It was three years ago the 21st of November, the moon was full that night and waves lapped against the seawall when he first saw the black boy on the Battery straddled over an overstuffed backpack and smoking a cigarette. Abel liked the way he smoked, the effortless way his hand shifted back and forth to his mouth almost feminine like a Barbara Stanwyck femme fatale and yet masculine as Gary Cooper and Sidney Poitier. From a distance his wrist was skinny like a girl’s, Abel imagined hairless and smooth, and he grinned thinking about his wrist joyfully as he hurried down the steps past a half dozen lily white boys lined up in a row like shifty shivering Raggedy Ann dolls for only a couple of men in cars parked on the street across from the public garden.
He pulled a cigarette from the inside pocket of his overcoat, the only one he carried for such an occasion, and cocked it in the corner of his mouth. “Do you have a light?" he asked the black boy, eagerly.
“Sure,” said the black boy, turning to light his cigarette and in the flame of the light the boy caught a chill seeing Abel’s eyes; they were hazel but appeared fiery in the glow. He backed up stumbling over his backpack and landing against the guardrail.
"Are you alright?"
"I’m fine,” the boy said waving a hand in the air.
"I'm surely glad it was your backpack and not the seawall you tripped over. If not, I would have jumped into the harbor and rescued you."
Then the boy dropped his cigarette and mashed it out on the sidewalk with the tip of one boot. He squeezed the guardrail with both hands, a sullen expression on his face as he stared at faint lights across the harbor and a foghorn echoed in the distance. For an abrupt moment he considered walking away from this man he didn’t particularly like, didn’t really want to know but changed his mind because he was cold, and he stayed.
Abel studied the boy meticulously through a cloud of smoke. He wasn’t necessarily skinny but full-bodied like a strong field hand from one of those rural Pee Dee counties northwest of Charleston. Indeed, he carried himself well in baggy clothes, Abel prayed were surely just baggy, but undeniably dirt cheap. No, he didn't look fat at all. “Cold out, don't you think?" he said breaking an awkward silence.
“What are you looking for?” Abel persisted.
“I’m looking for you,” the boy whispered.
“My car is parked up the street,” Abel moved closer and, reaching down, grabbed the boy’s hand that was soft and tender like a girl’s and not like a field hand. “Would you like to go to my car and warm up?”
“What kind of car?”
“It’s a grey Mercedes.”
“How old?” the boy wondered out loud more about Abel’s age than the car and quickly jerked his hand away.
“It’s old enough but reliable,” Abel replied. “And most comfortable I guarantee.” The boy picked up his overstuffed backpack and they left.
Inside Abel’s car parked behind Adgers Wharf near the water the boy offered a stale can of malt liquor beer he 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. It was that moment Abel leaned over and kissed the boy on the mouth and felt himself sinking, slipping into the slightly 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.