Is It True That Everyone Has A Double?
Tom Dorin was an idealistic farm-boy,
forged by bloody carnage into a
disillusioned veteran of the Civil War.
More than a century later, Jon Hansen
is a graduate student of history.
When Jon finds a tintype photograph of Tom,
an eerie image that could be his own reflection,
the historian realizes that he has found the
perfect subject for his Master’s thesis.
As Jon’s fascination with his long-ago double
transforms from scholarly research
into personal obsession, only one question remains:
Why did Tom Dorin hang?
The answer will entwine the fates of both men
in ways neither could ever imagine.
July 31, Present Day,
Jon was almost ready to leave this shabby little roadside museum. King Gila, the Two-Headed Lord of the Lizards, proved to be deceased, preserved in a pose of pathetic fierceness long before Jon was born. The rest of the exhibits were even less lively.
Time to head back to the car, Dee, and the long road to Vegas.
Then, recognition struck like a sharp blow to the head. Jon’s grip tightened on the tarnished brass railing skirting the old-fashioned case. He stared down at the tintype photograph inside.
“Outlaw,” the crude lettering on the yellowed label declared. ‘Hanged March 13, 1874 in Cooper’s Creek, Arizona Territory.’
Its subject glared up into Jon’s eyes with a dangerous intensity undiminished by the passage of time.
Jon’s reflection glimmered on the glass of the case. He shifted, bringing his image parallel with the face in the photograph. The man’s features were sharp, his skin pulled close over his bones. His mouth was set in a harsh line and the camera had captured his contempt for whoever was behind the lens.
None of those differences blurred the resemblance. This long dead criminal was his double. Jon pressed closer to the case, blind to everything but that disturbing portrait.
“He was a mean-looking sonuvagun, wasn’t he?”
Jon flinched, startled by the reedy voice behind him. He turned to the antiquated man, who looked even more worn and tattered than his collection. “What do you know about him?”
“Not much,” the old man admitted, but the elbow he propped on the showcase warned Jon that this might be a lengthy lecture. “Found out a little while back that his name was Tom Dorin….”
18 May, 1861
Polk County, Tennessee
“Them Federals has spit all over the Constitution and they’s gonna march down here and try to steal our land!” Tom squared off in front of his brother. “You join up with them, and you’re sayin’ you’re willin’ to give away this farm and the whole blessed South to a bunch of lyin’ thieves and lawbreakers. Besides, you can’t go, you’re the eldest!”
Josh gave him a hard shove. “That’s why I’m the one that oughta go. You’re the runt, you stay here and help plow. Them filthy Rebels you like so much ain’t gonna be hurt none by not havin’ you taggin’ along. Besides, nobody round here cares whether all them darkies is slave or free, so why are you so lathered up and blowin’ about shootin’ a bunch of white folks just to keep a heap of darkies from runnin’ all around the countryside like stray cattle?”
Tom spat his contempt, and it would have landed on Josh’s foot if his brother hadn’t snatched it back quick enough. “I ain’t in it to keep them people slaves, you ig’nert heathern. It ain’t right in no way to own folks like livestock, but that ain’t why I’m Sesech. This war is about our right to govern ourselfs as we see fit without no Federal say-so, but you ain’t got enough brains to tell states’ rights from a rooster’s arse.”
“Don’t much matter what it’s about when folks start shootin’, and I got enough brains to know this war ain’t gonna last three months no way. You won’t be missin’ much while I’m off seein’ the fight,” Josh said.
“I ain’t gonna miss nothin’! All you’re gonna be seein’ in the back end of the mule!”
“Purtier than your face!” Josh shot back.
The sneer on his brother’s face was unbearable, but they’d both get their hides caned off if they came to supper again with blackened eyes and fat lips. It took all Tom had in him to speak instead of walloping Josh a good one. “How do you want to settle this?”
His brother stuck a hand into his pocket. “We flip for it. Winner goes, loser sticks up for me with Pa.”
Tom looked down in shocked awe at the shiny coin in his brother’s dirty palm. “Where’d you get that?”
“Ain’t none of your nevermind.” The dime rang as Josh flipped it into the air. “Call it.”
“Tails.” Tom grabbed for his brother’s wrist before Josh could slap the coin onto the back of his hand and cheat the toss.
“Blame you, Tom! Now it’s lost in the grass!”
“Ain’t neither. I seen where it dropped.” Tom squatted and parted the long, coarse blades. “I ain’t touching it. You look for yourself.”
The coin lay tails-up. Josh couldn’t put his frustrated rage with words, falling to sputtering and stamping on his own hat instead.
Tom laughed till his sides were sore. “Tonight, after supper, we’re gonna talk to Pa.”
Tom slipped out of the house and down to the old puncheon bench under the oak, a sullen Josh trailing along behind. His father’s pipe glowed, a red firefly in the dusky-dark beneath.
Tom stepped up, squared his shoulders, drew a good breath and dove in. “Pa, I want to go join up to fight against the Federals. Me and Josh agreed he’ll stay and help work the farm. I jist need you to come with me and sign for—”
That one word was as implacable as what Moses heard on Mount Sinai and held nearly as much authority in Tom’s mind. Even so, the desperate ambition eating at him prompted a protest.
“But, Pa, I’m sixteen now and a crack shot and I-”
“I said no.” Abram Dorin laid aside his pipe and rose to his feet.
Tom had all he could do not to quail back. He’d have stepped all over Josh at any rate.
“Pa, I did tell Tom I’d do his part and mine of the work,” Josh put in staunchly as he’d promised. “He ain’t lyin’, he can shoot a keen bead. I ain’t sayin’ I cotton to him joinin’ up with the Sesech but—”
“Enough!” Abram’s voice was as sharp and curt as the crack of a whip. “This war is an abomination to the Lord and this family ain’t takin’ no part in it.”
He pointed back up to the house. “Get inside and if I hear one more word out of either of you’uns about this I’m gonna take the razor-strop to your backs. You hear me, boys?”
“Yes sir,” both brothers answered almost as one, though only Tom’s voice betrayed begrudged obedience.
“You got somethin’ else to say for yourself, Thomas?”
Tom glared hot defiance into his father’s narrowed eyes, his heart pounding fit to burst his eardrums.
“Well, boy, do you?” Abram stepped closer, his gnarled hands closing into ropy fists.
Tom dropped his eyes to the ground between their feet. “No, sir.”
Tom turned to find Josh already clean out of sight. He salved his smarting pride with the fact that he strode back to the house like a man instead of tearing off like a scolded child.
July 31, Present Day
Las Vegas, Nevada
~ Early Evening ~
“Baby, wake up,” Dee called, extending the pattern of a downshift to draw its twin on Jon’s thigh. “Welcome to Sin City”.
Jon blinked, his eyes trying to bring the haze of bewildering light into focus. He smiled an apology for his grogginess to Dee in the rear view mirror.
He looked out the window. “Oh for cripe’s sake! I don’t believe this! Look!” Jon pointed to a billboard further up the block.
A buxom Native American maiden with amazingly Anglo features looked up worshipfully from the booted feet of a bare-chested man brandishing two revolvers.
‘VENGEANCE!’ the billboard shrieked in flamboyant scarlet font. ‘The Newest Marshal Maxx Starr Adventure! Book signing with author Chris Hansen, July 31, 4-6 pm. Only at Bordens Books, 6521 Las Vegas Blvd!’
Dee slowed down and gave Jon a saucy grin. “There’s still time to make it to the signing.” She put her blinker on.
“Don’t you dare,” Jon growled. “Or I’ll sic King Gila on you!”
“Gah! Anything but that!” She flicked the turn signal off and drove on to their hotel.
Dee settled in at a slot machine, and Jon took the opportunity to wander away through the casino. The vast room was disorienting, fiendishly seductive, all random dancing neon over a constant drone of chimes, electronic fanfares and the clatter of a few hundred human conversations. There were no shadows allowed in the brilliant lighting, but there were also no windows, no clocks, no natural light of any kind to trigger thoughts of sleep or even common sense.
For a man with no money in his pocket, and a long drive in his recent past, the scene lost its charm quickly. Jon shot Dee a quick text: Tired. Going 2 room.
He made his way to one of the elevators against the side walls.
In contrast to the casino, the hallway leading to their room was normally lit and rather bland, offering nothing to entice a guest to linger there. When he went into their room, he didn’t bother turning on the lights. The multicolored flickering from the strip below was enough to cast a glow through the room. The shadows felt restful after a day driving through desert glare.
Jon caught his own reflection in the dresser mirror, a trick of the dim light exaggerating the tired smudges under his eyes into shadowy hollows. He switched on the bureau lamp, then reached into his shirt pocket and drew out a small envelope. He slid the antique photograph out and glanced between Dorin’s face and his own.
Because of the tintype’s silvery gray-scale, it was impossible to know what color Dorin’s hair was, but Jon could see it was neither blond nor black. It could have been a medium brown, much like his own. Dorin’s eyes were light-colored, probably blue, staring out in sharp contrast to what was either a dark complexion or a deep tan.
Dorin’s eyes and cheeks were sunken beneath the high arches of their bones, as if he was emaciated at the time of his hanging. Even so, give or take twenty pounds between them, and they could be brothers. Maybe even twins.
“I’ve heard everybody has a doppelganger, but I thought it was superstitious crap,” he informed the unsettling image.
Dorin glared back, his truculent expression frozen, eternal.
An outlaw, so that meant armed robbery, probably murder too, since he was hanged. Pretty much the same as any of them: Jesse James, the Youngers, Billy the Kid. People are still writing about them, historians as often as paperback hacks like his brother. Why wasn’t Tom Dorin famous?
Slow, avid excitement flooded his veins.
“I can make you famous.”
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Available soon in paperback at Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida.
Available March 2014 online at Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes.
ISBN (Print): 978-0-9910801-1-3
ISBN (eBook): 978-0-9910801-0-6
My Name Is Tom Dorin
Copyright © 2013 by Theresa C. Crawford
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.
Cover image copyright © 2013 Theresa C. Crawford
Cover image concept by Caleb L. Melton
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.