Thursday, September 13, 2007

Chapter 9, Part 1

Danny woke up when the phone rang, disoriented by the unaccustomed location and the unmeasured passage of time. He groggily reached over for the instrument and mumbled into it.

"Monsieur Vandervere?," came a crisp French-accented voice, "Mademoiselle Willard-Wilkes's manservant is here. May I send him up?"

"Mmmph," Danny didn't want to see the man, but knew that Marquesa would want his clothes and jewelry back, "Okay."

"Very good, m'sieu."

Sitting up in the bed, Danny wondered if he should just stay where he was and pretend to be asleep, or if he should hide in the bathroom; but by the time Danvers knocked, he realized he'd have to let the man into the suite. So he put on his bathrobe, knotted the cord firmly, and opened the door.

"Good afternoon, sir," Danvers bowed slightly, though not as crisply as he had before, and his expression was softer, not so disapproving, "I hope I'm not disturbing you."

"I was just going to take a shower," Danny walked out of the room with what he hoped was an air of unconcern, locking the bathroom door behind him. He turned on the water but didn't get in; instead, he sat on the little bathroom stool in the corner and listened to the manservant moving around in the bedroom, wishing he would leave so Danny could go back to bed.

After half an hour, there was a quiet knock on the bathroom door that startled Danny out of the trance of blank waiting he'd fallen into. The room had filled up with steam, and he couldn't see anything.

"Is there anything I can do for you, sir?" Danvers's voice came softly through the door.

"I can't hear you, I'm in the shower," Danny lied.

"Very good, sir," the servant said loudly, then dropped his voice to a low rumble that could barely be heard, "Though I can't help but notice your voice came from the opposite side of the room from the shower, and that water makes a different sound falling on a body than on an empty floor."

Danny blushed crimson, humiliated to be caught out in the lie, but didn't answer.

"I've put your clothes away, sir," Danvers resumed in his louder professional voice, "and laid out something suitable in case you choose to go to the lounge for tea, as well as your dinner clothes. Mr. Willard-Wilkes sent some cash for tips and incidentals, it's in an envelope on the table in the foyer. Good afternoon, sir."

"Thank you," Danny called out, getting hastily into the shower so that he wouldn't have to admit that he hadn't been there in the first place; he wanted to say something more articulate in gratitude for Danvers' thoughtfulness, but the words didn't come. When he did finally get out of the shower, he put on a good deal of body-lotion and combed his hair with undue thoroughness before returning to the bedroom, killing time to make sure the man was gone.

Danvers had laid out a very nice outfit on the bed, a snappy blue-and-white striped shirt with a dull red silk sweater and tan linen pants, with socks and underwear lying on top and a pair of cordovan loafers neatly placed on the floor. The dinner-suit was laid out with equal precision on the other side of the bed, with a navy blue satin tie and waistcoat.

Danny put on the afternoon clothes, for no reason other than that they were there, since he didn't intend to leave the suite any time soon. The dinner-suit he put back in the closet, not wanting to look at it... it had happy memories attached to it, and Danny didn't want to think happy thoughts.

The envelope of money gave him a sting of pain: it contained a stack of twenties and another stack of fifties, full inch-thick US Mint hundred-count packets with the denomination bands unbroken, more money than he could possibly hand out in tips if he stayed at the Queen Charlotte all summer. This was clearly the "walking-around money" or "cab-fare" or "pick out a present from me" that stood as a euphemism for the amateur prostitute's fee.

Seven thousand dollars was a pretty good fee for a weekend, and Danny had to smile at the generosity; but this unnecessarily large sum underlined for Danny the fact that this had been just a weekend fling for Marquesa. They could still be friends, as close as Danny usually was with his moneyed tricks; but considering the two packets of cash for "incidentals" along with the hotel bills and the new wardrobe from Saks, not to mention half of the million-dollar bail bond, there was simply too much expenditure involved for Danny to ever feel on equal footing with Marquesa. He was irrevocably cast in his usual role of Courtesan instead of his desired role of Lover.

Dropping the cash negligently into a drawer, Danny lay down on the couch and watched television for a few hours, changing channels with an impatient sneer when anything even remotely romantic came on, slipping occasionally into a deep sleep and waking with a start when something loud happened on the TV.

When he eventually got hungry, he ordered up a selection of canape-sized comfort foods, baby quiches and tiny shepherd's pies and sinfully cheesy crab-puffs, along with a couple of bottles of oaky white wine, so that he wouldn't have to think about food for a while, he could just nibble and sip whenever the mood took him.

The waiter set up some of the food on the coffee table between the couch and the television, and put one of the bottles of wine in an ice-bucket to chill, then took the rest into the little wet-bar/kitchen Danny hadn't realized was there, hidden beside the little foyer behind a folding wall-panel. As soon as the waiter left, with a nice crisp fifty tucked into his pocket, Danny resumed his vigil on the couch, flipping channels pointlessly, occasionally turning over to stare at the ceiling or the upholstery, dozing off every now and then as he'd been doing all day.

He felt (he decided after a long time casting about for the right word) bleak. Bleak and empty, like a Nevada salt-flat in winter... he was no longer especially sad, the hurt of the morning had dulled to a dreary numbness, and he simply didn't want anything... didn't want to eat, didn't want to read, didn't want to talk, didn't want to move, didn't want to feel pleasure, didn't want to think.

But he did think: he thought about how stupid he'd been to believe that Marquesa was falling in love with him as he'd fallen in love with Marquesa; he thought about the matter-of-fact way Marquesa had recommended going after Valerien instead, and the cavalier attitude about the "tips and incidentals"; he thought even more about how that coldness had excited him in the first place; he thought about all the time he'd wanted to fall in love without having the tiniest idea how much it could hurt; he thought about what a fool he was.

Sometime in the very early hours of the next morning, however, Danny finally got bored with his inertia. His was a nature that was ill-suited for wallowing in unhappiness... he could be unhappy, but he was incapable of lying around with it for very long. He had to get up and do something to take his mind off it. He got up and peeled out of the stale wrinkled clothes he'd been wearing for over twelve hours, then opened the window and leaned out for some fresh air, feeling his skin come alive in the chilly damp.

Leafing through the little book of the hotel's amenities, he was pleased to discover the place had a small gymnasium and swimming pool in the basement that would open at 6 a.m. Checking the little clock on the desk, Danny was irritated to find that it was only 4... but then decided that a couple of fifties could probably get a helpful desk-clerk to open them up for him. Calling downstairs, he discovered that the night manager would be delighted to accomodate Monsieur Vandervere regardless of the hour (news of his increased tipping power must have already been circulated among the staff).

Rummaging through the dresser that had been arranged with a neatness that was almost pathological, Danny selected a scandalously brief white swimsuit, a pair of tight underwear-thin grey fleece shorts, and a thin zip-up black hoodie that was two sizes too small and clung to his torso like paint. The sneakers Andrew had sent weren't the kind Danny liked, but they were sufficient, and the little white socks had cute Japanese anime penguins embroidered on them.

Running down the stairs to the basement, Danny felt a rush of physical well-being: his heart might be broken, but his body was still a beautiful perfect machine capable of all sorts of pleasures. The night-manager was clearly taken aback, both by Danny's slutty attire and by the four bills Danny pressed into his hand (he was determined to blow through at least one of the stacks of money, and had perversely settled on the higher denomination), and led a brief tour of the small but luxurious facilities, pointing out the Art Deco mosaic murals imported from a bath-house in Paris, turning on all the lights, the televisions, and the stereo before taking his leave.

Danny stripped off his hoodie, grabbed the biggest bottle of water he could find in the cooler, and got up onto an elliptical machine, bopping his head to the beat of the generic Top-40 dance music that came pouring out of the hidden speakers, and lost himself in the rhythm of his own heartbeat and breathing. It was infinitely more worry-suppressing than watching television, and he wondered why he hadn't thought of this simple expedient sooner.

After forty minutes of cardiovascular exercise, he did a circuit of the weight machines, not pushing himself very hard since he was alone in the gym and didn't have a spotter; and once every muscle in his body had been worked over and was glowing with warmth, he pulled off his gym-shorts and dove into the long narrow pool.

The water was deliciously cool and shocked his sweaty skin refreshingly. He swam laps, freestyle to one end and backstroke to the other, pushing himself until he was so tired that he had to get out of the pool for fear of drowning. He flopped face-first onto a towel-draped chaise-longue, completely exhausted and wonderfully free of nagging thoughts, and went right back to sleep.

"Hey, are you OK?" Danny felt a hand shaking his shoulder.

"Just sleeping," he replied quietly, peeking at the stranger through one eye; it was a rather pretty boy, Danny guessed him to be eighteen or nineteen, with straight black hair and starry blue eyes, spanked pink cheeks and a soft red mouth. His face was square and his cheekbones perfect, but there was an endearing sense of the unfinished to his features that was very appealing.

"Oh," the boy looked embarrassed, his smooth cheeks deepening to carmine, "You were kind of whimpering, I though you were sick."

"Whimpering?" Danny raised himself up on both elbows to take a better look at the boy, running his eyes over the narrow, tight-muscled boyish frame in a pair of very baggy red boardshorts, his luminescent pink skin and charmingly awkward movements, "How mortifying."

"I'll leave you alone, then," the boy sounded disappointed and started to get up.

"Don't go away," Danny heard a note of begging in his voice and strove to master it with a more confident and seductive tone, "What's your name?"

"Jared," the boy happily sat cross-legged on the floor and put out his hand.

"I'm Danny. Pleased to meet you," he rolled over onto his side, artlessly displaying his half-hard cock taking up far too much room in the front of the tiny white bikini, but smiling happily as the boy's eyes bugged out and his mouth dropped open, "Where are you from, Jared?"

Jared tore his gaze from Danny's crotch with some effort, gulped loudly, and stammered out, "Cincinnati."

"Are you here with your family?" Danny reached down and pushed his erection back down under the waistband as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do, smirking to himself as Jared's erection sprang up and tented his red shorts.

"He's supposed to be my uncle," Jared murmured, his eyes riveted back onto Danny's cock.

"Supposed to be?"

"Oh! I mean," Jared looked alarmed, his eyes big and the blush deepening again on his cheek, "I mean I am here with my uncle."

"Oh, don't worry, baby, I have plenty of 'uncles' myself. Does your uncle mind you playing around?"

Jared gulped again and stared mutely for a few moments before shaking his head no. Danny pulled him to his feet and led him by the hand through the empty locker-room and into the billowing steam of the wet sauna. Once the door was closed securely, he was on the boy with a passion, raping his mouth and wrapping both hands around the boy's long cock. Jared put his hands on Danny's body, first on his arms, then his waist, then his shoulders, as if he weren't sure where they should be; eventually he settled on the hips and seemed particularly fascinated with the line of the pelvic girdle.

Since the bathing facilities in the Hotel Queen Charlotte weren't the type to keep great bowls full of prophylactics on every table and counter, Danny kept their activities limited to oral and frottage... more the latter than the former, as Jared couldn't keep his teeth out of the way; the boy was passionate but had no skill whatever. Streaming with sweat, they slid around together on the sauna bench like eels; the boy shot off twice before Danny came, making an adorable squealing sound each time that made Danny laugh. Spent and sticky, they lolled in silence for a little while, Jared trying to catch his breath and Danny nearly falling asleep again.

"I really wish you'd fuck me," Jared finally broke the silence in a timid voice.

"I'd love to, baby, but I don't have any condoms here," Danny replied, his face buried in the boy's neck, "and nothing personal, but I'd really rather not take you back to my room."

"Do have a fake uncle in your room, too?" Jared wondered, his mind finally cleared enough of sex to return to their previous conversation.

"Not at the moment," Danny laughed, pulling back on one elbow to look down at the boy, tracing the pretty features with his index finger, refusing to think about why he didn't want to take someone back to the room where he'd fallen in love with Marquesa, "But I just don't feel right about it. Let's go take a shower, we're all sticky."

Crowded warmly into a single stall, Danny and Jared washed each-other carefully and a little too thoroughly; soon they were inflamed to passion, and they thrashed and writhed their way to another climax.

"What's your uncle's name?" Danny asked conversationally, shaking off the sleepiness that was threatening again.

"I probably shouldn't tell you," Jared sighed after a long silence, stepping out of the shower.

"Why not?" Danny laughed, "Is he that closeted?"

"No... I mean, he's not obvious or anything, but he doesn't hide that he's gay."

"Then you must be underage," Danny reasoned, toweling his hair, "How old are you?"

"Eighteen," Jared said without conviction, his eyes darting about with comic guilt.

"You don't lie very well, little one," Danny shook his head in mock exasperation, "But I guess it doesn't matter now, after the fact. You can't unbreak an egg and you can't unfuck a teenager."

"But you haven't fucked me...yet," Jared teased.

"Nor am I going to, Little Miss Lolita," Danny ruffled the boy's hair playfully, "But I will take you to breakfast. Why don't you go upstairs and get dressed, and I'll meet you in the lobby."

Danny felt very nearly happy again as he returned to his suite and selected a kicking-around outfit of artfully distressed jeans, vividly striped narrow-cut dress shirt, and suede sandals. The sorrow had been blown apart by the physical pleasures of exercise and sex, and the bleakness was submerged in the delight of a new person to experience.

He returned to the lobby before Jared, so Danny took a moment to visit the concierge and order immense and ridiculously expensive flower-arrangements sent to Marquesa and Valerien with thank-you notes, as well as more subdued tributes to Mr. Casterman and the Aunt Ems. With a hefty gratuity to Phillipe, the bundle of fifties was satisfactorily dented by this exercise.

Tucking the roll of bills into his pocket next to his loose cock, which made him feel wonderfully dirty, Danny went back out to the lobby to find Jared waiting for him; the boy looked acutely embarrassed, shifting from one foot to the other with his eyes on the floor.

"Where shall we eat, baby? The grill-room here, or shall we go exploring instead?" Danny hooked a finger into the boy's belt-loop.

"I can't go," Jared rolled his eyes in exasperation, "Crosby insisted on meeting you. He wants me to invite you to have breakfast with us."

"Crosby's a smart man," Danny threw his arm around the boy's shoulder and led him into the grill room, a high square chamber paneled in dark wood, with white-clothed round tables and tall windows facing the street, "If I was him, I wouldn't let you out of my sight for a minute. But before I meet him, did you tell him what we did this morning?"

"No, of course not!" the boy blushed again.

"He'll probably know. I mean, look at me... who could say 'No' to all this?" Danny struck a glamorous pose, making Jared laugh, "And I doubt he'll mind. You should never be dishonest in your relationships, Jared. It always leads to trouble. Let's go meet Uncle Crosby."

Crosby Bremerhaven looked like somebody's uncle... comically avuncular, with a perfectly round little head on top of a perfectly round little body, rendered jaunty by a pointed Vandyke beard on his small-featured face and a bright Tartan waistcoat peeking out of his soft tweed suit. He appeared to be in his mid-fifties, and had the comfortable blasé air of a dilettante with very old family money.

When he rose to meet his protege's new friend, he was clearly taken by surprise... his jaw dropped and his little black eyes widened in alarm. Danny was of course accustomed to such reactions, it was the price of being so shockingly beautiful; and as he always did in such situations, he turned on his most polished social charms to try to put the man at his ease.

"Good morning, Mr. Bremerhaven," Danny put out his hand enthusiastically, "It's so good to meet you after hearing so much about you from Jared."

"Thank you," Crosby said somewhat shakily, then made an obvious effort to pull himself together, "Won't you sit down, Mr... Vandervere, was it?"

"Please, call me Danny," he took the chair Crosby indicated, "Thank you so much for inviting me to breakfast. One gets a little lonely staying in a hotel on one's own."

Conversation became less strained and rather general quite quickly; between Crosby's and Danny's combined breeding and manners, the interaction remained on a very smooth surface of small-talk and pleasantries. But all the while, Danny was watching Crosby, wondering what it was that was making him so uncomfortable underneath his Society veneer... for the little man was unmistakably anxious about something: his eyes darted back and forth between Danny and Jared, and his hands fiddled nervously with the tableware. Was he anxious that Danny was going to steal Jared away from him?

It didn't seem likely, though, that Crosby would have attained the age and suavité required to keep a young boyfriend without understanding that kept boys don't leave their keepers for other boys, they don't give up security and luxury for mere hot sex. It simply isn't done. Was Jared so unpredictable that Crosby would fear losing him to a beautiful stranger in a hotel?

On the other hand, Danny understood that he wasn't the usual pretty-boy one meets on the circuit... he was expensively dressed and expensively educated, he was staying in an expensive hotel alone... to all appearances, he could be someone who could provide both the hot sex and the security that a boy like Jared would want.

And so to alleviate his fears, Danny focused most of his attention, with a subtle undertone of flirtation, on Crosby; he included Jared in the conversation and the flirtation, but he did everything he could to indicate that he wasn't interested in stealing Jared away. He actually started plotting how he could get a three-way going with Jared and Crosby together, which would certainly make the rest of the day pass rather pleasantly.

But it was not to be. When he had finished his very French breakfast of dense bread and soft cheese, and downed the last of the very strong coffee, he offered to take the pair sight-seeing... though they had probably been all over town during their vacation, it's always special to be shown around by a local who knows some of the hidden beauty-spots and interesting local history.

"No, thank you, Danny," Crosby said, wiping his mouth fastidiously and smiling uncomfortably, "We're leaving soon, and I need to get to the packing."

"Oh, come on," Jared protested, "We're not leaving until tomorrow afternoon. Besides, the valet will do the packing, won't he?"

"I need to supervise," Crosby offered lamely.

"Well, can I go?" Jared asked, a tone of impatience in his voice.

"I'd really rather you didn't," Crosby said in a very parental tone, a tone that begged a child to stop pursuing the question.

"Why not!?" Jared demanded.

"Well, really, Jared, you put me in a most awkward position," Crosby finally relaxed a little and shook his head, "I didn't want to hurt Danny's feelings. But I cannot let you go out alone with a suspected murderer."

Silence engulfed the little table after this bombshell. Danny was completely staggered... after all of the emotional upheaval of his weekend with Marquesa, he'd quite forgotten about that problem. Jared stared thunderstruck, and Crosby looked horribly embarrassed to have said something so inescapably rude.

"I am sorry, Mr. Vandervere," Crosby eventually turned to Danny, "You're a very charming young man, and I am loath to suspect you of such a foul crime; but I have a duty to protect Jared, and that has to come first."

"I completely understand," Danny breathed out, still reverberating from the shock.

"What are you talking about?" Jared almost screamed, "Danny's not a murderer! I've been with him all morning!"

"Jared, please," Crosby pleaded quietly, reaching across the corner of the table and taking the boy's hand, "I'm sure he's innocent, but the suspicion is there, and I can't take a chance with your safety."

"That's ridiculous, I'm not in any danger," Jared shook off Crosby's hand and crossed his arms sulkily over his chest, with a little pout of impatience that was so completely adorable that Danny wanted him even more. It made him sad that he wouldn't be able to experience more of the boy.

"No, Jared, Crosby's right," Danny slowly pushed back from the table and dropped his napkin on his plate, "He's responsible for you, and it would be remiss of him to let you go out with someone he has reason to suspect. I understand completely. And Mr. Bremerhaven, I hold you no ill will; in fact, I hope we can meet again once my innocence has been established. Thank you very much for breakfast."

With all the sangfroid he could muster, Danny got up from the table, gave Jared a little peck on the cheek, shook Crosby's proffered hand, and left the grill room; leaving the room, he could hear Jared's continued protestations and Crosby's quiet refusal to be budged. Passing the concierge's desk, he ordered a fruit-basket to be sent to Mr. Bremerhaven, along with his calling card, and asked that a valet be sent to pack up his clothes: he was going to check out immediately.

"Murder Suspect," Danny sneered at himself in the mirror upon returning to his suite, mourning the cozy adventure with Jared and Crosby that he'd been planning but which was snatched away from him by those two nasty words, "Danny Vandervere, suspected murderer. God damn it!"

Danny kicked hard at the wainscoting, forgetting that he was wearing sandals, and fell cursing to the floor when the pain of a stubbed toe shot up his leg. He was huddled up on the floor crying and swearing, more from temper than from hurt, when the valet came in and silently started packing Danny's clothes for him in the two Vuitton suitcases Danvers had left for him.

The valet was done in a matter of minutes; the clothes had been folded so neatly by Marquesa's manservant that is was only a matter of transferring them from closet and drawer to suitcase; Danny pulled himself together enough to tip the valet, and leave a few more bills on the dresser for housekeeping. He put all his loose objects, his handheld and the rest of the money, into a little shopping bag, and said farewell to the suite with a sad little sigh. Making his way back to the lobby, he asked for a cab to be called, then sulked into the dark and empty bar; it wasn't actually open, but Phillipe took pity on the obviously depressed young guest and slid behind the bar to pour Danny a generous brandy, then left him alone to wait for the car that would take him home.

But while Danny was depressed by his situation, the many unhappy upheavals of his recent past, the sadness was quickly being subsumed by a simmering rage... not toward Crosby Bremerhaven, whose behavior was completely reasonable, but rather toward whoever had killed Drayton Marshall.

He hadn't thought about Marshall for days, but now that the murder had been brought back to his attention, he was simply furious: killing the unsavory Marshall he could forgive, or at least understand; but pinning the murder so securely and deliberately on an innocent bystander bespoke a disregard for other people that should not go unpunished. Danny was enflamed with a desire to hunt down the killer, not just for his own sake, either for establishing his innocence or exacting his revenge, but for the sake of Justice itself.

Warmed by the resonance of this sentiment, as well as by the large brandy, Danny felt his anger resolve into a purpose. Fishing his handheld out of the little shopping bag, he started making notes to follow up on various questions concerning Marshall's life and death, such as the whereabouts of Marshall's son on the night of the murder, as well as some barely-remembered oddities about his meeting with Marshall in The Brat... the identity of the parrot-shirted man, the peculiar behavior of the purple-haired boy who stared at him so, Marshall's well-known predilection for hustlers, and the wide variety of drugs in his apartment.

This sense of purpose carried Danny all the way out of the hotel and into the waiting towncar without a backward glance at the Hotel Queen Charlotte. He continued making notes as he rode home, and was a little bit startled when the car came to a stop.

A lone reporter was lurking outside Danny's door, beside an enormous man who could could best be described as a "goon," an impressively ugly hulk in a dark suit and darker glasses standing at ease right in front of the door.

Danny had to produce identification before the goon would let him pass; and all the while Danny was rummaging around for his wallet and producing his driver's license, the weedy little reporter threw importunate questions at him in a small whiney voice.

"Why did you kill Drayton Marshall?" was the one question out of many that actually caught Danny's attention. He turned to look at the little man, sweeping his eyes disdainfully over his rumpled dust-colored clothing, scrawny awkward phsyique, and a face that made Woody Allen look downright pretty by comparison.

"I didn't kill Drayton Marshall," Danny said slowly, as if speaking to a slow child.

"Then why were you hiding? Where have you been all week?"

"I've been staying in a hotel, avoiding people like you. Good afternoon."

"Then who do you think did kill him?" the reporter called after Danny as he passed through the iron gate onto the outside stairs.

"I really don't know," Danny said, turning on the last step and facing the reporter with some interest, "But I'll tell you what I do know: I'm going to do whatever I can to find out who did kill him. Print that in whatever ghastly little rag you represent."

Smiling happily to himself, though realizing that Mr. Casterman would probably scold him fiercely for that overly dramatic statement, Danny hurried into his apartment and closed the door behind him. The air smelled stale, as if nobody had been through the place in a while. His cleaning-lady probably hadn't come since she knew he'd been away and there was nobody to clean up after, but he'd assumed she'd come in and air the place anyway.

Danny went through the apartment opening windows, shaking curtains, and shuffling objects around on tabletops to get rid of the stale feeling, then poured himself a glass of his most expensive red wine and settled down in front of his computer to do some research.

With his wine on the right and his handheld on the left, he started following up all the questions he'd jotted down since leaving his hotel room; unfortunately, he lacked the search-engine skills, not to mention the legal and illegally hacked access to confidential data, that Detective Spevik possessed, and so his research was frustrated more often than not by a complete dearth of information that would be of any use to him.

The information on Drayton Marshall III was little more than he'd already gleaned from the news broadcasts. Absolutely nothing about his rather baroque sexual tastes had ever appeared in print, not even a gossipy blind item in a giveaway paper. The latest available photograph of Marshall's son was ten years old, and showed only a peculiarly nondescript boy with his father's medium hair and his mother's squinty eyes. Mrs. Marshall, who was rather more frequently photographed, was a typical Society matron with a rictus grin and a scrawny neck, whom Danny knew fairly well from the Social circuit. Nothing he was able to find out put him any farther ahead in his understanding of Drayton Marshall's life, nor who would likely want him dead.

Giving up on Marshall and pouring himself another glass of wine, Danny settled down to find out if he could discover anything about Aunt Tittie's male identity. But nowhere was any connection made. With the proper access, Danny might have been able to track down the title or the liquor license on the Parrot Pub, but such access is not readily available to the average citizen.

The third glass of wine accompanied Danny through a lengthy email to Rodney Casterman detailing all of the questions he'd thought of. He was fairly sure that the investigators working on his case would have already thought of most, if not all of those questions, as well as a good many more, but Danny felt that he needed to do something before he gave up on his thwarted investigation.

By the fourth glass of wine, Danny was feeling fairly sorry for himself, a mood frequently brought on by a surfeit of frustration and the drier reds, and so he decided to get good and drunk, decanting two more very expensive bottles into a sangria pitcher to breathe while he finished off the large decanter he'd already started.

Shedding his clothes on the way, he carried the wine and two glasses (in case he broke one) back to his bedroom, opened the mirrored closet doors to reveal the enormous television that took up the entire space, put on a variety of porn in the DVD-changer, and crawled under the covers to have a nice long binge of self-pity and -abuse.

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