Tony debated going to the club that evening, then decided being with his friends, rather than staying home worrying about the murders, was the better option.
When he got there, and approached the table, Greg jumped to his feet to hug him.
“How are you holding up?” Greg asked as they sat.
“I’m still alive, which is what counts,” Tony replied, taking the bottle of beer Dan handed him. “You were that sure I’d be here?” he asked him.
“Yep. When trouble strikes, us four Musketeers always gather to deal with it.”
Tony took a drink, chuckling at his friend’s words. “Where are our floppy hats and swords?”
Greg snickered. “I know where my sword is.” He glanced down at his crotch.
“Bad one,” Pat said with a laugh. Then he asked Tony, “How are you doing?”
“I’m pretty shaken up. Like an older man I know who lives there pointed out, it’s guys my age who are being murdered. Okay, it’s only been two of them, but still…”
“Whoever heard of a serial killer confining himself to one building?”
“If that’s what’s happening,” Tony replied. “I keep telling myself it’s coincidence. The first time it could have been a robber who got caught in the act. This time, umm, a quarrel gone way bad?”
“And they were both killed, stabbed according to the news, in the elevator?” Pat said. “That’s kind of pushing the limits on coincidence, Tony.”
“Shush. You’re not helping things,” Dan told him, smacking his arm.
“He’s right,” Tony said. “As much as I hate admitting it, that is a stretch.”
Greg started to say something but paused, looking past Tony toward the bar. “Will you look at that?”
The others turned to see. Dan snorted. “Lover boy looks like he just came from work.”
Tony nodded. Kirk was dressed in slacks and a button-down shirt instead of his usual body-revealing jeans and T-shirt. He rolled his eyes, saying, “Maybe he’s turned over a new leaf.”
“This is Kirk we’re talking about. That is not happening,” Greg replied.
“Probably not,” Tony agreed. He should dress like that more often, though. It’s actually sexy without being blatant. Still… “A five says he picks someone up, even dressed like that, in…in twenty minutes, give or take.”
Greg laughed. “No bet.”
Tony finished his beer and offered to buy the next round, since Dan had bought his first beer for him. No one argued, so when he caught a waiter’s eye he held up the bottle and four fingers. When they came, he paid, accepting his friends’ thanks. They sat in silence for a minute, drinking, before Greg got up, heading to the edge of the dance floor. He said something to one of the men there and a moment later they were dancing.
“May I have the next dance?” Dan asked Pat, grinning. Pat nodded, so they took off as well.
Tony watched for a moment before his thoughts went back to the murders. He shivered, taking a long drink of his beer.
“Is this seat taken,” someone said from behind him. Without waiting for an answer, Kirk took Greg’s seat.
Tony scowled, trying to calm his racing pulse. “What do you want?”
“To say hello? To talk?” Kirk shrugged. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m okay,” Tony replied tightly.
“You didn’t look it, a moment ago. After they left you stopped smiling. The murders?”
“What do you think?”
“After seeing the story on the news, I think you should be terrified. Twice in a week, in your building, in the elevator? It sounds like someone’s got it in for people living there.”
“The young guys,” Tony replied without thinking.
Tony shot him a look. “Is this your idea of how to cheer me up?”
“Yeah, that probably wasn’t the best thing to say, but it’s the truth. Right?”
Tony nodded. “It seems to be.”
“Do the cops have any suspects?”
“You watched the news, so you know they don’t.”
“That they’re talking about,” Kirk countered.
“Or that they’ve told me. But today was only the second one. They probably have to reevaluate things.”
“No shit.” Kirk took a sip of his drink then set the glass down. “Are they at least putting someone in there to protect everyone?”
“Again, not that they’ve told me,” Tony replied dryly.
“Well, they’d better.”
“Why do you…? Never mind. You’re being nosy, is all. Don’t you have something better to do than bother me?”
“No,” Kirk replied with a small smile. “Right now the only thing I want to do is make sure you’re really all right.”
“I am, so you’re free to go do what you usually do.” Tony pointed toward the bar where young men lined the stools.
“Not tonight.” Kirk took another drink. “Why were they home in the middle of the day?”
“You’re asking me?” When Kirk gave a short nod, Tony said, “Maybe they came home for lunch, or left work early, and caught a burglar in their apartments. The poor guy who was murdered today only worked a few blocks away, so that’s feasible.”
“Okay. That makes sense. But why kill them in the elevator?”
Tony rolled his eyes. “Think about it. You walk in on a burglary what would you do? Me? I’d make a run for it.” He paused, frowning. “Although, as slow as the elevator is…”
“It takes forever to get where it’s going, the door acts like it’s going to kill it to open, and its closing is just as bad, even when you push the Close Door button. Why didn’t they run for the stairs?”
“They didn’t get the chance? If it was a burglar, he’d have heard them at the door and hidden, or I would have, if it was me. Is it the kind of building where well-to-do people live?”
Tony snorted. “Not even. Half the tenants are elderly. The rest of us? I suspect they’re in the same boat I am. They’re there because the rent in reasonable and the heat is paid for, which is a bonus in the winter.”
“So, unless he was really stupid, a burglar wouldn’t hit it up. Right?”
“Not necessarily true. Everyone these days owns a computer or a laptop, and a TV. Maybe a gaming system, too. If he was desperate, and knew that all of us who are younger are working class, so we’re gone all day… Well, other than me, that is.”
Tony shot him a hard look. “That’s right. You know nothing about me, which is the way I like it.”
“Come on, Tony.” Kirk sighed. “Give me a break. I’m trying to help out here. Do you work from home?”
“Yeah. I’m a writer.”
“Ebooks, mainly. And magazine articles. And a couple of the ebooks went to print.”
“Interesting. So you’re home all day. Do you have decent security? If not, you should get something.”
Tony smiled sourly. “Let me guess. That’s what you do—install security systems.”
“No. I’m a marketing manager.”
Chuckling, Tony replied, “Marketing manager by day, roué by night.”
“I am not!” Kirk paused to take a drink, then smiled crookedly. “Okay, maybe—I suppose. I’m sort of giving my family the finger, though they don’t know it.”
“You are not going to tell me that, at your age, they still don’t know you’re gay.”
“I don’t have to. You just said it.”
“I’m their only kid and they have these high hopes for me. Use my looks.” Kirk grimaced. “Use them to make it big in the business world and then find the perfect wife and raise beautiful kids. That’s how I was brought up, and in spite of all their pushing for me to do that, I do love them in my own way.”
“So you don’t want to disappoint them. Honestly, that’s sad.”
“I know,” Kirk admitted, looking down at his half-empty glass. He started to pick it up, stopped, and shook his head. “I drink more than I should, screw every man who’ll let me, and I’m no happier than I would be if I sat at home watching TV or reading, or whatever.”
Tony was surprised to discover he felt sorry for Kirk. “So, do something about it.”
“It’s a bit late for that.”
“Why?” Tony looked long and hard at him. “You’re an adult. Act like one. They might be disappointed in you—”
“Might be? They’ll hate it. I’ll be destroying their dreams for me.”
“What about your own dreams? Do you want to go through life being something you hate? I mean, you do hate it, don’t you? Or am I misreading things?”
Kirk sighed. “I don’t particularly like the person I’ve become. I don’t like dating, and I use the term very loosely, the women my mother finds for me. The ones she thinks are excellent prospects. It’s a sham.”
“And you’re hurting those women, I suspect. They think you’re for real and that they have a chance, then you toss them aside…” Tony tapped Kirk’s arm to make certain he was paying attention. “Toss them aside the same way you do the guys you up pick up here.”
“I don’t sleep with the women,” Kirk protested.
“No kidding. But you make them think you might, or they wish you would. It’s the same difference. As far as the men go, you’re playing them because you’re afraid to commit. After all, if you did, your folks might find out.”
“You don’t believe in pulling your punches, do you?” Kirk said tightly.
“Not when it comes to someone…” Tony broke off what he was going to say, using the excuse that Dan and Pat were coming back to the table. “Let’s drop this.” He smiled at his friends, telling them, “We were talking about the murders. Kirk heard about the one today on the news and was being nosy.”
“Or trying to pick you up and using that as the excuse,” Dan said, his tone dripping with contempt.
“Not at all,” Kirk replied angrily, getting to his feet. “He’s not my type.” With that, he strode back to the bar.