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Archive for May, 2012

In this excerpt from MURDER FOR KICKS, Mollie recognizes the car in her vision and follows it, sees the driver park it in a garage and then leave. Believing he may have a victim in the house, she leaves her bus, intending to investigate, is struck down and knocked out, and when she awakes, finds herself in a dark basement filled with cats.

             Scrabbling, clicking, like tiny nails broke into my consciousness, jerking me back into reality, or living, or whatever the heck you call it. Icy cold fingers crept under my collar, made worse by pain and fear.

            “Please,” I said, and held myself stiff and still as my weakened brain tried to figure out where I was and what made that weird sound.

            “Oh God, mice,” I croaked out, imagining hundreds of the little creatures aiming for me – their dinner, probably.

            Then another sound interrupted the marauding rodents. Drumming, like a sharp object against glass, and then a period of silence followed by a meow.

            “A cat,” I said, letting the air rush out from my lungs, the release jerky and uneven.

            “Meow,” the creature roared in kitty fashion, joined by a host of others.

            I struggled to a sitting position, my right knee complaining with every movement, while I tried to understand where I was and how I’d gotten there. And where in the heck was there?

            Whatever or wherever, at least I wouldn’t be fighting off mice, not with a horde of cats around.

            That relief was short-lived when a cat snarled right in my left ear.

            Time to leave.

            But I needed my keychain with the little flashlight in order to find my way out. I wouldn’t be going anywhere until I found it. Where was it?

            It had been in my hand when I was hit. By this time, I’d realized I probably was in a basement. Why? Only because it felt like one. The floor was cold, hard cement, and if there were any windows, I couldn’t see them.

            Hoping the flash and my keys weren’t out in the snow by the house—was I in that same house—I felt around down on the floor. My hand bumped what seemed to be a stair, so I rummaged around, found my keychain, and turned on the tiny flashlight attached to it. Naturally, the fur pieces crowded around my legs, weaving in and out and between them, doing their best to trip me.

            “If this is a basement,” I said, directing the little light all around me and discovering I was right, “there has to be a light.

            I saw the single bulb and string just to the right of the stairs, and yanked it on. Not wise, I know, to turn on a light while illegally in someone else’s house, but right now, getting out took priority.

            I climbed the stairs, pain hitting my chest and knee with every step. I shoved away the furry critters, which must have gone into a huddle because they returned enmasse.

            I couldn’t get the door open.

            Darn close to panic, I tried again.

            Nothing. It wouldn’t budge.

            Whatever little fix-it ability I had was enough to tell me to check out the lock. This was an old house and could have a keyhole that required a key.

            And, examining the door, I saw what could be a key stuck in the lock from the other side.

            Like that did me any good.

            I couldn’t exactly wait around for the owner to let me out, could I? A decidedly unappealing prospect.

            Maybe, now that I had a tiny excuse for a flashlight, I could find a window to use as an escape hatch.

            Something flew past me, its fur brushing against my nose, and I screamed, lost my balance, and fell down the steps to the bottom –

            And landed on another animal.

            How I got out of that without getting bitten or scratched came under the heading of miracle, even though clothing completely covered me except for my hands and face.

            This had turned out to be a terrible day.

            Not bothering to turn off the ceiling light, I searched for and found a window near a monstrosity of a furnace. I turned off the flashlight and resolutely headed for what could be my means of escape. With two closed cartons sitting by the wall, it looked like my luck had changed. I moved one of them a bit, climbed on and opened the window, which went up almost like magic. I crawled out, and since the window was near ground level, it was fairly easy—not that I liked landing half in a drift and half in a prickly shrub.

            Not two inches from me were two black shoes, big ones, with long legs encased in blue.

Murder for Kicks is available as an ebook from Red Rose Publishing, Amazon and Fictionwise.

Joan K. Maze

writing as J. K. Maze

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Mollie and her neighbor, Henrietta, sign up for a class in kickboxing. Below is an excerpt from book 2 in the series, Murder for Kicks, soon to be out in paperback.

            In this excerpt, Mollie and her neighbor are at their first kickboxing lesson, when she discovers Jack Wolf, the Native American Indian who helped her the previous summer when she was in danger from a killer, is the instructor.

 

            “I’m scared, Henrietta. Do you think we made a mistake?”

            “Absolutely not. Are you chicken, or what?”

            Her eyes sparkled. She was enjoying this.

            I made a noise like a hen.

            She laughed and got out of my car, and I dragged myself after her. We were plenty early as Henrietta had said she wanted to scope out the place. I had her all figured out. If she determined it was too much for her, it would give her time to come up with a way to escape.

            We were shown to a room where we could stash our outer gear, and then to the women’s locker room, where we were each given a locker complete with a key. I wanted to put myself in the locker, only it was too small. When we’d locked everything up tight, we went to the classroom listed on the schedule. Room 110B was at the far end of the corridor, and as we got near, I heard a lot of noise: giggling, oohs and ahs, and then a SSSH.

            We entered a room resembling a gym more than I liked, just in time to see a leg going through a door, out of the class. There had to be other parts attached to that leg, but we weren’t in time to see them. We heard plenty of moans, though, and then a man came into the room and stood at the front. He wore one of those white jobs I’d seen the other day, and looked formidable. His eyebrows practically met, his mouth was set in a grim line, and he stood at attention like an Army sergeant. In other words, scary.   He held up a hand and everybody quieted down.

            “Our usual instructor had to leave for a few minutes.   In the meantime, I will get you started. Don’t worry, he’ll be back. But if you think he’s going to be easier on you, forget it. Let’s begin.”

            The man was somewhere around five foot ten, had muscles on top of muscles. His face, frozen in a don’t mess with me attitude, implied he could kick every one of us in the arse.  

            I stood as tall as possible and ordered myself to get serious and not even think about smiling while in his presence.

            He described something he called the Jab, a punch leading with your palm down, and then a Cross, which he said was a punch off the rear arm. Whatever he said afterwards got lost while I tried to figure out what he meant. Saying rear arm implied having one in front.   Telling myself I’d figure that out later, I tried to copy his action. It looked simple, but it took several tries before I got it.  

            Next, he had us go through a warm-up using all the body parts. Not one for exercise, I considered the warm-up darn hard.  

When he got to the actual workout, and had finished the Jab, the Cross, and the Hook, which was a motion across the body, I’d already started to think there wasn’t much to this.

The introduction of the Roundhouse changed my thinking. I had to kick off with the back leg—I’d never thought of my legs as front and back—no higher than my knee. Next was the front kick which was off the rear leg.   What got me mixed up was when he said the Roundhouse was off the back leg.  

Back leg, rear leg, isn’t that the same? Anyway, right when I was thinking about having two rear legs, I kicked off, unbalanced myself, and fell on my butt. I must’ve kicked with the wrong one, which is when I remembered my mom saying, put your best foot forward. The only problem was, I did not know which one was my best one.

            We got a couple minutes rest after that. I scrambled back to an upright position, peered around to see if anyone had noticed my gaffe, and saw a bunch of people breathing hard. When I gazed at Henrietta, she appeared happy.   She wasn’t panting, as I would have expected of a slightly overweight older woman, and she really looked quite nice in her bright purple outfit. I’d gotten a couple glimpses at her doing the routines, seeing her curls bounce all over the place as she did the kicks.

            The instructor got us going again, this time combining the jabs and kicks. I ended up jabbing when I should have kicked, kicking when I should have jabbed, and started wondering how come my coordination could be so terrible.  

Since he’d said if we got tired we could take a little break, I did that, and watched the others.  

Half of them stood in place, their expressions saying they’d like nothing better than to find a bed and sack out.   I saw clothing awry, hair looking as if combed with a blender, and sweat pouring down faces.  

In a weird sort of way, the others looking anything but perfect made me feel less like a fool, so I got right back into the lesson, and actually did a little better.   Just when I decided I was ready to drop, the instructor said we’d take a quick break, but not to go anywhere. He was going to show us a very short film which would give us a clue as to what we would be expected to learn.

            The film, which had me shaking from head to foot, came to an end, and the instructor announced our regular teacher would be here in a minute.

            He walked out, and Jack Wolf, dressed the same as the first instructor, walked in.

            Henrietta glanced at me, and I shot her a stare. She coughed to cover a laugh, but I wasn’t anywhere near thinking this was funny. When I got hold of Wolf, he would be begging for mercy. All I had to do was remember which way to jab, what leg to use to kick.

            Mmm hmm. The only way I could ever beat him was with words, and I had some doubts about that. Right now, he wasn’t saying anything. What he was doing was staring at me and, even though I’d gotten to know him over the past few months, and a lot more of him on Friday night, I had no clue as to what he was thinking. His expression was blank.

            Then I looked into his eyes.  

            He had something planned.

            He began giving instructions to the class, easy ones at first, but then they got harder and harder until I was ready to cry uncle. But I couldn’t do that. How could I let him think I was a sissy? Humiliation was not an option.  

            At least he was big enough to carry me out of here if my body decided to go on strike.

            “Okay, I’m going to try a little demonstration,” Wolf said, looking nonchalant. He beckoned to me. “Mollie, come on up here.”

            I stood there, my mouth open.

            “Ms. Fenwick, did you hear me?”

            Oh well, I lived through the self-defense lessons he’d given me last summer. How hard could this demo be?   So, when I had myself convinced there’d be nothing I couldn’t handle, I walked up to the front of the room and glared at him.

            “I want to show you ladies a move that could save your life some day,” he said. “It’s not part of this beginning kickboxing class, but I think it’s a worthwhile thing to know. You don’t have to try it if you don’t want to.”

            He then went and opened the door behind him and a woman around my age walked in. She was dressed in the same kind of uniform as Wolf, and was almost as short as my five foot two. And she weighed less than I did, doggone it.

            “This is Colleen. She’ll demonstrate what to do if a man did this,” he said, and with that, he walked behind her and wrapped his arm around her throat. She did something with her elbows and he yelled and staggered back. Next, and this was too fast to see, she threw him over her shoulder.   The way she did it made it look easy, but I suspected it was anything but.

            “Okay, Ms. Fenwick, I’m going to do the same to you and I want you to try to copy what Colleen did.”

            I’d been standing a few feet from him, looking at Colleen toss him around as if he were weightless. I crossed the room to him, trying at the same time to remember the steps the woman had gone through. I thought I could do the elbow part, but I had no clue about the rest.

            “I didn’t catch what she did to throw you over her shoulder,” I said, unhappy my voice had transformed itself into the cackle of a ninety-nine year old woman.

            I could only describe his expression as sardonic.

“Okay,” he said. “Colleen, one more time.”

            I paid attention, really glued my eyes to them this time, but again it all happened so fast the only part I got was – nothing.

            “You ready?”

            I looked up at him and nodded.  

            I didn’t even see him move, but all of a sudden his arm was around my throat and his body was pressed against mine. Not a comfortable feeling, even if he was a darned good looking guy. Elbows, I thought. Do it.  

            I did it. I was so surprised I didn’t do anything else, just stood there gaping. He’d grunted something and stepped back, but now he was back with his arm around me again and I had to do it all over again.

            I was so proud of myself for doing it so fast, I forgot to take the next step – and found myself sailing through the air. I landed on the mat, out of breath, darn near dying. I heard him talking, asking me if I could get up. I knew I could, but I wasn’t altogether sure I could do it gracefully.

            “Later,” I said, and closed my eyes.

            He pulled me up and started checking my various parts.   “You hurt anywhere?”

            “No, but I’m mad at you,” I said, giving him my best glare.

            “Sorry, but you gave the other ladies the best demo of what could happen. It was perfect,” he said, his lips twitching as if trying not to laugh.

            He signaled I could go back to my place in the group, but I was having none of it. I faced him with my hands on my hips and, I hoped, a mean expression on my face. I wanted to take him apart. Being it wasn’t likely I could do that, I would have to yell at him.

            “Ladies,” he said, before I could think of what to say, “shall we have a hand for this student?”

            Every one of them roared YEAH, which of course meant I couldn’t lambaste him like I wanted. “I’ll see you later,” I said, gave him my most menacing stare, and then said “thanks” to the rest of the class.

            His voice was whisper soft when he leaned close and said, “You’re hot, babe.”

 

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