Chapter 25

“Well?” a voice asked, making Fielding jump.

“Jesus, Vickers!” Fielding sighed as he walked to the shadows.  “What are you doing here?”

“Following up,” Vickers said.  “Making sure….”

“Making sure I did what I said I would, you mean,” Fielding said.

“Yep,” Vickers said, unapologetic.  “Needed to know if you are prepared to obstruct justice to make sure someone’s sleep doesn’t get disturbed. That is what your partner was told to do, you know.  And when this is all over and the bodies are all counted, I’m gunning for him.  You’re gonna want to duck!”

Fielding frowned at Vickers and nodded.  “Thanks….”

“So the kid?” Vickers asked.

“Gone,” Fielding said.  “Snuck out after the parents went to bed. Took the family car somewhere. But we can’t put out a missing persons on him, you know that.”

“What about a material witness warrant?” Vickers asked.  “Or a possible stolen car report.  Find the car, find the boy….”

Fielding took out his phone and reported the car potentially stolen, with a note that the driver may be the family’s son and to be cautious.  “You really think?” he asked Vickers as he hung up the phone.

“So he’s gone too?” Ryan asked, approaching from the street.

“I told you to stay in the car,” Vickers said.  Then to Fielding, “Keep his name out of this!”

Fielding shrugged and began to ask, “So you two are….”

Ryan cut him off and said, “NO!  We’re just working together….”

“I was going to ask, working together?” Fielding said.

Vickers rolled his eyes at Ryan, who to protect him from being outed had outed him, and said to Fielding, “Ryan and I started dating now that we both have too much time on our hands….”

Fielding nodded and shrugged.  “My partner’s gonna have a field day with this,” he said.

“Nah….  By the time I’m back he probably won’t have a job.  Maybe not the chief either,” Vickers said.  “And if he does, then he’ll see what it feels like to get the shit beat out of him by a fag,” Vickers added, fire in his eyes.

Fielding nodded again, ever quiet in his way, and said, “Good.  And good for you, guys.  Night.”

Vickers called after him, “Fielding?  Thank you!”  The man nodded and got in his car to drive away.

“How has he lasted as Anderson’s partner this long,” Ryan asked.

“I don’t know,” Eric said.  “Well there’s nothing more to be done here, and our leads are all dried up.  We should get some rest.”

“What do we do now?” Ryan asked.

“Wait for the body to turn up and see what clues he gives us,” Eric said.

“It’s as hopeless as that?” Ryan asked.

“He’s never given us any reason to hope, has he?” Vickers said, squeezing Ryan’s shoulder.

“Damnit, Vickers, I was HERE!” Ryan said, his eyes tearing up.  “I was here!  I should have figured it out!”

Vickers wrapped his arms around the young man and sighed.  “Ryan, this is not your fault!”  Ryan shook in his arms, and Vickers escorted him back to the car.

As they drove off, away from the diner, Ryan asked, sniffling, “Where are we going?  My car’s back there.”

“I’m not leaving you alone tonight,” Vickers said.  “We’re going to my place.”

Ryan’s heart quickened a little, though he was still feeling guilty.  In fact, that made him feel a little more guilty.  They rode in silence until Vickers pulled up in front of a little suburban home.  The yard was carefully manicured, and Ryan felt the inside would match.  And he was right: inside the house was immaculate.

The house was comfortable, furnished sparsely but with nice, expensive furniture.  The walls were covered with art, photos and a few mirrors.  The kitchen was a small, but clearly gourmet setup.  “What?” Vickers laughed as he saw Ryan’s surprise.  “I need my diversions!  I spend a lot of time alone!”

Ryan wrapped an arm around him and said, “It’s beautiful!”

“Thank you….  My bedroom is down there, and there’s the guest room,” Eric said, pointing the way.

Ryan wrapped his arm around the man’s waist and said, “I could have slept alone at home!”

Vickers looked into his eyes for a moment and said, “Okay.  Come on….”

***

Connor was alone in the abandoned house when Ken arrived, or so it appeared to the witless boy.  Connor was submissive and hungry to be mastered; Ken’s weakness was lack of vision.  Robert had always played that to his advantage.

Inside with Connor, Ken backed him into a wall and said, “Give it to me!”

“I don’t think so,” Connor smiled, somewhat fragilely, and felt the arm against his neck press harder.  Ken was taken aback by the feeling of the boy’s cock hardening against his belly.

“Fucking faggot,” Ken sneered in disgust, backing off.  “What do you want?”

“What did you do for Robert?” Connor asked.  Now when Ken’s face showed pain, the hatred of remembering and the shame of knowing that someone else knew, Connor’s smile grew bold.  Serving his master, Connor said, at first hesitantly, “Get on your knees!”

Ken wavered.  “How do I know you’ve got it?”

“Crying like a little girl in the tree house while he pumped your ass?” Connor asked.

Ken’s face flashed fear now, and he said, “Why?”

“Maybe I need a new playmate?” Connor asked.  “If you play nice, you might like the things I could do for you!”

“I’m not queer!” Ken protested.

“Well, you’d better suck it like you are, or no one will ever believe that again,” Connor said coldly.  He’d been coached by a master.  A master who even now watched carefully with a smile, from the shadows.

Ken opened his mouth and took Connor like the old pro he was.  Robert utilized his power to the fullest with each of his boys, and Ken had learned to do it right.  Connor got into it pretty quick, so even he jumped when Robert said, “Hey, Ken!  Don’t stop on my account,” he said, glaring at the boy with his mouth around the blonde’s cock.

“You!” Ken said, spitting it out.  Then at Connor, he glared.  “YOU are WITH him?”

Connor looked at Robert, who nodded benevolently at him. “Yep!”

“What is this?” Ken asked, fear creeping in on him.  “Revenge?”

“Why? Did you talk to police?” Robert asked.  The boy’s face told him everything.  “What do I care?  They already knew before they talked to you.”

“Then what?” Ken asked, confusion tainting his fear.

“I need your help to send a message,” Robert said.

“Sure, okay!” Ken said.  He was relieved, but that relief was tempered by the smile on Roberts face.

“Later,” Robert said.  “First, I want you to drop your shorts and grab your ankles.”  He laughed at the look Ken gave him and added, “Not for me!  I want to watch Connor do things to you.  Starting with that!”

***

Jim was showering the next morning, and Paul asked Billy, “I hope you don’t mind, but I’m gonna stay with Jim today.  After yesterday, I’m worried, and I just want him to know I’m there.”

“Of course!” Billy said.  “I should spend some time getting to know Sean anyway, since we’ll be living together, huh?”

“Yeah,” Paul smiled.  “You guys should do something nice together today, maybe Sean and Andy?”

“You want some time alone with Jim, huh?” Billy asked.

“That would be nice eventually,” Paul smiled, “but we won’t get that today.  But I bet it’s kinda weird for Jim to have both his dad and Edwin watching him, while being awkward together….”

“I don’t know, they seem to be getting along pretty well,” Jim said, walking into the room glistening damp, a towel hanging precariously from his waist.

Noticing the look on Billy’s face, Paul held up a hand over the taller boy’s eyes and laughed.  “Not for you!”

“Not my type,” Billy said.  But with another look, he added, “But DAMN!”

“So what is your type?” Jim asked, motioning for them to turn around.  He quickly pulled on a pair of boxers but not before Paul caught a good look at his ass in a mirror.  “Besides Paulie I mean!”

Billy was still blushing when they turned back around and said, “That does give you the general idea….”

“I thought you might be interested in getting to know Seamus and some of the other guys better,” Jim said, raising his eyebrows and not indicating Billy had hinted at just that.  “But they’re definitely nothing like Paulie!”

“Seamus is cute,” Billy blushed to admit.  “I like red hair.  And while I prefer smaller, I think I … well Seamus seems really nice….”

“But you’d really like Arnie’s son, I think,” Paul said, winking at Jim.

“I’ve kinda been talking to a guy online too,” Billy admitted for the first time.  “Since before I got kicked out….”  Jim looked shocked.  “I was lonely,” Billy blushed.

“It’s just,” Paul began, “that could be so dangerous!  I’d worry about you!  Promise you won’t go meet him alone the first time?”

Billy looked at Paul with an inscrutable look in his eye: it was a moment of realization for Billy that, while things would never be able to be the same with Paul, they could be different and better.  These boys could be the brothers and friends he’d never had.  He surprised them both by throwing his arms around them, and they could hear the tears in his voice as he said, “I promise!”

Soon they were all ready for the day, and Jim grew steadily more nervous as they were driven toward the house his mother had shared with Edwin.  Would she be there?  What would she say if she was?  And then there was one last big question.  He scarcely wanted to formulate that question.

Sean was taking Billy to the science museum and then on a sight-seeing cruise, and Andy was convinced to join them.  But when the car pulled up at Edwin’s house and Paul started to open the door, Jim grabbed his arm.

“Dad,” Jim said hesitantly, “there’s something I need to tell you.”

“What is it, son?” Andy asked.

“I did something that … I should have asked you first….   I went to see mom last night,” Jim admitted.

Andy was stunned.  “You WHAT?”

“Dad, I just wanted to try to talk her out of this … this,” Jim began, nearly stuttering.

“Son, I’m not angry you went to see her!  You left the hotel alone?” Andy asked, clearly just worried about his son’s safety.

“She was hiding right across the street, dad,” Jim said.

“He didn’t go alone,” Billy said.  “I went with him….”

“Me too,” Paul said.

“Jesus Christ!  You boys!” Andy exclaimed.

“Well?” Andy asked.  “Did it help?”

“It helped me, dad,” Jim admitted, lowering his eyes.  “I don’t know about her….  But dad, there is something else….  Grandma.”

Paul and Billy looked shocked; they’d not heard that part of the conversation, and Jim had not reported it.  “WHAT?  How did she know?  Wait, how did you know?”

Paul raised his hand and said, “I asked Uncle Arnie to find her….”

“Of course you did,” Andy said, rolling his eyes with a benevolent smile.  “But your grandmother … must still be in contact with her?”

Jim nodded.  “I think so….”

“Sean, you take Billy and Paul, and give us some time here?” Andy said.

“I’m staying!” Paul said, and Andy frowned but nodded.  Billy got out and into the front seat, and the two of them drove off.  Paul, Jim and Andy hesitated to walk toward the door, which Edwin opened, having heard the car doors.

“What are you guys waiting for?” he asked with a smile.  “There is a very excited boy in here waiting for you!”

Jim put on a smile and led the others, but inside he gave his grandmother a strange look, and though she didn’t know why, she felt compelled to look away.  Gloria was nowhere in sight.

***

Ryan woke up curled up into Eric, whos was holding Ryan close.  Ryan’s face was on his chest and his knee was between the man’s legs, and he had the older man in a cross chest embrace.  Ryan tried not to wake Vickers as he had no desire for the moment to end, but Eric opened his eyes and smiled at him.

“Good morning, beautiful,” Eric grinned and winked.

“I look terrible,” Ryan grumbled.

“I can honestly tell you, I can think of nothing that would make you look better to me,” Eric said, “than you lying here with me!”

Ryan blushed and hugged him.  “Guess we have to get to work, huh?”

“Double the fun now,” Vickers said.

“What do you mean?” Ryan asked.

“Have you ever heard of Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono?” Eric asked.

“Who?” Ryan asked.

“The Hillside Stangler case … these two guys killed a dozen women in a few months.  They were a killing team.  It’s a rare phenomenon even among murders, but it happens.  Usually one partner is dominant and the other submissive,” Eric said.

“Christ!” Ryan said, chilled.  “Connor’s joined him?”

“I think so, based on what you said.  I think Connor’s getting drawn in to it, and he’s already an accomplice at best,” Eric said.  “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s gone too.  But he’s just with Robert.”

“Are you sure Ken’s dead?” Ryan asked.

“Unless Robert’s got another plan for him,” Eric said.  “But I can’t imagine what that would be….”

***

“You got the plan?” Robert asked the boy, who nodded, trembling.  He had the message and would deliver it exactly as instructed.  “Don’t worry.  If you do just as I instructed, everything will be fine.  Now, wait for the signal and then do it!”  Again the boy nodded and Robert headed away.

Three houses down, Robert knocked on the door.  He pushed past they pretty young woman and slammed the door behind him with a malicious smile.

He worked faster than was his custom, but packed as much horror into his time with her as he could.  Beating and sodomizing her roughly, he pressed her head into the bed until her head swam from lack of oxygen, then he let her breath again.  And then when she thought it was over, she felt the cold steel slicing her delicate skin, carving into her back.

Only when she prayed for death did the pain of his knife leave her.  And then he was gone, and she did not realize what was happening.  The 9-11 dispatcher couldn’t understand the call he received.  It was all screams and groans and tears.  The nearest cars were dispatched, and police were left wondering why this one was left alive.

***

Jim spoke quietly to Edwin as Paul played with Jonathan.  “Have you heard from Gloria?”

“Not a word,” Edwin said.

“I … I tried to talk to her,” Jim said.  “She wouldn’t listen….”

“To be honest, I don’t know if I would have taken her back anyway, Jim.  Not knowing what I know now, what she did to you and your dad.  I’d never be able to trust her again,” Edwin said.  “And Jonathan, I can protect him from that.”

“I’m sorry,” Jim said.  “When will we hear about the blood tests?”

“I actually thought the preliminary tests might have already been done.  I’ll go call,” he said, leaving Jim waiting nervously.

Then he walked over to his grandmother.  “Can I speak to you privately?” he asked stonily.  She looked at him, almost hurt, at the formality and nodded, following him out of the room.

“What is it dear?” Bethany asked nervously.

“I went to visit mom last night,” he said casually.  “For some reason she thought I was you.  I can’t imagine why,” Jim added.

“I … I,” she stammered.

“She told me you came to see her!  It’s why you left early, isn’t it?” Jim asked.

“Yes,” Bethany said, bracing her shoulders and trying to stand tall.

“How long have you known she ran?  Did you know before we came?  You let me find out like this?” Jim asked.

“I knew,” the woman said.  “I won’t make any excuses.  She called me, and I knew where she was….”

“YOU WHAT?” Carl asked, having followed them.

“SHE’S OUR DAUGHTER,” Bethany said, exasperated.

“And I’m your grandson,” Jim said.  “Did you know where she was when dad and I were busy looking for her?”  He could tell the answer by the look on her face.  “I WAS JUST A KID!  WE THOUGHT SHE MIGHT BE DEAD!”

“I insisted she send you the note to let you know otherwise,” Bethany said, looking away.

“Do I even know you at all?” Carl asked his wife with a look of deep hurt and anger.

“What’s going on in here?” Andy asked.  “Keep your voices down!  I don’t want you to upset the boy!”

“How can you forgive her?” Carl asked.  “She abandoned her children!”

“Because I understand her,” Bethany said.  “You don’t!”

“No I don’t understand how someone can love a boy and then walk out on him, much less her own boy!  I always blamed myself for the way she turned out,” Carl said.  “Maybe if I’d been a better father.  But how can you understand?”  Bethany looked away, both ashamed and defiant at once.  “WHAT?” Carl demanded.

“There’s something, something we never told you,” Bethany said, rubbing her head together.  As she looked around all she saw was expectant gazes.  “When Gloria was in middle school, she was molested by a neighbor….  She came to me in tears one evening and told me the whole story.  I tried to call the police, but she begged me.  She didn’t want to relive it, didn’t want to go through a trial….”

“You NEVER said a word to me!” Carl said, leaning heavily on the back of a chair.  “How could you keep that from me?”

“You’d have never let it be!”  Bethany said.  “You’d have demanded justice!  She just wanted to be left alone!”

“That’s why children don’t raise themselves, Bethany!  They don’t know what’s best!  Did you ever think, maybe closure would have helped her?  Seeing him behind bars?  We could have gotten her the therapy….  NONE OF THIS HAD TO HAPPEN!”  Carl’s face twitched in anger.  “I’ve always thought I was to blame!  Maybe I didn’t … wasn’t a good father!  But this?  Christ ALMIGHTY, woman!”  Carl’s mouth was pursed into a bitter look as he raised his hand to point at her, but then his hand went to his left arm.  In a moment he had collapsed.

Jim was at his side in a moment, and the man was holding his arm as if it was broken.  Paul appeared in the door as everyone crowded around the man.  “Call 911, dad!” Jim yelled.  “He’s having a heart attack!”

Paul handed Jonathan to Edwin and ran off to the bathroom.  He opened the cabinet and rifled through it until he found what he was looking for and then returned with speed, slipping between people to kneel by Jim.  “Carl!  Open your mouth,” Paul yelled.  Though he was in excruciating pain, Carl did as he was told and slipped the pill into his mouth.  He couldn’t swallow it but the bitter pill began to dissolve.  “Aspirin,” Paul said to explain.

It wasn’t more than a few minute before the wail of a siren could be heard and Edwin ran into the yard to flag them in.

***

“Connor still hasn’t come home,” Ryan reported to Eric over the phones.

“Ken either, of course,” Eric answered.  He’d tried to explain to Fielding his suspicions about Connor, but the man still needed more convincing.  “We need a new strategy.  Let’s call it an early evening tonight and get some takeout at my place.  We can go over the files and see if we can figure out where he might turn now.”

“Do you mind if I bring a change of clothes?” Ryan asked shyly.

Eric smiled.  “Why don’t you bring an extra set to stash?  Given that we’ll be working together for a while, you never know when you’ll need it.”

Eric was trying not to be too forward, and Ryan recognized that.  “Thank you,” Ryan said softly.  “See you tonight,” he added, before rushing off to pack a bag at his apartment.

Eric, meanwhile, spread out a new stack of files, all marked with the name of potential targets.  Paul, Jim and Billy he set aside.  Robert wanted to play, so he would save the ones he really wanted for last, like a kid saving macaroni and cheese until he’s cleared his vegetables.  Eric had never killed a ‘kid,’ and the thought of accidentally doing that always horrified him.  But now….  The thought of killing Robert filled him with a deep satisfaction.  Oh, he’d catch him if he could, but if he had to choose between the lives of others and this nutjob, it would be easy.

***

Billy and Sean were sitting on the top deck of the little river boat which was cruising up the city’s waterways listening to the guide when Sean’s phone rang.

“Hello?” the man said as he pulled out his cell.

“Sean, it’s Andy,” the man replied.

“What’s wrong?” Sean asked, drawing a worried look from Billy.  “I’m putting you on speaker….”

“Guys, Carl’s had a heart attack.  We’re on our way to General Hospital right now,” Andy said.

“I’m so sorry,” Sean said.  “We’re already on the boat, but we’ll get there as soon as we can….”

“Thanks,” Andy said.  “I’m … kinda scared….”

Sean felt a rush of sympathy and wished he was already there, as Billy sat by shocked.  Then Billy leaned into him and Sean wrapped an arm around the boy.  “Why can’t it be easy, sometimes?”

Sean chuckled bitterly and shook his head.  “I wish I could give you a good reason, Billy.  I really do….”

***

“Bethany, how could you keep this from him for all these years?” Andy asked.  “From all of us?”

“I thought I was doing the right thing,” she sighed.  “She was terrified of facing him in court….”

“But she could have been helped!” Andy said, trying to keep his voice down.  “And my God, how many other girls have there been?”

“I don’t know,” she said, finally showing an appropriate amount of shame.  As she added, “But my main concern is MY daughter,” a justification so pathetic that even she did not believe it.

“I think when Carl wakes up, I’d better go see him,” Andy said, lips tightly pursing.  “You … should stay out here.  We don’t want to upset him.”  Bethany nodded at him and sat silently.  In the far corner, Jim sat, his eyes red, with Paul’s thin arms around him, looking despondent.  Edwin had kept Jonathan home to keep the boy from being exposed to illness in the hospital, so for the moment it was just the four of them.

Then the doors opened with a thud and two large figures entered the waiting area with worried expressions.  Sean headed for Andy, while Billy rushed over to where Jim and Paul sat and knelt by Jim opposite Paul, wrapping his arms around the big boy.

Paul drew back a minute with a concerned smile and let Billy hold Jim for a minute.  “I’m sorry,” Billy whispered.

“He’s gonna be okay,” Jim said, relaxing a little.  He spoke more out of personal conviction than out of any actual information they had received.

Paul put a hand on Billy’s arm and nodded a bit of thanks as Billy hugged Jim tighter and Jim began to cry softly in his arms.  Paul actually wandered off to leave them alone for a moment.  He liked what he was seeing happen between the boys; they were getting to be like brothers.  ‘Which is probably good,” Paul thought to himself as he looked over at Sean holding Andy.

Paul sat next to Bethany who was then sitting all alone.  “How are you?” he asked softly.

“As you might imagine,” she said, averting her eyes.  “Was there something?” she asked, coughing the emotion from her voice.

“No,” he said, sadly.  “I really hope he gets well soon….”

“Me too,” she said.  “This is all my fault,” she whispered with a soft sob.  He didn’t say anything; there was nothing to say.  “Secrets….  So many secrets for so long.  And for what?  My daughter has ruined so many lives, and now it’s destroyed my marriage.”

“Maybe not,” Paul said softly.  “You’ve been together a long time.”

“So many lies,” she whispered.  “My husband values little more than the truth, Paul.”

“He loves you,” Paul said simply.

“I hope it’s enough,” she replied.

“It has to be,” Paul answered.

***

Cartons of Chinese food littered the coffee table, as Ryan lay in Eric’s arms on the couch.  “What are we going to do?” Ryan asked, shivering at the feeling of Eric’s fingers running through his hair.

“We’ve been through the files,” Eric sighed.  “Gregg is still in a secure ward in the hospital.  Connor and Ken, we know….  Paul, Jim and Billy are out of the field, as are Danny and Christina.  That means he can be random, and bide his time.  I have no idea what he’ll do now.  I think we have no choice but to wait.  When the boys get back we’re going to have to be very, very careful.”

“In the meantime, perhaps we should relax some,” Ryan suggested.

“Yeah, I suppose so.  I still want to keep a lookout, but I suppose all day every day is excessive with no leads,” Eric sighed.

“Clearly you need some help remembering what it means to relax,” Ryan smiled.

“Maybe I can find someone who’ll help me remember,” Eric smiled down at the man.

***

“Where’s the body?” Anderson asked as they entered the house.

“No body,” the policeman at the door said.  “Lady got raped and hurt pretty bad, but….”

“Well, what are we doing here?” Anderson asked.

“Robert,” Fielding said.

“You got it….  Description fit him perfectly,” the officer said.

“Who’s first on the scene?” Fielding inquired.

“That would be Fox and Jenkins,” the young man answered, and the detectives found the two policemen outside setting up a cordon.

“Fox!  Give it to me quick,” Fielding said.

“Not much to tell,” Fox nodded.  “We got the call and five minute later we was bustin’ down the door….  Found her curled up in the bedroom crying, all cut up….”

“Why so quick?” Fielding asked.

“We were sitting on a house just a couple of blocks away, so we were closest to the scene.  We cut out and got over here,” Fox said.

“Who’s house?” Fielding asked.

“Family called Anderson….  Why?” Fox asked.

Fielding got out his phone and walked off, out of earshot, and made a call.  “Hello?” Vickers answered, sounding preoccupied.

“Vickers, it’s Fielding.  I got a rape over here, and,” Fielding began.

“Robert?” Vickers asked, immediately alert.

“Yeah,” Fielding replied and gave the address.

“That’s just two blocks away from,” Vickers began.

“I KNOW, Vickers!  I know!  First on the scene were those assholes watching the house.  What do you think, Vickers?” Fielding asked.

“I think I’d love to get a look inside that house before anybody gets home,” Vickers said.

“No way we’re getting a warrant on this,” Fielding said.

“Let me track them down.  The boy could let us inside to make sure the house is safe,” Vickers said.

“Thanks, Vickers,” Fielding said, hanging up the phone and rejoining his partner, who seemed little interested in figuring out what his partner was up to.