Justice Shall Be Served, an anthology.
You ever get tired of seeing things going so bad that you make a stand? I did. And I’m happy I did. You guys know I’m a Deputy Sheriff and I am proud of my profession. Hoping to shed some positive light on law enforcement, corrections, and our military, I developed a plan to collect/write short stories in these professions and put them together in an anthology. The proceeds will be used to help the families of fallen officers and military members.
The political and public image of what law enforcement and our military is and does in the United States is under continual scrutiny. It will likely always be this way. Certain recent events such as what occurred in New York, Ferguson, Florida, and Arizona, have ignited passionate and heated discussions, violent protesting, and in some cases, rioting and the loss of life. When the President of the United States forms a committee to provide insight as to what needs to be changed within law enforcement, everyone, including cops, should to take notice.
Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the people who distrust the police, are irritated by police, and sadly, hunt and kill police, have no idea what the job entails. We can’t afford to hand out badges and a gun, pat you on the back, and send you on your way…those things are earned, just as respect should be.
In this collection of short stories, both fiction and non-fiction, the reader will read first-hand accounts of what we do and why we do it. The stories are candid and are meant to promote thought. Just as I have no idea what it takes to be a school teacher, trucker, or computer programmer, most of you reading this currently have no idea what it means to work in law enforcement. That’s to be expected. However, keep an open mind and read the stories. They provide a glimpse into the profession you might not ever thought possible. Change is certainly needed, but not just by law enforcement, but from all of us.
You should know we love our profession and the people we serve. The majority of men and women serving our communities are caring and strive to do right each and every shift and deployment. We care about life and swear to protect and serve our communities.
Bold writing requires bold readers. This body of work will not be easy to read at times, but, should you have the courage to forge on, allow the words to be digested, you may find an inner peace. After all, we bleed red just like you.
Day I Die
The bullet grazed my temple searing the fine hair while leaving a thin blood trail trickling down my cheek. Instinctively I dove for cover behind a vehicle and reached for my handgun. What the hell just happened? I scanned the alley for the shooter and checked the wound. The ambient light from the street corner pole revealed fresh blood, my blood, and I decided at that very moment today was not the day I die. There was no image of my wife or kids flashing in my mind. I didn’t say a prayer or give up. Nope, all I saw was a poorly lit alley and all I wanted to do was kill the son of a bitch who’d just ambushed me. My heartbeat pounded in my chest and I exhaled after realizing I’d been holding my breath.
“Come on out ‘piggy!'” yelled the suspect. He fired off more rounds wildly in my direction. It was a catastrophic mistake for him. Now, based on his voice and the muzzle flash, I knew almost precisely where he was hiding. The only problem was I didn’t have a clear shot. I reached for my radio microphone to request cover units. My dive had crushed it, but the emergency button was lit indicating it still had power. I pressed it with my non-gun hand. My exact location was relayed to dispatch. Gotta love GPS, I thought.
“Listen buddy, the troops are coming! Give up and save yourself,” I answered back figuring there was no chance in hell this deranged lunatic would likely follow my lawful order. And, I felt secure in my hiding spot since I wasn’t getting hit by his sporadic gunfire.
“Fuck em’ all! I’ll get as many of you pricks as I can before I let you end it all for me!” Again he fired off more rounds at me. I cringed and fired back when my brain registered his statement. It’s a damn suicide by cop, and I have no way to warn my backup. I was instantly deflated because a lost soul was going to die.
“You don’t need to do this, put down the gun and we’ll work this out.” I felt a strong sense of trying to help him even though he was trying to kill me. Sounds weird, but it’s what we do. Plus, he had me pinned down and desperation forced me to try to negotiate. I was also trying to buy some time, albeit it I chose to try to rationalize with a man I knew clearly was not thinking straight. He responded with a flurry of bullets. Guess he’s not looking for help, he’s looking for death.
I peered under the vehicle I was hiding behind and could see he was basically trapped at the end of the alley. Solid structures surrounded him, except he could get free if he came right by me, and that wasn’t happening. This was going down in the industrial area of town, which meant my cover cars, even full lights and sirens would be a bit before they made it. As I contemplated my next move I felt a sharp burning pain in my shoulder as one of his careless rounds hit me. I yelled out in pain and rolled over on my back. Are you kidding me, a damn ricochet! The pain was unbearable, like a thousand needles gouging at an open wound, but I had to continue. I inched closer behind a wheel and squeezed the trigger slowly and methodically while aiming at the area his muzzle flashes were coming from. The sound was deafening while dust and debris flew into my eyes. Where the hell is my backup?
I combat reloaded my firearm with my last magazine and tried to listen. My ears ringed making it difficult to hear. The wound in my shoulder throbbed and I could see it was bleeding badly. I strained to hear something as I considered, only briefly, that I might not survive this ordeal. I counted rounds that I’d shot in my head and realized I was almost out. I glanced at my patrol vehicle. It was out in the open. If I made a move for it, the suspect would have a clear shot at me.
In a sadistic voice the suspect said, “Is that all you got? Boy, I served in the U. S. A. Marines!” He fired a couple of rounds, “you ain’t shit!” I rolled my eyes and was pissed because obviously I hadn’t hit him with my bullets and it seemed like all I was doing was making him more mad. Compounding the issue was he’d just said he was a marine. I’d read how these guys suffer from PTSD and no one in the government wants to acknowledge or talk about it. These guys feel helpless, many times they are, and now one of them wants me and all my friends dead. A sick mind is caustic.
“Of all the luck,” I huffed under my breath. I gotta do something, I thought.
I pleaded, “Man, you don’t need to do this! We’ll get you help, just throw down the gun and come out with your hands up.” I felt awkward trying to reason with him, but I didn’t see another option. My training and overwhelming need to help people kicked in. I struggled with what I should do next. Then I wondered how I was going to pull it off. And then I heard it. Police sirens. About damn time, I thought as my eyes lit up.
“You don’t know shit! Sounds like my welcoming party is almost here! I’ll see you assholes in hell!” He fired a whole magazine toward me. Bullets slammed into the car that I was using as cover and the bricks to my right causing them to explode. I tried to return fire but felt helpless. Then the shooting stopped. I assumed he was reloading. In the eerie silence, two police cruisers skidded to a halt behind me and positioned their cars to block the alley.
“Suicide by cop! My radio’s busted, I need medics!” I yelled at the two guys jumping out from their patrol cars. It’s a situation in which shooting and killing someone is justified, but I thought if it were me, I would want to know the situation as well. “One shooter, far end on the left, heavily armed,” I wanted to say more, but the suspect began shooting at the two officers, pelting their cars with rounds. They had to return fire in an effort to stop the threat and find better cover. I looked at my arm and could see the bleeding had clotted and it had gone numb.
With the shooter concentrated on them, I finally had an opening. I tried to push myself up to get to my patrol car, but my wounded arm buckled. With my gun still aimed down the alley, I managed to sort of roll over and get up. I wrangled my keys from my duty pants and was able to get the car trunk open. I could see my less than lethal shotgun, but bypassed it for an assault rifle. We were taking rounds and I was injured. I grabbed and slung the shotgun, maybe, just maybe, I thought, this guy can be saved.
More police cars flooded the area. The suspect continued firing from behind a dumpster. He was shooting at me and the other two officers in what seemed like a never-ending supply of bullets. The SWAT team was summoned, but the fact the guy was shooting randomly, at cops, I figured he wouldn’t last another couple of minutes. We stopped to reload and I froze because I could see the man walking out from behind the dumpster. He’d stopped shooting and I noticed he was wearing a ballistic vest. Then I saw the handgun in his right hand. He ripped off the ballistic vest revealing military fatigues. We made eye contact. I thought I’d see fear and sadness, or maybe confusion in his eyes. I was wrong. All I could see was utter rage. He winked at me and raised his gun. I could see an officer to my left who was having trouble with his gun and the suspect had him dead to rights. In a split second the suspect was going to kill him. Then suddenly, without thought just a reaction, boom! It was all over in an instant. I shot him and shook my head. I collapsed and lay on the street looking straight up at the stars. Slowly the sirens and barking dogs and spinning helicopter blades faded away. Then it was over.
Fourteen years ago I set out to write a novel. It wasn’t on my bucket list then, but after a few years it rose to the top because of how difficult it had become. I wrote and re-wrote my manuscript for Gray Ghost at least thirty (30) times, many of those coming AFTER I had a traditional publishing contract and was only a few months from the scheduled publication date. I had every opportunity to quit on this project, and if I shared with you how things went down when it came time for Gray Ghost to actually see print, you’d probably wonder why I didn’t just give up.
The thing is, I was raised by my parents and family NOT to give up. I used every single criticism and hundreds of rejection letters to push me. It forced me to write better, which is what it’s all about when you are an author. I studied my craft AND the industry and quickly realized writing, or more accurately, publishing, is a cut-throat business of very few HAVES and millions of HAVE-NOTS. Once I realized that, I was better suited to develop a plan of attack.
I will feature what I did to become a marginally successful author through a series of blogs on this site. I am not charging for this information. Everyone thinks I’m crazy for giving my ‘secrets’ away, but there is a method to my madness. So, this won’t be the first time I’m called crazy, nor will it be the last.
First, my modest stats:
Beginning on October 31, 2013, Gray Ghost reached #13 on the Amazon best sellers list (Kindle) for Crime Fiction, #41 for Amazon best sellers list (Kindle) for Mystery, and #48 Amazon best sellers list (Paperback) for Mystery. As of right now, it’s still ranked #48 on the Amazon best sellers list (Kindle) for Crime Fiction.
Second, my appreciation statement:
Thank you everyone who helped me reach my goal of becoming a best-selling author. I really hope I write the second book well enough to honor my fallen friend and that it sells like Gray Ghost has. Stay tuned for updates about the second book, Collectors, as I am as excited as all of you are for its release!!!
I appreciate everyone who has helped me. I’ll be doing a drawing sometime this week (after today when the sale ends), for FIVE lucky people to receive a signed copy of Collectors when it’s released!!
Third, the first tid-bit:
“FAKE AGENTS and PUBLISHERS:”
If you are reading this right now you are on the right path when it comes to promotion because you are on a social media site (WordPress) and you are trying to learn something to help you formulate a plan of your own for success. That’s the nice part, the not-so-nice-part is there are literally THOUSANDS of fake agents and fake publishers (traditional and self-pub) praying on your unbelievable need/want/desire to get published. So what do you do to prevent getting scammed?
First, you need to research the heck out of the agent or publisher. Start by running their name through Google’s search engine. If they don’t pop up, they could be new, but they could also be fake. Almost immediately you will see in your Google search results whether ANYONE has a complaint about the agent or publisher. Read those carefully. Many times a rejection letter will be the issue, not the legitimacy of the agent or publisher. Everyone thinks they can write and should be the next big thing. It stings when someone tells you otherwise (and even worse when the truth is you may not be a strong writer, yet).
Next, try to put a face and person to the name. This means you will need to meet up, face-to-face, with an agent or publisher. This can be done fairly easy at writing conferences. There is a much higher probability that someone saying s/he is an agent or publisher at a writing conference is in fact one or the other. This is the case usually because most cons are done over the internet and e-mail scams and other REAL agents and publishers tend to ferret out the impostors at these conferences.
Then ask OTHER writers, agents, and publishers (that you know are legitimate) if the person or agency you are researching is legitimate. Writers groups, on-line groups, bookstores, and other writers tend to be close-knit groups. Sort of like a neighborhood watch. So, bounce your thoughts off them to see what you can learn or what they think. If they give you a thumbs-up, then you can feel a little better about the important decision you are about to make.
Lastly, NEVER pay any money up-front. There are various costs associated to self-publishing which you will have to pay, but make sure you have a contract with a reputable publisher before you dole out cash. In addition, there should be no up-front costs to an author in a traditional contract. If a publisher says they need YOUR money for promotion and production costs, you should have red flags popping up. You need to read and re-read the contract you may have with the publisher. If, and I say this very lightly, the publisher has increased your royalty percentage it’s normally because they ARE NOT providing promotions for your book. So, why would they ask for money upfront for promotion if they are not (per the contract) promoting your book? All I’m trying to relate to you is don’t be so blinded by your desperate need to be published that you get sucked into a scam. It’s easier said than done, but I’m at least one person in your corner.
So, what we are doing here is building a strong foundation for your writing and getting you set up to move forward in the right direction so you can focus on your writing, not getting scammed before your work in progress ever sees print. Stay tuned for more tid-bits.
c. L. Swinney
The Sacrificial Lamb
An Excerpt From The Vesuvius Isotope
A teenaged couple was crossing the bridge in front of me, holding hands. I could hear the footsteps of the strange man behind me. Nobody else was in sight.
The street that led off into the seafood district was much darker than I had thought it would be. The only sound I could hear was the rhythmic lapping of the waves against the sides of the bridge, and their ebb and flow washed away my confidence that the restaurants would still be open.
The teenaged couple entered the castle through its arched opening. Instead of turning left and entering the seafood district, I followed them.
The man behind me followed as well.
The castle was wide open; there was no ticket booth of any kind. It appeared that one could just meander through at leisure. A stone walkway wound upward toward the top of the castle. Over the high wall bordering the walkway was a drop to the street of the seafood district below. The couple strolled up the path and I followed.
The walkway passed by a series of dungeons, and the couple faded slyly toward one of them. Wordlessly, the young man pushed his mate roughly against the bars of the gate barricading the dungeon and began kissing her with abandon. As he advanced from the girl’s mouth downward and began hungrily kissing her neck, she tipped her head back and caught my eye. His hand was snaking its way into her shirt. Her glance told me to get lost.
I ducked beneath an archway and began briskly climbing a staircase through a dimly lit passageway.
When I heard the footsteps behind me advance to keep pace with my own, I began to understand that I was not just being paranoid. This man had been following me from the start and was now deliberately staying only steps behind me.
I reached the top of the staircase and stepped under another archway. To my horror, I suddenly emerged onto a large terrace. It was open almost three hundred sixty degrees around and offered panoramic views of the Bay of Naples. Short, squat cannons pointed out in all directions through low openings in the waist-high stone wall. Beside them were small piles of cannonballs at the ready.
I ran toward a cannon and reached down for one of the cannonballs, but it was far too heavy for me to throw with any accuracy. I let it fall back onto the pile.
The only other object on the terrace was a spindly statue depicting a centaur-like creature. It stood a few feet from the stone wall, positioned as if the centaur was looking out over the water. The statue was clearly too thin to hide behind.
As I hurriedly scanned the expansive space, I realized all too clearly the purpose of it. This had been a formidable fortress. Both its location and its structure were perfect for the function. There was no way to sneak up on the inhabitants of this castle.
I quickly realized the irony of my situation. On the terrace of a two-thousand-year-old fortress designed to offer failsafe protection from invaders, I was suddenly completely exposed and simultaneously trapped. A wrong turn had traded the narrow, cryptic passageways of the castle for a sacrificial altar, and I was the lamb. Except for one skinny statue, there was nothing to hide behind and nowhere to go except back through the archway. And the man from the train station was coming through it.
I ran behind the statue. It provided abysmally thin protection, and the backward cocked head of the centaur suddenly seemed mocking.
The man emerged from the archway, and suddenly the darkness surrounding me was not nearly complete enough. I could see into his eyes. They still bore that same cold, emotionless expression.
“Katrina!” he said.
As if reeling from a physical blow, I scrambled backward until I felt the stone wall slam into my lower back. “What do you want?” I practically screamed.
“I have a message from Jeff!”
But his hand was reaching into his pocket, so I gripped the wall with both hands and jumped.
Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and long-time resident of San Diego, California. She lives with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. Please visit her websites at www.kristenelisephd.com and http://www.murderlab.com.
Back cover blurb for The Vesuvius Isotope:
When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that increasingly pervaded his behavior in recent weeks. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the esoteric life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague, introducing it into the twenty-first century.