Quicksand Pt. 04

A gay story: Quicksand Pt. 04

The next morning, I gathered the Sunday paper from my stoop after my workout. Evan was just stumbling down the stairs when I entered. He followed me to the kitchen as I grabbed a banana. It was too ripe for my taste, but I had become guarded about even the most common errands. I missed store-fresh produce.

As I showered, Evan whipped up a savory omelet and we enjoyed a civilized meal over the Sunday edition. Print newspapers have become farcically meager with the advent of the internet, but I resist succumbing to a screen on Sunday morning. Still, I finished the paper before I finished my breakfast.

I grabbed the comics section first. Evan pouted then pulled his chair close and we read the comics together. The humor of the funny pages seemed increasingly meager these days as well. Probably a sign of a culture descending into a bleak, vapid sump. I was more distracted than amused while Evan giggled over every panel. His shoulder was pressed to mine as he quaked with gaiety, and I discovered my own laughter in his mirth.

I took pleasure in his closeness and was gradually losing my impulse to pull away. He seemed a natural cuddler though I couldn’t imagine that behavior with Lucas. Lucy, I’m sure, was the surrogate for his craving for intimacy during those years. With her being equally terrified of Lucas and often exiled to a secret lair, I realized how barren Evan’s life must have been.

We cleaned the kitchen together, and then I ascended the stairs to the converted bedroom serving as my home office. Since Evan took refuge here, we had been living in the gloomy umbra of a cave. I opened the blinds to let in the sunlight. Beyond my tiny front lawn and across the street, a foursome occupied the 7th tee. Trash talk and laughter followed each drive. Their swings were fluid and swift. Good golfers. Still, I flattered myself thinking I could have walked away with a wallet full of winnings from friendly bets with those guys.

My gaze wandered to the tree where the thug had stood the day we had our face off. It was a majestic oak with a massive trunk split into two lesser trunks about ten feet up. It was one of my favorite trees and I pondered what might have caused it to grow like that when …

What is that? I wondered. I’ve never seen that before!

I tore down the stairs and started to rut through the upper shelf in the hall coat closet. I must have been making a ruckus because Evan was quickly there.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

I found the binoculars I was searching for and ripped them from the carrying case. “Nothing. Just some folks on the golf course I think I know.”

“Are they playing naked or something? What’s with the urgency?”

I brushed past him in a rush. “No. Just gotta hurry before… I’ve got the shades open so don’t come up.”

I adjusted the slats of the blinds to allow the slimmest vantage. Through the binoculars, it was obvious to see. A strap encircled one of the upper trunks. Sunlight glinted off optical glass.

I rushed to my bedroom window overlooking the backyard. Through the slats of the blinds, I surveyed the trees on the golf course. Another strap on another tree.

I called Detective Hardesty.

Later, the detective and I were waiting next to his SUV around a bend from my condo when the police technician returned from the cart path. He ignored me and spoke directly to Hardesty. “Two high-end game cameras focused right on his condo.”

“Game cameras?” I asked cluelessly.

“Hunters use them to observe deer patterns,” the tech replied. “Motion activated. They transmit directly to a cell phone.”

I turned to Hardesty, “Well, I should cut them down, right?”

“I’d advise against it. Let them think they’re getting away with something.”

It was apparent that Hardesty was engaging in a cat-and-mouse game with the thugs. That’s probably how he works every case, I thought. “And Evan and I are just bait to him. “So, as long as Evan stays hidden everything’s cool. Is that your reasoning?”

“They’re not looking for Wilcox.”

“What do you mean?”

“By now they’ve figured that they’ve scared your neighbor far away. They’re watching you.”

“They can’t possibly think I’m going to pay off my dead neighbor’s debt.”

“I’m sure they’ve given up on anyone paying the debt. They just want someone to pay, period. Those are the rules of the stupid game they play. You should have stayed away from the funeral.”

“What?” I was incensed at the detective’s flippant attitude. “So I perform a common courtesy and now I’m the target of a couple of psychos?”

Hardesty scoffed and doubled down on his callousness. “Only one of them is a psycho.”

“Whatever,” I erupted. “Those guys are a walking crime spree. Why aren’t they in jail?”

Hardesty matched me decibel for decibel. “Because we’ve got a murder without a murder weapon. No witnesses. No security footage. No squat.” Having gotten that out of his system, he took a more professional tone. “I promise you, we’re building a case. It won’t be long now.”

My tone became more apologetic. My words didn’t. “You’ve said that before. Just once I’d like to hear some good news from you.”

“You want some good news? Okay, how’s this? In this state, you don’t need a permit to carry a concealed weapon.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“It means, Mr. Eberson, start carrying a concealed weapon.”

I decided not to appraise Evan of this latest development. I sensed he was one scare away from going batshit crazy. I explained my absence by saying I had forgotten to mail the check for maintenance fees and dropped it off at the Pro Shop. As always, I explained, I got to chatting with the golfers.

He and I crafted a grocery list and I left to run errands. I took shortcuts through parking lots, made random U-turns, got on and off the freeway, all while watching my rearview mirror until I was certain I wasn’t being followed. Then, I went to a warehouse-sized sporting goods store. Half an hour later, I emerged with a short-barreled 9mm Glock in a concealed carry holster that fits inside the waistband. The process was surprisingly effortless. I found scant consolation that no one in the grocery store would know I was packing heat.

It was barely after noon as Evan and I put away the groceries though it felt like I’d already put in a day and a half. On the other hand, Evan was bristling with excitement as he laid out the fixings for lasagna on the counter. He promised I was in for a treat tonight. I tried to emulate his exuberance in an effort to mask my increasing sense of anxiety. I felt the weight of beady eyes on my home and the heft of the hidden gun on my hip. I hurried upstairs to stash the 9mm in my bed stand beside the.40 caliber that I kept there.

When I came back down, Evan was setting out sandwiches for lunch. “How long do you think this will go on?” he wondered as we sat down.

“I’d bet it’s over fairly soon.” I was impressed by my false optimism. “Hardesty seems like he’s on top of things. Just, please, stay out of sight. We can’t afford the slightest mistake.”

“I know. You’re right.” His smile reflected the grace he felt for the asylum my home afforded. “Actually, you’ve made me very comfortable and your company has been a blessing. I don’t know what I would have done …”

I gave his hand a pat and momentarily our fingers intertwined. “It has been kind of fun in a mildly terrifying way,” I joked. “I hope it’s not over too soon. I’ve really grown attached to…” I feigned misting up with emotion, “… Lucy.”

Evan swatted at me with a laugh. “Asshole.”

Afterward, I retreated to my office to work but my eyes kept being drawn to the window and the tree beyond. The sweet aroma of baking succulence wafted up to me and my stomach growled despite the lunch I’d eaten. I cautioned myself not to gain weight during Evan’s stay. I managed to focus on my work and the day succeeded in becoming late.

“Knock, knock.” Evan peeked through the sliver opening of my office door. “Thought you might need a beer before dinner.”

“Sounds great. Come on in.”

He nudged the door wider, holding a couple of cans of Bud. His eyes probed every inch of the room like an FBI interrogator looking for the flaw in my alibi. I realized this was the first time he had breached my business sanctum. I dashed to the window and shut the blinds.

“So not fair,” Evan pouted. “You get to bask in the only sunlit room while I’m banished to the inner shadows like a bastard stepchild.”

I took his offering and returned to my swivel chair as he hit the light switch and scattered lamps lifted the pall. “You’re right. It isn’t fair, my ill-fated friend, but I don’t make the rules.”

“Actually, you do make the rules, my fiducial friend, and that’s okay.” He gave my framed diploma a close inspection. “The only wall-hanging in the entire condo and it’s your MBA. You are such a desolate soul.”

“You’re forgetting the ‘Bless This Mess’ sampler in the kitchen.”

“I wasn’t forgetting. I was ignoring. You got your MBA in finance at OU? How was that?”

“Umm, it suited me. I liked Norman and an MBA just seemed like the right thing to do. I’m naturally good with numbers and I started doing the New York Times crossword at fourteen, so there you go.”

“The Times crossword translates into finance, how?”

“Markets are just puzzles with jeopardy attached.”

“You make it sound interesting,” he said earnestly. Evan had the quality of being sincerely curious about people. Or at least about me. “Was that where you met your wife?”

Sometimes too curious. “Yeah. Junior year, actually.” I pivoted the conversation. “Did you go to college?”

“Kind of. For, like, two seconds I was an art student at The New School but we’re talking about you.”

“What? You went to The New School?” I was genuinely intrigued. “That’s impressive, dude. Very prestigious. And Greenwich Village is way more exotic than Norman, Okiehoma. When was this?”

“Right after I graduated from Catholic High School. I absolutely fled Tulsa. And New York was almost far enough away for my family to forgive me. They could tell people I was artistic rather than gay.”

“I didn’t realize you’re an artist but it makes sense. I got a peek of your place and it seemed like the walls were …” I sought a phrase that might please him, “… festooned with art. Festooned, is that the right word?”

[zilla_likes]

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