Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. GREEBO needs very expensive medical treatment, which will hopefully ensure us another year or two with him, but it’s kind of a very bad time for it.  (I mean, we can, okay? It’s just … very expensive, but I can’t give up on him.)  So, every little bit helps-SAH*

FROM PAM UPHOFF:  Professor of Magic (Wine of the Gods Book 47)


Book 47 Wine of the Gods

Rael’s doing what?

The Multiverse’s hottest government agent, most incompetent assassin, deadliest woman warrior, and new mother is starting a new career, teaching at the University of the Empire’s School of Directorate Studies. With any luck she won’t have to kill any of the ultra-competitive, status-conscious, established faculty protecting their turf from the newcomer.

But it’s going to be close . . . fortunately she has two secret weapons. Xen, the Master of the Multiverse, and Exzy, the cutest baby in the Multiverse.

The halls of academia tremble in fear.

But there’s something not right . . .

And why does everyone assume she’s really here to investigate her predecessor’s murder? He wasn’t murdered . . . was he?

FROM JERRY BOYD:  Lost in Transit (Bob and Nikki Book 6)


Can Bob handle his biggest challenge yet, a couple days off? Will John ever find true love? What’s aboard the colony ship Bob and Nikki found? The answers to these and other burning questions can be found in ‘Lost in Transit’.

FROM CHRIS KENNEDY:  A Gulf in Time (The Progenitors’ War Book 1).


With the Shaitan War at an end, Lieutenant Commander Shawn ‘Calvin’ Hobbs was able to finally complete the task given him by the long-lost Progenitors. Unfortunately, rather than getting a reward, the Progenitors’ rod was trapped, and it called the Progenitors’ ancient Enemy instead. Calvin and the crew of the Vella Gulf have now been given a choice—prepare the galaxy’s civilizations for the Enemy’s cull or become the first victims of that cull.

Calvin has overcome insurmountable odds before, however, and the crew of the Vella Gulf decides to fight. In order to win, though, they will have to answer one question that has never been answered in the history of the galaxy—how do you defeat an Enemy who can deactivate your weapons—and the artificial intelligence running your ship—at will?

Although Calvin and the crew of the Gulf have overcome every challenge given them previously, this time there doesn’t seem to be any hope for salvation. Terra’s allies aren’t any more prepared to fight this Enemy than they are, and there is no technology currently available that will let them even the odds. With the clock counting down to his extermination, Calvin will have to use everything at his disposal if he is going to find a way to win The Progenitors’ War.

FROM ALLENE LOWREY:  Einarr and the Althane’s Masquerade (The Adventures of Einarr Stigandersen Book 3).


While a handful of crewmembers ascend the mountain to consult with the Oracle, Bardr hears a rumor of a ship’s graveyard not far from the island of Attilsund. Supposedly the resting place of the Althane’s ship, vanished some three hundred years.

Now that they’re back, the cash-strapped crew decides to investigate in the name of treasure and glory. The waters they must sail are treacherous, though, and wind and wave are far from the only forces they will need to contend with.

A short novel.



Rosette studies magic, tends a long spell of her father’s — the drudge work of turning lead into gold — longs to know what is happening at war. . . .

When she realizes her studies hold a spell that will let her learn, she learns more, and worse, of the war than she had expected.

FROM DENTON SALLE:  Daemonic Mechanical Artifacts: A Tale of Napoleon’s Genies


Napoleon’s engineers create the steam-driven war machines that made France the greatest power of the nineteenth century. Called genies by his troops, they build the airships, golem soldiers, and ironclads that crushed the British fleets and conquered most of Europe. They also make medical marvels and semi-autonomous machines that changed the face of both Europe and the new world.

But now those who oppose the French Empire have kidnapped the man most responsible for this second revolution, whose schools and research centers supply the arms to keep France the world’s premier power. His kidnappers didn’t realize his dependence on his own devices to keep his damaged body alive. His assistants, Clarissa and Amadeus, have less than three days to find him before he dies without his daemonic aides.

And as they search, the plot deepens. Those who tried to kill the Emperor in 1804 are trying again as other enemies want to steal France’s technology. And as they try to prevent the plots from succeeding, Clarissa worries her plans for her Swiss comrade will come to naught.

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: ARRANGE

37 thoughts on “Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo

  1. This may not be the right place, but I need some SJW leftist rhetoric. Trouble is, every time I try to write it, my brain turns into a bratty four-year-old and gives me the silent treatment.

    So, maybe somebody can help. My two main characters were just attacked by four masked thugs and fought them off:
    She remained poised for mayhem, breathing hard. Her head snapped left, right, her eyes sweeping around, seeking more enemies. Finding none, the electric tension drained out of her and she straightened up. She looked back to where they’d been attacked. “Daniel!” She raced through the crowd, slipping nimbly between moving bodies, flopped to her knees beside him and touched his face. “Daniel?” she said softly, fearfully. Tears welled up in her eyes.

    “Uhhh…” His left eye opened a bit. The right eye was well on its way to swelling shut. “Whea an ah? Whuh tuh ffuhh haffen?”

    She felt a tremendous surge of relief and her breathing slowed almost to normal. “We were attacked by four thugs, in black masks. Two of them hit and kicked you…oh, so many times…”

    “Fflackh…gnasskhs?” His eye frowned, but his mouth didn’t move. “Shit. Anntiffa shitheaghss.”

    Her hands were busy, cautiously probing for injuries. “Antifa? Could be. They did match the descriptions.”

    “Wheah zhey gho?”

    “They can’t hurt you any more. I fought them,” she said with dawning concern. “Some of them might die. What have I done?”

    “Dheffennedh yersselff. Andh gnee,” he slurred, trying to roll onto his back. “Aarhh! Gnoush hurtssh. Erryshing hurtssh.”

    She laid her hand on his forehead. “I know, darling. You’ve got at least two broken ribs, and some internal injuries. Your jaw’s broken, and your face is all torn up. One of them hit you with some…thing, on his hand.”


    “It’s a…I don’t know what the hell it is. Here.” She reached out, grabbed the arm, ignoring its owner’s groggy howls of pain, and held it up where he could see the blood-streaked piece of metal.

    He squinted blearily. “Huh. Ffhrash nuggless. Rihff shfikhes. Gnaasshty.”

    “…Brass…knuckles? Spikes?” she said dubiously.

    “Uh-huh.” His brow wrinkled. “Shuffrizhd it dhon’t hurt gnore…”

    “I think you’ve got a concussion, too. Your head hit the sidewalk, very hard. I need you to keep talking to me, no matter how much it hurts. You have to stay awake for me. Stay with me, please.” Her expression turned anxious, and guilty. “I’m so sorry, I should have seen them, stopped them before—“

    He started to shake his head, and groaned. His one-eyed gaze intensified. “Gno! Zhere ffault! Not yoursh. You ghreat.”

    She managed a little smile, bent down and barely touched her lips to his. “I’m afraid that’s all the kiss I can give you just now.”


    “Why did they do that?” she wondered.

    “Asshholezh.” he mumbled. “All zhe reasson zhey gneed.”

    “What do we do now? I should take you home.”

    He almost shook his head again, but remembered just in time. “Can’t gho. Khriing sheen. Whait fhor khoffs.”

    “Oh. I see.” She shifted around until she could lay his head in her lap. “Better?”

    “Ffeelsh niish,” he assured her. She took his left hand in hers; his right hand was a bleeding mess from being stomped on.
    And then, while she is still juiced up with adrenaline and feeling angry, guilty and helpless about her husband’s condition, some SJW female starts harping about their ‘white privilege’ and ‘oppressin’ them po’ innocent People Of Color’ and she just loses it:

    Who gives a shit what color they were? Look what they did! They’re animals!

    Which sets off a huge SJW outrage storm that gets him fired from his job.

    So, I need to put those smarmy self-righteous words in the SJW’s mouth, and I’m just drawing a blank.

  2. Slightly off topic but in keeping with the Daemonic Mechanical Artifacts, I give you the Flying Ginsu, aka the Ninja Missile.

    First seen at Blazinng Cat Fur, the Daily Mail article reveals this is a drone-launched Hellfire missile with the warhead removed and replaced with six folding blades. In the pictures you can see where the blades cut the roof and the windshield before shredding the interior and the occupants. But it didn’t blow up the other cars on the road, in fact it didn’t even break the back window of the target vehicle.

    Possibly the most American weapon I’ve ever heard of. A remote controlled robot, that’s launched from another remote controlled robot, that can pick the right car out of a whole highway full of cars and kill -only- the bad guys.

    I wonder if Vladimir Putin and the premiere of Chicomland are sleeping in bunkers these days, given this thing?

    1. I can just see the late-night TV ads:

      It slices! It dices! Order now, and get the two-for-one deal, plus a free colander!*

      *Predator drone not included. May be prohibited in some states. Can not be shipped via U.S. Postal Service. Not suitable for use by most children. Be sure to read and follow all product safety instructions.

      1. Right? Bwaha! I have to admit I laughed for half an hour when I found out about this thing. Some guy that reads Monster Hunter International totally thought of this. “What would Milo do with a Hellfire? Put swords on it!!!!”

        I’ll bet a donut that right now some read-until-offended Leftie just figured out that those are TRUMP’S ninja missiles. Like Count Frightenstein says, that’s scaaaary stuff kids!

        Now lets talk about the (so far imaginary) railgun launched from orbit, fire and forget version. Kills one (1) car, anywhere in the world, any weather. Kapow, baby!

        1. Phantom, it may not be launched from orbit, but there’s been a JDAM variant out for a while (2012, IIRC) that’s nothing but a 500 lb bomb shaped piece of concrete with the steering vanes bolted to the back and guidance sensors on the front. The literal description was “we can take out a car parked in the alley next to the house with only a few broken windows on either side.” I’m sure it isn’t quite that neat, but…..

          1. They shot it at a Kia. Hit the roof, destroyed the inside of the car, didn’t break the windows.

            The concrete bomb sounds cool. Like a practice round, but meaner.

            Tom Clancy had an explosive laser guided bomb made of cellulose dropped on a drug cartel guy’s mansion to make it look like a car bomb.

  3. The Arranger trembled behind his desk.

    Two powerful Ultras forcibly entered his office bringing with them a warp-gate suppressor so he wasn’t able to warp out.

    He recognized both of them.

    One was the Ultra Agent called Gold Hammer. Since Gold Hammer wasn’t wearing his Ultra uniform, he had gone Rogue and wouldn’t “play by the rules”.

    The other was the Rogue Ultra called Black Death, a known killer-for-hire.

    “What do you want?” the Arranger whimpered.

    Gold Hammer spoke “A Name. The Name of the person or group that arranged the San Francisco attack.”

    Black Death continued “Thousands of innocents died in that attack including relatives of Ultra Agents and the Major Criminal Families. Both the US government and the Criminal Families are offering good money for those behind the attack”.

    The Arranger looked toward Gold Hammer in hopes of mercy saying “You can’t harm me, it’s against the Law”.

    Black Death gave a terrifying grin saying “Hammer knows that but is willing to pay the price. A Man is always willing to pay the price for his actions”.

    “But I had nothing to do with that attack…”

    Gold Hammer replied “But I suspect that even if you didn’t arrange it, you can find out who did”.

    Black Death asked “Now can you arrange for us to learn who was responsible for this attack”?

  4. I was at my desk, clearing up paperwork from my last few jobs, waiting for the waste to hit the impeller again, when my assistant burst in, out of breath and flustered. “Boss, have you heard? You need to get somewhere safe. Arrangers have been attacked all over town. You’re the last one standing.”
    “What are you trying to tell me, Taunto?”
    “Boss, you’re the lone arranger!”

  5. (Oh, and movies and anime and music? Charles did what he called the “sensible thing”-and in about four days found a Blu Ray carousel player. It stores up to five hundred disks, allowed multiple playback of media, all that fun stuff, and was only nine years old. Then, he wrote a custom software package to strip all the disks of their data and organize it on the server farm he built in the basement. Then, he wrote a second custom software package to break the encryption, arrange all the files properly, clean up problems of the playback, organize it all so you could easily add it to your iTunes player, and the MPAA would never know a thing.

    (Charles fully understands the concept of “overkill.” He just believes that anybody that thinks that there is such a thing as overkill is a wanker. After this, he began to work on an automated way to rip files from LaserDisc to a “proper” AVI format. Mad science at its best.

    (And, it’s scary how much stuff I had. I have DVDs in my collection that if I put them all up on eBay, I could buy a decent new car with it.)

  6. “Surely you can arrange something.”

    “Stanley, while I may be capable of what I think you are suggesting, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a terrible idea. I’m not in that line of work.”

    I attempted to moderate the irritation in my response, but did a poor job of it. Making accidents occur to targeted individuals within a desired timeframe has always been extremely tricky. Doing it well takes a serious eye for detail, and calling it an art would not be an overstatement. It also involves a great deal of luck. Even worse for my peace of mind, however, are the types of people who offer to pay handsomely for acts of fate. The web of lies and trickery that inevitably follow any such offer hold no appeal. In my youth, I had been idealistic enough to believe removing a few players from the board could make the world a better place. Now I knew better.

    “I’m a locksmith, Stanley. Unless you locked your keys in the car, you’re in the wrong place.”

  7. Not a vignette, but rather an exerpt from my current WIP. So consider this the obligitory LONG RESPONSE WARNING!

    And yes, “Jay” is exactly who you think he is.

    Callahan waited on hold for fifteen minutes before being reconnected. Fortunately, his old employer remembered him.

    “Frank! Long time to speak! How are you, my friend?”

    “I’m hanging in there, Jay. But I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news?”

    “Bad news? Uh oh. You didn’t wreck your Ferrari, did you?”

    “No, Marianna’s just fine.”

    “That’s good. Next time you’re in L.A., bring it by the garage and I’ll put you up on the website.”

    “I may take you up on that. You knew Myron Bixby, right?”

    “Of course I know him. Everyone who’s into steam cars knows Myron Bixby! He helped me and the team out a few times when we were rebuilding my Whites and Stanleys. Why? He go and do something outrageous again?”

    “He was murdered last Saturday.”

    There was dead silence on the line for a long minute.

    “Oh my God. Murdered? You’re sure?”

    “Yeah, no doubt.”

    “But… why? I mean, yeah, Myron was a character, a little out there, sure, but he was harmless. Why would someone want to kill him?”

    “Don’t know. The sheriff’s department has some possible motives and suspects.”

    “But if I know you, you don’t agree with them.”

    “I don’t know one way or another, but I think there’s a possibility they’re not looking into. And I need your help.”

    “My help? I’m guessing it’s car-related then.”

    “You got it. See, Myron was helping to arrange the sale of a steam car. Something called a Doble.” Callahan pronounced the name as ‘Daub-lee.’

    Another pause.

    “You mean a Doble?” Jay pronounced it correctly: ‘dough-bill”

    “Yeah, I think so. D-O-B-L-E.”

    Another, longer pause.

    “Oh my God. Myron Bixby found a Doble?”

    “He didn’t find it. They potential buyer reached out to him for help authenticating it.”

    “Why would he need help authenticating a Doble?”

    “Because the seller claimed to have found it in a garage somewhere and restored it. Buyer wants to make sure it’s legit and he’s not getting ripped off.”

    “And it’s real?!”

    “From what I can find, Myron seemed to think so. Why? And what exactly is a Doble anyway?”

    “Frank, the Doble Steam Car is the greatest, most advanced steam car ever built. The guy who designed them, Abner Doble, was a mechanical and engineering genius! Terrible businessman, though. Founded his company in 1922, went bust in 1931, and they only built maybe 40 cars in nine years.”


    “Because like I said, Abner Doble was an awful businessman. And he was a perfectionist: always tinkering with the design, trying to find ways to improve things, making little tweaks, absolutely refused to even consider selling a car until the design was perfect. And then he’d sell a car and decide ‘you know what? If we change this, this, this, that, and the other thing, we can make it even better!’ Drove his investors crazy! So each car was basically hand-built, no two are exactly alike. And they were stupid-expensive: sold for something like $10,000, and that was just the chassis, you had to send it to a coachbuilder to put a body on it, which would just about double the price.”

    “Wow. And the Model T was going for something like $300 at the same time, right?”

    “Yeah. Howard Hughes owned one. A Doble, that is. I actually own his car, believe it or not.”

    “I believe it. So how much is a Doble worth these days.”

    “How much is the buyer willing to pay?”


    “Look, Abner Doble built forty of them, at most. Records are sketchy, but a lot of experts agree that the number is probably closer to thirty, and only fourteen are known to still exist. You don’t go out and buy a Doble: you find one, find the owner, go out there, and tell them you’re interested. Then you go home and sit by the telephone, and in twenty years maybe the phone rings, maybe it doesn’t. They never come up for open sale. Never. Ever. Period. Dot.”

    “But say one of the other sixteen or so missing ones –”

    “More like ten or twelve missing ones. A handful, I wanna say five, are confirmed as having been destroyed.”

    “Say one of the ten or twelve or whatever missing ones were rediscovered and professionally restored, say to the level that you and your team restore your cars? What could that be worth? Potentially? Ballpark figure?”

    Jay let out a long breath.

    “Like I said, how much is the buyer willing to pay?”

    “Would a million dollars be a bit outrageous?”

    “Not in the slightest.” There was no hesitation in Jay’s response.

    “Damn. What would be outrageous?”

    “Well, ultra-rare-Ferrari money is nuts. The brand recognition just isn’t there. I think ten million is probably on the high side, but I can’t really get more exact than that. Easily several million if the buyer’s willing to pay it.”

    Frank just whistled softly into the phone. For a long moment, neither man spoke.

    “You think Myron was killed because of the car?” Jay finally asked.

    “Like I said, I don’t know. But if the car is worth that much, it definitely bears looking into.” Frank didn’t say anything, but he was reminded of a line from a movie, something to the effect of how than many millions of dollars isn’t money: it’s a motive with a built-in universal adapter.

    “Yeah. Hey, tell ya what: I’ll put together copies of some of my material on my Dobles and Abner Doble’s company and send them to you. Would that help?”

    “Couldn’t hurt. Thanks, Jay.”

    “Any time, Frank. Hey, listen, before I go, I gotta ask: I know you sometimes do consulting work for the cops. Is that was this is?”

    “Myron was my friend, Jay.”

    “Yeah,” Jay dragged the word out for a few seconds. “That’s what I thought. Be careful.”

    “No promises.”

    “Yeah, that’s also what I thought.”

    1. “Frank didn’t say anything, but he was reminded of a line from a movie, something to the effect of how than many millions of dollars isn’t money: it’s a motive with a built-in universal adapter.”

      Oh, my gaming group is going to hear that one…….

  8. Hoping you having a swinging Christmas

    Best wishes from all the wonderful folks at Bailey Savings & Loan =.

    1. As we’re starting the second week of advent, here’s the updated version …

      From the electroswing caravan of hits.

  9. The lilies next. It was a job, and carefully spelling out the words meant she could charge accordingly for hours, however personally absurd she found the whole process.
    “Grubbing it out all and replacing it with boxwood would mean less work,” April told herself, and went to get the bulbs.

  10. Nico sat on the floor, with an array of glass pebbles before him, all clear blue. He frowned and started to push them around. After a few minutes, Corridon thought that Nico arranged them into some kind of magic circle.
    Nico stood and held out his staff. Yes, magic circle.

  11. “You’ll need to arrange for the test,” said Caryatid. “Few of us have trouble with the practical. Knowing the laws that is the problem.” She smiled a little. “Unless you carry oxygen, it’s hard to reach the heights where you interfere with aircraft, but you need to know the laws.”

  12. “This is absurd,” said the Hierophant. “Many a bloodkind has been thrown into the fray without a tenth of the preparation Aidan received. That he would be the crown prince were he not bloodkind must not mean that everything is arranged for him.”
    “Maybe they’d be more useful with it.”

  13. A sad note on the passing of René Auberjonois of ST:DS9 and other works:

    René Auberjonois, ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Boston Legal’ Actor, Dies at 79

    René Auberjonois, best known for his roles in “Boston Legal” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” died at his home in Los Angeles due to metastatic lung cancer. He was 79.

    His son Rèmy-Luc confirmed the news to the Associated Press.

    Auberjonois was a prolific television actor, appearing as Paul Lewiston in 71 episodes of “Boston Legal” and as Clayton Runnymede Endicott III in ABC’s long-running sitcom “Benson” — a role that earned him an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor in a comedy in 1984. He played shape-shifter Changeling Odo in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and carried that role into video games, voicing Odo in “Harbinger” and “The Fallen.” His appearance as Judge Mantz in ABC’s “The Practice” earned him another Emmy nod for guest actor in a drama in 2001.

    His guest roles were numerous, appearing on classics like “Murder, She Wrote,” “The Jeffersons,” “The Outer Limits,” “L.A. Law,” “Stargate SG-1,” “Frasier,” and the more recent hit “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

    His first film role came with “MASH,” in which he played Father Mulcahy in the first of several collaborations with Robert Altman. He would go on appear in Altman’s revisionist Western classic “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” “Brewster McCloud,” and “Images.” Other film credits include Roy Bagley in 1976’s “King Kong” and Reverend Oliver in “The Patriot,” as well as parts in “Batman Forever,” “Eyes of Laura Mars” and “Walker.”

    Before his entry into Hollywood, Auberjonois worked in theater, earning a Tony for best lead actor in a musical for his role opposite Katharine Hepburn in “Coco.” He received further Tony nominations for 1973’s “The Good Doctor,” 1984’s “Big River,” and 1989’s “City of Angels.”

    Auberjonois was also known for his voice roles, particularly in 1989’s Disney Renaissance hit “The Little Mermaid,” in which he voices Chef Louis and sang the memorable “Les Poissons.” Fans of “The Princess Diaries” would recognize him as the voice of Mia Thermopolis’ father, Prince Philippe Renaldi, in an uncredited role.

    In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 56 years, writer Judith Auberjonois; sisters Marie-Laure Degener and Anne Auberjonois; daughter Tessa Auberjonois; son-in-law Adrian Latourelle, daughter-in-law Kate Nowlin and three grandchildren.

    He was remembered on social media by his “Deep Space Nine” co-star Armin Shimerman, who played Quark.

    “His last message to me was entitled ‘Don’t forget…’ I know that I, Kitty and all that knew him will never forget. The world seems noticeably emptier now. I loved him.”


  14. Minette drew a deep breath and put out her boots, cloak, and staff, near her bed. Even in the Delectable Hills, she had leapt from bed to the fray once or twice. It was unlikely here, but failure would mean that they would never hire her.
    Rogier watched with approval.

  15. “Everything’s arranged.” The head of Shepardsport’s Science Division handed USB drives to Chelsea and Carse. “These have the information on the robotic camera system you’ll be overseeing during the flight to Coopersville.”

    Having to oversee someone else’s experiment while on the trip didn’t bother Chelsea. Right now she was just glad to know that she would indeed be going down to the conference, that she wouldn’t be told she’d have to make do with a telecon link like the scientists on Earth. And it made sense to have her and Carse doing some work on the way down, and not just to keep them busy and out of trouble. Given the expense of flights even with modern reusable landers, it made sense to squeeze every bit of productivity out of them that you could manage.

  16. From current WIP, and it even matches the prompt this time:

    “You know how it is,” muttered Jones, looking down.

    “Yeah. I do.” Henrietta frowned thunderously at him. “Like I was tellin’ these little girls I’m supposed to look after, when you work in government a long time, you hear things. Like ghost stories. You see things, like cops with more money than they should have. People hint at things, like where a FAA security guard might be able to pick up some extra cash. Ain’t no use pretending everything is all nice and polite. You want help from my girls you better pony up.”

    “It’s not that easy,” ground out Jones, glaring back at Henrietta. “You know that.”

    “I might be willing to come to an arrangement,” said Henrietta. “How about if a hundred pissed-off scorpions run through this place and toss it, lookin’ for information, and you get roughed up some? Great big uproar that has the TV crews and every cop in town out on the sidewalk. You suffer a couple broken bones and a showy black eye. Maybe your wife’s sister gets a visit too. All this girl needs to do is blink and she’ll have the address.” She waved a hand at Gruesome Mary, who was still puzzled by the sudden turn of events.

    “Yeah,” sighed Jones looking down again. “That could work.”

  17. “Do you have any duties to carry out before this venture?” said Carolus. “Only if they are vital, but then we will give you all aid needed to carry them out with speed.”
    Rosine shook her head. So did the others. Even, in time Belangere, though she took the longest.

  18. And meanwhile, having published Ripening Gold, and Hall of the Heiress, the muse remembers that she was thinking of making them short story cycles.

    Particularly Gold. There at least I know where the cycle would end.

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