Interlocked Excerpts — One

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Excerpts from the novelette (Novel In A Nutshell):
Interlocked
   by Barbara Anne Helberg

CHAPTER A excerpt —

Just like she had had to kill Craig, Mira wrote…

She had to. It would be all right now. It had been before.

It would be easy because Lawrence never would expect it…

He thought she was in love with him, too. Like Craig. She was not. She hated him now.

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CHAPTER B excerpt —

Jimy, they called Lawrence Higgins.

Lawrence closely resembled the famous author Jimy Lafayette… the works of the master creator of written horrors were Lawrence’s favorites at an early age…

After a time, they began to call Lawrence Higgins “Jimy L.” It was shorter and more to the point… Lawrence and Lafayette…

Unfortunately, Lawrence’s fascination with Jimy Lafayette took on the trappings of fanaticism…

But this was five decades before he met Mira. Fifty years of obsession would not be put off lightly. Truthfully, Jim L. did not want — never had wanted — to put off the obsession. He had, in fact, searched for a Mira — like Lafayette’s fictitious Annabelle — all his life.

(*** excerpts to continue…)

 

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Credit:
Story excerpts and Photos from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg
 

Fans Chapter Nine

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FANS
by Barbara Anne Helberg

Chapter Nine — An Opportunity

“Rodd! I hoped you would drop by.”

“Drop by?” Rodd smiled. “You gave me a key, Ralph.”

“Yes. Well, I hoped you would stay, actually,” I said.

“Here?”

“Did you?”

Rodd’s laugh was pleasant to me. I hoped it was real, not my hope rising to ridiculous heights in grave error.

“I stayed in my car. I don’t know why you gave me a key. I came to return it.”

“I didn’t think you were ready to stay anywhere. I wanted to drag you home with me, but I couldn’t spring that on Mary. She’s not well.”

Rodd looked unhappy. “I’m sorry,” he said.

I waved away his concern. My wife’s illness was long and unpredictable, as cancer can be, like a constant predator. “The key was an invitation to make up your mind,” I said. “You didn’t come back to West Central to stay?” I watched the conflict play across his face and had no idea who had the privilege of being the players of the moment.

Rodd hung his head. “Guess I don’t know why I came back. Spur of the moment.”

“Something must have triggered your decision. We haven’t seen you around here since –”

“Yeah.” Rodd’s look cut me off. He shrugged. “The Blade ran a two-incher on Coach Archmiller. I…I felt…strange.”

“Yes. We all do. It’s a sad thing. Herm was part of the community. It’s a shock.” I pointed to my spare chair, said, “It doesn’t get crazy around here for another hour. Take a load off. Relax.” I took a slow dive into my high back desk lounger, my tattered pride and joy whose purchase had celebrated my acquisition of the very healthy Town Crier some twenty years gone by.

“Any ideas what happened?” Rodd asked.

He took an uneasy position in the chair I’d indicated, but I quickly tuned into his obvious and natural curiosity. There was no hesitation, no shaky indecision. It was a glass smooth tone of interest from a long gone reporter type. A light bulb turned on in the dimmest part of my brain. “The police haven’t said anything new,” I told Rodd. I tapped a pencil on my desktop and looked at him.

Rodd rubbed exploratory fingers across his thin lips. “How’s his family doing?”

“There were plenty of helping hands offered but Rebecca snapped the boys up and left town.”

“Where to?”

“Lake Placid.”

“When? Right away?”

“Day after the funeral.”

“Home? Permanent to New York, you mean?”

“Yep.”

“Why? He’s buried here and she trips back to New York?”

“No. He’s…He went along…Ashes.”

“Oh…”

Rodd chewed on the information while I chewed on the possibilities. Why not? I thought. Nothing lost if it doesn’t work out. A lot gained if it does. “Rodd, you just asked me all five of the classic questions on a mystery situation we already shared.”

“What?” Rodd’s face pinched together, then relaxed. “Yeah. I sorta did, didn’t I?”

“We already shared ‘who’, before you asked ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘where’, ‘when’, and ‘how’.  The reporter’s six-question Bible. Why did you come back, Rodd? And what will you do?”

Rodd shook his closely-cropped head. “I don’t know, and I don’t know.”

“You came back because you couldn’t stay away. You want to find out what happened to Coach Archmiller, and you had nothing keeping you anywhere else.”

Rodd fidgeted in the chair, his meatless bones scraping. “That’s true,” he said after a long consideration. He squeezed it out around what appeared to be embarrassment over his displacement. I remembered suddenly how I’d always felt my fatherly instincts kick in whenever I was in the presence of this mild-mannered, highly vulnerable and talented high school athlete. I was doing it again. He seemed to need it desperately now. His last layer of tough, grin and bear it was worn through. I, perhaps, could provide a little push in the right direction. “Rodd, you’ve got a nose for this business. How about hiring on for a bit of freelance snooping?”

Rodd fidgeted again. The false leg thumped against the bottom chair rail.

“As a matter of fact, I could use a night cleanup man, too. I see you’ve been using your hands a lot. My regular guy took a hike last week.”

Rodd took an immediate interest in his hands, broken nails, jagged cuticles; traces of grease deeply lined the pores of his fingertips.

“That would be enough income to keep you, wouldn’t it, if you took a room somewhere?”

Rodd sighed.

The intercom telephone rang before Rodd’s weary breath was finished. “Ralph, I have Mr. Willis on the line,” Eurlene told him. “He says it’s urgent.”

“Willis? Of course. Sherman Willis?”

Rodd’s head snapped to alert attention.

“Yes, Eurlene, put Mr. Willis through.”

007

*******(MORE OF “FANS” WILL CONTINUE after a break in the action to offer fans of  “FANS” some excerpts from another thriller novelette, or Novel In A Nutshell, “Interlocked”, also from Barbara Anne Helberg…)

*** Credit:
Story and Artwork from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg, Author of “FANS”

 

Spooky Stats

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They are the Champions!

My son sent me this T-shirt, a duplicate of the one the Cleveland Cavaliers wore during their 1.3 million-fan-strong parade in Cleveland June 22, 2016, after they won the city’s first ever NBA (National Basketball Association) title.

Now, what are the spooky stats?

Here’s something for you fans and gamers. This is spooky:
Cleveland amassed 610 points through the first six games of the series, while the Golden State Warriors scored a total of 610 points through the first six games of the series. Then, in the final Game 7, the two teams were tied 89-89 with less than a minute to play! And that means each team had scored 699 total points in the series to that final minute, even though all the first six games were runaways in winning point margins.

Cleveland persevered on a three-point shot by Kyrie Irving and a final free throw by LeBron James to win the title, 93-89, in Game 7.

Four points separated the two teams in total for the seven-game series!

Do the math: Game One
Golden State, 104; Cleveland, 89

Game Two
Golden State, 110; Cleveland, 77

Game Three
Cleveland, 120; Golden State, 90

Game Four
Golden State, 108; Cleveland, 97

Game Five
Cleveland, 112; Golden State, 97

Game Six
Cleveland, 115; Golden State, 101

Game Seven
Cleveland, 93; Golden State, 89

Cleveland, 703; Golden State, 699.

In addition, Golden State failed to score another point over the last 4:30+ minutes of Game 7; their point total for the series was already stalled at 699.

For frosting on the cake, Cleveland completed the first ever NBA Finals comeback to win after going down three games to one in the first four contests.

 

+++++Credit:
Photo from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

More Information About FANS

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FANS
BY Barbara Anne Helberg

(NOTE: See more information on “Fans” at the end of this Chapter Eight — )

CHAPTER EIGHT — Going Home

In the morning, leisurely not too early, Rodd steered his rickety rust green Chevette to Lonny’s Wrecker and Garage and gave Lonny his notice.

“Quittin’ on me? And where else do you think you’re gonna catch on, Mr. Gimp?” Lonny said with tobacco spitting sarcasm.

His uneven, yellow brown teeth peered at Rodd, and Rodd clenched his jaw. “Look, Lonny, I can pump gas anywhere,” Rodd said, his jaw grinding.

Lonny spat a brown glob onto the pavement outside the shop door. “Oh, sure. Big shot, huh? Get a job any place you want. Gettin’ a lot of call, are ya?”

The September morning sun warmed Rodd’s face. It felt good. He stopped clenching. He didn’t know yet for certain, but something called him away from this crusty Toledo neighborhood back to West Central and a lifetime past. “It’s–I have to go,” he said. “Lonny, you owe me for four days’ work. Can I get that?”

Lonny stuffed his fat fingertips into the top of his greasy, grumous, beltless, overloaded Jeans and tipped importantly back on his heels. Gray eyes laughed at Rodd from out of a fleshy cave. “Four days, huh? Don’t know if I’d call it work, you did. Never worked your behind too hard around here.”

Rodd sighed. At his sides, his fists clenched and unclenched once more. His six-four height, narrow and bone thin, no longer the well-toned athletic figure, nonetheless challenged the rotund, hopelessly out of shape, jelly-belly build of his boss. “I have to move out of town,” Rodd said as an explanation, pushing aside a growing temptation to lash out an attitude-adjusting blow to Lonny’s fat face.

“Yeah?” Lonny grinned brownly. “Got a chick in trouble, Wooden Peg?”

“No.”

Lonny roared open-mouthedly.

Rodd held onto anger ready to burst. His face tickled from the tension of controlling flinching muscles.

Glancing at his watch, Lonny suddenly relented. “Yeah. Well, I can’t hold you. Don’t know as I want to. Gotta get the Jamieson heap ready by noon. C’mon, Gimp, we’ll clear up the four days.” He turned toward the shop office door. “Can’t depend on anybody these days.”

Lonny muttered his way through the cash register opening and the handing over of greenbacks. “Eighty dollars?” Rodd said. “That’s only half of what you owe me for four ten-hour days.”

“Yeah, well, you didn’t earn no ten hours and you ain’t givin’ me no proper notice neither. So you can take it, or leave it. I’m gonna lose my shirt on this Jamieson deal–”

“That’s not my fault,” Rodd said.

“I said you could take it, or leave it!” Lonny fired back from suddenly steely eyes.

Rodd fisted the bills. Sighing, he said, “Okay, okay.” He glanced around the dinky, dingy office. It had dirty shelves sparely stocked behind the register with gas caps and spark plug boxes and bottles of brake fluid and engine oil, radiator hoses and fan belts hanging in unorganized fashion on the short left-hand wall, grimey, smeary windows to the left and around all the front of the room, a doorless entryway at the right leading into the repair bay with a pop machine crammed tight against the door frame. This had been his life the past several (he realized he didn’t even know how many) years. Lizzie and Mark, he thought. How many years gone?

Sudden nausea cramped him. Destiny? he thought. It’s sure not here! Wordless, he turned sharply away and headed toward his crumpled green Chevette.

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*******(CONTINUES…)

*** Credit:
Story and Artwork from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

(Note: The source for these first eight story chapters is the novelette “FANS”, by Barbara Anne Helberg, from her “Novels In A Nutshell” series. Find more information about “FANS” and other novelettes by Barbara Anne Helberg at:

http://www.batpublishingstories.wordpress.com )

FANS — Chapter Seven

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FANS
by Barbara Anne Helberg

Chapter Seven — Destiny?

It was impossible to stop the rush of memories. Rodd was going for his one thousandth career point his junior year at WC against Clarkstown, reached it on a neat little baseline jumper in the third quarter. Rival Little Big Horn’s Bo Mack was crushing him on a game-winning lay-up attempt. Rodd cashed in both free throws for the chilling, thrilling conference title win, a rarity at WC. His senior year he was hitting his single game twentieth basket in West Central’s stunning 88-73 win at Widdington’s mammoth new gym. Their hosts had been state ranked all season while the WC Cougars barely had been located as part of Ohio basketball.

Rodd’s eyes contacted the sentence in the Toledo Blade again — “A truck accident ended Mr. Lawson’s highly publicized career that year.”

The memory he couldn’t fully remember crowded in. His left hand clutching at the coffee cup shook badly. He didn’t concentrate on the shake, and the memory that wasn’t a memory he pushed aside by looking at the article’s focal point. A murder in West Central, he thought. Why? The question of why grew infinitely larger for Rodd as he considered the quiet Christian community background that had dominated his life growing up on a farm half a mile from the West Central schoolhouse. His family, two soft-spoken, church-going parents, and his Down’s Syndrome sister, Sarah, had been the center of his universe, his anchor, his quiet, proud cheering section. How had he gotten to this, he wondered, suddenly looking around the lonely kitchen — from that?

So long ago, little Sarah, his younger sister by four years, had happily romped with confidence by his side, clearly adoring him, as they traversed stream and log through the woods behind the farmhouse. Rodd had a clear picture even now of six-year-old Sarah running crookedly beside him, laughing at his make believe woods and forest stories involving talking Mr. Squirrel and Grandfather Moose.

Sarah hadn’t lived.

Complications from pneumonia had taken her at the tender age of thirteen, during Rodd’s senior year at WC. They had all gone on, without her, painfully.

Or had they? Rodd thought, feeling the old familiar depressing bitterness as he glanced around again. What had he gone on to?

He had gone on for awhile, two years, perhaps. What had he gone on with after that? After the truck accident, he had shriveled, turned his back on life and the pursuit of anything worthy. His wife and son had suffered the results of his quitting. He had let the devastation track him. A bit of fate, he had said bitterly. Destiny…a dead sister, sweet little Sarah, a broken marriage after the accident, a distant son, the divorce. His effort in his short-lived marriage had mocked the tried and true forty-year union of his hard-working, loving parents. His failure with a vengeance to pick up the pieces after the accident had fed his bitterness and cost him everything. Pumping gas, drinking, chili and chips loneliness, Lizzie and Mark left in the ashes of his burning non-response. That’s what he’d gone on to. Some destiny, he thought.

Destiny? Rodd queried himself. His life had been more like forced imprisonment in a cycle of sorrow, bitterness, and impotency in every niche of his existence. He hadn’t seen his parents, or even corresponded with them in a decade, since his attachment to the bottle had detached him from his previous living experiences. His dad couldn’t find an excuse for him. His mother expressed her sweet love for him. He turned away. Grief over Sarah’s passing was explainable, they said. They had all suffered that and each of them had reconciled his feelings and put them aside, let go and moved on. After his college drop-out, over which they argued, then his inexcusable recession into continuous drunken bouts and neglect of his family, over which they parted ways, his parents, already in their sixties, had chosen retirement in Florida. Rodd hadn’t seen them again.

He hadn’t tipped a bottle once over the last ten months, and the question of his destiny, recently, had been a daily replay. He wanted to see Mark.

Rodd stared at The Blade page. Destiny, he thought. Herman Archmiller is dead at fifty-six — his destiny? To die in a locker room at West Central High School? Or someone else’s game plan? Why? Tapping his fingers on The Blade, looking straight at the wall, Rodd made up his mind.

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*******(CONTINUES…)

*** Credit:
Story and Artwork from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

FANS — Chapter Six

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FANS
by Barbara Anne Helberg

Chapter Six — Newsprint

The pouring of a second cup of coffee after the usual supper of chili and chips was routine until Rodd’s browsing brown eyes fell on the news item on page twelve of the quarter folded Toledo Blade. The item that stopped him in mid-pour was a two-inch story datelined “West Central, OH”.

The hot coffee missed Rodd’s cup, splashed onto the countertop, bounced back up in large drops to scald his cheek and lips, for he had bent low toward the paper to read. Nearly dropping the heavy-bottomed glass pot, he managed to control its remaining descent enough to avert wholesale spillage. His left hand, freed from the pot, brushed at his stinging lips, but his eyes re-glued themselves to The Blade neatly folded under a right hand that somehow had not budged from a spread-fingered grip on the newsprint. It was as though protecting the two inches of black-on-white had been paramount even above balancing the burning liquid in its glass cage.

West Central, Ohio, was his hometown. Long lost, Rodd thought. By fourteen years.

But those dateline words were not the ones that had altered the delivery of his liquid refreshment. The next nine had. “A high school boys’ basketball coach was found dead…” was about the juncture at which Rodd’s coffee derailed from its straight line journey from pot to cup.

Rodd grabbed a red-lined pattered kitchen towel, instinctively dabbed his face with it, then swiped the towel across the countertop, leaving brown trails of tiny beads in his haste. He felt his heart swell and gain a tick, or two, as he completed — successfully, this time — the filling of his cup. Scooping up the cup and carrying The Blade, he returned to the diminutive, square, chrome-trimmed kitchen table with its two chrome chairs that claimed most of the usable space in the room.

Lowering himself into a chair, he read: “West Central, OH — A high school boys’ basketball coach was found dead in the lockerroom of the high school gymnasium in this rural farm town yesterday.

“Local police said Herman Archmiller, 56, a 24-year varsity boys’ basketball coach at West Central High School, was discovered shot to death at 8:15 p.m. last evening. Charles Westgate, a school custodian, found the body.”

Coach Herm, Rodd thought. My God. A strange fate. I didn’t even know these people are still there. So out of touch. Fourteen years. Archmiller and Westgate, a coach and a janitor whose personalities and lives were well known to him, or had been, in Coach Herm’s case. Me, the best of West Central’s well known. Hot Rod Roddell Lawson, the high school’s biggest and brightest basketball star ever. On to college — Rodd cut off that thought. Out of the past, Roddy. The past, he told himself. You’re old news, buddy. Life goes on… Such as it is.

Or is snuffed out, he thought, looking back at the paper.

He read the rest of The Blade story: “No motive for the shooting was suggested by Police Chief Gary Kantor. The chief stated,’It is definitely a murder scene. No one shoots himself more than once in the heart.’

“Chief Kantor said there was no evidence of a suicide and the county coroner’s report stated the death was a homicide. The victim was shot three times in the chest.

“Herman Archmiller this season would have begun his 25th year as head boys coach. A native of Indiana, Mr. Archmiller joined the West Central coaching staff in 1971. He is survived by his wife, Wyona, and three teenage sons, one of whom, James, is a member of the high school’s reserve basketball team.

“The Northwest Ohio rural farm community of West Central is best known for having been put on the map by All-Ohio basketball star ‘Hot Rod’ Roddell Lawson, also a sophomore sensation on the Toledo College basketball team of 1983. A truck accident ended Mr. Lawson’s highly publicized career that year.

“The death of Mr. Archmiller remains under investigation.”

Rodd’s name in newsprint startled him. All this time, he thought. He’d seen his name in the locals so many times, so long ago. Now… Now it seemed unreal.

Rodd’s thought drifted…

007

*******(CONTINUES…)

*** Credit:
Story and Artwork from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

FANS — Chapter Five

002

FANS
by Barbara Anne Helberg

Chapter Five — What I Didn’t and Did Know

What I didn’t know much about where Rodd was concerned covered the last twelve years since his accident. A whisper of the grapevine told me Rodd had lost his scholarship, then moved his family to Clyde, Ohio, after dropping out of Toledo College to recover is health.

I knew little of any of the events that had followed. Rodd became a non-communicative life drop-out. My attempts to reach him failed. He never returned my letters. My last physical glimpse of him was in the hospital three days after the accident. There was no conversation. He was comatose for several weeks. His brother-in-law, Sherman Willis, replied to the card I sent after my visit to the hospital. Sherman Willis said Rodd was expected to recover, minus his right leg above the knee, after abruptly re-entering the world from the coma.

Sherman also said visits were unadvisable.

That was the last I heard of Hot Rodd Roddell Lawson’s life. There were no more direct responses to my inquiries, and so I gave them up, certain that my correspondence was unwelcomed.

Then Rodd suddenly returned to West Central fourteen years after his departure for expected basketball glory at Toledo College.

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*******(CONTINUED in Chapter Six)

*** Credit:
Story and Artwork from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

FANS — CHAPTER FOUR

002

FANS
by Barbara Anne Helberg

Chapter Four — The Accident

Freezing rain jammed the flimsy windshield wipers on the beaten Hardbakin’ Bakery Chevy truck. Rodd didn’t see the sliding tractor-trailer until it curved through the light-controlled intersection outside Findlay.

Panic-stricken, Rodd tried daringly to avoid the semi-truck, but there was no chance at all for either driver to bring tons of steel and iron under control in time to avert a crash. Rodd’s left foot was on the brake, where it shouldn’t have been, flooring the pedal in blind, unthinking desperation. His ten fingers were wrapped around the steering wheel in an unalterable, frenzied grip.

The collision was eminent, giving each driver cruel time to fear with a horrible knowledge the impact to come. Rodd remembered the terror.

The crash was mindbending and body crushing. The whole of the tractor-trailer horseshoed Rodd’s truck, smashing its hood into the windshield and dash and into Rodd’s malleable body. Rodd could remember only the other truck filling the windshield of the battered Chevy. He let go of the steering wheel at the final instant and threw his arms across his face. He didn’t remember that exactly. It was now a vague feeling of something he had done.

The tractor-trailer cab wrenched loose, careened into the opposite lane of traffic, while the trailer sliced away the right half of the Chevy and took most of Rodd’s right leg with it. But Rodd didn’t remember inclusively. While the driver of the semi departed from life, a childless thirty-four-year-old married Kentuckian, Rodd learned later, in an instant of pain, opened veins and blood-curdling screams; while two other cars crashed into the loosened cab and disassembled vehicle in a noisy, glassy metallic storm; while metal and human parts littered the highway; while red flashing lights canvassed the scene and yellow lamps crisscrossed the darkened skies; while sirens screeched their sing-song warnings and policemen and orange-jacketed emergency rescue workers filled the dark, blocked roadway in orderly, trained movements… While all this ensued, Rodd was mercifully rendered nearly unconscious, so that he didn’t remember the horrifying details but only snatches of it and of his personal chaos. For that he was grateful.

Grateful still twelve years later, he was, however, tormented by a nightmare. He dreamed a bizarre, burning replay of the crash. In nightmares, he continued to watch himself burn over and over again. In the real crash, there had been no fire. In his dream, he became ash, yet he still burned. He opened his mouth to scream, yet he made no sound. He lay on the concrete burning, disintegrating, but could not die. On the opposite side of the highway, he played basketball on an asphalt court in a Boston Celtics uniform. Again and again, he stole the ball, drove the court, scored. But the fans reacted strangely. Half of them stood and cheered, while the other half sat in silence. One threw a tomato onto the asphalt, where the fruit splotched a red, steamy circle. Written across the fan’s chest was West Central, in blazing orange.

Rodd drove the length of the black court and dunked the basketball over a defender dressed in surgeon’s garb. The ball slammed through a tractor-trailer tire rim netted with strips of steel weighted down on the ends by flapping loaves of bread. Chasing Rodd were six small boys in gym clothes. One of them was his thin little son, Mark. Tears streamed down the boy’s face.

Each time just before he woke from the nightmare that caused him to sweat through his clothing, Rodd glanced back at the West Central fan to see the letters on the emblazoned chest change from West Central to “Loser.”

007

*******(CONTINUES…)

*** Credit:
Story and Artwork from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg