The powder blue 66 Mustang might have looked a million bucks cruising the streets of Chicago, or even flashing along the motorway, but out here on a muddy country road it wasn’t at all happy. Definitely not what Carrie needed right now.
Something like that old Jeep apparently abandoned on the side of the road up ahead. Who cared if that got covered in filth? And it wouldn’t skid on gravel, or panic at a pothole.
She parked behind it and got out. This was one of the bridges on her list. Didn’t look like much from the top, but maybe down in the gully it made a dramatic silhouette. Carrie reached back in and grabbed her cameras. The full-frame Leica Q for serious, the smaller D-Lux if she needed a bit more reach.
The Jeep was full of rubbish. A definite lived-in look. Maybe some homeless person was camped here. No. Fresh tyre tracks in the mud. Probably some struggling rancher inspecting his land.
Someone had obviously been down here, Carrie decided as she descended the slope. Look, a large flat rock had been sprayed with water. It formed letters: “HATE”. Now, that was disturbing.
Nobody visible in the gully. Carrie stood in the sunlight and contemplated the dim light under the bridge. Some reflections off the water formed interesting shapes on the beams carrying the roadbed. Hmm. Open the lens wide to let in more light, be careful with her depth of field.
She held the Q to her eye and fired off a series of shots, exploring the old wooden beams, the clear water, the sunbeams dancing…
Holy crap. There was someone here after all. Yes, there he was, a black man standing motionless waist-deep in the water, looking rather like the top half of a Greek statue in ebony. Only a few metres away. How could she have missed him?
My god, but he was a sight. Without thinking, she raised the camera again, and took a shot straight on.
“Hey!” there was real outrage this time. “Put that thing away, lady!”
He made to move towards her. Another step or two and he’d be out of the water. She held her breath. Wow!
He was holding his hands to cover himself, but she could see he needed bigger hands.
He realised this about the same time and stopped. Carrie let her camera fall on its neck strap to her chest. She held up her hands. “Sorry, I didn’t see you in the dark.”
“What the hell? You didn’t see me? You aimed your camera right at me! You’re the lady from the cafe. You following me?”
Carrie looked at him. “Oh, I remember. I took a picture at the sign for you. I am sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude. I’ll give you a bit of privacy and perhaps we can talk in a few minutes?”
“Dam’ straight. You don’t go nowhere with that camera. I got words for you. Now, scoot!”
Carrie scooted. She thought of scooting right back into her car and getting back on the Interstate.
But if she did that, she wouldn’t get his release for what was probably a great photograph.
Up at the road level, she leaned against the side of the bridge to look at what she had. The Leica lens had captured him perfectly, a slender but well-arranged figure, softly lit in the reflections off the water. One hand raised with a bar of soap, a look of raw emotion on his face. Not anger, no, something gentler. Some yearning, maybe? Lust, perhaps? There was a swirl in the water, covering everything below his waist, but maybe if she played around on her computer a bit…
No way was she leaving without his signature on a model release form. This was gold.
Here he was stomping up to her, hand out for the camera. She took it off her neck, but kept a firm hold of the strap. She didn’t want five thousand dollars worth of camera dropped into the water.
He said nothing. Just looked at the rear screen. After a minute, he said, “what about the others?”
“Just swipe left, pinch and spread to zoom. Like a phone.”
He swiped back a few times. “Oh man!”
He handed the camera back. The photo showed Carrie standing alone in front of the Midpoint sign. Clearly she had handed her camera to a stranger to take the exact same shot she’d taken of him.
“Yeah, spot the tourist, right?”
“Look, you can’t use that photo of me. Not without my say so. I’m an attorney, and I’d be able to sue the p… ah, enforce my rights in court.”
Carrie smiled. She had a good smile. “And I’m a professional photographer. I’d like to pay you the standard modelling rates for an hour’s work. A hundred dollars.”
She could see the light in his eyes. He had the bait.
“Nude work must be worth extra. Two hundred bucks.”
“Semi-nude,” she countered. “A hundred and fifty.”
“Deal.” He offered her his hand and she took it. Nice firm handshake, held just the right amount of time. “Nate Fitzroy.”
“Carrielle Watson. I’ve got some forms in my glovebox.”
“An hour. Does that mean you want more photos?”
Carrie considered. Another fifty-five minutes of posing this lovely young man could be a real treat. Then again, she didn’t want to put herself in a risky position, alone with a naked man away out here.
“No. I think I could spend the whole day with you getting cold in the water and not get anything as good as what I’ve already got.”
She considered him. He had scrubbed up well. Back at the Midpoint he had looked — and smelled — seedy. Now, with his hair bright and bouncy, and a fresh shirt, she could even begin to believe he might be a lawyer.
“There is something you could do for me. I’m guessing this is your car?”
“Well, my Mustang, sweet though it is for highway cruising, isn’t exactly good for dirt roads and bush-bashing.”
He looked puzzled at that.
“Ah, cross-country travel, I mean. There’s a few bridges around here that I’d like to photograph, and I’m told some of them aren’t real easy to get to. If you have nothing urgent to do, I’d be interested in hiring you and your car for the afternoon. Twenty dollars an hour plus expenses, which probably means a tank full of gas and a meal.”
Oh no! What is Carrie getting herself into? But he’s a lawyer. You can trust an attorney, right?