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The Journey of Rick Heiden
All Rights Reserved © 2021, Rick Haydn Horst
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Before David, I had unhealthy relationships. I suspect never having dated as a gay teenager as the cause, not because I didn’t want to or even due to overprotective parents. I couldn’t because I grew up a student in a rural county of the Southern United States.
Historically, my culture castigated gayness so severely that they made every effort to marginalize, harm, and hinder anyone lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The extent of their ferocity reached record highs before the era that we forced them to content themselves with frowning, judging, and letting their god deal with us. For hundreds of years, the authorities of the age made our existence illegal. Anyone sentenced for this perceived crime–depending on where and when they lived–could expect jail time, the torture of hard labor in prison, castration, or even the death penalty, and that included the United States, the supposed land of the free. This caused hundreds of years of lives lived in the closet.
So, while the Age of Enlightenment and Humanism helped pull the teeth of religion, which lessened its homophobic rancor for a time –where they had an influence– in parts of the world, little or nothing changed at all.
In my era and geographic locale, parents and churches encouraged teenagers to one day settle into a monogamous relationship, get married, and have a few kids. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that’s unacceptable; however, it assumed that everyone’s peg fit the same round hole. Their worldview had no room for nuance.
The community at large didn’t provide LGBT people with encouragement; instead, they gave us the pressure to conform to their expectations regardless of the outcome, and upon failing that, struggle, suffering, and rejection. During my early life, I had a view of all the negativity and biased scrutiny gay people were given by the media. They slandered, libeled, and maligned us across television and newspapers for decades. I got years of an unendurable level of bullying in school, involving physical and emotional abuse because of my gayness. And lastly, I had a front-row seat witnessing the repercussions of a multitude of hellfire and damnation at the local churches. This left me paralyzed with fear, trapped in a closet, and with no practice at relationship building at all. No wonder my first relationships during my early twenties turned into such disasters.
In those early years, I instituted a personal policy of keeping potential suitors at a distance. I realize now that played into the desire of my culture that I should remain single and lonely. I did that with David, and lucky for me, he put up with it. Cadmar’s presence in my life snuck up on me, and given our circumstances, it felt a little too late to make that attempt with him.
I won’t say that in my mind, I remained entirely faithful to David; we cannot control the stray thoughts that run through our heads. And I didn’t have enough life experience to understand what I wanted, or when it came to Cadmar and David, whether I loved either, neither, or both of them.
I was glad that Cadmar showed up. When we found David, I believed that if I could choose David in his presence without reticence, then I had made an honest choice. However, Cadmar’s indomitable ability to wait would make that choice more complicated.
As I stood before him, my comfort level dropped, and I looked anywhere except at him. “Very well, I agree for you to stay.” My eyes wandered the room. “Do you promise not to hug and kiss me as you did on the roof of the hospital?”
The fingers of his right hand gently guided my chin, tipping my head enough to make me look him in the eye. “I promise you, I will not.”
I grabbed his hand, so warm to the touch. “You want to wear me down until I gave in, don’t you?”
“No, I would never-“
I pushed his hand away. “I know you’re waiting for me!”
He grew alarmed. “Rocke should not have told you that!”
“Do you understand how unfair that is?” I asked. “It would have been better if I didn’t know. Now, if I choose David, it feels like a temporary choice regardless.”
He stopped and tilted his head slightly. “Do you mean to say you want to be with me?”
“Did I just say that?”
“That’s what it sounded like,” he said.
“I don’t know, Cadmar. You make the decision seem easy standing there like–” (like nothing else mattered). I took an uneasy breath and turned away so I couldn’t see him. “–like I haven’t promised myself to David.”
My mobile rang; what a relief to think about something other than Cadmar. I rushed to where it lay on the bed and answered it. istanbul travesti “Hello, Amanda. Just so you know, I have you on speakerphone in the penthouse with Captain Cadmar of the SJS Offenbach. Is that okay?”
“Yes, that’s fine,” she said. “Hello, Captain Cadmar.
“Hello, again, Ms. Newton,” he said.
“You’re welcome to call me Amanda,” she said. “Is the Offenbach with you?”
“It’s in orbit.”
“Okay, good,” she said, “just establishing who has what and where they are. I would appreciate it if you would try to keep the use of it inside our airspace at a minimum.”
“I can do that,” he said.
“Thank you. Can I expect any other ships through the portal?”
I looked at Cadmar. “I shouldn’t think so.”
“Good to know,” said Amanda. “O’Byrne is in the alps.”
“Which alps, the Swiss?” I asked.
“No, the Dolomites, in the little village of Cimolais, Italy. I’ll text you the address. Consider me not available unless you have information about David. I’m leaving now to join my family at St. Pancras station. Be careful and good luck.”
“Have a good time with your family.”
The instant we rang off, she texted me the address in question, and I looked it up. “Yep, it’s a pretty little village.”
“Is it? Let me see.” I handed him the mobile. “Everyone will see the Berlioz when it lands.”
“At this time of day?” I asked. “No, by the time we get there, we should have enough darkness. The sun sets fairly early this time of year.”
“Do you intend to leave now?”
“Yep. Attendant…bring the ship to the balcony outside–don’t land, just hover–and then open the hatches, please. Captain Cadmar, do you have everything you need?”
He looked me in the eye. “I do now.”
I stared at him and with no hint of a smile. “You do know not to do that in front of David, right?”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t do that.”
“No, you shouldn’t. See this face? It’s my work-face.” I took a deep breath. “Look, I don’t know what I want, but I do know this. You’re a nice guy, Cadmar; I like you a lot. And through no conscious choice of my own, I’ve discovered you’re a phenomenally good lover, but I need more than that. If you want to impress me, you’re going to have to work for it, and I have news for you, David’s way ahead of you. So, you’re probably waiting for nothing. Now, let’s move this balcony furniture, the Berlioz will arrive in half an hour.”
From the balcony, we saw the sun peek for a split second from beneath the clouds on the far western horizon. That meant the temperature would begin to drop. We moved the furniture, used the facilities, and readied ourselves for the ship. We sat waiting on two chairs at the side of the balcony for a few minutes.
Cadmar said nothing to me since I told him what I had, but I knew he was thinking. Once he had prepared himself for what he would say, he let me know.
“I wish Rocke hadn’t told you that I would wait because I never intended to tell you. I planned to wait in silence.
“I shouldn’t have done that on the hospital roof, I apologize. But I won’t lie to you, I don’t regret what happened between us that night. I see it as a beautiful accident, and if nothing again occurs, I will learn to live with that.
“And I deserved what you said to me earlier,” he said. “I appreciate how strong and capable you’ve become. I admire your perseverance and determination, and I cherish the privilege of knowing you before you found your footing. I see you as exceptional, and David as lucky to have you.”
“I’m not exceptional,” I said. “I’m just trying to catch up to where I think I would be if life hadn’t knocked me down long ago. And I forgive you. Let’s move on and see what happens.”
“You genuinely think yourself common, don’t you? You lived as a professional interpreter, where does that fit into your life now?”
I shrugged. “I did what I could do at the time to make money. I still have my interpreter skills, but I have a responsibility to myself and to the people I care about to be more.”
“But not everyone discovers they can be more,” said Cadmar, “and of those that do, few of them try, and even fewer succeed. That makes you exceptional.”
I thought about what Cadmar said. When I lived in the American South, I would hear, don’t get above your raisin’. It’s an unfair, hackneyed expression designed to hold people back. My family never used it, and my parents wanted me to do better than they did, but families like ours were not the only kind. I witnessed a lot of reverse-snobbery, and I knew someone rejected by his family because he went to college. Those petty jealousies, woven into the cultures of Earth, have links to money and class conflict. Whether they deem someone above their raisin’ or a sellout, people hold back others of their own group and socioeconomic status or shame those people who have improved their lot through what the Filipinos called crab mentality. “If I can’t have it, then neither istanbul travestileri can you.” David would have pointed to it as one of Earth’s many progress impeding mechanisms.
The Berlioz arrived, hovering over the balcony. We climbed aboard and stowed our gear, remembering to retrieve our wrist lights.
As we settled into the cockpit, Cadmar turned to me. “Just so you know, as far as I’m concerned, you’re always in charge.”
“Do you never want to take charge?”
“In an emergency, I can, but there’s only one place I prefer to take charge, and you know where that is. Besides, I know far less about this planet than you. Will you fly us directly to the address?”
I sat there for a second, trying to catch up with everything he had just said to me, and I chose to ignore the innuendo. “No…no, I think I saw a good spot on the map.”
I set the navigation for our destination, and we made lift-off. It would take no time at all to get to the village as the crow flies (if a crow could fly at Mach 10). The time zones created an hour difference between London and Cimolais, so when we arrived, the sun had already set, but the sky had yet to reach pure darkness, and the snow covering the ground reflected the little light that remained.
I had the screens on night vision so we could make out details.
“What’s that mound and little building?” asked Cadmar. “That looks like a good spot.”
“If I’m not mistaken, that’s part of a methane gas well.”
The building, not much larger than a garden shed, proved adequate to conceal the ship from the village. Its security light allowed us to see around the Berlioz when we climbed out.
My wrist light illuminated tracks in the snow next to the ship.
I took in the view. I couldn’t see much, except the village lights in the distance about half a kilometer away. An internet photo of the area showed that most of the valley was as flat as a lake, the points of the surrounding craggy mountains jutted from it with hardly a foothill, and they seemed so close one could reach out to touch them. I would have loved to have seen it during the day.
I stood looking at the image on my mobile to get my bearings. “I see why O’Byrne picked this place to live. It’s lovely.”
A snowball struck the side of my head.
“What are you doing?” I wiped the snow from my face. Unfortunately, some of it slipped beneath my shirt collar. “We don’t have time for this.”
He hurried around to my side of the ship. “Why not? You took the time to admire this place, and I used the same amount of time to make a snowball. Look at this stuff!” He held out his bare hands full of snow, it glistened in the light of the security lamp.
“It’s just snow,” I said. “I take it this is your first time.”
“Oh!” Cadmar threw down the snow, dried his hands on his pants, and tucked them into his jacket under his arms.
He had me laughing.
“Okay,” he said, “that fun lasted about a minute. Snow is surprisingly cold. I’m accustomed to a more tropical climate. Why are you laughing? Is it because I’m acting like a big kid playing in the snow?” He beamed a smile at me.
“On the contrary,” I said, “for your first time seeing snow, it took you 60 seconds to discover that snow, in of itself, is not all that interesting. I think that’s an adult realization. Let’s see if David’s here.”
I began walking toward the village with Cadmar beside me. I recalled the number of times that David and I had strolled together chatting and that night in Venice when we held hands on the way to meet the Rabbi. I suddenly had an odd sensation. When I looked over at Cadmar for a moment, I could barely see his face, but I expected to see David, yet Cadmar tromping along beside me didn’t feel wrong, merely different. I decided I should discuss something rather than continue ruminating, and it led to an unusual interaction.
“May I ask you something personal?”
“Sure,” he said.
“Why have you stopped wearing your Trust uniform?”
He thought about it for a moment. “One could say I’m on sabbatical from the Trust.”
“Is this due to blaming yourself for not looking both ways before crossing the street in London?”
“No,” said Cadmar. “I’m… I’m not sure this conversation is a good idea.”
A thought suddenly came to me. I stopped on the road as we stood by the entrance to the local walled cemetery, and Cadmar stopped when I did. I pointed my wrist light at his jacket, his face in shadow. “You intended to remain on sabbatical for as long as you would wait for me, didn’t you? Why would you do that?”
“You’re the one reading me,” he said, “you tell me.”
It only took a moment, and I felt my eyes welling up. “You love me that much.”
He brought his face before mine, his eyes shiny and wet. “This,” he said, “we do not have time for. I do not want your knowledge of my feelings to undermine the loyalty you have for your mate. Let’s find David. Nothing else matters travesti istanbul right now. So, please, put your work face back on, and let’s do this. Okay?”
I nodded and sniffled. “Right.”
For a strange moment, I couldn’t tell if the tears welling in my eyes were mine or if they were Cadmar’s, and the implications of that frightened me a little. That had never happened before, not like that, and I wondered if the Prime Sharer enhancement had more to it than I realized. I tamped that down for the moment, took a deep breath, and concentrated on the task at hand. I began walking again. “Attendant…activate Bright-Eyes.”
I heard in my ears, through a local connection to my communication enhancement, a voice close to the subvocal range, the word “test.”
“I can hear you,” I said.
Venn devised Bright-Eyes as a means of protection. The Berlioz had no armaments but would protect its occupants rather well. Away from that protection, they had only the weapons they carried. So, Venn employed a few defenses to help protect the captain, so the captain could protect any passengers. Bright-Eyes extended the focus of the Attendant to more than the captain’s needs and commands. It utilized its observation abilities to provide vital information about who and what lay beyond the captain’s vantage point. While on Jiyū, the mode went through minor testing, so its effectiveness in a real scenario remained unknown.
“I heard about Bright-Eyes,” said Cadmar. “Venn is incredibly innovative. I wish I had that one.”
“It’s experimental, so let’s bloody hope it works.”
The streetlights illuminated our surroundings well enough at the main road that we could switch off our wrist lights. We passed the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, where the hardscaped roadway lay exposed, and to the paved area beyond. On both sides of the road, fully restored homes lay connected alongside others in various levels of dilapidation as often occurs in Italian villages. Through the winding streets, we eventually found the right address. O’Byrne had an alpine villa in a secluded spot toward the back of Cimolais as it neared the mountains.
We climbed the steps of the covered stoop and knocked the snow that caked our boots onto the large black rubber mat intended for such use. The noises attracted the attention of a man who came to the door. We could see one another in the exterior lighting. He appeared to be thirty-five, handsome, clean-shaven with dark hair. He stood with his face, which held an unsmiling look of astonishment, in little more than a crevice of the opened entryway.
“Posso aiutarla? (May I help you?),” said the man.
I didn’t speak fluent Italian, but I knew enough to get my point across. “Se questa è la villa di Clement O’Byrne, allora sto cercando David Levitt (If this is the villa of Clement O’Byrne, then I’m looking for David Levitt).”
His eyebrows rose slightly. He invited us into the warmer foyer area.
“Uno momento (One moment).” Suspicious, he watched us until he turned the corner.
The inside of the home had white walls and wood trim. The high vaulted ceiling with its finished wood beams gave the atmosphere a more chalet-like feel in the spacious foyer, which included a gas fireplace with a seating area. I noticed that a tiny CCTV camera stared at us from the corner before us.
The man returned. “Capitano (Captain).” He gestured that we should follow him.
Getting recognized always seemed strange, and he already knew to call me captain.
He brought us through the building and out the back. It alarmed me until I saw the enormous, covered veranda, and before us, just out from under the roofline, sat an in-ground mineral spa with creamy blue water. It didn’t bubble, but in the light, I saw vapor rising into the freezing air. An enormous television on the wall showed the view from the front door camera split-screened with an internet website about Jiyū with a photo of me taken by George in the lobby earlier and a short biography.
Two attractive women in their early 30s and a man in his 60s were soaking in the heated spa, sans clothing, like Japanese macaques in a hot spring. The man kept himself shaven with gray hair and his arms around the shoulders of the two women. He gestured that I should come closer; standing a foot from the spa, I squatted so as not to tower over them. The man who guided us there remained standing behind Cadmar to the left. “Male, holstered weapon, 4 meters, 220º,” according to the Attendant.
“Captain Heiden,” said the man in the spa, “mate to David Levitt.”
“Clement O’Byrne,” I said, “also known as Lefty Handler.”
He shook his head. “Lefty’s dead.”
“Uh-huh. And you’ve been keeping an eye on the website about us, I see.”
“We’re not the only ones,” he said. “It’s been up a month and has nearly four billion hits. So, you’re looking for David too. He didn’t show this morning, but you’ll do.”
“Do for what? Why would David come here?”
“I invited him. I have information to give him.”
“Why would David trust you?”
“Because like your humble self,” he said, “I, along with these two lovely ladies, Nicola, and the rest of my entourage, live in exile of the United States.”
“Why would they exile you? Are they cleaning house?”
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