Cognitive Reflection Picture Writing Challenge #25: Explanations

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A thin beam of light pierced through the blind, penetrating Kahtarina’s consciousness. She squirmed and moaned. “Ban!” She sat up, waves of dizziness and nausea causing her to grab the nearest wastebasket. She finished heaving and groaned at the symphony of drummers playing thrash metal in her skull.

She grabbed her head, unfamiliar bandages rough under her fingers. Her eyes widened and she glanced around the room. A monitor with a steady beep…beep sat beside the strange bed she occupied. A tug in her forearm drew her attention, revealing a needle stuck in her vein. She traced the tubing back to an IV-stand behind her. “Where…?”

Further study revealed a well-worn couch along the pea-green wall. Water-stains marred the corner where wall met ceiling, and the baseboard looked to have mold growing right above the dark brown carpet-line. This is no hospital room!

She ripped the IV out of her arm, ignored the vehement protest of her aching body, and stood, shuffling over to the door. She twisted, pulled, and pushed, but the door refused to open. She hurried over to the window, stumbling and barking her shin against the edge of the bed. “Verrek!

She clawed the flimsy plastic blinds off their rods to see iron bars running the length of the pane. She pressed her face as far as she could between two bars to see outside.

The weather seemed much nicer than what she remembered in Amsterdam. People walked along the streets with only light jackets to protect against the breeze, if they wore any protection at all. She watched a couple at a small café hold hands. The man leaned across the table and kissed a girl in a white dress. Where the hell am I?

Memories scratched and scrabbled to find purchase in her mind, to no avail. The pain held them at bay, allowing only small flashes to penetrate its lines. Scruff…running…Anna? What happened to me?

The door handle jostling turned her around, and she pressed her back against the barred windows, eyes frantically searching the room. They settled on the IV-stand, and she dashed over, hefting the cold metal in her hands. The knob turned and the hinges squeaked as it opened. “Kahtarina?”

Kahtarina ran toward the door, swinging the improvised weapon in her hand. She only caught a glimpse of rimless glasses as she felt the impact of metal against arm. “Ow! Merde!” The thin man tumbled to the side and she bolted out the door. “Kahtarina! Wait!”

She ran into a corridor painted the same sickly green as the bedroom, adorned only with a nightstand that held a flowerless vase and large vanity mirror hanging above.  The wall changed into a thick wooden railing that ended in a staircase a few feet away. She started toward her escape route, but a strong hand grabbed her shoulder, pulling her back. “Will you wait a minute?”

Kahtarina thrashed and screamed, throwing her head back and stomping in hopes of breaking her attackers foot. “Let me GO!”

The man wrapped his arms around her and lifted her off the ground. She tried to rake his shins, but met little success without shoes. “Henry Pleasant! HENRY PLEASANT!”

Kahtarina ceased flailing at the name, but still pulled against her assailant’s grasp. He let her go and she stepped away, turning to look at him with suspicious eyes. “What about him?”

Her captor readjusted his glasses her struggles knocked askew. He swept his hand back to indicate the bedroom. Kahtarina’s gaze hardened and she crossed her arms, foot tapping and head shaking. A rueful smile swept his face. “Fine. I’ll tell you here.”

His voice jogged her memory, allowing recent events to flood her mind. “You! You spilled my hot chocolate on me, then chased me down the street! Who are you?”

He held up his hand. “I’m reaching for my badge, okay? Don’t freak out like you did the last time.”

“I didn’t freak out,” she muttered, as he pulled out a black leather wallet.

He flipped it open to show a badge and I.D. card with his picture on it. “My name is Jacoby Rabin, and I’m with INTERPOL.”

Kahtarina’s posture didn’t relax. “Why did you kidnap me?” she spat.

Jacoby cleared his throat and tugged the collar of his shirt. “Uh…about that. Sorry. Although, it was less kidnapping and more placing you into protective custody.”

A questioning eyebrow arched, and he continued. “You know Henry Pleasant.”

She nodded. “He’s a scumbag that cheated on his wife.”

“With you.”

She sighed and threw up her hands. “If you know so much, why are you asking me. Wait…how do you know so much?”

“INTERPOL monitors certain people with…special skill sets that we suspect hire out for…certain jobs.”

Kahtarina frowned at the cryptic response. She closed her eyes as she parsed through Jacoby’s words. Her eyes snapped open as the meaning hit her. “He hired someone to kill me?” Knuckles whitened as her fists clenched. “That klerelijer!”

“The one he hired, Kurt Berlitz, was in the pub that day. He knew your schedule, and I believe he did something to the hot chocolate mix, as he knew the barkeep kept it specifically for you.”

“So you bumped me on purpose?” She sighed, shoulders slumping and hands hanging limply at her sides. “This is just too much.”

Jacoby took a tentative step forward. “I understand this can be…overwhelming. Why don’t we go downstairs and I’ll make you something to eat. We’ll talk.”

She shuffled after him down the stairs, an ache of a different kind coloring her eyes.

***

For Cognitive Reflection’s Picture Writing Challenge #25. The photos posted by Moi at Cognitive Reflection help me move the story of the Pleasant Family along, indeed they got there start there and have nestled in quite comfortably 🙂 Catch up with what’s happened so far by clicking Drama: Pleasant Family.

Hope you enjoy this installment.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

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Cognitive Reflection PWC #24: Not So Chance Encounters

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Kahtarina shuffled through the snow, avoiding the bicyclers slushing along the walk. Just another beautiful day in Amsterdam.

She hurried into the pub on the corner. “Usual, Franco,” she told the bartender as she slapped her coat and shook snow out of her hair. A steaming mug of hot chocolate appeared on the counter. “Thanks.”

She scanned the room as she let the cup warm her frozen hands. The Netherlands played Turkey in a qualifying match for the World Cup on the telly. Hooligans, decked out in white, red, and blue, some wrapped in flags, cheered or argued every play. A lone man, salt and pepper hair cropped close, sat in the far corner of the bar, sipping a coffee and staring out the window.

Kahtarina sighed.  Anna’s late as usual. She raised her mug. Before the sweet heat could caress her lips, a black leather jacket bumped into her. Her beloved chocolate turned on her as it cascaded down her front, sending a shudder of pain through her body. “Klerelijer!”

She rounded on the perpetrator, a thin man with a five’o clock shadow and rimless glasses. “I-I’m so sorry, miss,” he sputtered as she glared.

She snatched a napkin from the bar and scrubbed her shirt. The man glanced around, noticing several of the hooligans crowd closer around him. “Um, ma’am?”

Kahtarina glanced up and her hand gave a small wave. The hooligans backed off, grumbling. “Uh, thank you?” Leather jacket’s finger pushed his glasses higher. “I’m Jacoby, by the way.”

He winced when she cut her gaze back to him. “I don’t really care who you are,” she said, turning her attention back to her ruined clothes. “Franco, tell Anna I’ll call her later, if she ever shows up.”

She shrugged her coat back on as she headed for the door. Jacoby surveyed the room reflected in the mirror behind the bar. He scurried after Kahtarina when he noticed the lone man staring at his back, eyes hard. “Wait up!”

Kahtarina turned at his cry, eyes colder than the weather. “What do you want?”

He reached into his jacket, and she caught a glimpse of a gun-butt hanging from a shoulder holster. Her eyes widened and she bolted, feet thumping down the treacherous road.

“Wait!” Jacoby yelled. He pounded after her, more careful of his footing. He frowned as Kahtarina hit an icy patch, her feet flying out from underneath and back of her head meeting the asphalt with a crack.

He slid to a halt beside her, cursing. He pulled off his gloves and placed two fingers on her neck, breathing a sigh of relief when her pulse ka-thumped against his fingers steady and strong.

Jacoby slid one arm under her knees and one around her shoulders, groaning as he strained to lift her. A peek down the road revealed the man with salt-and-pepper hair walking toward the two of them.

Adrenaline surged and he struggled to his feet. He swayed and slid to his car, depositing Kahtarina in the back seat. The man following them shouted and started running.

Jacoby started the vehicle and stomped on the gas, showering the stranger with snow as he escaped.

***

This is for Cognitive Reflection’s Picture Writing Challenge. This is another part in the saga of the Pleasant Family.

See part one here, part two here, and part three here. Hope you enjoy and stay tuned for more!

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

Cognitive Reflection #23: Sense and Siblings

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Kayla squatted on the edge of the bank, washing her hands in the cold lake water while allowing the serenity of colors from the view to paint her soul. A trick of the lighting cast the mountains into a shade of blue that captured her current melancholy and broadcast it for God and the world to peruse. I can’t believe Dad would cheat on Mom like that and just leave usWith a girl only two years older than me, for Christ’s sake. That’s just creepy.

Ragged breathing, tinged with a slight wheeze, announced an intruder who broke into her reverie, leaving her canvas a half-formed jumble of conflicting shades. Kayla sighed and forced her lithe runner’s frame to rise. Inventive invectives muttered from behind lifted a corner of her mouth in true humor. “You know, if I’m what you said then you are as well, seeing as how we share the same mother and all.”

She turned to stare at a portly young man, three years younger than her twenty. “And wouldn’t it be ‘daughter’ for that? I mean, you are her only son, Chubba-Bubba.”

Henry Pleasant II, Hank to the public, Deuce to his friends, and often Deuce-stain to his sister, glared at Kayla. One of the hands clutching the knees of his pants raised up, rigid middle digit extended. “My, my,” Kayla said. “So articulate.”

Hank snorted and shrugged out of the hiking pack digging into his shoulders. The lifted weight allowed him to straighten his back for the first time in hours, and he moaned in relief. He strode to the edge of the lake, brushing past his sister, and knelt. Taking water in his cupped hands, he buried his face in them to scrub away the day’s worth of sweat and grime that marred him.

Kayla sat tailor-style next to him, projecting a façade of calm. “You know, fish poop in that water.”

Hank paused for a moment. “Still makes it cleaner than your room.” He eyed the water for a second, said “Screw it,” and leaned back to sprawl on the bank. “Why did you want to come out here?”

Kayla’s finger submitted itself for chewing to her mouth. Hank’s eyes narrowed as he recognized the nervous habit she’d held ever since toddler-hood. “Spit it out, Kay.”

“I’m going to go look for Dad,” she breathed out in a rush. Her neck twisted, hiding her face in the deepening gloom.

Quiet reigned, broken only by the soft rustles and chirps of Nature. Kayla brushed back a lock of her bottled-blonde hair to peek at Hank. To her surprise, he just laid there, hands behind his head and watching the stars shimmer into existence. “Hank?”

“I heard you. Why?” He struggled into a sitting position. “Why go after him, Kay? Mom already has investigators out searching for him.”

“Because I need to know why. Why he cheated on Mom. Why he hid all of his money from her, leaving her in such a mess. I need to know…” Her voice trailed off as tears escaped the carefully-constructed trap she’d set for them.

“You need to know why he hates us so much.” Hank scooted over next to his big sister and eased an arm around her shoulders. She sank into his offering, allowing the poison of the last couple of months to drain onto his shirt.

When the sobbing dissipated into sniffling, Hank said, “I’m coming with you.”

Kayla jerked up, eyes wide. “You can’t! You have school and Mom needs you, and…”

Hank chuckled. “And you need me to cover for you, right?” He gave Kayla a playful shove. “This isn’t you sneaking out to some party, doof. You need me.” He puffed out his chest and thumped it. “After all, I am smarter than you. All the tests said so.”

Kayla rolled her eyes, but thought about his proposal. Hank saved or invested almost every dime he’d earned or been given, amassing quite the fortune over the years. Her face flushed as she thought of all the money she’d blown on parties and shopping, always assuming there would be more whenever she needed it.

She reached over and mussed his dark brown hair. “All right, ‘genius,’ you can come with.”

He grinned, transforming him back into the boy she once thought she knew. “Great. Can we set up and eat something now? I’m starving.”

“You mean ‘Kayla, dear sister, will you do all the work while I sit and watch helplessly, completely unable to do anything that doesn’t involve calling on servants.'”

She laughed and walked to the tree-line as his hands sank into his fleshy sides in mock indignation.

***

My contribution for Cognitive Reflection’s Picture Writing Challenge #23 and another entry in the saga of the Pleasant family. To see the previous two installments click here for part 1 and here for part 2. Hope you enjoy!

Head on over to and join in the fun. The only “rule” is to use the photo in creating your story or poem.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

Cognitive Reflection #21-The Cycle Of Revenge

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Henry paced the tile floor of a Zürich apartment rented specifically for one purpose. He paused by the window and glanced at the soaring spires that pierced the vista. “Bitches,” he muttered.

A knock on the door stiffened his back. His head swiveled as he noted quick exit points and items that might be used as weapons, if needed. Satisfied he could escape any traps, he threw his shoulders back and sauntered over to answer. “Who is it?”

A deep French-accented voice, roughened by a life of alcohol and cigarettes, answered, “I’m the specialist ordered by one Mr. Johnson.”

A sick smile twisted Henry’s lips. He swung open the door and surveyed his new hire. The man stood shorter than Henry’s six-foot frame, but not by much. He shaved his dark hair close to his skull, small patches of silver glistening in the hall light. Black eyes, dead and cold, returned Henry’s favor by sizing him up.

“Come in,” Henry said. “You come highly recommended. Drink?”

The man shook his head. “No pleasantries, just business.”

Henry poured himself a finger of scotch and knocked it back. “I can respect that.” He strolled over to his briefcase on the bed and unsnapped the latches, trying not to notice the man’s hand inching under his jacket. A Beretta 92-F lay atop two manila envelopes. “I do have a weapon, in case of emergencies. In the spirit of full disclosure, and all that.”

Henry snatched up the envelopes and closed the lid. He breathed a mental sigh of relief as the man’s hand stopped its journey and reached for the packages. “A weapon doesn’t do much good locked away,” the man said.

“As I said, emergencies. I have…other means, as well.” Henry eased himself into a chair and leaned back, ankle on knee.

The man ignored Henry’s bravado. He opened the envelopes and pulled out the pictures inside. A young, attractive blonde and silver-haired matron the victim of too much plastic surgery stared back at him. “These are the targets,” the assassin said, no inflection or tone in his voice.

“Yes. Their bios are in the envelopes. The young blonde’s name is Kahtarina Graber; she goes by Katie. The older woman’s name is Rachel Pleasant, my former wife.” Henry leaned forward and the setting sunlight coming through the window cast his face in shadow. “I want them dead.”

“Obviously, or I wouldn’t be here.” The man stuffed the photos back into the envelopes. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. “Wire the money here. Once payment has been verified the job will be done.”

Henry grinned. “Better you getting some of my money than that hag and her two brats sucking me dry.” He pulled out his smart-phone and started messing with the screen. “Done. Get that whore and witch out of my life.”

The killer pulled out his own phone and pressed a few buttons. He nodded at whatever showed on the screen. He turned and strode out of the apartment without a word.

Henry poured himself another drink and chuckled. He knocked his drink back, grabbed his briefcase, and headed for the door. He had to catch a flight to Dubai.

***

My contribution to Cognitive Reflection’s Picture Writing Challenge #21. The only “rule” is you have to use the photo for your story or poem. It’s open to everyone, so head on over and join in the fun!

This week, I decided to continue the story begun in “Solitary” . Keep checking in to see what happens!

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

Cognitive Reflection #17-Solitary

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Henry stepped outside and took a deep breath. The crisp mountain air invigorated him. A solitary duck swam across the lake right outside the balcony he stood on. Henry flipped the duck a quick salute. You got it right, my friend. Solitary is the way to be.

“Henry?” His girlfriend, sleep fighting wakefulness, stumbled out to the balcony, her blonde hair limp and tousled from the night’s activities. She rubbed his back. “What you doin’ out here?”

“Just enjoying the view, Katie-did.” He leaned down and pressed his lips against hers. Her mouth parted and the kiss deepened. He pulled her into him and ran his hands down her back, cupping her buttocks.

Their lips parted. His breath deepened and his face flushed. “Let’s go back in…”

Freddy Mercury sang “Somebody to Love” from his cell. “Damn,” he said under his breath.

He stalked over to the nightstand next to the bed. Katie frowned at the sudden change in her lover’s demeanor. “Who is it?”

Henry held up an imperious finger, silencing her. “Hi, honey. … What? Oh, I’m just getting ready for a meeting. … No, you didn’t wake me, but I do need to get ready. … Alright, I’ll call you later. Tell the kids I love them. Love you. Bye-bye.”

Henry glanced at Katie, her arms crossed and foot tapping the ground. A deep frown lined her 22-year-old face. “You’re married?”

He opened his arms and stepped toward her. “Now, baby…”

She slapped him.

He recoiled and held his cheek. “You…you…cheating bastard,” she screamed.

Something dark flashed in his eyes and his hand whipped out, striking her across the face and sending her sprawling to the floor. He sat on top of her and continued slapping her, harder and harder. “Do you like being slapped, bitch?” he roared.

She screamed for him to stop. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” rang over and over in the small villa apartment.

Henry’s hand cocked back, but he held off at her desperate apologies. “Damn right you’re sorry,” he murmured. He stood up and dressed, leaving a crying and bloody Katie on the floor. “Get your stuff and get out,” he said.

He stomped off to the door. “And don’t bother trying to call the cops or anything. Nobody’s going to believe a whore like you.” He slammed the door behind him.

Katie lay on the floor, fighting the pain of the assault. She wiped her face with her sleeve. It came away from her face with blood that gushed from her nose. She stood, her legs wobbly and body shaking, to collect her clothes.

She spied Henry’s phone that he left on the nightstand during his fury. The room tilted as she walked and she threw a steadying hand down on the bed. The dizziness subsided, but she decided to sit and scoot over to the phone.

She picked it up and hit redial. Two rings and then a woman with a cultured New England accent picked up. “Henry? Is that you?”

“No, ma’am. My name is Katie, and I want to tell you what your husband really does on his ‘business trips.'”

This is for Cognitive Reflection’s Picture Writing Challenge #17. The only “rule” is to use the picture provided for your story or poem. Head on over and check out what people have written. Also, feel free to enter your own writing. The more the merrier!

Happy reading and writing!

J. Milburn