Monday, February 28, 2011

"A Scarry Night" Flash Fiction Challenge

Welcome to "A Scarry Night" Flash Fiction Challenge posed by Patti Abbott. Recently, Patti overheard a conversation between a man and a woman. The woman said, "I really don't mind the scars." This became the inspiration behind this Flash Fiction Challenge -- to use that particular line in a story of 800 words or less.

For more entries, visit Patti's blog. Be sure to stop by Women of Mystery, where my blogmate, Anita Page, will post her entry in this flash fiction challenge.


He noticed the attractive twenty-something cashier the moment he walked into the store. She had long, curly brown hair and wore a red sweater that fit just perfectly. He pretended to look at the DVDs; but when their eyes met briefly, she blushed.

Another cashier relieved the pretty one.

She walked towards him. “Can I help you?”

"I’m trying to decide between Taken and Ransom."

"If you're into a kidnapping drama, I’d recommend Fargo, or possibly Raising Arizona -- an earlier work by the Coen brothers with a lot of laughs.”

“Thanks for the suggestions, uh, Karen,” he said, nodding towards her name tag. “I’ll keep them in mind. My name’s Kevin, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you, Kevin.”

He smiled. “I know it’s a bit forward, but are you getting a break any time soon? Maybe we can have a bite to eat at the food court?”

“I’m about to take a lunch break, and I guess I wouldn’t mind the company.”

Karen told the store manager she was taking her lunch break.

They chose pizza and Cokes. Kevin treated.

They chatted, mainly about movies and music. He caught Karen staring at the scars on his muscled forearm.

He rubbed his arm. “This happened when I was little. I yanked on the cord of a steam vaporizer in my room, and the scalding water fell on my arm and chest.”

“I’m so sorry. It must have been devastating. How frightening.”

“I spent a few weeks in the burn unit, and I don’t remember most of it. I really don’t mind the scars. I’m lucky I survived.”

Karen glanced at her watch. “I’ve got to get back. Thanks for the pizza and the company.”

“I’d like to walk you back — I gotta hit the men’s room first. Can you wait?”

“No problem."

As he headed towards the restrooms, Karen dumped the garbage and returned the tray.

Two females grabbed her. One held her arms back as the other took a straight edge to Karen’s face. She screamed and instinctively held her face as it spurted blood. The assailants took off in different directions.

People were yelling, “Call 911!” Some were crying, running away with their children in tow.

First aid responders tended to her quickly. One cop issued an APB over his radio with a description of the suspects. Another cop was passing out paper and pens to the witnesses, asking them to write their names, phone numbers, and a brief description of the attackers. They were instructed not to compare notes with anyone, and would eventually meet with detectives to give formal statements.

Upon his return, Kevin witnessed the commotion. He scanned the crowd, searching for Karen. He waded through the onlookers, panicking when he didn’t see Karen. He made it near the table where they sat, but crime scene tape was already up.

He saw the victim with curly brown hair, wearing a red sweater, lying on the ground, covered in blood.

“What happened here?" Kevin said to a stunned gawker.

“She was attacked by two females with a straight razor. I overheard the cops say this has gang-initiation written all over it -- they said something about the victim wearing red. They're asking anyone with information to write down their name, contact number, and a description of the suspects."

Kevin took a pen and a sheet of paper. He started scribbling.

He walked toward the vestibule near the pay phones. He placed a call on his cell.

When Primo answered, Kevin blasted him. “What the hell happened? You told me to bring her to the food court. I did. This beautiful girl is now disfigured — if she doesn’t bleed to death first!”

“I really don't mind the scars. She earned them when she broke up with me. Look, the deed’s done. You held up your end of the bargain. You can have your sister back. She’ll be dumped on the south side entrance of the mall, unharmed.”

She’d better be, he thought.

“Get the hell out of there, Peter,” he said. “I hope you didn’t use your real name.”

“Give me some credit. My sister better not have one scratch on her.”

“Not to worry. She’s fine.”

Before leaving, Peter slipped a folded paper to a cop. “Can you pass this along to the detectives? It may be useful to them.”

It contained the full name, description, address, and cell phone number of the man who kidnapped his sister and set up Karen’s assault.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

An Evening with Hint Fiction

Tonight I will participate with fellow contributors of Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer, and our editor, Robert Swartwood, in a reading at the KGB bar in New York City.

An Evening with Hint Fiction, which is part of the KGB Bar Sunday Night Fiction program, runs from 7-9 p.m. According to the KGB Bar web site, this program "showcases the finest in contemporary fiction from new and emerging writers."

Joining me tonight, the guests slated to read include: Jennifer Alandy, Randall Brown, Frank Byrns, Tara Deal, Bruce Harris, Donora Hillard, Jack Ketchum, Minter Krotzer, Jason Rice, Samuel Rippey, and Robert Swartwood.

If you're in the vicinity of the KGB Bar, 85 E. Fourth Street, NYC, at 7 p.m. ~ stop in!

Before the event begins, we may be gathering at Dempsey's Pub, 61 2nd Avenue, between 3rd & 4th Street.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

100 Years Later, 6 Victims of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Identified

Joseph Berger of The New York Times reports that six previously unidentified victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 have finally been identified, thanks to the perseverance of amateur genealogist and historian, Michael Hirsch.

The factory fire at Washington Place and Greene Street that occurred on March 25, 1911, claimed the lives of 146 persons (129 women, 17 men).

Twenty-three families sued the two owners and were eventually paid $75 each. The owners were acquitted of any wrongdoing.

A centennial commemoration of the fire at the Greenwich Village building will be held on Friday, March 25, 2011, from 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. which will include a reading of the victims' names -- which is now complete. At 4:45 p.m. (the time of the fire), a bell vigil will take place; 146 bells will ring, one for each victim, as visitors meditate on the lives lost. They are requesting churches, fire departments and the public to join in a pealing of bells.

Mr. Hirsch was hired by HBO as a co-producer for the upcoming "Triangle: Remembering the Fire." The documentary will debut on March 21, 2011. See the viewing schedule here. (On Twitter, you can follow @HBODocs or like their page on Facebook.)

Cornell University has assembled a comprehensive web site on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

A list of events honoring the 100th anniversary can be found at "Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition." Like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @trianglefire.

Visit to hear one of the survivors speak (1986), and see photos.

On March 25th every year, volunteers fan out across the city to chalk the sidewalk with the names of the victims in front of their former homes.
Ten years ago tomorrow -- on February 22, the last survivor of the fire, Rose (Rosenfeld) Friedman, passed away at age 107. Read her incredible story here -- and how she survived by following company executives to the roof. She became a lifelong crusader for worker safety.

TRIANGLE: Remembering the Fire from Blowback Productions on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fallen Officer: P.O. John Falcone

An 18-year veteran of the Poughkeepsie City Police Department made the ultimate sacrifice when responding to "shots fired" call on Lower Main Street near the Poughkeepsie Train Station on Friday, February 18, 2011.

Officer John Falcone, age 44, came upon 27-year-old Lee Welch of Catskill, holding a three-year-old girl and waving a gun. Officer Falcone was most likely unaware that Welch had already shot his 28-year-old wife, Jessica, inside a vehicle in a nearby parking lot. Jessica succumbed to her wounds by the time she was taken to the Vassar Brothers Hospital.

Welch fled with the child, with Officer Falcone in pursuit. The officer caught up with him, pulled the child from Welch, and passed her off to the safety of a nearby civilian. Along with fellow officers, Falcone continued to pursue Welch, and they exchanged gunfire. It is believed, however, that Welch turned his gun on himself after shooting Officer Falcone. Officer Falcone underwent surgery, but succumbed to his injuries.

Lee Welch had been arrested for domestic incidents several times in January. The couple recently separated. News reports have identified the child as the couple's daughter; they have two other children. After their recent separation, they were meeting near the train station so that Jessica could take possession of the car.

Officer John Falcone, a true hero, is the 27th officer to die in the line of duty in the United States in 2011. He is survived by his parents. He was the third officer to die in the line of duty in Poughkeepsie City, the last one occurring in 1969, and before that, in 1916.

On Twitter, updates have been posted to #pjshooting. A press conference is slated for Sunday morning at 10 a.m.

Photos from the incident can be found at The Poughkeepsie Journal. A photo of the bunting displayed at the Poughkeepsie City PD was taken by YNNHudsonValley and shared on Twitpic.

For more information on Domestic Violence, or how to get help, visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Twist of Noir

I am thrilled to have a new story up at "A Twist of Noir," Christopher Grant's terrific site for noir stories. Last August, Christopher offered a "600 to 700" challenge: to write a story to correspond with a specific word count between 600 and 700 words (story 600 would have 600 words, story 601 would have 601 words, etc.). I immediately got to work on my story ~ which I had started as a 250 word story for a "String of Ten" contest at Flash Fiction Chronicles a year ago. It placed as a finalist, but the story was never posted; it is only mentioned by title and my name. I transformed the story from the original, and I worked on it for months to prepare it for A Twist of Noir.

My story, "Heat of Passion" is #661 and was posted Monday ~ a nice Valentine's Day gift! I am thrilled and honored to have a story posted alongside such talented writers whose work graces A Twist of Noir. I'm grateful to Christopher for this opportunity.

Last April, my story, "Victims of the Night," which won a Flash Fiction Award from the Public Safety Writers Association in June 2010, was posted on A Twist of Noir.

Stop by if you have a chance ~ I'd love to hear your thoughts.

You may want to check out Porter Wagoner's song, "The Cold Hard Facts of Life," before you venture over; I included it in my story, and I was shocked the first time I listened to it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Quotes from Authors

For Valentine's Day, I thought I'd share a web site called that's packed with words of wisdom, quotes, short stories, and much more. I chose some of my favorite "love quotes" from authors on their "Romantic Love Quotes" page.

"To get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with." - Mark Twain (1835-1910) [Samuel Clemens] American Author, Humorist

"True love begins when nothing is looked for in return." - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (1900-1944) French Aviator, Writer

"I love thee, I love but thee With a love that shall not die Till the sun grows cold And the stars grow old." - William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English Poet, Playwright, Actor

"Absence sharpens love, presence strengthens it." - Thomas Fuller (1608-1661) English Clergyman, Author

"Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold." - Zelda Fitzgerald (1900-1948) American Writer

"Who, being loved, is poor?" - Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish Author, Poet, Wit, Dramatist

"Love looks through a telescope; envy through a microscope." - Josh Billings (1818-1885) [Henry Wheeler Shaw] American Humorist

"Grow old with me! The best is yet to be." - Robert Browning (1812-1889) English Poet

"'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." - Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1883) English Poet Laureate

"Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity." - Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) American Clergyman, Writer

"Life is a flower of which love is the honey." - Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French Author, Lyric Poet, Dramatist

"To love someone is to see a miracle invisible to others." - Francois Mauriac (1885-1970) French Novelist, Essayist, Poet, Playwright

How about you ~ do you have a favorite love quote?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

War Story Wednesday: "A Breeding Ground..."

While working in Public Information, my partner received an telephone inquiry from a gentleman who lived in California. He and his wife were considering a move to a particular town (that shall remain nameless) in Suffolk County.

As police officers, we have to tread carefully when answering questions of this nature. There are ways to answer truthfully and diplomatically.

My partner chose to give him a direct, blunt reply.

"It's a breeding ground for criminals," he said.

The caller promptly notified his real estate agent, who in turn responded forthwith to her county legislator's office, who called the Police Commissioner.

My partner got in trouble.

Years later, that particular legislator resigned from his post when he pleaded guilty to bribe receiving in office. He worked out a deal, however, by working with the District Attorney's Office on a dozen other public corruption cases. Three years later, he served six months in jail, after pleading guilty to bribe receiving and scheming to defraud. Thirty-three other charges were dropped.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fallen Officer: P.O. Michael J. Califano

I am heartbroken to learn of the death of an officer in my neighboring police agency, the Nassau County Police Department. Michael J. Califano, age 44, a 12-year-veteran, had pulled over a box truck on the Long Island Expressway, shortly before 11 p.m. on Friday, February 4, 2011, for insufficient lighting. While writing a summons in the patrol car, a flatbed tow truck driver plowed into the police vehicle, pushing it under the box truck, but also landing on top of Califano's car. It took rescue workers 30 minutes to free him.

He was taken to Nassau University Medical Center, where Officer Califano died from his injuries.

John Kaley, age 25, of New Britain, Connecticut, was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide, assault, and failing to move over for an emergency vehicle. New York became the 48th state to enact the "Move Over" law, which took effect in 2011.

The occupants of the box truck and a passenger in the flatbed suffered injuries and were treated at the hospital.

Officer Califano is the 19th officer to be killed in the line of duty in the United States in 2011.

He leaves behind a wife, Jacqueline, and three sons: Michael, Christopher, and Andrew.

May he rest in peace.

UPDATE: Michael Puccio, a friend of Officer Califano's, sent me a tribute video he created on You Tube in memory of Officer Michael Califano.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

War Story Wednesday: "Shots Fired" by Wayne Zurl

I am truly honored to welcome a fellow retiree of the Suffolk County Police Department (and fellow writer), Wayne Zurl, to War Story Wednesday. He and his wife, Barbara, live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. Wayne's mystery/detective novel, A New Prospect (cover, below) was recently released by Black Rose Books. You can find Wayne on Facebook and Twitter. Wayne recently conducted an interview over at A Moment With Mystee, in which he was asked some intriguing questions, and he provided fascinating answers.

Today, Wayne takes us back on patrol with him in 1974 with "Shots Fired." I know you'll enjoy it!

If you would like to share a war story, either enter it in the comments below, or provide a link to your blog and I'll update this page. Or, if you have a war story you'd like to submit for War Story Wednesday, contact me at katcop13 (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks!

A New Prospect by Wayne Zurl

Shots Fired

by Wayne Zurl

I hated the place at first sight; a narrow enclosed stairway with a slight dog-leg to the right obscuring a door at the top. A bare forty-watt bulb hung above the landing, casting an eerie light over the scene. Once we started up the steps we were in a tunnel—sitting ducks. I looked at Louie. He looked at me. I shrugged.

“You’re the one high on the sergeant’s list,” he said. “I’ll follow you, my leader.”

“Nothing like an ambitious partner to make you feel secure,” I said.

He grinned and I pushed the safety on the Remington pump shotgun to the left. A round of magnum double-O buckshot already sat in the chamber. Louie drew his Colt Trooper and we started up the stairs.

* * *

Ten minutes earlier we sat in a dark spot on the eight-hundred block of Taylor Avenue. A 5th Squad detective told me about a new felony warrant for a burglar named Glenwood Orange. Most everyone called him Pee-Wee. He weighed a hundred-and-ten-pounds soaking wet.

Pee-Wee wasn’t good at hefting TVs or stereo sets, but being skinny enough to fit through the smallest window, he excelled at stealing cash, guns, and small valuable antiques. He really knew his antiques.

We waited across the street from his mother’s house, watching. Sooner or later Pee-Wee would show up. He always did.

Then the dispatcher interrupted our meaningful work.

“Unit five-oh-three, five-zero-three, handle a 10-17, possible gunshot, upstairs, 752 Bellport Avenue, off Brookhaven. Complainant Mayo is in the first floor apartment.

“10-4, headquarters,” Lou said, as I hit the gas and steered our big blue and white Plymouth away from the curb. “We have back-up?”

“Negative, five-oh-three, closest car is on the other end of the precinct.”

“10-4, headquarters,” he said, and then turned to me. “Saturday night and everybody but us looks for a DWI. We end up with a gun call and nobody’s around when you need them.”

“That’s why we get the big bucks, partner.”


I made a left on Brookhaven Avenue and switched on the flashing red lights. It was a short fast drive along a main drag. When I crossed Station Road, the primary north-south route between North Bellport and another classy community called Eagle Estates, I killed the lights and slowed down, coasting up near the address the dispatcher gave us. Evil Estates, as the cops called it, occupied a piece of another precinct—someone else’s headache.

Number 752 on Bellport Avenue was a ramshackle two-and-a-half story Victorian; senior member on a block littered with post-war cracker boxes built on fifty-by-a-hundred postage-stamp lots. They all looked like they had seen better days and were long overdue for their twenty year reunion with a paint brush.

The night was damp and the autumn air felt cool on my face. Everything around us looked as dark as an abandoned cemetery. Unknown vandals shot out the corner street light earlier that week. A crescent moon cast only a ghostly glow from behind some high cloud cover.

We walked up to the front door of the complainant’s house, keeping an eye on the upstairs entrance and an ear open for anything we could hear.

A wizened old party named Sefus Mayo answered the door. He was the owner and landlord of the place and a common fixture in the neighborhood for decades. In a hushed conversation, he told us he thought he heard a shot fired in the upstairs apartment.

“Why do you think it was a shot, Mr. Mayo?” I asked. “Why not a car backfire outside or some other noise?”

He spoke in clipped, staccato sentences, with an accent I took to be South Carolina, mixed with too many years in New York.

“Cause I knows what a shot sounds like. I heard a damn shot, son. A .22 mebbe, nuthin’ big. Saturday-night-special be my guess.” He finished that thought with a quick and decisive nod to punctuate his last statement.

A large gray-haired woman in a house dress sat on the couch inside the living room watching television. I heard the theme from The Rockford Files.

I took his date of birth for my field report and his pass key to open the downstairs door to the upstairs apartment. I told him to stay inside and if he heard any more gunfire to call 9-1-1 again. It was 1974, before the days of miniature portable radios and cell phones. We relied a lot on good citizens to do the right thing.

Lou and I walked quietly to the door and slipped the dead-bolt. I winced as the hinges creaked. I remembered my mother listening to a radio show called Inner Sanctum. The sound of a creaking door began that program every week.

We looked up at the dim fly-specked light bulb at the top of the stairs. What I presumed to be Caribbean music came from inside the apartment, not overly loud, but audible from the ground floor.

We began our slow ascent, hoping the door remained closed until we reached the top. We walked softly, but the old boards groaned beneath our steps. I felt prickles go up my spine.

It was October 14th. Two weeks earlier we had gone back to long-sleeved shirts and put on our ties. The tight collar annoyed me. I reached the half-way point up the stairs and I felt like I needed a drink.

At the top of the staircase we looked at each other again. Lou nodded. He stood ready at my back. I slapped the door four times.

“County police, open the door!”

Nothing. The music played on. I knocked again.

What sounded like a small caliber handgun popped behind the door.

Lou said, “Son of a bitch!”

I braced myself and hit the door with my shoulder. The frame cracked; the door swung inward.

Six people with chairs drawn in close, sat around a cocktail table. One man held a two-dollar bottle of champagne tightly around its neck. His smile of only moments ago turned to a look of fear. Everyone froze with their glasses held over the center of the table.



Copyright 2008, Wayne Zurl