Saving The World
Author: Gary Ponzo
Award-Winning author, Gary Ponzo, brings us another mind-bending thriller!
Margo Sutter, a proven teenage clairvoyant, claims to hear invisible aliens planning to destroy the planet. The world is in a frenzy debating whether to prepare for the apocalypse or lock up Margo in an institution. When she seeks help from noted psychiatrist Michael Bryant, he’s drawn into a maze of deception, lies and intrigue.
Is Margo who she claims to be?
A priest friend of Bryant believes Margo is an angel come down to save our souls.
An FBI agent believes she’s aligned with the alleged invisible aliens and needs to be killed.
As Bryant and Margo flee from the agent’s team of killers, they search for the truth behind the voices and what it means for our future.
Who is Margo Sutter?And will she survive long enough for the world to find out?
This heart-pounding drama starts on page one and doesn’t stop until the epic conclusion to this suspenseful new thriller.
“Gary Ponzo is a fantastic storyteller.” - Stephen Carpenter, creator of the hit NBC series, Grimm.
Available in .mobi for Kindle, .epub for NOOK and most other e-readers, and .pdf.
The flashing red lights called to him like a lighthouse to a lost sailor. Michael Bryant rushed toward them, his temples dripping with sweat. His leather shoes clacked on the sidewalk as the approaching storm system spit drops of rain on his face. His pace quickened. He couldn’t lose another one. Not now. Not this soon after the accident that took his family from him.
Bryant dodged the early lunch crowd along Arizona Avenue like a running back, his eyes always on the flashing lights and hoping he wasn’t too late. Yellow tape swung in the breeze between police barricades while uniformed officers waved back the crowd gathering behind the semicircle of police cruisers.
Two news helicopters hovered in the distance, their camera crews recording the night’s lead story. As Bryant ran up to the barricades, a burly policeman headed him off and shoved an open hand into his sternum.
“Sorry, sir,” the officer said. “We need this area cleared.”
“I’m his doctor,” Bryant blurted, finally seeing the front of the car halfway through the entrance to the bank, smoke wafting from the front end. The shattered glass and opened driver’s side door chronicled the event.
“There’s EMTs on site,” the officer said. “We’ve got it covered.”
“No, I’m his psychiatrist. He needs me.”
Someone whistled from behind the officer and Bryant got what he
needed. A familiar face. Detective Sam Meltzer was squatted behind the wheel well of one of the cruisers and gave another whistle until the officer saw him waving the doctor through. Bryant ducked under the tape and hustled the remaining thirty yards. Meltzer gestured for him to stay down until Bryant was crouched next to him behind the security of the cruiser, still huffing from the five-block sprint.
“Who told you?” Meltzer said.
“His mother,” Bryant said, breathless. “He called her to say goodbye and she called me.”
“So he’s one of yours?”
Bryant nodded. Then Meltzer gave him the look he’d always despised. The look of pity that saturated every face he’d seen for the past four months. The look that said, “I’m sorry about your wife and daughter,” and
did nothing but remind him of the phone call. The last time he would ever hear a phone ring without flinching.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Meltzer said. “It’s too soon—”
“I’m familiar with the calendar,” Bryant snapped, taking the sympathy right out of Meltzer’s eyes.
“But I thought you were leaving?”
“I am,” Bryant said, jabbing his thumb over his shoulder toward the bank. “Some of my patients aren’t all that thrilled with my decision.”
“You think he’s doing this for attention?”
Bryant leaned back against the car and his right arm touched a leg. He
looked up and saw a man in a navy blue jumpsuit cradling a rifle over the hood of the car, training his open eye through the sight. His face seemed strained.
“I’ve got an open shot, Detective,” the man said without moving a muscle.
Bryant turned to Meltzer, “What’s this?”
“He’s got a gun in there, Mike. I’m sorry, but I can’t afford to let anyone get hurt.”
“He’s only eighteen.”
“He’s got twelve hostages.”
“Has he harmed anyone?”
“So tell me, what’s he asking for?”
Meltzer frowned. “He wants us to take all the money from the bank and
give it to the poor people of Chandler.”
Bryant rolled his eyes. “Wow, I’m surprised you haven’t killed him
The man in the jumpsuit whispered, “Just tell me when, Detective.” Bryant wanted to rip the gun from the guy’s hands and pound him with it. Meltzer must’ve noticed because the detective’s face softened. “Not yet,
Roger.” Then he turned to Bryant. “What’s his condition?” “Schizophrenia.”
Bryant nodded. A sharp wind sprayed sideways raindrops across his face. “Is he dangerous?”
Bryant let out a breath. “Probably.”
“What meds is he taking?”
Bryant looked away and Meltzer cursed under his breath.
“Can’t you ever prescribe medication for any of these kids? Just once?”
“I was trying to correct the distortion his mind had created and
medication was simply going to thwart that progress.”
Meltzer looked up. “What’s he doing, Roger?”
“Nothing,” the man said. “Just sitting there.”
“Is he pulling at the hair on the back of his head?” Bryant asked.
The sharpshooter turned away from his rifle sight and looked down at
Bryant. “How’d you know?”
Bryant got to his knees and Meltzer grabbed his arm.
“Where are you going?” Meltzer said.
Bryant put one foot under him and leaned into Meltzer. “There’s still
time,” he said. “I can get him out of this. I know which buttons to push.” Meltzer was shaking his head, but his eyes weren’t agreeing with his mind. He simply kept his hand on Bryant’s arm while he seemed to play
“Listen,” Bryant said, “It’s no coincidence that he chose a bank to drive
into. His father is Charles Davenport.”
Meltzer’s eyebrows rose.
“Yes, that Charles Davenport. The guy who swindled millions from
innocent investors. Now, Jeff is in there telling you to take money from the bank and give it to poor people. He’s trying to right a wrong. He’s not a bad kid, just confused.”
Meltzer released Bryant’s arm and began unbuttoning his shirt. “What are you doing?” Bryant asked.
“I’m giving you my Kevlar jacket to wear.”
Bryant held up his hands. “No, that won’t work.”
“Because the minute he suspects I’m hiding something from him, we’re done. His father is a big liar and Jeff despises people who try to deceive him. I stray from the truth even slightly and he’ll know it.”
Now Meltzer’s mouth tightened, wanting to argue, but maybe realizing he was low on options. There was a small chirp. The detective glanced down at the cell phone in his left hand and frowned. He looked up, apologetically. “I gotta take this.”
Bryant froze momentarily at the sound, then righted himself and lifted up enough to peek through the cruiser window. Jeff sat on the floor of the bank, his back up against the teller wall. His head was down in deep thought. Bryant knew the boy couldn’t see or hear anyone right now. His mind was miles away, and there was a gap available for someone who knew what to do with it.
“Yes, honey,” Meltzer said into the phone. There was a pause, then “Listen, sweetie, I’m just a little busy right now.”
Another pause. “I know, baby, I’ll call you right back I promise.”
Meltzer looked up at Bryant with pleading eyes, his index finger in the air. “I understand, darling, there’s no reason to fret. It’s only a storm system. Nothing more.”
Bryant stood up and listened while Meltzer finished the call. The detective put his phone in his pocket and stood next to Bryant.
“Ever since Kyle was born, she worries about every little thing,” Meltzer said. He looked up at the sky. “This rain cloud’s got people whacked out. This is Arizona, the Valley of the Sun, but three days without sunshine and people lose control.”
“I’m going in,” Bryant told him.
Meltzer’s silence was all he needed. Bryant glanced at the sharpshooter, then back at the detective. “Tell the cowboy to give me some time.”
Meltzer nodded. “You think you’re in trouble though, you tap your head. That’ll be the signal for us to get involved. Okay?”
Bryant was around the cruiser now, slowly walking toward the opening created by Jeff Davenport’s car. He was careful to walk with his arms away from his body. Unthreatening.
“Hey, Mike,” Meltzer called to him in a low voice.
Bryant turned to see a harsh look in the detective’s eyes.
“If I turn over a dead body in there,” Meltzer said. “It better not have your
face on it.”
As Bryant crept past the vehicle, the car engine was still seething with steam and hissing at pellets of rain that dropped on its hood. Jeff remained against the wall below the teller’s window, knees up to his face, head down. The so-called hostages were sitting against the opposite wall from Jeff. There was a mixture of tellers and customers all watching Bryant step through the opening with wide eyes. His footsteps crunched shattered glass against the tile floor and the slower Bryant went, the louder the crunch. Red and white lights flickered across Jeff’s frame as the gun dangled from his right hand like a stuffed animal about to fall from a sleeping child’s grip.
Bryant stopped thirty feet from Jeff and decided to sit and cross his legs. He didn’t want to startle the boy once he came out of his trance. The hostages all looked at Bryant with questions in their eyes. They didn’t know if he was a policeman, a hostage negotiator, or the boy’s dad. They seemed to search for direction. Bryant motioned them to stay still.
Jeff was a stringy-looking kid with long hair and a narrow face. He gripped a handful of that hair unconsciously as he rocked gently to an invisible beat. Bryant waited, questioning his own mindset. He was in no great position to be counseling anyone, especially a schizophrenic with a gun.
Jeff looked up and seemed to notice his surroundings for the first time. The hostages shrank back and glanced at Bryant for help. That’s when Jeff turned to his right and saw the psychiatrist. He pointed the gun at Bryant.
“What’re you doing here?” Jeff blurted.
Bryant sucked in a quick breath and held out a hand. “Please, keep the gun if you want, but just don’t point it. Okay?”
Jeff examined the weapon with uncertainty.
Bryant trembled with the passing seconds, knowing that a gunshot could blast a hole through Jeff’s head at any moment.
“Please, Jeff. Don’t point,” Bryant pleaded.
Jeff was taking too long. Bryant knew he was coming out of a deep psychological delusion and he needed time to adjust to his new reality.
“I’m begging you, Jeff. Please lower the gun.” Bryant glanced outside to see Roger’s eye glued to his gun sight, while his arms clutched his rifle
tight, his muscles flexing with desire. Bryant waved his hands in a universal plea for patience and got a blank stare from Meltzer in return. His stomach tumbled in a free fall.
“Why are you here?” Jeff asked, clearly unaware of the danger he was in.
“I need your help,” Bryant said. “But that gun is scaring me. Could you hold it in your lap for me?”
Jeff’s eyes were unfocused. He was startled and disoriented and it was obvious that he desperately needed medication. Bryant had pushed him to the brink of recovery, only to abandon him at his most vulnerable segment of therapy.
“Why do you care?” Jeff waved the gun around as he spoke, oblivious to the risk it posed. “You’re leaving me, just like everyone else does.”
“I know.” Bryant lowered his head, ready for the explosion of gunfire. “This is all my fault. I was selfish.”
A few moments of silence passed. Bryant thought he heard sniffling. He looked up to see Jeff’s face scrunched up tight, tears flowing down his cheeks. His neck muscles were stressed from a clenched jaw. More importantly, the gun was pointed down.
“How could you?” Jeff murmured between sobs. “How could you . . .”
It was painful for Bryant to watch the boy struggle with his condition. Bryant waited for the reprimand he’d deserved, but was surprised when Jeff looked over at him with a familiar expression.
“How could you live without them?” Jeff said with swollen eyes. “Kate and Megan. How?”
It hit Bryant like a shot of adrenalin to his nervous system. His throat tightened and his nose filled with moisture that had consistently packed his wastebaskets with tissues.
Bryant’s voice cracked. “I don’t know.”
“Don’t you miss them?”
“Of course I do.” Bryant’s eyes were already so flooded with tears, he
couldn’t see Jeff clearly anymore.
“It doesn’t make any sense, does it? One drunk driver takes away your
entire family. How can that happen?”
Bryant looked down, seeing nothing but a blurry floor. How could he
explain the unexplainable? “I guess we’re all just a phone call away from our knees.”
“Then why go on? Why bother?”
Even with the gut-wrenching emotion flowing through his system, Bryant understood the underlying sentiment. Jeff was asking for permission to die. Bryant couldn’t afford to lose him. Not Jeff. Not another innocent kid.
“I wake up every morning wondering that very question,” Bryant said, wiping his face with his fingers. “I feel small and insignificant. I honestly don’t want to live another day.”
Jeff watched carefully, nodding along, agreeing with him.
“Then,” Bryant took a long breath. “Then there are days like today, when I see someone like you who needs me. And if I could help that person . . . if I could get that person to stay alive for just one more day. Then it gives me a great sense of satisfaction.”
Jeff’s brow furrowed. “But I thought you were quitting. You’re not going to be here.”
“I am closing my practice, but I could still see you. Nothing is permanent.”
The boy looked confused. He seemed to sift through the words for hypocrisy. “I don’t understand. I don’t have to see Dr. Sullivan? I could stay with you?”
“Yes,” Bryant said. “But listen. Can we talk about this alone?” He glanced over at the audience of onlookers against the far wall. Some of them were dabbing a tissue to their nose.
Jeff seemed dubious. “You’re trying to trick me.”
“No,” Bryant said firmly, attempting to chase that thought from the boy’s head. It was the hardest part of dealing with schizophrenia. To get rid of a thought.
Jeff looked outside. He craned his neck to view the sky. His expression changed again. This time he seemed frightened. “Those clouds are still there.”
“Are there really aliens in them?”
The local news ran with a story of a girl claiming there were alien
invaders residing in the clouds. As the rain persisted, the story had gained in popularity with the mainstream press. Scientists weren’t making it any easier when they couldn’t explain how a rain cell could remain stagnant for
so many days. Bryant had to be careful, however, not to dismiss Jeff’s paranoia.
“I don’t know what those clouds are,” Bryant said. “It could be the end of everything we know, or it could be the answers we’ve all been looking for. Or it could simply be a lingering storm system that keeps getting pushed back into Chandler. But, no matter what it is, nothing is going to change by what you do inside this bank.”
Jeff seemed to contemplate this.
“Jeff,” Bryant said. “I can’t afford to lose you.”
Jeff’s eyes were glossy and unresponsive.
“Look at me,” Bryant commanded.
The boy lowered his head between his knees. The gun dangled from his
fingers. Bryant thought about charging him and getting the gun, but it was too risky. Too many variables. He’d seen Jeff in this phase and it never lasted. Bryant was confident he could still resolve this with words. His peripheral vision found a man against the opposite wall getting to his knees. At first Bryant thought he was preparing to run for the door, but the man crouched forward directly at Jeff.
“No,” Bryant barked at the man.
The guy glanced at the psychiatrist for just a moment, but seemed determined to make his move. He was closer to Jeff, only twenty feet away. The boy’s mind was elsewhere, but could return at any moment. Bryant looked outside and caught Meltzer’s attention, but the detective’s expression was that of resignation. He was too far away to control anything inside the bank.
The man began his charge. His leather soles slipped on the polished tile and gave Bryant an opening. He charged toward the man’s intended path, taking the angle he’d learned as a college cornerback. The man gained his footing and was halfway there now, with a gritty expression. Bryant lunged as the man dove for the gun. One of the female hostages screamed. Bryant wrapped his arms around the man’s legs, causing the man’s leap to come up a foot short. He landed with a thud. Bryant rolled to his side and turned to see Jeff pointing the gun down at the man who was now lying helplessly in front of him like a pig on a spit. Jeff’s expression was passionless. He seemed like a little boy staring at a snake, unsure how to act.
Bryant jumped to his feet and stood directly in front of Jeff. He positioned himself between Jeff and the sharpshooter. Behind him, he heard Roger growl for him to move, but Bryant wasn’t going anywhere. He would welcome a bullet in the back to save this kid.
“Don’t do this to me,” Bryant said, looking down at Jeff, watching the boy stare at the man who was sobbing and murmuring words of forgiveness.
“Please, Jeff,” Bryant’s chest tightened and he sucked in short, weak breaths. He was going to hyperventilate if he didn’t get hold of himself.
The boy’s eyes swelled with new tears. He was back. But it was too much for his mind to grasp. Bryant needed to break it down to simpler terms. Jeff’s psyche was in no position to contemplate anything big.
“I’ll make you a deal,” Bryant said. “I’m not quite sure I want to go on myself, but if you help me get you out of here, I’ll promise to live one more day.”
Jeff cocked his head and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.
“Just one more day,” Bryant repeated. “Will you live one more day with me?”
Jeff looked around at the situation. The man groveling at his feet. The hostages watching with horrified expressions. The mangled nose of his car poking through the entrance to the bank like a bulldog peaking through a doggie door. He looked up at Bryant with a questioning expression.
Bryant held up his index finger. “Just one more day.”
Detective Meltzer saw the boy get to his feet. He could sense Roger’s rifle tighten against his thick shoulder. Meltzer had his Glock ready too. Even if Bryant had lost interest in his own wellbeing, Meltzer hadn’t. There was too much history between them. Bryant deserved a chance to get through his crisis. He’d helped too many kids in his life to have one of them end it.
The end came quicker than expected. The boy dropped the gun to the floor, looked down and collapsed into Bryant’s arms like a homesick five- year-old. The psychiatrist gathered Jeff into his chest and clutched the boy with a father’s grip. While the two of them embraced, the hostages scurried out of the bank into the light drizzle. Uniformed officers escorted them away from the scene, splitting them up into appropriate groups of witnesses. The Chandler PD would want their statements while the incident was still fresh in their minds. Time was the killer of all good testimonies. Fortunately for Bryant, time was the only thing that was killed.
Meltzer holstered his pistol and smiled. Roger pulled back from his scope and sighed like a hunter who’d just lost sight of a ten-point buck.
“Waste of my time,” Roger grumbled.
Meltzer patted the sniper on his back as he headed toward the bank. Thank goodness, he thought. He felt a vibration in his pocket, pulled out his cell phone, and looked at the display.
“Hi sweetie,” he said into the receiver. He listened for a moment, then added. “It’s just a storm, honey. That’s all it is.”
Author: Frank Zafiro
A girls got to do what a girl's got to do, right? Meet Sugar, a no BS gal who's ready to put it all on the line.
A Spine-tingling Short Story By Bestselling Author Frank Zafiro
Available in .mobi for Kindle, .epub for NOOK and most other e-readers, and .pdf.
Sugar Got Low
The song was hers. It was the one thing she had. Her mom left and her dad was a bitter and broken man, but she had the song. She didn’t know what apple bottom jeans were, and she didn’t have boots, much less with the fur, but none of that mattered. All that mattered was how the song built up to the important part.
Sugar got low, low, low, low….
Sugar knew the song wasn’t actually written for her. No big rap star was going to sing about some thirteen-year-old girl in a shitty trailer park in Dog Town. But that didn’t mean that the song couldn’t be about her. It was. She knew it. She could picture the scene the rapper painted in every vivid detail. Everyone in the club looking at her. All the girls wanting to be her. All the boys wanting to love her. She struts out onto the dance floor. And the music hits, and Sugar gets low.
Yeah, it was her song, all right.
Then Casey Edmunds ruined it.
“That shit ain’t about you,” the snotty little bitch told her.
“Hell it ain’t.”
“He ain’t sayin’ Sugar, you stupid slut. He’s saying Shorty. It ain’t your song.”
Sugar punched her in the nose as hard as she could. Blood splatted and Casey screamed. She grabbed at her nose and gaped at Sugar in shock.
“Say that again,” Sugar dared her. “Say it ain’t my song.”
Casey heel-turned and ran off to her own trailer. Sugar knew she’d tell her mom, who might come yell at Sugar’s dad about it, but she didn’t care. If her dad wasn’t too drunk to answer the door, he’d be drunk enough to tell Mrs. Edmunds what she could do with her and her stupid kid. He might decide to smack Sugar later, but there was no way he’d let the trashy neighbors know about it. And the punishment wouldn’t be for bashing Casey’s nose in, either. It’d be for interrupting him while he got his drink on.
Sugar went to the library the next day and used the computer to look up the song. Turned out Casey was only half right. It wasn’t Sugar, but it wasn’t Shorty, either. It was Shawty.
Shawty got low.
She didn’t care. It was still her song. Sometimes, she knew, you had to get low to survive.