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Chapter 1: The Paper Mirror

Cover of The Paper Mirror

Chapter 1

Libraries are the repositories of words, and I think it’s because I’ve always been aware of the power of words that I find libraries so fascinating.

But just like the books they house, libraries sometimes have secrets within, and secrets are not always good things. While we use words to record facts, we also use them, consciously or unconsciously, to record ourselves. Writers of fiction, particularly, reflect their innermost selves and their innermost secrets through their words. Perhaps that’s why they polish them so. For them, words are paper mirrors.

* * *

The phone rang just as I was finishing the crossword puzzle and thinking about having another cup of coffee.

“Hardesty Investigations,” I said, picking up the phone, as always, on the second ring.

The voice on the other end was taut as a violin string: “We have another one,” it said.

Shit!

Well, before I get into details, a little background might be in order. It had started about two months earlier….

* * *

“We’re no fun anymore,” Jonathan said one evening as we lay in bed.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “I think we’re a barrel of laughs. You had Joshua in hysterics with your impression of Cookie Monster.”

“Uh-huh,” he said, unconvinced. “He’s four years old. He thinks everything is funny.” He rolled over in bed, toward me. “You know what I mean…ever since Joshua arrived, we’ve turned straight.”

I rolled over and faced him. “What the hell are you talking about?” I asked.

He sighed. “Well, we’ve got a kid now—and I wouldn’t change that for the world—but we’re turning into the Cleavers. We hardly ever see our friends anymore. We don’t go out to gay places hardly at all. I miss it…don’t you?”

As a matter of fact, I did. And ever since Joshua, Jonathan’s four-year-old nephew, had become a permanent fixture in our lives, we really hadn’t had much time for a “just us grown-ups” social life. We were able to get together with our old gang from time to time, but usually just for dinner and a drink after. My own party days of endless cruising, tricking, bar-hopping, and out-all-nights had ended when I met Jonathan, but at least we’d still had a lot more freedom than we’d had lately. Not that we minded, really (I kept telling myself): we just lived in a different world now. There are tradeoffs, but maybe we had traded a little bit too much.

That’s one reason we were happy to accept when Glen O’Banyon, the city’s top gay attorney with whom I’d worked frequently, invited us to a party for the opening of the new Burrows Library—by far the biggest predominantly gay social event of the year.

Chester Burrows was a local eccentric, very rich (which is society’s dividing line between “eccentric” and “crazy”), and a world-class collector of books and manuscripts, many of them very rare and worth a fortune. Though no particular fuss was made about it, the collection included what was thought to be the largest private hoard in existence of books on the subject of homosexuality. If a book, from Gutenberg on down, even mentioned the subject, it was said to be in Burrows’ collection. He guarded his collection with a tenacity well beyond the border of paranoia, and while everyone knew it existed, he allowed very few people access to it, even for purposes of research.

As a result, when upon his death at the age of 89 his will set up The Burrows Foundation and donated the gay portion of the collection to the very small local Gay Archives, scholars and researchers were chomping at the bit to get at it. In addition to the collection, the will bequeathed the Foundation $1,000,000 for a new facility to house both the archives, which were at the time crammed into a small store-front building on a side street in The Central, and the Burrows collection.

By extreme good fortune, the Foundation, upon whose board Glen O’Banyon sat, was able to obtain the elegant old T. R. Roosevelt Elementary School building on Ash St. just two blocks south of Beech, the heart of The Central. The building had been vacant for years and only a constant series of legal battles by historical preservationist groups had prevented it from being demolished some time ago. Its purchase as home for the Burrows Library was welcomed by everyone, the only stipulation imposed by the preservationists was that the exterior of the building—a Victorian gem—be unchanged.

A mysterious fire at Burrows’ estate shortly before the collection was moved to the new facility had threatened the collection, but was discovered and extinguished in time—none of the original manuscripts were lost, and only a few of the more modern works were damaged, most of them replaceable from other sources. Still, it gave impetus to getting the collection to the new facility which had an elaborate fire protection system.

* * *

I’m really not all that big on fancy social occasions, but it was a nice opportunity to get out, and Jonathan, of course, was excited at the prospect of mingling with the rich and famous of the gay community. He was particularly looking forward to the opportunity of possibly meeting one of his favorite writers, Evan Knight, whose gay novels, set in the 1930s and 1940s, were extremely popular—he even had a large following among open-minded heterosexuals. Knight had been something of a protégé of Burrows’—rumor of course had it that he was something more than that—and would, with Burrows’ nephew, officiate at the Library’s opening.

As soon as we received the invitation, Jonathan called Craig Richman, the 16 year old son of Police Lieutenant Mark Richman with whom I’d also worked frequently, to book his babysitting services for the night of the opening. Craig was a really nice kid who’d recently come out to his folks, and his dad was all in favor of his having some adult gay role models. Mark Richman was definitely a man ahead of his time—especially for a high-ranking member of the police department. Relations between the police and the gay community had improved tremendously in the past few years, and the waters between the department and the community were for the most part calm. But while there was increasing tolerance among the department’s hierarchy, there is a considerable difference between tolerance and acceptance. We’d not yet reached the point of all standing around in a big circle holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.”

Anyway, Craig Richman was a great kid who also had a tremendous crush on Jonathan. It was really fun to watch because he tried so hard not to let it show. And Jonathan, of course, pretended not to notice. Best of all, Craig and Joshua had become fast friends since the first time he’d baby-sat for us, so Joshua put up relatively little fuss whenever Jonathan and I did make the time to get out by ourselves. Because the Burrows opening was a very special event and we’d probably be out later than usual, Jonathan arranged with Craig’s mom to have him spend the night. Our couch was pretty comfortable for sleeping, and while I’m sure Craig would have preferred it if I slept on the couch, he was all for staying over, and his folks okayed it.

By luck, all our core-group of friends would be at the by-invitation-only opening, too: Bob Allen and his partner Mario, as part of the contingent of bar owners and managers, Tim and Phil—Tim as an assistant medical examiner in the coroner’s office and Phil as a well-known model for Spartan Briefs—and Jared and Jake: Jared (a former beer truck driver) as a professor of Russian literature at nearby Mountjoy College, and Jake as owner of a large construction firm. I think Jonathan and I got invited just because Glen O’Banyon was a nice guy and had the clout to do it.

Jonathan suggested we run out and rent tuxedos for the event, but I assured hm that while it would indeed be a fancy affair, I was sure it wouldn’t be quite that fancy, and that I doubted that any of our friends had even considered it.

"Well, maybe you should call Mr. O’Banyon just to be sure," he said. "I wouldn’t want our group to be the only ones there not wearing a tuxedo."

"I’m sure there will be a lot of women there," I said, "and I can almost guarantee you they won’t be wearing tuxedos."

"You know perfectly well what I mean," he said in exasperation. "And you keep being a wiseguy and we’ll be playing a little game of ‘The Put-Upon Lover and the Guy Who Ain’t Gettin’ Any’.”

I threw my hands in the air in surrender. “Okay, okay, I’ll call.”

* * *

The above took place on a Thursday, with the opening set for a week from the coming Saturday, so on Friday morning I called Glen O’Banyon’s office and, assuming correctly that he might not be there, asked to speak to Donna, his secretary.

Donna was, I’d long ago determined, the quintessential executive secretary and well worth every penny O’Banyon paid her. She was the perfect combination of business and personality, and always made everyone with whom she talked feel like his or her business was at the head of O’Banyon’s list of importance.

She told me that O’Banyon was at home working on an upcoming trial, but that he’d be calling in and she would have him call me as soon as he could.

* * *

I’d been lucky enough to have been keeping fairly busy the last several weeks, which helped refill the coffers after yet another lengthy involvement in a case for which I wasn’t being paid, and was devoting the day to preparing my final reports…and billings…on two of them. As usual, I got so wrapped up in what I was doing that I wasn’t really aware of the passage of time, until the growling of my stomach told me it needed attention.

I was just about to pick up the phone to call the diner downstairs and order something to bring back to the office when it rang, startling me.

“Hardesty Investigations,” I said, waiting for the second ring before picking it up.

“Dick, hi. It’s Glen. Donna tells me you called.”

“Yeah, I did. I hate to bother you at the office about personal things, but Jonathan made me promise I’d check with you to see about the dress code for the Burrows opening. He seems to think it’s a black tie and tails event.”

O’Banyon laughed. “I’m sure there’ll be a couple tux queens there, but I sure won’t be one of them,” he said. “Tell Jonathan anything other than bib overalls will fit right in.”

I was relieved to hear it. “Thanks, Glen. Again, sorry to bother you about something so trivial, but…”

“Not at all,” he said. “As a matter of fact, how would you like to join me for a beer at Hughie’s at about 3:30? I’ve been working my tail off on this upcoming trial, and I could use a break. And for some reason, I’m in a Hughie’s mood.”

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll see you there.” I heard the click of the receiver hanging up.

* * *

Hughie’s. Well, that brought back memories…lots of memories. Hughie’s is a hustler bar about two blocks from my office, and it’s where I met Phil (back when he was hustling under the name “Tex”), and it’s where I met Jonathan. I used to go there pretty frequently after work in my single days, not for the hustlers but because Hughie’s is one of the few places that serves dark beer on draft, in old-fashioned frosted mugs. Nothing better on a hot day.

I’d met Glen O’Banyon there a couple of times, too, always related to business, and seeing one of the best, most successful, and richest lawyers in the city dressed in torn Levis, baseball cap, and a football-logo sweatshirt never ceased to amaze me. He’d told me he didn’t get out much, and when he did, he wanted to go someplace people wouldn’t be buttonholing him for legal advice. Hughie’s was the place.

I ordered a BLT and potato salad from the diner, refilled the office coffee pot, and went downstairs to pick up my order.

* * *

I’m not sure how many times I’ve said it before, but there’s really only one way to say it: Hughie’s was…well, Hughie’s: a big, dimly lit space off the hallway of time, totally unaffected by the passing years. It never changed. Dark, mildly clammy from the air cooler, always smelling of spilled booze and cigarette smoke, same 3:30 hustlers (well, different guys, but interchangeable) waiting for the offices to close and the johns to come in for a little pre-heading-off-to-the-suburbs action.

And Bud, of course, behind the bar. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’d been in Hughie’s and Bud had not been there. And though I couldn’t honestly remember the last time I was there, the minute Bud saw me walk in the door he reached into the cooler for a mug and poured me a dark draft, having it ready for me when I reached the bar.

“How’s it goin’, Dick?” he asked with the same detached tone he’d used from the first day I entered the place. Hearing it, I was sure I’d been in the day before.

“Pretty good, Bud. You?” The usual expressionless shrug in response as I opened my billfold and handed him a bill.

No Glen. A really hot hustler in a tight short rolled-sleeve shirt which made him look—not coincidentally, I’m sure—like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, gave me a sexy smile, which I returned with a nod.

Ooops! Wrong move, Hardesty, one of my mind voices cautioned as the guy picked up his beer and headed in my direction.

Butt out! my crotch responded sharply, and I was once again aware why I didn’t come into Hughie’s much since I’d gotten together with Jonathan. “Here there be tygers,” another mind voice cautioned, piously.

Luckily or unluckily, depending on whether you were my conscience or my crotch, Glen O’Banyon appeared at my elbow, and the approaching guy stopped short and took a seat at the bar about ten feet away.

“Interrupting something?” Glen asked with a smile.

“Fortunately, yes,” I said, turning to shake his hand, noting he was in his baseball-cap-sweatshirt-jeans uniform. In the artificial dim light of the bar, it looked as though his hair was becoming greyer than last time I’d seen him.

“Glad you called,” he said. “I needed an excuse to get out of the house for a while.”

I smiled as he motioned to Bud for a beer. “I do what I can,” I said.

“So Jonathan’s looking forward to the opening?” he said more than asked.

“Like a racehorse at the starting gate,” I said. “It was really nice of you to invite us.”

He shook his head. “No problem,” he said. “How’s it going with a kid in the family?” he asked, handing Bud a bill and taking a swig of his beer.

“I assume you mean Joshua,” I said with a grin. “Surprisingly well, actually. He’s a great kid.”

“So, you got any pictures?”

I shrugged, feeling a little sheepish. “Well, we’re not that far into the ‘perfect family’ mode yet. But Jonathan did mention having some taken. He would.”

We idle-chatted for several minutes, and then the talk got around to the Burrows and the generous donation to the community.

“Pocket change,” Glen said. “Though to hear Zach Clanton tell it, it’s taking food out of his kids’ mouths.”

“Zach Clanton?” I asked. “Who’s he?”

“Zach…Zachary Clanton is the oldest of Chester Burrows’ two nephews.”

“Ah, I said. “I thought Burrows only had one.”

“One gay one,” Glen amended. “One straight. Zach’s the straight one, and if it were up to him, there wouldn’t be a new library.”

“I thought the bequest was in Chester Burrows’ will,” I said.

Glen nodded, then took several long swallows of his beer, nearly emptying it. I motioned to Bud for two more.

“It is,” Glen said. “And Zach is none too happy about it, you can be sure. Luckily, he had no say in the matter. As the two heirs to Burrows’ fortune, both he and Marv Westeen, Zach’s cousin and Chester’s other nephew, are on the Foundation’s board of directors, and it hasn’t been easy. The will actually states the bequest to the Foundation is to be ‘up to’ $1,000,000—rather odd wording, but that was Chester Burrows for you—and Zach sees that as meaning that every dollar not spent by the foundation is fifty cents in his pocket. He couldn’t see spending good money for establishing a separate library when any number of established institutions would be happy to take the entire collection. I suspect Marv is the one who talked Chester into making the bequest in the first place. Marv convinced the old man it would mean a lot to the gay community, and it will. I’m sure there’s an incredible amount of historical material buried in there, things no one is even fully aware of yet. If the entire collection had gone to a larger institution, chances are it would have been given a lot less attention than it will have now.”

“I gather you knew the Burrows family before all this came about?” I asked, taking a bill out of my wallet and laying it on the bar. O’Banyon nodded.

“Not all that well, really, but I’ve handled some things for them from time to time. I actually only met Chester Burrows once in person. Most of my dealings with him were by phone. He was really a recluse. Zach and Marv’s mothers were his sisters, and when they died I got to know ‘the boys’ in the course of handling their mothers’ estates. Marv I like; Zach, as I may have indicated, is a real pain in the ass.”

“He sounds like a real winner,” I said. “How does he deal with his cousin and uncle being gay?” I wondered.

O’Banyon grinned, exchanging his empty bottle for the full one Bud handed him.”Well, he doesn’t—or at least didn’t while Chester was alive—have much choice in the matter if he wanted a share of Chester’s fortune. Chester’s money had supported both Marv’s and Zach’s families, and Zach’s not stupid. He’s a closet homophobe, but always tried to cover it up while Chester was alive. He obviously hates faggots, but certainly wasn’t above sucking up to Chester every chance he got—he went so far as to name his first kid after him.

“He and Marv aren’t exactly close, as you might imagine, but there apparently wasn’t any open hostility between them while Chester was alive. Marv’s pretty quiet, like Chester, and while Zach did his best to butter up the old man whenever he got the chance, Chester seemed more partial to Marv, though it was a little hard to tell with somebody as tightly-wrapped as Chester. Marv and Zach shared equally in the will, though.”

“How about this Evan Knight?” I asked, reaching for a fresh napkin to wipe off the bottom of my beer mug, from which the thin outer layer of ice was rapidly melting. “Where does he fit into the picture?”

“Kind of a strange duck,” O’Banyon replied rubbing the back of an index finger across the corner of his mouth. “But I guess all writers are, in one way or another. From what I understand, he was just about the only human being Chester Burrows might have considered as being a friend. There’s about a 45-year age difference between them, so I tend to dismiss the rumors about their being romantically involved…but who knows? I have no idea how they met, but I do know Knight acted as something of a curator for the collection for many years before he published his first book.”

“Well, he’s Jonathan’s favorite writer, I know,” I said, “and he’s really hoping to meet him.”

“I’m sure that can be arranged,” O’Banyon said, raising his bottle to his lips.

We talked for another ten minutes or so, then I looked at my watch. “Uh, oh,” I said. “I’d better get going.”

O’Banyon finished his beer. “Yeah, me too. Glad we had a chance to get together.”

“So am I,” I said. We left the bar together, stopped outside long enough to shake hands, and went our separate ways. “See you next Saturday,” I called over my shoulder in afterthought. I turned, and he waved without looking back.

* * *

The weekend flew by, as weekends tend to do, though with a definite difference between pre-Joshua and post-Joshua weekends. Saturday, in addition to our routine laundry/grocery shopping/housecleaning chores, we had to add a search for some new clothes and shoes for Joshua who, I projected from his current rate of growth, would be somewhere around 11 feet tall by the time he was 18. Raising a kid certainly wasn’t going to be cheap. We ended up getting him two pair of shoes—one for “good” and one for school and play—plus two new shirts, and two pairs of pants.

And Sundays had changed, too. While pre-Joshua Sundays involved sleeping in, a quiet morning reading the paper, then brunch either by ourselves or with friends at a gay restaurant/bar, we now were more likely than not awakened shortly after dawn by a hungry Joshua, his ever-present favorite toy, Bunny, under one arm. A great deal more time than used-to-be was devoted to reading the comics aloud and examining all the photographs in the paper. Then Jonathan would get himself and Joshua showered and dressed and go off to the M.C.C.—Metropolitan Community Church—so Joshua could attend Sunday School as he’d always done with his parents. While they were gone, I’d finish reading the paper and take my time getting showered and dressed.

We still went out to brunch nearly every Sunday, sometimes with friends, but very seldom to our pre-Joshua places.

As I say, I was well aware of just how drastically my life had changed since Jonathan—and now Joshua—had come into it. I wouldn’t give it up for the world, but there were times I missed my little revolving door of tricks, partying, and general harmless debauchery.

* * *

The week, too, raced by and before I knew it, Saturday had rolled around again and it was the day of the opening. When Joshua heard Jonathan mention the word “Library”, he wanted us to be sure we would bring him back some books. (“With big words!” he insisted. He recently had become fascinated with adding multi-syllable words to his vocabulary, and the bigger the better. ‘Constantinople’ was a favorite, though it was rather hard to fit into a conversation.) Rather than explain that while this library had lots of books with big words, not many of them would be of interest to little boys, we made a conciliatory swing through The Central during our regular Saturday chore routine to buy him a couple new books for his growing collection. His parents had given Joshua a love for books, and we definitely wanted to encourage it.

And Joshua was, of course, even more hyper than usual over the prospect of spending the night with his buddy, Craig—who, we promised him, would read him one of his new books at bedtime.

The party started at eight, so I drove over to the Richmans’ to pick up Craig at around five thirty. Jonathan called in a pizza order shortly after I’d left so that we’d be able to eat as soon as I returned with Craig.

I mentioned that Craig was 16, and gay. His parents were amazingly supportive —especially, again, considering his dad was a high-ranking police officer—and I was flattered that they tacitly passed on to me—and trusted me with—the role of surrogate dad when it came to questions involving coping with being gay in an all-too-straight world. So when I’d pick him up for babysitting, we’d spend the ride to the apartment talking about how his life was going, gay-related issues he might be coping with at school, etc. He eventually reached the point where he felt comfortable enough (though I’ll admit I was a little edgy about it) to ask some pretty sexually-based questions: what certain expressions meant, what was safe and what wasn’t. He wasn’t all that sexually active yet, but he was a 16 year old boy with the usual raging hormones, and he was meeting other kids at school who were more than willing to experiment, even though they might not turn out to actually be gay in the long run. (When you’re 16, sex is sex.) He didn’t see the necessity for using condoms, but I kept hammering away at it every time I could, and I think he finally started coming around.

* * *

The pizza had just arrived when we got to the apartment so we ate right away, then Jonathan and I got ready. Jonathan had already given Joshua his bath and put him in his p.j.s so that Craig could just put him to bed when the time came.

We left the apartment around 7:30 and headed back to The Central. As I suspected, parking was a real problem. Having been built in the early part of the century as an elementary school not needing student parking, the parking lot beside the old T. R. Roosevelt Elementary building would be ample for day-to-day use, but hardly for a large gathering like this one.

We managed to find a spot a block and a half away and walked back to join the impressive number of people going in. A nice looking guy in his early 30s but walking with a gold-handled walking stick, though with no sign of a limp, was coming toward us, heading in the opposite direction.

“‘Evening,” Jonathan said pleasantly as we approached him. His head jerked slightly as though he’d just been insulted. His lip curled into a sneer and he passed us without a word.

Jonathan merely shrugged. “Friendly guy,” he said, not looking back.

We turned our attention to the building just ahead of us. It did look great. I’d been watching its progress over the past couple of months, and merely sandblasting and tuckpointing the exterior gave it a whole new look of elegance. Some consideration had been given to simply building an entire new facility, but they could not have done nearly as well as they had by going with the renovation. The old “T. R. Roosevelt Elementary” had been removed from above the main door, replaced with a matching stone engraved “The Burrows Library.” It really was a feather in the gay community’s cap to incorporate its own archives with the prestige of the Burrows Collection.

The bulk of the restoration had, of course, been in the building’s interior, which had been largely gutted and redone. The original wide stairway leading up from the entrance to what had been a first floor hallway sided by classrooms now led to a huge open space—a large two-story reading area in the middle, with a circular service desk in the exact center of the room, and a couple of informal smaller areas off to each side with comfortable chairs and sofas beneath open stairways leading to the second floor—flanked by rows of open stacks on either side of the main room. This space was devoted largely to the existing archives brought over from their old home off Beech. It was estimated that only a small portion of the Burrows collection would be readily available to the general public.

The second floor would house the more esoteric and valuable works of the archives and the Burrows collection, and access to it would be limited and supervised to prevent theft or damage. The basement, which was off-limits during the opening because it housed the largely as-yet uncataloged manuscripts and documents, would never be open to the public. From what I’d heard, it roughly duplicated the layout of the main floor, but the large center area was where the cataloging took place. When the Burrows cataloging was completed, part of the room would be set up in individual cubicles for researchers to work privately. There were plans to start a Personal History department, seeking the personal letters of gays and lesbians, so the cataloging would be largely an ongoing project even after all Burrows’ material had been cataloged.

Two attractive young women, each in a white blouse and black skirt, stood at either side of the top of the stairs checking the invitations. We showed ours to the one closer to us, who smiled and said, “Welcome to the Burrows.” Passing her, we entered the main room. Two small bars had been set up for the opening ceremonies, one at each side of the room, and a long table of hors d’oeuvres was in front of the service desk. All were doing a brisk business, and there must have been well over a hundred people already there when we arrived, with more coming in every minute. Off to one side of and slightly behind the hors d’oeuvre table was a raised platform with a lectern, apparently set up for the official opening speeches.

I recognized probably half of the people there, if not from knowing them personally then from having seen them at various events over the years. There were several, however, that I’d never seen before—further evidence that the community was growing rapidly. Jonathan spotted Jared and Jake—they were pretty hard to miss in any crowd—near the bar to the left, and we went over to join them. I’d never seen either of them in a shirt and tie before, and they looked terrific.

“Hi, Jonathan,” Jake said with a grin when he spotted him. He gave me a winking nod, then turned his full concentration back to Jonathan, saying: “You’re looking particularly hot tonight! Why don’t you ditch the old man, and we can go exploring the stacks together?”

Jake had learned some time ago that Jonathan flustered easily under sex-teasing, especially coming from someone as spectacularly sexy as Jake, so he did it every chance he had.

We exchanged handshakes all around and Jonathan, seeing Jared and Jake had full drinks, stepped to the bar to order a coke for himself and a bourbon-seven for me.

“Quite a crowd,” Jared observed with a slight gesture of his glass to indicate the entire room.

I nodded. “Yeah, the cream of the crop. I imagine just about everybody who is anybody in the gay community is here, or will be before the evening’s over. Where are the Burrows heirs?”

Jake gave a heads-up nod in the direction of a large cluster of people near the other bar across from us. “They’re the two in the tuxes.”

Jonathan, who had rejoined us, handed me my drink and said: “See? I told you!”

“You’re right,” I said, “two hundred people, two tuxes. You wanna go home and change?”

He reached over and grabbed my ass, giving it quick but painful squeeze.

“And look!” he said excitedly, indicating a tall, handsome man about 40 with salt-and pepper hair, standing in another group not far from the Burrows heirs. “There’s Evan Knight! I recognize him from his books!” Definitely looked like an author to me. “Can we go meet him?”

“Sure,” I said. “But let’s wait a bit. He’s obviously busy now.”

“Well, yeah,” Jonathan said a bit impatiently, “but I’ll bet he’ll be busy all night. He’s a famous author.”

“Okay, okay,” I said. “Let me see if I can get Glen to introduce you.”

“Us,” Jonathan corrected. “Us. Don’t you want to meet him, too?”

Frankly, my one previous run-in with a famous author had not been a particularly pleasant experience. But that was then and this was now, so… “Sure,” I said.

We all made our way over to the buffet table, and were joined on the way by Tim and Phil, both looking as though they’d stepped off a magazine cover. It never ceased to amaze me how much Phil had changed from the day I first met him when he hustled me at Hughie’s. He was a diamond in the rough even then, and he’d polished up nicely. And I don’t know what there is about a large group of good looking guys dressed to the nines that raised their sex appeal through the roof.

I kept watching for Glen O’Banyon, but only caught fleeting glimpses of him as he moved from group to group. Our own little group, brought to full company strength by the arrival of Mario and Bob, was having a great time talking among ourselves as though we never saw each other—and I realized again that we really hadn’t been all together very often since Joshua arrived.

“I suppose we should go mingle,” Jake said after another round of drinks. “I for one am not above mixing business with pleasure, and there are a couple people here I really should talk to.” We all agreed, and drifted off in different directions.

“There’s Mr. O’Banyon,” Jonathan said, gesturing toward one of the bars, “and he’s with Mr. Knight!” He immediately grabbed my free hand and pulled me toward them. I needed another drink, anyway.

“Hi, Mr. O’Banyon,” Jonathan said a little breathlessly as we reached the bar.

O’Banyon grinned. “Hi, Jonathan, hi, Dick.”

We shook hands, and he turned to Evan Knight, who was looking at Jonathan with a bemused smile that I thought had just a touch of the predator in it.

“I don’t think you know Evan Knight,” O’Banyon continued. “Evan, this is Dick Hardesty and his partner, Jonathan…” he hesitated and I realized he might never have heard Jonathan’s last name.

“Quinlan,” Jonathan added quickly, extending his hand. “I’m a huge fan, Mr. Knight—I’ve read every one of your books.”

“That’s very nice of you to say, Jonathan” Knight said, taking Jonathan’s hand. “And it’s ‘Evan,’ please.” He cocked an eyebrow and studied Jonathan’s face. “You look familiar,” he said. “Have we met?”

I’d have thought a writer would be able to come up with a little more original line than that one.

Jonathan shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he said.

After another slow scan of Jonathan’s face, he reluctantly released Jonathan’s hand and extended his hand to me. “Nice to meet you, Dick.”

I started to say something when one of the tuxedo-wearers, looking singularly unhappy, hurried over and whispered something in O’Banyon’s ear. O’Banyon’s eyebrows raised, then dropped into a frown. The tuxedo moved off quickly, toward the front steps.

“Something wrong?” I asked.

“I’m afraid so,” he said.

I didn’t know whether I should ask, but I didn’t have to.

“It seems we have a body in the basement,” he said.

Cover of The Paper Mirror

 

The Paper Mirror is in the process of being re-released by Zumaya Publications and will be available soon; while some used copies are still available from some sources, the supply of new copies has been temporarily exhausted.

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