CYPHER AVENUE ESSENTIALS: The Messiah – A Novel by Lee Hayes
I’m an avid book reader, especially fiction. Unfortunately there are not gonna be too many novels written by gay/bisexual men of color endorsed by this website because many of them either perpetuate stereotypes, do not feature characters that we can relate with or, quite frankly, they just plain suck (pun intended).
“The Messiah” by Lee Hayes is definitely a standout in the sex-driven muck out there. This is a story that puts a new twist on a typical dark serial-killer thriller by making the lead character a realistically masculine, discreet gay black man.
Synopsis: Struggling to revive his stalling career, investigative reporter Dante Graves works to break the case of the Messiah serial killer, teaming up with the murderer’s only known survivor, and discovers clues leading to his own lover, a respected doctor.
I had to admit, this was an interesting take on an old tale, not to mention that the killer systematically targets gays in a biblical attempt to “save their souls” before death. With shifting points of view and well thought out characters, this was definitely one to recommend.
He was terrified.
He sat up and looked around his room. All was quiet. He listened to the silence in an attempt to ascertain if he was alone. He heard no sounds, except for his breathing, as the morning sun cut sharp slivers through the blinds, giving way to another brilliant summer day. He could hear the birds chirping in the trees outside his window, but his heart was full of dread.
The stillness of the room alarmed him, much like the calm before a storm. He looked down at his blood-stained hands as if this was the first time he had seen them. Minus their reddish hue, they looked the same; they were the same size and the same shape, yet, in some sense, they looked entirely unfamiliar. Part of him felt as if he was looking at a stranger’s hands, and he wondered what had happened.
Then, he noticed the bloodied sheets. The red stains glared up and mocked him while daring him to discover their origins.
Have I been cut? Stabbed? In an accident?
He suddenly panicked as a thousand unpleasant thoughts buzzed through his head. His frantic hands raced across his taut frame seeking a wound or a cut, but neither could be found. He leapt out of bed with the spryness of a teenager and tore the eggshell-colored silk sheets off his bed and threw them in a corner. He had to see his face.
As soon as he entered the room, lights above the long, rectangular mirror, which were operated by sensors, lit up the darkened space.
He gasped when he saw his reflection in the mirror.
Dried blood had congealed around his nose, and a bloodied wound above his left eye was visible and sore to the touch.
Sweet Jesus, keep me near the cross.
Immediately, he pumped a handful of soap out of the dispenser into his large hands and then stuck them underneath the faucet, which was also controlled by sensors, causing a cold blast of water to shoot out. He washed feverishly and furiously, trying to scrub away any sign or trace of blood. As he cleaned his hands, a most unpleasant thought crept across his mind; a thought so vile, it caused him to momentarily stop what he was doing. What if this isn’t my blood? He scrubbed furiously trying to wash away the stains — and his thoughts. He scrubbed his hands, his wrists, his forearms, all the way up to his elbows. He didn’t even care that the water was becoming hot enough to scald.
He then grabbed the expensive soap he used only on his face and lathered up his hands again. He scrubbed his face furiously, nicking his own self with his fingernails at times, until all of the blood had been removed. A pinkish ring formed in his marble sink where the bloody water had risen taunting him — even daring him — to remember what had happened.
He stared at his reflection in the mirror. Something unfamiliar and sinister lurked behind his usually bright eyes. In part, he didn’t recognize his own face. It wasn’t as if he didn’t look the same. It was as if he stared into a trick mirror, in which his image was slightly distorted. He shook his head forcefully to clear his mind.
He needed to know what had happened. He took a deep and deliberate breath and tried to recall the events that could explain his present state, but when he searched his memory, all he could see was blackness. It was as if his memory had been intentionally erased. The last thing he remembered was being in church, on a Wednesday night for a special meeting, listening to his pastor make a startling confession, when his nose began to bleed.
He couldn’t even remember the details of the confession.
He remembered sitting in the pews, with his eyes tightly closed, shaking his head from side-to-side, hoping the pastor’s words were a cruel joke and would fade away when he opened his eyes. He remembered feeling nauseous and a bit dizzy and then someone tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to the blood that stained his blue shirt. When Garrett touched his nose and he drew his fingers back, they were stained by his own blood.
He remembered darting out of the sanctuary holding his nose.
Everything after that was a mystery.
Not another blackout.
Garrett had thought the worst was behind him. He hadn’t had a blackout in six months, but when his nose started to bleed in church, he panicked because nosebleeds usually preceded his loss of consciousness.
Two years ago, he suffered his first blackout. He remembered waking up in a strange hotel on the outskirts of the city, naked, except for the cross around his neck. He hadn’t told anyone about his blackouts, except his doctor, who could not determine a physiological reason. He suggested that Garrett seek the assistance of a psychiatrist, but Garrett balked at the suggestion. I ain’t crazy, he remembered thinking as he marched out of the doctor’s office in a huff.
Garrett dried his face and walked out of his restroom, almost in a daze, his breathing heavy, and looked around his bedroom for the clothing he had worn the night before. He hoped to search the pockets for some clue about what had transpired, but he could not find them. He half-expected to see a balled-up pair of slacks and a blood-stained shirt in a corner somewhere in the room, but aside from a half-empty cup of tea on his nightstand, the room was immaculate.
He raced over to the closet, tore open the door and stepped into the bedroom-sized walk-in closet. Everything in the closet was arranged neatly, by color and style, with blazers on the left and slacks on the right, from light to dark. Directly in front of him was a wall full of shoes and every pair was accounted for.
He peeled back the hangers and looked closely at all of his blue shirts. The one he’d had on was not there.
Maybe I took it to the cleaners? He tried to wrap himself in that thought, but it didn’t feel right.
He stepped out of the closet and gazed around the room. Everything was in perfect order, but something didn’t feel right. Even the colorful floral arrangement, which was centered on a round table near the fireplace, looked undisturbed. Then, he noticed something out of place on the table. A lone half-sheet of white paper was on the table. It looked as if it had been deliberately left for him. He looked at the table again and moved closer. He took small, carefully timed steps as if the paper would lunge at him if he moved too quickly. Once close enough, he looked oddly at the unfamiliar handwriting and the unusual word, which was etched across the paper:
He raised his eyebrows in confusion and rubbed his hands over his bald head.
What does that mean?
– Nick D
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