#Bookreview – Dark Divinations, a paranormal anthology

Look at this review! I had a short in this book, so I had to share a review from Robbie!

What Amazon says

It’s the height of Queen Victoria’s rule. Fog swirls in the gas-lit streets, while in the parlor, hands are linked. Pale and expectant faces gaze upon a woman, her eyes closed and shoulders slumped. The medium speaks, her tone hollow and inhuman. The s�ance has begun. Join us as we explore fourteen frightening tales of Victorian horror, each centered around a method of divination. Can the reading of tea leaves influence the future? Can dreams keep a soldier from death in the Crimea? Can a pocket watch foretell a deadly family curse? From entrail reading and fortune-telling machines to prophetic spiders and voodoo spells, sometimes the future is better left unknown. Choose your fate.Choose your DARK DIVINATION.With stories by: Hannah Hulbert, Ash Hartwell, Joe L. Murr, Emerian Rich, Naching T. Kassa, Michael Fassbender, Jon O’Bergh, Stephanie Ellis, H.R.R. Gorman, R.L. Merrill, Rie Sheridan Rose, Daphne Strasert, Alan…

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Into the Redding Clouds – #Gogyohka #TankaTuesday

Sunset

Shimmer of sunlight
O’er twilight clouds.
Darkness in the east,
Hope in the west
Where lies the frontier.

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This gogyohka was written for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday #189, poet’s choice! I decided to participate this week because, as I was driving home yesterday, the sky was very brilliant. I wanted to contrast sunset, frontier, and the idea that west is “death”, the last adventure.

This picture was taken last year just before Hurricane Dorian came by. It’s not the same as what I saw last night, but a hurricane sky isn’t like anything else and I thought I’d share.

Before Antibiotics

cemetery graveyard tombstone

You were so young, so tiny. You’d not even had dreams, not sought to see your goals blossom and bloom.

And here you are – in a hole, next to other families’ headstones all marked “INFANT” with a single date underneath. Could I get you one of those stones? A final blanket that might comfort you as you look down from Heaven and remember that your mother always loves you, no matter how young you were taken?

And here I am – moving on to the next grave, an unmarked patch of earth where sweet Ona, six, was buried last year.

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So, I’ve recently been listening to a 19th century book wherein the author uses “blossom” to mean “woman hits puberty” and I HATE that usage. So I decided to turn that on its head and write it from a more frightening place.

This was inspired by Charli Mills’s Carrot Ranch prompt, blossom.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

5 Kinds of Writing Inspirations

06092019 Writing Club witty nibWelcome back to the Club, where we hone our craft and zero in on a new aspect of writing every month!

Everyone has inspirations for their creative works, even if you’re trying to write something entirely different from what’s out there right now. If you don’t have inspirations, what happens?

Writer’s block.

Below is a list of inspirations for my writing. Even if these aren’t your typical inspirations, you might be able to use them for inspirations when in a bout of frustration or blockage.

5. My life

I think I’ve told people this, but my life is a freaking sh*tshow, and not in the normal, “drama” way that people tend to believe. Somehow, though, I can find stories in it that make people laugh.

There’s things like this gem, from one of my friends. As you read this, imagine everything in a Southern accent:

I was hitchhiking in Durham the other day, and a guy in a truck pulled over to let me in. After a few miles, I started feeling bad and said, “Hey, uh, thanks for picking me up. But I just wanted to tell you, in case you wanted to pull over, I’ve been to prison.”

The driver didn’t stop. “Me too. What you go for?”

“Selling Vicodin at a gas station. How about you?”

“Kidnapping.”

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I’m currently working on a semi-biographical chapbook about my grandmother. While she passed back in December, I don’t think it will ever be published because there’s too many people still alive who make critical appearances in the product.

Your life is a story of stories. Take a moment to think about your stories, think about why they are your stories. Write a quick flash like the story I wrote above, or consider a poem about it. I guarantee stories about your life will put your adventures in a whole new perspective.

4. Visual Arts

I’m not a person who can draw well enough to show off, but sometimes I can doodle, and I enjoy photoprompts and picture prompts here on WordPress. An image can almost always conjure a story, even if you don’t know what the image contains.

That’s probably why photoprompts are so fun to do! Sue Vincent hosts one of the longest-running photo prompts I’ve found – and you can join in here. There are plenty of other prompts, many of which include photos, with which you can practice.

3. TV Shows/Movies

I am a really, really big fan of TV. My first novel was a crossover fan-fiction (Bonanza x Gargoyles x The A-Team) written I was in 5th or 6th grade.

And while it’s definitely not ok to steal ideas and characters direct from TV except in a non-money-generating, fanfic sort of situation, it is ok to be inspired in other ways. I loved the creepy, surreal feeling you get from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I love the twists and horror of Madoka Magica. And things like that? That can inspire you to move on.

The visuals of TV and movies can also inspire us. A scene, a mental picture, a bit of a smirk – these images can prompt responses just like a still can, but there’s another story just behind it.

And, pro tip: don’t make fun of people (especially teens) who write fanfic. It’s not a bad gig and definitely not a bad way to interact with your world.

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2. History

This is probably one of my personal favorites.

I have used history to inspire an enormous number of my posts, many elements of my novels, and am currently writing a set of fantasy novellas directly related to historical events. George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice (wow, that title’s about as edgy as anything a depressed teenager could dream of) was based on the War of the Roses.

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The truth is filled with strange events, and these events all follow some sort of cause and effect. Since humans love stories riddled with human emotions, drives, and characters, studying essentially human stories can give us fresh ideas. What’s more, these real people can inspire us to write about someone who’s not us (or not our close relatives!).

1. Books!

Everyone says that if you’re writing, you should be reading. But why read books for inspiration when that could just lead to copyright issues?

Inspiration, my friend, isn’t copying. Copying is what Hitler did and called it art. Inspiration is when you glean aspects.

Like a character trait? A representation of a married or a bickering couple? Slather those aspects onto a new story.

Like a classic story common to many readers? Allude to it. I’m a huge fan of Biblical references and metaphors. Classical Greek and Roman writing is fair game for an English-speaking audience. Pull out a Dickens, an Austen, a Twain.

Remember, your story does not exist without a reader, and your reader enters into your book from their own cultural context. Familiarity with your own cultural context is essential to crafting an understandable, relatable story for your time.

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Where do you get inspirations for your writing? Tell me in the comments!

American Chimera – 12.3

American Chimera Cover Small

The chair filled with a holographic projection of Agent Ivanov. His false image looked up from a tablet in his hands. “This call was unexpected.”

“Agent Ivanov,” the interrogator said. “Sorry to bother you just when you’ve arrived back in Washington, but something has come up.” She cleared her throat. “I have evidence that one of the prisoners we previously released, Reverend Hinkley, has molested children. I’d like to arrest him a second time.”

Agent Ivanov’s face fell, and his eyes blinked while he pursed his lips. “Where did this come from?”

“I don’t have proof, but the volleyball coach claims photographic evidence exists.”

“But we already released him. What will the others think? They may start to believe their affidavits and the government’s word is worthless.”

“Just tell the truth. He has been arrested for being a pedophile.”

Agent Ivanov huffed and squeezed his tablet. “This isn’t going to be that easy.”

“But it’s the right thing to do.”

“I suppose.” He typed something in to his tablet screen. “There. I’ve started an investigation into the issue. I’ll let you know when he’s been taken back into custody. If you get the photographic proof, let me know. Send me all the information you have on the case in the meantime.”

The interrogator released a held breath. “Thank you, Agent Ivanov.”

Agent Ivanov nodded. “You owe me one for this. But I’m going to ask you to stop investigating these people’s personal lives on your own time. No more interrogations for the good of Dr. Dallin Smith or his research. Understood?”

She saluted. “Yes, sir. I’ll find the evidence against Reverent Hinkley, and then I will turn my full attention to the exit interviews and subsequent release of innocents.”

“You do that.” He put the tablet down. “Anything else while you have me on the line?”

“No, sir. Everything else seems to be going fine.”

“Goodbye, then.”

“Goodbye, Agent Ivanov.”

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Late May Newsletter

Hello, all! I usually do my monthly updates at the beginning of the month, but this time – June 2020 – I decided I needed to do this update a little early!

Why?

Well… you’ll see. 😉

Dark Divinations is out!

DarkDivBanner Dark Divinations Horror Addicts

The first anthology I’ve participated in – Dark Divinations – is available on Amazon! People have asked if they’re doing anything other than Amazon, but I don’t think that’s available right now. Amazon’s the easiest and biggest market right now, but I know they own their own rights and ISBNs, so they could expand in the future if they wish. I’ll update if it changes.

But, in bigger news for the blogging folk, Dark Divinations gave me a great excuse to create new profiles you may not have seen.

My profile pic is now an actual picture instead of the ye olde Grandfather Mountain landscape you’re used to. Now it’s just sexy as hell.

Amazon Author Page and Facebook Page

The Dark Divinations team wanted a recording of us reading our story – and, if you go to my twoFacebook page (sorry, Chelsea, but I loved that term too much to not use), you can watch the video I made and hear a sample of “Miss Mae’s Prayers”.

But don’t expect much out of the Facebook page – I frikkin’ don’t like Facebook, and I feel like just having something on there makes me a hypocrite. Feel free to follow or share it around if you want (I don’t care), but I only plan on using it for truly official crap like when a publisher makes me or if it would really help the anthology out (like making the vid for their watch party).

And! AND! The same publication meant it was time for me to get an Amazon Author Page! It’s just got that anthology for now, but maybe – just maybe – that will grow one day! I’m pursuing the traditional publishing route, though, so I wouldn’t expect that to be soon.

Carrot Ranch Column

My new profile pic actually made a stealth debut in my latest Carrot Ranch column. Check it out down at the bottom!

into the past carrot ranch square

In this column, I talk about a powerful and underappreciated influencer from American history: Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee syllabary. Ride over to the ranch if you want to know more!

Wattpad Journey: OVER

I didn’t make the longlist with my weirdo Wattpad story Our Lady of Perdition, but honestly I didn’t expect it. It’s clearly an adult tale with a ton of symbolism and metaphor that in no way works with the target audience (and, thus, the judges) of the Open Novella contest. I’m actually honored to have made it as far as I did!

So, if you want to read an approx. 20k story about WWII pilots landing on a really terrible island, you can go here!

Our Lady of Perdition

WORK

Ok, I’ll admit it – the big reason I’m not as available now is I got a job. A job making drugs.

I don’t think it will keep me away forever, but the initial push to get myself up to speed and doing well has taken quite a bit of effort. I can feel that stress of being new letting up, but it’s not quite done yet.

(Also, secret secret… I had a video game I wanted to play this month, so even my free time ended up going to complete waste, haha!)

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What all sorts of things have you done this month? Anything you’d like me to check out? Leave them in the comments!

 

American Chimera – 10.4

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Dani approached me after practice a couple days later. “Coach,” she said, “I need to talk with you again. You can’t let Pastor Hinkley back here.”

I crossed my arms. “Is this more hearsay?”

“Can I talk to you in your office?”

I didn’t have an excuse to get out quick today. I was supposed to walk the dog when I got home, but that wasn’t a pressing matter. I looked to my watch, wished that these kids weren’t so needy, and caved. “Fine. But this better be the last time you accuse someone without evidence, Dani.” I picked up my bag, put my whistle in the outer pocket, and stuffed my water bottle in the mesh net. I waved for Dani to follow me to my office, just across from the boys’ locker room, and she did so.

I left the door cracked behind me after Dani entered. “Dani, I know Pastor Hinkley was mean. I didn’t think you were the kind of person to make up stories to get back at someone.”

“I ain’t made anythin’ up.” She removed her phone from a pocket in her backpack. “A couple weeks ago, Stacy told me Pastor Hinkley grabbed her butt and stuck his hand in her pants. You didn’t believe me, but I believed her. So I set up my phone camera in the locker room; I put it in a locker and set it to take a video. I was right.”

She sorted through some files on her phone and input a complicated password before showing me a video. Very clearly, Pastor Hinkley had forced his way between the wall and Stacy. I saw his hand go to her bottom. I saw Stacy’s reaction, saw him continue to assault her – assualt her in a room where my head was bowed and eyes were closed, just a few yards away!

I gasped and tossed the phone to my desk. I couldn’t breathe for a few seconds – the look of pain and shock on Stacy’s face was killing me. I’d let it happen – I hadn’t listened when Dani warned me, and Stacy’d had to pay for it. I shook my head. “Dani, is this…this can’t be real, can it?”

“It is-”

“But how?”

Dani nodded and put the phone back in her backpack. “It’s real ’cause Hinkley’s doin’ this stuff. You cain’t let him come back.”

I nodded and closed Dani’s backpack, ushering her to zip it closed. “Does Stacy know what you did?”

“No. She’s too embarrassed about the whole thing. So I took matters into my own hands.”

I rubbed my face with a hand and held my breath.

Dani crept forward on her tapping legs. “Should we go to the cops?”

“I…I don’t think so,” I said. “I don’t know the laws about these things, but you may have just made porn with a minor, or you could have made non-consensual revenge images. Either of those could get you in trouble, and I don’t know if you can bring charges such as these against Reverend Hinkley without Stacy’s consent.”

Dani threw the bag back over her shoulders and strapped it between two of her legs. “You’re going to ban him from the locker room though, right?”

“I have to. I…Oh, God, I let this happen. This is my fault.”

“It’s Hinkley’s fault, Coach. You sure we cain’t get ’im arrested or somethin’?”

I shook my head. “I’m not sure. I’ll look into it. Don’t let anyone else see those images, for Stacy’s sake if not for anyone else.”

“If it’s me you’re worried about, Coach, don’t. I can take the fall for Stacy, if it helps her out.”

“No, you shouldn’t need to do that.”

“But if I hafta, I will. I know what I am, and I prob’ly won’t make it through my whole life without getting arrested. Getting arrested for Stacy’s sake ain’t a bad way to go.”

I reached out and hugged her. “God bless you, you little demon.”

She hugged me back.

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American Chimera – 10.2

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Churches have gotten more powerful in recent years. There wasn’t really another organization that supported and enforced sexual purity in teens, the main time purity matters. You don’t want young girls getting pregnant before sterilization and mandatory birth control are applied. You don’t want your sons losing their chance at creating a more viable offspring by wasting it while he’s young. You don’t want a mandatory abortion just because one of the parents isn’t scoring well on the tests. Reverend Hinkely was very adamant about it, and so he prospered when the Third Great Awakening started. His church donated to the county’s athletic program, and he offered to give prayers before the games – which almost all the parents approved of and wanted. The prayers took place in the locker room since schools can’t outwardly show favoritism toward any faith or lack thereof.

After the first locker room prayer Dani was subjected to, she pleaded with me not to let him come back. She was distraught, lashing out with random and impossible accusations. I promised to talk to the preacher about his prayers before the next home game, and that at least got her off my case for the time being.

And so I did as I promised.

While the girls were changing and we were waiting outside the locker room, I put a hand to Pastor Hinkley’s shoulder. “Thanks for coming out today, Reverend. I know a lot of the parents appreciate what you do.”

He chuckled goodheartedly. His eyes were kind, and the wrinkles around them filled with the wisdom of a man of God. “I do what I can. We don’t have too many young people anymore, so we gotta do everything we can to protect ’em.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “There’s…there’s one young person, though, who I think you need to consider more this time. Remember how you called Dani Huffman a demon last time?”

His brows pinched. “The spider?”

“Yeah,” I answered. A pit formed in my stomach when I thought about how I’d agreed with him that she wasn’t human, but it was a clear way to identify the girl. “You said some pretty hurtful things about her last time, and she complained. So, uh, don’t do that this time. Not good for team cohesion.”

“Oh.” He blinked a few times. “I see what you mean. You do want to win, after all, eh? You do want this little girls to run their hearts out, glisten with sweat.”

I clapped him on the back. “So we’re good, right?”

“Yessir. Crystal clear.”

A girl opened the door to signal that they were ready, so me and the reverend stepped inside. I tried to ignore as much of my surroundings in the sacred space as I could, then made my way to a little bench against the back wall. I bowed my head and closed my eyes like I was supposed to, like all the girls on the team did. My bench allowed me to sit back from the team, not counting myself among their number because – I mean, look at me, I’m basically a middle aged man. I was more like a father figure to them.

Just like Reverend Hinkley should have been.

I heard his footsteps pace outside the team’s huddle. “Oh dear Father God, our beloved creator in heaven, bless these virgin girls as they prepare for their contest. Keep their bodies fit and beautiful.”

I bit my lip. The words were a little crass, but sexual purity was a big deal, especially when one was only permitted a few kids – if any – by the government. It was, after all, what had allowed his church to flourish. He had to focus on it.

“And, dear God, let’s pray that none of them or their opponents get hurt. They’ve worked so hard, God, to keep themselves healthy and active through sport. A broken bone or a physical problem now could ruin them come end of the year, so keep them safe.” I heard his hand pass from girl’s head to girl’s head, mussing their hair and laying a blessing upon each of them.

“Let’s not forget about their souls, dear Lord, dear Father. You know better than I that there is a demon in our midst, a demon worse than any other I’ve seen. You know how it tried to destroy my church, and it’s up to you to protect these girls’ souls and bodies.”

I gritted my teeth. He’d promised not to do this, and yet here he was. I’d have to be stern with him later.

He stopped near Dani and Stacy. “I want to pray for this one’s soul and purity, especially. She’s done things that appall you, and yet you still love her. You want to give her the best of all your gifts, despite what she’s done. Let each of these girls realize how beautiful they are, inside and out, and thus turn away the devil from their lives.”

He moved on.

“The devil works among us, making us do terrible things. Let us turn toward your holiness, your purity, and copy it in our own lives. Games and physical activity were blessings given by you, God. Let us run for the prize and fight for the win, but let us be graceful and beautiful even if we lose. In your son’s precious name we pray, Amen.”

In order to get everyone’s attention off his weird prayer, I lifted my head and clapped my hands. “Alright, everyone, let’s go out there and make this the best game yet!”

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American Chimera – 10.1

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The interrogator wrote something on her tablet. “I’ve heard a lot about you, Mr. Jones.”

The coach had been red-headed in some past era, but now what little remained was graying. His smile was kind, his long face and big mouth comforting in a dumb sort of way. “You have? Hopefully only good things.” His smile died down. “I’ve been in that cell, alone, for what seems like days now. The lights never go off, and I can’t tell what time it is. What’s going on? I’ve only seen the faces of guards, soldiers judging by the uniforms. The loneliness is harrowing, ma’am.”

“Don’t worry. It won’t last much longer. Just be patient. You aren’t one of my main concerns, and you can still say enough to get yourself out of here. Understood?”

He nodded. “I mean, sure. But who am I supposed to snitch on? I don’t usually fiddle with anything illegal. I don’t even speed, normally. Bad for the environment.”

“I understand that, Mr. Jones. You don’t even really need to snitch. I just need a little information on a certain event that you were involved with. In 2085, a Reverend Hinkley was barred from attending girls’ volleyball games at your middle school. A year later, records show, he was further banned from protesting the presence of one Daenerys Huffman from playing-”

“This is about Dani, isn’t it?” Coach Jones asked. He snapped his fingers and shook his head. “I should have figured that out! Everything makes so much more sense now.”

The interrogator sighed. “Yes. This is about Dani. I already know a lot about your involvement with her and your value as a coach while she was in middle school. I just need you to tell me about the events in 2085 and 2086 surrounding Dani Huffman and Reverend Hinkley. We’ll have a few more chats to talk over some other events, but I need to know about the Reverend sooner rather than later.”

“I mean…I guess I don’t see why not. But…um…I don’t really want to tell you all of it.”

“Why not? What could possibly-”

“I haven’t told anybody the full truth. Only me and Dani know the whole story, and I agreed not to tell anyone else. The other girl or girls involved didn’t bring their concerns to me, and I didn’t think it necessary.”

“I think you should tell me the truth.”

“I don’t want to name names.”

“If you name names, it could help those girls get out of this prison. All of them are here, and none of them are more likely than you to be released early.”

“Who should I vouch for, then? None of her teammates deserve imprisonment.” His face dimmed after he thought for just a second. “What did you learn about Reverend Hinkley? Who told you about his involvement?”

The interrogator tapped her stylus on the arm of her chair. “It doesn’t matter. What I want is your end of the story.”

“It does matter,” Coach Jones argued. “I know Dani’s position on this, but she and I aren’t the only ones involved. I can’t break their confidence.”

“Stacy,” the interrogator answered. “Stacy told me her story. Besides that, you don’t have the right to keep secrets. This is a legal proceeding.”

Coach Jones nodded. “Alright – if Stacy told you her secret, I’ll tell you most of the story.”

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American Chimera – 9.3

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Agent Ivanov scrolled through the interrogator’s list. “Excellent…there’s fifty names on this list. Excellent work, given you’ve only had these people for about a week.”

The interrogator bowed her head. “Thank you. I gave it my best effort.”

“Obviously not, seeing as you’ve also managed to spend time on Dr. Smith’s frivolous nonsense. But I’ll cut you some slack.” He signed the page with his finger and closed out of the document without another look. “Did you find out what the good doctor wanted?”

The interrogator shook her head no. “Unfortunately, I think it’s locked in the brain of Mrs. Janie Huffman, and she’s utterly convinced that she shouldn’t speak with me. Until I get some leverage from another interviewee, I don’t think I’ll be able to find what Dr. Smith is looking for.”

Ivanov chuckled. “I told you it was worthless to do Dr. Smith’s bidding.” He smoothed his graying hair back and regained his usual, static composure. “But that’s neither here nor there. I’m getting on a plane back to Washington in the morning, and I doubt I come back here in person for several months. Is there anything we need to work out now, before I take off?”

“Just a few things. I’m curious if I’ll be reassigned once the initial push is done and everyone who can be released has been released. This place…” She shook her head. “It gives me the creeps. I had Dr. Smith give me a tour of the veterinary facilities, and I saw one of his creations die. The basement has this awful aura about it.”

Ivanov looked over his bifocals. “It’s filled with giant spiders. It’s supposed to feel that way.”

“I supposed you’re right.” She nodded her head and cleared her throat. “Either way, I’d like to request a different job when this one’s done. I don’t like it here.”

“No one does. It’s a pretty crappy post, all things considered. Though…I’m told by some of the aides here it’s not so bad if you get in good with the scientists. Not sure why.” He tapped his fingers on the table. “So, uh, I’m not sure what’s going to happen when you’re done here. If, as the capture of specimen 803 indicates, the chimera project is turning into a success, this post may become more important. Having an agent stationed here would potentially be necessary.”

“I’d request it be someone else, then. My specialty isn’t in this scientific gobbledy gook.”

“Not very many agents’ specialty is.” He cleared his throat. “I’ll look into it. For now, though, is there anything you need in the near future? Questions?”

“The prisoners being released – when’s that going to be accomplished? That Reverend Hinkley, there, needs to be released as soon as possible. I think his release can be used as leverage in some of the future interrogations.”

“They’ll probably be put on the same plane as me. Washington’s a whole lot closer to their home than this hell-hole, after all, and the government is sending me something much bigger than I expected. Only so much jet fuel made per year, so they don’t want to burn it on unnecessary flights.”

“Was taking them all the way out here necessary, though?” the interrogator asked.

“Government works in mysterious ways. They had to act fast in response to that newspaper article, and I guess someone just made this decision on a whim. It didn’t turn out terribly, and now the permanent prisoners are already where they’ll live out the rest of their lives. We were always going to have to bring Dani and her parents here.” He stood and motioned to the door. “Well, it’s getting late, and I need to get to bed now if I want to start adjusting to Eastern time. So easy to lose track of what time it is when underground, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir,” the interrogator answered. “I hope you have a pleasant trip back, and thank you for releasing all these innocents so quickly.”

“My pleasure. It was your work that made it possible, though, so I should be thanking you.” He offered her a firm handshake of approval. “You’ve been doing a great job here. See you in a few months.”

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