Monday, January 22, 2018

(12) I am what I am

~ Quinn ~

“Well we know the last place he was before he ended up in that apartment,” Jack said, resting a hip on the corner of my desk as he waited for me to get off the phone.

“We also know where he was staying,” I told him a minute later, “At a hotel half way across town from the murder scene. Which club?”

“The Pink Pelican. How the hell they came up with a name like that is beyond me.”

I knew the place, had even stopped in for a drink there a couple of times. It was a gay bar, one of the better ones actually if a bit too chichi for my taste.

“Did anyone see him leave with someone?”

Jack shook his head. “None of the help did. We need to get someone in there tonight to talk to the customers.” He looked at me with a slight smile. He knew I was gay, one of the few on the force that did. Not that I hid it, I just didn’t advertise it either. I like my job and don’t feel like dealing with the homophobic attitudes that unfortunately many cops still have.

“Meaning me. Sure, why not. I’ve got nothing better to occupy my off hours.”

“We have those?” Jack laughed in wry amusement. “At least you don’t have to deal with the grieving widow. I’m picking her up at the airport at eight thirty. God I hate that.”

“Better thee than me. You have that whole ‘fatherly’ thing going, so she’ll cry on your shoulder and tell you what a wonderful man he was and how he loved her and the kids and would never, ever have let someone pick him up at a bar.”

“Yeah I know.” He sighed. “Okay, I’m out of here. I want to check in with my own family before facing her.”

“Right. Unless I strike paydirt and call you, which is probably doubtful, I’ll see you in the morning.”

Once he’d left I did a bit of sighing of my own. If I had to visit a gay bar I’d have preferred one of my own choosing where I might just meet someone interesting enough to hook up with for the evening. The Pink Pelican was not that place. The men who hung out there tended to be too much on the flamboyant side for my tastes. I’m not into actors, designers or the wannabes. With that thought, I turned my attention back to the report I was working on for another case. A report the captain wanted on his desk in the morning.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Guardian Angels - If It's Fated… (1)

Tim sighed deeply as he shut down his computer for the day. Ms Gaines—who was working the library's checkout desk with him—smiled slightly, saying, "Sounds like you're ready to get out of here and have a relaxing day off."
He shrugged. "I guess." Then he waited for her to ask if he had any plans. He knew she wouldn't. She had just been making a polite comment.
Story of my life. Morosely, he gathered up his coffee mug and the two books he had stashed on the shelf under the desk to take home with him. No one gives a damn. Not really.
Hurrying away, he stopped just long enough at his locker in the employee's room to get his coat before exiting the library into the early evening gloom.
It'll be snowing before long. He grimaced. When it did, he might have to start taking the bus home to his lonely apartment. For now, though, he'd walk. It wasn't all that far from the library, just a mile and a bit. Pulling his coat tightly around him to ward off a sudden cold burst of wind, he set out.
Noise from one of the local bars assailed his ears when someone entered, just as he was walking past. For a moment he considered stopping in for a beer.
But why bother? I'll only end up sitting by myself watching everyone else having fun.
So he trudged the rest of the way home. When he got there, he tossed his coat on the sofa and went into the kitchen.
What do I feel like eating? Nothing, but I guess I should. After checking the contents of his refrigerator, he settled on chicken and mushrooms with couscous. Gathering together what he needed for the chicken—garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and ground pepper—he set to work. Ten minutes later, the chicken and mushrooms were baking in the oven. While they were cooking, he made the couscous with dried apricots. When the chicken was finished, he put it on a plate, tossed the mushrooms with lemon juice and dill, and added them and the couscous beside the chicken.
Taking his plate into the living room, he sat down at the round oak table in one corner to eat while watching the news and then some game show. Afterwards, he washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, and settled down on the sofa to read.
The book was a fantasy novel he'd seen great reviews about, so he was looking forward to seeing if it lived up to them. He soon realized that, while it was well written, he had little empathy for the beleaguered hero. He had been cast out into the world to make his own way, with only—Tim snorted softly—a penchant for magic and his great skill as a swordsman to help him save the kingdom. How successful would he be if he wasn't tall, dark and handsome? If he was like me?
Tim was the antithesis of the hero, being of average height and not at all handsome—in his own estimation—with short mousy-brown hair and pale blue eyes. The only thing they had in common was being forced to be on their own. Tim had never known his father. Although his mother did her best to take care of Tim at first, by the time he was five, she began abusing both alcohol and drugs. When he was ten, a social worker had stepped in and placed him in a group home. A shy, withdrawn child, he spent as much of his time as possible with his nose buried in books to escape the tormenting of his peers.
One of the workers at the group home had taken him under her wing, suggesting that with his love of books, he volunteer at the local library after school. He did. Later, since he was of above average intelligence, he was able to get a scholarship to the community college in the city and earned his library science degree. When there was an opening at the library where he had volunteered, he applied for the job and was hired. He'd been there ever since.
And look where it got me. He closed the book, staring moodily off into space. Five years of working at the library and I really know maybe five people there. I wouldn't call them friends. Just people I have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. They're no more interested in me as a person than… than the baristas at my local coffee shop are.
He knew it was his own fault. He wasn't outgoing. He didn't interact well with people. Not that I'm rude or anything. I just… why bother? I'm the weird guy who can't hold up my end of a conversation without making a fool of myself. Well, unless it has to do with books. He smiled slightly. Then I can talk a blue streak and bore the other guy out of his mind.
That thought brought him to the next problem in his life. Guys. He liked men, had known that since he'd reached puberty. Not that it did him any good.
"How do I meet someone who might be interested in me when I can't even strike up a conversation in a bar?" he asked out loud. "Not there, not… anywhere."
He buried his face in his hands, his depression deepening as it always did when he considered his life—or lack thereof. "I'm… useless. If I died tomorrow, the only person who'd care would be the head librarian and that would be because she'd have to find someone to replace me."
Raising his head again, he looked around the apartment. He realized, as he often had, that other than the shelves of books along one wall, it was devoid of anything personal. The only pieces of furniture were things he'd found at thrift shops when he'd first moved in. The one picture, hanging above the sofa, he had bought at a yard sale. It was a framed print of Picasso's 'Don Quixote', slightly yellowed with age. It had suited his lonely mood when he'd seen it and it still did.
Getting up, he turned off the light and went to look out the front window. He'd been right earlier that evening when he thought it would be snowing soon. Flakes drifted down, their shapes caught in the light from the streetlamps. He had to admit it was pretty, but he shivered at the idea that winter was arriving. Dark, lonely winter. It suited his mood.
Turning away, he headed to his bedroom, wondering how he was going to survive another day, to say the least of the rest of his life.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

It's release day for 'The Man on the Balcony'!

The Man on the Balcony
Mark is a man on the horns of a dilemma. He's in the midst of a five-year affair with a married man and he wants out ... but isn’t sure he can give up his lover.

Austin, who lives in the apartment building across the street from Mark, has his own problems. Two years earlier, the man he loved died in a horrible auto accident. Austin is still trying to come to terms with seeing it happen, and dealing with the aftermath.

After watching Mark from his balcony, making up stories about what he sees, Austin decides to meet him. Will the meeting help the two come to grips with their problems? And if it does, can they move on to something more than possible friendship?

    Mark looked at the Caller ID, debating whether to answer when he saw Todd's number. He hadn't the previous two times his lover had called -- once just before he left the shop for the day, the second while he was driving home.

    "I can do this," he said under his breath, putting the phone down on the kitchen counter before going back to fixing supper. It finally went silent, after five rings -- the number Mark had programmed in before a call would go to his voicemail.

    He waited until after he'd eaten before checking to see if Todd had left a message. He had. It said, 'Why aren't you answering, Mark? I'll be in town tomorrow for a two-day meeting, so I'll see you tomorrow night. Miss you.'

    "I knew this would happen," Mark muttered. "He rarely asks, he always tells and expects me to be happy when he shows up. Now what do I do? Rent a motel room until he's gone home?"

    He started pacing the living room, feeling like a trapped animal. Grow a pair. When he shows up, tell him it's over. Easier said than done and he knew it. He stopped by the window, staring out but not really seeing anything through the softly falling snow, until a movement on the balcony opposite him caught his eye. The man who lived in the apartment opposite his had come out. Seconds later, he was staring at Mark, or so it seemed, making Mark feel like a bug pinned to a display board.

    What the hell is with him? I'm half tempted to go over there and find out.

    The man stood there for a long moment, then, much to Mark's shock, he saluted before going back inside.

    That was totally weird. Mark pulled the curtains closed. Then, deciding he had to get out of the apartment so he could think clearly, he grabbed his coat and gloves and left.

    * * * *

    "Why the hell did I do that?" Austin said under his breath as he closed the balcony door behind him. Maybe because I wanted him to know I'm aware of him?

    The problem was, he didn't know why it mattered, but it did. Perhaps, he decided, just watching Mr. Cute (as he'd tagged him) and trying to figure out what was going on with him had made his own life more interesting. Against his better judgment he opened the door again to look across at Mr. Cute's apartment -- just in time to see the lights go out.

    It's too early for him to be going to bed. He stepped onto the balcony, getting close enough to the railing to look down at the street without being seen. His nosiness, he supposed, was rewarded when he saw the man leave the apartment building and start walking down the block.

    Going for coffee, or a late supper? Mr. Cute was heading in the direction of the small strip mall which had a couple of restaurants, as well as small shops. It was where Austin usually went when he didn't feel like cooking, so he thought it was possible.

    "My chance to meet him?" he murmured, going inside again. "Why would I want to? On the other hand, why not? I'll probably find out he's totally not worth my time, but I would like to know if my presumption about his love life is correct." He chuckled as he went to get his jacket. "I've been editing too many damned romances. Dreaming up stories about people I see as a result. Maybe I should start writing some of them down." He snorted. "Not."

    By the time Austin left his building, Mr. Cute was nowhere in sight. His footsteps are, though. He saw them in the fresh snow when he looked across the street. "Big time tracker is me," he said under his breath as he crossed the street and began following them. He almost lost them two blocks later when they mingled with those of other people who had braved the mid-evening snowfall. Then he saw the man a block ahead of him, going into the same coffee shop he favored in the mall.

    * * * *

    "I'd like a ..." Mark studied the list of coffees, glad there weren't many customers, so he wasn't holding up a line of people while he tried to make up his mind. "Is the maple latte good?"

    The clerk nodded. "Different, and not my favorite, but people seem to like it."

    "Maybe I should stick with my usual Americano."

    "Try the mocha espresso," someone said from behind him. "That is if you like chocolate."

    "Who doesn't," Mark replied as he turned to see who was speaking. "You," he said, more than a bit disconcerted. "Are you following me?"

    The man shrugged. "Yes, and no."

    "Hardly a definitive answer."

    "I saw you heading this way and decided I wanted coffee to ward off the cold."

    "Uh-huh. Try again." Mark paused to tell the clerk he wanted a large Americano. "I've seen you watching me," he told the man. "It's creepy."

    "Sorry. I didn't mean it to be," the man replied. "I have a bad habit, I guess you could call it, of making up stories about people I see."

    Mark scowled. "By window peeping?"

    "Hey. That's not what I'm doing," the man protested.

(11) I am what I am


I woke with a raging headache. The problem was I had no clue why I had it. I remember going to one of the clubs in the area, needing to relieve the stress after dealing with the therapist. Even the pleasant supper with Bonnie hadn’t managed to do that. I also remember meeting someone at the club, his propositioning me and my leaving with him. And his wanting me to do something.  

I remembered cuffs and a gag—and shivered as I crawled out of bed and headed to the bathroom for a hot shower and a dozen aspirin. Okay, maybe not that many but damn…

Half an hour later I was feeling marginally better. I sat at the kitchen table with a big glass of orange juice and some toast, glancing over when Bonnie came in. She took one look at me and shook her head.

“I heard you sneak out.” She gave me an amused smile. “From the look of it you probably crawled back home.”

“No, I walked. Just had a couple more than I should have.” I wasn’t willing to admit to her that I didn’t even remember the end of the night because I didn’t want her to worry about me. Hell, she’d probably insist I go back to the therapist if I told her that. And that creep was history as far as I was concerned.

She patted my shoulder then asked if I was feeling well enough to go to work. I assured her I was and went to get dressed.

By the time we got to the diner my headache was pretty much gone, which was a good thing because it was one of those days when it seemed everyone and their brother decided to come in for either breakfast or lunch, or both. By the time three o’clock hit, both of us and the cook, who was Bonnie’s business partner, were dead on our feet.

“Right now, if I never see another burger it’ll be too soon,” he grumbled as he cleaned the kitchen while Bonnie and I went through the normal closing procedures.

“I’m with you on that,” I agreed, reaching up to shut off the small TV in the corner. We kept it going all day for those regulars who liked to know what was happening in the world.

“Hang on a minute,” Bonnie said as one of those special bulletin things flashed on the screen. A very sober-faced reporter came on to announce that some man, who had apparently been murdered last night, had finally been identified as a business man from out of town who had been staying at a hotel a few blocks from the apartment building where his body had been found. And a few blocks from the diner, I realized, although of course that wasn’t on the news. A blurry picture behind the reporter showed a man of about thirty-five, I’d have guessed. He looked vaguely familiar though I wasn’t sure why, so I shrugged it off, figuring maybe he’d been in here at some point for lunch.

I asked Bonnie if he looked familiar to her and she shook her head. When I said I thought maybe he’d come in for a meal she nodded. “Hard to tell, but then he’s pretty average looking so if he did, he didn’t stick in my head.”

At that point the story was over and I shut off the TV. Whoever he was it wasn’t our problem. As Bonnie commented, he was just an unfortunate victim of the rising crime rate in the city.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

(10) I am what I am

~Quinn Eddison~

Jack came into the squad room, heading straight for me. 'Me' being Detective Quinn Eddison. I looked up when he tossed a file in front of me.

“We’ve got a nasty one here, Quinn,” he muttered as he flopped down in the other chair by my desk and waited for me to read it.

I had to agree. A man’s body had been found in a vacant semi-furnished studio apartment. He had been cuffed hand and foot to the bed, gagged and then stabbed numerous times. That in itself was bad enough. The topper was what the killer had done afterwards. He, or she, no telling at this point, had cut the man’s cock off and stuffed it up his ass. Someone had a big hate on. Now we had to discover if it was specifically for him or just for men in general. Gay men if what had been done to him was any indication.

“John Marcum Ward,” I read aloud when I got the identification part of the report. “Not a local so was he here on a business trip?” I look over at Jack.

“No clue yet, I just got this an hour ago. I’ve got men calling all the hotels in the vicinity where he was found to see if he was registered at one. If not we’ll spread out the search. According to what was in his wallet, he’s forty-eight, married with two kids. I made a call to the police department in his home town. They’ll notify his wife and hopefully get some sort of positive ID from her once the ME has taken pictures of his face we can fax them. At least the killer left that undamaged.”

“Nothing indicating where he met the killer, I see.”

“Not so far. If he was gay, and the fact that he’s married says otherwise, it could have been at one of those clubs.”

I didn’t contradict him on that even though he should have known better. After all, just because a man was married didn’t mean a thing. He could have been deeply closeted. I should know; I was that way for years before I decided it wasn’t worth the damage to my psyche.

“So we check those clubs out just in case, though as you said it’s probably unlikely. We’ll get on them and the regular ones in the area as well. Who knows, we might get lucky and put this one to rest fast.” I glanced at the file again and added, “Let’s hope we do, I don’t want to think that we have some serial killer starting a spree.”

“Or continuing one,” Jack pointed out. “Maybe new to the city from somewhere else.”

“Good point. I’ll run a check through the Feds to see if anything like this has turned up anywhere else.” 

“Yeah, and if it has, they take over the case,” he growled.

“Better safe than sorry and you know it.”

“Yeah, yeah. Okay, you get on that. I’ll see what’s turned up on the hotels and get some men going on the clubs as soon as I get Ward’s picture from the ME.”