Chapter 9 – Taking the Bait
For the rest of the week, Dennis found himself running that odd encounter with Kyle’s father over and over in his head, trying desperately to fit all of his memories of the last week into some sort of order. Some of the pieces now felt like they didn’t fit anywhere…(had he really seen Kyle that night in Depot? If he had, why would he have taken him home? If he couldn’t take him home, why had he gone down and intervened?). Some of the pieces now felt too small (he’d gone downtown on Tuesday to that weird precinct, where he’d gotten the runaround…(but hadn’t something else happened hadn’t it? He’d seen someone, but now it all was shrouded in fog, or maybe smoke). Some of the pieces felt right, but nothing connected to them…(He could remember, after speaking to Kyle’s father, how he had moved out, how he had heard about the fight through the neighborhood grapevine, but if he’d known that, why did he only know it now?)
His brain kept trying to shove everything together in different ways to no success. Something, he realized, was missing. There was a bit of the puzzle that he didn’t have, though he couldn’t imagine a shape that would make all of this come together in a way that made sense. This was only intensified by an increasing restlessness he’d never felt before in his life. He had trouble sleeping, and was plagued with dreams he would only half recall. Thursday morning, he’d awoken to wet sheets. He’d thought he’d just sweat, until he realized he’d had a wet dream he couldn’t even remember anymore. He’d never had one before in his life, not even when he’d been a teenager. It felt like something had awoken inside him, or taken up residence, and it too didn’t have a shape or form that made sense to him.
On Friday evening, he got home early from the hospital. Barry wasn’t going to be home until late, because of some work function that he’d assured Dennis didn’t need to be at. That left him alone with Misty the cat, which wasn’t usually a problem. He’d planned on watching his shows, having a simple dinner, and early bed, but all afternoon and early evening, he found it impossible to settle and relax. He was trying to piece his memories together again, but more than that, he was craving something, a taste he couldn’t begin to describe. Frustrated, he fed the cat, got dressed, and drove downtown. He’d decided to start at the precinct and retrace his steps–see if he couldn’t find what he’d forgotten in that fog…(smoke, why did he keep thinking smoke?).
Just like the week before, the sidewalks were already busy with folks getting their weekend started at the various bars and clubs around the nightlife district. Dennis had been so annoyed the week before though, that he hadn’t noticed just how different the crowd was just a block or two over, once he’d crossed that invisible boundary into Pigtown. The precinct was, much to his surprise, busier now than it had been during the daytime, with a steady flow of officers going in and out of the front door, including a few guys in cuffs obviously being arrested. Some of them were doing their jobs then, at least. From there, he looked around and tried to piece together the memory he was missing. He’d been going back to his car, but he’d seen something. No, someone. He’d seen someone heading down the other direction, and he’d followed them. Letting his feet guide him, he crossed the street, went down the block, but pulled up short in front of a smoke shop. Marshall’s Cigar and Briar. Why would he stop here? He thought again, thought about the fog, how he kept thinking it was smoke, didn’t know what to make of any of it, and the shop was closed anyway. Closed, but the lights were on.
He didn’t quite know why he did it, but he crossed the street again, staked out a spot at the mouth of an alley, and watched the door. He’d give it twenty minutes, and see what happened. More than a few guys passed him in the alley, slowed down and gave him a look, but his scowl in return generally dissuaded them–though one guy went so far as the flash him and try and kiss him, and Dennis had to forcefully shove him away, before he took the hint. He couldn’t quite fathom what must have been making these men behave this way. They all seemed to be gay, but the city had never really been known for much in the way of gay nightlife. Now, there wasn’t just a resurgence of gay clubs, but they were brazen enough to be fucking in alleys, apparently.
He was about to give up, and try again in the daytime, when he saw some movement in the shop. He emerged from the alley and stood behind a car parked on the sidewalk, and after a few minutes, two men emerged from the shop, after turning out the lights, locked the door, and walked off down the sidewalk at a leisurely pace.
Dennis followed them on the other side of the street, not sure if he should be trying to be sneaky or not. He wasn’t even sure who he was following, or why he was following them in the first place. The reached the end of the block, where the light was better. They were both in leather and denim, like a good number on the guys on the sidewalk were, and both were smoking cigars. One of them turned and looked in his direction, and Dennis realized that it was Kyle–but not quite the Kyle he recalled from some of his memories. A little older, a little thicker, with a full beard cut short across his face. The man he was with, Dennis recalled him as well, didn’t he? The memories of him either didn’t quite fit…(sitting at a table in a gay club, kissing Kyle, when Dennis pulled him away for a reason that no longer made sense), or were shrouded in that same fog as the shop…(righteous anger, jealousy, something in his ear, the smell of smoke, but what else was there behind all those clouds?). Dennis knew, somehow, that this was the piece. Part of the piece he was looking for. He kept following them down the street for a couple more blocks. They were deeper in Pigtown now, and the streetlights seemed dimmer, the men around him a little hungrier, a little more brazen. Leather was the norm now, along with quite a bit of rubber. More than once, he passed men whose cocks and asses were exposed, some even erect. Several times, someone felt him up in passing. Dennis was almost unnerved enough to turn around and go home, when Kyle and the other bear stopped and stepped into a bar, called The Hideaway.
Dennis jaywalked after them, got to the door where a bouncer was sitting on a stool in full leather, and when he tried to push past him and go inside, the man put an arm out and stopped him, and laughed. “First time, buddy?” he said, “We have a dress code here, and you don’t meet it. BLUF only.”
“Breeches, Leather, Uniform, Fetish. Denim and cowboy get in too on theme nights. Damn, you must be real new if I have to tell you this shit. Maybe I should let you in for a little fun,” the bouncer said.
“I…look, someone I know just went in, alright? Guy named Kyle. I just wanted to talk.”
“Kyle? Marshall’s new apprentice?”
“No! He’s only eighteen.”
The man laughed. “Look fella. You gotta be dressed properly to get in here, sorry. Go get some gear and come back when you’re a little more seasoned. This place’ll eat you alive otherwise.”
Dennis walked away, sensing that no manner of appealing to the bouncer’s sense of right would work in this case. Should he go home? That same…something inside him was thrumming now. It felt like hunger, or thirst, or something else, some other need that he didn’t have the right word to articulate. He felt like an alien here. He knew he should go home, that he didn’t belong here, but whether he wanted answers, or whether he wanted to feed whatever it was beginning to claw at his guts, he slid down an alley next to The Hideaway, and around to the back of the building. The alley was narrow, with very little lighting. As expected, there was a back door propped open by a block of wood. There was some chatter–probably employees on break or something not too far away. Peeking inside, he saw a break room, as he expected, and a hallway leading down to some bathrooms and the bar proper. Before he could second guess himself, he slid inside and down the hallway, hoping he wasn’t getting in over his head.
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