Authors: Vivien Dean
Tags: #erotic MM, #Romance MM
They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
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Walk Among Us
Copyright © 2008 by Vivien Dean
Edited by Sasha Knight
Cover by Anne Cain
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
electronic publication: August 2008
Walk Among Us
Decaying leaves crunched beneath Calvin Schumacher’s heels, and not for the first time, he wished he’d worn different shoes. Every step rattled through the cemetery. He kept his gaze forward, locked on the back of the minister, but he just knew everybody was looking in his direction. They did more than look.
They whispered. No amount of unraked foliage could mask that.
“Ted had a kid?”
“I think he lives in New York. An artist or something.”
“Ted never said he had a kid.”
“Didn’t you know? He’s gay.”
“Oh. That makes sense then.”
Did it? Calvin wanted to whirl around and demand what his sexuality had to do with anything, especially on the day he was burying his father. But it would be a waste of energy. Nobody would change their mind.
They’d made them up decades ago.
The processional came to a stop beside the open grave. Its gaping maw made his stomach churn, and he shoved his hands in his coat pockets, pretending he was cold so he could press them into his abdomen. It wasn’t that far from the truth. The brisk October air cut across the Illinois landscape, the naked trees doing little to shield the earth from the impending chill. He’d forgotten how being so close to the lake dropped everything from firmament to flesh by another twenty degrees.
Calvin stood slightly apart from the rest of the mourners as the minister began to speak. He wasn’t surprised at how many people had shown up for the service, though the fact that many of them continued on to the cemetery seemed unusual. Ted Schumacher had been gregarious in life, loud-mouthed and opinionated about everything from the encroachment of modern technology on the job market to how the WalkAmongUs:ACallingofSoulsstory
lettuce at Kroger’s never lasted for more than a day. People flocked to him. How the man didn’t piss someone off every other time he opened his mouth was a mystery, but Calvin was the first to admit that maybe his own prejudices colored his perceptions.
Maybe Ted had mellowed in his old age.
He sucked his lips in between his teeth to keep from smiling. Yeah. Ted mellowing. About as likely as Calvin developing a taste for pussy.
As the minister droned on, Calvin’s mind wandered. To his flight in three days, to the colors of the sunset bleeding across the horizon, to the angles of the bare branches as they scratched across the sky. He itched to paint it, but the vivid hues demanded oils. It would never dry in time to take it home. The best he could do was come back tomorrow with a camera and work from photographs.
He frowned. He hadn’t brought a camera. Who took pictures at a funeral?
A hand clamped down on his shoulder, startling him from his reverie. When he glanced over, he met the rheumy gaze of Eli Norris, his father’s neighbor and best poker buddy. The man pressed his thin lips together and nodded, as if they shared some kind of secret.
Calvin’s stomach heaved again. Oh God. Eli thought they were bonding over grief.
He stared at the plain coffin waiting to be lowered into the hole in the ground. A great son he was. Sure, he’d come out for his father’s funeral, but did he really miss him? They hadn’t spoken in nearly ten years.
By mutual agreement. The only reason he’d flown to Chicago, and then driven out to the suburbs to attend a service at a church where he’d once spent three hours in a closet making out with the only other gay guy he knew, was because he didn’t want people he didn’t even know to think he was an uncaring bastard.
God was going to strike him down for being a hypocrite.
Ted would have loved that.
Calvin held back from shrugging off the unwanted touch while the minister wrapped up. He didn’t want to make a scene. He just wanted to get this over with, say his goodbyes, and drive like a madman back to his hotel room at O’Hare.
A gunshot drowned out the final amens.
A few women screamed. Eli’s hand jerked away as if burned. Out of the corner of his eye, Calvin saw a man he didn’t recognize or remember crumple to the ground.
Another gunshot made the crowd scatter.
Everyone except Calvin.
His head snapped in the direction of the shots.
The setting sun cast long shadows over the end of the graveyard. There was nowhere for someone to hide in the trees. His gaze skipped right over them to land instead on a tall mausoleum, its walls coated in lichens. Metal glinted from its roof, and Calvin scanned upward.
Nobody else paid attention to the man lying flat on the rooftop. Nobody else saw his sad, dark eyes.
Nobody else saw him bow his head for a brief second before slithering out of view.
“Is he dead?”
“Who is it? That’s not Elliot Carey’s brother, is it?”
“Someone needs to call 911.”
Calvin stopped staring at the space the sniper had filled to see several people huddled around the body. It sprawled amidst the orange and brown leaves, arms akimbo like someone making angels in the snow.
Blood spattered over the grass behind them. If the dead man hadn’t been in the middle of the tableau, it could have looked like a Jackson Pollock painting.
While two women fought with their phones, trying to get reception to contact the police, the minister and Eli flanked Calvin, trapping him next to the open grave.
“I’ll bet wherever Ted is, he’s pissed he’s missed the excitement,” Eli commented.
“Ted wouldn’t have wanted an innocent man to lose his life,” the minister admonished.
Calvin refrained from sharing a knowing look with Eli. Under the right circumstances, Ted would have been the one pulling the trigger if he thought he could get away with it. Only fear of incarceration had leashed the man’s darker tendencies.
The last thing Calvin wanted was to spend more time at the cemetery, but with the women finally getting a hold of the police, he knew he was stuck. Running looked like guilt; it didn’t matter if he was only a witness. He had no choice but be available when the cops arrived. From listening to the others, nobody else had seen the man on the mausoleum. They kept exclaiming, “Who could’ve done this?” and arguing over the dead man’s identity. Eli wanted to rifle through the man’s pockets and find his wallet, but the minister’s calmer head prevailed.
So nobody touched him. Calvin didn’t even want to look at him. His attention insisted on wandering to the other end of the cemetery, wondering whether or not he’d actually seen the shooter.
“I need a cigarette,” he announced to nobody in particular.
“The police will be here soon,” the minister warned.
Calvin nodded and gestured vaguely toward the mausoleum. “I’ll just be over there. Someone get me when the time comes.”
He didn’t wait for an answer. He stuffed his hands deeper into his pockets and trudged through the dead leaves, away from the whispers, away from the hole in the ground, away from blood that looked like paint drops. He stopped only when the stone structure blocked him from the others’ gawking. Then, with a long, ragged exhalation, his shoulders slumped.
Calvin didn’t actually smoke, but the desire for something to relax the knots in his neck made him wish he did. If he’d just stayed in New York…if he’d just ignored the phone call from Ted’s attorney…if he’d just refused to pretend that he gave a damn about the man who’d called him a cocksucking faggot and kicked WalkAmongUs:ACallingofSoulsstory
him out of the only home he’d ever known as soon as he legally could…
If he’d just, if he’d just, if he’d just.
Funny how coming back home did more than fuck with his head. It turned back the hands of time. It turned Calvin Michael Schumacher back into the shy, self-doubting young man who didn’t have the guts to stand up for what really mattered to him. Where was the artist on the rise, the confident painter who, according to the Greenwich Art Revue, saw a black-and-white world in Technicolor? Where was the guy who wasn’t afraid to go up to an interesting-looking stranger in a bar and introduce himself, just on the hope that maybe this was the one?
Calvin didn’t like this particular shade of himself. It was one reason why he was grateful to Ted for kicking him out of the house. It had forced Calvin to reassess just what he was going to do with his life.
Stand up on his own two feet. Leaving Illinois had given Calvin balls he’d never possessed before.
Apparently, those got checked at the state border. Because here he was, back in his sixteen-year-old shoes, hiding away because he didn’t want to face the disapproving eyes of people he didn’t know.
He shook his head. He hadn’t abandoned the group to stand around and feel sorry for himself. He’d come to see if there was any truth to what he had seen. What he thought he’d seen.
His gaze swept over the vista and immediately arrested on the rear of the mausoleum. Patches of green flaked away, revealing the dark gray stone underneath. Closer inspection found the crushed lichens scattered on the ground. It didn’t take a CSI fan to figure out somebody had broken them off climbing up the wall.
He tilted his head back. If he stretched, he could reach the lip of the roof, hold onto it as he braced against the wall with his heels.
The sniper was at least as tall as him, if not taller. Those were good details to know to give to the cops when they arrived.
For a moment, he debated scaling the building to see if the sniper had left anything behind, or even to view the funeral party the way he had. The mausoleum was only twenty or so yards away from the graveside. It would have been easy to pick out a target. If the killer even cared about who he hit.
But as soon as he started contemplating the climb, Calvin dismissed it. He didn’t need to get his fingerprints on potential evidence. That was stupid. It would tie him to this place longer than he wanted to stay. Better to back off and let the police have at it.
With every inch the sun slipped beneath the horizon, the temperature dropped another five degrees. Calvin balled his hands in his pockets and drew his coat tighter. Walking would warm him up, and the low hum in the background said the police hadn’t arrived yet. He wandered away from the mausoleum, looking around to see where the sniper might have run off to, where he might hide, but the cemetery looked like any other cemetery he had ever seen. Headstones poked through the grass. Splotches of color announced caring relatives’ recent visits. A few more structures like the one behind him dotted the landscape, but WalkAmongUs:ACallingofSoulsstory
none of them were close enough to reach without losing earshot of the others.
He was about to go back when he saw him.
The other man was almost a shadow, his edges erased by the vanishing daylight. He stood tall and straight, as motionless as the trees around him. Dark hair hung disheveled against his wide brow, and though he was too far away to see the color, Calvin knew the man’s gaze, fixed on the horizon, would be brown.