November 3, three years earlier.
On the Battery fronting the harbor, a half-dozen boys shivered in unsuitable summer coats. Each hoping in the back of his mind to get out of the cold by meeting Mr. Right and, after quick sex and warming up, securing enough money for food and shelter in a cheap rooming house on the Eastside.
Abel Erikson caught his breath stumbling up the steps of High Battery. He was one of those few Mr. Rights walking or waiting in parked cars around the garden to meet a wayward boy in the late night. At the corner and tip of the peninsula where Battery Street became Murray Boulevard that was lined with palmetto trees down a median dividing car traffic one way south, the other north, he squinted to see the boys lined up against the seawall like a bunch of juvenile delinquents. It was the black boy carrying an overstuffed backpack he noticed more than the others and decided then he would have the black one to take home for a trophy.
The boy was smoking a cigarette when he approached and Abel quickly pulled a lose cigarette from the left inside pocket of his overcoat. “Do you have a light?” he said cocking the cigarette at the corner of his mouth.
“Sure,” the boy said striking a match to light Abel’s cigarette and, in the flame, he saw that Abel's eyes were hazel like the color of algae murky pond water in the firelight. He shook out the flame and backed up.
Abel inhaled gazing at the boy’s physique, and he smiled. He wasn't necessarily skinny but full-bodied like a strong field hand. He carried himself well in baggy clothes that he prayed was surely baggy since he didn't look fat at all in his attire. As smoke billowed from Abel's mouth, Abel leaned back against the seawall resting his elbows and moving his tongue over the upper lip from right to left. "Cold out, don't you think?" he said.
“Yes,” the boy nodded dropping his cigarette butt and mashing it out with the tip of his foot in a worn out boot that had seen better days.
“What are you looking for?”
“I’m looking for you,” the boy said turning around and looking at Fort Sumter, a distant man-made island in the harbor, rising from the horizon with faint lights.
“My car is parked up the street on East Battery right outside Edmondston-Alston house,” he said grabbing the boy’s cold hand that wriggled into his warm hand as he looked at treetops of live oaks trembling across the street in White Point garden. “Would you like to go to my car and warm up?”
“Why not," the boy said looking into his eyes.
Inside Abel's black Mercedes the boy offered a warm can of malt liquor beer he pulled from his backpack, and they shared it along with another cigarette and a wind shook palmetto tree needles above the car roof.
As a full moon rose higher in the black sky changing into a dazzling white, Abel finally leaned over and kissed the boy on the mouth and the loneliness of the empty night was gone. He felt himself sinking, slipping into the torn 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...