ABC Challenge Letter F: Free Zone by Dellani Oakes

ABC ChallengeI swore I’d never write a zombie story, but a few years ago, I broke down and wrote one. (Raven Willoughby: Origins which will feature later in this series) Apparently, my muse decided that one just wasn’t enough, so it bugged me until I wrote Free Zone. This isn’t your regular zombie tale, and they don’t eat brains – because EW! Lorelei Ward is a young surgeon, starting her first day as a fully fledged attending physician. The day before, she was in surgery, when there was a massive explosion at a local fertilizer plant. The news showed the photo of a man who was a Person of Interest in the investigation. Somehow, the police think that her surgical patient is that man. She finds them in his room, and he’s cuffed to the bed.

Sending my interns out, I confronted the woman, who had to be a police detective. She had on dress slacks, a coordinating blouse and shoes she could run in. Her hair was pulled back in a severe ponytail. Shorter than me, her head was at a level with my chin, but that didn’t seem to intimidate her at all. All five foot three worth of authority confronted my five foot nine and three quarters.

Who are you? Why are you harassing my patient?”

My name is Detective Adele La Rose.” She flashed a badge.

I caught her hand before she was able to put it away. Examining it closely, I memorized her badge number. Wigging my fingers, I insisted on identification from the man who was with her.

Still doesn’t answer my question, Detective.”

He’s a suspect in yesterday’s bombing.”

This guy?” I pointed to the man in the bed. “Want to walk me through that?” I squinted at the shorter, dark haired woman.

La Rose frowned. “Walk you…?”

Through it. Yes. When is he supposed to have done this horrible thing?”

La Rose checked her notes. “The bomb went off, by remote, at 9:56—”

Did someone have to actively click a button for it to go off?”

La Rose, and the uniformed officer, gaped at me.

That’s what by remote means, doctor,” the officer, whose name was West, said. His tone was on the rude side.

Okay. Well, then I’m his alibi. At 9:56, we were about halfway through his surgery.”

Surgery!” La Rose sounded aghast. “What for?”

Manu Astor’s eyes went wide and he gave me a pleading look.

None of your business. It would be a serious legal violation to tell you, since it has absolutely no bearing on this case. Take the handcuffs off him, and get out. You’re violating his rights, and getting in my way.”

The officer raised a curious eyebrow at his boss. She nodded slightly, and he took off the cuffs.

We were given an anonymous tip that the man we were interested in, was here. And one of your patients.”

Really? Interesting, since this guy looks nothing like that guy on TV. Did you bother to check his identification, photograph, anything?”

La Rose flashed an angry look at her uniformed companion. “That was, supposedly, already done.”

Well, fancy that! As a matter of fact, we did have someone in here yesterday, who resembled the man wanted for questioning. But he wasn’t my patient.”

And you didn’t call us?”

I couldn’t be sure. I wasn’t going to call, and have him be the wrong man. I didn’t want anyone to come in and harass him, rather like you’re harassing Mr. Astor.”

Still, if he looked like the man on TV, you should have called.”

He’s not going anywhere. His injuries were quite extensive. Part of his face was damaged by the chemicals. So, you can understand why there might be some confusion.”

La Rose pinched her lips together. Dark brows furrowed, and she did her best to look pissed off. She did it really well, but I wasn’t having it.

Lemme ask you something.” I crossed my arms, doing my own pinching and furrowing. “You said it was done by remote, right? You think someone would set off a blast like that, and be close enough to be harmed by it?”

Her mouth went from pinched to open. She and Officer West gawped at me, at one another, and at Manu Astor.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m gonna blow shit up, I’d like to be as far away from it as possible. We had that young woman in here. The one on TV.”

What?” La Rose screeched.

She died. Horribly. Her flesh was melted, unrecognizable. Tell me if a terrorist would do that to herself? Or if a man would do that to his wife and baby daughter?” I glared at West, who wore a wedding ring.

Not a man alive who would do that to his baby,” he said simply.

Unless there was something seriously f**ked up about him,” Manu added.

He and West exchanged a look. It was some man thing, but it said a lot to each of them.

So, I’m thinking, maybe you’ve got the wrong guy—twice.”

Will you direct me to the other man?”

I don’t know his name, or where he was taken. He wasn’t my patient. This man here,” I pointed at Manu. “He is my patient. Since part of my job description is to advocate for the health and well being of those in my care, I’m ordering you out. He’s not guilty of anything, and having you here is hampering his recovery. Out. Let my people do their jobs.”

You can’t—” La Rose burbled.

I drew myself up straight. When I stood like that, I was a little taller even than Officer West. He backed up a step. La Rose looked ready to take it further, but he intervened.

We should go, Carla, and let this man get some rest. Dr. Ward, sorry for the inconvenience. Mr. Astor, our apologies.”

Manu nodded, waving at him. “I’ll let it slide without a lawsuit, but next time, check your facts.” His voice held such authority, I almost apologized to him, too.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter E: Escape of the Heart by Dellani Oakes

ABC ChallengeIn my nameless city, there are several prominent families, called the Founding Five – Descendants of the five original settlers in the area; Fellowes, Hendrix, Perrine, Reinhardt and Yarrow. All filthy rich, they are also (for the most part) kind and compassionate people, who work hard for a living. When two Founding Five wed, it’s a media circus. Oren Hendrix and Merle Fellowes are due to wed soon, but are planning a trip to get away together, before the craziness completely takes over. However, they aren’t anticipating getting into a car accident on their way to the airport.

A truck careened out of the ally without looking. Expensive brakes held, but the car behind wasn’t so lucky. It plowed into their rear. The Porsche lurched forward and sideways, smashing into a minivan parked at the curb.

The truck sped away, uncaring. Oren and Merle sat still, dazed. Someone tapped on the window. A young Indian woman dressed in a magenta sari spoke to Merle. Her voice was muffled by the glass.

“Are you all right?” Her lightly accented voice held a hint of England.

“Yes,” Merle whispered, nodding.

A swarthy man stood on the other side, angry and cursing, his ire directed at the departing truck. He shook a fist, making a universally rude finger gesture. The woman spoke to him sharply and he moved out of the road as a police car pulled up. Oren opened his door with difficulty, climbing out of the car as the EMTs arrived. As soon as they recognized Oren, the son of the police commissioner, and successful business man in his own right, they became very solicitous. The young Indian man wasn’t getting the same treatment. In fact, the police officer who was talking to him, was rude, almost brutal.

“Hold up there!” Oren called as the officer forced the young man to put his hands on the hood of his car. “He’s not to blame here. Let him go. And be nice, dammit! It’s not his fault.”

“He rear ended you, Mr. Hendrix.”

“Yeah, but it’s the truck’s fault.”

“Truck? There’s no truck here.”

“Check the traffic cameras.” Oren pointed to them. “And for gods sake, let him up. Dammit! Just because he ran into me, doesn’t make him guilty of a crime.” He walked over to the young man, holding out his hand. “Oren Hendrix. I’m really sorry about all this”

“I am sorry, Mr. Hendrix. But my insurance is insufficient to cover such an expensive car.”

Oren smiled, clapping him on the shoulder. The man winced.

“Hey!” Oren called to a nearby paramedic. “Have you checked him for injuries?”

“No, sir….”

“Why not? Because I’m f**king Oren Hendrix and he’s not?” he bellowed. “Dammit! Check him for injuries! Am I the only one here who doesn’t think I’m the shit?” He looked for Merle, finding her perched on the ambulance. The young Indian woman sat next to her, being checked by an EMT.

“Babe, are you okay?” he asked loudly as he walked over.

“I’m fine. What are you yelling for?”

“No idea,” he said quietly.

The EMT led the other man over. “I’m sorry, Mr. Hendrix. I was told he’d been checked.”

“Not your fault. I’m sorry I yelled.” He nodded at the EMT, kissed Merle and walked over to the police who were checking the traffic cameras on a tablet. “Any luck finding the truck?”

“Yes. We got an ID. You sure you aren’t pressing charges with this guy?” He jerked his thumb at the Indian man. “He was traveling pretty close to you.”

Oren chuckled. “Dude, it’s city traffic, near rush hour. Of course he’s too close. Cut the guy some slack. Do we have info on this car owner?” He pointed to the damaged minivan.

“He was in there,” the cop said, pointing to a jeweler’s store.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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ABC Challenge Letter C: Crash Into Me by Dellani Oakes

ABC ChallengeI started writing this story when I was visiting my daughter in Virginia. I didn’t have a computer with me, and the days grew long, so I started scribbling in a notebook. Eventually, it took form and became Crash Into Me. You may have noticed a trend here, toward first meetings. I love bringing my characters together and watching them fall in love. For Anton and Tabitha, though, the first meeting is kind of a rocky start. Anton is a thief, who is posing as a waiter at an exclusive jewelry event, which he plans to rob.

The other models were just that, nothing special. But Tabitha, she was unique, incredible. Anton had to admit, he had a bit of a crush. Crazy, as he’d never met her, but he’d studied her extensively; every article, personnel file, audio byte, or video he could find. He watched surreptitiously, as he circulated with trays of food. She noticed, but her eyes flickered past him as if he were part of the furniture. He knew he wasn’t, though. Her gaze passed over him often, lingering. It wasn’t his imagination—at least he hoped not.

“She made you?” the chef asked quietly, as he took up another tray.

“No.”

“She keeps looking at you.”

“Yeah.” He chuckled.

His next pass, he carried a tray of beverages, near Tabitha’s perch. Three uniformed men stood between them. Anton stopped.

“Sorry, guys. I thought the lovely lady might be thirsty. Non-alcoholic, sparkling juice. Scout’s honor, not booze.” He grinned, winking at her. A slight blush pinked her cheeks when their eyes met.

One guard lifted a glass from the tray, sniffed it and handed it to Tabitha. Anton offered drinks to the men, expecting them to refuse. Tabitha sipped her drink and smiled.

“Have some, boys. He’s telling the truth.”

They all accepted graciously, if gruffly. Taking his empty tray to the kitchen, Anton counted down the seconds. Since timing was everything, their glasses had been treated on the rim with the odorless, tasteless drug. Even if they didn’t finish their drinks, merely touching it to their lips was enough.

A surprised gasp escaped a few throats as the first guests fell. The exclamation grew louder when others began to drop. A few were left standing, these got the dart.

Anton and the chef, rushed to Tabitha to remove her necklace, to find it was fastened with a special catch. Rather than waiting to undo it, Anton lifted her, carrying Tabitha, to the catering van. The others made a fast sweep of the room, finding easy pickings between models and guests. Seven minutes later, they’d filled their packs and shed their uniforms. Each wore biking gear beneath. From the crate, they got goggles and helmets. Uniforms and other gear, went into the packs. Kickstands up, they were gone. Anton was left with Tabitha, and her tricky necklace. He gave her another dose of the drug, securing her in the van. His heart fluttered. He’d never kidnapped anyone before. He was a thief, and prided himself on never doing harm. Feeling he had no choice, he drove away from the museum with his glittering cargo.

It took time, but he was finally able to get to a remote location on the outskirts of town near a state park. Tabitha was still asleep, but he approached warily, helmet and goggles on to help conceal his face. Taking a pair of wire cutters from his pack, he removed the security catch on the necklace.

Tabitha’s eyes flew open. She tried to make a grab for him, only to find she was cuffed to the sink with her arms behind her. Snarling, she jerked her legs. they were attached to the stove on the other side. Both appliances were heavy steel and bolted to the floor.

“I just want the necklace, Princess,” he purred, lowering his voice an octave, adding a Midwest accent, which was anything but natural. “I promise to call for help when I’m away. They’ll find you in a few hours.”

“I’ll kill you, you bastard!”

“I apologize for this. I didn’t count on the extra paranoia. Bye, Princess.” He wanted badly to kiss her, but he was fairly certain she’d bite him. Also, some of the drug might linger on her lips—not to mention, he would deposit his DNA. Controlling his impulse, he gave her a saucy salute and was gone. The road was a little rutted, but the bike could handle it. Taking off with confidence, he was on his way.

Tabitha knew better than to fight the restraints. Trusting the man was telling the truth, she tried to get comfortable, not easy in this position. Despite the awkwardness, she dozed off.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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