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by Barbara Taylor Sissel
In the fall of 1999, psychologist Sophia Beckman is compelled by the court to give testimony on behalf of a death row inmate that results in his sentence being overturned. Haunted by secrets from her past, she avoids the media spotlight as much as possible, but soon, other prisoners’ families come seeking her assistance. One family in particular, the wife, children, and brother of Jarrett Capshaw, is especially insistent. Forty-one days ago Jarrett’s request to die was granted by the State of Texas, and he became a dead man walking, a man they call a volunteer.
Jarrett’s crimes were unusual, involving the theft of precious Mayan antiquities. Murder was never part of the plan, but murder is what happened. He pulled the trigger, and as little as he feels prepared for it, as much as he struggles with matters of the soul, he’s ready to die. It is the only way his family and the families of his victims will be free to move on. While Jarrett labors to find the words to say good-bye to those he has loved, Sophia finds herself drawn into a relationship with his wife and oldest son. It is Jarrett’s family she can’t resist and there will be a price to pay. But not even Sophia could have foreseen the outcome when the brutal truth is exposed, the unalloyed facts that, incredibly, will deliver Jarrett’s fate straight into her hands.
The Volunteer is a story about families, how they are made, and how in one single, horrifying instant, they can be broken. It is a story about mothers and the lies they tell to protect their children, to keep them from being hurt. But what happens when the truth comes out anyway and nothing and no one is spared? Sometimes the truth has the power to break your heart, and in Sophia’s case it will also endanger her freedom and threaten everything she has ever believed about her life.
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by Andrew Biss
Strange Tales of the Curiously Uncommon is a collection of darkly humorous short stories, each with a cunning twist in the tail.
When extraordinary events befall some of London’s most ordinary of inhabitants, unexpected turns lead to some witty, strange, yet ultimately satisfying results.
An Honest Mistake: Madge has long since surrendered herself to the verbal abuse doled out to her by her belligerent husband, Stan. On this particular evening, however, her fears of a rat beneath the floorboards, combined with her natural absent-mindedness, result in her dishing up Stan not only his evening meal…but perhaps his just deserts!
A Familiar Face: Two elderly Cockney women, old friends, meet up in a London café shortly after one them, Dora, has been widowed. As Dora’s grief and anger grows increasingly fervent, her good friend Eydie begins to suspect there may be more to her angst than the loss of a loved one. When Dora calmly removes from her shopping bag a large glass jar containing a human head, discussions over its mysterious identity and how it came to be lodged in the cupboard under her stairs lead to some startling revelations.
A Slip of the Tongue: Miss Perkins, tired of the constant innuendos and sexual insinuations of her employer, Mr. Reams, has decided to hand in her notice. On this particular morning, however, Mr. Reams decides to take things one step further. Unfortunately for him, due to Miss Perkins’ natural nervous disposition and a telephone that rings at a shockingly high pitch, he soon discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew…or at least, one of them has.
An Embarrassing Odour: Ethel, a frail, widowed pensioner, sits down one evening to tackle her daily crossword puzzle, when suddenly her tranquil world is turned upside down as a burglar breaks into her home believing it to be unoccupied. While Ethel vainly attempts to forge a relationship with the violent delinquent before her, his concerns lie only in getting his hands on her valuables…that and the unpleasant smell that fills the room. As Ethel shamefully admits, it’s an embarrassing odour for a seventy-eight year old to have, but what her intruder doesn’t know is quite why…though he’s about to find out!
A Stunning Confession: As Ron and Jan made themselves comfortable on their sofa, they thought they were settling in for just another quiet night in front of the television. But beneath the surface of this seemingly benign evening of domestic routine, each was withholding a guilty secret from the other, and on this particular evening one of them found they could contain themselves no longer.
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by David M. Brown
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by Bart Trahan
Vampires are the disease, and Jonnie Dearborn is the cure!
Vampirism is sorely misunderstood by those that actually believe vampires exist.
Vampirism is a disease, or more specifically, a virus. There is nothing magical about vampires. They can’t fly, turn into a bat, and they don’t sparkle like diamonds in direct sunlight. Whoever came up with that one has some imagination!
But the virus needs to feed, and the only way to keep the virus from consuming the carrier is to give it human blood.
That’s where Jonnie comes in. He objects strongly to vampires eating his friends, and he’s here to do something about it.
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by Sam Cheever