Monday, August 30, 2010

The Blood of Love excerpt by Victor J Banis

An ancient curse lives on in The Blood of Love by Victor J. Banis. An endless terror. A love that will never die. The Amorinii, "the Blood" - the undying sons of the loins of Amor, the ancient Roman God of Love. For desiring men, they are forever cast adrift by the Goddess of Love, Venus herself. Scorned and pursued through the centuries by those who would see them destroyed. For some men, love is a curse

The Blood of Love.
MLR Books (June 2010)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-154-9(print)


Samuel Barney’s “home” was just a room in a Tenderloin hotel for transients. He could have lived better, had often been coaxed by his grandson to move in with him in his Castro apartment,but he’d preferred to be alone. His loneliness was his only legacy from the great love he had once known.

The loneliness, and the mirror. He took it out of the locked drawer where he kept it, held it up and looked into it, as he did every day. He was not looking at himself, but at the shabby room behind him. Or, really, not even at that. He was looking, as he always did, for something. But for what, he had no idea. In some far corner of his mind, he knew there was something he should see, something that he had once seen, but that had slid away from his consciousness without recognition. What? He’d asked himself that question a thousand times or more, but still the answer did not come.

The mirror was small, no larger than a sheet of typing paper. The glass, cloudy with age, was surrounded by an elaborately carved bronze frame, inset with semi-precious stones. It was prerenaissance, maybe even late Roman, someone had suggested years before, and a collector had once offered him an incredible sum of money for it. He could sell it at any time, he knew, for enough to leave this seedy room behind and make a new life for himself.

He couldn’t bring himself to do that, though, and not only for sentimental reasons. He wasn’t sure how safe it would be to sell it. He’d stolen it, though that had been long ago, and whether anyone else even knew of its existence, he had no idea. Ethan did, surely. And must have known who had taken it. It had been valuable to Ethan, certainly—yet in the intervening years, Ethan had made no effort to reclaim it, which was in itself a mystery.

More than forty years ago. In some ways, it felt as if it had been only yesterday. He’d gone to Ethan’s apartment in not-quite Beverly Hills, unable to believe the note he’d gotten, that Ethan was gone, that they would never see one another again.

How could he believe it? They had been so in love, so devoted to one another. Yes, yes, he knew for certain they had been in love, and both of them. His had been no one-sided passion, his love for Ethan had been matched by Ethan’s love for him. On that score he had not a single doubt: Ethan had loved him too.

So, then, what possible reason could Ethan have for ending it so suddenly? It made no sense. What could have led him to pen that note? “Remember me fondly, please. Our time together has been very precious to me, more precious than you will ever know.” And then, one word, that had never before seemed so stark, so terrible: “Goodbye.”

At Ethan’s apartment he used the key Ethan had given him to let himself in, half expecting to discover that the lock would have been changed. It hadn’t, but it was clear at a glance that Ethan had gone. Or, at least, that he was in the process of going, of moving out. The closets were empty, his clothes, all his personal belongings gone. Only a few cardboard boxes, already taped shut, stood neatly stacked against one wall. And atop the boxes, the mirror, with a note attached to it, in Ethan’s handwriting: “Frank: Pack this for me, please, carefully. I didn’t trust myself to do it right.”

Samuel debated just staying there, waiting for Ethan to come back; but it did not appear he meant to return. This looked more as if someone else, movers perhaps, would be coming to finish emptying the apartment. He even toyed with the idea that they must surely be able to tell him where Ethan had gone.

But what explanation could he have given them for needing to know. This was a long time ago. Homosexuality wasn’t as accepted then. Certainly homosexuals had few rights. He knew that. At best, they’d probably laugh at him. Or, worse, throw him out violently. Maybe call the police. Homosexuals were still arrested then, often on the slightest pretext.

He left without waiting to see anyone, but he crumpled up the note and took the mirror with him, partly to have something of Ethan’s, and partly in the hope that Ethan would come for the mirror. He hadn’t even, at the time, thought of it as “stealing.” Certainly he had no qualms about taking it.

If he doesn’t care about me, he told himself, maybe he’ll care enough for it.

He went back to his own apartment with the mirror, a real apartment then, and not just a room in a seedy Tenderloin hotel. He got drunk.

Four years drunk, as it turned out, until he awakened one morning lying in some garbage in an alley, with no memory of how he had gotten there, with no money, everything he’d owned gone—except for the mirror. When he got up, brushing garbage and alley dirt off himself, he discovered the mirror carefully wrapped in his filthy jacket. He had somehow held on to that. Or maybe it had held on to him.

He stood in the faint light of early dawn, staring into the milky glass, trying to remember. Something that he had seen in the mirror, or half-seen, anyway, teased at his memory. Something that he wanted to see again, that instinct told him would solve the mystery of Ethan’s disappearance. The memory would not come. Like the mirror’s glass, the four years were shrouded in mists, and they had remained so.

He sobered up, got a job. Met and became friends with Annabel and her new son, Nate, the only people since Ethan who had really cared for him. He resumed his life—or a pretense of it. Without Ethan, it wasn’t really a life, just an empty ritual.

He’d gotten through it as best he could, had managed to regain some sense of self-respect. If he’d ever asked himself what it was that he had kept living for, ever delved into that question, he would probably have told himself it was for Ethan. Somehow, over the years, he had remained convinced against all odds that he would one day see Ethan again.

And, finally, so he had. He had recognized him instantly when he’d seen the photograph in the newspaper. How could he ever forget that face? He was certain beyond any doubt that the man he had accosted today was Ethan Soames, no matter what Ethan said to the contrary.

But that thought no sooner entered his mind than he asked himself, how could that be? Ethan would be as old as he was now, or nearly so. And the man today had been as young as Ethan had been back then. He hadn’t aged a day.

He stared into the glass as if he might see the answer there, but whatever the mirror’s secret, whatever he was supposed to see, had gone with his memory of those four years. And today, too…something flickered in his memory of that scene in the restroom. The artificial stink of pine. He heard the water running, Ethan’s voice as if from a great distance…he had a conviction that he had seen or heard something significant in those brief moments. But, what? Again, the answer refused to come.

Something moved behind him—and as suddenly as that, the mists vanished from his mind and he remembered. In a single instant, the mirror revealed its long held secret to him.

He turned. A man stood just inside the room, though the door was locked. How had he come in, through the locked door, without a sound?

Samuel said, “You.”

It was the last word he uttered.

To purchase the ebook, click here or the paperback at Amazon, click here

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