Thursday, 7 September 2017

Book Review: When the Real Thing Comes Along by Faith Simone


It's been a long time since I've read a novel that kept me so engaged throughout its entirety. This is that one. I learned a lot about myself reading Jacelynn's struggles. One of which is how each of us reads with a bias, whether it's conscious or not. Even after seeing the cover and reading the descriptions of the characters, I still imagined them as white. I got over that very quickly. But it's amazing how you don't really realize that you're doing it. With that being said, I was so glad to be able to read a novel with a black heroine, and on top of that, it's a Christian novel.

That's where the challenge was for me. This is going to be a mix of personal tidbits and a review, because I want to share what this novel made me think and how it challenged my life. I've only recently started going back to church after almost a year. I felt so far away from God, but I knew I needed to change and work on my relationship with Him. So now, reading a novel where a character has such trust in God but still struggles when it comes to the daily things, it really spoke to me. I think it would speak to a lot of other readers, as well. Since my reading list was so long, it took me a few years to actually start this novel. But God's oh man did I need to read this novel when I did.

Jacelynn at the beginning of the novel feels secure in her relationship with Jason, a man of God. But when her ex comes back into her life, Jacelynn begins to questions everything, including her walk with God and God Himself. Why hasn't He been giving me guidance? Why is it that every time I feel as though I'm doing His Will things go horribly wrong? Christians have all been there. We all fall short, and we all make mistakes. Jacelynn doesn't always handle it with grace, but has His grace to push through. She's a good example of a real Christian, and I'm glad topics such as sex and pregnancy are brought up in this novel. In most Christian novels we read about these perfect people who never do anything wrong because they walk with the Lord. But that's not real. Jacelynn, and her struggles, that's real.

'When the Real Thing Comes Along' shows us that God is with us through it all. It's not easy, not ever, but He will never leave us. He is our example of love, and if we're patient and quiet enough, we can hear His voice. Simone has done an amazing job capturing and detailing God's character and the strength His gives. She's created characters so real I feel like I know them. This is an endearing novel Christians will love, and I feel non-believers will also enjoy if they're open to learning more about God.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Book Review: A Humble Heart (The Dark World #1) by Tim VanderMeulen


A Humble Heart tells the Tolkien-esque tale of an evil and dark race which threatens the existence of elves, dwarves, and humans. Clese and Henty are the last two surviving humans, from the Land of Gemdal, and bring news to the leader of the Elves. Thus begins their quest to the north to take back their land. 

I have to admit that this novel took me quite a while to get through. It read very similar to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it's clear VanderMeulen has created a deep and developed world with its own lore and history. Much of it seemed to drag on, and felt a bit cluttered. Some scenes didn't add anything to the plot itself, but were there more for story telling purposes, which is is appropriate for this style of writing. Not quite my taste, but still quite rich.

The ending left a little to be desired after such a grand scape of a novel, but when all finished the three volumes I can see coming together well. It was a bit "oh, really? It's finished? Hm."

For the most part, the characters are interesting and familiar in a fantasy novel. I enjoyed how everything already seemed to be built, rather than having it all build up in the narrative. The cultures were already there and we just happened to stumble in at a specific point in their history. I really appreciate that in books, making me feel like the characters and races are part of our own world and make me think "well, yeah, doesn't everyone know this about Elveran?" I would have loved to see a map of the world, but I know it's not always possible. With something on this scale, it's always nice to see exactly where the party is travelling and it helps give a sense of how long things will take.

Fans of Tolkien and epic fantasy will quickly fall in love with VanderMeulen's writing style, and most will find the concept familiar and relatable. Overall, the book was well done and is a wonderful start to the Dark World series.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Review for "Al & Rollu: Battle for The Astral" by Vaidu Klis

Al & Rollu: Part 1. Out of body (Battle for the Astral) by [Klis, Vaidu]

Al & Rollu: Battle for the Astral by Vaidu Klis

Al & Rollu: Battle for the Astral by Vaidu Klis is a young adult modern fantasy about a young woman names Rollu who can leave her body at will and travel to a parallel dimension, known as the Astral. She travels to St. Petersburg in the hopes of winning a motorcycle meet, and the heart of her intended husband. Only catch is she doesn’t know who that is, all she has to go on are specs of details from an old prophesy. Her Granny always told her St. Petersburg was a place where wonderful things would happen for her, the question now is, was she right?

Well this was an interesting one. Number one thing I have to address first is the length of the book; its short. Actually, I can’t really call it a book, more like the introduction of a short story, a very short story. The books I review, that are marketed to be as novels, as usually about 200 or 300 pages (once converted into PDF format) This one was a whopping 40; I read it in two days (during my commute to work). The reader barely gets a chance to understand the world Klis has created before the story ends, promising to pick up again in the next book. The lack of immersion into the characters left me unable to relate to them, to care about them really, which happens to be a good thing because the book is so short that not a lot happens either. Al, or Albert, is barely present, and we only get a taste for his character. Then we come to the main course; Rollu. Instead of a well-rounded, strong female character, we get one who is preoccupied with finding a relationship. Klis created an interesting world, but maybe a pretty bland main character to inhabit it. The authors focus on her looks is at best boring, and at worst predatory. I understand the intent, Rollu is meant to be a beautiful young woman, with extraordinary talents, but most ordinary people, especially men, just see her physical beauty, and she clearly has had to deal with that kind of unwanted attention for a long time. I just think Klis could have c=gone about it in a different way. The short length of this first book also makes it problematic to try and show Rollu as more than just a pretty face too.

That said it was certainly not all doom and gloom here. Klis showed real promise with the world they created here. The concept of The Astral seems great, and the rest of this saga I think has amazing potential to develop for the reader a unique and interesting world. As I mentioned earlier this first book was very short, only giving us a taste for what is to come, and I am optimistic Klis will do great things.

To learn more about the author, click here

To buy the book, click here.  

Happy Reading Folks!
~ Lilaina

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Review for "Between Octobers" by A. R. Rivera

Between Octobers (Savor The Days Series Book 1) by [Rivera, A. R.]

Between Octobers by A. R. Rivera

Between Octobers by A. R. Rivera is a modern romance thriller packed with everything you expect to see from both genres, and a little more you might not. It tells the story of an ordinary woman, Grace, who meets and falls in love with an extraordinary man, famous actor Rhys Matthews. The book details their intense love, the passion which unfolds and how it consumes them and all around them. Their relationship is not without its struggles, and they eventually take its toll. Interwoven with this tale, Grace struggles with a more real and intense danger, and as her love story unfolds, and she struggles to find a way to save herself, the bittersweet facets of love are revealed.

Rivera has done a superb job with blending a thriller with some small touches of action and mystery. The story moves along a just the right pace, giving the reader enough background on the characters, and letting them grow, without crawling along at a snail’s pace or cutting back in other areas. The novel grips you from start to finish, with a kind of mature drama, one that I think anyone who has been in a long-term relationship can understand, and those who have enjoyed passionate flings. It is so very real, portraying love in such a raw manner that at first it takes you aback with its authenticity, then just when you think this is talking about every relationship you have ever had Rivera cuts to the fantastical bits that season the story.

A romance novel is still a romance novel though, and this book does sometimes delve into the pitfalls of romance books. The language Rivera uses when Grace speaks sounds like every airport bookstore love story you might pick up. It always struck me as very nineties, the way a character would describe their outfit, or how they would narrate their actions; all so formulaic and aged. What struck me most especially was the way Grace spoke. I did the math, and based on the clues Rivera gives Grace is at most 31 years old for most of the novel, but she sounds like she is 45. It’s not that it detracted from the book, but is more so a source of distaste, as most romance novels read this way. There was a smattering of Christianity throughout, mainly on the part of the main character, but not enough that someone non-religious would be turned off, and just enough to potentially please those who aren’t.

I have to say, as far as romance goes, this book actually impressed me. I liked the pace of it, the length, and so often I found so many parallels between Grace and Rhys’ relationship to my own that I really got hooked. But the biggest bonus for me was the ending. As I try desperately not to reveal much, I do need to gush a bit about the bold choice in ending Rivera went with, definitely not your typical take on a romance novel, and quite refreshing. If you want the romance without too much longing looks, pouting lips and furtive glances, then this is for you. If you want something of a mystery, a touch of authenticity with a few embellishments, then this is the book for you.

If you want to learn more about the author and their work, click here
If you want to buy the book, click here

Happy Reading
~ Lilaina

Monday, 10 July 2017

Review for "The Adventures of Isabelle Book 1: The Embryo Goddess and the Morpho" by Nicole Cutts

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The Adventures of Isabelle Book 1: The Embryo Goddess and the Morpho by Nicole Cutts

The Adventures of Isabelle Book 1: The Embryo Goddess and the Morpho by Nicole Cutts is a delightful and energetic romp through a quasi-fantasy world. The heroine of the story is the only daughter of a great king, taking on the monumental task of defending the colonies of the kingdom and restoring order after the void her father leaves. From a personal perspective Isabelle sees this as an opportunity to prove her worth and test he skills she has learnt, as well as mend a broken heart.

This book was fun; it was fun to read, fun to immerse myself in, and left me on a satisfying cliffhanger. The Princess, Isabelle, was very relatable and I enjoyed her development. Cutts purposefully created a multi-dimensional character here, something that eschews the traditional tale of a damsel in distress or a complete tomboy. Here we see Isabelle enjoy riding horses, learning how to fight, but also enjoying her studies and indulging in fine dresses. She doesn’t fit into any sort of mould, which is refreshing and something sorely needed in the fantasy genre.

While I did love the book, I must say it was a little juvenile. Cutts does explain in the prologue how she wanted to write the kind of story she wished she could read when she was a little girl, and while I think she succeeded here, if you are an older woman or teen this book may not satisfy your reading needs. This would not make it onto my must have book shelf, but it would certainly be my first pick for a present to a young kid in the hopes it would inspire them to build an egalitarian world that Isabelle strives for. Women do not need a knight in shining armour to rescue them, and this book embodies that concept. 

To learn more about the author, go to their professional website here
To read the authors blog, see here
If you want to buy the book, go to 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Cover Reveal for Melhara by Jocelyn Tollefson

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Witches. Demons. Angels. Ancient prophecies and eternal wars.Kyra Parker seems to have it all: a successful career woman, wife, and mother; she's living the life she always wanted. But appearances are deceiving. In reality, she's a witch who has forbidden herself from using magic—at least the powers she has control over. Only two of her closest friends know her secret—one they share.

Kyra can no longer ignore her destiny when she is exposed as the key to the end of the world. She transforms into a dark witch after reluctantly surrendering her soul to the demon, Alastor, to save her loved ones. 

With her friends, Alexis and Axel, chasing her across the country in an attempt to free her from the demon's influence, Kyra ventures ever closer to the point of no return. Her family and friends need to work together before it’s too late to save her—and the rest of the world—from the demon apocalypse. 

There's just one problem—she doesn’t want to be saved.

If you want to buy Melhara, check out
For more abut the author check out Jocelyn Tollefson

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Interview with author of 'Bailey's Law' Meg Lelvis

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My interview with Meg Lelvis, author of Bailey's Law about all things writing, her process, and what we can expect from the poet turned novelist. 

-       What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve enjoying writing stories since grade school, and after teaching English I wanted to try it out, first as a hobby. Then I joined writers’ groups and wanted to fulfill a life-long dream to publish a book.
When did you complete your first piece of writing? What was it? How was that process?
Eight years ago I wrote several free verse poems and short stories which I shared in critique circles.
It was a humbling experience because I didn’t realize how much I needed to learn!
What is your favourite genre to write? Why?
I’ve always been interested in psychology and characters’ motivations, and found that the
crime/mystery genre worked well to bring my characters to life and to send a message.

What kinds of sources do you take inspiration from?
I am inspired by established writers, both present and past. Charlotte Bronte and Tami Hoag are two examples. I read all the time; sometimes two books concurrently.

Do you model characters after real people?
Yes, sometimes I do. For example, Erna Baumgartner in Bailey’s Law is Jack Bailey’s meddling,
but good-hearted housekeeper. She’s patterned after my own Aunt Erna, who was a real character!

What does your writing process look like? Did it take you a while to develop?
I use the process which works best for me, and don’t adhere to exact rules or advice. Unlike many writers, I don’t outline for instance. I draw my own rudimentary story arc which looks like a lop-sided hill. I keep a running hand-written log of notes I jot down about the main events and characters introduced in each chapter. It may not work for others, but it’s what I know!

What does you editing process look like? Do you allow others to read your writing?
Yes, I spend a lot of time reading and re-reading my pages. I’m in a couple critique circles, and after they’ve given their suggestions, I later use the changes I agree with, and ignore the ones I don’t. Critique groups are essential to me because of the feedback and it urges me on to write.

Do you take criticism hard or do you have a thick skin? Have you ever received criticisms that you felt were unjustified or too harsh? Are you your worst critic?
I think I have a thick skin. Years ago I sang in a chorus and quartets where we had to accept constructive criticism or else give it up. It’s not easy being told you’re flat or hit the wrong note! My critique groups are all in the same boat; we want to become better writers, and they are quite diplomatic for the most part. At times certain people are ‘nitpicky’, but I hide my irritation and go on with my life, ha! Only once did I secretly disagree with someone’s criticism of a scene I’d worked hard on. I thought it was damn (you can omit this word if you’d like) good, and this person had problems with it. But I still like it!

Have you ever felt like quitting writing? If so how did you overcome those feelings?
There are times I need a break from writing, especially if I’m stuck on a scene I don’t want to write. Rewarding myself with reading good books or streaming episodes of UK detective stories help, and then I’m ready to return to the keyboard.

Do you have favourite characters from your own writing? What made them so special to you?
Yes, I do love Jack Bailey, whom I made a Liam Neeson look-alike. He has that brooding, tragic look about him that I like in Irish or Nordic men. Beneath a stony exterior, he has a good heart.
I also like Denise Williams, a patrol cop who’s smart and sassy. These characters are not passive personalities, which makes them special to me.

How do you keep motivated to finish a writing project?
I like to set realistic goals for myself; small enough so I can accomplish them. Some writers have a certain number of words or pages per day. I have to adjust my goals to my life in general, like trips, book club meeting, etc. Some days I have more time than others.

Have you ever written something you didn’t like, but felt necessary for the overall story?
If you mean involving research, yes. I’m not interested in nor know anything about guns, but I had to include information about them because my main characters are cops. There were one or two scenes involving investigations that I didn’t care for, but were essential for a realistic plot.

Is there any question you are tired of getting as an author?
Yes. After having my book published, people ask how my sales are going, which annoys me no end! Or how much did I pay an editor or publicist when the price is tailored to each writer’s own needs. As Dear Abby would say: MYOB. Why can’t they ask about writing or characters or themes?

What do you wish people knew about life as an author?
I wish they knew how many thousands of books are out there, and how many writers. I’m happy to say, though, that most of my friends and acquaintances respect what hard work it is to write, even though it’s a labor of love.

What would be your advice for aspiring authors?
Read a lot and write a lot. Read established authors in your genre of interest with a critical eye. Join a critique group, but it that’s not feasible, find someone who will be brutally honest in their comments about your writing. Show them a few pages or if you prefer, the entire first draft. Stephen King has his IR (Ideal Reader) who has always been his wife.
Is there anything you wish you knew before you became an author?
It’s a difficult balance between the joy and challenge of writing and the practical publishing process. The entire process of submitting to publishers, signing a contract, going through the timeline of publishing, like edits, cover design, etc. Then marketing expectations. Of course, it was a whole new world and learning curve, and it’s been a fun ride. Writing for me is a passion which I hope will always stay with me.

If you want to buy the book, go to
To learn more about the author, click here

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Teaser for 'Bailey's Law'

                        Displaying Bailey's Law front cover.jpg

Bailey’s Law
Meg Lelvis

© 2016 by Meg Lelvis
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publishers, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal.

The final approval for this literary material is granted by the author.

First printing

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

ISBN: 978-1-61296-772-1

Printed in the United States of America
Suggested retail price $

Bailey’s Law is printed in Book Antiqua

For Gary, Kristin, Rebecca


Special Thanks to:

Reagan Rothe and his staff at Black Rose Writing.

To editor Roger Leslie.

To HWG leaders Roger Paulding, Fern Brady, Lynne Gregg.

To special critique friends: Barbara Andrews, Connie Gillen, Mark Pople, Jim Murtha, my sister, Carole.

To Tom Williams for cop advice, Gail, Kaye, Monica, and book club.


 Chicago, 1990

First week in homicide. The supervisor, beefy, seasoned detective from the old school, takes him aside. Don’t ever forget, Bailey, the person you work for ain’t me, it ain’t the chief, ain’t even the citizens of this town. You work for the victim. He’s your boss. You break your ass getting justice for him, you gotta be his voice, cuz he ain’t talkin. ’ You got that?
He got it all right. Know your victim, what makes him tick, and you got motivation. Only problem, what if your victim is your enemy? Sometimes whoever killed so-and-so did society a favor. Know your victim, but you might not like what you learn. Truth is, most victims are victims, and deserve to be treated with respect.
The best cops don’t always follow the letter of the law, they enforce the law. They navigate in gray areas of human morals, ethics, scruples. A good cop interprets the law according to his own conscience and understanding of decency and fairness, with public safety the ultimate goal.
From time to time the rules must be bent. The crucial part is knowing the time when you see it.
Jack Bailey’s most life-defining time is yet to come.

Chapter 1

Twenty Years Later

The minute Lt. Jack Bailey walked through the door of the Richmond, Texas police station, he felt buzzing tension in the air. The entire atmosphere was on high wattage. Several people scurried by him on their way out the door, nodding in hurried greeting.
Detective Hector Reyes approached him. “Just got the call. Big accident out on Warren Road. At least two dead. Head on collision.
Fire department was first responder.”
“Let’s take a look. Hope it’s not school kids this time of morning.”
Jack didn’t bother with accidents unless the department was short staffed, but this sounded more urgent than the regular fender benders that prevailed in Richmond. A salty, fifty-eight-year-old man of solid build, Jack was tough, hardened, and did not mince words. No one could accuse him of impersonating Mr. Rogers. Dark hair streaked with gray crowned a chiseled face that reflected the brooding, tragic image of a film noir actor. Many people called Jack a dead ringer for Liam Neeson. At least they were both Irish.

.   .   .   .   .

As the two men headed south out of town, Hector spoke to the dispatcher. Jack’s cell phone rang, and he turned it on speaker mode.
“Yeah, Moose. I’m on the way with Hector. What’s the latest?”
“God, Jack, it’s a bad one. Don’t have ID’s yet, but one guy, he’s…”
“It’s unreal. He’s all mangled. Got cut in two.” “Jesus,” Hector muttered.
“Yeah, a couple of our guys lost their breakfast. So be prepared.”
“Right,” Jack said. “Is Nolan there?”
“Yeah. She’s right here looking green around the gills and shaky, but holding up.”
Kathleen Nolan joined the squad a couple years ago. Young, blond, and attractive, she earned the respect of her colleagues through hard work and attention to detail. She was still the target of good natured teasing, but developed a thicker skin as a matter of survival.
“OK, Moose, see you in about five.” Jack turned off the cell. “May need a barf bucket for Nolan,” he chuckled.
They arrived at the scene, parked behind another cruiser on the shoulder of the two lane road, and emerged from the car. August’s early morning heat and humidity shrouded Jack’s body and crept into his bones. After six years, he’d learned not to fight it, but he still missed the climate of Chicago on days like this.
The odor of gasoline assaulted their nostrils as their shoes crunched over shards of shattered glass and sidestepped chunks of metal strewn over the road and shoulder areas. Spilled gas blanketed the pavement and glistened in the unrelenting sun. Several patrol cars, two ambulances, and a fire truck parked haphazardly along both sides of the road, their flashing lights invisible against the bright morning sky.
“Anybody figure out what happened?” Jack asked several officers standing about five yards from the crumpled mess of what used to be two cars. A white van had reduced what may have been an Audi to a heap of scrap metal for a junk yard. Another vehicle lay upside down in a ditch alongside the wreckage, its front squashed like an accordion. A tall, stringy-haired photographer in worn jeans darted about, bobbing here and there, camera clicking away, with an attitude of self-important urgency.
Asshole’s looking for the most gruesome shot. Probably hoping for a Pulitzer, Jack thought.
He’d never been able to stand the arrogant prick.
“Jesus,” Hector said looking around. “I hate the word, ‘surreal’, but this is fuckin’ surreal.”
“We don’t know anything yet, Lieutenant,” Kathleen said as she joined the group from behind the ambulance. She looked shaken. Her blond hair was held back in a ponytail, and beads of perspiration dotted her forehead.
“Wait till you see the one body. Remains is more like it. Don’t plan to eat anytime soon,” another cop warned Jack and Hector.
Jack wasn’t worried about himself as they approached lead detective Moose Gustafson and several EMT’s, hovering over two covered bodies on the shoulder of the road. Jack had seen plenty of gore when he worked gang-banger and drug-infested neighborhoods in Chicago’s turbulent south side.
Moose led the group to a shallow ditch of tall grass beside the over-turned mound of metal.
“Son of a bitch,” Hector muttered.
“Hell, in twenty years I’ve never seen anything like this poor bastard,” Jack admitted.
“He must’ve been in his sixties, maybe seventies.”
“What a way to end up,” Moose said. “Looks like a magician took a saw and—”
“Well,” Jack paused. Waited. “I think it’s safe to say he ain’t half the man he used to be.”
There was dead silence, then the officers broke out in raucous laughter. All except Kathleen, who stood there with an incredulous look on her face.
“That’s an awful thing to say, Lieutenant. How can you say something like that?” her voice indignant. “This is no joke. He’s probably somebody’s father.”
“Come on, lighten up, Nolan,” Jack said. “I’ve waited my whole career to use that line. Don’t steal my thunder.”
Kathleen jammed her hands on her hips. “Excuse me if I don’t think it’s funny.” She turned on her heel and marched away in a huff.
The officers were still snickering. “We told you not to hire her,” someone chuckled.
“Well, we need our token blond chick,” another cop joked. “Gotta get our laughs somewhere.”
“All right, stifle it and get back to work,” Jack said.
“I’ve never heard Nolan speak up like that.” Moose smiled.
“Maybe she’ll get out of kindergarten after all.”
“Better not tell her any Ed Gein jokes,” Jack said.
“Ed who?” Hector asked.
“Never mind. I’ll save it for another time.” Jack wiped his face with a white handkerchief and proceeded to work the scene with Moose and Hector, stepping aside so the two CSI guys could complete their tasks. The sun continued to smother their bodies as they examined the wreckage. The grease-ball photographer appeared out of nowhere like an annoying fly.
“You still here? Not enough blood and guts for you yet?” Jack growled.
“Now Lieutenant, you know I’m only here to report the news,” the guy sneered, his matted hair stuck to his neck.
“Okay, here’s some news to report: you’re an asshole,” Jack said. “Now get the hell out of here.”
“I second that,” Hector added. The man backed away, holding up his hands in mock defeat.
“Prick.” Moose kept wiping his brow, attempting to keep his straight blond hair out of his eyes. Navy-colored half-moons stained the underarms of his pale blue shirt.
Moose Gustafson, whose stature bore no resemblance to his nickname, was lead detective in the Criminal Investigation Division. Richmond was a small city, with only seven members in the CID, including Jack, who supervised the group. Moose, with his tall, Nordic good looks and amiable personality, was a popular figure in the RPD. He harbored a sweet tooth, ate like a horse, and remained lean as a rail.
“Wanna wrap it up, Jack?” Moose asked after what seemed like an hour. His ruddy face glistened with sweat.
“Yeah, let’s go.” Jack wiped his forehead with his handkerchief, by now a drenched, wadded up ball. “Heat’s a bitch. Need some AC.” “And a shower,” Hector added.
No one in the squad knew much about Jack Bailey, except that he relocated from Chicago six years ago. He never spoke of family or anything close to a personal nature. His only real friend, Moose, knew nothing about Jack’s background. He sensed his colleagues wondered about him, but that was their problem. They’d never understand his past. Jack chose to remain a closed book.
That afternoon, Kathleen ran into Jack in the hallway near his office.
“Nolan,” he smiled. “Glad to see your color is back. That shade of green didn’t suit you.”
“Very funny. You know, I’d heard about your gallows humor before, but that comment this morning was—can’t think of a word. Anyway, I’ll get over it.” She walked away, yellow pony tail swinging.
“Wait,” Jack called. “I’m not the hard ass you think I am. I have a lot of sympathy for that poor guy. In fact, I hope he rests in pieces.” “Not funny,” Kathleen retorted, still walking. At least she was starting to show some balls.

.   .   .   .   .

Several days later, the accident victims were identified and paperwork completed. The unlucky dismembered gentleman was from out of state visiting relatives. Forensics guys surmised he was speeding, lost control, and hit the oncoming van head on, causing a third vehicle following the van to crash into it. Another fatality was an eighty-year-old woman, and three other adults sustained non-lifethreatening injuries. The case was wrapped up, but no one in the department would forget the grisly scene anytime soon.

.   .   .   .   .

Things were tedious at the station the rest of the week, and Jack was restless. Lately he felt more depressed with his life. Downright bored. He missed the pulse of city life. True, Richmond was only thirty miles from Houston, but on weekends he was too lethargic to make the tiresome drive into town for quality restaurants, museums, and theaters. He hadn’t been to the Alley since King Lear two years ago. Jack told no one about his cultural interests. Didn’t want to ruin his image. But they were diversions from the root of his problems. All things considered though, relocating to Richmond as an escape seemed like the best answer six years ago. Now? Who the hell knew.

 Chapter 2

The next morning started out like any other. Jack unlocked his office, surveyed the clutter, retrieved his Chicago White Sox mug from a pile of papers on his desk, and headed for the kitchenette for his jumpstart for the day. Freshly made coffee was always ready, and today, some kind soul had brought doughnuts. Jack grabbed a couple before they disappeared.
“Leave some for Moose,” Hector said as he reached for a blueberry filled.
“Yeah, if only he’d gain a pound.” Jack chomped into a glazed one.
Hector, who made detective last year, was about Jack’s height, but could afford to drop twenty pounds. At age fifty, he sported a thick head of black hair and a heavy mustache. A Richmond native with a large extended family, he bristled when people asked where he was from. He informed them that his great-grandparents emigrated from Mexico in the 1800’s, and he was as American as anyone else who worked and paid taxes.
“All right, chocolate icing!” Moose joined his friends. “Surprised there’s any left.” All three wore short sleeved cotton shirts and khaki’s, their standard summer uniform. They kept ties on hand for meetings and such. As a lieutenant, Jack should be wearing his uniform, but he bent the rules and got by with it.
“Anything on board for today?” Moose bit off half his doughnut as they walked toward their desks.
“Just usual paperwork and maybe tie up loose ends on the bust on
Second Street last week.”
Jack entered his office as the others walked on. His phone buzzed.
“Yeah, Jill. Just walked in.” He placed his mug and extra doughnut on his desk and listened in silence to his long-time office assistant. “Got it. We’re on our way.”
He pressed another button on his phone. “Moose let’s go. We got a body.” Finally, some excitement around here.
As the men emerged from the station, suffocating heat once again engulfed them in its grip.
“Another sauna,” Moose muttered. “I should move back to Wisconsin.”
“How many times have I heard that?” Jack unwrapped a stick of gum and put it in his mouth.
They hurried through the parking lot and into the cruiser, while Jack relayed what information he knew. “The vic is a young guy, probably in his twenties, single gunshot to the chest. Roommate found him a little while ago. Don’t know the exact time. It’s a house in the west part of Pecan Grove.”
“Did Jill say anything else?” Moose asked.
“That’s about it. Hector’ll stay put to question the roommate.”
Jack sped east down Preston Street away from the downtown area. The AC kicked in, bathing them with cool relief. He darted in and out of traffic and eight minutes later entered Pecan Grove, an area known for its upscale homes, tasteful landscapes, and Christmas light displays. However, in the older section, property values had declined over the years. Although yards and houses looked shopworn, it was still considered a safe, comfortable place to live.
Jack followed the GPS onto America Court, a cul de sac with five houses in close proximity.
All were small, one story homes painted in light colors, most in obvious need of enhancement. One patrol car sat in front of a pale blue residence with shabby white shutters and a faded wooden door.
Jack parked the car behind the cruiser, and the two men hurried up a cracked sidewalk, past overgrown hay-like grass and dying shrubbery. He pounded on the door and yelled, “Bailey here, open up.”
He jerked the handle, pushed inside, and was met by Denise Williams, a veteran patrol officer, who chimed in a jocular voice, “Bailey, about time you showed up.” Her dark skinned, smiling face showcased a set of gleaming pearls. “He’s over there on the sofa.
Taking a siesta.”
Moose followed Jack through the dim, gloomy entryway to the living room at the right. It lacked even minimal decor. Nothing on the colorless walls, no end tables or lights except a plain black pole lamp beside a brown threadbare easy chair. A faded gold sofa sat against the far wall, a clump of stuffing peeking out of torn fabric on an arm rest.
A male body slumped forward at the other end of the couch. An average-sized young white guy with wavy brown hair, he sat with his chin resting on his now crimson white t-shirt, as if he were taking a snooze. His left side leaned into the arm rest with his wrists crossed over his upper thighs.
Ragged tan cargos were splashed with dark red blotches, and black rubber flip flops halfway rested on his long feet. The sweet metallic tell-tale odor familiar to all cops permeated the room.
“Holy shit,” said Moose. “Made more mess than I thought from a single shot.”
“Shame to ruin this nice sofa,” Jack said as he took in the copious blood stains. “Any ideas, Williams?” He reached in his shirt pocket, retrieved another stick of spearmint gum, and popped it in his mouth. Damn, he missed smoking.
“Not much. I got here about eight minutes ago. Heard it on dispatch on my way in.” Denise tried to smooth down her wiry black hair. “Roommate was all shaky. Couldn’t talk straight. Claims he spent the night at his girlfriend’s apartment. Found the body like that this morning.”
“Where’s the roommate now?”
“Fitch was here right on my heels and took the kid to the station for further questioning. Wanted him gone before the scene got crowded. Looked about twenty to me.” After another futile attempt to smooth her unruly hair, Denise took a red scrunchy from her pocket and created a make-shift bun.
“Okay, the team’ll be here any minute,” Jack said as he leaned in, observing the body from different angles, careful not to touch. “Looks staged, almost sitting up with the wrists crossed.”
“Yeah, that’s what first struck me,” Denise added, still fiddling with her hair.
“I agree. I’ll start searching now,” Moose said. “Doesn’t look like robbery.” He fished out latex gloves from his pocket, pulled them onto his large paws, and headed left toward the kitchen. Jack frowned as he noticed darker splotches of blood on the corpse’s groin area. A sex crime? Hmm…
“No evidence of forced entry or struggle. Here’s more info.” Denise flipped open a small notebook. “Roommate’s name is Derek Walls. Deceased was Todd Kaplan. Both worked at the Olive Garden at Brazos Mall. Worked last night till 10:00 or so, and roomie and girlfriend left together. Todd supposedly went home.”
“Okay,” said Jack looking toward the front door. “Here’s the team.”
“Coming in,” shouted a voice at the front door as five squad members descended on the scene, including Kathleen. Two forensics guys opened their black cases, donned latex gloves, and retrieved instruments and cameras, while Jack pointed out the body’s private area to the team. Kathleen’s face turned a rosy pink. Another detective and a patrol officer listened as they glanced around the room.
“Secure the perimeter,” Jack instructed the officer, who immediately headed outside to cordon off the yard with yellow tape. Several neighbors congregated on the street and sidewalk, gawking with curiosity at the blue house and appearing to speculate amongst themselves.

Jack hoped one of them might have information about why someone would bump off young Todd Kaplan. The autopsy report would also tell its tale in the next day or two and explain the extra blood below Kaplan’s waist. Who was this guy?