1K Weekly Serial: The Monster In The Second Reel, Chapter Four

THE MONSTER IN THE SECOND REEL 

By Richard Paolinelli

© 2020 RICHARD PAOLINELLI . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO COPYING OR ANY OTHER REPRODUCTION OF THIS STORY IS PERMITTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

 

FOUR

 

The priest burst into the projection room through its only door and found it empty. The projector was still on. He knew his quarry had just been here and fled, perhaps only seconds before. The amount of effort and energy the man was expending had to be taking a great toll. Martin had to be close by, exhausted and not able to move again for a minute or two at best. But figuring out where he’d gone in time was the trick. The priest had been this close several times before and just missed putting an end to this madness.

“The doors are still locked from the inside,” the priest heard the manager call out to the sheriff as he made his way down from the projection room. “I don’t understand where everyone has gone. There’s nowhere for one person to hide, much less seven.”

“Did any of you see where he came from?” the priest inquired of the group gathered in front of the screen.

“By the time I noticed him he was already at the window,” the ticket taker reported.

“Jimmy and I didn’t see him until he was already in the lobby,” Baxter added.

“Are there any cars out front that you’ve never seen before tonight?”

Everyone shook their heads.

“Wait a minute,” Kraft exclaimed. “Coming over here I passed a brand new black Packard with no plates. Looked like there was a temporary tag in the windshield though. I was going to go back and double-check it after I got done here.”

“Where was it parked?” the priest demanded. “Tell me before he gets away again.”

“About two blocks away. Out the front door and turn left.”

The priest bolted back into the lobby and out the doors, the sheriff trying to keep pace. Running out into the street, the priest peered in the direction of the main highway.

No car drove in that direction. Turning his head to the south, he spotted a pair of red taillights at the end of the main street where it stopped in front of the school.

The brake lights flared, and the car made a swift U-turn. Caught for a brief moment under a street lamp, the priest saw it was a new black Packard. Positioning himself in the middle of the street, he held the golden cross/ax out in front of him, said a quick prayer, drew a long breath and waited.

*     *     *

Exhausted, scared, and in a strange town, Martin made a wrong turn. When his headlights caught the school building through the falling snow, marking the end of the street, he cursed his luck. Turning around, he started back in the right direction but made it only three blocks before coming to a stop in the intersection near the theater.

Less than half a block away, right in the middle of the street, his hunter stood. Martin had been fleeing the priest for several long months. The priest’s black hair and robes flowed in the wind, not a single snowflake settling anywhere upon him. His axe blazed with a holy light. He looked every bit like an avenging angel.

Which was precisely what he was, Martin allowed. A man with a badge, his gun drawn and aimed directly at Martin, was making his way down the sidewalk to get a better bead on his target. The sheriff was yelling at Martin, likely an order to get out of the car. But the only words that Martin heard came from the man directly ahead.

“Martin Edward Meadows,” the priest’s voice boomed as if it were God Himself speaking. “In the name of God! I command you to surrender yourself to His judgment!”

Martin looked down at the old book. There was a spell inside that he could use to help him escape. Did he have enough strength to use it? Which man should he use it on? Would the other then be upon him before he could flee? Frozen in indecision, Martin sat in the Packard, right in the middle of the intersection and did nothing.

Then another power – or just sheer bad luck – took a hand.

 

*     *     *     *     *

Like what you’ve read so far? Be sure and sign up for Richard’s newsletter, “Postcards From Infinity“, and if you’d like to become a patron you can do so right here. Any amount you choose will be appreciated and will help keep this blog, these weekly serials and Richard’s podcast, “A Scribe’s Journey” up and running. Thank you for reading and for your support.

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The Generation We Deserve, Not The One We Need

Sometime in the early 1990s a movement started up in youth sports to do away with keeping score. It was, so they said, to help build the self-esteem of the players. They were far too young to deal with the soul-crushing concept of losing a game. So everyone got a participation trophy so they could all “feel like winners!”

Over time, we’ve seen this grow to where several high school coaches in football and basketball have lost their jobs or been suspended. Why? Because their teams scored too many points and won their games by too wide of a margin and hurt the feeling of the losing team. (Note: In every case, the losing coach had no problem with the outcome, understanding that the other team was simply that much better than they were.)

In some cases, teams forfeit games rather than play the better team at all to avoid a large defeat. What a lesson that is. Well, we have no chance so why even bother trying. Ugh.

I am a child of the 1960s. The lessons I learned were these: If you lost, you didn’t look for excuses. You didn’t blame it on something that had nothing to do with the game itself. Even if you went into a contest overmatched, you gave it 100% because, ever so often, the underdog managed to pull off the upset and win. And even if you still lost, playing against superior competition improved your own ability and helped you win games later on. And these lessons learned in sports carried over to all aspects of life, building character and giving you the tools to succeed off the field of play.

Sadly, we stopped teaching those lessons and we are reaping what we have sown for the last 20-30 years. And not just on the field of play either.

I see it when I look at what is going on in writing and in fandom. A younger generation that was taught you should get whatever you want, the way you want it every time. And if someone tells you no, or if the dislike something that you like or if someone better gets something instead of you, then you have somehow been cheated out of what is rightfully yours and you should throw a tantrum over it until you get your way. And for the cherry on top of the sundae, you get to lead a campaign against the person who “wronged” you until they are properly punished – either by losing their job or by being run out of the industry in shame.

What is even more distressing is that some in my generation are starting to buy into this mindset as well.

A recent example followed the passing of SF/F legend, Mike Resnick. His body temperature hadn’t yet dropped below 90 degrees than a young woman, Jaym Gates, dragged up an old incident she “claimed” happened. Nice timing, considering the accused can no longer offer his side of the story, and blamed him for her failures as a writer.

I vaguely recall the incident back when it was first brought up. I won’t claim to remember all of the particulars, neither do I care to go back and review them. I’ve never met either Resnick (much to my regret) or Gates (who blocked me on Facebook and Twitter despite – to the best of my knowledge – the fact I’ve never interacted with her on either platform. To be fair, I have over 22k tweets and God only knows how many Facebook posts so I might have, but I truly don’t recall doing so.)

But from what I know about Resnick’s history of working with young and up and coming authors and the hateful posts and blatant misandry I’ve seen from Gates I have a pretty good idea of what probably happened.

Gates is not a good writer. I checked out her work on Amazon the other day. She needs an editor and more time studying the craft. Does she have potential? Yes. But she needs to work on her craft and study it some more. Is she a good editor? She has edited a few books. Nothing in my reading taste, but I’m not seeing any reviews pointing out any glaring issues, so she probably is. Her bio says she is into gaming. I haven’t played anything she has published so I refrain from further commentary on her abilities in that field.

So, lets stick with writing. I imagine she approached Resnick with a request for a critique and got one. It wasn’t the “wow, this is amazing you’re the best (insert activity here) ever!” her generation was raised to expect. He likely pointed out where she needed to improve, what to fix and as he was wont to do gave her some encouragement to keep on working at it.

She probably didn’t hear a word he said. Instead, she went with the default setting many in her generation have been taught: He is an evil old white man. Evil Old White Men are the enemy. Evil Old White Men have privilege, ALL of them have it. Evil Old White Men scheme to keep POCs down. Evil Old White Men hate womyn. Evil Old White Men must be destroyed!

Sigh. This “Evil Old White Man” would like to know exactly where the official Office of Evil Old White Men’s Privilege is located, because this Evil Old White Man reckons he’s owed about 40 years of back dues. This Evil Old White Man was actually told back in 1995 that he was the wrong gender and wrong skin color to be promoted up the ladder at a national newspaper chain. This Evil Old White Man was offered a promotion if he would check “Native American” on a form so he would qualify as a minority hire. This Evil Old White Man declined, my last full-blooded Native American ancestor was born in 1810 in Virginia, because this Evil Old White Man was not going to use race to advance his career. So no, dears, this Evil Old White Man has no such “privilege” that has made his life what it is today. This Evil Old White Man has earned it based on his abilities and on his abilities alone. You should try that sometime. But I digress…

It is easier to blame the “Evil Other” rather than take a hard look at where you yourself have come up short. That is the lesson learned by losing, and sometimes by losing badly. Examine why you lost and find out how to improve, to become better and eventually succeed. It works in sports and it works in life.

The first fiction story I ever wrote and submitted got a harsh rejection letter in return (so much for that alleged privilege, eh?) that included a line that read “you should never again insult the craft of the English language by attempting to write another story”.

I’m betting if Ms. Gates had received such a letter she would have claimed the editor was a racist, sexist, etc., etc. POS as she does today with anyone who dares disagrees with her. She would never have done what I did. I didn’t blame the editor. I didn’t lead an outrage mob against him or the publication he worked for. No one got fired.

I, however, got fired up and went to work on improving my craft.

Forty years later, I’ve got a body of work that I take great pride in. A long career as a sports writer. Several published (Traditionally and Indie) novels, non-fiction books, two comic book issues and short stories. I received a note from one short story editor who said he always knew he was going to get a great story from me. I take great pride in that.

Because that has been my one and only goal in my fiction writing: Tell a great story that people enjoy reading. That is the only thing that matters. (As an aside, I still get rejection letters. Its not always a yes, kids, even for this Evil Old White Man. I don’t throw tantrums when its a no, I just start writing the next story.)

What else matters? Not being “woke” like Ms. Gates and her crowd. Not tearing down the old masters for perceived sins by today’s questionable standards like Jeannette Ng did at the 2019 Hugos last year.

Not using the race/gender card to excuse sub-standard writing, excuse blatant racism and misogyny/misandry and sell sub-standard work. I accuse two people of being the standard-bearers for this kind of garbage in SF/F, while certainly not being the only ones who do so: Vox Day and N.K. Jemesin.

These two are two sides of the same coin and products of a generation of brats. They have in fact used attacks against each other to sell sub-standard work. Both showed promise in their early works, but both have let hate creep into their writings, rendering them both unreadable, as well as their lives.

They both knew exactly what they were doing when Jemesin, an unknown writer, attacked Day. She knew Day would respond in kind and she could use his counter-attack to propel her career. It worked. She was gifted three Hugos her works were not worthy of. Day knew what she was doing and knew that by attacking her, he could form his own outrage mob. He has turned that into a profitable book-selling organization.

They used each other to sell books. And everyone on both sides fell for it. And they both knew it because they understand that a generation has been raised to throw a tantrum to get what you want is easier than putting in the work to earn it.

And they are both still doing it. Jemesin recently attacked Stephen King for having the nerve to state the obvious: When judging a book for an award the quality of the writing should be the determining factor. Jemesin countered that the race/gender of the writer cannot be separated from the quality of the book.

That kind of sounds racist/sexist to me, to be honest. We are to judge a book by the race/gender of its author and not by its quality? I’m old enough to have heard Dr. Martin Luther King say he dreamt of a day when his children would be judged by their quality, not by the skin color. Perhaps Nora should find that speech on YouTube and listen to it a few times until the lesson sinks in.

As for Vox Day, Theodore Beale by legal name, he’s still out there stirring up the pot in his own way. I used to think he was fighting the good fight back when he and Scalzi were running for President of the SFWA. But, eventually, I saw through the facade.

I have as little use for Theo as I do Nora and for those of that generation who unquestioningly follow them. They are no friends to SF/F or even to society. They are spoiled brats who never grew up because they never learned the lessons that winning and losing, between being told yes or no, teach. They are vital lessons that must be learned at a young age.

They are lessons a majority of an entire generation were never taught and now we are dealing with that generation – from the Woke Warriors to Antifa – all dead set on burning everything down just to get their way.

Not the generation we desperately need. But the generation we rightfully deserve.

 

1K Weekly Serials: The Monster In The Second Reel, Chapter Three

THE MONSTER IN THE SECOND REEL 

By Richard Paolinelli

© 2020 RICHARD PAOLINELLI . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO COPYING OR ANY OTHER REPRODUCTION OF THIS STORY IS PERMITTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

 

THREE

 

Albert Kraft had been sheriff of Kidder County for ten years. He often joked he’d likely remain sheriff until his son, Arnold, replaced him. A burly man with a gentle heart, he managed to enforce the law in the small county without having to resort to heavy-handedness. Mostly, he had little to do and was only in his office this night to cover for his lone deputy, who was in Bismarck’s lone hospital awaiting the arrival of his first child.

When Kraft’s phone rang, he fully expected it to be his wife calling and not the manager of the theater sounding like he’d lost his mind.

“Sheriff Kraft,” he answered.

“Al,” Baxter was an old friend. “You are not going to believe this, but some nut has locked himself and six customers inside my theater and I can’t get inside.”

“I’ve told you to carry an extra set of keys with you, Bax,” Kraft chuckled.

“That’s not what I mean. I’m in the lobby. I can’t get into the theater. He’s got the outside doors locked and we can’t get the keys to work and the lobby doors are blocked. I can’t budge them at all.”

“Alright, Bax, I’ll come over and see what I can do.”

He drove over the two blocks, in case he was going to have to transport a prisoner to jail, taking notice of a brand new car he’d never seen in town before along the way, parked his patrol car out front and strode into the lobby less than two minutes after hanging up.

“How long has he been in there?”

“About twenty minutes now, Al. He said he had a thirty-minute film to show, some kind of sneak preview of a Hollywood film. Paid for the use of the theater in cash. He seemed legitimate, so I let him have at it. When I tried to go back inside to see how things were going, I couldn’t get past the doors.”

Kraft pushed on both. He leaned into the effort on the second try but fared no better.

“And when you tried to get in from the outside doors?” Kraft asked.

“Keys won’t even turn the lock, Al. This goes well beyond strange, don’t you think?” he mopped his forehead with a handkerchief.

“I do. Well, we can either wait until his film runs out and the folks inside try to leave or…”

With that, Kraft withdrew his nightstick and started pounding on the doors. He hoped someone inside would hear and investigate. He was still pounding away four minutes later, with no response from the other side, when the strange became the bizarre.

“In the name of God,” a voice thundered from behind them, “stand away from that door!”

They turned in unison to find a man in the traditional garb of a Jesuit priest bearing down upon them. His black hair and robes moved as if blown by an unnatural wind, and his face seemed chiseled from granite. His green eyes blazed with a holy light. From a fold of his robe, he withdrew a hand ax that appeared to be made from pure gold. It was shaped like a cross and what appeared to be razor-sharp blades glinted on either side.

Kraft, Baxter and young Jimmy scattered. Without pausing, the stranger gripped the ax in both hands, drew it back, and drove it into the doors as he stepped into them. The blade struck the doors, exploding them off their hinges with a thundering boom. Both doors ripped through the dark curtain that prevented the light from the lobby reaching the theater. The doors flew down the slope and crashed against the back wall.

The priest did not hesitate, heading up the stairs to the projection room with the sheriff close behind, demanding an explanation. Baxter, Jimmy and the woman from the now-closed ticket booth ran into the theater below.

*     *     *

Martin kept his eyes glued on his watch. He’d seen the movie play out once too often and had no desire to see it again. When the pounding on the door began, he remained unconcerned. The locking spell would hold until he departed. Once the second reel ended, he would collect the reels and utter the transport spell that would return him to his car without having to pass through the lobby. There was no way to explain the sudden disappearance of the six people who’d met their demise this night. Exhausted, he doubted he could muster another spell once he’d transported. At least not until he’d eaten and rested.

The second reel rolled out. It was finished. He packed the reels into the container, not bothering to look outside at the empty theater, lit up with the white light from the projector. He began the transport spell just as the doors below exploded open. He quickly whispered the one spell he knew from memory as he grabbed up the container and the old book.

 

*     *     *     *     *

Like what you’ve read so far? Be sure and sign up for Richard’s newsletter, “Postcards From Infinity“, and if you’d like to become a patron you can do so right here. Any amount you choose will be appreciated and will help keep this blog, these weekly serials and Richard’s podcast, “A Scribe’s Journey” up and running. Thank you for reading and for your support.

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New Cover For My First SF Novel

My first sci-fi novel, Maelstrom, was released a few years back. I did the cover for it but never really felt like it was as good as it could be. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of SF/F covers and I think my work is improving.

So I set out to update the cover this week and I like the new version a whole lot more than the old. Check it out and, by the way, you can get the e-book now for just $2.99, that’s $2 off the old price!

New_Maelstrom_EBook_Cover copy

 

Not bad, eh? And the print edition is now just $12.99 ($3 off) with a whole new cover as well.

New_Maelstrom_Cover copy

 

1K Weekly Serials: The Monster In The Second Reel, Chapter Two

THE MONSTER IN THE SECOND REEL 

By Richard Paolinelli

© 2020 RICHARD PAOLINELLI . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO COPYING OR ANY OTHER REPRODUCTION OF THIS STORY IS PERMITTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

 

TWO

 

They haggled over the price. Though, they settled on about the same amount he’d been paying at all of the other theaters he’d visited since this nightmare began one year ago.

“Say, there’s nothing funny about this film is there?” the manager asked suddenly. “I wouldn’t want to have to deal with any complaints to the sheriff.”

“Oh, no, nothing like that,” Martin assured, lying yet again. He’d been getting better and better at that skill with each passing day. “It’s going to be another one of those monster movies that are making the rounds. I wouldn’t want any children to see it, mind you, but nothing that will have your local preachers picketing your theater over.”

As the time for Sudden Fear to end drew near, he followed the manager inside. Martin waited patiently to the side as the lights came up and the manager made the announcement. Only six people agreed to stay and watch while the other ten declined. Martin was relieved those ten would be spared even as he steeled himself for the terror he knew lay in store for the six that remained.

He headed up into the projection room and dismissed the projectionist. He’d become something of an expert at this task too.  He waited for the swinging doors below to close behind the manager and the projectionist before he turned down the house lights and started the film. He withdrew the old book, opened it, and quietly began reading from it as the film opened on a pastoral scene with soft music playing in the background. A young boy, blonde and blue-eyed, flying a kite high against a clear blue sky, dominated the screen.

Once assured that the spell he’d cast had sealed every exit, he flipped to another page and began reading again. He did not need to look to know that as he cast this spell, everyone in the theater had frozen. As the first reel neared its end and before it was time to switch to the second reel, he cast his third and final spell.

He closed his eyes against the coming horror that he had arranged. Twelve more minutes. Then he could leave this place, find something to eat and have a few days to rest. He was weary, in flesh, mind and spirit and there seemed to be no end to his torment in sight.

On screen, as the second reel began, the boy, a picture of innocence itself in the first reel, quickly transformed into a hideous monster. The creature’s hairless hide was a sickly grey and covered in tumors. The eyes an angry red and the mouth filled with yellowed, flesh-tearing fangs. It snarled and smashed everything in sight then turned to directly face the audience, claws slashing as if it were trying to rip through the giant screen itself. Martin scanned the theater just as the six patrons began to fade out. One by one they reappeared on the big screen. The elderly couple never even had a chance to try and flee, little good it would have done them. They stood frozen in terror and the beast fell upon them.

Martin turned off the sound then. He could not bear to hear the screams anymore. The other two couples were much younger and the two men put up a good fight. But they could not match the beast’s ferocity and they fell to its claws. Their female companions had made a run for it, never realizing they were trapped in a film and that no help would be found. The monster ran them down and made short work of them both. Then it began to feed on its six latest victims in an orgy of flesh and blood.

*     *     *

The manager collected the meager take from the box office, about average for a Wednesday night in Steele. They’d leave the concession area open in case anyone wanted something to take home.

Unable to do a final count until that last register was closed, he decided to check in on the sneak preview. It had been about five minutes since he’d left, and no one had walked out yet. He took that as a positive sign. If it looked good, maybe he could swing a deal to be among the first theaters to show it in the state. He strode to the doors and stuck out a hand to swing one open without stopping. He came to a painfully abrupt halt when it refused to budge.

“What the blazes?” The manager raised a hand to his throbbing nose, which had borne the brunt of the collision. He pushed on the door again, shoved harder a third time, and repeated the process with the other door.

Neither budged in the slightest.

There was no locking mechanism on either door and even if something had been moved in front of them, he was a strong enough man to at least make them move slightly. It was almost as they had been welded into place in front of a barrier of solid steel.

“Jimmy,” he called out to the younger man behind the concession counter. “Some joker has the doors blocked. Run outside and come in from the back and get these doors open.”

“Right away, Mr. Baxter,” Jimmy replied, dashing out the front. He circled around to the side exit, this one led directly to the theater inside and could be used to leave without going through the lobby. He slipped the key into the lock, but it would not turn no matter how hard he tried.

He abandoned this door and went to the rear of the building. A much larger door, used for deliveries, waited there. He slipped the key into the lock, but again he could not get it to turn. The door would not open. Confused, he ran back around and reported the failures to his boss.

“Impossible,” Baxter exclaimed. “You’re sure you were using the right keys?”

“Absolutely, sir.”

Baxter shook his head. Even if the doors had been locked from the inside, Jimmy’s keys should have unlocked them. He’d been trying to get the doors here inside to open, but not even a crowbar could gain enough purchase to budge them any more than pushing on them had accomplished. Baxter walked over to the lobby phone and asked the operator to connect him with Sheriff Kraft’s office.

 

*     *     *     *     *

Like what you’ve read so far? Be sure and sign up for Richard’s newsletter, “Postcards From Infinity“, and if you’d like to become a patron you can do so right here. Any amount you choose will be appreciated and will help keep this blog, these weekly serials and Richard’s podcast, “A Scribe’s Journey” up and running. Thank you for reading and for your support.

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End Of Year/Decade Review

So here we are, at least in Nebraska, in the final 13 hours of the year, but the decade too. (Editor’s Note: Yes, I’ve heard some folks claiming because there is no Year Zero on the calendar that means we’ve got one more year in decade. Those folks need to chill out.)

It’s time to look back on the year (and a little bit on the decade too) before turning our gaze ahead to 2020 and the Roaring 20’s v2.0. We’ll start with 2019 itself. To be sure, it didn’t go exactly as I had envisioned some 365 days ago. For the most part, however, it was a pretty amazing year overall.

Writing-wise, it is the first year that I did not release a full-length novel. That doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten a lot done. So let’s review:

I did release the second book of the Timeless novella series – Secrets of the Sphinx – along with two other novellas in the Divine Trolls Series (which is now the completed Divine Trolls Trilogy because the final book no longer needs to be written. Sorry guys, you’ll just have to wonder what would have happened in Scalzi’s Inferno had I written it.) The Fall of the House of 770 Vile Aromas and The Corvo.

Short stories was where I was the most active in 2019. I had five new stories published in five anthologies and one that had been previously published before being reprinted in an amazing collection I am quite proud to have been a part of.

The Fall of Denver was my second serious foray into the horror genre (A Zombie Christmas Carol was was more a goofy bit of satire) and was included inDaniel Humphrey’s Places Beyond The Wild – Z-Day Anthology.

I traveled back into the realms of Sherlock Holmes in 2019, first with Nevermore, or The Mystery of the Albino Raven in Belanger Books’ Sherlock Holmes Adventures in the Realms of Edgar Allan Poe.  My story, The Woman Returns, which originally ran in Belanger Books’ Holmes Away From Home, Vol. 2 anthology well over a year ago, was included in The Art of Sherlock Holmes, USA Edition 1 by MX Publishing in London. It ran with an incredible piece of art inspired by the story. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that hanging in an art gallery in South Florida is a very large painting that otherwise would not have existed if I hadn’t written that story.

I had two stories run in the Planetary Anthology Series started by Superversive Press and now being produced by Tuscany Bay Books. Icarus Falls ran in Planetary Jupiter, the last of the original five anthologies published by Superversive. Yes, Neil D. Tyson, Pluto is a Planet ran in Planetary: Pluto, the first anthology published by Tuscany Bay earlier this month.

I also started a new weekly feature here on this website, the1K Weekly Serial series. So far, four full stories have run. Three were short stories I’d written long ago. The fourth, Spinster’s Manor, had been written for and accepted by an anthology but the Kickstarter campaign for it failed and was never published. I decided to share it for free, as the entire 1K Weekly Serial series is. Last Saturday began the next serial, a five-part horror story, The Monster In The Second Reel. This story had been written for and submitted to an anthology, but narrowly missed out on being included. But, fortunately for you, it will now be available for free here.

I also began a podcast, A Scribe’s Journey, and got 41 episodes in the books last year. The last episode was the perfect way to close out the year as my guest was Angelique L’Amour, the daughter of western writing legend, Louis L’Amour.

So, looking back, it was a full year of work along with a lot of other personal highlights – including having my eldest grandson out for a month during the summer before taking a fun road trip through the northern plains and the northwest before taking him back home.

It’s also been an incredible decade for me. It started with me in Colorado Springs, Colorado writing about sports, saw me end my sports writing career at the San Francisco Examiner in 2011 before ending my newspaper career overall in Southern California in 2013.

The decade saw me return to fiction writing full-time and I have written and released seven full-length novels, two non-fiction books and several short stories published in anthologies. I am half of an up and coming publishing company, Tuscany Bay Books, I was a co-host for a weekly radio show with over 700,000 listeners and I have been on more radio and podcasts as a guest than I can honestly recall.

More importantly, I have an incredible family that I wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world.

So, as this year and this decade draw to a close, I look back with nothing but pride and gratitude on what has been. I look ahead to this pending new year and new decade with a lot more hope and optimism than I had in the final hours of 2009 and the first decade of the 21st Century.

I hope your year and your decade brought much happiness and success. I hope this new year and new decade brings you much more of the same.

1K Weekly Serial: The Monster In The Second Reel, Chapter One

THE MONSTER IN THE SECOND REEL

By Richard Paolinelli

© 2019 RICHARD PAOLINELLI . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO COPYING OR ANY OTHER REPRODUCTION OF THIS STORY IS PERMITTED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

 

ONE

 

The first snowflakes of the season gently drifted down through the darkening sky and settled on the asphalt. Those few that landed on the brand new 1956 Packard Clipper were quickly melted by the warmth of the car’s black exterior. It would be a few more hours yet before the snowfall became heavy enough to make traveling along Highway 10 difficult.

Martin peered anxiously out the windshield. Had it been a mistake to not stop in Jamestown after all? Would he find a theater that he so desperately needed in Steele, the small town just two miles ahead according to the road sign he’d just passed? Or would he have to try for Bismarck and pray the snowfall would not worsen ahead?

He spared a glance over at the passenger seat. An old leather-bound book lay atop a grey metal canister holding two reels of movie film. Roughly twenty-five minutes in length combined, a typical movie would require five times as many reels, and yet whenever he showed these, the time seemed to fly by. Bizarrely, it also seemed to take an eternity to pass.

He could only hope this town ahead had a theater with a small enough crowd to satisfy his needs. The theater in Jamestown, a much larger city, was far too big and filled for the night’s premiere showing of Oklahoma. There would have been too many people inside for him to complete his task and escape unnoticed. If Steele could offer him what he needed, he could then move on to Bismarck, ditch this car that he’d taken in Chicago, and rest for a few days.

He doubted anyone had discovered the theft of the car, or noticed it was even missing yet.  He’d discovered the dealership’s owner alone, slumped over his desk, and dead from an apparent heart attack. Taking advantage of the situation, and the keys left in the ignition, he threw in his few belongings and left Chicago far behind. He’d use his respite studying the old book, another item he’d stolen long ago, in hopes of freeing his tormented soul from the living hell his life had become. If an answer did exist somewhere within, he was free. If not, he would acquire another mode of transportation and continue with what he’d been doing for the last two years: move on until he was forced to stop and feed the monster he’d inadvertently helped to create.

Driving past the quaint “Welcome to Steele, North Dakota” sign he spotted a gas station and a small café at the intersection of the highway and the main road that led into the small town. A half-mile after turning onto Main Street, beyond a few blocks of houses, he came upon the center of the town itself. He encountered the standard fare for a small Midwestern town: a barbershop, a drug store, the county courthouse and sheriff’s department, a bank and a couple of churches.

Beyond the bowling alley he found that which he’d sought: a small movie theater. Still open for the evening and showing a movie from three years before. He doubted many of the town’s few residents, the signed had claimed a population of less than five hundred, would be inside. There were only four cars parked outside near the theater. He pulled the Packard around the corner, drove up a block, and parked the car in front of the darkened office of the town’s weekly newspaper, The Steele Ozone.

Slipping the book into the large inner pocket of his coat, he picked up his hat, lifted up the film canister and stepped out of the car. The air, particularly cold and biting even for mid-October, passed through his garments as if they weren’t there. He drew his lapels tight against it after snugging his black hat firmly down upon his graying hair. Anyone might have mistaken him for a priest, if he’d been wearing a white collar with his all-black attire. He’d actually been one once, but that was a different lifetime and he was one no longer.

He made his way to the theater and paused a few feet from the ticket booth. The night’s second and final showing of Sudden Fear was currently underway. A small sigh of relief escaped his lips. Being a school night, the film was not likely to have any children in its audience. He only needed a handful of patrons to remain behind to watch a “special sneak preview” after the film concluded.

Stepping up to the window he greeted the young woman on duty inside.

“Good evening.” He removed his hat.

“You’re too late for the show, mister, it’s already an hour in at least. I can sell you a ticket for tomorrow, though?” she reached for the advance ticket vouchers.

“No, thank you, my child. I was hoping to speak with the manager if he’s available?”

“Oh, sure, just go on inside and turn right. His name is Mister Baxter. His office is right there.”

“Thank you,” he said as he turned away to go inside. The smell of popcorn filled his nostrils as he entered, triggering a grumbling reminder from his stomach that he hadn’t eaten in several hours. He ignored both. First, he would attend to the matter at hand and then he would eat. At the manager’s door, he knocked firmly upon the mahogany wood. After a moment, it swung open and a man of Martin’s age stepped out.

“Yes?” He spoke with the impatient air of someone unhappy at being interrupted. “May I help you?”

“I certainly hope you can, sir. My name is Martin and I represent a film company out west,” prior experience had taught him the implication of Hollywood’s involvement made things go much smoother. “I have here a half-hour of a film we’re currently working on. I’ve been going to theaters offering a sneak preview in return for the audience giving their opinions afterward.

“I’m willing to pay for the time of course,” he continued. “Perhaps after the current movie ends, we could ask those inside if they’d like to stay and participate?”

“Well.” The manager hesitated. “I suppose if you paid for the theater usage it would be alright. But I have to warn you, there can’t be more than a dozen people in their tonight. Everyone else went off to Bismarck or Jamestown to see Oklahoma or are at home with their kids. It’s a school night after all. I’m not sure how much help that will be to you.”

“Oh, that will be fine,” Martin replied, masking his relief.

 

NEXT WEEK: A Deadly Screening

 

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