My name is Nanette and this is my story.

When I was eight years old, my parents bought a small house on a tiny crescent-shaped street called Magnolia Terrace, one of the many cul-de-sacs in the area. At the end of the street was a turnabout and beyond the turnabout was a footpath that led into a wooded area dense with poplar trees.

Magnolia Terrace was the tiniest street around with only 8 houses; they were all very similar, modest and affordable. Each house was painted a subtle shade and the street was lined with magnolia trees; from March through April, the graceful trees bloomed in an array of pastel colors, from luscious whites to pale yellows to deep pink and purple hues.

The residents of Magnolia Terrace were hard-working people with a great love of family, God and country. We were far from rich but we were content.

There were children in every house and our street rang with the sounds of fun and laughter. When the streetlights came on, we knew it was time to run home for dinner; there would always be tomorrow for more childhood games. For me and my friends, Magnolia Terrace was the happiest place on earth.

Our fathers all worked for the same factory about fifteen miles from home and they would take turns driving every day – two cars, four men per car. They’d leave for work at 7:00 AM and be home by 5:00 PM in time for dinner. Two or three nights each week our dads would go bowling, get together at one of the houses to play cards and attend a meeting at the “lodge”. We kids thought our dads were really spies for the FBI and the factory was just a cover because they all used a secret handshake and wore the same ring like Dick Tracy.

Sometimes when our fathers went out, our mothers would get together for sewing bees or book clubs. About once each month all our parents would get dressed up and go to the lodge for a fancy dinner and an important meeting. As usual, they never told us anything about their time at the lodge. It was grown ups only.

There was one very important rule our parents made sure we clearly understood: under no circumstances were we allowed to go beyond the turnabout and into the poplar woods. When we asked why, our parents told us the woods were private property and we would be trespassing; there would be a hefty fine to pay. This sounded very official to us and we were raised to obey the law so we never entered the woods.

Time passed very quickly for us; I was now 18 years old and a senior in high school. I had a boyfriend named Ryan; his house was diagonally across from mine and was the closest to the woods. Our parents knew we liked each other but we were never allowed to be alone. The only time we were even allowed to hold hands was at the weekend barbecues where there were lots of people around.

When our fathers went out at night and all was quiet, Ryan and I would sneak down to the footpath near the woods. We never did anything bad – just talked and made out – but it was our special time together. One night we were making out when Ryan suddenly stopped and motioned for me to be quiet. He tapped his ear and pointed into the woods; we sat very close together as silent as could be and that’s when we heard it – distant sounds we could only describe as guttural chanting.

Ryan took my hand and as quietly as possible we left the area and ran back to our houses. My mother was engrossed in her sewing, the TV on in the background, and she never heard me come in and head up to my room. Whatever Ryan and I heard in the woods frightened us both but I knew we had to find out more.

As I was drifting off to sleep, I had a weird thought: my mother was always busy at her sewing machine but I never saw any of her creations. What was she making? The next day she had a large box delivered; it had obviously been damaged during shipment and was taped up but some of the contents were visible. All I saw was what looked like white cloth and I didn’t think it was a big deal but my mother became irate and screamed at me to go back into the house. She could be very strange at times and I never knew when she would fly off the handle.

Ryan and I decided the best night to go back to the woods would be bowling night; that was Monday, four days away. We were determined to go deeper into the woods; we wanted to see and hear more but knew we had to stay out of sight. Neither one of us had any idea what to expect; it could have been a group of hippies camping in the woods. Whatever is was we hoped our questions would be answered on Monday.

The weekend dragged on. If my mother was still upset about her delivery, she didn’t say anything. On Sunday we had our usual barbecue and just as everyone was beginning to head home, my father started handing out brown packages tied with red string to all the men. My mother always used red string to secure her packages so whatever was wrapped in that brown paper had been made by my mother. I wondered how many times the same packages were handed out over the years and I never noticed. None of the men opened the packages but they seemed very happy to have gotten them.

Finally Monday evening arrived and at 8:00 PM all the men of Magnolia Terrace headed out to go bowling. When it was safe, I snuck out of my house and met Ryan at the turnabout. The crescent moon did little to light our way. We held tightly onto each other’s hands as we hesitantly entered the woods. Every few feet we would stop and listen but all was silent. About 15 feet in, we were startled by a distant glow that lit up the night sky like a rocket; the low chanting we heard the other night began and intensified to an angry rumble. Believing the revelers were blinded by the glow of what must have been a bonfire and deaf to all sounds but their own, Ryan and I felt emboldened and crept further into the woods. We now had an unobscured view and what we saw shook us to our core.

Was this a spacecraft surrounded by aliens? The luminosity of the fire was so intense, it was impossible to clearly make out shapes and sizes. Then gradually the flames diminished just enough for us to clearly see this was no spaceship but something far more horrifying in its significance: it was a blazing cross! And the creatures were no extraterrestrials: they were men, maybe as many as 25, dressed in white robes with attached capes, rope belts and pointed hoods with eye holes covering their faces.

We were transfixed. Ryan spoke to me in a barely audible voice “Nanette, I can’t believe what we’re seeing! It’s a Ku Klux Klan gathering.”

I nodded and whispered softly “I know. I saw them on the news. I’m frightened, Ryan! Why are they here so close to where we live?”

But before Ryan could answer, the chanting stopped and one man began to address the group. I gasped and buried my face in Ryan’s chest, my body quivering, and he held me tightly. When I looked up, I was crying and barely able to utter the words “That’s my father!”

“I recognize his voice, too” Ryan replied. In hushed tones he continued. “Nanette, we can’t stay here. Let’s go back to my house, slowly and as quietly as possible. Here, take my hand.”  Terrified, I held Ryan’s hand tightly as we cautiously made our way back to the clearing, never letting go of each other. Once free of the woods, we ran back to Ryan’s house and collapsed under a tree in his backyard.

For a long time we sat huddled together, saying nothing. Finally, Ryan spoke softly: “Nanette, we have to talk about this, but not now. Let’s get our thoughts together and we’ll talk during the week. I think you need to go home now and try to get some sleep.” I started to get up but Ryan held onto my arm. “Nanette, be careful. I love you.”

That was the first time Ryan said those words and I told him I loved him, too. We hugged, then I quickly walked back to my house across the street. As usual, I snuck in through the kitchen; my mother and a few other women were playing bridge and no one saw me scramble up the stairs to my room. I threw myself onto my bed and cried into my pillow. This felt like a nightmare.

From the next day on, nothing was the same but I had to act normally. I could barely look at my father let alone talk to him without feelings of anger and disgust. I was also deeply saddened. It was difficult to believe that all the fathers living on our perfect little street were members of the KKK and all the mothers supported them. The many nights they were supposedly bowling or playing cards they were really in the woods plotting and scheming and doing God knows what. And all the time my mother spent hunched over her sewing machine she was making the men’s robes and hoods! The fact that our parents were living duplicitous lives all these years made me sick to my stomach.

There was nothing Ryan and I could do and no one we could trust; the Klan hid in plain sight. Confronting our parents with what we knew about them would do no good. Ryan told me to hang on a little longer until he figured out what to do. A couple of weeks later he told me he came up with a plan. He said during Sunday’s barbecue we would tell our parents that we were in love and wanted to get married after graduation. Ryan said he would ask my father for his blessing and tell him that he wanted to work in the factory with the other men to provide a good life for me. We were sure our parents would see we were mature enough to make such a big decision and would give their blessing. Ryan told me once we were married we could leave town and never return to Magnolia Terrace.

As happy as I was with Ryan’s plan, I was filled with mixed emotions. It wouldn’t be easy leaving my parents and the only home I ever knew but I couldn’t go on turning a blind eye to the evil lives they were living. I cried for the younger kids who would be left behind but I saw no other answer; this was our only way out.

On Sunday the barbecue was in full swing when Ryan said he had an announcement to make. Everyone quieted down as he told my father about our wishes to get married and asked for his blessing. To my surprise my parents were very happy for us and my father enthusiastically patted Ryan on the back. My mother began to cry and embraced me. I was revolted by her hug but told myself I’d only have to play this charade for a little while longer.

Everyone was very happy for us and my father droned on and on about how we could build a house of our own on the plot of land right next to their house. Ryan laughed and nodded at my father’s enthusiasm and we smiled at each other across the yard knowing our plan was successful. Relief washed over me as I watched my father and Ryan walk over to the area where our future house was to be built and laughed thinking how flawlessly Ryan had pulled off his plan.

Just then my mother came out of the house carrying a bag and placed it on the ground next to my father. I looked on in disbelief as my father reached into the bag and drew out a familiar-looking brown paper package wrapped in red string and proudly handed it to Ryan. They both looked over at me with serpentine eyes as they smiled and shared a secret handshake. At that moment I knew I’d been betrayed.

NAR © 2023


For the first time in more than five years, Lydia was beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. After struggling through a failed business venture and the misery of a toxic marriage, she was back on her feet and ready to start over. But first a little R&R was in order.

Lydia’s longtime friend and former business colleague offered her the use of her vacation house in Punta Cana. Having never been to the Dominican Republic, she jumped at the opportunity to get away to a place where she was anonymous; it would be the refuge she needed to relax and reflect on getting her life back.

The house was tiny and secluded – perfect for Lydia. Her plan was to shut out the world and do nothing but eat, sleep and swim in the large pool which took up most of the back yard. With the exception of a tall locked wrought iron gate in the front of the house, the property was totally surrounded by a high, impassable bamboo fence. Lydia felt very safe alone in the house.

After breakfast on her first day, Lydia grabbed a towel, a book and a bottle of water and headed out to the pool. The day was glorious with brilliant sunshine and she sat under a thatched umbrella reading her book. The sound of the water swirling around the pool was too inviting and Lydia could resist no longer. Spying a nearby float, she waded into the pool and gingerly climbed on.

“Ah” Lydia sighed. “I’m never getting off this thing.”

The only sounds were the gentle splashing of the pool’s mini waterfall and an occasional bird calling out to its mate in the dense gardens beyond the house. It was idyllic and Lydia silently blessed her friend for the use of her home.

After about 20 minutes of bliss, Lydia’s reverie was interrupted by the barking of a dog; however, it sounded far enough away for her not to be terribly put off. The barking stopped for a while and Lydia relaxed but it started up again. This time the dog was closer and a little more persistent. “Great” Lydia murmured under her breath. “Just what I need. Maybe he’ll go away and stay away.”

But the dog did not go away and Lydia quickly became impatient and annoyed by the intrusion. “Excuse me” she called out to no one in particular. “Can you please bring your dog inside?” 

No response and the dog kept barking. It got closer and louder and Lydia became increasingly pissed off. “Hola! Please take the dog inside!” she yelled, a little more forcefully.

Again, no response. By now the dog was barking and growling with a vengeance. Lydia was fed up and she lost her cool.

Hey!! Shut your dog the fuck up!” she shouted in the direction of the barking. Soon after Lydia heard a man yelling in the distance: “Perro! Ven aquí!” 

The dog barked once in response, his yelps becoming more and more distant. At last, peace had been restored.

Lydia must have dozed off on the float. Rubbing her tired eyes, she became aware of deep-throated growling sounds on the other side of the fence. The dog was back but this time he wasn’t barking. It was impossible to tell through the thick bamboo but it sounded like he had a bone or a chew toy and was gnawing away. Well, at least he wasn’t barking; she could live with the gnawing.

Lydia was lost in her thoughts for the future, the dog next door forgotten, when she was startled by aggressive scratching and burrowing noises near the fence. She glanced over and noticed the bamboo was shaking. She looked down and froze. Her blood ran cold and the little hairs on her arms stood straight up.

Panic set in as she saw the dog’s nose break through the bottom of the fence. Suddenly a huge, drooling mouth with razor-sharp fangs became visible. In the next second the lupine-like dog crashed through the bamboo barrier, heading straight for the pool. 

Lydia let out a blood-curdling scream and flailed frantically in the water but she couldn’t get out of the pool fast enough. She was no match for the hungry wolf dog. The image of huge teeth and piercing yellow eyes inches from her face was the last thing she saw.

NAR © 2022


In January, 2021 I wrote a story with an unresolved ending called “On the Way”. It was one of several which I recorded and submitted to the BBC Radio show called Upload. When my story was broadcast on the air, the program host William Wright commented that he hoped some day I would write a follow-up. That comment stayed with me and fourteen months later I decided to do just that. That story was called “When the Fog Rolls In.” Recently I thought it would be interesting to combine the two stories by creating a new beginning and ending and tweaking sections within the body of the stories. Since then, I had the opportunity to enter a fiction writing contest; the call was for a 1,000 – 3,000 word mystery story. I decided to submit my reconstructed story. The word counter on my Microsoft Office page said the story was 2,654 words – not too shabby. I don’t enter many contests but every time I do I’m shocked by the number of writers who also submit stories. My stuff better be damn good if it stands a chance of winning against 400+ entries. Well, my story did not win but that’s okay; I tried my best and had fun creating this compilation. I am not deterred. The winning story was a masterpiece and deserved to come in 1st place so kudos to the author. Here is my story; I hope you enjoy ‘Screaming in the Night’.

I can see it now! I can see it! Got to get it!!”

David Stapleton screamed in his sleep. He flailed about on his bed, entangled in a mass of sweaty sheets and blankets. David slowly started to come out of his stupor, stuck in a surreal and frightening dimension between sleep and wakefulness. His eyelids felt stuck together and his mouth was parched. His body was stiff and leaden, his breathing heavy, his heart beating rapidly. David wasn’t sure of his surroundings; was this real or was he reliving his worst nightmare?

Gradually David became more aware. Yes, it was as he feared – the uncontrollable, unstoppable dream, his nightly companion. He sat up in bed and reached for a cigarette. Flipping open his old, beat up lighter, he lit a Marlboro and inhaled deeply. He sat in silence, smoking and thinking, his thoughts spinning like a Vegas roulette wheel. Each night he crawled into bed exhausted, desperately in need of sleep yet terrified that the dream would come again.

David glanced at his alarm clock; 4:17 AM – ridiculously early but he knew he would not be falling back to sleep. He slipped on his sweatpants and shuffled into the kitchen to make coffee. While the coffee brewed, David stared into the oh so familiar fog. He lit another cigarette and thought about that night four years ago.

Four Years Earlier:

David drove home that dark and foggy night barely able to see the road ahead of him. An electrical storm that evening wreaked havoc with the streetlights on Route 718 causing them to flash at indiscriminate intervals. Even though his was the only car on the dimly lit road, the strobe effect from the lights was haphazard and dangerously distracting. There were shadows looming everywhere; David never saw the cyclist cross his path.

The impact was powerful yet made only a quiet thud like the subtle reload of a gun’s magazine. The visual impression, however, was appalling. The tableau switched to slow motion; David watched in horror as a mangled body performed a ‘danse macabre’ across the hood of his car while musical passages from “O Fortuna” screamed in his head. The cyclist soared through the air like an acrobat and landed in a twisted heap 20 feet or so away.

David sat motionless in his car; no other living creature was anywhere in sight. “What to do? What to do?” raced through his mind. He’d never had a car accident, not even a parking ticket. Now he had run someone down – an innocent cyclist. Was it a man or a woman? Surely this person would be missed by family and friends, perhaps his or her parents or – God forbid – their children. What a terrible fate, a horrible accident. Yes, David had a few drinks after work, just a few; the alcohol had to be out of his system by now. But wait; the cyclist wore no reflective clothing, not even a warning light on the bike’s handlebars or wheels. Out cycling in the night, alone; wasn’t that tempting fate? Maybe they got what they deserved.

Slowly David opened the door and looked around; the deafening silence was pounding in his brain, the absence of people other-worldly. With measured steps he approached the crumpled body. A gentle push of his booted foot confirmed what he already suspected: the cyclist was dead. A battered helmet sat near the edge of the road; the bright orange and black ‘KTM’ emblem of the bicycle manufacturer in Austria stared at David accusingly. The longer he looked at the emblem the more he realized he had two choices: he could report the accident to the police and face the consequences or he could clean up this mess and get on with his life.

As he walked back to his car David knew what he had to do. A look at the front end showed very little damage, a small inconvenience he could deal with later. More pressing matters prevailed; first he had to extricate the bicycle from under his car. David sat in the driver’s seat, shifted the car into reverse and gently backed up. After a couple of seconds he could feel the car and the bicycle disengage.

The bike was a wreck but there wasn’t much debris on the road. Retrieving his leather jacket, David wrapped it around the top tube bar of the bike and carried it back to the dead cyclist. Taking a few steps away from the road he realized it would be easy to throw the bike over the edge, making it look like the cyclist had swerved off the road – if the body was ever found at all. He gave the bike a hefty toss and it disappeared into the woods below. With his foot David then rolled the cyclist’s body and helmet down the hill.

David walked back to his car and broke off a low hanging branch from a tree which he used to sweep the road clear of any pieces of glass or metal. Getting back into the car, he turned on the radio and cranked up the volume; his adrenaline was pumping.

Ok” David murmured to himself. “It’s all gonna be ok. Just one last thing. Got to take care of that little dent in the hood of my car.” David kept driving until he reached a busy gas station. As he drove up to a pump, he intentionally smashed into a metal barrier; witnesses could attest to the fender bender.

David’s decision to flee the scene was fueled by fear and self-preservation. Now as he drove home he felt much more relaxed and confident. He reached for his jacket but it wasn’t there. His face went pale and he broke out in a cold sweat. Closing his eyes he could clearly see his jacket wrapped around the bicycle, his phone still in the pocket, as it made its final descent into the woods.

Four Years Later:

Tom Delaney sat alone at his favorite bar sipping his third bourbon. Life had quickly gone down the shitter a few months ago when he bet big time on a “sure thing” that didn’t pan out. That was one of Tom’s biggest faults; he was always looking for the quick fix, the money angle, whether legit or not. Now here he was, a 38-year-old washed up ex PI with a huge chip on his shoulder, a failed marriage and no money.

When the bartender announced closing time, Tom begrudgingly slid off his stool and made his way to his car. He took Route 718 toward his parent’s cabin which they left to him in their will. With no other known relatives, Tom was totally alone trying to get his life back on track. So far he wasn’t having much luck.

The weather was changing and when the fog rolls in, driving on 718 gets hairy.

He wasn’t on the road very long when he found himself in pea soup conditions. Suddenly a deer appeared out of nowhere and Tom swerved, coming to a screeching stop. After a brief standoff, the deer gracefully bounded down the steep edge and disappeared into the thick woods.

Shaken, Tom settled himself in his car. The glow of the headlights picked up the reflection a shiny object in the thicket below. Being a curious type, Tom drove his car closer to the edge and grabbed a flashlight from the backseat. Gingerly he made his way down the side of the bluff landing on a heavily overgrown outcropping about 15 feet below. He walked around for a few minutes before his foot came in contact with an unknown object; whatever it was rolled a couple of feet away. Tom walked over and crouched down for a better look; the item turned out to be a battered helmet with the weather-beaten orange and black ‘KTM’ emblem of a bicycle manufacturer.

Disappointed that his find wasn’t something valuable, Tom stood up to leave. He took a few steps and heard a strange ‘crunch’ under his Doc Martens. Shining his flashlight on his boot, Tom couldn’t believe what was buried under the leaves and debris.

“Holy shit! A human skeleton!” Tom immediately remembered the helmet. “Poor guy must have ridden his bicycle off the road. Wonder where the bike is?” Tom panned the area with his flashlight. He was about to give up when something caught his eye. “Well, well, what have we here?” Tom moved some leaves out of the way and discovered a fanny pack which he took, clipping it onto a loop on his jeans. Maybe he’d get lucky and find some money in the bag.

Deciding to investigate a little more, Tom eventually came across the bicycle caught up in a large bush. It was a mangled mess, certainly of no value to him; nearby was a moldy leather jacket. Tom snagged the jacket and went through the pockets; nothing. Noticing a zippered inner compartment, he found an iPhone inside. Slipping the phone into his rear pocket, Tom slowly pulled himself up the cliff to his car and drove off. He left the scene with that uneasy, suspicious feeling he’d get while working on a case. Old habits die hard.

Once home, Tom reached into his rear pocket and retrieved the phone he found in the leather jacket. He emptied the contents of the fanny pack onto the kitchen counter: assorted crap, a wallet and an iPhone. “Hmm. Two phones. Why would one person need two iPhones? Maybe two people were there that night. What the hell happened? Was this the scene of an accident or a crime?” Tom’s PI sixth sense was working overtime now.

Both phones were wet. Drying them off, Tom placed the phones and SIM cards into two separate Ziploc bags filled with silica gel packets he had stockpiled. They’d have to dry out a day or two. Next he went through the wallet: $47 which he immediately pocketed, an expired debit card and a driver’s license. The license was issued to Joseph Barnes, 312 Ogden Terrace, Sparta, NJ. – a 90-minute drive from Tom’s cabin.

Tom broke out his own iPhone and Googled ‘Joseph Barnes, Sparta, NJ’; it took a little while as he scrolled down then BINGO! There it was – a missing person flyer dated January 2018. Last known location was Bethlehem, PA – a few miles from the cabin. There was a phone number to call. A picture of Joseph Barnes on a bike holding a KTM helmet smiled at Tom; the same face was on the driver’s license.

While the phones dried out, Tom spent most of the following day at Wind Creek Casino in Bethlehem playing the penny slots with Joseph Barnes’ $47. He was on a roll and left the casino with $100 in his pocket. Tom couldn’t wait any longer and anxiously drove home to see if he could get the iPhones up and running.

He took the phones out of the bags, inserted the SIM cards and turned them on; both phones started up. To Tom’s amazement, neither phone needed a passcode. Checking ‘Settings’ on both phones, he found what he suspected all along: one phone belonged to Joseph Barnes and the other belonged to someone named David Stapleton from Allentown, PA.

David, David, David. Why were you on Route 718 that night and what did you do to Joseph Barnes?” he thought. Tom realized that after four years David Stapleton could be anywhere with a different identity, job and phone number but there was only one way to find out. After his win at the casino, he was feeling lucky. This could be the big break he was waiting for.

Slipping the two phones into his pockets, Tom drove to his favorite bar. On the corner was an old phone booth with a pay telephone – the untraceable kind. Tom opened David’s iPhone; there were two different phone numbers for him. Tom hesitated for a minute thinking about his days as a PI.

Instinct took over, suggesting he ignore the first number on David’s phone and go for the second one. Tom reasoned that the first number was likely David’s cell number; there was a chance the second number was for a business or a house for David – anything that might provide a clue. It was worth a shot. After all, Tom wasn’t looking to talk to David just yet; all he wanted was a lead.

Tom dropped two quarters into the public phone slot and dialed the second number on David’s cell. The call was answered on the third ring. “Hi. This is David at Stapleton Plumbing and Heating in Allentown. We’re closed now but will reopen at 8 AM. Please call back then.”

Pay dirt! Tom Delaney may be down but he wasn’t out! He’d head back to the cabin and Google Stapleton Plumbing and Heating for an address. But first a little celebration – some pleasant company at the bar with his old friend Jim Beam.

Sipping his drink, Tom could practically smell the shakedown money he’d be raking in. As he drove home from the bar, the ubiquitous late-night fog rolled in. Tom was momentarily blinded by a pair of oncoming headlights and swerved right to avoid a collision. He turned the steering wheel sharply and his car plowed through bushes, bounced off trees, rolled over itself down the steep hill and crash-landed upside down in a ravine at the bottom of the cliff before it burst into flames.

Poor Tom. Just when things were starting to look up. Karma’s a bitch.

A few hours later David Stapleton once again found himself in the clutches of his bedtime companion – the ever-present nightmare. He woke up drenched in sweat and bolted straight out of bed, his heart racing. He felt nauseous and dizzy. Staggering into the bathroom, he grasped the edge of the sink staring at his sweat-soaked face in the mirror.

How could you have been so callous leaving that cyclist? How have you been living with yourself the past four years?” This wasn’t living, he realized, knowing every day would end with the same hellish nightmare.

David stood in the bathroom and closed his eyes; he could clearly see his leather jacket wrapped around the bicycle he threw over the cliff four years ago, his phone still in the pocket, as it made its final descent into the woods – the same dream that left him screaming in the night, every night, for the past four years. “I can see it now!” he sobbed. “I can see it.”

Overcome with fear, exhaustion and remorse, David walked out the back door of his apartment above the plumbing business. Barefoot and shirtless, he was unfazed by the cold and dense fog rolling in. Blindly he went down the damp rickety steps and walked deeper in the woods behind his apartment – unseeing, uncaring.

Suddenly David felt a searing pain in his chest. Gasping for air, he clutched his arm and fell to his knees, rolling down the wet, moss-covered precipice in the woods. Ten seconds later, David Stapleton was sprawled out in the shrouded morass 30 feet below, dead from a massive heart attack.

Was it a heart attack that killed David Stapleton or overwhelming guilt? No one will ever know for sure. David never knew that with Tom’s death he was completely in the clear of any crime; the only evidence – the phone that tied him to that horrible accident – was now in the jacket pocket of Tom Delaney’s incinerated body.

Tom and David – both dead on the same night a few miles apart – one hunting and the other haunted.

Oh, the irony.

NAR © 2022


I wrote this just now in response to a friend’s post. I have no problem with this person; he’s a good man and it was a fine post. I have a problem with the world we live in and what you see here is the outpouring of my heart. I may get a lot of flack for this. That’s okay. I can handle it. The question remains:

Thank you for using the word “murdered”; that’s exactly what this was. Premeditated murder. The murderer didn’t wake up that morning and say “Gee, I have nothing to do today. Think I’ll go kill a bunch of innocent babies. Won’t it be fun to see the utter terror in their tear-filled eyes and to listen to the screams of panicked parents outside the building who would claw their way inside if they could? Yeah, that’s what I’m gonna do today but first, I think I’ll shoot my grandma in the face.” People say “Well, he was troubled.” To that I respond “Damn straight he was troubled!” Where are the parents, the families, the friends, the neighbors, ANYONE who saw ‘he was troubled” yet neither did nor said anything? How can an 18 year old (or younger) have access to weapons and build an arsenal in his bedroom or basement while mommy and daddy remain blissfully unaware. How is this possible? Let’s say the parents aren’t unaware but are too afraid of their own son to do anything about it. Again, how is this possible? How can anyone live with themselves knowing one word from them to someone in authority could have saved countless lives yet they remained deaf, dumb and blind? Yes, he was troubled. Tell that to the parents of the children who are murdered on a fairly regular basis; I don’t think they would wipe their tear-stained cheeks and say “Oh, yes. I understand now. It couldn’t be helped because he was troubled. Yes, that makes burying my baby so much easier.” HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? Obviously neither you nor I have the answers as to why this happens; if we did, these atrocities wouldn’t be happening. I have a lot of questions about big businesses and our country’s leadership (or lack of). I question if there is any goodness in the hearts of most people in government. I have lost all faith in them. There is an incredible amount of evil on our doorstep and that angers, sickens and frightens me. I’m terrified for my grandchildren. There is no innocence any longer. There is nothing left to chance. Everything is planned, manufactured, created and spread to cause mass hysteria. How did we get to this point? I pray that God in his infinite wisdom will do exactly what Jesus did that day in the temple when he had his fill of corruption – He cleaned house!

NAR © 2022

P.S. – In the short time since I wrote the above piece I have learned that four years ago at the age of 14 this Texas murderer was arrested for declaring that when he turned 18 he was going to get guns and shoot up a school. He was a minor and nothing was done at the time. He was released. Apparently nothing was ever done even though this was a known fact because four years later he did exactly what he said he was going to do. He was allowed access to guns because his record was CLEAN; there was no mention of his arrest 4 years earlier. Again, my friends, I must ask: HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?


Angry mobs stormed the front and back doors, yelling and wielding crowbars, guns and other weapons. The sound of breaking glass preceded the screeching alarm – another ‘smash-and-grab’ incident that had become so prevalent in shopping centers across the US and the Bradbury Mall was no exception. This time it was the exclusive Hermès shop located three stores down from the Cinnabon where Estrella worked.

“Everyone into the storage room. Now!” barked Jeff, Estrella’s boss.

Jeff, is this really necessary?” Estrella countered. “By the time we get everyone in the back room, those thugs will be gone. They’re not interested in us.”

“Estrella, I’m not going to argue with you. Get Rosita and go into the storage room now. You too, Carlos and Eddie. Everyone – let’s go.”

Rosita screamed as gunshots rang out, bullets pinging loudly off the steel beams in the plaza. Shoppers scattered for safety, the cacophony of yelling, gunfire and shattering glass filling the mall. As Estrella guided Rosita into the back room, she caught a glimpse of one of the looters. She recognized him as Ozzy, a gang member who hung around the bodega near her apartment. “Desgracia! Worthless garbage!” she spat out.

Once everyone was safely inside the storage area, Jeff locked the heavy metal door. Breathlessly, he slid down onto the floor. No one said a word. Rosita trembled in the corner of the little room while Estrella comforted her. Eddie and Carlos sat on boxes staring at the floor. No matter how many times these incidents happened, no one knew what to do but everyone had the same two questions: why were these lootings being allowed to continue and was it worth going to work every day?

Jeff spoke softly. “Listen, folks. I know this is taking a toll on everyone and I’m just as frightened as you but it’s my responsibility to take care of you. The security guards aren’t allowed to carry guns and they’re in as much danger as we are, probably more. We can’t take risks; we all have families waiting for us at home so we’re just going to have to take cover in here whenever this happens. No arguments. And always remember to take your cell phones with you. Comprende?” Everyone nodded in agreement.

After a while an announcement came over the mall’s PA system informing everyone that the situation was under control. Jeff asked his workers to help clean up, then they could go home; he lightly squeezed Rosita’s hand, assuring her he’d drive her home. Estrella complained vociferously about the ‘smash-and-grabs’, saying it was “a disgrace for these animals to carry on like this, spreading fear and endangering people’s lives, while no one did anything to stop them!” Frightened, tired and sad, she left the shop in tears.

Estrella’s car was parked in the municipal garage below the mall. She decided to use the winding ramp down to the employee parking level instead of riding the elevator or using the enclosed stairwell. As she walked she  heard glass breaking; the looters were back. Thankfully she was on her way out. Suddenly a car alarm went off and Estrella realized the sound of breaking glass was car windows being smashed – cars in the garage.

There it was again. And again. And again! The smashing became louder, faster, closer. Someone was in the garage and they were following her. Estrella quickened her step and the crashing sounds kept pace. She could see her car at the end of the ramp and broke into a run, desperately rummaging through her purse searching for her keys. She could hear the footsteps now. At last her fingers locked around the remote and she frantically pushed all the buttons until her car lights flashed and the rear hatch opened. Running for her life, she swung open the driver’s seat door, madly pushing the buttons to close the hatch and lock the doors. Shifting into ‘drive’, she sped out of the garage swerving wildly.

Estrella drove as fast as she could until the mall was no longer visible in her rearview mirror. She gradually slowed down and stopped as the traffic light changed to red. Her heart began to beat regularly and she exhaled. “I’m never going back there again” she said out loud.

The light turned green and she continued to her apartment. Pulling into a parking spot, she turned off the ignition and reached for her purse. Her blood ran cold as she felt a jagged piece of glass at her throat. Ozzy’s familiar gruff voice whispered in her ear “No, chica. You definitely are not.”

NAR © 2022


Pamela sat huddled in the corner of the school office, her hands tightly clutching the sweater of her school uniform around her. The button of her blouse was undone and the sleeve was torn at the shoulder. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes swollen from crying and she chewed her bottom lip nervously. No one paid any attention except to toss an occasional accusatory glance her way. 

She ran her fingers through her dark hair, realizing her pony tail had come undone. She sniffled and wiped her nose on the sleeve of her sweater. Staring down at her penny loafers, she was startled by the sudden shrill ringing of the phone on the secretary’s desk. 

Yes, sir. Right away, sir” the secretary said into the phone, then hung up and called out “Pamela, Principal Hoffman will see you now.”

Pamela rose slowly and gathered her school books, still clutching her sweater. “Quickly, Pamela! You mustn’t keep Principal Hoffman waiting!” the secretary snapped at her. 

Pamela entered the principal’s office and was was shocked to see the drama coach Mr. Booker there. She quickly looked away, her face turning crimson. She felt naked standing there before them, their lecherous eyes staring at her. 

“Well, Pamela, do you know why you’re here?” asked Principal Hoffman. 

Pamela looked down at the floor shaking her head ‘no’. 

“Look at me and answer the question, you insolent little slut!” yelled the principal, excited by his increasing erection. 

Tears ran down her cheeks as she looked at both men, the expression on Mr. Booker’s face filling her with dread. 

He slowly walked up to Pamela saying “You little liar. You know why you’re here. You came to me behind the curtain after play rehearsal, rubbed up against me and tried to kiss me.” He reached out and grabbed her chin. “Admit it now before you get in more trouble!” and his filthy mind thought of all the things he’d like to do to her. 

Pushing his hand off her face, Pamela cried out “No! I didn’t do anything! You did! You’re the liar!” 

Booker raised his hand to slap her but Principal Hoffman banged his fist on the desk. “Pamela, this is a Christian school and we do not tell lies nor do we act in promiscuous ways. Now admit what Mr. Booker said is true.” 

She remained silent and shook her head in defiance.

“Fine, Pamela. You’re dismissed. We will be calling your parents this evening to discuss your behavior.” 

Pamela left the office and ran home. She knew her parents wouldn’t return from work for another few hours. She threw some clothes in a suitcase and called her older sister. “Mia” she cried into the phone. 

“Pammy, what’s wrong?” Mia asked. 

All Pamela said was “Mr. Booker.” 

“Listen, Pammy” Mia said. “Mom and Dad didn’t believe me and they won’t believe you. Take the bus to Paramus and I’ll pick you up. You’ll be safe with me.” 

Pamela left her house and never looked back. 

NAR © 2019