Spring, Part Five
A Solstice story
Start at the beginning of the Solstice series
Cary sat with his back against the great Solstice ash, lazily palming stones in his left hand to skip across the broad expanse of the Fox River. The days had turned warmer, though still not enough for his taste, and the bright yellow padded jacket he wore mirrored the color of the high, thin sun.
"Pleased with yourself, Mr. Schilling?"
The small envelope which landed in his lap bore no address, no postage. He turned to blink through thin glasses at the man before him.
"You're not the Sheriff."
"Full marks. I'm not as indirect, either." Corbin flashed a thin smile beneath his sunglasses.
"Oh, your letter was very polite." Cary returned the smile, wider and showing more teeth, though he remained sitting, to all appearances fully at his ease. "One of the nicest invitations it's ever been my pleasure to receive."
"Somehow I doubt that. A nice looking guy like you?"
"Flattery, too. I'd almost believe this was a pickup attempt if it weren't for the love letters in my lap."
"So what's your angle here?"
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"I told you, I'm not as indirect as MacIntyre. I'd like to know what you intend to do while you're staying with us in Solstice."
"Nothing the Sheriff or the law need to worry about," Cary sniffed. "I've every intention of remaining a model citizen as long as it pleases me to stay in town."
Corbin shrugged, lowering himself to sit on the riverbank as well. "You know what they say about good intentions."
"I know people will say whatever pleases them, or makes them feel more important. Which does a homily do for you?"
"We're keeping score, then?"
"Well, I am, as of now. You're more than welcome to play along from home."
"Another invitation from the man in black."
"You have a way of gathering them, I think. How's Duncan?"
Cary's eyes shifted. "Oh, he's all right, as far as delusional pseudo-saints are concerned. He's convinced that he can wake poor Johnny up just through force of will."
"Do you have an idea of how much he's already accomplished through force of will? There are plenty of stories running around."
"Ah, but not about Duncan, per se. Am I right?"
"You're far from wrong. So what's your story?"
"You don't have it figured out yet? I'm almost disappointed. Here I had you figured for the second coming of Sherlock Holmes, what with the digging after letters and such."
"I didn't say I don't have it figured out. I'd just be interested to hear it from you."
"I'd prefer to wait until Bacchus wakes up. Once that's settled we can all sit down and split a bottle of something pleasant. Maybe more than a bottle."
Corbin shook his head. "Have you ever actually drunk with Bacchus? It's not as much fun as you'd think."
"I think it's a pure joy, and of course I have. More than once, in more places than here. It must be something like four hundred times."
Corbin blinked behind the glasses. "That's pretty specific."
"Well, I'm the only one with a point so far. Consider that a handicap for your investigations."
"If you were the only one with a point, I wouldn't have the original copies of those letters back in a vault."
Cary laughed, a clear and bright sound across the water. "And have you spoken to any of the young ladies and gentlemen who purportedly wrote those letters, or answered them? Have you made any efforts to track them down yet?"
That jab straightened Corbin's back. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, no reason. None at all." Cary continued chuckling under his breath. "I'd be more than pleased to hear from any one of them, any time they cared to show up. I've got a hunch that they'll be disinclined to talk to the law, though."
"I'm not telling the exact truth. That's hardly the same, as I think you know."
Corbin settled back again, mouth pulled to one side in a half-grin. "Okay, then. Let's talk about Kim Soon."
"Oh, for hours." Cary skipped another stone across the water. "She's a beauty and no mistake. Honestly, it's rare that a young woman fetches my attention so quickly."
"It's even rarer that she appreciates it."
"You mean, it's even rarer that MacIntrye appreciates it."
"Are they fucking?"
"I don't think that's the Sheriff's style."
"Maybe not, but if it only were, am I right?" Cary winked. "One redhead and one Asian. You can't tell me that's a bad dream any way you slice it."
"I'm starting to believe you when you say you enjoy drinking with Bacchus."
"He enjoys it just as much as me. I think you'd be just as good a fit if you let yourself."
"You might be right, but as long as he's drifting through dreamland there'll be no chance to find out."
"When he wakes, then. Who should I call?"
"That's a seventh of a secret to you."
It was Cary's turn to blink, lazily. "That's pretty specific as well."
Corbin shrugged. "Formal preliminaries. So what's got you in Kim's orbit?"
With that, Cary palmed another stone and looked over the rims of his glasses. "Point ... older brother."
Corbin shook his head. "Sorry, but that's just clumsy. I don't doubt you're a good shot, but we both know this is too much fun to resort to throwing things just yet."
"Never crossed my mind. I'm hardly cut from the same cloth as your military friends."
Corbin sat perfectly still, smile not leaving his face. "The last time I had a friend in the military we were writing letters to soldiers for extra credit."
"Really? Vulcan's under the impression that Mars is being courted by your Sapphic Sheriff."
"Vulcan's traditionally under a lot of terribly mistaken impressions."
"Why do they bother you so much?"
"Vulcan and Bacchus. Me, for that matter."
"So you're already counting yourself among their number?"
"I hardly think you could call it a secret. I love Bacchus, and Vulcan does, too; whether he can admit it or not. As long as I'm in Solstice and as long as Bacchus doesn't mind, yes; I'm swelling the ranks of his friends."
"I have a feeling he won't mind."
"You do, though. You and the Sheriff alike, and whoever else bats for your team. Don't you think a roster would be more fair?"
"You'll work it out quick enough, even if Vulcan doesn't tell you."
They sat a few moments in silence, Cary fingering the stone in his palm, Corbin casting his eyes across the river to watch the traffic on the other bank. It was he who stood first, brushing the grass from his hands on his jeans.
"What are we playing for?" Cary asked cheerfully. "This isn't anything so crude as a Bunyan, I hope."
"No, no." Corbin shook his head. "To be honest, right now it's enough for me to just play. Something good always comes to the winner, whether he's aiming for it or not."
"Tsk. It's always more fun when there's skin in the game."
"Think it over and make a suggestion. You've got that email address, and I'm open to ideas."
"I think I will," smiled Cary. "Nice to meet you, stranger."
"Good to know where we stand," said Corbin, stepping forward. They shook hands, Cary's pale fingers twining around the back of Corbin's dark hand. "Send the email when you have a name to put to the face, and we'll start from there."
"Oh, I don't know. I'm fairly sure we started a while ago, and I'm better at catching up than I used to be."
"Just don't stop for a nap. I'd hate for this to be less interesting."
Cary's nose wrinkled. "Two to one."
"I make it three," said Corbin, nodding to the envelope.
"You make it wrong," Cary grinned. "But I'll be in touch before you figure that out."
Story and image by Ivan Ewert, Copyright 2010