Saturday, April 29, 2017

REVIEW: Dear Reflection: I Never Meant to be a Rebel, by Jessica Bell

Growing up is hard to do. . .growing up with performing musicians who are also your parents, is even harder. Jessica Bell has written an engaging and poignant memoir which spans two distinct places: Australia and Greece. It's a whirlwind tour of learning to cope.

Jessica Bell's Memoir cover for:Dear Reflection

DEAR REFLECTION: I Never Meant to be a Rebel
Author: Jessica Bell

A lonely child uses her imagination to provide what she doesn't have--a trusted person to talk to. In listening to this mirror image alter ego, she gives permission to the voice that urges her, demeans her and chips away at her confidence. Music comes along with an early guitar and suddenly she finds something she enjoys. But is she good enough? Always the uncertainty.

There are forays into the wilder side of life for intervals, but something always seems to save her from her destructive tendencies. Family issues come and go, each teaching the young woman more about the real world. She learns the darkness of addiction to prescription drugs from her mother, the blindness of the mind that alcohol causes, and the bullying of a jealous partner.

To survive, she must accept her parents for what they are, and push back and prove to herself that the voice in the mirror and in her head is wrong. This memoir, with its moments of grittiness, is the first I've read that has kept my attention throughout. Reading this novel stirred the thought that when the going gets tough, the struggle strengthens us. 

Highly recommended for parents, teens, or anyone who has felt loneliness whether growing up or afterwards as an adult. I consider Dear Reflection: I Never Meant to be a Rebel one of Jessica's best. She handles the issues which she has lived through with sensitivity and brutal honesty. Bravo!

ALERT: Available the 1st of May. See the link to website below.

Have you read any of Jessica Bell's other novels? Do you like memoirs? Why or why not? Do you ever think of writing a memoir? 

Please leave a comment to let me know you were here and I'll respond. Thanks for dropping by. 

For more on this author's novels, and other talents, please visit Jessica Bell's website:  


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

WEP April Challenge - No Love Nor Peace, Part 2

What would you do if you knew who had killed your brother and he was still loose on the streets? 

Promotional photo of The Godfather Knife - Google Images


(Part 2 of story Automatic Slim, see link also at bottom of post)

Sam first interviewed Hans and Ildi Loewen, who brought their two children to the party -- Joshua, ten and Birgit, sixteen. They befriended Jonathan shortly after moving into the neighbourhood.  When Sam questioned him about the party, Hans remembered little, only that his daughter had arrived late and left shortly after. 
“Birgit had plans to meet with her boyfriend, who picked her up at Jonathan’s house.

Did you notice anyone at the party who was unfamiliar?” Sam asked making a note about Birgit leaving early.  “I’ll need the name of Birgit’s boyfriend, as well. I’m verifying a list of everyone who attended the open house or who happened to be on the premises, like Birgit’s friend.”

 “Well, if it’s part of the investigation . . .his name is Dieter Jensen. He seems all right, but I don’t know anything about his family.”

As Hans walked Sam to the door, Birgit shouldered past them in the hallway.  She looked covertly at Sam but said nothing. Sam's instinct was bristling like an insect’s antennae. He left after asking a few more questions, but gathered little additional information. Jonathan had not mentioned Birgit’s boyfriend at the front door

A week later, a second man was found dead behind Grey’s Tavern with the same type of switchblade sticking out of his chest. Lazlo Podarsky, 30 years of age, was an associate of Rico Divenuto and a known ‘person of interest’. The owner of the tavern told Constable McNulty that Lazlo left a couple of hours before closing time, and seemed capable of getting himself home.  When the owner took the trash to the bin in the alley the next morning, he discovered Lazlo’s body hidden behind the huge garbage bin. He phoned the police.

“This is bad for business.” the owner told McNulty. “You cops, you find out who has done this or nobody will want to come to Grey’s Tavern. If these people want to kill each other, I wish they go somewhere else.”

“We’ll contact you for a statement soon,” McNulty said.  “Don’t talk about it to anyone. The killer could be one of your customers.”

Constable McNulty asked Sam to attend the second homicide scene and check for anything Forensics might have missed. He scanned the pile of garbage where the body had been thrown.  No one was around, so Sam closed his eyes to concentrate on clearing his mind, a trick he used to spot the clues others missed.

The sun flashed on the building wall opposite just as Sam opened his eyes.  A quick reflection of light shone from the garbage. He walked over to pick up a finely tooled but dirty knife sheath with silver edging which lay amid the mess. Garbage piled behind the dumpster had fallen to the sides when the body was removed, exposing the knife sheath. Sam pulled a small forceps from an inner pocket, put the sheath in a specimen bag and pocketed the evidence.

Sam later asked his friend, a tech in the Street Crimes investigation unit to run an analysis of a partial fingerprint on the silver work. 

Sam woke from his nap with a start.  What was that? With a shrill tone, the cordless phone reminded him as it rang again.  He struggled out of his old wingback chair muttering oaths under his breath and grabbed the phone.  “Hello?”

“Jarvis, back off. One warning. Keep your nose out of Grey’s Tavern. This is private.”  Click. 

With his mind still groggy from the nap, Sam didn’t register fear, just annoyance. The tenor male voice sounded muffled, but he heard loud music in the background.  He called Constable McNulty.

After hearing about the threats from someone at Grey’s Tavern, McNulty said, “I’ll send an undercover man around to your address to watch for trouble. Any ideas who it was?  You ruffled any feathers, Sam?”

“I’m just doing my job, asking questions.  That usually ruffles a few feathers.  Have you got an undercover at Grey’s Tavern?  If not, put one on.  And thanks for the tail, Constable.

Watch yourself Sam, and don’t try anything alone. We’ve tried to close that bar down, but we need hard evidence to do that. The owner won’t report the crimes. He just turns his back. Can’t report what you don’t see."

Sam made a pot of coffee before he pulled out his notes on the case. Could that call have been set up by the owner of the bar?  Or one of those thugs that hung around waiting for the action?   What connection did the murders have with the stolen knife?

As he poured himself a cup of coffee, he saw the message light flashing on the old cordless base unit. The message list showed the lab number on the display.

Sam’s friend left a message regarding the fingerprint identification. The prints on the knife sheath belonged to Jonathan Ashworth. What?  His head felt sluggish.  Confused at what this meant, he remembered the stack of knife-size boxes he’d seen in the corner of Jonathan’s library.  Sam’s lack of sleep was making his thinking less clear and more fractured.

The phone rang again. Mr. Hans Loewen's daughter, Birgit, confessed to her father that she had stolen Jonathan’s original knife from the library.  Birgit told her dad after Sam left and asked him to intervene. 
According to Birgit’s story, her boyfriend came to Jonathan’s front door to pick her up for a movie.  Birgit asked him to wait while she went to the bathroom. On the way, she passed the library and convinced Jonathan to go downstairs to meet her boyfriend When Birgit came out of the bathroom, the library door stood ajar and she saw the white stiletto lying on top of the main desk.  No one was upstairs, so she pocketed the knife in her jeans and left.  

Jonathan was at the front door talking to Birgit’s boyfriend Dieter, while they waited for her. She told her father that she later gave the knife to Dieter.  Dieter lost it there a few hours later to Rico Divenuto in a poker game at Grey’s Tavern.

Sam thanked Mr. Loewen for calling and told him he would have to make a new statement to the police.  No charges had been laid yet.

On his way to the police station downtown to update Constable McNulty, Sam got a call on his cell phone from a train dispatcher at the Canadian National Railway. Another body was found.  Constable Johnson had given the manager Sam's number.

Sam changed his route to head down East 1st Avenue to Main.  A male body had been dumped near the railroad tracks off Terminal Avenue and Main Street, on the edge of the downtown eastside.  Third man -- same type of blade – same efficient killing method.  The hilt of the knife rested between the second and third rib, the blade buried at an angle in the flesh. Very little blood was around the body. 

Railway workers halted their train until the police and Forensics had finished their investigation, warning the other rail traffic of the stoppage with flares and red flags.  Operations for the CNR had sent a supervisor over to confirm that the railway was not responsible for the death. Someone had wanted the body to be found with the same death signature as the two previous murders.

Sam stopped in at the Ovaltine Cafe for a coffee after he saw the body. There had to be some connection between these three murders.  He finished his coffee, left a tip for the waitress and left, heading back to his bungalow on Capitol Hill.

After setting his security alarm and his clock, he looked to see if the police cover was outside watching his place.  Yes, the black sedan was there, the full-bodied type that screams ‘police’, as soon as you see it.  For now, he was grateful.


McNulty conducted an internet search of all Vancouver purchases of the Protec Godfather Tuxedo knives in the last two years. A background search on each order pinpointed Jonathan Ashworth as a multiple importer of the knives for his business. Imports International, his storefront, was also his family business. By special police warrant, the Imports International database was hacked into by the RCMP. When the web search analysis arrived at Constable McNulty’s office, he called Sam in to see the results.  Jonathan’s name headed the list of suspects.

“How can it be him?  He’s the one who reported the knife missing.” 
“Yeah, that theft gave him a great alibi, didn’t it? Now hold on, Sam. Do you remember that murder a few months ago involving a guy who hung around Grey’s Tavern? That was Jonathan’s younger brother who was shot in the head at close range.  His brother was used as the pawn in a dispute between two rival gangs. We had no concrete evidence, so no charges were laid, and no one would testify.” 

Sam remembered the news article.  It stated that there had been a set-up to establish one club's drug turf.  He hadn’t known that the victim had been Jonathan’s brother, due to a court-ordered embargo on the case details.

“How did you find out that it was a set-up?”

“To answer that, I’ll need you to keep your mouth shut.  This is highly classified, and I’ll hold you responsible if you let it get out.”

“I’m a professional, Constable.  My information is confidential just like yours.  You must have someone on site. I hope he’s tough.”

 “You’re right, Sam.  One of our men is working as a bartender at Grey’s Tavern, he’s six foot four, two hundred fifty pounds and he works out at the gym where some of the lowlife go.  He was military before, so he can take care of himself. He’s reported seeing a man fitting Jonathan’s general description hanging around with some of the gang members at Grey’s. For several weeks before the first murder occurred, he infiltrated the gang based out of Grey’s bar and ingratiated himself with his dead brother’s associates.  Since he knew his weapons, they allowed him into their fold.”

“I’ll be damned.  I’d forgotten that Jonathan used to act in community theatre, he did it for a few years.  He was good at it too.  But to go to Grey’s by himself -- I didn’t know he had it in him.”

“Jonathan Ashworth made his own vendetta against the three men he discovered were responsible for his brother Boyce’s death. The knife that Jonathan reported stolen came back to its original owner that night, as Jonathan waited for Rico’s return.  Rico must have trusted him in his business biker disguise, making it easier for Jonathan to get close.  That same knife or a similar one was used to eliminate Rico, the one who bragged to his friends about the killing. ”

“So the knife found in the second body was another copy?”  Sam hadn’t told McNulty about the sheath identification since he had been called by the CPR on his way to the police precinct. Three men in the deal, three men dead. 

“Probably.  I haven’t heard from the lab yet but they’re comparing the evidence.  We’ll know for sure tomorrow.  That one would have been easy for Jonathan if he was keeping company at the bar.  The owner never said if Lazlo Podarsky left by himself or perhaps with Jonathan.  We’ll be calling the owner in for questioning.”

“Okay.  What about the last body by the CN tracks?  Who was the third man?”

“That was Vincent Sturgeon, Vinny to his buddies, a guy who assaulted women whenever he got the chance.  He’d been hauled in several times, but the women always got scared.  He did the dirty work for Rico on occasion, whenever he wanted to rough someone up.  Jonathan did society a favour on that one, but don’t quote me.  Same type of knife, same thrust to the heart on the last victim. ”

 “I see.  I guess that ties it.  When will Jonathan be arrested?”

“As soon as we get a warrant prepared, and we’re watching his place nonstop until then.  He’ll undergo psychiatric testing first.  This isn’t the first case of something like this occurring.  Good men can lose it, when the only person they call family, is murdered.  Jonathan must have snapped when his brother was killed so brutally.”

“I guess. I'm an old friend of Jonathan’s; I'll visit him at the hospital. Could you keep me informed as to how it goes for him?”

“Confidentially, of course.”

“Of course.  Any idea what will happen to his business?”

 “The import business is closed by order until the psychiatric assessment is completed.  The law will determine what happens based on that report and auditing the books.  At worst, the inventory will have to go on the auction block.”

Sam felt as if he had entered a walking bad dream, with exhaustion dogging his steps.  He wanted to kick something as he walked to his car.  Life wasn’t fair; it had turned gritty for his friend, and there wasn’t much he could do about it.  His old friend Jonathan had crossed that fine line between the exceptionally intelligent and the intelligently insane.

A couple of days later, Sam found Jonathan in his room at the Riverview hospital, reading a book on ancient sword making.  His eyes brightened when he recognized Sam.  Some of the old memory seemed intact.

“Good morning, Sam, you’re a little late.  I’ve already had my breakfast.  It’s good to see you, though.”

“I’m sorry, I got delayed by that lineup of traffic coming off Lougheed Highway.  Traffic keeps getting worse.”

“At least you’re here.  While I’m in this hospital, my schedule isn’t my own.  I’m a little confused as to exactly why I’m here, but the doc tells me it’s only a short stay.  They’re worried about me, you know.”

“Well, I hope you’re cooperating, dear friend. I see you’re reading a historical book. Do you like it? I’ve got that one myself. Let me know when you’re finished and we can discuss it.”

“You’ve read it? How interesting – an expert like you?”

“I can always learn something new. I’ll admit that I contributed to some of the facts they cite on swords and curved blades.”

Jonathan looked pleased. Almost like old times. He rang the nurse to see if he and his visitor could get some tea and a bite to eat. The staff had been advised to humor his requests in the hope that his mind would stabilize. A stable mind could stand trial.

When the tea arrived, Jonathan waved the nurses away and served them both. “We’ll just sit awhile and talk, ladies. If you don’t mind.”  Sam followed his friend’s lead as they talked, avoiding any references to recent events. Except for the occasional moments when Jonathan stared at his hands as if they weren’t his own, all was normal. 

Jonathan was indicted for the three murders, receiving a reduced sentence due to his psychiatric assessment.  That memory of what he had done was buried deep within his subconscious.  It was a common trait of multiple personality disorder. 

On Sam’s last visit, Jonathan talked about Boyce as if he were still living.  Perhaps in Jonathan’s muddled mind the horror never happened. The elegant black bladed, white handled knife with the double edge was never mentioned again. He had wiped away all memory of the blade that had been his favourite, the Godfather Tuxedo.
The weapons collection was held in trust for six months, along with the rest of Jonathan’s estate. Sam visited Jonathan once a week in the Riverview psychiatric centre, trying to keep to their old breakfast arrangement. If Jonathan was allowed to keep the weapons collection, Sam wanted to be the next caretaker.   

Jonathon knew that he would have no PEACE until his LOVE for his brother was honoured by his judging and executing the men who had caused his death. Despair and Hope were both resident in his heart.

WC=2639 approx.


Write, Edit, Publish (WEP)
Peace and Love

It's April, time for our second WEP challenge - with the support team of Nilanjana Bose and Olga Godim adding their imaginings and creativity. Thanks to Denise and Yolanda for being the hosts!

Create an artistic enterpretation: a poem, a flash fiction piece of 1000 words or less, a non-fiction piece detailing your personal experience or someone else's experience, write a script, draw your dreams, or post a photograph or a photo essay. The genre and the artistic choice are yours!

According to the poem Peace and Love by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. 

"Despair and hope may meet within one heart."


Part 1 of this story: Automatic Slim

Note: The original 5000 + word count story was edited to this current length in Part 2 to finish off the story which began in the last challenge. A lot of narrative was cut, but I couldn't meet the 1000 word count limit and still keep the story valid.  Please forgive my excesses. . .