Monday, January 4, 2010

New Novel--Passing Judgment


Deangelique shuddered, drawing the thin, worn blanket closer around her shoulders, sinking back into the doorway seeking shelter from the wind. She was so cold, and her stomach ached. She stared at the half eaten sandwich she'd taken from the garbage can, bile rising in her throat. Pieces of garbage clung to the dirty bread, but she would die if she didn't eat. Dusting off the bread she closed her eyes, forced herself to take a bite, pushing down the bile, swallowing without chewing.
"Well, now, what have we got here?"
DeAngelique froze, eyes opening wide, stomach contracting.
The man laughed as she pushed further into the corner, pulling the blanket around her.
"I can do better than a dirty sandwich. Hot meal, warm bed."
He reached out and stroked her cheek. "All you gotta do is be nice to me."
DeAngelique knew what he mean by "be nice". She'd learned it the hard way, when her mother sold her for a cheap bottle of whiskey. "You be nice to the man, honey, and he'll be nice to you."
Still, if she stayed here she would freeze or starve. "All right," she whispered, standing up on shaking legs. She'd be nice, and she'd survive. Taking her arm the man pulled her roughly against him, feeling her small breats, one hand cupping her rear. His breath smelled of sour whiskey and stale cigarettes.
"How old are you sweety?"
DeAngelique squared her shoulders, puffing out her chest. She needed food, and she needed a warm place to sleep. She could survive tonight. After all, it was just her body he wanted.
(Poetry by my son--Charles W. Prather, Jr.)

Crumpled cigarettes litter the table,
Alcohol burns the throat,
The pattern of self-destruction forms,
Cacophony of voices permeate the air,
A den of forgotten dreams,
Washed away with pinpricks to the brain,
Here there are no names,
Faces are all that matter,
Time is merely a formality.

Sit down, take your soul off,
Let it sit in the corner for a while,
You don't need to worry about it,
We'll take away the cause,
Sip your numbed paradise.

Dance away your memories,
Who needs them here,
You are in this moment,
Just let go of your future uncertain,
You can certainly be sure it's worthless.

Sit down, take your soul off,
Let it soak in the view,
A little taint never hurt,
We'll take away the consequences,
Sip your numbed paradise.

The lights are now less faded,
We've got to bid you farewell,
Our time,
Out of time,
So long yet so short,
But come back tomorrow,
A kindred spirit cannot be denied,
Your table will be waiting.

Sit down, take your soul off,
Do you remember where you left it?
We'll help you find it,
Sip your numbed paradise.


"Are you gonna shoot my papa?"
The course of life can be altered by many things. Lacey St. Claire knew that more than most. Her own life had been altered many times. Given new direction. Tragic events that shaped her, molded her, allowed her to survive. In the end it all boiled down to choices.
Lacey stilled her auto reflexes, gently removed her finger from the trigger and stared at the small child standing less than five feet away. Damn Chandler, he'd told her Domaslav had no family. Someone had made a mistake. A really big one.
Lacey could hear the sounds of movement overhead. A baby's cry. The flick of a light switch, opening of the door. Light spilled down the stairway.
"Here, Papa."
Lacey moved back into the shadows beneath the stairway. Seconds ticked by, the huge clock in the foyer the only sound in the small hallway. The child had not moved. Her eyes were huge, riveted to the gleam of cold steel. Her body trembled, but she made no sound. She'd seen guns before. Knew about death.
Lacey caught bits and pieces of whispered conversation above her. The mother's anguished cry. Domaslav knew she was here. Knew why she was here. She could hear him hastily dressing, shushing the woman. Footsteps descended. The huge Russian stopped at the bottom of the stairs.
"I know you're here."
Lacey moved out of the shadows, gun held in front of her. "Keep your hands up."
"I'm unarmed."
Gun held firmly in her right hand, Lacey patted him down and stepped back.
"Anna, go to your mother."
The child hesitated, but moved slowly toward the stairs, her bare feet soundless. She stopped at the bottom step, raised her head and stared into Lacey's eyes. A single tear slid slowly down her cheek. "I love my papa."
The words were a mere whisper, lost within the ticking clock, raspy breathing of Domaslav, but Lacey heard them. A shudder ran through her. A long forgotten memory. No sobs, no begging for her father's life. Just a single tear from a power blue eye. Lacey waited as the child ascended the steps. Waited for the sound of the door closing above.
"Please, do not hurt my family."
"Turn around."
The Russian turned slowly, hands held on top of his head. Lacey studied his face, just as she'd studied the photograph that had been given to her. There was no mistake. It was Domaslav. He had the same powder blue eyes as Anna. The same age-old acceptance that death was imminent. He showed no fear as he lowered himself to his knees. He obviously knew the drill. He wouldn't beg for his life, but he would beg for the life of those he loved.
"You will not hurt my family?"
"I love my papa." The words seemed to echo in the room, but Lacey knew it was all inside her head. She felt dizzy. She could still hear the baby crying, the sounds of quiet sobs above her. How long had they waited for this moment? Anna could be no more than five, and yet her eyes had reflected knowledge far beyond her years. Acceptance of this day. The death of her father neither suprised her, nor had she feared it. She had merely accepted it. Lacey glanced around the small foyer, noting the sleeping bag just beneath the stairs. The child had not mysteriously appeared. She has been waiting for her, or someone like her. Kneeling there in the dark, watching the shadows. How many nights had Anna kept that vigil? How many morning suns had risen to find the child on her knees, murmuring a prayer of thanks for one more day.
"Please, you will not hurt my family?"
The words brought Lacey back to the present. Cleared her head. Her hands trembled slightly as she tightened the silencer into place. Dammit, she didn't pass judgment. It wasn't personal. Just names and faces. People who had to die. Choices. She hated choices.
"I will not hurt your family."
Domaslav relaxed, his last words a knife that sliced into Lacey's soul. A curse of things to come.
"Bless you."