"Mr. Mortensen? I need to talk to you." An annoying knock at my door pulled me from a deep, drunken slumber. Hacking out a disoriented cough I rose from the couch, sickened to see I had drunk myself to sleep right in my suite's grand sitting room. And, oh hell, why was my naked cock coated with. ahh, yes, how fine, before I passed out last night I pleasured myself with pretty fantasies. Disgusting. Damn it, I was falling apart.
As my brain tried remembering my place in society I raked horribly shaky fingers through my tangled, dark blond hair. When I finally spoke I felt dismay at how thin my normally husky voice sounded. "Yes, hold on a minute!" Too bad, my urgent morning piss came first. After I finished my watering I tucked my now limp cock back into its proper place inside my trousers and tried not looking as hungover as I felt. Useless effort. My eyes narrowed in sick loathing. Good morning, self-hatred. Glad to see you still sat on my right shoulder.
Once I yanked open the suite's carved door my vicious glare attacked the tall, willowy dark-haired man until sudden recognition sank in. Weaving. Oh my God, there stood Hugo Weaving, my well-paid and highly astute detective who kept watch in case information drifted my way.
I gasped in awe; we'd only met a handful of times and he'd never come here before. "It's you... Detective Weaving! You heard something!"
Mr. Weaving vigorously nodded at me. I stood back and allowed him entrance. My bloodshot eyes anxiously studied Weaving's thin face. Hmm, his own narrowed eyes regarded me with a hint of cold contempt then he remembered his place in my world and adopted a blank stare. I felt no annoyance since I knew I looked every inch the decadent moneyed toff, staggering about displaying a wretched hangover. I felt completely foul. If Weaving knew what else I had done last night he might think even less of me. Then again these pale, aesthetic types could be deceiving. Hell, for all I knew Weaving might pirouette naked around his flat while singing "La BohŠme." The thought made my lips twitch.
As if sensing my change in mood Weaving darted me another tight stare. I composed my emotions and politely gestured toward the unslept-upon arm chair.
Once seated my esteemed contact's face adopted a grim expression. Ha, Weaving held a true knack for looking dour and dismal. I swore he practiced his dramatic look. No wonder I associated him with opera. After I slouched down on the couch I awaited his opening aria. "Mr. Mortensen, you told me to come right over if anyone came by so here I am. Sorry if I disturbed your rest." His light eyes flicked across my face again. "This morning a filthy urchin carrying a huge bucket of attitude marched into my office and claimed he saw the man you sought. The nervy brat, who calls himself Billy B., works in a flophouse and a woman there," as he paused to peer at his notes, "Yes, a Miranda O., talked about the handsome American looking for his dangerous, dark-haired cousin. As she spoke the wench drunkenly waved around my business card and claimed you offered her a reward. Sprightly Billy is intrepid; when Miranda passed out early this morning he snuck into her crib and nicked the card. Since Billy can't read the stubborn lad asked around until he found someone who would tell him where my office was located. Naturally I felt suspicious so I asked the brat special questions. Billy's definitely seen your cousin: he described Mr. Bloom without being shown the photo. When I showed Billy the photo he swore on his mother's grave, ha, if he knows who she is, that was the man he saw. Billy claimed he saw Mr. Bloom from time to time only at night along a... " Mr. Weaving halted again and peered at his notebook. "Grovers Alley. A bad piece of street, if you can call the shambles a street. More like a hole. I checked the area out before I came over, and it's ugly ruins. Boarded up houses, yet that's what this lad claimed. The fetid creature stressed he'd never seen the odd man in the day. It's almost a hobby with this Billy, trying to spot the pale man who haunts the ruins. I gave the ornery imp part of the reward you left because he started cursing and swearing he wouldn't leave until I did; he actually threatened to claim I attacked him. Outrageous creature. But still, sir, Billy saw this man only last week."
As my fierce headache abruptly worsened my agonized heart played along and constricted in excitement. Damn, my desperate search might eventually cause me physical collapse. "My God, oh my God, only last week? Weaving, how do I find this road?"
"I can escort you, sir, I... "
I half shouted my protest. "No! I must go alone... just tell me how to get there!"
Weaving looked astonished at my outrageous over reaction. As he stared at me his thin, stern lips twitched in restrained annoyance. "Really now, Mr. Mortensen, it's too dangerous! You don't know how bad London can be."
Damn this sanctimonious man! "Bah, Weaving, yes I do! I have been searching London's stinking bowels for three months. Do you think I care about the danger anymore? I must go there alone. I know I must or else my entire search will be futile. Now please tell me or I will find someone who can!"
Poor Weaving offered me a long, puzzled stare before he adeptly sketched the map in his book. When he handed the concise drawing to me I groaned in aching dismay. Once again I'd enjoy Shoreditch's delightful charms; bah, the grim news didn't surprise me at all. "Here, Mr. Mortensen, here it is; I hope the information helps you. But for pity's sake please be careful. I know you have been searching the slums but that doesn't make the potential for doom any less faint. Trust me, this area is a true nadir."
I stared at the paper lifeline then my weary eyes traveled to Weaving's steady gray stare. I owed this clever man so much. "Thank you: I... please, Detective Weaving, you must excuse my rude outburst. I have been looking for so long, for years, and the stress has taken a serious toll on my nerves. I know Orlando will... , oh, I know I must be alone for my search."
Weaving inclined his head and woefully shrugged. "As you wish, Mr. Mortensen. I can only pray for your safety and success." To my surprise he gripped my arm and offered me a thin smile.
I blinked and awkwardly patted his pale hand. "I thank you, Detective. Indeed I thank you for all your first-rate work." Ah, nice to know someone worried about me. Yes, Hugo and Ian could form the "Worry About the Stupid, Rich American" society.
"Heavens Above, Mr. Mortensen, this place is."
My feet met the filthy cobbles. Once I steadied myself I held out my hand to Ian in supreme pleading. Odd how I respected this old gent; he had acted so good to me. "Ian, please give me five minutes. I must see this alley for myself."
Poor Ian fingered his seldom-used whip and looked around in sick anxiety. I didn't blame him for thinking someone might attack his spooked carriage horse and slice the noble beast into horse steaks. Oh yes, little did Ian know how rich he would be after dealing with me.
No. God no. Mute dread filled me. My pained eyes viewed the entrance to Grover's Alley. My astute Weaving hadn't done the horror justice; the gross alley looked more like a beast's dank mouth than like a road, it twisting down into broken cobbles, revealing a grim wall at the throat's vile end. The houses lining the narrow alley had once been serviceable homes: now they only serviced the slinking rats. I had no idea what caused this area to rot with such monumental verve. I only knew at this very second I hated the alley with all my strong will.
Hesitant steps took me into the damp, boiling with decay air. Stunned fascination filled my mind. My eyes studied the inky shadows playing along the shattered facades. This area claimed no kinship with our stately New York City home. It certainly couldn't claim any kinship with regal young Orlando!
A soft curse finally escaped my tightened throat. "Damn no, Orlando, not here. Not here!" After skirting rotting refuse I tried peering into a twisted window frame. The putrid atmosphere told me no one had occupied the house for years. Once I crept down the short length I realized every house stood windowless. The spectacle reminded me of more mouths, this time of vile, long dead infants faintly crying into the blasted wilderness. My tormented mind hissed surely hell could look no worse than this abysmal pit. Heaping trash sprouted negative colors in a demented garden of the damned. Debris pushed against the boarded doorways and whispered in the faint breeze. I swore something spoke to me, yes, something I should never acknowledge.. My long-dead artistic skills could capture this putrid scene until complete madness set in. My talented Orlando could paint the view... if he truly haunted this noxious display.
At the street's wretched bottom I paused and stared back up its blasted tableau. My low voice startled me. "That Billy must be wrong... he must be wrong. My fair Orlando would not live here. No!"
Choking back a frustrated sob I whirled back along the damaged cobbles. My feet frantically sought the narrow opening. "He's wrong! He's wrong! Damn the evil bastard," I cursed, fleeing to my carriage and refuge. The minute I flung myself into the carriage's safety wise Ian raced us away.
I almost vomited on the seat.
God Above, I swore I felt something. I.
I looked up from my ancient Greek text and froze in complete attunement. Impossible. Emotions long left for dead energized and sprung forward. My eyes widened in amazement. My shaking hands almost ripped the thick, leather-bound book right down the spine.
But ahh yes, I felt him. By the Seven's Force, I felt... Viggo. Dear loyal Viggo. My aching voice rose in a hoarse shout, the sound echoing through the dusty corridors of my murky, underground burrow. "No! It... no! Sean! Sean! Come now!" I felt my human student lurking nearby.
After a tense minute an agitated Sean blundered into my chamber, a frightened look capturing his handsome face. "Dark one! What is it? I wanted to tell you someone walked up and down the street like they searched for something! I had just returned from the market when I saw a carriage pull up at the alley's end. As I watched this man stared at each house before hastening back up the street talking to himself. He looked most upset."
My dismal heart knew who paced those foul cobbles. My heart, my soul, ahhh, my tormented love knew. "Did you truly see his face? His wonderfully handsome face? Did you see his burnished hair? Did you note he was similar in height to me yet... human?"
"Yes, his hair was a dark golden blonde, my dark one, and he was your height... he looked so upset... oh Hades, you felt him," gasped Sean.
"Yes, I felt him. I know who walked out there. Oh, I know." My entire body screamed in painful sorrow. As I groaned in misery I clenched my eyes shut. Viggo. Yes, mmm, I could almost taste his delicious flesh. My cock tightened in agony. Just feeling Viggo's clean, proud humanity made me feel so. dirty.
As I quivered in remorse Sean's long fingers comfortingly caressed my thin shoulder. Sometimes I knew Sean touched me to soothe himself. I didn't mind. I stared into the dank air and shuddered again. "Oh yes, after all these years I can still feel my Viggo. I've caused him great pain... such terrible pain! Yet he looks for me still. My poor Viggo, my dear cousin, after all this time you've found me."
Silence collected in my make-shift study. My stunned eyes stared at nothing. I remained in my abject position and forced dark sorrow against my loyal Sean until he could no longer bear my anguish. I felt his fingers flutter against my cheek. "Master Orlando... please, my dark one, should I find your Viggo for you? Should I find out where... "
How generous of poor Sean. Although I always broke his fawning heart my Sean still offered to help me. What had I done to the man? "No. No. I must think. I must think on what to do. Ahh, how much pain do I wish to cause him?" I mumbled. "After all the pain I've already caused Viggo, how much more can he bear from me? How much?"
Damn, how I longer to run out into the sun and find my lover.
That evening a dark magnet called hope drew me back to Shoreditch's unclean depths. As I walked along the streets through the disturbingly yellowish fog I avoided the pubs, knowing these blasted holes would no longer be of any use to me. The effort to appear casual nearly shattered my ravaged nerves. I carefully stepped along the slick cobbles, joining the whores, the pickpockets and the upper class decadents looking for mindless sorrow. If they truly wanted sorrow I should let them share in mine. Ha, I possessed sorrow to spare.
As my wandering steps carried me forward my illogical mind kept seeing my beautiful Orlando in every solid shadow. Oh yes, I knew he hovered close to me. I knew if Orlando indeed lived in that horrible place he now knew I looked for him. I also knew it was useless to return there: I of all people would never be allowed to see Orlando, unless he wanted me to see him.
Orlando... my peculiar Orlando knew things no one else did. He knew I searched for him this night. He knew.
Would my lover let me know he knew?
"Demons Below! My poor Viggo, ah, why are you here?" I hungrily stared at my handsome cousin from my secretive position huddled against a dark alley wall. My pained eyes examined every pore in his exhausted, sorrowful face. Damn, I caused his proud face to look so tired and worn. Seeing my lover so defeated tormented my fond memories of him yet the sight fed my unclean memories. I whispered his name to myself. "Viggo, mmm, my beautiful Viggo."
As I leaned against the damp bricks for my mind feverishly argued the merits of simply leaving this cloying city and escaping further notice. Yet another part of my mind, the clinging human part, wanted my poor Viggo to know I still lived. I wanted to end his desperate search. If moral, society-concerned Viggo hated me, so be it; after avoiding him so basely during all these years I expected my lover's hatred. No, you fool, think clearly; if Viggo hated me he wouldn't search for me. He loved me, which was far worse for him. And for me.
"Enough," I breathed. Straightening up I walked forward, all the while fixing my gaze against Viggo's retreating back. Then I made my decision. The friendly shadows disguised my pre-natural speed, yes, the narrow alleys and moldering trash heaps provided my cover. I finally halted and peered out, seeing Viggo walking towards my alleyway. A deep breath expanded my tense lungs. Yes, enough escape; the argument within my conflicted soul must end. As I waited and pondered a few last seconds a hoarse sob escaped my lips. Enough. Stop torturing the man.
Slithering forward I slowly positioned myself at the alley's edge, knowing the wan flickering gaslight would catch my high cheek-boned face and create a beacon in the greasy yellowish fog. Viggo would see my intense paleness. Yes, I would make my cousin come to me. Of course I could do it; I'd done it before.
Come to me, my lover. I have tortured you for long enough. Yet in reality the true torture was about to begin.
For both of us.
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