Tour’s Books Blog

June 28, 2014

Beach Reads – Part 2

Filed under: General,Reading list — toursbooks @ 5:33 pm
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OK, we’ve skipped around the US and are now in the Low Country of the coastal south.

Low Country/South – For screwball, laugh out loud family antics with dead bodies, try the Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews.  Also David Baldacci sets his Camel Club series here and the King & Maxwell series.  The prolific husband/wife team of Jim and Joyce Laverne write 3 series set in North Carolina, but their Missing Pieces series set in an island beach town makes a good read for those heading that way.  Ellery Adams in the pen name of Jennifer Stanley, another very prolific cozy mystery author.  As Lucy Arlington she and fellow author Sylvia May write the Novel Idea series and as Ellery Adams she writes the popular Charmed Pie Shoppe paranormal mysteries set in Georgia.  Neither are real popular with me, but to each their own.   Savannah plays host to the paranormal Beaufort & Co mysteries by Mary Stanton and Magical Bakery mysteries by Bailey Cates (Cricket MacRea).  Oddly, for standard mysteries, Kay Hooper and Karen Slaughter are your two best bets.  Elle Jasper sets her dark UF series, Dark Ink Chronicles, in Savannah as well.  For romance and chick-lit, tough to beat anything by Mary Kay Andrews.

New England – How can I skip Donald Bain’s Jessica Fletcher books?  Cabot Cove, Maine is nearly as famous as St. Mary’s Mead, England!  Archer Mayor’s Joe Gunther series set in Vermont and Bruce DeSilva’s Liam Mulligan series set in Rhode Island.  Lauren Dane sets her de la Vega Cates shifter romance/smut in the Boston area and it’s pretty entertaining.

Tri-State (NY/NJ/CT) – Well, you’ve come to the right place for selection.  A surprising number of people make NYC part of their vacation plans.  Having been born and raised just outside the city, I kind of find it baffling, but I’m sure Londoners feel the same way.  Hannah Jayne writes the Underworld Detection Agency series set here, it’s average, but has followers.  The fast paced and often humorous new SPI paranormal series by Lisa Shearin and more serious Indexing by Seanan McGuire also use the city.  For mystery you have everything from Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbar to Stuart Woods’ Stone Barrington, to the slightly creepy Repairman Jack series by F. Paul Wilson.  Too many mystery authors to count here, so I’ll mention a few – Ethan Black police detective series, Walter Mosley’s Leonid McGill PI, Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder, and Meg Cabot’s lively cozy series Heather Wells books.  As for classic mysteries, well Ellery Queen series, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolf, Clayton Rawson’s Merlini books (locked room style), and S.S. van Dine’s Philo Vance book.  Also Rhys Bowen sets her Molly Murphy books in the ’20’s and ’30’s period in NYC.  Laura Resnick her somewhat uneven, but mostly entertaining Esther Diamond UF series here.  Dopplegangster and Vamaprazzi were especially good and can be read as stand alones.

DC – Yeah, technically it’s Low Country, but DC is an entity onto itself.  For cozy fans, try Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef and White House Gardener books.  Interesting and a little off beat for a cozy is Ellen Byerrum’s Crime of Fashion series, which is actually pretty good.  For UF/horror fans, Christopher Farnsworth has Nathaniel Cade, The President’s Vampire series – which is going for a movie, so only one ebook installment has come out since 2012.  Very original.  Naturally, DC/VA plays home base for many political and police thrillers, Brad Thor’s Scott Hovarth series, the late Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp books, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, and James Patterson’s Alex Cross books – another series I find rather generic.

Chicagoland and the Great Lakes – It’s CHICAGO people, home of the only Wizard for Hire, Harry Dresden.  The daddy of modern UF, Harry is still going strong thanks to author Jim Butcher’s clever and twisty mind.  Chicago is also home to the really good Chicagoland Vampire UF series by Chloe Neill.  Barbara Annino has her Stacy Justice witchy mysteries set in a fictional town in Illinois and they too are entertaining on a more modest, cozy style level.  Ohio is home to Linda Robertson’s Persephone Alcmedi series, more UF or true paranormal, because they mostly lack the required ‘city setting’ needed for UF.  Connie Laux writes her Pepper Martin under pen name.Casey Daniels.  It’s a paranormal ghost mystery series set in Cleveland.  As Kylie Logan she writes her Button Shop books set in Chicago, and the League of Literary Ladies set in Michigan.  I liked the Casey Daniels books, but the others, not so much.  Jill Churchill’s Jane Jeffery’s books are fair to good, but she’s stopped writing so they can be hard to find.  Classic mystery has Ralph M. McInerny’s Father Dowling books.  Marcus Starkey writes good, though slightly dark, mysteries all set in the Chicago area.  One of my favorites authors, Loren D. Estleman, set his two ‘hard boiled’ series in Michigan, PI Amos Walker and hit man, Peter Macklin.  Minnesota has a wealth of great authors including John Sanford – but stick with his Kipp books for lighter fare.  David Housewright’s ‘Mac’ MacKenzie books make for good summer reads.  Willian Kent Krueger, Steve Hamilton, Brian Freeman, Owen Laukkanen are just a few of the many excellent mystery/suspense authors living and writing in the area.

Heartland and Prairie – JoanHess has her cozy Claire Malloy series set in Arkansas and paranormal author Charlaine has two cozy series set here, Lilly Baird and Harper Connelly.  Steven Hunter bases the Earl Swagger books here and the first of his Bob Lee Swagger sniper thriller books.  Maddy Hunter’s Passport to Peril series got picked up again and is back in action.  While set all over the world, her characters and their home base is in Iowa.

Alaska and Hawaii – Well, yeah, these utterly unrelated areas are not part of the ‘lower 48′ so I’m doing them separately.  Alaska is Dana Stabenow territory with her Kate Shugak mysteries, as well as the less well know Sue Henry Jessie Arnorld dog sled mysteries.  Like the Prairie and Heartland, not a prime paranormal location.   Hawaii – Well Earl Derr Biggers’ Charlie Chan had a lot more movie outings than he ever did books – written back in the 1920’s and early ’30’s, but six he did write are worth reading, providing you can deal with all the ‘politically incorrect’ stuff that was typical of the period.  About the only other notable series was 4 books by Charles Knief featuring John Caine, a sort of Travis McGee character who is a former SEAL back before SEAL’s become ubiquitous in romance and thrillers.  It also shows up as a place visited my everyone from Jack Reacher to cozy authors, but is not the home of any major paranormal series.

I’ll do an international beach reads next, as kind of a sweep of the world.

June 18, 2014

Beach Reads – Part 1

Filed under: Editorial,General — toursbooks @ 10:40 pm
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Summer in the publishing industry sees a rash of lightweight, mostly romantic ‘chick-lit’ type releases, commonly called ‘beach reads’.  Undemanding, usually a bit on the fluff side, sometimes tear-jerkers, but mostly just read once and toss type books.  It kind of gives ‘beach reads’ a bad name.  But there are other beach reads that can make your vacation more fun.  This whole thing became a topic of discussion on a travel forum, because lots of folks love to read on vacation and most wanted mystery – unaware of some of the very good UF out there.

Recently, a thread on the Sanibel forum on Trip Advisor talked about the closing of yet another small, independent book store that sold both new and used books.  For those of us who prefer to read a dead tree book, this is a serious matter.  Buying inexpensive used books while on vacation sure beats hauling them down to an island.  The poster asked for other locations to buy used books and several of us replied.  Obviously, a place like Sanibel does NOT attract the lovers of nightlife, but it does tend to attract readers, so yeah, books get sold even in the supermarkets.  It’s a very popular family spot, but it is also a very popular retirement and seasonal home spot for those who can afford such things.  The forum has a couple of doctors, a veterinarian, professional people of various types, and small business owners, but they all have one common interest beyond the natural environment of Sanibel and it’s most popular past-time, shelling, they like to read.

Years ago, in the early 90’s I was in another now defunct bookstore looking for more reading material and hoping to find a local author.  I found Randy Wayne White and his Doc Ford books.  I had to go back to get them, because the author actually had to stock the shelves himself!  Of course I’d already read every Travis McGee book, Charles Willeford’s books, Florida Straits by Lawrence Shames was fresh off the press that year, and I was reading the Lassiter books by Paul Levine, some of James Hall’s Thorn books,  John Lutz’s Fred Carver books, as well as Hiaasen’s books (loved Native Tongue), and Tim Dorsey’s equally off beat Serge Storms books, but so many other Florida authors had yet to hit the shelves – Tom Corcoran, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Jonathon King, James Grippordano, James O Born, were still unpublished.

Turns out, like me, folks like books that are set in the environment where they are.  Tony Hillerman’s wonderfully descriptive and evocative prose weighs heavily in his building of the Southwest as a setting and the Navajo culture as his ‘hook’ for his Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn series.  He did it with such respect for the Navajo and their traditions, it was a cultural lesson on its own.  I had read quite a lot of Hillerman before my first visit to our Southwest and he captures its essence perfectly.

John D MacDonald set the stage for the many authors that came after him for Florida, much as Hillerman did, though their styles were very different.  Tom Corcoran does it for the Keys.  We may have had different favorites, but we all agreed, reading books set in the area you vacation in does seem to enhance the trip.  I love mystery as a genre, but some authors can be pretty heavy for a vacation.  I tend to enjoy action type books with some snark.  On the other end of the spectrum, you can get authors so quirky, not everyone likes them.  I also enjoy a good romantic suspense book for a beach type read, or cozy mystery – though good cozies are hard to find today and predictable ones are thick on the ground.

I cheerfully reread some books too.  One year, on St John in the USVI’s, the house I rented had a small library and there sat Jack Higgin’s Thunder Point, partly set on St John.  His boat captain and master diver character in the book was based from a real local he’d met while there researching his story locations.  It was such a different experience reading it sitting there, looking at the same amazing views as in the book.

So that brings me to ‘beach reads’, which is just code for “It ain’t War and Peace, thank God!”  Seriously, who wants to be bummed out on vacation?  Jeeze, leave the serial killers, and ‘great literature’ for some long winter night when there’s nothing on TV.  You’re on vacation.  Here are some authors and titles for different locations that make good ‘beach reads’, even if there is no beach in sight!

Jersey Shore/Jersey – Chris Grabenstein’s John Ceepak mystery series set in a fictional Jersey shore town.  Light reading by an author who is also a comedian and names each series book after an amusement park type ride.  Looking for a cozy?  E.J. Cooperman’s Haunted Guesthouse series set in a Cape May like town.  Also, Harlan Coben’s early Myron Bolitar books with North Jersey (where he lives) often used, or David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter books also set in North Jersey, or the most famous one, Janet Evonavich’s Steph plum series set in Trenton – though I’d stick with books 1 to 7.  That said, they actually runs tours of Steph Plum’s Trenton.

Cape Cod/Massachusetts  – There are a bunch of options – Rick Boyer’s Doc Adams books if you can find them, or for a true classic, Phoebe Atwood Taylor’s Asey Mayo mysteries written in the ’30’s and ’40’s.  Or for Massachusetts in general, Spencer books by Robert B Parker. Looking for a cozy?  Try Charlotte MacLeod.  She’s written 4 of them, but try Max Bittersohn or Peter Shandy series first. UF?  The Connor Grey series by Marc Del Franco.

California – Well, it’s tough to beat California for a location with a huge range of settings.  Don Winslow does a 2 books series using a California surfer as his lead character (Dawn Patrol, The Gentleman’s Hour) and many stand alones, including The Winter of Frankie Machine.  Robert Crais has the ultimate wise-cracking PI in his early Elvis Cole/Joe Pike books that get more serious as the series progresses.  Marshall Karp started his Lomax & Briggs buddy cop series with The Rabbit Factory, set in a fictional Disneyland.  You also have Richard Kardey’s horror-UF Sandman Slim books take place there – and in Hell.  Sue Ann Jaffarian has a vampire mystery series, Fang-in-Cheek, set there using the very human Madison Rose as her lead – only 2 books so far.  Her Ghost of Granny Apples and Odelia Grey series are also California based.   And what could be more classic than Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe books set in LA?  Or for San Francisco, try Krysta Davis’s Sophie Katz books, on the lighter ‘chick-lit mystery’ level.  Jenn Bennett sets both her Arcadia Bell UF series, as well as her new paranormal romance series, Roaring Twenties, in the Bay Area as well.  The October Daye UF/Fantasy series is also set here and in Fairie and is one of the very best around written by Seanan McGuire.  It takes a bit to get into it, but her world building is complex and excellent.

North West – Seattle is the hometown for J. P. Beaumont in J.A. Jance’s fictional police detective books, but some are kind of grim.  Aaron Elkins does his Gideon Oliver series here and the early books include trips to the Olympic Peninsula.  G. M. Ford does two entertaining series here, his Leo Waterman books and his investigative reporter books featuring Frank Corso.  Yasmine Galenorm, a well known paranormal author, writes a cozy mystery series under the pen name, India Ink.  Speaking of paranormal, Kelley Armstrong sets her paranormal Darkness Rising YA triliogy here and Lauren Dane does the 4 book Bound by Magick series here as well as numerous romance and paranormal romance books in the Washington and Oregon areas.  Elizabeth Lowell (also writes as Ann Maxwell) set her Donovan romantic suspense books in the Seattle area.

Southwest – OMG where to start?  Tony Hillerman would top the list and maybe that’s all you’d need.  But cozy lovers rejoice, Old Scottsdale is home to Jenn McKinley’s Cupcake Bakery mysteries.  J.A. Jance has one set here too with female deputy Johanna Brady.  The Phoenix area is home to the start of one of the best new UF  series to come out lately, Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid.  You’ll find Coyote is featured in a couple of books.  And over in New Mexico is one of my favorite UF/mystery/romance series, the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones.  She also wrote the YA Darklight trilogy set there.  For more traditional mystery lovers, there’s Michael McGarrity’s Kevin Kearny books or the late James D. Doss’s Charlie Moon series set in southern Colorado and New Mexico.

Scenic West/Big Sky Country – Welcome to Walt Longmire country, thanks to Craig Johnson and his now iconic sheriff in modern Wyoming.  My personal favorite is Junkyard Dogs.  C. J. Box has based his Joe Pickett series in Wyoming as well.  The amusing historical mystery series featuring Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer by Steve Hockensmith is set mostly in Montana in the late 1800’s.  Deadwood, SD is home to Ann Charles’ humorous/scary paranormal mysteries called – obviously – Deadwood Mysteries.  Cheaper in ebook, but all are also in print with illustrations.  Laura DiSilvero sets her ‘Charlie’ Swift mysteries in Colorado Springs – kind of CO’s answer to Steph Plum.  Carrie Vaughn sets her Kitty Norville parnormal/UF series largely here and the best of the series, IMO, is Kitty’s House of Horrors. It can be read as a stand alone.

Texas – Texas is home to many mystery series old and new.  Jeff Abbott set two series here, Jordan Poteet and Whit Mosley.  Bill Crider’s Sheriff Dan Rhodes is a series of short, easyt mystery reads with lots of character. D.R. Merideth is a native Texan and did the really good John Lloyd Branson series and Charles Matthews series.  Before he became famous as the children’s/YA mythological adventure writer, Rick Riordan did the Tres Navarre series.  Diane Kelly writes the Tara Holloway Death and Taxes series that’s not a cozy, but more of a classic old style mystery book.  She also started a similar series featuring a K-9 officer Bridget, and Officer Megan Lutz set in Fort Worth.

Louisiana and Deep South – OK, his books are filled with atmosphere and corruption, not exactly beach reads, but James Lee Burke has to head the class in this location.  Jana DeLeon sits on the opposite end of the spectrum with her light. humorous, Mudbug series.  A little more meaty, but still played for laughs, is her Sinful, Louisiana Miss Fortune series about a CIA assassin hiding with a price on her head, and she has several stand alone books.  Over in Alabama is one of the best of the cozy series, Southern Sisters, by the late Anne George.  In Mississippi, Peggy Webb does her Elvis series that never really appealed to me, but many like.  For paranormal/UF there is, naturally, Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris (meh to they suck) and the very good in progress series, The Sentinels of New Orleans by Suzanne Johnson.  For some quality smut, try Lauren Dane’s Charvez Witches series. There are several really good, but rather dark series that I’m not mentioning, but look for authors Ace Atkins and Jack Kerley, if you like darker stuff.

That’s it for part 1.  I’ll begin Part 2 with the Low Country and cover the key major cities.  This should get you started.



June 15, 2014

Carly and the Tango Instructor – Part 8 & 9 THE END

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 3:46 pm
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Part 8

You know things will go badly when police say, “Why the hell are there coyotes carrying on out there?”  ….. and your small furry partner, a favorite coyote food, is outside.  Trey ran for the door yelling, “RF!”  Rupert and RJ hot on his heels.  Carly had already been questioned and her statement taken down when the police showed Carly the yearbooks.  She picked out Raul easily enough, but it was only years of dealing with ‘Hollywood magic’ – her term for plastic surgery and makeup artists – that let her pick out Alyssa – AKA Alice Baumgartner.  And then everything suddenly made sense, and Carly got mad as hell.

First she told off the Oceanside detectives for not believing someone kicked her and that her fall was no accident, then she told off the Laguna Beach detectives for making her friends solve their crime them, and finally she turned her wrath on the absent Raul/Ricky and Alyssa/Alice for putting her in a rehab center with a broken back.

“Now Ms Cady, I know you’d like to go and beat on those two, but it really will be best if I handle this part and file the lawsuits.  After all, if it weren’t for you and your friends, the two of them would have gotten away murder as well as assaulting you.”  RJ was once again dressed in a handmade tan summer weight Italian suit, with a blindingly white shirt with gold cufflinks each set with a large cabochon emerald, and a spectacular antique Japanese silk tie that had the same emerald green and gold thread in a dragon pattern.  But there was no designer that could hide the gleam in his eyes or that shark-like smile that said he enjoyed the discomfiture of the detectives and he planned to make them pay for their attitudes.

Still annoyed, but completely exhausted Carly was taken to her newly single room and given a pain killer.  As she drifted off to a well-earned nap, she reminded Trey, “Bring RF in again tomorrow so I can thank her properly.”

Thankfully she missed the cop’s comment on the coyotes barely 5 minutes later.  As Trey ran, he suddenly realized they’d been with the cops for damn near 2 hours and RF had been out here alone. …………. Wait, where was Cleatus?   Oh crap, he might be with her.

The still lingering summer heat slapped them all, but Trey was Cajun born and bred, so this dry heat, while damn uncomfortable, was more annoyance than killer.  As for Rupert, well a few months in Hell had given him a whole different perspective on heat.  RJ seemed OK, but the detectives were red faced, sweating, and panting as they brought up the rear.  He reached the spot where he’d left RF and searched for her.

“RF!  Where are you?”  He looked on the ground for blood, but found himself staring at a bunch of field mice – who promptly bolted away.  OK.  RF took care of the coyotes, but where was she?  A furry face peeked from the branch over his head.

“They gone?”

“A bunch of field mice just ran off.  You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

She just grinned.  “I thought more were coming.  I can hear them in the distance.”  Apparently, so could the cops, who had drawn their weapons and stayed back, watching in the direction of the howls.  But the sound started heading away from them and everyone relaxed.  The groundhog looked at Trey and quietly said, “Catch!” and dropped into his arms.  “Now I know how the turkey feels at Thanksgiving.”  Cleatus appeared from wherever he’d been hiding and strolled over to Trey.  “Don’t much like cy-otes.”  RJ, raised in cattle country, hated them himself and lifted Cleatus up, making sure he was unharmed before setting him down near his cousin.  Rupert, holding Ralph in a small hamper like carrier, despite being repeatedly being assured the bedpan had been unused, joined them.  He was planning to dump his cousin directly into the shower when they got home.

Once everything calmed down, and the cops were back with them, Trey suggested they do the interview there, since his ‘pet’ wasn’t feeling well and needed to be outside.  Getting through the police questions with a gassy RF was not fun.  Twice she wandered off, but thankfully stayed downwind.  The whole meeting ended abruptly when a silent, but deadly fart hit them.  His annoying partner scowled at him like HE’D done it, then gotten hysterical with laughter after the cops left saying they’d see them tomorrow.

“Well, in all my years of practice, that’s the first time a fart ended a police interview.”  He looked at Trey and RF.  “If you don’t want those detectives knowing RF can talk, you’d best get your stories straight tonight.”  He checked his very thin and ultra-expensive watch and sighed.  “It will take me forever to get back home.  Good thing I packed a bag.  I’ll just get a room at the Montage and we can meet for dinner to discuss how to handle the interview.”

“You’re welcome to stay at the house in La Jolla with us.  There’s an extra bedroom you can use.  It will save you a lot of driving.  And I think Cleatus and I will be out on the lounges by the pool tonight.”  The groundhog just grinned.  Damn he liked her.  He understood Trent McCauley’s attitude of bemused respect and extreme gratitude toward her.  Spending the night with this group wouldn’t be peaceful or relaxing, but he had plenty of that at home.  “Thank-you.  I’m obliged for the invitation, so dinner is on me.”


Dinner ended up being take-out from Girard Gourmet, yet another spot that had sent RF an invitation.  With her insides settled, for the moment, she went in with RJ and Trey and made the selections.  The staff and owners were excited about having the High Priestess of Tortum in their shop and were happy to sell her extra rolls and flat breads.  They also insisted she take a bit of everything from their dessert assortment.  The trio eventually made their exit, stopped to get fresh ground hamburger, and ground lamb, then headed back.  RJ was poorer by a few hundred dollars, but figured it was cheap at twice that for entertainment alone.  Actually, paying had been difficult at Girard’s.  They wanted RF to take it all as a gift, but she flatly refused.  She did graciously accept a few extra desserts, but nothing more.

By the time they were back, Ralph was in human form again, minus most of his piercings, thank heavens, but still a bit groggy.  Cleatus just rolled his eyes and went outside.  Rupert was in the pool swimming – naked.

“Since when do you skinny dip when there are females around?”, demanded Trey.

“RF is not a human female.  She will not be offended.  Will you RF?”

“Don’t mind me,” said she said, as she eyed Rupert.  “But I have to say, I don’t get why human females get so excited by those dangly bits.  Look a bit small and limp to me.”  She shrugged and went into the kitchen.  Rupert wrapped himself in a towel and went to put on trunks.

RF went to work on the food and RJ sat and watched, fascinated by how quickly and skillfully she put together stuffed hamburgers with the fillings of choice (his had blue cheese), then made kofta kabobs of the ground lamb.  The djinn and rather concussed ifrit were almost drooling.  You could tell she’d worked in a professional kitchen by her speed alone.

An hour later they sat down with salads and sandwiches from Girard’s, made to order burgers that were just amazing and juicy, and kofta kabobs in pita wraps with homemade tzatziki.  Fresh tomatoes, sweet onion, cucumbers, pickles and all manner of condiments were available.  She also had some of the best lemonade he’d had in years.  And, bless her heart, she’d even made sweet tea.  He and Trey enjoyed theirs with some bourbon in it.  It was like a typical family dinner, except the food was much better and he and Trey Dupress were the only humans there.  Funny thing was, he kept forgetting that RF and Cleatus weren’t human, but small furry animals.  They squabbled, ate, drank, Cleatus offered them some ‘shine, and he and Trey both accepted.  Goddamn that brought back memories, even as his eyes watered.  Cleatus laughed at him.  Rupert got wine for himself and Ralph was told no liquor since he had a concussion.  He sulked dramatically.  Apparently, Ralph was an Emo ifrit.

Like a family, they cleaned up together.  While RF cleaned the grill, the ‘guys’ did the dishes and put away what little food was left.  RJ hadn’t eaten like that since he was a teen, and it made him miss his parents enough he planned a trip back to Texas for mid-October.  They weren’t getting younger and he should really see his sister, the husband she adored and he barely tolerated, and his two beautiful nieces.

After dinner, RF and Cleatus went swimming and he and Trey joined them – wearing trunks, of course.  La Jolla was a beautiful place.   More desert like than where he lived on the cliffs above Malibu.  His practice was mostly in LA and California in general, but he went elsewhere, as most of the best lawyers did.  He’d kept his practice small, but included a very lucrative, if boring, corporate division.  He could do corporate law in his sleep, so he left most of that to his Senior Partners.  He was a trial attorney.  One of the best and he’d made a small fortune, which he’d invested wisely and escaped the 2008 economic mess with minor losses – thanks in large part to Trent McCauley.  That’s why when he called, RJ had been more than happy to help the individual who McCauley credited with saving his life.  He’d never believed that story until today, when he saw a bunch of field mice standing around where there were coyote tracks.

The wind had come up, cool and fresh off the Pacific, so they started the fire pit and sat chatting.  He noticed Trey keeping an eye on RF, as if he expected an explosion, and sure enough, Trey muttered, “Here it comes.”  He grabbed a bottle of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, one of the best bourbons out there, and poured them each a generous shot.

“RF, we agreed you wouldn’t threaten Esme.”

“Billy Bob and the boys will not threaten Esme.  They’ll threaten Ruben Ray.  Discretely.”

“This is Billy Bob Watkins we’re talking about, RF.  He don’t know the meaning of that word.  To him, if you ain’t bleeding, you ain’t got the message.”

“I can live with Ruben Ray’s bleeding a bit.”

Cleatus sighed.  He was kind of hoping that beating the snot of Ralph had put RF in a better frame of mind, but apparently, she’d been stewing about Esme and Ruben Ray all day.  He knew Ruben Ray.  One look from RF and that boy would be running for his life.  Maybe Lula Mae was better suited to keeping his cousin under control.  He’d call her in the morning and maybe she’d talk sense into RF.

Trey and RJ had been whispering for a bit, then RJ cleared his throat.  “Trey has informed of the pertinent parts of this dispute over a ‘cradle contract’.  I believe I might be of some service in this matter, especially arguing this with your clan.  Such contracts are illegal in the US and attempting to seek enforcement can land you in jail.  Which state is this in?”

“Tennessee,” Cleatus immediately offered, beyond grateful for the lawyer’s help, even if he did use too many words.

“I believe as the individuals bartered in this agreement, it would be fair to seek financial redress for the attempt to enslave you.”

“You’re saying I should sue them?”  RF looked a bit nonplussed at the idea – then she grinned.

“For everything they own or have possession of, then you and Ruben Ray would split it 50/50. “  He smiled and RF was once again reminded of a shark.  “I doubt any of that will happen.  The family will be furious at Esme for getting them involved in such a dispute with you.  I gather you have a formidable reputation, so this is not a fight she can win if she has to fight Ruben Ray AND you.  He has as much reason to be angry as you do, and from what Cleatus has said, he’s afraid of you, so it’s not like he wants this either.  He’ll jump at a way out.  I think Lula Mae and Cleatus are right, just go in like you already own the place and let me do the rest.  Just to be safe, we’ll keep all the bedpans out of your reach.”

“That’s not my favorite weapon,” RF muttered.  Cleatus laughed and RF smiled and things settled down again.  Except RJ wondered what he’d just gotten himself into.  He just had to meet more of this family that Trey said were all varying degrees of crazy.  Exhausted from a long few days, everyone said goodnight early and they slept like rocks.

In the morning, Trey and RJ went back to the bakery and got more breakfast food, then stopped and bought some extra fresh fruit, milk, half-and-half, and juice.

Back at the house, they found Ralph and RF squared off in the kitchen, RF standing on the island yelling at Ralph to go home.  A shirtless Rupert staggered in looked like some sleepy Greek god and separated the two.  RJ muttered, “A man could get a complex around this group.”

All during breakfast, RF kept insisting Ralph go home, not back to Edinburgh, to his real home.

“You have a concussion.  You need to go home for a while.”  RF added softly, “Like for a thousand years or so.”

“I don’t need my mother coddling me!”

“No, you need another smack in the head, which is what you’ll get!”

“I’m bigger than you now!”

“AND I’M MEANER THAN YOU’LL EVER BE!  DO NOT CROSS ME!!!!!”  RF was waving a large wooden spoon and looked ready to use it.  Trey wondered if his coffee could use a little bourbon.

“Stop, just stop.  Ralph, she’s right.  Aunt Medea should keep an eye on you for a bit.”

“Since you know I’m right, you can take him home!” RF was yelling at Rupert now.

Why should I take him?  He can go by himself.”

“Do you really think he’s in any shape to do that?”

“Well you’re the one that caused the problem!”

“And you’re the one currently bound to me.”

Rupert’s eyes narrow.  “I will take him, but I demand payment for services.”

“You’re already bound, Rupert.”

“I can still get payment for services and I demand the remaining four jelly donuts!!!!!!”

“I haven’t even had one yet!”

“Not my problem.  That’s my price for taking Ralph home and explaining things to Aunt Medea.”

A look came over RF’s face.  Trey didn’t trust that look for 5 seconds.  “Very well, you’ll get the four jelly donuts.”

“And you won’t nibble on them, or cover them with pepper sauce or anything before I get back!”  The djinn did not entirely trust RF’s capitulation.

“They will be pristine.  My word on that.”

OK, now Trey was really worried.  RJ shot him a look.  He shrugged.  This was not ending well, but he hadn’t a clue what was going on in his partner’s devious mind.

Rupert stood, grabbed his whining smaller cousin and disappeared in a cloud of faint blue smoke.  RF carefully arranged the four jelly donuts, two stacks of two donuts, putting a whole ripe strawberry on the plate as decoration, setting the finished plate precisely in front of Rupert’s seat.  Then she sat by it, eating a blueberry Danish, waiting.


“Aunt Medea, I brought Ralph back to stay for a bit.”

“Rupert?  Is everything all right?”

“That damn groundhog beat me up!”

Medea turned to her son of 700 years, “What groundhog?”

“RF, Rupert’s friend.”  Ralph sounded sulky.  You’d think he was still 200.

“Why would RF beat you up, Ralph?”  Medea knew her son.

“I was just having fun!”

“What kind of fun, dear?”

“Well, she and this old human woman were having a farting contest and she’d only let me in as another small animal, so I became a mongoose.  I started to do a kind of running description of what was going on.  She told me to stop, then hit me with a bedpan.”

“And you went right on doing it, didn’t you?”


WHACK!  Medea head slapped Ralph.  Ungrateful git.   RF had gotten her son out of hell as a favor to Rupert, now she had another debt to the little animal.  This was embarrassing.  “I’ll look after him Rupert and thank-you.  Do give RF my apologies for his behavior.  It would seem I am in her debt again.”

“He has a concussion, so you might not want to slap his head around.”

“Yes well, maybe it will teach him a lesson, though I rather doubt it.  Goodbye Rupert.”

He’d been dismissed, so he popped back to the house.  There sat the four, plump jelly donuts, right in front of his chair.  He grinned in triumph at RF, who nodded politely.  He sat down, but as he reached for a donut, RF leapt forward, her full body weight on her front paws, striking the donuts directly on the jelly pockets and spraying red jam out of those holes and all over his chin, chest, and dripping down onto his pants.  Then she turned, and using her powerful rear claws, ripped the donuts and the strawberry into tiny pieces, spraying bits all over him.  He could feel a few of donut bits stuck to his face with the remains of the jam filling or strawberry juice.  She turned again, spat on what was left on the plate, looked him in the eye, and said, “Enjoy your donuts.”

She calmly walked down the table to her seat and climbed down, saying, “Excuse me while I get cleaned up.”

Cleatus started laughing so hard he nearly fell on the floor.  Rupert sighed and said despondently, “Thank the gods she’s not a djinn, or I’d have to propose marriage.”


Cleatus laughed harder, RJ along with him.  Trey couldn’t resist asking, “Why?”

“It’s how djinn do it.  When a male is bested three times by a female, he must propose.  My uncle ended up married to a demon that way.  It was quite the family scandal.”

“That was your third strike, so’s to speak.”  RJ was grinning like a maniac.  “So it’s an automatic life sentence?”

“If I understand your reference correctly, then yes.  It’s embarrassing really.”  Rupert paused, then added confidentially, “At my age to be bested 3 times by a mortal is, well, it’s never happened before.  Not even Merlin could do it.”

Suddenly RF was standing in the doorway, still wet from her shower.  “Then you’d be willing to pay a fairly steep price for this to not get out to the other djinn?”

Rupert stared at her.  Maybe she was a demon!  “Do you demand my treasure?”  How would he ever explain losing his treasure?

She waved her paw as if his treasure was of no interest, though she’d love a peek at the gems.  No she wanted something else.  “You’ll be my fiancée when I go see Esme and Ruben Ray.  Groundhogs have rules too, and it says Ruben Ray must win a fight with you.”  She smiled.  “And you won’t be there as human either, but in your real form.”

Rupert dropped his head into his hands, bits of donut and strawberry falling off his face.  How did he let this happen?  Why could he not see this coming?

“Well son, I hate to say this, but I’d agree with her terms.  At least you could claim it was only you posing as repayment for a previous debt.”  The lawyer seemed sympathetic.  He also gave him a graceful out with his family, should they ever hear of it.  And knowing the gossipy djinn, they would.

Trey picked up his coffee and sipped it, then shook his head.  “Merlin never heard of Machiavelli or Sun Tzu.  I think RF could add a few chapters to their books.”

Carly’s Story – Part 9


“I think we should go talk to Caryn and Dimitri today, before we see the police.  I still have a few questions I’d like answered.”  Trey nodded.  He had a few himself.  He and JR programmed the address of the dance studio into their navigation systems.  Rupert, in a fit of sulking, rode with JR, something the lawyer found amusing.  RF and Cleatus went with Trey.

The studio in Oceanside was upstairs above a deli and a real estate office.  Mid-morning, both were quiet, so some street parking was available.  The door for the studio was open, so they went up to the strains of the Vienna Blood Waltz.  Dimitri and Caryn seemed to be practicing for a competition.  Catching sight of the three men, they stopped their graceful dancing.

Caryn eyed them and knew these weren’t prospective students.  “Can I help you gentlemen?”

“I’m R. Jason Rutledge, attorney for Ms Carly Cady.  We have a few questions about what happened here and your employee, Raul.”

Caryn went white at the lawyer’s name.  She obviously knew who and what he was.  Dimitri merely looked curious.  “I was here, yes, but I did not see how she fell.  My back, it was to Raul.”  He shrugged.

Trey looked at Dimitri.  “And you saw nothing in that wall of mirrors?”

Now the Russian looked rattled.  No one had questioned that before.  Then he sighed.  “Dimitri, we could be sued!”  Caryn obviously knew about what he’d seen, or suspected.

“Yes, but we cannot lie.  A man died.  Ms Cady, she is badly hurt.  A teacher and student did this thing.”  He looked at them, then saw Cleatus and RF.  “They are not dangerous?”, he asked suspiciously.

“Only if you take their food.”

The Russian laughed.  “Come, we’ll sit and I’ll tell you what I know.”

They gathered in the break room and Caryn made coffee.  Professional dancers weren’t the type to have cookies around, so Trey wisely brought some to keep his partner happy – and quiet.  The Russian just drank water while he told them what happened.

“Mrs Benson, she came here suddenly 6 months ago.  She had been at a studio in Laguna Beach with a good professional, competitor like me, only not so highly ranked.  She say she needed more and wanted to study here.  It happens.  Students, teachers they fight, or student think by getting another instructor they know more or dance better, they leave, find new one.  I am famous among dancers, but not celebrity, so not sure how she knew I was here.  I had come maybe a year ago.  Still, not that odd, so I accepted her as private student.  She was …..” he gave an eloquent shrug.  “How to say this, she was not as advanced as she thought, but still, good for amateur.  Came twice a week and began improving.  But it seemed she and Raul, “ he sneered the name, “Knew each other, though they hide it.”

“Why were they hiding it?”

Again he shrugged, apparently inured to the capricious nature of rich California trophy wives.  “Former lovers I thought, but maybe not.  I know Argentines well,” he smiled, “very well, and Raul was no Argentine.  Thought it might be that.  California, everyone is really someone else.”

“Did it bother you?”, JR asked.

“You mean his faking being Argentine?  It matters not.  Many fake Russians here too.  He was good teacher, but …..”  he looked at Caryn.

“Raul had a history of fooling around with his students.  I thought at first that’s what he was doing with Alyssa, but honestly, he seemed to bait her when he thought no one was around.  I found them arguing in my office and warned him then, he had to stop getting involved with our students or I’d fire him.”

“It happened before?”

“Twice that I know of for sure, and once it caused quite a scene, but Raul loved scenes.  He loved being the center of attention and was jealous as hell of Dimitri.”

“Because he became your dance partner, or your business partner?”

“Both really.  Raul hit on me, tried to get me to take him as my new pro partner when my last one got injured skiing and had to quit, but honestly, aside from Latin dancing, he wasn’t that good, and even then, he wasn’t world class.  He simply could NOT take the criticizing – of your own work and your partner’s – that you have to do to make it to the top.  He didn’t want to work that hard either.  When Dimitri came out here and contacted me, I jumped.  We didn’t know if we could dance as partners, but it works for us.  It’s personality as well as skill.  You spend a lot of time together, so you need to respect each other to get past the drama.”  She laughed.  “And there’s plenty of drama even with the best teams.”

“So you knew there was something between Alyssa and Raul, but not what?”

Caryn nodded.  “I’m not sure I really wanted to know ‘what’, if you understand.  Raul could be charming and he drew in a lot of customers, so I put up with it.  It’s a business, Mr Rutledge.  He was a part of it.  Just like a good salesman.”

Trey turned to Dimitri.  “How did you feel about it?”

“He was not my competition.  The women he drew, they wanted attention, he gave it.  I wish to teach serious students.”  Dimitri was a snob.  Trey felt RF shift in his arms and move to climb to his shoulder.

“Ask him why he didn’t tell the police the truth the day Carly was hurt,” she whispered.

“The day Ms Cady was hurt, you claimed you saw nothing, but you did see something.  What was it and why lie?”

Dimitri sighed.  “I wasn’t sure if I saw it.  Alyssa, she stumbled and I caught her just as I turned to the mirror wall.  Then Ms Carly, she was crying in pain and said she was kicked.  I look at Raul and he just shake head no, but you could see mark on inside of her ankle.  They take her away in ambulance and we hear about how it is.  Then Raul disappear.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  I had said, I saw nothing because I was unsure, now I know Alyssa try to distract me, that I did see Raul deliberately kick her and then let her go, pretending to shift holds.”  He sighed unhappily.  “Impossible to prove.  I stayed silent.”

“Did either of you question Raul?”

“We did, as did police, but he insist it was accident.  I have no proof.  Alyssa would have claimed we misstepped and saw nothing.”

“And you were afraid of being sued if your employee was found to have injured a client deliberately.”  JR went straight for the jugular.  RF have him a good glare.

Caryn and Dimitri exchanged looks, but finally nodded.  “Yes.  We couldn’t prove he’d hurt her and were afraid of making any lawsuit more difficult if we appeared to be claiming incompetence by our instructor.”

“That’s what Raul wanted.  To get them sued out of existence,” RF whispered in Trey’s ear.

“Did you think that Raul did it just so you would be sued?”  Trey watched the two react.  It was obvious neither had considered that possibility.

“You think he wanted to make trouble for us?”  Caryn didn’t sound convinced, but she was thinking hard about it.  “That slimy SOB.  Was he getting back at me because I refused to make him my dance partner?”

“Probably more because you didn’t make him a business partner.”  Trey went for the money.

“He couldn’t afford to buy out my last partner!  He wanted ME to loan him the money!”  Now she was mad.

“Dimitri had the money?”  Trey gaze went between the two dancers.

“Of course.  I invest well.  Plus I knew Caryn from competitions and needed new partner.  It worked for us both.”

“It helps his doting uncle was a Russian oil billionaire,” RF muttered.

“Plus a generous inheritance?”, Trey asked.

The Russian smiled.  “I was in England, guest at house party when Wentworth Emeralds were returned to the family.  The story of the recovery was ………… memorable.”  He smiled widely, though Caryn looked confused.  “You would be excellent dancer, Mr Dupress.”

“Thank-you.  Mama seems satisfied I don’t embarrass her formal gatherings.”

“I have heard of your partner, but thought it child’s story.  Now, I think it real.”  He looked at RF who just stared back.  “We will tell police all we know.  My word.  To you both.”

Caryn watched the exchange.  “Am I getting a translation of this?”

Dimitri laughed.  “You would not believe, eh.”  He sobered quickly and looked at RJ, “Ms Cady, she will sue?”

“I don’t know, but I would think medical expenses would be your responsibility at the very least.  Beyond that?”  He shrugged.  They all knew what Raul had done exposed the studio to a lot of liability.  “You might find visiting her would help your cause.”

“She would see us?  After all this?”  Both owners leaned forward.  They felt very badly about what happened, and were worried about Carly as well as themselves.

“Yes.  You’d be surprised how far genuine apologies go to smooth things over.”

RF thought more of RJ for being so practical and putting Carly first, not the size of the any settlement.

Trey checked the time.  “We have to see the police to finish out discussion from yesterday.  Good luck.”  On the way out, Dimitri whispered something to Rupert, causing Cleatus to shoot her a look.  BUT RF was already pre-occupied with some inner thoughts.


They left for the station where Trey and RJ fielded questions and Rupert said as little as humanly possible.  RF barely managed to contain her impatience during the interview.  Cleatus fell asleep – and snored.  RF was pacing restlessly under the table.  The clicking of her nails annoyed the cops – which was why she kept doing it.

Both sets of detectives were none too pleased to hear Trey and Rupert would be leaving town on business, but they had no legal means of keeping there.  Trey politely pointed out that, given his background, the DA might want to build his case on the physical evidence, not his testimony.

“What about you Mr Soulis, do you have a problem with testifying?  You have a past you need hidden?”  RF snickered.  Other than being a 5,000 year, old 8 foot tall, blue djinn with pointy teeth and a mother with highly suspect eating habits? Nah.

Rupert smiled politely, “None at all detective,” RF nipped his ankle, “but I do travel in remote areas, so I might be hard to reach.”  Yeah, the djinn home world was not on any cellphone plan.

Finally, the detectives turned to RJ.  “We want to re-interview your client, Ms Cady.  Today if possible.  Our crime scene people need photos of her ankle and copies of any x-rays or other images taken while she was hospitalized.  ”

“Unfortunately, today is inconvenient.  She and I have private matters to discuss.  As for release of her medical information, I’ll see if she’ll sign a waiver on any images.  You crime scene people can be there at 4PM and they have an hour.  It’s a bit late to be chasing this.”  RJ sounded polite, yet condescending.  The police had screwed up and he was rubbing it in – gently, but with a certain enjoyment.

RF pawed at Trey’s leg and reached down to lift her as she whispered, “Outside!”

“I believe I need my pet needs a little outside break, excuse us a moment.  A uniformed officer walked them out and Trey took RF to a shady spot to do ….. whatever.  Pretending to squat down and pet her, she quickly said, “I think Alyssa set the whole thing up really fast.  She was planning to kill her husband AND Raul and make it look like he shot her husband and then she shot him in self-defense.  It was the only way she could be rid of both of them.  She could claim, correctly, Raul/Ricky was blackmailing her, she threatened him with being willing to tell her husband the truth.  He showed up at the house to confront her when her husband walked in and Raul shot him in a panic.  Then she would shoot Raul in self-defense.  Problem was, her husband needed to be there.  He was home early because she CALLED him asking him to come home early, BEFORE we got there, so she could stage it and be the victim, but we were early too, and she could pull it off and switch with us outside.  And, since Raul ‘killed’ her husband, she could inherit a lot more than any divorce settlement!  Maybe knowing that might get Raul/Ricky talking.”

“OK, I’ll try it on the cops.  How did you come up with that?”

“There was just something wrong about what was happening inside the house, like Alyssa was delaying things, timing them.  They could have gone there and been out in nothing flat, but they stayed there for over an hour.  She needed all the players, but we came too soon and spoiled it all.  She couldn’t shoot Raul with us as witnesses.  Plus she had to get an extra shot off with the gun in his hand, like he shot the ceiling as he fell.  They had to die really close together and we pulled up within seconds of that first shot.  She needed a few more minutes and didn’t have it, especially when I pushed at that door.  It was all over.  All they could do was run.

“To be honest, I’m amazed she didn’t just shoot Raul in sheer frustration.  He’d wrecked all her plans.  He was destined for a body bag when he started to blackmail her.  He was just too stupid to know it.  See if the police found a second handgun anywhere in the hall.”

“Worth a try.  Let’s get inside.”

Trey returned to the interview room and as the detectives were wrapping things up, he looked thoughtfully at them.  He started with, “You know, it just occurred to me ………”  He did a brilliant job of thinking through what RF had just said as if it had just come to him.  The detectives from Laguna Beach listened very carefully.  When Trey was done, he asked, “Did you by any chance find a gun hidden somewhere in the foyer?”

They detectives looked at each other, hesitated, then finally said.  “Mr Benson had a license for a Glock 9 mm.  We did find it.  Where it was does make sense with that scenario.  Maybe your idea can shake that idiot Ricky loose from his story and get what really happened to Ms Cady on the record.”

The lead detective smiled wryly, “I have a feeling we might not be seeing each other again, but it’s been …………. interesting.  Good luck in the UK.  I hear you’re up against someone a lot more dangerous than the two amateurs we had here.”

“It’s personal.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was told.  Maybe, if we ever cross paths again, your partner will talk to me.”

Trey shrugged.  RF had her reasons.  As they left, she pushed at Trey’s hold till she could look back at the one detective still standing at the top of the stairs – and winked.  The man laughed and went inside.


“Wow, you really think Alyssa would have killed Raul too?”  Carly was in bed, but looked good and was finished her therapy for the day.

“I think so, and since the police found the second gun, I’d say it was a good bet.”

JR walked back in the room.  “Dimitri kept his word and between his testimony, Caryn’s and the second gun, the cops convinced Raul/Ricky he was lucky to be alive and he gave them everything they asked for and a few things they didn’t know about, including Alyssa embezzling from the Laguna Beach Ballroom Dance Club.  Remember, she is the treasurer for the competition, so it wasn’t that hard.  I guess she planned to replace the funds once hubby was dead and no one would be the wiser.”

“Wow.  All this because you came to see me when I told you about what happened.  Thank-you.”  Carly was amazed at what her accident, that had been no accident, had ended up uncovering.  Blackmail, identity theft, murder, embezzlement, and her own assault.   Wow – maybe she could write a book.

“It was a nice break from Scotland and the ghosts.”

“Ghosts?”  Carly’s eyes widened.

“Annoyingly chatty ones.  And then there’s that psycho female out to kill everyone who can link to her crimes.  Her I want.  Even if it’s just to send her to Hell.”

“Why do I think you mean that literally?”

“Probably because I do.

“Will you visit again?”

“If I can.  I have two businesses and lots of projects, and not a lot of free time.  Maybe if we get to go to Big Daddy’s place on Barbados for a REAL vacation, you can join us.  I don’t get a lot of free time.”  RF smiled.  “But I think you might get other visitors.”

Carly looked a bit panicked, “Not the skunks?”

RF laughed so hard she nearly fell off the bed.  “I think RF means from the studio.  Give them a chance.  They did the right thing today and that wasn’t in their best interest.”  Yes, RJ was alright in RF’s book – for a lawyer.

“OK, I guess.”

“Oh, when I see you again, you must explain the human female obsession with the male dangly bits.  They seem quite …….. unimpressive to me.”

“And we’re done.”  Trey scooped her off the bed.  “We need to get back before Lula Mae and the rest show up here and drag us back.”

“RJ, don’t forget, you’re coming with me to see Esme and Ruben Ray.”

Carly waved goodbye to her friends, then looked at RJ.  “Who is Ruben Ray?”

“Apparently, he thinks he’s RF’s fiancé.”

Carly choked on the truffle she was swallowing.  “HER WHAT?”

This was going to take awhile.  RJ settled in.  “It all started with someone named Esme claiming …………”

And Carly was entertained even after her friends had gone.



June 14, 2014

Carly and the Tango Instructor – Part 7

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 7:56 pm
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RF sat right by Carly and asked the single most pressing question.  “Did you ever see Raul and Alyssa together?”

“No ……… Well, maybe.  It wasn’t like they were in a clinch or something.  Not that kind of ‘together’.  In fact, they both looked kind of mad.  I came in a few minutes early about a week before my accident and saw Alyssa was kind of giving Raul a death glare and he looked so mad, I was a little worried he’d slap her.  I was going to clear my throat or something, but Dimitri came in and they were both smiling and polite, like nothing ever happened.  Dimitri chided Raul for trying to steal his partner while leaving his own partner standing there.  That’s when they realized I’d been there for a few minutes.  Raul glared at me, then he smiled like nothing happened and we did the lesson.”  She gave an embarrassed shrug.  “I’d forgotten all about it till you asked.”

“Did you hear anything?  Anything at all?”  RF sounded intensely interested.

“Well, I could have sworn Raul called her ‘Alice’.  I thought maybe they were fighting about the competition and he thought she was as delusional as Alice in Wonderland.”  Carly went on, thinking things over.  “You know, Alyssa is on the competition organization committee.  She is – I guess was – the treasurer.  She was the one I gave my check to for the entry fee.”

“So Alyssa would know where you lived, because you address was on the check.”  RF looked thoughtful.  “Did you see them talking any other time?”

“Just for a second.  I was pulling into the parking lot and she handed him an envelope.  By the time I was out of my car, they were both gone.”

“Was that before or after you saw them arguing?”

“Oh, it was a week to 10 days before.  I just thought it was credentials for the competition.  It wasn’t a big deal.”  Carly stopped and was obviously going through her memories than said slowly, “You know, there was something just a few days before my accident.  I was entering the studio, from the front doors you look right down the hall to where Caryn and Dimitri have their offices then and there are mens and ladies rooms on the opposite side.  At the far end is a small break room for the instructors.  I hardly ever go down that hall, since I don’t shower there like some of the more advanced students do because they go right to jobs or something.  I just go home and shower there.  But that night I had way too much coffee and needed the bathroom before my lesson started.

“When I walked past Caryn’s office I could hear an argument.  I didn’t want to eavesdrop but I could swear I heard, “Alice bow-something is putting on airs!  But he said the ‘bow-something’ like a person’s name. And then the sound of a face being slapped.  I ducked into the ladies room and when I came out, Raul was his usual self, but it did look like someone had slapped his face.  It was red on one side” She sighed.  “Dance studios have a lot of drama.  I should have written one of my soap opera plots around them.”

RF thought a moment, “Which side of his face looked slapped?”

Carly blinked, then concentrated.  “The right side.  Does it matter?”

“Yes it does.  And you didn’t see Alyssa that night?”

“Oh.  Well yes.  She came in a minute or two after me.”  Carly hesitated, “But she came out of the hallway.  I wondered where she got a key to the back door because it doesn’t open from the outside without one.  I tried one night when it was pouring and had to come around the front.  Caryn said the door was for staff and as a fire exit only.  Not that it rains a lot around here, so it was no big deal.”

“When did the whole ‘slap’ thing happen?”  RF was giving her a penetrating look.

“Just a couple of days before my accident.”  Carly stared at the groundhog as smile crept over her furry face.  “You think this wasn’t an accident.”

Before RF could say anything, RJ handed Carly a fresh pad of paper and pen.  “I need you to write down everything you just told us.  Don’t embellish, just write what you saw and heard just the way you recalled it.  I did record it, but I’d like you to write it out so we can compare the two statements.  When you’re done, your friends can come back in while I contact the detectives.”

“Detectives are investigating my accident?”

“Not at the moment, but I suspect that will change.  Now, just do as I asked and your friends can wait in the hall or down in the common room.”

It took longer than RF expected for Carly to write everything down.  Eventually, RJ came out and ushered them back in after admonishing them NOT to say anything about their speculations about Raul and Alyssa.  He stepped out and called the detectives.

RF trotted in smiling and Trey lifted her up and gently set her on bed.  “Oh well done Carly!  Everything makes sense now. “

“Well, I’m glad it makes sense to someone, because it means nothing to me.”

“We can’t talk about our suspicions until AFTER the detectives speak with you, but we’ll explain everything then.”

RJ walked back in wearing a ‘shit-eating grin’ as her grandma called it.  “Detectives from Laguna Beach will be here in about 3 hours.”

“Laguna Beach?  The studio is in Oceanside.”  Carly looks confused.

“Oceanside has been notified as well.  Now, since we have some time, shall we go ahead and get this contest going?  I expect Mrs Kim is causing quite a scene by now.”  The lawyer grinned, obviously enjoying himself immensely.

Carly laughed.  “Are we doing it here?”  Tormenting her less than convivial roommate was turning out to be great fun.

RJ looked around.  “I think we need a bit more room and more windows.  Maybe even go outside.”

“Are you joking?  It’s hot as hell out there!”

“It’s not that hot.  Trust me.  I know.”  Everyone looked at Rupert, who just shrugged.  Ralph was bouncing with excitement, chanting, “Let’s go!”  Trey considered locking him in a closet.  The ifrit was annoying in any form – but looked really disconcerting as a mongoose with multiple piercings.  Especially the lip rings which looked HUGE on the small animal.  RF made him remove most of them, but even the few that were left gave Trey the creeps.

Not too surprisingly, the Head Nurse Mrs Nagouchi was casually loitering in the hall, so they asked if there was a room suitable for their use.  She thought for a moment and offered a space used for massage and manipulation that had excellent venting and sliding glass doors, but wasn’t visible from the hall.  “This will do.  Now, I’d like oxygen with a face mask, some plastic knives and forks and paper plates.”

Mrs Nagouchi was completely baffled, but when you have a lawyer of Rutledge’s formidable reputation ask politely for something that wasn’t illegal, you obliged.  A cart with various odds and ends was rolled in and right behind a portable oxygen tank.  He thanked Mrs Nagouchi and gently ushered her from the room.

“She wouldn’t have done that for me,” muttered a disgruntled Carly.  Trey laughed, “Me either, so don’t feel bad.”

RJ smiled slightly, “There are times when it pays to be a scary lawyer.”

He looked sternly at RF and Mrs Kim.  “Now, this contest has rules and traditions.  You eat your chosen food, but quantities are limited.  RF can have only 2 eggs and Mrs Kim can have only ¾ cup of kimchee.”

“You bring spicy one, round-eyed devil, not that tasteless winter one?”

“Yes, I brought the traditional spicy style from a Korean specialty shop that makes their own.  You each have 10 minutes to eat, no more.  You may each have one 8 oz glass of water.  The contest starts 30 minutes from then.  It will last 45 minutes.  Belching does not count.  You throw up or need to poop, you’re done.  Are the rules understood and agreed to?”

“Yes.”  RF had no trouble, but it took 5 minutes of arguing with Mrs Kim who wanted the quart of kimchee.  Finally, RJ agreed she could eat all she wanted AFTER the contest IF Vista Knolls approved.  The old woman and the groundhog eyed each other like gun fighters.

Carly whispered to Trey, “I never knew fart contests actually had rules.  In fact, I never knew there were fart contests.”

Trey patted her hand, “Neither did I, but I gather it’s a frat house tradition.”

“Oh, that explains it then.  But how did RF know?”

“I haven’t a clue.”

RJ opened the kimchee and set the plate in from of Mrs Kim.  Everyone moved back.  Then he opened a tightly sealed container and handed RF two 1,000 year eggs.  Carly’s eyes watered and she backed up a lot further – Trey and Rupert with her.  “OMG, they smell like …….”

“Piss,” Rupert offered helpfully.

“Well, yes, I suppose.  I had to look them up on the internet to see what they were.  They were called ‘horse urine eggs’.  And all these years I didn’t think anything could smell as bad as a home perm.”  She looked around, “Are there any tissues?  My nose is running and my eyes are watering.”

Rupert handed her a box – but she had no idea where they came from because his hands were empty moments before.  “Maybe we should wait in the hall,” suggested Trey.

Coughing, Carly nodded agreement.  She was afraid to breath.  Only Cleatus, Ralph and RJ seemed immune.  “GO!” Called RJ and the 3 spectators headed for the hallway when RF cracked open the egg.

Leaning against a wall, Trey gasped like a man who had just run a marathon.  Carly was rather glad Mrs Nagouchi insisted she use a wheelchair as she wheezed for breath.   Rupert fanned his face trying to dispel the lingering odor as he sank slowly to the floor.

The trio watched the door and listened for scratching incase Ralph or Cleatus needed to escape.  Slowly their breathing returned to normal, but they couldn’t smell anything.  “I feel like I need to gargle with Listerine and then use it to flush my sinuses.”  Carly laughed at Trey but would have given a lot for some Scope.  Rupert offered them wintergreen Lifesavers.

“Will this help?”  Trey was not a fan of wintergreen.

“Can you think of any stronger taste that’s still edible?”

The djinn had a point.  Trey popped two in his mouth and the flavor overwhelmed the previous stink, but left an odd aftertaste thanks to the ammonia in the eggs.  He checked his watch.  “I guess the real contest starts right about now.”


RF ate her eggs quickly.  If you could get past the awful smell, the taste wasn’t bad, but the appearance was something that took getting used to – especially the grey/black yolk.  RJ had bought chicken eggs.  Duck eggs were better, but then she would have only gotten one, so she didn’t complain.  She peeled the eggs quickly and cut them into wedges and began eating.  Ralph was getting on her nerves with his constant jumping around and verbalizing a play-by-play like a sportscaster.

“RF has finished her first egg and Mrs Kim almost done with her kimchee!  GO MRS KIM!”

RF considered killing him.  “They’re both done, but who be the first to fart?”  She knew from experience the eggs would work quickly on her.  The only problem was certain lingering issues with the small scent sacs that groundhogs had.  It was nothing compared to skunks or stink badgers, but she would be ……. er, potent for several days.

The ever gassy Mrs Kim popped first.  RJ scored duration, loudness, and smell.  Ralph cheered and Mrs Kim gloated.  RF looked around for a weapon.  Then they both let one loose.  RF’s was much riper and louder, but Mrs Kim’s was longer.

“RF has the stronger smell and the loudest fart, but Mrs Kim is showing real endurance here with unusually long releases.  The next one will be important in the scoring.”  RF reached for only thing she could find, a new bedpan, and delivered stunning blow to Ralph.  Unfortunately, the bedpan was child-sized and plastic, so Ralph had a quick recovery.  He shook his head to clear it.

Mrs Kim laughed at him and let loose with a boisterous fart.  Before she was done, RF let go with one strong enough to make even Mrs Kim’s eyes water.  Not having learned his lesson, Ralph started right back to his commentating.  “RF has released a disgusting, rank fart, but Mrs Kim once again has the duration on her side.”

That’s when RF lost it.  She began chasing Ralph, whacking him with the bedpan.  WHACK!  Ralph reeled away, “And RF let’s a world class fart loose and Mrs Kim matches her in loudness, but once again, RF has the edge in smell.” WHACKWHACKWHACKWHACK!  Ralph staggered …. “And Mrs Kim goshhh for a dura….. and dura….. time thingy ……. Ah, ish record ….”  WHACKWHACKWHACKWHACK! RF paused.  Ralph went to stand up.  WHACKWHACK!!!!!!!!  And the plastic bedpan cracked, but Ralph was down.  RJ and Mrs Kim where hysterical with laughter.

Cleatus just shook his head and dragged the groggy mongoose to the door.  He rapped and Trey opened the door and got a mongoose thrown at him.  “Better keep him out here.  He annoyed RF.”

Rupert picked up his cousin.  “What did she do?”

“Beat the snot out of him with a bedpan.”  Rupert dropped Ralph like he was on fire.  “It was a new bedpan, still in plastic.  See you later.”  The door closed behind him, locking in the incredibly bad smells.

Rupert nudged his cousin with the toe of his shoe.  “You have any more of those wintergreen Lifesavers?”, asked Carly as she fanned the air.

They stayed in the hall, hearing laughter, snarls, and really loud farts, the smell creeping under the door to where they waited.  They moved further away.  Twice Ralph got up and fell over again, managing a garbled, “Who won?”  He teetered for moment, then fell over again.  Rupert ignored him.

RJ came staggering out gasping, laughing and smelling to the heavens.  “I kind of lost track of scoring in there thanks to Ralph and RF.  RF won the stink portion, which is 40% and they the remaining 60%, 30% each loudness and duration, so RF is the winner.  Mrs Kim tried to protest, but RF picked up another bedpan and she acknowledged RF the winner.  I believe she is currently being cursed in Korean while she does a victory dance.”  The lawyer leaned against the wall still chuckling.  “I need a shower and changes of clothes.  I’d suggest leaving RF somewhere to work the eggs through her system.  I’ll arrange for Carly to have a private room for a few days and pay for it myself.”

“I couldn’t ask you to do that!”  Carly was embarrassed.

“This partly my fault, so the least I can do is see to it that you are safe from Mrs Kim and her rippers.  Now excuse me while get things moving and get washed before the detectives arrive.”  RJ walked off, humming like a truly happy man.  It was obvious that he hadn’t had a lot of fun lately.  RF was nothing if not a unique experience.

“OK, who gets to go in there and grab RF?”

Carly is no fool.  “Well, I can’t do it.  I’m in a wheel chair.”  She looked weak and tired.  Trey and Rupert went into a stare down mode.  Wow, she was getting a hunk throwdown.  This was way fun.  She’d have to thank RF.

“She’s your partner.”  Point to Rupert.

“You’re bound to her service.”  Ooooohhhhh  Low, but 2 points to Trey.

“She’s made you a wealthy man.”  Good one.  Two points to the djinn

“She saved you from 50 years of service in Hell.”  Wow, another two points to Trey.  “AND she saved you’re worthless cousin there as well!”  Oooooooh, the kill shot.

The djinn growled, threw his shoulders back and walked to the door.  He took a deep breath, opened the door, ran inside, grabbed RF and Cleatus and ran out as Mrs Kim Yelled, “You come back again rat demon!  You fun!  You too blondy demon.  You cute.  Nice tush!”

“Why did you grab me?”  RF looked from Trey to Rupert and back again.

“The detectives are due shortly and need to stop …….. doing what you’re doing.”

“Not going to happen.  Those eggs last awhile.”

Trey looked a bit desperate.  “OK – who was the PI that got the yearbooks?”

RF sighed, this wasn’t going to work.  “Maybe we could talk to them outside.”


“Well, it’s that or wait till tomorrow.  Now, I need the nearest exit and a handy bush.”  Trey stared at her.  “NOW TREY!!!!!!!”  He checked the signs, grabbed his partner, and headed for the back door.  He just stepped out when she squirmed to be put down and scurried to a distant bush.  The smell was nearly overwhelming.  Dear heavens.  She was sleeping outside tonight.  He stood there melting into the parking lot praying to lose his sense of smell.

“Whew!  That was close.”

“Will this happen a lot?”

She gave a kind of full body shrug.  “A few more times before the eggs are gone.  They’re a strong laxative for me.”

Trey sighed.  “How long will this take?”

“An hour maybe.  I only ate 2 eggs.  The gas, that will take longer, but the worst is over.”

“OK, so we stay outside for an hour and then we can go in and answer a few questions.  I’ll park you over in the shade by those picnic tables and bring cold drinks – you’ll need a sports drink or something.”

“Bring cookies.”


“I’m hungry.  Rupert ate all the jelly donuts.”

“OK.  DO NOT WANDER OFF AND GET LOST OR EATEN BY A COYOTE!  I’ll be back in a few minutes, just do …… whatever it is you do when this happens.”

Trey went back in wondering what he’d done to deserve a partner who ate smelly eggs for fart contests and beat ifrits in mongoose form senseless using nothing but a plastic bedpan and brute force.  At least his life wasn’t dull.


TO BE CONTINUED ……………………..

June 13, 2014

Carly and the Tango Instructor – Part 5 & 6

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 8:32 pm
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Part 5

Trey Dupress was no fool.  He had enough experience with his difficult partner to know she would wake up hungry and grumpy.  To forestall the worst of her attitude, he’d left the house early and found one of the many bakeries that had left an invitation for her to visit.  While he would not inflict a cranky RF on anyone, he would feed her their goodies and let her thank them later.  Without telling them he was there for RF, he got boxes of assorted pastries, donuts, croissants – plain and with fillings (including ham and cheese for him), and a nice quiche – spinach, country ham, and onion.  That should hold her.  They had everything they needed for coffee and tea at the house, so breakfast was set.

He arrived back just in time.  He could hear Rupert and RF yelling at each other about his taking off without them.  They had reached the ‘finger-pointing’ stage when he walked in.


“Here you go, and kindly say, ‘Thank-you you Trey for being so thoughtful as to run out and get some fresh pastries and quiche for my breakfast.’”

“Whatever.  I smell ham and spinach.”

“That’s the quiche.  Shall I warm it a bit while you eat a Danish?”  Without waiting for an answer, he stuffed a bearclaw in her mouth, turned the oven on and popped the quiche in as girl at the counter told him to do – just before she asked for his autograph.  He would be so glad to get the hell out of California.

Rupert was opening all the boxes and apparently deciding where to start.  He could eat like a small army at times.  He chose a cheese and streusel Danish, then grabbed an apple custard tart, and three different donuts.  He added two ham and cheese croissants to the top of the pile and sat down.  “You should have gotten me up.  I would have gone with you.”  The croissants had disappeared and he was eating the cheese Danish.  Maybe pastry for 20 wasn’t enough.  “I figured you could both get some sleep and I’d get the food.  Coffee or tea?”

Rupert looked a bit abashed.  “Actually, I’d like milk, or even some of that half-and-half, though I’m not sure what that is.  It does taste good.”

Trey got out the half-and-half – Big Daddy saw to it the fridg was well stocked, and he automatically made tea for RF, good whole leaf black tea that he thought smelled pretty good, even to a confirmed coffee drinker like himself.  Good thing his mama taught him how to make tea.  He glanced at RF and she was on her third pastry, one with a cherry filling.  “This came from one of the shops that sent you an invitation to stop in.  Maybe we should swing by and you can thank them, RF.”

She shrugged.  “After I try the quiche.  Give me two of those tomatoes and I’ll start cutting them up.  I like them with quiche.”  She lifted her head and sniffed, scenting the warming quiche.

“You’re like mama.  She won’t put tomatoes in the fridg either.”

“Of course not.  It kills the flavor and you can never get it back.  Now is the quiche warm or should I have a donut?”  Her head was already half buried in a donut bag.

“You can’t keep avoiding my questions from last night, you know.”  She stared at him as she bit into a jelly donut.  “And don’t bother saying ‘What questions?’ because you know perfectly well what I asked you when side-stepped them then.  Now I want some answers.”

The doorbell rang, surprising Trey – but apparently not RF.  He answered it, expecting the detectives from last night, but finding a FedEx delivery man instead.  “Package for RF Groundhog.”

“Thanks, I’ll sign for it.”

Trey walked back in the kitchen to find the quiche on a hot plate half gone.  “You two are absolute gluttons.”  He set the box down and promptly helped himself to the quiche, tomatoes, ham and cheese croissants and several Danish – watching his food carefully while getting his coffee.  “Now, start talking.”

“Let me open the package first.”

“No!  Package second.  First you tell me two things.  One – what did you do to the cops who caged you?  And two, how did you come to the conclusion that a woman supposedly from the mid-west knew a guy from Brooklyn?”

“I can answer that if you let me open the box.”

“You don’t need this box, or any other box, or a crystal ball to tell me what you did to those cops who caged you!”

“You know shouting at me rarely does any good.”

“Maybe I should just call Lula Mae and have her ask you.”

RF smiled sweetly, “You don’t have an iPhone.”  She gloated.

“I took the one you had hidden in you port-a-bed.”


“And a damn good one, if you’ll recall.  Now, answer me, or deal with Lula Mae.”

RF hissed at him.  He was unmoved.  Rupert sat watching like he was at a tennis match, head turning back and forth – and eating everything in his reach.  Trey sat well away from him and made note of the fact that the djinn was becoming addicted to jelly donuts.  He seemed fascinated by them.  His attention focused back on his evasive partner.

Finally RF shrugged.  “No big deal.  They might be a bit ……. Itchy today.”

“Itchy?  Mosquito bites?”

He got another shrug and a muttered, “OK.”

“That wasn’t a yes or no question.  Do they have mosquito bites?”

“ummmmm ……… I’m not sure if they were bitten by mosquitoes.  I’m not the mosquito police.”

“Did you cause them to be bitten by mosquitoes?”

“ummmmm …………. no.”

“Any other kind of insect bite – that you caused, not an incidental one?”

Damn him.  “ummmm ……… no.”

Trey stared her for a long moment, then quietly said, “You didn’t give them chickenpox or some other disease, did you?”

RF looked insulted.  “Of course not!  I wouldn’t do that.  Besides, I’m not sure I could, well not without some heavy-duty spell work.  There was no time for that.”

He thought about what RF had done prior to getting grabbed.  She’d leapt from his arms and raced around the porch into a pile of greenery and ……. “Oh you did not cover yourself with poison oak before they picked you up, did you?”

“Is that what the green stuff was?”

“You evil little ……… You gave them poison oak!”  She sat watching him with a bland expression as she bit into cruller.  “Wait, why don’t I have it or Rupert?”

She sat quietly munching, but Rupert spoke up, “Djinn are immune.  She asked me to protect you.”

“How many people got it?”

“Depends.  Some are naturally immune.  Others aren’t.”

“You rubbed all over those cops!”

“Damn right I did.”  An evil smile crept over her face.  “I don’t like cages!  That was just plain rude – and that one cop said I was FAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I made sure he got covered.”

Trey sighed.  There was nothing he could do about it now.  “What about the restaurant and the people there?  That oil sticks to everything.”  Trey stopped, realizing what he just said.  “You rubbed yourself all over the table where those detectives sit, didn’t you?”  He sounded resigned.  She was so damn vindictive.

“They deserved it for cuffing you and Rupert.”

“You can’t go to Vista Knoll or see Carly with that oil on your fur.”

“Relax, I already showered, shampooed twice, and conditioned.  I’m clean.”

“You better be and Mrs Kim better not get any suspicious rashes.”

“Oh please, I wouldn’t do that.  Besides, we have a contest!!!!!!”

Trey checked the time as his cell phone rang – or more correctly, RF’s phone that he confiscated rang. “Dupress”

“It’s RJ.  I have the kimchee and 1000 year eggs.  We set for Vista Knoll at 1 PM?”

“Get there a bit early.  I think we have something you might have pass onto the detectives.”

“12:30 be early enough?”

“Should be fine.  See you then.”

RF sat watching him and Rupert looked curious.  “This box has the answer to how Raul and Alyssa know each other, doesn’t it?”  Trey asked.

“I’m hoping it does, yes.”

He ripped it open and gave the contents to RF.  “Yearbooks?”

She nodded.  “Once I knew who Raul was, I found out where he graduated by getting a PI in NYC who likes my apple crumb slices to do me a favor and run him down.  Didn’t take long and he found the right high school.  I’ll bet Alyssa went to the same school.  Just in case, I asked for the middle school yearbooks too and for 1 year either side of his expected graduation year.  They’ll be harder to recognize middle school, though, so let’s start with high school.”

The three of them scrunched together and began turning pages, checking team photos, especially the ones for the theater club and any dance photos.  There was Raul/Ricky.  He was in a play and in a several photos of the junior prom.  The next year he showed up in the senior class photos and once again he was in the prom.  He date was not Alyssa, but she was there, or a girl who looked like Alyssa – before a new nose and world class hair lightening job.  Next year, she was in the senior class – Alice Baumgartner.

“OK, go ahead a gloat.  You earned this one.”  RF grinned at Trey’s resigned tone, then did a little victory dance on the counter, before getting serious again.

“Well, I can’t really gloat till Carly can tell us if she saw or heard something that might suggest they had reason to worry about her.  I hope she can remember something because I think it will be key to the prosecution’s case.  They sure don’t want a groundhog or a former thief for a star witness.”

“What about me?”  Rupert sounded insulted to be left out.

“Rupert, when they ask what you do for a living, what would you say, ‘I barter with people for their immortal souls.’?  Or ‘I grant wishes – for a price?’ Come on.  They’ll try and ship you to the nearest asylum!”  Then again, this was California.  “Or every wanna be actor, director, and producer would sell their soul for a hit.”

OK so RF had a point.  Maybe avoidance was better here.  Besides, most of those people already cut deals with the demons.  “Let’s let Carly do the testifying.”

“Good plan.”

“Then let’s go to the bakery and you can say thank-you to the owner there for all this wonderful food and we’ll go to Vista Knoll and give this to RJ and let him get it to the police.”  Trey began cleaning things up, surprisingly with eveyone’s help.  Then he put the year books in plastic bag and they headed out.

“Maybe we can convince RJ to take Carly as a client.  That way she’ll be covered.”  Trey looked at RF.  “Covered for what?”

“Well, we never did talk with Caryn.  I wonder just how much she knew or guessed.”  Trey sighed again.  They had to stay till tomorrow for another police interview before they could leave.  Maybe they could squeeze a chat with Caryn in the schedule.  “OK, we’ll try that tomorrow before we meet with the detectives again.”

“Good.  Let’s get moving.  I have a contest to win today!”

Crap.  He’d forgotten about that.  Rupert thought it was funny.  He wouldn’t be laughing so hard when he was stuck in a room with RF after she’s eaten eggs.  Pickled eggs.  Dear lord, this was going to be a disaster.

They all stopped walking when they saw the ring of skunks between them and the car.  “You know what this is about, RF?”

“Not a clue.”

A loud *POP* sounded and there stood Ralph the ifrit in all his punk/Goth glory.  “What the hell are you doing here?” yelled RF.

“I had to bring Cleatus.  Lula Mae’s orders.  Better feed the skunks before they get upset.”

“Hey Cousin RF.  Brought some ‘shine for us.”  Cleatus greeted RF with his usual nod, but looked a bit ….. stiff.

Trey went in the house, Rupert hot on his heels.  “This can’t be good,” muttered the djinn.  Trey figured that was the understatement of the century and he piled all the leftover pastry and an entire bag of cookies on paper plates, handed one to Rupert and they went back out – just in time to hear RF scream, “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN COUSIN ESME CLAIMS I’M BETHROTHED TO HER NEPHEW RUBEN RAY OLIVER!”

Oh crap.  She just scared the damn skunks.  This was really bad.


Part 6

The second the skunks cut loose, Rupert and Trey dropped the plates.  The djinn and RF threw up some kind of wall that protected them from the skunk spray itself, but not the smell.  Eyes watering, Trey grabbed Cleatus and RF and ran inside followed by Rupert and Ralph shoving to be first in the door.  Finally, they slammed the door, then ran to far side of the house and open the sliders – a disappearing glass wall really – to the pool and the ocean air and took a breath.  Panting from their wild retreat they just stared at each other a moment.  The quiet didn’t last.

“I’m killing Esme and Ruben Ray on the way back to the UK.  That will end this nonsense once and for all.  This is the third so-called ‘cradle contract’ those idiots have tried and there will NOT BE A FOURTH!”

“Have some of Uncle Horace’s ‘shine.  You’ll feel better.”

“I’ll feel better when I’ve wiped that branch of the family off of the tree – all of them!”  She had a slug of ‘shine.  Trey started to worry.  He did NOT need a mad, drunken RF on his hands right now.

“Now Pansy ain’t so bad, and Bobby Lee does ok.”  Course, the whole Barton family was always a bit ……. strange in the head.

RF was pacing.  “Maybe I’ll turn them into bait fish and dump them in the lake with all the bass.  Or drop them into a school of sharks.  Their bodies will never be found.”

“Sounds a mite extreme, cousin.  You could probably jus’ beat the crap out of Ruben Ray and settle the whole thing.”  Cleatus saw Trey take the shine and hide it.  Might be a good idea.  His cousin was sounding a mite blood-thirsty.

“I’d have to beat the truth out of Esme too, or the she’ll have that whole damn clan on me about not fulfilling a contract.”

“Now RF, you can’t beat up an elderly cousin like Esme Willet.  It wouldn’t look good, especially since she’s less than half your size to start with.”

“Ruben Ray isn’t much bigger!”

“Yeah, but he’s young, and male, and no one much cares if you beat him up.  Esme’s different.  She’s an elder.”

“She’s a conniving, deceitful, lying, sack of …..”

“Now RF, you and Esme never did get on.”

“Did you miss what I just said – or tried to say before you so rudely cut me off?”

“No.  But some would say you’re much the same, jus’ a whole meaner and more dangerous.  And a better cook – which is why she really hates you.”

“Huh?”  RF looks confused.  Trey was too.  What did some ‘cradle contract’ have to do with RF’s cooking?

Cleatus sighed.  “Momma told me that before you started cooking for the clan, it was Esme who ruled the kitchen.  Her only rival was Aunt Lula Mae, but they sort of avoided each other as Lula Mae was a spellcaster and she mated a Watkins.  The Watkins’ really like Lula Mae and they always made it real plain that if you messed with her, you were messing with all of them.”

“You’re a Watkins through your momma.”

“I am, and that’s why no one messes with me.  That and the fact you and Lula Mae both like me.  And I’m real good at demolition.”  Cleatus grinned.  “Fact is cousin, Esme wants the status you’d bring.  Everyone knows she faked that document she claims to have ‘discovered’, but they’d side with her if you went after her too hard.  I know you could wipe them out, or call up a demon and force the truth from Esme, but she’d just say you cast a spell to make her lie and put it all back on you.  That’s what she does.”

Cleatus took a breath.  This was tricky part and why Lula Mae sent him and didn’t come herself.  “You should tell her you’ll see them after you’re done with your business in Europe.  Then when you DO see her, make it real plain, she wouldn’t be head of that clan no more, you would be.  You got the money, the power, and the position to force that on them.”

“You sound like Lula Mae, Cleatus.”

“Well, we talked about this before she sent me over here to warn you.  She didn’t want you sending half the clan to Hell ‘cause you were mad at Esme.  You go in mad and raise Hell, that won’t work near as well as going in like the Queen herself and talking to Esme like she’s nothing but a lowly subject.”

“You two have spent way too much time watch the BBC.”

Cleatus grinned.  “Yeah, it gave us the idea, but it would work.  Esme would go nuts.  Especially if you brought in the Watkins boys as your ‘retainers’.”

“You mean Billy Bob and Groundhog Motorcycle Club?”


“I might be able to work with that.  I could say Esme needed ‘protection’ and they were staying with her at her place.  It will look like a sty in no time.  She’ll go nuts. ………..  Or I could tell Esme she had to go stay with my cousins in Minnesota since they have room.”  RF hated her cousins as much as she did Esme.  They kind of deserved each other.  An evil smile spread over RF’s face.

Cleatus hoped he and Lula Mae didn’t unleash a demon groundhog on those idiot Bartons and Willets. Their families would never be the same.   Neither would the rest of the clan if RF really decided to take over.

All his life, he knew RF tolerated some of her relatives, disliked more than a few, ignored most, and never took an ounce of crap from anyone, but she’d never once been interested in power over any of the clan.  He hoped it stayed that way.  Knowing RF, all she really wanted was to be allowed to be what she already was.  He and Lula Mae were betting she wouldn’t run amuck.  Oh, she’d get her pound of flesh and then some for this stunt by Esme.  Not that anyone liked the Bartons or the Willets, but they would notice if they just disappeared after crossing RF.  At least the plan he and Lula Mae cooked up with Marilyn, Greta, and Johann was better than the shark plan RF had – or at least left them alive.

What was that old saying about a bell couldn’t be unrung?  Well, Esme rang a bell and now she’d have to live with what it called.  All he and Lula Mae could do was keep the damage down.  But if push came to shove, he’d throw Esme to the sharks himself if she didn’t back off.

Trey broke into RF’s evil plotting against this Esme (he and Cleatus would need to have a talk about that), because they had to get moving.  He sniffed.  A shower and change of clothes was needed.  “OK, we need to move.  We all stink a bit, so a shower and a change of clothes.  Ralph, you and Cleatus can stay here while we see Carly.”

“Is Carly the lady who got hurt?”  RF nodded yes.  “And she has information?”, asked Cleatus.

“Yes,” said Trey on the way to the shower.

“I’m having a fart contest with her roommate!”  RF cheerfully announced, Esme momentarily forgotten.

“I’m coming,” announced Cleatus and Ralph in unison.

“The car really only seats two humans, Ralph.”  RF did not want the ifrit coming with them.

Ralph would not be denied.  “I’ll be a ferret ….. no, no, I’ll be a MONGOOSE!  I’ll go shower in Rupert’s room.”

“You will not!  Go find your own bathroom and be done in 10 minutes or we leave without you.”

“Wouldn’t you be happier here?  You can use pool or go down to the beach and play and pick-up girls.  I’ll even give you money to use in the bars.  You can have all day to enjoy the beach house.”  RF gave the ifrit her very best smile.

“NO!  Miss a fart contest?  Are you kidding?  Hey, can I play?”

NO!!!!”  RF shouted.  She stood glaring at the ifrit.  “You cause ANY trouble and you will be a mongoose for the next thousand years while working as manager of Hell’s Home Depot.  Are we clear?”

“Yes,” Ralph was sulking, his lower lip (it had several piercings) was stuck out in a pout.

“I want a vow, Ralph, or I’ll turn you into a hamster and lock you in the freezer to die.”

“All right, all right.  I Ralph, ifrit of Clan Nomescu do hereby swear to abide by the following terms:  1. I shall obey all orders from Reacherfan Groundhog and Trey Dupress.  2.  I shall stay as a mongoose for the duration of the trip and upon return to this house will I will immediately transport back to Edinburgh.  3. I shall cause no disruptions, use any powers, or annoy ANYONE between now and when I return to Edinburgh.  4. If I fail in any way RF, is free to extract revenge without threat of reprisal from myself, my clan or my clan allies or anyone else.”

“Sign in blood.”

“Jeeze.  How does Rupert put up with you and your rules?”

“He behaves, or he goes back to work for a very angry Hell Lord – who by the way, would be thrilled if I sent you down as his replacement.”

Ralph signed and ran for the nearest bathroom to clean up.  RF went to her own and used a special shampoo, white vinegar, and baking soda.  She came out rather fluffy, but clean and sweet smelling.  She let Cleatus do the same and she used the dryer on her fur.  They were both back and in the living room in exactly 10 minutes.  Trey had everything ready, he even put the car top down, airing it out.  The skunk smell was mostly gone and the goodies were missing – even the plates they’d been on.  Skunks are not gourmets.   Ralph the mongoose bounded out and Rupert put him firmly in the rear seat.  Cleatus went in next to him.  A quick stop at the bakery was a bit hectic and they left with a pile of goodies.  Ralph and Cleatus dug in.  Rupert ate ALL the jelly donuts.  His new favorite food.

Trey’s patience was frayed by the time they reached Vista Knolls.  A very casually dressed RJ was waiting in the shade of a tree in the parking lot.  Introductions were made, and Trey gave him a quick rundown of what they discovered.  “Can you act as Carly’s attorney?  I don’t want the police or defense investigators bothering her while she’s in rehab.”  RF sounded worried.

“I’ll be happy to help.”  He got a Cheshire cat smile.  “It will be interesting to help the police for a change.”

They entered the reception area and Rachel-the perky-soon-to-be-gerbil gave Rupert and Trey star struck smiles.  “Back to see Miz Carly?  She’ll be glad for company.”  Then she spotted Cleatus and Ralph.  “Are they her pets too?  We don’t usually allow more than one therapy animal at a time.”

“They’re not animals.  They’re puppets.  I’m a ventriloquist.”

“Wow, you’re good.  I could have sworn that ……. thing in your arms just talked!”

Trey cleared his throat to cover RF’s hissing noise, while RJ shook with silent laughter.  “We’ve brought Ms Cady’s lawyer with us and he needs to speak with her.”

“R. Jason Rutledge for Ms Cady.”  RJ Handed over one of his heavy business cards kept in an antique solid silver card case.  He saw RF checking it out and winked at her.

“Oh, Mr Rutledge!  I saw you on Court TV!” Then she realized they had a very high profile attorney here.  “I’ll just call the director.”

“That fine.  The director can meet us at Ms Cady’s room.”  He moved off through the doors like he owned the place.  On the other side he turned to Trey and said, “Lead the way, because I have no idea where I’m going.”  He gave them an unrepentant grin.

“You brought the kimchee and eggs, right?”  RF was look at the bag he was carrying.

“Of course.  And I wore clothes that I can just throw away.  This isn’t my first fart contest.  Though after graduating law school, I never thought I’d see another one.  But shouldn’t we speak with Ms Cady first?  We need to get the police business settled.”  He looked concerned, “Perhaps we should have brought in some of those extra pastries.”

“She can’t have sugar right now, so I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

Carly smiled widely when she saw RF.  “You’re back!”

“I said we would be.  Carly, this is R. Jason Rutledge ….”

“OMG, the lawyer!  Did I do something wrong?”

“Oh course not, but Trey and RF have uncovered some information and they need you to think back over all the times you saw Raul and Alyssa at the same time.  If you can recall something, I’ll be your go between with the police, if not, I’ll still represent you in any capacity you need, pro bono, of course.”  The lawyer had a wonderful soothing voice.  No wonder he got the big bucks and high profile cases.

“Pro bono?  This won’t cost me my life savings?”  Carly clutched the blankets a bit.  She couldn’t afford some $1,000 an hour lawyer.

“Not a dime, now just relax and let Trey and RF ask you a few questions.”

Carly blinked, realizing the lawyer held a small groundhog.  “Is that Cousin Cleatus you’re holding?  OMG, I am so thrilled.  I’m a huge fan of yours!  RF talks about you and Lula Mae, and Greta and Johann and Marilyn all the time!”

“Pleasure to meet you ma’am.  Aunt Lula Mae and the others stayed in Edinburgh, but they’ll be pleased to know you’ve heard of them.”

“HI!  I’m Ralph and I’m an ifrit, but I have to be a mongoose right now.  Have you heard about me?  I’m here for the fart contest!  This will be GREAT!”

Before Carly could say a word, Mrs Kim butted in with, “You have kimchee?  You promise kimchee!”

RJ dug in his bag and extracted a tightly sealed container of homemade kimchee, South Korean style, spicy, garlicky, and served cold.  He then handed the eggs to RF.  He looked sternly at Mrs Kim and RF.  “You will not eat anything till I say start, so put the food down.”

“You no order me around.  I eat if I want.”

“You eat that kimchee before I say ‘GO!’, you forfeit the contest and RF wins!”

“Evil round-eyed lawyer.  I wait and beat the fat demon rat fair and square.”

“I AM NOT FAT!  I AM ZAFTIG!  ZAFTIG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

A knock sounded and in walked the Director of Vista Knolls.  “Mr Rutledge, I’m Gardner McKay, the Administrator of Vista Knolls, and this is Mrs Nagouchi, head of our nursing staff.  I hope everything is going well with Ms Cady and she’s happy here.”  He looked a bit twitchy and gave RJ a nervous, smarmy smile.

“I’ll let you know after my client and I chat.  Alone.  At the moment, we’d like the room cleared of all but Ms Cady and her friends for a private conversation.”

“Of course.  Mrs Kim, it’s time for your afternoon in the common room.”

“NO!  I stay.  Watch evil rat demon and big blondy demon.”

McKay laughed uncomfortably.  “I’m sure everything will be fine while you’re in the common room.”

“I no like common room.  Full of peasants.”

Mrs. Nagouchi sighed deeply.  Mrs Kim was a difficult patient.  “Then you shall sit with the peasants like the rest of, Mrs Kim.”  The orderlies lifted her into the wheel chair and pushed her out – complaining all the way.  McKay turned red faced to RJ and said, “I’m sure you understand some of our patients are …… less than pleasant to deal with.  She’s usually quiet, but rather uncooperative.  I think she secretly enjoys attention.  I do apologize for any insult to your guests Ms Cady.  She had no call to be accusing people of being demons.  Elderly people can get funny ideas.”

Carly bit her lip to keep from laughing and nodded politely.  Once they were alone the giggles started and grew to full blow laughter.  After she settled down, she asked, “How are we going to hide the fart contest?”  That started her laughing again.

“Will have to work that out, but before we get to those – festivities, there are some questions that we have and we’re hoping you can help us.”  RJ gave her a reassuring smile.  This lawyer was slick as ice.

“Of course.  Ask away.”




June 12, 2014

Finis – The Problem of the Endless Series – Part 3 THE END?

I find I can only do so many series before my head explodes.  Honestly, authors resurrect characters and series, like soap operas, recycle characters.  There are so many epic fantasy series out there, some starting life as a stand alone – or as an outgrowth of early works where and author developed ideas.  Dune was such as book.  I recall how blown away I was by it when I read back when it first came out.  I never did make it to the end of the series, just book 1 and 2, because book 3 was published nearly 7 years after book 2 and I’d moved on.  It would take 5 more years for book 4 and 3 more for book 5 and then book 6 followed and was the last.  Sort of.  Now his son, Brian, along with Kevin Anderson, have continued Dune stories as prequels and sequels to the original series.

The unique universal appeal of Dune is surprising.  It’s themes and characters carry well into other cultures making it one of the best selling science fiction novels of all time at 20 million copies.  But to put that in context, the Harry Potter series sold over 400 million copies and (Lord help us) Fifty Shades of Gray eclipsed that number at over 450 million.  Of course Dune, Harry Potter, and many other books will still be popular long after Fifty Shades is lost in time.  But it does prove one thing, SEX SELLS! Trust me, Fifty Shades isn’t selling based on it’s unforgettable characters, original plot, and brilliant writing.  It’s selling for the same reason Peyton Place sold in the 1950’s, SEX and the lure of the forbidden, in this case, BDSM.  (Quick, who wrote Peyton Place and what was the lead character’s name?)  Yeah, I remembered the author’s name, but in all fairness, I couldn’t get past page 50 in that book either, though it was decades after publication when I actually tried, and I can’t even recall a plot.  Was there one?

Will most of the series so beloved of readers stand the test of time?  Unlikely.  Anyone over 40 would be hard put to find titles popular in their teens and 20’s still on the shelves in print.  Dune?  Yup, that’s there.  So is everything by Tolkien.  But those ARE classics.  I’ll bet in 20 years you’ll still find Harry Potter for the simple reason that his story is one we can all identify with – and the reason adults read so much YA fiction.  Like The Hobbit, Harry will age well.  Some experiences just continue to resonate over time, long after the cheap, voyeuristic thrills of Fifty Shades has been supplanted by the next hot item.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of good, cheap voyeuristic thrills, just not a fan of BDSM.  Which segues nicely into another niche market, erotic paranormal romance and futuristic paranormal romance.  Kaitlyn O’Connor writes a lot of futuristic si-fi/paranormal erotic romance, spiced with humor.  She writes modern shifter romance as Madeline Montague.  I’ve kind of been avoiding this stuff because it is a small market, but I’ll include a few here, with fair warning, it’s for adults only.  Like most romance, alpha males abound, there is often some BDSM or at least D/s going on, but not the level of kink you get with true BDSM.

Si-fi and fantasy are no strangers to sex.  No less an icon than Robert A Heinlein got his book, Stranger in a Strange Land, pulled from school library shelves for a host of reasons including ‘cheap eroticism’.  Hey, if you can slog thru 160,000+ words and find a bit of ‘cheap eroticism’ along the way, more power to you!  Boy, did you earn it!

(Suggestion – if you actually enjoy reading BDSM, try Maya Banks (also writes mainstream), Shayla Black (also rites as Shelly Bradley), Sylvia Day, and Lorelei James among others.  All are light-years better than E.L. James.)

Joey W. Hill (living) – Vampire Queen series now up to book 13, future status unknown, paranormal vampire erotic romance.  Hill writes mostly in the BDSM vein, but does some more mainstream series, and stand alones in paranormal, historical, and contemporary genres; Arcane Shot series centers on witches (2 books so far), and she has a paranormal romance series based on mermaids.

Kaitlyn O’Connor (Madeline Montague) (living) – small press author that has gained a loyal following for her humorous ménage Cyberolution series futuristic si-fi romances, 6 books and complete, but as they were written out of chronological order, they can be read as stand alones; as Madeline Montague she writes Wolfen series, a loosely related group of werewolf shifter books, with some, but less humor. 3 books – status unknown.  Hard to find author.  Short books.  Buy the e-books.

Lara Santiago (living) – small press author; two futuristic stand alones – one intended as a possible series that never happened, Menagerie -is a clever apparently poly-amorous story that begins and ends in present day.  Rogue’s Run is an intersteller m/f/m ménage.  Reads like the start of a series, but she went from futuristic to Western.

Suzanne Collins (living) – Hunger Games – best-selling YA trilogy set in Dystopian future.  Complete.  Before writing Hunger Games, she authored a series of children’s fantasy books about Gregor the Overlander in her Underland series, 5 books, complete.

Veronica Roth (living) – Divergent trilogy – 3 books plus numbers short stories, novellas, complete, YA si-fi Dystopian; kind of a Hunger Games knock-off with shades of Twilight Zone

Pittacus Lore (living) – Lorien Legacies (5 books but on-going to 9?) and Lost Files (12 books complete); YA futuristic alien invasion; Another variation on Hunger Games type tropes

Jaye Wells (living) – Sabina Kane, 5 books, complete, UF, vampire, mage, assassin – worthwhile read; Prospero’s War – 2 books complete another under contract.  Status of additional books – unknown, UF/magic

Kelly Meding (living) – Dreg City – 5 books, complete, Dark UF, si-fi, horror; about a bounty hunter who is killed, loses her memory, is resurrected, and has 3 days to live, but sometimes, you get to die more than once; Meta Wars – futuristic UF/superhero, 4 books, complete, each book focuses on a specific ‘talent’ of a group/

Linda Robertson (living) – Persephone Alcmedi – 6 books so far and 1 more due this year.  Completion status unknown.  UF, witches, vamps, weres, Fey.  Young witch finds she might be one that was in a prophesy, making her a target for her coven and the only one that change the outcome of a potential war.

Harry Connolly(Living) – Twenty Places, 3 books – series cancelled by publisher; UF/Paranormal/fantasy mystery; well liked by those who read it, but not enough readers.

Rachel Caine (living) – Morganville Vampires – 15 books, complete, YA/UF/vampires; Weather Warden – 9 books, complete; UF/paranormal/magic/romance – weather warden (magic worker) is unjustly accused of crimes and goes on the run to look for the one that can offer proof of her innocence. Outcast Season – spin off of Weather Warden, 4 books, status complete.

M. J. Scott (living) – Half-Light City, 4 books, complete, Fantasy/UF/Fae/Vampires – a new author who seemed to be improving with each book.  Watch for more from her.

Marjorie M. Liu (living) – Hunter’s Kiss, 5 books and several short stories/novellas, complete, Paranormal Romance/shifters/magic;  Dirk & Steele, 13 books – status unknown, paranormal romance, can be read as stand alone books.

Lisa Shearin (living) – Raine Benares, 6 books, complete 2012, fantasy/magic/high fantasy/some romance; kind of a classic fantasy adventure series featuring a female thief; SPI Files – 1 book released this year, one on order, UF/modern paranormal; author has engaging humorous writing style that makes for quick easy reading.

Jeanne C. Stein (living) – Anna Strong, 9 books, novellas, shorts stories, Plus 1 to complete?, paranormal/UF/shapeahifter/vamp/ romance …. If anyone has any comments on this series. let me know

Richelle Mead (living) – Dark Swan, 4 books complete, UF/paranormal/magic/romance; Vampire Academy, 6 books, complete, YA paranormal/supernatural/magic;  popular with adult paranormal fans; Bloodlines – spin-off of Vampire Academy, 6 books, ongoing, YA/paranormal/fantasy

Rachel Vincent (living) – Shifters, 6 books, complete; UF/paranormal/paranormal romance, power plays and life among shifters; Soul Screamers, 7 books, plus novellas and short stories, complete, YA/paranormal/fantasy – school taken over by Hellions and the fight to take it back OK, that is a wrap.


And I know a missed a WHOLE LOT OF SERIES, but I’ll try and update Finis every so often.  But seriously, too many hours on Goodreads, Amazon, hunting for author websites and I’m DONE.  So for those who hate waiting, you now have a place to start.  Anyone wants me to add a series they really liked, just post a comment.  I review them all.

Finis – The Problem of the Endless Series – Part 2

We left our series reading enthusiasts with Sandman Slim watching over them and now we switch to a fan favorite – VAMPIRES!.  You can’t throw a stick in the paranormal romance or UF aisles of a bookstore – live or online – without hitting a dozen vampire books.  There is a massive vampire infestation.  SOMEBODY GET THE HOLY WATER!

Now it is true, each author has his or her own take on vampire mythology.  To paranormal romance author Lynsay Sands, Argeneau Vampires are really Atlanteans, people who escaped the fall of Atlantis with nanos in their blood to cure disease.  They need more blood than they can produce, so the fangs were a natural adaptation to allow them to get food for the nanos (human blood) as needed.  As for the whole ‘no sunlight’ that was just to reduce the need for blood as sunlight destroys skins cells and the nanos then need to to work harder to repair the damage and more blood is needed.

For Chloe Neill in her Chicagoland Vampires series and many other authors, vamps are variations on the traditional Dracula model.  In fact, the Night Prince books by Jeaniene Frost that I mentioned in Part 1 is ABOUT Dracula and he has a part in Karen Chance’s Cassie Palmer series, where vamps are major characters.

Almost all authors, other than horror writers, make vamps sexy.  After Navy SEAL’s and Spec Ops guys in general, they’re hottest selling stars in romance today.  (We’ve had shifter SEAL’s from several authors, but no vamp SEAL’s. (And bare-chested guys in kilts!!!!!!!  How did I forget them?)  There is, however, a sort of vamp James Bond and several vamp assassins.).  But given the overwhelming number of vamp romances, I’m only going to mention a few series, because frankly, it would take days to get them all down.  What can I say, sex sells.  Just ask E.L. James.

Many UF series have paranormal romance as an integral element in the plot line, but it is not the sole purpose of the series.  I’ll illustrate this with two very well known and hugely popualr series as my first two examples.

Chloe Neill (living) – Chicagoland Vampires, has many other species including Fae, elves and werewolves.  Best classified as UF with some romantic suspense, it is both character and plot driven in equal parts; contracted to book 13, so no end in sight; Also wrote the Dark Elite series, 3 books apparently complete

J.  R. Ward (Jessica Bird) (living) – Black Dagger Brotherhood – Paranormal romance centered on a group of vamps that act as protectors.  Each book features a specific romance, 12 books to date since 2005; Fallen Angel series, 6 books since 2009 to present; also writes stand alone historical and contemporary romance

Simon R. Green (living) – prolific author; Hawk & Fisher – complete, fantasy, UF 6 books that tie in loosely with- The Forest Kingdom Series 5 books, complete plus a ‘follow-up’ sixth book, fantasy.  Deathstalker series, complete at 8 books, creates a universe where his current Secret Histories series, 8 books to date, also takes place and the completed Nightside series, 12 books, also took place and also loosely ties ties with Hawk & Fisher in a fantasy future London.  Also Ghost Finder, a related series not as well received as the Nightside and the others, 4 books so far.

Kelly Gay (living) – Charlie Madigan series, 4 books, complete 2012, UF with some romance elements; might have more installments as certain plot elements not resolved, but none scheduled

Amber Benson (living) – Caliope Reaper Jones (Death’s Daughter) series, 5 books, complete 2013, UF/fantasy/magic; co-author Ghosts of Albion, YA, historical fantasy/magic/horror

C. E. Murphy (living)- Walker Papers series, completes this year with book 9, UF/paranormal/magic/time travel; Negotiator Trilogy, 3 books complete 2008, UF/Fantasy/vamps/dragons

Keri Arthur (living) – prolific author; Riley Jensen series, 9 books complete 2010, UF, paranormal, paranormal romance lead character is half vamp/half werewolf; Dark Angles series, 7 books, last book due 2014, UF, paranormal, fantasy; Spook Squad, 3 books complete, out of print and being re-issued; UF/paranormal/paranormal mystery; Nikki and Michael, 4 books, complete 2008 and re-issued 2013, UF/paranormal romance/vampires.

Jennifer Estep (living) – Elemental Assassin series, Gin Blanco barbecue restaurant owner, freelance assassin, and killer of underworld leader, Mab Malone.  A really good UF series with some romance, but mostly action and mystery, mostly character driver with one plot driver element, 13 books in print or scheduled and no end in sight, but as a more character driven series, you can skip around after 8 or so; Mythos Academy – YA; mythology, fantasy, UF – series complete with 6 books, a prequel and a novella, coming of age with gifted/special young adults to new adult.; Bigtime Superhero series – tongue in cheek paranormal romance/paranormal chick-lit – status, not known, 4 books so far.

Kevin Hearne (living) – The Iron Druid series – UF, fantasy, mythology, paranormal – multiple mythologies come together around a 2,000 year old druid, Atticus O’Sullivan, who looks like a 20-something hippie, up to book 7, the first HC, this month and a contract for at least 2 more, plot and character driven similar to Dresden, there are multiple short stories and novellas that come before book 1 or between books in anthologies or e-book only; no other series or stand alone novels; contributes to Carniepunk anthology.

Benedict Jacka (living) – Alex Verus, UF/magic kind of a poor man’s Harry Dresden a mage who never finished training but is useful to full mages, 5 books so far and no word on additional books, but likely.  Very character driven.

Douglas Hulick (living) – Tales of the Kin, fantasy/epic fantasy/dark fantasy, only 2 books so far with a contract for 1 more.  At least 2 years between books.  Interesting underworld anti-hero.  Character driven.

Rachel Bach (living) – Paradox series, 3 books, status unknown; si-fi/space opera/space paranormal, talented new author with a fresh, original voice.  Took some effort to get into book one after so many fantasy/paranormals, but she wrote a fine series with a strong female lead.  All published 2014; Additional books or more books set in same universe, unknown.

Meljean Brook (living) – Guardians series, 8 books complete 2014, paranormal romance/paranormal fantasy/demons, serial romance with some overarching elements.; Iron Seas – Steampunk, steampunk romance, 4 novels and multiple ebooks and serial releases.  Continuation status, not known, but books can be read as stand alone novels

Mark Del Franco (living) – Connor Grey series, complete at 6 books in 2012; UF/Dark UF/Magic, A mostly plot driven series that seemed a bit choppy at times about the Light and Dark Fey and the uneasy truce with humans and each other that Connor helps maintain through the series; His first YA book was released in 2014 titled Whirlwind; Be wary of the Kindle ebook.  Apparently is has numerous errors.  Series status in this unknown.

You know, there’s nothing quite like being a smartass to get the attention of the universe and have it slap you upside the head and yell, “IDIOT!” in your ear.  I thought I was making a joke about needing multiple entries to list the main complete series.  And the universe laughed.  Yes, I have included a few major series that character driven that could be read without spraining the brain, like would with the Wheel of Time series, but even so, with the help of fellow readers and their own input of completed series, I have at least one more entry to do.  So I rather humbly apologize for my maniacal laugh at the end of part 1.  It seems the joke might just be on me!  But I have to admit, I kind of enjoyed that evil laughing.  SO much so, maybe the joke is on you!?????









June 11, 2014

Carly and the Tango Instructor – Part 3 and Part 4

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 1:03 am
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“We should get some lunch.  Alex Benson agreed to talk to us at his house after 2PM.”

RF pulled herself back unto the car and turned to stare at Trey.  When he made oh so casual statements like that, something was going on.  “What?  What aren’t you telling me?”

Trey and Rupert exchanged a quick glance and both stayed silent.  “Should I remind you how badly I react to surprises?”

“No.  Believe me, I remember that very well.  It ranks right up there with what happened when cousin Petunia tried to make you eat a veggie burger with fake cheese when you asked for an Angus burger with cheddar.  I think your whole clan remembers that.  I still can’t believe you dumped that bowl of coleslaw on her head.”

“It had SUGAR in it, so much sugar it was sweet!  Coleslaw is not sweet.  And she deserved it.”

“Yeah, but you turned her into a pygmy rat too.”

“Well she kept arguing with me!  Petunia always was kind of stupid that way.  And why are you trying to side track me?  What’s going on?”

“It seems your presence in the area has made it through the restaurant grapevine.  You have about 2 dozen invitations to meals.  I explained we’d be leaving tomorrow or the next day and that threw gas on the fire.  It turned the whole thing into a frenzy of offers for meals and all kinds of pastries from every bakery between San Diego and LA.”  Trey paused and glanced at her.  “Rupert can give you a list.”

She waved him off before he could start.  “I want Mexican food.”

Rupert checked the list – the very long list.   “ummmm …………… most of these places are pretty upscale.  There is a place called La Sirena Grill on the costal highway in South Laguna.  Will that be OK?”


“Supposedly the best in town.”

“That’s the place then.”

“You’re sure don’t want one of the fancy places?”

“Absolutely certain, but if we see a good bakery on the way from Benson’s to Caryn’s dance studio, we’ll stop.  Desserts at Mexican places are pretty limited and I was never a big flan fan.”

“You serve flan at the Bakery!”

“Of course I do.  I serve a lot of things I don’t especially enjoy.”

“Like what?”  Trey sounded genuinely puzzled.

“Like pea soup.”

He was honestly shocked.  “You make the best pea soup I ever had!  I take it frozen to my mother.”

RF rolled her eyes and makes gagging noises.  “I’m not fond of banana cream pie, either, though the Bananas Foster version I make is almost good.  And I also don’t like chess pie.  Or coconut custard.  Or Shoo-Fly pie.”

“I’ll give you the chess pie.  I never liked it either.  But your banana cream pies are to die for.  So are your coconut custard pies.”  Trey paused.  “Shoo-fly pie is probably an acquired taste.”  Trey stopped talking for a moment and glanced at RF.  “Wait a minute.  You don’t like custard at all, do you?”

RF shrugged, “Not really.”

Rupert looked confused.  “But all those things are very good, RF.  And I’ve watched you make them.  Why make food you don’t like?”

“Other people like it.  I keep my customers happy.”

“Is that why we’re eating a Mexican restaurant?”

“No, we’re eating that because I want good, simple food.  Not some over-wrought dish with an engineered wonder of potato foam or liquid nitrogen frozen prune essence or some other pretentious nonsense.”

Trey just laughed.  Rupert appeared somewhat mollified, but still puzzled by her dislike of foods she not only made, but made really well.


After a blackened salmon taco and a carne asada burrito, RF groaned in contentment as she finished her lemonade.  Even Rupert approved after eating 3 burritos – carne asada, carnitas, and chicken – because, “It’s hard to choose!”, though he was disappointed there was no goat on the menu.  Trey had a carnitas burrito, and it was excellent.  The manager stopped at the table to check on them and make sure all was well.  She looked at RF for a long moment and asked, “Is it true?  You are the High Priestess of Tortum?”

RF nodded.  “Mama will be so disappointed she missed you.  She always wanted to meet you.  She said she tried your flan years ago and never had better.”

Trey just grinned as his partner shifted in her booster seat.  “I’m glad she liked it.  I’ll be happy to send her the recipe.  Like you, I use mostly organic ingredients.  I use a Blue Cattle Vanilla in the flan, but Madagascar vanilla in my crème brulee.  I use Tahitian bourbon vanilla in most cakes.”

“I will tell mama.” Suddenly she blushed.  “I have forgotten my manners.  I am Jasmine.  And many thanks for your dining here.  We feel honored you chose us when you were invited so many places more …….. refined than ours.”

RF smiled.  “Refined can he highly overrated.  Good food, well prepared with care is some of the best there is.  Never doubt that.”

Jasmine blushed again, offered more thanks and her mama’s email before they left.


As they drove up to the address that Alex Benson provided, they found themselves at a gated estate – where the gates were standing open.  “Well, maybe he’s expecting us,” suggested RF, but a chill went over her.  Trey drove slowly up the long curving drive and they all sat in the car looking at the house, not making any effort to get out.  There was a brand new Ferrari in bright yellow parked to one side and a large Mercedes sedan right behind it.

“OK, I’m officially creeped out here.  That front door isn’t really closed, is it?”  RF shifted from paw to paw.

Trey looked at it a moment longer.  “No, that’s not really closed.”

“Maybe we should just push it open a bit and call him.”

“OK”  But all three still sat in the car.

“This is silly.  I’ll go in and see what’s happening.  What will the police do?  Arrest a groundhog for trespassing?”  RF got out, crossed the drive and easily climbed the few, shalloe stairs reaching the door.  Rupert and Trey had followed, but she stopped and sniffed the air.  She put one paw on the door and gave it a gentle push.  It barely moved before it hit something.  She discretely backed away.   “Let’s call the cops.  Something is dead in there and it’s really recent.  Like they might still be here recent.”

Trey swept her up, hit 911 and gave them everything they had including the fact that the perpetrators might still be there.  Sirens could be heard in under a minute.  That’s when they saw them.  A panicked man and woman running around the corner of the house.  The couple saw Trey and Rupert and the flashing lights coming up the drive.  The woman threw something into the bushes, screamed, “YOU RUINED EVERYTHING!”, and suddenly ran crying into middle of the driveway.

The first cop out was drawing his gun as she starting screaming, “They killed my husband,” dramatically pointing at Rupert, Trey, and RF.

RF smiled.  She held Trey’s iPhone.  “I took a video of them when the turned the corner.  Including what she threw away.  Here, show the cops.”


It took hours, and a call to Big Daddy for a good attorney, to get everything straightened out.  Trey and Rupert got handcuffed and RF got stuck in an animal cage – which really worried Trey.  A handcuffed djinn and a caged RF was a really bad mix likely to turn into a disaster.  The only upside, Alyssa Benson and the man with her were cuffed as well.

Alex Benson was dead, very recently dead, and the gun that killed him was the one in the shrubs that his wife threw away – clearly seen on the now #1 piece of evidence, the video RF shot with the iPhone.  The only prints were hers and she tested positive for GSR.  The man was the missing Raul AKA Ricky Andretti.  Both refused to talk to the police and all RF had was guesswork, so she kept thoughts to herself.  Rupert AKA Zaranthu Soulis turned out to have a solid Greek passport and was just visiting his friends in the US. (He was propositioned by 4 police women and 2 men.)  Trey explained about 20 times he wasn’t George Clooney and even the FBI agreed with that – however reluctantly. (He was propositioned only by the police women, plus 3 female clerks.  He wasn’t sure if he should be insulted or relieved.)  Everyone was immediately uncuffed, apologized to, at their new lawyer’s insistence, and their car delivered to the police station.  Trey lost his iPhone as evidence, which seriously annoyed him – and RF, though she also laughed at him.

R. Jason Rutledge (‘You folks just call me RJ.’) was a handsome man, about 10 years older than Trey, in very good shape for someone who  mostly sat at a desk, with thick, prematurely grey hair, the profoundly kind countenance of favorite uncle that masked the heart of a shark, and a Texas accent he never quite lost – or maybe never wanted to.  RF assumed he left his hair color alone in youth crazed California to encourage the image he so carefully cultivated.  His eyes were shrewd and sharp as he regarded his erstwhile clients.

“Why don’t I take you folks to my favorite steakhouse and we can have a drink and I can get the full story.  There was a whole lot you weren’t saying in there and I might be able to help.”  He looked at RF.  “Besides, Big Daddy old me about you and I’ve been wanting to meet you ever since.  You and Mr Dupress here have been having some interesting adventures.  I don’t mind telling you my curiosity is getting the better of me here.  I won’t even charge Big Daddy for dinner.  Or my time.”  He winked at the groundhog.

RF looked at Trey, who shrugged and Rupert, who admitted, “I am kind of hungry.”  Turning to RJ she said, “If you can tell me where I can get fresh kimchee and 1000 years eggs, we’ll have dinner with you.”

The lawyer had been asked to do some strange things, but this was a first even for him.  He looked at Trey, who looked resigned to the whole thing.  “It’s a bet with a little old Korean lady in Vista Knolls.”

“A bet about what?”

Trey sighed.  “A fart contest.”

The lawyer roared with laughter.  “You’ll get your kimchee and 1000 year eggs if I have to have them flown in special, but you must have dinner with me.”

“OK,” they chorused.


Part 4

The steaks were excellent and the presence of RJ kept most of the staff from bothering RF, though the head chef/owner came to the table to chat with her and make sure she enjoyed everything.  The head pastry chef hovered, then came up as well, just to meet her.  RF even gave her a few pointers on getting fresh key limes for the pie.  Through it all, RF was surprisingly gracious rather than her usual snarly self.

“You’re being awfully nice tonight.”  Trey sounded surprised and a little distrustful.

“I enjoyed the food.  It’s what a steakhouse should be.  Great meat, the rosti potato was exactly right – which is harder than you might think, and the vegetables were steamed just tender.  Key lime pie was made with bottled key lime juice though.  Guess they can’t get fresh ones out here.”

OK, she was in full avoidance mode.  Time for the direct approach.  “You didn’t try and turn any of those cops that caged you into gerbils or hamsters or anything.”

She shrugged like it was no big thing.  It was about as close to a miracle as anything Trey had seen.  His eyes narrowed.  “What did you do – and don’t lie.”

“Why do you think I did anything?”

“Because you’re not answering my question.  And why did Rupert do nothing?”

“She told me not to,” Rupert offered helpfully – which got him a glare from RF.  A glare so frightening that three hovering chefs collided as they ran back to the kitchen and the waiter almost headed right out the door, stopped when the chef/owner collared him and sent him into the kitchen to calm down.  RJ watched all this with a smile.  Trent ‘Big Daddy’ McCauley was right, she was a handful.  And Trey Dupress was a brave man.

“WELL??????”  Trey demanded.

“It seemed like the wisest thing to do.  The video was going to get us off and I knew Big Daddy would send a good lawyer to do the rest.”

RF was wearing her best poker face, but Trey knew her better than anyone, except maybe Lula Mae.  “That’s only half of it.  I want the rest.”

“I don’t have any evidence.”

“That’s never bothered you before.  Stop stalling.  Out with it.”

RF sighed.  “I don’t think Raul is the only one who changed his name and background story, I think Alyssa did too.  They knew each other before she started dance lessons at Foot Work.  When Raul saw her, I think he might have blackmailed her, or maybe she just paid him to say nothing.  They both had new lives and new names and a lot to lose.”

“OK.  I guess that’s possible, but she hasn’t got a record and her passport isn’t a fake, so she has a birth certificate.  You think she stole someone’s ID?”

“Yeah.  A simple name change would have left a trail back to her real ID.  The stolen ID will probably dead end in a graveyard somewhere.  But Raul/Ricky recognized her.  However it started, I think it went bad when Alex Benson realized something was up with his wife, and not just an affair.  I bet he had her investigated.  There was probably a pre-nup, but if she got married under a stolen ID, I don’t even know if a document signed under a false ID is valid.”

They turned to RJ for a legal opinion.  “Probably the marriage would be annulled or voided outright, which would void the pre-nup and leave her with no legal claim at all.  A smart lawyer might get some ‘go-away’ money, but it would depend on how vindictive Benson felt.  Technically, it would be like they were never married.  But there are some non-spousal rights laws, so she might have gotten something that way, just not much because she deceived him from the start and the ‘marriage’ was a short one –under 5 years.”

“It was the timing that bothered me.  It all kept coming back to the dance competition.  I think that’s where Raul and Alyssa ran into each other.  A dance competition.  But Raul/Ricky and Alyssa both wanted one thing – money.  If the pre-nup had a 5 year baseline for ANY settlement, then she had to stick it out till then.  She gave Raul some money to keep him quiet, that bought the home theater system and big screen TV, but she couldn’t get enough without her husband noticing.  There was only one other way.  Alex Benson had to die.”

“Why do you think Benson was suspicious of his wife?”, RJ asked.

“When Trey called and asked to speak with him, he promptly agreed.  Why would a busy, prominent TV exec agree to meet with a bunch of strangers about an accident that happened to woman he didn’t even know, unless he thought they also had some information that would help him?”

“Good point.  I was surprised when you said Benson agreed not only to meet you, but to do so the very same day.  In this place, that simply doesn’t happen.  I thought maybe you had Big Daddy make a call, but he has no interest in TV or movies at all, so I wasn’t certain what buttons he could push.”  RJ looked at the groundhog speculatively.  “You have a very twisty mind, you know that?  You’d be a good lawyer or investigator.”  She grinned.  Trey muttered, “Or a borderline psychopath.”

RF glared, “Do we need to have the whole body moving discussion again?”

Trey held his hands up in surrender, while Rupert said, “I liked that one.  I actually understood it.”  Trey sighed.

“So why harm your friend Carly?”

“I think she saw something, or in their paranoia, Raul and Alyssa thought she did.  Something that might make the police look too closely too soon.  So Raul kicked her, dropped her, but didn’t expect Carly to get so badly injured.  They wanted her away from the dance competition, not in a hospital.  Instead, she was badly hurt and she loudly claimed she was kicked and it was no accident.   Now a lot of unwanted police attention came down on the studio – and Raul.”

“So he ran, because unlike Alyssa, he hadn’t covered the tracks to his past.  I can see that, but why kill Benson?”

“Alyssa must have found out he agreed to see us.  Why were people asking to see her husband when she was the one at the studio when the ‘accident’ happened?  Maybe we found the link between her and Raul and were going to ask her husband about it, revealing the truth about her.  She and Raul were now both panicked.  Benson likely caught them when came home unexpectedly.  The police said the safe was opened and her jewelry was in her bag.  She’d emptied their joint account an hour before.  If he’d been five minutes later, he would be alive, but he was early, saw them, and whatever ever happened, probably Alyssa panicked again, and she shot him – possibly by accident, possibly because she was just mad her plans failed.  My money is on the second scenario.

“To make things worse, we were early too, and they were caught in the house with the body and the smoking gun.  I could smell gunpowder and blood and when I pushed the door and it hit the body, I knew they’d take a side or rear exit because they’d need the car that sat out front by ours.  Trey called the cops and they must have had a car close, or a silent alarm had them on the way, and they were coming up the driveway before she could shoot us too.”

The lawyer sat back and eyed her shrewdly.  “She would never have made that shot, would she?”

RF just shrugged.  Trey looked at her.  “I keep telling you not to turn people who annoy you into gerbils.”

“I wasn’t going to turn her into a gerbil.  Give me a little credit, will you?  Besides, waving a gun is a lot more dangerous than simply ‘annoying’.”

Eyes narrowed he asked, “What were you planning to change her into?”

She hesitated, then shrugged again.  “A warthog.”

All three men sat back and stared.  “A warthog?”  Rupert sounded dumbfounded.

“Well, have you ever tried to catch a gerbil that got loose outside?  Warthogs are too big and smelly to hide for long, so I figured it was the best choice.”

RJ started laughing again.  “No wonder Trent adores you.  You’re really smart, devious, cunning, crazy, and mean as a snake.  Damn.  This is the best dinner I’ve had in ages.  I’d offer you a job, but I know you have several already.”  He looked at Trey, “I don’t envy you being partners with her.  Bet she’s a handful.”

“You have no idea,” muttered Trey.

Then the lawyer turned to Rupert.  “Now I know the story you folks told and I know this gentleman you keep calling Rupert has a passport with a very different name, so you going to tell me who he really is?  And will the police catch any of this?”

“Rupert will be unreachable by any police.  Trust me on that. And Zaranthu Soulis is a real identity and the address is real too.  Rupert lives there on and off.”  Rupert himself remained silent.

“I really must ask,” the lawyer’s voice dropped and he leaned forward, “WHAT is Rupert really, because I’m betting he’s not really human.  Trent was kind of evasive about him when I asked.”  RF turned to Rupert, she nodded telling him the decision on whether or not he wanted to tell the lawyer was his.

Rupert looked at the human and said, “I’m a djinn.”

The lawyer blinked.  “You mean like the whole three wishes things?”

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!,” they all yelled at once.  “Jeeze, we have to stop telling humans the truth.  Someone will land in the seventh circle of hell wishing for a pony.”  RF looked a little frazzled.

Startled, the lawyer sat back.  “I guess asking for a wish is a one a one way ticket to somewhere unpleasant?”

“Pretty much.  If you’re lucky, you just die.”

“Ah, well then, I’ll just treat him like a mob hit man and all will be fine.”  He turned to Rupert, “You’re not offended by that, are you?”

Rupert gave him a big smile, RF and Trey sighed, “That would be just fine, thank-you.”  He turned to Trey and RF, “Finally someone who properly appreciates me.”

“Oh God, he’ll be insufferable for days.”

“Forget days, he’ll be bragging about this for millennium.”

RJ asked, “Millennium?”

“Djinn live a long, long time.”  RF didn’t sound thrilled.

“Fascinating.”  He turned to Rupert, genuine curiosity on his face.  “What is the earliest thing you recall?”

“Well, I didn’t interact with humans until I got older, and time passes differently where I’m from, but I remember the Trojan War.  It was really boring.   Does that help?”

The lawyer sat quietly, adsorbing the fact the insanely handsome man that was being stared at by males and females alike was around 3,000 years old.  And he wasn’t human.  And he was dangerous despite looking like the perfect, blond California surfer.

As if reading his mind, RF said, “If you think he’s handsome, you should see Lucifer.”  She paused, “But it might be the last thing you ever saw, so maybe that isn’t such a good idea.”

“You know, you three are the most interesting clients I’ve ever had, and that includes the woman with multiple personalities and the nymphomaniac that claimed it was the fault of a low fat diet and the guy who was convinced his dog was a demon.”  The lawyer stopped and stared at the studiously blank looks on their three faces.  “Was it a demon?”  He got three non-committal shrugs.  OK, he would have to reset his ‘normal’ meter.

“They’re closing the restaurant and you’ll want to see your friend tomorrow.  I’ll meet you at Vista Knolls with the Kimchee and the 1000 years eggs.  I don’t want to miss the fart contest.  Haven’t seen one of those since college.”

On the drive back to the house in LaJolla, Trey said, “You know RF, you kind of neatly evaded how you decided Raul and Alyssa knew each other.  And what did you do to the cops who caged you, because I know you did something.”

“Did I?”  She yawned widely.  Trey sensibly stuck with one bourbon, but she enjoyed the excellent red wine and was feeling sleepy.  Talking in a convertible traveling over 60 mph was difficult and even harder when RF wasn’t cooperating by using her ‘selective hearing’ trick.  By the time they hit the house, she was snoring like a boar hog with sinus problems.  His questions would have to wait till the morning.


To Be Continued …………………..

June 10, 2014

Carly and the Tango Instructor – Part 2

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 2:31 pm
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“You’re sure this is the place?” Trey asked.

“That’s what the map says.  On their website it was kind of a plus sign shaped building – look, over there!  Yes, this is it.”  The groundhog pointed smugly.

RF was still a bit wound up.  She went a little crazy in the convertible last night, standing with her paws on the dashboard yelling, “FASTER!!!!!!!”  Bouncing around in poor Rupert’s lap, then throwing herself across his body and hanging her head over the side of the door so the wind could blow through her fur.  The djinn had several small heart attacks holding onto her.  He was shaking so much he had trouble holding his fork steady at the restaurant.

RF had a blast and once the kitchen found out the High Priestess of Tortum was there, she all but sat in state as the chefs all paid courtesy calls – especially the very nervous pastry chef.  The other diners, used to the extreme eccentricities of celebrities, assumed he was George Clooney, and largely ignored the fact a very chatty animal sat there discussing food with the chefs.  It helped that Rupert looked tall, blonde, and insanely handsome.  Of course, if he looked like his real 8 foot tall blue djinn with a pony tail, and pointy teeth, they’d probably barely notice.  This was California.  But having RF this excitable was like having a 2 year old on a sugar high and Trey was exhausted.  He was driving, so drinking was out.  Good thing there was bourbon back at the house.

Now they had a bigger challenge.  Getting an animal into a rehab facility.  Trey parked the Jag, grabbed RF who was a bit calmer this morning, and the three of them approached the bright yellow doors.  He was sure they were meant to be cheerful, but he felt like Dorothy holding Toto.  Any flying monkeys and they we so out of there.

“Hello.  I’m ……

“Mr Clooney!  No need for introductions!”

“No, I’m not George Clooney, I’m Trey Dupress for Carly Cady.”  Trey flashed the smile that slayed all the women in the Bakery and it worked here too.  RF sighed and looked at the ceiling.

“Oh, yes, of course!  Your secret is safe with me!  And you want to see Miz Carly.  Lucky lady.”  The woman with the name badge that said ‘Rachel Winters’ checked an online schedule.  “Miz Carly is just back in her room after therapy.  She’ll be a bit tired, but I’m sure she’ll be happy to see you.”  She looked at Rupert and smiled even wider.  “Both of you.  Are you her dance instructor?”

Rupert looked a bit nonplussed and then he rose to occasion, “No.  I’m a personal friend.”  He took Rachel’s hand in his and bowed over it.  “I’m Zari.”  Then he smiled and Rachel turned brain dead again.

Finally shaking out of her male beauty stupor, Rachel cast an uncertain eye on RF.  “Is that her pet?  We do allow them for short visits.  It won’t bite or anything?”  She sounded a lot less than thrilled with RF’s presence and rather disappointed she wasn’t some stupid poodle or golden retriever.   Trey felt her stiffen and tightened his grip.  “She’s quite friendly, but a bit shy around strangers.”  SHY??????

“Oh, ok I guess.”  Rachel looked uncertainly at RF, “Would you like a widdle treat?”  She was using that really annoying sing-song tone reserved for babies that drove RF nuts.  Then she shoved a store bought fake ‘baby carrot’ in her face.  She gave Trey a look that promised retribution as he smiled widely at the woman.  With great reluctance, she accepted the offering, holding it in her front paws and biting at it delicately.  Disgusting thing.

“She is soooooo adorable.  I’m sure Miz Carly will be happy to see her.”  She patted RF on the head and Trey knew by the tension in his partner’s body the receptionist was seconds away from being turned into a gerbil.  “Could we have directions to Carly’s room?”

Rachel-the-perky-soon-to-be-gerbil, laughed.  “Sorry.  We rarely get two such handsome men here at one time.  Now here’s a site map.  Everything is color coded and Miz Carly is right here.  She has a sweet older lady for her roommate.  Just go through those doors and follow the colors to her room.  Have a nice visit!”

They went thru another set of doors and were immediately assaulted by smells associated health care institutions.  “Water,” gasped RF.  Trey found a fountain and the groundhog spit out the bits of carrot and rinsed her mouth, spitting out water with the last vestiges of the offending produce.    “That was disgusting!  It was covered with chemicals.  I probably have hepatitis of the tongue or hanta virus.”

Trey and Rupert exchanged looks.  The drama of the groundhog.  “I think you’re safe from both.  Let’s go find Carly before she falls asleep.”


Carly was trying to figure out why all the nurses and therapists were running in and out of her room, fluffing pillows, offering to do her hair, cleaning invisible dust and watching the door expectantly.   Suddenly a man who was a dead ringer for a younger George Clooney was there with a tall, drop-dead gorgeous blonde behind him – and held in his arms was …….. “RF?  Is that really you?”

“Hi Carly!” She gave a little wave.

The staff just stared at the men and didn’t even notice the animal was talking.  Being in California had its advantages – except Trey looked ready to run.  There had to be at least 6 people just staring at him in awe.  RF climbed up to his shoulder and whispered.  “Put me on the bed and then just roll with it.  Get these people OUT OF HERE while I ask some questions.”

Trey gave his partner a dirty look and muttered, “You owe me,” and he very gently set her on Carly’s bed and started chatting with the staff, expertly herding them out the door, while casting dark looks at RF.  Rupert looked completely at home with all the gawkers and pulled out some surprisingly smooth moves helping Trey clear the room.

“How are you feeling?”

“I hate this whole thing, but I think I’m feeling a bit better.  I hoped to get home in 2 weeks, but …… well, I think it really might take a month.  And I’ll miss the dance competition completely.  In fact, I don’t think I’ll tango ever again!”  She looked despondent.  RF wasn’t sure if she knew about Raul.

“Did you hear about Raul?”

“He hasn’t been to visit!  Why hasn’t he at least come to see me or sent a card?  Caryn sent a nice plant and a get well card, but even she hasn’t seen me.”

“Well, Caryn might be concerned about a lawsuit.  And I don’t mean to upset you, but Raul is missing.  He disappeared shortly after your fall and the police can’t find him.”

Carly looked upset and mad at the same time.  “I told that stupid cop that someone kicked my ankle.  You could see the swelling and bruise, but Raul said that happened a lot when practicing for a competition with an amateur and it didn’t really mean anything.  They just called me clumsy.  CLUMSY!!!!!!!!  I was set to compete in the senior amateur competition in Laugna Beach and we had a decent shot at a top 5 finish too!  I even paid the blasted entry fees!  Why would Raul lie?”  She sounded baffled by Raul and more than a bit angry.  Angry was good.  It made the next part easier.

“Well, he wasn’t really Raul.  He was Ricky Andretti from Brooklyn.  He seems to have come into a bit of cash recently.  You didn’t lend him any money, did you?”

“That lying sack of poo!  He had all these stories about growing up poor and dancing in the clubs in Buenos Aires for money.   Everything was a big lie!”  Seething now, Carly suddenly remembered RF asked about money.  “ME LEND HIM MONEY?  What money?  If he was looking for a sugar momma, he was looking at the wrong person!  And why would he want money from me?  He drove a Lexus, dressed in all designer clothes, and let me tell you, costumes for those competitions cost a fortune!  Most instructors, even major competition winners, don’t make a ton of money, drive small, older cars and save their money for their competition outfits.

“I guess Caryn does ok, but any studio needs to place high or win those amateur contests to keep their customers.  Wrecking the chances of a good student isn’t a smart move.  And an accident like mine makes all students nervous.  She could lose business.  And if I sued, she’d lose more.”

“Did Raul and Caryn fight?  Was he thinking of changing studios?  Could he have done this deliberately to hurt her business?”

Carly paused and gave RF’s questions a lot of thought.   Hesitantly, she replied, “You know, now that you mention it, Caryn and Raul had been giving each other the cold shoulder.  Not fighting, at least not in front of students, but something was wrong.  He wasn’t mad at her ….. well, maybe a little, but professional dancers are pretty temperamental, so as lowly students, we just ignored it.  He was quite charming with his private students – when he wanted to be.

“Dimitri is the better dancer, but he has so many awards, I couldn’t afford his private student fees.  And it’s not like there was any real competition between them.  Dimitri and Caryn are dance partners in competitions, but he’s gay and in a committed relationship with a stockbroker.  They aren’t hurting for money and he owns part of the studio with Caryn.  Caryn has a boyfriend and they seem to be serious, so it wasn’t like Raul was after her.”

“Could he have been jealous of Dimitri?”

“Oh, he was.  Insanely so, but Dimitri usually ignored him, so he just sort of seethed.”

“Was Dimitri competing in your group at the competition?”

“No, most of his students are younger than me and can do the more complicated moves.”

“What about the other instructors?”

“Well, the women are the most competitive because private male students are a lot harder to get and keep.  Especially talented ones.  Cindi – with and ‘i’ – has a really good one.  Dave’s an electrician and has limited money for lessons, so like me, he can’t afford Caryn or one of the other high profile instructors.  But I know Ellen wants to steal him.  She a much better teacher and needs a good young male student.  She and Cindi are barely speaking and I think Dave is almost ready to quit the studio and go elsewhere rather than deal with them.”

“Does that happen a lot?  Instructors stealing students?”

“I think it happens more than it should.  It’s kind of cutthroat.  Like a used car dealership, they circle like sharks over promising students that look like they’ll stick with it.”

“So why did you start dancing?”

Carly blushed deeply.  “I wanted to go out more and thought it would be good to learn to salsa dance.  It’s very popular in the adult clubs around here.  So I took some group lessons at the ‘Y’ and then wanted a bit more and tried this studio, Foot Steps.  I kind of got hooked on the Argentine tango and Raul was really good and I could afford him.”

“And what was the real reason?”

Honestly, trying to lie to RF was really hard.  “I went on Weight Watchers and saw how much dancing did for Kristie Alley, so I figured, it was one exercise that I might not hate and gave it a shot.  I liked it, just like I said.  It made me feel better, gave me more energy.”  She pulled a face.  “Or it did until Raul dropped me.  Now look at me.”

It would have been a perfect moment for some reassuring sympathy, except her roommate cut loose with a loud fart.  “And then there’s Mrs Kim.”  Now Carly sounded resigned.

“On the upside, there is some entertainment value.  You can start scoring them for loudness, duration, and ……. fragrance.  Then hold up a scorecard.  If you can’t change it, make the best of it!”  RF grinned.

“How about this Mrs Kim?”  RF called as she carefully stepped across the bottom of the bed, stood with  her tail pointed to Mrs Kim, and let loose with loud and smelly one – just as Trey and Rupert came back in the room.  Carly shook her head.  RF really was nuts.

“RF!  WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  Open a window!”  Rupert ran to comply.  Mrs Kim was laughing and gasping in the groundhog created miasma.

“You funny demon rat.”

“I’m a groundhog, Mrs Kim.  A member of the marmot family.  I am not a rat!  And I’m definitely not a demon.”

“You and blondy both demons.  You a fat demon.  Kind of small, but a demon.”


“That just German for fat.”

“I’ll give you fat ……”

“You stop right now, RF.  Are you done questioning Carly?”  Trey snatched her off the bed before she could launch herself at the little Korean lady.


“Why are you yelling at me?”

“Because you wouldn’t let me drive the Jag!”

“You can’t see over the steering wheel or reach the pedals.  How could you drive?”

“Size discrimination!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Carly turned to Rupert, looking a bit stunned.  “She wanted to drive?”

He sighed deeply.  “You have no idea.  Now she wants a car.”

“Oh.  That’s not good, is it?”  Wow, Rupert looked really good as a human.

“Not if you’re anywhere near her, no.”

Apparently done with their squabble, for the moment at least, RF turned to Carly again.  “Who was in the studio when you had your accident?”

“Dimitri was dancing with Mrs Benson.  She’s in the amateur competition as well, but in a much younger age group.  She’s late 20’s early 30’s and married to some bigtime TV exec in Laguna Beach.  She’s on the board for the Laguna Beach Ballroom Dance Club.  They’re the ones sponsoring the pro-am event and it’s sanctioned by NDCA – National Dance Council of America.  With all the coverage on TV for ballroom, they get big crowds, especially here in SoCal.  And Cindi with Dave.  They were polishing some footwork, but he’s in a different age group too.  None of them had reason to want me out, because we didn’t compete against each other.”

“And Dimitri wasn’t near you?  And neither was Cindi?”

“No.  He was always careful that way.  He really is a pro.  I wish I could afford him – well I would if I could still dance.  Won’t be doing ballroom after this.”  She sighed unhappily.  “Cindi and Dave were a bit closer, but if they did anything, it was an accident.”  Carly looked at Rupert as if realizing just what he was, “Can’t you, like blink and make this all better?  You know, if I say I wish …………….”

“NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Trey, RF and even Mrs Kim were all yelling at once, stopping Carly from saying more.

“Carly, you cannot say that to a ……., ah,” she glanced at Mrs Kim, “him.  Ever.  When I broke my paw last year, I had the surgery and therapy and everything, so I do understand.  I couldn’t even dig a hole, and for a groundhog, that’s like basic part of life.  But you simply cannot EVER ask or wish for something like that.”

“Then it’s not like Aladdin?  Or I Dream of Jeanie?”

Rupert smiled.  “It’s never like that.  Unless you know how to do what RF does, we’re very dangerous.  I am bound to her now, for a time, but saying such a thing to me, it could cost your life and your soul.”

Carly sat wide-eyed.  Mrs Kim looked at RF, “You fat, but you not bad demon.  And you fart good.  You bring some kimchee and we try again.”

“Then I get 1000 year eggs!”

“Kimchee do better.”

RF got that evil smile that made Rupert want to run.  “Not for me.”  Goundhogs and eggs were a potent mix.  Trey sighed.  Good thing they would be back in the UK soon, because a fart contest with Mrs Kim would likely lead them to being banned from Vista Knoll for life.

The groundhog turned to Rupert, “Where’s that bottle I gave you?”  He handed over what looked like an ordinary extra-large calcium plus D3 vitamin bottle.  “Now, just in case, this is real calcium.  Turn it upside down and unscrew the bottom and ………………… Neuhaus dark chocolate truffles!  I’ll see what I can smuggle in tomorrow before we leave.”

Carly was all but orgasming on a truffle when she realized RF would be leaving soon.  Swallowing she asked, “You’ll know what happened that fast?”

“I’m pretty sure I know now, but I have some people to see before I can be sure.  You rest now.  We’ll see you tomorrow and let you know what we find out.”

“You bring kimchee – and truffles.  I like chocolate.”  She looked at Carly.  “You share truffle with old lady.”

“Why?  You never even talked to me before.”

“You not interesting before.  Now is different.”  She holds he hand out.  “Truffle!  Or I tell evil nurse Dwayne.”

Carly glared at Mrs Kim as RF, Trey, and Rupert said hasty goodbyes and left the roommates to the ‘Great Truffle War’.  They were almost out of the building when RF observed, “Well, at least Carly seems more lively than when we arrived.”

Trey sighed and tossed his partner in the car.  “Where to next?  The dance studio?”

“OK. And Rupert, find that Benson person in Laguna Beach.  Maybe your cousin can help.  I want to talk to the husband and the wife.”  Rupert got busy on the cell phone while hanging onto RF as she hung over the door again.


To be continued …………………….

June 9, 2014

Finis – The Problem of the Endless Series – Part 1

Finis.  Shows up at the end of films and sometimes books.  It’s a welcome sign that the story is over.  Unfortunately, series books, especially in the UF, paranormal, and epic fantasy genres, are more the norm than a stand alone book.  In mystery and action thrillers, the plot finishes at the end, though characters and groups may carry-on over many books (character based series).  In romance, by definition, the story ends with a happily-ever-after – which is why they kind of belong in a sub-set of fantasy.  So-called ‘series romance’ usually involves interconnected characters, like members of a family or close friends, and may have some small over-arching element, the primary plot is about the two individuals featured in the book.  Christine Warren’s The Others series, written out of order in real time, and Shelley Laurenston’s Pack and Pride series, are examples of this.

For the sake of sanity, in this article, a series is a group of books that tell an on-going story (plot based series) that is not resolved till the last book.  So each book would be an installment or section of a story with an over-arcing plot.  This type of writing is common in the fantasy, Steampunk, and Dystopian fields of science and fantasy fiction.  The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Belgariad are all examples of installments that unwound a long, continuous plot where each installment was a different segment of a whole, but the main story line does complete till the last book.  To make things simple, a plot based series needs to be read in order to makes sense of characters and events.  A character based series can be read in any order and the basic plot still makes sense, though some personal relationships may change.  Examples of character based series are James Bond, Travis McGee, Walt Longmier, Miss Marple, Dirk Pitt, or in UF, Garrett books by Glen Cook, Remy Chandler by Thomas E. Sniegoski (yes, I looked it up), the Joe Pitt series by legendary mystery author, Charlie Huston, and the Felix Gomez series, uneven in quality though it may be, by Mario Acevedo, but his best was his last Gomez book, Werewolf Smackdown.  It can easily be read as a stand alone.

The plot based series type of writing, though common,can be amazingly frustrating for readers.  Take for example the ultimate #epic fail – in multiple senses – Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.   With a 2-3 year wait between books, his incredibly complex and demanding story ended unfinished at his death.  Personally, I grew tired after over 6 years and 7 books and gave up when the last one I read covered all of 72 hours in a 1,000 pages in hardcover and was published  TWO YEARS after book six.  His death in 2006 resulted in a 4 year wait for the next installment, which was supposed to be the last book that a greedy publisher split into 3.  In part, to get an installment out before everyone forgot the series, and in part to buy time while Brandon Sanderson worked on the next two part.  It still took Sanderson 3 years to finish the last of the 3 books he co-authored.  Unlike some authors, Jordan did not make arrangements with another author while still living to finish his work, though he knew he was dying.  Not unusual.  Authors protect their ‘baby’.  From the year the first book was published till the year the last book was published, the series took 23 years.  That is an entire generation of human existence.

So, fans are understandably concerned with aging Georger R.R. Martin and his Song of Fire and Ice series.  At 66 years, he’s not young and now spends much of his time working with HBO on the Game of Thrones series.  That takes a lot of time and focus AWAY from writing.  Ask Kaylana Price, whose latest Grave Witch book is now 3 YEARS OVERDUE!  Or Scott Lynch and his Gentleman Bastards series.  It took SIX YEARS before The Republic of Thieves was FINALLY published, and that’s just book 3 in his series.  He’s a young man, but still, that is a loooooooooooooooooong wait.  I should know.  I had the book on pre-order.

Patrick Rothfuss takes his time with the King Killer Chronicles as well – which is SUPPOSED to end at book 3.  It took 4 years between 1 and 2, so I’d advise against holding your breath.

Gee, and I wondered why I was asked to name some series that have finally wrapped.  Well, I don’t read every author, but I’ll give this a shot.

David Eddings (d. 2009) – The Belgariad, The Malloreon – epic fantasy

J. R. R. Tolkein (d. 1973) – The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit (a stand alone and precursor of the Lord of the Rings) – epic fantasy

Robert Jordan (d. 2007)  (w/Brandon Sanderson) – The Wheel of Time (finished 6 years after his death)

Charlaine Harris (living) – Sookie Stackouse completed 2013 (and it sucked) – UF/paranormal/paranormal romance

Daryanda Jones (living) – The Darklight Trilogy (didn’t like the ending) 3 book series complete 2013 – YA, Paranormal, UF; Charley Davidson – ongoing with no indication of when the series will end – UF, Paranormal mystery, Paranormal romance

Gail Carriger – The Parasol Protectorate (5 books) complete 2012 – Steampunk, paranormal; Finishing School – in progress – YA Steampunk  NOTE:  Highly stylized writing for both series, so read a sample to be sure you can deal with it.  I liked it after I got over her style.

Jenn Bennett (living) – Arcadia Bell – complete 2014; Four novels and 1 novella – UF, paranormal romance; consistently well written, but the ending, while good, was not slam bang.

Devon Monk (living) – Allie Beckstrom complete 2012, 9 book series – UF; the latest novel, Dark Magic, is a spin-off of the series.  Another series, Broken Magic is as well.  She is also writing Age of Steam – Steampunk set in the old West.

Kim Harrison (living) – The Hollows (AKA Rachel Morgan) Series – Supposedly complete 2014 with book 13 of the series.  There are numerous novellas associated with it as well.  Dystopian, UF, Futuristic Fantasy

Jacqueline Carey (living) – Kushiel’s Legacy – 3 different series set in the same ‘universe’ complete 2011, 9 books total plus 1 companion book – fantasy; currently writing Agents of Hel

Karen Marie Moning (living) – Fever series complete 2011; 5 books; UF; new series set in the same ‘world’ Fever World AKA Dani O’Malley series in progress; uses the Irish myths for her world building

Molly Harper (living) – Jane Jameson (Nice Girl) series, 4 books complete 2012 – paranormal, paranormal romance, humor; the Half Moon Hollow series are stand alone books set in the same ‘world’- paranormal romance; Naked Werewolf series – stand alone humorous paranormal romance with common elements tying the series to the same ‘world’.

Lauren Dane (living) – Bound by Magic – UF, paranormal romance; 4 books series complete 2013; Tied several other series involving werewolves, were jaguars, and witches together.  For a strong author, the ending was lame and unsatisfying.  The Charvez Witches – erotic paranormal romance, UF series that stopped but was not finished

Kelley Armstrong – The Women of Otherworld – 13 books, numerous novellas and short stories, paranormal romance, UF, complete 2012; has published stand alone books set in Otherworld; Darkness Rising – 3 book series, YA paranormal completed 2013; also writes mystery

Jeaniene Frost (living) – Night Huntress series 6 books,paranormal, paranormal romance, UF complete 2014; stand alone books in Night Huntress Universe and related Night Prince books on-going

Yasmine Galenorn (living) – Indigo Court – 4 books complete 2013, UF; Otherworld series on-going at 13 and at 4 more scheduled; also writes mystery

Deborah Harkness (living) – All Souls Trilogy – completes July 2014 – Paranormal romance; Occult, paranormal romantic suspense, horror; the over-arching plot looses focus now and then, and she gets quite pedantic on some subjects which takes the characters out of character; despite its shortcomings, an original concept in a ‘me too’ field, but the author can’t seem to make up her mind what’s most important, the book or the relationship between her two lead characters.

Some books start as stand alones and end up the first of a series, but unlike a true series, these books are more like mystery or thriller books where the plot is resolved, but the characters continue.  The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is a perfect UF example of a style we’d normally associated with spy or action thrillers.  Complete in itself, readers want the characters to continue.  Stiletto, his second book scheduled for Feb 2015, will continue the characters, but the primary story has (in theory) been resolved, so a new, but related story will be told.  Rather SPECTER in James Bond.

Another apparent stand alone is Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is another first novel and author Robin Sloan seemed to have ended the plot.  It’s tough to classify this book as it feels like many genres at once, yet never fits into any one.  In Amazon it’s listed under Fantasy AND Techno-thriller, so take your pick.  Personally, I found it curious, but not enthralling or exciting in any way.

Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series – UF,  is one of those that is neither a character based series nor a plot based series, but instead moves between the two seamlessly.  You’ll get some virtual stand alones with only minor elements tied to earlier and later books, just as you’d get with a traditional mystery.  Then you’ll get several books primarily driven by a plot element that is resolved at some point.  Harry goes on – even after death, such as it is.  Butcher also writes Codex Alera, a separate fantasy series that has never gained the international following of his Dresden books, but sells very well.  He has signed a deal for a Steampunk series, which may well have an impact on the Dresden series.  Want a perfect example of how UF crosses into Mystery?  Butcher had a book-signing scheduled for the release date of Skin Tight at the famous mystery book store in Scottsdale, The Poisoned Pen.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga is science fantasy/science fiction and another one of those series that defies simple classification.  She wrote her Vor books in random order, moving back and forth in the timeline of Miles Vorkosigan’s life then spinning off related books in which he is not a major character.  So they can be viewed as related stand alone books or a character driven series, but the story actually starts with his mother and is plot driven!  It’s just one of the many frustrating things readers deal with.

Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series is character driven in book one but turns to plot driven right at the very end.  Book 5 is due out this summer, The Getaway God.  The books read almost as stand alone novels, but link enough that reading them in order is necessary.  Horror, dystopian, UF.  His novel Dead Set is a stand alone dark fantasy/horror book.  By the way, Sandman Slim has been optioned for a movie.

Now, the real question is, when will I write Part 2????? MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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