As soon as they got in the car, Paul noticed how much Tim absolutely reeked of smoke. “Please tell me this isn’t going to be a thing. It’s gross, seriously.”
“You sound like Maura,” Tim said. “Get off my back.”
“Sorry,” Paul said.
A few minutes of silent driving passed before Tim said, “So you got that guy’s number, huh?”
Paul looked over at him. “Why do you care?”
“You’re my partner. Aren’t I supposed to care about that shit?”
Paul shrugged. “I don’t know. Are you? I never had a partner who did before.”
Tim nodded emphatically. “Yeah, I am supposed to. I’m sorry your partners before me were dicks.”
Paul sighed. “No, they weren’t. Not all of them. They just didn’t know what was okay to talk about. They weren’t completely unselfconscious like you. I do appreciate that though, Tim. I like how you are. I do.”
“Are you drunk?”
“On two beers?” Paul asked, closing his eyes. “Yeah, I got his number. I don’t know. He seemed a little, I don’t know, skittish or something.”
“You must’ve intimidated him with your beauty and charm, Paulie.”
“Duh,” Paul said, smiling out of the side window at the lit-up Harbor as they passed through it, heading east.
When they got back to the house, Tim went to shower and Paul changed into flannel pants and a T-shirt. He flipped through channels on the television and settle on CNN, half- watching news about a conflict in the Middle East for a few minutes before grabbing a beer from the fridge and a handful of crackers from the cabinet.
Tim came down, thankfully no longer smelling like an ashtray, and they watched TV until Colbert was over. Then Tim yawned and said he was heading upstairs.
“You coming?” he asked.
“Ah, no thanks, Tim. I’m good on the sofa.”
Tim frowned. “Seriously? Why are you making this weird? You can’t even fit on that sofa; your legs hang off by at least a foot.”
Paul shrugged. “I don’t want it to be weird, man. I don’t like sharing sleeping space with someone I’m not screwing, okay? I appreciate it though; for real, I do. Okay?”
Tim rolled his eyes. “Okay. Night, then.”
Paul spread the sheets over the couch and pulled a faded quilt from the hall closet. It wouldn’t be that bad. This was only for a week or so and then he’d…. He stopped thinking about it at that point, because he had no idea what he was going to do. He needed to find a place quickly.
He managed to fall asleep without too much trouble. He got in about two hours of sleep before waking up with a shooting pain in his hip. He tried stretching his legs over the arm of the sofa, which sort of helped, but as soon as he pulled them back in, the cramp returned. He rearranged himself at the other end of the sofa—which in reality was more like a glorified love seat—and lay down on his other side, but it didn’t help.
“Fuck,” he muttered, sitting up. He had to sleep. He had a case to solve, a goddamn red ball case, and he needed a full night of sleep. He huffed out a hard sigh, made a decision, and crept upstairs, taking his phone with him, just in case.
He slid into bed as carefully as possible, but apparently Tim was the soundest sleeper ever because he didn’t even stir. He was snoring softly through his little Irish nose, and Paul thought he was sort of adorable. But only in the way of a slightly funny-looking child.
Paul thought it would be hard to fall back asleep, but he must have gone right under, because the next thing he was aware of was the sudden weight of Tim’s arm across his chest, groping for something. Oh fuck, again? Is this happening? His mind raced with panic, but after a second or two, he became aware of a phone buzzing on the nightstand. Tim was reaching over him to answer it.
“Cullen,” he mumbled, still leaning on Paul’s chest. Paul pushed him off and he rolled onto his back. “No… oh. Shit, hang on.” Tim held the phone out. “Answered your phone,” he said, and rolled away as soon as Paul took it from him.
“Solomon,” he said, hoping to hell it wasn’t someone from work. That’s the last thing he needed.
“Hi. This is Jayden? You came and talked to me today?” Her voice was much more timid than the attitude-laced bravado from that afternoon.
“Yeah, sure Jayden. Of course. What’s up?” Paul sat up. She was calling in the middle of the night, so this couldn’t be nothing.
“Um. Hey, you are gay, huh? I thought you were messing with me.”
“What?” Paul half felt like he was dreaming. Why was she asking this?
“That guy who answered your—”
“Oh! Ha ha, no. I mean, yes, I am gay, but that was my partner.”
“Your—?” She sounded totally confused.
“I mean, my work partner.” Paul was aware that this probably didn’t clear up much of anything. “I’m not sleeping with him. I mean, I am, but only because I don’t have a place to— Look, forget it. Why did you call me?”
“I thought of something. I’m sorry to call so late. I guess it could have waited until tomorrow. But like, yeah, I should’ve waited. I’m sorry.”
Paul struggled to repress an impatient sigh. “That’s okay. I’m glad you thought to call. What’s up?”
“I couldn’t sleep,” she said, her voice catching and sliding almost into a whisper. “My brain wouldn’t shut down, you know? I kept going over and over the same shit, and then I remembered, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought to tell you this before.”
“Okay,” Paul replied patiently, glad they were on the phone so he didn’t have to refrain from shaking her.
“Darren told me he felt guilty about this guy Javon was seeing. He said it was his fault they met. He said he could tell the guy was bad news and he never should have let Javon anywhere near him.”
Paul sat up, suddenly fully awake, and turned on the lamp. Tim groaned and pulled his pillow over his face, and Paul yanked it away. “It was his fault they met? Why?”
“I don’t know. It was someone Darren knew, but he wouldn’t give me a name. Like I told you, he was older and Darren was afraid I’d tell Miss Joanna.”
“Okay. Did he give you any specific reasons he thought the guy was bad news?”
“He said one time he called when Javon was with the guy, and the guy snatched the phone out of Javon’s hand and hung it up. He didn’t want him talking to other people, maybe, or to Darren specifically, even though they were just friends. There was probably more to it, but that’s all I know, I swear.”
Paul didn’t answer right away. He was thinking. Jimmy Pratt’s face had popped up behind his eyes the second Jayden had said the guy was someone Darren knew. He’d been a little overly hostile about gay people, but Paul had assumed it was cultural. That was probably classist of him. Jimmy might have another reason entirely to feel defensive about it.
“Detective Solomon?” Jayden said, still almost whispering.
“Yeah.” He rubbed at his face. “It’s good that you called, honey. Thank you. Hey, do you by any chance know a guy named Jimmy Pratt who works at Heinz Auto?”
“Ugh, yes,” she said, and Paul could swear he heard her roll her eyes. “He’s a dirtbag. When I first met him I thought he was cute, but he makes rude jokes and looks at me like I’m garbage. I try not to go in there if I can help it.”
“Okay. Thanks. Call if you think of anything.”
He hung up and looked at Tim. “That Pratt kid. I think we should be looking at him.”
Tim nodded. “Yeah, okay. It’s only three-thirty, though, man. Can I go back to sleep?”
“If you can sleep. I don’t know if I can now.”
“You should try, at least. I got a feeling tomorrow might be a long one.”
Paul nodded and turned off the light, then swung his legs back into bed. He fell asleep eventually, to the sound of his partner’s soft snoring.