Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Caomhnóir – Manny -19

“I want to know what was in that letter,” Manny said an hour later, when Hamlin told him what Jakie had said.

“You’re the B&E expert,” Hamlin pointed out.

“I thought you were too.”

Hesitating, Hamlin shook his head. “I can do it and have, but once I got sent to London I sort of lost the knack because there I worked more like I’ve heard Rick did.”

“More like, how?” Manny asked, knowing what the reply would be, and not certain he wanted to hear it.

“Seducing the people I had to get information from,” Hamlin said, not looking away. “And before you get pissy about that, it generally was in name only, not actually bedding them. Pretty words for the ladies, ego boosting for the men, playing them until I found the items I needed.”

“Alright, I understand that. And I’ve got no right to got upset, I’m hardly a virgin, not after five hundred years.”

Hamlin chuckled softly as he pulled Manny to him. “I would have been very worried, and shocked, if you had been. Although the idea of being your first holds a certain appeal.”

“Mijn liefde, if that had been the case you probably wouldn’t have survived our first night together.”

“I almost didn’t,” Hamlin replied with studied seriousness. “Hell, I almost didn’t survive this morning.”

Manny rolled his eyes. “Uh huh. Seems to me you were doing more than alright from what I remember. And if we keep this up I’m going to want to drag you into my room here and have my way with you again, which would not be a good idea.”

“It would also make me late for work, something I can’t afford to be.”

“I told you—“

Hamlin put his hand over Manny’s mouth. “And I told you, I’m not going to be a kept man. It’s not much of a job, but it gives me a feeling that I’m contributing, not leeching off of you. So drop it.”

Removing Hamlin’s hand, Manny said, “It’s dropped. I promise. Now kiss me because I have the feeling I’d better show up to monitor study time or there will be hell to pay later.”

“With pleasure.” Hamlin kissed his quite thoroughly before giving him a light shove in the direction of the door. “I’ll see you in the morning. And please, be careful if you’re going to try to find that letter. If it’s even still around.”

“I will be. Ik hou van je.”

“Love you too,” Hamlin replied softly, watching him leave.   

Monday, January 28, 2013

Caomhnóir – Manny - 18

“Where’s Romper?” one of the boys asked as Manny and Hamlin came into the living room at the house.

“I left him at Manny’s place, where hopefully he’s behaving,” Hamlin replied.

Gebhard looked up from what he was doing, frowning slightly. “You’re here again?”

“I don’t go to work for another two hours. I’d rather kill time here than walking the streets.”

“What are you doing again? I forgot.”

“Sure you did,” Manny muttered softly as he went to check on the boys who were out on the terrace.

“I work at a pizza place midtown.”

Gebhard just nodded, his attention now on Manny. “Get them in here for dinner,” he called out. “And by the way, you’re late.”

“My fault,” Hamlin said before it could become an issue. “Or Romper’s to be exact. He wanted to mark every tree on the way from my place to Manny’s. I lost track of time while he did.”

Gebhard’s eyebrows went up, but he made no comment on that as he pushed away from the desk to help Manny shepherd the boys out of the room into the kitchen for dinner.

Jakie managed to avoid following, without them being aware. He came over to Hamlin, looking up at him. “He’s been real grumpy the last couple of days.”

Hamlin smile wryly. “I’ve noticed.”

“I don’t think he likes you and Manny, well, you know.”

“What makes him think we’re more than just friends?” Hamlin asked quietly.

Jakie grinned. “I knew it.”

“Oh boy, I walked into that, didn’t I?”

“Umm humm, big time. But still, that could be the reason he’s always on Manny’s ass. I think someone ratted you out.”


Jakie shrugged. “He doesn’t know I know, but he got a letter, like special delivery. It was after that that he started being so pissy.”

“Must have been some letter.”

“I don’t know. He stuffed it in his pocket and later it was gone.”

“Don’t tell me, you tried to get it.”

“Okay, I won’t tell you,” Jakie said with a grin. “But yeah, I did.” He jumped when he heard Gebhard shout for him to get into the kitchen if he wanted dinner, and hurried off.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Caomhnóir – Manny - 17

“Manny, wake up, you’re having a bad dream.” Hamlin gathered his lover into his arms to still him.

It took Manny a moment to realize where he was. Then he sighed in relief as the nightmare dissipated. “Sorry,” he muttered. “Didn’t mean to wake you.”

“It’s alright. It’s about time for us to get up anyway. I have a dog to walk, and you’ve got things to do too.”

After a glance at the clock, Manny frowned. “It’s that late already? Shit. Why are you still here?”

“Excuse me? I live here now in case you’ve forgotten. Okay, so it’s only been for one day, but still—“

“My bad. Damn, I’m loosing it, I swear.”

Hamlin kissed the nape of Manny’s neck, and then when Manny turned in his arms, he planted one on his mouth before saying, “You’re stressed, not loosing it.”

“The stress you took care of earlier this morning.” Manny smiled as he returned the kiss.

“Just the physical, not the mental. I wish to hell you knew which one of them—“

“I don’t even know if it was one of them. I could be barking up the wrong tree. And speaking of barking, there’s a puppy that’ll be doing that or worse if we don’t get moving.”

“Our lives are ruled by a dog,” Hamlin grumbled as he sat up and got out of bed.

“Could be worse, it could be a gryphon. Come to think about it, it is.”

Hamlin shot him a puzzled look as he headed to the bathroom. “Gryphon?”

“Oh, yeah, something I forgot to mention,” Manny said as he swung his legs over the edge of the bed. “Mijn commandant here in the city is a gryphon. And my other one is a Witte Wieven.” He laughed at the look on Hamlin’s face. “I’ll explain later.”

“You better,” Hamlin growled as he closed the bathroom door.

An hour later, Hamlin was looking at Manny in disbelief as they rode the subway downtown to the Village. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“Very. All commandants are shape-shifting mythical creatures.” He stopped when he realized the woman next to him had heard him. “And that’s the idea behind the book,” he continued as if that’s what he and Hamlin had been talking about.

Hamlin caught on immediately. “Do it right and it could be a best seller. Supernatural stuff is popular now.”

“That’s what I’m hoping, me and my agent.”

“Well you’re not going to have an agent if we miss our stop and you miss your appointment,” Hamlin said pointedly as they approached their station.

“True.” Manny jumped to his feet, quickly followed by Hamlin. “Thanks,” he said softly, his words almost overwhelmed by the screech of the train coming to a stop.

“Any time, mijn liefde.”

Manny grinned. “You’re learning my language.”

“Two words are hardly learning,” Hamlin retorted as they stepped onto the platform.

“But it’s a start.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Caomhnóir – Manny - 16

“An interesting idea, and it took a human to see it.”

Manny nodded, turning from the window to look at Alasdair. “A special human, in case you haven’t gathered that already.”

“I have. It is written on your face. Not that I approve, but I know there is nothing I can do to stop this. Does Sofietje know?”

“Yes. I think she feels the way you do, that there’s not a damned thing she can really do about it either.”

Alasdair chuckled. “Those could be famous last words, but I doubt that they are. You may be under our command and expected to do as we order, but we understand the heart, and its need for love. Just be very certain that he knows that one wrong word could be the end of you, and possibly him as well.”

“I think he does, but I’ll make quite sure he understands.’

“Is there any chance that he’s the one who revealed where you were going when you went after that Scriostóir?”

Manny bristled for a moment, and then calmed. He knew it was a logical if unwelcome question. “No. When I left after Cerdic and Godric’s deaths it was to report in to Sofietje. By the time I came back Hamlin was gone, so there’s no way he could have known.”

“Very good. Now, to take up this idea of his. There are two possibilities that I can think of. One, the Scriostóir was intent on sending you a message that he was not amused by what you did.”

With a shake of his head, Manny indicated he disagreed. “This was a Scriostóir I was dealing with. He would have come after me himself, to make certain I never bothered him or any of his kind ever again.”

“Quite probably. Therefore, the other choice is that you have made an enemy, or enemies, who are human and have no idea what you are.”

“And I suppose those could be legion, after all the work I did for Cerdic.”

“Or it could be one or two men who don’t believe the story about the fire which supposedly killed Cerdic.”

“Gebhard and Mr. Shadrick.” Manny nodded. “I guess they could have been behind the shooting.”

“Find out, boy.”

“Yes, mijn commandant,” Manny replied.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Caomhnóir – Manny - 15

“I sort of figured out that you’re the reason Cerdic’s gone. Have you killed humans too, or just these—Scriostóir things?” Hamlin asked.

“Only Scriostóir. I’ve haven’t killed a human since I died. Given what I do, I’m not all that certain that I could.”

“That would be sort of counter-productive I guess, all things considered. Unless of course they were trying to kill you.”

“Which some have, but since I’m immortal I let them do their worst and then, within a couple of days, I’m back to normal again.”

Hamlin’s mind was spinning, question after question coming and going in a flash, each one as important as the one before. “What if... if they left you for dead? And if you appear dead, what if they decided to bury your body, or worse yet you got sent to the morgue?”

Manny laughed. “You have quite the morbid turn of mind, mijn liefde. Those are a couple of lovely thoughts—not. Luckily no one's tried either. Of course when it comes to the morgue, I’d be healing and frankly up and out of there before someone took a scalpel to me.”

“Mijn liefde?”

“My love,” Manny replied quietly. “If that’s—Well you are my love. I suppose the question is, am I still yours?”

“I think I answered that one already. You are.” Hamlin glanced away suddenly and winced.

Following his gaze, Manny shook his head. “Good thing those were old shoes, though where he found them is anyone’s guess.”

“Trust me, if it’s chewable Romper will find it.” When he stood, intending to rescue the shoes, he suddenly found himself pulled onto Manny’s lap. “Umm, the shoes,” he muttered.

“Damn the shoes. They’re keeping him quiet and out of worse trouble,” was Manny’s response as he cupped Hamlin’s jaw in one hand, stroking his thumb over his soft lips. “He can mangle them while we—tangle with each other.”

“Tangling is good.”

“More than.” Manny pressed his lips to Hamlin’s for the start of a kiss that rapidly turned it several more. “Tangling... is... great,” he whispered between them. “When it’s... you that... I’m tangling with.”

Hamlin might have replied, if he could have, but Manny took that option away as he deepened the last kiss while lifting him into his arms to take him across the room to his bed.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Caomhnóir – Manny - 14

“As I said, the daggers are the only way to kill us, and if ritual words are spoken at the same moment we are truly dead and redeemed.” Manny paused, and then added, “Well, I suppose if you cut off our heads that might kill us too, but that’s not what’s bothering me right now. While I was gone I had an assignment to stop another Scriostóir’s schemes. I did, but it seems he found out that it was me. He sent someone after me and I got shot, twice, in places that would have killed me if I were a human.”

Hamlin shook his head. “From what you’ve been saying, that makes not sense at all.”

“Exactly. And now I’m wondering why he did that, or if he’s actually the one who set it up. Something I’ll have to take up with mijn commandant.”

“Commandant, that sounds very military.”

“I suppose it does, but then this is a war,” Manny replied seriously, “One that I’ve been a part of since I died.”

There was a long silence then, each man wrapped in his own thoughts. Manny kept his eyes on Hamlin, longing to know what was going on inside his head but afraid to ask. Then Hamlin looked back at him and he saw a small smile curving his lips up.

“This is absolutely, totally, the weirdest, off-the-wall story I’ve ever heard.” Hamlin saw the sadness in Manny’s eyes before his face closed down. “Hang on, I’m not finished,” he said softly. “In spite of that I believe it. All of it. I can’t say that it’s easy to accept, and I still have enough questions to keep you busy answering them for the next week I suspect, but Manny, I do believe you.”

“That doesn’t mean you’re going to stick around though.”

“Don’t go putting words in my mouth, because I didn’t say that, and unless you want me to get out of your life now I intend to be with you for as long as you wish.” He reached across the space that separated them, taking one of Manny’s hands in his. “If you just want me as a friend, I can accept that, but I want more. I want what we had before. All of it.”

Manny looked down at their intertwined hands for a moment then raised his eyes. “You’re certain? It won’t be easy.”

“You mean ten years from now, or twenty, when people look at us and think I’m robbing the cradle?” Hamlin replied, grinning.

“That too.” Manny chuckled softly. “But all of it. Starting with the fact that I’m the one who killed Cerdic, and I’ve killed others before him.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Caomhnóir – Manny - 13

“So you accept the possibility that I am what I say?”

Hamlin nodded slowly. “The proof is in the picture, Manny, although why no one else has figured things out is the question.”

“Two reasons, first I don’t knowingly let my picture be taken. Second, I never stay in the same place for too long.”

“Wait a minute, you’ve been here for over three years.”

“Special situation. I was undercover, passing on information about what Cerdic was doing to my superiors so they could counteract his machinations.”

“That’s what you do, try to stop trouble from happening? What was Cerdic, some sort of terrorist? I’m pretty certain he used the information I got for him to cause people problems.” Hamlin wondered if he looked as confused as he felt.

“Not just specific people, humanity in general. He was a Scriostóir, a Destroyer. They’re created, for lack of a better word, to eradicate humankind, or more specifically to cause humans to destroy each other.”

“Angels! That’s what you are, isn’t it? He was a fallen angel and you’re—whatever the opposite of that is.”

Manny laughed. “Sorry, trust me none of us are angels, good or bad. All of us died while committing a mortal sin or a great evil. We arrived in what is called the Vale of the Dead Sinners where we were given a choice, to spent eternity suffering for what we had done, or become what we are now.”

“So, you got to choose whether to be one of these Guardians or Destroyers?”

“Actually, no. I guess that decision is made by some higher—force. We only get to decide which is worse, eternal suffering or eternal life.”

“There’s no out clause?” By now Hamlin was totally fascinated by the whole concept. 

Manny smile ruefully. “One.” He pulled a dagger from where it was sheathed at the back of his waistband. “Only one of these can kill us. We all carry one, Caomhnóir or Scriostóir.” He stopped suddenly, a deep frown on his face.

“What’s wrong?”

Tapping a knuckle on his lips, Manny debated the wisdom of telling him. But he’d already come this far. Hamlin might as well know everything.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Caomhnóir – Manny - 12

“Now I see where you got the idea for what you’re doing on Jakie’s wall,” Hamlin said once they were in Manny’s loft. He looked around for somewhere safe for Romper to be and then told him to sit and stay before asking, “Whose place is this by the way?”

“Mine.” Manny crossed to the kitchen area, saying as he did, “Make yourself comfortable while I get coffee started. Unless you want something stronger.”

“Coffee’s fine. And since when can you afford a place like this?”

“That’s part of the answer to your question, so if you don’t mind I’ll wait till we’re settled before telling you.”

He came over a couple of minutes later to where Hamlin sat stiffly upright on a chair. Handing him one of the cups of coffee he was carrying, he said, “If I remember right, you take it black,” as he sat down in the chair facing Hamlin’s. Putting his cup down on the side table after taking a drink, he leaned back, looking at Hamlin. “This is going to take some suspension of disbelief, but I have the feeling you’re half way to doing that already.” 

Hamlin smiled slightly. “More than half way I think.”

“Might as well start with the obvious then, no I haven’t changed at all in the past three years. Well, physically that is. I’ve looked the way I do now for the last almost five hundred years.”

“Damn,” Hamlin whispered.

“Damned is more like it, although given what I do I consider it more like doing eternal penance.”

“How, I mean, what—? You’re not a ghost. Or at least if you are you’re not like any that I’ve ever heard of.”

“Nope, not a ghost. There’s a word for me and others of my kind. It’s Caomhnóir, which is Gaelic for Guardian. Why Gaelic? No clue. After all I’m Dutch so why aren’t I called a Gardiaan or a Voogd? Okay, I’m rattling here, aren’t I? But I’m nervous and, quite honestly afraid.”

“Afraid that I won’t believe you, or that I will?”

Manny gave a small shrug of one shoulder. “Both. If you don’t believe then you’ll think I’m totally insane and walk away. If you do, then you’ll leave because the idea of being stuck with an immortal is more than you can handle.”

“I can’t argue with the logic of either option, but just so that you know, I don’t think you’re insane.”

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Caomhnóir – Manny - 11

It didn’t take more than a second for Manny to figure out that something had radically changed between him and Hamlin, at least as far as Hamlin was concerned. For a moment he wished the boys weren’t there, and then he was glad that they were. They made it easier for him to stay where he was, rather than crossing to Hamlin and saying something that might push the man further away than he seemed to be already.

As the silence lengthened, broken only by the gleeful interplay between the boys and the puppy, Manny turned away and started to work again. He heard Hamlin tell them he’d be back in a while, after he’d seen the rest of the crew, and then Jakie was beside him again, asking questions about how to get the effect he wanted on one section of the wall.

An hour later, Manny called a halt to the work for the day. “Dinner time,” he explained, “and then your studies.”

The boys protested but it was just a formality. They knew the rules and after cleaning up they vanished downstairs. Not feeling very sociable at the moment, and knowing Gebhard would be eating with the boys anyway, Manny started down to his room on the second floor. When he got to the hall he saw Hamlin leaning against the wall outside his door. Instinctively, Manny started to turn away; not wanting what he suspected was going to be a confrontation with Hamlin.

“Wait. We have to talk. Or, I guess I have to. No, we have to,” Hamlin said.

“I suppose we do.” Manny continued down the hall, opening his door and then standing back to let Hamlin go in first. “Where’s the dog?” he asked as he closed the door behind them.

“I left him with the boys, and warned them they were not to feed him table scraps unless they wanted to clean up after him later,” Hamlin replied with a small smile.

Manny merely nodded as he took a seat on the sofa at one side of the room. Then he said, a bit tersely because he was worried about what was to come, “So, talk.”

With a sigh, Hamlin sat in the chair catty-corner from the sofa. There was a long pause while he tried to gather his thoughts. Finally, knowing the words would sound crazy but still, somehow, believing he was asking the right question, he said, “What are you?”

Not quite certain how to reply, Manny went for the obvious, “A counselor here, thanks to Gebhard and Mr. Shadrick.”

Hamlin shook his head. “I mean—“ He stopped, pulling his wallet from his pocket, taking out the picture. He handed it to Manny. “I took this three years ago.”

Manny looked at it and then back at Hamlin. “Sort of incriminating in its own way, isn’t it?”

“When you consider you haven’t changed one iota since it was taken, yes.”

Manny ran a hand through his hair. “I can’t talk here. Not when the kids could burst in any time. They don’t seem to get that this is my space and should be at least semi-private.”

“Then where?”

“Let’s get the puppy and I’ll let Gebhard know I’ll be gone for a while. Then I’ll take you to a place where we won’t be interrupted.”

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Out today... and coming soon.

'Eye of the Beholder'

Available now from Silver Publishing

When porn star Preston is attacked by an unknown assailant who may have been working for his former boss, he goes into seclusion, unable to face the future looking as he now does. 

Meanwhile his friend, Cary, and Cary's boyfriend, give up trying to find Pres and move on with their lives. Then, through his online business, Pres reconnects with his friend, although Cary doesn't know it is Pres. Will Pres, with the help of the woman with whom he is living, be able to let down his barriers and meet face to face with Cary or will his fears keep them just online friends?

Coming February 2nd

(A 'Yin and Yang' Story) 


Photojournalist Jersey Parma is a man alone, with few friends and no relationships, and he likes it that way, seeking momentary companionship from the men he meets in gay clubs. Then Darby Franklin comes into his life. Or does he? It seems, after their first meeting, that Darby will do anything possible to avoid Jersey until one fateful day when he shows up on Jersey’s doorstep and proceeds to throw Jersey’s life into a cocked hat.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Caomhnóir – Manny - 10

“Holy shit, it smells like a chemical factory in here,” Hamlin muttered under his breath as he entered the house. Tightening his hold on Romper’s leash, he paused at the stairs leading up to the living room, trying to figure out why the place smelled the way it did.

“Well now, return the conquering hero,” Gebhard said, stepping from the gym into the entryway. “And you can blame the stink on Manny. He’s teaching Jakie how to do graffiti.”

“Manny’s back?”

“He is; has been for over a week now. We hired him on as a counselor for the boys.”

“Oh,” Hamlin said softly, at a loss for words at the moment.

“So who’s your friend?” Gebhard asked, bending to scratch behind Romper’s ears.

Hamlin told him, explaining that he’d gotten him while he was out west. “Actually, he found me,” he added. “Someone dumped his on the beach. We sort of adopted each other.”

“Well, I guess as long as he behaves you can take him upstairs with you.”

“He will,” Hamlin told him as he started up the stairs, the puppy bounding ahead of him.

It didn’t take long to figure out where to go next. The smell and the sound of voices led him up to the third floor and Jakie’s room. Hamlin paused at the open door, watching in fascination as Manny showed Jakie how to do the next section of what it seemed was going to be a large mural on one wall. A second boy, Hamlin figured it had to be Jakie’s roommate, was drawing outlines further down the wall, consulting a sketchpad as he did. It wasn’t until Romper started yipping to get free of the leash that any of them noticed they had an audience.

Jakie immediately set down the can he was holding and dashed over, first greeting Hamlin with an “You’re back!” and then scooping up Romper, laughing when the puppy began washing his face with its tongue.

When the second boy came over to get his share of Romper’s attention Jakie introduced him as Sandy, which given the color of the boy’s hair seemed like a natural nickname to Hamlin.

Manny was the only one who remained where he was. He watched the boys, a slight smile on his face for a moment until he looked directly at Hamlin. The smile broadened, and then faded when Hamlin didn’t return it. “Welcome back,” he said quietly.

“Thanks,” was all that Hamlin said in reply. He wanted to say more, but something stopped him. Maybe the boys’ presence, maybe everything he’d been thinking about on the long journey home, maybe—He wasn’t certain, but any words he might have said died before they were spoken.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Caomhnóir – Manny - 9

“What’s wrong?” Manny asked a couple of nights later when he found Jakie slumped dejectedly in a chair in the study room.

“Things ain’t no fun any more now that Mr. Wyndham’s gone.”

Manny cocked an eyebrow as he sat down next to the boy. “Fun how?”

“You know, getting to go out and lift stuff for him. It was—“ Jakie shrugged, “fun.”

“And illegal,” Manny pointed out.

“So? You stole stuff for him, the other guys did other things. What’s the difference?”

“There isn’t any difference. He had us doing things we shouldn’t have. Okay, if he’d left us where he found us, yeah we’d have been doing it anyway, but that doesn’t make it right.”

Jakie rolled his eyes. “So now suddenly you’re a preacher, telling me I done wrong and I should be glad it’s over now?”

“If you want to look at it that way, yes. But you’re a smart kid, your grades show that, plus you’re street smart on top of that. There should be something else you can find to do that’s fun and legal.”

“Yeah? Like what?”

Manny sighed. Then he had an idea. “I know you well enough to know you like to draw.”

“But I ain’t too good at it. Things always come out like, what’s that word for making people look like comics?”

“Caricatures. And that’s not a bad thing really if we channel it.”

“We what?”

“Jakie, you’re going to learn to wield a spray paint can.”

“Hey, cool, but ain’t that illegal too?”

“On a subway car, or a building, yeah. But not here. We start with your bedroom, assuming your roommate doesn’t have a cow.”

Jakie grinned. “He won’t or I take steps.”

“Jakie,” Manny growled. “He has to agree because he agrees, got that.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay. So I talk to him and then you show me how?”

“Talk to him, yes. Then you sit down and come up with some sketches that you both like. After that, then I show you the ropes.”

Monday, January 7, 2013

Caomhnóir – Manny - 8

Gebhard looked across the desk at Manny, while Mr. Shadrick sat in another chair, one leg crossed over his knee, listening.

“So,” Manny continued, “I’m really at loose ends now. I can get a job doing something menial, but—” He shrugged. “What I want to do is be here, helping out in some way. This place was my home for the last three years, and the kids are like family, the only real family I’ve ever had. Does that sound stupid or something?”

“Not really,” Gebhard replied. “The problem is, what would we do with you?”

“One possibility,” Mr. Shadrick interjected. “Let him be a counselor. It would make our lives easier. He could watch the boys in the evenings, make certain they studied, did their chores, got to bed on time. That way you and I could have time for ourselves, which God knows we don’t now.”

Gebhard nodded. “Not a bad suggestion. Of course we couldn’t pay you much, Manny, but if we hired you, you could go back to living here. Since Mr. Shadrick has taken over Mr. Wyndham’s former quarters, his old room is vacant now.”

“So you’ll consider it?” Manny looked hopefully at both men.

Gebhard glanced at Mr. Shadrick, receiving a nod in return. “Tell you what; we’ll give it a month’s trial. If it seems to be working well then we’ll hire you on permanently.”

“Thank you,” Manny said, heaving a sigh of relief, not at all feigned. If this hadn’t worked he had been at a loss as to what other ploy to use to remain connected to the house and the boys. He needed the in, in order to find out if Gebhard had connections to the Scriostóir responsible for having him shot.

“You’re welcome. Where are your belongings? Do you need a ride somewhere to collect them?”

Manny snorted. “Belongings? Everything I own is in my backpack except what I left here, which has probably been doled out to the kids by now.”

“I should have known, and they have been I’m afraid,” Gebhard replied with a smile. “Alright, let’s get you settled in and then we can let the boys know you’re back.”

An hour later, Manny was facing a room of excited teens. Five of them he knew already, two others were newcomers. Gebhard explained that, as there was room, he and Mr. Shadrick had decided to continue Cerdic’s good work and take in as many kids as could fit comfortably in the house. Manny had bitten back a snort of derision at that, wondering how either of the men could have missed exactly what Cerdic had had the boys doing. There are none so blind-- he decided as he was introduced to the newest residents.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Caomhnóir – Manny - 7

Hamlin walked along the shore, smiling as Romper romped around and ahead of him. The dog was a new addition, something to keep him company while he tried to work things out in his head. Unfortunately the working out part wasn’t happening.

He cared for Manny, more than he ever had for anyone, even Cerdic.

Hamlin had escaped his miserable childhood, living on the streets until Cerdic had found him and brought him to his home and into the fold. He did everything he could to repay Cerdic, even though he had been more than certain Cerdic was not one of the good guys so to speak. Hamlin had no illusions about people. They were out to take what they could by hook or by crook, and if Cerdic used that to his advantage to stir up trouble it was no skin off of Hamlin’s nose.

Then Manny had come into his life and things had changed. He’d discovered what it meant to love and have it returned. They had become lovers, keeping that part of their lives a secret from the others, as hard as that had been.

When Cerdic had sent him off to London he had wanted to say no. But you didn’t refuse an order from him. So he’d gone, and one year later Cerdic was dead. When he’d returned to the city and the house, Manny was there as always.

There but, Hamlin noticed almost instantly, somehow different, and Hamlin couldn’t put his finger on why. Just that he was. Manny had left the next day, promising to return, and to explain what was going on. He hadn’t.

After almost a month had passed, Hamlin gave up waiting. He couldn’t stand being there at the house, a place so full of memories of the two of them. Like a petulant child he had run away.

Now he was on the other side of the country and all he wanted to do was go back to the one real home he’d ever known. But he couldn’t, because now he knew what it was about Manny that had seemed so strange. Sitting down on the sand, heedless of the fact that it was still damp from the early morning tide, he took out his wallet and looked at the one picture he had of the boy he loved.

Taken soon after Manny had arrived at the house, it showed him laughing at something one of the other boys had been saying. Hamlin had snapped it without Manny being aware, and now he suspected that had he known he would have destroyed it somehow. Because, as Hamlin looked at it and compared it with his memory of Manny the last time he’d seen him, he understood what had bothered him the day he’d come back from London. In the three years since he’d first met Manny, the boy had not seemed to age one bit.

“Why?” Hamlin said softly, stroking a finger over the picture. “How, between the time you were fifteen and now, at eighteen, do you look exactly the same?” He closed his wallet, lying back to stare up at the clouds. “Do I go back and ask, and feel like the fool that I probably am for having such strange thoughts, or do I stay away because maybe I’m not crazy. Maybe he—Ooof, dog, damn it. You’re soaking wet.” Hamlin glared at the puppy who was now sitting in the middle of his chest, looking down at him as if he’d done something particularly special that warranted a treat.

Putting Romper back down on the sand, Hamlin got up, and after attaching the leash they headed back to the small beach house he was renting. As they did, Hamlin realized that this would be their last night there. He had to go back home and pray that Manny was there, waiting for him. And that he would be able to explain the unexplainable.