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burns rev cover 1Kpizap.com14413160348401 copyThe new novella Burns Too Deep has elicited a lot of compliments, and some requests for a full-fledged series. I am thinking seriously about that. If I write a sequel, the tentative title and possible first chapter are dangled below, mostly as a sword of Damocles hanging over my head, an incentive for me to write.

If you want to read a draft of the first four chapters, go to the chapter titles at the top of this blog.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What follows will most definitely spoil the end of the previous novella. Take time out to read that one, then pick up the story line below. Your link for Burns Too Deep is http://amzn.to/1O1zyQ1

Note also: what follows is a first draft. The actual novella, now published, is a bit different. See the end of this chapter for cover and links.

~oOo~

The Dundee Law
Fitzgerald & Burns Mystery 2
By Erin O’Quinn

Chapter OneThe Anniversary

Today, all day, had rubbed on his mind like a thumb turning back pages.

Detective Sergeant Thomas Fitzgerald lived in a gray flat in a gray sea of flats, somewhere along Strathmartine Road in Dundee, Scotland. Until recently, the shabby place had been merely a convenient and cheap place to eat, shower, and sleep. He’d never really minded the cracked tub, the loose shower tiles, or even having to jiggle the lavatory handle every time he flushed. He put up with the squeaky kitchen linoleum and the narrow space between the counter and the table where he usually stood every morning to eat his toast or cereal before leaving for Police Scotland HQ. He stood because sitting on the slick plastic chair at his creaky table was literally a pain in the ass, and a cramp in the balls.

He could have complained and waited months until his sour-faced landlord replaced the chair set. Or he could have picked up at least a comfy kitchen stool from a second-hand furniture mart. But his home life meant damned little to him, and he’d rather stand up to eat than take care of his creature comforts.

Until a month ago.

battleship gray text=pizap.com14416537954771The bedroom had been merely a place to flop after a tiring twelve- or fourteen-hour stint on a criminal case, or after a boring eight hours looking at the peeling paint at CID HQ a few miles down the road on Bell Street. At least the bed was double-size, which fit his rangy frame and long legs. But the bedroom itself was only a stopover on his way to somewhere else.

The living room was another matter. It had been devoid of cheer from the beginning, four years ago when he’d started at Dundee’s Criminal Investigation Department and moved into the flat. “Battleship Gray” about summed up the color scheme. The old couch sagged, the overstuffed fake-leather chair was a marshmallow, and the pine flooring was so worn in spots that he’d considered buying a couple of cheap throw rugs to disguise the baldness. And then he’d forgotten why any of it was even important.

But around a month back, just looking at the goddamn walls finally set a wild hair up his ass. Or he supposed it wasn’t the walls, but what they began to shout to him every time he walked into the flat.

He’d put up with the scars of absent nails, and even a few projecting ones he hadn’t bothered to pull out in the wake of David’s flight a year ago… after the man had yanked the photos out of their cheap frames, leaving them askew on the living room walls. His ex-fiancé’s departure had left him also askew, empty as those bloody faux-wood frames, and somehow he’d lived with it. Ignored it, or shoved it out of his mind.

Until last month.

Something had happened in his life to make him abhor the pocked, drab walls and the wilted couch, even the slick eroded spots on the floor. He’d arrived home one night and begun to tear naked nails out of the wall. He’d lathered spackle over the holes and sanded them, then painted the entire room a rich, warm shade of ivory with mahogany-stained furniture rails and trims.

The next night he came home with colorful braided throw rugs. Two nights after that, he’d tied a used but solid love seat to the roof of his GTI, like a veritable Gypsy, and hauled it up a flight of stairs.

The cheapest new article was also the most important—a large discount-store print of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, which he’d hung directly across from the new love seat to look at each night, above the battered television set he rarely flipped on.

The only remnants of David were a few wisps of memory, and even those were fading fast. But the other man was so alive at this moment, he thought he saw a storm in the portrait’s eyes begin to seethe and build.

This entire day had been special, in a very subtle way.

It was a nondescript Tuesday, blustery and chill, but the cast iron clouds had been chased by March winds off the River Tay, leaving the sun to send scintillas of light even off the dirty store front windows as he’d driven to work. The date was equally forgettable. March 4. But still, it was an anniversary.

As soon as he’d rolled out of bed, he’d remembered .

February 4, 2014. Precisely one month ago. The day the Scottish Parliament had passed this country’s same-sex marriage bill. And coincidentally the last time he’d seen a raven-haired man with gray-and-sable eyes. The day he’d left the wild-ass Scot named Burns in a bloody parking lot and walked away, letting him escape the clutches of the law. Dundee Law, Fitzgerald Law. Same thing.

thomas deep in thought text=pizap.com14416540301691From that instant in time, Thomas had been as alone as ever. But he’d been astonished to find himself a different person. His always-fitful sleep became deep and dreamless. He’d begun to carry his shoulders higher, as though an invisible weight had vanished. His face cracked into a grin at bloody odd times, until the guys at work began to joke that he must have a girlfriend. A few who knew him better, like Roddy McCormack and Inspector Ainsley, managed to shut up and leave him alone.

For the last three weeks, Thomas had spent his evenings—if he wasn’t out chasing some lowlife druggie or crime lord—right here, on this deep brown microfiber love seat, his legs splayed on the chipped coffee table, deep in thought.

The large modern-art print of Robert Burns had become the focus of his nights. The portrait of the revered poet showed his dark hair falling in a soft loop over part of his forehead, while the rest of it hung to his shoulders and even blended with the tumble-down wall behind. The interior of his head was filled with open books of poetry. The wide, generous mouth was curved in the beginnings of a smile. And the eyes—gray shot through with rich sable—seemed to survey the broken landscape with both wisdom and compassion.

Thomas did not understand most of the symbols in the portrait—except maybe the red, red rose. But he perceived clearly that this poet deserved his place of honor in Scottish hearts as well as her history.

He also understood … in a place he did not want to look just yet … that the man he really saw behind the paint would be part of him for the rest of his life.

Hell, Thomas conceded he’d never even read a Burns poem, outside of the one about the rose. Every school kid knew that one. Being an escaped Irishman, he knew nothing about the poet’s role in this country’s history. But the man had sung a ballad of love to him. To Thomas Fitzgerald alone.

ayrshirecollections.co.ukHe felt a blurring of his vision and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment to see more clearly. No, he did not want to go there, to that iron flap in his heart where he tucked his most precious memories. He’d visit them tonight, in bed, after he turned off the light and allowed darkness to take over. Until then, he’d try his bloody best to make every hour of his life mean something. He owed at least that much to Burns.

The elusive Scot had started as a mystery and ended as an enigma. He hadn’t expected the man to stay in touch. It didn’t fit his personality, just as being a clinging lover did not fit Thomas’ own nature. It was enough to know that somewhere, a man loved him. A man who had healed him and left him to begin his life all over again.

He knew that. And yet he sighed.

His trained ear heard the subtle click of a key turning in the lock of his front door.

~oOo~

I haven’t chosen art for the mysterious Burns, and in fact I think it’s best that he remain an enigma. Think of a long-haired, 30ish Hugh Jackman. Or maybe Enrique Iglesias. Dark, moody, good looking, but not a hunk. Intelligent and intense.

TDL 2X3THE DUNDEE LAW is now published. Here are your links:

Amazon USA http://amzn.to/1L0GBaJ
UK http://amzn.to/1PJNVas
Omni http://bit.ly/1KOmRUa

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