Chapter 22

Billy woke early the next morning, Paul snuggled into his side comfortably. What surprised him was the strong arm wrapped around his chest. Jim’s handsome face was inches from his, and, for the first time, Billy felt a strong tug toward Jim. It wasn’t so much sexual attraction, though it could have been; it was more of a raw affection. Billy put his hand on Jim’s arm and squeezed, closing his eyes with a sigh.

“Good morning,” Jim said, opening his eyes.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to wake you up!” Billy whispered.

“You didn’t,” Jim said. “I’ve been awake for a while.”

“I’m sorry, Jim,” Billy whispered. “You guys shouldn’t have to babysit me.”

“We aren’t,” Jim frowned. “I could babysit you without snuggling.”

Billy blushed and nodded. “I know this isn’t easy for you.”

“The only problem I ever had with you was Paulie,” Jim said. “But all that’s in the past.” Jim paused and added, “In fact, I always thought you were hot … for a jock!”

“Yeah?” Billy asked, surprised and pleased.

“Yeah,” Jim laughed.

“Jim?” Billy asked. When the boy raised his eyebrow, Billy continued, “Do you think maybe sometime you could introduce me to some of your friends?” Jim grinned to the point that Billy blushed and said, “I just … I don’t have any friends besides you two.”

“Oh,” Jim smiled. “So you didn’t want me to introduce you to any guys! Okay….”

Billy blushed and said, “That too! Do you think maybe Seamus would be….”

Jim looked at Billy and considered. “I’m betting he’d be interested, once he sees things are okay with Paul and that you’re stepping up. But Seamus can be a rolling stone, and I don’t want you to get hurt. He wouldn’t mean to, but….”

“So that’s why you let him go out with Paul?” Billy asked with a sly grin.

“Until I freaked out when it occurred to me that Paulie might be able to tame Seamus,” Jim nodded with a laugh and gave Billy a squeeze.

“I don’t know how much I like the two of you getting so friendly,” Paul said grumpily.

Jim and Billy broke down laughing. “How long have you been listening?” Jim asked blushing.

“Long enough!” Paul said cracking a smile. “I’m starving by the way!” The boys got dressed and found Sean and Andy dressed and ready.

“Where’s the fire?” Jim asked.

“We got a call last night from the hospital,” Sean said. “Gregg’s doctor wants to meet Paul, this morning. I was just about to come wake you up.”

“When?” Paul asked.

“Grab a bite. You can eat in the car,” Sean said. “We’ll meet you guys back here, if you want to get the car loaded up….” Paul grabbed a banana off the counter and beat Sean to the door.

“Paulie,” Jim said, “you don’t….”   Paul smiled sweetly at him and waved, cutting him off.

“You gotta love that,” Billy teased. “Say goodbye to getting the last word Jimbo!”

***

Sean led Paul to the desk and said, “We’re here to see Dr. Klein!”

“Is he expecting you,” the woman asked.

“Yes,” Sean said. “Sean Spencer and Paul Anderson.”

The woman paged him and the phone soon rang. “Dr. Klein? You have some visitors at the desk…. Thank you.” Then she looked up at them and said, “He’s on his way down to meet you.” Sean and Paul stood awkwardly rather than taking seats.

Soon a handsome young doctor emerged and said, “Mr. Spencer, Mr. Anderson?” He held out a hand, smiling. “Felix Klein! Come with me.” They followed him to a cramped office and he closed the door. “Thank you both for coming. I know you’re trying to get out of town for vacation but I don’t know what else to do at this point. We’ve done what we can do … and I don’t want to see Gregg…. Well, I want to see a good outcome for the boy,” the man explained.

Paul asked, “Has he agreed to see me?”

The doctor said, “No. I only discovered last night that the offer was made.”

“Can I talk to him?” Paul asked.

“That is up to me,” Felix said. “The parents have left the decision in my hands.” Paul leaned in and explained to Dr. Klein why he wanted to talk to the boy, and at long last the man sat back and said, “I’m not sure I understand why you’re willing to do it, but I’ll let you.” As they walked down the hall to a secure wing, Klein explained, “He doesn’t know anything about what else Robert has done and I think he’s too fragile for that right now, so please don’t bring it up.”

Paul nodded. Felix opened a door to a patient room, small, clinical and utilitarian. A big boy lay on top of the white sheets, his knees curled in, facing the wall. “Gregg? It’s Dr. Klein! I’ve brought a visitor!”

“I don’t want to see them,” Gregg said hollowly. The only visitors he had thus far been allowed were his parents and he couldn’t be bothered to worry about how they felt about how he felt.

“How do you know?” Felix prodded. “It’s someone else….”

Gregg still didn’t turn. “I don’t want to talk!”

“Can I talk to you?” came a tentative, gentle reply.

“I’ll wait just outside the door,” Klein said.

“Gregg? We don’t know each other well,” Paul said softly. “Do you know who I am?”

Gregg shut his eyes and shook his head. “No,” he whispered.

Paul walked over to the edge of the bed, and after a moment of decision he sat tentatively on the edge. “My name is Paul Anderson.” Paul felt the bed begin to shake beneath him. “Gregg,” Paul whispered, “what’s wrong?”

“What do you want?” the boy managed to squeak out through his tears.

“I came to make sure you’re alright, Gregg,” Paul said softly. “I was worried about you.”

“Why?” the boy asked. “You don’t know me! After what we were going to … just leave!”

“Gregg, if you knew me better, you’d know that that isn’t going to work on me,” Paul said, putting a hand on the boy’s shoulder.

Gregg flinched, before blurting, “I’m not a fag! Get your hand off of me!”

Paul managed to control his reflex to do just that and managed to confine his physical response to his stricken face. “That make you feel any better?” Paul asked. When the boy didn’t answer, Paul said, “I don’t care if you are gay or straight, or an alien from outer space! I’m not here because of any of that! I’m here because what happened in that parking lot brought you and I together….”

“I don’t understand,” Gregg whispered.

“Gregg,” Paul said, “I’m not sure I do either, but sometimes you just have to go with it! I was safe in the end, and it brought you into my life. In a really bad way, sure! But if none of that had happened, you’d still be under Robert’s thumb with no end in sight! Who knows how much worse things he would have done to you before it was all over?”

“I guess,” Gregg said, relaxing beneath Paul’s hand some. “But my life is over!”

“Why?” Paul asked.

“Well, I … when everyone finds out what happened,” Gregg began.

“Why would they? You guys are minors. No one will ever know who his victims were! The chances of you guys ever being identified, unless one of you admits it, is small! And even if it gets out, high school is short! You’ll go off to college and leave this shit behind you,” Paul said, squeezing his shoulder softly. “Even high school hasn’t been so bad for me except for Robert!”

“I’m so sorry,” Gregg said with deep shame.

“Gregg, I bet you’re a nice guy, and I bet you’ve got a lot of friends to support you…. That’s what you’ve got to get back to. Put this behind you and don’t dwell on what’s past!” Paul encouraged.

Gregg rolled on his back and looked up at Paul’s face for the first time. Gregg’s eyes were red and puffy, as he asked, “How can I?”

“Gregg, Robert is a dangerous, evil person! Yeah, it was kind of wussy of you to not just tell him to shove those pictures up his ass, but I get it. You were right to be scared of him. So … try to be less of a wuss in the future to make up for it; that’s what it’s all about. As for me, I forgive you, and I’d hate to think you were beating yourself up over that,” Paul said.

Gregg shook his head and whispered, “I’ll try….”

“You know, Gregg, when you come back, me and my friends will take care of you, if you want. If you’re not too big a wuss to be friends with a fag,” he teased with a gentle laugh.

Gregg smiled weakly. “Thanks. I’m not as big a bad-ass as Jim, but I can try,” he joked a little. When he saw Paul’s face he thought he’d said something wrong and began to sputter.

“Sorry,” Paul laughed heartily, “I didn’t mean you to think I was angry but, it’s just … Jim’s my boyfriend!”

Gregg’s eyes bugged out and he said, “NO WAY?!”

Paul laughed and nodded. “We haven’t really told anybody but our friends,” Paul said looking right in his eyes as he said the last words. “See, straight, gay, bi, whatever … every person is different. What you are doesn’t have to define who you are!”

“You’re smart,” Gregg said, smiling a little more easily.

“You start working with your doctor so you can get to feeling better and come back to your friends and family, okay?” Paul said, patting him on the shoulder. “I’ve got to run now, but….”

“Paul?” Gregg asked, sitting up. Paul was by the door and looked back at Gregg. “Could you come back to visit sometime?”

Paul smiled and said, “You bet! I’m going out of town this week for vacation, but when we get back I’ll come.” Then Paul thought long and added, “I’m just going into the city, so if you need to talk, let Dr. Klein know and I’ll get somebody to drive me over to see you, okay?”

Gregg looked stunned and asked, “You’d … do that?”

Paul smiled, laughing, and said, “Sure!” He held his breath for a second as the big boy, huge by comparison, moved at him rapidly, but he exhaled softly as the boy hugged him. “See you soon,” Paul said, at last extracting himself from the boy’s arms. Then he knocked on the door and Dr. Klein entered, shocked to see Gregg on his feet, in tears but smiling.

The doctor looked at Paul for a moment and then smiled at Gregg. “I’ll be back around for a chat before I go home,” Klein said to Gregg, before leading Paul out to Sean. “You are a curious young man, Paul,” Klein said, holding out a hand for the boy to shake.

“I told him to have you call us if I need to come back from the city to talk to him this week,” Paul said, shocking Klein further. Sean had already been surprised enough by the gentle soul.

***

Andy pulled Jim aside while Billy packed some things. “Listen, Jim, I know you and Paul must have wanted some time alone. We can get three hotel rooms if we need to,” Andy began.

“No we can’t,” Jim said. “Not after he tried to run off. Paul and I’ve got a long time. What’s a week to share a room?”

“Should we get the room with two queens or,” Andy began to ask.

“Get the king. I don’t want him getting the idea to slip out and start a new life in the city. Fool’d get himself killed,” Jim muttered to cover over the protective urges he was feeling.

“I promised Paul I wouldn’t run away, and I won’t,” Billy said from the doorway behind him. “But thanks … I think!”

“Billy,” Jim said. “We’re just worried about you!”

“I know,” Billy said. “I did a stupid thing. I get it.”

Jim smiled and said, “Not everybody gets punished by being forced to sleep between me and Paul!” Billy snorted and Jim patted him on the back.

Shortly, Sean and Paul arrived, and Andy asked, “How’d it go?”

Jim laughed and rolled his eyes. “How do you think?” His dad laughed and Sean shook his head.

“It took a while,” Paul said shrugging.

“Did he hug you?” Billy teased.

Paul shrugged again and blushed. “Only once. But it was pretty tight!” Seeing Jim and Billy struggling not to laugh, he yelled, “Pervs!”

***

‘People always think they’re so unpredictable,’ Robert thought to himself as he waited at the edge of the tree line of one of the town’s most wooded parks. He watched the boy walk across the open area and around an outcropping of trees. Robert knew that there was a little picnic table down near the lake, obscured on three sides by trees, and he figured the boy was heading there.

Robert took the long way around, through the trees. From a hundred yards away, he could see the boy walk the last little bit to the picnic table and sit up on the tabletop, his feet on the bench. “You forgot your lunch, Connor,” Robert said as he emerged from the tree line. The boy looked like he would bolt when he realized who it was, but Robert stood in the narrowing access and Connor knew he’d never make it.

“Rrrobert,” the boy, one of the smaller members of the football team, stammered. “Wwwhat do you want?”

“What do you think I want, Connor?” Robert asked with a handsome, inviting smile, a smile that said, ‘Me? A serial killer? I just want a kiss!’ Then he stepped forward a few steps, plunging his hand into his pockets and shrugging, dimples showing. “Not like this is the first time we’ve been here, is it?”

Connor blushed at Robert’s gentle, knowing manner and averted his eyes in boyish embarrassment. Of the handful of boys Robert had picked to blackmail, he had picked Connor because … he didn’t know why at the time. Sharks don’t always know why they target a certain fish in a school, but they do from a certain instinct.

The other boys had fed Robert’s most sadistic urges. They hated him and what he did to them, and he loved that. He’d learned from his prior encounter. Brute force got you caught, so by blackmail he had remained in the shadows, feeding on their hatred and hurt. Connor, however, had come back to him shortly after Robert revealed what he had done. He had asked Robert to do it again, without the drugs. At first even Robert had been confused: did Connor want him to … make love to him? No, and he almost smiled to think back on it, Connor had wanted Robert to abuse him – to belittle and demean him, verbally and physically. Robert had enjoyed it to the point that he had made love to the boy on occasion, because that disturbed the boy, or seemed to at first. Connor was an adaptive creature.

Robert had pieced it all together long ago – sociopaths make great psychologists sometimes. Connor had been molested not once but twice, years apart, and had internalized that experience and its shame sexually. He’d become a sexually submissive masochist and fit Robert like a glove. If neither Robert’s own desires had been so absolutely commanding, nor his drive so single-minded, nor his outlook so warped, Connor could perhaps have satisfied him. Tragic circumstance.

Connor felt Robert’s hand on his chin, lifting it to look into Connor’s sad, pale blue eyes, full of shame and self-loathing and desire. Robert whispered, “I’ve missed you….” And though he didn’t really feel emotion, it was true on some level that his being missed its counterpart.

Connor stepped into Robert’s hard body submissively, his cheek on Robert’s chest, and waited for the boy to put his arms around him. “I … I’ve been coming out here hoping,” Connor whispered.

“You’ve pleased me,” Robert grinned. “And Connor? I need your help. Here’s what I want you to do….” As Robert explained to the boy what he needed and where they’d meet, he saw an older man in his late thirties walking around carrying a book. He could have been looking for quiet place to read. But Robert knew better. He nodded to the man and winked. The man looked surprised to get any sign from the two young studs. He knew they were young – hell, the blond looked like a kid from his church’s youth group. But they looked legal and this wouldn’t happen twice. As he approached, he scratched his balls.

Robert knew he wasn’t a cop – he’d have already pulled a gun upon finding Robert here – so he put his hand on Connor’s ass and squeezed for the man to see, nodding again. “What do you like, daddy?” he asked with his handsome smile.

“This is an amazing start,” the man said.

Robert looked at Connor, whose back was still to the man, and said, “Drop your pants and lay down on the picnic table.” The man was shocked as the submissive boy didn’t even look at him before complying. To the man, Robert asked, “Wanna fuck my bitch?”

“Hell, yeah,” the man said excitedly, reaching for his zipper.

“The price is I fuck you while you do,” Robert grinned, showing dimples.

“Are you an angel?” the man asked as the unbuttoned and dropped his pants and boxers.

“I might just be,” Robert grinned as he stepped in behind the man and rubbed his already slick, thick cock against the man’s hairy pucker, smearing it with precum. Then he added a little spit – he didn’t want screams to draw attention … yet.

As the man prepared for his own invasion, he at last took a long look at Connor’s face and realized it was the boy from his church’s youth group. “Fuck,” the man said. “Connor Mead?” The boy looked shocked and scared.

“Don’t worry, daddy. He won’t tell. The God squad wouldn’t like him either for this, would they?” Robert whispered in his ear. “Now fuck the bitch hard. He likes it to hurt!”

As the man shoved in roughly, Connor cried out in ecstasy and pain. Once the man had his groove, Robert grabbed his hips and worked his cock up into the man, whose own sexual pleasure blunted the pain somewhat. Robert knew the poor repressed Christian couldn’t last long, so he wrapped an arm around the man’s neck and squeezed. At first the man found it sexy, but it quickly passed that point and he began to writhe in fear, but there was no escape. He was like a mouse in a python’s grip.

When it was over, Robert shoved him aside and smiled at Connor’s panicked face, shoving his own cock deep into the boy, deeper than the man had, and Connor’s eyes rolled back. Robert leaned in and kissed him on the mouth, and the boy began to return his kiss with passion, his hands exploring Robert’s strong back. Yes, Connor would do just fine. He’d passed a test and saved his own life: and someday he’d be famous.

When they finished Robert said, “Get dressed and go…. I’ll take care of him.” Connor looked at the body and then at Robert, and Robert added, “You just do what I told you!” Robert could tell by his look that the boy would do just that. When he was alone Robert posed the man, upper body on the table and ass in the air for any and all comers. Robert figured a couple of sick pervs might even take him up on it before figuring out what was wrong. Who knows how long it would take for someone with the courage to call the police to happen along? People didn’t come to this part of the park to take walks.

***

“This place is awesome,” Paul said as he led the boys into the room they’d be sharing. From their window they had a great view of downtown, and the big bed had a pillow top mattress he tested by flopping back on it. Billy laughed at his silly antics and put his bag in the closet.

“It is pretty awesome,” Billy said. “Thanks guys….”

“Don’t mention it,” Jim said.

“Yeah! Of course,” Paul said. “So what are we doing tonight?”

“Sean mentioned having dinner at the Hard Rock,” Billy said, “and then maybe a movie….”

“We could do the art museum?” Paul suggested.

“Let’s do it one day when we’ve got more time,” Jim suggested. “You guys should look through some of these brochures to find something you can do while me and dad and my grandparents go over to Gloria’s to meet ‘the family,'” Jim said with a grimace.

“Do you need me to come with you?” Paul asked.

Jim smiled at him and said, “No. I need to do this and it’s not the time to explain about us. If things go okay, maybe just you and I can go over there one day and…. Well, if she’s just in it for the boy and is going to shut me out again, I don’t want you exposed to her, and the way she makes me.”

“I understand,” Paul smiled and squeezed his arm. “I’m here for you….”

“Having you here makes it easier, Paulie,” Jim said, kissing him. “You too, Billy!” Billy brightened, but looked doubtful. “Seriously! Going through what we are together can change things fast, Billy.”

***

“Hey, we were eating,” Anderson grumbled. “Not like this homo’s going anywhere,” he added, rolling his eyes at his partner, Fielding.

“Excuse me?” Ryan asked, glowering.

“Don’t mind him,” Fielding said, stepping in front of his partner and giving the man a ‘You don’t need another complaint’ glare. “It’s nothing personal….”

Ryan winced and curled his nose at the same time. It hadn’t been long since he’d heard that one from this zoo crew. ‘Fucking cops,’ he thought to himself. ‘I gotta get out of this job!’ Looking at the two men with a steady gaze full of silent malice, he said, “You got another one of Vickers’ serial….”

“That would be our spree killer,” Anderson muttered. “And this looks different. If I didn’t know better I’d think this guy was just out here to get his donut punched, ass up like that….”

Ryan’s knuckles were white for just a second. “A casual observer might think so,” he fired back, a subtle insult.

“So why don’t you tell us why it ain’t so, smart guy?” Anderson sneered.

“The blood on the edge of the table dripping on the ground,” Ryan said pointing to the sickly reddish-brown pool in front of the corpse’s toes.

“So?” Anderson asked.

Ryan rolled his eyes. “So he’s got some kind of seeping wound on his chest. I’m guessing it’s intricate knife work. That means he was posed. Posing and carving … well that’s Robert Dyer!”

Anderson frowned at him and said, “We’ll see….”

They waited for the evidence to be collected and then had the coroner’s boys turn the body. Sure enough, knife marks. Ryan looked at Anderson and smirked expectantly. But the man peered over the rims of his glasses and said, “What does that say?”

Ryan examined the wounds as closely as his stomach permitted and said, “It’ll be clearer when we wash him, but I’m pretty sure it says pervert….”

“Your mouth to God’s ears,” Anderson smiled, sneering.

Ryan looked at the nearest techs and said, “You guys heard this whole conversation. Write it up!” Then he held his finger up in Anderson’s face and said, “I’m sick and tired of your….”

“Get your finger out of my face, Sally,” the man laughed derisively.

“God fucking damn, Anderson,” Fielding said, dragging the man away from Ryan, who was being restrained by a couple of his guys. “Christ almighty, are you trying to land a beat? At your age the uniform won’t do anything for the ladies!”

“What’s the big fucking deal?” Anderson laughed. “I miss the good old days….”

“The good old days sucked, Anderson,” Fielding said. “And if you don’t watch it that kid will be using your badge for a paper weight!”

“Do I look scared?” Anderson laughed.

“No but you look pretty stupid!” Fielding huffed. He tried his best to look out for his friend but sometimes that wasn’t easy. “Stay here!”

Fielding walked over to Ryan who was holding a phone to his ear. “That’s right!” Ryan shouted into the phone. “That’s what happened and I got three witnesses!” After a moment he added, “NO THEY DON’T ALL WORK FOR ME!”

Whatever followed, Ryan snapped his phone shut with an angry grunt. Fielding said, “Look, Ryan, I know Andersons a dinos….”

SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Ryan shouted at him. “YOU AND YOUR MODERATELY RETARDED STOOGE!” Then he looked over his shoulder and said, “Philip, you’re in charge here! And write up your reports, boys….”

“What’s going on?” Philip asked.

“Seems that since I’m in an ‘unsafe working environment,’ I need a transfer during the investigation to ensure there’s no retaliation or other harassment,” Ryan said before storming off to his vehicle. As he did, Anderson winked at him and waved, looking real proud of himself.

Then he sidled over to Fielding, who narrowed his eyes. “You did that on purpose?”

“Chief wants a lid on this. Kid wasn’t going to let me write this one up as pervert got murdered by a hustler in the park, was he?” Anderson smiled.

“There’ll still be hell to pay,” Fielding grunted.

“Yeah but the chief owes me one for this! How do you get rid of a problem you can’t fire?” Anderson grinned.

Fielding rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Promotion.”

BINGO!” Anderson said. “Probably for the boy, too, to shut him up after it’s all over….”

“But this guy did get killed by Robert,” Fielding said.

“We know that,” Anderson said. “No need to scare people….” Fielding for the first time got the feeling that his partner might be more ambitious than he seemed.

In his car, Ryan made another phone call. “Vickers,” the man answered grumpily.

“It’s Ryan, from the crime,” the younger man began, but got cut off before he could say lab.

“I know who the fuck you are, Ryan! I’m sort of in the middle of something here,” Vickers said.

“I just thought you should know there’s another one,” Ryan blurted.

“I’m off the case,” Vickers said.

“Yeah, and I’m Victoria Beckham,” Ryan responded.

“You wish,” Vickers replied with a good humored laugh. Vickers was the only one of the detectives Ryan knew didn’t say things like that to be mean. The man was making an honest evaluation.

“I don’t want to be her; I just want her job,” Ryan said and smiled to hear the man snort. “Guy in the park. You’ll hear about it – I’m guessing it’ll get sold as a John murdered by a hustler.”

“Why?” Vickers asked.

“Anderson taunted me into making a complaint. I’m on paid leave until the investigation is completed, and I’m guessing it’ll be pretty thorough,” Ryan said.

Vickers was silent for a while and then said, “Meet me at 8 at the Mariner tonight … just two temporarily unemployed guys shooting the shit about their work days?” Code for let’s talk about the case. Ryan knew Vickers picked the Mariner because the cop bars were out, and no cop would wander into the nice restaurant and bar on a weeknight. ‘But a boy can pretend, right?’ Ryan thought to himself.