The road, long and winding, was orange and dusty, and Morgan could tell that someone was coming that morning as he sat in the empty barbershop lathered for a shave. That Sunday was unusually slow and the absence of the gathering of men made he and Nate, the barber, especially sensitive to someone else’s approach. Morgan had come that morning to ready himself for the gentleman’s ball that evening. Everyone else was over at the church, especially in a fervor this morning due to the hex that Maggie Windhall had cast on them the other morning when they refused to buy her too-early picked corn. Morgan had no time for such folly. As the sheriff of Wingdale County, he was an important man. Heaped on top of the adoration and doting that was already given him as the attractive son of the most esteemed (not to mention the wealthiest) black family in Wingdale county, his role as sheriff almost made people afraid to touch him as he venerated such authority and esteem. He was 32 years old, an eligible bachelor and the most revered man in the county. His stature in the county was even further enhanced by the fact that there were no whites living in the county.
His grandfather, Arthur Wingdale, had inherited the huge plantation house and hundreds of acres from his white father. With it he also inherited the respect ( and the mortgages of the throngs of Blacks that populated Wingdale county most of whom were his father’s former slaves who had moved off of the plantation into plots bought from the Wingdale family. His father had settled into town, establishing himself as a banker and proceeded to look after his father’s estate up until his death right after Morgan’s twentieth birthday.
Morgan sat up from being lathered and both he and Nate peered down the road to see what was approaching. Out of the clouds of orange dust appeared a little speedster, sleek and black, the snout longer than the body of the car. In the front seat, Morgan saw a lithely built man, young and sprightly looking and very well dressed. His car stopped in front of the barbershop and he stepped out and came up the steps to where the men sat. “Good morning gentlemen.” His soft curls were trim on his head and his golden skin looked young and free of any care in the world.
“Howdydo?” Nate tipped his hat at the young man.
“Hello,” Morgan nodded in his direction. “You’re new around here.” He said after a slight pause.
“That I am,” he said with a slight chuckle. “Name’s Alister Reeves,” he said and extended his hand.
“I’m Morgan. This is Nate. What are you doing here in town?” Nate stood behind him, quietly preparing the shave.
“ Well,” said Alister, pulling off his hat and sitting down to tell his story. “ I just made a bit of money over at the riverboat and I aims to settle in here and make a living for myself.
“Oh really?” Nate asked, tilting Morgan’s head back to shave him. “What kind of business you set on establishing?” Nate looked up with interest. “I just bought the grocery over on Quarter Street from the Widow Rockefeller.” Morgan looked up at that. “ So you bought the old man Rockefeller’s grocery?! He spoke with surprise.
“How you planning to make a success out of that now that Herman’s got two groceries on both sides of Abbottville?” Nate asked.
“I specks I’ll just make the best with what I can. I’m not trying to get rich, just make a living for myself.“ Morgan saw an earnestness behind his eyes and studied him with intent as he freshened up after his shave. He rose, adjusted his clothes and got ready to leave.
“You should come to the gentleman’s ball tonight. Meet a lot of people there.” He shook Alister’s hand once again
“Yea, lotsa ladies’ll be there.” Nate chimed in. Alister took his seat in the barber’s chair.
“I’ll come by then.”
“See you there.” Morgan cocked his hat and pointed his finger at Alister, acknowledging his response. “Afternoon gentleman.” With that he turned and left the shop. Morgan went home, poured himself a drink and sat down in front of the door length mirror in the drawing room to impose upon himself a little high to sustain himself until time to get dressed for the party.
Morgan walked a bit slew-footed into the silver bespackled ballroom after he arrived at the Gentleman’s Ball. It wasn’t a natural affliction, but an art that he perfected because it made all of the ladies fawn over him, treating him with the sympathy they reserved for the helpless. He removed his hat from his head and held it against his chest as he leaned against the wall to observe the room. Standing there, his white linen suit and peach silk shirt covering his 6’1 eggshell-colored frame, Morgan Wingdale cut an attractive figure. The music was playing, a sprightly jitterbug. Morgan walked over towards Alice Meleuse who stood near the opposite wall, laughing and talking to the fairy and the debutante that stood on either side of her. She twirled her fingers through her curls as she talked.
“Alice Meleuse, I swear every time I see you, you have your fingers tousling in your hair. What, pray tell, might explain such a fickle habit?” Alice giggled at Morgan’s jest, pointed her finger at his stomach and jabbed him a couple of times.
“Keep up your pestering and I’m gonna poke you!” A wide, smiling laugh overtook her face. The tall, brown-skinned queen and the young debutante broke out into anxious laughter.
“So, shall I be the first one to dance with you this evening?” Morgan posed the question to her.
“Not hardly,” she gave a snide retort, “and definitely won’t be dancing with me anytime soon. The next one I dance with ,” she ran her fingers under Morgan’s chin, “will be that handsome newcomer Alister Reeves, the one who took over Old Man Rockefeller’s store.” Morgan smiled and nodded.
“Ah, so I see you’ve met the newcomer already.”
“Of course, I’ve met him. You don’t think a new, eligible young bachelor could come into town and me not know him already.” She cut her eyes at him. Alice Meleuse was a beautiful light-skinned fawn, the color of coffee in milk, and she radiated a regalness as she stood before him clothed from head to foot in white brocaded silk and diamonds. Alice came from good stock. Wingdale county, along with its native former slaves, was home to an important class of bourgeois Blacks who had made their way to Kentucky from Louisiana. They were propertied and mostly owned businesses around the county. Alice’s father owned the most prosperous furniture store in the area and was a favorite of whites throughout the state and the region. Morgan glanced towards the door and there was Alister coming into the ballroom, walking towards him.
“Good evening, Morgan.” Alister spoke.
“Glad you could make it.” Morgan slapped him on his back.
“Well, hello Mr. Reeves,” Alice cooed and extended her hand for him to kiss. “Now that you’re here, we can have that dance you promised me.” Everyone around had a light chuckle at Alice’s curt tone. Alister took her hand and escorted her onto the floor. Morgan turned and watched them on the floor for a minutes then strayed off into another corner of the room. After circulating a few times, pecking the cheeks of the eligible women in Abbotville, Morgan turned and left to go home.
That next Wednesday, Morgan sat behind his desk at the sheriff’s office looking at the dust blowing up in the road as the heat bore down in the middle of the day. Things were getting really rough for most of the people in Wingdale County. 1936 was a bleak and bitter year and few were lucky enough to even come up short. The soup lines that the city provided were getting strained and the deplorable poverty that was taking over troubled him deeply. The rub of it all was the desolation that the Depression brought along with it. Everything seemed more slothful, dirty, and bleak. The wino’s seemed more broken up and dingy when he escorted them into the jail to sleep off their hangovers. The factory workers seemed especially harsh as they beat their wives. The town seemed to be covered with dirty blue clouds.
Morgan was deep in thought behind the typewriter on his desk when a man walked into his office. He wore a black old-fashioned detectives coat, a throwback to Sherlock Holmes, with a matching cap, the same color pants and black shoes polished to a remarkable shine. He moved slowly towards Morgan’s desk and sat down.
“Hello,” the man managed to make out, sucking in his breath a bit.
“Good afternoon,” Morgan replied turning his attention to him. “ What may I do for you ?”
“My name is Douglass Scott. I’m with the Louisville Police Department.” The golden-skinned man extended his hand and he and Morgan shook. Douglass shifted in his seat. Morgan was anxious to hear what Mr. Scott had to say. “It’s come to our attention that a local grocery was purchased by a Mr. Alister Reeves.”
“Yes, I’ve met him.” Morgan felt a rush of heat down in the pit of his stomach. “What’s this about?” He adjusted his tie.
“We believe Mr. Reeves may be a member of a mob ring we’re tracking.” Morgan opened his mouth, trying to speak, but nothing came out. Douglass Scott interrupted him. “We’re not sure, but we think that the store might be a front for a cash and heroin operation.” Morgan sat speechless. “Now, we don’t want you to say anything to Mr. Reeves or do anything just yet. All we’re asking is that you watch him, keep tabs on him, and report anything you might find to us. Would you do that?” Morgan leaned forward and exhaled.
“Sure. I’ll keep my eyes and ears open.” Morgan clasped his hands together and leaned in towards Mr. Scott, close enough to feel the heat coming from his body. “We would highly appreciate your help.” Scott rose and started for the door. “Have a good day Mr. Wingdale.” Morgan threw up his hand at Douglass Scott as Scott made his exit, the door banging loudly behind him. Morgan was dumbstruck. He got up from his chair and began to pace around the room. He had found Alister Reeves a pleasant enough man. Yet, his charm and charisma was almost frightening to him. He now had an excuse to hang around him more often, which made him determined to uncover the key to to the man who was so well hidden behind his toothy grin. Morgan stayed in his office the rest of the day, avoiding the heat. He decided he would make a visit over to Reeves’ store on Monday.
Morgan looked cool and relaxed when he stepped inside the grocery, wearing thick jeans and a cotton shirt. Alister was out of sight, several isles over stocking some shelves. Morgan’s heavy shoes were loud and could be heard before he came into Alister’s line of vision.
“Who’s there?” Alister asked.
“Its Morgan Wingdale.”
“Ah, come on back Morgan. Help me with these crates, would you?” Alister responded heaving as he lifted the heavy crates. Morgan walked back in time enough to take the other end of the crate that Alister was handling. They lifted twenty more crates that had to be moved and unpacked onto the shelves. Afterward, they sat back against the counter, exasperated and wiping sweat from their brows. “Thanks for your help man. “ Alister heaved a little, tired from lifting the heavy crates. His knees threatened to buckle, at which he sat down against the counter, his legs crunched up into his chest.
“You’re welcome.” Morgan gave a reply. “I guess I got my workout for the day.” They both chucked a bit.
“So, what brings you by here?” Alister inquired a chuckle still in his voice.
“I just came to see how the business is going. “ Morgan swallowed, wishing for a little more air. “I see you’ve got things up and running already.” He looked around.
“Yea. I plan to have the opening next Monday. You’ll have to come over for it. I’m serving ice cream and ginger ale.”
“Sure thing.” Morgan assured him. After a few moments of silence Alister spoke. “Well, I guess I’m done around here for the day. Say, lets go fishing in that creek over by the Taylor place. The sun’s almost down and its starting to cool off. “
“Oh, I’m not sure if I should go.” Morgan replied started to decline. “The office’s still open and I don’t know what else might need to be done once I get back.”
“Aww, come on! We’ll stop by and you can lock the office. Then we’ll take those two fishing poles and get to the creek before half past six.”
“Alright,” Morgan gave in. Alister quickly closed the shop, grabbed the two fishing poles that he kept behind the counter and they made their way to Taylor Creek cracking jokes, laughing, and talking about the Gentleman’s Ball the whole way there. Morgan caught three big fish that evening as he and Alister walked knee deep into the creek, hoisting their pants legs high above their thighs. That evening, Alister fried fish with some lemon butter and he and Morgan ate and kept each other company into the wee hours of the morning. Morgan staggered home at five a.m., drunk and high from his evening with Alister.
That next Wednesday, Morgan set out toward Alister’s grocer to invite him to play cards at his place that evening. When he got a couple of blocks from the store, he saw Alister standing on the storefront, arguing with a tall, light-skinned man dressed in a zoot suit. Morgan stopped and watched intently as Alister slammed back into the store and the man climbed into his blue town car, that matched the color of his suit and pulled off. He walked down the street a bit and saw Alister sitting in the store, his head in his hands, a frustrated look on his face. Deciding not to investigate, Morgan passed the store, unseen, and walked towards the bridge, making his way home. Morgan wrote everything that he saw at Alister’s down that evening in a black notebook which he intended to hand over to Mr. Scott.
The next few weeks Morgan didn’t see much of Alister. Every time he stopped by the store, Alister was either busy or gone. Morgan wondered what was taking up his time. That next Sunday, the town square was covered with flowers of every color and the children ran about freely in their Calico knickers and primed dresses. It was Founder’s Day and the entire town would be out for hours of feasting and merrymaking after church let out. The school children would be bobbing for apples and drinking the cold cider that was passed around and the night would culminate with what was called amongst the people of Abbottville as “the mating call,” the dance that ended the celebration where lovers danced their first dances to the beat of an African drum in a slow, erotic manner that had been acted out year after year during the Founder’s Day celebrations since the last slaves moved off of Wingdale Plantation. Morgan walked down the long sidewalk in the center of town, watching the people as they postured in their white suits, licking ice cream cones and dancing.
Suddenly, he stopped. Walking down the opposite sidewalk, underneath the store umbrellas was Alister. Hanging off of his arm was Alice Meleuse. Morgan almost buckled over. His instincts told him not to rush over to greet them, to rendezvous with them sometime during the days festivities. Morgan filled himself with funnel cake and apple cider and laughed a while with the old men who sat at the gentleman’s table. As the sun began to go down, the women began to pull at their sweethearts, leading them out to the middle of the street. The older people ushered the children off towards home and some of the older men went over to where the instruments sat to start the music. The couples filled the wide street and the musicians started a slow, steady drumbeat as they began to dance. This was the mating call. Through the waves of feet and bodies, Morgan saw Alice place her head on Alister’s shoulder as they danced out on the floor. She clung to him as they moved to the music like a bead of sweat falling ever so slowly from his body. Alister’s lithe, golden body was graceful as he moved with Alice in time to the slow, erotic beat meted out by the drum. Alister stood on the sidelines and watched.
After the mating call ended, the older black men broke out their violins and brought everyone to the floor with a square dance. Morgan joined in. Alice was laughing ecstatically as she turned, holding Alisters arm. Her arm linked with Morgan’s as she turned and the mood suddenly became electric as she danced in between Morgan and Alister. She laughed uncontrollably, giving a sly look to Morgan as they moved across the floor. All three of them smiled, not saying anything, caught in the revelrie of the moment. After the dance was over, Alice made her way over to Morgan holding Alister’s arm. Morgan was getting some punch when she spoke to him.
“Fancy seeing you here alone Morgan.” She nudged him as Alister was saying hello to someone else.
“Good seeing you Morgan.” Alister stuck out his hand to greet him as he turned back towards the two of them. Morgan shook enthusiastically.
“ So, how long have you two been keeping company?”
“Three Sundays now,” Alister beamed.
“Congratulations.” He half-bowed to Alice, who chuckled. “Well, perhaps I’ll stop by the store next week.” Morgan said.
“That’s a plan.” Alister responded. “ Say, rather you come over to the new house Tuesday. I’m wanting to paint and I could use some help.”
“Ah, you bought a new house?” Morgan quipped.
“Yea, this past Thursday I signed the papers. Its over on Cherry Lane.”
“Well sure thing. I’ll be there.” Morgan lifted his hat to Alister, saying goodbye and caught Alice by surprise by kissing her on her cheek.
“Oh, you dog! “She hit him in the arm jokingly.
“Goodnight sweetheart,” He joked then bid them both a goodnight. The walk home was chilly as the temperature dropped and the night turned blue.
That next Tuesday, Morgan walked along the riverwalk, headed towards the plot of houses where Alister’s new house stood on Cherry Lane. Cherry Lane was inhabited by the up-and-coming in Abbotville, called such for the tall, regal Cherry trees that grew in the neighborhood. There were lots of new families sprawled throughout the neighborhood interspersed with industrious bachelors like Alister. The house Alister bought, resembling the others around it, was wide and tall with huge gables. Morgan walked up the brick steps that led to the house. The door was open and Alister was in view from the door, standing on a ladder painting the panels at the top of the wall. Morgan knocked on the threshold of the open door and walked in.
“Hey, come on in! Grab a brush.” Alister climbed down off of the ladder. Morgan shed his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and picked up a brush.
“How’s the law treating you these days?” Alister sat down his paintbrush and picked up a roller. They stood next to each other dipping their rollers in the lavender paint and coating the walls.
“You’ve been seeing a lot of Alice lately, eh?” Morgan interjected their silent painting.
“Yeah, Ms. Meleuse is a fine woman.” Morgan grew mute and decided to change the subject.
“ When I was making my way over to the store a few weeks ago, I saw you were having some kind of confrontation. What was going on?” Morgan decided to press his luck to figure out what was so shady about Alister.
“Ah, just a supplier wanting more money.”
“Ah, ok,.” Morgan replied. He never knew a stock supplier to drive a brand new Packard and wear expensive suits. “Well,” he sighed not knowing how to probe further, “If you ever need any help with any kind of trouble you know where to get me.”
“Thanks man. I’ll certainly keep that in mind.” Alister was entirely focused on his brush strokes. Morgan watched him for a few seconds as he coated the wall. In one swift move, Morgan pulled at Alister’s arm and in one swift move, pressed Alister against the unpainted part of the wall and kissed him fully on the mouth, paint dripping from the roller that he still held in his hand. The taste of Alister’s lips burned against Morgan’s mouth. Alister was stunned and went rigid as Morgan deepened the kiss. He managed to work his way to the floor so as not to fall and to try and resist Morgan. As he pushed against him though, he felt himself starting to respond, closing his eyes and allowing Morgan’s tongue access to his mouth. Morgan mounted Alister as he lay on top of him and ran his fingers through his hair. After several moments, Alister opened his eyes to Morgan and they looked at teach other for the first time.
“I’ve been in love with you for a long time. Ever since I saw you at the barbershop.” Morgan’s astonished himself with his explanation as he spoke the words. Alister looked up at him, his body firmly planted beneath Morgan’s, searching his face. Morgan loosened the tight grip his body had on Alister, returned his look and retook his mouth. Morgan began to trail his hands down Alister’s body and slowly unfastened his shirt, peeling his clothes off of him. Alister instinctively tightened his legs around Morgan as Morgan freed him from his pants and allowed his hard member to penetrate him. Their bodies created friction and heat as they moved back and forth against each other, mixing in sweat, heat, and the beautiful noises that escaped from their mouths as they fucked on the living room floor.
The midnight blue of early morning had suspended across the sky when they rose from their lovemaking at 4:30 the next morning. Alister fumbled for his shirt as he looked at Morgan who sat upright against the wall, covered in the white bed sheet that they had sprawled on the floor for the paint. Alister drew closer to where Morgan sat.
“I don’t know what just happened here…” Panic crept into his voice, yet he stilled himself and steadied his breathing.
“We made love. Don’t freak out about it.” Morgan pressed his fingers against Alister’s mouth. “ I don’t know what just happened either, but I’ve felt something for you for a long time, and it feels right. I don’t want to question it.” Morgan took his hand from Alister’s mouth, gathered his clothes, slipped into Alister’s bathroom, relieved himself and then dressed. Alister, now fully at himself and clothed as well, climbed atop the barstool in front of the kitchen window and pulled out a cigarette from his pants pocket, smoking as he watched the sun come up. He took long puffs from the cigarette in his hand and let his mind mellow out, feeling the heaviness of the moment lift from his shoulders. Morgan returned from the bathroom and walked into the kitchen, stopping right behind Alister. He watched the rise and fall of Alister’s shoulders, then determinedly placed his hand between his shoulder blades. Alister’s heart was racing. He placed both arms around Alister’s neck, letting his hands meet around his torso.
“Are you ok?” he whispered into his ear. Alister nodded. After a few minutes of staring at the early morning sky, Morgan drew his head down in front of Alister to look into his eyes. Then he kissed him. Morgan mollified Alister like the tune of a soft lullaby with his tongue.After kissing for several minutes, he drew him out of the chair and undressed him. They made love again on the floor of the kitchen, after which Morgan rose to go home, the sun having fully risen and the day having begun. They began to spend most of their spare time together, hovering together like tow leaves blowing in the wind from the same branch. When Alister would finish at the store, he would walk over to May’s restaurant , right across the street from the Sherriff’s office, where he would wait for Morgan to finish work. They would have dinner and drinks at May’s then walk to Alister’s house where they would sleep together, the windows opened and the shades pulled to cool them from the summer heat.
One late August afternoon, the sun piercing down and the heat only interrupted by impatient breezes that came every few hours, Morgan and Alister walked along the sidewalk laughing and walking close. As they came under the umbrella at Harveston’s store, Alice Meleuse approached them, walking in their direction.
“Alister Reeves!” she shouted, her eyes, which always seemed to be laughing, needling into him. “You are Mr. Absent-from –the scene lately! Everytime I’ve come by your store after hours, you’re gone and you never answer your phone! I’m beginning to think you’re avoiding me!” Alice’s voice floated up and down like musical notes. “How are you Morgan?” she cut her eyes at him playfully.
“I’ve just been busy with the store and getting the new house together that’s all.” Alister managed to get out, fumbling a bit. “Last Sunday when you called I had to go to Frankfort to order some things.” Alice looked at Morgan then looked at Alister.
“Well, since both of you are here, I’ll save two invitations and just tell you. You both must come to my end of the season party. It’s on the twelfth, black tie. Be there.” Alice walked between the two of them and headed down the street. “Later boys,” she threw her hand up as she walked away. Morgan and Alister looked at each other, breaking out into wide grins. They turned and walked towards Abe’s Tavern, the sole licensed bar in town. The place was huge. A thousand people could easily fit inside and the dance floor was large and spacious. They sat in a booth and ordered a couple of drinks. Alister puffed on a cigarette and looked deeply into Morgan’s eyes.
“I have to go into Louisville this weekend. Would you like to come?” Alister asked. “No thanks. I have to be at the courthouse.” Alister nodded. After they dined on two big plates of oysters, baked clams and andouille sausage that sat before them, they few tired and decided it was time to go home. Morgan rose from the table, excused himself and went to the restroom. Heading back to the table, where Alister sat, he stopped dead in his tracks as he saw another man standing before Alister. The man was tall and dark, sharply dressed in a white linen suit. The man reached into his vest, pulled out a slip of paper and wrote something on it then sat it before Alister. Morgan saw the man say something to Alister then leave brusquely. He knew whatever happened was not good as he saw Alister trembling slightly, lost in his thoughts. Morgan reached the table and resumed his seat.
“Baby, “he spoke softly, “ who was that man that just left the table?” Alister continued to drift in his thoughts, twirling his scotch and water.
“No one.” Morgan placed his hand below Alister’s chin and lifted Alister’s face. “Don’t tell me that. Are you in some kind of trouble?” Morgan looked at the note the man had left, which Alister had crumpled beneath his hands. “Alister, I want to know what’s going on. I can help you.”
“Lets just go.” Alister rose from the booth, exasperated. They paid their bill and walked out into the chilly night air.
“Lets go to my place tonight.” Morgan suggested and caught Alister’s arm as they got a bit away from the main part of town.
“Are you sure?” They had never spent the night together at Morgan’s house. Morgan’s house was in the most elegant part of town, furthest away from the center of it amongst the homes of other gentried members of Abbottville society.
“Sure, I’m sure.” Morgan half laughed. They walked along, walking down the sidewalks that ran along the river till they reached Morgan’s place.
The house was tall and gabled, imperious in its Empire style structure. Morgan had lived in the house as an adult for nine years, three years after his father’s death. After he took his master’s degree, he moved back in with his mother who, now at seventy and beginning to feel her youth slip away from her, refused most visitors and relegated herself mostly between her bedroom and the kitchen, hardly ever going out. They reached the house, horse playing as they entered the front yard and took the brick steps up to the house.
Inside, they slipped up the stairs to Morgan’s bedroom and hurriedly slipped out of their clothes. Morgan put the light out in the lamp in his room. Alister lifted his legs as he fell onto Morgan’s bed and pulled Morgan on top of him, tasting the salt on Morgan’s tongue. Morgan guided his hard member to Alister’s waiting ass. The love they made that night was ferocious, Morgan working out all of the frustration of his unanswered questions with each stroke he took in Alister. Alister clung to him desperately, seeking his comfort and relishing the assurance that felt from Morgan’s body being attached to his. They spoke nothing, but let out deep, primal moans until their lovemaking was over. Morgan crawled beside Alister, tired and ready for sleep, his flaccid penis resting against Alister’s thigh. The air in the house was cool. Morgan reached over and scooped Alister into his arms, pressing their bodies together. In that position, they drifted off into a deep sleep, enveloped by the serene blue of the morning sky that invaded the house.
That next Friday was the twelfth. Morgan and Alister decided to go separately to Alice’s party. Alister arrived first. He was sharp in his coattails and black bow tie. He stopped on the steps of the Meleuse Mansion, which was a couple of blocks away from Morgan’s house and lit a cigarette, taking the smoke into his lungs. Morgan pulled up in his car as he stood smoking. He got out of the car and walked up behind him on the steps. Morgan nodded in Alister’s direction and stopped to talk to Alan and Barbara Jeffers, who had been married for three years and had recently settled into a house on Cherry Lane. Morgan had gone to grade school with Alan. He knew Barbara from Dick and Jane when he was a young boy. Alice, spotting Alister, rushed over to him and took his arm, leading him onto the dance floor in the ballroom. The entire evening, Alice kept Alister occupied. Dance after dance, Alice pulled him to the floor, giving off the air that they were a couple with the manner in which he kept him close at hand. At one point, Alister and Morgan locked eyes with each other as Alister did the turkey trot with Alice . Morgan stood by the bar sipping champagne, with an almost frantic unease as he watched Alice acting so demure and particularly feminine in her effort to capture Alister. Morgan and Alister had barely had a chance to speak to each other the entire night. Mr. Meleuse, who was in attendance, but would leave early, tapped Morgan on his shoulder. “Morgan,” Meleuse’s voice was a grave tenor, sounding like an organ. “You remember Lucy DeBardeleben?” He pointed at a tall, dark skinned woman standing against the wall, talking in a group of people. She was the daughter of the only black magistrate in Kentucky. The Meleuses, and most other gentrified people in Abbottville for that matter, did not mingle with people whom they considered too dark. Lucy Debardeleben was an exception, however. The fact of her coffee-colored skin was overridden by the fact that her father was a judge, and a judge who could further their interests.
“Sure I do.” Morgan replied. Mr. Meleuse patted him on his back and pointed in her direction.
“ You should ask her to dance. Such a pretty young girl shouldn’t be standing around all night.” He had a big grin on his face. “ Neither should you. You know, I hear she’s just about to throw a sweetheart dance herself. You should go, keep her company and help her with the guests.” Morgan sat his champagne glass down on the cocktail table and walked in her direction, doing the dutiful thing and obeying Mr. Meleuse’s wishes. Mr. Meleuse and Morgan’s mother were very close, he being one of the few people that she saw regularly. They were always in cahoots to play matchmaker for him and if Morgan had refused the young lady that Alphonse Meleuse had pointed out to him, his mother would certainly hear about it and he would never hear the end of it. Surprisingly, as much as Meleuse wanted to match up the offspring of the privileged Black families of Abbottville, his own daughter he dared not bother. Alice Meleuse could have dalliances with or select for herself any man she liked.
Morgan and Lucy made their way to the dance floor, dancing to the slow number that the band was playing. Morgan’s eyes met Alister’s as Alister moved across the floor with Alice. A little after 1:30, Morgan and Alister managed to slip away from the party, sitting together on a bench in the garden underneath a tree. Morgan pulled a cigarette out of his gold-encrusted cigarette case, lit one, and offered one to Alister. They sat close, their knees touching, smoking cigarettes.
“Come home with me tonight.” Morgan stared at the stars and blew a puff of smoke into the air.
“ I’ve wanted to be with you all night.” Alister’s voice sounded shrill as he spoke. Morgan rubbed Alister’s arm.
“I’ve felt the same way too. Seeing Alice go after you made me mad, passionately jealous.”
“ I was fumbling really bad the whole night.” Alister laughed as he wiped his face with his hand. “She definitely wants you bad.” Morgan chuckled and shot a sly look at Alister. They exploded with laughter. Alister placed his hand on Morgan’s knee then gently leaned forward, kissing him, catching him by surprise. Their kiss was interrupted as they heard the door leading to the garden slam shut. Startled, they scrambled to their feet, hearing footsteps walking back towards the party.
Fear overtook them both as they searched to find out who had seen them kissing. Had they also heard their conversation? Morgan looked around at the dissembling flock for distorted looks on faces. Alice was nowhere to be found. They decided to leave right then, separately. They drove off, catching up with each other as they got a distance from the Meleuse Mansion and drove one behind the other towards Morgan’s grandfather’s house, the big house that sat out in the country that was now his, Wingdale Manor. Alister trailed Morgan in his car, the dark, rocky, winding dirt road extending into the far reaches, made even darker by the canopy of birch trees that grew over it. As they made their way along, Morgan saw a third car drifting behind them. It was far enough away that all he could see was the faint headlights. Alister bit his lips nervously. Morgan increased his speed and eventually warded off the car, or at least he thought so until from the window of the drawing room, after they had entered the house, he saw the car pass by. Morgan fixed a drink of Vodka, water, and ice for himself and Alister.
“Do you have any idea who that was?” a seering inquisitiveness burned in Morgan’s voice.
“Not a clue,” Alister replied.” Perhaps it was whoever saw us tonight.” Morgan pulled Alister close to him. Alister was tense, and Morgan could sense that he was scared. Morgan knew that Alister was in some kind of trouble and wished that he would share it with him. He didn’t suspect that he was running any covert operations as Douglass had suspected. He felt instinctively that Alister’s troubles had something to do with money and time for any escape was running out.
Morgan drew the curtain at the window and kissed Alister deeply, sucking his bottom lip as if it were marrow from a bone. He undressed him and lingeringly nibbled, sucked, and caressed every inch of Alister’s flesh. He made love to him slowly, with a burning warmth. At four a.m., Alister rose from their lovemaking and went to the bathroom. Their clothes were bundled next to where they had been on the floor. Hanging out of Alister’s pants pocket was the little white note that Morgan recognized as the note from Abe’s Tavern. Moran drew the thing out of Alister’s pocket and unfolded it. In large black letter’s the note read. “ Our business will be finished Monday. Have it or die.” Morgan refolded the note and tucked it in the pocket of his pants that hung on the bed. He decided that he would follow Alister home and trail him the rest of the day. Alister emerged from the bathroom.
“I’m going home now. I’ve got to get ready to open the store tomorrow.” He patted Morgan on the ass then picked his clothes up from the floor, dressed and left.
That next morning, Morgan sat at his desk in the Sherriff’s office, preoccupied with his thoughts about Alister and whatever trouble he was in. He had been keeping notes copiously for Mr. Scott in a file that he pulled from the drawer and toyed with for several seconds. He grabbed his hat, his coat, his gun and his holster, and headed towards the door to make his way over to Alister’s store. Alice Meleuse, in brown and pink silk with lips the same dark, serious color of her blouse walked into Morgan’s office just as he prepared to exit.
“You bastard!” She dropped her fist hard against the desk nearest the door. “I knew there was something going on! I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew something was not right between you two! Now I know!” Alice didn’t skip a beat in her tirade. “ All that time that he and I spent together and then all of a sudden, nothing!” Morgan pushed past her and bailed through the door.
“Look Alice, I don’t have time for this.” He hopped in his car and drove off. Alice chased him a couple of steps towards his car then hopped in her own car attempting to follow him as he speeded off down the street. Morgan pulled up at the grocery store to see no one there. He jumped out of his car and checked the door and found it locked. He got back in his car and headed towards Cherry Lane to Alister’s house. He pulled up and started towards the house to find Alister sitting on the front porch, a bloody knife in his hand, holding his head between his hands. “Alister!” Morgan shouted. Alister only sniffled, tears running down his face, not raising his head. Morgan pushed the front door open and saw a lifeless body sprawled out, bloody and crumpled, on the floor. Morgan grabbed Alister, pulling him by his shoulder into the house. “Alister! What the hell is going on?!” Alister was shaking.
“ I –I won that poker game. I wasn’t supposed to. That night I was with my cousin Freddie Marshall and we went to the riverboat,” Alister was crying as he talked. “Freddie had these friends and he pulled me into the backroom to play poker with them. I won fair and square! But the money the fat cat I was playing against told me I couldn’t leave with what I won.” Morgan listened intently and propped Alister up against the wall of the house to take care of his nose, which had started to bleed. Alister was bloody and scratched badly. “Freddie and I had to run like hell and we got out of their quick.”
“ What did they want to keep the money for? You had won it right?” “Apparently, the money was to go for a campaign contribution or a bribe. I don’t know.”
“How much did you win?” Morgan asked, processing it all quickly.
“It was a $25,000 bond.” Morgan drew his breath. That was a lot of money. He grabbed a sheet from the bedroom and covered the body.
“ Well, we cant stay here. Get your bond and lets go. I’m pretty sure some others will come after you like this one did.” Alister went and fumbled through his bedroom, pulling out the bond, then left the house with Morgan. As Morgan headed down the tiny residential street and pulled into the main road, he spotted a white car following them. He swallowed hard. It was definitely not Alice’s black Packard. Morgan speed up, igniting a chase. He smashed his foot against the floor of the car and swarmed onto a side street, speeding towards the edge of town headed for Wingdale Manor. The white car was red hot in pursuit.
Morgan pulled into the main gate of Wingdale Manor and threw his car into gear, beckoning Alister to get down on the floor of the car. Morgan pulled his pistol just as he saw the white car enter the gate. Two men sat in the front and a third was in the back. He jumped out of the car and fired, lodging a bullet in the tall white man’s throat who sat in the passenger’s seat. The other two grey striped-suited gentlemen jumped out of the car, guns drawn. He recognized the man out of the back of the car as Douglass Scott. He fired at them, shooting a hole into the windshield. The white man who was driving fired a round from his rifle, hitting Morgan in his arm. Alister whimpered on the floor of the car while Morgan slumped and crawled closer to the car for cover.
“Mr. Wingdale.” Scott spoke, pulling his gun out. “ You should have stayed out of this. You got involved. Now you’re going to suffer for it. “ Scott fired. Morgan crawled around to the side of the car on his elbow and fired a round of shots. The white man fell to the ground as a bullet hit pierced his stomach. Morgan backed up against the car, panting. “Very good Mr. Wingdale, but if I’m not mistaken, you’ve used up all of your bullets.” Scott laughed and slowly walked around to where Morgan stooped beside the car. “I’m sure you think it’s a terrible thing when the law gets mixed in with corruption. You never know who you can trust.” Scott cocked his gun, standing two feet in front of Morgan, aiming at his head. “ I’ll pray for you Mr. Wingdale.” Scott fell to his knees, the gun hitting the ground, and his bloody head fell hard against the gravel in Wingdale Road. Morgan gave a half-cry as he saw Scott drop. He lifted his head and saw Alice Meleuse holding a 45 caliber pistol at trigger point, walking towards him. Alice slowly lowered her hand, resting the gun at her side.
“What the hell is going on here?” Alice yelled at Morgan. Alister crawled out from under the dashboard of the car and pulled at Morgan. Morgan’s arm was bloody. “Quick, help me take him to the house!” Alice and Alister pulled him into the back of Alice’s car.
“Its not that bad. It’s only a flesh wound.” Morgan said, trying to stop their panic. Alister trailed them up to the house. Alice fetched fresh towels and Alister wrapped them tightly around Morgan’s arm.
“You tell me what’s going on here, Morgan!” Alice dressed his wound as he sat on a dais in the parlor. “ Who were those men?!” Alister sat by Morgan, silently watching. Morgan told Alice the story of his trailing Alister and discovering the danger that Alister was in. Alice was silent for a few minutes after he finished his story. “I saw you two kissing! How long have you two been lovers?” There was much venom in her voice. She pulled her cigarette case out of her pocket and lit one between her lips. Alister flinched at the question. “I saw you two kissing in my rose garden!” Alister attempted to answer after a long pause.
“ The first time Morgan kissed me, I thought I could get drunk from that kiss. When we made love, I was complete and whole.” Alice stared at Alister for several seconds after his response, then slowly rose and walked out of Wingdale Manor. They heard as the motor started and her car pulled away from the house. Morgan interjected the silence that had overtaken the room after Alice left.
“We can’t stay here.” Morgan paused in thought. “ Do you have the bond?” Alister pulled the bond from his pocket. “We’re going to make our way to Chicago and we’re going to cash that bond in. I have plenty of money in the bank, so we don’t need to worry about that.” Alister nodded, helping Morgan to his feet. “ I have the feeling that we won’t be back in Wingdale county for a long time.” Morgan quipped as they walked out of the door. They walked out to Morgan’s car and pulled slowly out of the driveway, heading for Chicago. They reached the city in the bustling heat of the day. Alister cashed his bond and Morgan withdrew $5,000 from his bank account. The next night, which was a Thursday, Alister and Morgan sat back against the railing on the deck of a liner ship headed to Nice. Morgan held Alister’s head against his chest as they stretched out on the deck of the ship. Together they drifted off into a restful and easy sleep.
Causes Brandon Wallace Supports
Free Mumia, Justice for the Jena Six, Justice for Katrina, Justice for Assata Shakur, Anti-Patriarchy work, the Bolivarian Movement...social justice...