The Sleepless Knights – novel excerpt…I lost count.

So this is an important part of the story because we get to know more about this mysterious band, what their powers are, and what their mission is. This is the first time I’ve ever attempted to write any form of fantasy with a very “superhero” vibe. As a reminder, this will be an urban fantasy novel set in the late 80’s early 90’s. Let’s say Stranger Things meets Marvel I guess. But there are no gruesome creatures. The monsters are very real, even though they’re demigods. Hope you enjoy and as always, I’d love to see some productive and useful feedback. 🙂

When you run. 

When you fly.

Every time you hide. 

Every time you cry.

If you forget to run from the tide. 

I’ll part the oceans 

to be at your side…

The venue several miles outside of Newport, Rhode Island was a large but old playhouse turned concert venue, so it had great acoustics and lots of secret entrances and exits, perfect for when The Sleepless Knights needed to split undetected by fans or staff. They weren’t supposed to go on until 9:00, but they typically tried to get rehearsal and sound check done as early as possible. They never knew what was going to happen right before a show. 

Ardently, Kyler belted out the final chorus of their new song. Even though Cayden watched his brother perform countless times before, he couldn’t help but stand there and be in awe of him – his confidence, command, and passion for performing was a sight to see. Kyler Donnelly never seemed to have to work hard for that power. Cayden, on the other hand, had a hard time getting used to an audience whose eyes he felt boring into his skull. He knew he wasn’t the only one they looked at, but in his head, he envisioned hoards of girls pointing at him and laughing. 

Do I have a stupid look on my face? Is my fly open? Am I screwing up a note? 

He was his own worst enemy.  

“Well gentlemen, I think we got another winner here. Quinn, brilliant work as usual, compadre.” Kyler took a much needed gulp from his water bottle. 

“Thank you, brother. That is sure to spread some beautiful love and energy this evening, huh?” 

“Let’s not get too carried away, guys. There’s only so much we can do at these smaller shows anyway.” Donovan wiped his sweaty neck and face with a towel. The Knights often forgot how much physical work playing the drums entailed, and Donovan’s remarkable strength rarely kept him from sweating like a farm animal under spotlights. 

“Don’t worry, Don. We’re never going to be out of jobs.” Rian worked on changing some settings on his keyboards. 

“We better hope not. Or what the hell are we going to do with our lives?” Donovan threw his sweaty towel at Rian which the key master dodged in disgust. 

“Maybe fix up an old, decrepit house in the middle of nowhere and be normal for a change?” Cayden carefully put his bass back in its case.  

“Dude, keep dreaming. We were born to be nomadic road warriors, big brother.” Kyler helped Quinn roll up some wires that weren’t needed. 

“He just wants to play house and make a hundred babies with a certain Jersey mall queen who shall remain nameless,” Quinn teased. 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Suddenly feeling fatigued, Cayden hopped down off the stage and dropped himself on one of the audience seats. 

“Says the guy who was up at the ass crack of dawn this morning writing a letter to the chick.” Kyler added. 

“Do you keep track of how many times I take a dump too, little brother?” 

“Hey, all I’m saying is, we’re going to have some time off..theoretically. You, at the very least, should be going back to get her.” 

“Man, it’s not that easy. She’s just finishing high school for God sakes. And if I just show up out of the blue and tell her what the plan is, she’s going to freak. Besides, I can’t go anywhere by myself. Who else is going to see where we need to be?”  

“Ohhh, so you are admitting there is a plan, aren’t ya?” Quinn finished off his fifth Coca Cola for the day. Sometimes his bandmates thought the overload of corn syrup and caffeine dissolved his brain cells. 

“Listen,” Cayden shot up from his seat, “When I feel like the time is right to…” 

An all too familiar wave of dizziness and a shot of unbearable pain made him stumble. Cayden pressed the heels of his hands against his forehead, trying to gain some control over the worsening spasm. 

“Cayd, what’s up?” Quinn and Kyler rushed to him and grabbed his arms to keep him from dropping like a big dictionary falling onto a hard table.  

“Ahhh!” was all he could get out. The pain was intense, but not as stabbing as it could be when he battled to make out what he was supposed to see. 

“What are you seeing, big brother? Talk to us.” Kyler and Quinn were on the floor next to him. Kyler let his older brother’s head rest on his lap as his legs involuntarily flailed. 

“I don’t know….It’s a big old house..errrr!” The shortness of breath kicked in. 

“And? Who’s there?” 

“There’s a..there’s a woman..with her daughter. They’re closing…errr, their closing up. It’s one of the mansions!” 

The pain reached an intensity where he had no choice but to yell. Otherwise the words wouldn’t be able to escape his mouth. 

“Address, man. Address. Find us an address,” Quinn pleaded. 

“Robbery..ahhhhh! The girl is screaming. They got her! They’re tearing at her…” 

“Cayden! Focus on a location, come on big brother! You can do it.” 

“Rian, Don, tell Gus to start the engine,” commanded Quinn. 

“Wait, can we even go on assignment right now? What if we miss the show and raise red flags?” Rian panicked. 

“Man, the hell with it! Guys, scoop him up and let’s go!” Donovan ran towards one of the fire exits, pulling Rian with him. Kyler and Quinn picked up their ailing bassist and followed shortly after. 

“Dude, what if Rian is right? If we miss the show, we got no alibi. We never went on a mission this close to a show,” worried Kyler. 

“Well, we either get this done and get back in time or face Ethan and Corbin’s wrath.” 

Cayden couldn’t make out the rest of their conversation as they hauled him back to the bus. He kept his eyes closed and searched through the barrage of images that crossed his vision from all directions. Sometimes it felt like a Rolodex spinning forward then backward in his mind. Sometimes it looked like the snow on a television screen when the signal cuts out, except the balls of white light were bigger and moved slower. Either way, he knew his one job was to fight for at least a moment of clarity. He had to slow down the menagerie enough to be able to give his bandmates and Gus the information needed –  before it was too late. As he said to Ethan the night before, some days were better than others. 

Despite being fully immersed in the throbbing pain, the weakness, and the cyclone of visions, he could sense his body was back on one of the bus couches. After what felt like an eternity, he was able to see where they had to go. Maybe it didn’t take an eternity for him to start coming back to life, but it took longer than it needed to – and every second too late might as well be an hour. 

“Marble House,” He uttered breathlessly. “596 Bellevue Ave. And we got to hurry.”  

“Gus!” yelled Quinn. 

“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it’s going on when you don’t have strength. Napoleon Bonaparte.” Gus swiftly pulled out of the venue’s back parking lot before any of the employees had a chance to stop The Knights and question where they were going in such a hurry.  

“Alright boys, let’s get ready to kick some ass,” encouraged Donovan. Not sharing in his enthusiasm, Cayden knew he would need every second of driving time to step into who he needed to be next…

“Alright so what’s the game plan? Cayden said there’s at least four of them.” Donovan finished suiting up. 

“Oh no, do NOT make me the watch again, guys. It’s so boring, and a waste of my skills if you ask me.” 

“You’re the youngest. You get the shit job. We all went through it, Rian.” Quinn tightened his gloves then wolfed down the rest of his microwaved Quarter Pounder. 

“Oh man, come on. Let Cayden take a break and be the watch. I got this.” 

“When you can take out a dude that looks like Macho Man Randy Savage without breaking a sweat like Cayden can, then we’ll talk,” Kyler came to his brother’s defense. 

Quinn quickly settled in to his leadership roll once he swallowed what was left of his second lunch. “I say we go in through the back. Kyler you take the guys on the top floor…” 

“No kidding.” 

“Don, you go right for the guy whose got the girl, and I will handle whoever is left and take care of the mother.” 

Meanwhile, Cayden was in the back bedroom suiting up as quickly as he could even though he hadn’t gained all of his balance and strength back. Sometimes it irked him whenever the guys assumed he wouldn’t be able to do a job. But he knew they worried about him, about the day he may never come out of one of his throttling visions, or the day he decided to walk away for good. He pulled his mask out of his gym bag and darted towards the front of the bus before they could leave without him. 

“Cayd, you alright man? This doesn’t seem like too heavy of a job. You sure you don’t want to sit this one out?” 

“Quinn, when do I ever sit out of a battle?”

“Good point, you are a glutton for punishment, my friend.” 

“The time is now, gentleman,” Gus bellowed from the driver’s seat as he brought the bus to a stop in a hidden parking lot next to an abandoned food market.  

“Alright Knights, let’s do our job quickly, smoothly, and get out of here. If we start that show too late and raise suspicion, the masters are going to eat our balls for breakfast. Ready?” Quinn placed his hand on Kyler’s upper right arm, and Kyler’s hand clasped Quinn’s left upper arm. 

“For honor, for peace, for rightness over evil,” they said in unison. 

As he did at the start of every mission, Quinn rapidly took turns giving each of his bandmates the salute before they pulled their masks down over their faces. They raced for the woods that divided the abandoned lot and their destination – The Marble House. Cayden found every bit of power he had left to keep up with the group. Of course, no one could outrun his brother, and Rian could break the sound barrier.   

Nobody was around, but the Knights couldn’t risk being spotted. The low light of dusk started to drape over them as they ran like hell. Gus had a way of finding secluded entry points for any of their missions. It didn’t take long for the old mansion to come into view, but they stayed hidden and scoped out the surroundings a bit. The boys had a clear view of the back of the house. Through two open Venetian doors, they could hear men yelling and the women crying. Two guys were loading paintings, expensive pieces of gilded, antique furniture, and handfuls of polished silver flatware into a dilapidated green van. They waited for the two guys to go back into the house. Cayden nodded at Quinn. Donovan nodded at Kyler. Then they stealthily made their way towards the stone walls of the 19th century mansion. Rian stayed back to keep any of the thugs from escaping, but more importantly, he had to watch for the cops.

They resolved to live in a world where they would always be placed between benevolence and wickedness. 

Donavan and Kyler made their way into a concealed doorway at the side of the building, as Quinn and Cayden sneaked their way into the back doors before any of the thugs saw them. Like a rocket, Kyler leapt over the banister to the second floor. Cayden hated when his younger brother assumed he could rely solely on his superior jumping and wall climbing skills. He leapt right in to every mission, literally and figuratively, without caution and practically vomiting invincibility. The Knights live forever, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be killed. 

Donovan stealthily followed the agonizing sound of the young girl’s screams, needing only one punch to open a locked sitting room door.

As soon as Donovan entered the room he found a heavy set man in dirty, tight jeans and a grease-stained T-shirt trying to restrain a screaming young girl on a claw foot sofa. She fought like hell, and with every defensive scratch she landed on him, he would strike her back in between tearing at her satin blouse. Since he was so busy with his fight to overpower his victim, he didn’t hear the sound of the wooden door frame splinter upon Donovan’s entrance. 

“Hey! I don’t think the lady is interested in fat and gristle, you douchebag!”

“Who the fuck are you?” 

“One of the Masters of the Universe as far as you’re concerned, shitbag.” 

The man quickly pulled a pistol out of his back pocket and fired at the swift Knight who easily lunged behind a set of chairs to dodge the shots. Despite being terrified by the gun fire, the young woman managed to escape the man and hastily crawl underneath a chaise lounge to hide. 

“Ha, I got you, you short little shit.” 

Donovan had every intention of taking the guy down anyway, but whenever someone made a remark about his short stature or if someone implied he was weak, it stoked an all-consuming fire in him. From where he was crouched, he raised his hand towards the brass fire place shovel several feet away from him. The shovel lifted from its holder and started spinning rapidly like a baton. With a quick wave of his hand, Donovan flung the airborne, spinning shovel towards the perp trying to reload. The strongest Knight heard the brass clank against the metal of the gun as it knocked the weapon out of its owner’s filthy hand. 

“What the hell?” 

Before the assailant could process what happened, Donovan did the same thing with the fireplace poker. Only this time, he aimed for the perp’s head. Stunned by the cast iron poker hitting him across the face, leaving a long gash on his cheek and breaking his nose, the man fell back onto the marble floor. Without saying a word, Donovan scooped up the man’s gun and broke it in half in front of his bleeding face, as if he was breaking a stick to throw into a fire.  

“So what are you supposed to be, Batman or something?” The man tried to hide his confusion and twinge of fear. “Take that mask off! Face me like a man!” 

“You really want my face to be the last thing you see before I end your career?” answered Donovan sinisterly, still standing over the weakened criminal. 

“Fuck you, pal!” 

“No thanks, I already had your girl last night.” 

Jolted by a bolt of adrenaline, the man sat up and lunged into Donovan, both men fell back onto the floor. Donovan effortlessly hurled the man into an antique mirror on the wall, shattering it. A savage brawl ensued. Donovan used every ounce of his fighting skills to inflict as much pain and humiliation as he could on the thief and attempted rapist. The girl under the chaise lounge continued to cry in terror, unable to think rationally enough to decide who was the good guy and who was the bad guy. 

With one hand, Donovan lifted the battered perp by his shirt and hung him on a nearby coathook. The man’s harrowing yell of pain made it clear to Donovan that the hook had pierced his flesh, something the strong Knight didn’t intend to do. Quickly, Donovan hauled the man’s debilitated body back onto the floor and tied up his wrists and ankles with guitar strings. 

“Damn bro, what did you do to this dude?” Quinn came running up behind Donovan and stared down at the groaning criminal begging for mercy. 

“He was a tough one, man. I did what I had to do.” 

Quinn knelt down and poured the erasure water on the perp but paused once he spotted the stream of blood oozing from the man’s back. 

“Yo, Cayden is going to shit a brick if he sees that! Cover up that wound before you bring him down.”

“Relax, man. He’ll live.” 

“Just do it, and meet us downstairs,” Quinn threw him a stern look before leaving the room to find Kyler. Donovan made the perp sit up so he could wrap a sheer curtain tightly around the man. The barely conscious criminal let out a yell as the knot tightened. 

“You’ll live.” 

* * * 

Kyler crept like a spider into the upstairs study, making sure each of his movements against the ceiling were silent. Two men dressed in black hoodies and hunting pants rummaged through drawers and packed expensive pieces of decor and rare books in boxes. 

“Come on, hurry up, I don’t know what’s going on out there but we need to get the hell out of here.” 

“Well, don’t break any of that shit, Denny’s gonna be pissed.” 

“Don’t worry about that, dumbasses. Denny’s already pissing his pants in another room!” Kyler hung from one hand and foot and flipped off the two robbers. 

“What the hell!” The taller man pulled out his gun and instantly fired multiple rounds at Kyler, but the second youngest Knight was quick to dodge every shot. The shorter man picked up his crowbar and ran towards the dangling Kyler who continued to tease and torment the men. But before the man could get too close to him, Kyler grabbed several commemorative plates off the wall and flung them in in there direction. The force of the impromptu weapons flung the gun and the crowbar clear across the room, hitting a marble statue and shattering it to jagged pieces. 

“Ahh shit, look what you made me do.” 

Kyler took advantage of the men’s locked-in-place shock, pushing himself off of the ceiling and charging at the criminals. It took mere moments for the nimble lead singer to completely subdue them and tie them up with his brother’s extra guitar strings. 

“Ooohhh, tough break guys. Looks like you’re getting screwed out of your pay day. Might want to choose a new profession. Didn’t work out for the dudes in A Fish Called Wanda either.” 

“Please, please, don’t kill us. We’ll get outta here and we’ll never do this again if you untie us, I swear,” the shorter perp pleaded. 

“Get one thing straight now, buddy,” Kyler knelt down to their level on the floor. “We don’t kill anyone. And I already  know your dumb burglar days are going to be way behind you after tonight.” Quinn rushed in with his lavastone-infused erasure water ready to go.

“Nice work, man. Why didn’t you wait for me? Maybe I wanted a piece of them too, dipshit.” Quinn nudged Kyler in the shoulder. 

“You snooze you lose, man. You getting old on us or something?” 

“Eh, bite me.” 

Quinn poured the water on the men, instantly knocking them out. 

“They’ll be in jail, but at least they’ll wake up feeling like a million bucks.”

“Yeah, right. Don’t know if we can say the same about Don’s guy though.” Quinn slapped the top back on the bottle holding the water that was vital to the Knights’ successful missions.  

“Ah no, not again. How bad is it this time?”

“Dude might not be able to move an arm or a leg, but he’ll live.” 

Kyler shook his head. “Come on, let’s get these guys downstairs and go find Cayden.” 

* * *

Cayden entered the museum store and hid behind revolving racks of postcards and key chains. His eyes were immediately drawn to the battered woman tied up on the floor. Her exhausted cries for her daughter slightly rose above the clicking sound of the safe as the lead thug tried to crack it open. As soon as the older woman spotted the blue mask covering Cayden’s face, she stopped crying, but Cayden quickly shook his head “no” and signaled for her to stay silent. 

“Dammit woman, stop bullshiting me! You know the combination to this thing. Now talk!” The man stood over the woman and pointed a gun to her head. 

“I don’t. I swear. Only the manager knows and he’s not here,” the woman sobbed. 

“If I find out you’re lying to me,” the man went back to work on the lock, “your kid is dead, you hear me!” 

“Where’s my daughter? Please. Please just let us go. I promise you we’ll go far away, never return. We won’t go to the police. Just let us go.” 

“Forget it, lady.” 

“Please! Please! I’m begging you. There must be some mercy, some goodness left in you.” 

“Shut up woman!” The thug marched back to where the woman was lying and kicked her in the stomach. An agonizing cry escaped the woman’s lips though she tried to stifle it, hoping it would stop him from striking again. Before the perp could think about returning to his task, a sharp pain hit the back of his leg. 

“Son of a bitch!” The man looked behind him to find an ornate, souvenir letter opener lodged into his hamstring. 

“You think you’re tough shit beating on a woman, huh?” Cayden emerged from his hiding spot.    

“Who the hell are you? Don’t make me kill you!” The perp pointed his gun at Cayden but was unsteady on his feet, leaning backwards, trying to pull the letter opener from his flesh. But each attempt resulted in wail of agony. Cayden stood several feet in front of the hobbling man and didn’t budge. 

“I want you and your goons to leave the two ladies alone and bring back what you took. Then maybe we won’t embarrass you too much. But I can’t say your punishment will be less severe.” Cayden flung another letter opener into the man’s other leg. 

“That’s it,” the perp declared after a yelling a few choice words and falling back onto the floor. “Say goodnight, asshole!” From the ground, the man fired one shot at Cayden’s head which launched the Knight into a table stacked with books, splitting the redwood in half, his body pummeled and buried with hardcovers. 

“Ha ha! Not too sharp are ya? Guess your comic book hero days are over, huh?” 

The man started using a glass display counter to slowly get back on his feet. His fall backwards caused the stainless steel office supply to push deeper into his leg. After sweating, bleeding, and moaning profusely, he ended up in a standing position. But once he heard the sound of books shuffling and tapping the floor, he nearly collapsed once again.  

The eldest Knight approached the man before lifting the mask off his mouth to spit the bullet at the criminal’s face. 

“You put a hole in my favorite mask, dipshit.”  

“Look, alright, I don’t know who you are, but let’s make a deal here,” the perp pleaded after moments of stunned silence. 

“There are no deals. Leave the woman alone and come with me. Unless you want one in the balls next.” Cayden pulled a shuriken out of his leather utility belt, the shiny metal reflected the glow coming from the track lighting above him. 

“Who the hell are you?” 

“I don’t know, man. Should we tell him?” Cayden turned knowing Quinn would be there to have his back, ready with the powerful mind erasure that ensured their safety and their freedom to move on to the next mission, whatever that may be. 

“Yeah, okay. Like that would ever happen. This piece of shit isn’t even worthy of learning who pulled off the Max Headroom incident.” 

“What are you going to do to me?” The perp tried to get his legs to carry him away from the two Knights. 

“Put you where you belong, asshole.” With that, Quinn splashed the lava stone water into the perp’s face, sending him directly to the floor. 

“Let’s get these idiots pilled up, take care of the women, and get the hell out of here. The cops will be here any minute and we’ll never get back to the arena in time.” 

“Already ahead of you, brother. I got this shit stain, you get the woman. Are you okay?”  

“Yes, Quinn, you don’t have to ask after every vision and every battle.” Cayden did his best to mask his mild frustration with levity. 

“Okie doke, man. See you downstairs.” Quinn pulled the letter opener out of the criminal’s hamstring and dragged him out of the store by his feet. 

Cayden knelt down next to the woman still in an awful state of panic. She wouldn’t have trusted a puppy coming near her. 

“Hey, hey, it’s okay ma’am,” he whispered. “It’s over. They’re not going to hurt you anymore.” He reached out his hand to her to which she didn’t take right away. 

“Where’s my daughter? I just want my baby,” she could barely get the words out, holding her side like she had a cracked rib. 

“She’s fine. Come on, I’ll take you to her.” He reached his hands to her again and she accepted, moaning in pain as he lifted her. Cayden put his arm around her waist to help the weakened woman in her twilight years stay on her feet. They shuffled slowly out of the store and towards the staircase. With each step, the woman felt more comfortable leaning on Cayden as they made their way to the front of the mansion.   

“Well, I suppose if you were going to kill me you would have done it by now. So who are you, sir?” 

“No one of importance. Just a good samaritan.” 

“Wearing those clothes and that mask? Something tells me it’s not your first time coming to someone’s rescue. Wait a minute,” she paused her slow decent down the stairs with Cayden by her side, “You’re one of the men who’ve been on the news for a while now. You were spotted on camera not too long ago, stopping a pawn shop robbery I believe.” 

“That was us.” 

“So you save people in danger. Why hide behind masks? Why not work with law enforcement?” 

“We’d never truly be comrades or equals. We’re always going to be seen more as a threat,” he answered matter-of-factly. 

“Well, we owe you our -” The woman froze and gasped at the bottom of the steps when she saw her daughter sunken into an antique lounge chair, hugging her knees and watching Kyler and Quinn tie the unconscious perps to the center of a marble fountain. Donovan carried in some priceless items from the thieves’ van, and Rian was hard at work removing any trace evidence of his brothers’ presence in the mansion.

“Julie,” cried the relieved mother. 

“Mom!” The young girl ran as fast as she could to her mother’s battered but open arms.   

“Oh, thank God. Did they hurt you? Are you okay? Are you…”

“Yes, Mom, I’m fine. He didn’t get the chance to hurt me..that badly. Thanks to these guys.” 

The women held each other tightly as the Knights finished up their work. 

“Okay ladies. Now I need you to come with me to the office for a moment, please.” Quinn gestured for the mother and daughter to follow him. 

“Wait, please tell us. What can we do to repay you?” 

“There is nothing you’ll ever have to do, ma’am. All we ask is that you never doubt the good that still lives in this world.” Cayden reassured them as he and Kyler moved to stand behind them. 

“No, really. We need to know. Who are…” Before the daughter could utter another word, Quinn rapidly doused both their faces with the eraser water. They fell unconsciously into Cayden and Kyler’s arms. 

“Why do I always get the heavier one, man?” Kyler whined as he scooped the mother off her feet. 

“Quit complaining and let’s go.” Cayden effortlessly picked up the petite daughter. 

“They were a couple of chatty ones, huh?” Quinn added, “Too bad, she’s cute in a Mary Stuart Masterson, Some Kind of Wonderful kind of way.” 

“You passed out in the middle of that movie.” Kyler followed Cayden towards the office. 

“I remember the cute chicks. That’s all that matters.” 

“Guys, start heading back to the bus. We’ll be right behind you,” Cayden yelled back to his comrades before disappearing into the office with Kyler and the two unconscious women. 

“Nah, let’s just lay them on the floor, little bro,” he stopped Kyler before he could place the mother in a shiny leather lounge chair. “They could fall out of these chairs before they realize where they are.”

“That’s my big bro, always thinking ahead.” 

“I just hope they weren’t hurting for too long from these guys. I feel like we could have gotten here a lot sooner.” 

“Come on, man. Don’t start the shoulda, woulda, coulda crap. You gave us a clear vision. We got here. We saved the victims from further injury or worse, and we got the stolen goods. Mission accomplished, and always thanks to you.” Kyler patted his brother on the back. He wished Cayden wouldn’t put himself through the anguish he often did, feeling like he could have had an earlier and clearer vision, wishing he had the missing piece to the puzzle that would make him unstoppable – the greatest his army had ever known in their centuries old existence.      

“Maybe one of these days it won’t be just me.” 

“Maybe, if you get your head out of your ass, get the girl, and don’t screw up.” 

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Ky.” 

“That’s what brothers are for, Robin. Come on, let’s book before we get busted.” 

“Dude, I’m older. I’m taller. I’m Batman. Get over it.” Cayden mischievously pushed his little brother out of the office. 

The Knights did a quick scan of the property before sprinting out one of the inconspicuous side doors to The Marble House. As they powered through the dense,    pitch black woods, they heard police sirens getting louder. Quick flashes of red and blue lights hit the trees until they were far enough away from the scene. As soon as Gus spotted one of the boys, he started the engine but kept the lights off. The Knights jumped in one by one and informed Gus of their success. He hastily navigated the bus back to the quiet county route he took to get to their elusive parking spot. They had less than a half an hour to change, get back to the venue, and start the show before the staff and the fans grew restless. 

Cayden threw out the mask that was punctured with the bullet. The whole group was busy getting back into rock star mode, so there wasn’t much time for reflection. But Cayden couldn’t help thinking about Maeve – how much he wanted her there, and how much they all stood to lose. 


The Sleepless Knights – an 80’s/90’s Jersey-based supernatural fantasy – excerpt

Here I am, diving into another novel I may or may not finish. But this has been pretty motivating, and I am now using Plottr which has been an absolute Godsend and making the process go 10x smoother. Tentative title is The Sleepless Knights, set in Jersey (duh), late 80’s going into the 90’s so there will be a lot of pop culture references. Overall, it’s a fantasy with some supernatural elements. Here’s a piece of the beginning chapters. Enjoy 🙂

“Do you have a Swedish Vullhound?”

“Hmmm. Not sure I’ve ever heard of that breed before.”

“They are quite rare, my dear. But you should carry rare breeds. Show dog owners love to spend money.” Distant screams and cheers traveled from the far end of the mall.

“Dear Lord, what on Earth is all that racket about?” “I think a band is doing a signing event at Sam Goody’s.”

“Hm, I cannot name a more ear-splitting sound than a teenage girl’s voice.” The older lady dressed in a McCall’s suit with huge shoulder pads rubbed her temples.

“Can I interest you in a cubic zirconia studded collar? I asked, striking a Vanna White pose towards the bedazzled dog accessories. “No, just the treats will do. I have to get out of this sorry excuse for a shopping mall. I simply CAN NOT take that God forsaken noise anymore.”

I quickly rang her up and bagged her homemade treats. Handing her the bag, I wished her a pleasant day, and she left without saying a word. Such was life at Just BeClaws pet gift and supply shop. Out of all the stores in the Monmouth Galleria, my shop was probably the least frequently visited when it wasn’t Christmas time. But the owners were nice enough to hire me three years prior, at 15 and with no job experience. It kept me from flipping burgers, and I could use my mall employee discount at the pizzeria and the bookstore.

Because it was often slow in the store, I could concentrate on my homework, which was rarely a problem, and most importantly, I could hang out with the friends I created with words and pictures, on any pages I could get my hands on. I was the prototypical nerd. The girl who actually enjoyed homework and writing long papers pleading for more vegetarian options in the cafeteria and eliminating the 4 years of gym graduation requirement. I finished clearance tagging some tacky cat jewelry then returned to the counter in the center of the store. I plopped my butt down on the uncomfortable wooden stool and picked up where I left off on my science paper – What would life in New Jersey be like if there were no other humans left besides me? Everyone could choose whatever state or country they wanted to focus on. I could have chosen a million other places I have never and will ever see, but I decided to go the easy route. It’s almost the end of my senior year, and I’m fried. Besides, people aren’t going anywhere for a while. The world will remain loud and confusing, even in silence. I closed my science notebook and dug out my leather bound book filled with handmade hemp paper. A Christmas gift from my best friend Rhiannon. We loved frequenting the hippie store, Intrinsic, on the top level of the mall, thinking we were cool checking out the bajas adorned with marijuana leaves and the psychedelic tapestries glowing under black lights. Carved into the leather cover was The Tree of Life. I knew this had a deeper meaning than simply being a tree, I just hadn’t bothered to find out what it was.

Memory waited patiently, as she did every day, for her new friend to arrive, wondering what new stories he’d have to tell and what new songs she could teach him on the piano. It was getting late, and she started to worry how much time she’s have to spend with him that night. But then again, her time alone in the apartment at night…

I paused and started doodling flowers on the side of the page when frantic footsteps and a near breathless voice yanked me out of my reverie.

“No matter who comes in here. I’m not here. You never saw me!”

Before I could register what just happened or muster some sort of response, the guy dove underneath a rack of thick, hanging afghans, all sporting cutesy embroidered pictures of different dog breeds. I barely got a look at his face.

“Is everything okay, sir?”

“Shhh, you’re going to give me away.”

“I can’t even see your feet.”

He ignored me. Suddenly, the sound of young, desperate female voices distracted me from the mystery man hiding within the throw blankets.

“Haveyouseenhim? Haveyouseenanyoftheguyscomebyhere? Whichwaydidhego?”

The blonde, who was obviously the leader of the trio of frantic girls, had a mouth full of braces and couldn’t catch her breath. The other two clung to her studded, denim jacket as if she was the only one who knew the way to Contempo Casuals.

“Ummm..I’m not sure who you are referring to.” I had to stop myself from looking over at the afghan rack.

“Well duh! Only one of the hottest guys on the planet! Where have you been?”

“Umm..reality? You should come visit some time. We have awesome bagels.” I shot her a goofy grin.

“Ugh, you’re weird!” grunted one the blonde’s lesser attractive disciples. “Can I interest you in a Yorkie plush to cuddle on those cold lonely nights?” I gestured again like Vanna towards the group of plush toys sitting on the shelf behind me.

“Get a life, loser. Come on girls, there’s no way anyone important came into this store.” The bratty trio turned to leave.

“Come back soon when we have more of those biscuits you liked.” The blonde gave me the finger and her minions followed. I was also one of those girls who had a hard time understanding the typical teenage mind. Maybe I was weird or a freak, but I certainly wasn’t interested in being whatever the hell normal was supposed to be.

“They’re gone.” He sighed before peeking through the wall of blankets surrounding him.

“Thanks. That was close. You mind if I just hang out here for a few until I know the coast is clear.” He stayed crouched down, partially hidden by the height of the counter.

“If you wish. No one is going to come looking for you in here unless you are a big dog or cat lover.”

“I’m allergic to cats. Dogs are awesome. I’m getting one soon.” “Well, let me know if you need me to put together a new puppy pack for ya. It’s kind of my forte as you can see. At least until college.”

“Thanks. Hey, I never caught you’re name.”

“That’s because I didn’t throw it, James.”


“As in Dean.”

“Oh yeah, nice!” He smiled and nodded with pride. I couldn’t believe I spoke casually with a boy- a boy who was obviously older than me. A boy who looked intricately chiselled from smooth marble or painted with watercolor and fine tip brushes – an ethereal blend of art and reality. He had 5 o’clock shadow, and his thick chestnut hair was slicked back but soft with a few wisps hanging down over his forehead. I never thought a pair of hazel eyes could be that noticeable. I have hazel eyes but the kind you can’t see unless you look closely under right lighting. His eyes were leaves when they’re just about to turn in October. Tight Levi’s, a slightly tattered black leather jacket, a gold chain, and a white T-shirt completed his look that spelled “unattainable” as much as it spelled “danger”.

“I’m Cayden. Cayden Donnelly.” He held out his hand.

“I know who you are.” I hesitated before gently clasping his soft hand. It’s funny what you can remember like it was five minutes ago even though it happened decades before. That was one of those moments.

“Really, you listen to our music?”

“If it pops up on the radio. Can’t say I’ve added you guys to one of my mix tapes yet.”

“So what do you usually listen to? No wait, don’t tell me..The Comets, or Stella, right?” I wasn’t surprised he named a popular girl rock band and a solo singer, both of whom were played religiously at the roller skating rink that Rhiannon and I frequented.

“They’re okay..if you need something to dance to. But growing up in my house you have to be into hard rock, the longer the hair and the tighter the spandex, the better. At least that’s what it used to be,” I finished under my breath.

“That’s cool. My parents were hippies, so everything they listen to requires tie-dye and acid trips.”

I aimlessly sifted through papers sitting behind the counter trying to look busy. I had a terrible feeling the more we kept talking, the harder it would be to think of good things to say. He started whistling, looking around, and tapping his fingers on the table. Anxiously, I tried to think of something else to say to him. But he was a hot guy who was part of a band who were rapidly rising to Bon Jovi-level stardom.What more could I say to him that he’d actually care about? As soon as he left, nothing I said or did will ever be a second thought in that pretty head of his.

“ you like working here?”

“It’s okay. Gives me plenty of time to myself since what you see is what you get as far as customers,” I waved my hands around the empty store.

“Must get kind of boring though, huh?”

“I’m alone a lot but rarely bored.”

“Ha, sometimes I wish I knew what being alone is like. When you’re on the road with your five brothers, and you can barely run into a Dunkin Donuts without getting bombarded by screaming girls, you don’t get many quiet moments.” He smiled but I could tell he was only half joking.

“Awww, what’s the matter? Too much hairspray and frosted lipstick for your tastes,” I quipped, offering him a stick of Juicy Fruit which he accepted.

“Definitely,” he chucked.

“Well, trust me, unless you like boardwalk games and Pork Roll, egg, and cheese, don’t bother with a Jersey girl.” I was only half kidding.

“Ahhh yes, the infamous pork roll versus Taylor ham, boardwalk and Skeeball, New Jersey stereotype. I can relate. I’m Irish Catholic, so everyone thinks I’m a drunk.”

“Do you ever get asked if your a Kennedy?” I laughed.

“Not yet,” he smiled. He had a contagious smile. He’d make you smile even if you were enjoying being pissed off, and then that would piss you off more. His eyes never seemed to change size when he smiled but you can tell it was an honest grin.

“So are you going to tell me your name, or are you going to leave me in suspense?” He spun a turning rack of calendars around, still trying to hide his presence from fans who may happen to pass by.

“If I tell you, you’re not going to stalk me are you? I mean, I know my intense allure is hard to resist,” I bantered.

It was fifteen minutes to 9 pm, so I used my key to bring the gate a quarter of the way down, a classic mall indicator of approaching closing time.

“A little too self-deprecating don’t you think?”

“I speak as I find, Mr. Donnelly,” I smirked.

He followed me around the store closely as I straightened racks and shelves. With every step he took closer to me, I tried to take a step away.

“But what if others find you interesting?”

“I kind of don’t know what that’s like.”

“Well, I think you’re interesting.”

“But you don’t even know me.”

“Trust me, I know more than you think..I mean..I’ve been around plenty of girls like you.”

“Girls like me, huh? And what kind of girl is that?” I made my way back behind the counter, opened the register, and began counting bills – anything to maintain a space between us. Though I can’t say I was particularly nervous around him. Still, I needed to keep my guard up. He could have been one of those skirt-chasing, sex-crazed rock stars who could seduce a nun if he wanted to. But again, I wasn’t the skirt-wearing, boy-chasing type of girl, assuming guys didn’t want to be chased by a girl less exciting than a can of Tab soda.

“Smart, quirky, but closed off, like you’re always trying to hide from everything. But you don’t realize that..that you are… somebody.”

I froze at his answer and looked at him. He raked his hand through his hair then rubbed the back of his neck. I probably should have said thank you. I probably shouldn’t have felt the need to hide the heat in my face.

“And I guess you know me so well, huh?” I finally answered, trying desperately not to smile but failing as I counted coins.

“Of course I don’t know you. But let’s just say..I see a lot in people they don’t necessarily see in themselves.”

I nodded then started to count nickels aloud as he effortlessly juggled a few tennis balls he grabbed from a bin of dog toys. He could easily see I was getting ready to close the store, but seemed to be making no attempt to leave. Not one teenage girl had walked by in a while, so he could easily leave without the fear of being bum-rushed by raging hormones.

“Well, anyway, I need to finish closing up shop, so…”

“What are you doing when you get out of here?” He quickly threw the balls back in the toy bin then leaned forward on the counter towards me.

“Umm, not sure. Probably just going home, writing a few pages, then watching Nick at Night until I pass out. Why?”

“Yeah, I write and I draw. It’s my major. I’m a regular Renaissance woman,” I held up my journal and showed him a few pages.

“Wow,” he reached for my book. “This is incredible. Can I see?”

“Uh..sure. Just keep it at a few glances, if you don’t mind. I can’t even remember half of what I’ve written or drawn in there. Don’t want to incriminate myself, you know?” I replied, partially in jest. He quickly flipped through some pages, looking up at me in astonishment from time to time.


“Thanks,” I reached for my journal, and he handed it over without little protest.

“It seems like you’ve illustrated some stories there.”

“Yeah, sometimes. Sometimes they just..come to me.”

“Can you come meet me outside once you’re done? I’d like to introduce you to some friends of mine. Plus, we’re not sure what there is to do around here on a Friday night. I figured you could show us the best places for some harmless shenanigans.”

“Oh, well..I don’t know. I have my mother’s car, and I guess I’m expected to back home.”

“Are you sure?”

Not really, I wanted to say. I’d never been asked to hangout with a group of guys before, especially guys who were on the fringe of being considered megastars. Not to mention he had a dangerous smile that could stop time and heal the wounded.

“Thanks anyway,” I walked back over to the gate, passing him, feeling his eyes on me. Soft leather scent mixed with sandalwood and sage hit me like a gust of wind before a violent thunderstorm. Failing to avoid anymore eye contact, I placed the key back into the device that lowered and raised the gate. Then I waited, trying not to stand impatiently like I was kicking him out of the store. I don’t think I had to try too hard.

“Well, good night Cayden. I was happy to help you avoid the clothes ripping and hair pulling associated with being a rock star.”

“True,” he laughed. “You saved me big time. This is my lucky jacket.” He smiled sadly as he bent his way under the partially closed metal, entering the now dimly lit mall walkway. Reluctantly, I brought the gate the rest of the way down, keeping me safe within the small store I knew too well.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come hang out with us? It doesn’t seem like you need to get home right away.” He looked at me pleadingly through the thin metal bars and gently clasped the gate with both hands. At that moment I wasn’t sure if it was he or I who looked like a prisoner.

“Hey, next time you’re in town. You know where to find me? Just find the scent of dog treats and wasted cash.” He seemed to enjoy my corny, cynical sense of humor which often didn’t go over well with many people. Even though I stood my ground with every fiber of my being, he looked like a lost puppy not wanting to leave. Which I guess was fitting, considering I worked in a pet store.

“Okay,” he backed away defeated. “It was nice meeting you, Agatha?”


“Yeah, you still haven’t told me your name, so I will assume you are a lady of mystery.” He turned to walk away.

“Maeve!” I yelled before he could get any further away. He stopped, turned, and gave me another one of those killer smiles.

“I’m Maeve. Maeve Wicklow.”

“Beautiful.” He waved one more time then continued further into the darkness of closing time.

I continued with my end of the night duties – cleaning, straightening, counting the register. But then I added cursing myself out to the list that night.

“Who are you kidding, Wicklow? You’re never going to see him again. He’s probably hitting on some silky-haired, big-titted blonde at a party right now.”

I really didn’t believe the last part, but it made me feel somewhat better. I strolled out into the parking lot exhausted, not from work, but from lament thicker than the dank New Jersey air.

“Maaaaeve!” bellowed an unfamiliar voice as I fished for my keys in the outside pocket of my backpack.

The voice came from a big bus, lit up by the lamppost it was parked under. Moments later, there he was, running towards me before I could even think about putting my key into the door of my mother’s tattered old LeSabre.

The Boys and the Boardwalk

“Dude, all that’s besides the point. You had a cool chick in the palm of your hand and you just walked away like a damn fool. Man, haven’t I taught you not to be a spazz with the ladies!”

“Quinn, it’s not like you’ve been racking up points with females, ya airhead,” Kyler threw a piece of popcorn at my chucklehead of a best friend, which Quinn effortlessly caught in his mouth.

“Hey, nothing could be worse than his layups,” I loved teasing him about his inability to close the deal on the court..and in other areas. He liked pretending to be the James Bond of the group, always getting the girl in the end.

“Ha ha, smart ass,” Quinn flipped me off. “Look, all I’m saying is, you could have been more convincing if you think she is what you say she is,” Quinn washed down the popcorn by guzzling a Coca Colas then crushing the can.

“Yeah, how are we going to know for sure if you never see her again, Cay D.” Young Rian, sitting at our “kitchen” table with his school books open, was the only one in the group I allowed to use that nickname.

“Don’t worry about it, Ree. She’s probably not it. Cayden has had this feeling many times before,” Donavan, in his signature bass voice, tried to shut down Rian’s hopes.

“Don, I know you would be the last to agree. But I’m telling you, if you saw this girl’s drawings, even you would be floored. She’s got to be it.”

“Dude, we’ve been all over the country, all over the world. If you, or any one of us, haven’t found her by now, we never will.” Donavan patted me on the back before hopping up onto one of the bunks towards the back of the bus.

I leaned up against the counter with the tiny sink and one-burner stove that was supposed to be our kitchen. With my arms crossed and my head down, I continued to listen to my brothers’ admonishments for walking away from the girl.

“Hey, come on, bro. Don’t listen to these clowns. There’s only so much you can do, aside from harpooning the chick in the head and dragging her out here, which is highly discouraged of course. Don’t think that’s going to get you laid,” Kyler playfully rustled my hair, which he knew I hated with a passion, so I swatted his hand away.

“Thanks, little bro. I can always count on you to put things in perspective in a wildly inappropriate manner.”

“Spare me, the way you talked about her, don’t tell me you didn’t want to bang her brains out.”

“It’s not like that Kyler. I’m interested in this girl for much more important reasons, in case you weren’t paying attention.”

“Whatever, man,” he smirked.

“Love is not lust. The two are poles apart. Love liberates while lust binds. Narayanananda Swami.”

“Thanks Gus, always a big help,” Quinn teased.

Gus, our faithful bus driver, was a man of few words, but he had floppy disks full of quotes in his brain, and he would chime in with one at any given moment. He always found one relevant to the situation, and to me, he was one of the wisest men I knew. Admittedly, I had to stop and think about what Kyler said. Yes, I was blown away by Maeve’s abilities, and it was refreshing to meet someone who didn’t want to throw her panties at me. But I had to admit she was pretty cute. Ah, hell with it. She was beautiful. In a Velma from Scooby Doo kind of way if that makes any sense. But you could see her eyes through her glasses, cat-like and penetrating. She would have probably looked gorgeous with her hair down. Big breasts too, I laughed to myself, hoping the guys didn’t notice the redness in my face caused by visions of her amazing rack. I liked to think of myself as the level headed one, but I was still human. And I had all the time in the world to be human.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. Confucius.”

Gus leaned forward over the steering wheel and peered out the windshield. I moved up by him to see what he was looking at so intently. There she was. The poor lighting didn’t help, but I knew it was her walk.

“Hey, Quinn, Kyler, come here!” Rian also jumped up.

“What is it, Cayden,” complained Quinn. “I just poured a bowl of Lucky Charms. I don’t want them to get soggy!”

“That’s her.”

“Her who?”

“The girl. Maeve!”

“Oh shit!” Quinn laughed maniacally then opened the bus door.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Maaaeve!” he bellowed out the door instead of answering me.

“Dude, come on!”

“Okay, I got her attention. It’s all you now, brother.” Quinn waved for me to get off the bus. Once on the ground, I saw her still standing there by her car, probably confused or freaked out.

“Book er, Danno,” he punched my shoulder.

“I swear I’m having Gus drop you off at a funny farm one day.”

“Whatever, get going. Ask her if she wants to go to the boardwalk with us.”

“Since when are we going to the boardwalk?”

“Since now.”

I took a deep breath and ran towards her. I saw her looking for her keys in her bag, so I picked up the pace. Once I got close enough for her to see it was me, she stopped her desperate search.


“Hello again, Maeve.”

“You are stalking me, aren’t you?” she joked.


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