Trial and Error

(Author’s Note: Warning, warning. Strong sexual content. Do not read if that offends you. You can contact me with a note at the bottom of this blog to get a synopsis, if you want to avoid graphic content.)

Jack gazed out the window in Emilia Rodriguez’s apartment. She was another casualty of this weird, convoluted convergence of cases. Emilia, stressed to near hysteria on the night of the miscarriage and involved with factions addicted to vengeance, undoubtedly suspected that the birth would be fatal. Had she guessed that it would kill the mother also? Had she suspected her own demise? Is that why she chased Sawyer out the window with the evidence? Was she convinced that the people knocking might kill him as well? He couldn’t help wondering what it would feel like to experience someone else’s death as if it was his own.

He shook the dream from his mind. He didn’t question the Morellis’ involvement. There was just no proof. Even if the DNA from hair follicles tied mother to baby, there was no proof that she was a Morelli. There was only his story, and that was nothing substantial. There was no case. As usual. What the hell good was he?

CSI had found multiple fingerprints on the window. There was enough detail for a clear comparison. He had called his ex-wife for copies of his son’s prints, made with a kit she ordered from the National Child ID program that she had stuck in his keepsake book. She had sent them within minutes. It was just a matter of time now as AIFIS compared the prints to a national database, and the shop techs compared them to the ones Jonathan’s mother had sent.

CSI technicians were packing up their equipment. There was nothing more they could do in Emilia’s flat.

The young tech he was working with said, “Sir, would you like to talk about it?”

He turned his attention from the window and directed at her. What could he say that would not sound completely insane?

Her phone buzzed. She listened a moment, nodding and mumbling affirmative. Then, she hung up. Her jaw was clenched, her fingers fisted and then relaxed.

He said, “No match?”

“Not on AIFIS, sir. But, the prints your wife sent….”

Jack’s knees folded, and he sat hard onto the bed. It bounced a couple of times.

She said, “Sir?”

He stared at the floor, but in reality, he saw nothing. The strings in his heart, the strong cords that bound him to the people he loved, tangled and twisted into a hard knot that was difficult to breathe around. “Jonathan, Jonathan. What the hell have you done?”

Jonathan wandered most of the day, staying close to buildings to take advantage of shadows. As the sun fell, he stopped across the street from Wahlburgers. Two people were panhandling next to it. He sat in the shadow and watched as they begged for money. One person stopped to throw a couple of bills at the first person. The second he ignored, just like the rest of the people who scuttled past, avoiding the predicament as best they could. What a futile way to make money.

Two people walked past Jonathan on his side of the street. The second threw a fiver at his feet.

“Uh, sir? You dropped this?” he said.

“No, son, I didn’t. Go buy yourself a sandwich.” Then he walked on.

“Well,” said Jon, shocked. “Thank you,” he yelled after the man. In the next three minutes, two more people threw dollar bills at him. Each time it surprised him and each time he managed to croak out, “Thank you.”

After two more people walked past, an elderly woman with a big purse stopped in front of him. He prepared himself for a chastising.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

He automatically said, “Sawyer.”

“As in Tom? By Samuel Clemens?” she said.

He nodded.

“Then, I am sure that is not your real name, is it?”

He looked at her and smiled weakly.

She opened her big purse and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill. “There is a thrift shop two blocks from here.” She pointed behind her. “I just dropped off some old jackets. Buy yourself a coat, young man.” She walked on.

Jon stood and pulled his wallet from his back pocket. He carefully tucked the bills next to the three dollars he had left. He did need a coat. His was in the back of Rat’s van. Right now, though, he needed food. Wahlburgers looked like a safe place to eat, and it wasn’t crowded.

As he neared the restaurant, a man ran up behind him and pushed him into the wall. As the man twirled around him, Jon caught a glimpse of his wallet in the man’s hand. “Hey. Hey, that’s mine,” he shouted.

The man took off running. Jon ran after him.

The man dashed down a side street. As he passed a small, garbage bin, he threw Jon’s wallet into the air behind him. It landed on the lip of the bin and then fell into it. The man turned left at the end of the alley and was gone.

Jon peered over the rim. Thankfully, the bin was empty except for a sheaf of cardboard. His wallet lay open next to it. Jon leaned into the bin and retrieved it. His money and the letter from his father were gone. His ID was still in place.  

There was no point staying here. He slumped against the wall and covered his face in his hands. He really wanted to eat, but without money….

This adventure had been his choice. He wiped the tears from his eyes and looked around. He dusted off his pants and wandered to the back of the restaurant. The establishment had garbage bins locked behind a chain link fence. Who locked up garbage?  

He decided to sit in the shadow where he sat before, across the street. Maybe the evening crowd would throw money at him.  

No one stopped. He sighed. It was time to hunt for a food kitchen.

He headed toward the thrift shop, which seemed a likely place to connect with others needing a helping hand. He was right. Next to the thrift shop was a building marked St. John’s House of Rest. The doors weren’t open, but there was a small line of people against the wall waiting. He stood at the end of it. Three colorfully dressed people got into line behind him. They jostled each other and laughed. His ears perked up when he heard one of them say, “He paid fifty dollars just to get a stiffy. He didn’t want to take it all the way.”

“I’ve never heard of that,” said another one.

The people behind him reminded him of Lincoln. Eager to work the MMA meet, he promised it was worth it for the money. When he and Rat tended Lincoln’s body, Rat had confirmed there was a lot of money to be made working the ‘corners.’ At the meet, he had handed Jon a hundred dollar bill which Jon used to impress Marchesi. Jon’s story was that he hooked up with the man whose suit he ruined with spilled drinks. When he gave Marchesi the money, he claimed, “Blowjob.” Neither Charlie, Hawg, the cook, nor Rat batted an eye. A hundred dollars for a blowjob was unimaginable. Was it something he could do? He just didn’t roll that way. However, he couldn’t imagine doing a woman either.

What he could imagine was a hand job. As a freshman at Stagg High School, he had witnessed a couple of the football jocks at school giving each other a hand job. He was shocked, not by the act itself, but because they were touching each other. He and Rollo, his best friend back home, had whacked off together a couple of times, but sleeping bags covered them, and they didn’t touch each other, so he knew what to do. How much money he could get for that was the question. 

His ears perked up, but the conversation of the people behind him had moved on. One of their friends had signed up for business classes at Wayne County Community College. He snorted. He guessed business classes would be helpful in the ‘profession.’

As he sat down at a table to eat the warm meal handed him, he looked at the art on the wall. Most of it was poster work, inviting folks to this or that prayer meeting. One caught his eye. It was a picture of his face on an FBI flyer.

He crouched over his food and shoveled it in. It took him less than two minutes, by his reckoning, to wolf it down. When he returned his tray, he averted his eyes. He couldn’t fly out of there fast enough. To his horror, he noticed that there were flyers posted outside as well. Shit, shit, shit. Why didn’t he notice that before he walked inside?

He ducked into an alley and started walking. Discovering that he was close to the alley near the fountain, he hastened his speed, hoping that his place by the dumpster was free.

Before he got there, a car pulled up alongside him. He watched out of the corner of his eye as the passenger side window rolled down. Dressed in a button down shirt opened at the collar, the driver, a grey haired man who was leaning across the passenger seat,  said, “Hey, baby. Are you working tonight?”

Jon looked at him, and pointed to himself.

“Got twenty dollars for a quick hand job,” said the man.

Of course the universe would gift him. He had practically asked for it. “Sh-sh-sure,” said Jon.

The man leaned across the passenger seat and unlocked the door.

Was he going to do this? Twenty dollars could pay for a coat and another meal tomorrow. He jerked open the door and climbed in.

The man drove another block until he found a parking place protected from streetlights. He set his keys on the dash, pushed his seat back so he could stretch out, and slid open his zipper. “Pull it out,” he said to Jon.

Jon was sure his eyes betrayed his horror, but the man had leaned back and wasn’t watching him. Jon slipped his fingers into the pocket of the man’s whitey tighties and curled them around his floppy organ. He felt a flash of fear. The man was old. What if he broke it?

“Well, what are you waiting for?” said the man. “I’m paying you to get the damn thing going.”

Jon pulled the penis out and wrapped his fingers around it. Then he started pumping it as if it was his own. Nothing happened.

“Come on, kid. Get going. You gotta squeeze the old thing to wake it up.”

Oh god. Jon squeezed. It jerked to life. As the organ stiffened, Jon was shocked at how the slack skin filled out as he ran his hand up and down the shaft. When the skin was taught against firm muscle beneath it, it felt like silk slipping through his fingers.

He almost stopped at the shock of it. When he stroked himself, he never paid attention to the sensations in his hand. He was too intent on the rising heat of the volcano within.

The old guy started grunting, “Come on, come on, come on.” He bucked his hips, and his spunk drooled over Jon’s hand. Jon averted his face. If he couldn’t see it, he could pretend it was something other than another man’s jizz.

The man fell back into his seat, slack and silent.

Jon stared at his sticky hand. He tried wiping it off on the floor mat at his feet, but that didn’t get rid of it.

The man snorted awake, gave Jon a stiff, new twenty and a pat on his cheek. Then he stuffed his gear back into his pants, zipped himself in, and told Jon, “Get the hell out.”

Jon stumbled over the curb and backed away from the vehicle, clutching the twenty in his clean hand. His soiled hand, like a foreign appendage he didn’t recognize, was balled up, held at an odd angle away from his body so it wouldn’t accidentally touch him anywhere.

The man gunned his car as he speeded away, never once looking back at him.

Jon shoved the twenty-dollar bill into the front pocket of his jeans, jamming it into the bottom as best he could. All he could think about was washing his hand. However, he wasn’t dying, he wasn’t getting sick. He wasn’t sorry. He had money. He scurried to the drinking fountain to wash his hand.

Holding the spigot in his clean hand, he let cool water rush over his tainted hand. He stopped after humming all of “Happy Birthday” twice and scrubbed his hands together. Then he wiped them on his pants, and for good measure, held open the spigot while he rinsed off the memory of pleasuring a man other than himself for the first time in his life.

He didn’t see the policemen until it was almost too late. He looked up briefly and saw the officer in the passenger seat step out of the marked vehicle. The officer looked at him squarely in the eye. Jon backed up two steps, staring back, and then turned and ran.

“Hey, stop,” yelled the officer. Jon heard a car door slam behind him and knew the officer’s partner had joined in the chase. Jon didn’t stop running for blocks.

When he stopped to catch his breath, he did not see or hear his pursuers. He couldn’t go back to his alley. Lost and tired, he wandered. He wandered until he was standing on the corner where it all started, across from Marchesi’s Bar and Grill. The building was dark. The business sign was off. Yellow police tape criss-crossed the door and the windows. He wandered to the alley behind the building. Tape cordoned off both ends. He slipped under it.

Huddled in the corner between the staircase and the back wall, and shivered to sleep.

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