Monday, April 16, 2012

Interlude Stories: Laura Roberts


Blue ice stretched to the horizon, fading into the blinding rays of another waning winter sun. Sheila shivered violently and instinctively glanced down, looking for cracks under the transparent sheen. Suddenly, she tensed and dropped to her knees. She screamed, but there was no one to hear her except for the body trapped beneath the ice, its face frozen in a horrific pose, bloated and purple from lack of oxygen.

It was Sheila’s job, as Ice Floe Specialist, to keep track of all the bodies until they defrosted in the spring so they could be given a proper burial. Somehow she could never get used to finding them stuck beneath the surface, their faces contorted in pain. She always gave a little scream when she discovered the latest victim, sealed up tight.

Good thing the boys from Juneau PD weren’t here to see her, jumping at every dead body like a total rookie. She still hadn’t gotten used to Alaska’s arctic tundra, much less its effects on the dead, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t a damn good detective.

Taking a deep breath to calm herself, Sheila began to speak into her tape recorder with notes on her findings. “3:15 p.m. Saturday, January 21. Female victim found just past the 12 mile marker at Hasselborg Lake. Location is about 40 feet out from shore, so it’s unlikely others will stumble upon the body, but there’s an ice fishing shack 60 yards off that shows signs of abandonment. Will investigate further to determine probable cause of death.”

She clicked off the recorder and slipped it back into her jacket. A light snow had begun to fall, and she quickly constructed a rock formation to mark the body’s resting place with small stones from her pack. After creating the miniature inukshuk, Sheila began to make her way out toward the shack in the falling dusk, carefully watching the ice for signs of weakness.

It was still early in the season, so she knew it was dangerous to be out here alone on the ice. Still, she enjoyed the solitude of the position, and it kept her healthy walking around the massive lake. It was a strange job, perhaps, but someone had to do it. People were always going missing in Alaska; there were so many ways to get lost.

Sheila was glad to take an assignment that was more rural. The police force was always a boys club, but particularly so in Alaska, and she’d needed the escape. The wilderness felt more like home, despite its differences from everything she knew back in the lower 48.

As she carefully picked her way along the ice, Sheila’s eyes jumped ahead to the shack. Though it had first appeared abandoned, as she got closer she thought she saw smoke curling from the top of the shanty. Plenty of fisherman still burned wood in oil drums or barbecues out here, despite the state ban, and it wasn’t unusual to see smoke puffing out the tops of these huts when they were occupied.

Before she had time to wonder how many people might be inside the hut, a man swung the rusty door open on its hinges and stepped outside.

“Juneau Police, Sgt. Weathers,” she called. “Are you aware there’s a body beneath the ice over here?”

“Say again?” the man called, holding a hand up to his left ear. “I’m a little deaf.”

Sheila gripped her pistol in its holster and continued to advance toward the man in the shack. There was no reason to assume the fisherman had anything to do with the body she'd just found, but then again, there was no reason to assume he hadn’t.

“I said, there’s a body over here. How long have you been camped out here, sir?”

“About three days now, I reckon,” he replied. The heavy beard on his face made it difficult for Sheila to decide whether he was telling the truth. “A body, you say?”

“Yes. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about this, would you, Mr...”

“Thompson. Matt Thompson,” he said, ducking back into the shack.

“Mr. Thompson?” Sheila called, peering into the dimly lit building.

Sheila drew her weapon, but Thompson was faster. He struck a blow with a large, blunt object that sent her skidding across the ice.

Sheila’s head ached, and her vision swam with pale blue stars as she fought to get to her feet. Her pistol had disappeared in the quickly fading light, and she felt about for it frantically.

“I’ll ask the questions around here, Sergeant,” she heard Thompson growl.

He grabbed her by the back of her neck and began pulling her toward the shack. She kicked her boots against the ice, struggling against him, desperate to wrench herself free. She could smell the acrid stench of kerosene mixed with blood as he dragged her across the threshold, and then everything went black.

BIO: Laura Roberts is the author of Rebels of the 512, the best satirical novel you’ll ever read about pirates, ninjas and evil politicians in Austin, Texas. Find out more online at

Monday, April 9, 2012

Interlude Stories: Bruce Harris


She wore short shorts, sneakers, white socks and a tank top. No bra. Her blonde ponytail rested on Mr. Perfect’s broad shoulder. He was at least a foot taller than she. They listened as I stood next to my Saturn, explaining my actions to a cop whose shined shirt pocket nametag read Ortiz. He nodded. “Go on.”

“Like I was saying. I was out of milk and Stephanie, that’s my wife, asked me to head to the grocery store for a gallon. I was steering my car with one hand, trying to find the Cubs game on the radio with the other, and then I saw her.” I pointed to No Bra Girl. “Jogging, blonde ponytail bouncing up and down, but no one in hell was looking at that, especially me. Excuse my bluntness, but even Stevie Wonder can see, she isn’t wearing a bra, and her boobs were practically hanging out of that loose fitting top, smacking her face with every step. Damn.”

I paused for a second, but Ortiz kept staring at me. The couple seemed to hug each other tighter.

“I slowed down the Saturn, maximizing the time I had to admire her, my prurient thoughts raging. I shifted my gaze into the side view mirror as I passed her. I’m still watching her ass as she slowly jogs out of my life, then suddenly I see a black pickup truck pull up alongside her. She stops and peers into the truck’s window, and in an instant, she’s gone! Shit. I just watched some guy drag her into his truck. I do an immediate U-turn, and head for the pickup truck. At first, I can only see the driver, but seconds later, I see her blonde head, but it quickly disappears again. From my vantage point about 500 feet away, it appears as though they’re struggling. I floor it. I think the bastard is hitting her as he speeds up, but I’m not letting him out of my sight. I catch a break, as his truck has to slow down because of traffic. He swerves right to avoid a UPS truck, and I can see him looking back at me through his rearview mirror. I give him the finger. I smack into the truck’s rear bumper, and again the guy looks back at me. He’s cursing. I slam into him again. Now, she’s in sight, staring at me. She looks petrified. She’s screaming something, but I can’t make it out. He’s shouting, too. I’m playing bumper cars with this fucker’s, excuse my language, truck, but I’m not really playing. The radio is between stations, so I shut the damn thing and reach for my cell phone and dial 911. Before it connects, I hear your siren and see your flashing red lights approaching. Someone else must have called you. Within minutes, you cut him off, and here we are, all three vehicles are stopped on the side of the road. Good, I figured, now the bastard’s going to get what he deserves.”

“Boy, am I glad you came in time, officer. This fucking guy is crazy. Look what he’s done to the back of my truck! He nearly drove us off the fucking road.” Ortiz looked away from Perfect Man toward the damaged vehicle and shook his head.

“Watch you language, sir. Keep it civil.” He turned to me. “Do you have anything else to say?”

“Officer, I watched this guy pull this young lady off the street against her will. I was just trying to stop him and help her, you know, trying to be a Good Samaritan and all that. That’s the truth.” The policeman looked at the couple with raised eyebrows.

Now it was Braless’s turn. Pointing to me, “This guy is out of his mind.” The perfect couple hugged again. “This is my boyfriend, officer. We were just having a little fun playing a game, keeping things exciting between us. It was nothing more than a little harmless sex skit we were acting out. The next thing we know, this nut is ramming the back of our truck. I called 911 and thank goodness you showed up.”

A moment later, a second squad car pulled up. A black cop named Brown sauntered over, said, “Whatcha got, Ortiz?”

Ortiz motioned to the couple. “This guy was harassing this young woman. Get him the hell out of my sight, Terry.”

I watched two jaws simultaneously drop. Before either could say a word, Officer Brown escorted a handcuffed Perfect Body into the back seat of his police cruiser and drove off.

“What the hell are you doing?” shouted Ponytail. “That’s my boyfriend!”

Officer Ortiz slapped first her face and then cuffs on her wrists. He pushed her into the backseat of his car. “Get in there and shut up. You, Good Samaritan,” he pointed to me, “in the front seat.”

“Are you crazy? What the hell do you think you’re doing? I want a lawyer!” Ms. Boobs in the backseat was crying.

Shit, a lawyer was going to help her about as much as the boogey man was going to scare Ortiz. Ortiz was as crooked as an arthritic finger. I’d seen his type plenty of times. We left the sobbing blonde in the locked police car as we belted down close to a dozen cold ones at a local tavern. Ortiz told me shit I didn’t want to hear about his childhood and stepfather. After nearly two hours, he grabbed a fistful of peanuts and said, “Let’s go!” We were both drunk. He had trouble opening the patrol car’s rear door, stuffed his face with nuts, loosened his belt and grabbed the girl. Spitting peanut shells, he said, “If you say a word about this to anyone, you’ll think this was Christmas morning compared to what I’ll do to your boyfriend.” Ortiz undid her handcuffs and positioned himself inches away from her face. His uniform pants dropped. “You know what to do!” She did. When Ortiz screamed “Yes!” the poor bastard was too drunk to notice Blondie had removed his gun with her newly freed hands. She fired. Twice.

BIO: Bruce Harris is the author of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: ABout Type ( and a chapbook, The Man and the Mark (