Happy New Year! Today’s Friday Flash Fics shot made me think of the unnamed detective from “Keeping the Faith” (from Men of the Mean Streets). I liked the character, and I’ve always wanted to do more with him, but haven’t had the opportunity until now.
Clay didn’t feel comfortable in the bar, but the secretary at the address he’d been given had told him to come here if he wanted to find the man he needed, so here he was.
The bar wasn’t busy—it was too early to really be in the swing of things—but there were a few groups of people scattered in the room at different tables.
And one man, drinking alone.
Clay took a deep breath, and took the set beside him at the table.
It didn’t elicit much of a reaction. The man looked at him for the briefest of moments, then turned back to his drink, a glass of something nearly clear, and iced. He took another sip.
Clay cleared his throat. “Your secretary said that maybe you’d be here.”
“She’s a smart woman.”
Okay. So it was him. Not that Clay had really doubted it. The man was handsome in a way that made Clay almost as nervous as being in a bar, but he also seemed just a bit… closed off. Separate. Held apart from everyone else.
Of course, if the rumours were true, that made sense.
Clay bit his lip. Why had Father Bryce suggested this man, of all people, to help him? Everything about this felt wrong.
“So, it generally works best if you tell me what’s missing,” the man said, taking another sip of his drink and putting it down on the table. His gaze turned to Clay, and Clay tried to hide his reaction to the scrutiny—a shiver that ran the full length of his spine.
The little smile that curled among the man’s stubble made it clear Clay had not succeeded.
“Father Bryce sent me,” Clay said, forcing the words out.
“He said you’re my best…” Clay swallowed the word ‘hope.’ It didn’t feel right for this man. “He said you’re the best at finding… things.”
The man smiled. “I’ll drink to that.” He eyed Clay. “But you won’t.”
Another shiver. Clay shook his head. “I don’t drink.”
Clay knew they both heard the unspoken “anymore.”
“So how is Robert? Still tilting at windmills?”
Clay bristled. Father Bryce was a great man, and an icon for many. “He’s a great example for all of us.” This time, he didn’t falter, meeting the man’s gaze. “We could all learn from him.”
“Yeah, that whole ‘ignore the itch because scratching is a sin’ thing doesn’t really work for me.” The man took a final sip of his drink. “Or you, I’d imagine.”
Clay blew out a breath. “What did you even do for him?” He hadn’t intended to ask. He hadn’t wanted to know. Father Robert Bryce was one of the few people out there he could respect without question, and it was an already slim list he didn’t want to see grow any shorter. But the question was out before he could stop himself.
“Someone stole his faith,” the man said. “I got it back for him. And you know, even without his faith, there was no…” He paused, winked. “Scratching.”
Clay leaned back in the chair, feeling boneless and broken. It was true. This man really could… It should have made him feel better, but instead, it was somehow worse.
Because now he had hope.
The man leaned forward. “What about you? What do you need me to find?”
Was it wrong to work with a man like this? Clay bit his lip. The rumours of how this man had gained his ability to find anything…
“Did you really…?” Clay said. Meet the devil? Offer him your soul to find anything you set your mind to? Lose something so valuable it was worth the deal? He closed his mouth, unable to finish the question.
The man’s slow smile was answer enough. “How about you tell me what’s missing, Mr. Famous Artist.”
Clay shivered again. He hadn’t imagined this man would know who he was, but… He blew out a breath.
“My… muse, I suppose. My creativity. It’s just gone. I pick up a paintbrush and… nothing.” Clay tried to keep the misery out of his voice, and mostly succeeded.
The man nodded. “Okay. Let’s head back to my office. We’re going to start with you making a list of everyone you’ve ever pissed off.”
Clay watched the man rise, pull on a jacket over his shirt and tie and vest, and then stand there, looking at him with that same half-smile on his face. “Coming?”
Clay nodded, and rose. He should want to paint this man. He should want to paint this bar. He should want to put the shadows on a canvas, and show the world things about this place, these people, that they didn’t maybe want to see.
He didn’t. Not even a little. It made him feel like less than himself.
“It’s not a short list,” Clay admitted.
The man laughed. It was a really good laugh, and it bothered Clay how much he enjoyed it. “It never is.”