Feeling deeply grief-stricken and desolate Merlyn paced his home, trying to gain some control over his emotions. He could not seem to come to terms with the fact that Alton was gone. Not only gone but murdered. That made no sense to him whatsoever. As he had told the detective Alton was well-loved by everyone who met him, in all ways.
“It has to be a fatal form of gay bashing,” he muttered to himself as he walked upstairs to his studio. “There’s no other reason that makes sense.” After all, his friend and mentor had been nothing if not flamboyant. Perhaps some cretin had been out looking for a target and spotted Alton. He could imagine that person deciding the world needed one less fag in it and taking things into his own hands.
That idea Merlyn could live with. Not well but at least it would make Alton’s death something random, left to hands of fate, and not personal. Either way he prayed the cops would find the killer and do all that was needed to make certain he would never be a free man again.
With those thoughts running pell-mell through his mind Merlyn set to work on the commissioned sculpture. He needed to finish it and perhaps by focusing on it he could bury his emotions for a time.
After what seemed only minutes but was indeed several hours according to the clock on the studio wall, he heard the phone ringing. When he answered Detective Jonas told him she’d be by in an hour to pick him up as promised. He told her he’d be ready and hung up. Cleaning and putting away his tools he stepped back to look at what he’d accomplished, taking note of the details that still needed doing.
As he turned to leave the studio his eyes fell on his sculpture, the one Alton had so admired, and he felt a wave of grief that almost brought him to his knees. “I should have been with you,” he whispered in anguish. “If I hadn’t left you might still be alive.”
Something, a trick of light, a need, something made it seem as if the statue was looking back at him with compassion. Merlyn shook his head to clear it of that fantasy. Hastily he turned away, shutting off the lights, almost slamming the door behind him before dashing down the stairs to his bedroom.
An hour later he was cleaned up, dressed in jeans and a button-down, and sitting on the front stoop of his house waiting for the detective to arrive.
* * * *
“Anything,” Merlyn asked as he slid into the passenger seat of the unmarked car.
“Nothing I’m afraid,” Detective Jonas replied. “Well at least nothing to pinpoint who his killer was. He’d had a sexual encounter sometime earlier in the evening. Semen was found in his rectum and he’d ejaculated as well.”
“Meaning he’d probably made use of one of the rooms at the club. I doubt he took someone home since he was killed at the gallery.” Merlyn frowned. “But why was he there at one in the morning?”
“One of a number of questions on my list that need answering,” the detective replied as she pulled to a stop at a traffic light. “We’ve searched the gallery. Nothing seems out of order, the alarm was still set and the security company says it didn’t go off.”
“I was thinking, could it have been random? Someone who didn’t like gays and took advantage of his being there alone to kill him?”
“Always a possibility and one we’re not discounting but most gay bashers like to get up close and personal with their victims.”
Merlyn nodded, staring morosely out of the window at the passing scenery after the light turned green again.
“You haven’t thought of anyone at all who might have wanted him dead.”
“No. Although honestly I don’t know many of his friends. Hell, truth be told I don’t know any of them. There were people I met at the gallery when I had shows there, but most of them were people on his list of invitees who would be willing to spend money on my work.”
“Were any of the people other gallery owners who might have wanted to steal you away from him?”
Merlyn shrugged. “I suppose. But doesn’t it seem like killing him is a rather extreme way to go about it? My work sells, and sells well, but I’d hardly make someone an overnight millionaire if I switched to their gallery. Besides they would have approached me first.”
“And no one has?”
“Not in a long time. I think they all realized that I would never leave Alton.” Merlyn chuckled low. “Hell, half of them probably thought we were more than just agent and client, which would have made it even less likely that I’d split from him.”
The detective nodded as she pulled the car into the parking lot by the club.