Lewis opened his front door. "'bout time you came."
Tyson smiled apologetically. "Sorry, but I got carried away last night
so all the chores I needed to do I had ta do this mornin'."
The resident frowned. "Come in. What were ya doin' last night?"
"Lookin' up Jack's history. Don't gimme none o' them looks, just
listen. I mostly talked ta people and looked up newspapers for any
blanks. He realised 'e was bisexual back in High School an' didn't
wanna have ta hide it. So 'e makes an LGB club for teenagers. He was
the leader." The pair had gotten to the house study now. "This group
did community service an' Bible readin' an' other stuff to let the
townspeople be more acceptin' o' gay people."
"So that's why they're liberal here?"
"Not everybody but that's always the case. Yeah, that's the reason. Now
after 'e graduated Jack went to the army. He did plan ta stay longer
than 2 years but-"
"He was sent ta the battlefield in Kosovo an' witnessed the horrors of war," finished Lewis.
"That's it. He came 'ome as soon as possible...with Ivan. His mom died
when 'e was 11. When 'is dad found out 'e was bi, well, at first he
reacted all like 'I can't believe you're gay', but 'e calmed down when
Jack told 'im he still likes girls. His dad hoped 'e would marry a girl
but 'e had ta get used ta Ivan instead. Jack was gettin' counselin' an'
workin' at a warehouse. Ivan got a job at the toy store where 'e works
now. They both were livin' with Jack's dad an' everythin' was fine."
"Dad got prostate cancer. The house Jack an' Ivan live in now is the
one Jack's dad owned an' Jack grew up in. He died after a year and a
half or so and Jack broke down completely. Started actin' paranoid an'
shoutin at random people and 'e would attack anybody. He stayed inside
'is 'ouse outta shame. Only his closest friends visited. Now get this:
Jack did not get seen outside o' his house or garden until the times 'e
was always bein' rushed somewhere ta see a doctor."
Tyson shrugged. "Dunno. He was always seen in a car seat in pain. The
next time people saw 'im, he came to church carryin' 'is adopted baby.
And 'e was friendly...or friendlier than 'e was."
Lewis looked confused. "So whaddya think? He's in on it?"
"Either that or 'e's one o' the guys behind the entire thing." The
soccer coach saw a notepad with scribbles on it, somewhat resembling a
timetable. "What's that?"
The photographer sighed. "Those are project plans. That agent I told
you about? Who sends me all the job offers? He called the other day
wonderin' why I was doin' less work. He says I have ta prove my value
by takin' up more jobs an' talked me into goin' ta New Orleans."
"New Orleans? Sounds unfair ta me."
"Nah, it's fair. It's 'is way o' makin' sure 'e hires active workers an' not slackers out for easy money."
"'bout 5 days. Leslie said 'e'd drive me all the way there an' back.
We'll be up early next Monday an' I'll be back Friday night."
"That's nice o' him. But whaddabout that problem ya have?"
"I'll be takin' Mojo with me. I hate ta put 'im through long journeys but..." Lewis shrugged.
"Kai said yes. Has Leslie given an answer yet?"
"He said 'e'd think about it. He also wan'ed me ta think about stayin'
an' what 'e could do ta make me happy. We came up with a list of chores
we each needed ta do but it don't solve the problem o' this town."
"I hear ya." Tyson suddenly looked sheepish. "I hate ta dump this on ya
but...Kai wan'ed ta take me away this weekend an' I don't trust anyone
else with the lizards..."
Lewis smiled. "I'll be happy to."
Leslie went into the living room that evening to find Lewis carefully
instructing Mojo to stay away from the visiting cage of lizards. The
blonde gave the lizards a funny look.
"What?" asked Lewis irritably. "You knew they were comin'."
"Do they have ta be in this room?"
"Well they ain't goin' in the kitchen or a bedroom. Seriously, they
don't make no noise. An' I put 'em in here 'cos Tyson keeps 'em in
the living room so I thought they'd be more relaxed 'ere."
Leslie still wasn't relieved. "I don't 'ave ta do anythin' right?"
"Course you don't. I'm takin' care of 'em an' I don't even do much."
Mojo started trotting around irritably. "Okay Mojo, front door." The
dog darted to the ordered place.
"You goin' somewhere?"
"Mojo needs 'is walk."
"Well take a coat, s'gettin' chilly out there."
Lewis picked out his coat but gave his lover a patronised look. "Yes Dad," he teased. He put it on.
"An' be careful."
"What the hell happens in this lil' town?" the brunette reminded.
Leslie looked somewhat bashful. "I worry 'cos I care."
Lewis smiled sincerely. "I know." He opened the front door. Mojo skipped out happily. "We'll be back in an hour maybe."
So Lewis and his dog walked through the dark neighbourhood easily. The
photographer mused at the fact that Stepmanford somehow seemed friendly
even at night. No city could ever seem to do that, no matter how cheery
it was during the day. At some point, he realised he was walking in the
direction of the Semes Club Mansion; he saw the familiar gates up
ahead, but he paid it no mind. As far as he knew, there was nothing
special happening except the usual bar open on weeknights. Mojo rushed
"Mojo!" He chased after him. "Mojo come back!" He panicked when the dog
ran through the open mansion gates. "No Mojo! Stop!" He quickly ran in
himself and grabbed Mojo's collar.
Lights glared at him. Lewis was bewildered. The glaring lights came
from a car. He heard the sound of someone coming out of the car and
walking towards him. It was a policewoman. As his eyes focussed, he saw
her brown eyes, blonde hair held up with a clip and her police badge
stating 'Hawkeye'. He had seen her around during various days, just
talking to people and hearing various concerns.
"Sir?" she enquired politely yet mechanically. "I would like ta ask you ta leave, this is private property."
There was something about this that confused Lewis. The lights that
were turned on in the mansion were placed in a curious array and he
could see very few cars in the car park.
"Sorry," he sighed. "My dog jus' ran in. I've got 'im, so I'll leave now."
"If 'e's 'ard ta control, I'd recommend you use a leash next time ya walk 'im."
"That's alright, he's not 'ard ta control...usually. Night officer."
She seemed to watch him walk away before switching off the car lights.
Leslie was playing with Mojo in the garden. The sun was setting, making
the sky glow orange. Lewis walked tiredly into the kitchen and got
himself a glass of water.
"Hey Lou! Come outside an' play a lil'!" shouted the blonde from the garden.
Lewis approached the open door to the outside. "I would but packin' equipment tired me out!"
"Lazybones!" teased Leslie.
The doorbell rang. "I'll get it," Lewis sighed. "It'll be Tyson!"
He left his water in the kitchen and patiently made his way to the
front door. He was surprised to open it and find Kai's neutral face
staring back at him.
"Kai. Where's Tyson?"
"At home, in bed. He got food poisoning during the weekend." The tall
man shrugged. "Nothing serious but it's not pleasant. I don't see him
working tomorrow. Anyway, I came for the lizards."
Lewis nodded but with concern. He let Kai in and led him to the lounge. "Hope it didn't spoil the weekend."
"Not really. He was
until that point." When Kai spotted the lizards in their cage, he
smirked. "They're content. They seem to like it here." He moved to pick
the cage up. "Heard you're going to New Orleans tomorrow. Ever been
"2 pieces of advice: don't go out on your own at night and only eat at
the classiest looking places, not necessarily the most expensive."
Lewis was a bit puzzled by this advice. "Okay."
Kai made his own way out. "Thanks again, take care."
It was night time on the highway. Leslie's car was parked on the side of the road with
the lights on. Leslie and Lewis stood by idly, taking the ball from
Mojo's mouth when he ran to them and tossed it again to let him chase
"I think s'been 7 minutes. We have about another hour, we should get goin'," suggested Leslie.
Lewis stretched idly. "Come on Mojo, back in the car."
He opened the back passenger door, through which the dog reluctantly
climbed. Once everyone was seated, the car started again and drove away.
"Mind if I visit Tyson quickly when we get 'ome?" asked the brunette.
Leslie frowned. "s'already gone 9. Be a bit late won't it? An' whaddabout the pictures?"
"They were all digital or digitised, I sen' 'em off already. I don't have much to unpack, I won't mind."
"Gee, you seem more desperate ta see Tyson than me."
"Well we talked on the phone everyday. Whenever I call 'im 'e won't pick up."
"Did 'e get 'is cell changed?"
"That's what I thought. He can be a bit forgetful. He replied to an email but it was short. He weren't chatty."
... "What did it say?"
Lewis sighed. "He just asked 'ow I was doin' an' how New Orleans was.
Said 'e felt better but 'ad ta clean his bed an' 'is bedroom stinks."
"Don't sound like 'is complaints changed much."
The photographer chuckled. "Nope."
It was dark and rather quiet. But it wasn't so late that all the house
lights in the neighbourhood were switched off. The street lamps were
still on too but uh...this town didn't seem to have many of those.
Lewis strolled along easily to Tyson's house. He rang the doorbell. He
was so shocked by the sight of the person answering the door that he
"Lewis, good evenin'." There stood a smiling Tyson, wearing a similar
smile to the one Alan always had. His hair had been brushed finely and
his black waves framed his round face. He wore a sleeveless hoody that
was bright green and his jeans were perfectly white. And from what
Lewis could see over his friend's shoulder, the house interior had
become spick and span.
"What...happened?" he shakily asked. His reaction was as if he'd seen a ghost...or a murder.
Tyson looked delicately confused. "Whaddya mean? What you talkin' about, Lewis?"
Lewis ran away, sprinting for his life.