Monkey House: Chapter 4



4

We’d rescued Becker from an animal shelter without knowing much about his history, but the caretakers had assured us he was a mild-mannered dog. After we’d had him for several months, I’d begun to think they’d undersold him. He was far less excitable than the labs my parents had when I was a kid. And while he looked a bit like a lab, it was clear there was some German shepherd in our mutt as well.

I stared at Becker, watching him bark. I tried to remember the last time I’d seen him do it, and I could not.

Had I ever seen him bark?

I found Becker far more convincing than Fuzzball. I shook my head, afraid I was being taken in, but also not wanting to risk I was wrong. I pointed towards the house.

“Come along. Are you—” I’d been about to ask if he were housebroken but it seemed rude, so I didn’t bring it up. “Becker,” I clapped a hand against my side, pretending like I’d lost my train of thought. “Come!”

We were almost to the door when Fuzzball jumped at a breaking branch. A cat sauntered by in the flower bed right next to our home. It stopped atop one of the railroad ties we used to contain the soil and looked at us, its tail flicking back and forth. Becker growled but he wasn’t looking at the cat, he had his head twisted around to look at the field. He was oblivious to the feline.

When the cat hissed, Becker jumped and went into a barking frenzy. Becker gave chase as the cat disappeared behind the house. I attributed the break in his demeanor to whatever was spooking him in the cornfield.

“Stop! Come on.” The dog halted, but only reluctantly, whining after the cat until he looked back at the cornfield and renewed his barking. “Get inside.” I twisted the knob and pushed open the door.

I felt better once it was deadbolted behind us, even though I was sure there was nothing to worry about. As I looked out the peephole, I noticed how close Fuzzball stood beside me. He seemed to want protection, but I was painfully aware of what I’d just done, and more importantly, what my wife would think when she found out.

I ground my teeth, wishing Marjorie were here to meet this creature. Chances were good she wouldn’t have dealt with the odd situation as well as I—she would have chased Fuzzball away with whatever she had on hand—but after she had gotten past her initial shock, there were things she would have noticed that I had not.

“Come on.” I clomped up the stairs with Becker on my heels, he seemed to have accepted Fuzzball but was still growling quietly, as if in protest. “You coming?”

Fuzzball looked at me, the intelligence in his eyes unmistakable, before scampering up the stairs on all fours. I was surprised he hadn’t walked up on two feet but didn’t see anything significant in it, one way or another.

I was on my own for dinner but wasn’t hungry because my stomach was tied up in knots. When I’d heard the howl, I had worried about what a wolf might do to Fuzzball. But having him inside my home was a completely different side of the equation, one I wasn’t so sure I was happy about. Sure, Fuzzball looked harmless enough, but why had I accepted the premise of a talking animal so readily?

That sort of thing just didn’t happen. And I’d invited it through the front door.

Yes, I was going to be in serious trouble when the wife came home.

I’d always told my associates that things are never as they seem, that they must doubt everything, no matter how believable. Yet, I’d accepted Fuzzball as what he was the moment he’d opened his mouth and said hello.

I pointed to the living room. “Wait here.” Becker went over to his usual spot on the rug and faced the window, looking in the same direction as the cornfield. I wanted to tell Becker to keep an eye on things, but my dog had already accepted Fuzzball at my urging, so there was little he would do unless Fuzzball did something to warrant his attention in my absence.

Fuzzball looked around with a shrug. “Sure thing.”

I went upstairs to the second floor, stopping at a window on the stairs that looked out over our neighbor’s cornfield. What had caught Becker’s attention? Perhaps it had just been a squirrel, or, worst-case scenario, a wolf.

Becker’s reaction alone was hardly instructive, but I couldn’t ignore how he hadn’t noticed a cat until it had been close enough to scratch him.

I didn’t see anything that concerned me, but I hesitated, wondering if I should really do what I was going to do. Perhaps I was overreacting.

The wind rustled the old willow tree just outside the window, and the branches rubbed up against the house. Marjorie had been getting after me to prune the tree all summer, but I hadn’t yet found the time.

I slowly let out a breath before going up the rest of the way and into our room. I knelt beside the bed.

Despite living in the country as a boy, and having grown up shooting all sorts of rifles with my father, I’d never taken to it in quite the same way as my brother.

Even now, it had been a year since I’d last pulled out my Ruger Mini-14. I furrowed my brow when I only saw cobwebs and dust bunnies under the bed, not the case in which I stored my rifle.

I was confident I’d returned it after the last time I’d shot it. Had Marjorie moved it without telling me? She hadn’t been happy when I’d brought it home, but I’d been firm that we needed it if we were going to live in the country. She’d eventually relented.

Or so I thought.

“Or my brain is starting to go,” I muttered, giving my wife the benefit of the doubt. “Wonder if that’s why I have a talking bear cub in my living room.”

I rubbed my back as I stood, wishing I’d thought to put something between my knees and the hardwood floor. It wasn’t so long ago that kneeling wasn’t painful, but now I’d feel the consequences of my actions for several hours.

As I descended the stairs, I once again looked out the window, the final light of day a moment or two away from completely disappearing.

Probably better I didn’t find it anyway, I thought, wondering if the animal I’d let into the house was even real. Perhaps there was a logical reason why Becker hadn’t been as bothered about Fuzzball as he should have been.

Maybe the talking bear didn’t exist.

Something from the cornfield caught my eye.

Shapes were moving through the shoulder high crop. They were headed directly towards my home.

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Monkey House: Chapter 3


3

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.” I gave Fuzzball a suspicious look, wondering if he could tell I was having a difficult time believing him. He was too busy looking around to notice my reaction, the franticness of his actions also made me look about uneasily. It was best if Becker and I parted with Fuzzball here and now, but the level of concern on his face was disconcerting.  

“We have to get inside. I can answer your questions then.”

Becker growled. As I raised my hand to signal that he should settle down, I noticed he wasn’t looking at Fuzzball. He was focused on my neighbor’s corn field.

What had gotten into him?

Fuzzball bounced up and down, his child-like face torn in fear. I inhaled, my insides turning to ice. I couldn’t leave Fuzzball out here, not like this. Every instinct in my body prevented me from doing it. Yet, I knew full well that unless I was in a courtroom, having previously spent hours reviewing depositions and evidence, that I was susceptible to deception.

Marjorie always said I couldn’t tell the difference between a thief and a priest. Unfortunately, she was right, so I’d learned to be careful of situations that required I make immediate decisions. I had just learned the hard way too many times.

That was part of why I’d become a litigator. My job had rarely required fast decisions. There was almost always time to think and reflect on a particular issue.

Fuzzball quaked, still looking around like a scared rabbit as if he were about to dash off in any direction at the slightest provocation.

Whether it was based on something real or not, his fear looked genuine. 

“Answer them now,” I said, trying to keep my agitation from showing in my voice.

“They’re after me, and they’ll get you too. We are running out of time. I’ll only answer your questions once we’re inside.”

I shook my head and was about to tell him to leave when Becker started barking.

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Monkey House: Chapter 2




2

I looked around, thinking somebody else had come onto our property, but even as I did, I knew I was in denial. I’d seen the bear move its mouth.   

“Hello!” The creature waved the paw in a decidedly human fashion. “I’m right here, pal, talking to you.”

With great reluctance, and wondering if somebody had slipped something into my lunch, I looked at the bear, fumbling for what I might say. I cautiously took another step backward.

Was this a sign of dementia?

My father had died at ninety-eight with full use of his mental faculties. My grandfather on the other side had reached his mid-eighties and had been sharp until the day he died.  

“I’m sorry,” I said carefully, fearing I’d misread the situation. Perhaps this was a badly malformed human. If so, he might understand my surprise, he probably received it all the time. My kinder instincts came into play. “You just caught me off guard, hiding behind the lilac bush and all.”

I smiled wanly.

The creature came entirely into the open, revealing that the rest of him did, in fact, look like a bear. The only thing even close to human was its face and the fact it walked on two legs, apparently with ease.

“I need to hide,” it said. “Do you have someplace I can go?” It looked at my house.

Even though it looked helpless, I hesitated. Marjorie was off in town for most the night and I was alone. If this creature had malintent, I wanted to make sure my wife wasn’t left wondering what had happened to me.

“What are you hiding from?” As I asked the question, I looked at my watch and noticed there were only a few minutes of daylight left. The sky still had plenty of light so it was difficult to conceive that twenty minutes from now it would be dark. I rarely had, if ever, noticed the setting sun in the city.

“You don’t want to know,” he said. At least, I was starting to think of it as a he. I avoided looking between his legs to determine gender. It seemed the polite thing to do even though it appeared to be mostly animal. “Trust me, it really is better you don’t know.”

I shook my head. “I’m not one who is opposed to giving a little help, but this is sudden and I’d rather like to know what I’m getting into if you wouldn’t mind.”  

It strained my mind to be polite to the creature, but it seemed the civil thing to do.

He nodded in a distinctly human fashion, making my other desires for empathy want to kick in even more. Perhaps I had been too quick to judge. He could think and speak. If I were ever put under oath, I would have to testify he seemed self-aware.

A howl cut through the warm evening air and it was like the little ball of fur had been hit with a jolt of lightning. He bounded up and turned, sniffing the air while looking every which way.

“She let them out already?” He shook his head. “Oh man, this is not good. This is not good. She never lets them out before sunset. Never. I thought I had more time.”

“That’s nothing to worry about,” I said, assuming he was afraid of the wolves. “I haven’t had any problems since they were reintroduced.”

The fuzzball shook his head, reminding me of an earnest little boy.

Dang it all, I could imagine Marjorie saying, her voice brooking no discussion. Some half-beast thing shows up on our property, and you start assigning human emotions to it.

“Listen, listen,” Fuzzball said, his voice turning into a high-pitched squeak. “Those aren’t wolves and we need to get inside!”

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Monkey House: Chapter 1

1

The bird cried out in alarm. I looked up from my lawnmower, right into the setting sun as it squawked once more before flying from its perch atop the shoulder-high lilac bush on the outer edge of my property.

I furrowed my brow as I covered my eyes with an arm. The evening air was still. Was it a fox? Maybe a skunk? Maybe one of the feral cats I always found. My dog Becker lay in the nearby grass that I hadn’t yet mowed and he too raised his head in curiosity, carefully sniffing the air.

The day had been hot, and despite the late hour, it was no less warm than it had been just a couple of hours previous. I released my hold on the mower, letting go of the handle so that it killed the engine. I kept an eye out for the source of the disturbance as I walked to where I’d left a water bottle sitting on the hood of my old Ford truck. Becker continued to test the breeze, and I noticed movement in the lilac bush as I put the bottle to my lips and took a swallow.

The bush rustled again as I finished another swallow and wiped my mouth on the back of my hand.

Becker was up on all fours by that time, a low, menacing growl escaping from his throat. This was as excited as he usually got.

“Quiet, Becks.” I made a snapping sound with my fingers, and he immediately shut up. After a moment of hesitation, I told him to stay, remembering a kitten I’d found climbing up a tree on the backside of our property last week.

Thinking that it might be a similar situation, I didn’t want Becker on my heels making things more difficult.

I walked towards the bush, swinging my water bottle on my finger, using the loop of plastic between the lid and the container to keep hold of it. It had been five years since Marjorie and I had retired and moved from the city. Not a day went by that I didn’t ask myself why we hadn’t done it sooner.

I’d thought the office had needed me, that they couldn’t do without me, but my retirement had been easier than I’d imagined.

I was four steps from the bush when the branches parted, and the head of a furry creature came out from behind. Becker barked when he saw the animal, which was surprising. He almost never barked.

“Hush,” I said, snapping my fingers again. Becker sat back on his haunches, but he became more agitated, whining as he waited. I ignored the noise, taking it as a sign he was trying to be good. 

At first glance, I thought the animal was a bear cub. It was brown and about the right size, but the more I looked I realized something was off.

It wasn’t uncommon to get wildlife wandering across our three acres, but it was usually a rabbit or a fox. Sometimes a few deer. It was the first I could recall seeing a bear, or for that matter a bear cub.

I automatically took a step backward when it looked at me.

Its face was distorted. The snout was too small, and it appeared to have human skin through the blonde fur. “Help!”

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New Short Story: Monkey House

I have a new short story out today: “Monkey House.” Here is the book description:

Retired lawyer Tom Tate is just about to call it a night when an impossible creature comes out of the bush and asks for help. It is convinced they are in danger. Tom, despite his better judgment, allows the creature in the house.

His house is shortly attacked by burly monsters that look like monkey-ape hybrids, demanding he turn over the strange creature. 

The monsters can’t just talk, some are as intelligent at Tom Tate. 

Tom Tate must use his wits to escape the clutches of these menacing monsters as he tries to understand the unexpected situation and how he should respond. If you like monster stories that push the bounds of your imagination, this story is for you. Fans of Planet of the Apes, the Island of Doctor Moreau, and Michael Crichton’s Next will enjoy this yarn. 

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Sneak Peek

Fuzzball ran from a window to a far corner as I entered. One of the ape-monkey creatures stood in the broken window, a foot lazily hanging over the edge while a hand was propped up on the inside for balance.

Becker’s barking appeared to be the only thing that kept it from entering. It blinked at the barking dog.

“Watcha doing?” came a voice from below. “Go on, get in.”

The creature hissed. “There’s a dog that will bite me the moment I touch the floor.”

I swung my ax, catching the haft in my hand. If there could be a talking bear cub, why not talking monkeys? Had Marjorie slipped something into my diet Coke before heading out for the evening? I was starting to feel like I’d been transported into a bizarre reality, with wild animals that could mimic human speech patterns.

“Flee, you tormentor!” cried Fuzzball from the corner. “Death take you.” Strong words from a small cowering creature who had no way of fighting.

I glanced at Fuzzball and did a double take, he had his paws up, four-inch claws were extended. His teeth were bared, giving me a clear view for the first time. They could have chomped my arm in half. He was also standing straight on his two feet, rising well above my waist. He looked much more dangerous than when I had first met him.

I took several steps into the room, brandishing my ax as if it were a club or a baseball bat. Its handle felt familiar and was comforting. I used it every day during the winter to chop wood.

“Look here,” I shouted. “This is no place for a brawl.” I motioned with my ax at the creature. “You can leave the way you came. Take your friends with you. I won’t charge you for the window.”

He let out a barking laugh. “Petey, you got to get up in here, there’s a fleshbag with an ax who thinks he’s going to scare me.”

“Move, move, Regey! You need help.” This was a third voice. I guessed there were five, maybe six. I hadn’t counted the shadows.

For as fierce as the monsters looked, they sounded like teenage boys who were skipping school for the first time to have a little fun.

I took umbrage at being referred to as a fleshbag, but I thought of them as talking monkeys, so perhaps it was only fair.

“Call off your dog,” Regey said, looking at me with a mocking smile. 

Pick up your copy today!

Blood Games – Episode 16



This week’s episode features a chapter from Blood Games, Jake Ramsey Book #3, the first book Black Brick is available as a free ebook from most ebook vendors. Here is an excerpt from the show:  

KRIS WASN’T HARD TO find, but I had to circle the DataRader headquarters to do it. I had become antsy, and just as I was about to take out my phone, I spotted her SUV.

Within a stone’s throw from the entrance to the parking garage.

She shouldn’t have parked so close. I shook my head, muttering under my breath before I thought better of it. I looked around, in case somebody was close enough to have picked me up on Spectrum, and was relieved the nearest man was a block away.

Kris couldn’t have chosen a closer or more prominent place to monitor the entrance of the parking garage. She might as well have hung a sign. I’d been careful at the DataRader compound to park several blocks back to decrease the chances of us being spotted. It should have been a given she do the same here.

Perhaps fatigue was affecting her decisions.

More likely she just doesn’t believe Reed is involved in all this, I thought. Or worse she has less experience with this sort of thing than I’ve given her credit for.

Now that was a scary thought.

I was glad I’d taken the time to fix my disguise before coming to find her. I’d even added a piece of latex to my chin in hopes of fooling FaceRec. I’d done a bad job of it but hadn’t wanted to waste time to fix it. I figured the dark would cover up most of it. If anybody noticed they’d assume it was a scar. The goal was to throw off FaceRec. I planned to put a bandage over it once the sun came up.

Letting out a quiet breath, I stepped into the shadows while I observed Kris. Even with my disguise, I didn’t want to get any closer. I located the security cameras. The most obvious were at the entrances, but a place as big as the DataRader headquarters would have them all over. The cameras I saw were focused on the parking garage entrance. There was a chance she was far enough back to not be on video, but it was slight.



Blood Games – Episode 15



This week’s episode features a chapter from Blood Games, Jake Ramsey Book #3, the first book Black Brick is available as a free ebook from most ebook vendors. Here is an excerpt from the show:  

I SHIELDED MY EYES with a hand as I came around the corner and took in the scene before me. I had expected to come face to face with a wall of flame but found the explosions were blocked from view because they were coming from the far end of the compound. The crashing thunder echoed through the city street causing my hands to go to my ears.

The people in the parking lot ran as the explosions moved closer. The guard was late in swinging open the gate and a handful had begun to climb. Most hopped off when they noticed it was moving, but one man continued to the top and went over. Through the chaos I could barely hear a horn as cars came up behind the people.

I feared a large pickup truck in the front was about to run over a large swath of people but at the last second, those in the rear noticed the driver wasn’t slowing and got out of the way. One of the men could have had a hip clipped by the truck as it sped by but I wasn’t certain.

I shook my head as I watched from my place of safety. At least the guard hadn’t run and was trying oversee the evacuation, little good though he did. The fool should have listened to me and sounded the alert when I warned him. By the looks of things I assumed he had run a fire drill, that would explain why the people had congregated in the parking lot. It had at least given them a fighting chance of outrunning the explosions.

The guard had his rifle out, but it was pointed in the air as he waved his free hand at the truck while it zoomed out the gate. The vehicles behind came next, heedless of the guard but most taking care to avoid those on foot. 

Even with my hands over my ears, I could tell the explosions were coming closer. They’d been going for a full thirty seconds and didn’t show any signs of slowing.

 

Blood Games – Episode 14



This week’s episode features a chapter from Blood Games, Jake Ramsey Book #3, the first book Black Brick is available as a free ebook from most ebook vendors. Here is an excerpt from the show: 

AS I STARED OUT at Reed’s compound something clicked in my mind and it all came together. I understood why Reed was having the fake me target DataRader.

It was about the kids.

He was trying to convince them they were my next targets. It was so obvious I wondered why I hadn’t put it together before. Reed had probably planned on this from the beginning, he’d just escalated the timing after I’d shot Sam.

Reed had been only too happy to turn Sam into a martyr. Even though I’d taken one of his best men out of play, I doubted Reed saw it that way. My gut told me he’d just zeroed in on the opportunity Sam’s death had presented.

I took a deep breath and let it out. While Reed was a great Beltran admirer, it looked like he wasn’t following the playbook completely. The children knew they worked for DataRader.

Reed wasn’t repeating Beltran’s mistake of setting up a shell company. Perhaps he figured that trying to convert me to Diggon is where Beltran had gone wrong.

The problem with Beltran and Reed was that they didn’t understand the human connection. They thought they could move people around like pawns on a chessboard, never giving a second thought to what they were thinking or feeling.

They lacked empathy, the ability to view things from another’s perspective.

War of the Fathers Box Set

I recently released a box set for War of the Fathers that includes War of the Fathers, Lord of the Inferno, Enemy in the Shadows, and Blood of the Redd Guard. You can find it here.

After twenty years of war, the aliens left them in ruins.

They had no defense when the aliens returned a thousand years later.

War of the Fathers

Adar Rahid and his son Jorad have been on the run for fifteen years, chased by servants of Adar’s father who are intent on finding and killing Adar. Even while a fugitive, Adar continues to search for the secrets of their forefathers because he fervently believes that an ancient alien race known as the Hunwei are about to attack. When Adar stumbles upon large cloaked creatures in the woods, he determines that the Hunwei have returned and that drastic action must be taken. Readers are taken on an adventure as the Hunwei attack while a father and son struggle to find a way to fight back in this tale of epic fantasy and science fiction. This action packed story is the first volume in the War of the Fathers series. Buy your copy today! 

Lord of the Inferno

Immediately after Adar Rahid activates an ancient weapon that kills the Hunwei in Zecarani, he discovers the Hunwei have humans fighting for them. As he fights these traitors and tries to capture his wife’s murderer, he finds death waiting for him wherever he turns. After Adar kills a human in Hunwei armor, he realizes he still doesn’t know the full extent of the Hunwei technological capabilities. His blood boiling with rage over the death of his wife, he barely thinks about the consequences as he rushes after her murderer. 

Enemy in the Shadows

The fate of many rests on Jorad Rahid’s shoulders as he arrives in Rarbon to make his claim, something he swore never to do. As he faces new enemies and old, he is thrust into a position of responsibility that brings unforeseen difficulties that threaten his life, direct reports he cannot trust, and a bureaucratic process that is likely to drive him mad if it doesn’t leave him dead. As he navigates these problematic waters, he faces off with a jealous grandfather in a political battle for which he is ill-prepared. Hoping to spark a fire in the people of Rarbon, Jorad boldly asserts that the Hunwei have returned, but his words are met with disbelief and open hostility. As he strives to find a way to convince the people of the truth, he becomes impatient with those who stand between him and the Rarbon Portal.

BONUS NOVEL: Blood of the Redd Guard

Adar Rahid has only been a general for two months, but his problems are already multiplying. He has his hands full with a father who wants to kill him and Helam Morgol, another general who is secretly laying plans to take over the Rarbon city government. 

If you love science fiction and fantasy, these four action packed novels are for you. Buy your copy today!

Sneak Peak:

The leaves rustled with the breeze and flashes of moonlight splashed onto Adar’s face as the movement of the trees created gaps above them. Jorad was surprised to see that Adar was calm, even contemplative. He would have expected Adar to be anxious and afraid, given that the thing he’d been paranoid about for years had finally happened.

“We have to get to Rarbon,” Adar whispered as he stared at the place where the Hunwei had disappeared.

Jorad made a face but didn’t speak. He could still smell the Hunwei even though they were gone. It was a musky stench mixed with rotting flesh. He sniffed trying to imprint the smell on his memory. The return of the Hunwei changed everything. Adar hadn’t expressed the sentiment yet, but Jorad knew that their time in Neberan had come to a close. His second thought was that he’d have to reevaluate his decision about returning to Rarbon to make a claim.

“The Rarbon Portal is our best chance now.” Adar stared at Jorad.

There was a loud boom of thunder and the ship disappeared. 

This book features three full length novels in the War of the Fathers universe and another full length bonus prequel novel, pick up yours today!

Blood Games – Episode 13



This week’s episode features a chapter from Blood Games, Jake Ramsey Book #3, the first book Black Brick is available as a free ebook from most ebook vendors. Here is an excerpt from the show: 

MY HANDS BURNED LIKE they were on fire. Ripping my eyes away from the children, I looked at them and realized I had balled them into fists and that they were shaking and numb. Even though my nails dug into the palms of my one hand and the edges of the monocular cut into the other, I barely felt them. I stretched them several times to get the blood flowing as the wind blew across my forehead, freezing the sweat that had formed during my run.

It took every bit of my resolve to not hop the fence and charge after the kids. It wasn’t just anger that drove me. No, it was also guilt.

I was ashamed that I’d let my focus be so drawn by Sam back at Reading Market that I’d hadn’t thought of the children until after they’d disappeared.

They’d been right there, within my grasp, and I’d let them escape. I sometimes tried to blame Sam for that, but it had been my mistake. Seeing them with Reed made me realize that in a way I had not yet been willing to come to terms with. 

I backed away until I was out of view of the compound. Once I was sure I wouldn’t be seen I booked it up a couple of blocks before running flat out to where I’d left Kris. Reed and the others were moving quickly, I doubted I’d make it back in time.

My foot caught on something and I went down. Hard. Luckily, my reflexes were good and I broke my fall with my palms and kept my head from slamming into the concrete. I slid on my side as I skidded forward. Grabbing hold of a bench that I’d narrowly missed, and ignoring the flare of pain in my hands, I leapt to my feet and pushed ahead, a little slower and watching more carefully.

 

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