Good Crust

The sack landed on the counter with a thud. A dusting of white flour puffed across the cool marble counter. There are only five things no six you need for the best pie crust. All purpose flour, none of this fancy cake flour just regular flour, Mae thought as she reached for the good mixing bowl. With a deft flick, she leveled the mixing cup of flour with a butter knife. Mae delighted in the flour’s snow shower.
With the wire whisk Mae beat in the salt. Next she reached for the sugar. Some people didn’t like a sweet crust for a sweet pie. Mae thought some people were dang foolish.
Mae delighted a spoonful of sugar into the dry mix.
Mae held up the butter to gleam golden in the silvery moonlight. Butter was the fourth thing for the ideal crust. Beating two forks Mae cut in the soft butter. As the loose powder transformed into coarse crumbles, Mae leaned into the rhythm of kitchens. The marble counter worn velvet smooth from thousands of cakes, cookies, breads, and pies. Nicked and gouged, the heavy oak legs complete with long-forgotten initials swayed on the creaky floor.
Warmth from a ready caressed Mae’s back. Cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, and queen spice nutmeg, Mae’s famed spice mix perfumed the air from the bowl of mashed sweet potatoes. Mae reached for the final ingredient.
Suudenly the kitchen’s five panel door swung open and the lights came on. The kitchen was empty.
“Told you,” Neil said. “Come back to bed, baby.”
Lights snapped off. Door swung closed. A pair of footsteps soft headed up the stairs of the old house. Hushed bickering sounded overhead as the floor boards squeaked.

Mae reached for cold spring water. Not everybody knew cold water binds the pastry without melting out the butter. Mae worked her dough into the jadeite pie pan. Flour, salt, sugar, butter, cold water, and the know how is what made a crust good. Filling poured liquid sunset in the darkness. The oven grinned wide for the pie. The ancient cook dusted her hands on her apron and started on the apple cake.

Photo by Amanda Reed on

The Night Train

It was the smell that gave it away. The soft sweetness of decayed wood thicken with each step. I’ve been gaming since I was nine. I’d practically lived in VR during high school. My husband Charlie and I used to play before life got too busy. I’d heard a few of my coworkers whispering about a new underground VR Sims meets Grand Theft Auto, typical nerd boy banter. My ears sparked up.
I asked my assistant Boyd about it. Just making small talk, ever since April out of HR said I could come across as intimidating I’ve been attempting banter. He told me the graphics were cool but the storylines were paper thin. Boyd’s a good guy just a little scattered and disorganized. I know I can be a bit much at times but I really hoped this assistant would last more than six months. Boyd shared the game’s link with me.
Charlie was in Columbus at a convention and Julia was staying overnight with a friend, tonight was my night. Watching Dateline, I ate shrimp fried rice in bed. Then I remembered NIght Train. I dug the slip of paper out of my briefcase. I took the Pandorica VR googles and gloves off the top shelf in the closet. I sneezed from the dust. I popped an edible, refilled my glass of Riesling, and paired my VR set to my laptop. Snuggled into a nest of decorative pillows I dove in.
It was boring. Realistic yes, my character was following signs to get to this Night Train. The clues were pretty simple the sideways wide and tree lined. There were birds in the skies. I cheered with I descended the steps to the train platform. The steps seemed endless. I was slurping my wine when I first smelled it. First I thought it was mulch and the gardeners had done some landscaping earlier in the day. Then came the smell of old piss and industrial cleaner, the tell-tale indicator of public restrooms and poverty. I started thinking of hurrying with a suitcase through 30th Street Station. That’s when I remembered there are no aromas in virtual reality.
I touched the subway tunnel wall. My avatar was a perky redhead in striped tights and a puffy jacket. My fingers came away greasy from the clammy subway tile. My gear wasn’t this good. I ripped the googles from my face.
Nothing happened. I was still in the game, still in the underground subway. I wasn’t sure what to do next. Would I try for the surface? Then I heard it. Breathing, the noise was soft but very close. Air stirred and rushed. The train was coming. My train was coming. A horn screamed. Scarred and graffitied, my train slid into the station. I turned into something smaller and faster. I turned and ran.

Fish in the Microwave

“Goddamn, who cooked fish in the microwave?” Det. C.J. Hamilton shouted as he walked into the station’s break room.
Looking over the crossword page of her newspaper, his partner Ramona Shay shot a glance to the fridge. Desk Sergeant Beck was bent over looking for something in the back of the freezer. Beck turned to face Hamilton’s glare. Beck was holding a plastic plate of reheated river trout, couscous, and spinach in one hand and a frozen Snickers in the other.
“What you don’t want me to be heart healthy?” Beck said. “Well screw you.”
“You selfish son of—“
“Ladies, please show some decorum my baby ears are delicate,” senior Det. Antonia Curry said from the doorway. She tossed her yogurt container in the trash and began to wash out her water bottle.
Hamilton sat down at the table and opened his brown paper bag. He grimaced and pushed it away.
“Now Ceej you’re pissed about those muggings over on the west side. I get it, we all get it. This sicko is targeting seniors. Nobody wants this case to go cold but biting everyone’s head off solves nothing. And Sarge only a troglodyte cooks fish in a shared microwave,” Antonia said.
Beck looked offended but offered Hamilton his frozen candy bar before sliding his bulky frame into a chair.
Chuckling, Det. Shay returned to her crossword. “Now does anyone know a six letter word for ‘friend of Huck Finn’?”
“Sawyer,” Antonia said from the sink,
“Good, good then this has to be Sullivan. How about Emerald blank blank blank borer?” Shay chewed on her pen.
“Why do you bother with those crappy puzzles. My weirdo neighbor creates those and he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed,” Hamilton said.
“Ash!” Beck shouted.
“Who you calling an ass,” Shay snapped.
“No no Ramona. Ash like the tree.”
Drying her hands, the senior detective snorted.
“Okay, that means 11 down has to be Maverick. You’re right Ceej these crosswords are terrible but I feel like there is more below the surface. Something niggling in the back of my head. Wait Maverick, Ash, Sullivan, and Sawyer weren’t they the streets the muggings took place?” Shay froze with her pen in her mouth.
Hamilton inhaled his chocolate bar. “Nah but we never released the location of the Maverick Road mugging to the press. Poor Mrs. Chlebak was too afraid to press charges if her street name was made public. That bastard broke her arm. And—“
Exchanging looks, the three detectives rushed from the break room.
Sniffing at the air and shaking his head, Beck ate his lunch in peace.

There Goes the Neighborhood Chap. 2 A Wolf in Tweed Clothing

A white-colored house in a white-flowered garden perched at the top of a hill. With its grecian columns and reserved mullioned windows, the palatial estate was much more of a fortress than it ever was a home. In the white-colored house behind one of its mullioned windows overlooking the long steep driveway, a woman stood. Elegant in equestrian tweeds, Tilda Grimwolff Shaw watched as the police car pulled up. Sherriff Tank Adolphus was clever but easily handled. As a fellow wolf shifter he subconsciously followed the sway of her alpha dominance. The Federal Bureau of Supernatural Investigation agent was a wildcard. Sheriff Adolphus opened the car door for the young woman. The young agent was clad in a plain black pant suit, gray Oxford button up, and dark sunglasses. Tilda visibly relaxed at first sniff. The agent smelled stupid. Tilda’s canines flashed as she smiled. She would give the pair the typical lady of the manor act and send them on their way.

“Letty, our guests have arrived. Prepare coffee and refreshments,” Tilda barked. From the formal parlor the submissive servant yelped and hurried to the door.

Clad in oxblood velvet wallpaper, antique hunting gear, and heavy drapery, this parlor was designed for hostility more than hospitality. Sheriff Adolphus introduced Agent Tess Morganna. He glanced at the hearth painting of hounds disembowelling a fox while red coated men lounged in the background and looked away. A series of poisoned pen letters had been plaguing their fair town of Zeus. Over several months a flurry of vitriolic typed letters had blanketed the town.

Secrets were revealed, accusations hurled, followed closely by physical altercations and random vandalism. Tilda had been the first person to receive a letter, a nasty missive accusing her of misappropriation of the Ladies’ Flower Fair funds. Tilda scented the air. Sheriff Adolphus was growing steadily uncomfortable and agent was muted somehow. Clattering the bone china, Letty bought in a coffee set and a tray of almond cookies. Tilda growled and her housekeeper scurried to the kitchen.

“Insufferable creature. Now Tank I’ve heard about this business down at the band stand. I’m so glad you’ve brought in the experts. No offense of course Sheriff a burning effigy is a little more serious than old Mrs. Calico stuck up a tree,” Tilda said. She gave a ghastly smile masquerading for a friendly one.

Greatly offended, the policeman said, “None taken. Bitzy is in a coma from falling from that tree after receiving those vicious etters. I am taking this investigation very seriously. Tess and I have been reviewing all of the poison pen letters. We are also working with the Fed’s CSI Supernatural techs and we are making progress.”

With a distracted expression, Agent Morganna was examining her half drunk coffee cup.

“I love your garden so many plants and stuff,” Agent Morganna said.

The agent offered the perturbed police a cookie and a cup of coffee. Tilda could smell the faint clementine of the little witch’s magic.

How cute she’s soothing the big bad wolf. This is like on of those dreadful romances Letty reads in the pantry, Tilda thought. The citrus smell intensified and the agent’s looks went from dim to brilliant. Tess Morganna examined Tilda.

“Actually Ms. Grimwolff Shaw the progress we are making says there are two sets of letter. The second set of letters are a treasure trove of evidence. Many authors many motives. But the first set that went to you, Mrs. Calico, Mayor Kodiak, and the Robinsons are free of fingerprints, trace DNA, and psychic signatures. These are the work of one person with one purpose hidden in the middle of red herrrings. Even the smell of the anonymous letter paper was masked by being stored in coffee beans. Fine coffee I should say by the aroma. The second set were passionate and haphazard. The first set of poison pen letters are precise from someone with a deep knowledge of preternatural investigation. Someone with a lot to protect such as money or position. Someone creative, cruel, and, disciplined say someone who designed an award-winning Sissington white garden,” Agent Morganna said.

The sheriff choked on his coffee.

“Surely you’re joking. Why would I write silly letters?” said Tilda.

“Maybe because

you and Bitzy Calico both came from Marlowe. Maybe that story I heard about your husband disappearing with his secretary and half your money are the part truths and Bitzy knows something you can’t afford to let get out,” Sheriff Adolphus said. “Maybe we should finish this conversation back at the station.”

Tilda could sense the agent’s power. The woman had masked her brains and give the policeman confidence to piece things together. If only Bitzy had kept her end of the bargain.

“You know Mrs. Calico used to be a secretary back in Marlowe. We’ve looked at her as a victim but what if she had once be an accomplish,” said Tess.

Tilda snarled, “Witch!”

Tilda’s hands shifted to wolf claws and she leapt over the coffee table. Instantly the sheriff flashed wolf and slammed the older shifter across the room into the pianoforte.

Tess twitched her nose. Before she could jump up, Tilda was hogtied in a neon rope of energy. While Tank called for a reinforced wagon, Tess ate the rest of the cookies. When the wagon rolled away, Tank turned.

“So this is over,” Tank said.

“No, dog, this is only the first round.”

Well There Goes the Neighborhood

“We’re a nice town, the type of place where everyone knows everyone,” said Sheriff Tank Adolphus. “Nothing ever happened here. Nothing until the outsiders came.”

Agent Tess Morganna turned from the view outside the passenger window and gave the policeman serious side eye.

“Don’t give me that look. You think I’m being racist. I’m not being racist. I’m okay with all people even humans. I’m simply stating a fact. Things were better before the Robinsons—ow!”

Tank yelped as a neon spark sizzled from her finger, struck his thigh, and then ricocheted into the police car’s dashboard. Tank’s eyes flashed from dark chocolate to wolf.

“Canine the next time you tell me what I think I’ll grill you like cheese sandwich” said Tess.

With a low growl, Tank turned to the gray ribbon of Route 32 leading from the airport to Zeus, PA. The federal agent, in her trim black pants, thin chain, and sensible kitten heels, returned to her view of the speeding scenery. She hadn’t been back in Pennsylvania since she was a child. Tess and her family had lived nearby in Upper Gwynedd before Zeus was founded. Until they were outed as witches. They had escaped with nothing, leaving too much behind. Tess remembered that Lycanthropes can smell strong emotions. She felt Tank’s eyes creeping up her nape.

Magically, Tess thumbed through case report on her lap. Her supervisor a sweet Walter Brimley type cougar shifter with a heart of stone had hand chosen Tess for this assignment. The Federal Bureau of Supernatural was less than a decade old. All eyes were on them to oversee their preternatural municipalities since the Unveiling. Their communities had to be peaceful. Zeus the oldest supernatural town had been flipping Mayberry. Until the first poison pen letter arrived. Now there was graffiti and vandalism and fist fights. And when lions and tigers and bear shifters fought things really escalated. The local resources of a sleepy hamlet couldn’t handle anonymous threats and a crime wave. The FBS had to fix this fast.

Ignoring Tank’s furtive glances, Tess got lost in the rolling hills and strip malls as she reviewed the photos of the letters in her mind. Violent, perverted, and weirdly personal, these letters were the key.

“Welcome to my hometown,” said Tank.

Graceful ash trees sheltered picturesque streets. Zeus, formerly Brownsville, was postcard pretty. Tess smiled. A sprinkle of grape hyacinths sprouted on a vintage-style lamp post. The police car pulled in front of the town square. There should have been a brass band or an ice cream social. Instead the agent and peacekeeper were facing the burnt remains of an upside-down scarecrow hanging from the turn of the century bandstand. Officers Kodiak and Thunderbird greeted Tank.

“We secured the scene and waited for you and the FBS agent to come from the airport. This happened overnight, ma’am. There’s nothing on any of the traffic cams or local business surveillance cameras,” said Officer Kodiak.

Officer Thunderbird watched Tess cautiously. Glowing dark blue, the cop shimmered in and out for a second.

“Chief there is something you should both see,” Officer Thunderbird said.

He held up an evidence bag.
“We found it pinned to the scarecrow,” Kodiak said. She was giddy with excitement.
Tank and Tess leaned closer to the out-stretched bag. Inside there was a tarot card, the hanged man. Mirroring the burnt scarecrow the card had a man hanging upside down one leg crossed at the knee with an insipid look on its face. The card had a message. Written in a Spensorian hand it read: Welcome Home, Tess

Photo by Lucas Pezeta on


Enthusiastic applause erupted. Dr. Penelope Wolf smiled, pushing down the ripple of anxiety. Her eyes darted from the bookshop’s front door to the rear exit. Jessie patted Penelope’s knee and leaned in close.
“Remember, breathe.”
Jessie’s motherly voice smothered her forest fire of nerves. Penelope released a trapped sigh. Despite the lavender bubble bath, the honey ginger tea, and the Zoloft, Penelope was still not ready for the question and answer portion of her book tour. She was fine with reading aloud from her book. When she read, Penelope could picture herself in her favorite sweats in her favorite chair editing with Alabama Shakes blasting in the background and Belvedere snoring on her slippers. But people, yuck. People asking questions, midnight in nightmare alley. The bookstore blurred.
“Thank you so much for your insightful questions. Excellent audience! Dr. Wolf could answer your questions all night. We’re going to take a little break while the Books By The Cover staff sets up the book signing table. There will be cheese, wine, and of course plenty of opportunities to buy New York Times bestseller, Glitch, the Mandela Effect and the Psychology of Collective False Memories,” Jessie said.
Penelope gasped as she realized what her publicist was saying.
Not again, Penelope thought, not now.
Chuckles and snatches of conversation whirled around her. People were stirring. People were gathering their bags and coats, lured by free chardonnay and waxy cheese cubes. Everything in Penelope’s field of vision was accelerating. Closing her eyes, Penelope threw out a grappling hook to stop the freefall. She cracked open one eyelid. She was in a rental town car with Jessie speeding back to the hotel. Shutting her eyes, Penelope bungeed back in time. Shifting back and forth, Penelope slipped into the correct groove in time. Sweat droplets broke out on her forehead.
You got this Lope a voice, familiar yet unknown, whispered in her head.

That’s right I got this, Penelope thought.
Holding her breath, Penelope opened her eyes. Her vision was swimming, but Penelope was back in the book store after her book reading but before the Q&A. Quietly she blessed the voices in her head.
“Remember, breathe,” Jessie said.
Jessie watched the younger woman face, clenched in concentration. Jessie added, “Penelope, love, have we lost you?”
“No, I’m back. I mean I’m here. I mean I was just remembering when it was enough for writers to write the book instead of writing, marketing, wining and dining. Slight headache, but I know I am going to ace this night,” Penelope said.
“That’s my ballsy broad. You’re an old soul, love. I will cancel our dinner reservations and reschedule that podcast interview to tomorrow afternoon. You need a room service hamburger and a good night sleep ASAP,” Jessie said in her motherly voice and patted her author’s knee.
Penelope faced her fans.

Running Without Looking

Streamlined skull idling in the reed grass
Among the jumped fleet footed bones poise
white ribcage releasing the coattails of winter
heart pounding, feet pounding

eating up earth and asphalt
nothing can hold me down
no one can catch me again
gulping mouthfuls of warm moist air

Calm wicks off my skin
Chunks of me careen away as I pick up
Speed trickles down my spine and pools
on my sun picked bones still running

Running without looking
back is sanctuary
Streaks of flesh race off trim hooves
Tufts of hair run free

Had I But Known

The waitress set a brimming tray of fresh tortillas, salsa, guacamole, and gobs of melted cheese. Penny cheered their appetizer and did a chair tango.

“I mean she’s nice, really nice, but I don’t know. Maybe I’m making too much of it but I never met anyone who tells you their whole life story but not their insta handle,” Jaime said into her salt rimmed glass.

Mid tortilla, Penny stopped. “What, go back and explain it to me everything like I was five.”

Jaime rolled her eyes but spilled the tea over her new found friend. They had met at Jaime’s new job at the bookstore.

“Nicky and I met in the Emily Dickinson section. She was looking for Patricia Wentworth and we sparked over Allingham, Fey, Charlotte Armstrong, you know,” Jaime explained picking off the nachos’ jalapeños.

Penny dropped a handful of the rejected peppers into her mouth. “You know I don’t know. I haven’t read a book since the Babysitter’s Club. Get to the weird personal shit, sis.”

“That’s what I mean. It is so hard to make new friends as an adult. Everyone has a group. Nicky’s an elementary school teacher. How bad can she be? Nicky and I talked locked rooms, we talked Mary Robert Rinehart. Nicky was so easy to talk to. She invited me for coffee and scones. You know I love a good lemon curd,” Jaime said.

“Focus, buttercup.” Jaime snapped her fingers.

“At the coffeehouse we had a great time but she was pressuring me to come back to her and her boyfriend’s apartment but nothing crazy. She’s a writer, historic erotic romances. I wanted to check out her blog and stuff but she said I wouldn’t like her if I read them and I should just come back to their place. I got a weird vibe, you know.” Jaime’s voice sounded small.

“So how did you feel after you read her stuff?” Penny asked.

“Oh I didn’t look. I didn’t think I should she asked me not to I mean she said not to so—“

“Pashaw Pollyanna let me work my magic.”

With her left hand Penny shovelled cheesy chips in her face while searching for Nicky on one of her barely legal search sites with her right. Jaime drained her margarita. Within minutes Penny had an hit. Penny clicked, scrolled, and gasped. Jaime leaned over her little sister’s shoulders. Purple prose page after page filled Penny’s slender screen. Jaime was written in as the star, the love interest, the fated mate of her newfound friend. Their mouths fell open.

Forty Elephants

I wanted to drop the baby weight. I sipped my darjeeling and passed the small pound cakes to Mags. She reached out a delicate porcelain hand.

“Pass it around you skinny bitch,” I said.

Mags suck out her tongue. “It’s not my fault you’re a breeder.” Cramming a whole cake in her mouth, Mags batted one of the balloons leftover from Abigail’s birthday party.

“Mags how’s your brother doing? I saw him over at Tiffany’s in Chestnut Hill,” Wren said. She passed the cakes to her left. “Has he been working out or something?”

Wren twirled her curly blonde hair absently. I noticed her throat was flushed pink.

“He’s going Paleo to get field ready for his next half inch,” Mags said around another madeleine.

“You’ve been birddogging that cat since we were all boosting bubblegum the corner stores. Quit it already,” her twin sister Robin said with a snort. The sisters play-slapped at each other nearly upsetting the china teapot.

Trudy the strong silent type rolled her eyes in disgust. She bit into a madeleine and gave a small moan of ecstasy. We all chuckled.

“I love love. Think how cute your babies would be,” Lill said clapping in excitement. “Adorable little safecrackers.”

Sparks beamed at her wife and patted Lill’s freckled knee. I stretched in the sunshine of my backyard. Bert had taken the baby to the park and the afternoon luxuriate before me. Casting my eye around my table of good friends, trusted associates, I was proud of what Mags and I had put together. The Forty Elephants had matured from a handful of pickpockets fleecing tourists in Times Square into a well oiled thieving syndicate. We rotated crews of shoplifters and cat burglars up and down the Northeast. Yes, I was proud of what we had built and I was willing to do what it took to protect what’s ours.

“Status of little Moscow crew,” I said to Sparks.

Her lovely plump cheeked face grew stormy. “Not good Diamond. Reports that their crews are encroaching into Paramus and Princeton.”

The table went still. Mags and I talked with a glance. Next I looked at Trudy and tossed her a blood red handkerchief. With a curt nod, Trudy retrieved the fabric and tossed Mags the last petite pound cake. Lightning fast, I snatched it out the air. Mags pouted. Smiling I took a greedy bite.

Me Just Me

Read your post this morning
The one about that thing you like
Gave you a smiley face holding a heart to show you I care
because no one gets you like I do
me just me

Even shared your post on my feed
Though you never share mine
I saw you gave Viv’s meme a thumbs up
must be nice
I follow you on Twitter, on LinkedIn, on the ‘Gram
Follow you to the moon and back
you see my likes
I know you do
we’re only friends on Facebook but
I feel your fingers on your keyboard
soft tips pressing slowly now faster as your spooled thoughts uncoil
zip down your arms through those hands to my eyes
I drink you in bright white letters on jet
you, luxuriate on a mound of pillows laptop perched on sprawling legs on your bed, reaching out to
me just me

be my follower
bookmark my blog
let a laugh rumble in your chest caused by something I wrote
make the slightest moan in your throat agreeing with one of my viewpoints
scroll through me over and over
and let my blue light pierce your circadian rhythm
keep you awake deep into the night
with me just me