• Virtual Book Tour

    No Innocent Affair by Edward F. Mrkvicka Jr.

  • Science Fiction

    Renegades by Sara Mason

  • Inner City Strength by Dwight Slaughter

    Sometimes the game is all you have to save your life.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Phoenix Blade by Andrew Hess - Book Tour & Giveaway




The Phoenix Blade
by Andrew Hess

Welcome to BK Walker Books Etc. I'm so happy you could join me today in Lindenhurst, NY.



BK: Looking out the nearest window, describe the scene you see.

AH: I would see green grass, the bright blue sky, and tall pine trees.

BK: Tell us about your office. Is it a mess like mine, or is everything in its place?

AH: My office is a complete mess, but that’s because everything I own is crammed into one room. Once I find someplace that gives me more room, I can setup my office the way I want and everything will be easier to locate.

BK: What is a must-have, such as coffee or a favorite pen that you need to write?

AH: I don’t really have a must have. As long as I have my computer, or a notepad and pen, I’m set and ready to go.

BK: Do you like to write in silence, or do you need music or background noise?

AH: I need some sort of sound in the room. I go stir crazy without either the TV or music being on. Unfortunately, that also works against me; as it becomes a distraction sometimes.

BK: Tell us a bit about your hero/heroine, and their development.

AH: Andrew Lancaster starts out as a nearly out of college boy who is still harboring feelings of hurt and paranoia; believing his mother was murdered six years earlier when everyone else ruled it an accident. He lets these feelings dictate his decision to take the Benefactor up on his offer in order to find out who killed his mother and get revenge for it. Once he goes after the killers, he and his friends are stuck in a web of lies, deceit, and murders that he can’t seem to get out of. Along the way Lancaster finds himself taking charge of his group and trying to find a way out to protect his friends and the woman he loves.

BK: As a writer myself, I'm always curious how other writers get through stumble blocks. When you find a story not flowing, or a character trying to fight you, how do you correct it?

AH: I’ve learned to push through it and write something. You can always go back and fix what you wrote. If you stay on one thought, it will take longer to get passed. However, there are times when you need to take a step back and relax, Usually that is when I sit in a dark room, listen to music and rest my mind.

BK: Using the letters of your first name as an acronym, describe your book...

AH:
Adventurous
New
Dangerous
Remarkable
Eccentric
Witty

BK: How did your writing journey begin?

AH: Originally it started in 5th grade when I was in the creative writing club and then in 6th grade when I wrote my own newspaper. However, the real story began when I was in college and I decided the government could be doing anything behind closed doors without everyone knowing about it and wanted to write something based on that. Ever since then, I kept getting new ideas of what I wanted to write and find new ways to take readers by surprise.

BK: Using the letters from the word, Summer, how would friends and family describe you?

AH:
Sensible
Understanding
Memorable
Mathematical
Eclectic
Remarkable

BK: What is the craziest thing you've ever written about, whether it got published or not?

AH: The craziest thing I wrote had to be when I was a kid, but those stories are long gone and forgotten. Since then, the craziest thing would be a horror script called Graveyard Nightmares.

BK: Tell us one thing you've done in life that readers would be most surprised to know.

AH: I completed the Fight for Air Climb earlier this year which was climbing the 55 stories of One Penn Plaza for charity.

BK: What can we expect from you in the future?

AH: I am currently working on editing the sequel to The Phoenix Blade and also working a detective series.


This or That...

Coke or Pepsi?

AH: I don’t really like drinking soda anymore, but when I did I preferred Coke.

Night Owl or Early Bird?

AH: I’m an insomniac so I would have to say Night Owl.

Fantasy or Mystery?

AH: Mystery

Pen/Paper or Computer?

AH: Computer, it’s easier to make a mistake and fix.

Pizza or Burger?

AH: That’s a hard one. I love them both, but usually crave a good burger just a little more lately.

Rock or Country?

AH: Definitely Rock

Chocolate or Vanilla?

AH: Chocolate

Beach or Mountains?

AH: Beach, it’s more relaxing to me.

Thank you so much for having us as one of your stops today. It has been great getting to know more about you and your book, and wish you the best of success!



BK Walker




About The Author:

Andrew Hess (1983-present) was born in Lindenhurst, NY where he spent most of his life. After living in the New Paltz/Poughkeepsie, NY area for five years (2003-2008) he returned home to Long Island to pursue his dream of writing. Andrew published his first book, The Chamber of Souls (2011), where he blended free verse poetry and short story into one book.






Genre: Action/Drama
Publisher: CreateSpace
Release Date: April 24, 2013

Book Description:

Follow the journey of Andrew Lancaster and his friends as they are thrown in the middle of the biggest government conspiracy to hit the United States. Andrew is contacted by a man known only as the Benefactor.; claiming to be a government official that has been monitoring Lancaster and his friends. He is told they have enough evidence to arrest them for treason, but would like to hire them instead for a top secret government project. As a bonus the Benefactor says he will reveal something Lancaster has wanted to know for the last six years. Who killed his mother.


Excerpt:


“I keep thinking how so much has changed in the last ten years.” “Here we go again.” “I mean it. When we were kids everything was different. The world was more peaceful. Everyone got along and helped each other. But now everyone’s fueled by greed, corruption, and they get some sick pleasure from hurting others.” “I know what you mean, but there’s not much we can do about it. Too many people think they have to do whatever’s necessary to get ahead in life.” “I still wish we could change it.” “Yeah, it’d be great to get rid of all those people.” Mike reached for the remote to turn the movie back on. “Too bad it’ll never happen.” I knew he was right. Our idea was ludicrous. But at that moment, my cell started ringing. “Talk to me,” I answered. “Yes hi, I’m looking for Mr. Andrew Lancaster,” a stern confident voice said. “Who’s calling?” “Someone who has the power to change your future.” “If this is some telemarketer, you can hang up now. I’m not interested. “I assure you this isn’t a sales pitch and I’m not a telemarketer.” “Then what do you want?” “It’s come to my attention that you and a few friends have been talking about eliminating certain types of people.” “What are you talking about?” “Don’t play dumb Mr. Lancaster. You and your friends have been monitored for some time now. We know everything.” “Who are you?” “I’m someone from the government that would like to give you an ultimatum. We have e-mails and recorded conversations between you and your friends talking about killing people that are as you said evil.” “Look, Mr. we were only joking around.” Mike heard the panic in my voice. My face turned pale white. “What’s going on,” he whispered. I placed the call on speaker and placed a finger to my lips. “Be that as it may. You’ve been under our watchful eye for several months. Now, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way.” “And that would be?” “The hard way is we send our agents to your house and arrest you for conspiracy and possible treason.” “Are you fucking serious,” Mike shouted. I quickly covered his mouth with my hand. “Who is that? Who’s with you?” I didn’t reply. I could hear him rifling through papers. “Ah yes, that is most likely Mr. Santangelo.” “How does he know my…” “What’s the easy way,” I asked. The man cleared his throat. “Simple, we hire you to go through with it.” I laughed it off immediately. “Yeah right, and next you’re going to tell me that I’m the next in line to be King of England.” “I don’t know about that, but I’m very serious. We have a list of targets and evidence that proves their illegal activities. We would like to give you the chance to make the world a better place.” “If you have evidence against them, why not put them in jail where they belong?” “Because they have ways of getting around our judicial system. We all know it’s fallible.” “But why me?” “Who better to lead a team than someone who has never received justice for his own mother’s death?” “But it was ruled an accident.” “That’s what you were led to believe. I have proof she was murdered and know who’s responsible.”









Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chatting with Mark "Hawkeye" Rybczyk - The Travis Club Tour & Giveaway


Welcome to BK Walker Books Etc. I'm so happy I could join you today at your home in Dallas.




BK: It's a beautiful city. Looking out the nearest window, describe the scene you see.

My very wooded yard. My house is seventy years old and sits on a very wooded lot in Dallas, which is unusual in this hot, flat city. 


BK: Tell us about your office. Is it a mess like mine, or is everything in its place?

My office is more virtual these days.  I work mainly on my computer and take it with me almost everywhere I go.  I get work done whenever I have free time


BK: What is a must-have, such as coffee or a favorite pen, that you need to write?

My laptop and my outline


BK: Do you like to write in silence, or do you need music or background noise?

Silence is best.  I really enjoy working late at night but I rarely have the time at night to do that. I host a morning radio show and must get up at 3:30am


BK: Tell us a bit about your hero/heroine, and their development.

A lot of people have accused me of basing the main character on my early life. I can not deny that there are some similarities, but we differ in our approach to life. 


BK: As a writer myself, I'm always curious how other writers get through stumble blocks. When you find a story not flowing, or a character trying to fight you, how do you correct it?

The hardest part for me is getting the outline for the story. I can't write until I've got the whole plot figured out. To me, it's kind of like a giant puzzle. I find it best to take really long walks or a jog and work thru the plot in my mind. I make so many changes before I write the first chapter
   My outline can look rather messy when I am finally get ready to write the first chapter


BK: Using the letters of your first name as an acronym, describe your book…

M Mystery  A Architectural Relevance   R Romantically Challenged  K Kind of Quirky


BK: How did your writing journey begin?

One Sunday morning when I was young, poor and bored, I took a early bike ride around San Antonio. I'm prone to pause and read every historical marker on the side of the road and the bike was even more conducive to stopping. 
   By the end of the morning, I was so inspired by the amount that I had learned that I decided to research and write about San Antonio's quirky history. I love the pieces of history that fall thru the cracks (did you know that Dwight Eisenhower was a college football coach in San Antonio?)   The collected stories became my first book (San Antonio Uncovered) and the inspiration for The Travis Club.


BK: Using the letters from the word, Summer, how would friends and family describe you?

S Silly  U Understanding M Methodical  M Merry   E Energetic   R Realistic


BK: What is the craziest thing you've ever written about, whether it got published or not?

In my first book  San Antonio Uncovered, I wrote about a giant piece of modern art about the size of 4 Volkswagons that disappeared after San Antonio's World's Fair. Nobody could figure out what happened to it.

   They later discovered that the city workers in charge of dismantling the World's Fair site didn't realize it was art and cut the work into pieces and used it to make tool boxes. 


BK: Tell us one thing you've done in life, that readers would be most surprised to know.

   I once went to Cuba to play baseball on a goodwill trip.


BK: What can we expect from you in the future?

I am working on a sequel to The Travis Club


This or That...

Coke or Pepsi?

Coke

Night Owl or Early Bird?

Early Bird but not by choice

Fantasy or Mystery?

Mystery

Pen/Paper or Computer?

Computer

Pizza or Burger?

Pizza

Rock or Country?

Country

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Chocolate

Beach or Mountains?

I spent my summer vacation in the Andes in Chile, so I guess it's mountains




Radio listeners in Dallas/Fort Worth may know Mark Louis Rybczyk better as 'Hawkeye,' the long time morning host on heritage country station, 96.3 FM KSCS. An award-winning disc jockey, Mark, along with his partner Terry Dorsey, have the longest-running morning show in Dallas. Mark is an avid skier, windsurfer and traveler. He is also the host of 'Travel With Hawkeye' a radio and television adventure feature that airs across the country. The Travis Club is the third book from Mark Louis Rybczyk.










Publisher: Self Published

Genre: Mystery
Release Date: June 17, 2013

In a cathedral in downtown San Antonio, just a few blocks from the Alamo, sits the tomb of Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and the other Alamo Defenders. Or so we have been led to believe. What secrets really lie inside the tomb and what has a group of misguided activists known as The Travis Club stumbled upon? How far will the city's power brokers go to protect those secrets?

What would happen if a group of slackers discovered San Antonio's DaVinci Code? Find out in the new book by Mark Louis Rybczyk, The Travis Club.







Excerpt One Short:

Chapter 1

Noel Black sharpened a pencil and placed it neatly back in the top drawer of his glass-topped
desk, right next to the other sharpened pencils. He glanced at the clock then straightened a few
paper clips and a calculator on the stark, polished surface.

11:08 p.m.

He knew he’d be leaving soon. So important to stay on schedule. Especially on a night like
tonight, when a life would come to an end.

Among the abstract paintings of his office was one unframed black and white print. A picture
of her. Not a picture of sentiment, but simply of record. A photo that would soon belong in a file.
Black fingered the yellowed photograph and could not help but think of childhood visits to
his mother’s father, his abuelo. He remembered spending the hot San Antonio summers at a
rickety west-side duplex much different than his parents’ ranch house in Dallas. Abuelo’s home
was filled with people, music, food and love.

As a child, Black would spend summer afternoons within earshot of the front window,
waiting for the rumble of his grandfather’s old diesel engine. Then the home would fill with
other workers, workers who were grateful to the old lady. All immigrants, they had left Mexico
hoping for a better life. The old lady offered them higher wages than the pecan shellers received.

With the promise of steady income came the chance to move into a house with plumbing, to send money home, and to send for other relatives. His grandfather loved the old lady and he did too.

More recently, Noel Black’s feelings about her had changed. She was a relic, an icon of a
past era. Now in her final years of the 20th century, the old lady had outlived her usefulness and
had no place in the modern San Antonio that he envisioned. She was in his way. She needed to be eliminated.

Of course, this kind of work had to be contracted out. He usually relied on a local contact
who understood the procedures. Anytime a life was extinguished, it must be done with precision in Noel Black’s world.













Thursday, September 12, 2013

Book Tour & Giveaway: The Art of Forgetting by Peter Palmieri



BK: Looking out the nearest window, describe the scene you see.


Peter: I have to crane my neck because my desk is angled so that my ADD can’t get the best of me, but I have a beautiful large window that runs up two stories of my home. In the evening sky, a Southwest Airline plane is on its final approach to Love Field. Meanwhile, out by the grassy lot across my house, a spindly man in a sweat-speckled pink shirt and lime-green Bermuda shorts is un-wrapping a plastic bag while the white poodle at the end of his leash squats straining. If I keep looking out for any period of time, a car will come up the one-way street the wrong way: an occurrence that is so frequent you can almost set your watch by the honking of car horns.

 
BK: Tell us about your office. Is it a mess like mine, or is everything in its place?


Peter: My desk had been pretty messy for the last 4 years. I tidied it up about a month ago. Now I have a mess under my bed.

 
BK: What is a must-have, such as coffee or a favorite pen, that you need to write?


Peter: I don’t drink coffee while I write. I use it as a reward when I take my breaks. My favorite pens are those I take from hotel rooms – they’re surprisingly good nowadays. The only whim I treat myself to is Mole Skin notebooks for my first draft. Just the feel of the paper beckons me to write.

 
BK: Do you like to write in silence, or do you need music or background noise?


Peter: I seldom listen to music when I write though I made some exceptions for my novel, The Art of Forgetting. Several scenes featured a Russian laboratory technician who was a great aficionado of Chopin nocturnes. Listening to the music helped me pace these scenes and get in the right mood. Otherwise, I write in the relative quiet of my house, which is not very quiet thanks to my twelve year old blue-and-gold macaw.

 
BK: Tell us a bit about your hero, and their development.


Peter: Dr. Lloyd Copeland is a young neurologist who is tormented and emotionally detached. He believes his fate is to succumb to the pernicious early-onset dementia that has ravaged his family for generations and which led his father to commit suicide. When he’s not working on his obsession – finding a cure for memory loss and dementia – he tries to fill the emotional void in his life by engaging in casual sexual trysts with medical students that are subordinate to him. His personality is an amalgam of various people I’ve known in my life and no, I won’t mention who they are.

 
BK: As a writer myself, I'm always curious how other writers get through stumble blocks. When you find a story not flowing, or a character trying to fight you, how do you correct it?


Peter: If the character is fighting me, inevitably, the character is right and I am wrong. The most likely problem is that I did not properly understand the motivation of the character, or that I’m making him or her do something that is not consistent with his or her goals. A good way to correct this problem is to know what your characters want.

 
BK: Using the letters of your first name as an acronym, describe your book...


Peter: Physician Eludes Treachery, Earns Redemption.

 
BK: How did your writing journey begin?


Peter: I always imagined myself as a writer of non-fiction. I sought to educate the masses and to illuminate the world with my great thoughts using my background as a physician. I wrote a couple of small non-fiction books before I realized that the surest path to change the way someone thinks is through their heart. You reach a reader’s thoughts by jolting her emotions. My journey to writing fiction began several years ago when I attended a medical fiction writing seminar taught by Tess Gerritsen and Michael Palmer. I knew I was hooked then.
 

 
BK: What is the craziest thing you've ever written about, whether it got published or not?

Peter: For an ethics class in medical school I wrote a short story about a pathetically arrogant attending physician I had encountered during my Ob-Gyn rotation at an outside community hospital. When they read the story, my professor and fellow class-mates complimented me on my creativity even though the only creative effort on my part was changing the guy’s name.

 
BK: Tell us one thing you've done in life that readers would be most surprised to know.


Peter: I met my wife on the platform of the El in Chicago at O’Hare airport. We talked for a good 40 minutes on the train (turns out she was a medical student from Mexico doing a year of clinical rotations in Chicago) and when we parted ways I gave her my phone number.


She never called me. Luckily, I remembered the name of the hospital where she was working. After a week or so, I called the medical education office of the hospital, told the secretary that I was her cousin and needed her paged immediately due to a family emergency. When my wife-to-be finally picked up the phone I said, “So you didn’t call me.” It took her a minute to figure out who I was. Took another three months before she started warming up to me. We just celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary earlier this month.
 

 
 
This or That...
 
Coke or Pepsi?
 Coke.

Night Owl or Early Bird?
Neither; early to bed, late to rise

Fantasy or Mystery?
 Mystery

Pen/Paper or Computer?
 Pen/paper

Pizza or Burger?
 Pizza

Rock or Country?
 Rock

Chocolate or Vanilla?
 Vanilla ice cream. Chocolate everything else.

Beach or Mountains?
 Heaven is that place where the slopes of Vail give way to the white sands of Cancun.
 
Thank you so much for having us as one of your stops today. It has been great getting to know more about you and your book, and wish you the best of success!
 




Peter Palmieri was raised in the eclectic port city of Trieste, Italy. He returned to the United States at
the age of 14 with just a suitcase and an acoustic guitar. After attending public high school in San Diego, California, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Animal Physiology from the University of California, San Diego. He received his medical degree from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine and completed his pediatric training at the University of Chicago and Loyola University Medical Center. More recently, he was awarded a Healthcare MBA by The George Washington University. A former student of Robert McKee's Story seminar and the SMU Writer's Path program, and a two-time attendee of the SEAK Medical Fiction seminar taught by Tess Gerritsen and Michael Palmer, Peter is now busy practicing general pediatrics at a large academic medical center while working on his next medical suspense.






Genre: fiction: medical (medical suspense)
Publisher: self
Release date: June 2013
Book Description:
Dr. Lloyd Copeland is a young neurologist who is tormented by the conviction that he has inherited the severe, early-onset dementia that has plagued his family for generations – the very disease which spurred his father to take his own life when Lloyd was just a child. Withdrawn to a life of emotional detachment, he looks for solace in hollow sexual trysts as a way to escape his throbbing loneliness. Still, he clings to the hope that the highly controversial treatment for memory loss he’s been researching will free him from his family’s curse.
But when odd mishaps take place in his laboratory, his research is blocked by a hospital review board headed by Erin Kennedy: a beautiful medical ethicist with a link to his troubled childhood. The fight to salvage his reputation and recover the hope for his own cure brings him face to face with sordid secrets that rock his very self-identity. And to make matters worse, he finds himself falling irretrievably in love with the very woman who seems intent on thwarting his efforts.




Praise for The Art of Forgetting:



"Read this one!" Bobby Garrison, Amazon Reviewer



"Entertaining medical thriller!" Roy Benaroch, MD



"The Art of Forgetting is unforgettable!" Apollonia D., Amazon Reviewer


Excerpt:


Prologue Chicago, June 6, 1982 “What is my penance, Father?” For the past five weeks Anne Langdon had come to Wednesday afternoon confession, sometimes waiting for the other penitents to leave before stepping into the box to disclose her petty transgressions: returning a book to the library past its due date, slipping into a movie matinee and then fibbing about it to her husband, pretending not to be home when Mrs. Murphy, that crusty owl of a next door neighbor, rang her door bell to borrow a cup of sugar. It seemed as though Mrs. Langdon were holding something back. Father Roy felt it the day he bumped into her in the canned food aisle of the supermarket. She had startled when he said hello, dropping the can of green beans whose label she’d been inspecting, and blushed when he’d kneeled to pick it up. And he had felt it during mass when his gaze fell upon her eyes as he delivered his sermons. Sad serious eyes. Beseeching eyes, glazed with a somber emptiness. In her mid-twenties, Mrs. Langdon had the mien that Father Roy had only seen in souls burdened by the yoke of a life-long secret too shameful to reveal. Now, he spied her through the grid separating the compartments of the confessional. Motes of dust floated in the hazy light which outlined her profile, the effect making her seem even younger – plain yet exuding that curiously poignant allure borne of vulnerability: the naïve appearance of a peasant saint. She smiled as if they were sharing a moment of innocent intimacy. “What is my penance, Father?” she asked again. He leaned towards the grid. “Is there anything else you wanted to tell me?” She took a deep breath and looked down at her hands which lay folded on her lap. “Yesterday, I was looking out my kitchen window at my neighbor’s back yard. She has a row of tulips; yellow, pink and red, all lined up like perfect soldiers. And suddenly – I really don’t know how the thought got in my head – I imagined what it would feel like to step on them; to crush the flowers under my feet. And I felt such a thrill, as if I were really doing it. I just stomped and stomped and stomped, and I could see, in my mind’s eye, how the stems were left all bent, the petals torn, but what’s more… I could feel them under my feet.” A bang echoed in the church. A worshipper had dropped a kneeler in a nearby pew. “I could feel it, Father,” she whispered. “It was absolutely delicious.” “You didn’t trample Mrs. Murphy’s flower bed now, did you?” “I did in my heart.” “I don’t think that rises to the level of a transgression.” “But Father, isn’t it a sin when we think something... when we think of something so much that we start to feel it with every fiber in our body.” She was breathing heavily now. She looked at him through the grid, her eyes watery, her lips slightly parted. “Isn’t that a sin, Father, when you imagine the impossible and live it in your thoughts?” Father Roy brought his fist up to his mouth, turned his head slightly and coughed. He felt a bead of sweat trickle down his back. Mrs. Langdon’s demeanor, the shape of her mouth, the subtle heaving of her chest thrust forward like an unexpected belch the memory of that summer his family vacationed in Door County before his sophomore year in high school – the last family vacation. He had met a girl – Kathleen was her name – the daughter of a man who sold fresh produce out of an old, converted gas station. Auburn hair, lanky legs bronzed by the sun and lively green eyes that beamed with all the incandescent self-assurance of sixteen-year-old beauties. Roy’s mother referred to her as “that jaunty lass”. “Do you intend to whittle away the afternoon with that jaunty lass again, Roy?” “Her name is Kathleen.” “The way she looks at you…” “We’re just friends, mother.” One afternoon they had gone swimming on a secluded rocky beach; not another soul in sight. When Roy inched his way deeper in the lake, toes curled, arms raised as if he had a gun pointed at him, gasping as the frigid water lapped at his waist, Kathleen chopped the placid surface of the lake with an outstretched palm spraying chilly droplets across his back. Roy arched his spine and jutted out his shoulder blades as if in the throes of a spasm while the jaunty lass snorted and snickered. “It’s not funny!” She splashed again and giggled. “I’m warning you, you little vixen.” Kathleen’s jaw dropped at this last word but then her eyes lit up and again she started splashing with renewed zeal using both hands. Roy chased her in the shallow waters, plodding clumsily on the smooth pebbles that rolled and shifted under his feet. She attempted a half-hearted escape, trudging backwards, but soon Roy was upon her (she, by now, paralyzed by howls of laughter) and he wrapped his arms around her. “So you think that’s funny? You think that’s funny? Now I’m gonna dunk you. Let’s see how funny that is!” He grinned at her with clenched teeth as he gaped in those bottomless emerald eyes. She grabbed his shoulders, pressed them, kneading his taut muscles. “As if you can,” she said in a tantalizing voice. He widened his eyes, then squeezed her more tightly, lifted her off her feet. She palmed the nape of his neck, just pitting his skin with her nails. Roy plopped her back on her feet and they wrestled playfully, reveling in the contact of their bare flesh. At last, he was able to grab both her forearms just above the wrists and immobilize her as she twisted her torso. Then Roy saw her as he had never seen a girl. Her chest was heaving, her skin glistening with tiny droplets, her auburn hair tousled over half her face, her white bikini top pushed below her left breast exposing a bright pink nipple. He let go of her arms, took a step back. She said nothing, just stared at him, her mouth open, breathing more heavily still. Then she lowered the rest of the bikini top letting it flip over her toned midriff. Roy gawked at her smooth, downy skin, at the pale, plump breasts. His Adam’s apple lurched up towards his throat. She gently clasped his wrists, brought his hands to her breasts and pressed her open mouth to his lips. “Isn’t it a sin to have some thoughts, Father Roy?” Mrs. Langdon said in a near whisper. Father Roy was breathless. “About tulips?” he asked, attempting to sound nonchalant, but his voice quivered. “As a man, do you ever feel the urge to –” “I am not the one in confession, sister,” Roy said. It was not the first time someone had tried to ask him that question – a query impertinent souls seemed compelled to ask a young priest with the looks of a Hollywood movie star. “I’m so ashamed, Father. I don’t know what’s happened to me. I just don’t know what to do any more.” Father Roy grasped the silver crucifix hanging over his chest and rubbed it between thumb and forefinger. He considered giving a short discourse on the tenth commandment but decided on a more pragmatic approach. “When our path grows dim and we’re in peril of losing our way, it’s helpful to remind ourselves of our commitments. Our commitments define who we are. When I step in the shadows, I remind myself of the covenant I made with God.” “My husband sickens me.” The suddenness of the statement left Father Roy speechless. “We haven’t had sex in over six months,” she said. “I wanted you to know that.” “The Diocese offers couple’s therapy for marital conflicts. Perhaps –” “Couple’s therapy!” Mrs. Langdon said with a sour chuckle. She shook her head. “I’m such a fool. For some reason I was under the impression that we…” She pulled a crumpled handkerchief out of her handbag, dabbed her nose and sniffled. “Tell me my penance, Father.” Roy hesitated. “Your penance is to reflect on the holy sacraments of our church. And… say a rosary.” “Am I absolved of my sins?” Father Roy made the sign of the cross, trying not to make it appear perfunctory and said, “Go in peace, sister.” He listened to the clicking of her heels resonating off the church’s tiled floor as she walked away, brought a knuckle to his lips and inhaled deeply through his nose. How was it that he had still not learned to recognize when women were attracted to him? Was he doing something to garner this type of attention? Could he whole-heartedly deny that he enjoyed it? A figure entered the confessional and sat heavily on the wooden bench. “Forgive me father, for I’m about to sin.” The musty smell of stale beer and sweat permeated the enclosed space making Father Roy sit back and turn away. “How long has it been since –” “You know damn well the last time I went to church, Roy.” “Andrew?” Father Roy studied the silhouette through the perforated partition. “Is something wrong?” “It started, Roy.” “I’m sorry?” “It has begun. How did Churchill phrase it? Not the end of the beginning but the beginning of the end… or maybe I’m saying it all wrong. I don’t know, you’re the one with the fancy schooling.” “Maybe we should go in the Parish office.” “It’s been going on for months. I know you’ve seen it too. You just didn’t want to say anything and of course I’ve been trying to hide it. That’s the Copeland family way, isn’t it? Ignore things, deny they’re happening, hide all the evidence and go about your business with a stiff upper lip. Isn’t that what Pops did?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But he did know. He couldn’t deny that in the last year he had witnessed his brother’s worsening mood swings and those barely perceptible moments of hesitation that were becoming more frequent. Those same tell-tale signs he had witnessed in his father when the illness had yet to progress to its extreme. Signs that made Roy feel powerless, like a sandcastle on a beach in the face of a slowly rising tide. So he ignored it all, said nothing, and prayed. “At first I thought I was just overworked, you know,” Andrew said. “Pulling overtime, staying out late with the boys, getting burned by the candle at both ends, so to speak. Then this morning, I’m driving to work. I got my thermos and lunch pail on the front seat. I get on the Eisenhower, same damn route I’ve taken for twelve years. But today I get to South Damen and I realize I don’t know where the hell I’m going. I don’t have a fucking clue!” “Andrew, please.” He lowered his voice. “I don’t have a flipping clue, Roy. I pull over in front of Cook County and I start bawling like a kid in a department store who can’t find his mom.” “Have you been drinking?” “It’s not the booze, Roy. It’s not the damn booze.” “Have you seen a doctor?” the priest asked. “What for?” “They might be able to help.” “Like they helped our father... who art in heaven?” Andrew snorted. “You know there’s not a damn thing they can do.” Roy swallowed hard. He wiped beads of sweat from his upper lip as a rhythmic pounding grew in his temples. “You’re frightening me, Andrew.” “I’m frightening you?” Andrew let out a chuckle. “Hell, Roy, you never had nothing to be frightened of your whole life except God above.” Someone knocked on the door of the confession box. “Hold your piss out there! The stall’s taken,” Andrew said in a gruff voice. There was a timid shuffling of feet, then the resonating silence of the church. “Roy, I’ve never been good with words, and I don’t like to wear my feelings on my sleeve like a damn chevron, but I want you to know something. I want you to know that you’re the best damn brother I could have ever asked for.” Roy felt a pall of guilt draping over him. “I’m the one who should say that to you.” “Just hear me out. I know I haven’t always told you, but I’m proud of you. I’ve always been proud of you... even when you made us lose at stick-ball.” “Which was all the time.” The men chuckled. “You made me a better man,” Andrew said. “After all you’ve done for me I can’t bear to hear you say that.” “I thought this was a confessional. Don’t people come here to get things off their chests?” “They come to be absolved of their sins,” Roy said. “And you can do that?” “God can do that. It’s never too late to open your heart.” “It’s too late for me. But I do need to get something off my chest.” “I’m listening.” “It’s time to come clean with you about something, Roy. Something you should have known long ago.” Andrew rubbed his massive hands together, stopped suddenly and cracked his knuckles. “Two things we Copelands have always been able to do: hold our liquor and keep a secret.” “I’m afraid I’m not so good with the liquor part,” said Roy. “No, I suppose not, padre,” Andrew said with a wistful smile. The wooden bench creaked as he shifted his weight and leaned into the partition. “Now listen carefully. I can only stand to say this once.” The two men sat with their heads inches from each other as Andrew spoke in a hushed tone. At one point Roy let out a gasp and recoiled. Andrew paused as his brother gazed at the darkness hanging over the floor – the priest’s eyes darting about – and resumed his soliloquy when Roy leaned heavily towards him again. Andrew murmured for another minute or two. Finally, he straightened and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand as if to brush away the bitterness of the words from his lips. “Just promise, if something happens to me, you’ll take care of the bride and child.” “What’s going through your mind?” Roy said between heavy breaths. “Just promise me.” “You know I would never abandon them.” “That’s all I needed to hear.” Andrew cleared his throat and sat silently. Roy felt as though he were inching towards the edge of an abyss. That he would fall into the darkness if left alone to ponder his brother’s revelation. But an even stronger fear was pulsing through his veins. There was something in Andrew’s countenance: an eerie sense of relief, a cool resoluteness that sent a shudder down the base of Roy’s neck. “Maybe I can come by the house tonight,” Roy said. He wanted to punch through the partition, to clench his brother and not let him leave. “You got customers waiting,” Andrew said. “Business is good for you these days.” Andrew got to his feet. “Good-bye, Roy.” “Godspeed, Andrew.” When Andrew opened the oak door of the confession box, a small man wearing a tweed jacket stood outside, a crest of wild gray hair spilling over his wrinkled forehead. The man’s eyes opened wide at the site of the large police officer stepping out of the confessional and he began to finger the well-worn fedora he held by his paunch, turning it in his hands as if it were a steering wheel. Andrew stopped in front of him and said, “Give a man a chance to pull his pants back up, will you?” Roy greeted the next penitent in the confessional but his mind remained on his brother. How was it possible to feel such dread and deliverance, contempt and gratitude, guilt and utter relief all in the same breath? He had witnessed souls under severe strain shift from throes of laughter to sobs of despair in the span of a few seconds and always wondered how this was possible. But now he understood. He rested his head in his hands, elbows digging in his thighs, and tried to catch his breath. A sound like a hollow crack startled him. Not the sound of a kneeler. It must have come from outside. It brought his focus back on the words of the old gentleman who confessed that he lied to his wife about going to Cicero and losing fifty bucks at the Hawthorne race course, and that he harbored less than charitable feelings towards the Negroes who were moving westward into good Irish neighborhoods. The murmur of voices reverberated off the church’s arched ceilings. Then a single plaintive voice: “Someone call an ambulance. A cop’s been shot!”