Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Death Becomes Him - 15

Trent listened to all Rory was saying, trying hard to believe it was just some fanciful and very convoluted story to explain why he hadn’t gotten in contact with him until today.

He couldn’t.

He might have, because he didn’t want it to be true, but one small thing stood in his way. Rory had fangs. Long ones that he could extend and retract seemingly at will.

So where does this leave me? Do I wish him a long, very long, and happy life and walk away? Or do I stay, and hope he will too, and we see—what happens.

He wasn’t really surprised when Rory said, “I’d rather the latter than the former.”

“Are you always going to do that?” Trent asked, trying to make it sound like a joke although it really wasn’t. He didn’t want Rory knowing his every thought.

“No. I’m just… I need to know how you’re feeling about all this and I suspect you’re expressions, and your body language, are telling only half the story. So—I probe a bit.”

“Well don’t. Aside from the fact it’s very unnerving, it’s also totally unethical. Of course,” he added snidely, “vampires probably don’t worry about ethics, all things considered.”

“Not true, damn it! Just because I am one now does not mean I’ve changed in any way except that I’m not alive in the usual sense of the word.”

“That’s a bit of an understatement.”

“Is, isn’t it,” Rory retorted with a small smile. “One question, and I won’t read you so you can answer any way you want to and I’ll take it as the truth. Do you believe me?”

“I believe”—Trent frowned, looking at the man he had loved—“I believe you think it’s true which I guess makes it so.”

“Not terribly logical.”

“I’ve read things about people who actually do believe they’re vampires and need blood to survive. It’s a rarity, but it happens. Maybe this Emily person managed to convince you that you are, for some ulterior motive of her own. If that’s true, then you’re…” He stopped when he realized the fallacy in what he was saying. Rory did have fangs. Real ones. Not implants or the kind they sold in the tourist shops in the Quarter. He had the real thing. “Yes,” he said almost reluctantly, “I believe you.” For some strange reason, that didn’t frighten him as much as it had half an hour ago.

Rory nodded, a look of relief flooding his face. “Then what happens next? Will you walk away?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. I should. I should go to your… your funeral, and then forget I ever met you. Speaking of which, are you going to let your folks know you’re alive?” Trent grinned weakly. “More or less.”

“What do you think?” Rory replied sourly. “If I did the shock would kill them. Better that they go on believing it’s me in that casket and let them grieve and move on.”

“How do you know? I mean about the funeral and the bones and all?”

“Emily and I set it up. She said they needed closure and I needed to stop feeling guilty for what they were going through. What you were going through. We—well I’m afraid we did a bit of grave-robbing at one of the cemeteries. Took a few bones, enough to validate the idea my body had been left in the bayou and some animal had dealt with it and left the remains for nature to take care of. We buried them, with my license and the ring so there’d be no doubt whose they were. That was almost two years ago, just before we went to France. I guess we did too good a job of it. We expected them to be found soon afterwards. It took much longer, obviously. We waited a few weeks then she had a friend of hers check the spot occasionally and watch the news. As soon as they were found we came back.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

Death Becomes Him - 14

“Ho—ly shit!” Trent backed away, his legs hit the edge of the bench and he landed hard on his ass. He gulped, shaking his head in pure disbelief.

“Convinced?” Rory asked wryly.

“Excuse me while I loose my dinner,” Trent mumbled, leaning over the edge of the bench to do just that, or at least the beer he’d had at the bar. Sitting back up, he spit to clear his mouth, wiping the back of his hand over it as he looked at Rory again. “Yeah, convinced, and scared shitless.”

“Of me?” Rory felt his heart sink in dismay.

“Of… the whole idea that they… that you, exist.”

“I’m still me—here,”—he tapped his forehead—“just a bit changed now.”

“A bit? A bit? You live on blood for God’s sake. And that’s just for starters.”

“That I get from a blood bank. I don’t go out hunting down humans. That’s not allowed.”

“Well isn’t that hunky-dory,” Trent said sarcastically. “But the one who found you must have been. I mean I presume it was a vampire who saved your life. What was their excuse for making you one of them? That you’d have died if they didn’t? And why did they care?”

“Do you mind if I…?”—Rory pointed to the bench. When Trent nodded slowly, Rory sat. “She wasn’t hunting. Strangely enough she was heading to the trolley stop when she heard me cry out.”


“Yes. Her name is, well technically it’s Comtesse Émilienne Charpentier but she goes by Emily Carpenter.” He smiled softy. “She’s very nice, very sweet, and if women were my thing I’d probably have made a play for her soon after I met her.”

“I suppose I should be thankful she is female, or you might never have come back,” Trent said sourly, glowering at Rory. “Why didn’t you, until now?”

“Becoming a vampire is not ‘one day you aren’t, the next day you are’. It takes time, and getting used to—things. Learning how to handle what you are and what you can do.”

“Four damned years?”

“Closer to two. There’s more to it than just being strong and fast and… and all the stuff you read about in the stories. But back to what I was telling you. We might as well take it in order. Right?” When Trent nodded, Rory continued. “She heard me, smelt blood, and came to investigate. The bastards ran, I guess figuring they’d killed me and not wanting anyone to see who they were. From what she told me later, I was bleeding out and so close to death there was only one way to save me. She fed me some of her blood, then transported me back to her place.”

“I thought you said she was heading to the trolley.”

“She was, but this was an emergency so she, I suppose you could call it teleporting although it’s really a sort of flying. She’s so old that it was fast and easy for her. She took me home, restrained me, then fed me her blood again to keep me alive.”

“Meaning she turned you into a vampire, at least according to all the books about them.”

Rory nodded. “First it was her blood, and then what she got from the blood bank.”

Trent gave him a disbelieving look. “She can just walk into one and say ‘I need so many bags of type whatever’ and they give them to her?”

Chuckling, Rory shook his head. “There are vampire ones. There have to be if they’re”—he chewed his lip before amending his words—“If we’re going to remain civilized and not prey on humans.”

“Nice of you all,” Trent muttered. “So what next? You became one and then?”

“I had to learn how to handle everything, my strength, my preternatural sight and smell and speed. My revulsion about needing to drink blood to stay alive. I could, I still can, eat real food but it only satisfies the psychological need to seem human. Emily says in time I’ll find food boring, once I fully accept what I am and will always be until the day someone decides to end my existence.”

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Death Becomes Him - 13

For a long moment Trent hesitated. Whatever was going on with Rory, it was apparent he was not the man he’d once been. Far from it. No human… Trent frowned deeply at where his thoughts had gone. Of course he’s human. I mean, I see him, I felt him.

“I wish I were,” Rory said.

Trent raised one hand, pointing a finger at Rory. “How do you do that?”

“Reading your thoughts?” He smiled wanly. “It comes with the territory so to speak.”

Steeling himself, Trent said, “You’re right, we do need to talk. I guess by the river works as well as anywhere.”

“Thank you,” Rory murmured, keeping pace with Trent as he took off.

They walked in silence, Trent keeping enough space between them so there was no chance they would brush arms or shoulders. When they got to the river, he saw an empty bench a few yards off the path. Making a beeline to it, he sat, looking tensely at Rory, now standing in front of him. “All right. Explain yourself, if you can.”

Rory nodded. “I suppose the best place to start is the last time we talked. Remember you warned me to be careful?”

“About muggers. Yeah.”

“I should have listened, but I thought I was smarter, invincible even.” He began to pace. “I was almost to my car. It was at the backside of one of the lots, right next to the trolley tracks, not to far from here actually. My spot was next to some trees.” He sorted softly. “That was my first bit of bad luck. It was the only one open when I came down here that evening. Damned tourists. Anyway, I was just unlocking the car when two men came out of the trees. One of them had a knife, the other one… well from what little I saw before he hit me, it looked like a piece of pipe. I went down like the proverbial ton of bricks but I was still conscious and I managed to let out a shout for help.”

“Damn, Rory,” Trent whispered.

“Yeah. Anyway, I should have kept my mouth shut and let them take what they wanted. The guy with the knife… I guess he panicked. Anyway he stabbed me, here.” Rory touched his chest just above his heart. “That—was the last thing I remember until I woke up.” He smiled grimly. “I was on a bed. Wrists and ankles shackled to the four corners, a thick chain over my chest. I was sure I was either having a nightmare or had ended up in the hands of some S&M freak somehow.” Pausing, he took a deep breath then smiled slightly when he apparently realized what he’d done. “I don’t have to do that any more. Breathe that is.”

“Un-huh,” Trent replied, his anger back full force when Trent said that. “Now you’re going to try to convince me you’re what? One of the undead?”

“Exactly—because I am. The woman who saved me was a vampire.”

Trent surged to his feet. “Enough with the… the horror stories. Maybe, just maybe, ghosts do exist. Vampires? No. Way. In. Hell.” He punctuated each word with a stab of his finger to Rory’s chest.

“So they’d have you believe.” Rory opened his mouth just enough to let his fangs drop so that Trent could see them and then he retracted them.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Death Becomes Him - 12

Rory cringed, his hands fisting, when he saw the look of pure outrage that filled Trent’s face. He knew it would happen, but he had no alternative. Not if he wanted to regain even a modicum of what he and Trent had once had. He wasn’t sure that was possible, but he had to try.

“What the hell are you trying to pull?” Trent spat out as he sprang to his feet. Without another word he practically ran out of Lafitte’s. When he got to the sidewalk, Rory was in front of him. Trent stopped dead, his body tense with fear. “How…?” he barely got out.

“Let me explain. But not here.” Rory glanced around at the people passing by even at this late hour.

Trent closed his eyes for a moment. “That was impossible,” he whispered, as though saying it would make it so.

“Believe me, I wish it was,” Rory replied devoutly.

Opening his eyes again, Trent stared at him, looked as if he was going to say something then turned sharply seconds later and walked swiftly away.

Instantly Rory was there beside him, gripping his shoulder. “Please,” he said pleadingly, “just listen to me. Hear me out.”

His face ashen with fear, Trent swallowed hard. “What the hell is going on? What… what are you?”

“I’ll tell you,” Rory replied quietly. “But not here with so many people around.”

“Then where?” Trent asked, sneering. “In the cemetery? St. Louis is close.”

Running one hand through his long, black hair, Rory replied, “That was uncalled for.” He managed a tiny smile. “Though it would be fairly private. However, even if you believed in ghosts…”

Trent broke in, sounding almost like his old self as Rory remembered him. Smiling wryly he said, “You once did your best to convince me they exist, and I almost did.” Then fear suffused his features again. “If you want me to believe you’re one, forget it. You’re solid. I felt it when you touched me.”

“Of course I am. I’m not a ghost. Look, can we go… down by the river. There’s enough people you won’t be alone with me, but not so many that we can’t talk privately.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Death Becomes Him - 11

Trent didn’t order a Hurricane, once he’d managed to get the table he wanted in the rear of the bar. Instead he got a beer and nursed it slowly by candlelight. Every time anyone came within five feet of him, his pulse sped up until he realized that it wasn’t anyone he knew. That it wasn’t the one man he wanted to see there, and knew he wouldn’t. He’s dead. Dead and gone. That refrain ran over and over in his head as the time closed in on midnight. He stared down as his empty glass. Shoving it aside, he started to stand.

“Not gone.”

At those two quiet words, Trent’s head whipped around. He stared at the man in disbelief… and unbearable elation.

“Close your mouth,” Rory said with a soft chuckle while he pulled out the other chair and sat down.

Trent did not find Rory’s words the least bit amusing. He scowled at him, spitting out, “What the hell is going on with you? Do you know your folks are having your funeral in just over a day from now? Are you fucking aware that they think you’re dead? That I thought you were dead? Do you get what you’ve put all of us through for the last four years? Why? Just—why?” He slammed his fist down on the table.

Rory looked at him, his expression filled with anguish. “I had no choice.”

“Oh you had a choice. You’re alive but you made a conscious choice not to let anyone know. You left your employees high and dry, your family caught in the throes of their loss with no explanation about what had happened to you. You are a…” Trent took a deep breath, shaking his head angrily.

But at the same time he couldn’t stop the contrary emotions he was feeling. Absolute relief that Rory was alive, a swift hit to his libido as he looked at the man he had loved—and lost for no logical reason that he could think of, or that he would accept from Rory. Because there is no logical reason for him not to have at least contacted me, them, his parents, to let us know he wasn’t dead. Even if he has a reason to stay hidden, at least he could have done that.

“No, I couldn’t.”

Trent looked at Rory in shock, asking fearfully because it seemed as if Rory had read his thoughts, “Couldn’t what?”

“Have let you know I was alive. Because I’m not.”

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Desth Becomes Him - 10

Trent arrived home to find Beau, as always, chomping at the bit to get out for a walk.

“Jennie’s going to have her hands full,” he said after he’d clicked the leash to Beau’s collar and opened the front door. The dog practically dragged him to the driveway so he could pee on the tree next to it. After that, Beau calmed down some as they made their way to the park. Twenty minutes later, having taken a brisk jog along the park’s paths, they returned home. Trent fed his apparently starving animal, grumbling that he couldn’t be that hungry since there was still kibble in one of his bowls.

Then Trent fixed his own supper, setting it out on the kitchen table. He realized when he started eating that his stomach was so tied in knots he wasn’t sure he could finish.

It can’t be Rory. It has to be some sick joke. But as before, he couldn’t think of anyone who would pull something like that. He glanced at the clock over the stove. Four hours. I’ll got crazy waiting.

Getting up, he put the remains of his half-finished meal in a container which he deposited on the top shelf of his refrigerator. Then he went into the living room. Looking at the bookshelves surrounding his desk along one wall, he contemplated finding something to read until it was time to leave. Nothing remotely interested him. It was the same with the TV shows he discovered when he dropped down on the lounge chair next to the sofa and surfed through them.

Too restless to sit still, he headed upstairs to change into more comfortable clothes. Take a shower. That’ll kill some time.

He stripped, hanging his slacks and shirt neatly in the closet, then tossing is underwear in the hamper in the bathroom. His shower was short because all he could think about was the times he and Rory had shared them. “Which is the last thing I need to be remembering right now,” he grumbled as he got out and dried off, wrapping the towel around his waist then using as second one on his hair. Not that he really needed to since it was almost military short.

Going back to the bedroom, he stood in front of his open closet, trying to decide what to wear. In the end, he chose jeans and a navy-blue shirt. Once he was dressed he checked the time again. Well that killed an hour. Now what?

He knew what he should do, get undressed and go to bed. He had a plane to catch in the morning, to go to the funeral of a man who, if the message really was the truth, wasn’t dead.

His license, his ring, his bones. He’s dead! Quit trying to think otherwise. He’s probably been dead since the last night we talked. But…

Trent knew he had to do as the message said. He even knew exactly where in Lafitte’s he’d find Rory. At their favorite table in back. The one Rory had chosen because, according to legends, it was where the ghost of Jean Lafitte would sit while eyeing the modern-day customers with a great measure of scorn.

God, I’m beginning to believe he will be there. He won’t be, so get that out of my head. But someone will be and I have to find out who is so vicious they want to play sick games with me.

Too restless to stay put at the house, Trent decided to go to Lafitte’s now. A couple of their notorious Hurricanes and I won’t give a damn who shows up. It could be Lafitte himself, offering to take me to where he buried his treasure and I’d believe him and follow along.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Death Becomes Him - 9

Rory’s funeral had been set and Trent was finishing off the last bits of business at the hotel so he could take the next two days off to go up for it. Before shutting down his computer, he made one final check of his email to be certain there were no last minute ones he needed to deal with.

The first thing he saw was a message with no subject. He started to send it to his spam folder when the address caught his attention. He frowned but was intrigued as the email came from ‘’. Probably a fanfic group planning of holding a con here in town. That had happened before, with the administrators looking for available housing for the attendees, although they would usually put something it the subject line to indicate that.

It opened at his click. There were three short sentences.

I’m not dead. Meet me at Lafitte’s at midnight.
Tell no one.

What the fuck? What kind of game is someone trying to play? Who’s not dead?

Of course the second he thought that, he knew. Not that he believed a word the message said. Still his heart beat faster.

It can’t be. This is insane. And if it was him, which it’s not, why wait until now to get in contact with me?

He was certain whoever sent the message had chosen Lafitte’s for a reason. It was one of the central stops for all the ghost and vampire tours, and a place where he and Rory often met up after they got off work. Sending him there would give veracity to the idea it was Rory who had sent the email, if that’s what they were trying to do.        

He started to hit the delete button. Not that that will erase the message from my mind. Instead, he forwarded the message to his personal email, then deleted it before getting off the Internet and closing down the computer.

After gathering up what he needed to take with him, he walked out to the front desk of the hotel. His mind was still spinning, and his traitorous heart was still beating in overdrive, but he managed to keep it together while he let his people know he’d be back in two days. Then he handed Jennie, one of the clerks, his duplicate house key. She was going to stop by a couple of times a day to feed and walk Beau while he was gone.

On the drive home, all he could think was that the message had to be from someone who was trying to mess with his head. The problem was, he couldn’t think of anyone he knew who would do that. He didn’t have any enemies. Hell, he didn’t even have any disgruntled ex-lovers. Since Rory’s disappearance he’d made it a strict policy not to let himself get involved with anyone on more than a very short term basis. “You can’t get hurt if you don’t let someone in” was his motto and he’d stuck with it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Death Becomes Him - 8

Trent met Dave and Janet Mathieu at the airport and drove them back to the hotel. The couple was silent most of the way, wrapped in their misery.

Once they were settled in, Rory’s parents got in touch with the detective who had called them to let him know they’d arrived. They set up a meeting and despite Trent’s offer to drive them, they took a cab. “You have your job and you’ve already spent too much time ferrying us around,” Mr Mathieu said firmly.

When they returned to the hotel two hours later they knew more about how Rory’s remains had been found. They told Trent over dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.

“It seems a man was out there treasure hunting with one of those metal detectors,” Dave said. “He got a ping and started digging. When he found the bones he told the cops he figured he’d discovered someone’s pet that they’d buried there, until he got to the license and the ring.”

“What I don’t get,” Trent said pensively, “is why there were only a few bones, from what you’ve said.”

Mr Mathieu nodded. “I asked the same question. The detective’s theory is some animal may have found the body when it was first buried. Maybe even a gator. It…” He shuddered, looking at his wife.

“Tell him,” Janet barely whispered. “I’m not going to break down again.”

He took her hand while turning his attention back to Trent. “He figures the animal ate what it wanted, then took some of the rest away with it,” he said quickly, as if doing so would somehow negate what he was telling Trent. “That’s why he figures it was probably a gator. Then time and nature covered up what was left and everything rotted away except the remaining bones, the license and the ring.”

Trent nodded. “Are they, have they, done DNA testing on the bones?”

“He said they would, but they’d need a sample of Rory’s DNA for comparison.”

“Or ours,” Janet said softly.

“True,” Dave agreed. “We’ll have to go down to the morgue to do that but I don’t see any reason to. They found his things with the bones. To me that’s conclusive enough.” He stared angrily off into space. “All I want is to get in touch with a local mortuary. They can take charge of the bones and send them home so we can have a proper funeral. They’ll never find out who killed our boy. The detective as much as admitted that. Why prolong our agony any longer.”

Trent gripped Dave’s arm. “I understand completely. There’s a mortuary a few blocks from here you can use if you want. Morbid as it sounds, I know the owner because he often makes arrangements for out-of-towners who come in for a funeral to stay here if we have room. I can call him in the morning to let him know you’ll be coming by. That is if you want.”

“Thank you. We’d appreciate that.” Dave covered Trent’s hand with his, asking, “I should have asked long before now. How are you doing? I know this is as much of a shock to you as it was to us.”

“I’m still coming to grips with it. At least now we know. I think, at least for me, not knowing and wondering if he might turn up again—hoping he would—was the worst part of his disappearing. Now I know he won’t and so there’s closure of a sort.”

Janet looked at him and nodded. “We feel the same. I guess, no matter how horrible this is, it still is better to know than, as you said, to live in hope that he was alive and just didn’t want to come… home.” 

“I wish…” Dave shook his head, only continuing when Trent asked. “I wish we knew how he died and who killed him. But after four years that won’t happen.”

“Unfortunately not,” Trent agreed, trying not to sound as angry as he felt about the idea. 

“We should go back to our room,” Dave said. “It’s been a long, emotional twenty-four hours and we have to get some sleep, if we can.”

Trent stood, waiting for them, then escorted them to the elevator. “I’ll see you in the morning,” he told them.

Janet smiled mournfully, giving him a hug. “You get some rest too.”

“I will, I promise.”

As soon as they were gone, Trent stopped at the front desk to let the clerks know he was finally going home.

When he got to the house Beau greeted him very enthusiastically. Trent chuckled, knowing it had as much to do with the dog’s needing to go out as it did with his being happy he was there. Snagging the leash from the hook by the door, he snapped it on Beau’s collar and they took off for the nearby park.

“I wish you could have met him, Beau,” Trent said a few minutes later when the dog had finally slowed his pace to a walk. “You would have liked Rory. He was good people.” Trent sighed, coming to a stop by a bench and sitting. “I thought I was over the loss, but now…” He petted Beau when he settled on his haunches in front of him. “Damn it! Why didn’t he listen to me that night? If he had, if he’d been more careful—but he thought he was invincible. He thought he knew what he was doing and no one could catch him unawares. Now…” He buried his face in his hands, all the emotions he’d felt since Rory’s father had called the night before finally breaking loose. He cried, only vaguely aware when Beau rested a paw on his knee as if commiserating with him.

Eventually he looked up, trying to wipe the vestiges of his tears away with the back of his hand. “Let’s go home,” he said quietly. Beau jumped to his feet eagerly, then much to Trent’s surprise, he put his front paws on the bench and licked Trent’s face. “Missed a few did I?” he said, chuckling softly, appreciating the dog’s loving gesture.

Beau got back down, tugging the leash, and they walked slowly back to the house.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Death Becomes Him - 7

A year passed, and three more. Trent slowly managed to push Rory to the back of his mind, only occasionally wondering what had happened to him. Had he just picked up and left? Possible, even though if he had, he’d left all his belongings behind. Had he been mugged, something Trent had cautioned him to be careful about the last time they’d talked? If so why hadn’t he shown up at one of the hospitals or, God forbid, the morgue? All those things ran through his head when he did think of Rory and of the life they’d been building together before he vanished.

Then, four years after Rory’s disappearance, Trent got a phone call from Rory’s father.

“The New Orleans police just got in touch with us,” Mr Mathieu said haltingly. “They found… some remains. They think they could be Rory’s. There was a driver’s license and… and his class ring with the—Damn, this is hard. It was just some bones.”

Trent listened with dismay, feeling as if he’d been punched in the gut. “Are they certain the bones are his?” he asked quietly.

“I gather, from what the detective said, that there weren’t many. It was in… they were buried in… Bayou Piquant?”

Trent nodded, realized Mr Mathieu couldn’t see that and replied, “Yes. It’s not too far outside of the city. How the hell…? Well you wouldn’t know. Did the detective have any idea how long his body was there?”

“He didn’t say. My wife and I are flying down in the morning.” He sighed sadly. “Not that there’s anything to identify but we can’t just leave him… the… bones… to be buried in some pauper’s grave.”

“Tell me when you’re arriving and I’ll meet you at the airport.”

Mr Mathieu protested that they could catch a cab into the city, but Trent insisted he’d be there to pick them up. “You can stay at my hotel,” he added. “We have a couple of vacancies at the moment.”

They settled the details and then hung up.

How the hell did you end up in the bayou? Trent was devastated by the idea, and even more so by the thought he would never see Rory again. He knew that somewhere deep inside he had always hoped his lover would walk back into his life one day, smiling as he said, “Did you miss me?”

Now that would never happen. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Death Becomes Him - 6

Rory’s parents hadn’t heard from him, which surprised neither them nor Trent when it came right down to it. They asked, once they knew what was happening, that Trent keep them appraised of the situation and even offered to come down to New Orleans if he thought they could help look for their son. Knowing that being gone could affect Mr Mathieu’s business, he told them that wouldn’t be necessary.

“Not that I couldn’t use the moral support,” he said, which led to his having to explain what he was almost certain they’d already figured out, that he and Rory were involved again, the way they had been in high school.

“Just find out where he is,” Rory’s mother had pleaded. “That’s all we ask.”

“And damn it, when you do find him, tell him to call us,” his father had added. “That boy”—he sighed—“should grow up and… never mind. Just find him, Trent.” 

“I’ll do my best,” Trent promised before hanging up.

He filed the missing person’s report. The officer who took it said they’d add it to their list. He explained, much to Trent’s dismay, that on any given day in the U.S. over two thousand people went missing and New Orleans had their fair share of them. “So as much as I hate to say it, don’t get your hopes up. We will check with the morgue, local hospitals and our jails, to see if he’s shown up at any of them, but beyond that there’s not all that much we can do.”

At that point, Trent felt he’d done all he could. It didn’t make him feel any better. If anything he was even more depressed. He had thought, with what he considered good reason, that he and Rory had something going on between them. That sooner or later their relationship would become permanent because they cared for each other to the point that he was willing to admit he loved Rory. He thought Rory felt the same.

Days passed into weeks. Rory’s employees found other jobs. The place that had been the tour company’s headquarters was re-rented and turned into a small art gallery. After two months, Trent gave up hope of ever finding out what had happened to the man he loved. The man who had inexplicably vanished as if he’d never existed. He kept in touch with Rory’s parents—sporadically—hoping they might have heard from him.

Six months later Trent moved out of his small house into a larger one. The hotel was prospering and his paycheck reflected that. He also got a dog, a stray from the local pound. It was definitely a mixed breed, with shaggy black and brown hair and a tail that wagged a mile-a-minute. They hit it off immediately and though he was larger than Trent had been looking for, he couldn’t resist adopting him. After careful consideration, all five minutes thereof, he decided to name him Beauregard. Beau for short.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Death Becomes Him - 5

With things settled, at least for the moment, Trent took off for Rory’s apartment. When he got there the result was the same as it had been earlier in the day. He considered buzzing the building manager to ask if he could let him into the apartment but decided that would be an effort in futility. He wasn’t a police officer and had no valid reason to be allowed inside. At least not until Rory had been missing for more than a couple of days.

Please, God, don’t let that be the case. Let it be something stupid like… he ran into an old friend and they’re… off doing something and lost track of time.

He really hoped that was the case, as much as it would piss him off if Rory had hooked up with some ex-lover and ended up at the man’s place for a one night stand.

A very long one, but still better than the alternative, which is that something happened to him.

Worried and restless because there didn’t seem to be anything he could do right now, Trent returned to the Quarter. He stopped at Johnny’s for a hot sausage po-boy that he ate as he walked back to the tour company. No one was around when he got there, unsurprisingly since the first tours of the evening would be underway. Settling down on the low step in front of the locked door, Trent waited.

An hour later the guides returned. The first question each one asked was if Trent had found Rory, or at least heard from him. He said he hadn’t, then waited with them until tourists arrived for the next tours. By then he was ready to leave. If Rory hadn’t appeared already, the chances were he wasn’t going to, and Trent did have his own job, which required he get at least some sleep.

For the next two days he rotated between the hotel, Rory’s apartment and the tour company. There was no sign of Rory, and no one had heard from him. Finally, Trent decided to talk to the manager of Rory’s building. He convinced the man that Rory seemed to be among the missing and that he was worried he might be sick and unable to even answer his phone.

The manager agreed to let Trent into the apartment as long as he was present. The first thing that met them when the man opened the door was a musty odor that to Trent’s way of thinking meant no one had been there since the last time he’d spoken with Rory three nights ago. As far as he could tell nothing had been disturbed and nothing was missing. Thanking the manager, he left, heading back home.

A fast online check let him know what sort of information he should give the police if he was going to file a missing person’s report. He started with Rory’s description, six-one, black hair, deep blue eyes, and slender but muscular. Age, twenty-six. He found a picture they’d taken together six months earlier when they’d decided on a whim to try out a riverboat trip, and attached it to the paper.

Then he called Rory’s parents. He hadn’t before, not wanting to worry them, but knew he had to bite the bullet now, if for no other reason than to find out if Rory had contacted them. He’d feel pretty stupid filing the report only to discover Rory had, for some unknown reason, gone back home.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Death Becomes Him - 4

When Rory didn’t show up later that evening as promised Trent began to worry. Especially after trying to call him and being sent to voicemail. He finally went to bed, hoping against hope that Rory was doing something mundane, like taking out another group of people, and had forgotten to call to let him know.

The next morning, Trent tried calling him again, with no success. After the third attempt he got a recorded message saying Rory’s voicemail box was full and no more messages could be taken.

Trent would have gone to Rory’s apartment first thing in the morning if he hadn’t had a hotel to run. As it was, he didn’t get away until well into the afternoon, and then only long enough to make a quick trip through the Quarter to Marigny where Rory lived. He pushed the buzzer repeatedly, to no avail. Taking advantage of someone leaving, he got inside and went up to Rory’s apartment. There was no answer to his knocking, even though he tried for several minutes.

Finally defeated, he returned to work and a meeting with a potential new supplier for the hotel’s small restaurant.

By the time he was able to leave for the day it was closing in on six-thirty in the evening. He headed straight to the Quarter and Rory’s tour company, which was in a small two-story building that had once held a tiny voodoo shop on the ground floor. When he arrived he found four of Rory’s employees standing outside, along with a group of what he presumed were tourists. He immediately buttonholed one of the employees asking what was going on.

“Waiting for Mr Mathieu to show up, Mr Dickens,” the young woman replied. “He’s late. Way late. We can’t start the tours without him here to deal with the money part of it.”

“He’s usually here by three,” said a young man Trent recognized as the somewhat flaky Jack.

“None of you have heard from him?” Trent asked, looking at the costumed tour guides. There was a universal shaking of heads in response.

“I tried calling him,” Mick, Rory’s assistant manager, told him. “His voicemail is full. I usually handle things when he’s not here, as far as selling tickets, but only after he’s come by to open up, which he didn’t today.”

“I got the same thing this morning when I tried calling,” Trent admitted. “At this point, I’d say carry on for this evening without him. Some of those people”—he nodded toward the assembled tourists—“might already have tickets so they should get their promised tour. The same holds for any of the other tours tonight, but put a sign on the door saying there won’t be any more until further notice. If the rest of those people want to go along, you might as well let them. Mick, you hang on to the money and give it to Rory tomorrow when he shows up.”

The employees looked relieved that Trent was, to some degree, taking charge for the moment. He wondered how long that would last once they realized if Rory didn’t appear by the next evening they might be out of a job, and whatever pay was owed them.

“Do you think something happened to him, Mr Dickens?” Jack asked.

“Let’s hope not. I’ll run by his place. Maybe he’s sick or”—Trent smiled wryly—“too hung over to function.”

Mick shot him a look of disbelief. “You know he doesn’t really drink that much. Not since…”

Trent nodded. Rory had cut back drastically on his drinking soon after he and Trent had restarted their relationship two years ago. Not, Rory had told him, that he ever let it get out of hand before then. But he had been known to have one or two over the limit, at which point he would walk or cab home from whatever club he was at.

“I know,” Trent replied with a tight smile. “Okay, you all carry on as best you can. I’ll come back to let you know what I find out, if anything. And call me if he does show up in the mean time.” He gave them his number and received promises from all four of them that they would.