Busy with sorting cover designs for Friend & Ally.  Of course, that’s no excuse for not writing.  What is was my neck:  in trying to stop a piece of paper from falling off a desk at work, I’ve done something horrible to my neck.  I wake up feeling fine, but if I tilt my head forward – as in, reading a screen, repackaging meds, snapping together IVs, prepping things in the isolation hood – for more than twenty minutes, it’s as if there’s an ice pick in the upper left of my neck.  I come home tanjed near shaking and in tears from the pain.  It laughs at ibuprofen.  Friday night I took a Flexeril and a bottle of wine and this AM was less bad, at least to the point I was able to start laying down the story of Nichole5 Part 2.

I’ll admit that it started where I expected but ended up where I did not.  I’d seen the ‘catching fish’ part.  Everything after that… news to me!  But great exposition and exploration of Nichole’s character.  I wonder what they’ll say to each other in the morning?

“I’m back!” Nichole announced, walking through the front door of Mrs. Brunelli’s house. When John had told her that his mother lived in the west hills, Nichole thought he had literally meant the West Hills. Her house was, in fact, some miles south of the City, in the Briarwood neighborhood, sandwiched between the Tyron Hills, Lake Oswego, and the Willamette River. Built sometime in the late 20th Century it had been well maintained and was only one of two homes on the street which were occupied.

“Hello?” Nichole tried again. No sounds reached her acute hearing.

Perhaps she’s fishing? Nichole spun about, left, re-locked the door and walked the 800 feet to the riverside.

Sure enough, she recognized Mrs. Brunelli’s stout form sitting on a small wooden pier. A shawl was over the shoulders of her light woolen sweater. Her lower legs, in faded jeans, dangled over the side, just above the water. A bucket was at her left and a small tacklebox at her right. A line from her pole stretched out into the water.

Not wanting to startle any potential catch, Nichole moved silently to kneel at the old woman’s right. A glance into the water in the bucket showed three fish.

“Nichole!” Nancy was happy to see the bright young woman that her youngest son was always on about. “Everything go okay?”

“Yes. They may have been crying a little when I left, but I do not think I did wrong.”

“Of course not!” Mrs. Brunelli shook her head emphatically. “To have someone tell them their son died a hero, in defense of his friends? Sure, they are sad he’s gone but at least with an honorable end! Were they the last?”

“Yes.” From all of the deaths she had witnessed at the Lewis and Clark Bridge, she had had to wait seven months until the Smiths returned from checking their leased farms, far to the southwest, past McMinnville. A liaison officer of the Army had contacted her the night before, requesting she come along to tell her story. It was the last of the nineteen she had. She had been pleased to help bring solace to the families. Well, all except one.

“Did Billy,” Nancy spoke of the liaison officer, “have his ashes?”

“Yes,” Nichole softly replied. Anyone who’d been exposed to the cannibal’s nerve agent had been burned after the battle.

Sensing her unease the old woman took her right hand from the fishing pole to pat Nichole’s hands, folded in her lap.

“You’re doing the Lord’s work, dearie. Try not to let it get you down.”

Nichole nodded once.

“Thank you.”

The faint spring sun was obscured by a low cloud. Nichole felt the old woman shudder a bit at the cold.

“Mrs. Brunelli – ”


Nichole dipped her head for a moment.

“Apologies. Nancy? Are you warm enough?”

“Been in these parts just over a dozen years! I’m plenty used to the chill of Portland!”

“Yes. But each year you get older…”

“Gee, thanks…”

“Oh.” Nichole realized her accidental insult. Humans did not like to be reminded of their mortality.

“However, I’m sure you’ve many years left!” she tried.

“Humpf!” was her only reply. Nancy leaned back, pulling on the line. “Got another!”

Nichole waited while she brought the next fish in. Moving it over the bucket Nichole deftly stuck her fingers into its mouth and removed the hook. She dropped it into the bucket.

“Dinner and breakfast!” Nancy announced, stowing her gear and standing. “Sure you won’t join me for dinner?”

“No, thank you,” Nichole replied. “I need to get back to campus to review my notes for class tomorrow.”

A bit of a lie. The notes in her memory were not going anywhere. But, cleaning up after eating was such a bother.

“Of course, of course!” Nancy said as they started back toward her house. She looked slyly out of the corner of her eye at Nichole.

“And to see you boyfriend, too, I suppose!”

Nichole was not designed to blush but she would not have anyway.

“Yes. I like talking with Gil.”

Chuckling, Nancy poked her elbow into Nichole’s ribs. No reaction, of course.

“Just talking? I guess an Irish gal like you is a good Catholic, too! Saving yourself for marriage!”

“I’m neither Irish nor Catholic,” she replied, spying the house just ahead up the hill. “And we did try sex… once.”

A widow of nearly seventy years with six adult children, Nancy knew a problem when she heard one.

“You were a virgin?” she asked lightly.

“Um.” Technically, Nichole thought. “Yes.”

“And it hurt?”


Nancy quickly changed tack.

“But you were unsure what to do?”

Nichole stopped and stared at her.

“How did you know?!”

Nichole saw that same knowing smile on old Mrs. Brunelli’s face that Kathy had given her in the pool’s locker room, so long ago.

“And, in not knowing what to do, you did nothing?”

Nichole dropped her head; her eyes on her feet. How does she know everything?


“And after, your boyfriend made excuses for a hasty departure?”

“How do you know this?!” she amplified, making the old woman take a step back.

“My, my! Hit a nerve!” Nancy shook her head, took a step and looked up to those emerald eyes.

“Men… whether in the fields, on construction, or even out fishing,” she raised her bucket for a moment, “men like to know that they’re doing a good job. A little… er… feedback from you…”

She trailed off and began the short walk to her house.

“A word to the wise is sufficient, right, Nichole?”

Nichole had not moved. She took in what she had learned and thought very hard and fast.

I must see Gil!

“Nichole?” Nancy asked. As she turned there was a blur and rush of wind. She only caught a glimpse of the pretty young woman as she rounded the street corner, headed north at an all-out sprint.

“Ah! Love!” Nancy laughed to herself.


Nichole covered the not-quite seven miles from Nancy’s house to PSU in nine minutes. Arriving at the edge of the campus and a more populated area, she slowed her run to what would be expected of a human. What few waves were directed her way she returned as she rounded Zom’s and was at the Stratford just a moment later.

“It’s meeeee!” she called blurring past the front desk. The young man with the rifle behind him was looking up as she entered the stairwell.

Into her room, she went to the closet and squatted in front of her safe, her fingers blurred over the lock. She yanked both sides open and reached with her left of the small aerosol can and what looked like a smooth-topped syringe. Shooting 3 mL’s of lubricating foam into the syringe she spread her legs and pushed it into herself.

There was a knock at the door.

Not now!

She closed the safe and stood, pulling her panties up. From the knock, it was obvious…

“Yes, Friend Mackenzie?” she asked, opening the door.


The grey ghost of her artistic friend who lived in the flat just across the hall from her looked up through the black strands of her hair. Mackenzie wore a light grey shirt with a dark grey cardigan and a long black skirt. Nichole had wanted to do something about her friend’s wardrobe but to-date had not made the time.

“I… uh… thought maybe we could get dinner later…”

Nichole grabbed her hands, provoking a shudder in her friend.

“I’d love to! But, speaking of love,” she let her eyes slide to the stairwell, “I need to go have sex with Gil! Right now!”

“S…! Se…!” The shaking was worse.

“I might not be back tonight, so I’ll take a rain-check on that! Makes sense: we’re in Portland, right? See you!”

Mackenzie was alone in the hall with her hands before her. She let them drop and plodded back into her room.

Wish I could have a hot boyfriend…

Although technically ‘off-campus,’ Gil’s apartment block was just a street to the northwest. All guys, but everyone knew the need for security: a man in a chair with a buzz-cut read a paperback on the front stoop; his revolver in a holster rotated for easy reach. He looked up at the sound of running feet.

“Hey, Nichole! How’s things? Gil just got back – ”

“Good, Bill! Leave us alone!” Her shouted reply as she ran past him into the building.

Bill looked to where she just was.

“Gil, you lucky ess oh bee…!”

Gil looked up from his desk at the silhouette in his doorway. Like most everyone else he left his door open for better air circulation. Oh. It was Nichole…

She slammed the door behind her. With her right hand she threw the bolt.

What was going on…?

In one smooth motion she had her top off. She closed on him just as he stood. Nichole slid her arms about his waist.

“I want you…” subtle sonics and undertones. She could feel his various involuntary reactions immediately, “… so bad right now!”

“N… Nichole?”

Tilting her head back, she hooded her bright eyes and parted her lips. Her body was pressed tight to his.

Her internal clock read 0023. She knew he was mostly asleep. But mostly asleep was also partially awake. She took him with her left and played with the sticky until she got the reaction she wanted.

“Oooo… Master! Again!” she purred.

Gil awoke with a groan.

“Woman! I am not from Havana! Give it a rest!” He moved her hand away but did roll left to hold her. “Until morning…”

Her smile split her face and she closed her eyes tight to not let the emerald flash disturb her beloved’s sleep.

Thank you, Nancy and Kathy! My best night ever!

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