The White Knight
An excerpt from the novella by Josh Lanyon
The first time I saw Lt. Daniel Moran was in his office at LAPD's Operations -- West Bureau on Venice Boulevard. I didn't pay much attention at the time, but I remember now that the building was crowded and busy, and the office was small and neat as a military barrack. There were a couple of photographs on the wall of Lt. Moran shaking hands with higher-ranking police officials or celebrities. In every picture, Moran was the person you noticed.
When you're shy, people often mistake it for being stuck-up, and I knew Lt. Moran probably thought I was stuck-up, because I let Steve do all the talking while I slouched in my chair and stared mostly at the tidy blotter on the lieutenant's desk and the stack of outgoing mail. He was not a guy who wasted time, and I knew he thought we were wasting his.
I thought we were probably wasting his time too -- plus, after that first shocked meeting of eyes, I had trouble holding Moran's gaze. And I sure as hell didn't know what to say. I already felt stupid and incompetent for getting myself into this situation, and he was so good-looking. I mean really good-looking. Like the hero in the kind of movies they don't make anymore, like the knight in an N.C. Wyeth illustration. He was taller than me -- and I'm six feet. He was lean and broad-shouldered, his hair was dark and unruly, his eyes were blue as the Pacific Ocean. He wore tailored slacks, a crisp white shirt, sleeves rolled to reveal muscular, tanned forearms, and a navy tie with diagonal red stripes. He did not wear a wedding ring.
I was thinking about that when his gaze moved from Steve's face to mine and our eyes locked. Hot color rushed up under my skin. The corner of his mouth quirked a little -- not a smile exactly -- and he tuned back into Steve. I stared at the celebrity pictures on his walls. All of them were of people a lot more famous than me, but that was how he'd got landed with this gig. When he wasn't serving and protecting, he was a technical consultant to the studios. That, and he was, apparently, openly gay: as in the official poster boy for the new and improved -- read: sexually, racially diverse -- LAPD.
“There's a security system,” Steve said, “but Sean forgets to turn it on.”
And when I did remember to turn it on, I forgot to turn it off and had a habit of triggering it when I opened the back doors to the deck.
Moran's eyes flicked back to me. This time he didn't even quirk his mouth. He was polite, but he obviously thought I was a fucking idiot -- and a double fucking idiot for not immediately calling the cops, for waiting nearly a year before getting the professionals in. Although, being a professional, he didn't say that in so many words.
He looked at the letters Steven had brought. Exhibit A, just in case the cops thought this was some kind of publicity stunt. “How many letters all together?”
Steve, who had done most of the talking while Lt. Moran listened and observed -- and probably caught me stealing looks at him -- said now, “We're not exactly sure. Sean threw them away at first. I'm not sure he ever accurately kept track.”
“How many letters, Sean?” Moran asked me, and I blinked. I'd been so used to being referred to as though I weren't present, it caught me off guard.
“Over two hundred letters and postcards,” I said.
Steve sucked in a sharp breath at that, but Moran didn't blink.
“And the tone of these letters is...?”
Steve said, “It's changed. At first they were friendly. Creepy but friendly. Dude kept asking for a job or money or gifts.”
“What kind of gifts?”
“He asked for an espresso machine and a BMW. We ignored those. We ignored everything. But he got more aggressive. The tone of the mail changed and he started approaching Sean in public. Then he started threatening him.”
“What kind of threats?”
Steve gave me a quick, uncomfortable look like he'd rather I didn't hear this, which was a little pointless given that Hammond had shouted right to my face he wanted me dead.
“He's threatened to make Sean pay, that kind of thing.”
Moran said patiently, “What kind of thing?”
“He's threatened to kill him.”
Something altered in Moran's posture, as though he were loosening his shoulders, readying for a fight. “Okay. In that case we can arrest him on making criminal threats and stalking. I see he's already violated the three-year restraining order you had slapped on him.”
“Yeah, see the problem is it's more complicated than that. He's disappeared,” Steve said a little impatiently. “We hired a PI to get all the information on him we could, and he's dropped out of sight. If it was just a matter of picking him up, we'd have hired a couple of bodyguards and let you get on with it.”
I started, “I don't want --”
We'd been over it a couple of times and Steve interrupted. “You don't want bodyguards. I know. You do want to live, though, and that's why we're here now. We should have been here nine months ago.”
He was right. I had no answer to that. Moran said, “Sean, just out of curiosity, why didn't you come to us when this started?”
Because it was embarrassing. Embarrassing to have it happen at all, and embarrassing not to be able to handle this on my own, to have to run for help, to have people poking and prying into my private life. Because I'd hoped if I ignored it, it would go away on its own.
I said, haltingly, like I didn't speak English very often, “I didn't want to get too aggressive in case it made it worse. It could have been a onetime thing. Sometimes it is.”
The blue eyes rested meditatively on my face and then Moran asked, “This has happened before?”
Steve said easily, “Not this. Last year two teenaged girls were caught trying to break into his house. It wasn't a big deal. And occasionally he comes home to find someone camped out on his deck wanting an autograph.”
I could see that Lt. Dan Moran thought this actually was a big deal.
Steve said, “So…how long do you think it will take?” He didn't check his watch, but it was clear he was thinking we were on a timetable, and I had to bite back what was probably an inappropriate laugh.
I glanced at Moran and he was watching me, and he smiled. It was a nice smile, reassuring -- and like he knew exactly what I was thinking. He said, “That depends partly on Mr. Hammond, but we'll try to make this as painless as possible.”
I said, “Thank you.” Practically the first words I'd offered of my own volition, and he said -- his eyes grave and blue as they met mine, “It'll be okay, Sean.”
It wasn't, though.
Copyright 2000-17, Josh Lanyon.
All rights reserved.