Friday Five June 25

 ally, food, pool, revenge, tense

Blood pooled around the victims body, sticky against the floor. Oliver gave this a curious look. Part revulsion; part fear? Anaximander wasn’t certain.

“It’s Peter Hargreaves,” Oliver said quietly.

“You know him?”

“Who doesn’t?”

I don’t, Anaximander thought but he didn’t answer. It was obvious that a reply wasn’t needed. This was nervous talk. Chatting to cover up the shock and fear of stumbling across a dead body in the library. Back when he’d been alive, Anaximander done a radio drama with the same plot.

“It doesn’t make you hungry?”Oliver asked.

“You mean the blood?”

“Yeah. I mean, it doesn’t do anything to you?”

“No.” Oh, it draws me, but not hunger. Anaximander felt his shoulders tense. If he was a newly turned vampire he’d be on the ground lapping up blood like a beast and feeling sick afterwards. You were predator and everything else was food.  If you had a sire to train you, a vampire quickly learned that not all blood was the same. That there were strains and you could only get strength from the blood of a thrall. Like Oliver. And he’d never get a thrall like Oliver if he couldn’t control himself.

“It has to be payback,” Oliver said out loud but in a whisper. There were other people downstairs. A few were even other vampires and thralls with good hearing.

“What makes you think that?” Anaximander replied.

“One member of the Gossick family dies last week with gunshot to the head. A member of the Hargreaves family dies right here also by a gunshot to the head.”

“People get shot all the time.”

“If this were average down on your luck Joe’s sure. But the Gossick’s own half the town, including the bank. The Hargreaves own the other half, including the the real estate company. It can’t be coincidence.”

He had seen the signs all over Hargreaves Development. It was a picture of a smiling older man in a hard hat and a suit who, now that he thought about it, looked much like the dead older man lying in the pool of blood.

Anaximander existed for decades and seen all manner of family turf wars and gang fights. Once the revenge train got started barreling down the tracks it was impossible to stop. 

“Fudge,” Oliver said. Well, not actually ‘fudge’, but is summed up how they both felt at the moment.

 But he knew speaking up wouldn’t help. His handsome future thrall had a criminal record. Not only that, he was right in the middle of committing a crime. Granted, a non-violent crime. And Anaximander didn’t really consider art thieves to be real criminals. Museums were full of stolen art if we wanted to be truthful.

But the reality was that Oliver had an incredibly expensive rare book tucked in his backpack, along with the standard breaking and entering gear. And he felt rather certain that his human hottie had a record somewhere along the way. None of these facts would work in his favor should the call the police.

What would they think if they knew he was allied with a vampire? 

copyright 2021 Echo Ishii

Friday Five April 30

Proper brand husband pigeon offend

This week’s entry:

Anthony strolled around the park, trying his best to look natural. This was not easy. He was a big guy, imposing, and he had to work hard to make sure people didn’t see him as a threat. He had tried to dress up but not to0 much-clean white shirt, and light jacket. He had no idea what he proper dress code was for paranormal investigators. This was the first time he had a potential paying client and he didn’t want to offend them or worse,  scare them off by dressing like a thug. 

He finally saw them. His contact, a woman named Lily, was sitting at one of the picnic benches with who he assumed was his client. She waved him over, and he made for them, scaring away a flock of pigeons as he stomped across the grass. He came up to them.

“Good Morning,” he said politely with a smile. Lily gave him a quick nod. She was a tiny woman, all skin and bones, and a constant ball of energy. He stood there stiffly.

“Thanks for doing this.”

“No problem,” even though he didn’t know what he was doing yet.

Lily turned to the woman seated beside her.

“This is Mrs. Peterson. Mrs. Peterson, this is Anthony Dawes. He’s the man whose going to help you. Trust me, he can do the job.”

Mrs. Peterson removed her sunglasses and stared at him coldly. Anthony didn’t know much about fashion but he could tell those were brand name clothes and expensive jewelry. She had money. And it was obvious she wasn’t thrilled about a meeting in a public park.

She held out a hand. Anthony shook it. He had a feeling she was testing him.

“Should I explain?” Lily said enthusiastically.

Mrs. Peterson shook her head.

“Lily speaks highly of you. And Principal Wright mentioned that you were skilled in dealing with unusual events.”

That surprised him. Principal Wright never mentioned hanging out with the wealthy and well connected. And he was surprised the old man told anyone else about the strange events at his house. He filed that away to ask about later.

“I help where I can.”

“My husband and I have purchased some property near the coast. We’ve renovated a hotel that we expect to open to customers for the summer. However, there have been issues.”

“Ghosts,” Lily butted in. “It’s ghosts.”

A look of displeasure crossed Mrs. Peterson’s face. Anthony couldn’t tell if it was the mention of ghosts or being interrupted. It was probably a combination of both. The woman fiddled with a diamond bracelet around her wrist and resumed.

“Unusual happenings have halted renovation. The old hotel was in a dilapidated state.”

“It used to be a drug den. And prostitution. Lots of suicides and overdoses. It’s probably brimming with ghosts,” Lily had clearly done her research. For her, this sort of thing much be exciting.

Mrs. Peterson sat up straight, glared at Lily, and continued.

“My husband believes it’s business sabotage. I have a reason to believe we should pursue other possible explanations.”

“I’m thinking a poltergeist,” Lily said oblivious to Mrs. Peterson’s glares. 

“I’d like you to investigate. I’ll pay you a substantial one time fee and I expect results within the week. I’m a believer, Mr. Dawes, but I’m no fool. Don’t think you can string me along.”

A poltergeist. Anthony had never dealt with a poltergeist, but he’d done his reading. In the ghost world, they were some of the strongest. It wasn’t an easy job to agree to take on and maybe he should turn it down.

“You’re up to this Anthony,” Lily said. She sounded confident even if he didn’t feel it.

“I’ll do it,” Anthony said.

copyright Echo Ishii 2021

Friday Five April 9th

So, this time I’m giving Friday Five another try. This week’s words are: hell, railroad, chief, abridge, past

The obelisks burst up out of nowhere, where the railroad used to be, past where my cousin used to live. We called the police chief but we doubted there was anything he could do. There had been several cases of these obelisks popping up out of the ground in the last few months. The fact that it happened out here in our little town frightened me. What were the chances? 

I wasn’t keen to go, but my sister and her boyfriend begged me. Since her car had been repossessed and he had a suspended license, that left me. My sister asked to borrow my car, but she doesn’t have the world’s most reliable track record. When I picked up Shirley and Stan, he already smelled strongly of alcohol. He was a friendly drunk, never mean, but that didn’t change the facts. But this wasn’ t  the time to have another lifestyle management meeting with Shirley and Stan. 

I pushed the pedal to the metal, so they say, eager to get where we needed to go. 

“We need to get pictures of it,” Stan said from the backseat. “We need proof.”

“We will,” Shirl eysaid confidently. She was sitting beside me, with her seatbelt on, but straining her neck to look out the front window as if something or someone would jump out in front of us. Of course, given the state of things in this county lately, that might very well happen. 

We were not the first ones to arrive. Everyone parked by the side of the road and headed across the field towards the obelisk. Any minute now, state authorities were bound to show up. Stan had jumped out of the car before I even unbuckled my seat belt and was racing across the grass. Shirley was right behind him. I was slower, like always, but I managed. I locked the car-because I had common sense- and made sure I had my wallet and my phone on me. I walked briskly, rather than running like a fool. I didn’t trust what might be in the grass in the middle of the night. 

The truth was, I was terrified. Everyone was acting as if the obelisks were some wondrous event. A Nobel winner in physics was on the news everyday talking about it. I’d even bought her book-well the abridged version for the layman. I didn’t understand a word of it.  Twitter had all the conspiracy theories known to man and even the president tweeted the possibility of alien contact. I’d love to be the optimistic, but I’d seen things in my life that proved otherwise. 

The closer I got, the larger the obelisk, looked. My heart began to race and my palms were sweating. The feeling of panic gripped me, and I thought about fleeing. There were hills of dirt were the object had pushed up out of the ground, and a few were trying to climb it sliding back down. The closer I got I noticed the foul smell and the dirt-like dog droppings and winced. How could they stand it? 

I walked towards to the obelisk, near enough to touch it, but I didn’t dare. It was smooth, but as I looked closer, I noticed the sketching on the sides that looked like faces. Round faces, oval faces, square faces; all with wide opened eyes and wide open mouths and no noses. Liquid dripped down the sides, as red as blood, and I backed away. My blood ran cold; my hands shook. The obelisk began to move, getting taller, pushing more of the earth up. The man on the dirt hill fell over and sank into the mass. People began to scream. This thing was coming up to us from the bowels of hell and there was nothing we could do to stop it. 

To be continued

Copyright 2021 Echo Ishii

Friday Five: March 5

Once again, I’m going to try the Friday Five writing challenge. I don’t have more ghost stories today, but just a short montage inspired by my day trip to a castle. Enjoy the photos.

bracket, teacher, import, maze, moral

The man watched the ship swaying in the bay as the waves beat fiercely against the rocks. Men were moving as fast as they could to unload its riches. The  Provincial Lord seldom imported objects from faraway places and he wasn’t a man to be disappointed. A rough looking seaman handed the box over to him, and he turned to begin his climb to the castle tower. 

The lord seldom left the tower these days. His courtiers and concubines kept to the lower palace, and he could hear them singing and laughing through the rain. Once in a while, he caught a glimpse of a beautiful kimono sleeve gliding past the sliding bamboo doors. But  a low born man like him had no business gazing on the concubines of feudal lords. 

He began is climb up the maze of steps, sometimes veering left and sometimes right but always up and always steep and as the rain poured down all the more difficult. He served the lord as a teacher of languages; Dutch at first, and now English, but only to the retainers. The lord himself had no interest in crude languages from foreign barbarians. To him, they lacked manners and morals. But the great lord was intrigued by the objects they made-mechanical machines, like the bracket clock he now carried up the steps. It has a gold display with and ebony finish and a chime as beautiful as birdsong.  It was made by one of the finest clockmakers in London.  London. The teacher said the words under his breath, liking the strange sound on his tongue. London. Blackpool. Leeds. He’d only seen them as names on a map somehow imagined them as worlds of gears, wires, and clockwork. 

In such a world, he mused, I’d have a machine of gears and steam that could carry me up these steps. He was getting older and worried that soon the feudal lord would think him too old to keep in his service. And then, where would he go? What would he do? Perhaps, he thought, he still had enough health to travel to this place called London and see it for himself.  

Kakegawa Castle, Kakegawa City, Japan

My greatest weakness

It’s hard to own up to your weaknesses but I’ll try.

Busyness: I confuse doing a lot with progress. I tend to overcommit to projects and putting things I enjoy doing on the back burner. It’s makes me high strung and impatient. I think if I learn to set more realistic goals, I will enjoy life more.

Comparing myself to others: telling myself that I’m a failure because I haven’t accomplished what someone else has. It means I don’t enjoy my own accomplishments enough and shows a lack of gratefulness. 

I’m trying to change both by starting each morning with a quiet time to meditate or pray and each night before bed reciting what I’m grateful for in my life or something positive about that day. I hope I’m getting better. 

And my last weakness…processed sugar: I know Oreos are bad for you, but they are good!! 

Friday Five: January 22

I’m doing the Friday Five Challenge from Long and Short Reviews. I decided to continue my story from last week. This week’s words are favorite, costume, stumble, confuse, articulate

***

“We’re ready to start, okay?” Eliza was staring at her. Dr. Brenner suddenly felt like a fool clutching the old green book  like a toddler’s teddy bear. 

“Are you cold?” the assistant asked.

“Cold?”

“You’re shaking,” the young woman pointed out. She grabbed one of the professor’s scarfs that was laying across a chair. “This looks warm.”

“That will do,” Dr. Brenner replied. It wasn’t her favorite. It was an unpleasant riot of colors that her sister, Jessica, hand knitted. That was Jessie for you. Always knitting sweaters for new mothers, the homeless, spinster older sisters.  Jessie used to be an aspiring costume designer before she’d found religion.  When she’d first started the Coverton book her sister had shook her head and loudly declared she didn’t want to hear a word about witchcraft. 

Jen, it’s  not about witchcraft. It’s about discrimination and  social mores.

No, it’s about witchcraft.

She’d thought Jessie a fool then, but not anymore. 

She was being a fool, Dr. Brenner thought. It’s just a book. She put it down beside her on the desk. I’s spine was cracked, its pages yellowed at the edges. A stain marred the ugly green cover. There was nothing to fear from a book, she told herself but her heart knew that wasn’t true. She’d keep an eye on it. She wouldn’t let it out of her sight. 

She sat down in her desk chair with the notebook computer open. 

“Focus on the front. All of your slides will drop down and you can read off of them. When the red light is on you’re recording,” Eliza said, as she leaned close enough for the professor to smell the cloying patchouli scent from her hair and clothes. The assistant dressed like she just woke up; in ragged jeans, a plaid shirt, and clunky shoes. At least she had a mask on. It even matched the shirt.

“I don’t want to show my face.”

“Fine,” the young woman’s fingers danced across the keyboard for a few minutes. Dr Brenner sat back awkwardly, clutching the book as the young woman leaned across her. Her fingers danced across the keyboard for a few minutes. 

“There. It will just show the screen,” Eliza gave her a slight grin and spoke in the gentle, enunciated voice you used for toddlers and  the elderly you thought were not all there. Dr. Brenner was nearing retirement but hardly elderly and certainly in control of her faculties. She pushed closer to her desk not- so- gently shoving the young woman away.

“I’ll get started.”

“If it’s too confusing I can go over it again.”

“No thank you.” She didn’t bother too look up as she heard the woman’s heavy shoes stomp across the floor and out into the main room. 

She worked through the slides, reading them in a slow, articulate voice. No longer than 15 minute chunks, Eliza had advised. The book was still beside her. She bumped her arm against it and a chill ran up her spine.

It’s just a book. A book. 

The slides flicked past. She squinted as the words looked too small. The girl has shown her how to enlarge them. Had she forgotten? She didn’t want to call Eliza in and admit that she screwed it up again. She hunted and pecked at the keyboard, hoping she could manage on her own.

It settled back. 

Good. It was time to go back to reading off the screen. 

There is more about Coverton that I didn’t cover in my first volume.

 What? She hadn’t planned any lectures on Coverton beyond what she’d done last week. It was her seminal work, students expected it, but she had a carefully planned limit on what she would discuss. 

No these were the wrong slides.

There were conclusions that needed closer consideration, so as a result, I got in touch with Anna Darkhorse Levenwood. Anna is one of the direct descendants of one of the victims of the rioters. She’s moved back to the area in recent years after some time abroad exploring the remote areas of..

What? She knew these words, but they weren’t her notes. They seemed faintly familiar.

Then she knew. 

The green book. Coverton Riots. Volume 2. 

In a panic she flipped through the slides. There is was. Chapter by chapter. All of the green book digitally scanned. She hadn’t done it. It didn’t have a digital version. This was written before those days. There should be no copies.

She tried to erase it. She pulled it into the trash can thing at the bottom.

OPERATION CAN NOT BE COMPLETED.

Had Eliza done it? She had no reason to expect the girl, but maybe she had. Maybe the department head, Dr. Voight,  had put her up to it.  She’d never much liked Dr. Voight. 

ERROR.

EXTENSION ERROR.

What did that even mean? She pounded on the keys as if that would make things better. The little phone icon began to ring too. The music icon  opened up and started to play. Another green icon spun around with a little arrow and a small beeping sound. 

SHARING FILES

The video icon popped open and she saw her face…old, wrinkled, eyes opened in fright. 

Dr. Brenner stood up from her chair, knocking it to the floor. She grabbed the book and stumbled across the room anxious to get away. It was cold, so very cold. And suddenly dark. The only light was the unnerving digital glow of the screen. The book felt heavier and heavier with each step, the door further and further away. She called to Eliza, but her throat was dry and no words would come out. 

copyright 2021 Echo Ishii

Friday Five: January 15th

This is a challenge from Long and Short Reviews. Stop by and read some of the other entries. I had fun writing this on Friday night, so I edited a bit and posted Saturday.

This week’s words: seminar, mine, law, crisis, address

“Professor”, the young woman said, as Dr. Brenner looked up. “The camera is at the top and you need to speak into it.”

It was hard to understand with the girl’s mask on. She wasn’t a girl she was a 25 year old woman, but all the graduate students looked like boys and girls to her nowadays.  Dr. Gretchen Brenner was near retirement, but  once a semester  she did a seminar for the law department.  This time she had to do it online. She hated all this. 

She remembered her first lecture- ready to address an assembly hall full of students who took in each word and wrote furiously on notepads. Now the college didn’t have the numbers it once did and most of them half listened and stared at their phones. But at least it was real life.  Now she had to prerecord lessons in her stuffy little office at home. 

The grad student, Eliza, had on a mask but was making another of her frustrated snorting noises. “Maybe we should move to the kitchen. The light in here sucks.” 

 At least it was better than Zoom. She loathed that. Talking into the void to students who couldn’t or wouldn’t show their faces and she got an odd feeling about some of them.  As if, they weren’t really there. She was afraid so often nowadays. Every noise made her jump. Every rattle of the pipes made her heart race. The house had been broken in twice; and the police did nothing. Broken glass and some stolen loose change wasn’t much of a priority. 

Dr. Brenner hadn’t wanted a grad assistant this year. Ten, fifteen years ago when she was at her prime there would be plenty for a bright, young woman like Eliza to do. But she didn’t do any research anymore. Her inquisitive mind had carried her along paths she’d wished she’d never known. She was never doing research again. At least Eliza was good at all the computer stuff she couldn’t be bothered to do. But the girl had little regard for personal space. Always moving the chairs or opening and closing the curtains or running some type of extension under her desk.  Dr. Brenner would complain more but then maybe Eliza would get annoyed and never return and lately she hated the thought of no one ever coming by. With the break ins and the noises, she felt better with Eliza here. 

 Now, the girl was shuffling the books on the shelf.

“I have those in order.”

“I think it might be better if we can see all of your books in the center. That way they can see all your work.” 

Crisis in Coverton County. The most famous because it went mainstream. The original academic paper had a far more cumbersome title “The Coverton County Riots: A socio-political analysis of discrimination, regional unrest and government response”. It was full of details and legal minutiae that no one outside of a narrow field of interests would even care about and only reached the larger public  because of the supposed cause of the first riot-witchcraft.

 Last year, the Coverton County Riots had been featured in a  Netflix documentary. Dr. Brenner tried to watch it-but it had far more sex and violence than she remembered in her thesis. 

One of the books on the topmost  shelf thudded to the floor. It was a hardback, faded, with a broken spine. Eliza leaned to get it, but the old professor was surprisingly  spry and scooped it up first. 

“Is that another one of yours? We can put it in the center? ” the assistant asked. 

“ No.” Dr. Brenner said more forcefully than she meant to. “This copy is mine. I mean, it’s for my eyes only. It was never published.” 

No one saw this book. It only had a limited run, and the publisher was gone. The whole warehouse burned to the ground. 

“Okay, sure,” the girl just shrugged. Nutty professor. Crazy old cat lady. That’s what Dr. Brenner read in the shrug of those shoulders. The girl went back to her keyboard, blissfully unaware of panic and fear that wrapped itself around the older woman. Completely oblivious to the darkness that seemed to come over the room as soon as the book had fallen. 

Dr. Brenner’s heart raced as she clutched the green book to her chest.  This was the book she’d written that no one else could be permitted to read. This was the follow up to Crisis in Coverton County that should never see the light of day.   She should have destroyed it. She was certain she kept it locked up in the safe box in her bedroom. How had it gotten down here? Had someone or something take it out? 

Copyright 2021 Echo Ishii

Books that would make great gifts

This is a part of the blog hop from Long and Short Reviews.

First of all, I apologize it things look a bit wonky. I am redoing my blog and website and still getting used to it.

Are there any books that don’t make great gifts to a book lover?

I’m a firm believer in that people should read the books they enjoy and make them happy. If you like mysteries, romance, science fiction, westerns, historical fiction, suspense, or anything else if it gives you joy, fun, adventure and a sense of escape that’s a good thing. I don’t put down other people’s reading preferences. People’s lives are hard enough without someone putting down their little corner of joy. And especially with all the turmoil people have had in the past year, I hope books can be of some relief.

I am looking forward to my winter vacation reading. Christmas isn’t a real holiday in Japan, so I will be working. A couple of Zoom classes and a faculty meeting for my holiday. But for New Year’s I will have time off to relax. I plan to do my annual Lord of the Rings rewatch and have a few books that are ordered and waiting to be read.

The Fated Sky/ Mary Robinette Kowal. This is the second on the Lady Astronaut series which I am addicted to.

Grave on Grand Avenue (An Officer Ellie Rush mystery)/ Naomi Hirahara. I loved the first book about a bicycle cop in LA and look forward to this.

Leviathan Wakes(Book 1 of the Expanse) James S. A. Corey. I thought about getting the audiobook, but decided I wanted the paperback.

When it comes to ‘gift books’ for the holiday I usually splurge fancier copies or rare books I don’t normally purchase. I read a lot especially, paperbacks and e-books, but for the holidays I might go for a box set or an art book. 

I loved Blade Runner 2049. I want to see it in the theater twice and the 3D version was amazing. I am a fan of the original Blade Runner also. I have the Blu-Ray and the soundtrack and I really want this book. Needless, to say I am also eagerly awaiting Villeneuve’s DUNE. I know the plan is for streaming in the US, but I am hoping a few theaters will show it overseas. I cannot wait.

How I decide what to read next

This is the worst nightmare for a person as addicted to reading as I am. I agonize over it; especially if it’s Christmas and I’ve gone a bit crazy with my holiday reading purchases. I usually have a series I’m reading, so next in the series gets priority for orders. I finished THE CALCULATING STARS by Mary Robinette Kowal which I loved, so now I have book 2 of the Lady Astronaut series on order. I am also eagerly awaiting the next Vera Stanhope book, but it won’t  be out until next Fall. 

Sometimes, I’ll choose a book based on mood. I loved reading the Song of Ice and Fire, but after that I was craving fantasy that was a bit lighter, ie. less rape and murder; more elves and fun. 

Which reminds me, book with sexy Elves always gets moved to the top. Haven’t found a good handsome elf hero in a while. Must remedy that. 

I balance out my mystery books. If I read a darker mystery/crime like Ian Rankin; I have to balance it out with a Stephanie Plum. If I read a dark romance, I balance it out with a romantic comedy. 

Sometimes, especially with non-fiction, I’ll read it immediately. Usually because I watched a movie or went to a museum or lecture or something that triggered and interest in a topic. I’ve done a lot of castle visits lately, so I’m slowly building up a library of castle and sword related books. (Those I can afford.)

Favorite Things to do in Spring

WednesdayBloggingChallenge-copy

Well, I usually love the spring break as a chance to visit friends. Since I live in a small town, the spring semester between teaching is my chance to go to Tokyo or Yokohama. Traveling is restricted at the moment, so I’ve spent most of my time locally.  I hope all of you out there are well, both physically and emotionally. Keep your head up! If you’re stuck inside, a binge watch may be a good thing- things to completely take you mind away from news. Personally, I watched a few episodes of Are You Being Served, Yes Minister, and Martin. (My sense of humor is wide ranging) Also, Tiger King on Netflix is just so bizarre I couldn’t stop watching it.

I look forward to spending the spring outdoors. Since I know most people are quarantined, I thought I’d share a few pictures of some of my favorite spring places with the hopes that I’ll be able to once again have a big picnic out there someday soon.

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