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We've Been Trying to Reach You

by Carl Tait

“Sorry we keep missing each other,” Stan typed.
He paused to check the name from his original email.
“Sorry we keep missing each other, Fred.” He smiled. He was sure the ersatz personal touch increased his chances of success. The recipient of his missive probably received many such emails every day, and not just “Compliments of the day” scams from self-styled barristers in distant lands.
“I wanted to continue our conversation about the value that Palabaxio can add to your business,” Stan typed. “Our paradigm-shifting technology can grow your company to the next level.”
A purist might argue that it would be difficult to continue a conversation that had never begun, but Stan was unconcerned. He continued to type, cutting-and-pasting from his file of generic text for the portions that were mindless boilerplate.
“Hope we can catch up soon! Sincerely, Stan Pershing, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Palabaxio.”
Senior Vice President, he thought. Also Junior Vice President and Assistant Typist. Stan was Palabaxio’s entire marketing department. The whole company was a dozen people, and Stan was in charge of attracting new clients. His chummy approach had produced a number of new contacts, though he suspected that at least a few of them wrote back with amused curiosity rather than a serious intent to do business.
He opened the email at the top of his inbox.
“I do not know you and we have never spoken,” the email said. “Please remove me from your mailing list immediately.”
Stan chuckled and copied the sender’s email address into his list of confirmed active contacts. Palabaxio routinely sold its list of live addresses to other marketers to generate additional revenue.
He took a sip of his coffee and grimaced. Cheap, bitter stuff. Bridget, the office manager, said they had to keep expenses down until Palabaxio took off. Mr. Please-Remove-Me’s email was a few more coins in the piggy bank for better coffee.
A new email popped up and Stan opened it with low expectations.
“Stan!” it began. “My God, what a wonderful surprise. It’s great to hear from you.”
Stan’s head jerked back reflexively. His necktie tightened around his throat.
“So many terrific memories. All those happy times at Fillmore High. You were such a good friend and I don’t know if I’ve ever told you how much I appreciated your many kindnesses.”
What kindnesses? Who was this person?
“Anyway, I’d love to catch up with you, and to hear more about Palabaxio. Glad to see that we both ended up at companies in Atlanta! Cheers from your old buddy (ha ha), Buddy Martindale.”
The name was entirely unfamiliar. Not even a vague stirring of memory; a complete cipher. But Stan had indeed attended Fillmore High School, and Buddy obviously remembered him well and fondly.
Awkward? Yes. Potentially lucrative? An even bigger yes.
“Stan?” queried a voice. He swiveled in his desk chair to face the speaker.
Bridget’s round face looked down at him. “I’m heading out now, so you’re the last one in the office. Please lock up when you go. And remember that the bags of snacks are for employees to eat while they’re here at their desks.”
Stan nodded while self-consciously readjusting his jacket. Bridget had caught him taking home a couple of bags of chips and had not been happy. Okay, maybe it was half a dozen bags, or eight. Stan felt no remorse, though he did regret he couldn’t do it anymore.
As Bridget departed, Stan glanced at the time in the corner of his computer screen. Already 5:30. His response to Buddy would require some thought and could wait until the next day.
Stan tore open a bag of Doritos and made sure he finished every one before leaving.

Back at his apartment, Stan pulled down his old high-school yearbooks. He had been a football star, as far as stardom went at Fillmore High School in the suburbs of Atlanta. To his credit, Stan tried not to waste time replaying his favorite touchdowns in his mind. He was more interested in moving forward as an adult, earning fame in the marketing world.
Stan smiled at the school photos from fifteen years earlier, feeling the same distant nostalgia he experienced when looking at historical photos from another era. That was him in those photos, but it wasn’t. He hadn’t even come out at that point. He was a talented teenager burdened with unrealistic expectations.
He flipped through his senior yearbook, looking at photos of the graduating class. Near the start of the M’s, Stan found his target.
Buddy Martindale stared up at him from behind heavy glasses, an inane and pitiful smile held bravely in place while the camera flashed.
Oh, yeah. That guy.
Buddy had not been Stan’s friend and barely counted as an acquaintance. They had shared a class or two; no more. Weird guy. He’d been bullied a lot by the school’s jackasses. Stan hadn’t tormented him because he never bullied anyone. Could Buddy have mistaken his simple, matter-of-fact cordiality for friendship?
Stan suddenly felt a lot less comfortable using the nonexistent friendship as a lever for a business relationship. He made an effort to ignore his conscience.
“Hey, do we have any more of that pinot noir?” called a voice from the kitchen.
“Coming, David,” Stan called back. He closed the yearbook and tucked it under his arm as he walked quickly through the narrow hallway. The corner of the book snagged a wedding photo and he stopped to straighten it, pausing to admire his husband’s radiant blue eyes.
As Stan entered the kitchen, he pointed to a lower cabinet. “I think there’s one more bottle under there.”
David bent down to open the door. He pushed aside a couple of baking pans with a clatter and retrieved the wine bottle, waving it in triumph.
“You know everything,” he laughed. “And you’re looking pretty smug about it.”
Stan returned the cheerful laugh. “Glad you got your beloved wine, but I’m happy about something else. I have a great lead on a new client, but it’s kind of odd.”
“In what way?”
“I went to high school with the guy.”
David’s smile remained in place, but Stan could see that some effort was involved.
“And this was a good friend, or …”
“That’s the strange part. I barely remember him, but he thinks of me as one of his best friends. Here, take a look.”
Stan opened the yearbook to Buddy’s photo.
“Oh, God,” said David.
“Be nice. He wasn’t a bad guy, from the little I remember. And now he works for a tech company around here that might become a Palabaxio customer.”
David was silent for a moment before speaking.
“And you plan to leverage this half-remembered friendship …”
“It wasn’t a friendship.”
“Well, you said it was, from his side. You were a superstar jock and this painfully nerdy guy looked up to you.”
“And it doesn’t make you uncomfortable to take advantage of that?”
“I’m not taking advantage of anyone. I’m using whatever edge I have to make a sale. You have to go out and fight for what you want.”
“You say that a lot.”
“Well, it’s true. I heard it in a motivational talk years ago, when I still thought I was going to be playing football for Georgia or Alabama or LSU.”
David toyed with the top of the wine bottle.
“We’ve been through this before,” he said. “LSU isn’t everything.” David knew nothing about football and kept thinking that LSU stood for La Salle University.
“Well, it certainly wasn’t an option after I blew out my knee.”
Stan’s fingers clutched the countertop. The tips had turned white from the pressure.
David put his hand over Stan’s clawed fingers and caressed them.
“You’re doing fine. You have your job and I have my realty business and we have each other. Just promise me you won’t treat this guy badly. He looks sad enough already.”
Stan’s hand relaxed. “I promise,” he said.

Hey, Buddy!
What a pleasure to touch base with you after all these years. Great times we had at Fillmore High, right? I’m thrilled you’re interested in Palabaxio. Frankly, it’s game-changing infrastructure that can give MLCYR the boost it needs to be the next major disruptor.
Give me a holler with more details of when we can talk. Looking forward to it!
Fillmore forever,

Stan had wanted to close with “Your best buddy,” but he remembered his promise to David and downgraded the language to an anodyne cheer. He wondered whether that would be enough to generate an enthusiastic response.
It was. Buddy wrote back within fifteen minutes.

Stan, it’s great to hear that you’re associated with such an outstanding product. I can’t say I’m surprised. You were always the guy in school that everyone looked up to.
By cc: on this email, I’m putting you in touch with Montague Chatsworth, our CTO. Note to Montague: Stan is the guy I was telling you about. I can vouch for him as a straight shooter who will tell you whatever you need to know about Palabaxio.
Your friend,

“Stan, you sound delighted, but please try to hold down your laughter. It disturbs the other employees.”
Stan caught his breath. “I’m sorry, Bridget. I’ve got a hot new lead who is beyond credulous. And he just put me in touch with his boss, Montague Chatsworth. Sounds like a rejected character from an Agatha Christie novel.”
“We never make fun of our customers.”
“I’m not laughing at him; I’m laughing at his name. But I see your point.”
Bridget squinted her eyes in disapproval before returning to her work. Stan fiddled nervously with his necktie and shifted in his uncomfortable jacket.
Mr. Chatsworth’s follow-up email arrived an hour later. It lacked the gee-whiz ebullience of Buddy’s communications, but the message was encouraging. The CTO wanted to meet with Stan at MLCYR’s offices that day at noon, if possible. He apologized for the short notice, but said that Buddy’s enthusiasm was hard to resist.
“Thank you, old pal,” thought Stan.
He left a phone message for David relaying the good news, then made his way to the parking lot. He took off his jacket before entering the baking heat of his car, fantasizing about the day when he would be rich enough to dispense with jackets and ties forever.

Something was wrong at MLCYR.
Stan saw the thick black smoke as he pulled up to the office building. A number of people were standing out front, fanning the smoke away from themselves while coughing.
Stan parked well away from the entrance and walked up to the commotion. He heard the monotonous, pulsing drone of a fire alarm inside the building.
“What happened?” he asked an overweight woman with a sweaty face and sharp eyes.
“I don’t know exactly,” she answered. “There was a lot of smoke and the alarm went off. We got out fast. You don’t ask questions when you’re about to get broiled like a chicken.”
“Do you work for MLCYR?”
“No, I’m with Vassos/Maclaurin. This is a big building with a lot of different businesses.”
Stan looked at the tired five-story structure, with its garish white façade and faux-modern rounded corners that already looked dated. He could imagine David’s laughter on hearing it described as a “big building.”
A distinguished-looking man with curly hair and a large beard stepped forward. “Excuse me, did I hear you mention MLCYR?”
“Yes,” Stan answered.
The man smiled, his lips barely visible in the depths of his beard. “I’m Montague Chatsworth. Are you Stan Pershing?” The deep, professorial voice with the British accent was as impressive as the facial hair.
“I am indeed. I’m very pleased to meet you.”
The men shook hands. Stan couldn’t take his eyes off Montague’s face. It reminded him of a guy on one of David’s classical records. Chopin? No, Brahms. That German dude with the massive beard.
A fire engine turned into the parking lot, its siren adding to the din.
Montague sighed. “Look, I really want to discuss business with you, but we’re going to be locked out of the building for a while. Let’s have a working lunch, courtesy of MLCYR. There’s a good restaurant a mile down the road.”
Free lunch, Stan thought. This gets better all the time.
“My car is in back,” Chatsworth continued. “Let’s go.”
They walked behind the smoky building. As they approached the car, Stan began to remove his jacket, then stopped. He was on duty and was expected to wear the traditional uniform.
Montague noticed Stan’s hesitation and laughed.
“For heaven’s sake, it’s too hot to wear your jacket in the car. Take it off.”
Stan removed his jacket with relief. He and his client sat down in the car and closed the doors.
“I’m sure you’ll love this place,” Montague said. “It’s one of my favorites.”
Stan fastened his seat belt across his grumbling stomach and looked forward to lunch.


“This is Stan. You can leave a message after …”
David hung up. He’d already left a message. His husband usually returned calls with enthusiasm, eager to relay his latest accomplishments in marketing. He must still be in meetings with his new client, MNXYZ or whatever, David thought. He consulted the scrap of paper on which he had transcribed Stan’s lunchtime voicemail. The company’s actual name was MLCYR; a different but equally unappealing jumble of letters.
He glanced at his watch. It was almost five o’clock and they had a prime Friday-evening dinner reservation at six. He shook his head and decided to call the office.
“Palabaxio. How may I help you?” Bridget’s tone was less hard-edged on the phone than in person.
“Hi, I’m looking for Stan Pershing.”
“Mr. Pershing is away in meetings with a customer today. I do not know when or if he will be back in the office.”
“I haven’t been able to reach him on his phone. Could you tell me how to get in touch with him at the client?”
“I’m sorry, but our client information is strictly confidential.”
David offered silent thanks that he had not mentioned the company whose name he wasn’t supposed to know. He ended the call politely, masking his irritation and his disquiet. He retrieved a snack-size bag of Fritos from the stockpile in the kitchen and munched on them thoughtfully.
Stan had mentioned that MLCYR was in the vicinity. Where was it? David typed the unwieldy name into a search engine, which led him to the company’s website. He scrolled to the bottom of the boring and generic home page, where the street address was displayed in small, low-contrast text.
He nodded. About a ten-minute drive. David headed for his car.
He arrived at the office building on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and took in its ugliness with disbelieving awe. The parking lot was half empty and he slid into a narrow space near the front entrance.
David walked into the lobby. A bald man with several extra chins guarded the front desk. Pinned to the pocket of his voluminous white shirt was a lopsided rectangle of black plastic that proclaimed his name was Hal.
“Can I help you?” Hal asked in a beleaguered tone.
“I hope so,” answered David. “Could you point me to the offices of MLCYR?”
“MLCYR. They’re a tech company with offices at this address.”
“No, they aren’t. I mean maybe they are, but not here.”
David parsed Hal’s reply with some difficulty and rephrased his question.
“Are you saying that MLCYR does not have offices in this building?”
“I am saying that, and I did say that. Weren’t you listening the first time?”
David turned to look at the building directory posted on one wall.
Hal let out a wheezy laugh. “You can memorize that whole board and recite it to your mama, but it’s not gonna have that ML-whatchamazoola on it.”
David felt his face reddening. “I’m sorry to have bothered you,” he said as he turned and left.
His heels clicked with anger on the hot concrete as he returned to the parking lot. Nothing made sense. As he approached his car, he looked up and gaped. One puzzle piece fell into place with a thud.
On the other side of the lot was Stan’s car.
David ran across the pavement to check. Blue Honda. Correct license plate. A couple of sports magazines on the floor in the back seat.
Another conversation with Hal was in order. David walked back to the front desk and the surly clerk glanced up with a what-now look.
“Excuse me, but I see that my husband’s car is still in the parking lot.”
“Well, he better move it. We don’t allow overnight parking.”
“No, you don’t understand. He came here to meet with people at MLCYR.”
“Then he was out of luck, just like you were.”
David pulled out his phone and brought up a photo.
“This is Stan. Have you seen him today?”
Hal looked at the photo without interest and shrugged.
“I don’t think so, but I dunno. This afternoon was a mess, what with all the smoke and alarms and fire engines.”
“Smoke. Alarms. Fire engines. Why are you bothering me?”
David drew a deep breath, clenching and relaxing his fingers.
“Look, I’m not trying to be difficult. I don’t know where my husband is and I’m trying to figure out what happened.”
Hal’s face softened.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were trying to find someone. I have to deal with way too many jerks every day, and it doesn’t work wonders on my good humor. When you started asking about that crazy company, I thought you were either a prankster or an idiot and I didn’t care which.”
“Tell me about the fire.”
“Turns out there wasn’t one. Some joker decided it would be hilarious to put smoke bombs in potted plants and trash cans on the first floor. Looked like a fire, so somebody pulled the fire alarm and everyone skedaddled out of the building.”
“No one was hurt, I hope.”
“Oh, no. Just made my mood even worse than usual.” Another wheezy laugh.
“Thanks for your help, Hal.”
“Good luck finding … Stan, that was his name?”
“Yes.” David was oddly touched that Hal remembered.
“Okay. Good luck finding Stan. Hope you run into people less cranky than I am.”

Stan was dreaming.
He was seated in the car with Montague, who was rummaging in the storage compartment of his door. The heat was intense but Stan was happy to be on the verge of a big sale. His hated jacket was carelessly folded on his lap. He thought it might burst into flames and disintegrate, and that made him even happier.
Montague looked up, his eyes bulging. His mouth opened in silent terror as he pointed to Stan’s window. Stan turned his head in slow motion, through the waves of heat and lethargy. He was so tired. He saw nothing. Nothing but a little smoke from the office building.
Then he felt a sting.
His head spun back slowly and he saw Montague withdrawing a needle from his bare upper arm.
Then came the sleep, and the dreams.
No, not dreams. Memories.
And fatigue. Profound fatigue. He had to fight it. He imagined himself charging down the football field toward the goalposts where his consciousness lay.
Touchdown. He opened his gluey eyes with effort.
Was this another dream? He was looking at a photo of himself from his senior yearbook, taken the night he’d led the team to the division championship. Grinning, sweaty, exultant. He hadn’t remembered the picture had been so large.
Too large. This couldn’t be his yearbook.
Now fully awake, Stan realized he was staring at a blow-up poster of his football photo. He tried to lift his hands to rub his eyes but discovered that his wrists were secured to the chair with padded strips of reinforced cloth.
“Ah, you’re coming out of it,” a deep voice said. “Welcome.”
Stan looked to his left and saw Montague Chatsworth, who was grinning through his Brahmsian beard.
“What’s going on? Why am I here? Let me go!”
Montague lifted a hand to his mop of curly hair and yanked. Plop. The wig collapsed in his hand like a strange dead creature and Stan saw the flat, oily hair that had been concealed underneath.
Chatsworth’s hands moved to his beard and pulled dramatically.
“Ow! This was supposed to come off without hurting.”
The voice was much higher now. The cultured British baritone was gone.
One more tug and the beard tore off, revealing a pale and hairless face.
Stan spoke with horror. “Buddy Martindale.”
“Of course it’s me!” Buddy laughed. “I got contact lenses! How have you been, Stan? Actually, I already know. I’ve been a fan of yours since high school and I’ve always followed your activities with interest.”
Stan surveyed the walls of the room with fascinated revulsion. There were numerous enlarged photos of him from different yearbooks. Blow-ups of newspaper articles about his football triumphs. Large green pennants from Fillmore High School. There was even one of his old football jerseys tacked to the wall.
Below the high-school assemblage were photos and articles of more recent vintage. Stan read the headline of one enlarged press release with a start: “Stan Pershing Named Senior Vice President of Marketing at Palabaxio.” Worst of all was his wedding photo—or, more precisely, half of his wedding photo. The portion with David had been carefully trimmed off.
“You’re a stalker.”
“That’s a mean way of putting it.”
“Mean but accurate. You’ve built this weird shrine with me as the centerpiece.”
Buddy’s eyes flashed.
“Not weird. Entirely appropriate because I love you. Oh, gosh, I didn’t mean to blurt that out so soon.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything. When I found out you were gay, I cried with joy. I knew we were meant to be together. And I remembered what the motivational speaker at Fillmore said: you have to go out and fight for what you want.”
“I don’t think he was talking about stalking and kidnapping.”
“I’m sure he was aware that true love knows no boundaries.”
Stan was struggling to find some rationality amid the obsession and insanity.
“So what is MLCYR? Is the whole thing a fraud?”
“Yep. I picked a random combination of letters that no one else was using, bought the domain, and set up a basic webpage full of vacuous buzzwords. I added the address of that office building in case you checked.”
“The office is a fake, too?”
Buddy smirked. “If you plant a few smoke bombs in a building, it’s easy to pretend you have offices there. ‘We’ll have to continue our conversation elsewhere.’ Sounds like a line from one of your emails.”
Stan was puzzled. “But those emails lead right back to you. How are you going to explain having a job in an office that doesn’t exist?”
Buddy’s laughter filled the room. “What office? I work from home! I started the job a few weeks ago, after a video interview with that pleasant Mr. Chatsworth. I haven’t gotten my first paycheck yet, so there’s no money to trace. I’m baffled about the nonexistent office and so sorry to hear that my old friend Stan is missing.”
“What’s with the Montague role-playing?”
“Any company interested in buying Palabaxio would have more than one employee. That’s obvious. I watched some YouTube videos on faking a British accent and bought the wig and beard online.” He shifted into his Montague voice. “And I practiced talking like this.”
Stan saw another reason with bright clarity.
“And you knew I’d never get in a car with creepy Buddy Martindale and go on a lunch date with him.”
The ferocity of Buddy’s slap startled him.
“You can be very unkind, Stan. Please don’t say anything like that ever again.”
Buddy’s voice was eerily calm, making the underlying menace even more alarming. Stan tried to ignore his burning cheek as he returned the conversation to simple facts.
“So why didn’t you just come to Palabaxio and say you were interested?”
Buddy chuckled softly. “Do you really not understand your own psychology any better than that? You have to win. The triumph must be entirely yours. You don’t want a fish to jump into your pail. You want to reel it in, enjoying the struggle.”
Stan was dumbfounded. David had told him much the same thing during an argument.
“But how did you know I would send you a Palabaxio email?”
Buddy laughed. “I know you marketing people sell each other your email lists. I posted comments all over the internet using my MLCYR email, mentioning I was a tech guy. I answered every spammer who wrote to me. Two weeks later, you sent me an email.”
For the first time, Stan found something to admire about Buddy.
“That’s brilliant. I really mean that.”
Buddy’s grin was incandescent. “Thank you, Stan.”
“So let’s go out and talk about it over dinner, and we’ll forget the rest of what happened today.”
Buddy closed his eyes.
“Stan, I have no desire to keep you here against your will, but you need to give our relationship a chance. If it really doesn’t work out, I promise I’ll let you go.”
“How long might that take?”
“I don’t know. We’ll see. Right now, I’m going to make us dinner.”
He turned away, then paused at the door.
“Oh, don’t bother screaming for help. I soundproofed the room.”

Seven o’clock. Still no Stan.
David had tried to scavenge more information about MLCYR from the internet, but was disconcerted to find that very little was available, other than the company’s maddeningly vague website. What was going on with this elusive organization?
Another thought occurred to him. How about Stan’s sort-of friend, the nerdy classmate who had been his initial contact at the company? Maybe that guy could offer some useful information.
David retrieved Stan’s heavy green yearbook from the kitchen table and flipped through the photos of the senior class. Buddy’s desperate grin was easy to find and David made a note of his name. Some quick internet searching turned up Buddy’s address and phone number. David punched the number into his smartphone and was disappointed when a recorded voice told him the number was no longer in service. Yet another disconnected landline phone, he thought.
Was the address still correct? Other search results confirmed that it probably was. The house was less than twenty minutes away. With no other leads to follow, David headed for his car.
Buddy’s house turned out to be a modest one-story affair. Faint glimmers of light were visible around the tightly drawn curtains in the front room. David parked in the street and walked to the unassuming front door. He pressed the buzzer and heard pleasant old-fashioned chimes inside.
At the far end of the hallway, in the room where Stan was being held, Buddy saw the red light flash.
“I’m sorry, Stan,” he said. “I’ll feed you the rest of the tomato soup later. Right now, I’m afraid I have to do something you won’t like.”
Buddy opened a drawer and pulled out an elaborate gag. He pushed it into Stan’s mouth and fastened it tightly behind his head. Stan’s eyes blazed as he made muffled noises through the gag.
As Buddy left the room, he closed the door firmly behind him. He composed himself and walked down the hall to the front door. When he looked through the peephole, he gasped.
No. Not him. I must stay in control.
Buddy swung the door open with a smile.
“Good evening. What can I do for you?”
“Hey, I’m sorry to be bothering you. I’m David Baldwin. I believe you know my husband, Stan Pershing.”
The skin under Buddy’s left eye twitched.
“Yes. Yes, I do. We went to high school together.”
“I understand your company was considering a business deal with him.”
“I think so, but I’m not sure. I put him in touch with our management team and I don’t know what came of it.”
Buddy’s eye continued to twitch, though he seemed to be unaware of it. His left fingers tapped rapidly against his thigh.
Something is very wrong here, David thought. He decided to press on with an outright lie.
“Stan speaks very highly of you. He said you were one of his best friends at Fillmore.”
The eye twitch stopped. The ghastly forced smile dissolved into an expression of pure happiness.
Okay, hypothesis confirmed, thought David. This weirdo has a crush on Stan.
Back in the sealed room, Stan was pleasantly surprised he could hear the murmur of conversation at the front door. He couldn’t identify individual words or voices, but he could hear enough to convince him that Buddy’s soundproofing was inadequate.
Stan began to rock violently in his chair. He imagined himself thundering through opposing players on the football field. More. More. Almost there.
The chair fell on its side with a shuddering thud. The impact jarred the gag loose from Stan’s mouth.
At the front door, David jumped.
“What the hell was that?” he asked.
Buddy had gone pale. “I think the cat must have knocked something over.”
Faint cries for help floated down the hall. “That’s no cat,” David said.
“Yes it is. Yes it is,” said Buddy. His hand slipped into his pocket and withdrew a small black cylinder. He raised his arm.
David reacted instinctively, whacking Buddy’s arm to one side. A cloud of pepper spray painted a harmless blotch on the door.
Buddy screamed in anger and frustration. David punched him in the face and he slumped to the floor.
The cries for help continued.
David took off his belt and tied Buddy’s hands behind his back. He used Buddy’s own belt to secure his feet. Standing up, he pulled out his phone and punched in 911 before running down the hall.
He flung open the door to the shrine and locked eyes with his husband.
“I had to go out and fight for what I wanted,” David said.


Carl Tait is a software engineer, classical pianist, and writer. His work has appeared in After Dinner Conversation (Pushcart Prize nominee), Mystery Magazine (cover story), the Eunoia Review, the Literary Hatchet, the Saturday Evening Post, and others. He also has a story in Close to Midnight, a horror anthology from Flame Tree Press. Carl grew up in Atlanta and currently lives in New York City with his wife and twin daughters. For more information, visit


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