I ascended the leaf covered steps to the rundown Victorian at the address he told me to meet him. When I reached the door, it was open just a crack. I knocked tentatively which caused the door to open slightly, creaking loudly as it moved forward.
“UP HERE,” yelled a male voice from somewhere in the house.
I walked into the front hallway.
“…hello?” I questioned to the voice I didn’t recognize.
“Dale isn’t back yet, get up here, I need your help.” The voice was coming from the steep staircase just ahead.
Because I’m an idiot who clearly hasn’t seen enough episodes of Criminal Minds or Law & Order: SVU, I walked down the hall and climbed yet another set of stairs. The was light dim, and the air was visibly heavy with cigarette smoke.
As I neared the top of the long staircase, through the haze I could see a man sitting at a makeshift desk, fashioned with cinderblocks and an old door. It was populated with several overly full ashtrays, a coffee cup with the Oregon state flag on it, and various electronics including but not limited to 6 computer monitors stacked two by two.
And on each of the monitors was a different webcam feed, all of which featured young men in various states of undress.
The desk’s occupant was thin with short black hair, he was wearing a blue, plaid, button-down shirt, and he seemed twitchy and agitated.
“Come here, I need your help taking a picture. Steve…Rick…one of the men I’m talking to anyway, needs a picture of me with no shirt on and smoking. He’s in a hurry.”
He shoved a camera into my face, and I reluctantly took it, wondering what kind of weird fucking scene I had just walked into. He snuffed out his old cigarette, removed his shirt and immediately lit another cigarette and posed. His left nipple was pierced, and he had a small tattoo of what may have been a lover’s name, but it was scraped out and scarred over. Apparently that relationship hadn’t ended well.
“Take the picture. This is how I’m posing.”
I pointed the camera and snapped the picture.
“Take a few more,” he ordered, as he began to pose in a manner that reminded me of how I might have posed as a 6 year old when my mother told me to “model for the camera”. Except for the whole intensely smoking a cigarette thing.
I took a few more pictures, because I’m in a strange house with a strange, possibly gay, definitely angry man, so why not.
He snatched the camera back from my hands and paced back and forth in the small alcove that held his fortress in which he cruised pornographic gay chat rooms. He started to review my handiwork, deleting some of the shots right away.
“Oh fuck, this is terrible, I look rancid. Ok this isn’t bad. What the hell…why is this blurry? Ugh, ok…this one is useable….yeah, thanks, thanks.”
He turned his back to me, removed his pants, and sat down to his computer to hastily upload “the winning picture” for Steve or Rick or whomever to view.
“You can wait for Dale downstairs, I don’t need your help anymore.”
Since I had been dismissed, I headed back down the stairs to wait.
To be continued…