Author Archives: Pat Bertram

About Pat Bertram

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Great Yearning and four novels -- More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, Daughter Am I, and Light Bringer. All are available from Amazon, Smashwords, and Second Wind Publishing, LLC. http://secondwindpublishing.com

Interview with Valerie Campbell, hero of “Valerie’s Vow” by Ashley M. Carmichael

Who are you?

My name is Valerie Hope Campbell. I am a high school English teacher and part time Sunday School teacher at my church where I also serve on the Education committee.

Are you the hero of your own story?

I never considered myself a hero of anything. I was forced to become the protagonist when I lost my best friend, Beth. However, Beth Sizemore will always be the hero of my story. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have made the vow, and there wouldn’t be a story at all. I never would have met Cooper, that’s for sure. I probably wouldn’t have met up with Evan again, and if I had, I certainly wouldn’t have had the guts to pursue anything.

What is your problem in the story?

I guess the real question here is what isn’t a problem in my story? Somehow I had to figure out how to keep my vow while maintaining my sanity, and my job. And yet, with the luck I have, problem after problem after problem…And without Beth, I just don’t know what to do. Fortunately, there is Cooper. And Evan. And Dakota. But I guess all that is a problem in itself. So really, I guess the problem is: What do I want to live for and how do I live for it?

Do you have a goal?

I have a lot of goals and dreams. I want to travel and see the world. I did a little of this when I was younger, but not as much as I want. I want to see China, India, Japan, Australia, Egypt, and—the Holy land. Sometimes I wonder about God and His role in our lives and I wonder if seeing the world would help solidify and answer these constant questions that plague me.

What are you afraid of?

I am afraid of failure. Of being alone. Of everything falling apart. My world shattered when I lost Beth, and I didn’t know if I could ever rebuild it. These fears are intensified some days. Other days the lesson. It’s a constant roller coaster of emotion.

Do you have any hobbies?

I’ve been restoring old furniture lately and that has been eye opening, and fun. It is a new skill I never thought I’d acquire, but has been very enlightening.

What is your favorite scent? Why?

My favorite scent is honeysuckle. It reminds me of home.

What is your favorite color? Why?

My favorite color is blue. It is calming and nurturing, it envelops you.

What is your favorite food? Why?

I love spaghetti—well anything Italian. Spaghetti is easy to make and is filling. And, well, brings back some pretty great memories!

What is your favorite music? Why?

I love a good salsa mix. It has a great mix, and now that I kind of know how to dance to it. Well, kind of I guess is a bit generous. Hopefully, he and I will have a chance to do a little more dancing in the future, but that’s a bit more than I want to divulge in a simple question like this.

Name five items in your purse, briefcase, or pockets.

A movie stub from The American Sniper, a lip gloss “blushing bride”, a few loose Euros, Pacific Cool Breeze hand sanitizer, and Stress-fix body lotion

What are the last three books you read?

The Professor and the Madman, The Atonement Child, and No Longer a Slumdog,

If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

A man. Many women tend to be catty and competitive with each other. Men will help take care of you…usually. Plus, well, now there’s only one person I want to be stranded with and if you’ve read my story, you certainly know who and why!

Where can we learn more about Valerie’s Vow?

From Second Wind Publishing: http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!product/prd15/2506087281/valerie’s-vow and Amazon

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Interview With Chelsea Bolt, Author of “Moonshine”

What is your book about?

My book, Moonshine, is the tale of a young woman who has lost everything she loves. Having resorted to living hidden in the mountains, she is filled with many emotions and struggles to find her place in society, if it still exists. Meanwhile, two young men, Finn and his less than serious cousin, Clay, stumble upon Isis and her hideout. The novel follows the adventure that these three find themselves in. With small town tragedy encompassing them, they uncover the truths that have been hidden. Along the way, they meet much older and wiser guides that help these three young people through their own journeys. Various incidents make the relationship of these three stronger, even when the opposite appears to occur.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

I began developing the idea for Moonshine when I was sitting in Biology class in 10th grade. Eventually, I sat down with a spiral notebook and started writing about a month or so later.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Moonshine has three main characters: Isis Underwood, Finn Hazzard, and Clayton Hazzard. Isis has three primary characteristics: impulsive, brazen, and jaded. Finn can be best described as a silver-tongued fellow with a charming smile. Clayton Hazzard is simply, simple; he wanted no part in this venture he was thrown into. Of these three, my favorite character to write was Isis. She has so many layers, I haven’t even discovered them all yet. Her reactions are interesting to write, she has a whole spectrum that never land at the same place twice.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

My most likeable character is Jeannie Seymour. She’s a guiding light for Isis, unaffected by Isis’s sassy tendencies. She, like Isis, has interesting past that has shaped who she has become. I wasn’t aware of how likeable she was until people asked me more about her.

What was the first story you remember writing?

The first story I remember sitting down to write was a paper I wrote in 7th grade about a group of dogs living in a junkyard. It was just a fun little short story. Our teacher wanted us to use dialogue in a paper she assigned, and I remember that as punishment for being so talkative in class, we had to write an extra two pages. At first I saw that as a punishment, but now I see that assignment as a blessing; that’s when I realized I could write an entertaining story.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

Sitting in my desk drawers are cheap 90₵ spiral notebooks. Whenever I start to think of a storyline, I jot a few words down and doodle a few sketches of key themes I want to hit on in the piece.

What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?

The one book I wish I had written would have to be Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain. It is a beautiful piece of literature and I try to read it every winter. The tale of Ada an Inman is such a wonderful love story and I wish to be able to one day write something half as moving.

Describe your writing in three words.

In three words my writing is: honest, homespun, and heartfelt.

Do you have a saying or motto for your life and/or as a writer?

My motto for life is: “You never know what’s just around the river bend.” Think about it: you never step into the same river twice.

If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?

If Moonshine was made into a movie I would like for Clare Bowen (Scarlet O’Conner on Nashville) to play Isis, Robbie Amell (Stephen Jameson on The Tomorrow People) to portray Finn, and Reid Ewing (Dylan on Modern Family) to act as Clayton.

What is something you never leave home without (apart from keys, money and phone)?

One thing that I never leave home without is my trusty Dr Pepper Lip Smackers lip balm. If I ever do happen to forget it, my lips feel naked and severely chapped.

What is your favorite place, real or fictional? Why?

My absolute favorite place in the world is my grandparents’ house. Their home has so much character and so many stories behind it. There is a story for everything in that house.

Where can we learn more about you and your book?

It’s available from Second Wind Publishing: http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!chelsea-bolt/c1rby and Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords,

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chelsea-Bolt/689158317846614
Twitter: https://twitter.com/theonlybolt
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/theonlybolt/

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Excerpt from A SPARK OF HEAVENLY FIRE by Pat Bertram

ASHFborderStraight from today’s headlines! In the novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire by Pat Bertram, hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable disease called the red death. In an effort to stop the disease from spreading beyond the state of Colorado where the disease originated, the entire state is quarantined. In this dangerous world, Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Investigative reporter Greg Pullman, is determined to discover who unleashed the deadly organism and why they did it, until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay.

Excerpt:

After an uneventful day at work, Kate hurried home through the silent streets. More than half the houses she passed had fluorescent orange dots splashed on their front doors indicating that someone had died within. Beside some of those doors were small shrines or memorials—artificial flowers, crosses, dolls, teddy bears. Other houses were unlit, mute testimony that entire families had died.

A white unmarked delivery van stopped in front of a house that already had one fluorescent dot on the door. When two men jumped out of the truck and ran up the porch steps, she knew that soon another orange mark would appear next to the first.

She could hear the men lamenting the loss of the Broncos while they waited for someone to answer their knock. It seemed strange that they spoke of such a prosaic matter. Shouldn’t they be crying, “Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead,” as their counterparts during the Black Death had done?

As she neared the house, she could see the door open. An old woman with bowed head and trembling shoulders stood aside to let the two men enter.

Kate had passed the house by the time the men emerged with their burden, but she could hear the thud of the body when they threw it into the van.

She thought of Greg and how he had cradled Mrs. Robin’s body in his arms as he carried her down the alley and how he had gently laid her under a tree.

And how he had said he liked her, Kate, very much.

***

Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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What If an Entire State Were Quarantined? by Pat Bertram

People are being quarantined in Texas today, healthy people who simply hosted someone who was ill with Ebola. What if the disease spreads? What if more cases are found? What if a whole town or maybe a whole state were quarantined to prevent a pandemic?

These what ifs formed the premise of my noveASHFbordersml, A Spark of Heavenly Fire. The disease in the story is not Ebola, the avian flu, or any known disease, but a lab-created disease that had its origins in biological warfare experimentation. This fictional disease was created to be unstoppable, to wipe out entire populations. And it fell into the wrong hands.

Because the disease began in Colorado and that is where most of the victims lived — and died — the entire state is quarantined and martial law is put into effect. The seemingly inhuman measures that take place in the story to keep the non-sick under control are all probable since they are based on executive orders Clinton signed into law. The wonderful thing about writing such a book is that I didn’t have to imagine any of the horrors. Our own president did the work for me.

We are coming up on the supposed anniversary date of the publication of A Spark of Heavenly Fire. (I say supposed because although it wasn’t published until March 25, 2009, Amazon lists the publication date as .November 23, 2008.) I hope you will check out this still relevant novel, thinking as you do so of the small quarantine in Texas (small in numbers, and perhaps even small in consequence, but huge to the people whose freedom is being denied). It happened to them. It could happen to you.

To celebrate this faux anniversary, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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Coloring My New Year by Pat Bertram

I’ve never really celebrated New Year’s because it doesn’t mean much to me. It’s a relatively arbitrary date. The calendar numbers change, but that’s all. It’s not a universal new beginning. The Chinese New Year this year is on January 31, the Jewish New Year is on September 24, the Persian New Year is March 20, the Korean New Year is January 31, the Tibetan New Year begins on January 31 , and various communities in the Hindu religion have different dates — January 14, March 31, April 14, April 15.

calendar_2014January 1 is not even the beginning of a new season or of a solar cycle such as a solstice or an equinox. Nor is there any personal demarcation — no black line separates the old from the new. The world is no different today from yesterday, nor are we. We carry the old year with us because you have the same problems, sadnesses, hopes, fears.

There is a newness to January 1, though, and that is the newness of a new calendar.

Like school kids with stiff new clothes and a satchel full of crayons, unread books, and blank paper, we are ready to set out on an adventure, trembling with both trepidation and excitement. Our new calendars have 365 blank squares. How will we will those squares? With notations of appointments and special days, of course. Perhaps with reminders of bills to pay and chores to do. But many of those days will be blank. What we will do with those blank days? Will we search for happiness or a new love? Will we recommit to an old love or strive to attain a better level of health? Will we experience new things, meet new people, visit new places, sample new foods?

I do feel that particular newness today, that hope. I’ve had marvelous adventures the past past year — going to Seattle to see Shen Yun, riding in a limousine, hiking with the Sierra Club, making new friends, attending parties and performances. I’ve walked hundreds of miles in the desert, posted 500 bloggeries, learned dozens of delightful new words (my favorite is eupathy), shared many meals, laughed untold times, and exchanged thousands of smiles. It hasn’t all been wonderful, of course, but somehow I found the strength and courage to deal with the trying times. I cried when I needed to, threw my griefs into the blogosphere, talked about (or rather, talked around) a heartbreaking family situation. And I survived. Even thrived.

And now I have 365 blank days on my new calendar. I plan on getting out my box of crayons and coloring those days brightly.

I hope your days will be filled with wonder, new adventures, and much joy.

Happy New Year.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”

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Crossword Puzzle by Pat Bertram

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the crossword puzzle.  To celebrate such a momentous occasion, here is a puzzle for you. Anyone who solves this puzzle will receive a coupon for a free ecopy of one of my books at Smashwords.com. Your choice of title! Send your responses to secondwindpublishing@gmail.com. Offer expires December 31, 2013.  (If you wish to print out the puzzle, you might have to save it as a jpeg and then print it out.)

crossword

Down
1. Name of Pat Bertram’s blog (2 words)
2. Prose that describes imaginary events and people
5. Author of A Spark of Heavenly Fire, More Deaths Than One, Light Bringer, and Daughter Am I (2 words)
8. Pat Bertram’s publisher (2 words)
10. The country where Bob Stark from More Deaths Than One lived for eighteen years
12. The treasure that Mary Stuart searched for in Daughter Am I
16. A written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers

Across
3. A formal assessment of a work
4. A person who has written a particular work
6. A fictional person
7. Death notice; the piece in the newspaper that catapulted Bob Stark onto his journey for self-discovery in More Deaths Than One
9. The interrelated sequence of events in a work of fiction
11. Category of a novel
13. The state that was quarantined in A Spark of Heavenly Fire
14. Archaic word processing instrument with delete capabilities
15. A book-length work of fiction
17. A person who uses penned or typed words to communicate ideas or tell stories
18. An electronic version of a book
19. Relationship of James Angus Stuart to Mary Stuart in Daughter Am I

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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A Gift for a Grief-Stricken Friend by Pat Bertram

Grief: The Great Yearning by Pat BertramI haven’t really promoted my book Grief: the Great Yearning, which chronicles my thoughts and feelings during the first year after the death of my life mate/soul mate. It seemed crass and insensitive to capitalize on people’s grief, though the book has been a big help to many who have suffered a significant loss such as a husband or a parent. As one person said, “Grief: the Great Yearning is an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”

If you need a gift (or a stocking stuffer) for someone who is grieving, please consider giving them a copy of Grief: the Great Yearning. It might help to bring them comfort knowing that someone else has felt what they are feeling.

The print version of Grief: The Great Yearning is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble. You can even give the ebook in any format as a gift. Just go to Smashwords and click on “Give as Gift”.

If there are people on your Christmas list who like to read, please check out my other books. I’m sure they’d like at least one of them!

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More Deaths Than OneBob Stark returns to Denver after 18 years in SE Asia to discover that the mother he buried before he left is dead again. At her new funeral, he sees . . . himself. Is his other self a hoaxer, or is something more sinister going on?

Click here to read the first chapter: More Deaths Than One

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A Spark of Heavenly FireIn quarantined Colorado, where hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable, bio-engineered disease, investigative reporter Greg Pullman risks everything to discover the truth: Who unleashed the deadly organism? And why?

Click here to read the first chapter of: A Spark of Heavenly Fire

***

DAIWhen twenty-five-year-old Mary Stuart learns she inherited a farm from her recently murdered grandparents — grandparents her father claimed had died before she was born — she becomes obsessed with finding out who they were and why someone wanted them dead.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Daughter Am I

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Thirty-seven years after being abandoned on the doorstep of a remote cabin in Colorado, Becka Johnson returns to try to discover her identity, but she only finds more questions. Who has been looking for her all those years? And why are those same people interested in fellow newcomer Philip Hansen? And what do they have to do with a secret underground laboratory?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Light Bringer

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Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I.All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!

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Walking in the Moonlight ~~ by Pat Bertram

????????????????????Last month I went walking by the light of the moon with Sierra Club members. We strode on a trail beside a riverbed, so we didn’t have to deal with traffic, which is just as well. Even with the full moon, we would have been invisible to drivers. (I couldn’t see the couple who walked in front of my car as I drove to the rendezvous until I was almost on them. Good thing they were aware of me, though it wasn’t bright of them to be so careless.)

I don’t remember ever taking a moonlit walk before. When I was a young adult, before I got my car (the same one I have now, incidentally) I walked to work, and I often had to hike home alone in the dark. I suppose during many of those city nights there had been a visible moon, but streetlights brought the sky in close, so something as far away as the moon would not have been as impressive or as memorable as the moon last night.

I do remember one particular night walk — it had to have been almost twenty-five years ago when my now deceased life mate/soul mate was still strong and healthy and up for adventure. We were living in a small town. Snow had fallen, and no one was about. No cars were on the road. All was still. Not even a hint of a breeze. We could hear the crunch of pristine snow beneath our feet, and the almost cathedral-like silence. It was bright — we weren’t walking in pitch black — but I don’t know if the light came from a moon or from ambient light reflected off the snow. We only walked a few blocks to a small town square. We stood there for a few minutes, enjoying the magical night, and then we headed back.

I don’t recall any other night walks. We spent the last couple of decades in ranching country, and an irrigation ditch ran in front of the house. Stagnant water. Mosquitoes. Need I say more? Well, maybe I do. I’m sensitive to mosquito venom — the bites always make me sick — so as much as possible I stayed inside when evening came. Besides, I didn’t much like the thought of meeting a coyote or a fox (or even an angry dog) on that empty country road.

So that night with the Sierra Club was a treat. A cool, clear, autumn evening with a hint of a breeze. A few stars. And a moon so bright in the huge empty sky, it cast our shadows on the pathway.

A walk worth remembering. A walk worth writing about.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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Rubicon Ranch: Secrets — The Story Continues!

RRBookThreemidsizeRubicon Ranch is a collaborative and innovative crime series set in the fictional desert community of Rubicon Ranch and is being written online by the authors of Second Wind Publishing.

In the current story, the body of a local realtor is found beneath the wheels of an inflatable figure of a Santa on a motorcycle. The realtor took great delight in ferreting out secrets, and everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Could she have discovered a secret someone would kill to protect? There will be suspects galore, including a psychic, a con man, a woman trying to set up an online call-girl service, and the philandering sheriff himself. Not only is the victim someone he had an affair with, but he will also have to contend with an ex-wife who has moved back in with him and a jilted lover, both with their own reasons for wanting the realtor dead.

We hope you will enjoy seeing the story develop as we write it. Let the mystery begin! Whodunit? No one knows, not even the writers, and we won’t know until the very end! If you don’t want to miss further chapters, please go to the blog and click on “sign me up” on the right sidebar to get notifications of new chapters.

Chapter 25: Melanie Gray
by Pat Bertram

Sunday, December 24, 9:00am

Melanie stayed up most of the night sending emails to people on Alexander’s and her contact lists, asking what they knew about her husband. She told them—untruthfully—that she planned to write his biography, and so needed to know anything that could help explain his life and especially his death

She didn’t really expect to discover his secrets this easily, but she hoped that she could at least find a place to start looking for answers. The immediate responses were condolences from those who hadn’t known about his death and from those who hadn’t taken the time to write five months ago when he’d died in what had seemed to be a car accident. A few responses included an anecdote about Alexander, but no one dropped a hint about what he could have done to trigger an assassination.

Only one response surprised her. She’d expected their agent to gush with delight at the prospect of the book, but Dottie wrote: Are you sure this is a wise idea, darling? You might not like what you find out. And isn’t it better to remember him as a real man rather than a character in a book, even one as brilliant as I’m sure yours would be?

Too tired to think of a response to her agent’s message, Melanie dragged herself to bed. She dozed off but jerked herself awake to escape the shadowy creatures who chased her into a building with no windows and no way out.

She thought she’d been asleep for only a few minutes, but the brightness of the room told her she’d slept far into the new morning. She lay in bed, unwilling to face another day in the horror that Rubicon Ranch had become, when she realized she heard something strange for this neighborhood — silence.

She jumped out of bed, ran upstairs to her loft office, and glanced out the window. No tour buses, no streams of cars with gawking passengers, no young people (or old people for that matter) dressed as Halloween ghouls. The only things out of the ordinary were the sheriff’s department vehicles cruising the street—at least four of them. One of the tan vehicles pulled up to the curb in front of her rented house, and Sheriff Seth Bryan climbed out.

Melanie dashed down the stairs to the bathroom, splashed water on her face, ran a brush through her hair, and grabbed a dress from the closet. The off-shoulder peasant dress wouldn’t have been her choice for the first encounter with the sheriff in two months, but she didn’t have time to rummage in her closet for something more appropriate.

The doorbell rang. Barefoot, she went to answer it.

The sheriff’s jeans and white shirt still fit his lean, flat-bellied body as if they’d been tailored for him. As when they first met, he wore a blue ball cap with “Sheriff” embroidered in yellow, but his hair curled around the cap as if it had been awhile since he’d taken the time to get it cut. For once he’d left off the mirrored sunglasses, and he looked as if he’d aged two years since she’d seen him last. Apparently, his attempt to make his marriage work hadn’t succeeded. Or maybe the marriage was succeeding, and his haggard expression and weary dark eyes came from too much time in bed with his wife.

Why do you care?

“Good morning, Ms. Gray,” Sheriff Bryan said, his tone as formal as his words.

“Good morning, sheriff.” Melanie stepped outside, put a hand above her eyes to shade them, and made a show of peering up and down the street. “What happened?”

“The people’s right to free expression and lawful assembly destroyed our crime scenes and impeded our investigation, so we cleared the area of anyone who didn’t live here.”

The chill of the concrete crept up Melanie’s bare legs, but she held herself in place. “You call that lawful assembly? So, if there hadn’t been a murder, you’d have just let all those necrophiliacs continue overrunning the neighborhood?”

“Not murder, Ms. Gray. Murders—two of them. And arson.”

“How did you get rid of all the ghouls and gawkers?”

“We have a deputy stationed on Delano Road and Tehachapi, checking to make sure only people who belong here enter the street. And those who were already here—well, we told them we’d arrest them as accessories to murder. When that didn’t work, we reminded them that tomorrow was Christmas, and that Santa didn’t deliver presents to bad little boys and girls in jail.”

“So, you’re the UnSanta Claus?”

The sheriff quirked one eyebrow as if surprised to discover she had a sense of humor, but Melanie had to admit to herself that in their relationship—if a few meetings and a couple of meals could be called a relationship—there’d been no room for humor. There’d been too much death, too much pressure, too many unanswered questions.

“Have you found out anything more about Alexander’s assassination?” Melanie asked.

“We’re doing what we can, Ms. Gray, but there’s nothing to go on. Just skid marks on an open road.”

“What about Alexander’s missing cameras? If someone stole them from the car right after the accident, there might be a witness.”

“We haven’t found a witness, but if a bystander took the opportunity to steal what you said were expensive cameras, I’m sure he or she wouldn’t be interested in informing us of that fact. Have you looked for the cameras? Maybe they’re inside the house somewhere.”

Melanie wanted to stamp her foot, but she refrained. She didn’t want the sheriff to see her acting so childishly, especially since he was being so damned formal. Besides, it would hurt her bare foot. “I told you. I put the cameras in the car myself.”

“Did he drive off immediately?”

Melanie gazed at the driveway where the car had been parked that morning. She’d put the cameras in the trunk. Alexander had yelled at her from inside the house that she had a phone call. She’d slammed the trunk shut and hurried inside.

The call had been from Dottie, their agent, wanting to know if they’d get the book done by the deadline. Melanie had been annoyed with Alexander for not talking to their agent himself because it would have taken him less time to assure Dottie than to shout for Melanie.

When she hung up the phone and went outside, she found that Alexander had left. She never saw him again, never got to say good-bye.

“Ms. Gray?”

The sheriff’s voice, smooth as melted chocolate, startled her.

“Stop calling me that,” she snapped.

“What would you like me to call you?” he asked.

“Nothing. Stop using my name every sentence as if you’re some kind of used car salesman with a lemon you want to get off your hands.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Melanie clamped her mouth shut, refusing to rise to the bait.

The sheriff smirked, and the haggardness disappeared from his face. “I need you to tell me what you know about Nancy Garcetti, Clark Bailey, and the fire.”

Melanie glanced back at the door of the house, wondering if she could slip inside for shoes to warm her icy feet, but she didn’t want to have to invite the sheriff into the house. It would feel too much like a fly inviting a spider to visit.

“Go put your shoes on, I’ll wait out here.”

Melanie ran inside, put on socks and shoes, and then sedately ambled back outside. The sheriff hadn’t moved.

“I wish I could help you, sheriff,” she said. “But I don’t know much.”

“I asked you once to call me Seth.”

Melanie shook her head. “Not exactly appropriate.”

“Ah, yes, I’d forgotten how very ‘appropriate’ you always were.”

Melanie narrowed her eyes, wondering if that had been a dig, but he continued as if unaware of her reaction.

“Had you ever met Nancy?”

Melanie tried to remain as still as the sheriff. Or was that the wrong way to act? Did her stillness indicate guilt? Crap, being a maybe murderer was hard.

“I met her once, but we only exchanged a few words.” I know you killed your husband.

“And what about Clark Bailey?”

Melanie relaxed, knowing she had nothing to do with anyone by that name. “Never met him.”

“Oh, but you did. You met him last night. After the fact, so to speak. He’s the man you found wearing the Santa hat.”

“I guess maybe I should have called it in—”

“Ya think?” the sheriff interjected.

Melanie winced at his sarcastic tone. “But I just could not face being known once again as the cadaver dog. I suppose Moody had no choice but to tell you.”

Sheriff Bryan gave her an avuncular smile. “Moody didn’t tell us. She left you out of it. Be careful. She has her own agenda, and she eats innocent women like you for breakfast.”

Melanie straightened her shoulders. “I can take care of myself.”

“Perhaps. Be careful, anyway.” The sheriff turned to leave, then glanced back. “What do you know about Lydia Galvin?”

“Lydia Galvin?” Melanie frowned. “Your Lydia?”

“It’s not how I’d put it, but yes, that Lydia.”

“I don’t know anything about her. Why, is she here?” Melanie laughed, feeling suddenly lighthearted. “She is, isn’t she? Oh, poor Seth. All his chickens coming home to roost. Your wife. Now Lydia. Maybe you’re the one who needs to be careful.”

When Seth cut across her property to the Sinclair house, Melanie realized he hadn’t asked her about the arson. He didn’t forget such matters. Like Moody, he had his own agenda, kept his own counsel.

Melanie went inside, locked the door behind her, and climbed the stairs to the office to see if she’d received any new emails. There was just one from an unfamiliar Gmail address:

You never know when to leave well enough alone, do you? Alexander Gray is dead. Let him rest in peace.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing.

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Witches Should Never Try to Be Very Good — A Halloween Tale by Pat Bertram

Once upon a time,
Long ago and far away,
Lived the queen of the witches,
Griselda the Gray.
If you think all witches are tall and thin,
You are wrong about that.
Griselda the Gray was short
And extremely fat.
Like everyone else,
Griselda tried to be good.
Griselda never did anything bad
Like normal witches should.
This upset the other witches
Because they had to copy their queen.
They had to be nice
When they wanted to be mean.
So they all got together
And mixed up a brew.
They gave it to Griselda
When they were all through.
The brew was so rotten
Griselda had a fit.
She screamed and yelled
And hollered and bit;
She howled and cackled
And made such a noise
That the other witches were happy
And began to rejoice.
“Griselda is bad
And we are glad.
Griselda is ghastly
So now we can be nasty.
Oh, what a happy, horrible day!
Hurrah for our queen, Griselda the Gray!”

The moral of this story is that witches should
Never try to be very good.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”

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