by Tim Mead

Chapter 8

Adam learned later that the deployment of the airbags had caused moderate bruising of his chest.  After his car had been nudged against the guard rail by the tailgating Navigator, it was then struck by a car which had been behind the Navigator.  When the SUV's driver swerved left in a futile attempt to avoid Adam's car, the third car had swerved right and struck the little Miata on the side.  The driver's window had shattered, the metal railing along the soft top had been rammed against Adam's head, and the left side of his ribcage was damaged by the buckling of the door.  Still, the doctor had told him, he was lucky his injuries hadn't been much worse.

His memory of all that was spotty.  He remembered waking up literally seeing red.  It was his own blood.  He was on a stretcher in an ambulance. One of the EMT's was saying, "It looks worse than it is.  These scalp cuts bleed like a son of a bitch.  Oh, he's awake."  All of this had been addressed to someone else.  To Adam he said, "Hang on, sir.  We'll be at Colby General in five minutes."

Things were something of a blur after that.  His impression was that he'd been attended to quickly.  It turned out that he was the only person in the three cars who'd been hurt.  Initially, because of all the blood, the first people to get to him had thought he was probably dead or dying.  

Unsure about the order in which things happened, he had a blurred recollection of clippers, of getting stitches in his scalp, of being taken to a room where they kept him awake for a while until they were sure there hadn't been any damage to his brain.  His head hurt.  His ribs hurt. Finally he was allowed to have painkiller (administered through an IV drip), and he was able to escape the pain by going to sleep.  Had they performed tests on him while he was asleep?

When he next awoke, a person in scrubs (did all medical personnel wear those things now?) offered him some apple juice through a straw.  Then, after how long an interval he didn't know, he was asked if he felt up to signing some papers.  They apparently gave the hospital permission to do what it had already done along with a promise to pay for whatever his health insurance didn't cover.

"You really should update the emergency contact information in your wallet.  We tried to reach the person you listed in Morgantown, West Virginia, but that phone's been disconnected.  We didn't know what to do until we found your faculty ID card for Colby State."

"Oh, someone needs to call my department head," Adam croaked.

"That's taken care of.  We got through to a dean of some kind who said he'd relay the information to your boss."

He must have slept after that person left.  He woke to find Donna Kasmaryk herself standing at the foot of his bed.  She was obviously dressed for work.  

"Adam, how are you?"  

She looked so, so . . . impeccable.  Perfectly turned out.  Not a hair out of place.  But she seemed concerned.

He tried to grin.  "I'm okay if I don't move or breathe too deeply, I guess.  It's nice of you to come by, Dr. Kasmaryk, but you needn't have.  I'm sorry about all this.  I'm guessing it'll be a day or so before I can meet my classes."

"At least a week, or so I'm told.  Perhaps longer.  But you're not to worry about that.  We'll just let your classes today and tomorrow go.  By day after tomorrow perhaps you can give us some idea what to have them working on while you're out.  If you're up to it, of course."

By this time Adam was feeling light-headed.  He promised to think about that.  

"Is there anyone you'd like me to call?"

"I'm not dying, am I?"

She smiled.  "No, Adam.  You may feel like it, but the doctor says you'll be okay."

"Then I don't think we need to alarm my parents.  I'll tell them about it when I can."  And Tony, he added mentally.

He thought he heard the woman say, "Let me know if you need anything," as he drifted back into his drug-induced sleep.

He was awakened later by a cop wanting his version of what had happened.  The guy took it all down and said he'd be back with a statement for Adam to read and sign.  Not long after that there was a visit from the local agent of the company that carried his car insurance.  

He had just gone back to sleep when someone came in with his lunch.  When she changed the angle of his bed so he could sit up a little more, he groaned in pain.  She sat next to him and held a mug of lukewarm chicken broth so he could sip it through a straw.  There was cubed Jell-O, which he insisted he could manage on his own.  He found that moving his left arm caused severe pain in his ribs, but that he could use his right hand if he moved it slowly.  She promised that, if he kept his lunch down, he could have solids for supper.

After he'd eaten he discovered he needed to urinate.  He shifted his position, but that hurt and he groaned.

"Do you need me to increase your pain meds?" the nurse asked.

"No, I've just gotte pee."

"Here you go."  She handed him the standard plastic bottle, but he was unable to put it into position.

"Let me do it, hon."

So, wishing it had at least been a male nurse, Adam endured having her pull back the covers, raise his gown, and put the bottle in place.  

She started for the door.  "I'll give you some privacy.  And don't try to bend.  Just leave the bottle where it is and I'll be back in a few minutes."

Given what she'd just done, Adam thought she might as well have stayed and listened to him whiz.

Finally, that was all done and Adam lay there, not too uncomfortable so long as he didn't move.  He had his eyes closed, thinking about all that had happened, of what a close call he'd had.  Of all the things he'd have to do, including get a new car, once the insurance check came to cover the totaled Mazda.  His eyes popped open.  It's a good thing you didn't take Stranger in Paradigms to show Tim and Max.  Monetarily the book was worth far less than the car, and other first editions of Stranger could be had.  But his copy, with its tantalizing inscription, was unique.

The clock on the wall opposite his bed said 2:03.  He felt drained.  The medicine was keeping the pain at bay for the most part, but he hated the grogginess it produced.  He closed his eyes again.  They say I'm going to be okay.  This will get better. Wonder when I can go home?

He must not have been completely asleep, for he was aware of voices at the nurses' station, of people moving back and forth in the hallway outside his room.   And then he sensed more than heard someone come into the room.  Whoever it was sat in the chair next to his bed.

When he opened his eyes, there was Blake Bellamy leaning toward him.

"Damn, Adam, you look like shit!"

"Blake!"  He wished he could think of something clever to say.  It wouldn't do to say that Blake looked positively edible.  Must not be in too bad shape if he turns me on.  Actually, there was no stirring below the waist; it was more a mental awareness of how sexy the younger man was.  "What are you doing here?"

"Well, duh!  When Dr. Kas sent someone in to cancel your class, I grabbed her and asked what had happened.  And so here I am."

Adam grinned.  "Checkin' up on the old prof, huh?"

"Yep.  I heard you got pretty banged up.  Of course, no one will tell me anything officially.  How are you?"

"I'll live, or so I'm informed."

"What's the damage?"

"Badly bruised ribs and six stitches in my scalp."

Blake grinned.  "Yeah, that's pretty obvious.  They shaved off a bunch of your hair to put in those stitches.  When we get you home I think you'll look less weird if we just give you a buzz cut all over."

"A buzz cut?  I don't think so!"

"Wait until you see yourself.  Maybe one of the nurses has a hand mirror."

"Hold on a sec.  What did you mean when you said `when we get you home'?"

"Look, Adam, when that medicine wears off, you're gonna have a lot of pain anytime you move.  You won't be able to bathe yourself, or put on your underpants or jeans or shoes. You won't be able to raise your hands to pull on a tee shirt.  You're just not gonna be able to manage on your own.  Do you want to go to a nursing home?"

"Well, no, but "

"Okay, then.  I'm moving in with you until you're able to take care of yourself.  Of course, I'll have to leave you while I go to my classes, but otherwise, you're gonna have to put up with me as your nurse for a while."

"I can't ask you to do that!"

"You didn't ask.  I'm telling you that's the way it's gonna be."

"Tough guy!"

God, that grin is sexy!  Cutest damn nurse I've ever seen!

Blake hung around the rest of the day, leaving only to attend a class and to grab something to eat in the hospital cafeteria.

While he was out a male nurse he hadn't seen before came in to unhook Adam from the IV, get him up, and make him walk around.  It hurt to get out of bed, to walk, to get back in bed.  This, he was told, was to keep him from developing pneumonia.  Adam was inclined to think pneumonia would have been preferable.

That evening, Adam said to Blake, "Oh, I've got to get in touch with Tony!  He's expecting me there for the weekend."

With a studiously deadpan expression, Blake asked, "Is he the guy you mentioned to me at Nellie's?"

"Yeah.  Do you know where my cell phone is?"

"No.  Where was it?"

"Lying on the passenger seat of the car."

"I'll ask at the nurses' station and see what I can find out.  I'd let you have mine, but you're not supposed to use cell phones in the hospital."

Blake left the room in search of Adam's phone.  He came back shaking his head.

"Nobody seems to know where it is.  So why don't I go outside and call your friend?  I could tell him what's happened and ask him to call you here."

"Blake, that'd be pretty awkward for you.  Tell me again why you're being so good to me."

Blake didn't exactly smile, but his features relaxed a bit.  "As I said, I'm all you've got at the moment.  But if your Tony will come and take care of you until you can do for yourself, I'll get back to my life."

"He can't very well do that.  He has a business to run in Ann Arbor."

"So it looks as if you're stuck with me."

"It's not a case of being stuck.  I just hate to impose, especially . . ."

"Especially since you know how I feel about you?"

"Well, yes."

"I think I can control myself.  I promise not to take advantage of your weakened condition or anything."  

"I never thought you would.  I'm just thinking about how you must feel."

"Why don't you leave that to me?  Give me the number and I'll go call the guy."

"I'm not sure I could remember my own number right now.  Could you call information for Biggs and Lucarno in Ann Arbor?"

"Sure.  I'll be back in a few."  He looked at the number on the bedside phone and left.

Five minutes later, the phone by the bed rang.


"Adam, is that you?  What in hell happened?  Are you okay?"

Adam chuckled, and then winced because his head hurt.

"Yeah, it's me.  I was in a dust-up with a Lincoln Navigator, a guard rail, and another car I never even saw.  I lost."

"My God!  But you're all right?"

"I will be.  I've got some stitches in my scalp.  I'm told I look as if I'm wearing half a fright wig, and it hurts like a son of a bitch to move because of some banged-up ribs.  But it should all be a lot better in about a week."

"I can be there in a couple of hours."

"Don't even think about it!  I'm going to be fine.  But I will have to beg off for this weekend.  I'd ask you to come here, but I know how important your G & S event is.  Besides, I'm not sure I'll be able to, well, let's just say that even the thought of sexual positions makes me cringe right now."

"Well, perhaps I could come for a couple of hours on Sunday.  Don't want to give you pain, but . . ."

"Let's stay in touch about that.  See what the weather's like.  After what happened I'm nervous about people I care for being on the highway in snowy weather."

"I hate to say I told you so, but maybe if you had been in a bigger, more solid car, you'd be in better shape right now."

"Well, the Miata is defunct, so I'll probably be shopping for a tank when they let me out of here."

They talked for a few more minutes before hanging up.

Blake, who'd discreetly left the room, came back in.

"So, is he coming to see you?"

"I told him not to.  At least not before the weekend.  As I said, he has a business to run."

"If he really cared about you, he'd be on the highway right now."  Wincing as soon as the words were out of his mouth, Blake apologized.  "I'm sorry Adam.  I sound like a jealous boyfriend, and that was uncalled for."  Ducking his head and smiling, he continued.  "I'll be good, I promise."


#          #          #

Mid-morning on Tuesday a volunteer came in with two bouquets of flowers.  Both were from Petal Pushers.  The first was a dozen yellow roses. They had a note from Tony:

"Feel better soon, Adam.  If you need me, you know I'll come a`runnin'."

The second was a bunch of bronze chrysanthemums.  The message on the card said, "You made the papers, professor.  But we hear you're going to be okay.  Be well soon.  Hugs, Brody and Dave."

That afternoon Blake was attending a class.  Though Adam had been switched to painkillers in pill form, they still made him drowsy.  He was dozing when he heard someone clear his throat.  He opened his eyes to see Jake Handley with a rather large house plant in a decorative planter.

"Jake!  It's good to see you."

"I'm sorry to see you here, Adam."  He set the plant on the table that held the two bouquets.

"Sit down, please.  Thanks for the plant.  It'll brighten up my condo.  I hadn't gotten around to getting any greenery for it yet."

Jake pulled the chair a little closer to the bed.  "Jim sends his wishes for a speedy recovery.  He'd have come with me, but he has a class this afternoon."

"Thank him for me, please.  How is he?  How are you, for that matter?"

They chatted for a while.  Jake wanted to know about the accident and about the nature and extent of Adam's injuries.  Then the conversation moved to other topics.  Adam mentioned that he'd met Ted, who was working on his dissertation on the three battles of Ypres.

"The third battle, of course," Jake said, "is usually called Paeschendaele.  But among the three, a horrendous number of lives were lost.  I wonder what sort of approach your young friend is taking."

"I really don't know.  We were in a social situation, so we didn't get a chance to go into it in any detail.  He's a fan of yours, though.  Said you were a big name in the field."

"Is he here at Colby State?"  He grinned.  "And if so, why am I not his dissertation director?"

"No, he's at Michigan."

"Oh.  Too bad.  I'd like to talk with him some time."  He leaned forward.  "Adam, with your ribs bunged up, you're going to have trouble fending for yourself at home.  What'll you do?"

"Oh, I'm in good hands.  A young friend has offered to look after me."

Jake grinned and cocked an eyebrow skeptically.  "Oh?"

Adam started to raise his hands in remonstrance, but he winced in pain and dropped them back onto the bed.

"Yeah.  He's a student.  My brightest student, in fact.  Well, except for Bruce Evans, my doctoral candidate.  Blake's a couple of years older than the traditional junior.  Worked on a Great Lakes ore boat for a couple of years.  Has written a novel.  Pretty mature.  And he showed up here yesterday saying he was going to take care of me."

"That's above and beyond the call of duty.  You're lucky."

Just then Blake looked around the doorframe.  "Oh, sorry.  I can come back later."

"No, come on in.  I want you to meet someone.  Jake, this is Blake Bellamy, my, um, caretaker.  Blake, this is Dr. Jake Handley from the History Department."

The two shook hands.  After they chatted for a few minutes, Jake glanced at his watch and said, "It's my turn to fix supper, so I'd better run along. Blake, it's good to meet you.  Adam, have a speedy recovery.  If there's anything Jim or I can do, call us, okay?"

Adam thanked him and promised he would.   They said their goodbyes and Jake left.

Moments later, as Blake and Adam were talking about the possibility that Adam would be discharged the next day, the bedside phone rang.


"Adam, it's Jake.  You didn't tell me he was gorgeous!"

#          #          #

The rest of the week was difficult for Adam.

The afternoon he got back to the condo, there were two floral deliveries, one a modest mixed bouquet from the CSU English Department, the other a dozen and a half peach-colored roses from Tom and Adrian.

But the flowers were the high point of the day.

His ribs hurt fiercely whenever he moved anything on the left side of his body.  He had frequent headaches.  Nevertheless, he cut back on the painkillers.  They left him feeling so dopey he decided he'd rather "man up," as Blake said, and stand the pain.  He tried Tylenol, but that didn't seem to help much.  Besides these problems, the laceration on his scalp hurt for several days and then began to itch.  

He was frustrated that he couldn't do the things he was accustomed to doing.  Frustrated that he couldn't go teach his courses.  Dress himself.  Put on his shoes.  Shop for groceries.  Frustrated that he was so dependent on Blake.

He tried very hard not to be grumpy or cross with the boy.  Correction:  man.  

Somewhere Blake had procured hair clippers and proceeded to give him a buzz cut, working very carefully around the stitches.  (He'd had to remove the bandage to do the hair cut.)  Adam hated the way he looked.  He'd never been a jock.  He didn't like the military look.  Though Blake said he looked sexy, Adam couldn't wait for all of his hair to grow back in.  He worried that maybe it wouldn't come back around the laceration.

Throughout it all, Adam couldn't escape his awareness of how physically attracted he was to Blake.  Since he couldn't bend over, couldn't use his left hand, there were parts of himself he couldn't wash.  Getting into and out of the tub was impossible, so he showered, wearing a plastic cap to protect the dressing on his head.  Showering alone was pointless.  Blake was always there to get the parts of his body Adam was unable to wash for himself.  It was the same with dressing.  He had to sit and let Blake put on his boxers and jeans.  He couldn't raise his arms above his head. Even holding his left arm out far enough that Blake could slip on a button-up shirt made him gasp.  He chided himself for being such a wimp, but the pain was too much to ignore.

Thus he hated being helpless.  He disliked even more his inescapable attraction to his ever-attentive nurse.  He thought of Tony as his . . . what?  At 40, they were beyond being "boyfriends."  His prospective partner?  Well, perhaps.  But how could he think seriously about a partnership with Tony when they lived 70 miles apart?  

How could he think about a partnership with Tony when he lusted after Blake?  

Every day he was treated to Blake's touch.  To the sight of the bulge in the front of his jeans, to the way the seam in the seat of the jeans rode his crack.  Every day he remembered that Blake had admitted to wanting to have sex with him.  He couldn't forget the evening at Nellie's when Blake had said he'd change majors, he'd do whatever it took to get Adam to accept him as a lover.

Throughout it all, Blake was perfect.  Though he was away from the condo to go to his classes and to pick up groceries as needed, he seemed to be always there when Adam needed him, fixing meals, changing the dressing on his head, reminding him about his prescriptions, bathing him.  But he never, ever pushed.  Never said or did anything to remind Adam of the declarations he'd made that night at Nellie's.  He seemed, in fact, to bend over backward to avoid doing anything to make Adam uncomfortable about his being there.  He stripped to his boxers when he helped Adam bathe, but except for that Adam never saw Blake other than fully clothed.

The two had talked a lot in the evenings.  Blake usually excused himself after the kitchen was cleaned up to study for a couple of hours.  Then he'd come back to where Adam was listening to music, reading, or occasionally watching television.  But when Blake appeared, Adam put aside what he was doing.  Their conversations ranged over a wide variety of topics.  Blake, like most young men his age, had opinions on everything.  But he wasn't closed-minded.  He was eager to engage in discussions, even arguments, with Adam.  But he had a logical mind and he understood about the importance of evidence to substantiate a position.

They talked about literature as well.  One evening Adam asked about the novel Blake had written and then thrown away.

"Did you really throw the manuscript over the side of the boat?"

Blake grinned.  "No, that was a metaphorical statement.  But the last night out of port I did delete the whole fuckin' mess from my laptop."

"As I recall," Adam said, grinning back, "you said you did that because it was `crap'."  


"Have you tried writing anything else?"


"Okay, Gary Cooper, want to explain why?"

"Who's Gary Cooper?"

"Aha!  Finally I've found out something you don't know that I do just because I'm older."

"Please don't play the age card, Adam.  You know that pisses me off.  So who is this Cooper guy?"

"Major movie star in the 40's and 50's.  Known for being taciturn.  Said `yup' a lot."

"Oh.  So where were we?"

"You were about to explain to me whether you had renounced writing fiction forever."

"I dunno.  I just think I need to do some more living.  And I don't want the subject to be ME in upper-case letters.  I wouldn't even necessarily write about being gay.  God knows there's enough of that sort of stuff on line.  When or if I'm ready, I'll try it again."

"When I can get to the bookstore," Adam said, "I'll grab a copy of Ben Moss's novel.  I think it's called Picking up the Pace.  Let's both read it and then we can talk about it.  Maybe you'll find something in that book to reawaken your own writing urges."

"Cool.  I'll get the book tomorrow.  After all, I know where the bookstore is.  Or did you mean you'd buy it from your friend in Ann Arbor?"

"No, Tony sells old and rare books.  But the CSU bookstore would have Moss's book."

That night in bed it occurred to Adam that their agreement to read and discuss the book presupposed they'd be getting together after Blake had returned to his own apartment.  And that implied some sort of on-going after-hours contact.  Well, no harm.  Blake was an engaging companion.

Adam had, of course called his parents to let them know about the accident.  When his mother demanded it, Adam let her speak to Blake, who calmly reassured her that her son would be fine, that he would see to his needs.  When Adam talked with his mother after she'd spoken with Blake, she seemed not only relieved but captivated.  

"He seems like such a competent young man.  And you say he's only a student?"

"Yes, Mom.  But don't get the wrong idea.  He's a bit older and much more mature than the average undergrad."

Celia Craig had wanted to come to Colby to look after Adam, but after talking with Blake, she said she'd only come if Adam needed her.  He'd promised to call again soon and begged her not to worry about him.

He'd also called Tim and Max.  After all, they could at least have expected a thank-you email for hosting him that weekend.  He talked with them both, and both expressed their concern.  

At the end of their conversation, Max said, "Tim, I'll keep you in my prayers."

"Thanks, Max.  I think I'm going to be fine.  He must have been watching over me Sunday on the Turnpike.  But I'll take all the prayers I can get."

They agreed that some weekend when Max could be relieved of duty he and Tim would come to Colby.

Tony called every evening.  Blake seemed to thaw a little in his attitude toward the supposed lover who hadn't bothered to come to Colby to check out his prospective partner.


#          #          #

Adam said firmly that on Monday he was going to meet his classes.  He'd promised Dr. Kasmaryk that he would.  Blake wasn't sure he was ready to go back, but Adam insisted.

Tony announced that he was coming on Sunday and that he'd stop somewhere and bring food with him so Blake wouldn't have to cook.  

Saturday Adam insisted that Blake was excused for the evening.

"After all," he said, smiling, "this is your night to cruise at Nellie's."

"Why would I want to cruise at Nellie's when I can spend an evening with you?"

Ignoring the hitch in his breath, Adam replied, "For one thing, you've been cooped up here with me all week.  I'd think you'd want a change of venue.  For another, there's no chance of sex here."

"You just don't understand, do you?  I'd rather be here with you without sex than pick up some dude at Nellie's, take him back to my place, and get my rocks off."

"Look, Blake, I'm sorry.  I just don't know what else to say.  You've been so great this week.  I wish I could . . . ."

With what looked like a forced smile, Blake said, "Let's make some popcorn after a while and watch those great old Brit comedies on PBS."


#          #          #

Sunday morning Adam insisted on dressing himself as a kind of practice for the next day.  With some pain and muttered curses, he managed everything.  But he wore a pair of loafers, since there was still no way he was going to be able to tie his shoe laces.

Blake offered to be gone before Tony got there, but Adam asked him to stick around.

"Look, I want Tony to meet the guy who's saved my ass this week.  I've been telling him each night how great you've been.  He's eager to meet you.  Besides, I want you to know him.  Maybe when you meet him you'll see he doesn't have horns."

"Adam!  I never said that!  Okay, I'll admit I'm jealous.  But if you think you love him, then, great."

Adam gave Blake a one-armed hug.  "You know I love you, don't you?  I couldn't have gotten through this week without everything you've done. I'll try to make it up to you somehow when I'm able."

"Adam . . ."  Blake seemed to choke.  "You don't have to make anything up to me."  He swallowed.  "Okay, I'll stay and meet him.  Then I'm gonna take off.  But you call me when he's gone `cause I'm coming back."

"You don't need to do that.  I told you, I'm going to class tomorrow."

"Right!  And what if you have trouble getting ready?  For that matter, how are you gonna get there?  You don't have a car."

"Shit!  I hadn't thought of that."  He took a deep breath and winced.  It had been a week since the accident, and he was much better.  But he reminded himself not to do that again for a while.  "Guess I'll have to ask you for a ride to campus tomorrow morning.   I'll call the insurance guy from work and insist they get me a rental or something until the check comes through."

Blake grinned.  "Can I go car shopping with you?"

"Sure, if you want to.  But why would you want to do that?"

"To make sure you don't buy something stupid.  Like another toy car."

Just then the doorbell chimed.

When Blake opened the door, there stood Tony, his arms full of bags from KFC.

"I've brought Sunday dinner and supper for the three of us," he said, smiling.

"Hi, Mr. Lucarno.  I'm Blake.  Let me have that stuff.  I'll take it to the kitchen."

Tony handed over the food and then turned to Adam.

"My God!"


"Your hair.  Or lack of it.  You told me you'd been cut on the scalp and said something about a fright wig."

Adam chuckled.  "Yeah, it looked really weird until Blake used the clippers on me."

"Except for the bandage it looks sexy."

Adam was about to disagree, but then Blake came back into the room to shake hands with Tony, who insisted the young man call him by his first name.

"Well, I guess I'll run along."

"Seriously, Blake, I brought along tons of fried chicken, cole slaw, and mashed potatoes.  Adam and I will be happy to share."

"Thanks, but I'll let you two catch up.  Adam, I'll probably be late getting back, but if you need help getting ready for bed and I'm not here, call me."

Adam understood that Blake was leaving the two of them alone in case they were going to essay some sort of sexual activity.  Was he also reminding Tony he'd be there after Tony had left?

"I won't be here late, Blake.  I want to get home before the weather changes."

"Is there a front coming through or something?"

"Not that I know of, but here the weather can change for the worst at any moment."

Blake chuckled and added, "And it usually does."  He paused with his hand on the door and said, "There's a bottle of white wine in the fridge. Should go well with the Colonel's chicken."

When Blake was gone, Tony put his arms very gently around Adam.  "Does this hurt?"

"Not if you don't squeeze any harder than that."

"Good!  So let's have a kiss.  I've missed you."

After the kiss they sat and chatted.  To begin with, Tony wanted to get a first-hand account of the accident and the hospital experience.  Then he wanted to know all about Adam's visit with Tim and Max.

When his stomach growled loudly, Adam suggested they should eat.  With Tony doing most of the work, they got the food dished up and on the table.  Using his right hand first to open the refrigerator and then to get the wine, Adam handed the bottle to Tony.  

"There's a corkscrew in that drawer, but you'll have to do the honors."

Adam remembered to ask Tony about the previous evening's performance of Ruddigore.  Tony spent a while enthusiastically describing the production.

"You make me really sorry I wasn't able to go with you.  Did you find someone else to use my ticket?"

"Yeah, Teddy went along with me."

"Oh, good."

"You know, UMGASS does two productions a year, fall and spring.  You definitely have to come up for the spring show."

"It's a date!"

A while later, as he put down a cleanly-picked chicken bone, Tony asked, "Did Timothy Mead have any suggestions about Vivian Clay?"

"Oh, yeah, I meant to mention that.  He's going to ask around . . . you know, email people he knows in our field.  He said he'd send me a list of those he'd contacted so I wouldn't email them too.  But he suggested I make my own list and send out queries.  I haven't done that yet, though. With only one hand, I've not been able to use the computer much.  Blake has done some necessary emailing, but I didn't want to turn him into my secretary along with his being my nurse."

"A damned good-looking nurse.  Or secretary.  Or whatever."

Adam wasn't sure whether he detected a note of jealousy in Tony's comment or not.  And then he wondered just how much Tony would be justified in being jealous.

"I don't know what I would have done without him this week."

"I can understand that."  Tony took a sip of wine, set the glass down, and continued.  "I brought up Mead and the inscription because there's maybe a glimmer of a lead."

"Oh?" Adam said, excited at the possibility.

Tony nodded.  "Uh huh.  Alice was talking with Arch Treadway in the shop this week.  You remember Arch, don't you?  You met him the morning after Thanksgiving."

"Yes.  It was good to meet a man whose books I've read and admired.  But get to the point.  What about Arch and Alice?"

"Well, Alice mentioned the inscription and our curiosity about it and all."

"Yeah," Adam said, willing Tony to get to the point.

"At some point in their conversation she mentioned that the copy of Stranger had come from the estate of Vivian Clay."


"And Arch said he couldn't be sure exactly where, but he thought he'd seen that name mentioned in something he'd read recently."

"Did she ask him to check it out?"

"Sure.  But he said he just couldn't remember.  He reads all the time.  He promised if it came to him he'd let us know."

"Great!  Maybe you could subtly keep after him."

"Well, the thing is, at Arch's age his memory is something of a problem."

All Adam could utter was a dispirited "Oh."

To Be Continued.

Thanks, as always, to Drew, Tinn, and Mickey. 

Emails encouraged at   If you do write, please put the title of the story in the subject line so I'll know it isn't spam.  Thanks. 

Oh, and would you consider sending a contribution to the Nifty Archive?  What would we do without it?   --Tim