“Do I really have to wear this collar every day?!”
Green blades of grass poked through the melting Keweenaw snow as April sprinkled the emerald peninsula with constant showers from her watering bucket, making sure her gardens were thoroughly irrigated and cared for. As the rain fell outside, Carter and his two roommates got ready for dinner inside their home, shielded from the rain, though not from the college student’s daily woes.
“Uh… no?” Hal said, confused, “No one’s asked you to put that on for months, man.”
“I… what?” Carter croaked, perplexed.
“You keep putting it on.” the blond reminded him, “So if you’re sick of it, why don’t you take it off? Go on. Take it off. Or is there something that’s keeping it on you? Something… longing?”
“I… I… well I… I want some more chicken!” Carter yelped, grabbing another grilled chicken breast from the center platter on the table, trying desperately to sidestep the issue. His tight lycra suit, poking out under his clothes, shimmered in dining room light as he filled his plate with more food for a second round.
Six months had passed since Hyvett and Hal had moved into Carter’s humble abode, much to the college student’s initial dismay. In the cold, Yooper winter, their relationship had blossomed like a poinsettia on Christmas, transitioning from an icy reception with much awkwardness and animosity towards each other, particularly between Hal and Carter, to a genuine feeling of friendship, comradery, and even respect. After returning from their trip to retrieve Hal’s Mustang back then, the two rivals had decided to start fresh. As soon as they pulled back on Baraga Avenue, the two had pledged to reform, starting with a trip to the basement, a collar around Carter’s neck, and a reassurance from Hal that he would respect his property, rights, and person from now on, leaving his petty anger in the dust.
So far, things had worked out great, and the two had discovered that they had a lot more in common than they initially realized. The young man had been wearing his lycra suit way more often than he had before, almost daily at this point, and Hal had become much more friendly to him the more time they spent together, both above and below ground. Carter had even started to take some suggestions about his look from Hal, and that didn’t just extend to what was on the outside, as his tight suit compressed against his member efficiently, without any cloth between them.
“If you want to wear the collar even when you’re not told,” Hyvett reassured him, “that’s fine. That’s your choice, after all.”
“Yeah yeah!” Hal chimed in, “It’s actually pretty cool! It matches mine!” Hal pointed to the collar around his own neck, which was made of a similar black leather as Carter’s, only with a gold buckle instead of a silver one. The college student didn’t appear to share in Hal’s enthusiasm, at least not on the outside, as he shrugged him off and continued to dig into his dinner.
As for Hyvett and Carter’s relationship, while there was no initial complications between them, the young and bright man had impressed on Carter many things in half a year together, and in turn, he had been surprised at times by the student’s knowledge and performance on a variety of things. For one thing, and this was something that Carter had suspected from the start, he wasn’t a college student, and neither was Hal for that matter. In fact, he was actually a college professor, which stunned the young student at first. But after seeing him in action after asking for some help on something, he quickly realized he was well qualified for the position, and that was an understatement.
Meanwhile, Carter’s knowledge of music, engineering, automobiles, and a good ear for pitch and tone, had made even Hyvett blink in disbelief, not to mention his tolerance of Hal and their quick mending of their relationship. However, the hearing and musical abilities were the most intriguing to him, and after their trip to St. Ignace, he kept observing him, looking to replicate what happened there, albeit under more harmonious circumstances.
It’s been six months since then, Hyvett thought, and nothing like that has happened again with Carter.
Uh… yeah. I can see that. his blond friend replied, talking to his friend telepathically, What do you want me to do? Handcuff him to a chair and try to slice into his body? That wouldn’t be very productive, now would it?
Ironic coming from you. the white haired scholar miffed, Are you sure that that leak wasn’t strong enough to constitute an awakening?
Well, now that I think about it, I’m not really sure. Hal admitted, It didn’t seem like it at first, but it could’ve been. I mean if it had been you would’ve sensed it and we wouldn’t really be having this conversation right now.
Correct. Either way, I sense the power in him is growing. He is indeed something more, it’s just a matter of time and finding the right spark to light the fuse.
Should we get more aggressive?
Perhaps, but let’s not worry about that right now. Hyvett let the matter be for the moment and continued with his dinner, as the rain continued to fall down outside. He looked around the dining room, taking in the sights of their home, and how much had changed since they moved in.
When they had found Carter, his home was somewhat dilapidated and only sparsely furnished with things he found on Craigslist, inherited from his family, or bought at the nearest IKEA. Typical for a college student living on his own. Now, after their belongings were shipped from Grand Rapids to Houghton, the old furniture was replaced with theirs. The living room was now furnished with the leather sofa and chair, a gorgeous dark stain maple coffee table, and the smaller Samsung TV that Carter had was swapped for the much larger 65” 4K Vizio that the two owned. Upstairs, their bedrooms were fully furnished with all their things, Hyvett’s large bed and Hal’s dark curtains, and each were painted to their likings. All three had worked on updating the house with the new furniture, unloading their things from the truck, carrying it into the house, and putting the old furniture into storage in the basement, with what little space was left down there, even after Carter’s old Ducati was taken out and brought back on the road. By the end of it all, each were tired and beat, and with huge smiles on their faces. It was quite the bonding experience for the trio.
“So what’s new with all of you?” Carter asked, “Anything interesting going on at work recently?”
“Not much.” Hal sighed, “This job isn’t as exciting as Grand Rapids. Nowhere near the level of equipment or action that I had down there.”
“You’re working for the hospital now, right?” he wondered.
“Yeah, in the morgue as an medical examiner.” the blond moaned, “I’ve become Stanley.”
“Ouch.” Hyvett said flatly, knowing exactly who he was referring to.
“Well I mean that sounds exciting to me.” Carter mentioned, trying to cheer him up, “You get to be Ducky from NCIS.”
“What? No no it’s like that at all. These bodies don’t really have that interesting of a story to tell.”
“Oh… that’s unfortunate.”
“Heart attack. Heart attack. Stroke. Suicide. MAYBE the occasional homicide or serial killing but not nearly as impressive as being in the lab as a forensic. Ugh! Why couldn’t I have found a job like that?!”
“You could’ve asked the university if you could take up a job teaching forensic science.” Hyvett chimed in.
“Ha! That’s funny. Me. A teacher?! That’s a recipe for disaster.”
“I’ll say.” Carter agreed, recognizing how unstable Hal was, and seeing how dangerous he could be in a room full of college students that wouldn’t really be impressed by his grandeur or may inadvertently cause him to lose his cool and lash out.
“Ugh. I’m used to being around death and shit but I just wish they had more to say to me. Like yes I know you’re upset that you just died from a heart attack and it was really sudden and shit. I get it I really do but…”
Hal… you’re saying too much. Hyvett warned him, prompting Hal to stop dead in his tracks. His face turned bright red as he saw Carter look at him perplexed by what he just said. In an instant, he changed his tone, trying to save face as best he could.
“Uh… I mean… I think that’s what they’re probably thinking. Y’know, if they had spirits and they were going to the afterlife then or some stupid shit like that. Yeah that’s it. Haha….” he gave a nervous chuckle as he looked out the window, trying desperately to get out of the hole he had started to dig himself into.
“Uh… alright then.” Carter responded, somewhat confused, “What about you, Hyvett?”
“Nothing major to report.” he answered, quite blasé, “Classes are going well. It looks like my students have acclimated well to my style of teaching.”
“So they’re all failing is what you’re saying?” Hal joked.
“Unsurprisingly.” he lamented.
“Jesus.” Carter gasped, “I don’t think I’d want you as a teacher then.”
“Are you sure? I think you’d do rather well under my tutelage, Carter.” he told him, giving him a subtle compliment.
“Yeah! I think you’ll do really well with him!” Hal cut in, “I mean you’ve done great with me, what’s the worst Hyvett could do to you?”
“First off you’re playing, not teaching.” the student reminded Hal, “Second, I can’t suck his dick and get a good grade. This is my GPA we’re talking about. My grades. My performance in college. How would it look on a resume if I flunked every class I had with Hyvett and my GPA is a -40 because of it?”
“It wouldn’t go down that much, y’know.” the teacher tried to cheer him up, “But I suppose we’ll see what happens in the future, now won’t we? You might end up in a class with me one way or another.”
“We’ll see about that.” Carter said, “Not saying you wouldn’t be a good teacher, but for my grades to stay where they are I don’t think I’d want to have you as one.”
“I suppose that’s fair.” Hyvett put his silverware down on his plate, having taken the last bite of his dinner and signaling that he wasn’t hungry for more. All three of them finished off at the same time, full and ready to rest for the rest of the night. Rain continued to fall at a steady rate outside, as they started putting everything away. With how much they cooked, they had enough for someone to have leftovers tomorrow. In no time, the table was cleared, the leftover food was put in the refrigerator, and the plates and silverware were in the sink, ready to be washed.
“Hal, you’re washing dishes tonight.” Hyvett declared.
“WHAT?!” the blond protested, “Why do I have to do it?!”
“Because I did it last night and Carter did it the night before.” he explained, “It’s your turn.”
“I object!” Hal proclaimed, “I think Carter should do it!”
“Ha! No way!” the student interjected, “Unless you don’t wanna go have some fun tonight, if you know what I’m saying.”
“Wha-? You wouldn’t!”
“You heard him.” Hyvett said, handing him an apron and some rubber gloves, “Get to work.” Hal, seeing he was outnumbered, took them unhappily. Disgruntled, he walked over to the sink, tying his apron and slipping his gloves onto his hands, grabbing a sponge to begin his attack on the grime and grease that was their dinner plates. Meanwhile, Hyvett and Carter took to the living room, watching the rain fall as they waited for Hal to join them for a movie or a game.
“So,” Hyvett started, “is there something going on with you?”
“Hmm?” the black haired young man responded, “What do you mean?”
“You just asked both of us what we’ve been up to.” he explained, “So what’s going on with you?”
“Oh right!” Carter croaked, thinking of what he had coming up, “Actually, are you guys doing anything in a few weeks? Like, say, Thursday night?”
“No I don’t think so. Why?”
“Well, the Michigan Tech wind ensemble has a concert that day. I was wondering if you’d like to come.”
“I don’t see why not. We’d love to come.” he turned towards the kitchen, “Isn’t that right, Hal?!”
“Oh sure! Yeah! Why not?!” Hal yelled back, “Don’t mind me! Just washing dishes! Just keep talking about whatever the fuck you’re talking about! I’ll just agree to everything Hyvett says, won’t I?!” the young blond continued on, mumbling curses and profane obscenities throughout the course of their conversation, but they were too quiet to be heard and understood.
“There we go.” Hyvett said, with a blank expression on his face.
“Alright then! You’re gonna love it I promise!” Carter replied, smiling.
“I probably will.” he assured him, still with that ever blank expression. That was the one thing about Hyvett that always seemed to put Carter off, making him wonder why he was like that.
“Y’know you could emote a little more, Hyvett.” he told him.
“I don’t have time for that. And you don’t really want to hear the backstory behind it.” Hyvett insisted, picking up the remote and turning on the TV.
“O-oh. Okay then.” Carter said, perplexed, grabbing one of the Switch controllers on the table in front of him, “Wanna play a game?”
“Yeah.” his companion agreed, grabbing the second controller, “Mario Kart or Smash?”
“Smash.” he answered.
“FUCK YOU GUYS YOU’RE PLAYING SMASH WITHOUT ME?!” Hal screamed from the kitchen.
Plates rattled in the sink as he hurried to finish so he could join them before the game booted up. Carter couldn’t help but chuckle at his friend’s annoyance, seeing it as karma in a way. The TV lit up with the Switch menu, and he clicked on the Smash Ultimate icon right away, loading the game up just as Hal was draining the sink. He raced in, grabbing the third controller and plopping on the couch next to Carter as Hyvett took the armchair in the corner, hissing at his friends for attempting to shut him out of the competition.
“I’m sorry to bother you, sir.”
Night had fallen on Manhattan, but the city had yet to go to sleep. Lights flickered on the many skyscrapers like fireflies, as their tenants continuously worked on both private and public matters. Traffic moved at a snail’s pace below, as the stars were blighted out by the blinding light pollution beaming up into the ether above. Only the moon was strong enough to cut through the darkening light. Everyone thought they were free as they made their way through New York’s nightlife, but in fact, big brother was watching, and intently at that.
“What is it? You know I don’t like being interrupted.” he scolded, looking out over Midtown and the Financial District on the southern horizon, not turning to see who had come in.
“My apologies, sir.” the intruder begged for forgiveness, “I know you prefer to be alone at this hour.”
“And yet you’re here, interrupting.” the man continued his scolding, “So you better have a good explanation for coming in now.” His voice turned to a hiss as his composure was put to the test. His red hair seemed to glow in the light, and a malevolent power seemed to waft through the room as his demands were left unanswered.
“I do, sir.” the minion claimed, “I have news about our rivals’ whereabouts.”
“You interrupt me this late to tell me things that I already know? I’m beginning to wonder why I keep you around!”
“Attylo!” A third voice enters the room, panting and with an anger in her voice that sounds, compared to the minion, rather independent.
Attylo’s expression turns to one of intrigue, turning towards the two. “What is it, Anastasia?” His red eyes watched the brunette stumble into the room, panting as if she just climbed a hundred flights of stairs to make it to his chamber. Her long, black hair was messy and unkempt, clearly the result of being in a rush for some reason.
“Ritorno’s… Hyvett’s gone!” she yelled, gasping for air, “He… and that busboy he keeps around, what’s his name… Woodward! Yeah, they bailed. They’re not in Grand Rapids anymore!”
“Oh?” he said, curious, turning to the lackey, “They have?”
“Yes, sir.” the lackey confirmed, “The two have not been seen in the City of Grand Rapids for several months now, and the house that they lived in has now been sold to another owner.”
“That is interesting.” he said, calming down, while still staring out at the city, this time looking towards the west, “And where have they gone?”
“From what we can gather, they abandoned their home and headed north.” Anastasia explained, regaining her composure, “At this point they’re basically in Canada but not really. I don’t know, I’m not big on cold places like that. Not a lot of luck there.”
“Find them.” he ordered, “It’s not like them to leave so abruptly, especially without notifying the others of their intentions. Something’s changed, and I want to know what it is.”
“Yes, Master Attylo, sir.” the lackey bowed and ducked out of the room leaving his master and the new girl to contemplate this new development.
“Wonder what they found.” Anastasia cooed, “Must’ve been something big for them to just drop everything and leave.”
“Exactly. So we need to find them as soon as possible.” he said, glaring at her.
“O-oh. I get it. You want me to help them.” she grinned, “Hehe… I guess I could sprinkle a little luck on this whole thing. Speed things up, right?” she bounced off, a smile on her face, and playing cards in her eyes. All she saw was red diamonds as she strolled out of the room, feeling lucky. Alone, Attylo turned towards the window once again, watching the city move along like nothing happened.
Rain began to fall outside, as a storm came in from the west, drenching the city in several inches of precipitation. Lightning cracked and danced outside, with a booming thunder that shook the city down to its foundations and subway filled tunnels. The man continued to watch the city below, observing every detail of the rain soaked gutters and neighborhoods filled with crime and blight. The corruption of Wall Street strong even in Midtown, and the stench of a lowlife con man next door, looking to make a quick buck off his new, cozy position in the White House. His red eyes pierced through the glass as he looked to the west, towards the thunder and away from this swamp of a city, as he honed in on his prize.
“Hyvett Ritorno.”he chuckled, “What diamond in the rough have you found now to face me, my friend?”