So this thing happened down here in Orlando early in the morning on June 12, 2016. I’m still processing it. I’ve raged on my Facebook feed. I’ve cried. And I’ve talked to friends. But I wanted to respond with my writing, but how?
Then I wondered how my characters would respond. So I started writing. This is the story of how the folks in Bennett Bay responded to this horror. I’ll be posting the scenes as I finish them, so they are rather rough. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the finished story. It may just live here on the blog.
Please feel free to comment here about your feelings about this story and/or this event.
This story references characters and situations from “Slay me,” said the dragon, Dark Love, and Return to Cooter Crossing.
Pulse: Today We Are All Orlando
Yanko frowned at the spreadsheet on his laptop. He hated inventory reports and two in the morning probably wasn’t the best time to do them. He leaned back and unconsciously twirled his engagement ring on his finger, rubbing his thumb over the black schorl stone. It was a Reinhold family heirloom his husband Dieter gave him as an engagement ring. “Something’s not right.” He looked around the dark office. It felt like it was closing in on him. The air was thick, like he was trying to breath water. He stood up. Unease seeping through his body like cold. This felt familiar. Something like when Max got the news about Flora May passing. But it was different—further away and more horrendous.
“Get a grip,” he said. “Need some fresh air and make an appearance at last call.”
The assistant manager’s office was at the end of the main corridor on the ground floor of La Posada del Marineros. He opened the door and took a deep breath. The aftermath of a summer thunderstorm cooled the air and blew the tang of the Gulf and Bay down the open air corridor. Anguished buzzing drilled into his mind. He took a step back as two blue lights shot down the corridor and slammed into his chest.
If a guest had been in the hallway, it would have looked like two large fireflies ran into him. Yanko saw them for what they were, two naked men, about four inches tall, with dragonfly like wings, glowing with an intense blue bioluminescence. Bad juju. Bad juju. Echoed in his mind from two tiny voices. Waves of terror washed over him.
He stepped back to his desk. The faeries still clinging to his chest. “Dax, Dix, what is it?”
He grabbed his phone. No messages. Should he call Dieter? He was back home asleep. Gus, the head chef at the Esperanza, took the weekend off to go to Orlando, so Dieter was covering the opening shift.
“Dudes. Get off.” He couldn’t think straight with the raw emotion of the fay coursing through him. They buzzed a few inches away. “What is it? Is Dieter okay? Is it the Esperanza?”
“Not helpful!” He slammed the door behind him as he hurried down the corridor. He texted Dieter, Fay freaking. U ok? He slipped the phone in his shirt pocket and broke into a sprint. The fay buzzing after him. Bad juju.
He entered the courtyard and stopped next to the water garden surrounding the central fountain. Dax and Dix buzzed down and joined the fay swarm huddling in the plants on the edge of the pool. He looked in the water. “Star Flower, what’s going on? And don’t say, Bad juju.“
The Mother Nymph, a water bug like creature that also glowed blue, had the faylings, gathered in a tight group behind the roots of a water lily. Don’t know. Mother Nymphs not as connected as the Bros. Something very bad and faraway… it’s like a bit of the light is dying.
“But it’s faraway?”
She did a little dance that he took as a nod.
“Yanko. Come see news.”
He turned around and looked up at the second floor terrace. Boris, his “cousin” from Bulgaria, leaned against the railing. “It bad.”
Yanko headed for the steps. “What is it?”
He shook his head. “No words. Very bad.”
The Crow’s Nest was the inn’s small bar. Dark wood, bright brass and nautical decorations made it feel like the main cabin on an old sailing ship. It had a comfortable relaxed atmosphere that made it the preferred venue for the more mature gay residents of Bennett Bay, or anyone that just wanted to have a relaxed conversation. The bar had a large TV but it was usually turned off. The patrons preferred the soft jazz that usually played in the background. Now the music was off and the TV filled the room with strobing red and blue lights.
“What’s happening?” He asked to no one in particular.
Mr. Owens, one of the inn’s guest, said, “Shooting at a club in Orlando.”
The TV cut to a squat building with a big P on a sign. Chaos was in the street. Emergency vehicle lights flashed. The camera zoomed in on wounded people being loaded in the bed of a pick-up.
Someone said, “Where’s the ambulances? They’re throwing them in trucks!”
Another voice said, “They don’t have enough.”
“Pulse,” Yanko said. “That’s Pulse.”
“Yes,” Mr. Owens said. “I believe that’s the name they gave. Do you know it?”
His phone rang. It was Tamás, one of his best friends and former roommate. “Gus. Luca. They aren’t answering their phones!”
“Have you tried Alejandro?”
“Yes! All to voice mail.”
From beside him, Boris asked, “What do?”
Into the phone he said, “Hold on a sec.”
Too much was happening. His guts clenched. He wanted to puke. He was still feeling the connection to the fay. He wanted Dieter. “What?”
Boris waved his hand around the room. “After two. No serve drinks. This bad. People need drink. Somewhere be. No go home.”
Yanko looked around the room, trying to access it as a manager, not as a man with two brothers missing. Not as a man whose community was under attack.
Someone yelled, “They say he may have a bomb!”
Yanko wanted everyone to shut up. But the crowd was growing. Men, individually and with partners, were coming into the bar. This wasn’t something to watch alone in a hotel room. “Look, one more round on the house, then shut it off. Get Conner to start the big coffee urn in the kitchen. Free coffee for the rest of the night. We can stay open as long as we’re not serving alcohol. Understand?”
“Da,” Boris said and headed for the back of the bar.
Yanko spoke back into his phone. “Sorry. Are you sure they went to Pulse?”
“Yes! It was Alejandro’s debut as Señorita Margarita. They sent photos. She looked fierce. Didn’t you get them?”
“I’ve been working. I have notifications turned off. Shit.”
“I can’t be here alone watching this.”
“Are you sure?”
Several men and a lesbian couple entered wearing nightclothes and dressing gowns. “We’re keeping the Nest open for now. Looks like we’re having a pajama party.” He took a deep breath and let it out. “This is no time to be alone.”
“See you soon.”
“Be careful. Okay.”
“You too… This couldn’t happen… I mean you’re in a gay hotel.”
Yanko tried to make his voice sound light. “I think we’re safe. And I’ll put a hex on any one that tries to harm my guest.”
Tamás gave a half-hearted chuckle. “Right. I forgot you’re the All Powerful Gypsy Witch.”
“It’s Roma and just be careful, okay?”
“I will. Bicycle helmet and everything.”
The call ended. Yanko closed his eyes. He wanted Dieter. He kept his eyes closed as he slipped his phone back in his pocket. He rubbed his thumb over the schorl stone in his ring. It was a protection stone. He breathed deeply and muttered a few words in a secret language his grandmother taught him. He thought of a spring fed pond on a farm. Hot air above his naked body, cold water below. He floated there in the in-between. Water-Air. Light-Dark. Love encompassing all. He tapped into the fay energy, hoping for a boost. Reaching out for the aura of two men that were more his family than anyone that shred his DNA. Nothing. Even a bad-ass Gypsy Witch couldn’t breach the gap between Bennett Bay and Orlando. Then his guts tightened again. There was an even greater void. A void he crossed once. He would not pay that price again.
“Witch,” Boris hissed next to him.
Yanko swayed and Boris helped him to an empty table. He nodded toward the TV. “Gus and Luca there, no?”
“You find? They good?”
He took another breath. He’d extended himself too far without adequate preparation. “No. I don’t know.”
His phone rang. He pulled it out and slid the answer button.
“What the hell was that?”
Yanko sighed. “You felt that?”
“Felt it? Felt like I was being dragged out of bed and tossed around the room by my balls. What the hell?”
Before he could reply, a pounding sound came from the phone. Tucker, one of their housemates, panted. “Fay Bros woke me up. News. Now.”
“What’s going on?” Yanko asked.
Dieter said, “Tuck just burst in and turned on the TV… Oh fuck.”
Yanko closed his eyes again. He pictured Dieter in bed staring at the TV in their bedroom. Tucker was probably standing next to him naked. Tucker was naked as often as possible. Meg, Tucker’s wife, said, “Will you please put this robe on?”
“Quiet,” snapped Dieter. “Weren’t Gus and Luca…”
“We can’t reach them. Tamás’ coming down here. The guests are gathering and the bar patrons aren’t leaving. We’ve stopped the drinks, but I’ve told Boris to let the coffee flow free.”
“Good idea. You called Anders?”
“Haven’t gotten around to it. I thought I could handle it.”
Dieter’s voice softened. “Never doubted it. Just thought the manager should have a heads up.”
“Holy fuck,” Tucker said. “They’re reporting at least twenty dead.”
“Dear Lord,” Meg said.
“I’ll call him and I’ll be down as soon as I shower.”
“But you have opening shift.”
“Yeah, I think the Esperanza will be closed today.” He paused for a moment. “Megan just nodded in agreement. Just a second.” The phone went silent.
Conner, the barback, pushed his way through the kitchen door. “Got the big urn brewing, but it will take a while.”
“Thanks,” Yanko said. “Keep the small pot behind the bar going for now. You mind staying a little while longer?”
He shrugged. “I think I’d rather be here right now, might as well get paid for it, right?”
Dieter’s voice came back. “You on speaker?”
“Yeah. Just a sec.” He waved Boris and Conner away and held the phone up to his ear. “Okay, Tuck and Meg still there?”
“No. They’re getting changed. I’m about to get in the shower. So what the hell woke me up?”
“Sorry. I didn’t think it would affect you. I’ve never been connected to someone like we are and well I never tried that before that either.”
“What’d you do?”
“Protection spell on the Inn and I tried to reach out to Gus and Luca.”
“I couldn’t feel them. They’re not there.”
“Not there… you mean. Oh hell.”
“No. No, I think they’re just too far away. I mean, it’s Orlando. And, come to think of it, if they were dead it might have been easier to find them.”
“Well their spirits would have been free, right? Distance doesn’t matter then does it?”
“You’re asking me? I hate this magic shit.”
“I know. Get in the shower. I need to see you.”
The call ended. He closed his eyes again and leaned back in his chair. He thought about going back down to his office and getting a drink from his private stock. But that didn’t feel right. He needed to be here with his guest, his community, his family.
“Oh hell, he’s got hostages now! Why don’t they take him out people are dying in there?”
Someone else said, “They think he has a bomb. He could take out the whole building.”
Yanko stood up and backed away. Backed out onto the seconded floor terrace. He needed air.