Posted by: Jan Bowles - Friday, 21 October 2011
Posted by: Jan Bowles - Sunday, 9 October 2011
The hot, stale air forced its way along the platform as the train drew into the subway station. It did little to cool Mia Johansson down and messed up her hair in the process.
The heat felt oppressive.
The automatic doors opened, and she stepped into the carriage. Already it seemed filled to bursting point with passengers. As they piled in, they pressed against her back, fighting for their own personal space. Not a spare inch remained as the doors finally closed shut with a loud swish. The train lurched into life as it began moving from the station.
Holding onto the handrail above her head, Mia concluded that rush hour was not the best time to travel on the New York subway, but she had to get to work the same as everyone else.
Mia reflected on the serious student debts she had amassed during her three-year degree course at the Institute of Fine Arts. At the age of twenty-five, now was the time to see her hard work start to bear fruit. It was time to reap the rewards of her education, and find a job that paid considerably more than her current position at a bespoke dry cleaner. She’d worked at Madame Monique’s for the last four years. Unfortunately for her, finding other employment had proved far more difficult than she’d imagined.
Posted by: Jan Bowles -
As the sun grew ever lower in the sky, Brett Donovan could just make out a lone rider approaching on horseback, a dog running alongside. The slant of his hat, silhouetted against the darkening umber sky. He’d recognize a Maverick anywhere.
The dog bounded up the steps and headed straight for him, nearly knocking him over. “Max, my old buddy.” He roughly patted the old hound’s head, glad for a familiar friendly face. The dog held up his paw as if to say hi.
He turned to the rider. “Cody.”
The man nodded a greeting as he pulled his horse up close by the verandah.
An uneasy silence ensued as they both stared at one another. Cody, the eldest of the Maverick brothers, had filled out quite a bit. He guessed he must be thirty-one by now, the same age as himself.
“News travels fast ’round here, Cody.”
“We heard you were coming back.”
“Well, you heard right.”
“Sorry about your Pa. It comes to us all in the end.” He then motioned to the dog. “Been looking after the hound since your Pa passed on.”
“Then I thank you. Didn’t rightly know if he was still alive.”
“Planning on staying long?”
Posted by: Jan Bowles -
Cassie Philips checked the U-Haul trailer attached to the back of her Jeep and then eased into the driver’s seat. Minneapolis lay three days behind her, and this was the final stretch of the journey to her new home in Whitewaters, Montana.
When her Uncle Seth had bequeathed her his ranch, it had been totally unexpected. As the only living relative left, the news had come at a rather dark time in her life.
A bitter divorce battle with Aaron had left her homeless and virtually penniless. Even now, she still couldn’t believe he’d tossed aside their five-year marriage so easily. Up until then, she’d considered the marriage to be a happy one. She should have more rights. It had been Aaron, after all, who had committed adultery. Her lawyer had suggested that had there been children, then things might have been very different. The irony of that was not lost on her.
Her hand shook as she gently brushed the tears from her eyes. Just over a year ago she’d been blissfully happy. Pregnant, and with a husband whom she thought loved her, things couldn’t get any better. Then she’d miscarried, and her happiness had suddenly come to an abrupt end.
Well, Minneapolis held far too many bad memories. Maybe Montana would help clear her mind. At just twenty-seven, she’d made up her mind, she would never, ever, trust a man again.
As she turned out of the motel parking lot onto Interstate 90 for the last time, she breathed in a sigh of relief. Tonight she would be in her very own home. Tomorrow would be the start of her new life.
Brad Dawson closed the stable doors and looked once more at the old Philips’ place. Already dark, that was the second time he’d seen flashes of light in the last ten minutes. It certainly looked odd. The place had been empty for a few months now.
He rubbed his hand into his hair. One part of him couldn’t care less. He’d had a running feud with Seth Philips for the past ten years. Now the old coot was dead. So who cared if the place got ransacked?
The other side to him. The more neighborly side thought he ought to investigate. If there was someone stripping its contents, then surely he should report it to the local County Sheriff.
Well, it was no good thinking about it. He’d drive over there, park down the track, and see if he could catch the culprits red-handed.
Posted by: Jan Bowles -
With a final flourish of the paintbrush, Rebecca Wade stood back on the landing and admired her handiwork. It looked good, even if she said so herself. The pale lemon walls had added light and space to an otherwise dark and dingy walkway. A woman’s touch was all that had been needed to bring the run-down house up to her exacting standards. The roof might still be leaking, but that could all be resolved with a little time and money.
As she walked along the landing proudly surveying her work, she noticed an unpainted patch of wall. She leaned over the banister, securing her hand to the rail. Just as she reached forward with the paintbrush, she heard the sound of splintering timber. Her heart somersaulted in her chest as she saw the rail detach from the wall.
Rebecca’s whole life flashed before her as she lost her footing. The banister gave way and crashed to the ground floor some ten feet below. With barely any time to think, she just managed to grab hold of the newel post. She let out a long slow breath as she stared down into the hallway.
She brushed a trembling hand across her eyes, to wipe away tears of frustration. Just why had she put herself through all this? As a woman on her own, in a foreign country, she’d been trying for weeks to make something of this wreck of a house. Surely it was madness?
To become the new teacher at the local school in Avery Grove, Central Texas, she’d had to jump through hoops. Now, she’d nearly fallen and broken her neck within just three weeks of arriving. She could so easily have stayed in England in her safe, little world. So, just why hadn’t she?
She went into the bathroom and splashed cold water onto her face. When she looked at her reflection in the mirror, blue eyes stared back. An accusation surfaced in her memory and slammed into the harsh light of day. You’re cold and frigid. The last words that Jason had spoken to her when he’d broken off their engagement, one month before their wedding. She wasn’t a virgin, Jason had seen to that, but she hadn’t responded to him at all sexually. Maybe that was why he’d dumped her.
Posted by: Jan Bowles -
Zack tensed his muscles. Something didn’t feel right. Those footsteps had been following him down this dark street for a few minutes now, and they were getting too close. Just as he was about to turn around and confront whomever it was, he felt a rush of air. A heavy blow smashed across his temple. He crashed to the ground, the left side of his face making painful contact with the pavement.
With barely a moment to think, a crushing pain slammed into his ribs and he doubled up. He reached inside his jacket and pulled out the Smith and Wesson. In some discomfort he hissed through clenched teeth. “You can stop right there, amigo.” Luckily his breath began to fill his lungs once more. He edged to a nearby wall and braced his back against it.
He eyed the dark, swarthy man warily. Caught in the process of stealing his bag, his assailant stood frozen to the spot, like some cartoon character with one arm reaching forward.
When Zack wiped his free hand across his mouth, blood stained his fingers. Yep, this asshole had damn near caved the one side of his face in.
Waving the gun at his attacker, he spoke again, “Now, we can either do this the hard way, or the easy way. Just back off and get the fuck out of here before I change my mind.”
His swarthy nemesis appeared to contemplate the situation. Beads of sweat dripped down his face as he looked first at Zack and then the bag.
“Like I said, I don’t care if I have to blow your fucking brains out. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last.” Zack eased himself into a standing position. Thankfully, his ribs didn’t feel broken. “What’s it to be?” He’d reached the end of the line. It would all be over if he let him get away with it.
The man smiled. “Adios, amigo.” Slowly he retreated, holding his hands in full view. Eventually, when he’d reached far enough away, he turned and disappeared quickly down a side alley.
Zack stuffed the Smith and Wesson back into the waistband of his jeans. He’d been right to bring it with him. Tijuana was full of bandits. Reaching down, he scooped up his hat, dusted it down, and picked up his bag.
He caught his reflection in the shop window. Blood oozed down his cheek, and he wiped it away with the back of his hand. He hardly recognized himself anymore. Just when had he become such a mercenary bastard? Deep down he knew the exact moment he’d changed. His life had simply been blown away. Now all that remained was a hardened, empty shell.
Even Renee wouldn’t know him now. He remembered the last words he’d spoken to her. “Don’t worry, baby, everything will be fine. Just trust me.” Unfortunately, life didn’t always work out so perfectly. As bitterness consumed him once more, he turned away in disgust at his reflection.
Posted by: Jan Bowles -
Sam Marshall looked down at the patchwork quilt that was Oxfordshire. This wasn’t a trip that he’d wanted to make, but sometimes life altered over night.
He brought the helicopter skilfully in to land at the small airfield, grabbed his bag, and walked over to the gleaming black Bentley Continental. He tossed the bag in the back, removed his jacket, and then fired the car into life.
Duty, the only thought that drove him along the narrow country roads to Oxley, in Oxfordshire. Oxley a village he had vowed never to return to ten years earlier, when he’d been just twenty-two.
He had a duty to his best friend, Major Tom Lawrence. To see him laid to rest with full military honours, since his untimely death on deployment in Afghanistan.
Duty. What else?
He rubbed a hand across his jaw, as he began to approach the village. Ten years was a long time. He had changed. He wondered if Tom’s sister, Megan, had changed. Megan had been the one who had caused a whole sorry chain of events, with her false accusation.
Posted by: Jan Bowles -
Late again, damn that alarm clock! Eva ran all the way from Marble Arch tube station to Park Lane. With her bag slung over her shoulder, her long, black, wavy hair flew about her face as she quickly made her way to the hotel.
With hardly time to draw breath, she swept through the lobby, checked in, and hurriedly followed the signs to the Albermarle Suite, where the press conference was being held. The Grosvenor House Hotel in London’s exclusive Mayfair, was the perfect setting for the prestigious event.
Her boss, editor of New Dawn, the forward-thinking and glossy magazine she wrote for, had sent her to cover The Global Energy Summit. Their readers were interested in all things ecological and environmental as well as the celebrity lifestyle of the people featured. The appetite for large corporate companies and billionaire lifestyles was phenomenal, with readership growing monthly. Because New Dawn’s unique selling point was the green agenda, not all companies or celebrities featured well. Those who did had their status enhanced, their company profits boosted, and their share prices raised.
Outside the room she composed herself. She smoothed her white silk blouse into place and brushed her fingers through her hair. With one last intake of breath, she pushed open the door and entered the conference room.
At least she had done her research the night before. Matt Collins, CEO of Oil Enterprises, sat to the left, Jack McClaine of McClaine Industries in the centre, and David Archibald-Watts for Energy Pipeline Inc., to the right. There was a heated discussion as a fellow journalist debated an answer he’d just been given.
Eva sensed several pairs of eyes watch as she squeezed, breathless, into a sumptuous red velvet chair at the back of the room. She noticed one of the chairpersons, Jack McClaine, give her a dismissive glance. He obviously didn’t like interruptions. His mouth compressed as he reached out and poured water into a glass, his eyes locked on her.
Posted by: Jan Bowles -
Standing on the observation deck, Marielle Stevens watched the plane in the distance—just a speck of light, against a backdrop of midnight sky.
Gradually, the speck grew closer until finally she heard the roar of jet engines and saw the red light flashing on its underbelly.
She craned her neck for a better view as the wheels of the plane touched down and screeched to a halt further down the runway.
With her forehead pressed against the cool glass, she breathed in a sigh of relief. Thank God he’s back. There would be a lot of explaining to do, but—he’s safe now at last.
She watched, as would a curious observer, the commotion caused by the press and media as they jostled for the best vantage point around the perimeter of the airfield.
Flashes of light rippled from their cameras like a giant fireworks display, lighting up the rain soaked buildings of the RAF base all around them.
“We’d better make our way to the room,” James said quietly behind her.
Lost in her thoughts, Marielle swung around. “Sorry? Oh, yes. Of course.” Her mind still focused on the occupant of the plane.
They made their way towards the private reception room. A sea of journalists covered their path. Attractively dressed in a rust-coloured silk blouse and blue jeans, Marielle at twenty-three would not go unnoticed, and she soon had a mike thrust towards her when a reporter noticed the security pass pinned to her chest.
“How long have you known Robert Tremayne?” the reporter asked officiously.