Weekend Serial — Atonement in Zugzwang: Episode 3, Featuring Dan Antion

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Image by Dan Antion
Image by Dan Antion

Welcome to my sanctuary, everyone.  After another rough week, I hope you are ready to enter this safe place and relax.

The random reader things, which drive this episode are from fellow blogger and new author, Dan Antion.  Last year he gradually released three books of a series.  And a little bird told me that he is working on another book that might be related to that Dreamers Aliance series.  Look for links at the end of this post.

I can always count on Dan for great things that fit the context of the story.  His random things for today are: engraved silver tweezers, blue glass bottle, and brass latch.

The layers of mystery in this serial are increasing.  I’m also giving cameo appearances to a number of minor characters from the novels.  If you missed an episode, or if you want to refresh your memory click Episode 1  and Episode 2.


Pepper Riley met with the bank manager and the attorney about her late uncle’s estate.  At the end of the meeting, she asked where the cemetery was, so she could visit her uncle’s grave.
Their response was perturbing.

The banker and the attorney cast nervous glances at each other.

“There’s something you should know,” replied Dan Barrett.

Atonement in Zugzwang

Episode 3


In the momentary silence, the hum of the computer on the attorney’s desk filled my ears.  Sudden distress engulfed me.  I didn’t know why I should be upset.  If there was some kind of mix-up, then I knew it could be corrected.

What’s the matter with you?  There’s no reason for you to freak out, my inner voice chided me, but for no apparent reason I was filled with dread.

“Yes, Pepper, but…  We have some, err, some unfortunate news,” Russell Skeen started in a fatherly manner, but paused awkwardly clearing his throat.  “Don’t worry, it will all work out, and it doesn’t affect anything financially.”

I looked at the bank manager curiously.  He appeared to be very professional.  However, something had rattled the man.  I started to feel more than a little worried.  My gaze turned to the attorney.

“I’m sorry to inform you that you uncle, Wirt Riley has not been buried,” Dan Barrett spoke in an uncomfortable tone.

“Do you mean that Uncle Salty was cremated?  If that’s what he wanted, I have no reason to object,” I stated.

My friend Maudie gave my shoulder a consoling pat.  The two men again looked at one another.

“No, that’s not it,” Barrett replied after a second.  “Your uncle specified that his remains were to be held until you decided how he should be interred.”

“Okay…” I spoke to give him a verbal nudge.

“When you called to say you were coming, we discovered that your uncle’s body was missing,” the lawyer finished.

“Missing?” Maudie exclaimed.  “I understand that you had him stored or something for several months, but how do you lose a whole body?”

He gave Maudie a rueful glance.  Then he apologized profusely to me.  He picked up an unusual blue glass bottle from his desk and handed it to me.

“This was left in the body’s place.”

♣ ♣ ♣

Lane Erickson, Dreamstime
Lane Erickson, Dreamstime

The main road that went through the middle of Atonement, Tennessee wasn’t very long.  In my car, Maudie and I followed Russell Skeen to the other end of the road.  That’s where Uncle Salty had lived.

“Pepper, the gods of traffic lights aren’t with you today,” Maudie said in a sarcastic voice.  “You’ve had to stop at every single light.  Good thing there are only two traffic lights in this town.”

“It feels odd to me that this main drag just ends at nothing, a dead-end,” I remarked after a light chuckle.

“I don’t know,” Maudie shrugged, and then spoke reasonably.  “There are plenty of streets that come into it, on the right and on the left.”

The main street was, as one might expect, a business area, even though many of the offices and stores had once been private houses.  Some of them looked quite old.

As I drove nearer the end of the street, there were more homes and fewer businesses.  Unfortunately, the farther I drove the worse things looked.  Unlike the pristine buildings near the law office, that end of the avenue was in need of “revitalization.”

Russell Skeen pulled his car into an out-of-use gas station.  I stopped behind his vehicle.  Looking through my window, I gulped.  Maudie cringed visibly.

“At least somebody is fixing up the place next-door,” Maudie remarked.

“That would be Mr. Parvati,” the banker replied.  “I shouldn’t say anything, but I promised Salty that I’d look out for you.  Bheema Parvati checks out fine — checking credit and references was part of his loan on that place.  He’s a decent sort.  He also offered to help you with anything heavy.  I’d take him up on that.  He doesn’t look it, but the man’s as strong as an elephant.”

Maudie made pleased sounds.  I was only half listening.  I couldn’t take my eyes away from the sad condition of my uncle’s home.

“Oh no…” I whispered.  “I had no idea Salty was living in such poor conditions.  Everything is battered and rusted.  And inside a gas station?  The inside might be even worse than the outside.  I wish I had known,” I murmured, overcome with misplaced guilt.

“Stop that, Pepper.  I refuse to hear you blame yourself for anything.  I know you asked him many times if he was okay, and I asked if he needed anything.  Besides, your uncle didn’t die a rich man, but based on everything that cutie of a lawyer and Russell here said, he never wanted for anything.  He had a decent amount of money,” Maudie scolded me.

Taking a deep breath, I nodded.  She was right.  When Salty retired from the merchant marines, he became reclusive.  It was clear that something had happened to him, something that caused that change in him.  However, he would never discuss it.

Russell Skeen seemed to interpret the expression on my face.  He retrieved a keyring from his pocket, and looked at me over his shoulder as he unlocked the door.

“It isn’t nearly as bad inside,” the bank manager promised.

He held up his hand indicating that we should stop.  I supposed that he thought I would be eager.  However, contrary to his expectation, both Maudie and I needed encouragement to enter.

To my surprise, he entered a code on a keypad.  I was astonished that an old rundown place would have a security system.


“I had the system upgraded.  Salty provided for that,” he explained.  “He knew his things couldn’t stay in the bank vault indefinitely.  I’ve arranged for some security guards to bring everything over in a truck.  It’s antiques and odd things Salty picked up during his travels.  I don’t think he ever had anything authenticated.  Although, I’ve learned a fair amount about antiques, and I believe most of them would be valuable.  Annie Metatron, who owns the antique shop, must have agreed.  She and Salty once had a long discussion about them.  I wasn’t part of it, but I know it ended with Annie warning him that he’d better take care of them properly.  I had never heard Annie take that tone with anybody.  Except her sons, that is,” he added with a chuckle.

When the banker flipped a light switch, several lamps came to life.  The interior had been creatively renovated, but it retained several characteristics of the onetime service station.

Old trusses holding up the roof were exposed.  Broad windows on the front and the left corner offered plenty of sunlight when the curtains were opened. 

High upon one wall was a ventage sign.  It was a figure of a red flying horse, with wings and legs extended.  It was outlined by long luminous neon tubes.

The master bathroom was covered in repurposed subway tiles which went up to the second-story ceiling.  It showed part of the emblem of the petroleum company whose logo had been that red flying horse.

A broad industrial metal staircase went to the second floor, although half of that was open space, creating a very high ceiling.

I murmured my astonished appreciation.  The banker grinned as he watched my expression change.

“Salty would have loved to see the look on your face,” Russell Skeen remarked.

Still carrying the uniquely shaped blue glass bottle, I placed it on a table beneath one of the lights.  I was about to explore the erstwhile gas station when Maudie touched my elbow.

“Pepper, there’s something in that bottle,” Maudie remarked and shifted the knickknack this way and that.

She held it up for closer inspection and then deftly opened it.  Holding the opening up to her eye, she mumbled.

“There’s something in there alright,” Maudie continued.  “But the opening is too small to get to it.”

“Allow me,” Russell offered.

The banker extracted a pair of engraved silver tweezers from his breast pocket.  Noticing my curious expression, he explained that they were a gift from his “lady friend.”

“The first time we went out together, we made the rounds of antique shops.  A year later, Marge gave me these,” he indicated the tweezers.  “She had bought them that first day.  The inscription was already on them.  It says ‘You’re never too old.’  If Marge had a philosophy of life, that would be it—  Ah!  Got it!”

Firmly held in the tweezers, Russell produced a narrow, folded strip of paper.  He passed it to me without reading it.  I unfolded it and beheld neat but archaic-looking handwriting.  It flowed but the shapes of some letters reminded me of photos of documents that were hundreds of years old.

You must setup the chessboard,” I read the carefully penned note.

♣ ♣ ♣


Forest Simon, Unsplash
Forest Simon, Unsplash

Patches of morning sunlight freckled the ground.  There beneath the gigantic old tree, which had a wide split in its trunk, Deme intently stared at a book.

“What are you reading?  It seems out of character for you.  Honeybell’s the big reader,” Moccus asked her, rather than giving a polite greeting.

“When did you get back?” Deme asked, startled.

Deme recognized him easily because of a tiny split at the top of his right ear.  She had always wondered which of his adventures had resulted in that scaring injury.

Seeing that an answer to her question was not imminent, Deme continued.  She also hoped Moccus would have exciting adventures to relate.  He was a paragon of mischievousness and she greatly admired his skills in the art of making mischief.

“It’s a book about chess,” she began, but he interrupted.

“The book looks old.  It might be out of date,” said Moccus.  “Why the sudden interest in a human board game?”

“I overheard the Guardian of the Eastern Gate warn a supernatural not to put Atonement in zugzwang.  That’s a chess term for when you’re forced into making a move or a decision.   He also cautioned about the dragons,” she replied.  “I have a funny feeling that there’s a situation I don’t know about or understand.  And I’m afraid it might escalate.”

With that, Deme marked her place with a dead leaf.  She shut the book and used her cloven hoof to close the brass latch.

Moccus gave a considering snort.  Then he suggestively wriggled his right hip, which had a single brown spot.

“Do you want to get in on some fun?  It’s going to drive the humans nuts,” he asked.

A soft glow came from the crack in the ancient tree, interrupting them.  Honeybell stepped out from it.  She eyed Moccus suspiciously.

“I should have known,” Honeybell began.  “Deme, this miscreant has already been expelled from Atonement twice.  I hope you aren’t going to be silly enough to get drawn into his pranks.”

Honeybell paused.  She grunted and snorted in her aggravation.  Then her eyes narrowed as her impossibly blue eyes locked onto the similarly colored eyes of the third pig.  He grinned unabashedly.

“You!  You know something about the body, don’t you?” Honeybell accused Moccus.

♣ ♣ ♣

In the books, those glowing pigs have caused all manner of havoc in Atonement, TN.  This new one, Moccus, sounds even more prankish.  Even so, Honeybell’s suspicions seem outrageous.  Maybe we’ll learn more about that in Episode 4.   So, tune in again next weekend.  Wishing you a wonderful weekend.  I love to hear from you, so friendly comments are encouraged.  Hugs!

♣ ♣ ♣

The Dreamers Aliance Series by Dan Antion

Dan Antion Dreamers Trilogy

The Evil You Choose – https://relinks.me/B0BCBQSHQZ
When Evil Chooses You – https://relinks.me/B0BNGSKHFF
Dan Antion author page – https://relinks.me/B0BCBQSHQZ

♣ ♣ ♣

The Atonement Series

Atonement kindle covers Cat eyes shelf 2023

Atonement, Tennessee

Full series of e-books with one click:  relinks.me/B087JV25JT

Kindle:  rxe.me/HGSVA8A

Paperback: relinks.me/1481826948

Also in Spanish, translated by Olga Núñez Miret! The title for the Spanish-speaking market is Expiación y Magia

Atonement in Bloom

Kindle:  rxe.me/5RRBLH

Paperback:  relinks.me/1726882128

The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

Kindle   rxe.me/LTBDNH

Paperback   relinks.me/1725891972

♣ ♣ ♣

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

Copyright © 2023 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or used with permission, or from free sources.

66 thoughts on “Weekend Serial — Atonement in Zugzwang: Episode 3, Featuring Dan Antion

  1. What a great episode, Teagan 🙂 I love stepping into the living space in a seemingly rilun down place. Can’t wait to see what this game of chess brings and nice to see somevl old friends. Xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Denise, I’m so glad you noticed the minor characters from other stories. I appreciate that feedback.
      I get weather headlines, but rarely know what part of California they are from. I hope the latest onslaught bypassed you. Stay safe and well. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is a big state, Teagan 🙂 We are going to hit by one more atmospheric river and then go back to normal storms. I’m ready for spring! Hope you are staying safe too. Hugs xo

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The winds are down to a normal level finally. (NM is always windy, but for a few weeks it was relentless and powerful.) Maybe some of your deluge will make it over here. We’ve already had some “fire weather warning” days, which doesn’t bode well for summer. But it’s all good. Lovely day today.
          I hope the next wave is not as bad for you. ❤

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Winds are scary! We had early fire danger last couple of years, thankfully this year not a concern until later. Enjoy your good weather. ours is foggy and rainy forest which begs for poetry 🙂 xo

            Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a fun episode, Teagan! I enjoyed that old gas station that turned into a beautiful apartment. The mystery of a missing body, delightful glowing pigs, a chess game, and the idea of engraved silver tweezers made me smile. Looking forward to reading what comes next. 🥰❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A super episode, Teagan. Glad we have pigs and loved the foreshadowing of “You must set up the chessboard.” It looks like Moccos does know something about the body but I think someone else left the chessboard clue. Well, next week should be a dozy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm… another layer of complexity? The person who has the body might not be the person who left the note? You are devious, my friend. 😉
      Sigh, next week… horsefeathers — I have absolutely no idea. (Rueful laugh) Thanks for your great feedback, John. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow! I have no idea either, but it sounds like an incredibly fun kind of world-building, John. Ringmaster, hierarchy of people in the acts, as well as that based on the size of the animals. Politics/rules of the carnies, physical details like types and amounts of animal food. Exercising the animals. How far they can be transported before needing a break. Temperaments of performers and how they match or contrast with their animals. Backstories of how performers came to be there. It’s world-building heaven! LOL.
          I’m looking forward to hearing more about this story. ❤


  4. Ugh, I just realized that I read this and I wanted to share if before writing my comment. Then I forgot to comment (or it’s buried and don’t see it).

    I am so glad to see the Glowing Pigs return. Now there’s no telling where this story is going to go. But it’s going to be fun. I love the inside of the gas station. I am worried about his antiques. I wonder if any are magical.

    Thanks for the shout out about my books, and I really like what you did with the three things.

    I hope you are having a great weekend, Teagan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, Dan. Thanks for sharing this post. It’s always fun to write the pigs.
      Yes, I figure if Annie Metatron was getting on his case about “taking care of them properly” then there’s something dangerous about the things he collected in his travels. Maybe things similar to that Mirror of Truth and Justice Most Poetic, or some of the trinkets the Metatrons brought to the masquerade ball in Atonement in Bloom. After all, the Metatrons might have a lot of connections, but they couldn’t have all the good stuff. 😉
      You send 3 great things. They really propelled the story forward. Thanks for participating. A lovely weekend to you too. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Diana. I already have a few threads to continue weaving — including deciding what the devil to do with that darned unicorn that won the Supernatural Creature Poll… Sigh… Unicorns go to maidens. I don’t think there is one in Atonement. Hopefully creativity will strike. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s nice to see you, Gwen. Yes, I already have several threads to continue weaving. Folks will have to pay attention to spot all of them. So, I’ll have to throw in some fun bits for skimmers to enjoy. Thanks for visiting. Hugs.


    1. Haha, I know what you mean, Liz.
      Sometimes a “random reader thing” becomes integral to the plot. Other times they are just a handy stage prop. I have a feeling that blue bottle has at least a little more to do in the story. Have a relaxing weekend. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I wondered where the pigs were hiding in and around town.
    The gas station turning into a grand apartment was a pleasant surprise. We wouldn’t have wanted Uncle living in squalor, especially in a magical town!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL, the otherworldly pigs couldn’t *not* turn up, GP. I wasn’t thinking of them when I decided to set the story in Atonement. But as soon as I started writing, they began their grunt-snuffle-snorting.
      I love seeing former non-home buildings remodeled into homes. I couldn’t resist with the old gas station. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Olga. I’m happy you think so. Yes, I already have several threads to follow: the gold unicorn buttons, warnings about not being forced to make a move, now the chessboard, and a neighbor with elephant-like strength… And I have a hunch that the blue bottle will have at least one more thing to do.


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