Road tripping, The Collaborators, The Poet, and trying to kill my husband…

Remember how I was on vacation last week? It was a fabulous break from the routine. My husband, however, is convinced that I was trying to kill him. Now where would he ever get that idea?

Meeting Kevin:

Yes, the Fictional One, the threatener of my life, serial collaborator, and Waco, his girlfriend met us on Sunday at The Smoky Mountain Brewery for lunch and a couple of beers. It’s true, Waco is real! I even have photographic evidence which you will have to take my word for, as I’m sworn to keep their identities a secret. I know, I know… Take it up with, Kevin!

Not only did we survive the encounter, meeting them was a blast. It was like hanging out with friends we’ve known all our lives.  We spent about two hours together before they had to head back home. Next time, they get to come to Philadelphia!

Hiking the Smokies:

Besides meeting up with the man who regularly promised to bury us in an anonymous grave over the past two months, we spent a good amount of time in the National Park. This is the other reason my husband thinks I’m trying to kill him. Sigh. My man is not the athlete he used to be, bless his heart. Day one we hiked the Gabes Mountain Trail to Henwallow Falls, a round trip of just over four miles. It is categorized as moderate in difficulty. Granted, it does wind uphill nearly the whole time. With rocks and tree roots to pick your way around. I was in my glory until I saw how far behind Harry was falling…  IMG_3520

Tuesday, it rained so Harry had the day to recover.

But then, Wednesday we hiked two more waterfall trails!

Meeting Elizabeth:

In the meantime, I posted a poem inspired by these beautiful mountains surrounding us. That’s when we discovered that Elizabeth, my amazing poet friend lives in nearby Asheville. We had plans to visit The Biltmore Estate one day anyway…

so we made plans to meet for a drink. Pretty cool, right? Here we are at The Wicked Weed Brewery. We had a lovely time with Elizabeth and enjoyed getting to know her better. (By the way, I would also be in my glory in Asheville — for a small city they have like 25 brew pubs! Ahem, I’ll be back!) And bear in mind that I’d been roaming around in the wind and mist for the entire day, so pardon my less than stellar appearance!

What a treat it was to meet my blogging friends in the real world! Don’t pass up the opportunity if it ever presents itself.

The nine-hour drive was well worth it. I even got the unexpected pleasure of visiting Woodrow Wilson’s Presidential Library and Museum in Virginia on the way home. For the writer with a World War One fascination, this was awesome, trust me!  And Harry survived.  For now…



Vacation starts tomorrow. I’ve been counting the days. We are travelling south and a little bit west to visit the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. With no real purpose other than to hike and stare at the scenery, this break should be the battery recharging that both Harry and I need.

I’ll be packing my notebooks, and iPad. Of course, I’ll write… something. If these views don’t fire the imagination, well then there’s something wrong with me! I might post some photos. Provided that the internet connection can handle it. I’m not confident! Being forced to unplug isn’t such a bad thing, though.

I plan on reading the five books I have started. My Goodreads reading challenge has been neglected far too long. And best of all, I get to wake up every morning to the sounds of quiet. Based on the satellite view of the cabin we rented, there isn’t another soul around.

Which makes for the perfect location to be stalked by a serial killer, right? And speaking of serial killers… here is the best part of this trip.  I get to meet my friend Fictional Kevin in person. How cool is that? He and Waco are coming to the mountains to meet us on Sunday. I’m telling you all, just in case you never hear from me again!

Double Seduction (14)

Fictional Kevin and I have collaborated on Double Seduction: a novella of suspense. We both hope you have enjoyed this story.  Because this is the last chapter!  Find the previous chapters here.

Chapter 14 – The Solution

“The rope, Melody. Get it, now!” Anton commanded.

Mel, still in shock and reeling from what had just happened —from what she had done— shook herself into action. “The rope, the rope, the rope,” she repeated, willing herself to move. She stumbled toward the SUV while Anton lifted David from the ground and hoisted him over his shoulder.

Anton thanked the weather gods for the cold and drizzle that had kept the joggers and dog walkers at home. Hopefully the gods would continue to smile upon them today. The nearby woods, fifty feet away would provide ideal cover and a solution to the problem at hand. The problem. The solution. Anton was an expert at dealing with problems. It was what he did, it was who he was. This was just another mission for him, albeit with more personal consequences if he failed. He could not fail. Not for Melody. Not if he was to have her for his own.

A few dozen paces into the grove of dense trees, Anton found his solution— a stately old sycamore tree with a thick branch about twelve feet from the ground. Anton laid David’s limp form at the base of the tree and searched him. His cell phone was in the right rear pocket of his khakis. Anton swiped it open and scrolled through the few pathetic contacts David had stored, till he found one he could use. “Mom.”

He quickly scanned some their recent exchanges to assess the tone of David’s interactions with his mother. This had to be perfect or it would all fall to pieces. He typed, “Mom, I’m sorry. Life’s a bitch and then you die. I’m just speeding up the process.” Good. That had just the kind of snarky tone that David had used with his mother. Why would his last words be any different?

Anton wiped the phone clean with the hem of his t-shirt and placed the phone in David’s hand to get fresh prints on it before tucking it back in his rear pocket. Where the hell was Melody? Leaving David where he lay, Anton returned to the edge of the woods to watch for her.

Mel’s hand slipped on the wet door handle. She was shaking so hard, she could barely keep a grip on it. She squeezed her eyes shut, pressed a fist to her sternum and took deep calming breaths. Just like Anton had taught her. There. Better. Focus. Behind the driver’s seat on the floor was the coil of nylon rope. Mel grabbed it and ran back to the spot where she’d left Anton with David. Anton called to her from the woods. “Melody, this way.”

Following the sound of his voice, she found him several paces in, out of sight of the fountain and walking path. He took the rope and grabbed her hand, pulling her further into the woods.

“Anton, wait,” she gasped. “We can’t do this. We can’t.”

“Melody, trust me, this is the best way…” He spun her around to face him. “It is the only way,” he stated, gripping her arms. Giving her a little shake, he growled, “I will deal with this. You will remain calm. Just do as I say.”

He released her with a final shake that had her stumbling back and falling to the ground. Anton returned to his mission, dropping to his knees beside the still form of David. Uncoiling the rope, he continued, “Who do you think will have to answer for this, eh? Do you realize what could happen if you call the police? They will investigate. They will read everything that you have written to one another. They will conclude that it was a lover’s spat, Melody. They will think that you killed him in anger.”

“But… but… Anton, it was self defense,” she said, her voice shaking. “I didn’t mean to kill him. He… he was going to hit me. I… I just did what you trained me to do…”

“I know that. You know that. Will the police believe you?” He shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. You run the risk of arrest, possibly prison depending on what they conclude.”

“Anton, you saw the whole thing,” she added quickly. “You can tell them what happened. You saw him attack me.” Her voice rose in desperation. “You can tell them…”

Anton ignored her. No he would not ‘tell them.’ He hadn’t counted on such a perfect solution to this dilemma. But here it was. The rival eliminated, the white knight could come to her rescue. And Melody would be forever bound to him over their shared secret.

Concentrate on the mission, he thought. He tossed the rope over the tree limb and wound it around the trunk. He had hoped Melody would help. She was too rattled to be of any use. He would do it alone.

Anton had tied a slipknot in the rope. He looped the rope around David’s neck and lifted him up to a sitting position. David Twitchell’s eyes flickered and he took a ragged sucking breath.

“Oh my god, he’s alive!” Mel gasped. She covered her mouth, the taste of rising bile at the back of her throat.

Then she watched in horror as Anton hauled him up by the rope, cutting off the already badly restricted airway until David, clawing at the rope, his eyes bulging and wild, his face turning a ghastly shade of purple, finally breathed his last. He swung back and forth on the improvised gallows like the pendulum of a clock. Only it felt as time were standing still. Mel didn’t move. Couldn’t move. Anton glanced at her and said, “Wait here. There is one more thing I need.”

Moments later —it felt like hours— Anton returned with a thick tree stump and placed it near enough to the swinging body to make it appear like David had stood on it before kicking it out of the way. Anton stepped back for a moment, his eyes darting over the entire scene. Yes, he thought. It all fit. An obvious suicide. No need to look further.

“Come on Melody,” he said, reaching for her hand. “We will go back to my house. I will take care of you.”

Tears rolled down Mel’s cheeks. “You could’ve saved him. Why? Why, Anton? Why didn’t you save him?”

Anton pulled her to her feet, gathered her into his arms. “I saved you, Melody. I did all of it for you. And now you belong to me.”