Predator: If It Bleeds

Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer (from Predator, 1987)

predator-antho-coverOver the centuries, extraterrestrial hunters of the Yautja race—also known as the Predators—have encountered (and stalked) humans on Earth and in the depths of space. Offered here are sixteen all-new stories of such hunts, written by many of today’s most extraordinary authors:

Kevin J. Anderson
Jennifer Brozek
Larry Correia
Mira Grant
Tim Lebbon
Jonathan Maberry
Andrew Mayne
Weston Ochse
S. D. Perry
Steve Perry
Jeremy Robinson
John Shirley
Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Holly Roberds
Peter J. Wacks and David Boop
Wendy N. Wagner
Dayton Ward

Inspired by the events of the original Predator movies, graphic novels, and novels, these adventures pit hunter against prey in life-and-death struggles where there can be only one victor.

Awwwwwwwww, yeah.

I still remember when editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt reached out to me, gauging my interest in contributing a short story to this anthology he was assembling. The invitation came at just the right time, as I was in sore need of a pick-me-up to help combat various personal and family issues during that time. The original Predator is one of my all-time favorite 80s films, and thirty years later I think it still holds its own against most of the action movies which have come along since it was first on theater screens.

As for If It Bleeds? I am thoroughly jazzed to be sharing a table of contents with this roster of word pushers, which includes several people I’m proud to call friend. The stories run the gamut and span centuries from the distant past to the far future. My story, “Recon,” takes place in 1968 and is set in Vietnam.

If you can’t obtain a copy of this bee-yoo-tiful tome via your local independent bookseller, there’s always the online merchant option, so let me hit you with some link action:

Trade Paperback, Kindle e-Book, and Audiobook from
Trade Paperback, Nook e-Book, and Audiobook from Barnes & Noble
Trade Paperback, Various e-Book formats, and Audiobook from Books-A-Million

In addition to providing a permanent home for links to find and order the book, this entry also will serve as our book’s “official” Q&A thread. Those of you who want to chat about the book, feel free to post your questions/etc. to the comments section. For those of you who’ve found this page and perhaps not yet read the book, BEWARE THAT SPOILERS ARE POSSIBLE FROM THIS POINT FORWARD.

Maximum Velocity

maximum-velocity-front-coverThe Best of Full-Throttle Space Tales

The Full-Throttle Space Tales series collected action-packed, high octane science fiction stories across the full potential of the genre. Here, the original editors have teamed up to pick the very best of Full-Throttle Space Tales, eighteen stories collected here for the first time.

Stories by David Boop, C.J. Henderson, W.A. Hoffman, Julia Phillips, David Lee Summers, Carol Hightshoe, Irene Radford, Bob Brown, Scott Pearson, Alan L. Lickiss, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Dayton Ward, Anna Paradox, Ivan Ewert, Erik Scott de Bie, Shannon Page, Mark Ferrari, Gene Mederos, Jean Johnson, Mike Resnick, and Brad R. Torgersen

Buckle up, because we’re accelerating to Maximum Velocity!

Trade Paperback from
Kindle e-Book from
Nook e-Book from Barnes & Noble
Multiple e-Book formats from Smashwords
Kobo e-Book


Back in 2009, I edited an anthology of military science fiction stories, Space Grunts, the third installment of Full-Throttle Space Tales, a series of pulpy SF short fiction with each volume centering around a particular theme. There ultimately were six collections, all published by David Rozansky and Flying Pen Press:

spacegrunts-coverSpace Pirates – edited by David Lee Summers
Space Sirens – edited by Carol Hightshoe
Space Grunts – edited by moi
Space Horrors – edited by David Lee Summers
Space Tramps – edited by Jennifer Brozek
Space Battles – edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

A few years ago, Flying Pen got away from publishing fiction, and all of the original anthologies are out of print. The rights to the individual stories have reverted back to their original authors, and few have even republished their tales in other anthologies or markets.

Then, in early 2014, David Lee Summers broached the idea of finding a way to reprint the original FTST anthologies, perhaps with an eye toward one day reviving the series. After the idea lay dormant for a bit, until the summer of 2015 when fate so fit to bring me to a convention with David and Jennifer Brozek. We revisited the notion and decided it still had merit, but finding a home for six collections of short stories felt to us like a daunting if not impossible task. So, the idea of creating a “Best of” anthology was hatched, while retaining the hope of this perhaps kick-starting a FTST revival.

David, with the help of original FTST contributor David Boop, took our idea to best-selling and award-winning author/editor Kevin J. Anderson, who happens to have his own independent publishing company, WordFire Press. Kevin was enthusiastic about hosting our little anthology, so with that in our pocket, we five editors got to work figuring out what would go in it.

The idea was simple: Each editor selected three to five stories from one of the anthologies for consideration by the other editors. To keep things as impartial as possible, we decided to reread the anthology that came before ours in the sequence (with David pulling double duty since he’d edited two). For example, I went through the stories collected in the second anthology, Space Sirens, and made my recommendations. At long last, the result of all our deliberations is this shiny new tome, Maximum Velocity.

Many thanks to Kevin J. Anderson and the team at WordFire Press for giving us our new home. Thanks also to the other editors and most especially to the other authors, without whom this entire endeavor wouldn’t even have been possible.

Planet of the Apes: Tales from the Forbidden Zone

Sixteen brand-new adventures
set in the world of the original Planet of the Apes!

POTA-ForbiddenZoneThe 1968 Planet of the Apes film has inspired generations of authors. Now a who’s who of modern writers produces sixteen all-new tales, exclusive to this volume, set in the world of the original films and television series.

Dan Abnett • Kevin J. Anderson • Jim Beard • Nancy Collins • Greg Cox • Andrew E.C. Gaska • Robert Greenberger • Rich Handley • Greg Keyes • Sam Knight • Paul Kupperberg • Jonathan Maberry • Bob Mayer • John Jackson Miller • Ty Templeton • Will Murray • Dayton Ward

Each explores a different drama within the post-apocalyptic world, treating readers to unique visions and nonstop action.

Oh. Yeah.

Planet of the Apes, along with the original Star Trek and The Six Million Dollar Man, is at the top of my childhood TV and movie jam list. I was too young to catch the original films in theaters, but I did watch the initial CBS broadcast of the first couple of movies before they went ahead and greenlit a weekly television series based on the Apes concept. The show was cancelled after a half season, and if we’re being honest then it’s easy to see why that decision was made. On the other hand, that TV show, warts and all, has always been one of my favorite aspects of the Apes franchise. With the series gone from the airwaves, the fates of wayward astronauts Alan Virdon and Peter Burke and their chimpanzee companion, Galen, were left untold.

So, when editors Jim Beard and Rich Handley came calling, asking me if I wanted to write a story for this new anthology and knowing of my love for all things Apes, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: a story featuring wayward Virdon, Burke, and Galen set after the events of the TV series, and perhaps a chance to explore one of the show’s precious few dangling plot threads. Thankfully, Jim and Rich indulged me, and the result is “Message In A Bottle,” just one of 16 brand-new tales set at various points along the entire 2,000-or so year Planet of the Apes storytelling tapestry. Here’s hoping you dig all of them.


Meanwhile, I am absolutely thrilled to be sharing a table of contents with the other writers who’ve contributed stories to this volume, including several scribes I’m proud to call friend. Y’all need to be getting your stinking paws on this new book, yo. If you can’t obtain a copy via your local independent bookseller, there’s always the online merchant option, so let me hit you with some link action:

Trade Paperback and Kindle e-Book from
Trade Paperback and Nook e-Book from Barnes & Noble
Trade Paperback and Various e-Book formats from Books-A-Million

Given the amp’d up attention to all things Apes this year with the forthcoming film War for the Planet of the Apes, and next year marking the 50th anniversary of the original 1968 film, if sales of this first book are strong enough, we may well see a second set of Tales from the Forbidden Zone. Keep those digits crossed!

In addition to providing a permanent home for links to find and order the book, this entry also will serve as our book’s “official” Q&A thread. Those of you who want to chat about the book, feel free to post your questions/etc. to the comments section. For those of you who’ve found this page and perhaps not yet read the book, BEWARE THAT SPOILERS ARE POSSIBLE FROM THIS POINT FORWARD.

2113: Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush


The music of Rush, one of the most successful bands in history, is filled with fantastic stories, evocative images, and thought-provoking futures and pasts. In this anthology, notable, bestselling, and award-winning writers each chose a Rush song as the spark for a new story, drawing inspiration from the visionary trio that is Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart.

Enduring stark dystopian struggles or testing the limits of the human spirit, the characters populating 2113 find strength while searching for hope in a world that is repressive, dangerous, or just debilitatingly bland. Most of these tales are science fiction, but some are fantasies, thrillers, even edgy mainstream. Many of Rush’s big hits are represented, as well as deeper cuts . . . with wonderful results. This anthology also includes the seminal stories that inspired the Rush classics “Red Barchetta” and “Roll the Bones,” as well as Kevin J. Anderson’s novella sequel to the groundbreaking Rush album 2112.

2113 contains stories by New York Times bestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Z. Williamson, David Mack, David Farland, Dayton Ward, and Mercedes Lackey; award winners Fritz Leiber, Steven Savile, Brad R. Torgersen, Ron Collins, David Niall Wilson, and more.

It’s been over a year since author Kevin J. Anderson first asked me if I was interested in writing a story for a Rush-inspired anthology he was putting together.

I think my actual reply was somewhat more composed than that, but I can’t guarantee it.

Anyway, here we are and the book is finally out. The author roster is insane, and includes some top names in their respective fields. Moreover, I’m thrilled that I get to share yet another table of contents with my bud and frequent partner in literary mischief, David Mack.
This post will act as the book’s official “Q&A” thread, so feel free to drop any questions in the comments section. Because of that, folks should be aware that spoilers are a definite possibility from this point forward. You’ve been warned!

Pangaea, edited by Michael Jan Friedman: Now Available!

pangaea-coverAfter a rather accelerated gestation cycle following its successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign, Pangaea is now available!

Edited by veteran author and friend Michael Jan Friedman, Pangaea posits an alternate reality where Earth’s landmasses did not drift apart following their most recent joining, and humanity’s evolution differed in numerous ways. Some things are familiar, others are kind of familiar if you squint, and still others are colored in varying shades of “WTF?”

Today, editor Mike finally decreed that the book is officially “in the wild,” making said announcement over on his own website:

MichaelJanFriedman.Net: Pangaea Awaits!

Here’s the book’s back cover copy:

At least four times in Earth’s history, the continents have come sliding together to form a single mass—a super-continent. Geologists have dubbed the most recent such formation Pangaea.

Of course, Pangaea broke up a long time ago, and because it did, different portions of mankind developed in drastically different climes and circumstances. But what if we were living on one of the super-continents? What if all of humanity was confined to a single landmass . . . and had been so confined for all of our recorded history?

To explore this different world, we’ve harnessed the imaginations of some of science fiction’s most inventive writers—Michael A. Burstein, Adam-Troy Castro, Russ Colchamiro, Peter David, Kevin Dilmore, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Paul Kupperberg, Kelly Meding, Aaron Rosenberg, Lawrence M. Schoen, Geoffrey Thorne, and Dayton Ward.

So come with us . . . and discover a world like none you’ve seen before.

Discover Pangaea.

Pretty cool, right?

Take a look at that author line-up. That’s a pretty nifty roster, if you ask me. How I ended up there, I have no idea. Plus, get this: the story Kevin and I wrote, “The Ardent,” is actually the middle of a three-part arc that’s spread through the book, beginning with Mike’s lead-off story, “The Breaking,” and capped off by the tale that closes out the volume, Peter David’s “The Lying and the Dead.” Mike asked us to write that middle piece, so I for one was pretty damned flattered.

Sweetening the deal were a pair of Kickstarter backers, Lynda Martinez Foley and another fan who goes by the moniker “Revek.” They both pledged $100 each to be “Tuckerized,” or have their names used as characters in our story. That’s some serious commitment, right there.

The process was fast and furious, but also fun. It was the first time I got to work with Mike on anything, and he’s as benevolent an editor as rumors would have us believe. No, seriously. The whip marks on my back are healing rather nicely.

Anyway, for those of you who’d like to see how well we hold our own when straying from the familiar confines of the Star Trek sandbox, go give Pangaea a look-see:

Order Pangaea from Mike’s website

“Absent Friends” – a story for Memorial Day.

I wrote this story back in 2004, and it was published in a regional magazine, Kansas City Voices. One of the submission requirements at the time was that your story had to take place somewhere in the KC area, and I opted to set this piece in Union Station, my favorite building in the city. I’ve been fascinated with it since my first visit, and get back over there as often as I’m able. I actually wrote most of this story sitting at one of the tables of the cafe I describe.

A few years later, I wrote another story tying to this one, “See You When It’s Over,” that’s set in the past and fleshes out some of the things described by one of the original story’s characters. At the time, I had intended the two stories to act as “bookends” for a potential collection of tales all set in and around Union Station, and that’s still an idea which still might happen one of these days.

For now, though, here’s the original piece:

“Absent Friends”
Dayton Ward

Turning to his right, Mark Devlin adjusted the focus on his camera and the old man came into sharp relief at the precise instant he brought a flask to his lips.

“There’s something you don’t see everyday,” Mark muttered to himself, smiling as he snapped the picture and captured the other man’s illicit act for posterity.

In truth, the behavior was nowhere near the most bizarre Mark had seen, even in the time since he had taken to photographing locations and people around Kansas City. Still, it was decidedly out of place for the normally tranquil environs of Union Station, the city’s once-bustling railway hub. After enduring years of neglect as railway traffic dwindled almost to a standstill, the station had in recent years enjoyed a renaissance of sorts. A near-total restoration had turned the formerly condemned structure into an historical landmark and tourist attraction as well as a social gathering point for all manner of local residents.

Definitely not part of the corks and forks crowd, Mark mused as he continued to study his subject, thinking of the wine and food tasting festivals that occasionally took place in the station’s plaza area. The man, at least eighty years of age, sat alone at one of the outlying tables encircling the café at the center of the Grand Hall, though he seemed oblivious to the other patrons occupying tables around him.

Instead, his attention appeared to be riveted on the huge clock hanging high above the floor on the hall’s north side, which Mark knew had been one of the station’s most prominent features since its opening in 1914. Mark watched him drink from the flask without moving his eyes from the clock, but as he peered through his camera’s viewfinder this time, however, he also saw a single tear rolling down the man’s left cheek.

Was he remembering a lost love? Had he received troubling or tragic news? Could he be planning to do something drastic, perhaps even right here in the station? At once both intrigued and concerned, Mark failed to realize he had even moved from his own seat near the Station Master gift shop until he was standing just to the right of the man’s table.

The man’s deeply-lined features darkened into a scowl, and it was obvious that Mark’s approach had startled him.

“What?” he asked, making no effort to disguise his annoyance at the interruption. His voice was raspy and weak, another sign of his advancing years.

“Are you all right, sir?” Mark asked, holding up the camera. “I was taking pictures and couldn’t help noticing that you seemed upset.” Looking down at the table, he saw that the man’s left hand rested atop what appeared to be an old photograph.

The man’s expression softened a bit, though his eyes remained intense as he seemed to inspect Mark, his gaze scrutinizing him from head to foot. Finally, he lifted a weathered hand and pointed to the camera bag slung over Mark’s left shoulder. “Did you serve?”

Looking down, Mark realized the man had seen the luggage tag attached to one of his bag’s straps. A holdover from his military career, the plastic card bore a camouflage pattern and the word “Marines” in yellow block letters. He returned his attention to the older man and nodded in confirmation. “Yes, sir, though I’ve been out for a while now.”

The man seemed to weigh this for another moment before nodding more to himself than to Mark and indicating one of the empty chairs flanking his table. “Have a seat, if you like.”

Unsure why he was doing so, Mark accepted the offer and settled into the chair on the man’s left. Extending his right hand, he offered a more formal greeting. “Mark Devlin.”

“Donald Gibson,” the man replied as he shook the proffered hand. Pointing to Mark’s camera, he asked. “You a reporter or something?”

Mark shook his head. “No, sir. It’s a hobby I’ve picked up in the last few months. I’ve been taking pictures of various places around town, and I realized the other day I hadn’t been here since the reopening.”

“I’ve been coming here as long as I can remember,” Gibson said. “For a lot of years, this was the way to get anywhere, you know. Then everybody started flying.” Frowning, he added, “Not me, though. I just never seemed to be in as much of a damned hurry as everybody else. Besides, there’s just something elegant about traveling by train.”

Mark could not help the smile Gibson’s comment elicited. Though his own experiences were confined to the cattle car mentality of subway transit while living in Chicago, he saw no need to refute the older man’s fonder memories.

Bringing the flask to his lips once more, Gibson took another sip, and this time the distinctive odor of Tennessee whiskey teased Mark’s nostrils. As he swallowed the alcohol, Gibson held the flask before him. “If my doctor knew I was drinking this, he’d have my scalp.” Shrugging, he added, “But, I figure once a year won’t kill me, no matter what he says.”

“Special occasion?” Mark asked, regretting the words the instant they left his mouth. Remembering his first sight of the man, he was reluctant to say anything else.

Gibson seemed unperturbed by the question, however. “Depends on how you look at it, I guess.” Setting the flask down on the table, he reached for the faded photograph and handed it to Mark.

Cracked and wrinkled, the photo’s once white border had long ago yellowed with age. The picture itself depicted six young men, each sporting muscular physiques that Mark supposed would be a common sight for the rural, farm-based communities that would have formed much of Kansas City’s surrounding areas decades ago.

“From left to right,” Gibson said after a moment, “that’s Jimmy and Jake Rosemont, Stan Crossfield, Marty Douglas, Lee Ashton, and me. We grew up together, played football together, and eventually joined up for the war together. Summer of ’42, right after graduating high school.”

It was a familiar story, Mark realized, variations of which he had read about in numerous history books. In the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, thousands of young men were drafted or volunteered for service as the United States finally entered the massive war already raging in Europe while at the same time turning its sights on the equally vast conflict building in the Pacific.

Pointing to something over Mark’s shoulder, Gibson said, “The last time all of us were together was over there, under the clock. That’s where we said our goodbyes before heading off to boot camp. We even made one of those silly pacts for after the war was over, promising to meet back here every year on the anniversary of our heading out. Swore on it and everything.” His eyes seemed to brighten and a smile creased his wizened face. “Jake snuck a bottle of his daddy’s whiskey, and we all shared it. I remember being drunk as a skunk when I got on my train, and pretty much slept all the way to San Diego.”

Mark laughed at the image that evoked. He had done something similar on the eve of his own departure to recruit training. The resulting hangover had caused him no small amount of pain, especially upon his arrival at Parris Island and his introduction to Marine Corps life at the hands of loud and irate drill instructors intent on making his life miserable for the ensuing eleven weeks.

“Me, Jimmy, Stan and Lee joined the Army,” Gibson continued, “while Jake and Marty went into the Marines. Jimmy, Stan and me ended up in the First Infantry Division, and were at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Lee was always the crazy idiot, so it was no surprise when he volunteered for the paratroopers. Only me and Lee made it home, and it wasn’t until the first year after the war was over, when we met Jake here, that we found out Marty died on Okinawa.”

Pausing to clear his throat, he added, “We hadn’t thought about a promise to drink a toast to those who didn’t make it back. It just sort of happened that first time.” As he spoke, Gibson’s attention seemed to drift so that he was no longer facing Mark, but instead seemed to be studying with longing something that only he could see. Unwilling to disturb the man’s ruminations, Mark instead remained silent, allowing Gibson to proceed at his own pace.

“And that’s the way it went for a few years,” the man said after a moment. “Just the three of us, drinking whiskey and toasting our friends once a year. Only Lee stayed in the service after the war, and he was killed in Korea in ‘52.” Shaking his head, he added, “It was just Jake and me after that, and we kept it up. It didn’t matter where a job might take us or how many kids and grandkids we had. Every year, we found a way to meet here.”

Now thoroughly engrossed by the older man’s tale, Mark asked, “What about the years the station was condemned?”

Smiling mischievously, Gibson replied, “We found a way in.” He pointed toward the station’s ornate, arched ceiling, ninety-five feet above the floor. “Damn near got ourselves killed one time, when some of the plaster fell from the ceiling.”

Unable to stifle a chuckle, Mark shook his head at the other man’s gentle humor. It was not enough, however, to keep him from pondering the one question that had yet to be answered.

As if reading his mind, Gibson said, “Jake died in ’94. Heart attack.” Indicating the vast chamber around them, he added, “Good thing they got around to fixing this place up. It was getting to be a tricky thing, sneaking in here by myself. Now I just walk in like the good old days, pay my respects, and go home.” He shook his head, and a wistful expression seemed to grace his features. “In all those years, you’re the first person to ever walk up and ask what the hell was going on.”

“Then it’s my good fortune, I think,” Mark said, his voice heavy with genuine admiration. “And their loss.” He had spoken to many veterans over the years, including a few from the Second World War. Of course, nothing Mark had gleaned from those conversations would ever provide him with the kind of visceral memories harbored by men like Donald Gibson. He at least was one of the survivors of that war, unlike the staggering numbers who had died before truly having the chance to live.

Smiling, Gibson said, “Well, thanks for indulging an old man. I don’t get to talk to someone your age all that often, you know.”

“The pleasure was all mine, sir,” Mark replied, sensing that the appropriate time for him to take his leave had arrived. Rising from his seat, he extended his hand once more. “Thanks for your time.”

Ignoring the gesture, the man waved him back to his chair, adopting a thoughtful, mentoring manner which Mark suddenly realized reminded him so much of his late grandfather. “Tell me, son,” Gibson said, “did you ever see battle?”

“No, sir,” Mark replied. “I was in combat services support during the Gulf War, but they didn’t send me to Saudi Arabia.”

“But you had friends who did, right?” the other man asked. “Buddies who died over there, or even for some other reason?”

His own expression sobering, Mark nodded in confirmation.  It was something he had not thought about in a long time, after all. “Yes, I certainly did.”

Retrieving the flask from the table, Gibson offered it to Mark. “Here, then. Let’s drink to them.”

Mark smiled as he took the flask. “Only if you promise to meet me here next year.”

Copyright © 2004 by Dayton Ward. All Rights Reserved.


Check it out, yo! It’s Halloween! Again!

In years past, I’ve posted a new story that I hope is at least somewhat suitable for the evening. Due to other stuff going on, I wasn’t able to write something for last year, but I think I’m kind of back in the saddle this time around.

Be advised that the story contains strong language.

And with the preliminaries out of the way…….

Dayton Ward

Continue reading ““Transcript””

“Opening Night”

June 9, 1989

There sure are a lot of empty seats.

That was the first thought to enter Peter’s mind as he followed his friend Alan into the auditorium and down the aisle. Finding a decent spot in which to enjoy the movie was definitely not going to be a problem.

“Wow,” Alan said, selecting an empty row and heading for its center. “Opening night, no line to get in, and look at all the seats. Not a good sign.”

From over Peter’s left shoulder, their friend George replied, “I warned you guys, but do you listen? Nooooooo.” Having selected the row behind the one Alan had chosen, he dropped his ponderous bulk into the center seat.

“I heard you, man,” Peter countered as he took his own seat, leaving open the one between him and Alan. “I just don’t care. I’ve been waiting for this movie all year. I made opening night for the first four, and there’s no way I was gonna miss this one.” He watched as the fourth member of their group, Leo, collapsed into the seat next to George, his eyes closing as he promptly fell asleep.

Ignoring Leo, George shrugged. “It’s gonna suck, trust me. And when it ends up sucking, you owe me $3.50.”

Continue reading ““Opening Night””

“Private Party”

Hey, it’s Halloween!

The previous three years, I’ve offered what I hope is something of a suitably-themed story for the evening. As it’s now something of a tradition, here we go again this year!

The first two years, I presented the story as a “live-Tweetathon,” one 140-byte chunk at a time, for however long it took to lay out the whole tale. The third year, I wasn’t home during the evening, so I just posted it here. Even though the family and I once again will be away from the Manor during the appointed time, I’m posting this here for your (hopeful) enjoyment.

This one is definitely not like the stuff I usually write, and a full explanation of the whats, whys, and what nexts is included after the story. Hopefuly, I won’t bore the shit out of you before you make it that far.

So, without further ado….

(Please be advised that the story contains strong language and a depiction of semi-sorta-kinda graphic violence.)

Private Party

Dayton Ward

“I think I’m in love.”

Despite the heavy rock soundtrack blaring through the main lounge at the Whispers Gentlemen’s Club, Dauphine still heard the words spoken by the man sitting at the edge of the stage. Looking in his direction, she saw him smiling back at her, eyes wide with appreciation, or was it lust? A bit of both, Dauphine guessed. His behavior was not at all uncommon for men watching her dance, but setting him apart from the other patrons was his open admiration of her while sitting next to an attractive brunette woman. Her left arm was nestled in the crook of his right elbow, her hand obviously resting in his lap even as she watched Dauphine on stage. Like her male companion, her own expression conveyed more than a hint of allure.

She might prove entertaining.

In keeping with the Whispers Halloween theme and like other female patrons in attendance, the woman was dressed in a form-fitting black body suit which covered far too much skin while still leaving little of her lithe form to Dauphine’s imagination. A black mask covering her eyes, small black ears on top of her head and the fake whiskers completed her ensemble. She had participated in—and won—the costume contest held earlier on stage, affording Dauphine ample opportunity to contemplate with open interest her slim, athletic physique. The woman seemed not at all put off by the wanton scrutiny cast in her direction, and they even had exchanged smiles.

Yes. Entertaining, indeed.

As for her companion, he had opted for a white 1970s leisure suit with a maroon silk shirt open almost to his navel to expose a thick gold chain and a tanned, muscled chest. His blonde hair was slicked back and held in place with some kind of gel giving it the appearance of being wet. Though he dressed the part, Dauphine had already determined that his own dancing skills were more than a bit lacking.

Not that it matters. He’ll do.

“So, you’re saying you like her?” the woman asked, turning to him, and he nodded.

“She’s incredible,” he said, his eyes never straying as Dauphine continued to dance before them, clad only in her tiny black G-string. She guessed the couple to be in their mid to late thirties, likely married and perhaps even to each other if the gold band on the man’s left ring finger was to be believed. Were they here looking to inject a bit of excitement into a long-term relationship which had grown stale? Dauphine thought she could help with that, at least until it was their turn to help her.

Spinning away from them to face the stage’s mirrored back wall, she appraised their reflection as she continued to dance. They appeared fit for their age, and she decided they would do quite nicely. Dauphine felt the initial heat of yearning and hunger welling up within her, and she channeled that new energy into her dancing. It had been some time since her last feeding, the possibilities presented by the club being less than ideal. Still, there was a measure of consistency she had not enjoyed during the three years which had passed since her Turning.

The vampire who had taken her blood and her mortality had guided her in the beginning, only to disappear without explanation. Left with few options, Dauphine eventually had found her way to Whispers and the manager all too eager to hire her on the spot. That spot had been the couch in his office, but she had fed from him before making certain to wipe his memory of the “interview.” Dancing here allowed sufficient freedom to examine a potential feeding source, almost always under the guise of providing a private performance or some other service in the club’s VIP area. Effort was required to secure a victim not riddled with drugs or disease, of course, which disqualified a sizable number of the establishment’s regular clientele.

These two, however, looked to be perfect. That they offered the promise of other outlets before she took them was a welcome additional benefit.

Dauphine placed her hands on the mirrored wall, increasing her gyrations in time with the music. It was a rock ballad, and she ground her hips along with its heavy drum beat. She could see the man’s face in the mirror, mesmerized by her movements as he watched her from behind. Dauphine could almost smell his desire even from here. He swallowed a lump in his throat, and she saw the vein along his neck. How would it taste? She could almost feel its warmth coursing over her lips.

Continuing her dance as the song reached its midpoint and the obligatory guitar solo, she arched her back and thrust out her ass, watching the man’s eyes track her every movement. They remained fixed on her even as he sipped his drink before reaching up to let a ten dollar bill fall from his other hand, where it joined the assortment of crumpled, sweat-damp bills on the raised stage. Already, he was all but under her spell. Taking him would be so easy.

She turned from the mirror, offering a smile and nodding in appreciation. Behind him, other patrons were directing their attention to her, drawn away from the two dancers working the smaller stages to either side of her. Dauphine caught the girls’ looks of disapproval, the first true emotions they had displayed since beginning their own performances, rather than the usual assortment of unfocused, detached expressions they often provided their audience. She cared for none of that, so focused was she on her newfound prey. The man’s eyes widened along with his smile as she strutted forward, arms over her head and giving him an unfettered view of her body. Dauphine drew closer as the song was coming to an end, reaching for the band of her G-string and running her fingers beneath it and before she pulled the miniscule garment away from her hip. He gasped, and his female companion leaned into him, whispering into his ear inaudible to everyone around them except for Dauphine.

“Oh, she’s into you, all right. Or, your wallet, at least.”


Scattered applause greeted the end of the rock ballad. After collecting the few bills thrown to them during their performances, the dancers on the other stages made their way without delay to the curtain at the front of the room which—along with Justin, the head of the Whispers security staff—guarded the entrance to the dancers’ dressing room. Over the speakers, the announcer was informing the audience of another Halloween-themed contest about to begin, though Dauphine ignored it, and neither did she leave. Instead, she dropped to her knees on the stage before the couple, her eyes never leaving the man’s as she leaned forward until mere inches separated them. She saw him shiver despite the club’s warm, stagnant air, and sensed his increasing need. His woman’s was noticeable, as well, though she also was more guarded. It was an understandable, if futile, response.

“Thank you,” Dauphine replied, smiling again before introducing herself.

The man nodded. “I’m Daniel.” Gesturing to his companion, he added, “This is my wife, Michelle.”

“Nice to meet you,” Dauphine said, holding Michelle’s gaze for an extra moment. There was a strength behind the woman’s eyes that only served to enhance her appeal.

Michelle gestured toward the stage behind them, where another dancer already was beginning her routine as a new, slower song piped through the club’s sound system. “You’re different from the other girls. They’re not into it like you are.”

“You like that?” Dauphine asked.

Offering his own knowing smile, Daniel winked. “She likes that you’re into it.”

The beats of their hearts and the rush of the blood in their veins pounded in her ears as Dauphine’s hunger mounted. Her gaze shifting between Michelle and Daniel, she asked, “What else do you like?”

Michelle leaned closer. “How about something a bit more private?”


Now dressed in a filmy black robe that did little to cover her and still sensing Daniel’s eyes on her ass, Dauphine guided him and Michelle down the narrow hall leading from Whispers’ main room. Six doors were set into either side of the corridor in alternating fashion, each leading to one of the club’s VIP lounges. A seventh door at the end of the passageway faced her, beyond which was her own private suite.

“Here we are,” she said, looking over her shoulder as she opened the door. No key was required, as access to the hallway was all but impossible for anyone who was not in the company of a dancer. Stepping to one side, she gestured for Daniel and Michelle to enter the suite, reaching out to stroke Daniel’s arm as he walked past. His bicep tensed beneath the thin material of his white jacket, reacting to her touch, and she heard his small yet sharp intake of breath.


She followed them into the room and closed the door behind her, the soundproof walls shutting out the ambient noise from the rest of the club. The suite’s front room was appointed for entertaining guests, furnished with two overstuffed leather recliners and a matching wide, curving couch. Lamps sitting atop end tables provided gentle illumination. A widescreen television was mounted on the wall opposite the couch, and a stocked bar was situated in the room’s far corner.

“Fix yourself a drink, if you like,” Dauphine offered, gesturing to the bar.

Daniel smiled. “I’m fine, for now,” he said, dropping onto the couch.

“Me, too,” Michelle added, taking a seat in one of the recliners and resting her purse in her lap. “So, now what?”

“What would you like?” Dauphine asked. Reaching for the wall panel near the door, she dimmed the lights even further before keying the suite’s own sound system. Soft music filtered into the room as she eyed Daniel, and she crossed the room toward him. She reached up to play at the folds of her robe, her fingers teasing her skin. Daniel’s scent was intoxicating, his heat palpable. There was no mistaking the lust in his eyes as he watched her every movement, and he even licked his lips in anticipation.

Leaning back in the recliner, Michelle waved toward Daniel. “Right now, I just want to watch.” She reached for the zipper at the front of her bodysuit and drew it down almost to her waist, revealing the lack of any bra. Her skin was tan, a stark contrast to Dauphine’s own pale complexion. A small gold cross hung from a chain around her neck, resting between her breasts.

“I like the way you think,” Dauphine said, untying her robe and allowing the garment to fall from her shoulders. Nude once again save for her G-string, she turned back to Daniel and climbed onto the couch, straddling his thighs. Placing her hands on his shoulders, she said nothing but instead just stared into his eyes as she began to rock against him in rhythm to the music. His mouth went slack and his gaze softened, and she felt his evident desire against her.

“You’re beautiful,” Daniel said, his words barely a whisper.

She reached up to stroke the sides of his face, already smelling his blood. Leaning forward, she flicked her tongue against the side of his neck, feeling the pulse of the vein there. Reaching through his open shirt, she let her fingers explore his chest. His breathing had grown rapid and shallow, his arms resting useless at his sides. He was hers, now, and while her hunger called out for attention, Dauphine resisted the urge to feed. Should she take him first, or the woman? Closing her eyes as she licked his neck and let her teeth scrape against his skin, she almost surrendered to the craving. It would be so easy, but where was the pleasure in that? There would be time, later.

Movement behind her made her open her eyes, and she saw shadows dancing on the wall over Daniel’s head. She turned to see Michelle standing within arm’s reach, her bodysuit still open to reveal her bare breasts and the small gold cross dangling between them. Her smile was grim, possessing no warmth, and something silver flashed in her hand.

“Trick or treat, bitch.”


Michelle lunged forward, thrusting her right arm at Dauphine and triggering the spring-loaded spike. Its solid silver tip exploded from the spike’s housing, doubling the weapon’s length as it locked into position at the precise instant Michelle rammed it through the vampire’s back.

The reaction was immediate as the spike pierced Dauphine’s heart, and her body jerked from the shock of the violent attack. Her scream made Michelle flinch but she retained her grip on the spike and pressed it farther into her prey’s heart. Dark blood spurted forth as the weapon’s tip pushed through the muscle and skin of the vampire’s chest, staining the all but catatonic Daniel’s white suit. Another gurgling cry of pain escaped Dauphine’s lips, the last sound she made before her body collapsed into a cloud of ash. The echo of her final anguished protest rang in Michelle’s ears as the gray-black dust which was all that remained of the vampire dispersed in a cloud that settled down upon her and Daniel.

“Holy shit,” Michelle hissed, scowling as some of the dust made its way into her mouth and nose. “Damn, but I fucking hate vampires.” She tried wiping the residue from her tongue onto her sleeve, but the foul taste remained, and she was gripped by the need to sneeze. Doing that twice seemed to snap Daniel out of his stupor.

Still on the couch, he blinked and shook his head as though to clear away whatever mental fog Dauphine had inflicted upon him. Clearing his throat, he asked, “What the hell happened? Is it over?” He looked down at himself, his expression turning to disgust as he beheld the gray film covering his clothes. Even the initial blood spray had turned to dust in the wake of Dauphine’s dissolution. “Shit! You know this was a rental.”

“They’ll reimburse us,” Michelle countered, staring at the spike in her hand. There was no blood along its silver length; only more of the same light gray film obscuring the weapon’s polished finish. She had seen the effects of execution before, of course, but only as an apprentice. Dauphine was her first solo kill.

“I guess you got her,” Daniel said, sarcasm lacing every syllable as he brushed at his clothes.

Michelle grunted as she zipped up her bodysuit. “Yeah. We need to report in.” She reached for her purse and retrieved her phone. Standard protocol required all field hunters to contact their superiors upon the successful completion of a disposal. Given that this was her and Daniel’s first unsupervised assignment since being promoted to active status, she had no intention of overlooking the smallest detail.

“How close was it?” Daniel asked, pulling himself from the couch and reaching up to wipe ash from his face.

Michelle divided her attention between him and the text message she was typing. “Pretty close. You sure you want the whole story?”

“Not really,” Daniel replied. “I can’t believe you let her zap me like that.”

Finalizing her message, Michelle hit the Send key. “It was the only way to sell our story and distract her.” She smiled, bobbing her eyebrows in suggestive fashion. “Besides, it was kind of hot watching you get a lap dance.” Dauphine had been under surveillance for weeks by the Agency, which had waited for the vampire to become used to her new life as an exotic dancer at the club before attempting a disposal, in the hopes that she might lower her guard. A relatively new and inexperienced vampire, Dauphine had lacked the decades, even centuries of wisdom and instinct which might have made her wary of strangers seeking to do her harm. The gambit had worked this time, but Michelle doubted all of their future cases would be so simple.

I guess we’ll see.

Her phone buzzed, and Michelle glanced at its screen to see the response message from her Agency superiors. “A containment crew will be here in fifteen minutes, and they’ve already got another job waiting for us once we get back.”

“Well, we knew they were going to keep us busy,” Daniel said. “More cases than agents to handle them. Vampires, werewolves, demons, oh my. The backlog’s a bitch.”

Michelle nodded, holding up the spike. “Well, think of it as job security. Come on. I still need to get my prize pack from the costume contest.”

To be continued…?

Copyright © 2012 by Dayton Ward. All Rights Reserved.

Yeah. A definite explanation for this one is in order.

A few years ago, I had this half-baked notion of a husband-and-wife team of paranormal “cleaners.” They’d both be bad-ass, both fully capable of unleashing hell on various denizens of Hell, the undead, and beyond. My idea was that I’d play the whole thing somewhat laid back; think, “Mr. & Mrs Smith, Demon Hunters.”

Then, I read a book written by friend, mentor, and dude largely responsible for my writing career, Dean Wesley Smith, titled Bump & Run. He wrote it under a pen name, Edward Taft, and it featured a married couple who also are cops, getting into all sorts of trouble after stumbling onto a murder plot while staying at a golf resort. In Dean’s words, the publisher’s intent with this and other books to be released under the “Foggy Windows Books” banner was to “publish erotic novels with married couples.” Mysteries, thrillers, etc, with married couples as the stars and doing their thing in around…uh…doing their thing. It was an interesting notion, and one I filed away for possible later idea fodder.

Earlier this year, I was going to write a story for a small press anthology in which all the writers took their cue from a picture. The picture was of a female vampire hovering behind a woman. At first, I thought my “Demon Hunter Married Couple” idea could work with this springboard, but after jotting down some notes for an outline, I got busy with other things and that project fell by the wayside.

Skip ahead to two days ago: The story I was writing to be this year’s Halloween story is a hot mess. I can’t get it to work the way I want it, so I end up scrapping it, and almost scrap the idea of doing a story at all. Then, somebody mentioned “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” in casual conversation, and something tripped in my little monkey brain. I still had notes for that earlier story. Whereas that original idea, and the longer story I’d intended, were such that my married couple already established as a “demon hunting team,” I decided I could still write something of a “first mission” story for them. And here we are.

So, I basically wrote this last night, with a fast edit over lunch and this afternoon. I had no real time for second-guessing, let alone any wholesale rewriting, so it’s likely still a bit rough in some parts. For that, I apologize, but I figured the immediacy of the thing also adds something to the overall (alleged) fun of the exercise.

As for whether there might be more, longer, more detailed (and more detailed) adventures of Daniel and Michelle, only time will tell, I suppose. After all, there are still many questions to answer. What exactly is the Agency, for example? How did Daniel and Michelle hook up with them, what other types of critters might they hunt, and so on. Good questions, I think. For now, though, I hope this was a nice taste.

Happy Halloween!

“One Day” – A tribute to Neil Armstrong.

Something like this might well have happened, if I’d been..oh…twelve or so years older on that one wondrous day.

Dayton Ward

“Will you stop looking at the house? He said he’d call us.”

Jimmy Warner scowled at his sister. “What if he forgets?”

Rolling her eyes, Michelle replied, “Oh, right. As if you’d let him Mister ‘I want to be a space man.’ Sheesh!” She was only twelve; two years younger than Jimmy, and therefore incapable of understanding just how important this day was to him.

For as long as he could remember, Jimmy had dreamed about one thing: flying in space like the men in the movies and on television. The walls of his room where covered with various pictures and star maps he’d cut from magazines. More than once, he’d talked his mother into letting him stay up late on school nights so that he could sit in the back yard with his telescope and stare into the Kansas sky, studying the stars. A constant diet of movies and tales of science fiction magazines fueled his imagination.

Jimmy picked up a torn, stained softball which was a favorite toy of the family dog. “Here, Gunner! Get it!” he shouted as he pitched it into the field behind the barn. No sooner did Gunner lunge after it than Jimmy heard the call for which he’d been waiting all afternoon.

“Kids!” came his father’s voice from where he stood on the house’s front porch. “It’s on!”

“Come on, let’s go!” Jimmy yelled, sprinting toward the house with Gunner in hot pursuit.

Michelle called out, “Hey! Wait for me!”

Bounding onto the porch, Jimmy barely avoided running into his father’s legs as he darted into the house and straight into the family room where the television sat. Seeing the fuzzy picture on the screen, he moved to adjust the TV’s antenna

“Don’t fuss with it,” Dad said. “That’s as good as it’s gonna get.”

Jimmy plopped down in front of the television and crossed his legs. Then, before his father could tell him to do so, he scooted back so as not to be sitting too close to the set. Michelle, still breathing hard from her run across the yard, dropped down onto the rug next to him, lying on her stomach and propping herself on her elbows.

“What’s happening?” she asked.

“Shhh!” Jimmy snapped, his eyes locked on the TV. On the screen was a large room that he knew was “Mission Control” down in Houston, Texas. Rows of consoles dominated the room, each with their own phones, keyboards, and other things Jimmy couldn’t name. Screens flickered, lights blinked, and dials moved. While many of the men sitting at those stations were staring intently at the screens in front of them, Jimmy could see that several people were staring at something happening off-camera.

The image changed to that of a man, dressed in a dark suit and holding a microphone, looking out at Jimmy from the screen. “We now take you live to the cockpit of the Apollo 11 landing craft, and the voice of Neil Armstrong.” The picture changed again. It was now mostly black, but the lower left portion of the screen showed a blurry, moving gray field. Jimmy realized the camera was pointing directly out the window of the lunar module being flown by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. He could hear a quiet male voice that he thought might be Aldrin’s reciting a bunch of numbers and other stuff he did not understand.

Forty feet. Down two and a half. Kicking up some dust. Thirty feet. Two and a half down. Faint shadow.”

“That’s the moon!” Jimmy yelled, pointing at the TV. The gray area was rapidly looming closer. Though Jimmy’s family owned a color television, the image now being shown was black and white, and the picture was very blurry.

“Why’s it so fuzzy?” Michelle asked.

Their father answered, “Maybe because they’re so far away? How far away are they, anyway?”

“A quarter million miles,” said their mother.

“Really?” Michelle’s eyes were wide with disbelief. “That’s a long way.”

Jimmy nodded, smiling. “Yeah.”

Another voice blared from the TV’s speaker, “Contact light! Okay, engine stop. Descent command override off.”

Jimmy could see craters now, along with rocks and other land features as the moon’s surface seemed to rush up toward them. Then, the image jumped before all motion on the screen seemed to stop.

We copy you down, Eagle.”

“They did it!” Jimmy shouted, barely able to sit still on the rug.

Houston, Tranquility Base here,” said the voice Jimmy now recognized as belonging to Armstrong. “The Eagle has landed.”


Jimmy awoke to feel a hand on his shoulder. Blinking as he sat up, he realized he had been sleeping in the center of the family room, and he turned to look up into the eyes of his mother.

“What’s going on?” He reached up to rub the grit from his eyes before looking to the clock mounted on the wall behind the television. It was almost ten o’clock!

His mother smiled before pointing past him to the TV. “You don’t want to miss it, do you?” To his surprise, Michelle was still sitting on the rug next to him, a bowl of popcorn resting in her lap. Had she been awake this whole time?

“You almost slept through the best part!” she said, around a mouthful of popcorn.

Looking to the television, Jimmy was able to see the grainy, black and white image on the screen. The upper half of the picture was almost black, with the bottom portion covered by what looked like a curving, white-gray beach. Closer to the camera was a figure, clothed in a bulky white suit with a huge white helmet and a large, square backpack standing on what looked to be a ladder. It took Jimmy an extra few seconds to realize that he was seeing an astronaut, making his way out of the lunar lander!

A voice said, “Okay, Neil, we can see you coming down the ladder now.”

“This is it!” Jimmy said, forgetting Michelle and the popcorn and moving closer to the television.

“Jimmy!” his father said.

“Leave him be,” countered his mother.

Ignoring whatever else they might be saying, Jimmy instead focused on the grainy, flickering television picture and the voices talking to each other while separated by hundreds of thousands of miles. Then, after what seemed like forever, he heard a sharp beep, followed by the muffled, distant voice of Neil Armstrong.

Okay, I’m going to step off the LEM now.”

The bulky figure on the screen, with one hand holding onto the ladder attached to the lunar lander, moved to his left and seemed to drop down. After a long pause, Armstrong spoke again.

That’s one small step for man…one giant leap for mankind.”

Even as the astronaut’s words traveled back to Earth and were broadcast to everyone currently watching this historic event, big white letters appeared on the television screen: “FIRST LIVE PICTURES FROM MOON.”

“They did it!” Jimmy said, jumping to his feet. “They made it!” Turning to his father, he smiled. “I told you they’d do it!”

His father returned the smile. “Yep, you told me, all right.” Nodding toward the television, where Armstrong was describing how his footprints were easily visible in the moon’s fine, powdery surface. “Think you’ll make it there yourself, one day?”

Unable to control his grin, Jimmy nodded. “I’ll get there. You’ll see!” Gripped by a sudden idea, Jimmy turned and ran from the family room. Making sure all the outside lights were turned off, he bolted through the back door and into the yard where he’d set up his telescope after finishing dinner. It was there, aiming toward the night sky, and as he moved behind it he adjusted it so that it aimed once more at the moon. His hands shook as he realized that for the first time, at this very moment, he would be looking up at the moon while a man walked upon its surface. There was no way to see Neil Armstrong, of course, but even as the moon filled the telescope’s viewfinder, he could imagine the man making those first steps, and even wonder what it might be like to walk beside him.

One day.

So intent was he on the telescope and the moon that Jimmy did not hear anyone walking toward him until he felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning from the eyepiece, he saw Michelle standing nearby, staring at him with wide eyes.

“Maybe I want to go there one day, too.”

Smiling, Jimmy stepped back from the telescope, and let his sister have a look.

Copyright © 2012 by Dayton Ward. All Rights Reserved.

Thank you, Mr. Armstrong, for inspiring countless young girls and boys every day since you took that one small step. May we make yet more giant leaps, following your footprints as we travel toward paths not yet taken.

Neil Alden Armstrong
August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012