Routine

A Pink Dormouse Production

 


Sands liked routines. The current one was to arrive at a new town, check into a motel and get some sleep, then charm one of the maids into taking him out and about. First stop was always the bank. He would get the cashier to fold the bills just-so and place them in his wallet in ascending order. Then he got his guide to verify that it was right. Next stop was the tobacconist, to stock up on tobacco, papers and lighters. He could buy his own now - take that, El.

Then they would do the rounds of the record shops. Sometimes he would curtail his explorations at that point. If he found a store-owner who knew his shit, made decent coffee and would let Sands play his choices over the store's speakers. Some days he even traded an album for one of those in his shoulder-bag.

Usually, though, he would move on to the final phase - bar-hopping. If the first place met his requirements he would stay there, dismissing his guide with some shopping money and a promise to come back and collect him later. Otherwise, he would move on until he found the correct bar and then do the same.

He made sure to befriend the barman - he drank slowly but tipped well - that way he could be as certain as he ever could be that he would not run into any trouble. Other than the trouble he went looking for, obviously.

The first time, he had been pleasantly surprised that he still had what it took in casual-pick-up terms. By now, however it was business as usual. Sands was bisexual on principle - he had never seen the point in limiting his options - but most of the time men were far the easier option, in all the ways that mattered.

"Hi."

Sands turned to face the man who had spoken. So he was being hit on early today - good - he was in no mood for waiting around.

"And hello to you." He needed to get the man talking, so he could make an extensive assessment in short time. Eighty per cent of inter-personal transactions were based on body language; Sands had to make as much out of the other twenty as he possibly could.

"Got a light?" the man asked.

Sands pulled out his lighter and sparked it, then held it still.

"Thanks."

Sands waited for a count of two then extinguished the flame.

"Want one?"

Sands shook his head and pulled out tobacco and papers.

"I prefer to roll my own." He smirked. "You could always buy me a drink instead."

The man took the bait and called the barman over. He ordered a double whiskey - nervous perhaps, Sands thought - while Sands stuck with the same piss-weak beer that he had been drinking since he arrived. 

Sands quickly established that the man was not local - so no point asking the barman for further info - and probably not at all in the habit of doing this. Which could make for some different entertainment to usual. When he was being at all realistic in his fantasising, Sands was forced to assume that El was not actually interested in men. Damn shame but people could change their minds about almost anything - given enough time and persuasion - and Sands was good at persuasion.

Take the present case as example. By the time that he had finished his drink, Sands had his hand on the man's thigh and had managed to get him to pay for a second round. He had not given his real name, and did not for one second think that the other had either. Not that names mattered, obviously.

"So... Chris," Sands slid his thumb up and down high-quality suit fabric, "are we going to have another drink here? Or do you have something else in mind?"

"I don't know," 'Chris'' hand came to rest lightly on the back of Sands' neck. He was wearing a wedding ring, which went some way towards confirming Sands' suspicions. "What would you suggest?"

"It's getting crowded in here." Sands rubbed his cheek against a sleeve made of the same exquisitely soft fabric as the trousers. "I take it you have a hotel room." The man smelled good enough - Marlboros and dry-cleaned clothes, mostly. Not as good as El smelled but that was a given. "We could go there and carry on this conversation with a little less background noise. Or," he raised an eyebrow, "find something else to do that might be deemed inappropriate in our present surroundings."

'Chris' remained silent. 

"Like I said, we could just talk." Sands had every intention of taking the transaction to its logical conclusion but he had better play that part down for just now.

"Yeah, why not?" 'Chris' removed his hand, then Sands heard him get to his feet. 

Sands hitched the strap of his bag up on his shoulder and picked up the antique - so he had been assured - silver-tipped ebony cane he had bought more out of affectation than from any intention of actually using it. For one he found it much easier to just follow another person; also, he drew less attention to himself that way, he thought. He stood up.

"You lead the way." He laid one more bill on the bar for his other new friend, just in case he ever decided to drink here again.



'Chris' led Sands three blocks down and one across then turned down what seemed to be a side-alley.

"Going into the hotel the back way, are we?" Sands stopped. He hoped that was what they were doing. If this 'Chris' had any inconvenient ideas it could all get messy. He forced himself to keep his hand away from his gun - for now.

"In a minute." 'Chris' turned around and took a step forward, bringing him up close to Sands. "Do you ever take those sunglasses off?"

"Not if I can help it." Sands injected just the right balance of calm and menace into his words. Normally, depending on exact circumstances, he would respond to questions of that nature with either the business end of a gun or some seriously dirty sex. Neither seemed appropriate to present company or surroundings - yet.

"I'd like to see your eyes."

"No you wouldn't, trust me." Sands said through gritted teeth. No one but El had seen what was behind the glasses since they got into the country. And El had only seen when seeing could not be avoided.

"What colour are they?"

"Black as the deepest pits of hell." Come to think of it, he was rapidly going off the whole game.

"Let me see."

Sands felt 'Chris'' hand brush past his face and come to rest on the arm of his glasses. He could smell the whiskey on the man's breath. Okay, he was definitely bored of this game now. He brought his knee up and his fist back.

"I said 'No.'" Sands followed through with a right hook for emphasis. He heard bone crack followed by a thud as 'Chris' hit the ground. Sands straightened his sunglasses with his left hand, hoping that the pistol now in his right was pointing at some part of 'Chris'. Pulling the trigger was oh-so-tempting but would alert far too many of the wrong people to his continued existence. And El would be annoyed beyond belief at that turn of events - not that that mattered, obviously.

"Give my regards to your wife." Sands re-holstered the gun. Then, running his fingertips along the wall for guidance, he turned and walked out of the alley. 

He was at the end of the block before it struck him that he had dropped his cane. Fuck it, he was not going back now. He had his records, his cell and his wallet - anything else was neither here nor there. He leaned against the wall, trying to get his bearings. He had walked further away from the bar where he had started from, and he was damned if he was going back past the alley now; it would be far too easy to drop by and put a bullet in that bastard's brain - or his balls - or both. And he had already established what a bad idea that was. Balls then brain, Sands smiled to himself, yeah, that would be really satisfying.

How to get back to the motel? Usually Sands would call a cab from whatever bar or hotel room he needed to get back from. Or he would wait for his helper-of-the-day to come and collect him. Now, though, he was on some unknown street with no idea, either, of what number he should use to call for a cab in this city. He could call El, of course but that felt way too close to admitting that he could not always cope alone.

The sidewalk was getting busier, which meant people had to be finishing work for the day. All he had to do was stop one of them and ask where he was and how he could get to where he wanted to be, right? Or he could call El. Sands knew roughly where he was in relation to the bar he had been drinking in. El would be able to find him easily enough from that. No, picking someone out of the crowd and gaining answers to two simple questions was the better way of going about this.

Sands focussed all his attention on the crowds passing by where he stood, flattened against the wall. Damn, but there were a lot of the bastards - almost too many people for him to pick out one individual from amongst the sounds and movement going past him. And not one fuckwit was taking the slightest bit of notice of him. He needed - he wanted - El. He wanted a drink. He wanted a smoke. He wanted to be any place but here.

Actually the smoke was not a bad idea. Take time out to stop - not panicking, he was not panicking - to stop thinking about this whole situation in a less than logical manner. Sands felt his way along the next wall until he found a doorway he could back into then pulled out his tobacco and papers.

The first cigarette made his head feel a little clearer so he rolled and lit another.

"Are you waiting for someone?"

Sands dropped his cigarette then turned towards the woman doing the asking. It was best to be friendly towards the kind lady, he reminded himself.

"I don't suppose you know the number I call to get a cab around here? I think my friend may have forgotten about me."

Dormouse



 

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