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Not for critique: share your pretty words. (1 Viewer)


The chair creaked as the stranger leant forward into the flickering saloon light, his mouth a dangerous path cut into the cliff of his face, teal eyes looking for a fight. He squared his hat, tightened its leather strap and returned his meaty hand to the fifth tankard of ale.

“Yeah, I’m Yarrod,” he said to the man who had lowered the pianist’s fallboard. “What of it?”

Three other men held court in the centre of the saloon, a scowl flanked by two wet smiles. Their presence had silenced the revelry and sent patrons scattering. A barman laid a shotgun on the bar, the jangle of disturbed shot glasses drawing Yarrod’s scrutiny a moment before it slipped back to the four men. Only the central figure carried any authority, the other three boys in comparison, lavender scented soap and one flannelling away from a casket.

“We’ve just come from the Carmack Estate,” the central figure said, as if addressing a jury. He paused for a moment, the two escorts separating. One perched a buttock on a round table and plucked peanuts nonchalantly from a bowl, the other spun a chair and sat on it back to front, chin propped on its backrest. The cowboy by the piano moved in closer. “That’s a mighty unusual hat you have there,” he continued. “Black leather cowboy hat, trimmed by crow’s feet.” It sounded like a quote. He hooked his tailored jacket behind his holstered gun. “Something tells me you’re not even going to deny killing Joseph Mendo.”

“He was a goddamn Dannuk,” Yarrod said with a snarl. “Filth. A stinking aberration.”


Staff member
Hope stepped out of Jake’s office, and the first thing she heard was a new voice downstairs … but not new to her, only new hearing it here .. at Jake’s home. An accent. The same accent she heard at the hotel.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Bartley. It took a bit longer to run your errands than it should have. My first day in town, don’t ya know.”

“I’ll overlook it today, Edward, but at what I’m paying you, I expect you to adapt. We’ll be in many cities before this Tour ends, so you can’t use that ‘first day’ excuse every time. You have a smartphone. Use it to find what I tell you to get, and then guide you.”

“Sorry, Ms. Bartley. Mine’s roaming and I didn’t use it. I consulted the concierge and then I couldn’t find the places he told me about.”

“On your next set of errands, get a local phone! Don’t make me do all your thinking for you.”

“No, mum. I’ll get the ‘ang of things.”

When Jake saw Hope turn back into his office and glower with the look of a female Grizzly protecting her cubs, he slumped back into his chair.

“What now?”

“Do you know anything about an Englishman downstairs, answering to Audra like he’s her gofer?”

“Yeah. She called this morning and told me her ‘personal assistant’ from California declined to continue that job on the road with us. She said she wanted to hire a new one, and had a man in mind. Of course, I get to pick up the tab.”

“You hired this guy, sight unseen?”

“Why do I have to see him? He’s Audra’s worry.”

“No, Jake. He’s your worry.”


“You’ve just hired Julia’s ex-husband.”

Jake put a palm to his forehead and leaned his head back, his eyes rolling. Trouble. Trouble with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “C” and that stands for “Castrate” … a fate he feared if this crisis grew.

“I’ll go down there and run him off, right now. I don’t care what Audra says.”

“No. I don’t think you will.”

“Why not?”

“Because there’s only one reason for that man to be down there right now, and it’s a scheme of that conniving bitch.”

“Didn’t you and Audra used to be friends?”

“Yeah, and I never had a doubt she was a conniving bitch. I just didn’t mind it when it worked to my advantage.”

“Oh. So why shouldn’t I run the guy off?”

“Because I can still make it work to my advantage. Hands off, Jake.”

Despite being just slightly terrified of Hope on her bad days … well, maybe not just slightly, Jake couldn’t resist. “If you’re going underground with your own plan here, doesn’t that also make you a--”

“Of course it does, and when have I ever denied it? But if you ever start to say it out loud again--”

“Wouldn’t dream of it. You’re a saint. Just like Joan of Arc. Didn’t she start a war that killed thousands?”

“Yes, and there will be a body count here, too, but it won’t be quite that high.”


Staff member
Board Moderator
Through a minor miracle I may be tracking on the style again. Or not. Fifty-fifty chance, either way.


He lay with his eyes fixed open to the wall, not asleep. Motionless without rest with a sour taste in his mouth and a heaviness in his throat. How much of his hour remained he could not say. The single burning lantern traced his ghost against the ribs of the uprights and the naked plywood between. More than anything he wanted water.

“You awake?”

John cycled his breathing two or three times before answering.

“I guess so. What time is it?”

“Seven ‘til.”

He stretched as the confines of the camp bed would allow and from neck to feet the flaring of half-rested muscle receded into dull ache, and he resettled his head on the pack knowing of no respite in the time left him but all the same unwilling to concede early and so lingered in the hollowness between waking and sleep until Leo called formally the changing of the watch.

Along the bottoms the windows showed gapped and black to admit a small breeze to eddy through air laced trick with kerosene smoke. He kicked free of the blanket and levered himself up from the damp wallow. The world moved with the drunken, rolling quality of a lava lamp, and in the quiet he registered that the rain was stopped.


Senior Member
Heimer caught a fish.

Each memory, each small detail of the last few days that I was with Heimer seems to swirl around and around in my mind as if it were a stone caught in a strong current, to tumble and resurface and collide until each one becomes a precious gem as clear and smooth as glass.

How many times have I watched Heimer drag that silver, thrashing fish out of the water? Watched the spray of water droplets catch the light as they fell to my face? How many songs have I sung with him as he rowed down the Elbe, telling me the names of towns, animals and trees in a language that I long to hear again?

My memories of my days with Heimer are my treasures, bright and precious. I can summarize the blurred horror of the next eight years in one dull word: slavery.