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Authors: Dorien Grey

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The Bottle Ghosts

BOOK: The Bottle Ghosts
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Table of Contents


The Bottle Ghosts


“Whenever someone says ‘Life is hard'...

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

The Bottle Ghosts: A Dick Hardesty Mystery

By Dorien Grey

Copyright 2015 by Dorien Grey

Cover Copyright 2015 by Untreed Reads Publishing

Cover Design by Ginny Glass

The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.

Previously published in print, 2005.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher or author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction. The characters, dialogue and events in this book are wholly fictional, and any resemblance to companies and actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental

Also by Dorien Grey and Untreed Reads Publishing

A World Ago: A Navy Man's Letters Home (1954–1956)

Short Circuits: A Life in Blogs (Volume 1)

The Butcher's Son

The Ninth Man

The Bar Watcher

The Hired Man

The Good Cop

The Bottle Ghosts

A Dick Hardesty Mystery

Dorien Grey

To those who fight addiction one day at a time…and win.

“Whenever someone says ‘Life is hard,' I'm always tempted to ask: ‘Compared to what?'”

I forget who said that, but I always thought it made a good point. To be human is to have problems, and I've never met anyone who didn't have their own little private demons running around somewhere inside. How we deal with them—and how successfully—is largely up to us. But there are people who, for whatever reason, find their demons to be a lot bigger than they can handle on their own. Luckily, for most who really want it and know where to look, help of some sort is available. And those who are lucky enough to have someone willing to stick with them through the rough times have a definite advantage.

Okay, so it doesn't take a rocket scientist to follow the logic on that one, but sometimes taking a new look at the obvious can give us a different perspective on our own demons, and just how insignificant most of them really are. I hadn't given it all that much thought, myself, until I was forced to take a good, close look at those who live with the bottle ghosts….


Chapter 1

How were things going? Pretty well, I'm happy to say. Business was, as always, sporadic, but steady enough to keep the bills paid, and there were enough interesting cases scattered among the yawners to keep me on my toes. But it was my private life that had undergone a real sea-change. I was in a relationship, after…well, what seemed like a long, long time.

I'd found Jonathan while working on an earlier case, and despite the difference in our ages (not all that much, really, but enough that I was frequently aware of it) and our being from worlds-apart backgrounds, I realize now I'd been fairly well “smitten” from the first time I set eyes on him. And of course the fact that he looked on me as his knight in shining armor certainly didn't hurt.

Don't get me wrong: it wasn't all skittles and beer. Like any two people getting together, we each brought our own sets of emotional luggage into the relationship, and Jonathan wasn't always what he seemed. But then neither was I, I'd guess. Shortly after we got together I ran into one of my old fairly-regular tricks at a party who, for some reason, wasn't too happy to hear I was in a relationship. When Jonathan went off to the bathroom, the guy came over to me.

“You're not really serious about this monogamous thing, are you?”

That one took me aback for some reason, so I just said, “Yeah, I am.”

He laughed. “Come on, Hardesty. You've been in the candy store too long. You're hooked. You'll be back to picking up tricks in no time.”

“Don't count on it.”

At that point, Jonathan returned and the guy walked off. Jonathan just gave me a raised eyebrow, but didn't say anything.

I guess a lot of the guys who knew me largely in a horizontal position couldn't figure out why I'd give up a long and admittedly cherished habit of bedpost-notching, and I couldn't explain it to them. The truth of the matter was that I'd looked back on the past few years of my life and realized that I couldn't remember the names or the faces of eight out of any ten guys I'd gone to bed with. I wanted something more.

I'd been single for so long I'd almost forgotten exactly how much adjusting being in a relationship really takes, and it goes one
of a lot further than who gets to use the bathroom first in the morning. For Jonathan, this was his first real relationship, so I'm sure it was equally, if differently, confusing for him. It helped that several of my…our (see what I mean?)…friends had recently paired up, so we had a built-in social circle to keep us pretty busy, which in turn helped me avoid missing my Saturday night cruising ritual. While frequent tricking was lots of fun and great for the ego, it could also get pretty close to becoming an addiction. Monogamy has its own rewards: you never have to hang around bars until two in the morning and then maybe go home alone anyway. And I found that the running conversations I'd been having with my crotch over the past several years had pretty much quieted down—though it did put in its two cents worth every time a hot number crossed my field of vision.

And I'd be less than honest if I didn't admit to being a little worried about that; I really didn't know if I could work the monogamy thing or not. But I knew all I could do was give it my best shot and just see what happened.


My 9:30 appointment had called the day before, sounding pretty distraught. I don't like to go into too much detail over the phone, particularly in a first-time call from a prospective client. You can learn a lot more about what's going on when you can sit down face to face and watch the other person's reactions as well as listen to his voice. He did tell me, however, that his lover had apparently disappeared and, perhaps not surprisingly, he wanted me to find him. When I had asked how long the lover had been gone, he said five days. My immediate reaction was that the guy had just taken off for whatever reason, but I set up an appointment to discuss the possibilities in greater detail. I'd halfway expected the guy to call back saying the lover had shown up, but he didn't.

Which probably accounted for the knock on my office door at nine-thirty sharp the next morning. I hastily shoved the paper with its unfinished crossword puzzle in a bottom drawer of my desk and got up to open the door.

Yeah, I know I could just as easily have yelled “Come on in!” but it always pays to start things off on a more accommodating note.

I opened the door to find a nice-enough looking guy about in his early-to-mid thirties, about my height, slightly receding hairline, wearing a brown suit, a mustard-colored tie, and a worried expression.

“Mr. Bradshaw,” I said, extending my hand, which he took. “Please, come in.”

I showed him to the chair closest to the open window, from which a pleasant breeze managed to flow over the still-not-working air conditioner, which I was seriously considering turning into a planter.

“Would you like some coffee?” I asked before attempting to sit down. That was another change in my life—a new addition to the office. Jonathan had bought me a coffee-maker with his first paycheck from the landscape nursery where he now worked.

“Thanks, no.”

He looked mildly uncomfortable, which I guess might be expected considering the circumstances which brought him to me in the first place.

I moved quickly around the desk and sat down, turning my chair slightly to be able to face him head-on.

“So tell me how I can help you.”

He cleared his throat, making a quick tracing of his lower lip with his thumb and index finger.

“My partner, Jerry, didn't come home Friday night.”

His voice reminded me of an old steam locomotive just leaving the station: very slow, deliberate words at first, then a definite closing of the gap between the words as they increased in speed and power to reflect the urgency of what he was saying.

“He hasn't been home since. He hasn't called and none of our friends have heard from him, and nobody in any of the bars he frequents when he's drinking has seen him, and I've called everywhere I could think of, and even the jails and the hospitals, and…”

He was at full steam, now, and I could almost see the mental pistons, like fisted arms bent at the elbow, pumping the adrenalin through him. Well, he'd been building up all this pressure for several days now, after all.

“Have you been to the police?” I asked as casually as possible, hoping my tone would give him a second to put on the brakes.

Apparently realizing what he'd been doing…and that he'd unconsciously been edging himself forward in his chair as he talked…he stopped abruptly and readjusted his position before continuing at a more controlled pace. But first he sighed and nodded.

“I called them after I'd checked everywhere myself. They wouldn't even take a report until the third day, and when they did they weren't very encouraging. He's an adult, he's a drunk, and he's a faggot: he can fend for himself—they didn't say that in so many words, but that's clearly what they meant.”

“Your partner's an alcoholic?”

He looked at me oddly. “Yes. Didn't I tell you that when I called?”

No, he hadn't, as a matter of fact. That little bit of information put a whole new light on the situation. Drunks get drunk and disappear. They sober up and come back.

“Uh, no, I don't think you did.”

“Does that make some sort of difference?” he asked, a little defensively—and I suddenly realized I certainly couldn't blame him. I'd never been personally involved with an alcoholic, so I had no right to make any sort of judgment.

“Not at all,” I hastened to add, rather ashamed of myself. “Please, continue.”

He had looked there for a moment as if he were going to get up and leave, but I could see him relax slightly, and he picked up where he'd left off.

“The officer who filed the report gave me the impression this sort of thing happens all the time. He asked if Jerry were suicidal, if he'd been having ‘problems at home,' as he put it, or if he was in trouble with the law or with somebody in particular, or if he had any serious medical condition. When I told him ‘no' on all counts, he made it pretty clear that this wasn't exactly what they consider a top-priority case, so unless his body shows up somewhere, there really isn't too much of an incentive to do much of anything. He said they'd put out the information, but…that's when I decided to call you.”

“Has he disappeared before?”

“Yes, but not like this. He's a serious alcoholic and he goes on binges like clockwork. Usually, it's every three months—that's as long as he can hold out. He did go six months, once, but…I always know when they're coming on, and I do my best to help him avoid them, but he can't. And then he goes off for a day…sometimes two, but never more. We agreed that when he's drinking, he can't come home. I won't be around him when he's drunk. And he always calls me from wherever it is he finds himself when he sobers up and I go get him. And then we start all over again.”

BOOK: The Bottle Ghosts
11.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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