Every Gate Needs A Hero
Curran Gates woke up with a start. Every muscle in his body felt tense and cramped. Feeling around with one hand, Curran realized the clothes he was wearing and the sheet strewn haphazardly across his body were soaked through with sweat. His eyes ached, echoing the pain thundering through his thoughts. The images of the dream were dissolving in his mind. Curran pulled the sheet up over his head. Darkness, Curran wanted darkness. Curran Gates didn‚t know where he was. How could he be sure it was not another dream? He felt someone had been there in the room, someone was still there. Curran was afraid to breathe. He moaned to himself. Sound, sound, how would that change things? If he moved, was he alive, if he moved, wait, he had moved. The sheet, his shield another illusion. Curran began to shiver. Slowly, his eyes fixed upon the patterns of shadow crisscrossing the ceiling, and then, delicately, the objects scattered about the room. Innocently, he glanced toward the window; the moon‚s light trickling through the glass. There, the vertical strip of wood, the comforting shape of an easel‚s T obstructing the window‚s awkward squares. Finally understanding where he was, Curran suspiciously pulled himself up from the unfaithful mattress. Someone had been there, Curran felt it, he knew it. What had woken him? The dream, the door closing, the headache, or had the dream come from the visitor, a gift of terror. His eyes adjusted, the night was no longer dark but a new way of looking at the world. He stood up, he found an old sweater lying on the floor, which he took shelter in. Curran went to the door, the hinges creaked as he opened it, and the sound sent him doubling back. He tripped over a can of paint thinner carelessly left too close to the heater. Curran regained himself, his bearings, and walked out into the night air. Curran Gates inhaled deeply. He walked through the yard. The grass felt damp and ticklish, teasing the naked back of his heel. By the truck, tire tracks, he wasn‚t sure. Then his eyes fixed on something else, one, two, three cigarette butts lying in the dirt. He started to back up and then turning around, raced back to the house. He went for the light-switch but then thought better of it. Digging out a flashlight from under the sink, Curran meticulously combed the room with the dull beam. He started to relax. Everything was there, the marker‚s of his life, dishes, dirty clothes, paint, tea bags in the sink, drops cloths. The light hit upon the canvases stacked in the corner, his heart began to race. The room seemed to tilt on its side, Curran Gates thought he would pass out, but his body moved across the room. He bent down on his knees and ran his hands from frame to frame. Each canvas, each picture, the minutes and days of his life, cut to shreds. Curran curled into a ball on the floor and began to sob. He stayed there like that until the sun started its skyward climb.
Simon Fitzwater was having his morning tea when the sound of raised voices leaked in from the hall and disrupted the overriding calm of his daily ritual. He coughed slightly, gathered himself to his feet, and followed the trail to the door of his study. Opening the barrier, he peaked out into the foyer and was greeted by the reddening face of his one servant.
„I am sorry Sir. I told him that you were indisposed but he refuses to go away,‰ the man said. „Mr. Gates, Sir, he demands to talk to you.‰
„Well show him in then,‰ Fitzwater sputtered with some annoyance. He walked back to his chair and had just finished adjusting himself appropriately when the door burst open.
„Have you seen Christopher?‰ his visitor demanded.
Fitzwater somehow managed to keep his jaw in check as he studied the disheveled character standing in front of him. The man looked as though sleep had become a phantom in his life, his skin was as pale as could be, his eyes were bloodshot. Fitzwater couldn‚t help but notice the perspiration bursting forth on his guest‚s brow nor could he dismiss the filthy state of the man‚s attire. „Good God Curran what the devil happened to you?‰ Fitzwater questioned.
„Have you seen Christopher? Has he been here?‰ Curran demanded.
With each question, he moved closer to Fitzwater until the elder man stood up abruptly fearing some attack. „We played a game of stud last night. He bludgeoned us all with that stone face of his, cleaned out my coffers for a good month.‰
Curran collapsed in one of the overstuffed armchairs decorating the small room. His head was spinning. „I‚m sorry, I‚m sorry,‰ he mumbled softly.
Fitzwater was quite used to Curran‚s fits by now. One minute the man was laughing hysterically, the next he was crying over some small trifle. Forever inconsistent, the man would show up at the oddest hours, talk into the night, and then Simon wouldn‚t see him for weeks. Fitzwater had to admit to himself though that he liked the younger man, he enjoyed their time together, felt somehow unique through their association; he had never known an artist before.
„Did he say anything?‰ Curran asked suddenly.
„He said he had some business and would be leaving the island for a few days. I think the judge went to the ferry with him,‰ Fitzwater answered.
„The judge! So that‚s the trick,‰ he mumbled. He launched up out of his chair and began to pace the room.
Fitzwater didn‚t know what to think. He had never seen Curran so agitated before. He put a hand on the young man‚s shoulder but he jumped. „When was the last time you had a decent rest?‰ Fitzwater inquired. „Or a good meal? I think you‚ve been pushing yourself too hard. Come to my party on the third. You need to get out. You need to associate with people. Spending all that time in your studio has taken a toll on your nerves. You can come with Christopher, he said he would be back in time.‰
Curran‚s head shot up. His eyes darted around the room. So that‚s it, it would all be done by then that was Christopher‚s plan. He looked at Fitzwater, „Yes, I think you‚re right. A good meal, some sleep, I‚ll be as good as new. Thank you Simon.‰ He quickly shook Fitzwater‚s hand and moved for the door.
„Come for a late super tomorrow,‰ Fitzwater called after him. Curran turned his head back and nodded, tossing off a quick smile, and then continued on across the yard.
Fitzwater shook his head and sat down with his paper again. He thought about the first time that he had met Curran Gates, only a few months ago. This was his first summer on the island but he felt he had settled in nicely. The Gate place was the closest to the house he bought, just down the road in fact. He had only been there a week when an invitation came from Christopher to come to a party at the Gate house. He had met Christopher first, at the Judge‚s card game. There was something about Christopher that put him off, something in his demeanor, and the invitation had come as a surprise. Fitzwater realized later that Christopher carried an aloofness that befell his personality naturally and there was no ill intention behind it. However, when he went to the party Fitzwater was still uneasy about where he stood with his host and so he had pursued him through the throng of partygoers, wishing to present himself, and establish good terms with his neighbor. Simon wandered down through the garden to a smaller house at the end of the property and happened upon Curran, huddled up on the back steps, looking out over the water. He hadn‚t known where Christopher was and didn‚t wish to know, as it seemed they were involved in some disagreement at the moment. Fitzwater sat and talked with Curran for some time, finding himself touched by the young man‚s sensitivity, drawn in by his late night musings, and enamoured with his unrestrained manner. Fitzwater unhappily pulled himself away, remembering his need to track down the host, and bulwarked by the stranger‚s promise to join him for what would become the first of many evenings spent together. He became very familiar with their feud and the affect the whole affair had on Curran‚s delicate psyche. Although he never spoke of it with Christopher, a man Simon could see was quite determined to keep his own counsel, he was aware of Christopher‚s side of things as Curran often repeated their conversations verbatim in the safety of Fitzwater‚s study. Simon glanced out across the lawn, searching for Curran‚s retreating form, which was now well beyond view. Then, satisfying himself that there was nothing more he could do for Curran until tonight, Simon Fitzwater put the whole matter aside and serenely turned himself back over to the rituals of early morning.
It was smart to have the Judge go with him to the ferry, Curran thought as he raced across Fitzwater‚s lawn. Curran broke into a run when he hit the road, careening down the bank into the woods; it was much faster that way. He had to get back to the house. The damn creep, he thought when he burst through the door. Everything was so clean everything in its place, not even a book out of place. Curran scurried up the stairs to Christopher‚s bedroom. The bed was made, probably with hospital corners, there wasn‚t even a lone penny discarded on the bureau. He ripped open the closet door. Ten black suits hung neatly followed by ten gray ones. Perfectly folded starched white shirts sat three to a shelf. Ties, muted and boring, hung on a rack over three pairs of black loafers. He started mumbling to himself. He went back into the bedroom and then into the hall, trying to contain himself as he hurried down towards Christopher‚s study. The desk was empty. He opened the drawers, pens, stationary, envelopes, nothing, nothing, then one was locked. He stole around the room looking for something to open it with. He grabbed a letter opener off a table a few feet away. He wedged it in between the slots of wood but the cheap instrument snapped in half as he yanked in around trying to pry the drawer open. He burst out of the room, down the stairs, and across the garden to his studio. Wildly moving about, he finally came across his toolbox and grabbed a hammer in delight. Back across the garden, up the stairs, down the hall, into the office, Curran darted like a possessed animal. He raised the hammer above his shoulder and swung down, breaking the lock with one hit. He grabbed at the drawer and greedily disemboweled its contents. Sheet after sheet of white paper with his signature scrawled across the surface: Curran Gates, Curran Gates, Curran Gates. He let out an agonizing scream and turned to the light filtering in through the window in time to see a flock of birds go soaring up into the clouds.
Curran Gates woke to the sound of the telephone ringing. He was lying face down on his bed, sprawled out across the mattress in the form of a human X. He pulled the receiver up to his ear and recognized Fitzwater‚s voice at once. It was nearly t o‚clock and Fitzwater was getting ready to eat without him. „I‚m out the door as we speak,‰ Curran insisted. He dropped the phone down on it‚s other half and scrambled out of bed into the bathroom. He doused himself in water, stripped down, and raced into a fresh set of clothing. Unable to find keys of any sort, he found a bicycle in the boat shed and made his way down the road to Fitzwater‚s. „Terribly sorry Simon,‰ Curran said as the nasty servant led him towards Fitzsy‚s smiling face. „I must have misheard you, I thought you said tomorrow night.‰
Fitzwater froze for a moment as he was offering Curran the seat across from his, „But I did Curran, yesterday morning when you came to see me.‰
Curran‚s face went blank, „I saw you this morning,‰ he declared.
„No, no, that was yesterday. Are you quite sure you‚re alright?‰ Fitzwater said.
Oh Curran understood it all now. Fitzwater was in on it with Christopher. They were plotting together to drive him mad. „Devils,‰ Curran whispered. Fitzwater was still starring at him and quickly he decided he had better play along. „I must have lost track of time.‰
The worried expression clung to Fitzwater‚s worn features. He asked in a concerned tone, „Did you take my advice Curran? Have you gotten any rest?‰
„Well in fact I have dear Simon,‰ Curran said with a coy twist. He could play this game as well as any others, he thought loudly. „I did exactly what you said and see I have slept all through the day and night.‰
„How do you feel?‰ Fitzwater questioned, still unnerved by this latest development.
Curran was eyeing up old Fitzwater. He knew this doddering fellow couldn‚t get the best of him. Christopher should have never included him in these shenanigans. Curran had a firm grasp over the various ways to manipulate the mindset of old Fitzsy. „I feel absolutely wonderful,‰ Curran said with gusto, adding a smile that rivaled the wattage of any good General Electric. „Really Fitzwater I must thank you. Too often, I lose myself in the quest for perfection straining my faculties in the process. I don‚t know what I would do without a good friend like you to watch over me.‰
Simon was touched and smiled back at his young companion. As his man served the soup, Fitzwater, looking for a way to lighten up the conversation, remarked, „Have you seen the papers?‰
Fashioning an inquisitive grin Curran asked, „Anything good and juicy Fitzwater?‰
„Seems some drunkard plowed his car into that old Sycamore down by Wesley‚s place. The tree fell clean through the garage and squashed that prized MG of his in two,‰ Simon said. They shared a good laugh. „Christopher will be happy when he finds out,‰ Simon added, „he was always bemoaning the toot toot toot-er-oo of Wesley‚s horn as he zinged around the island.‰
They enjoyed three more courses and then adjourned for a game of gin in the study. Fitzwater beat Curran five straight in a row, winning back almost as much as he had lost from Christopher at stud. When they said goodnight Simon was satisfied that he had helped restore his good friend‚s health and would enjoy a contented night‚s rest. Curran assured him at the door that he would be up for Fitzwater‚s party the next night and Simon felt as though he had managed some awesome social feat, as his would be the first event of the season that Curran deigned to attend.
Pedaling back to his residence Curran grew more and more agitated with every spin of the wheel. What was Christopher up to? How did Fitzsy fit in? He knew that he had been to see Fitzwater that morning. They were in it together, playing with his mind. How had he gotten from Christopher‚s study to his bed? He ran over some glass and the tire on the damn bicycle went flat. He had to trudge up the muddy drive to his studio on foot, pushing the wheezing piece of junk as he went. He threw the bicycle on the ground just outside his door and tossed a dirty look at his truck; where were those damn keys? Something caught his eye. That two-timing, backstabbing, son-of-a-bitch Simon Fitzwater was a devilish one. The whole front end of his truck was smashed in. Oh, he would go to the party all right.
Simon Fitzwater loved nothing more then to have his house filled with people. He delighted in the swirl of movement on the dance floor, the sound of music flowing through the garden, and the clinking of champagne glasses in the drawing room. Fitzwater walked genteelly through the islanders, catching each smile and nod. He felt pleased that he had so seamlessly become a part of their society. Remembering a good vintage he had tucked away in his wine closet, Simon left his guests in the garden and glided back into the house already fully intoxicated by the night air. He saw that his study door stood ajar and thought he had better close it, lest one of the guests wander in and disrupt things. As he walked closer, he caught sight of Curran twitching and twittering about near the desk.
„Curran,‰ Fitzwater called, „I hadn‚t known you were here.‰
„Don‚t play games with me Fitzwater,‰ Curran said in a harsh whisper. „I know that you are in on this whole crazy scheme of Christopher‚s.‰ He moved closer, „What is the point here? Send me mad? Murder me?‰
Fitzwater was taken a back, „Gates what is this gibberish you are spouting.‰
Curran noticed how shocked old Fitzsy was and changed his tune, „Oh just a little joke Fitzwater. A jest at how seriously we take these family squabbles. Seen Christopher yet tonight, really must talk to him.‰
„I think I saw him earlier with the Judge,‰ Fitzwater replied, thoroughly confused by his friend‚s strange behavior. „I‚ll go see if I can find him for you. In the meantime, why don‚t you have a drink to calm your nerves?‰ Simon poured out a good stiff glass of bourbon and handed it to Curran.
„You know I don‚t drink,‰ Curran refused.
„I respect your inklings, but there is a time in a man‚s life when the only thing that will help him is a good stiff drink. Come on,‰ he said, standing over the young man while he brought the glass up to his lips. „Good then. I‚ll find Christopher straight away.‰
Simon Fitzwater retraced his steps out into the garden and searched through the crowd of people for the Judge. „Have you seen Christopher?‰ he asked when he finally found him. At that moment they heard a tremendous crash and Simon, followed by many of the other people standing in the garden, raced back into the house. His man was already there, along with a few of the caterers that had been hired for the night, trying to hoist a bookshelf, which had toppled over in his study. Underneath the multitude of books lay the limp body of Christopher Gates. Dazed, Christopher tried to stand, and Fitzwater and the Judge helped him to a chair.
„What happened?‰ Fitzwater asked. „Did Curran finally track you down?‰ The next thing he knew Christopher was launching for his throat and had knocked him to the ground. The room went dark.
„What in God‚s name happened?‰ Simon Fitzwater demanded once he came to. He was lying upstairs in his bed, the Judge‚s austere face peering over him.
„You lost consciousness and a few of the guests helped your man carry you up here,‰ the Judge said. He had leaned back in the chair next to Fitzwater‚s bed and was staring at him with a disapproving look. „Really Simon I don‚t know what came over you.‰
„What came over me! The last thing I remember was Gates‚ hands around my neck,‰ Simon sputtered.
„Well really, can you blame him? The shock and all,‰ the Judge said, standing with a disgusted flourish.
„I merely asked the man if his brother had finally tracked him down,‰ Fitzwater exclaimed.
The Judge starred at him for a few minutes of excruciating silence and then stated, „This is precisely what I‚m talking about Fitzwater. What the devil has come over you? A bookshelf falls on the man, almost killing him, in your house, and your response is to ask him if his dead brother has finally caught up with him.‰
„Dead, what are you talking about dead. I saw Curran just a few minutes ago in the study,‰ Fitzwater declared.
„Curran Gates drowned over twenty years ago in the water off their property,‰ the Judge responded. „Have you lost your mind Fitzwater?‰