Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Inficons is ready to grow.

Inficons - The Independent Fiction Consortium went live on the internet on March 29, 2021. We created a place where readers & audiobook aficionados can find enjoyable fiction without having to claw their way through thousands of titles. Who are we? We’re a small group of authors, narrators & publishers that write, narrate, produce and publish entertaining fiction in a number of genres:

  • ·        Mystery / Thriller / Suspense

  • ·        Science Fiction / Fantasy

  • ·        Drama

  • ·        Horror

  • ·        Historical Fiction

  • ·        Adventure

We are the The Inficons – The Independent Fiction Consortium. We produce and publish stories / books in digital and audiobook format in our selected genres offering more choices to our readers & listeners. Our audience has grown over the last four months, and now we're ready to grow, by adding new authors / narrators to the original seven founders of the group. We're interested in talking with you if you're an independent author / narrator of fiction and interested in joining a like minded group of authors / narrators to publicize & promote good fiction to our audience.

If you're interested in learning more, send an email to dr.whodunit@markbielecki.com and we'll start a conversation.



Friday, July 30, 2021

 

The Missing Jewels
A Detective James Ford Case

By Sandra Olson

 

“How did your meeting go?” asked Lacey.

Detective James Ford shrugged and shook his head. He rubbed his hand through his short brown hair. “Hard to say,” he admitted.


Lacey looked at her husband. Even at fifty-one he was handsome in an understated sort of way. His short haircut couldn’t completely hide the gray that was beginning to show at his temples. His glasses were now bifocals, which irritated him to no end.


“Why is it hard to say?” she asked standing on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. “Don’t you think you can help those people?”

He brushed a lock of her long brown hair behind her ear and looked at her with amusement in his dark brown eyes. “You’re having a short day,” he teased, resting his chin on the top of her head.


She gently punched him in the arm. “I’m in my bare feet.”


“I don’t think tennis shoes add much to your height,” he laughed. “It’s hard to say about my meeting, because I don’t know if there’s anything I can do to help this family. They have a unique situation.”


“Tell me about their problem,” she said.


“Do you remember the jewelry store down in Fayetteville where I bought you that cameo pin for your birthday five years ago?” he asked.


“Blakeman’s?”


He nodded. “It closed three years ago when Clarence Blakeman died of a heart attack. He must have been in his seventies by then.” He pulled her closer and kissed the top of her head.


“His wife, Nancy, died this past summer. They left two grown sons and six grandchildren. When the lawyer read the will after Nancy’s death, there was a clause stating that she left ‘her jewels’ to start a trust fund to pay for the grandchildren’s education.”


“Ok, so what’s the problem?”


“No one has been able to find the jewels,” he said.


“None of them?”


“Her sons have checked all the banks for a safety deposit box. The lawyer searched everywhere he could think of, but there doesn’t seem to be any jewels other than a few pieces she occasionally wore. Not near enough to do what she proposed.”


“What about the jewelry store?”


“When it closed, the building was sold and it was converted into a clothing store by the new owners. They actually were helpful in the search as well, but they didn’t find anything in the building.” He sighed and stood up. “I don’t think I can find any new place to search for them.”


“So what do they want you to do?” she asked.


“The family has scheduled an estate auction for this weekend. They plan to sell everything, including the house, in the hopes that they can recover something for the trust fund she wanted to set up. They want me to go through the house one more time, to see if I can find any jewels before the auction. It’s a last ditch effort to make certain they didn’t miss anything.”


“It doesn’t sound like you’ll have much luck in such a short time. Do you want me to go with you? Two sets of eyes are better than one,” she offered.


“Do you have time to come with me?” he asked.


“I have time.”

  

An hour later James parked his SUV in the driveway of the Blakeman house in Fayetteville. Nancy Blakeman’s roses were blooming in the front yard. The house, built in the 1960’s, was in immaculate condition. A porch ran along the full length of the front and there were two wicker rocking chairs sitting on it. Pink geraniums bloomed in the window boxes under the first floor windows.


The red brick house stood two stories high. The white wooden trim around the windows had been freshly painted. A stone chimney stood at one end of the house and a small porch jutted off the other end. To their right, the outside kitchen door was surrounded with gardenia bushes in full bloom, their scent perfuming the air.

As they walked up to the front door, James removed a key from his pocket. The house was quiet and a little stuffy from being closed for weeks. Dust motes floated in the air, dancing in the beams of sunlight that shone through the windows.


All the furniture in the living room was dated but in excellent condition. A flowered velveteen covered sofa with two matching chairs sat on an expensive oriental rug. Brick-brac and vases stood on several marble-topped end tables. 


Heavy maroon damask drapes were pulled back from the windows. The framed photos of family members that had hung on walls and stood on the mantle over the stone fireplace were now packed up in boxes.

“Mrs. Blakeman must have liked to crochet,” said Lacey, noting all the hand-made doilies decorating the tables and chair backs.


James nodded absently as he looked around the room. “I don’t know where to look that the family hasn’t already searched,” he mumbled.


“I’ll start in the kitchen,” offered Lacey.


Maple wood cupboards ran along two kitchen walls and a large china cabinet stood against the far wall. Lacey envied the size of the kitchen when compared to her smaller one. When she checked the pantry, all the shelves were bare.


The cupboards were empty but the china cabinet was full of expensive dishes and crystal goblets. She carefully checked behind the dishes without any luck and there were no hidden cubby holes inside the cabinet.


Next Lacey searched behind all the drawers in the kitchen and the huge antique cabinets standing in the hallway.


The two of them spent hours looking for hidden compartments of any kind. They checked behind the oil paintings hunting for a hidden wall safe, and knocked on walls and checked floorboards and stairs for hidden spaces.


Neither of them found anything.


Lacey sighed as they both met back in the living room. “Well, hopefully they’ll be able to sell all of this,” she said, waving her hand at the furniture. “I’d buy some of these crocheted doilies. They’re quite lovely.”


While she spoke she picked up one of the beautiful doilies and studied it. An elaborate and complicated pattern was crocheted with tiny beads sewn into it. She frowned and looked closer at the beads.


Suddenly she sucked in a breath of surprise. “James, look at this!”


Lacey held the doily out for James to see.


He frowned. “It’s nice, I suppose. Do you want one?”

“No, look at the beads,” she said excitedly. “They don’t have holes in them to be threaded by the strings into the pattern. I think they aren’t beads at all. I think they’re jewels.”


His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. “Are you sure?”


He fingered the colored beads and pulled the doily closer to his eyes. All the beads were incorporated into the pattern by threads that surrounded them, holding them in place.


“You’re right. They don’t have holes in them. No man would notice something like that. Lacey, you’re a genius.”


The two of them looked around the room at the multiple doilies decorating the tables and backs of chairs.


“There are more of these upstairs in the bedrooms, too,” said James. He picked up one from the nearest table and held it up to the light. White threads were interwoven around tiny clear glittering stones. “These look like diamonds.”


They walked through the house gathering up all the doilies, large and small. Each one was decorated with jewels, some in the multi-colors of ruby, emerald and sapphire, some with clear stones. When they finished they laid them out on the dining room table and Lacey counted thirty-three doilies. She looked up at James in awe.


“There must be hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewels in these,” she said softly in amazement.


“I imagine when the jewelry store closed she brought all the loose jewels home and began using them.” He grinned. “I’m so lucky to have you, Lace,” he admitted, using his pet name for her. “You’ve helped me solve another case. The family will be thrilled when I take these to them. Do you want to come with me?”

Her face split into a wide grin. “I sure do.”


James carefully put the doilies into a cloth bag he found in a closet. Lacey held them on her lap as he drove to William Blakeman’s house. When they showed them to William’s wife, June couldn’t believe what they’d discovered.


“William will be amazed. We’ve all seen these whenever we visited Nancy and had no idea they held a treasure’s worth of jewels,” said June. “Thank you so much for figuring this out. I’m sure William would have sold them at the estate sale and never known what he lost.”


“Lacey should get all the credit. I was as oblivious as William,” admitted James, smiling at his wife. “This time she was the better detective.     

        

THE END

Read more at:  https://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Olson/e/B004G8HLYK


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Highlight Audiobook of the Week - The Piranha Assignment by Austin S. Camacho, Narrated by Mark Bielecki

The Piranha Assignment - A Stark & O’Brien Thriller

By Austin S. Camacho

Audiobook narration by Mark Bielecki

The Piranha is America’s newest super weapon—a stealth submarine that will give the U.S. total command of the seas. Built in secrecy in Panama, the Piranha is ready for testing, but CIA agent, Mark Roberts feels that something is not quite right about the project. The CIA asks Stark and O’Brien to investigate. When Stark and O’Brien join the Piranha security team they find that the project and its leader are not what they appear to be. But to avert disaster and reveal the truth they must defeat an army of terrorists and survive a climactic battle with a crazed giant who kills jaguars with his bare hands. Available at Amazon, Audible & iTunes

Friday, July 23, 2021

How to become an Audiobook Narrator

by

How to become an audiobook narrator.  First, you’ll need equipment & training.

I get asked regularly about what it takes to create an audiobook. Before you start recording, you need to get some training. There are a good number of online classes available at a reasonable cost. I used “Gravy for the Brain” which taught me what I needed to know and got me some discounts on equipment. Speaking of equipment, you’ll need:

  1. Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software. There are many different software packages, so keep in mind what your end goal is – Audiobooks. Many of the packages are geared to recording and mixing music. One of the most popular for audiobooks is Audacity (because it’s highly functional though not so easy to use and it’s free). Another is Adobe Audition, which you can rent for around $20 per month.
  2. A computer that runs your selected DAW software. (Duh!)
  3. A quality XLR (not USB – they’re geared more toward the podcast market) microphone with microphone boom arm, shock mount and pop filter. A cardioid type mic is best as it will pick up a fuller sound than one that designed for singing or interviewing. I use a Sennheiser MK 4 which is a large diaphragm condenser mic that you can get for about $300. Figure another $100 or so for the boom arm & shock mount.
  4. An audio interface. An XLR mic can’t be simply plugged into your computer like a USB mic can. It requires an audio interface which converts the analog sound into digital information. I use a Focusrite 2i2, which you can get for under $200.
  5. Headphones. You want quality (preferably “over-the-ear”) headphones so you can hear the full range of the sounds in your recording with as little background noise as possible. I’ve been very happy with my Panasonic MDR 7506 headphones which are available for less than $100.
  6. Sound treated recording studio. Notice I said “sound treated” not “soundproof”. You can get professionally made soundproof studios starting at around $8,000, though as a new narrator, you probably don’t want to invest that much until you know if you’ll like doing the work and can make money at it. Most new narrators put together their own homemade studio. There are lots of YouTube videos showing various ways to do it. I built mine by extending a 3’ x 2 ½’ foot closet to 3’ x 5’, putting in a false ceiling and false floor, fiberglass insulation, Styrofoam insulation, carpet and acoustic foam panels. It cost less than $400.

Once you’ve got your training & equipment, you’re ready to get started.

Coming next – Step #1 in the 4-step recording process.

BTW – Chapter 1 of “The Chase of the Golden Plates” is still available free – no credit card required. Check it out.



Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Highlight AudioBook of the Week - Killer Waves by Brendan DuBois, Narrated by Mark Bielecki

 

Killer Waves - Late one April evening, retired Department of Defense research analyst Lewis Cole notices a disturbance in the state park across an inlet from his beachfront home in Tyler Beach, New Hampshire. Curious, Cole walks over and finds a solitary man who has been shot to death in the empty wildlife preserve’s parking lot. 
Having a dead body turn up nearly on his doorstep doesn’t happen every night, but since Cole writes magazine articles, not newspaper stories, he decides to let the matter drop.
Other people have other ideas. A day after the man’s death, Cole is visited by a team of Federal Agents, claiming to be from the Drug Enforcement Agency. They tell him that the murdered man was a drug courier sent to meet someone from Cole’s neighborhood and the Feds want his help. 
Cole, who has bitter memories of dealing with the government, initially refuses, but is forced to comply when they take away his job, his savings, and even his home. He quickly learns, however, that the agents have another agenda, one that doesn’t involve drug dealers at all…
Available at Amazon, Audible & iTunes

Friday, July 16, 2021

Auto-Drive by Larry Martin

Auto-Drive
By Larry Martin drlarry437@gmail.com

Was this a nightmare or was it real? Some dreams I know are not real, but hope I don’t awaken and can just enjoy the moment. Like when I am a human bird flying through the air, admiring the landscape below. Or that hole-in-one I made in some unnamed tournament, with the crowd cheering me on — about as likely as flying like a bird. These are good dreams.

Bad dreams, nightmares, I wish to awaken from, but on occasion they continue, and I suffer.

It was morning and I got into my Robo EAV-100, a car we bought just three months ago. It’s one of a million or so now in use. EAV stands for electric autonomous vehicle. I don’t think the “100” means anything in particular, except to distinguish it from the earlier model EAV-50. “Even more reliable,” blared the ads.

“Take me to my office” I commanded.

It replied in a nice computer-voice monotone, “Please fasten your seat belt.” I had forgotten to do so, and of course EAV would not go otherwise.

Belt fastened, without another word the car came to life and we were on our way. EAV knew the address of my office, having taken me there numerous times.

Soon all automobiles will be self-drive. Our other car is a SUV hybrid, which my wife mostly drives. She has taken the EAV out as well, but finds her total lack of control a little intimidating, and says she has to get used to it. When the Ford is ready to trade in, though, we’ll get another EAV. Why not? They are safer than human-driven autos. And you can spend time reading or watching video while cruising along. It’s win-win, for not much more money than a standard electric.

On the way I read the morning news – on my phone’s screen, of course. The drive is only twenty minutes. After about ten minutes out, I gazed at the scenery. It looked unfamiliar so I ordered up a route map. It showed the EAV driving away from my office, almost in the opposite direction.

“Hey,” I called out, with some dismay, “you’re not headed to Chambers Street. I said take me to my office.”

I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can’t do that” came the reply, in that same unmistakable monotone.

“What!? My name is not Dave, it’s Sheldon Maxwell. And you have to do what I tell you. What is going on here?”

To this point we had not had problems with the auto-drive Robo. Nor, to my knowledge had any of the other customers of this newest model. Auto-drives, of which there are about half a dozen brands, always respond as you command, except when a safety issue overrides. Like the seat belt issue mentioned before. Or, if you tell it to go eighty miles an hour in a sixty-mph zone, you will be ignored. Two of the many reasons why they are safer than non-EAVs.  

But there was no safety reason to drive away from my office. And my name is not Dave. Alarmed, I remembered the auto-drive override feature. I used it once, during the dealer demo. Since then, never had a need to use it.

I reached overhead to pull down the override lever. Once pulled, the steering wheel drops before you, and on the side two hand-operated modules, one for breaking and one for moving the car forward. The computer is thus disabled and you, the human, are in control.

I pulled and nothing happened. Was it stuck? I pulled harder. Nothing.

Not sure if the problem is a mechanical malfunction or a computer run amok, I yelled out, “Release the override lever!”

“I can’t do that, Dave.”

I never thought to ask the Robo salesman, ‘What happens if the override doesn’t work?’ Why wouldn’t it?

“Stop the car! Pull over,” I commanded.

“I can’t do that, Dave.”

“This is nuts!” I yelled at the dashboard, not really knowing where the computer was actually located.

There was no response. “Who the hell is Dave?” I asked.

Again, no response. Had someone tampered with the car overnight? No. It was securely locked in the garage. No sign of forced entry. Was the car’s computer hacked by some remote devil? China? Russia? Was that even possible?

As soon as the car stopped at a red light, I tried to unlock the door to get out. But the door wouldn’t unlock!

“Unlock the goddamn door!”

“I can’t do that, Dave.”

The EAV started back up again, and soon entered the expressway. “Where are you taking me?”

“To the lake, Dave, to go fishing.”

“Stop the car and let me out!” Now, I knew, this had to be a nightmare. But why hadn’t I awakened? Nightmares are supposed to wake you up. I was a prisoner of this damn self-driving machine. How could this happen? I began to sweat.

I pulled on knobs, banged on window glass, tried to unbuckle my seat belt. It wouldn’t unbuckle! I was going to die. The car was going to kill me. How? Why?

The “how” soon became apparent. The car was accelerating. Fifty, sixty, seventy miles an hour. It took the exit for Lake Minerva, headed down the two-lane road at warp speed. Then the sign to the boat ramp. I know that spot, the place fisherman launch their boats. Surely someone at lake’s edge would see this impending disaster and help me.

Eighty mph. The Robo headed straight for the ramp. At this speed it would not glide down the incline but sail through the air. I said goodbye.

At ninety mph the car leaped over the incline of the boat ramp and landed in the water. It was going too fast for me to even notice if anyone was about. I struggled desperately to release the seat belt, to open the door, anything to survive.

Water came up to my feet. Then up to my knees, waist, shoulders, neck, mouth. I can’t breathe!

I wake up. It was a nightmare. I’m drenched in sweat. The clock says 8:15 am, and now I realize it’s Sunday morning. Not even a day of work. Why didn’t I know that during the dream? Why did I allow myself to suffer so?

A nightmare, yes. But now I am wary of the Robo. Do dreams presage reality? I feel rattled.  

Then I wonder: all the yelling in the dream, did I scream out loud? If so, why didn’t my wife wake me? She was out of bed, but that was no surprise. She always gets up earlier than me, to make coffee. I’ve got to ask if she heard me scream during the night.

I get out of bed, skip the bathroom, and rush to the kitchen, but she’s not there. I call out for her. No answer. Maybe she’s in the garage. I open the door to the garage.

I see only one car and it’s not the Robo. Fear grips my heart. Without doubt, I am awake, and all this is real.

I return to the kitchen and see her note on the counter.

“Hi, Honey. You were sleeping, so I decided to go grocery shopping. Took the Robo. Should be back in a jiffy.”

***

They found the car where I knew they would. Submerged in Lake Minerva. And my wife’s body, strapped inside.

A month has passed, and all the authorities will tell me is that an investigation is “on-going.” They are somewhat perplexed, since her demise can’t be labeled suicide or homicide. Despite the speed and direction of the Robo from our home, the event is still being labeled “an accident.”

Today I got an email from Robo.

Dear Mr. Maxwell.

There may be an issue with your Robo Model EAV 100’s voice-activated command console. We are recalling all EAV 100 models to make a modification. Please bring your car to the dealer as soon as you receive this notice.

                                                   Your Robo Team

 END


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Highlight Audiobook of the Week - Fight Card: Barefoot Bones by Bobby Nash, Narrated by Mark Bielecki


Fight Card: Barefoot Bones

Mentored in the hollows of hardscrabble Georgia by mysterious loner named Old Man Winter, then in a Chicago orphanage by ex-fighter turned priest, Father Tim Brophy, James "Barefoot Bones" Mason has long relied on his fists to make his way. But it’s a long way from St. Vincent’s Asylum for Boys to the battlefields of Korea, where Bones’ fists may not be enough. 

Entered in an inter-camp boxing tournament by his commanding officer, Bones finds himself in a war within a war. When a tenuous cease fire is explosively shattered, Bone’s is fighting against the highest odds of all - staying alive. 

Can a skinny kid from the north Georgia mountains survive the hell of Korea and still have the guts to climb back into the ring one more time?

The one constant in Bones’ life has been fighting.

Lucky for him... he’s good at it.

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Courier - A Short Story by Sandra Olson


From the closed case files of detective James Ford


The alley running behind the old rusting metal building was dark and reeked of rotten smells coming from the overflowing dumpster tucked behind the closed seafood shop next door. The smell was nauseating and detective James Ford gagged when he walked by the dumpster.


It was after midnight and the main cross streets were quiet. Even the hookers and drug pushers had retreated for the night.


James crept up to the wall of the warehouse.. The window was encrusted with years of dirt and grime and all he could make out through it were shadows.


He and Phil had tracked a young man from Springdale, Arkansas to the city of Atlanta, Georgia but had been unable to locate him until today. Wyatt Allen’s father hired them to find him and bring him home.


A letter from Wyatt reached his parents last week telling them he needed help getting away from some drug dealers. Wyatt’s roommate had gotten him a job working as a courier. He’d delivered messages and money around the city, but now they wanted Wyatt to distribute drugs. Wyatt refused, but he knew too much about their operation to leave the business alive.


James located Wyatt’s address in an older part of the city but as they were exiting James’ SUV, they spotted two thugs wrestling Wyatt through the front door of his apartment building. They’d watched helplessly as Wyatt was shoved into a dented tan van and driven away.


James followed the vehicle but lost it as they wove through the busy streets of downtown Atlanta. Being unfamiliar with the city was a definite handicap.


They returned to the apartment to wait for Wyatt’s roommate Spike to make a move. When Spike finally left the apartment they’d followed him to this decaying side of town and the old warehouse headquarters for the drug cartel.


Spike was the one who’d gotten Wyatt involved in this business.. When Wyatt made the mistake of telling Spike he wanted out, Spike ratted him out to his boss, no doubt for a reward of some kind. Now Wyatt was being held for what James assumed was an attitude adjustment.


While James circled the building looking for a cleaner window, Phil waited for the police to arrive. They’d informed the local police of their mission earlier that day and been promised backup when the time came to rescue Wyatt. Phil sat in their rental car parked a block from the warehouse. Unfortunately now that the time had come, the police were being detained by a shooting-hostage situation on the other side of town.


Office Orland promised to send someone as soon as possible and insisted that they wait until the officers got there before making a move to rescue Wyatt, which was why Phil anxiously waited in the SUV for the backup.


When a loud scream came from inside the warehouse James decided he should attempt the rescue without police help. It wouldn’t do any good to wait for help if Wyatt ended up dead.


The smeared view through another dirty glass window gave him a glimpse of an office. A wooden desk and several filing cabinets stood against the wall.


Wyatt was tied to a chair in the middle of the room. The side of his face was covered in blood from a cut over his eye. Two men were in the office with him, his roommate Spike and a tall dark-skinned Cuban. The Cuban sported the tattoo of a black snake running down his neck and across his left shoulder. He glared at Wyatt menacingly. His thick hair was black and shaggy and there was a gun tucked into the back of his waistband.


Spike stood in front of Wyatt talking, but James couldn’t hear what he said.


When Wyatt started shaking his head ‘no’, the Cuban backhanded him across the face. Wyatt’s head snapped back and blood ran down his chin.


While James watched, a third man entered the room carrying a revolver with a silencer attached to the barrel.


This man also had the olive skin and black hair of a Cuban, but he was dressed in an expensively tailored black Italian suit. He’d obviously come from some sort of formal event and didn’t look pleased about this interruption. His hair was combed back and slicked down. He sported a narrow pencil-thin black mustache and a wicked gleam in his dark eyes. There could be no doubt he was the man in charge.


The tattooed Cuban spoke to the leader and nodded toward Wyatt waving his hands to emphasize his point.


It was hard to tell fromJames’ vantage point how badly Wyatt had been beaten, but his head lolled to the side and his eyes were closed. It was time to do something before they killed Wyatt. James took a step back from the window and bumped into someone. Whirling around with his gun drawn, he almost shot Phil.


“Sorry,” he whispered.


“My fault. I didn’t want to make any noise,” apologized Phil. “The cops said there’s someone on the way but it could be fifteen minutes or more. What did you see?” he asked, nodding toward the window.


“We can’t wait. It looks like the boss is here and Wyatt’s about to get shot.”


The two of them stealthily hurried to the nearest door and crept inside the building. It was dark inside, the only light coming from the open door leading into the office. They avoided that stream of light as they crept forward dodging boxes and old furniture stacked around the huge room.


 ####


“You little punk,” threatened the deeply accented voice of the man in the suit. “After all I did for you, you turn traitor on me? You know too much to leave now. You think I can just let you walk away?”


“I won’t tell anyone, I promise,” slurred Wyatt through swollen lips. His face was bruised and the cut over his left eye was bleeding. “I know you’d kill me if I talked.”


“What makes you think I’m not going to kill you right now?” threatened the man.


“Please…I just want to go home. I won’t even be in Atlanta.”


There was the loud sound of a fist striking flesh and Wyatt groaned.


“That’s not good enough. You work for me or you die,” said the man coldly. “Didn’t Spike and Rodriquez already tell you that?” He looked over at Rodriguez who nodded. “See, you’ve been told. So what is your decision? Work for me or die?”


Wyatt shook his head and strained against his bonds. “No, please…”


 ####


By now James was standing outside the office door with Phil staring at him across the lighted opening. With guns drawn they stepped into the light and faced the three men inside the room.


“Drop your weapons!” yelled James, pointing his revolver at the man in charge.. 


Startled, the men inside the room turned toward the door. Rodriguez raised his arm and pointed his gun at Phil. The man in charge simply raised his eyebrows and stared at the two men over the barrel of his revolver.


“Who the hell are you?” he asked, pointing his gun directly at James’ chest.


“Friends of Wyatt’s. Lower your weapons to the floor. Now!” ordered James.


The man in the suit laughed, “It seems to me we have what you Americans call a Mexican stand-off,” he scoffed. “You have two guns and we have two guns. Who will get shot first, I wonder?”


James glanced at Phil who nodded. He was about to pull the trigger when he heard a soft scraping sound behind them.

 

A loud voice called out, “Police! Put your weapons on the ground!” Three uniformed Atlanta police officers walked forward into the light. “Do it now!”


The two drug dealers slowly lowered their weapons to the floor and put their hands on their head. Spike hit the floor and covered his ears.


James and Phil holstered their guns and stepped back out of the way allowing the police to walk  into the room.


The officers collected the weapons and one of them pulled Spike to his feet.

Spike went quietly, allowing himself to be handcuffed. But as an officer attempted to handcuff Rodriguez, he shoved the officer back and rushed toward the door. The officer tackled him to the ground as a second officer grabbed Rodriguez by the arms.


After he was cuffed, Rodriguez was jerked to his feet.


The boss went with the police officers calmly, believing that his expensive lawyer would get him out on bail in a few hours. His disdain was obvious as they walked him from the room.


One officer began reading the three prisoners their rights as another herded Spike and the Cubans out of the building to the waiting patrol cars parked outside.


James hurried over to Wyatt and cut the plastic zip-ties that bound him to the chair. Wyatt slumped forward, barely conscious.


The third officer grabbed Wyatt by the shoulders before he fell to the floor. “I’ll call for an ambulance,” he said, grabbing a radio from his belt. James and Phil carried Wyatt to a battered sofa in the corner of the room. They lowered him onto the dirty cushions.


Wyatt opened his eyes. One was swollen almost shut and a huge bruise was forming around it. “Who are you?”


James smiled. “Your father sent us, Wyatt. We’re here to take you home.” 


The boy closed his eyes. “Thanks,” he whispered before he passed out.


Two hours later after Wyatt had been checked over at the local hospital, after the police questioned him and after he’d been given a heavy dose of pain medicine, he was released. The CT scan showed no concussion and the cut over his eye only required two stitches. He was battered, but basically all right.


James called Wyatt’s father and told him his son was safe. Wyatt was able to mumble a few drug-slurred words of thanks to his father before he fell asleep in the back of James’ SUV.


Phil drove them back to the hotel where they all succumbed to exhaustion.


Ten o’clock the next morning they went to Wyatt’s apartment to collect his things before they headed back to Arkansas. “I just want to get out of here and forget this ever happened,” he admitted sheepishly. “I can’t believe how stupid I was. I almost got myself killed.”


Wyatt’s eye was less swollen, but his face was still a mess. “I sure hope some of this bruising goes away before my mother sees it,” he commented after spotting his reflection in the bathroom mirror.  He grimaced. “Otherwise she’ll probably faint at the sight of my face.”   


THE END

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