Silver#writephoto

silver-1

A shoal in a stream of humdrum

Anchored till there’s naught left of me

All else roams free

Waters lap and return downstream

Winds kiss my nape as they blow past

Grain by grain they erode and scar me

I envy those grains, for they’ll travel far

Those lush green hills will never shade me whole

My brethren, so close, yet unreachable

Subject to the same fate, they suffer together

I’m condemned to a solitary demise

In spite of all, I’ve learned to cope

For when darkness falls, and the skies are clear

Starlight guests shine in my watery mirror

Written for Sue Vincent Weekly Write Photo Challenge

The Thirst for Gold, Part 2 of 3

Dawson City, Yukon, during the Klondike

October 21,1897

Macassar Oil snorted and locked those mannequin eyes with Albin’s. Not an ounce of life, Lord help me!  “You smell like a horse’s ass. You’re not getting back there.”

Unable to liberate himself from the optical bear trap, Albin’s jaw mimicked a fish out of water. The proper words had scattered to the constellations. Get a grip, Albin. Lord, I need this! He took a deep breath and exhaled the fear. An unseen army of angels had just been sent and no harm could befall him. “I think Mr. Jackson will agree to see me.”

Snickers coursed throughout the place, for every part of the exchange was audible now that music and conversation had fallen silent as the grave.

“I am afraid he’s not here . . . Mister?” Scar face declared.

“Stromgren . . . Albin Stromgren. And he is here, because you would not be guarding this door if it were not so.”

The collective gasp seemed to form a vacuum that tugged at Albin’s jacket. Obviously, nobody spoke to Karl’s men this way. Nobody above ground, at least. But Albin Stromgren was far from a nobody.

The smaller man ripped his pistol from the holster and aimed the muzzle between Albin’s eyes.

“You’ll be cold as a wagon’s tire in a second, and the worms will starve on your pea-sized brain.” He blew at a greasy strand that had fallen over his deadwood face.

“Easy there, Utah, we don’t want the horsemen in here.”

A magnesium flash of reason lit the uppermost levels of those bottomless pits. The Smith & Wesson was reluctantly slid back into the holster. “I already told you, horse’s ass, he ain’t here.”

Shaken, but certain that divine power had prompted the intervention, Albin replied calmly, “I’m going to reach into my coat pocket. There’s something of interest.”

“I’m sure your life might be of interest to you. Be real slow, if anything that cuts, shoots, or explodes comes out, you’re dead. Understand?”

“Utah, what did I just say? Besides, this old codger is too slow for a killer.” He gave Albin a derisive look and tapped his head. “I think he’s just daft. Let’s just see what he’s got. It could be fun.”

“Of course, Longhorn, he’s crazy! The fool comes barging in like he owns the place. Exactly why we can’t trust him. What say you, crazy old loon?” He sneered. “What do you have for us? A piece of crusty earwax that you think is gold?” He wiggled his trigger finger. “It’s gotta real bad twitch.”

Would the archangel Michael drop a speeding bullet? Albin’s fingers fumbled in the pocket and retrieved the handkerchief. He fought the squeak in his voice as he opened his palm. “I have this.”

Utah grimaced. “A filthy muck ender? You’re crazy and disgusting. Come on, Longhorn, let me feed him to the grizzlies.”

“Wait till I open it,” Albin said irritably. He gently unfurled the cloth to reveal the gold.

“Well then,” Longhorn rubbed his hands together. “That changes things a mite.” He pointed to Albin’s coat. “Why don’t you go home, toss that horse’s blanket and come back.”

Albin shrugged. “I’m afraid this is the only coat, and if I go, I take my offer to a competitor. I’m sure Mister Jackson will be pleased.”

Longhorn jerked his head towards his partner. “Search him.”

Utah growled and bared his teeth like an angry badger. “Leave that stinkin’ thing out here. I ain’t touching it.”

Albin removed his mackinaw and dropped it in a corner.

“Empty your pockets. Any funny business and you’re dead. Understand?”

“Of course. I have nothing in my pockets, other than my hotel key.”

Rough hands searched Albin, when they reached his shoulders, they slid to his neck and squeezed hard enough to choke. Fortunately, it was only brief, and the second he was released, Albin coughed as he sucked in a lungful of smokey air.

“He’s clean. Well, no weapons, at least.”

Longhorn knocked on the oak door. A hidden slot snapped open, just below the peephole. He bent down and spoke to someone inside. “We have a guest who would like to speak to the boss. He’s got some color.”

A muffled voice responded, and the slot slammed shut. The moments crawled at a glacial pace before the panel reopened. There was another indecipherable verbal exchange, before a loud clunk as the deadbolt shifted. A wall-thick door opened on medieval style hinges that could have supported a draw bridge.

Longhorn jerked a thumb towards the doorway. “Ace will take you to the Boss. Be respectful and keep your hands where they can be seen. You got it?”

Albin nodded as he tried to swallow the hedgehog lodged in his throat. He measured every step on legs about to fold like deck chairs and entered a narrow hallway. If the walls had been adorned with art instead of grey paint, Albin’s shoulders would have knocked them off.

He’d expected a lavish office with fine furniture, but this had the feel of a mine. Disappointed, he followed the human coatrack. An ugly specimen, the man’s head was an oversized potato. His close-cropped blonde hair had retreated with the Redcoats of 1812 and exposed a mess of growths that matched those of spud eyes. Ghostly pale, his glow-in -the-dark complexion would’ve brought Ebenezer Scrooge to immediate repentance.

When they were halfway down, Ace turned his crater-face back towards Albin. The larger man was struck by the image of a deformed and furless rat eternally scurrying along this dimly lit alley.

Ace offered a twisted smile that exposed crooked and decayed tombstones. “Wait here, Mister Stromgren.”

The gangster turned away, walked over to another reinforced door. He worked a brass knocker shaped into a lion’s head. A gruff voice from behind it, ordered them inside.

The walls constricted around Albin and he swore he was about to be funneled into a meat grinder.

Ace put a claw on the doorknob, but then paused and looked at Albin’s boots. “Leave those in the hallway. Remember to do exactly what the Boss says.” Orbs of blued steel glared at Albin.

He patted his gun. “I’m always watching.” Ace pushed the door open.

Another silent prayer accompanied the fumbled boot removal. Sweat dripped from Albin’s nose as he bent over to place them carefully along the wall. Irritated at his cowardice, he wiped the moisture from his face, rose, and stepped through the doorway.

The level of opulence in that room stole his breath. The utilitarian hallway had been a façade. Probably built narrow to channel enemies into single file in the event of an attack.

The interior resembled the office of a bank president. Raised cherry wood panels clad the walls from floor to ceiling. Fiery tongues crackled in a white marble fireplace. Their rhythmic dance was reflected by the chevron parquet floor. A carved lion’s head, just below the mantle, bared its teeth at the moving shadows.

Albin cautiously divided his attention between the splendor and the smoke shrouded mahogany desk, behind which sat a thickset statue that must have been imported from Easter Island.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, Mister Stromgren,” the statue spoke in a congenial manner. A brief pause was followed by a red glow that marked the location of the mouth. A meaty paw materialized and gestured towards a leather armchair in front of the acre sized desk. “In your, ah, current state, I’d rather you stay off of the Louis XV.”

That value of the chair and desk alone, never mind the cost of shipping, would have fed Dawson for a year. Here was a man who’d baked his own bread, but with pilfered ingredients.

A beautiful mahogany roll top writing desk embossed with marquetry floral patterns, caught Albin’s peripheral. There was more to explore, but he dared not deviate his gaze.

The cigar was stubbed out and Jackson waved the haze away. A cleared line of sight exposed a bald and pudgy man with broad shoulders. Probably not physical specimen of his youth, but still capable of sending victims to the bone box.

Albin stood obediently and listened to the tick the Yorkshire Longcase clock. They were alone in the room, but there was no doubt that the proceedings were being observed.

“I was told you had something that might be of interest to me.”

Albin gingerly produced the handkerchief and displayed his treasure.

“Hmm,” Jackson squinted at gold. He chuckled. “I’ve swallowed more color in a glass of Goldwasser. Is that all you got? This is what you’ve stunk up my office for?”

Albin saw through the veneer. The greedy always revealed their true core. The gold in the handkerchief may have been outweighed by the amount contained in Jackson’s pen, but he’d scrape a flake from a pig’s rear, should the animal swallow it. There was one answer only . . .  more.

Albin rewrapped the handkerchief and slowly turned towards the door. He took a few steps towards it, keeping an ear out for protest, but none came. A few more paces, his sized thirteen feet pounded on the floor for emphasis. Only the clock provided feedback and it seemed to applaud his exit. Another four strides and he’d be in the hall. Had he misjudged? Was the Klondike King wired differently?

Two more heavy steps and finally came the sound of a heavy body shifting on leather, followed by a deep sigh.

Albin walked to the door and rested a hand on the knob. He bit his cheek to suppress a grin. Now for the callback.

A loud cough came from behind. Choking on regret? Albin couldn’t remain on the spot because it would signal desperation. He turned the knob and began to open the door. Jackson cleared his throat.

 Not good enough, Jackson, I need to hear you say it.  Albin crossed the threshold, the man was stubborn, but soon, hopefully. One foot in the hall and Ace appeared, pistol in hand. Too far! He’d pushed this way too far!

…….Will Albin take a dirt nap? Find out in the conclusion tomorrow! . . .

The Thirst for Gold, Part One of Three

Dawson City, Yukon, during the Klondike

October 21,1897

The horse sped by and kicked up chunks of manure that struck the front of Albin’s Mackinaw jacket. He shook a fist at the rider and blued the air with curses. His foul mood further soured as he slogged along the muck-slimed boardwalk to Heaven’s Hearth Inn. He began to contemplate the madness that had driven him to come here. All the best claims had been staked.

Hen cackles pierced his thoughts, just seconds before he heard the rattle of glass panes. The front door of The Gilded Bruin Saloon had smacked against the outside wall after being given a hard shove.

A young bull, his massive head squished into a wide-brimmed hat stumbled outside. His twiggy sidekick was slung over a granite outcrop shoulder like the strap on a haversack.

A pair of scurvy-plagued down-and-outers, one draped in a threadbare horse blanket that fell across pyramid shoulders, the other, a gargoyle with moth eaten gloves that exposed frost bitten digits, pleaded with the corned louts for a handout.

The sidekick waved a boney arm dismissively, slurred them to eternal damnation and ordered them to pull foot.

The bovine, however, whispered in his ear and gave him a wink. His partner chuckled before his mouth curved into a crescent moon.

“Can you stand, Tom?” It was a rhetorical question because Tom was dumped onto the porch before he could answer. He wobbled on new-born fawn legs and had to grab the nearest awning post.

“Ya gotta ‘nuff dust Gabe?”

Gabe nodded. “Plenty.”  He squeezed a meaty hand into his pocket and pulled out a caribou-hide poke, after opening the draw strings, his sausage fingers removed a pinch of gold flakes. “You ready for some fun!” He winked and tossed them into the filthy spittoon beside the door.

The beggars raced for the spittoon, shoving, and punching each other, they knocked it over, spilling the vile liquid over the porch. The pair landed in a heap and continued to battle with the ferocity of feral cats, alternatively clawing at the opponent’s eyes and the liquid. The philistines howled with delight.

Disgusted, Albin averted his gaze. The fires of Hell were being stoked for these two. God’s wrath would fall upon those who made a mockery of starvation. His eye caught something that confirmed the Creator’s justice and His benevolence towards Albin. Something glittered in the muck, just an inch from the porch. The fool had unwittingly dropped a significant amount of gold. The combatants were entangled, and the devils were too drunk. Temptation called for immediate action, but Job came to mind . . . patience was always rewarded.

The wait had the lifespan of a sneeze. The gasping corpses tired quickly and agreed to an even split. Both ruffians gave a final whoop and stumbled off, no doubt on the prowl for harlots.

Albin moved swiftly, scooping the gold, he placed it in his red handkerchief. The Lord certainly does work in mysterious ways. As in everything, this had happened for a reason. The gift wouldn’t be squandered, he knew what to do.

He entered the den of iniquity. At first, the patrons took little notice of the large man in the filthy coat, but as Albin wandered past the bar, even the most inebriated threw him looks of revulsion. He side-stepped a painted lady who straddled her client’s lap. She wrinkled her nose and demanded the head of whomever had let this pig inside.

Albin paid no heed to any of them. His focus remained fixed on the vault style door at the far end of the room. A solid slab of oak, it was leagues out of character with the typical match-stick construction that littered this shanty town. The most impenetrable portal in Dawson, complete with a heavy deadbolt, its only weakness was a small peephole. Behind it was the fortified lair of Dawson’s Klondike King, Karl Jackson.

The door wasn’t the only thing barring unsolicited entry. Two behemoths stood guard, both armed with Smith and Wesson revolvers. The one on the left appeared to be around thirty. He fell three inches short of Albin’s six-foot-two stature, but every square inch rippled with muscle. His hair was black as Satan’s heart, heavily coated with Macassar Oil and parted just above the left eye, one of a pair that were darker than a mine shaft. His face would have caused a swoon among the fairer sex, had those peepers been less soulless.

His back up had an extra inch of height and an equal portion of muscle. Close-cropped brown hair spiked above hazel eyes that signaled a generally docile disposition that would turn murderous if provoked or commanded to do so by Jackson. Probably mid to late thirties, but the weathered face, and the sizeable scar under the left eye suggested the accelerated aging of a hard life.

A phantom hand gripped Albin’s stomach and he questioned if this truly was God’s plan. He slowed his gait to a shuffle and prayed silently and swiftly for guidance and deliverance. The effect was immediate; a surge of confidence that removed doubt and relieved pain.

There were two powerful motives to see this ordeal through. One practical, the other was the need to lay eyes on a beast who profited from misery and death.

The guards had noticed him, and Albin sensed the entire patronage holding its collective breath. All were hungry for blood. The door men sized him up. How must he appear? A big man covered in horse crap with a wild look in his eyes, headed straight for them.

In unison, their hands moved to rest on their pistols. Neither displayed emotion beyond amused curiosity. The reach for the guns was purely instinctual. No morale code would prevent them from killing him, as one might a pesky rat, but shooting would be bad for business, so unless he made a grievous error, he should remain on this side of eternity.

Albin raised his hands to show that he was unarmed. The larger man nodded and relaxed his grip, but Macassar Oil repeatedly clenched and unclenched the pistol butt. His ambivalence stretched Albin’s nerves.

“Whoa there, partner. Where do you think you’re going?” Mister “docile” stepped forward and raised a hand the size of a Clydesdale hoof, the other had returned to roost on the pistol. His voice had the quality of one who gargled with stones on a daily basis.

Albin came to an abrupt halt, arms still vertical. “I’m requesting an audience with your boss.”

To be continued . . .

 

 

 

A Few Inspirational Quotes

Good morning, afternoon, evening, or midnight . . . or whatever time you are reading this. As I post this, it’s 9:30am an Tuesday, June 9. May blew past like smoke in a hurricane!

The kiddos will soon  finish Quaranschool, and are getting antsy. I have to keep an eye on them so they stay focused and away Minecraft. I honestly can’t say I blame them. 🙂

Today, I’ve decided to share a few of my instagram posts that I’ve written.  They contain, well, you decide. Have a great day, evening, night!

Everyone has their story.

bridgesmall

The sign reads. “Tamworth has it!” We should put that to the test.

Dr.suess

Choose your perspective.

darklightchoose

What most authors/bloggers hope for.

Story

Remain grateful.

Soar

Have some fun!

color

 

Vanished, A novel by Mark Bierman

 

Today I wish to take some time to promote my novel, Vanished. Now, I must be honest with you, I never thought I’d write a story about human trafficking

How it all began and why:

My father was a building contractor and had been to the impoverished nation of Haiti a number of times. He would assist with the construction of homes, churches, and a few other projects. His return meant amazing stories and disturbing photos of tiny shanties where families lived, in cramped quarters, without running water or electricity.  In fact, often, there were open streams of raw sewage that ran close to these squalid huts.

In October of 2010, my brother-in-law accompanied my father to decimated post-earthquake Haiti. Yes, you guessed it, another construction project.

“Oh, take a journal with you and write in it every day,” I instructed them. “I want to write an article for a magazine about your experiences.”

The pair dutifully completed their “assignments” and I was blessed with a plethora of information and colorful stories. That’s when the idea came for a book. Yes, but why Human Trafficking? Well, I have spent years working as a Correctional Officer and my mind instinctively wandered to the criminal element, I also enjoy reading action novels. I really believe, too, that this book was a therapy for me, to cleanse my mind of the negative experiences of working in a prison.

Please be aware that the book contains NO graphic violence or sexual deviance. I DO NOT create rape scenes, nor describe grotesque injuries or deaths.

A quick summary of Vanished:

Tyler Montgomery loses his wife to cancer and is grieved beyond consoling. His father-in-law, John Webster, cannot bear the loss of his daughter, both men are headed for self-destruction. When the opportunity for the mission trip arises, Trudy, John’s wife, convinces the pair to go. Though she grieves herself, she puts their needs first and believes this Good Samaritan experience will be a distraction.

They arrive in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, which is relatively untouched by the earthquake and find their host, a missionary named Steve Tracey. He drives them to Rescue Haiti Mission, their home for the next month. At dinner that night, they meet a lovely young woman named Mahalia, who takes in the Mission’s laundry, and her sweet seven-year-old daughter, Chantale.

All goes well for the first while, until Mahalia bursts into the cafeteria during dinner, proclaiming that Chantale has been taken, her cherished doll found abandoned on the road. A local search leads nowhere, and the police are unwilling to help. Even Steve tells them to accept that little Chantale is lost forever. The earthquake has created too many problems and these children are never found.

Unaccustomed to such atrocities, and reeling with the pain of their own loss, the two Americans develop a strong desire to do the right thing. Steve resists, at first, citing the dangers and fallibility of the undertaking.

One day, in a fit of frustration, Steve declares that Chantale is as good as dead. Mahalia overhears this and reacts strongly. She ignores Steve and approaches Tyler, the look of sorrow in her eyes is what he sees in the mirror daily.

Mahalia shoves a photo of her daughter, and the doll into Tyler’s hands. She locks eyes with him and utters the words that begin a terrifying journey into the underbelly of Haitian society.

“Don’t listen to him. He has given up hope for many things. You are a good man. I know you can do this. Please find her! Please find my baby!”

Yes, John and Tyler are loosely based on my kin, and yes, there are some facts and experiences they had that are incorporated into the story. However, the majority of it is fiction.

This book was written mainly for the purpose of drawing attention to the world-wide issue of Human Trafficking that is prevalent in EVERY country.

Fifty percent of the profits made from Vanished, are donated to a charity that helps victims of human trafficking.

I’ve composed a poem that speaks about Mahalia’s thoughts as she deals with her grief:

Chantale, little angel, my barren arms embrace the ghost of you; they’ve squeezed the shards of my shattered heart, since the day you were snatched away.

Blurred by the rain of constant grief, my soul’s eyes search this decimated land; baby girl, where’d you go to?

Pointed fingers accused me, for surely, I fed you to the mongrels; pay no heed, my precious child, to the evil lies they say.

Come back Chantale, the flowers you picked crumble in the vase; my will to live falls with each petal, fresh ones will die quickly, unless touched by you.

In feverish madness, I’ve commissioned strangers to the rescue, placed faith in two men, pure of heart but naïve to the ways of monsters; forgive me Chantale, for my options were few.

If to the cruelty you succumb, please climb on the Father’s lap, whisper your plea; a hug from Heaven in a rainbow’s hue.

Please check out the book trailer:

I wish to thank the professionals at 4WillsPublishing for creating such a wonderful trailer!

Vanished made the top ten list! Jan Sikes is a very talented author. Please visit her website.

Thank you so much for taking the time to learn about Vanished.

If you wish to purchase a copy, available in ebook and print format:

Amazon.com       Amazon.ca      iBooks

Connect with Mark:

Website      Facebook    Twitter    Instagram

I am also a member of  Rave Reviews Book Club a wonderful community of authors.