Thursday, July 28, 2022

Markey (Part 2 of 3 Parts) blog post #560

 Image Courtesy of


Last week, Daniel Chamberlain, an ex-seal turned mercenary, had returned home after a fifteen-year absence upon losing his lover in a firefight. The little kid next door who used to idolize him in his teen years, has grown into a handsome, hunky young men. Markey’s vulnerable, but can Daniel get over his loss and become a man again? 15 years to find Marcus Markey, the little kid who’d idolized him, had grown into a handsome, hunky young man. But Daniel, an ex-SEAL turned mercenary had lost his lover, another ex-seal, in a firefight. After a hunt, Daniel and Markey bathe in the river and things get tense. Daniel has just asked Markey if he was thinking of joining the SEALS, and Markey answered with an enigmatic comment that he wouldn’t fit in.




I left that remark where it was, and we sat around languidly nipping at the beer, me relating carefully selected bits and pieces of the last ten years while the night slipped away. I even told him a little about Beet.

“Beet?  How’d he get a name like that?”

“His last name was Borak, and that’s Polak for a beet farmer.” I tried to bleed the emotion from my voice. “He was a great guy.”

“Sounds like he was your bud. You know, your pal.” He paused before adding. “Special.”

“Yeah, he was. I mustered out and turned mercenary with him. That’s how special he was.”

“Guess guys get close like that when they’re living and fighting together.”

“It happens,” I allowed. Had he sensed our true relationship?

“You ever kill anybody with your hands?” Another one from out of the blue.

“Yes,” I answered quietly. This was getting a little intense.

“How did you do it?  Cut the guy’s throat?” I shook my head mutely. “Then how?  Show me.” He looked stricken. “Sorry, didn’t mean to get so personal.”

I tried for some humor. “If I show you, I might get carried away.”

“That’s okay,” he responded. “I absolve you in advance.”

“You might, but the law won’t. Stand up,” I ordered, my voice a little sharper than intended. As he rose, I slipped away from the fire and melted into the trees. A second later, I heard him call to me.

“Daniel? Where are you, man?”

I silently circled the camp. From his occasional shouts, I judged he was growing nervous. This wasn’t the way he had planned for the game to go.

Understanding he would shift his stance continuously to watch for me, I eased behind a fat water oak directly to his left. When he turned to check another direction, I slipped up behind him and threw my left arm around his throat. My right thumb pressed gently against his carotid. He gave a strangled gasp and started to struggle but quit when I pressed harder. His artery pulsed wildly beneath my thumb.

“That’s the way I did it,” I whispered with my lips against his ear. I eased the pressure but was loath to release him from my embrace.

He leaned against me in relief. “You scared the hell out of me, man. But…but it was sort of exciting, too. I didn’t even hear you. I knew you were coming, but I never heard a thing.”

“You weren’t supposed to.” My index finger flexed involuntarily against his cheek, caressing the light stubble of his invisible beard. His hair smelled clean and masculine. The length of his body rested against me, setting my groin afire. Abruptly, I released him and stepped away before any damage was done. “That’s the way I did it,” I said again.

“Awesome!” He rubbed his throat where my arm had been.

“No, it was horrible. It’s an incredible high until you realize the thing lying at your feet had been a living, breathing man. Then the excitement leaches away fast.”

“So you didn’t like the killing part, huh?”

“No sane man likes it, Markey. And I certainly never did except—” I bit down on my tongue.

“Except when?”

“Except when I was killing the animals who slaughtered my…friend. And I wasn’t too sane at the time.” I drew a shaky breath. “Well, I’m turning in.”

“Yeah, me, too. It’s been a full day with my first buck and all. And…well, being with you. You know, hearing about your experiences.”

“For me, too. It was good to see what kind of a man the kid next door grew up to be.”

“A disappointment probably.”

“Why would you say that?  You’re a handsome, healthy young man and a good person as far as I can see.”

“Maybe. Sometimes I wonder.”

“Anything you need to talk out?”

That slight hesitation and shake of the head again. “No. I’m okay.”

Deciding to let him off the hook, I stripped to my skivvies and slipped into a sleeping bag laid out in the back of my SUV. Markey’s white jockeys made his flesh seem even darker as he crawled into his own fart bag beside me. We said our goodnights and a silence grew, broken only by the call of night creatures and the squawk of a loon somewhere at the far end of the lake.

“Daniel, is it true they drown proof you in BUD/S?  How do they do that?”

“They tie your ass up and dump you in the water. The first thing you learn is not to panic. When you get over being afraid, you learn to bob your way to the surface and to the shore.”

“Kinda like a real seal, huh?”

“Yep, just not as graceful.”

He let the silence go on longer this time. “Daniel, I…I missed you, man. Thought about you a lot. Your mom used to let me read your letters.”

“I missed you, too, kid.”

“No you didn’t. You were out there doing all kinds of exciting things. You didn’t think about the pesky little kid back home.”

“You’d be surprised. Mom kept me up on your life. I even have some pictures she sent.”

“You do? Which pictures?”

“Photos of you in your football uniform, your graduation, things like that.”

“Awesome. I thought you’d forgot all about me.”

“No way, kid. You were my little brother, you know.”

“And you were my…” The voice died away.

“Your what?”

“Idol, I guess.”

I turned to face him. “That’s not what you were going to say, is it?”

He dipped his head. “Daniel, if I tell you something, will you hate me?”

I chuckled softly. “I could never hate you, Markey.”

“Don’t be so sure. But never mind.” He flopped over on his side.

I clasped his naked shoulder, pulling him onto his back. “Not so fast, buster. You can’t give an intro like that and then just walk away from it. Say it, Markey, and trust me to handle it, okay?”

“I…” the voice dropped to a mumble. “I have feelings for you.”

“So do I, buddy.”

“No!” he cried in an anguished voice. “Not…not like that. I have feelings for you! I want to do things with you. But…but I don’t know what!”

I swallowed hard. “What are you saying, kid?”

“Kid! Yeah, what are you saying, kid?”

“Sorry, but to an old dog like me, you are a kid.”

A silence grew. Well, you fucked that one, Chamberlain. I was debating pushing him some more when he spoke.

“Daniel, how do you know if you’re….”

“You’re what?”

I sensed rather than saw his shrug. “Different.”

“Everybody’s different, Markey. That’s what makes us who we are.”

“I’m not talking psychology. I’m different.”

I threw back my sleeping bag and came up to rest on my elbow. “Okay, man, it’s time to talk turkey here. Say what you mean.”

“How do you know if you’re…well, gay?”

That one hit me between the eyes. “You try it with another man. If you want to slug him when it’s over, then you’re not. If you don’t give a shit one way or the other, you were probably just experimenting. If you can’t wait to try it again, then you probably are.”

He turned to face me, and even in the faint light, I saw him examine my naked torso. “Who do you try it with?”

“Someone you like. A buddy. Someone who won’t go berserk on you afterward.”

His Adam’s apple moved. “Can I try it with you?”

“Me?” My mouth went dry.

“Sorry,” he backed off. “But I’ve been wanting to try it so bad. And I don’t know anyone safe. I mean—”

“I know what you mean.”

“I love you, Daniel,” he said so softly I wasn’t sure I heard him right.

“That’s kind of fast, man. I just got back.”

“No. I’ve loved you since before you went away,” he said, swiveling his head away from me.”

“You were only eight years old then.”

“Didn’t matter. I still felt that way. Thought maybe you felt it back. Nobody ever treated me like you did. Practically like a grown up…like you were.”

I laughed softly. “Shit, I wasn’t even a grown-up myself.”

“You were to me…the most grown-up guy I knew.”

I put a palm to his cheek and turned his head to me. Silver shafts of light in the onyx corneas made them gleam like black fire.

“I didn’t know,” I whispered.

“Remember how I used to feel your muscles after we worked out? I always hoped you’d feel mine back, but you never did.”

“Didn’t mean I didn’t want to.”

“Did you?” he asked, flopping on his side to face me.

“Yeah, but I didn’t have the nerve. If I had touched you, something would have happened, and you were too young. Hell, you probably didn’t even know anything about things like that.”

“Then how come I’d go home and play with my pecker afterward? The first time I came, Daniel, I was thinking of you.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I kept my mouth shut.



It seems some military demonstrations have turned into something quite different. It’s clear that Markey is willing…anxious even, but Daniel?

 See you next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.



 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Markey (Part 1 of 3 Parts) blog post #559

 Image Courtesy of


Let’s start a new story this week, a three-parter about a guy with a history returning to his hometown to find the kid who used to idolize him has grown into a hunky, handsome young man. But given the recent tragedy in his life, can he advantage the situation?


Here we go.                                                                                



“Take the shot,” I whispered as the four-point buck left the cover of the pine forest and hesitantly stepped onto the narrow meadow. The animal took a long look around before carefully lowering his head to the pale autumn grass.

“Me!” Markey gasped aloud. The white tail’s head shot up, ears flicking nervously. The animals were skittish as hell this late in the season. We had glimpsed a button buck and a spike, both of which were legal, but this was our first decent shot of the hunt.

“Yes, you!” I hissed. “Take it.” For someone who had been so blessed eager to come on the hunt, Marcus Markey seemed downright reluctant to pull the trigger. “Markey, point that fucking rifle and shoot.” I allowed a little exasperation to seep into my voice, knowing that would motivate him.

He eased the Remington thirty-aught-six over the edge of the blind and took a bead. I watched as he drew a breath, held it, and squeezed. Judging from the stricken look on his face as the report echoed against the far hills, his aim had been good. The second last thing the kid desired was to kill a living animal; the very last thing was to look like a pussy to someone he looked up to…and that would be me.

There was a gulp, and the strangled words. “Got him.”

“Good shot, buddy. Your first kill.”

“Yeah…kill,” he responded with another gulp.

“Well, let’s go collect him,” I said, leaving the blind and starting down the hill.

My name is Daniel Chamberlain, and I had recently returned to my Oklahoma hometown of Victor for the first time in fifteen, tumultuous years. If the navy had tamed my wild side, the SEALS handed it back in spades. You will neither read nor hear news reports about the clandestine missions I’d been on, but I have killed and collected commendations for the killing. Quiet heroes, the SecNav once said of my team.

Doubtless, I would have finished out my career and retired to a restless pastoral life of secret memories had it not been for Beet. When Beet—Warren Borak—a lithe, dangerous man four years my senior, took a nineteen-year-old tadpole under his wing, neither of us suspected powerful forces had been unleashed. He guided me, counseled me, nurtured me, and protected me. And one memorable, moonless night in Lebanon, fucked me vigorously in the excitement of an especially brutal action while we waited for the team to reassemble.

My life was never the same after that. Nor was my future…our future. Ten years into my enlistment, Beet and I got drunk with some buddies in Naples where our physical attraction for one another surfaced. We were kicked out of the navy in record time and with as little fanfare as possible.

We became mercenaries, fighting for causes just and not-so-just all over Africa and Southeast Asia. Happy and open about our relationship, we dared the macho world of mercenaries to do something about it, but those intrepid warriors didn’t give a shit. So we hired out for buckets full of money to do what our government had trained us to do for peanuts.

Then last year, my beautiful Beet…a nickname hung on him by the SEALS…died in a firefight with a vicious gang in Africa. That he, a superbly trained professional, should die at the hands of rank amateurs strung out on local drugs was almost beyond belief. I completed my contract, taking a terrible toll on the tribal militia that had killed my beloved. Collecting my own pay and a whopping life insurance settlement as Beet’s beneficiary, I returned to the United States and tarried in the east until it was clear Uncle Sam had no beef with me for my activities of the last five years. Then I returned home.

Marcus Markey was an eight-year-old neighbor kid when I left for boot camp at Grand Island Naval Training Station. The boy had lived next door to us since the family returned to Victor upon the death of his GI father in Kosovo. Markey, who had adopted me as his big brother, struggled beside me with all the push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, dips, flutter kicks, running, and swimming I did for a month to get ready for boot. He even attempted the Ninjutsu and Israeli Krav Maga moves recommended by the BUD/S—that would be the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training—website. After each workout, he liked to run his hands over my sweaty biceps to test the hard muscle; it bothered me in a vague way I didn’t understand back then. Markey went to the bus station with my family to see me off, and I still recall his thin arms locked around my waist in a goodbye hug, and the tears that soaked my shirt.

Now, glancing at him as we strode down the meadow, I could still see traces of that shy, adoring kid in this lanky twenty-three-year-old. He’d retained the creamy complexion and black sloe-eyes that gave him a slightly foreign cast. A once shaggy mop of black hair was cut short in a vaguely military style. But if Markey ever joined up, he was in for a bad time until he got tough enough to secure his own ground. It wasn’t just that he was far beyond merely handsome; his long, curled lashes alone would earn him grief in the barracks. Markey could have been a beautiful girl except for the Adam’s apple. I wondered if he had ever cross-dressed. There wasn’t a sign of a beard on his smooth skin, although I’m sure there was one; it merely cleaned up well. There wasn’t much of the kid I knew fifteen years ago in this fantastic youth—except for the shy, diffident demeanor.

“Kinda small,” he observed wryly as we reached the fallen stag.

“It’ll make good venison. Well, let’s get at it,” I suggested, noting the absence of any pride in the kill. “We’ve gotta field dress him.”

“You mean cut him up?” The words were almost strangled.

“You want to leave him for the coyotes?”

“N…no. Of course, not. But I don’t know how.”

“We’ll gut him now and pack him back to camp to dry out a little.”

“Uh…okay. Will he be all right tonight?  You know, he won’t go bad?”

“No. It’s cool enough. He’ll hold for a couple of days.”

We hauled the buck away from the kill area and strung him up in a tree. After a couple of false starts, Markey slit its belly with a grimace of distaste. When that job was done, we hauled the carcass back to camp where we hung it again, washed out the cavity, and left it to dry. Then I grabbed a bar of soap, stripped, and waded into the lake. Ignoring the shock of cold water, I lathered up while Markey stood on the shore staring at me in disbelief. After all, it was November.

“If I’ve learned one thing in the last ten years, it’s to keep clean,” I called. “Keeping clean is half of staying healthy. Coming in?”

I watched as he undressed in the late afternoon sun, revealing a long-limbed, clean-muscled physique with unblemished skin and little body hair except for a pubic bush. Visually embarrassed, he turned with his flank toward me, which merely silhouetted a long cock sprouting from curly hair. He rushed into the water and gasped aloud at its frigid grip.

I continued lathering, well aware of black eyes studying me closely. I rinsed and repeated process until my skin squeaked. When I tossed him the soap, he seemed frozen in place. Then he floundered frantically until he recovered the bar. As Markey scrubbed, I could tell my inspection bothered him, so I swam out into the lake. Sufficiently warmed by my exertions, I silently submerged and covered the distance to the shore underwater. When I surfaced beside him, Markey was frantically calling my name.

“Right here,” I said quietly, startling him.

“Damn, Daniel!  I thought something happened to you. You were under for a long time.”

“A fifty-yard underwater swim is mandatory for SEALS.” I laughed. “You’d be surprised how many tadpoles had to have water pumped out of their lungs after their first try.”

Markey’s teeth were chattering, so I crawled out of the water, knowing he would follow. To spare him further embarrassment, I kept my eyes averted as we dried off and dressed. I did the cooking, a trade-off for him cleaning up the gear afterward. Later, as darkness was wresting supremacy from light, we sat at a campfire and sucked on long-necked bottles of beer.

“How was it?” he asked out of the blue. “You know, the SEALS.”

“Great!  Best time of my life.”

“Why’d you get out?”

I swallowed the temptation to tell him the truth. “Found out there was more money to be made outside the navy for doing the same thing.”

“I heard you were a soldier of fortune, but I didn’t believe it.”

“Why not?”

“You were so gung-ho.”

“You grow out of that pretty quick.”

He let a small silence grow as I sensed some of the hero worship leaking away. Then, “How come you went for the SEALS?”

“After boot, I got caught up in the spirit and put in for BUD/S training.”

“How was it?”

“Hell,” I said simply.

He grinned into the dying flames. “How about Hell Week?”

“Hell on steroids. You thinking about becoming a tadpole?”

That brought a quick frown and another swig from the bottle. “Naw. Not cut out for it. Wouldn’t fit in,” he added enigmatically.



Well, we know who Markey is now, don’t we? He’s the young man struggling. But Daniel has his own battle, doesn’t he? Will he opt to help Markey or help himself?

 See you next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.



 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

A Dragon Named Pedro (A Repost) blog post #558

 Image book cover of The Zozobra Incident

This week, I’m opting for a repost from May 2016. The following story is essentially lifted from my novel, The Zozobra Incident, except it is told from the viewpoint of Paul Barton, who becomes the significant other of B. J. Vinson, gay former marine, ex-Albuquerque cop turned confidential investigator. Actually, you might say it is from the viewpoint of Pedro, the small, tattooed dragon with a death-grip on one of Paul’s nipples.

 Why did I return to this story? I don’t know… maybe because I am considering writing an eighth novel to the series.




From his high perch, Pedro the Dragon’s lidless eyes seemed fixed on the man in swimming trunks lying on a poolside lounge. Good build, and probably handsome when viewed up close. He knew his owner watched the man as well. The brown nipple Pedro held in the talons of one clawed foot stiffened and puckered, a subtle but sure sign of interest.


Paul sat in the tall lifeguard’s chair at the North Valley Country Club and watched the man basking in the early morning sun. At this hour, they were the only two individuals at the swimming pool. Even though Paul was new to the club, he knew the man had an interesting history. B. J. Vinson—no one could tell him what the initials stood for—had once been a US Marine and then an Albuquerque Police detective before becoming a private eye. Intriguing.

But no more so than the man, himself. Strange colored hair… mocha he’d heard it called. Eyes as green as a polished Granny Smith apple. Chiseled features; handsome but not pretty. Lean and athletic. Good, tanned skin without blemish except for one scar on the inside of the left thigh. Scuttlebutt held that was from a gunshot wound Vinson got back when he was a policeman.

Although aware they were alone, Paul involuntarily glanced around to see if anyone noticed he was taking too much notice of a nearly naked man. Where he came from—Albuquerque’s south valley—interest like that would earn a guy a beating or worse. The thought startled him. Interest like that? Well, he couldn’t deny it. He felt the small, tattooed dragon on his left pec squeezing his nipple, making it stand up. And tingle. Pedro often set off so many nerve endings that it became embarrassing for Paul to stand up in polite society.

To avoid that eventuality, he climbed down from his elevated chair and snared a floating candy wrapper with a telescoping aluminum pole equipped with a leaf net.

“Kids,” he muttered softly with half an eye on the other man. The aroma of summer roses climbing the club’s adobe wall battled the odor of chlorine from the pool, distracting him for a moment.

Vinson reached for a glass beside the lounge and missed, spilling what appeared to be orange juice.

Paul dropped the skimmer and picked up the glass, holding it out. “Can I get you another?” Pedro gave a yank on Paul’s nipple when he noticed those fascinating green eyes studying the tiny tattoo.

“No, thanks. Nothing left but ice cubes, anyway.”

Pedro about went crazy at the sound of the deep baritone.

“But I appreciate your offer, uh….”

“Paul. Paul Barton.”


He noticed the slight hesitation but decided not to enlighten the man. Aware he was a mixture of Hispanic and Anglo blood, he often got that reaction to his last name. But his mother had been the Latina; his father the Anglo. “Anytime,” he muttered as his eyes wandered the man’s lanky form, halting without intention on the purple scar.

“Bullet wound,” Vinson said.

“Damn, I’ll bet that hurt.”

“Like you wouldn’t believe. That’s why I swim early in the morning. Therapy.”

“Swimming’s the best exercise in the world.” Paul felt his cheeks burn as he revealed himself as a dyed-in-the-wool water bug. He glanced down at his tight trunks. Well, dyed-in-spandex, anyway.

His cell phone piped “Dixie” on a nearby table. He eyed the other man as he answered the call. Jill Hardwick asked what time he got off work and suggested they go to a movie that evening. He told her “five” and said he had plans. As he finished the call, Vinson tossed him a wave and disappeared into the locker room. Pedro gave a final squeeze to Paul’s nipple, making him wish he could follow the detective to the showers. “Sorry, Pedro,” he mumbled. “Can’t think of a logical excuse.


By five-thirty, Paul felt foolish hanging around outside the club’s Moorish gate. He’d misread the situation… badly. BJ Vinson, PI, probably hadn’t given him a second thought once he left poolside. But Paul—as well as Pedro—had had sensed a strong connection with the attractive detective. Looked like they were both wrong.

Just as he started walking to the employee’s parking lot, a white Impala swung to the curb and stopped. The hunky detective rolled down the window and leaned across the seat. Without exchanging a word, Paul hopped into the passenger’s seat as Pedro did his thing beneath the tight polo shirt. Feeling the need to say something, Paul went trite.

“Hi, Mr. Vinson.”

“Call me BJ or Vince. The Vince comes from Vinson.”

“What do most people call you?”


“Okay, then I’ll call you Vince. At least when nobody’s around.”

“Where can I drop you?” Vince asked with a smile.

Paul’s grin almost split his lips. “Wherever you’re going is okay by me.”

Pedro must have approved because the inky claw spasmed, squeezing Paul’s tit almost painfully.



The story stirred a feeling of nostalgia in my worn breast. Hope you enjoyed it.

 See you next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.



New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

 w Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Almost Me blog post #557

 Image courtesy of


It appears to me that our protagonist last week chanced upon a fairy fairy. Sorry, couldn’t resist that.


This week, we’ll stay with the mystic a bit longer. Tell me how you like this offering.


                                                                       ALMOST ME

The path, rocky and uneven, made it difficult to find my footing given the shadows thrown by the surrounding forest and the fading light as the sun began its journey below a horizon hidden by towering trees. I cursed myself for not having returned to the house to saddle Thunder or harness one of the carriages. But I had already been far afield on foot when I cottoned to the time and grew aware of the approaching hour the summons from his lordship had specified. Faster to complete the trek by foot.

And so it was, but I would arrive flushed and unseemly and likely be required to remain overnight. Nay, I’d borrow a steed for my return home. Earl Harold was not an onerous liege, but I preferred other company. And why was the “invitation” for me alone, excluding my father… even as a courtesy? Word would have reached the manor by now of the delirium in possession of my sire. By rights, I should have ignored the Earl’s message and remained at Father’s bedside.

I broke free of the woods and paused at the edge of the broad expanse of lawn surrounding the pile of stones called High Wethersby Hall. Dark turrets husbanded the gathering gloom while tall spires desperately clutched at the last rays of the dying Sol. A dismal place despite flickering lights at many of the windows.

Before stepping from the tree line, I caught sight of an indistinct figure near the east corner of the building. I drew breath to hail the individual, but my call died in my throat. One blink of the eye… and the figure had disappeared.

“My word, that was odd,” I muttered to myself. But perhaps not. The man, and I was certain the figure had been masculine, had been near the corner of the manor house and likely simply stepped out of sight. Resisting the urge to check on a possible intruder, I maneuvered the grassy lawn to the graveled walkway leading to the front door of the hall.

Why did I assume it was an intruder? It could have been a servant, a groom, a guest. Almost endless possibilities loomed, yet “intruder” stuck in my brain. That being said, there was something oddly familiar about the phantom. My father! He had moved like my father in his younger days.

One of the earl’s servants answered my knock and stepped aside with a mumbled acknowledgment, “Master Saxon.”

I handed him my cane, alas my hat remained on its customary peg at home. “Evening, Pushkin. I am here at the invitation of his lordship. But I need a place to wash up and make myself presentable.”

“Yessir. His lordship is expecting you. Right this way.”

Once he showed me to a small side room with washstand and toweling, I dismissed him upon learning my liege was in his library. So it wouldn’t be a family visit. That would have been held in the drawing room. My curiosity heightened as I washed my face and hands free of dust and combed my mop of hair into some semblance of order.

Earl Harold did not rise to greet me as I entered the library. He merely glanced up from a ledger, snatched off his reading spectacles, directed me to a seat opposite his escritoire, and leveled a look at me. I took in his lean features, frizzy hair the color of ashes, and firm downturn of the mouth. This was not a social call.

“Josiah Saxon, there is no possible excuse for your behavior.”

I straightened in my chair. “I apologize, sir. I came here directly from the fields.”

“I’m not talking about your dress, man. I mean your behavior.”

“I don’t understand. How has my behavior proved offensive?”

His lordship’s cheeks took on color. “Playing the Peeping Tom on my daughter and her friends is not offensive?”

My chin dropped. “Beg pardon, sir?”

“Don’t bother with denials. My daughter saw you clearly, as did her two friends.”

I gasped. “Lady Esme saw me intruding on her privacy?” Not that I wouldn’t have liked to cast gazes on that fair flower and inhale her perfume, but this was a false accusation.

“Precisely. And she called you out on it.”

I gained my feet and stood ramrod tall. “Milord, I was overseeing work in our fields for the entirety of this day. In fact, I walked to the hall directly from our northernmost pasture. If I have given offense, it was not by spying on Lady Esme and her friends.”

“You dare to stand there and deny your perversions?”

“Aye. I do. Because the charge is patently false.” I hastened to correct my language when the earl came halfway out of his chair. “Lady Esme is simply mistaken. May I not ask her about the incident?”

The earl didn’t stutter, but he came close. “Y-you want me to involve my daughter in this offensive discussion?”

“I should merely like to assure her I would do no such base thing. I believe I can convince her of my innocence. And you, as well, sir. I was in full view of several of our laborers for a good part of the day. The remainder of the time, I was tending my father, who is ailing, as I’m sure you have heard.”

“Aye. I sent my doctor to him. Not much to be done, I hear.”

“I fear that is true. He’ll be taken from us soon. In a way, he already has been.”

“How so?”

“He lives, but he lives in the past. He talks to my mother and my aunts, all of whom are long gone. He will join them soon, I fear.”

“Josiah, you and your father have my sympathies, but his impending loss does not release you from the consequences of your behavior.”

“Milord, may I be so bold as to ask a boon? Allow me to return home. Once my father’s situation is resolved—one way or the other—I will return and make my defense against these charges.”

The earl stood and delivered me a long, uncomfortable stare. “Very well. Go home to your ailing father. Once that ordeal is over, we will talk again. You should know that my intention was to have my servants place you in a carriage and deliver you to the proper authorities. But that can wait.”

Given the circumstances, I could neither remain in the hall overnight nor request the loan of a horse to ride home. Thus, I departed the same way I had arrived, on my own two feet.

I had nearly gained the cover of the wood when I heard a voice behind me.


I whirled at the familiar voice to find my mother standing behind me. My breath deserted me. My ma’am was taken away a decade ago by a fever. “M-mother?”

She stepped backward when I moved toward her. “I apologize for your troubles. This should not have happened. It’s all your father’s doing. Joseph should simply have gone easy. Instead he’s fighting, calling on us.”

“Mother, I don’t understand.”

“No, I suppose you don’t. But….” She halted and inclined her head as if listening. “It’s your father. Joseph needs me now. Goodbye, son.”


As with the apparition near the manor earlier, one blink of the eyelid and she was gone. Staggering as if dealt a body blow, I reeled on toward the waiting path. I needed to get home. Make sense of all this. “Hurry, Joss, hurry,” I muttered to myself.


A deep voice, also somewhat familiar, came near to costing me my balance. I steadied myself and turned to face whatever was there.

What was there was me. Well, almost me. By a full moon’s glow, I perceived hair darker than my brown.  A noticeable lentigo adorned his right cheek. A fraction taller.

“W-who are you?” I managed to get out, despite paralyzed vocal cords.

“I am Jacob, Josiah. Your brother. Your twin.”

“I have no brother.” I struggled to put conviction into a faltering voice.

“Aye, you have. Or had. I died at birth. And the family concealed the fact from you. You see, I strangled on your umbilical cord, and they sought to spare you guilt.” The man, creature…apparition, gave me a speculative look. “I’m pleased you grew up to be a handsome, well-formed man.”


“Because that gives me form, as well.”

I drew a sharp breath. “It was you!

“Who invaded the lasses’ privacy? Alas, I’m afraid so. I’ve been denied so much and have so little time to satisfy a myriad of curiosities.”

So many questions flew around in my head I grew addled. But Jacob, seemed to know them.

“It was our father. In his dying delirium, he summoned me. Me and mum.” His expression grew sad. “I’ll go when he does.” His image flickered. “And I fear that will be soon.”

“Wait!” I shouted. “We have to get to the manor. You have to tell his lord—”

His image faded alarmingly. The voice weakened. “Not enough time, I suspect.”

And then I blinked. He was gone.

As the import of his disappearance struck me, I lurched down the dark, wooded path toward home, knowing full well that my father had died.

Another thought struck like a pole ax between the eyes. How would I ever convince Lord Harold—or the authorities—of what actually happened?


I’d say our protagonist is in quite a pickle. And I haven’t figured out how to get him out of his difficult situation. Can you? Suggestions welcome.

 See you next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

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