Set in Southwest Virginia and inspired by actual events and the story of
the small town’s most revered doctor, who may just be a serial killer. A
local police officer with a tarnished reputation, a reporter who manipulated
facts, and the doctor’s chief intern, who may be a thief, have pieces of the
puzzle. Yet no one in authority believes the great doctor could be
responsible. All the while, patients are dying.
About the Author
Shadowed and protected by the mountains of her native southwest Virginia,
Amelia Townsend has lived hither, thither, and yon – mostly between
Virginia and North Carolina. She has worked as a newspaper and TV reporter,
freelance producer and director, writer, and now PR hack. She is a
proud graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
She has no claim to fame. Further, she is most often bewildered when people
say they are impressed by her work. Her first novel, Keepsakes for the
Heart, was nominated by the N.C. Historical Association for the prestigious
Ragan Old North State Award for non-fiction.
Her favorite avocation is listening to and writing down other
people’s stories, for truth surely is stranger and more beautiful than
fiction. This is where Townsend has found fodder for the stories of the
hills that she wrote with her late writing buddy. Several have come to life
in the form of a novel and a couple of plays in production. The names have
been changed to protect the guilty.
Townsend’s most impressive accomplishments are her children – a
son and daughter – who managed to turn in to fine young adults,
despite her attempts to raise them.
Private investigator Adam Fraley and his colleague, Tamra Fugit, the woman
to whom he is engaged, travel vastly different paths, as they take on two
seemingly unrelated missing person cases. The trails take them through
idyllic lands darkened by underworld intrigue, twisted relationships. carnal
temptation, physical danger, and personal tragedy. Such are the legal
ramifications they confront during their crossing of both state and
international boundaries, that the FBI is eventually drawn into the matter.
From the very beginning, little did the investigators realize that the two
roads they were travelling eventually would come crashing together in a
manner entirely unexpected, testing not only their professional skills and
resolve, but their personal faith in each other.
The paramount lesson Adam Fraley learned early on in the private
investigation business was to place a premium on case selection. Much like
personnel hiring, you want to make sure you take on the right case, just as
you would the right person, lest you end up drowned in disappointment and
endless damage control. Fortunately, he had thus far successfully managed
this aspect of the business. First, by hiring Tamra Fugit several years ago
as his office manager. Secondly, by relying on her knack for making the
right choices. Still, no selection system was foolproof. As an old boss of
his was fond of saying, “You can only ride horses so many times before
you get bucked off one.” Consequently, the admonition was always in
the back of his mind when he and she met for their regular Monday morning
“What’s on the agenda?” he asked from a visitor’s
chair positioned in front of her desk.
“Two cases—one for you and one for me,” she said, working
her desktop computer.
He halted in mid-motion the sip of coffee he was about to take to look
askance at her.
She swiveled her chair to face him. “I’ve assisted you in
nearly every case we’ve taken on since I was hired here, Adam. And
thanks to your generosity, I will soon own half of the business. No better
time for me to start taking half ownership of some of the cases, don’t
“By ownership you mean taking to the street—the actual gumshoe
“Yes…surveillance and tracking.”
“Who’s going to take care of the office end of it while
we’re out gumshoeing?” he asked, carefully setting his coffee
cup on her desk.
“Think of it this way,” she replied. “As with the modern
family, the mother sometimes stays home to tend to the house and kids while
the father is at work. Conversely, the husband stays home while the working
wife takes to the road. We are destined to become a family business, are we
“You’re looking terrific today,” he abruptly said to the
woman who would have to be subjected to prolonged physical duress, say like
an extended hike through the Mohave desert, to look bad—the woman, by the
way, he happened to be betrothed to. But for her presence, the Adam Fraley
Private Investigations office could best be described as nondescript, he
“Do you realize your auburn hair, beautiful green eyes, and bright
yellow dress offset very well the dull cast of this office?” he
“You’re digressing,” she said. “Or are you
“Okay, what are the two?” he asked in resignation.
“The first is for you,” she said, sorting through some notes on
her desk. “I received a call from a woman by the name of Carmen
Rivera. She was calling from Bogota, Colombia, where she lives. She has a
son by the name of Manny who is attending Coastal State College here. She
and her husband have not heard from Manny in over a month. Normally, he
checks in with them at least once or twice a week. He lives in an off-campus
home which he shares with another student who, for whatever reason, claims
no knowledge of his whereabouts.”
“She’s contacted the cops?”
“Yes, and received the standard reply. Since he is an adult and there
is no evidence of foul play, they will not get involved at this
“We should send the department a thank you note, considering how much
business that policy of theirs generates for us. You have the address for
She again scrambled through the notes on her desk, picked one out and
handed it to him. “Here you go.”
“Before we get started, how are we handling the fees? It’s not
like we have a history of job requests from overseas on which to draw from.
In fact, we have no history of it…right?”
“Correct,” she said. “However, if we do take the case,
she will wire us a down payment upfront with the remainder to follow once we
have concluded our investigation.”
“What do you think?” he asked. “Legitimate?”
“She spoke in a very cultured voice and with a mother’s
concern. My sense is the Rivera family could very well be one of the five
percent of the populace who control the wealth of the country.”
“Five percent…is that a fact or your opinion?”
“It comes from a former roommate of mine who spent a half year in the
“Studying the Colombia rainforest region.”
“Six course credits,” she cracked. “She was in a study
“Well, it’s not likely we’re going to break the parents
financially,” he said. “And the second case—the one
you’ve put a claim to?”
Tamra glanced at another note on her desk. “I received a call from a
man named Mickey Riley. He says his sister went missing about four weeks
ago. He wants us to find her.”
“Let me guess…the cops don’t want to get involved
because she is an adult and there is no evidence of foul play.”
“You got it.”
“So, does Mickey have any idea where his sister might
“With her husband somewhere, he says.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” Adam asked, no doubt repeating
the same question the cops asked the brother.
“According to Mickey, the husband, himself, is a bad thing…a
very bad thing. Apparently, his sister has become a virtual prisoner of her
husband, to the point he won’t even let her out of the house. A
control freak, to say the least.”
“So, you aim to free her?”
“I aim to find her. It’s up to the brother to free her.
He’s coming in for a meeting this afternoon. I should know more then,
including where would be a good place to start looking for her. Meanwhile,
your mother called. She’d like to know if we want a wedding planner.
If so, she knows of a good one.”
“We’ve already decided we don’t need one, don’t you
“I certainly do, but apparently you failed to pass that bit of info
along to her.”
“I’ll tell her when we finish with these two cases,” he
sighed, perturbed by his oversight.
“You know, this will be a good time to go on the road,” he
followed. “Noelle will be on her school-sponsored camping trip. We
should be home by the time she returns.”
“If all goes well,” Tamra responded with a deadpan
Adam leaned across the desk. “I have a proposition for you. How about
we flip the cases? You trail after the missing student and I chase after the
missing sister? You know how volatile these simmering domestic situations
can get. They’re invariably about some demented guy’s passion to
control another, usually a helpless woman, like the one you describe in this
case. The moment you show up, you become a threat to take away that control.
Needless to say, he’s not going to like that at all.”
“Are you worried for my safety? Would you rather I go chasing after
porch poachers…sit in the car for hours on end waiting for a home
delivery to be stolen? We still have one of those requests on the back
burner waiting for a decision.”
“No, I’m not worried for your safety. It’s the safety of
the captive wife’s husband, I’m worried about,” he joshed,
rising from his chair to give her a quick kiss, followed by a longer one,
before heading out of the office. “Before you leave, I have two other
items to run by you,” she said, halting his movement.
“Harold Jenkins, the attorney from The Justice Brigade called. He
wants to know if you’d like to meet with him regarding the merger idea
that he discussed with you over the phone a while back.”
Adam slipped back into the chair, indicating it was a subject requiring
immediate attention. “What do you think?” he asked of her.
Tamra gave a slight shrug. “I remember you mentioned the idea at the
time. Run it by me again.”
“They’re interested in bringing us into their fold via some
sort of a partnership, whether it be a corporate takeover, merger, or
retainer-type arrangement. Whatever it takes to get us on
“A big operation like theirs? What for?”
“Law firms have a need for tracking missing persons or conducting
background checks, as you well know…”
“Yes, we’ve conducted several for them recently,” she
“Right, and apparently they liked the results. The Justice Brigade is
one of those young, aggressive, fast-growing firms looking to gain a leg up
on their competition. It’s not like they don’t have many law
firms to compete with.”
Tamra flashed a look of surprise. “By doing their own detective
“My guess is they’re planning to become a one-stop shopping
operation, so to speak.”
“What’s in it for us?”
“Well, it could mean a steady work flow, which is no small matter.
Looking down the road a way, there’s Noelle’s college tuition
costs looming on the horizon. Right now, we’re operating at a small
profit margin, enough to keep us afloat for the time being. However, as you
and I have discussed, we’ve reached the stage where we’re either
going to have to raise production or raise prices. I have a hunch joining
forces with the Justice Brigade would lessen our office management burden
significantly. Taking on the bulk of our paperwork would be an insignificant
addition to their overall workload. Doing so would allow us to concentrate
on the detective work.”
“You’re making it sound like—what do they call it in the
business world—a white knight coming to the rescue. I don’t see
it as magnanimous move on their part, Adam. They are simply making a
“Oh, I agree, but at the moment we’re discussing potential
benefits, not the drawbacks. Jenkins also pointed out we would be working
under their legal umbrella.”
“Meaning they would provide us free legal service, both personal and
professional. And depending on the business arrangement, perhaps even
corporate benefits, like retirement plans, something foreign to
“Adam, we may be gaining corporate benefits, but would we not be
losing our corporate identity?”
“That’s going to depend on the details of the proposed
agreement. The question is how much independence we would be surrendering,
starting with the case selection process. Who is going to have the final say
on which ones we take on?”
“I do see one potential benefit in that regard,” Tamra opined.
“They could serve as a filter to the possible legal landmines of each
case. There are always those we have to consider.”
“True, but then there are other issues—potential conflicts of
interest, the need to report to a supervisor, how it may affect the positive
relationship we’ve developed with local law enforcement officials over
the years—not to mention the more logistical items like office
location. No question, there would be details galore to be worked out.
Perhaps not so many if it was a retainer-type agreement, which could
suffice, for all we know.”
“Something along the lines of a rental car company operating in the
maintenance section of a car dealership,” Tamra suggested. “Have
you consulted with your old boss on this?”
“Pete? No, though I definitely intend to before any final decision is
Adam was already having second thoughts on the proposed relationship,
particularly its impact on the freedom of choice regarding the case
selection guidelines. Currently, the procedure was greatly influenced by
their location. They were operating out of a street-level office situated on
the corner of a moderately busy street. Walk-in traffic was
steady—granted, not always a good thing for a P.I. outfit. It led to a
significant amount of “impulse buying,” which was not in tune
with most of the trade’s target base. Passersby would spot the store
sign and on the spur of the moment decide they would rid themselves of
lingering suspicions that their spouses were cheating on them, or an
employee of theirs had his or her hand in the till, or they wanted their
outdoor cat trailed so they could find out where it was spending the day.
Following one walk-in guy’s request that they conduct a background
check on his neighbor whom he suspected was a mass murderer, he joked to
Tamra that they should post a sign on the front entrance stating We
don’t do serial killers. It was one of the reasons a growing number of
private investigators were forsaking the brick-and-mortar store for the home
office where there was less chance of the delusional individual wandering in
off the street to seek their assistance. In a home-based operation it was
much easier to concentrate on corporate clients who were interested in
tackling problems like insurance fraud or employee theft. That’s where
the money was.
Yet, despite all the challenges posed by the walk-in trade, it did offer
what Adam considered the most rewarding aspect of the profession—the
opportunity to fix a family for the man or woman in the street. Tamra had
picked up on this preference of his early on and had developed the skills to
take on cases based on the attributes of clients, more so than the task
involved, a distinction that greatly reduced the possibility of subsequent
“In selecting clients, you want to pick someone whose side you wish
to be on,” he had advised her. “There are no honeymoon,
probation, or engagement periods with clients. Therefore, you want to be on
the same page with them from day one. Lawyers may look at it differently,
giving greater consideration to the case.”
Her earlier mention of a white knight potentially acting as a filter for
the business brought him an inward smile, for there was no better filter
than her in screening out the nightmare client.
“Maybe these two cases we’re taking on simultaneously will give
us an indication of how raising the production end of the operation impacts
us…office-wise and field-wise,” Tamra continued.
Adam glanced at the wall clock. “Maybe so…now, what was the second
item you wanted to bring up before I head off?” he asked, hurrying her
“I received my first subpoena.”
“Relating to Adam Fraley Private Investigations, I
“Another good reason to join The Justice Brigade,” he quipped.
“Seriously, you are to be congratulated. I’m surprised it took
this long. In this business you come to expect them. What does it pertain
“Do you recall those background checks I conducted for the Midtown
Mall security people for that job opening they had a few months
“One of the applicants is suing, claiming she lost out to a far less
qualified candidate. I’m not sure why they want my
“Which side are you testifying for?”
“The security firm…any tips?”
“Stick to the facts of the background checks and be very careful with
your opinions. I had a similar case not long after I first got into this
business. I conducted background checks on a group of applicants for an
upper level position in a banking firm. As in your case, one of the
applicants sued for being bypassed for what she called a less qualified
candidate. The bank felt they had a solid case and, in my opinion, they did.
In the court testimony, however, one of the bank’s personnel managers
on the hiring panel stupidly commented on the witness stand that he
considered the plaintiff a dullard. When the judge’s final ruling came
down in favor of the plaintiff, the word ‘dullard’ appeared five
times in the written decision. He cited it as an example of a preconceived
bias. As a result, the plaintiff ended up getting the job and the careless
personnel manager wound up without one. He was fired.”
“I’ll be sure to watch my language,” Tamra
“When’s the court date? It’s not going to interfere with
present business, is it?”
“No, it’s a month away.”
“You’re fortunate, though I should say we’re fortunate.
Often those subpoenas are served hours in advance,” he said.
“Nothing like having a monkey wrench thrown into your regular workday
plans before you even get started on them.”
Adam paused a moment, reflecting on Tamra’s proposal about who would
handle which assignment. Both cases could present dangerous circumstances,
he knew from previous experience, so trading cases based on the facts as
presently known could be premature.
“Tamra, I’m not comfortable leaving you in charge of a domestic
case that could go awry,” he said.
“The future is always unclear, no matter what type of case we take
on,” she countered.
“This is the nature of the business we’re in.”
“Then promise me that you’ll fill me in the moment your
intuition tells you that you’re in over your head.”
“You’ll be the first to know, she said, gathering her notes.
“With that in mind, we best hit the road.”
About the Author
Henry Hoffman is a former newspaper editor and public library manager. He
is the author of the Adam Fraley Mystery Series and is the recipient of the
Florida Publishers Association’s Gold Medal Award for Florida Fiction.
Angela Hardwicke isn’t just any private eye. She’s a PI from
Eternity, the cosmic realm responsible for the design, creation, and
maintenance of the Universe.
When accountant Gil Haberseau hires her to find an intern with stolen
corporate files, Hardwicke soon finds herself embroiled in a deadly case of
lies, intrigue, and murder, clashing with vengeful gangsters, MinderNot
rallies, and a madman who’s come a long way to get what he
In Russ Colchamiro’s thrilling Sci-Fi mystery Crackle and Fire,
Angela Hardwicke learns once and for all that when it comes to being an
intergalactic private eye, there’s no telling what threats she may
face on-realm and off… including the demons that lurk deep within her
Bonus story included! The AI-themed Angela Hardwicke murder mystery,
“The Case of Jarlo’s Buried Treasure”
At first glance there’s nothing special about Wazon Road. Just another hipster club along another hipster side street along Cobblestone Alley. The usual multi-color strobe lights and flashing orbs are in sync with the electronic music.
Yet there’s an energy here. An expectancy. Heads are bobbing.
Maybe it’s the booze and sweat and even the sweet peppermint being pumped into the air. Or maybe it’s the drugs—I spot four dealers and five prostitutes I know—but I’ve been to enough of these events to know there’s something else going on.
Normally I would’ve gone classic Hardwicke—pinstripe suit, fedora—but not tonight. My outfit needs to fit the occasion.
Lucky for me I don’t give a comet’s gas what these club punks think, so I busted out my black leather pants, leather boots with buckle clasp, white T-shirt, maroon lipstick, and thin-cut leather jacket. It’s got enough pockets to conceal what I need, but flows easily with my movements. No gun, but I’ve got my taser if I need it.
And if Wazon Road is like every other hipster club, there will be enough action to keep even the most focused mind distracted.
Since it’s a private galaxy unveiling, there’s some deep pockets in attendance. Waylan Gir is sipping a martini by the bar. Sarna Ri’n is in the VIP section, no doubt surveying for another sucker to bilk, and Evelyn Aaer-Von-Maroo, in her royal blue crepe-knit trumpet dress with off-the-shoulder neckline, is making her way to management’s private box overlooking the club.
She’s worth a second look.
I hate being in nightclubs more than I hate eating P’linco mushrooms, but you pick up a ton of actionable intel there. When money’s in the room, leeches follow.
A confection of magenta, yellow, and emerald lasers crawl along the ceiling. The music intensifies as the speakers unleash a gorgeous alto voice, nearly operatic, the woman producing a wordless song, a rolling stream of escalating and de-escalating aahs.
Nini hands me a cold beer. “Cheers.” She clinks it against her pomegranate cocktail. “You look hot tonight. Nice to see you out of uniform.”
She’s one to talk. Whistler was right. Damn.
Nini’s rocking a silver cowl sequined dress with an open back and split side. It dangles from her small, black body. If she wants a friend tonight, she’s getting one. She works long shifts in the ER covered in every fluid that can come out of a person’s body, but when she’s off duty, she’s glam all the way.
“I’m looking for Strident Eyes,” I say. “I bet there’s someone in the management box, but I can’t get up there.”
Nini raises her eyebrows, hands me her drink. She lets her hands fall along her hips, shuffles her dress, and puckers her ruby-painted lips. She’s even got my motor running. She winks at me.
“I saw Evie von M up there. I’ll give it whirl.”
Eighty or so guests undulate on the dance floor. Magenta lights flow over them. I stop a barback as he loads a black tub of discarded drink glasses, soggy napkins, chewed-up straws, and an empty prophylactic pill bottle.
“Strident Eyes,” I say. “You seen?”
He broods, as if I’m overlooking the obvious. I slip him a few credits. The barback gestures with his head. “Over there. By the tables.”
“I see ’em.”
He pulls away into a streak of light, revealing a MinderNot tattoo on his forearm.
“Nice ink. How goes the rebellion?”
“It’s not a rebellion,” he huffs indignantly “It’s a statement. The Minders need to unfuck E-Town before E-Town fucks us. If they don’t, we know once and for all there are no Minders. It’s the great big lie. Total con job.”
“One person’s lie is another person’s mantra. Sometimes the reverse. And usually… both at the same time.”
“Be ignorant if you want. But this town is fucked up. Way more than usual. If the Minders are really running the place… then run it. If not, we gotta tear this muthafucka down and start doing shit our own way. Fuck the Minders. They’re already fucking us.”
Ah, youth. So much angst and nowhere to stick it. They’re still too young to accept that responsibility isn’t a dirty word, but rather one of the most critical elements of self-worth. Yet they’re old enough to have learned that life is a helluva lot harder than they ever thought it would be. So they pick a new boogieman and call it a cause.
The MinderNots are pushing back against the forces of the Universe, convinced anything they can say, think, feel, or do will change the fabric of Existence.
That the MinderNots can exert control.
Who knows? Maybe they can. Wouldn’t be the craziest thing I’ve seen.
But this guy’s right about one thing. The Minders do need to get their shit together.
I’m about to make my way over to the Strident Eyes table when the club goes dark. There’s a collective murmur, then silence.
Normally I’d switch on my plasma sensor contact lenses that enable me to see and identify various particles floating in the air. Another one of Bernice’s little toys. But I forgot to put them in. I also forgot the scout orbs they synch to. They’re damn useful when doing recon. Roll them on the floor and they give a ground-up view of any room. Always nice to know what you’re walking into.
I reach for my leather jacket. With a press on the zipper, the teeth doubling as a fluorescent green glowstick—thanks again, Bernice.
A hiss of steam emerges from the center of the room, pushing everyone back. Outlined in purple fluorescent light, a square reveals itself on the floor. Ten feet away, another purple outline.
With an electrum hum, white panes alight within the purple-outlined squares. Platforms rise.
Standing atop the squares, one each, are a man and a woman.
Bindu and Barkley. The galaxy designers.
About the Author
Russ Colchamiro is also the author of the rollicking sci-fi adventure,
Crossline, the zany sci-fi/fantasy backpacking series Finders Keepers,
Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, editor of the sci-fi-themed mystery
anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, and co-author and co-editor of Murder
in Montague Falls, a noir-inspired collection of novellas.
Russ is also the creator and host of Russ’s Rockin’
Rollercoaster podcast, where he has interviewed several NY Times and USA
Today best-selling sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery authors. Russ has also
contributed short stories to more than a dozen sci-fi and fantasy
He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.
For more on Russ and Russ’s Rockin’ Rollercoaster, visit
www.russcolchamiro.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @AuthorDudeRuss,
‘like’ his Facebook author page
www.facebook.com/RussColchamiroAuthor, and watch his podcast on YouTube at
When freshman year at the University of Alabama draws to a close, Sara
Donovan finds herself grappling with the same old question—listen to
her head or follow her heart. What she ends up doing is purchasing an
souvenir funerary mask, and after a mysterious phone call, she’s certain a
ring of antiquities smugglers are operating in Tuscaloosa.
With finals never far from her mind and her return to ‘Bama hanging in the
balance, she should be studying. Instead she launches her own investigation
to prove her mask is indeed a stolen artifact, and not a cheap trinket. When
it comes time to snoop, Sara is more than ready, or at least she was until a
hot new teaching assistant moves in next door.
Suddenly she learns things are never as they seem. Ever.
About the Author
After a long career as a business executive, B.T. Polcari tried to retire.
Spoiler alert: he’s really bad at retirement. Bowling, tennis, and sailing
can only keep you busy for so long, so B.T. is now pursuing his childhood
dream of becoming a published author.
A Story Of Bad features a woman and a man, both intelligent with strong
She is June Replyn, a city reporter working the business side of the
fashion world. June is asked to write a story about how a small company, a
clothing factory, survives the death – by murder – of its inspirational
He is Detective Terry Stans. Reviewing clues and interviews, Detective
Stans comes away with the impression that the dead man knew his assailant,
and his dedicated workers and bereaved family are all prospective
One day June is at the clothing factory gathering additional material, and
Terry is there, continuing his investigation. The detective is stuck. The
case is going nowhere, and he believes that the fashion writer has a better
view of the inside workings of the company than he has been afforded. Hoping
that fresh eyes will see something he hasn’t, he obtains a promise from her
that nothing will be printed without his permission, then he invites her to
come to his precinct station and review the file. Not long after, he invites
her to dinner at his favorite ribs joint.
This novel is about a reporter and a detective, both asking questions about
a murder – although from different perspectives – who become ensnared in a
romance. Their relationship raises questions about confidentiality, loyalty
to one’s employer, professional ethics; she is trying to write a story for
her readers, he is trying to keep control of an investigation. Both of their
bosses caution them about the dangers to their careers raised by this
situation. And there they are, lovers.
The tale is designed to intrigue with two intertwining stories, the mystery
of the murder and the unexpected love affair. As the relationship grows and
the mystery is solved we visit the worlds of Cambodian employees in America,
police investigations, newspapers and their editorial policies, and drug
There is no graphic violence or sex in the novel.
In this excerpt June Replyn is interviewing two sisters, Cambodians, about
a cousin and co-worker who was murdered in front of them. Because their
English is quite limited, June has brought along Salath Doeung (Sal), a
college student born in New York to Khmer-speaking parents.
The four sat in silence for a moment, sipping the hot green tea, eating the
sweet, wonderful dessert, and then the conversation began again. June wrote
some clarifying comments next to the notes she had hastily written as he was
speaking. She took her time, her head down, not wanting to convey the least
impatience. Silence, and she glanced up to see him writing. Then he said
something else and the cousin’s smiles disappeared. They paused, and then in
lowered voices began to speak. June felt like screaming, she wanted
simultaneous translation. What were they saying? But she waited, waited.
Finally they paused, and he turned back to her.
things. The first is that she had done a little dating here but no
boyfriends, and she liked it that way, she thinks it isn’t easy to be a
married woman with little kids here, not if you don’t speak English. Like I
said before, she really wanted to go home, planned on it, and pretty much
was at work or here or a local restaurant, not out late, no mysteries. As
far as your guess, the one you mentioned in the car, I think your impression
is right, correct.”
head down, nodded slightly as she wrote.
someone at work, guy who unloads boxes and helps the cutter, assistant
cutter I guess, had a fight with her about some boxes or materials or
something. Something at work. They don’t know what it was about because Rith
didn’t want to talk about it, most unusual, she liked to gossip. They had a
fight, and after that she avoided him.”
scared or avoided mad at?”
turned back and there was a brief flurry of Khmer.
but she didn’t want to talk about it.”
they tell the police about this, and if so, why not?”
she said it she realized her mistake; anyone living here, especially in
lower-income neighborhoods, knows the word ‘police’ no matter what their
language background or skills. The sisters visibly tensed.
He started to turn, but she stopped him.
just made a stupid error, they recognized the p-word and they’re already on
guard. I really want to know the answers, hope you canfix things.”
winked at her, a youthful show of confidence, and turned back to the two
young women, who now sat holding their tea cups tightly in their laps, their
backs straight. He spoke for some time, they both listening intently,
occasionally glancing at June. Then he stopped, and no one spoke for almost
a minute. Then Sopheara Moeun softly began to speak, said only a few words
and her sister spoke sharply to her. Sopheara responded in a raised voice,
Sopharath responded loudly, and suddenly both were standing on their feet,
noses inches apart, screaming at each other. In the midst of this June noted
that they carefully placed the teacups back on the tray, a gentle, delicate
gesture while they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly Sopharath whirled
and looked at June with a startling combination of fear and anger, tears
starting to run, and held out both hands, palms up, pleading, and said “You
all make dead.” Her right hand changed, index finger pointing, and pointed
at herself and her sister, back and forth, pointing at each several times.
“You all make dead, you all make dead.” She ran from the room.
wasn’t sure what to do next, so she did nothing. She lowered her eyes,
giving up any control, trusting that her interpreter, who had done so well
so far, would know what to do.
something softly, and Sopheara sat down again. He paused, then turned to
June. “They do know something, they may even know who did it. They are, as
you can see, scared. They didn’t say anything to the police for that reason,
but now Sopheara feels that she has to make it right, has to help the
Americans…I mean, the government, punish him.”
took her time, spoke slowly and gently, nodding at Sopheara Moeun, trying to
be positive, reassuring, conveying not only through the words to be
translated but with her demeanor and tone of voice. “Please tell her this.
First, she is doing the right thing, honoring her cousin’s memory, and that
she is very brave. Second, I have.. friends… in the police department, and
I promise her that they will be very careful, move cautiously, and not do
anything that will…. No, that doesn’t work. Sorry. Say this, say that I
will explain the situation and ask the police to be very careful.”
Khmer began again, both speaking in soft voices for a short time. Then Sal
leaned forward and gently patted Sopheara on the shoulder, looked her in the
eyes and said something. She smiled shyly, got up and started to leave the
room. She stopped in front of June and, while looking at her, said something
in Khmer. Salath Doeung translated “I hope you are the one who wins.” Then
she was gone.
About the Author
Edward M. Krauss is the author of A Story Of Bad; Solomon The Accountant (a
gentle love story set in a middle-class Jewish community in Toledo, Ohio in
1950); Here On Moon (betrayal, divorce, recovery).