tris·kai·dek·a·pho·bi·a/ triskī-dekə-fōbēə/ Extreme superstition regarding the number thirteen.
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In my book, Operation: Christmas Hearts, one of the secondary characters has a severe problem with superstition. USMC Lieutenant Pete “Rabbit” Kincaid finds his entire life run by superstition.
Ramstein Air Base, Germany, 1600 hours/T minus 18 days ’til Christmas
Never in his life had Nicholas Turner run from a fight or paid any attention to the what-if questions racing through his mind prior to a mission. Never had he outright questioned an order or wondered if his CO was crazy.
He sat on his bunk doing a final inventory check. Transport for the first leg of his deployment to Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan was scheduled for 0400 hours, just about twelve hours away. For the first time in his life, Nick was not a hundred percent prepped and fired up to get the job done. His work in Recon had always been intelligence gathering, covert missions that helped with battle staging. When he’d transferred to MSOT, he’d expected more action responses. Never in his wildest imaginings had he expected to find a Marine Special Operations Team pulling a Paul Revere for the enemy.
The door pushed open and Nick’s roommate entered. “What kind of screwed up mission is this?” asked Rabbit. He crossed the room, gave his duffle a kick as he passed it, and sat on the edge of his bunk.
“Just another day in paradise,” muttered Nick, stowing a strap cutter in his stripped down go-pack. “Details of the op are above my pay grade. I just want to get boots on the ground and get it done.”
“Whatever. You know this is messed up.” Shaking his head, Rabbit reached into his shirt pocket, drew out a fresh roll of hard candy and peeled it open. He cursed when he found orange on top then went through his ritual of removing the offending circle and dumping it into the trash can while he avoided touching it. Without glancing at the package, he dropped the next candy into his palm and popped it into his mouth then returned the roll to his pocket. “Whoever heard of giving the enemy a heads—” Rabbit’s face went white then red. Finally, he spat the candy onto his bunk.
The orange circle bounced once then stuck to the middle of the ugly tan and green blanket. Rabbit stared in horror. With a hand that trembled, Rabbit snatched the roll from his pocket. “No way,” he whispered. “The next one should have been white. They never put two of the same color in a row.” He worked at the wrapper until it came open. The very next candy down was white. His breathing came in short bursts. “No freakin’ way.”
As Nick watched his roommate struggle with superstition, he wished he could discount it as a myth. But something twisted in his gut. Something that had never bothered him before. He lifted a hand that shook to the sterling silver St. Brendan medal he wore on a heavy chain around his neck. The need to talk to Ashley sent him to the phones to see if they were operating.
I’m happy to announce that Rabbit has decided to tell me his story, which begins with an incident that takes place…well, today, Friday, January 13, 2012. But it doesn’t end here. Enjoy this sneak peak, and watch for Rabbit’s story in The 13 of Hearts, due out this summer.
People always seemed surprised to find that war wasn’t a string of constant bloody battles. More often than not it involved watching and waiting, especially these days. Lieutenant Peter “Rabbit” Kincaid usually hated the waiting. Tonight, though, he wished the waiting would go on another day.
Rabbit brought his cupped hands together and blew into them. His warm breath spilled into the chilly air around him in giant white puffs that stood out against the night of the Afghanistan desert. Who knew a desert could get so freeze-the-butt off cold? Of course it wasn’t like this was any normal desert. This place was the stuff hell was made out of. Even the Afghan people referred to the Helmand Province as the Desert of Death. The packed sand beneath his feet wouldn’t be any softer in the blistering summer months to come than it was currently, at the height of the harsh winter. The barren ground produced little in the way of nourishment for the people, but it did somehow mange to support drug habits worldwide with its bountiful harvests of white poppies.
“I need a smoke,” he muttered to himself, passing the pitiful shelter of the guard shack at Checkpoint Four with a nod to the corporal on guard duty. Instead of cigarettes, though, Rabbit pulled out a roll of hard candy and eased it open. He checked the color with a penlight, and breathed a sign of relief that the first candy was red rather than orange. Rabbit popped the disk into his mouth and sucked on it, the sour cherry-flavor stimulating his salivary glands, reminding him he’d skipped his dinner MRE. He squeezed his eyes shut and then pushed them open again as he fought to keep awake.
“There’s been reports of sniper fire outside of the perimeter after dark, sir,” reported the corporal.
“Understood, corporal,” Rabbit replied. “I won’t go far.”
The candy wasn’t cutting it. His nerve endings were alive with the sensation of a thousand insects crawling beneath his skin. Need for nicotine clawed at his brain like a living entity. Spitting the cherry flavored circle into the dirt, Rabbit dug out the pack containing his last few cigarettes. Then he patted his pockets, cursing out loud when he realized he’d thrown away his lighter earlier after he’d used it for the third time. He paused and glanced over his shoulder at the guard. “Got a light?”
The corporal tossed him a blue disposable lighter. Rabbit cringed at the color, not his preferred black. But he accepted it with a smile of thanks, the need to light his cigarette outweighing the need to keep his luck running with him. So he jammed his hand into his pocket and tapped the rabbit’s foot there three times while he lit up.
Friday the thirteenth loomed, a mere handful of hours away now. The day Rabbit would rather hole up in his bunk and not come out until the clock hit zero-hundred hours on Saturday the fourteenth. But that wasn’t an option this time. And coming along with this dreaded Friday in January, would be the start of one of the trickiest missions Rabbit had ever been sent on. And this time, he would be the one in charge.
He kicked at a frozen puddle until the ice broke free, sending a huge chunk flying through the air to shatter against a fifty-five gallon drum that was usually lit with warming fire. No fire would grace the barrel tonight with sniper fire in the area. Rabbit glanced at the stub of cigarette between his fingers. Even that small light could draw the wrong kind of attention. With a final puff, he dropped the stub into the dirt and ground it beneath his heel.
The waiting game was almost over, whether or not he wanted it to be.
While you’re waiting for The 13 of Hearts, why not put off some of today’s superstitions a little longer, and capture a bit of lingering Christmas Magic to be found in Operation: Christmas Hearts? Leave a comment for an opportunity to win your own PDF copy of Operation: Christmas Hearts (or any other of my published novels).
Kay’s Friday the 13th Reading Recommendation: Ghosts in the Graveyard by Kim Bowman – a great way to scare yourself silly on a dark Friday the 13th night! Enjoy a few words from my talented friend, fellow editor, fellow author, and writing partner:
Dread filled Charlie as the apparitions started through the open door. With the moonlight behind them casting them in shadow and the only thing remotely visible the white surrounding black eyes, they looked sinister, evil. The things were close enough now to be heard, and the whispery hissing sounds they made seemed to surround Charlie and prevented any other noises from entering his ears.
“Last chance. Let the boy go or I’ll shoot you,” she warned.
More scuffling. Fear that the intruders were going out the cellar door taking Jack with them propelled her forward and she stepped down with her right foot.
There was a gasp from both Millie and Charlie and her heart dropped to the floor.
My children! she thought as she tumbled over.
While most kids can’t wait to dress up in costumes and go out trick or treating, Charlie, Jack, and Millie Foster dread Halloween. Even the promise of receiving a slew of candy doesn’t interest them. How could it when they know the truth about All Hallows Eve. That it’s really a day to fear, a day when the dead walk the earth again. With their house sitting directly behind a graveyard, they are prime targets for the spirits to haunt.
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