Monday, February 6, 2012

His Name Is John excerpt by Dorien Grey

The following excerpt from His Name Is John is from the first book in Dorien Grey's Elliott Smith mystery series. Another excerpt was posted on June 23, 2008.

His Name Is John
Zumaya Boundless (May 30,2008)
ISBN: 1934841048


The phone rang three times before he heard the receiver being picked up, and singularly expressionless: “Hello?”

“Rob Cole? This is Elliott Smith. You asked me to call.”

“Yes. You say you have a photograph of an unidentified body? Could you send it to me?”

The voice struck Elliott as being remarkably casual, and he was a little curious as to why Cole didn’t ask more about what John Doe looked like before asking to be sent the photo. Still, he felt a rush of anticipation mixed with an odd sense of apprehension.

“So you think you or Mr. Hill might know who this guy is?”

There wasn’t a second of hesitation before: “I’m afraid it might be G.J.. He went missing sometime between March 16th and the 21st.”

The anticipation vanished, but the apprehension expanded to take its place. John had been adamant in saying he was not G.J. Hill, but that Hill had disappeared within days before John was murdered couldn’t possibly be coincidental.

“I’m sure it couldn’t be him,” Elliott said. “The man I’m looking for is named John.”

“That’s why I didn’t say anything in response to your first message,” Cole said. “I couldn’t allow myself to think it might be G.J.. But then I realized that I don’t know of anyone named John who disappeared, and I’m sure G.J. didn’t either. But G.J. is missing. I left here on the 16th to visit my parents, and when I got back on the 23rd, I found a note from G.J. saying he had to be gone for a few days, but that he’d be back on the 24th. But he wasn’t, and I haven’t heard a word from him.”

Elliott, still totally confused, said: “Did you contact the police?”

He heard a deep sigh. “Not right away. G.J. does this—just goes off for a while—every now and then. He’ll get an assignment to do a shoot in Brazil, and he’ll just take off. I’ve gotten used to it. But he’s always told me when and where he was going, and this time he didn’t. After two weeks, I contacted the police and filed a missing persons report.”

That he’d waited two weeks before reporting Hill missing struck Elliott as more than a little unusual, but…he remembered the report Brad had mentioned, with the guy fitting John’s general description, but that had been from San Luis Obispo. “Where do you live?” Elliott asked. “I see you’ve got an L.A. exchange.”

“Yes, but it’s a cell phone. We actually live in our motor home, and we’re always on the move. Right now we’re…I’m…in Northern California, near San Luis Obispo. G.J.’s doing a book of photos of the coast along U.S. 1. I took the car and G.J. was going to spend the time here going over proof sheets”

Elliott was trying to make some sense out of the whole thing. “You and G.J. are lovers?”

“Yes, and business partners. We’ve been together two years now.”

“Well, I really don’t mean to offend you, but is it possible G.J. might have been seeing someone else?”

“I don’t think so. I’d have known, I’m sure. Of course he could have met someone while I was gone, but….”

From what Cole was saying, and from his overall attitude, it struck Elliott that his relationship with Hill was something less than a storybook romance.

“And you have no idea where he went, or why?”

“No. And he didn’t take his camera equipment, which was unusual. He always takes his cameras. I should have called the police sooner, but as I say, he’s done this before and he’s always shown up eventually.”

“You contacted his family, of course,” Elliott said, realizing he was making assumptions.

“He doesn’t have any family,” Cole replied.

“What about friends?” Elliott asked.

“We travel so much, we’re never in any one place long enough to really make friends.”

Again, Elliott was struck by Cole’s casual tone. And he thought again of John’s denial of being G.J. Hill.

“I’m curious why you didn’t provide a photo when you filed your missing persons report?”

“Because I don’t have one,” Cole said. “G.J. refuses to be photographed. Ever. I know, that’s pretty strange for a professional photographer, but I guess we all have our little quirks.”

Elliott thought it strange, too, but didn’t say so. “Well, don’t jump to any conclusions until you see the photo,” he said instead. “I’ll scan it right now and send it to you as an e-mail attachment. I’m sure it isn’t G.J., but please let me know if you recognize him anyway.”

“I will. Thanks.”

“Okay…it’ll be coming along in about five minutes.”

“Thanks again.”

He heard the click of the phone being hung up without a “good-bye.”

Quickly getting up from the computer as he returned his cell phone to his pocket, he went for John’s photo. He was still in a very strange and unusual state he couldn’t really describe, but he was now clearly aware that part of whatever it was he was feeling came from John.

Scanning the photo, putting it into a file, and e-mailing it took slightly longer than the five minutes he’d promised, so he didn’t bother including a message with the photo. He hit “Send” and sat back, waiting…which he realized was foolish of him. There was no way he could expect an instant response.

He turned the sound up full on the computer so he could hear the “ding” of an incoming message, and got up to turn on the TV.

He had no idea what he was watching, and found himself looking at the clock every several seconds. Nothing. After an hour, he got up to look at the computer screen, in case he’d missed an incoming mail notice. There was none, of course, and he was mildly irked at himself for having worked himself up into such a state. This was definitely not like him, he told himself, and rationalized that it had to be John.

An hour passed. Then two, and with every passing minute Elliott, to his dismay, found himself becoming more and more impatient. The impatience turned gradually to anger: John wasn’t G.J. Hill, but either Cole recognized him or he didn’t. If he didn’t, why didn’t he have the courtesy to call and so? Suddenly realizing he hadn’t given Cole his phone number, he was strongly tempted to call Cole back, but thought better of it. He told himself that if Cole had recognized John, he’d have e-mailed. Probably, not recognizing John and so relieved that it wasn’t his lover, he’d just forgotten…or thought he didn’t have to bother. Elliott’s intuitive dislike of Cole grew.

The more he thought about it, the stranger his contact with Cole seemed. Either Cole was amazingly good at concealing his emotions, or he was a pretty cold fish. Of course Elliott had no way of knowing what Cole’s and Hill’s relationship may have been, but he felt strongly that if he had a lover who had gone missing, he’d have been just a little more emotional about it than Cole seemed to be. Cole said he hadn’t responded immediately to Elliott’s first message because he didn’t think it could have been G.J. Hill—but the coincidence of the date of John’s murder and Cole’ returning from a trip….And even if Hill did disappear from time to time for photo assignments, when Cole saw he hadn’t taken his camera equipment, wouldn’t that have rung a very large bell? Why would he wait two weeks before filing a report? It wasn’t until Elliott mentioned the photograph that Cole seemed to show much interest.

Strange, indeed.

Just before he went to bed, against his better judgment and chalking it up to John’s subconscious influence, he sent another e-mail to Cole:

Mr. Cole:
I’d rather hoped to have heard from you regarding the photograph, and would appreciate your dropping me a note even if, in fact, you did not recognize him.
Elliott Smith

Still uncustomarily and inexplicably agitated, Elliott went to bed.

* * *

— Why didn’t he answer you?

— I don’t know. He probably didn’t recognize the photograph.

Elliott sensed, even asleep, John’s deep disappointment.

— I don’t like him.

— Any specific reason?

— No. You don’t like him either. Do you have a reason?

— No.

— Will we ever find me?
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1 comment:

Victor J Banis said...

Oh, I do have such trouble with google - so this may be a second comment - or it may not be - I've read this one previously, and like all Dorien's books, it's splendid. A fine launch to a fine new (at least then) series. Highly recommended.