Friday, 27 December 2013

4Q Interview with Dilruba Z. Ara

Dilruba Z. Ara, the author of A List of Offences, was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She was eight years old when her first story was published. While attending university in Dhaka she met her future husband, a Swedish Air Force officer. She completed her studies at the university in Lund, Sweden, where she now resides. Besides writing, she paints and teaches English and Swedish. Her website is below.

4Q: Your full length literary novel, A List of Offences, has been published in Bangladesh, Spain and Greece and is available on I have had the pleasure of reading this very touching tale. What was you inspiration for the story as well as your main character Daria?

D.Z.A: Inside your society, you tend to be blind to its realties. But after I had moved to Sweden, I started to look at Bengali society with different eyes. I began to evaluate it, and also to question myself why Bengali/Indian girls allowed themselves to be blackmailed into accepting their lot. I have a friend from Bangladesh who was in love with a Hindu boy, but whose family had forced her to marry her cousin. She told me that they had married her off behind a locked door. Her cousin was then a Swedish citizen. So, he brought her here. To cut a long story short, ultimately, she stood up, divorced him, and married another man. Her parents disowned her for bringing shame on the family.

And then, when Fadime, a Muslim girl, was murdered by her family in Sweden in the name of honour, it occurred to me that the main problem is the inherited mindset of authoritarian families, which follows you wherever you go. This perverse trend is becoming a global illness. Girls are being bullied, beaten and, in the worst cases, even murdered if they try to break ingrained family patterns, no matter where they are. But it’s more severe in third world countries where the State doesn’t support your welfare ‒ your welfare depends on your family, and very often families misuse that power. I wanted to highlight, that through the story of Daria, the heroine of my book.

4Q: Your father, Shahed Ali, was also an accomplished author.  How much influence did he himself and/or his writing have on you when you decided to write stories?

D.Z.A: Well, our house was filled with books. Both my parents were always reading and writing, though during my childhood it was only my father who was acknowledged as an author (my mother gained her reputation much later). My father was also the chief editor of a monthly magazine for young people. Every month, on the magazine’s publication date, he would arrange for literary minded children to meet in the auditorium of his office. We would each go up on the dais and read our piece aloud in front of other eminent writers, who would listen to us and make us feel special. I still remember those evenings. Yes, my father influenced me just by being who he was. He never forced me to write or read, but in a subtle way he led me and my siblings toward the world of literature. I think all my siblings at one point wrote, but they never developed the passion for writing that I did.

4Q: Please share an amusing anecdote from your past or a favorite childhood memory.

D.Z.A.: There are many nice memories. Some amusing, some less so. Here is one, which I remember with fondness. There was an abandoned garage next to our home. It served various purposes, but what I remember mostly is that very often my brother and his friends played out pieces of well-known dramas there. Once in a while, they would choose a longer piece and my big brother would direct it. Later, they would play it for the neighbourhood on an open air stage. My brother was very good at reciting and imitating people, and he often used this gift to raise money to acquire props. We would walk through the neighbourhood, with my big brother at the head of the group with a loudspeaker at his mouth, imitating the voices of well-known politicians and actors asking for donations. His favourite was the voice of the Governor of East Pakistan. That voice was so familiar that people would rush out of the block of flats, only to find a group of youngsters begging for money.

4Q:  I very much enjoyed reading your short stories featured on your website as well as your novel A List of Offences. What can we expect from you in the near future? Tell us about your new novel.

D.Z.A.: I am almost ready with my second novel, which is set against the background of the liberation war of Bangladesh.
The story revolves around some individual stories against the backdrop of those troubled times. At the centre is a young woman, Laila, who has to deal with the political, cultural and emotional turmoil she is stuck in. The book was accepted by a traditional publishing house in Dhaka, but in the last minute I decided not to work with them, and now I am revising it. A third novel is also brewing.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments Dilruba. I look forward to reading more of your work. You can find additional information on this fantastic story teller at

Next week, Beans & Chops are back....with a new adventure.




Friday, 13 December 2013

Guest writer - Dilruba Z. Ara. The Voice of a Cow.

Dilruba is originally from Bangladesh but now resides in Lund Sweden. She is an accomplished author whose work has been published in many countries. The following story she is sharing with us is an excerpt from a story published by an international magazine - Asia Writes. Her website is below.

The Voice of a Cow.

At the sound of a curious noise the little boy pulls up the window hatch. Standing there he peers into the darkness, braving the chilled wind against his face. The window is neither glassed nor netted. It’s only a cavity. Open to everything. Like any hole. Airstreams blow past the child’s face into the tiny room making the people within shudder and the fire in the stove shiver. His mother shakes her head in dissatisfaction, but his father smiles, looking at his son from behind. He too has heard the sound and is just as attracted.

 Cocking his head from side to side the boy tries to descry the source of the sound. But it’s difficult as his ears are assaulted with a cacophony of other sounds. Familiar ones. The sound of spitting, sneezing, blowing noses, or simply dry coughs. He hears someone, singing a Hindi song, he hears a couple fighting, he hears another couple giggling.  The boy feels restless; he huddles within himself. He strains his eyes and ears; the curious sound has now transformed into a lament.  The wind blows into his face, crickets hum around his head as his eyes roam through the murky darkness outside the hut. For a while everything is dark and then out of the darkness it emerges. The boy’s eyes are widened instantly.

Moonlight has fallen on it making it look like a mythological creature; standing by the swamp, bending its neck it’s tugging at some grass. A necklace of flowers is hanging around its neck, and its skin is  giving out a vegetal glow.   It is a cow. A beautiful cow. A very beautiful cow. Majestic. Wonderfully White. A Maharani among the bovines. The boy has never seen such an elegant cow. He can hardly take his eyes off it. The cow turns to gaze at him in return -- its munching jaws stop in mid-motion.

Inside the hut the boy’s mother shoves some extra timber in the stove. The other children gather around the fire. The father comes up from behind and wraps the boy with a ragged blanket. The child keeps looking at the cow.  A rich cow without a shelter and without a blanket seems odd in his eyes. He looks at his father.
“It seems sad, Father. Can I bring it in?”
“Where? Here?” the father frowns.                  
“Yes, just to warm her up. She seems to be suffering out there.”
The father lets his hand glide over his clump of beard a couple of times and then nods. The boy goes out and approaches the cow. The cow moves a little, but it is not frightened; just a wee bit surprised. The boy notices the loose end of a rope, hanging from its neck. He tugs at the rope. The cow follows him into the hut, without making a single protest.
“It must have gone astray,” the boy says.
“I’m sure it has. We will provide it with a shelter until we find its master,” says the father.
“It’s cold outside.”
“Tie her to the pole in the backyard. We will put some empty sacks on her to keep her warm.”
“What can we offer it to eat?”
“I’ve some left over starch,” the mother intervenes.
“It’s a rich cow, Mother,” the boy says, “I wonder, if it has ever been fed rice starch.”

Over the years, the father has gained the reputation of being an educated man among his uneducated neighbours. Once in while, people line up in front of his simple dwelling to have him fill in their forms, or ration cards, or to have their letters written, or read.
He is also recognized as an honest man who holds to the Quran, and every Friday faithfully goes to the local mosque to perform his Jummah prayers. During the days he works as a bookbinder, and during the evenings he teaches slum children to read. He doesn't earn much from his work but just enough to feed his wife and offspring. “We will give it what we have,” he says, “tomorrow we will start searching for its master.”

As it happens, the master of the cow is a cattle-merchant in Mirpur who treats his creatures well not because he is an animal-lover, but because he is well aware of his consumers’ demands.  Besides, fat and fit creatures bring in a fat profit. And particularly at Eid ul Adha  market one can make a fortune in the cattle business.  Now the Eid is in the offing, and the cattle-breeder has been over feeding his creatures to fatten them up. He has had them taken to the local vet to have them checked and rechecked. They are given extra vitamin injections; everyday his grooms have been brushing and bathing them, and a village girl has been polishing their horns and hooves. So as one may imagine, the merchant hits the roof when he realizes that his favourite cow is missing. He has been planning to put this nonpareil cow up for auction just to see how much money people were ready to pay for it. But now he is not only going to miss the money, he is also going to miss the fun at the auction. The cow can’t have run off by itself. Someone must have stolen it. Someone, who would like to sell it at a profit at Eid-bazar. Someone who begrudges him his fortune. Oh, the very audacity!

  The agitated merchant sends out troops of his employees in every direction to find the cow.  He sends out his three sons to the centre of the city; he himself goes to the nearest police station to report the theft. But all in vain. There is no sign of the lost cow. The morning passes, afternoon arrives, the evening draws closer. The wind falls. When the night settles in, the merchant walks to and fro on the roof of his three storied building.  He pulls at his long black beard which has a fat stripe of white just in the middle. He pulls at his hair. He squashes mosquitoes on the bare parts of his body. He shouts, curses and swears that he will murder the thief that has stolen his number one cow. The night passes like this. 

In the morning the boy wakes up in the slum. He thinks he has dreamt of the cow, but when he goes out of the hut, he sees the white cow tethered to the pole in the backyard. His mother has removed the sack from its back, and it’s sitting there on the ground with its legs folded under it; its white fur sparkling like silver dust along its flank and the bell on her neck -- which he hadn't seen the night before--glittering like gold.  He can feel the smell of cow dung in his nostrils. He sniffs it in, as he hears his father’s mild voice from behind,
 “The brass bell around the cow’s neck has an address engraved within it. It must be her master’s address. She has to go, son.”
“Can’t we keep her one more day?”
“No. She has to go now. The master must be searching high and low for her.”
The father has to go to his work so he asks the boy to lead the cow to its owner. The boy puts on a pair of clean full pants and a full sleeved shirt. Slips his feet into a pair of rubber sandals and ushers the cow out of their yard. He says goodbye to his parents and siblings and walks slowly towards Mirpur with the cow walking by him. It takes him almost an hour before he reaches the area. He finds the house quite easily. For a few minutes he stands in front of the imposing three storied building, awe stricken. The size of the building frightens him in a peculiar way, and he begins to back away, when from the top of the roof the merchant sees the little boy and the cow walking away with him.

The merchant runs down the stairs, panting. The boy has by then passed the building and is about to walk round the premises. The merchant catches up with him.
 “Where did you get that cow?”
The boy looks into the face of the man, his heart hammering. There is a black spot on the man’s forehead; he is wearing a lungi which is gathered far above his waist on the highest peak of his protruding belly. His long black beard with its sloping white stripe in the middle looks like the devil’s slide.  His pan stained teeth red like a vampire’s. Beady eyes - full of fantastic suspicion. The boy stammers.
“It came to us yesterday.”
“You little thief!” The man raises his voice, “it came to you on a visit. Pah! You have chosen the right person to pull a fast one on. Now I will make you pay for it.”


You can discover more about Dilruba at Her book - A List of Offences - is available at On Decemeber 27th, 4Q interview will be asking her some questions.

Please leave a comment and thank you for visiting.

Friday, 29 November 2013

4Q Interview with Suzanne Bourque. Academy of Classical Ballet

Suzanne Bourque is the Director of the Academy of Classical Ballet & Modern Dances in Dieppe, New Brunswick. From the time she was a little girl, dance has always been a passion, entertaining us with delightful steps and fluid movement. Living her dream, dance has become the central focus of her adulthood with the establishment of The Academy. She is married to Dan Cormier and the mother of Chloe. A very busy lady. A link to her website is below. 

4Q: As I mentioned above, dance has always been something that fascinated you. Please tell us why dance was important to you as a child and growing up.

SB: I actually started dance lessons quite late (10 years old) having done gymnastics and other activities prior, but something ‘’clicked’’ with dance, and it soon become my safe haven, my passion. I’m able to lose myself in a dance class or a rehearsal or performance. I’ve retired my proverbial dancing shoes now and get my kicks (pardon the pun, I couldn’t help it) from teaching and working with my students, but I have to admit that nothing quite compares to the feeling you get after taking a great dance class. I miss dancing terribly but that is one of the sacrifices I had to make in order to build the Academy up to what it is today; there are only so many hours in a day… My satisfaction today comes from creating interesting work for my troupe, or from knowing I’ve made a difference in a child’s life, from seeing my dancers thrive and be happy and fulfilled and kind to one another. 

4Q: The Academy presents The Nutcracker, every December.  The Nutcracker is a two act ballet originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by the great Tchaikovsky that debuted in December of 1892.  It was developed from the story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. What is it that appeals to you and audiences all these years later?

SB: For me, the Nutcracker represents the best of the Holiday season. It brings people together in one of the loftiest of activities and combines theatrics with artistry and a wonderful score. The feeling one gets from the ballet is infectious – it’s tough to leave the Theatre in a bad mood, and I think since it’s such a familiar story and score (everyone knows the music since it’s played from November to December each year almost everywhere you go) it becomes a ballet that is very accessible to young and old whether or not you are a ballet aficionado.  

4Q: Please share an amusing childhood memory or anecdote with us.

SB:  When I first opened the Academy, Seryozha Petrosyan, our ballet master spoke very little English, and I spoke very little Russian and Armenian. We communicated through broken up sentences and lots of miming. It took months for him to let me know that the

fruit baskets we were bringing him weekly were going to waste since he hated fruit and didn’t eat them. It took hours for me to try to ask him if he liked fish (my ‘’Nemo’’ imitation wasn’t very good apparently), and my mother spoke very loudly at the supper table for months (as though he wasn’t understanding because he was hard of hearing rather than because he didn’t speak our language). Though he left Moncton for Montreal years ago and we’ve been through many ballet masters since, he remains a part of the family, and we often laugh at those first years when the language barrier was so comical. Interestingly, we never had any issues communicating in class since dance is truly a ‘’universal language’’. I grew so much as a dancer under his tutelage; it was truly an honor to be his student and to share in his stories of working with such greats as Baryshnikov, Galina Mezentseva, Leonid Jacobson, etc. Life has a funny way of working itself out; I’m grateful for the wonderful people that I’ve been able to work with in my life.  

4Q: You can be very proud of the Academy you have created, now located in the Arts & Cultural Center in Dieppe. How did the desire to teach and make dance a business develop?

SB: It’s honestly something that just sort of happened and hadn’t been in the works until an opportunity fell into my lap. I wanted to continue my dance training and a brilliant Armenian teacher ended up in Moncton, looking for an opportunity to teach in order to be able to support his family in Armenia. I have very supportive parents who encouraged entrepreneurship and told me they’d support this endeavor as long as I put in the work and kept up with my studies. I was graduating high school that same year. It began as a two to four year plan as somewhere to pursue my dance training one on one with a once famous ballet dancer, but it quickly became all consuming and seventeen  years later, here I am still going strong with a school that boasts over 400 students. My Youth Theatre group has more that forty dancers in it that are all like children to me, some have been working with me since they were three years old, and I could never imagine not being a part of their journey in dance. It is a privilege for me to get to see them grow and help nurture these beautiful young girls in their dance journey. I take my work with them very seriously and really try to make dance a positive experience for them that will follow them their entire life, giving them strength, discipline, a strong self of self and confidence. It’s a wonderful art that combines music, the theatre arts and yet has a very athletic component to it. Everyone should dance, in whatever fashion, it does the body (and soul) good! 

Thank you Suzanne for sharing your thoughts with us. I wish you and the Academy continued success and thanks for entertaining us at the Pique-Nique all those years. The Academy of Ballet & Modern Dances website is

The holiday Season is upon us. It is a time of giving. Next week I will be posting a rerun of one of my favorite stories - The Food Bank

Friday, 22 November 2013

Meet Beth Stone, she is not your average girlfriend...

Beth Stone has been in love with Drake Alexander ever since she was twelve. This is an excerpt from my novel, The Dark Side of a Promise. You'll get an idea of what she's like.
 September 29 2:45pm   North of Virgin Gorda Island


The Drifter’s Dream is a Lurssen, just over 134 feet of sleek, virile yacht. Built in 1995, its owners – there have been only two – have kept it in pristine shape. It is luxuriously commodious, outfitted for eight guests with a crew of five.  At fifteen million dollars, with a three hundred thousand renovation and retrofit, it is a spectacular craft. She often proves herself worthy in rough seas; well commanded, she responds like an alloyed shark. Darkened glass encircles the ship, defining the different levels.  The aluminum hull is enamelled so white it is chatoyant. Seen from afar, it gleams a single ray of light.

 Beth views the ship from the cockpit of an Alouette III helicopter; she and the pilot are coming at the Drifter with the sun at their back. A satisfied smile adorns her pretty face. Through the Plexiglas bubble, she surveys the ship, slipping through the waters all alone and its beam of light dazzling her. She’s anxious to join Williston to be in touch with Drake. She shivers as she thinks of him remembering his undressing her before he left, their lovemaking, the arching of her back when she erupted with unending pleasure and how it never seemed to end.

She returns her concentration to the task at hand. She has convinced Williston that she can get to his ship on her own turning down his offer to make port at her nearest request. Beth doesn’t want to take Williston’s attention away from the current events that occupy their small world. She yearns for adventure, to take advantage of her skills, to test her will and her stamina. This was her father’s doing: no sons. Beth was the youngest of a litter of girls and together they had often gone wilderness camping, where she’d learned survival skills and to how hunt using a gun and knife. When time allowed, and her father worked hard to ensure it did, they slipped on their packs with only the barest of essentials, no food. They roughed out the nights, sleeping bags only.  They ate what they found, berries, greens, bugs and roots, or an animal they captured, roasted over blazing coals. Two days later they would watch the sunrise, pull out topographical maps, compasses and become oriented with their location. Zigzagging about 20 miles from where they entered the woods, two very fit people can cover a lot of territory, seriously getting themselves lost.

They climbed the highest trees, found landmarks like towers, sharp rises or drops, lakes and rock formations until they had a bearing they were confident would return them to their car. Beth and her father didn’t always find the exact spot they left their vehicle but always found the road it was on and a short walk would bring them back to the car.

All in all, Beth can handle herself adroitly and is an able companion. Her skills have been reinforced by Drake’s experience and passion for the unknown, for what might lie around corners they had yet to turn.  Beth challenged her days, to experience something normally mundane in a different way, do something new, like write a song or, if the opportunity arose, jump from a helicopter into a gulping sea.

Williston is leaning on the railing on the foredeck on the main level listening to the helicopter approach from the southwest. He soon sees it as it circles his ship. The sun makes his mane much paler while it gave his skin a fresher tone. Having spent much of his working years indoors, suited and cocooned, kept his skin lighter; the sea changed that. He loves his boat and the forever waters. He often reflects on his decision to pass the mantle to his loyal mangers to free himself to hunt for Rizzato. And even now as he watches Beth step out on the foothold of the helicopter’s open  door, he thinks that no matter the outcome of their efforts, he is never going back to the office. He’s been thinking more and more of what would come after they catch Rizzato, there are other foul people wanted by the law. He likes the idea of spending his money to hunt them down. Before he turns his full attention to Beth’s descent, he makes a mental note to talk to his companions about that when this is over.

Standing by the cargo door, her back to the beaten air, Beth checks her harness, the locking carbineer holding her in, the rope running through the pulley and its position. Satisfied that all is as it should be, she steps away from the hovering vessel.  She is in lust over helicopters. Drake’s friend and fellow soldier, Elijah, had taken her for her first helicopter ride, or as she called it her first helicopter rollercoaster ride. She had never imagined a ‘copter could be in so many odd positions and still fly. The flight had scared her, but she fell in love with the aerodynamics and pilot skills that kept her hovering over gasping waterfalls before plunging towards the earth like a mechanical dew drop before coming low to the treetops below them. Other times they had lurked between canyon walls, been dropped upon mountain tops in the whitest powder and visited the remotest areas only accessible by helicopter. With all her adventures she had never rappelled from the sky like she is doing now. She had been trained by Drake and had rappelled on dry land with him and his buddies but never from a helicopter and never into water, so Beth being Beth, she decided to rappel into the water by Williston’s boat.

She is about forty feet over the water that is being disturbed by the downdraft. The Drifter is about a nautical mile away and slowing as it approaches the swinging girl. The old guy that owns the helicopter holds it steady with an experienced hand. Beth had dropped her waterproof bag prior to leaving the aircraft and she spins slightly over it. She signals to the pilot to advance a short way. When she is clear of the bag and in the apogee of her swing, she releases herself from her harness, plummeting to the sea. She hits the water like a human nail and goes deep. Her black neoprene wetsuit offers some buoyancy as she strokes the warm water with downward thrusts, propelling herself to the surface. As she clears the bubbly depths, the Drifter approaches cautiously. Crewmen snatch her floating bag with grappling hooks after having loosened a stout rope ladder over the side. Berkeley is at the helm and keeps the ship still as Beth swims to the rope. Grabbing the bottom rung she waves to the grey-haired pilot who has been watching her descent. He returns the wave and turns the helicopter in a graceful bow before departing the scene.

By the time Beth has climbed to the lowest deck aft, Williston and Isabella are near the gunwales, waiting to welcome her aboard. She jumps to the deck, removes her mask greeting her two friends with delight, saying, “How’s that for an entrance?”

Although Williston reveres his long-time friend, he refrains from hugging his wet guest, but Isabella, her slender frame clad in a tangerine one piece bathing suit, rushes to Beth’s side and, bussing both cheeks, says, “You’re much braver than I am, Beth. I envy you terribly for your sense of adventure. We’re so glad you decided to join us no matter how you choose to arrive.  Which I must add is likely the most unique I’ve witnessed and I guess what I admire about you so much is that we never know what to expect.“

As he passes her a towel Williston adds, “I agree with Isabella. Your approach is a bit unorthodox but it’s such a pleasure to see you again. We’ve prepared a cabin for you, and I expect you might like to get out of that wet suit.”

He grins as he nods to the crew that had assisted her ingress as they ogle Beth, her neoprene suit fitting her like the peel on an apple. “It may get their attention back to their usual duties.”

Beth has always been at ease with her body and coyly enjoys the effect she has on men. She says, “Actually, I can get rid of it right now.”  She slides the oversized zipper down her front, exposing a white and blue floral bikini. Peeling the rubber getup from her supple shape she gestures to a younger man, asking him, “Would you mind putting this somewhere to dry?” The novice deckhand beams at being singled out by this beauteous arrival and nervously approaches her to take the suit away.   ”Certainly, senorita,” he stutters. He blushes as his hand comes into contact with Beth’s and like a teenager full of hormones, he watches as she towels the moisture from her hair and he falls instantly in love.

Next week 4Q is back with Suzanne Bourque, Director of the Academy of Classical Ballet & Modern Dance. A very interesting lady, don't miss the interview.

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Dark Side of a Promise - The beginning.....

                                                                                         September 21 2004 6:24am

Drake Alexander stands on the teak deck of his summer home contemplating the rise of the dawning sun over Cocagne Bay, the memory of broken young bodies crisp after three long years, images that haunt him still. Standing tall against the railing, his fine features are in silhouette to the waking day. An autumn breeze caresses the taut muscles of his sleek torso. Beneath a forceful brow, eyes of the deepest brown stare out at the changing elements. Drake has just finished his predawn swim, a vitalizing ritual that keeps him hardy.

The wafting air is scented with the brine of the sea water that laps gently against the pebbled shore. The horizon burns like hot embers as the sun toasts the scattered clouds a fiery orange. Amidst the cry of frenzied gulls a lone heron silently glides down on open wings, settling lightly into the water. The tide is going out. Soon there will be a hedge of heron dining. Drake is always amazed at this intelligent and adaptive bird that swallows its prey live and whole. He knows humans with similar dispositions.

Not far from his home a working wharf juts into the water, its curved rocky spine protecting the fishermen and their vessels. A Millennium Marine fishing craft slowly moves away from the pier, taking its owner to another day’s wages.
Soft ripples from the bow of the boat distort the watery images. The calmness of the bay is inverse to the angst Drake is feeling. He waits for word from his long time ally and most trusted friend, Williston Payne. Several days ago Williston had alerted Drake that there had been a sighting. Drake waits patiently, sensing his friend was rattled.                    

Drake knows from his long association with Williston that his information can always be trusted. Information is intangible wealth. Williston’s worldwide business interests are legion; his prestigious law firms specializing in international, corporate and tax law are the most influential. With offices spread around the world, his access to information is phenomenal. In their adolescence, Drake had learned from Williston that information is a commodity much like oil or diamonds and that it has to be verified, classified, assimilated, bargained for and traded. Although time makes a lot of material insignificant, the useful intelligence is treasured and filed safely away for future use. Williston stores many secrets in safety deposit boxes in countries that are as disinterested in the contents as the steel that houses them.

Drake is knocked from his reverie by the ringing of his phone – a silly birdsong that his sister Glory, an ornithologist had emailed him. He has assigned it to Williston’s cell phone number. He reaches for his cell, which is always nearby.
“Good morning, buddy,” Drake said, confidant that Williston is on the other end.
“Good morning to you, too,” Williston responds gruffly, then after a troubled pause gets right to the point of his call. “I received notice from Uday last Sunday that he needed to see me urgently, in person. He came to my office earlier today...”

Drake waits for Williston to continue, never having known him to be without words, and then says, “And?”
“Sorry, Drake, but Uday’s visit provoked so many miserable memories that I’m still shaken.”

“Well, he has been known to stir things up. Isn’t that one of the reasons you enjoy associating with him?” asks Drake, knowing that the bond that ties Williston and Uday Saad together is much deeper than their business dealings.
The death of Williston’s sister Amber and one of her dearest friends, Sakeema Saad - Uday’s eldest daughter - three years ago, has cemented the two men in grief and revenge. The pain of absence lingers in their memories but the greatest pain is that that the man responsible – the sadistic and ruthless mercenary Bartholomeo Rizzato - is still at large.

“Uday thinks he knows where Rizzato might be.” Williston explained, “And we know that where Rizzato is, something bad will happen. He’s a demon willing to carry out anyone else’s rancour. Someone with enough money has hired him for his tasteless talents.”
“A demon?”
“Well, that’s another satisfying and distasteful word I can use to describe the bastard. Regardless, we need to find out if he is indeed there” said Williston.
“Where are you getting your info from Williston? Rizzato is not stupid and like other vermin, knows how to hide and stay alive.”

“You remember Uday’s nephew, Rafan Bashara, who runs his Bangladeshi offices in Dhaka?”
“Yes I do,” replied Drake. “He’s the Harvard graduate, a real whiz kid. I met him at his aunt’s wedding, when Uday’s youngest sister got married last spring.”

Williston explains, “On Saturday Rafan sent word to Uday that he overheard Rizzato’s name in a conversation at a bar. He then befriended the stranger, who was drunkenly boasting of his acquaintance with Rizzato and the work they were doing south of the city. Rafan tried to get him to divulge more information, but the worker was too far gone to make any sense. Rafan secured him at his apartment with hopes of getting more details from him in the morning, but the man slipped away sometime late in the night.”
Again Williston hesitates, sad memories and a bad feeling make him pause before continuing.
“The next day, Rafan found the man’s mutilated body in the trunk of his car. It was evident that he had been tortured. Obviously Rafan wasn’t the only one to overhear the boastful ramblings and they must have been followed. That’s when Rafan notified Uday.”

“Yeah... this has Rizzato’s stink on it. Where is Rafan now and what is he saying?” 
“We don’t know. He hasn’t been heard from since Saturday, the day he found the body and spoke with Uday. Thinking this incident might lead us to Rizzato, Uday’s men left the body where it will eventually be found and disposed of the car so as not to draw any unnecessary attention for the present.  We need your help Drake.”

Drake was about to respond when Williston adds, “There’s more. The body had a crude Z cut into the back shoulder just like Amber’s. We both know what that means.”

The implication of the three year old clue leaves Drake speechless. Images of Amber in happier times fill some seconds for both men until Williston says, “I’ll wrap things up here in Geneva today, keep Uday with me. We’ll try to locate Rafan and then fly out tomorrow morning on the company jet. I’ve got some more digging to do, so meet us on the Drifter’s Dream. We’ll be anchored off the north east coast of Antigua, out past Jumby Bay Island. If you’re flying down, I’ll have the beacon on – you’ll find us.”
With a voice of bitter malice, Williston charges Drake, “Find this man for us, Drake, and put him away... or kill him this time!”

“I will, Williston, I promise!”

The Dark Side of a Promise will be available as an eBook soon. Watch for further notices.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Next week you can read an amusing story about three grown men acting like boys.....Part 1 of "Pioneers in a Hurry"


Friday, 18 October 2013

Guest writer, Connie Cook. Five Minutes and counting....

Connie Cook, lives in Port Credit, ON, has been writing short stories for the last three years and is currently working on the rewrite of her first novel. Her stories have been published on and by Pacific Magazines in Australia. When she’s not working at her REAL job, or playing servant to her two black cats, she can frequently be found with a blank page opened on the computer screen, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Five Minutes…and counting
Hello, my name is Denise. How can I help you?”  As the words rolled from her mouth, they sounded canned, spoken too fast, spewed out without thinking.  She cringed.  It was a hazard of the job.  Fifteen years on the crisis phone line had taken their toll. She’d pretty much heard everything, and frequently struggled to keep a fresh perspective.  It was call after call, but that was the job she’d signed up for.
Mostly the calls weren’t critical. They ran the gamut of, how do I know if my boyfriend is cheating on me, to OMG, I’m having a third date with this guy. If I have sex with him, will he think I’m too easy?”  It reminded her, that one person’s crisis, was akin to another caller’s idea of a really good day. The true crisis calls were few and far between.
Her last caller was a repeater, phoned every day, a lonely lady in her seventies, and mostly she just wanted to talk.  Denise had responded with consoling comments, and clichés thrown in, almost like an afterthought. Somewhere along the line, she needed to make them sound more genuine, made a mental note to check with one of her colleagues in terms of how they managed it. Her performance appraisal was due next month and she could use it as a self-reflective tool. It would sound good to her boss.
 A grating noise on the line jarred her back to reality. It sounded like metal, ratcheting on metal. It was irritating, like fingernails on a chalkboard. What the hell was that all about? She adjusted the volume on her headset, checked to make sure her mute button was off, and tried again. “Hello, hello, are you there? My name is Denise, and I’m here to help you.” She even slowed her voice down and managed to inject a tone of empathy this time, pleased with herself for having done so.
At first the silence was welcoming.  There was only five minutes left in her shift, and she was already planning the rest of her evening with her husband and kids, made a mental note to pick up milk on the way home.
An explosion blasted through her headset. The sound was deafening, terrifying, like that of a gunshot. Pain pierced her eardrums. Denise had never heard a pistol being fired before, but she’d watched enough movies to know what they sounded like. This one echoed. Its’ reverberations’ jolted her, continued to ring in her head.
“Hello, hello, are you there?”  She struggled to keep her voice calm. Crap, why me?  In a heartbeat, she knew this call would be a life changer. Adrenalin flooded through her. Every skill she’d ever learned would be pulled into action. This caller needed her, needed her badly.
“Five minutes, you have five minutes. The next shot is going into my head.”
The voice was male, sounded middle aged, low pitched, a tad slurred.  She pictured him, with a gun aimed at his head, feeling there was no way out, but to kill himself.  Slurry voice, maybe some alcohol or drugs involved. It was his desperation that reached through the phone line, grabbed at her gut. She could work with this. After all, he had called, hadn’t he? It meant he hadn’t made up his mind.
“I’m glad you called, and I’m here to listen. My name is Denise. What’s yours?” As the words came out of her mouth, she realized for the first time in a long time, she really meant them.
“Does it matter? I’m not even sure why I fucking called in the first place? It’s not like it’s going to make any difference.”
Denise felt the angst in his voice. This was her opportunity to make a connection.  She kept her voice calm. “It matters to me, and so do you matter to me. I’d just like to know what to call you.” She closed her eyes and waited. This was the time to shut up and listen.
It seemed an hour had passed, but when she checked the call time on her computer screen, it had only been thirty seconds, then thankfully a response.
“It’s Michael, most people call me Mike.”
She hit the mute button to silence her breath of relief. All it took was a quick click of the keypad, and she was on again.

 “Is it okay if I call you Mike?”

“Right now, you can call me whatever the fuck you want. I wanted that first bullet to go through my head, but I didn’t want to be alone when I did it. Shit, if I was a brave guy, I’d just go through with it. Why can’t I?”
Denise heard his voice, shouting, screaming into the phone. In her head she was thinking, he’s still ambivalent. I need to find out where he is, get help to him.  As she searched for the phone number on the bottom toolbar of her computer, it came up as unlisted. The call couldn’t be traced.

“Let me try to help. Give me a chance. Are you okay with that?” Good line, she thought. Give him some control, some options. After all, if he pulled the trigger, it wouldn’t be her fault, would it?

“Ya right, as if you can do anything to help me.”

“Mike, you gave me five minutes.” Denise purposefully kept her voice low. Make him listen. It all came down to skills and communication. It all came down to her.

“Mike, can you tell me where you’re calling from? Maybe give me your phone number?”

 “Not on your life, the clock is ticking.”

It was time, to call a spade a spade, time to get it into the open, say the word out loud.  Denise knew from experience, that saying the word let the caller know she understood, acknowledged his distress.
 “Okay Mike, I know you’re suicidal.”

 “Damn right. I’ve screwed up so bad this time.”

 “It sounds like you think there is no way out right now.”

 At least he wasn’t shouting anymore, and Denise welcomed the waver in his voice. It sounded like he may have been this way before. It was time to press on.
“Is anyone there with you?” She needed to know, if there were other persons at risk. Again she reminded herself to keep her voice calm. Her questions would be direct, but her responses needed to be nonjudgmental.

“No, I’m by myself. I can’t hurt anybody else again. I don’t want to hurt them again.”
His voice had shifted, now sounded weary, tired, as if his mind was made up. But again, Denise picked up on the ambivalence.

“You don’t want to hurt who?”

“My wife, my kids, I’ve totally screwed up. It was the gambling, out of control, and now I have nothing.”

Denise seized the opportunity. “You gave me five minutes, and now I need five minutes from you.  “Help me understand what happened. What has led you to this place?”

“It’s not easy. I don’t know if I can do it,”

“I’m trying to understand. But before we go any further, I need to make sure the gun is on the floor, away from you.”

The sound of a metal object hit the floor.

“Good, now kick it away from you.” There was a pause, then a skittering noise of metal across a hard surface.  This was good. It meant he was listening.

“Thanks Mike, for doing that. It’s important for me to know you’re safe for now.  Talk to me.”

“I don’t know where to start.”

Denise heard the tremor in his voice. “Let me help. It kinda sounds like you’ve been down this path before, and it sounds like you have family that supported you in the past. Tell me about them.”

“I’ve been good, tried hard. Five years clean,” he sobbed. “But, today, it all came down to a couple of drinks, a chance to win some money on a long shot, and a chance to take my wife and kids on vacation. I owe them so much. Now I’ve lost everything. Damn, damn, damn, now I can’t even pull the trigger.”

Denise adjusted her mindset. She’d made the connection.  The drinks explained his slurry voice. Now it was time to tease out the positive from the negative statements he’d given her. This was the hardest part, but the one that would count most.

“Did your family help you before? Did they understand?”

“Oh, God yes!  The kids were too young to know. But it’s my wife. I can’t put her through this again. I can’t believe it’s happening again. I’ve let her down.”

“But you did it. She helped you before.”


She heard the scraping of chair legs on a tiled floor.  Denise searched through her head, frantic, pictured him picking up the gun. What could she say to stop him? There was no clichéd response in the world that would solve this.  She reached deep inside and the words tumbled forth.

 “Mike, can you find hope, anywhere in your heart, can you find a reason to live? Not just for your family, but for you?”

“Lady, you have no idea. The gun is close, and right now it’s back in my hand, pointed at my head.”


“Mike you’ve helped me.” Denise injected a quiver into her voice. “I feel like you’ve made me a better listener. It sounds like you have people who love you. Those people need you.  Please, please let me get help for you.”


 Bang, the sound of a gun.

Bang, another shot.

Bang, a shot ricocheting. 

Denise heard the volley of gunfire. At least if he was still firing, he hadn’t put the gun to his head.  How many bullets does a gun hold? Did it matter?  All it took was one.

More silence. She hesitated before speaking.  She could hear his breathing through her headset. It sounded ragged, raspy and fast, then the sound of metal clanging on the floor. “I know you’re there. I pray you’re there. Talk to me.”

“I don’t have any bullets left.”

“You kept yourself safe. I can’t begin to understand how hard that must have been for you, but thank you.  Thank you for doing that.”

Denise welcomed his next words.

 “Help, I need help. I know I need help,” he cried.

“Mike, stay on the line with me. I can transfer you directly through to 911.  I’d like to give them a bit of background about your situation. You okay with that?”

“Yes, yes, just do it.”

“Mike, you’ll be on hold for just a minute. And thank you, thank you for helping me.”

 Denise hit the conference button and pressed 911.

“911, what’s your emergency?” The dispatcher’s voice was calm, controlled.

“My name is Denise. I’m transferring a male caller from the crisis line. He’s suicidal and has a gun. I’ve been on the line with him for the last 15 minutes, heard some shots. He assures me he wants help, gun is on the floor, and he says he has no more bullets, agreeable to the call transfer.  No other persons with him.  I’ll stay on the line until I’m sure you have the demos.”

 She pressed the connect button. “Mike I have emergency services on the line. They’ll help you from here.”

 It was a smooth handoff to the dispatcher. Denise waited on the line until the phone number and address, were received, then she tore her headset off and tossed it on the desk.

It was the aftermath that caught her. Shaking hands as she packed her stuff into the tote bag she carried to work, and gun shots echoing in her head. This call would be replayed in her head for a long time to come.  She needed to compose herself for the thirty minute drive, but at least she was going home.

Thank you Connie for sharing one of your stories. You can find more of Connie's stories at

Next week Marc Poirier, a popular Acadian singer/songwriter, who performs as Joseph Edgar, will be interviewed by 4Q, don't miss it