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Authors: Josh Lanyon

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BOOK: The Dark Farewell
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53

Josh Lanyon

“No.” Julian was smiling a lazy smile, and Flynn wondered if part of his attraction for the other man was tied up in that fact. He was surprised to find he didn’t like that idea.

“Where’s the rest of your folks?”

“Dead.”


All
of them?”

“The ones I know about. My father was killed in a train wreck. My mother predicted it.”

“So you mentioned once before. Count Amadeus, that would be?”

“Yes. He was a magician.” Julian smiled faintly. “My mother was Zaliki the Seer. She was a fortune

teller by trade, though she was also clairvoyant.”

“Like you?”

“Yes. But she preferred telling fortunes.” Julian’s smile faded and he stared ahead through the

windshield.

Prophesying is for…for lowlifes and scallywags.

“What happened to your mother?”

“She killed herself.”

Flynn’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. He consciously relaxed them. “Why?”

“She missed my father, I expect.
Grand-père
says she went mad. Perhaps she did.” He sounded peculiarly disinterested.


Can
you tell the future?”

Julian was studying him again, mouth curved in a sly smile. “Sometimes. Sometimes it’s not hard to

know what’s going to happen.”

Flynn’s face warmed.

They passed scattered houses, gardens, fields and big green lawns that were actually nicely mown

weeds. The woods were deep on the edge of town. They passed through them and then the woods thinned

to a couple of miles of cornfields, and Julian leaned forward, pointing and saying eagerly, “There it is.”

The Dance and Dine Inn was a big white two-story house set back away from the road, welcoming

lights gleaming from every window. There were lots of cars and a couple of buggies in the front yard, and several shining roadsters parked on white gravel in the mown field next door, expensive ones, lined up all in a row and watched over by two tough characters in straw hats sitting in chairs by the gate.

Flynn pulled up not far from the side-door entrance. They got out and walked across more white

gravel and up the big wooden steps of the long front porch. A tall, very black Negro in a white mess jacket greeted them with a big smile and a suave, “Welcome to the Dance and Dine Inn, folks.”

As they stepped inside, Flynn took note of two large gentlemen sitting watchfully in a small alcove to one side.

A pretty colored girl in a French maid’s outfit led them to a table near a window.

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The Dark Farewell

The best tables, the tables on the screened-in porch, were already filled, but it was nice in the main dining room too, and they got one of the last tables by the windows on the far side of the room. The walls were papered in flocked dull red. Alphonse Mucha posters of women in nimbuses and flowered

headdresses decorated the walls. Ceiling fans turned slowly overhead stirring the warm air, and small polished brass lamps shone gaily on every linen-covered table.

Flynn studied the menu. There was no booze listed of course, only “soft drinks”, ciders, and a

beverage called “Grape Drink Français”.

He mentioned it to Julian whose mouth curved in that habitual sarcastic smile. He nodded approval to the grape drink and went back to gazing out the window at the moon-shadowed yard.

“Do you know what you’re having?” Flynn inquired. Julian hadn’t looked at the menu.

“I’ll have what you’re having.”

“You don’t know what I’m having,” Flynn pointed out.

“It doesn’t matter.” At Flynn’s expression, Julian made a face and said, “Oh well. Have it your way. I can’t read.”

“You mean there’s something wrong with your eyes?” Was this the mysterious illness both Julian and

the old man had referred to?

“No.” Julian seemed amused. “I never learned how. My grandfather didn’t think it was important. For

me.”

This offended Flynn on so many levels that he spluttered before he finally got out an outraged,

“Didn’t think it was important?
He
reads. He writes articles and essays for those damned spiritualist magazines.”

“That’s true.” Julian said it placatingly. “I believe he thought it was for the best. That there would be less chance of people claiming I was a fraud if it could be proved that I couldn’t read or write.”

“Jesus. You can’t read
or
write?”

Julian reddened. “You don’t have to shout it to the world.”

“Sorry.” Flynn was still fuming though. He stared down at the menu. When he had himself under

control again, he asked, “What do you like to eat?”

“Ice cream.”

“Ice cream?”

“Lots of things,” Julian amended in an apparent desire to please.

“I’m going to have T-bone steak.”

“All right.”

Flynn scanned the menu. “They have breast of chicken a la rose and crown roast of lamb and roast

duck.”

Julian gave this due consideration. “T-bone steak, I think.”

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Josh Lanyon

Flynn was still trying to come to terms with the notion that Julian couldn’t read. Not that plenty of people couldn’t read, but Julian’s grandfather was a literate man, so to deliberately leave Julian ignorant and uneducated horrified him. Not that Julian
appeared
ignorant or uneducated, but clearly there were considerable gaps.

Untroubled, the object of all this worry studied the crowded room with the same innocent pleasure of someone watching a play. “There’s Sheriff McFadden,” he murmured, and Flynn, following his gaze, saw that he was correct. The portly sheriff was dining at the roadhouse with an equally portly woman in a puce-colored silk dress. Julian pointed out two policemen, a judge, and a couple of well-to-do Herrin merchants.

He was sharp-eyed as any reporter, but that was a necessity in his line of work.

“The law-and-order crowd,” Flynn commented.

Julian said sardonically, “Prohibition means bootleggers are running this place instead of honest

businessmen.”

Their waiter, younger than Julian, arrived, uncorking the bottle of grape drink as he would have

decanted a bottle of wine in the good old days. He poured it into Flynn’s glass. Flynn sampled it. It was wine all right. Good wine. It might even have been imported.

Flynn nodded, and the waiter filled Julian’s glass and departed.

Julian sipped his wine. Meeting Flynn’s gaze, he smiled, seemingly relaxed and happy.

“Your grandfather seems to know…certain things,” Flynn said neutrally.

“Well, he could hardly miss them,” Julian pointed out.

Flynn was still trying to work through that when Julian added, “Why don’t we talk about you for a

change? I feel like you’re interviewing me for a newspaper article.”

“What would you like to know?”

“Everything.”

Julian gazed at him with such unabashed and unfeigned interest that Flynn felt himself coloring.

“I guess my life is about as different from yours as it could be.”

“Not in all ways,” Julian said serenely.

“Oh. No. Not in all ways. I was born in Portland, Maine. I graduated from the Fryeburg Academy like

my brothers before me. I went to Brown University—that’s where I met Gus, Amy’s husband. I got a job at
The Daily News
, but the war was on and I enlisted.”

“And that’s where you met Paul?”

“That’s where I found him again. We’d known each other at Brown.” He fell silent, gauging the

extent of pain within himself. It was…tolerable, surprisingly so. He said calmly, “After the war I got a job as a contributor to
The Atlantic Monthly
.”

“But you live in New York?”

Flynn nodded. New York and his tidy, quiet brownstone seemed a lifetime away.

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The Dark Farewell

“What’s that like?”

“Very different.” Flynn thought for a few moments. “I guess…things were too easy for me growing

up. It leaves you unprepared for the bad times that come.”

“I don’t know. Maybe it gives a kind of foundation. Having an education. Knowing that you’re

loved.” Julian said it simply, seriously, and for some reason Flynn’s throat closed tight. Too tight to say a word. What Julian said was true. Those things should have supplied Flynn the bedrock of philosophical and spiritual certainty. Why hadn’t they? A lot of people had suffered through the war and the terrible influenza epidemic that followed, and they hadn’t closed themselves off from life and love.

Here was Julian who hadn’t had half the advantages of Flynn, was about as isolated and lonely a man

as Flynn had ever known, and yet he possessed a calm confidence and an almost childish optimism.

“If you could do anything you wanted in the world, what would it be?” he asked Julian.

Julian’s eyes widened as though Flynn were really offering this, as though he had the power to give

him whatever he would like. “I’d like to own a café.”

“A
café
?”

“Like in France before the war.”

“Were you in France before the war?”

“A couple of times. When I was a child. I loved it.” He smiled, remembering. “They have these little cafés. Bistros, the Russians call them. I’d like to open one. Omelets stuffed with mushrooms and cheese,
coq au vin
, mussels in cream sauce. And I’d like to sing there in the evenings.”

“Sing?”

Julian nodded. His eyes were bright and mischievous. “Yes.”


Can
you sing?”

“Er, a bit.” He was still smiling, and studying him, it occurred to Flynn that it wouldn’t matter if he could sing or not. People would love him. In Greenwich? They would adore him.

He put that thought away, and said, “Well, why don’t you? You can’t do this forever, surely?”

“It seems you can.” Julian’s smile had faded. He sounded bitter.

“You could surely stop if you didn’t want to do it any longer? You’re free, white and over twenty-

one.”

“And what would I live on?”

“What happens with all this money you earn?”


Grand-père
controls the purse strings.” He was staring out the large window again, his profile hard.

“Don’t you get a say in how the money you earn is spent?”

A second or two passed and he thought he wouldn’t get an answer, but then Julian turned back to him

and he was smiling again. “Anyway, it’s a nice dream. Did you get to try much French food when you were over there?”

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Josh Lanyon

“We were a trifle busy,” Flynn pointed out.

“But you went on leave, right? Once in a while?”

Yes, once in a while they’d had leave. And he and Paul had enjoyed themselves very much. It gave

happiness a special shine knowing it could end any moment.

Their meals came then, and that line of conversation died a natural death. Along with the T-bone steak were Potatoes a la Hollandaise and Asparagus Tips au Gratin. The kind of food you’d expect to find at the Waldorf Astoria, not in a hick roadhouse in the middle of nowhere.

They ate their food and talked and drank more of the Grape Drink Français. It was far different than the evening he’d spent with Casey. The funny thing was that while Flynn had pegged Casey as more his type, he’d never have considered spending an evening like this with him—well, not after the first couple of drinks at Hotel Lafayette. In fact, he was enjoying himself more than he could remember in years. Julian might be illiterate and more than a bit odd, but he was handsome and witty and very charming when he put his mind to it. Flynn found himself laughing at Julian’s sly observations and comments more than he had laughed in a very long time.

“Would you like dessert?” he asked, not wanting the meal to end.

Julian’s wide mouth curved. “Yes.”

They had a dish of Venetian Ice Cream each.

Finally Flynn paid for the meal and they exited the rear side door, watched over by another dark,

smiling gentleman in a white dinner jacket.

In a companionable silence they followed slightly tipsy couples through the warm moonlit night and

down a hedge-boarded walkway to the big barn where buttery light streamed into the summer evening, and a jazz band could be heard tentatively warming up.

A couple of St. Louis-style bruisers sized them up inside the entrance, looking them over for flasks or pistol bulges.

Inside the barn, the floor had been polished like black glass. The walls were dark paneled and the

lights mellow. A few ceiling fans moved the air languidly overhead.

They got a table away from the dance floor but with a good view of the band. A big-bosomed hostess

left them a small paper list of soft drinks.

Flynn studied the list. “What do you want?”

“I prefer gin. Did you ever have a New Orleans Fizz?”

Flynn shook his head. “I don’t think they have anything like that here.”

“No. Prohibition’s spoiled everything.”

When the waitress came back, Flynn ordered two Juniper Jennies, which were gin and tonics by any

other name.

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The Dark Farewell

Flynn watched the small back door of the bar and noticed a tall, short-skirted lady open a door in the partitioned area and smile over her shoulder at the young man who followed her in and closed the door behind. He didn’t doubt stairs in there led up to the former hayloft. They were making hay all right, though it was doubtful any bales remained.

The thought of sex with Julian caused heat to pool in his belly, made his groin ache.

He looked across the table and Julian was watching him steadily with those dark and knowing eyes.

Julian smiled and turned his gaze back to the dance band.

Their drinks arrived and they sipped them, Flynn with sudden and uncharacteristic self-consciousness.

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