Friday, June 5, 2015


Hey readers! Here's a sneak peak into a brand new book I'm writing. Comment, share, enjoy!

Dull throbbing against her side.
When her eyes fluttered open, she found herself in a hospital bed, IVs and wires hooked into her arms and the back of her hand. The machines monitoring her vitals blipped and beeped high-pitched tones that made her head swim. The digital clock on the wall read 7:17. A.M., she presumed, as the sun was beaming through translucent curtains near the foot of her bed.
It took a few moments for her to sit up, her body demanding that she submit to its rapture of sharp pangs. She had no recollection of how she ended up here or why every muscle was threatening to give out. The door to her room was propped open and she could hear the bustle of brisk feet pacing across the tiled floor and the sound of one Dr. Mindlewood being paged to the ER.
The room was spinning.
She gripped onto the side rails of her bed, waiting for it to pass, and fought off the urge to vomit. Her mouth was so dry, her limbs feeling as though they weighed hundreds of pounds. She struggled to bring her legs over to the side of the bed, the pain causing her to lose her breath. If only she could reach the door…
“Oh thank God, you’re awake!”
In walked a sturdy looking man of 30 something. His hands looked rough, the kind you see on people who do heavy laboring, and his dark hair was cut short and sticking up as if his hands had been running through it all morning. He was carrying a food tray and sat it on the table as he made his way over to her.
“You should lay back down, sweetheart. You’re not well enough.”
He made a motion to scoop her back onto the mattress.
“Get off of me!” She wailed, partially from pain and partially because she didn’t want a strange man handling her in a robe that scarcely covered her naked body.
The man stumbled back in surprise like he had been physically struck. She wanted to say more, but the room was spinning again. She lost her grip on the rail and crumbled forward.
The man rushed forward, his voice echoing in her head as she slipped into darkness.

“... water… water…”
She felt a straw brought to her lips and struggled to sip. She praised the cool relief of water going down her throat and opened heavy eyelids. The man was hovering over her, a glass in his hands and worry etched in his otherwise handsome face. His mouth was moving, but she couldn’t make out any words. Everywhere she looked was slightly blurred and her head was pounding.
The straw was brought back to her mouth and she drank obediently, grateful she didn’t have to speak. The man grazed her cheek with the back of his hand and she drifted off once more.

“Well, look who decided to join the party.”
It was dark outside now, though she couldn’t quite make out the clock. A stout, older looking woman in navy scrubs was scribbling onto a clipboard she retrieved from the bed’s baseboard.
“How are you feeling?”
The young woman strained to sit up but was gently pressed back down by the nurse.
“Now, now. I know you’re anxious to go, but we can’t have you falling out again. That man has been a complete wreck.”
“He has?”
“Oh yes. The doctor sent him home for some rest. That poor soul hasn’t left your side for weeks.”
The woman laid there helpless as the nurse removed a penlight from her front pocket and shined it into her eyes briefly.
“Your vitals are good today. If you’re able to nibble on something and get a little more rest, we may be able to remove the catheter and get you assistance walking to the bathroom.”
“What happened? Where am I?”
The woman peered around the room, blinking hard in an attempt to improve her vision. The nurse put a hand over hers.
“You’re in the Mercy Care Facility Hospital and I’m Diane, your guardian for this shift. You were in an accident.”
“Yes, and you’re a very lucky woman.”
“What happened?”
“Perhaps its best if we wait for the doctor to return with the details.”
“I want to go home.”
The woman groaned, sending Diane into action adjusting the drip of morphine being administered into one of her many IVs.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible deary.”
“What day is it?” She asked once the pain had subsided.
“Tuesday October the eighth.” Diane flipped a few pages on her clipboard and jotted something else down. “I want to ask you a few questions. If you don’t feel up to it, we can try again later.”
The woman nodded.
“Just answer the best you can. What is your full name?”
My name. What is my… oh, that’s right.
“Jocelynne. Jocelynne Nicole Martin.”
“How old are you?”
“Twenty-four. No, twenty-five.”
Was that concern in Diane’s eyes just now?
“What color is your hair?”
“Black.” Jocelynne wondered how this was a relevant question.
“You’re doing great.” Diane said. “Now tell me. Who is Elijah Kennedy?”
“I… I don’t know.”

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Larry Anderson was at the end of his rope.

It was a t-shirt and jeans sort of day. The sun was shinning overhead and a perfect breeze caressed his cheek, but all he could think about was how Cynthia was leaving him.

She was the perfect wife. Breakfast was hot and ready every morning along with a kiss to wish him well on his way to work. She kept their home spotless, despite the messes made by their three year old son, and was accommodating to Larry's every request. But after eight years of marital bliss, their love was coming to an end.

Cynthia had caught Larry with his pants down. Literally.

Their neighbor, Linda "The Minx" Moore, pranced around her front yard in a bikini top, daisy dukes, and kitten heels doing some gardening and other chores. She conveniently sprained her ankle walking on the rock path back to her front door and Larry was there to save the day. What started as an innocent gesture, turned into an invitation for lemonade, then snacks, then the removal of his slacks. He would never forget the look on his wife's face when she walked in on them in the kitchen during their "afternoon delight."

Now six months later, their divorce would be finalized that afternoon, but he had no plans on attending the signing.

Larry was going to jump.

He stepped onto the elevator of his office building and pushed fifteen. That should be high enough. Instant death was the goal, not a life long paralysis. He wondered how long Cynthia would grieve and what she would tell their son.

"Your father was an adulterous so and so!"

The shame wore on him like a ton of bricks. He prayed she would lie.

A tall slender woman got on at the fourth floor. She tried to make small talk, flashing a set of perfect white veneers, but Larry didn't respond. He was too busy admonishing himself for sneaking a gaze at her large breast, money well spent, and shied his eyes away from her long legs and five inch heels.

Cynthia used to wear heels like that.

Before Linda "The Minx" Moore. Before he realized how perfect his life was. Before he grew tired of said perfection and ruined the best thing he had ever gotten right.

The woman got off the elevator on seven, and Larry rode the rest of the way up alone. When he reached fifteen, his cell phone started ringing. It was Stan, his divorce lawyer, probably calling to see where he was. He silenced the ringer and headed for the office near the back corner that was always empty this time of day.  Having spent countless times there for Friday morning meetings for the magazine, it felt like being welcomed by an old friend.

The phone rang again.

Larry stepped inside and locked the door behind him. The window was ajar and leftover donuts boxes littered the conference table. It was just after one o'clock, making him a half hour late for the signing. He rescued the last glazed confection from a box and stuffed it into his mouth, wiping sticky fingers across his pant leg, and stared out the window at the beautiful Spring day.

He wondered how long it would take for word to get back about his "fall."

Larry lifted the window up and leaned way over its pane. Head first would probably be best.

The phone chimed once more and he pried it from his jeans with the intention on chucking it to the pavement below.

But he had a voicemail.

Hanging by his waist now, he dialed one and listened to the automated voice tell him he had five new messages.

"This message is for Larry Anderson. This is Susan from Dr. Monroe's office reminding you about your appointment o--" Message deleted.

"Larry, this is Linda, Linda Moore. I just wanted to know if you wanted to get together sometime for coffee and--" Message deleted.

"It's Stan. Where are you man? You better get down here in ten minutes or we--" Message deleted.

"Hey, its me."

Larry's heart nearly stopped. It was Cynthia.

"Look, I've been struggling with these divorce proceedings. It's been a real nightmare."

Larry hung to every word.

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but I miss you. I think we should see a marriage counselor."

Larry's heart jumped for joy at her words, but his happiness was replaced with dread as he lost his footing. He tried to push himself back through the window but the weight of his legs was too great and he went tumbling out. He clung to the phone for dear life, desperate now to hear the rest of the message.

"-- I never thought it'd turn out like this, you know? Part of me feels responsible too--"

No, Cynthia, it's all my fault!

"-- I just want to try. We can still make things work, right?"

Larry twisted his body and shielded his head with his arms, helpless as the ground came speeding towards him.

Larry wanted to live. He wanted to tell his wife how much he needed to hear those words and that he'd do whatever it took to rebuild their marriage. He wanted to hold his beautiful son in his arms again. To call Linda "The Minx" Moore back and tell her she could kick rocks.

But it was too late. He squeezed his eyes shut just as he hit the pavement.

It was softer than he imagined it would be. It didn't even hurt.

Larry slowly opened his eyes, the ceiling fan whirling above him. Blinking in disbelief, he sat up and found himself entangled in his comforter on the floor. The alarm clock read 1:15. He must have fallen asleep. He ran a hand through his hair and let out a long, tired sigh. So he was late for the divorce proceedings after all.

Stan was going to be pissed.

Freeing himself from his bed linens, Larry grabbed hold to the nightstand and wobbled to his feet. Dusting white flaky donut icing from his jeans, he reached into his pocket and read the text from Cynthia awaiting him on the lock screen:

"The signing has been canceled. Did you get my message?"

Monday, March 30, 2015


They say hindsight is 20/20. Never before has that saying reigned true for me than when I became a married woman and a mother. My husband and I promise her the world and do everything in our power to make sure she gets it.

 Because she's ours, she deserves it.

And then I think of my father.

My father loves his children, let's lead with that. He led our house with a firm sternness that stems form a place of the genuine intent on raising us right. I respect him and would never allow anyone to speak poorly of him in my presence.

But, and there's always a but, Garrett Riley was a selfish man. His passions came before the needs of the family, which is how we found ourselves void of electricity because he just had to make one more bet. It's why we had to sacrifice our weeknights and Saturdays in an unsolicited job promoting a bar that was on its last leg.

Just like us.

It's the reason promises to Disney World and after school skating parties were answered with a locked bedroom door.

I wish I could say that I was being childish, that all kids want things to go their way.

But let's fast forward to my first summer home from college when my father demanded rent money to stay in my old bedroom after he and mom split. When he told her we didn't want our cherished porcelain doll collection, but it was him who dumped them in a dusty mold ridden attic.

The summer of sophomore year when he told me to take a year off from college because he made no plans to help me pay tuition.

And when I married the love of my life, he complained about having to pay for the reception dinner, the smallest expense of the entire wedding experience.

Truthfully, my husband has played the role of hero in my life since we met, a role Dad (never Daddy) chose not to make a priority in filling.

I love my father, and everything we've been through has helped mold me into who I am today.

So I will not make promises to my children that I can't keep. I will honor their childhood and invest in their dreams along side my own. I will make them a priority over my career and as long as they are in my care, I will not require money in exchange for shelter while they still depend on me.

Best of all, I will help my husband in his constant pursit of being our daughter's knight in shinning armor until she finally meets her prince charming.

And I can proudly say that my father taught me that.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


"Deana, what were you thinking?"

It was Saturday morning and the girls were looking for a place to park in the over crowded campus garage.

"Do you think we're gonna make it in time?" Avery asked from the backseat, pulling a pink volunteer t-shirt over her head.

"We'll be fine, it's still early." Maggie gripped the wheel and scanned the narrow lanes for an opening. "Deana, I'm talking to you."

"Why are you making such a big deal outta this?" Deana used the tiny visor mirror to touch up her lip gloss. "It's not like I killed somebody. Besides, I'm just following orders."


"Erica, our dean of pledges."

"What happened?" Avery tied her hair into a messy knot on top of her head.


Maggie tried to ease into a spot but was met with a handicap sign."Deana, spill." Grumbling, she backed the tiny smart car out and resumed her search. "We're in the same pledge class so you can tell us anything."

"Look, all I did was hang out with Charles Jacobs." Deana admitted.

"The president of Tri-Chi?!" Avery blurted. "He's such a pig!"

"Actually he's not that bad. Plus he's gorgeous. I'm chair for our mixer next week."

"Tell me you didn't sleep with him." Maggie cursed under her breath as the spot ahead was taken by a Fiat. She flipped him the bird as they passed by.

"Trust me. There was no sleeping that night." Deana boasted, biting her lip. "That boy is hung like a-"

"You little skank, I told you to stay away from him!"

"Look, you guys dated a million years ago. Get over it already."

"First of all, I DGAF about CJ. And secondly, you just screwed yourself."


Avery took a deep breath. "She's right, Dee."


"What I'm about to say doesn't leave this car, got it?"

Deana and Maggie exchanged glances and said OK.

"You know that website, Caught Ya Coeds?"

"That disgusting site with all those porn videos of girls on campus?" Maggie swerved out of the garage and drove back onto the road in search of another lot.

"Yeah. Well my video was supposed to be uploaded last semester, but I found out he was the one posting them."

"Who?" Deana snapped as Maggie attended to the notification going off on her phone.

"CJ. He gets girls up to his room where he has a hidden video camera in his headboard, and then posts them online the next morning. I found the camera and threatened to tell, but he said he'd release the video on every social media platform and you know once something  online, it's there forever."

"Yeah right. You really expect me to believe that?"

"Why would I make that up?! The only reason I'm not on there is because I know the truth, but if I tell, my reputation is over."

"I'll believe it whe---"


The sound of twisted metal filled their ears.

The windshield exploded as Deana was thrown head first through it, shards piercing their skin and shredding their clothes.

Maggie was pinned to the seat by a the steering wheel, her legs going numb, and Avery's eye bled from the shrapnel sticking out of it.

There wasn't enough time to scream as the second truck slammed into them, making the world go black.

When the investigator was questioned about the cause of the accident, he shook his head as he held up a bloody cell phone.

"Texting while driving."

Thursday, February 5, 2015


Steve tugged his headphones from his ears and turned to the gray haired man beside him. After three delayed flights, two layovers and a hotel stay, all he wanted was to tune out the world and sleep.

But Morton had other plans.

"Excuse me, son. Would you mind opening my air vent?" The old man asked. "My arms don't reach up like they used to."

Steve forced a smile and twisted the knob above, releasing a stream of cool air onto his neighbor.

"Thank you."

"Sure." Steve went to readjust his headphones when-

"Are you a lawyer or something?" Morton stared at the briefcase at Steve's feet.

"No, I'm in marketing." Steve grunted. "Finally getting back to the office from a company seminar."

"You know, you remind me a lot of my son, Richard. He was always busy with work. Too busy to call his old man, the ungrateful smuck." Morton smacked his knee and shook his head. "You know his mother and I sent him to one of those fancy pedigree schools... Dayle, Hayle. What was it?"

An exhausted Steve replied, "Yale. It's Yale."

He shifted in his seat impatiently. A flight attendant came by to take their drink orders and Steve ordered whiskey on ice. Morton asked for water.

"Six years sober. Been that way since my sweet angel LeeAnne returned to heaven." The old man's eyes glassed over with unfallen tears. "Not a woman on earth could compare to her, no sir."

"My condolences." Steve threw back the alcohol and placed a neck pillow behind his head, closing his eyes.

"You know, its funny how life turns out sometimes." Morton dug into his shirt pocket and pulled out his wallet, unsteady hands maneuvering the folds to bring out a tattered photo. "I always thought I'd be the first to go, but I guess the good Lord had other plans."

Steve was inches from sleep when-

"Son, could you turn my air down please? My arms don't work like they once did."

Steve's eyes popped open, a vein pulsing at his left temple. He reached up and closed the vent, then flopped back into his chair. "Anything else, Mr..."

"Morton Barton. But please, call me Morty."

"Morty, I don't mean to be rude," Steve began. "But I'm trying to get some rest. I have a meeting with my supervisor as soon as we land and its been a long day."

Morton chuckled as he returned the photo to his wallet. "Wow, you even sound like him. Rich was always the light sleeper. Had to pad all the windows and doors when he was a baby. Just the slightest noise would set him off. LeeAnne and I had to wear padded socks just to walk around the house during nap time."

Steve endured story after story, palms red from digging his nails into them.

"One year on Christmas, Rich ate an entire chocolate cake!"

"He had a dog named Sam. Those two were partners in crime, they were."

"I remember his first date. Never seen so much sweat in my life, ha ha!"

At last the plane landed and Steve couldn't wait to be rid of the annoying old coot.

"Well young man, it was a pleasure talking to you." Morton said, extending his hand to him. "I've got to catch a cab to go meet my son. God bless ya."

Steve nodded, unbuckling his seat belt.

"Could you do me one last favor and pull down my things?" Morton grinned, rubbing his shoulders.

Resisting the urge to strangle the old man, Steve stood and reached into the overhead compartment. What he found was a neatly folded American flag and a soldier's portrait in a plaque that read:

Richard D. Barton
Loyal Soldier and Beloved Son
Killed In The Line Of Duty

Thursday, September 18, 2014


It was the perfect Spring morning and Rose was working in her garden. Though hesitant to embrace early retirement, she’d grown to love the serenity it offered. A gentle breeze caressed her face and the golden sun beamed its welcome to her as she pruned the bushes aligning the fence, taking care not to tarnish the delicate pink blooms. Macy was chasing after a Monarch in the yard, the orange tabby pouncing at anything that moved, and looked to be having the time of her life.
Rose stood back to admire her work, when a splint of silver caught her attention. She knelt down, dusting the fertilizer aside and unearthed a doorknob, realizing there was an old wooden door planted in the mist of her roses.
 ‘Is that light coming from the keyhole?’
Rose couldn’t see anything distinctive inside, but what she heard almost made her heart stop.
It was the voice of a crying child.
Coming from behind the door.
Rose clawed at the soft earth, desperate to aid the poor soul buried in her backyard. She didn’t think twice about slipping inside once she got the door open and found herself at the top of a short narrow staircase. It didn’t matter that she was a 47-year-old woman, alone, bolting off into the unfamiliar.
Someone needed her.
Rose hurried along and ended up in a dim hallway, tripping over something on the floor. She picked it up, turning it over in her hands. It was a pair of swim bottoms tangled in a bath towel with her name on it. She dropped the bundle and stood slowly, her eyes meeting the gaze of the framed solemn faces of her brothers and sisters along the wall.
An eerie sense of nostalgia loomed as Rose realized that she was standing in her grandmother’s house, the place her family lived after granny passed away because they were evicted from their home in the city. And the whimpering voice she heard was her own. It took everything in her to muster up enough courage to open the door of her old bedroom, but it wasn’t where she was that sent chills down her spine.
It was when.
Rose stood frozen in the doorway, the familiar feeling of remorse washing over her at the sight of her childhood belongings. It had to be the year she’d be starting eighth grade, because her walls were still painted that awful shade of lime with sample swatches piled all over her nightstand. The bedroom light was off, but the closet offered a manageable view of 14 year-old Rosie laying in the fetal position on the bed.
She stirred and locked eyes onto present day Rose.
“Are you an angel?”
Seeing no reason to frighten the girl, Rose said, “Yes, Rosie. I’m an angel.”
Pain was apparent on her tear-drenched face as Rosie tried to console herself, but it was of no use. Her sobs overwhelmed her once more and she buried her eyes into the pillow, clenching onto it for dear life. Rose swallowed hard and took a step inside the room.
“What, uh… day is it?”
When she didn’t get a response, she eased over to the foot of the bed, sat down and put a gentle hand of the girl’s arm.
“Please, sweetie, I need to know.”
Rosie rolled onto her back and a long trembling breath blew from her lips.
“Labor Day.”
Rose resisted the urge to throw up. She had returned to the day that destroyed her innocence some thirty-four years ago.
“Why?” Rosie said, staring at the ceiling.
“Why what?”
“Why didn’t you do anything? You saw what just happened, why didn’t you save me?!”
Rose felt her breath get caught in her chest. “I—“
“HE RAPED ME!” Rosie screamed, slamming her hands into the mattress. “He pinned me to the floor, ripped off my clothes and… you didn’t do anything about it. What kind of guardian are you?”
“I’m not your guardian,” The gears in Rose’s mind cranked. “I’m the voice of faith. My name is Hope.”
Rose reached out to stroke the girl’s hand, but Rosie snatched it away. She closed her eyes, praying for the right words to say.
“I couldn’t stop him.” Rosie whispered. “I tried to fight, but he was too strong. Once he was inside, I couldn’t even scream.” She gripped the comforter until her hands hurt. “He was my friend, how could he do this to me?”
Tears streamed from the corners of her eyes, running down her face to her ears and disappearing into her hair.
“Who will want me now?”
Rose kneeled down beside her on the floor, her eyes welling up for her younger self.
“Rosie,” She took a deep breath and spoke firmly. “Listen to me now. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. No matter what happens to you, no matter what you think of yourself, God has made you entirely perfect. You were created in HIS image, and no man, woman, no one can take that away from you. You’re still precious, still lovely, and still worth dying for.”
“I, I feel disgusting.” Rosie whimpered. “Like I’ll never be clean again. I can’t trust anyone, ever.”
“I’m going to share something with you, but you have to promise not to tell anyone.” Rose winked. “I could get into real trouble upstairs, if you know what I mean.”
Rosie lay silent for a moment.
“I can keep a secret.”
Rose smiled. “I’m going to tell you about the future. Your future.”
Rosie turned her head to face her angel, eyes wide. She nodded and Rose began.
“After tonight, you’ll become a hermit. You’ll stick to yourself throughout high school, and eventually become a social outcast, that is until you go to college.”
“Community college. You won’t have the confidence to try out a four-year university. Then, you’ll start working for an insurance company and stay there for ten years until you meet an editor who will help you launch a career in public speaking on financial topics around the country. You’ll make a lot of money and retire early. You’ll never marry and have no children.”
“So it’s true.” Rosie frowned. “I’ll end up alone because nobody will have me.”
“No.” Rose shook her head. “You’ll end up alone because you convinced yourself that you weren’t worthy of love.”
Rosie began to sob again, covering her face with her hands. “It’s all my fault! I shouldn’t have let myself be alone with him.”
“You couldn’t have known this was going to happen. There was nothing you could do.”
“Why are you telling me this? What good is knowing my future if I’m just going to be an old cat lady one day?”
Rose chuckled. “Funny you say that.”
“There is a cat, isn’t there? I knew it!”
“Sweetheart, there’s still hope.”
“But you just said—“
“You are more powerful than you think.” Rose peeled one hand away from Rosie’s face and held it. “You can grow in the knowledge that God loves you, and He has plans to prosper you in ways you can’t imagine. Somewhere out there, there’s a boy who God made just for you and you’ll experience God’s love in its deepest form through a beautiful marriage and the promise of a family. If that’s what you want. Or even if you decide not to get married, you life can be anything you want it to be. But it’s up to you.” Rose kissed her hand and stood.
“Where are you going?” Rosie propped herself on one side.
“I have to go back now, but I don’t want you to forget what I told you.” Rose made her way to the door.
“Wait!” Rosie scrambled to the edge of the bed and grasped Rose’s hand. “Will I ever see you again?”
Rose looked down at her, tears escaping down her cheeks. “You will. I love you.”
Her legs felt like lead, but somehow they carried Rose back down the hallway to the staircase, everything growing dark behind her. As she climbed, she began to sob. She had lived with this dark secret for over thirty years, never telling another soul. Rose used to have so many dreams, but she let them all die because she thought she didn’t deserve them, didn’t deserve to be happy. In that moment, she realized how she had let it consume her. Approaching the light of day shining into the tunnel from her garden, she resolved to make a change and start living fully and freely. She would take back control over her life.

“There you are, Rosie, I was looking for you.”
A handsome, tall man in jeans and a t-shirt came strutting from around the house and wrapped her in his arms.
“Beth just called. They say they’re on the way to the hospital now. Time to meet Baby Luke!” He brushed his lips against hers, kissing her deeply. “You’re finally a grandmother.”
Rose stumbled back and whipped her eyes to the plot beneath her feet. The soil lay undisturbed, every flower in its proper place and not a door in sight. She looked up at the man before her, heat rising to her cheeks.
“Daniel?” She whispered.
“Yes, love?”
Somehow, Rose knew his name. She knew he was her husband and they had had five kids together. Three girls and two boys. She knew they had been married for twenty years and she worked from home as a freelance writer. Everything over the last thirty years washed over her and her legs gave out.
“Honey!” Daniel reached out and caught her. “Are you okay?”
‘She did it.’ Rose thought.
‘She, I mean I, no we. We did it.’
‘We changed the future.’

Monday, September 8, 2014



    "Tell me where they're hiding it!" Jackal 20 slapped the prisoner across her face, the force knocking her onto the ground.

Nia bent down and translated the command in French to the young woman who lay motionless on the floor. When the prisoner didn't respond, Jackal 20 grabbed a handful of her hair, once gleaming coils now stained with blood, and dragged her to the other side of the chamber. He slammed her against the wall.
    "Tell me, pig!"
Nia gave the demand, keeping her eyes lowered. She tried to reason with the prisoner.
    "Please, Imani. Why won't you speak? Aren't you tired of suffering?"

Imani turned her face away, struggling to remain conscious. Jackal 20 was relentless. He kicked her several times in the stomach, lifting her up just to strike her back down again. She screamed out in agony.

    "Tell her if she doesn't tell me where the light of King Totem  is, I will break every bone in her body!"

Nia bent to examine the extent of the damage.

    "You've broken four of her ribs. If you keep this up, she won't live to tell you anything."

    "Then you better get her to talk, or she'll end up in a pit like the rest of them."

Jackal 20 stormed out of the chamber, locking the women inside. Nia carefully lifted the girl's shirt, trying to better asses her condition as tears streamed down her face.

    "Are you a doctor?" Imani moaned.

    "Yes. I was captured in a raid one year ago." Nia cringed. "They beat me often and feed me once every few days. The only reason I'm alive is to care for their wounded and translate their demands."

    "How do you know their language?"

    "My father was once a child forced into the Jackal militia, and he taught me."

Imani tried to sit up, but the pain was too great.

    "I can't die here. I've got to get back to the light."

    "So it is real! The Jackals told me it is the key to overthrowing the entire country."

    "If the light is smothered, it means death to the Totem legacy."

Nia bit her lip.

    "Please, Imani. I don't want to see you get killed! Maybe if you just offer something, a clue, anything. I can try to convince them to set you free."

    "You know in your heart that if I confess I'm as good as dead." With great difficulty, Imani propped herself up on one side, staring at the interpreter. "What happened to you?"

Nia's eyes glazed over, as if she could see what she was describing.

    "The Jackals nearly killed the entire village. Every woman and female child was raped then strangled to death. The men were either shot or brutally murdered. The male children were turned into soldiers. I thought I would die along side my family, but when I begged for mercy in their language and they saw my medical equipment, my life was spared. I wish to God I was dead."

Imani put a hand over Nia's trembling one.

    "What if I told you the light could mean the end of our pain and doom for the Jackals?"

    "How? The only thing strong enough would be a full scale army attack, but we have no king." Nia shook her head. "Everyone knows King Tunde Totem bared no children."

The look on Imani's face told her differently.

    "There is an heir? Then that must mean..."

    "The light will bring an end to darkness and lead the people to victory."

The cell gate swung open and in walked Jackal 20 followed by two other men. The were holding guns.

    "Tell me what she said." He glared at the doctor. "Now!"

Nia looked down at Imani, then slowly back up at the men.

    "No more." She laid down beside Imani, her arms outstretched. "I'll never tell."