Was it murder? Suicide? Or did Owen Taylor vanish to avoid prosecution for rape? Everyone had their own idea, but the only note he left behind was sent to his nephew, Jacob Blaine, in Denmark … which was crazy, because Owen knew Jake was currently living in the States.
Of course, this happened at the worst possible time for Jake. He was helping his lover, Antony, fight bogus criminal charges; his estranged, anti-gay mother was battling cancer; his job in Copenhagen wanted him to return there — now; and worst of all … Antony was pushing him away. It was tearing him apart.
But Uncle Owen had backed him up through some rough times, so Jake made what he thought would be a short trip to Palm Springs, to see if he could find out what happened. He re-connected with Dion, his first true love, and then he discovered other men had also disappeared. On top of that, an organization called PSALMS was spreading hate and distrust of the gay community as part of their plan to turn back gay rights.
The more Jake dug into Owen’s disappearance, the more he found lies, deceit and treachery by members of the police force, people in the DA’s office, and even some of Owen’s friends. And behind it all was someone who would do everything they could to keep their true motives hidden.
Even have Jake vanish, as well.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The extreme push-back of the right wing against the expansion of rights to the GLBT community and the casual attitudes of those in power against it started this book. When I began writing it, Proposition 8 had just been passed in California, thanks to an anemic response by the gay community. But as things shifted to bringing the right of marriage to everyone, the vicious, vindictive, homophobic response from those in opposition gave the story form and even more meaning than I had anticipated…and it’s still on-going.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Jake and Antony are from an earlier book that had Antony as the main character. Jake is a composite of some guys I’ve known and what I wished I could be. Antony is closer to me in temperament and outlook. I wanted to see how they would work together to forge their relationship…or if it would explode under the stress they’re experiencing. The other characters were taken from friends and acquaintances…family members…and the main theme of the story came from what I went through in my life 25 years ago.
“Jake, why do you stick with Tone?”
It was my stepmother, Mira, asking. though what she really said was, “Iacob, what is your loyalty with this man, Antony?” English being her third language, after Farsi and French, and me being the only one allowed to call my guy Tone.
We were at a sleek Persian restaurant in Paris, not far from De Gaulle. I was en route to Copenhagen for my job and was already worried about my connection being delayed thanks to a winter storm blowing in, so I was not in the mood for my father’s second wife to diss my guy. I loaded some duck fesenjan into my mouth to give me time to work up a polite answer.
“Do you remain beside him because others say you should not?” she continued. “Are you to be stubborn, in the way of your father?”
“Mira,” I snarled, still half-chewing, “I love Tone.”
“It is not love to remain with someone when it is to your own detriment; it is self-loathing.”
Oh … typical psychologist; Here’s your box, little man, and aren’t you ashamed for being in it? I wouldn’t be surprised if she analyzed my half-brothers-and-sisters in the same way.
I swallowed, sipped my beer, took a breath and snarled, “Psycho-lady … q’est-çe que c’est?” Tried to make it jokey; didn’t work. Her expression turned quizzical, like she was thinking, This lab rat used to be smart, so why’s he screwing up the maze leading to the cheese? “Has Antony told you all that he has done?”
She knew damn well he had. And yet … while I knew more about him than anybody, even I didn’t know it all.
I pushed my plate aside, leaned against the table, folded my hands, looked her straight in the eyes and asked, “This is why you had me change my travel plans? So you could diss my guy to my face?”
She hesitated then took a sip of her wine. Pinot noir with a lamb salad … there’s something wrong about that.
“I apologize,” she said. “I am too used to being … to being circumspect with my patients.”
“Circumspect?” Said in my Texas twangiest with my grin my goofiest. “An’ here I thought you was bein’ blunt.”
She looked straight at me. “Do you know that your mother has contacted your father?”
And I got blunted right between the eyes. I kept my voice steady as I said, “So?”
“So … she has done this twice. That I know of.”
“Okay … again — so?”
“One telephone call refers to your uncle, Owen Taylor. As I understand what has happened, he is vanished, and she wishes to find him. She asks Faraz to use his influence to bring forth an investigation.”
My appetite dropped to zero, because this … was … bullshit. Uncle Owen was mom’s half-brother, and she did not give a single solitary damn about him. Why? Simple — he was gay, and she blamed him for me choosing to go that way and be of the devil, which she had actually screamed at me as she kicked me out of the house. Besides, my uncle wasn’t the kind to just disappear; my mother was. I can’t tell you the number of times I’d get dumped at my grandmother’s so she could run off to some hunting trip or seminar or church retreat, while we always knew where Uncle Owen was, even if he wasn’t in constant contact. But now she’s calling her hated ex-husband about her hated half-brother because she can’t find him? No way in hell.
“Mira, Uncle Owen’s in Palm Springs; my father’s based here. What kind of influence can he have?”
She gave me that maze-rat-screwed-up look, again. “He has investments in California. Some in partnership with your uncle.”
Which I did not know. “Which means he has his contact info. So what’d he find out?”
She hesitated. “He has yet to locate him.”
Wait … my father, with all his resources, couldn’t track down my uncle? “So … so what’s this got to do with me?”
“Her most recent telephone call was to ask for your contact details. I find it interesting she did not already have them.”
“Why? She told me years ago, I’m not her son.”
“Words spoken only in shock … and anger … ”
“You really gonna excuse someone you never met?”
She sighed, nodded and sipped more wine.
I downed some beer, trying to sort my thoughts, then asked, “How’d you find out she called?” I asked.
That made her blink. “You do not think Faraz has told me?”
“I know my father and his secrets as well as you do.”
She had to smile at that. “Yes. Well … his assistant keeps nothing from his wife, and may Faraz never learn of this.”
More bullshit; dad had used his assistant to feed Mira this crap. What was he up to? And was she really dumb enough to fall for it? I doubted that.
“When did she call?”
“The last was two months ago, is my understanding.”
“I got no idea what to say,” I said, making myself finish my meal. “She hasn’t called me. All I’ve gotten from her and dad is ten years of Catholic and Islamic hate.”
“Iacob, if Faraz truly despised you, like this, he would not have allowed you back into his family.”
“That was Tone’s doin’, not his. And you’re the one who kept me in. And you will never know how grateful I am … ”
Her face grew tender. “I would have it no other way.”
I gave her a soft smile back. “So what does Tone have to do with all this? Aside from the fact that both my parents hate his guts … and that, you cannot deny.”
Mira sighed, in response. “I merely wish to … understand why you remain in America when your future is in Europe.”
“Texas and her crappy brand of justice.”
“That is Antony’s legal situation. Yours is finalized.”
“What hits him, hits me.”
She all but rolled her eyes, then poked at her salad, as if to see if it’s alive. “Did you know he has … demanded his therapist share his notes with me?”
No … but my only response was an American shrug.
No fooling her. She almost smiled. “When you speak of those who love secrets, Iacob, perhaps you should look to him. Now let me clarify my initial question. Even if you do love Antony, is it wise to remain with him? Is it not true he faces still the possibility of a prison sentence?”
“Who told you that?”
“That is unimportant. What is of importance is your future. And to remain with a man who may be jailed — ”
“He won’t. It’s just this new Attorney General tryin’ to renege on the deal we worked out. Like he’s got any say in it.”
“Nor have you any influence over this.”
“The hell I don’t. What’s goin’ on here, Mira? Why you goin’ down this road?”
Another hesitation. Another sip of wine. “I … I have been talking with Ari.”
I barked a laugh. “Nobody talks with Uncle Ari; you listen, because he chatters enough for the world.”
She smiled back. “True. But he compliments your graphic abilities to me. He tells me his clients now ask for you. He wishes for you to partner with him, but he worries you may refuse because of Antony’s legal situation. It is an excellent opportunity, Iacob, and as you are now a citizen of Denmark you may do this. But you cannot maintain this long-distance manner of employment; you must return to Copenhagen to live. Once Antony has his legal obligations met, he could then join you.”
Jesus … more crap? Ari may be dad’s brother, but guess who couldn’t keep a secret to save his life? And he hadn’t said word one about anything more than me meeting a new client and tossing out ideas for an ad campaign, on this trip. That actually hurt.
“Mira … I thought you had some respect for me.”
That made her blink. “Of course I do.”
“Then why’re you handin’ me this nonsense? My mother’s worried about my uncle and … and Ari’s got … he’s got plans for me and I … I’m screwing up my life and … and what the hell is goin’ on? What’s it got to do with my uncle goin’ off the grid? What’re you really trying to tell me? Is there somethin’ in Tone’s notes I ought to know?”
She looked at me for a moment then pushed her plate away. “It was wrong of me to inform you of those.”
“ … Jesus … that bad?”
She finished her wine. “This … this you must discuss with Antony. It may have been a violation of ethics to even mention him sharing them. I will say no more.”
Perfect. She’s shut down, and trying to get Tone to talk about something he did not want to talk about was like an ant trying to tear a hole in a brick wall — in concept, possible; in reality, never gonna happen.
I downed the last of my beer, shaken. Part of me wanted to push and find out what the hell Mira was really trying to tell me, but I needed to get back for my flight, and I did not want to leave my one ally in France on a bad note. So I sighed and shrugged. “Okay, I get the message … but my grandmother taught me you don’t abandon someone you love when they’re in trouble. I’m surprised you even begin to think I could do that.”
Again with the rat-screwing-up-the-maze look. “No matter what the cost?” I just smiled. “Nor would I ever have thought of you as one with a martyr-complex.”
“Okay, first off,” I snapped, “back off. I’m not one of your patients. An’ you know what Tone’s done for me — ”
“So you remain from gratitude?”
“Don’t categorize me, Mira! I told you — I love him.”
“Does he love you?”
“He was almost killed, helpin’ me. What do you think?”
Mira sighed, her eyes a bit sad. “I think … now … to be with him harms you. And I hope you at least will consider what I have suggested. You are a young man still … ”
“An American twenty-seven. You have much to learn of the world, as yet. It is … it would be so much better for you to do this somewhere other than where you are, at this time.”
That hammered the message home. My so-called parents were up to something, and it centered around me and Tone, and maybe my Uncle Owen … and she wanted me to be someplace safer than Texas, once it went down. Near family who cared about me. What that something was, she either didn’t know. Or wouldn’t tell me, if she did know. I’d have to work that out for myself.
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