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Authors: Joel Skelton

Beneath the Palisade

BOOK: Beneath the Palisade
4.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Published by

Dreamspinner Press

382 NE 191st Street #88329

Miami, FL 33179-3899, USA

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

Beneath the Palisade: Reliance
Copyright © 2012 by Joel Skelton

Cover Art by Catt Ford

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 the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 382 NE 191st Street #88329, Miami, FL 33179-3899, USA

ISBN: 978-1-61372-403-3

Printed in the United States of America
First Edition
March 2012

eBook edition available

eBook ISBN: 978-1-61372-404-0

This book is dedicated to young Martin Andrews, who somehow found the courage to ask the love of his life, handsome Calvin Medford, to his senior prom. This book is also dedicated to Martin’s parents, Joyce and Ken, who thought nothing of it.

like to thank Willie Larson and the helpful staff of Hennepin County Medical Center for the wonderful input and advice I received. HCMC rocks!

Thanks to Kristopher Krentz (aka Str8 Cat) for his insightful scene input and character embellishment.

Mucho thanks to my eagle-eyed beta readers: Ann Hinnenkamp, James (aka Pearle) Gunderson, and Jennifer Hutchins—their helpful notes and suggestions were invaluable.

A special thank you to Jennifer Hutchins, who tackled the bulk of the research for this book. It was a collaboration I will cherish forever.

A hug to my partner, Patrick (aka “P”) for extending the leash. You are and always will be the sparkle in my life.


Chapter 1


Why the hell did I ever let myself get talked into this?

Looking into the warm spring morning sunlight, Ian Burke sucked in a deep breath and pushed the flatbed cart down the narrow asphalt path toward his mark, a small square of silver duct tape.


“Are you kiddin’ me? Whattaya mean, cut? I was just startin’ out.” Frustrated, he looked over to Andy, his director, for an explanation. “I mean, come on, give me a break.”

“You have to be aware of your body language at all times, Ian.” Andy took his directing responsibility seriously. “You look like you’re just going through the motions. Smile, look enthused, and don’t be afraid to shake your booty as you head toward your mark. Remember, women and gay dudes are your audience. They garden.”

Andy, his best friend dating back to grade school, owned the South Minneapolis garden center Jungle Gems providing the backdrop for the commercial they were shooting. Ian was, for all practical purposes, Andy’s business partner. While Andy concentrated on the day-to-day operations, Ian focused on the landscaping end of the business. Over the last few years, Ian’s workload had steadily grown, to the point where it was now possible for him to branch out and form his own company, Burke Landscaping.

“You want to generate business, right?” Andy paused, forcing Ian to cough up his “you’re right” look. “Trust me, the perfect arborvitae ain’t gonna do it. You have a hot ass, so use it. Doesn’t he have a hot ass, Spencer?”

“Your ass is so hot it makes me want to be gay, dude. I mean, if I could go there, your ass would be the reason. Totally, I wouldn’t just say it if it wasn’t the truth. Allison commented on your ass the other day when she was helping me pick out jeans. ‘I think these make your butt look hot like Ian’s.’ That’s exactly what she said to me.”

Ian rolled his eyes and shook his head. Spencer, a friend he and Andy had both known for years playing baseball together, was their official, highly enthusiastic straight ambassador for all things related to, as Spencer loved to refer to gays, “your people.” An ex-film school student, Spencer eagerly offered his retired camera skills.

What a couple of tools.

Joking aside, he felt blessed. Andy and Spencer wanted nothing more than for his newly launched landscaping business to succeed.

“Action!” Andy shouted after he had returned to his mark. “Lookin’ good. Good… good… don’t rush. Remember you’re looking for the perfect one,” he instructed. “Hey, I caught that little butt wiggle. Sweet. Did you catch that, Spencer?”

“Took my breath away, dude. Seriously.”

Ian glanced to the right as he inched forward, shaking his head, careful to show what he hoped would be the right amount of disappointment on his face.

Oh no, that one won’t do at all. Nope.

“That’s perfect, Ian. Yes! Look forward now, you’re almost there. There it is! You see it, the perfect one. Show us you see the perfect one.”

Well looky there, it’s the perfect one.

This was a good take. He felt confident and in control. An element of frustration along with a strong desire to get this whole thing over with fueled his need to nail this. As he approached his mark, he looked to the left, pushed the cart slightly past the mark, and stopped.

“Perfect. Remember, hands on hips and then flash that smile,” Andy encouraged.

As instructed, he planted his hands on his hips, smiled, reached down, and hauled up a flawless three-foot spiral arborvitae, placing it on the center of the cart. Displaying the required look of satisfaction he’d struggled with in earlier takes, he pushed his prize shrub past the mark to the end of the row.

“Cut! That’s a keeper,” Andy chimed.



in a plush embroidered club chair, Harper Callahan, fresh from his workout at the Y, looked over the low cocktail table and listened. Careful not to display any sign of distaste, he reached for his wineglass and sipped. Confident his face displayed both interest and approval and certain it would be some time before he’d be required to respond, he allowed himself to step out of the conversation.

He was being set up. Before he’d ever sat down in the bar of this ridiculously expensive steakhouse, he had seen the writing on the wall. Along with named partners Duncan Price and Arthur Wabash of McPherson, Price & Wabash, he had worked diligently over the last year to defend Jasper Flynn, the mastermind of one of the most extensive and ugly Ponzi schemes to ever rock the state. Despite their efforts, Jasper had been convicted, and due to the severity of his crime, he was refused bail and jailed on the spot.
We did what we could for you, Jasper.

With plenty of loose ends to clean up on the case, including an appeal likely to go nowhere, he surveyed the room while he waited for Arthur and Duncan to get around to the point of today’s impromptu meeting.

A few tables down, he recognized a guy he’d gone to law school with. The man was surrounded by other men his age. They were laughing and enjoying themselves. He needed to start enjoying himself. How effortlessly he’d cast aside one of his grandfather’s most important lessons—there’s more to life than work. With his thirtieth birthday now history, it was time to reevaluate his priorities.

He had to admit, for the most part, he enjoyed his work. He found the Jasper case fascinating in its scope. The son of a soda distributer had parlayed a business degree from a small local college into arguably the region’s most prestigious brokerage. Caught in the make-it-up-as-you-go investment environment of the last couple of years that had almost brought the entire nation to its knees, fearless in his desire to both please his clients and pad his wealth, Jasper had falsified his investment prowess to a level that garnered national attention. He admitted that during a period of roughly two years, he’d schemed to defraud people by purportedly selling investments in a foreign currency trading program.

Harper glanced back to the table where his classmate sat. The guy’s name escaped him. He was handsome. The years had been kind. Harper looked over long enough to spot the wedding ring on his hand.
You’ve found the balance, my friend, haven’t you?
He probably worked at a vibrant, progressive firm where he felt appreciated and, at the end of the day, came home to a loving spouse and maybe a few adoring kids to keep life lively.

Love—the concept of loving and being loved—had inched up the ladder of priorities recently. He vowed then and there to start hunting for his own special someone.

“Let’s cut to the chase, Harp, my boy.”

He was brought back to the moment upon hearing his name. He hated that both Duncan and Arthur had gotten in the habit of calling him “Harp.” He took it as a sign of disrespect, which it probably was.

“Neither Arthur nor I are ones to beat around the bush.” Duncan leaned forward in his chair. “If you’ve learned one thing in the six years you’ve been with us, it has to be that.”

“What’s on your mind, Duncan?” He could see the bus a mile away.

“We put up a strong fight on Jasper’s behalf. Despite the outcome, we should be proud of our efforts. But unfortunately, we’re not done with this mess. I promised Jasper, and I’m a man of my word, that we would do everything in our power to make sure Phyllis stays on the good side of the law.”

We’d like you to stay focused on Phyllis. Come on, say it. I’m waiting.

“We’d like you to stay focused on Phyllis. Arthur and I will continue to work up the appeal. Harp, she’s going to be a handful no matter how she’s approached, but we think someone with your talent would stand the best chance of keeping her in check. She’s walking a fine line, and I have absolutely no confidence we’re going to be able to keep her out of prison. And that’s fine as long as we can demonstrate to Jasper that we tried. You tried,” Duncan corrected himself, shifting in his chair.

“It’s what we think is best.” Arthur had a habit of adding an unnecessary comment to, if nothing else, prove to the group he was paying attention.

Well, if it’s best for you, then as the rule goes, it’s gotta suck for me. It’s gotta suck for me because you creeps have me by the balls with my partnership so close. I’ll make partner, and when I do, I won’t be doing this dog and pony shit anymore.

Harper sipped his wine and smiled. “Gentlemen, don’t you think I already knew what you were going to tell me? Come on now, what kind of lawyer would I be if I was blindsided by my own teammates?”

Arthur and Duncan reached for their wine at the same time, nodding their heads and chuckling at his frankness.

“I get the situation you’re in. I got it from the start. I’m surprised it’s taken you this long to bring it up.” He held his gaze on the partners, forcing them to look away. “Of course I’ll do it. I’ll be the face of the firm, take a hit for the team.”

BOOK: Beneath the Palisade
4.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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