Another sample from my current writing project, THE REZ.
By James Robert Smith
Represented by Robert Fleck of The Fleck Agency.
“Max. Heads up. Someone’s going to call,” Clyde said to him.
David Maxwell cringed at the sound of the voice. It was a good,deep, regular voice with a nice tone– just the shade of a mid-western accentthat had been mainly filed away from decades of government work. But it stillgot on his nerves when it crept up on him that way.
Instead of replying, he just sat for a moment andconsidered. He knew without asking what was coming and who (roughly speaking) wouldappear and why they would want to see him. It never changed. Instead of askingfor verification, though, he considered the glass tumbler full of Jamesonwhiskey, trying to remember if it was his second glass or third. He didn’t feelall that drunk, so he was thinking it was only two glasses. It wasn’t quite tenin the morning.
“I know what you’re going to ask me,” Clyde said. “And, yes,they want you to help them sneak into the Rez to find someone they love.”
Max stood up. He was a very tall man—six-foot-four as theyused to say in the day. For a moment he considered that tumbler again anddowned most of its contents before he could come up with a reason not to drinkit. And if someone was coming, he should probably get dressed. As it was, hewas standing in his kitchen wearing briefs and a tank top and nothing else. Ifhe’d thought that Clyde was going to show up, he would at least have put on arobe.
“Tell me again how you and Edgar met,” he asked his friend.
Through whatever barrier that separated Clyde’s exactposition in this world from David’s, he heard the ghost of the former AssistantDirector give out with a sigh. “I applied for a position. Unlike myother—unsuccessful—attempt to join the Bureau, this time Edgar saw the filepersonally and asked to see me.”
“Because he saw my photo. Yes, because he saw my photo andfound me attractive. He asked to see me. We met.” There was that ephemeral sighagain that hinted at more than just mild frustration. There was sweet nostalgiain it, too. “And the rest, as they say, is history. But unlike with otherpeople…me and Edgar…we really lived history. And made it,” he added.
Max turned and scanned the reaches of the house that hecould see. He was searching for sign of his friend. And that was certainly whatClyde was, these days. Initially the presence of him had been a horror and thena bother. But the fellow had grown on him. In the absence of anyone else ofsubstance (ha ha) in his life, Clyde served in the role of as good a friend as any. Sofar, he had no reason to doubt that friendship.
“Clyde?” David’s eyes bounced around the kitchen, looking.There were times when he couldn’t figure exactly where the voice was comingfrom. Especially if there was not corresponding input from his other senses.Once, his ghostly pal had laid a hand on his shoulder. The act had beencomforting at the moment. It was the only time they’d touched one another.
“Yes?” Clyde responded.
And, ah, there he was. Wearing a white suit, white hat,black shoes. And spats. That was something one rarely saw these days. His facewas long, with a strong jaw and a mildly bulbous nose above a smiling mouth. Hewas the young Clyde and not the aged one who had died long ago in DC. Maxfigured if you were a ghost you could be your younger self, if you felt likeit. But he’d never asked him about that detail. Clyde’s eyes were bright thismorning, unlike David’s which were bloodshot from another night of lousy sleep.
“And why is it that you haunt me?” Max asked the ghost ofClyde Tolson, one-time lover of arguably one of the most powerful men who everlived in the USA: J. Edgar Hoover.
“Because you are a strikingly handsome man, Max. I likelooking at you.”
“Well, if only I was gay and If only you were alive,” hesaid, raising the tumbler to the ghost and then draining the last little bit ofthe fine whiskey.
Quickly, then, Max put his long legs to work and strodeacross the dining room and down the hall toward the master bedroom where theshower was waiting for him. “Don’t look at my ass while I’m taking a shower,”he warned Tolson.
“I am, as always, a perfect gentleman,” the ghost told him.
In the bathroom Max decided that he would probably not havetime for a soak and just programmed the shower for eighty-five degrees andwaited while the water heated as he adjusted the jet for a massage effect. Withthe water pattering on pale marble he slid the opaque glass door aside, steppedout of his sweat-soaked underwear and into the loving embrace of the warm water.It was wonderful.
Above the racket of streams on the pale marble surface, hecalled out. “And who are these people who are going to want to see me?”
“The usual,” Tolson’s voice, volume slightly louder.“There’s someone…over there. In the Rez. Innocent, of course. Whole thing is amisunderstanding and they just want to rescue them. If that’s possible. Andyour name, of course, came up.”
“Of course,” Max whispered.
Max wasn’t sure if Clyde was really being a gentleman or ifhe was just pretending. But in the steamy air of the bath it really didn’tmatter, he figured. All the ghost would see of him would be a tower of fleshtones hiding in the swirling bit of billowing vapor.
“Nothing,” Max called out. And as the water removed the soaphe’d lathered on to his now cleansed body, he stepped out of the shower andgrabbed one of the rough, cotton towels and swabbed himself dry. Reaching outwith the cloth, he dried off a bit of the mirror and tried to look at himselfin the polished surface. All of his life he’d been told that he wasgood-looking. Sometimes he was described as ‘devastatingly handsome’, whateverthe Hell that meant. Once, Clyde had told him that Max had reminded him of CaryGrant. Who even knew who Cary Grant was, these days?
Max made a puffing sound at his image and turned. Cary Grant, my ass, he thought.
The stubble that had been sprouting from his chiseledfeatures was soon swirling down the drain of his sink—polished granite of graytones with bits of quartzite mixed in. He’d paid a lot for that damned sink. Hebrushed his teeth with a regular old toothbrush and washed his mouth out withListerine to cleanse his palate of that good whiskey. Later, he’d reintroducehimself to that bottle and kill it off. He could be a real bastard that way, heknew.
Minutes later he was once again in the midst of his house.This time he was in what passed as his office: a couple of laptop computers, adesk, some portable hard drives, and a stack of notebooks. And, of course,there were the boxes of collectible comic books arranged on the floor, alongwith the various tallies of that collection and want lists for futurepurchases. And next to the desk were some very old-fashioned file boxes made ofcorrugated cardboard where he stored what were now over two thousand recipesfor all manner of dishes and breads that he sometimes cooked.
Those recipe files and comic book lists had been Clyde’sidea. Max had to admit that it was all very clever. Actually, he cared not onewhit for old comic books and had to force himself to cook any of the vast arraysof recipes over which he only seemed to obsess.
“Well, I guess you’d better tell me more about these peoplewho want to see me,” he said to the ghost. But there was no reply. Clyde waslike that. Sometimes he was there, and other times he was not. Max had yet tofigure out the manner of the ghost’s manifestations. Tolson had come out of theRez with him once, and had never quite left. Max hadn’t figured out how theshade of the dead former Assistant Director of the FBI had managed to squeezeout of that place when nothing else could. Buthe had. He’d tagged along somehow, and that was all there was to it.
Nothing else had ever done that—crossed over from the Rezinto the real world. Nothing else, of course, but David Maxwell and those hewas sometimes able to rescue. But generally speaking, you had to be alive tocross back over.
At the point when Max figured that Clyde was gone for awhile, the voice finally spoke up, again in the same room, and again makingDavid flinch a bit. He really did wish that Clyde would cut that shit out.
“Too late,” Tolson said to him. “They’re already here.”
And with that, the doorbell chimed: a quick and cheerfulpinging of electronic notes that sang something that had always been familiarto Max but which he had never quite placed. It had come with the joint and he’dnever had the bells replaced.
He turned and could see his image reflected in the glass ofone of the landscape paintings on the office wall. It was an image of MountKatahdin, in Maine. Superimposed over that striking peak delineated inimaginative strokes of grey and blue, he could see himself standing there:white shirt, blue tie, navy slacks to match, white sneakers.
Max adjusted his cuffs, turned on his heel and went toanswer the door.