Thoughts from the "King of the Hill"

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Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

An excerpt from The Life and Death of John Doe

Posted by Rex Critchlow on November 21, 2011

The following is an excerpt from my first novel titled “The Life and Death of John Doe”. For further details, see my web site:


Saturday, July 23, 2011


James woke to a loud knocking on his bedroom door. He ached. His mind was foggy and he had trouble orienting himself until a familiar voice called out, “Dr. Prentice. Sir, it’s Gus.”

A red cotton robe with black trim hung near his bed. Without responding to the insistent pounding by his security officer, he wrapped himself in the garment and stuffed his feet into a pair of slippers.

“Come in Gus. Door’s open.”

Gus entered. “I’m sorry to wake you, sir, but there appears to have been a break-in last night.”

“Here?” James asked, now fully awake.

“It’s Cooper. He was making rounds last night when he came across someone on the property, he was attacked.”

What? Was he hurt?”

“He’s says that he is fine. I asked him to go to the hospital to get checked out, but he refused. He doesn’t appear to have any serious injuries, just a few minor cuts and bruises and a monster headache. He said that he had been in the restroom and was late making rounds. Next thing he knew, Mitchell was pulling him out the bushes behind the pool house. That’s when they called me.”

“Alright. Get on the horn to Arthur. Have him send over a team to investigate, and tell him I need to see him as soon as possible.”

“Already done. He’ll be here in about fifteen minutes.”

“Good. Tell Cooper that I insist he go to the hospital to get checked out. If he refuses, turn it over to Arthur and tell him to get it in writing. Until we know what’s going on I want to add an extra guard at the gate and one full-time watching the cameras. Report anything out of the ordinary to Arthur.”

“Yes, sir.”

James took a quick shower and brushed his teeth. By the time he had dressed, Arthur was waiting for him in the library.

“What do we know, Arthur?”

“Not much so far. I have a man reviewing video recordings from all camera angles now, and two more making a physical inspection of every sensor to see why they failed to alert Mr. Cooper to the presence of a person on the property. Your domestic staff and three other officers are examining the house to see if anything is missing or damaged.”

James’ mind was reeling. First a security breach at the office then a break-in at his home; all in the same weekend. This was hardly a coincidence. “Have local authorities been alerted yet?”

“No. Other than trespassing and the attack on Mr. Cooper, we don’t know what happened. It could be that running into a guard foiled their plans and they left before getting into the house.”


“I can’t assume just one, but so far there is no evidence of more.”

James nodded, “Don’t call the police until you complete your own investigation. If Coop’s presence foiled a robbery attempt, I don’t want this outside our own staff. That nosey bimbo from the paper will just fill in any blanks with whatever she wants, and I’ll end up spending six months trying to straighten it out again.” James sat down at the desk and started scribbling a note as he spoke.

“Yes, sir.”

“Arthur, would you please call me something other than sir? I realize you are just being polite, but you are, no offense intended, at least fifteen years my senior. Call me James, Jim, Jimmy, J.P. or whatever you like.”

“You’re my boss. I’ll call you sir. It’s just the way I was raised.”

“Work on it,” he said, passing the note to Arthur. “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“Sounds great.”

“Have a seat. I’ll have some brought in.” He dialed the kitchen extension and asked for coffee and two cups to be brought to the library.

Arthur read the note: “Had security breach at office too. Could be bugged. Be discrete,” then nodded his head.

“How are things going on the security upgrades at the office?”

Arthur gave a lengthy but vague report of the upgrade while James jotted a new note on a fresh piece of paper. “Office security upgrade team compromised by unknown adversary. Could be private or gov’t. Re-vet all security personnel, quietly.” He passed the note to Arthur.

Arthur concluded his report, nodded and excused himself to go to the restroom. A few minutes later he returned with a technician. James poured the coffee and made small talk with Arthur while the technician began to move around the room with an electronic tool resembling an antenna.

“Bugs?” James mouthed to Arthur, who nodded.

The men sipped their coffee and chatted about the intrusion until the technician finally completed his sweep. When the tech finished he whispered in Arthur’s ear then left the room.

Arthur looked at James and put a finger to his lips signaling him to be quiet then picked up the pen.

“I’ll check to see how things are going. I’ll get back to you as soon as we know exactly what happened,” said Arthur.

James thanked Arthur and his team for responding so quickly. When Arthur left the room, James read the note he left behind. ‘Two bugs in this room. Watch what you say and where, but don’t act suspicious. Will check the house, office and cars and give full report a.s.a.p.’ James pressed the notes into the paper shredder beside his desk. He sat there a long time contemplating the events of the last fifteen hours. The questions far outnumbered the answers.


Posted in My Novels, The Life and Death of John Doe | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

For the Love of Pete, Chapter 1

Posted by Rex Critchlow on August 18, 2011

“Hurry Up! We’re going to be late,” she chided her son, as she scurried up the court house steps. For Duncan, the stained concrete steps reminded him of the Aztec temples they had been learning about in school. They seemed to go on forever. Up, up, up. He struggled to keep up with his mother, his right hand clasp tightly in her left.

“Pete!” he cried, as his teddy bear tumbled down the steps behind him. He tried to break free from his mother’s grasp to recover his most prized possession. She held fast and sighed in her frustration.

“What next! Stay here. I’ll get him.” She scurried down the steps and collected the battered toy. “This,” she admonished, as she huffed back up the concrete monolith, “is why I didn’t want you to bring it with you. If you loose it again, it’s gone forever. Understand?”

Duncan nodded, his heart breaking at the thought of forever losing his best friend. His mother scooped him up, relieving him of the arduous mid-morning task of climbing Mount Courthouse, and rushed to the top of the stairs.

The inside of the building reminded him of a cave they had gone to on vacation last summer. There were tall columns, high domed ceilings and the floor and walls were all made of stone. His mother called them marbles, or so he thought she said. To an eight-year-old boy, they were just brightly colored, flat, shiny rocks. Her high heels clicked on the rocks, and echoed off the walls and ceiling as they scurried down the endlessly long hallway. There were men and women entering and exiting offices, rushing down the halls, or just sitting quietly on long, old wooden benches. Most of them wore their Sunday suits and dresses. None of them looked happy.

Listening to the voices and footsteps ricocheting off the walls and ceilings, Duncan couldn’t resist the urge to add his own voice to the foray. “Hello!” he shouted.

The echo wasn’t like in the cartoons. It didn’t say “How are you?” and it didn’t say “Hello…hello…hello”. It did, however, produce a single ‘Hello’ and a swift, sharp response from his mother – on his backside.

“Shush. Behave yourself.”

They entered the elevator. He tried to push all the buttons on the panel, but his mother somehow read his thoughts {again} and prevented him from having fun {again}. The elevator moved slowly, jumping and jerking its way up, stopping on the second floor where several people stood waiting when the doors opened. Nobody got on. They just stood there. Some, like his mother, stared at the sundial above the door. Others stared at the two passengers. One woman smiled pleasantly and waved at Duncan. He waved back. Eventually the doors closed and moved to their destination on the third floor.

This room was almost identical to the first floor, except the stairs only went down instead of up, and the center of the room was encircled with long wooden benches.

A man in a blue suit approached them. “Good morning, Cheryl. Are you ready for this?” She sighed and nodded. “And you must be Duncan. Your mother talks about you all the time. I’m Richard.” He shook Duncan’s hand politely and turned back to Cheryl. “I’ll let them know you are here.”

“Is Stanley here yet?”

“No, not yet.”

The man left and Cheryl deposited Duncan at one end of the long bench. It creaked as she settled onto the seat next to him. “I hate these old benches,” she mumbled. “They look great, but the moan and groan every time you move in them.”

Duncan was too busy to hear her. The room was amazing. Behind the bench and over the old wood handrail, he could see all the way down to the first floor. His first thought was to see how long it would take his spit to splatter on the floor a mile below him. He prepared his phlegm.

“Randal Duncan Billings…”

That was all his mother needed to say. He swallowed hard, clutched Pete to his chest and plopped down in the chair properly. Sitting still was a chore, but he did quite well; three or four minutes at least. He looked up. He looked way up. There was a hole in the ceiling just like the hole in the floor, except at the top was a glass ceiling. It was square like the floor with round corners and a round top, like a giant, colored bubble. The glass was made of many colors and formed smaller pictures of birds, crosses and flowers.

“Wow,” he whispered. “This place is just like church.”

“Not quite,” came his mother’s quick, cynical answer. “Church is where you go for forgiveness. This is where you go when there isn’t any forgiveness left to give.”

He didn’t know what she meant, but it didn’t sound fun. It sounded scary. He wanted to leave. Now. Instead, the man in the blue suit called to his mother.

“Wait here honey, I’ll be right back. Sit down and stay away from the edge of the railing.” She walked over to the man and they spoke in hushed voices. Duncan huddled in his seat, afraid to move. If church was where you went to go to heaven, where would this place send you? When a man and woman on the other end of the room started arguing loudly, he had his answer. His arms wrapped tightly around his bear. He knew what happened next.

Their voices escalated into shouting and echoed off the walls. It reminded him of how his mom and dad fought almost every night, at least until the police made his dad move out. That, she had said, was why they were coming here today. She had asked the man in the blue suit if his dad was here yet. It must be where you went to fight.

A girl in a frilly dress sneaked around the big pillar at the corner of the hole in the floor. She climbed onto the bench, hugged her knees to her chest and cried. Duncan knew how she felt. When his parents fought, he wanted to cry too, but his dad told him to be a big boy and that big boys don’t cry. He didn’t cry, he hugged Pete instead, but he watched the girl.

She was pretty, not that Duncan noticed girls. Her curly blonde hair was tied back with a pink ribbon. The ribbon matched her dress, and the frilly edges were as white as marshmallows. She wore shiny red shoes and white pantyhose. She reminded him of a peppermint stick.

More voices joined in the argument. Duncan couldn’t understand what they were saying, because they were all yelling at once. The girl started pounding her head with her fists and wrists. His mother and Richard were watching the fight intently. Nobody noticed the little girl. Duncan did. He had to be a big boy. He crawled the length of the endless bench and seated himself next to her.

“Hi,” he said quietly.

She didn’t speak, but she did stop hitting herself, burring her face between her knees.

“I’m Duncan.” Still no response. “What’s your name?”

A policeman ran past the children and around the pillar toward the group of arguing adults. The yelling stopped immediately. She raised her head and wiped her eyes. “Kristin.”

“This is Pete,” he said holding up the battered bear. “He’s my best friend. He protects me when my parents fight.”

“I don’t like it when they yell. Mom throws things too, like plates and coffee cups.”

“My mom just likes to slam doors, even after dad leaves. Bam! Bam! Bam!” He swung his arms like he was slamming the door.

Somehow, the thought of his mother slamming the doors made them laugh quietly. It wasn’t funny, but it seemed less scary than the screaming parents and flying dishes.

“Billings versus Billings!” a man called out.

“Come on Duncan, that’s us,” his mother took his hand and pulled him away from his new friend.

“Bye!” he called back to her. She waved a little wave and managed a slight smile.

Into a big room filled with pews. It sure looked like a church, but there were two flags where there should have been crucifixes. His mother made him sit in the front row, then she went up onto the stage at the front of the room and sat at a table with the man in the blue suit. His dad was sitting at another table, facing his mom. Next to him was another man in a blue suit. His dad waved at him and smiled. He waved back.

“All rise for the Honorable Judge Alderton.” They all stood up.

A man came in wearing a long black robe. He even looked like a priest, except the collar of his shirt was all white instead of just the front and he wasn’t wearing a big cross on his neck.

“Be seated,” he said.

Everyone sat. Up and down; just like in church. After that, Duncan was lost. The men in the blue suits did most of the talking, none of which he understood. The judge asked each of his parents a few questions. When the judge smacked his wooden hammer onto the desk, they all got up and left the room.

After he hugged his dad, they started toward the elevator. Kristin was still sitting alone on the bench. She looked so sad. Duncan yanked his hand out of his mother’s and ran back to where the girl was seated.

“Here,” he said pushing Pete toward her with both hands. She looked confused. “Here,” he repeated, shaking the stuffed bear gently, his head wobbling wildly on his nearly severed neck. She reached out and tepidly took the bear from Duncan. “Mom said she won’t be fighting with dad any more, because they’re divorced now. Pete wants to protect you now.” She nodded, then closed her arms around the bear, holding him tightly.

“Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins!

“Yes, sir?”

“If you’re done daydreaming, can we proceed?”

“I’m sorry, your honor.” Duncan cleared his throat. “My client and the Respondent have agreed upon and signed forms outlining, what they deem to be a fair and equitable distribution of assets acquired during their marriage. As per the prenuptial agreement, each will retain such assets they brought into the union.”

“Is that the document?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Let me see it.”

Duncan approached the bench and presented the formidable document to the judge.

“Thank you.” He thumbed through the pages quickly. “Mr. Barton, your client has agreed to and signed this document?” He pressed the pages over his desk toward the other attorney who accepted them. After a brief survey of the text, he nodded and passed it back to the judge.

“Yes, sir.”

“And what about the disposition of the children?”

“If it please the court, your honor, we request that physical custody of the two minor children be placed with the mother, and that child support be awarded as per state guidelines.”

“Your honor,” interrupted the other attorney, “My client requests he be given bi-weekly visitation, as well as one month during the summer school breaks with alternating Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays, and given support credit for visitation.”

“Any objections, Mr. Collins?” asked the judge, without looking up from his notes.

“No, sir.”

“Has council calculated support required by the state?”

“Yes, sir,” the lawyers said in unison.

“Submit those to the clerk. You will have my ruling by weeks end. Next case.” He clacked his gavel on the bench.

Duncan collected his papers, slipped them into his satchel and escorted his client from the room.

Very few cases went this smoothly. The parents seemed to be on speaking, even friendly terms. They had divided the assets with almost no argument and custody was uncontested. It wouldn’t last. It never did.

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Publishing my novels

Posted by Rex Critchlow on August 18, 2011

This category is to present and promote my novels. I will be posting parts of these books for the purpose of promotions and to generate interest by literary agents and/or publishers. For anyone that reads my posts in this category and has contacts in the literary arena, please direct them to my postings. I will be very appreciative.

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