Just when I thought my character was gone, he’s back.



Same old feeling.

The story’s over.

The feeling isn’t.

I don’t miss writing.

I miss telling the story.

The Muse wandered up as I was writing the final sentence of the final paragraph for Night Side of Dark, which is unusual for me. Most of my paragraphs don’t have more than one sentence.

“Did Lincoln make it out alive?” the Muse asked.

I nodded.

He was talking about the strange man who occupies most of my novels, Ambrose Lincoln.

He’s tormented.

Maybe he’s even demented.

I’m afraid to get close enough to him to find out.

Lincoln’s mind is a vacant landscape.

The government erased it with electrodes and shock treatments.

The government changed him. They may have ruined him.

But still they send him into war-torn Europe to do things that no one talks about, not in public anyway.

Lincoln is secret.

His life is secret.

His mission is secret.

And when it’s over, the government sends him to an out-of-way little hospital that doesn’t exist in an out-of-the-way little town that doesn’t exist and removes what’s left of his mind again.

Who Lincoln was no longer exists either.

He’s a dangerous man and doesn’t know why.

“How many novels have you written about Lincoln?” The Muse asks.

“Three,” I tell him.

“Planning to write another one?”

“I wasn’t.”

“But now you’ve changed your mind.”

“Stephen Woodfin changed it for me,” I said.

“Why did he want to do that?”

“He narrates the audiobooks about Lincoln,” I say.

“He likes Lincoln.”

“He likes narrating books,” I say. “He likes short sentences. I write short sentences.”

“How did Woodfin change your mind?” the Muse asks.

“He came up with a new title.”

“What is it?”

“Judas Replaced.”

“Who’s the Judas in your novel?”

“Don’t know,” I say.

“What about Lincoln?”

“He doesn’t know either,” I say. “But when he knows, I will, too.”

“Is Lincoln the betrayer?”


“Is he chasing down the betrayer?”


“Will the novel have a religious overtone?” the Muse asked.

“Most Ambrose Lincoln novels do.”

“But they’re not Christian novels.”

“I doubt if there’s a Christian in the whole story,” I tell him.

“Does Lincoln get the girl?” the Muse wants to know.

“He’s with a girl.”

“Does he love her?”

“He doesn’t know.”

“Does she love him?”

“She says she does.”

“But you doubt it.”

I shrug.

“She planned to kill him,” I say.

“But she didn’t.”


“Well,” the Muse says, “she loves him.”

“In time of war,” I say, “it’s hard to know what love is. You take it where you can find it and hurt when it’s gone, and war almost always takes it away.”

“Which war?”

“The second World War.”

“Hitler involved?”

“The specter of Hitler always lurks in the shadows.”

“Is Lincoln in Germany?”

“He ends up there.”



“Why Dalldorf?”

“It had the State Insane and Idiot’s Asylum,” I say.

“Is that a real place?”

“It is.”

“Lincoln must have felt right at home.”

“He saw little difference between himself and the mad men.”

“And no one killed him.”

“He will go back home with a bullet in his chest.”

“Will he go with the girl?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why not?”

“The story ended before Lincoln found out.”

“He keeps his secrets well.”

“He’s used to them.”

“I only want to know one thing,” the Muse says.

“What’s that?”

“Does the book have a happy ending?”

“It was war,” I tell him.  “There are no happy endings.”

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