The author reserves copyright privileges. This work my not be reproduced, except for personal use without the permission of the author.

Dedication: To Bill, my first editor, author of Tanner and Robert; a good teacher and an even better friend.

If you’d like to comment or say hi, I’m at… John Tucker


Chapter Twelve

Ron looked from the lectern at the 11 boys sitting off to his right side.

“Boys, we’d all like to know you.” He said smiling. “We’ll start with Cody, who’s closest to me. If you’ll stand, give us your name, age and where you’re from, then if you would like you can say anything you wish.”

Cody stood and turned toward the adults on the opposite side of the room.

“My name is Cody Desmond. I’m 13 and I’m from Nebraska. I’ve been staying with my friend Pete who works for Mr. Ron and Mr. Matt. Everyone has been very nice to me here.” He sat down.

Sterling, who was sitting beside Cody, stood next.

“Hi, I’m Sterling Beck. I’m 16. I just got into town from California last Saturday. I got into a little scrape with the law, and Ron and Matt rescued me. They have been good to me too. I’ve been workin’ this week at the Center, and it’s gonna be a real nice place.”

“Thanks Sterling.” Ron said. “Next?” Ron looked at Jason.

“I’m Jason Cummings.” He said rising from his seat with the use of his crutches.  I’m 12. My boyfriend Darryl and I got here last week and have been staying with Mr. Ron and Mr. Matt. Last weekend Mr. Ron let us go horseback riding on the mountain. We stopped and had lunch, then afterward went on a hike. While we were hiking I fell into a hole. I probly would’ve died except for Darryl and the guys getting me out. Ron and Matt weren’t mad or nothing, even though I had to be flown to a hospital in a helicopter. They have taken real good care of us. If the Thornton Center is anything like this house, I’m sure we’re all gonna be happy there.”

“My name is Darryl Hanna. I’m 11. Jason and me came from Denver where our parents were bad to us. We’re gonna be together forever ‘cause we won’t let anything bad happen to each other. We look out for each other. We hope we can make good friends at the Center, and have a good house mom and dad.”

Ron smiled and said, “I’ve come to know all three of the house parent couples, two of whom you met tonight. If there’s anyone who has enough love to go around it’s these folks. I’m sure that you’ll have new friends and new brothers there too, Darryl. It’s been fun having you here with us and I hope you bring all your new brothers from Thornton back to visit often.”

The next boy stood.

“I’m Michael Thomas. My friends call me Mike. I’m 14. I’m from here in Las Vegas. 6 months ago my dad died. I guess he was lonesome for my mom who had died of cancer last year. I didn’t have any Gramma or nobody to stay with, so I lived with a friend of my dad’s for a while, but when he found out I was gay, he threw me out. I hid out in a storage shed behind one of my friend’s house for three weeks, and he would sneak food out to me. Then we got caught. His parents run me off and told me not to come back. Later that day a nice lady told me about the shelter, and gave me a ride there. It was OK, but it’s pretty crowded now. They tried to get me into the Boy’s Ranch, but there was no room, so I guess they were gonna have to throw me out pretty soon too. I was glad when I found out about the Thornton place. At least it will be warm, and there will be food to eat. The pictures I saw look pretty nice too.”

A handsome coffee colored black boy stood next. He was six feet tall, and had close cropped hair. Budding muscles accented his slender frame.

“My name is Jamal. My full name is Jamal George Washington Lincoln.”

A couple of boys snickered, and received a threatening stare from the standing youth.

“I’m 14 too,” he continued, “ I don’t have no daddy. Never did. Whoever was my poppa jes’ wooed my momma, then left her flat. Figure he musta been a whitey, ‘cause my skin’s a lot lighter than my Momma’s.  Momma is a good woman and tried to raise me proper all by herself. Woulda been ok too, but momma got hooked on some drug shit, then things went from bad to worse. She started stealin’, and whorin’, anythin’ to make money for more drugs. She got caught pushin’ and they sent her to jail. When they come for her, I was at a friend’s house, so I snuck into our place and got my stuff and hi-tailed it outa there. I ended up in the Shelter. When I heard about the Thornton deal, I wanted in on it. It’s better than anyplace I ever lived, for damn sure. I’m not sure that I’m gay but I think a lot about boys, and dicks and all, but never done nothin’ with nobody. Guess I’ll be findin’ out soon enough, when I’m surrounded by nothin’ but a bunch of queers like me.”

He grinned and sat down.

An older boy, with worn, dirty clothes and a look of experience on his young but handsome face got up slowly with a swagger.

“I’m Russ Strickler. I’m 17. I’m from Cali. Let’s just say I didn’t get along with my parents, so I ran away when I was 15. Been takin’ care of myself since then. Some of the things I’ve had to do I did just to survive. Came here to Vegas with an older ‘friend’ and got dumped. Went to the shelter and saw this Thornton thing, and decided to give it a try. End of story.”

“I hope it’s the end of a bad story, Russ. And the beginning of a new and good one,” Ron said as Russ sat down.

“We’ll see,” Russ mumbled from his seat.

The next boy got up.

“Mah nyme is Derek Bodine,” the blond boy said with a decidedly southern accent. “Ah’m 17 yers ol’. Ah was hitchin’ to L.A. from Alabama and stopped here. Stayed in the shelter and heard of this Thornton place. Guess one place is good as ‘nother’n. Figured it wouldn’t hurt none to check it out.”

“I’m Aaron Feinstein,” the next boy said fluttering his eyes as he stood after Derek was seated. Aaron was young, slender and his ragged clothes bespoke of finer things and better times. “I’m 15. I can’t wait to get out of the shelter,” he said waving and gesturing with ring adorned hands. His face had a cute but pouty look and his overgrown hair nearly hid the three rings in each ear. “The straight boys there are mean and terrible. A couple of ‘em tried to molest me yesterday, babes, and it was with fists and kicks, not with their tempting packages. You just never know who you can trust these days,” he said with an upturned, limp wrist. “I won’t bore you with my story, sweeties. It’s dreadful, but it’s over, I hope. If the Thornton Center is at least civilized, it should be a lot better. Ta-ta,” he added with a wave as he took his seat.

“My name is Art Best,” the next boy said as he stood. “Any of you guys got any ideas ‘bout makin’ fun of my name better think about it twice. I am the best, both at fightin’ and makin’ love. I can promise ya, the second thing is a lot more fun than the first. I’m 16 and I’m from Chicago. It’s too fuckin’ cold there, so I came here two months ago. Now, I’m just tired of strugglin’ to make it by. Hope this Thornton Center is the answer. Thanks.”

One look at the rugged, but compact 5’ 9’ frame of the youth, was a sure indication of his confidence in himself.

The last boy stood.

“My name is Edgar Rice Burroughs IV.”

The adults looked at the boy with renewed interest.

“Yep,” he continued, “the writer with same name was my great-grandfather. I wanna be a writer too, but I gotta live and learn a lot first. When my folks caught me with another boy, I got pitched out and told I was no longer their son. That was a year ago. I had some money saved up, so I got out of town in a hurry.  I get enough from a little trust fund from my grandpa’s writing that I can barely survive if I have to, but I gotta get back in school and get to learning if I’m ever gonna amount to anything. I’m hoping that the Thornton Center is the answer to my dream.” He started to sit, then straightened up remembering. “Oh, I’m 14 and I’m from Champaign, Illinois.”  He took his seat.

“Thanks boys,” Ron said smiling. “I’m sure you’d all rather be swimming than in here with the old folks. If you’ll follow the gentleman standing at the back of the room,” he said indicating Parker, “he’ll show you where the bathing suits are and where you can change. There are plenty of soft drinks on the pool deck area and some snacks left. We’ll be having dinner in an hour and a half, so save some room. Thanks for sharing with us. You’re excused.”

After the boys left the room, Ron said to the remaining adults, “It’s time we all got to know each other better. Cocktails will be served in the family room. For those who prefer something else, there are a variety of other drinks to choose from. Just ask for whatever you wish.”

A hand shot up from the group of adults.

“Yes?” Ron said acknowledging the hand.

Barry Young, the handsome recreation director asked, “Uh, I’d like to talk with you all, but would it be ok if I put on a suit and joined the boys? I’m not sure all of them are swimmers, and I’d like to get to know them better.”

“Good idea Barry. Now I know why Leonard chose you.” Ron said smiling. Looking again at their guests, he added. “As the boys might say, ‘Let’s do it’!” he said with a chuckle, then stepped off the platform.

            *        *        *

Tom Clark smiled as he pulled into his driveway. It was a great day!  While working in the executive terminal, he’d noticed a pilot from the RET hangar come into the terminal to file a flight plan. Later, when the attendant at the flight plan desk had taken her morning coffee break, he’d moved to the desk and found the flight plan paperwork that she had entered on the computer. It was a flight plan for a trip for Ron, Matt, Tyler and somebody named Dan Barnes for a trip ending in San Diego. The pilot had written their names on the border of the form next to the origination line. The trip was scheduled for the Cessna, with Ron and Matt picking up Tyler and Dan in LA for a trip to Phoenix/Scottsdale, before a return trip to Las Vegas, via San Diego. He noted the scheduled times, then carefully put the paperwork back in order, just as he’d found it.

When he got in the house, he carefully committed the times to paper on a small pad he kept near the kitchen phone. It was important information that he didn’t trust himself to remember. Now he knew that the bomb would have to go off on the short trip from L.A. to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. Trickier because of possible delays, but doable he decided. His brother had confirmed that the Tyler person on the list was the “Taylor” that Tracy had mentioned on the first hospital visit and the same guy that he’d seen in the paper.

 Stepping into the garage he lifted a small tarp covering his workbench top. Underneath lay three small high explosive bombs. One he would test tomorrow out on the desert far from town, another was to detonate the bags of nitrates that filled the back of the van, and the last… yes, the last would bring down an aircraft flying at altitude. If the placement didn’t result in structural failure, the sudden decompression would result in unconsciousness.
He was more concerned now about where to place the van of explosives. He had surveyed several options. First was the RET office building. By far the most destruction could be done there; especially if he could get the van into the basement parking structure. Unfortunately it was very unlikely that the gay kid would be there, though it would do the most damage to the RET empire. The second choice was the Thornton complex. The administration building was close enough to the parking lot that it was a real possibility, though there was also a chance again that the gay kid, Pete, would escape unharmed. Also there was a probability that the police would quickly associate it with his brother, though Tracy was in the hospital, a helpless cripple, and his accomplice was in jail. Nevertheless, the police would look further than that, he was sure. His visits to his brother would certainly cast suspicion on him.  The last choice was Pete’s apartment. He had scoped out the location by following Pete home one night. The apartment was next to the parking lot and was unsecured. It would be simply a matter of timing the explosion for when the kid was home.  

The more he though about it, the more Pete’s apartment became the best alternative. Tom had tailed Pete on Monday when he left work around 3:30 in the afternoon. Pete had gone into the apartment, and when he appeared later around 5, it was obvious that he had showered. That was perfect!  Both blasts could be scheduled to occur around the same time. He would place the van at the apartment before he went to work. If there were no nearby parking places, he’d return at noon or after work. There was a shopping center nearby the apartment, where he could leave his car, then catch a taxi home to get the van. If there was no parking place available near Pete’s apartment when he went early, he’d leave the van in the shopping center so he could drive his car to work.

He’d have to watch the next two days for an opportunity to place the smaller bomb in the aircraft. He planned to place it in the cargo hold at the rear of the plane above the hatch, against the outside surface where it was not visible when loading the hold. If he was lucky, the bomb would blow the tail off the aircraft, but if not it would punch a hole large enough to cause immediate decompression.  He smiled again as he turned to reenter the house.  It was time to take a shower, make his dinner, and then make reservations for a flight out of town so that he would be elsewhere when the explosions occurred.  When his travel plans were completed, he would get dressed and go to visit his brother Tracy in the hospital. ‘Yes’, he thought. ‘Today is a good day!’

        *        *        *

Smoke poured out of the barbeque located on the edge of the pool deck. Matt, covered with an apron and with long handled fork in hand, was doing the honors. Delicious aromas of roasting meat wafted across the deck, not unnoticed by the younger set. More than one lip was licked in anticipation of the chicken, ribs, brisket and bratwurst that had been slow smoking most of the afternoon. Inside, Mary had prepared coleslaw, potato salad and gazpacho as side dishes. Hot bread was baking in the oven to go with the Texas-style main course. Already on the tables were condiments of salt, pepper, regular hot sauce, Tabasco, as well as catsup, mustard, Heinz 57 and A-1 sauces.  Jars of sliced dill pickles, sweet pickle relish, and corn relish sat next to plates of sliced onion. Mary had prepared double the amount of everything in anticipation of hungry boys. From the looks in their eyes, she wondered still if it would be enough. ‘Well if the main course doesn’t do it,’ she thought as she checked over the table layout, ‘they’ll just have to fill up on dessert.’  Earlier she had enlisted the aid of Parker in watching the ice cream maker while she made 7 pies for the final course. While she was at it, she had made 12 dozen oatmeal/walnut/raisin cookies for the boys’ late night snack to go along with the three extra gallons of milk she had purchased to accompany the treat. She knew boys well, having raised three of her own

The cocktail party within had migrated slowly to the pool deck. Ken Friday took a seat alone at one of the round tables that dotted the deck around the pool. The conversation inside had been very interesting and informative, but he felt relieved to sit with his drink, enjoying the less formal atmosphere of the pool deck. He had been sitting relaxed for less than 5 minutes, when a tall attractive youth in a Speedo climbed out of the pool, and approached his table.

“Mr. Friday?” the youth asked.

“That’s me,” the older man replied with a smile. “What can I do for you? Russ isn’t it?”

“Yessir, Mr. Friday. Russell Strickler. Mr. Turner said that you might be offering jobs at your tire stores. I’d be real interested if it’s true.”

“It’s true alright,” Ken answered. “Have a seat and we’ll talk about it.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Well, now that we’ve met personally, why don’t you call me Ken,” he offered.

“Thanks, si… uh… Ken,” Russ said as he took a seat across from the older man.

“Do you have any experience?” Ken asked. Then realizing the openness of the question, he blushed, then asked more specifically, “Work experience, I mean.”

Russ caught the double meaning, and replied grinning, “Yeah, I have a little of that kind of experience too.” Getting more serious quickly he said. “I have pumped gas, and worked in a fast food joint for a while too. I just couldn’t make enough to live on doin’ either job, so I quit after a couple of months.”

“Well, It’s a start,” Ken commented. “Are you going to go to school?”  

“Yeah, sort of. I’ve been out of school for a while, and I don’t want to go back to a normal high school ‘cause I’d be older than the other boys in my classes. . I hope to get my GED, then go to a trade school. I really like cars, so working around them would be something I’d like.”

“That sounds fine with me,” Ken replied. “I’ll see what we have available, then contact you early next week at the Thornton Center.”

“I really appreciate the opportunity, Sir. I promise I’ll do my best,” Russ said as he stood with an even bigger grin on his face. “I’ll be waitin’ for your call.”

“It’s my pleasure son,” Ken replied both in words and smile. “You guys better think about getting out of the pool soon. If my nose is any indicator, dinner is nearly ready.”

“Yes Sir. Thanks again, Sir,” he said as he turned and happily jumped in the pool for a final dip.

Matt had made a trip inside to inform Mary that the meat was ready. Jeffery had been relieved of his duties taking care of Ron’s vehicles for the day and had been corralled as kitchen help. He and Matt reappeared on the pool deck weighed down with bowls of potato salad, coleslaw and platters of fresh, sliced homemade bread. After depositing the loads on the u-shaped table that had last been set up at New Years, Jeffery returned to the kitchen for more items.  Matt moved quickly to the barbeque grill and began unloading the perfectly cooked meat items, arranging them on platters for serving.  Taking the first of the large platters heaped with succulent fare to the table, he announced loudly, “OK, EVERYBODY OUT!  DINNER IS SERVED.”  

Within minutes the youths and adults were seated at their places around the table. Ron stood and everyone looked his way.

“It is our custom in this house, that when we have a meal together in celebration, that I’m allowed to perform the duties of host,” He grinned as the boys living in the house, Matt, Mabel and Jeffery were all heard to groan loudly, “Oh, no!”

The other guests looked at each other and the groaners in wonder.

Ron began his routine for the evening.

“A man walks into a bar looking sad, and the bartender asks him, “What’s the matter?” The man says, ‘My wife and I had a fight and she told me she wasn’t going to speak to me for a month.’  ‘What’s that matter with that?’ the bartender asked, ‘I’d welcome the silence.’ The guy replied, ‘The month is up today’.”

A titter of laughter went around the table.

“A termite goes into a bar and asks, ‘Is the bar tender here’?”

More laughter.

“Hey bartender, Pour me a cold one.”
    “Hey kid, you wanna get me in trouble?”
    “Maybe later, right now I just wanna beer.”

The kids’ section of the table erupted in laughter.

“Into the bar comes a grasshopper. And the bartender says, ‘Hey, we’ve got a drink named after you!’   And the grasshopper says, ‘Is that right? Why would anyone name a drink Bob’?”

It was the adult’s turn to laugh.

“A horse walks into a bar and the bartender says, ‘Why the long face’?”

After a moment of silence, the laughter broke out.

Ron waited for quiet to return, then said, “It is my pleasure to be allowed to ask for God’s blessing. Please bow your heads and join me.”

“Heavenly Father, we thank You for all our many blessings. Some of us here tonight have suffered from man’s inhumanity to man. We ask that Your healing spirit enter these hearts so that there can be a new life with all hopes fulfilled. We thank you for the people involved in the creation and operation of the Thornton Center. We thank you for their response to the memorial to a wonderful man, a gay man now in your care. Look with kindness on their efforts to do Your work. We thank You for the boys who now come to live and grow there. We ask that you fill their hearts and minds with a desire for learning and an acceptance of each other as their brothers in this journey through life. Now we thank you for all these many blessings and the nourishment of which we are about to partake. Bless this food that it may fuel our bodies to carry out Your will in our lives. In Your name we ask. Amen.”

“That was beautiful, Ron,” Leonard Johnson responded, while his wife nodded in agreement.  “I didn’t know you were religious.”

“Thanks, but I’d have a hard time describing myself as religious,” Ron answered. “I believe in God, and Jesus and the Bible, though I have to admit I don’t agree with much that is taught from the Bible as Holy Writ. Let’s just say I’m a believer, but somewhat unorthodox when compared to some of the popular teachings. Religion is something that I believe needs to be discussed with the boys by the staff at Thornton. It’s my feeling that the boys should be encouraged to attend church, if they choose. However, it’s not my call; you were hired to operate the place.”

“I appreciate you saying that, Ron. It’s nice to know that I’ll have a free hand to manage the Thornton Center. I always welcome suggestions, though, and if the Board of Directors gives me direction, of course I’ll give that first consideration. I agree with you about the practice of religion though. We’ll talk about it and work out a solution.”

“The Thornton Center was not created as a religious home, and I don’t want it to become one,” replied Ron. “We have to show consideration for the religious issues, both pro and con, since we may be partially funded with money that come through the government. Never-the-less, I’d favor refusing that source of funding, if it meant denying the boys their right to worship.”

“Government grants and funding could become a sizeable chunk of our revenue,” Leonard said.

“Who cares?” countered Ron with a hint of defiance. “Between the Religious Right who want to force their beliefs and moral values on others, and those that advocate complete separation of church and state to the point of making us a Godless society, I get ill. I believe that God made us all in his image, and that there is good in everyone. I’m not ashamed to thank him for that. And to hell with anyone who says I must do it, or can’t do it, so to speak.” He blushed and grinned with a look of sheepishness. “Yikes, I’d better shut up. I have some pretty strong feelings about certain idiots in our society. Hope I haven’t offended.”

“You haven’t said anything, that I haven’t thought a thousand times,” Leonard replied. “Man, I want to dig in. This food looks wonderful!”

“Mary is an excellent cook, and surprisingly, Matt is much more accomplished in the kitchen than he lets on.”

The two men had talked as the food was passed around. Now their plates were full and they attacked the fare with gusto, with few words spoken. After nearly half an hour of dining with short breaks for polite conversation, Ron leaned back from his clean plate.

“I really enjoyed that,” Ron said. “I’ve had the finest meals on the planet, but there’s really nothing that beats a good barbeque served outside. As a friend of mine from Texas, says, ‘I’m full as a tick’!”

“Ewwww,” Marsha Johnson said laughing.

“It’s time for dessert,” Ron said next. “I don’t know where I’m gonna put it, but Mary’s pie a la mode is to die for, so I’m gonna give it a try.”

Moments later, when Jeffery placed a piece of pie with a side of homemade ice cream in front of him, Ron looked to the heavens saying, “Lord forgive my gluttony,” as he picked up a fork.

Twenty minutes later the boys were in the game room and the older guests were enjoying a quiet after-dinner drink and coffee, when Parker interrupted the conversation.

“Excuse me”, he said to Ron and Matt who were chatting with Beverly Comstock and Ken Friday. “There’s a Ms. Rice on the phone for Ms. Comstock. She said it’s urgent.”

“Let me show you to the study,” Matt offered. “There you’ll have privacy.  Excuse us Ron, Ken.”

He headed for the hallway leading to the study, and Beverly followed after a quick ‘excuse me’ to the two remaining men.

“I’ll wait for you here in the hall,” Matt said as he held the door open to the study. “Press the lighted button on the desk phone,” he added as she entered the room. He closed the door and walked a few feet down the hall, again admiring Ron’s collection of fine art that adorned the walls. Moments later Beverly emerged from the office with a sullen look on her face. It was immediately apparent to Matt that the news had not been good.

“I hope it wasn’t bad news,” Matt commented hoping against hope.

“I’m afraid so,” Beverly replied.

“Is there anything Ron or I can do to help?” Matt asked.

“I don’t know,” Beverly responded. The call from Anna was in response to a call she received through the shelter. “Eddie Burroughs’ 12 year old brother hanged himself. His parents called.”

“That’s terrible,” Matt said sympathetically. “I’m so very sorry for him. How did they know he was at the shelter?”

“When young boys come to the shelter we try to urge them to go home. Eddie was willing, if his parents would take him back as he is. We called the parents, but they shut us out with a pretty vile rejection. The Thornton Center was a real hope for the boy. He has a lot to offer with a good education. Now this.”

“What do his parents expect him to do? Matt asked.

“They want him to return on the next plane. I guess he is the sole survivor in the family line, so my read is that they are having second thoughts about him being gone.”

“Officially, Eddie is now in our care. As the Center’s Counselor, I guess it’s my responsibility to tell him, considering everything.”

“I’ll do it, if you’d prefer,” Beverly offered.

“Thanks, Bev. I appreciate the offer, but Ron told me when I took this job that there was grief as well as joy involved. I realized it then, and I know it to be true now. I just didn’t expect it so soon.”

“I’ll get him for you,” Beverly again offered.

“Thanks, dear lady. After you bring him back, would you tell Ron what’s happened and ask him to arrange that the G-V be ready to leave at 5 AM?”

“Sure. What’s the G-V?

“The G-V is our long range executive jet.  In it, we can make the trip without stopping for fuel. I’m going with Eddie.”

“How can you do that with the move-in of the boys in the morning?”

“I’m probably the least important person at Thornton tomorrow,” Matt answered. “Besides, I’m not going to let that youngster face his parents and the grief of losing his only brother alone. If he’s ok, I’ll leave him, but if he still faces rejection from his folks, he’ll return with me.”

“I can see why Ron loves you Matt. You’re a hell of a man.” Then with a wink and a small smile she added, “Why are all the good men gay?”

Matt smiled back. The smile was in thanks for the compliment, and didn’t reflect the heavy heart that was beating in his chest. He watched as Beverly headed for the family room, then he turned and walked to the study door, opened it and stepped inside.

            *        *        *

Gary Franklin placed the last of the papers in the file folder. The special report for the chief was finished. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He hated these ‘drop everything’ projects. It would take him several days to catch up with regular assignments.
He opened his eyes and looked at the large stack of papers on his file cabinet. He’d have to finish the review in the morning. If he skipped the balance of the review, nobody would be the wiser. He was tempted, but instead stood and retrieved the stack of documents, placing them squarely in the middle of the desk for his attention first thing when he came in. Turning toward the door he grabbed his coat, then pulled the door open, switching off the light as he passed through the opening.

            *        *        *
Wes Harper looked at the photos he had taken of Tom Clark.  The Aztec/Turner Security agent was completing a quick investigation of the families and friends of George Olgivy and Tracy Clark. So far he had investigated 6 of 20 potential accomplices. Tom would be the 7th.  Most of the least likely relatives remained to be investigated. His co-worker Rod was working full-time on background checks and he was assisting in the checks and following up on possible suspects. The third member of the Las Vegas team was checking out other people that Pete knew. An interview with Pete had revealed only 5 possibilities, and they seemed remote. Wes looked at the clock and saw that the evening had closed in. He decided to review the Clark file in the morning when he was fresh. Picking up the phone, he called his wife in California. Twenty minutes later, after speaking with her and saying goodnight to his two children, he hung up the phone and grabbed his coat. He was meeting the two other agents for dinner at Applebee’s, and he was already late. He looked at the Turner Building and noted its beauty. Perhaps he’d be wise to accept Tyler’s offer for a permanent assignment to Las Vegas. He saw the cleaning people hard at work as he entered the elevator for the basement parking garage.
He pressed the down button and was lost in thought about moving his family by the time the car had reached the basement.

            *        *        *

“Well they’re all bedded down,” Ron said in a tired voice to Matt as they walked to their room.

The guests had all left, and the boy’s were bedded down on air mattresses spread from one end of the family room floor to the other. Even the boys who had been staying with Ron opted to join the others, rather than sleep in their much more comfortable rooms.

“I hope they go to sleep,” Matt commented. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a little hanky panky before the night is over though.”

“Who knows?” Ron said neither agreeing nor disagreeing. “I’m too tired to care.”

“I am too,” Matt said yawning.

As the door closed and their privacy was assured, Ron asked the question.

“How’d Eddie take the news, Matt?”

“He took it real hard. It took quite a while to get him to calm down. First, he was angry and blamed his parents, yelling and screaming. It’s good that the house has well insulated walls. Later he just broke down crying. I guess his brother Franklin was very close. He didn’t say so directly, but I surmised from what he was screaming at his parents that his little brother was gay too.  Guess the youngster got found out, and decided to end the turmoil within himself.”

The men readied themselves for bed and climbed beneath the covers as they talked.

“Damn, it’s hard to reconcile a youth’s death” Ron said. “It really hurts when I see young ones who still have so much life ahead, give up. I just want to say, ‘Please God, back up a day and give me a chance to talk to him. I’ll convince him that there is more love out there than hate, that he need not be afraid of being gay.’  I’ll just never understand parents that don’t show their kids unconditional love. I guess parents are so concerned about shaping the lives of their kids into an image of what they want them to be, that they really don’t know them. The kids are afraid to tell their parents too, because they know they are not within the image that the parents tell them they want for acceptance.  I believe that more gay kids kill themselves because of fear of losing the love of their parents because they are gay and the self-effacing guilt that goes with that, than any other reason. Most kids really love their parents. The thought of disappointing them by coming out is unacceptable. They choose what they feel is a less painful out. If they only knew.”

            *        *        *

Ron rolled over on his side and looked at the love of his life. Matt’s eyes were closed and he was beginning to breathe the sound of a man totally asleep. Ron brought his face over to that of his beautiful lover. Knowing that it would be an early morning when they had to get up, and that Matt’s day would be full of trauma, he didn’t want to disturb the few hours of sleep left for his partner.

“I love you, Babe.” He said softly as he placed a light kiss on Matt’s cheek.  A hint of a smile appeared on Matt’s lips.

The room became dark when Ron clicked off the lights. Moving carefully so as not to waken Matt, he snuggled against the beautiful body of his lover, and silently thanked the Lord for the blessings embodied in the man sleeping beside him.

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Hope you enjoyed the chapter. JET