American Goddesses

Author Kathy Lynn Hall reviews “American Goddesses” on Amazon.

“American Goddesses” review at “Have You Heard My Book Review”

Author Emily Guido reviews “American Goddesses” on Goodreads.

“American Goddesses” review at RabidReadersReviews.com!

When two small-town women find themselves with nearly unlimited paranormal powers, their lives get complicated. Things turn nasty as a shadowy organization attempts to use Megan and Trish for their own evil ends, and destroy them, their town and the USA in the process.

This is my first-ever novel, self-published on Amazon May 29, 2012.

PROLOG
Democratic Republic of Congo — The dusty green war trucks rumbled into the sun-baked central square of the small village, gears clanking and brakes squealing.

Villagers peered from their wood, straw and mud huts, where they sheltered from the midday heat. They saw the convoy of half-a-dozen flatbed trucks and hum-vees, bristling with armed men in green camouflage and purple berets.

“Into the square! Everyone! If you value this worthless village! Now!” roared the unit’s leader. He stood in the lead humvee beside the driver. He watched like a raptor, as the men, women and children of the unfortunate village shuffled fearfully into the square.

Papa Rosie, village mayor, rushed into the cool dimness of his own home, furthest back from the square.

“Mama Rosie!” he cried. “The soldiers are back! The soldiers are back! We must hide!”

Mama Rosie, an immense black woman cloaked in an orange and blue muu-muu, looked up from the cassava root she was grating for sweet pudding.

“Calm yourself, Papa,” she said to her thin, wizened husband, a serene smile on her generous features. “We will go speak to these soldiers.”

“Speak to the soldiers! Don’t you remember last time?”

The big woman took the hand of her quaking husband. “This will not be like last time,” she said. She led him like a child out of the house and into the square.

The appearance of the large, colorfully-clad woman and her small mate caught the leader’s eye and he barked a command. On one of the flatbeds, a soldier knelt by his M2 50-caliber recoilless rifle, tripod mounted, loaded with armor-piercing rounds.

The soldier swiveled the weapon toward Mama Rozie and lined her up in the crosshairs of the gun sight.

“Make an example of this large woman!” the commander shouted, and the gunman squeezed the trigger.

Derbyshire, U.K. – The tall man, dressed in black, stepped up to the bank teller’s window. “Look,” he said to the small woman on the other side of the counter. He moved his jacket aside, revealing a large-caliber hand-gun in his waistband.

He handed her a cloth bag.

“Fill this with money,” he said. “Do it quietly. If you hit the alarm, I’ll shoot you in the face. In the confusion I’ll get away. I’ll shoot a few of your customers on the way out.”

He stared directly into the teller’s intense blue eyes, taking in her tousled mop of white hair and handsome, regular features.

She smiled.

Ueno Zoo, Tokyo – A series of mishaps and at least one failure to precisely follow transport protocols, and the two tigers leaped to freedom into the crowded pedestrian avenues of the zoo.

People screamed and scattered as the 10-foot-long, 600-pound cats stalked warily past the lion enclosure toward the nearby souvenir and snack shop.

Spying a group of school children paralyzed with fright, the two animals charged with light leaping bounds that appeared to defy the constraints of gravity.

Chapter 1.
A night in the life

Lawrencedale Journal, Sunday edition
Living Section

Super wife makes life
super-interesting
for Lawrencedale husband

by Anne Straits, Journal staff writer

Like many Lawrencedale residents, John A. Harris, 39, watches the games Sunday afternoons during football season, rooting for his favorite teams as he has done every year since he was a boy.

But it won’t be the same this year. Or possibly, ever again.

“It’s kind of weird knowing that if she wanted to, my wife Megan could walk out on that field and score touchdown after touchdown, and the defensive packages of both teams put together — along with their offenses – couldn’t stop her,” Harris explains.

Just 5 feet, six inches tall, Harris’s wife, 40-year-old Megan Harris, is one of Lawrencedale’s two extra-special citizens.

Along with 22-year-old waitress Patricia Reilly, Megan, an editor at Deacon Press in Lawrencedale, was accidentally gifted with a basketful of incredible abilities recently, by a Midlands University researcher.

Dr. Susan Tzin-Zin, head of the university’s immunology research effort, selected the women as volunteer participants in an exotic program to prevent and combat a wide range of human ailments. The doctor planned to pit the mind’s own psychic potential, in a form of bio-feedback, against everything from the common cold to cancer.

Tzin-Zin explained that once a telekinetic effect bolstering the body’s cellular defenses could be documented in healthy individuals with extreme psychic potential, work could begin on inducing it in less psychically-gifted subjects, then in patients suffering from various ailments, minor to life-threatening.

“We selected Megan and Patricia out of dozens of possible subjects,” Tzin-Zin explained. “Their results in the Puthoff-Targ and other ESP tests were far above statistical average.”

Several male volunteers also participated in the program, Tzin-Zin said. But the astounding and unexpected results which manifested in the female subjects have yet to make an appearance in the males.

“We’re still testing and cataloging their many new abilities,” Tzin-Zin said. “Our team is studying the test data to learn just what sparked the ‘breakthrough.’

“We hoped for a measurable improvement in the overall health of our subjects,” Tzin-Zin said. “We never expected anything like what occurred.

“If we could all obtain total mental control over our bodies and the physical environment as Megan and Patricia have, life might become a little more pleasant for us here on planet earth. Or at least more interesting,” she added.

It has certainly made life a bit more interesting — and challenging– for Megan’s husband Harris, a project manager for Witzell Construction. . .

*************

Megan skimmed the rest of the story and studied the image of herself in the accompanying photograph. It showed a slim, dark-haired, brown-eyed woman with a patrician nose and proud, arched eyebrows. In the photo, Megan smiled in a superior sort of way. Looking at it now, she didn’t like that smile.

She wore, in the photo, a short-sleeved black leotard, modestly cut, and a short red skirt over black tights. She’d crossed her legs as she sat leaning against her husband. She looked at his image in the photo, and thought again how much she loved that handsome face with the dark eyebrows over intelligent brown eyes, strong cheeks and chin and – Megan thought – very kissable lips.

She minimized the newspaper website page on the computer screen and returned to the marked-up printout of the manuscript on early Paleolithic tribes of North America. It cried out for her skills as an editor at Deacon Press, a publisher of scholarly books.

She flipped through a few pages of the treatise, sighing at the misspellings and grammatical errors.
How could a researcher be so capable in his own field, yet be so oblivious to basics like grammar and spelling, she wondered.

Megan tried to concentrate on the manuscript. But something about the newspaper story on her husband nagged at her. Published in the previous Sunday’s paper, the story gave the facts accurately. It even painted a rosier picture of her marriage than perhaps was true.

Megan felt she should be pleased with the story.

She didn’t participate in the interview, but judging from what appeared in the paper, her husband, John, had said all the right things. He’d told the reporter he loved his wife and supported her. The statements stood out, inarguable, in black and white.

Her co-workers had cooed over it and given Megan their own copies to send to her relatives.

So why did reading it make her feel ill?

A gentle rap on her open office door interrupted her reverie. Judy Holstrom, big, blonde and green-eyed, stood framed in the doorway. She grasped a copy of the Living Section from the Lawrencedale Journal that contained the story.

Megan brightened at the sight of the tall lady.

“Hi sweetie!” Judy said, her big voice jolly as usual. “Interrupting something, I hope?”

“Just a bunch of red ink for a researcher who never learned to read and write,” Megan laughed. “Come on in and park.”

Judy swept in, loose tan pants and black blouse swishing on her big frame, and sat in the chair next to Megan’s desk.

Was there something tentative about Judy’s entrance? Megan wondered for an instant. No, couldn’t be. Judy never did anything at less than full-throttle. That’s what made her so much fun.

Judy plopped the newspaper on Megan’s desk.

“I’ll only bug you for a minute,” Judy said. “I thought you could use an extra copy of the story for the scrapbook or your Mom or something. Meant to drop it by earlier in the week, but I kept forgetting. Absent-minded as usual.”

“That’s neighborly of you, girlfriend.” Megan glanced at her watch. “It’s almost Friday-five,” she said.

“John’s working late again, so I’m on my own. Let’s grab a martini. We haven’t done that in ages.”

I wish I could, sweetie,” Judy said, rising, not looking at Megan. “Ted and the kids are expecting me to make dinner.”

“Couldn’t you call him like you did that one time?” Megan asked. “Ted,” Megan attempted a poor imitation of Judy’s big confident voice, “you’re feeding the kids tonight. I’ll be back whenever. Now shut up and do as you’re told.

“God, that cracked me up,” Megan said. “Fellow boss-lady.”

Judy grinned half-heartedly as she edged toward the door. “You can only get away with that so many times,” she said. “We’ll go out for a nice cocktail again soon, sweetie, I promise.”

Then she left.

Megan stared at the empty doorway.

What was that all about? she wondered. We used to go out together for a drink almost every Friday after work. Friday-five, we called it. Sure could use a drink tonight. Don’t want to go alone, though.

Megan pushed her chair back and stood. She picked up the paper Judy brought, intending to put it in her purse, turn out the lights and leave.

Suddenly, she gasped and froze, as psychometric impressions from the paper leaped into her consciousness. Megan’s brown eyes widened in disbelief at the emotional truth Judy’s touch left behind on the paper.

She’s afraid of me! No!

Megan threw the paper down.

She collapsed back into her chair, thinking hard.

Why is Judy afraid of me? My powers? Can’t be. That woman has always been fearless! Saw her threaten to break a pool cue over the head of a rowdy redneck on one of our Friday-fives. Megan smiled and shook her head at the memory.

Then she remembered.

Surprise office party, for her, right after the first story on the breakthrough appeared in the paper.
Her co-workers begged her to show them some of her new powers.

She levitated. She teleported. She lifted desks with her hands and file cabinets with her mind as her co-workers oohed and aahed.

She should have stopped there. But they wanted mind-reading.

Megan tried to tell them that her repertoire didn’t include mind-reading– as far as she knew. But her new talents did include psychometry – the ability to accurately read impressions from objects by touching them– as she’d just done with the newspaper.

Bob Shafer, from Accounting and a retired Navy Chief, handed her a commemorative coin with anchors emblazoned on it. He carried the coin everywhere.

Megan needed only a moment’s touch to describe the secret chief’s initiation ceremony Shafer had gone through to get the coin.

That’s it, Megan thought. That’s when I lost Judy. She has secrets. She’s afraid I’ll see them.
Megan took a deep breath and sat slumped in her chair a moment longer.

Goddamned powers. Losing friends. Even John’s acting strange, drinking more, working late, watching more sports than ever.

Only one thing to do, she thought, running a slim hand through her short, thick black hair. Bath and glass of wine.

Rising a second time, she shut down her computer and quickly stuffed the newspaper into her purse’s side pocket. She placed the purse over her shoulder and shut off her office lights. She walked down the hall into the lobby and out the glass doors.

The parking lot lights barely kept the chilly November night at bay as Megan headed for her car, a white Volvo sedan.

Then the purse-snatcher hit.

He jumped out from behind a car, grabbed the purse and jerked it away, and sprinted toward the nearby buildings.

“Well that’s just great,” Megan muttered. In the next instant, she stood casually in front of the fleeing felon in her long-sleeved yellow blouse, khaki pencil skirt and brown pumps.

He smashed into her at full speed, bouncing off the invulnerable woman and falling backward onto the pavement, still clutching the purse.

“I’ll take that, please,” Megan, said, unaffected by the collision. The purse pulled out of the man’s hands and floated to Megan. She put it back over her right shoulder. She looked more closely at the would-be robber.

“You’re just a teen-ager!” she said, surprised.

The teen-ager, still on his back, regained some sensibility. He pushed away from her, on his back, then turned over, stood up and tried to run—only to fall again, when one of his feet refused to leave the ground.

“What the–!” he shouted. He stood up again and turned to face Megan.

“I didn’t say you could leave,” she said.

“What are you doing to me? Let me go!”

“What’s your name?”

The boy, in dirty blue jeans and a gray Midlands University sweatshirt, stayed silent. He struggled like an insect on flypaper trying to free himself from Megan’s telekinetic grip.

Megan had her phone out. “Suit yourself. We’ll let the police handle it.”

“No, wait,” he said. “Please don’t call. William. William Listerbrook. I’m really sorry. It was just a prank.”

She considered the name for a moment and looked at him. Curly brown hair framed a round face with brown eyes, a straight nose and lips that looked babyish in their fullness.

“You’re not related to Joanie Listerbrook over at Benton Press are you?”

He nodded. “She’s my aunt,” he sighed. “If she finds out about this, it’ll kill her.”

Megan pressed buttons on the phone, her eyes on the boy. She held the phone to her ear as it rang on the other end.

“Joanie, I’m glad I caught you,” she said. “It’s Megan Harris.” She listened. “I’m fine. Just leaving work. You won’t believe who just ran into me. Your nephew.” She looked at William as he shut his eyes and grimaced against the humiliation of the moment.

“He’s right here,” Megan said, “I’ll put him on.”

Megan gave the boy back the use of his hands and arms, but kept his feet anchored. He took the phone.

“Hi Aunt Joanie,” he choked out. “I’m fine.” He listened. “What am I doing at Deacon Press?” He looked in panic to Megan.

“Internship,” she whispered.

“Internship,” he repeated. He listened. “Well, I don’t know if–” He listened again. “I was checking the place out. I don’t have an interview or anything.” He paused and looked at Megan. “Yes, she is a nice lady. No, I never read the newspaper story about her. Powers?” He looked at his immobilized feet.

“Okay,” he said. “I will. Tell Uncle Henry I said ‘hi’.” He handed the phone back to Megan.

“Hi Joanie.” Megan listened. “It is funny, isn’t it? We are looking for an editorial intern. I’ll be glad to put a good word in for William. No, you don’t owe me a thing.

“All right, Joanie, bye bye.” Megan put the phone in her bag. “Your aunt is thrilled that you want to intern with a publisher,” she told the boy.

“Could you please let my feet go?”

Megan nodded slightly. The boy shuffled on his feet with perceptible relief.

“I met you when you were a little boy,” she said. “Joanie brought you into work one day. That was back when I was at Benton. Now why did you try to steal my purse, William?”

“I’m pledging for a fraternity,” he said. “It’s like my last test. They said we’d return the purse

“Which fraternity?”

He looked at her, helplessly.

“William? Which fraternity?”

“Tau Ceti,” he whispered.

“You know it was a stupid thing to do, right?”

He nodded.

“What if I’d been a little old lady and had a heart attack?”

He nodded again, taking it.

“What happens when you come back without the purse?”

“Probably won’t get in,” he muttered.

“I think that’s for the best, don’t you?”

“I guess so.” He looked up at her. “How did you—how did you freeze me like that?”

“Oh that?” she laughed and tapped the side of her head. “It’s all up here. Mental powers. They come in handy some times.” Other times not so much, she thought, recalling Judy.

William nodded again. “I guess I better go,” he said. “If that’s all right with you,” he added hastily. “I still have finals to study for. I’ll tell Tau Ceti I’m not interested any more.”

Megan took a pen and notepad from her purse. She scribbled, tore the small page from the pad, and handed it to William.

“Here’s the phone number for Jennifer Smith,” she said. “Jennifer’s the HR director for Deacon. You call her first thing Monday and tell her you’re interested in the internship.”

“I will,” he said. He took the paper, glanced at it and folded it. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Megan said. “Can I give you a ride back to Rose Hall?”

He stared at her in surprise. “How’d you know I live in Rose Hall?”

“I have my ways,” she said. “How about that ride? My car is right over there.”

“No thanks,” he said. “I’d rather walk. It’s not far. I have a lot to think about.”

“Good,” she said. “I’m glad you’re thinking. I’ll look forward to seeing you again when you come in for the interview.”

He turned away, dejectedly, Megan thought, and disappeared into the night in the direction of campus.

Megan smiled and shook her head. Bad boys, she thought. The phrase chilled her for no reason she could explain.

Megan resumed her walk to her car. Easing into the driver’s seat, she put her purse on the passenger seat. The newspaper Judy gave her fell out of the side pocket where Megan had stuffed it.

She picked it up to put it back. Something made her open it again to the story on her husband. The article made her feel awful. But why? Megan ran a finger down the columns of the story, her eyes closed, her newly clairvoyant mind seeking out the unsettling thing locked away behind the print.

She gasped, as though slugged in the solar plexus, as the thing revealed itself like a mugger jumping out of an alley. She saw John her husband; and the reporter Anne Straits.

Together. In bed.

If you enjoyed this sample of American Goddesses, read the rest at Amazon.com or Smashwords.

Thanks for visiting Honest Indie!

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