Wednesday 28 August 2019

The FarOut World - a short story by Allan Hudson Part 2

Welcome back to the rest of the story.

If you're just joining us for the first time, Part one of The FarOut World was posted August 25th and you can read it HERE

This short story is a follow up to another short story titled The FarOut Mall. Humans now live in Off Earth Living Pods but they still need to shop. Originally published on the Scribbler, it is now available in my collection of short stories - A Box of Memories.

The FarOut World Part 2.

“I’m getting the bot-credits for the water and as soon as the truck’s empty, I’m leaving. If I have to walk through those revolving doors to the purser’s office, I’m not going in this hellhole without my weapons. So you have two choices. Either go get the payment and bring it to me, or try taking the weapons from me. Your call.

The patrolmen look at each other. They’re not usually challenged, and when they are, they make quick work of the opponent. They step closer, side by side, a formidable wall. Bay-grunts pause in their work to watch, grinning at the commotion. Eye Patch grits his teeth.

“We’re not errand boys, so we’ll take you up on option two. You’ve got five seconds before…

Geo doesn’t give the leader time to finish his threat. He drives the point of his middle finger into the good eye with enough force to pop it out of the socket. A thin knife, concealed under the sleeve of his armor, extends with the flick of the wrist and penetrates the brain through the now empty eye socket. In the same instant, he draws his right sidearm and, triggering the firing mechanism, slices the arm off patrolman No. 2 just above the elbow. Eye Patch drops to the bay floor, dead before he makes contact. No. 2 is howling in pain and tries to activate the wrist-paralyzer on his left hand when Geo gives him his full attention. With unmatched precision, he slices away the weapon, taking a layer of skin with it, drop kicks the big man with enough force to propel him against the revolving doors, which shatter from the impact, and the man falls to the floor, unconscious. Geo walks casually to the fallen man, places his weapon against his forehead and pulls the trigger.

Except for the hum of the huge pumps, everything is silent. Geo looks around for any other menaces before he holsters his weapon. The bay-grunts don’t meet his eyes as they return to their tasks. It’s not the first time they’ve seen death in these bays, but it’s the first time anyone’s beaten these two. Geo steps over the dead body and through the shattered glass doors on his way to the purser’s office, which is two down on the left. He ignores the Do Not Disturb sign on the prompter and walks in. The purser is a fat man, bald and sweaty, with perspiration forming droplets on his brow. He looks up at the intruder, intending to scold, when he sees Geo looming over his desk. He is startled by the fact that someone has gotten this far with weapons. He knows without a doubt that Morgan and Delvecchio – the patrolmen – are either incapacitated or… dead. 

He’s scared. No one makes it past them.

“What… what do you want?”

“H2O from Earth is being downloaded as we speak. You owe me 48,000 bot-credits.”

“I… I don’t have that much here.”

“Why not? You knew I was coming today.”

“I wasn’t expecting you this early. I’ll need a few minutes. Can you wait here?

“No. I’ll go with you. Now let’s hurry. I’ve got other loads to deliver and my safety window is rapidly closing.

Perspiration blooms under the armpits of Fat Man as he gets up from his desk.

“Okay… okay, then follow me.”

Thirty-two minutes after arrival, Geo maneuvers through the debris field and enters the safe zone. Returning to home base, LP2429, he will fill up and make a delivery to LP2599. He hasn’t been there since before Gracia Moeller, the owner of Alexander’s Fine Jewelry’s flagship store was charged with the murder of one of her clients. The charges were dropped when it came to light that she had been informed the weapon she had used was not loaded.

Following a power outage and virkon-eptile feasting, Gracia had installed pulse pistols to protect herself as well as her staff and patrons from the monsters. In an act of frustration with an abusive customer and believing the pistol was not charged, she pointed it at the woman in anger. That customer became dust.

Geo now wants to meet Gracia.

InterCosmic Manor 2599 is an enormous golden octagon orbiting the Earth at twenty-six thousand miles per hour in low earth orbit, six hundred and three miles above the Earth’s surface, moving west to east. It circles the globe every 57 seconds. Approaching it at slightly higher speed, Geo sights it visually, about to enter darkness over the Pacific Ocean. It glistens in the dying light like a radiant citrine. Within a hundred miles, he matches the speed of the giant satellite. Coaxing the ship into place, he prepares to dock on the lower level. Giant arms reach out to clamp onto Potizo’s outer docking frames. Once secure, Geo locks down the ship. Preparing himself for a visit to the Mall area, he dons a clean shirt from the locker along with his black and chrome spacesuit and matching helmet. He knows women stare lustfully at him when he wears it. A dab of his favorite cologne and he’s off.

Leaving his jetpack in storage, he informs the loadmaster he’ll return shortly then transports to the 16-A Octagonal. The doors open facing a food court. The aroma of heavy spices used in roasting moon chicken is wafting into the hallway. His stomach growls, reminding him he needs to eat. Alexander’s Fine Jewelry is at the front and on the right. The food court is busy with shoppers relaxing and dining; people are browsing in the hallways, many with shopping bags full. The murmur of the different voices hums over it all. 

He takes in the hovering droids 
over his head, whose only purpose is to kill virkon-eptiles. The abandoned InterCosmic PRT (prison/rehab/termination) 2344 houses the majority of beasts still living. Some escape. Bounty hunters probe the LPs for any that may be hiding.

The jewelry store has only two patrons. A young man is serving one of them and a middle-aged lady is serving another. He notices the lady’s fine business suit, the latest fashion from Stile designers. Her short hair is in the latest bob; gems hang from her small ears. She has her back to him when Geo enters the store but looks toward him when she hears the bell over the door. Both stop in their tracks and stare at each other; the attraction is immediate.

She holds up a finger, asking him to wait one moment, and assists her client in making a purchase. Geo can’t take his eyes off her and hopes this is the owner he’s heard so much about. She approaches him with a genuine smile that softens the fine lines around her eyes. Extending a hand she introduces herself.

“Hello space jockey. Welcome to Alexanders. I’m Gracia.

He takes her hand and looks down at her; 
she’s a foot shorter than him. He stares at the twinkle of mischief he sees in her eyes.

“Name’s Geo. Happy to meet you, Gracia. Are you the owner?”

“Yes, I am. What brings you into our store today?

“You do, actually.”

Dropping his hand, she blushes at his directness.


“Yes, I wanted to meet the lady who vaporized her guest.

The rouge in her cheeks is replaced by a frown and beetled brow. He didn’t mean to be so blunt and can see she’s offended. He points at the pulse pistol in the fashionable holster on her hip.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t 
mean to upset you, but I admire your gusto. Of course, everyone was talking about it, and it was an accident, but there are not many women comfortable using pulse pistols. And only the most trusted applicants get permits.”

She stands back from Geo and leans against one of the counters.

“It was an accident, a deadly one. As you likely know, the pistols are to protect us and our patrons from the deadly eptiles, but I really don’t want to talk about it.

“I understand. Bet no one messes with you. Have you had to use it since?”

This causes the weakest of smiles; she is overwhelmed by the big man’s sexual allure and softens her stance.

“Well, not on any customers, thank goodness. I’ve been practicing with the safety and have it down to a microsecond thumb flip, so it’s safe to shop here now.

He likes the way she laughs. She likes the cologne he wears.

“Did you really come here just for that, Geo? Or do you need to pick up something for your wife… or girlfriend perhaps?

He’s about to comment when the overhead lights flicker. Every main door on every floor slams shut. People hustle for cover, crowding near the stationary defbots that have their own emergency power source. Gracia does as she’s been trained. There’s only one patron, her two staff and Geo. She rushes everyone to the main counter. The lights do an off-and-on dance for ten or fifteen seconds before everything goes dark. Gracia draws her pistol. Everyone listens. Eptiles travel at great speed, their hardened scales clattering on the overhead pipes. Several are on the move. Bursting through grills, they spill into different locations in the Octagonal.

Two slither into the food court. In the dark, you can smell them – a scent that can only be described as rot. The worm-like beings have two short legs in the front, three toes with talons, the posterior moves with leather-like scales. A mouth slit is on the underbody, lined with crunching bones. The defbots are programmed to recognize the eptiles by smell, sound or sight. Detection is immediate. Pulses from a droid’s cannon cut the first one in half, the front clawing to escape before secondary pulses blast it to ashes. The second one receives a direct burst under its antennae that vaporizes the front half of its six-foot length. The unmoving rear section gets zapped also, and nothing of the beast remains.

The other one is perched on an overhead mirror in Alexander’s Fine Jewelry. They hear it enter after something falls to the floor. Gracia urges them to stay quiet and behind her. Geo stands at her side. The monster is young, only four feet long, hunting by instinct. It senses its prey below and is about to leap when the lights come back on. Like its kin, it is tormented by bright lights and scrambles for the opening that it came through. Gracia is fast with her pulse pistol and releases several bursts from her weapon. The first pulse of pure energy obliterates the eptile, the second, third and fourth pulse reflect off the mirror. One takes out a large section of the front door, another obliterates the counter with moon crystals, and the third vaporizes Geo. Gracia stare at the pile of ash at her feet and clamps a hand to her mouth.

“Oh, shit!”

The End

Thank you for visiting the Scribbler today. I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

If you would like to read more of my short stories, I'd invite you to pick up a copy of

 A Box of Memories.

Ebook available at amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Draft2digital.

Looking for a hard copy? Contact me.

Sunday 25 August 2019

The FarOut World - a short story by Allan Hudson Part 1

Outer Space - that void above the skies has always intrigued me. I think Space Travel is worth every penny we spend on it.

I work in the jewellery business and I wondered what it might be like to shop for jewellery in outer space some time in the future. I wrote a short story called The FarOut Mall. It was first published here on the Scribbler and is now available in my short story collection - A Box of Memories.

Today's short story takes place in same quadrant of Outer Space where humans live in Off Earth Living Pods. The only thing they can't supply themselves is...Water!

The FarOut World

September 23, 2657

The Caterpillar XN4789 is the largest truck out of this world. Its sole purpose is to transport water to the off-Earth living pods (LPs) hovering above the globe, anywhere from the International Space Boundary (ISB) of two hundred miles to the InterCosmic Manor 2599 – the farthest LP, which orbits at six hundred and three miles. All two hundred and sixty-three LPs are self-sustaining except for their water supply. There’s no shortage of Adam’s ale on planet Earth. Not since the ice caps melted late in the twenty-fourth century, followed by a downpour of biblical proportions. Now, only the extremely rich and some water-heavy industry exist on the mountaintops. 

Macintosh Fairweather, who foresaw and forecasted the extreme conditions coming to the planet, had proposed to the world’s leaders that the only way the human population would survive was to build living pods in space. At first they scoffed at his proposal, calling it the vision of a madman. He assured them that they had the raw materials, the finances, the ease and simplicity of space travel. That they should act now. Most rejected his idea. But eventually he convinced the most populous countries – China, Canada, India and the United States – to divert funds to erecting the first LPs. Unfortunately, their timing was too late and billions of people perished in the flooding. Besides the 1,500 residents living and working in the mountaintops, the rest of the human population lives off-Earth, in LPs, in the twin cities of Aether and Hemera in the Tranquillittatis Mare of the moon, or in the Arcadia Planitia of Mars.

Interplanetary travel is a breeze thanks to the forward thinking of Geronimo Placedo, who pioneered teleportation in the twenty-first century, a concept only possible in science fiction in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Nowadays, teleportation is taken for granted and travelers often complain about the forty-two minutes it takes to get from one planet to the next as being too slow. No one complains about the 1.2 second trip from Earth to the moon though.

Geoffrey (Geo) Galanos is the only person with enough experience to handle the XN4789. In Earth’s atmosphere, the vehicle would weigh over a million pounds. In space, it weighs nothing but possesses abundant inertial mass. Improper or inexperienced handling of the controls and thrusters could extensively damage an LP during docking. So only the most experienced orbital jockeys are hired to operate the large water transports. Galanos has nicknamed the vehicle Potizo, the Greek word for irrigate. Today is the first delivery for the colossal machine and the first LP needing an immediate resupply is the hostile LV2. Galanos is the only one of three drivers who volunteers for deliveries to either LV1 or LV2. As evil as the owners are, they know better than to fuck with Galanos. He carries not one but two extremely rare Remington Valences, the most powerful ionic handguns in off-Earth. Dubbed sensei by the practitioners of sangfroid, the deadliest of Canadian martial arts, he has few equals in hand-to-hand combat. His very demeanor and Greek arrogance cause the boldest of men to step aside. 

LP2429 (numbered for the year it was built) was the first LP built by the Save the World Conglomeration. Updated many times, the lowest orbiting LP is now a docking and work station for water transports and other space vehicles. The smaller transports that enter the Earth’s atmosphere are hardy “pickups” that skim the surface, filling their tanks for transfer to the larger trucks that are too big to travel back and forth. Mainly financed by Toyota, LP2429 contains a spacecraft dealership, work bays, body shops, a gym, a college for mechanics, welders, electricians, plumbers and millwrights, its own “breathe and feed” levels, and the mandatory hospital and living quarters for the 2,300 people who inhabit the LP. It also contains an armory. That’s where Geo is now while Potizo is being loaded.

Geo is a big man. Muscles bulge from his limbs like tree knots. His long dark hair is tucked behind his ears; his eyes shine in anticipation. He’s wearing the latest design in spacesuits, slick and body forming. The armorer, Rieta Balser, helps him strap the Valances to his thighs after charging the weapons. She slaps him on the ass after she’s tightened the straps, pausing for a moment to squeeze the firm buttock. She winks at him before he leaves.

“If you make it back from LV2, big guy, I’m off at 1800 and I’d love to rub your sore muscles. Know what I mean?”

“Don’t you worry about me making it back, Rieta. There’s nothing on LV2 that I can’t handle. If your offer’s good, you’d better rest up while I’m away. Know what I mean?

Before they go their separate ways with a chuckle and a promise, she warns him of the virkon-eptile detected on LV2 several days ago and passes him a Threat Detector calibrated for the unique sound of slithering scales, the faint scent of raw meat, and x-ray visuals of the flesh-eating monsters. If one of the virkon-eptiles is within a range of thirty feet, it will sound a loud warning and he’ll have but seconds to react. Otherwise, he’ll be fodder for the beasts.

Proceeding to the docking station on the second level, Geo sees the setting sun reflecting off Potizo’s golden skin through the tall windows. It’s huge. It reminds him of the Zeppelins of the nineteenth century that he saw at the aviation museum on LP2589, only five times bigger. Passing through the airlock, he removes his helmet and oxygen pack and leaves them in his locker.

When he enters the cockpit, he breathes in the rare aroma of real leather on the pilot’s seat. They had gone all out on the interior. Sitting at the controls, he admires the 240-degree viewing field. Hovering cam-bots show the spacecraft at every angle. Settled in, the control panel senses his implant and appears within easy reach. The tryedellium panel is pure energy, stored in the ship’s memory, responsive to touch, voice. Due to limited breakthroughs in thought-control technology and advances in human implants, he can command it to appear and rest at will.

“Check engines.”

A multi-gauge panel appears over the control panel. Everything is in the green.

“Rear cam-bots.”

The top panel is replaced by a ten-screen panel with images from behind. The docking arms hold the ship in place; he sees the glistening exterior of the LP with the sun shining directly on it along with the hovercraft of the exterior maintenance crew. Several cameras show the rear of the truck. The sleek metallic skin, the docking and transfer hub, the rear-mounted laser cannon. He presses a combo of keys on his left pad and the gun swivels and rotates. The lower right screen zooms in and a bull’s eye follows its every move. Even with the world mostly at peace, there are still pirates, especially where he is going.

“Ship monitor.”

The screen is replaced by the command center and communications. The right-hand pad controls the engine, steering thrusters, all external components. Entering the right combination, the ship unlocks from the docking arms; the top thrusters ignite and push the ship slowly away. Letting inertia carry him a thousand feet, another finger command and the fisome-fueled engine grows hot. Deeming his distance beyond launch perimeter, he commands the main thruster to boost him toward outer space. Satellites keep him posted at all times of where each LP is located, where it is in its orbit. LV2 is at mile 455. The Scatter Zone, or debris field, where LP2344 had been destroyed by an asteroid, extends from mile 445 to mile 465. The computers have calculated his path in and, exactly thirty-three minutes later, the path back out.

When he reaches the outer perimeter of the Scatter Zone, Geo leaves Potizo on autopilot, ready on a second’s notice to take over manually if necessary. At mile 448, the ship hovers in its path when a chunk of the former LP whizzes by overhead at 20,000 miles an hour. A whole section, maybe three hundred feet across, circles the globe endlessly. The ship reaches LV2 at the apogee of its orbit, the timing synched by the delivery team. Going manual, Geo calls up cam-bots six and eight. The docking station on LV2 is on the lowest level. Huge bay doors with wild graffiti and murals line the No. 3 octagonal. The second door slowly slides apart. Potizo would never fit inside, so Geo skillfully parks its ass-end nearby, and the docking arms clamp onto his upper frame. He shuts it down and dissolves the control panel.

Freeing himself from his seat, he grabs his helmet and life support system, and after strapping everything on, he steps into the airlock. He backs into his extravehicular mobility unit (EMU) – custom designed by Bombardier Propulsion – locks in, hits the exit cycle button, and as soon as the vacuum is restored, the door slides upward and he flies out. He loves the jetpack; it’s their newest model: lighter, much faster than the previous one and easier to control.

Landing in the cargo bay, he watches the docking personnel, called bay-grunts, marveling at the size of Potizo, swarming around the outer perimeter, admiring the sleek lines and high gloss, while others swing the off-load tubes into place and connect to the ship. They know who he is and stay out of his way. By the time he enters the platform airlocks, he can see the huge pipes pulsating from the pumps sucking the precious liquid into storage tanks on the second level. When oxygen is restored, he removes his helmet, unstraps his EMU and places them in an open visitor’s rack and locks it, pocketing the key. Even in the twenty-seventh century, nothing beats an old-fashioned lock. photo credit
The receiving bays are the busiest in the LV2. Every LP has manufacturing levels, but LV2 manufactures very little, so shipping is a small section of the service octagonal. Their specialty is drugs, weapons, gambling, prostitution and alcohol. Anyone needing such vices came here; very little got shipped out, other than waste and dead bodies. Geo is met by two members of the Pod Patrol, LV2’s own policing unit. Even though Geo is over six feet tall, the two men tower over him. Clad in black mondicor armor, which is hard and flexible, weapons strapped to wrists and ankles, they are an intimidating duo. The one with the eye patch and tattooed face is obviously senior and greets Geo with a raised hand.

“No entering the Pod with weapons, you’ll have to leave them with us.”

Geo stands, arms akimbo, and glares at the two men. Without weapons, he’s a dead man.

“I’m getting the bot-credits for the water and as soon as the truck’s empty, I’m leaving. If I have to walk through those revolving doors to the purser’s office, I’m not going in this hellhole without my weapons. So you have two choices. Either go get the payment and bring it to me, or try taking the weapons from me. Your call.”

To be continued August 28th........

Thanks for visiting today. I hope you're enjoying the story and that you'll be back for the rest. Please leave a comment. Tell me if you like it...or hate it!

Saturday 17 August 2019

Award Winning Author MJ LaBeff of Arizona, US.

MJ LaBeff is an American author best described as the girl-next-door with a dark side. She’s drawn to writing suspense novels, featuring complicated characters and twisted plot lines that will keep readers turning page after page. (quoted from MJ’s website –

The Scribbler is beyond happy to have MJ as this week’s guest. An accomplished and award-winning author. She also goes “above and beyond” sharing other people’s work and accomplishments, an author’s best friend. She has generously agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing an excerpt from one of her novels.

***Since MJ and I put together her interview and Excerpt, MJ received the fantastic news that her novel Last Fall’s Hunted (Book 2 in the series) is the winner in the 2019 American Fiction Awards.

Thanks for inviting me to join your blog today! It’s always fun chatting writing and books with a fellow author.

My bio is on my website along with other fun tidbits about me and also included in all of my books. You captured most of it nicely in your fantastic introduction. Basically this is a snapshot of moi: MJ LaBeff grew up in northeastern Ohio but traded snow for sunshine and moved to southern Arizona over two decades ago where she lives with her husband and three dogs. When she’s not writing or plotting her next novel, MJ enjoys reading, running, lifting weights, and volunteering for the American Cancer Society. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications-English from Gannon University in Erie, PA and currently works in the financial services industry. MJ says, “I play with numbers all day and words all night.” Although she’s a morning person, night time is her time when it comes to writing her next thriller.

4Q: Before we chat about your books, please tell us what draws you to Suspense novels, the kind you like to write.

MJ: As I young reader I was initially drawn to mystery books and especially enjoyed The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. I gravitated toward light horror and paranormal books too. One of the first paranormal stories I read was The Poltergeist of Jason Morey by Gloria Skurzynski. As young girl I was fascinated by things that happen that we can’t explain. I also lost many loved ones when I was young and I think that opened my mind to the possibility that somehow their presence was still with me. When your under the age of 14 and suffer the death of your maternal grandmother, uncle, aunt and the family dog- it leaves an impression and plenty of questions. I think my Catholic faith helped me understand death a little better at those tender ages, but it didn’t make the loss any less painful or me any less curious about the afterlife. I became more receptive of the idea of the paranormal. Perhaps some readers of faith will find that an odd or interesting contradiction. During my freshman year in college I discovered author Mary Higgins Clark and that’s when I fell in love with the idea of becoming an author. I devoured her books and could read and reread some of the smart prose. From there I explored edgier crime fiction and suspense. That changed me as a writer. I wanted to take readers into the minds of the victims and criminals. I wanted to explore what drove a criminal mind. I needed to try to understand the “Why”. Why is this person doing these things? I find posing the why questions like this to be helpful. Why do you hurt people? Why do you enjoy doing the horrific things you do? Why are you angry, scared, sadistic, manipulating, deceitful, untrusting and more, so many whys! My early and later years as a reader shaped the way I write today.

4Q: Your website tells us that you’ve written two romantic suspense novels and the Last Cold Case series. Tell us about series.

MJ: The series is best described as the TV shows Criminal Minds meets Ghostly Encounters with the romantic pull of Castle happening between Homicide detective Rachel Hood and FBI agent Nick Draven. Each story has a current case linked to a cold case. Rachel’s dad is a retired detective and in the first two books the cold case she inherits were originally unsolved by her dad.

Last Summer’s Evil book 1 opens with Rachel searching for her missing sister Amy who has been missing for the last four years. She’s tracking a serial killer who strikes every year during the summer solstice. Each summer one woman disappears and another is brutally murdered and left clutching a ragdoll made of the previous deceases victim’s clothes. Rachel’s pushed to the brink searching for this elusive serial killer and hoping to find her sister alive.
FBI Agent Nick Draven was assigned to the multiple murder cases with Rachel when he was with the Ohio Detective’s Bureau, and now he’s back again. Rachel has also been struggling with something she doesn’t understand. Every time the killer takes another victim she can feel every ounce of the victim’s pain but is paralyzed and powerless to save her. She confides in Nick- an occult crimes specialist with the FBI who is hiding some psychic secrets of his own. Personally and professionally Rachel’s struggling with her newly discovered psychic empathy but remains committed and focused to the cases. Time is not on their side, and together they’re racing against the clock before another woman is taken and another murdered. It’s a fast paced thriller that leads readers in many directions. Even my editors could not figure out “who dunnit”. The book also won the 2018 American Fiction Award in the thriller general category.

In Last Fall’s Hunted book 2 Rachel is drawn into a hunt for a deranged serial killer harvesting kidneys from his victims’ corpses during the fall equinox. A dismembered body is found in Kill Buck Wildlife area in Snug Harbor, Ohio, and the discovery of two more victims within a twelve mile radius suggests a sadistic killer's return.
She joins forces with FBI Agent Nick Draven again to hunt for a killer who after a twenty year hiatus strikes again. But, why? (See that- Whys are always important to me!) They draw a parallel between his first crime and the recent murders. His first victim was murdered in 1991 during the rare occurrence of the super harvest moon, an event that will happen this year and fuel his blood lust to kill again. Time is not on their side. Hood and Draven have five days to find the killer before the next full moon rises and another teenage girl is found murdered and missing her kidneys. Rachel’s psychic empathy is helpful but it’s also a hindrance.
Cases are built on hard evidence, not feelings, but she’s trying to learn how to use her psychic gift much like she would her cop’s instinct. This might be my favorite book in the series, but how can author love one book baby more than any other. Well, I might spoil the story if I shared my deeper connection, but maybe not. When I was 14, I lost an aunt to kidney disease. That led me to my “Whys” with this story.

This brings us to Last Winter’s Taken book 3. It’s a chilling tale about a sociopath, who murders expectant mothers and abducts infants during the winter solstice. The murder of Willow Danby, a married woman and expectant mother, thrusts Homicide Detective Rachel Hood into a murder investigation and missing person’s case as she searches for the baby ripped from Willow’s body. The mysterious undertone surrounding the current investigation forces Rachel to reopen a similar cold case. 

Yvonne Johnson and Willow Danby couldn’t have been more different. Wrong side of the tracks meets white picket fence. The only thing the two women have in common: they’re both dead and their infants are missing. The sinister murders and infant abductions reunite her with psychic FBI Agent Nick Draven. Even with a long list of suspects to interview, they are no closer to solving Danby’s or Johnson’s deaths. Rachel’s psychic empathy draws her closer to the taken infants, and she suffers from a haunting premonition. A single clue left at each of the crime scenes links the cases together and leads Rachel to a mystery dating back to the year 1638. They unearth a mysterious enigma for the first time in over 372 years that draws them closer to a modern day sociopath, murdering expectant mothers and taking their unborn infants. By now, Rachel has come to embrace her psychic empathy and puts her own life in jeopardy. This book was fun to write because I enjoyed the close knit neighborhood where the Danbys lived and the envy, jealousy and gossip amongst neighbors. I think one reader commented it’s a little like Real Housewives but with murder!

4Q: Please share a childhood anecdote or memory.

MJ: I grew up on a small town in northeastern Ohio. When I was a little girl my dad owned a Ford dealership. The local radio station WWOW was doing a promo and put me on the air. I said, “Come buy a car from my daddy because I need a new pair of shoes!”
My mom was mortified. I was six or seven years old and vaguely recall we had been out shopping that day. The irony of it is: I’m a clotheshorse and love shoes to this day.

4Q: Many authors have the “special place” where they feel most creative. Please tell us about yours and your writing habits.

MJ: Since I work fulltime, my writing day looks like a notebook and pen that sits next to my desk at work, just in case an idea sparks to move my current work in progress forward. My job requires my full attention but having a pen and paper helps to jot something down. So, I’m a night writer.
My morning starts early just after 5 a.m. with a cup of coffee and my iPhone. I catch up with my friends on Twitter and sometimes Facebook and then I’m racing to get ready and out the door. Depending upon book edits or writing, I may visit social media again before I start working on my book(s) at night.

My desk has two computers on it. An old trusty Asus netbook for writing and an HP laptop that’s 4 or 5 years old for editing, research and social media. However, I really use my iPhone for posting on FB and Instagram and tweeting on Twitter. I also have a couple of paperweights, several rocks from the shores of Lake Erie, including a piece of quartz from Arizona, small writing pads, a file for my current work in progress, and a wooden caddy for pens, bills and more paper. Sometimes, I like to get away from my desk so I’ll take my netbook out to my dining room, light a candle and write there.

4Q: What’s next for MJ LaBeff, the author?

MJ: I have a few books that are unpublished. I’m concentrating on finding a literary agent and hope to connect with someone who is interested in the books I write and can connect me with an editor at a larger
publishing house. I finished a single title standalone thriller last year, titled The Perfect Revenge. I’ve had a nibble but still don’t know if I’ve caught a fish. It’s a process and takes time.

The next novel in the Last Cold Case series, Last Spring’s Stranger has been with my current publisher Muse It Publishing for over a year and I’m not-so-patiently waiting for edits, HaHaHa! The wheels of publishing move slowly at times and one of my editors at Muse recently left to care for her health and family. I wish her the very best. As they say, “Life happens”. Being a writer is a job. So I keep writing and searching for traditional publishing avenues to share my work.

Thank you again for inviting me to be part of your blog and for the opportunity to share more about the books I write. This has been fun. If people would like to connect with me, please visit my website There are links to my books and social media; I’m on FB, Twitter and Instagram. 

4Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

MJ: Here’s a sneak peek at Last Spring’s Stranger book 4 in the Last Cold Case series. This book will have readers questioning everything they thought they knew about Homicide Detective Rachel Hood!

Secrets can have deadly and life altering consequences. The legend of Verch’s Hollow has intrigued the residents of Snug Harbor, Ohio for generations. Myths about the abandoned property abound.
When a teenage girl is murdered in the Hollow, her gruesome death threatens to expose a secret from Homicide Detective Rachel Hood’s past. Forced to face the truth of her deception, she reopens a cold case that could jeopardize her career. A victim of adolescent cyber bullying, messages fill her personal inbox with threatening undertones from years ago. Do keep evidence and share it with an authority. Enter FBI Agent Nick Draven an occult crimes specialist and Hood’s fiancĂ©. As they delve deeper into the sender’s motive, Rachel has to confront the harsh reality she left behind over twelve years ago: a murdered friend, Tina; a glimpse of the killer at the scene of the crime, but she can’t identify the person despite her psychic empathy; and her own involvement with the evening’s sinister events.

I’m delighted to share a short Excerpt from my book Last Winter’s Taken. Book 3 of the Last Cold Case thriller series. It’s hard to believe the book released over a year ago on May 15, 2018. I hope this piques readers’ interest in this story and encourages them to check out the other books too. 

“I’d like to contact someone at the historical museum to exam the swatch,” Nadia said. “As I said before, this textile is not a modern fabric. I’m hoping to find an expert to help me determine its origin.”

“Excellent idea,” Nick said. “Let us know what you find and if you’d like help from the bureau.”

“Would you mind if we went to the lab and you can show us the fabric under a microscope?” Rachel asked.

“Not at all.” Nadia flattened her hands on the top of her desk but didn’t push herself up from behind the desk. “But, first tell me what brings you by.” She peered beneath her glasses to the bag near Rachel’s feet. 

“A couple of things, first we’re trying to locate a diamond ring Tyson had recently given Willow. The diamond was set in the baby’s birthstones so we’re looking for a diamond set in aquamarine gem stones. Do you have it in the evidence file?”

“The only rings we have are her wedding rings.”

Rachel looked over at Nick. “Maybe our killer took a souvenir after all.”

She turned her attention back to Nadia. “Second, I need you to check this wine bottle and these glasses for any foreign substances.” She picked up the bag and set it on top of the desk. “One of the neighbors, Paisley Reed, paid Tyson a visit last night. I think she might have drugged him. Enter this into evidence under her name. We’re in the middle of a double homicide. Reed was killed in a car accident last night. We suspect foul play. The fuse for her emergency contact system was pulled.”

Nadia stared at the bag. “I’ll rush this and let you know what I find.”

She entered the items into an evidence log then pushed her chair back from the desk and picked up the bag. Rachel and Nick followed her to the door. Nadia waited for them to exit, locked her office, and then led them to the lab.

With a plethora of possible cross-contaminates the three of them donned blue gowns, matching blue booties and caps to cover their heads. Next, they snapped on gloves. Nadia escorted them into the lab. Other scientists worked in silence with their heads bent over microscopes and other devices used to analyze evidence.

She fished in her lab coat for a set of keys. The swatch of fabric was pressed beneath several glass slides. Carefully, she exchanged the bag containing the wine bottle and glasses for the tray of slides and then locked the evidence in the cabinet.

“We’ll need to use the scope over here,” Nadia said.

She placed the first slide beneath the microscope and peered down at it, making some adjustments for their viewing pleasure.

Rachel stepped up and bent over the microscope. She squeezed her left eye into a permanent wink and squinted into the lens with her right eye. All she could see was a bunch of squiggly lines which meant absolutely nothing to her.

“You did keep the main sample intact, didn’t you?” she asked Nadia.

“Of course, this is a tiny cross section.”

Nadia walked back to the locked evidence case and came back with the swatch of fabric. It was exactly as Rachel had remembered it except now the blood that had saturated the fabric had dried. She extended her hand, and Nadia handed the bag to her. She lifted the bag, scrutinizing the hardened swatch.

“I haven’t found any other biological evidence. The blood is the victim’s.”

Rachel nodded. “I’m not surprised. It was placed beneath her pelvis after she was probably dead. Even if she was still clinging to life, it’s unlikely she could have struggled with her attacker.”

“The sample you were looking at are strands of dark black hair, not threads,” Nadia said.

Rachel lowered the evidence bag to her side and bent over the microscope again, pressing her eyeball against the lens.

“When I first discovered the strands of hair I thought we might have recovered hair from the perpetrator or victim but upon closer examination it was clear the hair had been woven into the fabric. To be certain I removed two cross sections. As I mentioned, the weave is not from a modern textile. That much I do know. That’s why I’m hoping someone from the historical museum can identify what time period the fabric came from.”

Rachel’s eye strained. The sample beneath the microscope lens danced. She blinked and readjusted her position to gain a better view of the sample. Squinting harder, she tried to focus on the image. The black strands climbed up and swirled around her, taunting her. A mist formed before her open eye peering down through the magnifying lens.

A pair of hands rose up from the mist, reaching for her. She gasped but before she could look away the hands opened, revealing a bloody, fleshy, wriggling mass. The mist evaporated. A woman appeared. She walked toward Rachel with outstretched arms. She drew closer and in her upturned hands was a baby.

The woman’s face with glowing eyes jumped out at her.

“Thou shall not conceive and deceive!”

Her face withered from Rachel’s vision, behind her stood a weeping woman. Tears streamed down her cheeks. Faint sobs and ragged breathing grew louder, louder, louder. Her sorrowful cries shattered Rachel’s heart, pulling her emotionally closer to the woman. The weeping woman drew in a deep breath. She blew out a mist of black haze in Rachel’s face.

“Give me my baby,” she pleaded, and then broke into the most terrifying cry Rachel had ever heard.

The weeping woman’s shrill shrieks pierced Rachel ears. She dropped the evidence bag and fell to her knees, hands cupping each ear in an attempt to drown out the weeping woman’s words and sobs that echoed like unwanted ringing.

A huge thank you to you MJ for being our guest this week. Wishing you all the best in your future writing.

It was my pleasure and greatly appreciated. Wishing you the same with your writing and books!

***For those of you wanting to discover more about our talented guest, please follow MJ’s links below.

My books are available where all eBooks are sold and in print online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Links to my latest release Last Winter’s Taken:

Watch the book trailer:

special thank you to you, our faithful readers. Please feel free to leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.