Title: The Redeeming Power of Brain Surgery: A Suspense Novel
Author: Paul Flower
Publisher: Scribe Publishing Company
Publication Date: June 1, 2013
Format: Paperback, eBook (.mobi / Kindle), PDF
Jesse Tieter, M.D. has carefully constructed the ideal life. But lately, neither his Chicago-based neurology practice nor his wife and son are enough to suppress the memories that have haunted him since he was a little boy. He can’t stop thinking about that summer day in 1967 when his father died.
So Jesse is heading back. Back to the town and the place where a long-repressed horror occurred. Back to make sure his twin keeps the family’s secret buried.
But what will he uncover along the way?
everything felt this way. The look of sadness on his wife’s face, the burn of a
drink in his throat, the whine of a saw in the O.R.; nothing seemed true. Nothing
was real anymore. He felt out of balance, too. Even now, the school building,
the flag slapping against the heavy fall sky¬¬—everything was tipping away from
him. It was as though he’d gotten up that morning and screwed on his head
carelessly, as though he hadn’t threaded it good and tight. While shaving, he’d
cut himself, a discrete, semi-intentional knick just under the curve of his
chin. He’d stood there like an idiot, eyes feeding the message “blood” to his
brain, nerve endings responding with “pain” and the logic center unable to
formulate a response.
parents and children, he had to look down to convince himself the boy was
there, attached to the hand, flesh and bone. The red hair, “his mother’s hair”
everyone called it, was sliced by a crisp white part; his head bounced in beat
with his sneakered feet. The child was so painfully real he couldn’t be a lie.
wife, especially the tiny mouth, the way it was set in a crooked, determined
line. He was a kid who liked to have fun, but he could be fierce. Today, the
challenge of a new school year, of third grade, had brought out the determined
streak. This was good. They would need that streak, he and his mother would.
tiny hand now was a road sign, white-pink flesh facing him, commanding him. Far
enough. He obeyed. Squatting, arms out for the anticipated embrace, he suddenly
wanted to tell everything. Tears swam. His throat thickened. The earth tilted
and threatened to send him skittering over its edge. There was the slightest of
hugs, the brush of lips on his cheek then the boy was off, skipping toward the
steps as though third grade challenged nothing, caused no fear, as though the
world was in perfect balance.
exaggerated care of a drunk who didn’t want anyone to know his condition. He
got behind the wheel and suddenly was no longer in his 50s; he felt 16 and too
small, too skinny and insignificant to handle the giant SUV.
trembling and gripping the wheel as he merged with the morning traffic. The
plan struck him now as odd and silly, the challenges too great. His hands,
already red and scaly, itched fiercely. Get a grip, he told himself. Get a
slept well?—jumped from one stone of thought to another. Was everything covered
at work? The bills—had he paid them all? Did his wife suspect anything? Yes.
No. Absolutely. Of course not. Relax. Relax. He left the expressway at the exit
that took him past their church and wondered if the church, too, was a lie.
What of the wedding there so many years ago?
gaze floated around a corner. A flash of inspiration—hit the gas. Let the tires
slide and the back-end arc around. Let physics have its way until the big
vehicle broke free from the grip of gravity and danced head over end, coming to
a stop with him bleeding and mercifully, gratefully dead inside.
angles right? Gotten the plan tight enough?
into the turn lane of the five-lane street. He jerked the wheel and cut across
traffic into the right lane. Tires screeched, horns screamed. A black Toyota
streaked past on his left, the driver’s fist, middle finger erect, thrust out
hesitated, then jammed his foot on the accelerator, cut the wheel hard, and
sent the Navigator careening into the left lane.
of his skull. He bit his tongue to keep the words in. His heart hammered and a
familiar, dizzying pressure filled his ears. The SUV roared ahead, past one
car, past a semi then another car, quickly closing the gap on the speeding
Toyota. He couldn’t see the car’s driver but he could imagine him, some stupid,
simple-minded schmuck, eyes locked on the rear-view mirror as the lumbering
Lincoln grew larger, larger, larger. The instant before he would slam into the
smaller vehicle, he jabbed his brake and turned again to the left. There was a squeal
of tires and more horns bleating behind him; the semi rig’s air horn bellowed
angrily past. Ramrod straight, eyes fixed ahead on the now-slow-moving car
disappearing tentatively around a curve, he brought the Navigator to a
shuddering stop in the center lane. He tensed and waited for the resounding
WHUMP of a crash from behind. None came. Face flushed and eyes gleaming,
suddenly rejuvenated, he accelerated quickly then eased the Navigator back into
the flow of traffic—no looking back.
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Author Website: paulflower.net
Author Page / Publisher Website: http://scribe-publishing.com/brain/
Author: Doug Cudmore
Format: eBook ( ePub / .mobi – Kindle), Paperback
write a report, “How the Green Pages can cash in on geographic technology,”
which had been sitting for three months in Bryce’s office.
small, sandy career island that was eroding away; your only options would be
dive into the ocean and hope there was another, larger island somewhere just
past the horizon. Or to stay and hope the waves stopped rising. And you were
the type to grab a palm tree and pray.
Friday, save for a sneak next door for a foot-long Tuna Supreme from Senor Sub,
with a Coke and Doritos to aid the gentle expansion of your midsection. And
finally, after the last AAAA Auto Service ad was laid down, you’d take the
commute in reverse, back to your semi-slice of heaven.
deep, deep inside the brain of Steve Janson.
that door, though, you could try Steve’s heart. Because, like usual, you’d see
Sally Janson sitting at your little dinner table. She would be sipping a diet
iced tea and battling an iPad Sudoku in her pale green scrubs, but as you
crossed the threshold she’d get up to meet you in your home’s tiny entryway.
She would have had one hell of a day – hauling the kicking person inside her
was enough for any woman in this late-summer heat, but she, god bless her,
would have found the time to hit Target, grab another carful of unidentified
baby gear for you to assemble, and then, as her feet swelled, would have got
groceries and done the dishes. And still, when you arrived, she’d rock herself
up, walk over and give that kiss. You’d kiss her back and ask, “How was your
day?”, smell the clean of her sandy brown hair and, lately, feel the growing
bulge of her six-month belly as she pressed against you. Then you’d gulp down
the night’s meal together before it was time for her night shift as a
paediatrics nurse at Metroburgh West General. You’d give her another good,
solid kiss goodbye, not just lips this time, and she would head out the door.
plus the off-nights together and holidays as they came, you’d get inside the
heart of Steve Janson.
until 6:30 crashed down again.
Steve’s lower intestine, gall bladder and fist-sized chunk of the liver, you’d
need to be that bullet.
actually Sally Janson would have the idea, which she would repeat so often that
it became Steve’s idea, as well – that he was going to be around for a long,
long time, if not for himself then for her and your son or daughter. And so, to
battle his days of inactivity broken by short bursts of glucose and cheese,
Steve would have to exercise.
p.m., Steve would slam his home’s ill-fitting front door and perform a quick
succession of knee bends and hamstring stretches. He would feel fresh, strong –
he liked the idea, if not the practice, of late-night summertime runs – so he
would take the three porch stairs in one leap, tune into Songza and take the
first, too-fast strides of the evening. “The Sign” would blast through the
headphones; Sally had left the playlist set on “Early ‘90s Bubblegum”. He would
stop, scroll quickly to something more masculine before his ears were hooked,
but by the time he found “Jock Anthems”, Ace of Base would have taken over.
He’d head down the block to “Life is demanding/without understanding.”
strides, Steve’s body would, per usual, start to despise him, a hatred that
only grew for the first 10 minutes of each work-out. One of two things always
happened after he warmed up: Either he would be ready to push, and his legs
would kick, his heart would settle into its familiar pace and the world would
float by; or he would not, at which point a pallid film would form across his
forehead, his legs would sputter, and he would use the emergency $5 in his
pocket to hunt for snacks.
the start, option two was the almost guaranteed winner on Friday nights,
leaving him searching for something salty at the local Sav-N-Lo.
He would walk through automatic sliding doors, and the sweat he’d worked up
would evaporate as the heat was replaced by perfume-laced mid-sized-box air.
Steve would walk down Aisle 4, Oral Care and Shaving Supplies, until he reached
the pharmacist’s counter at the back. He’d turn right, passing a thick-bearded
man with an ER’s worth of home medical supplies crammed into his shopping cart.
He’d arrive at the snack aisle, pause in front of the Doritos, trying to decide
between Cool Ranch and Zesty Cheese.
coil silently in a handgun, tucked inside a windbreaker pocket, hung on the
frame of a more drunk than angry young man riding shotgun in a Black 2001 Honda
Accord pulling into the Sav-N-Lo parking lot. You and your gun would sit cozy
as your owner and his two associates hopped from the car, threw black
balaclavas over their heads and strutted through those sliding doors. Then
you’d be running and, as you approached the check-outs, you’d be thrust toward
the ceiling, shining in the fluorescent light as your owner yelled:
cool, nobody gets hurt.”
freeze, and slow-motion-drop the fiery orange package he’d selected. He’d
think, “What the hell am I supposed to do in this situation?”
gimme your fuckin’ wallets and purses, ahright? Quick-Quick-QUICK!” your
owner’s friend Jack would yell, pulling out canvas bags and tossing them on the
treadmills of the two storefront checkouts. “Get with the fuckin’ program!” The
panicked clutch of customers nearby, and the two dowdy checkout ladies in their
pale blue Sav-N-Lo pinnies, would start to comply.
middle age, with large round bifocals and shining burgundy hair, the one
clutching an InStyle, would not get with the fuckin’ program. She would
defiantly refuse to release her floral-print handbag. There were pictures of
loved ones in there. They weren’t going anywhere.
whip out a pistol and get involved.
Your purse,” he’d yell.
grandkids … ”
pistol would make solid, fleshy contact with her skull. “I said give me your purse, bitch.” Jack would laugh, stoop
over her unconscious body, grab the handbag, toss it in his sack.
owner would aim you down for a second. The plan was, as had been discussed at
length during the drive here, that the guns were for show. Taking out old
ladies was not part of the plan. But your owner couldn’t argue niceties when
the shit was going down.
would start to scream, looking at the small pool of blood, but – “Shut the fuck
up!” – her screams would turn to panicked whimpers. “Anybody else get any
ideas, this is what we got for y’all. Now give us our money!”
the tills and the pockets of those standing nearby. And then you and your gun
would wave at the onlookers, make sure no one got close as your owner and his
other accomplice, the non-angry one who was high as hell and just there for the
laughs, backed toward the exit. But that pistolwhipping would have riled Jack
up. He would be an aisle into the store now, well within sight of the
still-frozen Steve, yelling and demanding more money.
dude?” he would yell at the homeless man. Jack would smash the shopping cart
over, sending gauze, syringes, ibuprofen everywhere; a roll of medical tape
would scoot past Steve’s running shoes. “I said what. The fuck. You lookin’ at.
straighter, taller, and calmly ask, “What are you doing?”
in here, terrorizing people? Do you know how violence ends, my good man? Do
you? Because it doesn’t end well.” Then the old man would grab a clutch of
bills from inside his jacket pocket, toss them at Lou. “There, sir, is your
half-second. He’d flinch toward the old man with his gun, stop, move to pick up
the scattered tens and twenties at his feet. But just as quickly his anger
would trump his greed, and he’d slam the butt of his gun into the side of
another head. “Fuck you,” he’d yell,
as blood splayed off the temple of the old man, who crumpled to his knees. “Fuck you.” And the robber would raise
his pistol for one last smack.
later, he wouldn’t be able to tell you why, exactly, against three armed men.
But he sprinted to his right, in an impossible attempt to save a life.
out the front door by now, on his way to freedom, hoping his damn accomplice
inside would be out in the 60 seconds left before the police likely arrived.
But then he would see some guy, 5’10” or so, black hair and running gear that
only drew attention to his small mound of belly, bursting toward your
associate. And your trigger would be pulled.
air, spinning at a speed imperceptible to the jaw-dropped cashiers. You’d shoot
past the magazine covers (People had “Teen Moms of Denver star shares exclusive
baby pics”; the Star went with “Darren left me: Teen Mom Post-Partum
Heartache”); past the Archie Double Digests; past the salted and unsalted nuts;
you’d pass down the aisle, burst into the back of a package of Classic Lays,
shatter through dozens of greasy chips, and at almost the same instant explode
through the front of the yellow bag.
intestine, gall bladder and a baseball-sized chunk of the liver of Steve Janson.
shrapnel, you’d hear “Oh fuck, oh fuck bro” and the sound of sneakers running,
and the rev of the black Accord disappearing into the Metroburgh night.
and, through the thick haze of shock, would rasp the words to nobody nearby:
“Tell Sally I love her.” And he would start to feel the warmth of the death’s
his toppled cart, his smooth hands would hoist the fading Steve Janson into its
basket, and the two of them, and you, would sprint into the darkness of the
Sav-N-Lo Mart parking lot.
squeal of tires and the flash of headlights shoved him back into consciousness,
Steve bolted upright.
for his shredded belly, to stanch the deadly flow of blood, to reach in, search
for the bullet, dig it out. But he couldn’t free his hands; they were pinned to
his body, tightly wound in something. He couldn’t tell.
mind battled to make sense of the situation, his eyes struggled into focus.
Everything was black, save one piercing white light overhead. Its glow flipped
left to right as Steve rocked in a bid to free his arms and stop the life from
pouring from his gunshot wound.
kind of few seconds that seem like forever, he worked both arms free and shot
his hands to the bullet hole just above his navel. His fingers prepared to
grope intestine and organ; instead, they hit skin. Soft, nacho-fed, lightly
haired skin. His digits looked for that fatal gap that must be somewhere …
there … on his torso … up … left … right … but found nothing unusual except
for a thin, inch-long cut just below his bottom left rib.
certain he had just been shot. Or fairly sure, though he now lacked evidence.
Maybe that was just something that had entered his heat-stroked brain after too
many wind sprints … no. He didn’t do those anymore. And he was bound, by
something, left in the dark. If that much had happened, he had likely been
shot. Probably. He concluded that, if he didn’t want to get probably shot or
bound again, he’d need to get out of here.
another big hit of air – the oxygen blended with sinus-pinching taste of
anaesthetic and a rusty hint of blood, making him nauseous even as it cleared
his brain. He gasped again – each one tasted better – and looked at that light.
Its glow turned from formless orb to floating ball to the familiar form of
Metroburgh municipal streetlight. Steve followed its pole to the ground – his
stare caught onto a string of decorative porch lights as they disappeared down
a street in the background – and to the black ground below.
was a streetlight here, he thought. What else? His eyes couldn’t make that out
yet, and his legs didn’t have the strength to explore.
instead, his eyes teamed with his fingers to determine the identity of the
restraint: A simple cotton sheet, soft, warming but industrially rough, like
you’d find on a low-rent hospital bed, light yellow with pink and white stripes
across the top. It had been swaddled around his torso and upper legs; it still
bound his calves tight. It felt fresh, clean, except for the part that had once
been around his belly but now drooped to the side. That was crusted with
something dark, like a giant scab. Blood? His fingernails scraped; he brought a
sample up to his nose. Yes, blood. Dried. A lot. Steve’s brain panicked again
and his hand shot back to his belly; no, still just soft pink flesh and tiny
Steve’s brain provided a fresh reason for concern – why was his hand hitting
skin? Why not the sweat-wicking runwear Sally bought him last birthday? He
looked quickly down, making his head swim again; once he recovered, he got an
eyeful of his full, naked self, upper thigh straight on up. He grabbed the
folds of blanket off the bench and covered his shame.
panic had a thick overlay of creepy. Steve’s mind shot back through the last
few items in his memory. Running. Snack food. Yelling. Gunshot. No “getting
naked” on the list. Dear god, what had he, or somebody, done in the interim, he
wrapped the blanket folds around him, ensuring all important bits were covered,
Steve forced himself to concentrate. He was shot. Or not. But most likely. Just
not wounded. But wrapped. In something bloody. And he was naked. Where?
Horizontal brown boards. A bench a park most likely. He looked to the horizon
again and objects finally started to clarify … the sturdy steel A of a
swingset… a couple of baby swings hanging down … a big red corkscrew slide
… by his bare feet, which he now determined were sitting on sand, a broken
pink Fisher-Price play kitchen, stacked high with filthy toy pots and pans,
buckets and shovels … a worn yellow Tonka truck … a couple of Frisbees that
had been converted into digging devices.
this spot. Bryan W. McCain, Sr. Urban Play Parkette, tucked away two blocks
from his semi. He was close to home. Thank god. Still, he was in a playground.
At night. Naked. Except, of course, for a blanket covered in dry blood.
give me another pull, asshole.”
down, man … … … alright, here you go.”
that’s the shit. Got this from some hopped-up Moldovan dude downtown, bro.”
jumped to his feet, momentarily dropping his blanket. The mumbled conversation
of two hoodied just-past-teens hit his ears; it sounded as though they were
right next to him. He swung his stuttering gaze 360 degrees, until he spotted
them approaching; they were still a good quarter-block away, though, passing
under the last streetlight before the parkette. Their smoke wafted up, hung in
himself an impromptu diaper, bunching the blanket around his groin, and darted
for the hedge at the parkette’s south end. He crouched between its evergreen prickles
and the seven-foot security fence behind, tied the blanket in place. Then he
crouched further, into a ball, and waited.
Stumph, just off his shift at GasMart, and his cousin Nick DeBergh, not
currently working nor interested in the concept, slouched into the parkette and
dropped onto the bench Steve had occupied just seconds ago. They enjoyed a
nice, long joint and the inane conversation that it brought – cars they’d never
drive, lingerie models they’d never screw. After five minutes, Nick, his 259
pounds living on the border between husky and obese, was taking one long last
pull when something caught his eye.
light glimmered off a big, light yellow form behind the bushes.
nudged Lucas, whose sallow cheeks and sunken eyes gave an outpatient
impression, nearly knocking him onto the ground. “Bro,” he said, pointing,
“What is that?”
the bushes, bro.” Nick got up, pulled down the bottom of his Area 51 t-shirt so
his belly was covered. “Check it out. Looks like … a dude in a diaper!”
yeah,” Lucas said, laughing a deep, ganja-laced laugh. “Hey Diaper Dude!” he
called. “What’s in the bushes?”
could now see he was hardly hidden. He was cornered, though; the two men stood
between him and the parkette’s gate, and as they strolled toward him his escape
route was slowly, stumblingly cut off.
Diaper Dude!” Nick called, delighted at his discovery. “What you doin’ in
hey guys,” Steve responded with an understated wave. “How’s it going?”
Lucas was curious. “Are you one of those dudes who dresses up like a baby and
have some chick change your diaper?”
nothing like that —”
Lucas’s face turned angry. “Yeah, what the fuck, bro. Doesn’t your niece play
at this park?”
not-quite-teens now walked more quickly toward Steve’s failed hideout.
“Yeah, fuck, dude, Brytney plays here all the time. Hey, get the fuck out
here, pervy Diaper Dude!” Nick demanded.
stood, put his hands out to the side in a plea. “Look guys, I –” But there was
no point in trying to reason. Lucas ran the last 10 steps left between himself
and Steve, pulling out a small pocket knife as he did and saying, “Let’s fuck
this dude up.”
out of options; couldn’t reason, couldn’t run, couldn’t do much damage against
a loser with knife. But in the last millisecond before his torso took its
second blow of the night, an electric surge shot through Steve’s legs, while
another hit his brain. And he jumped, up, back and, with unknown energy
exploding from his quads, he cleared the fence behind him with room to spare,
just as the knife sliced the space where he had stood a half-second before.
down in the ankle-deep sod of the unkempt backyard behind the fence and, in
disbelief, stared Lucas in the eye, this time with the safety of a seven-foot
sheet of metal diamonds between them. “What the fuck?” Lucas said.
as fast as he’d cleared the fence, Steve came to his senses, turned, ran. He
needed to get home, back to safety, he couldn’t take the streets and risk the
neighbours spotting him. But with this bizarre new strength coursing through
his legs, apparently allowing him to clear fences in single leaps, he could
take the back route. So he sprinted across the first, dark, 24-foot-wide back
yard and hurdled with ease over the five-foot privacy fence at the other side.
Stuck the landing. Good, he thought, now there were two fences between himself
and the stoners. He could take time to gather his thoughts. Until the motion-sensor
light snapped on and the Chihuahua
in the rear window began a piercing yip.
hurled himself over the next fence, again with ease, but this time crashed down
on an above-ground pool; the sound of his body hitting the water was loud
enough, but coupled with the clatter of the now-collapsing structure, and the
whoosh as gallons of water poured into the yard, it was enough to stir more
neighbours. Backyard lights flicked on almost instantly up and down the block;
any second now, annoyed homeowners would come out with their dogs or cats or
cut through the rushing water, he realized he just needed to cross one more
yard and he would hit the back alley that dissected his block, leading straight
to his backyard. As the demolished-pool owner slid his screen door open, Steve
cleared another fence. And again he stuck the landing, onto an upturned rake.
yelled the pool owner as Steve disappeared.
yelled the owner of the final yard, who was sitting on his candlelit deck,
enjoying a glass of chilled Cabernet with his wife’s best friend.
yelled the wife’s best friend.
it,” yelled Steve as two rake prongs shot into his bare right foot. He leapt
over the last fence with such force that he topped it with five feet to spare,
and, with the alley on the other side being blessedly empty, he turned right,
toward home, and broke into sprint, a dead sprint, faster than he’d ever
sprinted before. Then it occurred to him that his bleeding right foot would
leave a track leading to his own backyard. So he broke into a hop, a dead hop,
faster than he’d ever hopped before, to the safety of his own gate.
arrived at the back of his house, Steve realized his key was exactly wherever
his running clothes now resided. So he picked up a fist-sized rock from Sally’s
decorative garden and, as quietly as possible, punched it through a glass pane
on his door. He reached through the resulting hole, slicing the side of his
hand in the process, and turned the knob from the inside. Then he pushed the
door open and allowed himself the sweet, agony-filled relief of a collapse on
his kitchen’s cold tile floor. He lay there for 10 minutes at least, panting
and seething with the sharp pains in his foot and hand, and flinching,
convinced he’d be caught, as he heard a smatter of neighbours searching the
never came knocking. And so, when his will returned, Steve sat up to survey his
damaged body, slid over to the cupboards and pulled out tea towels, wrapping
them around his wounds. After a minute or two of applying pressure, he
staggered to his feet and, leaning on the faux-marble countertop, tried to
think of what he could possibly do next. As he looked around the room, trying
to settle on a course of action, he noticed the voicemail light flashing on the
kitchen phone; he grabbed the cordless receiver, thinking maybe an answer
resided there, in the receiver.
voice told him he had four. Unheard. Messages.
Sally. “Hey, hon. Just heard from downstairs that some guy was shot at the
Sav-N-Lo. I know you were being a good boy and running, but give me a call back
at the desk, okay?”
Sally, a touch more panicked. “Hon, just thought I’d hear back from you by now.
Guess you’ve gone for a long one. Good for you. Call back, okay?”
Sally, really scared. “Steve, please call, okay? Someone just said they heard
some runner might have got hurt, but they didn’t bring anyone in. Why don’t you
take your stupid phone with you? Call me right now, okay?”
Sally, on the edge of tears, five minutes ago. “Steve, I’m really scared, okay?
I was asking around now, no-one knows anything … call me, okay? C-” Steve
deleted the last message before it played out and dialled the maternity ward.
the rumpled sheet half-clinging to his waistline, and stared at the wreck of
himself in the mirror above the kitchen sink. As the rings progressed, so did
this thought process – from “Poor Sally” to “Maybe she’ll know someone who can
help me” to “What am I going to tell her? That I woke up naked in a park and
just ran through our neighbours’ yards?”
West Maternity.” A too-familiar nurse spoke on the other end of the line.
speak to Sally Janson, please.”
god. Sally’s worried sick,” his wife’s best work friend replied with her usual
agitation. “She was just heading home to check on you, I’ll see if I can catch
her.” The line clicked, then filled with Latin-tinged classical guitar.
waited, watching his reflection as the flamenco magic filled his right ear, and
discovered the line he had felt on his abdomen just minutes ago was gone.
Steve, is that you?”
hon-” and he noted, just above the non-cutline, a scrap of paper, safetypinned
to the top of the blanket near the top of his left thigh, something he’d missed
in the madness of the night.
fine –” on the paper, the hand-scrawled message read “Call me. 701-565-7232.”
701 … North Dakota.
buzzed in the background. “Oh, I was so worried. Where were you?” she accused
with just-relieved terror. “I called and called. The police said that some
runner had been shot, and you never answered the phone, and I …”
children’s park, with him blacked out and maybe eyewitnesses, to
something or anything …
they never found anyone, and I thought maybe you’d just crawled off somewhere,
and …” sobs.
wasn’t a lying man, at least not with the people that counted. Once the lies
started in a relationship, they never stopped, he’d learned from a rather nasty
college girlfriend. But there wasn’t another choice right now. He just needed a
small one; he’d figure a way back to the truth later on.
I’m sorry. I am so sorry. I just bailed on the run and crashed upstairs. I must
have slept through all your calls. Really, are you okay?”
said in a smaller voice now. “Don’t ever do that again. Okay? You sleep with a
phone on the pillow.”
I’m so embarrassed,” she said, wiping a mix of tears and eyeliner from her
cheek with the back of her hand.
hon. Do you need me to come over? Get you a decaf?”
Really, don’t come down here. I just need to get back to work. Be up when I get
it. Love you.”
too. And keep that phone on your pillow. Asshole.” Vulgarity meant the fear was
pancakes for when you get home.”
doin’, honey?” Martina asked.
really,” Sally replied, grabbing a tissue from the nursing station. “I feel so
Sal. He needs to grow up and treat you right.”
just a man,” Sally replied. She let out a sigh and forced herself to her feet,
headed out for a night of towelling down birthing mothers and soothing birthing
looked back at himself. God, he would need a better story by the end of Sally’s
shift. First, he’d have to explain the wounds … speaking of which, the pain
was gone now, all praise endorphins. He unwrapped the tea towel from his hand –
not only was the pain gone, the gash was, too. He unwrapped the towel from his
foot. No rake holes, either.
skewered, sliced body was fine. Not just fine. Perfect. He glanced around the
kitchen to make sure the wounds had been real, that this wasn’t just a
hallucination formed by the leftover vapours of whatever had left him
unconscious. But there were still the bloody towels, the bloody sheet, the
broken window. Those were real. And, if he was going to keep Sally from asking
any more questions, he would have to dispose of them.
the sweaty, blood-crusted blanket was trashbagged, he unpinned the note, walked
the strange message upstairs, slipped into his pyjamas, and tucked it amidst
the nail clippers and spare change and unread novels in his bedside table.
pulled it out for one last look. 701. North Dakota. Add that to
the top of the night’s pile of what-the-hells.
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Connect with Doug:
Author Website: www.dougcudmore.com
AM ONLY AS SICK AS MY SECRETS
addicted to me, and that was the straw that broke this camel’s back. I could no
longer hold in all the pain and shame. I cried out in grief as I had this man
inside of me and said, “Take the condom off. I need you. I am addicted to you too.”
Every ounce of who I was washed out of me as I climaxed multiple times with
this man who was not wearing a condom. When it got right down to it, I just didn’t
believe I was worth anything. I wish I could say that I learned from my mistake
that day, but I didn’t. I took that risk again and again with him and others.
thinking about all the emotional baggage I had in my life. I just wanted to be
wanted for me and who I was, but I didn’t know how to get there. Somehow, I
thought I would find the answers to my questions at the bathhouse. The
bathhouse I frequented was a place where men could freely have sex out in the
open or in private rooms. There was porn, a steam room, and showers. The
facility even provided vending machines that were stocked with lubricant, condoms,
when I visited the bathhouse. For example, when someone approached me and wanted
to have sex, I felt empowered. After all, I could say, “yes” or “no.” I hardly
ever said no. But, the joy of being needed by
others was only temporary, and the power I felt was an inauthentic. It
never lasted more than 10 minutes after I left. Always, I worried someone would
see me walking out. Often, feared I might see a client there, and then what
would I do?
life at the time, I thought my business was the only thing worth salvaging, but
I was wrong. I didn’t realize that through my obsessive sexual behavior, I was
abandoning my own business too. I spent so much time worrying about my next sexual
fix that often my focus and attention was not on my therapy practice and its
growing clientele. Also, I was doing things that were actually illegal, such as
videotaping men in restrooms or locker rooms. But what can I say? I got high from that kind of thing which temporarily
relieved the pain and chaos swirling around inside me. The fact that I wasn’t
getting caught was exhilarating. I actually thought this was normal behavior. In
fact, I thought it was so normal that I never hesitated to send copies
of my illegal videos and pictures to friends. They sent me their photos too.
seeing a forensic psychologist who has been in the business for over 30 years. Every
week I told him about my struggles, and every week he said the same thing, “Go
to a meeting.”
going to meetings. However, my therapist was insistent; he wanted me to see how
12-Step meetings could work for me. During our sessions, he often pulled out
the AA Big Book, having me read through “The 12 Steps.”
Codependents Anonymous, but at the time, I didn’t get it. Along with “not
getting it,” I didn’t want anyone to tell me about how I was “codependent.”
Frankly, I didn’t have a real sense of what the word even meant. Most weeks,
after therapy, I continued to walk down to the bathhouse to have sex for a few
hours. Was I codependent on the sex?
my sophomore year of high school, I now recognize this is when my codependence
and sex and love addiction fully emerged. I wish
someone would have told me that I was being targeted by a sick, child molester.
While hanging out at my great-grandmother, Mama Sara’s house, I saw someone out
of the corner of my eye. It was Kenny. I had always known him as one of my
dad’s closest friends. While growing up, I had gone over to his home many times
to play with his nephew. Kenny had always been friendly to me. He lived right
across the street from Mama Sara.
he walked over and asked if he could sit down next to me. I said, “Sure.” I had
noticed that his wife and two boys were hanging out on his front porch…I didn’t
really know them all that well. Kenny and I started talking, and he asked what
was going on with me. Like always, he asked when
was the last time I had spoken to my dad. Honestly, I couldn’t remember.
Kenny always insisted that I call my dad and try to work things out. He was pretty
much a broken record when it came to that subject.
formalities out of the way, the conversation slowly turned to an awkward
topic. In short, Kenny said he knew what was going on with my family and me. At
first, I was puzzled. What he was talking about. But as he continued, it was
like he had been a fly on the wall inside my house; he knew I was gay. I was
he was interested in talking with me about
it. He had genuine empathy for my situation, and he made an effort to understand
what I must have been going through. Finally, I said to myself, here is someone who is finally willing to
listen to me and possibly be objective about the whole thing. At that
moment, I felt a ton of weight lifted from my shoulders. But the weightlessness
didn’t last long.
a little dark. It was like he was too
supportive. It was like he was trying to coax me into saying something he
wanted to hear, but I had no clue what that was. Throughout our conversation, I
kept glancing at him, and he was just staring at me really intensely. His was a
look I had never seen before in my life, and I started to get nervous. I felt
shaky, and my hands got very clammy. Then, he popped the question I will never
forget for as long as I live. He straightforwardly asked me to kiss him. I couldn’t
believe my ears. This man was no less than two feet from my face, and he was
asking me to kiss him. My heart started to race. At first I thought his gesture
was some kind of joke, especially since his family was sitting on his front
porch, directly across the street from us, probably wondering why he was even
talking to me in the first place. And now,
he was asking for a kiss?
what the hell he was talking about and why he was asking for such a thing,
especially since his wife was right across the way. I asked if he was gay. He
said he didn’t like “labels.” I thought this was kind of funny because I assumed
his label as husband and father, should stand for a lot. But, I guess not. That’s
when he told me he was interested in me. That was all I needed to hear to get
totally freaked out. I had no earthly idea what to do next. I wondered, what interest could a 40-something have in a
16-year old? I told him I had to go inside, and he looked at me as if I were
Juliet and him, Romeo. There was so much intensity in that look, and I was actually
was his initial step in him “grooming” me for a secret, sexual relationship. It
was a gradual, calculated process. Step 1: Targeting the victim Kenny sized my vulnerabilities up that day. He was empathic
to my situation at home and assured me he was not going to be just one more
adult interested in judging me for being gay. Kenny wanted to “protect” me.
there, I began to cry. I was so confused. There were a billion questions rolling
around in my head. I didn’t understand what had just happened. This grown man—my
dad’s friend, a married man, a father—had just told me of his interest in me.
He had asked for a kiss while his wife sat only 50 feet away. I was in total
shock. Since I had no one to talk to, I had to deal with it all on my own. I definitely
didn’t want to risk my family finding out. I cried myself to sleep that night.
I just kept thinking that the whole thing had to be some kind of joke. I tried my
best to banish the incident from my mind. Well, no sooner did I try to do that, and I saw him again. Getting
off the bus for my job at the mall, there he was.
route that included the mall. When I
heard this, I let out a scream in the back of my mind—this was all too much for
me. If he was now working at the mall where I worked, this increased my chances
of seeing him on a regular basis. Which really scared me. It occurred to me
that maybe he was some sick man who lusted after young boys. If only I had
decided to trust my own instincts. But eventually, I decided to throw that idea
out the window because, if that were the case, why didn’t he do anything or say
something before now?
across the street from the mall to catch the bus home. Kenny’s car was parked
near the bus stop. He had also been
working that day, so we engaged in casual conversation at the bus stop for a
few minutes. Our small talk wasn’t anything really dramatic, but I noticed more
and more that I had these crazy feelings whenever I was around him. I found
myself growing awkwardly attracted to
this man who was old enough to be my father. After all, Kenny was 45 at the time,
which was way older than my own dad.
later, I worked the evening shift and once again, rode the bus home. By the
time I made it back to my neighborhood, it was dark. I got off the bus and
headed down the hill to Mama Sara’s house. Everything was fine until I heard a car
pull up behind me. I knew it was Kenny because his car made this awful sound.
He stopped the car, and I turned around to see what he wanted. He asked if I
wanted a lift to my place. Stage two: Gaining a victim’s trust I thought about it for a minute, and then I got into the
car with him. That’s when he said he needed to make a quick detour to the local
drugstore to pick up some ice cream for his wife.
was really interesting having such a lengthy discussion with him. I didn’t feel
like a child when I talked to him. I felt as though he valued my opinions. I
felt a connection with him. We walked into the store together to get what he
needed and then headed back toward home.
of him and me. I still thought he was crazy. Why would he want me? I still hadn’t figured this man out.
All I knew was that I was growing really
attracted to him, and this became evident because I was so aroused around him. I couldn’t tell him whether or not anything
could actually develop between us. I couldn’t think that far in advance at that
around on the sidewalk for a few minutes. Since Mama Sara’s house was right
there, I was scared that someone would see me with him. As I started to leave
to walk home, he pulled me back and held me. I froze. I liked it. I liked the
feeling of his hands on me. But then, I quickly snapped out of it, pulled away
from him, and hurried home. I knew right then I was in trouble. I actually
liked this man, and he liked me. What was I to do? Kenny gained my trust, and I
was on my way to “needing” him.
three: filling a need A few days later I got a
page on my pager. It was Kenny. I had totally forgotten I had given him my pager
number. I called him back, and he wanted to know what I was doing and when I
had to work. I told him I had to work that morning, and apparently, so did he. He gave me a ride to work, and it was so strange being
in his car this time. I felt like a fugitive on the run. I rendezvoused
with him further down my street so my family wouldn’t see me getting into his
car. As he drove me to work, I kept an eye out for other family members’ cars.
I just knew I would be dead if they knew I was with Kenny.
undetected, and, afterwards, we planned to
go to lunch. So after our shifts ended, we hooked back up in the mall parking
lot and went to lunch at this little diner down the street. I felt so strange being with him. I was worried
about what people might say. Maybe, they thought I was his son or brother?
Maybe, they thought we were lovers? Hell, I
didn’t even know what we were.
me and thought I was valuable. He was interested in what I had to say and how I
felt. I didn’t feel lonely when he was around. I didn’t feel scared anymore.
way there, he reached over and touched my leg. It felt good. I got this warm
sensation. It was unreal. I liked his affection. I believe, on some unconscious
level, I forgot this man had a wife and kids. Was I wrong for doing this? I didn’t
know then. I was enjoying myself. After all the hell I had been through, I
thought I needed to enjoy my surroundings, and he just happened to be a part of
those surroundings. That’s what I told myself. I was a scared kid looking for
his driveway. I looked back, and I could only make out part of Mama Sara’s house,
so I doubted anyone could see me. He hopped out of the car and told me to come in.
My heart sank. I couldn’t move. I told him there was no way in hell I was going
into his house, but he kept begging me. He even came over to my door and playfully
tried to drag me out. But still, I didn’t budge. Truth be told; I was terrified
because of a serious look on his face, and I knew what was going on in his mind—he
wanted to mess around. But, I knew there was no way I could do that. I knew I had
to get my ass out of that car. He finally backed off, and I went home. I was
relieved to be home, my heart pounding. I was all worked up.
pursue me, and me not knowing what to do. He called me constantly. It didn’t
matter where I was; he just kept calling. Having my pager going off so much was
sort of nerve–racking, but I secretly enjoyed sneaking off to use the phone to
see what Kenny wanted. Kenny called me from his home, work, anywhere—and this
made me feel good. I felt like I was the only person in his life whenever I was
around him. He paid so much attention to me, and I couldn’t have asked for anything
more. Eventually, the fact that he had a wife didn’t seem to bother me at all, because
soon he and I finally had sex.
from work. This time when he pulled into his driveway and asked me to come in,
I didn’t hesitate. He took me to the back bedroom in his house. There was a bathroom, mini-kitchenette, futon
bed, and phone—it was like his own studio apartment. He showed me around the
other parts of the house, and I saw his family portraits—he had a great-looking
four: Isolation He closed and locked the bedroom
door, and my heart jumped out of my chest.
hoping he wouldn’t try to do anything—but in the back of my mind, I wanted him
just as badly as he wanted me. I had never been in a situation like this before.
I had never even been interested in older men.
five: Sexualizing the relationship Then, it
finally happened. He came up to me turned me around, and we kissed. I couldn’t
feel my feet…I was floating on air. His lips tasted so good (smoker’s breath,
but still good). The next thing I knew our clothes were coming off and we were
having wild, passionate, uncontrolled sex. I had never had it like that before,
so I just let myself go.
that moment. It was like nothing I had ever imagined or experienced. After we
both had climaxed, he ran some bath water, and we both got in. I was in heaven.
He washed my throbbing body, and it felt so, so good. We kissed some more and
fondled each other in the bath.
day. I was partially relieved because I didn’t have to keep telling him “no.” I
was feeling very anxious because I worried that my family would find out. I
became trapped in a web of lies and became even more isolated from my family
and dependent on Kenny.
six: Maintaining control In the following weeks, we met
secretly at his home, at work, around the block, in the shrubs near the mall—anywhere
we could kiss and makeout. We would even sit out in broad daylight kissing in
his car in the mall parking lot. It felt like a real relationship. I bought him
sweet little cards from Hallmark, wrote him poetry, and did anything else I
could do to show him how much he meant to me. He took me out to lunch
occasionally. One time he even went to help me shop for school clothes. We
bought matching “K-Swiss” t-shirts! Sometimes I looked out my window, and I
could see him wearing his t-shirt, and I just knew it was some kind of sign
that he was thinking about me.
while I sat on my screened-in front porch. He usually stood out in the street while
we talked. One night, all hell broke loose. Mama Sara had apparently started noticing
how Kenny was always coming over to talk to me (it was usually around 11 or midnight,
but she noticed). Kenny and I were standing there talking about random things
when my cousin, Samantha, came storming out of the house, demanding that Kenny
leave me alone. She started ranting and raving about how he had no business
talking to me. It was such a mess. I was pissed beyond belief. Kenny left, and
I went inside demanding to know why in the hell she had decided I couldn’t talk
believe Samantha had embarrassed me like that. I demanded an answer as to why I
couldn’t talk to Kenny. That’s when Mama Sara said that she knew all about
Kenny, and she knew he was trying to mess with me.
talk to or see. Then, she played the AIDS card. She went on and on about our neighbor
whose son died of AIDS because he was gay. I had no clue why she couldn’t
understand that anybody can contract AIDS, not just gay people. She got all
emotional and started saying that she didn’t want me to be like all the other gays
of some fight Kenny and his wife supposedly had out on the street a few days
back. I hadn’t heard about any fight. I asked how she knew about it. Just like
I figured, she heard about it from all the neighborhood gossip. I was appalled.
I wanted to get out of that fucking house so bad at that moment. I called Kenny
and told him what went down. He claimed he had no idea what Mama Sara was
talking about concerning a fight. From that day forward, everything at my
great-grandmother’s house got worse.
I started lying about going to the library, so I could see Kenny. I thought my
family was trying to take me away from the one that I loved so much. I had
fallen hard for this man in just a month’s time. I wrote countless poems that
expressed my undying love for Kenny. Here is a sample of one of the poems I wrote
of My Heart
a ray of light, you shined into my life.
took my hand and held it tight.
looked at you, very sweet, indeed.
touched my soul and, like a thief in the night, you stole my heart.
wasn’t willing to, give at first, but with your honesty and trust, I must.
in a day, every second of every hour, every day of every month, I will always
you have a piece of my heart.
cherish me, as I do you.
may not be yours in the fullest extent, but in our hearts we’ll always be.
love you with every inch of my heart, but remember only one piece is given when
summer. Kenny had come into my life and became everything I thought I was
missing. Every chance I could take to see him, I did. He told me he needed me.
He told me he loved me. I was convinced that I was in love too. It wasn’t clear
at the time, but I now know that my child molester had the ultimate grip on my
disobeyed my family like this and lied to so many people. I was different now;
I was not myself. I became obsessed with Kenny. But, he knew I was only staying
with Mama Sara for the summer, so he slowly tried to push me away. He finally succeeded
when he asked me if I thought he would ever leave his family for me. I said I
hoped that he would. He said there was no way he would.
from this caring, loving friend and lover to this evil user. But, I still
couldn’t hate him. Before I left, he said he would always love me and cherish
everything I had ever given to him. All of these moments ignited my addictions,
but the stage was set much earlier in my childhood.
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Darrett “D.J.” Burr is a licensed mental health counselor in the Washington State; national certified counselor and a specialist in problematic sexual behavior. He has been in private practice in Seattle, WA for five years. D.J. is the co-founder, owner, and Executive Director of A.B.L.E. Counseling Services, LLC.
D.J. is the creator of ABLE Affirmations, ABLE Life Recovery, and the ABLE Care Clinic. D.J. published Unfinished: A GLBT Domestic Violence Workbook while completing his Masters in Community Counseling at Argosy University-Atlanta in 2009.
Born in raised in Marietta, GA, D.J. has been known to many as a survivor. His childhood was less-than-nurturing. D.J. spent the majority of his early years tending to other’s needs and wants; not knowing what his were. He kept fighting for more–more understanding of himself.
Unfortunately, D.J. lost focus after being targeted by a sexual predator. D.J. lapsed into addiction to numb the pain of the molestation, broken relationships, dysfunctional family of origin, and loss of his childhood. However, the addiction did not stop him.
Over 15 years later, D.J. has learned to live life instead of surviving life. D.J. found answers to his long unanswered questions, primarily, who loves me? Twelve Step recovery and rigorous honesty saved D.J. from a life of addiction. He can now say, “I love myself.” Loving himself allowed D.J. to stop chasing unavailable people, places, and things. He now focuses on his recovery, which impacts every facet of his life.
D.J. enjoys writing, watching movies, especially horror/suspense. His favorite band is Nickelback. His favorite R&B group is Destiny’s Child. D.J. is also a huge fan of old 80s-90s cartoons like Transformers.You can visit D.J. Burr’s website at www.ijustwantedlove.com
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Title: Two Princes: The Biker and The BillionaireAuthor: Victoria Danann
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: dba7th House Publishing, Imprint of Andromeda LLC
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
About The Author
dinosaur pillow under one arm and his frayed security blanket under the other.
son’s tears aside with her fingers, cupped his tender face in her hands, and
gave him a kiss on the forehead. She inhaled the scent of baby shampoo from his
tangled wet hair and snuggled him to her chest. Barett’s Mickey Mouse
night-light cast a buttery glow across the carpet. A constellation of
his brand-new bedroom and floating like luminous jellyfish in the dark above.
of his blanket.
umpteenth time as she stroked his black hair. Barett nodded, locked on Nina’s
eyes. She closed the bedtime storybook and put it back on the nightstand.
and Daddy talking.” He started crying again.
cancer is all gone.” She crossed her hands across her chest and threw them up
into the air. “Poof! And Daddy is a brave Sioux, just like you.” She poked
Barett in the chest. “If the president of the United States trusts Daddy to
protect his country, I don’t think we need to worry.”
before falling asleep were to fear for his mommy’s and daddy’s lives—even though
Nina frequently cried herself to sleep with those same fears. Barett, Nina’s
angel throughout her chemotherapy, reached up and brushed her tears away with
his baby-soft fingers as he had done so many times before.
first pregnancy ended horribly with a devastating and unexpected miscarrage.
Her second ended the same way. So after nine months of living on the jittery
edge of sanity, wondering what would go wrong the third time around, Barett was
her gift from God who miraculously joined the world on Nina’s twentysixth
loved Barett more than Jack.
Jack was away, Nina snatched the dreamcatcher hanging from a tack in the wall
above Barett’s pillow and fanned his face with its eagle feathers as if she
were trying to start a fire.
to protect you from bad dreams.” She tickled his chest until he giggled.
over and gave him one last kiss.
downstairs to lock up for the night. Everything in their condominium smelled
fresh and new. The paint on the walls, the polish on the floors, and the carpet
on the stairs. It was their first home and their first mortgage. Nina smiled,
thinking of her husband, Jack, and how he had gone over the top to buy the most
(CTF) made it nearly impossible for Jack Gunn to trust anyone. The only people
he trusted were the other SEALs on his Ghost Team and Native Americans, like
Nina and him.
the money on locks and guns and whatever else you think we need, but take a
look around. We’re not living in Afghanistan.” Nina had opened the blind so
Jack could look out and see their front yard of new sod, their one-inch elm
sapling held vertical by three posts and gardening wire, and the empty lots
across the street staked out for new construction. No one else had even moved
in Dawley Corners, south of Virginia Beach.
know it’s not Montana, but there’s no place I’d rather be.”
watched a windowless panel van slowly cruise past their condo. It was the type
of hammer-and-nail-laden van construction crews drove through their
neighborhood on a daily basis, but not after dark at nine thirty on a Saturday
as it crawled around the cul-de-sac and came back. She let the sheer curtain
fall back into place and watched the headlights. They stopped at the end of
Nina’s driveway. With a growl of the engine, smoke puffed from the tail pipe
into the chilled air. Now hiding behind the front door, she began to
hyperventilate as she fought off the suffocating feeling of panic.
if Jack were home, he would have put one of his patented kill looks on
his face, stomped out the front door, and challenged the guys in the truck. He
did stuff like that all the time. Most of the time, the other guys took off
before he got close enough to do any harm; he looked that intimidating. Far
from being politically correct, Jack was the man who backed down to nobody. Who
feared nobody. Who suspected everybody.
to make sure Barett was still in bed. Fingers trembling, she fumbled to get her
cell phone out of her pocket to call Jack, but dropped it. Pieces of plastic
and glass blasted in every direction, like a grenade exploding in the dark, when
it hit the porcelain tile.
rumbled in the street, not moving. She made out the silhouette of a
stocking-capped, bearded man in the passenger seat. Her brain swelled like an
expanding water balloon between her ears.
her head. It was late Saturday night, her phone was trashed, their home
Internet was not scheduled to be activated until Monday, which had not been a
big deal because her smartphone functioned as a mobile hot spot for her laptop.
All that had changed the instant her phone crashed.
floor behind the door.
stumbled up the stairs, went into their bedroom closet, and turned on the
light. The gun safe still had the manufacturer’s stickers on the anodized steel
again. Nothing. The combination to the safe lay splayed across the entryway
floor downstairs in a worthless cell phone microchip.
door opened. She grabbed the loaded shotgun. Jack always said it was the best
gun for home protection. Point the scattergun in the general direction of your
target and pull the trigger. It would blow a hole in the door the size of a basketball.
tin cans and beer bottles with her brothers back at the reservation garbage
dump in Montana when she was a kid. The gun kicked like a mule and knocked her
on her butt. It seemed funny at the time.
turned off the light, and tiptoed back out of the closet. The gun went first,
with Nina’s slippery finger on the trigger. Her eyes dilated to adjust back to
every noise made her jump. The furnace kicked in. The bedroom curtain fluttered
over the heat duct. She heard a noise in the hallway. Nina opened the door with
the gun barrel.
overcome by a sudden wave of nausea. Nina swallowed hard to push the bile back
down as she propped the gun up against the wall behind the door, out of
Barett’s sight. She grabbed Barett, hugged him hard, and carried him back to
his room. “Stay in bed, honey. Mommy will be right back.”
crept back down the carpeted stairs, trying her best to keep quiet.
shotgun against her chest and fixed her eyes on the doorknob, dreading movement
of any kind. Her heart raced as she waited in the dark.
pieces of her phone.
can’t call or text Jack. He’ll be pissed. It was probably nothing. No need to
get all worked up. Just go to bed. Get a new cell phone in the morning before
Jack gets home. And put that stupid gun away before you shoot someone.
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