Adam and Justin finished their lunch in Adam’s office with the door closed. He filled Justin in on the chaos from last night. Justin sat back and shook his head at the craziness Adam shared.
“So, your verdict?” asked Adam.
“You slept with a possible suspect?” said Justin wearing a vintage tee shirt, cargo jeans and black biker boots.
“Yes I did,” said Adam, wiping his chin with a paper napkin and trying not to grin.
“And…your ex-boyfriend is one investigators on the case?”
“That’s also a yes.”
“And your ex-boyfriend—new boyfriend is his partner on the case?”
“Very, so what’s your next move?”
“You said you’re good at research?”
“Yeah, do you want me to do a background check on Patrick Valdez?”
“Also do one on Gavin Martin. Where they hang out and friends, I need to do footwork.”
“I can tell you this, Patrick’s father owns most of this city. I doubt any of this will be on the internet, or TV any long after last night’s broadcast.”
“Which mean anyone I speak to may not know about Gavin’s death.”
And if it gets out, the media will make sure Patrick Valdez gets shown as the victim.”
“He is the victim.” Justin turned his eyes back to his computer avoiding Adam’s gaze.
“I’ll jump on the research now boss.” Adam ignored the vibe he got off Justin and started back for his office.
“How old is Patrick?” asked Justin, with his eyes focused on his computer.
“Don’t know. I’m sure he’s over eight-teen right?”
“I suspect.” Justin sideways glanced at Adam, who was now leaning against his doorframe. “Do you like them that young?”
“Not usually,” he said not looking back at him. “But we were both—under a lot of stress and…” Adam remembered his time with Patrick and didn’t want to downsize what he was feeling towards him, but he knew Patrick wasn’t a virgin. Also, Patrick was a skilled flirt. A squeeze on his heart causes him to stop and rethink his response. “No. Something happened between us and I will not talk about it because it’s my personal business. Okay?” he said candidly to Justin.
“But I will tell you I’m going to go see Patrick Valdez to make sure he’s all right after I do some checking around. By the way, thanks for setting up both offices you did an awesome job, I can start taking paying clients.”
“The Cave,” said Justin spinning in his chair to Adam.
“Yeah, it’s a bar where a lot of hipster’s hangout. It’s in the college district.”
“Okay,” Adam said clueless.”
“That’s where we have to go.”
“We? No, I told you. You’re only doing office work.”
“No offense but if you go in there you’ll get nowhere. Hipsters have their language and reject “mainstream” culture. I can relate to that and have explored The Cave before. What could happen?”
“Okay, but I’ll do the questioning.”
“And I’ll make sure you get answers. Also, there’s a Costume-Con in town today.”
“Yeah you think Patrick will be there?”
“After what happen. I doubt it.”
“He might have friends there that could fill us in on Gavin’s character.” Adam walked over to his overzealous assistant and turned his chair so he faced him.
“Us? There is no us Justin. You don’t have an ounce of training to deal with dangerous situations when they arise. I’m taking you with me only for an observant, not as a partner. Understood?”
“Sure boss. You’re in charge.” Adam returned to his office to collect his gun and badge as Justin returned to gather the address to The Cave and the convention hall.
Fifteen minutes later Justin walked into ‘The Cave’ with Adam following. The place was something for the nostalgia holding different decades of furnishing. A long bar with high cushion bar stools was off to the right with antique lighting over the bar. Round, scattered tables, and chairs sat to the right with mismatched hardwood chairs placed not in any controlled order at the tables. Pinball machines bells and dings echoed from the back. A few people scattered around the room socialized, a male and female at the bar, three males, and one female sitting by a jukebox and two males sitting at the table playing cards.
Justin scanned the patrons, and his eye landed on the two hipsters’ playing cards. One black male named Paul and a white male named Peter, both wearing black frame glasses in vintage clothes, sports jackets with slimming pants and button up shirts. Justin turned to Adam and nodded his head towards them.
“We should talk to them. If anyone knows anything, it’s Peter and Paul.”
“Okay, why don’t you introduce us?”
“First, we need four beers.” Justin approached the bar.”
“What can I get you?” asked a female bartender.
“Four fat tires.” She turned and grabbed four cans of Blue Ribbon beer, placing them on the bar. Adam paid for the drinks as Justin walked up to the men and did the introductions.
“Hey Guys, mind if we join you?” They looked at Justin and immediately offered an empty chair.
“Justin,” said Paul. “Where-have-you-been?” he said scanning Justin up and down.
“School, a new place, and a new job,” said Justin with a flirtatious smile. Before sitting down, he turned to Adam. “This is my boss Adam Potter; he’s a detective.”
“LOL you work for a detective that so deck,” said Peter, who pulled a chair for Adam to sit. Adam watched at the three crack opened the cans and tasted the brew.
Paul licked his lips setting his drink down. “So Justin when can we hook up again?”
“That depends on you answering a few questions for my boss.”
“Well, chatter on PI, and we’ll try and bring you up to code,” said Paul.
“I need to know if either of you knew a Gavin Martin?” asked Adam.
“Gavin, sure we know him. He gives…” they glanced at one another. “…great parties.”
“Can you tell me anything else about him?”
“Well, he brags about both his moms jobs a lot, and he’s a big spender,” said Paul.
“Of course, he is. He has a Sugar Bear,” said Peter they snickered.
“A Sugar Bear?” asked Adam.
“Yeah, he’s some young dude Gavin uses as a debit card,” said Peter.
“What’s his name?” asked Adam.
“Patrick somebody. We never bother to learn his last name. Some poor little rich boy Gavin has, biting at his heels.” Adam held his composure as he thinks of the sweet and passionate young man he had in his arms earlier that day.
“So you guy didn’t like this Patrick?’ continued Adam.
“Gavin said he was his security blanket, and once they get married he’d leave him home,” said Paul.
“Tell me about Gavin’s great parties?” said Adam.
“Well, their invite only, free drink and a stage show,” said Peter.
“Anything else special about them?”
“No, that’s it,” said Paul taking another swallow of his beer.
“Well, you said there was a stage show. Was it a band?”
“No, more like… a fashion show. Guys dressed up and give us a performance,” said Paul.
“What kind of performance?”
“You should ask Gavin that. He’s the man with the tickets.”
“He charges people?
“Only people who want a little more action. Why, are you interested in attending?”
“Okay, thanks we got to go. Come on Justin,” said Adam standing and headed for the door. Justin rose to follow when Peter grabbed his wrist.
“Hey, Justin call me up.”
“Sure, but I need to go,” said Justin.
“Hey, what was with the PI and the questions, Gavin in trouble?” asked Paul.
“Can’t say sorry,” Justin pulled away and raced after Adam, who was already in his jeep starting the motor. Justin climbed in as Adam pulled into traffic.
“You think they were telling the truth?” asked Adam stopping at a red light.
“Why would they need to lie?” said Justin.
“Why did Patrick stay with Gavin?”
“Who knows why people end up with each other? Maybe Gavin acts differently when they were alone.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Are we going to the convention hall?”
“Yeah. Maybe Patrick’s crew well shed some light on Gavin.”
Patrick walked into the empty store and a young woman, wearing the required uniform of a solid polo and khakis, approached him. From seeing the pink cotton candy streaks in her white bleach hair and the four piercings along both her ears Patrick figure she was not enjoying her job when she presented a painted, stale smile.
“Hello-welcome-how-can-I-help-you-today?” she said in one breath.
“I need a new cell phone?” said Patrick glancing around for a back exit.
“We just received a shipment…” But Patrick cut her short. He glanced at her name tag and saw GINA in all caps.
“Listen—Gina, I need to use your phone, I need you to let me out the back door and I need for you to cover for me if anyone comes in asking for me. I can make it worth your wild?”
“Keep talking,” she said crossing her arms.
Gina agreed to cover for him as she loaned him her cell. He dialed his friend Mia’s number and waited for her to answer.
“Mia, it’s Patrick.”
“Patrick, where are you I thought you were coming today to help?”
“I want to Mia but…”
“Hey, it’s okay if you and Gavin have plans?”
“Mia—I need to see you.”
“Well, come to the hall we can talk here.”
“But you’re busy.”
“I always have time for you. Besides my show doesn’t happen until two o’clock so I’ll just be setting up. I’m here early.”
“Thanks, Mia, I’ll be there in few. Bye.” He returned Gina her cell and she showed Patrick the backdoor. Patrick promised he’ll return in twenty minutes. The convention hall was having a Costume-Con. Patrick bought a ticket and went straight to the area Mia’s displayed her work.
He saw her unpacking and propping her doll models in various heights and sizes on clear stands. Her theme was Game of Throne and she had the whole cast dressed and ready to display in front of their small scenery she recreated. Mia caught sight of Patrick and waved him over as he avoided being hit by the wing of a six-foot tree fairy. They embraced.
“Mia, is there someplace we can speak in private?”
“Patrick I have a lot to do here why can’t we talk while I work?”
“Mia, Gavin’s dead.” Mia paused after hearing the words then rushed to ask one of her helpers to take over as she walked Patrick to an empty booth that had drapes hanging around it. Mia and Patrick ducked behind it giving them enough privacy from onlookers. She hugged him again.
“How?” she asked.
“He took me back to the graveyard last night... to fuck. Somebody stabbed Gavin in the back.”
“You mean while you two were…”
“What did you do?”
“I didn’t know until I pushed Gavin off me and saw the knife sticking out of him.”
“Oh my God. Did he hurt you?”
“No. I got away.”
“Thank goodness. So can I assume you called the cops?”
“And your dad?”
“Is he going to send you away?”
“No. I had to promise to keep a low profile and I’m staying at my parent’s home.”
“Well, it’s for the best. At least until the police catch the guy.”
“Remember when I was oversea and told you about Peter’s death?”
“You mean that dancer you were dating in Brazil?”
“He was stabbed from behind. While we were watching a movie. The theater wasn’t that crowded and it happened when the lights went out.”
“Wait Patrick are you saying these are connected.”
“And Gen in China who was stabbed when he was walking home from work.”
“It’s a hell of a coincidence. Did you tell the police?”
“But if there’s someone out there killing guys you’ve dated than the police should know.”
“I need to talk to someone first.”
“You mean your personal stalker?”
“Do you know if he’s here?”
“You’re the only one who seen his face. The rest of us here only saw him in a mask.”
“I have to go find him. I need answers.”
“And what if he’s the killer? Then what? Do you think he will let you go to the police?”
“It’s crowded here. He won’t try anything.”
“Patrick just go to the police and tell them everything.”
“I am. Now I need to get back to my show. Are you going to be okay? Do you want to hang out here until after show and I’ll go to the cops with you?”
“No. I’ll be fine. My father’s driver is right outside.”
“That’s even better tell your father and he can have his lawyer take care of everything.”
They left the booth and when they reached Mia’s table they embraced again before Patrick walked off. Only as he moved towards the entrance someone stepped into his path wearing a brown, hooded cloak, the hood covered most of his face concealed with the same grinning harlequin mask from last night. But this time undamaged. Patrick froze as the man grabbed him and pulled him in close to speak in his ear.
“Don’t cry out or I swear, she will be next,” said the gritty voice of the Harlequin. Patrick knew he was talking about Mia as he tried to relax in his grip. “Much better. Now you will walk with me and not draw any attention.” The Harlequin draped his arm and cape around Patrick’s shoulder and walked him back in the opposite way of the entrance.
Adam paid for his and Patrick’s tickets and showed his permit for carrying a concealed weapon and entered the convention hall.
“Okay, you ask around about Patrick and that’s it. Once you find someone who knows him call me on my cell and I’ll question them. Okay?”
“Will do boss.” Justin went one way and Adam went another.
Greeted by an array of characters from other worlds. Adam’s parents would have been in heaven amongst them. This particular con was for the art of the costume and his parent would defiantly shine here having made costumes and done makeup for family and friends.
Adam felt a prick in his heart when he remembers, at a spoiled age of fifteen, when he told his mother he wasn’t interested in cosplaying or any of the conventions. He knew he broke his heart but the issue was never argued and the invites stopped. Adam had to remember to pick up a souvenir for them.
Then he noticed a display of dolls posed and dressed up as his family’s favorite characters. He pulled out his cell and snapped a few pictures.
“Very nice,” he said out loud, saving the shots to his phone and catching someone attention.
“Glade you like it; my show starts at two.” A young woman of almond complexion handed him her card that read ‘Mia Quin. Cosplay Extraordinaire!’
“Well, Mia, I would love to see it.”
“Great and when you show that card you’ll get an extra 10% off your order.”
“Sounds great.” She was about to walk away when Adam spoke up. “Excuse me maybe you can help me. I’m looking for someone…” but before he could ask his cell alerted a text. Checking his phone, he saw it was Justin with the words in caps, BINGO. He looked back at Mia. “Hey, you know what? Never mind, my friend found him.”
“Great, see you later,” said Mia walking away. Adam didn’t have the heart to tell her he wasn’t coming back as he hurried to where Justin was and found him standing at a table filled with helmet molds.
“Justin, what do you got?”
“I saw Patrick Valdez.”
“Walking that way past those barriers. He wasn’t alone. They went through doors marked do not enter.”
“I’ll follow. You go back to the jeep.”
“What? No way.”
“Yes way Justin. This is an order and if you refuse you’re fired. Now get your ass back to the jeep!”
Adam took off after Patrick as Justin was reluctant to turned back to the exit. Adam walked in a quick pace, not wanting to draw any attention to himself. When he reached the door he glanced around and saw that no one was trying to stop him.
“Where are the security personnel?” he thought as he pushed through the door. The two arm’s length hallway was well lit with whitewashed walls, doors marked ‘Private Personal’, with a two-digit number beneath it and every other office had a picture window. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as Adam walked down looking through glass windows seeing desk and chairs in some rooms and others empty but no people. The hallway turned to the right and this time, he heard a faint voice. The hooded man stood at the opposite end of the hallway with his head down seeming to be waiting for him. Adam stopped.
“Who are you, and where is Patrick Valdez?” asked Adam. The man rose his head and the harlequin mask that terrorized Patrick and nearly threw him out a window stared back undamaged. Adam pulled out his gun and pointed at the smiling face. “Stay where you are, I’m making a citizen’s arrest!” No words were said as Adam approached cautiously. “Put your hands on your head and get on your knees!” Adam’s orders were obeyed as he drew closer. When he was almost in length the lights flickered once then went out. “Don’t move!” was all he yelled when a hard body slammed into him lifting him off his feet and hurling him through glass.