Interview & Review: #Hauntings, #Spirits, & Eats #Michigan by Kathy Conder

Today, I’m chatting with Kathy Conder about her debut book, Hauntings, Spirits, & Eats Michigan.

Seasoned paranormal investigator, Kathy Conder draws on her experience with the paranormal to highlight different locations throughout Michigan that are reportedly haunted.  She includes restaurants, pubs, and hotels for those travelers who want to add a little paranormal spice to their trips.  Each establishment is listed by its location in the state and offers readers the history and hauntings connected to each.  For those who are interested in exploring the mysterious world of the paranormal, this book is a great starting point for planning your next Michigan trip.

Q & A

CHRISTINA: Thanks for joining me today. Share a bit of your background before we delve more into your book.

KATHY: I was a Zoology major in college. I wrote for my university paper and have written articles on the paranormal for other publications. This is the first time I have written a book.

CHRISTINA: Tell us about your new book.

KATHY: As director for a paranormal group, I am often asked where the haunted places are in Michigan. I decided that by writing a book, I could list places that I knew in an organized format that was user-friendly. I would also be able to include some history on each location and my personal experiences if there were any. While I loved the idea of basing the book on Michigan’s “haunted hot spots,” I didn’t want it to read like a road atlas. People love a good story – especially a scary one and I had lots to share!

CHRISTINA: What inspired you to write this book?

KATHY: For some reason, I felt the timing was right. I was still somewhat reluctant to begin and even more so, admit to friends and family that I had. That meant I was accountable. It was official. Once I made that commitment, the rest was easier. I had days where the words flowed and others where I stalled and sat on the floor assembling Lego sets for the grandkids. The most important thing to me was to complete the book. I did and for me it will always be a symbol of my accomplishment.

CHRISTINA: What kind of research did you do?

KATHY: Most of my research is done on the job. I admit that I find myself in more than my share of reportedly haunted places, studying and exploring. What I have learned over the years has been through my experiences. Evidence of paranormal activity is often anecdotal. There is, as of now, no scientific evidence to prove its existence. I do extensive research on the history of different locations since hauntings can often be related to what occurred there in the past. For that information, I have found the local historical societies are a valuable resource. Local libraries and on-line sources have a wealth of information as well.

CHRISTINA: What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book?

KATHY: Writing is hard!

CHRISTINA: How long did you take to write the book?

KATHY: I think it was a year-long process.

CHRISTINA: Describe your writing space.

KATHY: I write at my husband’s grandmother’s desk. I have surrounded myself with things that make me happy. I tried hard to make it my own. I find that once I sit in that space, my mind seems to switch to writing-mode.

CHRISTINA: What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

KATHY: Disciplining myself. Doubting myself. I tend to second-guess a lot!

CHRISTINA: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

KATHY: I don’t think it is interesting, but I have found music to be extremely grounding. From day to day, the music varies with my moods. I thought it might be distracting but it is the opposite. It helps me to focus.

CHRISTINA: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

KATHY: Both, equally!

CHRISTINA: What advice would you give to new writers – someone just starting out?

KATHY: Don’t be too hard on yourself. Writing is a learning process. Set up a writing schedule and stick to it, even you don’t get much written.

CHRISTINA: Where can we learn more about you and your book?

KATHY: You can find my book, Hauntings, Spirits, & Eats Michigan on Amazon and Goodreads, and you can find me on Michigan Paranormal Encounters on Facebook.

MY REVIEW

Kathy has done a great job researching over eighty haunted places in Michigan—lighthouses, inns, pubs, museums and more. I enjoyed reading the history of the sites as well as Kathy’s personal accounts as a paranormal investigator with thirty-eight years of experience. The perfect road trip book for all things spooky and historical in Michigan.

The 8th Annual One Acts Festival

I submitted my one act play back in December. Last week, the Allegan Community Players announced the lineup for the festival:

Purple Roses by Christina Thompson

Potential by Scott Mullen

The Band Currently Known as the Apaches by Les Abromovitz

I’m in! A first for me. I’m honored. What’s even crazier is that those characters are from my Chemical Attraction Series, which is set in a town based on Allegan.

The play was originally a short story. The scene takes place at Sylvia’s Bed & Breakfast, modeled after the Delano Mansion Inn in Allegan’s downtown area. The scene is a prequel to Chemical Attraction—before my main characters Joe Roberts and Madeline Pierce actually meet and fall in love. While mourning the death of her husband, Madeline’s Aunt Sylvia focuses on getting Joe and Madeline in the same room at the same time. The conversations of loneliness between Joe and Sylvia and then between Madeline and Sylvia break my heart.

Sylvia has become one of my favorite secondary characters in my series. In fact, I’m in the process of writing a new novel where she’s the main character trying to navigate in a world without her husband.

My head knows these characters are a figment of my imagination, but my heart knows their emotions are real. It’ll be strange to see these people, who have been in my life for so many years, become tangible on stage at the Griswold Auditorium, which I have also referenced in my series.

In Chemical Attraction, a fundraiser is held in the lower level of the Griswold. (I call it the Hartford though.) Then, in Chemical Reaction, a couple characters hide in the backstage area.

What a surreal experience this will be! I may cry. No, I guarantee I will cry. I’m aware the director may change the props and dialogue; this is a collaborative project after all, but I believe the emotions of the scenes will stay true.

If you’ve enjoyed my Chemical Attraction Series, this is a must see. Please, join me. I’ll be the one sobbing before the festival even starts.

Friday, April 22nd at 7 pm

Saturday, April 23rd at 7 pm

Sunday, April 24th at 2 pm

Griswold Auditorium

401 Hubbard Street

Allegan, MI 49010

All tickets are $5 at the door.

For more information, visit the Allegan Community Players.

For more information on my series, visit The Chemical Attraction Series on Amazon.

The Email That Changed My Life

On this day ten years ago, an email changed my life.  Late that night before I powered down my laptop, I checked my email.  I’d rather get a late night query rejection than one first thing in the morning. A lesson learned from experience—although both suck.

Well, after sending out over a hundred queries, multiple first-ten pages, and a fistful of the manuscript, 48fourteen Publishing offered me a contract for Chemical Attraction.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had to print and reread it to be sure.  My squeal woke my husband and freaked out our dog.  Thank you, Juanita Samborski.

Six months later, I officially became a published author.  And since then, I’ve created eleven novels (eight published), three audiobooks, four screenplays, and a stageplay.  I’ve come a long way, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. 

Cheers to 2022! 

Visit my AMAZON AUTHOR’S PAGE to learn more about my novels.

Coffee with Author Kass Hillard

Today, I’m chatting with Kass Hillard about her debut book, Games Psychics Play: Enhancing Your Intuition and Psychic Gifts published by Franklin Rose Publishing.

Kass Hillard has created the ultimate book and manual to help you develop your unique gifts of the Spirit and so much more. She’s funny, serious, kind, and strict. All the traits you would want your mentor to be and that’s what Kass has done with this book for you.

I’m drinking my Sumatra blend with a dollop of peppermint mocha. Kass has her classic black cup of coffee and a hint of Kahlua. This should be fun. So, Kass, share a bit of your background before we delve more into your book.

KASS: I’m a retired reflexologist and owned a holistic healing center for many years. I’ve been interested in the spiritual and metaphysical worlds for as long as I can remember.

After retirement, I was ready for a new challenge in my life and thought that since I was no longer in practice, perhaps I could write about my experiences as a reflexologist and healer. I wanted to write the book I wish I’d had when I was starting my reflexology career.

CHRISTINA: Tell us more about your new book.

KASS: Games Psychics Play: A Guidebook to Enhance Your Intuitive and Psychic Gifts is full of exercises and activities you can do to connect with your intuition and psychic abilities and strengthen them. I also tell some of the pitfalls to watch out for. I’ve included stories about my personal experiences as well.

CHRISTINA: What inspired you to write this book?

KASS: I’ve always enjoyed writing and had begun writing two books, one about reflexology and the other on challenging yourself spiritually, but I was struggling to finish them. I needed some guidance by others who were actual authors. I signed up for a writers’ workshop.

You’ve heard musicians often say they were doing something mundane like washing dishes or raking leaves and suddenly, the lyrics or melody to a song hit them and they had to stop what they were doing immediately and write it all down? That kind of happened to me.

After attending the workshop, I was on my way home, when out of the blue, I “heard” that I was to write a book called Games Psychics Play and what information it was to include. I pulled over in a gas station parking lot and wrote down everything, got home and began writing the book.

CHRISTINA: What kind of research did you do?

KASS: I’ve been a student of metaphysics for over four decades. I used my own experiences as a healer and a psychic as well as the experiences of other psychics I know.

CHRISTINA: What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book?

KASS: The most surprising thing is how writing consumed my life! I thought about the chapters and how to express what I needed to convey constantly. At least it felt that way. I had to always have paper and pen near me because I never knew when “just the right wording” to an idea would come to me. I found I didn’t sleep much while I was writing the book!

CHRISTINA: How long did you take to write the book?

KASS: I had the basics of the entire book written in six months. And then the editing process began! It took about two years total from start to publication.

CHRISTINA: Describe your writing space.

KASS: I don’t have one set writing space. Sometimes I need to be outside in nature to write, sometimes I need to be on the couch with a warm blanket, and other times I need to be in my favorite room of the house – the library. It has floor to ceiling bookshelves on 2 ½ walls and they are almost completely full! I have two shelves dedicated to the books written by my friends, which inspires me. I was thrilled when my own books could join their ranks.

CHRISTINA: What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

KASS: The most difficult part of writing for me is staying focused and believing that I have something worth saying. I found I went through days (and at times weeks) where I THOUGHT about writing but put nothing down on paper other than a note or two so I wouldn’t forget an idea. The critic within myself was brutal.

CHRISTINA: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

KASS: I like to handwrite everything and only use a fine tipped pen. I always start out a new story or book with a new paper notebook.

CHRISTINA: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

KASS: It energizes me to the point of exhaustion, and I love it!

CHRISTINA: What advice would you give to new writers – someone just starting out?

KASS: Start writing. There are thousands of people who say they’ll write a book one day but never do. Their thoughts and ideas never see life. Don’t be one of them. Listen to the advice of other authors. The feelings and experiences, all the ups and downs, may be new to you, but they, too, have had them. Surround yourself with those who will be honest but not cruel when you ask for an opinion. Most importantly, trust yourself and your ability. You have something to say, and we want to hear it!

CHRISTINA: Thanks for hanging out with me. To learn more about Kass and her book, Games Psychics Play: A Guidebook to Enhance Your Intuitive and Psychic Gifts, visit her website HOUSE OF THE SPIRIT. You can also find her book on AMAZON and GOODREADS.

The Chemical Attraction #SeriesSale #RomanticSuspense #FreeEBook with @48fourteen

Eva, Taylor, and Joe are siblings by choice. They believe you don’t have to be related to be a family. Their mantra is tested throughout the series.

Meet the characters:

TAYLOR VALENTINE, a kindhearted empath, embraces her vanilla tendencies. Her plan for her life reinforces those traits. She doesn’t apologize for giving people the benefit of the doubt. She focuses on college graduation and a career—romance in the far distant future.

As a history professor and former Marine, STUART MORGAN, a blond, blue-eyed war hero, battles his inner demons. Although he longs for mental peace from an understanding woman, his rigid rules prevent it.

EVA O’SULLIVAN, a petite Irish spitfire, has big opinions and you know them whether you want to or not. Masking her vulnerability, she wears her willfulness like armor.

Officer MATT CONNOR recovers from a gunshot wound obtained while on duty. As a single parent, he pushes any romantic life aside and concentrates on raising his eight-year-old son, DAVID, who desperately wants a mother and sets his sights on Eva.

His charisma hiding his loneliness, FBI Agent JOE ROBERTS is searching for an instant chemistry with his soulmate, the one person who will love him for his faults, not in spite of them.

Dr. MADELINE PIERCE, a dedicated scientist, has pain in her heart from an abusive relationship.  With her Ice Queen persona set, she hides within the realm of her research.

For a limited time, The Chemical Attraction Series is on SALE!

THEIR RIGID RULES (book one) is FREE

THE KINDRED CODE (book two) is $0.99

CHEMICAL ATTRACTION (book three) is $0.99

CHEMICAL REACTION (book four) is $0.99

It all happened within minutes. For some, it would last a lifetime.

In Memory of Dad

Dear Dad,

Happy Veterans Day.  Thank you for your sacrifice.  I didn’t understand until recently how much the Korean War affected you.  It had taken your innocence leaving your emotions hardened from the horrors. Would our relationship have been better had I known your torment? 

After reading your letters to your parents during the war, I felt the love you had for them, which is why I used my favorite picture of you, your mother, and your dad on the cover.  That’s how I want to remember you.  I will cherish those rare times when you had let your guard down—laughing with a lightened heart.  I forgive you, and I miss you more than I ever had.

With Love,

Christina

Dearest Mother and Dad

Corpsman Orrin Connor’s faithful letters with a touching twist shield his parents from the horrors of war. His buddy Rawley Armstrong’s poignant letters give his sister the harrowing truths. Throughout their dangerous assignments during the Korean War, they debate the consequences of their choices. Orrin gains comfort in downplaying his experiences while Rawley feels a healing purge. As they get to know the Marines in their charge, the corpsmen gather a variety of opinions. Although Orrin and Rawley disagree, their friendship remains true until the bitter end.

“It all happened within minutes. For some, it would last a lifetime.”

Based on her father’s letters to his parents throughout the Forgotten War, author Christina Thompson has produced this work of historical fiction to pay tribute to Navy corpsmen by remembering their service to their brothers and their country. Imagining her father had guarded his parents from the carnage of war, Christina elaborates on what could have happened while staying true to the dates and experiences her father shared in his actual letters.

My dad is in the front row far right.

A Dance and a Kiss Jolt Their Fate

“. . . Keeping Madeline in his arms, Joe guided her into an East Coast Swing. He found it refreshing that she knew the steps. Not many of the women he’s dated did. He had to work extra hard to maneuver them around the dance floor. It got to the point where he just didn’t bother dancing. Now, he realized how much he missed it or maybe he finally found the right partner.

Madeline’s eyes sparkled as he spun her around. He winced at how much he liked making her smile. What the hell! Focus, damn it! Don’t get carried away!

***

“. . . In a formal dance position, Madeline shivered slightly at Joe’s warm hand on her waist. His other holding hers set a wave of heat to her face. She craved more of his touch. She gently squeezed his bicep and shoulder. Even through his suit jacket, she felt his taut muscles.

She inhaled his cologne mixed with his sweat from drumming earlier. He oozed a chemical attraction. As a neuroscientist, she had read about the effects of pheromones. Fascinated, she wanted to lean in closer to taste his neck. She blinked and stiffened slightly. Calm down! Joe was here officially as an agent of the FBI. And she would not become one of those women in his phone. It didn’t surprise her that Joe knew how to dance. She supposed it was another way of impressing women. And, damn, if it wasn’t working. . . .”

***

Learn more about their romance

in my stand-alone thriller Chemical Attraction

Memorial Day Thank You

My Dad

On this Memorial Day, I send a special Thank You to all those who have died in military service.

My work of historical fiction pays tribute to Navy corpsmen by remembering their service to their brothers and their country.  Dearest Mother and Dad is based on my dad’s letters to his parents during the Korean War.  It seems appropriate to share some of his pictures in my album-style book trailer.  I used them to visualize and create the story.  Take a look.

Dearest Mother and Dad BOOK TRAILER

Dearest Mother and Dad on AMAZON

“Mail Call”

Although under the weather for almost three weeks, I tried my hand at writing lyrics. Surprisingly, the words flowed. I believe “Mail Call” is the essence of my novel, Dearest Mother and Dad.

*

“Mail Call”

*

Giddy anticipation from family so far away,

Mama’s note reverting man to boy of yesterday,

Perfumed letters like the sweet taste of my gals’ necks,

Help us forget we’re heading for a god awful wreck.

*

Our letters home have tough drawbacks.

But ya gotta write something for a tall stack.

To tell the truth or make up lies, which one do we voice?

More stress upon us at the complicated choice.

*

Protecting my mother unknowing of what I see,

Gives me courage to be what I need for adversity.

Hiding my anxiety is what helps my ability.

Why should more worry besides me?

*

Our letters home have tough drawbacks.

But ya gotta write something for a tall stack.

To tell the truth or make up lies, which one do we voice?

More stress upon us at the complicated choice.

*

The mundane lies believed more humane.

But we’re not at a resort with caviar and champagne.

My sister demands to know my bitterness

Therapy is confessing my sins for forgiveness.

*

Some say they’re afraid of how we’ll return.

Violent or depressed and ending in an urn.

Others will pretend the war never happened,

Pick up where we left off as though abandoned.

We’re far from home it doesn’t matter now.

We just want to survive this hell somehow.

*

Our letters home have tough drawbacks.

But ya gotta write something for a tall stack.

To tell the truth or make up lies, which one do we voice?

More stress upon us at the complicated choice.

Devastation

Although written five years ago, this short story about the characters from The Chemical Attraction Series is still a topical subject.  Those of us left behind after the death of a loved one can struggle to cope with our responsibilities while we grieve.

I think these characters must have been real in a previous life for me to know their rich backstories.  In fact, I love them and know them so well that I used Matt Connor’s father, Orrin, as the main character in my novel, Dearest Mother and Dad, set during the Korean War.  I consider “Devastation” a lead into Dearest Mother and Dad and Chemical Attraction.

“Devastation”

On the overcast September day, Police Chief Matt Connor jumped out of his cruiser in the circular drive of Allenton General Hospital. Glancing around, he strolled briskly toward Emergency Services and the Occupational Health Department, which shared a large waiting room. He had to warn his wife, Eva, of the torrential hailstorm bearing down on her.

Even before he had become Chief seven years ago, Gail Connor had used her influence to bend people to her way of thinking. Then, she felt entitled. After all, her son was the Chief of their rural town and her daughter-in-law worked at the town’s small hospital. Seeing through Gail’s gossiping and demanding persona, he loved her. However, today was tougher than usual.

Leaning on the counter, he waited for Nettie Day, the semi-retired nurse, to look up from her paperwork. She had shown his wife the ropes years ago. The staffs’ hatred of Gail carried over to Eva. His meddlesome mother had pretty much blackmailed the hospital president with a lawsuit about false gossip that he and Eva had secretly married. The president caved and gave Eva an internship earning her the job after graduation.

Within two months, Eva won the nurses over when they saw her devotion to him and David. She had also squashed any criticism of him like an aphid eating the roses in her garden. The hospital employees appreciated that Eva stepped up and dealt with her mother-in-law’s visits and appointments, which she did rather tactfully he thought.

Nettie slid open the glass window. “Hello, Chief. Eva’s with a patient.” With a dark chignon popular in the fifties, she puckered her lips in disdain. “Did you know your mother left two messages about coming early for flu shots before the clinic even starts? Your mother’s a piece of work.”

OccHealth provided pre-employment physicals, drug screens, and treatment for work-related injuries to area businesses. They also organized the influenza inoculation clinics and the Allenton County Health Fair for the community.

He glanced at the front entrance and cringed. Gail, Orrin, and their seventeen-year-old grandson, David, headed this way. “Yes, and that’s why I’m giving you a heads up,” Matt said. “I’ll run interference until Eva’s available.”

Nettie nodded. “Best Chief ever,” she said, before sliding the window closed. She disappeared to inform Eva.

“Matthew, what are you doing here?” Gail asked.

“I took a break to visit my wife,” he replied, watching David sit in a corner chair. Resting his elbow on the arm of the chair his head leaning on his fist, he looked bored and tired.

“Are you getting your flu shot early?” Orrin asked.

“No,” Matt replied. “The clinic starts at one, Mother. You’ll have to wait an hour, but you will be first in line.”

“I have time right now,” Eva said from behind him.

He turned away from his parents and whispered, “The nurses are going to love you more than they already do.”

“Will you love me more than you already do?” she whispered back.

“It’s not possible,” he replied as he kissed her cheek. “I’ll stick around and escort them out.”

“Let me get a vial,” she said, waving the family back to their small lab area.

Gail sat on the only stool while Eva opened the fridge for the serum.

“Looking for these, Eva,” Dr. Ellis asked from behind her. As gaunt as his patients in the morgue, he held out two vials. “I have the rest in the little fridge in my office. Chief, make sure you get yours, too.” He chuckled and left. Matt thought Ellis’s weirdness came from his other job as county coroner.

Eva prepared the needle. As she swabbed Gail’s arm, she smiled. “So this is finally my payback from years ago.” She pretended to stab her in the arm before gently administrating the shot.

Orrin laughed as David quietly leaned on the doorway.

“That wasn’t so bad,” Gail replied, standing. “Orrin, take your payback.”

An older, grayer, and quieter version of Matt, Orrin sat on the stool. “I always behave.”

Eva gave him the shot then kissed his cheek. “Yes, you do.”

Standing, Orrin smiled. “David, you’re up.”

Seeing Nettie at the OccHealth counter, Gail harrumphed and walked in her direction. Orrin quickly followed. Matt hoped Dad would stop any mayhem. Without a word, David plopped down onto the stool while Eva drew serum from the vial. She swabbed his arm with alcohol then paused. Frowning, she felt his head.

“Honey, you’re burning up,” Eva said. “We’ll do this a different day.”

Matt felt David’s head with his hand to confirm. “I’ll drop him off at home before I head back to the station,” he said.

“I’ll do it. Someone should stay with him,” she said. Eva quickly put the serum back into the vial. “We have enough extra hands for the clinic today.”

While Eva let Nettie know, Matt walked with his son toward his parents in the atrium.

“I’m not a baby,” David said without much energy.

 “Your mom likes taking care of you, so just enjoy her pampering,” he replied.

After the averted drama at the hospital, Matt headed to the station. Eva, thank God, had an enchantment spell calming the storm into a gentle rain. He smiled. She had mesmerized him from the start. His dull and dry life had bloomed into this vibrant garden, Eva the rainmaker.

At the end of his day, he swung by Hillcrest Floral. The intoxicating smell in the tiny shop enticed him to open his wallet wider. He chose a bouquet of colorful wildflowers, three red roses in its center.

“You in trouble, Chief?” Mrs. Fletcher asked as she slid her reading glasses attached to the chain around her neck onto the edge of her nose.

“No, Ma’am. A Thank You for putting up with me,” he said.

“And to gain a few extra husband points for when you do mess up?” she asked.

“That, too.” Hmm, he wondered if he should cause a little trouble; their disagreements had paid dividends in the bedroom.

In a mischievous mood, he parked the cruiser in the garage and entered through the mudroom. Coming out of David’s bedroom, Eva held a washcloth. She smiled at the flowers and met him in the kitchen.

“What did you do?” she asked in mock anger.

He winked. “Nothing yet. How’s David?”

She ran cold water over the washcloth. “He has a hundred and one degree temp.”

He was about to say, Does he need to go to the doctor? But he stopped himself from getting the eye roll from his physician assistant wife, who knew almost as much as a doctor. Before he could speak, his cell rang. While he answered, Eva took the compress to their son.

“Matthew, come over,” his mom said, coughing. “Dad’s collapsed.”

“On my way,” he said, tossing the flowers on the kitchen table. “Eva!” She shut David’s door and shushed him. “Dad’s collapsed,” he said in a higher than usual tone.

After telling David they’d be back in a few minutes, she grabbed her doctor’s bag then beat Matt out the front door. At six in the evening, they raced across the dark street. Still in his uniform, Matt shoved open the front door. His parents, unconscious on the living room floor, looked flushed and sweaty. Reddish brown vomit partially covered his mother’s sleeve and the carpet beside her.

“Shit,” Eva said, racing for Orrin.

Adjusting his gun on his utility belt, Matt knelt down beside his mother. “She’s barely breathing.”

“Orrin’s not,” she replied.

Their training kicked in. Eva started CPR on his dad while he monitored his mother’s breathing and called for an ambulance. Thankful that his role as Chief took priority with dispatch, he set his cell aside.

“Mom. Mom. Can you hear me?” he asked, feeling her neck for a pulse. None. “Shit!”

He and Eva continued CPR on his parents as the two EMTs burst through the door. “My father’s been unconscious longer. Help him first,” Matt said.

The EMTs had to zap his dad twice before they got his heart started. Eva held the oxygen mask on Orrin as they loaded him into the ambulance. Briefly conscious, his mother coughed and threw up on the lawn before they lifted her stretcher into the bus. Food poisoning?

On the crowded ambulance, Matt tried to ask her what had happened, but the tech wiped her mouth and attached an oxygen mask. Three minutes later, the ambulance stopped next to the ER entrance. Two nurses and a doctor rushed to his unconscious parents quickly wheeling them into the building.

Matt hopped out then lifted Eva out by the waist. She briefly hugged him before she hurried inside. Neither said anything, too stunned to even complete a thought. In the empty waiting room, he paced. Should he demand to go back there? He was the police chief of this damn town. Instead, he scrubbed his hands over his crewcut in frustration and let the doctors do their jobs.

A half hour later, he watched their friend Madeline Pierce escort her sobbing aunt from a treatment room to the waiting area. Sylvia Folkert stumbled. Matt caught her before she fell and easily lifted her thin frame to a chair.

“What’s happened?” Matt asked, on a knee beside her.

“He died,” Sylvia whispered in shock. “We were happily dancing yesterday.”

“Herbert?” Matt asked, looking at Madeline. Her red eyes and nose confirmed the answer.

“They said it was the flu,” Madeline replied. “He got a shot earlier today. I guess it didn’t have a chance to work.”

Matt hid his horror. The EMTs thought his parents had the flu, too, not food poisoning.

“Chief, would you walk us to my Jeep?” Madeline asked. “We’re both a bit shaken.”

“Of course,” he replied, helping Sylvia stand. He had a firm grip on her elbow. Leaning against him, she rested her other hand over his.

His distraction was short-lived as he walked back to the waiting room that had been empty ten minutes ago. Fifteen would-be patients were hacking, coughing, puking. Their distraught family members offered futile comfort.

Looking though the reception window, he saw Eva wearing a mask, her mascara smeared from tears. His heart sank; he knew. He raced through the Authorized Personnel Only door. Her body shook.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered against his uniform shirt. “The doctors couldn’t revive them.”

My God! Both of them? Stunned, he silently hugged her. Three people had died from the apparent flu; others with symptoms waited to be seen. His first thought: David.

“Honey, I need you to go home,” Matt stated. “I’ll call Bobby to come and get you.”

“Matt, I can stay and make arrangements,” she replied, stepping back.

“No, David needs you.”

Reading his mind, Eva gasped and nodded. “Tell Bobby I’ll wait out front. Come with me,” she said.

“I need to stay and coordinate with the hospital about a possible outbreak,” Matt replied.

She handed him a mask from the lab drawer. “Protect yourself then. I’ll call the funeral home and make the initial preparations.”

“I love you, too,” he replied. “Please, avoid the waiting room while I call Bobby.”

By the time one in the morning rolled around, the hospital reported twelve deaths. Matt stayed to listen to the administration discuss their procedures for those with flu symptoms arriving at the hospital. With the hospital preparing for the town’s crisis, Matt called the station and informed his officers about their protocol for dealing with illness calls.

The hospital’s president would make a basic statement about flu prevention to the news crews in the morning. Matt offered to stand beside him to show that the professionals had the situation under control—a necessary lie against any disorder and chaos.

From the hospital, Matt walked the mile home at two in the morning. He needed the time to process this ordeal before the media frenzy. Pushing down any thoughts of losing his parents, he entered the house through the mudroom next to the garage.

Eva greeted him. Her makeup removed; her soft features red and puffy from tears. The smell of bleach and lemon disinfectant overpowered his senses.

“Strip here then shower. I’ve scrubbed every surface with bleach,” she said. “I’ll wash your uniform and wipe down your badge and equipment.”

“How’s David?” he asked, setting his utility belt on top of the washer.

“His fever has dropped to ninety-nine. No cough, chills, or nausea. He’s sleeping now, but he’s in the denial stage of grief. I am, too,” she said, wiping her eye with the back of her hand. “I heard that Herbert Folkert died.”

He nodded and stripped to his boxers. “Twelve deaths so far.”

“So far? Oh God,” she whispered.

After his shower, he found his wife using a disinfecting wipe on his handcuffs. All his equipment laid in a row on the kitchen table. She handed him a wipe for his gun and holster. Without speaking, they sat at the kitchen table and focused on the items. Eva had even disinfected his keys, nail clippers, and change from his pants pocket. He used a few wipes on the inside of his cruiser. Better safe than sorry.

In the bedroom, Matt set his alarm for six and slid under the sheet next to his wife. Eva cuddled next to him. He wanted to tell her to stay home, not to go into work, not to be around those sick people, to hide away until the crisis passed.

She must have read his mind. “I’m staying home to care for David. Mr. Banks from Gordon’s Funeral home has Orrin and Gail’s premade wishes on file. When you’re ready, we’ll stop by to confirm a date and time for their funerals.”

“I have a feeling I’ll be dealing with the chaos. Will you set up a time in the afternoon to meet with him? Then remind me?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Thank you.”

For three days, Chief Connor worked to calm everyone distressed over the flu epidemic. Twenty-three people from Allenton had died; funerals had taken over their somber town. The public schools had closed as a precaution giving crews time to disinfect everything inside. Local stores had bare shelves where cleaning products had been.

The hospital suggested that everyone stay home, if possible. People were upset that the flu vaccine didn’t work. BennTech, having developed the serum, issued a statement that the strain from the epidemic wasn’t what the CDC had recommended for this season … talk about passing the buck.

Defeated and exhausted, Matt stripped off his black tie in their bedroom. In a black dress, Eva slipped off her black heels for a brief reprieve. They had attended Herbert Folkert’s funeral and then his parents’ right after. Eva’s family—well, his only family now—had joined them for Orrin and Gail’s joint service and now relaxed in the living room giving them a little quiet time.

Matt had no time to process his parents’ deaths. He still had to go through their house and find their financial papers and wills. What was he supposed to do about the house? Would he sell it? Rent it out? He had so many questions, and he just buried the man who always had the answers.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, he rubbed his hands over his eyes suddenly overwhelmed. Strong and stoic for his son, his wife, Sylvia, Madeline, and his town, he hadn’t had much sleep.

Eva sat beside him. “They’ll understand if you want to take a nap.”

“I just need a few minutes,” he replied.

Standing, she lifted his face with her hands and kissed his forehead. “Take your time,” she said, before shutting the bedroom door.

Eva gave him strength. He felt bad that they hadn’t talked much, talking even less to his son. David’s teenage hormones caused him to be sullen and moody as he processed their family tragedy. Matt needed to reconnect with them.

With another sigh, Matt stared at the tie on the floor next to his pinching black dress shoes. Hearing a ruckus in the hallway outside the closed bedroom door, he waited not moving from the edge of the bed. His energy had long drained from his body to react to the commotion.

“I don’t have to talk to anyone if I don’t want to!” David yelled.

A second later, Joe said, “In there. Now.” His serious tone, not often used, made David stomp into the guest bedroom. Matt could hear them through the wall. Joe continued, “I understand you’re mad at the situation.”

“The situation? I’m angry at them. Why couldn’t they have fought harder to stay alive?” David demanded. “They helped raise me, and now they left me alone.”

Matt groaned. He felt that way, too.

“Listen, Kid,” Joe said. “I sympathize. Eva, Taylor, and I went through this when Taylor’s parents died. It sucks. However. You are not even close to being alone.”

Matt pictured David crossing his arms in defiance.

“I know,” David said. “It’s just … Dad hasn’t been around much … too busy dealing with town business.”

That was true. Rubbing his hands roughly over his head, Matt listened.

“David, consider this. Fair or not, your dad has responsibilities to this town, and he may not have had a chance to sort out his own emotions yet. He is a son who just lost both of his parents. No matter how old you are, it affects you. Instead of causing a problem, you may want to offer support,” Joe said. “Whenever you feel lonely, you pull your family closer. That’s what I do.” Joe spoke with authority and experience on the subject.

A few minutes later, Matt was splashing water on his face when someone knocked on the bedroom door. “Come in,” he said through the open door of the master bath.

“Hey Matt,” Joe said. “Peter got a call from work, so we gotta leave.”

He quickly dried his face. “Of course, I appreciate you and Peter coming today.” He gave Joe a bro hug with a back slap. “And thank you for talking to David. You’re right.”

“Wait. What? I’m right? Would you mention that to my sisters?” Joe chuckled. “And I got your back with the kid.”

Leaving his suit jacket and tie on the bed, Matt followed Joe to the living room to see him and Peter out. Eva and Stuart talked while David humored seven-year-old Lily by playing with her and her Barbie Dolls. Matt would rather play than cope. He hadn’t much experience with dolls though. When his stomach growled, he headed for the kitchen and ogled all the casseroles and side dishes on the table. By the sink, Taylor turned from rinsing a plate.

“Did you know I have a thick, homemade cookbook with all your mom’s recipes?” Taylor said.

Matt smiled. “Eva has one, too.”

“Yeah, and we probably made all of them today to keep busy,” she replied. “So I guess Gail is here in spirit.”

Matt nodded and picked a clean plate up from the table. He’d always remember the smell of Mom’s cooking.

“It’s okay to reminisce. Find comfort that your parents loved you and were so proud of your decisions raising David, marrying Eva … well, eventually … and then becoming the Chief,” Taylor said, casually. She turned back to the sink to finish washing the plates.

“You know, Mom always dominated the conversation never letting my dad get a word in edgewise,” Matt said with a sad chuckle. “But he had a knack for supporting me without ever speaking. I’ll miss that.”

Taylor dried her hands and hugged him while he held his full plate. “As we remember the ones we’ve lost, we must appreciate those with us now. They are the ones who make life worth living.”

“Are you always this deep?” Matt asked, giving her a one-handed squeeze before stepping back.

“Ha! No. I’ve been through this before,” she said.

“Well, thank you for those wise words,” he replied, sitting at the table suddenly starved.

After they put away the food and said goodbye to their family, Matt collapsed onto the couch. He stared at the blank TV screen. In a t-shirt and sweats, David plopped down beside him. Neither made any move toward the remote. Wearing Matt’s old police academy t-shirt and yoga pants, Eva sat on the other side of David. They continued to gaze at their reflection on the screen, the house silent.

Finally, David blew out a long even breath. “Wow. That was one big ass storm that hit town.”

“The clean-up may take a while,” Eva added.

“We’ll get through it though,” David replied.

“Yeah?” Matt asked.

“For starters, we can watch Grandpa’s favorite movie—Rio Bravo,” David suggested.

“Sounds good,” Matt said. David grabbed the remote.

“I’ll make popcorn,” Eva said, jumping up.

At Joe’s suggestion, Matt, David, and Eva pulled their family closer with Orrin’s tradition of silent support.

xxx

Continue reading about my favorite people:

Searching for Her: an anthology of short stories

Chemical Attraction

Dearest Mother and Dad