John E. Tucker, JETjt@aol.com
Ron and Matt’s home, early Sunday Afternoon
“Mr. Ron,” Parker said as he came out on the pool deck where Ron was watching the boys cavort in the pool, “telephone. It’s Mr. Butch.”
“Hey Butch,” Ron said into the portable phone. “What’s up?”
“Hi Ron,” the muscular helicopter pilot replied. “We just got a call from Metro, who’d received a call from the FAA in Denver. They’ve been asked to aid in the search for the plane bringing Tom Stanley back to Las Vegas. I had called earlier asking if they needed our help. We’ve been asked to go into Colorado since our jet chopper has high altitude capabilities. I told them we’d go, but I wanted to makes sure it’s alright with you to take the ‘copter that far out of state.”
“Sure,” Ron answered, “Tyler and I will be out of town this coming week, so I don’t anticipate any need for the aircraft. Make sure you let Jan know.”
“Will do. We’ve got the rescue team arriving soon and will take off as soon as they get here. We’re going to fly the jet’s flight plan path into Colorado, then land in Grand Junction where the coordinated search is being headquartered.”
“I hope the effort is successful,” Ron expressed. “We have a vested interest in getting Tom Stanley back for trial.”
“I understand. We’ll do our best. I have to run now and file our flight plan to Grand Junction.”
“Be careful,” advised Ron. “Bye.”
The line went dead.
“What’s happening?” asked Matt who was seated nearby.
“Butch has been asked to take the RET helicopter to Colorado to join the search for Tom Stanley’s plane. I told him that it was alright.”
“I hope they find him. He deserves punishment for sexually attacking a child.”
“Yes, and for attacking you too,” Ron added. “I hope he gets a long sentence. I hear that child molesters have a very rough time in prison. It will serve him right. I just hope he survives to get a taste of his own medicine.”
“I try not to dwell on it,” Matt countered. “It’s very depressing to me.”
“I’m sure of that Babe,” Ron acknowledged. “What do you think of the idea of taking the boys out for an early dinner of pizza. We could take Benny and Eddie back to Thornton afterward, then take Tommy home. Carl, Nathan, Douglas and Tommy have never seen Thornton.”
“I’m for it as long as we can get back by 7:00 for my physical therapy,” answered Matt. “What about Tyler and Dan? We can’t all get into the Escalade.”
“They can either come along in one of their cars for dinner or can remain here. I’m sure that neither is interested in the drive across town to Thornton.”
“If I know them,” Matt said smiling, “they’ll opt to stay home. We still have enough sandwiches to feed an army, and they might appreciate some more time alone.”
“You’re probably right,” conceded Ron.
Monday morning, 8 AM, Ron and Matt’s
“Give me a few moments to shower,” Matt asked Eric as they finished the PT session, “then we can hop in my car and go to Thornton.”
“That will be fine,” Eric agreed. “I don’t feel quite as fresh as when I jumped out of the shower this morning, but since you did all the work in the session, I guess I’ll pass. I have my clothes for the interview with me. I can just change into my better clothes wherever you’d like me to.”
“No need for that,” Matt offered, “Grab your clothes. You can take another shower and change here. We’ve got plenty of soap and water. Follow me.”
Matt led the attractive trainer from the exercise room, heading for the elevator that would carry them upstairs to the Master Suite.
Entering the private suite belonging to himself and Ron, Matt looked into the room to insure that the room was not being cleaned. “Just hang your clothes in there, he said pointing toward the bathroom/ dressing area and help yourself to the shower.”
“Wow! This place is impressive,” Eric said, crossing the huge suite. “This one area is bigger than my whole apartment and a lot nicer.”
“Thanks Eric. We like it,” Matt answered simply. “I’ll get my clothing together while you’re showering. Don’t hurry on my account.”
“Fine. I shouldn’t be long. Just come in when you’re ready.”
“Will do,” Matt answered as Eric walked into the bath area. Matt followed behind his new friend until he got to the mammoth closet that contained all of his and Ron’s clothing that was in season. Stepping inside the room that was as large as a small bedroom, he began to select the clothing that he would wear to Thornton then later to the office. He heard the shower start as he was making his choices, then after collecting all he would need, he walked into the bathroom. In the shower behind the clear glass wall he could see the naked delectable body of his guest. Feeling embarrassed at the twinge in his crotch, he turned away and placed his belongings on a dressing chair. He had to admit that, in spite of his devotion to Ron, he found Eric most attractive. He also knew that were he and Ron not devoted to each other he would have already jumped Eric bones.
Distracted by his own thoughts, Matt hardly noticed Eric as he left the shower and moved next to Matt as he dried himself.
“I’m finished with the shower,” Eric reported. “I left the water running for you.”
“Uh thanks,” Matt stammered as he inadvertently glanced at Eric’s large organ and impressive torso while the younger man was toweling off. Matt had already removed his shoes and sweatshirt, leaving them in the closet hamper. He pulled the string on his sweatpants and slipped them off. Eric took an admiring peek at his ‘patient’ and muttered softy, “Impressive!”
“Takes one to know one,” Matt returned the complement.
“You don’t happen to have a brother, do you?” Eric asked only half in jest.
“No such luck,” Matt responded with a chuckle, “Don’t worry though. You won’t be around Ron’s Dating Service long before we’ll have you hitched up to some stunner.”
“That’s the best offer I’ve had today,” Eric responded. “I’ve noticed that, for the most part you guys are surrounded by gorgeous men, even if some of them are kinda young.”
“I don’t know why that is,” Matt admitted thinking about their friends and acquaintances. “We look beyond appearance in choosing our friends, yet most of them are attractive, if not knockouts. It’s one of life’s mysteries that honestly we’ve never even discussed.”
“I don’t know all you’re friends,” Eric began, “but those I’ve met here certainly fill the bill.”
“I’d have to say that’s right, though I can assure you that it’s not on purpose. Speaking of that, Ron’s birthday is next weekend. We’re having a real get-together of family and friends. I’d like to have you join us.”
“I’ll take that as saying that I’m a friend,” Eric said smiling. “The answer is that I’ll be glad to come.”
“Good. Well, I feel kind of silly standing here naked and chatting,” Matt admitted as he moved toward the shower, “I’ll be out in a minute.”
“I’ll be in your bedroom,” Eric responded, picking up his clothing and leaving the room.
45 minutes later, The Thornton Center
Matt and Eric stepped out of Matt’s SL 500 and onto the walk leading to the Administration Building. Opening the door for Eric, he motioned that his friend should proceed in the direction of Leonard’s office. Entering the outer office the two men approached the desk of Leonard’s secretary.
“Good morning Frances,” Matt said in greeting.
Looking up, Frances responded with, “’morning Matt. Is this the young man Mr. Johnson told me about?”
“Yes.” Matt answered. “Frances I’d like you to meet Eric Chalmers. Eric this lovely lady is Frances Peale, Leonard’s right-hand woman, and the Center’s Human Resources Director.”
“A pleasure, Ms. Peale,” Eric responded with a smile and an extended hand.
Taking his hand and shaking it, the woman responded, “I’m glad you’re here. Is it alright if I call you Eric?”
“You may call me Frances. I’m here to help you in any way I can.”
“Thank you. I’m sure that you have a lot of paperwork for me to fill out. I’ll be ready whenever you are.”
“Mr. Johnson is waiting,” Frances responded. “We can do the paperwork later.”
“Would you join us?” Matt asked.
“Oh no, I have to get ready for our staff meeting,” she answered. “I’ll have plenty of time to get acquainted with Eric when he comes to work here. When will you be starting?”
“I can start any time. Today if Mr. Johnson approves my being hired.”
“I can assure you already that he will,” Francis said reassuringly. “Matt is a wonderful judge of character, and you’ve already made a good impression on me.”
“Thanks to both of you. I must say that I look forward to working here.”
“I’ll announce you to Mr. Johnson,” Frances said as she picked up the phone on her desk and pressed a short series of numbers.
“Matt Turner and Eric Chalmers have arrived and are waiting,” she announced. After a short pause, she only responded with, “Very good sir,” before hanging up the phone and concluding her conversation with the two men with, “You may go in.”
“Thanks,” Matt responded has he stepped toward the closed door.
“Nice to meet you Frances,” Eric added.
Matt again opened the door and motioned Eric through.
A very business-like man sat on the other side of the door, and rose as Eric and Matt entered the room.
“Please come in gentlemen, and take a seat,” he said with a smile, indicating two chairs in front of his desk. “Nice to see you again Matt.”
“Likewise,” Matt responded. “Leonard, this is Eric Chalmers. Eric, Leonard Johnson, the Director of the Thornton Center.”
“Please call me Leonard,” the Director said as the two men shook hands.
“I go by Eric,” the applicant responded.
“Matt tells me that you’re interested in becoming our new Activities Director.”
“Yes sir. Matt has made it sound very attractive.”
“I suppose that I should go over just a bit of the details, so that there is no misunderstandings,” Leonard offered. “Besides the $45,000 a year base salary, we offer full medical coverage, and I mean 100% coverage too, which in our day an age is unheard of, but through Ron Turner’ connections we’ve been able to provide. Also we have the normal time-off provisions. 12 days vacation earned during the first year and 12 days of sick leave. After three years, it’s 15 days of vacation and after 5 years, 20 days. You are allowed to accumulate 1000 hours of sick leave, but after 500 you may elect to sell one week of sick leave back for half of your hourly wage, or up to one week per year of your unused vacation at full pay. If you leave, we buy back all your unused vacation at the same 100% and your unused vacation at 50%.”
“Wow, that is attractive,” Eric remarked in surprise, especially since Matt had not told him of the change in the offer from $42,000 to $45,000.”
“We will also schedule around your physical therapy work,” Leonard offered. “When can you start?”
“Today, if you’d like,” Eric answered. “I don’t have my vehicle with me since I came with Matt, but I can come back.”
“We have a staff meeting at 10:30 this morning,” Leonard revealed. “If you and Matt could take a quick tour, then you could leave and get your car and change into something more comfortable. I’ll move the meeting to 11:00 so you don’t have to rush.”
“That’s very kind of you, Leonard,” replied Eric. “I’m sure I can make it then. I guess that means that I’m hired?”
“You were hired the minute Matt recommended you,” the Director said with a smile. “You have no idea how much we value both Ron and Matt’s judgment and contributions to the Center.”
“Thank you sir. I’ll certainly give the job my very best effort.”
“I’m counting on it son,” responded Leonard. “Now you two had better get on with your tour. You can fill out your paperwork this afternoon.”
Matt and Eric stood and shook hands with the Director before turning toward the door.
“Goodbye Leonard,” Matt said. “Don’t forget Ron’s party this weekend.”
“We won’t,” Leonard promised. “The boys are looking forward to the Saturday afternoon part of it too.”
Matt and Eric departed the room, with Matt stopping long enough to fill in Frances on the change in plan. Again, after saying their goodbyes, the two men began their tour of the Thornton Center for (gay) boys.
* * *
Meanwhile in Colorado
The RET helicopter with Butch at the controls skimmed 600 feet above the trees on its assigned search path parallel to the flight path planned by the executive jet, eastward from Grand Junction toward Denver. The flight to Denver would take most of the morning, as there was no advantage in the trip being taken quickly, but rather at slower pace to make certain that nothing was missed. The path also required that the craft climb the already snow covered peaks and settle back into the valleys in between. Once in Denver, the flight path would be reversed, parallel to the line flown earlier in the day. There were 7 other aircraft flying similar patterns. Four of the craft were light fixed wing planes and the three others were helicopters, one civilian and two military. It was calculated that the search of probable space would take two days, then the pattern would be repeated once again before the search in the area was abandoned. In the meantime, a second similar team out of Las Vegas was searching the area between Grand Junction and Las Vegas.
All four occupants of the chopper were scanning the terrain from the front and side windows, each responsible for an overlapping area of vision. It was going to be a long flight, but each of the rotary craft was fully equipped for search and rescue operations to be used if either they or a fixed wing plane spotted wreckage.
The sun on takeoff had at first been a hindrance to forward vision, but now was high enough to be only a minor nuisance to the pilots facing it. Butch was kept busy keeping the helicopter at the relative elevation prescribed by the search pattern, and knew that by day’s end he would have more than earned his keep.
At the crash site
Tom Stanley woke to the moaning of Sergeant Sunderson in the laid back seat across the aisle from where Tom had slept. Opening his eyes, Tom was dismayed that his vision had not returned. There was no time for negative thoughts, he quickly concluded. It was necessary to do whatever they could to insure their survival.
Tom pulled the light blankets off his legs and head that had sealed in the warmth from the heavy coat he’d used for both his and the officer’s primary protection. Reaching out with his left hand he felt the still wrapped body of his guard.
“Sergeant,” Tom called out through the icy air. “Can you hear me?”
He waited until he heard a soft murmur of, “Yes, I can hear you.”
“Our plane has crashed, and from all I can tell, the pilots are dead. The passenger end of the fuselage is intact, but the front end of it is a wall of snow. Can you tell me where you hurt?”
“I think both my legs are broken, and my left arm too,” the officer reported. “I have a horrible headache so I may have head injuries too. I don’t know about internal injuries. Are you okay?’
“I seem to be in one piece,” Tom reported, “but I must have suffered a head injury too as I’m unable to see. Can you see?”
“Yes,” the Sergeant responded, “I can see out the windows, but all I see is a rock wall on each side of the plane.”
“Is it light outside?” Tom asked.
“Yes, my watch says 10:45.”
“What do you think we should do?”
“Normally I’d say we should wait, but with the plane buried in a rock crevasse I’m not so certain. I know that I can’t travel on my own, and you can’t see. It doesn’t give us much choice. I’m afraid that if we get caught outside overnight we’ll freeze. I think we should wait it out today at least. There is bound to be a search and rescue effort.”
“Are you warm enough?” Tom asked.
“I’m a bit chilly, but not too bad,” the officer replied. “Thanks for wrapping me up. I don’t think I would have made it any other way.”
“I’d like to say it was kindness,” Tom admitted, “but with me being blind, I figured I didn’t have much of a chance without your eyes.”
“At least you’re honest about it,” Sunderson remarked. “Is there any food or water?”
I found some sandwiches in the small refrigerator and some cans and plastic bottle there too. They are probably soft drinks and water. I don’t know if there is anything else, since I can’t see.”
“I think we should both drink something at least. We can survive several days without food but only a couple without water. If the sandwiches are okay we should each eat one too to keep up our strength. I’d like to bind my legs and arms if we can find something to do it with. Maybe then I can move around and look for other things that might help our chance of survival.”
“Can you see anything from your seat?” Tom asked.
“No, not with it tilted back. Would you help me tip it up?”
“Yes,” Tom said moving from his seat, finding the chair button and pulling up on the seatback.
When the officer was upright, he looked around the dimly lit plane.
“What a mess! ” he remarked. “I see stuff strewn all around. Forward, the passage is blocked with snow as you said, but you can get almost all the way to where the cockpit was. I see some cloth napkins outside of the galley that could be used to bind up my arms and legs.
There are also magazines and other things from the galley that have been tossed about, including a few metal food cans and what looks like what was once a vegetable tray. I also see a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher on the wall near the main hatch. That’s about all. The fuselage appears to be intact, which is good.”
“If we need to leave, how will we get out?” Tom asked.
“If we can’t get the main hatch open, there is an emergency escape window about 5 feet in front of your seat. There appears to be a little room between the plane and the rock walls on either side. I’m not sure there’s enough room to open the main hatch, but the escape window should work.”
“Alright. I’ll get the napkins and something for us to eat and drink, if you’ll help by telling me what you see. Do you see any more blankets?”
“No, I don’t see any. There are a few cabinet doors though in the galley area and one above and behind the rear seat. You might search there.”
“I will. Let’s eat first. We’ve got all day to get ready for nightfall.”
One PM, McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas
“Have a good trip Babe,” Matt said as he kissed Ron in the privacy of the G-V. It was almost private anyway. Not far away, Tyler and Dan were also saying their goodbyes.
“Call me tonight will you?” Matt asked. “I can’t sleep until I know you’re there and safe.”
“Sure. You know I’ll only be thinking of you.”
“Say ‘hi’ to Bryan and Alan for me, as well as the rest of the New York crew,” Matt requested.
“I’ll do that Babe,” Ron promised. “I only wish you were going along. Then you could say ‘hi’ yourself.”
“Also let me know what the Homeland Security people want. I’m dying of curiosity.”
“I am too,” admitted Ron. “Of course it’s Tyler who will be calling the shots.”
“I’m so glad you found each other,” Matt said. “You and he are much alike even though you were raised separately.”
“I know what you mean. It makes you wonder doesn’t it? I mean how much of how we are is genetic and how much is due to environment?”
“I’m sure there is more to heredity than is commonly thought,” Matt replied. “Well, we’d better not get started on that subject unless you want to get to D.C. at midnight. Speaking of that, you’d better get going. Have a safe trip lover. I’ll miss you something awful.”
“I’ll miss you too,” Ron agreed. “I love you more than life itself. My whole existence without you would be an empty shell. Take care of the boys love. I’ll be back soon.”
“I can hardly wait,” Matt said with a parting kiss.
“Alright! Break it up!” Matt said in a loud voice.
Ron laughed as he saw Dan pull away with a start.
Tyler pulled the blushing Dan back to where their lips again touched, then with parting words they separated, with Dan moving up the aisle past Ron to join Matt at the aircraft’s stairway. Giving their lovers a wave, the two descended the stairs that began to retract once they had reached the tarmac. Looking back as they crossed the hangar floor, Matt saw the door to the aircraft close, the hangar doors begin to open and heard the increasing whine of the engines winding up for ignition. As the door into the hallway from the hangar swung shut after both men had passed through, the pilot switched on the ignition and the jet engines started thrusting the large executive jet slowly forward toward the opening where moments before hangar doors had provided security from the elements.
* * *
7:00 PM, Ron and Matt’s exercise room
“Evening Eric,” Matt said as the younger man entered the room. “How was your first day at Thornton?”
“It was great! I’m somewhat overwhelmed at the moment. I mean there are all those kids to get to know, as well as the staff. I like the work and have all kinds of ideas for programs for the kids, but at the moment I feel like I’m walking on hot coals. I don’t know which foot to lift.”
“Don’t let it worry you,” Matt advised. “I’m sure the kids were glad to see you.”
“Yes, they made me feel very welcome. It was especially nice that Eddie Burroughs and Benny Young spread the word that I was an ‘alright guy.’ They kept an eye on me and made suggestions as to how to do my job. I had a chance before the kids came home from school to look over much of the original program work done by the first Activities Director whose statue you showed me. You can tell that he loved his job and was devoted to developing healthy, happy youngsters.”
“Yes Barry was a great guy. We all miss him. You’ll do fine though. If you love kids and take a real interest in them, you’ll find that you get a lot of satisfaction in return.”
“I can see that,” Eric agreed. “You and Ron can really be proud of your part in Thornton’sfounding.”
“We are,” Matt admitted, “but the real driver behind getting Thornton started was Jack Smith, Ted Thornton’s partner. When Ted was killed in a gay bashing, Jack spearheaded the Center’s creation in his honor.”
“Where is Jack Smith now?”
“He’s living in New York, but he’ll be here for Ron’s party so you’ll get to meet him and his new partner.”
The phone in the exercise room rang, and Matt walked to the wall where it was mounted and answered.
“Hello?” Matt said.
“Mr. Matt, it’s Mr. Butch on the line.”
“Fine Parker. I’ll speak with him.
“Butch how was the search today? Any sightings or clues as to what might have happened?”
“No Matt. We’re back in Grand Junction for the night. There are 8 aircraft in the search here in Colorado, and I’m sure as many in Utah and Nevada. We’ll be trying again tomorrow at first light. I’m sure Ron would like an update, so if you tell him when you talk to him.”
“I will Butch,” Matt assured the pilot. “Keep in touch!”
“Yes sir. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight Butch, and good hunting.”
Matt hung up the phone.
“No luck yet?” Eric asked.
“Nope, but there’s lots of ground to cover between Denver and Las Vegas, especially if the plane got off of its flight path.”
“Doesn’t the plane have a beacon?”
“Yes, but for some reason it has never been detected. It certainly gives one wonder whether or not the plane really went down.”
“I hope they don’t give up too soon,” Eric commented.
“I’m sure that Butch won’t. That guy is tenacious.”
“Speaking of tenaciousness, are you ready for tonight’s round of torture?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Matt declared. “Let’s get with it.”
9:00 PM, Ron and Matt’s suite
The phone next to the bed rang as Matt stepped out of the bathroom. Barely dry from his shower, and with only a towel around his waist, he rushed to the phone and picked up the receiver.
“It’s Mr. Ron,” announced Parker.
“Thanks Parker, goodnight.”
“Goodnight sir,” Parker said as he disconnected.
“Hi Babe,” Matt said in greeting.
“Who is this?” Ron joked.
“Eric,” Matt lied with his comeback.
“It better not be, or there will be a supersonic flight back to Las Vegas!”
“Gotcha!” Matt giggled.
“Yep, you did,” Ron agreed. “Any news?”
“I spoke to Butch this evening and so far the search has yielded nothing.”
“That’s too bad, but honestly Colorado is a large state and it might take a few days. Is everything else okay?”
“Other than I’m missing you, every thing is fine.”
“Did you get in your PT session tonight?”
“Yes, Eric left about 45 minutes ago. He says I’m making progress.”
“That’s wonderful Babe! Keep it up. You’ll be good as new. How did Eric like his first day at Thornton?”
“He loved it, though he’s somewhat overwhelmed at the moment. Fortunately, he found a lot of program material that Barry Young had developed when Thornton first opened. It will give him some idea of how to proceed. It seems that Benny and Eddie showed him around and introduced him to all of the kids. He was very impressed with them.”
“Yes, they’re great kids. Hey Babe, I forgot to tell you something.”
“I spoke with Douglas about our plans to adopt him. I should have waited for you, but the time seemed right. You were in a PT session. I just wanted you to know and to apologize for not including you.”
“You’re forgiven babe. I wondered why he was going around with a shit-eating grin on his face all day. I thought it was because he and Eddie had become more than just friends.”
“There might be that too,” Ron admitted. “I don’t know, but I do know that they have spent a lot of ‘quality time’ together.”
“They are very good for each other. Douglas is beginning to gain confidence, and I’m sure that he’s feeling good that he’s loved, both by us and by Eddie.”
“He seemed really surprised when I told him that we wanted to adopt him and that we loved him.”
“I suppose that it’s the first time in his life for love. Not that he wasn’t cared for as he was growing up in that orphanage, but it’s not the same as having a real family, or a real boyfriend,” Matt rationalized. “How was the trip?”
“Uneventful. Tyler and I had plenty of time to talk. He never ceases to amaze me. I’ve prided myself on being a good businessman, but I’m beginning to think he does me one better.”
“I doubt that, Ron. I’m sure he’s still learning and looks up to you.”
“Yes, but he’s not afraid to charge into the wilderness alone.”
“Would you want it any other way?” Matt asked.
“No, you’re right,” Ron admitted. “I like him just the way he is. Well, it’s late here and the dawn will be here before I know it.”
“Get your sleep babe. I know it’s going to be a busy week.”
“Yes, I’m sure we’ll accomplish a lot. I just wish you were here with me.”
“We both wish it love, but someone has to guard the fort.”
“You’re such a lovable goofball,” Ron said with a laugh. “It’s no wonder that I fell in love with you. You make me so happy.”
“And you make me happy too, happier than I ever dreamed possible. Now you’d better hit the sack. Just know that I love you and miss you.”
“I love you too babe. Give the boys a hug from me. Love you.”
“Love you back. Goodnight babe.”
* * * * *