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June 20, 2022

Dramaturge

By Mel Trent

I.

After six months in Pale, Eliot Montoya was happy. He had intended Pale to be a hiding place, a stop over on the way to somewhere else, even if he did like the city. Pale had evolved quickly into a place to live and do what he loved, which was music more than acting these days. He was okay with that. The switch seemed to suit him.

He had finally landed a job shortly after the mess with Melpomene. Bank teller wasn't his ideal job, but it was tolerable. He liked his co-workers and his boss.

He hadn't left Jordan Mars's apartment since the morning Aphrodite had tucked him into Jordan's bed. When he had announced his intention to start looking for his own place after he'd been working for a couple months, Jordan had made it very clear that he didn't want Eliot to leave. So Eliot had stayed. Shortly after that, they had been adopted by an abandoned kitten Eliot had found in the dumpster at the bank. Was it perfect? No, but perfect was boring. He and Jordan had become good friends with Ilya Zharkov and Sebastian Gauthier, and Ilya was kind enough to let Eliot perform at the Lost Tree. He'd only done it a few times and never with his own material. That was about to change. He'd written a group of interconnected songs -- he still wasn't sure how to categorize the thing -- and would be debuting the show that night.

The bank was close enough to the apartment that Eliot was able to walk to work. It was cold that morning, and the rain was no more than mist. He hardly noticed the weather. He was rehearsing his show in his head. He wished he could stop thinking about it, but he was nervous. He hadn't been nervous about a performance since the very first time he had stepped onto a stage to face an audience. He wasn't sure why he was nervous. He had played the songs for Jordan dozens of times. He'd played for Ilya and Sebastian. He had even played for a handful of friends at a dress rehearsal on Wednesday. He had no reason to be nervous, but he was. He was so distracted by the fact of his nervousness that he almost didn't notice his cell phone buzzing in his pocket.

Eliot felt cold adrenaline bubble in his gut when he saw the number on the display. It was Blake Raines, his ex-boyfriend's older brother. Eliot had given his new cell phone number to three people when he left for Pale -- his parents and his friend Stephanie. He hadn't wanted to take chances that Kevin would get his number from anyone else. It felt like a bad idea to answer the call. What if it was Kevin, using Blake's phone to trick Eliot into thinking it was safe to answer?

He let the call go to voice mail. A moment later, Blake called again. That was a worse sign than the call itself. Eliot answered warily. "Blake?"

"Hi, Eliot," Blake said. "I wasn't sure you'd take my call."

"I almost didn't."

"I got your number from Steph. I'm sorry. I probably should have had her call, but I wanted to talk to you."

"Can I call you later? I'm at work."

"I just need a minute. It's really fucking important."

"Blake, I can't -- "

"It's about Kevin."

Eliot said nothing. He had reached the front door of the bank. It was only quarter after eight, and no one was there to unlock the door yet. He stood in the corner under the eaves.

"Look, I have no idea what happened between you and Kevin. I know he hurt you, and I'm worried he might try again."

"He doesn't know where I am. Why -- "

"He knows. No one's seen him since he left the restaurant last night, and when I went to his apartment, I found ... he'd torn up the copy of Ink&Water with your poems in it, and the page with all the publication information was missing. I looked it up. It's not that hard to find."

"What made him think I'd go to Pale just because of the magazine?"

"Didn't you?"

"Well ... not just that, but -- "

"You were with him for four years, Eliot. Tell me he doesn't know you well enough to figure that out."

"I sure as hell didn't know him as well as I thought I did."

"I'll be there in about an hour. I want you to tell people about this. Don't go anywhere alone, and if you see him, call me."

"You really think he'll do something if he finds me?"

"He hasn't been right since you left. He's got his knives with him. I don't know what he'll do. I don't want to find out."

"Great."

"I'll call you when I get to town."

"Okay. Thanks, Blake."

Melpomene gets the last laugh after all, Eliot thought after he got off the phone with Blake. For a moment, he contemplated finding Kevin himself and getting the confrontation over with, but the truth was he was scared. He wouldn't be able to defend himself if the situation came to blows. Kevin had a way of making him feel helpless. Kevin was a control freak; he hadn't been happy with their relationship unless he could make Eliot feel helpless. "This is not gonna end well," he said to himself.

He called Jordan first. Kevin would have no way of knowing that Eliot and Jordan were living together, but if Kevin showed up at the Ink&Water office, Jordan could call the cops. Needless to say, Jordan wasn't happy about the whole thing. His instinct was to be at Eliot's side until Kevin was out of Pale. It made him grumpy that that wasn't feasible.

By then, the branch manager and the head teller had arrived to unlock the doors.

"Good morning, Eliot," the head teller said. "You're here early."

"I didn't sleep too well," he said.

"Nervous about your show?"

"Yeah. I shouldn't ... oh, fuck. The show. Posters everywhere. Fuck."

Gloria Hamlin raised an eyebrow. "Eliot?"

"I need to make some phone calls. I'm sorry. I need to tell you -- "

Gloria put her hands on Eliot's shoulders. "It's okay. Calm down. Let's get inside." Gloria was amazingly good at calming people down.

Eliot nodded, but Gloria's calming effect wasn't working on him.

Once they were inside the building and the doors were locked behind them again, Eliot made three quick phone calls -- Blake, Jordan and Ilya. Ilya didn't answer, of course; he was either still asleep or at least not out of bed yet. Eliot left a message and figured Ilya would come by the bank later rather than call back.

Gloria came into the break room while Eliot was trying to get a pot of coffee going. His hands were shaking too badly for him to get a good grip on the packet. Gloria took it out of his hands. "Sit," she said.

He sat. "Sorry," he said.

"Don't apologize. Explain."

"My ex ... things didn't end well between us. He apparently couldn't get over it and is trying to find me to do something about it."

"Do something? Like what?"

Eliot didn't answer. He wasn't sure what to say.

Gloria looked over her shoulder at him and frowned. She didn't press for an answer. She finished making the coffee and turned around to face him. "How dangerous is this man?" she asked.

"I don't know. He's a chef. He's got knives. He, um ... he's hurt me before."

"He was abusive?"

"No. He was always a control freak, but that's ..." Eliot stopped and waited for the tears to fade. It hadn't been this hard to tell Jordan what Kevin did to him, but then Kevin hadn't been in Pale waiting to hurt him again. He took a deep breath. "He didn't want me to work at a particular bar and decided the best way to keep me in line was to drug me and rape me." "Oh god. Eliot."

"I tried to make sure he didn't know where I was, but apparently, he's figured it out."

"How did you find out?"

"His brother called me. Blake's a cop. He's on his way here to try to find Kevin before Kevin finds me."

"Would you rather go home? You don't have to stay here if you don't want to."

"No, I'll be okay. Blake wants me to stay around people, and I think that's a good idea."

"I do, too."

* * *

Working through a haze of paranoia was difficult, but Eliot managed it somehow. He suspected that Tally and the other tellers covered for him more than he noticed. He promised to get them on the guest list at the Lost Tree. Not that that was enough, but it was something.

Blake called around 9:30. He thought he had spotted Kevin's car when he stopped for coffee but hadn't been able to find it again. He had, however, already seen at least two posters for the show at the Lost Tree. Blake was convinced that if Kevin tried anything, it would be there. Miserably, Eliot agreed and told Blake to get in touch with Ilya.

Ilya and Sebastian came by with lunch. As they ate, Ilya tried to assure Eliot everything would be okay, and Sebastian promised severe bodily harm for Kevin. Eliot appreciated what they were trying to do, but it didn't make him feel any better. He would only feel better once he knew Kevin was no longer a threat. If only he knew how to make that happen.

But nothing happened.

One of the loan officers, Mitchell Laurence, and his wife Lily walked Eliot home at five, which Eliot tried to insist was unnecessary. That was an argument he lost, and he supposed that was a good thing. The constant worrying and watching had worn him out. He didn't have the energy to pay attention to his surroundings.

He had ten or fifteen minutes to himself once he was home. He usually enjoyed the solitude but not this time. He undressed and lay down on the bed, where his cat, Nike, promptly joined him. "I guess freedom was too much to ask," he said to her as he scratched her head. She only tilted her head into his hand and purred. "It was good while it lasted."

Nike was unconcerned. She curled up against his side, still purring, and dozed. A minute later, Eliot was asleep, too.

Eliot woke up to Jordan's kiss. He put his arms around Jordan's neck as they kissed and found it very hard to let go.

"Dinner's ready," Jordan said.

Eliot squinted at the clock. It was a few minutes after seven. "Why'd you let me sleep so long?" he asked. He sat up and rubbed his gritty eyes.

"You needed it. I figured it was better than you sitting around thinking."

"I guess. I feel terrible about this whole thing."

"It's not your fault."

"It is. In a way."

"The curse?"

"I was thinking more the fact that I was ever with Kevin at all."

"You couldn't have known he'd turn out to be a psycho. Come on. Let's eat. "

After dinner, Eliot took a quick shower and got dressed for the show. He and Jordan went to the Ark for coffee, and by the time they got to the Lost Tree, Eliot was starting to think that Kevin wasn't going to do anything after all. When he stepped onto the stage, the whole ordeal suddenly seemed like a bad dream that faded in the light.

* * *

It was close to two in the morning when Eliot, Jordan and Blake left through the back door of the Lost Tree. Blake had insisted on driving them home, although by then, every cop in Pale had Kevin's description, and he wasn't likely to get away if he got caught lurking somewhere. By then, they didn't think Kevin was actually going to confront Eliot.

And he wasn't. Kevin didn't want confrontation. That would have implied he would give Eliot a chance to do something.

Kevin shot out from behind the dumpster, snaked his arm around Eliot's neck and jammed a knife deep into Eliot's left shoulder. He yanked the knife out and raised it to stab Eliot again. Blake caught his arm, twisted his wrist until he dropped the knife and wrestled him away from Eliot.

Awkwardly, Eliot stumbled away from Kevin. He was aware of Jordan catching him, of Kevin and Blake struggling somewhere behind him, of the hum of his guitar from inside its case, strings vibrating from impact with the ground when he dropped it. He felt the slick heat of blood when he put his hand to his shoulder, but he felt no pain. He was too shocked to feel anything at all.

Ilya and Sebastian had heard the commotion. Sebastian rushed out with towels to staunch Eliot's wound. Ilya called the cops.

Blake had Kevin on his feet then, his right arm contorted into a hammerlock. He shoved Kevin face first against the dumpster. "What the fuck is wrong with you?" Blake asked.

Kevin turned his head to look at Eliot. He didn't answer Blake's question. "It didn't have to be this way, Eliot," he said.

Eliot, with Jordan and Sebastian insulating him from Kevin, said nothing. What could he have said?

"I just wanted you to be the way you were before," Kevin said. "We were good together, Eliot. We were. Then you changed, and when I tried to change you back, you ran away. I wish you'd go back to the way you were before."

Eliot convulsed as if he were about to have a seizure. He twisted his fingers into Jordan's shirt, tried to say something, to fight off whatever was happening to him, but there was nothing he could do. He was gone, and Jordan was left holding a bloody tragedy mask.



To be continued ...



These characters also appeared in With No Announcement.

Article © Mel Trent. All rights reserved.
Published on 2013-01-21
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