

Sean Padraic McCarthy: Proteus’ Net

—POETRY—

Amie Sharp: Prayers / Frances and Paul

Jeanine Stevens: Art Appreciation, Tenth Grade / Madeleine

Patricia Polak: What If After Trinity, the Sun Rose Square

Adreyo Sen: Fragile

Dave Nielsen: Dedication

David McAleavey: Tourism, Red Sea, 2010 / body politics, El Gouna Writers’ Residency

Scott Laudati: We Need the Bomb

John Sibley Williams: Surburban Myths

Alison Stone: Photograph Found on a Table / Rocks on Stone / Not on the List / Eating Worms

Simon Perchik: Untitled

Owen Lucas: 319 311 297

Jodi Adamson: Memory

Michele Alice: Two Poems

Bruce McRae: This Too Passes

David Kann: Ripe Fruit on Still Trees

Karol M. Wasylyshyn: A Sudden Vase of Roses

Fragile

By Adreyo Sen

Some things are fragile
because their fragility
is their strength,
the grave message
behind their bright smiles.

 

Broken and shattered and yet
singing away,
they remind the world
it was never that frail.

 

And the world wakes up
to a broken heart
determined from the start
to hold tender in iron hands
that which can easily break.

 

Only to need the lesson again.

___

Adreyo Sen, based in Kolkata, hopes to become a full-time writer.  He did his undergraduate work in English and his postgraduate work in English and Sociology.  Adreyo has been published in Danse Macabre and Kritya.

A Party to Die For

By C. Rochelle Weidner

Twebhe girl was a trust-fund baby if Cassandra ever saw one. At least twenty grand worth of dental work, and her teeth were still crooked. “So, Miss Atwood; Helena is it? May I call you Helena? What can I do for you?”

Helena squirmed a bit, inching down into her chair. She hunched her shoulders, surely something her etiquette coach had urged her not to do, as it gave a very unappealing view of her knobby collarbone.

Anorexia, Cassandra thought to herself.

“My boyfriend is missing. I can’t get anyone to do anything about it.” Helena sniffed off to her left shoulder.

“And why do you think he is missing?” Cassandra watched her potential client carefully.

“We’re engaged, you see. We were going to pick out a ring, but when I got back from shopping, he was gone.”

“This was here?”

“No, I’m sorry. New York; we were on a weekend trip.”

“You reported him missing to the New York police?

“Yes, I called but they wouldn’t do anything. They said he just got cold feet.”

“Did he?”

“No, I’m sure. We were fine, happy. I called his parents, and they were rude to me, as usual. His friends are avoiding me.”

“Any particular reason why? Did you have a fight?”

“They have never liked me. Everyone says he took off but I don’t believe he’d do that. Just take off. Not without telling me. And we didn’t fight. Not really.”

Cassandra drew a deep breath. She was inclined to agree with the cops. Lord, if she’d been this girl’s boyfriend, she’d have left town as well. Not that there was that much wrong with Helena. She was beautiful in a manufactured sort of way. The last natural look she had was probably at around the age of eleven, before her mother took a look at the eyebrows that were suddenly darker and heavier that she’d hoped for, and whisked her off to the salon.

But tax season was near, and she was pretty sure to owe money, so taking the case of the missing boyfriend seemed a good way to pick up five grand.

“You have keys to your boyfriend’s apartment? And a photo, I assume. Why don’t you drop those off to my assistant outside? I’ll run some checks and then I’ll drop by his apartment later, and take a look around.”

Helena nodded. She seemed a bit dazed that Cassandra hadn’t doubted her. As she got up, she turned. “I forgot to mention the party.”

“Party?”

“Yeah. We have a party next week. It’s important. If you can find out where he is, I need him back for that.”

“A party?” Please don’t let this be a huge waste of my time, Cassandra thought. “Okay, a week, huh?”

* * *

“Our new client?” Mandy held a file. Since the short buzz from Cassandra’s desk alarm, she’d been listening.

“Possibly.”

“There’s something off about her.” Mandy opened the rosewood cabinet doors and looked over their selection of wine. Below was a small fridge stocked for late evenings. It was already dark. The black water in the harbor reflected ripples of light from nearby row houses.

“Pour you something?” Mandy examined a merlot.

“Please. So what did you think of our newest client?”

Cassandra valued Mandy’s opinion. They’d worked together for three years, and lived together for two. Mandy still had scars from the abuse that Danny Budd had dealt out, but she’d dealt with it well, channeling her energy and intelligence into the investigative side of Cassandra’s private operation. Mandy was a marvel at ferreting out secrets.

“Well, the party bit got me all choked up. Suppose she misses it? Suppose Rich doesn’t turn up? But while I was listening, I found out a few things about our erstwhile debutante.”

“The name Atwood rang a bell.”

“I thought so too. Remember Whitey Atwood? This case was six years ago, just before you finished up at Carmine’s office and struck out on your own.”

“Ah yes, the Ponzi scheme guy. How much did he rake in that was never found?”

“Four billion. Just a guess, since a lot of the records went up in smoke at the fire. Our debutante is his niece. Helena’s mom is Vicky Atwood, Whitey’s sister, who at the time was shocked, positively shocked at what her brother had done.”

“Shocking.” Cassandra extended her hand for the glass. “So, our girl isn’t quite the well-heeled lady she makes out to be. You want to do the Internet search or the apartment search?”

“Oh please. Spare me a bachelor apartment.”

* * *

Rich Sunderland had a killer apartment, not quite at penthouse level, overlooking the Chesapeake. The rooms sprawled into one another, with windows offering views of the bay. The place reeked of big money but had few personal touches. It was also spotless. Cassandra peered into the refrigerator, always a good source of info. Pellegrino, blocks of cheese, one takeout container with sweet and sour pork. He ate out.

The apartment was furnished with Sub-Zero appliances and, even if Cassandra didn’t cook, she appreciated the finer tools for doing so. She sniffed at the sink; not even a stench to the disposal. The trash was clean. Maid service, for sure.

His bedroom was a study in neutrals, with tasteful splashes of color in the form of small objets d’art. A delicate orange vase, signed by the potter, sat on a narrow table. No pets.

A Picasso hung on the wall. The clothes were arranged by color from dark suits to pale. Four tuxedos, Armani suits, Italian loafers, and ten pairs of high-end running shoes, the kind that went for five hundred dollars a pop.

She opened the bedside drawers. No photo of Helena anywhere, she noted. The second drawer held a brick of money. Now what would an honest well-heeled son of a rich man need with that much cash? Drugs? Cassandra found nothing, not even a joint in the bathroom.

The phone rang.

She waited; somewhere in the other room, the answering machine took over.

“Saul, you there? Listen, man, you gotta call. They are looking for you man, and the deal’s about to go south. Call, call, call me. PLEASE.”

Who the fuck was Saul? Cassandra didn’t think this was a wrong number.

On instinct, Cassandra switched the lights off. None of the spectacular windows overlooking the bay had curtains. As her eyes adjusted, she spotted a small boat bobbing about on the waves. Anchored? Positioned to watch the windows? Watch for lights? She waited; the boat left. It was too dark to see any details, but she could see the running lights head into the harbor. It was impossible to tell if the person had been watching the apartment, but Cassandra didn’t believe much in coincidences.

* * *

“Anything?” Mandy retrieved a stack of printouts.

“Unusually pristine for a twentysomething bachelor. I think the place is being watched.”

Mandy arched her eyebrows. Cassandra told her about the phone call. “So what did you find?”

“Rich Sunderland, only son of Jackson Sunderland the mogul of Wall Street, the darling of the big boy stocks. Daddy’s boy went to prep schools, three; private schools, six; colleges, two, with a degree in advertising from Columbia. Has a sister, Camilla, actually a half sister from Jackson’s marriage number two. She is twelve, going on twenty, and attends some hoity-toity school in Connecticut.”

“Mother?”

“Doily Winfield, of the Winfield’s Magic Foundation line, founders of beauty.”

“Stepmom?”

“You’ll love this. Angela Bradford, star of Twisted Lives.”

“The soap?”

“Don’t knock it; the gal is pulling in the bucks. Maybe not matching Daddy, but close.”

“And both moms live here?”

“Stay close to the money; always my motto. So, who do you think Saul is?”

“No idea. I think we should invite Carmine to dinner.”

* * *

“We have a new client, Carmine.”

Carmine Warr, the star prosecuting attorney of Hanford County, cautiously sipped the merlot that Mandy suggested he would like. “Very nice. I suspected you didn’t just invite me here to see my new car. Too bad; it’s a beauty.”

“You have a new car?” Mandy glanced at the door.

“Would you like to give it a quick spin?” He dug into his pocket.

“Sure.” Mandy grabbed the keys and darted out the door.

“Now she won’t like her Beamer. What are you doing, trying to distract Mandy with the car?”

“Still trying my masculine wiles on you, Cassandra.” He gave a deep sigh. “But I’m afraid I have the wrong anatomy.”

“You are such a dog.”

“I’m consistent. Now tell me about your new client.”

Cassandra filled him in on her anorexic client and the missing boyfriend. Despite some political differences, she and Carmine had forged a solid friendship over the years. She knew he wouldn’t hold out on her.

But, this time, he hesitated before answering. “Why don’t you back off of this one, cool your heels a couple of days, then give this girl her money back. Tell her you couldn’t find Mr. Right.”

“Why Carmine, you’re being coy. That is so cute. Of course, you know that I would never do that. Is there something that I should know?”

Carmine pinched his forehead above his thick brows. “He won’t make the party, I’m afraid. Rich Sunderland is lying in a drawer at the morgue.”

“Really! I haven’t seen a word in the paper. I take it death wasn’t by natural causes.”

“He drowned.”

“Slipped off his yacht, fell into the bay, couldn’t swim,?”

“A rope around his ankle and two truck tires hampered his ability to get to the surface. He had been kidnapped, and the ransom was two million, chump change to his daddy. You know how these things go, Cass. Don’t go to the police; don’t notify the media. Jackson Sunderland went straight to the cops, but he did have enough pull to silence the press.”

“So what do the feds know? And how do you know about it?” Cassandra thought that was likely a silly question, since Carmine had friends in all branches of law enforcement.

“Remember Johnny Wisegood?”

“Little guy, sort of balding; I saw him at your housewarming.” Carmine had recently acquired an old Victorian that he was renovating for a home/office.

“He’s tall enough for the FBI. He called me the other night to find out if we’d had any word about this. Anything similar. That sort of thing.”

“And did you?”

“Nope. All wealthy spoiled kids in the area are accounted for. Course, I can’t speak for elsewhere. For all we know, they are missing by the dozens.”

“What about the girlfriend?”

“In the dark, where we want to keep her. She isn’t officially a suspect, and seems clueless.”

“You talked to her?”

“Kip got that pleasure when she came in to report her boyfriend missing. The New York cops are useless, according to her.”

Kip Menace was a no-nonsense detective with a thirty-year history of bringing in the bad guys. While Carmine could have stepped from the pages of GQ, Kip was his antithesis. Balding, forty pounds overweight with a red nose that Cassandra knew was the result of a chronic sinus condition and not overindulgences with a good scotch, Kip was consistently underestimated, which might have explained his excellent track record.

“Does he know about what really happened to Rich?”

“Yes. He was there when they dredged him up out of the bay.”

“Dare I ask how you knew where to look?”

Carmine sighed. Outside, they heard a car door shut, and Mandy walked in, her short hair standing at attention. “Nice car, Carmine.”

“Did you put the top back up and readjust the seat so I won’t wreck my knees?”

“Of course. Besides, it’s beginning to sprinkle. So why do you look so glum, Carmine?”

“Your girlfriend won’t go out with me,” he pouted.

Mandy walked over and put her arm around Cassandra. “I could have told you that,” she winked at him, “but I suspect the real reason is you are stymied on a case.”

“I keep asking you what gypsy wagon she fell off of.” Carmine shook his finger at Cassandra. “How could you possibly know that?”

“Intuition? Plus I saw your notebook on the passenger seat. You ought not to leave stuff out, Carmine. If it fell into the wrong hands, let’s just say it would be bad.” She fanned her face.

“Oh, god. I forgot it was there.”

Cassandra laughed. “You were telling me how you knew where to look for Rich Sunderland. And since Mandy read your notes, she knows he’s dead as well. So what happened to our client’s boyfriend?”

Carmine leaned forward. “You cannot say a word, not to anyone. Jackson Sunderland dropped off a suitcase Wednesday morning at Pier II. It was an old canvas satchel with two million dollars in cash. He was supposed to drop it by a coil of rope, take off a baseball cap, and walk to the end of the dock. He would find a letter giving him directions to his son. He found a piece of paper that told him to take the ferry. His son would be released on the street.”

“But it was a lie.”

“Yes. Jackson followed orders. We had someone watching the satchel. Ten minutes after Jackson got on the ferry, we made a guy who ambled over and picked up the bag. We followed him.”

“What did Jackson find?”

“A table at an outdoor café with Rich’s cell phone.”

“Did you pick up the guy with the satchel?” Mandy asked.

“We lost him.”

Cassandra raised her eyebrows.

“Yes. Classic bait and switch. The guy went into that art museum, you know the funky one with all the weird stuff.”

“The Visionary?”

“Yeah, whatever. Our guy followed him, and the place is kind of a maze, you know. He lost sight of him a couple of times, but always spotted him again. By the time the guy emerged, we knew Rich wasn’t at the drop spot, so we grabbed him. We had nothing, a stranger with a bag of clothes. No record; no ties to Rich; we were at a dead end.”

There was no point in asking Carmine if they had searched the place. Carmine was always thorough. “Then what?”

“During our canvassing, a guy fishing mentioned hearing loud noises the night before. He didn’t want to call attention, since he was illegally camped. We decided to send a diver down.”

“Not one of your better moments, Carmine.”

“Don’t tell me. What do you plan to do, Cassandra?”

“Find her boyfriend for her. Why not?”

* * *

“He’ll wake the neighbors.” Mandy peeped out the curtain, watched the disappearing taillights. “And he’d better slow down; did he forget there’s a gate?”

“He’ll remember soon enough.” Cassandra flipped through the file that she had talked Carmine into leaving.

“So, how are we going find a dead man?” Mandy flopped in the large chair that Carmine had vacated.

“I want you to find out about this party that Ms. Atwood is so interested in. Where is it being held? Who’s on the guest list, and why? Where is her husband? I particularly want to know if there’s someone named Saul associated with it in any way.”

* * *

The next morning, while Mandy called in favors, Cassandra researched their client, Helena Atwood.

The usual bios revealed good schools; not the best, but decent. Small meaningless scandals peppered her young life. No mention of any serious boyfriends and only one article coupled her and the deceased Rich Sunderland. No engagement notices. She thought back to the lack of personal photos in Rich’s apartment. Didn’t most couples at least document their togetherness with a snapshot?

Was she a stalker or delusional about an imagined relationship? Her mother’s name was mentioned several times; Vicky Collins Atwood attended few social events prior to her brother’s arrest, but afterward her name crept into some significant party lists. Collins was her married name. Why pick up her maiden name again, especially with the stigma of Whitey’s downfall? And who was financing their social climb? Wouldn’t most of Whitey’s victims be reluctant to have associations with the sister? Did someone suspect she knew about the money?

As Cassandra wandered around on the Internet, the phone rang.

Mandy always just started talking. “You’ll never guess who I found.”

“Um, probably not.”

“I found Ms. Atwood’s husband.”

“Can we talk to him?

“I don’t think so; I’m standing at the Poe Cemetery, looking at his tombstone. There’s a psychic across the street.”

“Very funny. What does the stone say?”

“‘Beloved husband and father. Milton V. Collins. 1959-2000. We will miss you.’”

“Come back to the office; I’ll dig out the case files and we’ll see what we’ve got. The year 2000…Isn’t that when Whitey went to prison?”

Call it superstition, but Cassandra couldn’t bear to throw away cases. She had a closet full of file boxes, now neatly alphabetized thanks to Mandy. Atwood was on top, sandwiched between Rachel Anderson, who’d murdered her husband, and L.O. Avers, who’d eliminated the competition on his sales route by bombing their cars.

* * *

“Vicky Atwood has moved up in the world. Her old address was an apartment in Catonsville. I know that neighborhood. Not ritzy.” Mandy stared at her computer screen. “She is now in Elwood Heights; nothing there for under a mil.”

“I’m still curious about Helena’s relationship to Rich Sunderland. Why is she making believe he’s her fiancé?”

“Well, that party she’s so hot about. Some of her friends hinted there was a big surprise associated with it. So an engagement announcement, perhaps?”

“And nobody named Saul has turned up?”

“Not yet. But I’ve got a few more rocks to turn over.”

“I think I’ll pay Helena’s mother a visit tonight.”

“Want me to do it?” Mandy asked.

“No. It’s okay. Enough years have passed that I think I can maintain neutrality. Besides, Whitey is in prison. I won’t have to look at his ugly face.”

* * *

Vicky Atwood’s money wasn’t spent on her own upkeep. The woman could use a rinse on her yellowish gray hair, and a stylish cut wouldn’t have hurt either. As she led Cassandra into the living room, her hands nervously clenched and unclenched at her sides.

“I’m not sure I understand why you are here, Ms. Goodnight?” Vicky Atwood stood with her back to the chair, displaying an undisguised reluctance to talk to Cassandra.

“Your daughter hired me to find her boyfriend, Ms. Atwood. I’ve run into some questions and thought you might be able to help me.”

Vicky crossed her arms across her body. “I didn’t know that she had contacted anyone.” She sounded displeased.

The room was curiously empty, as though at one time it held many pieces of furniture, but now all that remained were two long couches, a few tables, and a couple of extra chairs. Perhaps Helena’s mother was redecorating. Cassandra perched on the edge of one of the couches.

“Helena seemed very worried. Apparently the police have not been as helpful as she’d like?”

At the mention of police, Vicky paled and managed to look even more panicked.

Cassandra thought fast. Vicky said she was alone but there were closed doors down the hall and the feel of another person somewhere, the faint scent of aftershave. Did Mom have a secret boyfriend stashed somewhere?

“How long had your daughter and Rich been engaged?”

Vicky cast a glance at the chandelier but it provided no answers for her. “A year, maybe; I can’t remember exactly. You know how it is; children don’t always tell you everything.”

Engagements were sometimes an exception, Cassandra thought. “Do you like Rich Sunderland? Was he a good match for Helena?”

The question seemed to excite Helena’s mom. Her face brightened and she sank back into the chair. “Oh, yes, he is a good catch. I mean, he is a nice young man.”

“When did you last see Rich?”

“Last week; no, the week before. He stopped by to pick up Helena; they were going up to the city for the weekend.”

“Had he given her a ring?”

“They were going to buy one that weekend. But Rich disappeared before they went to pick it out. She waited, called his friends, but no one had seen him. That was the first time she went to the police. They said there was nothing to indicate he hadn’t left on his own. I think they thought it was a lovers’ quarrel.”

Cassandra asked, “She came back here when?”

“The next morning. She told me she stayed up all night, calling his friends, you know.”

“Where did you say Helena was?”

“Oh, she went to see her friend Alexis. She’s been such a good help during this. But you should really talk to Helena. I don’t really have anything helpful.”

Cassandra was a bit annoyed at the brush-off. But it wouldn’t help to antagonize the woman, so Cassandra played along. She held out her hand and thanked her.” Vicky watched her leave. As soon as she turned the corner and was out of sight Cassandra pulled her car over and killed the lights. It was a nice neighborhood, quiet, everyone tucked into the mini-mansions.

No one paid any attention as she retraced her route back to Vicky Atwood’s house. The porch light was off by the time she arrived. No one wanted here. Carefully she eased up the driveway, keeping to the shadows and shrubbery. There was a small light on in the garage, and she could see two cars parked inside.

She heard the flush of a toilet. A small window halfway down the side of the house was lit. Easing as quietly as she could along the faux brick, she watched the light flick off and then a door opened. Voices. Momma wasn’t alone. Another light snapped on further back, this one broader, fanning out over the lawn area. Hoping there weren’t any motion lights, she crouched by a bush, and watched as two people walked into the room. It seemed to be a sort of sunroom, with wicker furniture and bright sunflower patterns on the cushions. Vicky waved her hands excitedly. The man gestured at her, making smoothing motions as though he wanted her to calm down. Cassandra couldn’t quite make out the words but the tone was unmistakable. They were angry at one another. She studied the man’s face. Narrow chin; close, almost shaved hair; his eyelids were large, hooding eyes that seemed to bulge from the face. His nose jutted out in a Roman profile, tipping down at the end. His lips were narrow and there was no smile to soften the hard look.

Vicky suddenly stood. She grabbed a small cloth bag off the table and fished around in it. Cassandra was relieved to see a pack of cigarettes. It could have been a gun she was going for.

Cassandra backed further into the shadows, almost against the fence. Vicky was headed for a glass door.

“What are you doing?” The man followed Vicky outside.

“I gotta have a cig. Helena will know if I smoke inside. She’d kill me.”

Interesting, a mother afraid of her daughter?

“Get your cancer fix then, but get this dough outta here. What if the cops find it? It was a stupid idea to go to the police.”

“Helena thought it would make them not suspect us.”

“Yeah. I told you once before not to listen to that drivel. Both of you watch too much freaking television.”

Vicky tossed her cigarette into the grass and the two of them went back inside.

Cassandra waited a few more moments, but the pair disappeared into an interior room where she could neither see nor hear what was going on. Time to leave.

* * *

“How’d your interview go with Helena’s mom?”

“Let’s just say I was unwelcome. Vicky had a male caller, who seemed very anxious they get rid of some ‘dough.’ I have a bad feeling about this. The house is expensive but practically unfurnished. Are they moving? Getting ready to split? If that guy who was there hasn’t spent time in prison, I’ll eat my socks.”

Mandy paused. “Maybe he has. Where is Whitey residing these days?”

“Lynnwood. Are you thinking he made Whitey’s acquaintance?”

“Checking up on Sis perhaps?”

“And his money. If Whitey hid his loot with his sister, I expect he planned on retrieving it when he gets out. Call Carmine and see if he knows whether our friend Mr. Atwood is due for release, and find out the names of his roomies.”

Mandy reached for the phone.

* * *

“Carmine said that Whitey is up for parole. His review board meets in three months. He’s had three roommates over the last ten years, all in for minor extortion, fraud; like minds if you will. Brenda is faxing over the info.”

“It’s the money that’s behind all of this. Any bets that Whitey left his accounts in his sister’s hands? What did she do? Spend some of it, or part of it? Now he’s getting out, expects it to be there.” Cassandra scribbled on a piece of paper.

“So, if big brother could pull a scheme to bilk money, why not Vicky?”

“Hence, Helena’s ‘engagement’ to Rich Sunderland.”

“When the engagement didn’t pan out, they planned a kidnapping?”

“She can’t have been clever enough to figure out a scheme that Rich’s dad wouldn’t have seen through. So when the engagement didn’t work, they kidnapped him and killed him.”

“Do you think Whitey knew about it?”

“No way of knowing, but I’ll bet you he claims to be innocent of his sister’s plot. I’m also curious about Vicky’s deceased husband. When I got back to the office, I found out he died in a car wreck. But a few more details might round out his involvement in this.”

* * *

“I did some digging into the family.” Mandy gestured to a pile of papers. “Printed some of it, but most is just sad and disgusting.”

Cassandra sat at her desk. “Should I get a drink first?

“Probably would help. Found some interesting history on Whitey and his sister. Apparently the husband and father was a heavy abuser of women, drugs, and alcohol. It was the latter two that landed him in a ditch off 95, and left their mother a very merry widow. Mom took over the business, real estate, and proceeded to baby the son and work the daughter to death.”

“Why is this important?’

“I think it explains some things. Whitey was happy to take over the controlling role in his sister’s life. I think she would do whatever he told her to do.”

“So if he said, ‘I want you to hide five million bucks,’ she would cheerfully take on the task.”

“No questions asked. But when Whitey got slammed into prison, I think Vicky Atwood got a few ideas of her own. For the first time in her life, she was free of everyone. Whitey is in jail. Her husband is dead. Mom is gone. And there is all this money. And her husband’s death appears to be completely accidental. I couldn’t find anything that indicated he was in cahoots with Whitey.”

“She starts buying her way into a society she didn’t know well?”

“Vicky was probably pleased when Helena started seeing Rich Sunderland. I would bet you she googled his net worth in a heartbeat.”

“But poor Rich started to balk at Helena’s demands. I don’t think he had any plans to buy her an engagement ring. That was all Helena’s fabrication.”

“Whitey was getting paroled. All very low-key. No way did he want the investors he scammed knowing he was getting out. He sends a pal to check on his money.”

“So how much of the money do you think Vicky spent on social climbing?”

“Easily two million.”

“Vicky panicked.”

“The kidnapping screwed up royally. I don’t think she meant for Rich to die. But there was nothing she could do after the fact. He was dead; no bringing him back.”

“And she had the money.”

“Call Carmine and ask him about Whitey’s former roommates. I would bet you money that one of them is a hard-faced, hook-nosed hooligan.”

* * *

Vicky and Helena weren’t very happy with their new jewelry. Cassandra and Mandy waited by their car while the Atwood house was searched.

“I don’t think you’ll be invited to any of her parties.” Mandy adjusted her sunglasses and pulled her trench tighter. The morning had turned gray and cloudy.

“Not on her list, that’s for sure.”

As they watched the proceedings, a long black Lincoln limousine pulled up behind them. The driver hopped out and trotted around to open the door. The elderly man who exited stood straight as an arrow. His thick gray hair was elegantly styled. He pulled black kid gloves from his hands as he walked toward Cassandra and Mandy.

Mandy whispered into Cassandra’s ear. “That’s Jackson Sunderland.”

“Ms. Goodnight. Ms. Campbell. I am told that you were responsible for uncovering who killed my son.”

“We didn’t do much, Mr. Sunderland. I think they mostly suspected the Atwoods were behind it; our contribution was slight.” Cassandra said.

“Nonetheless, I hope you will take this token of my appreciation.” He pulled a check from his jacket pocket and held it out.

Mandy took the check and glanced briefly at it before handing it to Cassandra.

“This is a lot of money, Mr. Sunderland.”

Jackson Sunderland studied his elegant loafers, and gently cleared his throat. “To many people, yes, but not to others. Those who deal in human life seem to consider it a paltry amount. Consider it a down payment, Ms. Goodnight. I’d like you to find someone for me.”

“And who might that be?”

“A man who I don’t know, and have never seen, and cannot describe. I only know that his name is Saul.”

___

C. Rochelle Weidner’s stories have appeared in Abbey Hill Literary, RiverSedge, Coe Review, The Alembic and other publications. She currently resides with her husband in Oahu, Hawai’i, where they have lived for the past eight years. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. She is also a watercolor painter and active in the Hawai’i Watercolor Society.

A Sudden Vase of Roses

If more men understood that it is

the suddenness of the roses

hidden behind the lamp

in the bedroom when

women least expect it

that can turn a question

into the certainty of a future

at least for a time,

a time of roses now

and fond reverie later…

then, it would all be

so much easier.

 

___

A clinical psychologist, for over 20 years Karol M. Wasylyshyn has consulted for Fortune 500 companies, combining her business experience and clinical training. Her clients have included Bristol-Myers-Squibb, Colgate Palmolive, Dupont, FMC, General Electric, GlaxoSmithKline, ICI, Johnson & Johnson, Norfolk Southern Railroad, Pfizer International, Rohm and Haas Company, Schering-Plough, and others. Specializing in leadership development and the importance of emotional intelligence in business, She has coached hundreds of senior executives in every global sector.

Her current academic appointment is adjunct professor of clinical psychology at the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University, and she is also a past member of the coaching faculty in The Wharton School’s Advanced Management Program. In 2000 she established The Center for Applied Emotional Competence at Widener University, a pioneering program that stresses emotional IQ as the foundation of sound recruiting and team-building.

While published extensively in professional journals, her creative writing includes a collection of what she calls “executive vignettes”—true stories about executives written in poetic form (Standing on Marbles). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Alembic, Clackamas Corium Magazine Literary Review, Lullwater Review, The Medulla Review, Milk Money, Nimrod, RiverSedge and Spillway.

Eating Worms

By Alison Stone

   Nobody loves me, everybody

   hates me. My daughter dangles

pasta and sings, flicks her fork so

the strands dance and sauce

 

spots the wall.

I bite back sharp words.

This is the year

I learned to say, my mother’s

death, my husband’s heart attack.

 

   Down goes the first one, down

   goes the second one, oh how

  they wiggle and squirm.

 

   Long tall slimy ones, short fat juicy ones

I won’t be the one to stop her song.

Not on the List

By Alison Stone

A shrub flames

with God’s word. A wrecked car

dangles from a cliff

until help comes.

Tumors vanish like smoke. A lover

wakes from a coma and asks

for coffee with milk.

 

Our deepest prayers answered

No,

the rest of us get

diapers, morphine, feeding tubes,

daily losses and indignities, implacable

as the sulky lump of an aid

who plunks herself in our best chair, reads

the Bible, and won’t bathe my mother

because that isn’t on her list.

Rocks on Stone

By Alison Stone

When did we start swimming lessons?

What was the gerbil’s name?

Above the graves, stale blue

October sky, your silence

punctuated by the chatter of birds.

 

 

Where should I seat

the drunk uncle? Rosemary

or cumin for the soup? Holidays

without you rough as rocks

left on your headstone, flecks

of mica sparkling with useless light.

Photograph Found on a Table

By Alison Stone

Child

caged in crinoline, what do you see

as you stand wide-eyed with your family,

five women tense

in white dresses, the lone

man dapper in black? Who pushed your feet

into hard shoes? Tightened their bright

buckles? Whose hands snapped barrettes

into your wild hair? Silk snaked

around her throat, the bulky teen behind you

leans on a stark wall. You coil, set to

spring, as a stiff-wigged matron

(mother? grandmother?) vises one arm

and grips the other elbow. The man’s thick fingers

press down on your shoulder.

You position one hand on each of their laps.

Ready

to push off. What do you see

and where would seeing lead

you, child, if you

let go?

 

Art Appreciation, Tenth Grade

By Jeanine Stevens

The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli

 

1.

Assignment: Choose your body type from these images.

 

Still developing, we looked around, confused,

as we scanned the available,

“Glamour Girl,” “Domestic,” “American Girl,”

none seemed to match.

Worse for the boys: “He-Man, “Thinker.”

Only Paul Krausnick, our linebacker, fit “The Athlete.”

 

2.

Next, find a work of art that shows a resemblance

and live with your choice for the semester.

 

Venus balanced on her shell fit me perfectly,

a shape to explain the air I displaced.

The colors, the wind, the celadon water, unclothed

and lanky; this was exciting. I imitated

her posture and stance.

 

3.

I admired her easy rest at the center,

splayed out in peach and ivory, summer waves tasting

the sun. Mercury pushed away clouds

for easy dockage.  She wrinkled her toes, avoided

salt and brine,

counted to ten over and over.

 

4.

Her birthing sea replicates in disparate places.

From the framed print at the Hilton,

she sees the catkins blowing in the L.A. Wash.

Some say Venus is both blessed

and cursed: creator of warm siroccos

off Libyan deserts,

mixer of squalls and maelstroms,

defector to twilight orbits, giver of birth.

 

5.

Years later, in Florence,

a sweltering June of old forms.

I stand up close, the colors

surprisingly pale. The folds softer,

the wind more tolerant

than I remember.

On the next wall, Primavera

content in her billowing

gown of flowered lawn, worships

sun through laurels.

I’m pleased Venus ignores Spring.

I appreciate you Sandro,

noble artist,

the placement just so,

full frontal, not leaning

right or left, in no hurry to move.

I take a small boat out to meet her.

We have so much

to discuss, all open ended,

no term paper required.

Venus on the Half Shell

Venus on the Half Shell

Madeleine

By Jeanine Stevens

Calligramme, Guillaume Apollinaire

 

From the small Arabian town

I took a keepsake,

the memory

of a star pulsating with new fire

engorged on desert heat.

 

Above the clove-scented rooftops,

Venus of Lespugue in Paris

Venus of Lespugue in Paris

five points gleamed overlarge

in the azure sky.

 

I wanted to fill

my heart with music but

the tender muscle lay open

its boundary for another song.

 

Dear Madeleine,

I remember your voice in my ear

like a sprite abuzz

with too many words.

 

I apologize

for crossing you out.

 

The studio portrait I’ve expected

for so long…arrived today!

On the back, the photographer’s

logo: a burnt rose

and twin cannons aflame.