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A Visit From The Creatures of Necessity

Dear Sheriff,

My brother and I called to discuss a recent business matter. No one was home, but we thought it rude to not let you know that we were here. 

The alarm system is pretty good. The lock on the back door could do with a touch of oil. 

You have a lovely home and your wife photographs beautifully, doesn’t she? We were dismayed to see that there were no signs of children in the home, and we trust that this is simply a matter of free will rather than any other factor. Men can father children into their eighties, and she’s certainly young enough to bring glory to your bloodline, isn’t she? 

Please contact us. Your home is so inviting, it robs a man of his inhibitions. 

My brother’s more than mine, Sheriff. 

He folded the note and put it into his pocket. He drew his gun, kept it close to his side as he peered through the windows. He stepped away from the door and reached for his phone. She was number one on his speed dial, due to his profound enjoyment of playing the doting husband and how she would call him if she heard a noise.

‘Hey, baby, where are you?’

She chuckled and she heard the clink of glasses.

‘I’m at Robyn’s, it’s her baby shower, remember, I did say.’

He struggled to keep his voice even but he squeezed his eyes shut and willed himself calm.

‘Yes, yes you did. OK, just like it when you’re home.’

She giggled and cooed.

‘My big brave sheriff.’

There was a point, roughly between two and three glasses of wine where Turner would enjoy the virtues of a younger wife, some measure of damp, percussive pleasure to offset the tantrums and the dark moods. At that point, he was simply relieved that she was not in the house.

‘I’ll fix my own dinner. Call a cab, okay?’

She giggled and his lips went back on his teeth with distaste.

‘Honey, I can walk from -‘

He told her no. That she was to get a cab and his tone was the one that he used when describing how they were going to raid a meth lab. She knew better than to disagree with him when he was like this. An officer had been killed, and John had always fostered a closeness with his men that she envied sometimes. He ended the call and unlocked the front door.

He brought the gun up, smoothly arcing from corner to corner, muscle memory took over and he examined the house with a brusque economy. When he was sure that he was alone, he put his gun back in the holster and sagged against the marble kitchen counter. He put his hands over his face, breathed in to calm himself down.

Which was when his phone rang.


Garret’s cracked, ugly voice made the fillings in his teeth vibrate.

‘You stay away from my home, you fuck.’

Garret gave a reedy laugh.

‘Well, we had things to discuss and my brother and I are creatures of necessity.’

Creatures was the right word. John shut his eyes against the tight band of pain that had dug into his temples, each breath Garret took was another twist of the knife.

‘Yes, you are. I’ll meet with you. Usual place and time.’

Garret chuckled again. Disconnected the call.

The doorbell rang and John looked up. His phone rang again.

‘Let me in, Sheriff.’

John’s drew the gun as he walked to the door.

He opened the door and looked down at Garret, his broken dental work was rusted fish-hooks threatening to fall from infected meat.

‘Well, that’s no way to greet an associate, now is it?’

John had not raised the gun but he wanted to. He could taste the adrenaline in his saliva, muscles cramping with the need to react but he kept his demeanour neutral.

‘We don’t meet here, you know that.’

Garret cocked his head to one side and put his hands out, grinning like a child with a secret.

‘I know, but then I don’t be able to give you the information that you’re really going to be interested in.’

‘What’s that?’

Garret giggled and John recoiled from the sound.

‘Where my brother is, and who his fare is for the evening.’

(For previous episodes, visit Please leave comments, reviews and missives below.

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The Irascible Nature of Scorpions (Ogden)

They combed the area in the dark, a generator  was found and set up, it’s guttural purr and the thick, greasy stink of diesel adding to the choir of anxieties that afflicted the lawmen of Ogden.

One of their own, found in the front seat of his patrol vehicle, throat slit and uniform dark and wet with his own blood. The unconscious local man who was laid out like an apostrophe a few feet away, the back of his head bruised and his eyes twitching with disorientation as the responding deputy stood over him, his throat closed with shock.
Later, Gregory repeated that he called it all in before touching anything at the scene. Sat in front of the detective who had been called into play like a feint in a game of chess.
Willing away the weight of the letter that he had retrieved with tweezers from inside Eddie’s jacket. The weight that seethed like a secret until he was home.

The snap of the lighter as he burned it. The struggle to make the phone call from a burner phone before racking up a fat line, trading his guilt and shame for one larger problem. Turner spoke in terse, calcified grunts like he was forcing up something from the pit of his stomach. The spaces between words, and in those silences, the whine of how fucked up this had gotten. Gregory was brought and paid for, sure but it didn’t mean that he was a cold gun. He got off the phone as soon as he could, took out the battery and the SIM card, put them in separate locations in his one room apartment.

That first cold hard snort, a wave crashing against, crashing over the pilings of his anxieties for a moment. Chemical clarity that made every nerve dance like a believer on Judgement Day. He walked around his apartment, clapping his hands and strutting to the music of his blood, talking himself up into something approaching courage.

Gregory was not stupid but he was weak. Between those two polarities, he had managed to keep his own corruption in check. He was conscientious in his work, arrogant and heavy handed but that seemed to get him into the panties of any number of women. That appeal lasted long enough to ensure that they would spit at the mention of his name afterwards but he had once read about a scorpion and a frog, a story that he didn’t understand until one evening, at a town fayre, jittery and excitable, he had cornered Harlan and asked him to explain it.

Harlan had given him a soft smile and lifted his eyes up in recollection.

“It is certain that no animal in the creation seems endued with such an irascible nature…I have seen them attempt to sting a stick when put near them; and attack a mouse or a frog, when those animals were far from offering any injury.”

Gregory had sniffed, enjoying the burn at the back of his throat and asked him what he meant.  Harlan had patted him on the shoulder, which made Gregory flinch like he had been scalded.

‘The scorpion cannot help it’s nature. Even though it knows that it would drown if it stung the frog, it couldn’t help itself.  That reference comes from a book by Oliver Goldsmith, published in the eighteenth century, but there are variations of it right back to Persian mythology.’

Gregory nodded like he understood and had a wealth of insights ready to break through until Harlan pointed out that his nose was bleeding and Gregory ran to grab a napkin from the catering table.

Pacing his apartment, Gregory kept returning to that quotation, trying to make sense of it, and the fable in turn. Morning, was a long time in coming, and he had time to think. Nothing but time to think.

When he stopped to look into the smeared mirror that was rested against the kitchen worktop, he saw that he had been crying. That his nose was bleeding and if he had been wearing his sidearm, he would have pulled a gun in reflex.

It had stopped being fun a long time ago, but any number of things had stopped being fun. When he could not bear the wounded look in the eyes of the women he seduced, the kids who alternately mocked and feared him.

When Gregory could not figure out if he was the frog or the scorpion and how he feared the answer.

How he feared the answer.

( for previous entries. Please leave comments, speculations, threats and love letters so I feel like people are actually reading this)

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My Brother, My Keeper (Ogden)

Harlan was equal parts amused and curious at the circumstances with which his brother had managed to secure him legal representation. It was a distraction from his grief, and yet as he sat there, staring at the vending machine coffee with contempt, he fought against the small spark of hope that arose in him.

Avery would never let him down.

Since school, Harlan had counted on his brother to defend him. Although initially a lot of the situations had been redress for the cutting insights that Harlan developed as a defence mechanism, mostly they had been actions by the ignorant and the afraid. Shoved into lockers, books snatched and torn apart in front of him, physical assaults that would leave him bleeding and nauseous afterwards. His assailants enjoyed a brief pocket of notoriety, which coincidentally was about the time it took Avery to find out before he gave them cause to regret ever starting on his younger brother.

Jeff Yates lost two teeth and had his pinkie finger broken for giving Harlan a swirlie.

After around five or six beatings, including one at a sweet sixteenth where they found the kid tied up in a broom closet, unable to speak for at least a week, people got the message and Harlan found the disdain was restricted to harsh words and stares, which he could live with.

The summer of his sixteenth birthday, when he had run away from home, getting a ride from a band who were heading north had been his vision of a Kerouac style life made manifest. Harlan found that the pace of the drinking and the drugs had left him vulnerable. When his brother found him, naked and studded with cigarette burns, unable to speak about what happened, Harlan had simply been happy to see him and had allowed him to lead him home under a blanket across the fields so that no one would see him. Cleaning up the burn marks in the bathroom as he wept and told Avery in shards of bitter memory, what had been done to him.

Harlan never found out what happened to The Angry Rocket Collective until he was at a book fair, talking to an aggressively hipster journalist who had put together a book of mysterious rock deaths outside of the 27 Club.  Apparently the van had been found, doors torn off and coated with blood and tissue, no trace of the upcoming four piece punk rock pederasts to be found. He never asked his brother what his involvement was, afraid that his brother would tell him the truth.

So in the greater scheme of things, a lawyer turning up was the best possible outcome if not the most satisfying. She came into the room, chignon tight and make up perfect as she extended a slim, perfectly manicured hand.  She sat down and when the deputy did not immediately leave, she instructed him to go back a pot of coffee and then asked Harlan if he took cream and sugar with a lilting voice that probably put more men in jail than an unsolicited confession.

She took details, writing longhand in a moleskin notebook and asking him to clarify a few points that he thought irrelevant but she insisted on getting certain details inviolate.

‘Who do you think did it?’ he said.

She looked up from her notebook and narrowed her eyes.

‘Honestly that is not my remit. My job is to make sure that it’s not you in the frame for it.’

He nearly choked on his coffee at that.

‘I think it’s a little too late for that, Ms Ellis.’

She shook her head and pointed to his hands.

‘There are too many questions to indicate that this was a spat between two lovers.’

His eyes welled up with tears as he shook his head in disbelief.

‘I’d never have hurt him.’

She put her hand on top of his.

‘Mr Foster, that’s actually irrelevant to me. I’m your lawyer, your guilt or innocence is academic, only what the state can prove. And honestly, either you’re a straight to netflix evil genius or stupid on a quantum level if you did do this and somehow knocked yourself unconscious. So Mr Foster, you shouldn’t lie to me but that doesn’t mean that I need to know everything to do my work.’

Harlan smirked and picked up his coffee, inhaling the rich aroma as he tipped his cup to her.

‘I think you and I are going to get along just fine.’

Avery, he thought, you’ve come through again.



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Truth Versus Conviction



She got out from the car. Her hair was a tight, high chignon that gave an elegant length to her neck. Make up as war paint,  eleven o’clock at night and ready for a fight. The suit was a single breasted black blazer and tailored trousers, a Vera Wang shirt. Small towns seldom appreciated the effort of good fashion and beauty but Gloria Ellis understood that image was everything.

‘You’re Mr Foster?’

He put out his hand. She gave him a warm, dry grasp and gestured towards the station.

Lee rolled his eyes at the sight of Avery but when he saw  the thin smile of the lawyer, he sighed and shook his head.

‘He’s not asked for a -‘

‘Deputy, I would like you to inform Mr Foster that his brother is here and that he has secured my services, can you do that?’

Lee looked at her, blank and frightened.

Two years ago, he had been called upon to give evidence in a possession beef. A brick of mexican weed in a trunk and Lee, realising that his station in the world was being cut to pieces by the sing song questions of the woman stood before him. Charges dropped and a civil suit that meant the order for the new rifles had to go into another budget. She took his balls from him, smiling as she did it and his face tightened into a knot of confusion and recrimination.

He went to inform Mr Foster, slouching like a whipped dog.

Avery’s eyes narrowed and Gloria Ellis laughed.

‘We have some history, Mr Foster, but that works in our favour.’

He rubbed his chin as he looked at her.

‘Mind telling me how?’

She smiled and Avery was reminded of how some of the special forces guys would get when they were being briefed. A cold blade across the throat, barrel up and trigger pulled, steel always on target. He made a mental note to thank Madeline later.

‘Because they know not to fuck with me, and by proxy, your brother.’

Even through his grief, Harlan knew that he was not going to turn down a lawyer.

The police do not want the truth, they want a conviction. Cases closed are not always cases solved. In their defence, when the lie is the default mode of communication, when the evidence chains are oftentimes made of daisies rather than links of cold steel, some do the best they can but an innocent man does not have the luxury of believing that the truth will out. Harlan did not feel his palms grow damp whenever a policeman walked by, but he also knew that law enforcement was a career, a job, an opportunity. There were those who believed, those who followed the rules and those who saw it as a means to get even or get over. That jock in high school, when you find him weeping with coke dusted nostrils and a college girl having a seizure in his hotel room, a lot of entries get crossed off the ledger. Weakness was not a danger to a man in a lot of areas, but a weak and angry policeman was a terrible thing to behold.

Harlan held that thought like a matchflame against the wind, it burned him when he asked himself if he was referring to Eddie or Sheriff Turner.

Then the lawyer came in and he felt something dangerous.


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Sometimes The Mother, Sometimes The Wolf

John felt the floor adhere to the soles of his boots with each step into the bar. It was far enough away that no one would know him from town. It had been their suggestion, they knew the value of a friendly cop and he knew their value.

There was little to connect them to anything solid. It was one of the ongoing conversations when he met up with brother officers that nothing had been made to stick to the Culpepper Boys. Rumours, stories, urban myths orbited them like dead planets but they were spoken of in disgusted whispers.

Garrett sat at a corner booth, sipping at a bottle of domestic beer as he picked at a bowl of salted peanuts with his finger nails grown into yellowing talons, rimmed with a line of compacted black dirt. He offered one to John who shook his head and asked where his brother had gone to.

He was at home. Momma was sick again.

John had an envelope in his jacket pocket but it would stay there until he was sure. He would not admit that he was glad to see that it was Garrett, with his bruised fruit features and the perpetual air of dirt and rot that he exuded.

‘So, this fruity fucker gonna give his butt buddy up?’

John looked at the paperback on the table. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Garrett smiled, a broken graveyard between his lips as he followed John’s look.

‘I do read. So does my brother. Did you assume we’re, what, vicious white trash?’

John looked down and Garrett gave a dry chuckle.

‘When the lambs is lost in the mountain, he said. They is cry. Sometime come the mother. Sometime the wolf.”

John shrugged, suddenly keen to get out of here with things in motion and as little to do with these men as possible.

‘Whatever you say, Garrett.’

‘I didn’t. Cormac McCarthy did. So tell me what you want?’

John outlined his plan. A vaudeville show. A little humiliation and then Harlan would know how things went in Ogden. Nothing direct, a no rough stuff affair but handled by people who would know to keep their mouths shut. It seemed so simple, so direct in his head but looking into Garrett’s eyes made him wonder if he had misjudged this.

John handed over the money in the lot, Garrett assured him that it would all be fine. He shook John’s hand a little too long and smiled when he saw that John tried to wipe his fingers on the thigh of his jeans without being seen.

‘Thass the kind of thing my ex wife did.’ Garrett said.

John got in his car, taking deep breaths as he watched Garrett drive out of the lot. He thought about that quote as he drove on, wondering what was meant by that. He knew enough that a lamb who thought it was a wolf opened itself up to all kinds of trouble.

Especially if it cried out for help and did not care who answered.

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No mistress but duty

There was a letter in Eddie’s locker waiting for him. A cream envelope sealed with tape and when he opened it,  there was a single sheet of paper folded in half.

A good soldier has no mistress but duty.

Typed out and unsigned but his hands shook as he replaced it in his trousers pocket.  He checked his shave but could not meet his eyes. The thought of Harlan made him shudder.
It would be a conversation, all Eddie needed to do was have Harlan come to him.  Then John could talk about the review with him and it would all be settled. 
The fact that someone else knew was equally a relief and a nagging,  sick ache in his temples.
His feelings had been a animal that hunted him since adolescence,  a yearning that assaulted him, threatened him with the power of it. Resisting his sexuality had been like trying to take flight without leaving the ground. The flat,  ugly jokes and the fear had made the need to keep that part of him safe.  He hid it deep, mocking the merest digression from the sexual identity that was a loud, brash roar. 
Harlan had seen through it. A long look that made him seethe at the implication.  Shouting the words despite the sharp prickle as it surged up his throat.  The ulcer and the blood in the bowl. Fever dreams of taut limbs and downy peach skin. 
Harlan, serene and aloof except for an insightful barb that deflated anyone who crossed him. He took a beating,  not from Eddie. Avery rose up like Old Testament God,  three ball players, one with a ruptured testicle and even that was an accident.  More pain than injury which was what scared people about him. Not a sadist but someone who knew that pain was a teacher and broken bones healed faster than memories. 
He couldn’t trust himself to touch him.  Had to get drunk or high to touch a woman. 
Then walking around, one summer,  saw him reading beneath a tree with his hair faling in his eyes.
He watched himself approach as though from a distance.  What happened was sound tracked with silence as loud as thunder.
What disarmed him most was Harlan’s discretion, handled with a maturity that made Eddie feel like a coy, golden colt being handled by an experienced cowboy. 
Years and against it all,  Eddie learned that love held a strength but it was outmatched by the weight of expectation.  The only time that Harlan had wept was when Eddie had told him about the engagement. 
All of it and it had been John Turner who had coaxed betrayal from his heart. 
He drove around.  Sent Harlan a message arranging for an assignation with an atavistic reflex. He didn’t switch on the radio,  love songs stung like hornet jabs and the day faded into a civil,  lazy twilight. 
Just a meeting but John hadn’t called and Eddie wondered if it had all been a bizarre test.  He rolled down the window and looked out at the lonely stretch of road.  Part of him had ran down it a million times.  Harlan had said that he would take him to New York, that no one who mattered cared about who slept with who anymore. 

‘Homophobia is like hating the moon.’ Harlan had said, as they’d laid under the trees one summer evening.  Eddie had ground his teeth together,  wanting a life but so terrified by the want and the disappointment that haunted him. It had gone unsaid and Harlan had stopped asking.
Eddie knew that he would never stop hoping.  He was thinking about him with a power that cut off his senses.
So when he heard the tap and saw the bruised fruit features of Garrett, his instincts were off, rusted with the damp heat of a love just out of reach. He did not recognize him and Garrett had that room temperature iq charm and a convincing story about car trouble.  Good enough to get him out of the car and that was where he saw that Garrett had worn gloves.  He went for his sidearm but a thick, swollen fist swung into the small of his back and then he was on his knees.
With Garretts fingers clamping a cloth across his face,  the fumes shutting down everything,  Eddie had time enough for a memory of Harlan laughing in his arms and then nothing.


Puer Aeturnus

Harlan sat back from the laptop and tapped on the send icon. This would be his fourth article for Salon, and he was already anticipating the comments, and in turn, seeing the subscriber count rise on his youtube channel gave him a small charge of anticipation. He was immune to it in the macro, deriving a pleasure from the work itself rather than the reaction. He’d read enough about the successful writers to know that the trappings and the fripperies were not healthy things to focus upon. The affectations, the celebrity were not that interesting to him. He’d stayed in town, in the house where he had grown up for that reason.

Not the only reason, mind you, but that was what he told himself and a small voice in his head would call him on his bullshit.

Avery had taken the dogs out and checking his watch, Harlan knew that a quiet drive would be the perfect way to celebrate another piece done.  Avery had said that he would pick up dinner for them later, and Harlan had tangentially offered the chance to try and redeem his appalling chain of losses in the fraternal competition of Texas Hold ‘Em although Harlan had been hinting that he would happily spring for a second console and a happy hour wiring it up so that they could rock some PvP. Avery would give a small smile and shake his head, but he appreciated the offer.

Harlan showered, changed and jangling the keys in his hands, skipped to the Prius that sat outside the front of the house. He was humming along to himself when he started the car and positively singing along when he took the usual stretch of road.  At the usual time.

Harlan was romantic, in the way all men are, but seldom admit. Suffused with a depth of feeling that resisted easy articulation but when explored was as infinite as the ocean. He had, in his own way, been faithful to the same man since high school and if he were asked, he would admit that the doomed, tangential nature of it appealed to his adolescent heart.

He loved Eddie. He knew that Eddie loved him. Harlan had never told Eddie, that he had turned down offers from beautiful boys and sophisticated men because he feared that Eddie would, out of a desire to be honourable, that he should. They made a space for themselves, a moment between the grinding edges of circumstance and history that was tender and sweet because it was stolen. He had not attended Eddie’s wedding, but he had wept until his eyes were bloodshot even as he understood the necessity of it.

He saw the patrol car and his heart still skipped a beat as he began to slow down.  The lights were on and he saw the outline of Eddie’s head, the tousled curls that made him look perpetually boyish no matter how old he was. Puer Aeturnus, the sweetest of masculinities and his palms grew damp at the thought of touching him again.  He flashed his headlights.

No response. Harlan stopped the car, a flutter of anxiety travelling up his throat as he bit the inside of his cheek with nerves. He got his phone from his pocket but the signal out here was abysmal and he swore under his breath. That one bar taunted him with it’s impotence. He opened the door and stepped out.

It was a clear, sweet night and the air carried all manner of scents to him. As he got closer to the patrol car, his eyes watering with the possibility that something had happened.

The smear of blood on the passenger side window was black in the moonlight. A branch snapped behind him and he turned around.

After that, everything went black.


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A Few Questions

Eddie Marsden took the call from dispatch that the sheriff wanted to see him as he sat on the dying stretch of asphalt that fed to the highway.  He’d been passing the time playing Bejewelled so that Sandy could proudly claim credit for beating her sister to level 50. It added a hefty sum to their cell phone bill but it kept her happy and him busy. The hours drawn out like a dull blade.  Enough solitude led Eddies mind to feed upon itself. 

Trying not to think about his next night patrol. Guilt and excitement went well with one another but during the day, that little voice in his head was more inclined to cruelty in the same way some people preface ‘I’m just being honest’ before going full asshole. So when the call came,  he was too eager to ask questions about why he’d been summoned.

It’s easy being clever,  afterwards.

Turner had taken off his hat and turned the brim in his thick gnarled fingers.  There were shadows beneath his eyes and he had cut himself shaving, which left a small nick on his upper lip. He smiled but Eddie was reminded of a crypt door opening by it and when he sat down,  he wished with a child like intensity to be bored again. 

Turner’s fingertips were bloodless from the grip he had on his hat as he asked Eddie to pull up a chair.

‘How’s Sandra?’

Eddie gave a smile that he hoped was eager rather than near frenzied. 

‘Oh she’s great,  sir. Nesting instincts in full swing. ‘

Turner acknowledged that with a raise of a greying eyebrow. 

‘Be a splashback won’t it?’

Eddie’s stomach roiled and anxious perspiration gathered at the small of his back and underneath his arms.

‘Excuse me?’

Turner gave another of those smiles and Eddie wanted to swing at it until it broke.  This conversation had detoured into nightmare although Eddie gauged that it had always been heading that way.  He had just come along for the ride.

‘Although I imagine that you’re a, what is it, pitcher?’

Eddie got to his feet and Turner slapped the hat against the desk loud enough that Eddie had his hand on the butt of his sidearm. 

Turner laughed and shook his head. 

‘Son, I’ll tolerate a cocksucker over a liar so sit down and listen’

Eddie fought against the tears that pricked in the corners of his eyes as he sat down. 

‘Now I like you. You’re a good patrolman and you’re in possession of a bright future. Your proclivities are between you and your wife.’

At that,  he sat back and steepled his fingers.  Eddie fought the urge to bolt out of the office with everything he had.

‘I only question your taste in men if I’m honest.  But that’s precisely why we’re having this conversation. ‘

Eddie would not give him the satisfaction of telling him that Harlan had been the only man he had slept with.  A realisation turned in his mind like a key in a well oiled lock. 

‘I’d like to speak with him.  Away from any kind of scrutiny.  Could you arrange that? ‘

That made Eddie frown and Turner chuckle as he shook his head. 

‘Oh dear,  blackmail? You watch too many movies. I’m just trying to negotiate a way to get something that’s blown out of all proportion resolved. ‘

Eddie’s vision swam as he fought for breath. 

‘You understand that I’m not exactly comfortable with this,  sir?’

Turner put his hand up, palm outwards. 

‘Gregory’s doing coke every weekend,  Lee’s a functional retard and Aarons never gotten over the attention deficit after people lost interest in cops as heroes after the world trade centre.  You being a cocksucker with a wife is something that I can live with,  if you can. ‘

Eddie could not laugh but he wanted to smile. He nodded and wiped his forehead with his left forearm. 

‘And you just want to talk with him without it being seen as anything?’

Turner sighed and leaned forward,  his eyes twinkling with a resigned humour. 

‘My wife is driving me nuts over this.  I see that he can’t come out and renounce what he wrote but I’d like to pick his brains on how to mitigate it without any more drama.’

Eddie remembered a line from a grisly book that Sandy had read.

The devil couldn’t tempt you unless it was with something that you wanted.  Despite himself,  Eddie agreed, convincing himself that he hadn’t acknowledged Turners accusations openly. He said, noncommittally that he would ask if he bumped into Harlan. When he drove away from the station,  he found the unwelcome guilty voice in his head asking questions that he should have asked Turner.

It’s easy being clever,  afterwards. 

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A Little Further

Harlan adjusted his bow tie in the rear view mirror as the flashing lights of the patrol car. He checked his shave, satisfied that he was winning a holding action against the ravages of time, armed with the weapons of a good skincare routine and careful diet.

A tap on the window and he rolled it down, a smooth smile on his face.


Deputy Marsden, his smooth tan skin bearing a sculptured line of beard and his eyes hard with contempt, adjusted his hat as he rested his hands on his hips. Harlan observed how camp it looked and swallowed the chuckle.

‘Mr Foster. Going a little fast there, were you?’

Harlan nodded solemnly. Irony was seen as a fifth column action these days, an adult behaviour in a time when the rest of the country had started wearing moral short pants again. Out here, it was dangerous.

‘I am sorry, deputy. It’s such a beautiful night here. I must’ve been carried away.’

Deputy Marsden gave a short nod and grunted.

‘Well, you were speeding.’

Ah, that would be the excuse. Harlan’s tongue grew thick and heavy as Deputy Marsden’s eyes bore into his.

‘Shall I step out of the car?’

The invitation was there and Marsden craned his head to check around before he gave a small smile and nodded. Harlan tried not to look at the lengthening column of flesh against the thigh of his pressed trousers.

‘Would you follow me a little further along?’

His voice had travelled back in time. The last year of high school, when Harlan had been an awkward bookish boy whose caustic asides drew shocked gasps and admiration when they slashed the cheeks of ego and pomposity. When Marsden was not a deputy but a solid pillar of the football team.

They were heading to the woods. Harlan had been walking, collecting impressions of the slices of life that drew out his sense of wonder. Startled by how Marsden had managed to stand there without saying anything.

The knowledge between them. Beneath sunlight filtered by tree branches, discovering a geography of flesh that drew wonder out of them. A sacred space that carried the scent of warm skin and the ammoniac surprise of their come.

Such moments were not spoken of. Harlan was a gracious guest at Marsden’s wedding and yet he marvelled at how tan his body was when they were reunited, mere days after Marsden’s honeymoon in Orlando. They had their roles to play, lines to recite and stares to endure(in Harlan’s case)

In it’s own way, a life, a love that had kept Harlan here. His talent had drawn offers from the New Yorker and Salon, but the internet had allowed him to remain here. He had been stripped of the grand illusion that their relationship could bloom like a hothouse flower. Still, two hundred thousand subscribers meant that he could stay in town with the occasional flight for a conference or an interview.

They drove a little while.

In separate cars, but their hearts were thumping in unision.