Gage didn’t answer him. He remained standing there, wondering whether or not he was going to sleep with Jase. He hadn’t thought much about it. But now that Luis had mentioned it, he knew it was something he’d have to decide very soon.
“At least change the radio station before you leave,” Luis said. One of those twangy country songs started to play. Something about leaving clothes hanging outside on the clothesline and leaving suds in a big bucket.
“I’ll be back on Monday,” Gage said, smiling as he listened to the words of the country song. Then he walked to the door without looking back, as Luis continued to beg and plead.
On his way down the steps, Gage had to admit this wasn’t as simple as he thought it would be and he was starting to have second thoughts about leaving Luis there all alone. But as much as he wanted to go back and release Luis, he couldn’t stop now. He’d already gone this far and it would have been a waste of time to turn back. He never would have found out why he and his twin brother were so different if he set Luis free now. And he still wanted to even up the score for all the nasty, competitive things Luis had done to him in the past, the most important of which was Luis stealing his first love, Snake, the man Gage was still in love with after all these years. If Gage did sleep with Jase that weekend, it would serve Luis right for ruining his chances with Snake. Then there was the issue regarding their mother and father. Luis just left all the responsibility on Gage’s shoulders, never once calling or writing to see how things were. Gage had spent the best years of his life caring for two old people who cared more about Luis than him.
Before he left the alleyway, Gage pulled the baseball cap down and hunched forward. He walked down the street faster than usual to reach the car. Maybe if Luis had apologized to him for stealing his lover and leaving him in Tennessee to take care of his parents, Gage would have set him free. Maybe if Luis had apologized for always making him feel inferior, Gage wouldn’t have continued with this bizarre plan. He knew what he was doing wasn’t rational. It was childish at best and criminal at worst. And he knew he’d eventually wind up in serious trouble for doing this to Luis. But when a person thinks he doesn’t have any options left, and his entire world comes crashing down around them, he does things he would never do under normal circumstances.
While Gage was packing, the dog sat on a bench at the end of the bed and gaped at him. At least he wasn’t snarling anymore, mainly because Gage kept feeding him sugar cookies to win him over.
Gage had to pack fast. It was almost noon and he wanted to get to Cider Mill Farm before Jase and the little kid arrived. He needed to look around and get to know the place on his own so he wouldn’t look completely baffled in front of Jase and the kid. Gage wasn’t even sure which key opened the front door. He’d have to go through all the keys on Luis’s key ring and figure it out on his own. At least he’d been lucky enough to find a small piece of paper in Luis’s desk that had security codes for both the New York house and Cider Mill Farm. He’d taken the codes and written them down on a separate piece of paper and hidden it in his back pocket, along with the phone number the handsome dark taxi driver had given him.
Luis’s closet, though filled with clothes, turned out to be less exciting than Gage had imagined it would be. At a closer glance, Luis’s clothes were far more conservative than he would have imagined. There were tons of white dress shirts, crewneck sweaters, and T-shirts in subtle shades of beige, gray, and pale blue. There was a row of polo shirts in the same colors, with the occasional olive or pale green. His slacks were either jeans or casual chinos. There was a row of dress slacks, but they were just as quiet and conservative as the rest of Luis’s clothes. And he had five or six black sport jackets. But not many formal suits and ties. Gage knew everything in Luis’s closet was expensive and well tailored, but he was surprised to see that most of the clothes Luis owned were things he would have bought for himself, including the black and brown leather shoes.
When the small Gucci bag was packed with everything Gage thought he would need that weekend, he turned off the lights in the bedroom and tapped his leg for the dog to follow him downstairs. He decided not to bother with the security system. If Jase asked, he’d just say he forgot. It took two more cookies to get the little runt off the bench and down the front staircase, and three more cookies after that to get him to submit to the leash Gage had to hook up to his small black collar. But the dog sat in the back seat of the Cadillac all the way out to Cider Mill Farm without making a sound, as if he were so used to this trip it meant nothing to him. It was a shame the dog couldn’t talk and help with directions, because when Jase finally crossed the bridge from New Jersey into Pennsylvania, he had a few problems finding Cider Mill Farm.
He drove around in circles, admiring the rolling hills of Bucks County, trying to find the house. He tried using the navigation system in the car, but it wasn’t accurate enough to lead him there directly. Finally, by sheer luck, as he was driving up a narrow tree-lined road, an older man who was pulling letters out of his rural mailbox turned and waved at him. Gage took a quick breath and slowed down. He stopped beside the older man’s mailbox and lowered the passenger window.
“How was your week?” the old guy asked. “It’s been perfect fall weather out here all week. I can smell it in the air.” He spoke with an affected, singsong lilt, and his silver hair had a slight hint of blue. He had a large round stomach and a warm smile and he reminded Gage of Santa Claus—the gay version, with a professional manicure. Evidently the old guy knew Luis because the dog in the back seat started barking and wagging his tail.
Gage looked at the old guy’s mailbox fast. He saw the black numbers and knew he had to be close to Cider Mill Farm. Above the numbers, he read the name “Reverend Thomas von Klingensmith.” They lived near a reverend? Maybe he was one of those gay ministers Gage had read about. Gage smiled and said, “It was nice in New York, too.”
The Reverend leaned on the passenger door and reached back to pat the top of the dog’s head. “Hey, Camp. How you doing back there?” Then he laughed and said, “I just said to myself this morning, I said, ‘Thomas, I’ll bet Luis comes out here early today.’ And here you are.”
Good thing Gage hadn’t tried to pronounce the old guy’s name right away. The old guy referred to himself as Tho-mas, with the accent on the last syllable, not the first. Pronouncing the Reverend’s name wrong could have sparked suspicion. Gage decided he’d better be more on guard when it came to these things.