#HeistClub Blog Tour [Excerpts + Giveaway]

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#HEISTCLUB BLOG TOUR

July 17-22, 2016

TBD Book Blog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tbdbookblog/  | TWITTER: @tbd_bookblog

Here is my stop! Excerpts? Well, I am so SIPAG that i PASTE IT ALL HERE! (Haha)

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Arlene Manocot’s The Gung Ho Lady

STANDING IN FRONT of the hotel where he is staying, I am uncertain of what’s ahead of me. This is where my feet lead me and it is fucking crazy doing this creepy stuff. Hoping he is still here, I clench my fist.  It has been two days, since the incident of meeting him transpired, and I am so damn thankful that he is not hurt from the accident. I feel like I am a stalker, but I have to do this. It is now or never.

The automatic glass door opens as I enter the building, nervous with my stalking tendency, the security guard makes his necessary inspections, an SOP in any establishments. My intention and plan right now makes me feel that I look like someone who will do unusual things. Meeting a man in his suite alone feels shameless, but insatiable.

As I approach the receptionist desk, I feel a bit insecure.  She is presentable and that makes her look good, her hair smoothly pulled back in a bun. Her make up accentuates every part of her face that makes them stand out in a nice way. Those red lips can ignite any man’s craving. And on the other hand, I, pale and bare, meekly approach her. Seeing my reflection on the clear glass panel I have just passed by, I am incomparable to her. Wearing a red lipstick to put color to my naturally pale-violet lips, I feel sorry for myself. Having that lip color makes others think that I smoke, but it isn’t a vice for me, and I have to bear with it, and putting lipstick isn’t such a bad idea. Moreover, my clothes, no one will fail to see me in these, jeans and T-shirt. Scrutinizing myself from a reflection, I have in mind, I don’t look bad myself either, and saying that helps cheer and boost my self-esteem.

Through a phone call, the receptionist informs him upon presenting my ID. She is very articulate, she beams a smile at me at the end of the phone call and that gives me hope.

“He is expecting you Miss Dela Cruz.” That news makes me feel at ease. “It’s in the tenth floor.” She continues.

Trying to suppress these chaotic emotions I am having right now, I smile back at her. All these tension, excitement, happiness and fear, fear that this might be the last time I might see him, overwhelms me.

“Thank you Miss.” I climb in the elevator, wait for some moments to reach my destination. Incidentally alone, no one can see how fidgety I am. That’s a relief.

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Jessica E. Larsen’s The Flame Squad: Sly Prince

“That’s her, Mr. Police! That’s the girl who tried to steal my wallet!”

“Miss, could you please turn around?” the policeman said.

Blaze grimaced. Using the elastic band, which he always has around his wrist, he bundled his long hair and turned around. He glanced at the police who seemed taken aback when he smiled and faced the woman with an I’m-innocent look in his eyes. “I’m sorry, miss, but you are mistaken. I’m a boy you see.”

The woman studied him for a second then shook her head. She turned to the policeman. “No, I’m sure it’s him.”

“But you said it was a girl,” the policeman said, completely falling under Blaze’s façade.

The woman frowned. “Well, look at him! Anyway, I’m sure that he’s the one. He’s wearing the same clothes and has the same face.”

“Boy, you’re not lying right?”

Blaze faced the police confidently. “Of course not! I wouldn’t dare lie to a policeman.” He laughed inwardly. Yeah, right!

“He’s obviously lying!” The woman pointed. “Why don’t you check him, Mr. Police? He could be hiding more wallets. He could be a girl for all we know.”

“That’s right, you won’t mind if I check right?”

Blaze had hidden his newly collected wallets in a place where no one would put their hands in public, but the abnormal spark on the policeman’s eyes made Blaze nervous. Before he knew it, he was sprinting at full speed with the policeman on his tail.

Buy The Flame Squad: Sly Prince

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Yeyet Soriano’s The Retreat

The Trip

Simon

“I’m getting too old for this,” he whispered to himself. Simon was blindfolded, heading God knows where, via an air-conditioned van. He was sure he wasn’t alone, but they had been instructed not to talk. He wasn’t going to start breaking the rules now.

But he shouldn’t complain, because he agreed to this. He signed all the paperwork. I should have asked a lawyer to check them out, he thought belatedly. The invitation was just too good to pass up, and the danger and uncertainty attached to it appealed to his adventurous side. The organizers knew him, knew his background, and yet they still invited him.

“What the hell, I need to know what happens next . . . ,” he told himself, and at sixty years old, with his spanking new senior citizen’s card in his wallet, this might be the last big adventure of his life.

 

Rodney

She was excited and scared at the same time. She felt the familiar feeling of flying, so she was sure she was on a plane. Going to where, she wasn’t sure. After the two-hour van ride, they were ushered into a plane. She still had a blindfold on, and she was excited. Someone helped her up the steps and strapped her in. Something big was going to happen, she could feel it. The anticipation was in every pore of her body, and her heart was beating fast.

 

Philip

        Philip wondered what the people back home would think when they found out he had gone on a trip without letting them know. He was sure there would be some kind of commotion. Not that he would be missed, specifically, but . . . well, they would need to know where he could be found. The attraction of this retreat for Philip, apart from the deal and the money, was the chance to disappear, at least for a while. To regroup. He needed to regroup, desperately. Plus, there was Stella, of course. An opportunity he just couldn’t pass up.

He felt the spray of water on his face. After the land and the air trip, he was now on a boat, going who knows where. Not too fast, but still pretty fast enough that the sea water sprayed his face from time to time.

 

Maggie               

This is it, Maggie thought, when the motor of the boat stopped. After hours of travel, she had arrived where the retreat was going to be held. Her last manuscript copy was in her bag, with the required seven copies already submitted before the trip started, and although it hurt to write it, she knew she had to confront it when the time came for the reading. She would also need to deal with her gut feeling about this whole exercise and how she had a sneaking suspicion that this was all staged to get her here, at this point.

Well, I am ready, Maggie thought. Bring it on.

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Irene Recio’s Till Death Do Us Part

This Kiss

The night was beautiful. A million stars dotted the black velvet sky. The cold wind touched her face as she closed her eyes and reveled at the freshness of the air. She inhaled the crisp scent of pine tingling her nose, and tried to get as much of it inside her lungs as she possibly could. She stood on the balcony, looking at the trees surrounding the hotel like sentinels on stakeout duty. Dark shadows rising and falling as she trailed her eyes over the tree-covered landscape and tried to count them in the moonlight. She knew it was impossible, but it was something to do on this cool night. She raised her glass of bubbly champagne, and whispered, “Happy anniversary, babe,” and drank what little was left in it.

There was a sadness in her voice she couldn’t hide. Not even in the darkest of nights. This has got to be the suckiest anniversary celebration of all epic fails in the history of relationships, she thought as she hugged her shawl closer to her body. I’m probably in the most romantic place in the country. Yet here I am celebrating our anniversary alone. Again.

She bit her lip as these thoughts swam through her head. Her husband was supposed to meet her here. He was coming from a trip abroad. She drove eight hours to this mountain getaway, hoping to rekindle the fire they once had. With a sigh, she turned to go inside and helped herself to the chocolate covered strawberries that came with the room and to more champagne.

We wouldn’t want this expensive bubbly to go to waste now, would we?

She closed the sliding door behind her and from the corner of her eye, saw a shadow move. She dropped the shawl to floor as her eyes darted, following the movement. She moved cautiously, making sure that it wasn’t Moët’s 12% nor Chandon’s sparkling hypnotic effect playing tricks on her.

Her pulse started to race. A thin film of sweat formed on her brow despite the cold mountain air. She was certain she’d closed the door behind her when she entered the hotel room. She took a tentative step to the side and headed for the kitchen to grab a knife, flute glass still in hand.

 

Before she could reach the kitchen, a deep, raspy voice called out her name in the darkness. “Nikki.”

The crystal glass dropped from her cold, sweaty hand. The thud was swallowed by the thick carpet, preventing it from shattering into a million little pieces.  Her eyes were wide as she looked up, adrenalin readying her body for anything. Just about anything right now. She desperately tried to recall the judo classes her dad made her take when she was fifteen years old. A lot of good that’ll do me now, but that’s all I got.

As her eyes adjusted to the dark, a familiar face materialized. “Matt!” Nikki exclaimed. “You came!” And she ran into his waiting arms.

“Of course I’m here, my silly Nikki girl.” Matthew chuckled, giving her a squeeze as she entered his arms.

She looked up at him and examined his six-foot frame. She tried to read his face. The fire burning in the hearth beside them cast dancing shadows on his unreadable face. She’d always joke about how he could be a champion poker player. He used this to his advantage in court during cross-examinations. But he also had a way of winning over anyone who would dare stand in his way. His usual megawatt smile would amp up, his charm rose a couple of notches higher, and his wit and humor would eventually break down any wall.

“You scared me half to death!” she exclaimed as she swatted his arm playfully.

“I’m sorry, babe. I wanted to surprise you. To tell you the truth, you half surprised me, too. What were you doing lurking in the dark?” he asked with a charming, teasing smile.

“I thought you wouldn’t show up again because of a work emergency or something,” she said with a little pout.

As usual, he ignored her. He tuned her out whenever the subject of his recurring absence came up.

“Happy seventh anniversary, Mrs. Villanueva.  There’s no other place I’d rather be right now.” He leaned down to kiss her.

“Happy anniversary, Mr. Villanueva,” she replied, breathless from the long, slow kiss. He sure could kiss all her doubts away.

For now.

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Chris Nava’s High Stakes

Blurb: As a son of a celebrated jeweler, Michael Aguirre was used to the frivolities of high society. But with his mother’s passing and his father on his death bed, his affluent life is threatened. While out on bail from an estafa case, he ends up beaten black and blue by the man he owes millions to. With an impending deadline, he seeks the help of his sister who wants nothing to do with him, and his childhood friend who happens to be the son of the man who wants him dead. With these high stakes, will Mike come up with the money on time? The stakes are already high. Life and death. Can it get any higher?

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Mark Manalang’s Sampaguita

Keniichi and Jasmine darted out of the hallway and back to the karaoke bar’s main area. Everybody was busy partying when they arrived. Some of the patrons were singing onstage. A few of the waitresses were already seated with the other customers.

Many of the waitresses could barely hide their fear and disgust as their older patrons fondled and embraced them. Somehow it made Keniichi’s stomach turn. Jasmine, on the other hand, said nothing.

He led Jasmine to a corner of the bar and peeked at his surroundings, figuring out the fastest way out of the bar. He decided they should not be caught by Roda the pimp, Choi the “owner” of the karaoke bar, or the undercover cops, if they were around.

Keniichi held the teenager’s hand gently, letting his fingers entwine with hers. “Follow my lead, and don’t say anything,” he ordered. “Walk as fast as you can.”

Jasmine only looked back at him, slightly blushing even as the tycoon touched her hand with a scowl on his face.

Getting past the first few tables was easy, with everyone’s attention seemingly at their merrymaking. The space around the bar was crowded too. Slipping past the sea of customers was a breeze.

The last hurdle was moving to the exit.

The bouncers would definitely let him pass from there on out; he’s just a VIP taking out his new girl, after all. But between them and the door were a few more tables and a wide, well-lit “standing room” area, the least crowded section of the bar. It didn’t help that there were spotlights lighting up most of the floor.

Keniichi shuffled to a dim part of the bar, and lightly pushed Jasmine onto the wall. She let out a soft groan as she felt his heavy breath on her neck.

“Just a bit more,” he whispered. “Once we reach the exit, we’ll take my car and get…”

“Over here, Boss, your table is ready!”

The tycoon froze as he heard Choi’s voice a few meters away. He felt his chest wound burn when he recognized the bar owner, along with the last person he expected to encounter.

“Hey, what’s happening?” Jasmine whispered to him as she strained to look over the businessman’s shoulder.

“Everything’s in order, Boss! Your table is near the stage. We can call for the girls there!”

“Not now,” he mumbled again. “Not yet, not now!”

“What’s going on? Why are we stopping?” the teenager asked again.

Keniichi glanced around as quickly as he can. From afar, he surmised they looked like lovers making out in a public area, and nobody would easily recognize them. However, the physical and environmental camouflage he had simulated would be busted anytime soon.

Confronting Calvo was the least of his worries for now. His priority was to get Jasmine out of there.

Jasmine tugged at his arm hard, and gestured at the dark-skinned man approaching them. “Hey,” she whimpered, “that guy… that guy is…”

His eyes opened wide as his gaze met the dagger looks of the bald-headed dark man who has somehow noticed his presence from afar.

“That guy,” the waitress whispered again, “he’s… he’s…”

“Hey, the Japanese guy,” the dark-skinned man called out to them from afar in a threatening voice, “Hold on a sec.”

Just before Calvo could approach Keniichi and Jasmine, the able-bodied figure of a clean-cut young man appeared between them. The man was wearing a black jacket, and a handgun bulged on his side, while a lanyard hung on his neck.

“NBI,” the man intoned as he flashed his ID card. “Mr. Calvo Gupit, got a minute?”

Pandemonium immediately broke at the karaoke bar as Calvo pulled out a gun and opened fire.

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Georgette S. Gonzales – Classified (A Prologue to Les Dames des Fleurs)

DANILO SLUMPED on the floor of his room, panting hard. His stomach lurched and he hurried to the bathroom to empty its contents into the toilet bowl. He retched so bad, he thought his intestines would spill out of his mouth, too.

Weak and spent, he sat on the cold, damp tiles doing breathing deeply so he could calm down and clear his thoughts. He clutched his Galaxy Note 4 tight, needing to protect the little device. It held a lot of important information already and must not fall into the wrong hands.

Death. Destruction. Thousands of innocent lives. Indigenous people whose forefathers had founded that community and lived there far longer than any of the present locals have ever walked this earth. And he got all the evidence he needed to pin this thing on the perverts.

The hidden files contained correspondence, CONTRACTS! – all signed by the sender and recipient; bank statements and documentation of money transfers; a list of names to whom the disbursements were made; a map; photos….

The Governor was in on it, certainly, although he himself was not hands on in the mission. He was there only as the boss. The big man whose thumbs up was much awaited to make things possible. He also made sure everyone was well covered up for otherwise, he was going down. Colonel Clemente and Police Chief Inspector Jesus Bermejo, the two highest ranking military and police officer of the region, with their host of corrupt military and PNP minions, were the ones who orchestrated and manned the actual dirty work.

Of course, some local government heads, individuals with no government affiliation but who must hold some important designation somewhere for them to deserve to be paid in millions were in the payroll, too and… Shit. Pretty much every big named politician was in on this up to Manila. The municipal mayor, however, was left out of the loop and that did not surprise Danilo. Mayor Gascon was from a rival political party. It was actually more of a surprise Gascon won the mayoralty race during the last elections.

Hands shaking, he selected all the photos he took of the hard evidence he found, uploaded them in an electronic folder, encrypted the file and sent it via email to his contact, praying this contact gets the message soon.

As an afterthought, he composed a message, something that wasn’t a total giveaway that could link the recipient to this incident, and sent it to his one remaining family.

Then he took out his SIM card, destroyed it and flushed it down the toilet. He erased all information on his phone, too, just in case. If he was lucky, he would be able to leave that property by morning without incident. He could still get back to Manila and move on like nothing happened.

He wasn’t lucky.

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 Porcupine Strongwill – Corpus Delicti

She clings to her husband in fiery languishing; she has been waiting for this night— a night of deliberate rekindling and affirmation.

He has been away more often. The last one a fortnight. “For a military operation,” he would always say— each time over the phone; each time without forewarning nor specificity, not even with her, his wife. The routine episodes have prompted her to start suspecting things; to give meaning to his recent deep reflections of empty walls and untouched cups of coffee— to his long, silent baths and mindless saunters up and down the stairs, to and fro the kitchen perimeters, as he let the late night news grumble on in the unoccupied living room. Could he be distressing solely for work? Yet she wondered otherwise. Perhaps something had gone askew. Something with, if not only somewhat related to their marriage.

Don’t leave me, she thinks to herself, her mouth groping for his. She is trying to follow his rhythm but it is too unsteady; their movements would not synchronize. She is now frustrated. She fights, hard, under his weight, her arms tightly clasped around his neck, her fingernails clawing at his skin.

Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me, her mind chants to itself.

He would not leave, she has tried to tell herself. He loves her. He has said so. Promised even to stay with her for a lifetime. For better or for worse, till death do them apart— that was the vow; Father Iman and God were the witnesses.

No; he would not abandon her. There is no reason to. He has built a home with her. He is happy with her and their three-year-old son. He would not leave.

But why does she sense something? Why is there the soft song of silence seemingly screaming something? Is it all in her head?

Against the occurring disproportion, she final arrives at the crest with him, and they are one once again.

Don’t leave me…

“What do you mean?” His voice, tired and dreamy, breaks her thoughts. Slowly he rolls to her side. “I’m right here.”

At first she couldn’t look at him; but once she does, she stares, tracing around his eyes, the wrinkles which are more evident under the low light, reminding her that she and he are apart by almost a score.

“I know my job has been asking more of me, but you know that no matter how long I stay out, I’ll always come back. I’ll always come home.”

She starts to cry.

“Is something wrong?”

“I’ve just missed you so much.”

And he wraps his arms around her fragile body, and kisses her sweat-stained forehead.

“I’m here,” he whispers. “I won’t leave you.”

Of course, her husband would always come home. If there have been changes, it’s only because he has had so much on his mind. He is burdened by his job, and she must do her best to ease him, not worry with him about senseless things.

“I love you,” he breathes into her neck.

And she forgets her fret.

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J. Guibone – Soul Makers: A Golden City Mystery

“I found something,” she said, breathless. She hadn’t changed, but at least there was already a band-aid on the side of her forehead. “You need to see this, Detective.”

He didn’t even correct her. She turned around and led Hans back out the hardware store. “Where are we going?”

“You’ll see.”

Cryptic as ever.

He followed her to the backyard, keeping his gun down, but his eyes and senses on high alert.

They stopped at a freshly dug hole.

“Look down,” Sabrina said.

Hans went around the hole, and goose bumps crawled up his arms. He was, unmistakably, looking down at a corpse wrapped in a clear tarp.

“That’s not the only one.”

“What do you mean?”

Sabrina jerked her head over his shoulder. Hans turned around, and the tingly sensation of terror spread to his spine and the back of his neck.

Four other holes.

“Jackson helped me put my theory to the test,” Sabrina said. “Before I sent him to go ask for help.”

“Four holes?” Just now, he could see his breath in the cold air. Hans turned back to the girl. “Four bodies?”

But she shook her head. “Each hole has three bodies. Jackson and I just followed which piece of earth looked fresh and soft, and then we dug.” She stepped forward. “I think she re-arranged them, placing more bodies into one hole.”

“Why? For what purpose?”

“To make room for more bodies.”

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Michael Recto – Come with Me

“Moira, what’s your deepest wish?” Niko asked out of the blue. She was caught off-guard by the frivolous shift in conversation.

“My…deepest wish? Um, why did you suddenly ask me that?”

“Hmm? Is it bad to ask? I just want to know.” Niko’s expression was still jovial but a little bit serious. It almost left Moira vulnerable.

“Y-you first! Since you asked it.” Moira challenged Niko with a polite smile. She needed to put up her defenses again.

“Well. Ok!” Niko accepted the challenge, freed his hands of utensils he was using, and heaved a sigh before speaking. “I just want to keep Mama happy.” He continued, answering with an optimistic smile. “Mama is always tired. I can tell. Her job makes a lot of people happy so someone needs to do it for her too. Someone also needs to keep her happy.” He looked at Moira who was already listening intently.  “So I just want to be that person. I just want to stay with Mama so that she won’t lose her smile when she’s tired.”

Moira was silenced. He looked deep into Niko’s joyful eyes and it was painful. Niko broke the silence afterwards.

“There! Your turn now.” said Niko. Moira tried to choose her words carefully but she couldn’t shake the image of Niko’s smile. For once, she felt comfortable enough to let down her guard.

“Um, I just…want to have more birthdays.” Moira smiled while she said, looking away from Niko as if she was expecting him to laugh.

“Ok? Why? You never had birthdays?” Niko asked dumfounded.

Moira couldn’t help but giggle at Niko’s startled expression. “Of course I did silly! And they were fun!” said Moira. “The last one I had, I loved the food that Tita Mena cooked for me, Tito Ador bought me the most beautiful and delicious cake, and Tatay…” Moira paused for a bit, almost choked, and continued speaking. “Tatay helped me blow the candles because they were too many. I couldn’t blow them all away.”

Niko simply nodded as he mulled over what Moira said. “Honestly, I don’t understand it. Of course you’ll have more birthdays. But…”he paused and gave another smile. “If that’s your wish, it’ll be my wish for you too.”

Moira’s eyes lit up upon hearing this. “Really?”

“Yeah! You’re my friend. I’ll help you fulfill your wish!” Niko’s face blushed at Moira’s gaze.

“Thank you…” Moira’s voice trailed off. She was touched that Niko called her a friend.

The atmosphere in next few minutes fell silent yet warm and inviting. Moira wanted it to last longer but she knew that time was already running out. Everyone will be called back from lunch break soon. She had to do what she came for.

She started putting her utensils and lunch box away and stuffed them back into her shoulder bag. She then took her iPhone out and saw that the map with the red dot is still on the screen, certain that her folks still know where she is. After putting the phone back into her pocket, she stood up, and turned to Niko.

“Niko, as a friend, I have a favor to ask of you.” Moira said to Niko who was also putting his lunch box and utensils away.

“Sure. What is it?” Niko answered. Moira glanced longingly at Niko. She then held out a hand and said,

“Come with me.”

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Justine Camacho-Tajonera’s Bayawak’s Trail

It takes Marian another two hours, one hour by habal-habal, the common form of transport in Bislig—a motorbike rigged with a piece of wood so that more passengers can be accommodated—and another hour by hiking with her guide, Jon-Jon Bitao, to get to the forest. She enjoys the break between the habal-habal and the hike the most because of her drop-off point to meet Jon-Jon—at Tinuy-an Falls.

Marian feels incredibly lucky to see the waterfalls. She’s heard about it from her Mindanaoan classmates but seeing it herself is a highlight of her journey. It’s a weekday so there are no tourists or pleasure seekers nearby, just the gushing water and the expanse of forest behind the falls. It’s one of the widest falls she’s ever seen, its three tiers spanning ninety-five meters across and fifty-five meters high. No wonder it’s called the Niagara Falls of Mindanao. She walks to the wooden bridge that crosses over the basin of the waterfalls to get a better view. She stands in the middle of the bridge, just watching the curtain of water flowing and enjoying the breezy afternoon. Jon-Jon said he would meet her at the waterfalls. She sees someone waving to her from the right side of the bridge. They’d agreed to meet at the bridge. Seeing that there was no one else around, Jon-Jon must have known she was the guest visiting his village. Jon-Jon is short and wiry, his hair in a bun at his nape. He is wearing a traditional red jacket made of woven abaca and modern cotton trousers.

“Miss Marian?” he asks.

“Yes, I’m Marian Malabanan and you must be Jon-Jon.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m here to take you to the MSIT school. Have you been waiting long?”

“No, I just got here. I was just enjoying the view. Tinuy-an Falls is beautiful.”

Jon-Jon smiled proudly. “It is beautiful. Have you heard about how it got its name?”

“No, I haven’t. Can you tell me the story?” Jon-Jon was glad to oblige.

“It is said that long ago some tribes from Agusan came to enslave our people, the tribes of the Magdiwata Mountain. They forced us to hunt for them and even to build boats called barotos. The people of Magdiwata Mountain longed for freedom. The opportunity came when their masters asked them to take them across the river. They ferried their masters on the river and, knowing about the waterfalls which their masters did not, they forced the small boats toward the waterfall and abandoned their masters as they fell to their deaths. Tinuy-an is a shorter version of tinuyo-an or a deliberate act. This is the deliberate act that gave the waterfall its name.”

“I see. That’s very fascinating. Just a little sad.”

“A little sad?”

“Because they had to murder their masters.”

“Freedom comes at a cost,” Jon-Jon replies. Marian is surprised by the sadness and the wisdom of his words.

“Come, we have to start hiking to our village before it gets dark.” It’s not the first time that Marian has gone camping in the wilderness, so she knows how essential the daylight is for any activity outside civilization. She follows Jon-Jon’s quick pace.

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 Bianca Mori’s Snakehead

“Miss Claire,” he called out cheerfully. The street may have changed, but by God he’d still remained neighborly.

She looked up, looking faintly puzzled and squinted. He stepped out of the shadows of the plants and waved his atomizer at her.

“Mang Max,” she smiled. “How are the orchids today?”

“Good, good,” he grinned. “Don’t let me keep you – I just wanted to say hi.”

“I’ll be on my way,” she nodded pleasantly. Max turned back to his orchids and was surprised when she called him a minute later. She was frowning.

“What is it?” he stepped outside the gate. He followed her gaze to the end of the street, where the cement suddenly disappeared and the creek gaped like a gash in the city. There was a crowd there, and they all seemed to be looking down. “I better look and see.”

He could feel her following close on his heels as he approached the crowd. There were people from Sampaguita and from the slums among those standing by the water’s edge, and they all had that strange mix of exhilaration and fear and disgust and excitement he’d come to know well. It’s what onlookers gave off when they saw a terrible accident. Or a crime scene.

A woman at the edge of the crowd – he recognized her at the lady who owned the sari-sari store at the other end of the street, the one with a Lotto franchise – shook her head as she turned away from the crowd and gagged.

Max pushed forward, the onlookers making way when they recognized the former cop in their midst.

“Mang Max,” said Aling Letty, who was at the very lip of the creek. She pointed down.

The body was face down in the shallow, garbage-strewn water. Long black hair floated against the rocks like waterweeds; a lock tangled around a plastic cup. Her short white dress was bunched up around her waist, revealing her bare bottom to the world. Max felt a sudden pang, wanting to find a blanket or a piece of cardboard or anything to cover her nakedness.

“Oh God,” gasped Claire, and Max stepped to shield her from the sight. “You don’t have to see this,” he said, gently pushing her back into the crowd. “Please. You might be late for work?” She shot him a stricken look, unable to stop staring at the body. Then, with a glance of fear at him, she wrenched her gaze and left.

He turned to Aling Letty, who was now clucking and clutching at her chest. “Aling Letty, may I use your cellphone?”

“I’m sorry; my load is nearly finished,” she said apologetically.

He sighed. Was he the only one who still kept a landline on the street anymore? “Carlo,” he called to the man in the yellow barangay tanod vest, standing nearest the body. “Don’t let anyone move her. I’m going to call the precinct.”

“Already texted them,” said the burly watchman.

“I’ll still call them.” Max snorted. Texting. Honestly. ‘Patay d2 punta p0h kyo’. ‘Dead body here’ in mangled textspeak.

Couldn’t even dignify the dead with an actual conversation.

He reached his cool, dim house and dialed the phone mounted near the door.

“April?”

“Tito Max?”

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Mine! The Fraud Hunter Book 1: Chasing an ATM Schemer

I hear a warning shot. I run to the gas station with my stilettos in my hand. It is that bastard again. Gabe Jacinto, the fraud hunter, has been a pain in my ass for the longest time.

Damn, he’s coming my way!.

“Hey you!”  Jacinto shouts at me.

I point my gun at him and and shoot.

“You won’t catch me!” I taunt him.

He runs toward me. I hurriedly hide at a nearby convenience store but, damn it, he’s right behind me! This guy can run.

“You can’t get away with this!”  Jacinto warns me as he enters the store.

“I can!”  I laugh out loud.  “You’re stupid!”

I peek out of my hiding space behind a huge shelf and shoot him again and bulls-eye!

“What the . . .” I sneak a peek and saw that the bastard is holding his left shoulder.  It gives me just enough time to run away.

“I will see you again!” I shout as I leave him bleeding.

I have to admit that my life has always been like this . . . Spot-Get-Run.

Yes, I am Teri Francisco . . . The Great Teri Francisco.

“Teri Francisco!”  Gabe Jacinto shouts and shoots

Shit, doesn’t that guy ever stop?  I jog as fast as I can on the street, suddenly feeling a dull pain in my arm. I see my car driving up in full speed toward me and I am just closing the door behind me when Jacinto shoots again.

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