For Det. Chandler Raymond, the fall from grace is sudden and short. Chapter one.
More in the prologue: "The Ventilator: A Rock and a Hard Place"
Det. Chandler Raymond had a gun and he was very much obliged to carry it. Every day, in fact.
The gun itself was something of an antique. It didn’t lock with a word, and unlock with an eye-scan or voice-print, or even a thumbprint. It could’ve and probably had been used by anyone with an index finger and/or a serious grudge.
That’s what he liked about it: the feeling that—irrational though it was—this gun could kill for him, when needed, possibly without his say-so. That it could take lives for him, if called to do so, and somehow spare the trod-upon carpet of his conscience.
Unfortunately it was unlikely to ever do so since, because of its antique and nigh untraceable nature, it was illegal to use as a service piece. So instead, this piece, this gun, this ventilator, remained in a concealed holster at the small of his back as a just-in-case. Passed down by Raymond’s father—himself a company man—to be carried by yet another Det. Raymond for the past twenty years.
And though Raymond doubted that, at this late date, he’d ever have a child on whom to pass the ventilator, he nevertheless carried it and cared for it with dedication and purpose. More than he showed his service pieces, even. And though everyone at the station house knew about the ventilator, and occasionally teased him about it—their own concealed pieces were much newer and snazzier—Raymond fancied himself a man with Excalibur in his back pocket.
Well. Perhaps a little higher than that.
“Keep strapping that caveman-thing there, baby, and one of these days you’re gonna fart, and blow your ass right off,” Trick had blown out yesterday morning, on the back of mentholated smoke, as he watched Raymond get dressed. This same exchange usually happened at least seven mornings out of the ten mornings per month they woke up next to each other.
As always, Raymond had snorted and buttoned his shirt, rolling his right shoulder and wincing. After a year, the doctors’ bullshit predictions about soreness and pain lessening ‘substantially’ had proven to be just that: bullshit.
But at least, Raymond had thought on more than one occasion, somewhere between gratefulness and irony, I jerk off left-handed.
“Probably,” he’d answered Trick. “But they’ll just pay to have it reattached. Just like they did with Ol’ Righty.” And having said that, Raymond had lifted his right arm—as high as he could lift it, anyway—and rotated it slowly, just to make plastic alloy tendons grate and pop against shaven-down bone.
Just to make Trick flinch, and roll over to face the window, huffing offended smoke at passing pigeons and at the rainy Seattle day just getting started.
When Raymond had finished dressing and arming himself, he stumped around the bed for a kiss good-bye, and got a half-lidded gaze and a face full of smoke for his troubles.
“Try not to get any of the bits I like blown off, will you? Including and not limited to your ass?”
Coughing dramatically, Raymond had stolen a kiss anyway, because he knew Trick would let him. And because, smoke be damned, Trick-kisses were always worth a little nicotine.
This morning, as he’s preparing to leave Trick’s place—despite the clutching of those arms and the worried look in those green-and-red, cried-out Christmas-eyes—the conversation is quite different. But it begins, as usual, when Raymond is dressing. He unconsciously starts searching around Trick’s bedroom for the ventilator, in earnest, before remembering . . . before firming his mouth into a grim line and buttoning his shirt as if nothing had happened.
And he thinks he’s gotten away with it, too . . . with pretending he doesn’t miss the damn thing—which has seen blood, but none of it spilled by Raymond—until Trick’s arms wrap around his waist, startling him.
“Stay with me, today . . . please? Please? I . . . I don’t wanna be alone." Despite a long shower, Trick smells like gun powder residue—everything does, after last night. It doesn’t help matters that Trick hasn’t touched a cigarette since Welch had snatched that one out of his mouth, last night. One of the last things Davis Welch had ever done.
“Please, baby? We can fuck, if you want, or do whatever, just . . . stay, Chandler. Please?”
Raymond meets those cried-out eyes in Trick’s vanity mirror and tries to smile before turning to face the normally smart-mouthed rent-boy who’d somehow, against all odds, made it under his skin.
Past his damned badge, even.
“Neither of us can afford a break in our routines—especially not for the next few weeks. When they find Welch’s body—and they will,” Raymond says firmly, his hands clenching on Trick’s lean biceps. Trick shudders, but nods dully. “When they find the body, you’re gonna be suspect number two. If only because, after they start asking around, they’ll find out about you and me . . . and I’ll likely be suspect number one. But suspicions are just that: suspicions. They need proof before they can do anything to either of us. Or they need one of us to slip up, or stray from the story, capiche?”
“Capiche.” Trick closes his eyes, but not before more tears leak out like prisoners over the wall. “I’m so sorry,” he says quietly, biting his lower lip. “I don’t know why I—it’s not like it was the first time he’d called me to come by in the middle of the night just so he could work me over. I could take it in my sleep, I swear I could. I knew what was coming and I was okay with it. Really, I was. . . .”
Then why’d you take my ventilator with you, when you went to meet him? Raymond wants to ask . . . but doesn’t. It won’t solve anything. Won’t make Trick less of a killer and himself less of a . . . dirty cop.
And anyway, he’s long suspected that at least some of the reasons Trick got “worked over” was Raymond, himself. In the world of Welch and scum just like him, even cops don’t get a taste without some kind of payment, be it in cash or protection.
Except for Raymond, it would appear, who hasn’t left any cash on Trick’s dresser in months, or offered Welch any sort of protection or even relevant intel about where and when busts are going down ever.
“Oh, God,” Trick moans suddenly, his whole body shaking as if it’ll fly apart. Sighing, Raymond pulls Trick into his arms and leans their foreheads together.
“It’ll be alright, babe,” he says, with no proof that it will be, just a hopeless sort of hope that, somehow, it can be.
Trick’s arms wrap panic-tight around his neck, his face hot and wet as it presses against Raymond’s throat. But not hotter and wetter than the desperate kisses Trick intersperses with equally desperate pleas for Raymond to stay, please, stay?
“I can stay till you fall asleep, kiddo, but then I gotta be at the station—“
“How can I ever sleep again?” Trick asks, shaking his head and sniffling. “After what I’ve done, how can I even go on? Oh, God. . . .”
“Because you have to. And you will,” Raymond says, smiling a little—more of a grimace than an expression of happiness, but when Trick looks up at him, he returns that grimace hopefully. Bounces up on his toes and kisses Raymond hard.
“I know you have to go, but . . . don’t leave me, yet, Chandler,” he hitches softly, his leaf-green eyes shining with unshed tears. “Don’t leave me alone.”
“I won’t, Patrick. I won’t.”
Raymond maneuvers them back towards Trick’s bed, but not before grabbing a bottle of rum—some ridiculously high-proofed shit, it turns out, and one of several emptied bottles of the same—off the dresser.
Trick, after a judicious amount of bad rum and comfort-sex, falls into a fitful sort of sleep that eventually deepens into a heavier doze. When he’s far gone enough for Raymond to disengage from him without waking him, Raymond does so, albeit reluctantly, rounds up his rumpled clothes from the floor, and gets dressed once more. He avoids his own gaze in the mirror as he does so.
And as he walks toward his station house without the tell-tale weight of the ancient ventilator at his back, he feels oddly unmanned. Incomplete. Light. He meets every eye along the way easily, grimly, as usual, and when he reaches the station house, there’s only a slight hesitation before he climbs the grimy stone steps to the busy front entrance. He grips the clammy, rusting guardrail as if his life depended on it because, unconscionably, he feels as if he might just float away, otherwise.
For Det. Chandler Raymond has a gun, yes, but not the gun. The unlicensed, illegal ventilator—passed down to him by several generations of Raymonds—that’d once represented his hope, his purity, and yes, his honor, now rests at the bottom of the Puget Sound, along with many others of its ilk.
And Raymond . . . well, the blood on his hands is only by association, but his palms are no less red for that—his soul no less stained.