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Friday, April 27, 2012

Deadman's Blood - Blood Series Book 5

Deadman's Blood - Blood Series Book 5
by T. Lynne Tolles
As the dust settles from the destruction of the Bloodstone Heart, a small scroll that had been hidden in the hearth of the altar room for hundreds of years, reveals a prophecy that seems to be about the Larsen family.
It was late and the house was quiet when Dominic sat at his desk in the library. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a small key and unlocked the side drawer. He pulled out an object wrapped in a blue silk handkerchief and set it in front of him. Like a little boy at Christmas, Dominic’s eyes were like saucers as he slowly unwrapped the item.
As if picking up a piece of delicate glass, he held the object in front of him. Elbows on the desk and palms up, he held the item as if he were offering it to some ancient god. He marveled at the workmanship of the carvings. It appeared to be made of wood of some sort that did not irritate his vampire hands.
Vampires are allergic to wood, some types of wood more than others. That is why if stabbed with a stake, a vampire would be rendered immobile. A stake in the heart would be one of the few things that could kill a vampire. Some types of wood, however, can be tolerated if they have been treated with a coating of special. If needed, such treated wood could even be worn as a talisman, but this wood he held now did not seem to be treated with such a concoction.
The item was cylindrical in shape, but fluted at each end. With tendrils of what looked like ivy and four distinct animals, it was intricately hand-carved. The first animal was a lion, reared up on his back legs and front paws thrust forward as if holding himself against an invisible wall. The second was a large bird, maybe an eagle, wings widely extended and claws ready, looking like he was about to grab some unsuspecting prey. The third was a large bear in a leisurely stance on all fours, presumably a Grizzly or Kodiak. The fourth was a wolf standing relaxed, his piercing eyes full of wisdom beyond his years. All four animals wore crowns, all of them different, but beautifully noble.
What is this? Dominic thought to himself. He had studied the item every chance he could since his return from the old crone’s altar room far below the castle on Heart Island. This was where he had found the item when the Bloodstone Heart was destroyed along with Dimitri.
Dominic was a professor of science but he was fascinated by artifacts relating to his vampiric lineage along with any other supernatural artifacts. He had become known as the ‘go to’ man for most ancient relics supernatural or not.
It had been almost a week since their ordeal with Dimitri and his small army of vampires. Dimitri was rebuilding the Order of the Black Orchids and the power that came with it from the Bloodstone Heart. Dimitri had kidnapped and nearly killed a sweet young woman with psychometry abilities, named Melanie, in order to get Josh to bring him the Bloodstone Heart he had accidentally found in an alley.
Hmmmm. Josh...Now there’s something I should be dealing with right now instead of staring at this artifact and wondering what it is, Dominic thought to himself.
Josh Brenner, a powerful telepathic, had meandered his way through the lives and hearts of Dominic’s family in recent weeks.
Through a series of mishaps and conversations, Dominic suspected that Josh might be his son. Though Dominic was not proud to have stolen a few pieces of hair from the sink in Josh’s bathroom a few weeks before, the DNA results had come back indicating his suspicions were right.
Dominic was meeting with Anton, his vampire son, in the morning to tell him of his findings. Once that was done and depending on how Anton took the news, he would then find the courage to explain things to Josh, though he was not looking forward to it. Aside from his telepathic abilities, Josh seemed to show no sign of his vampiric blue blood lineage, but as Dominic had explained to his nephew, Devon, several weeks ago, sometimes the genes mutate. Some children are born to werewolves that never go through the change, but other talents are accentuated instead, such as telepathy, heightened sensitivity to smell, or night vision. It’s the same with born vampires, especially if a human parent is involved such as Josh’s mother, Katerina Jannson.
Dominic’s blue blood family extended back as far as the ‘Ancient Ones’ who were thought to be the first vampires and were still considered royalty to the very old vampires and other supernatural beings. The Larsens kept their blood untainted through the centuries until Dominic’s sister, Abigail (Abby) Larsen, defied Dominic and the rest of the family, fell in love, and married Nathaniel Bloomington. Dominic’s nephews, Devon and Blake, were the results of that union. But Abby and Nathaniel were killed when Devon and Blake were young vampire boys, and it was then that Dominic felt he had begrudged his sister and her brave and loyal husband.
For so many years, Dominic had ridiculed and fought with his sister and her husband about how she had tainted the family’s blood with outsiders; it seemed trivial and shameful now. He was as proud of Abby’s boys as he was of his own son, Anton. And now, with Josh in the picture and all the friends and significant others of the boys, the family was bigger and happier than it had been in years.
Josh and Anton had become close over the previous weeks and Dominic hoped that with this new bit of news, the relationship would only become stronger. Blake felt a strong sense of responsibility towards Josh and Melanie (Lanie) since their stay in California with him and Rowan. Though Blake was a vampire and much older than Josh, in human years, they were much the same age, as vampires age approximately one year for every four human years.
Dominic chuckled to himself as he wrapped the cylindrical artifact up in the handkerchief and locked it safely in the drawer again. Abby would be ribbing me something awful about befriending werewolves, let alone letting them stay in the house. Had only several months gone by since Dominic was horrified by the thought of his family consorting with werewolves? So much had changed. He had to admit he liked Dean Wolfe very much...and Blakes’s girlfriend, Rowan, who was also a werewolf.
Dominic had a soft spot in his heart for her. Besides, it wasn’t her fault she had been turned to a werewolf some months ago, but Dominic felt even if she had been born one, he would have warmed up to her eventually, as she had such a good heart. Her sister, Darby, was now engaged to his nephew, Devon, and could do no wrong in Dominic’s eyes. To him, she was pure sunshine and sweetness, and he knew his sister, Abby, would have loved having her as a daughter-in-law if she were still alive. Darby too, was gifted. She and her sister were ancestral witches, but were never taught or nurtured in that fashion. Now that Darby knew more and had fallen into a friendship with another ancestral witch, Sally Keaton, who had been trained by her family in the art of witchcraft, it was possible that Darby would find powers she never knew she had.
A big smile settled on Dominic’s face as he thought on all these loved ones, presently sleeping under his roof in the quiet old house. With palms down, he patted the leather blotter on his desk, stood, and turned off the desk lamp. Tomorrow I will talk to Anton and then, hopefully, Josh. Like Devon suggested, I shouldn’t let too much time pass - Josh’s acceptance into the family is the first priority, then I’ll show them the artifact. Feeling content with his plan, he headed to bed.

Plant Teacher

Plant Teacher
by Caroline Alethia
Chapter 1 It is a little-known fact that LSD can be injected intravenously. In 1972, a hippie in Oakland, California, flushed a full syringe of lysergic acid diethylamide down the toilet in anticipation of a police raid. Surprisingly, rather than clogging up the building plumbing, the small syringe found its way into the city’s combined sewer system. In dry weather, our story may have ended there, but the unseasonable torrents of rain that week mingled the sanitary sewage with the stormwater runoff and created an overflow of noxious liquids, which was shunted through an outfall pipe leading into the bay.
Embarking on an adventure that an inanimate object could not fully appreciate, the little syringe hit the Pacific Ocean, caught a westward-moving current, and eventually found itself more than three-thousand miles away from its birthplace in Linden, New Jersey—circling the outer edges of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the world’s largest collection of plastic refuse. A constantly circulating trash vortex beginning five-hundred miles off of the California coast, the garbage patch covers roughly twice the area of the continental United States and swirls across the northern Pacific past Japan and as far south as Hawaii. It continuously draws into its event horizon the plastic bags, bottles, tampon applicators, ballpoint pens, lens caps, yoghurt containers, CD jewel cases, and other nonbiodegradable refuse of the Pacific Rim nations.
In 2002, the syringe, which had made one and one-half tours of the giant vortex and now hovered on its southeast edge, was snapped up by a young Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides), which mistook it for a squid. The toothfish and its school meandered east to the coast of Chile before they were netted by a group of pirate sea bass fishermen who sailed with their catch back to Tocopilla, unloaded the illegal harvest onto ice trucks in the wee hours of the morning, and, after three weeks at sea, hurried back to their homes to shower and to make love with their wives.
On that same spring morning in September, Pilar “Queca” Ortega de Feliz, the housekeeper for the Torres family, purchased tomatoes, potatoes, onions, three heads of garlic, a half kilo of mussels, a string of dried guajillo chili peppers, and a small merluza negra (as the toothfish, or sea bass, was called in Tocopilla). She stuffed her purchases into an enormous straw shopping basket and trudged back to the Torres house to make a delicious seafood soup. When slitting open the merluza negra, Queca saw the syringe and, disgusted, threw the entire fish in the garbage.
That night, the local neighborhood cats found a feast worth fighting for. A vicious feline brawl broke out in the back alley of the wealthy neighborhood, a resident threw a shoe, and a lucky tomcat snatched an entire fish and high-tailed it into his secret den, the canvas-covered bed of a 1987 four-wheel-drive pickup truck. Imagine the cat’s surprise when he awoke the next morning from a sated sleep to find the truck in motion. He cowered over his fish and, with a cat’s limited sense of time, had no idea how long he had spent on his voyage.
Rico Herrera, on the other hand, who was manning the truck, knew exactly how long the trip lasted. It was a fourteen-hour journey from Tocopilla, and, every September before the Fiestas Patrias, Rico took off a week from his successful gardening business to drive up to the coastal town at Lake Titicaca where his Aymara mother, blanco father, and extended family of five siblings, sixteen aunts and uncles, and countless nieces, nephews and cousins still lived.
By the time he reached Puno and pulled his truck to a stop, Rico’s lower back was aching. So, although normally an animal lover, he was in no mood when, drawing back the canvas splayed over his truck bed, he saw a flea-ridden cat with half a rotten fish cowering in the cardboard box that held the beautiful hand-loomed woolen blanket that he had purchased in Santiago last month for his mother.
“Puto gato!” Rico yelled. The cat leaped immediately out of the pickup truck, touched ground in Peru, and dashed off to make a life for itself in its new country. Rico grabbed the half-eaten fish and hurled it fifteen feet where it landed, with a splash, in the waters of Lake Titicaca. Mrs. Herrera washed the blanket several times, but it lost some color and never smelled completely fresh again.
Point of information: Homoeopaths say that you can cure a disease with a nip of the dog that bit you. Stimulate a symptom that mimics the symptoms of your disease, and the body’s immune system will, in turn, cure itself. Do you suffer from hemorrhoids or varicose veins? Horse chestnut causes swelling of the veins, and miniscule doses of horse chestnut-derived remedies can cure these unsightly or painful conditions. What about acne, carbuncles, and pustules? Treat these, a homeopath will tell you, with trace amounts of anthrax poison. A homeopathic remedy is the morning-after vaccine.
But, homoeopaths will also tell you something even stranger—something that extends beyond the meager realms of biochemistry and physiology into the magical arenas of New Age dogma and high-energy physics. The weaker the homeopathic solution, says the homoeopath, the stronger it is. A homoeopath preparing a remedy may begin with a small measure of, say, sulfur, intended to cure digestive disorders. This sulfur is then diluted in a vial of water and agitated vigorously. A mere drop from the diluted solution is retained in the vial, more water is added, more vigorous agitation. This process can continue until there is actually not a single atom of sulfur left in the water at all. All that remains is the essence of the sulfur—its unique vibration, its energy. It is this energy that makes the remedy strong.
Our syringe, flushed thirty years ago down a commode in Oakland, waits inside its rotting fish before being snapped up by a local cormorant. With its trace vestiges, diluted down to the millionth power, of LSD still clinging to its synthetic inner surface, it sails in the bird’s gullet across the border into Bolivia and continues only a few miles—but significant miles—into the neighboring watershed before the water fowl, sensing something not quite right, settles on a small shrub and disgorges the contents of its upper digestive track into the stream below. Finally breaking free of the rotting sea bass flesh, the syringe pours downhill through a series of rivers and streams winding their way across the Andes. It rides through desolate plains of mosses and rock, and it flows past isolated villages built of dry stone. It avoids the dipping snouts of drinking llamas, vicunas and alpacas, and the water buckets of highland campesinos.
Downhill, down, obeying the pull of gravity it goes, over a cascade and into regions where the waters grow steadily warmer, where lush vegetation—giant fronds, colored flowers, and fruits—lines the banks. It reaches the base of the mountains, flows into a marsh, and, as suddenly as it began its journey three decades ago, it stops. It stops in a marsh in Los Yungas, Bolivia, the geographical transition between the towering spinal cord of the Andes and the sprawling lowlands of Amazonia. It works its way deeper into the mud. The little plastic vial fills with rich dark silt. Its journey, apparently, has ended. Its physical existence has become stasis. With years still remaining until it decomposes, it simply rests.
In the marsh, reeds spring up, butterflies and dragonflies appear and disappear in their seasons, blossoms burst open on the trees and from the fertile earth below, and birds and monkeys gather on the banks to drink. Fat salamanders and vibrant poisonous frogs paddle through the stagnant water. One juvenile caiman, a cousin of alligators and crocodiles, patrols her small domain—snatching fish, frogs and turtles when she can. Rarely does the marsh see a human being.
Chapter 2
Graduation from Brown was the best day of his life. Not summa cum laude. Not magna cum laude. Just cum laude, but acceptable. Good enough to grab a degree and get out. Good enough for his father, despite family protests, to turn off his oxygen that evening and light a cigar. “My youngest child out of school, it’s something to celebrate,” he rasped, before promptly dying—not of the emphysema, but of a brain aneurism, something entirely unrelated and entirely unexpected.
Scratch that. Graduation from Brown was the best day of his life until 8:49 that evening when his father, Raul Banzer, whom he had admired, loved, and deeply adored, but largely from a distance, was announced dead on arrival at Providence Hospital. “It’s this damn little provincial town,” wailed his mother, who thought anywhere but New York and Paris were petty bourgeoisie pretenders to real cities. “At Bellevue they would have helped him.”
Martin, who was still burping portabella steak in brown sauce after the turbulent departure from the restaurant, could hardly make eye contact with her. This evening, and for many months to come, it would be all about her.
Siblings crowded around the matriarch, offering comforting hugs, pats and coos. Rubies, emeralds, gold and purple amethyst sparkled on fingers, wrists, earlobes. His half-sister, Frances, slipped a perfectly tanned arm around the stately woman and gently hugged. “Mamita, mamita, we’ll be okay. He was happy today, mamita, we’ll be okay.” Frances spoke with perfect native Spanish, which Martin deeply resented.
He saw the weeks ahead unfolding unavoidably before him. Funeral arrangements. White oleanders. Cremation, but a traditional mass and a funeral plot at St. Luke’s. Lawyers. Papers. One half-brother, two brothers, four half-sisters, two ex-wives. Plenty to sort out, and the Banzer family machinery would chug forward making it all happen. Politely, efficiently. There would be nothing to dispute, nothing to contest. Every i would be dotted. Every t crossed. Every loophole tightly closed.
A hand slipped into his. His oldest half-sister, Karen. She squeezed him while they watched nurses, doctors, and orderlies filing by. Blue scrubs, pink scrubs, cheerful yellow walls designed to evoke warm and hopeful feelings. But no amount of color could disguise the antiseptic smells and the pervading atmosphere of sickness and death. “What am I going to do?” his mother was crying. “What now? What now?”
Martin knew what he was going to do. He was going to La Paz.
It took him two months before he could get on that flight. Papers signed, bank accounts established, and a well worn passport in hand, he walked up the narrow gangway. It was a small plane, and crowded. The highest altitude capital in the world, La Paz, with its thin air, could only accommodate small planes. This, the pilot explained midway through the trip when he checked in to chat with the passengers. His accent was heavy and barely understandable.
Martin sat in the emergency exit row with extra leg room. To his left and to his right, missionaries in bright blue T-shirts, which said “First Baptist Helping Hands,” crowded him. The man to his right explained that they were building a church in Beni. Martin nodded politely. He could tolerate the ones who brought schools and hospitals; he didn’t feel so enthusiastic about a church. When they passed through a storm and the plane started bucking wildly, the man to his left smiled and patted the cross that hung from his neck. “No worries,” he said. “We travel with a little extra insurance.”
At the airport, the customs officer read Martin’s passport and eyed him curiously. Yes, his last name was Banzer. Like the former general, dictator, and president. His father’s second cousin. Martin had never met the man. In fact, he had never been to Bolivia before.
He didn’t notice the thin air until he reached the baggage claim. Hoisting his backpack from the conveyor belt, he was suddenly out of breath. He crouched on the ground, gasping, and wondered if this was how his father had felt for so much of the last part of his life. Knees and hips and suitcases crowded around him. Then, they parted and someone arrived with an oxygen tank. Martin grabbed the mask gratefully. He was hoisted into a wheelchair and sped to a large room filled with cots. Each cot had an oxygen tank. An old man in a white coat with a Red Cross badge smiled and coaxed him to lie down. “Just rest,” he said in Spanish. “It happens often,” and he walked away. Martin curled up on his side and let the oxygen flow into his lungs, grateful for each little molecule. Exactly how his father must have felt; just not enough air. Since the room was empty, he allowed himself the liberty of crying. ____________
Their goodbye two days ago had been emotional, but not in the way she had hoped. She had expected something grand and heart-wrenching, punctuated with tender dabs of affection. Instead, it had been awkward, scrambling, deeply adolescent. Four years together and she’d never slept with him, and now the main feeling she carried with her was acute dread. The condom had broken. She’d picked up three home pregnancy tests at the drug store this morning. She’d have to wait until tomorrow morning in La Paz to use one. Please, for goodness sake, don’t let her be pregnant. Please.
Cheryl readjusted her pillow. The plane jolted again and her head jarred against the window. Outside, it was pitch black, and she could clearly see her reflection: fine features, high cheekbones, green eyes. She was giving up all hope of sleeping on this journey. She’d read the in-flight magazine cover to cover already, discovering that scrambled calf brains and bull’s penis soup were delicacies she could enjoy in La Paz if she was feeling adventuresome.
She hadn’t been able to complete the crossword puzzle because there were too many questions about Latin America. Ignorant little small-town girl. Four years at UVA and she could speak Spanish and Portuguese fluently, but this was the first time she’d left the country. In fact, she’d never left the East Coast before. Trips to Philadelphia. A summer internship in D.C. She was book smart but experience poor. She’d had to get out of Virginia. Had to. The Peace Corps wouldn’t take her because of her migraines. So, with SOS Bolivia, she’d neglected to mention those. No pre-existing health conditions.
The man to her right wore a blue T-shirt that said “First Baptist Helping Hands.” There were about twenty people dressed that way on the plane. His stomach bulged, and he snored. Whenever the plane jolted, his knee bounced against her.
In her mind, she was composing a letter to Jonathan. She’d email him as soon as she could from La Paz. The letter would be fiction, about the way she wanted things to be: Dearest Jonathan, You and I said goodbye 48 hours ago, and all this time I have been thinking of you. I am so grateful for the way we chose to share our love with each other…
“Can’t sleep?”
The man to her right was suddenly awake. “Can’t sleep?” he repeated.
“Oh,” she replied. “Gave up trying with all this bumping.”
“Yep, it’s pretty bad.” He fumbled with his seat arm until his overhead light came on. “So, is it your first time in La Paz?”
“First time in South America,” Cheryl answered. “Summer vacation?” he asked.
“Actually, I’m going to be working with street kids for a year.”
“Oh, well that’s a really good cause. Mission work?”
“SOS Bolivia,” she answered.
He seemed to mull this over, then tapped the logo on his T-shirt. “My church has been running missions in Bolivia for over ten years now. We have a hospital. We drill wells. We’re on our way to build a new church now.”
Cheryl nodded.
“You’re going to meet some of the most backwards people you’ve ever seen in your life,” he continued. “Folks who can’t read. Folks who’ve never seen a flush toilet. The worst place I’ve ever seen in my life is this ledge off the Andes on the way to Los Yungas. There’s a little trickle of water that runs over the rocks. The whole village relieves themselves on a stone slab there at the edge of the mountain. I had to use it, and couldn’t figure out if it would be worse to fall forwards off the cliff or to fall backwards into all the, pardon my French, crap. Worst thing I ever smelled in my life.”
“Well, that’s quite…” Cheryl struggled for the right adjective. “Something.” She liked “backwards” as a direction. She liked it less as a way to describe people.
“From the South?”
“You from the South?”
“Virginia,” she answered.
“Well, that’s North to me.” He extended a pudgy hand. “Gus Adams. I’m from Jacksonville.” She accepted the hand. It was sweaty. “Cheryl Lewis,” she said.
He shared with her about a sewage system his church had built in Pando, and he insisted on trading email addresses before she dedicated the remainder of the flight to pretending to sleep. The plane landed precisely at sunrise. As they crested the mountains and honed in on the airport, Cheryl looked out at a city bathed in pink. Skyscrapers, a river, dirt roads. Rows upon rows of houses clung to the edges of cliffs, jutting out at impossible angles and stacked like Legos. Her new home.
She negotiated customs with her school-learned Spanish, suddenly feeling confident. At the baggage carousel, Gus helped her with her backpack and her suitcase. “I’ll be in touch, Cheryl. I’ll definitely be in touch,” he said and clapped a hand on her back as she took hold of her baggage cart. As she was navigating her way through the crowd, she noticed a cluster of people to her right. A young man with curly dark hair was kneeling on the ground, gasping. Mal de alutura, “air sickness,” she heard people saying.
Carefully, Cheryl steered her cart toward the exit door and, she hoped, to the welcome of a representative from SOS Bolivia holding up her name on a sign. Please, for heaven’s sakes, she was thinking as the automatic doors opened into her new life in La Paz. Please don’t let me be pregnant.
Chapter 3
The cholitas woke up with the sunrise, donned pleated skirts, flat shoes and bowler hats, and packed their wares in large folds of cloth which they slung over their shoulders. Surely, steadily, they streamed through the pockmarked streets, stray dogs shuffling into and out of their paths, embroidered shawls barely keeping out the cold morning air. Batteries, alarm clocks, Oreo cookies—they were a walking WalMart winding their way through the streets of El Alto, bearing anything that a rich tourist or a well-to-do La Pazian could possibly want to buy.
The cholitas slipped around buildings, passed through back alleys, found cobble-stoned passages. Their thick legs carried them down the steep inclines with the confidence bred into them by generations. Aymara, Quetchua, proud descendants of the Inca empire.
Their long black braids slapped against their backs as they trotted down stairs, hopped over gutters. They spilled out of the dirt roads of El Alto and onto the paved streets of La Paz. They marched past buildings erected without permits on Andean clay, just waiting to wash away in a coming landslide. They skirted around piles of garbage, which hadn’t been collected for weeks, and kept moving down, down toward the wealthy part of town with its clean streets, rich tourists and its secure middle class.
They carried ruddy babies bundled in fabric over one shoulder and carried coffee pots over the other. Coffee pots, underwear, pantyhose, bottled juices. Those destined for the markets carried socks, can openers, diapers, chewing gum. Those destined for the hotel districts carried alpaca sweaters, copper earrings, beaded necklaces, shawls. Each found her place. Each spread out her cloths, readjusted her baby, disgorged her wares. ____________

Thursday, April 26, 2012


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New Monthly Magzines

Posted: 19 Mar 2012 11:13 AM PDT

Download Urdu monthly magazines "Bawarchi Khana" (The Kitchen) for the month of March 2012 in pd format.
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Posted: 19 Mar 2012 10:50 AM PDT

Download Urdu monthly magazines "Kitchen" for the month of March 2012 in pdf format.
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Smart Women Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Achieving Financial Security and Funding Your Dreams (Revised Edition)

Smart Women Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Achieving Financial Security and Funding Your Dreams (Revised Edition)
by David Bach
Wendy sat in my office, perched on the edge of her chair, alert, inquisitive, and a little bit embarrassed. An experienced and highly successful real estate agent, she had come to me for a financial consultation-and the facts of her situation were hardly reassuring. Although she earned well over $250,000 a year and was able to put two kids through private school at an annual cost of $15,000 each, her personal finances were a mess. A self-employed single parent, she had less than $25,000 saved for retirement, no life or disability insurance, and never bothered to write a will.
In short, this intelligent, ambitious businesswoman was completely unprotected from the unexpected and utterly unprepared for the future. When I asked Wendy why she had never done any financial planning, she shrugged and offered a response I'd heard countless times before: "I've always been too busy working to focus on what to do with the money I make."
Looking across the restaurant table, I could see the sadness in my mother's eyes. A good friend of hers had just gone through a bitter divorce. Suddenly, after more than three decades of marriage to a wealthy surgeon, the friend now found herself living in a tiny apartment, struggling to make ends meet as a $25,000-a-year secretary. Like many formerly well-off women, she had never paid much attention to her family's finances, and as a result her estranged husband was able to run rings around her in the settlement talks. It was a terrible thing-all the more so because it could have been prevented so easily-and it made me wonder if my mother was similarly in the dark. So I asked her. "Mom," I said, "do you know where the family money is?"
I thought it would be an easy question. After all, my father was a successful financial consultant and stockbroker who taught investment classes three nights a week. My mother had to be up to speed on the family finances.
At first, however, she didn't reply. Then she squirmed slightly in her chair. "Of course I know where our money is," she finally said. "Your father manages it."
"But where is it? Do you know where he's got it invested?"
"Well, no, I don't. Your father handles all that."
"But don't you have your own accounts, your own line of credit?"
My mother laughed. "David," she said, "what do I need a line of credit for? I have the best bank in the world-your father."
The reason I've started our journey with these two stories is that I know you are a very special woman-the kind of woman who believes in herself. Specifically, you believe that you possess the abilities and the intelligence to have the kind of life you feel you deserve. (If you didn't, you would have never picked up this book in the first place.) You also believe-correctly-that money is important and that you need to learn more about accumulating and protecting it. Finally, I know that you are someone who recognizes that it takes more than a single burst of enthusiasm to improve yourself and develop new skills; it also takes commitment and education.
That is why the first step of our journey is all about getting motivated to educate yourself now and on an ongoing basis about your money and the role it plays in your life. I believe that no matter what your current situation is-whether you are already wealthy or living paycheck to paycheck-a little education combined with motivated action can go a long, long way.
I also know from working with thousands of women that, sadly, neither Wendy the real estate agent nor my mother are at all unusual. Yes, women have long owned nearly half of the financial assets in this country. Yes, most women work and nearly half of them are their family's main income earner. Yes, the statistics about divorce and widowhood are appalling. Yet, despite all this, the sad fact is that shockingly few women know even a fraction of what they should about the state of their own personal and family finances.
By the same token, very few people know all of the fundamental principles about money that you are about to learn. And most important, even when they think they do, they rarely follow the principles on a consistent basis. This last point is a key one, for as you will discover in the course of our journey, it is not what we learn that makes a difference in our lives but what we do with what we learn.
What we're going to do in this chapter is familiarize you with what I call the financial facts of life. By the time you have taken in all the facts, you will understand fully why it's essential that you take charge of your own financial future. Moreover, you will be totally motivated to get started learning how to do it.
The first fact of financial life to understand is that while planning ahead is important for everyone, it's more important for women. Indeed, though in many ways we live in an age of equality, there is no question that ...
Fair or not, women need to do more financial planning than men.
As I said in the introduction, compared to previous eras, this is a great time for you to be a woman. In terms of opportunities and resources, you couldn't have picked a better time to begin a journey to a secure a financial future. And it's more than just a matter of economics. Because of advances in both technology and public attitudes, women are not only living longer than ever before, they are active longer. In my seminars, I often joke that today's 80-year-old women are drinking "green juice" and doing aerobics every morning. I know my Grandma Bach was like that. Up to the age of 86, she hiked five miles a day and went dancing three nights a week! In her mid-80s, my grandmother enjoyed a life that was more active, socially and physically, than mine was at 30!
But if the good news is that we live in an age in which the barriers that held women back for so long seem finally to be falling, the bad news is that there are still many obstacles to be overcome. For one thing ...
Women still typically earn 25 percent less than men.
For another, women are less likely to have a steady income stream over the course of their lifetimes. In some cases, that's due to discrimination, but it's also due to the fact that responsibilities such as child rearing and caring for elderly parents cause women to move in and out of the workforce a lot more than men do. In all, over their working lifetimes, women spend a total of 11 1/2 years off the job on average, versus only 16 months for men.
What's more, according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Labor ...
Women are the ones hurt most by corporate downsizing.
That's because it takes women longer to find new work, and the replacement jobs women get are often part-time posts that offer less pay and fewer benefits.
As a result of all this, your accumulated pension benefits probably are going to be lower than those of your male counterparts-that is, if you have a pension at all. While half of all men get one ...
Only about one woman in five over the age of 65 receives a pension.
But it's not simply that as a woman you'll have fewer benefits to look forward to. It's also that, as a woman, you'll have to make them go further. Specifically, you probably are going to live longer than most of your male counterparts (by an average of about seven years, according to the National Center for Health), which means that you are going to need even more retirement resources than they will. And not just for yourself. Because of your longer life expectancy, chances are that the financial burden of caring for elderly parents will fall on your shoulders.
What All This Adds Up to Is One Big Ouch!
This, in a nutshell, is why long-term financial planning is more important for women. Compared to men, you've got to be more farsighted, start saving earlier, and stick to your plans with more discipline. Fortunately, doing all this is not only possible, it's actually relatively easy. The trick is simply recognizing that it needs to be done-which leads us to the other basic fact of financial life: Ignorance is not bliss. Quite the contrary ...
It's what you don't know that can hurt you!
A wise woman once said, "It's not what you know that can hurt you but rather what you don't know." I'd like to extend that thought a bit and suggest that what generally causes the most suffering and pain is what you don't know that you don't know.
Think about that for a minute. In our everyday lives, there are really only a few categories of knowledge.
* What you know you know (e.g., how much money you earn each month)
* What you know you don't know (e.g., what the stock market will do next year)
* What you know you should know (e.g., how much it will take for you to be able to retire comfortably)
* What you don't know you don't know (e.g., that in 2001 the government made over 400 amendments to the tax code, many of which could directly affect how much you will be able to afford to spend on child care, college tuitions, medical expenses, and your own retirement)
It's this last category, by the way, that causes the most problems in our lives. Think about it. When you find yourself in a real jam, doesn't it always seem to be the result of something you didn't know that you didn't know? (Consider the "prime" Florida real estate you bought that actually was in the middle of an alligator swamp.) That's the way life is-especially when it comes to money. Indeed, the reason most people fail financially-and, as a result, never have the kind of life they want-is almost always because of stuff they didn't know that they didn't know.
This concept is incredibly simple, but it's also tremendously powerful. Among other things, it means that if we can reduce what you don't know that you don't know about money, your chances of becoming financially successful-and, most important, staying financially successful-can be significantly increased. (It also means that the more you realize you don't know as you read this book, the happier you should be, because it shows you are already proactively learning!)
So how do we apply this concept? Well, I think the best way to reduce what you don't know that you don't know about money is to learn what you need to unlearn. That is, you need to discover what you may have come to believe about money that isn't really true. Or, as I like to put it ...
Don't fall for the most common myths about money.
Whenever I conduct one of my Smart Women Finish Rich seminars, I generally begin the class by suggesting that the reason most people-not just women-fail financially is that they have fallen for a bunch of money myths that are simply not true. As we're learning the facts, I think it's important to spend a little time exploring these myths and learning to recognize them for what they are. The reason is simple: By doing this, you lessen the chances that you'll ever be taken in by them.
The most commonly held myth about personal finances is that the most important factor in determining whether you will ever be rich is how much money you make. To put it another way, ask most women what it takes to be well off, and they will invariably say, "More money."
It seems logical, right? Make more money and you'll be rich. Now, you may be thinking, "What's wrong with that? How can it be a myth?"
Well, to me, the phrase "Make more money and you'll be rich" brings to mind certain late-night TV infomercials, with their enthusiastic pitchmen and slick get-rich-quick schemes. My current favorite is the one in which a guy wearing a gold necklace smiles into the camera and says you can earn a fortune while lying on the sofa watching television. Without getting into the question of whether his particular scheme makes any business sense, let me suggest to you that the basic premise of his pitch-namely, that the key to wealth is finding some quick and easy way to boost your income-is simply not true. In fact, what determines your wealth is not how much you make but how much you keep of what you make.
I'll take that even further. I believe that most Americans who think they have an income problem actually don't. You may not believe that. It's possible you feel you have an income problem yourself. Perhaps you're thinking right now, David, I'm sorry. I don't care what you say-with my bills and expenses, I'm telling you I have an income problem.
Well, I'm not saying that you might not be facing some financial challenges. But I would be willing to bet that if we were to take a good look at your situation, we'd find that the problem really isn't the size of your income. Indeed, if you're at all typical, over the course of your working life you will likely earn a phenomenal amount of money. If you find that hard to believe, take a look at the Earnings Outlook chart (see p. 22).
The numbers don't lie. Over the course of their lifetimes, most Americans will earn between $1 million and $3 million!
Based on your monthly income, how much money does it look like you will earn in your lifetime? It's well into seven figures, isn't it? Don't you think you deserve to keep some of that money? I do-and I bet you do too! Unfortunately, most of us don't keep any. In fact, the average American works a total of some 90,000 hours in his or her life-and has nothing to show for it at the end! The typical 50-year-old in this country has less than $10,000 in savings!
How do we explain that? It's simple, really.
The problem is not our income, it's what we spend!
We'll go into detail on this concept in Step Four. For now, just trust me on this one. It's not the size of your income that will determine your financial well-being over the next 20 or 30 years, it's how you handle the money you earn.

Past Tense

Past Tense
by Dan Pasquale
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How do you lose an officer during a firefight? This isn’t the Army. There is no such thing as “missing in action” in police work! Sergeant Dave Bertram had thirty years’ experience. How could he be missing?
He rolled halfway down the slope, crashing through a wall of brush and landing face-first in the gravel. Staggering to his feet, he tried to stay small and out of sight as he cut hard to his left and continued moving downhill.
His left leg felt numb and useless, forcing him to limp badly as he struggled on. Behind him, he heard shouting and more gunfire. He ejected the empty magazine from his Sig and replaced it with a full one from his belt. He knew he’d been hit, but hoped the body armor would protect him.
He spotted a large tree and threw himself behind it. He held his breath, listening carefully, trying to locate his pursuers by sound as he reached slowly for the shoulder mike to call for help.
“S32, officer needs help! Shots fired! Shots fired!” His only reply was a fusillade of shots from his pursuers.
He continued sliding to the bottom of the slope and away from the others. Again he called for help, whispering desperately into his shoulder radio, but again there was no response. Out of habit, he reached down to check the mic connection for the radio. His fingers discovered only the jagged remains of the cord.
He knew he’d have to take a chance. He ran clumsily across the dry creek bed, dragging his numb leg, and began to claw his way up the hill on the other side. A powerful blow struck him in the ribs, knocking him from his feet. He felt a sharp, stabbing pain under his right armpit, in an area the body armor left bare.
He slid into a tree and turned back in time to see a figure emerge from the brush a few feet away. He fired a single shot and was satisfied to see the man drop.
He forced himself to crawl farther into the brush and shadows, keeping his head low. He was breathing in ragged gasps now; his side felt as if it were on fire. Time seemed to slow as he hacked with his bare hands through the forest, frantic to stay out of their reach.
He suddenly realized that he might die tonight. He’d been in danger before, but he’d never thought he would die. Sure, he knew he could get hurt—but not fatally wounded. That happened to other people; he didn’t make the type of mistakes that could get a man killed.
He finally came to a small hollow at the base of a tree where he would be hidden from anyone more than three feet away. He couldn’t go farther now; he had to rest. Pulling some loose brush around him, he tried to slow his breathing and wait. Backup should be on the way. Stay alive and wait, he thought. Help will be here soon.
He thought of his wife and wondered what she was doing. I don’t want to die.
Chapter 1
The pilot fought both crosswinds and poor visibility as he tried to bring the chopper in for a landing. Low clouds and a row of trees lining the road made the task more difficult, even though the landing zone was marked by highway flares and lit with the headlights from two police cars.
A firefighter in turn-out gear was gesturing with his arms high over his head, trying to guide the pilot in. Detective Mike Sheridan stood behind one of the patrol cars and watched. No matter how many times he had seen a helicopter pilot delicately land his craft onto a hastily marked landing zone, it always impressed him.
The pilot of this Life Flight helicopter obviously knew his stuff. He landed smack in the middle of the road without a bump. While the chopper’s rotors were still spinning, the side door opened and two nurses climbed out. As they clutched their gear and made their way out from under the rotors, the firefighter waved them over. All three then disappeared down the embankment on the right side of the road.
Like numerous other cities in the San Francisco Bay area, the population of the City of Mission had increased steadily, and as it did, the locals began using the country roads more frequently. Deercreek Road was a two-lane stretch of asphalt that skirted the side of a newer housing track, following the path of Deer Creek, which flowed out of the hills and west toward the bay.
From the stretch of road where Sheridan stood, the creek rolled along to his right and a steep hill rose skyward on the left. The dirt shoulders on both sides of the road were wide enough to allow a car to safely park, although signs posted every seventy-five feet or so proclaimed “No Parking Any Time.” Deercreek Road was busy with traffic during the day, but rarely traveled at night.
Tonight, however, was different; Deercreek was teeming with vehicles of all sizes. In addition to what looked like most of the Police Department’s night shift, Sheridan spotted three fire engines, a Fire Department Command SUV, two ambulances and the helicopter with its rotors still spinning. The heavy night mist, mixed with the diesel fumes and car exhaust, gave the area an oppressive, closed-in feeling.
As he trotted past the copter toward the center of activity ahead, his mind was still reeling from the information the dispatcher had given him.
How do you lose an officer during a firefight? This isn’t the Army. There is no such thing as “missing in action” in police work! Sergeant Dave Bertram had thirty years experience. How could he be missing?

Information to help you secure your site

Although we host your website, we are unable to manage security of your content. We have multiple safeguards in place to prevent our servers from being hacked, including prevention against brute force attacks and tight security on user accounts. The actual vulnerabilities a hacker uses to gain access to your home directory or public_html folder are often located in the scripts themselves. For this reason, we provide updates through Fantistco as they are made available, and also offer courtesy server backups and a backup utility in cPanel, which you can use to take partial or full snapshots of your account whenever you feel a need.

As to which script was exploited to allow access to your account, we would be uncertain what was used, as most exploits use standard pages in your account with unusually formed requests to inject their own content to your site. There are multiple resources online to help you identify the cause, and we would suggest starting with the authors of the software you are running, to see if there are known exploits or updates that the vendor is aware of.

Increasing Site Security:

The following check list is a good collection of security tips offered for review to make sure your web site is as secure as possible. 

By design our servers are secure. The security level of your site depends on the code that is uploaded to JustHost's Servers. 

1) Remove malicious files and/or files you are not familiar with.
While many PHP applications generate files you may not be familiar with, it is important to watch for files or directories that may sound suspicious such as 'wellsfargo' or 'abbybank'.

Check your scripts for any Header Injection attacks, Sql Injection attacks, Cross-Site Scripting attacks, etc., as well as your php.ini file settings

2) Update all scripts/applications to the newest versions available.
Old security holes are updated and remedied in new versions of software, so updating to the newest versions available ensures that you are running the most secure option available. If you installed these applications using Fantistco, automatic updates are available by clicking the 'Update Now' button. For installations done with Fantastico, the main Fantastico screen will show a link on the right-hand side of the screen with the available versions you can upgrade to.

3) Update all plugins to the newest versions available.
Just because your applications have been updated doesn't mean the plugins you use have been also. Popular plugins for Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, etc are created for specific application versions. When updating your applications, make sure the plugins you're using are also certified to work with the newest version of your software.

4) Delete any databases/applications from your account that are no longer in use.
Each databases/application you have installed on your account is another possible point of entry for attackers. By removing applications/databases that are no longer used, you will be eliminating the potential for those outdated scripts to be exploited.

5) Fix dangerously writeable permissions.
Most website files should be set at 644, and folders should be set to 755. This can be adjusted in an FTP client or by manually changing it in the Control Panel File Manager by selecting the file, and clicking on the icon at the top of the screen that says, 'Change Permissions'.

6) Hide your configuration files.
Moving your config.php and other files containing passwords to a secure directory outside of the 'public_html' folder will make them inaccessible to general web surfing.

7) Tweak your php.ini file.
The 'php.ini' file on your account is file that adjusts how PHP behaves on your account. By adjusting the properties of this file, you can greatly increase aspects of your security. This file is generally located in your 'public_html' directory. If you're unable to see this file, you may need to manually generate one. You can manually generate one by logging into your Control Panel and clicking the 'PHP Config' icon located in the section called 'Software/Services'. You'd then click the button that says, 'Install Master PHP.ini File'. This will install a file in your 'public_html' directory called 'php.ini.default'. To make this file active, you will then need to rename it to 'php.ini'.

Tweak 1 - Set 'register_globals' to Off.
Tweak 2 - Set 'display_error' to Off.

8) Connect to your account using a secure network.
If you're connecting to the internet using a wireless connection, make sure the wireless network is using a method of security such as WPA or WEP encryption.

9) Make sure your local computer is secure.
One of the biggest security holes in Internet site security is accessing your site from an insecure computer. Viruses, malware and keyloggers can be installed on your computer covertly and can be used to obtain your username/password credentials or to infect your website files themselves. Practice good at-home computer security by regularly running a reliable anti-virus/spyware scanner.

10) Review Site Usernames
If your site Admin Username is "Admin" change it to something unique. (For xample, Admin is the default username in Wordpress any many other software tools)

11) Review FTP Accounts
Delete all non-system Ftp Accounts that were created, or at the very least, change the passwords to the FTP Accounts

12) Review any Access Hosts 
Remove any 'Remote Mysql' access by clicking the "Remote Mysql" icon and clicking the Remove Red X by each entry if there are any entries.

Here are a few high-quality, free applications that can help you maintain a safe, healthy computer.


PC Tools Anti-Virus
Ad-Aware Anti-Malware


PC Tools iAntiVirus 



avast! Linux Home Edition


Helpful Resources:

Here are a few sites to assist you with securing your code. If you don't find these useful you can run a Google search for code security or HTML security. - Webmaster Tools Help - Finding Security Vulnerability

Google's FAQ for Phishing and Malware Protection

Fortify PPC Source Code

Security Tools

Wiki Code Injection

You can also check out SiteLock, add directly through your cpanel, OR They both specialize in monitoring your site.

A Day At The Beach: June 6, 1944

A Day At The Beach: June 6, 1944
by Ken Hite
PFC Gene Burke The pass in his pocket authorized PFC Eugene Burke to enjoy forty-eight hours of freedom anywhere within ten miles of Oxford. As the deuce-and-a-half truck rolled into London, he had only expended two hours of his precious time, but was fifty miles beyond the proscribed geography. The driver pulled up in the fashionable neighborhood of Mayfair, home to foreign embassies, various relatives of the royal family, but more importantly, wealthy bankers. “Here ya go, Gene. Thanks for the booze. And save one of your leftover women for me, will ya?” Burke climbed down from the cab and waved to the driver as he pulled away. He began walking down the gently curving street of elegant Georgian town houses built during the reign of George III. History was not on his mind, however, as he approached the house on the corner. He passed two British female naval officers coming the other way. He flashed a snappy salute and a flirtatious smile. The brunette gave him the stiff upper lip and, staring straight ahead, returned the salute. The blonde smiled back, and gave him the once-over. It wasn’t the first time. He was 6’2” and 190 pounds of solid muscle, but what always got them were the eyes and the smile. The eyes were Irish blue, sharply contrasting with his jet-black hair, proof positive that his ancestors were, indeed, Black Irishmen—survivors of the Spanish Armada, who had been washed ashore in Galway. The smile just was. Perhaps, it was the result of knowing that your father was the ninth richest man in the United States, and on top of that you could personally beat the hell out of just about anyone who gave you trouble. Confidence, no, assuredness, that’s where it came from. In any event, it worked like a charm drawing women to him like moths to a flame. He reached number 58 and knocked. An elderly butler opened the door, recognizing Gene immediately. “Good evening, Mr. Burke. Sir Frank and his guests are in the living room.” “Nice to see you again, Edward.” The sound of cocktail party chatter increased as he turned right and entered the room filled with uniformed men and women. A British admiral and his conversational partner, an American general, almost dropped their drinks when they saw an American enlisted man standing before them. The General turned and addressed him sternly. “Son, should you be here?” Further embarrassment was avoided when the host, a rather charming silver-haired Englishman dressed in a Savile Row suit, arrived on the scene in the nick of time. “General, may I introduce you to the most influential enlisted man in the U.S. Army, Private Gene Burke, also, I might add, the First Vice President of Fidelity Bank and Trust.” The general looked totally confused. “Son, how in hell did you become the First Vice President of Sir Frank’s bank?” “Well, sir, I believe the fact that my father owns the bank was instrumental in my promotion.” The General was now totally confused. “Then, why aren’t you an officer? I assume you went to college.” “Oh, yes sir, Harvard, Class of ‘41. Frankly, I didn’t want the responsibility of other men’s lives on my conscience, so I enlisted. General, my sole ambition is to be in a fighting unit, so I can personally castrate that lunatic housepainter in Berlin.” The General smiled. “What unit are you in?” “Well, there’s a problem there, sir. I’m currently assigned to the 140th Field Service Unit. If you could assist me in obtaining a transfer to the Rangers or the 1st Infantry Division, I’d be eternally grateful.” “140th Field Service? What sort of a oufit is that?” “We are a laundry unit, General, and I’ll do damned near anything to get out of it.” The British admiral almost spit out his drink. “You Yanks are the most profligate people. An entire unit devoted to doing laundry? Good God, how will we ever win this war?” The General didn’t appreciate the Britisher’s criticism, even though he tended to sympathize with the underlying premise. “Well, that’s idiotic. I’ll see that you get your transfer immediately.” “Thank you, General. If you’ll excuse me.” He wandered off, glancing back as Sir Frank took the General aside to explain the facts of life. Damn! Well, Frank had his marching orders from the boss. He could imagine his father’s words. “My son is, like most young men, stupidly convinced that unless he places himself in a position where he’s likely to get killed, he’s not a man. Your job, Frank, is to keep him out of combat—by any and all means.” Gene wandered about the party, understanding that he was now the subject of much curiosity—the millionaire American private. A few minutes later, Frank finally cornered him in the library. “Gene, for God’s sake, you can’t put me in that position again. I run around after you at these affairs like a dog owner with his pooper-scooper, explaining to every American general that the President of the United States has assured the chairman of our bank that his son will not become cannon fodder. Now behave yourself and do something civil—like ravishing virgins or robbing trains.” “Frank, I’m sorry to have embarrassed you. I promise it won’t happen again.” He smiled. “At least, not until the next time.” The two grinned at each other. Sir Frank Headley was the London manager of Fidelity Bank and Trust, 80% of which was owned by Gene’s father. Frank, whose family’s bank had been acquired by Fidelity some years prior to the war, owned the remaining 20%. In addition to managing the firm’s European operations, Frank was responsible for dispensing Gene’s trust fund allowance, which made Gene far better paid than General Eisenhower. Gene spotted a beautiful brunette in a Royal Air Force uniform chatting with a middle-aged British naval officer. “Frank, who is that? And is she taken?” “Ah, good choice, lad. That gorgeous creature is Miss Cynthia Bowes-Smith, formerly London’s most sought-after debutante and currently, I believe, Sergeant Bowes-Smith, radio operator. The gentleman with her is her father, a customer of long standing and presently a paper pusher at the Admiralty. The father is rather boring. From the gossip I’ve heard, the daughter is not. Would you care for an introduction?” “By all means.” Frank guided Gene through the maze of guests, nodding and smiling, until they were standing before the subject of interest. “Arthur and Cynthia Bowes-Smith, may I introduce you to Private Eugene Burke, presently responsible for insuring that all American Army personnel in the UK are cleaned and pressed to perfection.” Gene smiled. “Frank, you are a consummate bastard.” He shook hands with the father, who appeared bewildered, and then the daughter, who appraised him with a sly grin. Frank, aware that he owed Gene a favor after the despicable introduction, grasped Arthur firmly by the elbow. “If you two young people would excuse us, Arthur and I have some business we must discuss.” He led him away. She was even more attractive up close than from across the room. Lustrous, dark brown shoulder-length hair framed a delicate face punctuated by two of the most perfect brown eyes he had ever seen. “Please excuse the repartee with Frank. We’re dear friends, and he can’t resist an opportunity to skewer me, particularly in the presence of a beautiful young woman.” She lowered her eyes briefly, acknowledging the compliment. “I gather from the gossip sweeping the room that you are not quite what your uniform and lowly rank might suggest.” “Frank invites me as a curiosity piece to spice his parties. Since Winston and Herr Hitler refused his invitations, he felt I might be able to enliven the proceedings. And how, may I ask, did London’s most sought after debutante get stuck at one of Frank’s soirees?” The butler reappeared and asked for their drink orders. She asked for Glenlivet neat and the butler turned to leave. “Excuse me, but what about the Private?” “Oh, but Miss, I know what Mr. Burke drinks.” He turned and left, returning a minute later with two Glenlivets neat. They clinked glasses and in unison toasted. “Cheers.” She eyed him, a flirtatious smirk on her mouth. “You are a mysterious fellow. Ninth richest man in America, Harvard 1941, charming, and disgustingly good looking. A private in charge of laundry? I think the world’s turned upside down.” He hummed a few bars from the 18th century tune that had been played by Cornwallis’ flutists during their surrender to George Washington in Yorktown, Virginia, more than one hundred fifty years earlier. She laughed, displaying beautiful regular white teeth. She sipped her drink and studied him closely. “You know what I think, Mr. Private First Class Gene Burke?” He studied her over the rim of the glass. “No, Cynthia, I don’t.” “I think you’re trying to seduce me.” She paused and sipped from the glass, examining him. “And I know for a fact that I’m trying to seduce you. And since we have now placed all our cards on the table, why don’t we get out of here and go to my flat. The alternative is to waste our all too precious time playing a discreet game of footsie under the dinner table for the next several hours.” He raised his glass in salute. “Why don’t we make our apologies and I’ll meet you out front. I’ll try and get a cab.” While Cynthia offered some sort of excuse to her father, Gene took Frank aside and announced that he had been suddenly called away, and apologized for creating empty spaces at the dinner table. “There is a good side to this, Gene. Now, there’ll be more food to go around. Keep in touch and, for God’s sake, try and stay out of trouble.” Gene met her on the sidewalk, but there were no taxis, so they walked through the blackout-darkened streets to her flat a mile away. They didn’t speak for the first few blocks, walking together almost shyly now that they were committed. Eventually, she spoke, not turning her head but softly explaining. “Gene, I want you to know that I’m not some Piccadilly whore. But tonight, I very much need someone to hold me and you seem like the ideal candidate. Heaven knows, you’re attractive, but you’re also attractive because I don’t really know you. If I did—if I’d grown up with you, attended your cricket matches at Cambridge or Oxford, danced with you at the coming out cotillions, we wouldn’t be going to my flat right now, I promise. “I’ve loved four boys in my life, four boys I’d known since childhood, and they’re all gone—each killed in this abominable war. I can’t deal with that kind of pain again. But you’re none of those things, Gene. You’re a Yank—so it’s much easier to keep things uncomplicated, and as they say in the song, just roll me over in the clover. She stopped and faced him, the smirk fighting with a sadder expression. “So would you please say something, before I start blubbering and make a total fool of myself.” He took her face in his hands gently letting his lips brush hers. They parted, and he held her hands. “Right now, the only thing on my mind is that you’re the most beautiful woman in the world, and I ache to make love to you. I’m a right rotten bastard as you Limeys would say, and I’m running out of patience. So where in the hell is your flat?” She laughed and pulled his face to hers, kissing him passionately. “We’re here.” She pointed to the doorway to their right, grabbed his hand, and unlocked the door, leading him in. She closed the door and turned on the lights while he reconnoitered the flat: living room tastefully decorated in a modern motif, dining room also modern, kitchen and a bedroom dominated by a queen-size four poster bed. “Gene, would you like a drink? Oh, damn! It’s almost empty.” “Not to worry, Milady. Every American laundryman is equipped for just this sort of emergency.” He opened the small overnight bag he had carried and extracted a quart of whiskey. “Well, since you are so marvelously prepared, why don’t you make us each one whilst I freshen up. He poured the drinks, removed his jacket and tie, and carried the glasses into the bedroom, sitting on the bed. Cynthia emerged from the bathroom, put a record on the Victrola, and eventually discovered him when she entered the bedroom. She demurely remarked, “I thought I’d get into something more comfortable.” “I think that’s a wonderful idea.” he responded, the half-smile twinkling, and offered her a glass. She sipped. He softly interrupted the silence. “The most exciting thing imaginable for a man is to watch a beautiful woman slowly remove her clothing. Mind if I watch?” Cynthia placed the half-full glass on the bedside table. Her eyes never left his as she unbuttoned her light blue uniform jacket and tossed it on the nearby chair. She slowly untied the man’s tie, which was presumably thought to be military, and flipped it to him. She began to unbutton the shirt in a tantalizing manner, playing with each button until the shirt hung loosely from her shoulders, finally shrugging it off onto the floor. Still meeting his eyes, she unbuttoned her skirt, permitting it to slowly slide down her naked legs. She stood before him clad only in the silk bra and panties she had bought in Paris before the war. Ever so slowly she reached her arms behind her and unhooked the clasp to her bra, then threw it violently over her shoulder. Now excited, Cynthia pulled the panties off and placed her hands proudly on her hips. She was magnificent. Her breasts, hidden by the shapeless blue uniform minutes before, were large, yet erect. Slender, shapely legs led to a full brown bush of hair. He drank her in, barely able to contain himself. “Your turn.” They made love for hours; in bed and out; lying down and standing up. He thought he had known every conceivable way to do it, but Cynthia demonstrated a sexual imagination almost equal to her insatiable appetite. Her use of multiple mirrors had turned the act of sex into a spectator sport. After taking turns cleaning themselves in the bathroom, Gene followed her into bed where Cynthia was sipping the remainder of her drink. She offered him a sip. She leaned over and kissed his nipple. “That was rather wonderful. I think we must try it again sometime. Don’t you?” “He grinned. “On a scale of one to ten I’d give it an eight.” “You bloody what?” She pounded his chest with her fist. “Well, the mirror was crooked. I’d give the rest of it a twelve.” “That’s better,” she purred, resting her head on his chest. “Do you know what the problem with you is?’ “Haven’t a clue.” “All of you men, I mean. You have no stamina like us girls. Takes you hours of recuperation to get it going again. Pity. Well, while we’re waiting, why don’t you wash my undies, Mr. Millionaire Laundry Man.” He spat back, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself, Miss Debutante Cunt 1939!” She sat up in bed, a look of contrition on her face. “Oh dear, our first lovers’ quarrel. I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you, but apparently I struck a raw nerve. Please believe me when I say that I’m sorry and I adore you.” Gene sat up and kissed her gently, his anger evaporated, but replaced by an expression of gloom. “You struck the rawest of raw nerves, Cynthia. I am totally ashamed of my current circumstances, and I don’t know what to do about it. My illustrious father has pulled strings at the highest levels of the American government to make sure that I’m never in a combat assignment. I discovered that from a Harvard classmate who is now a personnel officer at the Pentagon. According to him, my personnel file has a blue flag, which means that the President must be notified of any change in assignment. Every American soldier has the right to request a transfer, and should that request be for assignment to a combat unit, the request is almost always granted. I have made fourteen such requests, and each and every one has been rejected by my company commander.” “But why should he care? Did the President order him?” “Nothing so obvious. Captain Christopher Taylor of the “Fighting 140th” has been seduced by my father with the promise of a lucrative position at Fidelity Bank and Trust after the war if, and only if, yours truly remains a laundryman for the duration. Thus, I’m caught in a trap. So, in the vernacular of the American enlisted man, “I don’t give a flying fuck.” Cynthia started giggling and couldn’t stop. “What’s so damned funny?” “I thought I knew every conceivable position, but I must confess that I’ve never heard of that one. Could you show me how?” “I’ll show you how, all right,” and he grabbed her and kissed her hard on the mouth. Her hand slithered down his leg, and discovered that his recuperative powers were astonishing. The next three days were spent in a smorgasbord of sensual delight. Sex, of course, but interrupted by brunch at the Savoy Grill, reservations courtesy of Sir Frank Headley, then dinner at the Dorchester, and dancing at yet another of London’s posh establishments. He had been surveyed rather suspiciously while dancing by some of Cynthia’s former admirers, who quite naturally assumed that she was slumming with this Yank enlisted man. He had escaped any real trouble until a drunken American Air Force officer had tried to cut in on the dance floor. He politely lied, informing the jerk that Cynthia was his fiancée, but the drunk wouldn’t take no for an answer, and made a scene. When Gene gently pushed the idiot away, he swung at Gene, and Gene decked him with one punch. He spread an excessive amount of apologies and cash to the relevant hotel employees and the incident was mercifully swept under the rug. On the way home Cynthia thanked him for the wonderful evening. “Even the fist fight. You are a belligerent, aren’t you?” He didn’t respond, so she continued, an awkward expression on her face. “Gene, you are the best lover I’ve ever known.” She paused looking for the right words. “But it’s over, right?” She looked away. “Yes. If I see you again, it will be much harder to say good-by. I’m very close to falling in love with you, and I can’t allow that. Down deep, I don’t think you want that kind of commitment either. But what made my mind up was the brawl with that drunken fool. You were quite justified in popping him. Don’t misunderstand. It’s just that I now realize that you won’t ever acquiesce to your father’s attempts to keep you alive. You’ll fight him until you win. And then I fear you’ll be killed—just like the others. I couldn’t cope with that again. Please go away, but remember me fondly as someone who loved you madly for four days and then simply vanished like a puff of smoke.” He took her into his arms and held her, whispering in her ear. “I understand, Cynthia. And I want to thank you for the four most wonderful days of my life.” He left in the morning, catching a ride from a truck driver at the London Motor Pool who was heading for Oxford, home of the ‘Fighting 140th’. Gene sat silent, watching the gentle English countryside roll past his window. He was utterly depressed, realizing that, once again, he was AWOL and thus facing thirty days in the stockade. The first time he had gone absent without leave or AWOL, Captain Taylor had docked his pay and taken away his sergeant’s stripes. The second offense had resulted in similar punishment, including the loss of his corporal’s stripes. Then Taylor wised up, no doubt with assistance from his old man, who had informed Taylor that his son had an enormous trust fund. The third offense resulted in incarceration, ten days in the stockade. The most recent penalty had been twenty days. He hated the stockade. It was a dangerous place populated, by and large, with the scum of the earth. One prisoner had come after him with a homemade knife. He broke the guy’s jaw with one punch and then broke his arm for the hell of it. No one had messed with him since. As the truck ground along the country lanes of Oxfordshire, he wondered if the Cynthias of the world were worth all the trouble they caused him. He thought for a minute, and then a smile creased his face. “Bet your ass!” An hour later, the truck pulled into the enormous tent-city that constituted the American Army base near Oxford. He saw the First Sergeant and approached, deciding to hurry the inevitable process of taking his medicine. “Well Sarg, the wayward boy is back. How deep is the shit this time?” The First Sergeant was an older man and a decent guy. Most realized that he, not the officers, really ran the company. He glanced up at Gene and sighed, “Well, let me put it to you this way, Burke. I sure wouldn’t like to be in your shoes right now. Our poor Captain is having a heart attack because you’ve become quite famous. Regiment’s all over him about your multiple transgressions. Come on. Let’s go see the man and get it over with.” The First Sergeant knocked, and then led him into the Company Commander’s office. Captain Taylor was shaking with rage. “How dare you embarrass me like that? The Colonel is all over me about the high rate of AWOLs in the 140th and your name is at top of his list. He insists on seeing you personally. Now snap to and report to Regimental HQ immediately!” The First Sergeant called him to attention, and marched him over to Regiment with Captain Taylor following along behind to make sure Burke didn’t somehow disappear along the way. After a ten-minute wait, they were ushered in to see the Regimental CO or, as everyone affectionately called him, ‘The Old Man’. The Colonel had been a much decorated infantry officer in the 1st World War. But now, because of wounds suffered twenty years earlier, he had been relegated to the Quartermaster Corps. The scuttlebutt was that Old Man was just as unhappy to be stuck in a non-combat outfit as Private Burke. The Colonel raised his eyes from Burke’s personnel file and shook his head. “Son, I can’t figure out, for the life of me, why a bright, well-educated young man from a fine family like you would ever end up as the stockade rat of my unit. Would you please explain to me what in the hell is going on here?” “Yes, sir. It’s quite simple. I joined the Army to fight, not do laundry. My father has pulled strings at the Pentagon to insure that I’m never in a life-threatening situation, and with the enthusiastic assistance of Captain Taylor, he has, to date, been successful. If I am to be manipulated in this manner, my only recourse is to piss the Army off as much as possible.” The Colonel chuckled while Captain Taylor grimaced. “Well, I gather from the reports of the Provost Marshal that you have enjoyed one of the finer love lifes of anybody here in the UK. If I let you go this time, would you promise to behave?” “With all due respect, Sir, no I will not.” The Colonel flared, “Young man, you are an arrogant son of a bitch. You better clean up your act or you might spend the next ten years in an Army prison.” “Sir, Permission to speak freely.” The Colonel nodded to proceed. “I assure you that I don’t want that. I hate the stockade. But I’d rather be a prisoner than a laundry man. All I’m asking for is the opportunity to fight like you did, sir, in a real combat unit.” The Colonel stared at him over steepled hands, recalling the pride he had felt many years ago as a young lieutenant with the famed “Fighting 69th” in the Argonne Forest. This young man wasn’t a bad apple. He just wanted to be cut loose from Daddy’s apron strings. The Colonel shuffled some papers until he’d found the right one then looked up at Gene. “So you want to fight? Think you’re pretty tough, huh, Burke? Are you tough enough to fight in the most decorated unit in the Army? Tough enough to parachute, climb cliffs at night, cut German throats with a knife? Tough enough to stand up to 30-mile hikes in full gear every day rain or shine?” “Yes, sir. I think I can handle all that. I was an All-Ivy League fullback for two years and the Ivy League Champion in single sculls.” “Well, that’s lovely. But we’re not playing Princeton here. You could easily get yourself killed. You still want it?” “Yes, sir.” The Colonel pushed a form across the desk and handed Gene a pen. “Sign on the dotted line.” Gene did so, and returned the form. “Okay, Burke, you just volunteered for the 1st Special Service Brigade. The First Sergeant will personally finish up the rest of your paperwork, cut your new orders, and you can catch a train up to Scotland tomorrow. But a friendly word of advice, son—you screw up in this outfit and they won’t just throw you in the stockade, they’ll throw you off a cliff. Now get the hell out of here.”

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