Conundrum is a guilty pleasure, M/M fantasy novel that asks what you would sacrifice to save your family and closest friends. That’s the question Takoda Freeman, a young Native American witch, faces. Takoda puts his complete trust in Russell Sands, a werewolf, who says he can help save his loved ones, ignoring that fact that Russell was his father’s nemesis.
Takoda risks it all to save his friend and mentor, Jared Mason, from two vengeful Puritans from the past. The ordeal left Jared with the singular longing to change his past. Jared vowed to make it so that he and his father never went to the 17th century when he was a teenager.
If Jared successfully changed that event, a new reality would emerge, and Takoda would cease to exist. That sends Takoda on a frightening philosophical journey where he must ultimately decide whether saving his own life is greater than the lives of his friends and family.
“We have to do something with those bodies before Russell digs too deeply into it. We don’t want him, and the Turner’s coming after us.”
“But we are already here, and I want to beat the snot outta Tyler,” Takoda growled and punched his fist into his palm.
“That’s exactly why we should go to your dad’s job. Come on, you know it’s the right thing to do, and besides, we know where Tyler is. We can get him any time we want.” Shawn reminded him. Takoda gave him a little pout, then he nodded his head. Shawn ran around the front of the car and got into the driver’s side. He started the engine and pulled out of the parking space.
Knowing the security of the Native American Artifact Authority, Takoda wondered if Shawn had some kind of strategy. He asked his friend. “So, what is your plan?”
“I don’t know,” Shawn muttered. “I guess we steal the bodies,” Shawn said matter of factly as he ran his hand through his hair.
“And then what?” Takoda demanded. “What are we supposed to do with them?” Takoda felt the plan seemed kind of ghoulish and disrespectful at the same time. After all, they were talking about stealing the body of his uncle Ehane and Shawn’s own father. Takoda wasn’t entirely on board with his plan.
“I don’t know. I just want to keep Russell from being able to examine them.” Shawn confessed to Takoda.
“I’m not driving around with three gross dead bodies in my car. I don’t know if I can take seeing my Uncle Ehane’s body.” Takoda squawked.
“How do you think I feel about seeing my father’s body? I’ve never met him. Do you think that is how I want to see him for the first time?” Shawn asked him.
“No, I guess not. I wish my dad had time to tell us their plan.” Takoda stated sadly.
“To be honest, I wish they were the ones going through with this insane plan,” Shawn admitted to him.
“Park around the back near the shipping and receiving doors. It will be easier to move the bodies,” Takoda suggested to Shawn.
“How we gonna find them?” Shawn wondered.
“I know where they keep the newly arrived specimen. You just gotta get us into the secure part of the building. Come on, we’ll go through the receiving area.” Takoda said as they walked towards the large metal receiving door. Takoda tried the door and found it unlocked. He cracked the door open slightly and saw there were four men inside the building. Two were talking to each other, and the other two were busy looking at their monitors.
“Come on, man, hold my hand. I’ll get us past them,” Shawn instructed Takoda. Takoda loved how it felt right to hold Shawn’s sweaty palm. This was the most at ease he felt all day.
Shawn used his powers to cloak them both in invisibility. They crept in and began to walk through the large warehouse. Shawn directed them towards several large crates. They crouched down and hid behind them. Shawn released Takoda’s hand, and he gasped deeply for air. Shawn’s invisibility functioned best when he suspended his breathing. They were halfway across the warehouse. Shawn wanted to be sure that they could make it across without being spotted. He took several deep breaths, then he clasped Takoda’s hand again, and they walked towards the hallway. The corridor was empty, so Shawn released Takoda’s hand as they walked down the hall.
Neither one paid attention to the security cameras that sent information back to the security guards in the front. Rob, the guard in the receiving area, spotted them immediately. He alerted Russell that they had intruders headed in his direction. Russell checked his phone to see who was headed his way. When Russell realized that it was Takoda Freeman, he told the guard to stand down. He would handle it. Russell continued to watch them as they approached. They walked by Dohate’s office. Russell knew they were heading to the holding area. He hurried to get there before them. He hid in a large cabinet where he would be able to see what they were up to.
Shawn and Takoda entered the room and went right for the refrigerated holding areas. It would have been called a morgue in any other place, but this place, they called it their holding rooms.
“The bodies are kept in here,” Takoda whispered to Shawn as he pointed to the holding rooms. Takoda made no effort to move towards them. Shawn stood firmly in his spot as well.
“Well, you should check them,” Shawn sputtered.
Takoda balked, “Why me?”
“You know what you are looking for,” Shawn declared, and he shoved Takoda towards the refrigerated unit.
Takoda lurched forward, stopped, and spun on his heels to face his friend. “Not cool, man.” Takoda hissed. The Native American boy hesitated, then turned and approached one of the doors that housed bodies. He cautiously opened one of the doors and found the skeletal remains of a human inside. He quickly closed the door. “Nope! Done! I’m out.” Takoda yowled. He turned to leave.
Shawn placed his hands on Takoda’s shoulders and stopped him in his tracks. “Don’t be such a pussy.” He quipped. He opened the door and saw a dirty skeleton with a shattered skull, and he immediately closed the door. He leaned with his back to the door. “We gotta do something, or we are screwed.”
“You’re already screwed,” Russell declared from behind them. Both Takoda and Shawn spun to find Russell Sands climbing out of a large cabinet. “What’s the meaning of this?” Russell demanded.
“Come on, let’s get out of here,” Takoda blurted, and he took Shawn’s hand. Shawn used his powers to make them both invisible. They slowly backed towards the door. Russell’s bright blue eyes turned yellow like that of a wild animal. He stared directly at Shawn. Russell never lost eye connection with the blond boy as they stepped backward. Shawn knew that Russell could see him by the way the man followed him with his eyes. Russell rushed towards the door and blocked their way. He walked straight towards Shawn and put his hand out until he touched Shawn’s meaty chest. Shawn released Takoda’s hand and made them both visible again.
“What are you doing?” Takoda balked in frustration.
Shawn looked at Russell and said, “He can see us.”
“He can now,” Takoda fumed flippantly.
Russell chuckled and told him, “I could before.”
“How’s that possible?” Shawn asked.
“I got it like that,” Russell jested as he leaned against the door.
“I see why my father didn’t trust you,” Takoda hissed.
“How fitting coming from the witch with a remarkable knowledge of the 17th century. How is that, I wonder?” Russell queried as he gave his undivided attention to Takoda.
“He was worried that you would figure it out. Why haven’t you busted him then if you knew his secret?” Takoda demanded.
“I’m not a threat to Dohate. I have been watching over your family long before your father was born, kid.” Russell confided.
“How come we never knew that?” Takoda asked.
“It’s called keeping a low profile,” Russell smirked nonchalantly and grabbed a chair and sat in it. “Now, tell me, what are you boys doing here?”
“You can’t analyze their DNA.” Takoda blurted and pointed to the bodies in the drawers.
Russell cocked his head and asked. “You know who they are?”
“You wouldn’t believe us if we told you,” Takoda told him.
“Well, how about I tell you. You believe that these are the bodies of Ehane Freeman, Dale Mason, and your father.” Russell declared as he pointed to Shawn. “How am I doing?” He watched Shawn’s facial reactions closely.
“How could you know that?” Takoda wondered. He took a step closer to where Russell sat.
“I know they never returned after going back to the 17th century. What is it with your family going back to that time?” Russell asked the boy rhetorically.
“You, you, you know about that?” Takoda stuttered.
“I was very close friends with your grandfather for many years,” Russell admitted to Takoda. He saw a little bit of Drew in the boy’s facial features. It made him miss his old friend.
“That’s not likely. My grandfather died like 20 years ago.” Takoda replied and did the math in his head. “You would have been a teenager when he died.”
“What did he babysit you or something?” Shawn asked.
“No, nothing like that. I’m supernatural like you.” Russell admitted him.
Takoda’s instinct was to deny everything. He believed his father distrusted Russell for a reason. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Your father taught you well, but you don’t have to be cautious with me. I know you are a witch. Your powers are audiokinesis like your father’s. And you, Shawn, you have the power of morphokinesis similar but different from Richard’s.”
“What does that make you?” Takoda inquired.
“I’m a werewolf. I’m the second in command of the conclave called The Order of the Heegner prime.” Russell divulged, as a matter of fact.
Takoda rolled his eyes and said, “There are no such things as werewolves.”
Russell laughed lightly because Takoda said the exact thing his grandfather did when he came out to him as a werewolf. “Yeah, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Drew thought the same thing.” Russell snickered and then let out a low guttural growl and bared his teeth. Russell’s facial features changed. His mouth distorted, and his teeth became long and sharp. A long and frightening snout began to protrude from his face. His ears became pointed, and his face sprouted fur. Russell shook his head several times quickly, and in an instant, he looked normal again.
“Okay, so he’s a dog,” Shawn joked and let out a nervous laugh.
“So, it’s true you knew my grandfather?” Takoda asked.
“I met Drew when he traveled back to 1647. I saved his life, and we had been friends ever since.” Russell told him.
“Wait. What? My grandfather time traveled. I never heard that.” Takoda announced. He looked to Shawn to see if he was as surprised as he was.
“It was a disaster when Drew did it, and it was even worse when your father did it,” Russell divulged to him.
“Did you know my grandfather too?” Shawn wondered.
“I knew Arthur very well. He was a good man. Drew, George Mason, and Robbie Turner were my friends. I hated seeing them leave.
“I doubt that my grandfather would be friends with a Turner,” Takoda scoffed as he shook his head vehemently.
“Rowan and Robbie Turner had gone back in time to prevent your ancestor from protecting the Teetonki zeal chest. The plan was to encase it in wulfenite, but Robbie had turned on his brother and switched teams, so when George, Drew, and Arthur came, he helped them. Robbie befriended all of us. Not all the Turners are bad.” Russell sighed.
Takoda hung his head and muttered. “Tell that to my dead parents. Cane and Zachary Turner blew them up with some kinda bomb.” Takoda fought to hold back the tears. He didn’t have the energy to break down again.
Russell jumped out of his seat and stood in shock for a moment. He couldn’t believe his ears. “What?!” He said in disbelief. “I don’t believe it. I’m sorry, Takoda.” Russell pulled Takoda close and hugged him tightly. “Tell me what happened.” He whispered.
“We were in Daggetts cavern, and a bomb went off.” Takoda sobbed. “It killed (***spoilers***). It was horrible.” Takoda began to shake. Russell led him to a stool and had him sit. The boy sighed, “We would have been dead too if we didn’t walk away for a moment,” Takoda told him.
“That and you shielded us,” Shawn informed him.
“I’m so sorry you guys had to go through that. It must have been a nightmare.” Russell maintained and turned and looked at Shawn. “When did this happen?” He asked the blond.
Shawn shook his head from left to right. “I don’t know.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe an hour ago.”
“And you guys came right here?” Russell demanded. He took a deep breath and let it out. “Take a moment to process what happened.” He instructed in a more level tone. “Have you contacted Victor and told him what happened?” Russell asked Shawn. Russell felt the boy was more composed than Takoda was. He did lose his friends, but Takoda lost his entire family in one fell move.
Shawn shook his blond head and pursed his lips. “The boy deserves to know that his fathers are gone,” Russell declared. “I’ll reach out to him.
“Thank you, Russell. I wouldn’t know what to say to him,” Takoda said quietly.
Story takes the place 20 years after the previous book, The Hallowed Bloodline: Us vs. Them