Spinelli took a deep breath, closed his eyes and slid the ‘end call’ tab on his new iPhone with an index finger that was far too shaky for his own liking. The ringtone was generic, not linking him to anyone specific, yet he’d broken out into a cold sweat, his stomach churning with sick anticipation, bile rising in his throat, as his phone began to ring again.
Jason cursed beneath his breath, shoved his fingers through his hair and stabbed at the button on his phone that he knew would dial Spinelli. He waited for the call to connect, pinching the bridge of his nose and letting out a frustrated breath of air as the call went straight to voicemail, again.
His finger hovered over the ‘call’ button, paused in mid-air half an inch above the screen which showed a picture of his friend, a tight, not quite smile on Spinelli’s face. The image of his former roommate haunted him, caused his stomach to tighten in something akin to worry and his throat to close with anxiety.
Since he’d broken things off with Sam, an overwhelming sense of loneliness had descended upon him. And, much to his confusion, when his thoughts dwelt upon his current state of loneliness, it was not Sam’s face, or Elizabeth’s or even Carly’s face which came to mind, but Spinelli’s. He refused to think about what it meant beyond the fact that he missed the young hacker, his friend, and wanted him back in his life.
Gary snarled and nearly smashed his cellphone on the ground. How dare he ignore my phone call, he thought to himself as he took a sobering breath and willed his body to stop shaking in anger. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven ...he counted in his head, just the way Doctor Bennett had told him to do whenever he got so angry that he couldn’t see straight. It didn’t always work, Doctor Bennett could testify to that, but it worked well enough now.
He touched the image of the man he loved, caressing the man’s delicate features as depicted on one of many photographs he kept in the photo gallery on his phone. It was a perfect picture which captured the vulnerability of his lover - green eyes shadowed with self-doubt that only Gary could assuage; shaggy, unkempt hair that really could do with a cut; and lips, curved slightly downward in a thoughtful frown so typical of the younger man. A frown which Gary desperately wanted to turn into a smile.
Happy that he’d managed to keep his anger at bay, Gary smiled and touched the ‘call’ button, eager to hear his lover’s voice again. It had been a long while since he’d heard the other man speak. Other than the younger man’s dark, yet innocent looks, Gary loved his voice, especially when it cracked with emotion. His stomach twisted with fury when the call was cut short, his throat closed up as anger swept through him. The phone didn’t even go to voicemail this time, which meant that Damian had hung up on him, and that was unacceptable.
Spinelli looked over his shoulder, his eyes scanning the streets behind him. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched, and it unnerved him. Ever since he’d taken the Gleason case, his paranoia had mounted ten-fold.
Sam had been busy dealing with life in general, so it had fallen upon him to handle this case on his own. It was supposed to be simple - trail Gary Nelson, see if he was cheating on his fiance, Becky Gleason (and Spinelli could not fathom anyone wanting to cheat on the vivacious blonde) take a couple of pictures which would either prove that the man was a player or that he was faithful.
Things had gone wrong from nearly the onset. Spinelli hadn’t found evidence that Gary was cheating on Becky, but he had learned that Gary led a distinctly alternative lifestyle. He’d tailed the man to a gay bar, and once he’d gotten past the shock of seeing the man dressed in drag, he’d discretely snapped off several photos and called it a night. But, before he could leave the bar, he was propositioned by the very man he’d been following, and, though it seemed that Gary had no idea that Spinelli had been tracking him, the man would not take no for an answer.
By the end of the evening, Spinelli had shared a few drinks with Gary, whose stage name was Cyndi, and had exchanged numbers, only to keep from being discovered. Though he was slightly intoxicated, it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle and he’d made it back to the office alright, but he hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that he was being followed.
The next day he shared what he’d learned with a rather distraught Becky. She’d paid him, and though he felt bad for taking her money, the office rent was coming due and he had to eat.
It wasn’t until a few days, several missed calls, and quite a few frantic messages later, that Spinelli realized that Gary might possibly be interested in him in ways that he couldn’t reciprocate. It wasn’t that he thought being gay was wrong or anything, but Spinelli didn’t find Gary attractive. When he’d told the man that, he was unprepared for Gary’s less than stable response.
The man threatened him, told him that they were meant to be together, and when Spinelli stopped answering his phone, he started texting him, sending him obscene pictures of himself. He went to the police, but when he’d walked into the station and started explaining that he was being stalked by a drag queen, he’d been laughed at. Blushing with shame and feeling like maybe he was making a big deal out of nothing, he’d left the police station with his head bowed.
“Voicemail again,” Jason muttered, thumbing the end call button. He didn’t leave a message. He never did. He wanted to speak directly with Spinelli, not leave a message which could be ignored like his text messages had been.
He tried to remember the last time he’d spoken with the hacker, thinking that maybe he’d said or done something to upset Spinelli. His mind came up blank. He couldn’t remember anything other than coming home one night to find the pink room deserted and a hastily scrawled note taped to the fridge letting him know that Spinelli had left.
He couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong, that Spinelli wasn’t safe. The preternatural sense of impending danger seemed to increase with each passing day. With each call which went straight to voicemail or was preemptively hung up on, Jason grew more worried.
And it wasn’t just about being ignored by the one person whom he would never expect to hold a grudge against him or anyone. It wasn’t even the blatant lack of communication on the normally talkative hacker’s part. It was something more, some internal prodding of his mind which screamed, ‘danger, danger, danger,’ at him whenever his thoughts wandered to Spinelli.
“Get a grip,” he chastised himself, looking around to see that no one overheard him as he spoke aloud, “Spinelli’s just mad because you haven’t bothered to contact him in three months.”
If I was Spinelli, where would I go?
Jason dismissed half a dozen places that the question brought to mind. They were places where he’d already looked for him, and, while he’d thought he’d gotten a glimpse of the hacker’s coat as he fled from a coffee shop, he doubted he’d find Spinelli there again. And fled was the only word that could be used to explain the hacker’s speedy retreat. By the time Jason had registered that it was Spinelli, there was no sign of the younger man anywhere, and he’d taken the time to look.
“Come on Spinelli, answer,” he growled at the phone.
It had been two weeks since he’d begun trying to contact his friend. Two weeks of calls that went straight to voicemail or which were hung up on before voicemail could pick up. His texts, painfully slow and time consuming for him to write, went completely unanswered.
Enough is enough already , Jason thought, as he typed out a message - call me i need to c u - he didn’t bother leaving a name, believing that Spinelli’s phone would show who it was that had left the message.