Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Skirting the edge of reality

More of "The Vanishing of Owen Taylor". I don't know where the hell this will wind up.


We were taken to the infirmary, if you wanted to call it that. Two beds against one wall, examination tables against another, locked cabinets over a sink, all about as cheap as you could get and still meet the minimum standards of jail life. Tone was curled up on one of the beds, facing a wall. He wore his tan slacks and that deep red plaid shirt he loved so damn much, no socks or shoes. I slowly rounded the bed and saw his forehead was bandaged over his left eye. And his hands held tight to each other. And his face was slack and his breathing ragged. Blood crusted his face and shirt.

I kneeled and leaned against the bed, watching him, carefully. His eyes shifted and he saw me and smiled. “Took you long enough,” he whispered.

“I had to do an end run around the guard dogs,” I said, softly. "How you doin’?”

He shrugged. “Been through worse.”

“No shit. What is this? You got some fetish about hospital ERs or something?”

“I’m sorry. I was just looking for Matt and those cops stopped me and -- .”

My stomach dropped to the floor. “Matt?”

“Yeah. He been in contact, yet?”

“C’mon, Tone,” I said, forcing myself to focus on the moment and not let my mind go nuts, again. “You know how he gets when he’s hackin’. Same as when he’s playin’ a video game. The world vanishes. So...when was the last time you saw him?”

“This morning. He hopped out to get a thumb drive.”

“Where?” I asked, incredulous. “If he went to Palm Springs, he might not get back till midnight.”

“It’s not that far,” Tone said, frowning at me.

“But it is that distracting. And Matt’s got that happy puppy thing going that brings out the mommy-Queen in any gay man.”

Tone sighed. “Of course. He’s probably on his seventh PiƱa Colada and third blow job.”

“Why’d they bust you?”

"Said they found a body in the desert and wanted to ask me about it.”

“Body?” I looked at Consuelo.

She looked at Chief Arnold, who rolled his eyes. “You know how many illegals get lost crossing that desert, and die?”

“And how many times do your officers arrest and question people in town when one is found?” she asked, sweetly.

He sighed and left the room. I turned back to Tone.

“So what’d they do to you?” I asked.

He looked straight at me and I knew I’d been right, even as he said, “I dunno. We were talking and suddenly I was on the floor, and I couldn’t see straight.”

“You remember what they were saying before that happened?”

“They’d called the Texas AG. I’m going back in chains, but being a fag, I’d probably like that.”

“Sounds like a closet case, to me,” I said, making myself smile. “Was he cute, at least?”

“Tall. Runner’s build. Kind of a dork, but Matt’d like him.”

“Short-short hair on top?” He nodded. “Thick wedding band?”

He frowned. “I’d nod but it hurts my head too much.”

“Haven’t they given you anything for it?”

“I’d shake my head but...”

“Right.” I got to my feet. “Can we get some pain meds, here?”

A chunky guy seated in a chair by a tiny desk said, “No.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Not authorized.”

“Consuelo, isn’t it considered cruel and unusual punishment to withhold medication from an injured prisoner?”

“Take it up with Chief Arnold,” said chunky.

Consuelo sighed and reached in a pocket to pull out a slim container. “I have Midol,” she said. “Will that work?”

I held out my hand, grinning. She popped out two and I helped Tone sit up and whip ‘em down, swallowed with some water out of a bedpan because the asshole wouldn’t even give us a cup.

“Hm...I detect the charming essence of Lysol, 1950,” Tone said. “With a hint of ammonia. If this doesn’t clean me out, nothing will.” He leaned back a little, shifting his neck around like it was stiff, and all of a sudden, he looked like this scared little puppy who’d finally realized just how big the world was. His eyes got a little bigger. His shoulders drooped just a bit. Then he said, “Jake, I don’t want to lose you.”

Right to the gut. I made myself smirk and say, “Cut it out; you know I’m yours forever.”

“But I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. Dealing with assholes who just want to hurt us. Me and you and – and Matt. What if he's not in Palm Springs? What if he's -- ?”

"Sh, sh, sh, sh, sh," I whispered. I knew exactly what he meant and how he felt, but I needed to get this settled before I dealt with Matt. I slipped a hand around the back of his neck and started rubbing it as I said, “You ain’t goin’ back to Texas, Tone. Neither one of us, is.”

“But I violated the terms of the probation and...”

“Tone, we’re not going back. Trust me on this. Trust me. Okay?”

He looked at me for a long moment then nodded and said, “Okay.”

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