Men on the Beach

2016-07 PicCarl pulled fishing gear from his minivan and laid the equipment on a cooler strapped to a trolley cart. Though he stood on a Florida beach, he wore a dark sweatshirt and matching sweatpants due to an unusually cold spell of weather. No matter how hot or cold, he always wore the same cap bearing the Navy logo. After securing his gear, Carl locked the van and made his way down to the edge of the surf. He pulled the cart with one hand and carried a fishing rod in the other. He picked a spot that looked promising, baited his hook then cast it into the ocean.

Charlie arrived soon after. He wore a yellow windbreaker, khaki pants, and a cap displaying the Army emblem. He exchanged hand waves with Carl then started fishing.

A little while later, Rick joined the other two men. He set his gear down a short way south from where they stood. He tipped his ‘ARMY’ emblazoned cap to Charlie and Carl who both tipped their hats back at him. As was their habit since they first met, the three men fished together in silence.

On their first day together at the beach, they talked a lot. Mostly tall tales about their fishing exploits. Eventually, the conversation turned to their military service. They were not surprised to find that all three served in World War II. Nor were they surprised that they all participated in the conflict in Europe. Carl asked the two army veterans where specifically they had served. After a moment of silence, Charlie replied, “Normandy.” After another silence, Carl and Rick both responded, “Me too.” They stood together for a few more minutes then went back to their fishing.

For several years now, the three men have come together on a Florida beach. They barely say a word to each other, but are bonded in a way no one can see or understand, unless they too had been on a beach, in France, so many years ago.

Why Is Conversation Important?

Everywhere I go today, I see people on their cell phones. If they’re not talking, they’re texting, checking Facebook or one of their other apps. I’ve seen couples in trendy restaurants doing this between courses. It’s like everyone is with someone else, just not with the person they’re sitting with. I’ve started to wonder, is this affecting our personal relationships?

Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, says, “We know that for children the best predictor of success later in life is the number of meals shared with their families.”* Why? It’s because of the conversations that take place. Children learn to listen, speak, and see the affect their words have on others. Parents have the opportunity to share their day, find out what their children think and offer guidance. This is all done through conversation. Even the silences can be helpful as children learn they can be comfortable with others when no one’s talking.

Reclaiming ConversationToday family meals are harder to arrange because of all the activities different members are involved in. A family has to be really committed to the importance of family meals for them to happen. And when they do, frequently the parents bring their cell phones to the table. The children have theirs in their pockets. Someone starts to talk. Another person goes to Google to check to see if they have it right. Now it’s become a competition for the right answer rather than the sharing of experiences.

Or, there’s a “No Cell Phone” rule but one of the parent’s phones vibrates. Now they’re curious. Is it important or can it wait? They try to peek and see. Their children notice that their parents are distracted, not really listening to what they’re saying, so they stop talking. Now there’s no conversation or it’s very light because everyone realizes no one is really paying attention. Gradually everyone brings out their cell phone. Now, no one is talking.

Conversation brings people together. Cell phones at the table push them apart.

I’m not against cell phones. I have one and use it all the time. It makes my life go more smoothly. But, and this is a BIG but, there’s a time and place for everything and the place for cell phones is not at the table.  Conversation is too important.

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle, Penguin Press, N.Y., 2015, Page 47.

Coffee Shop Chronicles: The 5 Senses

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Route 1, Princeton, NJ

September 2000


Why do we stop ourselves?

–5:42 PM–

There’s a woman here without socks on, sandals with toes sunning themselves as legs boldly thrust forward into the world.  Chunky heels, a firm step, a heavy stomp.  Somehow it makes them stronger.  Women who wear pointy high heels, they teeter-totter and tip over.  These are practical feet who want to walk.

My feet, also in sandals, while bare, they have an ankle strap.  These are easier to walk in, but don’t look as free.

It’s a Frappuccino night despite the A/C making it downright frosty in here.  I treasure my nights here, despite it being cold.  Without socks on, my feet are cold.  I definitely need a sweatshirt.

–6:25 PM—

A blonde haired mom and two kids walk in.  The round boy and the girl in a blue dress squeal and play hide-n-seek between her legs.  She says, “Hush!” when they yell.

I smile at her.  “They’re cute.”

“It saves them from a lot,” the mom replies.  “If they weren’t cute, they’d be in a lot more trouble.”

I flip through the book One Day My Soul Just Opened Up and it speaks of closure.  Famous Kitty Carlisle says to her reflection every morning, “I forgive you for yesterday.”

Be compassionate; it’s as simple as that.

–7:35 PM—

A little brunette girl walks in behind her dad.  She is all sunshine, excited about everything.  She pushes her dad’s unshaven but fit legs away as he almost steps on an ant.  The floor is dry.  She moves the “Beware. Wet.” yellow cone by the counter.  She is as free and expressive. as we all should be.

What prevents us from being our wonder-full selves?

Okay, I forgive myself for the pity party I threw myself on my previous journal pages.  I allow myself to move beyond my distress and enjoy the happiness I’ve been given.

I will not always be happy and I am allowed to dwell on the negatives for moments in time.  I forgive myself for being moody.

–8:50 PM—

I go up to the counter for my second venti Frappuccino and I smell flowers, like a shampoo or shower gel.  The scent is not overly floral sweet but like bubble gum candy.  It’s the woman behind me.

“What are you wearing?” I ask.  “It’s delightful.”

“It’s cucumber melon antibacterial gel from Bath & Body Works,” she says.  She wasn’t aware anyone else could smell it.  I don’t know why.

Her male companion pipes in.  “It’s a great smell, huh?”

“Do you use it?” I ask him.

He rubs his hands together.  “Sometimes she gives me some.”

“A man who appreciates a good scent,” I say with a proud nod.  The friendly couple smiles.

My second frapp is vanilla, but it doesn’t taste very vanilla-y.  I don’t feel like going up to get another one.

–9:00 PM—

Two guys now sit across from me, reading.  One of them takes notes on a yellow pad of paper.  He asks his friend about “syllogisms.”  I’ve heard of the word, and I wish I could interject with the answer, but they are both devastatingly cute.

They look older than your typical college student if that’s what they are.  Who else would read in a coffee shop?  Syllogism Guy has dark hair and a dark goatee.  He’s wearing a black shirt, black shoes holding a yellow highlighter in his right hand.  He reads from what looks like a library book.

It’s a quick glance I make because staring is too obvious.  I pretend my gaze radiates throughout the store.  Yep, I’m suave.

They discuss logic, both respectfully silent when the other one talks.  The only sound between them is of the pages turning.

The other guy, I’m attracted to his voice.  He argues respectfully with Syllogism Guy.  He wears faded blue jeans, a grey T-shirt and has dark hair.  His fit body is pleasing, too.  Could I be worthy of such a guy?

Should I give him my phone number?  The idea both thrills and scares me.  Be safe?  Or risk?  Another glance.  “Venti CM” is written on his cup.  Does that stand for Caramel Macchiato?  I could ask him.

His phone rings.  He ignores it.  He has sideburns.

Suddenly, Syllogism Guy closes his book.  They stand and walk out.  I was not courageous.  I watch them through the window as they drive around in a circle.  Rugged Voice left his coffee cup on the ground in the parking lot.

He’s too good not to be taken.  If he’s here next week, I’ll talk to him and offer my phone number for sure.  After all, what’s the harm in that?

He may have thought the same of me.

MRI Exam

My MRI technician seemed competent enough and left the room as I slowly unbuttoned shirt and trousers. I wanted to be the first person in the morning while everyone in the MRI facility was still fresh. I arrived before an 8:00 am appointment, spending ten minutes glancing through a waiting room pamphlet entitled “Magnetic Resonance Imaging – An Inside Look.” It was supposed to inform and calm the fears of MRI first-timers during check-in, but had someone actually included an idiotic pun as part of its title? An “inside look” indeed. The booklet was helpfully illustrated in a cartoon-style for morons. 

The first page asked “What is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)?” before answering itself, “It’s a way to look inside the body without using X-rays.” I hoped the rest would prove more enlightening. Further explanation wasn’t all that reassuring, to wit, “Your body is composed of tiny particles called atoms. Under normal conditions, the protons inside these atoms spin randomly.” 

I paused a moment. Was this why I occasionally feel disoriented listening to local newscasts? And what happened to all the molecules I learned about in high school? I continued reading. “A magnet creates a magnetic field which causes the protons to line up together and spin in the same direction, like an army of tiny tops,” the prose intoned. 

Who in heck wrote this? Five-year-olds are mesmerized by armies of tiny tops all spinning in the same direction, but I wasn’t captivated quite yet. Magnets don’t normally generate anything other than magnetic fields. Was I, in my seventh decade of life, anticipating my protons lining up together like tiny tops? I assumed my protons have figured out how best to align themselves without outside assistance after all these years. 

The pamphlet continued, “A radio frequency (RF) signal is beamed into the magnetic field, making the protons move out of alignment – similar to what happens to a spinning top when someone hits it.” I suddenly remembered a childhood wooden top bouncing off my grandmother’s kitchen walls accompanied by shrieks of alarm. Would my body’s protons begin bouncing off walls when they were moved out of alignment by a radio frequency signal? I read on, more disconcerted. 

“When the signal stops, the protons move back to the aligned position and release energy. A receiver coil measures the energy released by the disturbed protons and the time it takes, and a computer constructs an image on a TV screen.” I pondered the words, “the protons move back to the aligned position.” Why did the writer use the singular word “position” instead of plural “positions?”  Would all my spinning protons gather into a single golf-ball-size cluster-position instead of their previously normal happy positions? Where would this new golf-ball-size cluster reside? How would I greet my wife later in the day? “Hi, Honey, I won’t be eating dinner tonight because I feel really heavy on one side. All my protons have moved back to one aligned position.” 

Besides, how much energy is released during a typical “proton alignment” process? Would I become a walking grenade? How “disturbed” were all of my protons going to be after realignment? Would I feel a little buzzed while they were quieting themselves, like a Friday night martini? How do they know to resume their original positions? Would I have the same outward appearance or look like an alien in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers?” I guessed I shouldn’t bother asking the MRI technician. 

But what was I to make of the next section called, “Understanding the Risks and Benefits?” Why was it necessary to bring up the subject of risk at all? “At the scanning site, due to the strength of the magnetic field, you must remove all metallic objects before scanning. For example, jewelry, glasses, zippered clothing, nonpermanent dentures and credit cards must be removed.” What happened to people who don’t have “nonpermanent dentures” but permanent dentures? Would their permanent dentures turn into six-inch balls of exploding debris? 

I took the pamphlet into the changing room and snuck a last glance at it, discovering a perturbing statement, “In general, an MRI scan cannot be done if a person’s body contains a metal object that contains iron – the object may be moved out of place by the magnetic force.” Yes, I could foresee a problem with long-forgotten surgical staples suddenly exploding like shrapnel from internal recesses, flying through the air and sticking to huge surrounding magnets. I left the changing room to discover a second business-like technician, clipboard in hand. 

“I know you’ve been asked this already,” she said, “but do you wear a pacemaker, or have defibrillator wires, surgical implants, plates, screws, or prostheses in your body? Have you ever had surgery, a gun-shot wound, or imbedded metal in you that you’re aware of?” She inspected me closely as if I were hiding something under my flimsy hospital gown. “Come with me,” she commanded, leading me into the next room with a ceiling-high, ten-ton, evil-looking machine with a hole in its side into which I would soon be inserted, but could hardly accommodate my shoulders. 

Handing me a pair of ear plugs, she said, “Take your shoes off and lie down. There’s a lot of noise when the machine operates so put these in.” I had been wondering if I should insert the plugs into other orifices than ears. “After you’re settled in, you cannot move until the scan is complete. Here’s a panic button to push in case you need it or something goes wrong. This should only take 25 minutes. Don’t worry.” She seemed unconcerned that “something might go wrong.” How was I supposed to know how something was “going wrong?” If “something went wrong”, I might be slightly too dead to push a panic button. 

BZZZZZ … the noise was incredibly loud and went on for more than a half-hour. Suddenly there was silence, followed by bangs and clanks, and I felt myself sliding into light. Maybe this is what being born was like. 

I donned my clothes and returned to the waiting room to read the last page of the pamphlet while the receptionist finished paperwork. There was a final comment I had missed, “Though the use of magnetic fields is not thought to be harmful, short and long-term side effects are unknown.”  

Whoa! I didn’t especially mind long-term side effects, years in the future, like after I’m buried would be good, but what sort of assurance was a statement “short-term side effects are unknown?” Did this mean I might, through no fault of my own, begin dropping favorite activities like reading, writing, alcohol, and long walks in the fall, not necessarily in that order? 

Walking back to the car, thankful it was over, I was dismayed to find I still couldn’t predict where the Dow Jones Stock Index was headed the next day.

Hot Blacktop Ch. 13 – Mechanical Difficulty

Mercenary Garage Dublin


“This has to work,” Sienna said. “I’m no good,” the words a shadowy litany she couldn’t escape. “He’s safer without me.”

She sighed. She loved Saint, but still she couldn’t deny what had happened in her past relationships. They’d all ended in disaster. This one would too.

She closed Twisted Metal for the night and went straight to the Speedway. Her car tinged and snapped after she shut it off. Sienna watched Saint teach class outside surrounded by bikes, the paddock busy with the boys and Tina and the mechanics busy like always. Even a few people sped around the lit track. She worried her fingers together in her lap until they turned a splotchy red and white. He hadn’t seen her yet.

Danny jumped on the motorcycle like it was Christmas. She smiled. What was his life like beyond the bruises? Did he have friends? Did he feel trapped, in a repetitive loop like she did? Could they help him? She shook her head. But her smile soon vanished when her thoughts turned back to what she was there to do. Break things off clean and quick with Saint. She didn’t want to get out of the car.

Sienna took an unsteady breath and opened the door. Like getting hit by a death blow in an old western, her wobbly legs moved toward the end of what never should have begun.

Hiding from Saint almost a week, she knew he was frustrated. Meg’s was as well since her friend helped her avoid him. Megan disagreed with her decision to end it. It was the only thing that would save them from an emotional mess later. Nothing would change her mind.

When he finally saw her, his smile eclipsed the sun that was slowly sinking over the horizon burning a line through the landscape. Saint said something to the class, and he walked toward her. Danny tagged along. Danny looked up at Saint as he spoke to him. The boy’s face turned back to her with a sneer and then he raced off around the building. He shook his head. When he neared and then reached for her, she began to pull back, but he took her in his arms, and his lips locked onto hers in a kiss that made all her decisions up to this point rattle in her brain, her confused emotions dancing alongside what she knew was right. But was it? She pushed him away, and her heart cracked a little more.

Saint frowned. “You’re not still thinking we won’t work are you?”

Sienna gazed over Saint’s shoulder. She saw Danny peek around the corner, his face twisted in anger. His glare felt like shards of glass thrust into her chest. She regarded his tortured face seeing her painful past that mirrored his. She didn’t blame him for what he’d become. Look at what a mess she was. Sienna shook her head to clear her thoughts. She had to convince the boy she means him no harm. She wanted to reach out and take him away from the pain. Her shoulders fell. It didn’t matter what she wanted to do. She wouldn’t be around anymore. Saint would make sure Danny was safe. She gathered her courage and looked into his eyes.

“Can we talk in private?” Sienna fidgeted under Saint’s pointed gaze. Sometimes it felt like he could peer into her soul, opening a window that she never thought she wanted to open again because it hurt too much to let anyone see what she wanted to be left alone.

“Come on, let’s talk in my private bay.”

When he tried to take her hand, she walked faster out of his reach. She peered up at his face and saw he’d drawn down his brows, suspicion and confusion there. “I have to leave the garage open so I can see the kids. Okay?”

She nodded.

Saint crossed his arms and stood next to a lift that held a motorcycle. His muscles stretched the cotton shirt he wore emphasizing his gorgeous chest under his leather jacket. She licked her lips, couldn’t help it. “What did you want to talk about?” he said. “Sienna?”


“You wanted to talk.”

The breath that tattooed in and out of her chest slammed into her heart like and ice ax, the ache growing more vicious as she began to speak, her resolve chipping away at what was left of her heart. “We can’t do this anymore.” Saint’s arms fell, and he took a step forward. She lifted her palms up to ward him off. He stopped and began to speak.


“No.” She didn’t look away from his eyes that lit with fire. She steeled herself even more. Get this done she thought. Move on with the life you deserve. She knew what she was about to say would hurt him. She’d barricade herself in her studio and create her jewelry 24/7, and hid from the world if it meant Saint would be safe from the disaster that was her. “This won’t go on any further. All you were was a good fuck!” She said with a level tone that she didn’t feel. “Now that I’ve gotten you out of my system, I don’t need you anymore.”

His eyes went molten, and his whole body seemed to grow larger, his mouth going rock hard as the tick next to his eye started to pulse in time with his clenching and unclenching fists. He moved.

Sienna backed up and rammed into a workbench the force of it rattling the tools to match her nerves. Saints fists hit the table behind her to surround her and his strong biceps flexed, his eyes closed, and his breathing blew in and out of his lungs like a bull ready to fight to the death. Her eyes flicked everywhere but his until a force drew her gaze back. When he opened his eyes, and they locked onto her she froze. “Lies!” He whispered, his rage prickling across her skin as he spoke the one word.

“Step back,” Sienna said.

“You feel that?” He pressed his body deeper into hers. “Just because you turn me on every damn time I get near you…” He held her tighter. “This isn’t about sex,” he growled. “We’re more than just sex. You know it.” His voice became soft and seductive. She saw what he felt as he looked back at her. It was more than two bodies sating each other. She couldn’t say that, though.

She looked around frantically for an escape route, but she was trapped. In this state, she was afraid he would take her upstairs and make love to her, hard and fast. Make her forget that she was going to end it. In this state as her nipples hardened and her breathing erratic, she had to do something to get away from everything stimulating her response to him, to mate, to stay, to do anything he said. But before she could speak again, he took. His lips met hers and he hauled her up against his body in an unforgiving grip that only made her hotter. “Oh!” she moaned against him, couldn’t hold it back.

He bit her lip and licked. His fingers went into her hair his grip hard, and he pulled, angling her head where he wanted her. He devoured. She cried out the sound contained by his kisses. Her hands came up, and she pushed with everything she had, but he was an immovable force when he wanted her like this. Sienna had to stop him. He wasn’t safe. They weren’t safe together. She wasn’t worth the effort.

Sienna bit him, hard, tasted blood. Taken by surprise, he stepped back and wiped his lip, his fingers bloody. She groaned in dismay and covered her face. Did she really just do that? Her head snapped up when he shifted. The instant he opened his stance, she pushed him back. She did it again and again. “We’re done!” she screamed, her mind full of emotions she couldn’t deal with, Tortured. She snapped. Words she never meant to say tumbled out of her mouth. “You don’t want me.” Her voice cracked. “You’re like every other man who used me and threw me away. You just want a body to sink into, to fuck!” She pushed him again, and again. His steps taking him back further and further. She knew he would never hurt her, so she did it again and again.

“I love you!” he roared. Saint tried to grab her.

“No, you don’t!” He reached for her again, but she gave another hard shove and ran. The echo of those three small words… They ripped her soul to shreds. Because her soul was his in every way and always would be, even if he hated her for what she’d said. She knew she didn’t deserve his love.

Tears swam, spilled over, blurring her vision. Shaking fingers fumbled with keys. She unlocked it, collapsed in her seat. Started the engine, and looked up. Sienna wanted to see him one last time, but he’d already disappeared. He would come after her. Saint wouldn’t give up, so she went to Twisted Metal. Not home. She would never really be home now. Not without him.


Danny hid around the corner. Gunner would pick him up soon. The argument escalated between Sienna and Saint. Maybe Saint would finally get rid of her. He smiled.

The other kids had left. Class over. A female racer that Tina had cornered, her name was Jo or Josephine, walked Tina to her mother’s car. His head snapped around. Sienna was shouting. Danny couldn’t hear what they were saying until Saint yelled three words that he’d never heard before, at Sienna. She yelled back and started to push Saint over and over. And Saint just took it. “Fight back,” Danny said. “Fight back.” But Saint didn’t touch her. Danny closed his eyes. Was he just like the man his mother married? Danny shook his head. No, he thought. Saint couldn’t be. He wasn’t. Danny went after Sienna, determined to tell her that she didn’t deserve a man like Saint. But her tires squealed, and her tail lights dotted the long drive out of the parking lot. When he turned to help Saint he didn’t see him. He ran to the bay. Saint was on the ground. He wasn’t moving.

“Saint!” Danny fell to his knees. There was blood. “Saint! Wake up.” He didn’t dare touch him.

“Oh, shit!” came from behind. Jo, female racer knelt down next to him. “He’s breathing. She grabbed her phone from a side pocket, but Danny didn’t register what she was saying, all he saw was the blood on Saint’s forehead. His anger dripped off of him in red waves when he turned toward where Sienna’s car had disappeared. He got up to go after her even when he knew he would never catch her. A large hand gripped his shoulder. He looked up, tried to yank himself free. Gunner.

“Take a breath, boy.” Danny stood up, and he dug his nails into his palms.

“I’m not a boy.” His nostrils flared. “I’m the guy who’s going after that bitch.”

“Sienna?” a whisper came from the floor. “Where’s Sienna?”

“Why do you even care?” Danny said with closed eyes. “She…she hits you all the time.” His memories flashed to his mother. His lids slowly opened. Saint was sitting up.

“Not her fault,” He groaned, blood now on Saint’s fingers from touching the wound. “She’s just confused.”

“It is her fault!” Danny’s stomach knotted with pain. “It is her fault. It’s all her fault. She’s no good for you. Why can’t you see it?” The last word an agonized whisper. Gunner’s grip was painful now when Danny stopped. He was standing over Saint now. Danny’s body vibrated, to do something, anything to remove Sienna from Saint’s life once and for all.

“No,” Saint said. “It’s not her fault.” He moaned this time as he went to stand up, but Josephine held him still. He could hear sirens. Someone must have called an ambulance.

“Go,” Josephine said. “There’s nothing ya’ll can do.” Gunner’s hand loosened a bit as she spoke and he looked at her. Danny didn’t move. “He’s gotten his noggin hammered that’s all. A few stitches and he’ll be right as rain.” She turned back toward Saint.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Saint said as he took a careful breath. “Look the bleeding’s stopped.”

“If anything, he’s got a slight concussion. But I don’t think so,” she’d continued.

“I’m not leaving until I know for sure,” Danny said. But he could see Gunner’s concern as more than an ambulance sped down the lane.

“You guys go. I’ll be fine,” Saint said. A police car followed the ambulance.

“I’ll call Saint later. See how he’s doing,” Gunner stated.

Danny’s lips thinned. “Alright.”


Once Danny was back in his house he couldn’t settle so he walked. His mother’s property was large, the gardens winding with hidden pathways. He would have gone after Sienna, but security cameras lined the property, eyes on him all the time. When he went to turn back he heard voices. He crept closer.

“You want the money owed you. Let me take care of things my way,” a strange man’s voice snickered. “I’ll make the exchange for the money like we talked about. But I need to get rid of the old bitch. She can’t take much more. If we’re going to do this, we have to do it now. Beating the shit out of her every day and sending pictures to that whiny bitch of a daughter, Sienna…” Danny’s ears perked up even more. “She’ll cave soon and give us what we want. I’ve watched her. She cares just enough to do it. I’ve got to get her alone. But she’s always with that Paulson guy. I can’t ever get close to her.”

“I don’t care about the money. Not now,” It was his mother who spoke. His heart started to race faster. Danny peeked around the corner. She was with one of her higher-ups. There was something wrong with her voice. Was she scared? “We have bigger problems than a junkie owing me money.” He was so close to them the backdrop of light from the house shadowed her face. Her eyes looked like black holes. Danny shivered. Her mouth tightened down as her anger resurfaced. “There’s someone in our organization that’s playing alongside the feds.” She straightened and then leaned forward. Danny could see the slightest shake of her hands as she spoke. He noticed the man flinch. “I want you to find out who it is. Take care of it,” she said in an all too familiar sickly staccato.

Danny gasped. Her head jerked toward the sound.

“Well, well.” She struck him quick and hard. Danny fell backward on the soft grass that might as well have been needles piercing his skin as fear and new pain slithered through his pores making him sweat. Like a flailing crab he retreated, but she was quicker, even in her high heels. She grabbed his hair and yanked him over toward the man. He whimpered as he spied a gun under the guys suit in a holster. His eyes flicked back and forth between them. He tried to grab the hand holding his hair, but she shook him and shook and shook.

“I don’t have time to take care of the leech that I birthed. You do it. Any way you like.” Her smile spread when she looked at him and a chill danced across Danny’s skin. “Just make sure he’s alive afterward.”

“You’re the boss,” the man said with a shrug. She threw him toward the man and clicked away on the stone path. Danny fell to his knees and then got up to run. “Uh, uh,” the man whispered as he grabbed him by the collar and held him, his lips touching his ear. “Mm, just old enough to fight. I like it when my boys fight.” His grip was ruthless.

Danny started to tremble. There were worse things than getting hit.

“This is going to be fun.” The grip shifted, and Danny’s chin lifted to avoid the man’s touch, but there was nowhere to go as the arm tightened around his neck. Danny balanced on his tip toes. Then the man’s other hand went to Danny’s hip pressing him closer, his fingers digging into his bony hip.

Danny’s mind and body went still as a mouse. This couldn’t happen he thought. Then his fear coalesced, and he went wild. He dropped his mouth and bit the man so hard it went through the suit.” The man screamed, but the grip around his neck didn’t loosen.

Danny had to think. Think. Think. He opened his mouth, but fear seemed to cripple his voice. But the man ground his hips into Danny’s butt. Oh, God! NO! He tried again. “I know…” He gulped. “I know where Sienna is,” he choked the words out as he gasped for air, black spots dancing in his vision. “You can get the money you’re  owed,” he finished. The man’s grip loosened. “My mother said she didn’t care about the money. You can keep it all for yourself.” His grip loosened even more. “She’ll never know.”

The man’s fingers curled around Danny’s neck, and he ground his hips even deeper. Danny held in a whimper.

“You better not be lying boy, or I won’t try and make it good for you.”

Danny nodded and prayed that he could find Sienna.


[1] Mercenary Garage, Dublin