8 Beyond the Evil

Back at the sheriff’s office, Tom announced that he needed to see the sheriff. Carl, Aiden’s contact, led him back and introduced him to a silver-haired man as Aiden’s “friend.”

“Sheriff Sanders,” Tom said, “There’s more to this Dawson case. I just took the boys to get their stuff, and…. Well, let me start elsewhere. Judge Tucker asked me to look into the murder Joey Selkin, as an expert in the occult.” The sheriff nodded. Tom pulled out the photos and sat them next to those of the dungeon. “These marks on Joey are consistent with these restraints, and every symbol carved on the boy is painted on this room somewhere.”

“Christ Almighty!” the sheriff exclaimed.

When Tom said, “I think it’s worse,” the man looked horrified. “The earth has been disturbed all around a play set in the back yard and beneath the tool shed. I think you’ll find bodies of children all over that back yard. I think they learned from this mistake with Joey.”

“Shit,” the sheriff said. “I want a new warrant for this. I don’t want anything to screw this up.” The man started shouting orders, and went to call a judge, at home, personally.

In the meantime, Tom called Judge Tucker. “You work fast,” she said appreciatively.

“Too little, too late,” Tom said sadly.

“Thank you, Tom. We’ll talk soon,” she said, hanging up

“Sheriff,” Tom called, and the man gave him latitude. After all, he was the reason the man was about to become famous. “I have an idea. I’d like to talk to Jim Dawson, in my capacity as a consultant, of course.” The sheriff narrowed his eyes at Tom, but grunted.

“Alright, just don’t give him anything you don’t have to,” the sheriff instructed.

Tom, Carl and the sheriff, along with a couple of others, stood behind two-way glass as Jim Dawson was brought into interrogation and shackled. Then Tom went in, smiling easily, as if he were talking with a student. “How does it feel to be on this end of shackles, Jim?”

“You!” the man spat, posturing. But Tom knew better from David. “What do you want?”

“Did you only abuse your own children, or did you hurt others too?” Tom demanded.

Jim smiled and said, “That’s a loaded question….”

“It would be,” Tom began. “But we all know you abused your kids; that’s not actually in question. So who are the others?” Jim fidgeted, looking to his left. “Jim, no one is coming to save you! You’re swinging in the wind! Who are the others?”

“There are no others,” Jim insisted.

Tom pulled out a thick envelop and tossed a picture of Joey onto the table. “Why Joey?”

“I … I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jim stammered.

Outside, the sheriff turned to Carl and said, “He’s getting to him!” Carl smiled and nodded. Then he slipped out to call Aiden and tell him what was going on. Aiden asked him to tell Tom and the brothers he would be there shortly.

“Jim, you and I both know what kind of ‘man’ we are dealing with! He won’t save you! He can’t use you anymore. But I don’t have the patience, Jim. We know about the children you buried in your backyard!” Tom challenged.

“What?” Jim asked, the blood leaving his face.

“The children buried beneath your shed, beneath the swing set,” Tom declared.

“I,” Jim began, but fell silent.

“Jim, if you tell us what you did, the DA might be able to help keep you alive,” Tom said.

“There’s no death penalty here,” Jim snarled.

“Death penalty? You’re about to be a convicted child murderer,” Tom suggested coldly.

“You … you think I can get a deal?” Jim stuttered.

“Maybe, if you tell them everything, and I mean everything, even about your wife and son’s involvement. Maybe they can put you into protective custody, shelter you from other prisoners,” Tom proposed. “Maybe.”

“And if I don’t?” Jim asked.

“You’ll die a slow and painful death, probably. Even if you get off,” Tom added, letting his eyes flash fiery. The observers only saw Jim push his seat back in horror.

“Get me the deal! Just promise me that it’s over between you and me! Nothing more?” Tom nodded and got up and left the room.

The sheriff clapped him on the shoulder. “Shit, boy, you’d have made a fine cop!”

“No, I just know this depraved bastard inside out. Hell, I’ve got his children!” Tom talked to the assistant DA, while Aiden, who soon arrived, talked with David and Peter. Judge Tucker also dropped in to talk to Tom. Everyone seemed to want his ear. At last, Aiden walked over and took his arm, dragging him into an empty room.

In private, Aiden wrapped his arms around the man and asked, “Are you alright?”

“Yeah. No! I’ve got to say,” Tom began, breaking into tears and burying his face in Aiden’s neck, “I wanted to kill him! I could have done it so easily – stopped his heart, an aneurism! God, I wanted to!” When he collected himself, he whispered, “I was so close!”

“It’s okay,” Aiden said, squeezing him tight.

“They’ve found a couple of bodies already,” Tom reported. “They’re going to have to bring in anthropologists to excavate. God knows how many there are!”

“I’m sorry, Tom! Is there … something else?” Aiden asked, hesitantly.

“Aiden, I just can’t! Please?” Tom said, on the verge of tears again.

“It’s okay, Tom…. I’m here when you’re ready,” Aiden whispered.

“When this is all over, when the boys are settled and it’s safe, we’ve got to get out of town!” Tom said and smiled, laying his head on Aiden’s shoulder.

Aiden laughed and kissed his neck softly. “It’s a plan!”

Carl stepped in and blushed. “I, uh, sorry guys! Didn’t mean to interrupt!”

“Don’t worry, buddy, it’s not a secret,” Aiden said with a laugh.

“Well, Tom, you treat this guy right,” Carl said, patting him on the back. “My wife will just die,” he added with a bright smile.

Aiden shook his head and led Tom out into the squad room, holding his hand. They shook hands with a few officers and lawyers, and then gathered their things.

Judge Tucker again came over and said, “When all the details of David’s custody are settled, I’d love to have you guys over for dinner, and to find a way to thank you, Tom!”

“I’ll look forward to it on both counts,” Tom smiled and they headed to the car. Aiden followed them, stopping for hamburgers on the way. They all needed to relax.

On Saturday, while Aiden was in class, Tom took the boys shopping. They had to buy David’s school uniforms – three jackets and ties, five pairs of pants and five shirts. Then they went to buy a wall mounting TV and a phone for Peter’s room, as well as cell phones. David was surprised and excited to have his own phone. Then, Tom surprised them both by driving to a car dealership’s pre-owned lot. “David, Peter, I’d like you to find a reasonable car to share,” he said. “I’m buying, but it’ll be for you guys.” Both Peter and David looked like kids on Christmas as they ran off.

The first car they suggested was kind of a clunker, and Tom figured they were trying to be modest. “Guys, this is a piece of crap! Find a nice car, one we won’t have to spend a pile of money on just to keep it on the road.” At last they settled on a red Honda Accord that had been a program car and was still under warranty. “That’s more like it,” he said.

Tom haggled with the dealer a little, who dropped the price significantly when Tom agreed to pay cash. By the time they were finished with the paperwork, Aiden had beaten them home. Since the boys both had plans, Aiden and Tom were able to go out to dinner and then walk around downtown, browsing a few stores, spending a little extra time in Tom’s favorite used bookstore. Then, they had coffee at a little cafe.

“God, it’s amazing, everything that’s happened in the last few weeks,” Aiden mused, putting a hand on Tom’s.

“I wish we could just slow down and enjoy the good parts a little, but somehow I think it’ll be awhile,” Tom said.

“You know, Tom, no matter how terrible some things have been, it’s still been some of the best weeks of my life,” Aiden confessed.

“Mine too,” Tom smiled shyly. “I’ve been thinking … and if I’m being stupid tell me so and we’ll forget I ever said it, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense, you living and keeping all your stuff in that little apartment.” Aiden put his coffee down and smiled amusedly at Tom.

“Are you offering me a closet?” Aiden asked, teasing.

“I’m offering you my home, my bed,” Tom said, pretending to pout, and Aiden squeezed his hand, winking.

“Are you sure that’s what you want?” Aiden asked.

Tom looked at him as if he were crazy. “I’ve never wanted anything more! I hate wasting time we could be spending together! I guess we should wait, but I just don’t know why!”

“Well, I don’t either,” Aiden said. “I fell in love with you the first day we met….”

“You just wanted me for my body,” Tom said with a laugh.

“At first, yeah,” Aiden laughed. “But when I came to your house, I fell for you.”

“Me too,” Tom said.

A little later, they walked to the car and drove home, curling up in front of the TV to watch a movie. They were both far more tired than they realized, and fell asleep. David woke them as he returned from his date.

“Have a good time?” Aiden called sleepily, and David came into the living room and sat down at their feet.

“Awesome! We had a good time at the mall, and the movie was good. I walked her to her door and she kissed me. She wants to go out again!” David said, sounding surprised.

“That’s great, buddy,” Tom said. “Just take it slow and be safe.”

David rolled his eyes, “It’s definitely not going there anytime soon!”

“Just be ready, don’t get caught up in the excitement and be without a plan B!” The boy nodded, and Tom hoped he’d be keeping a condom with him on future dates.

“Have you ever dated a girl before?” Aiden asked, causing the boy to blush.

“No,” he said, shaking his head. Then he changed the subject. “How ‘bout you guys? Have fun without the kids in your hair?” he asked with a laugh.

“We did have fun,” Aiden said, “but you know we love having you guys around?” David nodded and went to get changed for bed.

Around 2, Tom woke up thirsty and made his way to the kitchen to get a drink. Seeing the light on under Peter’s door, he went over and knocked. “Just a minute,” he heard. Moments later, Peter opened the door crying.

“What’s wrong, Peter?” Tom asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” Peter said. “I’ll be fine….”

“Don’t be silly,” Tom said. “Haven’t we all been through enough together?”

Peter opened the door wide and sat on the end of the bed, putting a pillow over his boxer-clad lap. Tom sat down next to him and waited for him to begin. “Billy and I went to a party. We got home and were kind of making out in the car. When he put his hand on … me, I kinda lost it. It freaked him out, and he left!”

Tom put his arm around Peter’s shoulder. “Did you … freak out because you wanted to stop and Billy wouldn’t?” Tom asked protectively.

“NO!” Peter said instantly. “I … I wanted to! I just kept thinking of those other times.”

Tom put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “What happened? Why did Billy leave?”

“Well, one minute we were making out, and he put his hand on my thigh, you know, kinda high up. Anyway, all of a sudden I was crying, and I couldn’t tell him why, and … I just hopped out of the car and ran up to the house!” Peter said.

“Billy is a sweet guy,” Tom said softly. “He’ll understand, but you need to talk to him! Does he know what you’ve been through?”

“Vaguely, some of it,” Peter began. “No, not really.” Tom nodded and patted him on the shoulder, and stood to go. “Tom?”

“Yeah, buddy?” Tom asked.

“I hate to ask…. I don’t know how we’ll ever pay you back,” Peter began.

“Hush, Peter!” Tom said, smiling but serious. “Now what do you need?”

“I’d … do you think you could help me find someone to talk to? You know, like a professional?” Peter asked, averting his eyes.

Tom smiled and nodded. “I know a great guy,” Tom began, but Peter got a funny look.

“Do you know any women?” Peter asked. “I think I’d rather….”

Tom nodded again. “At the University. I’ll see if she’s taking new patients.”

“Thanks, Tom,” Peter said, flopping back on the bed.

“Now, try to get some sleep. I’m beat!” Tom instructed.

Peter nodded, but his cell rang. Tom could hear a sweet apologetic voice on the line. “No, I’m sorry!” Peter answered, getting teary. He looked at Tom and mouthed, ‘Thanks,’ and began what Tom figured would be a long conversation.

In the morning, Tom made breakfast for Aiden and David. Peter slept in. “We’ve got dinner tonight at six, at Alasdair’s,” Tom reminded Aiden, who nodded.

“What are you up to today?” Aiden asked Tom.

“I thought I’d go take a hike out at the state park. You interested, David?” Tom asked.

The boy smiled. “Sounds fun!”

Tom followed Aiden to the door and gave him a kiss on his way out.

David asked, “Do you think Peter’s going to want to come?”

“He was up late. You can ask, but I think he’s going to sleep most of the day.” Tom got changed into jeans and a t-shirt and pulled on some hiking boots, and then he and David rode out to a park and hiked up into the forest, along some old trails.

Deep in the woods in a quiet circle of trees, Tom motioned for David to sit, and he unpacked a little picnic lunch of sandwiches and vegetables for them to eat.

“Thanks for coming with me,” Tom said as they sat back to eat.

“Sure,” the boy smiled. “I always wished … well, I would have liked to have gone camping and stuff, but never could, you know.”

Tom smiled and asked, “How would you like to go camping over Thanksgiving?” The boy grinned and nodded vigorously. “Do you think Peter will want to come?”

David arched his eyebrows and smiled, “I don’t know; I doubt it….”

“Well, he can look after the house and have a little privacy. If Aiden can’t take off, it’ll be you and me!” Tom said, and David smiled. “I used to come out here as a teenager. I learned to do magic in this little circle of trees, with a few books and a lot of practice!”

“Really?” David asked, uncomfortable at the thought of magic, but Tom forged on.

“After my mom died, I came to live with my grandparents…. I’d come out here for the seclusion and just practice and meditate and commune with nature,” Tom said.

“I never knew anyone who did magic without hurting people,” David said, nervously.

“David, black magic, blood magic, is very powerful; blood is the life force of all animals. People like your father lack the discipline and focus to work with the energy that surrounds all nature, to call on the force of good! They need the blood because they can’t touch real power.” Tom stood up and asked, “Can I show you?”

David scooted back and got a scared look on his face. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to show you what healing magic feels like, if you’ll let me,” Tom said gently.

“How does it work?” David asked.

Tom smiled. “I’ll call on nature and use her bountiful energy to help both of us fill some of that emptiness in our souls. You know what I mean?” Tom asked.

“You feel it too?” David asked, his eyes tearing up.

“Ever since I woke up and realized my mother was gone,” Tom began, his own eyes misty with tears. “Every loss has made it worse. Can I tell you a secret?” David nodded somberly. “When I was thirteen, mom was gone and dad was … well, he threw himself into his work. I didn’t have any friends. There was this teacher at school; he was young, handsome, and he did a really good job of seeming like he cared. He … did things with me, to me. I really liked him too, but he took that innocence from me, and then he just threw me away when I got too old for him.” Tom looked up and saw David was crying too, and the boy threw his arms around Tom. “I never told anyone that, David. Please don’t say anything to Aiden? I’ll tell him when I can.”

David nodded. “Did you ever tell Jamie?”

“Jamie was the most innocent person I ever met! I felt like telling him would take something from him he could never get back,” Tom said. “I’ve only ever told you!”

“And you think that this will help us?” David asked.

“I know it will! I’ve been doing it regularly for years. It doesn’t make everything better, but, little by little, it fills in the cracks,” Tom said, laughing at his lack of a better metaphor.

Tom held out a hand to David, who, at long last, took it. Tom led him to the center of the circle and said to David, “Put your palms on mine. Don’t be afraid. Close your eyes.” The boy did as he was asked. “Trust me?” Tom asked, and David nodded, trying to look brave. “I call upon the spirits of the wood, the spirits of the air and the sky, of water and of earth! Look kindly upon the servants of the Most High! We have felt the pain of loss, suffered greatly, and we seek your comforts!” Tom visualized a healing light descending upon the circle, and four winds circulated in a soft vortex, too warm for late October. David gasped as the energy emanating from Tom’s hands flowed through his body. David, overcome with love and fulfillment, collapsed into Tom, who supported him in a hug. Chest to chest, the energy flowed between them and enveloped them in a cocoon. At last, Tom squeezed David and kissed his forehead, and the wind subsided and the cool returned.

David squeezed him back, and wiped a tear from his eyes. “That was … different.”

“Different good?” Tom asked with a laugh.

“Yeah, real good!” Tom put his arm across David’s shoulder, and they moved on after picking up their stuff. Tom told David more about how he had discovered magic on his own, gradually getting David to confide in him more. By the time they got back to the house, they felt like they’d known each other forever. Inside, they found Peter lying on the couch, watching TV.

“Hey, guys! Have fun?” Peter called.

“Yeah,” David said, taking a flying leap onto the couch, landing half on, half behind Peter. Wrapping an arm around him, David said, “We’re going camping on the first part of Thanksgiving break. You gonna come?”

“I dunno, maybe,” Peter said, looking over his shoulder at his brother.

“Lover boy will keep for a few days, you know,” David laughed, tickling his brother.

Tom walked by and reminded them, “Be ready to leave here at 5:30, guys! I’m going to shower and shave, then lie down.”

David looked up and asked, “Did I tire you out, old man?”

“Right!” Tom laughed.

Tom collapsed on the bed after he showered, planning on a short nap, but he woke up to the sound of Aiden slamming his car door. Tom rushed to straighten his hair and was pulling on a nice sweater when Aiden walked into the bedroom, looking stunning in a pair of nice slacks and a cream shirt.

“I grabbed a couple of bags of clothes … for starters,” Aiden said with a dimpled grin, explaining the suitcases he was carrying. Tom hurried up to him and kissed him on the neck.

“Thank you!” Tom said, opening the second closet and suggesting, “Why don’t you hang your stuff in here?”

Aiden looked inside and paused before stating the obvious. “It’s full!”

“Push stuff aside. I’ll pack it up tomorrow,” Tom said.

“I didn’t realize you were such a clothes hound,” Aiden joked.

Tom smiled to repress his tears, which rose by reflex. “This isn’t my closet,” Tom said simply. He coughed to clear his throat. “I’ll pack it up tomorrow. It’s time.”

Aiden kissed him on the neck and whispered, “I’m sorry. If you’re not ready, I can hang my stuff in one of the extra bedrooms.”

“I can’t … no. Please, just use this one?” Tom said, nodding, again coughing back tears. Then he abruptly changed the subject. “Were the boys ready when you got here?

“David was when I came in, but I didn’t see Peter.” They walked out of the bedroom, just as Peter finished getting ready. “Alright, guys, let’s go,” Aiden said.