11 The Eye of the Storm

Tom arrived at his office the next morning in fine spirits, and that carried him through the day. He confirmed with Walt about Thanksgiving, and worked on his book between classes. On his way home, he picked up some groceries, some wine, and a couple of movies.

“Hello?” Tom called, as he put the bags in the kitchen and saw no sign of anyone. In the back yard, he found that Peter had cleaned up and put the rest of the stuff away, but there was no sign of anyone. He did his best to control his rising panic and looked for a note or something. Then he remembered the cell phones, so he dialed up Peter’s phone first.

“Hello,” the boy answered, and Tom sighed in relief.

“Hi, Peter, it’s Tom. No one was home, so I got a little nervous!”

“Sorry! Billy is off today, so he picked me up. We’re at the mall,” Peter reported.

“Okay, good,” Tom said. “You have your amulets?”

“Yes, mom,” Peter responded with a laugh.

“Alright, alright! See you later,” Tom said.

“Bye!” Peter answered, hanging up.

A few moments later, David walked in the front door laughing. Sticking his head out, Tom saw Sebastien. “Hey, buddy! Didn’t expect you so soon!” The boy blushed and shrugged, and David sort of smiled. “You want something to drink, or a snack?”

David led Sebastien by the elbow into the kitchen. Tom poured them some drinks and David grabbed a bag of chips. Tom told the boy, “Get David to show you around! Show him my office and library, and all that stuff.” David smiled and nodded, and the boys were off. But before they got too far, Tom called, “Can you stay for dinner?”

“I invited him and his parents said it was okay,” David said with a blush.

Tom gently scolded, “Let me know when you invite someone over! What if I had planned on starving you all tonight?” Tom then laughed and waved the boys off, before starting to throw together dinner. He was stirring chicken marsala when Aiden came home.

The man wrapped his arms around Tom and kissed the back of his neck. “That smells good….”

“Thanks,” Tom said, setting his spoon down and turning in the man’s arms to kiss him.

“Get a room,” David said, as he passed toward the living room. Sebastien’s eyes were wide, however. He had never seen that kind of affection between men, and Tom could tell by his blush that it had affected him. Tom turned to grab the pan of bread to slide it into the oven, and Aiden smacked him playfully on the behind and slipped away to change. Tom smiled when he heard Aiden join the boys in the living room.

“Dinner will be ready in a minute,” he called. “Come grab plates!”

They fixed their plates in the kitchen, carrying them out to the table. Tom sat bread and wine on the table. “Where’s Peter?” Sebastien asked, trying to appear casual.

“He’s out with his boyfriend,” Tom said. “Did you meet Billy?”

“Oh,” the boy said. “I didn’t realize! Billy’s nice….”

“He is! He was a student of mine,” Tom added. “So what did you think of my library?”

“Awesome,” the boy said. “You’ve got a lot of cool books!”

“Well, you’re welcome anytime.” Tom and Aiden asked the boys about their day at school, and other things, and they were just finishing when Peter got home. Sebastien’s eyes lit up, and Tom again took note. “Did you guys eat, Peter? There are plenty of leftovers!”

“We did,” he said, “but I’m hungry again!” Peter grabbed a plate and a drink, joining them. Sebastien absolutely hung on Peter’s every word. You could almost see his eyes rise and fall with Peter’s lips. David and Peter handled clean-up, and Tom gave Aiden the bag of movies as he said, “Sebastien, come upstairs for a few minutes?”

Aiden smiled as the boy followed Tom. “Did you see my chess set?”

“No!” In the library Tom pulled down a set of sterling silver chess pieces representing medieval figures. “Cool!” Sebastien exclaimed.

“Let’s play while the boys clean up?” Tom suggested.

“Sure,” Sebastien said.

“White or black?” Tom asked.

“Black,” the boy said, and Tom made the first move.

“So, Sebastien, I noticed you’re very interested in Peter,” Tom said, opting for the direct route. Sebastien looked horrified and flushed red. “Sebastien, think about who you’re talking to. If I’m wrong, feel free to say so. But remember I told you that I was painfully shy as a child? I spent so much time hiding who I was. I was so afraid! I just want you to know you have someone you can talk to, if you need to.” Tom made his move. Sebastien silently countered, and Tom already knew how he would respond.

Just when Tom gave up, Sebastien whispered, “I’m so afraid all the time!”

“Tell me about that?” Tom suggested.

“Well, you know, I check out guys. I’m always terrified somebody – the guy, my dad, somebody – will notice! David wouldn’t want to be my friend, my parents wouldn’t want me, and my sister would hate me!” the boy said, baring his gravest fears.

“Sebastien,” Tom sighed. “I understand those fears completely, but in your case they are so unrealistic!” The boy looked skeptical, and Tom laughed. “I’m sorry, but you’re just so lucky! David loves you, and his own brother is gay! Hell, he chose to live with two gay men! And your sister is his girlfriend! How uptight could she be? Now I don’t know your dad that well, but your mom already suspects, and she just wants the best for you.”

“That’s … true?” Sebastien looked like he could cry.

“Yes,” Tom said. “Are you alright?” The boy shook his head, no. Tom knelt down and wrapped his arm around the boy. “I’m going to call your parents and get them over here, and we’re going talk to them together.” Sebastien turned white as a sheet, and Tom laughed. “If either of your parents rejects you, I’ll punch them in the face!”

“I can’t,” Sebastien said.

“We can, buddy! Think, your parents know about me, but they let you come over here,” Tom said.

“You promise you’ll help me?” Sebastien asked.

“I promise,” Tom said. The boy nodded and Tom dialed the numbers the boy told him. “Peggy, it’s Tom. Could you and Mitch head on over? … No, no, he’s fine! I just need to run something by you!”

As he sat the phone down, Tom smiled. “Be strong, trust yourself. Be proud. Peter’s pretty cute, huh?”

Suddenly, Sebastien’s mind was distracted. “Yeah, well, he’s got a boyfriend.”

“And he’s way too old for you,” Tom laughed. “But that doesn’t mean you don’t notice! And believe me, when the time is right, you’ll find a nice guy!”

“Who’d be interested in me?” Sebastien asked.

“Sebastien,” Tom laughed, “you’re smart, cute, and even funny when you let people in! With a little confidence, you’ll have no trouble!” Sebastien blushed, and the doorbell rang. “Wait here,” Tom said.

Tom hurried down to the door, where Aiden was welcoming the Peabodys inside. “We can talk upstairs,” Tom said, shaking hands.

Aiden raised his eyebrows, and asked, “Should I come?” Tom nodded, and they all went upstairs. Inside the office, Sebastien sat wringing his hands, his eyes red and puffy.

His mother knelt and asked, “What’s wrong, honey?” The boy shook his head.

“Sebastien,” Tom said, “look at me!” Tom smiled and said, “Say what you want to say.”

The boy stood and walked over to where his dad was standing. “Dddad,” Sebastien said with a slight stutter, looking over his shoulder at his mom, “I was talking to Tom abbbout why I’m so shy. I thought that, if people knew about me, they wouldn’t love me.”

Peggy started crying, and Mitch put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “That would never happen!”

“Not even if I was gay?” Sebastien asked.

Mitch sort of half-laughed, half-sobbed, and Sebastien looked confused. “Of course not, sweetheart! Why in the world would you think that?”

“You never really know. I mean, look what Peter’s parents,” Sebastien began.

Peggy hugged her son. “Honey, anybody who could turn their backs on their own children like that, for that, there’s something wrong with them!”

Sebastien was enclosed by his parents’ arms, and Mitch smiled tearfully over at Tom, mouthing a silent, ‘Thank you!’ Aiden wrapped his arms around Tom as they stood by.

So, Sebastien, how does it feel? Four people know your secret, and nobody’s turned their back on you,” Tom said.

The boy smiled. “I … it’s weird. I don’t know!”

“There’s no pressure to tell anybody you aren’t comfortable with! But if you want to run down and talk to Peter and David, now’s as good a time as any,” Tom suggested. Sebastien smiled and nodded, running out of the room and down the steps.

“Where did all of this come from?” Mitch asked when his son was gone.

“He reminds me of myself at his age, so I tried to give him some advice,” Tom began. “I also noticed that he was super-focused on Peter, even though he really likes David. When he’s with the boys, he zones out watching Peter! That was a dead giveaway, so I just asked him over a quick game of chess…. He let me know that a lot of his stress has to do with his fear of rejection. So, here we are!” Raucous laughter echoed up the stairs and the adults all smiled. “Just support him, show him love. If you ever need to talk, or need some advice, you call us, or he can call us, whatever. You’re great parents, but it’s different, trust me!”

They both thanked him before they went looking for Sebastien. Mitch pulled Tom aside for a moment. “Sebastien is really excited about this camping trip. I was wondering, would you mind if I tagged along? It’s something I should have done more of.”

“The more the merrier,” Tom said, patting Mitch on the shoulder. Downstairs, they found Sebastien on the couch, leaning on David, whose arm was wrapped around him loosely. Peter was sitting in a chair across from them, and sure enough, Sebastien’s eyes were locked on Peter’s face. Sebastien smiled up at Tom as he heard the adults come into the room. “I see everything’s fine?” Tom said, rubbing it in. The boy nodded and Tom ruffled his hair again. “I think your parents are probably ready to head home, but like I said, any time. You’re welcome to stay the night, too – just let me know.”

Peggy looked at Mitch, and said, “Actually, we were thinking that we might go away this weekend. Catherine will be at a friend’s, but we weren’t sure about Sebastien.”

“Could I?” the boy asked, looking at Tom, then his mom, then Tom again. Tom smiled and nodded at Peggy.

“Alright,” she said. “Just don’t pester them to death!” Sebastien blushed and got up to go, but not before David gave him a little squeeze.

“See you at school tomorrow,” David said. The boy blushed, following his parents.

 “Don’t worry about this weekend, there’s plenty of room and we all enjoy having Sebastien around,” he said to the boy’s parents. “Besides, I still have five empty bedrooms!” They all laughed and said their goodbyes.

Back in the living room, David looked up at Tom and smiled, shaking his head. “I don’t know what you did!”

“He reminds me a lot of myself,” Tom said. “I hope I can help save him a lot of grief.”

“Well, I’m glad! He’s really sweet,” David said, chuckling when he realized what it sounded like.

“Yeah,” Tom said. “Look out for him at school?”

“Of course!” David replied.

“Good night boys. Don’t stay up too late, David,” Tom said.

The next morning, Tom got up with Aiden. “Where are you off to so early?” Aiden asked as they shared the mirror. “You don’t have class today….”

“Oh, hell! I forgot! Your chief asked me to come in to meet with him. Jim passed the message along on Sunday,” Tom reported.

Aiden looked surprised. “What does he want?”

“Apparently, there are a couple of cases he might want me to consult on,” Tom said.

“Hmmm…. He never said anything to me,” Aiden said, sulking a little.

“Maybe he thought it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask you to ask me,” Tom suggested.

“Maybe, but that means he knows. Jim probably mentioned it to him. Oh, well…. The chief is a pretty good guy, he’ll like you.” They shared a long kiss before getting dressed. “And try to remember to keep me in the loop on these things? Especially when you’re on my turf,” Aiden said with a laugh, pretending the annoyance was all feigned.

“I’m sorry, Aiden, it really did just slip my mind! I’ll tell you all about it this evening, if you remind me! Now, want some breakfast?” asked Tom, missing the point of his lover’s words.

“Sure…. What’s cooking?” Aiden asked.

“I thought I’d mix up a batch of pancakes, maybe some sausage,” Tom said.

“Sounds great, babe,” Aiden said with a cute grin as he finished dressing, still feeling hurt.

Tom began to cook, the smell drawing David from his room. The boy was gorgeous in his school uniform, Tom thought with a smile. Poor Catherine was hopeless.

“Mmmm, pancakes,” David said, peeking around Tom.

“Get yourself some juice,” Tom said. “I’ve got you an appointment to meet with Amanda Klein after school today. Her address is on this card. Do you know where this is?”

“Nope,” the boy said, pouring his juice.

“Pull it up on the computer at school and print it out,” Tom said.

“Sure, no problem,” David said.

Tom slid the first batch of pancakes and a couple of sausage patties in front of David, and had another ready for Aiden. Tom slid in next to Aiden and grabbed his hand.

Rolling his eyes, David smiled and shook his head. “You guys are too much!”

“Sorry,” Tom said, rolling his eyes back at David, who laughed again. Both David and Aiden had to hurry off, so Tom set the rest of the pancakes aside for Peter, before he went up to his library. Before 10, he heard Peter stirring downstairs, so he grabbed his briefcase and headed down.

“There’re pancakes by the stove for you,” he said outside of Peter’s door.

“Thanks, I’ll be out in a minute,” Peter said.

“I’ve got to run. I’ll see you after lunch,” Tom said.

“Okay, bye!” Peter called.

Tom drove to police headquarters and walked up to the desk. “Can I help you sir?”

“I’m here to meet with the chief of police,” Tom said.

“And you are?” the sergeant asked.

“Professor Thomas Corman,” he responded.

The man picked up his phone and hit a button. “Sir, Professor Corman here to see you! Yes, sir….” Putting the phone down, the man looked at him and said, “The chief will be down in just a moment, sir.” Tom stood with his briefcase and waited. Shortly a tall man in a grey suit walked down the stairs and came straight to the desk. He looked around as if looking for someone else.

Tom stepped forward and held out his hand. “Tom Corman, sir….”

The man smiled, looking surprised. “Lincoln Pryce. Nice to meet you, professor. I’m sorry, I was just expecting someone … older.”

“I get that a lot,” Tom laughed.

“Come up to my office,” Pryce said, leading the way. “Have you ever been here before?”

“No, sir,” Tom said. “It’s my first visit.”

“Well, when we’re through, I’ll show you around.” His office was lined with bookshelves and wallpapered with commendations, degrees, and newspaper articles. “Have a seat, professor,” Pryce said, indicating a soft leather chair away from the desk.

“Please, call me Tom, Chief Pryce.”

“Well, in that case, it’s Lincoln,” the man replied “So I guess you’re wondering why I asked you here?”

“I was,” Tom said with a smile.

“Well, I’m aware of the recent assistance you provided Sheriff Sanders. In the last few months, we’ve had a number of cases we’re simply not prepared for. The FBI insists that occult-tinged crimes are the work of isolated individuals, but,” Pryce trailed off.

“Well, no offense to the FBI sir, but they are wrong,” Tom said. “They are right in one sense. The run of the mill crime with ritualistic elements reflects the symbolic thinking of deranged individuals. Satanic cult leaders are smart and their followers are absolutely devoted. The FBI’s model equates Satanic cults with fringe groups with mass psychoses, when functioning groups are closer to terror cells, but with religious devotion.”

“That sounds like a dangerous mix,” Lincoln replied.

“It is. They cover their tracks well, and members are willing to sacrifice themselves in order to maintain the group,” Tom explained.

“Do you have experience with these people? You seem pretty familiar,” Pryce observed.

“Well, my research is on medieval thought, but the psychology of mass violence hasn’t changed much. I spent a year in Paris exploring this kind of stuff and every now and again you run into the real deal. If that’s what’s here, there will be trouble,” Tom said gravely.

“I need someone to look over the evidence from these cases and give me a recommendation, Tom,” Pryce said. “Are we looking at a deranged individual, a random set of crazies, or is there some pattern?”

“What do you need me to do?” Tom asked.

“Well, we’d bring you in formally to consult. You’d need to sign confidentiality documents and the like, and we’d pay you the standard fee. I’m afraid I can’t let you take anything out of here. We have an empty conference room you could work in though.”

Tom nodded. “Alright. You understand I’ll have to work around my teaching schedule?”

“We’re just happy to have you! Come on, let me show you around.” Chief Pryce gave him a tour of the facility, including the little annex next door where they kept some labs. Most of the cutting-edge, advanced stuff got sent off, but not fingerprints, DNA and things they could do in-house.

Finally, Pryce led Tom to the clerk’s office and left him to fill out the paperwork necessary to get him in the system and to get his picture taken for his official ID card, which was ready by the time he left. The chief was already in his meeting, so Tom headed home after leaving the man a note that he’d be back Thursday morning and asking that the files be ready for him. He also asked if they could get a couple of cork-boards set up for him.

At home, Tom found Peter in his office reading, an icepack on his neck. “Hey, how was the station? Did you see Aiden?”

“The station was fine, and no, I didn’t see him. What’s with the ice pack, Peter?” Tom asked as he set his bag on the floor.

“My shoulder’s been hurting,” he said, as Tom removed the ice pack.

“Here?” Peter shook his head as the man’s fingers pressed the muscle. “Here?” Again, no. But when Tom touched the middle of Peter’s collarbone, Peter cried out sharply. “How long has it been sore like this?”

“I don’t know,” Peter said, “it’s been getting worse since I came home”

Frowning, Tom said, “You should have told me! Let’s go…. Bring the book with you, this could take a while.” Tom drove them out to the University Medical Center’s clinic. Though it operated on the triage system, treating more severe issues first, the clinic was having a slow day and they didn’t actually have to wait long.

A young doctor, Lisa Schmidt, walked in room, smiling. “How are you feeling today?”

“My shoulder is a bit sore,” Peter said, as the young woman looked over his chart.

“Frankly, I’m a little surprised your everything isn’t sore!” she said with a laugh. “Remarkable! Anyway, let’s see: Off with your shirt. You can step outside, Mr. …?”

“Dr. Corman,” he said, moving to go.

“It’s alright,” Peter said. “Stay?”

“Alright,” Dr. Schmidt said, as Peter stripped off his shirt. “What’s your specialty, Dr. Corman?”

He smiled. “Philosophy.”

She smiled and got chatty, “Oh, very good! I loved my philosophy classes.” She asked him about his research, and they chatted as she began her examination. Tom was amazed every time he saw Peter; the boy had been in such bad shape when Tom found him that he still managed to look better every day. His torso was beginning to lose that emaciated look and smooth out.

Dr. Schmidt examined Peter and came to the same conclusion Tom had. She consulted the x-rays from the hospital and saw the fracture. “It seems that you have a fracture of the clavicle,” she said. “Based on the x-rays, I think surgery is unnecessary, but I want to get another set on the injured area. We’ll get your arm in a sling, and you avoid lifting!”

“What can he take for the pain?” Tom asked.

“Well, I’d suggest Advil or Motrin unless it’s really severe,” she replied. “Peter?”

“No, I’d say it’s not severe. And I’d know severe,” Peter added with a laugh.

“Good, then! We’ll just get you up to x-ray,” she said as she walked out. After Peter was wheeled off to radiology for an x-ray, and then brought back to the room, Schmidt returned smiling. “Looks good! We just want to keep the arm immobilized for a few weeks, until this heals up. Check back with me in … let’s say three weeks?”

“Will do,” Tom said, as she showed them how the sling worked. “Thanks, Dr. Schmidt.”

“I hope this heals up as fast as the rest of you did,” she said to Peter with a smile. “Nice to meet you both. Professor,” she added, then took her leave, hurrying to her next patient.

      On their way home, Tom got them both a burger for a very late lunch, and said, “Peter, I want you to come to me with anything! You really should have told me about this.”

“I didn’t want … to be a bother,” Peter said, looking out the window.

Tom patted his forearm. “You’re not a bother, Peter! We’re a family now! An unconventional family, but it’s what we are…. I want to take care of you, let you have a normal-ish life.” Peter laughed at that. “I’m not old enough to be a father-figure for you, but maybe a young uncle.”

Peter nodded. “Thanks….”

“Your brother has his first appointment with my friend Dr. Klein this afternoon. She has an opening on Wednesdays during the morning if you’re interested. You could meet with her, then read or work in the library ‘til I get done in the afternoon,” Tom said.

Peter nodded. “Sounds good. I could maybe come to one of your classes?”

“Sure, if you want!” Tom said. Back at the house, Tom got Peter some Motrin and a drink and set him up in a comfy chair. “Do you need anything else?” Tom asked.

“I’ll let you take care of me, doc, but no babying,” Peter said with a laugh.

Tom shrugged, then pinched him on the cheek. “They grow up so fast,” he said, walking to his desk, as Peter chuckled and got back into his book.

Tom worked for the next hour or so until they heard David call, “Hello?”

“Upstairs!” Peter called.

David walked in and asked Peter. “What happened to you!?”

They filled him in, and Tom asked, “How did you like Amanda?”

“She’s really cool!” David replied.

“I thought you might like her,” Tom smiled. “So for now, she’ll see you on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon.”

“Alright. That’ll work!” David stated, his smile covering something only Peter could see.

When they were alone later, Peter whispered, “You didn’t tell her about him?”

David, misunderstanding, replied, “No, of course not. She’d think I was crazy! I just talked some about Carter, mostly….”

Peter shook his head. “I don’t mean the demon,” he whispered, looking around almost paranoid. “I mean the man!”

David’s eyes widened, and he shook his head. “I’d ramble on about demons while they put me in a straitjacket before I’d talk about him!”

“Good! Talk about whatever you want…. You need it. We both do. But we have to promise each other not to mention him to anyone. He’ll kill us all if he thinks we might tell – you, me, Aiden, Tom. Hell! He’ll probably even kill Catherine and Sebastien just for kicks!” Peter said.

David nodded, and his slight tremble assured Peter that the boy took that possibility with deadly seriousness.