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Lunch Time Reading! A Provocative Thriller That Will Keep You Guessing to The Very End… Enjoy a Free Excerpt From The RoCK CLuB by Stan Thomas

On Friday we announced that Stan Thomas’s The RoCK CLuB is our Thriller of the Week and the sponsor of thousands of great bargains in the thriller, mystery, and suspense categories: over 200 free titles, over 600 quality 99-centers, and thousands more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!

Now we’re back to offer our weekly free Thriller excerpt:

The RoCK CLuB

by Stan Thomas

The RoCK CLuB
4.8 stars – 12 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

In 1982, Clark Ralston was eleven years old, his beloved little brother was nine, and his gorgeous and precocious twin sisters were seven…

Fiends and monsters in most adolescents’ lives are conjured up fantasies or characters from a Grimm Brothers fairy tale or the like, which produce an occasional nightmare. The ogre that bedeviled the Ralston children was not a fleeting fantasy or a dark creature in a bad dream after a scary movie. Their antagonist was an ever-present alcoholic and abusive father.

In an effort to visit some retribution on the source of their fear and angst–something no child should ever feel in their own home–Clark initiates an innocuous little distraction called The Rock Club, an exclusive band of juvenile mercenaries determined to torment and befuddle their father…

Nineteen years later, commitment-challenged Clark is trying to distance himself from his stunning, hero-worshiping sisters. When his girlfriend accepts an internship at San Francisco General Hospital, he jumps at the opportunity to create space between himself and his suffocating siblings and moves from L.A. to the Bay Area.

Clark loves everything about San Francisco: the Victorian architecture of its urban neighborhoods, the cable cars, the eccentricity and diversity of its citizenry, and the plethora of different smells and unique ambiance of the city. He’s even beginning to feel like he’s getting over his fear of commitment until The Rock Club pulls an encore. And this time it’s not so innocent… this time it’s deadly.

And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:

 

Part 1

 

The Affliction

 

1982

“PSST… CLARK, YOU AWAKE? Ritchie says girls have babies from the same place they pee. That’s stupid stuff, huh. I told him it was stupid. Ritchie’s wrong, right?”

Clark Ralston tried to suppress his breathing, to refrain from making the slightest of sounds. He lay still, body rigid, eyes closed, willing his brother to lose the ability to speak.

The refrigerator motor clicked on in the kitchen. The dog next door whined, signaling it was time for their neighbor, Wong Li, to get home from work.

“Clark, you awake?” Mark repeated.

So much for mind over matter. Clark rolled to his side to face his brother in the twin bed against the opposite wall. “I am now, doofus. What’re you still doing awake? You’re supposed to be sick. Go to sleep.”

“Ritchie said–”

“I heard you.”

“You weren’t asleep,” Mark charged.

“Shut up.”

Due to a moonless night, the room was pitch black. Good thing, because if Clark could have seen his brother he might have just popped him in the nose.

“What about it?” Mark persisted.

“What?”

“What Ritchie said.”

“Why do you do this, man?”

“What?”

“Wait till I’m almost asleep and then ask a stupid question.”

“Don’t know. It’s like the light clicks off and my brain clicks on, just like that.” He snapped his fingers.

“I’m asking Mother for a night light tomorrow.”

Like a puppy with a chew toy, Mark wouldn’t give up. “Is Ritchie right?”

Clark gushed air through his mouth as he rolled onto his back. “He’s close.”

“Oh, I know where now.”

“Not there, that’s gross.”

“How do you know where they get out?”

“Learned it in school.”

“How come I didn’t learn it?” Mark asked.

“Cuz you’re only nine.”

“You’re just seventeen months older than me, man. How come you know?”

“You’ll learn it next year. Now shut up and go to sleep, or I’ll get Dad.”

“Too late, I already know.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Yes, I do.”

“You’re dumber than dumb, Mark, if you think girls crap babies.”

“I’m not dumber! Take it back.”

“Shhh!”

“Take it back, or I’ll tell Mom in the morning.”

“Okay,” Clark said. “I take it back. You’re not dumber than dumb. Now leave me alone.”

“One more question, then you can go to sleep. I promise.”

Clark sighed. “One more, dude, and that’s it.”

“Think Dad will really buy a new car like he said? A Corvette would be cool, man.”

“I don’t give a fart if he buys a new car or not. Now go to sleep, and don’t pee the bed.”

“Clark?”

“What!”

“Don’t call me dude.”

***

The following Saturday Clark came to with a throbbing headache and Merle Haggard proclaiming he turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole. He hated country. The music, blasting full-volume, stung his ears. He couldn’t think. Cracking his eyelids, he found himself face to label with the wine bottle that had flown from under the driver’s seat and smacked him square in the face when their new Chevy hit the curb doing sixty. His head lay wedged against the passenger door panel, the window lever practically shoved up his nose. A thin rivulet of blood trickled down his forehead from a small gash at his hairline. The shrill vocals and raging banjos of a bluegrass group replaced Merle on the radio, ratcheting up the pain in his head. Pure agony. He tried to reach for the on/off button to kill the music but couldn’t; his arms were pinned under his body. Still a bit disoriented, he thought he heard a different sound but couldn’t be sure. Sounded like high-pitched screams. Singing, or screams? Were his sisters in the car? He remembered now, they were in the back seat. At least they were when they left the bar.

Clark tried again, without success, to move his body. Paralyzed? Panicked, he began gasping for breath as if all the oxygen in the car had suddenly been sucked out. Willing himself to calm down, he filled his lungs with cool coastal air, held it for as long as he could, and then slowly exhaled. Dealing with his dad over the years had made him a pro at pricking the anxiety balloon. Regaining a measure of composure, he understood why he couldn’t move; something pinned him down. Something heavy. Where’s Dad? Must be close, he could smell him. MD 20/20 and Camels created a stink hard to mistake. With considerable effort, he turned his head a bit. No wonder the odor. His dad lay on top of him.

His ears pricked to a noise outside the car. A siren? Siren, or guitar chord? Hard to tell whether there was another sound in the whole world, save for the strident yowling of the bluegrass singers and his sisters’ screaming.

He felt movement against his back.

“Clark? Son?” Lawrence Ralston said. “Can you reach my bottle?”

“No, sir, I can’t move. Why’s the music so loud?”

The pressure lightened.

“Can you get it now?”

“I think so, but I’m bleeding and it’s in my eyes and why’s the music so loud?”

“Just get the damn bottle and give it to me.”

Following orders, he managed to free an arm, grab the half-empty bottle, and pass it over his shoulder. Due to Clark’s position and the blood, his dad appeared as a blurry blob in the peripheral vision of his left eye. The radio experienced momentary dead air, and in the relative quiet he heard the aluminum cap unscrew, the sound of a bobbing Adam’s apple, then the crash of the bottle as it landed in the roadside thicket.

He also heard the unmistakable wail of a siren. Close, maybe a block or two. A couple dogs somewhere tried to match its piercing pitch. He made an effort to shift his position again, but couldn’t.

“Dad, can you please get off me? I’m squished.”

“Need a cigarette.”

“Could you wait? The police will be here soon.” Stupid. He had never known his dad to smoke a cigarette that would make his booze breath disappear; not even Kools.

“And a light,” Lawrence said, stretching for the knob with a burning cigarette etched on it.

“Can you see Elizabeth and Elise? Are they all right?” Clark asked.

“They’re okay.”

“They’re screaming.”

“It’s not their hurt scream, they’re scared. They’ll be fine.”

A slight breeze blowing through the hole the windshield had occupied fifteen minutes earlier pushed Camel smoke into Clark’s nose. The resulting sneeze shot dagger-like pain through both sides of his chest, indicating broken or bruised ribs.

“Something’s wrong with me, Dad. I think I’m dying,” he yelled over an obnoxious car salesman extolling the virtues of a used Mustang.

“Calm down, you’re not dying, idiot.” Lawrence clicked the radio off and the girls’ screams subsided to weak whimpers, as if the same knob controlled them.

A flashlight beam began snooping around the wagon’s interior, exposing its occupants, and a commanding baritone asked, “Is everybody okay in there?”

Clark twisted his head just enough to recognize the emblem on the sleeve of a California Highway Patrol uniform.

“Yeah, we’re okay, Osifer,” Lawrence answered. “Check on my girls in the backseat.”

Clark groaned at his father’s failed attempt to speak without slurring his words.

 

“I can do that!” Elise exclaimed. “I wanna play that game!”

The children sat on the curb watching their father stand on one foot, count backwards, and walk a white line that, judging by his exaggerated balancing act, could have been two hundred feet off the ground. Intermittently his lurching, stumbling body became an eerie silhouette in the headlights of oncoming vehicles.

“He’s not playing a game,” Clark said, his chin perched on arms folded across his knees, tears rolling down his plump cheeks. The pain in his upper body was almost unbearable.

Elizabeth studied her father intently. The identical twin girls, though scared out of their wits, emerged from the demolished metallic-blue station wagon unscathed. “Well, what’s he doing?”

“It’s some kind of test and I don’t think he’s doing so well,” Clark said, his breathing labored.

After administering the sobriety test the officer began lecturing Lawrence nose to nose, his voice rising until he was flat out yelling. Words and phrases like “irresponsible”, “negligent”, “worthless excuse for a father”, and “I oughta kick your ass” were flung at the wobbling parent with stunning velocity. Clark sat staring in wide-eyed awe at their clean-cut, square-jawed, uniformed savior and decided this man would be a great father.

His tirade over, the officer instructed Lawrence to sit on the ground beside the patrol car and stay put, and then approached the children, squatting on his haunches before them. “Scary ride, huh.”

“Yes, sir,” Clark replied.

“My name is Officer Raddich. You guys okay?”

“I think my sisters are,” Clark said, wiping his shirt sleeve across his eyes. “But my chest hurts real bad.”

“Just sit still. That siren you hear is your ride. Your father said you live in the Airport Circle Apartments. That right?”

The children nodded.

“My daddy wrecked our new car, peaceman Radish!” Elizabeth blurted.

“That he did.”

“Mama will be mad,” Elise said.

“Is your mother home?”

“Yes, sir. You gonna call her? ” Clark asked.

“I will real soon, son, but first let’s make sure you guys are all right.”

The ambulance arrived, Officer Raddich huddled with the attendants for a few moments, and then all three of them returned to where the children sat.

“This is Mr. Steve and Ms. Laura,” the officer said. “They’re paramedics, here to take you to the hospital.”

“Is Daddy going to the hospital too?” Elise asked.

“No sweetheart, he’s going with me.”

***

“Darn it!” Clark whispered, failing yet again to reach the spot.

His left shoulder itched like mad, and the mummy-like bandages encircling his torso made it difficult to satisfy. He rocked from side to side. No good. Struggling to a sitting position, he rubbed against the headboard. There. That helped a little.

The hospital sucked. He hated it; too much pain, sorrow, and sad faces. He spent one night there for bruised ribs, the same amount of time his father had spent in jail for DUI. Something called bail. The policeman should have given him a year. The thought of three-hundred-sixty-five consecutive days without the man who brought so much stress and turmoil to their lives brought a fleeting smile to his lips.

He turned his head, looked across the moonlit bedroom at his nine-year-old brother. Like a brick. How could he sleep through their parents’ screaming and yelling? His mother’s high-pitched, weepy voice bounced off every wall in the house. Elizabeth and Elise would be in their beds curled up in balls, whimpering and shaking like newborn kittens. His father said he had drunk only two drinks yesterday and bitched about the inaccuracy of the Breathalyzer, whatever that was.

Two drinks, my butt. More like way over ten.

His dad was telling a lie. A lie Clark and his sisters would have to swallow or suffer the consequences. He buried his face deeper into his pillow, brought it up around his ears in an attempt to smother his mother’s anguish.

Yesterday pictured fresh in his mind. His parents had purchased the new car and his dad was anxious to give the children a ride. Since Mark was still on the downside of a virus, Irene, their mother, decided he would stay home. Undeterred, Lawrence loaded up Clark, Elizabeth, and Elise and assured Irene they would be gone an hour at the most.

Lawrence pulled into the Bamboo Room’s gravel parking lot at two in the afternoon. Rocks crackled and popped under the wagon’s tires as it cruised to the end of a line of vehicles along the south side of the building. They parked next to an oil-soaked red Ford F150, bumping to a stop against a creosoted railroad tie. Lawrence said he would only be a few minutes, that he needed to take care of some business, and ordered them to lock the doors. After he entered the bar, the girls climbed over the front seat and joined their brother.

“Why can’t we go in?” Elise asked.

“Cuz we’re too young. This place is for adults. I think you gotta be eighteen to go inside,” Clark answered.

“Why did Dad bring us here if we can’t go in?” Elizabeth asked.

“How should I know? Now stop asking me.”

“What’s this?” Elise held the cigarette lighter, its end glowing red hot.

“Gimme that!” He grabbed the lighter, burning his thumb. “Ouch! Darn it, Elise! See what you did?” He inserted the lighter in its hole in the dashboard then stuck his thumb in his mouth.

The twins chanted in unison: “Clark’s sucking his tha-umb, Clark’s sucking his tha-umb, baby, baby, ba-by.”

“Shut up! I’m not sucking my thumb. Both of you get in the back seat.”

 

“I’m going in,” Clark announced after three-and-a-half hours of naps, agonizing boredom, fights with the twins and overwhelming pressure on his bladder.

“You can’t go in there, you’re not eighteen,” Elizabeth said.

“It’s okay when it’s an emergency.”

“Then we’ll go with you. It’s our mergency too,” Elise said.

“No you’re not. You’re staying here. Don’t touch anything on the dash, don’t play with the steering wheel, and keep the windows and doors locked.” Before exiting the car, he extracted the lighter and stuck it in his pocket.

Neon Miller, Coors, and Michelob signs appeared to float in mid-air while cigarette cherries flitted about like fireflies in the darkened confines of the Bamboo Room. After his vision adjusted to the limited light he picked his father out of the about-faced line-up sitting at the bar, his familiar blue flannel shirt, brightened by the glow of the jukebox, catching his eye. He sat between a big-haired wrinkled lady and a man Clark recognized as Mr. Red, one of his father’s oilfield buddies. Nicknamed for the blazing thatch of wildness atop his head, the man possessed the biggest belly Clark had ever seen and smoked the longest, nastiest smelling cigars in the whole world; looked and smelled like large burning turds.

He zigzagged between varnished pine picnic tables littering the large smoke-filled room, the soles of his shoes making ripping sounds as he traversed the sticky floor.

“Dad, can we go home now?” he said, nudging his father in the back. “The girls have to go to the bathroom real bad, and I’m afraid they’ll pee on the brand new seats. I gotta go too.”

Big hair and Lawrence turned together, both displaying glazed eyes. “This your boy, Larry?” the lady asked, cigarette smoke exploding from her nostrils like a cow’s breath on a frozen morning.

“Yeah, that’s him,” Lawrence said, slurring words.

She extended a bony hand, roughed up his longish blonde hair. “Handsome little booger. Got them big goddamn eyes just like your daddy; blue as my favorite nail polish.” She thrust her right hand to within inches of his nose. “Look!” Her voice was dense and raspy. She sucked from the cigarette with Cruela DeVille-like puckered lips and exhaled another plume of white smoke. Clark coughed. His eyes stung.

“What you want, son?” Lawrence asked.

“I need to pee, and we wanna go home.”

“Why didn’t you say something? The john’s over there beside the cigarette machine.” He picked some coins from the bar. “Get me some Camels on the way back.”

“You need to check on the girls, Dad. They need to pee, too.”

“Yeah, ah… right. You just get to the pisser.”

Their new car ride culminated an hour later in the accident on US 101 after a harrowing trip that challenged any amusement park ride Clark had ever been on in his short life. The wreck was almost a relief.

He eyed his slumbering brother. “Please God,” he prayed, “make Mark stop peeing the bed. He’s getting whipped too much, and I can’t stand to hear him scream. It makes me hurt inside. And please make my dad stop drinking and cussing and being an all-around bad father. Amen.”

 

He glanced at his brother again, wondering if Jesus was listening this time.

 

Chapter 2

 

IRENE BURIED HER NOSE in the Bible for three days following the accident, searching it like a repair manual for divine guidance on how to mend her defective husband. Clark wondered why his mother even bothered to scold his father anymore. There had been a time when her strong and forceful rants ignited hope in him, but after hearing the same monotonous arguments and threats again and again and never seeing any change, he determined she was like the boy in the fairy tale who cried wolf way too often. Consequently his spirits no longer inflated when he heard her threaten to leave and take the kids.

At dinner he noticed his brother evil-eyeing the dreaded green beans and okra. Mark sat across from him, Elizabeth to his left, Elise across from her. A parent sat at each end of a scarred, rectangular picnic table that looked like it could’ve come from the Bamboo Room. The boys exchanged resigned expressions, knowing there was no way out. They would have to sit at the table and eat the nasty-tasting vegetables even if it took all night. Clark knew because he had to do it once before he wised up. He sat hunched over a plate of fried okra until three o’clock in the morning. That’s when he awoke face down in the crap. With most of the serving plastered to his forehead, nose, and cheeks, he had no problem swallowing whole the tiny portion left on his plate. The other part he just washed off. Now, knowing the futility of resistance, he swallowed (not chewing was key) everything he didn’t like without a peep.

“Mother, pass the corn, please,” Mark said.

She reached for the plate, but Lawrence intercepted it. “No corn or anything else, period, until he eats some green beans and okra,” he said.

Irene dished out a portion of each onto Mark’s plate. “Try your best, son.”

“Suck your thumb today, Elise?” Lawrence asked.

The kids, knowing she had, looked to their mother with wide, pleading eyes.

“She only did it a couple times,” Irene said. “She’s getting better every day.”

Lawrence reached for the Tabasco. “Gimme your hand, Elise.”

She hesitated, tears streaming down her flushed cheeks.

Clark’s eyes swelled with moisture. “Dad, don’t. Please?”

“Shut the hell up, boy! You’re getting a little too big for your britches. Elise, gimme your hand, damn it!”

She extended a quivering arm, and Lawrence shook a dozen or so drops of the hot sauce onto the digit.

“Put it in your mouth. Now!”

“Lawrence, there’s no need for this.”

“Shut up! In your mouth, Elise.”

With chest heaving and tears raining on her roast beef, she inserted the spicy thumb. At that moment Clark knew time had come to do something, anything, to strike back at their tormentor.

 

Two hours later the theme music to The Love Boat signaled bedtime. Clark wished he could stay up and watch it. Heck, it was only eight. Most of his friends got to stay up till nine. While Mark, Elise, and Elizabeth stood, he lingered on the sofa.

“Thought I told you to get to bed,” Lawrence said. “Think you’re somebody special, or what?”

“No, sir. I’d just like to see this show. All my friends get to watch it,” Clark replied.

“Well that’s too bad. Just go on and float your boat down the hall to your bedroom.”

“Yes, sir.”

After loving kisses for Irene and perfunctory pecks for Lawrence, the kids scuttled to their bedrooms. A question replaced the resentment Clark felt over not being allowed to watch The Love Boat: Would Mark wet the bed or not? Before last night, it was just a given. He always peed the bed. But yesterday was different; Mark’s bed had remained dry.

Clark’s aching ribs caused him to curtail his usual habit of waking at two o’clock in the morning, checking his brother’s underwear and bedding, and changing them if necessary. Expecting the worst the next morning, he was pleasantly surprised. Maybe this was the beginning of the end of the peeing thing. He sure hoped so. He was tired of deceiving his father, who labored under the impression Mark hadn’t wet the bed for over a week.

Clark came out of the bathroom after brushing his teeth and asked, “So you think you can make it two nights in a row?”

“I won’t do it tonight, guaranteed.”

“How can you guarantee it?”

“Never mind. Just wait and see.”

“Hope so. We can’t keep tricking Dad. Sooner or later he’s gonna find out, and we’ll both get the belt.” Clark killed the lights and they climbed into their beds.

Fifteen minutes passed, then: “Clark?”

“Yeah?”

“You asleep?”

Clark made a sound that fit somewhere between a sigh and a whine. “Does it sound like I’m asleep?”

“No, guess not.”

“Whataya want?”

“Just wondering.”

After a few moments Clark asked, “Whataya want, Mark? I’m sleepy.”

“Ever get tired of being the dad?”

“What you talking about?”

“You act more like our dad than Dad does.”

“You’re crazy. Now go to sleep.”

“See what I mean?” Mark said.

“Just cuz I told you to go to sleep means I’m like a dad? I don’t think so. That’s stupid.”

“It’s the way you say it and other things too.”

“What other things?”

“Like the way you help Mom do things without her even telling you to.”

“Any kid would help his mother.”

“Not just for nothing, without being told.”

“How do you know?”

“I don’t, and the girls don’t, and none of our friends help without being told. But you volunteer.”

“So? Big deal.”

“And you try to take care of us,” Mark said. “Even Mom.”

“Mother takes care of herself.”

“Huh-uh. Remember that time she thought we had a plumbing leak and you went under the building to look when the maintenance guy didn’t show up?”

“That was no big deal.”

“I wouldn’t do it, spiders and snakes and remember that time Mom said she heard something outside the living room window and you went and got Dad’s rifle and clicked the bolt next to the window and we heard somebody run away? The girls and me were really scared, and Mom was too, but you weren’t.”

“I was scared,” Clark said.

“Really scared?”

“Really, really, scared.”

Clark turned his back to his brother. “Now go to sleep.”

“There you go again.”

Clark had just entered the ether zone when he heard, “What about Annie?”

“Who?”

“Remember Annie? How you saved her? Were you scared then?”

“Darn it, Mark.”

“Were you?”

Yawning, he said, “Not at first, but after it was all over I got real scared. Now go to sleep or I’ll get Dad.”

“O-kay. Seeya tomorrow.”

“Night.”

 

Just past two Clark awoke to a noise that sounded like a whimpering puppy. He sat up in bed, rubbing his eyes, careful not to make any sudden moves that would cause pain to shoot through his sides. He looked at the other bed. Couldn’t really see anything at first, but then slowly his eyes adjusted to the muted light. Mark lay like a comma, facing the wall. Clark struggled to his feet, crossed the room, and sat on the edge of the bed.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asked, poking Mark’s back.

More whimpering.

“Hey, what’s wrong with you?”

Mark rolled over. In the darkness, Clark could barely make out a look of pure agony on his brother’s face.

“It’s my dick,” he said. Sounded like he was trying to hold back tears.

“Whataya mean? What’s wrong with it?”

Mark shoved down his underwear. “Look.”

“Can’t see; too dark,” Clark said. “Watch your eyes; I’ll turn on the light.” He stumbled over a pair of shoes to the light switch, flipped it on, stood for a moment blinking against the attack of sudden brilliance, then moved back to the bed.

“Now what the heck’s wrong with your thing, man?” He gazed down at Mark’s penis and gasped. Its head appeared enlarged and dark purple. “Whoa…! Damn! Did something bite you? A spider? A wasp?” He’d slipped. He admonished himself for cursing.

“Put a rubber band on it.”

“You did what?”

“Can’t you hear? I said I put a rubber band on it.”

“Geez. I need a closer look. Hope the heck the rubber band doesn’t break.” Careful lest he touch it, Clark bent over till his nose hovered three inches above the wounded member.

Mark twitched.

“Don’t move, darn it!”

Sure enough, he had quadruple-wrapped a thick rubber band around his penis, now buried deep in the foreskin just beneath the head.

“Why’d you do that? That was stupid!”

“I’m tired of Dad going off on me.”

“You didn’t pee the bed last night, why’d you think you needed a rubber band tonight?”

“I didn’t sleep at all cuz I was afraid. I knew you couldn’t get up, and I wanted some z’s.”

For an instant Clark felt like crying. No way could he let his brother see that. “We’ve gotta get it off before your weenie dies, man. I’ll get some scissors.” He slipped out into the hallway, sneaked to the kitchen and found a pair in a drawer next to the refrigerator. When he returned his brother’s hands were cupped around his penis as if handling a wounded sparrow.

Mark’s eyes enlarged, the whites becoming dominant, as Clark approached his ailing member with scissors that appeared to him as big as pruning shears.

“You sure you can do this?” Mark asked.

Clark covered his eyes with one hand for a moment. “No. I gotta get Mother.”

“No way. Dad’ll find out, and I don’t want Mom to see it. She’s a girl.”

“If I try it, dude, you might end up peeing like a girl. You want that?”

“Go get Mom, darn it, and don’t call me dude.”

Irene twitched and repositioned herself when he nudged her arm. Lawrence’s raucous snoring had drowned out his murmured, “Mother.” He knelt beside the bed, having crawled on his hands and knees from the doorway. He nudged her again, harder this time, and she stirred, fighting to embrace consciousness.

“What? Who is it?”

“It’s me, Clark. Mark’s in trouble, he needs you. And don’t wake Dad,” he whispered.

“What’s wrong?”

“You’ll just have to see for yourself… shhh!”

Irene slipped out of bed and followed her son down the hall to his bedroom. One look at her youngest boy’s face told her something was terribly wrong. “Are you sick again, baby?”

Mark shook his head as his mother sat beside him on the bed.

“Well, what’s wrong?’

He reluctantly uncovered his crotch, exposing his strangled penis.

Irene’s hands flew to her mouth. “My Jesus, Lord!”

“I told him it was dumb,” Clark sing-songed.

“For God’s sake, Mark! Why in the world…?”

“You know how nine-year-olds are, Mom,” Clark blurted. “He was playing with the rubber band, fell asleep, and his weenie is paying the price big time.”

“Just shut up, Clark. Get me some scissors,” Irene said.

“Got ‘em.” Clark handed the instrument to her.

“Baby, it’s important that you stay perfectly still. Do you understand?”

Mark nodded.

The scissors neared his crotch and Mark’s eyes transformed into small kaleidoscopes of panic and fear. Clark rolled his eyes to the ceiling half-expecting to see a small purple penis lying on the floor, if he ever gathered the nerve to look. He held no doubt in his mind that blood would spurt freely from the place Mark always had trouble containing liquid. After a couple yearlong minutes simultaneous sighs from Irene and Mark signaled it was okay to look, and Clark watched relief displace pain on his brother’s face.

Irene rose to her feet, a wry smile on her face. “Let this be a lesson to both of you. This is not the kind of rubber to use down there.”

“What’d she mean by that?” Mark asked after his mother had left the room.

“Tell ya later.”

 

Chapter 3

 

IN A PREVIOUS INCARNATION the Airport Circle Apartment community was a bustling army/air force base. After the Korean War, the government closed it down and dropped it in the county’s lap free of charge. Santa Barbara County, in turn, converted the federal freebie into low-cost public housing. Rents were assessed according to each family’s means, and a population consisting of Caucasian, Latino, African American, and a dash of Asian contributed to a vibrant and congenial cultural stew; mostly because nobody had anything valuable enough to lord over anyone else.

Two miles west of the complex the main dirt road transecting the community became a paved thoroughfare that circled the regional airport, hence the name. A maze of smaller dirt roads meandered between the fifty-three lime green, multi-family buildings, and every evening around five the complex became engulfed in great brown clouds of dust spawned by hordes of homebound pickup trucks. Consequently, around four-thirty, women all over the neighborhood could be seen racing to communal clotheslines in a mad dash to rescue their laundry from the billowing grime.

Weller Memorial Park, named after a dead mayor, bordered the property on the north side. To the south, up the road fronting the Ralstons’ apartment, sat Olgrin’s family grocery and it seemed as if the store owner’s life mission was to make sure everybody knew everybody else’s business. Mrs. Olgrin had once been Irene’s best friend and Clark felt sure, as did his mother, that everyone in the neighborhood heard about Mark’s bed-wetting problem at her store from her big, fat mouth.

Fifth-grader Clark and fourth-grader Mark walked to Lakeside Elementary, located about half a mile east of their home. Walking to school posed no problems for them, they enjoyed it. Midway between their apartment and the school the highway department had cleared a forest in preparation for a new state road, and the boys loved to frolic in the giant Eucalyptus carcasses littering the landscape. They had liked the trees even better when they were living. Standing tall, straight, and majestic, they offered a wonderful environment for fantasy. On any given day the boys might’ve faced the Sheriff of Nottingham in Sherwood Forest, or the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion in the Emerald Forest of Oz. But the bulldozers had destroyed their portal into other worlds, and now the imagination would have to run amok to think the place was anything more than an aromatic graveyard.

After school on a bright blue Tuesday afternoon, Mark and Clark rested on a fallen tree after jumping from trunk to trunk like bullfrogs to lily pads while firing dirt clods at each other. A cool breeze off the sea whistled through the dead limbs, rustled desiccated leaves, and mussed the boys’ hair. In the distance, earthmoving machines could be heard going about their destructive business.

“Why’s Dad so mean?” Mark asked between rejuvenating gulps of air.

“Don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t like kids.”

“Then why’d they have us?”

“Good question,” Clark said.

“Think he loves us?”

“Huh-uh. He doesn’t act like other fathers.”

“Whataya mean?” Mark asked.

“Like he’s only come to one of my ballgames and he was drunk. Stumbling all over the place. I felt terrible and told Mother I didn’t want him to come to any more games. Other fathers don’t do that.”

“What’d Mom say?”

“Told me to hush.”

They fell silent for a few moments before Mark began tossing dirt clods at a large knothole on a tree fifteen feet away.

“Clark?”

“Yeah?”

“Dad ever told you he loves you just for no reason?”

“Not for any reason. You?”

“Never.”

“Mother told me most men think it’s sissy to say it,” Clark said.

“I don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Think it’s sissy. It makes me feel good when Mom says it to me, and it makes me feel good when I say it back to her.”

“You love me?” Clark asked.

“No, silly. Boys don’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“I told you, cuz we’re boys. Boys don’t love other boys.”

“Dad’s a boy.”

“That’s different. Dads are supposed to tell their children they love them, boy or girl. I will when I have kids.”

“Me too.”

They watched as a large flock of scavenging blackbirds landed thirty feet away and began wreaking havoc on the felled forest’s insect population.

“Think you’ll ever stop pissing the bed?” Clark asked as he threw a clod at the feathered foragers. The birds hopped in unison as if skipping rope, parachuted back to earth on ebony wings, and returned to their arthropod feast.

“Hope so. I can’t take too much more of that belt.”

“Why can’t you stop?”

“Cuz I dream about it.”

“About what?”

“That I’m at the pot taking a pee, smiling, all proud of myself, and by the time I wake up me and the bed are soaked,” Mark said, exasperated.

“Try to dream about the desert or something.”

“The desert?”

“Yeah, there’s no water there.”

Both broke into spontaneous laughter, a good while since they had done that.

“I’m tired of the way Dad treats us. I’ve come up with a way to get back at him,” Clark said.

“How?”

“By stealing things from him. Things he likes.”

“Like what?”

“Don’t know; anything he likes.”

“He’ll beat your butt if he catches you.”

“Us,” Clark said.

Mark raised an eyebrow as his tummy turned. “Us?”

“Yeah. You, the girls, and me. He won’t know who did it.”

“I vote no. I get the belt enough as it is.”

“Listen! You never listen to me, Mark. Might as well be talking to that big fat ugly tree trunk over there, or Dad.” He sighed and continued. “You know those polished rocks Mr. Wilkes gives us every time we go see him?”

An old friend of their father’s, Roy Wilkes polished rocks of various colors into shiny beauties as a hobby. His son, Jimmy, was Clark’s best friend.

“Yeah.”

“We’ll steal his stuff and leave one of those rocks. It’ll drive him crazy.”

Mark frowned, then his flushed face broke into a big grin. “We’ll call ourselves The Rock Club!”

“Not bad. I like it. The Rock Club. Yeah, that’s cool. Now this is our secret. You can’t tell any of your friends or even Mother. Especially not Mother.”

“You got it. Clark?”

“Yeah?”

“Does Mr. Wilkes still drink? I mean like beer and wine and stuff.”

“No, he stopped.”

“I thought so, cuz him and Dad don’t go places together anymore.”

“Yep, he quit.”

“Just like that?” Mark asked.

“Jimmy said he joined a special club called AA, and they helped him.”

“AA? What’s that?”

“Jimmy said it’s kind of like Boy Scouts for men.”

“They go camping and hiking, things like that?”

“No, but Jimmy said it was because of AA his dad started polishing rocks.”

Mark’s face scrunched toward his nose. “Really? Why?”

“Jimmy said Mr. Wilkes is like a dirty old rock being polished till it shines. Said it was a meta something. Metaphor. That’s it.”

“Met-a-phor? That’s weird,” Mark said.

“Maybe, but it must work. Mr. Wilkes stopped drinking.”

“You think we could get Dad to polish rocks?”

“Probably gotta be a member of the club.”

“I wish Mr. Wilkes would invite Dad to join.”

“Me too,” Clark said. He pushed himself to his feet, stuck his hands in his pockets and extracted a dollar bill and some change. “I got enough for Cokes. Want one?”

“Yeah, sure. Where’d you get the cash?”

“Dad’s dresser. Want a Coke or not?”

“Let’s go.”

The boys dropped from their perch and picked their way through the debris field to the dirt road leading to Olgrin’s. Clark kicked a discarded Hire’s Root Beer can lying in the road toward his brother.

Mark kicked it back. “Wonder why some kids get good parents and some don’t.”

“Beats me,” Clark said.

They walked in silence for a while, ping-ponging the can with their feet before Mark said, “Brother Eddie says God can do anything, right?”

“Right.”

“So why can’t he help me stop peeing the bed? I ask for help every night.”

Clark didn’t answer his brother. “Last one to Olgrin’s is a nerd!” he said, then took off running as fast as he could.

Continued….

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The RoCK CLuB

by Stan Thomas

The RoCK CLuB
4.8 stars – 12 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

In 1982, Clark Ralston was eleven years old, his beloved little brother was nine, and his gorgeous and precocious twin sisters were seven…

Fiends and monsters in most adolescents’ lives are conjured up fantasies or characters from a Grimm Brothers fairy tale or the like, which produce an occasional nightmare. The ogre that bedeviled the Ralston children was not a fleeting fantasy or a dark creature in a bad dream after a scary movie. Their antagonist was an ever-present alcoholic and abusive father.

In an effort to visit some retribution on the source of their fear and angst–something no child should ever feel in their own home–Clark initiates an innocuous little distraction called The Rock Club, an exclusive band of juvenile mercenaries determined to torment and befuddle their father…

Nineteen years later, commitment-challenged Clark is trying to distance himself from his stunning, hero-worshiping sisters. When his girlfriend accepts an internship at San Francisco General Hospital, he jumps at the opportunity to create space between himself and his suffocating siblings and moves from L.A. to the Bay Area.

Clark loves everything about San Francisco: the Victorian architecture of its urban neighborhoods, the cable cars, the eccentricity and diversity of its citizenry, and the plethora of different smells and unique ambiance of the city. He’s even beginning to feel like he’s getting over his fear of commitment until The Rock Club pulls an encore. And this time it’s not so innocent… this time it’s deadly.

5-Star Amazon Reviews

“… It is poignant, provocative, funny, tragic, uplifting, and it’ll keep the reader guessing until the very end.”

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“… I was captivated from the beginning and kept guessing til the end! If you enjoy books from writers like Grisham, Patterson or Sanford, you will love Stan Thomas!”

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Human Wrongs

by Stan Thomas

5.0 stars – 4 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

When a black law professor agrees to defend a racist killer, the stakes are much higher than a mere guilty verdict…

Born black and poor, society was against Mitchell Dove. This is how he describes where he was raised:  “Oakland, California has never been what you’d call a garden spot. Yes, it is across the bay from one of the world’s most beautiful cities but, if San Francisco is Cinderella, Oakland is her ugly stepsister. I know. I was born there in 1963 to Otis and Gladys Dove. So were my sisters, Tamara and Whitney, and the neighborhood where we grew up was the wart on the ugly stepsister’s nose.”

Against all odds Mitchell ascends to the presidency of WorldSpan Oil, the largest Oil and mineral company on the planet. There is just one problem… Mitchell Dove is an outsider in more ways than one.

When Dove is murdered and dismembered in New Orleans in March 2000, his vicious killing tears open far-too-recent wounds and sends a shock wave throughout Black communities across the United States. Phil Dennison, a black law professor at Loyola University, agrees to defend the white man on trial for killing Dove, and quickly becomes a target of scorn in his own community. Even federal prosecutor Alicia Bloom, his fiancé, thinks he’s crazy but he can’t divulge his true intentions until the right time. When he finally does reveal his plan Alicia’s opinion changes… her man’s not crazy, he’s freaking insane.

And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:

Human Wrongs

 

Chapter 1

December 1999

YOU’RE OUT OF YOUR MIND if you think a black man can run a three hundred billion dollar oil company.” The whispered parting shot at the conclusion of a contentious Board of Directors meeting played repeatedly across Randall Whittenmeyer’s mind as he stood at the window of his forty-ninth-story office suite. New Orleans lay spread out beneath him like a giant electronic circuit board. At seven o’clock in the evening the Mississippi River appeared as a sparkling green ribbon, barge traffic moving commodities both inland and seaward along the storied waterway. He felt akin to those vessels moving upstream, against the current. Company president Ted Garvey was retiring and, as CEO, Whittenmeyer would cast the deciding vote in the selection of the next president of WorldSpan Oil & Mineral Resources Inc.

The search committee had decided to break with tradition and opt for youth and, with much heated debate, had whittled the list from six to two young company executives, one of which was African American. That he had convinced the board to even consider the man for the job was a minor miracle regardless of motive.

The ten other board members were equally split. Five — two of whom had clay feet — backed Mitchell Dove from West Coast Operations, and five staunchly preferred John Holloway from Corporate. Tomorrow Whittenmeyer would break the tie. He lit a cigarette, blew two smoke rings, and watched them crash against the glass.

You’re out of your mind if you think a black man can run a three hundred billion dollar oil company.

He had been the main arm-twister for the black executive from California and now he was teetering. If he voted his conscience his remaining years with WorldSpan would be turbulent ones. Did he have the balls? Only two years remained on his employment contract. Why bother? Just lay low, maintain the status quo, redeem his stock options and retire to Aruba or St. Thomas or Cleveland. Pass the buck to his successor. That would be the easy way; stick his head in the sand. Mentally ticking off five major companies currently involved in costly discriminatory practice litigation, he knew that except for the efforts of some heavyweight lobbyists in Washington D.C., his company too would be in the crosshairs of a federal investigation.

Scratching a suddenly itchy scalp through his thick silver hair, Whittenmeyer returned to the large desk and flipped open the background dossier compiled on Mitchell Dove: thirty-seven-year-old graduate of the prestigious Colorado School of Mines. Not just a graduate of CSM, but valedictorian of his class. He ran an index finger down to mid-page. Hired by: Richard Thomas, 1987. He picked up the phone and dialed his home phone number in Kuwait City.

“Richard, Randall Whittenmeyer.”

Muffled conversation, then an audible intake of breath on the far end of the line. “What’s up, Randall? You do know it’s 3:45 a.m. in Kuwait, don’t you?”

“Yes, I’m aware of the time, and I’m sorry to have to bother you at home at this hour, but the list of candidates to succeed Ted has been pared to two and I need your assistance.”

“Don’t wanna bother Jenny. Hold on while I get to the extension in the den.” A couple of minutes later Richard picked up. “Go ahead.”

“I’m calling for personal information on Mitchell Dove. I’m about to wade through another volume of background information. I have your written assessments but they fall short of capturing the essence of the man. You hired him in ’87 and he’s been promoted four times, the last being to VP of Exploration for Alaska and the West Coast. I have a question that you might consider crass, but I have to ask it. Were those upgrades earned?”

Silence.

“Are you insinu —”

“Damn it, Richard, I’m not suggesting anything. Tomorrow I’m the tiebreaker in a vote that will decide the fortunes of WorldSpan for years to come. I will not cast that vote lightly.”

“Sorry, Randall. Being where I am insulates me from the clamor. I know the pressure must be intense. To answer your question, Mitchell went the extra mile in earning his promotions. He had to.”

“How well do you know his family?”

“Very well. His parents are the salt of the earth. Wish mine had been as competent. I heartily endorse Mitchell, if that’s what you’re after.”

“Thanks… wait, one more question. Has Dove been involved in any… questionable activities that you’re aware of?”

“None, unless you call preaching education to youth groups questionable. I’m sure you’re aware of his humanitarian awards.”

“Yes, I am, but those were bestowed on him for working with his own people. I’m trying to get a feel for his worldview.”

“Just say it, Randall. You’re asking if he’s radical.”

“Well, is he? The last thing this company needs is a Louis Farrakhan disciple for its president.”

“We’re pretty close. I think I’d know if he were a member of the Black Muslims or Panthers or some such group. If you want another source, a few years ago after he was promoted to VP, Mitchell wrote a book for his father — kind of an autobiography/tribute personal thing. He gave me a copy. I’ll overnight it to you. It’s amazing.”

“Too late, can’t put off my decision again. Sorry about the questions, but I had to ask. Now smooth your feathers and go back to bed.” He replaced the phone, leaned back in his chair, and stared at the ceiling as if willing it to display Mitchell Dove’s personal history.

“How the hell did a black kid from the ghetto get to be top student at CSM, then VP at the world’s largest oil company? Who are you, Mitchell Dove?” He opened the dossier compiled on the candidate and began reading.

Two hours later Whittenmeyer turned the last page. The file covered the usual. Financial standing: top-notch, Education background: superb, Criminal history: none, Civic activities: impressive, Employment history: excellent. The summary was extensive, but Whittenmeyer wished he had a crystal ball to allow him to view Mitchell’s home life and the influences that molded him. How did he feel about Caucasians at his core? Could he manage seventy-five thousand workers, seventy-one thousand of whom were white? Eyes throbbing from reading the ten-point print, he stood, stretched, looked at his wristwatch: nine. After a restroom break, he’d wade through Holloway’s file.

Face still flushed from a cold splashing, the CEO emerged from the restroom, refreshed his coffee cup in the breakroom, and returned to his desk. He opened Holloway’s dossier and reached for the phone. The line activated on the second ring.

“Gerald, Randall Whittenmeyer. How’s retirement treating you?”

“Hello, Randall. Doing a lot of fishing and eating, and my wife’s on my ass to cut down on both. What’s up?”

“Monday’s the day, Gerald, as I’m sure you’re aware, and I’m fishing for info on John Holloway.”

“You don’t have his background dossier?”

“As a matter of fact it’s right in front of me but you know how backgrounds are, boring as hell and don’t give a real feel as to how the person really is. Help me fill in the blanks with Holloway. This is a momentous decision and I want to get it right. You’ve been a mentor and fan of John’s throughout his career. Tell me about him and his family.”

“You didn’t ask about his family during his interview?”

“The board has held the search close to the vest in an effort to avoid outside pressures. I didn’t interview either of the final candidates. An hour of self-promotion from each of them would not be helpful. I’m looking at deeds, not words.”

“Holloway works at Corporate. It’s pure folly to think he doesn’t know he’s on the short list, and if you really and truly want what’s in the best interest of the company, you’ll select him. The man has the vision, intelligence, and required tenacity to take WorldSpan to new heights. He’s a people person from the word go; donated to every charity under the sun, black and white. As for his folks, you couldn’t find a better set of parents.”

After listening to a twenty-minute homage to the Holloway family, he wished Gerald a happy retirement then hung up. Hargrove’s accolades were effusive. More so than Richard Thomas’s were for Mitchell Dove. Despite the glowing tribute, something about Holloway ignited a mental tic in him. What would a crystal ball reveal about John Holloway? He began perusing the information provided him on the second candidate.

Another two hours of trying to read between the lines passed before Whittenmeyer closed the file. He rose from his chair, tried to relieve the tension in his neck by rolling his head from side to side, then returned to the window and fired up another cigarette. The night was crystal clear, lit by a bright pink Harvest moon. New Orleans, fully electrified, shimmered and winked. His eyes shifted toward the Gulf of Mexico. WorldSpan had called this city home for close to a hundred years — long before black gold was discovered out there, long before Blacks had a voice anywhere. He was determined that the company last another hundred years, but additional centuries would not be accomplished without fundamental change. Of that, he was certain.

Which one was best suited to implement that change? Did the man at the top of Operations have to be an African American, or would a progressive young white man muzzle the PC attack dogs and community organizers? His mind murmur concerning Holloway had quieted. Two days ago he was filled with certainty but now, at the eleventh hour, he had begun to equivocate. Both candidates owned dazzling work and educational credentials, and it sounded as if both had great families. Skin color appeared to be the only differentiating factor between the two men. He returned to his desk, crushed his cigarette in the ashtray. Intangibles would decide it, which meant in the end he would go with his gut. He looked at his watch: eleven. Time to go home. He would get little, if any, sleep tonight.

***

LISA CANTRELL checked her watch for the umpteenth time in a span of twenty minutes then scanned the dining room. She had never seen Palo’s this empty, although it was late. A waiter standing at attention by a large faux ficus plant at the entrance hurried over. Unabashedly admiring the striking African American woman since she arrived, guilt more than duty stirred him to hasten to her side the moment their eyes met.

“Yes, Madame? Ready to order? An appetizer perhaps, until your companion arrives?”

“No, thank you. I’ll just wait.”

“I can get you nothing at all?”

Lisa smiled. “Not unless you’re holding my date hostage.”

Not knowing whether to frown or smile, the Frenchman did a half and half with a full twist. “A glass of wine maybe?”

“A glass of Zinfandel would be nice.”

“Yes, Madame…. White or red?”

“White, please; Rombauer El Dorado. ‘97 if you have it.”

“Ah… indeed we do!” the waiter replied, seemingly surprised by Lisa’s discriminating palate. “‘97 El Dorado… perfect choice, Madame.”

Mitchell had promised her he wouldn’t be late, but then again how many times had she heard that since they met on that fateful flight from Saudi Arabia? She remembered the many moods he had displayed. One pass up the aisle, a furtive glance revealed a frown on his face. The next a slight smile, which Lisa determined was prompted by thoughts of a girlfriend or wife. On still another trip he wore a studious expression. At times she caught herself staring at him, admiring the way the smooth chocolate skin of his face stretched tautly over finely chiseled bone. She briefly wondered if he might be a model, but decided there was much more to him. This was a man of substance.

By the time the jet lined up in the landing queue above New York City, Lisa had determined Mitchell was a romantically committed wealthy stockbroker/investor with a sterling pedigree from an upper crust southern family — conclusions arrived at after hours of in-depth verbal exchanges such as: drink, sir? chicken or ravioli, sir, and, to your rear on the right, sir.

Her wine arrived at the same time Lisa saw Mitchell enter the restaurant. The waiter withdrew and she watched her man walk toward her, dressed impeccably as usual. Six-four, GQ hair cut, in Armani today: black suit, crisp white shirt, gray pocket kerchief, burgundy and gray tie. His long, purposeful stride communicated confidence and authority to anyone watching him. Ten feet from the table, he smiled, and Lisa melted.

He bent, kissed her. “Sorry, baby. Couldn’t get away.”

“It’s okay, sweetie. I’m hooked up with the most handsome, sexy, intelligent, well-dressed, six-figure-salary-making executive in the country. I think I can suffer this one fault. Goes with the territory.”

He laughed out loud, and Lisa’s tummy tingled. “How long have you been here?”

“Twenty-five, thirty minutes… gave me time to thank God for putting you on my flight, and for giving me the nerve to approach you before you disembarked.”

“Seems like last week.”

“Three-and-a-half-years ago, today.”

The waiter approached and took their orders.

“I have to go to New Orleans next Monday,” Mitchell said over his Filet Mignon.

“Kind of spur of the moment, isn’t it? When’s the last time you had to travel to the corporate office?”

“Oh… I don’t know… a while. Meetings are usually conducted via video. Something’s up, I can smell it. Rumor around the San Jose office says the board has pegged an outsider to run operations after Garvey retires. Someone young and progressive they say, but I won’t hang my hat on that one.”

“Any idea who it is?” Lisa asked.

“Haven’t a clue. All I know is that the specter of an EEOC investigation has our board of directors spooked. I’m sure the recording of racial slurs in Texaco’s boardroom a while back has something to do with it. The government crashed over them like a tsunami. When it all shook out that nasty little affair cost them well over two hundred million dollars, not to mention the devastating publicity. Big Oil is still feeling the aftershocks.”

Lisa drank the last of her wine then signaled the orbiting waiter for another. “Think WorldSpan deserves EEOC scrutiny too?”

“Yes,” Mitchell answered. “The whole industry does. Talk about a good ‘ol boy network, the oil industry invented the term. Would you do me a favor and check on my parents while I’m gone? Dad’s been having terrible headaches lately. Mom says they’re migraines.”

“Of course I will.”

After dinner the waiter poured coffee and Lisa asked, “Where do you see us this time next year, Mitchell?”

His brows knitted up. “San Jose?”

“I mean our relationship. Where will we be?”

Mitchell sipped his coffee, then shrugged.

“I need to know how you see the future, Mitchell. Our future. Together,” Lisa said, frustration nipping at her patience.

He turned over a soup bowl and began circling his hands over it. “The Grand Swami sees great things in your future, Madame. Swami says shut up and drink your coffee.”

Fuming, Lisa drank from her coffee cup and gagged, something in the back of her mouth. She leaned forward and disgorged the biggest diamond she’d ever seen onto the white tablecloth. Tears sprang from her eyes. “How?”

Swiping a tear of his own from his high cheekbone, Mitchell said, “The waiter… didn’t mean for you to choke on it.” Then he stood, circled the table, picked up the ring, and sank to his knees beside her. “Will you make me the happiest man in the world? Will you marry me?”

Lisa, sobbing, gurgled, “Yes, oh yes, I will!”

***

MONDAY MORNING John Robert Holloway stepped from the elevator onto the forty-seventh floor and entered the bathroom to check his appearance, almost giddy with excitement. He jubilantly kicked the trashcan then shadow boxed, moving in a tight circle. “Finally!” he yelled. No more ass kissing, and no more compromising.

He had worked hard for this promotion and reaping his just rewards — not another executive in the company could meet his measure. Managers and VPs from throughout the company had flown in to witness his ascension. Thirty-seven now, his target age of forty-five to enter politics progressed right on schedule. After seven, eight years of running the world’s largest oil and mineral company, he would be more than ready to impact the country.

John approached a mirror — not a hair out of place and not one red vein showing in the whites of his blue eyes. “President Holloway,” he said, liking the way his lips sculpted the words. Giving himself a final once-over, he brushed a white speck from his shoulder, and then graced a gargantuan room decorated in rich mahogany, silk, and crystal with an air of supreme confidence. The conference table, shining beneath two monstrous chandeliers like a sheet of ice in the sun, seemed to stretch for one hundred feet or more and all but one chair was occupied. At the least a hundred thousand dollars worth of suits sat around the table.

Nodding at co-workers and acquaintances as he made his way to the lone open seat, John pulled the high-backed chair out and sat across from Mitchell Dove without making eye contact, and a few seconds later all eyes shifted to the company’s president as he took to the podium. Randall Whittenmeyer introduced the current operations king, the lights were dimmed, and Ted Garvey commenced a presentation of his own accomplishments. After an hour of numbers and maps and self-aggrandizement, he finished and the lights were raised.

Lifting his hands to quell the applause, Randall Whittenmeyer approached the podium. “As most of you already know through the grapevine, Ted is retiring January first. It has been a great and prosperous ride, and I’m sure you’ll join me in saying thank you for a job well done.”

The executives stood and applauded and when they had settled back into their chairs, Whittenmeyer continued. “Times have changed. It is time for new blood to take this company into the new millennium. The search committee, of which I was a part, has searched high and low, inside as well as outside the company. We feel time has come for WorldSpan to move in a new direction; to project a different image. The committee has selected and the Board approved, a surprisingly mature-for-his-age replacement with sterling credentials, unwavering loyalty, and impeccable integrity.”

John’s broad chest expanded. He wished his dad could be here to share this glorious moment.

“After months of hair-pulling deliberations and heated discussions, we have come to a consensus based solely on the candidate’s work habits, accomplishments, and civic image. As the appointed spokesperson for the committee and for WorldSpan — as an aside, news releases are being distributed as we speak — I am pleased to announce Mitchell Dove, from West Coast Operations, has been selected to assume the position of President of WorldSpan Oil & Mineral.

“Besides being a competent, innovative, forward-thinking company asset for close to fifteen years, Mitchell has selflessly involved himself with various groups for troubled youth. He’s spoken at dozens of elementary and high schools, espousing the value of a good moral foundation and college education. Among numerous other awards, last year the President of the United States bestowed the American Humanitarian Award on Mr. Dove. Although very young, I believe he will serve WorldSpan stockholders superbly.”

Quiet uneasiness filled the room, then a smattering of applause initiated by Whittenmeyer. Sounds of incredulity quickly replaced the clapping. John glared at Mitchell. Attempting to compose himself, Mitchell rose from his seat and approached the podium.

“I’m at a loss for words,” he said. “Never in my wildest dreams as a kid in the graffiti-marred, gang and drug-infested neighborhood in which I grew up, could I ever have imagined… first, I want to thank the CEO of my life and garbage man extraordinaire: my father, Otis Dove. You may not see him, but he is here with me. If not for him, I would probably be one of society’s worst nightmares. I am evidence of the power of a father’s loving presence and influence in his children’s lives. Thank you, Dad. Second, I want to thank the search committee for their attention to accomplishments and deeds alone, so that I was off the bench and in the ballgame. And third, on to the new millennium and new diversity.” He scanned the room and locked with John Holloway’s vacant eyes.

John stared back at the beaming new president, not really seeing him. Unprepared for defeat, his mind had gone stupid.


Chapter 2

YOU’VE HAD TWO DAYS to construct your case for Affirmative Action. Now I want the ten of you to group in the back of the room and condense it into two sentences,” Professor Dennison announced.

“You’ve gotta be kidding. We have half a ream of paper here,” said the lead student attorney.

“That much BS would put a jury to sleep. You now have nine minutes. Condense it.”

The students migrated to the left rear corner of the room.

“Anti-AA, I need you to do the same. You have ten minutes. Remember, two sentences.”

The second group congregated in the right rear corner.

The professor extracted a paperback from his book bag and began thumbing through its pages, earmarking certain passages. Each assemblage erupted in arguments as members offered opinions. “Keep it to a dull roar, please, I can’t hear myself think,” he said, a slight smile tugging at his mouth. Teaching at the college level was truly his life’s calling. He loved watching students engaged in thoughtful, impassioned expression. Fresh out of college he had joined the District Attorney’s office as a fuzz-faced ADA  assistant district attorney  but was never comfortable in that position, partly because he suspected that his father had influenced his appointment, although he denied it.

After two years with the DA’s office, he switched sides and became a defense attorney with Lowenstein, Brittain, & Stout, New Orleans’ largest law firm. Again, he lasted two years. Drifting, he placed his law license on hold, went back to school, attained his teaching credential, and here he was at Loyola University in his dream job.

“We’re finished, Professor.”

“Us too,” the opposing group’s spokesman said.

“All right, take your seats and choose a team member to make your statement. Pro-AA first.”

Marci Denton approached the lectern and Professor Dennison took a seat in the front row.

“Affirmative Action is the effect, parent-instilled racial intolerance is the cause,” she said. “We can’t do away with the former until we, as a society, address the latter.”

“Good. Brief, to the point, and powerful. Next.”

Jason Winchell took to the lectern. “Discrimination victims have switched colors, from black to white. Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Jason returned to his seat and the professor to the lectern.

“All right. Be prepared to support and argue your positions on debate day. Remember, brevity is best. Now, moving on, for the next couple of days we’re going to shift gears — do something different. Earlier this month an African American man was selected as the new president of WorldSpan Oil. How many of you have heard of WorldSpan? It’s headquartered here in New Orleans.”

Most of the students raised their hands.

“Good,” Professor Dennison said. “Who can tell me the man’s name?”

Phil acknowledged Marcus, a lanky black kid. “Name’s Mitch Dove.”

“Close. His first name’s Mitchell.”

“Same-o, same-o,” Marcus muttered as he sank back into his seat.

“Who can tell me why his selection is significant?”

Phil pointed to a young man in the front row.

“Because he’s the first black man to become president of a major company.”

“Not quite.”

“He’s the first brother to run a major oil company,” another student blurted.

“That’s right, and I don’t know about you, but I’m curious as to how he came to be considered for the presidency of a company in an overwhelmingly white industry. So I started doing some research, and…” Professor Dennison turned and grabbed the paperback he’d been thumbing through from the lectern. “In my quest for information on him, I discovered Mr. Dove has written a book titled, Listen With Your Heart. It’s autobiographic and written as a tribute to his father. For the next couple of weeks, in honor of his promotion, we will be reading excerpts aloud in class starting today. If you feel like you might want to read the entire book, you’ll have to order it through the Internet. See me after class for the Web address. Let’s see… Robert Crandall, you’re the first reader. Approach the lectern, please.”

The student approached, Dennison handed him the book then took a seat in the audience.

Robert opened the paperback to the first marked excerpt and began reading:

“Oakland, California has never been what you’d call a garden spot. Yes, it is across the bay from one of the world’s most beautiful cities but, if San Francisco is Cinderella, Oakland is her ugly stepsister. I know. I was born there in 1963 to Otis and Gladys Dove. So were my sisters, Tamara and Whitney, and the neighborhood where we grew up was the wart on the ugly stepsister’s nose.”

“My parents were proud, honest, poor, and very religious. We attended Good Shepherd Baptist Church, and of all the Sunday school teachers I’ve had in my life, Mrs. Watson’s the one I’ll never forget. She was larger than life and infused right down to her toes with the Holy Spirit. Her personality resided precisely between sternness and hilarity, could scold or belly laugh on a dime. I remember my first day in her class as if it were yesterday. I was transfixed on an image of Jesus in a frame on the wall. Everybody around me was black except for Jesus and I wanted to know why. I raised my hand and asked, ‘Mrs. Watson, was Jesus white?’”

“I must have caught her off guard because for a minute she had that do-I-really-want-to-go-there look in her eyes, but to her credit she answered me. She said, ‘I don’t believe he was black or white, Mitchell.’”

“I asked, ‘Well, what color was he?’ At the time I was thinking he could be just about any color he wanted to be.”

“She said she believed his skin was a swarthy tone seeing as how he was born in the Middle East, and Middle-Eastern people have that type of complexion. Then I asked what color swarthy was and could my mama buy me a swarthy shirt. Mrs. Watson placed a hand on each of her generous hips and shot me a look as if I’d just asked the dumbest question she’d ever heard. But then, just as fast, her face transformed into a smile — as if she suddenly remembered she was talking to a six-year-old — and she explained that swarthy was a brown color that only pertained to skin tone and no, my mother could not buy me a swarthy shirt.”

“‘Then Jesus was closer to black than white, right?’ I asked.”

“She said, ‘I think swarthy is a combination of all skin colors. Just the right tone God meant his Son to be. But much more important than his color, you must remember Jesus means love. When we think of Jesus we do not think of skin color, we think of love, understanding, and redemption. And the same is true with him. When he looks at his children, which all humans are, he doesn’t notice skin color.’”

“Mrs. Watson was ready to put the conversation to rest, but I had one more question. I asked, ‘Why is Jesus white in that picture on the wall?’ And she answered, ‘Little Mitchell Micah Dove… (she addressed us by our full names when she was irritated) if you had to guess, who would you say painted that picture?’”

“Without hesitation I said, ‘A white person painted it, Mrs. Watson.’”

“I was only six at the time, but to learn that Jesus’ face is a mosaic of every ethnicity and that I am not excluded, left an impression on my soul that drives me to this day.”

“Stop right there, Robert,” the professor said. “Cindy, what’d you learn about Mr. Dove from this first excerpt?”

A short blonde in the back row stood up. “That the whole religion scene was ‘Da Bomb’ in his life and he learned about the concept of inclusion at Sunday school.”

“Correct… I think. Come on up and read the next passage.”

“I had been suspended from school. That day still pictures vividly in my mind. A mixed-race group of friends and I were horsing around with a soccer ball during recess. I stole the ball and shot down the field toward the goal, intent on scoring. Ten yards from the net, a big white kid ran across the field from nowhere and knocked me off my feet. Lying on the ground, groaning from aching ribs, I looked up into the snarling face of what looked like a giant. The sun, positioned behind the kid’s red head, created the illusion of fire.

“’You think you’re hot shit, don’t you, nigger?’ he said.”

“With considerable effort I picked myself up, tired of turning the other cheek. Especially to Derek Bork. This made the third time. ‘Why don’t you leave us real people alone? Go hang out with your small-minded pals and watch the grass grow.’”

“Derek telegraphed his punch with a grunt and I ducked under it. Much quicker than the slow-moving bully, I meted out turn-the-other-cheek frustrations on him until the playground monitor broke up the fight and escorted us to the principal’s office.

“Head down, shoulders slumped, I trudged along the sidewalk past run down, graffiti-marred, low-income shacks toward my house. The principal’s office had called my mother to pick me up but she didn’t have a car or, for that matter, a driver’s license. Even though it was just a few blocks, it was the longest walk of my young life. Suspended for a day, I was in real trouble. Dad would be crushed.

“I crept onto our ramshackle house’s front porch and carefully creaked open the tattered screen door. So much for sneaking in. Mother stood in the center of the living room pointing like a traffic cop toward my bedroom. Under the sternest glare I’d ever received, I slinked down the hallway to my temporary sanctuary and dove into my schoolwork. I couldn’t read, my mind too filled with dread, but I figured my nose stuck in a book presented a helpful image. In a way, I wished Dad would resort to violence instead of tongue-lashing me in his inimitable manner. He entered the house a little after five-thirty and conversed with Mother. Then silence, and in this particular instance it was not golden. This was eye-of-the-storm quiet, a mere interlude before the winds of fury would start to blow. A few minutes later the bedroom door inched open and my stomach flipped. Whew… my sister, Tamara. She stuck her head in and announced dinner was ready.”

“I listened to the small talk during dinner, waiting for the hammer. Dad bit into a chicken leg, chewing slowly, waiting until he swallowed to speak. ‘How was your day at school, Whitney?’”

“I squirmed in my seat.”

“Whitney, mouth full of cornbread, said, ‘Jush —.’”

“‘Honey, you know better than to speak with a full mouth,’ Dad said.”

“Whitney nodded, swallowed, then said, ‘Sorry, Daddy. I had a real good day at school.’”

“‘Go on, tell your mama and me what made it real good.’”

“‘Well… I got an A on a quiz about the flag.’”

“Dad, a big smile splitting his face, put his fork down and clapped and everybody followed suit.”

‘Now,’ he said, shifting his eyes to Tamara. ‘What about you, lovebug?’”

“Tamara shrugged.”

“Dad shrugged back. ‘What’s this mean?’”

“Tears welled in her eyes. ‘I got a C plus on my quiz, Daddy. I’m sorry.’”

“‘Did you give your best effort?’”

“‘Yes, Daddy.’”

“Dad clapped. ‘Then it’s my fault. Next time you’ll be better prepared.’”

“Here it comes, I thought.”

“‘Mama,’ he said, ‘nobody fries chicken like you. Not the Colonel, not Popeye, and not that old Mrs. Winner. If I had the money to open a restaurant, we’d make millions.’”

“Flustered, Mother said, ‘Oh, Daddy, you just go on and eat before it gets cold.’”

“Now, here it comes.”

“Dad finished with his main course, wiped his mouth with his napkin, and waited while Mother dished out peach cobbler to his kids. In pure agony, I focused on a tiny morsel of cornbread he’d missed at the corner of his mouth. She beckoned, and he passed his plate.”

“‘You need to do something about the hinge on the fence gate. The thing’s about to fall off,’ Mother said, filling the plate with piping hot cobbler.”

“Dad nodded. ‘I know, baby. I’ll get to it after I tune up the Chevy. Been meaning to fix the front door too. Never seems to be enough time.’”

“I pushed my dessert around my plate, my appetite but a memory.”

“‘You gonna eat that, boy, or play hockey with it?’ Dad asked.”

“I took a bite, swallowing hard, while Tamara and Whitney shot furtive looks and knowing little smiles at me. Nothing wrong with their appetites. They were eating this up.”

“Finally Dad fixed his big brown eyes on me. ‘Son, join me out on the porch after dinner.’”

“‘Yes, sir.’ Thunder and lightning on the front porch.”

Dad opened the door and I slipped past him, intending to sit in Mother’s rocking chair.”

“‘No, son,’ he said, ‘sit beside me on the stoop. I want you to hear what I have to say.’”

“‘Yes, sir.’”

“‘Do you listen to me when I speak to you?’”

“‘Yes, sir.’”

“‘I don’t just mean listen with your ears, I mean listen with your heart. Do you do that?’”

“‘I think so.’ My heart could hear?”

“‘Do you know what I mean?’”

“‘Not exactly.’”

“‘First, listen to what I say and let it sink in. Then, strongly consider the meaning. Don’t just let the words flit in one ear and out the other. Live with them and the emotions they evoke.’ He paused for a moment, big hands interlocked, soft brown eyes set on me like spotlights. ‘When I was a young boy in Mississippi, our family was dirt poor. Daddy was a farmer. Scratched at a small piece of hand-me-down, hardscrabble land for days and years on end. Wasn’t worth much, but to him it was a chunk of gold. My great grandfather received the parcel from his owner. Daddy couldn’t read or write, barely could count. During bad growing years, we all suffered because he couldn’t do anything else. Without an education, he was unarmed. Back then, Blacks in the South weren’t offered much, but those given menial jobs could at least read and do arithmetic.’ He paused again, eyes far off.”

“‘Go on, Dad.’”

“‘I never told you how your granddaddy died, Mitchell. I just told you he passed on, and that’s not true. He killed himself… put a gun to his head out in the barn and pulled the trigger. Bullet went clean through his skull and killed our plow mule too.’”

“I gulped. ‘Why’d he do it?’”

“‘We were having another bad growing year. Mama was sick all year too, and Daddy couldn’t buy medicine. Didn’t have money. Here’s a proud man, can’t take care of his bride or his children. On top of all that, he had the burden of bigotry on his back. His dignity was depleted and he couldn’t take it.’ Tears, gleaming like diamonds on black satin, trekked down his ample cheeks.”

“‘Are you okay?’ I asked.”

“‘I’m fine, son. I loved and respected my daddy. He was a good man and father, but just unprepared to live in this world.’”

“‘What happened after Grandpa died?’”

“’I had to drop out of tenth grade. Daddy was determined that I get a good education, but someone had to take care of Mama and my sisters. I worked the farm and studied on my own at night. Read dictionaries cover to cover. Somehow, by God’s grace, we made it. Never got a diploma, but I read real well and use good grammar. The point, Mitchell, is your granddaddy agonized over not being able to be self-sufficient. Felt like less of a man because he didn’t have the tools to provide for his own. He preached endlessly about the importance of being well educated, just as I preach to you. His suicide ended his life, his sermons on education, his dreams for me, and my dream of a better life.’” He paused, looked at me. ’”What are you doing?’”

“’Just looking at the stars, thinking about Grandpa,’” I said. “’Go on, I’m listening.’”

            “’The day you were born, I looked to the sky much like you’re doing now, and made a promise to God in heaven that I would do everything in my power to see that you graduate from college… look at me son, this is very important.’”

“My eyes locked with his.”

“He said, ‘I will do nothing to impede and everything to help but you have to want it bad, son. Striking back hurts no one but you. Even though you didn’t pick the fight, you were punished. Life isn’t fair and that’s just the way it is. Nowhere in your records will it say ‘Mitchell was suspended but it wasn’t his fault.’ Promise me you will stay focused on what’s important.’”

“‘I promise. I’ll do my best, sir.’”

“Dad placed a hand on my knee. ‘From now on, you and me are gonna meet on this porch a couple times a week. How’s that sound?’”

“‘Why?’’ I asked.”

“‘Just to talk. Get things off our chests. Men need to do that now and then.’”

“Men. My chest expanded. ‘Sounds good to me, sir.’”

“Dad gazed up at the stars. ‘Did you know one of the most powerful men to ever live was also one of the kindest and most enlightened? He had the power to turn thousands upon thousands of people against his enemies and destroy America’s great cities but chose a different path.’”

“‘Who was that, sir?’”

“‘Dr. Martin Luther King. He had a dream… so do I, and you should have a dream too.’”

“I wanted to say something but couldn’t find any words, so I just moved to his lap and hugged him.”

“The end,” the student pronounced, then closed the book and returned to her seat.

Continued….

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Human Wrongs

by Stan Thomas

5.0 stars – 4 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

When a black law professor agrees to defend a racist killer, the stakes are much higher than a mere guilty verdict…

Born black and poor, society was against Mitchell Dove. This is how he describes where he was raised:  “Oakland, California has never been what you’d call a garden spot. Yes, it is across the bay from one of the world’s most beautiful cities but, if San Francisco is Cinderella, Oakland is her ugly stepsister. I know. I was born there in 1963 to Otis and Gladys Dove. So were my sisters, Tamara and Whitney, and the neighborhood where we grew up was the wart on the ugly stepsister’s nose.”

Against all odds Mitchell ascends to the presidency of WorldSpan Oil, the largest Oil and mineral company on the planet. There is just one problem… Mitchell Dove is an outsider in more ways than one.

When Dove is murdered and dismembered in New Orleans in March 2000, his vicious killing tears open far-too-recent wounds and sends a shock wave throughout Black communities across the United States. Phil Dennison, a black law professor at Loyola University, agrees to defend the white man on trial for killing Dove, and quickly becomes a target of scorn in his own community. Even federal prosecutor Alicia Bloom, his fiancé, thinks he’s crazy but he can’t divulge his true intentions until the right time. When he finally does reveal his plan Alicia’s opinion changes… her man’s not crazy, he’s freaking insane.

5-Star Amazon Reviews

“This book keeps you glued and involved in the story line. It is well written and the plot is enough to keep you reading hours on end.”

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About The Author

Stan Thomas has worked in intelligence gathering in the military, in management for a Fortune 500 company, and then started and ran his own company for ten years before selling to the sector giant. Through these varied endeavors one thing remains constant: his love of writing. He has written numerous short stories and scripts, served on the publications committee for a major trade organization, and is a regular contributor to Atlanta-based PROFILE MAGAZINE.

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4.7 stars – 11 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

Don’t bother to bolt the doors or lock the windows… the monster is already inside

In 1982, Clark Ralston was eleven years old, his beloved little brother was nine, and his gorgeous and precocious twin sisters were seven…

Fiends and monsters in most adolescents’ lives are conjured up fantasies or characters from a Grimm Brothers fairy tale or the like, which produce an occasional nightmare. The ogre that bedeviled the Ralston children was not a fleeting fantasy or a dark creature in a bad dream after a scary movie. Their antagonist was an ever-present alcoholic and abusive father.

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Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

In 1982, Clark Ralston was eleven years old, his beloved little brother was nine, and his gorgeous and precocious twin sisters were seven…

Fiends and monsters in most adolescents’ lives are conjured up fantasies or characters from a Grimm Brothers fairy tale or the like, which produce an occasional nightmare. The ogre that bedeviled the Ralston children was not a fleeting fantasy or a dark creature in a bad dream after a scary movie. Their antagonist was an ever-present alcoholic and abusive father.

In an effort to visit some retribution on the source of their fear and angst–something no child should ever feel in their own home–Clark initiates an innocuous little distraction called The Rock Club, an exclusive band of juvenile mercenaries determined to torment and befuddle their father…

Nineteen years later, commitment-challenged Clark is trying to distance himself from his stunning, hero-worshiping sisters. When his girlfriend accepts an internship at San Francisco General Hospital, he jumps at the opportunity to create space between himself and his suffocating siblings and moves from L.A. to the Bay Area.

Clark loves everything about San Francisco: the Victorian architecture of its urban neighborhoods, the cable cars, the eccentricity and diversity of its citizenry, and the plethora of different smells and unique ambiance of the city. He’s even beginning to feel like he’s getting over his fear of commitment until The Rock Club pulls an encore. And this time it’s not so innocent… this time it’s deadly.

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The RoCK CLuB
by Stan Thomas
4.7 stars - 9 reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here's the set-up:
In 1982, Clark Ralston was eleven years old, his beloved little brother was nine, and his gorgeous and precocious twin sisters were seven...

Fiends and monsters in most adolescents' lives are conjured up fantasies or characters from a Grimm Brothers fairy tale or the like, which produce an occasional nightmare. The ogre that bedeviled the Ralston children was not a fleeting fantasy or a dark creature in a bad dream after a scary movie. Their antagonist was an ever-present alcoholic and abusive father.

In an effort to visit some retribution on the source of their fear and angst--something no child should ever feel in their own home--Clark initiates an innocuous little distraction called The Rock Club, an exclusive band of juvenile mercenaries determined to torment and befuddle their father...

Nineteen years later, commitment-challenged Clark is trying to distance himself from his stunning, hero-worshiping sisters. When his girlfriend accepts an internship at San Francisco General Hospital, he jumps at the opportunity to create space between himself and his suffocating siblings and moves from L.A. to the Bay Area.

Clark loves everything about San Francisco: the Victorian architecture of its urban neighborhoods, the cable cars, the eccentricity and diversity of its citizenry, and the plethora of different smells and unique ambiance of the city. He's even beginning to feel like he's getting over his fear of commitment until The Rock Club pulls an encore. And this time it's not so innocent... this time it's deadly.
One Reviewer Notes:
Mr. Thomas writes his characters in such a way that you feel like a part of the story - whether it's the wit, the humor, the misery, jealousy, envy, or fear. Each character comes to life in such a way that you understand their motivation in and behind the story. I was capitivated from the beginning and kept guessing til the end! If you enjoy books from writers like Grisham, Patterson or Sanford, you will love Stan Thomas!
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4.1 stars – 17 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Darkness stalks seventeen-year-old Sam Harper. Ten years ago on Halloween night, she and her best friend Elliot were snatched by grotesque creatures and Sam narrowly escaped with her life. Now a decade on, the police investigation has ground to a halt and Elliot’s whereabouts remains a mystery.

*  *  *

4.3 stars – 35 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
In the aftermath of the Continental Wars, young Ardin Vitalis’ family is murdered by his own nation’s army in a plot to undo a woman known only as the Witch. Furious, he strikes out for revenge, but is thrust into events that will change his world forever. Suddenly he finds himself driven to save the Witch’s beautiful daughter from the nations, Magi, and King of the Shades who seek to destroy her. Should he survive that, his struggle with the dark powers he has been given still threatens to consume him. Ardin must choose to sacrifice his own freedom and flee enemies that are not his own, or allow events to unfold to the detriment of the planet.

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How To Make Money Online From Home Fast and Easy… Whether You Choose To Work Or Not!

by Don Grace

5.0 stars – 2 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
How to Make Money Online From Home Fast and Easy… Whether You Choose To Work Or Not! Making money online does not have to be as complicated as some people make it seem. This book will break down all the barriers and show you how to make money the easy way.

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4.1 stars – 489 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Sixteen year-old, Skyla Messenger is a dead girl walking. When her newly remarried mother moves the family to Paragon Island, to a house that is rumored to be haunted, Skyla finds refuge in Logan Oliver, a boy who shares her unique ability to read minds. Skyla discovers Logan holds the answers to the questions she’s been looking for, but Logan’s reluctance to give her the knowledge she desires leaves her believing Logan has a few secrets of his own.

*  *  *

The Dream Prophecy

by Robin Webster

4.0 stars – 2 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

Alan Callaway lived a life that revolved around petty crime and drug dealing. He cared nothing for anyone except for his younger brother Lenny. After suffering a serious accident Alan began to have disturbing dreams that prophesize a sickness that wipes out much of the world’s population. He tried to push the dreams to the back of his mind. By chance he met an elderly physic called Ena who also has similar dreams and saw them as a prophecy and introduced Alan to others who shared her belief.

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IRAQ WAR 2003: What Really Happened Behind The Political Scenes (The Coyote Report)

by Charles Edmund Coyote

4.7 stars – 23 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
With more than 600 citations, ranging from insider memoirs to the accounts of journalists, former government officials, policy wonks, military leaders, and news broadcasters, the ‘Iraq War 2003: What Really Happened Behind The Political Scenes’ develops a thorough analysis of what led the Bush administration use the ‘War on Terror’ to attack Iraq.

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Silver Bullet (omnibus)

by Chelsea Gaither

4.0 stars – 2 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
In SILVER BULLET, an Elf rescues a woman from a murder attempt, only to reveal that the same forces that saved her life are also protecting her would be murderers.

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4.9 stars – 16 Reviews
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Ardin Vitalis’ last waking memory is of killing the Mage who betrayed him. The woman he loved was murdered just beyond his ability to save her, the Shadow King who killed her escaping into the storm around them. He awakes to find himself incarcerated in a rundown mental institution, asked to escape by a mysterious winged warrior, and charged with the rescue of a people an ocean away. Little does he know that his own people are being corrupted, compromised, and turned against each other by the returning influence of their former enemy: the Relequim. If Ardin can’t overcome the demons in his dark past, he may succumb to them, and become the tool of his own worst enemies.

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