Author Archives: normadruid

About normadruid

Norma Druid is the pen name I use for my science fiction novels. I have written A Test of Alien Alliance and am working on Befriending Aliens.

Another Belated Installment of A Devil of a Chance

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Fifteen minutes later, Vanderdecken logged off, having gotten all the tourist information on the city.  Tunica was a tourist attraction in a generally economically depressed state.  He’s been in such places before; why had Satan been so petulant?  Turning the ignition key, he set out to explore the waterfront, where most of the action was.  He passed the brightly lit area where small boats awaited tourists and was heading toward the warehouse district when he saw the girl jump.

Within seconds, Vanderdecken  had braked the Hummer  beside her discarded purse, jumped from the car, and plunged in after her.  His soft, canvas shoes were no impediment, and his instincts were still good.  He quickly located the girl, but bringing her in was another matter.  She wanted to die, pushing herself ever deeper and dragging him with her – but he knew that trick, too, and eventually surfaced with her.

Powerful headlights nearly blinded him as he rose, and he recognized the blue lights of a police vehicle.  Apparently someone besides himself had noticed.  Climbing out onto the bank, Vanderdecken looked at the girl’s face for the first time – and nearly dropped her.  “Oh, God, not you!” he rasped.  “So that’s why Satan’s angry!”  Later he realized it was fortunate he had spoken in Dutch.

“Here, let me help you, mister.”  Large blue-clad arms reached out and relieved him of his burden.  Vanderdecken found himself  kneeling on the soil, watching a large young man pressing gallons of river water from the girl’s lungs.  Finally the policeman sat back.  “If you’ll just hand me that blanket over there… And take the other one for yourself.  I thought she’d have you under there for a minute.”  Wrapping the blanket around the unconscious form, he began to lift her.

“Put her in the back seat of my car,” Vanderdecken found himself requesting.  “There’s room, and she’ll be warm while we settle this business.”

Patrolman Rick McRae stared at him.  “That will do for now.  Lead the way.”  Relieved of his burden, he stood against the broad Hummer door.  “Alright, now I need some answers.  First, let me see some ID.”

“Philip Vanderdecken,” the Dutchman held out his driver’s license, insurance card, and business card.  “I had just arrived in town and was cruising to find a place to stay when I saw the young lady jump.  Her purse is still over there where she threw it down.”

“That’s what I saw, too,” McRae confirmed.  “I see you’re from out of state, so my question is  – are you one of Sally Lou’s customers, or do you know her as State Senator Knudsen’s daughter?  Don’t try to tell me you don’t know her.”

“I knew a girl who looked just like her once,”  Vanderdecken acknowledged.  “You say her father’s name is Knudsen?”

“Yes, the same sanctimonious swine whose campaign signs you’ve been seeing,” McRae growled.  “Now you see the situation I’m in.  I can’t afford to admit this just happened.”

“But how is it that she’s a prostitute?”  Vanderdecken was confused.  “Her attire proclaims it, and you affirm it, yet her father is a righteous state senator.”

“Don’t tell me this sort of thing doesn’t happen in Europe.”  McRae glared at him.  “Heaven knows I may be all kinds of  fool, but you look like a savvy customer, and the Department would love a way out of this mess.  Here’s the deal.  I went to high school with Senta Knudsen – that’s her real name – but even then she was too fast.  That damned brother of  hers – may he rot in hell – started whoring her out to pay for his habit before he O.D.ed.  The Old Man won’t admit that, of course; he’s disowned her and is perfectly happy for her to work off her brother’s debt with Pitstop.”

“Your local pimp?”  Vanderdecken studied this young Patrolman McRae, seeing much of what he liked in a junior officer.

“Among other things.  Real name Arthur Lavelle, a distant cousin of the Senator’s.  We keep it all in the family down here.”  The corners of McRae’s mouth turned down.  “He owns The Pitstop, one of our nightspots – also a motel that even does legitimate business.”

“So if I pretend Miss Knudsen fell while she was out ‘advertising’ and I decided to make use of her services after rescuing her, you wouldn’t have to write a report.”  Vanderdecken eyed him severely.  “That won’t take care of your problem in the long run, but this much I can do for you.  My schedule is flexible, and I can take time to do a little good.”

Muffled thumps from the Hummer indicated Senta/Sally Lou had come to, and McRae opened the door to speak to her.  She sat staring at them muzzily with those blue eyes Vanderdecken remembered so well.  “See, stranger, you shouldn’t have pulled me out,” she told him.  “Now I’ll just create more problems for decent people like poor Rick here.  No sense in trying to save me; whores don’t make old bones.”

Vanderdecken stared at her with the haunted eyes of a 400 year old ghost.  “Miss Knudsen, I pulled you out because I am a depressed and lonely traveler and wished to spend the evening with a kindred spirit.  Like you, I entered a profession that promised glittering financial rewards only to find it demanded my soul.”

“What’s your racket, anyway?”  She couldn’t help but be fascinated by the obsidian gleaming eyes in the unusually pale face.

“I deal in jewel salvage and discovery, tracking down gems in inhospitable places with intolerable human rights records.  It’s not a profession to increase your faith in mankind.”

“I’ve got a thermos of coffee in the cruiser,” McRae interrupted.  “Let me get you all a cup courtesy of Mississippi’s finest while I write up a simple incident report.”

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Belated PostAWeek – A Devil of a Chance

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Satan’s new arrangement had taken effect in 1920, and, as Vanderdecken had expected, it was harsher than his original punishment.  He had always had frequent interactions with the humanity from which he had been snatched.   Satan had used him to ferry newly dead “bright boys” down to hell, a situation that had enraged his crew.  It was bad enough to be damned accidentally by a sinful captain, they said; they balked at playing cabin stewards to additional damned souls.  Vanderdecken had ended up enduring most of his guests’ bad temper himself, but he also kept up with current trade and political developments.

Now for 86 years he had cursed the growth of human technology.  At first, he had been able to concentrate on steering the vehicle and giving the radio only a portion of his attention.  Then came television, and he was relegated to watching TV in the passenger seat while a demon drove and sometimes deliberately caused accidents.  Even worse was the coming of the interactive internet; now he spent his whole energy pounding a keyboard.  His natural aptitude for trade and finance meant he became Satan’s Number #1 go-to guy for devising the subtlest fraud.  And Satan knew how to put down the slightest trace of rebellion in an already beaten soul.

Now another seven-year cycle was up.  Vanderdecken found himself  in the Southern pleasure resort of Tunica, Mississippi, where gambling ships anchored on the mighty river.  Satan appeared in the passenger seat as he drove.  “I’m stuffing some ID for you into the glove compartment,” he said.  “You’re a jewel salvage, cleaning, and appraisal agent attached to this big international that never heard of you, on your way to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to help ’em after that mess Katrina made last year.”

“Am I honest, or am I just working a scam?” Vanderdecken asked.

“Play it however works for the people you deal with.  You’ve got all the money and ID you’ll need. – You might as well go out to win this time, Dutchie.  I’m getting tired of fooling with you.”  Satan vanished in a shower of fire and sulphur.

Vanderdecken abruptly parked beside a convenient bank building.  Something was wrong; Satan was sulking.  That had never happened before.  Worried, he pulled all the papers from the glove compartment and studied them with great care.  The bank clock showed 10:00 PM; with luck, nobody would bother him here while he did a quick rundown on the Net.

Post-A-Week – My Long Short Story

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I’m trying the Post-A-Week challenge – not with the novel I’m currently writing for Xlibris, but for an old short story I’ve had lying around for ages.  I called it The Devil of a Chance, and it’s a new take on an old story.  Again, thanks for the inspiration, Lawrence.  You lead me in all kinds of new directions.

THE DEVIL OF A CHANCE

“So what I’m going to do now is cut you a new deal.”  The speaker, a tall, thin man affecting a three-piece tailored Italian suit, leaned casually against the wooden rail of the elderly ship.  “I’m getting complaints about our arrangement from the Other Side, and my own boys are none too happy.  They say you ain’t a sporting proposition any more.”

“It grieves me that I no longer provide sufficient amusement for the denizens of Hell.”   Philip Vanderdecken’s voice was bitter.  His hands clenched the spokes of the wooden wheel, largely out of habit, but also to keep them off his visitor’s throat.

“You do need updating.”  The thin man raised an eyebrow under his snappy fedora.  “That kind of speech went out when Brother Bryan stopped running for president.  No wonder the boys say you ain’t worth betting on.  This is a new age, Dutchie, the Jazz Era.  Why, nowadays a man can talk into a radio in Paris, and they hear him in Topeka.”

“There are also fewer ports where an unregistered ship can anchor,” the Dutchman reminded him.  “Last time I had to land on an uninhabited atoll and build an outrigger.”

“That was great initiative.”  The thin man’s voice was approving.  “You really impressed our new arrivals.  I’ve got a lot of navy boys right now, and they were grousing because I didn’t make your skills available during the Great War.”

“I was on the fringes, but they didn’t notice me.”  For the first time, Vanderdecken really studied his visitor.  “Tell me, Satan, is your appetite for souless carnage really limitless?  Do not even you shudder at the mass destruction man has learned!”

“It’s the modern world,” the Devil enthused, “and I just love it.  I was really surprised.  Humans used to be so stupid, but they’re learning fast these days.  I’ve always played on ignorance, but now the game is even better.  Now I’m a patron of learning like everybody else. – Which brings me back to you.”   Now the flaming eyes really studied his quarry.  “We’ve got to update your act.  Let’s go have a little sit-down.

Vanderdecken was slow to relinquish his grip on the wheel, and his visitor laughed.  “Still don’t like to face that Hussite cabin steward you damned, do you?  Don’t worry – your who crew got redeemed by the Other Side when I came aboard.  Had to give him a little something to work this deal.”

The Dutchman followed without hope.  By now he knew Satan.  If one torment was removed, another worse was bound to follow.  He found Satan studying his cabin.

“No wonder you ain’t brought a girl here in several hundred years!  Sheesh!”  He sat down in the captain’s chair and knocked his knuckles on the table.  “I got some new brains down at my place, and they’ve got us sizzling again.  Seems ships don’t have any romance any more; trade’s been hijacked by those corporations that are sending me so many souls.   My brain trust tells me I should give you an automobile and set you off on the roads of this big United States.  These automobiles have radios, and we’ll educate you in driving and all the other things you’ve missed floating all over the ocean.”

Now Satan rose and glared at Vanderdecken.  “The basic deal’s the same.  You’ll be invisible for seven years and then get your chance at redemption.  There’s jewels and coins under the back seat; you can set your self up as a treasure hunter.  Anything you need on your quest will be supplied. – That girl you’re looking for is still out there, you know; the Other Side keeps her reincarnating around until you find her.  Can’t see why they’re so interested in either of you, myself.”

A mist descended,  and then Philip Vanderdecken found himself alone, sitting on a seat with a wheel in front of him.  Despite himself, his professional interest took over, and he began to study the small vehicle where he found himself.  Then he heard a female voice from a lighted dial to his right.  “Simple instructions for operating an automobile,” it began in dulcet tones.

Book Signing at the AARP Convention 9/23-24/11

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Book Signing for A Test of Alien Alliance
My Book Signing Experience

Thiw was an exciting experience.  I had never expected the kind of enthusiasm Author Solutions showed for my work.  It was great talking to all kinds of people about science fiction.  I was especially glad to sign books as gifts for young people.  Anything we can encourage them to read is good!

I was also surprised to see what a diverse group of people was interested in literate science fiction.  A Test of Alien Alliance is the result of my son’s asking me to write him a Star Trek story some years ago.  After messing around with fanzine-type fiction for a while, I decided to make my own universe.  Once I retired, I had the time and wherewithal at least to begin making my dream come true.
Currently, I’m writing a prequel, Befriending Aliens, which should come out next February.  I really love the writing experience.