My Portfolio, Page 1

Here are some examples of my work. I primarily write fiction, which is very much my first love, but I earned a journalism degree in college, and have done my share of article writing. Here are samples of each. This first page is a horror story I wrote.

This is a short story I wrote some time ago, as an attempt to dip my toes into the horror genre.

The Exhibit

                "What can I get you?" Taylor said to the customer, a tall, balding, heavyset man in his late forties who sat in a corner booth. His suit looked like he'd slept in it for several nights. His name was Tom Stone, and he was one of her reliable regulars, an investigator from the local police precinct.

                "What time is it?" The detective checked his watch.  "It's still morning," he said. "I really am losing track of time. Since it's morning, I'll have my usual breakfast, and lots of coffee."

                "You got it," Taylor said as she wrote down his order. "I'll be right back with the coffee."

                A little later, as she served him his breakfast of pancakes, bacon, sausages, and toast, Taylor asked Stone, "So what's got you so confused that you're losing track of the time?"

                "It's my new case," Stone said with a frown and a shake of the head. "I've been assigned to work on the disappearances."

                Taylor did not have to ask him which disappearances he meant. In the last four years, 19 young women had disappeared from the city. The youngest was a 17 year old high school student; the oldest was a 28 year old nurse. None had left any clues to their whereabouts, and none had ever been seen again.

                Taylor looked around the café. The breakfast rush was over, so it wasn't very busy just then; in fact, staff outnumbered customers at the moment. Since she had no one demanding her attention at the moment, Taylor slid into the booth across from him and said, "I hope you're making some progress on those disappearances. I hate to think what could have happened to those girls."

                Stone slowly shook his head. "Unfortunately, no, we just can't seem to catch a break. And now we have another missing girl."

                "I haven't heard about another one."

                "Her name's Heather Kramer. She's 21 a year old college girl who disappeared two days ago. That's when the Chief decided to beef up our task force that's been investigating these cases. I was one of the guys who got put on the case permanently."

                Taylor wondered how she had missed the news reports. A disappearance that was two days old must have been reported already. She worked long hours, but she did read the newspaper most days, and she tried to keep up on local current events.

                How had she missed it?

                Taylor tried not to dwell on the subject. Instead, she focused on her conversation with Stone. "So, do you have anything to go on?"

                Stone shook his head. "Officially, you know, of course, I can't talk about active cases. But, unofficially, no, we're going nowhere."

                Stone didn't stay long. He never did. He finished his breakfast, drank several cups of coffee, paid his bill, and left for his precinct building two blocks away. He left his usual good tip, and a copy of that morning's paper. Taylor pocketed the tip and kept the paper to read on her break.

                When she read the paper two hours later, Taylor got an unpleasant surprise. The biggest story on the front page was an article on the newest disappearance. Taylor read it and glanced at the picture of the missing girl that was part of the article.

                Shit, she thought when she saw the picture, I've seen her. She was here the day she vanished.

                Taylor put the paper aside and tried to remember her meeting with Heather Kramer. It didn't take long. Heather came in for breakfast. A lot of people did. This little coffee shop was something of a hole in the wall, but it was nonetheless famous across the city for the excellent breakfasts it served.

                Heather was a small woman, she remembered, only about 5'0" or 5'1" in height. She had dishwater blonde hair that she wore short but carefully, almost artfully, tousled. She'd been a pleasant enough customer, and turned out to be a decent tipper.

                They talked briefly after Taylor commented on a museum ticket that fell out of her purse when she reached for her wallet.

                That was when Taylor learned that Heather was a student at the local university, and was planning to visit the museum that day as part of an assignment for one of her classes. Taylor lost interest in the conversation then; she'd been forced to drop out of college when she ran out of money, and was jealous and a little resentful of anyone who could afford to attend the university where she had spent one of the best years of her life.

                Taylor picked the paper back up and reread the final paragraph of the article. It ended with the sentence, "Police have no knowledge of Heather's whereabouts that day, and no knowledge of any plans she might have had."

                Taylor knew she should tell Tom Stone what she knew, but her eyes went to another sentence of the story. "Police are offering a reward of $50,000 for any information about the case."

                $50,000. With that money, she could go back to school. She also wouldn't have to wait tables just to make ends meet - at least, not for a year or two. She'd be able to focus on her classes.

                Maybe she should make certain Heather had gone to the museum after all, before she talked to Tom Stone. It wouldn't hurt to make sure.

                By then, Taylor's break was over, and the manager was signaling for her to get back to work. She threw the paper away, and wasn't able to think about the matter for the rest of the day. But that didn't matter; she had the next day off. She could go check out the museum then.

* * * * *

                It was late in the afternoon o f the next day before Taylor got to the museum. She was dressed casually, in yoga pants, a black t-shirt, and a denim jacket. She wore her long brown hair loose around her shoulders and down over her back, rather than in the pony tail she generally wore on the job.

                She spent a while wandering aimlessly throughout the museum, looking at the exhibits, trying to put herself into the mind of a college girl she barely knew, had in fact only met once, trying to achieve the nearly impossible task of working out where she might have gone and why. Was there any particular exhibit that might have attracted Heather's attention? What was her major? What class was she taking that sent her here? If she knew that she might have some idea of what Heather might have been interested in.

                Although the museum was small, especially when compared to  some of the great museums of other cities, it held a varied collection of exhibits. There was an exhibit of paintings by the masters, an exhibit of modern art, another dedicated to the finest of commercial art, and an exhibit of nude bronze statues.

                Taylor kept coming back to the bronze figure exhibit. They were very skillfully done, slightly smaller than life sized and very lifelike, males and females engaged in various, mostly erotic, activities. She was struck with how realistic they were, especially the female figures, several of which looked like they could easily have been real.

                Each time Taylor came back to that exhibit, she studied it as if for the first time, trying to figure out what the figures were telling her.

                On her third visit, she found herself standing next to a tall man. At first, she paid him no attention. However, when he said, "I think I've seen you come here several times today. What do you think of them?" she turned and looked at him.

                He was about six feet tall, and pretty average looking - short, closely cropped brown hair, a wispy beard, sallow skin. He was about forty, and he looked to be in shape, but she had no interest in him. He was dressed in jeans and a black sport short, and didn't look at all unusual.

                Taylor shrugged. "I'm not sure," she said. "There's something about them, that's for sure."

                "I get a lot of compliments on them."

                "You get compliments on them?"

                "Yes. And why not? I made them. These are my sculptures. I'm Keith. I'm the artist."

                "They're very good," Taylor said. "Especially the sculptures of  girls. What's your secret?"

                "I start with good models for each statue. Then I use a new technique I developed, which only I know, and before you know it, I have a statue."

                "Oh," Taylor said, "sounds interesting."

                "You sound a little distracted."

                "Sorry," Taylor said with a start. "I was just looking at that one." She gestured at one of the statues.

                "That's my newest sculpture."

                "It looked familiar, like I should recognize it."

                "I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that before. Usually, they comment that the faces on my sculptures seem very slightly distorted."

                "Well, that one looks like I should recognize it," Taylor said. "I feel like I've seen its face before, not so long ago."

                "I can't imagine where you could have seen it," Keith said. His voice gave nothing away. Taylor, distracted, failed to notice anything unusual.

                When she looked back, he was no longer there. She walked away a few minutes later. She didn't look back, and so had no idea that he was still watching her.

* * * * *

                When closing time came, Taylor stayed behind in the museum, hiding in a supply closet in a nearly-empty wing. She locked the door behind her and then concealed herself against the far wall of the closet. A few minutes before the 10:00 closing time, not long after she locked herself in, someone jiggled the knob, but nothing more happened. Whoever it was must have been satisfied when the discovered the closet was locked.

                Then it was simply a matter of waiting.

                At 1:00 in the morning, the alarm on Taylor's phone buzzed. She crept over to the door and turned the knob. She stepped out into the exhibit floor.

                It took only a moment for Taylor to gain her bearings. Using the light from her phone, she crept back to the exhibit of statues that had so enthralled her during the day. The answer, she was sure, was there.

                When she reached the statues, she went right over to the newest, the one that she thought she recognized. She stared at it, trying to will it to give up its secret.

                It had taken her most of the day, but she finally figured it out. It looked like Heather Kramer.

                She was so absorbed in her study of the statue that she didn't realize someone was behind her until it was too late. Suddenly, she felt arms around her waist and throat. She gasped and dropped her phone. She tried to fight, but her arms were pinned, and she couldn't.

                "I'm not the only one who can hide in a supply closet, bitch," Keith said in her ear.

                Then he applied a sleeper hold and she went out.

* * * * *

                Taylor had no idea what time it was when she woke up. She was aware of something important, however; she was aware almost instantly of how much trouble she was in.

                She was sitting in a hard wooden chair. Her legs and body were tied to the chair with rope. Her arms were behind her back, bound at wrist and elbow with generous quantities of rope. She could taste a piece of cloth, a gag, in her mouth.

                She was dressed only in her black bra and thong.

                Taylor moaned into her gag and started tugging at the rope around her wrists. Then she realized someone was standing in front of her. She looked up.

                Keith stood in front of her, looking down at her. He was smiling. "Welcome to my lab, bitch," he said. "This is where it all happens. I'd give you the grand tour, but there's no time."

                "Mmmm," Taylor said, the best she could do with the tight gag in her mouth.

                "I want to have you ready by the time the museum opens, which means moving on right now."

                He reached into a pocket of the long white lab coat he was wearing and pulled out a syringe. He showed it to Taylor. She could see that it was full of a dark liquid.

                Swiftly, he jabbed the needle into her left breast. He pushed the plunger deep, forcing the liquid, all of it, into her veins.

                Taylor moaned into her gag again, and tried to struggle again, but it did no good. It didn't take long until she could see her vision fading, could feel her fingers relaxing.

                Then, for the second time in a short period, she was unconscious.

                When she woke up, she was no longer bound. Instead, she was in an intimate embrace with a blonde woman of about her age, her hands behind the girl's back, cupped around her ass. Their lips were touching. They were both naked.

                She tried to pull away from the other girl, but couldn't move. She got the impression the other girl was trying to do the same.

                She tried to speak, but couldn't move her lips or tongue, and couldn't make any sounds.

                "Does this remind you of anything?" Keith's voice said. "Like my artwork?"

                It did remind her of that, Taylor realized. She and the other girl were in a pose that resembled some of those she'd seen in his museum display.

                "The two of you will have the honor of being my latest sculpture."

                Judging from where his voice was coming, Keith was standing to Taylor's right. Now he moved into her line of sight. He was holding a large hypodermic needle. "It looks like you'll be getting another shot. This is the one that turns you both into bronze from the inside out. It will also shrink you by 10%, which so far seems to be enough that no one has figured out the truth of my statues."

                He smiled at Taylor. "I've got to hand it to you, you were the closest. The bad news is, that's why you're here."

                He injected a needle into Taylor's thigh, then picked up another hypodermic needle and gave the other girl a shot too.

                "Of course, I should probably warn you, this will hurt."

                He was right. The pain, which came quickly, was excruciating.

* * * * *

                "Where's Taylor?" Tom Stone said.

                The waitress who had been called in to take the missing Taylor's place shrugged. "We don't know. She had the day off, and she never came back. She said she was going to the museum."