Now that ‘Murder at Pride Lodge’ is available on Amazon, I thought it would be good to give readers just a taste of Book II, ‘Pride and Perilous’, as I write the first draft. The story revolves around a series of murders being committed in connection with the Katherine Pride Gallery in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. This is the gallery where Kyle and Danny first met, and where Kyle is about to have his first photography exhibit … if murder doesn’t get in the way.
Pride and Perilous – A Kyle Callahan Mystery
A Rainy Night in Brooklyn
It had been five years at least since Devin had worried about being followed. That’s how long he had been living as Devin 24/7. Denise Ellerton had ceased to exist – officially, legally, physically, psychologically, and every other way in which each person functions in the world. For Devin, she had ceased existing long before that, when he had realized as a teenager that he was not like other girls; that the simple reality of pronouns was different for him, as he thought of himself as a “he” while everyone else insisted on calling him “she.” Tom-boyish Denise, odd Denise, rough-and-tumble Denise. He had wanted to correct them then, and even younger, as early as the third grade. “I’m not a girl,” he had wanted to say, but it wasn’t until he was in college that he fully understood what was going on with him, and when he finally had the distance from his family to do something about it.
The sensation of being shadowed down a dark street was one of those things that belonged to Denise, to women. Devin had long been aware of the differences in experiences men had from women; to suggest there were no differences was to choose denial over reality. There were experiences unique to men, and experiences unique to women, as well as experiences unique to those who did not fit readily into either. Devin considered himself a man, not “qenderqueer” or even transgender. He’d become a man in every way possible and chose to be that, not just self-identify as that, as if simply choosing to be a man made it so. Had that been the case, his life would have been much simpler, much sooner. But the transition had been made, chosen, completed, and not since before it had he worried about being followed down his own Brooklyn street, late on a rainy Friday night. There was something different about this, too: it wasn’t random, as if he’d appeared at the wrong place at the wrong time, as so many people did who found themselves the victims of crimes of opportunity. Devin had the very distinct and unsettling feeling that the man coming up slowly behind him had been there for awhile, had followed him off the R train, along the platform, up the stairs, and now, six blocks later, nearly to his apartment on Prospect Avenue.
Devin was tall at five-eight, and worked out religiously at the local New York Sports Club. He’d had a trainer for two years and always believed he could handle himself in a tight situation. Not that it happened often: he didn’t’ drink, didn’t stay out late unless he had a showing of his artwork or was attending one of a friend’s exhibits; he hadn’t dated in three years, and he was a night person, meaning he worked at night in his studio apartment and made every effort to be home by 7:00 pm, when he would start his routine of coffee-fueled creativity, putting together his latest collage or designing a multi-medium piece that he would then spend the next two or three weeks bringing to life.
He was a handsome man, too, or so he’d been told enough times to believe. His unusual natural height was complimented by a thin frame, short black hair he gelled back, a high, wide, forehead, moist brown eyes that had never been bothered by glasses, a thin but ready smile, and a nose that had once been broken in a fall, although he told everyone it had been a boxing match. It was the one lie he allowed himself. He just liked the idea of having a nose broken by a fist in a boxing glove. And it made the person who had once been Denise all but unrecognizable.
He’d stayed out later then usual tonight and had been cursing his lapse in discipline when he first realized someone was behind him. This stretch of Prospect Avenue, unlike nearly all streets in neighboring Manhattan, was sparsely populated at night and the presence of other people was noticeable, especially other people who were shadowing you. He’d become aware of the man behind him not long after coming up the subway stairs but had thought nothing of it at the time. Then, a block later, he could hear the footsteps, as if he were in some b-movie thriller and a stalker was shortening the distance between then. Now, four blocks from the subway and just one from his apartment building, he became convinced he was the object of the man’s attention. Had it not been so worrying it would have been interesting: why would a strange man be following a reclusive artist down a deserted Brooklyn street on a rainy Friday night? He decided to ask the question directly. He adjusted his umbrella, with its caved-in side to his back, letting rain trickle down and soak his jacket, and he turned around suddenly to get a look at the man he now knew was his pursuer.
As Devin turned to face him, the stranger stopped. He was only about thirty feet away now. Devin saw that he did not have an umbrella, but his face was hidden by a hoodie pulled down over it. In late April the air was still chill at night and most people wore jackets, sweaters, other clothes that kept them warm in the cool darkness. Hoodies were especially popular, but also had the disconcerting effect of hiding the person’s face. It was only human nature to want to know who was beneath the hood, and why he was covering his face.
The man made no attempt to pretend he was not following Devin. He didn’t keep walking with a turn this way or that; he didn’t cross the street and continue; he didn’t even keep coming, as someone would who really was just walking along the same street at the same time. He stopped. In the rain.
“Who are you?” Devin shouted, tilting his umbrella back to show himself and improve his line of sight.
The man just stood and, Devin assumed, stared. It was dark out and raining, and neither could see the other with any great clarity.
Then the man began to walk toward him.
Decision time: Devin could run for his apartment, which was only a block away; he could call for help, someone would throw open a window and call 911 – or would they? – or he could do what he decided to do and stand his ground. He was tough, he trained two hours, three days a week; he was quick and fit and thin, and above all he was not Denise, not anymore. He had not endured the challenges of his life, the demands of simply being and becoming who he was, to flee in front of some punk on a Brooklyn street. He eased his shoulders back, loosened his grip on the umbrella to free his hands, and prepared for a fight.
The closer the man got, the more familiar he looked. He was wearing jeans, red sneakers and the green hoodie. It was the limp that rang a bell. His right leg was either injured or … no … shorter than the left. Yes, it was shorter, and the right shoe wasn’t any regular show, either. It had an extended sole, the kind specially made for someone with scoliosis. Devin knew about the spinal disease because his sister had a mild form of it. He remembered the braces she wore as a child … and the shoes. As the man got closer, Devin also noticed the emblem on his sweatshirt: a rainbow flag with wording underneath it he couldn’t read. He relaxed suddenly; it must be a neighbor after all, or someone coming to visit a neighbor. At the very least the stranger was gay and, almost by assumption, non-threatening.
But still he had not responded to Devin’s asking him who he was. And he had stopped, then kept coming. He was only about ten feet away now, and Devin put it all together: the limp, the sweatshirt, and finally, as the man drew close and eased his hood back – the face.
“You!” Devin said, startled.
“Yes, me,” the man said, now face-to-face in the rain.
“Why are you following me?” Devin said, still trying to piece this puzzle together in his mind. He knew the man, but not really, not in any but a passing way.
“I’m following you, Devin,” the man replied, “because I have something for you.”
The man stepped forward then and quickly slipped his hand out from the sweatshirt’s front pouch.
Devin had no time to wonder what the glint of metal was, where it belonged in this picture, this rainy night in Brooklyn, before the knife blade entered between his ribs. Once, twice, a final total of sixteen times as the man he knew but didn’t know reached his free hand around Devin and pulled him close, stabbing and stabbing.
Anyone watching would just think two men were hugging each other goodbye, a familiar street just about anywhere in New York City. But no one was watching. No one saw the man ease Devin, now unconscious and quickly bleeding to death, down to the sidewalk and carefully drape him there, then turn as easily as he’d come and walk away.
“So much for art,” the man mumbled to himself, clutching the knife in his shirt pouch. He would not dispose of it here or anywhere near. He would not take the train back, but instead walk, walk all night if he had to, over the Brooklyn Bridge and back into the darkness of Manhattan, pulling the night ever more tightly around himself as he thought about the next one, the best one, the one that would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind what had been done and why.