When the impulse to write a second novel began, I suppressed the images. Pretty dark stuff. I figured that I’d been watching too many murder shows, and overwhelmed by the global terrorism. Then, something weird happened.
On a stormy winter night driving home from work, I met a woman from Afghanistan. Yes, friggin Afghanistan. As if I was in a zombie state, I picked up this total stranger. Never had I done anything so bizarre. Well, maybe, but that’s another story.
When she got settled into my beat up SUV, I tried to make conversation with her. Blank stare. She didn’t understand a word of English. Damn! What have I done? To make a long story short, in the next twenty minutes, my life changed. Over the next month, I became haunted by images of being in the Middle East in the midst of chaos and suffering.
I knew my muse, Bart, was pushing the plot.
“Resistance is futile.” He gave me his wide toothless grin.
“You’re nuts, Bart, if you think I’ll write that novel. How ridiculous. I know nothing of the Middle East or Islam.” I thumped Bart on his little green head.
“Oh crap, you’re going to difficult again.” He massaged his skull. “Madame, he’s waiting.”
“Captain Sharif. Big brute of a man but considered a hero by the citizens of the Republic of Islamic Provinces and Territories.”
I glared at Bart. A mistake. Trapped in Bart’s golden eyes, the mystical dance began. Swirling sapphire clouds descended transforming my surroundings, shifting reality, capturing time.
Several yards away, a man’s shadow emerged.
He stood, a sentinel – solitary, waiting. His fists at his sides, clenched. Moving closer, I noted more details of his uniform. Black, from his cap to the military boots. It was then I noted his death grip on an assault rifle. I swallowed and stepped back. He hadn’t yet acknowledged my presence.
My eyes scanned the direction of his gaze. Only mist. And yet, he prepared for battle. He crouched, a lion ready for the kill. My heart pounded against my ribs. “Who is coming,” I whispered.
“Be quiet,” he growled, a sound escaping from deep in his broad chest. “Damn. They’ve frightened her away.”
Brazenly, I stepped closer. “Who frightened who?”
“The mayor. He’s trying to keep her from coming here.” His shoulder slouched. “Eliza.” He spoke her name as if she held the status of goddess. As he turned back toward the mist, he muttered, “We may be too late.” Pain laced his grief.
Frustration clawed at my need to know what the hell was going on. “Who is ‘we’?”
Finally, the soldier faced me. Still only a vague outline of his features gave any hint of his face. I felt, more than saw, that he could be considered handsome, perhaps in his early thirties, Middle Eastern skin tone, short dark curly hair. Energy surrounded him. No horror would deter him from his mission.
“Who? Me, Sergeant Abdul-Muqtadir, imam Bashir, Captain Khattab, CIA agent Hutchinson.” He stepped forward. “And you.”
“Yes, you.” He towered over me. “You must write the story. If not, she’s going to get better at trying to killer herself. So far, she’s doing a lousy job. Praise Allah, the most merciful.”
“I’m certain there are authors better able to tell the story. I know nothing of Islam or what it is like to be Muslim. Why me?”
“Because, in many ways, you are much like Eliza. You know her. His voice softened. “You see my dear Ms. Stone, as long as she doesn’t get here, their plans for a most vicious crime is safe. They’ll bury me alive if I reveal their secret. But if she’s here, I’ll have a reason to do …. what is forbidden.
A gut wrenching scream tore through my chest. The sound came from beyond the gloom. It continued to echo as if someone was being tortured within prison walls. Suddenly, the soldier fell to his knees.
“What is that?” I shouted trembling with shock.
“That is Eliza.” He groaned and squeezed his eyes shut as if her pain became his. “Her nightmare is never ending. Her mind gives her no peace. She is going insane.”
A sense of hopelessness descended upon me. Yes, I had to write Forbidden. The woman from Afghanistan and Captain Sharif had shared their secret. Everything is possible through the power of love.
Read an excerpt:
(Eliza, held prisoner in RIPT, attempts to get permission for exercise time in the police compound):
Eliza wore the required black uniform, put on her polished work boots, and pushed her hair up under the black cap. At the bottom of the stairs she listened for sounds of the men. She approached Khizar’s office and sighed with relief to find he had left. Going down a short hallway, Eliza turned right towards the crew quarters’ door. She hesitated, listening for sounds that indicated the mood of the cops.
Belly laughter and smacks against the wall made the door shudder. The men were absorbed in their amusement and might not be interested in challenging her request.
Eliza knocked on the door, careful to sound neither cowardly, nor aggressive. The door was swung open by a constable.
She held her breath. Skilled at hiding her emotions, Eliza looked into the officer’s eyes. The officer relaxed a little. An intimidating smirk grew on his face. Three other men in the room gathered behind him.
The day sergeant, a heavy-set man, came forward and said in a trivializing manner, “The whore is mine. Leave her to me.”
The sergeant sauntered up to her. His eyes lit up like those of a child about to open a birthday gift. He lowered his gaze to her dark boots, and then raised his focus to her mid-section, then to her chest. Finally, he looked at her eyes.
Eliza did not change her expression from that of bland indifference to his suggestive piercing stare. He had called her a whore, but she repressed the impulse to admonish him. She resisted the urge to put her hands on her hips. That would be sexually suggestive and body language might defeat her faster than the wrong choice of words.
“My apologies for the interruption,” she said in Arabic, her voice trembling despite her resolve. “I’m going for a walk.” She swung around toward the exit door.
The officers chuckled as the sergeant stepped forward and blocked her. His face came uncomfortably close to hers. He spoke with a grin, accompanied by the rhythmic flexing and gyrating of his hips.
“Welcome. Come in.” The three men cheered as the sergeant grabbed her shirt and pulled her into the room.
Eliza froze. The four men closed in around her. She gasped as they taunted her, touching her shoulders, her hips. She shuddered as one of the men grabbed her hat and flung it to the side.
“No,” she cried out in Arabic. “Captain Sharif will -.” The sergeant slapped her face hard, sending her spinning against a muscular man. His hand pulled on her long hair and grabbed her belt, trapping her against his body.
Eliza shrieked as the sergeant took her shirt into his fist and in one swift move, ripped it away from her and flung it to the floor. Her white cotton tank top clung to her body like a second skin. The men gawked at the curves of her breasts.
She dug her elbow into the cop’s midsection. His grip on her hair released enough for her to leap for the door. “Let me go!”
More hands clamped onto her body.
“No!” Eliza shouted in Arabic. She reached to grasp someone’s throat. Her legs trembled, barely holding her body upright.
The sergeant gave the belt a firm yank and slipped it out of the belt loops. The men cheered. He pulled on the waist band. It held fast but scraped her skin. She shrieked in pain as she fell to the floor. Eliza screamed as he pinned her to the floor with his knee.
“Quiet,” he growled. A large sweaty hand covered her mouth.
The rest of the men pounced on her, grabbing her arms and legs. Before they got a firm grip on her, she twisted and squirmed enough that someone lost his hold over her mouth. Eliza let out another ear-piercing scream. Her self-defense training evaporated.
“That’s enough,” one said. “Let her go, sergeant. Sharif will hear her and kill us.” Two men let go of their grip on her legs.
“Fuck Sharif. Besides, Captain Khizar has plans to take Sharif’s head,” said the sergeant. “Shut her up!”
Kicking and biting, she escaped their grip, and once more bounded to the door. Just as she flung the door open, a man grabbed her by the hair, and she screamed again. “If Sharif can have her, so can we!”
Strong hands threw her to the floor again. She screamed until her lungs burned. A hand clamped down over her mouth, pushing her lips hard against her teeth. She tasted blood on her tongue. She kicked and twisted. Her muffled cries and tears seemed to excite the men. Their hostility escalated.
“Hold the bitch still,” someone hollered. A hand groped her chest, squeezing her breast. She gasped at the crushing weight of a man on her legs attempting to pull her pants down. The band around her waist ripped. A knife flashed over her mid-section.
In one last effort, Eliza opened her mouth wide. The hand slipped between her teeth. Like a vice, she clamped down on the fingers and bit hard. He hollered a curse and yanked his hand from her teeth. She took a deep breath and screamed till her throat hurt. A rag was shoved into her mouth.
The men paused as the sound of footsteps thundered down the stairs.
The men gasped. Their hands remained clenched onto her as if welded to her skin. The door flung open. It crashed against the wall. Captain Sharif rushed through the doorway, wearing only his boxers. His face twisted in rage as his raised his handgun toward the men. They threw themselves onto the floor and begged for mercy.
Eliza pulled the rag out of her mouth and scrambled on all fours to a far corner. She tried to stand but crumpled to the floor. Panting and crying, she crossed her arms across her chest.
“What are you idiots doing? Get up,” Sharif roared. “Up against the wall before I kill the lot of you swine!”
They scrambled to form a line in front of the captain. Each one got a dose of the disgust on the captain’s face. The men stood rigid, gasping for air. Sweat rolled down their faces. Sharif paced in front of the sergeant and his three men. He glanced back at her.
“Get your shirt on!”
Eliza reached for the torn shirt and put it on. Rage fought for dominance over her shaky legs.
“Get out, MacKay!” Sharif’s deep voice echoed his loathing.
She raced to the exit door, flung it open, and fell down the six steps.
Reeling with shock, she used the exterior wall of the building to guide her away from the front door. She ran, blinded by tears, and staggered around a corner.
The blood-stained compound wall loomed fifty feet in front of her. In an instant, ghostly screams and unrelenting gunfire pulled her back into the horror.
Traces of bullet holes and dark red splatter stains on the walls retold the story in gruesome detail. Eliza slumped against the station’s wall, slid to the ground and squeezed her eyes shut. She clenched her fists as her mind catapulted to the night she arrived four days ago in the captain’s compound.
She huddled against the cement wall. Her body ached. Bruises and scratches were on her arms and legs, golden tangles hung in her face. She clenched her fists and fought back the need to release a scream of anger and frustration.
Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the captain’s hurried approach. He had dressed in casual clothes, khaki pants and white short-sleeved shirt left untucked, only partially buttoned. Eliza had difficulty reading the man, his eyes hidden behind the dark aviator sunglasses. He stood in front of her and motioned for her to stand.
“Get up,” he said, glancing in her direction.
She braced for a stern reprimand and punishment. Get up and bow to the friggin’ iceman, she thought. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep. I’ve been ordered about, shut up in a small apartment, sneered at, and treated like I’ve got the plague. Then, being treated like a whore this morning? Unforgivable. Damn! She stood.
Her torn shirt fell open, revealing more than the captain, or any decent Muslim man should see. Too damn bad! His gaze appeared in the vicinity of her chest.
Once Sharif was thoroughly tormented, she tied the shirt tails at her midriff, closing off her cleavage.
Sharif turned away. “Come with me,” he ordered and headed toward the arch-ribbed building.
“Come with me, please,” she snapped, remaining steadfast.
He turned and looked at her for a moment. Briefly, she saw a glimmer of a smile. Just a hint of his white teeth and the softening of his face.
The captain stood a good three inches taller than her five foot nine inches. His cropped, curly dark brown hair and stubble style beard defined his strong facial bones. His eyes were obsidian. During the night, when he did not wear the aviator sunglasses, she had discovered the black depths were as soft as velvet.
On our cattle ranch in Alberta, when an animal was in distress or injured, I was put in charge of nursing it back to health. Never mind that I was just a kid and hated the sight of blood, but I had to muster up the courage to apply home remedies. My survival rate was pretty good. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that I would progress to nursing – humans. After one year into nurses training, I bolted. Bed pans and chronic diseases pushed me in different direction; a career of dealing with drug addicts, murder, suicide, fatalities, and biker gangs. In 1983 I graduated with honors as a paramedic and worked in the City of Edmonton’s Emergency Services.
For the next twenty years, I came face to face with scenes most people would rather not think about. I loved it. Having experienced life in the most deadly and gut wrenching events, and work alongside the police service, I gained the fodder for creating intense novels.
My creative DNA shocked me when I was driven to write a dystopian / paranormal / romance novel, The Guardian’s Wildchild. After taking several writing courses, I presented the manuscript to Omnific Publishing who published it in 2011. Just when I thought I could get my life back, another story took me prisoner – Forbidden. I couldn’t believe there was this kind of story within me and desperate to be told. I resisted. It was futile.
Retired and focused on home life, I’m back to being a mom to four pets and one husband. We travel and taste the excitement of other cultures. In between adventures, I’ve dabbled in water color painting, photography, needle work, gardening – the list goes on. In my next life, I plan to explore the cosmos.
I’ve learned a few things in my seventy years. Thoughts are powerful. Intention is everything. Passion is the key to success.
Gunfire echoes within the walls of a Middle East police compound. Screams of terror are brutally silenced. Police captain Hashim Sharif captures one survivor. Soon Eliza MacKay will wish she had died with her companions.
The vile act of terrorism is covered-up. Sharif becomes the reluctant keeper of his city’s bloody secret – and the witness, MacKay. His corrupt superiors have a gun rammed against his skull. Disloyalty to the mayor will be rewarded with being buried alive.
Whatever the cost, his government’s honor must be restored. Secretly, Sharif hunts forensic evidence. Who is responsible for the murder of fifteen American volunteers? And, why did MacKay lie about her identity? He can’t trust her. Her mental illness is going to get both of them killed.
When he receives orders to dispose of MacKay, his Muslim faith is tested. Murder an innocent in cold blood? He will suffer Allah’s eternal wrath.
CIA Agent Hutchinson has the lying Sharif in his cross hairs. Sharif dodges the agent’s traps almost as easily as the hit man on his tail. When Sharif discovers the shocking truth, he loses all hope of survival.
What is worth dying for? Perhaps it’s not bringing a madman to justice. Could it be saving the life of a woman who kick-started his numb heart? On the knife edge of risk, Sharif plots an act most forbidden and fatal.
Genre: Suspense, Romance, International Thriller Published by: Indie Publication Date: December 2016 Number of Pages: 363 ISBN: 0995150907 (ISBN13: 9780995150904) Purchase Links:Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗
Read an excerpt:
An armored truck with a mounted machine gun roared up behind the two police motorcyclists. Something is terribly wrong. She ducked deeper behind the luggage and stared into the darkness. She desperately searched for a rational explanation. A cold knife pierced her core.
After speeding through intersections and red traffic lights, the vehicles came to a sudden halt. Gate hinges squealed in protest. The impulse to leap from the back of the truck fought with her intense need to remain hidden. If it were not for the armed vehicle at the rear, she would have jumped and disappeared into the night. In another moment, the opportunity vanished.
The vehicles lurched forward. Through the flap’s opening, she saw a massive iron gate. High walls extended on either side. The vehicles stopped.
The motorcyclists drove to either side of the truck. The armored vehicle surged forward, nearly crashing into the back of the supply truck (where Eliza is hiding). Eliza scrambled to put more of the luggage between her and the mounted gun. It bore down on her as if it had spied her. She gasped.
Eliza strained to hear a pleasant greeting, an apology for the change of plans, anything that would tell her heart to stop its thundering in her chest.
Someone shouted, “Ikhrog men al Araba,” then in English, “Get out of the bus!”
“Stay together,” Charlie called out. At first the volunteers sounded merely annoyed, but their mood rapidly deteriorated.
“Charlie, there’s a mounted automatic weapon on that truck. Something’s not right here.” The man’s alarm ricocheted through his companions. Quick footsteps reminded Eliza of nervous horses in a corral – wild-eyed, snorting and circling as they searched for an escape.
Charlie attempted to calm his group. “I’m sure this will all make sense. I’ll see why there’s been a change. Who’s in charge here?” he called.
Scattered thoughts fed her fear. The unmistakable sound of large guns being maneuvered sucked the air from Eliza’s lungs. Near the supply truck, she heard the ping, ping of a cell phone, then the trembling voice of a woman crying, “Ralph, pick up the phone. Please. Oh God ….” The woman screamed. With a blast of gunfire, her cries stopped. Bullets pierced the canvas and shattered a suitcase in front of Eliza.
Her body trembled violently. In minutes she would be killed. The luggage offered no protection. Terrified to make any sound, yet frantic to hide, she pressed her backpack to her chest. She gasped as if starved for oxygen. Tears ran down her cheeks as she heard the terrified people and Charlie beg for their lives.
This is only one of my nightmares. I’ll wake up and everything will be fine.
The truck with the mounted machine gun swerved around the supply truck. Deafening sounds of machine gun blasts and screams tore through her chest. She plunged down among the luggage.
A man came into her view as he lunged toward the gate. A police officer ran after him and fired several shots into the man’s back. The American dropped, bloody and lifeless.
Suddenly, an armed man dashed to the rear of the supply truck and saw her. She gasped. Oh my God, he’s going to kill me. I’ve got once chance. Get his gun. Her martial arts training kicked in. She lunged forward. As they grappled, both fell.
Falling on top of him Eliza punched his groin. He cried out in agony. She crab crawled on all fours toward his weapon several feet away. Too late she saw a boot aimed at her head.
She ducked for cover under the supply truck. Too late. The cop stomped on her head, ramming her forehead into the pavement hard. Her momentum pushed her under the truck’s back end.
Dazed, she checked to see if he followed her. He was struggling to free his boot, snared in her scarf. A gun’s muzzle appeared, aimed in her direction. Bullets ripped through her coat’s shoulder. Puffs of down feathers stuck to the sweat and blood on her face.
I’m hit. Get out. Run. Eliza kicked and crawled out from under the truck on the far side of the killers. The deafening gunfire and screams surrounded her. Her mind froze. She pressed her body into the truck’s solid frame.
More bullets smacked the ground near her. More vehicles arrived. Bright headlights blinded her. She turned away to shield her eyes. Desperate, she ran an erratic, aimless course. Silhouettes of shapes, helmets, guns and bloody bodies flashed in front of her. Keep running. Dodge. Find cover. She ran like a wild animal, blind to the teeth that would tear her apart.
When the thunder from the machine gun stopped she glanced back. The man at the machine gun tumbled head first off the truck. His companions continued to fire their weapons, but now toward the gate. More shots came from behind the blinding lights. The men ran toward the front of the supply truck. Riddled with bullets, their bodies twisted and fell.
Eliza gazed in bewilderment at the tall form appearing in the light. He raced forward past the open gate, his weapon raised in her direction. More men followed behind him. She ran, searching for cover.
He shouted, “Tawakaf and am, la tatharak Kiff.” Then in English, “Stop where you are. Don’t move! Stop.”
A short burst of gunfire. Bullets struck the ground a few yards in front of her. She skidded to a stop. Breathless, she turned toward the gunman. She could not make out his face below the dark helmet. He wore a police uniform like the killers had – black from head to toe. If not for his vehicle’s headlights, he would have been invisible. He raced toward her, his weapon held steadfast in her direction.
I’ve often been asked which character of a particular book or series is my favorite. I can usually respond quickly with not only a choice, but a reason. But when asked that question about this book, I was caught off guard.
It’s tough to list your favorite character when the story is true and the characters are real, even if they are animals.
You’d think being real would make choosing a favorite character easier, after all, you like certain people, one more than the other. Why not dogs?
I gave that some thought, and I came to the conclusion that after twenty-four years of running an animal sanctuary, I can say, without hesitation, that these dogs were a cut above the rest—truly amazing. That’s what makes it so difficult to decide.
Like all living creatures (and others), they were unique. Each had their own personality and their own quirks.
What Was Different?
Bear all but refused to sleep inside at night, but he was happy to oblige during the day. He seldom ate dog food, preferring to catch his own meals in the woods. And while he wouldn’t let an adult stranger come near him, he allowed children to do almost anything.
Whiskers wasn’t the opposite of Bear, but she was different. She also refused to sleep inside, but her refusal was not restricted to night; during the day, she curled up in a hole she had dug or a pile of hay. It’s wrong to say she was bashful when it came to cameras; she took off as soon as you pulled one out. Unlike Bear, she would eat dog food, but not with the other dogs, preferring to go solo and to eat it outside. Lastly, while Bear would attack anyone who trespassed on his territory, Whiskers wouldn’t bite anyone if you begged her.
Despite the differences, she was the best lieutenant Bear could have wished for. She was the true right-hand man we’ve all read about.
Together, they were Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello and, at times, the Lone Ranger & Tonto. They were inseparable.
That’s why it’s so difficult to pick just one; they were both special. I guess you’ll have to decide. Read the book and see who you like best.
The Real Deal
This picture of Bear shows the repercussions of one of his nightly excursions (a run in with a raccoon CM).
Below is a picture of Whiskers (one of the few pictures we have) after one of her adventures.
So pick up the book and read it, or read it to your kids, or give it to a friend. No matter what you do, it’s for a good cause. The animals will thank you for it.
Genre: Non-Fiction, Animals
Published by: Inferno Publishing Company
Publication Date: April 2017
Number of Pages: 150
Whiskers and Bear were two of the best dogs in the world. They didn’t always listen or even try to listen, but they were loyal to a fault, and they were the best of friends. They hunted all of their food, and they protected our animal sanctuary with no regard for their own safety.
Read an excerpt:
I climbed up onto the tractor, a Kubota 4630, with a six-foot bucket on the front. It was a powerful machine, and we’d put it through the hoops more than a few times. What I mean is that my wife Mikki and I had dug a lot of graves.
I tied an old cloth diaper around my forehead and draped the end of it over the top of my bald head. There wasn’t much better than a cotton cloth for keeping sweat out of your eyes, or the sun from burning your head. I turned the key and revved the engine. After letting it idle a moment, I lifted the bucket and drove toward the south side of the property where Mikki was waiting for me. She’d already gotten a few blankets and a clean sheet. For this one, she’d brought a pillow, too.
I reached up and wiped my eyes. I was getting damn tired of burying things.
An old white pickup crept down the gravel driveway, coming to a stop near the fence.
A neighbor leaned out and hollered. “What’s goin’ on?”
I wished he’d have kept going.
“Nothin’,” I said, but not loud enough for him to hear.
The door opened, and he stepped out and walked over to the fence, using his right hand to shield his eyes from the sun as he peered over the top rail.
“What are you doin’?”
I could see there was no getting away from it. I muttered my answer a few times so my voice wouldn’t crack when I yelled.
“Diggin’ a grave,” I hollered back.
“A grave? Which one died?”
Which one? That’s what it had come to for most of the neighbors and relatives and friends. Which one died. As if it didn’t matter. As if having forty-five animals made it easier to deal with when one of them died.
He came in through the side gate and headed in my direction. He walked slowly, which gave me time to compose myself. It’s never easy to bury a friend, but this one…this one was special.
Mikki walked over to me. “He’s just trying to help.”
I don’t need his help, I thought, but the fact of the matter was I could probably use it.
It hadn’t rained in weeks, and the damn Texas ground was as hard as concrete. Even if the tractor did cut through, it could only go so deep; we’d have hand work to do at the bottom.
Our neighbor was about twenty feet away. He took off his hat and swiped at his forehead. It was a scorcher today and had been for a month or so.
“Who was it?” he asked.
I couldn’t say, but I managed to gesture toward Mikki. She lifted the corner of the blanket so he could see.
“Oh shit!” he said. “I’m sorry.”
“Thanks,” I said.
He unbuttoned his shirt and grabbed a shovel I had leaning against a small oak tree. “Might as well get this done.”
I nodded again. He was right, of course, but I was in no hurry to put another friend in the ground. I cranked the engine up a little higher, shoved the tractor into low gear, and positioned the bucket for the first scoop of dirt. The bucket hit the ground with a metallic thud. It didn’t do much more than break the surface.
“Whew!” the neighbor said. “Going to be a long day.”
“That’s for sure.”
“How long have they been with you?” he asked.
They. I thought about what he said. I would have laughed if not for the circumstances. Everyone referred to the two of them as one. They or them. Bear and Whiskers. Whiskers and Bear. It was a cold day in July if anyone mentioned one without the other.
I handed him my bottle of water; he looked thirsty.
“They’ve been with us a long time. A damn long time.”
I don’t often ask for help, but this is important. We have run this sanctuary for twenty-four years using our own money—no donations to speak of. The feed bill alone was more than a thousand dollars per month. And there are plenty of other bills, vets, fencing, shelter, medical supplies, and more.
In early 2015, I had two heart attacks followed by two strokes. The result was that it left me disabled. Now it is difficult to continue paying for everything.
I wrote this book in the hopes that it would sell enough to help with the funds, as all sales go to the animals. And I mean that—every penny goes to help support them—nothing for anyone else.