EXCERPT FROM THE MAN FROM MILWAUKEE
©2020 Rick R. Reed
With The Man from Milwaukee, I tried to keep the reader guessing as my main character, Emory Hughes, descends into madness. This small vignette is the prelude to a murder… But the killer? Hmm…
He waited around the bar all night for me to close up.
He’d had his eye on me from the first time I served him. He started out a shy boy, all innocent glances from beneath slightly lowered lashes.
But, as he drank more and more—and I’m not one to discourage this, especially when they’re tipping well—he loosened up. The flirting became more outrageous, winking and even, one time, licking his lips as he stared pointedly at my crotch.
I threw him a couple free drinks only because he seemed lonely. The fact that he was fixated on me helped too.
And then, when closing time rolled around and I shouted out my standard cliché, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here,” he didn’t move. The lights came on. The music on the juke box, Crystal Waters “Gypsy Woman” ended.
I wiped off the bar a final time and reached below it to get my backpack.
“We’re closing, friend. Didn’t you hear me announce last call?”
“That song? The one that was just playing? So dumb to sing about the homeless like that. It trivializes them.”
I nodded. “You got a point there.”
I hoisted the backpack over one arm and then moved out from behind the bar. I looked at him and smiled. “Got to lock up, set the alarm. The owner doesn’t allow customers in here while I do that.”
His face reddened. “Sorry.” He hopped down from his stool. “I got all caught up in just watching you.”
I paused. “You’re sweet.” I touched his cheek and gave him a little peck on the lips. He stepped back, stunned, but he was thrilled. You know, sometimes my tips aren’t in crumpled ones and change.
I motioned with my head toward the door. “Dude. You gotta go.”
He nodded. “Okay.” He stood by the door for a time, watching me.
The slightest tinge of annoyance prompted me to point toward the door. “Now,” I said, smiling to soften the blow.
“Yeah, sure.” He opened the door and outside—freedom.
The night’s mine now. Granville Avenue is flooded with an orangeish light from the streetlamps. An L train passes overhead, and I swear I feel the vibrations through the soles of my combat boots. There’s a couple of guys arguing outside. One’s shouting about the other’s “wandering eye” and says he’ll never be able to trust him again. I shake my head. How many times will I overhear variations on this same fight?
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The train makes me wonder what I should do next. I could head south, grab a nightcap, a boy for the night…
The door slams shut. I’m alone. I go back behind the bar and grab a glass, pour myself two fingers of Jack Daniels, and down it.
Fortified, I open the door and emerge into the night.
I’m heading toward where I’d left my car parked on Winthrop when a voice calls from the alley running behind the bar. “Hey. Where you headed?”
I stop and backtrack a few steps.
It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust. The alley’s filled with shadows. But I recognize him, barely separate from the dark, leaning against a dumpster. He’s got his pants undone and his hand’s inside, working. I consider moving on, but what the hell? I can fool around with this guy, get my nut, head home, and get a good night’s sleep for once. I’ll save myself a few bucks on drinks too. Save even more if I’d end up going to the baths, which is what I’d probably do if I strike out at a bar.
I pause, looking to my left and my right. No one’s around. It won’t be the first time I’ve hooked up in an alley, and the street’s quiet for now. I think of this one time when I got a blowjob from a cop while a rat watched from beside the dumpster.
I move into the darkness, smiling, my hand whispering across the faded denim of my crotch, already anticipating the buttons being undone.
He gets on his knees as I draw closer.
It’s the summer of 1991 and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer has been arrested. His monstrous crimes inspire dread around the globe. But not so much for Emory Hughes, a closeted young man in Chicago who sees in the cannibal killer a kindred spirit, someone who fights against the dark side of his own nature, as Emory does. He reaches out to Dahmer in prison via letters.
The letters become an escape—from Emory’s mother dying from AIDS, from his uncaring sister, from his dead-end job in downtown Chicago, but most of all, from his own self-hatred.
Dahmer isn’t Emory’s only lifeline as he begins a tentative relationship with Tyler Kay. He falls for him and, just like Dahmer, wonders how he can get Tyler to stay. Emory’s desire for love leads him to confront his own grip on reality. For Tyler, the threat of the mild-mannered Emory seems inconsequential, but not taking the threat seriously is at his own peril.
Can Emory discover the roots of his own madness before it’s too late and he finds himself following in the footsteps of the man from Milwaukee?
Amazon paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Man-Milwaukee-Rick-R-Reed/dp/1648900453
Ninestar Press (40% off): https://ninestarpress.com/product/the-man-from-milwaukee/
RICK R. REED
Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.
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