Farewell from the Bookshelf!
Please note that GLBT Bookshelf -- the community wiki which was the parent to this fiction blog -- went offline on May 31, 2016, after seven years' service to members.
All Gay Romance will remain online till the end of 2016 in order to give contributors every opportunity to recover materials uploaded here.
Many thanks to all who contributed over the years, and good luck to everyone in your future works!
"He twisted his head around to give a despairing look at the brakeman. Beyond him, the open boxcar door revealed that the train was presently making its way along a trestle over a steep ravine. If he jumped now, he would certainly end up dead at the bottom of the gorge. It wasn't clear whether the brakeman cared."
Two guards. Two prisoners. A multitude of problems.
As a tramp beats his dangerous way to a new destination on the Western Mippite Railroad, he is joined by a prison guard seeking guidance on a difficult prisoner. The guard's guidance must come from a man who is longing for a human bond . . . but who has a reputation to establish.
Meanwhile, a tramp and a lord may seem to make an odd pair. But Compassion Life Prison is an odd place to start with, and the tramp has his own perspective on life there.
This novella-sized volume contains two related side stories in the Life Prison series. The costs of corruption and integrity are examined in this multicultural historical fantasy series, which is inspired by prison life at the end of the nineteenth century.
Starke noticed him and silently offered his cigarette case. "No," replied Thomas. "It's against regulations."
Starke slipped the case back into his jacket pocket, took a long moment blowing a ring of smoke toward the ceiling, and finally said, "I remember the day I taught you that regulation. You'd just been fitted for your first long pants, and you were eager to have your first smoke, in order to show how manly you were."
Thomas tried to think of a reply to this – he was acutely aware of the prisoners listening in, with grins on their faces – but at that moment, Pugh emerged from the closet, with his right hand grasping hard the nape of a dazed-looking prisoner, while his left hand buttoned up his fly.
Starke, without a word, took the prisoner from him. Thomas – bound as always to follow regulations – lifted his coiled whip from his belt. There had been occasional trouble, he heard, with the transfer of prisoners in and out of the cell; the humiliation of the riot was still fresh in the prisoners' mind.
There was no trouble this time, though. The prisoners looked at Thomas, and they looked at his whip, and they came nowhere near the cell door as Starke unlocked it and thrust the shaken lad inside.
The prisoners' mute looks of respect for his skill with a whip went a little ways in restoring Thomas's confidence. He waited until the cell door was locked and Starke was out of reach of the prisoners; then he returned his whip to his belt and said, "May I have a word with you, Mr. Pugh?"
"Save it for when I'm on duty." Pugh turned toward Starke. "Give me some baccer, for love of the gods. I'm parched."
Starke offered his cigarette case again. Thomas said, "Smoking on duty is against regulations."
"So?" Pugh did not look his way as he pressed his cigarette against the glowing end of Starke's cigarette. "The Keeper isn't above smoking a bit of baccer while he's on duty. And the Keeper takes prisoners, if that's the lecture you were planning to give me. Are you saying that you know better how to behave than the Keeper of Compassion Prison?"
Thomas forced himself to count backwards from ten. He knew, of course, from whence Pugh's resentment arose. Pugh had long been the day supervisor of Compassion Prison; by right of rank, he should have risen to the rank of night supervisor and received the title of Assistant Keeper after the previous Assistant Keeper died in the riot. Instead, that rank and title had been taken by a youth who was still in his journeyman years: the Keeper's son, Thomas.
It would do no good to remind Pugh that he had been away on a foreign holiday at the time that the riots occurred, and that an immediate appointment had needed to be made. It would do even less good to say that the appointment had been a punishment. How could Thomas explain that his father had appointed him Assistant Keeper and night supervisor, years before Thomas ought to have risen so high in rank, as a way of burdening him with responsibility that would likely crush him?
¶ Available as an e-book (HTML, PDF, Kindle, ePub), with an online sample; the first story in the e-book is also available as online fiction: Men and Lads / Lord and Servant