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Swamp Fever_ Chapters 1-40



Jan. 18th, 2005 04:56 am - SWAMP FEVER

Boyd Coulter listened to his opposing counsel ramble on about how a case decided in Cincinnati
should control the facts in this case, even though it was being tried in Canard Rouge, Louisiana.
No one in a town named “Red Duck” was likely to care much what happened in Cincinnati. Boyd
watched the judge. He was a big, open-faced Cajun, who would rather be on his flat boat, fishing
off the reef, than sitting there on the bench, sweating through his black robes. Coulter
instinctively knew not to make any objections. He would wait until it was his turn to speak, and
he didn’t think he’d need much help when that time rolled around. His client looked despondent,
but the man had the face of a bloodhound, so he’d probably look just as sad if the cover model
for the swimsuit edition suddenly straddled him.
It was too hot in the courtroom. The ceiling fans faintly stirred the cloying damp that the
wheezing air conditioner found harder to penetrate than a Pentecostal virgin in the backseat of a
Volkswagen. Under his jacket, Boyd’s shirt had become one with his skin, glued together by a
layer of sweat.
The jury box was empty, since this was a hearing before the bench. The bailiff sprawled on one of
the vacant hardback chairs and propped his boots up on another. His head thrown back, his
mouth gaping open, he was sound asleep. Boyd couldn’t blame him. If Boyd lost, it may well
mean the end of his client’s business, but the case had real significance only to his client and to
the people who worked for him. By association, it mattered to Boyd, too, because he needed a
win. But the world news wouldn’t report the outcome of this fight, no matter who emerged
Their opponent was a large corporation based in New York City. The monolith decided to punish
this small, local company after it won a slim sliver of their market share, owing solely to hard
work and good service. An obscure technicality concerning a fulfillment company was turned into
a claim of tortious interference. But the big boys made a very common error by throwing piles of
money at an aggressive New York law firm, believing their highly paid sharks would eviscerate
the hicks in this backwater. They succeeded in making Boyd’s life miserable and in draining his
client’s meager resources, in order to respond to a flood of discovery. But Boyd managed to tread
water, waiting for this day. This was the time when the big corporation’s fatal strategic error
would break. At least, that was Boyd’s hope and it was his client’s best bet for salvation.
The big city litigator sat down, wearing a smug smile along with his Armani. His case was made,
his motion for summary judgment eloquently argued. Before Boyd could say anything, the judge
leaned on his oak dais and said to the litigator,
“Mr. Freidman, is it?”
“Freeman, your honor.”
“Sorry. Freeman. See now, I read that Cincinnati case that y’all reference in your brief and that
you based your argument on. I gotta tell ya…” he paused for effect, stroking his graying
moustache before he went on. No one could capture an audience like a Cajun, Coulter believed.
Their timing was impeccable. “That may be the way they do business in Cincinnati, but that ain’t
the way we do business here in Canard Rouge, Louisiana. Last I heard, the sovereign state of
Louisiana doesn’t take judicial guidance from the courts in Cincinnati.”
“I understand that, your honor, but…”
The judge held up his hand to silence the lawyer. Boyd sat back, crossed his ankles, tried not to
smile. He waited for it. The judge didn’t disappoint.


“Mr. Freeman, you had your say, and now I’m talking. This is my courtroom, not yours. I
understand the concept of an advisory opinion because I went to law school myself. Now, we may
have had to wrestle alligators to get to our classes, not something y’all had to contend with at
Harvard, but it was still an ABA certified law school. So yes, I get the concept of an advisory
opinion.” The judge went to Stanford Law School. Not many alligators in northern California, Boyd
Boyd’s client looked at him, missing the importance of the judge’s wind-up. Boyd gave him a sly
wink. He settled down. The judge continued.
“And I guess I have to tell you, I don’t agree with what the boys in Cincinnati have to say on this
subject, anyway. So I reject their advice. The way I see it, you want to put Mr. Russo, here, out
of business and you think you found a way to do that, within the law. You may be right. But
you’re gonna have to prove that in a trial before Mr. Russo’s peers, here in Louisiana. I’m not
granting your motion. But I am granting the defendant’s motion for preliminary injunction
because that seems to be the only way to preserve the status quo until that trial gets heard.”
“But…your honor…” Freeman looked pre-stroke, and Boyd just let him swing.
The judge gave the gavel a sound bang, startling the bailiff out of his dreams. “Plaintiff’s motion
for summary judgment is denied. Defendant’s cross motion for preliminary injunction is granted.
Bond is set at fifty-grand. Court adjourned.”
“All rise,” the bailiff followed his own command and they stood as the judge left the bench. Boyd’s
client looked at him, the winner with the saddest face in history.
“What just happened?”
“We won, Henry. Round one, anyway. Next step is getting a bondsman to file the security bond
the judge ordered. That’s standard and not a big deal to get done.”
Their opponent was trying to explain what went wrong to the suits who hired him as Boyd stuffed
his papers into his briefcase and left the courtroom. He told his client who to call for the bond as
they went. Winning when he didn’t even have to open his mouth was a hollow victory for him.
The boys from New York got small-town’ed. That didn’t make him Perry Mason.
Outside, the swampy day was only marginally hotter than it was in the courtroom, but at least
there was a whisper of a breeze. Boyd could take off his jacket, roll up his shirtsleeves and loosen
his tie. Even better, he could light a cigarette. He knew he really needed to quit smoking. He was
thirty-three now, old enough that no one would say it was such a shame that one so young was
diagnosed with lung cancer. He needed to start weight training, too. He stayed within his goal
weight by running, but that didn’t do much to keep his belly flat and pec’s solid. He feared he was
on the threshold of flab. He had been an athlete in college and high school, but the activity of the
past had been replaced by a sedentary life in the present. Was it already starting to show?
Boyd thought he still looked pretty good, but not as good as he once did, and no one else had
confirmed his favorable opinion of his looks for quite awhile. Vanity, thy name is man in his mid-
Depressed by this self-evaluation, he glanced at his watch and decided to bury his painful
introspection in crawfish and red beans and rice. He may not be Cajun by heritage, but he was by
culinary preference. The Scotch-Irish blood that gave him his sandy blond hair and flinty grey-
blue eyes didn’t extend to his taste buds. He was raised among the Cajuns. He loved their food,
their culture, their way of telling a story. He married a Cajun girl, and together they bred two
half-Cajun brats. The marriage didn’t last, but the kids still bound them.
As he walked towards the diner, Boyd called his office on his mobile. “Did you win?” His secretary
asked in that half-Southern, half-Bronx accent so common among the Cajuns.
“We did.”
“Did Henry crack a smile?”
“Is it possible for Henry to smile?”

“I don’t think it is, now that you mention it.”
“Nope, me either. Anything hot, Lorene?”
“In this weather, everything’s hot, Boyd. Let’s see. Your wife, Bonnie, called. Said to call her at
the shop.”
Ex-wife, he thought to himself. He found it funny that Lorene always had to add Bonnie’s name as
a descriptor, as if he had so many ex-wives, he wouldn’t know which one she meant. Bonnie
owned the only florist shop in town, and she worked as hard as he did, and probably made as
much money at it. He knew she was calling about the kids, usually some request for money
above the child support he paid on the first of the month. He was a sucker for his children, and
Bonnie took advantage of that fact. Lorene went on. “The Sheriff said to give him a call. He needs
a favor.”
“What kind of favor?”
“He didn’t say.”
Boyd sighed. Whatever it was, he’d grant it, if it were within his power to do so. In a town this
small, one didn’t fuck with the power structure. When he disconnected from Lorene, he punched a
speed dial button and got the Sheriff’s office. He identified himself and was told the Sheriff was at
the diner, having lunch. Boyd was there himself, by now, and he pushed open the door and felt
the air conditioning blast him with soothing arctic waves that carried the scent of frying seafood.
He spied the Sheriff, a tall, black man in a uniform that was always crisp, despite the heat and
humidity. He was dining alone in a booth. He saw Boyd and waved him over. Boyd sat across
from him but before they could say anything, the waitress came over and took Boyd’s order. She
returned with a tall, sweating tumbler of ice tea, floating a lemon slice.
“Did Henry win?” The Sheriff had that same Cajun accent as most of the others in town, for racial
blending in these parts was never as big a scandal as it once was in other Southern hamlets.
“He did.”
“Good. My brother works over yonder to the plant, ya know? He need that job, what with all them
kids he bred.”
“Lorene said you wanted a favor from me, Marc. What’s up?”
“I got me a prisoner who needs a lawyer, Boyd. He has money, he ain’t no indigent, but he needs
someone to stand up with him when he goes in front of the magistrate. Now I know you don’t do
criminal work, usually, but you and me both know since that rascal Hebert had that damn heart
attack, we short one criminal defense lawyer in Canard Rouge, and that’s about all the damn
criminal defense lawyers we got. If I have to wait for someone to come here from Lafayette, this
slick jack will be screaming how we deprived him of his habeas corpus or something.”
“What did he do?”
“Public lewd.”
Boyd frowned. “Waving his willy at the ladies or something?”
“Diddlin’ boys.”
Boyd leaned back and shook his head. Everyone was entitled to a vigorous defense in this
country, but he stopped practicing criminal law once he realized that every one of his damn
clients was guilty. He could live with theft or vandalism, or even some minor domestic shit, but
not kids. He couldn’t defend perverts. “Are you telling me some stranger came into Canard Rouge
and diddled our children? Why is that not a felony?”
“Well, it was that Willis boy.”
“Greg Willis? Works over at the Texaco?”


“Shit, Marc, Greg Willis is twenty-one, twenty-two. He’s no kid. Plus, he’s bigger than I am. If he
got diddled, it was because he wanted to.” Boyd always thought Greg was a little light in the
loafers. He gave him way too much attention whenever he came into the service station. So much
attention, Boyd felt uneasy with him.
“Whatever. The fact is, he got caught by Mrs. Renard, the owner of the Texaco’s ol’ lady. The man
had his pants down around his ankles in the garage while Greg Willis hummed the Star Spangled
Banner on his flute.”
Boyd smiled at that description of a blow job. Only in Canard Rouge would a surreptitious sex act
be given a strangely patriotic flavor. “Oh for chrissakes, Marc. Slap his limp wrist and let him be
on his way. Who gives a good fuck? And how do you get off arresting the one getting blown but
not the one doing the blowing?”
“I can’t just let it be. It may yet come to arresting Greg, too. Mrs. Renard is calling every hour to
see if I’ve beheaded the fiend, and she has her church ladies all riled up. Poor Greg done lost his
job. It’s turned into a cause, and it has to play out. He’ll end up pleading nolo and paying a fine
and off he goes to Yankeeland or wherever the hell he comes from.”
“Shit, Marc.”
“It won’t take much of your time and it’s worth a few hundred to you, Boyd. Maybe more. The
man, he dresses real nice and his ride is a vintage Corvette that looks spanking new. He probably
has a wife somewhere he don’t want to know about his habits. You might be able to get a grand
off this one. Come on, mon ami.”
Boyd’s crawfish arrived, nestled on a bed of red beans and rice, elevating his mood. “Ok, Marc,
but you owe me one.”
“I hear that.”
“What’s this pervert’s name?”
Marc pulled a tablet from a hip pocket and read, “Kinney. Brian Kinney.”
Boyd nodded, wondering what the hell this Brian Kinney was doing in Canard Rouge to begin
with. No one gets that lost. No one comes to this town in hopes of finding wild gay sex, either. As
far as Boyd knew, Greg Willis was the only fag in town. Until now. Now there were two. And one
of them was about to become his client.

2005-01-21 04:35:00
Current mood: determined
The city jail in Canard Rouge was what they called a “listed property”. That meant the ladies
auxiliary found an historic register willing to give the building credit for surviving hurricanes and
the Civil War. The two cells were concealed in the bowels of the shabby building. There was
enough space between the bars that a slim prisoner could slip out sideways. No one was likely to
notice since the sheriff, his dispatcher and a deputy were the only permanent occupants of the
place. Crime, like everything else in Canard Rouge, was penny ante.
The jail had no consultation rooms where attorneys could meet with their clients. Instead, the
lawyer had to go into the cell. The door was left open in case the attorney needed to leave and

the sheriff was preoccupied. The lawyers understood they were honor bound to lock up when they
left. In Canard Rouge, this passed for high security.
Boyd never knew what he’d find when he entered the jail. Sometimes it was quiet, sometimes it
was chaotic. He was greeted by both the dispatcher and the deputy when he walked in after
“Marc said to tell y’all he was taking the afternoon off to fish. He said if you need him you can try
his mobile, but he’d probably be out of range anyway, so handle it yourself. I’m here to see your
prisoner, Brian Kinney. I brought his lunch.” The jail had a deal with the diner to feed the
prisoners at a nominal cost. That meant the prisoners were fed better than ninety-nine per cent
of un-incarcerated Americans, and one-hundred per cent of the inmate population. Marc asked
Boyd to bring the lunch over, since he’d agreed to see Kinney as a client.
“The fruit loop?” the deputy sneered as he swiveled in his desk chair to get a better view of Boyd.
Boyd never liked the deputy, Fergus Robart. He was a gangly redneck with jug ears and an
Adam’s apple the size of Boyd’s fist. Fergus exhibited the same kind of hollow ferocity that Barney
Fife epitomized in the world of re-run television. Boyd went to school with Fergus, who was a
wimp and a tattletale back then. Those traits merely migrated to being a coward with a gun, now,
a dangerous combination. In high school, Fergus had terminal dandruff and facial eruptions that
could bury Pompeii. His bitterness over being dealt the ugly card fueled his current anger at the
Boyd ignored the slur as the dispatcher said, “What’d you get the perp for lunch, Boyd?” She, too,
ignored Fergus, as all women had done throughout his miserable life. She motioned to the
Styrofoam containers Boyd was carrying. She was three-hundred sixty pounds of soft mush. A
dispatcher’s job, where she could sit all day, was about as much strain as her challenged skeletal
system could bear. Her husband was as thin as Fergus, but after thirty years of wedded bliss,
they proved the old saw that opposites truly do attract.
“Blackened catfish, collard greens, sweet potato soufflé and banana pudding. Plus a glass of iced
tea,” Boyd went through the menu choices me made for a man he never met.
“He ain’t gonna eat it,” she said with a laugh. “He’s too damned thin for it and too damned fine.”
“No one is too fine for this food, Amelia,” Boyd reminded her. Amelia’s twin sister, Camellia, ran
the diner. Except for two hundred pounds missing from Camellia’s frame, they were identical.
Amelia tossed Boyd a ring of keys. He managed to catch them without dropping any of his
“Let your own self in, Boyd. But be sure to bring the keys back when you’re done and lock the
damn door behind you. That rascal Hebert before he had his heart attack used to leave the keys
in the cell all the damn time. We’d have to arrest his perps three times for the same crime, since
they was always letting themselves out.”
“I’m supposed to open the cells when Marc is away,” Fergus complained with an uppity whine.
Amelia regarded him with the same look one might give what was left of a fly on the backside of
a swatter.
“Shut the fuck up, Fergus,” she said and he did. He was terrified of Amelia, despite his weapon.
Boyd walked back to the cell, juggling the food, the keys and his briefcase. Marc so owed him, he
thought with a frown. One cell was empty. The other contained his client. The man was not at all
what Boyd expected. He wasn’t sure what he would find, but he knew this man didn’t fit his
mental image.
His client reclined on the soiled blue and white ticking of the narrow mattress as if he were an
Oriental potentate recumbent on a bed of silk pillows. He was young, Boyd expected older. He
was fit, Boyd expected flabby. He was handsome, Boyd expected scary looking. He was as calm
as a glacial lake. Most men thrown into jail after being caught in an illicit sex act with another
man would be a puddle of nerves and regret. Not this one.
They took his belt, shoes, tie, and all his personal effects when they booked him, but he managed
to make his ecru Turnbull and Asser dress shirt and dark, expensive suit look runway fresh. He

had peeled off his socks, and his long, narrow feet were propped up on the rusted iron footboard
of the cot.
The jail was miserably hot, but he appeared unaffected by the temperature and humidity. He
greeted Boyd with a single raised brow and a smile that didn’t quite lift the corners of his mouth.
“Can you help me out here?” Boyd said with an irritated edge as he tried to unlock the door
without dropping anything.
His client didn’t move as he said, “I hope you’re the maid bringing fresh linens. I’m not one to
complain, but the condition of this room is deplorable. How do you expect to earn that fifth star
with this lack of attention to detail?”
Boyd glared. “Get over here and take this food before I drop it and you’re eating lunch off the
“That wouldn’t happen,” the client said, but he rose with languid ease and moved to the door. He
took the Styrofoam containers that Boyd slid between the wide-set bars, freeing Boyd to
disengage the lock and step inside. There were no chairs, so he sat on the edge of the bed, near
the foot, while his client stood there, holding the food.
“Who are you?” he finally asked.
“I’m Boyd Coulter, Mr. Kinney. Your lawyer.”
“My lawyer,” he repeated. “You brought your lunch with you?”
“I brought your lunch with me,” Boyd corrected him.
“A lawyer who cooks and delivers. Now that’s service.”
“I didn’t cook it and I didn’t pay for it, either. The city has a deal with the diner. They provide
food for the prisoners.”
“Diner?” He looked pained for the first time. “Haute cuisine at its finest. I can’t seem to escape
He sat at the opposite end of the cot and placed the cup of tea on the floor as he opened the
other container and stared suspiciously at the food. “They burned the fish.”
Boyd stopped himself from laughing. “It’s blackened. It’s supposed to look like that.”
“You have a diner that blackens fish?”
“Laissez les bon temps roulez. Let the good times roll. Try it, it’s good.”
Kinney opened the plastic sleeve that contained his disposable eating utensils and a paper napkin.
“No candles? No zydeco music?”
“You’re in a remarkably good mood for a man who just got busted for public indecency or worse.”
Kinney shrugged as he took a tentative bite of the fish. He decided it was edible and took
another. The sweet potato soufflé was also judged worthy of the calories, but the collard greens
and the pudding failed his palette and were abandoned. “First of all,” Kinney finally responded
without looking up as he ate. “It wasn’t ‘public’. It was in a storeroom of the garage, with the
door shut. Secondly, since when is oral sex considered ‘indecent’? It felt pretty decent to me.”
“Mr. Kinney, in this state, oral sex between two men is considered sodomy. Sodomy is a felony,
punishable by five years in prison and a fine of two-grand. If they charge you with that rather
than the misdemeanor of public indecency, you may be facing some serious issues.”
Kinney paused his fork midway between mouth and fish to cut a glare at his attorney. “You must
be shitting me.”
“No shit. That’s the law.”
“Two consenting adults in private?”


“In Louisiana, even if it’s in the privacy of your own home, and even if you’re both seventy years
old, it’s illegal.”
“Let me ask you something. Is New Orleans still part of Louisiana? You ever been to the Quarter?”
Boyd met the man’s steely peer with an equally rigid stare. “This isn’t the Big Easy, Mr. Kinney.
Just because New Orleans may cater to their large gay population and not enforce this law with
any vigor doesn’t make the law less applicable.”
“Why isn’t the guy I was with in jail, too?”
“I asked that question myself.”
“And what were you told?”
“That it may come to that.”
“Ah. ‘May’. And if it were your wife giving me head rather than some young hunky mechanic,
would I be in jail now? Does sodomy only come into play if it’s male lips on dick?”
“I don’t have a wife,” Boyd replied in a flat, angry monotone. This one really knew how to pick a
fight. When he gave Boyd an amused glance, Boyd quickly added, “I have an ex-wife.”
“Then let’s say it was your ex-wife. Same question. Is it still sodomy?”
“I expect you wouldn’t be interested in my ex-wife, Mr. Kinney,” Boyd deflected, mainly because
he didn’t know that law well enough to know whether it applied to men and women as well as
men with men. Sometimes these old laws were universal, but just enforced against queers. He
didn’t want his client to think he was a dumb ass, and he’d get an answer to that question, but he
never had much cause to look up the nuances of that law.
“Why not? Is she ugly?” Kinney closed the lid on the collard greens and pudding and picked up
the ice tea.
“No, she’s beautiful.”
“Then why wouldn’t I be interested in her?”
“Because she’s female.”
Kinney laughed. “They usually are. You don’t know me. Don’t presume too much.”
“I expect we got off on the wrong foot, Mr. Kinney.”
“I expect the state of Louisiana got off on the wrong foot, counselor. It’s sexual MacCarthy’ism.”
“You breeze into town in your fancy car, wearing your fancy suit, and you get into a mess with a
local boy and yet you blame the state of Louisiana?”
“Yes, unless this is a hundred years ago,” Kinney looked around and shrugged. “And it may well
be. The state of Louisiana is definitely wrong.”
Boyd wondered why he was so angry when he believed that Louisiana’s sodomy laws were
retrograde and embarrassing. The courts overturned them recently on appeal, but the state
Supreme Court re-instated them. It wasn’t easy being a progressive in a state where the Grand
Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan ran for office in Boyd’s lifetime. “Mr. Kinney, I…”
“Please drop the ‘mister’ shit. It’s Brian. How old are you anyway? You just get out of law
Boyd frowned. He got that all the time because of his damned baby face. “I’m thirty-three.”
“So am I.”
“Do you want me to represent you, Brian?”
“Did you draw the short straw so you had to represent the queer?”
“I’m doing it as a favor to the sheriff. But I’m not doing it for free.”


“Nothing’s ever free,” Brian’s smile was cynical. “How much will it cost me and what can you do
for me?”
Boyd decided to go for it. “My hourly rate is five-hundred.”
Brian raised a brow. “And I have a crazy aunt in my attic, but she doesn’t sign my checks. I’m in
business, Boyd. I pay lawyers. I know what they charge, in a real city, working for a real firm.
How about you give me a real rate?”
“I’m the only game in town, Brian,” Boyd played hardball. “You may find someone in Lafayette or
Baton Rouge to represent you, but you’d be paying for travel and board. Plus those ol’ boys don’t
go to church with the judge or play softball on his son’s team.”
Brian laughed. “If you backed off after my first strike, I’d know you were too weak to handle my
case. Here’s my counter. A flat grand if we settle this with a plea and a fine. If trial work is
required, you can use that as a retainer, and bill me at one-seventy five an hour.”
“Twelve-hundred for the plea and two-twenty five an hour.”
“Two hundred.”
“Deal,” Boyd stuck out his hand and Brian shook it.
“Now give me a fucking cigarette before I go into withdrawal.”
Boyd shook out a smoke and lit it for him, wondering what kind of bargain with the devil he just


Jan. 22nd, 2005 10:10 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 3

Two hours and several cigarettes later, Boyd left the jail. He tossed the keys to Amelia as he went
and she said, “Did he eat anything?”
“Some of it.”
“Pretty, ain’t he?”
Boyd shrugged, not sure how he was supposed to answer that. Amelia went on, “Too bad he likes
Boyd wondered if she really thought Brian Kinney would find her alluring even if he didn’t like
boys. “I’m going over to the courthouse to post his bail. He’ll be getting out in a few. Will
someone be here to give him back his property?”
“I do that, Boyd,” Fergus puffed up his importance and Boyd glared through him.
“You have an inventory?”
“What’s that supposed to mean? You accusing me of stealing his shit?”
“Not yet,” with that, Boyd left as Fergus hurled some expletive in his direction. In Canard Rouge,
local attorneys were listed and could bail prisoners charged with non-violent crimes using nothing
more than their signature. If a prisoner defaulted, the attorney was charged five hundred bucks
for his or her bad judgment. In Boyd’s opinion, Kinney was a flight risk because he had money
and no ties to the community. But he also had apparent integrity, so Boyd suspected he’d appear.
While he was at the courthouse, he dropped in on the District Attorney, who was charged with
prosecuting the mostly meager cases that drifted across her desk.
Charlene Lamont had been an attorney for all of Boyd’s life. She had some money from land
holdings her family sold to coastal developers, so she could easily make it on what a DA was paid
in a small town. She lived simply, on her own, in a house on stilts in the deep bayou. Charlene
was something of a mystery to the citizens of Canard Rouge. Sun damaged, almost rugged
looking, she had a quiet dignity about her and an intense shield of privacy. She wrote stories, rich
with Cajun imagery, and sold several to magazines. She joked that she was working on the great
American novel, a budding author at fifty-five. Boyd suspected she’d get that novel sold and
surprise them all. She surrounded herself with stray dogs and cats and other cast-off animals
people asked her to take in. Charlene substituted these poor creatures for the usual people in
one’s life. She was the sole survivor of her nuclear family, and Boyd always felt she should be
lonely, but wasn’t. Her inner strength seemed to prevent that from happening.
Dressed in faded jeans and a poor boy knit top, since she had no court appearances scheduled,
Charlene smiled at Boyd as he entered her small office. “Hey, good looking. What you got
He smiled and dropped down in a chair facing her desk. “I’m cooking in this heat, Charlie. How
are you?”
“Hot, and not in a good way,” she scrubbed her fingers through her sensibly short salt and pepper
hair. “When you gonna come pick up that kitten for your girl? It’s weaned now. Want me to bring
it into town? She wants the gray one, right?”
Boyd nodded, remembering he owed his ex-wife a phone call. “Let me confirm it with her mama,
“Do that. So Marc talked you into representing that guy who got caught getting a blow job in the
garage, right?”

“He did. Yep, that’s why I’m here.”
“I figured. You don’t have much of a criminal practice, Boyd,” she beamed at him and he nodded.
“That damned Hebert.”
“Overweight and under-active will get your heart every time,” she mused and Boyd thought again
of his fitness resolutions.
“What do you plan to do with this old boy, Charlie? I mean they haven’t even arrested Greg Willis
and if this is a crime, then it takes two to commit it. I know Mrs. Renard is all riled up, but what
doesn’t rile up Mrs. Renard? She’s a religious hysteric. Can’t we just plea this out and he’ll pay a
fine and be on his way?”
She shrugged. “I don’t see why not, Boyd. In my book, the great state of Louisiana has no call to
go poking it’s nose in what adults do in private. I plan to tell Marc he needs to pick up Greg Willis,
too. Whatever we do to this yankee boy we should do to Greg. I don’t want to be accused of
running some kind of scam on Yankees to bilk them out of their money when they drive through
our fair town. A twist on a speed trap. An oral sex trap. That sounds a lot more interesting,
doesn’t it?”
They both laughed. “It might boost tourism,” Boyd agreed. “I can plead Greg out too, although I
suspect he may have some trouble coming up with the fine. That bitch got him fired.”
“Fired? Who does she think is gonna run the Texaco now? Her old man? Shit, he’s as useless as
tits on a boar hog. Greg may be dumb, but he worked hard.”
“That’s her problem.”
“No, it’s all our problem if we want to keep our cars running. You bailed him out?”
“Just posted.”
“Bring him in to the ten o’clock docket call tomorrow and we’ll get this over with. He good for the
“Yeah,” Boyd said with a nod. “He’s good. Thanks, Charlie, and I’ll ask about the kitten.”
“Take care, Boyd.”
After leaving the courthouse, he crossed catty-cornered to the florist shop owned and operated by
his ex. Inside it was cool, to keep the blooms fresh, and the scent of gardenias filled the small
place. She was arranging the fragrant blossoms for a wedding. Bonnie was a petite brunette with
big brown eyes and a fine shape. When she greeted him with a kiss on the cheek, he felt a
familiar regret wash over him. How did they fuck this up? It seemed so right for so long. And then
it just completely fell apart. “What do you think?” she motioned to the arrangement of gardenias,
white roses and baby’s breath.
“It’s pretty. Is this for Jenny and Alain’s wedding?”
“Yes. Does it look a little like a funeral arrangement to you?”
“White, the color of mourning,” Jimmy Chang, her assistant and the only Asian in Canard Rouge,
shook his head in judgment.
“I told you before, Jimmy, they’re Catholic, not Buddhist, and the Catholics don’t see white
flowers as a sign of mourning. But the arrangement itself looks a little funereal to me.”
“Bonnie, I only have a minute. You rang?”
“I need fifty bucks for some new soccer cleats for your daughter. The girl is on a growth spurt.”
“Why would you not buy that out of the child support?”
“Would you like an accounting of what I’ve already paid out of that child support this month,
Boyd? If you don’t want to buy them, fine. It’s your idea that she get into sports. I’d rather she
take ballet and be a real girl. You think this is healthy for her. But if you don’t want to support
                                                 - 10 -

“Fine,” he wasn’t up to this discussion of what boys and girls should do according to gender lines.
Bonnie had the idea that their daughter should take one linear path and their son another in order
to be fully realized men and women. Boyd didn’t agree. He wanted his kids to choose their own
paths, having been boxed into corners by his own parents while he was growing up. His daughter
loved soccer and other sports as well as the usual things that interest a seven-year old girl. At
four, their son was too young yet to have a passion. He peeled off fifty bucks in cash and handed
it to her. “But I want to get her that kitten she fell in love with. Charlie said it’s ready to go.”
Bonnie groaned. “You know I hate animals around my white furniture.”
That white furniture was truly one of the causes for their divorce. Boyd said it was impractical to
buy a white damask sofa and two matching chairs when they had small kids. Plus the fact they
couldn’t afford the New Orleans prices they were paying. Bonnie insisted and from that moment
on, he was constantly being warned off the furniture and the children were terrorized about
soiling it. Leaving the white furniture made leaving home easier for Boyd. Their eyes met in
combat and she backed down, for once.
“Okay, but if the little beast makes a single mess, it goes to you.”
“Fine. Can I have that broken-stem rose?”
“Got a girlfren’, Boy’?” Jimmy asked with a leer and Boyd glared at him.
“I thought I’d give it to Amelia. You’re just going to throw it out, anyway.”
Bonnie cut off the stem above the break and tied a white satin ribbon around the shorter stalk.
The alabaster bloom was perfect. “Here you go, Boyd. Give Amelia my love.” Amelia was a
frequent babysitter. Since she had no children of her own, she enjoyed borrowing children from
others. At her size, there weren’t many activities she could do with them, but she was a great
storyteller and listener, so they always loved her visits.
“Tell the kids I’ll be picking them up after school tomorrow for their weekend with me.”
“They know that, Boyd.”
They said their goodbyes and he went back to the jail, pleasing Amelia with the flower as Fergus
laughed at his sentiment. Boyd delivered the bond to Fergus and told him to give him Brian
Kinney’s property. Fergus produced a pair of slick Prada boots, an alligator belt, a silk Hermes tie
and a white- gold watch by Cartier along with a wallet, keys and some change.
“He has to sign this,” Fergus shoved a release form at him and Boyd took it and the possessions
back to the cell. Brian looked up as he unlocked the door.
“Make sure this is everything you had and then sign this form. Count your money. I don’t trust
Fergus Robard.”
“Where am I going?” Brian pulled on his socks as Boyd placed his gear on the bed.
“I bailed you out.”
“Oh? Thanks. Hey, where are my smokes? My lighter?”
Boyd nodded. Typical Fergus. He was so dumb he didn’t even realize the first thing a nicotine
addict would look for was his pack of cigarettes. “We’ll get them on the way out, but don’t sign
the form until we do.”
Brian reassembled his outfit, tucked his wallet and change away and left his tie unknotted at his
chest. “I hate to leave. I was just getting comfortable with that lovely bed.”
“I can arrange for you to stay,” Boyd said with a wry smile.
“Funny, ha ha. Let’s go.”
At the desk, Fergus looked surprised that he failed to deliver the cigarettes and the gold Dunhill
lighter. Brian signed the form and they left the jail, pausing on the covered porch. “What do I do

                                                - 11 -

“You have a hearing at ten tomorrow. I hope to get the whole thing taken care of with a plea and
a nominal fine. You need to stop over at the bank and get your bank to wire you a couple grand
in cash. You’ll need to pay me and you’ll need to pay cash for the fine.”
“Where’s the bank?”
Boyd motioned across the street and Brian shrugged. “Is there an ATM? I can pull it out of there
with a card.”
“Yeah, inside the vestibule is an ATM.”
“After I get the money, where do I go? Is there a hotel here?”
“There’s a B&B,” Boyd sighed. “Shit, I’ll just go with you. Come on.”
Brian got the money and folded it into his wallet and then Boyd walked with him to a neat white
clapboard house with gingerbread trim and a sign out front that read, “Bayou Nights, A Cajun Bed
and Breakfast”.
“It’s not the Ritz, but it’s clean and it’s nice and the breakfast they serve is legendary,” Boyd
reassured Brian as they climbed the steps to a sweeping verandah.
“I can cope.”
A man at a small writing desk stood to greet them. He smiled at Boyd and then spied Brian and
his smile went widescreen. “Hey, Boyd, who’s your friend?”
Boyd failed to elaborate. “Mr. Kinney needs a room. Can you take care of that for him, Jon?”
Jon and his business partner, Peter, had moved to Canard Rouge, seeking retirement in a quiet,
rural setting. They bought a failing antique business and converted it into a very successful bed
and breakfast. Peter came from the kitchen, his blue denim apron dusted with flour. He looked
straight through Boyd to focus on Brian Kinney. “Hello, there.”
“Oh, this is a disastrous weekend, disastrous!” Jon emoted. “The entire B&B has been reserved
for guests coming from out of town for Jenny’s wedding. They begin arriving tonight. I just won’t
have a single room until Sunday night. This is terrible!”
“I’ll be on my way home by tomorrow afternoon, but thanks anyway,” Brian responded. Amid
urgent pleas to come back again, they left. Brian laughed as he lit a cigarette on the verandah. “I
feel like I was visually gang banged.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean the way those two old queens in there stripped me faster than a Republican contractor
logging a national forest.”
Boyd paused, realizing Brian had to be right. Of course Peter and Jon were gay. They were life
partners as well as business partners. They lived together, they’d never married, and they had
impeccable taste. The number of queers in Canard Rouge just tripled, according to Boyd’s tally,
and that didn’t include Brian Kinney. “I never thought of those two as gay,” he admitted as Brian
“Those two could give a spring day a run for the tiara. So where do we go now? What’s my next
Boyd stared at him as if trying to find an answer in his face. There was no next choice. The only
other hotel burned down two years ago during a fireworks display that went awry and charred
three buildings. The two private homes that let rooms were more disreputable than the jail. What
the hell was he supposed to do with Brian Kinney on a Thursday night when there was no room at
the inn? “Fuck,” he mumbled in frustration, and Brian smiled and said,
“Okay. I guess they can’t burn me twice for the same crime, but I like to be on top.”
Boyd couldn’t help but laugh as he shook his head at his client’s outrageousness and motioned for
him to follow.

                                                 - 12 -

Jan. 23rd, 2005 10:58 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 4

Boyd thought about taking Brian to the truckers’ motel on Interstate 90, but that plan made him
uneasy. The motel was a dive, but more than that, he feared if Brian made it to the Interstate, he
may just keep on going. And then Boyd realized Brian didn’t have a car. Brian seemed to reach
that conclusion at the exact same moment.
“Where’s my Corvette?”
“Do you have the key to it?”
Brian fished out his ring of keys and frowned. “Someone took it off the ring. Do you think that
geek deputy stole it?”
“No, Fergus is too dumb to heist a car. They impounded it. They’ll keep it until you plea to reduce
your risk of flight. Sorry, I didn’t even flash on that until now.”
“What a load of crap! My suitcase is in it. Can’t I at least get my luggage? My laptop?”
Babysitting Brian Kinney was turning into a full-time job, Boyd realized. He was being underpaid
for his services. He directed his "ward" to his own car, a four-year old Ford Explorer. The original
dark blue paint had been faded by the elements, and the interior was scarred by kids, red dirt,
and the debris left by a driver who both smoked and ate many meals from wrappers, while
navigating the rural roads of the parish.
Brian’s silent appraisal of the condition of the ride was epitomized by a raised brow. He brushed
off the shotgun seat before sitting down, and then pushed aside a few wrappers that had
accumulated on the floor near his feet.
“It’s hard to keep a car clean in Louisiana,” Boyd tried in vain to justify his lack of attention to his
vehicle. “Too much red dirt and bad weather.”
“And an uncontrollable invasion of fast food and cigarette butts, too,” Brian's sarcasm ran thick.
Boyd shrugged as he cranked the engine. He owed this man nothing, including a clean car. They
left the center of town, rolling over the railroad tracks that provided an unofficial color line
between where the white citizens of Canard Rouge lived, most of them Cajun, and where the
African American citizens lived, most of them Creole. Beyond a few residential blocks, they
quickly entered the farmlands. Brian felt claustrophobic as the narrow road became flanked on
both sides by tall, leafy stalks planted in rows as far as he could see.
“What the hell are those things?” Brian asked. “Corn?”
Boyd looked askance. Could anyone be that dumb? He didn’t seem dumb, but Jesus Christ. “It’s
cane, Brian. Sugar cane. This variety happens to be 85-384, a hybrid developed by the ag boys at
“I thought sugar cane was bare stalks, not these things with big green leaves.”
“This is nothing. The crop is stunted by all the rain we had last spring. Cane needs a lot of water
to flourish, but not that much swamp. We’re hoping the summer stays hot and dry so the crop
can prosper between now and the harvest at the end of the year.”
“Sugar cane’s a big deal here?”
“Sugar cane is THE big deal here, Brian. Our local economy depends on it.”
                                                 - 13 -

“Why does a lawyer know so much about sugar cane?”
“Everyone who grew up around here knows something about cane, and has some connection to
it. My family owns one of the two sugar mills in town. We’ve been millers for generations.”
“There’s a livelihood I’ve never even thought about.”
“That’s because you aren’t from here. They still whisper about the curse of sugar cane smut back
in the eighties.”
“What happened? The sugar cane left the farm to find riches in the porn industry of the big city?”
Boyd laughed, mostly enjoying Brian's dark humor. “Sugar cane smut is a disease that decimated
the crop way back then. They overcame it by creating new varieties of smut resistant cane.”
“Kind of like evangelical cane?”
Boyd laughed again. He was funny, in a Clifton Webb kind of way. “What do you do, Brian?”
“Frankly, Boyd, I’m unemployed.”
“You don’t look unemployed. You look pretty prosperous.”
“I said unemployed, not broke. I’ve been in advertising since I graduated from college. I worked
for agencies and eventually opened my own shop. It became very successful so one of the big
mamas made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. They bought me out. They wanted me to stay on as
part of the deal, but I decided to take a break and figure out what I really want to do when I grow
up. So I packed up my Vette and did the Route 66 thing, taking my time and seeing the country
while I thought over my options.”
“How did that lead you to Canard Rouge?”
“It didn’t. I had a meeting in Lafayette with some old boys who had an investment opportunity to
discuss with me. I decided to go to New Orleans afterwards and they suggested I take the scenic
route down highway ninety, recommending a few diversions to see some of the more colorful
small towns along the route. I stopped here for gas and that turned into a blow job and the rest is
“Bad detour, huh?”
“Are you married?”
“I’m gay, Boyd. Duh.”
“You told me not to presume.”
“I’m single.”
“No boyfriend?”
“I don’t do boyfriends. Well, not my own. I do other people’s boyfriends,” he said with a laugh.
“You don’t come across as gay.”
“How does gay come across to you? You didn’t even know those queens at the B&B were gay.”
Boyd shrugged. “It must be hard.”
Brian shot Boyd a wicked smile. “I hope so. Hard is good.”
“I meant difficult, in our society. In any society. I can’t imagine my life without my kids.”
“I have a kid.”
“You do?”
“There you go presuming again. Yes, a son. He’s three. And no, I was never married to his
mother. She’s an old friend. We used to fool around when we were younger, then we both
decided to stay the path with our respective genders. I donated the sperm.”
                                                 - 14 -

“Do you have a relationship with him?”
“I’m his father, Boyd. Yes, I have a relationship with him.”
They pulled into a shabby red sand lot surrounded by a high fence topped off with razor wire.
Brian winced when he thought of his prized car in this setting. Boyd had to smooth talk the
manager into letting Brian have access to his car, an absolute breach of the rules, and Brian
sealed the deal by passing the man two crisp twenties. To Brian’s surprise, both his leather duffel
bag and his briefcase were still intact, and apparently unrifled. He transferred them to the
Explorer, reluctantly leaving the Corvette behind.
“Where are you taking me?” Brian asked as they drove back in the direction from which they had
“I’m not sure. There’s no other hotel in town, the rooming houses are deplorable and the motel
on the highway is vile. I have a spare room, but it’s set up for the kids, not for a guest. Twin
beds, toys, the décor is very juvenile. You’re welcome to it for the night.”
“How very evolved of you, Boyd. Offering a big, old queer a place under your roof. Not afraid of
the whispers?”
“Listen, Brian, I’m doing you a favor. You don’t have to be an asshole about it. I’m not obligated
to offer you a fucking room as part of my fee. I’m not afraid that you'll jump me, if that’s what
you mean, and gossip never much mattered to me.”
He felt Kinney give him a long, appraising stare and then Brian said, “Thank you, Boyd. It’s very
kind of you. I accept.” For once, the sarcasm was gone.
“Fine,” Boyd was already questioning his own generosity.
Before they got to the fringe of the residential part of Canard Rouge, Boyd turned off onto an
unpaved road that took them back into open land. On the horizon loomed a three-story building
with a painted brick exterior. The harsh elements had eroded the paint, but traces remained in
streaky patches of white against the salmon bricks. Tall, faded letters near the tile roof of the
structure read “Coulter Brothers Sugar Mill, est. 1867.” Brian glanced at the driver, and Boyd
“Yep, that’s home sweet home.” Tall trees burdened with Spanish moss shadowed the building,
and Boyd parked under one to keep his car out of the late evening sun. “We opened a new mill in
the fifties and this place was abandoned. When I got divorced, I bought it from my family with
the idea of converting it into apartments or maybe even shops and a restaurant or two. I guess I
underestimated how much a rehab costs. I spent all my money converting my own living space.
The rest will have to wait. I do a little re-habbing on my own when I have the time, just because I
like it and it gives me something to do. Watch your step downstairs. Lots of debris. I’m on the
second floor.”
Brian looked around the open space of the ground floor. The milling machinery that remained had
been left behind because it was replaced by more modern evolutions of technology. These rusty,
silenced contraptions were ominous and alien to Brian. But the space with its graceful pillars and
arched windows, wide plank floors and exposed brick walls was appealing, even if dusty and
unbearably hot. They climbed a flight of wide stairs to the second floor where Boyd unlocked and
slid open a metal door, not unlike the one Brian had in his own converted loft in Pittsburgh.
Window units cooled the atmosphere, and Boyd cranked up the output as soon as they entered.
Brian could tell he spent some money on this rehab. The floors were hardwood and gleamed with
polish. A tall hearth was the focal point of the main room and the arched windows were set with
plain glass to bring in a magnificent view of the bayou. Unlike his own loft, this place was more
compartmentalized with walls reaching halfway to the tall, exposed ceiling to break up the space.
The kitchen was open to the main room, and Boyd took him down a hallway to the spare
bedroom. Brian noticed the master suite as they passed it, and liked the way Boyd used a blend
of antiques with clean, contemporary pieces of furniture. “Did you do the interior design?” He
asked and Boyd laughed.

                                                - 15 -

“What interior design? An architect drew up the rehab for me. I just begged and borrowed pieces
of furniture from my family to fill up space and supplemented it with a few things I bought. I
know it’s an odd mix, but my wife had very strong ideas about how a house should be traditional
and precise, and I needed to break away from that.”
Brian glimpsed a large canvas of bright, bold brush strokes hanging above the bed in Boyd’s room
and approved of it. “You have a flair. You could be queer yourself, if you’re not careful.”
“Not too worried about that. This is it. Sorry for the kiddie theme.”
The room had matching wicker twin beds, but the dominant feature was a complex mural painted
on the brick walls, depicting an epic battle of gothic knights on horseback in a field overlooked by
a tall, looming castle. Lurking in a cave nearby was a colorful dragon, its wings unfurled.
“Wow,” Brian turned, following the scope of the battle. One wall bore nothing but line sketches of
the action, the mural not yet complete. “Who did this?”
Boyd looked uneasy as he answered, “I guess I did.”
“You guess?”
“Okay, I did it. When I was a kid, I used to love to play with my knights on horseback, staging
endless invasions. Now my own kids play with those same miniatures. I only have them every
other weekend and there’s not a lot to do in Canard Rouge. I’ve invested a lot of time in this
thing, even though Michelangelo I’m not.”
“Maybe not, but you’re an artist.”
“No, Brian. This is just crude illustration. Something to fill the time, something I can do for my
kids pleasure.”
“You’re a man of many talents, Boyd Coulter.”
Brian placed his duffel on one of the beds. “Bathroom?”
“Through that door. I’m going to take a shower and get out of these sticky clothes. Feel free to do
the same.”
Boyd left his unplanned guest in his kid’s room and went to his own bathroom, stripping off his
sweaty clothes and leaving them in a heap. Boyd had spent some money on the shower stall with
three water sources and a tile bench where he could sit and let the water pound him. He did so
now, eyes closed, losing himself in the power of the spray. Was he nuts? Bringing a total stranger
into his home? A potential felon? A queer? “Listen to what your instincts tell you to do and then
do the opposite thing,” his father once told him, confirming his belief that Boyd had terrible
Eventually he dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, padding barefoot to the slick kitchen where he
retrieved a beer from the refrigerator and stared at the food stored within to see if he could pull a
meal together. “Can I have one of those?”
Brian’s voice startled him. He, too, was barefoot and dressed in jeans, a sleeveless black shirt
showing off strong, gym-toned arms. His wet hair was slicked straight back. Boyd wondered why
God chose to waste Brian’s looks on a man who didn’t even desire women. He handed Brian a
beer and said,
“Not much in the old cupboard for dinner. Do you like pizza? I can order a delivery.”
“Only if you let me buy it.”
“But not yet. Too soon after that big lunch. Let me just enjoy this beer.”
They migrated to the main room where Brian flopped down on the black leather sofa, that was
sturdy and kid proof. Boyd sat down at the opposite end, reaching for the remote that controlled
the plasma screen television. “Want to watch the news?”

                                                - 16 -

“Can we talk? I have some questions about tomorrow.”
“Sure,” Boyd wasn’t used to having adult companionship in his home. He had become so solitary
since his divorce that social skills had taken a beating. The noise of the television had replaced
conversation. Even when he wasn’t watching it, he turned it on, just to fill the silence.
“How much trouble am I in?” Brian asked and Boyd pondered that question, realizing for the first
time that beneath his elegant and composed exterior, Brian Kinney was scared.
Current Mood:      calm

Jan. 24th, 2005 07:35 pm - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 5

Thanks Minion for the Canard Rouge icons, will be loading to use next time.

Brian was listening to Boyd’s explanation. Brian understood what Boyd was saying, but he was
finding it hard to concentrate because his dick was competing with his brain for control of the
situation. Boyd was an incredibly hot looking man, and yet he seemed completely unaware of that
fact. He was also smart, compassionate and gifted. Too bad about the straight thing, but
something in Boyd’s presentation alerted Brian’s gaydar. It could be wishful thinking, his gaydar
wasn’t infallible, but maybe he sensed something that Boyd himself hadn’t explored. Brian didn’t
waste his time lusting after straight men. There were too many available men who shared his
idea of fun to be that self-destructive. However, experience had taught him that those who say
they’re straight sometimes aren’t. Occasionally, it took a man like Brian to show them the error of
their ways.
“Am I making any sense?” Boyd paused in his monologue, picking up on the fact that Brian had
“Perfect sense. Go on.”
Was there a girlfriend somewhere, Brian wondered? The usual way with straight men was that
they never left home until they had a replacement on the hook. Of course, his wife may have left
Boyd. A handsome, single lawyer in a small town had to be swamped with replacement hopefuls,
Brian suspected. But something about Boyd suggested that he filled his life with his kids, his
work, and his hobbies, but not with romance. Was it because he was shy or had low testosterone?
Or was he unsure about what he wanted? Or afraid of what he desired?
Brian had no interest in romance. But his testosterone level was always high and he knew exactly
what he wanted when it came to sex. And fashion. In other parts of his life he was just as lost as
anyone else. He had been feeling particularly unanchored since selling his business. Four weeks
spent driving around America grew old fast. And yet the specter of going back to Pittsburgh, to
the same old gang, to his best friend who was now blissfully partnered up, to the ghost of a failed
relationship, such as it was, filled him with dread. He had no job to fill his days. He’d done the
gay scene in Pittsburgh over and over again. Relatively few new faces appeared at the clubs and
the baths, and even when they did, the action was becoming as thrilling to him as the re-runs on
TV Land. His son was there, yes, and he missed Gus. But going back made him feel even lonelier
than did being away. Before he left on his odyssey, the alienation had already begun. Brian
realized how much of his identity was invested in his job only after he was no longer working.
“Any questions?” Boyd asked when he finished his monologue.
                                                - 17 -

“Have you ever left this town or have you lived here your whole life?”
Boyd looked surprised by that inquiry. “I thought we were talking about your case.”
“We are, but answer my question, anyway.”
“I went to LSU for undergrad and all the way to Northwestern to attend law school. When I got
my law degree, I clerked for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.”
“What does that mean?”
“I worked for the court. Did research, listened in on appellate arguments, wrote draft opinions for
the judges.”
“Were you married at the time?”
“No. I got married when I moved back to Canard Rouge.”
“Why did you come back?”
“None of this is relevant to your case, Brian. I suggest we stick with that.”
“Why can’t you tell me? Is it a secret?”
Boyd frowned. He wasn’t sure why he would tell this man anything, but he continued talking.
Maybe it was defensive, maybe it was because he was so starved to have someone his age and of
equal intelligence to talk with. “I was in love with Bonnie. We were tired of a long distance
relationship, so I decided to come back and hang my own shingle.”
“Why didn’t she move to New Orleans?”
“Brian, I don’t owe you my life story.”
“Fair enough. If you loved her so much, what went wrong?”
“None of your fucking business.”
“You’re right,” Brian stared at the painting above the mantle. Like the one he glimpsed in Boyd’s
room, it was a contemporary blending of bold colors and amorphous shapes. The chaotic theme
worked, however. It was an arresting piece of original art, unsigned. “Where did you get that?”
“A friend of mine gave it to me.”
“Gave it? They should sell it. It’s good. Did this friend do the one in your bedroom, too?”
“Yes, he did.”
He? Brian perked up. “Does he live here? I mean in Canard Rouge?”
“Does he have a gallery?”
“His work’s sold in a gallery in New Orleans on Royal Street, Brian. It’s become quite expensive.
He’s developed a cult following that seems to be growing. The critics find his style intriguing. It’s
been auctioned at the major houses for sizeable bucks. It’s probably the most valuable material
item I own, his artwork.”
“How nice for your ‘friend’. He must be enjoying life.”
“He’s dead.”
Brian met Boyd’s unwavering gaze. “Dead? How?’
“Suicide. A couple years ago. He was manic-depressive. He was never able to properly regulate
his highs and lows, or maybe he just didn’t want to give in to the medication. He said it cramped
his artistic vision. He went into a severe dive and he shot himself while in the depths. He was
“Jesus, I’m sorry, Boyd.”

                                                 - 18 -

“It was a terrible waste.”
“Too bad he didn’t sign the painting. I guess that failure devalues it.”
“He did sign it. He signed all his work on the back of the canvas.”
“What was his name?”
“Jared Hall.”
Brian nodded. “I’ve heard of him,” he pictured the handsome light-skinned black man with
dreadlocks and grayish-green eyes. He loomed large in more than one gay publication, first as a
promising homosexual artist and later as a tragic loss to the art world. Brian wasn’t sure when
straight society embraced the man, but his own community recognized his talent well in advance
of the rest of the world. “He was gay.”
“Yes, I’m aware of that fact, Brian. He wasn’t secretive about it.”
“Was he your lover?”
“That’s a leap, isn’t it? If you don’t mind, I’d rather change the subject. It’s painful for me to talk
about Jared.”
Brian didn’t fail to notice that Boyd didn’t answer the question as his host punched a button on
the remote control and interrupted them with the white noise of entertainment, using that to
replace conversation.
Late that night, after the pizza, after a non-controversial discussion over beers, after several
cigarettes, they went to separate bedrooms. An hour later, Boyd was still wakeful. It was strange
to have a man he hardly knew sleeping down the hall from him. He didn’t fear that Brian would
turn psycho and slice him up in his sleep, or attempt some clumsy pass, but this invasion of his
personal space was still odd. He was so used to living alone that having someone there tilted his
orderly little world. The kids were different. They visited enough to make their presence part of
the fabric of the place. Brian Kinney was a wrinkle in the silk.
Giving up on sleep, Boyd turned on the lamp beside his bed and picked up the latest Dean Koontz
novel he had started reading a couple days ago. Most people wouldn’t find Koontz a comforting
read when feeling sleepless, but Boyd could get lost in his spook stories and that was what he
wanted. What he didn’t want was to pick at the scabs Brian uncovered earlier that evening. His
retreat back to Canard Rouge, and the pitiful state of his career. His failed marriage. The loss of a
good friend and a brilliant artist. Ghosts in literature he could tolerate, the ghosts in his life, he
ran from in terror.
“Sorry to bother you,” Brian’s voice startled him, and he looked up to see his guest leaning in the
doorway of his room. He was naked except for a pair of small briefs by 2Exist. He had a
phenomenal body, lean but hard cut, and he knew how good he looked. He worked it. Again,
Boyd thought of his own fitness resolutions. His shorts were baggy and madras plaid, and he
wished his chest wasn’t bare after looking at Brian. Why shouldn’t Brian feel free to walk around
in his underwear, Boyd decided? There were only the two of them there, no kids, no women, and
it was hot and muggy. Boyd lowered his glasses, having removed his contact lenses for the night.
“Something wrong?”
“I can’t adjust the output on that air conditioner in my room and it’s freezing in there. Can you
tell me what to do? I don’t want to break it.”
Boyd sighed and left his bed, motioning for Brian to come along with him. “Sorry, I should have
told you this. The damn thing sticks. I need to get someone out here to fix it.” Brian stood close
by so he could watch him work the machine, and Boyd was uncomfortably aware of their near
nakedness. Again, he was reminded that he barely knew this man, and yet here they were. He
picked up pliers from the top of a nearby toy cabinet. He kept them there for this purpose, and he
used them to grasp the recalcitrant knob and turn down the airflow. “If you get hot, just use
these to crank it back up.”

                                                 - 19 -

“Thanks,” Brian slumped back on one of the beds, bending his knee and letting one long hand
drift across his firm torso. “Dean Koontz, huh? Like scary stories?”
“Good ones. Do you?”
“Not really. Life is horrible enough.”
“Your life doesn’t seem so bad, Brian.”
“No? Why do you say that?”
“You’re young, handsome, healthy, smart, you obviously have some money, no real
responsibilities, freedom…could be worse.”
“I’m on trial tomorrow in some one horse town and I could be facing five years in prison, Boyd.
How is that free?”
“You won’t be. Don’t be such a drama queen.” Boyd blushed as he saw Brian smile at that
remark. “Uh, I didn’t mean to be demeaning, I just…sorry.”
“It’s okay. I can be a drama queen from time to time. It’s part of my charm. Boyd, you want
some company?”
“What do you mean?”
Brian smiled. “You know what I mean.”
“I’m not gay, Brian.”
“That’s okay. You don’t have to be gay. You can just close your eyes and enjoy it.”
Boyd met Brian’s taunting smile with a shake of his head. “You feel you have to hit on every man
you meet or something?”
“Just the hot ones.”
“You think I’m hot?”
“Don’t get your baggies in a wad, Boyd. You are hot. Anyone can see that. No harm in trying. If
you change your mind, my door’s open and my lips are sealed.”
“You know, Brian, even if I were gay, which I’m not, I don’t sleep with my clients.”
“Very ethical. Don’t bother putting the bureau in front of your bedroom door, Boyd. I promise not
to come looking.”
“I’m not worried. Good night, Brian.”
“Good night, Boyd,” Brian turned off the light as Boyd walked out and Boyd could swear he heard
him chuckle.
The next morning, a heavy gray sky threatened the puny sugar cane crop with impending rain.
The increase in humidity covered all the glass in the mill with a veil of privacy, and diffused the
light. Brian came out of the spare room dressed in a natty dove gray suit, pink shirt, and gray
and pink striped tie. He poured himself a cup of hot coffee as Boyd looked up from the table,
where he was reading the paper. Fresh from a shower, he wore a seersucker robe, feeling very
underdressed. “There are bagels in the freezer if you want to toast one. Cream cheese in the
“No thanks. Coffee is good.” He sat down across from Boyd and said, “Sleep well? No nightmares
from your reading choices?”
“Slept fine. You?”
“Great. Thanks again for the bed.”
“No problem.”
Silence, and then Brian said, “Should I be worried about today?”

                                                 - 20 -

“Okay. This law is wrong, you do see that, right? It’s discriminatory.”
“I know.”
“So why don’t you change it?”
“Who died and named me governor?”
“Are you working to change it?”
“I don’t exactly have a power base, Brian.”
“You’re a lawyer. That’s a start. Why do you just let it go on and on? Where are the rest of your
“My brethren are mostly straight.”
“So? Your brethren were mostly white during the era of the Jim Crow laws and that eventually got
fixed. Discrimination is discrimination.”
“You don’t strike me as the political type.”
“You don’t know me.”
“I know you better than I did yesterday.”
Brian smiled. “You could have known me even better if you weren’t such a chicken shit. This
coffee is great. What gives it that flavor?”
“Boyd, you’re wasted here.”
“I don’t need you to reorder my life, Brian. But thanks.”
Brian nodded, acknowledging that fact. “That’s true. Who am I to talk?” He lit a cigarette and
Boyd stood up.
“I’m going to get dressed and then we can head into town before it rains and the roads get worse
than they already are. I got a call this morning. I need to meet with Greg Willis so I can plead
him, too. Marc, Sheriff Carter, busted him this morning. Unfortunately, you’ll have to go in with
me, since you don’t have a ride. You can wait at the diner while I bail him out. I guess this one is
on the state. Greg has no money and no job, from what I’ve heard. Not sure how he’ll pay the
fine. Community service maybe.”
Brian listened to that and then said, “I’ll pay his fee and also his fine. It’s the least I can do, given
it was my dick that got him into this mess.”
“Did you seduce him?”
“Prurient interest or lawyer need-to-know?”
“Lawyer need-to-know.”
“No. I just wanted to get my car filled up. I got out to take a piss and asked him for the key to
the men’s room, which is a very, very scary place, by the way. Hasn’t been cleaned since I was in
diapers. And I don’t do diapers for fun. Anyway, when I came out, the hunky mechanic, Greg I
guess, cruises me. I pay for the gas. He tells me I’m the hottest thing to hit Canard Rouge since
the summer of ’94. I smile. He asks me if I’d like to get my dick sucked. I conclude that I would.
The rest you know.”
“That happen to you a lot?”
“Perfect strangers offer to suck your dick?”
“Just the queer ones or the ones who want to be queer. And more than a few women, who are
just shit out of luck.”
                                                  - 21 -

Boyd shook his head. He wondered what it was like to have that kind of power. Brian smiled at
his perplexed expression. “Don’t worry about it, Boyd. In a couple years, I’ll be paying for it like
every other old faggot.”
“Somehow I doubt that.” He paused and placed a hand on Brian’s shoulder, squeezing gently. “I
know you’re scared. But it’s going to be alright. Trust me.”
Brian covered his fingers with his and nodded. He was scared. He couldn’t admit it, but he was.
“It’s what I do. Relax,” with that, Boyd walked back to his room and Brian watched his retreating
form, wishing he felt as confident as his lawyer.
Current Mood:      nervous

Jan. 26th, 2005 05:49 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 6

The rain began just as Brian entered the diner and sat in a back booth. Comparing his current
surroundings to Debbie’s diner, a frequent hangout in Pittsburgh, this one came out on top,
except for the customer base. The décor was equally trite, but the food the kitchen sent out on
Fiesta ware looked universally divine. His appetite returned and he ordered a blue crab and
cheese omelet with popovers and more of that sublime chicory coffee. The girl serving him looked
about eighteen with too much makeup on an otherwise pretty face. Her tight little body filled out
a snug pink uniform with dangerous curves. She flirted with Brian without a clue to either his
sexual orientation or his age. He let her, being neither encouraging or discouraging. He had
learned to always be kind to people who had the opportunity to spit in your food.
“You a friend of Boyd’s?” She asked when she came over to refill his coffee cup and clear his
dishes. “I saw you get out of his car.”
“I’m a client.”
“Oh. What business does a guy like you have in Canard Rouge?”
“Brian!” Jon and Peter, from the B&B, interrupted her hopeless campaign and Brian waved at
them as they walked over and sat down across from him in his booth. “Look at you! You look
marvelous! Who did that suit?”
“I remember Ferre,” Jon said wistfully. “I remember fashion. Susie, we’ll both have the usual.”
She frowned at them as she walked away, obviously resenting the intrusion. Brian looked from
one man to the other, then said, “Shouldn’t you be preparing your ‘legendary’ breakfast at the inn
about now?”
Peter laughed. “Done. They all wanted to get an early start. Today’s the rehearsal, the rehearsal
dinner, all of that wedding stuff. Tomorrow is the big event. So you found a place to stay?”
“Boyd let me stay out there with him.”
The two men silently communicated over that one and Brian shook his head. “Not like that, guys.
Don’t let your fantasies go into overdrive.”
“Oh!” Jon exclaimed, his eyes wide. “Then you are…”

                                                 - 22 -

“Gay? I’m the one they busted for getting a blow job at the garage.”
“I told you,” Peter hissed at his partner. “I knew it! I’m so sorry, Brian. This town is a throwback
to the fifties. It’s absolutely absurd that they’d waste taxpayers’ money prosecuting something
like this. I’m so embarrassed for my little hamlet. And that slut, Greg Willis, it was only a matter
of time until he got someone in real trouble. He can’t keep it zipped up. He’s so indiscreet. If he
wasn’t so dumb, he should just move to New Orleans and get paid for what he does so well for
Brian laughed at that thought. “I’m not blaming Greg. He’s young, hot, why shouldn’t he come on
to me? Why shouldn’t I get my dick sucked? It was in a private place. We didn’t know the Church
Lady was going to bust in on us. Isn’t that special?”
Jon chuckled, his eyes roaming Brian’s handsome face and physique while his mind pictured the
action. “Don’t mind Peter. He can’t stand Greg.”
“Given the fact there can’t be many in the tribe in this town, I’d think you’d practice solidarity.”
“With that slut? He’s just going to get us all in trouble. He already has. You don’t understand,
Brian, coming from a big city, as I suspect you do. In a town like this, in the south, we have to
keep it very, very quiet. Most of the people here have no clue that Jon and I are a couple.”
“I think you’re giving your cover way too much credit,” Brian said with a smirk, but then he
remembered how Boyd seemed surprised when he outed them. Peter excused himself to
supervise the preparation of his eggs Florentine and Jon leaned his elbows on the table to
“When we first moved here and were going through the strain of renovating the house and
opening a business, Greg did some handyman work for us. He was a kid, still in high school, but
oh what a hunk! I’m ashamed to admit I succumbed to his rather bestial charms. Peter found out
about our little encounter. It was just sex, and just the once, but Peter’s a territorial old queen.
We went through a very dramatic patch. We’re fine now, but he’s never forgiven Greg.”
“That seems unfair,” Brian allowed. “You’re the one in the relationship, not Greg. Shouldn’t you
be blamed?”
“Trust me, I was. Whoops, ix-nay, eter-Pay.”
Brian hadn’t heard pig latin since the second grade and it took him a minute to translate it. By
then Peter had re-joined them. “So now Jon has told you all about his little interlude with Greg
Willis. White trash, that’s what he is.”
Brian wondered if he meant Jon or Greg, and decided he meant Greg. “Would you let go of it,
Peter?” Jon demanded of his lover who cut him with a glare.
“I have let go of it, Jon. Believe me I have, or I wouldn’t be here today and good luck to you
running that B&B without me, since you can’t even boil water.”
“Cooks can be hired,” Jon snipped and Peter recoiled as if struck.
“’Cooks’?” he repeated. “Are you calling me a ‘cook’?”
“Ladies,” Brian intervened to stop the war. “You’re scaring the children. They hate it when
Mummy and Daddy fight.”
The couple grew silent and then Jon asked, “Do you have a partner, Brian?”
“No, I’m a rogue.”
“Don’t even think about it, Jon,” Peter warned and Brian smiled at him.
“Don’t worry, Peter. You’re both far too grand for the likes of me.”
“Nicest way of saying ‘old’ I’ve ever heard,” Jon laughed. Boyd interrupted by sliding into the
booth beside Brian just as Susie delivered breakfast to the couple.

                                                 - 23 -

“Brian, can you come with me? We need to talk. Sorry, guys, attorney client privilege and all
They said their goodbyes and settled into a miffed silence as they dug into their food. Boyd
walked Brian to his office. It was located on the third and top floor of the town’s one mercantile
building, which was across from the jail. Here the town’s doctor, dentist, accountant, lawyers and
other professionals found quarters. The law offices of Boyd M. Coulter, III, Esquire, consisted of a
three room suite, with reception area combining a small kitchenette, his private office and a
conference room. Lorene, his assistant, perked up when Brian Kinney came in with Boyd. Lorene
was thirty-five and divorced. Leaving behind ten years of life with an abusive, alcoholic husband,
she moved from Baton Rouge, seeking the quiet of a small town. Only now was she beginning to
regard men with less than contempt.
Like most women in town, Lorene was attracted to Boyd. He was not only handsome, he was
sweet and caring, but she gave up when he never showed her any interest, other than
professional. Boyd introduced her to Brian, causing Lorene’s light to go out. She now knew who
he was, and that changed everything. If Brian was getting blow jobs from Greg Willis, he was
unlikely to be interested in her. She brought them bottled water and closed Boyd’s office door
behind her as she left.
Brian sat across from Boyd, with the desk separating them. The furnishings were old, scarred
oak, sturdy and reassuring. The décor showed none of the flair Boyd exhibited in his home. On
the wall were framed diplomas. A BBA from LSU. A JD from Northwestern School of Law. Some
award was called the “Order of the Coif”. Certificates of admission to various courts were also
framed. The only art work was a signed and numbered print of four, abstract Mardi Gras masks.
Brian picked up from Boyd’s desk the framed picture of two attractive children. The girl was
blonde, the boy dark, but they both showed evidence of their father’s DNA.
“Pretty. What are their names?”
“My daughter is named Belle, after her grandmother. My son is Boyd MacKenzie Coulter, IV, but
we call him ‘Mac’. What’s your boy’s name? You have a picture?”
Brian did, but he never showed it. He didn’t think Gus was anyone’s business, and he also
thought it made him seem like a dork to carry around a photo of his kid. Boyd read his
reluctance. “Come on, Brian. Be fair. I showed you mine, now you show me yours. Does he have
a third ear or something?”
Brian smiled, charmed by Boyd’s subtle sexual reference. “Gus is beautiful,” he withdrew the
picture from his wallet and handed it to Boyd.
“You’re right. He is beautiful. He looks a lot like you.”
“Thank you, Boyd. I think that’s a compliment to me.”
Boyd gave him the picture back. “I suspect you don’t need ego gratification on that subject,
“Wrong. We all need ego gratification. On every subject.”
“Consider yourself gratified.”
Another accidental sexual reference, Brian wondered? “What did you want to talk to me about?”
“I bailed Greg out and drove him home. I’m very worried about him, Brian.”
“Why are you worried?”
“Greg’s not the highest brick on the wall when it comes to intelligence. He’s also very young and
very scared. Add it all together and you have an unpredictable client.”
“Is he from this area?”
“Yeah. Short history on Greg. He was a football hero when he was in high school here a few years
ago. I guess those were his glory days. He won an athletic scholarship to LSU, but he flunked out
his first semester. His father is a mean ol’ oil rigger who works on the off-shore platforms most of
                                                  - 24 -

the year. He got Greg a job there when he came back from LSU, but it didn’t stick. Never heard
what happened. Greg’s worked at the Texaco since then, and I guess he has a knack for doing
the odd oil change or battery charge. His mama died of cancer a few years back, and Greg took it
real hard. He had a twin sister who was hit by a car when they were ten. Drunk driver. Killed her
instantly, and Greg saw it happen. They had been roller blading together.”
Brian winced. He thought he had been dealt some fold hands, but this story made him feel like
entitled nobility in comparison. “Swell, and I got him fired. Good going, Brian.”
“Wasn’t your fault. Some people think they know about Greg being gay and all, while others may
know it from experience. But he’s not open about it, and most people here would be shocked
speechless to learn the truth.”
“What will happen to him?”
“This community is not particularly forgiving of differences. His life will be a misery. He’ll have a
hell of a time getting a job. He needs to just leave here and not come back.”
Brian shook his head, angry at a society that would drive this kid from his home town based on
which gender he fucked. “He’d be better off. Good looking kid like that, he could be happy in a
real city.”
“Maybe Brian, but I could also see him getting completely lost. I’m concerned that when you
combine his fear, desperation and lack of smarts, he may try to get creative on us.”
“If he were to plead guilty to a lesser offense and pay a fine, it would be tantamount to admitting
he’s queer. At least admitting he was engaged in a gay sex act.”
Brian had to smile at that obvious conclusion. “We had a witness. It’s pretty hard to deny.”
“He might try to say you forced yourself on him.”
“Using what weapon? My dick?”
“Didn’t say it made sense, but I could see him do it. If he does, it puts him in direct conflict with
you, so I’d have to withdraw from representing him.”
“What would happen then?”
“They’d appoint a lawyer for him, probably someone from Lafayette. That would also mean a
postponement and a re-opened investigation.”
“That’s bullshit! He can just lie like that?”
“Ever seen a cornered rat? That’s what we’re dealing with here. No rational thought, just a blood
lust to escape.”
“Let me make sure I understand. He could charge me with rape?”
Boyd wasn’t sure about that precise definition under the law, so he bluffed. “I think when it’s two
men, it’s sexual abuse or something else. Either way, it’s a violent crime. It’s serious.”
“How would I force him, Boyd? We aren’t in prison. I don’t have the Exalted Sons of Ireland to
watch my back and hold him down for me. I have no weapon. He’s younger than I am, bigger. At
least in weight. How did I force my cock down his throat?”
“He doesn’t have to be successful to make an accusation, Brian.”
Brian worked hard to conceal his mounting frustration. “What do I do?”
“If Greg does this fool thing, the court won’t let you plea to a lesser charge due to double
jeopardy issues. They’ll hold you over for a formal arraignment, giving them time to investigate.”
“How long does that take?”
“Could be a couple weeks,” Boyd said gently, trying to cushion the blow. “But you could remain
free on bail.”
                                                  - 25 -

Brian leaned his elbows on the desk as he said, “Boyd, you need to tell me right now if you
believe I forced Greg Willis to blow me.”
“My personal opinion is of no value here, Brian.”
“It is to me.”
Their stare collided and held. Boyd said, “I don’t believe it.”
Brian seemed to relax at that reassurance. Lorene interrupted them. “Sorry, Boyd, but it’s Charlie
on line one.”
“The D.A.,” Boyd explained as he picked up the receiver and Lorene returned to her desk. He
spoke briefly to Charlene and then hung up with a wince. “Fate has intervened. The judge was out
at his home on the bayou and the road got washed out. No docket call today. They’ve
rescheduled for Monday.”
“I’m stuck here all weekend with no car? Nothing?”
And no place to stay, Boyd thought to himself. He would be picking up his kids after school to
spend the weekend with him. That meant Brian was homeless. He pondered that fact, trying to
find words that would be less than insulting to Brian as he explained he had to leave the mill.
“You’re about to tell me something I won’t like,” Brian’s intuition was strong. “Go ahead. Make my
“I pick up my kids today, Brian. I have them all weekend. I only have the one spare room.”
“Not a problem, I can sack out of the sofa.”
“I can’t let you do that, Brian.”
“I really don’t mind.”
“No, I mean you can’t stay at my place while my kids are there.”
“Why not?”
“Look at it from Bonnie’s perspective. She doesn’t know you at all. Hell, I barely know you myself.
You’re under a legal shadow, charged with sexual misconduct. How can I justify letting you stay
around my kids?”
Brian looked at the lawyer as a series of emotions rippled through him like waves pounding a
beach. Rage, hurt, confusion and regret, each stronger than the last. He couldn’t think of what to
say at first, but he was careful not to let what he felt on the inside affect his external demeanor.
Brian was a master at concealing pain and he wouldn’t let this man have a glimpse beneath his
silks. He stood up and buttoned his jacket before he spoke with simple eloquence. No matter
what they did to him, he wouldn’t sacrifice his dignity and that resolve started here.
Current Mood:       annoyed

Jan. 27th, 2005 04:56 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 7

Leaving town for the day, didn't really have time to proof very well, but here is the next
installment of the story. Thanks for reading, Brian.

                                                     - 26 -

Sensing his lawyer-honed gift of gab had failed him, Boyd tried to clarify his position, but Brian
held up a hand to stop him. “I get it, Boyd. Of course you can’t have me around your children.
I’m a big fag and we all know that fags are all pedophiles, as well. And I’ve been accused of
breaking some arcane law for engaging in a private, consensual sex act with another adult. Yes, I
see your point.”
“Brian, I…”
“It’s fine. My stuff is in your car. May I leave it there and call you when I find a place to stay?”
Boyd sighed, refusing to feel guilty about looking out for his children. He didn’t mean to sound
homophobic. As a father himself, he was hoping Brian might understand his dilemma. “Where will
you find to stay, Brian?”
“I don’t know. But I’ve always managed to take care of myself. Thanks for your hospitality and let
me know what to do about Monday.”
“Brian, that didn’t come out as I intended.”
“Didn’t it? You’ve been very nice to me, Boyd. Don’t worry about it,” he turned to go, as Boyd
combed nervous fingers through his dirty blond hair.
“Brian, stop.”
Brian glanced over his shoulder at him, raising an inquisitive brow. Boyd went on. “It’s a gully
washer out there. You have no housing options, so let’s go.”
“Go where?”
“To get you a roof, you big drama queen.”
“You can quit calling me that any time you’d like.”
“When you stop acting the part, I will.”
“I’m not trying to guilt you into anything, Boyd. I’ll admit, it hurts that you think I’m a danger to
your children, but I guess I can see your point.”
“It has nothing to do with the fact you’re gay,” Boyd said and Brian answered with a cynical
laugh. “Okay, that may be a partial lie. I have to think of how Bonnie would view it. You don’t
know our history. That’s part of my dilemma.”
“So what do we do?”
“Come on.” Boyd paused at Lorene’s desk to ask her to postpone a couple appointments. They
sprinted to his car and the rains pounded relentlessly as they drove out of the city. When paved
roads gave way to dirt, the soft black clay had become like a thick veneer of peanut butter under
the struggling tires of the Explorer. Brian noticed a faint stench rose up from the ground, as if
decomposing bodies were floating close to the surface.
“What’s that smell?”
Boyd smiled. “It’s the gumbo.”
“Gumbo? Isn’t that soup?”
“We call this black dirt that covers the parish ‘gumbo’ because it gets gummy like this and has
that fishy smell when it gets wet. The water table is so high here, it’s only a couple inches from
the surface, and the dirt is filled with heavy organics. A little rain brings out the bouquet.”
“God, this place is like Mars,” Brian observed with a shudder as Boyd laughed.
“No, not nearly so interesting.”
They drove past the road to the mill where Boyd lived, through the cane fields, past a newly
paved road off to the right that led to a closed gate with a sign that read, “Coulter Bros. Sugar
Mill, est. 1867 – Employees only, all cane deliveries use Farm Road 49”. On the horizon,

                                                  - 27 -

concealed behind a curtain of rain, Brian could just make out the sprawl of a modern industrial
building. Cars filled the parking lot. He glanced at Boyd, who nodded. “Yeah, that’s the new mill.”
Farmland gave way to swamp and Brian found the gnarled live oaks, shrouded in Spanish moss,
to be oddly sentient and threatening. Boyd pulled up to a wide wrought iron double gate with a
sign forbidding entrance: Canard Rouge Plantation – Private Property, No Trespassing. Boyd
reached for a device that resembled a garage door opener and when he pushed the button on it,
the gates swung open. Brian was confused.
“Putting me to work at the ol’ plantation, boss?”
“Riot, Brian. My parents live here.”
“On a plantation?”
“Don’t say that like they own slaves or something. The family bought it during the Depression,
when it had fallen into ruin. It’s been restored to its ante-bellum glory and passed down to
generations of Coulters. This is where I grew up.”
It had become clear to Brian that Boyd may or may not have a personal fortune, but his family
was certainly wealthy. “I’m not comfortable staying with your parents, Boyd.”
He laughed at the absurdity of that idea. “Don’t worry. They wouldn’t be comfortable, either. No
offense to you, but they aren’t the most welcoming people in the world. We aren’t going to the
plantation. I’m just taking a shortcut to the cabin.”
“The cabin? As in Uncle Tom’s Cabin?”
“You really are steeped in the legends of the south, aren’t you? No, Brian, it’s a rustic little place
the family uses during fishing excursions or the odd hunting trip. I’ll let it be known I have a
friend staying there so security leaves you alone. I’ll make sure someone stocks it with food. I
apologize for the isolation. There’s no television, but otherwise it’s completely modernized. Air
conditioning, modern kitchen, telephones. One caution. There’s a dock and a boathouse attached
to it. The dock extends out over the bayou. If the rain lets up and you decide to go out on the
dock, check for snakes.”
“Snakes?” Brian’s eyes grew wide and Boyd smiled.
“The snakes like to lie in the sun on the wooden dock. Most of them are harmless enough, but
you see the occasional water moccasin. Oh, and stay on the dock, don’t go into the reeds.
Alligators have been known to nest in those reeds. A city boy like you would have no clue what to
do if you were confronted by a gator.”
“This is a joke, right?”
“No, Brian, this is the bayou.”
“The only alligators I’ve ever seen are on the breast of a sports shirt or made into belts and
shoes. What’s next? Does Swamp Thing come out at night?”
“Not recently,” Boyd said with a laugh. Brian never even saw the plantation house as they took
another route and finally reached a gravel road leading to a log cabin built on stilts with the
infamous snake-infested dock reaching out into the murky water. Brian couldn’t conjure a set of
circumstances that might cause him to venture out on that inhospitable plank of wood. The rains
had stopped for the moment, but the humidity was as thick as fog as they grabbed Brian’s
luggage and trekked to the porch. Boyd took a key from the porch light and opened the door.
Brian was swatting at flying vampires that stuck long beaks into his skin to suck his blood. Boyd
smiled as he waved him inside.
“The mosquitoes are horrible here. There’s some bug spray with DEET in the bathroom cabinet.
Use it whenever you go out. You don’t want to get what the locals call Swamp Fever. The
mosquitoes carry it.”
“Jesus, what is this place? The third circle of hell? Snakes, alligators, disease carrying bugs?”

                                                   - 28 -

Inside, the central air-conditioning was kept on even when the house was unoccupied, to battle
rot and damp. The sudden cool made the humidity-inspired sweat on Brian’s body turn clammy.
He couldn’t wait to hit the shower. He was surprised by how nice the interior of the place was.
Rustic, but charming, with exposed log walls, a high, beamed ceiling and huge stone fireplace.
The floors were polished flagstone and the furnishings were mission-styled with Indian blanket
print upholstery.
Shelves of books and a Bose sound system promised at least some entertainment, and there was
a fully stocked bar. The refrigerator in the kitchen held only beer, soft drinks and water, but Boyd
assured him again that food would be delivered by the end of the day. Two bedrooms shared a
bath on the main level and a large sleeping loft overlooked the central room. Everything was
polished and dusted, obviously well cared for even when not in use. Brian smiled at his host after
opening a bottle of water as he dropped down onto a comfortable chair.
“So long as I battle snakes, alligators, disease carrying mosquitoes and bears, I’ll be fine.”
“No bears.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive,” Boyd said with a grin.
“That’s a relief.”
“I’m writing my numbers by the phone, Brian, in case you need anything. And also the number of
the plantation manager, who can get you food or anything else you may require. He’s a sweet old
guy, been with the family for decades.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“I guess I’d better get back. If it clears up and you decide to take a very long walk, I wouldn’t go
up to the main house. My parents are…well, I just wouldn’t.”
“I won’t embarrass you, Boyd.”
“It’s not that.”
“Why would I ever leave this place? It sounds like a hell hole out there.”
“It’s not so bad,” Boyd said with a smile. “It’s just Louisiana.”
“Say no more,” Brian quipped and Boyd waved as he left him alone in the cabin. After a shower,
the rain lulled Brian into a nap while he listened to jazz on the Bose and read a mystery starring a
Cajun sheriff. A persistent pounding at the front door awoke him. Tying the sash of his robe, he
opened it to find a tall, elderly African-American man who was protected from the rains by high
rubber boots and a hooded mac. Two boxes of groceries were at his feet. An SUV parked up the
drive bore the imprint “Canard Rouge Plantation” on the door.
“Mr. Kinney, I’m Homer Dhue. I’m the manager of the farm.”
“Dewey?” Brian repeated the way his last name sounded.
“Dhue. It’s French. I brung you some food.”
Brian picked up one box, Mr. Dhue the other. In the kitchen, the man ticked off the items as he
placed them in the pantry or the refrigerator. “Eggs, bacon, butter, milk, cheese, a couple of
filets, skinned chicken breasts, chocolate chunk ice cream, French bread, sourdough bread, fresh
gooseberry jam from up at the plantation, steel cut oatmeal, assorted fresh fruit, lemons and
limes, orange juice, brown sugar, white sugar, chicory coffee, sliced honey baked ham, mustard,
kettle chips, a carton of Winston’s, potatoes, rice, snap beans, lettuce, tomatoes, homemade
buttermilk salad dressing from the plantation, and some of the plantation’s homemade she-crab
soup. There’s a coffee press up here on the shelf. The paper goods are already in stock. The
dishwasher soap is under the sink. Did Mr. Boyd show you the washer and dryer?”
“No,” Brian said, still stunned by the amount of food that just entered his new domain.

                                                 - 29 -

“I can show you, or if you’d prefer, I can take your laundry with me and have it washed up at the
house and bring it back later.”
“No need for that if you just show me where it is.”
Mr. Dhue opened the French doors that exposed a stack washer and dryer unit and an ironing
board. “Now, Mr. Kinney,” he said with a suddenly serious tone. “If you decides you wants to fish,
you call up Homer Dhue because no city boy should go out on that bayou alone. Chances are, you
wouldn’t come back a’tall.”
“I can’t think of a reason I’ll ever want to fish, Mr. Dhue.”
“Ain’t no better fishin’ than on that patch of water, but don’t go out alone.”
“I won’t.”
“Can you think of something I forgot to bring?”
“Mr. Dhue, I won’t eat this much food in a month.”
The older man gave Brian’s trim physique a glance. “You could stand to eat more. Madam Dhue is
making her famous Shoo-fly pie this evenin’. I’ll have her make an extra for you.”
Brian couldn’t even imagine what that was. Flies? Even in Louisiana, flies couldn’t be considered
an ingredient in food. “That’s not necessary, but thanks.”
“No problem. You’ll love it. Madam cooks real fine pies. If you need something you push the star
and then 45 on that phone and it will ring me. You enjoy yourself now, you hear?”
“What do I owe you for…”
Mr. Dhue held up a bony hand. “It’s all part of the hospitality of the Coulter family, son.”
“At least let me give you something for your trouble.”
“No sir. I get paid real well by the family. I don’t take no tips.”
“I didn’t mean to offend you.”
Mr. Dhue laughed at that. “I ain’t never offended when a man wants to gives me money. I’ll be by
later with that pie.”
He left as suddenly as he appeared. Brian rinsed off an apple and returned to the main room with
his music and his book. As he bit into the crisp fruit, he noticed a photograph album on a shelf
and he opened it up. It contained pictures of the cabin from the 1920’s forward. The décor in the
photos changed and evolved, the cabin itself went through renovations, and the people in the
pictures aged and disappeared, replaced by new people. Their fashions changed with them, but
the Coulter genetics were obvious in successive generations.
Brian enjoyed this trek through Boyd’s family tree, pausing at the first glimpse of the kid who
Boyd used to be. He was a cotton-topped boy aged five, and wearing long, floral jams and no
shirt as he proudly held up a catfish on a hook. The catch was as long as the boy’s torso. The
legend under the photo read, “Boyd III First Trophy, aged 5”. The photos revealed Boyd had two
older sisters, Lisette and LuAnn. Both were slim, blonde and pretty. His father, Boyd Jr., was a
grim-faced portly fellow, and his mother gave the kids her looks. She was a pencil thin, model-
perfect ice queen.
Brian watched the kids grow up through these photos. Boyd became a cute teenaged twink. His
sisters were debutante pretty. LuAnn married and her husband was a hunk identified as Rex
Berenson. They added a baby to the mix. Lisette was never pictured with a spouse. In fact she
seemed to disappear completely after the age of eighteen. Brian paused at a photo of a younger
Boyd with a pretty raven haired girl. The legend read, “Boyd III and Bonnie, newlyweds”. Bonnie
was more sexy than classically beautiful, with a seriously fine body and a sultry smile. Brian
smiled and thought, nice going, Boyd. How did you fuck this up?
He noticed the two preceding pages were stuck together and he carefully pried them apart. The
gummy substance from the little black triangles that held the photos in place had remained on
                                                  - 30 -

the paper even thought the photos and the triangles were missing. That adhered the pages
together. The inscriptions remained even though the pictures were gone. The handwriting was
different from the precise, block lettering used in all the photos of Boyd’s immediate family. This
was an inky scrawl, and very bold, as it making a statement. It read, “Boyd III and Jared” and
the other read, “Boyd III’s friend Jared”. But there was no Jared. No Boyd and Jared. Just a ghost
left behind by the inscription.
When did Boyd take Jared to the cabin and why? Why were the pictures added to the book and
then removed? By whom? Who wrote the urgent inscriptions? A knock interrupted his
questioning, and he expected it would be Homer Dhue and the scurrilous pie. Outside, the rains
had stopped and the swamp was turned violet in the waning light. If anything the humidity was
intensified, not slacked by the storm. Insects and frogs droned near the reeds and Brian found
himself facing someone unexpected, rather than Mr. Dhue.
Brian found himself facing Greg Willis. This would not be good, he realized. No way this was going
to be good.
Current Mood:      anxious

Jan. 29th, 2005 12:57 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 8

Gino’s was the main hang out for kids in Canard Rouge. The menu was kid-centric, featuring
buffalo wings, a salad bar with more junk than lettuce, and a dessert bar, as well as the wide
variety of pizzas. Boyd, like every other parent of young children in Canard Rouge, was a frequent
diner at Gino’s, but only when accompanied by his kids. His children loved the red vinyl booths,
the electric candle in a fake Chianti wine bottle, the incessant music videos played on two
widescreen televisions, and the array of video games.
Boyd had a headache, which made Gino’s even more unbearable than usual. Pressure changes in
the weather always contributed to that pain, and the chaos of the restaurant intensified the
“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” His son hollered until Boyd focused a bleary eye on him. “Watch me
He watched Mac pursue a series of grinning moles with a mallet as they poked their heads out of
holes in a fake lawn. Mac shrieked with delight whenever he connected with one. His sister let out
a patient sigh. The burden of women in this world weighed heavily on her six-year old shoulders.
“He’s a serial killer in training,” she observed and Boyd had to smile. In so many ways, Belle was
more like him than was Mac. Her sarcasm at such an early age was one of those ways.
“Where did you hear that term?”
“You watch that show?”
“Mama does, so I see bits of it sometimes,” she twisted a strand of honey blonde hair around her
index finger. Belle looked so much like his sister Lisette that it was haunting. “I don’t like boys
except for you, Daddy. They’re too rough.”

                                                - 31 -

Boyd grinned at her. “That’ll change.”
“When?” She demanded as her brother whacked another mole.
“Mac, get over here and finish your pizza,” Boyd called to his son. Mac answered without turning
away from his prey.
“I done!”
“Did you get your new soccer cleats?” He asked his daughter.
“Mama said you’d take me to the mall this weekend to get them.”
Boyd frowned at that, and made a mental note to remind Bonnie that he gave her fifty bucks for
the cleats. If he was now charged with buying them for Belle, he wanted his money back. He
knew he wouldn’t get it back, but at least he would raise the issue. He said nothing to Belle, since
none of it was her fault. The kids were Bonnie’s constant machination and Boyd resented the way
she used them. After all the moles were annihilated and the pizza was cold, he piled his progeny
in the back seat of the Explorer.
“Do y’all mind if I make a stop before we go home? A friend of mine is staying at the cabin and I
want to make sure he’s okay.”
“I hunt snakes!” Mac expressed a plan. Boyd groaned at that image.
“You’ll stay in the locked car and wait. I won’t be a minute.”
“Want to whackasnake,” the budding Tony Soprano sulked. Boyd rolled his eyes as his head
continued to pound and his kids continued to argue.
At the cabin, Brian stared at Greg for a full minute before he spoke to him. The boy looked good,
as dangerous as he was. Short denim cut-off’s, a tight black wifebeater, rubber flip-flops, they all
showed off his deep cuts and dark tan. How anyone could mistake this one for straight was a
mystery to Brian.
“What do you want?” Brian said as he realized but for the fact Boyd had told him, he wouldn’t
even know the guy’s name. They may have been intimate, but there was no intimacy between
“I need to talk to you.”
“How’d you know I was here?”
“Shit, this is Canard Rouge, man. Everyone knows everything about everybody.”
Obviously not everything, Brian thought. If they did, Greg wouldn’t have a dilemma. He waved
him in, wanting to shut the door on the mosquitoes that swarmed in the heat. Brian watched
Greg’s tight ass as he walked past him, experiencing the morbid fascination of a witness to a train
wreck. Greg reached for Brian’s cigarettes, shook one out, lit it and inhaled deeply as he flopped
down on the couch.
“Help yourself,” Brian grumbled, choosing a chair that gave him some distance from this man.
“You look good in that robe,” Greg observed with a knowing eye.
“What do you want?”
“I want you to make Boyd Coulter fix this damn thing.”
“Fix it?”
“Get it dropped, whatever.”
“First of all, I can’t make Boyd do anything. Second of all, he’s trying. He got it reduced to a
misdemeanor and a fine. I said I’d pay your fine for you.”
“I’d have to admit in public that I’m a fag, Brian.”
“Greg, you are a fag.”

                                                 - 32 -

“They don’t know that!” His handsome face turned red when angry, still attractive, but brutish.
“Who is ‘they’? That woman who walked in on us has apparently informed the entire heavenly
choir as well as every other bible beater in Louisiana. I think your secret is out.”
“Are you making fun of me?”
Brian sighed, remembering how Boyd described Greg’s intellect: not the highest brick on the wall.
Lucky for him that he was beautiful. “No, Greg. I’m just saying they removed the hinges on your
closet door.”
Greg’s blue eyes narrowed into slits. On some, that look might be menacing. On Greg, it
translated to stupid. “Maybe yes and maybe no.”
“Meaning what?”
“It don’t make me a faggot if you made me do it.”
“Made you? What am I? The devil? You came on to me, Greg.”
“Only you and me know that.”
“And the fact that it’s true has no weight with you?”
“I can’t be known as a faggot, Brian! You don’t get it. I can’t live in this town with everyone
knowing I’m gay.”
“You are gay, Greg.”
“You ain’t listening to me. I don’t want to hurt you, Brian, so you got to make Boyd fix it.”
“He’s a lawyer, not a magician. Maybe you need to step up to the plate and embrace your own
“That’s easy for you to say.”
“It wasn’t easy for me to come out. I did it in stages, with different people. It was very difficult
for some people in my life. I think whether or when to come out is a personal decision. I don’t out
people. But in this case you were outed by circumstances. Move on.”
Brian saw Greg’s strategy change by a subtle shift in his expression. He licked his plump, cerise
lips, tossed back his blond curls and spread his hard thighs to reveal the bulge at his crotch.
Despite the fact he knew he was being worked, Brian felt the first ping of desire. Greg walked
over to him, standing with his package directly in Brian’s line of sight, one knee bent to throw a
tilt to his hips. He put his hands on Brian’s shoulders and squeezed gently. “Let’s not us fight
about it,” he let his hand wander down the neckline of Brian’s robe, his fingers reaching in to
brush a hard nipple. Brian felt his dick jump. He was so fucking easy when it came to this.
He shook his head. “We can’t,” he said, but it was an empty observation and Greg knew it. Greg
dropped down to his knees, using both hands to enter Brian’s robe and spread it open over his
thighs. He was naked beneath it and Greg stared at his stiffening dick and licked his lips again. He
knew he had him and Brian resented his own weakness.
“I love your cock,” Greg said. He leaned over and stuck out his tongue, letting the tip of it draw a
circle of flicks around the head of Brian’s penis. He traced the slit, and then circled the glans
again. Brian’s eyes closed as he gripped the arms of the chair and leaned back, letting it happen.
Greg took him deep, like before, only this time there was no Church Lady to interrupt, and Greg
took his time. He braced his palms on Brian’s hard thighs and went all the way down on his cock,
tickling the back of his throat with it and letting it thicken to full strength under the ministrations
of his lips and tongue. He withdrew to lap the heavy sac of Brian’s testicles, and then enclosed
the penis again, opening his own fly with one hand so he could masturbate. Brian reached out
and buried his fingers in Greg’s curls, keeping him anchored where he was. The boy knew what to
do, and Brian let him do it.
Up and down, hard, fast, sealing tight with his lips, stroking with his tongue and the roof of his
mouth, he proved what an accomplished cocksucker he was. Brian was no stranger to the act and
                                                 - 33 -

yet he had to rank Greg’s ability near the top of his vast experience. The cocksucker came first,
spewing a load against the chair and Brian’s calf. That pushed Brian over the top and he let it
pump down Greg’s willing throat, shuddering under the power of his orgasm.
Greg withdrew and smiled up at Brian as he brushed the back of his hand over his lips. “You’re a
rich man, Brian. Use that money to get it fixed with the judge.”
“You mean buy the judge?” Brian moved him aside so he could stand, suddenly wanting to get
away. He used a towel from the bathroom to wipe off his leg and tightened the sash of his robe.
“Don’t be an idiot, Greg. This is a nothing charge. Bribing a judge is serious stuff. You have to get
your shit together. If you want, I’ll give you a little stake to get out of town once we settle this.
That seems fair since I kind of cost you your job. This town is too small for a boy with your talent.
Don’t be long term stupid to fix a short term problem.”
Greg had refastened his shorts and confiscated Brian’s pack of Winston’s as he said, “You better
think about it, Brian. You’d better come up with a way to get this case dismissed, either by Boyd
doing something, or by you paying off the judge, or I’ll burn you bad.”
“Get out, Greg. And do me a favor. Don’t come back here. It may be hard to explain to someone
how I raped you and yet you keep coming back for more.”
Greg’s face reflected his fury as he flung an expletive at Brian and left the cabin. Brian sat down
with a groan, disgusted with his own weakness and frustrated by the boy’s short-sighted, fear-
fueled ignorance. He thought about calling Boyd, but remembered the children issue and decided
against it. He wandered into the kitchen and peered into the refrigerator, trying to decide if he
wanted something to eat. This must be cabin fever, he realized. He wanted to jump out of his
skin. But he was trapped here by the elements and by the fact he had no transportation. He took
the ice cream from the freezer and a spoon from the drawer and sat down on the couch, cranking
up the music and losing himself in the soothing taste of chocolate chunks.
Current Mood:      annoyed

Jan. 29th, 2005 07:00 pm - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 9

“Daddy, why are you so grumpy?” Belle climbed up onto Boyd’s lap as he sat down on her bed to
read a bedtime story to his children.
“I’m not grumpy,” Boyd defended, but she pursued it.
“Are too,” Belle was persistent. “You have been since we went to the cabin.”
“Daddy grumpy,” Mac confirmed, his eyelids drooping with fatigue, but he still had enough zest in
him to argue. Boyd had to concede the point. He was grumpy. He was more than grumpy, he was
mad. The last thing he expected to see when he approached the driveway at the cabin was the
Cutlass that Greg Willis drove, parked in the gravel. The car was unmistakable. It once belonged
to Greg’s mother and now that she was deceased, he refused to part with it, even though it was
rusting out and barely moving. Not the best billboard for a mechanic.
For a moment, Boyd feared for Brian. Greg was angry, volatile and scared. Could he pose a
threat? It didn’t surprise him that Greg knew Brian was staying there. As soon as Homer Dhue
went into town to get goods to stock the cabin, the word was out. In Canard Rouge, gossip
spread faster than sugar cane smut.

                                                - 34 -

Wanting to be sure Brian was secure, Boyd approached the cabin on foot. He left his kids in the
locked car, not intending to be out of their sight. As he walked, Boyd entertained another
thought. What if Brian invited Greg to come out, maybe even thinking he could outsmart him and
talk him into behaving sensibly? Or what if he simply wanted a repeat performance of what got
them into this fucking mess? Was Brian dumber than he seemed? Or was he so sexually charged
that testosterone overcame gray matter?
At the door to the cabin, Boyd hesitated and glanced in one of the front windows. He saw Brian in
the main room, seated in a chair with his back to the door. Greg was not visible. Boyd started to
relax until he glimpsed Greg’s blond curls in the vicinity of Brian’s crotch and saw Brian’s hand go
down to rest on the back of Greg’s head. Boyd could do the math. He’d seen enough.
He was disgusted by his principal client’s foolishness even after he had warned him of Greg
Willis’s harebrained scheme. Why did he go out of his way to accommodate Brian Kinney, even
offer the hospitality of his own home, if he was going to behave this stupidly? Shit, Brian even
succeeded in making him feel guilty about wanting to protect his own children. He gave him the
use of his family’s cabin out of the kindness of his heart, not so Brian could set up a rendezvous
with Greg Willis.
“Daddy, your jaw is doing that twitchy thing,” Belle observed. Boyd sighed and forced his anger
aside. He concentrated on his children, reading to them about a spider named Charlotte who lived
in a web.
Soon after the kids were asleep, the rains returned. So did Boyd’s headache and he poured
himself a tall scotch to numb it. In the living room, he stared through the arched windows at the
lightning over the bayou. If he didn’t have to be out in it, he loved to watch storms hit the
swamp. There was something primordial about the bayou in bad weather.
“This is the way the world looked before man polluted the globe,” Jared once observed when they
watched a storm form from the security of the cabin. Remembering that time, Boyd let his gaze
drift to the painting above the mantle. He pictured Jared in his white coveralls, worn without a
shirt, a stark contrast to his mocha skin. Both his coveralls and his skin were splattered with paint
as he attacked the canvas with his usual zeal.
“You mad at that easel?” Boyd teased him once and Jared replied,
“I have to get it out there fast and hard, while I feel the passion. If the passion fades, it’s not
worth doing.”
That pretty much summed up how Jared felt about life in general. Boyd forced those memories
aside, not wanting to fall into a dark place. When the phone rang, he was startled by the
intrusion. He answered with a gruff, “Yes?”
“The rugrats in bed?”
Boyd took a long sip of scotch. “What do you want, Brian?”
“I had an unexpected visitor.”
“I know.” At least Brian admitted it and even volunteered it.
“How do you know?”
“I drove by earlier to make sure you were okay, and I saw his car.”
“Why didn’t you come in?”
“I thought you might prefer your privacy,” Boyd said with a precise clip and Brian chuckled.
“You may be right. Are you pissed about something? You sound pissed.”
“Why would I be pissed?”
“Okay, this is too heterosexual newlywed spat for me. If you have an issue with me, just tell me
what it is.”

                                                  - 35 -

“I have an issue with your getting your ashes hauled by Greg Willis. Again. After what I told you
about the devious little bastard.” Boyd was surprised by his own anger. Brian, too, seemed
shocked, but he denied nothing.
“I didn’t plan it. I didn’t invite him over. I thought maybe I could talk some sense to him.”
“A one way conversation, I guess, since his mouth was full?”
“Just how much did you see and how long did you watch?”
“Don’t flatter yourself, Brian. I really don’t care to see that. I glanced in the window and I left.”
“I don’t see the harm in it, Boyd. It didn’t add anything to his claims.”
“It was stupid! You need to stay the hell away from him until this thing gets handled. That’s it,
Brian. Look, I’m not a criminal attorney. They have to appoint one for Greg, anyway, they can get
one for you too. I’ll return your fee.”
“Now you won’t even represent me?”
“It was one thing when I had a simple plea bargain in front of me. This may get more complex
and I’m not adequately trained to handle it if it does.”
“I don’t want a different attorney. I want you to be my lawyer.”
“I don’t think I want to be your lawyer, Brian.”
“That’s the way it is, huh?”
“Yes, that’s the way it is. I’ll make sure you get a good advocate. I know a few in Lafayette or
even New Orleans.”
“What about the fact they don’t go to church with the judge or play softball with his son?”
“Better that they know how to navigate these particular laws.”
“You’ve done alright so far.”
“I’m not qualified, Brian.”
“Right. Has nothing to do with the fag factor.”
“Don’t play the gay card on me, Brian. It’s the stupidity factor that bugs me. I don’t like clients
who think they know more than I do about the law or how to handle a situation related to their
“I promise not to even speak to Greg again or let him blow me, okay?”
“It’s not funny.”
“I’m not laughing. Come on, Boyd. Don’t do this. I feel like I’ve landed on the moon, here. You’re
the only one I trust. Give me a break. Don’t bail on me.”
Boyd could hear the fear and frustration in Brian’s tightly controlled voice and he sighed,
massaging his temples. “Christ, I’m getting a migraine, I think.”
“Are you drinking?”
“I have a drink.”
“Don’t. You have pills?”
“Too late to take them. Didn’t take at onset.”
“You want me to come over?”
“What are you going to do, walk over here?”
“Good point. Want me to call someone?”
“I want you to hang up. The kids are fine, they’re asleep. I’m going to bed.”

                                                   - 36 -

“Boyd, don’t bail.”
“Goodnight, Brian.”
He hung up, and abandoned the rest of his drink as he fell into his bed fully clothed and begged
for sleep to rescue him from this pain.
The next morning was impossibly bright after a night of storms. The “gumbo” roads were still
difficult to traverse, but after a day of hot summer sun, they’d be hard packed. When Boyd finally
awoke, his hangover caused by the migraine, not the drink, was so severe, he could barely move.
He noticed the clock read noon and he moaned as he remembered his children. Fear struck at his
heart as he wondered if they were safe, or if they were running wild. He lumbered into the
kitchen and heaved a sigh of relief as he saw both of them, dressed and combed, seated before
the television watching Nickelodeon.
“I’m sorry, kids, I had one of my headaches. You must be starving.”
“No, they already had about forty pancakes each a few hours ago, and now I’m working on grilled
cheese sandwiches.”
Boyd looked up at the unexpected image of Brian Kinney standing at his stove, grilling
sandwiches and heating up tomato soup. Dressed in jeans and a tan sleeveless shirt, he was
unshaven but still handsome, and Boyd sat down weakly in a chair, too confused to respond.
Brian smiled. “Caffeine works well with migraines. Here,” he handed him a mug of strong black
coffee. Boyd took it from him with a shaky hand and said in a low voice,
“What the fuck?”
“Don’t worry, Boyd. Your children are safe. Mr. Dhue and Madam Dhue have been here with me
the whole time to supervise them. Make sure I didn’t do something pedophiliac with them. She
got them bathed and Mr. Dhue made the pancakes. I’m afraid my cooking skills are limited to
grilled cheese and canned soup. Oh, and cereal. I can do cereal.”
“Where are they now? The Dhues?”
“Church. They just left. I guess Madam Dhue plays the organ at weddings. The big event wedding
of the year is today. She was going over there to get ready for it. I assume they thought I could
be trusted and the kids were comfortable with me by now. Besides, you were stirring in there, so
we figured you’d be up soon. Okay, Mac, you come get the plates and Belle, you carry the milk.
I’ll bring the soup.”
“I want cootahns in my soup, Brian,” Mac complained and Brian laughed.
“You’re not getting cootahns or croutons, either, you bottomless pit.”
Boyd could tell by Belle’s broad smile and faint blush as she took the milk from Brian that this
was one “boy” she liked well enough. As his kids ate and watched the Rugrats wreak havoc, Boyd
said, “Why were the Dhue’s over here? Why were you?”
Brian poured himself a mug of coffee and motioned to the small enclave near the window, away
from the kids. Boyd reluctantly moved there so they could talk. “You sounded really bad last
night, Boyd. And I called this morning, early, to see if you were okay. When no one answered, I
called Mr. Dhue. Explained my concern. He said they were going into town for the wedding,
anyway, so why didn’t we all stop by to see if you were okay? He said you get these headaches
from time to time and they take you down.”
Boyd shrugged. Homer Dhue had a key to every house owned by every member of Boyd’s family.
Boyd was grateful for that. “You didn’t have to come with him.”
“I know you didn’t want me around your kids, but I figured if the Dhue’s were with me, you could
cope. And I was worried, Boyd. Okay?”
Boyd sighed, sipped his coffee, then looked up at Brian. “Thanks.”
Brian shrugged.

                                                - 37 -

“Could you keep an eye on them while I take a shower?”
“Sure. Want a grilled cheese sandwich? Cereal?”
“I won’t be eating for a few hours.”
Boyd showered, shaved, dressed and re-joined them. Brian had the two kids on the floor, putting
together a wooden puzzle as he supervised from the sofa. He was scanning CNN and ESPN,
switching from headlines to a soccer match. “Daddy are we going to the mall?” Belle pleaded and
he nodded.
“In a bit, honey. I really can’t drive in the bright sunshine until my head settles down.”
“But we have to get my cleats!”
“I’ll drive you,” Brian volunteered. “If you can direct me, I can get you there. I’ll do anything to
get out of this town for awhile.”
“We want Brian to go!” Mac agreed and obviously Belle thought it was a fine idea. Boyd,
outnumbered and not feeling up to a fight, caved in. As they walked through the mill to the car,
Brian said,
“Are you still mad at me?”
“You’re very manipulative.”
“Yes, I know. I was in advertising, Boyd. It’s what I do. Are you still mad at me?”
Boyd sighed and got his kids settled in the back of the car before sitting shotgun, and positioning
his dark glasses against the light. He told Brian how to get to the Interstate and then added, “I
think I’m aiding someone on bail to leave town, which is a big no-no.”
“I won’t tell if you won’t tell,” Brian smirked and Boyd laughed and massaged his temples, lacking
the strength to argue.
Current Mood:      exhausted

Jan. 30th, 2005 07:16 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 10

Okay, I guess a house has to fall on me like the wicked witch. But I think I get it. I'm posting too
much. Cael, Heather, Randall, I get it. Sorry everyone. Randall and I are leaving town for a few
days, so here's one more I wanted to get out there. Sorry. Hope SOMEONE is still reading this.
Brian (the over achiever).
Brian had never been to a mall where there was not one store he cared to visit or one item he
wanted to buy. Until now. The anchor stores were J.C.Penney’s and Sears. Not a good start. The
stores in between the two were small chains he had never even heard of, or kiosks selling crafts.
The food court was all fast food junk, cookies or ice cream and the crowd milling among the shops
were as uninteresting to him as the goods being offered for sale. Not a Prada, Boss, Armani in
sight. Where do real people shop, he thought to himself. Where do the faggots dress?
Reading his thoughts, Boyd pushed an elbow into his ribs as they sat on a bench at a Foot Locker
while Belle tried on cleats. His headache-hangover was finally gone. He was hungry now, but, like

                                                 - 38 -

Brian, not interested in the food being offered in the mall. “So, what do you think? Not exactly
Fifth Avenue, is it?”
Brian shrugged, dying for a smoke. “No, but since I live in Pittsburgh, what can I say? That’s not
exactly Fifth Avenue, either.” Obviously better than this, but… he didn’t feel it necessary to be
rude. “Where do you shop?” Boyd’s suits and other clothes were a cut above this mall.
“I don’t shop much, but when I do, I go to New Orleans.”
“Makes sense. Belle, put your foot up here, let me look at those cleats,” Brian said, and she
rested a heel on his thigh, holding her Dad’s hand for balance as Brian critically appraised the fit.
“They’re too big. You do a lot of lateral movement in soccer and the shoe needs to stay strong on
your foot or you could pop an ankle. They should fit snug, but not tight. Your foot swims in these.
You’ll risk an injury. Go down a half-size.”
Boyd stared at him as the clerk in the striped referee’s shirt went off to get another size. “You
used to sell shoes, did you?”
“I played soccer.”
“Oh yeah. Right.” He smiled at Brian’s profile. He was a strange guy, full of contrasts. You wanted
to hate him for being vain and prissy and promiscuous, but he wouldn’t make it easy to do so.
“Daddy, get me these shoes.” Mac hobbled up wearing red high tops big enough to fit Boyd,
giving him the appearance of a clown. Brian laughed as Boyd said,
“Take those off before you break your neck, boy. You don’t need shoes.”
“Belle gets shoes, I want shoes! I want red shoes.”
Brian snickered at that and Boyd glared at him. “You have ten seconds to take those shoes off
and stop whining.”
Mac’s cute little face screwed up into a pout that was threatening tears and Brian said, “If you
take them off, and put them up, I’ll take you across the mall to look at the ducks in that pond.” A
feature of the mall was a pool of water surrounded by a low fence where a family of ducks resided
in a cozy wooden shelter and an astro-turf lawn. Today, the family was happily paddling in the
pool and Mac brightened at that idea. He stepped out of the shoes and ran to put them away.
Boyd said to Brian,
“I don’t believe in bribing them to do the right thing.”
“I don’t believe in listening to a kiddie queen out in the middle of a store. Indulge me this once.
You can see us from here, so you don’t have to worry about my fondling your boy.”
“Okay, Brian, it’s time to let go of the sarcasm over that.”
Brian shrugged. Letting go of sarcasm was easier said than done for him. Mac ran over and
grabbed Brian’s hand, as if trying to yank him to his feet. Brian stood and let himself be led out of
the store and over to the ducks. Mac joined some kids at the fence who watched the ducks swim
as if they’d never seen such a miracle. Brian wryly wondered how many of them would grow up to
find themselves blowing the heads off ducks while dressed in orange vests and chewing ‘tobaccy’.
“Your little boy is a doll,” a man said to Brian, and Brian glanced at him, feeling the cruise strip
him raw. He smiled to himself. The poor pathetic faggot. What a lonely life he must lead. He wore
a name tag from Sears and a short-sleeved dress shirt and loud tie. Must be on a break from his
dead-end job of selling polyester to the natives. Brian felt sorry for him, but not that sorry.
“He’s not mine. He’s a friend’s kid.”
“He’s beautiful,” the man said, but his gaze and his compliment were intended for Brian. Brian
placed a hand on his shoulder and said,
“I’m not interested.”
“In what?” his fan grew defensive and Brian smiled as he saw Boyd and Belle come from the Foot
Locker, a bag in Belle’s hand.
                                                 - 39 -

“Come on, Mac, time to go,” he called and joined up with the others.
“Who was that guy?” Boyd asked as they walked towards the exit.
“Some pathetic faggot macking on me.”
“God, you can’t even go to the mall without getting hit on?”
Brian laughed. “What can I say? I’m irresistible.”
Boyd shook his head. “In your own mind, to be sure.”
He took the keys from Brian as they reached the car. “I can drive now. Thanks.”
“No problem.”
“Are you hungry?”
“I could eat.”
“Kids, what do you think of going to Alligator Annie’s for an early dinner?”
The kids erupted with joy and Brian gave Boyd a narrow-eyed perusal. “Uh, Alligator Annie? Are
you serious?”
Boyd smiled. “You’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
“Does Annie serve alligator?”
“Among other things, yes.”
“I don’t eat reptiles.”
“I’ll refrain from the obvious rejoinder about Greg Willis,” Boyd mused and Brian smiled at him.
“You have the one being devoured reversed.”
Boyd let it drop and drove down the highway, then exited on a farm road that led to a low,
wooden building, built on stilts, with a rusty, corrugated tin roof. A hand lettered sign read
“Alligator Annie” with a cartoon drawing of a bright green alligator dressed in red with spike heels
and a blonde wig. It was very scary, Brian thought, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. Cars
crowded the lot, and the children ran in front of them to enter the restaurant. They went straight
to a large terrarium where two small albino alligators were the attraction, both asleep under
warm lights, so still they could be stuffed.
“Boyd Coulter, you adorable thing!” A woman who could have posed for the cartoon drawing
came from behind the cash register to greet them. She had the same brash blonde wig, red
dress, spike heels, and long face with overly wide grin and too many false teeth. If she had been
green, Brian would have sworn it was a self-portrait. Boyd was engulfed in her hug.
“Hi, Annie.”
“You get more beautiful every time I see you, honey. And just look at those kids! Growing like
weeds. Oh my, who is this?”
Her alligator yellow-green eyes settled on Brian and he felt like prey as she went from head to toe
with that gaze and licked her wide lips with appreciation. He wanted to run, picturing himself
being featured on her menu as Yankee Pot Roast. Boyd introduced them, leaving out the
circumstances for Brian’s being with them.
“You are absolutely delicious, honey lamb,” Annie, who had to be at least seventy, allowed. “I
could eat you with a spoon.”
Brian forced a smile, fearing just that fate. They were shown to a big booth and Brian stared at
the menu that appeared to be written in a foreign language, the choices were so alien to him.
Fried alligator was on the fare, along with French words scattered with English and Creole and the
only thing he could make sense of was the kid’s menu choices.

                                                 - 40 -

“May I order for you, Brian?” Boyd asked, amused by his obvious confusion. “I won’t forget your
aversion to reptiles.”
Brian nodded, gave up, and Boyd ordered fried shrimp combos for his kids and gumbo and
crawfish etouffee for himself and Brian along with bottles of Voodoo Beer. The children were
involved in coloring the pictures of alligators and snakes on the back of the menu with crayons
provided by the hostess. Their root beer came in frosty mugs and the Voodoo Beer was better
than Brian expected. Seated next to Boyd, he let his thigh touch Boyd’s in a casual way and felt
Boyd automatically move over a little to break the connection. Brian didn’t pursue it.
“I take it you know Annie very well,” Brian observed and he nodded.
“Came here as a kid. Everyone did. Two years ago, some developers tried to take over the place
by buying it out from under her due to delinquent taxes. I got it back for her. A technicality but it
worked. She’s back on top again, the slump over. I know it’s hokey, Brian, the theme is silly, but
the kitchen is sublime.”
“It would have to be.”
Boyd laughed. “You are such a snob.”
“I never said I wasn’t.”
The gumbo lived up to Boyd’s rave, the filet seasoning just enough, and while Boyd added pepper
sauce to his, Brian found it quite hot without help. The seafood floating amongst the okra was
fresh and tasty and it was served with home-baked crusty French bread and salted butter. “I like
this gumbo better than the dirt that goes by the same name,” Brian joked and Boyd smiled.
“Told you.”
The crawfish etouffee was a red sauce on top of white rice and garnished by a whole boiled
crawfish that sprawled above the mound of food. Brian’s eyes grew wide as he stared at the
creepy crustacean that was all long whiskers and spindly legs and black eyes on stalks. “The cook
left the bait in the food,” he said with a shudder and Boyd instructed him to watch him and learn
how to eat a boiled crawfish. He picked it up, snapped off the head, peeled the meat out of the
body, ate it, then sucked the juice from the severed head and put the exoskeleton on the rim of
his plate. Brian stared at him in horror.
“You must be kidding.”
“Try it.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Chicken, I’d eat. I don’t eat cockroaches or whatever the hell that is.”
“Be brave, Brian. Try it.”
Brian didn’t enjoy being mocked, so he broke open the skeleton and picked out the pink and
white meat. It tasted fine, slightly sweeter than shrimp. “Now the head,” Boyd challenged. Brian
leaned over and put his lips to Boyd’s ear as he whispered,
“I’ll suck this head if you let me suck yours later.”
Boyd’s eyes closed as he processed that invitation, then smiled and pushed Brian back. “Don’t be
incorrigible. Try it.”
Brian sighed, thinking he’d sucked worse, and pulled the juice from the head into his mouth. It
tasted buttery, not bad, not good. He raised an eyebrow at Boyd in triumph and Boyd nodded,
proud of his bravery. The rest of the dish was unequivocally good, as was the bread pudding with
hard sauce and dark chicory coffee. By the time they left, Brian was stuffed but willing to come
back. The kids fell asleep as they drove to the bayou so Boyd could drop Brian off at the cabin.
“I’ll call you tomorrow after I take the kids home so we can talk about Monday.”

                                                 - 41 -

“You’re my lawyer again?”
“We’ll see, for now, yes, but if it gets complicated by Greg, I still think you need an expert.”
As they entered the road leading to the cabin, they saw red flashing lights and a uniformed state
patrol officer stopped them. Off to the right, a huge tow crane was dredging something from the
“What’s up, officer?” Boyd asked.
“This is a private road.”
“I know. I’m Boyd Coulter,” he produced his driver’s license. “My family owns this land. What
“An accident. Move on, Mr. Coulter.”
Boyd hesitated. “What accident?” He saw no one in his family nearby so he didn’t fear their
safety. No one else should be here, but there was more than one way to access the road, without
having to go through the gates. People did it all the time, locals, taking shortcuts home or to the
mill or to public fishing sites. The family allowed it, since the state demanded limited egress and
The men operating the crane cried out and the cop looked over as floodlights illuminated a car
being pulled from the murk. It was laden with moss and other plant life and water gushed from
the open windows as it emerged.
“Jesus Christ,” Boyd said. “That’s Greg Willis’s car.”
Brian looked at the vehicle and then at Boyd as a dark sense of dread fell with a thud between

Current Mood:       curious

Jan. 31st, 2005 04:16 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 11

“Probably shouldn’t have the kids around this,” Brian gently reminded Boyd. Even though Belle
and Mac were sleeping through the excitement, Boyd knew what he meant. He drove Brian to the
cabin and each man carried one sleeping youngster inside, depositing them beneath a quilt on the
bed in the guest room. The kids hardly stirred, filled to the gills with food and exhausted by the
day. Brian fetched two beers and handed Boyd one as he joined him in the main room.
“He wasn’t in the car, at least,” Brian observed. “That’s a good thing, right?”
“I guess,” Boyd said with a cautious edge. He knew of other cars that went into the bayou. The
swamp may have a turgid, static look on the surface, but strong currents beneath that layer
pulled inexorably towards the Gulf. Passengers in sunken cars had been sucked out of windows,
broken windshields, even moon roofs, and were found miles downstream, traveling on the
invisible currents in the water. By the time they reached the gnarled roots of a submerged tree or
the pylons of a dock, hanging up on this final catcher’s mitt before they reached the open sea, the
carnivorous fish and the gators had taken chunks of their identity with them.
“Maybe he just lost control in the mud.”

                                                 - 42 -

“He loved that car, Brian. Greg worshipped his mother. It was her car before she died. If he
wrecked it, he would’ve moved heaven and earth to dredge it up before the water ruined it.”
“It was a wreck already.”
“I know, but he was always tinkering with it, saying he was going to restore it to its former glory.
He just lacked the funds to do so.”
“He wasn’t drunk when he left here, wasn’t high. Why would he lose control of the car? It was a
long way from the road to the water. Suicide?”
“Over what?”
“The gay thing? Being outed?”
Boyd shook his head. “I don’t see Greg as the suicidal type. It requires more courage than he
had.” He thought of Jared, but shoved that memory into a corner. Brian lit a cigarette with
shaking hands. Boyd realized for the first time how shaken up his cool and collected client was
feeling. He lit it for him and said, “Whatever happened, it’s not your fault.”
“My fault? I never thought it was my fault, Boyd!”
“I’m agreeing with you.”
“Why would you even find it necessary to say that?”
A knock interrupted. Boyd went to answer it, finding Sheriff Carter and one of the patrol men on
the porch. “Evenin’, Boyd. Can we come in?”
“Of course.”
“Mr. Kinney,” the sheriff nodded at Brian, who returned the greeting with a slight wave of his
hand. The other cop twirled the wide brim of his hat in both hands, looking around at the interior
of the cabin with obvious surprise. He hadn’t expected anything this nice. Boyd offered the two
law men coffee or soft drinks, but they declined. They sat down on the couch as Boyd made sure
the door to the guest room was firmly shut.
“Someone else here?” The patrolman asked and the sheriff silenced him with a glare.
“My children. They’re sleeping,” Boyd explained, choosing the chair beside Brian’s. “Was Greg
Willis in that car?”
“No sir,” the sheriff said. “Came up empty. You stayin’ out here, Mr. Kinney?”
“The B&B was full, because of the wedding,” Boyd explained. “And I had my kids with me. It was
the best alternative I could come up with.”
“Other than your fine jail, of course,” Brian said with a brittle attempt at humor.
“You hear anything unusual out here today, Mr. Kinney? Brakes screeching, car moving fast?
“I’ve been gone since early morning. Mr. Dhue and his wife took me over to Boyd’s place. They
stayed until around noon, and then I spent the rest of the day with Boyd and his family.”
Boyd looked uneasy as the sheriff cast a stoic stare at him. He knew the man must find it odd
that he’d let an accused sex offender spend the day with his kids. He should have guessed no
good would come of this. Bonnie was going to throw a shoe over it. “We went over to the mall to
get my girl some soccer cleats and had dinner at Annie’s. We saw you guys dredging the bayou
as I was driving Brian home.”
“So you heard nothing, Mr. Kinney?”
“I wasn’t here.”
“How about last night?”
“I went to bed early. The storm made me sleepy. All I heard was thunder.”

                                                 - 43 -

“What time was that you went to bed?”
“I don’t know. Ten, maybe. Am I under suspicion for something?” Brian directed that question at
his lawyer. Boyd reached over and patted his arm.
“It’s okay, Brian.”
“This cabin is just the nearest house to the accident site, Mr. Kinney,” the sheriff explained. “Just
trying to put it all together.”
“I heard nothing.”
“When was the last time you saw Mr. Willis?”
Brian looked at Boyd, who nodded. “He came by here last night.”
“Did he now? What time was that?”
“Nine, maybe. Eight-thirty.”
“Did you invite him to drop by?”
“He just showed up?”
“How did he know you was here?”
“I have no idea.”
Boyd smiled. “Come on, Marc. You know how it is in Canard Rouge. As soon as Homer Dhue went
into town to get supplies for the cabin, the gossips strung it together. They’ve seen me with
Brian, knew I was trying to find him a place to stay.”
“Um-hum,” the sheriff returned his attention to Brian. “So he shows up on your doorstep. He say
“He wanted to talk about…the charges.”
“What charges?”
“You know what charges. The bullshit charges that you lodged against us. Accusing us of a crime
because Greg gave me head in a closed and private room.”
The patrolman dropped his hat and blushed bright red as he leaned over to pick it up. Brian
smirked at him. Boyd tensed. “Where’s this going, Marc?” he asked the sheriff.
“I’m gathering facts, Boyd. We can do it the easy way or I can take Mr. Kinney in on suspicion
and question him in lockup.”
“I have nothing to hide,” Brian said with a grim expression and the sheriff said,
“What did Mr. Willis have to say about your charges?”
“He wanted me to get it fixed.”
“Get Boyd to get the charges dropped or buy off the judge, whatever it took. He was panicked
because he didn’t want to be outed in his hometown. He said if I couldn’t get it fixed, he’d tell
everyone I forced him to do it.”
“What did you say?”
“I told him don’t do something long term stupid to fix a short term problem. I told him to own his
own sexuality. I told him to get out of town after all this was behind us, and start over, where he
could live his own life.”
“Did you offer him money?”

                                                 - 44 -

“How much?”
“We didn’t discuss amounts. He wasn’t interested in starting over. He wanted to stay here for
reasons I will never understand.”
“Were you worried about his accusation, Mr. Kinney?”
“Not really. It’s ridiculous. He’s a big boy, strong. I wasn’t armed. How was I supposed to force
him to do it? He came onto me, not the other way around. I figured he’d come to his senses.”
“And then what happened?”
“He left.”
“How long was he here?”
“Thirty minutes, tops.”
“Was he angry when he left?”
“I don’t know. It’s hard to tell with him. He always seems a little angry.”
“Did he threaten you?”
“Not physically.”
“In any way?”
Brian shrugged. “The same kind of thing he said before, either get it fixed or he was going to
make it hard for me.”
“And then what?”
“I called Boyd and told him Greg dropped by. I felt like he should know, and then I went to
“Did you hear his car drive away? Was he speeding?”
“I heard the wheels in the gravel. Nothing after that. It didn’t seem like he was peeling out, but I
don’t know. I didn’t hear a crash or anything.”
“Did you walk him to his car?”
“Did you watch him go?”
“Was he alone?”
“He was alone in the house. If he had someone waiting in the car, I didn’t know about it.”
“No one was in the car,” Boyd said. “I came out here after having dinner with my kids. Just to see
if Brian needed anything. They waited in the car for me. I saw Greg’s Cutlass in the drive. No one
was in it. I walked up to the door of the cabin.”
“Did you go in?”
“No. I, uh, I looked in the window and I saw Brian was with Greg, so I left.”
“Why is that? Don’t it make sense that you’d want to talk with them?”
“My kids were in the car, I…I didn’t want to leave them there, and since Brian seemed okay, I
He looked at Brian, who cast his gaze down to the floor. “Anything else?” the sheriff asked and
both men shook their heads. “If you think of anythin’, call me.”

                                                  - 45 -

He left the cabin and Boyd turned to Brian when they were alone. “I won’t lie for you, you know
that, right? If it comes down to it, I’ll tell them what I saw. I’m an officer of the court. I have no
“No attorney-client privilege, eh?”
“Not for witnessing a blow job, no.”
“Am I in trouble?”
“I don’t know, Brian. I just don’t know what to think. I’d better get the kids and go home.”
“Can’t you stay here tonight? I’ll sleep upstairs in the loft. I…I don’t want to be alone.”
Boyd knew that was a hard admission for Brian, but he shook his head. “I can’t. I’ll be in enough
trouble with Bonnie over this. I can’t let them sleep out here. I’m sorry.”
Brian nodded. “I understand. I’ll help you load them in the car.”
After the kids were strapped in and Boyd drove away, Brian stood there for a moment in this
strange and hostile place, swatting the mosquitoes that buzzed him and wondering how the hell
he had fallen into such a scary situation. He went into the house and picked up the phone. He
dialed a number from memory and said, “Listen, don’t talk, just listen. I need your help. I want
you to do exactly what I tell you to do.”
Current Mood:        irritated

Feb. 1st, 2005 07:31 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 12

On Sunday morning, Mac complained that Boyd’s pancakes weren’t as good as Homer Dhue’s had
been and sulked that Brian wasn’t around. Belle whined because Boyd wouldn’t let her wear her
new cleats to church. Boyd had slept fitfully the night before, after the incident at the bayou. The
dredged-up car was all anyone could talk about as they milled around in front of the parish
church that morning. To his relief, Bonnie wasn’t there. She worked late, he felt sure, at the
wedding. In Canard Rouge, Bonnie served as the de facto wedding planner as well as florist. She
had a knack for it. Their own wedding had been the talk of the town for years, She did an
exceptional job planning and executing it, especially since his family’s money gave her a huge
budget to work with. Boyd always had the feeling that once the extravaganza was over, and their
real life began, Bonnie was disappointed. It was as if she lived for the pageantry but resented the
tedium of reality. Her job allowed her to recreate that pageantry over and over again, even
though she wasn’t the star.
“Grandpa!” Mac shouted with glee and ran into the open arms of Boyd’s father as his parents
emerged from their gleaming black Cadillac Escalade. Boyd tensed as he watched his father bend
down to embrace his child. Plump and sweet-faced, Boyd Junior looked benevolent and paternal.
He was neither. Boyd’s mother, tall and regal in her Chanel suit, looked icy and distant. She was
both. They were far more affectionate with Boyd’s children than they had been with either his
sisters or him. It was as if their parenting skills skipped a generation. Boyd’s true “parents” were
the Dhue’s. who gave him emotional support and affection, with a little assist from his sisters.
‘Come give Grandpa some sugar, Belle,” he said to Boyd’s daughter and she ran into his arms.
“Are you coming to Sunday supper?” his mother inquired of Boyd. It was a rhetorical question.
Sunday supper was a ritual in his family, and he had no choice. He nodded.
“Of course.”
                                                  - 46 -

Supper at the plantation was served immediately after mass. The one thing to recommend it was
the cooking. Madam Dhue was a gem in the kitchen. He’d also get to see his sister, LuAnn, and
his neice, Fleur, who lived on the estate along with LuAnn’s husband, Rex. Rex would spend the
meal the way he spent his life, looking for opportunities to suck up to his father in law. As
manager at the mill and spouse to the only Coulter sibling who hadn’t disappointed the patriarch,
Rex viewed himself as successor to the family fortune. Boyd had no interest in the mill, so who
else would Junior put in charge when he decided to retire? His parents would complain about
Boyd’s inability to finish remodeling the old mill, and his father would probably probe him about
his marginal law practice. Only the children had fun at these meals.
Canard Rouge Plantation was a paradise for kids. An elegant two-level pool with a connecting
waterfall lured on hot days. A stable of horses and ponies were there to be ridden. Long, sloping
lawns and a complicated boxwood maze with a fountain in the middle was made for games. And if
the weather was ugly, there was a huge media room upstairs with a popcorn machine and soda
bar, Boyd’s experience growing up amid all this opportunity for fun had taught him that emotional
cruelty overshadowed material possessions by a long stroke.
That afternoon the children were treated to supper on the terrace along with their cousin Fleur, a
beautiful girl on the verge of her teens who felt the kids were brats and the adults were boring.
She spent the whole meal chatting with friends on her mobile. Inside, in the formal dining room
with the Turner paintings of battles at sea gracing the walls, a feast was served, compliments of
Madam Dhue. Ham cured in the plantation’s smoke house using local sugar was sliced on a platter
with fresh peaches and apricots. Cheddar grits, French snap beans, a salad of watercress and
plump strawberries accompanied the meat, along with her light as air buttermilk biscuits. For
dessert, there was his father’s favorite, shoo-fly pie and chicory coffee. The dinner conversation
was tense, even for this table.
“Just who the hell do you have staying in the cabin, Boyd?” his father demanded, his amiable face
disguising an overbearing personality.
“Why? Do you need to use it?”
“That’s not the point,” his father’s fork clattered on the pale blue willow pattern china as he let it
fall. “Who is he?”
“A client.”
“Someone you’re chatting up for business, taking fishing, what? People are saying all kinds of wild
things about him.”
“Such as?”
“Such as he’s a pervert. Such as he had something to do with that white trash Greg Willis driving
his car into the bayou.”
“Daddy, you know how people in this town talk,” LuAnn tried to defend her baby brother, but
their mother intervened.
“Had you gone to church with us, LuAnn, instead of sleeping in,” she cast a frigid judgment at
Rex. “You’d understand your father’s concern. What’s your answer, Boyd?”
“It’s just until tomorrow when I enter a plea for him, he pays a fine and he’s gone. He had
nowhere to go, Dad. The B&B was full because of the wedding and since the inn burned
down…what does it matter? He’s not bothering you.”
“You bivouacked a criminal on my property, you damned fool?”
Boyd felt the ham settle in his stomach like a swallowed brick. No wonder he had his first ulcer at
age eight. “Brian’s not a criminal, Dad. It’s just a stupid misdemeanor. It got blown out of
proportion by that religious fanatic, Mrs. Renard.”
“I hear it wasn’t the misdemeanor that got blown,” Rex joked and then visibly withdrew under the
glacial stare of Boyd’s mother.

                                                 - 47 -

“Not only do you bring him on my property, but you expose your kids to him? You wanting Bonnie
to raise a stink?”
‘He’s not a pervert, Dad. It’s an absurd nineteenth century law that should be changed. It’s an
embarrassment to have it on the books.”
“I knew that Willis boy wasn’t right. Just as good he killed himself, one less of his kind around
here. That’s what they all should do, if they had any dignity.”
Boyd thought of Jared, but controlled his rage. “We don’t know that Greg is dead. All they found
is his car. And even if he is, I can’t believe you’d say such a shitty thing.”
“Oh, go bleed on someone’s carpet who gives a good god damn about those degenerates. I want
that son of a bitch out of the cabin. Today.” Boyd tensed. He remembered Jon and Peter saying
the wedding guests departed today. Maybe he could get Brian in over there. His father went on.
“For God’s sake, don’t let him stay with you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You want people to gossip about you?”
“Why would they gossip about me?”
“Anymore than they already do,” Rex quipped and Boyd found a focus for his rage as he turned to
“You know Rex, I own twice as many shares in the mill as does your wife, thanks to my legacy
from my grandmother. And combined with the proxies I vote for my kids and for my sister
Lisette, I could make your continued employment a daily risk.”
Rex puffed up and whined, “God, Boyd, can’t you take a joke?”
“No,” he turned his attention back to his father. Boyd’s holdings in the mill were a source of
irritation to the old man, since Boyd refused to follow him into the business. “I’ll move Brian as
soon as I find him a suitable place to stay, Dad. Assuming that’s what he wants. But let me
remind you, you don’t own that cabin. I do. My grandfather, your old man, specifically left it to
me. So if I want to put Godzilla up in that cabin, it’s my right to do so. The only reason I’ll move
him is because he’d rather be in town.”
“Since when are you defending criminals, Boyd?” His father changed tactics. “I thought you
practiced civil law.”
“I’m defending him as a favor to Sheriff Carter since Hebert is incapacitated with that heart
“You aren’t beholding to any colored law man, Boyd. Why do you do these things? You think your
business clients will like this kind of publicity and gossip?”
“Stay out of my practice, Dad.” He pushed the pie slice away. He hadn’t eaten a bite, although he
loved it. “Will you keep an eye on the kids while I drive over there and talk to Brian about
whether he wants to move? If he does, I’ll have to drive him into town.”
“You run a limo service for convicts now?”
“He’s not a convict and they impounded his car.”
“Holy hell. Get him the hell out of here, Boyd. Think of your mother and sister and Fleur. You
want a sex pervert staying on the property with them?”
Boyd laughed. “Dad, Brian’s gay. The only person here in any danger would be Rex or you and I
think you’re not his type. Rex on the other hand may hold a certain appeal.”
Rex prided himself on his good looks, preened like a peacock and spent more on maintaining his
face and body than did most women. He glared at Boyd. “If that’s supposed to be funny, it’s not.”
“What’s the matter, Rex? Can’t take a joke?”

                                                - 48 -

Boyd left the table, told his children he’d be back and was stopped at the side door by Madam
Dhue as he was going to his car. “You take this shoo-fly pie to Mr. Brian. Homer promised and
didn’t deliver it. And I packed up a lunch for him, too,” she added a paper bag to his burden.
“Thanks, Madam,” he kissed her cheek and put the pie plate and bag on the shotgun seat as he
drove. Passing the site of the wreck, he saw the waterlogged Cutlass was gone, all that remained
of it was some crushed vegetation and the deep grooves where heavy equipment churned the
When he arrived at the cabin, he immediately spotted Brian on the dock. He was stretched out on
a bath sheet, his lean, hard body on display in a brief black Speedo. His skin glistened with a
combination of sweat, sunscreen and DEET. Ear buds were plugged into a small IPOD, so he
didn’t hear Boyd approach. Boyd stood there for a moment,, staring down at him, He
remembered what Jared called this body type. “He’s a David,” Jared would say. It was his highest
compliment, for it referred to the smooth, athletic physique of Michelangelo’s masterpiece of
sculpture, David. Jared preferred this long, lean look to the gym bunny type, and the coveted
“David” title was seldom conferred. Boyd never earned it. He never progressed past “whiteboy
cute” on Jared’s scale of masculine beauty. Yes, Brian was definitely a David. Too bad Jared
wasn’t here to agree.
Boyd dropped down to sit Indian-style beside Brian, removing his tie and opening a couple
buttons of his shirt. He adjusted his dark glasses and reached for Brian’s DEET, spraying it on his
exposed skin. Brian opened one eye to identify him and said,
“Don’t use it up. It’s all that stands between being devoured by bugs and me.”
“There’s more in the pantry.”
“Wassup, Boyd? Nice fable about the snakes, by the way, I believed you.”
“It’s no fable, Brian. They’re reptiles. They sun on the dock all the time. They won’t come out
while you’re here, more than likely, but if they get here first, they often don’t want to leave.”
“I haven’t seen a single slither.”
“Just wait. What are you doing, anyway?”
“In this heat and humidity?”
“Sun’s out. Why not? “ He held up a sweated bottle of cold water. “I have my libation. May as well
look good.”
“Don’t you feel self-conscious in that little suit?” Boyd noticed Brian was so well- endowed that
the suit left no room for exaggeration and no exaggeration was needed. He wasn’t experiencing
penis envy. He had nothing to be ashamed of in that realm. But he lacked Brian’s finely honed
body and he knew it. Fitness resolutions bubbled up again.
“I’d take it off to avoid a tan line, but I figured that would probably violate some other arcane
Louisiana law.”
“You’d be right. You’re turning red.”
“Red first, tan later. You’re turning a little red yourself, Boyd.”
Boyd sighed and stood up. “Can we go in? We need to talk and it’s too hot and swampy out here.”
“Okay, give me a hand up you big sissy. I’ve been out here long enough, anyway.” Boyd offered
his hand, Brian gripped it, and held it a little too long as he stood up, stretching his frame and
watching Boyd watch his body, Brian smiled and kept his hand on the back of Boyd’s neck as they
walked back to the cabin. Once inside, Brian peeled off the skimpy suit and stood there, naked,
confirming Boyd’s opinion of his endowment, as he said,

                                                  - 49 -

“I want to wash off the bug spray and the sweat. Be right back,” Brian felt Boyd glance at his
retreating ass and he smiled to himself. Straight as a desert road? Don’t think so. A winding,
serpentine mountain path was more like it.
Boyd went to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. He leaned in the open door, letting the
chilled air from the interior cool him. He stood there, eyes closed, waiting for the cold to
penetrate his heat. He grabbed a can of Coke and held the frosty metal against his forehead, his
cheek, his neck, soothed by the cool skin of the container. He then popped it open and guzzled a
long draw, but he still felt warm. His heat was impenetrable by modern conveniences. His heat
was a long-standing problem, like summers in Louisiana. You could battle them, you could ease
them, but they kept coming back, demanding attention. He was distracted by the sound of wheels
skidding in the gravel. He went over to the window and saw a white Chevy Malibu with Florida
tags. Obviously, a rental. It seemed all rentals were white and had Florida tags. The car was
parked next to his Explorer and a man got out from behind the wheel.
He immediately began batting at a swarm of mosquitoes as he stumbled towards the cabin. Boyd
smiled, reminded of Melanie Griffith’s mother waving off the attacking birds in that Hitchcock film.
The guy’s khakis and pink oxford cloth shirt were wilting in the humidity and by the time he
reached the door he had several red welts from successful dive-bombers. Boyd opened the door
and said, “Can I help you?”
The man had the look of a reporter. Boring, unfashionable, clueless. His dark hair was curling in
the damp and his blue-tinted sunshades had fogged over, blinding him. He took them off to
reveal large, bewildered brown eyes. He wasn’t bad looking, but he wasn’t particularly good
looking, either. He was the everyman who sold product in countless ads. Not threatening but not
“I-I’m looking for Brian Kinney.”
“Who are you?”
Brian came up behind Boyd and leaned a proprietary arm across Boyd’s shoulders as he leered at
the visitor. Fresh from his shower, Brian wore nothing but a towel draped loosely at his narrow
hips. He smiled as he said, “Hello, Theodore. It’s about fucking time.”
Current Mood:      aggravated

Feb. 2nd, 2005 07:58 pm - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 13

Ted stared from Brian to Boyd, and back again. He supposed he shouldn’t be surprised that even
in this backwater Brian Kinney could find a hunk, but he was. Brian was an immutable force.
Other than an occasional call to Michael, Brian’s best friend, usually when Brian was drunk and
feeling lonely, or a call to Gus and his mother Lindsay, to see how they were doing, no one in
Pittsburgh had heard from Brian once he hit the road. Ted was Brian’s money manager, so their
contacts were by email and were strictly limited to business. Since he sold his ad agency, Brian’s
assets were considerably more complex and Ted devoted a lot of time to these accounts. He got
paid well for it, and had done a good job of growing Brian’s wealth and sheltering him from taxes.
This sudden phone call with a list of instructions, many of which Ted found inexplicable, and the
command to fly down to Louisiana, had come as a complete surprise to Ted.
Brian introduced the two men, Ted Schmidt, Boyd Coulter, then left them there as he went into
the bedroom to dress. Boyd offered Ted a Coke, which he gladly accepted, and then he fetched
                                                 - 50 -

some Benedryl cream from the bathroom for Ted’s bug bites. The lotion soothed the itch and Ted
smiled as he sat down on the couch, giving Brian’s latest conquest a more thorough visual exam.
He was hot, no doubt about it, in a sort of straight guy way, which surprised Ted. The fact that he
was very blond and waspish, didn’t surprise Ted at all. He was more age-appropriate than Brian’s
only known previous romantic attachment, and he supposed he could be misinterpreting the
casual intimacy between them. But knowing Brian, he probably wasn’t and he felt sorry for the
fate this guy was inevitably facing. Brian was heartbreak on the hoof. Maybe Ted could offer Boyd
some consolation when that time came. He’d certainly like to try.
They all lived on Brian’s rejects, like hyenas following a pride of lions and skimming off the bones
of their devoured prey. “So how long have you and Brian been together?” Ted asked amiably and
Brian came from the bedroom in jeans and no shirt, glaring at his visitor.
“Don’t prove what a dipshit you are, Theodore. Boyd’s not my trick, he’s my lawyer.”
He smirked at Boyd as if to suggest he could be both. Boyd frowned and sat down heavily on the
couch, annoyed by this intrusion since he wanted to talk to Brian alone. He also found Ted’s
presence troubling because Brian always seemed to have an agenda for everything he did. What
was his agenda for this one? “Did you do what I asked you to do, Theodore?” Brian opened the
sack Madam Dhue sent with Boyd and began peeking inside containers to assess the contents.
What he tasted pleased him and he heaped a plate with the food.
“I’ll need to get my briefcase out of the car.”
“And so? Skitter off and do that.”
“But those bugs…” Ted shuddered. Boyd tossed him the DEET.
“Try this.”
Ted sprayed it on, then hesitated at the door. Brian prompted him by saying, “If you let one of
those flying vampires in here, it’s your ass, Theodore.”
Ted sprinted towards the car as Brian chuckled and carried his plate of food into the main room.
He forked a bite of ham. “You cook this?”
“Madam Dhue cooked it.”
“I knew that. Joke, Boyd.”
Boyd supposed this wasn’t his day to absorb jokes. ”Who is he and why is he here?”
“Ted’s a number-cruncher, and not a bad one at that. He worked at my agency and now he’s in
the business of financial counseling. Everyone who worked for me saw at least a little something
from the acquisition and Theodore used his to set up this business. I’m his principal client, right
now. But he has others.”
“So why is he here?”
Ted burst in, panting from the heat, and his exertion. He opened a briefcase on the table and left
a rollaboard suitcase by the door. He handed Brian a leather checkbook cover and said, “I’ve gone
online and opened an account at the Chase in New Orleans as you requested. I arranged a wire
transfer in the sum you wanted, but of course it won’t confirm until Monday. And I can pick up
temporary checks on the new account at that same time. It’s a lot of money, Brian, in a low
interest bearing money market account. Why would you want to do that?”
“I have a feeling I may be spending some cash soon, and I want to know that I have local money
I can easily access.”
“Pittsburgh money spends as fast as New Orleans money, Brian.”
“Pittsburgh checks don’t.”
“You want to tell me what’s going on?” Ted pleaded.
And so Brian did. Bluntly, quickly, without embellishment or any rationalization. He left off with
the car crash in the bayou. Ted listened with increasing interest. “So your inability to decline oral
                                                  - 51 -

sex no matter what the setting has finally caught up with you?” Ted crowed and Brian lifted a
“I’ve declined more oral sex than you’ve had in your life, Theodore, and if I wanted moral
judgment I would have called my mother. The point is, I don’t like where this whole thing is going
and I refuse to play the part of the framed Yankee boy in this Southern gothic revival.”
Boyd laughed, unable to deny it had that flavor. “Brian, there’s still a chance you can plea out and
leave town tomorrow.”
“And there’s still a chance pigs will tap dance out of my ass, too, but not holding my breath.”
Ted sighed. “Why am I here?”
“I’m under some weird kind of house arrest, Ted. I can’t leave the area, have no car, I’m trapped.
I need some feet on the ground in case I want something done and I need a driver.”
“Hello? I was summoned down here to be your flunky? I have a business, Brian!”
“You have a computer. Everything you do is online, anyway. And I’ll double your fees for the
amount of time you’re down here.”
“Double?” Boyd didn’t think Ted’s eyes could get any bigger, but they did. Obviously, Brian must
have some serious money if his management fees were that significant. Not motivated by money
because he always had it, Boyd found Ted’s symbiosis with Brian interesting. He couldn’t imagine
a sexual relationship between them, wasn’t even convinced that Ted was gay.
“There’s a second bedroom through that door, Ted,” Brian announced. “Put your shit up and come
back out.”
Ted drug his suitcase with him and Boyd broached an uncomfortable topic as Brian cut into the
pie and placed slices on three plates. He handed one to Boyd and took another for himself,
bringing it into the main room as Boyd said, “Uh, are you sure you want to stay here, Brian? The
B&B was supposed to open up today. Would you rather be in town?”
Brian took a bite of the rich custard and flaky crust, his eyes closing at the delectable flavor of the
oddly named treat. “Are you kicking me out of yet another home, Boyd?” He was shrewd enough
to read the tea leaves and when Boyd’s face colored he knew he hit a nerve. “Let me guess. The
family doesn’t like the felon staying at the ol’ plantation?”
Boyd frowned, annoyed by Brian’s ability to see right through him. “I own this cabin, Brian, and
you can stay here as long as you’d like. I just thought you might be more comfortable in
“Nope,” Brian went into the kitchen and retrieved the slice of pie he had cut for Ted, deciding to
eat it himself. “I’ve grown rather fond of the swamp. I like the feeling I’m risking my life every
time I open the door and I like the isolation of it. It’s not as if Canard Rouge is civilized. Shit, is
there even a gym in that town?”
Boyd smiled. “There are weights and fitness machines in the rec room of the Catholic church. For
a small fee, anyone can use it.”
“Not exactly the kind of gym I’m used to, but if I keep eating like this, it will have to do.” He put
the plate down and Boyd realized he had eaten his own slice, after abandoning dessert with his
family. Ted rejoined them and Brian invited, “Help yourself to some shoo-fly pie, Theodore. It’s in
the kitchen.”
“Some WHAT?”
Brian laughed. Ted had so much to learn.
Later that afternoon, Boyd retrieved his kids from the family’s clutches and delivered them to
their mother at her house in town. Once it had been their house, and it was a pretty place with a
formal garden and stained glass windows to go with the period of its architecture. Inside, the
sterile cleanliness that was Bonnie’s idea of order and style prevailed. The white sofa and chairs
were still alabaster white. She had masterfully protected them.
                                                  - 52 -

In her pink velour sweats, her raven hair pulled back in a ponytail, Bonnie resembled a petite
teenager. One with a dangerous body. “What’s the story with Greg Willis and how are you
involved?” She demanded and he sighed. Was there nowhere safe from the gossip?
“I was representing him. I don’t know what happened, Bonnie. I guess he wrecked his car.
Whether he swam out and is hiding somewhere or wandering around in a daze or dead and
drowned, I have no clue.”
“What about that guy you put up in the cabin? Who is he and how do you know him?”
The curse of the small town. “He’s BRIAN!” Mac volunteered. “We like BRIAN!”
“Brian’s a hottie,” Belle added, unhelpfully, and so the war began. Bonnie carefully shuttled the
children off to their rooms and when Boyd tried to escape, she stopped him.
“Not so fast. Would you care to explain?” Arms crossed under her full breasts, she was amazing in
her ability to be so formidable even though she was so small.
“Explain what?” Boyd played dumb. She narrowed her eyes into angry, dark slits.
“Don’t fuck around, Boyd. What the hell are you doin’ bringing some fucking pervert around our
children? I already know he’s the queer that Greg Willis got caught sucking off in the garage.
What I don’t know is why you’re his lawyer, or why you’re putting him up, and I really don’t know
why you would let our children near him?”
When she was mad, Bonnie’s carefully cultivated shell of sugar melted and she became the tough
little Cajun that she was. “I’m not getting into the case or the circumstances, but Brian is a
victim, Bonnie, not a monster and he was never alone with the kids. He went to the mall with us.
Big fucking deal.”
“A victim. You would think that, now wouldn’t you?”
“Meaning what?”
“Whatever you want it to mean, Boyd.” She stared a hole straight through him and he could
almost feel himself shrink. “I know you,” she hissed in a low voice. “And don’t ever forget that,
not for a minute.”
“How could I? You won’t let me.”
“Damned right.”
“This is going nowhere. I have to leave, I have a docket call in the morning.”
“Boyd, you bring that man around my kids again and you’ll be seeing them only with a supervisor
around to watch, you get me?”
“Don’t threaten me.”
“It’s not a threat. It’s a fact.”
“I would never endanger my kids, Bonnie, and I resent the hell out of the fact you would suggest
“I don’t give a rat’s asshole what you ‘resent’, Boyd Coulter. You’re always lettin’ your alligator
mouth get your butterfly butt in trouble. You bite off more than you can chew every time you
open that yap. Well, you can’t handle this kind of mess. And you better not fuck with me or I will
ruin you but good.”
“That would be just great for the kids, now wouldn’t it, Bonnie?”
“I need three-hundred dollars, Boyd. Put it in my account tomorrow, you hear?”
“Why the hell would I do that?”
“One of my best vases got dropped at the wedding and with shipping, it will cost me that much to
replace it.”
“Why the hell is that my fault?”
                                                     - 53 -

“Because I say it is, Boyd. You got the money, don’t be cheap. Don’t make me talk to the judge
about what’s good for the kids. Don’t make me talk to your Daddy.”
Boyd pushed past her, found his children, kissed them goodbye and left the house, unable to
breathe inside that structure. He was fumbling with his keys when Sheriff Carter pulled up to the
curb and lowered the window on his panda car. He motioned Boyd over, and Boyd came up to
him and said, “Evenin’, Marc.”
“Evenin’, Boyd. We done found Greg Willis.”
“Is he okay?”
“No, he’s not okay, Boyd. He’s gone to pieces.”
“You mean he’s cracked up?”
“I mean he’s in pieces. Four of them, although some of the parts are still missing and ain’t likely
to be found.”
Boyd took a step back as if to retreat from that news. “Wh-what the fuck are you saying, Marc?”
“Don’t think it was gators. Most likely he got caught up in the blades of a powerful engine, one of
the barges, maybe. The coroner will have to tell us. He’ll be coming in from Baton Rouge. We put
Greg up in bags in the funeral home's cold storage. Right now I can’t say what killed him. If he
was dead when he got cut up, don't know nothing. But I can tell you that ol’ boy of yours better
not try to leave town or I will put out an APB and drag his ass back in chains.”
“Surely you don’t believe Brian had anything to do with this.”
“I don’t think he did and I don’t think he didn’t. Just see that he stays put. He’s out on your bond,
man. Don’t let him fuck you over.”
Boyd nodded and the sheriff drove away. It was impossible not to avoid images of Greg’s
sectioned body in his brain, no matter how hard he tried to stop it. He got into the Explorer and
turned over the engine, sitting there a minute as the air conditioner cranked, wondering what the
hell he should do now.
Current Mood:      anxious

Feb. 3rd, 2005 07:57 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 14

Brian left Ted asleep in the cabin and walked out to Boyd’s car, slipping into the shotgun seat.
When Boyd called and said he was coming by, Brian sensed his tension. The night air was gelled
with humidity and heat lightning rolled across the horizon with a low rumble. Boyd was smoking
and Brian lit up, waiting for him to speak. He didn’t. Instead he put the car in gear and left the
driveway for the road. The moisture in the air caused the windows to fog, and he turned on the
defroster as he felt Brian watch his profile in the glow from the dash.
“Where are we going?” Brian’s curiosity finally overcame him. “I suppose the closest airport is too
much to hope for?”
“Have you ever been in love, Brian?” Boyd asked, not the response Brian was expecting. Not a
question he ever expected to hear from him. Not a question he found appealing. He leaned back
against the seat, staring out at the gnarled arms of the trees that lined the road like monster
“I don’t know. Maybe once, not sure.”
                                                - 54 -

Boyd glanced at him. “How can you not be sure?”
“I’m fucked up emotionally. I can never be sure of my feelings. Bad childhood, bad drugs, bad
boy, I don’t know what the problem is. I just have an aversion to entanglements of that stripe.”
“You’re sure you love Gus, right?”
“Yes, but that’s different. And I love his mom, as a friend, and Michael, as a friend. But after that,
it gets murky for me. Why do you ask?”
“What happened with this one you may or may not have loved?”
“He dumped me.”
Boyd looked surprised. He didn’t expect that answer. Brian struck him as the type who walked,
not the other way around. “Why?”
“He fell for someone else. Or maybe he just got sick of waiting for me to commit, or both.
Whatever the reason, the result is the same. He left me.”
“I’m sorry.”
Brian shrugged. “It was quite awhile ago. I have no ill feelings towards him. All I’ve ever really
wanted is his happiness. He’s much younger than I am. He still has a lot of living to do.”
“Is he still with the other guy?”
“I think so. I’ve been gone for awhile. He was when I left. I’ve heard rumors that they have their
issues, but who doesn’t? The guy he’s with is a musician, he’s on the road a lot. I guess that
makes it hard. My ex is finishing up college, so he can’t travel with him. Note to self, collect on
that tuition money I gave him when he graduates and goes to work.”
“You paid for his school?”
“No one else to do it. Like I said, I only want the best for him.”
“Do you still love him?”
“I’ll always care about him. But if you mean is there still an ember of a romance? No. That’s over.
He made his choice and I moved on with my life. Now it’s your turn. Have you ever been in love?”
“I’ve been married.”
“So? Lots of reasons to get married. One of them is love. Many of them are not.”
They hit the highway and Brian decided not to inquire, letting Boyd have his head on this journey.
He had nothing better to do with his night. “I’ve been in love, Brian. I fucked it up.”
Brian smiled. “Welcome to the club.”
“Yeah, what a distinguished membership we are.”
“Was it Jared?”
“Was what Jared?”
“The person you loved?”
Boyd glanced at his passenger and smiled. “You’re determined to out me, aren’t you?”
“My gaydar’s not perfect, Boyd, but it’s not bad. I think I have you made.”
“I’m not gay.”
“What are you, then? Bi?”
“I think I’m asexual.”
Brian laughed. “Why? Did you lose your dick in the war? That’s the only way I’ll buy that one,
“No, still have the equipment,” he smiled wryly. “And it still works.”
                                                 - 55 -

“Then you’re not asexual. Why would you even say that?”
“Because I stopped having sex. Doesn’t that make you asexual?”
“That makes you weird and a frustrated time bomb. You mean you stopped having sex with other
people, I take it?”
Boyd was glad the dark concealed his blush. “Yeah, that. I still…well, yeah. With other people.”
“First of all, Canard Rouge isn’t exactly a great place for a hook up.”
“Shit, I was there five minutes and had my cock sucked.”
Boyd laughed. “And see where it got you? I’m not like you, Brian.”
“You’re close enough to Lafayette or even New Orleans to have no excuse for celibacy. You’re
young, you’re handsome, you’re smart, you have money, taste, so this retrograde virginity is a
mystery, Boyd. Who burned you so badly you don’t even want to try anymore?”
He exited from the highway and drove through the backstreets of a town. Brian wasn’t sure what
town, hadn’t paid attention, but it was bigger than Canard Rouge, while smaller than a real city.
“How long has it been for you?”
“Four years.”
“Wait a minute, how old is Mac?”
“He’s four. Barely. He’s my kid, Brian, don’t bother doing the math.”
“I’m not sure I’ve gone four days without having sex unless I was sick or something. How do you
do that and why?”
“I don’t know how. I just lost interest in it. I went into some weird kind of shut down, physically
and emotionally when…well, about four years ago.”
“When Jared died?”
Boyd nodded, and parked the Explorer in the parking lot of a small cinderblock building. The lot
was packed with vehicles, mostly trucks, some Jeeps, some SUV’s. The unassuming building had
an elegant neon sign that read, “Spike”. Brian looked to the driver for an explanation and Boyd
“Spike La Font was a fullback on the football team when I was quarterback, in high school. Nice
guy, dirt poor, not good enough to get an athletic scholarship, but determined. He did a few years
in the Army and when he got out, I helped him finance this bar. Did the incorporation for him,
helped him get his liquor license. He’s paid me back every dime, with interest. I come here
sometimes when I feel like Canard Rouge is strangling me. This is one of those times.”
“It’s a gay bar, isn’t it?”
“One of the few in this whole region. Lafayette has some, Baton Rouge, and of course the French
Quarter in New Orleans is practically one big gay bar, but out here in the boonies, Spike is pretty
much it.”
“I would have dressed in my better queer clothes had I known,” Brian quipped as they left the
Explorer and went inside. Dance music pounded on the sound system, but there was no dance
floor. Instead there was a long, polished oak bar, some vinyl booths and three pool tables, all in
use. Brian was reminded of Woody’s, a favorite hangout in Pittsburgh. The place was crowded,
especially for a Sunday night, and yet Brian didn’t immediately see one man he’d consider fucking
amid the bodies occupying the space.
“Boyd!” A big man came from behind the bar to greet Boyd with a bear hug. He was all bear,
heavy-set, bearded, having just a shadow of his former athletic build under an extra fifty pounds
of Southern cooking. He eyed Brian like he was a stack of thousand dollar bills and Brian cringed
                                                 - 56 -

internally. He was not bear bait, never would be. Not his style. Boyd introduced him to Spike and
then they retreated to a back booth with their beers, ignoring the eager stares they drew as they
crossed the room.
“I’m beginning to understand your celibacy as I scan the choices here,” Brian quipped and Boyd
smiled at him.
“I don’t come to Spike’s to get laid, Brian. I come here to escape. To be myself. It’s hard to
“No, it isn’t. I understand completely. You can let the guard down here. Be one of the boys.”
“Not really. I don’t fit in here. I don’t fit in anywhere.”
“What happened to you to drive you so deep into the closet, Boyd?”
“I’m not closeted. To me, closeted means you’re a practicing homosexual and you hide that fact.
That’s not where I am. I’m not a practicing anything.”
“How did you meet Jared?” Brian switched tactics.
Boyd smiled. “It was in New Orleans. I had just arrived from Chicago, where I went to law school,
to start my first lawyer job as a clerk at the Fifth Circuit. Of course, growing up in Louisiana, I’ve
spent a lot of time in New Orleans. My family has a place there. I was using it while looking for an
apartment. It’s a big place in the Garden District. Too big for me and too far from the action. It
was early summer. New Orleans in early summer is not a climate that invites. I had worked all
day and went around to look at some potential apartments all evening, with a leasing agent.
Everything was either phenomenally expensive or a complete hovel. I was feeling down, like I’d
never find a home, so I went to Arnaud’s to drown my sorrows in rich food.”
Brian laughed. “Not my method of pain management, but go on.”
“As I walked up to the door, this guy comes out of nowhere and says, ‘For what you’d pay for a
meal for yourself in that overpriced hack restaurant, you can buy a better meal for both of us
with change left over’. I stared at him. He was this gorgeous black guy with long braids and eerie
gray-green eyes. He wore white coveralls, no shirt, and both his coveralls and his skin was
splattered with paint. I figured he was a painter, right? A house painter. I asked him why I’d want
to buy him a meal and he said it beats eating alone. I know the Quarter is full of freaks and
thieves and killers, but something about this guy read true to me. I went with him to a place on
Rampart that looked as disreputable as his coveralls. But inside, it was beautiful. Exposed brick
walls, decorated with what I would later learn were his paintings. At that time, they were for sale
for next to nothing. White linens on the tables, live jazz. The floors were black and white tile and
the waiters wore black. I thought we’d be kicked out for sure, given the way he was dressed.”
“But you weren’t,” Brian said, picturing the scene with the help of Boyd’s vivid recall.
“Oh no, the staff all knew him, exclaimed over him like he was a celebrity. The manager came
over and told him they sold another painting, so they had a blank on the wall. He said he’d even
up with him later. We were shown to a prime table overlooking the street. I remember there were
calla lilies in a vase, and white candles.”
“Tres romantique,” Brian teased and Boyd shrugged.
“I don’t want to do this.”
“But you will, Boyd. You need to talk and I’m willing to listen.”
“I haven’t really talked about it to anyone.”
“Attorney client privilege.”
Boyd smiled. “I don’t think it works that way.”
“Let’s pretend it does. So you ordered crawfish etoufee?”
Boyd shook his head. It wasn’t crawfish etoufee. It was shrimp creole. And Jared ordered
pompano baked in parchment. And in the background, the jazz trio played something by Dave
                                                   - 57 -

Brubeck. He closed his eyes as the memory fired in his brain. Bittersweet, edged in black lace,
the color of mourning.
Current Mood:       sad

Feb. 4th, 2005 06:00 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 15

The jazz band had packed up their instruments. The waiters were dividing the tip pool. Their
coffee was growing chilled, and yet the last thing Boyd wanted to do was to leave the restaurant,
leave Jared. He had never met anyone like the painter. He was not just beautiful, he was full of
fire and passion about life, his work, the world. He had an innate intelligence that had nothing to
do with school, and an artistic integrity that had nothing to do with financial success. He was
funny, he was insightful, he was completely captivating. And he seemed to find Boyd equally of
interest, which surprised Boyd since he thought of himself as pretty dull.
“Jared, here’s your cut on the painting I sold, less the settlement of your tab,” the owner handed
him a few twenties. “When may I expect a replacement to fill the void on the wall?”
“I don’t paint to a deadline, Joseph. We shall see.”
“Fine, other artists, other artists. Look, boys, hate to break this up, but the cleaners are here.
Time to go.”
Boyd insisted on paying and Jared let him. Jared had been right, the meal cost less than what a
dinner for one would have cost him at Arnaud’s and the food was at least comparable. As they left
the restaurant, Jared said, “My place or yours?”
“I, uh…”
“Warning about my place. It’s my studio. It’s devoted to my work. So it’s not exactly habitable.”
“Where is it?”
“In the Vieux Carre, on Dumaine. Where are you at?”
“I’m looking for a place,” Boyd stalled, not sure what it meant to go home with Jared. Was he
expecting sex? He made no secret of the fact he was gay. And yet he never even asked Boyd
about his own sexuality. “Right now I’m staying at a house my family has in town.”
“Your family? You live at home?”
“No, they aren’t living there, they live in the country. This is just their city place.”
Jared laughed and shook his head. “You said you were from Cajun country, but you left out the
rich part. Where is this ‘city place’? The Garden District?”
Boyd shrugged, nodded, and Jared smiled at him. “It’s okay to be rich, Boyd. Beats the shit out of
being poor. I’ve been poor my whole life and it sucks. Let’s go to my place. A black boy walking
around the Garden District dressed like this in the middle of the night ain’t likely to make it out
without a visit by a squad car.”
They began walking and Boyd said, “You must have some white relatives, Jared. You have a
blended look, those eyes…”
Jared smiled. “Granddaddy. Unofficial, of course. Grandma was his woman in town. Like your
family, he lived in the country and kept a place in the Quarter. She was his kept lady.”
“Did you know him?”
                                                  - 58 -

“No, he died before I was born. But he left her enough to raise her family, so that was something.
Unfortunately my old man squandered what was left and lost the house she had on Dauphin.
Useless heroin addicted piece of shit.”
“Where is he now?”
“St.Louis Number One,” Jared replied, the cemetery across from the border of the Quarter.
“I’m not. He was a cunt. So where exactly do you live in Cajun land? You don’t look Cajun.”
“I’m not. It’s a small town called Canard Rouge.”
Jared laughed and swung around a lamp post, coming up to lean against Boyd, resting his hands
on the back of his neck. Boyd was startled by the hard, muscular feel of Jared’s body against his
own, as he inhaled his scent. A blend of turpentine, oil based paint and soap. “What’s a pretty
blond boy like you doing living in a town called Red Duck?”
Boyd didn’t try to pull free as he whispered, “Just lucky I guess.”
“How lucky?” Jared teased and tightened his grip on Boyd, narrowing the gap between them.
Boyd’s heart was hammering so hard he could scarcely breathe and he struggled to keep the heat
in his groin from evolving into an erection. In his life, he had never experienced such a strong
physical and emotional reaction to anyone, male or female. He dated the usual girls, he had
casual sex with them at Northwestern, he even went all the way with Bonnie before he left for
college, but his attraction to men had been battled down until he was able to deny it completely.
But not anymore. Jared brought it to life with a roar.
“You own a plantation with your house niggers and your field niggers and all that, Massa
Coulter?” Jared teased and Boyd tensed.
“My people are millers. They didn’t even come down here until after the Civil War. There was
none of that, Jared. They aren’t farmers.”
Jared let his hands wander down Boyd’s back, over his ass, and up again. The lateness of the
hour left the streets thinned of foot traffic, but not empty. Those who passed glanced but said
nothing. The French Quarter was used to queers. “Too bad. I was seeing a Mandingo kind of
game in our future.”
“Not funny.”
“Isn’t it?” Jared leaned forward and pressed his soft, separated lips to Boyd’s mouth and Boyd felt
the power go out of his knees. He rested his hands on Jared’s bare shoulders to keep from falling
down. His head spun as hormones flooded his body and he let his tongue find Jared’s, the kiss
holding for an eternity. Jared started it and ended it, leaning back to stare into Boyd’s eyes.
“You’re so hard you’re impaling me, bro’. Been awhile, baby?”
Boyd simply nodded. There was no escaping from this, no hiding, no retreat. The feelings were
too powerful to deny. “Then let’s not waste time,” Jared said and took Boyd’s hand, leading him
into a nearby gap between two rows of low-rise buildings. The clammy night echoed their heat
and Jared shoved Boyd against the wall and unzipped Boyd’s pants as his tongue beat a rhythm
in his mouth. Boyd closed his eyes and let it happen, despite the risk, despite the foolishness,
shuddering when Jared’s long artistic fingers closed around his erection. “You’re big for a white
boy,” Jared teased against his ear. Boyd could say nothing, shaking from the inside out as his
body relented to the touch he had longed for in secret his whole life.
Within a minute, Jared’s knowledgeable jerking relieved Boyd and he cried out as he shot,
clinging to Jared to remain upright. Jared smiled and wiped his hand on his coveralls before
fastening Boyd’s clothes back the way they were. “You’re so hot,” he murmured. “We gotta get to
my place before we both implode.”
“Boyd, where are you?” Brian Kinney brought him back from New Orleans, back from that time in
his life, back from Jared. To a sad little gay bar named Spike. Brian’s hand covered his and Boyd

                                                - 59 -

didn’t withdraw from his touch. Tears rolled down his cheeks, unrecognized by him, and he
heaved a ragged sigh as he leaned back against the booth and wiped his face on his sleeve.
“Sorry,” he replied. “I got lost.”
“Yeah, I’ll say you did. How lost did you get? How far down a rabbit hole did he take you? You left
me at dinner at that restaurant with his paintings on the walls What did I miss?”
Boyd let his fingers interweave with Brian’s. It was more a comforting gesture than one of
promised intimacy. “That was our first time, my first time with a man, my first time as my true
“Wow, late bloomer. Not even kid stuff?”
He shook his head. “Spike came onto me a couple times in high school, but I was terrified and not
really attracted to him. I went to a gay bar in Chicago, once, but I ran out of there when they
started to come over to me, because I had no clue what to do. I had fantasies about it, but never
did anything to make it a reality. Until Jared.”
“He seduced you?”
“I guess so, but that’s not really a fair way to put it because it makes him sound predatory. I
wanted him, Brian. I wanted him to move on me. If he hadn’t, I never would have moved on him.
I was that shy. But he did, and I was thrilled.”
“Were you doing girls?”
“Some. In college, law school. Casual stuff, required by the physical pressure, you know how it is.
Just getting off. But I always walked away from it feeling like something was not quite right and I
was missing out on the big bang.”
“Until Jared banged you?” Brian teased him and Boyd smiled.
“Something like that.”
Spike came over to them with two fresh beers, noticing the hand-holding with a smile before they
disentangled and accepted the drinks. “So what the fuck is this about Greg Willis?” Spike intruded
and Boyd winced. He had been so lost in his own memories, he hadn’t accomplished his goal in
luring Brian out of the cabin. He hadn’t told him the bad news.
“Yeah, Spike, it’s a mess.”
“A mess?” Spike laughed. “Lemme tell you sumpin’, Boyd,” Spike became very Cajun at times,
slipping into the patois with ease. “Many is the time I coulda cut up that cockteasing motherfucka
my own self, I guar-an-tee. He’d come in here like the cock on the walk and get the old boys into
fights over who gets him first. He loved to make trouble, to have them compete for his ass. He
was all that and a bag of fried pork skin, I tell ya what. Lived for chaos and then sashayed his self
out of here like nothin’ happened. Sick little motherfucka. Thinkin’ the world out there don’t know
what he is. Well, it’s been a night of mournin’ in here, I can tell ya. There ain’t no one could suck
cock like Greg Willis, despite his bad self. That’s gonna be missed. But no one so bad they
deserve what happened to him. Sick world, Boyd, sick world. You two enjoy, now, ya hear?”
He walked on and Brian looked at Boyd. “They don’t even know if Greg is dead,” he observed.
“Why is everyone so convinced?”
“They found Greg’s body, Brian,” Boyd responded with a grim sigh. “That’s why I wanted you to
come out with me. I wanted to tell you myself. They found it this evening.”
“Jesus,” Brian went pale as he leaned back, combing nervous fingers through his thick hair. “Did
he drown?”
“They don’t know yet.”
“Why not?”

                                                  - 60 -

“They’ll have the coroner come in and do an autopsy. But there’s more, Brian. Apparently he was
either picked on by the alligators, or he got caught up in the blades of a boat motor, or
something. Whatever happened, he was…dismembered.”
Brian stared at him in silence, and then said. “No.”
Boyd nodded. “Sheriff Carter said it’s pretty gruesome.”
“Excuse me,” Brian got up and went into the bathroom. Boyd waited a minute, and then followed
him in. Brian was leaning heavily on the sink, staring at his pale greenish-gray face in the
smudged mirror. Boyd took a couple paper towels and wetted them, pressing them to the back of
Brian’s neck and then wiping off the front of his shirt, where there was a spot of evidence that he
had been sick.
“I’m sorry to spring this on you, Brian, but you had to know. We got off on a tangent about my
life and I never told you. I’m sorry.”
“I just saw that kid, Boyd. I just had sex with him. He was a complete fuck up, but he was young
and beautiful and alive. How could this happen?”
“It just does. It sucks, but it does. Come on, I’ll drive you back and we can talk some more about
what it all means.”
Brian grabbed his arms and held tightly to them. “Tell me they don’t believe I was involved in
this, Boyd.”
Boyd broke the connection of their eyes, and Brian shook him gently. “Tell me.”
“They don’t know what to think, Brian. But yes, I guess you’re a suspect, why wouldn’t you be?”
“Do you think that?”
“Of course not.”
Brian let the grip turn into a hug and he held Boyd close, not as a lover, but for comfort. “I’m
Boyd closed his eyes, holding Brian snugly as he replied, “I know. Me too.”
They each feared different things.
Current Mood:      stressed

Feb. 5th, 2005 06:38 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 16

Ted stumbled into the kitchen of the cabin after a restless night of weird bayou noises, itching
bug bites and free-floating anxiety. He found coffee made and saw that the door to Brian’s room
was open. Brian was throwing some clothes into a suitcase. He was wrapped in a robe, his hair
still wet from his shower. He glanced at Ted and said, “You may as well pack up.”
“What are you doing, Brian? You can’t just run. And I’m not going to be arrested for aiding a
Brian cut him a flat look, then gave his baggy blue shorts a doleful glance. “No wonder you can’t
get laid. I’m not running, Theodore. One of two things is going to happen today. Either they let
me plea and I’m out of this hell hole, or they decide to charge me with murder…”
“Murder?” Ted interrupted.

                                                - 61 -

“Murder. And in that case, Boyd is taking me to New Orleans to meet some criminal law experts
he knows. This has taken a giant step beyond his expertise, if that happens.”
“Why would you murder someone? And they don’t even have a body.”
Brian zipped his leather duffel and said, “They do now.”
“Oh shit.”
“That’s right, Theodore. Oh shit.”
“But are you supposed to leave here?”
“Not really, but Boyd thinks if I’m with him and we go to meet counsel, he can finesse it.”
“This is insane.”
“I know,” Brian threw off his robe, causing Ted to once again envy his body, as he dressed in a
classic Hugo Boss suit and one of his pale gray Turnbull and Asser shirts. “So? Get dressed and
packed. Boyd’s picking us up in a few.”
“Maybe we should call Melanie.”
Brian threw him a glare. “Are you on crack? That bitch can’t fix a traffic ticket. Can you imagine
how the people in this little town would react to her strident lesbo demeanor? They’d lynch me.”
Ted, who liked Melanie much more than did Brian, frowned. “She got you off on that sexual
harassment claim.”
“Don't use the words Melanie and getting me off in the same sentence. Justin got that dropped.
Not Melanie. Maybe I should hire Justin to defend me,” he said with a laugh. Ted looked for signs
of regret, but if Brian felt any over his former affair, he refused to show it.
“Do you still miss him?”
“If you’re not dressed and packed by the time Boyd gets here, I’m abandoning your ass to the
Ted wasn't surprised by Brian's usual denial. "Is Boyd queer, Brian?”
“It doesn’t matter to you one way or the other, Theodore, whether Boyd’s queer. He isn’t going to
tumble for you. So go. Get ready.”
Ted accepted that non-answer as fact and went to his bedroom to obey Brian’s command.
That same morning, Boyd was finding it difficult to dress, to do anything. He had a terrible night,
dreams of Jared, regret over outing himself to Brian, fear over what was happening in the Greg
Willis matter. He was slow to leave for the cabin. When his mobile rang, he expected some
harangue from his ex, just to cap off a bad morning. It was a woman, but not Bonnie.
“Boyd, it’s Charlie.”
The DA. He winced, expecting the worst. “Hi, Charlie.”
“Hope I’m not waking you up.”
“Not at all. I spoke to Bonnie. She relented on the kitten. I’ll pick it up one day this week.”
“Good, because if I keep it much longer, I’ll get too attached. Listen, Boyd, about that plea…”
“What about it?”
“With the new information about Greg Willis, terrible thing, we need to postpone that.”
“Why?” Boyd knew why, but pretended not to. “That has nothing to do with my client. He was
charged with a misdemeanor, he’s entitled to his day in court.”
“Boyd, don’t be thick. I can't risk a double jeopardy issue, or losing a suspect. The fact is, we
don’t know who did what to Willis, but we intend to find out. The coroner can’t be here until
tomorrow. If you want to be an ass about this, we’ll give him his day in court, and arraign him on

                                                 - 62 -

the felony charge of sodomy to bind him over while we investigate the Willis issue. You really
want to do that?”
Boyd knew he was in over his head. He never should have agreed to try a criminal matter. Then
he wouldn’t have met Brian Kinney and his life would be moving at a familiar pace and he
wouldn’t be battling demons he thought he vanquished long ago. “No, I guess not, Charlie.”
“Kiddo, get him some serious criminal counsel, you hear? You don’t need to be slapped with an
incompetent counsel charge. You’re a smart lawyer and very good at what you do, but it's not
criminal procedure. I’m telling you this as a friend.”
“I know you are, Charlie and I will. Thanks.”
“Don’t let him run or we’ll hunt the mother down like a wild boar and we will find him and we will
lock him up. I don’t want to lock you up, too, as an accomplice.”
“I’m taking him to New Orleans to meet with some lawyers I know, Charlie. It may be technically
out of bounds, but I’ll vouch for him.”
“You know him well enough to vouch for him? To risk that?”
“I think I do. He’s a man of integrity.”
“I’m not saying it’s okay to do that, you understand. But I’m not calling out the dogs, either. And
you’d better be available by mobile the entire time in case we need to reel him back in.”
“I will be.”
“Okay, Boyd. You be smart, now. This one sounds pretty slick.”
“He’s not like that.”
Charlie was silent for a minute, and then said, “Take it easy, buddy.”
When Boyd reached the cabin and saw Brian kitted out in his fine suit, he felt as if he had already
failed him. Brian read the expression on his face and sighed.
“No plea, right?”
“I told you it was likely, Brian. We still need to go to New Orleans to meet with some attorneys.”
“Is that kosher?”
“I vouched for you. If you run, I could be in big trouble with the law and with the state bar.”
Brian’s handsome face grew tense. “I’d like to think you know me better than that by now.”
“I think I do. I’m just saying….”
“So, do you still want me to go?” Ted inquired and Brian shrugged.
“Suit yourself. You want to ride with us or do you want to sit out here by yourself with some
fucking murderer wandering the bayou?”
“I’m packed and ready.”
In the car, Brian said, “How long a drive?”
“From here to Lafayette, and from Lafayette to Baton Rouge and from Baton Rouge to New
Orleans, the whole drive is a little more than two hours, depending on the traffic and road
“Two hours and a world away,” Brian watched the swamp give way to road, the road to highway.
He’d been to New Orleans many times. It was a gay paradise. He went to more than one circuit
party there, and had even spent a drunken, tweaked Mardi Gras when he was twenty. As wild and
open as New Orleans was, Canard Rouge was as suffocating and closed. He couldn’t work out why
Boyd would ever leave one for the other. Ted dozed in the back seat, making occasional wheezing

                                                 - 63 -

snores that Brian told Boyd was the result of damaging his nasal passages during his brief sojourn
as a crystal queen.
“So did you go home with Jared that first night you met?”
Boyd smiled at him, not surprised he returned to that story. “You’re really determined, aren’t
“Determined to do what?”
“Find out the whole story, get the brief on me.”
“I got the brief on you last night, Boyd. Now I’m just filling in the blanks.”
Boyd glanced in the mirror to reassure himself that Ted was asleep. “Shouldn’t we be discussing
the important things? Like your case?”
“I don’t want to talk about that right now. We’ll be talking about that all day. It makes me feel
sick all over again. Distract me.”
“You don’t strike me as the type to find a love story interesting. You seem a little too cynical for
“Maybe I am. Maybe this is a measure of how utterly horrified I am about what’s happening to me
that I crave the distraction. Consider this a scene from the ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman’.”
Boyd laughed. “You crack me up.”
“Tell me.”
“Why don’t I tell you about this lawyer we’re going to meet?”
Brian sighed. “Okay, if you must. Spend the first fifteen minutes telling me about this lawyer and
then we’ll return to Boyd’s Most Excellent Adventure.”
“You’re commingling your movie references.”
“Blow me.”
“Isn’t that what started all this?”
They shared a dark laugh at Brian’s expense and Boyd said, “His name is Rodrique, like the
painter of Blue Dogs, you know that artist?”
“He’s world famous. He paints this blue dog with big staring eyes over and over again in all sorts
of situations. Makes a fortune. I’ve met him. Nice guy, Cajun. But I digress. The lawyer Rodrique
is Ernesto Rodrique, no relation to the painter. He goes by ‘Rod’. Working for the Fifth Circuit, I
got to watch all the top lawyers from the states covered by the Court’s jurisdiction come in and
argue. The Court hears criminal as well as civil appeals. When Rod argued a criminal appeal, the
gallery was packed. He’s fucking brilliant. He’s not one of those flashy types, or one of those
overly homespun types, he’s just smart, savvy and brutal. He’s honest to a fault and his win
record is impeccable. I always thought if I ever got in any real trouble, Rod is the one I’d call. Of
course he has a huge practice, he’s very difficult to get, but I have an in. I got us an
“Because of working on the Court?”
“No, something else.”
“Is he gay?”
Boyd laughed. “Decidedly not. He has about twelve kids spread over at least three wives and
former wives. If Rod has a weakness, it’s pussy, not dick.”
“What makes you think he won’t be disgusted by the circumstances and refuse the case?”

                                                  - 64 -

Boyd smiled. “I listened to Rod plea for the life of a convicted murderer who raped, tortured,
killed and then ate pieces of his own wife and kids. I think he can roll with a blow job between
Brian winced. “Did he lose that one?”
“He got a death sentence commuted to a lifetime lockup in a high security mental hospital. The
monster ended up chewing through his own wrist and bleeding to death a few months later, but
that wasn’t because Rod failed him.”
“Nice people you have in this state.”
“He was in Texas, Brian. The Court’s jurisdiction covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.”
“Same thing,” Brian brushed off a hunk of the South as Boyd smiled.
Brian let his hand drift over the space between them to rest on Boyd’s thigh. He didn’t move it,
didn’t try to make a pass out of it, just connected to him on a more intimate basis as he said,
“Thanks for sticking with me. If I hire this guy or someone else, will you bail on me?”
Boyd resisted the pulse of excitement he felt from Brian’s hand on his leg and said, “I’ll see this
through with you, Brian. But not as your counsel. I’m not qualified to do that. And if you hire Rod,
or if he agrees to take the case, he won’t do it for free. He’s expensive. And he’ll ask for a
retainer and for proof that you can pay his fee.”
Brian removed his hand and said, “I can pay him. Money’s not the issue.”
“Money’s always the issue,” Ted murmured, floating into consciousness and thus killing any
chance that Brian would hear more about Jared during this drive.

Current Mood:      curious

Feb. 6th, 2005 07:48 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 17

It began to rain just as Boyd drove into the complex network of converging highways that led to
New Orleans. Rain gave the city its dense, vine-laden charm that was a lure for tourists, but Boyd
knew how tired of it the natives became since it only increased the rot and humidity. It had
rained the day after the night he met Jared.
He remembered sitting there in the courtroom, pretending to listen to lawyers arguing about
proximate cause. He stared at the bronze eagles that adorned the corners of the thirty-foot
ceiling, and tried to avoid random erections that had been plaguing him all day. He couldn’t help
it. All he could only think of was Jared, of his mocha skin against white sheets, of his strong
hands on Boyd’s body, of the taste and feel of him, his weight, his cock, his scent. In a few hours,
they accomplished more intimacy than all of Boyd’s prior experiences combined.
Sexual intimacy, physical intimacy, that was a given, but also emotional intimacy grew between
them. Giggling in each other’s ears, whispering in the dark, sharing something that seemed
impossibly perfect. They didn’t sleep, and when dawn broke, they walked to the French Market
before the rains began, holding hands on the street without fear. They shared café au lait and
warm beignets at the Café du Monde, as the rest of the world faded to black.
Leaving Jared so he could go to work afterwards was torture for Boyd. “You have to,” Jared urged
him, saying goodbye at the corner of Royal Street. Boyd would walk west to the Court and Jared

                                                - 65 -

would continue on to his place on Dumaine. “I need to get some painting done while I have all
this energy, and you need to be a good boy and earn your daily white bread.”
They kissed, furtively, under the wrought iron balcony of a gracious antique store. “Six o’ clock.
I’ll be so ready for you. Don’t be late,” Jared warned.
“I won’t be a minute late,” Boyd promised, reluctantly letting go of his lover’s hand. After a
torturous day, and an evening rainstorm, Boyd started walking to Dumaine, protected from the
elements by an umbrella. His pace quickened with each step closer to Jared. Soon, he was
running. His umbrella turned inside out in the wind and he dropped it in the gutter and continued
on, racing through a downpour that pasted his white shirt to his body and made it hard to see
where he was going. As he turned the corner to enter Dumaine, he saw Jared coming down the
outside stairs leading from the Dixie Land Jazz Club, below, to his studio, above. He didn’t see
Boyd, but he was running in the direction Boyd would be coming from.
He, too, couldn’t wait any longer to be reunited.
They paused when their eyes met and then they ran into each other’s arms. Jared hugged him so
tightly he lifted Boyd off his feet and Boyd clung to him, heaving from his sprint, famished for the
feel of Jared’s skin against his own. Jared kissed him as the rain beat against their joined bodies.
Early evening pedestrians scuttled past them, wanting only to find a dry harbor, not interested in
their romance.
Jared grabbed Boyd’s hand and half drug him up the stairs to the studio, where he began yanking
at Boyd’s soggy clothes, stripping him to his skin. Boyd moaned and licked the rain from Jared’s
cheekbone, sliding the straps of his coveralls over his broad shoulders so they would fall to his
ankles. Within minutes, Jared was lubricated and wearing a condom as he turned Boyd to the wall
and penetrated him with a fiery combination of force and finesse.
Boyd shot almost immediately and then again before Jared finished. When the shudders passed,
Jared leaned against him and laughed. Boyd laughed, too, sharing his delight at being alive and
together. Jared’s bed was a mattress in a corner of this large, open space. His collection of
canvases, many of them oversized, all of them in various stages of completion, allowed little room
for amenities.
Huddled together, limbs entangled, they shared a joint and listened to the water from the leaky
roof fall into a bucket placed there for that purpose. It was dark now, and the only light shining in
the place was a candle pillar near the bed. It smelled faintly of lime. “Are you hungry?” Jared
whispered in Boyd’s ear, puffing aside a lock of golden hair.
“I don’t want to move. I want to be right here, in your arms.”
“But we need fuel to keep going,” Jared reasoned with him.
“Couldn’t we just fix something here?’
“I have beer, I have cigarettes, I have some day-old French bread and moldy cheese. Name your
“I could get dressed, pick something up and bring it back. What sounds good?”
Jared shrugged. “Muffuleta’s?”
Boyd nodded. “Sure, I’ll go down to Central Grocery and get some muffuleta’s and you can work
on your painting while I’m gone. The one with all the yellow.”
“How do you know that’s the one I’m working on now?”
“I could see the color on your coveralls, Jared.”
The artist laughed. “It’s the color of your hair. You inspired me.”
Boyd got up and switched on the lights, walking nude to the huge canvas that was Jared’s latest
work in progress. The explosion of colors, dominated by yellow, was mesmerizing. Jared was a
brilliant painter. Boyd felt sure he would think so even if he weren’t his lover. “How do you know
when it’s finished?”
                                                  - 66 -

“I just do,” Jared said from the bed. “About those muffuletas…”
Boyd laughed. “My clothes are soaked. Do you own anything besides coveralls?”
Jared dug in a tall storage box and drug out a pair of faded jeans and a dark t-shirt. “I think I
may be a little heavier than you, but these should work.”
Boyd put them on, inhaling the scent of Jared that remained in the fabric, feeling close to him by
wearing his clothes. He buckled on a belt to cinch the slightly bigger waist and took his wallet
from his drenched trousers. “Anything else from the store?”
“Condoms,” Jared said with a grin. Boyd kissed him and left before the kiss turned into more. The
rain had stopped and the humidity was cloying, as people began emerging from cover to embrace
the night. Boyd felt weightless, he was so giddy, so pleased with himself. He had a smile for
everyone he passed on his way to Decatur Street, and perfect strangers seemed delighted to see
him. In the century old grocery that seemed unchanged since it’s opening, with scarred,
hardwood floors and tall, narrow shelves of goods, he went straight for the cooler where their
world famous muffuleta’s were refrigerated. The sandwiches were a quarter pound of mortadella
ham, a quarter pound of Genoa salami, a quarter pound of provolone, and a scoop of Italian
pickled vegetables and olives soaked in olive oil and served on a hard, flat roll. Each sandwich
was so large, it was a full meal for at least two hungry diners.
Boyd picked up two, anyway, figuring they would be hungry again later. He found the condoms
and some chips, and when he went to pay, the older black man behind the register looked him up
and down and said, “You better get you some of that cream soda.”
“I don’t like cream soda.”
“Don’t matter. Jared does. Get you some, or you’ll be back.”
“How do you know about Jared?” Boyd felt branded, and the old man shook his head and nodded
towards his t-shirt. For the first time, Boyd looked at the legend stenciled on the front of it. It
read, “Artists Stroke It Better”. A man stroking a wide swath with a paint brush was caricatured
beneath it.
“Blond white boy wearing that shirt, gotta be Jared’s latest boy.”
Boyd felt his face burn and he also felt a flash of jealousy as he went back for a couple bottles of
cream soda and added them to his tab. Who were his predecessors? Did they wear this t-shirt,
too? Was he just another blond number to Jared?He paid cash and the man warned, “You better
watch yourself, boy. That Jared, he’s a crazy man. Crazy as hell.”
“Why do you say a thing like that?” Boyd asked, annoyed by the slur. He didn’t like anything
about this man, who was intent on destroying the glow that Jared had created for him.
“Because he is and he always has been and he comes by it natural, from his daddy.”
“How do you know his daddy? His father’s dead.”
“I know because I’m his mama’s brother. That whole clan was teched in the head. You ain’t the
first and you won’t be the last, and you won’t be better for knowin’ him.”
“I’m already better for knowing him,” Boyd defended and left the store, his annoyance growing as
he went.
“Jesus, Boyd, watch out!” Brian warned. Horns honked and tires squealed as Boyd barely missed
a car merging onto the highway in front of them. “You want me to drive?”
“Sorry, no, I’m fine.”
Brian stared hard at Boyd’s tense profile. “Is coming here an issue for you?”
“No. Listen, Ted, you can’t go to the meeting with Brian and me. You’d destroy the attorney-client
privilege by being there. So I can either drop you off at the house in the Garden District, which is
nice, but there’s nothing to do around there, or I can let you off in the Quarter and we can pick a
place to meet up later. It looks like the rains are stopping.”
                                                - 67 -

Ted chose the Quarter, and Brian warned, “Don’t do anything I would do, Theodore. The penalties
for what comes natural to us are steep in this state.”
“Gee, thanks for that, Brian. So, the Old Absinthe Bar on Bourbon Street at six, right?”
“Let’s synchronize watches,” Brian growled as he reached back to slam Ted’s open door and they
left him there on Rampart Street.
“You think he’ll be okay?” Boyd asked Brian. “The Quarter has its rough spots.”
“Theodore is like a cockroach. He’s indestructible.”
“I thought we’d drop our stuff off at the house. I made a lunch date with the person who got us in
with Rod. We need to be there in twenty minutes, so we just have time to drive by and leave
“Okay.” Brian saw the whorish, faded glory of the French Quarter give way to the large, elegant
homes in the Garden District. “Another family manse?”
Boyd shrugged. “I’m sure they’d disapprove of our staying here, which makes it even better.”
“I never knew there was so much money to be made in sugar.”
“Live and learn.”
The house was a white classic-style, with a wide veranda and forest green shutters and trim.
Brian counted five chimneys and saw that it had a guesthouse as well as servant quarters. The
garage was the former carriage house and the back yard was supplanted by a swimming pool.
“They have people who come twice a week to keep it clean and a service takes care of the pool,”
Boyd explained. “The house gets used fairly often, given how close it is to home.”
They brought their bags in and Brian realized the interior of the house could easily be a gracious
spread in Southern Living. He trudged upstairs behind Boyd, who led him to a large guest room
featuring a four-poster bed and a fireplace. “The bathroom is through that door and I’ll be at the
end of the hall. Ted can have the room next to yours.”
As Boyd turned to leave, Brian grabbed his arm and held tightly to it. “Are you alright? You seem
tense. Shouldn’t I be the tense one under these circumstances?”
“Sorry, Brian. I don’t like this house and I don’t like this city very much.”
“The house is beautiful, and what did New Orleans do to you?”
“Nothing. I just have some bad memories of it.”
“Him again?” Brian asked and Boyd pulled free of him and went to his room without answering.
They took the streetcar into the Quarter for their lunch date since Boyd explained that parking
was abysmal and everything was within walking distance once you reached the Vieux Carre. They
went to a restaurant on Royal Street called the Court of the Two Sisters. Walking through
wrought iron gates, past a working fountain, they were led to a cool table in the back where they
were offered drinks as they waited. They both ordered gin and tonic with lime, a good choice for
the heat. They barely had a sip before a female voice said, “Boyd! Give me a hug, you big sissy!”
Brian looked up as Boyd lost himself in the arms of a tall, attractive woman wearing an expensive
suit and a short, razored haircut. She exuded a healthy lifestyle, and needed no makeup to call
attention to her blue eyes and full, shapely lips. She kissed Boyd on the cheek, and then turned
her attention to Brian as Boyd said,
“Brian Kinney, this is…”
“Your sister, Lisette,” Brian finished the sentence for him, recognizing her at once, even though
the last pictures he saw of her in the photo album at the cabin had captured her as a teenager.
She resembled a feminized version of Boyd, but only slightly feminized, and she also was vaguely
similar to Belle. That she was a dyke was immediately obvious to Brian. Her handshake was firm
and her smile seemed genuine as she sat down, ordered a glass of wine, and said,
“Well, Brian, you’re in a mess of trouble it would seem.”
                                                 - 68 -

“So much for that privilege,” Brian said with a stern glare at Boyd, who smiled.
“Lisette’s a lawyer, Brian. She works for Rod.”
Brian nodded. So they shared a profession as well as a taste for their own genders. No wonder
they were outcasts at the old plantation. What could be worse than having two children who were
lawyers? The shame, the shame. He smiled at his own internal joke, continuously amazed by the
twists that occurred in his life since that interrupted blow job a few days ago. “Cheers,” Brian
lifted his glass, suddenly needing his drink with an urgency that grew hotter every time he
thought of what might be coming next.

Current Mood:       contemplative

Feb. 7th, 2005 03:29 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 18

“So, Boyd didn’t tell you his big sister was a big dyke?” Lisette asked as the trio shared an
appetizer of baked oysters and mushroom caps.
“Is that why you disappear from the family album when you’re around college age?” Brian asked
and Boyd looked confused.
“What family album?”
“The one in the cabin.”
“What were you doing snooping around looking for pictures?” Boyd was irritated by that idea, and
Brian raised a defensive brow.
“Calm yourself, Boyd. It’s right there on the shelf. I didn’t have to hire Miss Marple to locate it.”
“Your supposition is correct, Brian,” Lisette affirmed. “I came out in college and that led to my
abrupt dismissal from the Coulter clan. It was as if I was reverse-aborted at age nineteen.
Unfortunately for them, my grandmother and grandfather left a lot of holdings to all three Coulter
siblings, so they can’t erase me completely. I refused to sell my shares, more out of wanting to
gig my father, than because I wanted a continuing connection. Boyd manages them for me.”
Boyd looked down, as Brian nodded. Did Lisette know about her brother? He suspected she did
not, despite the “sissy” remark. He wondered if seeing how the family treated Lisette set the
stage for Boyd’s determination to remain deeply hidden. Whatever Boyd’s fears, Lisette didn’t
seem to share them. “That’s a tough break,” Brian said and she shrugged.
“I’d rather it be otherwise, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my happiness and my life to be the
person they want me to be,” the look she shot her brother made Brian question his earlier
conclusion about her knowledge of Boyd’s situation.
“You live here? In New Orleans?”
“I do, over on Chartres Street in a house that is an endless money pit of constant repairs and
refurbishing, just to keep it standing. Lucky for me, my partner is a doctor, so she can afford to
indulge that heap of masonry.”
“You love that house, Lisette. Don’t even act like you don’t,” Boyd called her on it and she smiled
at him.
“You’re right. I do. I may be gay, Brian, but not so gay that I can’t see why poor Greg Willis
would worship on his knees at your altar.”

                                                  - 69 -

Brian laughed. He liked this lesbian lawyer. What a change from Melanie. “Thanks, I think. So,
how much trouble am I in? Aren’t you going to ask me if I did it? Killed him?”
“Christ, no! And please don’t volunteer a confession to me if you did. The privilege isn’t inviolate
and we can’t be suborning perjury or anything like that, so that kind of knowledge can hamper
your defense. ‘Did you do it’ is a question we criminal lawyers never ask. Besides, those who did
usually lie about it anyway.”
“Well, I didn’t do it and I don’t lie.”
“Brian, the most guilty culprit in the world is entitled to an aggressive defense. If we only
defended innocent people, we’d be out of business. So relax. I’m not here to judge you. Not for
being queer, not for getting caught in the act, and not for being under suspicion.”
Brian grinned at Boyd. “I like your sister.”
“Wait until you get her bill,” Boyd responded with a wry tilt of his head towards Lisette. Their
main courses were delivered and Brian dug into his Shrimp Toulouse, a mixture of grilled Gulf
shrimp tossed with bell peppers, mushrooms and white burgundy sauce, served over rice. Once
again he worried about the effect of all this fine cuisine on his waistline, coupled with no gym in
“What happens to me next, Lisette?” Brian asked between bites.
“They’ll try to hold you over while they investigate. But they know they can’t just invite you to
stay in Louisiana while they take their sweet time trying to make a case against you. They have
to charge you with something, so they will. If they don’t think they have enough to make murder
stick, they’ll go for the sodomy charge, since it’s a felony. That binds you over. Or it will once
you’re arraigned. That buys them the time they need.”
“I just sit back and wait for the hammer to fall?”
“You’re doing what you need to be doing, Brian. You’re meeting with the best criminal defense
lawyer in the south. No, not me, my boss, Rod. I hope you left room for dessert because their
chocolate espresso torte is to die for. I call it chocolate ‘depresso’ torte because of how tight my
clothes fit after I eat it.”
“I couldn’t,” Brian protested, but he did. And she was right. It was food for the gods. Lunch took
awhile and Brian was grateful for the walk, afterwards. His memories of New Orleans were all
after dark. When he came here to party, he lived like a vampire, from sundown to sunup.
“Boyd, walk Brian over to our offices, would you, brother? I need to stop at a shop here on Royal
where we’re having a rug repaired. If I don’t stick a pin in them every day, they conveniently
forget their task.”
“See you over there, Brian.”
He nodded, watching her go, then said, “I didn’t mean for her to pay for lunch.”
Boyd smiled. “You’ll see it again, embedded in your bill. Client development is never really a free
lunch, Brian.” He took off his jacket to combat the heat and clammy humidity, throwing it over
one shoulder. Brian did the same, rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt. “It’s not a short walk.
Rod’s building is all the way down at Canal Place, near the casino, at the boundary of the
“Trust me, I need the exercise. Besides, I’ve never seen New Orleans in the light.”
They walked towards Jackson Square, that was surrounded by the Cathedral on the north, the
matching, Pontalba Buildings on the east and west, and the Moonwalk overlooking the Mississippi
River on the south. The square itself was a small retreat of greenery, black painted iron benches
and the fronds of delicate ferns. The homeless had gathered there in recent years, under the
watchful eye of General Jackson, mounted on a rearing horse.

                                                   - 70 -

When they reached Decatur Street with the Café du Monde on one side and the Central Grocery
Store on the other, Boyd winced and paused, suddenly hit with a wall of unexpected emotion.
Brian slipped an arm over his shoulders and said,
“This is hard for you, isn’t it?”
“The first morning, after the night I met Jared, I was warned away by his uncle, who worked in
that store. He made it known that I was but one of a long line of blond, white boys who had fallen
for Jared, and that Jared was crazy.”
“But you didn’t listen to him?”
Boyd glared at Brian’s impassive profile. “Jared wasn’t crazy. He was sick. He was manic-
“I meant about the blond men.”
Boyd frowned, remembering Jared’s reaction to that inquiry when he tried to pin him down. He
returned from the store, carrying the food, feeling less happy than he did when he left. Jared was
standing there with a long brush, staring down at his canvas. He watched Boyd unpack the food
and place it on a work table. When he saw cream soda emerge from the bag, he laughed. “Uncle
Drew,” he said, taking one and popping the top. “He always remembers. And I’m sure he
poisoned your mind as he passed along a helpful beverage hint.”
“He said I was one in a line of blond boys. He said you were crazy, just like your father.”
“Did he?” Jared laughed. “Who needs enemies when you have family? My father wasn’t crazy, he
was evil. He was monstrous to my mother, to me, to my siblings. He spent every penny he could
scrounge on drugs while we went without. He died of an overdose none too soon for me. As for
me? Yeah, I’m crazy. All truly gifted artists are crazy. So what? Who wants to be normal?”
The muffuleta’s were cut in quarters and Boyd handed Jared a section as he bit into another. “And
the blond boys?”
Jared shrugged. “I like blonds. Does that make me a criminal?”
“Is that all I am to you, though? Another blond? A conquest?”
Jared’s gray-green eyes scanned Boyd’s face and then he smiled. “I don’t know, yet. Do you?”
“I guess not,” Boyd responded although he felt he did know. He felt certain about his feelings for
Jared. He was completely overwhelmed by them. Jared popped the last of the quarter-sandwich
in his mouth, chewed, swallowed and walked over to Boyd, peeling off the t-shirt. His hands
spread on Boyd’s chest and moved downward, smoothing his ab’s. He hooked his fingers down
the back of the jeans, pressing against Boyd’s ass as he kissed him. Boyd’s eyes closed, tasting
the sandwich, tasting Jared, losing his fears in the heat.
“No one will be in favor of this,” Jared warned him. “No one. The race thing, the fact you’re a rich
white boy and I’m an unemployed struggling artist, the gay thing, it’s all against us, Boyd. If you
go in feeling weak, we have no hope.”
“I don’t care what people think,” Boyd rested his forehead against Jared’s. “I only care about
“Then you better hold on tight. Because you’re about to embark on a ride you never expected.”
“I already have,” Boyd whispered, convinced these feelings they shared made them invincible.
“Earth calling Boyd,” Brian said and Boyd shoved aside that memory to shake his head.
“Sorry. I don’t know why I’m so lost in these memories.”
“Boyd Coulter?” A man interrupted them. He was dressed in Armani, and he wore it well, despite
the heat. He was a light skinned African American man with short hair and dark glasses. Boyd
smiled tensely and held out his hand to be shaken.

                                                     - 71 -

“Hello, Artie. This is my friend, Brian Kinney. Brian, this is Artie Hall. Artie is Jared’s brother, and
he owns the gallery that features his work.”
Brian shook his hand and when Artie removed his shades, Brian saw the same gray-green eyes
he remembered admiring in Jared’s pictures. But this one was straight. That was evident. He
looked from Brian to Boyd, his slight smirk giving away his conclusion. “When you going to sell
me back those paintings of yours, Boyd? The price is going up.”
“Never,” Boyd said bluntly. “And I wish you’d quit asking.”
“Nothing worse than a man holding valuable art and who doesn’t need money. I’ll never quit
asking. You’d be better off without those ghosts around, don’t you agree, Mr. Kinney?”
“I think that’s for Boyd to decide,” Brian responded, not liking this man very much. He walked on
after a few more words with Boyd and Brian lit a cigarette. “Snake.”
Boyd glanced at him and smiled. “You don’t know the half of it. He already had a gallery when
Jared was still alive. It wasn’t the fancy place he has now, on Royal, but it was making some
money. He featured African American artists, locals, mainly, and the works were very
representational, colorful, appealing to tourists. Jazz musicians, swamps, Mardi Gras themes, life
in the country in the bad old days, those kind of things. When Jared was desperate for money, he
wouldn’t even show his work, because he said it was junk and that no one wanted abstract art
from an unknown ‘nigger’. He told Jared to paint him some portraits of beautiful black women or
sites around the city. He said he knew he had the talent to do ‘normal’ stuff, instead of his
‘modern shit’. Of course, Jared had too much integrity to do that. But when Jared died, Artie laid
claim to every canvas he could find, and bought up the ones he knew of around the town. Maybe
no one would buy from an unknown ‘nigger’ but a dead one was another story.”
“So now he’s made a fortune off his dead brother.”
Brian rested his hand on the back of Boyd’s neck. “You can’t buy a break in this town, can you?
That wasn’t what you needed right now. I’m sorry, Boyd.”
“Let’s just keep walking.”
Brian stopped him at Canal Place, marveling at the names of the stores contained in the sleek
multi-story shopping complex overlooking the river. “Gucci, Saks, Armani, Versace, this is a real
shopping center. Hell, they even have Brooks Brothers for you.”
Boyd laughed and tugged at his arm. “Not now. You have an appointment to discuss your fate,
remember? How can you even think of shopping at a time like this?”
“On the day I can no longer think of shopping, bury me. I’m dead.”
Boyd laughed as they crossed the street to enter a low-slung brick building that was dwarfed by
the huge shopping complex and the Wyndham hotel connected to it. This was once the cotton
exchange, now the entire building was dedicated to the practice of Ernesto Rodrique, the state’s
most successful criminal defense firm. They were shown to a conference room on the third floor,
offered coffee and other refreshments by an attractive receptionist, and then left alone. Brian
gazed at the portraits on the wall, three images of a seated blue dog with mesmerizing yellow
eyes and a white blaze on its face. One showed the dog in a graveyard, one had the dog dressed
in Mardi Gras finery and one was the dog in a field of butterflies.
“So that’s the art you were telling me about?”
“Yeah, Rod thinks the similarity of name is amusing. He’s been known to tell yokels he paints
them in his spare time, but the Blue Dog is so famous now that no one really falls for that
Brian shrugged, embarrassed to admit to himself that he would have fallen. Lisette entered the
room with a small, black-haired man who wore an expensive bespoken suit but otherwise looked
like he might be happier working outdoors, rather than in a courtroom. He was darkly tanned,
from the sun, not a booth, and his smile stopped short of his eyes. He had the dark, cold,
                                                  - 72 -

unblinking stare of a shark, and Brian relaxed as he shook hands with him, realizing that a shark
was exactly what he needed in his life now.
Current Mood:         restless

Feb. 8th, 2005 05:07 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 19

Like a shark, Ernesto Rodrique circled and circled, learning his prey, before he struck. He had that
pleasing Cajun melody in his voice and he was naturally amusing and yet you never forgot for a
moment that he had a double row of razor teeth that would shred your flesh upon contact.
“So, Brian, you’re standing there with your pants around your ankles in a storeroom of the garage
and Greg Willis is giving you a hummer when the door opens?” he reiterated. “What happened?
Does it make you uncomfortable for Lisette to be in here while we discuss this? She’s my second
chair. I like to include her on the ground floor of a case.”
“I’m not shy,” Brian responded. Lisette didn’t even look up from her note-taking. “So this woman
flings open the door and she says, ‘I knew it!’ Greg turns around to look at her and I just stand
there with my cock at full mast.”
“Did you cover up?”
“No, like I said. I’m not shy.”
Lisette laughed at that and Brian shot a wink at her. “So then what happened?”
“She focused in on my cock for a long moment, staring at it like she’s never seen one before,
which seemed a distinct possibility, given the way she looked. Homely is a kind way of putting it.
Greg had been whacking off while he blew me, so he zipped up and stood up.”
“So neither of you reached orgasm?”
“Is that relevant?”
“You let me worry about what’s relevant, Brian. You just answer my questions.”
“Well, it’s like this, Rod. She ran out of the garage and I kicked the door shut and told him to
finish what he started. He said he couldn’t, because she was the boss’s wife and would be running
back to tell on him. I said in that case it was a done deal, so we may as well get off.”
Rod laughed. “You’re a brave man.”
“I know what I want. So he finished me off, and he finished himself off, and just as we were
getting our clothes arranged, the sheriff comes in and busts me. Just me, I might add. Not Greg.”
“Did he see your dick?”
Brian thought for a moment, and then shook his head. “By then, it was already back in my pants.
Not zipped, but not showing.”
“And Greg?”
“Same thing. Tucking in his shirt, maybe, but not hanging out.”
“So what the sheriff saw was two men straightening their clothes, with no genitals exposed
Brian nodded, blinked, wondered about the import of that fact. “Does it matter?”
“Her word against yours. With Greg dead, that’s all that’s left.”
                                                   - 73 -

“They could find his jizz on the floor of that storeroom.”
“Would they find yours?”
Brian shook his head. “He swallowed.”
Silence, and then Rod spoke again. “He could have whipped the mule any time in that storeroom.
If you didn’t leave a calling card, that’s the main thing.
“Look, I won’t lie on the stand and say he didn’t blow me.”
“Let’s get something straight, ace. No one lies on the stand if I’m their lawyer. Only way that
happens is if I don’t know it’s a lie. But it’s mainly on television that defendants take the stand,
you usually do yourself more harm than good if you testify. We’re getting ahead of ourselves,
though. We’re a long way from trial. So, did you make a statement when they busted you?”
“Did you say anything?”
“I said I wanted a lawyer.”
“Smart boy. When was the next time you talked to Greg Willis?”
Brian thought about it, and then frowned. “I may get this wrong, I seem to be losing track of time
down here. But I think it was two nights after the blow job. He showed up unexpectedly and
uninvited at the cabin.”
“What cabin is that?” Rod saw the two Coulter siblings exchange a silent communication. Not
much escaped Rod’s notice.
“My cabin on the bayou,” Boyd volunteered. “I put Brian up there since the B&B in town was full.”
“Did you tell Greg?”
“No, the only people I told were people at my parent’s home, since the cabin is nearby and since
their staff keeps it stocked.”
“Did you tell him, Brian?”
“Why would I? I wouldn’t know how to get in touch with him even if I wanted to. No, I didn’t. He
just showed up.”
“What did he want?”
“I’m still not sure I know.”
“What happened?”
Brian glanced at Boyd, winced, and said, “He seemed kind of mad at first, but then he turned
“Yes, he was trying to convince me to convince Boyd to get the charges dropped. When I
explained I don’t control Boyd and Boyd doesn’t control whether the charges get dropped, he
seemed to be suggesting I buy off the judge. He wasn’t making a lot of sense. As Boyd said about
him, he’s not the highest brick on the wall.”
Rod laughed at that depiction. “So he got friendly?”
“In what way?”
“The usual way. He came onto me. I was wearing a robe and was seated in a chair. He walked
over and spread the robe open and started giving me head.”
Brian smiled and shrugged. “What can I say? It’s a gay thing, you wouldn’t understand.”
                                                 - 74 -

Rod smiled. “Probably not, but go on.”
“It was the storeroom, part deux, without the Church Lady or the Sheriff. Same ol’, same ol’.”
“Did you return the favor?”
“Why Rod, is your interest prurient?”
“No,” Rod said bluntly and Brian laughed and continued.
“I just let him do it, Rod. Why not? Nothing better to do,” he cast a look at Boyd, who blushed.
Lisette noticed, and smiled.
“Did you ejaculate?”
“Did he swallow?”
“Did he ejaculate?”
“Yes. I wiped it up. And then he started this shit about how he can’t be outed, and he was
adamant about it, and how I had to get this fixed and if I didn’t, he’d tell the heat that I forced
him to have sex with me. He was pretty, but a dim bulb.”
“And then?”
“He left. Drove away, I guess. I didn’t watch him.”
“That was it?”
“Yes, that was it. Not exactly Romeo and Romeo.”
“That’s not entirely it, Rod,” Boyd volunteered. “I had my kids with me and I drove by the cabin
to make sure Brian was settled. I left them in the car, and walked up to the door.”
“What time was that?”
“Around eight-thirty.”
“Did you see his car?”
“Yeah, it was parked in the drive.”
“Did you know it belonged to Greg?”
“Everyone knows that. It’s a beat up, vintage Cutlass.”
“Were you surprised to find the car there?”
“Yeah,” he cut his eyes to Brian. “I had warned Brian that Greg had this hair up his ass about
forcing him to have sex to try and avoid the gay thing. I was surprised that Brian would let him
in, knowing that.”
“Surprise,” Brian said glumly, pulling his lips into a smirk that fell short of being as sarcastic as he
wanted it to be. He was embarrassed by what happened with Greg that night, and he wasn’t
hiding that fact well with his bluster.
“Anyway,” Boyd went on. “I looked in the window while standing on the front porch and I saw
that Brian was seated in a chair and Greg was kneeling in front of him. I could figure out what
was happening, so I left.”
“Without interrupting?”
Boyd nodded. “I just wanted to get my kids out of there.”
“Away from the big bad perverts,” Brian sneered and Boyd narrowed his eyes at him.
“Away from something they have no business seeing.”

                                                 - 75 -

“Were you mad, Boyd?” Rod asked, sensing the tension between them.
“Mad? Why would I be mad?”
“You tell me.”
“I wasn’t mad. A little disgusted maybe, but not mad.”
“Disgusted over the gay thing?”
“Disgusted that Brian could be that naïve.”
“Look, I just took advantage of a chance to get my cock sucked. Any faggot would have done the
same,” Brian paused and then said, “Except maybe the ones who give priests a run for the
celibacy award.”
“Excuse me, I’m going to the john,” Boyd left the room and Brian slumped in his chair, hating
what he just said. He felt Lisette staring at him, but he refused to meet her eyes.
“Can I smoke in here?” Brian asked and Rod shook his head.
“No. Sorry. So that was the last time you saw Greg Willis? Or heard from him?”
“No idea who’d kill him?”
“No idea whatsoever. As dumb as he was, it could have been a bad turn on a muddy road. Who
knows? I need a cigarette. I’m taking a break. Where can I smoke?”
“On the terrace through those doors. Lisette, I’m going to return a couple phone calls during this
break, you play hostess.”
She nodded as Rod left the room in one direction, Brian in the other. The terrace offered a view of
the traffic on Canal Street and he leaned against the iron banister and smoked, processing his
exchange with Boyd. Why did he say what he did? He came very close to revealing Boyd’s
confidence and it was unlike him to act that way. He could be an asshole, when warranted, but
this was just wrong. He felt dissed by Boyd’s attitude over his encounter with Greg, and so he
struck at him. Shit. The door opened and Boyd stepped out. Brian stared at him, tensing as he
wondered what would happen next. Boyd took the cigarette from between Brian’s lips and inhaled
deeply from it before giving it back.
Brian felt a little tug in his groin over that strangely intimate act and offered Boyd one of his own.
Boyd accepted, lighting it from the burning end of Brian’s smoke. Brian watched the late
afternoon sun that broke through pendulous gray clouds brush Boyd’s fair features in gold. He
was a beautiful man, wasted potential in so many ways. Boyd’s hair blew forward, into his eyes,
and Brian reflexively reached up to push it back. Boyd smiled at him. Brian wondered if he had
ever wanted to kiss anyone more than he wanted to kiss Boyd at that moment. Maybe once. But
not in a long time.
“I shouldn’t have said that,” Brian came as close as he could to an apology.
“So why did you?”
“I think you…maybe you hurt my feelings, I don’t know. If I had any feelings to be hurt.”
“Right, you have no feelings, is that it?”
Brian shrugged and Boyd shook his head. “You are so fake.”
“I’m a lot of things, but fake I am not.”
“Brian, you’re all smoke and mirrors. You never let anyone see behind the show. But there is
something there, I’ve glimpsed it. What are you hiding from? You accuse me of being a recluse, a
celibate, of hiding from life. What about you? You can hide in promiscuity too, you know.”
Too close, Brian thought to himself. Way too close. “Let’s just call it a draw, shall we?” He threw
the butt into a terracotta vase and started back in when Boyd took his hand and stopped him.

                                                 - 76 -

Brian met his eyes, tightening his grip on Boyd’s hand, letting their hands substitute for their
bodies. Boyd held his attention and then finally let go of him without saying a word. Sometimes
no words were adequate. This was one of those times.
Brian shook his head and went inside, feeling Boyd follow him with his gaze.
Current Mood:      anxious

Feb. 9th, 2005 05:20 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 20

Lisette looked up as Brian entered the conference room. Boyd was still on the terrace, smoking.
She said, “Don’t do it.”
Brian looked confused. “Do what?”
“Don’t toy with him. Don’t make him another one of your pelts. It’s not fair, Brian. You don’t
know what Boyd went through. You can’t understand where his head is now, without knowing his
past. You’re a handsome, charming, irresistible Irishman. I know you’re used to getting what you
want, in the sex department. I also know that he’s beautiful, but can’t you let one get away?”
Brian peered at the sister and said, “I thought Boyd was straight.”
She shook her head. “Don’t be an asshole with me. And don’t be cute. You got into this trouble
because you can’t keep it zipped. You’re so accustomed to getting exactly what you want, when
you want it. Which is fine. I’ve known faggots like you all of my adult life, and I don’t judge them.
I was wild once. Before I met Petra. But the simple fact is that sometimes you meet people who
have been so banged up by life that what you view as fun and games is practically terminal for
them. Boyd is one of those people. Leave him the fuck alone, Brian.”
“You think he’s happy now?” Brian flared. “Living the way he does? Mired in memories? Denying
his essential self? Hiding out in that sinkhole of a town, while living a total lie?”
“I think how he chooses to cope is none of your concern. I hope Boyd will reach a place in his life
where he can finally say ‘fuck this’ and break out. But he saw up close and personal what our
lovely family did to me when I came out. And he was married to the biggest bitch in Louisiana, a
woman who uses his love for his children as an atomic weapon. Not to mention the complete
mind fuck he went through with Jared Hall. What he doesn’t need right now, is another
handsome, slick player who will force his way past his emotional defenses and then hit the road
and never look back once this problem of yours gets fixed.”
“How did you get such a high opinion of me in so short a time?” Brian asked bitterly, unable to
argue with her conclusions.
She smiled. “I don’t condemn you for what you are, Brian. God bless you. But I don’t want you to
hurt my brother, that’s all I’m saying. For the love of God, show some decency. Boyd went out on
a limb for you. Let your gratitude for his generosity manifest itself in your refusal to launch a
drive-by seduction aimed at Boyd.”
Brian flicked his lighter on and off, watching the flame as he thought over her accusation, then
slipped the gold accessory in his pocket and said, “You go to your church and I’ll go to mine,
Lisette. Stay out of it.”
She met his stare and replied, “What’s going on, Brian? Did Boyd get to you at some level other
than your usual superficial attraction?”
“You don’t know me.”
                                                - 77 -

“Au contraire. I know you very well.”
Rod joined them at that moment, freezing Brian’s response. He observed their tension and said,
“So where were we?” Rod didn’t like to waste time with collateral issues.
At six o’clock, straight up, Ted entered the Old Absinthe Bar while    juggling his souvenir Hurricane
glass, his Voodoo Museum t-shirt and juju doll, his plastic bag full   of Mardi Gras beads and
tokens, and a box of pecan pralines. He sat a small table near the     door so he’d be sure to see
Brian and Boyd, and watched the early crowds gather on Bourbon         Street as he sipped a Mai Tai
and rested his aching feet.
After leaving Lisette and Rod, Brian and Boyd cut across Jackson Square to re-enter the heart of
the Quarter. Brian was sullen and Boyd was withdrawn.
“I need a drink,” Brian finally proclaimed and Boyd reminded him they were on their way to a bar.
“No, I need a drink right now.” He took Boyd’s arm and pulled him into a small bar off Royal. It
was early, but New Orleans was a 24-hour kind of drinking town, and several customers were at
the long, polished bar. Willie Nelson sang about blue eyes and rain on the sound system and two
ceiling fans with wicker blades vainly stirred the humidity. Brian ordered two double scotches and
guided Boyd to a booth. Once there, Brian closed his eyes and massaged his eyelids with his
thumb and forefinger.
“That was brutal. He made me feel like a damned fool.”
Boyd kept silent and Brian squinted at him. “I take it from your silence that you think I am a
damned fool.”
“He was just doing his job, Brian. Getting the facts. You should see him when he has a witness for
the prosecution on the stand. That’s brutality.”
“Your sister hates me,” Brian suddenly allowed. The drinks arrived via a waitress who hadn’t
gotten the memo about no tube tops on women over sixty. The two men exchanged a withering
look as she walked away, They sipped at the scotch, letting the alcohol go to work to soothe their
frayed nerves.
“Why do you think my sister hates you?” Boyd finally asked.
Brian re-capped his conversation with Lisette and Boyd shook his head. “She doesn’t hate you,
Brian. She’s just very protective of me. Lisette’s the only one who really knows about me, about
all of it. Others may know some sketches of my life, but Lisette knows pretty much the whole
mess. I’m sorry she felt she had to say something to you. I’m not a child.”
“You think she’s picking up on something we’re denying here?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, do you think she’s reading the fact we want each other when the two of us are still
Boyd met his gaze without flinching. “It doesn’t matter. It can’t happen.”
“What can’t happen?”
“Anything between you and me.”
“Because of that lawyer thing? Are you still my lawyer?”
“Not really. It’s not that.”
“Then what is it?”
“I’m not gay, Brian. Yeah, I was in this relationship with Jared, but he’s the only one. I think it
was just an aberration. I…” he stopped as Brian reached across the table and took his hand,
holding it firmly.
“It may not happen between us, Boyd, but don’t feed me that ‘I’m fundamentally straight’
bullshit. You may like to say it, you may even want to believe it, but it isn’t true.”
                                                 - 78 -

Boyd winced, but he didn’t try to pull away from his touch. “You don’t know.”
“Yes, Boyd, I do know. Why are you doing this to yourself? Did he hurt you that badly?”
“It wasn’t just Jared.”
“Then what was it?”
Boyd stared through the humidity-fogged glass on the door of the bar to Royal Street. Artie’s
new, flash gallery was less than a block from here. He knew if they walked past it, they would see
paintings of Jared’s prominently displayed within. Some of the work would be unlike the bold,
colorful abstracts that made him famous. Artie had sold so many of those that his supply was
dwindling. When an artist dies at twenty-eight, there’s only so much completed work that’s left
behind. And so Artie scavenged the older, evolving work that formed the basis for the style Jared
eventually perfected. He found representational art that displayed a skill for capturing the human
form with a precision his abstract pieces didn’t suggest. And he found the “crazy” work, the mad,
spiraling, thickly layered canvases that Jared painted when he was in the depths of depression.
Following his work was to demonstrate Jared’s life. The early, tentative discovery of his talent, the
progression of his individual style, the hectic sweeps of color when he was manic, and the dark,
disturbing canvases when he was depressed. Boyd learned to use his art as a barometer of
Jared’s moods. Boyd leased a coach house behind an elegant row house on Dolphin, not far from
Jared’s loft. It was private and convenient, small, but modernized. They spent a lot of time there,
finding it more commodious than Jared’s bare bones environment. Sometimes Jared would be
there waiting for him when Boyd came home from the Court, other times Boyd would go to the
loft to find him. Occasionally Jared would be so caught up in a painting that he couldn’t stop to
spend time with Boyd, but Boyd learned to cope with those artistic compulsions. He would curl up
on the mattress in the loft and read briefs, or go to dinner with his sister and her partner,
bringing a box of food home to his lover.
On one such evening, several weeks into their relationship, he climbed the stairs to the loft to find
the music blaring and Jared stabbing at a dark canvas with a paint-laden putty knife. Boyd walked
up and kissed the back of his neck, pushing aside his braids with his nose. He felt Jared tense as
he said, “I brought you your favorite. Oysters Rockefeller.”
“I’m sure it’s cold,” Jared snapped, slathering the navy blue paint onto a painting that looked to
Boyd like a raging, angry sea. “You sit around with your whitebread blondie dyke sister and her
whitebread Russian bitch girlfriend and enjoy your hundred dollar dinner while your slave-boy
stays in the dark, waiting for the man to come home with his table scraps.”
At first Boyd thought he was kidding, but then some instinct told him he was not. For a couple
days, Jared had grown moodier, more remote, easy to anger. He kept asking if he did something
wrong, and Jared kept telling him no. The sex between them still burned, but the emotional
intimacy was suddenly strained. He sat the food down on the work table and said, “First of all,
Petra is Romanian, not Russian. And she’s not a bitch. Second of all, you were invited to dinner
with us, but you said you wanted to work. Third, these aren’t leftovers, Jared. I ordered your
favorite dish and had them box it up for you.”
“What am I supposed to do about that, Boyd? Kiss your fucking feet for feeding me?” He picked
up the box, opened it, stuck a finger on an oyster, proclaimed it cold, and then flung the box
against the wall, decorating the bricks with oysters, spinach and butter sauce. Stunned, Boyd left
the loft and went home, trying to backtrack what he had done wrong. Within the hour, Jared was
unlocking the door, letting himself in. He walked straight over to Boyd and pulled him into his
arms, as he began to sob.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know why…I don’t want you mad at me,” he stuttered between sobs and Boyd
held him and soothed him and told him it was okay. He realized Jared smelled ripe, like he hadn’t
showered in days, and in fact he couldn’t remember seeing him shower in awhile. Once he was in
control, Boyd led him to the bathroom, filled the claw-footed tub with warm, scented water and
undressed his lover. Like a child being told to bathe, Jared stepped into the tub and closed his
eyes as Boyd knelt beside him on the tile and washed his smooth skin with a bath sponge.

                                                - 79 -

Later, wrapped in a robe and snuggled in Boyd’s arms in bed, Jared said, “I get into these moods
sometimes, Boyd. They just sneak up on me and throw a black sheet over my world. I fight the
sheet and struggle to get out from under it, but I can’t find my way out and that just makes me
madder and then I get overwhelmed and I give up. Finally the sheet gets lifted and I’m okay
again. It’s been that way since I was a teenager. I don’t know why. I always hurt the people I
care about when I’m under that sheet. I don’t mean to, but I do.”
‘The boy is crazy’, Boyd recalled the words of Jared’s uncle. “Have you talked to a doctor?”
“Oh yeah, shrinks. My mama made me see a shrink when I kept getting in trouble at school and
once when I was sixteen and melodramatic, I tried to off myself with an overdose of aspirin of all
things,” he shook his head at the memory. “They made me drink this charcoal shit at the hospital.
It was terrible. The shrink diagnosed me as bi-polar. He gave me these meds.”
“Do they help?”
“Sure, if I take them. They make me even out, not really high, not really low. Just middle of the
road. But I hate them, because they repress my passion for my work. I can’t paint without that
passion. So I suffer through the black sheet and wait for it to pass.”
“Maybe there’s other drugs you can take, Jared. Something to help you but not affect your work.”
“Don’t think so. Tried more than one.” He grabbed Boyd’s face in one hand and said, “If you love
me, you’ll ride this out with me. You won’t run away. I can’t help it. It’s a sickness. You can’t take
it personally. Please tell me you won’t abandon me, Boyd. Everyone abandons me.”
“Never,” Boyd whispered, kissing his lips, and pulling him into the security of his arms. “I’ll never
abandon you.” But that proclamation turned out to be a lie.
Brian released Boyd’s hand and leaned back in the booth. “There’s no point having a discussion
about you and me when your head is back in the bad old days. That kind of competition I do not
Boyd let his attention return to Brian. He missed the touch of his hand. “I’m a bad bet.”
“Welcome to the club.”
“I couldn’t do it, Brian. I tried, I really did, but I couldn’t cope with his illness. It drained me. I
lived in constant fear that I would come home and the bad Jared would be waiting instead of the
good Jared. And when he was the bad Jared, his mood took many forms, none of them good.”
“No one could cope with that for long, Boyd. It doesn’t make you a bad person.”
“Yes, it does. He wasn’t just cruel, he was sick. Not his fault.”
“His choice not to medicate.”
“But without his work, he was nothing. His work was his core.”
“I’ve learned that making your work your raison d’etre is a really bad idea. That’s one perspective
I’ve picked up on this road trip of mine.”
“But you’re not an artist. I think it’s different with them.”
“I lived with an artist, too, Boyd. Granted, he was a baby, and had vastly different circumstances
than did Jared, but I understand the temperament. I think.”
“This is the one person in your life you may have been in love with?” Boyd pushed and Brian
“Or something like that.”
“Tell me about him.”
“Instead of telling ghost stories, why don’t we talk about the here and now?”
“What about it?”

                                                  - 80 -

Brian leaned across the table, placing one hand on the back of Boyd’s head as he kissed him on
the mouth. At first, Boyd resisted, but then he relaxed, opened his mouth to Brian’s probing
tongue and sucked him in.
“No fucking queers in this bar!” The barkeep yelled at them. “Go to Rampart where you fucking
faggots own all the bars and do your shit there!”
Brian broke off the kiss, feeling the heat sweep him from the toes up. He slammed a twenty on
the table, shot the bird at the barkeep, and grabbed Boyd’s hand, leading him out into the night.
Current Mood: enthralled

Feb. 10th, 2005 05:31 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 21

Boyd walked at Brian’s pace, and then stopped abruptly, causing Brian to turn and look at him.
“What are we doing?” Boyd asked.
“It has been awhile, hasn’t it?” Brian said with a smile. He leaned close to Boyd and whispered in
his ear, “We’re going to do something that rhymes with ‘prick’.”
Boyd stepped back. “Is that what you want? Is that what you think I want? A trick? That I’ve
waited all this time for some smarmy club stud to come along and ball me in some sleazy hotel
room? If that’s what I wanted, I wouldn’t have held out for four days, let alone four years.”
Brian didn’t like being referred to as a ‘smarmy club stud’ and he didn’t like being bothered by
that reference. “I didn’t have time to stop at the corner jewelers and pick up an engagement ring,
Boyd. What the fuck do you want from me?”
Boyd stared at him and then said in a soft voice, “Nothing.”
Brian felt bitch-slapped. His defenses came roaring back. “Works for me. Getting laid in New
Orleans was never a problem for me.”
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Not sure. You know a good club or bar with an active backroom? As we all know in excruciating
detail, I don’t require a fancy setting or a formal introduction to get off.”
“They let you come here so long as you stayed under my control, Brian. I’m not risking my
reputation and even my law license so you can get laid.”
“That leaves you with two options, Boyd. Either give it to me or come with because one way or
another, I’m getting laid.”
Boyd reached for Brian’s arm, but he eluded him. Brian felt unreasonably angry without knowing
why. Boyd saw the rage flash in Brian’s eyes and he held his palms up in a gesture of surrender,
reverting to old behaviors he learned while placating Jared’s mood swings. Brian read Boyd’s
panic and felt foolish for causing that reaction. He lit a cigarette, then dragged his fingers through
his hair and said, “I’m not running, Boyd. I’ll be back at your house later tonight. But I have to
get away from all this…this…crap, I need to get lost in someone’s tight ass. Just go home and
forget this happened. I’ll see you later.”
“Brian, please don’t go.”
“You really think I’m bolting?”
Boyd shook his head. “No, but come home with me. Let’s talk, let’s try and figure this out.”

                                                   - 81 -

“Nothing to figure out, nothing to say. Later, Boyd.”
Boyd sighed, watched Brian walk towards the corner and then he turned and found himself facing
Jared. Jared was wearing low-slung jeans and no shirt, his strong body was well displayed in
shadow. He was scowling at Boyd, his gray-green eyes broadcasting a mood Boyd knew only too
well. Jared was depicted in a life-sized poster in the window of Artie’s gallery. One of his dark-
colored abstracts was on an easel beside the poster and a sign in the window read: Mood Indigo:
A Retrospective of Works by Jared Hall.
Boyd was mesmerized by the poster. He spread his hands on the glass as if he could reach
through it and find the image was flesh and blood, not paper and ink. He closed his eyes in pain
as he leaned his forehead against the window. “Jared,” he whispered.
He felt a strong arm at the small of his back and glanced over his shoulder to see that Brian had
walked back to him. When their eyes met, Brian just shook his head. “No,” he said softly.
Boyd felt all the strength go out of his skeletal system. His bones felt suddenly rubbery and
incapable of supporting his weight. He grabbed Brian’s lapels in his fists to steady himself and
Brian moved his hands to Boyd’s elbows, supporting him as he said, “Come on.”
“Where are we going?”
Brian flagged a cab, and when it pulled up to the curb, he helped Boyd inside. “We’re going
home,” he answered his question as he followed Boyd into the cab. They rode past the austere
white marble Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Boyd winced, recalling his work there.
Three months into his relationship with Jared, he was at his sister’s house after a long day at the
Court working on an opinion in a complex case. Her partner, Petra, was still a resident at that
time, and Lisette was one year away from partnership consideration in Ernesto Rodrique’s firm.
So money was tight, and the old house they were refurbishing was still pretty shabby. Somehow,
they managed to make it homey. They were only recently living together, and this house
acquisition was a huge step in their commitment. Boyd had never seen Lisette happier than she
was since Petra entered her life. Trading on her beauty and vivacity, Lisette had been a wild thing
before Petra. Boyd didn’t think she would ever settle down, but now he couldn’t imagine her
“You look like hell, sissy boy,” she complained as she handed him a beer. The nickname was a
joke from their childhood, established long before either of them knew anything about sexual
orientation. “You two are spending far too much time in bed, and not sleeping.”
He yawned and nodded. She was right. “Jared kept me up all night. I’m dead on my feet.”
“Braggart,” she teased and he shook his head.
“You don’t get it, Lisette. He’s on a manic swing and while it’s nice that he’s not morose and
angry and withdrawn, he works himself up into a sort of frenzy. He paints and paints and paints
and he doesn’t eat, or sleep, and sex is his big recreation. It’s great, but the fact is, I have a job
that requires me to be there by eight and stay awake until five. Sometimes he sabotages my
leaving at all. He’ll seduce me, or he’ll turn off the alarm and not wake me. He thinks it’s funny,
that it’s seductive, but it makes me nuts.”
She sighed. “Petra says Jared needs to be on meds.”
Boyd glared at her. “She went to med school how long to figure that out? I know he does, he
knows he does, but he says it affects his work, and his work is his life. I can’t make him take his
meds. I’ve tried. He’ll get pretty normal in a day or two and that calm period will last for awhile
and then he’ll dip into the depression, and the roller coaster starts again.”
“Baby, what are you going to do?”
He shook his head. ”I’m just so tired. If we could have a few months of calm, to establish our
relationship, to get on even footing, that might be enough for me to figure out how to handle the
roller coaster.”
“What if you told him you felt you had to take a breather if he won’t medicate?”
                                                 - 82 -

“I can’t do that. He has a terror of being abandoned. He’d go off the deep end. I’m accentuating
the negative, Lisette. He’s a wonderful man, brilliant, and not just as an artist. He didn’t go to
college, but his mind is more complex than any scholar I’ve ever met. And he’s a wonderful,
passionate lover and so beautiful. I really love him. I just don’t feel capable of helping him.”
“Not if he won’t help himself, honey. I like Jared, Boyd, I really do. If for no reason other than he
brought you out. And I agree that he’s brilliant. But he has to be willing to work on his problem if
he wants a relationship. No one can live with this indefinitely.”
A knock on the door interrupted them and Lisette bounced up to answer it. “Probably Petra
forgetting her key, again.”
But it was Jared. Dressed in his paint-splattered coveralls, he said hello to her and spied Boyd,
rushing over to him and kissing him deeply. “I thought you might be here. Why didn’t you come
home? I miss you. I’ve been waiting all day to see you. Why didn’t you just come home? I want
to show you something. Wait, I’ll get it. Just stay right there,” he went outside and returned with
a large canvas, a striking rendition of colorful strokes and vivid artistry. “I finished it. What do
you think?”
“You carried that over here?”
“Yes. What do you think? Is it good? I think it’s good, but then I don’t know. Sometimes I look at
it and I hate it. What do you think, Lisette? Do you like it? Maybe I should give it to you and
Petra. Yes, you need art to spruce this place up. You could put it here, over the mantle. I love
that mantle. They don’t do stonework like that anymore,” he held it up to the exposed brick wall
above the fireplace. “See? Isn’t that fantastic? It’s not bad, is it?”
“It’s wonderful, Jared, but I want to pay you for it,” she said and he winced.
“Pay me? Pay me! You’re Boyd’s sister! Of course you can’t pay me. It’s a gift. Can’t you just
graciously accept it as a gift from his lover? Boyd’s brown boy painted it for you. Are you
bothered by the fact Boyd has a brown boy? All you blondes in your family, everyone blond, and
now this dark shadow enters the realm of the Coulters.”
Boyd walked over to Jared and took the painting out of his hands, leaning it against the wall. He
slipped his arms around him and held tightly to him, feeling him heaving against him, his system
burning on overdrive. “Did you get any sleep today?”
“I worked,” Jared rested his cheek against Boyd’s. “I worked and worked and then I worked some
more. I finished that beautiful painting. Who needs sleep? But I’m hungry, Boyd. Really hungry.
Can we go somewhere and eat?”
“Tell you what,” Lisette invited. “You two go have a lie down and I’ll start dinner. Petra will be
home any minute and we can all have a nice meal together. I’ll make shrimp and rice, Boyd’s
favorite. What do you say?”
“Yes,” Jared agreed. “That would be nice. Dinner with the Coulters. Come on, Boyd. Let’s have
that lie down.” He took his hand, pulling him into the bedroom. Boyd left his sister with an
apologetic look. He knew what would happen next, no matter how awkward he may feel about
making love in her bed. Jared would insist upon it and when he touched Boyd, the fight would go
out of him. That was just what they did, but afterwards, Jared slept. Finally. He was still sleeping
when dinner was ready. Boyd let him rest, spent a quiet evening with his sister and Petra, and
awoke Jared only when it was too late to stay any longer. He had his meal boxed up and Jared
was groggy and disoriented as they said their goodbyes.
At Boyd’s place, he ate the warmed up food in silence, then followed Boyd to bed. He was asleep
again in five minutes. So was Boyd, who knew Jared’s manic high had now peaked, and they
were already on the decline.
“Eat it,” Brian said, handing Boyd a sandwich he made with fresh food that was miraculously
stocked in the refrigerator by the family’s invisible helpers. Boyd winced but Brian insisted as he
sat beside him on the couch.
“What about you?”
                                                 - 83 -

“I ate one while making yours. Besides, that lunch today should hold me for a week.”
“Are you going back out?”
Brian shrugged, that fire was out for now. “I’m tired. I may just hit the sack early. We have that
meeting with Rod’s investigator and business manager in the morning. I need to be alert to sign a
check that big.”
“You won’t regret it.”
“I know. He’s good.”
Silence, and Boyd peeked at Brian’s handsome profile as he dug into the second half of the
sandwich. “It’s not that I’m not attracted to you, Brian, because I am.”
“We don’t need to have this conversation.”
“Don’t we?”
“No. Lisette is right. You’ve had enough shitty relationships in your life. You don’t need to get
slimed by me.”
“Slimed? That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?”
“My so-called friends in Pittsburgh call it being ‘Brian’ed’. When someone gets seduced, fucked
and left in the dust, they’ve been Brian’ed. And these are my friends.”
“Why do you think you’re that way?”
Brian shrugged. “No point in lingering on the psychology of it. I’m just incapable of sustaining a
relationship. With Justin…that’s the artist I told you about, I wanted to make it work almost as
much as I didn’t want it to work. Even when I knew exactly what I needed to do to smooth things
over between us, like buy him some flowers on his birthday, I just couldn’t do it. I felt like I was
betraying my image of myself. Like fidelity. I view that as breeder behavior, and even breeders
just aspire to fidelity and seldom achieve it.”
“Does it make you happy, all the screwing around?”
“It has up until now. I’m not saying it doesn’t make me happy now, but I don’t know.
Sometimes…” he paused, frowned, regrouped. “I thought a lot about my life during this road
“What did you conclude?”
“That I’m a pretty lonely guy.”
Boyd put a hand on Brian’s knee and squeezed it gently. “That’s a big conclusion, Brian.”
Brian let his hand cover Boyd’s and they sat there in silence for a moment, enjoying the simple
contact. The sound of the doorbell startled them and Brian frowned, annoyed by the interruption.
“Stay there, I’ll get it.”
He opened the front door to find himself facing a slightly drunk and very angry Ted. Only then did
he remember their plan to meet. “Uh, come in, Theodore. Been shopping?”
“You asshole! Do you know how long I waited for you? And is your mobile even on?” Brian looked
at his phone and remembered he turned it off during his meeting with Rod and never turned it
back on. “I thought so,” Ted huffed. “I didn’t even know the address to this fucking house! I
remembered the street only and I had the cabbie drive up and down the blocks until I decided
this was it. You asshole!”
“It’s my fault, Ted,” Boyd came from the living room, hovering in the foyer. “I didn’t feel well and
Brian brought me home.”
“Yeah,” Ted looked from one man to the other. “Right. I’m going to bed. Fuck you both.”
“And you, Theodore,” Brian said as Ted trudged upstairs with his burdens.
“Sorry,” Boyd called after him and then looked at Brian. “I feel terrible.”
                                                   - 84 -

“Don’t. Ted lives to be a martyr. That’s his lot in life.”
“That’s just mean, Brian.”
“I can be mean. Are you still hungry?”
Boyd nodded and Brian glanced at his watch. “It’s still early. Feel up to going back into town? We
can try this again without all the dramatics.”
Boyd smiled. “I know a great little café on Rampart. Not expensive, but the food is to die for.”
“Is this one of those places destined to send you into a Jared stupor?”
“We used to go there, in fact it was the first place we ever went together, but I think I’d really
like to share it with you.”
Brian felt ridiculously pleased by that statement and he nodded his agreement. They left the
house together, walking towards the streetcar stop. In the dark, Brian’s hand brushed Boyd’s,
and Boyd seized it, holding it for several yards before Brian finally pulled free to light a cigarette,
uncomfortable with that intimacy. Boyd smiled to himself, sensing Brian’s internal struggle. Brian
could act out as the bad boy all he wanted, but Boyd had seen a glimpse of his compassion, of his
shredded soul, of his longing, and that was all he needed right now to give him hope.
“Coming?” Brian prompted as he climbed aboard the streetcar, offering a hand to Boyd. Boyd
took it and let Brian haul him aboard, leaning against his strong body for a fleeting instant before
the car lurched forward and they sat across the aisle from each other, connected only by a joint
stare that they couldn’t seem to break.
Current Mood:       hot

Feb. 11th, 2005 05:11 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 22

This is Randall. Just so you guys don't come after me with pointed sticks, I edited this chapter for
Brian and am posting it for him now. But warning, I'm tired, so if I missed something, deal with
Once again, Brian ate too much, drank too much. He felt bloated and immobile as he slumped
down in the black leather booth at the back of the café. Over murky coffee served in large red
cups, he shared a moment of quiet reflection with Boyd. The meal had been enjoyable. No ghosts
sat down to dine with them, and no demons nibbled their desserts. Even though it was a place
rooted in memories for Boyd, he weathered it well. He deliberately forced aside the past to enjoy
a pleasant experience in the present with a man he found interesting.
“How much younger is he?” Boyd broke the silence. “This Justin of yours?”
“Not mine. Never was mine. Way younger.”
“I see.”
“No, you don’t ‘see’. I’m not a chicken hawk. He was legal when we met, if barely, and he lied
about his age.”
“As did you?”
Brian shrugged. “For all the good it did me, I may have shaved off a year or two. He was rudely
made aware of my true age when my thirtieth birthday landed on my head.”
“Oh no, not that,” Boyd said with a laugh.
                                                  - 85 -

“Yes, that. I’m presuming you and I are the same age, or thereabouts.”
“I’m thirty-three.”
“Me too.” They grew silent again, then Brian observed, “Depressing, isn’t it?”
“Could be worse. Could be forty.”
“What is the shelf life on a smarmy club stud, anyway?” Boyd teased.
“Call me that again and it’s your own shelf life you should be worrying about,” Brian made a mock
threat and Boyd shot back with,
“In your circumstances, threatening someone isn’t the wise course to take.”
“Ha, ha,” Brian grumbled and Boyd went on,
“I’m not hung up on age.”
“Because time moves so slowly in Red Duck that no one ages, or no one notices.”
“It’s not as bad as all that.”
“Help me with that, Boyd. What keeps you there, other than your kids? You don’t seem to be
particularly close to your family. You could make more money doing what you do in a big city.
You might even find a life, separate and apart from all your childhood hang-ups and the people
who bring you down,” Brian paused, realizing he had just described his life in Pittsburgh with
eerie precision.
“It’s safe,” Boyd defended.
“I haven’t found it to be safe. Neither did Greg Willis. Even if it were, why is ‘safe’ attractive?
You’re too young, too hot for ‘safe’ to be your goal, unless you mean ‘safe’ sex.”
“It’s a human drive to be safe, secure, Brian. And what happened to you in Canard Rouge is out
of the ordinary, to say the least.”
“There’s no night life, no culture. It’s full of man-eating alligators, swamp fever carrying bugs,
poisonous snakes, crazy killers, and rampant homophobia. What am I missing? Oh yeah, the
black folk live on one side of the tracks, the white folk on the other.”
Boyd felt compelled to defend his hometown, despite the fact he agreed with Brian on several
points. “Families count in Canard Rouge. There’s a tradition of strong faith, good food, history,
hard work…there are worse places.”
“Are you happy there?”
“I’m peaceful. After living my life in a mixmaster with Jared, peaceful is good.”
“Plenty of time to be peaceful when you’re dead. You aren’t dead yet. Only your dick is in a state
of perpetual parade rest.”
Boyd laughed and nodded to the waiter when he offered a refill on their coffee. “It would be
easier for me if that were true. Perpetual rigor mortis is more like it.”
Brian raised an eyebrow at that unintentionally hot remark, but they were interrupted by the
owner of the café as he came over to their table. “Boyd? Boyd Coulter? I thought that was you!
Long time, my friend.”
Boyd stood to shake his hand, and introduced him to Brian. The owner inquired about their meal
and beamed at their positive reviews. “Did Artie finally talk you into selling that last painting of
Jared’s that you had here? I don’t see it.”
“No, and he never will. That scoundrel stole my stockpile of Jared’s works for a birdsong, before
the man’s star ascended. I’m hanging onto this last one. I keep it in my office, now. It’s safer
there. Shit, it’s worth more than this whole establishment, combined with my wine cellar. And it’s
small. Remember when I’d have ten or twelve of Jared’s big canvases all along these walls? Sold
                                                  - 86 -

them for a couple hundred apiece,” he shook his head. “Then that jackrabbit Artie swooped in
when Jared died and bought the whole she-bang except for my one little survivor. Only have it
because it was in the bathroom at that time and Artie didn’t see it. Now Artie is driving a Rolls
and I’m still slinging hash.”
Brian glanced at Boyd to see how he was handling this discussion, but Boyd was wearing his
lawyer mask, so he gave away nothing. “The wrong Hall got rich off Jared’s talent,” Boyd said and
the owner squeezed his shoulder and said,
“That’s the damned truth. You boys enjoy.”
He left them alone and Brian asked Boyd if he was okay. “I’m fine,” Boyd reassured him.
“Jared’s quite a legend around here, isn’t he?”
“Not just here, in the art world in general. He was a brilliant talent.”
“At least he got some fame before he died. Especially in the gay community. I remember reading
about him. Didn’t he make any money before he…”
“Died?” Boyd finished his sentence for him. “Some, but there’s no artist like a dead artist when it
comes to valuing their work. But Jared wasn’t about recognition and getting rich. Jared was about
beauty and creation.”
“Which is great if you have a rich boyfriend to support you.”
“I didn’t really support Jared, if that’s what you mean. I would have, believe me, but he didn’t
need much. He sold enough to pay for his studio, his supplies, his food, the few clothes he
bothered to buy, and he had no desire for material possessions. The one thing I know for sure,
my money had no appeal to Jared.”
“Boyd, I don’t doubt he wanted you for yourself. Why wouldn’t he? You’re a beautiful guy.”
Boyd smiled. “Not really, but thanks.” He insisted on paying the tab, and as they walked out,
Brian said,
“How long were you two together?”
They walked the narrow sidewalk that was lined with clubs and bars that catered to the gay trade.
Brian lured Boyd into a bar where they made an immediate impression as they entered together.
They found two seats at the long bar and ordered brandy to chase dinner. In the background,
music played and a few couples danced, but it wasn’t a club, so there wasn’t much of a dance
floor. Most of the patrons just mingled and cruised. Boyd had been here before. Jared liked this
place, since it was low-key, and since the manager let him display his work for sale here from
time to time.
They were nearing a year into their relationship when Boyd came home from work to find Jared
simmering in front of the television in his apartment. He didn’t look up as Boyd entered the flat.
Jared never watched television, so Boyd knew something was up. He was dressed in jeans and a
shirt, no sign of paint anywhere on his skin or clothing. He looked very handsome, with his hair
freshly washed and gleaming, but his mood put Boyd on alert. When he left him that morning,
Jared had been in a neutral mood. They made love at a leisurely pace, shared a breakfast of
scrambled eggs on toast and coffee, and Jared said he was going back to bed for awhile when
Boyd went to work.
That worried Boyd a little. One of the early warning signs of an impending spiral was a tendency
to oversleep. It was as if Jared made up for all his sleepless nights while in a manic phase, by
retreating into slumber when depressed. Now, this sullen, withdrawn behavior suggested Boyd
was right about the spiral. He kissed Jared on top of the head, inhaling the fresh scent of
shampoo and threw his briefcase on the couch.
“Want to go out to eat or do you want to fix something here?”
Jared muted the television and fixed his mesmerizing eyes on his lover. “Your mama called.”

                                                  - 87 -

Boyd tensed. Except for Lisette, no one in his family knew anything about his homosexuality,
about Jared. “She wants you to call her at your house in the Garden District.”
They were in town. Swell. Boyd winced. “What else did she say?”
“You mean did she ask who the fuck am I to be answering your phone? No, Boyd, she didn’t. I
guess she thought I was your house nigger.”
“Would you stop with the n-word, Jared? You know I hate that.”
Jared gave a humorless laugh in response. “Aren’t you gonna call her?”
“Not right now.”
“I can leave so you can tell her your usual lies about your life without having to say I don’t exist
in front of me.”
“It’s not about that. I never tell my family anything about me, never have. We aren’t close. I just
don’t want to deal with them right now, Jared. It’s always tense, always unpleasant. I just want
them to go back to the swamp.”
“My brother wouldn’t show any of my paintings in his fucking gallery,” Jared said. “I told him to
just put a couple up and see if anyone bites. He wouldn’t. Said they’re crap. Said tourists want
pictures they can recognize, jazz musicians, street scenes, life on the ol’ plantation. What an
Uncle Tom cunt he is.”
“What about that interview, Jared? Don’t you think that will give you some recognition?”
“That fag rag from New York? Big fucking deal. It’s more about my pec’s than my work.”
Boyd sat beside him and spread his hand on Jared’s chest. “I like your pec’s. Works for me.”
“Are you ever gonna come out, Boyd? Are you ever gonna tell them? Tell anyone other than your
dyke sister?”
“A lot of people know, Jared. We’re together in gay venues all the time. I make no big secret of it.
I just don’t feel I have to broadcast it, either. It’s no one’s business but ours.”
“What bullshit. You’re afraid to come out. You’re ashamed of me.”
“That is absolute crap and you know it. I love you.”
“Prove it. Call your mama. Tell her you’d love to come to dinner with her and with Daddy, and by
the way, you’re bringing a friend.”
Bringing an African-American male lover home for dinner was a scenario Boyd couldn’t quite
picture. Especially not when Jared was on the down swing, emotionally. He was at his most
volatile at this phase. When he was all the way down, he was just morose and inconsolable. Now,
he was angry and irritable.
“Don’t make it sound like a loyalty issue, Jared. I love you. My family is intolerant and mean-
spirited. They completely wrote off Lisette when she came out. I’m just not ready to deal with
that right now.”
“Right now? Or ever. Never is what you mean, isn’t it?” Jared stood up, walked to the door.
“Where are you going?” Boyd asked, and he glared at him in response.
He left and Boyd considered letting him go, letting him burn off his bad mood, but within the
hour, he was out on the streets looking for him. He went to a few of the bars on Rampart they
liked to visit, but no one had seen him. As he left one, a guy who looked vaguely familiar stopped
him. “I think I saw Jared going into Raven.”
Boyd frowned. Raven was hard core, not a place they frequented. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, no one looks quite like Jared.”

                                                 - 88 -

Boyd thanked him and summoned his courage as he entered the dark club that throbbed with
dance music and smelled of amyl nitrate, sex and sweat. Men reached for him without caution,
sneering as he pulled away. He didn’t see Jared anywhere. He went through a curtain of steel
mesh and waited for his vision to adapt to the almost solid darkness. Men in various stages of
undress or completely naked were engaged in a variety of sex acts, in pairs or in groups. He
turned to go, when he saw Jared’s braids under a blue light. He was leaning against a carpeted
wall, as a man in leather paraphernalia squatted before him, sucking his hard cock. The man was
Boyd felt his world spin off its axis as he met Jared’s eyes and read only contempt in his
expression. No shame, no fear, only misdirected anger. Someone reached for Boyd, and he pulled
away, fleeing from the back room and out the door, running down the street, trying to lose that
image of Jared through his exertion.
Brian thumped the back of Boyd’s head with his thumb and forefinger. Boyd winced and pushed
his hand aside. “That hurt.”
“You left me again.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“We have a question on the table. I asked you how long you were together.”
Boyd’s mobile rang, preventing his response and Brian shook his head at the timing as Boyd
answered it.
“Boyd, it’s Charlie.”
He tensed. “Hi, Charlie.”
“The coroner finished with what’s left of Greg Willis. He was murdered. We need your boy back.”
“I’ll give you until tomorrow, noon, and then you bring him in.”
“I’ll see that he’s there, Charlie. But he has new counsel.”
“Who’s that?”
“Ernesto Rodrigue.”
Silence, and then she said, “You asshole.”
“It’s his life you’re fucking with now, Charlie. We don’t plan to make it easy for you.”
“Is your sister still working for Rodrigue?”
Surprised by that inquiry, Boyd said, “Yeah. Why?”
“By noon, Boyd, or your ass is mine, and your boy is going to jail pending.”
She hung up and Boyd looked at Brian who sighed and looked away. “Let me guess.”
Boyd pressed a hand to the back of Brian’s neck. “It’s going to be okay.”
Brian went into his arms, holding tightly to him, more for comfort than sex. “This is crazy. I didn’t
do anything.”
“I know,” Boyd rubbed his hands up and down Brian’s strong back as his eyes closed on his fear.
“I know you didn’t.”
They stood there in this tight embrace as other gay men walked around them, smiling at the
image of two handsome guys showing public affection, mistaking fear for love.
Current Mood:       melancholy

Feb. 12th, 2005 06:29 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 23
                                                  - 89 -

The club once called “Raven” was now called “Carbon”. Updated, slicked, it still existed as a hard
core, men-only venue with an active back room. Boyd held tightly to Brian’s hand as they walked
in from the street. Even apart from his bad experience in the predecessor club on this site, Boyd
was uncomfortable in this crowd. Men came here to get fucked, it was that simple. He lacked the
courage to do so.
Brian’s innate elegance should have set him apart from the crowd, but he blended in seamlessly.
He was a chameleon, shifting his skin to suit his environment. Smooth and intelligent with Rod,
he remained collected under intense scrutiny over painfully personal details. He could be fun and
playful with Boyd, or he could be seductive and pressuring. With the kids, he was charming and
yet unexpectedly paternal. With Ted, he was demanding and abrupt. He swung from being
righteously indignant over the accusations against him, to being terrified and vulnerable. Now he
was a predator, scanning the horizon for prey.
Soon, Boyd found himself in a re-vamped version of the back room where he discovered Jared
with another man. Brian had orchestrated this show. Redesigned with low lights to illuminate
naked flesh, it was a gay male playground with half-walls, cubes, lounge chairs, ladders and other
devices intended to separate the space and provide the illusion of not quite hidden alcoves for
sex; while still allowing the thrill of voyeurism.
Brian stood Boyd with his back against a wall, protecting him from roving players. Brian had
stolen a lean, handsome young man away from a startled gym bunny, who lost his trick before he
realized he had a competitor. Boyd repressed a shimmer of jealousy as he watched Brian work
the trick. First, Brian pulled off his own shirt, but he left his pants on and opened his fly so the
trick could get at him. Boyd admired Brian’s size and girth as the trick removed Brian’s cock from
his pants and ducked down to suck it.
Boyd felt Brian watch him watching. Brian was far more visually engaged with Boyd than he was
with the trick. The club thoughtfully provided random receptacles containing condoms and lube,
and the trick stood to retrieve them. Cutting the foreplay short, he applied each of his finds to
Brian, who was more than ready. Boyd had become miserably erect inside his trousers. He could
feel the heat being experienced by the trick, almost experience his anticipation of the ecstasy and
pain that would be borne on Brian’s hard cock.
This interlude had been Boyd’s idea.
When he shared Charlie’s information with Brian, his former client was devastated. Any denial he
had been operating under since they left Canard Rouge, instantly vanished. Boyd suspected
outlaw sex was Brian’s method of managing pain. He, too, was being tormented by the
unrequited desire he had in common with Brian. Even though it was Boyd’s inability or refusal to
relent that kept them apart, he shared in his frustration. Without admitting it outright, they
reached agreement to fuck by proxy.
The “proxy” was turned towards the wall, standing close to Boyd. He spread his thighs, opening a
passage into his firm, muscular ass. Brian’s gaze fixed on Boyd’s face when he penetrated that
tight enclosure. Boyd’s eyes closed, as if he could feel the burn of Brian’s thrust. His own hand
wandered down his belly to squeeze his rigid cock, bringing a smile from Brian.
Boyd watched the transformation of Brian’s handsome face as the fucking intensified. His skin
became flushed, his nostrils flared, his lips parted. Even when his eyes were half-closed with
passion, he kept watching Boyd. Boyd stroked his own cock without taking it out, the fabric of his
clothing muting the sensation to delay his release.
“Show it to me,” Brian pleaded, but Boyd refused. In his mind, he could preserve the illusion of
celibacy by remaining covered. As he neared orgasm, Brian reached out and cupped the back of
                                                - 90 -

Boyd’s neck in his hand, yanking him over to him so they could kiss. As soon as Boyd experienced
the direct fire of Brian’s need by the touch of his tongue, he shot his load. Brian shuddered
against him as he did the same. The trick’s sexual status was of no interest to either of them.
In the cab, on their way back to the Garden District, Brian gave Boyd’s still profile a nervous
glance. “I’ll pay your cleaning bill,” he teased. Boyd laughed.
“My problem. I’ll take care of it.”
“Thought you already did that,” Brian quipped and Boyd responded,
“What did you expect? I’m not made of wood.” It was a deliberate double entendre and they both
laughed at it.
“Worst case scenario,” Brian suddenly observed. “If they lock me up for life, at least I won’t lack
for sex.”
“You aren’t going to be locked up for life, Brian.”
“Why not? Do they still execute here?”
“They have the death penalty, but Louisiana hasn’t executed anyone in ages.”
“I feel better now.”
Boyd rested his hand on Brian’s thigh. “You’ll be fine, Brian. The truth is on your side. We’ll get
through this.”
“Yes, we.”
“I thought you weren’t my lawyer anymore.”
“I’m still your friend, aren’t I?”
Brian leaned his temple on Boyd’s shoulder and said, “Until we get back to the ol’ stomping
grounds, where I suddenly become more liability than friend.”
“That’s not true.”
“Sure it is, Boyd. I was enough of an embarrassment to you when I was accused of a blow job. I
suspect a murder rap may increase my blight.”
“I care about you, Brian. I’m not walking away when you need me.”
Brian reached down to weave Boyd’s fingers with his own, unable to say anything in response.
Boyd stared out the window, questioning his own generosity. He remembered the fateful trip to
Canard Rouge with Jared. They were a year and a half into their affair. In a few months, Boyd’s
stint as a clerk of the Court would end. He was already interviewing with law firms in New
Orleans. Following publicity and some local promotion, Jared’s work was selling a little better, and
yet the money he earned seemed meaningless to him. Sometimes Boyd would come across
hundreds of dollars left in the pocket of his coveralls or stuck in a can holding paint brushes. He
tried to set up a bank account and an accounting system for Jared, but it was hopeless. What
money he earned he gave to his mother and younger siblings.
Going to Boyd’s hometown grew in importance to Jared until Boyd realized he had no choice but
to take him there if they were to survive as a couple. Jared agreed they would pose as friends,
not lovers, for Boyd wasn’t ready to convert this trip into a coming out party. Jared was on a
high, but not yet manic, which was his most charming mood. They laughed and teased
throughout the drive to Canard Rouge and he instantly loved the swamp setting of the cabin. As
soon as they entered the place, Jared led him to the bedroom where they stripped down and fell
back on the mattress together, spending most of that first afternoon in bed.
Later, while Jared slept, Boyd went up to the plantation house and surprised his mother, who
greeted him with a cool kiss on the cheek. “You should have called.”
“It was spur of the moment. I brought a friend with me, Mother. We’re staying at the cabin.”
                                                      - 91 -

“A girlfriend?”
“No, a guy.”
She looked relieved. His mother was convinced every woman of Boyd’s age was after his money
and that he was too naïve to realize that fact. ”A lawyer friend?”
“No, he’s an artist A brilliant artist.”
“How does one meet an artist?” She made it sound like he was from Mars.
“I live in New Orleans, Mother. It’s brimming with artists.”
“Well, then, you shall invite him here for dinner, of course.”
“Ok, thanks. Mother, he’s African American. I don’t want there to be any polite silences about
that, understood?”
“Don’t make us sound like backward hillbillies. It’s not as if we haven’t had black people as guests
in our home.”
Boyd thought back and remembered a professional football player his father admired and a
visiting United States Senator, looking for funds. “Tell Dad.”
“Of course I will, Boyd. It’s nice to see you socializing, at least.”
He left and brought the invitation to dinner back to the cabin. When Jared got the news, he grew
tense. “I don’t have the right clothes to wear. What do I say to these people? This is crazy, Boyd,
they don’t want to meet me!”
“This is what you wanted, Jared. To meet my family. Now you will. Calm down. It’ll be fine. Just
be yourself. They know you’re an artist, they think we’re just friends. And your clothes are fine.
Wear what you wore in the car. This is informal.”
They drove into town when Jared insisted he buy a bottle of wine for Boyd’s parents, and in the
grocery store/bottle shop Boyd ran into Bonnie who was filling a cart with food. They dated in
high school and stayed long distance friends afterwards. He figured Bonnie would be married by
now, despite the fact she said she was waiting for him. He always believed that to be a joke. She
was as beautiful as she had been as a cheerleader in school, a petite girl with raven-black hair
and a phenomenal body. She flung herself into Boyd’s arms and kissed him on the mouth.
“You didn’t even call to say you were in town?” She scolded and he smiled.
“I just got here. I would’ve called before I left, Bonnie. You look great.”
“So do you! What brings you back? Miss me?”
“Always. Just visiting the folks, haven’t been here in so long.”
“Tell me about it.”
Jared walked up, holding a bottle of cabernet as he gave Bonnie an intense stare and then rested
his forearm on Boyd’s shoulder. “Hi.”
She took him in, a sudden chill cooling her expression. “Hello.” Her gaze moved to Boyd, who
introduced them. “Call me, Boyd,” she said as she walked on, and Boyd said he would.
“Well?” Jared prompted.
“Old girlfriend from high school.”
“Pretty. Fucking her?”
“No, Jared. Come on, let’s pay.”
“Why not? I would.”
Jared liked to say he was bisexual, but every time he got angry or blue and sought out a random
sex partner, they were always male. Always blond. These encounters were crushing for Boyd, and
Jared always cried and insisted he would never do it again. But he lied. While in the grip of
                                                   - 92 -

depression, all bets were off and he would do almost anything to feel human. Boyd knew the
specter of Bonnie would eat away at Jared, and he was right. While Jared wandered sexually
himself, he was over-protective of Boyd and any hint that Boyd was with other partners sent
Jared into a rage. Boyd wasn’t with anyone else, but Jared fought his invisible rivals constantly.
Now one of those rivals would have a face, a body and a name.
On the way back to the cabin, they passed the turn off to the old mill, and Jared pleaded to go in.
“It’s filthy and hot. It’s been boarded up for years,” Boyd tried unsuccessfully to distract him.
Once inside the musty old building, Jared came alive. He ran up and down the stairs, telling Boyd
exactly how he would change this and re-model that to come up with a studio, a gallery and living
quarters. Boyd was fascinated by his vision, never before thinking of this place as a potential
home. He could see them there, Jared painting, selling his work, Boyd going in to his office,
entertaining friends in their slick quarters. Except for one little problem. He couldn’t come out.
Not in Canard Rouge.
“I can’t breathe in here,” he finally told Jared. “The dust and the heat are killing me.”
“Boyd, embrace the sweat, revel in the filth,” Jared reached for him and soon they were fucking
against a dirty brick wall, the discomfort greatly outweighed by the explosive pleasure. Covered in
grime and smelling like dockworkers, they drove back to the cabin and shared a long shower.
Boyd loaned Jared a clean, oxford cloth shirt and while driving to the mansion, he sensed a
change in his lover’s mood.
“Why so quiet?”
“What am I doing here? This is a place where my people were kept in chains and sold like
livestock. It’s wrong that I’m going up to that house, through the front door, like nothing wrong
ever happened here.”
“Jared, my family bought this place in the 1920’s. They had nothing to do with the slave trade.
They’re millers. Don’t turn this into a political debate about the evils of slavery. No one’s going to
disagree with you on that point.”
Jared just shook his head and said nothing more. Rex and LuAnn joined them for dinner and Rex
was his usual biting self, trying to pick a fight with Boyd, determined to set off his guest. Jared
handled himself well, refusing to be baited. When they went to the drawing room for coffee and
dessert, Jared said to Rex, “Why do you keep staring at my ass? Which team you bat for,
Rex turned bright red, stammered he was doing no such thing and grabbed his wife to reaffirm
his orientation. Boyd smiled and gave his lover a gleam, finding the exchange hilarious. “So
where did you study art, Jared?” Boyd’s mother asked as coffee was served by Madam Dhue.
“On the street, Mrs. Coulter. My father was a heroin addict, so my childhood was disrupted. We
lost our family home and were sometimes homeless, sometimes living in little dives. I used to go
outside to escape the cramped living quarters, and I was fascinated by the street artists who
congregated around Jackson Square. Some of them would let me use their pastels or paints and
when they saw what I could do, they encouraged me. I even got to where I sold a few little
things, made some money. I never had any formal training.”
“What do you do to support yourself?” Boyd’s father said with an edge of disgust in his voice.
“I paint, Mr. Coulter. I sell my paintings.”
“He’s brilliant, Dad. He was on the cover of a New York art magazine and has been featured in
shows in Atlanta and Birmingham as well as New Orleans. He’s been asked to do a poster for the
Zulu Society for the next Mardi Gras. Those get printed and make a lot of money for the artist.”
“If I do it,” Jared intervened, his mind not yet made up.
“Odd way for a man to live,” Mr. Coulter grumbled. “How do you support a family on that?”
“It’s just my mom and a couple younger sisters I help out. It’s not like I’m getting married or
                                                 - 93 -

“Why not? Everyone gets married eventually.”
Jared glanced at Boyd who gave him a subliminal shake of the head. He then said, “Last I heard,
they don’t let men marry men, and I’m queer.”
The evening ended abruptly after that confession and in the car going back to the cabin, Boyd
was furious. “Were you deliberately outing me to my parents?”
“It is possible for you to be straight and have a gay friend, Boyd.”
“Possible, yes, but you can bet they’ll be wondering! Not to mention that fuckhead Rex. He lives
for ways to separate Lisette and me from the family so he can ensure his ultimate control in the
future. You had no right to do that!”
“Maybe I’m sick of the shame you feel about our relationship, Boyd. Ever think of that? Maybe I’m
tired of being your backroom boy!”
“You oughta know, since you’ve been a fixture in every backroom in the Big Easy.”
“At least I live what I am. I don’t tie myself up in little knots and pretend to be something I’m not
so I don’t make mommy and daddy mad and so I don’t have people reject me. You are so
determined to be what you appear to be, a rich, successful, whitebread heterosexual, except for
one little thing. You like to take dick up the ass, Boyd. You’re a fucking homo!”
Boyd stopped at the cabin. “Get out. The door’s unlocked.”
“Where are you going?”
“I need some time. I’ll be back.”
“Don’t be a drama queen, Boyd.”
“You’ve walked out on me a thousand times because you were mad or needed some space,
whatever. You can just give me this once.”
Jared left the car and Boyd drove away, having no idea where he was going, knowing only that he
had to get away from his lover.
“We’re here,” Brian nudged Boyd out of the cab, paid the driver, and they went inside the house.
“Early morning,” Boyd reminded him. “We’d better go to bed.”
“Your room or mine?”
“We can’t do that, Brian.”
“I mean to sleep, Boyd. Just to sleep. I don’t want to be alone. Do you?”
The thought of being apart from Brian didn’t appeal, but neither did the repressed sexual desire
he would feel if he were beside him in bed. “Let’s go to mine,” he relented. “It’s more private.”
Brian smiled and followed him down the hall, feeling this was progress. They passed the room
where Ted was snoring, and Brian quietly closed the door on that noise, wanting to forget that
anyone but Boyd was in this house. Brian went into the bathroom, staring down at a huge Jacuzzi
tub. He glanced at Boyd as he came in behind him. “We have to do this, you know.”
“Ok, you first.”
“Together,” Brian said, and Boyd hesitated, then smiled and leaned over to turn on the taps.
Current Mood: awake

Feb. 13th, 2005 07:17 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 24

                                                - 94 -

Brian got naked immediately in the bathroom, but Boyd slowed it down. He kicked off his shoes,
yanked out his shirttail and then opened his belt, but went no farther. Brian slipped into the water
and raised an inquisitive brow. “Need some help?”
“Brian, I don’t like my body very much.”
“Why not?”
“I should work out more.”
“No doubt. Boyd, you’re more of a tease than a sixth grade girl at a pedophilia convention. Just
strip, for God’s sake. Let me be the one to criticize your body.”
“That’s my fear.” He opened the bottle of champagne he brought up from the wine closet and
made a show of popping it and pouring it. Brian shook his head with a wary smile as he took a
crystal flute from Boyd.
“Come on, Sally Rand. What’s behind your fan?”
Boyd had already lit the candles and lowered the lights. If he didn’t look acceptable to Brian in
this setting, he never would. He peeled off his remaining clothes and stood there, waiting for the
insult while Brian gave him a long look and finally said, “You could use a little ab work, but you
have great legs, great arms and yes, I have to say, a great cock. I’d fuck you.”
Smiling at that, Boyd turned to get his own glass of champagne and brought the bottle over to
the tub. “Nice ass, too,” Brian added.
“Are you sure there’s room for me in there? We’re both pretty tall.”
“I’ll make room.”
The agitated water churned over their slick, naked bodies as they soaked in the Jacuzzi and
sipped champagne. Boyd decided he would have a hangover tomorrow no matter what, after all
they drank today, so he may as well go out on a high note. While the tub was oversized, their
legs had to entwine to make room. Brian stared at Boyd’s flushed, handsome face and smiled. “I
hope this isn’t to celebrate my last night of freedom.”
“It isn’t. I doubt very seriously if they’ll lock you up, Brian. And Rod is very intimidating. They’ll
increase your bail and keep your car impounded. But we can talk about all of that tomorrow. Let’s
not waste the champagne and the warm bath on scary subjects. It’s too late in the evening. We
don’t want to have nightmares.”
“Do you believe in ghosts?”
Boyd smiled. “Despite the fact I’m from Louisiana, the most superstitious place in the world, I
don’t believe in ghosts.”
“Then why are you living with one?”
“I’m not. This place isn’t haunted.”
“Maybe not, but you are. Jared Hall couldn’t have had a tighter stranglehold on you when he was
alive, than he does now.”
“Just because I can’t write him off like he never existed doesn’t mean I let him dominate my life.”
“He possesses you, Boyd. You’re ridiculous about him. I’m sorry for your loss, don’t get me
wrong. I know you were hurt by it and I know you miss him. But it was a couple years ago, you
said. Get on with it. Get on with your real life.”

                                                 - 95 -

“Shut up, Brian. Who are you to give advice about how to deal with a loss? You act like your
former boyfriend was just a casual fling.”
Brian frowned and leaned over to retrieve the bottle and refill his glass. “He was no fling. He was
supposed to be a fling, but it got fucked up.”
“How? You started feeling something for him? Maybe you still do? Maybe that’s why you’re alone.”
“I’m alone because I want to be alone and I may have regrets over things I did wrong in that
relationship, but it’s over. I’ve closed that door. That’s a concept you can’t seem to grasp.”
“Your ex is living happily with some other man, Brian. Mine is moldering in a crypt in St. Louis
Number 1. It’s not the same.”
“Gone is gone, Boyd. You blame yourself for his suicide?”
Boyd looked away. That question was far too loaded for him to answer it. “Can we change the
“Okay, how about this? I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to fuck anyone as much as I want to fuck
you, right here, right now. How about that for a topic?”
“You just got off!”
“Over an hour ago. I’ve re-loaded.”
Boyd laughed and shook his head. “I’d be more flattered if I didn’t think you’d fuck any guy about
“If that were true, I’d climb in bed with Theodore and that’s one mental image that is sure to
soften the wood.”
He slid a long, narrow foot up Boyd’s thigh to delicately lift his penis on his toes, bringing it
towards the surface. Boyd closed his eyes as a flood of testosterone rushed his system. He
reached down and pushed Brian’s foot aside. “Stop it.”
“What are you holding out for? I was there with you tonight. The old ‘I’m not gay’ shit is gone. I
saw. So what’s the real problem?”
“I can’t use sex the way you do, Brian. As a panacea for all that ails me, as a hobby, hell, as a
way to combat boredom. I wish I could, but I can’t.”
“You could try.”
“Don’t make fun of me.”
“I’m just trying to understand you, Boyd. This touch-me-not crap is bizarre. Do you feel like
you’re cheating on him if you fuck another man? News flash, his dick is dust by now. There’s
nothing for you, there. Did you two have some vow of eternal fidelity?”
Boyd sunk deeper in the water, until Brian’s voice took on a hollow echo. He finally emerged and
said, “He cheated on me all the time.”
Brian was surprised by that. “And you? Did you cheat on him?”
Boyd sighed. “Once.”
“Just once?”
“As it turns out, that was enough.”
Boyd sighed as he remembered how that one slip changed his life. After leaving Jared at the
cabin, furious over his confession to Boyd’s parents, Boyd drove into town and entered the one
bar, a small place with the politically incorrect name of “Injun Joe”. Injun Joe Renoir was an old
Cajun who liked to say he was related to the Redbone Indians, a tribe marked by their African
American cross breeding. He was no such thing, was not even African American, but he liked to
start the speculation. Boyd slumped in a booth and ordered a pitcher of beer, looking up when
someone said, “Where’s your guest?”

                                                 - 96 -

Bonnie looked hot in faded jeans and a red midriff shirt, her dark hair loose about her shoulders.
She sat down across from him and he motioned for another glass. “At the cabin,” he answered.
“How do you know that guy, Boyd? People are talking.”
“Yeah? And just what the fuck are people saying?”
She leaned back and smiled. “Take it easy, fella. You come rolling in with some black guy with
long braids and he seems kind of weird, and you think people won’t talk?”
“The only thing weird about Jared is the fact that he’s a genius. He’s a brilliant artist.”
“And you’re a lawyer. How did you meet?”
He shrugged. “In the city.”
“Through Lisette?”
“Why bring her up?”
“She lives there. There are probably lots of artistic types in her circle of friends.”
“I didn’t meet him through Lisette. What are you doing here, anyway? Alone?”
She laughed. “Look around, Boyd. I couldn’t get in trouble here if I tried. Everyone here except
for you and me is at least my father’s age. I was out with some friends and thought I’d duck in
for a beer before I went home. Now I’m glad I did. I’ve missed you, B.”
He smiled at her use of an old term of endearment for him. “I’ve missed you too, Bonnie.”
“Yeah, sure. I figured you’d be married by now.”
“I could have been, more than once. But I told you I was saving myself to marry you, and I
meant it.”
“That may be a bad bet.”
“Why? Is there someone else?”
He leaned over the table and took her hand as he said, “Bonnie, Jared and I are lovers.”
Back at Bonnie’s apartment above the florist shop where she was working, Boyd poured out his
story to her, without lingering on the illness that made Jared such a trial. She shook her head
when he was finished.
“I know you, Boyd Coulter. I’ve known you since the first grade. And you’re not a faggot. You
were just lonely and vulnerable and this black guy took advantage of you. Why not? You’re rich,
handsome, shy, just the type he would prey on.”
“It wasn’t like that, Bonnie. Not at all, he’s not like that. I love Jared.”
She pressed a fingertip to his lips. “Don’t ever say that, Boyd. Do you know how sick that is? Two
men can’t ‘love’ each other. I’m the one you lost your virginity with when we were sixteen. I’m
the one who gave you my virginity. I still remember that night, Boyd. No queer could have acted
the way you did, remember? We were so hot, we set the night on fire.”
He smiled. “Those were the fireworks for the fourth of July celebration, Bonnie. And sure we were
hot. We were sixteen. Everyone’s hot at sixteen.”
“Are you telling me you don’t find me the least bit attractive?”
“Of course not. I’m gay, not blind. You’re a beautiful girl. You know that.”
“Boyd, this is just a phase you’re going through. It’s not the real you.” She pulled off her red top,
flinging it to the floor. He stared at her perfect breasts, still the best set he had ever seen, then
shook his head.
“Don’t do this, Bonnie.”

                                                  - 97 -

“Why not? If you’re queer, what difference does it make?” She unzipped her jeans and stepped
out of them. Her black bikini underwear was just the right touch to show off her body. She sat on
his lap and kissed him, hard, on the mouth. He hesitated at first, but then he kissed her back.
Soon she was proving her point with a vengeance he had never thought her capable of showing.
Her enthusiasm during their youthful sexual experimentations wavered between duty and
resignation. That night she was suddenly on fire.
“I asked why once was enough,” Brian intruded. “The cheating escapade. Why just once and why
was it so significant?”
“It was with Bonnie.”
“The ex?”
He nodded as Brian laughed. “Dude, you’re seriously fucked up. Let me guess. She got knocked.”
“How did you know?”
“Story older than time. The home town girl either takes a dive to try and save you from yourself,
or she is the one chick you feel confident enough to ball when your image of yourself is flagging,
and nature intervenes. What an idiot you were.”
“You may be right. I regretted it that night. I can tell you that. I went back to the cabin and told
Jared what happened and he was strangely forgiving, since he was usually so jealous and
possessive. We left the next morning, drove back to New Orleans.”
“Did you put pictures of him in that photo album? One of him alone, one of the two of you
“No, Brian. I don’t know what you mean. We took a few Polaroids, but I thought we brought them
all home with us. None of them were salacious, or anything. They weren’t porn.”
“Jared must have done it. He put a picture of himself in there and wrote, ‘Boyd’s friend Jared’ and
then one of the two of you and wrote, ‘Boyd and Jared’. Someone found them and took them out.
But the page was still there.”
Boyd winced. “That breaks my heart. He so wanted to belong, to be part of something. He wrote
himself into my family’s photo album.”
Brian set down his crystal flute and stretched out above Boyd, supporting his upper body on his
arms, his lower torso and legs spread on top of Boyd’s, dick-to-dick, thigh-to-thigh. He leaned
close to his face and said, “I’m calling in a medium to get rid of those ghosts in your head, Boyd.
Wait, maybe I should say I’m calling in an extra large.”
“Sex doesn’t solve everything, Brian,” Boyd whispered, his heart slamming into his ribcage as his
excitement exploded.
“It’s a start,” Brian kissed him, shoving into his mouth with his tongue, startled by how much he
wanted to be with this man.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Ted’s deadpan voice intruded and Brian looked over at him with an
expression of raw fury.
“Get the fuck out of here, Theodore.”
“I guess you two were too busy to hear the incessant ringing of the doorbell, but it woke me from
a sound sleep. There’s someone here to see you, Boyd. And he’s wearing a uniform.” Ted turned
and left after making that pronouncement. Brian groaned as he moved off of Boyd.
“Son of a bitch! They’re coming here for me? I thought they told you to bring me in tomorrow.”
“They did,” Boyd left the tub, feeling Brian’s gaze on him as he dried off and pulled on a robe. “I’ll
go see what it’s all about.”
“Boyd, wait.”

                                                 - 98 -

He turned to meet Brian’s beseeching stare. “Whatever it is, put a bookmark where we were. I
don’t want to lose our place.”
Boyd smiled and nodded, wondering if that would even be an option as he walked downstairs to
face their latest challenge.
Current Mood:      hot

Feb. 14th, 2005 01:38 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 25

The cop was standing in front of the bay window. He was tall and well-built, with a droopy
reddish-blond moustache and short-cropped blond hair. He held his cap in his hands as he gave
Boyd a long look, taking in his wet hair, and the damp seeping through the scarlet Chinese silk of
his robe.
“Are you Boyd Coulter?”
“Yes. What can I do for you, officer? It’s rather late.”
“I know, uh, but…this is awkward.”
Boyd was confused. He assumed this visit had something to do with Brian. Now he wasn’t sure.
He began to feel apprehensive. Was it Lisette? Some other bad news? The man said, “My name is
Frank Lewis. You don’t know me, but I was, I guess you’d say, good friends with Jared Hall before
he died.”
Boyd nodded. Now it was becoming clear. Frank was Jared’s type, tall, blond, handsome. Boyd
never suspected Jared was going without after they broke up, but he had been told Jared didn’t
have a steady lover, either. Who was this cop to him? “Sit down.”
They both sat on the couch and Lewis said, “I met him at Raven, about six months before he
died. We started out as casual lovers, but I think it got a little more intense, at least on my side,
as time passed. But he never stopped loving you, man. That was for sure.”
Boyd winced. “I loved him, too.”
“Did you? Because it sure seemed like you weren’t there for him when he needed you.”
Boyd let the accusation seep under his skin like a festering wound. His guilt wouldn’t let him be
self-righteous, but he resented this stranger’s opinion of a relationship he could never
understand. “You don’t know everything, and I have no intention of sharing it with you.”
“That’s just fine, but we both know, don’t we? Look, it was my gun that took off Jared’s head, so I
have my own guilt to live with.”
Boyd felt the horror ripple through him again as he thought of that beautiful man’s ultimate fate.
A gun barrel in his mouth, aimed at the palette for maximum damage. He never saw the final
result, but he could imagine how gory it was. He still woke up at night in a flop-sweat, thinking of
Jared’s last moments, of the depths of his despair. “What do you want?”
“A friend told me they saw you at Carbon tonight. Used to be Raven. I know you live out in the
bayou, and I’ve tried to watch for you coming to town. People use this house, but it’s never you.”
“What is it you want with me? Or did you come by just to accuse me of bailing on Jared?”
“No, to give you this,” he pulled an envelope from his pocket. “I wanted to put it in your hand,
personally. For a long time, I resented you so much, that I just couldn’t do it. But I’m in a
relationship now, and my boyfriend tells me it’s not fair for me to keep it from you. Even if I
                                                 - 99 -

blame you for not being there for Jared, this was his wish and I should honor it. So here it is. It
was with his stuff when he…died.”
Boyd reluctantly took the envelope that had his name written on it in Jared’s scrawl. It was
heavy, and the weight was increased by the emotional burden it carried. He refused to open it in
front of this cop, and he could tell by the seal that the man had never peeked inside. He supposed
that took a lot of self-control. “Anything else?”
“No, I’ll go. Just…did you love him the way he loved you?”
“I loved him too. But I couldn’t save him.”
“Frank, Jared was sick. Mentally ill. No one could save him. He needed medication that he refused
to take. The outcome was unfortunately inevitable. Don’t beat yourself up over it.” Boyd resented
the fact that this man would leave a loaded gun around for a manic-depressive on a spiral to find.
He supposed Jared could come up with an alternative method of offing himself if that’s what he
wanted to do, so Boyd didn’t go too far down that judgmental path. They all failed Jared, but
mostly Jared failed himself. There was plenty of blame to be shared.
The cop left and Boyd slapped the envelope against his palm. He thought of Brian upstairs,
naked, fueled by the champagne and their shared heat. He hesitated, and then he tore it open. A
single page of paper fell out on his lap along with an old-fashioned key. He read the short note.
“Dear Boyd,
The black sheet has strangled me. I can’t work. I have nothing. I love you, I will always love you,
I will go on loving you in my grave. I blame you for nothing, but it won’t matter. You’ll still blame
yourself. Don’t let Artie take everything, he’ll just game it for his own reward. The key is to the
safe place that you and I alone know about. You’ll know what to do with it. I love you, Boyd. I
miss you. I’m tired. It’s time.
Love, Jared”.
Boyd’s eyes blurred with tears as he returned the key and the note to the envelope and slipped it
in the pocket of his robe. He sat there until the tears were gone, until he could breathe again, and
then he turned off the lights and slowly climbed the stairs.
Brian was stretched out, stomach down, on Boyd’s king sized bed. Naked above the sheets, his
long lines were leafed in gold from the glow of a single lamp, diffused through an amber glass
shade. Boyd stood there and stared at him, admiring his beauty, finding him strangely vulnerable
while sleeping. If anyone was the opposite of Jared, it was Brian. He had his own damage to deal
with, but he was an ultimate survivor and he abhorred self-pity. Jared’s illness made self-pity a
crusade, and while he couldn’t help it, the effect of it on others was exhausting.
Boyd hung his robe over a chair and went naked to the bed. He turned on his side to stare at
Brian, realizing this sleep had given Boyd a reprieve. Brian’s hair had fallen across his forehead
and over his eyes and his lips were parted as he breathed with the steady rhythm of recuperative
sleep. Boyd let his fingers brush through Brian’s thick hair and down the back of his neck. His skin
was ecru satin over hard ivory. He smelled of the lemongrass scub that was in a jar on the ledge
of the Jacuzzi, and he was still rosy from a champagne flush.
Boyd stretched out beside him and leaned over to kiss the bumps of his spine that were evident
in the back of Brian’s neck. He stirred, but still slept. Boyd continued the series of short, sweet
kisses down his back and Brian awoke with an erection pressing into his gut. He quickly learned
why. He moaned as he felt Boyd’s tongue brush his lower back, and then trace the crack of his
ass. He hadn’t expected this. He thought Boyd would use this break in their passion to retreat.
Brian gave him the choice by falling asleep. But Boyd unexpectedly took the initiative.
Brian glanced over his shoulder at him and Boyd looked up with a smile. “Sorry to wake you.”

                                                - 100 -

“Continue,” Brian said and braced himself for the shock of pleasure as Boyd’s tongue rimmed him
with surprising expertise. Brian rubbed his erection against the sheets as Boyd explored Brian’s
ass with his tongue. Finally he said, “You’re going to make me come if you keep that up.”
“Is that a bad thing?” Boyd teased and Brian looked down at Boyd’s sizeable erection and warned,
“Don’t let’s forget who’s the pitcher in this pair. No surprises back there.”
“You never turn over for dick?”
“Never is such an absolute word. Let’s just say very seldom. And not tonight.”
“I promise no surprises, Brian,” Boyd said. “Want a reach-around?”
Brian nodded and Boyd slipped an arm under him to stroke his erection as he went back to
rimming. Brian felt the power of his ejaculation building and he turned over, raising one knee and
smiling at Boyd as he said,
“Show me what else you can do.”
“Are you negative, Brian?”
“Yes, are you?”
“It’s low risk anyway, Boyd. Go for it.”
Boyd stared at Brian’s straining erection. It was big, and it was beautiful. He leaned over him,
braced on all fours, dropping down to angle Brian’s cock into his open mouth. Brian’s hips lifted
off the bed at the sensation Boyd created, and he buried his hands in Boyd’s hair as he felt
himself slip deeper and deeper into the comfort of his mouth. Lack of recent practice hadn’t dulled
Boyd’s skills, and he gave Brian his best, knowing it was enough when Brian cried out as he
came, sending a gusher down Boyd’s throat.
Brian sat up and pushed Boyd back, pinning his arms down with his fists as he drug his tongue
down Boyd’s belly and began to devour his cock. Blindsided by Brian’s extreme talent at
cocksucking, Boyd had no control, and he lost it almost immediately. Sitting back on his
haunches, Brian grinned at him. “My, my, my Sleeping Beauty, what big balls you have.”
“I think you’re mixing fairy tale metaphors.”
Brian stretched out on top of him and kissed him deeply, sharing the common taste of their seed.
“It works for me. I didn’t think you’d be the one to make the move, Boyd.”
“Terribly, can’t you tell? Know what I want to do now?”
Boyd smiled. “I think I can guess.”
“You’d guess wrong. I want to wrap you up in my arms and sleep. I want to wake up with you
against my body. I want to save something for later.”
Boyd reached up to touch his face, charmed by that statement. “Why?”
“I don’t know why. Because I really feel it with you, because I don’t want to feel rushed, because
I want to enjoy every second of this, including the anticipation. I hope that makes some sense to
you, because it sure as hell doesn’t make sense to me.”
“It makes perfect sense,” Boyd kissed him, then rolled out from under him and turned off the
light. Brian opened his arms and Boyd went into them, resting his head against Brian’s firm pec’s.
He felt suddenly safe, suddenly secure in this man’s embrace. “You know I’m going to fall in love
with you and you’re going to break my heart, right?”
Brian chuckled. “Happens all the time.”
Boyd circled his nipple with a forefinger and then said, “No, I’m serious.”

                                                - 101 -

“Let’s not and say we did.”
“Stop joking. Is it even within the realm of possibility that you might one day feel something for
me, Brian?”
There was a long pause and then Brian responded, “Doubtful. I don’t do that. But…”
“But what?”
“You make me nervous.”
Boyd smiled, deciding that was enough for now. He felt Brian’s embrace grow less intense as he
fell asleep, his heart rate slowing in rest. Boyd closed his eyes and tried not to think of the
envelope, but it was hopeless. What would Jared have left in their “safe place”? Was it still there
or had it been looted? Jared was right about his brother. Artie did game his art and Boyd felt bad
that he had been unable to stop him. The hopelessness in Jared’s final note to him made him
ache for his lost lover. He once again felt the stain of failure cross his heart.
No matter how sick Jared had been, no matter how inevitable his fate, the simple truth was, Boyd
wasn’t there at the end when he needed him most. He failed him. Brian stirred, moaning softly in
his sleep. Brian’s problems were far different from Jared’s demons, imposed externally. But Boyd
made a vow to himself that he wouldn’t make the same mistake with Brian. He would be there
when he needed him, no matter how much opposition he would be up against for supporting him.
He would do it for Brian, he would do it in memory of Jared, and he most of all, he would do it to
try and redeem a corner of his own soul that was lost in the single blast from a Glock.
Current Mood: indescribable

Feb. 15th, 2005 05:11 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 26

For those keeping track, Randall had a set back yesterday and was pretty sick all night. Trying to
keep him home today, but he says he has a meeting from nine to two. He really needs to stay in
bed, but that's my rant for the day. My advice is to try and avoid this flu-like illness. It really
takes you down. Anyway, here's the next chapter.
Boyd awoke early, still wrapped in Brian’s arms. When he got up, suffering from a headache and
wanting to ward it off before it got worse, Brian mumbled and grabbed at him, but fell back into
slumber when Boyd stroked his hair and kissed his cheek. He tied on his robe, took two Advil with
a swig of warm champagne and then padded downstairs to make some coffee. Caffeine helped his
headaches as much as medication. To his surprise, the coffee was made, and Ted was having a
mug as he sat at the table in the breakfast area, munching a croissant. He looked up at Boyd and
“Hope you don’t mind. I woke up hungry.”
Boyd shook his head, filled up an oversized mug with the brew and sat down at the table. He
smoothed his hair with both hands, feeling embarrassed under Ted’s intense scrutiny. “Something
Ted shrugged. “I just feel it’s my civic duty to give you the Brian Kinney warning label.”
“What do you mean?”
“He should be required to wear this label prominently affixed to his dick. It would read, and I
know he has room for it, we all know about Brian’s ‘gift’:
WARNING: This tool comes without any emotional attachments. It should be used once and
                                               - 102 -

discarded, because continued usage could create a dependency that will result in heartbreak,
rejection and a loss of self-esteem.”
Boyd smiled. “Thanks for the warning, Ted, but I’m fine.”
“You seem like a really nice guy, Boyd. Brian is my friend, but nice he ain’t. He’s a player. I
suspect you’re not.”
“You think it’s possible that Brian has undergone some soul searching in these months that he’s
been away, Ted? Maybe he’s realized some truths about himself?”
“First you need a soul in order to search it.”
“That’s cruel.”
“I speak with the voice of experience.”
“You mean you and Brian…?”
Ted laughed. “No. God, no! Not if I were the last fag on the island. Brian would prefer a coconut.
But I’ve seen his power work over others. It’s none of my business, like I said, but at least I
“I thought his lover left him for another man.”
“Justin? Yeah, he left Brian for another man. After Brian couldn’t commit, couldn’t say he loved
him, couldn’t keep his dick in his pants. There’s leaving and then there’s leaving.”
“I see. So it was Brian’s fault?”
“On balance, I’d say yeah.”
“Is he beautiful? This Justin?”
“Yes. Very. Young, blond, very hot little twink.”
Boyd looked down, finding his flash of jealousy ridiculous in these circumstances. “You think Brian
is still hung up on him?”
“I think Brian is hung up on Brian. That doesn’t leave room for other hang ups.”
Boyd stared at Ted, realizing they didn’t seem to know the same man. “Ted, you want to go on a
little adventure with me while Brian sleeps?”
Ted looked wary. “Boyd and Ted’s Excellent Adventure? What do we do?”
“Just call it a treasure hunt. I may need your help to lift something.”
“I don’t work out much.”
“Are you willing?”
Ted shrugged. “Why not? Do I get a cut of the treasure?”
“Story of my life.”
“I’ll get dressed and meet you here in ten minutes. We need to get back in time to get Brian to
his appointment in Rod’s office.”
Fifteen minutes later, they were in Boyd’s car driving into the heart of the Garden District. When
Boyd pulled up to two black wrought iron gates that provided entrance to a cemetery surrounded
by a high white wall, Ted stared at him in horror.
“Where are we?”
“Lafayette Number One,” Boyd answered. “The St. Louis cemeteries were more for the Creole
people of New Orleans, while the Irish and Germans, the non-French speaking population, came
here when they died,” as the sun rose to full strength, he drove through the gates and down a

                                                  - 103 -

narrow road lined on either side with crypts and tombs and other above ground burial vaults that
were alabaster sentinels in the morning glow.
“Why are we here, Boyd?” Ted was spooked out of his skin and Boyd smiled.
“Louisiana people can’t bury their dead because we’re below sea level, Ted. So we have a
relationship with them that some others lack. They’re still here above ground, with the rest of us,
just slightly less mobile. We’ll have to walk from here.”
“Walk where?” Ted asked as Boyd parked under a cypress tree.
“Come on.”
Ted followed close to Boyd, passing weeping angels and reclining bas relief maidens, and obelisks
worthy of Greek heroes, all there to commemorate the dead. Boyd stopped at a crypt as large as
a house. It was surrounded by a black fence, which he unlocked with a cumbersome key he
carried on an iron ring. The small patch of earth was well-tended with flowering rose bushes and
neatly trimmed grass. The crypt was white marble and above the peaked, gothic doors, was
engraved the name, Coulter. Ted stared at him.
“This is your family’s…grave?”
“Vault, yes, but no one’s died in awhile, so it’s unsealed.”
“In New Orleans, the law is the vault has to be sealed for a year and a day after someone is
interred. That gives them time to decay before you reopen the crypt. Aesthetics, I guess.” He
unlocked the doors and they swung open with an appropriately spooky creak. “Come on in, Ted.
It’s fine. Just some old Coulter’s. They won’t do you any harm. Ted weighed staying out here
alone against following Boyd inside and decided to follow. Boyd lit two candle sconces and when
he shut the door, Ted winced. “What if we get trapped?”
“How would we get trapped? Would you relax?” It was cool inside the crypt and strangely
attractive. Travertine marble floors with a sunburst pattern were graced with two ornate marble
benches. Several coffins, some old and smaller, some larger and more recent, were slipped into
depressions in the wall made to accommodate a box of this size. There was no scent of decay,
only the slightly rank odor of wilted lilies in a vase above an altar covered by a tapestry cloth.
Boyd took the vase, opened the door to the vault, threw out the dead flowers, and closed it again.
He handed the vase to Ted and moved the cloth onto the floor, disturbing a shimmer of dust.
The top of the altar opened like a lid to reveal a family Bible to be signed by visitors, some fresh
candles, a watering can, and a large brass trimmed trunk that took up most of the enclosure.
Boyd and Jared had placed the empty trunk there when they were together, because Jared had a
hang up about losing art he valued to theft or fire. Just knowing he could store something there in
this romantic, unexpected place, tied to Boyd’s family, had been enough. He never seemed driven
to actually use this safe place for storage. At least Boyd didn’t know that he had until he read the
note and saw the key.
“Since my grandmother died, no one comes here anymore. She was the last one of us to keep up
the traditions on All Saint’s Day and other times meant to honor the dead. Now we just have
caretakers, who come and go as seldom as possible. Help me lift this, Ted.”
Ted reluctantly took a handle of the trunk and together they struggled it over to the bench. Boyd
replaced the lid, the cover and the vase on the altar, then used Jared’s key on the trunk lock. Ted
held to his arm as if expecting the raised top to reveal a shrunken, festering body. Instead, the
trunk contained a bunch of scrolls. Boyd lifted them out tenderly, one after the other, placing
them on the bench. At the bottom of the trunk were flat canvas boards, depicting Jared’s later
work. Each was signed on the back, as was his habit. The last layer in the trunk was an old,
bedraggled t-shirt that talked about artists and their stroke. Boyd winced and picked it up,
holding it to his face, inhaling a faint remainder of turpentine.

                                                 - 104 -

Ted watched him, wondering what moved him about that shirt when there was so much beautiful
art work uncovered. Boyd hooked the shirt in his belt and unrolled one canvas after another. They
were large, brilliantly colored works, Jared at his best.
“These must be worth a fucking fortune!” Ted said with the reverence and soul of an accountant.
Boyd glared at him.
“These are worth much more than money. These are Jared’s last works, his final legacy.”
He carefully replaced them in the trunk, locked it, and together they managed to get it back to
the car. On the way home, Ted stared at Boyd’s strained profile and said, “What will you do with
“I don’t know yet. I need to think what he would want me to do.”
“They must be worth millions,” Ted went back to the money and Boyd shook his head.
“I would never sell them. Not to profit myself.”
“But…he gave them to you.”
“Let’s just not talk.”
Ted grew silent, calculating how much money was in a box in the back of this Ford. When they
reached the house and carried the trunk inside, Brian was at the table, having coffee, already
dressed in his suit. “And where have you boys been?” he glanced at their dusty clothes and then
at the trunk. “Army-Navy Store open this early?”
“I need to take a shower,” Boyd went upstairs and Brian stopped Ted as he tried to retreat.
“What’s up, Theodore?”
“We just robbed a grave.”
Brian met his eyes and then blinked. “Huh?”
“Seriously, Brian. We got this box out of a vault in a cemetery. And I thought this trip would be
“What’s in it?”
“Paintings. That guy, Jared Hall. Gay painter. Very famous, dead, but famous. He left them to
“That trunk is full of Jared’s work?”
Ted nodded and Brian cursed under his breath and climbed the stairs to find Boyd. When Boyd
stepped out of the shower, Brian handed him a towel. He took it and Brian grabbed another to
rub it over his glistening body. He held Boyd’s chin in his hand and kissed him on the mouth.
Boyd kissed him back, avoiding standing too close and dampening his suit.
“Are you okay?” Brian asked. Boyd shrugged.
“I guess.”
“Had to be a shock,” Brian picked up Jared’s t-shirt, and met Boyd’s eyes. Boyd looked away as
Brian put it down and walked back into the bedroom. Boyd followed him, watching as he sat on
the edge of the bed and lit a cigarette. Brian didn’t look at him, didn’t speak.
Boyd wrapped a towel around his waist and sat beside him. Brian still studiously avoided his gaze.
“What’s wrong?” Boyd asked, placing a hand on his thigh. Brian shook his head, inhaled, exhaled,
and stared down at the floor. “Tell me, Brian.”
“I don’t know what’s wrong, Boyd. I just know something that happened here hurts, and I don’t
know exactly what it is or why it hurts, but it does.”

                                                - 105 -

Boyd spread his hand on the back of Brian’s neck. “Could it be you’re jealous of my lingering
feelings for Jared?”
Brian stared at him, then huffed at that. “I don’t do jealous. Especially over dead men. They
make such rotten lovers. Ba-da-bing.”
“I wore that shirt the first night we were together, Brian. He must have remembered and that’s
why he put it in the trunk. I admit it touched me. But seeing all that beautiful work, and then
this…is it so unexpected for me to be moved by it? It doesn’t take away anything from what you
and I shared last night.”
“It was a rim and a blow job. Let’s not turn it into a symphony, Boyd.”
Boyd smiled and kissed his cheek. “Okay, tough guy, let’s not. I need to get dressed.”
He stood and Brian reached for his hand, holding tightly to his fingers. Boyd looked down at him
as Brian said, “I wondered where you were when I woke up. I couldn’t find you in the house and
the car was gone. You might have told me you were going out. Left a note, something. I thought
you bailed on me.”
“I’m through bailing, Brian,” he leaned down and kissed him. “You’ll have to be the one to bail on
Brian watched as Boyd dropped his towel and began to dress, unable to look away, unable to stop
the pounding in his groin, unable to understand just what was happening to him.
Current Mood:      calm

Feb. 16th, 2005 05:31 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 27

Ernesto Rodrigue greeted Brian and Boyd in his conference room. He was accompanied by Lisette
and an officious young man who turned out to be his office manager.
“I’m going to leave you guys with my business card,” he said. “My credo’s printed on the back
side. I want you to memorize it and live by it. I have a court date so I’ll be going, but I’ve set you
up an appointment with Bo Prudhomme down there in bayou country. You know Bo, don’t you,
Boyd smiled and nodded. Everyone in Louisiana knew Bo Prudhomme. He was a wily old Cajun
who was as famous for his political pretensions as he was for his criminal investigations. He
battled the resident power structure at every election, running unsuccessfully for governor,
senator and state senate. Even when he was thrown in jail on bogus charges brought by a former
governor who feared Bo’s popularity, he continued to run his investigations from his jail cell. Boyd
recalled photographs and news clips of Bo in jail, sitting behind an executive desk in his cell, with
several active phone lines feeding through the bars. Bo was now the mayor of Flora, a flyspeck
town on the bayou, and he was still the most respected investigator in the south. “Of course I
know Bo. That is, I know of him.”
“Bo’s gotten older, as we all have, and he’s narrowed his work down to a few law firms and other
high ticket clients. I’m pleased to be one of those firms that still has a relationship with Bo. I keep
an ol’ boy on my staff, here, but I just use him for work outside the bayou or to do leg work for
Bo. In Cajun country, if there are answers to be found, Bo is the man to find them. He ain’t
cheap, but he’s the best money you’ll ever spend. He bills through me, so you won’t have to deal
with paying him. I know Brian has to be in Canard Rouge by noon, so your appointment with Bo

                                                - 106 -

is at 10:45. Plenty of time. Don’t you worry about a thing, Brian. It’s all gonna be fine. Read my
card and heed my words.”
Brian looked at the heavy vellum business card with the usual information on the front of it. When
he flipped it over, it read, “I have nothing to say without my attorney present.”
He laughed and Rod winked at him. “Stick with that and we’ll be fine.”
Lisette walked out with them after Brian wrote a sizeable check to cover Rod’s retainer. Dressed
in peacock blue, Brian was struck by how attractive she was, despite being obviously lesbianic.
“Remember the mantra, Brian. ‘I have nothing to say without my attorney present’. That’s non-
negotiable. Boyd, you make sure of that, understand?”
Boyd nodded and she said, “And you don’t count as his attorney anymore. It’s our case now.”
“I know, Lisette. I get it.”
“Try not to worry, Brian. We’ll get you through this. Tell Charlene to give me a call, Boyd.”
Boyd narrowed his eyes at his sister, trying to see behind that link. “She asked about you.”
Lisette just smiled, and they left the office. “We need to stop at the house and get our stuff and
head back to Canard Rouge,” Boyd said as they walked out into the heat of the day.
“What are you doing with that art?”
“For the moment, I’m locking it up in the bank.”
“That whole trunk?”
Boyd smiled. “No, but I have a vault big enough to hold the canvases.”
“Christ, what do you store there? Spanish pirate treasure?”
“Among other things,” Boyd said with a smile. “Are you doing alright? Nervous?”
“I don’t want to go back there.”
“I know, but it’ll be fine, Brian.”
“So you keep telling me. I don’t share your warm and fuzzies.”
“Brian, now that we know Greg was murdered, I don’t like your staying out at the cabin. It’s too
remote. Why don’t you move into town? You can stay at the B&B.”
“Why don’t I stay with you?” Brian offered.
Boyd winced. “I still have the kid issue.”
“I could move to the B&B when they stay over with you.”
“But everyone would know you were staying at my place.”
“Oh for chrissakes, Boyd! You’re a faggot! Get the hell over it!” Brian bristled. “Haven’t you lived
long enough in that fucking closet?”
People stared as they walked past and Boyd looped his arm through Brian’s and said in a quiet
voice, “In order to have unfettered access to my kids, I agreed with Bonnie that I
wouldn’t…participate in any gay lifestyle or activity.”
Brian shook his head. “You must be kidding. You agreed not to have a life, to be yourself, in order
to see your children? What kind of agreement is that? It’s ridiculous.”
“You don’t understand. It was an ugly divorce.”
“Aren’t they all?”
“Some are uglier than others.”
“Frankly, Boyd, I think the whole entrapment into marriage was pretty fucking ugly. Ugly seems
to be her way of life.”

                                                  - 107 -

“She didn’t plan to get pregnant.”
“What makes you think so? She didn’t hesitate to fuck you the first chance she got. What makes
you think it wasn’t planned?”
Boyd frowned as he realized those words echoed almost exactly what Jared had said when he told
him Bonnie was pregnant. They had gone to dinner at a café on Lake Ponchartrain. It was a
favorite of Jared’s, specializing in parchment baked pompano. Boyd wanted to make it nice for
him as he broke the troubling news Bonnie shared with him on the phone that afternoon.
Over bread pudding soufflé in hard sauce, Boyd reached across the table and took Jared’s long
fingers in his as he said, “Bonnie called.”
Jared looked askance. “And?”
“Jared, she’s knocked up.”
“Well now. Congratulations to the little woman and her bun.”
“The baby’s mine, Jared. Remember that time…”
Jared withdrew his hand and leaned back. “I do remember, Boyd. Need not hit me over the head
with it. I remember it all too well.”
“Please don’t be too self-righteous about it, Jared. It was my one slip. How many times have you
stepped out on me?”
“I never left a calling card.”
“Only because it’s physically impossible.”
“Only because I’m smart enough to believe in safe sex.”
Boyd winced, unable to deny his stupidity. “I didn’t plan on fucking Bonnie that night. I didn’t
have anything with me. It just happened. I’m not proud of it, Jared. But it’s done and now I have
to deal with this latest wrinkle.”
“There are plenty of places in New Orleans who can ‘deal’ with that wrinkle, Boyd. Perfectly legal,
perfectly safe.”
“She won’t consider abortion. I already tried that and she went off on me. She’s a good little
Catholic Cajun girl, Jared. Abortion isn’t part of their world.”
“Not when the baby comes with a trust fund.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Fair? What’s not fair is you have a relationship with me and you go off for one night and get
some dumb coonass bitch knocked up! That’s what’s not fair. So what do you plan to do, Boyd?
Marry the cunt?”
Stunned by Jared’s fury, fearing his mood swing, Boyd tried to defuse the situation. “We’re not
even talking about marriage.”
“Jared, she knows I’m in love with you. She knows I’m gay.”
Jared gave him a bitter laugh and a shake of his head. “You’re such a child in so many ways. The
bitch seduced you and played the one card I can’t play, her ovaries. Now she’s opening
negotiations on this kid. I know you, Boyd. You’re an honorable man with a family history. You’ll
marry the bitch and live a life of denial and frustration as a breeder. I’ll be left out in the dark as
your dirty little former secret.”
“That’s not true,” Boyd reached for him, but Jared stood up. Without saying anything, he walked
out. Boyd paid the check and followed. He found Jared standing in the parking lot, facing the lake.
Boyd wanted to approach and throw his arms around him, reassure him that they would be fine.
But would they? Boyd knew what he wanted to happen with Bonnie. He wanted to stay with Jared

                                                 - 108 -

and help her financially and be there for her kid. He didn’t want to sacrifice his relationship with
his partner, but he didn’t want to leave her out there, alone. That was what he wanted to happen,
but what he expected was something else. Life was never that easy. Life in a small town like
Canard Rouge was harder in many ways.
Bonnie was a product of her environment. A nice girl, a girl with whom Boyd shared a long
history. He didn’t want to hurt her or have her humiliated. How he could reconcile his desire to be
with Jared and his desire to help Bonnie was a paradox. So far she was being reasonable. She
seemed to understand, finally, what made him tick, sexually. He was hopeful they could all three
manage an equitable solution.
Boyd feared the problem would be Jared, not Bonnie. His illness could prevent rational problem
solving. He slipped his arms around Jared’s torso, pressing his pelvis against the soft fabric of his
faded jeans. Jared tensed in his embrace, and then said, “I think you should just marry your
coonass girl and get it over with.”
“Please stop calling her that.”
“Why? It’s true, isn’t it? Isn’t she a coonass?”
“It’s demeaning.”
Jared laughed, but there was no humor in that hollow sound. “We wouldn’t want that, would we,
Massa Coutler?”
Boyd let him go and stepped back. “Stop it, Jared.”
Boyd wondered what it must be like to be in a loving relationship with a “normal” person. What
was it like not to fear every nuance in your lover’s voice, sensing a spiral was approaching? How
was it to have a predictably steady life, without the manic highs and debilitating lows? Would he
find it boring? He couldn’t think why. He found this constant emotional vortex completely
“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” Jared demanded. When they drove into the Quarter, Jared asked
to be let out on Rampart Street, where the gay clubs were centered.
“I’ll park the car and join you,” Boyd offered. Jared cut him a dark stare.
“You hate clubs, and you have to be at work early in the morning. I’ll see you later at your place.”
“Jared, please don’t do this.”
“Do what?”
“I’ll make you a deal, Boyd. I promise not to knock anyone up. How’s that for a plan?”
“If you do this, just stay at your place tonight. Don’t come over.”
“I’ll stay somewhere,” Jared boasted and slammed the door to the car as he strutted into the dark
cavern known as Raven.
“Where the hell are we going?” Brian had grown quiet after he felt rejected by Boyd’s response to
his staying with him in Canard Rouge. He slipped into a sullen silence, trying to determine why he
was so bothered by it. They dropped the art off at a city bank on the way out of town, after
picking up Ted in the Garden District. Highway driving finally gave way to back roads and Boyd’s
final turn was onto a two lane blacktop farm road that inched along beside a bayou. The smell of
the water, the dirt “gumbo”, and the damp infiltrated the car. Humidity fogged the windows.
They passed a fading sign that read, “Welcome to Flora, Louisiana, Pop:620 people and 620, 000,
000 mosquitoes.”
Brian winced. They needed a PR guy to help with their civic message. “And here I am without my
Boyd smiled at him. “Look in the glove box. Never go anywhere without deet.”
                                                   - 109 -

“Always prepared,” Brian joked, as he shed his suit coat, his shirt and tie, stripping down to his
white cotton undershirt. He began applying the deet and then tossed it to Ted. Ted was already
dressed casually and he slathered on the mosquito repellant and handed it back. Brian helped
Boyd out of his jacket and shirt, as he drove, and rubbed it into the skin left exposed by his t-
shirt. Touching Boyd removed some of the sting over what Brian viewed as a rejection, and Boyd
smiled at him. They both knew what they wanted. They just weren’t going to get it now.
“Please, the windows are already steamed up,” Ted complained and Brian cast him a glare as he
returned the deet to the glove box. “What’s that sound?” Ted referred to a low, undulating drone
interspersed with occasional gutteral moans. Boyd laughed.
“The cicadas make that droning sound, they’re kind of like locusts, I guess. The croak is coming
from the bullfrogs, Ted. Good eating, those bulls.”
“Right, if you’re French,” Ted dismissed the cuisine as Brian chuckled and spread his hand on
Boyd’s thigh, wanting to continue the connection.
Current Mood:      distressed

Feb. 17th, 2005 05:20 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 28

A sign in front of a white clapboard house backing the bayou read, “Office of the Mayor, Hon. Bo
Prudhomme, Bo Prudhomme Investations, Appt. Only, Fresh Shrimp, Fresh Crawfish, Bring your
own ice”. he screened-in porch held an old-fashioned soft drink cooler and two tattered wicker
rockers. The flayed skin of a small alligator was tacked up over the door, and a corrugated tin
roof blistered in the heat. There was no landscaping other than swamp grass and a twisted
cypress tree, laden with gray Spanish moss.
“My fate rests on the shoulders of the man who lives here?” Brian asked with a skeptical raise of a
brow and Boyd nodded.
“Partially, anyway. Relax. Bo’s the best. Don’t judge a book.”
Ted stood behind them on the porch, batting at invisible attackers. The screen kept out the
mosquitoes, but biting black gnats broke through the defenses. Smaller than pepper specks, they
packed a stinging bite and were obviously impervious to deet. Boyd rang the bell, summoning a
black woman as old as pine. She was disfigured with arthritis and smelled of shrimp boil as she
wiped gnarled hands on a gingham apron.
“You boys comin’ from Ernesto?”
“Yes, m’am,” Boyd responded, imagining the feast she was preparing for Bo’s lunch. Too bad they
couldn’t stay and share.
“Mr. Bo, he be down to the water line, ‘gator huntin’,” she motioned to the bayou as she glanced
at Brian’s sleek Prada boots and shook her head. “Them shoes is no good in the swamp. City boys
ain’t got no sense.”
“Hunting ‘gators?” Brian repeated to Boyd as they walked towards the bayou. He decided to
ignore her insult to his footwear, deciding she just hadn’t been exposed to fine Italian leather.
The ground became increasingly spongy, smelling of the “gumbo” Boyd described before, as they
neared the water. Ted chose to stay on the porch, swatting at gnats with his Ralph Lauren
baseball cap.
“The skins are worth big bucks, Brian. Your belt had to come from somewhere.”

                                                - 110 -

Brian noticed he was wearing an alligator skin belt and he frowned. “Aren’t they endangered or
“No way. Used to be, but there are a ton of them now. F and W, Fish and Wildlife, limits a hunter
to two gators a season. Most folks get around it by saying they had to kill a gator when it
wandered onto their property and threatened the kids or domestic animals.”
Brian’s smooth leather soles slipped in the wet grass and he grabbed onto Boyd’s arm for
support. “This is so primitive. It’s like stepping into the primordial ooze.”
Boyd laughed and clasped his hand tightly. “Lean on me, I’ll protect you from the dinosaurs.”
“The fucking things do look like dinosaurs. They aren’t of this world.”
“They are of this world, Brian.”
Bo Prudhomme was not too tall, not too thin, with so much flowing white hair that it caused his
gimme cap to stand up too high off his crown. He wore waders and, more alarming, a handgun
strapped under his belly like an out of shape gunslinger. He stared at them through mirrored
sunglasses and said, “Hand me one of them chickens.”
“Chickens?” Brian winced at the idea of eating in this cesspool, but Boyd opened a cooler and
removed a whole chicken, its plucked, pale body ready to be broiled. He tossed it to Bo who stuck
a huge hook up the ass of the bird and then made sure the steel was deeply attached in the flesh.
Tied to one end of the hook was a heavy rope. Midway up the rope was a Styrofoam block.
“What the hell?” Brian asked.
“Bait,” Boyd answered. Bo circled the chicken like a lariat and then cast it deep into the bayou.
The Styrofoam block floated on the murky surface, signaling the status of the bait.
“Which one of you boys is the accused?” Bo asked, spitting a stream of tobacco juice into the
water. Brian shuddered and said,
“That would be me.”
“You don’t look like no sissy boy.”
“But I am. Proud of it.”
“I don’t give a dime what you do with your dick, never understood why people get so riled up
over that shit. Ain’t tryin’ to stick it up my ass, then I don’t care where you do stick it. Let’s get
that out there. I can’t see wanting to kiss some hairy old boy, but you fish your hole and I’ll fish
Brian supposed this passed for progressive thinking in Louisiana. “I got the basics from Rod. They
bookin’ you today?”
Brian looked at Boyd, who shrugged. “Not sure, they just said for him to come in.”
“They’ll book him. I’ll get started on it this evenin’. I know a few people over to Canard Rouge, so
this should go fast. Damn, I got me one.”
The Styrofoam block dipped and dived. Bo yanked on the rope and looked back at them. “Pick up
that rope there and give it some muscle.”
Boyd and Brian both took the rope and pulled, getting a lot of resistance on the business end of
the hook. “You hook an alligator like you hook a fish?” Brian asked and Boyd laughed.
“Not exactly. The alligator swallows the chicken whole and you get the hook embedded in his
Brian let go of the rope. “This is too Crocodile Dundee for me.”
Together, Boyd and Bo hauled a struggling alligator onto the bank. Brian ran up the slope to
avoid the angry reptile’s snapping jaws and whipping tail. “Boyd, get away from it!” He warned
and then Bo pulled out his handgun and put a bullet between the animal’s yellow eyes. Killed

                                                 - 111 -

instantly, it went limp. Brian stood there in shock, watching the blood spread on the grass as
Boyd said,
“This is a good one. Must be seven feet.”
“Yep. Help me drag its fat ass up to the house,” Bo said as he waded out of the water. Brian
stared at Boyd as if he were a total stranger. How could he be so matter of fact about what they
just witnessed? One minute he’s an elegant young lawyer in a Brooks Brother suit, the next he’s
exclaiming about a dead alligator and helping to transport it to the house.
“What the fuck is that?” Ted joined them as they walked up, staring in horror at the catch. “Is it
Brian stared at the gaping wound in its head, and then at Ted. “No, Theodore, its just stunned.
“I’ll get that skin off later, once it cools off out here,” Bo said. “We’ll store it in the fish house out
back to keep it cool and to keep the critters off of it. Come on.” He disappeared in a shack behind
the house with Boyd and they soon emerged sans alligator. “Miss Emma, we’ll have alligator meat
for fryin’ later tonight,” he called out as they all entered the house. Inside, the place was neat,
even tidy, with room air conditioners to keep it cool and the large central room had been turned
into his office. He invited them to sit down while he went to his bedroom to change. Miss Emma
brought them iced tea with lemon wedges and a plate of homemade molasses cookies. She
handed Ted a box of corn silk.
“Put this on them bites. Stops the itching.”
Ted gratefully began covering his exposed skin in a veil of white powder as Brian smirked at him.
“Never seen bugs bite through deet,” Boyd observed and Brian said,
“If a catastrophe, no matter how small, is about to happen, it will happen to Theodore first.”
Ted glared at him. “Says the man under suspicion of murder.”
That fell flat and Boyd glared at him. “That wasn’t very charitable,” he thought of Ted’s earlier
warning label remark. Did Brian know how cutting his so-called friends were? Was that just how
they all inter-related? Bo came into the room, without his weapon and dressed in clean clothes.
He took a cookie and sat down, casting a long look at Ted.
“Gnats musta mistook you for a cow.”
“Happens all the time,” Brian zinged and Bo centered a gaze on him.
“So, you do it, boy?”
“Do what?”
“Kill that ol’ boy.”
“I thought that question wasn’t supposed to be asked. But no, I didn’t.”
“Then let’s us find out who did or who mighta done. Ever touched his car?”
“His car? You mean his auto or is that some southern colloquial term for dick or something?”
“I mean his damn car.”
“Then no, I never touched his car. Or his dick, for that matter.”
“Anyone ever see you with him besides Boyd here and that woman at the garage?”
“We were never anyplace else to be seen.”
“You hit him? You make him bleed?”
“I’m not into that.”
“He make you bleed?”
“Not into that either.”
                                                  - 112 -

“You have HIV?”
“Are you looking to date me, Bo?”
“I’m not into that,” Bo said with deadpan cool. “Are you?”
“I pulled your records. You’re clean.”
“Medical records?”
“Jail records, son.”
“Oh, yes, I know. Until I hit Canard Rouge, I never got caught at anything.”
“Phone records of you callin’ this ol’ boy?”
“Vice versa?”
“Just slam bam thank you man, eh?”
“Something like that,” Brian said with a smile. “It wasn’t the world’s greatest love story.”
“How’d you get all this money at your age?”
“I sold a business.”
“It’s all legitimate,” Ted interrupted. “I’m his business manager.”
Bo glanced at Ted, dismissed him, and went back to Brian. “You have any drug addictions?”
“I wouldn’t say ‘addiction’. I’ve fooled around with better living through chemicals. Everyone
“You have any on you?”
Brian patted his t-shirt. “No, what are you looking for?”
“Don’t get smart with me. You have drugs back there in Canard Rouge?”
“Not even a joint. I was planning to score some chronic in New Orleans.”
“That’s good. The clean part, that is.”
“Why are you asking me all of these questions?”
“Just getting grounded, son. You hiding the fact you’re a sissy boy from anyone? Because it’s
about to go public.”
Ted snickered at that, and Brian said, “If I’m paying you to handle this case for me, let’s get
something straight. You can call me gay, you can even call me a homo, but you’re not going to
call me a sissy boy on my dime. I’m not a sissy boy. Clear?”
Bo smiled at him. “Alright, Mr. Kinney. I stand corrected.”
“I’m hiding from no one,” he cast a look at Boyd, who looked away. “I’m out and fine with it.”
“Where you staying in Canard Rouge?”
He looked at Boyd again. Boyd sighed. “Right now he’s at my cabin on the bayou, but I’m talking
him into moving into town.”
“I would. Where will you stay, then?”
Brian shrugged. “The Four Seasons is booked. Maybe the B&B,” he let his gaze drift to Boyd.
“Maybe elsewhere.”
“Hello? What about me?” Ted insisted and Brian laughed.

                                                - 113 -

“There’s plenty of room in your rental car, Theodore.”
“Riot, Brian.”
“We need to get going if we want to get to Canard Rouge by noon, and we do,” Boyd said and
Brian felt all the frivolity wash out of him. Boyd reached over to give his knee a comforting pat
and Bo didn’t miss that gesture.
“I’ll see you boys later,” Bo said. “Remember what Rod says. I will say nothing without my
attorney present.”
“It’s tattooed on my ass,” Brian joked and Bo shook his head.
“Bad place. You can’t see it.”
“No, but the cops will when I flash it at them.”
Bo laughed at that, and clapped Brian on the back. “You’re alright, boy. By the way, that belt
you’re wearing? Calf pressed to look like gator. It’s fake.”
“The fuck it is! You know what this belt cost?”
“You got took. It ain’t real.”
Brian frowned at that, his day ruined as he trudged behind Boyd to the car.

Current Mood:        curious

Feb. 17th, 2005 03:11 pm - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 29

I guess I'm bored, so I decided to bore you. Posting another chapter. I know it's overkill, but I
can't seem to sleep.

Canard Rouge was a short drive from Flora, following meager roads. Brian re-dressed as they
went, as if his expensive clothes provided armor. Boyd let Ted off at the B&B, suggesting he get a
couple rooms, and then replaced his own suit coat, shirt and tie. Brian smoked a cigarette,
obviously nervous, as Boyd tried to reassure him. But Brian had gone into deep protective mode,
filtering out everything else. At the jail, both Sheriff Carter and Charlie were present, waiting.
“You asked me to bring Brian in,” Boyd said. “So here we are with two minutes to spare. What’s
The sheriff stood and said, “Brian A. Kinney, you are under arrest for the murder of Greg Willis.
You have the right to remain silent. Should you give up that right, anything you say may be used
against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. Should you be unable to afford
an attorney, the state will appoint one for you. Do you understand these rights as they’ve been
told to you?”
Brian went pale, staring at Boyd in horror and Boyd flashed with anger. “What the fuck, Marc?
Charlie? What evidence do you have to charge Brian with murder?”
“Enough,” she said. “We’d like a DNA sample from Mr. Kinney.”
“You can get a fucking court order to get that sample, too. What are you doing, Marc?”
“I’m going to process him, Boyd. Fingerprints, mug shots, then we’ll put him in a holding cell until
his arraignment this evening.”
                                                   - 114 -

“Boyd…” Brian said, an edge of panic in his voice as Fergus came up, dangling handcuffs, anxious
to slip them on his newly returned prisoner.
“Put those up, Fergus,” Carter insisted. “Don’t be a damned fool. Do you want to make a
statement, Mr. Kinney?”
“I have nothing to say without my attorney present,” Brian repeated the mantra and Charlie
glanced at Boyd.
“What is he? Chopped liver?”
“I told you, Charlene, I’m helping on the case, but his lawyer is Ernesto Rodrigue,” Boyd was
already calling Rod on his mobile. “Say nothing, Brian.”
“Can’t you come with me?” Brian looked like a boy, he was so obviously frightened, and Boyd’s
heart ached for him. He wanted to take him in his arms and reassure him. But he couldn’t do
anything but tell Rod to get down here in time for the arraignment.
“Your boyfriend can’t hold your hand, bucko,” Fergus said with a mean little grin as he led Brian
back for processing.
“Just sit in the cell and wait, Brian,” Boyd called after him. “We’ll have you out tonight.”
“Assuming the court sets bail,” Charlie said and Boyd glared at her.
“Why wouldn’t they?”
“Flight risk.”
“What bullshit! I can’t believe you just shanghaied him, and me, this way, Charlie. That sucks.”
“You should have seen it coming, Boyd.”
“Well that’s why we hired Rod. He knows how to work this crap.”
“Boyd,” Charlene took his arm and led him aside, frowning when he jerked free of her touch. “I
don’t know what’s going on here, but you are way too emotionally involved. Step back. This boy’s
in a lot of trouble.”
“This man,” he emphasized the word, “is being framed, Charlene. How convenient for you. An
out-of-towner, a gay man, perfect set up. One flaw, he didn’t do it.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Actually, I do.”
“He’s a pretty face, Boyd. But don’t fuck up your life over this load of bad karma.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. But Brian is innocent.”
She sighed and patted his biceps gently. “See you at the arraignment.”
“I want to see your file.”
“His attorney will get to see that, Boyd. Are you his attorney or not? Because if you are, we’ll
start questioning him right now.”
He backed off. He knew he had to wait for Rod, no matter how angry he was. “What time is the
“I’ll see you there,” he paused and looked at the sheriff. “You let that piece of shit Fergus
humiliate him and I swear to god I’ll file civil charges! May I at least wait with him until Rod gets
“No, Boyd, you can’t.”
Boyd reluctantly left the jail as Carter and Charlene shared a worried look. In the back of the
facility, Brian was pressing his fingers on an ink pad and rolling them onto a card. He then had to

                                                - 115 -

hold up a numbered placard and have pictures made of his face, full front and profile. After his
belt, boots, tie, jewelry and other personal effects were taken from him, he was locked up in the
same cell he visited before, but on grounds that were grave and terrifying. He sat there on the
edge of the thin mattress, his hands clasped between his knees, his fingers still stained, He
thought he might throw up. When that passed, he wanted to cry, and when that passed, he just
withdrew into numbness.
His mind wandered back, to a time before Canard Rouge, to a time before his road trip, to what
he often thought of as “that night”. He was at the party to celebrate the launch of the comic
book, Rage. Brian had been the inspiration for the gay superhero written by his best friend
Michael and illustrated by his lover, Justin. He paid for the launch party, even though his heart
wasn’t in it. He had been going through hell with Justin. He knew Justin was seeing another man,
not just tricking, but that he’d become involved, emotionally. He was age appropriate, this other
guy, also an artist, perfect for him, while Brian was floundering. He felt things for Justin that he
never felt for anyone before and they terrified him. Brian resisted these feelings. He minimized
them so well that Justin looked elsewhere. Michael tipped him about Justin and his musician
lover, and Brian pretended not to care. But he did care, and some part of him knew immediately
that he had lost him.
So what was his solution? Push him away, make him choose. But make sure the choice was
obvious. At the party, Brian tricked with the actor chosen to portray Rage and made sure Justin
saw them together. Justin didn’t expect fidelity, but the timing of it was meant to be a push off
the edge of a cliff. The discovery had the intended effect. When Ethan, the musician, showed up
at the party, Justin left with him. What wasn’t expected was Brian’s reaction to this public
rejection. They were all wearing these little black superhero masks, and when Justin met his eyes
and made his decision, Brian felt a wall of pain well up in him. He ripped off his mask, displaying
the emotion for Justin to read. If he read it, he ignored it. Maybe he read it as indifference or
acceptance, instead of a silent plea. Whatever his interpretation, he walked out with Ethan and
never looked back.
And thus began Brian’s decline.
For two years, he went on living and working and tricking and tweaking in Pittsburgh, a fixture in
the gay community, a successful businessman, a hollow, well-dressed shell. He maintained his
attitude of cocky sexual assurance and emotional invulnerability, while the hole in his heart just
kept on bleeding. He’d run into Justin or his lover or both, from time to time, and he was always
cordial, polite, and quick to disengage. At first, he waited for them to break up. When that didn’t
happen, he just withdrew even deeper behind his defenses. He watched as his friends welcomed
Ethan into their little circle, and by doing so, marginalized Brian.
They had boyfriends, or in the case of the lesbian mother of his son, a girlfriend, and even those
who didn’t, like Ted, were always looking and hoping. Brian’s promiscuity and disinterest in
finding a relationship was viewed as childish and déclassé. He was in his early thirties, too old to
be a lounge lizard, and he was lost.
When the offer came to buy his business for big bucks, he jumped on it. He was drowning in
Pittsburgh and while there were people all around him, no one noticed and no one tried to help.
How could they when he kept telling anyone who would listen how perfectly fine he was? After the
closing, with his money safely invested, he sublet his loft and took to the road in his vintage
Corvette. He said it was a joyride, but he was going in search of Brian. Since Brian had gone
missing in Pittsburgh, maybe he would find him on the road. Instead, he found himself charged
with the murder of a trick he didn’t even know, in a little town that only wanted someone easy to
This was it. This was rock bottom. At last he found the floor of the pit of despair into which he
had been falling and falling since the night of that party. He landed hard. All of his bones felt
shattered. He doubted very seriously if all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could ever put
Brian together again, and he really wasn’t sure if he cared.
Time passed at an interminably slow pace, until around five, when Ernesto Rodrique, Lisette, and
Boyd were shown into his cell. Boyd bit into his lip and balled his hands into fists to resist the
                                                - 116 -

urge to pull Brian into his arms. Brian just looked at him, and then the others, as if disinterested.
The expression of forlorn surrender made Boyd feel like a failure. Rod took charge. “This is what
will happen, Brian. We’ll go in front of a judge. They’ll read your charge. You’ll be asked for a
plea. You will plead not guilty. The DA and I will argue about bail, but the Judge will grant it.
Louisiana has a Constitutional amendment allowing bail in almost every circumstance. Your friend
Ted has arranged to have sufficient funds available to engage a bondsman. I’m going to file a
motion for a change of venue to New Orleans, claiming you can’t get a fair trial here. My guess is,
we’ll lose. No matter. They’ll want to question you, and I will be very cooperative and tell them of
course they can question you, in my presence. They will decide not to question you, because
they’ll know they can’t trick you into incriminating yourself while I’m there. You understand what
I’m telling you so far?”
“I just want to get out of here,” Brian said through lips parched by keeping them tightly clamped
all afternoon.
“Listen to me, Brian. You’ve been charged with a serious crime you didn’t commit. For that, you
should be angry. Indignant. I know you’re tired right now, scared, this is all very alien to you.
You’re used to being on top of the world, not under it, but you can’t go flat on me. You hear? You
have to be engaged to fight this with me. It’s going to get a lot uglier before it gets pretty. But in
the end, you will leave this state with your head held high and no blight on your good name.
That’s how this will play out, and that’s what you need to think about. Get through the process to
reach the end game.”
Brian just stared at him, and then Fergus interrupted, explaining they had to take Brian over to
the courthouse. Brian refused to meet Boyd’s eyes as he was cuffed. They returned his boots, but
not his belt or tie and his trousers slipped low on his hips as he was escorted out of the jail cell,
followed by his troupe of attorneys. In the courtroom, the cuffs were removed. Boyd had spent a
lot of time in this courtroom, and never had it felt less hospitable. The judge, for whom he felt a
certain camaraderie, seemed suddenly hostile to him, and Charlene, his peer, had become the
enemy. She exchanged a few words with Lisette when they first saw each other, and Boyd
wondered what it was like for his sister to come back here, after so long an absence.
The arraignment was no time for Rod to demonstrate his superior skills as a defense attorney. It
was strictly procedural, with the charges read, and Brian given a chance to say “not guilty”, which
he did. Bail was then argued. The state fought granting bail, but Rod won the fight and Brian had
no trouble posting. The terms of his bail were expanded to permit him to travel to New Orleans to
visit his attorney, upon notice to the prosecution.
Back at the jail to gather his personal possessions, Brian felt far from free as they walked out in
the gloom of late evening. Rod and Lisette headed back to New Orleans, making plans for their
next meeting with Brian. Once they were alone, Brian, Ted and Boyd stood there, on the
sidewalk, as if trying to figure out where to go. Finally, Boyd suggested dinner.
Brian shook his head. “I don’t want to go out anywhere. I just want to close the door and curl up
in a ball.”
Boyd rubbed his arm in sympathy, but Brian pulled back. Ted said, “I got us rooms at the B&B.
They’re great rooms and the two queens who run the place are really nice guys.”
“Let’s go.”
Boyd stopped him. “Brian, why don’t you stay at my place tonight?”
Brian met his eyes, looked away, and shook his head. “Better not.”
“Why not?”
“You have enough problems without that. Come on, Ted.”
Ted gave Boyd an apologetic shrug as he followed Brian towards the B&B. Boyd watched them go,
his concern over Brian’s withdrawal intensified by an unreasonable sense of rejection.
Brian’s room at the B&B was large and elegant. Dormer windows overlooked the back garden,
and the attached bath had a sunken tub complete with Jacuzzi. The frilly white linens and Laura
                                                - 117 -

Ashley print wallpaper and curtains were not his idea of style, but the furnishings were high
quality, and there was a television in the armoire. He refused to turn it on, fearing he may hear
something about his arrest. He barely had the mental energy to undress, but managed a soak in
the tub before he tied on a robe and stretched out on the bed. He was as much a prisoner here as
in the jail, only with a better mattress and a private toilet. It was a simple fact that he was no
longer a free man.
When a knock sounded at his door, he suspected Ted, or even worse, one of his unctuous hosts.
The door was locked, so he had to get up to respond to it. What he didn’t expect to find was Boyd
standing there with a picnic basket. Boyd had changed to jeans and a dark Ralph Lauren shirt.
Brian stared at him, unsure of what he was seeing.
“What are you doing?”
Boyd smiled at Brian’s surprised expression. “You have to eat.”
Brian felt the freeze at his core begin to thaw. He’d been completely hopeless, and now, by caring
enough to show up here, Boyd infused him with the energy that had been sapping out of his
system since his arrest. Boyd looked gorgeous, freshly showered, his hair still damp, and his skin
slightly flushed from the heat. Brian spread a hand on the back of Boyd’s neck and pulled him
inside. He closed the door behind him and turned the lock. Boyd lowered the basket to the floor
as Brian kissed him hard on the mouth. Boyd’s arms went around Brian’s waist and held him
close. Their foreheads touched, and Brian’s eyes closed as the worst the world had to throw at
him was softened by his unexpected emotional response to his visitor.
Current Mood:      blank

Feb. 18th, 2005 04:32 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 30

It's Randall, I'm posting for him because he's sleeping in, I hope. Lot of hacking last night and I
hope he stays home and IN BED this time. I edited it, although he doesn't require a lot of editing,
and I don't usually comment for obvious reasons (prejudiced) but this chapter packed a whallop
for me. I think you'll have the same reaction.

Boyd fell back on the lacey white duvet as Brian blanketed him with his weight. He propped a foot
up on the back of Brian’s calf, as their tongues met and probed and their hands rushed to find
flesh under cover. “Don’t you want to eat first?” Boyd gasped as Brian threw off his robe and
yanked the Ralph Lauren over Boyd’s head.
“I am eating,” Brian responded, taking a taut nipple between his teeth, sucking eagerly at it.
Boyd arched his back as the inferno built between them. His hand followed the slope of Brian’s
torso and reached under to grasp his hard cock.
“I want to be naked,” Boyd moaned and Brian paused to help yank off his jeans, smiling when he
noticed he wasn’t wearing underwear. He nudged Boyd’s lengthening cock with the flat of his
cheek and then rolled it over his chin and slipped it into his mouth. Boyd bucked his hips and
grabbed Brian’s hair in his fists, feeling a frantic build up of his passion. The urgency swept both
of them and when Boyd whispered to him, “Fuck me,” Brian suddenly realized he was
“Shit,” he said, having to break the continuity to dig in his duffel bag to find condoms and lube.
Boyd suddenly found this intermission very funny and he began to laugh as he pulled back the

                                               - 118 -

white duvet to uncover sheets with a small print of delicate lavender stalks that matched the
wallpaper and curtains.
“This is so…sweet,” he teased, throwing himself back on the sheets as Brian laughed and returned
with the goods.
“Let’s just pretend we’re domesticated faggots who went to see the leaves in Vermont and stayed
at some sweet little romantic inn along the way.”
“Before we have our same sex ceremony presided over by some lesbian Episcopalian priest?”
“In our matching Armani’s.”
They both laughed and then Boyd smiled and pulled him into his arms. “Doesn’t sound so bad,
does it?”
“Twilight Zone. For one thing, I’ll be honeymooning at the penitentiary.”
“Don’t even joke about that, it’s not funny. It’s not true.”
Brian winced, just wanting the heat back. He dropped down to suck Boyd, and turned so Boyd
could suck him at the same time. A free-standing cheval mirror reflected their pairing, and Brian
glanced at it, excited by their combined image. Hot, taut male bodies, entwined in fellatio, better
than any porn he had seen. He motioned for Boyd to look, and he shared Brian’s homoerotic
attraction to it. How could anything this beautiful be wrong?
When the heat was all the way up, Brian withdrew and pushed Boyd back on the bed, climbing
above him to kiss him with more delicacy than before. Boyd returned his caress and they kissed
and touched and simmered, as if deliberately delaying the ultimate union of their bodies. Boyd
made the move to open a condom, and he stretched it over Brian’s cock as Brian opened the
lubricant. Slicking two fingers, he used them to make the initial penetration and Boyd moaned at
the pressure of his entry.
Boyd guided Brian’s cock towards his body and Brian pushed it in. Boyd winced, having almost
forgotten the dull pain that preceded the exquisite pleasure that came later. Brian grabbed a
pillow and pressed it under Boyd’s hips to improve the angle as Boyd linked his ankles at the
small of Brian’s back. They kissed as they fell into a common rhythm, the stroke and withdrawal
building into an almost excruciating level of desire. Brian’s belly stroked Boyd’s erection with each
lunge and Boyd reached down to help it along as his need for release became tortuous. Brian
prided himself in his ability to outlast his lovers, but he was so excited by being with Boyd that he
was finding control impossible. As soon as he felt Boyd release, he allowed himself to get off, the
power of his ejaculation testing the limits of his condom.
He didn’t pull out as he collapsed above Boyd, closing his eyes as Boyd began stroking his back in
soothing circles. “I can’t remember the last time I got fucked like that. If ever,” Brian whispered
and Boyd smiled.
“I think I just got the greatest compliment of my entire sex life. For me to return the compliment
wouldn’t mean nearly as much for you, but having said that, I do return the compliment.”
“Christ, you talk like a lawyer even in the sack,” Brian laughed.
Boyd kissed him and said, “Ok, try this. I love your cock. I love your cock in me.”
“My cock loves being in you, too,” he answered with a smile. Their bodies relaxed together, glued
by Boyd’s ejaculate. “Shit, I’m getting hard again.”
“Me too.”
“This condom will never hold it, wait,” Brian withdrew and replaced the used condom, not trusting
it to hold a double load under the weight of his excitement. The second time began with less
frantic urgency, but the thrill built as rapidly as before and soon the same fire consumed them.
This time they hit at almost the same second, and both were completely exhausted as they
relaxed in a tight embrace. Finally Brian spoke, as he rolled off of Boyd to stare up at the ceiling.
“Did that air conditioner kick off or do I have Swamp Fever?”
                                                - 119 -

Boyd smiled and leaned over him, licking off a trail of sweat, tasting the salt. “Once you get
Swamp Fever, you’ll need constant attention from a native since we’re the only ones who know
how to treat it.”
Brian laughed. “Know anyone willing to sign on for that job?”
“I’ll have to give it some thought.”
“Think you’d like to consider it in yet another Jacuzzi? I realize it’s not the same as soaking with a
good bottle of champagne, but…”
Boyd smiled and got up to retrieve his picnic basket. He opened it and withdrew a bottle of
champagne, already chilled. He held two flutes in the other hand and Brian laughed. “I love a
man who comes prepared, and yes, I know exactly how that sounds.”
After champagne and relaxing in the agitated water, which led to a third round of fucking, they
sat naked on the bed and ate the food Boyd brought over. The basket came with plates, cutlery
and linens, and the food was supplied by the diner, she-crab soup, red snapper with lime salsa,
julienne potatoes with dill, followed by Kentucky Derby pie. Stuffed, Brian fell back on the pillows,
and Boyd stretched out beside him after putting the used dishes back in the basket. “How are you
doing, Kinney?” he said.
Brian looked at him and smiled. “Better than I was before you knocked.”
“I know this is horrible for you, but I want you to know I still feel convinced this is going to be
fine. Rod knows exactly what he’s doing. They made a fast arrest to make sure you don’t leave
the jurisdiction before they knew what’s up. Keep the faith.”
“Why did you ask me to stay with you?”
“Two reasons. I don’t want to be away from you, first and foremost. Second, I don’t want you to
be alone with your dark Irish mood.”
“And now?”
“I still want you to stay with me.”
Brian smiled. “Okay, the fact that you said that means a lot to me. But the answer is no. If I was
a problem for you before I got charged, I’m really a problem for you now. You can knock on my
door anytime. The queens are in the club, and won’t cause us any harm. I’ll visit you, when it
makes sense. But let’s not go formal. Let’s not buy trouble.”
“Because of the charges against you or because you’re afraid of going deeper?”
Brian shrugged. “Honestly? Both. I was remembering today what it was like when Justin walked
out on me. I swept it under the rug, but I’ll be honest with you, it hurt. If I was impossible to get
close to before that happened, then I guess I became completely impenetrable afterwards. But…”
“But what?”
“But you got to me, Boyd. I admit it. I thought about my life a lot before I arrived in Canard
Rouge and after I left Pittsburgh, but I couldn’t see myself becoming involved with anyone ever
again. And that fact bothered me. Because I’m really lonely, Boyd. I’ve grown apart from my
friends, and I have no family to speak of, other than Gus. It gets really cold and really quiet out
there, sometimes. When I met you, something went ping.”
Boyd smiled. “Ping?”
“Yes, ping.”
“Ping is good?”
“Ping is…different. It’s a little pinch that tells you this is something different than the usual person
you meet. Something fits.”
“In that case, you pinged me too.”
“I know.”
                                                 - 120 -

“So what do we do?”
“Do?” Brian shrugged and walked over to the armoire, returning with a remote control. “Late
night with Conan?”
“Television in the bedroom. Death of the sex life,” Boyd teased and Brian laughed.
“If we had much more sex tonight, it could be the death of us. Save the state a trial. Or my luck,
only you would die and I’d be tried as a serial killer, linked by my dick of death.”
Boyd hit him with a pillow, which Brian returned, then scrolled the channels as he held up the
sheets so Boyd could crawl in beside him, finally settling on late night talk.
In the morning, a steady knock at the door failed to rouse the sleeping lovers and Jon, the
proprietor, opened it using a pass key, balancing a tray laden with breakfast goods. “I thought for
your first morning at the B&B, you might enjoy the luxury of breakfast in…oh my!”
Boyd sat up, squinted at him and then fell back in the crook of Brian’s arm. Brian glowered at
Jon’s wide-eyed stare and said, “Rule number one, don’t open my locked door without an
“Uh, I’ll just leave this here and go get another serving for your guest!” He escaped, practically
falling over Boyd’s picnic basket as he rushed downstairs to tell his lover the big news about Boyd
Coulter, a man they had lusted over secretly for years.
“I guess we’re official,” Boyd groaned as he got up to take a piss and Brian joined him at the
toilet, adding his own stream.
“They’ll gossip and stroke each other off over it, but they won’t out you, Boyd. I believe that
about them. In a town like this, they’ll keep your secret.”
“Yeah, I know,” Boyd finished, washed his face and dabbed it on a towel before he tentatively
reached for Brian’s toothbrush. “May I use that?”
Brian smirked at him. “I think we’ve been sufficiently intimate to make it acceptable, but bring
your own next time. Leave one here.”
Boyd used it before rinsing it off and passing it to Brian. The intimacy of that act escaped neither
of them. Brian kissed him as soon as he finished brushing and teased, “Minty fresh.”
Jon was knocking, and this time he didn’t walk in until Brian pulled on his robe and invited him in
with a tray for Boyd. As they ate fresh pastries and hot chicory coffee, Brian asked, “What are
you doing today?”
“I need to go to my office. I’ve neglected it too long. Believe it or not, I have a practice. How
about you?”
“I’m going to the cabin to pick up the rest of my stuff. What the fuck does one do here?”
“I could meet you here around ten. I have a break.” Boyd offered with a gleam in his eye.
Brian smiled. “You’re a real little sex maniac, aren’t you?”
“Does that mean no?”
“That means whatever else I do in my busy day, I’ll meet you here at ten. Here,” he handed Boyd
his key. “I’ll get another one from the queens.”
Boyd leaned over and kissed him, their embrace interrupted by Brian’s mobile. With a muttered
expletive, he walked over to retrieve it and said, “Yes?”
Boyd watched Brian’s face go pale. He automatically turned his back to Boyd, scrubbing his long
fingers through his hair with nervous agitation. And then Boyd heard him say, “How’d you find
out, Justin?”
Suddenly, all the glow from last night and this morning vanished in the spoken sound of one

                                                - 121 -

Current Mood: awake

Feb. 19th, 2005 09:28 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 31

Boyd felt like a fool.
He couldn’t concentrate on his work. He kept watching the clock, waiting for ten. Worrying about
that phone call. Worrying about the fact he was worrying about that phone call. Waiting for ten.
Wondering where Brian was. Remembering how Brian seemed very quiet, very withdrawn after
his brief conversation with Justin. Watching the clock. Feeling excited by his memories of the heat
between them. Feeling nervous about Brian’s lingering feelings for his ex. Feeling nervous about
his growing feelings for Brian. Resisting the urge to call Brian. Watching the time.
Watching the time.
Shortly before ten, he made an excuse and left his office, rushing to the B&B. He managed to
elude the two queens as he climbed the stairs and let himself into Brian’s room with his key. He
was three minutes early. Disappointed that Brian wasn’t there yet, he sat down on the edge of
the bed to wait. Should he undress or would that be presumptuous? Presumptuous, hell. They
both knew why they were meeting at ten, and it wasn’t to discuss Brian’s case. Being naked was
a prerequisite. He began to undress, feeling the anticipation of a newlywed. Would Brian be
charmed to find him naked and in bed or would he find it corny?
His clothes came off slowly as the minutes ticked past. Naked, he climbed between the sheets,
messing the order the queens had restored when they straightened Brian’s room. He touched his
cock, already feeling it begin to stiffen in anticipation. He waited. He pressed his face to Brian’s
pillow, inhaling the ghost of his scent, and he waited. 10:05.
Where was he?
Boyd glanced at the phone. Should he call his mobile? Did he forget? Or did the phone call from
Justin change everything? He waited. His passion began to be replaced with concern, and then
annoyance. Was this whole thing one-sided? Was he just another trick and now that Brian had
plowed his ass, he was moving on? If so, why would he agree to meet him here? Brian was a lot
of things, but he never struck Boyd as cruel.
He called his mobile, got voice mail, and refused to leave a message. At 10:30, he dressed. At
10:40, he left, feeling humiliated and rejected. He walked back to his office and asked if he had
any calls. He was told of two calls, neither of which he cared about. Neither of which were from
Brian. He closed the door to his office and tried to lose himself in his work. But it was hard to
concentrate when his chest felt so tight that he could hardly breathe.
At eleven-fifteen, his phone rang. He jumped. His secretary picked it up and buzzed him. “It’s
that Brian Kinney guy.”
“Tell him I’m busy.”
Fifteen minutes later, he called again. Once more, Boyd ducked the call, feeling childish for it. But
his hurt feelings required this rebellion. Maybe Brian was calling to apologize or explain. Thirty
minutes later, he showed up at the office. Boyd told his secretary to let him in.
Brian shut the door behind him as he stared at Boyd. He looked disheveled, as if he’d been out in
the heat for too long. There were patches of dust on his jeans and pima cotton shirt. “Busy day?”
Brian asked with an edge and Boyd felt a flare of anger.
                                               - 122 -

“No busier than yours, I’m sure.”
“You won’t take my calls, now?”
“You can’t show up at ten the way we planned?”
A veil dropped as Brian’s expression told Boyd what he needed to know. He didn’t even remember
the date. Boyd had anticipated it like a schoolgirl going to her first prom and Brian forgot all
about it. He felt like Brian slapped him hard in the face. Brian slumped in a chair and rubbed his
eyes, as if warding off a headache.
“I was at the cabin. I forgot. I got caught up in what I was doing.”
“You don’t have enough things to pack that it could take that long, Brian. Were you talking to
your boyfriend on the phone? Catching up on old times?” Boyd hated the sound of his own voice,
the pettiness and pain curdling his stomach. Brian looked confused.
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about Justin.”
“What about him?”
“He called you. I heard it, Brian. I’m not an idiot.”
“Obviously, you are. Maybe you forgot the part where I told you he’s with someone else now?”
“I remember that. I also remember the part where you told me how much you miss him.”
“You know, Boyd, ever since I met you, Jared Hall has been standing behind you whispering in
your ear, everywhere we go, every time you turn around. Jared is always there. He may be dead,
but he’s not gone. Don’t import your inability to let go into me because I get one fucking phone
call from a former boyfriend.”
“Maybe there are just too many ghosts between us, Brian. Jared, Justin, Greg. Doesn’t leave us
much room, does it?”
Brian tensed. “No, maybe not. Maybe you’re right.” He turned towards the door and Boyd said.
“Where were you? Why didn’t you at least call me? I felt like an idiot.”
“I told you. I was at the cabin.”
“Doing what?”
“Cleaning up.”
“Cleaning what up? We have people who clean that place, Brian. I’m supposed to believe you
were sweeping and polishing, rather than meeting me?”
“I don’t care what you believe.”
Boyd forced a smile, but his heart wasn’t in it. “I guess that says it all.”
Brian let his hand linger over the doorknob, and he kept his back to him as he said quietly, “They
tore the place up, Boyd.”
His changed attitude alerted Boyd. “What do you mean?”
Brian turned and leaned against the door, his face reflecting a hidden pain. “The police must have
come and searched the place. There was a copy of a search warrant on the table. They combed
every inch of that cabin. Stuff was thrown everywhere. All of my stuff and Ted’s stuff was
thoroughly searched, but so was the rest of the cabin. It was like a tornado blew through.”
“Christ, I wonder who they served that warrant on?”
“I don’t know, but I had to clean it up, Boyd. I had to put it back together. It’s your cabin and
they wrecked it because of me. You were nice enough to let me stay there and they tore it up. I
was embarrassed. Do you understand that? It’s humiliating that something I’m accused of doing
resulted in your neat little world being invaded and ripped apart. I wanted to make it go away,
                                                 - 123 -

hide it from you, put it all together again. I think I did a pretty good job. Maybe some things are
out of place, but it looks normal enough. And I’m out of it. No reason for them to go there again.
The contamination is gone. It was such a shock to see what had happened. I can’t even describe
the chaos, but…I just lost all track of time. I just had to get it cleaned up before you found out. I
was so embarrassed, Boyd. Can’t you see?”
Boyd felt Brian’s pain undulate from him in waves and he got up and crossed over to him, pulling
him into his arms. At first, Brian resisted. But then he relaxed and clung to Boyd. His eyes were
tightly shut as he drew strength and acceptance from his lover, his confession washing away his
“I don’t care about that fucking cabin,” Boyd whispered against Brian’s ear. “I don’t care about
any of it. I just care about you.”
Brian said nothing. He responded only by pulling him closer to his body.
Bo Prudhomme parked his 1967 Chevy truck, once red but now the color of rust, at the curb in
front of a plain brick house that passed as suburban in Canard Rouge. The house looked like
someone stopped caring a few years earlier. The trim needed painting, the landscaping was
weedy and sparse, the roof was shedding shingles. Hanging baskets that held bougainvillea and
ferns to brighten the small front porch were now caskets for the withered remains of plants that
once flourished. To Bo’s practiced eye, the condition of this house meant a woman once lived
here, but not in awhile. Death or divorce, the life went out of the place when she left.
He knocked, but there was no response. No sound from within, other than the low drone of the
air conditioners. He went around to the back. As he went, he passed a gleaming Dodge Ram
parked in the driveway. He found a man polishing a rifle while seated in a lawn chair in the back
yard, a six- pack of beer beside him. Bo was a wily Cajun. Walking up on a man’s property
unannounced while the owner was holding a lethal weapon was a bad idea in these parts. So he
announced his approach with a jaunty, whistled version of Camp Town Races.
The man looked up. His face showed neither surprise nor interest. He had once been handsome,
that was clear, and he still had the hard body of a man who had always worked for a living. But
bitterness had darkened his features into a lined mask like the tragic face of drama. A sleeveless
undershirt revealed strong arms and a trio of tattoos. To Bo, they looked military in origin,
probably Asian. Given his age, he may have come in at the last gasp of Vietnam.
“Hey, brother,” Bo said with a cheerful smile, his left hand at his back as if to support an ache. In
fact, he had a gun holstered there under his jacket. If this jackass made a move, Bo knew he
could take him. “Going hunting?”
“What’s it to you? Who the fuck are you?”
“Fame is fleeting,” Bo said with a laugh. “There was a time when everyone in this part of the
swamp knew Bo Prudhomme.”
The man’s porcine eyes flattened into slits. “You that nutcase who keeps running for governor?”
“The same.”
“I don’t vote, so you can just keep on walkin’. All politicians are crooks.”
“Which is why you should’a voted for me. Clean that shit up. But I’m not here to get your vote,
Mr. Willis. You are Mr. Willis, aren’t you?”
“So?” Willis zipped the rifle into a canvas case and began re-packing his cleaning utensils. Bo
relaxed his grip on his own gun.
“Sorry to hear about your son.”
Willis spat into the dirt and picked up his beer can. He took a long swig and said, “You knew that
piece of shit?”

                                                - 124 -

Bo kept his expression neutral. No matter what else Greg Willis was, he was this man’s flesh and
blood and he was gruesomely dead at a very young age. He deserved better from his own father.
“No sir. I just heard about it. My condolences.”
“When he was two years old, I bought a funeral policy on that kid cuz even then he was no good.
I knew he wouldn’t make it to old age. And the funeral costs would fall on me, ‘cause no woman
would ever have him. I was right. At least it won’t cost me nothin’, not like with his mama or his
sister. They’re all gone, now. I feel like a weight’s off my back.”
Bo nodded, chilled by that sentiment. “Sometimes grief sneaks up on us in funny ways. Mr. Willis,
I’m a defense investigator for Ernesto Rodrigue. Ever heard of him?”
“He paint them blue dogs?”
“No sir. He’s a lawyer over to New Orleans.”
“Don’t know no lawyers.”
“Mr. Rodrigue has been retained to defend the young man accused of murdering your son.”
Willis looked up, suddenly interested. “What’s that got to do with me?”
“I just wanted to ask you some questions, is all. If this is a bad time, I can come back.”
“Ain’t no good time. As soon as they release what’s left of that boy, I’m gonna drop him in a hole
and get back to my job on the off-shore rigs.”
“Then could you spare me a minute now?”
“This some city boy being accused, right? Some faggot yankee?”
“He ain’t from around here, that’s a fact.”
“Well I say they oughta just hang the son of a bitch.”
“I understand your anger over what happened to your son, but of course Mr. Kinney has only
been charged, not convicted.”
“It ain’t got nothin’ to do with whether he killed Greg.”
“Then I’m sorry. You lost me.”
“He’s a fucking faggot. No use for any of them perverts. I got no quarrel with him putting an end
to that sissy son of mine. My only gripe with that ol’ boy is that he didn’t do us all a favor and
take himself out along with Greg. Two less faggots in this world makes it a better place.”
“Your son was gay?” Bo pretended innocence of that fact. The man’s horrifying pronouncement
regarding Brian and Greg made it difficult for Bo to remain impassive, but he did.
“Of course he was queer, old man. What kind of an investigator are you, anyway? Been queer his
whole damned life. He was a shame and embarrassment to my wife and me, drove her to an
early grave. Damn kid, he shoulda been the one killed by that fucking drunk driver when he was
ten, not his sister.”
Bo took in the information, recalibrating as he went. He thought Greg Willis’s homosexuality was
a dark secret. From whom? If his own father knew, then whom was Greg hiding from? It sounded
like his other nuclear family members were dead. If he wasn’t protecting his family, whom did he
find it necessary to protect?
“Where were you the night Greg was killed, Mr. Willis?”
“In the middle of the fucking Gulf. On a rig. Why?”
“Just getting things straight in my head,” Bo said with an alligator smile. “Just putting the players
in place.”
Current Mood:      stressed

                                                 - 125 -

Feb. 20th, 2005 01:15 pm - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 32

“Lunch in bed?” Boyd teased, rolling over to take a piece of pizza from the box on the floor beside
Brian’s bed. “Is this a new luxury we’ve created?”
Brian smiled and reached for him. “Quit stuffing your face. Unless you let me choose what to stuff
it with. And it won’t be that horrible imitation of pizza. Haven’t you ever heard of a nooner? We’re
not plowing new ground, here.”
“You said ‘plowing’,” Boyd laughed and Brian rolled his eyes at that remark.
“Thanks, Beavis. Let’s go again.”
“Are you trying to use up a quota or something?”
“You’ve got four years of coupons saved up, Boyd, and I don’t have any idea how much longer I’ll
be able to make sexual decisions based on desire, rather than survival.”
“Stop saying that kind of thing, Brian,” Boyd spread out on top of him. “You’re not getting
“Why not?”
“Because you’re innocent.”
“And that insulates me from what?”
Boyd kissed Brian’s forehead, the long bridge of his nose, his upper lip, his chin. “Have faith.”
“They searched your place, Boyd. They’re dead serious about this. They put this gray powder all
over things, lifted prints, looked for clues.”
“We have to tell Rod about that. I wonder if there was a procedural error. Maybe he can suppress
the search.”
“My address book is missing. They took my fucking address book. They took my laptop. It’s like
living in Nazi Germany.”
“You’ll get them back.”
“They want me, Boyd. They want me bad. They want to pin this on the big queer from Pittsburgh,
and have it over with.”
“I don’t give a shit what they want, Brian. They won’t succeed.”
“I don’t feel good about that.”
“I know, but that’s because you’re scared.”
Brian grimaced at that remark. He didn’t like to admit a weakness, especially not fear. He’d been
afraid way too often since coming here. It made him feel vulnerable, like when he was a kid living
in fear of his father. It made Boyd even more of a lifeline. He kissed him, closing his eyes as his
lust edged out more unfamiliar emotions. Lust he could deal with. Lust was his friend. He rolled
on his side and positioned Boyd the same way, facing him. He lifted Boyd’s left leg to swing over
Brian’s hips and pulled him closer. He kissed him and rubbed against his body until his dick was
fully aroused and then he snapped on a condom and penetrated.
Boyd moaned, a little sore from all the activity, but he still shared Brian’s lust. He hooked his calf
over the small of Brian’s back, driving him even deeper into his body. One hand wrapped around
the brass bar of the headboard to hold him in position when Brian began to pound him with
increasing force. Brian reached up and pulled Boyd’s face down to his as he plunged his tongue
                                                  - 126 -

into his mouth. They shared the moment of orgasm, and then clung to each other until the frenzy
“Brian, can I tell you something without causing you to panic?”
Brian fixed a glare on him. “Probably not, since you put it that way.”
“Tough. You’ve got to be the best lover in the gay world.”
Brian laughed. “Oh. That. Well, yeah, maybe. Probably. Shut up.”
“I mean it.”
“I mean it too. Shut up. Like you have a comparison point.”
“I’m not discounting Jared. He was a very passionate man and I was in love with him, so it was
great. But you have this down to a science.”
Brian laughed and fell back on the pillow, staring at the ceiling. “Practice, my boy, practice.”
“Is it all the same to you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Every man you’re with. Do they all feel the same to you?”
“No, some are taller, shorter, bigger cocks, smaller cocks, but never too small, or I wouldn’t
bother. Some are tighter than others, some move better than others, some fit better, come
better, enjoy it more. Some scream, some laugh, hell, some even cry. Some want to jump me
every time I turn around, some want to roll me over, some run away in horror from my appetite,
some just want a steady diet of cocksucking. Some prefer a lot of hand action, some want a bath
of jizz, some are repelled by jizz, some live to rim, some find it repulsive. Some like to teabag,
others don’t. Some want to stick a finger, a toy or a necklace of balls up my ass while I fuck
them, others stay away from that door. Some want me to piss on them, or worse. Some want to
be tied up or to tie me up. Some want pain with the pleasure. Some want to deliver pain. That’s
the beauty of fucking around, Boyd. While you may think your options are limited, I’ve always
been able to find a surprise at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box.”
Boyd stared at him for a moment, taking in his litany, and then he laughed. “The gospel
according to Brian.”
Brian smiled and reached up to ruffle his fair hair. “You got that right.”
“And if you feel something emotionally for your sex partner, does that change anything for you?”
“I’ve only felt something emotionally for one sex partner, Boyd, and yes, it changed it for me. But
we had a strong physical attraction, so it’s hard for me to say whether it was the emotion or the
attraction that made the difference.”
“I see,” Boyd got up and went into the bathroom. He turned on the shower and stepped under the
warm spray. The hurt still stung from when Brian said that about feeling something for only one
sex partner. That left him out, he supposed. Brian suddenly pulled back the shower curtain,
imitating the jangling sound of the Psycho soundtrack when the stabbing began as he made fake
jabbing motions at Boyd. Boyd barely smiled as Brian stepped in with him and took over the
soaping of Boyd’s body.
“Is it just not funny or is it not funny because I’m a potential murderer? The Psycho thing?”
“Neither, it was funny,” Boyd turned, feeling Brian’s hands slip down his back, spread the soap in
the crack of his ass, and even lower.
Brian leaned close to him, pressing his forehead to the back of Boyd’s neck as he said, “Okay,
maybe two.”
“Two what?”
“Maybe I’ve felt something emotional for two lovers,” he reached around to soap Boyd’s cock.
Boyd was as thrilled by what he said as by what he did.
                                                - 127 -

“’Maybe’ or you did?”
“I did. I do.”
Boyd leaned against Brian’s strong body, feeling Brian’s dick lengthen against his ass. His
capacity was unbelievable. “Do you think it’s a trench romance? You know, the kind of thing that
is unrealistically intense because it occurs when people are engaged in warfare? We’re fighting for
your freedom, after all.”
“I don’t know what it is. It may be nothing. It’s just…different.”
Boyd reached up and spread his fingers on the back of Brian’s head. “Different but good?”
“Different but good.”
Once again, they lost each other in the smoky haze of passion.
When Brian was alone, he stretched out on the bed, smoking, wondering what the fuck was going
on with him. He was so horny with Boyd, even hornier than his usual strong appetite for sex.
Maybe Boyd was right. Maybe it was a fear of the future that fueled his desire, or wanting to
ensure that Boyd remained on his side. Why had he relented and told Boyd he felt something for
him, even if he couldn’t or didn’t say what that something was? Did he even know what that
something was? He was still trying to figure it out for himself.
He recalled his earlier conversation with Justin. When he heard his voice, he was stunned. They
had talked very little since Brian left Pittsburgh. He got stupefyingly drunk in San Diego and called
Justin, feeling maudlin and lonely. When he heard his sleepy voice and then heard Ethan say,
“Who the fuck is it?” in the background, he turned cocky and snarky and the call didn’t last very
long. Justin called him on his birthday, just to wish him a happy day. That was the one birthday
greeting Brian received from his so-called friends. And now this call. That fucking Ted. Fucking
interfering Ted.
“Brian, this can’t be true. They can’t be claiming you murdered someone!” Justin began the call.
“How did you find out, Justin?”
Of course. “It’s a horrible mistake.”
“I know it must be, but are you in big trouble? Do we need to do something? Call someone?
You’re not in jail, at least. Ted said you have a high-powered attorney. Want me to talk to Mel
about it?”
“Yeah, she’d be a big help,” he said, picturing Melanie plugging in the electric chair for him. “I’m
fine. It’s under control.”
“What happened?”
“Justin, my attorney put me under strict orders not to discuss the case with anyone. No one. It
could risk making you a witness. Sorry. Just know I didn’t do it.”
“Of course I know that, Brian. What were you doing down there in Hicksville, anyway?”
“Long story.”
“You never should have left Pittsburgh.”
“Yeah, I have so much to hold me there.”
“You do! Friends, family, Gus.”
Brian laughed at that. “Right.”
“I can be a character witness.”
“Yeah, for the other side.”

                                                  - 128 -

“I have to go. I’m not alone.”
Justin paused for a couple heartbeats. “Of course you’re not. Even in the sticks, you’re not alone.”
“And neither are you,” Brian pointedly reminded him. “Thanks for checking on me, but tell
everyone I’m fine.”
“I’ll call again, Brian. Just to see how it’s going.”
“I won’t be able to tell you anything.”
“I’ll call anyway.”
That was the whole call. In his former life, Brian would have spent two days brooding over that
contact, analyzing every word and inflection for import, replaying what he said, coming up with
what he should have said. In the world he lived in now, this was the first time he thought about
the call, and it was mainly because of his discussion earlier with Boyd. What did that mean? He
supposed it meant his life was so fucked up that he had bigger fish to fry than to whine over a
failed relationship. A knock intruded and he pulled on a robe as he went to the door. Jon gave him
a long, louche look. Brian raised a brow to question him.
“You want something?”
Jon smiled. “I’m not so old that that’s not a loaded question, Brian.”
“But you’re married and I’m not interested, so moving on,” Brian reminded him with the force of
a blunt instrument.
Jon sighed and gathered his dignity. “Gentleman downstairs to see you. Says his name is Bo.
Send him up?”
“Tell him to wait. I’ll get dressed and come down.”
“Sure. Brian, about Boyd…”
“What about him?” Brian asked tensely and Jon sighed.
“This is a small town. Our lips are sealed, we’d never gossip about you boys for obvious reasons,
and in fact, we find it very intriguing. But if it got out, well, Bonnie Coulter is a very vindictive
little woman, and Boyd’s parents aren’t the most tolerant people in the world. It’s just that this
will all be cleared up for you, we know you would never do a thing like that, and you’ll move on.
But Boyd’s life is still here. His kids are here. You have no idea the homophobia that lives in a
southern town like this.”
Brian glared at him. He knew he meant well, but he didn’t appreciate the invasion of his privacy.
“I understand homophobia perfectly well, Jon. As for Boyd, he’s a grown up. Let him make his
own decisions.”
Jon nodded and withdrew as Brian shut the door to dress. What really annoyed him was that he
had the same fears about Boyd, assuming he was acquitted of these charges, thus allowing him
to get the hell out of Canard Rouge. What annoyed him even more than that was the lump of
panic he felt when he thought of leaving town, of leaving Louisiana, and of leaving Boyd Coulter,
knowing full well only one of those abandonments mattered. What the fuck was that all about?
Forcing these uncertainties aside, he dressed in clean clothes and went downstairs to meet with
his investigator.

Current Mood:         confused

Feb. 21st, 2005 05:23 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 33

                                                  - 129 -

Bo and Brian looked equally out of place in the antique and print-laden parlor of the B&B. Bo said,
“Want to go get a cup of coffee?”
“Please,” Brian agreed and they walked over to the diner and sat in the last booth, away from
prying ears. Bo ordered lemon chess pie to go with his coffee while Brian stuck with café au lait.
“How’s it going?” Brian asked and Bo said,
“Stay the hell away from Greg Willis’s old man. That redneck’s one screw short of a toolbox. He’s
not so much mad at you for possibly killing his son as he’s mad at you for being gay. He’s one of
those. Said he was going back to the rigs after the funeral, but until then, avoid him. Drives a big,
black Dodge Ram.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
“Boyd told Rodrigue about that search and Rod’s on it. He called me on my cell phone. Give me
your cell number while we’re at it.”
Brian smiled, watching the older gentleman enter his mobile number into his flip phone with
surprising dexterity. He suspected Bo wasn’t as back woods as he liked to appear. “Mine’s on my
card,” he reminded Brian who said,
“I already entered your numbers in my mobile. Can Rod get my computer and my address book
“I’m sure he’s working on it. Nothing gets past Rodrigue. Not the breeze through the cracks.
Nothing. You know a guy named Rex Berenson?”
“I’ve heard that name, once, I think. Damn, can’t think where.”
“He’s Boyd’s brother in law.”
“Oh yeah, okay. Must have heard it from him. Why?”
“He’s the one who let the cops toss your place around.”
“That cabin belongs to Boyd. Does he have the right to do that?”
“That’s the kind of thing I leave to the lawyers. So you never met him?”
“Met any of Boyd’s people?”
“His sister, Lisette.”
“Of course. No one else?”
“His kids.”
“That’s it?”
“Mr. and Mrs. Dhue, who work for the family. Nice people.”
“Homer Dhue? I know him. Gentleman.”
“Met the wife?”
Brian met Bo’s even stare. “Ex-wife,” he corrected him.
“That’s true. Have you?”

                                                - 130 -

“I hear she took him to the cleaners.”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“That usually means the man is guilty of something.”
“Maybe she was guilty of being a bitch and he was guilty of being a pushover. Look, this isn’t
about Boyd. Don’t make this about Boyd. He has enough to worry about without this.”
Bo smiled at Brian’s surge of protectiveness. “Down, big boy. I’m not after Boyd. But I am after a
killer and I don’t leave nothing unexamined, and you better get behind that. This is your neck on
the chopping block.”
“Right. Understood. Sorry, I just feel like I brought enough blight into Boyd’s life already.”
“Blight?” Bo smiled. “You boys are sweet on each other, right?”
Brian suspected Bo would uncover that fact in short order if he hadn’t already. “I wouldn’t say
sweet on each other.”
“What would you say, Brian?”
Brian thought it over. “I’m not sure. We’re, uh, we’ve become kind of involved, I guess.”
“Which means what?”
“Does it really matter?”
“Hell yes, it matters. Everything matters. Everything you do, everyone you see. Are you sleeping
with him?”
Brian nodded.
“You his first, uh…guy?”
“You need to talk to Boyd about that. I’m not sharing his private life with you.”
“I’m on your side, Brian. Work with me, here.”
They grew quiet as the cute waitress re-filled their cups. This time she wasn’t flirtatious with
Brian. The word was obviously out that he batted for the opposing team. When she left, Brian
said, “He was involved in a serious relationship with an artist named Jared Hall. Jared committed
suicide a few years ago. According to Boyd, Jared was it for him.”
“I know about Jared Hall already. See? You didn’t rat him out at all. Do you know about other
“I already told you no. Do you?”
Bo smiled. “No, Brian. I don’t. Just trying to investigate the possibility that Boyd was also getting
his ashes hauled with Greg Willis.”
“Boyd says no.”
“Someone was.”
“No doubt. He apparently hit the gay bars in the region.”
“Any idea who?”
“You told the cops Greg gave you a blow job the evening he went missing, right?”
“Yeah, I told them that. It was true. So?”
“You weren’t the only flute he played that evening. Contents of his stomach show sperm residue
and the sperm they found came from two different donors. What’s your blood type?”
“A positive.”
                                                - 131 -

Bo pulled out a file and looked at some entries. “Yep, there you are. Other lucky fella was an O
positive. Unfortunately that’s a very common blood type. But the DNA would narrow it down.”
Brian looked hopeful. “That could mean the other man did it. If he had sex after me…”
“Brian, the wad didn’t come time stamped. It all ended up in the same place. Coulda been before
you, coulda been after.”
“Reasonable doubt?”
Bo smiled. “Yeah, Della Street, at least it suggests reasonable doubt.”
“How did you get that autopsy report?”
“Your attorney is entitled to all the evidence the DA has. It’s the law.”
“Can I see it?”
“Why not?”
“You ever seen an autopsy report, Brian?”
“You don’t want to see this one. Poor old Greg may have been a good looking boy when you knew
him, but he’s not going out looking so good. It’s gruesome stuff. Won’t get you any information
you need and will only give you nightmares. It will come up in trial, Rod will decide how to get
you ready for it.”
Brian decided not to push for it. Bo was probably right. He didn’t need more nightmares. “So what
do we do now?”
“We? You keep your head down. Remember what Rod said. Discuss your case with no one. I’ll
keep doing my job. That ol’ boy who came down here with you, Ted, is that his name?”
Brian frowned. Ted was still on his shit list for informing Pittsburgh of his plight. Even though he
helped straighten up the cabin, Brian was still mad at him. “What about him?”
“Did I hear right that he’s an accounting type?”
“You can save yourself some money by having Ted go over financial and business records Rod is
subpoenaing. What do you think?”
“He may as well do something worthwhile. I’m paying him to be down here. So far, all he’s done
is drive me around, arrange my bail and flap his jaws.”
“Let me put him to work.”
“Fine, I’ll tell him to call you. He’s staying at the B&B, too.”
Bo paused, then asked. “He one of your lovers?”
“Don’t make me impotent. No.”
“Is there anyone else in this town who you’ve been with?”
“Besides Boyd? No.”
“What about women?”
“I gave them up for lent. Thirteen years ago.”
They both laughed. “Brian, I think the killer is still in town. It’s just instinct right now, but I’ve
been doing this long enough that my instincts are pretty good. I don’t know who it is, not yet, but
they’re here. Wearing a smile and acting like all is just fine in their life, or maybe not. Maybe
they’re hiding away in a dark hole. But I’ll find them. This isn’t a random act or a driveby pickup

                                                  - 132 -

gone bad. It just has a conspiratorial feel to it. In my experience, murder usually follows two
trails: money or sex. I’m going down both.”
“I know I’m paying for it, but I appreciate all the hard work, Bo.”
“It’s what I do. So now I’ll go do it. I’ll give your Ted a call.”
“What’s that?”
“Don’t refer to him as ‘my’ Ted. It makes me queasy.”
Bo laughed and shook his head. He found that he really liked this gay boy from up north, which
was a result he hadn’t expected.
Bonnie Coulter looked up as the bell over the door in her florist shop announced the arrival of a
customer. She settled her gaze on the tall, handsome man in jeans and a sleeveless t-shirt. His
arms were heavily muscled, but still lean, and when he took off his shades, he had mesmeric
hazel eyes. Gorgeous. Automatically, she went into prom queen mode, offering him a flirtatious
little smile.
He smiled back. But his smile was much more cautious. “Smells good in here,” he observed. His
accent wasn’t local. Wasn’t southern.
“Why thank you. But then, the flowers get all the credit. May I help you?”
“Do you deliver?”
“Of course,” she grinned at him. “Local fancy?”
“I’m staying at the B&B,” Brian said, taking in Bonnie Coulter with one glance. She was still
beautiful, but the bloom was fading on the kind of looks that made her special. She had to fight to
keep that body on such a small frame. Packing on weight was easy for girls that small. Her ivory
skin that was such a strong contrast to her ebony hair and eyes was just beginning to show signs
of aging. She probably never broke out as a teenager, but she would pay for that with premature
lining. Black hair grayed early, too, so she was probably already coloring her curly mane to keep
the fade away.
Brian was prepared to dislike her. She fucked over Boyd, imposed unnatural restrictions on his
life, using their children as her weapon. She covered up a mean spirit with a sugar wouldn’t melt
exterior. He wanted to tell her the boobs and the pretty face and flirty act had no power over him,
but why play his hold card? He disliked her even more than he expected. She wore a ring on her
right hand that was a large diamond surrounded by smaller baguette cut stones, a remake of an
engagement ring and a wedding ring into something neutral. Boyd had spent some bucks on
those rocks. What a fool he had been.
“I’d like to arrange to have some flowers delivered twice a week to my room, just to perk it up.
Something indigenous, not too girly. Not a lot of heavy scent. Can you do that? Let’s say Monday
and Thursday. I’ll just leave a credit card on file.”
“What a lovely idea! Most men wouldn’t think of such a thing, I applaud your creativity,
He gave her his best fake smile. His selling a product smile. His you don’t know who you’re
dealing with, sister, smile. “Kinney. Brian Kinney.”
He smacked a platinum American Express down on the counter as he saw her expression go from
available to horrified. How nice to be famous, he thought with a wry smile. She didn’t pick up the
card as she said, “You know, now that I think of it, we’re so busy with weddings and other things,
that a twice a week delivery may just be more than we can handle.”
“It’s a block away from here.”
“That’s not the point.”
“What is the point? Because I’ve been falsely accused of a crime, I don’t deserve your flowers?”
                                                  - 133 -

“Whether you committed the crime or not, your kind of person isn’t welcome in Canard Rouge.
While we’re on that subject, you’d better stay the hell away from my kids.”
“Don’t you mean yours and Boyd’s kids?”
Her pretty brown eyes narrowed. “You don’t want to fuck with me, Mr. Kinney. Ask Boyd. He
“Don’t need to ask Boyd. I know for a fact I don’t want to fuck with you. In any way. But I do
want those flowers. So run that card like a good little businesswoman and set me up.”
She flipped his card at him. “I don’t want your money. Gay money doesn’t spend here.”
Brian bit into his lip. Gay money supported her, he wanted to say, but he didn’t. He put the card
back in his wallet and leaned across the counter as he said in a low voice, “If I do nothing else
while I’m here, I’m going to get your fist off his balls.”
She stared at him in utter shock as he winked, replaced his sunglasses and left her shop.
Current Mood: determined

Feb. 22nd, 2005 04:55 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 34

Boyd was with Henry, his bloodhound-faced client who won the ruling on his case the day Boyd
met Brian for the first time. They were discussing next moves when Bonnie burst into his office,
followed by an apologetic Lorene, who had been unable to stop her. Boyd read the fury on
Bonnie’s pretty face, but he watched it slip behind a mask of false bonhomie as she spotted
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Henry, I didn’t know Boyd had company.”
“I told you!” Lorene thoughtfully left off the ‘comma, bitch’ that would naturally follow that
statement. Henry cast a forlorn look at the petite woman, and then at Boyd.
“I’m guessing we’re through here anyway, right, Boyd?”
“For now, Henry, yes. Sorry about the interruption,” he glared at his ex as Henry waved him off
and left the office. He was trailed by Lorene, who closed the door behind her. Before Boyd could
express his anger at Bonnie for the intrusion, she shot the first round.
“You tell that…that faggot friend of yours, that fucking murderer, if he ever comes in my shop
again, I’ll have him fucking arrested for violating the terms of his bond. How dare him threaten
“Threaten you?” Boyd went cold. Brian couldn’t have been that crazy. “What are you talking
She told him the story, complete with her own twist. She ended it with Brian’s precise threat.
Boyd boomeranged between annoyance that Brian would do this and an odd thrill that Brian
would do this. For him. Finally, annoyance won. “That’s hardly a threat, Bonnie.”
“What have you told him about us, Boyd? How dare you share any details of our life with a
fucking murderer!”
“First of all, Brian is not a fucking murderer. He’s falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit.
Secondly, I didn’t have to tell him anything much, the facts are evident.”

                                                - 134 -

She sat down across from him, catching him in her gaze and turning him on the spit of her anger.
“Are you fucking him? Isn’t that some kind of ethical violation? Not to mention the fact it’s
contrary to the deal we cut regarding the kids. Are you fucking him, Boyd?”
“Don’t even ask me that. It’s none of your god damned business.”
“It is my business if you want to see your kids again.”
“Bonnie, this lame agreement of ours about what I do with my life is all something you imposed
outside our divorce decree. It’s unenforceable.”
“If you think I can’t get restrictions on your visitation rights because you’re a fucking faggot, then
why don’t you just test that theory in court? Oh, and don’t forget to throw in the fact you’ve
expanded your perverted repertoire to a murderer and also a client.”
“Not a murderer, not a client, and I never said I was fucking Brian. That’s your conclusion.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, Boyd. That math was real hard to do. Who do you think you’re
fooling, anyway? Have you decided it’s fine if the whole world knows your dirty little secret? What
about your kids and how humiliating it would be for them to find out their dad sucks cock? What
about your family? You tell that slick creep that if he wants to play hardball with me, he’d better
have the equipment for it, because I’ll give him a game.”
“I’ll tell him no such thing. You’ve made a jihad out of a sarcastic remark.”
“It was no sarcastic remark, Boyd. Your boyfriend was protecting your sweet ass from big bad
Bonnie. What a loser. He has no idea what he’s up against, but maybe you should tell him. You
know. You’ve been there. You know how relentless I can be.”
Boyd frowned as he leaned back, considering that remark. He did know. He had been there. He
was still smarting from her burns. “Maybe you should go, Bonnie.”
“You let him near my children, you will never see them again.”
“Good luck with that.”
“Don’t even think about challenging me, Boyd. No court in the world would deny my right to
protect my kids from a perverted accused murderer.”
“Maybe you should leave, now.”
She stood and cast her former husband a gleaming smile. “Do you know how truly pathetic you
are? Some smooth talking yankee comes to town and you drop your pants like a schoolgirl. Did it
ever occur to you that you’re the only game in town with Greg Willis dead? Who else is he going
to get to go down on his knees for him or take it up the ass or whatever it is you disgusting
sicko’s do together? You think a guy who looks like him, with his kind of slick charm, is going to
look at you twice if there were other faggots in Canard Rouge to play his little games with him? If
he does beat this rap, he’ll leave you in the dust so fast he won’t even hear you whimper his
“You can leave now, Bonnie,” Boyd said with a stony glare. She smiled, realizing she had struck
emotional gold with him.
“I’m going. This one isn’t some suicidal colored boy who viewed you as his rich benefactor and
representative of the kind of world he could never have. This one is laughing about you to his
friends back home, telling them what a rube you are, and how he’s using you because he’s bored
and horny.”
“Watch yourself, Boyd. You get public with this thing and I will fuck you up so bad.”
She left the office and he swiveled his chair towards the windows, staring out at the heat
wavering above the asphalt streets in visible undulations. Bonnie was nothing if not masterful at
finding the high scores with her darts. Not only did she get the threat in, but she even managed
to encapsulate his regret about failing Jared and his fear of losing Brian.
                                                - 135 -

After Bonnie told him she was pregnant, the outcome should have been easier for Boyd to predict
than it was. Jared seemed to know immediately what would come of it. That night after the
ruined dinner at Lake Ponchartrain, followed by Jared’s blatant tricking, their relationship began
an inevitable decline. Jared withdrew from Boyd, hurt, expecting the other shoe to drop. Boyd
agonized over Jared’s constant tricking and unrelentingly dark mood.
Over drinks at a local bar, with Lisette, Boyd poured out the whole story. She shook her head.
“You were an idiot, Boyd. You gave her a loaded gun to stick in your sac.”
“I know.”
“And now she got what she’s wanted since she was sixteen years old, the little bitch gold digger.
She got a crack at the Coulter name and the Coulter fortune.”
“I can’t marry her, Lisette. I’m gay.”
“I know that. You know that. But does she accept that? No. Your dick got hard for her, she has
the proof of that in her womb, so bullshit on the fact you like dick. I’m sure she’s convinced
herself that was just a phase you went through.”
“And Jared? I’m in love with Jared, not Bonnie. I care for Bonnie, but Jared is my partner. I want
to strangle him right now, he’s worse than he’s ever been, but he’s still my partner.”
“You need to tell Jared either he gets on meds and regulates his behavior, or you’re leaving him.”
“That’s like asking him to choose between his art and me. How can I do that? He says he can’t
work when he’s on meds.”
“Has he tried? Boyd, he can’t be a fixture in the backrooms and baths and then bring it home to
you. I’m terrified he’s going to pick up some germ and transmit it to you. And even if he doesn’t,
what kind of relationship is that? I hate this for you. You have a lover who is totally out of control
on the one hand, and a woman who wants to trap you into a relationship that is against your
fundamental nature on the other.”
“So what do I do?”
“Settle up with her, Boyd. Get it in writing. Give the child your name and a trust fund. Make
Bonnie secure. And force Jared to get a grip. That’s my advice. Take it or leave it. No charge.”
That night, Boyd felt good as he went home. He planned to tell Jared he’d decided to make the
offer to Bonnie that his sister suggested. Jared’s big fear over losing Boyd to her would vanish,
and then he could suggest they start exploring alternative methods to deal with his depression
that might not affect his work. Sessions with a shrink on a regular basis, bio feedback, aversion
therapy, whatever it took. Jared’s spirals were lengthening and growing more intense with each
fall. Something had to change. When he entered his apartment, Boyd heard the loud music and
smelled the faint residue of marijuana in the atmosphere.
Jared was in the kitchen, surrounded by chaos. He grinned at Boyd. “I decided to make my
grandma’s fried chicken and greens. Soul food for my white bread boyfriend. What do you think?
Sound good?”
Boyd sighed and tossed his jacket and tie on a chair. Jared had spun into a manic mood.
Sometimes that was good, but tonight he seemed to be in one of those highs where he was on
the verge of emotional frenzy. “Where were you, anyway? Have a date?” Jared laughed at that
and then suddenly turned serious. “That bitch isn’t in town, is she?”
“I had a drink with Lisette.”
“Oh. Thanks for inviting me.”
“Jared, I just wanted to have a minute with my sister. Are you really bothered by that?”
“Coulter family time. No room for me in that enclave.”
“Stop it,” Boyd went to the fridge and said, “Are we out of water?”

                                                - 136 -

“You want water?” Boyd felt a cold, hard missile hit the small of his back, knocking the air out of
him. The bottle Jared threw bounced off to hit the floor, coming open and spilling all over the
tiles. Boyd stood, rubbing his back with a wince and then deflected a kitchen towel Jared threw as
he said, “Clean it up!”
“You clean it the fuck up!” Boyd insisted. “And don’t be throwing things at me, Jared. That hurt.”
“You expect me to clean up your messes now? Why don’t I clean up that mess you made with
that little girl, Boyd? How about that? I could yank that baby out of her with these here tongs.
That would take care of business, now wouldn’t it?”
Boyd frowned. “Don’t talk like that. I need some water. I’m going to the store.”
“You want water? Here’s water!” Jared picked up the pot of boiling water into which he was going
to drop the greens and Boyd froze in terror.
“Put that down.”
“Catch!” Jared emptied the hot liquid with a toss in Boyd’s direction. Boyd managed to jump back
so that only a little of it hit his trousers, stinging through the fabric, but causing no real damage.
He stared at Jared in horror, both of them suddenly realizing how dangerous that act had been.
“Boyd,” Jared took a step towards him, but he slipped in the water and had to grab the counter to
stay upright. Boyd took that moment to escape the apartment, spending the night at Lisette’s
place. When Jared showed up there, he refused to see him. He didn’t know what to do. Jared was
out of control and now he had turned dangerous. Some instinct made him call Bonnie that night.
He didn’t tell her much, only that his relationship was disintegrating and he was lost.
“Come home, Boyd,” she said in a gentle voice. “Let me make a normal home for you and for our
baby. Remember what it was like to live in the open? To be proud of your relationship? To
become a contributing part of the real world? I can make it so easy for you, Boyd. So content.
None of the dramatics and the shame. Make an honest woman out of me and let me make a real
man out of you.”
A real man. Boyd smiled at that memory now. What she made of him was a eunuch, but she did
it in stages, so it took him a long time to figure out what was happening to him. Bonnie was a
masterful gamesplayer. She knew just what to say and when to say it. She knew how to work
him, make him feel safe, make him feel part of something secure and easy. She told him the sex
wouldn’t matter that much, she wouldn’t ever pressure him to do anything that he didn’t want to
do. She reminded him of how compatible they were and how much fun they used to have.
She promised him a life of respect and acceptance. That wasn’t what she delivered, however. His
phone rang, and he picked it up, feeling a mix of emotions when he heard Brian’s voice.
“What time are you getting off?” Brian asked and then clarified. “Wait, I know the getting off time
will be about fifteen minutes after we see each other, but when are you quitting for the day?”
“Miss me?” Boyd asked tensely.
Brian laughed. “Bored.”
“That’s flattering.”
“Maybe I do miss you a little.”
“We need to talk. Why don’t I pick you up on my way home? I can fix us something at my place.”
“What time?”
“Give me ten minutes.”
“I’ll be having a cigarette on the porch of the B&B.”
“Boyd, is something wrong? You sound tight, and not in a good way.”
“Let’s just wait until I see you.”
                                                  - 137 -

They hung up, and Boyd sighed as he began packing his briefcase. How correct was Bonnie about
Brian? Was he laughing at him with his friends? Was he just a convenience for Brian, the one gay
port in a storm? How fast would he leave him when he was acquitted and would he have any
regrets at all? He shook his head as he considered those questions. Boyd had experienced three
important relationships in his life, and two of them had been disastrous. Was Brian Kinney going
to be his third catastrophe or did they stand a chance of making it work? If not, was Boyd capable
of weathering yet another broken heart? He began planning protective strategies as he left the
office to pick up the man he never expected to care about the way he did now. The man who was
either his third strike, or his one homerun.
Current Mood:      annoyed

Feb. 23rd, 2005 05:39 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 35

Brian sensed that Boyd wanted to remain aloof as they drove through town towards the mill.
Brian kept his distance, said nothing, wondered if this was about Bonnie. Did she tattle-tale on
him? Of course she did. On reflection, he realized what he had done was pretty dumb. His
curiosity got the better of him, and when he checked out the ex, he took an instant dislike to her.
He had no doubt that this feeling was reciprocal.
“Bo tells me Greg Willis swallowed some other guy’s load around the same time he blew me,”
Brian volunteered. Boyd came of his self-imposed retreat to react.
“Really? Who?”
“Someone with O positive blood.”
“What blood type are you, Brian?”
“A positive.”
“Are you sure?”
Brian hesitated, frowned. “No. Yeah. I think so. No, I’m sure. Why are you questioning it?”
“Is your mother Irish, too?”
“We’re all Irish, all the way back to the potato famine. Even beyond that, I guess. So?”
“Nothing, really. I’m not a genealogist. But I took a course in law school on forensic evidence.
There were some sessions about blood typing and identification. We learned that there are
geographically based clusters of blood types among the people of the world. Those with Celtic
ancestral origins, Scots or Irish, are predominantly type O, while the Brits and Northern
Europeans are generally type A.”
“Are you suggesting there was an Anglo-Saxon in the Kinney woodpile?” Brian said with a sneer
and Boyd laughed.
“I’m just wondering if you really know your own blood type.”
“Do you? What are you?”
“I’m an O positive. Celtic Scot.”
Brian grinned at him. “Maybe you’re re-directing me so I won’t suspect you were Greg’s dessert
“Is that supposed to be funny?” Boyd snapped. Brian leaned back, surprised by his anger.

                                                - 138 -

“Yeah, Boyd, actually it was supposed to be funny.”
“Well, it isn’t.”
“Guess I’ll have to give back my Comedy Central t-shirt. What is your fucking problem?”
“I don’t have a fucking problem, Brian.” They drove up to the mill where he parked the Explorer
under a tree. Both men got out of the car and walked upstairs in tense silence. When they were
inside, with the door closed, Boyd slammed down his briefcase and turned on Brian.
“What the hell were you doing going to the florist shop? Stalking my ex-wife?”
“Stalking? I went to the shop to buy some flowers, Boyd.”
“Bullshit! For whom? Me?”
“Don’t suck yourself off. They were for me. I figured if I have to stay here awhile, maybe some
fresh flowers every once in awhile might perk things up. What can I say? I’m a fag.”
“Why are you lying to me, Brian? You went there for one reason, to check out my ex. Why? Do
you have any idea how uncomfortable that makes me and how much trouble I’m in with her
because of that visit?”
“If she has a problem with me, the bitch can tell me so herself, not you.”
“I have a problem with you, Brian. I don’t want you making threats against Bonnie or for that
matter against anyone else in town. You’ve been charged with murder. You need to come across
as the mildest mannered man in the parish.”
“I didn’t threaten her. A threat would be if I told her I was going to wring her scrawny, pencil
neck and yank out that over-processed mop of hair strand-by-strand and then feed her to the
alligators. That would be a threat. All I said was that I was going to help her see the error of her
ways in how she treats you.”
“By removing her fist from my balls?”
Brian smiled, shrugged. “Something like that.”
“Exactly that, Brian.”
“Yeah, okay. Exactly that. Still not a threat.”
“Jesus!” Boyd scrubbed his fingers across his scalp, raising his short blond hair in a coxcomb that
Brian found strangely attractive. He went over to the bar and poured himself a drink. He carried it
with him to the sofa and slumped down, taking a long draw.
“Why yes, I will have a drink. Thanks, Boyd.”
“Get your own damned drink.”
Brian did so, and then sat beside Boyd, feeling him tense. “I didn’t plan to cause any trouble with
her. But she was just so damned smug, so fucking superior, I had to let her know I could see
right through her.”
“Why? So now she thinks we’re fucking…”
“Which we are,” Brian interrupted.
“That’s not the point. She’s making all kinds of threats about the kids and this is just one more
pressure I don’t need right now.”
Brian sighed, and reached over to smooth down Boyd’s hair. He felt him flinch, but he refused to
withdraw. “Maybe it was a dumb thing to do, Boyd. She just got my Irish up.”
“Fuck your Irish. This is my life, Brian. My kids are my life. After you go back to all your friends
and your life in Pittsburgh, I’ll still be here, trying to juggle my love for my kids with Bonnie’s

                                                  - 139 -

They let their gazes lock, but then Brian looked away. “You’re right, Boyd. That’s true. This is
your life. And I’m on trial for murder. Talk about your complications. You’d be better off if we just
chilled for awhile, right?”
Boyd shrugged, unable to look at Brian. Brian sighed. “For the record, I am an A positive, no
matter what the statistics say about the Irish. I know I am. I’ve had enough AIDS tests to see
blood scan results on my pathetic self. So you share a blood type with the dessert course, Boyd.
Of course, O is the most common blood type so without more that doesn’t mean much.”
“I never touched Greg Wilis, Brian. Never had sex with him. He made me queasy.”
“Yeah, well…will you take me back into town? Sorry to ask, but I have no transportation.”
“I invited you to dinner.”
“Under the circumstances, I relieve you of that invitation.”
“Don’t be a drama queen. I’ll feed you.”
“Now I’m a drama queen?”
“What do you mean, ‘now’?” Boyd couldn’t help but smile and Brian smiled back. He reached out
and rested his long fingers on the back of Boyd’s neck.
“How hungry are you?”
“I can wait. You?”
Brian nodded. Boyd smiled and leaned over to kiss him, delaying dinner while they re-established
their intimacy.
Ted and Bo settled into a moment of quiet as they faced each other across a table in the diner. Bo
felt a certain easy ability to talk with Brian, despite their differing life experiences, but he felt no
camaraderie whatsoever with this one. But then, he seldom clicked with the money men. “Are
you married, Bo?” Ted tried to keep it going.
“Thirty-four years, Ted. She died in 2002 after a brief illness.”
“I’m sorry. Kids?”
“Never blessed. You?”
“Oh no. I’m gay.”
“So’s Brian, and he has a son.”
“Brian’s Brian. I’m not really in the donation business. Not that women are begging me for my
“Is that where Brian’s kid comes from?”
“Yeah, he donated sperm.”
Bo shook his head. “The world is a funny place. So, Ted, you understand if you review these
financial records, you may be asked to testify about them, if not by us, by the state? Can you do
“Testify? I’d be terrified, but yes, I suppose I can.”
“And when you’re asked to brutalize Brian, what’s the worst you would say about him? Under
Ted hesitated. “Nothing. Why would I say something bad about Brian?”
“Because the attorney pulls it out of you, Ted. What dirt do you have?”
Ted leaned back, putting his catalogue of dirt about Brian into categories. “Look, Brian is an
enigma. He’s brilliant and he’s inscrutable. He’s a fabulous businessman and yet he plays harder
than anyone I know. He’s a stud, and he knows it. Promiscuous. Into recreational drugs, or was.
But never to the point of being addicted. He has demons from a shitty family life that make it
                                                 - 140 -

hard if not impossible for him to commit to a relationship. I think he wants it, but just can’t let go
of his self-image as the Teflon stud who lets all emotion roll off of him. He loves his kid but
doesn’t spend much time with him. He’s very generous with his money. He’s done nice things,
incredible things, for all of his friends, at one time or another, and yet he’s also made all of us
crazy. We all want to be Brian, in some way, and yet none of us really get Brian. But I’ll tell you
one thing. Brian may have a temper, but he’s not violent and he would never kill that kid, or
anyone else. It’s bullshit. That’s not his way.”
Bo smiled and nodded. “He says that you and he never…”
Ted winced. “Oh God no.”
“What exactly do you do for him?”
“I manage his investments, I track his taxes, I do his tax returns. I used to do the bookkeeping
for his business, but when he sold it, the work I do for Brian changed with it. Now I guess you
could say I’m his financial advisor.”
“I take that to mean he’s rolling in it.”
“Brian will never need money, not if this trial doesn’t break him.”
“It won’t be cheap. But his life is on the line.”
“It’s bullshit.”
“It is what it is, Ted.”
“There’s no way they could convict him. He’s innocent. Rod will get him acquitted, right?”
“That’s the plan.”
“But it’s a good plan, right?”
Bo shrugged. “Best that I just stick with what I do and let the lawyers do the rest. I’m looking for
other candidates. I’ll want your take on these financial records when we get them.”
“Whose records are we looking at, Bo?”
“Greg’s, first of all. I think that might be an interesting trail. Damn, look at the time. I need to
go.” He left some money on the table and wrote down the amount in a spiral notebook he used to
track his expenses. “I have an interview scheduled.”
“Who with?”
“The couple who own that Texaco station where Willis worked.”
“Oh. The one who caught them at it.”
“Yeah, the wife did, apparently.” Bo smiled. “That must have burned an image in her holy
They both laughed. Bo stood up and clapped a hand on Ted’s shoulder. “Hope to have those
records tomorrow, Ted. See you. Oh, where’s Brian?”
“No idea,” Ted said, and the two men shared a silent answer. With Boyd. Bo shook his head and
left the diner, on his way to interview the woman who started all this trouble. Ted punched in a
number on his mobile.
“Justin, it’s me. Can you talk? Look, Brian told me he would filet me if I called you again, so…”
“Fellate you?”
“I wish. Filet me. Like a fish. So if you want information, you have to be cool with it. No informing
him of the details.”
“I want information. I’ll be cool. How is he? Where is he?”
“He’s okay. He’s with…not here.”

                                                    - 141 -

“Ted, I can read between the lines. Brian’s seeing someone, right? Who is he?”
“Do you really care? I mean isn’t that part of your relationship with Brian dead?”
“I just want to know.”
“He is seeing someone, Justin, and it’s turning very un-Brian like.”
“Meaning he really seems to care about this guy.”
The call went suddenly silent.
Current Mood:       stressed

Feb. 24th, 2005 04:14 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 36

Brian was alone in Boyd’s bed when he woke up. They had a rough start the night before. Sex,
Brian’s usual panacea, broke up the tension, and afterwards they had a conversation about
boundaries over a midnight supper. Brian agreed to respect Boyd’s issues with his ex-wife and
children. Just when he was about to make another move, Boyd stopped him with a question.
“How many lovers have you had, Brian?”
Brian glanced at him without turning his head. “Define ‘lovers’.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Counting random sucking and hand jobs?”
“If you shot your wad, it counts.”
“Boyd, that’s like counting crystals of salt in the sea.”
Boyd laughed. “That many, huh?”
“Enough. Too many, most people would say. I’ve always had a strong sexual appetite and I’ve
been doing this for awhile, and I’ve never been monogamous.”
“Not even with Justin?”
Brian smirked at him. “If you were on ‘The Price is Right’, you wouldn’t even get to the wall art
and the plaster of paris flamingo.”
Boyd stared at Brian’s profile and then said, “How am I supposed to compete with that?”
“You can’t. Even if you started right now, tonight, you could never catch up to me.”
“I’m not talking about besting your best, Brian. God, who has that kind of energy? I’m talking
about living up to what you’re used to.”
“Don’t be like that. Numbers mean nothing. This is about the here and now.”
“You’ll never be happy with one person.”
“That’s probably true, but you can’t know that. No one can read the future.”
“It’s logical.”
                                                 - 142 -

“Thanks, Mr. Spock. Are you suggesting I’m incapable of change? I’m not suggesting I would
change or that I want to change, but are you saying I can’t change?”
Boyd shrugged. “Anything is possible. It’s just not likely.”
“I do what I want. If I wanted to change, I could.”
“But you don’t.”
“Why should I?”
“What do you get out of it, Brian? The numbers?”
“I get my rocks off. I guess I like to be reassured that I’m still hot. I like boy-ass. I like strange
dick. Is that enough?”
“Jared tricked a lot. He had different demons driving him, but it hurt. I hated it. I felt dissed. I felt
like he’d rather give it to a stranger than to me.”
“Maybe it was easier with strangers. No baggage.’
“Is that how you felt about it? Even when you were with Justin?”
“This isn’t about Justin and me. Let’s not go there.”
“I didn’t leave Jared because of the tricking, although it was a factor. I just couldn’t cope with his
mental illness anymore. He was becoming increasingly out of control. He was dangerous at
“So you ran to Bonnie?”
“Out of the frying pan…but she made it sound like something safe and something easy. I can’t tell
you how hungry I was for normal.”
“And normal means straight.”
“Something like that,” he nuzzled Brian’s arm aside to rest his cheek against the valley of his
shoulder. “I know we’re a mismatch, Brian. I know you’re a short timer, here. I have obligations
that bind. I don’t want the ways we’re so different to detract from the ways we’re so good. Not
for the time we do have.”
Brian sighed, closed his eyes, and said, “You mean before I go to jail for life for a crime I didn’t
“No, I don’t mean that at all. I mean before you get acquitted and return to your life in
“Boyd, I believe I’ll lose this case. I believe I’ll be sent up. For a very long time. So talk about the
we’ness and the us’ness seems pretty blue sky to me.”
“You’re just feeling beaten down. It’s understandable. But I’m not letting you give up.”
Brian laughed and rolled Boyd under him as he said, “You are so fucking, unrelentingly cheerful.
It just sucks. It really does.”
Boyd reached up and smoothed Brian’s hair back with both hands. “I’m really not.”
“Yes you are. And to punish you for that, I’m giving you the thumb treatment.”
“The what?”
Brian rotated his thumb and Boyd looked amused. “Are you going to explain that?”
“I’ll bet you a blow job and a rimmer that I can get you off using nothing but my thumb.”
“I’ll blow you and rim you anyway.”
“Then I’ll think of something. Want to bet?”
“No. You can get me off just by looking at me.”

                                                 - 143 -

Brian smiled and sucked his thumb to wet it, then slicked it down Boyd’s cheekbone, to his upper
lip. He traced the shape of his lip with it, then pressed it to Boyd’s lower lip. Boyd kissed it and
Brian slipped it between his lips, against his tongue, smiling as Boyd sucked eagerly at it. When
he withdrew, he drug the thumb down Boyd’s throat, his collarbone, and circled his nipple. He
teased the erect bump with his thumbnail, causing Boyd to shudder and then went for the other
nipple and repeated this action. Boyd squirmed, watching Brian’s face as he moved the thumb
down his belly, lightly poking into his navel, and then outlining one hip bone and then the other.
“This is killing me,” Boyd said with a moan and Brian winked at him.
“You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
He pressed the thumb to the base of Boyd’s pubic bone, applying pressure, and then circled his
cock and his balls, reaching under the scrotum to press hard against the delicate bridge of skin
between testicle and anus. The pressure caused Boyd to groan and Brian reached his thumb up to
run the length of Boyd’s stiff cock and then down again, and then up, flicking the cap of his glans
with his nail. He gently pressed that nail against the slit, touching a nerve bundle that was as
exquisitely exciting, even as it bordered on painful.
He wetted the thumb again and then delicately inserted it in Boyd’s ass, applying pressure to the
floor of his rectal wall, and then thrusting upwards to undulate near his prostate. Boyd bore down
on him, gripping the sheets in both fists as Brian continued to fuck him with his thumb. He made
up for a lack of girth and length by relying on dexterity. He could stroke and fondle and press in a
way that a dick lacked the finesse to do. When he pulled it out and tapped it rapidly against the
tip of Boyd’s erection, Boyd let go with a cry of relief and a hot shot of semen.
Brian leaned down to lick it off his belly and then plunged his tongue into Boyd’s mouth. He
stretched out above him, his hard-on stabbing into Boyd’s gut. “Did you like it?”
“You’re a sorcerer, Brian,” Boyd said, rolling him over so he could get at his meat and return the
Now it was morning, and Brian was alone, soothed by the sound of the shower running in the
attached bath. He was so comfortable, so fucked out, he didn’t feel compelled to get up and join
Boyd. He didn’t feel compelled to do a god-damned thing. He thought he heard a knock at the
front door. He had been missing Jon’s tasty breakfast concoctions, and he smiled as the sound
reminded him of that wake up ritual. He pulled on Boyd’s robe and got up. He was walking
towards the door just as a key turned in the lock and a speeding bullet named Mac ran inside and
straight into Brian’s arms.
“Hi, Brian! Where you been?”
Brian patted his head, but didn’t pick him up. “Hi, Mac,” he said quietly as he saw Bonnie Coulter
give him a look that took two inches off his dick.
“Hi, Brian. You look nice in Daddy’s robe. I gave it to him for Christmas,” Belle said with the
complete innocence of a child.
“Belle, take your brother to your room and close the door until I come to get you, please.”
Belle knew not to argue with that tone in her mother’s voice so she grabbed her brother’s hand
and led him down the hall after giving Brian a feeble wave and a sad smile.
Bonnie waited until the door closed and then she hissed at him, “What the fuck are you doing
“You always just let yourself in to Boyd’s home?”
“He gave me a key. I never had a reason not to let myself in until now.”
“Isn’t it possible that I stayed over with him because we worked late?”
She laughed, but not out of amusement. “You think I’m an idiot? Surprise. I’m not. Where is he?”

                                                - 144 -

“Brian, have you seen my robe? I…” Boyd stepped into the room, naked, scrubbing a towel
through his damp hair. He saw them standing there and dropped the towel to his crotch,
eventually tying it at his waist.
“It’s not like I haven’t seen it, Boyd,” she said with a cold smile. “We do have two children. You
weren’t always a total pervert.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I’ll get out of your way,” Brian offered, but Bonnie said,
“Stay. I want you to hear this.”
He glanced at Boyd, and then at her. “I don’t take orders from you.”
“Brian, please,” Boyd pleaded and Brian frowned and crossed his arms at his chest, standing
stone still.
“You’ve screwed the pooch, Boyd,” she said with a sly smile. Her gaze traveled to Brian and then
back again. “Or worse. I brought the kids by because I need to go in early today and I wanted
you to drop them off at school. What a perfect picture this is. Here’s what going to happen. I’m
going to take my children out of here, and then I’m going to think about what I want from you. If
you don’t give it to me, whatever it is, the sight of their little hands waving goodbye this morning
will be the last fucking time you ever see them. How’s that for a negotiation, lawyer man?”
Brian looked at Boyd, who seemed shell-shocked, and then at her triumphant face and he had to
bite into his jaw to keep silent, reminding himself of the boundaries they set. She went on. “He’s
a murderer, Boyd, or at least he well could be. And you’re fucking him and exposing your children
to him. The gay thing is just gravy in that set of circumstances.”
“Bonnie, don’t make this about the kids. Don’t punish them.”
“Oh, I won’t, honey. You’re the one who’s going to be punished. Trust me.”
Brian walked towards the bedroom. He paused, slipped off the robe and tossed it to Boyd, who
put it on. Brian felt Bonnie’s gaze travel up his lean form, and he then turned and closed the
bedroom door behind him. Boyd waited for a moment, before he said, “I can’t take much more of
you, Bonnie. I have a line beyond which I cannot be pushed.”
“No you don’t,” she said with a laugh. “That’s the good part, Boyd. You really don’t.” With that,
she went to get the children. They looked frightened, unsure of what was happening, but they
knew it was bad, as they paused to hug their father. Bonnie told them to come along and Boyd
watched them go, his eyes blurred with tears as his daughter blew him a kiss of farewell.
Current Mood:      anxious

Feb. 25th, 2005 04:51 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 37

Except for the royal treatment afforded Brian Kinney, the guests at the B&B shared a communal
breakfast in the dining room. The room could be described in one word: peach. The paint on the
walls was called “Tuscan Peach”. The upholstery covering the chairs had a peach blossom print.
The candles on the long mahogany table were peach-colored and had a peach scent. Even the
china pattern featured a peach ring around an ivory center.
Ted enjoyed the camaraderie to be found at these breakfasts, and the food was high quality and
beautifully presented. He liked it best when there were no other guests in the house. Peter and
Jon would join him for those mornings, and dish about Canard Rouge. This was one of those days.
                                                - 145 -

Over Jon’s special peach pancakes and apple smoked turkey sausages, the topic dished out with
the food was Brian Kinney.
“We’ve always wondered about Boyd Coulter,” Peter said with a conspiratorial smile. “Maybe it
was wishful thinking, he’s such a gorgeous guy, but there always seemed to be a swish of
lavender about him. Brian comes to town and yanks him out of that closet so fast you can still
smell the mothballs on him.”
“Someone’s balls anyway,” Jon quipped.
Ted shook his head. “That’s our Brian. Poor Boyd. You guys may think you know about
hurricanes, well, now you’ve met one.”
“He is a magnificent looking man,” Jon said with a sigh and Ted laughed.
“Doesn’t he know it?”
“Be nice, Ted,” Peter teased.
“I’m serious. Brian knows. You get told your whole life how gorgeous you are, how sexy you are,
I suppose you start believing it.”
The front door swung open, and Brian stormed in, letting it slam shut behind him. He paused on
his way upstairs, diverted to the dining room, and went up to the sideboard where he poured
himself a cup of coffee from the heavy Georgian silver service. Only then did he acknowledge his
mute and staring audience.
“What?” he challenged with a testy raise of his brow. Ted read the signal and retreated. Peter and
Jon were not so adept at translating Brian’s cues, so Jon said,
“We were worried about you, Brian. I brought your breakfast up as usual and saw that your bed
hadn’t been slept in.”
“Am I supposed to sign out if I leave?” Brian snapped. “Is this the freshman dorm?”
“Brian,” Ted cautioned. After all, these men were willing to house an accused murderer under
their roof. Alienating them seemed foolish. Brian reached over Ted’s shoulder to snatch a sausage
off his plate.
“I don’t need Etiquette lessons from you, Theodore.”
“Sit down, Brian,” Jon invited. “Let me bring you a plate.”
“I’m not hungry,” he responded as he took one of Ted’s pancakes, rolled it up, and downed it in
one bite. “Taking a shower.” As he turned towards the stairs, the front door opened and a man
stepped in, mostly concealed behind two large flower arrangements.
“Yoo hoo!” He called to Brian. “Don’t go. I want to talk to you.”
Jimmy Chang smiled broadly at Brian and then called to Jon and Peter. “Come get your flowers.
The proprietors rushed to relieve him of his fragrant burden. The florist shop stocked the B&B
with fresh flowers delivered twice a week. Jon went to retrieve the used vases, exchanging them
with each new delivery. Jimmy said to Brian, “You want flowers? I’ll get you flowers. Cash only.
Don’t listen to Miss Bonnie. She don’t get it, girl like that. I’ll get you what you want.”
His brilliant smile suggested Jimmy was imposing no limits on his offer. Brian added one more to
his growing tally of Red Duck faggots. “I don’t need flowers,” Brian said and glanced at Ted.
“Theodore, come with.”
As Ted dutifully abandoned what remained of his breakfast, Jimmy shifted his hopes to Ted, who
looked back.
“Maybe you want something special?” Jimmy slipped him a business card. “My number’s on

                                                - 146 -

“Thanks,” Ted said with a smile as Jimmy made the universal “call me” gesture while Ted followed
Brian up the stairs. In his room, Brian began to undress and said,
“Mikey called me on my way back here. Who have you told besides Justin and Mikey?”
Ted grimaced. “Just a couple other people.”
“Name them.”
“Emmett, Lindsay, Mel, and Deb. That’s it.”
“Why not take out a full page ad? ‘Attention Pittsburgh! Brian Kinney charged with the murder of
a faggot in Louisiana. Read all about it.’ “
“They have a right to know, Brian. They’re your friends. “
“They have no rights at all, Ted! And neither do you. This is my business, not yours. If I wanted
them to know, I’d tell them myself.”
“Everyone wants to help. Even Mel.”
“I’ll bet. They can help by staying the fuck away from me. They can help by leaving me the fuck
alone. And you can help by keeping your fucking mouth shut.”
“Brian, calm down.”
“Don’t you fucking patronize me.”
“You can’t let them find out by hearing it on some newswire, Brian.”
“Yes, I can.”
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You did nothing wrong. It’s a screw job! I asked them not to call
and bother you, Brian. I said things were pretty tense and that I’d keep them in the loop. If they
hear nothing from me, they’re going to start hunting you.”
“Because you started this, Theodore! With your fucking meddling.”
“What’s going on with you? Is this about Boyd?”
“Boyd?” Brian looked perplexed, but then he focused a rapier sharp glare on Ted’s face. “Have
you told anyone about Boyd?” Ted immediately recalibrated, trying to come up with a cover, but
Brian saw the look and threw his arms up in frustration. “You really crossed over with that one,
Theodore. That’s nothing but cheap gossip. What else do you tell them? The details of my
financial holdings?”
Ted looked offended. “Of course not, Brian. I have my ethics.”
“Your ethics seem to have a few gaping holes. Why don’t you just go back? I’m done with you.”
“I’m not going back,” he responded, staring at Brian as he stood there in his brief 2-xist
underwear. Ted realized how much trouble Boyd Coulter must be in with this one on his trail.
“You need me, Bo wants me to look at some financial records. I’m not leaving you down here,
He saw Brian’s rage shift slightly and he knew he made points with that declaration of loyalty.
One thing that always seemed to work with Brian was to make him understand you were there for
him even when he was in the midst of an Irish rant. “Whatever,” Brian conceded, as he stepped
out of his underwear and walked naked to the bathroom.

Ted sighed, noticing that all the rich Creole food they had eaten had failed to shift Brian’s elegant
sands. “Down boy,” Ted murmured to the twitch in his hopelessly misdirected dick as the water in
the shower began to run.
Homer Dhue shaded himself from the sun with a wide-brimmed straw hat as he cast a line into
the bayou. The small boat he shared with Bo floated leisurely on the currents, and Bo watched his
                                               - 147 -

float bob and then grow still as a fish considered his bait and moved on. Fishing was like
investigative work to Bo. You cast the bait, waited patiently and if they didn’t nibble at it, you
changed your lure.
“So what do you know that’s good, Homer?”
“Too old to know nothin’ good, Bo. You?”
“Nothing good. Madam Dhue still makin’ the best food in this state?”
“She is.”
“Still keeping you away from whiskey and women and gambling?”
Homer laughed. “Age is keeping me away from women, too broke to gamble and nothing and no
one will keep me away from a good belt now and again. How you getting’ on without Marybel,
Bo shrugged at the mention of his late wife’s name. “Some days are worse than others, but no
day goes by that I don’t think about that woman and miss her.”
“I hear that.”
“How are your kids, Homer?”
“Daughter still a model in New York, makes more money getting her picture made than anyone
should pay. Datin’ some football player. My son still has a year left at West Point. His mama and
me were hopin’ this shit in Iraq would be done with by the time he gets out.”
“No shit. We still going hunting on my deer lease in Texas when the season opens?”
“Wouldn’t miss it. Could use some good venison.” Homer re-cast his line and then said, “You here
because of Greg Willis?”
“I am. Mr. Kinney hired Rod and I’m investigating it.”
“Shame they busted that boy. Thing is, he’s not from around here and he’s queer. Only thing
missin’ is he ain’t black.”
Bo smiled. “Wouldn’t be out on bail if he was.”
They shared a smile and nodded. They both were old enough to remember worse times.
Especially for Homer Dhue. “You met Kinney, Homer?”
“Oh sure. He stayed over to Mr. Boyd’s cabin. I took him the necessaries and we had a little chat.
One day Mr. Boyd had one of them headaches he gets and Madam Dhue and Mr. Kinney and me
went over to Mr. Boyd’s place to help out with his kids. Mr. Kinney was real good with them kids,
and it was clear he cared what happened with Mr. Boyd.”
“You don’t reckon he did it?”
“I don’t reckon he did it, no. I’ve been surprised before by the things men do, but I don’t see no
reason for it, and he just don’t seem the type to be motivated by violence. You know the old
sayin’ he’s a lover, not a fighter? That’s how this one strikes me.”
“Did you know Greg Willis, Homer?”
“Same as everyone else knew him. He worked at the Texaco, filled up the cars the family drives,
did oil changes, little things like that. Wouldn’t trust him to work on the engines or do any real
repairs. Not that bright.”
Homer shrugged. “In that white boy slick kind of way, I guess. Looked like he spent way too
much time working on his muscles to me. Man shouldn’t be that vain.”
“Did you know he was queer?”

                                                  - 148 -

“Bo, I never gave that no thought a’ tall. One way or the other. My mind don’t work in that
Bo smiled, nodded, believed it. “What do you think happened, Homer?”
“I don’t know. But that’s a bad road, where his car went off. Maybe he was going too fast. Maybe
he just slid in the gumbo and plowed into the water. Hit his head and drowned.”
“No. He was killed by a blow to the head before he hit the water, Homer. That much they know.”
“Then I don’t know. Last time I saw Greg Willis he looked plenty mad. Maybe he started some
trouble with the wrong cat.”
“When was that?”
“The night he died.”
Bo looked up at him. “Where?”
“Leaving Mr. Boyd’s cabin.”
“Did you tell the police this?”
“No one asked me.”
“You saw Greg Willis leave the cabin? What time?”
“Nine, maybe. Between eight-thirty and nine.”
“Was Brian with him?”
“No, he was alone. Mr. Kinney must have been inside, but he didn’t even go to the door with
“Did you speak to Greg?”
“No, Bo. I was in my car. Madam Dhue had made a shoo-fly pie for Mr. Kinney. I was delivering it
to him. As I got close to the cabin, I seen Greg Willis’s old car in the drive and then I see Greg
leaving the cabin. My car lights lit him up and I saw his face had this angry look on it. He got in
his car and started to back out, almost hit me. I drove on as he pulled away. I figured this wasn’t
no time to be visiting Mr. Kinney. I’m no new pup about life, Bo.”
“Could Brian have followed him?”
“On foot? He don’t have no car.”
“Good point.”
“Even if he followed him, Willis was long gone. I drove on, went into town and had a game of
Forty-two with some ol’ boys at the bar. I came home the front way, so I never knew about the
wreck until later.”
“Homer, would you swear to this in court?”
“To what?”
“To seeing Greg Willis leave the cabin?”
“Of course I would, Bo. It’s only the truth. But they don’t wanna hear from some ol’ black man.”
“Ain’t no one in the bayou with more credibility than you, Homer, black or white.”
Homer smiled and reeled in a snapper, pleased by the compliment, but even more pleased by
what he would be having for dinner.
Current Mood:       hopeful

Feb. 26th, 2005 06:07 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 38

                                                  - 149 -

Boyd rolled into his office, later than usual, unshaven, looking as fucked over as he felt. Lorene
stared at him and said, “Need coffee?”
“Intravenously,” he said and slumped down behind his desk, feeling the first stirrings of a
migraine. He took his medicine, knowing if he didn’t nip it before it flared, he was shit out of luck.
Two migraines in a short period of time wasn’t good. The last time he had a string of consecutive
migraines, he was going through his divorce. Before that, it happened when he and Jared split up.
The end came abruptly. After the incident with the boiling water, Jared was contrite, but still
refused to medicate. Scared, exhausted, emotionally drained, Boyd had reached the end of his
ability to cope. He told Jared as much when he found him in a calm mood at the studio. “I know
you have a problem with medicating, Jared, but I can’t do this anymore. I can’t live this way. I’m
Jared stared at him. “Suddenly an ultimatum, after all this time? This has nothing to do with my
moods. This has to do with that pregnant bitch.”
Boyd sighed, massaged his closed eyes. “It really doesn’t.”
“Will you medicate, Jared?”
“Not even if it means losing me?”
“You want to take my art away from me, Boyd? Is that what you want? What the fuck else do I
“I thought you had a relationship with me that matters. I’m not asking you to stop painting. I love
your work and I think you’re brilliant. But I can’t live this way.”
“Medicating is the same as giving up my art. You may as well shoot me, Boyd. I have nothing if I
can’t paint.”
“Could you try? And if it turns out you can’t paint, we could try a different medication or some
other treatment?”
“I have tried. I’ve had this problem my whole life. This isn’t new. Nothing works. If I get even, in
my head, I lose my edge. My work turns to shit. I don’t want to lose you, I love you. But you just
have to be patient with me.”
“I have been patient with you, Jared! But I’m tired. I’m tired of never knowing what I’m coming
home to, beast or beauty. I’m tired of fearing the man I love. I’m tired of the tricking, the
punitive behavior. I’m just fucking worn out.”
“It’s an excuse. You’re using my problems as an excuse. You tasted that pussy and that’s what
you want now. You want to be Mr. Straight America with your little wife and kiddies. Mr.
Respectability instead of some nigger loving cocksucker!”
Boyd winced and turned away from him, knowing Jared was building into an explosion of anger.
He wasn’t sure if he could tolerate his rage tonight. “Please don’t, Jared. You’re unwilling to give
up anything for me, yet you expect me to sacrifice everything for you. I’m supposed to put up
with your fucking around on me, being yelled at, threatened, and even physically abused so you
don’t lose your fucking ‘edge’. I’m sorry, but I’m worth more than that.”

                                                - 150 -

He turned to go, but Jared stopped him by grabbing his arm. He pulled Boyd close to his body, to
remind him, “This is what you want, Boyd. This hard body. These big hands. This stiff dick. Hard,
ass-fucking, cocksucking, man on man action, not some soft little pussy.”
“You’re right,” Boyd reached up to drag his fingers through Jared’s braids. You’re absolutely right,
but sex is just part of it. It’s the rest of it I can’t live with anymore.”
“Give me some time to work through it. I always get better, later.”
“I know you do. It’s not your fault. I know it’s a disease, but you’re unwilling to do anything to
treat that disease. So where does that leave me? I hate it because I do love you, I really do. It’s
breaking my heart to walk away from you. But I can’t deal with it anymore. I’m out of gas.”
“I’m not giving up my art for you or anyone, Boyd. That’s what you’re asking of me. I love you
too, but I’m an artist. That’s who I am.”
Boyd touched his face. “And a brilliant one. I’m not asking you to give up your art. I’m just telling
you that I give up. I don’t know what else to do.”
Jared pushed him back. “Go marry your coon ass girlfriend and live a life of quiet desperation.”
“At least it will be quiet,” Boyd said, walking towards the door.
“I’ll always love you, Boyd,” Jared called after him and Boyd sighed.
“I’ll always love you too.”
After that, Boyd didn’t really care what happened next. His clerkship at the Court ended. Bonnie
decided they should marry, despite the fact he confessed that even without Jared in his life, he
was gay. She believed otherwise, and soon the complex intricacies of a large wedding overtook
the wisdom of the underlying union. No one was told a baby was on the way as the wedding
became the social event of the decade in the parish. When Boyd’s older sister, Luann, married
Rex Berenson, they eloped because her father didn’t approve of Rex. Only after a grandchild
came out of that union and Rex put in long hours in the family business did the elder Coulter
Bonnie, like Rex, came from modest means. Her father was a hunting and fishing guide, her
mother was a nurse at the parish hospital. Boyd was charged with paying for the wedding, while
Bonnie did all the planning. She devoted such meticulous attention to detail that the
extravaganza would not only launch her marriage, but also her career as an event planner. People
still talked about aspects of the production.
Bonnie’s cascading bouquet of delicate white Calla lilies was bound with French braided satin
ribbon laced with pearls. Her designer gown was simple but elegant, scaled perfectly for her small
frame with a train that was encrusted with thousands of hand sewn seed pearls. Even the
wedding cake was a masterpiece from a prominent New York City baker, each tier laden with
Calla lilies, pearls and white satin ribbons, all of which were edible sugar replicas that looked
utterly real. The wedding was talked about long after the divorce ended the fantasy it
Boyd remembered how close he came to calling off the show at the last minute. His panic came
after his inevitable bachelor party, hosted by his brother-in-law, Rex. The party was held at the
most venerable country club in the parish, using the membership of Boyd’s father to book a
private room. Boyd’s friends from prep school and college flew in, or drove over for the party and
the wedding, less than half of them still single.
It was black-tie, but otherwise typically banal, with the requisite stripper to entice the groom and
entertain the others, and free-flowing booze to fuel the hilarity. Boyd was miserable. He felt he
had nothing in common with these people. His intense relationship with Jared had shifted his
world view. No longer was he participating in the gay culture, but he felt just as excluded here.
He escaped to the veranda overlooking the golf course. A warm summer breeze fanned his
flushed face as he smoked and tried to assimilate too much champagne. Suddenly, a strong arm
wrapped his shoulders. Rex. Boyd looked into his brother-in-law’s ridiculously handsome face and
                                                - 151 -

sighed. Rex oozed insincerity and hidden agendas. Boyd envied the man’s bald ambition. Perhaps
because he had been born rich, Boyd had never been motivated by the pursuit of fortune. That
seemed to be Rex’s sole motivation in life.
“I never thought you would take the plunge, bro’,” Rex teased. “And with such a great little piece
of ass. There’s nothing better than a little girl with great big tits.” Rex was thoroughly drunk.
Boyd shook his head at his indiscreet description of his future wife.
“Why shouldn’t I get married, Rex?”
Rex leaned in, smelling of Jim Beam, as he said, “I always thought you were queer, Boyd. A rump
rustler, a butt buccaneer.”
“Why the fuck would you think that?”
“For one thing, as cute as you are, you never chased snatch. For another, that colored guy you
brought home that time was a faggot. I have no doubt of that.”
“How do you know so much about it? Living a double life?” Boyd attacked. He heard rumors that
Rex fooled around on Luann, but his paramours were female.
Rex laughed at that and released Boyd as a waiter came out and offered them flutes of
champagne. Boyd took one as Rex grumbled he preferred good whisky to “French piss in a
bottle”, and went back in to the party. The waiter was a young man, a college student most
likely, working a summer job. He smiled at Boyd, obviously more accustomed to being a guest
than a server.
“Congratulations on your wedding.”
“Do I know you?”
“I’m Don Franklin. My older brother, Bobby, went to prep school with you. He couldn’t come to
your party because he’s in Paris on business.”
“Bobby Scott is your brother?” Boyd couldn’t link this handsome young man with Bobby, who was
a short, squat and evil little troll. The younger Scott smiled at him.
“He doesn’t like you, either. He called you gay. Since I’m gay, I thought it was a compliment. I
guess this wedding proves him wrong about you.”
Boyd smiled, still able to recognize when he was being cruised. “Let’s take a walk.”
Soon he was standing in the rough near the eighth green, his tuxedo pants around his ankles
while this handsome young man gave him head with great dexterity. Boyd closed his eyes, giving
in completely to the sensation, deliberately not thinking of Jared as his body reacted with pent up
frustration. Later, drunk and confused, he showed up at Bonnie’s little apartment over the florist
shop and told her they couldn’t get married.
She calmed him with coffee and reassured him he was just going through a very common last
minute panic. She looked like the high school girl he once loved. She sat there on the couch
wearing his old football jersey as a nightshirt. Her dark hair was pulled up into two ponytails,
adding to her. youthful appearance. He sighed. “Bonnie, I had sex tonight.”
She rolled her eyes. “Some stupid stripper Rex hired, no doubt. Isn’t that what grooms are
supposed to do? Have that final fling?”
“It wasn’t the stripper. It was a waiter.”
She stared at him and blinked. “In front of your friends?”
“Of course not. No one saw us, but it happened. It happened because that’s what I want, Bonnie.
I’m queer.”
“It happened because you’re scared and confused, Boyd,” she curled up on his lap, resting her
head on his shoulder as she whispered, “You aren’t thinking of any waiter when you’re making
love to me, Boyd. You aren’t faking it.” She put his hand on her full, soft breast. He squeezed it
as his eyes closed, and she kissed him on the mouth. “Your dick is getting hard underneath me.
                                                - 152 -

No one here but us. That should tell you something. Your baby is in my belly. It didn’t get in there
with a turkey baster. Come on, darling. Come to bed.”
He let himself be led, wanting to believe her. Wanting to be normal. Wanting it to work. But it
didn’t, it couldn’t, and they both should have known that going in. A knock at his office door
interrupted his thoughts. He told Lorene to come in. She saw he still looked miserable as she
“Your ex is on the phone. Should I tell her you’re busy?”
He shook his head and motioned her out. She closed the door behind her as he picked up. “Yes,
“The first thing I want are those paintings you have by Jared Hall.”
Boyd almost laughed. “You hate abstract art, you hate bright colors, you hate that art, and you
hate Jared Hall.”
“So? The fact is, art snobs don’t hate him, now that he’s dead. I can get a fortune for them. I
want them. I’m not heartless, Boyd. You can keep one. But I want the others.”
“You’re not getting them. Not a single one.”
“Yes, I am. And that’s just my first shot. I have other ideas.”
“Bonnie, Brian and I aren’t seeing each other anymore. It was his idea. He doesn’t want to fuck
things up with my kids. So you won, you can be happy. Once again, I’m losing someone I care
about because of you.” He knew that wasn’t entirely true, not about Jared and not about Brian.
But it was true enough.
She laughed. “How pathetic. But it’s too little, too late, Boyd. You’ve already done the damage
and you aren’t getting off that lightly. And don’t be too busted up over his big sacrifice, Boyd. His
pretty ass will be going to jail soon, anyway, and I don’t think conjugal visits extend to fags. I’ll
be in touch with you later about the paintings and what else I want.”
She hung up and Boyd cursed, then called another number. “Hi, it’s Boyd. I need to see you. No,
now. I’m on my way.” He hung up and told Lorene to clear his calendar as he left his office to
make his meeting.
Current Mood:      aggravated

Feb. 27th, 2005 07:44 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 39

“Where’s Brian?” Bo asked Ted as he delivered a red rope file full of records to him. They were in
the sitting room of the B&B, where Ted was watching afternoon game shows on television and
fielding cell calls from Pittsburgh.

                                                - 153 -

“He’s been in his room all day. Something must have happened with Boyd, but whatever it is,
he’s not saying. He hasn’t eaten and he won’t open the door. I think he’s in one of his ‘I vant to
be alone’ moods, so I’m giving him space.”
Bo frowned. “Man with his life on the line has a tendency to get down from time to time. Only
natural. We need him to try and keep his chin up, though. Lots more to come. I’m going to go up
and talk with him.”
“Good luck with that,” Ted said with a laugh. His mobile rang, an aria from Madam Butterfly.
“Hello? Oh hi, Linds. No, nothing new. Hold on a second.”
He looked up at Bo. “Anything else?”
“If you could have something on those records by tomorrow, that would be good. And remember,
nothing about the case to your friends.”
“I’ll try and I know.” Bo started towards the stairs as he heard Ted say, “No, he’s in one of his
sulky moods.”
Sulky, Bo thought to himself. See how sulky you would be if it were your ass on the line. Brian
didn’t respond to the knock on his door, not even after Bo identified himself. Bo removed a credit
card from his pocket and easily jimmied the lock, pushing the door back as he said, “Bears
hibernate. Men hunt and gather.”
Brian was stretched out on the bed, still fully clothed, even to his boots, staring up at the ceiling,
his expression grim. He turned to glance at Bo and responded, “I’ve already saved up my quota
of fruits and nuts for the long hard winter. Breaking and entering one of your many skills?”
“I thought I heard you say ‘come on in’.”
Brian smiled as he shook his head. “What do you want, Bo?”
Bo sat on the edge of the bed and answered his question. “I’ll share some good news. Homer
Dhue, one of the best men in this parish, saw Greg Willis leave your place last night, alone. If the
timing plays out, it may make it hard for the state to get past the reasonable doubt that you had
no way of hooking up with him later to bash in his skull and roll his car into the bayou. It’s
important evidence.”
Brian sat up. “How important?”
“Not a clean sweep, but something more than we had yesterday.”
“Good. Thanks for telling me.”
“What’s wrong, Brian?”
“Other than this whole murder rap? And the fact that Theodore has informed all of my old running
mates in Pittsburgh about my little problem, and Bonnie Coulter caught Boyd and I together and
made all kinds of threats, and I told Boyd we shouldn’t be spending any more time together, I
guess everything is pretty good.”
“No reason that I know of why you two boys can’t be together. I mean we all know there are laws
about that kind of thing, but we also know half of New Orleans is gay and that ain’t the only place
in Louisiana where boys will be boys. I wouldn’t go around doing things in public, but…”
“He can’t afford to hook up with a murderer and a sex offender, Bo,” Brian interrupted. “He has
kids and a reputation.”
“Hold on there. You’re no murderer. You’re accused of a crime you didn’t commit and you’re
innocent until proven guilty.”
“Right, and the tooth fairy married the Easter Bunny. I care about Boyd. I don’t want to fuck up
his life. I did the right thing.”
Bo watched the shadow of pain move across Brian’s face like the phases of the moon in time
elapsed photography. By the time the last phase rolled past, his handsome face was completely
bleak. “You Catholic?”
                                                 - 154 -

Brian looked surprised by that question. “I’m not anything.”
“Raised Catholic?”
He nodded.
“Well, the Pope don’t have your name on his short list of potential martyrs, Brian. Don’t be a big,
stubborn, Irish hardhead. My late wife, Marybel, was an Irish Channel girl. Know what that is?”
Brian shook his head.
“Lots of Irish people ended up in New Orleans. They settled outside the Quarter, away from the
Creoles. Stretch of land on the water known as the Irish Channel. Hard to get any more Irish than
that neighborhood, outside Dublin. Anyway, she was one of them. Pretty, smart, hard working, I
absolutely adored that woman, but she was the hardest headed woman on this green earth. She,
too, had a touch of the martyr in her, always doing things for my own good. Know what I thought
about that, Brian?”
He shook his head again.
“I resented it. I felt like she was taking away my own choice in things. Like I was too stupid to
make the right decision. I told her that and she eventually let it go. Let me make my own
mistakes and then reminded me that she told me so,” he laughed and shook his head. “Damn, I
miss that feisty little Irish girl.”
Brian sighed. “Are you giving advice to the lovelorn to some big old faggot, Bo?”
“I reckon the fundamental things that bring two people together aren’t all that much different in
your world than in mine. What matters most isn’t what part fits where. It’s how you feel about
each other. How you treat each other. That’s what counts.”
Brian sighed and shook his head. “No one should waste any chits on me, not when I’m looking at
life in prison.”
“You’re looking at no such thing. I’ve been doing this a long time, and my instincts are pretty
good. No, they’re damned good. I know you didn’t do it, and I suspect we’ll find who did.”
“I wish I shared your confidence.”
“I wish you did, too. You have to keep fighting, Brian. You can’t let them weigh you down.”
Brian smiled. “Want to go out with me, Bo? Seeing that we’re both single, that is.”
“Naw,” Bo said with a smile. “You’re too young for me. Couldn’t keep up.”
“Story of my life. Too young or too old.”
“Tell me about Bonnie Coulter,” Bo said, opening up his ubiquitous notebook. “She’s on my list.”
“She’s on my list, too,” Brian said with a smile, then began to tell Bo every horrible detail he
could conjure up about Bonnie Coulter.

Lisette listened to her brother, and then refilled his cup with ooffee from the urn on a sideboard in
her office and said, “This has gone far enough. You have to stop her, Boyd, and you have to stop
her now. I told you when you decided to marry that bitch that you should have a pre-nup. But no,
Bonnie didn’t want a pre-nup, so you dropped it. Of course she didn’t want a pre-nup. She
wanted your fucking money.”
“She said it was going into the marriage with a jinx on us.”
Lisette rolled her eyes. “And you fell for that?”
“You know what a mess I was then, Lis. I just wanted to get the fucking wedding over with.”
“Ok, and then when you got divorced, I told you to hire a shark. But no. You wanted an amicable
split. You thought it would be better for the kids that way. I still don’t believe that’s true. So she
got the house and the bank account and custody of the children and support. Even that wasn’t
                                                    - 155 -

enough for her. She blackmails you to get more, off book, using the threat of outing you or
keeping your children from you because you’re queer. And what do you do? You become a neuter.
She emasculates you. And you let her.”
“Lisette, you of all people know what Daddy would do if he knew. I can’t risk that. Half if not more
of my clients are people Daddy sends to me. I don’t have his contacts. And it’s not like I can just
leave Canard Rouge and find a job somewhere else. My kids are there! I can’t live apart from my
“Boyd, New Orleans is two hours from Canard Rouge. You could pick them up every weekend. As
for money, you don’t need money from your law practice and you know it. Neither of us do. We
work because we want to work, because we want to be productive, but not because we have to
eat. And there’s not a damned thing Daddy can do about that, since all of our money resides in
trusts he can’t revoke.”
“I could lose my status at the mill. You want to see Rex Berenson succeed to Daddy?”
“What do I care? More power to him. I don’t want that job, do you? If not, let him have it, bless
him. What a nightmare.”
“I just never liked Rex. Still don’t. Don’t trust him and I’d hate to see him take over the
“Let it go, Boyd. Stop looking to justify your actions with false roadblocks. Divorce may not be my
specialty any more than it’s yours, but that bitch has no right to any property you acquired after
your divorce and you know it. Including Jared’s art. You keep voluntarily giving her money above
her monthly stipend, so now she thinks she’s entitled. You have to stop the gravy train. You have
to tell her enough.”
“You think I don’t want to? But I’m scared, Lisette. I can’t lose Mac and Belle. They’re everything
to me. She’ll see that I do.”
“What about Brian?”
He tensed. “What about him?”
“He means nothing in this?”
“He walked out on me.”
“Oh please. He hit a sacrifice fly for you and you know it.”
“Are you matchmaking now?”
“He’s the first man you’ve shown any interest in since Jared Hall. Hell yes, I’m matchmaking. I’m
not saying go public with it, we need to keep it quiet, no sense in throwing gasoline on the
homophobic fires down there, but are you really just going to let him get away?”
“It’s not like he’ll hang around here after he’s acquitted, Lisette. I’d lose him then, anyway. It
may be even harder for me to lose him then. We’d have had that much longer together, to grow
even closer.”
“Boyd, sometimes you have to fight for what’s important to you. Your children, your identity, your
life. You always want to take the smooth way out, keep things calm, keep things hidden and
quiet. That’s not the way life works. Sometimes you have to scream and shout to be heard. To
make a point. And accept the consequences for that act.”
“You think I gave up on Jared, don’t you?”
“No, Boyd. You think you gave up on Jared. I think you escaped with your life, and barely. Jared
was sick and he was dangerous and he refused to help himself. He ended up taking his own life,
but had you stayed with him, it might have been you whom he shot. It happens.”
Boyd paced over to the window, staring down at the activity on Decatur Street. Mules wearing
flower-laden hats hauled tourists around the Quarter in gaily decorated carriages, while the locals

                                                - 156 -

bustled to their appointments, ducking into the air conditioning and out of the heat as soon as
they could. “It’s too late now, anyway. Brian made his decision. And I let him.”
“You’re sending me mixed messages, Lisette. You tell me to stand up and fight for what I want
and shout it out to the world and let the chips fall where they may. And then you tell me to keep
my relationship with Brian quiet so we won’t offend the homophobes. Which is it?”
“Both. Fight that fucking Bonnie and do it right, with Rod’s equivalent shark in the domestic
arena. Get your position with your kids firmed up. And cut off her direct IV into your artery. As for
Brian, what you do in private is no one’s business.”
“Bonnie won’t let it stay private. That’s the point.”
“Let your lawyer finesse that. One thing we know about dear little Bonnie is that she comes with a
price tag. You’re just afraid to negotiate with her, because of the kids. Find someone who can.
I’ve got a couple people in mind.”
“I don’t want to lose, Brian, Lisette. I really don’t.”
“Then fight, Boyd. Fight.”
“I guess I got tired of fighting after so many volatile years with Jared.”
“Unfortunately fighting is a fact of life. Just pick your battles wisely. Only you know if Brian’s
worth it.”
Boyd considered his sister’s counsel, wondering if the point was moot, since Brian already seemed
set on a course of leaving Boyd’s life. He suspected when Brian made up his mind, he was almost
impossible to sway.
His mobile rang, broadcasting Blue Bayou as his ringtone. “Hello?”
“Is this Boyd Coulter?”
“Yes, who’s this?”
Young, male, unfamiliar. “You don’t know me. My name’s Justin Taylor. I’m a friend of Brian
Boyd sighed, his day now complete.
Current Mood:        cranky

Feb. 28th, 2005 04:39 am - SWAMP FEVER, Chapter 40

Brian sat alone in the farthest booth from the door of the small bar, nursing a scotch as he
listened to Etta James croon that at last her love had come along. As had his. And then he left.
And then Boyd came along. Boyd was someone he felt he could care about, given the chance, and
now that was over. Love was, as Brian knew so well, temporary and highly overrated. Love was
invented to ensure humans were given the chance to experience exquisite torture when love left.
Love was a cockteaser, a drug that took you up in the stratosphere, only to drop you without a
chute into boredom and indifference or, worse, into the fires of loss and regret.

Love sucked.
                                                  - 157 -

He downed his drink and ordered another.

He liked to tell people he didn’t believe in love, he believed in fucking. Which was true. But no one
really got behind his meaning. They just assumed he was incapable of love. What he really meant
was that love was too frightening, too painful, too alien for him to pursue it. He didn’t believe it
would happen, or that it could happen to him. And when it did happen, unexpectedly, he found
out he had been right all along. Love sucked. The pain lingered on long after the giddiness of
loving someone had faded.

He felt the patrons in the bar, mostly male, all presumed heterosexuals, staring at him. They
would make comments to each other that brought a laugh. Some were loud enough for Brian to
overhear. They were deriding him more for being queer, than for being accused of murder.
Apparently the fact that one fag killed another fag was just fine in their book. Brian suspected if
there were a drug that would turn fags into self-seeking killers, resulting in the complete
elimination of his sub-species, they would be good with it.

They might be surprised how many of their so-called straight buddies would mysteriously
disappear in the rampage, along with most movies, plays, musicals, fashion, and a large swath of
compassion and good humor. AIDS at its rampaging peak, gave the world a glimpse of what life
would be like without homosexual men. The lights from Broadway to Hollywood dimmed in the
wake of the pandemic.

What people didn’t think about, were all the everyday homos and the impact these less than
famous or celebrated men had on their dreary lives. Not just a favorite hairdresser or party
planner or interior designer. But doctors, lawyers, construction workers, cops, landscape
architects, teachers, vets, firemen, trainers, gay men were everywhere, even in this tedious little
town. So let these rubes make fun of him. He was Brian Fucking Kinney and he knew, just knew,
that given the right circumstances, he could make at least half of these old boys tumble for him.

But he wouldn’t. Not even when he was drunk.

He didn’t want to, didn’t feel the need to prove anything. He found the idea repulsive. Just his
luck, someone replayed the Etta James song after it ended.

“At last, my love has come along…”

What moron was that gooey over love? Brian was getting depressed and the alcohol wasn’t
helping. He hadn’t eaten anything all day, other than what he scrounged off Ted’s breakfast plate.
That emptiness gave the scotch a quick kick in his bloodstream. Oh well, it wasn’t as if he were

“Why don’t you go drink at Spike’s with the other fucking queers?” A young redneck in a
Catepillar cap and a t-shirt that showed a beautiful blonde woman riding or copulating with a
gator, followed by some funny play on words that Brian didn’t bother to read, spoke to him. The
others murmured with appreciative concurrence.

“Why don’t you drive me over there since my car’s impounded?” Brian quipped. “You can put your
hand in my lap while you drive, if you’re real sweet to me.”

The boy’s face turned crimson and twisted into a snarl as his audience laughed. Brian tensed,
watching him move towards him. Brian was ready to mix it up with him, with anyone, welcoming
the opportunity to explode. But then someone said, “Bill, aren’t you supposed to be working the
late shift at the mill? You show up drunk, you aren’t likely to be working there tomorrow.”

Boyd Coulter stopped the action cold. No man in Canard Rouge fucked with the Coulters. Almost
all of them depended in some way on the beneficence of that family for their livelihood. “I guess it
                                               - 158 -

is that time, Boyd,” the redneck said, backing away from the confrontation. “And I’m not drunk.
Just had one beer.”

“So maybe you should head on over there,” Boyd suggested. The man nodded and left, trailed by
a few others who were also working the shift. The ones remaining turned back to their drinks, and
their gossip, losing interest in Brian now that Boyd was there to protect him. Boyd sat down
across from Brian, ordered a beer from the waitress, and said, “How many is that for you?”

“Somewhere between none of your business and I don’t need your help.”

Boyd smiled. “Followed by ‘I’m doing this for your own good’?”

Brian nodded. Boyd looked so good, such an angelic face sitting on top of such a devilish body.
Brian was a little drunk, but Boyd looked so good to him that it hurt. One day apart had been
miserable. What the fuck was this all about? What was going on with him, anyway? “Have you
had dinner?” Boyd persisted and Brian shook his head.

“Let’s go.”

“You haven’t even finished your beer.”

“It’s a little warm.”

“I don’t want to go. I’m going nowhere with you. We have nowhere to go.” Brian knew everything
he said had a double meaning, and so did Boyd.

Boyd put some money on the table, guessing at the tab and leaving a generous tip. “Get up.”

“You’re not the boss of me.” Brian grimaced at his third-grader’s retort. Boyd just smiled and
nodded towards the door. When Brian stood, the world tilted and he grabbed the table top to
steady himself. Boyd’s back was to him, so he didn’t see it happen. When he looked back to see
why Brian was lagging, Brian recovered and stood up straight, carefully managing his walk to give
away nothing more about his condition.

“Better watch that sweet ass of yours, Boyd,” one of the patrons cat-called and Brian froze. He
turned, glaring at the room that had suddenly grown quiet.

“Who said that?”

Boyd took his arm, and held to it when Brian tried to pull free. “Who said that, you cowardly
motherfucker?” Brian repeated and Boyd squeezed his arm tightly. When Brian looked at him, he
smiled and shook his head.

“Let it go. It’s meaningless.”

They left and when the thick, late evening humidity on the street hit Brian, his adrenaline rush
faded, and he felt the vertigo return with a vengeance. He knew he was going to be sick. Boyd
read his expression and led him to the narrow copse between the bar and the pharmacy where
Brian braced himself with a palm against the bricks as he threw up what alcohol remained in his
stomach. Boyd kept an arm at the small of Brian’s back to support him and held onto him until it
was over. When Brian straightened up, he inhaled a deep breath to stop the cramping in his gut
as Boyd said,

“You can’t go without eating and then drink like that, Brian. A drunk and disorderly charge or
public inebriation charge could land you back in jail as a violation of your bond.”

He escorted him to his Explorer, buckled him in, and they drove out of the main sector of the
                                                 - 159 -

town. Brian closed his eyes, fighting the nausea, that was increased by movement. He made Boyd
stop once so he could vomit again, and after that, he fell asleep. When he awoke, they were at
the cabin. Brian looked at Boyd with a bleary eye, a headache beginning to pound. Boyd said
nothing as he helped him out and into the place Brian never thought he’d see again. Boyd walked
him to the bedroom, told him to stretch out on the bed and covered him with an Indian blanket.

“You rest while I warm up some food.”

“No food,” Brian pleaded, but then quickly fell asleep. When he awoke, everything hurt. His
stomach ached, his throat was sore from vomiting, his head throbbed, his heart was in pain of a
different kind. Even his soul seemed to be miserable. He got up, oriented himself, limped to the
bathroom, pissed, and thought about vomiting again. But the nausea was gone. He decided a
shower might feel good, but it didn’t. The warm needles of the spray were like speargrass against
his skin, and the touch on his scalp exacerbated his headache. Wrapping in a robe he found on
the back of the door, he walked out, rubbing a towel lightly through his hair.

Boyd was in the main room, reading, and he looked up and offered Brian his cigarette. Brian took
it with a grateful nod and Boyd left him there, returning with a bowl of hot corn chowder. “I can’t
eat,” Brian informed him.

“Yes, you can. We always have some of Madam Dhue’s corn chowder in the freezer for such
occasions as hangovers and flu. For some reason, it helps. And you need the nutrition. Eat.”

Brian sighed and took the bowl and spoon from him. It was delicious, the creamy stock heavily
laced with chicken broth, which was healing. To his surprise, Brian ate all of it and it stayed down.
Boyd said nothing, watching him eat, and when he was finished, he took the bowl from him.
“There’s more.”

“Better not.”

Boyd carried the bowl back to the kitchen. When he returned, Brian was looking at his abandoned
novel. “Scott Turow? Busman’s holiday?”

“We don’t practice the same kind of law. He’s a good writer, too.” He sat down beside Brian and
took his hand, sighing when Brian pulled away from his touch. “This is my concern, Brian. What
you said about Bonnie and the kids and the trouble, it all makes good sense. Not seeing you
again socially is the smart thing to do. But there’s a problem with it.”

Brian raised an inquisitive brow and Boyd shrugged. “I don’t want to lose you.”

“You don’t ‘have’ me to lose, Boyd. It was just fucking around.”

“You mean I don’t count with you, is that it? Fun and games and now the bell’s rung and it’s time
to change partners and dance?”

“A mixed metaphor, but something like that.”

“That’s horseshit, Brian. You know it, so don’t insult me by trying to make me think otherwise.
I’m as scared of this thing as you are, for my own reasons. I think my reasons are just as valid as
yours. But I thought about it, talked to Lisette about it, and she helped me realize no matter how
scary it is, and no matter what falls out because of it, you’re worth fighting for, Brian. All I need
from you is some reassurance that you think so too, about me. And filter out your weird need to
protect me from myself or from others. I’m old enough to take care of myself. Let me do that. All
I want from you is for you to be honest with me about whether you think it’s worth trying to hold
onto to. Not looking for a lifetime commitment. I know we have big obstacles in the way of that.
Your trial, my custody issues, my closet issues, your fear of vulnerability. Huge issues. Real
issues. But whether we surmount them or not, do you want to try?”
                                               - 160 -

“I don’t want to be the one to bring your life down around your ears, Boyd. I care enough about
you to not want that to happen because of me.”

“I understand. And I don’t want to do anything that could lead to a violation of your bond.
Technically, when we have sex together, we’re breaking the law. But you touched something
within me, Brian. Something I thought was long gone. I think I touched something in you, too.
We don’t have to try to give it a name right now, not sure we could. But I think it’s potentially
important for both of us. I don’t want to lose it. How about you?”

Brian sighed and slipped his fingers to the back of Boyd’s neck, holding gently to him. “Honestly?
I don’t know. I’m scared of it.”

“So am I.”

“Then why fuck with it? Knowing what all the risks are and how it can blow up in our faces and
the fact that both of us fear it, why bother?”

Boyd leaned over and kissed Brian deeply. The kiss held a long time and when it broke off, Boyd
said, “Because if we get lucky and it pays off, imagine how great we could be together.”

Brian exhaled slowly. “Without your kids? With my ass in jail?”

“Or not. Let’s think not.”

“With your ass here and mine in Pittsburgh?”

“Or somewhere neither of us can anticipate right now. We aren’t fortune tellers, we can’t read the
future, Brian. But if we give up before we even get started, how wrong is that?”

“Maybe we save each other a lot of heartache.”

“Really? How did you feel today?”

Brian shrugged. “Yes, but…it only gets worse. Trust me, I know.”

“So do I.” Boyd stared at Brian’s profile and then reached over and slipped a fingertip down his
nose and over his lips. “Justin Taylor called me today.”

“What?” Brian turned to look at him and Boyd nodded.

“He said he was your friend and he wanted to know how you really were and what was going on
with the case.”

“How the hell…that fucking Ted! What did you say?”

“I said you were fine and that I couldn’t discuss your case.”

“And then?”

“He asked if we were together.”

“Jesus! I’m sorry, Boyd. I’ve said nothing to him to…” Brian was furious that Justin would
interfere in this way. For two years they had lived separate lives. Why the hell did he suddenly
feel empowered to intrude with the one man Brian had connected with on any level other than
superficial since their breakup?

                                               - 161 -

“I know, Brian. Believe me I know. I told him I wasn’t prepared to talk about your private life with
him or with anyone and he said, the problem with riding the tiger is once you get on, you can
never get off. Old Chinese proverb.”

Brian shook his head. “Not true. He got off that tiger without a scratch. It was the tiger who got
mauled in the process.”

“I wonder.”

“You wonder what?”

“I sensed regret in his voice. Maybe you should call him. Maybe it’s not too late for you two.”

Brian stared hard at Boyd and then asked, “Is that what you want?”

“I don’t want you if your heart still sits in another man’s pocket.”

“He gave me back my heart a long time ago, Boyd. Slightly bruised, chewed and battered, but
still beating. I locked it up where it belongs and vowed I would never let it out again. I think it’s
too beat up to survive another kick.”

“So is mine.”

“So where does that leave us?”

“Standing on sacred ground, Brian. Consecrated earth, a safe place where we can be together
and see what comes of it. If we step away from it now, we’ll never find it again. Just as I could
never recapture what I had with Jared. And you don’t want to go back to what you had with
Justin. Stay in this safe place with me, Brian. Let’s find out what’s meant for us.”

Brian reached for him. He pulled Boyd into his arms and held him tightly, as he heard a faint,
faint echo of Etta’s lyrics sound in his head,

“At last…”
Current Mood:      hopeful

                                                - 162 -

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