14 Déjà Vu

“Mom,” Tom said, breathless. “That boy needs my help, but I … I just don’t know if I can do it.” His mind was spinning.

“Tom, of course you can!” the woman scolded. “You let Peter keep Jamie’s clothes, and you can’t tell me it is easy to come in and see that boy dressed like Jamie!”

“You noticed,” Tom snorted.

“My son had a very distinctive style,” Martha replied.

“The first time I saw him in an outfit Jamie used to wear, I very nearly walked up behind him and wrapped my arms around him,” Tom admitted. “That would have been embarrassing!”

Martha smiled and took his hand. “Let’s go downstairs, Tom,” she said.

Tom stood to follow her, and asked, “Do you think it means anything, Mom?”

She thought for a moment. “Besides that he is a very special boy who’ll grow up to be quite a beautiful man? I don’t think so,” she said with a smile.

“He’s gay, you know,” Tom mused, “like Jamie….”

“I suspected,” Martha replied. “In which case he’s very lucky to have you!”

They were met by expectant gazes, but they just smiled and rejoined their loved ones. Walt let it pass. Martha would have to explain later, Tom thought to himself.

Still, over dinner, Martha had to gently elbow Tom a couple of times as he got lost in thought, and even Billy was looking at him strangely. “Is everything okay, Tom?” Aiden whispered as the men cleared the table and grabbed dessert and fresh plates.

“I’ll tell you tonight, Aiden,” Tom promised, wrapping his arms around the man tightly.

“My boys were very happy to hear you’d all be joining us,” Walt said, smiling at Peter and David. “Billy, you’re welcome to join Peter if you aren’t going home!”

“Thanks Dr. Moore,” the boy replied, “but my parents are expecting me. I would have invited Peter, but I figured he’d want to stay with David this year….”

Peter squeezed his hand, and Martha asked, “So you’ve told your parents?”

Billy sort of blushed and said, honestly, “It’s complicated…. I would have told them Peter was my friend from college with no place to go.”

“How’s it complicated?” Walt asked.

“My dad is a minister,” Billy said, and they nodded. “I mean, not the creepy weird kind; he’s Presbyterian. But still, it’s hard to tell how he’d feel.”

“He’s your father,” Martha said. “I bet he’ll come around.”

“How would he deal with a parishioner asked for advice?” Tom asked, knowing not all parents deal with it.

“He’d offer to counsel them, I’m sure. He wouldn’t turn them away,” Billy said.

“Would he help them find a program to ‘turn them straight’?” Aiden asked.

NO WAY!” the boy said confidently. “Dad always said,” Billy began, then put his hand on his forehead. “Dad always said it’s just how a person was born.”

David, Sebastien, and Peter looked confused, while the adults nodded knowingly. “WHAT?” Sebastien asked.

“Why was your dad always saying that?” Tom asked, prodding. “Did you ask?”

“No, he’d bring it up,” Billy said. “He was telling me I could tell him,” the young man said, his lip almost trembling. “I can’t believe I didn’t realize!”

“Billy, if things don’t go well, you know you can always stay here,” Tom offered gently.

“Thanks Tom,” Billy said. “Maybe you can come over part of winter break, Peter?”

“That sounds good,” Peter said with a smile, and David and Sebastien responded by making exaggerated smooching sounds.

After dinner, Billy and Peter went to a movie and David took Sebastien to his room for video games, leaving Walt and Aiden alone with Tom and Martha. “Okay, what’s the deal?” Walt asked, and Aiden nodded.

Tom went upstairs for the photograph book. When he returned he handed it to Aiden, who said, “Why do you have a picture of,” but the question trailed off as he saw Walt’s face. As Aiden turned the pages, the boy got older and blossomed into Jamie. “No wonder you looked like you had seen a ghost, Martha!”

Walt smiled sadly, holding back a wave of emotion. “I guess I can see it, too.”

“It’s uncanny,” Aiden replied, turning the pages back and forth.

“I suppose so,” Walt said. “You can see it in Peter too, particularly when he’s sad. When I saw him sitting in the hall the other day, that pathetic look on his face, I had to look twice. It reminded me of a time…” Walt smiled at Tom, and said, “I don’t know if I ever told either of you, but after that party where Jamie really took up with you, he came by my office one day. He was very cagey, and so I asked him, ‘You aren’t looking for me, are you? You were waiting for Professor Corman?’ He nodded and hung his head like a little boy. I told him you were too old for him,” Walt added with a smile.

“You definitely never told me about this,” Tom said, smiling back.

“Well, he stormed out, yelling ‘I think I love him!’ He sat down, leaning against your door to wait. I looked down the hall at him and thought the look on his face would break my heart. So I walked down and he looked up at me expectantly, and I said, ‘Tom doesn’t teach today, sweetheart,’ and laughed a little. He stood to storm off again, so I grabbed his arm and said, ‘Jamie, just be careful,’ and he smiled sheepishly back before returning home.”

“I can’t believe you never told me that,” Martha huffed playfully, but Tom’s smile widened and widened until he burst into laughter.

“What?” Walt asked.

“I don’t think that smile was sheepish at all, Walt. I think it was wolfish,” Tom said.

“What do you mean?” Walt asked.

“Jamie didn’t go home that day,” Tom said, to Walt’s surprise. “I was still getting settled in and I got a knock at my door. Jamie barged in, and I’d barely closed the door when he locked onto me with this massive bear hug. He launched into this little tirade, something like, ‘I know there are a few years difference between us and all, and I know you work for my dad, but he said it was okay, and I want to go out with you!’ Then he breathed and I laughed. Then he looked up at me – one of the few instances I can recall of uncertainty in his eyes – and asked, ‘You are gay, right?’ And you all know where that took us.”

That is my Jamie,” Martha smiled.

They chatted a while longer before Martha and Walt excused themselves. When they were alone and began to clean the kitchen, Aiden asked, “So, how are you feeling? About Sebastien, I mean?”

“I feel even more protective of him than I already did. His psychological similarity to me, and his physical resemblance to Jamie! It’s really weird, like if Jamie and I had been able to have a child,” Tom admitted. “I hope that doesn’t make you uncomfortable.”

Aiden laughed and hugged him. “It doesn’t. This must all be strange, even for you!”

Tom smiled and said, “Meet me in the bedroom in ten?”

“Sure,” Aiden smiled. Tom made his way to David’s room and knocked on the door.

Yo?” David called and he opened the door with a smile

“Want to play a round?” Sebastien asked, happy as a clam.

“Maybe tomorrow,” Tom said with a smile. “David, can I talk to you for a second?”

David paused the game and followed him out into the hall. “I didn’t want to put you on the spot,” Tom said. “Sebastien can sleep in one of the empty rooms if you’d prefer?”

David shook his head. “It’s fine, Tom. He won’t make it weird.”

Tom followed David back inside and saying, “Don’t stay up all night, boys!”

“Night, Tom,” both said, turning their attention back to the game. Tom shook his head and laughed as he made his way back to his room, where his man was waiting for him.

A little after three, Tom felt a hand on his shoulder and scooted over to make room. Another urgent shake made Tom roll over. “What’s wrong, Sebastien?” he asked, surprised.

“Something’s wrong with David,” the boy said, his voice full of fear and concern.

Tom didn’t think of his state of undress as he hopped out of bed in just his boxers and hurried to David’s room. “Stay outside for a minute,” Tom urged Sebastien, who was following him. Tom sat next to David, who was thrashing and tossing beneath the covers. Tom smiled and told Sebastien, “It’s just a nightmare!” Tom grabbed David’s wide shoulders and held him down. “David! DAVID! Wake up!”

David struggled a little, even after his eyes opened, until he realized it was Tom holding him down. Then he fell limp. At least David sat up and grabbed the man. “Bad dream about my brother,” David whispered once he calmed down. Sebastien stood looking helpless and somewhat frightened until Tom waved him over and patted the bed. The boy sat down and put his head on Tom’s shoulder.

Smiling, Tom whispered, “David’s okay, Sebastien. Given what he’s been through, it’s not surprising that he has nightmares.”

“What happened?” Sebastien asked, and Tom smiled wearily.

“One day, David can explain it to you, okay? Right now, you boys should try to get some sleep!” Sebastien crawled under the covers, cuddling up to David and hugging him tight. David seemed thankful, and Tom heard David laugh after he turned to go. Tom would have blushed to know Sebastien had repeated his earlier diagnosis of Tom’s hotness.

Tom woke up with Aiden in the morning and they showered together. Time was too short for anything more than some overly playful washing, since Aiden had to hurry off to his weekend class.

Tom worked until he heard the toilet flush. Downstairs, he found Sebastien rubbing his eyes. “Want some OJ?” Tom asked. “When everyone else wakes up, I’ll make pancakes.”

“Thanks,” Sebastien said, following him to the kitchen. Tom handed him a glass of juice and said, “Just make yourself at home!”

Sebastien began flipping through channels in the living room as Tom went back upstairs. About forty-five minutes later, Tom looked up, surprised to see Sebastien standing in the doorway, looking confused.

“What’s wrong, buddy?” Tom asked. The boy sat the little album on his desk.

“What is this?” Sebastien asked.

Tom sighed and picked up the book. ‘Shit!’ he thought, kicking himself for leaving the book out. Tom walked over to the love seat by the window and patted the seat next to him. “I told you I had lost some people?” The boy nodded. “One of those people was a young man named Jamie,” Tom said, turning a picture of Jamie all grown up. “We were attacked and he died. And it turned out he was only one of the loves of my life,” Tom smiled, trying to explain.

“When he died,” Tom said, “I collapsed. I cut myself off. Martha and Walt had always been so good to me, but I just pulled away. Martha sent me this, and I never could bear to look at it. But last night when she saw you, she showed me this. I never knew him when he was your age, so I never really noticed how much you look like him!”

Sebastien nodded thoughtfully and smiled. “I always thought of myself as pretty plain, but Jamie turned out pretty hot,” the boy grinned. “Maybe I’ll be able to find a guy after all.”

“Sebastien,” Tom said, turning the boy to face him, “you are not plain. I don’t mean this as anything but a compliment, but you are very pretty, and you’ll grow up to be a gorgeous man! Don’t sell yourself short!”

“Thanks, Tom,” the boy said, smiling shyly at the compliment, and Tom gave him a hug. “Now why don’t you go give David a wakeup call, and I’ll put on breakfast!”

Sebastien’s smile was impish as he ran off, and Tom grinned when he heard David call, “SEBASTIEN!” a few minutes later. Then he heard Sebastien giggling madly.

“Morning,” Tom laughed, as David came into the kitchen, still in his boxers, hair going every which way, with Sebastien hot on his heels. “Juice?” Tom asked.

David just nodded and sat down. Tom put a juice in front of him and said, “Sleep okay after your bad dream?”

The boy nodded again and drank his juice in nearly one swig. “More, please?” David asked with a grin, and Tom sat the jug on the table. A few minutes later, Peter emerged, followed by Billy, both of whom seemed to have been roused by David’s yell. Sebastien’s face went blank as he watched Peter stretch, still shirtless. Then he paused to appreciate Billy, who was built like a high school baseball player.

“I’m glad you are all comfortable around here,” Tom laughed, “but we do have company!”

“I don’t mind,” Sebastien said eagerly.

“Exactly,” Tom said, winking at the guys as they sat down. As they ate breakfast, Tom did notice that, no matter how much Sebastien admired Peter’s beauty, his devotion to David was stronger, and growing stronger all the time. Sebastien was more mature than he seemed, Tom mused, as the boy turned to David with admiration whenever he spoke.

“What do you want to do today, guys?” Tom asked Sebastien and David.

“Want to go for a hike up at the park?” David asked, and Sebastien quickly nodded his enthusiastic assent.

Tom looked at Peter and Billy and asked, “Want to join us?”

Billy started to nod but Peter shook his head and said, “I thought we might hang out by ourselves today?” Billy smiled and quickly agreed.

“Right,” Tom said with a laugh. “Alright guys, get dressed and I’ll get lunch ready.”

“We’ll do the dishes,” Peter offered, and Tom thanked him as he hurried off to get dressed. When Tom returned, Peter and Billy were just finishing loading the dishwasher. Tom packed sandwiches, some apples, as well as some chopped veggies and cheese into a backpack with some water bottles. Then, as he was waiting for the boys, he sent Aiden a text letting him know where they’d be.

Aiden was sitting in class when his cell phone buzzed. He checked and saw he had a message from Jim, so he slipped into the hall and listened to the message. “There was another one discovered this morning, and the Chief asked me to call you and tell you to get your ass down here. It’s the Jewish cemetery on Fourth Ave.” Aiden grabbed his stuff, flashing a sign to the professor, letting him know work called. The man nodded and kept lecturing as Aiden escaped.

Then Aiden noticed the text from Tom: ‘Taking the boys hiking up at the State Park. Be home around the same time as you. XOXO.’ Aiden smiled as he felt his heart skip a beat.

He drove down Fourth Avenue and saw the cemetery in the distance, nestled in a green area of town and walled in for security. Its gate was surrounded by tape and policemen. Aiden pulled up and flashed his badge to gain access to the scene, and Pryce himself was there to meet him.

“Chief, I didn’t expect you to,” Aiden began, but the man cut him off.

“Officer O’Connell, I wanted you to see this, but I wanted to be here when you did. We take this very seriously, like a threat against one of our own,” Pryce explained.

“Chief,” Aiden began hesitantly, but the man just led him inside. The little cemetery reeked like a slaughter house and looked like a serial killer’s demented nightmare. Animal heads were mounted on posts and organized in the most horrible patterns, and entrails hung like macabre tinsel decorating the sacred space. And on one wall, the name Corman was written in blood, circled and in crosshairs.

“O’Connell,” Pryce said as he felt the man tense up. “We’ll put a car on him!”

“I wish that was enough,” Aiden said. Then with urgency, “I’ve got to find him!”

“Just call him,” the man said.

“He’s taken David and another boy hiking in the park,” Aiden said.

“I’ll send a patrol car out to wait by the car. You’ll never find them!” Pryce said sensibly.

“You can do that, sir, but I’m going out to the park anyway. I’ve got to do something.” Then he added, “Can we leave the scene as it is until Tom can see this?”

“Get him out here this evening, or first thing in the morning,” the man said as he accompanied Aiden to his car. “Aiden, don’t lose your head,” Pryce whispered.

Suddenly, a voice from behind Aiden called, “Officer O’Connel?” When Aiden turned to face the man, he saw the man’s eyes, black as night. Before Aiden could respond, the man raised his gun and fired three shots before Pryce could draw and fire his service revolver. As Aiden hit the ground, the last thing to go through his mind was that he wasn’t wearing his bullet-proof vest. The rest of the officers still seemed stunned, as Chief Pryce got on his radio – “I NEED AN AMBULANCE! OFFICER DOWN!  OFFICER DOWN!”

Upon hearing their chief’s words, the nearest officers sprang into action. They checked the assailant: the neat cluster of wounds in his chest assured them he was dead. One officer knelt over Aiden. As he was about to stanch the chest wound, his partner called out, “He could be sick, man. He’s gay!” The young man didn’t even look up at Pryce, whose face went red with rage, before pressing his bare hands onto Aiden’s wounds, one near the heart, and a second less severe.

“Officer Hendrix,” Pryce called the offending officer over once he saw Aiden was being seen to. Holding out his hand, he said, “Your badge and your gun!”

“You can’t,” the man began, but was cut off by the sound of Jim’s rage-filled yell, as the big man approached with his billy club drawn.

“Hendrix, you bastard,” Jim Reynolds yelled as a couple of officers subdued him.

“Get Jim in a car and follow the damn ambulance to the hospital,” Pryce yelled. “WHERE’S THE FUCKING AMBULANCE?” he yelled into his radio.

“ETA 2 minutes, sir,” a calm voice answered.

TELL THEM TO DRIVE FASTER!” Then he said, “Clear the traffic between here and the hospital. I don’t want those bastards to even be tempted to slow down at an intersection.” Then he turned back to Hendrix and yelled, “I CAN AND I AM! You are suspended pending an administrative hearing!” When the man puffed out his chest and started to speak, Pryce said, “I don’t want to get disciplined for what I’m about to do, Hendrix, so shut your mouth!”

The man handed his badge and holster to the nearest officer and stormed off. The last thing Pryce managed before the ambulance arrived was to tell a patrol car to go and wait for Tom and the boys at the park.

“The camping trip is going to be so cool,” Sebastien said.

“I’m glad your dad decided to go,” Tom said, and the boy’s eyes lit up.

HE DID?” Sebastien asked.

“Shit,” Tom said. “I thought he told you! He must have been keeping it a secret!”

“That’s so great!” the boy bubbled. “I’ll pretend like I’m surprised,” he said with a smile.

Jim Reynolds rode in the back seat of the patrol car that was escorting the ambulance. When they arrived, he followed the gurney as far as the medics would allow, before collapsing in a chair to wait. A few minutes later, cops started to arrive and mill around. When the doctor emerged, he said, “I need someone to sign some waivers!”

Jim stood and signed the form; Aiden hadn’t thought to update his power of attorney yet, and Jim was still the man to approve such things. “Any news?”

“He’s critical,” the doctor said. “He took three .357 caliber bullets. We’ve removed the one from his arm. One is lodged near his heart, and the other is in his lower chest or gut somewhere. We’ll get some news out to you guys as we can,” the man added.

“Please take care of him, doc. He means a lot to us,” Jim said, his eyes misting over.

“I was a marine,” the man revealed. “I’m going to save your man in there!”

Jim sat back down and Lincoln Pryce settled in next to him. “He’s a strong one,” Jim said, as much consoling himself as explaining to his boss, “he’ll be fine!”

“I know,” the chief said. “You should make some phone calls. Or I can if you’d rather?”

“Tom?” Jim asked.

“He’s with the boys in the woods,” Pryce said. “I’ve got a patrol car waiting for him.”

“I’ll call the house just in case,” Jim said, pulling out his cell phone, and heading to a more private place to make calls.

His first call was to Tom’s house. “Hello?” a soft young man’s voice answered.

“It’s Aiden’s partner, Jim. Who’s this?”

“Peter,” the young man answered.

“Peter, are Tom and your brother home yet?” Jim asked.

“No, it’s just me and Billy. I wasn’t expecting them until 5,” Peter said nervously.

“Peter, I need you to come on down to University Hospital. That’s where the officers waiting on your brother and Tom will bring them….”

“What happened?” Peter asked, his eyes misting up.

“Aiden’s been shot, son,” Jim said, his voice breaking a little.

“No, he’s in school today,” the young man insisted.

“He got called down to a crime scene, and someone in the crowd shot him three times,” Jim insisted. “Someone there who can drive you?”

“Billy’ll bring me,” Peter said. “We’re leaving now….”

Jim then called his wife, who also left immediately for the hospital. Then Jim reached for his book and looked up the emergency contacts he kept for just such a case.

“Hello?” a woman answered.

“Mrs. O’Connell?” Jim asked.

“Yes?” she responded.

“Jim Reynolds, ma’am.” He heard the woman gasp and drop something.

“Is he alive?” she asked in a whisper.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. “Right now.” After a moment, he explained to her that Aiden was critical. “Is your husband home?”

“Yes,” she said. “He’s here with me now.”

“How soon can you be here?” Jim asked.

“If we drive, we can leave in twenty minute,” the man said, “but it would take hours. I’ll check flights from Memphis to Richmond and see if that would be faster.”

“If you fly, we can send a patrol car to pick you up,” Jim said. “Blue lights all the way….”

“Thanks, Jim,” the man said, getting off the phone to call a cab to the airport. He’d bully their way onto the next flight when they got there.

Then, Jim thought of Tom, and pulled out a card Walt had given him. “Hello,” the man answered at his home office.

“Walt, Jim Reynolds, Aiden’s partner.”

“What can I do for you, Jim?” Walt asked.

“I have a terrible favor,” he said. “Tom’s out of touch, and something’s happened….”

“Dear Lord in heaven, no,” Walt said, gasping.

“It’s pretty bad, and when Tom walks out of the woods, an officer is waiting to bring him and the boys here. It sure as hell would be nice if someone was here for him,” Jim said.

Walt choked back the emotion and said, “Let me just try and break this to my wife and we’ll be there!” Walt hung up and found Martha knitting on the back porch.

When she saw his face, she asked, “What’s wrong, dear?”

“It’s,” Walt said, blinking back tears and swallowing a whimper. “Aiden’s been shot.”

WHAT? How’s Tom?” she asked, standing.

“He doesn’t know yet. They’ve got officers waiting to bring him to the hospital when he and David come off the hiking trails,” Walt said.

Jim’s wife and Peter arrived about the same time, and the woman hugged the teen tightly as he began to cry. Those tears increased when Peter saw Martha and Walt. Together, they watched the clock, nearly holding their breaths waiting for word that Tom was on his way. Aiden’s parents were due at 6, but there was no anticipating when Tom’s impromptu outing with the boys would end.

“Did anybody call Alasdair?” Peter asked after a while. No one knew his number, but that gave Peter a mission, so he went to use his phone to find the man’s number.

“Everybody will be waiting for us,” Sebastien said as they walked down the last trail toward the parking lot at 5:30.

“Maybe Aiden will pick up dinner when he realizes we still aren’t home,” David suggested with a laugh.

“Call him and suggest that when we get to the car,” Tom said. But all words, all laughter, dried up when they burst into the clearing in the last hazy light of dusk and saw the policeman parked by their car, leaning on the front of his vehicle waiting intently.

“Officer?” Tom asked, tentatively.

“Dr. Corman,” the man said, standing up straight and trying not to look him in the eyes. “If you men would get in the car, we’ll be on our way.”

The boys started to get in the back seat when Tom asked, “To where?”

“University Hospital, sir,” the man said softly.

Tom stopped, everything stopped for him, and his mind went numb as his chest seized so sharply that he thought he might be having a heart attack. He was only vaguely aware of David’s and Sebastien’s hands guiding him into the back seat, one boy on each side of him holding his hands tightly.