Harlan sat back from the laptop and tapped on the send icon. This would be his fourth article for Salon, and he was already anticipating the comments, and in turn, seeing the subscriber count rise on his youtube channel gave him a small charge of anticipation. He was immune to it in the macro, deriving a pleasure from the work itself rather than the reaction. He’d read enough about the successful writers to know that the trappings and the fripperies were not healthy things to focus upon. The affectations, the celebrity were not that interesting to him. He’d stayed in town, in the house where he had grown up for that reason.
Not the only reason, mind you, but that was what he told himself and a small voice in his head would call him on his bullshit.
Avery had taken the dogs out and checking his watch, Harlan knew that a quiet drive would be the perfect way to celebrate another piece done. Avery had said that he would pick up dinner for them later, and Harlan had tangentially offered the chance to try and redeem his appalling chain of losses in the fraternal competition of Texas Hold ‘Em although Harlan had been hinting that he would happily spring for a second console and a happy hour wiring it up so that they could rock some PvP. Avery would give a small smile and shake his head, but he appreciated the offer.
Harlan showered, changed and jangling the keys in his hands, skipped to the Prius that sat outside the front of the house. He was humming along to himself when he started the car and positively singing along when he took the usual stretch of road. At the usual time.
Harlan was romantic, in the way all men are, but seldom admit. Suffused with a depth of feeling that resisted easy articulation but when explored was as infinite as the ocean. He had, in his own way, been faithful to the same man since high school and if he were asked, he would admit that the doomed, tangential nature of it appealed to his adolescent heart.
He loved Eddie. He knew that Eddie loved him. Harlan had never told Eddie, that he had turned down offers from beautiful boys and sophisticated men because he feared that Eddie would, out of a desire to be honourable, that he should. They made a space for themselves, a moment between the grinding edges of circumstance and history that was tender and sweet because it was stolen. He had not attended Eddie’s wedding, but he had wept until his eyes were bloodshot even as he understood the necessity of it.
He saw the patrol car and his heart still skipped a beat as he began to slow down. The lights were on and he saw the outline of Eddie’s head, the tousled curls that made him look perpetually boyish no matter how old he was. Puer Aeturnus, the sweetest of masculinities and his palms grew damp at the thought of touching him again. He flashed his headlights.
No response. Harlan stopped the car, a flutter of anxiety travelling up his throat as he bit the inside of his cheek with nerves. He got his phone from his pocket but the signal out here was abysmal and he swore under his breath. That one bar taunted him with it’s impotence. He opened the door and stepped out.
It was a clear, sweet night and the air carried all manner of scents to him. As he got closer to the patrol car, his eyes watering with the possibility that something had happened.
The smear of blood on the passenger side window was black in the moonlight. A branch snapped behind him and he turned around.
After that, everything went black.