Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Jake begins to investigate

This is some of what I wrote on the train, coming down.

Everybody started showing up about seven, my guess is they were there thanks to Connie’s chili, it smelled so damn good. I actually snuck a couple chips full and nearly died from the beauty of it. Chunks of beef so tender they melted soon as they touched your lips. Just enough jalapeno to snarl and kick as it went down. Not even a suggestion of beans. The exact right blend of onions and spices, and I’d almost swear a hint of honey in it. By the time she gave the go-ahead to feast, I was growling from hunger.

I still made myself wait till everyone else had served themselves up; as host it’s only proper. There’s a lot of things I didn’t like about my mother, but she did instill what she called “a sense of propriety” in me. I could ignore it, sure, but when it was needed, it was there. So I got the dregs of the pot, but sprinkle on some cheese and I was in heaven.

This group was one of the most off-beat I’d ever seen. There were some older queens (Ian, Tommy and Frank), a couple of dykes and their life partners (Billie and Beth; Jackie and Annie), a few earnest guys slipping close to middle-age (Cliff, Mike and George), two leather boiz who seemed more interested in each other’s outfit than anything else (Steve and Ned), a muscle freak (Jack), a quiet librarian type in need of some grooming (Rick), along with two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree. They all chatted like they hadn’t seen each other in years, even though several were from the condo complex.

It looked like Dion and Tan weren't coming, so the last to arrive was an elderly woman with short white hair swept back and light, casual slacks topped by a comfortable blouse. She had one of those faces that reminded you of quiet strength and bemusement. Or maybe amusement; it was hard to read. This was Meredith, and with her was a happy, nervous, yappy Sheltie named Geordie, cradled in her arms.

“Sorry I’m late,” she said, her English having a slight accent. “Geordie insisted on smelling every flower on the way. Do you mind?”

Connie shook her head and laughed. “If you think we can hear over him.”

“Oh, he’ll settle down once he’s had something to eat.” Then she pulled a package of turkey bologna from her purse, tore off a strip and let him gobble it down. She set him on the floor and he stayed right by her, waiting for more...which she gave him in little bits. Man, if that was how she fed the mutt, it’s a wonder he wasn’t too heavy to pick up.

“Want some chili?” Connie asked.

I hadn’t dug into mine, yet, so I held it out for Meredith and said, “We saved you a bowl.”

“Oh, thank you but not right now,” she replied. “I never eat before eight.”

“Perfect timing,” Connie said as she pulled another pot of chili from the fridge. “Seconds’ll be ready just about then.”

“God, Connie,” said Ian, “you’re destroying my diet.”

“Part of my evil plot,” she smiled back at him.

Cliff was in the middle of a swig of beer as he looked around the room. Then he asked, “Isn’t that Owen’s fern in the corner?”

I looked at this massive explosion of crinkled leaves feathering out from a clay pot that’d been fire-blasted into a deep jade green.

“Yes,” she said. “He gave it to me a few days before he vanished. Maybe a week.”

“I killed the last two plants Owen gave me.” That was Billie talking.

“You didn’t live with me, then,” said Beth.

“Is he coming?” asked Frank. “I haven’t seen him in ages.”

“Nobody has,” I said. “That’s why I asked everybody to come, tonight. I’m trying to put together what was happening just before my uncle vanished.”

“When was that?” asked Jack, who then downed half his beer. He was sweating from the chili’s bite.

“Not long after his trial,” said Connie. “The last time I remember seeing him was about ten days later.”

“I think that’s when I saw him last,” said Meredith. “It was the argument he was having with that young man.”

“Right. The police officer who supported Owen’s arrest.”

“This was the guy who said he saw my uncle expose himself to that other cop?” I asked.

Connie nodded. “He’d come over to talk with Owen and it did not go well. When I came up, Owen was near hysterics and -- .”

“Excuse me,” I cut in. “What was his name?”

“Roy Harper.”

“Oh, God, it figures,” said Steve, smoothing his hand over the leather on his thigh. “He tried to get me for PI but -- .”

“PI?” It was Meredith asking. Geordie was interested, too.

“Public intoxication, all because this cock ring I was wearing was too tight to let me walk straight.”

“I’ve never walked straight,” Tommy cooed at him.

“Except to bed,” sniped Frank.

Tommy just gave him a But-of-course, shrug.

Okay, somebody was gonna have to wrangle these folks or we’d be here all night.

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