It was three years ago the 21st of November, the moon was full that night, a most brilliant white in the black sky above the old city when 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 for a long moment, then blowing it out effortlessly. Unlike the other boys poised like trophy dolls along the Battery the boy was more graceful and seemingly oblivious of the gang of men in parked cars seeking attention.
He liked the boy having an urge to see him naked below him and ready to open like a flower triggered him to sneeze violently three times in a row. The boy heard it at the top of High Battery above the soft roar of a car motor and turned his head to see who was sneezing. He attempted to smile at the boy, to wave foolishly, but sneezed again quickly into a handkerchief. When he looked again, the boy was not looking, and he promptly blew his nose.
He replaced the handkerchief and shook his head—realizing how silly it would have been waving and hollering when he did not even know the boy’s name. After listening to waves lapping against the seawall, he stood up straight and tucked the sides of his black hair down behind his ears. He double-checked the other pocket of his coat. The one cigarette he carried for cruising was there. He smiled and proceeded down the steps to the lower promenade.
“Do you have a light?" he asked holding the cigarette between two fingers at the corner of his mouth.
“Sure,” the boy said, turning to light his cigarette, and in the flame of the light, the boy saw his eyes--hazel and fiery—in the afterglow. He shook the match and, backing up, stumbled over his backpack and fell against the guardrail.
"Oh my god! Are you all right?"
"I’m fine,” the boy said raising the palm of one hand.
"I'm certainly relieved it was your backpack you tripped over and not the seawall," he said without getting any closer, "else I would have dived into the harbor to save you."
The boy rolled his eyes and, puffing his cigarette, felt him watching him like a monitor through a cloud of smoke. The boy was not necessarily skinny as he initially thought but full-bodied like a strong field hand from one of those rural Pee Dee counties, Florence or Williamsburg, northwest of Charleston. He carried himself well in baggy clothes, he prayed were surely just that—baggy-but undeniably dirt cheap. “Cold out tonight don’t you think?" he finally said flicking an ash over the guardrail and took another drag.
The boy nodded and smiled abruptly. “Yes,” he said mashing the end of his cigarette on the sidewalk with the tip of his boot.
“What are you looking for?” he exhaled, smoke.
“I’m looking for you,” the boy whispered.
“My car is parked up the street. Would you like to go to my car and warm up?”
“What kind of car is it?”
“A silver Bentley," he said flipping his cigarette and stepping on it.
“Silver, light grey,” he said laughing; then touching the boy’s hand he pronounced slowly, “yes, grey.”
“How old?” the boy wondered out loud more about his age than the color or brand of the car.
“Old enough, comfortable and reliable, I guarantee. But it is relatively a new car. Two years old to be exact."
The boy jerked his hand free and looked at a distant light in the harbor hovering above Fort Sumter. He saw the moon, countless stars, too, in the night, and he smiled. No longer fearing the man, the stranger as he was, he looked into his eyes and did not object when he held his hand longer than he anticipated. Together, they left the Battery.
Inside his car parked behind a playground at South 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 and felt himself sinking, slipping into the slightly stiff 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 lead to murder.