Alex managed to kiss the forehead of the bloody old homeless woman he was carrying back to his place, where he had all the medical supplies needed to attend to her wounds the right way. He dropped his voice an octave, to the gentlest purr. “You have nothing to fear from me.” Then he pulled his head back slowly, not wanting to alarm her with any sudden motions…as if she were the bird with a broken wing Alex had rescued the week before. Studying her, he looked deeply into her still beautiful eyes, hoping his words had had the desired effect.
They hadn’t. She still looked at him warily. It cut Alex to the quick, and he had to fight back a flash of what other people called his irrational rage. Why didn’t any one understand him? Why didn’t any one see the kind of person he really was?
But he caught himself this time, able to appreciate that with all this poor woman had undoubtedly suffered being homeless, it was understandable that it might take a while for her to believe in Alex. Eventually, though, she would. Alex would see to that. “How could I?” he whispered to her. “How could I have failed to notice your need immediately? I’ll take care of you. Don’t worry.”
He reached his trick corner, where he could always lose anyone following him…and he knew he was being followed. That young woman with the twitchy lips and straight, dark hair. In shoes too dressy for daytime but with heels that clattered over the sidewalk…making it easy to gauge her distance and rate of approach.
Alex listened to those shoes and slowed down. He wanted just enough time for her to think he must have disappeared into one of the buildings on the first block when he turned the corner.
Instead, as soon as he made that left, he ducked behind a tall shrub that seemed to stand in front of a solid building. Actually it concealed a tunnel that, combined with a hole in the backyard’s rear fence, allowed access to the next street. A little power walking and he’d backtracked to a different block. Through all of this the homeless woman he carried looked puzzled, but Alex was gratified by her visible wonder when he carried her inside the brownstone that was his alone.
“All that stained glass…original Tiffany, is it not?”
Her voice was even more beautiful than all the sunlight streaming through his helter-skelter collection of stained glass that was, in fact, original Tiffany. Alex beamed, his heart leaping when he saw her astonishment replaced by a huge smile of sheer delight. “I’m a bit…Noveau Victorian,” he demurred, “as you’re about to see from my library.”
With a bit of flourish, he swept her into a dark-paneled room with a huge stone fireplace and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. But the expected leather-bound books were not there. Instead, his eclectic found-object sculpture exploded from the shelves, along with such an extensive collection of high-tech gadgetry that he liked to think he put James Bond’s Q to shame.
“You’ll be comfortable here,” he purred, laying her out gently on a huge chaise longue. “I’ll be right back.”
In moments he returned with water, a collection of delicacies for her to eat, and his medical supplies.
The homeless woman looked him up and down. “Clearly, you’re not really homeless.”
“No,” he acknowledged with a laugh.
She looked puzzled again when he brushed some feathers aside from his medical supplies.
“A bird with a broken wing that I rescued last week.”
She smiled broadly. “May I see it?”
“Sure.” He retrieved the bird’s shoebox, meticulously lined with soft cloth.
“But…” She seemed troubled. “It’s dead.”
Now it was his turn to be puzzled. “Of course it’s dead. I had to kill it when it pecked me.”