First paragraphs from Blackbirds First Flight

Heir to the Warrior Queen
By Wendy Blanton
I gripped the sword hilt in the pre-dawn gloom as I stood watch overlooking the sleeping village of Londinium. It wasn’t much of a village from what I had been able to see. Small, unprotected. Why would the Romans leave their trade center unprotected?
         A small scraping sound preceded warmth on my shoulders. My mother fastened the cloak under my chin and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. Her touch was the only one I could bear.
         "What are you still doing with that Roman sword, Scotta?"
         "I am going to kill Romans with it."

Robbing the House of Roche
By Kent Bass
He moved quickly through the crowded Parisian streets, keeping his head down, careful not to make eye contact with anyone, not to go any place familiar, not to give anyone a chance to recognize him. He knew he had to get out of the city and fast. He had hidden for two days and waited until tonight to come out. He had to be gone before the night ended.
         Etienne had always lived on the edge of society but always on the safe side of that edge. He never did anything that would draw attention to himself. He worked odd jobs and committed the occasional petty theft, but nothing serious.

By Gail Henderson
Nine o’clock.
         The book that had fascinated her at eight lay across her lap, face down, her hands rigid on its spine. Dark rage welled up inside her, filled her, and leaked out into the room, replacing wall-to-wall emptiness. With clenched teeth, she turned the book toward her face; her eyes straining to bring the words into focus, reading and re-reading the same paragraph, until, abruptly, she switched off the lamp next to her chair, placed the book on the end table, rose, and walked through the rage-dark room into the kitchen.
         She touched the light switch, illuminating a pan of cornbread and a pot roast cooling quietly on the stove and a few dirty dishes in the sink. Rage shrank back from her habit of orderliness. Rinsing out pans, wiping off counter tops already shiny dissipated her dark energy into apprehension. Nine o’clock was not so late. There might have been problems. Maybe a flat tire. He might not be able to call and tell her he was going to be late.
         What if there had been an accident?

By Jean Schara
Francois’s hand had been poised to open the door to his new employer when it opened, revealing a courtly gentleman decidedly out of place in this rundown industrial district.
         “Mr. Bergeron, I presume?” the man asked.
         “Yes. Please call me Francois.” He offered his hand for a hand-shake, hoping the gentleman would introduce himself, because he did not like being at a disadvantage.
         The man took his hand, guiding him into the building before releasing his grip and shutting the door behind them.

Grave Matters
By Stephen B. Bagley
The dead man on the blood-drenched bed had clearly seen better days. Justina Grave slowly approached the body. His heart had been cut out of his chest. Crow and raven feathers were scattered around the room along with other spell materials.
         “Charming,” she muttered. Her Nethersenses probed for signs of magic. She found many. Dark tendrils of energy hovered in the area, visible to any Mage. Something had fed on the victim’s life force and used that energy to power a spell.

By Tamara Siler Jones
Edyth stood in the shower, hot water thrumming on her aching head, the heat refusing to soothe her tortured soul. “I just can’t do this anymore,” she sighed through the steam. She scrubbed herself with a complete lack of enthusiasm, refusing to acknowledge her loose sagging stomach, her wide cellulite-dimpled thighs, jiggly arms, or her soft, jowly face. Still sighing, she finished her shower and turned off the heat.
          As Edyth toweled off, she told herself not to look in the mirror, but she sought out her shame anyway. She stared at her reflection, at the droops and rolls on the stranger staring back at her. The hideous person she had become gawked back, sickened disbelief carved into the fat. How did this happen? she asked herself. How did I become so ugly, so utterly repugnant? But maybe, just maybe, I’ve found a solution. Maybe my luck is about to change.

An Unattended Death, Conclusion

An Unattended Death, Conclusion
By Stephen B. Bagley

I got on the phone and called the police department. The night dispatcher told me that Ron was off duty. I asked her to tell him to call me as soon as possible.

I didn’t expect to hear from him until the next day, but about ten minutes later, the phone rang.

“What do you need?” he asked curtly.

“Well, it’s about Aaron –”

“I told you to stay out of that!” he cut me off.

“I’m out of it,” I said. “I’m out of it, but I thought of something that might help you.”

“Help me with what?” he asked. “The investigation is closed. You need to forget this. He was an addict, he killed himself, end of story.”

“Okay, but one question, was Aaron wearing glasses when he was found?”


“Was Aaron wearing glasses when he was found?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Simon Williams told me Aaron’s eyes were really bad,” I said. “I think Aaron was nearsighted. Was he wearing his glasses when he was found? They weren’t on him at his funeral.” I paused. “Or maybe he wore contacts?”

“Hold on,” Ron said. “I have his file here. I’ll have to look at the Medical Examiner’s report, but I don’t think he was wearing either. Why?”

“Because I drove out to where he was found –”

“You did what? After I told you –”

“Before you told me,” I cut in. “Would you listen for a moment? If Aaron was as nearsighted as Simon said he was – they called him Pop Bottle because his lenses were so thick – there’s no way he could have made it if he wasn’t wearing his glasses or contacts. Someone had to drive him.”

“Lots of people wear glasses and drive without them,” Ron said.

"Farsighted people drive without them,” I said. “But I’m nearsighted, and without my glasses or my contacts, there’s no way I could drive out to those woods without crashing my car. Everything is a blur two feet away from my face. I can’t see past the hood of my car. If his eyesight was that bad, he couldn’t drive anywhere without glasses or contacts, much less to where he was found.”

Ron was quiet for a long time. I could hear papers being moved.


“He wasn’t wearing either,” Ron said. “And they weren’t found in the car or in the woods.”

“It would be real interesting, don’t you think, if they were found at his house?” I asked.

“Especially since you told me that Marlene saw him driving away.”

“I’ve got to go,” he said. “Don’t say anything to anyone, not at all.” He hung up.

The next three days, I didn’t hear anything about Aaron Brody and had just about decided that my question hadn’t led anywhere when Ron called me that evening.

“You were right,” he said. “We found his glasses at his house under a couch. He didn’t wear contacts anymore. And he was blinder than a bat ever thought about being.”

“So Marlene lied,” I said.

“She’s not talking,” Ron said. He said Marlene wouldn’t budge from her story, but the sheriff’s department had discovered she had another boyfriend, a Robert Guidane. They brought in the guy, and after a bit of pressure, he told them all about it.

Guidane said that Aaron and Marlene had arranged a drug deal. They purchased $25,000 worth of drugs and decided to “test” their buy before they sold it. Aaron shot up, but he took the amount he used to take. Aaron hadn’t realized he had lost the tolerance to the drugs that his former usage built up. He went into seizures. Marlene panicked. She called Guidane. By the time he got there, Aaron was already dead. They took his body out to the woods and dumped it and then went back to the apartment and cleared the drugs out.

“So she let him die,” I said, feeling sort of sick. “She could have called an ambulance.”

“They had drugs out everywhere,” he said. “She didn’t want to be caught. His glasses probably came off during one of his seizures and ended up under the couch. She never noticed. I’m not sure what the district attorney is going to charge her with, but she’s not going to get away with it.”

“So it’s over,” I said.

“Seems like it,” Ron said. “Leon Brody is claiming those two killed his son. He knew as soon as we arrested them. He’s got friends at the courthouse.” He hung up.

The next evening Leon Brody startled me by knocking on my door.

“I just wanted to thank you,” he said without greeting. “I heard you figured it out. I knew he didn’t kill himself. They killed him.”

I nodded, but Aaron chose to take those drugs. And maybe he would have died even if Marlene had called for help.

“They’ll pay,” he said. “Especially that slut. She knew he was clean. She’s going to pay for it.”

And as I looked at his face, I realized something terrible, so terrible that I stupidly blurted it out.

“You gave him the money,” I said.

He looked at me. Our eyes met. I took a step back.

“What?” he asked, but he knew what I had just realized.

“The money,” I said. “Where did Aaron get the $25,000 for the drug deal? No one’s mentioned a job.” All sorts of things began to click in my mind. “Everyone else took a hard financial hit in the oil bust, but not you. How is that possible?”

He didn’t answer me. His eyes shifted to look behind me, checking out my house. Suddenly I felt cold. I thought about that gun he carried in his pocket.

“The police know you sell drugs,” I said, lying as convincing as I could. “They know.”

All of the life seemed to go out of him.

“You don’t understand,” he said, his voice shaking. “You gotta take care of your family. I couldn’t let my family starve. Family’s everything. But he wasn’t supposed to take the drugs.” He shook his head. Tears ran down his face. “They weren’t meant for us.” He turned away. I watched as he drove away.

I shut the door, locked it, sat down until the shakes passed, and then called Ron – who chewed me out royally for talking to Brody before I talked to him.

Three days later, they issued an arrest for Leon Brody and a search warrant for his home.

No one knows if Leon was tipped off, but a few minutes before the police arrived at the Brody home, Leon told his wife that he was going to clean his guns. He went into his wood-paneled den, shut the door, and then shot himself. Maybe it was an accident. He didn’t leave a note.

After some court wrangling, his life insurance policy made his wife and daughters very wealthy. In the end, he took care of his family. I think he would have been pleased.

The End

Book blurb!

Here's the book blurb for Blackbirds First Flight:

An unhappy wife can’t decide what to do about her boorish husband until an uneaten meal gives her a dark idea...
Something is raising zombies in Tulsa, and Justina Grave is the only one who can stop it...
When a fat farm promises to make Edyth thin again, her dream comes true. She will never be fat again—or safe...
Hopping a freight train can be a cheap way to travel. Unless you pick the wrong boxcar...
One kiss gives Francois immortality, but at a cost he doesn't see coming...
A woman warrior must choose her fate as the Romans ravage her land...
Stalked by terrible creatures seeking vengeance, a band of robbers runs for their lives in medieval France...

This anthology will lead you into dark, twisted places filled with mystery and delight. Enjoy thrilling stories and chilling poems by authors Stephen B. Bagley, Kent Bass, Wendy Blanton, Gail Henderson, Tamara Siler Jones, and Jean Schara.

It goes on sale October 1st! Watch for it!