It's been a long time since chapter five and I apologize to my readers. The delay was necessitated by a cracked knee, a lot of pain and several weeks of being in a haze of pain killers. But we're on the mend now. Thanks for your patience and your thoughtful notes. I appreciate it all.
by Greg Bowden
The man was frightened. Not that he might be caught but that he might not be able to continue God's work and please Him. He spent his nights praying and asking God what to do but God refused to answer him, perhaps angry that the man had put His work in jeopardy.
The answer came while driving home one afternoon.
The man on the street was obviously homeless. He walked with his head down as if afraid of the disapproval of the people around him, the people trying to ignore his existence. He was in need of a bath, a shave and some decent clothes.
The man cruised into an open space at the curb and got out, standing by the car. He looked around, making sure no eyes were focused on him. When the homeless man came abreast of him he reached out and put his hand on his shoulder. He talked to the man, telling him that his own brother had been homeless and that he wanted to help. He offered food and shelter. The homeless man accepted.
They stopped at a Goodwill shop where they bought him a new suit of clothes. It was a chance he had to take, being seen with the homeless man but he couldn't play out his part in the rags he was wearing.
At home he gave him a bath, helped him shave and cut his hair, trying to make it as much like the drawing as he could. He helped him dress and then sat him down at the kitchen table and fed him.
And then, standing beside him, he killed him with the knife from the car.
Wrapped carefully in an old tarpaulin the homeless man was put in the trunk of the car. The man knew he had to hurry now. The police could estimate time of death but not within a half hour. So that's all he had, a half hour.
Down town he saw the boy, watching the traffic. He came to a stop, held up a fifty dollar bill and motioned the boy into the car. The boy came, willingly.
On the way to the lake he told the boy he was exceptional and would be well worth the fifty. The boy sat up straighter and beamed his appreciation. He also began rubbing his crotch.
At the lake it went quickly. The boy opened his jeans and the man took him, with the knife from under the seat, the one with the homeless man's blood on it. He was just ready to take the boy's genitals when something make him stop. It had to look like it was incompletely done when they both died. He hoped God would forgive him.
The rest was easy. He emptied the boy's pockets and pushed him out of the car. Then he opened the trunk of the car and laid the homeless man almost on top of the boy. He got the knife, wiped the handle carefully and pressed the homeless man's fingers around it. Then he put the knife in the boy's hand. He glued the eyebrows, moustache and goatee on the homeless man and gently put the glasses on him. The last part he didn't like but he knew he had to do it to make the scene look right. He gingerly unzipped the homeless man's pants and, with some disgust at touching them, pulled the penis and testicles out of the fly.
He left them, drove to the industrial part of town and threw the tarpaulin into a partially filled dumpster. Then he went home where he washed his hands several times and then poured alcohol over them, to sterilize them.
God was pleased. He told the man he had to stop for a while before he could resume His work. Then, to show how pleased He was, he gave the man that warm feeling deep in his gut and then, when the feeling had enveloped the man, an explosion of pleasure.
The man was happy. God was happy. In the middle of the night the explosion of pleasure came again.
We were just sitting down to a breakfast of French toast and bacon when the phone rang.
"Dan? Brian. It looks like your boy can come out of hiding now. It's all over." He didn't have a lot of detail then; he'd just gotten a phone call from the paper and was on his way to talk to a friend of his with the police but he wanted me to know right away. He promised to stop by after he'd seen his friend and give us the details.
Chip tried to act very casual at the news but I could see the relief in his eyes. It was odd, though. As the day wore on he seemed to fall into a strange mood, almost a depression. He abandoned his drawing and spent much of the day in the living room, reading my books. He started with one of the early erotic ones but he got embarrassed when it gave him an erection and as soon as he gracefully could he exchanged it for Maryann Goes Shopping which never gave anyone a hard-on.
After lunch I suggested he put some clothes on before Brian arrived and he said he'd just go in the bedroom and shut the door. "That is," he added, his voice heavy with sarcasm and an overtone of hurt, "if you Brian won't be needing it."
"Whoa there, Chip. This sounds like something we need to talk about."
He shrugged and put his book down. "I gotta go get dressed."
I followed him into the bedroom and watched as he climbed into his underwear. "Do you think there's something between Brian and me that's a threat to you? Something that might... I don't know. What is it, Chip? What the hell's bugging you?"
We were interrupted by the door bell and I think both of us were relieved that we were. Brian looked grim when I let him in and asked for Scotch on the rocks when I offered him a drink. I made one for myself, too, only mine had a lot of soda in it and poured an orange juice for Chip. When I carried the drinks into the living room Chip was just coming out of the bedroom, fully dressed.
"Well, well, you must be the young man who did the drawings," Brian said, standing and offering Chip his hand. Chip nodded, shook his hand and sprawled out on the sofa. "So what happened?" he asked, taking his orange juice.
"He got a taste of his own violence," Brian said. "He was trying it again, cutting a young guy. It looks like the boy managed somehow to get hold of the knife and stab our man, almost exactly the same way he'd been stabbed. I saw the bodies and believe me, they aren't easy to look at. That kid must have had the strength of a wild man to manage what he did—and with his guts hanging out while he did it."
Brian finished his scotch and held out the glass. "Could I have another? Maybe with a little water this time?"
When I handed him a new drink he went on with the story. As best the police could tell, he said, the crazy—who had yet to be identified—had disguised himself with false eyebrows, moustache and beard. He took his victim to a parking area at the lake, probably telling him they were going to have sex there. That seemed likely since the boy was found with his jeans nearly off and the older man had his fly open and his cock hanging out. The boy's belly had been slit open and his penis cut nearly off. Evidently he had found the strength to get the knife away from his assailant and turn it on him, stabbing him five times in the chest and abdomen. The two had died together, almost in each other's arms. Neither of the two had yet been identified although the police said they were certain that the older man was the man in Chip's drawing.
"How about his car? Can't they identify him through that?" I asked.
Brian shrugged, almost the way Chip does sometimes. "Maybe, When and if they ever find his car. The police theorize that someone, probably a transient, came across the scene and seeing what had happened, simply drove off in the car. Oh, he took the guy's wallet, too, along with everything else in his pockets."
"So we may never know who the guy is?" Chip asked looking oddly disappointed.
"Oh, sooner or later they'll find out. After all, there must be a finger print record somewhere; prior arrest, Motor Vehicle Department, military service—somewhere. Or a missing persons report will come in or maybe they'll find the car and trace him that way. It'll just take time, that's all." Brian finished his drink and stretched. "Well, I've got to get down to the paper and write up the story. You want to come over later, Dan? Maybe have dinner or something?"
The look in his eye made my cock stir in my pants but I turned him down saying I had some things I had to get done but I'd call him early in the week.
As soon as Brian left Chip sat up on the couch and gave me that direct look of his. "Why'd you turn him down? I thought you said he was a great fuck."
That did it. "I said no such thing and you know it. I turned him down because there's something going on here that needs to get worked out and it needs to get worked out now."
Chip let out a long sigh. "Why bother? It's not like I'm going to be around to bug you much longer anyway."
"And just what is that supposed..." I stopped myself short. This—whatever this was—had all the requisites for turning into some sort of accusatory shouting match and I wasn't going to let that happen. I lowered my voice and spoke gently. "Chip? What's happening here? What have I missed?"
He shrugged and looked down at the floor. "Nothin', I guess. It's just..." He shrugged again and turned his back, moving slowly towards the bedroom. "I guess I better get ready to go," he said to the floor. "I mean, there's no reason for me to stick around, now that he's dead, huh?"
So that was it. Why hadn't it occurred to me he might feel this way? "I guess there isn't, Chip. Unless maybe you want to."
He turned and gave me a wary look. "Why would you do that?"
I assumed he meant let him stay. "Because I like you. Because you're frequently nice to be around. Lots of reasons."
The wary look never left his eyes. "For how long?"
It was my turn to shrug. "I don't know. Maybe forever. Look, Chip, I've been thinking about this—about us living together—and I think what we need to do is set down some rules. Maybe not rules, exactly, but a list of conditions under which we will—or will not—live together.
Chip sprawled out on the couch, thought better of it and sat up straight, like an old lady at a very formal tea party. "You mean stuff like sit up straight and hang your towel up after your shower?"
I shook my head. "No, I mean things that would make me not let you stay or that would make you leave. For example, hustling. If you decided to go back to that I don't think I could let you live here."
He looked genuinely puzzled. "Why not?"
"Because, I would worry about you all the time, worry that you'd get into... well, into situations that you couldn't control. Or that you'd end up with some terrible disease. Any one of a hundred things. The point is I couldn't live with it, knowing you were out on the streets."
Chip thought about that for a time and then slowly nodded to himself. "I'd have conditions too?"
"Of course. Anything you couldn't live with. And if we can agree to do or not do those things, then... well, then I'd like you to stay."
He smiled and thought for a minute. "I don't know. I can't think of anything."
"You don't have to, not right this moment. We'll both think about it for a couple of days and then we'll decide. Be sure to write down your ideas so you don't forget, though. And now, let's drop the whole thing and go out for dinner and a movie."
Carlos and Jack came to dinner on Sunday and showed up with a brightly wrapped package and a card besides the usual bottle of wine.
"What's this all about?"
"Chip's birthday, of course." Carlos looked at me strangely. "That is what we're celebrating. Isn't it?"
I was dumbfounded. I'd had no idea when Chip's birthday was and it was the furthest thing from my mind when I'd invited them for dinner.
"Have we got it wrong?" Carlos asked sheepishly. "I'm sure this is the date he wrote on his records."
"It may be, Carlos. There are a lot of things I obviously don't know about him." I wondered if it really was his birthday or if this was some date he'd arbitrarily picked out of the air when he was filling out those papers in Carlos' office. I excused myself and went into the bedroom where Chip was still dressing.
"Chip? When's your birthday?"
"Today? Why didn't you tell me?"
He gave me that maddening shrug. "I don't know. I just never think about it, I guess. Why?"
"Well, you're supposed to. Someone might want to congratulate you or give you a present or something."
His eyes clouded over for a split second and his mouth turned hard. "I don't believe in that stuff," he said.
It occurred to me that maybe no one ever bothered to celebrate his birthday. "Well, others of us do, including me." I crossed the room, put my arms around him and hugged him. "Happy birthday, Chip. If I'd known, there'd be a present but as it is, this will have to do." He hugged me back and then surprised the hell out of me by kissing me on the mouth.
"Thanks, dad," he said and then bolted for the bathroom, embarrassed that he'd let me see so much of him.
When he came into the living room a few minutes later, face freshly scrubbed, he seemed genuinely pleased that Carlos and Jack had brought him a present. "How'd you know? I mean, he didn't." He pointed at me.
"Your records. You didn't tell me much but you did at least write down your birthday. Here, this is for you."
Chip looked at the package as though he'd never seen a birthday present before and I suddenly wondered if he had. "Can I open it now?" Jack nodded and Chip began tearing at the paper like a little kid. Inside the box were two books of very odd pictures.
"They're three dimensional," Carlos said. "You have to un-focus your eyes when you look at them to see the effect. There's a little explanation at the beginning of each book that tells you how to do it."
Chip took the books to the couch and read the preface while I went to fix some drinks. When I came back he was staring at one of the pictures with an intensity I had seldom seen in him.
"It looks like you picked the perfect gift, guys. I've never seen him so engrossed."
"Sometimes it takes a while," Jack said, "but he'll get the hang of it. Now, when are you two coming out to the house again? Mother is quite anxious to see you again and ask Chip more about living in Hustledick." He began laughing and almost didn't get the word out.
We talked and gossiped for a while and I was just coming back from freshening our drinks when Chip evidently got the hang of the pictures. "Oh, shit, there it is. Wow. That is great!
"See?" Jack said. "You can always tell when someone is able to see them for the first time. That's exactly what Carlos said when he first saw one. Well, I think that's what he said only he said it in Spanish."
Carlos laughed. "Yes, the same. Only I used a more vulgar word."
I'd made a raspberry tart for dessert so I piped "Happy Birthday Chip" on it with leftover custard and stuck a lot of candles in it. I set it in front of Chip and we all sang Happy Birthday to him while he blew out the candles. I think he was just a little touched by it all and I'm almost certain I saw a bit of moisture build up in his eyes.
After Carlos and Jack left Chip spent a long time trying to teach me to see the pictures but somehow I just couldn't seem to get it. That both frustrated him and let him feel a bit superior. When we finally gave up and went to bed he made me feel better by saying my hug had been the best present of the night.
On Monday, after breakfast, Chip came into the study and said he was ready to talk about the rules. He'd thought and thought about them and had his list ready. We sat, rather formally, at the kitchen table, each with our written list in front of us. He told me to start.
"Well, you already know my first one. As long as you live here you won't hustle. No sex for money or anything else except the enjoyment of it. Can you live with that?"
He nodded. "Okay. I won't hustle. I guess I didn't really like it that much anyway. What's next?
"You won't lie to me. About anything. Ever. The reverse will also be true as well. I will not lie to you about anything either."
Chip thought about it for a moment and then grinned. "Are all these supposed to be that way? If I promise not to do it you have to promise too?"
"I think that's only fair, don't you?"
Chip grinned again. "Sure. But that means you can't hustle either, doesn't it. I mean, no more sex for money."
"I'm not sure what you're getting at, Chip. I've never ... Oh, you mean Richard. I must admit I hadn't thought about him." He had me and he knew it but fair is fair. "Okay. Unless we can work something out, satisfactory to both of us, I'll not have sex with Richard if I'm paying."
"Take me with you," Chip said. "It would be okay if he did it to me, too."
I laughed. "Maybe someday, after you're legal. Certainly not before. Anyway, we were talking about not lying."
Chip turned serious again and nodded. "I promise not to lie to you ever about anything."
"You can live with that? All the time?" He nodded again. "Okay, what about one from your list?"
"Well, I didn't have many and that was one of them, telling the truth to each other. Another one is..." He suddenly turned shy and his face took on what can only be described as a little boy look. "...is that you won't hit me."
That one was serious. I looked him squarely in the eye and said, "Chip, I will never in my life hit you. Not for any reason. Ever. Please believe that."
He held my gaze for a long time and then nodded. "I believe you."
We sat in silence for a few moments before Chip asked for another from my list.
"I only have two more and they're kind of related. Number one is that you will not steal—from anyone—and the second is that you won't have anything to do with drugs while you live here. That means no buying, no selling and no using."
He seemed to weigh this pretty carefully and finally said, "What if I have a headache?"
He was serious and I gave it the weight it deserved. "Good point. The condition applies only to illegal drugs. If you can buy it in a drug store or if Carlos prescribes it, it's all right. If not, it isn't. okay?"
"Okay. No stealing, no drugs. That's it?"
"That's it, except for what's on your list."
"I only have one more. We sleep together."
"You mean like we do now or... Well, something else?"
He tried to control it but some of the blush got through. "No. I mean... not sex. Like we do now. Just sleep."
This could pose a problem in the future but I supposed if it did we'd change the arrangement. Besides, I kind of liked sleeping with him too. "Okay. I can live with that. Only we're going to have to work something out about... well, about privacy."
"What? You mean jacking off? If you're embarrassed about it do it in the shower like I do."
The kid certainly had no trouble cutting to the chase. I supposed I had better start getting used to that. "It takes me longer than it does you and I don't want to use up all the hot water. Besides, I like it better lying down. But don't worry, I'll think of something."
He gave me one of those very self satisfied grins. "No problem. Just tell me when you want to do it and I'll stay out of the way until you're through. Or maybe... we'll just do it together."
That didn't seem the perfect solution but I kept my mouth shut for fear he'd come up with something more creative. I changed the subject. "So. We seem agreed that we'd like to live together as long as neither of us lies to the other, we don't hit each other, hustle, do drugs or steal and we sleep together. Is that your understanding?"
He nodded. "Yes."
"Well, then, I now pronounce us a family."
His eyes brightened. "Really? A family? Like we love each other and take care of each other?"
"And trust each other and help each other. Yes, like a real family."
To celebrate we went out for a steak dinner and took in a movie. At least Chip took in the movie, I slept through most of it, car chases and all. But it was worth it because we were a family now and what the hell, sometimes you have to go to a movie the other guy likes.
Chip decided he would go to the art school despite the fact that he had to take English, math and history along with the things he considered important. Mickey managed to arrange a small scholarship for him but when he learned how much it was actually going to cost he said he couldn't go.
"Of course you'll go," I said.
He looked at me with some defiance. "Who's going to pay for it? Not me. Not even if I went back to..."
"You don't have to go back to anything. I'm going to pay for it."
He cocked his head, the way a dog goes when it doesn't understand. "Why would you do that?"
"Because we're a family, Chip. Families take care of one another." He looked at me like I was crazy. "Look at it this way, right now I make the money for the family. Later, when you're selling your work then you'll make money for the family. That's the way it works, like it or not."
He thought about it for a moment before he smiled and said, "So when you're a really old guy I'll take care of you?"
I nodded and his smile turned into a grin. "Okay," he said and that was the end of it.
A couple of days before he was to start at the school he became very restless and uncommunicative. I figured he was getting cabin fever so I suggested we go to the gym for a couple of hours and work the kinks out of our muscles.
"Can we take the bus?" he asked.
"I guess so. But don't you think the exercise of walking over there would be good for us?"
He suddenly became shy. "Please, let's take the bus."
We did and standing at the bus stop I gradually found the reason for his restlessness. He hadn't any idea of how the buses worked or how to know where it was going. After some thought it occurred to me that we'd never ridden the bus, we'd always walked or taken a taxi. He was worried about how he was going to get to the school.
He got the short course in bus riding on the way to the gym. I made some lame excuse about needing to go to a store near his school and told him I'd ride with him his first day. He turned me down but he seemed happy for the offer.
At the gym Bernie asked him again if he liked the place. He nodded and looked at me. "I think," I said to Bernie, "that it's time to change to a family membership, right Chip?"
He shrugged and tried to remain aloof. "If you want," he said carelessly but I could see the gleam in his eyes.
With the paperwork done Bernie shook hands with Chip and formally welcomed him to the gym. "Now it's up to you to see that your dad comes around more often," he said and put his hand on Chip's arm. "He needs it and it'll do great things for you. You'll have them crawling over broken glass, tongues hanging out before you know it." He laughed and shooed us into the gym.
"What was that supposed to mean? What Bernie said," Chip asked as we found lockers.
"It means that you're going to be a very hot number. It also means that you're going to have to exercise a lot of self control. You'll have girls—and guys—flocking around, wanting you." I grinned at him. "Just learn to chose wisely."
Changed, we went in search of Bob, the trainer.
Two sweaty hours later Chip rescued me from a rowing machine. "Bob says that's probably enough. Time to hit the showers."
Before his shower Chip wanted to try the steam room. I'm not much for steam so I sent him along by himself while I opted for the Jacuzzi. When he came back to get me for a shower I thought his dick might be a little puffed up but I chalked it up to the steam. After our shower, in the locker room, I asked him how he liked the steam room.
"It's okay I guess. Yeah, I liked it."
"Anyone else in there?"
He looked at me. "Yeah, a couple of guys. One played with my dick, wanted to blow me."
That gave me a turn. Sex sometimes does go in the steam room and the Jacuzzi, hell, I've even seen it in the locker room but always on weekends and evenings, never during the day. I tried to be casual. "Was he any good?"
Chip gave me that don't-you-know-anything? look and stepped into his underwear. "No idea."
"You didn't take him up on it?"
He arranged himself in his Jockeys. "No. See, the way I figure it, now that I only do it for fun a guy would have to be my type." He shrugged and reached for his shirt. "He wasn't"
For some reason that statement warmed me, clear to my heart. "You want to stop for ice cream on the way home?"
Once Chip was in school he needed a place to draw and, I hopped, study. After a week or so, when I realized he was trying to do everything on the coffee table in the living room, I looked around for space and decided we could convert the little guest room into a study for him. I'd never had guests in there, before or after Chip, so it wouldn't be any real loss. When I presented the idea to Chip he took to it right away.
Getting rid of the furniture was the hardest part but I finally got the AIDS Thrift Shop to come and pick it up. For three days after that Chip neglected his homework in favor of painting the room. I promised, with some trepidation, that he could pick his own colors and was pleasantly surprised when he picked out a pale gray with a darker gray for the trim.
"It doesn't change the color of the light," he explained. "It softens it but doesn't change it."
I wondered if he had been secretly talking with Mickey.
He was curious about the AIDS thrift shop so I took him down there so he could see the kind of stuff they had. "They give the money to sick guys?" he asked.
I nodded. "Guys who can't afford medicine or sometimes even food. Guys who really need it."
He wandered around the place, looking at things, touching them, measuring them with his eye. After a half hour of this he found me and said, "There's a drafting table over there that would be good for drawing. And a lamp and a chair. We should buy them."
We did. And a small couch and a bookcase too. In fact, his whole room was furnished from the thrift shop and he seemed pleased that the money we spent would go to help "sick guys."
We solved my privacy problem too. "Okay, now that we each have our own study we need a rule or two about them."
"You mean like keep it neat and clean? Always pick up stuff?"
"Not exactly. If you work best in a mess then so be it. No, I was thinking more about concentration and time alone. Suppose we decide that if the door is closed it means you don't want company just then. Like when you really have to concentrate on something. If the door's open, well then interruption is okay. What do you think of that idea?"
He thought for a moment before he broke into a grin. "Like when you want to jack off? It's okay with me but I still don't see why we can't just do it in bed, together. It's not like we'd be having sex or anything."
For once I thought as fast as he did. "Because I don't do it as often as you do and you'd keep me awake shaking the bed every night and morning. Besides, sometimes I really do need to concentrate on what I'm writing."
He shrugged and changed the subject. "Can I paint that bookcase we bought?"
"Of course you can. It's yours and you can do anything you want with it."
He gave me a dubious look. "You mean while I'm here."
"I mean it belongs to you. If you decide to leave sometime then it goes with you, along with all the other stuff in there." I hadn't realized that he still didn't understand. "And your clothes, your books, all of it. It's yours and it stays with you."
He looked at me for a long time and then turned on his heel and went down the hall, into his room. When I looked in the door he was standing in the middle of the room, slowly looking at everything. I left him to it and went to my room.
About ten minutes later he came and stood beside me. When I looked up he said, "Dan, can I... I mean I... Can I call you dad? Like in a real family?"
I stood up and looked him in the eye. "Of course you can. I'd be honored." I put my hand on his shoulder. "And may I call you son?"
He pulled me into a hug and surprised me by kissing me on the lips, just as he'd done on his birthday. "Yes. I'd like that. Dad."
To be continued...
Comments, criticism and notes gratefully received and always answered.