They had one of those relationships he’d only read about. Two people find each other across a crowded room, the sense of elation one gets from looking at the other person, and an intrinsic connection that is so strong, so powerful, that it’s all they can think about even when they are not together.
If someone asked Ronald Hayden his feelings toward William Blankenship three years ago, he would have thought about the first time he met the man. It was at an ambling business function in Washington, the kind of thing that happened every day in the city that included a lot of people dressed in expensive suits, rubbing shoulders together with other strangers. Everyone who doesn’t necessarily give the function they’re attention but attend because someone famous may show up and you might get a photo opportunity with that person. And why not have that in a collection of other photographs that no one will ever see unless they know you directly and you showed it to them once? Plus, there was always good food and exquisite wine at functions in Washington.
And Ronald was good at ferreting out the best functions, finding the right people to get near and glean information from because it wasn’t only attractive; it was part of his job. And he was damned good at it.
“Maybe it comes from my mother,” Ronald had told William that first evening. Opening up to him was easy. He had a pleasant and respectful disposition. “My mother was nosy. She wanted to know everyone’s business, even when those friends stopped inviting her to house parties because they’d find Mrs. Catherine Hayden not where the rest of the guests were supposed to be,” he added. “She’d be lurking in an upstairs bathroom, rummaging through medicine cabinets or under sinks. Sometimes Catherine managed to infiltrate the most private of places, the bedrooms of people she barely knew.”
And William was intrigued. A rosy glow to his smiling face that suggested to Ronald, he liked the story. “If there were a casual open-house for a real estate listing, my mother would drag me along. “She was good at asking all the right questions from the agents.”
William huddled close, barely interrupting. “She wanted to know about any sordid past that came with the house. If there was a mystery involved, something dark in the past, my mother followed-up with a visit to public records, sifting through business lists, home-owner trails, and something to connect to a particular person, and whatever secrets they managed to leave behind like rudimentary breadcrumbs that went right to their doors.”
They were in a secluded area, had broken free of the main attraction of the hotel, and enjoying the company of each other while Ronald waxed on about his past. William encouraged Ronald to tell his tale.
“My mother encouraged me to pursue the truth. I absorbed her infatuation with gossip and investigation. Sometimes, in the pursuit of the truth, some leads uncovered other torrid details. I learned that everyone wanted dirt. Dirty laundry paid the bills.”
“So you got that dream job, following leads, looking into people, not always through the front window or knocking on the door,” William had added.
“It’s passion that drives me. It was the passion and experience that keeps me employed. And its passion, experience, and a sense of when to just shut up and listen, that makes me very good at my job as an investigative journalist.”
William seemed satisfied with Ronald’s descriptive monologue. He sat near him in a small lounge away from the main hall. There were very few people around. He had watched Ronald with hungry eyes.
“So a business event, casual party, or black-tie affair that’s not too far from your front door, and you find a way to get an invitation.” It was the way William smiled that made Ronald warm up to him. It was playful, bordering on devious.
“That’s right,” Ronald agreed. “When I’m between good stories, leading stories that take a lot of research time, my editor demands I write puff-pieces that help me continue to collect a paycheck when I’m not neck-deep in research.” He sat back but realized William leaned forward, pressing his elbows on the creased slacks watching him. Ronald continued, “Sometimes I’m running all over Washington, checking the back doors just to get the next big scoop on a local politician, or follow-up on scamming landlords, or improperly used business finances.”
That was how he met William Blankenship. An exceptional young man, who took care of himself, had a great sense of style when it came to casual clothes, and not just a sharp suit. He had electric blue eyes and French cuff shirts, soft hands, and a Roman nose. He was thoughtful and non-pretentious. And, above it all, instead of Ronald looking to investigate William’s interest, it was the strapping and polite man who approached Ronald when they first met.
Ronald hadn’t worn a press badge the night they met. He wore a flat blue, two-piece suit and didn’t know why he’d attended the event. He didn’t have an ego when it came to exposing people’s lies in the paper, so he insisted the articles appear with his name but without a byline photograph.
Ronald didn’t approach because of William. He wasn’t looking for a relationship. He didn’t have time for a relationship. Work came first, and when he got home at night, he wanted nothing in his bed expect clean sheets and a spongy pillow. And William wasn’t alone that night.
Ronald saw William earlier with another man. Another impressive specimen who matched William’s trim waist, and broad shoulders, with a clean shave, polite manners, and physical attributes betrayed what he did for a living.
“And you’re in the military,” Ronald said bookishly. He smiled at William because it came to him on a gentle notion. Much like the air that passed between William and Ronald carried the scent of the man’s aftershave. It was a scent that branded William in Ronald’s memory for the rest of his life.
But like everything else in Washington D.C., except for the lifetime tenure to the United States Supreme Court, their relationship didn’t last forever.