Alternate Universe

Jim Smith’s office loomed in darkness except for a single lamp highlighting a cluttered desk.

A tall man with a black pony tail leaned back on a rolling chair and rubbed his eyes. “Dang, it’s been a long day.”

Staccato heels clicked across the floor. “Muttering to yourself again, Jimmy-boy?” A grinning brunette with round, jovial eyes tapped the edge of Jim’s computer screen. “Time you gave it a rest. Kenny and I are going to grab dinner at the Seashell. Wanna come?”

Leaning on one arm and looking like he might slide to the floor in a puddle of spent energy, Jim eyed his compatriot in exotic studies. “No rest for the wicked, Christy. You ought to know that by now.”

Christy leaned in her smile widening in a challenge. “Even the devil gets time off for good behavior.” Swiping a stray lock of hair from her eyes, she straightened and shrugged. “We’ll hang out for a bit. Come when you can.”

Sliding his fingers down the side of his face, Jim shook his head as he watched Christy’s silhouette pass through the doorway. “Gorgeous but never makes the least effort to be logical. The devil—hah!” His gaze flickered to the screen. Under a subheading “Alternate Universe Citations,” thirty resources lined the page in perfect APA order.

With the sublime effort of a god-finger reaching toward Adam, Jim tapped the off switch and the screen blinked to black. “Time to feed the cat.” He struggled to his feet, staggered, and then, like a ship when the wind dies down, righted his mainmast and headed for the door.

At home, Jim found the cat alive though far from happy. He scoured the shelves and discovered what the cat already knew—the cupboard was bare. “Dang it!”

The cat couldn’t have agreed more.

“Guess it’s out into the wilds once again.” Jim peered down at the feline. “It won’t take me long. They have eatables in the shop on the corner.” He glanced at his watch. “If they’re still open.” He rattled through the doorway, clumped down his apartment steps, and plowed his way through the crowded street.

The cat watched from the window.

Inside the market, Jim snatched up a bag of kitty food, a quart of milk, a box of granola, and a sausage pizza. He pondered a can of root beer.

A man, loaded with foodstuffs, stepped next to him. “Excuse me.” The man pulled open the glass door and plucked a root beer off the shelf.

Jim glanced over and nearly dropped his groceries.

They peered at each other, both sets of eyes widening in confusion.

Jim’s arms began to shake. Mirror, mirror…. He peered at the items in the man’s arms. Kitty food, a pizza—pepperoni not sausage—a quart of milk and a pack of granola bars. His gaze traveled to the other man’s round, frozen eyes. He swallowed and stuttered a single word. “H—Hello.”

The stranger cleared his throat. “You seem awfully familiar.”

Like a pricked balloon, they burst out laughing. Jim piled his parcels onto one arm and thrust out a hand. “Name’s Jim. Always wanted to meet my alternate universe persona.”

The other man balanced his goods on his left arm and grasped Jim’s hand with a warm smile. “James.” He shook his head. “Never seen anything like this. “He nodded to the checkout counter. “I’m just staying the night at the One-Stop next door. Traveling through. Me and Millie—my cat. We’re visiting friends in Milwaukee.”

Jim dumped his foodstuff on the counter and faced James. “I live up the block. I wasn’t kidding about an alternate universe—that’s my thesis. I’m a student at Chicago University.”

James lined his foodstuffs in neat order behind Jim’s. “Very cool. My dad’s big into theoretical science too—time travel, extraterrestrial life—all that.”

The two men paid their dues and started for the door with matching sacks hanging at their sides.

Jim opened the door and nodded to the left. “Well, I go this way.”

James grinned. “Hey, how about you stop by the motel a minute, and I’ll get a picture of us together. My friends won’t believe that I have a lookalike.”

Jim shrugged. “My cat’s about ready to kill me—but sure. I’ll take one too. My mom will freak. She thinks I’m crazy—this’ll at least bring some credence to my theory.”

As soon as the two entered the dark room, James snapped on a light and dropped his groceries on a table. He pointed to another. “Just put your stuff there—” He fished his phone out of a pocket as his gaze roamed over the matching foodstuffs. “Did you notice? We got almost the exact same things?”

Jim nodded. He bent down and patted a gorgeous white Persian cat. “Well, at least we have different tastes in cats. Mine is a calico.” He straightened and peered at James. “So, what do you do for a living?”

James adjusted the camera feature on his phone. “I’m studying to become a Jesuit priest.” He peered over the camera and grinned. “Thought my dad would kill me—alternate universe here I come.”

With his hands clasped, Jim sniffed back sudden irritation. “What do you mean by that?”

Focusing on Jim, James waved with two fingers to the left. “Take a step—there. Perfect.” He tapped the phone and scanned through images. “Take a look at my dad. He’s a big man—important in his own way—never to be taken lightly.” He turned the phone around so the image faced Jim.

Jim took three steps forward and froze. As if his hand moved by a separate power, it found his shirt pocket, lifted a phone forward, and within seconds, his eyes scanned through multiple images. “Dad hates to have his picture taken—now I know why.” He turned the phone around.

James staggered and fell on the edge of the bed. “Oh, Lord.”

Jim plopped down next to James and rubbed his face. “God had little to do with this.”

Slapping his leg, James stood. He stalked across the room. “So, that explains everything. All the business trips. Gone for months at a time!”

The cat twirled around James’ leg.

With shaking fury, James’ peeled open a can of cat food, pounded to the bathroom, and slapped the container on the floor. “Here, now quit being a pest.”

Jim’s gaze strolled from the cat to James. “It isn’t the cat’s fault.” He shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair. “I should’ve guessed. I always thought his secretiveness had to do with his science—never occurred to me he was leading a double life.” His fingers curled into clenched fists. “Poor mom.”

His eyes closed in pain; James leaned against the wall. “What’s your mom’s name?”

Jim’s gaze flickered over his phone. He found another picture, stood, and held it out. “Saundra.”

James opened his eyes and nodded. “She’s beautiful.” He held up his phone, found an image, and passed it over. “Maria.”

Jim stared at the photo. “Gorgeous.” He slapped his face as he handed the phone back. “Dad always has had a strange sense of morality.” He shuddered a long exhaling breath. “Odd sense of humor too.”

James shook his head as if chastising the floor. “True. I just never thought it extended this far.” He nudged his half-brother. “Guess the joke’s on us.”

Jim stood to his full height and pulled a card out of his wallet. “Call me when you get home, and we’ll arrange a little joke on Dad.” He gathered his groceries into his arms and stepped to the door.

James followed and tapped his card into Jim’s shirt pocket. “I’ve always believed in a supernatural, not an alternative universe. But in this case, I’ll bet by the time we’re through, Dad will believe in both.”

Jim stepped over the threshold. “When our moms find out—likely—he’ll be heading for one—or the other.”

 

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Coming in 2018…

OldEarth ARAM Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

Anyone But Him

I ordered Anyone But Him from my author friend—Teresa Linden.

My daughter got it first. Grrr…

Anyone but him is a page-turner that kept me up late wanting to know what happens. The crisp clear writing makes the whole story visual, and I felt that I knew the characters intimately. My teenaged daughter read the book, loved it, and passed it along to me. More than the typical romance, there is a bit if a mystery embedded in the story. An enjoyable read. I hope there are more stories involving the West family.

Unable to remember the past three years or understand why she would’ve moved so far from home, Caitlyn can’t believe she willingly married such an overprotective, bossy, and jealous man.

In this emotionally-charged, new adult mystery romance, ANYONE BUT HIM, Caitlyn struggles to solve the mysteries of her amnesia and her marriage.

Suspicious circumstances surrounding her husband tempt her to leave and start life over, but they also challenge her Christian faith and convictions.  

Kindle Copy Anyone But Him

Paperback Anyone But Him

Hardcover Anyone But Him  

Other books by Teresa Linden

Chasing Liberty

Testing Liberty

Fight for Liberty

Life Changing Love

Roland West—Loner

Battle for His Soul

Standing Strong

So Blind

Nancy rested her head on her hands and blocked out the bars of her cell. She could feel the swelling lump on her forehead where she had banged against the dashboard, but otherwise, she couldn’t sense any other serious damage. Of course, they had checked if she could walk and if anything was broken before they brought her in. Almost seemed to care. She shook her head and snorted.

“You’re awake then?”

Lifting her gaze, she peered at the officer on the other side of the bars. “Never slept. Just lay down for a minute. That’s a crime too, I suppose?”

“I could hear you snoring down the hall. The sun’s up, and your lawyer said he’d be here by nine.”

“Thank God for small mercies.”

The tall, thin, brown-haired young man stared at the middle-aged woman before him. “You have a chance to think things over?”

“Think what over?” Nancy wobbled to her feet, clutching her aching head. Her voice rose. “Think about how some damn fool smashed into me, but you put me in jail?”

“Plenty of witnesses saw you cross the line. Your car ended up backward in the left lane. And your blood alcohol level—”

“Oh, don’t start again! Good heavens! I only had one and a half beers. It was a party! I couldn’t just sit there acting like I disdained their offerings.”

“And their wine? It showed up—”

“A sip or two hardly amounts to anything.” Nancy ran a disgusted gaze up and down the young man’s form. “You’re young enough to be one of my students. You know, I’m not the person you take me for. Not some bit of trash getting drunk at—”

The officer lifted a hand. “I not your judge or jury. Just hoping that you have something to say to your lawyer when he shows up.”

Nancy tugged at her collar and straightened her sleeves. “What difference does it make to you? You’re the reason I’m in here. If you had just listened to me, my son and I would—” Nancy frowned. “Where’s Billy? Did Ron get him?”

“He’s still under observation at Children’s. Nasty wallop he got—”

“It wasn’t my fault! It was that crazy woman, that idiot blond with the tight skirt.” Nancy swung around. “I’ve been a teacher for nearly as long as you’ve been alive, and I volunteer for good causes. No one in their right mind will think I’m guilty. But one look at her—”

The officer’s chin hardened as he thrust back his shoulders. “Her baby girl was in the passenger seat.”

“See! Made my point. Everyone knows that babies ought to be in the backseat. Stupid woman!” Nancy ran a finger along her bruise and then tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “How’s the baby doing? I’ll tell my Ron to go see her when he checks in on Billy.”

“Wouldn’t do that if I were you. The baby’s critical. She was facing the wrong direction and the airbag—” The officer looked away.

Nancy flopped down on the rickety cot. “Damn.” She squeezed her eyes shut; her lips quivered a moment. “No deserves to lose their baby.” After wiping her face, she looked up and wagged a finger at the young man. “She ought to have known better. There’re about a million notices everywhere about that very thing.”

Another officer marched forward and the two officers consulted together.

Nancy ran her hands along her rumpled dress and rubbed her stomach. When the two men were finished, she called to the first. “Hey, you.” She peered at his nametag. “Officer Raymond. Anything to eat around here? I’m famished, and I don’t know how long it’ll take before I get a decent meal.”

The officer considered the woman before him. His voice dropped to a cold, professional tone. “You’ll get fed along with everyone else when the meals are brought over.” He turned away, stopped, and then turned back. “I go off in an hour, so you’ll be gone before I get back. But I’ve really gotta thank you.”

Nancy blinked in surprise. Her lips curled into a pleased smile. “How’s that? I’m probably a model prisoner compared to what you’re used to—”

The officer lifted his hand. “On the contrary, I’ve dealt much better prisoners, men and woman, who were actually sorry for what they’ve done. You happen to look a lot like someone I know. I always worried I’d lose my perspective if had to I deal with someone that reminded me of a friend. But now—that fear is gone.”

Nancy stepped forward and gripped the bars with both hands. “Because I’m so innocent?”

The officer turned away. “Because you’re so blind.”

 

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Coming in 2018…

OldEarth ARAM Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

For One Purpose

Amazon Link Newearth Justine Awakens

CHAPTER TWO

Slowly, deliberately, a light scalpel moved over cold flesh. “Tell me, do you fear death?” Mitholie, a brilliant Cresta renowned throughout the interplanetary scientific community, fixed his companion with a hard gaze as they stood in the bright-lit Crestar laboratory.

Taug, an up-and-coming apprentice, let a tentacle drift through the warm salt water of his bio-suit. His large, golden, watery eyes gazed coolly at the specimen lying suspended in the examination tube. “No. Why should I fear a void?” His eyes slowly rose to meet the elder’s scrutiny.

“Well—” Sensitive tentacles curled about the delicate equipment as Mitholie’s green eyes returned to the subject of their examination. “—your sociological profile says you…dislike death.” The light scalpel cut deeper, revealing bone. Mitholie’s mouth orifice lit up with a pleased smile.

Taug moved his bio-suit slightly nearer, bending over the examination tube. His eyes, lit by the dim, icy-blue lighting, flickered over the specimen. “I don’t fear death. I see it as a waste.”

“A waste?”

“Yes. I calculate waste on how hard it is to retrieve lost data.” Taug sucked in water letting it drift slowly over his gills. “A brain sack once destroyed is gone, forever beyond our reach.”

Mitholie scanned each of the specimen’s organs carefully, individually. “But what if I no longer need that mind?”

“It’s hard to tell when and how something might be useful, or even worse, necessary.”

“You have an…intriguing mind.” Mitholie turned a lump of flesh in his tentacles.

Taug watched intently. “Beyond that, there is practical reality. I’m neither a trained soldier nor an assassin.” He gestured with waving tentacles, “Like you, science is my passion.”

“Your father’s pet project has been identified—alive.” Mitholie’s eyes remained fixed on his work, ignoring Taug.

Taug slowly exhaled water. “I would say that was impossible, but I know the High Tribunal must be certain or else you wouldn’t have told me.” His mouth orifice remained in a fixed smile. “Is this a favor? Am I being offered a chance to commit suicide before the messy business of torture, trial, and execution?”

Mitholie spasmed, his long body wiggling with glee, “No such dramatics, no.” His tentacles released the delicate equipment; he looked Taug in the eye. “The High Tribunal simply wishes you to…purge your father’s unfortunate experiment. That done, I’m sure this messy business can be consigned to the dark waters.”

Taug’s tentacles curled thoughtfully. “Forgotten?”

“And forgiven.”

“I’ll need its location.”

With a flick of a tentacle to his bio-suit, Mitholie effected a transaction. “I’m transferring the data now. By the way, hiring another Cresta to kill it is…unadvised. The High Tribunal wishes the waves of the ‘humons’ to be kept tranquil, at least for now. Besides, you have contacts? Yes?”

Taug’s eyes moved swiftly, scanning the long streams of data crossing before his eyes. “Yes….”

Mitholie laid down his knife and stepped back. “Very good. I’ll go with you to the harbor dock.”

Taug stepped aside. “Thank you.”

Together they moved down the sterile, rounded, white hallway, deep in secretive conversation. Plugging their bio-suits into the wall jacks, they shed them, and came out on the other side of the wall free, gliding through dark water.

The human specimen floated in the examination tube, alone.

I am offering a free review copy of Newearth—Justine Awakens to my faithful blog followers. If you are interested in a review copy, please email me at akfrailey@yahoo.com, and I’ll send one to your email address.

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

OldEarth ARAM Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

All My Sins Remembered

Amazon Link Newearth Justine Awakens

I’m offering a free review copy of Newearth: Justine Awakens to my faithful blog followers. So if you’d like a free review copy, please email me at akfrailey@yahoo.com, and I’ll send one to your email address.

Blessings!

Ann

CHAPTER ONE

“We have definite…” The Luxonian Supreme Judge in a trim human form and dressed in a dark blue robe, stirred in her seat, “…proof that you assassinated well over a hundred and fifty beings on the troop transport called…” She glanced down at a datapad, “…the Generous Sharon.” She fixed her black-eyed gaze on the lone figure standing on the floating dock with narrowed eyes.

Well over fifty delegates had gathered at Bothmal Criminal Court and sat on comfortable chairs, each tailored for a particular species. Every sentient race on the Inter-Alien Alliance Committee, including Ingots, Uanyi, Crestas, Luxonians, Bhuacs, and humans had at least one representative in attendance. No race wanted to be absent from this trial. Hundreds more sat in the court’s upper wings, savoring the spectacle while millions watched the unfolding drama on holoscreens.

The figure standing silently at the center of this hurricane of watchful emotion was a biomechanical hybrid, an android built in female form, in this case, human. Long black hair fell like a cascading waterfall down her back; her blue eyes stared straight ahead, peering into shadows. Massive cuffs, secured with powerful magnets and chains, were locked tightly about her wrists and ankles.

The android moved slightly, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. An expectant hush settled over the assembly. The silvery rattle and clanking of chains broke the quiet.

“Well?” The Supreme Judge leaned forward in her chair, fixing the prisoner with narrowed eyes and lowered brows.

“Yes.” The word was a sigh, not of regret, but of weariness or boredom. “Yes, I killed them.” She glanced up at the massive holoscreen hovering over the assembly. On its curved surface, the security recordings from the Generous Sharon played on a constant loop. “My guilt is…pretty obvious. There’s no point denying it.” A small smile curved at the corners of her lips.

Cerulean shifted to the edge of his seat and coughed lightly into his hand. “If I may ask, why?”

Pondering a moment, the android straightened. “They were in my way.” Her musical, almost bell-like voice would have been lost in the echoing chamber if not for the amplifiers.

“Justine, correct?” Cerulean folded his hands into his long robes, leaning forward.

“That is my name.”

“It was necessary, you say. Did you feel no…revulsion? Pity? Empathy? How could it be necessary to end the lives of over a hundred beings?”

Justine placed her shackled hands on the dock’s rails. “You work in this hall. Did you ask the building permission to occupy it? What its feelings were?”

Two delegates, a Cresta and a human, spoke at once.
“So, you compare yourself to an inanimate object?”
“Are you suggesting that you, as an android, cannot be sentient?” The human representative’s fingers nervously played with a datapad.

Cerulean raised his hand. “Justine, I’ve read the reports, your psychological profile.” He cocked his head. “You’ve made jokes, noted ironies—shown a full range of emotions. Are you suggesting that, like an inanimate object, you can’t feel or rather, that you had no choice?”

Justine looked at the human, turning slightly. “The Inter-Alien Commission declared that it is impossible for a robot to be sentient. That is your belief. I say nothing about my own.” She fastened her cold, blue eyes on the Cresta. “I am the product of fetal tissue and a computer. How much choice do I have?” Her lips curved mockingly.

 

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

OldEarth ARAM Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00

2018 Short Stories

I don’t have a complete list yet of my 2018 short stories, but here’s a peek into what’s coming each Friday from January to May. 

My newest science fiction novel Newearth—Justine Awakens is slated for publication in early 2018. Many of the characters from my short stories really “come alive” in the Newearth books.

Enjoy!

January 5th

Winter Irony

January 12th

Now I See

January 19th

A Beggar’s Choice

January 26th

Intercept Course

February 2nd

Live Again

February 9th

Outlast the Ages

February 16th

Ol’ Diablo

February 23rd

Edge of Life

March 2nd

You Don’t Look Dead To Me

March 9th

Not Natural

March 16th

Don’t Miss a Day

March 23rd

The Great Wall

March 30th

My Love Is Strong

April 6th

Live

April 13th

So Blind

April 20th

Wait and See

April 27th

Alternate Universe

May 4th

Progress 

Skeletons

In a cherry picker bucket twenty feet from the ground, Charles Gilmore, heavyset with a small bald spot, wiped his sweaty brow with the back of his arm. He squinted at the intricate arrangement of wires.

Saunders, tall, lean, and dressed in jeans and a blue shirt, stood on the other side of the bucket. He concentrated on the connections before him.

Charles twisted a wire into place and glanced at Saunders. “At least it isn’t raining, eh?”

Saunders nodded; his attention focused on the wires. “I just want to tie this—”

Charles gasped. A spark caught the corner of his eyes, and he scowled. “Hey, you sure everything’s dead?”

Saunders froze. “I turned off the main—”

“Stop, look here. It’s sparking! How the—?”

Saunders lifted his hands away and glanced around. “They all go to that main terminal, see, right there. I turned it off securely, or we’d be toast already.”

Pressing a lever, Charles lowered the bucket to the ground. “Something caused that spark. I sure as hell didn’t imagine it.” He labored over the uneven ground toward the main box and surveyed the vacant field. He grunted. “There was a house here once.”

Saunders’ eyes roved right and left. “How can you tell?”

Charles pointed to his feet. “Look down.” He kicked through the thin grass, exposing a segment of a cement cover. “It’s an old well covering. Probably buried when the house was taken down. They must’ve had a line here.”

“And it’s not cut off? Don’t be crazy. Besides, the main—”

“Look at that old house over there. It’s a distance, but it’s fed by a different system. Perhaps this one is too. Come on.” Charles started to pace away.

Saunders trotted alongside as they crossed the tussocks of grass.

Charles glanced at his watch. “Dang.”

Saunders’ eyebrow rose. “What?”

“I told Jill I’d be home early. Won’t happen now. And she’s already miffed.”

Saunders marched evenly at Charles’ side, staring at the ground. “Wives. Glad I don’t have to mess with one.”

“It’s not all bad, but she’s all bent out of shape lately—it’s stupid really.” He frowned. “Well, sort of. You see, her mom’s getting old, and she forgets when things happened— talks like twenty years ago was yesterday.”

“Pretty common.”

“Yeah, but unfortunately, she let it slip to our oldest daughter that Jill gave up her first baby—it was a long time ago. Her mom never wanted her to give it up, and now she’s asking questions, demanding to see it. So Jill had to explain—”

“Skeletons creeping out of the closet, eh?”

Charles scratched his jaw as he appraised the farmhouse and a lanky dog ambling in their direction. “Yeah, but Jill is letting the past have too much power over her—”

A wiry, old man shuffled toward them, waving. “Anything I can do for you folks?” He called to his dog, and the hound changed course and scuttled under the porch.

Charles explained their work with the electric company.

The old man nodded and hunched his shoulders. “Fine, go ahead. We don’t use much electricity during the day, anyhow.”

After cutting the power to the old farmhouse, the two men once again rose in the bucket. Saunders peered at the sky and chuckled. “You think you’ve got skeletons. Everyone has something to hide.” He halted the bucket at wire level.

Charles leaned back and tucked his fingers into his belt. “It shouldn’t make any difference. Jill’s a great mom; her past is ancient history. Just like I’m not the guy I was twenty years ago—no one should care if I did a few stupid things back then.”

“Oh, but people do care. Your sins follow you—” Saunders gave a wire an angry twist and faced Charles. “Even if they aren’t even sins at all.”

Charles shrugged. “I don’t let things bother me. Jill is just overreacting. Chrissie will understand that she gave up the baby for a good reason. It’s not like it matters anymore—”

“Give me that cutter, will you?”

Charles passed the tool over. “I never judge people. I couldn’t care less if you had a dozen affairs and a couple kids on the side.”

Saunders turned and pointed at Charles with the cutter. “How about if I was a killer? Would you still feel the same?”

Charles froze. “Huh?” A smile crept over his face. “You’re joking, but really—”

“No seriously. It was manslaughter—ran a red light and killed a woman and her little boy. I hardly did any time—a little over a year and probation. Total accident.”

Charles’ gaze dropped. “Sorry, I had no idea. I wouldn’t have brought it up if I—”

Saunders shook his head. “I’ve made you uncomfortable, I get it. But just remember, your wife is right. Our past haunts us”

Charles pursed his lips, focused his gaze on the box, and nodded to the wire assembly. “You finished?”

“Yep.”

“Okay, let’s get the cover on and go home.” Charles screwed everything in place and lowered the bucket. He unhooked his belt and tossed his tools into the truck.

Saunders did the same and slipped into the passenger side of the vehicle. He glanced at Charles. “So what time do want to meet up on Saturday?”

Charles started the truck and glanced at Saunders quizzically.

“Remember—our fishing trip?”

Pulling into the right lane, Charles’ eyes darted from side-to-side. “Oh, yeah, forgot. But, hey, I think Jill’s got something planned…hate to make her any more upset.”

Saunders let his head fall back against the headrest, his gaze staring through the truck roof.

Charles glanced over. “Maybe some other time. You understand?”

Saunders exhaled and nodded slowly. “Sure do.”

~~~

Novels by A. K. Frailey

Science Fiction

Last of Her Kind  http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Historical Fiction

Coming in 2018…

OldEarth ARAM Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)

OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)

Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Inspirational Non-Fiction

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00