Honey is Sweeter
Honey is Sweeter
In the confines of the spacious room -- too spacious for his sight to be reconciled with his thoughts -- Leon Orcott could sum up everything he disliked about the man who ran the shop, and all his surroundings suggested about him. It shouldn't have been so cavernous, like a palace underground. it was like crawling into a cave and discovering you'd fallen through the world and wound up in China. Everything about it contradicted reality. To combat his confusion, Leon did what any confident, normal guy would do, when under the same -- and might I add dire - circumstances.
Get damn pissed off.
"Look familiar to you?" With no sense of grace or of culture he slammed the case file down on the low coffee table. With no sense of urgency or particular enthusiasm, the other reached out a graceful hand and slid the pictures across the tabletop to rest in front of him, in order to get a better look.
"Ah," said Count D, and he sipped his cup of tea. There was a particular sort of aggravating, obnoxious calm that settled over the feminine man that rubbed Leon so much the wrong way that it was almost the right way again.
The tea smelled sweet but Leon was not fooled for a minute, for the count also smelled sweet but that didn't make Leon like him any better. As a man behind a mask -- in this case, a mask of natural perfume and natural beauty -- Count D was hiding something. Leon didn't trust him for a second. Never had, never would. Stubbornly, he stuck to his convictions, and thought this made him a man of iron beliefs rather than a bit of jackass.
"Well?" Leon scowled, feeling fidgety and impatient. Count D seemed to know always when Leon was in a hurry and chose then always to take his damn time. It would have been, Leon thought to himself, so nice to wipe that knowing half-smile from the Count's pretty lips.
"I remember selling that one a while ago," the count murmured finally over the rim of his teacup, "but there was nothing-nothing special about it. Just a dog. A particularly rare breed and a lovely creature, the sweetest disposition. He may have looked big, but there wasn't a snarl in his body." Leon found himself scowling.
"Are you sure there weren't anyyou know, special provisions, upon the sale of him?" He needed to blow off steam, or at least have someone he could blame. Most of all, he needed to punch something. The more annoyed he got, the calmer the count seemed to become. Another thing that pissed Leon Orcott off was people who kept their cool just to annoy someone else.
"Why, detective, "d said, pressing a hand against the silk over his chest, "I'm insulted that you should ever have any reason to doubt my word."
"I've got plenty of reasons to doubt your word," Leon snarled, eyes narrow. It was that something about the other man that made his temper flare beyond even his own control.
"I never lie," Count D replied coolly, the ice in his voice sending shivers down his spine and a feeling like broken glass deep in his gut. The count was a terrifying man, though his beauty would try to tell you otherwise, lure you like a spider would into the embrace of his marble arms. Detective Orcott swallowed. Hard. It was near impossible to be strong, to stand your ground, when your muscles felt suddenly as if they'd turned to the consistency of rubber.
There was the sound of Count D's breaths rustling the silk of his cheongsam, shivering through the silence between them. Leon felt intensely uncomfortable, though he didn't know why and would never admit to feeling that way later.
One of D's eyes was tiger gold, lion gold, a creature of the sunlight trapped in ice looking through that eye, eerie and unsettling, paler than amber, inhuman.
One of D's eyes was amethyst purple, deep night purple, almost sorrowful for its bruised wisdom, its age-old knowledge, its weighty sagacity.
A peacock's tail was sewn over the front of the count's cheongsam, the deepest emerald green, catching the weak light and flashing with life. It occurred to Leon as his eyes alighted upon it that D was everything he appeared to be, hiding nothing, an unearthly, ethereal, almost impossible being of light mixed with shadow, made solely of air. And then he brushed that idea aside as quickly as he had adopted it, for he couldn't make his brain believe such an implausibility. If he managed to convince himself that all this was true, then he would have to start believing in fairies, and in ghosts, and in creatures of the night who lurked in shadows to taste your blood as if it were wine.
"No," Leon murmured, chastened and finding himself unable to meet D's asymmetrical eyes, "guess not, huh."
"Things are not always what you see with your two eyes, detective, for your eyes are liars, manipulated by your mind and your heart. But sometimes, you are allowed to take things at face value, from sight and scent and instinct. It is, after all, how animals go about it."
"Yeah," Leon mumbled, feeling small and young and too stupid to even get indignant at the wisdom of D's half-bemused words.
"Have a seat, detective," D said, his voice soft and low and sweet as the scent of his tea, "have a seat and we can talk of your case." Without thinking, Leon found that he had sat down on the other side of the blood red couch in which D himself was reclining. The upholstery was a crushed, cool velvet. Leon felt displaced, as if he had fallen through a rabbit hole into Alice's wonderland.
"Oh," Leon said, suddenly remembering something almost important, "I forgot." He plunked a plastic bag down on the coffee table, on top of the case file. "Here."
"Detective?" D's eyes flashed a little, making him seem almost childish. "What is it?"
"Go on," Leon said, once again unable to meet the count's eyes, but for a different reason, this time, "just open it, or something." D didn't tear into the bag and the parcel inside, but there was something about that childish sparkle to his eyes that made Leon feel a little bit flushed, and at the same time oddly proud. The gift hadn't exactly been his idea, but that wasn't the point. Hey, he was there, wasn't he? He deserved to get the praise, to feel that giddy little rush.
Inside the bag was a cakebox and, not to D's surprise, inside that cakebox was a cake. Something light, with whipped cream and strawberries, making it feel like summer in the depths of D's room.
Sometimes, knowing so much and seeing so far was a bit of dismal weight on your life. Every action, every sight, every taste and every breath was a prediction and, because of the way humankind was, it was more of a foreboding one than anything else. This was why, D knew, for he knew himself very well, he enjoyed chocolates, pastries and candies more than anything else. It was nice to have a little something to sweeten up your life, when the burden of knowledge was dragging you down.
"Oh," D said, his voice going a bit high, a bit breathless. Sweets for the sweet, Shakespeare had written. It was nicer to receive such sweet things in the form of such a sweet gift. "Why, I didn't know -- thank you, detective!" He clasped his hands before him, unearthly eyes curving into crescents. "You must stay and share it with me."
"Gotta get back to--"
"No, I insist," D pressed.
"Really, I just came to ask you if--"
"I insist, detective," D repeated. And Leon found he didn't really move.
"Well," he muttered, shrugging a bit, "couldn't really hurt, anyway." D smiled, a small smile, as if he had known immediately that Leon would give in like that, or had done something to make sure he did. Leon couldn't put a finger on what was so odd about that expression. Something ineffable, infallible. But every time he tried to name it, tried to put a finger on it, it slipped away through his grasp, swirling to dangle just before his eyes, just out of reach of his fingertips.
"Here," D said, let me pour you a cup of tea.
And it seemed, as they drank their tea and ate their, that a light summer breeze had come into the shop, rifling against them as it would through the feathers of a bird or the fur of a Persian cat, cooling their skin and making them feel comfortable. D was the sort of person who always felt, or at least seemed, comfortable, but Leon felt the comfort not as just a feeling but as a thing, a being, sitting perhaps between them and stealing crumbs of cake as they fell.
"Well," Leon said, finishing his third cup of tea and setting his plate down, "I'd better -- y'know. Be going. Got work to finish up, got this case to solve."
"Mm," D said, a brow lifted above his golden eye, and Leon felt as if he were perhaps a hunted species, half enjoying the hunt, the attention of the superior beast. At least he would go down fighting. At least he could be proud of the chase.
"So -- I guess -- I'll seeya," Leon said uncertainly, feeling at odds with himself, as if someone -- no doubt the beautiful but deceitful count -- had mixed up all his numbers and equations and made them end up with twenty equaling negative two thirty five.
"Next case, perhaps?"
"Yeah." Leon moved to go.
"Oh. Detective?" D lifted a hand and Leon, as if controlled by strings like a puppet, turned back to face him again.
"Next time you come, remember: honey is sweeter. Even for catching flies."
With a tinge of confusion to his mind and the vines of understanding seeding in his heart, Leon Orcott left that unnerving undergroun world which reminded him of dreams deferred and smelled faintly of incense.
Only there had been no incense burning, only the sound of a windless breeze rustling silk and the fire buried in the count's eyes dancing upon the air.