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Fiddling Under Vesuvius

Fiddling Under Vesuvius

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Fiddling Under Vesuvius

Lunghezza:
377 pagine
5 ore
Pubblicato:
May 5, 2013
ISBN:
9780991972807
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Twenty years after leaving his (fictional) home town of Cranston, Michigan, world famous writer/playwright Warren Kramer returns to town at the request of his niece, Sylvia Hampton, a member of the Cranston Community Players, to help bale out the debt-ridden amateur theatre group. Within days, Kramer is found on the stage of The Palace theatre with a dagger in his chest.

Granted, Kramer was hated by many people in show business due to his arrogant attitude and his floundering writing career, but the case quickly focuses on Casey Thomas, a freelance journalist and blues musician who had major cause to hold a grudge against Kramer. At the age of nineteen, Casey's mentor, then amateur theatre director Warren Kramer, stole his future. Kramer went on to become a successful novelist while Casey's life plunged into a downward spiral of self doubt and depression.

Casey becomes the number one suspect when the media digs up his past connection to Kramer. Casey, must deal with the 'media circus' that spawns a 'feeding frenzy' of invading tourists and some elusive adversaries who manipulate the facts in order to ensure Casey takes the fall for Kramer’s murder. If that isn't bad enough, Bruno Pulchinski, a hulking body builder extraordinaire, is out for Casey's hide, his ex-fiancée Dana Cranston is trying to ruin his life for breaking off their engagement and his editor at the Cranston Tribune, Herman Weis, is pressuring Casey to turn the story into tabloid fodder in order to boost the paper's circulation.

Fortunately, Casey is aided by Suzie Allen, the golden girl fitness instructor he encounters while covering a story on fitness and body building for the Cranston Tribune. As their budding romance develops, Suzie's mystical outlook on life helps Casey awaken his suppressed emotions and find his spiritual self, as he begins to understand that sharkespeare had it right: "All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts."

Fiddling Under Vesuvius features a cast of quirky characters and a whimsical metaphysical theme as Casey tries to untangle himself from the "wicked web" that weaves itself around him.

Pubblicato:
May 5, 2013
ISBN:
9780991972807
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

I read somewhere that a writer needs to write and discard a million words before they have even a minimal grasp of the craft. Having written and discarded my million words and now well into my second million (or third), I’ve discovered that fewer words get deleted and the right words do come more readily ... which is a relief since it takes a long time to bear fruit that is luscious and tasteful and something you want to share with others, especially when writing novels. My writing experience includes articles for local publications, from business to entertainment, corporate newsletters and a couple years as editor/publisher of a local entertainment weekly. I’m also a closet musician, graphic designer and I never went to college or university (lucky me). Writing novels is not a new experience, but one that has taken up much of my spare time over the years. There’s something special about having a new character you hadn’t planned on suddenly impose his/her way into your story just when you need them. It’s a magical moment of creation that is difficult to beat as a life experience. I firmly believe that, along with writing your first million words, being an avid reader is the best training for any aspiring writer. Thus I thank all the authors who’ve inspired me to write over the years, especially my idol, William Goldman (Marathon Man, Princess Bride, Boys and Girls Together, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, etc.—yes, THAT guy) who still unconsciously influences my writing style, though I’ll never admit it, so please don’t tell anyone, okay.

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Fiddling Under Vesuvius - Glenn Cutforth

Fiddling Under Vesuvius

A Metaphysical Murder Mystery

by Glenn Cutforth

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

eBook Edition: Copyright 2013 Glenn Cutforth. This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for supporting the author’s work.

This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The author has represented and warranted full ownership and/or legal right to publish all the materials in this book.

Note: Canadian/UK spelling is used throughout. For example, doubled letters (i.e. focussed), ou’s (i.e. colour) and ‘re’ (theatre) and so on including other differences from American spelling.

What wicked webs we weave

While trying to achieve

The fabric’s sharp

As it fills our hearts

Embracing our shadows with ease

*****************

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts . . .

William Shakespeare

from As You Like It

Table of Contents

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Epilogue

Prologue

The sounds and flashes of light in a simultaneous swirl jogged me awake, though my eyes stayed closed as I reconciled myself to the pain that gnawed its way up my right leg. I tried to move, but another hot spot just above my right ear made its presence known. I felt like I’d overdosed on twenty sharp knocks against a concrete wall. I could hear myself moan, but felt strangely detached, as if one part of me was experiencing agony, but the conscious part was observing from a distance.

Who’s there? a voice called out. Another click, flash and whirr and then the sound of footsteps from above me.

I didn’t budge, but another moan escaped my lips—and then there were hands all over me.

Goddamn—another body ! Casey! Casey! Wake up, man! Oh, shit! I don’t know what to do … ah, let me see … I gotta call the cops! Don’t you move, Case, I’ll be right back … I’ll have an ambulance down here pronto!

I wasn’t going anywhere, but I managed to roll over enough to feel my right leg twisted at a weird angle underneath my body. In agony, I was able to straighten it out and then I stopped trying to move. Lights suddenly flashed all around me and then the sound of someone running down the aisle.

I opened my eyes. A sudden click … flash … whirr … in my face.

Hey Jack, what are ya tryin’ to do, blind me? I got enough pain right now!

My god, sorry! He rushed over, his arms flailing, camera dangling from his neck.

I lifted my upper torso, with Jack’s help, and managed to sit up straight. I was lying in the five foot aisle between the stage and the first row of seats. The old carpeting had been ripped out for the renovation. The floor was cold concrete—cold and hard as hell—my pounding head could certainly confirm without an argument. I looked up at the stage—six feet straight up never looked so far. I started to feel nauseated again and closed my eyes. Sparkling lights filled the darkness.

You gonna be all right? Any broken bones? Jack continued to hover over me like an anxious puppy waiting for its rabies’ shot.

Geez, Jack, I dunno—I’m not a doctor.

What the hell happened?

Gimme a minute, will ya? I opened my eyes, and then I remembered Kramer. Hey Jack, forget about me, did you take care of Kramer? I tried to stand up, got half way there and he helped me the rest of the way. The leg was too sensitive to step full on, but I figured I could hop if I had to. I think he had another heart attack. He’ll need some medication …

Hell, he had a lot more than a heart attack!

What do you mean? I leaned on him. His camera swung around and clunked against my arm.

Oops, sorry. He swung it around over his shoulder. Can ya take a few steps?

With his help, I took a couple of tentative steps. I had a strange sensation that I was about to explode like some hapless character from a David Cronenburg horror flick.

I think I’ll be okay, just a bit of a twist. I put full weight on the leg—it held. I think I can make it, Jack. Now where the hell is Kramer?

It was the look in his eyes, a mixture of anxiety, fear and hesitation that gave me a clue something was amiss. He stood there not moving as if his legs were made out of lead.

What’s up, Jack?

It ain’t a pretty sight.

What are you talkin’ about?

Can you walk? He started up the stairs to the stage.

Ya, I think I can make it.

Follow me.

I started moving up the stairs, slowly at first, but I decided it was better to keep moving or I’d probably fall flat on my face, so I picked up the pace. Jack kept close, anxiously watching me as I shuffled along.

Be careful! Slow down! he said.

I stopped. Thanks, Mom, but I’ll make it!

He gave me a sheepish look and backed up a step.

I moved across the stage wincing all the way while I rubbed my right temple trying to alleviate the pain that lay there like a clump of dirty laundry. It was difficult to focus on anything else as I shuffled along with Jack walking backwards in front of me. And then he stopped and stepped aside.

I had an abrupt, full view of the spotlight that was still gracing the centre of the stage.

Oh my God! I exclaimed.

I immediately had to throw up, but since my stomach was mostly empty, it came out as hacking dry heaves. Jack quickly moved closer. I leaned against his shoulder for a moment, shook my head, tried to regain focus and then I looked back.

Kramer was still in the centre of the spotlight. He was sitting on one of the chairs from his office, his body slumped backwards, mouth wide open, tongue dangling. His long, shiny dagger protruded from the middle of his chest from a jagged wound that had spilled a generous amount of crimson blood down his front.

I stood there mesmerized, consumed by a sharp pain jabbing through my own gut, his last few words running through my head … Death, death, O, amiable, lovely death! … I find I seek to die and seeking death, find life!

Chapter One

Up … down. Up … down.

I paused for a moment. Sweat dripped from every pore in my body.

Up … down. Up … down.

I tried to imagine I had the combined strength and prowess of Hercules, Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Up … down … up … down.

It didn’t help.

Up … down … up … and … up … still up …

Enough!

I collapsed onto the mat, rolled over onto my back and closed my eyes. The pain and exhaustion piercing through my body shut out the world around me except for the smell of sweaty bodies and the pulse of the Bee Gee’s Staying Alive blaring from the overhead sound system.

Come on Casey! Is that all you can do?

Her ridicule was veiled in a sweet, flowery tone that dug deep into my masculine butt.

All … I … can … do … , I managed between gasps for air.

You look like you’re going to die.

Going to? I think … I died … long time ago.

I rubbed my sweaty palms across my gym shorts.

The fact was, 1992 had arrived and I had just turned forty and after a lifetime of ignoring all the things that were supposed to make a person wise and contented, it was clear there were certain things I was not capable of pulling off—no matter how much I tried to fake it. It was also clear my body was more than willing to accept this fact as absolute truth, but the mind was proving more difficult to convince.

My current dilemma was a good example of how twisted your brain could get as you got older.

It all started when Herman Weiss, editor of the Cranston Tribune, a man who rarely took no for an answer, asked me to do a story on fitness and bodybuilding. The Trib’s preferred type of article more often than not required exposing a scam or rip-off—not usually my style, but I was as good at getting the dirt as the next guy. So I took the assignment to keep Herm happy. Keeping Herm happy was, on balance, a more intelligent decision than the reverse.

It also gave me an opportunity to learn something about that weird segment of the population who worshipped the body over the mind. I’d never been one to treat the upkeep of my body as anything more than a bothersome duty best put off until another day, though I’d never abused myself with too much food or drink, either. Rather, I was the type who now and then felt guilty about never exercising as I munched on a cheeseburger and fries while trying to ignore the kink in my neck that never seemed to go away and the annoying spasms in my lower back that made long stretches at the keyboard a difficult chore.

So, I registered at World Gym for a twelve week introductory class planning to attend for only a couple of sessions—just long enough to get the story and satisfy my curiosity. Six weeks later, the article delivered, published and now serving as lining for someone’s bird cage, I was still showing up twice weekly to go through the rigorous paces of Suzie’s fitness class with a motley crew of weak, unhealthy, overweight men and women who had also got caught up in the challenge of improving their self-image.

Casey, you can’t lie there all night, you know.

Suzie’s voice was deep and resonant with the sharp terseness of someone accustomed to giving orders. There was, however, enough warmth and sweetness to indicate she really wasn’t motivated by a desire to dominate. She was just doing her job.

Come on, Casey! Everybody is staring at us.

Let ’em stare!

I couldn’t imagine why those around us who were consumed by their own workouts would have any interest in what we were doing—except maybe for the obvious contrast in the state of our health and countenance of our bodies.

The key attraction that kept me coming back, of course, other than a voyeuristic enjoyment of hanging around almost naked, sweaty bodies, was the absolute fascination of watching people who intentionally inflicted themselves with high levels of pain. The more pain and agony, the happier they were. This attitude was totally foreign to my way of being. I was, therefore, surprised when I realized I was now hooked on the psychology of the gym. It was a mindset that crept up and took you over when you weren’t looking like one of those pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Once I realized what was happening, it didn’t take long before I understood why these muscle-bound zombies strutted around with puffed out chests and oversized egos.

The sad part was I discovered I’d taken on the same attitude. I’d gotten so carried away, I’d somehow allowed this wildly attractive, vivacious golden girl to manipulate the masculine/ macho/ego-maniac part of my character into taking over and getting the best of me.

I hadn’t anticipated this situation. In fact, I’d always assumed that physical fitness fanatics were all muscle and no brain and I would therefore have little trouble overwhelming them with my intellect.

Not so!

Suzie was proving to be surprisingly ‘swift-of-smarts.’ It was becoming clear that future strategy called for less assuming on my part and more devious and careful planning.

I remained prone until my pounding heart returned to a civilized beat, trying to persuade myself I had experienced only a minor set-back—and then I opened my eyes to the magnificent sight of her body standing on the mat between my outstretched legs. She really was a golden girl—tall and tanned, green-eyed and blonde, with bulges in all the right places and the lithe, sinewy presence of a lady who spent an exorbitant amount of time taking care of her body—a body that had no resemblance to one of those freakish female muscle-bound hulks, but a finely sculpted feminine chassis that made my engine hum.

As I watched her plop down and sit cross-legged between my legs, I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like making love to a lady who had more muscles than I did and could probably crush me in her bare hands if I ever got out of line. My heartbeat accelerated as my mind wandered through that fantasy. I knew I was getting sucked into a situation that every fibre of my existence told me could never happen—get a grip on yourself, Casey my boy, dreams only come true in the movies.

After six weeks of Suzie’s subliminal stares, sensuous smiles and more than friendly concern for my well-being, I was beginning to feel like Ben Braddock in The Graduate when Mrs. Robinson first propositioned him—reluctant, but interested, despite my better judgment.

Logic should have made me suspicious of the way she seemed to be coming on to me—golden girls had never been one of my usual areas of conquest—yet I had been quick to attribute this strange aberration on some dynamic new sex appeal that comes with turning forty.

I can’t believe how slim you are, Suzie said as she ran her fingers across my bare chest and stomach. Most men who don’t workout usually have ugly, paunchy bodies by the time they reach your age. Howcum you don’t have one? Her eyes twinkled and danced as she looked down at me.

I’ve never made a habit of eating breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Really? Then when do you eat?

Oh, just once a month when there’s a full moon and I have to roam the countryside looking for the fresh blood of an innocent, beautiful virgin …

For a moment she gave that a serious nod, and then her eyes twinkled and she pulled a face. Hey, you’re just being silly, she exclaimed as she gave me a playful smack on the pit of my stomach with the back of her hand.

Owww! I’ll get you for that! It’s bad enough my arms are so sore they feel like dead weights without you inflicting more pain!

Well, she said, it’s not my fault you’re a hundred and fifty pound weakling. Besides, you’re the one who insisted you could do fifty consecutive push-ups, not me.

Ya, but you’re the one who embarrassed me into trying to prove how macho I am … ah, how many did I do, anyway?

Nine.

I sat up.

That many, eh.

She reached over and brushed her hand through my sweat-drenched hair.

How many did you do? I asked.

I was at forty-two when I saw you collapse.

Her smile was too cute for her own good.

I shook my head. Next time I’ll know enough to challenge a hundred pound weakling instead … like one of those up and coming stars of the Special Olympics …

Sitting so close to her, it took twenty tons of self-control to maintain a calm exterior, since my insides were jumping and screaming for joy like a kid about to get laid for the first time. Her skin-tight Danskins left little to the imagination. I had a hard time keeping my eyes from wandering.

She moved her face closer to mine, smiled, inquiring eyes that shifted up and down.

I stared back feeling goosey all over.

You know Casey, you’re kinda cute despite yourself, she said, tongue peeking through beguiling lips.

You must be joking! I exclaimed as I tried to keep my eyes from drifting.

No really! You’ve got a neat personality and a terrific smile … which is a good thing ‘cos you sure couldn’t attract flies with that body of yours … well, maybe flies.

Gee, thanks.

And that voice of yours, it’s so big and booming and—are you a disc jockey or something?

Only on nights I’ve had my way with my virginal victims, I said and then, as I watched her face, my body turned to mush as she flashed me the look—fluttering eyelids, slightly parted lips, crinkled nose, sensual smile—the look—a cross between please hold me, I need to feel close to you right now, and take me, sailor, I’m all yours.

It was often difficult to determine whether the lady was implying one or the other—or neither, and a misreading on the part of the receiver would only lead to disaster and confusion. Thus, I tried to hold my ground, to remain detached from the ravages of her sweetness.

Suzie stood and pulled me up with her.

Well, Casey, it doesn’t matter what you did in the past, now that you’re in my fitness class you’re on your way to a great new body and way of life and you’re even going to find yourself having fun while you’re doing it.

You call this fun! It feels more like self-torture.

"You will have fun, you just wait and see."

Somehow, I doubt it, I muttered as I massaged my aching biceps while I watched the agonized, contorted faces of two giants working out on the heavy weights. Big hulking bodies. Tiny, crew-cut heads. Veins popping out all over the place. A gruesome sight.

Suzie stepped backwards and gave me a quick head-to-toe survey. I felt like a prize bull at the county fair.

What you need is to start eating a proper diet supplemented with a decent intake of vitamins and minerals, she said.

I suppose you mean health food. No thanks, I don’t think I could live on alfalfa and seaweed.

Seaweed? Oh, you mean kelp.

Whatever you call the stuff.

She smiled. Hey, don’t knock it, kelp is very good for you.

Okay, well, the next time you make up a potful of kelp for dinner make sure you give me a call—so I can make other plans.

Don’t be silly, she said with a laugh.

I laughed along with her and at that moment a sudden feeling of complete confidence overwhelmed me. I stepped off the mat and walked to a rack of weights and dumbbells, bent down and latched onto what looked like the least imposing set and proceeded to yank it toward my chest. The weight refused to cooperate. Instead of ending up over my head, it plunged straight down and hit the floor with a loud clunk.

I stared at it for a few seconds and then I mumbled, The hell with it. I wondered if all forty-year-olds were as adept at making a fool out of themselves as I seemed to be.

Suzie bent over and picked up the weight with one arm and placed it back onto the rack, her face contorted with suppressed laughter.

You try so hard! she exclaimed as she threw her arms around me and squeezed her body against mine.

I decided that if this was my reward for making an ass of myself, I was all for it and I responded with a few squeezes of my own. There was no doubt I enjoyed the touch of her bulges and the warmth of her body against my chest, but as we stood in the middle of all the sweaty bodies, I couldn’t help noticing the aggravated stare of a dark-haired giant who was pumping iron on the other side of the gym. I’d caught him staring at us throughout the evening and I wondered if it was my terrific smile or neat personality that had attracted his attention.

Suzie untangled herself from my prowling hands and said, Well, I’ve got a fitness class to teach in a couple of minutes so I’d better get going. Will I see you later?

Sure.

She took three steps and then turned back.

On second thought, I think I’ll get one of the other girls to teach the class. If you’d like, we could go over to my place and I could show you some of my … ah, recipes. I’ve got a great one for alfalfa and kelp stew. She winked and then shades of the look swept across her face.

Sounds good to me. I’ll bet all your … ah, recipes taste as good as they look.

Seeing is believing, I always say.

However, instead of heading for the locker room, I was again distracted by the big guy leering at me from across the gym.

Suzie, can I ask you something before we go?

Sure, Casey.

Do you happen to know that raging barbarian heading towards us? I pointed him out. He looks like he’s got more than tiptoeing through the tulips on his mind.

She turned and with controlled annoyance exclaimed, Yes, I know him. His name is Bruno Pulchinski, and then she quickly added, but I wouldn’t pay any attention to him, he just likes to talk tough and push people around.

As the space between him and us evaporated, I wondered how anyone could ignore three hundred pounds of muscle that talked tough and pushed people around.

How well do you know him? I asked.

She hesitated. Ah, well … he chased me for years, finally wore me down and we went out a couple of times—but it’s all over now, we stopped dating a couple of weeks ago.

A couple of weeks ago? You mean right about the time I started in your class?

She pondered for a moment. Yes, I guess it was about the same time.

I said, Hmmm.

She gave me a weak smile.

Why did you stop dating him?

She was quick to answer. Bruno was too damned possessive! He acted as if he owned me and could force me to do whatever he wanted, like I was some kind of a slave. If I just said ‘hi’ to another guy, he’d fly into a rage and beat the guy up. I got tired of being the one responsible for all those battered bodies, so I broke it off.

I said, Hmmm.

It didn’t look very promising.

Suzie, are you trying to tell me that I’m about to get my ass kicked?

No! she yelled. He can’t do anything to you, I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore—he has no right!

That was a very logical statement—for that segment of the population who’s yin energy dominated their yang energy—but for the rest of us …

Somehow I don’t think Bruno listens very well, I said. Course, if I looked like that I probably wouldn’t listen to anyone else either … so what does this guy do for a living?

He’s a bodyguard.

Figures.

Suzie, I wanna talk to you!

The words came roaring at us like a storm at sea.

The Barbarian had arrived—six feet of inflated flesh, muscles on muscles, penetrating blue eyes, bushy eyebrows that connected in the middle, pearly white teeth, an attitude of contemptuous power.

I smiled and said with bubbling enthusiasm, Well how the hell are you today, Mr. Pulchinski? You know, you’ve got lovely pectorals.

Bruno’s gaze went through me. His powerful right arm shot out and gave me a none-too-gentle shove.

Get lost, creep, he muttered.

I stumbled back a couple of steps before catching myself. It was clear Bruno was going to play hard to get.

Suzie stepped in front of the barbarian. Bruno, I have nothing to say to you, she said with a calm intensity that defied his intimidating posture.

Suzie, I said I wanna talk to you! he bellowed. Now you come with me!

No! she exclaimed, her voice rising to match his belligerence. I’m not interested in anything you have to say. She moved her arm in my direction, offered her hand. Casey, let’s get out of here.

I hesitated for a fraction of a second. Did I really I want to go with her? Or did it make more sense to turn around and run like hell.

Bruno must have sensed my hesitation. His malicious laugh sliced through the air like an attacking vampire bat in heat. You better dump this creep. He stepped between us. With one hand he grabbed her arm, with the other he gave me a solid elbow to the shoulder.

I winced, shuffled the pain aside, managed to stand my ground. A quick glance around. All activity in the gym had ceased, everyone forming a semi-circle around us. Nobody seemed interested in interfering or getting involved, blood in their eyes like spectators at a cock fight.

Suzie tried to shake free of the Barbarian’s grasp, without success.

I told you I have nothing to say to you, Bruno! She continued to defy him but his physical advantages overwhelmed her.

Bruno snorted.

I said, Suzie, we’ve got to stop meeting like this. I reached up and smacked Bruno on the shoulder in an attempt to get his attention away from Suzie.

He released his grip and then turned around and started flexing his muscles at me. I’m not sure what he expected me to do, probably run away like a scared rabbit. I stood there and watched him go through his routine—rippling slabs of bouncing muscles and veins, power beyond measure—his movements a blustery ploy of controlled intimidation.

I looked him in the eye, stifled a yawn. Waited.

He straightened himself out, eyes burning deeper. Haven’t you had enough yet, creep? I’m warnin’ you, if I lose my temper you’re gonna end up lookin’ like a pancake.

Under the surface, Bruno’s threats were beginning to take their toll on my cardiovascular system, so I decided the only logical way to handle the situation was to pretend nothing offensive had happened.

I stepped forward, offered my hand.

Mr. Pulchinski, I don’t believe we’ve been formally introduced, I said. My name is Casey Thomas and I’ve been so looking forward to meeting you. I stretched my hand out farther, tried to connect with his hand, but the Barbarian glared back at me, his bushy eyebrows flaring into a puzzled grimace.

I waited for a moment and then I shrugged.

Well, now that we’ve finally met, I must say, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you. I flashed him a cheerful smile, reached over and took Suzie’s hand, started easing us toward the exit. I’m sorry we have to run off so quickly, I was really looking forward to sharing tea and biscuits and some intelligent conversation with you … ah well, maybe another time.

There was complete silence for a moment as we moved a few steps forward until Bruno made a noise that sounded like a growl, ran forward, grabbed me from behind and spun me around.

The ploy had obviously failed.

Hey, you ain’t goin’ nowhere, creep … not with Suzie, not with nobody, ‘cos you’re about to have that skinny little ass of yours torn to shreds!

Why, Mr. Pulchinski, I’m shocked! I yelled. You mean to tell me you actually expect me to fight you? I started shaking my head. Hell, that wouldn’t be fair … not fair at all.

Them’s the breaks, runt. Now I’m gonna teach you not to fool around with my girl!

I bit my lip and eyed Bruno as I weighed my options. The Barbarian certainly had the advantage and he looked gorgeous towering above me with his wavy black hair and meticulously groomed beard and his muscles popping out and glistening like a Greek god; the gigantic bulge in his tiny bikini bottoms that threatened to break through the flimsy material; the cocky stance that proclaimed his absolute fearlessness.

As I pondered, Bruno continued to postulate.

You’re gonna get killed. You’re gonna get destroyed … you might as well get it over with.

He crouched into a fighter’s pose, ready to attack.

I struck a similar pose and said firmly, Well, I guess you leave me no choice. I must fight for the honor of this fair maiden.

Suzie tapped me on the shoulder and said, Casey, do you really think that’s such a good idea? Wouldn’t it be better just to run? I mean, I haven’t known you all that long and— she grabbed my arm and tried to drag me away, … please, I don’t want to be responsible for any more broken bodies!

I pulled loose. No, I must! I shouted and then I shrugged, If only for the sake of my own dignity.

In that moment, as I caught her eye, I felt an electric charge pass between our bodies carrying with it a brilliant flash of remembrance, something deeply rooted trying to make it’s way to the surface. Our eyes blinked, reflecting mutual

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