Chapter 24

Paul had been fretting all the way to the house, and as soon as Sean’s rental car stopped in front of the house, Paul darted for the door. He restrained himself from pounding on the door and was relieved when Jim answered the door smiling, a little boy in his arms.

“Jim!” Paul said, wrapping his arms around the big boy on the opposite side from Jonathan.

“Paulie,” Jim sighed through his smile.

The little boy giggled and said, “Silly heads!”

Paul smiled at Jonathan and said, “You’re right!” as he squeezed Jim tighter. “I’m Paul!”

“Hi Paulie,” the boy said, mimicking his new hero. Paul sighed at Jim and shook his head with a smile.

“Live with it, big boy,” Jim said, winking.

“So what’s going on? I assume there’s more besides meeting this sweetie,” Paul smiled.

Jim nodded and handed the boy to his grandma and led Paul toward the kitchen. “Come on Billy,” he added over his shoulder, making Paul smile. Jim sat down with them and explained to them what had happened, head propped up by his palm.

“Jesus,” Billy muttered. “Do you think she’s going to come back?”

Jim looked at him with doubtful eyes, but said, “If I can find her, I’m gonna try to talk some sense into her.”

Paul looked at him sadly and pulled out his cell phone. His parents were gone so he called his ‘uncle’ directly. “Uncle Arnie? It’s Paul, and it’s urgent. Mom and dad are out of town. Call me on my cell?”

“What’re you doing?” Jim asked.

The phone rang immediately. “Paul? Is everything alright? Is Billy okay?” Arnie asked.

“Yeah, Billy’s fine,” Paul said, winking at the boy. “It’s Jim,” Paul began, retelling the important parts of the story. “I know it’s a lot to ask but….”

“We have a PI on retainer in the city, Paul,” Arnie said. “Let him earn some of it! She’s using credit and debit, probably, so it shouldn’t take long for a pro like him….”

“Thanks, Uncle Arnie!” Paul said.

“Paul, when you boys get back to town, why don’t you all come over and you can introduce the boys to Alan? It’s been too long!”

“That sounds great, Uncle Arnie!” Paul exclaimed. “Talk to you soon!” Paul tried not to have thoughts of getting Alan and Billy together, but the idea just seemed like a good one. Alan was taller than Paul, but equally slender and nearly as beautiful. But his dark, piercing gaze could melt you, Paul knew, and was now thankful it had never been turned on him now that he had Jim. But Alan’s type tended more to the jockier end of the spectrum.

“Well?” Jim asked, as Paul spaced out.

“Arnie’s getting a guy on it and said it shouldn’t take long…. And he wants us all to come over when we’re back. You guys will love his son,” Paul said. “Now let’s go play with the baby!”

In the living room, they found Bethany and Carl playing with the boy on the couch and all gathered around in the floor nearby to watch and wait.

***

Ryan sat in his car, the engine turned off, bundled up in his coat. The window was just cracked so it wasn’t very cold, actually. He was listening to a book on disk while drinking already cool coffee. If he’d ever thought about being a cop, that inkling was rapidly fading. Give him a mangled corpse any day.

As he watched, a gorgeous, but otherwise nondescript, jock entered the store and walked up to the counter where Ken worked. The boys clearly knew each other, perhaps from the team, and Ryan lifted his camera, telephoto lens attached, and snapped a few shots of the boy as he emerged ten minutes later.

Ryan considered waiting, but instead booted up his laptop and emailed the photos to Vickers. Five minutes later, his phone rang. “Connor Mead,” Vickers announced. “He’s one of the boys Robert messed with….”

“Do you think he’s still got something on them? Are they helping him?” Ryan asked.

“No,” Eric said, “I don’t think so … but maybe they’re turning to each other for support?”

“Something doesn’t feel right about this, Vickers,” Ryan said.

“I agree,” the man said. “Stay close to Ken, and let me know if he goes anywhere besides home and work!”

“Will do,” Ryan said. “Once they’re in for the night, you want to get a bite to eat?”

“Sure … meet me at the diner on 4th around 11, unless Ken’s on the move,” Vickers said.

***

Just before dinner time, Bethany said to Carl, “It’s a bit much! Would you mind if I drove back to the hotel to rest?”

“Sure,” Carl said. “Andy, can you drop me on the way back to your hotel?”

“Sure! Not a problem,” Andy said. “Are you feeling okay, mom?”

“Just … tired,” Bethany said with a sad smile. “Thank you dears…. Edwin, I wish we’d met under better circumstances, and I hope we’ll see you again before we leave?”

“I’m working from home at least the next week … until things get sorted out,” the man said, nodding. Then he walked her to the door. While he was gone, Paul got a phone call and took it in another room.

“Arnie?” Paul asked.

“I got it. You sure you want it?” the man asked.

“Yeah,” Paul said, grabbing a pen and paper. He wrote the address and room number down and said, “Thanks Arnie….”

“You look after Jim, Paul. This might not have a happy ending,” Arnie added before hanging up.

When Paul returned he gave Jim a private nod so he knew. Jim crossed over to hug him and whispered, “Where?”

“Right next door to our hotel,” Paul said. “I’ve got the room number. We can go tonight….”

“I’ll go tonight,” Jim said.

“WE WILL GO TONIGHT,” Paul emphasized. “I can wait outside if you want but you’re not going alone!”

“It’s not safe,” Jim began.

“Bullshit,” Paul said, beginning to get heated. “Robert’s in our dust back home! What, he’s superman now? Did he fly to follow us?”

“Paul,” Jim said.

“I’m not letting you go in there alone with that woman!” Paul said at last. Billy snickered a little and Paul glared at him, while Jim just looked confused.

“Dude, you are NOT going to win this one!” Billy said to Jim. “I’ll come to and stay with Paul while you’re inside!”

Jim deflated. “Okay,” he sighed. He drew Paul into his arms and Billy quietly retreated from the room. “I’m sorry…. I’m just worried about you.”

“I’m worried about YOU,” Paul said. “This is too much!”

“I’m glad you’re here, Paulie,” Jim said, closing his eyes and squeezing the boy tight.

***

After work, Ken drove home, and Ryan did his best to follow the boy at a distance, though it’s not like a teenage boy was going to catch a tail. They have the attention span of a garden mouse most days, but it was a matter of professionalism. Ken might not be an international jewel thief, but Ryan would follow him as if he was.

The drive was short to the boy’s suburban cookie-cutter home, and Ryan started his disk back up after the boy was safely inside, continuing his book.

The evening looked like it would play out as most any other, so Ryan was thankful he’d brought his entertainment.

***

Around 7:30, Andy, Sean, Carl, and the boys said their goodbyes to Edwin and Jonathan and drove off.

“Well,” Sean said after a few minutes. “That was an intense day!”

“Yeah,” Billy said. Carl and Jim just stared out their respective windows.

“Hope you guys don’t mind but I think I’d like to go back to the hotel and have a quiet night in,” Andy said.

“Sound’s good, dad,” Jim said quickly. Paul shot him a look as Billy looked on. The traffic was light so they soon dropped Carl off at his hotel and drove back to their own. In the lobby, Jim said, “Do you mind if we go over to the arcade, dad? We’ll stay together!”

Andy looked down the street at the arcade and it looked safe enough. And together no one would dare bother them, so he nodded. “Back in your room by 11! I will be checking!”

***

Ryan was just about to call Vickers and drive off when he noticed a bike approaching from down the street. The kid riding it leaned it against the fence at Ken’s house. In the light it was clearly Connor.

“Shit,” Ryan muttered and picked up the phone. “Vickers? It’s Ryan! Connor’s here. What should I do?”

“Stay ’til he leaves and make sure Ken doesn’t follow him. Give me a call later and we’ll meet up, same place!” Vickers replied.

“Okay,” Ryan said. “See you soon….”

“I’m looking forward to it,” Eric said so the young man could hear the smile in his voice, and Ryan blushed.

“Me too,” Ryan said, hanging up. As he watched the handsome blond jock walked up to the door, straightening his clothes and primping nervously. “What are you up to?” Ryan wondered out loud, taking a couple of pictures. He expected Ken to invite Connor in, but instead the boy said something to his parents and stepped out on the porch.

Ken looked angry and actually yelled at the boy a couple of times, and Ryan’s heart went out to Connor who flinched and looked down as the bigger boy was speaking. “Guess getting bullied did nothing to teach that one a lesson,” Ryan muttered angrily.

Connor then spoke to the boy very submissively for a few minutes and something in Ken’s demeanor changed. There was a look of fear in his face. Whatever Connor had said touched a nerve. Connor now spoke and Ken nodded hesitantly, looking resigned. Then Connor stepped in close and whispered something before returning to his bike and pedaling off in a hurry. Ken looked shaken as he returned to his house. A few minutes later, Ryan saw his bedroom light come on, and he caught a few glimpses of the fine looking boy as he undressed and tossed himself into bed.

Ryan picked up his phone and cranked the car. He was ready to meet Eric after a long day.

***

Billy and Paul waited down the hall as Jim approached his mother’s door on his own. He refused to let Paul accompany him into the room, so Paul had had to give him a last kiss and watch him walk off like a hopeless man.

They watched him knock softly at first — too softly. He knocked again louder and this time she heard, she just didn’t come. At last he pounded on the door insistently. The door opened abruptly and Gloria began, “Mother we’re not…. Oh…. Jim….”

“Oh, Jim?” he said, furious and pushed his way past her into the room. “Why did you think I was grandma?”

Gloria looked at him with only the faintest hint of embarrassment. “Your grandmother was here earlier,” she said simply. Jim’s face flashed a variety of emotions which he temporarily crushed beneath the weight of seething anger.

“Never mind that,” he said, “for now…. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” The woman jumped a little at the big boy as he barked at her. “A few days ago you disrupt my life, come to see me for the first time in years and….”

“I was trying to save your brother’s life,” she interrupted, trying to justify herself.

“Shut up for a minute!” Jim said, cutting her off in turn. “And you made it SEEM LIKE YOU HAD CHANGED!” She blushed then, and he continued, “But here you are, in a hotel, hiding from your family, from your troubles, from your sons! Nothing has changed; if anything you’re worse!”

“Jim, I … you’re right,” she said. “I am no better….”

“I came here to try to stop you from doing this again, but I’m not sure I should,” Jim said. “If you go now he won’t even remember you. If you go back and run away later, he’ll have it as bad as I did. Edwin’s a nice guy. He’ll find someone.”

Gloria looked away, swallowing the angry response that rose to her lips.

“But I’m gonna tell you just one thing, Gloria,” Jim lowered his voice to a dangerous whisper. “It’s been relatively easy for you because secretly, in your heart of hearts, you always knew you could come back. I’d be there waiting, and you could fix things, when and where you decided. But you know what? Jonathan might not make it. He might only have months, or a couple of years, left! And then what? Then you won’t be able to fix things; all you’ll have is regret and a complete inability to ever fix what you did…. I’m not saying you can fix things with me … especially after this, but you can’t fix the harm you’ll have done to a dead child!”

All his pleading words fell from his mind as he spewed this at the woman who had borne him, and when he finished, he spun on his heel stormed to the door and threw it open. Looking over his shoulder with fire in his eyes, he added, “By the way, mom, I’m gay, and I’m in love with Paul, and dad’s dating a dude too! Since you never bothered to find out anything about how our last decade has been!” Then he slammed the door behind him and collapsed against the wall, sliding to his knees in a mess of tears.

Seeing him, Paul took off at a run and wrapped his thin arms around the boy kneeling by his side. Paul sensed Billy approach, but was surprised when he didn’t stop but walked around them and pounded on the door. A shell-shocked looking woman answered the door and Billy said, in a harsh whisper, “YOU SHOULD SEE WHAT YOU’VE DONE!” and grabbed her wrist, dragging her into the hall roughly.

Gloria looked past Billy to see hulking Jim in the fetal position being held lovingly by a small boy crying on his back. Then Billy maneuvered her back into the room and whispered menacingly, “Those guys are most of the people in the world who care about me…. We’ll get to that house about 9 in the morning I bet and if I don’t see you there I really hope I never see you again.” Then he stormed from the room and said to Paul, “Let’s get him back to our room.”

Billy moved Paul over and slipped an arm around Jim and supported him, hoisting him as best he could to standing. Paul wrapped his arm around Jim’s other side and they helped him downstairs and across the street.

Back in their room, Billy gave Paul as much privacy as he could as Paul gently whispered to Jim and helped him out of his clothes and into bed. Then Paul crawled in beside him and spooned in behind the big boy as best he could, stroking Jim’s muscular arm and whispering in his ear.

Billy pulled a chair into the hallway and hooked up his laptop, turning out the light for them. He logged on to the chat he’d been using and saw Collin, the college boy, was online. “What’s up?” Billy messaged him.

“HEY!” came a quick reply. “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN :)? I thought I’d scared you off or something! Or maybe you got caught last time.”

“No, I’ve been going through some crazy shit, but yeah I did get caught,” Billy replied.

“Can you talk?” Collin wrote quickly.

“No I’m with my friends,” Billy answered. “I can chat though….”

“Cool,” Collin answered quickly, making Billy smile. “Are you alright?”

“I am now,” Billy wrote and sent, blushing at the connotation after he sent it.

“:) I’m glad…. Want to tell me what happened?” Collin wrote.

Billy’s heart raced a little, but wrote, “My dad caught me like you left me, and he saw you on screen for a second. He didn’t hit me this time, but he kicked me out of the house.”

“The night before Christmas Eve?” Collin wrote. “Christ…. You’re alright though? You’ve got a place to stay?”

Billy blushed. He got the feeling the boy really did care whether he had a place to stay. “I’m fine. I’m staying with a really nice man….”

“He’s not making you do stuff, is he?” Collin asked quickly.

“NO! He’s not like that…. He’s gonna take me in,” Billy said.

After a minute, Collin asked, “So you aren’t 18, huh?”

“I could say I was a senior…. But I’m not. I’m about to be 17,” Billy replied.

After a long pause, Collin wrote, “I’m really sorry that happened. I guess we shouldn’t cam anymore….”

“Why?” Billy asked.

“Well, you’re underage, so sending me images like that could get us both in trouble,” Collin wrote.

“Oh, I didn’t think of that…. It’s kind of weird that you could actually have sex with me and it would be legal, but watching me on the screen is illegal,” Billy wrote and then blushed before sending, “I uhm that wasn’t an invitation.” Then, “Not exactly.” Then, “But if you wanted to….”

“Billy, chill! Lol!” Collin sent back. “I’d really like to meet you sometime. Not for that, not at first anyway…. I’d like to meet you.”

Billy’s eyes watered and his heart beat faster. “I’d like that too. When do you go back to college?”

“Not until late January, but I actually live near you. My parents actually live in the same county as you. Maybe we could get coffee or something soon?” Collin suggested.

“Sure! I’m away with friends, but when I get back I’ll let you know!” Billy replied.

“GREAT!” Collin answered. “And Billy, my name’s not really Collin…. It’s Alan….”

“I understand,” Billy wrote, smiling. “Thanks for telling me now…. You didn’t have to.”

“I felt like I did,” Collin/Alan answered. “I think I might like you. I should run. Talk to you soon, I hope!”

“Bye,” Billy barely managed before Alan disappeared. Billy was nearly floating as he undressed and crawled into bed. Just then there was soft knock and Billy got back up. He opened the door for Andy in his boxers and whispered, “The other guys are already in bed.”

“I see you’re headed that way too,” Andy said, trying not to appear to enjoy the view too much. “You boys have a good night….”

Back in bed, Billy scooted back into Jim and wrapped the sleeping boy’s arm around him, and he heard Paul chuckle softly. “What?” Billy whispered.

“You like Jim, huh?” Paul whispered back.

“Not like that,” Billy blushed. “He’s not my type….”

“I know that!” Paul laughed. “That’s not what I meant!”

“Yeah, I like Jim,” Billy admitted. “And I like to be held, it turns out,” he added with a blush.

“We’ll find you a nice guy to hold you,” Paul said with a smile, reaching over and squeezing the familiar arm. “I promise….”

Billy smiled, and wondered if he’d already met him, thinking about the two very different boys he had thought about recently – Alan and Seamus. Or maybe one of Jim’s other friends, or one of Paul’s?

***

Ryan found Vickers in a booth at the far end of the nearly empty diner sipping coffee. The waitress approached and Ryan asked for the same. “So what happened?” Eric asked. Ryan explained and Vickers observed, “Peculiar.”

“Yeah,” Ryan said.

“So how are you enjoying the grunt side of police work?” Vickers smiled knowingly at him, a smile that though it was teasing warmed Ryan to his core.

Vickers wasn’t a smiler and this smile was for him. Ryan smiled and tried not to look too silly about it, answering, “I HATE IT!”

“Boring?” Vickers asked.

“So boring,” Ryan agreed.

“Well, boring is good…. Not boring means bad shit’s going down,” Vickers added. Ryan nodded. “So do you think the boys are secret lovers or something?”

“Could be but I don’t think so,” Ryan said. “Connor’s a submissive to be sure, and I think he’s … I don’t know if he’s gay, but I think if you can dominate him you can have him.”

“What gave you that impression?” Vickers asked as their dinner of breakfast arrived.

As they began to eat, Ryan explained, “It’s just a feeling…. The way he reacted when Ken was yelling at him was almost like a blushing bride. You could have cut the sexual tension with a knife. But when Connor forced him to back down, there was no sign of any attraction there anymore….”

“Hmmm,” Vickers mulled it over. “How’s your breakfast?”

“Delicious,” Ryan smiled at him sweetly.

“You’re a beautiful man,” Vickers said, leaning forward and putting his forearms on the table, one hand up and open. Ryan’s blush was spectacular as he looked between the man’s face and his open hand. His surprise was obvious and Vickers smiled and said, “It’s okay!”

Ryan’s heartbeat quickened as he placed his hand on Vickers’s and the man closed his fingers around it. “I wasn’t sure … whether … I mean,” Ryan stuttered.

“Calm down,” Vickers said, leaning in further with a smile and lowering his voice. Winking he added, “Otherwise, people’ll think I’ve asked you to marry me!”

Ryan laughed and calmed immediately. “So you don’t mind people … knowing?”

“I haven’t been hiding for years, but I’ve never had anybody…. People assume things about badasses like me,” Vickers grinned. “And they aren’t all true, but I wasn’t gonna get on a Pride poster just to dispel their notions. But I’d never deny it if asked, and I’m not gonna hide that I like you just to keep up appearances.”

“God you know how to turn me on,” Ryan teased and Vickers squeezed his hand and released it. They returned to eating in a happy silence, but a few minutes later Ryan looked up. He heard a fork clatter to Vickers’s plate abruptly.

“Oh, Christ almighty!” Vickers said, reaching for his phone. “FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!” he said as he dialed.

“Jesus, Vickers, it’s late! What do you want?” a voice grumbled, clearly having been awakened from a recent slumber.

“Fielding, I know who’s next,” Vickers said.

“Bullshit,” Fielding replied.

“Listen to me, Fielding. Your partner may be an arrogant bastard, and a sorry excuse for a human being and a cop, but you … you aren’t half bad,” Vickers granted. “I’ve been following up on some things on my own. This afternoon the kid Connor, one of the high school blackmail victims, visited Ken, another one. Then he went back to the kid’s house at night and they had a big fight!”

“SO?” Fielding asked, urging him to get to the point.

“I think Robert’s been in touch with Connor and is using him to lure Ken out – I don’t know how – but I think he’s the next victim,” Vickers said.

“That’s pretty thin,” Fielding said. Then he grumbled, “I’ll go talk to the kid in the morning!”

“Fielding, tonight?” Vickers asked. He smiled as he heard a string of expletives from the man and his wife shushing him.

“I’m leaving in ten minutes,” Fielding said.

After Vickers hung up the phone, Ryan asked, “You really think Ken is next?”

“Yes…. What you said about Connor – that if you could dominate him, you could have him – how does that kind of kid back Ken down? He’s got something behind him, telling him what to do! And I can see Robert loving the dom role with a kid like that, the challenge of pulling an average American kid down with him,” Vickers said. He put a $20 bill down and said, “Grab your coat!”

“We can’t go over there, we’re suspended!” Ryan protested.

“We can watch from the street,” Vickers said. “I’ll keep you warm if you come along,” he added with a wink. Ryan grabbed his coat and darted off after the man.

***

Connor biked over to the back of an empty, foreclosed property which was as yet not back on the market and slipped up to the back door. Inside he found Robert lying on the floor playing a hand-held video game. “How did it go?” Robert asked, without even looking up.

“Just like you said it would,” Connor said. Then he gave a full report. “I should get home.”

“Stay?” Robert asked in the mode of a command.

“My parents will be looking for me,” Connor said.

“Soon, a lot more people will be looking for you. Stay here. I don’t want them using you to find me,” Robert said.

“But … you mean,” Connor began to ask.

“You’re with me from here on out, Connor,” Robert said. There was no threat in it; there didn’t need to be. The boy sat down near him and watched him as he continued playing the game.

“What time is it?” Robert asked. When the boy told him, he said, “We’ve got a bit. Why don’t you suck my cock.”

Connor crawled over the last few feet and, as Robert kept playing his game, undid the big boy’s pants and fished out his hardening cock. Connor began licking and sucking at it happily, and felt a jolt of pleasure when Robert ran his fingers through Connor’s hair, setting the game aside. “You really are great at that,” Robert said, watching the boy now with interest. The boy’s blond hair was in his eyes as he looked up at Robert, smiling around the boy’s fat cock. After a few minutes, he said, “On your knees, I want to finish in your ass!”

Connor hopped up, surprised and pleased, and dropped his pants quickly, assuming the position.

Robert lined up behind him and slammed his long fat cock into the boy’s still tight, but well used, hole, causing Connor to yelp in pain. But nearly immediately, his groans turned to moans as the big boy worked him over. “God you are a sick little faggot,” Robert teased him. “You love this even when it hurts….” He thought about it and added, “Especially when it hurts.” With that he slapped the boy’s ass powerfully, raising a welt. And to be sure, Connor bucked back against him like a bronco.

“I’m coming, you faggot bitch,” Robert groaned, and felt Connor’s hole contract around his cock, Connor’s load splashing the floor, while Robert’s filled him up. “Now get dressed. You’ll have company soon.”