Curley was the local tagger. Most everyone thought he was a bit touched in the head because he never used any color but gray. He was exceptionally talented, but vandalism was vandalism. He’d never been caught in all the years he’d painted the walls of the town. He’d been homeless for as long as most could remember, though, in truth, he was only twenty-eight. He looked fifty with his rugged brown beard, long stringy hair, thin almost emancipated frame and crazy gray eyes. Even his fellow indigenous left Curley alone.
At thirty-five, James Collier had moved to West Marlin to escape the high crime areas of Baltimore and the stress of being a beat cop in some of the more dangerous parts of the city. Alone, with only his mastiff, Morgan for company, he was looking forward to the peace and solitude of small town America. It didn’t take him long to hear about the local legend known as Curley. Most of law enforcement had never even seen the man, but they had all seen the evidence of his passing. James was no expert, but even he could see that the mysterious homeless man was gifted. Not everyone could make such masterpieces with nothing but a spray can of gray paint.
Jim soon figured out, that when it came to Curley, the whole town tended to turn a blind eye to his crimes, each owner of whatever part of town he graced with his spray can, shouldering the cost to paint over the art left behind. When Jim finally caught Curley, no one in the lone precinct was happy, all giving Jim cold stares as if he’d desecrated a national monument. But it wasn’t the townsfolk, or his fellow officers that concerned Jim. It was his reaction to Curley. Once cleaned up, Curley was—well—beautiful, causing a stirring in Jim’s chest that he did not want.
Besides, what could he possibly find with a homeless man that was obviously crazy? But the weirdest part of all was that ever since that first arrest, every time Jim turned around, Curley was there to be easily caught, again and again, as if he was making himself available for Jim to bring in. And each time, Curley inched his way further and further under Jim’s skin until he found himself obsessed with the homeless man—and protecting him. And caring for him. Until the day Jim finally brought Curley home and his world was turned upside down.