THE DEVIL'S CANDY

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Chapter 20 in the "Queer Theories" series.

Go back to "Two More Lost Boys" , the previous chapter.

POV of Ron Rosenblum, with Brian Kinney, Jimmy Hardy, Carmel, Michael Novotny.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Ron thinks Brian is up to something. We don't know what Brian thinks. April 2002.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.

I have to hang up the phone on Jimmy Hardy for the third time today. "Jimmy, we'll see you on the set Monday morning."

"Just let me talk to Brian for five minutes, Ron. I have some questions about this one scene...."

"Jim, get some rest. I'm trying not to let Brian burn out here. He's exhausted. I'm exhausted. You should be exhausted, too. Put Tess on and I'll tell her to get you a dry martini and a little R & R for the evening."

"Tess took the kids shopping," says Jimmy. "Just hand me over to Brian. Two minutes. Just two fucking minutes!"

"Goodbye, Jimmy. I will see you on Monday." And I hang up. On my star and my best friend.

My head is spinning in about ten different directions. This is getting serious. This is also getting scary. I'm worried for Jimmy. He seems to be finding this whole... experience a little too intense. This film. This shoot. This character. I myself am finding it too intense.

The only one not betraying his emotions openly is Brian. Except in the little gestures and obsessions of his that seem more acute, more consuming lately. He lights a cigarette and then carries it around, not smoking it, just holding it, then stubbing it out and lighting another one.

Brian also carries his script around like a talisman. Writing in it, glancing into it, rubbing the cover, flipping the pages. He has every fucking word memorized, but he starts to get panicky if it isn't within reach on the set, even if he never opens it. His psychiatrist says that it's a defense compulsion. A safety mechanism. Like a stuffed animal or a piece of blanket children carry around to protect them from the demons only they can see.

I have some idea of the demons that plague Brian. At least, I thought I did.

But what demons is Jimmy Hardy seeing? He's always been the consummate professional. Prompt on set. Letter perfect in his lines. His films come in on time and under budget, mainly due to his control of himself and his fellow actors.

But this is different. He doesn't seem to be in control anymore. He doesn't seem to be the leading presence on the set, the way he usually is. The other day he was almost hysterical with his assistant, leaving the woman in tears. That's not like Jimmy.

He and Brian hole up in his trailer for hours, going over the script they already know by heart. And when it's time for the scene, Jimmy is always looking to Brian, as if Brian is the one who is the expert, the veteran, and Jimmy the neophyte. It mirrors their roles in the film -- to an extent. But not completely. Guy is supposed to be the coach, the steadying influence, the leader, while Bobby is the one out-of-control, in need of guidance, in need of a firm hand.

At the rate they going, they'll both be flying off the set with nervous breakdowns before we wrap this thing. And I'll be next.

And then the phone calls began. First, just once a day. Now, constantly.

I need to have a talk with Tess. She might give me some insight. She must know what is driving Jimmy to....

I stop.

It can't be.

It can't fucking well be.

I leave the office and walk out to the pool.

Brian is lying on the lounge chair, a lap board across his middle, annotating his script again. I watch him for a while, scribbling away in that loopy handwriting. He's absolutely absorbed in filling up the margins. This is the only time when he seems to be completely calm.

"You know, Brian, there isn't going to be a test at the end of the shoot," I say.

He doesn't bother to look up. "Just making some notes, Ron."

"Brian," I say. "I didn't make that many notes when I was writing the goddamn thing!"

He finally looks up. "Maybe you should have."

How does he always know exactly the thing that will hurt the most? It must be a gift.

"I have a little question for you, Brian. That is, if it isn't too much trouble?"

"Hm?" He's back to worrying at his script, ignoring my momentary intrusion.

"Tell me the truth. Are you fucking Jimmy Hardy?"

That makes him stop. He even puts down his pen. "Now why would I do something like that, Ron?"

"See, here's the problem, Brian," I reply. "You're doing that answering a question with another question thing that you do. And I was rather looking for a 'Yes, I am,' or 'No, I'm not,' kind of response."

"And you should see that I'm trying not to indulge your paranoia, Ron. That's MY response. Take it or leave it. And take a Xanax while you're at it." He closes his script with a slap.

"So -- you are, then?"

"What the fuck brought this on?" He takes his sunglasses off and glares at me. Those eyes -- like the last thing a little animal sees before the cat swallows him.

"Oh, I don't know. The way Jimmy is acting on the set. The way he's acting off of the set. The way he's calling here all the time...."

"Acting how?"

"Well -- like me!" Jealous. Possessive. Paranoid, yes. Obsessive, maybe. Like me.

"Did it ever occur to you that he's just getting into character?" Brian suggests. "Maybe he's modeling his role on YOU, Ron? Ever think of that?"

That makes me hesitate. It's possible. But is that what is really happening? Or what Brian wants me to THINK is happening? Now I truly AM paranoid!

"You know, Brian -- Tess Hardy is about the best friend you have out here. Always sticking up for you. Trying to smooth the way for you...."

"I don't need anyone to smooth my fucking way!" Brian grouses. "Never have. Never will."

"Be that as it may, she's done a lot for you. I'd hate to see her -- hurt in any way."

He gives a dismissive laugh. "Ron, Tess Hardy has nothing to worry about." He pushes the lapboard aside, stands up and stretches himself, tossing the script down in the chair. The pen is still sticking out from behind his ear. "I have no plans at the present time -- or any time in the near future -- to steal her husband."

Brian puts his sunglasses back on and presses up against me, making me take a step back, making me look at myself reflected in his mirror shades. He smiles that sphinx-like smile. "Although... I could steal him -- if I wanted to."

***

I wake up to Armani licking my face. I drop him on the floor, but he jumps back up again.

I look at the clock. 6:15 a.m. Armani is jumping around, wagging his tail. I sit up and see that he's pushed the door open.

"Brian?"

I get up and look in the bathroom. There's no sign of Brian. Also, no sign of the clothes he was wearing last night. Or his keys. Or wallet. Either in the closet, on the dresser, or on the floor.

I walk down to the poolhouse, Armani tagging at my heels. It's empty.

Now, I'm getting concerned. On Saturday night I could hardly expect him to be home early, but this is something else. As volatile as Brian can be, he's also a creature of habit. And he likes his privacy. His own space. And he doesn't like spending more time than necessary with strangers. He might pick someone up and fuck him, but he always comes home at the first possible moment.

I head for the garage. The Jaguar and Mercedes are there, but the Mustang is gone. Or still gone, assuming that he never came back from wherever it was he went last night.

"Carmel!" I shout.

Eventually, she opens her door. "Mr. Ron, do you know what time it is?"

"Yes, I know what time it is! What I want to know from YOU is whether or not Brian came home last night!"

She narrowed her eyes at me. "You don't have to yell, especially at this time of the morning. And, no, if you don't see him here, then he's not here! What do you want from me?"

"I just want to know where the hell he is?"

"And how would I know where that boy is?" says Carmel. "If YOU cannot keep track of him, how am I supposed to do it?"

"I am just fucking ASKING you!"

"Don't use that language to me, Mr. Ron!"

Now the old lady comes out and adds her two cents -- in Spanish, of course.

"I say, if he wants to be gone out of this place -- good riddance! He has the bad attitude and the worse behavior!" Carmel states.

"Just shut up, Carmel!"

"Don't tell me to shut up, Mr. Ron! I will say what I think!"

I go into my office and slam the door.

I sit at the desk for a few minutes, trying to concentrate. Where the fuck would he be on a Sunday morning?

I dial Jimmy Hardy's number. Tess answers. "Ron, do you have any idea what time it is?"

"Why do people keep saying that? I know what the fucking time is! Let me talk to Jimmy."

Tess sighs. "Hold on."

It seems like forever before Jimmy takes the line. "What IS going on over there, Ron?"

"Nothing! I'm just trying to find Brian!"

"Well, Ron, he's probably just not home yet. I wouldn't get all upset about it."

"But you don't understand, Jimmy. He never stays out all night. Never. That's why I thought he may have gone over there."

Jimmy is silent for a while. "Jesus. Let me look around the house and I'll call you back. Did YOU check the yard? Around the house?"

"No, just the poolhouse and the garage."

"Well, scout around a little," instructs Jimmy. "Who knows? I'll look here, too. Annie may have let him in last night. You know Annie -- she loves Brian. Or he could be sleeping it off somewhere under a tree. Who the fuck knows? I'll get back to you in a half-hour."

An hour later a car pulls up and Jimmy gets out.

"Any word?"

"Nothing," I answer. Now I'm getting scared.

"Did you look....?"

"I looked all over the house, the grounds, you name it! Now I'm trying to figure out someone to call."

"I suppose he took his cellphone," Jimmy asks. "No response there?" I shake my head. "What about an address book or something like that?"

"Nothing." His Filofax, but that's a code I have yet to figure out. But, maybe.... "There's a phone in the poolhouse. He might have some numbers on auto-dial. And there's the computer."

"Do you have his password?"

"No, but we can poke around."

We try the computer first. Everything is very general. The usual websites for porn, chat, travel, news, gossip bookmarked. But nothing specific. No one evident person. We try a variety of passwords, but can't get into his mail.

"Shit!" says Jimmy. "I should have brought a thirteen year old kid! He could have cracked this system in five minutes."

Then we try the programmed numbers on the phone. There are only three. The first is Time and Weather. "Who needs to check the weather in Los Angeles?" asks Jimmy.

"Brian, apparently," I answer.

I try the second number and get an answering machine for the Peterson-Marcus residence.

"What the fuck is that?" wonders Jimmy.

"Brian's kid. We'll have to try that one again later."

"Is he in touch with the mother?"

"Yes, and according to my phone bills he calls there pretty often. Or he did until filming started. Usually first thing in the morning. She's a teacher, so maybe that's the best time to catch her."

"But today is Sunday. What time is it on the East Coast? Could they be at church?"

"Church?" I gape at Jimmy. He's so Iowa sometimes. "I guess it's possible. It's about a three hour difference, I think. More likely they are out to breakfast. Or just not answering the phone on a Sunday morning."

We try the second number. It's busy. "That's the loft," I say.

"The loft? What's THAT?"

"Brian's place in Pittsburgh."

"Is there anyone living there now? I mean, if the line is busy?"

"Yes, someone is living there, but the situation is... murky." Very murky, I think.

"Well, I vote that we keep calling and clarify it," Jimmy insists. "Maybe we could get something to eat and then try again afterwards? Who knows, Brian might come stumbling in while we're having breakfast."

Carmel is still giving me the cold shoulder, but she's all over Jimmy. She immediately brings out her big guns and starts cooking a huge meal, which Jimmy digs into like a pro. I have coffee, black.

"Listen, has he ever done anything like this before? I mean, just take off without saying anything, and without taking all his stuff?" Jimmy is finishing up a plate of greasy eggs and sausages.

"Yes, actually."

"Okay, then! And when did you finally catch up with him, Ron?"

"About fourteen years later."

"Shit!" Jimmy shoves another piece of toast into his mouth. "He wouldn't just walk out on the film, would he? I mean, just disappear? I mean -- we have an 8:00 a. m. call tomorrow! And at least three weeks left on this shoot!"

"I don't think so, Jimmy. But that's assuming he knows where the fuck he is -- and is able to get back from wherever he is."

Carmel comes to the table with another plate of toast, which Jimmy immediately appropriates. "I think you two are worried over nothing," she says. "He will come back when he comes back. When he runs out of money -- definitely. That boy would never leave all those expensive clothes behind."

"Maybe she's right, Ron. He'll probably amble in here around dinner time with a splitting headache."

I just glare at Jimmy. "Unless -- Brian had a reason to take off? A reason YOU might understand?"

Jimmy makes a face. "Why the fuck are you looking at ME like that? Why would I know why Brian might want to take off? I can't read his mind! I can't read my OWN mind half the time!"

The phone rings. Carmel picks it up. "Mr. Jimmy -- it's your wife."

Tess is checking in. She questioned her daughter, Annie, who, of course, didn't know anything. The idea that Brian would need help from a fourteen year old girl to hide out from us is ludicrous, but it was worth a shot to ask.

"Tess says that now Annie is upset and wants to form a search party." Jimmy shakes his head.

"That might not be a bad idea."

Carmel clears the dishes away. "Call the cops and tell them the car was stolen. They'll bring him in quick enough then."

"And they'll have him down on the books for Grand Theft Auto? That'll be great for the publicity files!"

Carmel shrugs. "I just suggested -- it is your call, Mr. Ron."

I stand up. "I'm going to try those numbers again."

Jimmy follows me out to the poolhouse and begins searching around. But there is nothing to find but the computer equipment, a pile of fashion magazines, an outdated 'TV Guide,' and a battered paperback copy of 'The Fountainhead.'

I try the second number again, the one that had been busy. It picks up on the first ring.

"Hello?" says a voice.

"Hello -- who is this? This is Ron Rosenblum calling from Los Angeles."

"Ron Rosenblum? This is Michael Novotny. Ben's friend? I met you at the film festival? We went to dinner at that Thai place?"

Yes, the short, dark-haired guy Ben had been seeing. "Can I ask what you are doing at this number?" The minute I say it I realize how arrogant it sounds.

"I'm over here working on the computer," Michael replies. "Brian's computer. For my store. He has a more powerful system and I've been using it since before he left. If YOU don't mind?"

Wonderful. Now he's getting snippy with me. I know that this guy was Brian's childhood friend. It makes sense that he has access to the loft and is using his computer. Brian also told me that he and Ben Bruckner had broken up -- but I neglected to ask how Brian knew that. I assumed that he's gotten the information from whomever he was calling at this number. I guess I imagined it was the guy he'd been living with -- the one whose name he won't say. But he also might have been talking to this Michael at the loft.

Jimmy keeps mouthing things at me, but I can't understand what.

"I should be asking why you're calling here," says Michael, shortly. "Or isn't is any of my business?"

"No, I just wondered if you had heard anything from Brian. I mean, in the last day or two?"

"No. No one has heard anything at all from Brian since he left town in December. You ought to know THAT, Mr. Rosenblum! Why would you think he'd be calling here?"

I know that isn't true, but I don't tell Muchael that. I know Brian's been calling that mother of his son. And he's been calling someone at that loft. Someone. "Well, I had this number and I'm just asking...."

Jimmy breaks in. "Don't get into a fucking FIGHT with the guy! Just get some information!" Then he grabs the phone. "Jimmy Hardy here. Hi there! And your name is? Michael. Right. Here's the deal, Mike. We are trying to get in touch with Brian and we thought someone there might have some information about where he might be."

"You mean -- you don't know where he is? Isn't he in L.A. anymore?" I can hear Michael yelling through the receiver from a foot away.

"We think so," says Jimmy. "We just don't know where, exactly."

"Excuse me, Mr. Hardy or whoever the fuck you are, but what is going on out there? What have you been doing to Brian?"

"Nothing, Mike! Just hold your horses! We're the ones looking for him!"

"Then Brian IS missing? How long has he been fucking missing? Have you called the police?"

"Now, Mike, don't get excited. I'm sure he's fine. He just never came home last night. I'm sure it's nothing."

"He never came home?" Michael shouts. Jimmy winces and holds the phone away from his ear. "Brian ALWAYS comes home, don't you people know that? Why haven't you called the cops? Was he upset about something? Put Rosenblum back on the phone!"

Jimmy hands it over to me. "Michael, I'm only trying to find out if he may have called there last night or this morning. We don't have any indication that there's anything wrong. He could be staying at a friend's...."

"Right," Michael says, coldly. "Name this 'friend,' Mr. Rosenblum!"

I can't think of one. Jimmy and his wife. That's the end of the line.

"If he's not with a friend, he's probably just... just...."

"With a trick? The next day? Having brunch? Going to the zoo? Never in a million fucking years! And you know it!"

"Well," I add, nervously. "At least we know he's not suicidal or anything like that."

Michael laughs shortly. "Oh, we know that, do we? YOU know that? Well, know THIS! That I only pulled him down from the fucking rafters of this loft exactly a year ago. Right after his birthday. Do you even know when that is, Ron? When his birthday IS?"

I go completely cold. "A year ago? Are you sure?"

"No, I'm lying about it!" Michael spits. "I would really lie about something like that! THAT is how much YOU know Brian!"

"Maybe I should call the police," I say. Now I'm not worried. No -- I'm fucking terrified!

"Maybe you should, then. But let me tell you one thing, Rosenblum. I don't care if you ARE a good friend of Ben's. Or you are some hotshot movie person. If anything has happened to Brian, I'm going to come out there and fucking KILL you? Do you hear me? And I'm NOT joking around!" He slams the phone down. I lay the receiver down, numb.

"Dead end, huh?" Jimmy says.

"What?" I look at him, my mouth open.

"I said, it looks like THAT was a dead end."

"I hope not," I reply. "I fucking hope not!"

Continue on to "Venus in Furs", the next chapter.

©Gaedhal, May 2002

Picture of Gale Harold from Showtime.

Revised and Updated January 16, 2003.