Out of the Blue
“Michael!” Douglas cried. “Open up!”
“Go away,” Michael said.
Douglas wouldn’t take no for an answer. “Let me in, Michael. Either let me in, or I’ll let myself in! We need to talk.”
“There’s nothing more to talk about.”
The redhead laid into the door with his shoulder, shoving his weight against the thin wood over and over, with every intention of bursting inside.
“Don’t you dare break down my door,” Michael warned.
“Then open it, God damn it!” Doug said.
There was a long pause, during which Dodger assumed Michael was discussing this quietly with Lelanea. Eventually, the native opened the door wide to the intruder. Douglas barged inside the house, and there came another pause in the action. Dodger, unable to resist the unfolding drama, peered over the windowsill once more.
There he saw Douglas staring at Lelanea in shock.
“She’s from that train,” Douglas said. “What is she doing here?”
“She’s just here on a friendly visit,” Michael said.
“A friendly visit? In the middle of the night?” Doug sucked his teeth as he connected the dots of his own pattern. “I see. I get it. I know what’s going on here.”
Michael shook his head at the man. “Nothing’s going on here.”
“I was actually just leaving,” Lelanea said.
“No!” Doug yelled. “No. Don’t leave on my account. Please, be my guest. He’s all yours.” Douglas whipped about and stomped toward the open door.
“Doug, please,” Michael said as he grabbed the redhead by the arm and held him still. “It’s not like that.”
The redhead, close to tears now, jerked his arm free and spun about again. “Then what is it like? Huh? Can you tell me what it’s like? Because I don’t know anymore!”
“Let me explain.”
“No! You won’t talk your way out of this one.” Doug stepped up to meet the larger man, chest to chest. (Well, upturned face to chest in this case.) “So tell me, Mr. Walking Bear. If it isn’t like that, then what is it like?”
Michael looked to Lelanea, who in turn looked to the floor. Michael followed her glance, taking a step back to stare at his big bare feet, rather than face the angry young man.
A new understanding dawned upon Douglas. A real understanding. Something different from the snap judgment the man made when he first burst into the room. With a trembling lip, the young man backed away from Michael and whispered, “Oh my God.”
“I’m so sorry,” Michael said. “I wanted to introduce you, but I knew what you would think.”
“Then she’s like you?”
Lelanea gave a small gasp of surprise as she eyed Michael.
Dodger was more confused than ever.
“It’s all right, Lelanea,” Michael said. “He knows all about me.”
“Of course I know,” Doug snapped. “I know everything about him. Everything. And if she and her friends hadn’t showed up, everyone else would know everything about you by now.”
Michael didn’t seem troubled by this. It was as if he had expected it. “Is that why you killed your Lilly?”
“Yes!” Tears broke from the redhead’s swollen eyes, tracing lines of wet frustration down his quivering cheeks. “I was trying to get Pitch to arrest you and keep you in the jailhouse overnight so maybe everyone would finally figure out what you really are.”
“Why, Doug? I showed you what I am because I thought I could trust you. Why would you want to expose me like that?”
“Because I thought if everyone knew, then it wouldn’t matter anymore. I thought if everyone knew what you were, then you wouldn’t have any excuses left.” The tears were fast and furious now, pouring from the young man almost as hot as his words.
Michael drew closer to Doug, closing the space between them as he lowered his voice to a soft, soothing trill. “It’s all right, Doug. Please don’t cry.” He tried to take the man into his arms for a comforting hug, but Doug wasn’t ready for that.
The redhead darted back with a quick step. “Don’t touch me.”
“I didn’t mean for it to go this far.”
Doug glanced to Lelanea, his tears ceasing as he shot her a hate-filled look. “He didn’t mean it, and that makes it all better?”
“I’m sorry,” Lelanea said.
“So am I.” Doug yanked his shirt tail free from his trousers and pulled out a sizable pistol from the band of his pants. The metallic clack of the hammer filled the air as he set the thing and leveled it at Lelanea.
Lelanea raised her hands before her, slowly, to show the man she meant no harm.
At the sight of the weapon, Dodger slid his pair of guns from free their holsters, but experience forced him to maintain his position. There was no use going in guns a-blazin’ in such small quarters. He had to pick the right moment to spring. The right moment to fight.
“Doug,” Michael said. “Put that down. You know it won’t do any good anyway.”
“And why wouldn’t it?” Doug asked. He waggled the weapon. “I have the right ammunition.”
Lelanea closed her eyes with a groan.
“See?” Doug asked as he tightened his grip on the gun and his aim on her. “He taught me well.”
“I didn’t teach you this,” Michael snarled. And the man really did snarl too. His voice had the undercurrent of an animalistic growl.
“You taught me that I can’t live without you. And if I can’t have you, no one will.”
“Doug, please. Don’t do this-”
“Then stop me!”
Michael hesitated as if weighing the option.
“Come on, then,” Doug said. “Treat me like the prey I always was, and take me down!”
“I know what you want,” Michael said. “And you know I can’t do that.”
“Then you’re going to have to kill me.”
Another drawn-out pause in the argument as the men stared at one another in silence. What kind of drama was playing out here? Were they friends or foes? Because from where Dodger stood, they bickered like a pair of … oh.
“Either attack me or kill me,” Doug said as the tears began to run free again. “Because I can’t live without you. I love you, Michael. I will never stop loving you just because you stopped loving me.”
Well, then. That settled any doubt. Dodger may have been a bit late to the station, but at least he was aboard before the train took off. Surprised, but on board. The men were lovers, which explained quite a bit. Dodger hadn’t expected that. Not that he hadn’t seen such things before, but one had to admit the pairing here was a bit odd. This also wasn’t the first time that Dodger had seen a pair of star-crossed lovers end up at each other’s throats. It was just a shame that Lelanea had been thrown into the mix.
Wait up, now. Doug had claimed that she was ‘like’ Michael.
Did that mean she was also … oh.
Dodger reckoned that explained an awful lot too.
“I never stopped,” Michael said. “Don’t you understand that?”
“No, I don’t,” Doug said. The gun wavered, and lowered, just a bit.
“It is torture, Douglas. This kind of life is pure torture. I won’t make you suffer too.”
“This isn’t suffering? Being without you isn’t torture?” Doug snorted. “Of course it isn’t. Not for you. You have her now.” Doug once again returned his attention to Lelanea, straightening his aim.
“Doug, I told you the truth. I just invited her here to talk.”
“It’s true,” Lelanea said. “I’m not here to stay, Doug. I have my own family.”
“You shut up!” Doug cried. “Both of you! Shut up!” The kid grabbed a handful of his hair with his free hand. “I need to think. Just be quiet.”
Dodger took this as his cue. The redhead was distracted enough to loosen his grip on the pistol. If Dodger aimed just right, he might land a good shot on the kid, but it would be hard to do so without killing him, considering the guns were set to triple threat. He couldn’t dial them down without making too much noise. Staring over the bridge of Florence, Dodger drew a deep breath, aimed and braced himself to fire.
Don’t fire, Boon whispered in Dodger’s mind.
Dodger winced. Boon! What a time for the spirit to show up. A million questions leaped to his lips, but he kept his silence.
I know I’ve been gone. But you need to distract the lad.
Dodger narrowed his eyes. What did the ghost mean by distract?
Distract the lad, and the others will follow your cue and take care of the rest.
Dodger wavered, unsure what the ghost was getting at.
He is bluffing. He won’t really shoot her. I can sense it. You have to trust me.
Trust him? This coming from the same spirit who was blackmailing him into silence? Then again, if Dodger began firing into that room, there was no telling what would happen when the bullets started to fly.
Against his better judgment, he lowered his gun and said, “Douglas.”
GOOD FOR THE SOUL
In which Dodger deals in truths