TITLE: Few & Far Between
GENRE: Paranormal Historical
Carmen slammed her keycard on the counter. She was old enough to remember metal keys, much more satisfying when it came to slamming. Metal clanked; plastic only clunked.
Her head ached and she was filled with remorse at the slip of the tongue that had revealed her insomnia. Only sometimes, she'd added quickly, but the agent had already checked the box. Hell's bells. Mandatory end-of-life counseling, at age 52!
A noise from the old furnace vent startled her. Carmen tilted her head, listening, and heard nervous laughter followed by a series of thuds and muffled exclamations.
It was noon, and Shasta was downstairs instead of in school. Again. How long before a Social Enforcer buzzed? And what in God's name was going on down there? Carmen faced the basement door, wishing she had accepted the Aging Agent's offer of nerve pills after all. She took a deep breath then yanked the door open. Stealth be damned and it could take Anger Management with it; this time she would go down in a blaze of maternal wrath.
"It's her Mom!" cried a juvenile voice as Carmen's foot hit the last step with a deliberate thump.
"This way!" In the background Shasta's friend Mariah herded two or three kids toward the patio door, but Carmen's eyes were on the couch, where a bearded man sat holding her daughter's limp hand in both of his. Shasta's eyes were open but unfocused and she made gurgling noises in the back of her throat.