Authors: Keith Hartman,Eric Dunn
Anyway, like I said, that's all stuff that I would admit if were being honest with myself. But frankly, honesty is highly overrated. Life is a lot more bearable with a healthy dose of self-delusion.
Eventually, I did an aisle by aisle search of the store, and found Daniel in the poetry section, talking to another kid his age. Kid? Well, another guy in his early twenties. I'm only 35 myself. But whenever I'm around Daniel I wind up slipping into the role of designated adult.
Anyway, the new kid was wearing jeans and an open suede vest, and as I walked over to join them I saw why Daniel had gotten distracted. If this guy had an ounce of fat anywhere, he was keeping it at home in a jar. His torso looked like something that Michelangelo would sculpt out of marble.
Daniel caught sight of me and waved.
"Hey Drew! Where have you been?" he asked, all bright eyed innocence. As if I was the one who'd wandered away from his post, not Daniel.
I tried to stay annoyed with him, but it was hard. Daniel has refined the "boy next door" look into a market niche. He's got these sparkling blue eyes-- well, sparkling blue contacts, at any rate-- and sandy blond hair that curls down over his forehead in a really endearing way. Combine that with a twenty-three year old body that spends most of its free time kicking around a soccer ball, and it's no surprise that Daniel usually gets what he wants. Nobody can stay mad at Daniel for very long, even when he deserves it. Which is most of the time.
I raised an eyebrow and gave him the "you know what you did, young man" stare. He didn't even notice.
Daniel gestured to the muscular kid in the vest.
"Drew, have you met Andre? He's an artist."
"Uh... no. I don't think so."
Andre stuck out his hand and we shook. I noticed that there was some sort of drawing on his chest.
"An artist, huh? Is this one of yours?"
I pulled open one flap of his vest, ostensibly to get a better look at the drawing. I don't think that I was really fooling anybody, though. The kid laughed and held the other flap open.
"Yeah, do you like it?"
"It's... uh... very nice," I mumbled.
It was a henna drawing of Christ on the cross, with no ironic tweaks for a change. But it was strangely erotic. Of course, I might have been reacting to the canvas, rather than the artwork.
I felt my face get hot as my trigger happy blush reflex came into play, and I let go of his vest. Andre seemed amused.
"I was telling Daniel that I could draw one on him, if he wants."
"Yeah, Drew. What do you think?"
Daniel pulled up his white t-shirt to show off his stomach and chest. I guess that I'd paid too much attention to Andre, and Daniel was feeling left out.
"I was thinking that he could draw Moses parting the Red Sea. You know, all the way down, like this."
With his free hand, Daniel indicated that Moses would be standing somewhere just above his right nipple, while the sea would part from his solar plexus down to his belly button.
"Um... I don't know," I said, as my face burned an even deeper shade of crimson. "I'll have to wait and see the final product. But here is something I could use your help with now. Would you mind if I took Daniel off your hands for a few minutes, Andre?"
"Sure. No problem," Andre said, then fished a palmtop out of his jeans' pocket. "But let me give you my business card before you go. I could do some great stuff on those arms of yours."
I got out my palm top, and we bumped ports long enough to swap cards.
"Thanks," he said. "Give me a call when you want to talk about it."
As he walked away, I glanced at his card. It listed with the key words
Henna, Graphic Artist,
. Hm. I saved it to my rolodex. Maybe I'd get Daniel a gift certificate for Christmas.
"So where's our guy?" asked Daniel, all eager to start playing detective.
"He hasn't arrived yet," I admitted. "But I don't want you to be distracted when he does."
"Distracted? By Andre?" Daniel said, as if he couldn't imagine what I was talking about. "That was just business. He part-times for the same agency I work for. We met doing a three way last week. I just wanted to say hi and find out his real name. Did you know he works under the name 'Lance'? Is that corny or what?"
Writers have pen names. Actors have stage names. And prostitutes have... what, sex names? Well, I guess it makes sense. They don't necessarily want every satisfied customer looking up their home phone number and address. After all, some of these kids are still living with their parents.
I took Daniel back to the coffee bar, and ordered another coke for him and an iced mocha for myself. Daniel kept fidgeting. He likes the "spy game" parts of the job, but can never handle the waiting around parts.
"How much longer we gonna wait for this guy, anyway?" he asked.
"We'll give him another twenty minutes," I said, "and then call it a night."
"OK boss man."
Daniel sipped his coke and beat out a tempo with his hands on the counter top. He really was a little bundle of energy tonight. His face was also a little flushed. Which was strange, because it wasn't warm in the store.
"Look at me for a second," I said.
He turned, and I took a close look at his eyes. The tinted contacts masked them a bit. But looking carefully, I could see that his pupils were dilated.
"Are you doing Bliss?"
Daniel shrugged and looked away. I knew that he did Bliss every once in a while. For a kid who hangs out in gay bars all the time, it would be kind of surprising if he didn't. But he'd never done it in front of me before. He knows that I don't like the stuff.
His pupils were what really worried me. Pure Bliss doesn't do that to your eyes; it's a stimulant, not an opiate. It just makes you really horny and happy and touchy-feely. The trouble is that some of the dealers have started mixing the stuff with a pinch of heroin, to make it more addictive. From the looks of it, Daniel had gotten a doctored batch.
"You didn't answer my question," I said.
He turned back and gave me the wounded puppy look. I think he practices it in front of a mirror. It would have been more effective if he hadn't used it on me so many times before.
"Drew, you worry way too much."
"Everybody's gotta have a hobby. Now tell me who you got it from."
"I said, 'tell me who you got it from'."
"Why? You gone back to being a narc?"
"First off, I was in homicide, not narcotics. Second, you are..."
In a spectacular display of bad timing, our mark chose that particular moment to walk into the store. He was a man my age, with dark wavy hair and expensive clothes. I bit my tongue, and nodded in his direction.
Daniel turned around.
"The white shirt with the plum velvet waistcoat."
Daniel looked him over.
"Oh yeah. The gold pocket watch is a nice touch."
Our talk about Bliss would have to wait. I got ready to launch into the scene that Daniel and I had practiced that afternoon.
It was actually a pretty simple plan. When the mark came over to get his coffee, Daniel and I started up a conversation about jet skis. You know, those loud toys that the yuppies use to get back at Mother Nature. Now, I've never actually been on one of the things, but I had spent an hour with a salesman that morning getting the low down on all the latest models and their features, and Daniel had once spent a weekend with some rich guy up at Lake Lanier cruising around on one. Anyway, the mark had just bought one a couple weeks ago, and was still in the honeymoon period. A cute boy talking about jet skis was an irresistible lure.
Sure enough, he came over, introduced himself, and joined in the conversation. After that, he never had a chance. I just sat back and watched Daniel work the guy over. When it comes to getting men to do what he wants, Daniel is in a class by himself.
After a few minutes, Daniel maneuvered the conversation around to a vacation that he took in Mexico last January. He casually let it slip that he'd visited a nude beach, that a friend had snapped a few pictures, and that those pictures were currently up on his website.
The information had the desired effect on our mark. He whipped his palmtop out of his waistcoat and hurriedly navigated out to Daniel's website. Daniel leaned over, helping him find the address.
A few seconds later, the mark's shoulders slumped in disappointment. The pictures were not quite what he'd been hoping for. Oh, Daniel is quite fetching in his birthday suit. (And believe me, I know. The boy parades around naked every chance he gets.) But for tonight, I'd made him delete all the really juicy pictures from his web site. The only ones left were some face pics and a shot where the view of Daniel's body was blocked by a palm tree. After all, I didn't want his web page to be too exciting. Because now that the mark had shown us his palmtop, we needed to get his attention focused on something else.
Fortunately, Daniel makes a hobby of being the center of attention. He asked the mark his opinion on henna drawings, and then pulled up his shirt and gave him the "Moses dividing the Red Sea" description that he had already tried out on me. The mark left his palmtop on the bar, and never noticed when I picked it up as I left.
I grabbed the men's room key from the end of the bar, and locked myself away for a few minutes of quality time with the mark's computer. I figured I could count on Daniel to keep the guy distracted for at least ten minutes or so. Heck, Daniel could keep a guy distracted for a whole weekend, if he had to.
The first matter of business was to get into the mark's bank records and stock portfolio. Not that I really expected to find anything there. If the mark was hiding assets, he probably wouldn't stash them in such an obvious place. After all, those would be the first records that my client's lawyers would subpoena once the divorce papers were filed.
You know, I've always wondered why the activists back in the single digits were all so hot to get same-sex marriage legalized. I mean, what did they think would happen when they finally got legally binding gay marriages? Gay divorces, of course. And suddenly, everything gets a lot more complicated. So you think you're just gonna move out and get on with your life? Oh, think again my boyo. The two of you are gonna get to inflict a world of hurt and legal bills on each other, first.
As I'd expected, the bank records were a dead end. There were a number of suspicious withdrawals over the last six months, but the mark had covered his tracks pretty well, and I couldn't tell where the money had ended up. Luckily, I had a few more tricks up my sleeve.
I eventually hit pay dirt in the "old mail" file. Most operating systems don't actually delete a piece of mail when you finish reading it. Instead, they store it in a buffer for a month or so, in case you need to go back and review a correspondence. A lot of interesting stuff can pile up in that buffer. Including an account statement from a bank in the Cayman Islands.
So that's where the mark was hiding his money. I forwarded a copy of the statement to my client. I'm sure it would make for some interesting reading. Then I clicked my way back to Daniel's web page, and left the screen on the set of pictures that the mark had been admiring.
I washed my hands, splashed some water on my face, and then went out to put the mark's palmtop back on the bar before he noticed it was missing. All in all, I was feeling very pleased with myself. The whole operation had gone off like a charm.
Until the final stage, that is.
Except that Daniel and the mark were gone. They weren't at the coffee bar.
OK, Drew. Stop. Don't panic. They probably just wandered to another section of the store. I did an aisle by aisle search. No dice. I checked the porch. Nada. Having a nasty mind, I checked to see if the women's restroom key had been taken. No, it was still hanging on its peg by the bar. So where did they go?