Hi! Here's a little something to leave you hanging. As that is my specialty. *evil grin* More Yes, Master to come on Monday or Tuesday. Thanks for being patient.
XOXO NIGHT TEMPEST
Fred Morris closed down his computer with a resounding click and pushed away from his desk. Out of habit, he ran his hand over his head, even though he hadn’t had much since his early thirties—now left with a sparse few inches of salt and pepper crowning him from ear to ear. The style was nothing more than a last-ditch effort to save his youth or what had been his youth before the gray. Now, at forty one, he felt as if his life had met a dead end—older than he truly was in more ways than one. No hair, a slight bulge in the middle that no gym could cure, no partner to share a life with or kids to look after. Things could only go downhill from here, right?
Sure, everyone around him called him charming, smart as a tack, and more than once kind. But where did that get you when you had to go home to a lonely apartment and a cat that acted like a piece of the furniture more than his companion? Nowhere, he sighed. Same old song and dance, Fred got up from his chair—cracking his spine and rubbing the back of his neck—ready to leave for the night. He’d stayed way past his required duties, researching, emailing. Just being around other people truthfully.
Fred turned around, eyes falling on his office door. One of the younger staffers, an intern, waved at him. “What can I do for ya, Chris?”
“Avery wanted me to tell you you’re on for tomorrow morning. Set-up at four, go live at six a.m. and Burger is on schedule for your three thirty pick-up. Those freaks are camping out already.” The college kid waved his manila folder with a roll of his eyes.
God, to be so energetic, your future still ahead of you, Fred mused as he watched Chris blather on about tomorrow. Kid even had a full crop of thick hair yet. Probably was never left to his own devices with a smile like that either.
“Fred, did you hear what I said?”
“I have make-up and hair at four. And my shot set-up is after that.” Fred sighed. “This isn’t my first rodeo, kid, and by the way. I don’t really do the hair bit.” He winked meaning it to sound like a joke, but Chris frowned.
“Right.” The intern shook his head. “Sorry, sometimes I get excited when they hand me the juicy stuff for once. I forget that you’ve been doing this for a long time—a true television veteran.” He saluted, teasing, and Fred fought not to groan. Rub in my age why don’t you?
“Yeah, well, we’ll see how excited you are in twenty years. Get out of here. It’s Friday night, Chris. Go have some fun.” He waved Chris off, trying not to let the poor guy feel too bad.
“You okay, Fred?”
The news anchor frowned. “Why wouldn’t I be?” His eyes fell back to Chris and the sad purse of lips, obviously thinking way too much about his little jab.
“I don’t know. You seem kind of…never mind. Sorry to bother you with the usual. I’ll leave this here and see you in the morning.”
“Have a good night, kid.” Fred flicked his hand in send off at Chris’s back—the intern already whipping around the other offices to finish his rounds, the old man in the back long forgotten. God, he had to stop thinking shit like this. He wasn’t old! On the other hand, why did he feel like he was?
A few minutes later, after reviewing Avery’s file, Fred surfaced nothing he hadn’t already known. A religious group allied with a bunch of bored housewives, had come to town from the suburbs to spout their opinions and wave a few signs. Their kids and precious virginal daughters were being sucked into the monster that was New York City—partying, drinking, and participating in immoral acts with the same and opposite sex. Apparently, Fred chuckled, it was the fault of the city and the various smut clubs it provided to their youth. Oh no, he mocked to himself with a shake of his head in faux horror.
Even worse, the angry parents with a cluster of sticks up their asses had decided to rally peacefully at different clubs around the city. Picketing, harassing the locals on their hunt for unjustified justice. Chris had mentioned camping, but as Fred uploaded the emails on his phone from the camera crews on scene, he wanted to go home and hole up for the next week. A few parents, yeah right. What he was looking at was—these videos—were nothing more than a foreboding glimpse of vicious hate mobs and their in your face signage, hundreds of them. Cops kept them back, but the poor people trying to have a bit of fun walking by were getting more than they bargained for with a cover charge.
But wasn’t that his job? Suck it up and live another day in front of the cameras—to be the voice for the people and watch the world crumble around him while trying to make the viewers tuning in understand why they were living in the ashes? Shouldering his bag, he felt the weight of his personal exhaustion settle in. How, he wondered, how did men and women do this for decades, thirty or forty years on end? Let the violence, the atrocity of everyday life, and the overwhelming hate of their society go through one ear and out the other. He’d been an anchor for fifteen years and he still had yet to master the stomach for it.
The only reason he stayed—not for the journalism although it occasionally had its ups—was because of these people, his coworkers. They were his family now as was the entire city population. He cared for them, they cared back. That’s how it always worked. Basically all he had left when it came down to it. Not to say he hadn’t had a decent life up until now, but it wasn’t what he had imagined it would be.
Parents were divorced when he turned twenty one. They’d still cared for him on both ends, paid his way through college and a little after, and eventually departed to separate retirement communities in the sun. In her later years when he’d been born, his mom taught him to be more independent in her maturing way, was gone a lot of the time on various tropical trips with her small cluster of hens, but she stayed in touch. His father had passed away from a stroke when he was thirty seven.
Albert Morris had been a classic gentlemen, taught him everything he knew, and accepted his sexuality without a bat of his eyes. His death had hit Fred hard at the time, but now he’d let it sink in. He could deal with the loss now that he’d grieved and come to terms, but not forgotten. The tie clip he currently wore, wore every day in fact, was homage to his departed father—one of the few heirlooms he would cherish always.
A good life, good parents, no signs of struggle, Fred thought. His life was what it was, but he was nearing the point where he wanted something more—something different and out of his box. Was this a mid-life crisis maybe? He’d heard of other men going through it, thought it was just an excuse to act like a child again, but what if it was true? The itch to pick up and leave, travel the world, get away from this mundane routine he had trapped himself in. Maybe buy a sports car?
If only, he mused with a pitiful smirk. Fred Morris could never be so bold. He rode the elevator down, and caught a cab. As much as he wanted to kick his feet up and watch a little late night crap on television, Fred decided it was better to be around people when in a funk like this. One drink, maybe an hour of his time, wouldn’t hurt before he went home. His favorite bar was only around the block from his place and a familiar face or two could lift his mood. He didn’t want to bother any of his colleagues when he got like this, it wasn’t professional or anything Fred wanted gossiped about. He would be fine.
Finally, he found himself at the last available stool at the end of the bar. The stool—creaky when it swiveled, one of the worn in kind of cushions—a hunter green vinyl covering, that if closely inspected had cracks around the seams. It was just the way he liked it—traditional, worn in, but timeless.
Mosey’s wasn’t a loud place, kind of quiet actually. That is when the bartender wasn’t on one of his tirades after watching too much CNN—things would get heated and everyone enjoyed the entertainment. Otherwise it was a few more guys like Fred, overworked and bit tired, just sipping their drinks and watching the late night news or a replay of the game from hours before. A potent concoction of dark ale and heavy cologne clinging to their suit jackets by the time they left. Just the way they liked it.
It was a place that had stood still to the test of the last few decades—one of the few establishments left in the city that was void of electronic touch screens and wall-sized interactive advertisements. No blinding, starchy lights that flashed overhead, burning the very vision from his eyes. No music that reminded Fred of getting a cheap lap dance that he’d never had. Nope, Mosey’s was a quiet haven for the most part, much like the place right in front of the hearth of a blazing fire on a cold winter’s night—comforting, safe all wrapped in one.
Don, the bartender, carefully slid him a beer—his usual—with a grimacing nod. “You see that crap downtown they got on the news? Pssh, of course you did. I got friends down there, you know? Good people who run a clean club.” Don grew quiet in contemplation. “It’s just not right,” he finally declared, much to the surprise of his nearest patrons.
“Those folks are losing money when they haven’t done a thing wrong, scaring away those kids like animals. What those people’s grown ass kids…hell, they aren’t even kids! But what they do is their own business, not the club’s fault. And another thing…” Don whipped his head around and pointed to a random patron—a regular who looked from side to side with a frown. Why him, his face read.
As Don continued to rant to the poor sap in the corner, Fred smiled. “Same old song and dance,” he muttered his way into another sip of beer.
Don was known for his offbeat preaching—especially when Fred came around, a reporter turned news anchor who could sympathize in his belief that everything was wrong with the world. Fred let him have at it. He enjoyed Don’s version of the news, peppered with his thick Jersey accent and creative denunciations—admittedly much better than what he personally read off a teleprompter.
“And that’s why all those polo wearing, bird feeder hanging, sons of bitches can go back to their little Cape Cod grey or whatever the hell color the Stepford pack is rocking homes and kiss my…”
The chime of the door slowed Don’s verbal storm, his grimace cooling down to a dying ember—his lips pulled into a tight line, not out of anger, but because he saw something familiar. Like he was never angry in the first place he lifted his chin to the door. A few curious faces, a raised brow or two from the other men around the front tables made Fred curious. Cursed in such way—a partition covered in vintage brew memorabilia—that his view was blocked, Fred grunted.
What little bit of a spark he may have had to his night, Fred guessed he had missed. But oh was he wrong. With a strange squint of his eyes in the mirror, the man who had been sitting there all along got up from the bar. He carefully laid out a crisp bill on the counter, dressed in his wool coat, and left. Strange, Fred thought, for a man to leave more than half his beer unclaimed. Stranger still that Don hadn’t thought much of it or even said goodbye. Don might be a firecracker, but he was always sensitive to his customers, smiles and manners included.
Strangest yet was the man who replaced Sir Beer Waster at the empty stool. Seemingly out of his element, the newcomer adjusted the tails of his long leather trench over the stool—letting them fall in a sweep of mystery. A few of the patrons spared him a look. What, with the shocking spikes of candy apple red on his head, down to the gleam and shine of the many buckles on his boots, how could they not?
Much like the offspring of what Fred imagined a gun toting librarian and a true blooded rock star would produce, the newcomer gave off a dangerous vibe. Yet, Fred found himself leaning forward with interest. Not because the man was handsome—even with his devil may care look he was beautiful—but because he was different, unique to Frank’s everyday eye. Sure he’d seen the unconventional fashions of today’s twenties and thirties crowd, but not up close and somehow not like this man.
Without saying a thing, Don put a napkin on the bar in front of the man. A simple lowball tumbler followed. Reaching behind to the back bar, Don grabbed a top shelf whisky. Single malt with a few years under its belt—the good stuff. Frank took a sip of his beer with approving eyes. For the man to appear quite the character, at least he had good taste.
The man took a sip, closing his eyes behind golden tinted rectangular specs. “Perfect, Don. Just right.”
“You can thank the fancy pants who bottled it, not me, B.” Don flicked his eyes up to the man while veryone around them trying not to pay attention to Don’s friend. “You buying the whole thing or what?”
“You have my digits. Ring it up good sir.”
“Smartass.” Don went to the register to start the man a tab. “Rough night on the streets?”
The question peaked Fred’s curiousity further. First, he’d never seen this man in all the years he’d been coming to Mosey’s. Second, Don was not such a jackass as not to make polite conversation, but never was he so personable other than knowing your name, occupation, and what you liked to light your fire. Lastly, Fred just had to know more about this man. Who was he? Where did he come from? The streets?
“Yep, four to one.” The stranger nodded with a mouth full of whisky. His eyes divulged a flicker of remorse, guilt maybe?
“Ah shit, B. That sucks. Was that point…”
“No one you know,” he hissed through the slow burn of liquor.
Was he a cop, Fred wondered, couldn’t be unless he was undercover. They were definitely talking about a death. That much he knew for sure. Had something happened to him tonight? Maybe he was working the club rally. Had someone died out there? Why hadn’t he gotten a phone call from Avery? A death at a public rally like that was sure to be breaking news.
He glanced down at his phone, saw no missed calls or texts, and pushed the device away with a shrug. Hmm, he mused. Maybe he could actually get something interesting out of a source for once. This guy just screamed possibilities. Fred ran a finger over the long neck of his beer and tried to make eye contact with the mysterious B, something to get an in.
Blaze wriggled his nose of the burn crawling up from his throat. Damn whisky was good, he grinned at himself in the back bar mirror. He wanted to forget losing one of his guards tonight. He wanted to drink himself stupid, call for a ride, and …oh yeah, what the fuck was that smell, he wanted to groan. Inhaling like he couldn’t get enough, Blaze turned his head with eyes still closed behind his frames. When he snapped them open, he looked right into the light blue eyes of…
Nah, he must have been dreaming momentarily. The man that looked back was tall, broad shouldered, but nothing to rave about. Forties maybe, a chopped halo of hair clung to his otherwise shiny scalp in some attempt at capturing something that wasn’t still there. Soft around the middle from what Blaze could see above the counter, probably soft elsewhere too. He had nice eyes though. Almond shaped, a vibrant ring of baby blue to complement his salt and pepper locks. But the fact that those eyes were boring into him freaked him out, especially after the night he’d had.
“Aren’t you the morning news guy, Fred something?” Blaze squinted.
“Yes, uh, Fred Morris, channel five.” Fred smiled, hopeful for some conversation with this captivating individual. The stories he betted B had under his belt…
“Well, Fred Morris, stop fucking staring at me. Okay? Thanks a million.” Blaze turned back to Don with a huff. He must have got a whiff of some good cologne, the vampire thought bitterly. Damn, he’d been sure there for a minute that…
“Sorry,” Fred whispered, avoiding the pity looks from the other guys at the bar.
Flicking his eyes down at the gleaming surface under his hands, Fred suddenly felt it was time to go. His beginning of the week funk sank further downwards, spiraled into the feeling of being shunned, a childish insecurity for a man of his age, but human all the same. The familiar experience of being cast out by yet another man did nothing more than ruin his beer and widen the lonely feeling that he always carried with him. B, as different and beautiful as he may be, didn’t want to talk, look at him, or breathe the same air as him. Go figure, Fred swallowed back his insecurities or he tried.
He was at his one drink limit anyway and it was getting late—later than late he scolded himself with excuses. And on top of all that, he somehow felt shamed, like he had been staring—an undefinable longing just out of reach. Even it had been about business, Fred couldn’t deny the flutter he got from looking at the younger punk. He got up and grabbed his jacket, Fred’s eyes masking how that one reply had, yes, hurt his feelings.
“Leaving so soon, Fred? You just got here.” Don scowled at Blaze, slapped a towel over his shoulder before crossing his arms.
“I have to get up early, one drink maximum on a school night. You know the rules.” He didn’t look at anyone as he pushed the money over the counter and slid his tall frame past Blaze in a hurry. “Bye, Don.”
“Later, Fred,” the bartender called softly.
As the human slipped by, Blaze inhaled that scent again. It was Fred after all. Making him hungry, salivating for another fix of what? Some middle aged guy with no hair and a gut? Really, Blaze, he questioned himself. The door chimed, Fred striding out into the night. The vampire took another sip of the top shelf liquor, feeling a little bad about his sharp tongue. Still though, he had to be mistaken about the way his heart raced. Some humans smelled better than others, Blaze chalked up a mental point—debunking his chest pangs from a logical standpoint.
“Poor guy.” Don watched out the window—Fred walking past the glass and around the corner. “Don’t think he’s ever really been happy, peppy for the telly sure, but he’s always in here, all sad and what not. Feel bad for him.”
“This is a bar, Don. No one’s ever happy here. Unless they’re piss drunk and don’t know any better and those endorphins are liquid artificial. One hundred percent,” Blaze grumbled. Swiveling in his stool, he sought out the mysterious Fred through the window in a last attempt to give his mind a glimpse, but was strangely disappointed to see him already gone.
“Such a cynic.” Don snorted on down to the man with an empty glass.
When he turned back around, Blaze happened to look at the spot where Fred had sat. Balding, thick dark brows, light blue eyes—he hadn’t been terrible to look at. Inching his gaze down, Blaze raised a brow. “Yo, Don. I think channel five forgot his phone.”
“Ah shit. He’s always on that thing. Probably needs it too. Run it out and see if you can catch him, will ya?”
“Fuck,” Blaze swore quietly. Not what he needed after tonight, but slid off his stool, grabbed the phone and marched outside into the crisp cool air.