No Good Deed by Michael Rupured
A Philip Potter Story
On Christmas Eve in 1966, Philip Potter, a kind-hearted Smithsonian curator, wraps up his last-minute shopping. Meanwhile, James, his lover of several years, takes his own life back in their home. Unaware of what awaits him, Philip drops off gifts at a homeless shelter, an act of generosity that will later make him a suspect in the murder of a male prostitute.
Following James’s shocking death, two men enter Philip’s life—and both drive yellow Continentals. One of them, though, is a killer, with the blood of at least six hustlers on his hands. And both are hiding something.
As Philip is about to discover, no good deed goes unpunished.
Philip glanced at his watch and wondered where the time had gone. After dropping off all but the radio for James at the shelter, he’d popped into the toy department at the Sears & Roebuck store to see about last-minute gifts for Thad. Checking out took longer than he’d expected, but he didn’t want to be rude to the helpful clerk. The glares of the shoppers who waited behind him hadn’t dampened his holiday spirit.
As snow crunched beneath his black rubbers, Philip contemplated what awaited him at home. James was… excitable. No matter how his father had responded, his lover’s reaction would be extreme. If the old man had written James a check, he’d be dancing on the ceiling. If not, well…. If not, then Philip would do what he could to cheer him up.
From the day they’d met, Philip had been driven by a desire to guide and protect this rare and beautiful gift to the human race. How someone could cast such an exquisite creature into the streets baffled him. The boy’s father committing such a heinous and disloyal act infuriated him. Philip had been only nine when his own dad had died. He had few memories of him, but those he had were wonderful—so much so he wasn’t sure which were real and which were only figments of his imagination.
In addition to his dancing ability, James possessed a superlative gift for embellishment and a knack for making ordinary events sound either much better or worse than they were. Although entertaining at parties, living with the drama was sometimes a challenge. Tomorrow would either be the absolute best Christmas James had ever had… or the worst. If only Philip could influence the outcome. Knowing it all came down to James’s father—a man not known for doing the right thing—made Philip uneasy.
Streets that were overflowing with traffic and last-minute shoppers earlier were now almost deserted. Progress was slow thanks to packed snow on the sidewalks. Whether James was jubilant or sorrowful, Philip didn’t want him to be alone on Christmas Eve any longer than he had to be. Solitude and James didn’t mix well.
When Philip got to the apartment, he’d listen to what James had to say about the meeting with his father. He suspected he already knew, but he pushed that thought from his mind, hoping he hadn’t nurtured it into being. Think positive.
Step by careful step, he made his way down Twenty-First Street toward G Street. He winced as the scream of a siren from a passing ambulance filled his head. More sirens wailed in the distance. The hair on his neck prickled. Though he hadn’t been to Mass since second grade and had never considered himself a religious man, he crossed himself and said a quick prayer for the unfortunate victim’s family and friends as the sirens converged at a location a few blocks ahead of him.
He rounded the corner onto G Street and saw that the uproar revolved around his apartment building. Anxiety about James hardened into a knot of tension that made breathing difficult. The icy sidewalk prevented him from running, but he picked up his pace as best he could and hurried to the building.
An ambulance and half a dozen police cars blocked the street. The red, amber, and blue flashing lights on the snow-covered evergreens reminded him of the flocked Christmas tree he’d seen at the shelter. Bystanders huddled together in small groups, talking amongst themselves.
As he passed the first group, he heard a woman say, “We were watching television when I heard a gunshot right outside our door.”
Another faceless voice reached his ear. “…took his own life, and here on Christmas Eve….”
Philip stopped on the sidewalk, three steps below the landing. A uniformed officer blocked the entrance to his apartment building. “Excuse me, sir. I live here. May I come in?”
The officer gave him a quick once-over and asked, “Which apartment?” Darkness and the flashing lights made it hard to see his face. A single bushy eyebrow extended almost from ear to ear beneath the visor of his hat. Philip wanted to ask if he’d ever heard of tweezers.
“I live in apartment 203 with my roommate.”
“Roommate?” The giant brow furrowed, the officer’s expression changing. Philip detected derision in his voice.
“Yes, my roommate, James Walker. Have you seen him?”
The bushy fringe arched as the officer’s lips curled into a sneer. “Yeah, I’ve seen him. He’s laying up in that hallway with a bullet in his head.”
Philip heard the words but couldn’t quite glean the meaning. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“I said your faggot boyfriend blew his brains out.”
Understanding struck Philip as the officer disappeared up the stairs. His knees buckled and the snow-covered sidewalk rushed toward him. The last thing he saw was the box containing the fire engine red transistor radio he’d purchased for James tumbling down the sidewalk and into the street.