Purchase Gangster Town here on Amazon. Also check out this sample from Pulse of the Goddess: American Blackout Book 1 and the opening chapters from book 2, Slaves Beneath the Stars.


Christmas Eve

Cricket was half awake, and her dream continued to play outside her bedroom window. Her father’s profile, head down, as he was thinking or getting ready to give an answer to her question soon morphed into her great-uncle Tommy, a young soldier returning from World War Two. Other faces appeared, dissolved, people she had known, loved, and lost.

She was filling her lungs with her first conscious breath when the face outside the window turned into a white leopard. The big, wide face peered at her peacefully, eyes warm on the surface yet streaming the vastness of nature.

She quickly lifted herself up on one arm, disturbing her husband’s sleep. The animal had to be on its hind legs.

“Fritz, get up,” she said in a whisper. She had one leg out of bed, and he awoke to see her picking up her pearl-handled Colt .45. She pointed at the window, and Fritz turned to see the big cat fog the cold glass with its breath before disappearing. She ran down the hallway, following Diesel, her black Lab, who abruptly stopped at the door of the next bedroom. Sister Marie was lying snug on a cot and the girls were peacefully sleeping in a double bed, even though the living room’s fireplace had been unattended for a couple of hours and the house had cooled. Cricket checked the sliding door, making sure it was locked.

“What?” was all Sister Marie said, struggling to open her eyes.

“We’re fine,” Fritz said.

Cricket checked the windows. “Stay with the girls. We’ll be right back.”

In her black nightgown, Cricket drove her feet into white UGG boots and grabbed a long leather coat. Fritz, in his pajamas, threw on his flannel shirt as they hurried outside into the snow that covered yards, crowned houses, and decorated trees.

Shouts came from different ends of the street as well as a loud scream. Instinctively they both moved in the direction of the loudest scream. The ranch homes now had doors being flung open and excited voices calling for someone to shoot the beast. Another scream, closer, from behind, made them turn quickly. Cricket lost her balance, and Fritz clutched her. For a long beat they both stumbled.

A young woman from across the street was pointing at their new home. “Isaw it! I saw it!”

“Fritz, we left the door open!”

Shooting back inside, Cricket raced to the girls’ bedroom and Fritz checked the kitchen and living room.

Pressed against the headboard, Sister had scooped up both girls into her arms. At the foot of the bed, a full-grown snow leopard crouched.

Gun at her side, Fritz bumped into Cricket. He whispered for her to shoot the animal.

Lee Ann was shaking her head no, and so was her sister. The bed was next to the sliding glass door that led to the backyard. Fritz and Cricket communicated with touches: He lightly tapped her shoulder and pointed left so she’d move and he could take the shot. She answered no with her arm across his body.

The leopard took in everybody with a growl and crawled toward the bed.

Cricket would always remember the light in the room, the smell of the melting snow on the animal’s magnificent fur, its eyes, and their silent communication as she took a step toward the sliding glass door. Fritz made the loudest disapproval with a long exhalation, and Sister Marie’s eyes widened in fear. Cricket stood alongside the door.

The big cat gave Emily Cricket Hastings all of its attention and rose. It was six feet from nose to tail and near two hundred pounds. She eyed her husband, communicated to him to let her do her thing, like she had done way too often for his comfort. She clicked off the lock and pushed the glass door wide open. The animal charged, and everyone screamed something different as the leopard flew through the opening and disappeared into the element of its namesake.



Gun Control


With the house secure, the girls cried with joy for the snow leopard’s survival, and Sister Marie praised God for his mercy and thanked Cricket and her husband for their bravery. Fritz stood guard outside the house, while his wife crossed the street to talk with neighbors who had also seen the animal running through their yards. More people popped their heads outside to partake of the unexpected Christmas “gift.”

A group of teens with baseball bats ran through the backyards, shouting death to the beast. The neighbors waved their guns and shouted back, warning the small mob to stay off their property, away from their portable generators, a favorite item to steal.

“It’s from the zoo,” said a tall, older man in his pajamas and winter coat. “I heard a lot of animals have escaped.”

“Bad enough we’re at the mercy of criminals; now the animals are after us,” cried the man’s neighbor, a middle-aged woman with her teenage daughter hanging on to her mom’s arm, enjoying the thrill of the moment.

A parade of cars on the opposite street got everyone’s attention. The older man, the mother, and a few other neighbors looked at each other and quietly headed inside.

“You think it’s the police?” Cricket asked, as it started to snow.

Halfway up his driveway, the man in his pajamas shrugged and stopped alongside a display of Santa and a headless reindeer. The man saw Cricket’s interest in his front yard.

“Probably kids,” he said, a few feet from his door, turning his head to listen for the motorcade. “Most of our cops are decent, the very best. But you never know who’s going to show up anymore. A friend down the street got a knock on the door and was told that his Nativity set on the front lawn is against some new law.He shook his head in frustration, weighing the good, the bad, and the ugly. “The mayor’s got the gas flowing, keeping our houses warm. I should be grateful. I am. And I’m lucky. I have a little generator that I take in at night, after getting the house really hot.”

A generator was needed for the furnaces to work. Families without one, or a fireplace, or woodstove, moved in with someone else who had heat. The man added, “The wife and I aren’t starvin’ yet. Thanks to the mayor, we got canned goods to make it through January. Though with the water on and off, I probably won’t have enough for a nice bath until the New Year. I guess I shouldn’t complain.” He then smiled at his ability to complain so effortlessly.

The mother, ignoring her daughter’s complaints about wanting to “hang out,” aimed for the front door. A brief tug of war started between them, and the girl broke free and ran up to Cricket, while the woman yelled, “Ignore her.”

“We need eggs,” the girl said. “The truck brought us bread yesterday, canned fruit, but no eggs. And we need wood, too. Mom had to bust up our dining room table. I have a big collection of DVDs; you can have all of them.”

Cricket said, “Sweetheart, when the excitement dies down today, one of us will bring you a half dozen.Andthe day after Christmas we’re scavenging for wood. We’ll drop some by. But you keep your DVDs and CDs.” She eyed Fritz across the street, who had heard the exchange. He smiled his okay. Bartering was the rule of the day, and so was charity. “I heard there will be more food coming,” Cricket smiled.

The mom pulled her daughter away, embarrassed by the exchange, and hastily thanked Cricket, saying they’d be able to keep warm for a few more days. The snow was falling heavily, and Fritz joined Cricket as a line of cars turned down their street. They often glanced back at their temporary home, making sure neither beast nor man were sniffing around.

Five cars, all from the forties and fifties, a uniform parade that prompted Cricket to rest her hand on the Colt as they passed. She couldn’t name the models, but they were all well cared for, and the men and women who watched them from inside the vehicles appeared dressed like they were going to a party. The last car stopped, and the others also slowed to a stop.

A man in the front seat of the last car got out and opened the back door. A short, well-dressed man, possibly Hispanic, emerged with the smile of a movie star. From the car ahead, a tall redhead got out before the driver could get the door. He missed his moment of chivalry, and she frowned at his outdated etiquette. Soon other doors flew open, and men in suits armed with shotguns and AR-15s emerged and stood defiant on the snowy street.

“Guns are illegal in the city,” the woman said, eyeing Cricket’s holstered Colt peeking out from her open coat. Cricket laughed, and the handsome man smiled like he too agreed with the silliness of the statement.

“I’m Air Force,” Fritz said, walking up to the new arrivals, turning often to keep their house in view. “I’m authorized and so is my wife, due to her piloting one of the few high-performance planes we have in service right now.”

“I’m so glad we stopped,” the man said. He stepped forward, reminding Cricket of a young Al Pacino. “I’m Angel Flores. This is Becca Givens.”

The redhead stood a few feet from Cricket. “You’ll need authorization from the mayor’s office.” Her fur reached her feet, and she wore boots with large heels and towered over Cricket and the smiling Angel at her side.

Cricket took a step closer to the woman. “Why are youtraveling with a small army in a residential neighborhood?”

“I’m the mayor,” Becca Givens said. “And Angel is my friend. A diplomat as well as a businessman. The EMP attack stranded him here.”

Cricket brought her gun on Angel, and everyone in the entourage trained their weapons on her.

Becca and Fritz both screamed at her to lower her weapon.

“Are you crazy?” the mayor said, and Angel smiled.

“Lower it,” Fritz said.

“Are you Ajax?” Cricket stared down the man, whose eyes grew bright from the attention.

“Are you out of your mind?” Becca signaled her armed guards to move closer. “Who the hell is Ajax?”

“He’s my brother,” Angel said, and all eyes went to him.

Cricket lowered the gun, and two bodyguards rushed her; Angel put his arms out to protect her. Fritz kept his hand on the butt of his holstered 9-millimeter.

“You never mentioned a brother,” Becca said, and Cricket’s eyes flamed at the man protecting her.

“Some brothers you don’t mention,” Angel replied. “Please, everyone… John”—who must have been captain of the guard and Becca’s driver—“it’s okay.” He clasped his hands and started his confession. “My brother, Ajax, is a ruthless and brilliant drug lord. I haven’t had contact with him in ten years. Never want to see him again unless it’s his funeral.” He bowed his head, hands crossed in front, bearing the weight of a very black sheep and finding the strength for a prayer. He looked up, and the snow softly pelted his face and dark hair. Cricket thought that he had once been a seminarian.

“He was stranded in the States,” Cricket said.

“Yes,” Angel said, “in Cleveland. That’s all I know.”

“I don’t believe you!” Cricket raised her weapon and pointed at Angel’s temple. He turned and smiled like an old friend arriving to comfort her upon news of some tragic loss. “Slavery’s back. Your brother’s behind it. He’s not in Cleveland. He’s here! Who are you?”

“Cricket!” Fritz yelled.

Becca, seething with anger, shot her arm into the air, and every gun was aimed at the half-dressed Cricket. Again, Angel waved off the bodyguards, who looked at each other and slowly holstered their weapons.

“We’re going after the slavers all the time,” Angel said. “They’re a primitive sort, easy to track down and destroy. And now that we have the Air Force on our side, I believe we’ll crush them sooner than later.”

Cricket felt God’s time. That taste of eternity. Often, it allowed her to act and take big chances, or to simply see the correct course of action to take, what to believe. The man was genuine. And she felt something else. His eyes were peaceful. He too had slipped into God’s time.

“I’m sorry.” Cricket dropped her arms to her sides.

“I should have you arrested,” Becca said. The captain of the guard’s face was beaded with sweat, and many of his men looked to him for the next order.

“That would accomplish nothing,” Angel said. “Except to show the citizens that you’re afraid and a bully. That we’re gangsters.”

“It doesn’t help that all of you are dressed like fictional gangsters from a Star Trekholodeck episode,” Cricket said, looking at Becca.

“Oh, I like this woman.” Angel took a step closer and took Cricket’s left hand and kissed it.

Cricket felt a surge of attraction for the dapper fellow. Was it the bedroom eyes, the easy swagger? She felt embarrassed, and holstered the Colt and pulled the long coat closed with both hands.

Becca said coolly, “What’s your name?”

“Cricket,” she said, and Angel laughed warmly.

“That’s it?” Becca rolled her eyes toward the snowy heavens.

“Emily Cricket Hastings. And this is my husband, Fritz.”

Becca said, “Keep the gun, but here’s my warning. You’ve shown us that you’re impulsive, maybe dangerous. Hurt the snow leopard and I’ll ship you downriver to a prison near Louisville.”

“We already saved the big leopard,” Fritz said, like he was checking off an item on his to-do list.

Cricket added, “The cat was at our home just minutes ago. It had our girls and friend cornered. I let her out through the sliding door in the girls’ bedroom.”

“See, Becca, this is a fine woman, like yourself,” Angel chimed in. “She saved my Sabrina. She didn’t shoot her. I can see truth in her eyes. Sabrina, too, knew immediately that you were a friend.” He looked at Cricket like he had entrusted her with the love of his life for a long and difficult journey ahead. “Becca, we must get moving. My Sabrina’s close by, and there are many through fear and ignorance who might harm her.”

Becca looked Cricket up and down. “You are a mess of surprises. Come by for Christmas dinner tomorrow. I’ll send a car. How many?”

“Five, but you threatened to jail me,” Cricket said.

“Don’t be so sensitive.” The woman looked at Angel, who nodded with a sparkle in his eye that said, of course, done deal.

“I guess we leave our guns at home?”

“What do you think?” Becca again looked to the snow-filled heavens, beseeching a higher power and shaking her head at an unsatisfactory answer.

Fritz said, “Sorry about all the extra excitement. I’d like to talk about your plans for maintaining security in the city. We’ve been patrolling the river and countryside looking for bands of escaped criminals, especially engaged in the slave trade.”

“Sure,” Becca said. “Be ready at one.”


Purchase Gangster Town here on Amazon. Also check out this sample from Pulse of the Goddess: American Blackout Book 1 and the opening chapters from book 2, Slaves Beneath the Stars.