Welcome to Paragraphs of Power 1st Semi- Final.
The vote is now open to the right of this post. This is a blind vote, the Paragraphs are identified by number and title only. Voting will remain open for five days until July 6th...the top TWO winning entries will go into the grand final.
Entries into the overall contest remain open until JULY 26th.
This semi-final vote closes on JULY 6th
Paragraphs Of Power July 2012.
#1 Third Eye Blind
Detective Ethan Cameron of Baltimore's CID: Homicide Division didn't bother with statistics. Dead was dead. It was the living that concerned him.
The hot coffee slip sliding down his throat brought welcome warmth yet it failed to penetrate through to his skin. It was a kill zone and every nerve cracked to attention, chill and heat in a punishing waltz. He wasn’t so much awake as ... aware.
Slipping the Glock 22 into the shoulder holster, he prepared to head out, his mind firmly fixed on a rare weekend away, working on his sailboat with two of his best ... his only friends. The badge and his cell sat parallel parked on the dresser. One was buzzing.
He attached the badge to his belt and listened intently, then snapped the cell shut without a word.
Peering out the west-facing window, he contemplated the suggestion of dawn. First day of spring. Time to restep the mast and get Kaika-Ki into the water. Leave it to Renji to pick a name he could barely pronounce.
It means the process of blooming, grasshopper.
Process my ass. It was probably something like ‘Blooming Onion’. Renji had a strange sense of humor. But it seemed to suit the little double-ender so Kaika-Ki it was.
Hitting speed dial he braced the cell against his shoulder as he took the stairs two at a time. He had nothing against elevators. Nothing against death traps in general.
“Yo, sleeping beauty, did you get the call?” He held the phone away from his ear, grinning at the colorful stream of Japanese echoing in the stairwell. “Can it, Ren. I’m on my way. Be there in twenty.”
Twenty if he was lucky. The early mornings were usually quiet around campus, not so much the rest of the city. He exited onto the ground floor and pushed through the steel door into the parking garage. The Crown Vic sat like a beached whale amongst the Fiestas and junkers. Student wheels.
He passed the Kawasaki Voyager tucked into a corner parking space reserved just for him and gave it a loving pat. It was tempting but he wasn’t dressed for the ride. And the Captain frowned on the troops using unauthorized vehicles on official department business.
Today’s dead body was the third in a week. Baltimore’s rep as the most dangerous city in the country seemed well in hand. He wasn’t complaining. It made for job security, sleep deprivation, a few bad habits and a side of ulcers.
Still. The bike sat there in all her glory. Her and Laura. They’d been the light of his life. Ex-light. Ex-wife. He pried an antacid out of the wrapper and unlocked the car door.
Ethan! Slow down. Her voice came as a screech through the ear buds.
Hunching his shoulders he forced her to grip tight, tighter, fingernails raking the thin fabric of the tee-shirt as she fought for balance in the tight turns.
She was on the edge of panic, just where he liked her. Anxious, angry. He braked the bike, angling for a spot through a narrow opening in the trees, rolling slowly to a stop deep in the brush.
They’d be invisible from the road. Not that he cared. She was breathing hard and fast, through her mouth, the rasping harsh in his ears. Reaching behind, he gripped her thighs and yanked her closer, imagining the prick of taut nipples through his shirt.
You. Are. So. Fucking. Bad.
Each word a promise and a dare. She pinched him, thumb and forefinger gripping his nipple with searing force, then moved her hand lower to cup his cock, stroking hard until he groaned in anticipation.
Cool air caressed his back. She’d dismounted, the helmet falling to the ground followed by her khaki shorts and a bit of frill in red satin. He’d barely had time to remove the stifling helmet when she had him unzipped, her mouth suckling his cock, drawing down and up so fast he cried out, “Slow down.”
“Oh, now you want to go slow.” And she’d laughed out loud, deep, throaty, sexy as hell.
God damn, he wanted her.
Slipping her tank top, she swung a leg over the bike, positioning her wet cunt, teasing with hips shifting, brushing the tip of his aching cock.
He couldn’t take it anymore. Cupping her ass he lunged up, impaling himself to the hilt, gasping as she pulled him in, hot and tight.
“Move, damn you.”
“Not until you answer a question.”
She’d wiggled but he gripped her small body, keeping them both still.
Her face was flushed, rosy with passion, brown hair askew and damp, everything about her softly rounded, plump and delicious.
“Marry me, Laura.”
A distant sound of a four-wheeler broke the silence and she turned nervously, following the engine’s hum.
“What if the cops find us?”
“Babe, I am a cop.”
“Then I want you to fucking move!”
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
#2 'When I was Emily'.
I don’t expect you to like me.
I have spent nearly my entire adult life and most of my childhood in prison, and I’m perfectly aware that you are not going to forgive me. The chunk bitten out of my ear and the jagged gash above my left kidney serve as a reminder of that.
I don’t expect you to understand me, or sympathise with me or comfort me. I know what a terrible thing I did and I can neither forgive nor understand myself, either.
But I do want to put the record straight.
You see, this person I am now – Pauline Hoyle – ghastly name isn’t it? You don’t get to choose them, you know. Yes, this mousy little woman with the ratty face and bitter eyes, is not who I always was. I wasn’t meant to become this person – I was forced to.
You wouldn’t recognise me now, if you saw me scurrying down the street, head down, eyes darting left and right, monosyllabic - some would say rude. But you would recognise the person I was – which is why I have to be so careful.
I have a new story now – one that was given to me by the police. But today I want to tell my old one. Some bits you’ll know of course - some bits you won’t.
My name was Emily Hope – and when I was ten, I stabbed my eight-year old cousin forty-six times until I was so tired, I could not kill her anymore.
That was when I was Emily.
#3 Revenge Is Double Edged.
A shot rang out and Dexter instinctively dropped to his knees in the hot sand, whilst reaching for his gun. Sudden realisation hit him, it was a car back firing close by and he relaxed. Reaching down for his towel Dexter began to dry the sea water from his lithe bronzed body. A young woman in a colourful sarong, and overly large sun glasses, sat up to watch him discreetly, from a distance. Regardless of her personal preferences she would have happily licked his salty body dry. Instead she lay back down and let her imagination do the work.
Dexter had the body of a thirty something year old although he was in reality forty nine. His body drove Joanna wild and she would kiss his long black fringed eyelashes regularly as they made sweet steamy love at every given opportunity. Ah Joanna …!
He sighed deeply and lay out on the sand oblivious to the surroundings. Maybe the heat of the sand on his back would take the pain away but he doubted it. Nothing would. Closing his eyes he shut out the world and some of the heat of the noon day sun.
His thoughts were interrupted by a nearby Jamaican family catching up on gossip and relating their experiences of a trip to England. He tried to ignore it but …
“I jus hoff a de plane from Hengland.
Me a suffa from jet lag you see but me dida haf ti mek dis ya trip.
Praise de lawd! I reach home safely from Hengland”.
Annoying though it was, he couldn’t help but smile at the local patois. He had even picked up some of it himself. As Chief of Police he came up against all kinds of people and it was necessary to be able to converse easily with everyone.
He placed his old straw hat over his eyes and let his mind wander. Two years ago he had been offered the chance of a secondment in this paradise. He and his girlfriend Joanna had jumped at the chance. She had given up her job as a senior nurse to join him and they had made a commitment to marry at some point once they had settled.
Dexter was impatient though as always, and had started to make his own plans for their special day. His job dictated irregular hours and he used this to his advantage.
Nothing would be too good for his beautiful sensuous Joanna.
The adjacent island was overrun with drug dealers, and gangs who deliberately flouted the law selling them openly on the streets. Dexter was aware of the minions. His objective
though was to concentrate all efforts on infiltrating and dismantling the hierarchy of the drugs organisation. The man he was after was Delice Dujon known locally as ‘De Man‘, He was probably one of the most sadistic men Dexter had ever come across. Torture and decapitation were just run of the mill to him. Not that he did his own dirty work, he paid others handsomely to do it whilst also buying their silence. He demanded loyalty to the enth degree. Only one man had ever crossed Dujon and he was now minus his right hand and both feet and he considered himself lucky to still be alive.
Dexter had only had Dujon in custody on one occasion but had had to let him go on a technicality.
The local paper had jumped on the story and then the mainland newspapers picked it up,
‘Jamaica Police hold Drugs Baron Delice Dujon’
Then there was the usual retraction splashed all over the front page with derogatory comments by Dujon.
As he signed Dujon’s release papers all the usual taunts came, but Dexter was immune. It came with the territory of rank in the Police.
He swore on his own life. He would have him behind bars before he left the island.
The sound of the surf breaking around him reminded him of the wedding. What a wonderful wedding it had been, a day to remember all his life. It had all been arranged within eight weeks of coming to the island. He had decided on a beach wedding in the cool of the evening with just a few friends, followed by a small reception on the beach close to the local beach bar. Music was provided by an impromptu band hired by his police colleagues.
Joanna, a leggy, slim, blonde, came up to the shoulders of his six foot two frame, and was never short of second glances wherever they went. She was proud to be his woman and it showed. She had worn a white transparent dress threaded with silver in the mode of the Grecians and pinned her hair into a similar fashion with a few curls tumbling down to her shoulders. Her feet were bare.
As the evening wore on, curiosity and the rhythmic band brought others to the beach. Always mindful of what was happening around him he’d sent a couple of officers to just ‘check things out’ but they reported only sightseers. Why hadn’t he paid attention to the hairs standing up on his neck? Tears pricked his eyes as he remembered.
Joanna loved the location of the property, situated up in the hills. The view was stunning and there was only one road leading up to their home.
One evening they were eating as usual on the verandah, the heady perfume of the flowers enhancing the wine. Whistling happily Dexter went inside to get another bottle of wine. As he opened the fridge and gripped the neck of the bottle, everything played out in slow motion. A shot rang out and the bottle dropped to the floor smashing, as he abandoned everything and rushed towards the verandah. Joanna lay crumpled on the floor with a bullet wound to the centre of her forehead. . …
#4 A Long Way From Anywhere
The last thing that I remembered was being shot.
I could still see the perspex of the helicopter’s cabin shattering and the man on the ground aiming his gun at me.
I could still feel sudden pain and the helicopter tilting beneath me as Wozza banked sharply to the left…but that was it. Now I was here…wherever it was. My head was still bandaged where the bullet had grazed it, but it didn’t seem serious. And the headache had gone.
This was the third morning that I had woken, still waiting for Wozza to return and make good on his note that I’d found on the first day. It said he’d be back in a couple of hours, a day at the most.
I crawled out of my self-made lean-to and winced at the brightness of the low sun as I stretched out the aches and pains in my back and shoulders. Today promised to be hot. And the humidity was increasing.
Sunrise in the Australian bush is of one the most beautiful experiences. If this is not something you have seen, please let me describe it for you in some more detail. Imagine that you have just opened your eyes…
It is cool, even cold.
The sun still rests below the horizon but the sky is already a soft blue colour infused with white.
It is perfectly still; faded green leaves hang limp.
There is a sweet smell in the air, a cool damp aroma that comes from the vegetation. It’s as if someone has doused the country with air freshener. Condensation clings to leaves and the makes the soil moist underfoot; it also carries the smell into your nose. The chorus of birdcalls that greeted the first light of dawn some half an hour ago has ceased.
There is only silence.
This is as peaceful as it gets anywhere in the world, as serene as you can be. Soon the sun’s rays will hit your swag and make any further rest unbearable, just as they had this morning, and you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to experience this again. So drink it all in and feel your muscles and mind relax
I retrieved the very last half-energy bar that I had in my backpack and studied it intently for a few minutes before eating it. That was the last of my food. By now I had the feeling…no, in fact I was certain, that nobody knew where I was. I was in the middle of a two-month exploration programme and people wouldn’t start worrying another few weeks. There was no rescue coming.
People die out here in the Kimberly all the time. They get lost and are never found – not even their remains. Or there might even be some German nutjob out here shooting at them, but perhaps that was the eighties, or even the seventies. Not now.
But there are the snakes that will kill you - the Taipan, King Brown, or Death Adder. One bite out here and you’re history. You might even get gored by a rogue bull that has evaded muster for a few years and now has a territory it aggressively protects. Or even a rogue donkey – and no, I’m not kidding about that. But any one of those options would be better than what awaited me – the long tortuous agony of starving to death.
I wasn’t going to die of thirst, that was for sure. About half-an-hour’s walk from my shabby lean-to was a deep shady gorge with a cool pool of water tucked away in the shadows of its precipitous walls where the small freshwater crocodiles had been more scared of me than I of them. I wouldn’t run out of water in a hurry. And the first rule of bush survival is to never leave your water source. People who die in outback invariably leave their cars and stores of water to search for help, get delirious with thirst, and then collapse, before desiccating under the harsh, relentless sun. You should always stay by your vehicle. I had no vehicle.
And nobody was coming to find me. Nobody knew I was out here…except Wozza...and if he was still alive he’d have been back by now.
So today I would break that first rule of bush survival. It was time to find help, or die trying.
When Murphy was a boy, he killed a man.
Now, it’s time to atone.
It won’t be pleasant.
Murphy reclined into the worn club chair. Cool leather a temporary balm to overheated skin. He traced the scuffed, cracked hide with trembling fingers. Though the tremors were imperceptible to the casual observer, he stilled his hand nevertheless.
He needed a drink.
He allowed his gaze to roam the smoky interior of the hotel lobby. Overhead, an ancient, creaking fan tried in vain to bring some relief. Instead of circulating fresh air to the patrons of the Grande’ Hotel, it merely caused ripples and eddies in the layers of stale cigarette smoke hanging above their heads. Murphy idly pondered the effects of passive smoking, mentally pulling the trigger on the fools inhaling lung-full’s as they opened gaping maws, to screech and bawl their demands at the harassed desk clerk.
The lobby was full, which was hardly surprising, given the circumstances. The announcement to evacuate all non-nationals had naturally caused panic among hotel residents, now intent on senseless scrambling for attention, no matter what subsequent chaos ensued. Murphy observed with clinical detachment as regular law-abiding citizens abandon manners and fair-play and bulldozed each other out of the way enroute to the desk. He’d seen far worse, was faintly amused by the feral behaviour and had no doubt, that another hour or so of fighting over the few remaining tickets to freedom, would transform the disorderly expats into something even more disturbing. Already, outside in the stifling heat, the mass evacuation of an entire community was beginning to crumble into disarray, to edge beyond the bounds of reasonable and acceptable behaviour. Exacerbated by the ineptitude of officials who were just as keen, to be first, on the last plane out. Money was changing hands, deals being made and those with nothing to trade were realising to their horror, the true meaning of haves and have-nots.
He checked the time - thirty six hours since he'd slept. Since the call that dragged him up off the bar-room floor and sent him back where he’d no business being. He leant back in the chair and allowed his eyelids to drift shut. Dusty lashes filtering the nicotine neon, instant insulation from the flickering hotel lights and irritating smoke. He zoned out the noise and tricked his body into energy-save mode. He needed a full eight hours, to recover from debauchery and excess, but if a catnap was the best he could do, he could make it work.
He'd been flying for best part of the night, and spent the early hours circling the godforsaken place trying to get permission to land. The airport was in chaos, worse than the hotel lobby, worse than the streets; too many frantic people, trying to get out while there was still time. Runways blocked, ground crew gone to ground someplace else. He recalled the nightmare of landing without assistance from the tower. It was fortunate that Stick had decided to hitch a ride on the flight down from New Mexico. At least Murphy could relax in the knowledge that no one - no matter how desperate - could commandeer the plane in his absence. Not while a guy one step away from the psych-ward was holed up in the cockpit. Stick had a certain skill with a machete that more than made up for his other failings.
Murphy shrugged himself awake, stilled the tremors and fixed his gaze on the man stood before him. A crumpled linen suit, stained with sweat, adhered to his bloated frame. Perspiration ran freely from his brow and he mopped at it ineffectually with an oversized handkerchief. Body odour; barely cloaked by cloying layers of stale alcohol, exuded from his skin, repressed by the humidity.
“Do you...have...the package?” His voice, like his appearance, was disorganised. It spilled out untidily, an ill-formed mixture of reluctant sounds.
Murphy narrowed his eyes and allowed the silence between them to extend beyond acceptable, and the man’s discomfort to fester.
“Do you have the money?” he asked eventually.
The words were quietly spoken and laced with menace. When it appeared the man had either failed to hear or lost the ability to reply, Murphy leant forward to repeat them and the man took a hesitant step back.
Jostled to one side by the crush of the frantic crowd, he struggled to regain his balance. His composure slipped further as he cast an anxious glance through the encroaching melee.
Murphy followed the focus of the man’s apparent paranoia, to the stairs at the rear of the lobby and a retreating figure. He cocked his head and allowed a sly smile.
“Forget it,” he muttered as he pulled himself out of the chair and sidestepped the man. “Go take a pill, take a shower; take a walk. I’m done wasting my time. Let’s hope for all our sakes, that your boss is ready to keep up his end of the bargain.”