Wait what? Ian almost choked on his lyrics as he spotted Dylan’s face in the crowd. He came! He actually showed up! He threw him a smile as he finished the song and took a deep breath.
“This is a cover of a cover. The original is a rock song, but the man in black who adapted it made it his. I hope I do it justice, since today I’ll be dedicating it to a friend. Dylan, this one’s for you.”
Ian closed his eyes and focussed on the guitar in his hands. In his mind’s eye he saw Dylan back at the BDSM-club. Emotionless, broken, empty. He poured the image into his heart and back out thought the lyrics. He tried not to think about if he was doing the right thing. Dylan was in pain and needed a catalyst to get it out. Music could do that for a person, Ian knew from experience.
“I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel. I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real.”
The crowd was dead silent, this was a good sign. Ian pushed his insecurities away, focussing on the emotion in the music.
“The needle tears a hole, the old familiar sting. Try to kill it all away, but I remember everything.”
Ian dared only to open his eyes as he started on the chorus.
“What have I become, my sweetest friend. Everyone I know goes away in the end…”
Ian lifted his gaze to find Dylan in the crowd. He was staring right back at him. Tears rolling over his face, but he didn’t cover them, nor look away.
“And you could have it all, my empire of dirt. I will let you down, I will make you hurt…”
Ian felt a tear forming in the corner of his eye in a reply to Dylan’s. His throat constricted and he barely got the last word of the chorus out without his voice cracking. This was what he’d been aiming for, but it pained his chest to see it actually work. It physically hurt to see Dylan cry.
Why was that?
Applause cascaded through the crowd. Ian smiled at the audience and wiped his face on his sleeve. Then immediately started another song. A happier one to get the cheerful mood back.
When Ian had finished playing, he stood up and took a bow. The announcer stepped up, took the microphone, pointed out the donation box going around and told everyone to give generously. Ian smiled at the crowd again, mouthing another ‘thank you’ and scanned for Dylan. He was gone.
It took ages to get from the stage back outside. Everyone wanted to make a chat, compliment him about the gig. Normally Ian wouldn’t have minded, but as flattering as it was, his mind was on one thing only. Dylan.
As he hoped, he found him outside, smoking a cigarette. He spotted Ian coming out and waved. Ian asked for a cigarette too. He only smoked occasionally, but this was as good an occasion as any. Dylan handed him one, and, as Ian took it between his lips, wordlessly lighted it for him. Then he leaned back against the wall and returned his gaze to the pavement. Ian leaned back next to him and did the same.
There was a very long silence as both men just stood there, smoking. Ian didn’t know what to say, but halfway through his cigarette he knew he probably had to say something. Instead Dylan spoke.
Ian turned his head, but found Dylan still staring at the pavement. “You’re welcome. I was afraid I was out of line, but I had the feeling you needed that.”
The dot was so audible, Ian forgot what he should say next. If he even should say anything… Maybe he should do something, take his hand, hug him? Or was that just what HE wanted? What would Dylan want?
“They’re all dead.” Dylan suddenly said.
What? Ian looked back at Dylan’s face and found him looking back at him. He didn’t know what to say. Who was he talking about?
“It’s not just Sean. The manic guy you wrote about, too. And everyone else that was ever my lover.”
“WHAT?!” Ian slapped a hand in front of his mouth, but way too late. Shock racked through his system. How? How can that possibly happen? Wait, was Dylan some kind… no he wasn’t. He was sweet and kind and caring.
Ian didn’t know what else to do and flung his arms around Dylan. He pulled him in the closest hug he’d ever dared give anyone and wasn’t going to let go. Dylan’s body froze, but Ian was persistent and eventually the man in his arms stopped struggling and gave up. He started crying silently instead. Ian could tell, because his breathing was ragged, shaking him slightly and the shirt on his shoulder was starting to get wet.
They stood there for god knows how long, until the doors of the bar jingled as a couple of girls walked out. They were talking to themselves and payed no attention to them, luckily. But after they passed, Dylan pulled himself out of the hug and gave Ian a half-smile.
“Well, alright. You made the old man cry, kid. That’s some mean feat. You’re sure gonna make it big someday.”
Ian was startled. Dylan went right back to his usual supportive self. He even emphasized their age difference, treating Ian like a little kid. No way he was gonna stand for that.
“You’re not that old Dylan. Don’t act like a dad.”
Dylan scoffed, but his blue eyes smiled at Ian’s. “I’m thirty-five, I could’ve been a dad…”
Ian caught his eyebrows going up in surprise at Dylan’s age, but wasn’t going to have a fool made out of himself. “Well I’m twenty-six and so could I. Don’t treat me like a kid. We’re friends, right? And besides, in musician’s years I’m already ancient.”
This resulted in a bout of laughter from Dylan. Not fake, genuine. Ian was sure because it made him blush. Again. What was it with that man?
“Okay ancient one, now go and sign autographs for yor fans. I'll be off.” Dylan grabbed him by the shoulder and started pushing him inside, but the sudden change in mood didn’t settle well with Ian.
“Wait.” Ian stopped in his tracks. “About what you just said…”
The solemn look on Dylan’s face returned for a second, then dissipated again. “I don’t really want to talk more about that now. I need to get to work. Tim and Danny are probably in all states already.”
“Will you tell me someday?”
And with that Dylan left. Ian had a strange feeling about it. He wanted to know more about the man, he wanted him to let his walls down, spill his secrets, really get to know him. Help him feel better… But why? Ian had never felt like this way about anyone. What was it about Dylan that had him trying so hard?
Later that night, Ian lay awake in his bed. He couldn’t sleep. He had been trying for hours. The effects of the cocaine had long worn off, since he hadn’t used any after the show. No, it was his thoughts keeping him awake. Dylan’s words kept coming back to him and poking holes in his brain.
‘They’re all dead…’
Then something else came up that made his blood run cold. One word.
Mr. Mantis. As in praying mantis. The grasshopper that eats its mate…
Ian knew it to be true before he googled it. Oh my god, had that been a hint? Was Dylan actually a serial killer? Nah, he couldn’t be, could he?
No, he’s a good person I trust him! Ian screamed at himself. But the darkness in the back of his mind fought back fiercely. You’ve trusted people before, look what they did to you… You shouldn’t trust anyone, you know this. Everyone you give your trust turns on you. They abuse you. Yet you gave your trust to someone again, and look, he’s a serial killer…
Ian just had to know. But he couldn’t just go out and ask his neighbour: ‘hey, not to be rude or anything, but are you bychance a serial killer?’ He looked Dylan up on the internet, but didn’t find anything useful whatsoever. Maybe if he knew the names of the people he’d been referring to…
Was it weird that he was looking this up? Yeah probably, but better safe then sorry. Ian knew he had bad luck with people, and finding himself drawn to a serial killer that lived next door was right up his alley.
He didn’t find anything to go on though. The only thing he did find was an obituary for one Sean Sanders, late husband of Dylan de Jonge. He had died at the age of 40, less than three months ago. This shocked Ian. He had figured it would have been longer, considering the way Dylan acted. Shouldn’t he be in mourning instead of having one-night stands with crazy people?
Oh God, he may have killed him. Oh God, he may have killed the crazy guy too. He did say they were ALL dead… Holy shit he really was a serial killer. How many people would he have killed? Would he only kill his lovers, or would he go for his friends and neighbours as well?
Ian was now sitting upright in his bed hyperventilating.
Maybe that was why he was so nice all the time, Ian knew he had done nothing to deserve that kindness. Maybe he was being scouted out as the next victim. HOLY SHIT HE KNOWS WHERE I KEEP MY KEY! He could just come in in the middle of the night and strangle him!
Time for action. And Ian knew just the man to talk to.