Monday, May 30, 2011

A Deadly Kind of Love excerpt by Victor J Banis

In A Deadly Kind of Love by Victor J Banis, nothing bad is supposed to happen. Not in Palm Springs.

At least that’s what San Francisco private detective Tom Danzel and his partner Stanley Korski believe. But when their friend Chris finds a dead body in his hotel room bed, Tom and Stanley drive out to help the local police investigate.

What they discover is a gangster’s plot, a rather nasty green snake, and an elegant hotel that offers delicacies not usually found on a room service menu. The two detectives are going to have to rely on their skills and each other if they’re going to survive this very deadly kind of love.

Deadly Kind of Love
Dreamspinner Press (June 3, 2011)
ISBN: 978-1-61581-916-4 (ebook)
978-1-61581-915-7 (print)


“Whew. That was quite a party!” Chris Rafferty breathed a weary sigh and leaned back against the car’s headrest, letting his eyelids drift closed. “I’m just around the next bend there.”

“Sweet” The car leaned gently about a final curve. “Whoa, you’re staying here?” the driver, Eddie, exclaimed. “At the Winter?”

“Umm hmm.” Chris’s reply was heavy with threatening sleep. He was having trouble staying awake. “Is that special?”

“Special?” Eddie whistled faintly under his breath. “Gosh, The Winter Beach Inn is like the top place to stay in Palm Springs these days. The top gay place, for sure. I don’t know, maybe the top place period.” He turned his head to look at Chris in the pale greenish glow from the dashboard. “So, are you some kind of millionaire, or what?”

“Me?” Chris laughed. “Hardly. I’m a nurse, I told you earlier. Did you ever hear of a millionaire nurse?”

“No, but I don’t know many nurses who could afford to stay here either. It’s mostly rich, older queens. Let me guess, you’ve got a sugar daddy, right?”

Another laugh. “Not me. My best friend, Stanley Korski, he works sometimes for this big name decorator in San Francisco, Wayne Cotter, and Wayne drops enormous bucks here whenever he comes to town. He might even own a piece of the pie, I don’t know. Anyway, when I said I was coming to Palm Springs, Stanley called Wayne and Wayne called the Inn, and, voila. I got a room on the house.”

“Talk about lucky.” The car slowed. “So, what suite are you in? They’re all named for movie stars, right?”

“Right. I got the Jeanette McDonald. Oh, no, wait, they switched my room. Just as I was coming out tonight, as a matter of fact. I was headed for the door and stopped to powder my nose, and I realized my toilet had backed up, and as quick as you please, they moved me lock stock and barrel to the Alice Faye. I didn’t even have to lift a pinkie. You can drop me here.”

They pulled up by the massive gates—locked at this late hour. Eddie switched off the headlights. “You sure you don’t want to, uh…you know?” he said. He glanced upward. The sky was still dark, but with the opalescence that foretold the morning. “We could greet the dawn, so to speak.”

“Ah, thanks, um,” Chris mumbled the name, afraid he wouldn’t get it right, “I would, but I’m beat. I’m not as young as I used to be. Next time, okay?”

“Sure.” Eddie sounded disappointed, but not too. “I’m kind of ragged myself, to tell the truth. You wanna have lunch tomorrow?”

“Too early. I’m going to sleep in. Let’s say dinner. Why don’t you call me? Only, not before noon, okay?”

“Sounds good. Hey, you know what, can we eat here? I’ve always wanted to see inside this place. This is probably the only chance I’ll ever get.”

“Absolutely. The food’s good, too.” Chris leaned across the seat to give his companion a quick peck, which turned into something a bit more prolonged. They rubbed together for a long moment, lips locked.

“Sure you don’t want to change your mind?” Eddie asked when they came up for air.

“Trust me, it would be a futile gesture,” Chris said. He opened his door to slide out. “Tomorrow, okay? Not too early.”

He used his key card to let himself through the gates, took the yellow brick path about the main building. During the day the swimming pool was sometimes so crowded with bodies that you could hardly see the water, but now it was empty, a huge turquoise kidney, smelling of chlorine. The fronds of the palm trees overhead rattled like ghostly castanets. A white napkin, missed by the cleaners, blew past his feet in the desert breeze, caught on the leg of a chair, a linen tumbleweed.

He got to the door of the Jeanette McDonald suite before he remembered he had been moved, and half staggered to the next door over. He’d had way too much to drink tonight, plus smoking a couple of joints, and what was that pill he’d taken, anyway? Not to mention he had danced until his legs actually felt shaky.

“Getting old, Christopher,” he told himself, letting himself in to the Alice Faye suite.

The room was dark. From his earlier brief inspection, he remembered blue ruffles and lots of frills, and a parasol for a lampshade. More frills, maybe, than he wanted to face just at the moment. He didn’t bother turning on the lights. The faint glow through the curtains was enough to show him his way to the bathroom door, a first stop his bladder was absolutely demanding. Always listen when your bladder demands, was his motto.

In the harsh glare from the bathroom’s overhead light, he blinked and glowered at his disheveled appearance in the mirrors that covered all the walls—eyes bleary, hair in disarray, a big stain of some sort on the front of his shirt. Multiple appearances, he corrected himself. You could watch several of you, or maybe several of somebody else, take a leak.

He smiled sleepily, thinking of a friend or two who would find that pleasantly kinky—but at the moment, business was more urgent than admiring, or not admiring, himself. His little playmate popped out of his trousers just in time for a noisy pee that went on and on and on. It was definitely blessed relief. He sighed and rolled his eyes heavenward. There were times he honestly believed it was better than an orgasm.
Flushing, he avoided looking at the mirrors again. One glimpse was enough to remind him he was no longer a kid and that late night carousing took its toll in ways it hadn’t ten years earlier. His wool coated teeth really needed a good brushing, but he was too tired. He flipped the light off before he opened the door, and went out.

After the brightness in the bathroom, the bedroom was dark as pitch, nothing to be seen but the pale rectangle of the window across the room, the blue green light from the swimming pool leaking through. He felt his way in what he thought was the right direction for the bed and, bumping into it, dropped down on it with a noisy, “oof.”

In a minute or two, he told himself, he would get up and strip off his clothes and get under the covers like a civilized man. For the moment, though, he just wanted to lie there, catching his breath, savoring the memory of a great night on the town.

His breathing slowed. He did not after all exactly feel like going to all the trouble of getting up and undressing. He thought instead he’d just snooze for a little bit. There was always time to take your pants off, wasn’t there? It wasn’t like there was somebody with him to take them off for.

Which reminded him briefly of the young man who had dropped him off at the gate. Eddie, was that his name? Cute. Japanese, with the almond skin and soft dark eyes and lips of velvet, sweet to the kiss. And horny, certainly, despite the late hour and all the entertainment. Maybe he should have…?

Too late for that, he told himself sternly. And he didn’t think he had the energy to masturbate, either. He really was getting old. He turned onto his side, let one arm flop limply across the bed—and discovered there was something in the bed with him.

One hand went tentatively up and down. Yes, it was just what he’d thought at first, a body. As if his horny thoughts had conjured it up—a male body, lying on its back, it took only seconds of exploration to confirm the gender. A naked male body, which made the confirmation much easier than it otherwise might have been.

Even drunk and tired as he was, he thought there was something to be said for having a warm naked body in bed with you. Pleasant to contemplate, certainly. There was just one slight problem with that scenario, however.

This body was not warm.
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Monday, May 23, 2011

Candy G. excerpt by C Zampa

What kind of man drives a bulletproof Mercedes and carries a high-powered pistol in the glove compartment along with his boyhood teddy bear? Candy G does, that’s who. Once the exclusive attorney for the most powerful drug lord in San Antonio, he turned his back on Teirso Flores and walked away. But at what price?

Moving on with his life despite the threat of Teirso’s revenge, Candy meets gorgeous, streetwise Carlos Alvarez, and thus begins a passionate love affair rife with danger, secrets, and specters from the past that just won’t let go. When truths are revealed, will the one thing that brought their worlds together be the test that strengthens their love or the knife that severs their bond forever?

Candy G.
Dreamspinner Press (March, 2011)
eBook ISBN: 978-1-61581-826-6


EVEN amidst the crowded nightlife on the riverwalk, people trained admiring gazes on Carlos. How could they not? Clad - much dressier than usual - in white linen pants and a black silk shirt that highlighted his glistening platinum hair, he was stunning. In a rare act of grudging capitulation, only to make me happy, he’d allowed me to buy the outfit, and I’d chosen well.

His extraordinary appearance combined with the romantic atmosphere - twinkling lights and mariachi music wafting on the gentle evening breeze - brought a swell to my chest, not to mention my cock. I, like the admiring passersby, couldn’t take my eyes from him. My Carlos, an elegant, dark panther prowling the San Antonio night scene.

The last time I’d been to the riverwalk had been with Jorge. Remembering that had been the night Carlos returned to my life, the date that marked this anniversary,the thought sparked an inward grin. Maybe Jesse was right. Maybe it was silly to celebrate the occasion. I didn’t care. I was happy.

The waiter seated us near the river’s edge, and Carlos eased into his chair, carefully placing a Walmart sack he’d been carrying on the table. He stared dreamily into the reflection of hundreds of lights dancing off the gently moving water.

I stared at Carlos.

Sensing he was being watched, he raised his gaze to me. He should have been used to my admiring him, but he blushed anyway. “You’re making me self-conscious. You know I don’t like dressing up.”

My fingers toyed along the thin line of grout between the tabletop tiles. “I’m sorry. You look very good, chico.”

He tugged at the cuff of the shirt. “All dolled up, I feel so - ”

“It pleases me.” The sincerity, the pleasure in my voice surprised me. “You’re so beautiful. My heart is happy tonight, bebé.”

Apparently it touched him. A tender smile filled his eyes, and he rested his elbows on the table, propping his chin on clasped hands. “You look pretty fucking good yourself, Candy.”

“Thank you.”

“You draw so much attention wherever you go.” He glanced around the busy sidewalk, the restaurant’s multicolored lights sparkling in his dark eyes. Returning his focus to me, he said, “That makes me proud.”

“If anybody’s looking, it’s at you, mi amor.”

“Sure. Whatever.” He blushed again.

Leaning forward, I murmured, “Can you not see how beautiful you are?” Every detail of his face, his body, which I’d memorized since I’d first seen him, sent wonderful palpitations to my heart and warmth to my groin. “All day,every day, all I can see, whether you’re with me or not, is your face in my mind. And then all I can think of is touching you, making love to you. Me vuelves loco. You make me crazy.”

The smoldering brown gaze pierced me, roamed every inch of my face. “How crazy?”

Burning up under the intensity of his stare, I pulled back in the chair. “Crazy enough to think about forgetting dinner and… well…. There’s all the time in the world.”

Excitement flashed in his eyes, and he picked up the sack. “I have something for you.” He slid his hand into the bag and pulled out a CD. Holding it to his lips for a
moment, he handed it to me, and the happiness in his face,so simple and boyish, melted my heart.

La Paloma. He’d bought a new La Paloma CD. Love swept through me, bringing tears to my eyes.

“Bebé.” My fingers lovingly brushed over the case.

“Thank you, mi querido. After my baby-ass tantrum, breaking the other one, I don’t deserve this.”

Tucking his chin, he winked over the rims of his glasses. “No, you don’t.” He paused as the waitress placed menus in our hands.

The very pretty girl, her hands clasped behind her back, rested a genial - though somewhat coy - smile on Carlos and asked what we wanted to drink. I told her two
Coronas. Nodding and throwing another bold, appreciative glance at my lover, the young lady thanked us and sauntered away.

Carlos hadn’t seemed to notice the flirty employee. He picked up the conversation where he’d left off. “Like I said,you don’t deserve a new CD. But you’re the only man who’s ever played music for me when he fucked me.”

I laughed hard. “Ah, chico, I think you’re trying to be romantic. But you make me sound very pathetic.” Funny thing, though. Carlos, in sharp contrast to his streetwise persona, was the most romantic man I’d ever known. His drawings, his poetic talk, just his pure sensuality.

Everything about him painted a picture of beauty, idyllic eroticism.

Fire blazed behind his wide eyes, and he lurched to touch my hand. “No. No. I… I love that you play your… song for me.”

“Thank you, then, bebé, for La Paloma.” I laid the CD on the table. “I can play it every night for you now,” I playfully threatened.

His tongue swiped, languorous, seductive, across his bottom lip. “And that means you have to fuck me every night.”

The little tease. The silky touch of his finger sent pleasure coursing through my veins like a powerful opiate.

“You think you can stand being fucked every night, chico?”

A brow shot up. “I’d give it my best shot.”

The cute waitress returned to place our beers on the table and take our orders. At the sight of Carlos’s hand on mine, the sex in both our eyes, she cooled considerably as she listened to our selections. When she headed back to the interior of the restaurant, I sucked in a deep breath and pulled the jeweler’s box from my pocket.

“I have something for you, chico.” Reaching across the table, I handed the box to him. How clumsy I felt. Romance ruled my heart but never showed itself very well in my actions. I felt I was too old-world for a contemporary man such as Carlos. Just as his fingers touched the lid to open it, I blurted, “You’ll probably laugh, Carlos. It’s… it’s…. You might think it’s silly.”

Upon opening the box, his hand shot to his chest, and he swallowed hard. “Candy….”

“It is silly, isn’t it?”

“Oh, no, no.” His mouth gaped open, and he brushed a hand through his hair. Shaking his head slowly, he whispered, “It’s… it’s… a dove. It’s the most—”

“Listen, you don’t have to—”

Carlos bounded from his chair and cornered the table so fast I didn’t have time to react. With his arms wrapped around my neck, he pulled me close, and I breathed in his spicy, earthy scent.

“You like it, then?” I wanted to cry, I was so happy that he was pleased.

Pulling back, his arms still circling my neck, he sighed.

“I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in my life, Candy.”

His voice, so low, caressing, whispered close to my ear, “I love you so fucking much, Candelario Gonzalez. I love you so goddamn much.”

The sidewalk was crowded with customers, and they surely gawked at us, but I didn’t care. Love for Carlos gushed from my heart, and all I wanted to do, needed to do,was hold him, touch his lips. Although the thoughts that swirled in my soul were passionate and lyrical, the words that spilled from my mouth were idiotic. “So I don’t need to take it back? Well, it was custom made, and—”

“I love it, cariño.” Oblivious to curious gazes, he pressed his lips, which tasted of salty tears, to mine. “I love it so much.” He straightened and leaned back against the table.

“Then you’ll wear it for me tonight?” I rested my hand on his waist.

“I’ll wear it for you tonight.” Hunger darkened his eyes, softened his voice. “Let’s eat fast, then, so we can—”

“Nah, chico.”

“No?” He cocked his head to the side.

“Nah. I reserved a room at Mansion Del Rio.”

Excitement sparked in his eyes. “Ah.”

My sexual juices were stirring, my cock swelling, at the vision of making love to Carlos high above the river with the nightlife pulsing below us. “Would you like that?”

Squinting, he eyed me. “Can I order a banana split from room service in the middle of the night?”

How could he turn even the word banana split into an aphrodisiac? Dios, how my dick ached.

“You can order anything you want in the middle of the night.”

“Can I order you to fuck me in the middle of the night?”

“You can.” Resisting the urge to pull him onto my lap, I growled, “But by the middle of the night, mi amor, you may be begging me to stop fucking you.”

For a moment our gazes locked, and we said nothing, fucking each other with our gazes. As though coming out of a trance, he lowered to his haunches, resting his hand on the table to steady himself. “Put it in now.”

“Put… what… in now?” My mind lagged behind his, still writhing with him on an imaginary bed.

“The earring.” He reached to remove a silver stud from his earlobe. “I want you to put it on me.” Laying the discarded earring on the table, he snorted. “Sort of like
getting engaged.”

“Getting engaged, eh?” I pulled the diamond dove out of the box, removed the back from the post, and bent to insert the earring. Each time I touched Carlos was like the first time, and the light stubble on his cheek, his smooth skin against my fingers, sent shivers through me. “You realize, bebé, in my old-fashioned world, that means I own you.”

As I put the earring on his lobe, he nuzzled into my hand and purred, “You already own me, Más Chingon.” His hand covered mine.

“Good.” I helped him to stand and scoured the restaurant patio. “Where the hell is our food? I’m ready to go.”

Carlos returned to his seat, and I stared, mesmerized,as the new diamond in his ear sparkled in the festive lights.

Cognizant of my gaze, he touched the glittering dove and caressed it. He mouthed the words thank you.

I took a tortilla chip from the basket and broke off a piece, putting it in my mouth. There seemed to be nothing to say, no need. All I wanted to do was stare at him, drink in his beauty. I just smiled and murmured, “Te amo, mi amor.”

“Te amo.”

Before I could say another word, my cell vibrated on my belt. I checked the caller ID. Jesse. I opened it and answered, “Qué?”

Jesse immediately blurted, “Before I tell you, you need to know that I didn’t go looking for this. It’s just a coincidence.”

Those words told me the call had something to do with Carlos, and my heart pumped hard, causing my throat to constrict. In a rusty voice, I asked, “What is it, Jesse?”

“Elias Rojas came by La Banda last night, and—”

“This is about Elias Rojas? You’re calling me about—”

“Shh!” Jesse hissed. “Don’t say his name where Carlos can hear you!”

“I thought for a minute you were going to bring up… well, you know… the subject you obsess over.”

Jesse advanced, cautious. “Jefe, it is about Carlos.”

“I don’t get it.” Whatever it was, I didn’t want to get it.

“Rojas is looking for you. He insists you meet with him.”

I brushed my fingers through my hair. “You’re losing me, mi amigo. What does he have to do with—”

“He says, Candelario, that he has some information about your pretty amor Carlos that you will find very interesting.”

Closing my eyes tight, I tried to focus. “Jesse. Wait a minute.” I scrubbed my forehead hard. “What the fuck would he be talking about…. What would he….” The words jumbled in my head, and I tried to discuss this without Carlos hearing. “Why would he be discussing… this person?”

“It seems, Jefe, that Rojas knows… this person… your Carlos.”

Sweat broke out on my forehead. I swallowed hard and steeled my nerves, knowing Rojas might only want to tell me something I already knew—Carlos’s drug arrest, maybe.

“Tell him to fuck off.”


“No, really, Jesse. Tell him to fuck off. I’m not interested in his petty gossip. The fucking little snitch.”

Fingering the saltshaker, I added, “He probably found out about… well….” I stopped in case Carlos heard me. “And he thinks I don’t already know.”

“It isn’t about Carlos’s drug arrest, Candy.”

My pulse raced again. “Then—”

“Candy, he says he knows who your… boyfriend is.”!/authorczampa

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Furlough Bridge excerpt by Jardonn Smith

In Furlough Bridge by Jardonn Smith, it's December of 1944. With the German offensive soon to be known as The Battle of the Bulge one week underway in Belgium, folks in the United States are enduring a Christmas filled with concern. Forrest Barton, who fought in the Great War of 1918, visits Kansas City's Union Station hoping to lift spirits of traveling soldiers. He meets an Army private who's missed his train home, and Forrest decides to drive the young man there himself, but as the 100-mile road trip in a blinding snow storm progresses, Forrest becomes skeptical that his charity case soldier is all he claims to be.

Furlough Bridge
MLR Press (A "Got 15 Minutes?" Read) (December, 2010)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-280-5 (ebook)


As they passed the Independence city limits, Forrest found he could see even better in the darkness of the countryside — no street lights. He slouched down a little, relaxed his body, took one hand off the wheel and unbuttoned his overcoat. "Sure am glad I filled up with gasoline earlier. Add some extra weight to this heavy machine."

"There's a truck stop open all night outside of Wellington, if you need to fill up on the way back."

"What do they sell?"

"Skelly," Gower answered, while turning and reaching to the back for his Army bag.

"That'll work."

Gower removed a small bottle from his bag, and then set the bag at his feet on the roomy front floorboard. "Would you like a snort of whiskey?" He opened the cap. "It'll keep you warm."

"Makes me sleep good, too, but not tonight." He reached for the bottle and took a short swig. "Focusing on this highway will keep me wide awake." Forrest passed the bottle.

"It's a hell of thing, ain't it?" Gower tipped back the bourbon for a swallow. "All that white coming down, and a black ribbon of asphalt cutting straight through it."

"Yep. Almost like somebody dug us a tunnel to Lexington."

"That's exactly what it is, sir." He offered the bottle. "Want another?"

"No, son, one will do for me, and I'd like for you to call me Forrest from now on. All right?"

"Can do, if you'll promise to call me Vernon."

"It's a deal."

Vernon replaced the bottle cap and returned his bourbon to his bag. "I've got to tell you, Forrest, being in that station with all those people made me real uncomfortable."

"It's a busy place. Third in the country, you know, after the two in New York."

"Hmm, I didn't know that. Of course, I get jittery on a train, too. All those people crammed together. Give me the wide open spaces any old day."

"Same here, Vernon. That's why I enjoy working for the highway department. Outdoor work. The only humans I've got to be near are the men working under me, and I can tell 'em to shut up and give me space if I feel like it." He reached for his stub and his Zippo. "You want a smoke?"

"No, thank you."

Forrest decided against it, too, thinking it would be smarter to keep his eyes on the road at all times. "Sounds like you plan on being a farmer." He stuffed the cigar stub into his shirt pocket. "Am I right?"

"That's the idea. My step-father always said he'd give me the land my real father had owned. Good soil north of the river bridge. Said he would deed it back to me when I come of age, but me getting Myrna pregnant soured his attitude. He put us up in a little house on the edge of town and told me I'd have to work for him until I'd paid him back. Other than that, he wanted nothing to do with me or my family, and he still doesn't."

"What did he think about you joining the Army?"

"Didn't like it, but he had no say in it. I would've joined the day after Pearl Harbor, but I wasn't old enough and he was still in charge of me, legally. I spent time in the school library reading about my rights, so I knew that once I turned eighteen, I belonged to me. I signed up that very day."

Forrest noticed that not only was Vernon's demeanor more relaxed, he now spoke as a man who had been places, not some naive youngster from the boon-docks. Vernon Gower had thought things out, found the answers he needed to plan his future for himself, his wife, and his children.

"So, I take it Myrna and your children are living on your Army pay?"

"I'm their only source. Whatever I can send them. I think Myrna wrote that she was looking for Christmas gift-wrapping jobs, so she might be doing that. I don't know. How about you, Forrest? You have family?"

"Oh, uh..." Forrest was caught a bit off guard by the sudden switch of subject. "I was married once. She contracted the influenza while I was overseas. You know, the epidemic of 1918, and she died from it."

"Did you get to be with her before you shipped out? I mean, you know, intimate-like?"

"Yes, I did. Several times."

"Naked?" Vernon's fist lightly tapped Forrest's bicep. "Making love skin to skin?"

Forrest chuckled. "Yes, indeed. It's the only way to be."

"Ah, there's nothing like the warmth of a soft body laying next to you."

"Or under you."

"Or on top of you."

"Mouths open. Lips locked."

"Hands running up and down your back."

"Or my hands running up and down theirs."

"Breasts pressing against mine."

"The quiet moan you hear when you kiss their neck."

"Or the louder moan you hear when you kiss their chest."

"Their surrender when you slide down to kiss their belly."

"Or the way they suck in that belly when your tongue pokes their navel."

"Or they way they smile and brighten their eyes when you raise their legs and drape them over your shoulders and..." Forrest stopped himself.

"So, Forrest, tell me about Ernest Surbaugh."

They'd reached Wellington, and at the perfect time — one-o-nine — so Forrest could momentarily switch topics. "That must be the truck stop you were talking about." Forrest checked his dash. Fuel tank three-quarters full, good to go. He gathered his thoughts and prepared his answer. "I met Ernest Surbaugh in a WPA camp. 1938. I was foreman on the project. Fixing the bridge over the Gasconade River and Highway 66 several miles in both directions. Ernie and I hit it off real quick. You know how you run across a man who thinks like you do? Same interests? Same outlook on things?"

"Kind of like you and me hit it off?"

"Sure... well, sort of. Anyway, that's me and Ernie."

"So, I take it he's in the Army and looks like me?"

"Yes. From where I was standing you looked like him. Of course, like I said, there was no reason for him to be there, but I just had to be sure."

"Makes sense. Is he about my age?"

"He's twenty-eight now. Twenty-five when he joined up."

"Do you know where he is?"

"Last letter I got he wrote in August. He was in France with the Third Army."

"Patton's men?"

"Yes." Forrest suddenly realized that despite all the questions he'd tossed out, not once had he asked this soldier about his military situation. His company. His function. His history, or current, pre-furlough assignment. "Vernon, I'm sorry. I can't believe I never got around to asking, but what company are you with?"

"7th Armored Division, 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion."

Somehow, those words and numbers, that Division and Battalion label, struck a note with Forrest, but he couldn't recall when or why. "Where were you when you got your furlough?"

"In Belgium, near a little town called Baugnez, or something like that."

"Belgium?" Forrest turned and took his eyes off the road, looking at Vernon for a second or two. "Now, son, that just doesn't make sense," he resumed looking at the highway. "I read the papers. I listen on the radio. All you men positioned in Belgium have been in a hell of a fight since last Saturday. How in the world could you get furlough?"

"Nothing was happening when my papers were approved. I got a transport out just in time."

"Well, I'll be God damned. You are one lucky son of a gun, I'll hand you that."

"Yes, I am. Proof being this snow hasn't let up one bit, but it's still melting soon as it touches down."

Voices gave way to silence. Only the heater fan, wiper blades, purr of the engine, and whine of the tires rolling on wet pavement were heard, as Forrest considered the seemingly impossible good fortune of Private Vernon Gower. He couldn't believe it. Even if Vernon had received his papers, the Army would have called him back before he got to the States. Maybe not to the front lines, but somewhere, some position where he could be put to use. At least, that's how it would have been in Forrest's day.

His heart sank as they passed the city limits sign of Lexington. Forrest turned on his interior lights and checked his watch — one forty-three. He refused to believe Vernon Gower's story, and he felt that he'd been duped after all.

The tiny house sat on a corner lot. Two steps led to a wooden porch with an overhanging roof. The front of the house had one door and one window. A light was on inside and a small tree without lights was visible. Forrest also noticed the silhouette of a service banner hanging in the window. He stood behind Vernon with shopping bag in hand, as Vernon knocked on the screen door.

The porch light came on. The wooden door opened, and a woman wrapped in a robe stood behind the screen. "Yes?"

She looked right past Vernon and directly at Forrest. Or, more precisely, she looked through Vernon, and he turned around to face Forrest. "Go ahead, give her our presents."

Dumbfounded, Forrest shifted to his right. Looked at Vernon, and then at the woman, who asked. "Can I help you, sir?"

Vernon nodded his head toward the window. "That blue star service banner will be replaced by a gold one soon." He took a step toward Forrest, stood with his left breast a few inches from Forrest's. "Sorry I had to tell you a lie, Forrest. I never left Belgium. She's not expecting me or these presents, so go ahead, give her the bag."

"Sir?" she pressed him. "What is it you want?"

"Oh, uh... here," Forrest held the bag forward. "These are for you, Mrs. Gower, and Thomas and Debbie."

"I don't understand," she stayed behind the screen door. "Who are you?"

Vernon placed his hand on Forrest's shoulder. "Just a good friend. That's who you are, Forrest. Tell her."

"Yes, uh, I'm a friend of your husband, Vernon Gower, and he wanted me to bring these for you." Forrest set down the bag, as Vernon moved behind him.

"You know Vernon Gower?" she asked.

Forrest turned away from her and faced Vernon, who spoke to him. "Thank you for doing what I couldn't do." He took two steps backward, stopping at the edge of the porch. "I've got to walk over to that river bridge, now. You got me here just in time."

"Mister?" the woman barked with frustration. "How do you know my husband? And what are you looking at out there in the yard? Mister? Can't you hear me?"

Forrest ignored her, as Vernon turned and descended the steps. With Army bag in hand, he faced Forrest once again. "One final thing. Your Ernie, he's all right. He's on the march with Patton's Third. He's a good man, Forrest Barton, and so are you."

Private Vernon Gower walked into the darkness, leaving Forrest gawking in puzzlement and a woman nearly in tears.

"Please, sir. I don't know who you are, and you're scaring me. I am going to close and lock this door if you don't..."

"Yes, ma'am, I apologize," Forrest picked up the bag and stepped to the door. "My name is Forrest Barton. Your husband wired me money awhile back, and in his telegram he asked me to purchase and deliver these Christmas gifts to you, from him."

"How do you know him, Mr. Barton? He's never mentioned you in his letters."

"Let's just say our paths crossed for good reason and leave it at that." Again, Forrest held up the bag, chest level.

"Well, Mr. Barton, I will have to trust you, because whatever you've got in your bag is the only Christmas presents my children are going to have this year." She unhooked the screen door. "Other than the goo-gaws I'm making for them." She pushed open the screen. "Won't you come in?"

Her home was a matchbox. One open space, twenty-five by twenty feet with ceiling ten feet high. The front window was the only one in the house. The floors were bare, unfinished wood, no throw rugs. To one side of the back door was a sink with a hand-pump for water. Short wooden planks on either side of the sink were supported by wooden cabinets, no varnish, no paint. Near the sink against the side wall was a big metal wash tub for bathing.

Moving counter-clock-wise, Forrest quickly scanned the rest of the room. To the other side of the back door was a metal frame bed, springs in the frame and a mattress about two inches thick. A wooden chest beside the bed served as a dresser. Rope tied to hooks from two spots on the ceiling was left to hang loose, forming a U shape, and a few wire hangers with articles of clothing hung from the rope. In the center of the side wall was a free-standing, wood-burning stove. Fire crackled inside, the room's only source of heat, and the flue pipe, leaking sporadic wisps of black smoke, ran straight up before curving to its exit through the wall near the ceiling.

Near the stove was a ratty-looking couch, its dull gray fabric worn and with holes. A white-turned-to-gray sheet covered its seat cushions, and two children slept foot to foot atop the sheet and beneath one pink blanket, badly faded. In the corner was a scraggly-looking cedar tree plopped into a hand-made wooden stand. No presents were under the tree. Ornaments hung by string were made of white paper cut into shapes of stars or bulbs, with designs drawn by black lead pencil.

Next to the tree, the window framed the back side of a blue star service banner hanging proudly. Past the front door sat a rough wooden table with four chairs, no finish, no table cloth, just some paper, a pair of scissors, and a pencil — the table being used for her construction of ornaments.

Illuminating the entire room was one bare bulb dangling from one bare wire three feet from the ceiling, a string hanging from the short chain for the off and on.

"Your step-father-in-law doesn't think much of you, does he?" Forrest stepped toward the tree. "What does he do, intercept the money Vernon sends to you?" He pulled gifts one by one from the bag and placed them under the drying and dying cedar.

"They're held at the post office. Mr. Hantz gets the money, and I get the letter afterward."

"Yes, well, that is highly illegal, if you ask me." He bent down and picked up one present. "Here, this one is for you."

At first she hesitated, and then she stepped forward, grabbed the package and ripped away paper like a cat shredding mouse flesh. "Oh, my goodness!" Her eyes welled up and she covered her mouth with her fingers, trying to hold back tears.

"Try it on," Forrest took the box with its plastic window, opened it for her and removed the watch. She held out her left arm, and he wrapped its elegant-looking, thin band of tan leather around her wrist, securing its clasp of pin through band hole, excess hide tucked under leather loop.

She held it in front of her face, extended her arm and twisted, viewing her watch from all angles. "It's... beautiful."

"Merry Christmas, from Vernon. Here, let me set it to the time I have."

"He's dead, isn't he?"


"You know who. Vernon."

"Well, now, you don't know that. Sure, he's in a tough fight, but that doesn't mean..."

"Yes it does. His fight is over and I know it. More reports come in every day about the massacre. I hear it on the radio in the shop where I've been working part-time wrapping presents."

"What massacre?"

"Malmedy. That was his unit."

The light came on inside Forrest's noggin, his memory stirred. That's where he'd heard the Battalion number. News reports. He almost blurted it out, but caught himself. "Oh, yes. It's a rotten thing, from what I've heard about it. What unit did you say Vernon was in?"

"The 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion. I memorized it long ago. Those are the men who surrendered, and the Germans took them to a field and shot them dead."

"Not all of them," he tried to console her. "A few got away. That's how we're getting reports about what..."

"Mr. Barton," she broke in. "Please, please get me and my children out of this place. I hate to ask you. I have no right to ask you, but I will simply die here without Vernon to protect me."

As she burst into tears, Forrest wrapped her in his arms, his hand nestling her head against his breast so she could hide her face. The wool of his coat muted her outburst, so as to not awaken the children. He let her cry. He gently rubbed her neck with one hand, patted her back with the other, and slowly swayed back and forth as though comforting a child. "It's all right, dear one. You go right ahead and cry. You've got every right to cry. Everything's going to be fine."

Forrest had it figured. Undoubtedly, Marvin Hantz carried a lot of weight in Lexington. If he said Myrna Gower was trash, she was trash. Sure, it might still have been fairly common in small towns for a teenage girl to get pregnant, but it dropped her social status to that of a dog turd. Whether she had blood relatives in Lexington or not, Myrna Gower's future, and therefore her children's future, looked rather bleak.

As Myrna gradually regained control of her sobbing, Forrest separated enough so she could see his face. "Myrna, if you are one-hundred percent sure you want to leave, gather up whatever belongings you want to take with you and pile them on the porch. Forget the furniture. It's all junk."

"It all belongs to Marvin Hantz."

"So I suspected. Get the clothes and whatever. I'll load your stuff into my Buick's big ol' trunk. We'll wrap Thomas and Debbie good and warm, and I will take you all to Kansas City. There are plenty of jobs for women in the cities. Good jobs. Factories need women because the men are at war. Good schools for your kids, too. So, what do you say?"

"Give me five minutes and we'll be ready to go."
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Monday, May 9, 2011

Emerald Mountain excerpt by Victor J Banis

Emerald Mountain by Victor J Banis. A homophobic, hate spewing evangelist. A gay messiah, who brings people back from the dead, and whose own past is shrouded in mystery. An empty asylum in the Ohio farmland. And the Emerald Mountain, the legendary haven for lost souls. A burned out reporter tries to unravel the threads. "We are all hearts in exile," he writes, "stumbling alone in the dark..." Hailed as a modern classic

Emerald Mountain
MLR Press (April, 2011)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-33-8 (ebook)


Castro Street was a kaleidoscope of wet hues. On the far corner, in the brightly lit windows of the Twin Peaks, the young men watched the passersby, and the older men watched the young. A lone pedestrian, too impatient for the light, darted into the street, skirting cars and their spray. A chorus of horns scolded his audacity.

The Walk sign flashed. Simon crossed, playing Dodgem with a multicolored sea of umbrellas, and paused outside the bar. He felt a twinge of expectation, that peculiar sense of something special impending that sometimes seizes one, for no discernable reason.

The rain began to come down harder just then, as if to convince him to take shelter. Like a ghostly hand at his back, a gust of wind nudged him forward and, without consciously making a decision, he stepped through the open door.

Inside the overheated room smelled of damp clothes, of sweat and beer and too many, too different, colognes. Glasses clinked, and a chorus of male voices competed with one another. He made his way to an unoccupied table by the window.

At least, he would have sworn there was no one there when he sat down, until a voice said, almost in his ear, “I was afraid you wouldn’t get here in time.”

Simon started and turned, and found himself looking into the face of a stranger, a craggy face, tawny in color, with a majestic nose and deeply cleft chin—and electric green eyes, the eyes of a hawk, fastened directly on his own, compelling attention.

“I’m so sorry,” Simon stammered, and half rose to his feet. “I thought the table was empty.”

“No, please. I insist.” The stranger laughed and spread his long fingers. “The table is large and my drink is small.”

Simon paused to glance around the room. All the other tables were full and men stood two and three deep at the bar. Really, what could he have been thinking, it would have been a miracle to find an empty table on a day like this. It was share this one with a stranger, or fight his way to the bar.

“Well, if you don’t mind." He smiled and sat, and looked out the window, to discourage conversation. Outside, a queue of passengers jostled at the curb to board a steaming Muni bus. A Latina woman with a crying baby in her arms pressed back against the bar's window in a vain effort to shelter from the rain.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” the stranger said.

Which, as pick up lines went, was not very original, Simon thought. Maybe, after all, the bar would be the better choice. He sighed and was half out of his chair, when a young man with a tray balanced on his hip came up and asked, “You want a drink?”

“Yes, only…."

“The way you’ve been bobbing up and down, I wasn’t sure.”

Hawk eyes said, “Order a drink. And do sit down, please. People are staring.”

“Look, I don’t even know you. I’m sure,” Simon said. Or did he? Something familiar…but, surely he would have remembered those eyes, they might have been glittering emeralds, the brows above them like gray-brown caterpillars.

The waiter shifted his weight and tapped his tray with a cerise fingernail. “Most customers don’t need an introduction before they order," he said. "But you can call me Mary if it makes you feel better.”

“I meant him,” Simon said.

The young man cast a quick, bored glance around the crowded room. “There’s a roomful of guys, honey, and I don’t do introductions. If you’re interested in somebody, send him a drink. Or blow a kiss, it’s cheaper. What'll you have?”

“I’m Michael,” the stranger said, and added, “he can’t see me.”

Simon asked, "What do you mean, he can’t see you?”

The waiter took a nervous step backward. “On second thought, sweetheart, I don’t think you need another drink,” he said. “How about some coffee? Fresh brewed. No charge. My treat.”

Simon's senses felt oddly heightened. He knew the people on either side of them were watching, he seemed to see them without looking. The music was louder than before and from the bar snippets of conversations swirled about him like aural confetti.

“Is this some kind of a joke you guys cooked up?” Simon asked.

The waiter took another step back and cast a nervous glance in the bartender’s direction. “Honey, we don’t like trouble here. Maybe you should try another place. How about The Cove, it’s just across the street. You could get a bite to eat while you’re there.”

Even before it happened, Simon had stood, turned to look outside, as if he knew the Latina woman on the other side of the glass was going to scream, as neatly as if they had rehearsed it. She held her baby at arm’s length and shook him.

“My baby,” she shrieked, “he’s stopped breathing.” She looked around frantically, and suddenly stared through the window, directly, beseechingly, into Simon’s eyes. “Gran Dios. Save him, save my baby.”

People moved toward the door, not a stampede, exactly, but enough that Simon was swept along with them. Without knowing exactly how he got there, he was outside, part of the crowd collecting around the sobbing woman. She was on her knees now, kneeling. The baby lay on the sidewalk before her, crimson faced, not breathing. Surely, Simon thought at a glance, the child was dead.

Thunder rumbled distantly. Simon shivered. It reminded him of—of what? The thought was gone as quickly as it had come. It was just a rainstorm. Just thunder. His hands felt cold and numb. He had no consciousness of moving them and yet, when he looked down at them he saw them stretch, as if of their own volition, in the direction of the infant. He seemed to be watching from some place outside: he saw himself lean over the child, and asked himself, what is he doing, he’s not a doctor?

The lightning struck right where he was standing. He thought, it's supposed to come before the thunder. It exploded inside his head, a blinding blue-white light. Electricity crackled along his arms and out his fingertips. His senses, preternaturally heightened an instant before, shut down completely.

The same as before…the blackness...the rain…lightning…

It might have been seconds or hours before he became conscious of himself again. He felt as if a tornado had lifted him up and carried him a great distance, like Dorothy in that movie. Where was he? Was he dead? Didn’t people die from lightning strikes?

But no, he was just where he had been, outside the Twin Peaks. The rain still fell. A frenzy of Saturday afternoon traffic rushed up and down on Castro Street. Everything was as it had been.

Except, a baby was crying and—he realized this more slowly—people were staring, staring wide-eyed at him, mouths agape. He looked down. It was that baby, the one who had surely been dead a moment before, howling lustily and kicking his feet.

“You saved my baby.” The mother scooted around clumsily on her knees and fell against Simon’s legs, seizing them so violently she nearly knocked him over. “He brought my baby back to life!” Her voice rose to a shout.

Bruno and Nate lived in a pseudo-Spanish confection on Sanchez Street—called, appropriately enough, Casa Sanchez. I had called them in advance and they were waiting to welcome me into their apartment.

Bruno was six foot of gay male fantasy. Nate was the boy-next-door, good looking if you like that type and weren't lusting after his partner. He wore a pale green robe that matched his eyes. There was a friend there too, whom they introduced as Jake.

They offered drinks, which I declined, for the moment. I like to keep a clear head, at least when I begin an assignment. Later—well, later generally took care of itself, one way or another.

We settled on tea, and sat in the living room. The tea was minty. The aroma of lamb roasting wafted from the kitchen. It was very domestic, ordinary. No one looked loopy. Maybe Joe had made it up. Only, Joe wasn't imaginative. He had never made a pass at me, which I think pretty well illustrates his lack of imagination.

“Joe wanted me to talk to you,” I said, to break the ice.

“I thought Joe would know what to do,” Bruno said.

“What exactly is it you want him to do?”

He looked puzzled. “People ought to know, about what happened. It was a fucking miracle. Isn’t that news?”

“We’re a gay weekly,” I said. “We consider every issue a miracle. What makes your miracle so special?"

Bruno took a moment, clearing his throat. I waited him out. “Nate was dying,” he said finally. “That’s why we brought him home from the hospital. The Meds didn’t work. He couldn’t handle them. We talked about it and decided we'd both rather he die here.”

“I begged Bruno," Nate said, "No IVs, no drugs. Forget it all. I was ready to go. I’d made my peace.”

I must have looked unimpressed. “Show him,” Bruno told Nate.

Nate stood and untied his robe, and let it fell open. Now I was impressed.

“Very nice,” I said, all too lasciviously, and waited for Bruno to pound me senseless.

“You don’t get it,” Nate said. “A week ago, I was lesions, head to foot.”

“Do you see anything wrong with him now?” Bruno asked.

“Not a thing,“ I said. Nate closed his robe and sat down again. I gulped a mouthful of tea, scorching my tongue.

“Neither do I," Bruno said. "It’s like he was never sick, like he never got infected in the first place.”

“That happens with the new Meds.”

“You weren’t listening," Nate said. "I couldn’t take them. I got severe reactions. I stopped taking them altogether, three months ago.”

“Spontaneous remission.” It sounded lame even to me.

“No fucking way,” Bruno said. He got up and began to pace like a tiger in a cage. “That night, when it happened—he'd already said goodbye and closed his eyes. He was dying. I knew it. He knew it. I held his hand and watched him go.” His voice cracked. I felt ashamed of those lewd thoughts. Still, I wanted to ask for another look, for journalistic reasons.

Jake had been silent up till now. “It’s true," he said. "I work at the hospice. I’ve watched others let go. It was a matter of minutes. Seconds, even. And all of a sudden there was this knock at the door."

“I told Jake,” Bruno said, “Get rid of them, whoever, tell them to come back some other time. I couldn’t deal with anyone, not then. Not with Nate…not with what was happening.”

Jake said, “I went to the door, and there was this guy standing there, I’d seen him around in the complex, the laundry room maybe. An ordinary looking kind of guy. Only, he didn’t look ordinary just then. He looked, I don’t know, spaced.”

“What did he say?”

“He said—I swear it, he said, 'I’ve come for Nate.' That’s all. No hello, no Avon calling, nothing. Just, 'I’ve come for Nate.'”

“And you let him in? A stranger, he looks spacey, he’s talking weird? Weren’t you scared?”

“Scared? You don’t know the half of it. I almost dropped a load then and there. Listen, you know how people talk about their hair standing on end? Well, it’s true, I could feel my hair stand right up. And something else: the hall light in here was off and with the outside light behind him, it looked like he was glowing, like he had a halo or something. All I could think was, Jesus, it’s the Angel of Death. I didn’t say anything, I backed out of his way and he came in, he went straight to the bedroom, like he’d been here before.”

“I looked up,” Bruno said, “and here was this guy, this neighbor. I knew him on sight but I’d never talked to him. I said something like, what do you want, but he just ignored me, he went to the bed.” He turned to Nate. “Tell him," he said, “the way you told me."

Nate looked up at the ceiling. “It was just like people describe it. I was in this tunnel, moving toward the light, the way they say it happens when you die, you know, and somebody called my name. I looked around, and there was this person, I didn’t have a clue who he was."

“Nate had never met him,” Bruno said.

“And he, he didn't exactly come toward me—it’s hard to describe, exactly, but he became everything, like, the sky, the whole universe. Me too, even, like I had soaked right into him. And then, there was this, I don’t know, this explosion, inside me.”

“Like lightning, you mean?” I said.

His eyes came around to me. “Yes, sort of, I guess. I opened my eyes, and there he was, leaning over me, the guy in my vision. The same guy. And, somehow, he had brought me back. From the tunnel, I mean. I was healed, completely. Just like that. The sores were gone, the fever, the pain—everything. I felt…I felt like I had before. Before I got sick."

“I think I will have that drink now,” I said. “Bourbon. Don’t bother with the ice.”

I really did not want to go any further with this. Something about it scared me. I thought seriously about going back to the office and telling Joe I quit. Only, we both knew, nobody else was going to hire me if I did that.

I crushed the cigarette under my foot and climbed the stairs to Peter Simon’s apartment. When he opened the door, I handed him a card and said, “I’ve just been talking with your neighbors, Bruno and Nate. I wonder if you could spare me a couple of minutes. I’d like to ask some questions.”

He was an ordinary looking thirty something—average build, brown hair, clear skin. Really, nobody's dream of masculine perfection, but I thought he probably made out pretty well; or could, if he chose. There was something of the ascetic about him, though. Or maybe that was the circumstances, meeting him just after hearing Nate's story. I sort of expected—well, I don’t know what. Jesus, maybe, with a wreath of thorns atop his head.

He seemed not very surprised to see me, but of course he must have known they’d tell people. You couldn’t run around bringing folks back from the dead and expect it to remain a secret.

"The place is a mess," he said. The living room was cluttered, mostly books, journals, newspapers. It prejudiced me in his favor. Good journalists aren't supposed to entertain prejudices, but books get to me every time.

"Peter," I began.

"Call me Simon," he said.

I had walked automatically to the window, a San Francisco habit. All those views. This one was modest but pleasant, a glimpse of hills over the housetops. It was near evening. Some of the windows were lighted already.

"Everyone calls you Simon?" I asked.

"I don't know."

Which was certainly an odd answer. I turned back to him. At the door, he had been in shadow. Now, in the light, he was better looking than I had first thought. His complexion was remarkable; it almost seemed to glow. His lips were full, his nose small. I’d rate it a cute face.

Except for the eyes, wide, hazel—and utterly lifeless. If eyes are the mirror of the soul, as they say, and I were a little more fanciful, I might have said this was a man without a soul.

"Where are you from, Simon?"

"I don't know," he said again, embarrassed. Understandably.

"You don't know where you're from?"

"Look, I may as well get this over with. I really don't remember. Anything."

"Anything?" I must have looked as astonished as I felt. "You've got amnesia?" I couldn't help sounding skeptical. That was too easy.

"Maybe. I don't know. Sorry. I'm saying that a lot. But, really, I can't—I've tried to recall things, but nothing comes to me. There's this wall. I don't know what's on the other side."

"How far back can you remember? The Peaks, on Saturday? That was you, wasn't it?"

For a moment, I thought he would deny it; then, red faced, he said, "Yes. The baby, you mean?"

"They say you brought him back to life."

"I don't know." He grinned sheepishly.

The grin transformed him. Really, I had never seen so changeable a face. It seemed different each time that I looked at him. It was the grin, though, that made all the difference. It appeared slowly, hesitated for a moment about his lips and gradually made its way to his eyes.

How could I have thought his eyes dull? They gleamed with something I could only think of as sweetness. It was unbearably appealing. Overwhelming, even. I took him in my arms and kissed him.

He could not have been more surprised by the kiss than I was. Until I found my lips on his, the thought of kissing him hadn't so much as crept into my mind, and, here he was, kissing me back, embracing me tentatively at first and then, increasingly, as violently as I embraced him, until we clung together with an almost desperate ardor.


It was a sexual experience unlike any I'd ever had, and my experience could not be described as limited. Simon was more compliant than passionate, though that word too seems inadequate. He didn't just welcome me to him, he surrendered himself utterly, he became me in some way, melted into the very essence of me. We ceased to be two men making love, ceased even to be, in a sense, but simply became an act of pure orgasm.

I don't want to make this sound like some phantom fuck. That orgasm we became, which was how I thought of it when it was over, was The King Daddy of Comes. Appropriately, it was simultaneous. I'd had that happen once or twice. Usually it took careful timing, observation of your partner's responses, control over your own. This just happened.

We rolled away from one another, holding hands, getting our breath back.

It occurred to me that perhaps he had seduced me (which was ridiculous since I was the one who had initiated what had happened—whatever that was) to distract me. I turned to look at him, and was immediately ashamed of that thought. My bullshit radar is state-of-the-art. There was no guile in the face that looked back at me.

There was something sad and remote, however. He looked pained, frightened even. Frightened? I'm impressive, but not that impressive. My smile froze on my lips. "Was that okay?" I asked inanely.

His mouth said, "It was wonderful." His expression did not say wonderful.

"You look like you wish we hadn't," I said. "Please don't tell me that was your first time." He gave me another one of those blank looks. "Let me guess," I answered my own question. "You don't remember."

He smiled, that achingly sweet smile that managed in a twinkling to turn him from an okay-looking guy into something uniquely, irresistably desirable. I had to refrain from jumping his bones again right then and there. It had been years since anyone had made me that horny.

"Well, you may have forgotten the school," I said, "But you surely remembered the lessons."

He was no longer listening to me, though. He was staring into space. "Rain," he said, as if he were thinking aloud rather than speaking to me. "Lightning…"


When he looked at me, his eyes were dead again.
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Monday, May 2, 2011

Placing Out excerpt by P. A. Brown

Placing Out by P. A. Brown is an historical romance set in 1932 Los Angeles. Ben Carter is a 6 year veteran of the LAPD, deeply in the closet. Dylan Daniels was a placed out kid sent from New York's Five Points at 10 to a family in Nebraska until he ran away at 18 when he realized he preferred boys and didn't want to be a farmer. In Hollywood he ends up as a popular hustler with a number of wealthy clients. In a bar raid he meets Ben who is instantly attracted and repelled by this beautiful man. Between them they struggle to overcome the barriers that keep them apart, including Ben being in a brutal squad that frequently raids pansy bars and beats the patrons. This tears Ben apart. Will he let Dylan's love heal him or destroy him altogether?

The New York Times headline is based on a real headline I found in the archives of the Times. The actual date was in the 30s. But much of the wording is the same.

Placing Out
Amber Allure (2011)
ISBN: 978-1-61124-093-1 (Electronic)



Thursday, May 15, 1919


Two children named Daniels, aged respectively two and eight years, last night sought shelter in the 6th precinct station house and told the Sergeant in charge that their father turned them into the street, and told them to help themselves. The children will be sent to the Almshouse.

Five Points, New York, 1919

I always remember the train. A black dragon, it smoked and roared, throwing up sparks that burned my face and left spots on my brand new shirt. The one the lady from the Five Points Mission got us so we'd be ready for our placing out. She told Da we had to look good for our new family. Every time I hear a train whistle now, I think back on that day. And all the days that followed on my trip west and the new life I had there.

Don't remember Ma and Da much. Ma wasn't there at all in the end and Da was gone most of the time working, out looking for work or in jail when he got pinched working for the Five Pointers or the Gophers. I barely remember Ma at all. She died in that big fire at her job in the garment factory when the owners locked all the doors and no one could get out. Da was never the same after. Only a year later, the fever took Flora and Mary, our little sisters. They were both sweet girls. That only left me and Sean who was only two. Moira, the oldest, was always a bitch. Even Ma said so, calling her a witch and born slattern.

Didn't matter, after Ma died, Da said it was up to Moira to take care of us. She got out of that when she run off with Jimmy Paglia, that no good Eye-tal-yan Wop. She married him. Da nearly had a fit when she did that. But it was worse when she told us she wasn't gonna mind me no more. She called me a no good street rat who should have been drowned at birth. I slugged her and ran away. No one caught me. No one ever could when I didn't wanna be caught. They call me Jack because I was as fast as a jackrabbit.

I ran with Ding Dong for a while, helping him and other Dusters with their hustles. Until the coppers got me cornered behind Old Bailey's saloon. I'd run off with a bottle of gin. Stuff tastes like piss, but I can sell it for two bits and ain't that sweet. Except this time the coppers caught me and tossed me in the hoosegow. I figure Da would come around and get me out. He did, then he turns around and put us out, sayin' we were too much trouble.

Sean was the one took us to that police station. They sent us away too. I was still expecting Da to come get us, instead this wrinkled old dame showed up carrying a Bible. Tells me she's from something called the Five Points House of Industry. Her skirts were all black and crinkly and rustled whenever she moved. I don't remember Ma wearing anything so fancy. This lady said her name was Rose Marie and she was a woman of God, doing God's work. When I ask her what that is, she say it's saving lost and fallen souls like me.

"I ain't lost," I told her. "And I ain't fallen nowhere. I'm standing right here."

"You are indeed, young man. You're a poor orphan boy who has taken to the dirty streets to survive. You have fallen into that vast and stinking den of iniquity. Arrested stealing a bottle of the devil's drink."

"Ain't no orphan neither."

"Your ma died. You live in squalor among the most base humans. You're father can't take care of you. He told me as much." She patted the folds of her big dress and touched my head. I jerked away from her, wanting to tell her not to touch me. Instead I batted her hand away when she tried to touch me again. "We're going to take care of you, Dylan Daniels. You and your brother. We're going to take you to a place where you can learn to be a man."

"A man?" I snorted. "I'm ten years old. I ain't no man."

"Nonetheless." She was all stuffy and stiff. I didn't like her. She didn't care. "You are going to be placed out."

"I don't know what you're talking about, lady. I ain't going nowhere."

She looked around the filthy cell they had put me in. It smelled like piss and shit. There was a sparkle in her brown eyes when she looked back at me. "No, young man, you aren't. For now."

I still didn't know what she was talking about it. I didn't know until Da came with a bag I recognized as belonging to Ma, all tied up with twine. He also handed me a silver dollar.

"You be a good, boy. Make your mother proud."

I stared down at the bag and the dollar glittering in the palm of my hand. I'd never had that much money in all my life. I still didn't get it.

"They haven't told me where you're going to, but Missus Matthews says they're all good homes. You're getting a real chance if you behave and mind your betters."

It hit me like I got kicked by one of Tony Gambol's big bay Clydesdales. Da was sending both of us away. "I won't go," I said, folding my arms over my chest. "You can't fuckin' make me."

He slapped me across the face. I didn't see it coming and fell back, landing on my ass on the dirty, rough floor. I threw myself to my feet but he backed away, going to the jail cell door.

"I don't like doin' that, Danny-boy, but you ain't got no choice in this. I can't be your ma and pa both. With your ma gone, I gotta do what's good for both of you."

I argued and yelled but no one listened. Da left and I was alone. I stayed alone until the Five Points lady came for me and took me and my bag and silver dollar, now carefully hidden in my shoe, to the train station. Sean was there with Da. He clung to Da 'til he shoved Sean at me. Then he hung on to me so tight my hand fell asleep. He was already wailing when I dragged him into the belching monster. It shuddered and grunted as it pulled away from the station. I looked at the platform through a grimy, soot-covered window but Da was already gone.

I got so I could sleep in the dragon's belly. I met other kids like me. Over a hundred of us. Some were real orphans, some were like me, picked up by the cops, others volunteered to be placed out. They fed us, mustard sandwiches and sometimes jam. In Omaha they divided our four cars up into cities. Our car was going to Nebraska. Someplace near North Platte. The resident agent, William T. Elder, took us out in a horse drawn wagon to introduce us to our new family, the Chatterfields.

As we drove away from the still belching train, I watched until we turned a corner and headed on a dusty road out of town and I couldn't see the train no more. Then I turned in my seat and stared straight ahead, knowing I ain't never gonna see Da or Moira agin. Sean kept at me about when Da comin' to get us 'til I slapped him.

Folks ask me later if I cried. 'Course not. I don't cry. What do they think I am? A baby? Sean was the baby, not me.

Placing Out is part of a PAX collection called Crime & Punishment. The story can be purchased separately or in the anthology. To purchase, click here