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Circumstances - 15. H. I. D.

He’d been skiing through powder on an empty slope. He was in the Alps, but the slope was as wide as an LA freeway. Heinz was ahead of him, but Hyden couldn’t see where. He’d been just ahead, then Hyden lost him and seemed to have lost everyone else. And he couldn’t catch up. The light was still good, but he had the mountain to himself. Had there been a warning he’d somehow missed? He didn’t think so. Finally, he gave up and went back to the hotel.

Heinz wasn’t there. As on the slopes, almost no one was. It was off-season. That was part of the reason they’d come – there was no problem getting a reservation. Though they hadn’t come together. Heinz had slipped out of Washington to see his family in Geneva, and Hyden had impulsively thought, “What a terrific way to spend the four days off.” And he took off right behind.

“Can’t promise 2 meet,” Heinz had texted.

“That’s fine,” Hyden wrote back, confident. And there was Heinz, all suited up in the lobby.

“Just for the day” he said. “Got to get back to my folks.”

He used “folks” like a casual Midwesterner, even when it was too informal. English wasn’t even the second of his many languages. Hyden would have said “parents.”

“Not even part of the evening?” Hyden joked. “My room has a terrific view.”

“I bet it does.”

He grinned, then kissed Hyden with an open mouth. Hyden wasn’t use to kisses that public and that hot.

But now there was no Heinz, no word, and almost no one in the lobby. Once Hyden chased down the desk clerk, there were also no messages, and Heinz had sent no texts. He rarely wrote anything longer.

So Hyden wrote, “Where are you?” and then waited in the lobby for an answer. When none came, he went upstairs and slowly showered That hadn’t been the way he’d intended to be wet. But it passed the time till he could send another note. Which also went unanswered.

The hotel restaurant was closed for the season, so Hyden went back to the one he’d found down the street. This was probably his last meal there, his sixth in two days, though he might be able to squeeze in breakfast. He had an hour’s drive, the car return, check-in, and then the ten-hour flight. Rehearsals continued at 9:00 on Tuesday.

He’d texted Heinz the location of the restaurant though wasn’t sure of the address. “Go to the hotel. Turn right coming out of the front doors. Walk down a bit over a block-and-a-half, and it’s the small restaurant on the right with the yellow-and-black striped awning.”

He supposed the tables under the awning were used in warmer weather. Though right now, their chairs were neatly stacked on them, upside down.

But Hyden ate alone. He wasn’t bothered by that so much as not hearing from Heinz – even a simple K. That was his usual response.

“Meet you for coffee,” Hyden would write, when the two of them had separate rehearsals.

“K,” Heinz texted back.

Or “Meet you in my room, around 12,” Hyden would write.

“K,” Heinz answered. Now there was nothing.

Hyden went back to his room and stood naked in front of the large window. He was lit only by reflected light from the powdered snow and knew he looked hot. A lot of good it did.

Back in D.C., there was – surprisingly – no Heinz. No one knew he and Hyden had slipped off to Europe for the short break. There were no rules against that, but there was no logic to it, either. Neither of them were Gregory, their artistic director, raised and trained in England. Something of a prodigy, he worked internationally and was always flying off somewhere.

“Where’s Gregory?” – never Greg – someone might ask one of his assistants. The answers would come back, “Mumbai.” “Kyoto.” “ Lima,” “Who ever knows?”

Gregory had agreed to head up the small theater company after his recent success at the National and then in the West End. But he had bigger goals.

Hyden never should have slept with Gregory, but he was both flattered and curious. He was always too curious. But though the man was twenty-eight, almost Hyden’s age, he had the body of a fifty-year-old – not flab, but an unformed looseness. And typically unEnglish hair – dark, everywhere, like a gone-to-seed football fan Hyden might pick up in a Liverpool pub. Plus, Gregory expected everything to be done for him. He just lay on his back on his single bed, and Hyden couldn’t even wedge beside him. He had to work the edges.

This wasn’t the bed Gregory slept in. That was nicely wider and in the next room. “It’s the bed he reserves for sex,” Clarice told Hyden. “It’s the same in London.”

“He likes to keep things separate?”

“Compartmentalized.”

But he didn’t seem to care who he slept with. In that way, he was curious, too.

Clarice was already back in England. She’d only been brought to the States for one production – of a difficult English play..

“Gregory said there were things he simply didn’t need to explain to me – that he couldn’t get through to a American in the short rehearsal time. And I’d never seen D.C., though I’d worked in New York. So I did it for a lark. And it was fun seeing Gregory. It’s always grand to collaborate – he’s brilliant. But never again in this city. It’s moist. Still, any time you’re in London, you must call.”

Hyden had slept with her, too. She’d taken the lead on that one, it was something he’d never considered, and it continued for several weeks. Until she moved on.

“I don’t mean to hurt you. But we’ve had our time.”

“Sure,” Hyden said. These things didn’t happen in Milwaukee. But that’s why he’d left there, after several strong seasons.

Sex with Heinz had been different in a third way. Their attraction was mutual. Hyden was as dark as Heinz was blond. The first time Hyden saw him, he’d almost laughed. The man looked like a superhero, all shoulders and chest, with Dutch boy bangs and a fine pageboy that followed his head when it quickly turned. The first time Hyden saw him in a dressing room shower, he’d almost gaped. And when Heinz kissed him, typically open mouthed, as he casually passed, Hyden had to rush for his jeans.

Together in Hyden’s room – they all stayed in rooms in an older hotel near the theater, with Gregory in a penthouse suite – Heinz had been less athletic than he was in combat or dance training, and that surprised Hyden. Heinz looked worked out, but it was natural, where everything Hyden had came from the gym. Hyden was more skilled sexually, too, where Heinz seemed to have watched too much porn.

“Do you really like that?” Hyden asked at one point.

“No,“ Heinz admitted. “But it looked hot as Hell online.”

“Let me show you something that feels as good as it looks.”

“K.”

And Heinz was as good a student on the floor as he was with a sword.

And now there was no Heinz. When he didn’t show up for rehearsal, the stage manager made some calls. Then the theater followed through, and finally Gregory, personally. He had connections in London – Heinz’s base – the others didn’t. Of course, Hyden had to tell everyone he and Heinz had – perhaps stupidly – flown off to Switzerland. Really for only two days, when you considered the travel.

“Were you crazy?” Rebecca – perhaps Hyden’s closest friend in the company – asked.

“Yeah,” he said, grinning. “A little. Especially since we didn’t go together. But there was a promise, and the whole thing sounded terrifically romantic. And I’ve never had the money before to ski in the Alps, so I figured what the hell?”

Hyden had just finished a guest arc on a hit series in LA and gotten breakout reviews. So he and his agent knew there’d be more, even higher-paying work. In his quiet way, Hyden was sometimes as hot as he could be made to look.

And would he trade it all for Heinz? No, but he sure wanted to know what happened to the man. Where did he suddenly go? Why? His return ticket had stayed unused, and his family’s car had been found, parked near the hotel.

After four days, he was replaced in the production, and that was easily enough done. But the questions remained. Finally, Hyden got a small, almost square, maybe 5" by 6" envelope from Clarice. It was expensive, off-white paper and contained a matching, formal card. Opening it, Hyden simply saw H. I. D., centered in black, capital letters. Nothing more.

He showed it to other people, hoping they’d understand. When no one did, he tried Gregory.

“Oh, that Clarice,” Gregory said, almost laughing. “She’s so superstitious she can’t even say Macbeth. It simply means, “Heinz is dead.”

Gregory said it so casually, it seemed he already knew, and Hyden had to ask him that.

“No, I didn’t know until I saw that card. But she’s used those initials before. I’ll have to call her tonight, to see if she knows anything else. I don’t think it will be too late, after rehearsal.”

Clarice didn’t know more. In fact, nobody did. Heinz had never turned up at the flat he sometimes shared in London, none of his friends had seen him, and he’d never gone back to his parents. He’d simply disappeared in the powder ahead of Hyden, and the police assumed the worst.

“It happens often enough,” Gregory told Hyden, reporting from Clarice the next day. “At least, it happens occasionally – skiers get lost. Or are hurt. Or simply vanish.” He almost giggled. “That sounds like an 30s movie. The Skier Vanishes. Or Gone with the Heinz.”

“There’s nothing they can do?”

“Who knows? They’re the police, and we’re ordinary people. Until we get knighted, we’re talented but otherwise invisible.”

It seems Gregory had grand plans. Where Hyden just wanted to make money.

Well, do good work, of course. Always that. But Hyden knew he’d want to retire someday – comfortably. And that didn’t happen by playing “an unforgettable Prince Hal,” even in D.C. Maybe especially there. Definitely not in Milwaukee.

So he tucked Clarice’s card into a book, and put the book in his temporary collection, stacked on a side table, and maybe someday to be part of a much larger library. Still, even without seeing them, he could always picture the bold black letters, each followed by an oversized period. H. I. D.

2019 by Richard Eisbrouch
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