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Category Archives: Round Robin

A Comedy Career Cut Short?

RUTHERFORD will be on sale this Friday, 11 September. Preorder now from Kindle and Barnes & Noble

Chapter 2

Down and Out


I was rudely awakened from a sound sleep by the shrieks of my little sister Daphne. She was standing in the open doorway of the barn.

“Rutherford,” she said, “wake up. There’s something going on.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Look out there. See that car with the red light on top of it? What is that?”

I got up, walked over, and took a look. “That’s an ambulance,” I said.

“What’s that?” she said.

I remembered the only other time I could recall seeing an ambulance. It was when old Mr. Davis had suffered a heart attack. We were all really worried about him, but he managed to pull through, and was back on his feet in no time. That was about a year ago.

“An ambulance is a car that takes sick people to the hospital,” I said.

“What’s a hospital?” Daphne asked.

Here we go again. These puppies don’t know anything.

The ambulance had pulled right up to the front door of the house. The light on its roof was spinning, but the siren was off. Nothing else was going on.

“A hospital is a place where they take care of sick people,” I said.

“Who do you suppose is sick?” she asked.

“It’s gotta be Mr. Davis.”

Who else could it be? His wife had passed away before I was born. My mother used to talk about her sometimes. She really missed her. After that happened, everyone thought Mr. Davis might sell his breeding business, but in time, he decided to keep it running. I was sure glad about that.

“I’ll be right back,” I told Daphne. I looked around for my mother. I found her in a corner of the barn nursing some of the other puppies.

“Good morning, Rutherford,” she said. “Why the long face?”

“What’s happening out there?” I asked. “Is it Mr. Davis?”

My mom nodded. “It’s his heart again. I’ve been worried about him lately. For the past couple of weeks, he’s been moving around more slowly. And he looked pale to me the other day.”

“You never said anything.”

“I didn’t want to worry you,” she said. “None of us wants to think about what this place would be like without him.”

She was right. I didn’t want to think about it. I decided to check things out for myself.

I left the barn and walked up to where the ambulance was parked. Just as I got there, the front door of the house swung open. Paramedics wheeled a cart out onto the porch. Mr. Davis was lying on the cart. His eyes were closed. There was a long skinny tube attached to his arm, and one of the people was holding a plastic mask over his nose and mouth.

Horace Davis followed them to the ambulance. He watched as they slid the cart into the back.

“I’ll follow you over there,” he said.

I stared at Horace. I couldn’t bear the thought of him taking over this place.

“What are you lookin’ at, freak?” he said to me. He sneered and walked to the garage.

I watched the ambulance race down the dirt driveway. It was the last time I ever saw Mr. Davis.

#

The funeral was held a few days later. The procession drove by the farm that morning. My mother insisted we all stand on the side of the road and bark as the cars drove by. It was our own personal tribute to the man who had raised us and cared for us.

That day was a long one. Horace hadn’t fed us. The puppies were fine. They still had mother’s milk. We wondered if there would be more days like this one.

But to our surprise, in the days that followed, Horace never forgot to feed us once. I hoped it meant he had turned over a new leaf, but my mother set me straight.

“He hasn’t changed a bit,” she said. “He knows you can’t sell a dog with its ribs sticking out.”

She was right. We were fed each day, but we didn’t get the attention dogs crave. He couldn’t have cared less about us. All we were to him were dollar signs.

The place was filthy most of the time. Horace would only clean it up when he knew a buyer was coming through. Spirits were getting low. It had become more important than ever for me to concentrate on producing some sensational new material—great jokes that would take our minds off of our new living conditions.

On a Saturday night about two weeks following the funeral, my mom, my brothers and sisters, and some of the other basset hound families gathered in a corner of the barn for my performance.

“Hey, did you hear the one about the dog who went to the flea circus? Wouldn’t you know it—he stole the show.”

It was followed by a timely rim shot. I had taught Daphne how to make that sound. She held a stick in her mouth and banged it on the bottom of a coffee can for the intended effect. It wasn’t perfect, but it did the trick.

Sometimes you have to remind your audience that you just delivered the punch line. That’s where Daphne came in. The older dogs always knew when to laugh. It was those darn puppies who were clueless. Every so often I thought it might be a good idea to install an applause sign just for them. They were that dense.

I ended the show with one of my favorites.

“Hey, here’s one for all you wranglers out there. Did you hear about the dog who limped into town one day? His foot was all bandaged up. The sheriff walked up to him and said, ‘Howdy, stranger, what brings you to Dodge?’ The dog held up his injured foot and said, ‘I’m looking for the man who shot my pa.’”

Rim shot. Thanks, Daphne.

Roars of laughter were followed by applause. It had been a good night.

Barney, one of the grown-up male dogs, slapped me on the back. “I gotta tell you, Rutherford, you never disappoint.” It was high praise coming from one of the veterans.

“Thanks, sir, I appreciate it,” I said.

“So, when’s your next performance?” he asked.

“I’m not really certain. I’ll have to get to work on some new material.”

“Well, you be sure to let me know, you hear?” he said.

“I will. I promise.”

Barney turned to rejoin the others, but then he stopped abruptly. He leaned in, as if he only wanted me to hear what he was about to say.

“Kid, let me give you a little advice.” He looked around to make sure we were still alone. “Things are different around here now. You gotta look over your shoulder at all times. Do you know what I’m trying to say?”

“I’m not sure,” I said. But I knew exactly what he was talking about.

Barney lowered his voice even more. “I don’t trust Horace. Nobody around here does. He could start cleaning house any time now. No one is safe. Heck, I’m getting up in years. He may have no use for me soon.” He had a serious look on his face. “Just be careful out there, okay?”

I nodded.

“Good boy,” Barney said. He winked and joined the other members of his family.

Daphne ran up smiling. “You were great tonight, Rutherford. The crowd loved you.”

“Thanks,” I said with a forced smile.

“What’s wrong?” she said. “You don’t look very happy. Did I make a mistake with the drum or something?”

“No, you did just great. And let me tell you—you have a real musical flair.”

She grinned.

“Listen,” I said, “I have to be somewhere. You better go back with Mom and the others. I’ll see you later.”

She scampered off.

I really had no place to be. I just wanted to be alone. I decided to walk around in the barnyard for a while to think things through.

I guess I wasn’t completely surprised to hear what Barney had said. I had known that if Horace was ever in charge my days around here would be numbered. To him, I was just another mouth to feed. And since no families seemed interested in taking me home with them anytime soon, he was getting nothing in return.

I wandered into the garage, pushed a stepstool up to the back of a pickup truck, and hopped up onto the bed. Horace had returned from town a few minutes earlier, so the back of the truck was still warm. It was time for bed, my favorite time of the day. There was nothing like settling down for the night and a few Zs. If you never noticed, we dogs do love our sleep.

I rolled over onto my side—my favorite position—stretched out my legs, and was soon in dreamland.

To Be Continued…


 
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Posted by on September 8, 2020 in Round Robin

 

From Zumaya Thresholds – Lights, Camera, Ali!

Lights, Camera, Ali!
by Christine Marciniak

If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

Ali Caldwell figures her fifteen minutes of fame have expired, and she is ready to ditch the TV cameras. That’s hard to do when she has to spend Thanksgiving with her mother in Malibu, where they’ll be filming the Christmas special for their reality show.

Then her little brother disappears while she’s in charge of him, and and everyone in the world is watching and blaming her, including her mother. Ali is determined to find him and make everything right, but life is ever that simple.

Purchase the trade paperback from Amazon as well as in ebook for Kindle and NOOK.

ISBN:    9781612712147

Also available in ePub, Mobi, and pdf at the ZP eBook Store.

Sample Chapters

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Round Robin

 

Round Robin Episode 11

I knew the old lady was bluffing. She wouldn’t get her answers if she shot Jackie, and I was pretty sure she knew I was a bystander in this crazy game. I couldn’t muster much interest for the goings-on anyway, even with a gun pointed at me and the mention of a multi-million deal.

All I could think about was Riane—who had morphed from human to alien in the blink of an eye—and the message she’d given me before she’d dissolved into a puddle of slime, most of which I was still wearing.

—Kill my son.

Not an every day request, although the last whispered words had sounded more desperate than any I’d ever heard. Even if I were to agree with her appeal, I had no idea how I’d go about it. I knew her first name, and that was it.

From the way she’d dissolved, I knew she wasn’t from Earth but I was still a newbie when it came to identifying alien species. Yeah, I’d met more than most of the residents of the third planet from the sun, but it was amazing how full the universe was, let alone our own galaxy.

“Are you listening, Jack?”

“Huh? Sorry.” I look at Jackie, who was trying to send me a message with her eyes. “You’re on your own for that one, sweetie. I got problems of my own.”

I heard twin gasps, from Jackie and from the old broad wielding the gun. Both had their gazes fixed on the center of my body, which was beginning to become heavier. I looked down and gaped too.

Slowly, the goo that had coated me when Riane had melted was reconstituting itself into a head, a torso, arms and legs. In the space of a few seconds, she stood beside me.

“God, I hate when that happens. Now, where were we?” She brushed her hair away from her face. “Ah, yes. There’s this matter of disposing of my offspring.”

M. D. Benoit is the author of the Jack Meter Case Files series and of the SF Thriller Synergy.

Look for her upcoming SF Thriller, Catalyst, this August.

Follow her on Twitter: @mdbenoit2

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2010 in Round Robin, Zumaya Publications

 

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Round Robin, Episode 10

Well he will be when I get my hands around his throat, Jackie thought. Then the lights in her head snapped on, and she whispered, “Robbing Peter to pay Paul?” This old bag knows a lot more than she is letting on.

“Listen,” Jack said, “I’d love to stay and chat over a cup of tea with you all, but I’ve got places to be.” He began to walk towards the next roof over, hoping  he could somehow make an escape without being noticed by the police downstairs.

“You’re not going anywhere until I find out what the hell you were doing here tonight,” Jackie said is a most unlady-like bark.

He kept walking.

She tried to bluff, “Take another step and I’ll blow your brains out.”

Jack lifted the middle finger of his right hand as he kept walking towards the next building.

Good God, Jackie thought, a man with balls as big as mine. How long had she waited for someone like him. How long had she put up with that whimpering ex, praying he would somehow grow a pair. And true to form, when he finally did, he went completely overboard. But this man, Jack, was something else, someone who was a match for her. She wasn’t about to let go of that. She took three quick paces and fell into step behind him.

“You’re not shaking me until I know everything,” Jackie said.

Harriet pulled a Glock from her handbag, snapped the safety off. “Hold it right there, both of you.” When they both ignored her, she fired a round into the roof, just two feet in front of Jack.

Jack jerked back and turned. Jackie could only follow his lead.

Harriet said, “Now that I have your attention, there are a few things I need to know in order to ensure that the money Jackie’s mother raised is handed over to the women’s shelter. You might not think twenty-three-million dollars is worth fighting for, but I can assure you I do.  And let me also say, unlike Jackie, I don’t bluff. If I don’t get what I came for, they will carry all of you off this roof on gurneys.

Twenty-three million? Christ, Jackie thought, can this night get any more bizarre?

Go on to Episode 11

Alan Chin writes gay fiction. Visit him at http://alanchin.net

or http://alanchinwriter.blogspot.com and http://twitter.com/alanhchin

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2010 in Round Robin, Zumaya Publications

 

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Round Robin Episode 9

Harriet’s Aunt Beth stood over the prone figure at the top of the stairs. You need to watch where you’re going, mister. You ran right into a broken vent pipe. Looks like you’ve got a nasty bump on your head, but I think you’ll live.”

“Who’s there?” Jackie called across the roof.

“My aunt and I,” said a voice that was much closer than Jackie expected. A flashlight flicked on and flashed her face. Jackie held her hand up to shield her eyes.

“How did you get up here?” Jackie asked. “You were supposed to be talking to the police.”

“Well, while you and this guy,” Harriet pointed at Jack, “were doing gymnastics on the fire escape and that clown,” she pointed to the man by the stairs, “was climbing ten flights of stairs and performing a do it yourself lobotomy, we took the elevator.”

“Why are you following us?” Jack asked. “This isn’t your business.”

“If you two are trying to steal the money Jackie’s mother raised for the women’s shelter, we’re making it our business; even if you are stealing it to fund the animal shelter.” Aunt Beth said.

“What on earth gave you that idea?” Jackie asked. This night was getting weirder by the minute.

“We talked to the guy across the street,” Harriet said. “You know– the big guy in the black coat– the one you left for dead. Turns out he wasn’t quite as dead as you thought.”

Go on to Episode 10

Arlene Sachitano – Author of the Harriet Truman/Loose Threads Mysteries and The Harley Spring Mysteries

http://www.arlenesachitanosblog.blogspot.com

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2010 in Round Robin

 

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Round Robin Episode 8

…kiss him?  kill him?  I didn’t know what she’d do.

I knew I shouldn’t get involved.  It wasn’t like this was even close to my jurisdiction–southwest Louisiana may as well have been on a different planet.  Still, I couldn’t just wander off knowing I might have prevented another person’s death.

Besides, she wasn’t bad looking.  And she climbed the fire escape without hesitation.  Not many women I knew could do that.  She wasn’t the woman I’d traveled so far to locate, but I felt compelled to find out more about her.  I’d waited ten years to follow Grace; I could wait a few more minutes.

When I was fairly sure I knew where these two were headed, I crossed the street and slipped into the massive building.  A stairway waited behind the first door I tried.

Flashing lights from the street below gave the night an unreal quality as I stepped out onto the roof, reminding me of the swamp gas that sometimes rose from the marsh in ghostly glows on winter nights.  Gravel crunched beneath my boots and I froze.

It took a moment to find the voices in the dark, and even longer to ease silently toward them.  Judging from their exchange, I was now fairly sure they weren’t working together.

“Look,” the woman said, “there’s a lot more at stake here than you know.”

“Oh?”  The man huffed a quick laugh.  “And I thought the stakes were already high enough.  What is it you’re not telling me?”

I suddenly felt a presence –a large, menacing presence.  I hadn’t heard anyone approach, but I knew someone stood right behind me.  And I had a strong suspicion that person wasn’t going to be friendly.

Damn, I knew I shouldn’t have left my thirty-eight in the hotel room.

As I turned, something smashed into the side of my head and I went down hard.

“What was that?”  The woman sounded farther away than she should have, but at least I was still conscious.

Trying to ignore the searing pain, I turned my head to look up at my attacker and found…

Go on to Episode 9

S. H. Baker writes the Dassas Cormier Mystery Series.  Visit her at www.SHBaker.com.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2010 in Round Robin, Zumaya Publications

 

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Round Robin Episode 7

Help? Jackie needed a high profile lawyer and a giant shoe horn to get out of this. Or… She caught sight of Jack climbing the fire escape. Or one PI who could cough up some answers, like how he knew Matt and what he knew about her mother’s secret account. “Thank you ladies for your help, but I think you need to turn that quilt square over to the cops. Evidence, you know.”

“This isn’t our first murder, dear.” The two women looked at each other before easing toward the bar’s open back door. “Are you going to join us?”

Not in this lifetime. Inside, Jackie heard the police barging into the scene upsetting the already traumatized patrons. Red and blue strobelights sliced through the dark alley, tainting their faces in garish hues.

The woman on the left raised an eyebrow.

Jackie resisted the urge to cringe while slipping on her heels. Why is it that women of a certain age always managed to make her feel guilty with that look? “I just need to collect myself.”

Ignoring the body of her ex, Jackie tiptoed around the blood oozing along the debris strewn asphalt. She felt more than saw the two women head inside. Smiling, she ran to the lowered fire escape and set her hands on the cold metal rungs. When she caught up with Jack, she’d….

Go on to Episode 8

Linda Andrews writes romantic adventures with a paranormal twist

Visit her at http://www.lindaandrews.net

 
 

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Round Robin Episode 6

Jackie struggled to keep herself upright as she looked at the two women. “Robbing Peter to Pay Paul?  Interesting…”  Where was Jack?  And Matt?  She stood up, aching.  “There were two guys, fighting…”  Those who hadn’t run away were now setting tables back up, checking each other for injuries.

One of the ladies folded the fabric up carefully and placed it in her pocket.  “Who could tell, in all this confusion?”  She stood up and held out a hand.  “I’m Harriet, and this is my Aunt Beth. ”

Jackie held out her hand, looking at the two seemingly friendly faces suspiciously.  “Jackie.  I’m sorry but…this doesn’t seem like your normal hangout.  What brings you here?”

Harriet explained, briefly, about the quilt for the animal shelter.

“I approve of that cause…but since the cops are almost here, I think you’d both better get out while you still can.”  She strode towards the back door and threw it open.  She could hear the cars pulling up outside, but her head was clear, now…she could deal.  Now, to find Matt…

Finding Matt was the easy part…he was dead in the alley behind the bar.

“I think,”  Harriet said behind her, you’re going to need a little help.”

Go on to Episode 7

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cindy Lynn Speer is the author of Blue Moon, Chocolatier’s Wife and Unbalanced.  More about her and her work can be found at www.apenandfire.com

 

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Round Robin Episode 5

“Honey, are you sure this is the place?” Beth Carlson’s brow furrowed as she looked at the wreckage in front of her.

“This is the address she gave me and look,” long arm quilter Harriet Truman pointed to the broken glass of the store front window. “It says ‘stones’. This has to be the place.”

“Why would Sarah’s cousin arrange to meet us in a bar, for heaven sake? We’re here to talk about the raffle quilt for an animal shelter benefit aren’t we?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time Sarah had things wrong,” Harriet said and pulled her aunt off the sidewalk and behind a large potted spruce tree just in time to avoid a large man in a black mackintosh as he pushed out the door and staggered across the street. She could hear the faint sound of sirens in the distance.

Harriet stepped to the door. “Wait here,” she said and went in. She followed the sound of a moan to an overturned table. A slender young woman lay on the floor at her feet, her eyes closed. Harriet kneeled and gently shook her shoulder.

“Are you okay?” she said.

Aunt Beth lowered herself on the opposite side of the girl and gently eased a black stiletto heeled shoe from the young woman’s clenched left fist, causing the girls eyes to fly open.

“Where am I?” she whispered.

A tall man with sand colored hair watched the trio from across the room, and when Aunt Beth had helped the injured woman to a seated position, he eased out the back door.

“What’s this” the young woman asked and dropped a folded piece of cloth from her right hand. Smaller sewn pieces formed a purposeful pattern.

“Where did it come from? It’s not mine.”

Harriet smoothed the square of multicolored cloth.  “Looks like a quilt block,” she said.

“Let me see,” Aunt Beth said and held out her hand. She studied the pattern.

“This block is called Robbing Peter to Pay Paul.”

Go on to Episode 6

Arlene Sachitano writes The Harriet Truman/Loose Threads quilting mystery novels as well as The Harley Spring Mysteries. You can find her at

http://www.arlenesachitano.com or

http://www. arlenesachitanosblog.blogspot.com

 
 

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Round Robin Episode 4

…stood Matt, still holding the smoking gun. He took three steps closer to Jackie as his arm stretched towards her, Moses-like, and his lips widened into a sneer.

“This is it, you condescending bitch.” Matt’s voice was cold as death. “You’ve cheated on me for the last time.”

Jackie felt a bolt of electricity race up her spine and burst in her head. How could he have known? She had always been too clever for him, or so she had thought until now.  Her mind was spinning fast. She knew from the compassionless tone in his voice that pleading wouldn’t help.  She tried to swallow but her mouth had gone bone dry.  She croaked, “If you kill me, what will happen to the shelter? You’ll be killing all those animals too!”

Matt stood perfectly still. It was too dark to tell if his eyes were softening. She didn’t even know if he had heard her over the sound of the music and the other people screaming. But then she noticed a ray of hope. She saw Jack slowly rising from the floor, like a tiger ready to pounce.  She had to give him time.

“Matt, you got this all wrong. I’m here on business.”

Over the thump of LL Cool on the sound system, Jackie heard the wail of sirens in the distance.  Help was minutes away, but minutes might as well be years. That unwavering gun was pointed directly at her forehead. Screw this, she thought. Her body tensed as she made ready to jump.

In what seemed like super slow motion, she saw Jack lunge at Matt, arms stretched, pain twisting his face. She leaped at the same time, not at Matt, but to the side. A gunshot roared so loud in her ears it sounded like the ending of the world.  Pain screamed in her mind.

A moment later she lay on the floor, looking up at…

Go on to Episode 5

Alan Chin writes gay fiction. Visit him at http://alanchin.net

or http://alanchinwriter.blogspot.com and http://twitter.com/alanhchin

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2010 in Round Robin, Zumaya Publications

 

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