Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It's finally here - the first, and very rough, draft of a novel. I'll be adding chapters every few days along with rewrites, changes, etc. But be forewarned, this is a gay adult novel with very explicit scenes. It's also a mystery, twisted with supernatural elements. It is intended for mature readers only.

San Francisco Dreaming, Sex and Death

Forward

You are about to enter an urban fantasy. You’ll find death, sex, unexpected love, loss, and perhaps, horror. A fantasy that plays loose with time, with hearts, with the self.

Prolog

The boy walked below his window every school day, a bag of books slung over a thin shoulder. Today he seemed tired, resigned, a bruise partially concealed by a sleeve grown too short. His hair was choppy, home-cut he thought. The heels of his shoes were worn nearly flat, the once white socks dreary with gray. His eyes followed the pattern of the walk, stepping over cracks, over tree roots that had broken the pavement long ago. The scent of puberty drifted above the night-blooming jasmine, exciting him. Soon.

He drew back the honey striped velvet drapes, but carefully avoided the morning sun. It pooled on the wide-plank cypress boards that ran throughout the house. Dust danced in the rays, creating arcane symbols. Mahogany bookcases lined the south wall, floor to ceiling, leather bound, cloth bound, skins of heretics, of saints . . . knowledge, lore, dissimulation, pride. His fingers twitched in the warming air, raising new symbols in the floating bits of earth.

Sliding back the pocket doors he entered a long wide breezeway, thick with the river damp. Voices from the French Market gave sing-song melodies . . . counting watermelons, selling redfish and pralines. The plaster was uneven over the brick wall, telling stories of long ago trysts, wakes, loss, of birth. The bubbled glass panes had trapped the air of dead men, giving the windows their haunt. 

He'd followed the boy home many times, down Decatur and into the Bywater. His four room shotgun sagged precariously, the front steps warped by one hundred years of summer. An older brother sold drugs uptown, to the college boys. A sister sold her tarnished goods to the tourists, walking up and down Burgundy or Dauphine. His father worked the rigs when rare episodes of sobriety interfered with his drinking. 

He'd tasted the sweetness of the boy just last month, lapping the flat belly dry. Soon. 

Chapter 1: Can Death Lead to Romance?

A cantankerous feral cat edged toward a limping pigeon. One wing tucked close to its molting chest, it seemed unaware of the part it was to play. A 1976 coupe de ville, resplendent in maroon, sliced into a no parking zone, feeding the street some Mexicali rap. 

So it was on a sunny June day in the Mission. The Irishman sat at a sidewalk table, half reading his tablet, half watching men walk, talk, amble along. A dark haired, slender hipster caught his eye - a shadow on his cheeks, tight tank, jeans rolled above bare ankles. Looking, then not looking. Indecisive, but it was mid-day after all. Perhaps it was simple sexual ambiguity. He suddenly waved, spotting someone across Valencia. With a glance and a shrug he walked away.

The man at the table smiled, evidently pleased at the exchange. His chopsticks searched through the remains of a deli mix, picking out dried cranberries and raisins. He pushed the diced carrots to the side. Tilting his chair back against the wall, he turned his face up toward the sun. His black t-shirt captured heat, counteracting the slightly cool breeze. Long, hairy legs ran down to small, arched feet in flip-flops. He wore decade old surfer jams from a summer Down Under . . . nicely faded, smoothed from salt and sand.

When his legs began a nervous beat he knew it was time to walk. 20th and Valencia had turned out to be a good spot, a nexus of sorts. Midway on Hipster Alley, and full of possibilities. But enough, for now. He walked down 20th to Mission and into the Dragon Bakery. The small Chinese woman behind the counter briefly looked up as the bell above the door jangled. Satisfied, she continued boxing a pink, round, 3-layer cake. He often came exclusively for their raisin buns. He chose two from the tall, battered display case, dropped a couple of dollars on the counter and left. He started toward Folsom, walking along the curb to remain in the sun. Passing a small Asian woman, he slowed to consider a strange rectangle of graffiti crowning a second story window.

It took a moment for his eye to recognize the stylized depiction . . . a man, on his knees, blowing another man. It was a daring, peculiar piece. Something about it tugged at the fringe of a memory . . . a similar work from long ago. A stifled scream broke through his small graffiti moment. A pretty Latina covered her mouth and walked, ran, stumbled down the street, not turning back. The small woman he’d passed leaned over a wide stroller, making shushing noises. Curious, he looked down.

Two boys, possibly 2 or 3 years old,  were slumped together. Beautiful children with soft blond hair. Their heads fallen awkwardly to the side, necks broken, blue eyes open. He looked again at the woman as she cooed. She had a slight smile, a jagged scar running from the corner of her mouth to her neck. A very small woman, barely five feet tall. He nodded to her and she shyly said 'hello'. Tucking in the corners of a blanket, she hummed an old Hmong sleeping song. 

She wore the deep indigo hemp clothing of the Black Hmong. Hand stitched, beaded and knotted. A woman from an ancient country, somehow here on 20th Street.  Kneeling beside her, he spoke cautiously in her native tongue, “Your children are very beautiful." She nodded, "They are ghosts." She looked at him carefully, “Are you a ghost? I cannot smell you.”

A crow fell to the sidewalk, fluttering at the last instant to stand just apart. It’s beak clacked, one claw scratched the concrete noisily. Large wings unfolded, tips against the ground.

"These ghosts once lived. Where is their father?"

Ignoring his question, "I go to the yellow priests. They will tell me what to do."

A second crow flew just above their heads, dipping, circling. A large brown rat skittered from an alley to stand next to a broken plastic bag. It raised up on hind legs, nose in the air, sniffing. Roaches began marching out of a street drain, wings beating with a synchronized rustle.

The small woman stood, “No, I cannot smell you.” She again started to push the stroller, watched by the crow, by the rat. 

He followed her to the corner and seemed to come to a decision. Pulling out a phone he made a call. "I'm at 20th Street and South Van Ness. There's a Lao woman pushing a stroller with 2 dead young boys. They seem to have had their necks broken." Listening, "She just turned south on Van Ness - shall I follow her?" She was past mid-block when several police cars pulled up and a number of uniformed officers jumped out and surrounded the woman.

He dispassionately watched the unfolding of an urban drama. Faces shifting with emotions - bare, curious, shocked, angry. Finally they requested his ID, questioning him until a young man in a charcoal gray suit approached. The officers cautioned him to stay where he was and walked with the newcomer to confer quietly. At last, the man in the suit looked his way and came over.

"Lieutenant." He offered his hand. 

"Do I know you?"

"No, not yet." 

"Then how do you . . . ?" 

A scruffy cat arched its back and howled. Blood circled its mouth, a feather caught as it dried. The lieutenant backed away as the animal began crawling forward, claws extended. Tawny yellows and browns carried the detritus of the streets. “What the hell . . . ?”

A large black bird perched on an eave above, following the hunt below. Its head bobbing up and down as dark sounds bubbled through its throat. A uniform leaned against his car, head bobbing in unison with the bird. Suddenly a booted foot hit the cat midsection, kicking it to the curb. The cat raised up, hissed and ran across the street.

“Whoa! Lieutenant - you were about to become cat food.” A tall brunette watched the departing cat warily behind mirrored sunglasses.

“Mother . . . uh, thanks, Sheila. That’s one seriously demented cat.” As he turned back to the Irishman a bloody feather stuck to the bottom of his shoe.

Reading his passport, "Sionn Mac Cearnaigh?" 

"Ach! You've ripped my poor name to shreds." Slowly pronouncing his name, he added, "You're from Louisiana, if that’s a soupçon of accent, n’est-ce pas? Brooks Brothers looks good on you." Grinning, "And your name, sir?"

Blushing down to his shirt collar, "I'm Lieutenant Naquin. Let’s start at the beginning, Mr. Mac Cearnaigh, shall we?”

Looking over the policeman's shoulder, Sionn saw the small woman handcuffed and put into the back of a cruiser. Crime scene techs arrived and started their routine. "There's very little to tell you, actually.” He gave a terse, impersonal recital. “You're quite young to be made loo. Impressive."

The sudden veer caught Naquin off guard. Sionn barely held back from laughing as the man again blushed. 

"If you're trying to flirt with me . . . there are 2 dead children. You're acting as if . . ." Frowning, "I need for you to come with me to give a formal statement."

"OK." Looking the lieutenant over, openly, "Do you have dinner plans? I'm thinking 'The House', about 8? My treat, of course."Naquin stepped up, almost nose to nose, "You're incredible. Absolutely incredible."

Sionn licked his lips, "Yep, I am. But it usually takes a little longer for someone to recognize it."

Naquin grabbed his arm, "The car. Now. The only place I'm going with you is to the station. And if there's any charge I can come up with for your snarky ass . . ."


"Hey! My ass isn't snarky." Looking back over his shoulder, "It's generally considered a very nice ass."

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