A ‘Little Piece’ of War — the Battle of Getlin’s Corner (Vietnam) March 30-31, 1967

The photo is PANEL 17E of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I took it on July 4, 2016, while working with General Richard ‘Butch’ Neal on his memoir, WHAT NOW, LIEUTENANT? The angle of the photo and time of day made for a perfect shot to highlight a particular set of names; some of the men Butch served with who died (one a posthumous Medal of Honor recipient, *John Bobo) at the Battle of Getlin’s Corner, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, March 30-31, 1967 during Operation Prairie III. A day where uncommon valor was a common virtue.

*[I encourage you to read John Bobo’s MOH Citation.]

Butch received two Silver Star Medals in his two combat tours in Vietnam and went on to retire as a 4-star general and Assistant Commandant of the United States Marine Corps. I’ll share here a little about his book:

ABOUT THE BOOK (from the author)

The Italian poet, and novelist, Cesare Pavese wrote “We do not remember days, we remember moments,” and I agree. This book is a collection of moments—from events—that I assembled. You may wonder about the title. It seemed to fit when I began writing, but I was surprised by how often my story, and my life, circled back to that singular ‘What now, Lieutenant?’ moment.

Wars fought on a grand scale with global consequences are made up of countless smaller battles and events. For the men who fought, bled, and died in them they are not small—those little pieces of war—and the personal aftermath and their effect is beyond measure. One such battle pitted a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) battalion of 700+ men against the men of Company I, Third Battalion, Ninth Marines, Third Marine Division. Of the seven officers in the field at the beginning, only three walked out. I was one of them.

At 24 years old this was my first significant combat experience (and shockingly, what happened—what I was called upon to do—was something I had never imagined. What came afterward defined me for the rest of my life). The fighting lasted six hours and toward the end, we were almost out of ammunition. Those few hours changed forever the lives of the survivors, including me, and the next of kin of the men we lost.

That battle was the crucial event in my life; an ultimate What Now Lieutenant moment that taught me so much that came into play in other such moments in my future. True, they would not be as traumatic as what I experienced as a lieutenant, but they were moments that whether I was a lieutenant, major or general, each forced me to call upon my experience, knowledge, training, and common sense to respond appropriately. That phrase… that question with all it entails and how one responds when it’s asked of them… seemed to fit best as a title for what you’re reading now. Seeing that question in the eyes of the men on Hill 70 that day is how I learned a most valuable lesson about leadership long ago over the course of a bloody day in Vietnam.

Everything that happened to me before that day and afterward is now seen through that prism.

–Butch Neal


My connection with Vietnam War veterans:

My then-new brother-in-law, an Army veteran (1st Cavalry Division, Airmobile), came home from Vietnam in late 1972 but hardly spoke of it. He focused on the present and getting on with life.

In 1974, I was in Army JROTC; the war was already in years-long discussions among instructors (who had served in Vietnam in the early years of the war), family, and a few friends, a topic through the end in 1975. Then much head shaking afterward; questions, anger… and my mother’s relief (like many felt).

When I joined the Navy in 1978, one of my instructors was a special forces operator who served in Vietnam. I remember after workouts, seeing him come out of the showers, towel around his waist, scars on his torso front and back. One that ran diagonally across his stomach from below where the towel covered; a long, puckered, purple scar that wrapped up to his left rib cage and around. I thought, God, how in the Hell did he survive that? He never talked about it; if you brought it up and pushed, he’d fix you with a look you did not want. His stare would pierce you and stick four inches out your back.

I roomed with John from Paris, Texas, in my training school. John, an Army veteran, had been wounded in Vietnam and had three round scars, through-and-through, in his right thigh. He’d DEROS’d in 1972 and spent six years trying to be a civilian. He couldn’t and rejoined the military, but a different branch, the Navy.

Rex, a corporate regional director, who hired me after I got out of the Navy, had been a Marine whose tour in Vietnam in 1969-70 had left him with facial scars from shrapnel that were far worse than the character, Sergeant Barnes, portrayed by Tom Berenger in the movie, Platoon.

There are others I served with, met, and worked with and for… who also bore scars (inner and outer) from the war.

I came to know aspects of the war through what they said and didn’t say about their experiences.

So, the shadow of Vietnam loomed as a teenager and young adult. As a writer, I’ve ghostwritten two novels set in Vietnam from 1967-79, and in my business career, my company, Adducent, has worked with dozens of veterans, many of whom served in Vietnam. All have stories about how their military service, especially combat… changed them forever.

Creating Books…

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Our experience in book development and publishing includes more than 100 projects, spanning POD, Traditional, and Special Edition/Custom Publishing.

We’ve also worked with many self-published authors and provided services to other publishers for their titles.

It’s always a thrill to witness the transformation of ideas, experiences, and thoughts into stories and books. It’s incredible to hold a book you’ve had a part in creating.

Following is a great video on the manufacturing process.

How A Book Is Made

Interested in writing or publishing stories or a book(s) and need help?

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WINGS [Fiction]

One of my readers sent me a photo of a mist-shrouded forest, serene and ethereal. From her posts and comments, I knew a little bit about her. She was a single mom raising a child under challenging circumstances and sometimes struggled.She also loved fairies and had a wonderful sense of humor and appreciation for the beauty in our world (despite all she dealt with). When she sent me the picture, she asked: “Can you write me a story about this?” I did, and here’s the result.

EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY (tagline black)

Fánaí came upon her in the twilight mist. She was at the foot of a pile of large rocks that had sheared off the escarpment above. A gash ran from her forehead into the thick tangle of auburn hair. It had happened some time ago, maybe that morning, since it had clotted and dried despite the dampness of light rain.

He unslung his pack, quiver, and bow, and kneeled. The cold ground and the damp chill of the evening coming on with sundown settled into his joints. In the waning light, he saw the bruises on her face. Her torn clothing could hide others.

Fánaí stood and looked around. He had traveled far, and this was a strange country. Not so young but not so old, in his late 40s, no family left and tired of the sameness of his own land, he had followed a dream. To find a place where magic still lived and perhaps where he could heal. Fánaí had not expected to discover a young girl hurt and unconscious at the foot of a mountain.

Shaking his head, he stooped again to pick her up. A hardness, high, mid-back where he expected pliant skin made him fear broken bones hidden beneath. The girl opened her eyes and sat up as he got his arms under her. She coughed and stared at him, eyes wide. But their glinting umber lacked the wildness, the skittish confusion of pain; she seemed focused, not disoriented, as she asked: “What will you do to me?”

The girl shivered, cold and wet from the day’s rain, which had stopped. A chill mist blanketed the ground and thickened among the rocks. He took off his cloak and wrapped it around her shoulders. Curious but not asking about the trepidation he sensed behind her question, he said, “Well, the first thing is a fire to dry out and warm up.”

“You’re a man,” she said, part statement and question, “why are you helping me?”

“There’s what could be a cave where we can shelter from the weather.” His chin jutted to gesture beyond her shoulder at a shadowed area behind the rocks. Walking from her, he gathered sticks and slabs of bark from nearby trees, checking the underbrush farther back to find what was dry. “It’s not far,” he returned to where she sat on the ground. “Can you walk?”

“Why are you helping me? My people receive no kindness from men.”

She stood, and though young, was as tall as he. Looking closer at her, he realized what had felt strange about her back. He had heard stories of mythical creatures that lived here—the lands far to the east of his own—but never thought he would see, let alone meet one.

“Humans,” she locked eyes with him, “…men take advantage of us, especially lady fairies.” Her hand went to the long, slim blade sheathed at her hip. “I won’t let you hurt me.”

The gray sky grew darker, and the crowding clouds above threatened more rain. They now stood facing each other. She had cast off his cloak and, shaking with the chill, asked again: “Why are you helping me?”

The mantle at her feet was a gift from his wife. Given to him, knowing how he loved his walks even in autumn and winter. The wind’s icy bite made him shudder, but Fánaí ignored the desire to drape its warmth across his shoulders. “You need this,” he said, setting the armful of kindling on the ground, picking up and handing her the cloak as the rain fell. He grabbed his pack, slung it over a shoulder, and re-gathered the pieces of brush and tinder. “Bring my bow and arrows.”

Fánaí turned toward the rocks. Entering the hollow, he found it led enough into the mountain to be dry inside, away from the opening’s exposure to the wind-swept rain. He kicked a clear spot in the dirt at the back of the cave and dropped the load of kindling. More was needed if his back told him right. A hard freeze was coming with nightfall.

The girl still stood in the rain but wore the cloak. Passing her, he gathered larger pieces of wood from the copse of trees that began where the rocks and boulders ended. Four trips yielded enough for the night. With the fourth armload, he found her in the cave’s rear, sitting with her back against its stone terminus. Her knife was out and in the hand that rested on her lap. His pack near the kindling, bow, and quiver of arrows beside her.

Using flint and steel, he struck long runners of sparks into the tinder. They caught, and he nursed them with breath and handfuls of dried grass and twigs from an old, abandoned nest he’d found with the last load. As the fire took, gobbling the wood and wanting more, he sat and fed it bigger pieces. It warmed the cave and cast light in a growing circle until it reached the girl.

She used a cloth from the pouch carried at her side—soaked from rainwater—to wipe away the caked blood from her face and gingerly along the cut on her head. Her features, though pale and strained, were striking. The now clean lines of her face and cheekbones caught the light. His eyes went to the fire, and he said without turning to her, “I’m Fánaí, and I mean you no harm.” The fire crackled in the stillness, broken after a dozen heartbeats.

“I… I am Shayleigh….” the girl said.

 “Are you a princess?” Fánaí thought a girl as beautiful as she must be. “Running away from an evil prince?”

“No,” she replied with a half-laugh, half-cry. “I’m anything but.”

The tear that rolled down her cheek, dull, opaque, and without shine, unlike humans, dried instantly. “How did you end up here?” he asked, cocking a thumb toward outside where he had found her.

“I was headed to the Peak,” she gestured toward the cave ceiling, hesitated, then added, “where fairies learn to fly.”

The craggy rocks far above them, shrouded by the lower rim of the rain clouds, had appeared unclimbable to him. When he had raised her from the ground, he’d felt the two hand-sized humps on her back. The edges of a bone frame jutting beneath, not breaking the skin. His look moved from her face to between her shoulders, half-turned toward him.

“They’re late,” she said harshly and twisted away. But she realized that gave him a better view of where her wings should be and spun to face him. Her features—even angry or maybe because of it—had the fragile beauty of fine porcelain and gleamed in the light. Her eyes flashed at him, then the flicker faded. She looked so young, lost, and lonely.

“In my land, most have forgotten that fairies were…,” his eyes flicked to her shoulders again, “are real. Some believed that if they existed, it was long ago. She studied him, and he thought perhaps she sensed his regret—her eyes steadied on him—as he continued. “Why did you leave your people?” he asked, adding more fuel to the blaze.

“I was common, nothing—no one—special.” Shayleigh shifted closer to the fire, wrapping his cloak tighter around her. “I’m a year past the age when girl fairies should get their wings.” Her bitter tone grew sharper. “I met a boy before then who I thought would be my lifemate. And he thought the same of me. So he said….” She paused, taking a deep breath. “When my wings didn’t come, he acted ashamed of me… as if I had become ugly… unworthy.”

It all came out in a spurt—a stream dammed for too long, then released. More dull, gray tears pooled in her eyes, quenching the glow he’d seen earlier.

“He couldn’t accept me… as I am… and for what I was; what I was destined to become. Wingless.”

“And so you left,” he said, understanding in his own way how she felt.

“All he told me—his love for me—was a lie.” She looked up at him. “And I had no family. There was nothing there for me. Nothing there with him. No one for me, and I was so lonely.”

Fánaí closed his eyes, the weight of his past and how it had taken all his strength to bear it unforgotten, and opened them to find her watching him. “And without wings, you came here.” He leaned to hand her a cup of water poured from his canteen, noting her blade was now sheathed.

Shayleigh nodded. “But not for them… for me!” He studied her bruised face and hurt for her. “To fly… or fall.” She bowed her head and whispered, “I fell.”

He wondered at how tough she must be to not have been hurt badly. Not pitying her—that would pain her more than the cuts and abrasions—he said: “In my life….” Stretching his legs, he stood with a grunt and a crackling of joints and took a few steps. “I thought I was trapped between what had happened and what could never be.” He studied her from across the fire. The flame’s dance of light and shadow on the stone behind her as she sat with her head down. He turned his back to the fire and contemplated the darkness beyond. “The road is so much longer when we have no dreams to believe. And we have no destination… life has no purpose.” The steady sound of water running down the mountain filled his quiet pause. Wearing away more rock, he mused and continued. “It stayed that way until I decided one day to walk and not stop until I found what I sought.” Turning around, he returned to the fire to find her watching him.

“Have you found it?” she asked.

“Not yet.” He could hear the same yearning in his own voice.

“Why do you go on?”

“Because.” He smiled at her with the self-awareness that only comes from experience. “Because, Shayleigh, I deserve to find what I want.”

She stared into the fire, her eyes mirrored the light, and the silence stretched from moments to minutes.

Finding the loaf of hard bread in his pack, he broke it in half and handed one piece to her. “All I have to share; I’d planned to hunt tomorrow.” Taking it, she tore off smaller bits and ate.

Biting off chunks, Fánaí chewed his until finished, dusted his hands on his pants, and drank from his canteen. “Tell me about your kind… fairies… what do they enjoy? What do they love?” he asked.

At first, it didn’t look as if she would answer.

“We love to ride the wind… especially after rain, when the richness of the air and moisture gives our wings more bend and reach.”

Shayleigh straightened and squared her shoulders. Her eyes widened, seeing something not there as she continued.

“We fly highest and farthest then. That freedom… the feeling of wings drinking in the air, spreading on the wind to lift us is what we—I—long for.” Her eyes fixed on his. “To dance through the sky is why we exist. You can always tell when we’re happiest. When we fly, we cry with joy, and those tears trail behind us in a stream of colors.”

As she set her eyes on him for a long moment, he understood what she meant and had known a similar longing. She must have sensed that as she grew quiet again, a more thoughtful, less painful silence.

Fánaí nodded. “Sometimes, all we need is just one thing—one meaningful thing—to carry us, to help us get on.”

“On with what?” Shayleigh asked. Her head bobbed… chin to her chest.

“With life.” It had grown late, and he banked the fire, telling her, “Time for sleep; you need rest. Tomorrow is a new day.”

The girl slipped into a semi-doze, and Fánaí stepped around the fire, spread a blanket, and eased her onto it. Covering her, he brushed the strands of hair from her face. So young and beautiful, he thought, just like my daughter if she had lived.

* * *

Fánaí awoke to realize dawn had passed, and it was near midmorning. The days and miles behind him had worn him down. The fire had burned to embers, and as he sat up, he realized his cloak now covered him. Standing with a groan, he looked to where she had slept. Shayleigh was gone.

Outside, he stood near where he had found her and then slowly turned, his breath a wreath around him in the freezing air. The sky had cleared, and as his eyes searched the rocks above, a bright rainbow arched overhead. The largest he had ever seen, so high and extending so far, he couldn’t see its end. The sweep of wings and laughter carried to him on the wind. A message that Shayleigh would live and, somehow, somewhere… find happiness.

Fánaí smiled at the magic and realized he had found part of what he had searched for. Meaning and purpose, where his choices and actions made a difference, not only in his life but in someone else’s too. The past could not be left behind—he could never recover who and what he’d lost—but his step would be lighter as he continued his journey.

# # #

NOTE FROM DENNIS

Having just read this story, I think you’ll understand its context and message, but I want to touch on it here.

In our lives, we all go through adversity. Good things we expect to happen. Don’t. People who present as believable and appear honest in their words and intentions. Then prove they are not. Someone we love is lost… and it devastates us. We cry over what’s happened (or not happened) because we’re hurt, sad, or bereft.

But—in life—at other times, bad things we’ve worried over never materialize. Someone we don’t trust based on appearances or our superficial judgment proves us wrong. They speak the truth and stand by us when we have no reason to expect them to do so. They earn our trust by their actions. And sometimes, when something beautiful happens, we cry because we’re happy… the most profound thing that touches our soul’s wellspring.

One of the most important things to realize is that hard times and sadness are transitory (though they may not appear so at the time). Moving beyond them, changing bad into good only happens if we have faith in ourselves and believe that if what we want is worth it, then doing what may be hard… is what we must do.

And this is perhaps the most important thing to learn: We must try… must take that first step. Then another. And another. Though we may get lost along the way. Though we may make many attempts and still fail.

Understand that perseverance—self-determination—more than anything, gets us (you) through tough times and tragedy. Even when we (you) feel no one loves us (you) because of who we (you) are… or sometimes… who we (you) are not. How others think of us (you) and how they treat us (you)… is external.

 That’s right, I’m making it (the ‘you’) personal. Because that’s what life is. It’s personal. Once you realize what’s inside you controls your life, you can decide and act (I hope) to make good things happen. Sadness turns to joy. Doubt turns to confidence and earned trust. And you can fly… leaving a rainbow behind you for those around you to see, just like Shayleigh.

COVER REVEAL | Two Upcoming Nonfiction Titles

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COMING SPRING 2024

AUTHOR | McKenna Foel

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In collaboration with Adducent…

McKenna Foel - THE LIST OF NEVERs Book One in The Mispers Series

McKenna Foel is a widow who began writing while mourning the death of her husband and daughter. Within a year of that tragic event, she left her 15-year position as a Targeting Analyst/Officer in the Intelligence Community to devote full time to writing.

She uses her middle name, McKenna, from her Scots and Welsh heritage, derived from the Gaelic name Cináed, meaning, ‘born of fire.’ And like the legend of the Phoenix, she rose from the ashes of a tragedy to establish a career as a ghostwriter for several bestselling books. That success has led to her writing her own stories under an ancestral surname, ‘Foel,’ and to her upcoming THE LIST OF NEVERs, Book One in the developing series, The Mispers.

Want to receive news and updates on McKenna’s writing? Let us know and we’ll add you to our list of interested readers.

Coming Summer 2024 (an entrée to the Quondam Series Stories)

MEMORIES OF THEN by Dennis Lowery and McKenna Foel

KALI’S TRAVELS [Children’s Book]

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One of the books in our Military Family Series

From the Author:

In Kali’s Travels, I aim to help parents and guardians understand how scary it is for a little child to see their world packed up in boxes and their life uprooted. I hope these words will help explain to your little boy or girl what happens when we, as adults, are asked to move our families. This book shows them it is okay to be scared to move away from our homes and friends and that there will always be more exciting adventures in the next place filled with new friends, new places, and new memories to be made.

–Marlene Norgard

AVAILABLE NOW

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DADDY’S DEPLOYING [Children’s Book]

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One of the books in our Military Family Series

From the Author:

This book began as a poem I wrote while my husband was deployed through his first child’s first year. He struggled as he missed his son’s first words, first foods, first steps, and first birthday. While only seeing his son’s little world through photographs, he emotionally grappled to connect with him and become a father figure. In what I wrote, I hoped to capture all of the sentiments associated with military families—parents and children—when facing a deployment. Nothing can give them that time back with their children, and nothing makes up for that initial absence of connection between deployed parent and their children, especially a first child. In this book, I highlight the similarities of their current geographical worlds and draw father and son closer by showing they are both looking at the same moon, stars, and sun. It helped my son connect with his daddy, knowing when he looked up in the sky at the same time his daddy was too. They could share a moment together, and my son and I could feel less alone.

—Marlene Norgard

AVAILABLE NOW

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TRUE ACCOUNTS…

This project—mentioned in the screen-captured client comment above—has aspects of a ‘true account business crime’ story. Brought to me by the author—a high-profile/highly educated (at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities) former senior executive who served in two presidential administrations—under a confidentiality agreement as a rewriting, redevelopment, and writing improvement project for delivery to their publisher.

I’m prohibited from sharing further details, but it’s a ‘how it happened’ story and cautionary tale of the ruin of a highly decorated combat veteran and a General Officer’s post-military career. He served our country for 30+ years. It should not have happened to him and could have been prevented.

Good writers draw from their experiences to create stories that reach people and make an impact. This project is one in which my 17-year business career—including years of M&A consulting with attorneys, investment bankers, and private equity funds—helped (along with my 13 years of full-time writing and publishing) give the writing authenticity. And readers want authenticity in a story (fiction or creative nonfiction). The compelling writing of events and circumstances and the crafting of characters they can relate to as their journey unfolds. Readers begin to ‘feel’ what the characters are going through. Stories that engage readers at that level often leave a lasting impression.

Need help writing, rewriting, or improving your story? Contact us.

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The Siren’s Sonata | Draft Opening–Crime–Scene [Fiction]

An excerpted draft scene from one of the branching stories in our Quondam Series (in development)

The homicide detective studied the woman. A fall of dark lavender-tinted hair covered the right forearm from elbow to hand. From elbow to shoulder, a bouquet of tattooed skulls grew from stems. Nice work, she thought. From what she could see, the rest of the body was untenanted… only the arm with its inert ink. Unlike the skin-rider she carried that twitched and spread tendrils. She tugged down the long sleeves that had crept past her wrists. Emotions stirred it, so she took three deep, steady breaths, and it withdrew further under the fabric.

“She was beautiful.” The medical examiner commented and half-turned toward her.

“Yeah, Bishop, too bad she’s dead.”

“You okay?”

She saw his eyes on the Java Joe’s cup in her hand. It trembled, and she willed herself to make it stop. And her tone had been too cold, even for someone with her reputation. That too she needed to rein in, but at risk. She tugged her sleeves down again and knelt beside the body. “Pictures taken?” The first crime-scene rule she’d learned was to touch nothing until the photographer had done their work and documented everything and its position relative to the body.

Squatting next to her, Bishop nodded. “Done.”

The dead woman’s head rested on sheet music and a keyboard. Someone had arranged her long hair and swept it back from her face. The flower over her left ear… maybe was already there. The open eyes were sea green. When she was alive, they had depth and probably changed shade with shifting sunlight. Now, they were shallows, as still as shoal water over coastal muck. Her face… smooth, unlined. Not a hint of a life lived badly… but one that seemed hardly lived at all. She wanted to sin, but she was too shy.

“What?” The medical examiner asked, puzzled.

The detective nodded at the woman on the floor. “It’s a line from a song…” She brushed a lock of her hair away from her face and rose from the body. “‘Changing Lights’ by Broken Bells. Well, you want to walk in white, you wanna sin, but you’re too shy… so the candle just keeps burning down on you….” she sang softly and rose from the body. You look innocent, the detective thought, staring down at the woman, lying there… blameless… but many dead bodies do.

“I don’t know if this is about sin, Poe… not yet anyway.” The M.E. stood, but not as smoothly as the detective. Two decades older, with stiff knees. Bishop knew not to call her Penelope, and God save my ass if I slip and call her ‘Bad Penny,’ he thought. Everyone, both in the department and on the street, had learned not to use that old epithet around her. To them—to her face—Penelope Olivia Edgar was ‘Poe.’ He had worked with her for two years since she made detective and still didn’t have a clue what went on inside her head. He’d known many cops over the years, but none like her. But she got results in her heavy-handed, ‘don’t suffer fools gladly’ way.

Poe nudged, with the pointed toe of her boot, the bulky pistol next to the body’s left hand. “Revolver.” She squatted again, rocked forward on her knees, palms flat, lowered her head, and sniffed like a bloodhound on the scent. “Fired recently.” Cocking her head and lowering it, she looked down the barrel. Fat, near the size of her thumb, dull gray lead-tipped bullets filled all but one opening in the cylinder. “One round gone….”

“Not in her, though.”

“No blood, no wound….” Poe glanced at Bishop.

“Nope.” The M.E. nodded.

She studied the scene, a mostly monochrome tableau. White and black keys. Black notes on white paper. Black ink on aged-ivory skin. For color, a flower in the woman’s lavender hair, nail polish, red marks on the sheet music, and a blotch of spilled wine spread like blood at her side. “Any identification?” Poe asked, her eyes going back to the body.

“Not a stitch of clothing around and nothing on her.” The medical examiner’s eyes panned the room. “Nothing in the rest of the apartment… the uniforms checked and Newman double-checked.”

So only the tatts, a couple of piercings,” Poe pointed at the body’s left ear and nose, “a bracelet and ring.”

“Not much,” the M.E. stretched and stifled a yawn with his hand. “Well, I’m done here. I’ll let you know what I find out.”

“Bishop, what are you doing here anyway… this is Assistant M.E. hours? Where’s Lohfless?”

“Vacation; she’s back next week.” He gave the body a last glance as he left.

Poe waved over an officer, two new chevrons on his uniform sleeve, standing off to the side. “Newman, you the first on the scene?”

“Yes, Sir.”

 “Don’t give me that department protocol single-sex-uni-gender crap. Call me detective, Poe or ma’am… there’s nothing dangling tween my legs.” She walked to the balcony, pulled the drapes, and stepped out to a striking nightscape of the city’s arc, the areas that never slept freckled with lights. The moon’s reflection, a shimmering ghost on the bay water below. “Whose apartment is this?” She called back to the corporal, who joined her.

Newman didn’t check the notebook in his hand. “Had to do some digging….” The corporal’s eyes shifted back inside toward the apartment’s entry. “Shit,” he mumbled.

Poe’s eyes turned from watching the moon on the water at his muttered curse. “What?”

“The Chief just came in….”

Poe stepped from the balcony and back into the sitting room. “What’s he doing here… outside his ‘impressive’ office?”

Newman rubbed his bristly chin. “Turns out this is the governor’s sister’s apartment.”

“Shit….” The skin-crawl shivered up her back, crept over her shoulders, and then down her arms. Poe slowed her breathing, pulled at her sleeves, and followed the corporal inside. Sing-whispering to herself: “Sometimes you wonder if it’s all another mistake. Why not just walk away. Measure the cost, what’d you gain… what have you lost. The candle’s burning down on me….”

* * *

More to come…

NOIR-INFUSED MAGIC-REALISM by Envision and from Dennis Lowery

One Night in Barcelona [Creative Nonfiction]

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“It deserved more than just to remain as a passing–pleasing–memory of one night in Barcelona. It needed to be shown as a feeling… an experience.” —Dennis Lowery

One Night in Barcelona - A Creative Nonfiction Vignette from Dennis Lowery

I had met her with a group of other ladies near the Font Màgica de Montjuïc, celebrating a night off on a beautiful fall evening. They took turns posing for photos in front of the lighted waters jetting into the twilight sky as the globes of lampposts flickered like fireflies. The camera owner seemed younger than the others—early 20s, my age—more petite, not as full-fleshed. I offered to take a picture of them in front of the fountain. And that led to a conversation—my bad Spanish, their better English—and then an invitation to join them as they returned to their apartments for a party.

Marisol—the girl with the camera—was silent alongside me most of the thirty-minute walk and remained quiet as we entered the apartment complex and their party began. As we drank in the sitting area of their common room, her eyes were on me as much, or more, as mine were on her. Evening aged into night, and we found ourselves closer to each other. Two objects governed by a subtle sexual gravity and pulled into orbit. A certainty just as sure as the autumn moon—seen through the windows—circled our world.

She had a bottle of champagne in one hand as she rose from the black leather settee and beckoned with the other. I took it. Marisol’s grip was silk-soft yet firm. As I stood, she rubbed her thumb across the corded tendons prominent on the back of my hand and forearm. “Strong… yes?” she asked, releasing my hand to run hers across my shoulder and right arm. She stroked my hand again and lightly held it. A little tug toward the hallway. Gravity. I let it… and her… lead the way.

Though it also brought a chill into her room, the breeze through the window carried delicate night music. The whispering of fountains and a susurration of the evening street noises of Barcelona, with a full moon rising over the northern end of Las Ramblas… announcing the beginning of the weekend.

My senses heightened; the sound of the unsnapping was distinct. I turned from the window to sit next to her and watched long-nailed fingers work down the front of her shirt to reveal the inside arc of high-set, unexpectedly full breasts in black lace. A chiaroscuro effect from the lamp beside us, the room’s only light. As I watched, her flesh prickled… a stiffening tented the fabric as the curtains billowed next to the chaise lounge where we sat. The October winds.

I made a dry-throat swallow, the kind you make when anticipation has lined it with dust. I reached for the champagne. With gestures, Marisol asked me to remove the foil from the neck of the bottle before I opened it. “It’s rough on my tongue,” Marisol explained in broken English and Spanish I didn’t quite follow. I got the meaning, though I didn’t understand her comment.

She sat there—blouse open down to her smooth stomach—for a moment studying me, then took it off, letting the shirt slip from her hand to the floor as she lay back. Her fingers caressed the satin flesh above her jeans—for a heartbeat or two that seemed minutes long—then unbuttoned them to tug down the zipper. Aroused, my eyes explored the shadow within her undone—flared-open—pants. The center of the pull I’d felt growing all evening.

Marisol picked up her camera, toying with the settings as I fumbled with the bottle and, after a second’s difficulty, peeled the foil from it. I offered it to her, and she made a pulling gesture that became a stroking motion as her smile broadened, flashing bright, framed by scarlet lipstick.

As I worked the cork, she set her camera aside. With the gush of foamy white liquid, she hurriedly leaned forward to take it in. The quick burst swallowed; she slowly licked the neck of the bottle, lingering at the tip. And I understood her remark from a moment before. Her eyes never left mine, and laughing, she offered the bottle. She unhooked her bra, and I watched the silk slow-slide from her breasts to reveal dark tips responding to the chill. It went the way of her blouse. Marisol made a pouring gesture over her stomach, then tugged pants and panties off and reclined. I did as she asked. As I drank from her, the soft laughter turned to louder sighs that mixed with the sough of the night wind.

One Night in Barcelona

Later, sated, we moved to the balcony where wrapped in a blanket, I held her. We watched the moon fall from the sky while the statues danced near the fountains below. Soon she slept, and I listened to her and the breathing of one of the loveliest cities in the world.

I didn’t sleep during that perfect moment… on a perfect night, I didn’t want to end.