It was three years ago the 22nd of November, the moon was full that night, a most brilliant white glowing in the black sky above the old city that he first spotted the boy on the Battery. He was straddled over an overstuffed backpack inhaling a cigarette as if sucking it, holding it in effortlessly, then blowing a cloud of misty smoke into the cold air. Unlike the other boys who were Caucasians he was the only black boy on the Battery at that bewitching hour of night and seemingly uninterested in men seeking attention in parked cars. This excited him so about the boy, that he sneezed urgently three times in a row.
The boy heard the commotion above the humming roar of a car motor and turned to see him at the top of High Battery. He waved, a small hand gesture, but another sneezing fit interrupted. By the time he looked again the boy had turned away. He reached inside the breast pocket of his overcoat for the one cigarette he carried in the late of night and remembered the other boys he dumped for stupidity and insubordination. It was all laughable now, categorically pathetic, but for now he dismissed anymore thought of them to refocus his attention on the current boy at hand.
He hurried down the steps for the boy. “Got a light?” he said, motioning at his mouth with two fingers.
The boy glimpsed at him digging a lighter from his pocket and caught the shivers. As he lit his cigarette the boy's hand trembled, and the boy’s own cigarette fell from his lips and rolled by a crack in the sidewalk. He backed up automatically, was afraid to bend over for the cigarette, something warning him not to pick it up. He forgot all about his backpack behind his feet and, stumbling over it, fell against the guardrail.
“Are you— “
"I’m fine,” the boy retorted with the palm of one hand in the air.
Staring his nostrils dilated, appearing to take a deep breath. "I'm certainly relieved it was your backpack you tripped over and not that old seawall," he said, stepping on the boy's unfinished cigarette and releasing a cloud of smoke sideways. The boy was not necessarily skinny up-close but full-bodied like a strong field hand from one of those rural Pee Dee counties, Florence or Dillon, northwest of Charleston, he thought to himself. Nevertheless he carried himself well in baggy clothes, he prayed were surely that--baggy—but undeniably dirt cheap.
“What are you looking for?” he whispered.
“I’m looking for you,” the boy said.
"My car is parked up the street, would you like to go there to warm up?”
“What kind of car?”
“A silver Jag.”
“Grey, silver, whatever turns you on,” he said, tossing his unfinished cigarette to the sidewalk and the boy extinguished it with the tip of his boot, and he thanked him.
“How old?” the boy said, wondering more about his age than the car.
“I bought the car a month ago.”
“Brand new and paid in full,” he said reaching for the boy's hand.
“Why did you pay in full?” the boy said.
“Because I can afford it.” And much to his surprise the boy did not object when he held his hand longer than anticipated. Together they left the Battery.
Inside his car parked behind a playground at S. Adgers Wharf the boy offered a stale can of malt liquor beer pulled from his backpack. They shared it along with one cigarette as the moon rose higher in the black sky changing into a dazzling white.
Finally he leaned over and kissed the boy on the mouth. He felt himself sinking, slipping into the soft leather seat, losing control, and wanting it.
This kiss, the helpless way it made him feel, captivated him so, leaving him no hint of the dark machinations yet to come, no hint of the relentless downhill spiral that would eventually lead to murder.