Dead Men Tell No Tales

He died the moment he slipped down to this ledge. He hadn’t fallen yet, but time would weaken him. There was no way up, no hope of rescue. And now he was staring into the small crevice before him at something that was inexplicable. It didn’t register at first. It didn’t matter. He was a dead man now. He knew it. This was just a moment in time, his last moment, for however long it lasted.

—The realization of it made what he was looking at insignificant. His arms stretched into the hole, but there wasn’t room to climb in. His head would barely fit into the rock.
—The hole was deep. Maybe twenty feet, straight in. Above him, it was twenty feet to the edge of the cliff. Below, three hundred feet straight down. He had slipped, looking down. Slipped, his hands clawing the curve of sand and rock, while wondering about what appeared to be an opening. It had happened quickly. One moment safe, and the next. . .
—It was getting dark now. He was alone. He always hiked alone. People told him not to do that, but he liked being alone in nature. It was his nature.
—It was too late, now. There were no other hikers in the area. He had already yelled until his voice left him. No one had come. He thought back to other hikes. Not that he was trying to think, yet. The thoughts flashed by him, and he was observer to them, as if from a distance. Flashes of memory. Wisps. There was no self recrimination to his thoughts. He was past that, now. The moments of his explorations and meditations were behind him. This was the last such moment. This was the end.
—When acceptance finally came, he focused and considered what he was looking at. It was a stash of jewelry, covered in dust. A long string of pearls and necklaces. Gold or fool’s gold? It didn’t matter. There was no luster to it. The thought flashed by him that it must be real. No one would put costume jewelry in a tiny crevice twenty feet down a ledge no one could get to without a rope.
—The thought was distant, and he struggled to keep it. Wanted to grasp it, like a handhold that didn’t exist on the face of the rock. How much was there? Who had put it there, and why? The thoughts were smoke drifting away. He flailed at them, like he had struggled to get both hands to grip, before pulling himself up into this position. Other thoughts flashed too: memories of rock climbers he’d seen doing what seemed to be impossible. . . placing their hands into niches in the rock, using pitons, cleats, ropes. He had no such things, but even with them there would be no way to save himself.
—He stared at the stash of jewelry, the line of treasure. It was like a rope, in a way. He might grasp it in one final effort, were it connected to something, which it was not. He might hold on a bit longer, and yell again when his voice returned. He chuckled at this thought. The laugh was guttural, a rasp in his throat. He was staring at a “treasure trove,” as such hunters liked to say.
Everyone was such a hunter, he realized, except him. Anymore.
—His arms were getting weaker, now. The last sliver of the sun slipped out of sight down the horizon to his left. But there was no green flash. It was shades of gold, fading. Fading into shades of grey.

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© 2017 by Jonathan Lowe, the shortest new story in an upcoming collection of new and previously published stories in October.

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My Trump Connection

Julie Andrews

Everyone has a 6 Degrees of Separation “Kevin Bacon” kind of connection to the rich, famous, and powerful. Mine with Trump goes like this: I interviewed pianist Lola Astanova, pictured here. She has played at Trump’s Mara Lago. Julie Andrews was once in a movie with James Garner called “The Americanization of Emily,” about as anti-war a film as Avatar. When I reviewed Garner’s biography, I got an email from his daughter, who liked the review. (Garner is one of my fav actors, see a previous post.) As for Trump himself, he once visited Palm Island in the Grenadines, as told to me when I interviewed the owner of Palm (but not Dubai’s Palm island, as researched for my novel “The Miraculous Plot of Leiter & Lott.”) John Caldwell sailed around the world to acquire and develop the place, which he purchased for $1 a year for 99 years, with a 12% interest in future profits going to St. Vincent. He then spent twenty years with a wheelbarrow, turning the place from a swamp into a paradise. His tale of fending off renegades (who took neighboring Union Island) by firing over their heads with rifles as they approached inspired my novel “Fame Island,” which was narrated by an Emmy winner and directed by a Grammy winner on audio, and is also an ebook “The Instant Celebrity.” Caldwell also allowed the Marines to park their helicopters there during the Grenada invasion. My fake game show scout protagonist was hired by a Powerball lotto winner to stage a Survivor type show in order to fool the corrupt governor of Union (who had fooled the citizens to get elected.) Howard Rosen, the lottery winner, had disappeared the moment of picking up his check because he intended to be famous for more than just 15 minutes by re-emerging a hero. Quotes by both Mark Burnett (Survivor and the Apprentice) plus Trump himself appear at the novel’s opening, Trump’s being: “People are impressed by fame. Think big, and live large.”  (This was all pre-Trump entering politics.) 

James Garner  

Palm Island

Finally, my first novel, “Postmarked for Death,” was endorsed by Clive Cussler (who owns the largest private antique car collection) and John Lutz (Single White Female movie), inspired by the Unabomber, with a postal clerk protagonist that listens to Rush Limbaugh while making letter bombs, and targets illegal immigrants and government offices providing ATM cards for them in Tucson. When I did a book signing for the hardcover (now an ebook at iTunes), the bookstore owner in Phoenix refused to mention it on the loudspeaker, and put me at the back of the store. He never read the whole thing. Neither did the Booklist reviewer, who later retracted his review when called on it (in an ending that no one could guess.) In the end of the “Why Done It” Calvin gets his just desserts in “a spectacular fashion.” So all’s well that ends well, and there you have it. Any questions?   

Grenadines

 

Manhunt: Unabomber

Manhunt Unabomber

Sam Worthington of Avatar fame (as FBI profiler Jim Fitzgerald) heads a Discovery TV cast that includes Paul Bettany (as Ted Kaczynski), Jane Lynch, and Katja Herbers. The notorious Unabomber inspired my first novel Postmarked for Death, set in the Tucson post office, where I once worked (and listened to audiobooks while sorting mail.) In the novel I blew up the post office, something many imagine doing in monotonous jobs (LOL.) Postal inspectors grilled me when the hardcover was released, but I’d given the postmaster a copy prior to release for a “heads up” on it, and he loved it. So I simply told the inspectors, “see the boss.” The novel was endorsed by Clive Cussler and John Lutz, and won an award on audio, narrated by the late great Frank Muller. It is now an ebook at iTunes, BN.com, and Smashwords.com (for Kindle, Nook, and iPad, plus PDF format.) I explored an abandoned Titan missile base in the desert to get the ending scene right. There have been a number of postal shootings over the years, as well. My suspense is a “why-dunnit” more than a “who-dunnit,” because you know from page one who the killer is…a postal clerk who kidnaps a female inspector and sets up another co-worker to take the fall. Police are looking for the wrong man, while he continues to work and mail letter bombs, with extreme political views. Calvin taunts Victor Kazy, the inspector looking for him…and whose boss he has taken (as in Taken.) John Lutz (Single White Female) paid me the best compliment, because his next book after endorsing mine featured a bomber in NYC. Look forward to the TV series. Given our divided and extreme culture, it is important to understand all points of view instead of reverting to guns and bombs to “make a point” to those who refuse to listen.

Unabomber