Tuesday, June 30, 2020

What is a Vibration Plate?

Vibration Plate

I first heard of vibration plates on an intermittent fasting podcast in 2018. The host stated it was the only exercise she did to build and maintain muscle. Intrigued, I consulted Dr. Google. I surfed around, ordered and read some books on the science and how to’s. 

Vibration plates were designed in the 1950’s to help astronauts who returned to earth with decreased bone density and muscle atrophy due to lack of gravity. They then made their way into physical therapy offices to help rehabilitate injured people who were unable to perform traditional weight bearing exercises. Gyms and sports teams have incorporated vibration plates into their regimens. 

Costco and Sam’s Clubs have had occasional demonstrations of a high quality vibration plate. I’ve never been able to try one of them, the queue has always been long. I bought this one from Amazon back in 2018 and it’s still working just fine, no issues. 

4 to 5 nights a week, I’ll do a gentle yoga routine, then workout on my vibration plate for 10 minutes. I find it very relaxing. I cycle through the 10 minute preset programs, a different one each night. I start out standing on the vibration plate. I concentrate to pull my pelvic floor muscles and abdominals up and in and hold them for 3 minutes. I had to work up to this, don’t attempt it on your first workout. I have a cystocele, a type of pelvic floor prolapse and this is the only thing that has kept my bladder up inside and in place, making everyday life bearable. 

After 3 minutes standing, I relax all my muscles and sit on the plate for about 3 minutes, with my legs held straight out. 

The remaining 4 minutes, I lay on the floor with my legs across the vibration plate. I use a yoga bolster to lift my hips into a bridge position and just relax. 

I look forward to my evening routine. I usually use the vibration plate in the dark while listening to a favorite podcast. 

I encourage everyone to consult with their physician, and if it's appropriate for you, be on the lookout for an opportunity to try adding a vibration plate to your fitness plan.


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Who Pulled the Emergency Brake on the Train?


Excerpt from INAPPROPRIATE
by Sherry Morris

A thunderous squeal, flashing lights, the crashing of stowed luggage and sleeping people resonated in slow motion. Screams and curses filled the distant air.

My head hit the bathroom door hard as it was jolted open. Peetie-the-Parrot flew screeching toward me. My world went dark.

* * * 

I felt myself being dragged backwards. Voices. Cuss words. Male voices. A blow to my stomach and all the blood rushed to my head. Forward propulsion. I opened my eyes and saw a great male caboose. Upside down. Clad in dark wash jeans. Handcuffs dangled. My hair hung down near my arms. I was upside down. Somebody was carrying me. Over his shoulder. I noticed a Glock tucked into his waistband. I grabbed cop handcuffs. He threw me down on a bed.

I brushed the tangled hair from my face and looked into Lieutenant Hottie Hernandez’s big brown smoldering…make those angry eyes.

He snatched his handcuffs from me and returned them to their holster. “Did you stop this train?”

Train? Train…oh, yeah, I was on a train.

“Sandra, did you pull the emergency brake and stop this train?”

“Well I didn’t do it by dragging my foot.”

“Why?” he demanded.

“Why?” I repeated.

“Yes, why?”

I watched his nostrils flare and his eyes bulge. I would have rather looked at something else bulging.

He got right in my face. “Why did you stop this train?”

I remembered. I needed a nurse. “I needed a nurse.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

What’s wrong with me? “My back hurts. Mini…Minnie Mouse hit me with the potty door. Oww. My side hurts, too. And I stubbed my big toe.” I put my hand up and felt a huge goose egg on my forehead. “What happened to my head?”

“You obviously bumped your head.”

“How do you know somebody didn’t conk me over the head?”

“Did they? Who?”

I propped myself up on my elbows and wondered how that toilet paper became wrapped around my leg.

“Who conked you over the head?”

“Huh? I don’t know. But they could have. Then again, I probably did hit my head on the bathroom door. Or toilet or something… I remember! Peetie!”

“Peetie hit you? Who is Peetie?”

“Peetie-the-Parrot. Pat-the-Pirate’s pet.”

“Oh, for the love of— Have you been drinking?”

“Drinking? No. I’m a good girl. You know that.”

I remembered Big Marc. I bolted upright and nearly passed out again.

Hottie caught me. “Careful! Lay back down.”

Under different circumstances I’d love to obey but… “Oh! Big Marc! Pearl Harbor! Old guy working as a car attendant. He stumbled and clocked his head, breaking out a window as he passed out in the parlor car. He had a heart attack. That’s why I pulled the emergency brake. I kept yelling ‘Help!’ but no one responded. I didn’t know which compartment Weepy Wendy was in.”

“Weepy Wendy?”

“Nurse. Nurse with scary hair.”

Hottie snatched out his cell phone, commanded something into it then turned his attention back to me.

Damn, he was so good looking when he was mad.

“What time is it? How long was I out? Where are we?”

“Oh-one-hundred hours, Thursday. I don’t know. Dillon, South Carolina.”

I realized everything was quiet. The train had stopped. The air conditioning wasn’t whirring. I didn’t like this silence. I tried sitting up again. This time, slowly. He offered his hand to help me. Oh, his hand. His hot, strong hand. His touch sent shockwaves of pleasure through my body.

He let go, reached his arm across to the cup holder by the window and grabbed a small water bottle. The lid made a little peep noise as he cracked the seal and offered it to my lips. I let him pour the sustenance into my mouth. Of course it dribbled cold all down my neck. I pulled away.

“Sorry,” he said.

I wiped the water with the corner of his blue covers.

Andy came to the door. Hottie jumped up and talked to him in hushed tones. He turned to me and said, “I’ll get your mother to sit with you. I’ve got to go.”

“Where? And why are you onboard anyhow?”

“Big Marc Clinger is missing. I am conducting a murder investigation.”

“Big Marc is dead?”

“That’s not what I said. I’m investigating the murder of David Starr, the sailor you turned up on the beach.”

“Why aboard the train? There aren’t any suspects—”

He was gone before I finished. I remembered the planted dog tags. Shazam. The killer is on the train! And messing around with my mom’s yarn. Why is he…or she hiding evidence, or are they planting clues? Does the killer want to be discovered? Is this a murder mystery weekend?

No nothing that fun. Nobody is writing a murder mystery dinner party play. Well, I don’t know. Maybe Contest Carly or Rosemary might be. But if it is Rosemary we would never find out whodunit because she would only write the first act.

I was really tired. And boy did my head ache. Throb, throb throb. I just wanted to take two Extra Strength Tylenol’s, lie back and go to sleep and wake up in DC in time for Tony O’Rourke’s presentation.

I was just about to doze off in Hottie’s comfy covers, which smelled so good like he does, when Mom swooped in.

“Wake up! Wake up! Sandra Marie Faire!” She slapped my cheeks.

I pushed her back. We wrestled until I was sitting up. She placed a cup of tea to my lips. I pulled back. “Too hot!”

“Fine. I’ll put some ice in it.” She ran out into the corridor.

I had looked forward to an inspiring and relaxing excursion. Just my luck.

Mom reappeared with a pewter ice bucket and tongs. She plunked two small cubes in my mug and stirred them with a peppermint stick.

Leave it to Mom to pack peppermint sticks.

“What did you hit your head on this time, Sandra? I think you need glasses. You’re always walking into things.” She placed ice cubes inside a floral napkin and then stuffed it inside a plastic Wal-Mart bag. She twirled it three times tied a butterfly knot and pressed it on my head.

“Oww!” I tried to pull it away. She pressed harder. I squirmed. She won. I held the ice to my head.

I picked the toilet paper off of my leg and handed it to Mom. She huffed, threw it in the little stainless steel trash shoot and washed her hands. She came over and soaped up my hands with a wash cloth, rinsed it out then returned to wipe the soap away. I just rolled my eyes and compiled. Mom gets into these hyper-mommy jags and it’s better not to challenge her.

“What were you doing in the parlor car in the middle of the night? Do they have an internet connection in there? Were you surfing for inappropriate photos of Johnny Depp again? Sandra Marie—”

“I got kicked out of my room.”

“Why? Did you and Dina have a fight over another boy?”

I would always be twelve years old in Mom’s eyes. “No. Dina isn’t my roommate. They decided it would be fun if they paired up the writ—umm—book readers club with the missionaries or crusaders or whoever they are.” That was a close one.

“Why on earth?”

“I have no idea.”

“So who is your roommate then? Where is she?”

“Mary Agnes. She’s in our room with Pastor Donaldson. I was booted out for the night and had to sleep in the parlor car.”

Shoot. Too much info. Now I was going to have to tell her the rest of it.

“Why? What did you do to her?”

“I didn’t do anything to her. Why do you always assume… Mary Agnes is grieving. Her brother died.”

“Oh, how terrible. I’m sorry. Was it expected or sudden?”

I removed the ice pack, inhaled and stuck my tea in the cup holder. I swung my legs over the side of the bunk and propped myself up with Lieutenant Hottie’s two pillows.

She was going to find out so I might as well get the lecture over with. “Her brother is…was the dead guy I found washed up on the beach yesterday morning.”

Mom shuddered. A full body shimmy.

“Mom, are you okay?”

“That is too creepy and coincidental. You discovered his body and she is your roommate that very night. I think something is going on here. Something very fishy. And scary… She fumbled in the rickrack trimmed pocket of her pink chenille bathrobe. Pulling out her cell phone, she flipped it open.

“Who are you calling in the middle of the night?”

“Your father. We’ll just see what’s going on here. I don’t like it one bit.”

No. Not Dad. He would stop the train. No, wait. I already stopped the train. Now Dad would dispatch a local yokel squad car to take us home. I would be grounded for the rest of my life.

Mom huffed and shoved the phone back into her pocket. “No service.” She pulled a ball of mint green yarn and knitting needles from her other pocket and plopped down in the chair. “Put the ice pack back on your head.”

I did.
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Just What is Vera Up To?

Excerpt from HUNDRED DOLLAR BILL
The Deception Series Book 1
by Sherry Morris

January 1945 in Washington, DC

President Roosevelt wearily stared at the excess ink dripping back into the well. He began dotting the Is on his speech just as his secretary strolled in.
“Here you go, sir, this is the last one. The courier is waiting.”
He signed six pages. Vera slipped them into an envelope and sealed it as she left the Oval Office. She gave it to the tired-looking young courier. He dashed off.
The President placed the speech in his lap then gripped the gritty wheels of his armless wooden chair. He propelled himself out to Vera’s office and deposited his soon- to-be historical prose on her desk. “Sorry I kept you so late. Just leave this for one of the girls in the typing pool in the morning.”
“Nights like these I appreciate living with my mother-in-law. She’s wonderful with the children.”
“Come on up and have a martini with me before you go. The missus is out at a charity hoop dee doo and cocktails for one are no fun… I’ll put two olives in yours.” He winked.
Stretching catlike, she placed her elbows on the desk and gazed into his eyes. “All right, F.D.  You know I’m a sucker for your…olives.” Vera tenderly kissed him on his stubbled cheek.
She arched her back, thrusting her chest to attention as she stood. Vera protected her typewriter with a vinyl cover and then strolled over to the mahogany rack in the corner. She grabbed her black wool hat and coat, releasing her smoky French perfumed scent while shaking it out, then returned to her desk to retrieve her pocketbook.
They had a quiet ride on the elevator to the second floor. They heard only its low hum as they  both smiled at the padded walls, mulling over the long day. The doors opened  into  an  informal  gathering  area  outside  the  family’s  living  quarters.  The President motioned for his secretary to  exit.  She nodded and sauntered over to the seating area.
He rolled his wheelchair to an ornate teacart where his valet had set up the martini fixings.  Franklin concentrated with pride as he measured his secret blend of gin and vermouth into the silver shaker.
Vera sat down on a comfortable red sofa and kicked off her pumps. Reaching over to the large  radio, she flinched as static blasted when she switched it on. She turned down the volume and tuned in a station. Settling back into the soft couch, Vera caught his eye as she undid the three bottom buttons on her shirtdress, revealing her thighs.
Beaming, the President wheeled himself the short distance. He handed her one of the two stemmed glasses entwined in the fingers of his left hand.
Vera downed her martini.
He raised his eyebrows. “Thirsty, darling?”
She blushed and willed him to refill, but didn’t ask. Instead she smiled seductively and curled her long shapely legs underneath her. Vera nibbled on the olives.
Franklin turned up the volume on the radio and tweaked the dial for a clearer signal. It was  an  upbeat cinema song heavy on the clarinets. Twisting a lock of nut- brown hair around her finger,  Vera sang along in an exquisite alto vibrato. Franklin joined in the harmony. As the song ended, he  refilled her glass. She drank it a little slower this time.
He said, “Oh, ‘Ginger’, what fun. Wish I could’ve whirled you ‘round the dance floor.”
“We’d make a grand team…‘Fred’… I’d have gone to Hollywood you know, if I hadn’t married…”
“You’d have made it to the big-time too, Vera. But life—what will be—will be.” They both pondered in silence.
The radio host announced the time was 10:30.
The President ogled her legs as she slipped her shoes on. Swaying with feline grace, Vera walked to the teacart and deposited her lipstick-rimmed glass.
She turned to him. “Thanks for the cheer.”
 “Vera darling, can you stay just a bit longer? I’ll get Mrs. Stoneburner to send up some tuna sandwiches…”
“Not tonight, F.D.”
He tried to hide a grimace as he stretched his polio-ravaged body to pick up her coat from the couch.
She smiled warmly as she leaned down and placed her arms inside the black wool he held for her.
“Well, then, have one of the Secret Service boys see you home. I’ve heard it’s quite slippery out.  These blasted Washington ice storms. Why can’t it just either rain or snow?”
“No thanks boss. I’ll make my way just fine.”
He tugged on her sleeve and pulled her down to him. They shared a lingering kiss. She wiped the lipstick from his face before donning her spotless white gloves. Vera searched through her purse.
“What are you missing, darling?” “My eyeglasses.”
“They’re on your desk, Vera. Watched you put ‘em there before you pecked me.” “Thanks, F.D. I’ll pick ‘em up on the way out. Can I get you anything? Do you want me to push you to your quarters?”
He squirmed and straightened his posture. “No. I’m perfectly capable—”
She interrupted him, “Yes you are. Maybe I can find a copy of that song you like at the record  shop. Would you like that?” Stupid! Why’d I have to go and say that? I’ve insulted his manhood. I hope changing the subject will cover it quick.
“Absolutely. And bill it to me personally, now.”
“I’ll do no such thing. I am a working girl you know. I have a hundred dollar bill or two lying around the house.”
“Pardon me, Miss Rockefeller.”
After a brief stop at her office, Mrs. Vera Blandings exited the White House and carefully footed her way down the icy brick driveway. Tiny snowflakes danced in the glow of gaslights. Peering around the shadowy grounds, Vera spotted the President’s valet accompanying Fala on his last outing  for the night. Mr. Fuji waved to her. She called out, “Goodnight.”
At the guard kiosk, the Secret Service agent on duty signed her out. “Goodnight, Mrs. Blandings, have a nice weekend.”
“Thank you, officer. I intend to. Goodnight.”
As she turned to leave, he said, “Ma’am, if you can wait five or ten minutes, I can escort you home. It’s really slippery out tonight.”
Absolutely not! Vera twisted her head back and said, “Oh, I’ll be just fine. Don’t worry about me.”
 “My relief will be here any minute. I really should see you home, ma’am.”
“No. Thank you, you’re very kind, but I enjoy the solitude. It’s my time to reflect and daydream a little. You understand?”
“Sure.”
Vera headed west on Pennsylvania Avenue then circled the block as fast as she could without slipping. She hunched behind a massive oak tree outside the northeast appointment gate, where she had just exited. She was breathing so hard that she put her hat in front of her nose and mouth so the vapor wouldn’t be noticed.
Just before  eleven  o’clock,  Ashley  Jones,  the  night  relief,  reported  to  the  kiosk carrying his predictable sack of Tiny Tavern hamburgers.
As the Secret Service agents snacked and chuckled, Vera’s respiration returned to normal. She put her hat back on and snuck over to a gatepost. She pulled a brass letter opener from her coat pocket and ran it down a groove in the limestone, triggering the latch. A hidden door popped open. She dashed inside, closing it behind her.
Crunching paint snagged roughly on her gloves as she hurried down a ladder to the  tunnel  entrance.  She  found  the  first  light  switch  and  flipped  it.  Vera  shivered though  puddles  and muck.  Her  suction-like  footsteps  echoed  in  the  cobwebby catacombs.  The  incessant  drip-drip-drip from  cracks  in  the  mortar  pound-pound- pounded in her head. Some of it spit in her face.
At the end of each passage, she shut the light off before entering the next chamber. Every turn and switchback in the labyrinth was familiar. After all, it was part of her job description to know how to get the President out of the White House—in a hurry.
Vera made her way to the train platform hidden below the Bureau of Engraving and Printing where FDR secretly boarded for his trips. A scream from behind sent her scrambling up the platform  and into the presidential rail car. Springing through the darkened conference room, she bounced off the paneled walls of the narrow corridor and ducked inside the first lady’s bedroom.
In the moments of seemingly eternal silence, clutching her purse so tight that her fingertips pulsed, Vera summoned her inner strength. She finally attributed the scream to either her nervous imagination or a house cat. And if it was a human scream, well, she wasn’t in a position to go and  save the day. Vera crept back through the train, remembering. At least I got to ride this thing once. That’s more than most girls can say.
After peeking out a window into the darkened loading zone, she inhaled deeply and sprinted out the metal door of the observation car. It clanged shut behind her.
Dashing up  concrete  steps,  she  entered  the  Bureau  of  Engraving  and  Printing through a stairwell door, tiptoeing to a supervisors’ catwalk. Vera ignored the four foot tall pallets of brand-new United States currency stacked near the walls. She climbed the steps to the catwalk and gripped the railing as she hastened to the printing room.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Sacrificing her Heart for her Country


The Deception Series Book 2
by Sherry Morris

August 1945 in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt

Chloe gingerly shook her head, giggling. She marveled at the cultural differences. Here they were. Two young women out in the middle of the night alone and they had been inhaling an illegal drug. Illegal in their homeland. But it was perfectly acceptable in this context. Actually it was part of their cover. 

Cover. 

Undercover agents for the United States Secret Service. On the trail of counterfeiters. A far cry from the life she’d led in Shrew, North Carolina. 

The thunder of hoof beats approached from the north. Orpha fought to keep the camel under control as it stumbled into a crow-hop. Nefertiti meowed and Chloe screamed as she was thrown.

A chariot arrived.

Orpha had jumped off the camel before his legs splayed. 

Chloe was thrown. She landed on her belly. Through blurry eyes, she scrutinized the interloper by the light of his lantern. A man. Tall. Face covered with cloth, only eyes and brows showing. Egyptian garb. 

In her muddled mind, the only clear notion was to retrieve the carpet bag. Chloe pushed herself up and staggered over to the camel. As the man approached, she grabbed the bag defiantly, yanking it from the saddle horn. He seized Chloe roughly by the waist and threw her over his shoulder. 

Great just great. I’ve been camel-napped. Now I’ll be a full day late for my summons. No way of making that tricky Moroccan connection now. 

She realized her arm no longer hurt. Whatever Orpha had injected it with had a firm grip on her. The numbness was welcome, especially in this position. 

The kidnapper stepped into the chariot. His grip was tight around Chloe’s legs. 

She heard the crack of the whip as he grunted a command. The pair of horses galloped. 

Was this guy crazy? I won’t survive a gallop through the desert flopped over his shoulder. All the blood is rushing to my head. I detected the heat. Actually once the dizziness set in, I enjoyed a little buzz like the one I had from Orpha’s incense cone. Hey, where was Orpha? Why didn’t she help me fend off this beast? Surely she didn’t run the other way. . . Oh, she must have a plan. She went for back up. Yeah, that’s it. 

Chloe struggled to tuck her injured arm between her chest and his back. Her hand gripped tight to the mewing sack. She let her left arm dangle and then grabbed onto his buttocks for security. Maybe she should pinch him. Or spank him? 

Trying to get a clue to the kidnapper’s identity, she inhaled deeply. Spicy lime aftershave. Wow, all the way down here. He must wash his dishdash in it. She giggled at her double entendre. 

She had been kidnapped. Not the first time, but such is the life of a secret agent. Chloe had been held captive on a yacht and taken to Bermuda to make a money drop. Her friend, Shirley Fiddler, had made the money drop, and that’s what had landed her in jail. Poor Shirley. All because she got mixed up with the wrong fellow. He sweet talked her into becoming a gangster’s moll. Well, not exactly gangster. Myron Wimpledink, the timid little smarmy personnel director at the Washington Bureau of Engraving and Printing was no rough and tough gangster. Counterfeiter, yes. 

Chloe hated Wimpledink and his band of merry marauders. That had been the mission from Hell. And it had only been her second assignment. The first was pleasant enough. Too bad she had blown their cover in the barn that night in Pennsylvania with Mike. 

Her third assignment had been dreamy. Bodyguarding the Vice President in paradise. 

This fourth one pretty much sucked, almost as much as the second. Perhaps there was a pattern. Even numbered assignments stank. Odd ones were lovely larks. 

Chloe sneezed and smacked her hand against the captor’s boot. Why wasn’t he wearing sandals? Her next big inhalation was unpleasant. All she smelled was what had just come out of one of the horse’s hind parts. Funny how horses, elephants and camels can do that at full gallop. Elephants. . . Little Laughter. Chloe smiled and closed her eyes, remembering the beach resort her daddy had worked at during the summers. Tending to that baby elephant was a lovely memory. 

Closing her eyes made her nauseous. She opened them and raised her head. “Ouch!” The sky appeared to have brightened a bit as they slowed to a stop. Too bad she had a sutured wound in her right arm. She could have done a somersault and rolled away from the bad guy. That wouldn’t be of much help, for she was not leaving without the carpet bag. Everything else being goofed up, knowing there was no way she’d make it to Washington in time now, at least this new wrinkle would give her an excuse. No, not really. The pencil pushing honchos would be mad at her for placing herself in a vulnerable position and point out that had she completed the mission on schedule, then she never would have afforded the kidnapper this opportunity. 

Slipping his hands around Chloe’s waist, the man stepped off the chariot. He set her on her feet on the ground. She stumbled in the sand and brushed the tangled curls from her eyes. The captor stationed himself behind her and with gentle fingers, combed her snarled hair. She inhaled the night air and enjoyed the tingling sensation he created. How bizarre, but I like it. 

Chloe focused on an oasis. Three date palm trees, illuminated by a dying fire in front of a tent. In the distance, about a city block away, if this had been a city, other tents, trees and fires reposed along the banks of a river. 

He slipped his arms around her waist, hugging her close from behind. Running his fingers around her wrists. It might have been intoxicating had the circumstances been different. 

“What do you want of me?” Chloe demanded. 

“I have traveled across three continents and o’er two oceans seeking nothing but your lips.” 

Chloe whirled around. Staring at the base of his sternum, the man was easily a foot taller than she. His unbuttoned shirt revealed a tuft of golden chest hair. As she raised her gaze up toward those baby blue eyes and his masked face, she already knew. He was Mike Taurus. 

Ripping the mask down, she focused on the smirk as he parted his lips. Those plump lips she’d been dreaming of. When he parted them and she spotted the white gleam of his slightly crooked two front teeth, she couldn’t help herself. Tiptoeing up, she pressed her lips to his. He hesitated, on purpose of course, until she was ready to explode with anticipation. Gently he kissed her. Soft closed mouth butterfly kisses, increasing in intensity. 

Tears flowed from her heart. Trickling onto their lips. He pulled away and studied her eyes. “What’s wrong, sweetheart?” 

Chloe sniffled. “I’m sorry, it’s just I’m so overwhelmed to see you. How did you get here? I love you so much forever and ever and ever and eternally, my love. My husband.” 

“Well, let’s not cry about it,” he said. 

“I should have bugged-out yesterday but I had to finish the mission. . .and didn’t anyway.” A feeling of warmth and safety settled over her. She could care less about any mission right now. Wrapping her left arm around his back, she softly rubbed his taut flesh through the cotton fabric. 

Mike scooped her into his arms and ducked inside the tent. He gently eased her down on a pallet of green silk and white fur. Four thick gold candles with sapphires, rubies and amethysts embedded in the wax illuminated the small blue canvass hideaway. An incense pot in the shape of a hippopotamus smoked in the center. 

Chloe set the carpet bag down. Mike secured the entrance and uncorked a bottle of wine. 

She dreamily said, “Everything will be all right now. I’ll fill you in, and we’ll capture the perps together, man and wife. . .” 

“You’re bloody!” He set the bottle down and nervously yanked her sleeve, exposing the filthy shoulder and bandaged arm. 

“Oh, it’s nothing. Just met up with the wrong end of a jealous wife.” 

He pried the bandage loose, peeking underneath. 

“Stop! That hurts.” 

“I’m sorry. So you got into a cat fight with Cleopatra?” he let go of the bandage and gently kissed it instead. 

As if cued, the Sand cat rubbed up against Mike’s leg. 

“And where did you find your little friend here?” Mike picked the cat up and looked into her eyes. 

“Nefertiti found me.” 

“So you aren’t going to tell me how you got stitched up?” 

“I think it was probably old Hundred Dollar Bill’s wife, Vera who shot me.” 

“Shot you?” 

“I’m fine. Orpha dug the slug out. But enough of that. It’s been so long. Let’s just concentrate on getting back to our honeymoon. Mr. and Mrs. Man and Wife.” 

“About the man and wife bit. . .” He cleared his throat and set the cat down. “We aren’t.” 

“Hunh? What do you mean we aren’t?” Chloe sat up. 

Mike poured two glasses of wine. He handed one to her. “We’ve been annulled.” 

She laughed in disbelief. “Yeah, right.” 

“I’m dead serious.” 

“Why would you have our marriage annulled?” Chloe wracked her brain, trying to figure out what she’d done to make him hate her. Memories of their young marriage seemed to pass before her eyes. Him gratefully gobbling the food she had prepared. Long walks in the shifting sand on Make Believe Island. Bathing each other in the claw footed tub. Lying in each other’s arms. Listening to the rain’s romantic symphony atop of the bungalow’s tin roof. They hadn’t even spat. . .spit. . .quarreled. Not ever. As far as she could remember anyhow. 

“I didn’t instigate the annulment of our marriage. The government did.” 

“Why? They can’t do that! We were married twice! In a civil ceremony and in an Episcopal ceremony at the National Cathedral in Washington for heaven sakes! And the President of the United States witnessed it!” 

Mike took a thoughtful sip from his fluted glass, swirled the nectar in his mouth and swallowed. Inhaling deeply, he blew out a breath and rambled, “I finished my mission early. Missing you terribly, I figured I’d ask the brass if I could slip over on a crocodile and give you a hand, since you’d soon be wrapping yours up too.” He downed the rest of his wine. “How could I have been so stupid?” 

“That’s a wonderful idea. Not stupid. We could collar the counterfeiters together. Just like at Momma’s house in Shrew.” 

“You’d think so, hunh? And it’s not like I’d be getting extra pay or anything, since we’re meager salaried employees,” Mike lamented. 

“Then what was their beef?” 

“I made a fatal error by blurting out we’re married.” 

“So? Would they rather have us fornicating?” 

“It seems we’re not only in violation of their nepotism rule, but alas, female agents are not allowed to marry, let alone to another agent.” 

“That’s not fair! So what if I got married. It’s logical and natural and good. And so what if I married another agent? That is just none of their dagnab business.” 

“Something about we’ll both lose our edge, respond to crisis with our hearts instead of our heads, jeopardizing missions. And the mere fact you are married automatically makes you pregnant and disabled.” 

“I am neither pregnant nor disabled.” 

“You’re not?” 

“No.” 

“Oh.” 

“You sound disappointed.” 

“I just had this fantasy of you and me and baby Taurus makes three. All living happily ever after on Make Believe Island.” 

“Mike, please don’t talk about babies,” she whispered. 

“I’m sorry, sweetheart.” He refilled their glasses. 

A vision of the two headstones on the island brought tears back to my eyes. “It’s too soon.” 

“I’m really sorry.” Using a piece of green silk bedding, he wiped the black kohl smudges from under her eyes. 

“I wish I had a camera. You are the most gorgeous Egyptian princess I have ever laid eyes on. God you are beautiful.” 

“And just how many Egyptian princesses have you laid?” 

“A whole herd of ‘em. But that was long before I met you.” 

“Herd?” I laughed. Bevy, harem maybe, but herd?” Sniffing the insense, I gazed deeper into his mesmerizing eyes and sighed. 

“Sweetheart, I consented to the annulment.” 

“Why?” Chloe was absolutely gob smacked. How could he do such a thing? 

“Because I know how much you love your country and your job. As do I. It’s only paperwork. It has not a whiff to do with what’s in our hearts. We were married before God—.” 

“And before a baker.” 

We both smiled, conjuring up images of Paddycake whispering their vows in the back alley behind the bakery with the Miami Beach flat-foots about to burst through the back door. Hot on their trail. Mistaken identity, of course. Wow, what an adventure. . . 

He continued, “We’re married in our hearts no matter what they say. They can never take that away from us.” 

“So we are not married, but we are married?” 

“Right.” 

Wine glugged out of the bottle as Mike refilled the glasses. He held his up. “To our annulment. May we live on happily ever after, despite a world overrun by fools.” 

Chloe held her glass up and clinked it to Mike’s. “To our annulment.” 

Mike took their glasses and set them on a small crate. He cranked a record player and set the needle on the 33 1/3 inch disk. Mitch Miller’s band wafted through the heady perfumed air, playing “Make Believe Island” as he sidled up to her. Chloe flinched as he caressed her right arm. 

She cautioned, “We’re not married anymore. We can’t make love. . . It would be immoral. . .” 

“That is all right, Miss Lambert. I only want to hold you tonight. I know you aren’t that kind of girl.” 

Mike rolled her onto her left side and pressed up behind her. She cradled her sutured arm close to her body. He slipped his around her waist. She heaved a heavy sigh and let herself disappear into the warmth of his love. The only man who had ever loved her. The only man she would ever love. 

“Hey,” he whispered, snuggling closer, pressing up against her rear end. 

Through the layers of cotton, Chloe could feel his dishdash thrilled to be near her. 

He offered, “If you change your mind and decide you want to be that kind of girl, I won’t tell.”

All Aboard the Havana Special

Excerpt from HUNDRED DOLLAR BILL
The Deception Series Book 1
by Sherry Morris

January 1945 in Washington, DC

The announcer boomed in a deep voice, “Now boarding on track number nineteen, the Havana Special. Direct coach and sleeper service to Miami, Florida. Connecting there to swift and safe air service to Havana, Cuba. Track number nineteen now boarding for the Havana Special. Passengers needing assistance, women and children please board now.”

Chloe leaned around the broad-shouldered nun in front of her, counting three more customers. Hurry up. That’s the train I need.

A fat cop escorted a disheveled man across the station by the scruff of his collar and the back of his belt. He threw him outside. “And don’t come back!”

Chloe turned away from the Metropolitan police officer as he stomped back inside. She pulled the cowl over her mouth. What if they’re looking for me already? What if they think I murdered Bill? Chloe shuddered.

An elderly couple ambled hand in hand toward the restrooms. Momma and Daddy never would have shown affection like that. Tears welling up, Chloe dragged her two suitcases as the line moved forward. She gazed above at the intricate gold-leafed ceilings. Statues of the Roman centurions were perched high on a ledge under the dome. The ancient generals are watching over me. I’m gonna be all right. Or are they here commanding their troops? Who is out to get me? Who can I trust?

The announcer inquired, “Would the owner of a lost yap-yap dog please report to the information desk? She’s a hot dog or poodle or somethin’—” The crowd laughed as barking drowned out his voice.

“Next?” the ticket agent asked.

Chloe picked up her luggage and hurried to the counter. She bought a ticket for the Havana Special, scheduled to depart at 1:50 a.m. Looking up at the Roman numerals on the station clock, she saw it was already 1:47. Chloe grabbed her bags and glanced up at the centurions before hustling down the stairs to platform nineteen.

Hot steam blasted her legs as she passed the shiny black Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac engine and tender. The conductor yelled, “All aboard.”

Chloe ran past the dark green Railway post office and baggage cars and then five streamlined aluminum coach cars with purple and maroon striping behind the trains’ line names—Atlantic Coast Line, Pennsylvania and Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac. The conductor smiled and took her baggage as she showed her ticket. “Welcome, miss. Your seat is on the right. Walk on through to the lounge car for a complementary cup of coffee.”

Chloe said, “Yes sir,” and then pulled herself up the three steps.

Snoring men in uniforms, crying infants and their weary mothers jammed the coach car. Chloe found her aisle seat next to a dozing sailor. She grabbed the armrests and sat down, not jarring any tender spots on her battered body. The baby in front of her began a coughing fit, which in turn woke the little boy in the next seat.

A delicate young Oriental woman wandered through the car. Wordlessly, she picked up a fluffy stuffed lamb from the aisle floor and handed it to a crying tot.

He shoved a wooly ear in his mouth, closed his eyes and grabbed onto the lady cradling him. She thanked the kind lady for retrieving his toy.

Chloe checked her watch. It was 2:25 a.m. Darn it, the train is already thirty-five minutes late departing. She looked out the window onto the platform and saw a couple of fellows dashing toward the train. “Come on, come on, whoever you are,” she mumbled.

The men appeared to have a brief discussion with the conductor before boarding.

Get on the train already. Chloe hoped she wasn’t thinking aloud again.

The whistle tooted twice. The train lurched forward, chuffing through a tunnel under Capitol Hill. The drooling sailor’s prickly head flopped onto Chloe’s shoulder. She shoved him away. His eyes flew open.

“Hey doll face, step right into my dream.” He burped as he kissed her.

Leaping to her feet Chloe screamed, “Eww!” I’ll never be able to go through with this. She ran down the aisle, through the coach cars and into the first sleeping car, where she shoved past a heavily cologned man walking toward her.

Mike Taurus took a deep breath as he tingled on the remnants of her touch. How could she just push me out of the way? It’s as though she doesn’t even realize who she just cast aside.

Two hours later the Havana Special’s brakes squealed as it rolled to a smooth stop. The steam engine’s whistle blasted one long note. Perched on a white leather-topped stainless steel stool bolted to the floor of the lounge car, Chloe looked out the wide window. Sepia clouds framed a new moon. No precipitation fell. The sign on the dimly lit platform identified the station as Richmond.

Edgy from the coffee she’d been drinking for the past hour, she hopped up and hurried through the darkened narrow corridors. In the vestibules, she impatiently heaved one door open, stepped in between the cars and opened the adjoining door. Worried she’d wake someone, Chloe cringed each time a door slammed. There just was no quiet way of transcending the thresholds.

When she was back in her coach car, she squinted in the darkness. The conductor strolled up to her. In a hushed tone, he said, “We’re changing over to diesel engines and adding two more sleeper cars. Go ahead and return to your seat. I’ll let you know when you can walk back to your berth.”

“May I get off the train for some fresh air?”

“No miss. Passengers may not detrain while we’re adding cars.“

She sighed and sat next to the kissing sailor. Spittle ran down his smiling baby face.

If only I could sleep like that.

Chloe grabbed onto the armrests of her wool-upholstered seat, experiencing the aftershocks of a hard jerk when the diesel locomotives coupled. Moments later she heard a bell faintly clanging before a backward thrust and a bump signaled that the Pullman sleeping cars had been added. After a short pause and two toots, the Havana Special resumed its voyage to paradise.

“Miss, you may walk back to the last sleeper car now.” the conductor said.

“Thank you.” She swayed with the cadence of the train, down the aisle of slumbering passengers. An Army Air Corps nurse was sprawled across two seats, snoring. Her legs were splayed open and one foot encroached the armrest, stretching into the aisle. Chloe turned sideways and squeezed past. She stopped and felt around on the overhead rack until she pulled out a blanket. Chloe quietly unfolded the thin white cover and gently draped it over the woman’s legs, hiding the view up her skirt.

She continued walking to the last Pullman car. Letting out a weary breath, Chloe patiently waited her turn in the sleeper. The porter, dressed in a snappy white jacket, assigned her a berth. Feeling as though she’d been hit by a locomotive, she whimpered as he assisted her up the ladder.

“I’m sorry, miss. Are you all right?” “Yes,” she lied.

“You sure now?”

Chloe climbed onto the bunk and swung her legs on top of the cool crisp white sheet. “Yes, I’m fine. Thank you.” Leave already, will ya? She handed him a quarter.

“Thank you, miss. I’ll be by momentarily to collect your shoes for polishing.” The porter pulled the blue wool curtain shut and moved on to assist a woman with three irritable children.