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    Geron Kees
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The Thief of Small Things - 7. Chapter 7

"Hi."

We met at the front doors of The Boltfort. I stepped out into the morning light, and blinked before settling my sunglasses into place. "Hi."

Mark's face was all a single smile, his pleasure at seeing me obvious. "Right on time. I've only been here a couple of minutes."

"I left as soon as you called." I grinned. "I was ready and waiting."

He glanced at his watch. "The museum will be open by the time we get here. Ready to go?"

"Yep."

He reached out and took my hand, gave it a squeeze, and led me along to the sidewalk. There he smiled, released my hand, and gave a little bow, and swept his hand forward. "Shall we?"

I laughed, and we started off.

I'd pulled up a map on my tablet the night before, and looked at West 64th Street, where Mark said he lived. It was about the same distance down West End Avenue from The Boltfort as The Bolfort was from the park. Maybe a five- to seven-minute walk. If possible, I wanted to walk him home later. I was curious to see where he lived. And where he worked.

The Museum of Natural History was another fairly short walk. From The Boltfort we headed down West 72nd Street past Bloomingdales's and across Broadway, and turned left and headed up Amsterdam Avenue to connect with West 77th Street. A right turn there, another block to Columbus Avenue, and there was the museum on the left.

That's a rather simple statement to describe a truly mammoth complex. The museum is huge, a series of 26 interconnected buildings that occupy roughly the same space as four city blocks. You can literally get lost in this place, and there is so much to see and do that no one-day visit can allow for it all. I had been to the museum dozens of times since I was old enough to remember, and still felt like I had not seen everything there was to see. The museum opened at ten, and that would only give us a little more than two hours to see things before Mark would have to head back to go to work.

It cost twenty-three bucks apiece for us to get in. We got the cheap tickets, because there was no way we'd have time for any of the special exhibits today. When Mark dug out his money, I pushed it back, and told him this was my treat. I had some money of my own, and Dad had given me a couple of hundred extra for the two weeks, on the theory that I'd want to do something to amuse myself.

Mark looked upset. "Now, wait a minute. You paid for the lunch last time, remember?"

"Granddad paid for the lunch," I corrected. "Or rather, his boss did. A business expense, remember?" I smiled, and squeezed his hand. "I want to treat you. So shut up and come on. We only have a couple of hours."

He sighed, looked distressed a moment more, then resigned, and then happy. The happy part stole my heart, and made me sigh. Yeah, I was sure where these feelings were coming from now!

We started walking, which in this particular museum can amount to a decent workout. There is just so much to see it can hardly be related in a few paragraphs. From the giant reception hall just past the statue of Theodore Roosevelt outside the doors, we proceeded into the fossil halls, with its skeletons of Tyrannosaurus Rex and Titanosaur. This latter beast was the biggest thing ever to roam our planet, the skeleton so huge that the head projects out of the 120-foot long room that holds it. There are dioramas of the dinosaur world, displays of different animals, and fossil remains of creatures that once dominated by size, speed, and power, and competed among themselves with intellects that we can only guess at today.

I took several pictures of Mark with toothy velociraptors leering over his shoulder, and he took pics of me before a towering mammoth in the hall of mammals. As we progressed we talked about what we saw, conjecturing on what it might have been like to have been a denizen of any of these much earlier worlds. It's just about impossible to imagine, especially with crowds of fellow humans mulling about you, all with their phones out taking pictures, and enjoying the day in an air-conditioned and well-lit world of technology and order. We humans are spoiled, as far as survival goes.

The blue whale hanging from the ceiling of the marine hall is stupendous, looking to be swimming just overhead. The entire hall is lit in blue, giving you the feeling that you're beneath the waves, and sharing the underwater world with its occupants. There are dioramas and displays on two levels all around the walls of the great hall, and Mark and I examined all of it with the glee of first-time explorers.

"This stuff is so cool," he said, as we paused to rest a moment before going on into the Guggenheim Hall of Gems and Minerals. "It's amazing to think about how much this planet has changed over time. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be an early human, hunting on the cold plains at the end of the ice age? Man, that must have been a rough life!"

My own enthusiasm was no less. It was wonderful to have someone to share this adventure with. "Uh uh." I leaned closer to him. "I wonder if there were any gay guys back then? I sure can't imagine being chased around by some huge, hunky caveman."

He grinned at that, and leaned his shoulder against mine. "I guess I'll just have to do."

I returned the grin. "I guess you will."

We were leaning against the rail before a diorama, but my attention was now upon Mark's eyes. They watched mine searchingly, and I knew I was looking back with equal intensity. I could see the new affection and the interest in his eyes, and maybe just a touch of the loneliness he had been feeling. There were no hard edges there, anywhere, but I did see something else that I couldn't put a name to. Once again, it seemed a sort of uneasiness, maybe even doubt. I didn't want to see that, didn't want him to be feeling that about us.

I put my hand on top of his. "I'm pretty happy right now."

He watched me a few seconds more, and then sighed. "I am, too." He rolled his shoulders once, and briefly pressed his lips together. "David, there's something I need to say. Something--"

Just then a toddler standing with a nearby couple let out a piercing squeal and lurched away from her mother, drawing my gaze. Mom looked shocked, and then set out after the child, while a man wearing a small backpack and holding a bottle of water rolled his eyes and looked resigned.

"Someone is definitely not thirsty," I said, laughing. I turned back to Mark, saw immediately the loss of certainty in his eyes, and realized then that some important moment had been broken. "I'm sorry. What were you going to say?"

He opened his mouth, and then closed it again, and then stood straight, allowing some space between us. "Nothing. It wasn't important." He gestured at the doorway to the next hall. "We'd better get going. I'll have to head off to work in about a half hour."

Now the idea that Mark has been about to share something pivotal consumed me. "Wait a minute. What were you going to say?"

He winced, and stepped away from me. "It wasn't anything. Come on." And then he started walking towards the next doorway.

I stared after him in shock, realizing that I had just somehow been shut out. After all the fun we'd been having it hurt, and I rushed to catch up with him. "Hey. Wait."

He stopped, and now he looked irritated. On seeing that, my mouth snapped closed on its own before I could speak again, and I just stared at him. What had just happened? I hadn't done a thing!

But then, creeping into the back of my mind, came granddad's words from the night before: Don't rush this one, Davy. Take your time. If it's as special as it seems, it will all work out for you.

For a moment Mark and I just looked at each other, all sorts of complicated thoughts snarling between us in big knots. He looked annoyed, and he looked afraid. I couldn't get a handle on the annoyed part, let alone any reason he might be afraid of me. But that the two things he was feeling were joined somehow seemed clear enough. Whatever he had been about to tell me, it needed to flow from him in his time, at his pace. I saw now that I could not draw it out, and that I shouldn't persist just to satisfy my own curiosity.

I nodded, and forced a smile. "It's been so fun, I hate to see it be over. But if you have to go to work, you have to go. Wanna look at the gems real quick?"

I think he'd been holding his breath. It sighed out now, and he nodded. "Yeah. Sorry. Let's go."

But the rest of the walk through the hall of gems seemed sour now, and he looked at stuff, grunted a few comments, and moved on. All too soon we had returned to the entry on 77th street, and were standing outside in the noontime sun.

"That was fun," Mark said, but he didn't sound like he had had fun. Yet I knew he had, right up to that weird moment near the end.

I reached out hesitantly, and laid my hand on his arm. "I had a lot of fun. I'm sorry you got upset."

He looked slightly shocked at that, and then somehow sad. He sighed, and put an arm around my shoulders. "Oh, what are you saying? I'm not upset." He squeezed me, and again I felt the affection there. It was as confusing in the wake of the past few minutes as it was comforting, but I wanted it, and so brushed away my doubts about any other things.

We started off, heading back to The Boltfort. I hadn't gotten a clear idea of where the restaurant where Mark worked was located, and now I was afraid to ask. I'd had some idea earlier of maybe walking him to work, but now I wasn't even going to mention it. Something was wrong here, something I just couldn't figure out. Mark had been about to tell me something back at the museum, something very important to him, that he really wanted and needed to share. I wanted to help with that...but, just as clearly, the moment to do that had passed. And now was plainly not the time to try to force the issue.

So we walked back to 72nd Street mostly in silence. Mark seemed distant, unhappy, and upset with himself. He would smile at me when our eyes met, and I still could see the affection there. But there was a sadness behind it now that worried me, and had already started eating away at me. I wanted to grab him and pull him to stop, and to demand to know what was bothering him and messing up our day together.

But I kept remembering granddad's advice about patience, and not rushing Mark, and I somehow knew that I shouldn't ask him more questions, and so I didn't. Mark deserved his space, and it had to be his decision to share it with me.

All too soon once we were again at the door to granddad's building.

"Can I call you tonight?" I asked.

He nodded, again looking sad. "Sure, I'll be home about midnight, if that's not too late for you."

"It's not." I didn't know what to say next, so I just waited.

He watched me a moment, and then looked around quickly; and then he leaned forward and kissed me. It was a shock, even though I saw it coming. I pressed my face against his, letting him know I was with him no matter what was bothering him. He seemed to feel it, and when he pulled back, he was smiling. "I'm sorry I was an ass."

I shrugged. "You have no reason to be afraid to talk to me."

He nodded, looking unhappy again. "I know. I just...there are a few things --" He licked his lips, and forced a smile. "We'll talk more later. I promise."

I smiled. "I'll call you around midnight. Have a good evening at work."

He nodded, squeezed my arm a last time, and then turned and started down the steps to the sidewalk. But he didn't look elated like he had the last time I'd watched him leave. Now he seemed hunched forward, and lost in thought, not the happy guy I'd met here at the door just a few hours before. Again I stood and watched him go up the block, hoping he would turn one last time, and wave.

Only this time, he didn't look back.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Granddad frowned at me when I came into the living room. "Hi. You okay?"

I blinked at that, and followed it with a shrug. "I don't know."

He digested that quietly, and then patted the sofa next to him. "Come and talk."

I sat, and immediately started telling him about our visit to the museum, how it had started out fun, but then we'd gotten to that odd moment, and it had all gone to shit. He listened quietly, his eyes watching mine, and I could see him considering everything I said.

"I just don't know what happened," I finished, shaking my head. But then I managed a smile."I feel like crying. But I'm too old."

He laughed, pleased to see that I had not fallen into a complete depression. "You're never too old for that, I can tell you." He dropped a hand on mine and gave it a fond squeeze. "But we'll save that for later, okay?"

I sighed, and nodded. "What do you think is going on?"

"I don't know. It sounds like your Mark has some things going on he's not happy about. He wanted to tell you something, and the moment where his courage was up to the job was shattered by the incident with that child. Just that quickly, he was too frightened to go on."

"He did act that way. Like he was scared, and annoyed that he was scared. He didn't want to talk to me at all after that, it seemed."

"Rebound. He put himself out there, and it didn't take. I suspect his anger was at himself, not you. Some of it just leaked your way, David."

I felt relief at that. "I guess. It wasn't fun, believe me. I thought it was over that fast, and I just had no idea why."

Granddad smiled at me, and squeezed my hand. "Oh...well, this is your first time having something like this happen. But believe me, any relationship worth having can weather little moments like this without a problem."

I grunted at that. "It didn't feel little to me."

"I guess not. It was your first upset, really. You'll need to get used to the idea that a relationship is not always smiles and kisses. There are a few thunderstorms in there, now and then. But if you and your guy love each other, it will never break what you have."

I felt a moment of shock at that. Love? Did I love Mark? I didn't know!

Granddad gave a gentle laugh. "Something I said?"

I smiled at him. "You used the 'L' word."

"Love? It has to be there, for a lasting relationship."

"Yeah. I just hadn't gotten to thinking about that yet."

He nodded. "That's understandable. All of this has happened very quickly. You and Mark really don't know each other yet."

I had to agree with that. It had been sudden, and there was still so much I didn't know. And now it seemed that Mark had things he wanted to tell me, but was afraid to bring out.

But the question remained...did I love him?

I didn't know that answer to that. I wanted to love him, to be with him. I felt that he wanted to love me back. But had we arrived there yet? So quickly?

Maybe not. Maybe love just didn't happen that fast. It took time to blossom, didn't it? It had to mature.

"I want to love him," I told granddad. "I think we've planted the seeds, anyway."

He nodded, his eyes bright. "Then they'll grow. In time."

I sighed. "So...you're saying that it's too early for me think it's over, when it's hardly even gotten started."

He patted my hand again. "You've just laid to rest any doubts I may have had that you were not really your father's son."

I gasped at that, and then laughed. "You thought I might not be dad's son?"

He laughed, too. "Well...not really. But your mom has not been totally loyal, and we don't really know when her peregrinations began."

"Pere...what?"

He laughed again. "Never mind. You have the Henderson looks and the Henderson eyes, and now I know you have the Henderson brains. Welcome to the family, son."

I shook my head at him, knowing now that he was playing, trying to cheer me up. And, that it was working. "You're not right in the head, granddad."

He nodded, looking pleased. "See what you have to look forward to in your old age? Mild insanity."

I sighed, and sat back into the cushions. "Thanks. Mild insanity would be fun right about now."

"Oh...you'll be okay. Mark will have the night to think things through. This is a big change for him, too, I'm sure. Whatever is bothering him will have to work its way out into the light."

"I'm supposed to call him at midnight. When he gets home from work."

"Then relax. Nothing can happen before then." He frowned. "I know...you need something to take your mind off this." He leaned closer. "The cameras came. You can set them up in the hallway."

I gave a little surprised laugh at that. I had totally forgotten about our ghost. "Wow, that was quick. Um...okay." It would be something to do, and I needed something to do right now. "Where are they?"

"On the kitchen table." He squeezed my hand a last time, and then sat back. "I have a few things to do before work today. But you can call me if you need help with my laptop."

"I think I can handle it." I smiled at him. "But thanks. For everything."

He nodded. "Relax, David. This will all work out."

I nodded, hoping he was right. And then I got up and headed for the kitchen.

 

* * * * * * *

 

There were four wireless cameras in the set that granddad had purchased. Each ran on a lithium-ion battery that was rated to hold a charge for six to twelve months, depending on usage. That seemed like an awfully long time to me, but batteries these days are wonderful. These cameras were motion-activated, could see in the dark due to the infrared LEDs in each camera head, and remained in standby mode until they detected movement, thus conserving power and video storage. They were just right for what we wanted to do.

Which was monitor the front door, the hallway, and the kitchen. If activated, the cameras sent their streams via Wi-Fi to the receiver attached to granddad's laptop, where an app would record them to the drive and send an alert signal to an app on my phone. I chose my phone, because granddad didn't carry his while at the restaurant, and, besides, I was most likely to be close to home.

The cameras were mounted on an adjustable base, and could be placed upon a surface or mounted to the wall or ceiling with screws. Then they could be aimed, and pretty much left on their own to do their jobs. Granddad could have handled this on his own, really. He wasn't a tech geek like I was, but he wasn't a complete Luddite, either.

I set a camera to cover the front door and the living room, and then placed one at each end of the hallway. The last I mounted to watch the kitchen, making sure that it covered the back entry as well. Then I made myself comfortable in the living room and activated the system, and granddad and I checked the views from each camera.

"Oh, that looks fine," he said, smiling, as I held the laptop so he could see. "If anyone comes in while we're out, there is no way we'll miss them."

"Well, we have to put your laptop someplace out of the way," I returned. "It won't help us if someone comes in and then steals your computer or messes with the recordings."

Granddad looked thoughtful, and then nodded. "Come here a moment."

I set the laptop back on the coffee table and got up to go with him. He led me to the hallway, then into the den. The furniture here was all polished woods, beautiful, and old. Granddad had collected the pieces during his several trips to Europe, where antiques seemed to grow on trees. 'You want something old, go to the old country', he always said.

One piece was a cabinet with carved doors up top, and four drawers below, set two and two, side-by-side. The top was a single piece of dark polished wood, the sides made of panels, one set siding the doored upper section, another set siding the drawered section below. It was an ornate piece, very handsome, and I had always liked it.

I'd learned as a kid that the bottom two drawers weren't real, just being a single piece carved to look like the faces of the two drawers above. Granddad went to the cabinet and squatted at the side of it, reached to the back edge, and gave it a pull. The side of the bottom half of the chest opened on hidden hinges, revealing an inset that acted as the wall of the box holding the top drawers, and an open space below where the fake drawers were located.

I got down on my knees and looked inside, and could see that the hidden space went clear to the other side of the cabinet. It was lined with red velvet, upon which sat a small wooden chest, one that you might normally see atop a man's dresser for rings and watches and things. Granddad pushed the little chest deeper into the hidden space, and then patted the velvet floor. "This should do, huh?"

I was amazed. "What's this?"

He smiled at me. "It's a valuables vault. I guess you never knew when some robber would show up back in the day. This cabinet was made about 1810, before the cops were just a cell call away. You'd be surprised how much old furniture has hidden spaces like this built in."

I laughed. "I won't ask you what's in the little chest."

His eyes twinkled at me. "Okay. Then I won't tell you."

I laughed again, but examined the area inside, and nodded. "It's big enough. We'll just put your laptop here when we go out. With the top down and the screen dark, the battery will last for hours."

"Sounds like a plan." He closed the side door, and showed me where the hidden clasp was. I opened and closed it a few times, just to make sure I could.

We stood again, and granddad checked his watch. "I'd better start getting ready to go."

I leaned against him, put an arm around him, and gave him a brief hug. "Thanks for always being there."

He sighed, and gave me a squeeze back. "We're family, Davy. Your welfare is important to me."

I smiled up at him. "Oh. I thought maybe you just liked me for who I am."

He returned the smile, which went deeply into his eyes. "Well, there's that, too."

Copyright © 2020 Geron Kees; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments



Mark’s big secret: he has a baby? His parents were multibillionaires?  His parents are still alive, but estranged? He’s a Transman?
;–)

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28 minutes ago, travlbug said:

Mr. Thief, this is your cue! You're about to become a star!

But Mark is unlikely to appear when he knows David is home!
;–)

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2 minutes ago, droughtquake said:

But Mark is unlikely to appear when he knows David is home!
;–)

Wouldn't that be the best time? (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge! 😂🥰)

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6 hours ago, mikedup said:

Interesting chapter, some untold things need to be revealed, strange events no doubts I hope that time will reveal all

You've been patient this far. Patience is rewarded, right? :)

 

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4 hours ago, droughtquake said:

Mark’s big secret: he has a baby? His parents were multibillionaires?  His parents are still alive, but estranged? He’s a Transman?
;–)

Which Mark are we talking about here? :)

 

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4 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Interesting chapter, plenty of questions to be answered.

Thanks. Hopefully soon!

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3 hours ago, Headstall said:

I felt quite sad for Mark... he seems terrified whatever he tells David will be the end of them. It's as if he doesn't deserve him... or the happiness he is feeling. I would guess he is ashamed of something. Great chapter, Geron. Granddad is the best! Okay... it's movie time... I'm going to need some popcorn. :) Cheers!

Thanks for the good cheer, Gary. Bet you're a lot of fun to watch a movie with! :)

 

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2 hours ago, travlbug said:

Mark, confession is good for the soul, but it shortens the story!  (Delaying gratification is a perfectly acceptable tool for an author to use to torture his audience!)

Grandfather, in discussing Mark's behavior, you have proven an excellent layman psychologist:  The world lost a great bartender when you decided to become a chef!

Mr. Thief, this is your cue! You're about to become a star!

 

I am not into torture, alas.

But I'm willing to learn! :)

 

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2 hours ago, droughtquake said:

But Mark is unlikely to appear when he knows David is home!
;–)

Shhh!

Are you always yelling 'Tire!' in a crowded garage? :)

 

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2 hours ago, travlbug said:

Wouldn't that be the best time? (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge! 😂🥰)

Ooh. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge is just what is called for! 😇

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Something happened for sure, but was it just losing the moment, or did it involve the child crying?  Some trauma from his past?
High tech to solve a ghostly mystery?  Where's the supply of Scooby snacks, Shaggy?

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5 hours ago, ColumbusGuy said:

Something happened for sure, but was it just losing the moment, or did it involve the child crying?  Some trauma from his past?
High tech to solve a ghostly mystery?  Where's the supply of Scooby snacks, Shaggy?

Rin da rathroom, Raggy! :)

 

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So it's not all sweetness and light for David...or Mark.  That's hardly surprising but it does raise some more speculation and questions. 

The cameras work.  But will they reveal anything? It seems our good friend the author likes to keep his cards close to his vest.

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On 4/7/2020 at 8:54 PM, Daddydavek said:

So it's not all sweetness and light for David...or Mark.  That's hardly surprising but it does raise some more speculation and questions. 

The cameras work.  But will they reveal anything? It seems our good friend the author likes to keep his cards close to his vest.

Well...I'm not being really secretive. I just don't want to spoil the tale!

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How well the day began for David and Mark. A natural friendship where ease of conversation and similar levels of interests and humour, are a given.

I really felt for Mark. He clearly hasn't been ble to be honest, in several fundamental facts about himself. In fact, the truth is likely to be extremely different if, as I suspect, he is a street kid, kicked out of home for being gay and possibly accessing the Boltfort for the occassional shower and scraps of food.

It would take an awful amount of courage to confess all of this together with a night and a morning's preparation for sure. Only for the moment to be stolen by a screaming toddler.

If David is eventually made aware of Mark's plight, I hope that he will not see it as an act of dishonesty but rather more, one of Mark's shame. A confession of that magnitude, could  never be entrusted to anyone but a very dear friend. One that he desperately needed to keep.

Edited by Bard Simpson
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