November 21. Three years earlier on the Battery in Charleston, a half-dozen boys shivered in unsuitable summer coats. Each of them clinging to desperate hopes of meeting Mr. Right. Abel Erikson was one of those Mr. Rights who came to the Battery that night when the moon was full.
Leaving his car, a slick red Mercedes, up East Battery Street, he stumbled across the street from Edmonston-Alston house to High Battery. He stopped suddenly at the top of the promenade steps to catch his breath and gripped the rail to prevent himself from falling. A shiny car moved slowly down Murray Boulevard at the tip of the peninsula underneath a row of tall Palmetto trees and parked ahead of several boys on the sidewalk, its brake tail-lights blinking twice. The other boys watched as one dark-haired boy with lush lips and glassy eyes wandered over to the passenger window coming down. The boy leaned into the window with a whorish grin and chitchatted for a half of minute with the driver, a shadowy figure in the dark.
Abel heard the passenger door unlock, then slam, staring at an African-American boy alone and separated from the others. He was smoking a cigarette with an overstuffed backpack up against one leg. Abel approached pulling one 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.
The boy studied him up and down without shame.
“A light,” Abel repeated raising one black bushy eyebrow and smiled.
“Sure,” the boy said striking a match and, in the flame, saw that Abel's eyes were hazel like the color of algae murky pond water. He shook the firelight out after lighting Abel’s cigarette and cautiously backed up.
Abel inhaled scrutinizing the boy’s physique. He wasn't necessarily skinny but full-bodied like a strong field hand. Enough meat to slam into without mercy. He carried himself well in baggy cheap clothes he prayed was surely just baggy but undeniably dirt cheap. No, he didn't look fat at all.
“Cold out, don't you think?" he said as smoke billowed from his mouth.
“Yes,” the boy rolled his eyes dropping his cigarette butt and mashing it out with the tip of his boots that were worn out and had seen better days.
Abel moved his tongue over his upper lip from side to side.
“What are you looking for?”
“I’m looking for you,” the boy said.
“My car is up the street. Would you like to go to my car and warm up?”
“Warm up?” the boy returned.
"Sure. Why not."
Inside the car, the boy offered a stale can of malt liquor beer he pulled from his backpack, and they shared it along with one cigarette.
As a full moon rose higher in the black sky changing into a dazzling white, Abel 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 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...