logan9

~~~

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked. Hatred stirs of dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” – Proverbs 10:11, 12

Logan stood behind a makeshift podium with his pocket bible open. Of all the scriptures he’d meditated on and written down, this one was his favorite. He stared at the verses with a smile one might share with an old, old friend.

He looked out toward the central hub of Cubicle City, into the weary faces of the Wasteland community congregation, and felt a heaviness he hadn’t felt since long before the world went insane.

Just about everyone was in attendance, staring back at him with a look of eagerness for any encouraging word, barely holding back the long running trepidation which dominated their day-to-day lives. They sat in flimsy fold-up chairs and on floor mats, forming a tight semi-circle before the unorthodox preacher who wore his black tank-top and hate tattoos from a former shameful life.

Logan slowly scanned each and every face, as if trying to permanently etch the last vestiges of Mankind into memory before the end. His thoughts drifted from Olivia to all seven suicides that had happened over the long winter. He thought about Meredith and Megan, the community outcasts. He thought about their missing leadership and wondered if they would ever return. He thought about all the strife and division that was slowly tearing apart this underground family of survivors.

“Good morning,” he said, his voice filling up the large vacant space. “Thanks for coming out today. I’d like to open with prayer.” He bowed his head.

The congregation followed suit.

“Lord, we come to you today in the most uncertain of times. We’ve all lost so much while this dark world we have inherited continues to show us no quarter… no mercy. We come to you as broken vessels from many walks of life, united by a common enemy who would claim us and count us among the dead. But we also come to you with grateful hearts. We thank you for sparing us from the storms and helping us get through the long, dark night… together. We ask for your forgiveness, Father. We ask that you would renew our hearts, minds, and souls–that you would deliver us from the madness within and without, and embrace us with your eternal peace and protection. Please guide my words today, according to your will and design. May your grace, love and goodness prevail, and keep us whole until the glorious day of your return. In Jesus name, we pray… Amen.”

“Amen,” the congregation responded.

Logan looked up and smiled. He placed his hands behind his back, stepped out from behind the pulpit, and then started pacing. “Brothers, Sisters, I stand before you today with a deep sadness that vexes my soul. I spent last evening on my face with our Heavenly Father, delving into the archives of my past, reflecting on tragic present events, and shuddering in fear at what our future might have in store for us if a virus of another sort continues to roam among us unchecked–an old virus that has plagued Mankind since the dawn of time and has amassed a death toll that makes the effects of The Change look pale by comparison.” He turned around and started pacing the other direction. “You see… there is an enemy living among us, an old, tireless enemy, who desires to turn us against each other until we have destroyed ourselves. This enemy cares nothing about the Love of God, the rising dead… or the survival of Mankind.” He stopped and stared at all of them. “He is known by many names. Hatred is one. He has haunted our lives for as long as we can remember, and has cast us apart from one another, separated by oceans of fire. And it’s no surprise that after all we’ve endured at the hands of the dead, that Hatred should still find a foothold in this frightening new world.” He paused to let his words sink in. “But fear not… for God’s grace is sufficient, and he will not allow us to suffer more than we can bear. And even in the face of such a persistent and ancient adversary, our Mighty God will provide us a way to escape the clutches of this predator of fire and discord. Amen?”

“Amen!” He had their attention. Many were nodding in agreement. Others were praying silently.

Logan shook his head with a laugh. “Most of you have heard me talk about my ‘relationship’ with Hate. I have made no excuses for my shameful past. I had spent the first half of my life building sacrificial fires to this indifferent and compassionless god, who is no god at all. I consider myself a bit of an expert… as evidenced by these fine displays of ignorance branded up and down my arms.”

This caused a few snickers from the congregation.

Logan smiled. “That’s alright. I can poke fun at myself, too… now. But there was a time when I wore these marks proudly–believed in them wholeheartedly. There was a time when I would have hurt someone for simply staring at them too long… and I enjoyed it, too. There was also a time when I would have condemned most of you fine folks for the color of your skin or the place you were born… didn’t matter… I would have set out to terrorize and do you harm… you and your families. And that is the fruit of Hatred.” Logan took a deep breath. “Since the Lord Jesus rescued me from that pitiful existence, I have spent the latter half of my life trying to atone for all the damage I’ve done. I don’t do this to earn God’s forgiveness. I already have that. But I do it for all of you. For each of you represent a nationality or a race that I have caused harm to at one point or another… all in the name of Hatred.” He lifted his arms. “People I met after my awakening, always asked, ‘Logan, why do you continue to display all those tattoos? Aren’t you worried about what people will think, calling yourself a Christian, and still wearing all those marks of hate?’ My answer is always the same: I wear them to show those around me, that I was unworthy as a real man, and that without the grace of God, I would be dead. Also, I display them to face those who I offend, in order to offer up a genuine apology for what I’ve done. And lastly, for those who commend me for these shameful marks, I admonish them in love, and attempt to turn them away from a very hard road.” Logan’s eyes began to water. He quickly wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “Well, I’ll spare you the many ‘arm conversations’ I’ve had since becoming a Christian. But what I would like to share with you all this morning is a story I’ve only told one other time, in a small church a million miles from this life.” He gave them a sad, faraway look. “It’s a story about that old enemy, and how I learned that Hatred and Madness where one in the same.”…

~~~

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.” 1 John 2:9

Two men dressed in leather jackets, jeans, and cowboy boots entered Abbey’s Tavern in Eastlake and were immediately greeted by the cautious stares of a dozen regulars scattered about the hole-in-the-wall neighborhood bar.

The Tavern, as the locals called it, consisted of one long room with a small pool table with two shitters in the back. There were several tall round tables off to the left, and the long bar which dominated the right side of the establishment. Behind the bar, a small hallway ran back towards a kitchen door, next to a staircase which ran down into the beer cellar and up to the small second floor apartment where the owner lived with her teenage daughter.

The Tavern was unremarkable but comfortable, offering the typical smoke-filled ambience associated with others of its kind. An old jukebox blared classic 70’s rock from its permanent perch along the back wall behind the pool table. Old black and white photos of Eastlake’s early pioneers were scattered about the walls, surrounded by typical neon beer signs and Cleveland sport’s logos. The bar itself stood before a large mirrored wall reflecting three long shelves of bottles, offering its patrons a variety of alcoholic poisons to choose from.

Abagail Johnson, bartender and owner, looked up from behind the counter and wearily frowned at the two men. Abagail was a tall slender woman with short brown hair. She had the look of someone who stayed fit by never taking a day off, although she was pushing fifty. She addressed the shorter of the two men with a nod. “Logan.”

Logan McCalister smiled like the devil through his well-trimmed beard as he removed his blue-tinted round sunglasses and approached his usual spot near the center of the bar. His long braided black hair hung over his right shoulder. He always wore a black knit hat to hide his receding hair line. “Evening, Abbey,” he said, removing his leather coat with the large white diving eagle emblem on the back. Beneath the eagle, within its sharps talons, were the bold red letters: The Brotherhood of One, which appeared to drip from the eagle’s talons like captured prey. He laid his jacket over the bar stool and sat down.

His dark tattoos stood out immediately on his pale but muscular arms. He always wore black tank tops, clearly unashamed of his bold and offensive brandings which he wore like merit badges.

Among several words and expressions written in Latin, Logan displayed a large black swastika on his left shoulder, a double lightning bolt on his right forearm, a Celtic cross on his right bicep and an upside down ‘V’ within a circle on his left forearm–all symbols either promoting Nazism or appropriated to signify ‘white pride’.

Several patrons stared, but not for too long.

The younger man who accompanied him, removed his jacket, which also displayed the same eagle emblem, and repeated Logan’s sitting ritual. The younger man had short black hair, slicked back with gel. He was a lanky man with skinny arms falling out of an old Iron Maiden concert T-shirt. The young man had a pissed-off look on his face, believing that it made him look tough, when in fact it just made him look constipated… but no one dared tell him so.

Logan took in the familiar faces of the working-class men who sat around him as he gave them each a nod and they respectfully nodded back.

After a brief departure to the kitchen, Abagail returned, reached beneath the bar for a shot glass, and then grabbed a bottle of whiskey. She came and poured Logan’s drink. “Not used to seeing you here midweek. Special occasion?”

“Yes,” Logan said, putting an arm around the younger man’s shoulders and shaking him affectionately. “This young man’s my nephew, Jonas. He just got initiated last weekend and I’ve promised to buy him his first drink.”

“Congratulations, Jonas,” Abagail said. “What can I get you?”

The younger man, embarrassed by his uncle’s display, ignored the barkeep, acting like she was beneath him.

“Well… answer the lady,” Logan said, smacking Jonas lightly on the back of the head.

Jonas gave his uncle a pissed-off look, and then looked down and said, “Just get me a Bud Light… please.”

Logan turned to Abbey. “You’ll have to excuse his behavior. The youth today are all balls and no brains. But God willing, we’ll get ‘em all straightened out… eventually.” He added an infectious laugh that made Abbey shake her head and smile.

“Alright then,” Abbey said, placing Jonas’s beer on the bar. She leaned on her arms and whispered to Logan, “Everything… alright out there tonight?”

“No worries, Abbey,” Logan said. He then raised his voice a bit for others to hear. “This isn’t Brotherhood business tonight. I’m just getting my nephew a drink.”

Some of the patrons, overhearing Logan’s words, relaxed and begin chatting again.

From directly behind them, a long-time Tavern debate resumed between three men who couldn’t agree on whether the Cleveland Browns of today was worth a damn compared to the real football team of old that had been moved out of Cleveland by its previous owner, a name that Abagail insisted not be repeated in her bar… not unless you wanted to be banned for life.

Two more men started a game of pool in the back while several others resumed their hushed conversations about their victories and gripes of the day.

Abagail also eased up as she put two more shot glasses on the counter, filled them with whiskey, and then refilled Logan’s. She picked up one of the shot glasses and looked at Jonas. “Well… I guess congratulations are in order.”

Jonas gave the shot glass a disgusted look.

Logan shook his head at his nephew and laughed, picking up his shot glass. “Drink up, young buck.”

Jonas reluctantly downed his shot with the others and then looked like he was about to throw up. He quickly grabbed his beer to chase the horrid taste.

Abagail gave Logan a wink which caused him to let out an infectious laughed as he slapped Jonas on the back.

The moment was cut short as the front door opened and a young woman in a skimpy red dress walked in, causing several heads to turn. The young woman bent over slightly to pull her short dress down while providing a deliberate view of her cleavage.

“Oh…dear Lord,” Abagail mumbled as she roughly slammed her empty shot glass on the counter and stormed toward the girl.

To the amusement of several in the bar, including Logan and Jonas, Abagail began pointing in the young woman’s face as she ripped her daughter, Maggie, a new asshole, explaining for the ‘umteeth’ time how she was never to walk into the front of her bar, but enter through the back entrance to get to their upstairs apartment. The fiery barkeep then began explaining to her daughter the difference between dressing respectably rather than like the red-dressed whore that stood before her.

An equal amount of fire spat forth from the young teen, as she yelled back at her mother, not appreciating being called out publicly.

While the verbal tirade continued, a tall young man wearing a dirty apron and holding a small tub for dirty dishes, stepped out of the kitchen and began removing empty glasses from the bar. The young man stopped, gawking at the humiliated teen in the red dress.

“What’s this shit?” Jonas said, nodding toward the busboy.

Logan turned and frowned at the busboy with short black hair, dark eyes and a skin complexion which clearly showed his Asian ancestry.

Jonas, returning to his constipated-looking demeanor, started to rise. “This piece of shit has no right being in here!” he said.

“Sit down,” Logan snapped. “This is not the time or the place.”

Jonas sat back down, giving his uncle a disbelieving look.

Logan ignored him and continued to observe the busboy who half-heartedly moved along the bar, picking up glasses while continuing to steal glances at the young girl.

When the busboy approached the big man, Logan said, “Excuse me.”

The busboy stopped.

Logan gave the young man a smile and said, “I don’t know what your people consider rude, but if you persist in placing your eyes where they don’t belong, you’re going to regret it.”

The busboy gave Logan a puzzled look, saw the intensity in the bearded man’s face, and then wisely looked elsewhere, quickly moving past them and toward the front of the bar.

Abagail, nearly yanking her daughter’s arm off as she escorted the embarrassed teen behind the bar, saw the busboy and immediately shot Logan a fearful look. She then barked at the busboy, “I told you to stay in the kitchen, Brian! Go… now!”

Abagail stormed past the young man with her daughter in tow, as Brian cautiously followed behind them, clearly not understanding what he’d done wrong.

“You heard her, half-breed!” Jonas snapped at the busboy’s back. “Get out of here!”

Logan gave Jonas a disapproving glare, and then stared at Brian with a hard probing look.

Brian quickly returned to the kitchen.

Abagail and Maggie had gone upstairs.

After the excitement was over, several in the bar exchanged intoxicated laughter and comments which were immediately hushed as Logan stared around the bar.

Abagail, looking flushed, returned to the bar, grabbed a cleaning rag and started wiping down the counter.

Logan, attempting to defuse the situation, shook his head, and laughed. “So… how’s that thunderstorm-of-a-daughter of yours doing? Last time I saw Maggie she was looking to start a war over some boyfriend you didn’t approve of.”

Abagail sighed and shook her head. “Let me give you some advice, Logan. Don’t have kids… ever. I swear… when she turned sixteen, I must have aged ten years!”

Logan laughed. “She’s a sassy one… that’s for sure.”

Abagail approached with her dish rag and started wiping a spot on the bar so hard that it looked like she was trying to buff it. “You know what that little shit said to me the other day? She told me when she turns eighteen, she’s going to move out to Geneva and get a job at that nasty strip club… what the hell was it called?”

“Herpies?” Jonas said with a smile.

Logan raised his eyebrows in surprise at his nephew, who quickly took another sip of his beer.

“Yeah… that’s the place!” Abagail fumed. “Fucking Herbie’s House of Whores… or whatever! And I know she’s only saying it to hurt me. What the hell did I do so wrong to deserve that? I’ve been a good mother! Hard when I had to be… but that’s because life ‘ain’t no fucking cake walk. Know what I mean?”

“Of course,” Logan said. “You’ve done a fine job raising that girl, Abbey. Sometimes that old Devil just starts meddling… especially with our youth… but eventually, they come back. Just give her time.”

“I hope your right. I worry about that girl all the time.”

“I see you’ve hired some additional help,” Logan said. “Brian, was it?”

Abagail stopped. “Logan… I know what you’re thinking. But please… just let it be. I owed his mother a favor… big time. Said he needed a job and so I gave him one. Brian’s… well… Brian’s a bit ‘simple’ if you know what I mean. His mother said no one will hire him, so I agreed to take him on for a short time… just long enough to put some money in his pocket… that’s all. Besides, he’s a hard worker, doesn’t bitch or complain, and does what he’s told… most of the time.”

“Well… at least he knows his damn place,” Jonas injected.

“Respect, Jonas,” Logan snapped at him. “How many times do I have to remind you?”

Jonas shook his head and took another swig of his beer.

“Abbey,” Logan said. “It’s not my place to tell you how to run your place-”

“You’re damn right, it’s not!” she snapped, clearly still upset with her daughter. “Sorry.”

Logan smiled. “It’s alright. You’re upset right now. I get it. But when your head clears, you need to get that boy out of here. For his own sake, he needs to be back with his own kind.”

Abagail gave him a challenging look, saw the seriousness in Logan’s stare, and then calmed down. “I was only going to give him one more week anyway,” she lied. “Just… let me handle it. Want another?”

“Yes… please,” Logan said, deciding not to press.

She refilled his shot glass and got Jonas another beer. “This one’s on me, boys. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” She moved out from around the bar and began retrieving orders and empty beer bottles from the tables.

Thirty minutes passed. A steady rush of patrons entered the bar, filling the place to its usual
half-capacity weekday crowd. Abagail continued to provide Logan and Jonas free drinks to appease them, while attending to her other customers.

Since the busboy remained out of sight, Logan let the matter drop… for now. Instead, he focused on getting his nephew drunk.

One of the Tavern’s oldest customers came up to Logan shortly after arriving and sat down next to him.

“Good evenin’, Logan,” he said.

“Marty, it’s good to see you,” he said with a laugh. “I knew something felt off tonight. You not being here is as unnatural as serving that shit drink, Zima, that invaded the bars a few years ago.”

Marty laughed and said, “Ah, hell no! Can’t have that shit stinkin’ up the place! Who do you think started the petition to get that piss water gone in the first place?”

Logan laughed and patted the old man on the back. Even Jonas lightened up, a few free beers taking the edge off.

Marty, the Tavern’s oldest barfly and resident teller-of-tall-tales, said, “Speaking of shit water, I remember this one lad who came in years ago looking to score with John Taylor’s ex… you remember her, don’t you, Logan? That tall lass who liked to get Abbey all fired up by dancing half-naked on the pool table?”

Logan laughed with a nod. “Jackie Jones! I don’t think we’ll ever forget about Jackie.”

“Not unless you were born without balls,” Marty said, nudging Logan in the ribs, “or, you have a hankering for ‘em”.

Logan nearly spit out his drink, laughing hard at the old man’s joke.

“Anyway… that dumbass got so drunk, took one look at Jackie… or, I should say two looks ‘cause they were quite big if I recall correctly, then decided to go over and start feeding her singles…” Marty was laughing so hard at his own story, he kept interrupting himself. “…like he was at the strip club. Boy, oh, boy, I’d never seen John Taylor get so mad… and he was a big damn boy, too!”

“Yes, he was,” Logan said.

“That reminds me of the time…”

Marty continued telling stories as Logan and Jonas patiently endured them.

Marty interrupted his own story, leaned in close, and said, “Between you and me, Logan, I appreciate all the hard work you and your boys have done in the neighborhood. There was a time when you couldn’t walk these streets without someone getting robbed, beaten, raped… and those worthless pigs never did anything to help us down here. They just let them move in… and take over. Between all the violence and the drugs… hell… I never thought I’d see the day when I could look around this fine drinking establishment and find nothin’ but a sea of good ‘ole American white faces again… know what I mean?”

Logan smiled at the old-timer, refilled his and Marty’s shot glasses with the bottle Abagail left for him, and picked up his shot. “Here’s to cleaning up America,” Logan toasted. “May we get back everything that’s ours and remove all the impurities from our once great nation,” he finished.

“I’ll drink to that!” Marty raised his shot glass enthusiastically and downed it.

Logan quickly refilled the glasses. “And with the grace of God, may He help us separate the wheat from the chaff… the way it was always intended to be.”

“Here! Here!” Marty said, not knowing what Logan meant, but refusing to turn down a toast, especially when free shots were involved.

Logan turned to Jonas, who was nursing a pretty good buzz.

“Looks like your nephew should’ve stuck with the Zima,” Marty added with a wink.

Logan laughed, refilled their shot glasses, and raised his shot for a final toast. “To piss water!” he said.

Marty laughed and said, “Aye, to piss water… and Jackie Jones’s two very infamous and bodacious friends!”

“Here! Here!” Logan mocked playfully, and drank.

Suddenly the jukebox stopped playing to the moans of several drunk patrons at the back of the bar who were butchering the chorus of War Pigs.

Logan and Marty turned to find a distressed looking Abagail, yelling from atop the pool table

“Hey… everyone… sorry for the interruption!” she yelled. “I’m looking for my daughter, Maggie. She’s not upstairs and no one in the kitchen’s seen her go out the back. She was wearing a red dress… hard to miss… did anyone see her sneak out the front?”

She was greeted to loud drunk murmurs and laugher as the scene from earlier had been talked about and made fun of to death.

“I said shut up! Listen! This is serious!” Abagail looked terrified.

Logan turned around, scanning the bar. “Are you fucking deaf?” he bellowed out. “Pay attention to the lady, or you’ll be dealing with me!”

The Tavern became immediately quiet.

“Thank… thank you, Logan.” Abagail looked paler than usual. She put her hand to her forehead and appeared to be on the verge of fainting or crying. A couple of customers near the pool table helped her down. “Look… everyone,” she said. “I know what you’re thinking… we fought earlier and now she’s pissed off. But Maggie’s a good kid. She wouldn’t just storm off like this. Has anyone see my girl? Again, she’d be wearing a red dress because I couldn’t find that either.”

This time, no one was laughing. Everyone looked at each other and shrugged.

Logan sighed heavily and lightly punched Jonas’s shoulder. “Get it together in a hurry. Something’s wrong.”

Jonas reacted immediately, understanding the seriousness in his uncle’s tone. He rose to his feet and started staring at everyone suspiciously. “What’s up, uncle?” he asked.

“Looks like Abbey’s daughter is missing,” Logan told him. He then addressed Abagail. “When did you see her last?”

Abagail put her hands to her face. “I… I was busy… I meant to check…” The usually tough barkeep’s eyes began to water.

“That’s okay, Abbey,” Logan said. “Just stay calm. We’ll figure this out.” He turned to Jonas. “Get everyone in the kitchen out here… now.”

Jonas nodded and ran behind the bar.

Logan positioned himself before the front door and announced, “Everyone, sit tight. No one’s leaving until we figure this out.”

Abagail stepped forward, shaking her head. “Logan… you can’t-”

“With respect, Abbey, you need to be quiet now and let me handle this.”

She nodded and took a seat at the bar before she collapsed with worry.

Jonas came back with a couple of cooks and escorted them out front. “Kitchen’s empty. I made sure the back door was locked.”

Logan nodded. “Check upstairs… thoroughly.”

Jonas nodded and departed.

He turned and met the frightened and angry stares of everyone in the bar. “This is Brotherhood business now. A sixteen-year-old girl is missing. If I find out that any of you are involved… God help you.”

Jonas quickly came back down. He was holding a sheet with a blood stain on it. “I… I found this under her bed.”

“Oh, my God!” Abagail was frantic.

“She wasn’t up there,” Jonas offered. “This could mean anything… might not even be her blood.”

Abagail looked to Logan. “We need to call the police!”

“No,” he said. “We will certainly not. And if I see one cell phone light up and any of you attempting to call the police… I will break your fucking hands.”

“Fuck me!” Jonas said. “He’s not here!”

Logan gave him a look.

“The fucking half-breed! He couldn’t stop staring at her earlier… remember?”

Logan looked at Abagail. “Where’s your busboy, Abbey?”

“Brian?” she said. “You think he… he did something? Did he do something to my little girl?”

“Where is he?” Logan repeated.

“I… saw him moping around in the kitchen. He looked pitiful. So I sent him home.”

“Did you see him leave?”

Abagail looked unsure. “I don’t know. It got busy. I was distracted.”

Logan turned to the cooks.

They shrugged their shoulders. One said, “That kid’s easy to forget about. He might have left.”

“Abbey,” Logan said. “Is there any other way in and out of this bar?”

Abagail looked uncertain. Then her eyes let up. “In my bedroom! There’s a fire escape!”

Jonas was already swearing at himself. “I didn’t think to check for that. I’m on it.” Jonas went back upstairs.

Abagail was shaking her head. “You can’t get to it from the street. It’s locked in the upward position. You’d have to lower it down… oh, my, God! Did someone come in here and take my girl, Logan?”

“I’m going to find her, Abbey. I promise you.” Logan sighed. “But I need you to tell me something first.”

“Yes…yes, of course.”

Jonas came back. “It’s down, uncle. Whoever used it could be anywhere now.”

Abagail fell to the bar floor. “Oh, fuck, fuck, FUCK!”

Marty came over and sat with her.

Logan nodded to Jonas. “You stay here and wait for the girl… and drink some coffee or something. I need you sharp. Call for back-up if you need it.”

Jonas looked resistant, but then nodded. “I got this. No worries. Just go find that slant-eyed mother fucker!”

Logan came over and knelt down in front of Abagail.

“You were right, Logan. I’m so fucking stupid… you were right!”

“Just stay calm, Abbey,” he said. “I’ll deal with this. Now… tell me where Brian lives?”

~~~

Next Episode 36-2

Previous Episode 35-10

~~~

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__________________________________________
“Chapter 36-1: Uprising” Copyright © 2017 Scott Scherr, from the novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, Book Four: Phantoms. All Rights Reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Comments
  1. ThaddeusTheDM says:

    2/8/17 Just binge-read from the beginning. I have no words that can describe my elation at finding your work! Kudos! Can’t wait for more.

    Like

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