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    C James
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  • 5,397 Words

Changing Lanes - 7. Laying the Groundwork

Chapter 7: Laying the Groundwork


Jansen, his hair wet from the shower and wearing just a pair of boxers, looked through the peephole and then opened his apartment door. “Hi Eric, we’re running a little late, sorry. Come on in,” Jansen said as he finished toweling off his hair.

Eric walked in and glanced around the main room of the apartment, finding it decorated in fairly typical bachelor style. At first, some posters and a couple of sickly-looking houseplants appearing to be the only personal touches added to the furnished unit. A closer look revealed some sports trophies and other personal items. Eric set his helmet down on a side-table, and still feeling the heat, he shucked off his jacket. Plopping onto the sofa, Eric flicked at his black tank top with his thumb, “Your AC feels good. That’s one bad thing about motorcycles; no air conditioning.”

Jansen finished toweling off his hair and sat down in a recliner opposite Eric. “Yeah, a heavy jacket in this weather can’t be much fun.” Jansen stood up again, acting a little ill at ease, and walked through a bedroom doorway, returning seconds later as he fastened a pair of shorts. Eric didn’t know Jansen well enough to read him, but the dancer’s unease was apparent. Wondering at the cause, Eric asked, “Where’s Keith?”

Jansen glanced at a wall clock before replying, “He should be here by now. He called just before I got in the shower and said he was on his way.”

Eric was about to reply when he heard a key in the lock, and turned in time to see Keith enter the room. Closing the door behind him, Keith caught sight of Eric and said, “Sorry I’m late. I got out of class and found that traffic was backed up for miles.”

Picking up on the fact that they were anxious and attributing it in part to their seeing him as their employer, Eric gave the two dancers a disarming grin. “Relax guys; I’ve been here for like thirty seconds.”

Keith took a seat and asked, “I gotta admit, ever since your call I’ve been dying to know what you wanted to see us about. What’s up?”

Eric leaned back and smiled, choosing his words with care before answering, “I should warn you, I’m pretty blunt. What I needed to see you guys about is your act. There’s some problems.”

Jansen noticed Keith’s concerned look, but drew the correct conclusion first. “If you were going to fire us, you’d have done it by phone, so I’m betting this isn’t really bad news?” Jansen asked, with a hopeful look on his face.

Eric nodded and smiled, and heard Keith’s sigh of relief. “Yeah, like I said at the club, I’ve got some issues with your act so I’d like us to figure out how to change it. I’ve been researching a little, so I’ve got some ideas. I’d also like to do a run-through of whatever we come up with. I don’t know where though; my hotel and studio won’t work because Brandon, Chase, or my manager Helen might find out.”

“I can swing us some private stage time at the club, as long as it’s well before opening,” Keith offered.

Eric shook his head. “Nah, that might get awkward. The main problems I have with the act are pretty much related to the club. Look, I’ll just say it; the whole atmosphere there is cheesy and kinda raunchy. That’s what I want to get away from. Hell, it’s supposed to be a classy place, but the name fits: G-Strings. Subtle it ain’t.”

With an embarrassed shrug accompanied by a glance at his partner, Keith replied, “I’ve got to admit, I agree. We took the gig because they’d train us and we were just starting out in the biz. I’ve checked out some of the competing places; they aren’t much better. But, it pays the bills, better than any other part-time job could.”

“Part time... You guys are in college, right? I’ve got you pegged as a business major,” Eric said to Keith.

“Guilty as charged,” Keith replied with a gin, relaxing a little.

Jansen grinned. “That’s why Keither handles the business end of our act. I’m doing a marketing major, with some acting lessons and drama classes on the side, but he’s the biz whiz. He has been, ever since he was about eight and opened a lemonade stand,” Jansen said, as he shot Keith a grin.

Keith quickly chimed in to add, “We met at college, and one day when we were studying together I made the mistake of telling him about my stand. I picked a windy day to set it up, and before I could sell a single glass, everything was blowing down the street. He’s never let me forget about that.” There was a slight pause before Keith added, “I think we’d love the chance to work on something different from what we do at the club.”

Eric smiled, happy that the two dancers seemed to share his views. “I’ll see about renting us a conference room somewhere,” Eric said, wondering how to go about it, and what they’d need. Recalling something he’d read, he added, “There’s a pretty high vacancy rate for restaurants and bars right now. I’ll phone around and see about renting one for a few days. The layout should be close enough to what we’ll have at the party, so would that work okay? We’ll have to bring whatever we need, but we will for the party, too.”

Keith nodded, and Eric continued, “Okay, first things first. The act itself. Number one, we’ve gotta lose that damn glitter ball. The lighting in your club totally sucks. When I got here today I was kinda surprised at how much hotter Jansen looks in normal light. The overhead lighting at the club might be okay to make bulked-up muscleheads look even bigger, but that’s not the look you guys have. The lights pale you out, too. But that won’t be a problem; the party will be at a resort that doesn’t have the lighting gear anyway. Next are the props. Surfboards are great, they fit your image, but that’ll be kind of hard to pull off at the party. I’ve got some ideas there and I’ll get to that later. Then there’s the sound track. The ripping sounds came from the speakers, not your clothes. That was just... bad.”

“One of George’s worst ideas, and that’s saying something,” Keith said, with a sincere note of disgust. Turning to face Jansen, he said, “Remember those notes we took a couple of weeks ago when we tried to come up with a better act? I think there’s some stuff we can use in ‘em. Any idea where they went?”

Jansen stood up and glanced around the apartment. “Probably in your desk,” he said, as he walked to the far end of the room and began looking in it. After rifling through a couple of folders, still turned towards his task, Jansen said, “No sign of ‘em yet but I’m only halfway through this stuff. Maybe they’re in my sketch drawer. It’s the top drawer on the left, next to my bed.” Keith got up and made a beeline for the room.

Moments later, Keith’s voice called out from the bedroom with a note of relief, “Found ‘em; they were right on top.”

Keith opened the dog-eared notebook and set it on the coffee table in front of Eric, taking a seat beside him as Jansen settled into the couch on the other side, so they could all see the notebook without having to read upside down. Keith flipped through a few pages, and Eric saw a few quick sketches of sets and lighting before Keith found what he was looking for and pointed at a roughly printed script of a routine and said, “Here’s what we came up with, but George wouldn’t even look at it.”

Eric scanned the page, seeing a few stick-figure illustrations between descriptions of the act. He nodded approvingly; from what he could see, it was far better than their current act. Eric turned to the next page and remarked, “Yeah, this is more like it. Some real dance moves instead of bump-and-grind, if I’m reading this right. Looks like it still uses the tear-away clothes though, but I guess you have to do that–”

“Nope,” Jansen replied with a grin as he stood up and waked over to the stereo. Cueing up a CD, he hit play and left the volume low. “It takes a little skill, but regular clothes can work even better. Anybody can use a tear-away, but not too many can do this...”

Waiting a few seconds until the song’s beat started, Jansen began to move with the music, taking two steps forward for every one back, and made his way to the alcove, which served as a kitchen.

Using the tile floor to allow his bare feet to move more easily, Jansen turned to face the sofa and began a fast-paced dance routine, moving both of his hands from side to site, clicking his fingers in time with the beat, his bare chest puffed out a little and a slightly shy, alluring smile on his face. With his head angled down, moving from side to side, causing his hair to fall across his eyes, Jansen began his routine. Eric watched for a few moments before turning to face Keith and exclaiming, “I see one big difference already; he’s smiling. In your act, you both looked so serious. This is way better.”

Eric returned his gaze to the kitchen, where Jansen kept moving his hands from one side of his body to the other as he danced in place, raising them slightly with each changeover. After a few seconds, his hands were raised high over his head, showing his chest and taught physique to full advantage. Jansen arched his back, and then spun on his heal to turn sideways to his audience, his hair again falling across his eyes as his left hand, without breaking it’s back-and-forth rhythm, passed in front of his shorts. Eric watched closely as, with practiced skill, Jansen used his thumb to tug at the waistband’s button snap, popping it open on the third pass, and then during two successive passes knocking open the Velcro fly. Jansen reached the kitchen counter, spun around, and took two fast steps, locked his legs, and while sliding leaned back, bending his knees so his legs folded under him, with one hand on the tile floor and the other raised over his head, twisting his torso towards Eric and Keith. Jansen’s boardshorts slipped down to his knees, as he came to a stop. Without pausing, Jansen snapped his torso upright, and then leaped to his feet as his shorts fell to the floor and he danced away in his boxers.

Jansen took three more steps, did a three-sixty, and then clicked off the stereo as he said, “That’s one way we can do this with regular clothes. There’s a few others. If we had more room I’d do a gymnastics move; run, tuck into a roll, and let the shorts fly off.”

Standing up, Keith took a few steps away and then turned to face Eric. “Shirts aren’t hard. If they’ve got buttons, we can replace ‘em with snap-fasteners and knock ‘em open one snap at a time. For a t-shirt like this, it’s even easier,” Keith said, and raised his hands, arched his body to the side, and then quickly reversed his stretch, grabbing the back of his collar and tugging his shirt off in one fast and fluid move. Twirling his shirt over his head with one hand – which Eric noticed was a great way to show off his flexing muscles, even if it was a little cliché – Keith moved to the beat of the non-existent music. After a few seconds, he stopped and returned to the coffee table, letting his shirt fall to the floor as he flipped the page of the notebook and said, “We basically wrote down a lot, more than we could do in a single act. What we wanted to do was develop several different acts, but George likes his guys to do the same thing every time, because he claims that’s what the customers want.”

Jansen tugged his shorts back on, and returned to his place by Eric’s side, as all three guys looked at the notebook. Eric saw layout after layout, some for a pair of dancers, others solo, and still others incorporating elements of both. Eric grinned before saying, “Sounds like you guys sure know what you’re doing, unlike your manager. Okay, here’s what I had in mind. I’m thinking you guys could pose as lifeguards. I can set that up with the resort. That’ll let Brandon and Chase see you guys around a little, that way they won’t be surprised to see you at the party, serving drinks. There’ll be at least one girl at the party: Linda. She’s Jim’s – one of our security guys – girlfriend. Actually she’ll be his wife by the time we have the party. One of you guys asks her to dance, and dances normally with her, but like you don’t really know how to dance. I’ll get Brandon and Chase to dance, then I’ll jokingly dance around for a few seconds with whichever one of you isn’t dancing with Linda. Then, acting like it’s a joke, you two start dancing with each other, then slowly get more serious. Then the clothes start coming off, but slowly, a little at a time. Maybe one of you pulls his own shirt off, more like you’re on a date at a dance club than strip act. Use some misdirection and then work into it slowly and they’ll be shocked as hell. I’ll make sure they’ve had a few drinks, so they’ll fall for it, guaranteed. Oh, one other thing, ditch the gold thongs. Brandon and Chase both like Speedos, so get some red lifeguard ones so they’ll fit with your act personas. Then have a second act, which can be a full-on routine, ready to go a little later. What do ya think?”

Jansen and Keith exchanged a glance, and then Keith said to Eric, “That sounds like something we can work with.”

Picking up the notebook and flipping through the pages, Jansen said, “You’re actually doing us a favor. We’ve wanted to work on new material for a while, but now we’ve got a good reason, plus no George to stand in our way. We should be ready to start rehearsals in about three days or anytime after that.”

“One thing we need to ask. We’ll need to practice a little at the club, so if George bitches about it, can we tell him to call you? If he knows it’s your idea, he won’t say a word,” Keith said.

Eric nodded, looking forward to the opportunity to tweak George’s nose a little. With a smile, Eric glanced from side to side at the two shirtless guys before saying, “I’ll set up a place to rehearse. This will be great, a custom act for their party. Brandon and Chase will love it.”


Helen paced in her office, concerned about many things, but prime amongst her concerns was Brandon and Chase’s wedding. She had no real objection to Eric’s plan to have the wedding in the Canary Islands. In fact, she regretted not thinking of it herself, for it was a far better location than Massachusetts in a number of ways. Her main concern was the guest list, one name in particular. By rights, she knew, the Carlisle brothers should decide the issue themselves. However, none of them had mentioned the issue.

Deciding to take a chance, Helen added two names to the invitation list. For security reasons the location of the wedding was not disclosed. Only a phone number was given, so that the guest might RSVP.

The names Helen added to the list both ended with 'Carlshitski'.

With that decision made, she gave some thought to Eric’s upcoming trip. Jim and Linda would be going along, and so would General Bradson, though Eric didn’t know that yet. Helen felt fairly sure that Eric was going solely to check out locations for the party and the wedding. Or so she hoped. The trip to the Canary Islands struck Helen as a conscientious and responsible approach, which she had a hard time reconciling with Eric’s nature. Idly, she wondered if the coming revelations, whatever they may be, would warrant a few harsh words and a glare for her, or rise to the level of her feeling the need to strangle Eric.

Sitting down in her plush desk chair, Helen smiled; on the whole, she was delighted with the way things were working out. Eric believed he’d pulled the wool over her eyes, but she was still, to a degree, able to keep an eye on what he was up to. That suited her just fine. Her smile grew a little as she wondered how long he’d keep up the pretense of going to San Francisco.


Pouring over his paperwork, under the harsh light of a single bare bulb, General Bradson felt trapped by the walls of his apartment. For so long, his life had revolved around the twin centers of his military career and his son. Now one was over, and the other far away and in grave peril. The General reflected that so far he’d only broken the law in a comparatively minor way: by failing to report that he took in excess of ten thousand dollars in cash out of the country. However, the list of laws he would soon break was both long and serious. He shook his head in dismay; a month before, he’d have told anyone who claimed he’d ever condone, let alone be part of, such an illegal conspiracy that they were crazy. Yet, here he was, raising a private army of mercenaries, and preparing to violate the law in a number of nations. He consoled himself with the thought that his actions were not against his country, which he loved, but rather were acting in its stead, doing what it ought to be doing for itself.

Consequences... he knew there would be plenty of those, but he didn’t care, not with his son’s life on the line. The risk to Brian, the General well knew, was greater than anyone realized. His son happened to be gay, which put him in even greater peril, given that he was the unacknowledged prisoner of what the General knew to be a fanatical, homicidal, Islamofascist terrorist regime that, amongst other things, delighted in executing gays. If they received so much as a hint of Brian’s sexual orientation, his chances would be even slimmer than they already were. That was just one reason why the General felt he could not afford to wait.


The motorcycle’s engine rose in RPM as Eric downshifted into second gear to slow down as he approached the turn. From a dozen yards away, Jim watched like a hawk, assessing Eric’s style and ability. The one thing that Jim had been concerned about was Eric’s awkwardness in shifting gears, no doubt due to having driven an automatic for so long. At first, Eric had relied exclusively on the brakes when he needed to slow down. That was fine for city traffic, but not good at all when out on an open road at high speed. It was also one of the differences between a skilled and an unskilled rider, and Jim had pledged to himself that Eric would be the former, rather than the latter.

Jim watched and listened as Eric slalomed through the parking lot. The sound told Jim as much, perhaps even more, than his sight. He allowed himself a smile as Eric smoothly downshifted before entering another right turn, mainly due to the hum of the engine as Eric gave it a little gas, entering the turn at a neutral rate of acceleration, which spread the traction move evenly between the front and rear wheels. Punching the gas during a turn was a good way to lose traction on the rear wheel, a fact that had cost many riders their lives.

The whine of the bike’s engine rose in frequency, telling Jim that Eric had waited until the straightaway to hit the gas. Eric raced in Jim’s general direction, approaching just a touch too fast, and braking just a little too hard for Jim’s preferences, displaying Eric’s tendency to push the limits just a bit too often. Jim grudgingly reminded himself that the Yamaha had far better handling characteristics than the Harleys he was used to, but even so, Eric was too new to be pushing to the extent that he was, so Jim decided to lower the boom. Crossing his arms and plastering a scowl on his face, Jim waited until Eric had flipped up his visor to say, “You’re hot-dogging. Knock it off or you’re gonna end up as road kill. If you hit a patch of water, oil, sand, gravel, anything that breaks your traction, you’ll take a spill. One of the key things you’ve got to remember is that when you max out on a turn or at any time during a ride, you’ve just lost all safety margins.”

Eric’s first impulse was to argue. He loved the rush of speed and the sense of freedom, and opening the bike up a little couldn’t, in his opinion, hurt. He’d been practicing so he felt he had the experience to handle it. However, before he could open his mouth, Eric reflected on a couple of facts. The first was that while he’d been riding for less than two weeks, the man before him had been riding for twenty years. The second fact was of even greater concern; Eric had no doubt that if Jim decided that Eric’s riding was hazardous in any way, Jim would tell Helen, and Helen would find a way to get rid of the bike, by any means necessary. Nodding his acquiescence, and resolving to at least try to keep his word, Eric said, “Sorry, I just got a little carried away. How am I doing otherwise?”

His point made, Jim replied, “Not bad. You just need to tone it down a little. Now, tell me what I told you last week about riding in traffic.”

Eric suppressed a sigh. He knew he’d have to pass many such tests and exams. “Rule number one: Watch out for blind spots, because car drivers might not see me. Rule number two: always assume they don’t see me. Rule number three: If I’m in a blind spot, get out. Rule number four: always assume that the other vehicle can and will do something stupid. Rule number five: my head is not as hard as a car’s bumper.”

“Right on the first four and I like the new number five, though I’m not too sure it’s accurate in your case,” Jim said with a grin. “I know I’m getting on your case, but I’ve buried a few friends due to them making avoidable mistakes. You’re doing better but you’re still a beginner. Just don’t push it and you’ll be okay. Remember, you have to keep me happy, or I won’t sign off with Helen that you’re okay to ride to San Francisco.”

Eric rolled his eyes. “You know damn well I’m not going to San Francisco.”

Jim gave Eric a wicked grin. “I know that, but Helen doesn’t, so if you want to keep it that way, you’ll do exactly as I say.”

“Okay, okay, you blackmailing son of a bitch,” Eric said with a heartfelt laugh, which also served to let Jim know that he wasn’t serious, as he revved up the engine and began another run around the almost empty section of parking lot.




Two days later, with Jim and Linda’s wedding just a week away, Eric phoned Keith. “Hey dude, I’ve got us a place to rehearse. It used to be the Oak Leaf Nightclub, just off Wilshire.”

“Yeah, I know the place,” Keith replied, surprised that Eric had secured such a large place – they didn’t need a whole club, just a stage – and had done so with such speed. “When do you want to get started?”

“Anytime you want, just not during business hours because I’m in the studio every day this week,” Eric said, as he kicked his feet up on the desk and leaned back in his chair.

Keith thought it over for a few seconds before replying, “How about Monday night? Monday and Tuesday are our weekend at the club, so that’d work well for us. Jansen has a class in the afternoon, but anytime after five would be great.”

“I’ll be there by six,” Eric said, dreading the prospect of Los Angeles rush-hour traffic, even though it was only for five blocks.


Munching on a hot dog and trying his best to ignore the acrid smell of percolating petroleum, General Bradson strolled around the pathways of the La Brea Tar Pits. He was a little early, which gave him the chance to determine, to the best of his ability, that he wasn’t being followed.

The General leaned on a guardrail, looking out over a lake of bubbling tar, finishing up his hot dog as Bill appeared by his side, leaned out over the railing to snap a photo, and muttered, just loud enough for General Bradson to hear, “Restaurant. Northwest corner of the park, then go about a hundred feet to the north. Irish pub.” With that, Bill walked away, and General Bradson was left wondering what was wrong. They’d planned to talk while strolling around the park grounds, but Bill was acting extra cautious. Deciding not to worry about it as there was nothing that he could do, General Bradson walked towards the pub.

Crossing the busy intersection at the northwest corner of the park, General Bradson spied Bill ahead, strolling up Fairfax. To the General’s surprise, Bill walked right to the door of the Irish Pub and entered without any attempt to double back in order to check for a tail. General Bradson began to smile as he walked into the pub, smelled the aroma of beer and corned beef, and joined Bill in a booth in a quiet corner of the restaurant.

“I’m guessing you changed plans because you’re hungry,” General Bradson said with a grin.

Bill’s dour expression eased slightly as he studied the leather-bound menu. Without looking up at the General, he said, “Guilty as charged, at least partially. You are under observation, as you know, but they aren’t making much of an effort. Most likely, they’ve got a GPS-based tracker attached to your car. You can find it with a simple radio detector, which might be a useful thing to do when the time comes,” Bill said, and casually handed the general a small black-plastic device. “I hope you came via the subway.”

General Bradson nodded; he’d been taking a great many precautions lately. “Yeah, I took the Red Line Metro and then a cab. I wasn’t followed,” General Bradson said, hoping that it was true. He slipped the radio detector, which was slightly smaller than a deck of playing cards, into his pocket.

Bill paused as the waitress approached and took their orders for corned beef sandwiches and Guinness beer, though both men were well aware that the import version of European beer were a pale imitation of what they’d get on tap in the brew’s original country of origin.

Once the waitress had departed, Bill got down to business. “When are you leaving? I’ll need a way to contact you securely. Encrypted e-mail should suffice.”

“I’ve got a way to get to my rendezvous untraced. I’ll be leaving in about a week. I’m going to participate in the rescue team’s training, and I’ll be going in on the ground.”

Bill gave General Bradson a hard look. “Walter,” he said, using the General’s first name for emphasis, “watch your back. You’ll be dealing with mercenaries. They’re only in it for the money. Take that into account when you make your operational plans. Always bear in mind that they can turn on you, especially for a price. Don’t trust ‘em. Watch it with the money, too. Don’t set yourself up for a situation where making you disappear gets them paid without doing the mission.”

General Bradson nodded somberly. He knew he was taking an enormous risk. “I think I’ve got it covered. I’m wiring the money to an account I now have in the Caymans on the day I leave here. From there, I can have the funds sent where needed. My deal is roughly half up front, half on completion, close to two million total.”

“Liquidating your retirement accounts, then,” Bill said as a statement of fact; it had been easy to find out roughly how much the General was worth. “You better watch out. The IRS will come down on you like a ton of bricks, and wiring the money out of the country without paying withholding is a felony.”

With a casual shrug, General Bradson replied, “Considering the laws I’ll be breaking, the IRS is the least of my concerns.”


Jim sat staring at the telephone on his desk, wondering what to do, and kicking himself for not seeing this problem coming. He’d just gotten off the phone with Brody, and old friend and biker club president from Colorado. Brody and his bikers had ridden up to Telluride at Jim’s behest and had helped protect Instinct during the attempts on their lives, and had seemed to get along great with the Instinct guys. Jim, however, had overlooked one small detail.

The wedding Jim and Linda had planned was a biker wedding, outdoors between rows of Harleys. Instinct had volunteered their Telluride ranch house as a location, and had also offered to play at the wedding. Jim and Linda had accepted with delight.

The detail that Jim had overlooked was a significant one; since that time, Brandon and Chase had come out, and some bikers have real issues with gay people. Brody’s call had been to tell Jim that he’d be there, but two thirds of his club wouldn’t be.

Sighing, Jim kicked himself for not seeing such an obvious issue sooner. Jim’s biker contacts in the Los Angles area, though, hadn’t seemed to care, and they surely knew. Jim made a quick call to Mad Mike, and was assured, in no uncertain terms, that most of his club was looking forward to the ride to Colorado and the free food and beer, and that none of the bikers going would say a single word about what Mad Mike had referred to as ‘The gay thing’. Jim had smiled at that. He knew Mad Mike well enough to envision the threats that had likely been issued when he’d passed along the invitation for the Telluride wedding to his club.

There would be no shortage of bikers or bikes for the wedding; it just wouldn’t be as large as they’d planned. That left Jim with a dilemma, and he cracked open a can of beer as he sat back to think it over, trying to decide what to do. He didn’t like any of his options, not one bit.





© 2008 C James

Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent.

Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"



Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.

Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading, support and advice, and for putting up with me.

Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice.

A big "thank you" to to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice , and to Captain Rick for his advice.

Any remaining errors are mine alone.

Copyright © 2009 C James; All Rights Reserved.
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I can't believe that after everything the bikers have been through with these boys that some of them are still so homophobic. Didn't they see the big picture when they almost lost their lives? People can be so stupid.


Ok, on to the next chapter. =)

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chest and taught physique -  chest and taut physique


I know this story was originally published 4 years ago and the author is probably no longer interested in making corrections, but just in case he is alerted to a new comment, I tossed this one in. the forum page is no longer available. So on the off chance that C. James is still paying attention to comments, I included this homophone. I am very impressed with the way the several threads of the tale are coming together; the wedding, the bachelor party, the General's extraction plans, etc. You are handling a complex plot very well.

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On 11/8/2018 at 9:00 PM, Will Hawkins said:

I am very impressed with the way the several threads of the tale are coming together; the wedding, the bachelor party, the General's extraction plans, etc. You are handling a complex plot very well.

I'm suspecting that there's still one important thread to be woven into this story's fabric...

Possibly something involving a one-armed man (maybe even a villainous one-armed man...)

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Thanks for responding, it was somewhat unexpected because, as I said, I did not figure the author was checking on comments any more. I have a somewhat evil reputation on GA as being a troll living under  the bridge that an author must cross on his way to publication of a story, snapping at his bare toes by making comments and suggestions about word usage and grammar.  My comments/suggestions are merely designed to assist an author in perfecting his work, not in embarrassing him by showing up errors to the public. So if this suggestion rubs you the wrong way, just laugh it off as the narrow mindedness of an old school teacher and go on with your creativity.
Mister Will

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