Coffee Break Read – A Copper Penny

“A copper penny for your thoughts, Domina Julia.”
“None of your never mind, Llewelyn,” she tried to sound severe but even to her own ears her voice sounded thin and strained.
“Relax, my lady, I’m not about to jump your bones. It would be a little difficult to explain to the Tribune. Not to mention a pair of hairy praetorians in the atrium.”
She snorted.
“That’s not my worry. I’m more concerned about what might happen if I jumped your bones.”
He looked at her for a moment, his eyes searching her face as if he was unsure whether she was teasing him or not, then laughed deep in his chest.
“If we were somewhere less public, I might just call you on that,” his voice was deep and lazy and Julia felt it reverberate through her body like half-remembered music. She must have blushed, because he put one finger under her chin and gave her the grin she was becoming so familiar with.
“When I first saw you, I thought you were a little boy. How wrong can a man be?” He dropped his hand, but his gaze remained heated and Julia found it difficult to regain her breath.
“Are you flirting with me, Llewelyn?” she heard herself actually purring.
“Oh no. This is far more dangerous than mere flirting.”
“Really? You think it’s not dangerous to flirt with me?”
She turned her face to him in mute invitation, wondering if he had the courage to back up his words with a deed. He did not disappoint. Dai grazed her lips with his own and she sighed. He leaned away from her but kept his eyes on her face. Julia looked away first and he touched her cheek before grunting in a dissatisfied manner.
“Not here. Not now. Not like this. Please talk to me before I get us both arrested. Or more likely just me.”
Julia mentally acknowledged the truth behind his comment. It seemed wrong to her to even consider their respective positions in society, but they needed to be thought about. Even though he was a man with a legitimate family lineage and she was a product of the slums whose mother was a whore, she was still a Roman Citizen and he wasn’t. 

She sighed.
“What would you like to talk about?”
He thought for a moment.
“The Tribune and Boudicca. Do you think they are…”
“Almost certainly, but I haven’t actually asked.”
Julia leaned forward and dipped another ladle of water onto the hot stones. When she leaned back, Dai’s face was a picture of pity.
“What?” she asked a tad testily.
“What happened to your back?”
“Oh. That. That’s what happens when a party of Mongol slavers has you and you don’t prove yourself biddable enough.”
He lifted her hand to his cheek.
“So much courage in such a small body.”
She snorted.
“Courage or stupidity. Call it what you will. I’d have been better off capitulating. They might have raped me less brutally.”
He turned her hand and kissed the pink palm.
“And yet you don’t hate men.”
“No. I did for a while, but you can’t stay bitter forever.”
“Many would. And the Tribune was right.”
“What did the old fool say?”
“Only that you have the sort of courage and integrity that shames most men.”
Julia mentally beat her foster brother about the head and face before turning a smiling face to Dai.
“So that means he told you the sorry story, does it?”
“Just the outline. He wanted me to understand how it had been for you. I don’t, of course, but I do at least know you are not a spoilt patrician.”
“Indeed I’m not.”

“May I ask you one thing?”
She lifted a shoulder.
“Ask away.”
“How did the slavers get you? In Rome?”
“I wasn’t in Rome. A group of orphan children of vigiles parents who had died in service, were sent north to the mountains to avoid the summer heat. Only the charitable patricians who organised the trip actually sold us to the Mongols and put it out that we had been abducted. The had pulled the same scam with other groups of orphans but, fortunately for me, unlike the others the Vigiles were not going to accept nothing could be done or abandon their own without a fight. It should have been a huge scandal, but money changed hands and it was all hushed up.” She paused as she realised something for the first time. “I think that is why justice is so important to me.”
Dai swore for quite some time, and, for reasons she wasn’t prepared to analyse, this gave Julia a warm fuzzy feeling in her stomach. When he calmed down, their talk became general and light-hearted, as if they both realised there were things they needed to say to each other, just not quite yet.
After steam and massage, they were forced to separate as the actual baths were segregated. Julia found herself alone in the female caldarium, and allowed herself to float in the hot water enjoying the looseness it promoted in her limbs. She let her mind drift back to Dai Llewellyn in all his almost edible masculinity and a small smile spread across her gamine features.
She was so lost in her daydream that she didn’t even feel the blow that rendered her unconscious.

From Dying to be Roman by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook

EM-Drabbles – Ninety-Four

Edwina was the studious hard working kind. Her few friends voted her ‘Most Likely to Succeed’, but privately thought she worked too hard to ever enjoy life.
They seldom invited her to any social events, even online ones, because there is a limit to how often you can listen to descriptions of the intricacies of noncovalent bonds and leukocyte adhesion.
One day Edwina looked out of the window and saw a child laughing with delight whilst playing with a balloon. The next, she was on a plane to Bermuda where she lived the rest of her life as a beachcomber…

E.M. Swift-Hook

Coffee Break Read – The Fated Sky

To celebrate the upcoming launch of A Necessary End, the final book in Fortunes Fools, The Fated Sky is free to download until 4 March

Caer sat on his pony looking at the dead body on the ground and wondering if he should send more scouts back towards the road, almost a day’s trek behind the caravan. This man had been alone, half-mad and no threat to the caravan, but others might even now be following the same path that they had taken from the road and for the same reason they had taken it: others who were scouts for brigands, bandits or bigger caravans than his own.
He spat in the dirt and narrowed his eyes as he looked past the file of wagons, ponies and people. It was late afternoon and his breath misted slightly in the air. The long cold winter was over, but in the barren Wastelands, spring was always slow to come. The air still carried a biting chill, even in the heat of the day and the distant peaks kept their mantle of snow and ice, tinged with crimson by the light of the huge red sun. Spring was having to claw its way free of winter’s greedy clutches so that Temsevar could bask in an all too brief season of warmth and growth.
The Wastelands were vast and magnificent. Here and there, standing proud and alone in the plain, like the lost sentinels of a forgotten age, were towering flat-topped mountains of rock, some so massive they were too big to cross in a day on foot. It was as though at some point in the distant past the ground had simply dropped away, leaving the high plateaux stranded above, like giant stepping stones, creating a two-tier terrain. If in the winter, these high grounds were the coldest and most exposed, in the spring they seemed always flushed with new vegetation before any managed to creep out of the more parched stones below.
Caer made his decision. With the work to be done, the four men he already had out scouting their back trail were all he could spare for the moment. He called to one of the mounted men who was riding with the caravan.
“Shevek, we are camping here.”
The man he spoke to wheeled his pony away and rode at a brisk pace towards the front of the train of wagons and animals, issuing sharp orders to make the night’s camp around the rocky debris beneath the steep cliff face of one of the high monoliths. Caer felt a familiar sense of satisfaction as those orders turned the straggling ranks of moving people, ponies and wagons into a brief flurry of chaos, before brightly coloured awnings, tents and pavilions sprung up from the chaos, like strange blossoms. Caer and his men rode through the quickly forming encampment, shouting instructions, solving problems, helping secure ropes and encouraging any who were slow to respond with the whips they carried curled in their belts.
In a remarkably short time, the caravan resembled a miniature town with streets and open spaces, stables, and pens. Fires were being kindled, children tending the animals as women kneaded dough and cut the vegetables for the evening meal. Toddlers screamed and got underfoot or rolled like puppies amongst the big, sharp-toothed dogs, which ignored them and begged for scraps with soulful eyes and then turned on each other snapping and snarling when an unsavoury morsel was cast their way.
Once the familiar routine was well established, Caer’s men guided their mounts towards the middle of the camp. The ponies’ short stubby ears, thick coats, wall-eyed glares and powerful necks, made them far from beautiful to look upon, but their split hooves could splay to grip surefooted even on snow and ice or could run fast on firmer ground. It was their broad backs which carried the burden of human traffic in both trade and war with a sturdy strength and agility which, for Caer, had a beauty all of its own.
The men who rode were as tough as their ponies. The older ones amongst them wore their hair long, stained red and tied back into a heavy braid, the greater length of the braid telling of ever greater age and experience. The youngest men had their hair shaved so close to the scalp as to seem bald. They were not even allowed to begin to grow a braid until they had served a year of apprenticeship with the caravans. All the men wore coats made from a brightly coloured heavy-felt cloth, over shirts with billowing sleeves, patterned skirted jerkins made from fleeced hides and plain felt britches which gathered loosely into calf-high boots. All were armed: every man wore a bandolier of wooden cartridge boxes over one shoulder and carried a crude pistol; one or two had a long-barrelled musket or rifled carbine, on their backs and each wore a long-bladed knife with an ornately carved hilt and whips hung looped at their belts.
These men were of the Zoukai, a brotherhood of warrior guardians, hiring themselves to protect the caravans which carried the trade of Temsevar. Named after the swift and ruthless, red-plumed predatory birds which hunted from the skies in these very wastes, they were bound by a strict code of honour which placed loyalty to their captain and their caravan above all else.

You can keep reading The Fated Sky which is free to download until 4 March. It is the first part of Transgressor Trilogy, and the first book in Fortunes Fools by E.M. Swift-Hook.

The cover is designed by Ian Bristow, you can find his work at Bristow Design.

Author Feature – Aquae et Ignis by Assaph Mehr

This short novella introduces the Togas, Daggers, and Magic series by Assaph Mehr  and is FREELY available here

In Ancient Rome, Aqua et Ignis — water and fire — were the two elements which symbolically contained most of everyday life. To deny them to someone — an interdictio aquae et ignis — was a sentence of exile, the exclusion of a culprit from the common life with his fellow countrymen.
This is a story of water and fire — of lunacy and piracy, of exile and ghosts.

“The matter I am about to discuss with you is rather sensitive, on both a personal and state level,” he began. “May I have your word you will keep our discussions here in confidence, whether you take the case or not?”

“Of course,” I nodded, thinking to myself that politicians rarely separated personal and state affairs. Up close, I could see the creases in his face, signs of stresses and hard work that were the price of his position.

“We had a rather successful year, my co-consul Pinarius and I. We pushed through some important legislation and accomplished much of our manifesto. Pinarius, in particular, had some success on a military campaign dealing with rampant piracy. But upon his return, he withdrew from public life. He wouldn’t even come to the traditional ceremony of nailing the sunken pirate ships’ rams to the rostra in honour of his achievements. We needed to give an explanation for his absence, and Ballenus here recalled the archaic custom of observing the skies for omens. We spread the word our consul is concerned about the fate of the republic and has retired to seek the gods’ wisdom. But that is hardly an adequate excuse, and tongues are wagging.”

“Indeed. One of next year’s consuls was making fun of it in the Forum just now,” I said.

“Already?” Labienus face darkened. “Filthy vultures. Anyway — Pinarius and I are old friends, but I am worried his recent behaviour will tarnish both our reputations and diminish our auctoritas, our public standing. After my proconsulship next year, I was very much hoping to make censor one day. I need you to relieve Pinarius of that which plagues him, so we can finish the year on a good note.”

“Why me, though?” I asked. “What makes you think he needs my particular skills?”

“Quite frankly, you’re our last hope,” said Labienus. “If it was merely a health issue, we could have worked with it — turned him into a hero who toiled his life away at the service of the republic. But the man has become utterly paranoid. He hides in dark corners and wraps himself in a blanket, refusing to come near any light. He won’t eat and barely drinks. All he does is mumble incoherently about ghosts from his past, about exile. His family and staff are at their wits’ ends, and none of us can make any sense of him. All the physicians we brought in were quick to simply proclaim him mad, but I know Pinarius. He is not one to crack like that. There might, I believe, be some real ghosts haunting him.”

A Bite of… Assaph Mehr 

As Assaph bottled out, Felix has stepped in to talk about working with authors

Q1. How do you approach an author and secure an appearance in their books?

Ah, there’s the rub. Attracting an author is hardly a problem. The poor souls wander everywhere, from city to remote wilderness, tagging at the sleeve of any passing person to interview them. One can hardly walk down the street without noticing an unkempt figure sitting in front of an open book, sketching people appearances, taking frantic notes ‘for later’. If you make the mistake of eye contact or – shudder – stop to talk to one, they’ll pester you with questions. From “What was your favourite toy as a child?”, to “What emotional trauma made you who you are today?”. Quite invasive.
And then they fly off on a tangent – “Forget the war council, where does the king poop and who cleans it?” They’ll insist they need to know everything, lest they be caught out and called frauds for lack of ‘research’. And in the end, after you bought them dinner and drinks and spent an evening away from your duties answering all your questions, they’ll just say, “You know, you’ll be perfect for that walk-in shop-keeper part in the second act. You’ll be immortalised! Even if it’s only two lines and I’ll have to change your name.
No, my friends, attracting an author is like attracting rabid dogs with a juicy steak. Concentrate instead on finding the right author. First, you must demand a sample of their writing. Once received, critique it! Kill their darlings and see how they take it. Any author without a thick skin is unlikely to make it in the business and will just waste your time.
Speaking of which, ask for their publication record. You don’t want to spend days telling your life’s story, only to get stuck with one of those who only produce an infinite chain of drawer-bound drafts. Make sure your chosen author is there to publish. The rewards, they say, wait for those who do. Ask them who their editor is, and have they booked a cover designer. Ask them about their pre-launch marketing plan and their long-term series strategy, and for gods’ sake don’t sign anything without seeing the audio-book and film rights clauses.
Ensure you get creative freedom to go on your own tangents, but remember that they own the overall vision and execution of the story. It’s ok to tease them with exciting anecdotes while they’re taking a shower, but don’t abuse their sanity too badly. Work with them.
Lastly, this is about forming a trusting business partnership, for mutual benefit. Almost incidentally, remember that you don’t have to like them – but it helps.

Q2. How do you deal with the misery heaped upon you, knowing it’s done for entertainment value?

You do realise very little of it is real, right? When you go see a play and the actor playing Oedipus is killing his father and then himself, you know that the actors aren’t really dead, but get up and walk away to the paymaster’s office. Likewise, us characters never really die, but live on in the mind of the next reader.
As for the miseries themselves, they are highly exaggerated. Say you want to tell a funny anecdote that happened to you the other day, to add some levity to your story. You start with “So there I was, walking down the street to get some bread—” when you are rudely interrupted.
“Why?” they’ll ask.
“I was hungry?”
“No, no, I mean your inner motivation. What conflict were you trying to resolve?”
“Really, I just wanted a snack…”
“Didn’t you have food at home? Were you poor? Did your wife leave you? Divorced! I see it now. Here, let me write this down, Recently divorced, Johnny found himself braving the dangerous city streets on a stormy night, holding tight to his last copper coin and hoping the baker would give him yesterday’s stale leftovers. The shop was closed – it was closed, right? it must have been – and it proved to be the last straw. As his hunger pushed him to break in, Johnny realised that there was nothing holding him back now, no one to keep him away from a life of crime. A dog came and peed on his leg. In the rain.
So there you have it. Just like the movies depict a highly-stylised, completely inaccurate version of reality – one where you’d need to double check if New York was indeed on the east coast if you saw it in the cinemas – your life’s adventure will be digested and turned into entertainment, with little resemblance to true events. Like an actor, accept that sometimes it’s your role to be infuriating, or suffer hardship, or die gruesomely, all in the name of “making it” in show-biz. Carry out your part well, and you shall forever be remembered by the multitude.

Q3. What do you get out of it?

Not paid, certainly. I haven’t seen a royalty cheque in ages. I’m giving you hard-earned tips here, so you learn from my mistakes. 

But those few, those lucky few, of us characters who do manage to land a proper author – one with both vision and execution – will truly become immortal. Don’t be afraid to dream! Whether it’s seeing the Wikipedia article about you (which you can’t edit to correct inaccuracies because you’re not ‘objectively qualified’), or the blockbuster poster with Tom Hiddleston and Lily White playing the lead roles of your life’s story, or entering the language as a household name – dream, and dream big!

Yes, alright, your chances of achieving these dreams are miniscule, let’s acknowledge that elephant. But if you don’t tell your story, if you don’t work with an author, the chances are nil. So have your dreams and your adventures ready to tell, find that right author, and persevere!

Assaph Mehr  has had his nose in a book since he was five, so it wasn’t surprising that he turned to writing. All those years reading on ancient Rome, sci-fi, fantasy, and mysteries while practicing various martial arts, travelling the world, and working odd jobs lead to some interesting combinations in his stories.
Tonight, for something truly different, and because Assaph bottled out, rather than interviewing an author for their insight into the writing process or mental instability, we interview a protagonist. He’s here to give advice to other potential characters on how to best work with that insane breed of humans called “writers”.
Felix is a failed student of magic (could no longer pay the fees), an ex-legionary (an honourable – honourable, I say! – discharge), and current investigator of the occult (for cases no one else will touch). There’s enough of that going on to earn him a respectable living, which is the only thing keeping him from a career of con-man. Here, if you know someone with an unusual problem, pass them this business card:
Assaph, on the other hand, didn’t finish high-school (though it didn’t stop him from going to uni), practiced martial arts for 30 years (but never got into a fight), an ex-soldier (if you ask him what he did he’d have to kill you – even though we keep telling him there’s no shame in being an HR clerk in charge of little bit of green paper). Now he’s a product manager by day (a fancy way of saying someone who doesn’t have any authority and is busy explaining to developers what the customers want – and to customers why they’re not getting it). By night he drinks single-malt Scotch with Felix, as they share delusions of grandeur about one day “making it” in the publishing business. To can find him on Facebook, Twitter and his Website.

Instagram: @assaph

EM-Drabbles – Ninety-Three

Mud sticks.

Gemma thought about that as she worked to wash the mud from her soccer kit. There was a big game next weekend and there might be scouts looking to spot the best players.

But mud sticks and even though  everyone knew she was the best player on the team she doubted she would be chosen.

The fans still shouted it at her, even though she won the court case. Even though she had proved jealousy made Olivia claim Gemma had tried to grope her, proved she was not in the changing room at that time.

But mud sticks.

E.M. Swift-Hook

The Affair of the Dartymuir Dog. Part Two

The adventures of Piglock Homes and his sidekick Doctor Bearson

‘Mister Homes. Please come quickly. There’s murder afoot on Dartymuir. Signed Inspector E. E. Yore.’

Bearson had to admit the words meant little to him, but he was satisfied by the change in his best little chum from amoral turpitude to intellectual rigour. 

Homes showed his teeth in a feral grin.

“You’d be more interested if you read the Thunderer instead of your dreadful publication full of bones and innards.”

He passed Bearson a copy of the newspaper which he had folded to display a headline and and a short article about a series of strange happenings in the wilds of Dartymuir. The headline read ‘Dogged by the Dartymuir Dog’. According to the somewhat sensationalised account, one of the oldest families in the shire was being persecuted to the extent that its scions lived in fear of their lives. That, combined with the Inspector’s telegraph message, certainly seemed enough to pique the interest of the formerly torpid pig.

“Are we off to Dartymuir, Homes?”

“Oh yes. I think so. Consult your Bradshaw’s for train times and have Mrs Cangar pack some hunny sandwiches. I don’t think we will be home for tea.”

Bearson ascertained train times. “There is a fast train leaving at three thirty, but we will scarcely make that one. Or a stopper which departs at five.”

Homes nodded, and Bearson went off to negotiate with their formidable housekeeper. When he returned, coated and booted, Homes was busily ferreting in an old steamer trunk beside the bay window.

“Aha,” he exclaimed, “got you you little blackguard.”

He emerged triumphantly with a large brass whistle on a lanyard, which he hung about his neck.

“Are you not ready yet Bearson old chap?”

“Very nearly Homes.”

“Good man. Do not by any means neglect to bring your service revolver with you.”

Bearson tapped the pocket of his Ulster. “It’s right here, old thing.”

A knock on the door heralded the arrival of their cab.

As they claimed aboard, Homes passed the driver a shilling. “There’s half a crown in it for you if we make the three-thirty train to Dumplingshire.”

The jarvey whipped up his pony and they were off.

Piglock Homes and his sidekick Doctor Bearson will continue their investigation into The Affair of the Dartymuir Dog next week

Jane Jago

Writing Right

Simile and metaphor
Is kinda difficult to ignore
They are the building blocks of seeing
Hearing, thinking, tasting being
Without their sturdy helpful syllables
How would we know who is killable
So okay the grass is green
But green in many guises seen
Or is the grass a thing of silk
Soft and warm and cool as milk
Without the help of metaphor and simile
We’d fall flat and just be a facsimile
To answer the question I’m not able
So I’ll shove some doggerel on the table

©️jj 2020 

Weekend Wind Down – Meeting Sam Nero

This is an excerpt from the notebooks of Anastasia Throbb, ace reporter, and presenter of the prime-time magazine show The Throbbing City.

Sam Nero didn’t want to meet with me. It took six months of poking and prodding, and outright bribery before I found a man who was both willing and able to lean on this most archetypal of private investigators and make him talk to me. In the end, a friend of a friend introduced me to a man who goes by the name of O’Halleran, who promised me an hour of Sam’s time. Rather to my surprise, it even seemed as if he was going to deliver.

He sent two huge mutes to my office and they escorted me to a back-street diner where a sullen-faced waitress stuck me in a booth and stopped chewing gum for long enough to mouth “sit”. I sat and waited, concealing my growing impatience as best as possible. I was just about to make as dignified an exit as I could when a shadow fell across the table.
“Miss Throbb, I presume.” The voice was lazily amused.
I turned and got my first look at Sam Nero in the flesh. He was about six three, maybe six four, wide at the shoulder and narrow at the hip, and his face looked as if it had been designed to meet the expectations of every pre-pubescent female in the city. It was hard, and sculpted, and sported what I could only assume was a permanent five o’clock shadow. I turned my attention to his companion, a lush-bodied bottle blonde who looked at me as if she could discern my innermost secrets. I think I hated her on sight.

They slipped into the booth opposite me, and something about the pair of them set the hairs on the back of my neck prickling. For a moment I was floundering, then I realised what had spooked me. There were two of them, but only one shadow. While my flesh was still crawling, the waitress appeared with a pot of coffee and two tall mugs. She put a mug in front of Nero and one in front of me before favouring me with a sneer and sloping off.
“Doesn’t your lady friend get coffee?”
The voice that responded was feminine and breathy and sounded to me as if it had been honed over a lot of years of practice.
“I never touch the stuff. Ruins the complexion.”
Then Nero laughed. It was a deep sound that sent little shivers running around all sorts of inappropriate parts of my anatomy.
“Be nice.”
“I was being nice, Sam. You should know that.”
She laid a red-nailed and possessive paw on his forearm and he smiled.
“Sure you were being nice, Sugar. I’d just like to keep it that way.”
“Sugar?” I think my voice went up an octave, I mean what sort of a prehistoric monster calls his woman sugar?
“It’s my name. Sugar Kane. That’s Miss Kane to you.”
Mentally cursing my luck I turned my most winsome smile on Mister Nero.
“Sam,” I said. “May I call you Sam?”
He raised a lazy eyebrow and looked me up and down for a moment before laughing that damnably sexy laugh again.
“I guess so. It’s what Ma Nero named her little boy.”
“Is it really? I mean I can find no record of a family called Nero, let alone a male child called. Samuel?”
“Nah. Just Sam. And where I was born nobody keeps records.”
“And Miss Kane. Where and when was your sidekick born?”
“That ain’t the sort of question a gentleman asks a lady. Not if he wants to keep wearing his face. You can ask if you are that stupid.”
I looked into his companion’s icy eyes and quickly framed another question.
“The first record I can find of a Sam Nero is about four decades ago when a licence to operate as a private detective was granted. Would that be you?”
“The age of the applicant is stated as being forty-two.”
“Sounds a responsible sort of age to me. What say you Sugar?”
They exchanged a look of such naked trust that for a second even I felt de trop. But I pressed on.
“But that can’t be you, Mister Nero. If it was you would be in your eighties by now. And you don’t look like an eighty-year-old man to me.”
“Neither he does.” The blonde seemed to be laughing at me, and I didn’t like the sensation one little bit.
I made my voice hard and assertive.

“In my book, Mister Nero, that makes you an impostor. I’m sure the authorities would love to look at my findings and throw you into jail for a good long time.” I leaned forward and slapped the palms of my hands on the table hard enough to sting.
Nero laughed.
“Think again, sweetheart. The authorities as you so sweetly call them know precisely who I am. Next question.”
He took a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes out of his pocket and lit up.
I coughed.
“I do not care for tobacco smoke,” I said icily.
Nero sneered at me.
“Door’s over there. Make sure it doesn’t hit your ass on the way out.”
I was incensed, but some vestige of intelligence stopped me leaving. This was my only chance to persuade an icon of old-school cops and robbers violence onto my show so I swallowed my bile and tried for a forgiving smile. The obnoxious Sugar shrugged her shoulders and her rather overblown assets jiggled.
“I think the lady has decided to forgive you.”
He grinned lazily, and twitched a mobile eyebrow, sending my hormone count soaring yet again. This man was hot, hot and dangerous. I needed him to boost my flagging ratings, and maybe for the odd other job or two.

I set myself to charm him, sipping my coffee and running my tongue along my lower lip. He watched with what I can only describe as detached amusement, and I felt my anger begin to rise up once more.

“What’s with you Nero?” I snapped. “You come here sneering, and looking down your nose at me…”
He leaned back and crossed his long long legs.
“Wasn’t me asked for this meet. Suck it up.”
I drew in a breath and tried for calm.
“Fair point Mister Nero. I asked to meet you.”
The blonde bombshell laughed huskily.
“I think the lady is after your body, Sam.”
“Why’d that be Sugar?”
“As if you didn’t know, big boy.”
“And as if you didn’t know old Sam’s heart is yours alone.”

It seemed to me as if they had completely forgotten my existence and I rapped my nails against the crazed china of my mug.
“I’m still here,” I grated.
“Why so you are.” Nero looked me up and down a bit more, and the silent insult in his stare had the blood rushing to my face and I blushed for possibly the first time in two decades.
“Why are you being like this? You have been chauvinistic, unpleasant and downright rude. Why? What have I ever done to you?”
He got up from his seat and looked down at me with a most peculiar expression on his face.
“It’s not always about you. I am what I am. How I was made…”
Then he was gone, and the woman went with him. Two entities with one shadow…

The Sam Nero PI collection of the Sam Nero Stories by Jane Jago, is now available.


Nowadays lives are all lived most virtually
Virtual pictures with filters applied
Everyone now can be kept in a pixel
And our photo albums in small phones reside

I recall times that we lived in monochrome
Black and white telly, and black and white snaps
Black and white memories stare from the photographs
Black and white moments our lifetime maps

Back before then they all lived in sepia
Sepia pictures in sepia frames
Formally posed with hands in laps folded
Gazing from history, lost – without names

Further before that they lived life in oil paint
Brilliant colours that spring from the past
Glorious scenes of magnificent ancestors
Whose mighty deeds will our own deeds outlast.

E.M. Swift-Hook

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