Downtown Christmas – #MLMM Photo Challenge

Photo credit: Frank Rumpenhorst

Streets packed with romance and friendship…

The unction of Christmas sung into all their souls…

Necks are wrapped tightly with scarfs in the winter breeze.

As the festive stars and lights illuminate the downtown

In a gathering of the ages and a sign of that time

A young man blessing his date with a flower.

A lonely lady sipping on her water.

A couple holding each other’s expensive surprises.

The children’s laughter exudes from the bright carousel.

Illicit affairs surround the area without anyone knowing.

The siblings argue over who gets to be first in line to Santa.

Babies rattle their toys as mommies babble to them.

The beer tent has everyone standing in a row.

Life stood still this day in celebration.

“Merry Christmas to all!”, the announcer would say;

To the collection of people bringing the joy this holiday night.

© E.M. Kingston 2021 – All Rights Reserved.

Written in response to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s Photo Challenge #395 using various word prompts

Sebastian’s Story – Part 25 – The Hunt

The winter snow had come in full force this season, and Indiana was gaining much more snowfall than usual. The collection of snow and ice from the storms made it hard to journey on the highways, but thankfully Lucas had gotten them safe before the roads had gotten too bad. Fiona sat in her room and could not help but worry about Sharon, since she assumed he had been tracking them for a while. It was nearly seven o’clock, and she was beginning to smell the aroma of food seeping through the crack in the bottom of her door. The savory smells made her tummy growl out into the big room. She had showered and then dressed in clothes that she imagined Davina had chosen for her before her departure. They were trendy but comfortable. Davina knew her mother hated being uncomfortable when it came to fashion. Fiona was laid back and never flashy. It was part of the reason she could hardly stand Megan’s wardrobe and the personality that went with the threads. She shook off the thought of Megan as she heard a tapping at the sturdy door of her room.

“Yes, who is it?” Fiona asked.

“It’s Finn. Can I come in?” He spoke quietly.

“Of course! Come in, Finn.” She opened the door and waved him in past the entryway. “What’s up? You okay?”

“Oh…yeah. I’m good. I just wanted to see if you wanted me to escort you down to dinner. This is a big house.” Finn fumbled with the collar on his shirt. “I have no idea how they knew my size, but I have a whole closet full of clothes.”

“Same here. I think Davina set this all up.” She walked over and opened her wardrobe of hand-picked clothes. “See?”

“It’s insane. How in the world did she know I would be here too? Sebastian’s room is amazing. Do you want to go check it out?” Finn had that wholesome smile on his face that he wore on his face when he was not carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He had no idea of the paradox that was unfolding around the friendly waitress and babysitter known as Sharon an hour away from their paradise. It wasn’t an island wonderland, but the house was its own mini-vacation compared to where they had been staying in the country.

“Sure. Lead the way. I am right behind you.” She felt hopeful for the first time in a while.

Finn escorted her to Sebastian’s room, and he knocked out of courtesy like he did at Fiona’s door.

“Hey kiddo! Are you ready for some chow?” Finn talked into the big, heavy door.

Sebastian came running to the door. They could hear his little feet pitter-patter as he ran towards it. “Mr. Finn! Is that you?”

“It’s me! Can I come in? I have a surprise out here for you.” Finn looked back at Fiona smiling with delight.

“I need help with the door. It’s too heavy.” Sebastian was grunting trying to pull the door open. The struggle could be heard in his voice.

“I got you, little man!” Finn turned the knob and pushed carefully on the door. He had to make sure not to knock the kid out with the heavy piece of wood with brass handles.

“GAMMY! Come see my room! Momma made it special for me! Are you my surprise?” Sebastian tackled Fiona’s leg with so much enthusiasm that he nearly knocked her over.

Finn laughed with them and exited the room to allow Fiona to explore the room with her grandson.

Sebastian led her over to his bookcase. Davina had stocked it with his favorite fables and stories that they would always read together. She put a great deal of thought into the layout of his room. It looked like the little nook that the two of them occupied on Davina’s days off. Fiona felt tears well up in her eyes. Sebastian noticed.

“Gammy, don’t cry. Mommy is all around me and you. She’s an angel.” He walked over and hugged her leg tightly, which made her eyes really begin to streak her cheeks with salty wetness.

Finn knocked on the door again, and the embrace Sebastian had on Gammy’s leg was broken. The knock was urgent.

“Finn, come in!” Sebastian belted out loudly to him.

“I have to go. Jericho was just spotted downtown in front of Boo’s. My source told me that Sharon came in for an unscheduled shift due to someone calling in. The Marshalls are going to meet me there. Save me some dinner?” Finn was disconcerted.

Sebastian nodded his head and said, “I got you, Mr. Finn. Go save Ms. Sharon, please!” He was a bit frantic in his own way.

Fiona followed Finn out into the hallway in front of Sebastian’s room. “Do you think he will hurt her?”

Finn put his head down, “My informant said that Flannery has been watching the café since we pulled away. He was right behind us. We barely got away from him.”

The Devilles used Jericho Flannery like a tracking dog, and Fiona’s concern for Sharon was not far off. He almost had to know about Sharon because he knew about the safety deposit box key and the other various aspects of Davina’s life. He was decisive and precise when he executed his contracts. No one could claim he was not good at his job. This man was trained to hunt, and the horns of the hunt echoed across the snow this night. His instruction in the armed forces was quite extensive. He was formulated for the front lines in the Marines. It was the only thing he was good at after graduating with low grades after high school. The military gave him a purpose. He loved to kill. He loved the chase. He loved the challenge of acquiring his targets. This life of crime was perfect for who he believed he was always destined to be…a psychopath. He was your worst nightmare if he was tracking you because Jericho was not leaving any stone unturned when looking for he meant to acquire you. He did not give up, and he always got his mark.
He sat outside across the street from the café when it was about time for Sharon’s shift at Boo’s. There was a jolly Santa that had his collection bell ringing as he paced the city street in front of Verve and Boo’s. Jericho hated Christmas. It reminded him of the past and a family that never wanted him. It made him think about how the best present he had received on Christmas was a pack of condoms from “Dear Ole Dad” …that’s what the card said inside the box. Other Christmas rituals in his dysfunctional family included getting knocked in the head by his mother for taking a cookie from the counter that she had just made, and cigarette burns from his pops as punishment for that same act. He had a harsh upbringing, and it showed daily in every move he made. He was truly a miserable human being, and he didn’t care to be considered so or to be seen as the murderer and criminal that he was. His truth was that he care less if he woke up the next day, let alone deal with Christmas and happy times with a family that never mattered to him.

He tossed a cigarette out of the window at the end of his reminiscing. He shook his head and snickered under his breath.

He repeated the card’s text under his breath in a sarcastic tone, “Dear Ole Dad…”

His eyes rolled and then came alert as he saw Davina’s friend pulling in the alley to park in the back of the restaurant. He thought to himself that the street was too busy to take a shot from his pistol that was hiding in his dash. He supposed he did not aim to kill her yet anyway. He needed information. He needed to know where his prey went. He wanted to collect his prize from his contract. He had a long time to wait before her shift was over, but he didn’t mind making her skin crawl while he stared her down inside while shoving food in his mouth. I could eat something, he deliberated. He couldn’t remember when he ate last.

He shut off the ignition of his van, and he gathered his weapon from the glove box. His trench coat had a special pocket for his weapon on the inside…custom made, and he placed it there before stepping out into the street.

The wind was gusty and smacked him in the face a few times before he got across the street to the door of the café. As he opened it, the bell chimed to let the staff know someone entered. Sharon was just coming onto the floor, and she greeted him with her usual, friendly smile.

For my new readers, this is an ongoing story. Here are the previous posts:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Thank you to my fellow bloggers for inspiring this novel! This started from Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge (#FFFC)

xoxo, E.M.

The Phone Call – #FSS 24

This week’s Story Starter from Fandango is:

She overheard the couple whispering in the adjoining room and realized…

that she had to be careful what she said when her phone call finally came through. The walls were seemed to be paper-thin, and the subject of her phone call was not something that she wanted anyone to hear. Felicia Deon was in a peculiar situation, and it was not something that the CIA had spent a lot of time training them about. She supposed when her handler called that she could talk in code, but that would be even more strange and suspect if someone was listening.

She stood at the window overlooking the busy city. Her suite had a great view. The downfall was that there was the adjoining couple to nose into her business. She leaned up against the framing of the window and took a look at the time on her emerald-framed watch. It was nearly ten o’clock. My call should be ringing in anytime now, she thought as she stared at the tall buildings that obfuscated the view to the water in the bay. Her blonde curls were resting on the window, and she could feel the coolness of the night pushing back from the window. It felt nice. Down below her window, she could see the bright decorations that lit up the sidewalks and streets. She could see beautiful crimson ribbons reflecting the holiday lights because they were covered in glitter. It was a beautiful, starry, winter’s eve in New York City.

When her mind stopped wandering and contemplating the situation, the phone in her hand began to vibrate and ring at the same time. It was his ringtone. George Thorogood’s Bad to the Bone. It was a fitting ringtone because Sean was a complex and complicated man that most that encountered him thought to be bad news. He was never known to be a kind man, but he handled Felicia differently than the other agents.

“Hello…” Felicia spoke softly into the phone. “I have to speak quietly…these walls in the hotel are thin.”

There was a brief silence before she heard Sean’s voice come back to her.

“Felicia, I believe you have been followed. You need to get out of that room.” His voice sounded dire, and he rarely allowed anything to frazzle him.

“Who followed me? You said that I was safe and that I would be able to hide out here for a while.”

“Communications…they’ve been compromised from what I’ve gathered from HQ. I have a getaway down in the parking garage for you. There’s a key in the bathroom, behind the light fixture. Langley needs us to go dark for a few days while they figure out the leak.”

She trailed over to find the key in the small bathroom. The key was where he said it would be.

“Where do I go once I get in the car?” Felicia was anxious. She was running out of safe houses to hide in, and with Langley wanting them to go silent…there were going to be limited options for her to get safe.

“There are directions in the car. Go now!” Sean hung up the phone.

She gathered all of her things and started throwing them into her suitcase in no particular organization. She was moving as fast as she could. She had packed more than she could carry, so she left anything non-essential laying on the queen-sized bed.

With the key in hand, she rushed away from the room down the hall of the hotel. Her shoes were a bit slippery on the hallway carpet, causing her to lose a bit of traction in her haste. She passed the mature couple that she had heard in the next room with her slip. Felicia nodded and kept pushing forward, removing her shoes and snatching them up in her hand. She was definitely lacking grace in her steps as she reached the elevators on her floor, and they were dinging to open. She diverted away from them and exited through the stair door. She did not want to chance her aggressors being in the elevator as she stood there like bait on a hook. The stairs were the safer option.

Flight after flight, she made her way down to the basement floor without running into anyone. When she came out the door, she pressed the unlock button on the fob to figure out which car was going to aid in her escape. A black SUV chirped its horn at her, and she could see the brake light on the passenger side light up. As she got to the vehicle, she heard the basement door to the parking garage slam shut and voices echoed through the hollow of the garage.

She began mumbling her thoughts aloud, and said: “I won’t be one of those girls that fumble their keys trying to get in this damn vehicle!

She threw her bag in the back seat of the SUV, hopped up into the front driver’s seat, and stuck the key in the ignition. She didn’t start it yet. She locked her door and slumped down. She could see the men in the rear-view mirror canvassing the lot. The masked men were methodical in their sweep to find her… There was no possible way for her to get away…for now.

The directions were where Sean said they would be. She put the address into the GPS quietly. One sudden move could get her caught or worse, so she stayed as quiet and uniform as possible inside of the truck. She couldn’t let them catch her.

She closed her eyes for just a moment to say a little prayer in her head. When she opened them up again, everything felt more cohesive inside of her body. She was a bit frantic and breathing like she had just got done running a marathon around Central Park. It was hard to bring herself back from a panic, but this time she succeeded. Her mind had a reconciliation with the rest of her body, and she was able to focus on her situation. Her sleekit, agency-trained ways were lacking when she did not have her wits about her.

“Okay, Felicia…you must get out of this garage in one piece. Just start the thing and let’s go.” She was talking to herself to motivate herself.

She looked out each of the windows and did not see any of the perps around. With no one in sight, she carefully turned the key, and the engine purred. She slid the truck into reverse and backed out as fast as she could…not very graceful, she thought.

As the CIA agent put the black truck into drive, one of the masked men stood in front of the vehicle. She slammed the shifter down into “Drive” and nailed the gas pedal as hard as she could. The man escaped being hit, and she drove as quickly as she could out of the garage as the man she nearly hit fired off shot after shot. It broke the back glass of the escape vehicle. She was dodging bullets. Literally.

It wouldn’t be the first time or the last. All she needed to do right now was survive, and she did just that as she turned left out of the parking structure and got away from the guns and men. Her freedom was in sight as she sped away from the hotel.

“Here we go again…”, she sighed the words out of her tight lips as she tossed her burner phone out of the window. “Bye New York!”

E.M.’s Answer – #FPQ 136

Fandango’s blog sponsors a prompt called Fandango’s Provocative Question, and this is my first time participating.

This week’s question is:

If you were forced to chose, would you rather live without the internet or live without air conditioning and heating? Why?

My Answer:

As much as I love, desire, want,, and need the internet for daily life, I cannot stand for my body to be too hot or too cold. I think it is worse when things are too hot rather than cold, since you can cover up when you are cold.

Just last week, I actually lost my air conditioning for a little over a day in the Valley of California. While it is on the cooling down stage of our season, it is still too hot outside to open the windows and let in the breeze. We had a bit of chaos with the toxic ones, and they played around and pretended something was wrong with the wiring (they shut the A/C breaker off at the box…). It was really stuffy and humid in the house, and it got so warm that my old, withering body got sick, literally. The positive side of it is that my daughter, granddaughter, and me gathered in my room with every fan we had and got through the night a little less hot than if we would have stayed in our own areas. It was nice to have a little slumber party.

However, concerning the cold, there was a time when I lived in Arkansas that we had a terrible ice storm, and it killed the power for 11 days in the wintertime. I remember the lowest the temperature got in my house was 52 degrees Fahrenheit, which felt very cold for everyone in the house. The positive side to this incident was, like with the air conditioning episode, that we all gathered together for those days with whatever heat source we had and made it work out for us.

Basically, I have a phone to access the things I need outside of my computers that require internet. Temperatures are important to me too *smiles*. Data is different than internet *giggles*