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Sometimes, I surprise even myself...

Minor spoiler alert here.

Today's sign that I made a smart decision in publishing MODEL AGENT before ROGUE AGENT, especially since I wrote MA after I wrote RA: There is a scene in ROGUE AGENT where a Queens Park Rangers F.C. fan tells Jaclyn and her partner that he doesn't follow the Premier League, since QPR is in the Football League Championship, the level below the Premier League in the English football pyramid.

A quick glance at the current Championship table indicates that QPR is about ready to secure promotion to the Premier League for the 2011-12 season.

That means a quickie edit is called for -- of course, I could leave it the way it is and hope QPR gets relegated after a year in the Premier League, since the book is set two weeks before the start of the 2012-13 season.

Decisions, decisions.

www.johnfitchv.com

Yet ANOTHER guest blog post

Today, yours truly is the guest blogger at jimhines ' blog for First Book Friday.

Here it is.

http://jimhines.livejournal.com/568056.html

Enjoy my tale.

www.johnfitchv.com

Another Tuesday, another guest blog

I wrote another guest blog -- my third -- over at Variance Publishing today. Here it is, so I don't have to completely copy and paste the entire text.

http://variancepublishing.blogspot.com/2011/04/sean-sweeney-guest-blogger-social-media.html

So, quick aside: Why can I keep up with guest blogging and not my own? An interesting question...

www.johnfitchv.com
The other day, fellow Boston author Jon F. Merz -- one of the true good guys in this industry -- composed a nifty blog post about wanting to sell 300 ebooks of his new book, THE FIXER, in one day. He requested folks to spread the word by reTweeting his blog on Twitter and posting it on their Facebook pages.

That's what I'm asking you all to do today, except I'm not going to ask for 300 ebooks. No, I'm going to go smaller.

I only want 19.

Why 19, you ask? Simple. As I write this post, it's 1 a.m. on March 29, which means I have nearly three full days until the end of the month. I'm currently in my best book sales month (for the second consecutive month), and I want to reach, at the very least, 350 book sales for March. I'm at 331 right now.

Why not shoot for a higher number? you ask. Simple: I don't know if I would get that amount. I'm setting a simple, easy-to-reach goal, a number I can hit; a number I know I can hit.

Nineteen books in three days. It can be done. If I go over it, sweet. If I don't hit 350... at least I gave it the old college try, right? I can't get there if I don't try.

It can be any of my books. Baseball season is on our doorstep: Try TURNING BACK THE CLOCK. Like a pulse-pounding thriller that keeps you riveted on the edge of your seat? MODEL AGENT is for you. Both of those books are $2.99. Need a quick, inexpensive read? AMBER TWILIGHT or THE MASTERMIND would be perfect for you, and both are 99 cents. And don't forget about my brand new young adult fantasy novel THE RIDE OF THE DARK FALCON, which is also 99 cents. Many choices for little money.

So here's what I'm asking: Please reTweet. Please post on Facebook. Having lunch with a friend who has a wifi/3G capable eReader? Please tell them about my books. Have an iPhone/iPod Touch/BlackBerry/Android and you have a reading app? Please download a book through the Kindle Store or the NOOKBooks store.

Word of mouth is huge in this business. Hitting 350, to me, would be huge.

Please.... spread the word. And thank you.

www.johnfitchv.com

#SampleSunday: The Rise Of The Dark Falcon

Here's a snippet from my new young adult fantasy novel, THE RISE OF THE DARK FALCON. This scene, in my opinion, sets up the later tension that you'll read in the latter stages of this novel.

Chapter 3

The next few weeks were tougher than ever for the slave boy known as Krampel. As the weeks turned into months, the people of Cassimina began to warm to his presence—especially the young ladies of the town, who seemed to enjoy his company once he was cleaned up and properly fed. After a few weeks, Krampel gained a little weight, helping to fill out his underfed body, and the girls certainly took notice. Once he started to work on the farms, his body began to develop—even if still on the lean side—which made the girls giggle and blush at the sight of it.

Of course, the girls’ attention to the young newcomer meant that several of the lads became jealous of him. Some remained friendly with the boy, but that was only so they could stick a knife in his back at the opportune time. They tried to mock him for his background, but once they realized the girls paid no attention to their snide remarks, they needed to come up with a new plan for attacking the boy.

The one who did come up with a plan was Piety Crassnick, the leader of the gang.

Piety was Krampel’s age, and quickly turned in his fiercest nemesis. As the son of Danith Crassnick, many of the locals gave him a wide berth and a certain respect—the Crassnicks were bullies, and no one wanted to cross them.

Piety was slightly taller than Krampel, with blond hair that came down past his ears. His eyes were so gray they actually looked like dwarven pure silver, and his nose was thin to a point. His jaw, however, was his prominent feature—it resembled his father’s so much that people said Piety would turn out to be just as much the bully as Danith was.

The son of Crassnick wanted to bring the newcomer down a few notches. He wanted to show him who really controlled the town, and to whom he should pay his allegiance.

He executed his plan while Krampel ran a few errands for the old man.

Krampel’s hands were full of meat and bread—the baker didn’t even want to look at him, but took Vossler’s money without complaint—and he walked with Rosaline, a neighbor girl. They passed the village green when Piety leapt out of a tree and landed right on top of the boy, sending the goods flying and Krampel sprawling to the ground. Rosaline shrieked as Piety started to pound on the lad, then turned and ran to find help for Krampel.

But Piety Crassnick failed to realize that Krampel’s constitution was much stronger than he believed. Krampel quickly rolled over, even with Piety’s weight resting on his lower back, and fired a punch around Piety’s flying fists. His punch landed along Piety’s jaw line, sending the bully flying off him.

“So you want to fight, huh?” Krampel asked.

He didn’t wait for an answer, as he leapt on Piety and let the blows fall upon the now whimpering bully. A fist landed on the nose, breaking it, and one powerful punch landed near the kidneys, making Piety gasp for air. Krampel did not relent for even a second, and soon the other boy was crying for his mother. Piety’s mates stood aghast, having rushed to witness his intended bullying as soon as he leapt at Krampel from the tree. They looked worriedly to each other to see who would eventually tear Krampel away from their friend.

Not one of them moved; they didn’t want to be caught up in the maelstrom of whirling fists that seemed to attack Piety with mindless abandon.

The fire inside Krampel ignited, and there was no chance of extinguishing it any time soon. Piety Crassnick’s attack was the worst type, and he paid for his actions with his blood. The force of Krampel’s fists led to bleeding from Piety’s nose and mouth; after his punches left Piety moaning, Krampel grabbed the boy’s blond tresses and rubbed his face in the dirt, just to embarrass him even more.

“Krampel!” yelled a voice from behind the brawl. “Get off of him!”

Krampel turned and saw Vossler coming out of his home—the home Krampel was welcomed in to—limping as the walking stick pounded hard on the dirt. He was striding fast, so fast that it appeared the old man was running toward them.

Reluctantly, Krampel got off the young boy, who immediately got up and ran home, his friends trailing him. Normally, Piety would have ripped off a scathing comment, denouncing his rival. But this time, Piety didn’t even say a word to him; he wanted to get away from his adversary in case Krampel decided to dish out more punishment.

“Get home right now before Danith Crassnick comes looking for you,” Vossler warned. “You never should have turned the tables on him like you did.”

“You wanted me to let him beat me up?” Krampel said, looking incredulously at his master.

Vossler whacked him off the side of the head.

“Don’t you see? By beating upon Danith Crassnick’s boy, you’re putting yourself in his sights. He’ll ride day and night, looking for the caravan—or he’ll kill you himself,” Vossler said.

Krampel’s face fell. His complexion turned pale.

“Oh,” he simply said. “I didn’t think about that.”

Vossler snorted.

“I can see that. Now get home; I’ll cut Danith off. Rosaline, you rush off, too.”

Neither Krampel nor Rosaline said another word to each other. He simply rushed off for the old man’s home and closed the door behind him, while Rosaline went the other way.

Vossler looked down at the mess on the ground. He shook his head as he bent down to grab the two loaves of bread that spilled out of the sack Krampel carried. He stuffed them back inside the sack and turned to return to his home.

Within reach of his front door, the booming voice of Danith Crassnick filled his ears.

“Here we go,” Vossler whispered before he turned around to find Crassnick practically in his face.

“Where is the slave? I’ll teach him for touching my boy!”

“You won’t teach him anything, Danith. The lad was protecting himself from your son, who jumped him with his back turned. If anything, you should teach your son to fight fairer,” Vossler admonished.

That only steamed Crassnick even more. He was ready to push him aside and enter Vossler’s home uninvited, but Vossler shoved his cane into his chest, pushing him backward.

“You are sadly mistaken, Danith. You will not go near the boy, nor will you even think about getting even with him. What’s done is done; you can’t get involved in their quarrels.”

“I have my family’s honor to uphold!” Crassnick bellowed. “I can’t have a slave beating up a boy with our lineage!”

Vossler sighed.

“You have a stubborn streak in you that I never thought to be possible. Your supposed ‘family honor’ is nothing more than a group of bullies with an heir that will now be afraid of his own shadow. You can take your family honor and tell it to someone who cares about such things. I, for one, do not. Now leave my doorstep before I really show you stubborn!”

Vossler’s eyes grew hot as he spoke, as if he could bore holes with them into Danith Crassnick’s head. The bigger man’s lip twitched, but he knew a lost cause. He wished not to hit the old man, for his already sullied reputation in Cassimina would go down even further.

He decided to take the high road. He turned and, even though his anger hadn’t even begun to ebb, walked away from the old man.

As soon as Crassnick was away, Vossler let out a long, deep breath and wiped a layer of sweat that suddenly appeared on his brow. He shook his head, then turned and entered his house.

Krampel sat by the fire, his heaving back to the door. He didn’t even turn around when Vossler entered. He stared into the fire, deep in his thoughts. The flames of the hearth reflected strangely in his eyes—it was not the flames, but something from deep inside him showing through his crystal-like orbs, reflecting the pure hate he felt for Piety Crassnick.

Vossler’s cane echoed through the small room as it rapped on the wooden floor. The old man walked toward the hearth to look at the lad. Krampel, ignoring him, did not turn his head.

The old man grimaced, then left to let the boy stew in his own thoughts. He brought the meat and bread to the kitchen, where he wiped the sand from the pack and the two loaves that fell from it. Vossler then lit a small fire and cooked their evening meal, which they enjoyed in complete silence.

The pair did not speak another word that day, or the next.

 
Like what you read? Check it out on Kindle, Nook, or Smashwords.

www.johnfitchv.com

Author Interviews: Allen Schatz

I know a little something-something -- or is that somethin'-somethin'? -- about fiction novels surrounding baseball. Tonight, I introduce you to Allen Schatz, a Pennsylvania native who has a fantastic book out for your eReading devices. I spoke with Allen earlier today about his book, as well as the next two books in his series.

Sean Sweeney: Let's talk about Game 7: Deadball, your fairly brand new novel. Obviously, it's a baseball book. Tell us a little about how you came up with the concept of G7:D.

AS: Actually, it is NOT a baseball book per se. I purposely kept it from becoming too heavily loaded with sports. I wanted to appeal to a wider audience, not just the male side. It's character driven with a fast paced plot that uses the game as its canvas. It is for mystery readers/lovers as much as baseball lovers.

As to the concept, the use of an umpire as the lead came from my being one. I wanted to do something different with it, however, not rely on the obvious plot of fixing games. I wanted 'Marshall' stuck in a situation not of his doing and show the struggle between keeping control of his 'day job' while the chaos spins around him.

Setting the story during the World Series was a combination of wishful thinking and plot development. I though it would be cool to spread things over the series. It gave me time to work in the twists and turns that came up as I progressed through the story.

The wishful thinking comes in the decision to put the Phillies in the series. It had been a while (28 years to be exact) that the real team had won one. Turns out I was somewhat psychic. I started early in the 2008 season, but my version ended up matching real life--the Phillies did in fact play Tampa in 2008.

SS: My readers love strong characters. Which of G7:D's characters, in your opinion, is the strongest, and why?

AS: Thomas Hillsborough. As one review put it, Thomas "is an ex-CIA spook who is sort of a law-enforcement-stud-without-portfolio." He's mysterious in that he keeps his feelings mostly inside. He doesn't so much suppress as know how to be calm. He is a complete opposite of Marshall, which is probably why they're best friends. That Marshall saved Thomas' life once helps too. The latter vowed to repay the debt and won't ever stop trying. That came in handy for the umpire.

SS: I understand that you're a baseball umpire; I'm a former umpire myself until I grew and developed back pain, which isn't a good thing when you're umpiring Little League. How much of that experience went into writing G7:D?

AS: I've umpired for the better part of 30 years, both baseball and softball. The old saying about writing what you know held true, but I didn't want to bore people with the minutiae of umpiring. Throughout the story I dropped in some of the things I've learned over the years, various aspects of the job in a first person format, enough to give readers a feel, but not overwhelm them with it.

Marshall is the "me" I'm not. He and I do share a complete lack of hitting ability, which drove us to the other side of the field. From there, however, he did what I never got a chance to do, attend a Major League umpire school.

SS: I also understand this is the first book in a trilogy of baseball thrillers. Tell us what you can about them, and when can we expect them?

AS: Both are in final edit stages and being prepared for their respective launches in the coming months.

The first sequel is tentatively titled "7th Inning Stretch: Twin Killing" and returns most of the characters. Readers can visit http://www.allenschatz.com/7thinning.html for details. The story picks up in the weeks and months after G7:DB and takes Marshall into another mess that Thomas needs clean up. I expect to release this in May or June this year.

The second follow-up is "Three Outs: Suicide Squeeze." The tag for this one is: A desperate act by a desperate man turns out to be more than a simple suicide. As the links in the chain are slowly exposed, Marshall finds himself once again in a lot of trouble. I'm looking at a fall release.

At that point, Marshall and Thomas will take a break.

SS: Obviously, you're a big Phillies fan. Phillies prospects this year? How about the rest of the league?

AS: The most talked about prospect is Dominic Brown. Unfortunately, he suffered a set-back when he broke a bone in his hand in Spring Training. The best place for news on Phillies prospects is at a friend's blog: PhoulBallz.com -- he did a comprehensive update last week. Check it out here: http://misterballz.blogspot.com/2011/03/minor-league-exhibition-updates.html.

I've been slacking in keeping up with the rest of the league. The writing efforts have been filling most of my days.

Thanks for stopping by, Allen! Folks, take a chance on this novel, especially with baseball season nearly here.

Game 7: Deadball on Kindle
Game 7: Deadball on Nook
Game 7: Deadball on Smashwords

www.johnfitchv.com
Sean's JFV novels on Kindle
Sean's Sean Sweeney novels on Kindle
Sean's books on Nook (with a few extra things)

My thoughts on Amanda Hocking's deal

First of all, a disclaimer. I consider Amanda Hocking a friend. Not only a peer in this author thing, but a friend. A-Money and I are part of a little writer's clique called The Indie Author Mafia, which includes several of today's top Indie authors. In the time that I've known her, I've found that Amanda is a true lady. She's humble, talented, and not only that, she's one of the nicest people you'd ever want to sit down and talk with about anything -- except American football. Nosireebob, Amanda doesn't like the throwball. But seriously.

That being said, I don't speak for Amanda. I don't represent her. But as her friend, I have to defend her. I have no qualms in saying this: I am truly happy for Amanda and her new publishing deal with St. Martin's Press. For those of you who aren't, and are questioning her for doing such a thing, well shame on you.

There's been plenty of talk about the blogosphere today about what this means. Some are decrying her for "selling out." Some are saying that it just means traditional publishing is the way to go, and that Barry Eisler is off his rocker for turning down $500,000 from -- stop me if you've heard of these guys before -- St. Martin's Press to self-publish his new two-book set.

Let's cut to the chase right away. It means this: Amanda is doing what she feels is best for her career, much like Barry feels saying thanks but no thanks to SMP earlier this week. She doesn't want to wear all the hats that we in the self-pub side of publishing do. She wants to write, and she'll let Steven Axelrod, a man she trusts, and her new staff take care of everything else. The people at St. Martin's have treated her like gold.

Now, for those of you putting her down for this... seriously: who wouldn't take what she earned (that's in italics for a reason) for her new series? Four books with a MAJOR New York publisher with an advance in excess of $2 million. Seriously? People are riding her ass because of this? Seriously?

Quick aside: Amanda writes in her blog that it's not about the money. With her, it's definitely not about the money. She's made plenty. The money just happens to be a pretty effing sweet perk of the deal.

Put yourself in Amanda's shoes. Would YOU, in Amanda's place, with her already large readership that grows exponentially by the minute, turn down a four-book deal worth more money than you would ever see in your lifetime? Would you, in Amanda's place, turn down a deal that would put you in front of a whole new segment of READERS (remember, it's the readers that we do this for) that had, until this week, never heard of her/you?

If you answer no to any of these questions, you need to make an appointment with your psychiatrist. Tout suite. I don't care if this pisses people off. You're crazy if you think she shouldn't do this.

I repeat: Who wouldn't take that? I certainly would. Dangle in excess of $2 million -- and let me keep my merchandising and film rights (George Lucas taught me well) -- in front of my nose, with the opportunity to reach many more readers than I am reaching now, and yes, I would sign that deal, and then pull a Roger Clemens, misremembering anything I said in the past about self-publishing over traditional. For $2 million, definitely. For $1 million, definitely. For that number, I'd be a brainless buffoon to turn it down.

Quick aside No. 2: Baseball season starts in seven days, and if you think that and taking a swipe at Roger Clemens in the same sentence puts a smile on my face, well, you know me too well.

Amanda's writing is worth that much. She worked her ass off. She put out some pretty solid books; paranormal romance is hot. She became the darling, her books took off, and boom! a publishing deal has landed in her lap. Good for her! I do not blame her one bit. Take the money and run, kiddo.

Now...

Amanda said on her blog that she has several more books that she will self-publish even before this new deal kicks in. Perfect. This news will help her self-published titles, new and old.

She has the already built-in fan base of over one million books sold for nine books. Pretty damn sweet if you ask me. More than likely, those people who bought those books will buy her new self-pubbed titles. With the news of her new deal, those who read the New York Times (and the LA Times, which also followed her path to this contract) will want to know what Amanda Hocking is all about. They'll either a. Buy a Kindle or a Nook, or b. download the Kindle/Nook app for their iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Android, PC or Mac, and then c. buy/read Amanda's books. She will have new fans, and those fans will buy the new books -- regardless of price -- starting in 2012 when her deal with St. Martin's kicks in. Amanda will more than likely earn that advance out, and will make St. Martin's plenty of money to recoup its investment in Amanda's work.

In all seriousness, she's in a position that many of us would consider a soggy dream come true. Let's stop the jealousy, stop wondering if this is a sucker punch for indie publishing, and let's just be happy for Amanda. She deserves this.

And who knows? Maybe this will happen to one of us someday. Just work hard like Amanda Hocking, and the world is at your feet.

www.johnfitchv.com

Cleaning out the writing closet

I've been rather quiet on the blogging front lately. Of course, I've been on a blog tour, hitting several different book blogs, getting the word out about MODEL AGENT, which is quickly turning into my best-received book of the eight novels I have out now. More on the eighth book in a bit.

Last weekend, I started doing some serious edits to the remaining two Obloeron prequels. Of course, Estee was finishing up the first. I managed to get the next two books edited for voice, the second one sent to Estee for a full edit after she sent me the first, and with the exception of ROGUE AGENT and ROYAL SWITCH, I can declare my editing backlog cleaned out. I'm still awaiting beta reader notes on ROYAL SWITCH, but there's no rush on those.

To me, that means I can get ready to start working on new projects.

I start brainstorming Vam Yankees tomorrow.

***

In the past few weeks I've also written a couple of short stories, including a horror short story that will be featured in an anthology this November, as well as a baseball flash fiction (500 words) story that will appear on Karen Wojcik Berner's Bibliophilic Blather blog on April 8, which is Opening Day at Fenway Park.

And last but not least... drum roll, please... THE RISE OF THE DARK FALCON, the first Obloeron prequel, is now live on both Kindle and Nook! It's published under the name Sean Sweeney, not John Fitch V. Keep that in mind.

Until next time, happy reading.

www.johnfitchv.com
In the past couple weeks, hundreds of readers have discovered Jaclyn Johnson, the heroine of MODEL AGENT and the forthcoming sequel, ROGUE AGENT. They've discovered that she is an orphan of the September 11th attacks, that she's originally from Seattle, and that she kicks ass at every opportunity.

But how did Jaclyn actually become Jaclyn? A great question that deserves a great answer.

The answer is simple.

After I finished writing ZOMBIE SHOWDOWN (also forthcoming), I had a dream of a leggy blonde walking down a street toward a building; in truth, the building was a college building here in my hometown. She went in, kicked ass, then walked out with the intention of going to a modeling job afterward. At first, I envisioned Jaclyn -- then unnamed -- as an antagonist. A conversation with an old high school friend, named Jaclyn, made me switch gears and envision her as a protagonist instead. I just needed a story to go along with her. This was November 2009.

Getting her onto paper, or the computer monitor, took a while. Two months after conceptualizing the character, I exchanged e-mails with British author Steven Savile on the subject of thrillers; he was in the process of releasing SILVER. He told me I should write a thriller, so I told him about Jaclyn. I developed Jaclyn from there, giving her a rare eye condition, which in turn made her more dangerous, especially with her Heads Up Display in the form of Foster Grant sunglasses. I proceeded to write the manuscript that is ROGUE AGENT first, sending her across the Atlantic to London.

MODEL AGENT came next, also in a dream. I pictured Jaclyn in an office building firefight. And knowing that I need to put her in the United States for her first adventure, I chose Boston as the setting. Los Angeles and New york had been overdone. I chose Boston because I could easily get to it for little money, and do research while in town. Jaclyn came, she saw, she kicked ass.

Jaclyn has developed into a special character for me. Where will I take her from here?

You'll have to keep reading, won't you?

www.johnfitchv.com
Model Agent US Kindle
Model Agent UK Kindle
Model Agent Nook
Model Agent Smashwords
John Fitch V US Kindle
John Fitch V UK Kindle
John Fitch V Nook
John Fitch V Smashwords

#samplesunday: Chapter 1 of MODEL AGENT

For those of you on the fence about MODEL AGENT, my debut thriller, here's the first chapter. Normally, you can download the first few chapters to your Kindle or your Nook. But it's Sample Sunday, and the sample is supposed to whet your whistle, so here we go.

Hope you enjoy.

Chapter 1

City Hall Plaza, Boston, Mass.

Saturday, July 17, 2011 2:26 p.m.

 

With the speed, agility, and grace of a high school track star, Jenny Wilson bounded the stairs leading from Government Center’s Green Line platform to the outside world above. She checked her watch and saw she had a few minutes to spare. She vaulted the stairs two at a time, bouncing off the front half of her feet. She tried slowing her pace as she walked toward the subway station’s open doors, taking a deep breath. Her heart thumped madly.

She didn’t want to seem that excited to see him.

Jenny staggered as a harsh wave of hot air smacked her in the face once she stepped back into Boston’s blast furnace. She couldn’t help releasing the breath, which appeared like a flame emerging from an enraged dragon. For most of the past week, she had baked, roasted and suffered through blistering temperatures in the high 90s. Today, she saw, was no different than the last six.

She stopped just outside the subway station’s headhouse and hoped her sneakers wouldn’t melt. While other riders jostled past her, she shielded her eyes as she looked out across the breadth of City Hall Plaza. She saw shimmering haze as the ground reflected the sun’s unforgiving heat. She watched tourists walk past her, wiping sweat from their brows as they headed toward Faneuil Hall, off to Jenny’s right, or toward Cambridge Street on Jenny’s immediate left. The stately towers of the John F. Kennedy Federal Building stretched for the sky above her, while its base, a squat four-story section, reached for the heart of the old city; she could see the towering exhaust vents from Haymarket station adjacent to JFK. A line of trees on the upper level in front of JFK gave modest shade, and as a bead of sweat danced down her spine, she wanted nothing more than to rush toward them and sit underneath for hours. Boston’s City Hall, a concrete structure that looked more like an inverted pyramid than a city government building, stood opposite the federal.

A not-so-fertile crescent filled the gaps: Three-foot high concrete pylons dotted a wavy sea of red bricks stretching here, there and everywhere. Granite steps served as seats during these summertime concerts, and she noticed a small crowd had already gathered by the stage on the northern side of City Hall, waiting for the free oldies show. City Hall Plaza was, in essence, a wide open-air amphitheater in the heart of new Boston, long before land reclamation formed the modern peninsula.

Jenny checked her watch again. It read 2:28 p.m.

“Right on time,” she said.

She walked straight ahead to the vendor booths, where she saw Chuck Norton pulling cases of Nantucket Harbor bottled water from the back of a beat up green van. Chuck was the one guy she hoped she could get to know a little better, ever since she first laid her baby blues on him at Northeastern University. She watched his biceps bulge under the strain. Jenny’s eyebrows twitched, and her mouth curled into a soft grin as she observed the stud’s bodily nuances.

“Let me help you there, handsome,” she said, her eyes twinkling.

Chuck turned and smiled when he saw her.

“Hey, pretty lady. Could you help fill those buckets with ice? We need to get this water cold in a hurry; those people,” he said, jerking his head toward the crowd in the lower bowl, “won’t want to wait. They love their free samples, especially on a hot day like today.” He grabbed another case and threw it on top of the other two. He grunted his exertion as he brought them over to the booth.

“Anything to help,” she said, reaching into the truck to grab several bags of ice before she said to herself, “get you out of those clothes.”

The way Jenny bent over to grab the ice caused another smirk to slip across her face. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Chuck had paused to check out the curves that molded her luscious backside. She felt his eyes roam across her form-fitting white shorts. She pulled the ice to her and felt the condensation from the bag seep through her green Celtics t-shirt. For the briefest of passing moments, she was glad she didn’t wear a white top; she didn’t want to give Chuck too much of a show.

At least not yet, she thought.

Jenny hefted the bags and brought them over to where Chuck indicated. She made sure she brushed her arm against his as she walked past him. She caught his eye every time, and her stomach quivered under his gaze.

They bustled about and tried keeping the heavy-duty flirting to a minimum while other vendors began setting up shop near them. Within a few minutes, she caught the sweet smell of sausages on the air. She gouged open bags of ice with her nails and dumped the frozen contents into plastic buckets. Another helper shoved small bottles of water into the icy prison as she moved to another bucket. Once they had them full, they waited a few minutes for the bottles to chill.

Jenny finally fanned herself as she felt the day’s heat get to her a bit. She grabbed a bottle of water that she bought at a Tedeschi’s before she hopped on the T nearly an hour ago. She leaned against the van and drank deeply, trying to stay hydrated in this oppressive heat. Trickles of water spilled from the corners of her mouth while she wiped the sheen of sweat that gathered on her face. She wiped her hand on her white shorts, smearing it to gray.

“Yuck,” she said, grimacing. “I hate the heat. I’m moving to Oregon when I graduate.”

She looked at Chuck as he walked up and leaned next to her. Heat radiated off him.

“You look like you could use a drink,” she said, offering her water to him. His shrug brought a pout to her pink lips until he relented.

To be the bottle, she thought as he drank.

She looked out toward the plaza and saw several people, all wearing light, summertime clothing, bursting forward with quick strides, making their way toward the vendors in search of freebies. There were vendors with small cups of ice cream to try, as well as free can koozies emblazoned with the concert logo and other things Jenny wished she had the time to check out.

She never expected such a cornucopia of thriftiness at a concert before.

“How long do we have to wait?” Jenny asked as she pulled the bottle back toward her. “We’re about to get slammed.”

“Only a few minutes more,” Chuck said as he inhaled. “I smell sausages.”

Jenny sniffed the air, too, but instead of sausages, the scent of Chuck’s sweaty body met her nose. The smell of perspiration overwhelmed her. She swooned slightly. She tried to hold her breath, but she couldn’t do so without offending Chuck. She knew he had labored hard over the past half an hour, and she figured she sweated a bit from her own exertions, too.

For a specimen like Chuck, she thought with a sly grin she camouflaged by lifting the bottle to her lips, I can put up with the smell for a bit. I wouldn’t mind also putting up with some heavy breathing, too.

She felt a tingle south of her tummy. She bit her lip for a brief moment as she looked into his green eyes. Her thighs wanted to slam shut, but she restrained them from doing so.

“I think you can wait a little while, can’t you? We could have one together after we serve these people.” Jenny’s eyes danced.

Chuck tried holding back a knowing smirk.

“Let’s serve the people, then.”

Together, they walked back to the booth and started pulling water from the buckets, standing them on the metal counter before Jenny and Chuck dove for more. Melted ice covered their hands as droplets raced down their forearms. Chuck tossed a towel to Jenny, but it rested, unused, on her shoulder for quite a while. They set a few more bottles on the counter. Within seconds, Jenny saw her “customers” scoop the bottles up two at a time.

She looked on with great interest as they unscrewed the caps away, snapping the plastic rings aside and doused their hair with one full bottle. They twisted the cap off the second and began chugging the cool, clear liquid. Several people came back for more samples, and Jenny thought this was the only way for them to feel adequately cool in these stifling conditions. She saw the other workers re-filling the other buckets with more bottles. Water splashed out and nearly sizzled on the brick. She looked to the bucket on the right hand side of the booth, where one bottle of water remained submerged.

Jenny noticed that she and Chuck had exhausted the bottle of water she brought earlier. She noticed her mouth needed replenishment. A trickle of sweat maneuvered down her neck, making a beeline for her chest. She reached for the lone bottle.

The coughing parade, though, made her forget about quenching her thirst. Jenny looked up and saw her customers’ eyes leak only a few feet away from the booth. They couldn’t stop themselves. Their coughs turned into violent hacks, and Jenny recalled the bronchitis episode she experienced last winter. Their coughs were too identical for her liking. She felt her chest tighten at the memory. She watched helplessly as their bodies shook in rapid convulsions. Some hit their knees, doubling over. People walking out of the subway station paused as they saw these people writhing on the hot bricks.

Jenny looked on in horror as they began vomiting blood, their upper bodies lurching forward as they spewed their insides out, using City Hall Plaza as a makeshift toilet. She saw several people lose their hair, even though they didn’t touch it. They started moaning and screaming. More than one plea of “Oh God, help me!” sprang from their panicked voices.

Jenny didn’t realize that only a few moments passed between the plaza going from calm and peaceful, to chaotic.

She thought fast.

“Chuck,” she said, “call 9-1-1. These people are sick.”

Chuck didn’t answer. Instead, Jenny turned and saw him chugging a dripping bottle of water, one fresh from the ice bucket the one she was about to grab.

“What Jenny?”

She repeated herself.

He didn’t hear her. Chuck hit the ground and writhed, too, dropping the bottle. His moans came quick as he grabbed his gut.

“Chuck!”

Jenny looked at the bottle and then out toward the sea of sickness that unfolded before her. She saw empty bottles next to the ill. She added things up in her nimble brain. Her eyes widened as she realized what had happened, and how quick things had turned.

“Don’t drink the water!” she screamed, her feet carrying her away from Chuck and toward the booth. She swiped the counter clear of bottles, startling several people as her arms slashed across the drenched metal. She even grabbed one from the grasp of a 10-year-old boy before she turned to one of Chuck’s friends. “Don’t give out any more samples, do you hear me? Don’t give out any more.”

“But our boss said

“I don’t give a damn what your boss said,” she said tightly. “These people aren’t feeling well, and it’s because of the water. Hell, they may be dying.” She watched the realization the utter fear unfold on the young man’s face. “Stop handing the samples out. You,” she barked, “call 9-1-1 right now. You, get the water into the van and shut it.” They hesitated, but they soon realized she had taken control. They did as she asked.

Jenny turned back to the crowd and saw several of the concert goers clutch their stomachs. They heaved once, twice, and then a third time. Half a heartbeat later, they began projectile vomiting mucous and blood. Jenny recoiled; her face contorted between disbelief and anguish, between pity and disgust. She prayed silently to a God she stopped believing in some five years ago.

Her feelings twisted by the sight in front of her, she remembered Chuck had fallen ill, too. Realization sharply passed through her as she turned her head to where her friend lay in the fetal position.

Her eyes widened at the sight.

Jenny hurried over to him, her sneakers pounding away. She pulled him over and saw blood pouring out of his mouth, dripping from the corners while the remnants of his breakfast, too, splattered on the bricks. She saw him look up into her eyes, his eyes desperately pleading with her for things she would never know. His breath was shallow for several seconds before it ceased entirely.

The light, Jenny saw, had left him moments later.

“Chuck,” she said, even though she knew he couldn’t hear her. Jenny ran her fingers through his coarse brown hair. She closed her eyes and fell backward on her butt. She covered her eyes and tried to grieve, but nothing came out. She sat there for a few minutes, trying to force the tears out.

She glanced to her right and saw the bottle Chuck had drank from laying next to her. The bottle she had wanted to drink from before everything escalated into this nightmarish situation. She looked at bottle again before she looked back at the bucket. She felt her eyebrows arch, comprehension coming to her. The coughing had prevented her had saved her from grabbing that bottle from the bucket.

She didn’t want to face that, at least not now. She flicked the bottle aside. She didn’t see it skip across the bricks. She wanted to go pick it up and heave it toward Cambridge Street.

Maybe a car would squish it as it hurried past, she thought. She didn’t grin. Water lined to the bottoms of her eyes.

Jenny then realized the moans had stopped, only replaced by confusion and panicked screams from passersby headed to and from the subway. Hurried footsteps approached her from her right-hand side.

“Jenny, they said they’re sending ambulances. They’ll be here soon.”

“Call them back,” she said, tears finally rolling down her cheeks, the awareness of what happened in between her wanting a drink and now finally reaching her eyes. “Tell them to ready the morgues. I think they’re going to be quite busy.”

Their friend staggered as he saw Chuck’s prone form. “Oh my God,” he said.

Jenny wept.


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