By Greg Bowden

Chapter Seven

Once he started school we fell into a comfortable weekday routine. He was at school a good part of the day and my muse sat on my shoulder for a lot of it, happy I guess for my attention and ease. The book was going well.

Chip, being the guy he was, made friends easily and soon found himself in an after school study group. The other kids at the school were evidentially fairly serious about both their art and their academics. Chip just naturally fell into the same mind set.

We went to the gym on most Saturdays, Chip having gotten special dispensation from Bernie. After Chip talked him into it Bernie said to me, "Well, I guess he's mature enough to handle anything he might see or hear." Little did he know.

Jack and Carlos invited us for dinner a couple of weeks after Chip started school. Carlos was experimenting with Saturday morning hours, presumably to make up for taking Mondays off so we went directly from the gym to his office.

The ride out to Jack and Carlos' was more relaxed than the last time, partly because traffic was lighter and partly because Carlos let Chip play with the navigation system. As we approached the house Carlos said to Chip, "Your biggest admirer will be with us for dinner again tonight."

Chip looked blank. "My what?"

Carlos laughed. "Deloris, Jack's mom. She was so impressed meeting such a well mannered and handsome young man--her words--that she hasn't stopped talking about it. When Jack told her you were having dinner with us tonight nothing would have it but she had to be included. I think she broke a bridge date to be here."

"Uh oh," I said to Chip. "She'll want to know more about your idyllic childhood in Hustledick."

"What's that?" he said, turning to look at me.

"That's the place you told her you were from, remember?"

"No, that other thing. Idilk."

"Idyllic? It means peaceful and happy."

He gave me a look. "Well it wasn't. It was more like miserable and nasty."

Carlos put his hand on Chip's shoulder. "Well, don't tell her that, please. She likes you and wants to think of you as a perfect young man with a perfect childhood. When you get old like she is you don't want to think about all the bad things so you make them out to be nice. Let her have her illusions."

Chip sat quietly for a while, thinking it out. Finally he nodded to himself and asked Carlos what we were having for dinner. Carlos, of course, had no idea.

At the house Chip hugged Jack like he had known him all his life. After my hug Jack sent us all out to the patio, asking if we were hungry. Naturally Chip said he was.

"Light snack coming up. Then you'll have at least an hour to swim before Carlos has to go and get mother." While we arranged ourselves around the umbrella table he disappeared into the kitchen and was back before we were settled. He brought Ice cold beers for us, a Coke and a plate of sandwiches for Chip.

Before we knew it Chip had eaten, drunk, stripped and was in the pool, pretending, I think, he was a seal. The rest of us caught up on each other's lives but I noticed that Jack's eyes were often on Chip.

"Do they all grow this fast?" he asked. "Look at him, I swear his muscles are noticeably  bigger than when he was here last." He looked at me. "What do you do, make him scrub floors and move furniture?"

I laughed. "No, he's quite enamored with one of the trainers at the gym and the guy's making him work very hard to get him over it. It's backfiring though."

Jack's eyes went back to Chip who was doing backstroke laps but he said to me, "How's that?"

"Well, Chip insists the guy show him and do it with him. Bob--the trainer--has put on almost as much muscle as Chip and is--to all the guys--looking marvelous. He now has a following."

Carlos smiled. "Kids often have a way of doing that, making us adults better than we were. Is it working on you, Dan?"

For a moment I didn't understand the question. When it sank in I nodded. "I think so, actually. He's got me going to the gym fairly often, made me lead a more regular life, and even concentrate better to some degree. Yeah, I think he has made me better than I was. I don't drink as much, either."

"Well, I hope you can still make a mean martini," Jack said, not looking at me. "Mother would be so disappointed if she had to drink one of Carlos's."

"It's all psychological," Carlos said. "I make a martini exactly as you do but it isn't the same according to her. You seem to have the magic touch."

We shot the breeze for another hour before Jack decided it was time to get his mother. "Why don't you and Carlos go," he said. "I have things to do here and I'll keep an eye on the young man."

Carlos laughed. "That's for sure! If I didn't know you better I'd say you were quite taken with our Chip."

"Oh, I am. In the same way I'm taken with that young movie star, what's his name, and that Bernini fountain we saw in Rome. They are so very beautiful to look at," he sighed theatrically, "but never to touch. That would ruin it all, kill the illusion." He got up and began clearing the table. "So you boys run along and get mother and I'll get things organized here. And you, young man," he called to Chip, "no diving unless I'm right here. Okay?"

Chip waved from the deep end where he was practicing floating on his back.

"Well, get him out and dressed pretty soon," Carlos said. "I know your mother wants to see him but I doubt she wants to see all of him."

When we got back with Deloris, Chip, handsome in his cowboy clothes, opened the car door for her and helped her out of the car. "It's very nice to see you again Ma'am," he said as though he said ma'am all the time.

"Well, it's nice to see you too," she said as he escorted her into the house. "And I hope your father is making sure you don't go all scruffy like so many young men today."

We went out to the patio where Jack had set up a small bar and laid out some canapés. As I began the martini mixing ritual Deloris said to Chip, "You know, I've talked to several old friends and none have heard of Hustledick, Oklahoma. Just..."

Chip cocked his head. "Excuse me, Ma'am?"

I wondered how he was going to get out of this and so did Jack and Carlos. Each of us stopped what he was doing to listen.

"Hustledick. The town you came from. Last time you told me..."

"Oh Ma'am, I am sorry," Chip said with great sincerity. "I must have misspoken. No, the town is called Hedrick. But I wouldn't be surprised if your friends haven't heard of it. It's a very small town in Jackson county, maybe ten miles from the Texas border."

"Oh, no dear," Deloris said, patting him on the arm, "it's more likely that I misheard. Our ears sometimes fail us as we get older."

Carlos, accepting one of my martinis, shook his head and said, very quietly, "The boy is fast on his feet, I'll say that for him."

I served the rest of the drinks and conversation turned to other subjects. Chip stood by Jack, helping him with the steaks he was grilling and Jack, bless his heart, kept up a running commentary that amounted to a class on grilling.

I couldn't help wondering where Chip came up with Hedrick. It occurred to me that maybe he really did come from Oklahoma, maybe even Hedrick and what looked to me like his search to find a southern state was merely a search to find a different southern state and it had failed. I wondered but I knew I wasn't going to ask. If Chip ever got ready to tell me about his past then he would. Otherwise I'd probably never know.

After dinner Carlos and I took Deloris home while Chip stayed to help Jack with the dishes, just as he'd done the first time we'd stayed with them. After seeing Deloris safely inside her condo Carlos got back in the car and looked at me quizzically. I shook my head. "We may never know, Carlos."

Carlos sighed and started the car. "No, I suppose you're right. But how the hell did he come up with Hedrick, Oklahoma? There is such a place you know. Right near the Texas border. I looked it up when I went to the bathroom, before dinner."

"I figured there must be. He's smart enough to know that if she checked once, she'll check again. What I don't know is if he worked this out before we came or if it was just off the top of his head."

Carlos smiled. "Either way it speaks well for him. You two doing okay?"

I thought about it. "You know Carlos, I think we are. I guess it's too soon to say for certain but we seem to be functioning as a family, a fairly functional one. He has some little habits that drive me up the wall sometimes and I'm sure I have some that drive him nuts. But we cope."

"How's he like school?"

"You know, I think he does. He grumbles about the math and English but he's working at it. But it's only been a couple of weeks. This one's going to take some time."

Carlos started to say something then seemed to think better of it.

"No, that's all right. Ask away."

Carlos looked at me. "You two still sleeping together? You don't have to say if you don't want to. I know it's none of my business."

I laughed. "Hey, my life, Chip's life, both are your business. Never lie to your doctor. And in answer to your question, yes, we're sleeping together. But that's all it is, sleeping. It was one of his conditions for staying on with me, you know, after that crazy guy was killed."


I explained to him how we had worked out our living together. He said he thought we were being pretty adult about it, both of us.

Jack and Chip had finished the dishes by the time we returned and I turned down the offer of a nightcap. They looked relieved and we all went to bed.

Just before we went to sleep Chip put his hand on my arm and said, "Thanks Dad. For Jack and Carlos and Deloris, too. They're good."

In the morning I awoke to find Chip watching me and grinning. He greeted me with , "You know Dad, you gotta get out more."

I yawned and stretched. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Look at yourself. You definitely need... well, something."

I looked down. My erection was clearly visible under the sheet. I resisted the impulse to cover it, knowing that if I did Chip would never let me live it down. "You don't wake up that way?"

He laughed. "Of course I do, all guys do, but most of us also do something about it. Look, I got to go to the bathroom and then I think I'll have a shower. Plenty of time for you to, uh, do what ever you need to do."

He threw the sheet back, uncovering both of us, and hopped out of bed. "Wow," he said, looking at me, "you got a nice one. Really grows too. I never would have guessed."

I looked at him and deliberately ran my eyes up and down his body. "You don't."

He looked down at himself. "Don't what?"

"Don't grow a whole lot. But as I'm sure you've noticed, it's still bigger than mine. Now go shower."

He went into the bathroom and ostentatiously closed the door.

Although I was a little afraid that he'd jump out of the bathroom right in the middle of it, I took his advice. I guess he was right about not getting out enough because it took no time at all and I couldn't control it. I just went up to the top and fell over, not the way I usually do, keeping myself just at the edge for as long as I can. By the time the shower shut off I was finished, wiped up and out of bed.

I knocked on the bathroom door. "May I come in? I need to pee. Bad."

He threw the door open, still dripping wet. "Sure," he said, "jump in the shower. If you want to shave I left my razor in there too."

After my shower and dressed, I wandered out to the patio to find Chip naked in the pool and Carlos drinking coffee, watching him. When he saw me Carlos pointed to a thermos and some cups.

"Coffee there, help yourself." He looked back at Chip. "Is it difficult having such a beautiful young man around the house all the time?"

"I'm getting used to it," I said, taking my coffee to sit next to him. "But you don't know the half of it. He's that way nearly all the time. Naked I mean. He does put something on when someone's there, like Mickey or you guys. I even talked him into wearing some sort of shirt at the dinner table but otherwise, nothing." I shrugged. "I guess it's like having a really wonderful painting in your home. You get great pleasure out of really looking at it but you take it for granted most of the time."

Carlos laughed. "You're learning from him. You just shrugged exactly the way he does. It's rather charming. Ah, here comes Jack with some food."

After breakfast we helped Jack in the garden, weeding and cultivating. It was a bore for him but I think both Chip and I really enjoyed it. It's not often we get to get our hands in the soil and enjoy the sun on our backs.

Three hours later Jack pronounced himself happy with the results so Chip washed his hands and went back to the pool. I took another shower. After that they drove us back to the city and we took them to a late lunch at one of the better gay café's.

The next couple of weeks passed pretty much as we wanted them to. Chip woke every morning at exactly the same time so we dispensed with the alarm clock. I prepared breakfast and made him eat it. He went to school and I went to my study where my book was coming along well. Chip came home around three, foraged in the refrigerator and did his homework. We had dinner--sometimes delivered pizza when my muse wouldn't let me go on time--read, watched TV and went to bed. On weekends we went to the gym and always went out to breakfast on Sunday. It was a good, comfortable life and we enjoyed it and each other.


The man was on the very edge. He couldn't eat much and snapped at everyone. He had night sweats and awful dreams that afterward he couldn't remember. He endured it for as long as he could before he laid his head on the alter and pled with God.

God said okay.


One Thursday while we were doing the dishes Chip said he'd probably come home later than usual the next day. One of his friends at school wanted to learn to play video games and Chip had promised to take her to the J.P. I told him to have a good time and be home by five thirty or six and not spend his whole allowance in one afternoon. I expected an argument about the time but he just nodded.

He was home right on time.

"You have fun?"

He ignored the question with, "Women can't do anything!"

"They can have babies. You can't do that."

He waived that away as irrelevant. "Well, they sure can't do video games. She was so terrible. Her highest score on Space Slime was four hundred thousand points." He made a  face, not a pretty one. "I can do that in the first two minutes. BJ can do it in the first thirty seconds. Geeze!"

"See anyone you know?"

He thought for a moment. "Not really. I guess they all went to Chicago when..." He stopped and seemed to turn inward, on himself. "You know. The crazy..."

I pulled him into a hug. "Yes, I know. But that's behind us. Behind you."

We decided to go out for Chinese food which for Chip is an entire cuisine of comfort food.

The next day, when we came home from the gym there was a message on the answering machine. "It's from that reporter guy. He wants you to call him. Right away," he said looking in the freezer for ice cream. He turned and grinned at me. "He sounded horny."

Hoping Chip was right I called him right back. He wasn't horny.

"Chip there?"

"Yeah, why?"

"I'm coming right over. Don't let him go out. You either." He hung up.

Chip was on the kitchen stool eating ice cream out of the carton. "You might want to put something on. Brian's on his way over."

He grinned again. "Boy, he must be really horny. I'll just make myself scarce and you guys can have the bedroom."

"He's not horny Chip. I think he's worried. He wants to talk to us both."

He kept his cool but I did see him gulp. "What about?"

"I don't know. Just go put some pants on and we'll see."

Chip was hardly dressed when the door bell rang. Chip looked through the peep hole, the first time he'd done that in weeks, and opened the door.

We shook hands and when I offered him coffee or a drink he shook his head. "None of the hospitality bull-shit," he said. "Just sit down."

Chip sat on the couch and something told me to sit next to him.

"Well," Brian said, "Yesterday they finally identified that guy. The one we thought killed those kids? He turned out to be a sick old homeless guy, just passing through. They finally identified him from some fingerprints and records at the Veterans Hospital."

Chip turned pale. "Then he wasn't... Wasn't..."

Brian looked sadly at him. "No. And worse. There was a kid, a hustler called Pretty Boy. He was killed last night, same M.O. as those others. Stabbed and his dick and balls cut off."

I put my arm around Chip. He was shaking. "Do the police have any leads?"

Brian shook his head. He turned back to Chip. "You know this guy, this Pretty Boy?"

Chip shook his head but then stopped, thinking. I could see it was all Brian could do not to prod him but he gritted his teeth and kept silent.

Finally: "There was a guy who sometimes hung out with BJ and Fuzzy. Mostly Fuzzy." He stopped and looked up at the corner where the ceiling and the walls met. "Short. Not fat but..."

Brian offered, "Stocky?"

Chip didn't look at him. "Stocky. Sort of long hair. Light brown. I think he always wore boots. At least whenever I saw him."

"Hair's a kind of catsup red now but the rest is accurate. When did you see him last?"

"Before. Before I came here." He wasn't shaking anymore but he seemed to be slipping into a trance, his voice even and devoid of and emotion.

"Did he hang out at the J.P?" I asked quietly.

He started to shake his head and then whispered, "Oh my God."

Brian leapt out of his chair and kneeled in front of Chip. "What?"

"He was there." His voice began to take on some color and seemed stronger. "At the J.P. Yesterday when I was..." He stood up. "Wait," he threw over his shoulder as he left the room.

Brian looked at me. "What's..."

"I don't know," I said, "but he's obviously on to something. You want that coffee now?"

He nodded. "What I really want is a drink but I guess it'll have to be coffee for now. Can I help?"

He followed me into the kitchen and watched as I measured out the coffee and put the water on the stove. I told him about Chip's visit to the J.P, skipping the part about the girl. Just as the water came to a boil Chip came into the room with a piece of paper.

"This him? Pretty Boy?" He handed the paper to Brian who nodded. "He's lost weight, grown some. I didn't recognize him with the red hair."

I poured the coffee and Chip went to the refrigerator and took out a Coke, his second for the day. Back in the living room we sat and stared at each other. Finally Brian pointed at the drawing and asked Chip if Pretty Boy had been with anyone.

There was a long silence before Chip gave a slow, tentative nod. "Maybe. There was this guy sort of hanging around, looking at guys. I don't know."

Brian looked at his watch and stood. "Got to go. Got a meeting down at police headquarters. You stay here. I'll be back."

Once he'd left Chip pulled my arm back around himself. "What now?"

I didn't have the vaguest notion what now and said so. Then it struck me. "Chip? Could you make a drawing of this guy, the one who was hanging around?"

Chip gave that unconscious shrug of the shoulders and left the room, going down to his study. I picked up the coffee things, took them to the kitchen and washed them. After that I was at loose ends. Finally I went down to Chip's room and, since the door was open, asked if I could come in. He waved me in with a gesture that reminded me of an boss I'd once had; the way he'd invited you in when he was concentrating on something else.

I sat on his couch and watched him draw.

Several hours later, around seven, the door bell rang. It was Brian, bearing two large pizzas, garlic bread and a six-pack of cold beer. "I didn't know what kind you like," he said carrying the food into the kitchen, "so I got a pepperoni and a combination. Hope that's alright."

Chip must have smelled the pizza because he immediately appeared at the door. "I'm starved," he said. "What kind?"

It turned out that it really didn't matter because if it was pizza Chip liked it. We sat around the kitchen table and had pizza and beer. I even let Chip have a beer but he didn't drink much of it. I don't think he even liked it--for all of his earlier bravado.

While we ate Brian told us about the meeting and how for all the talk there wasn't much action. He'd suggested they keep a watch on the J.P. and a guy from Vice said they already did and he'd tell his men to keep a sharper eye out. "I don't know why Vice was even at the meeting and I'm not sure why they're watching the J.P. If anyone it should be the Narc squad." He turned to Chip. "You come up with anything else?"

"Maybe." He pushed his chair back and left the table.

Brian looked quizzically at me and I shrugged. "It's his way. Just wait."

Chip came back and handed Brian a piece of paper. "That's the guy. The one hanging around."

Brian stared at the paper for a minute and said, "I know this guy. In fact I just had a meeting with him. It's Barkin, the guy from Vice. He must have drawn the `keeping-an-eye-out' duty."

Chip went around behind Brian and studied the drawing for a bit. "Wait," he said and left the room.

He came back, armed with a pencil. He picked up the pizza boxes and put them on the counter. Then, sitting right next to Brian, he began to draw on the figure, adding a moustache, thick glasses, bushy eyebrow, a goatee. When he was finished he sat back and looked expectantly at Brian.

Brian stared at the picture for fully half a minute before the light dawned. "Oh, shit. It's him. The first one, the guy who got you."

I went around the table and looked. It was him alright. The man in the picture Chip had drawn of his attacker.

Brian looked at his watch. "Too late for tonight, for the guy I want." He turned to Chip, "Could you do this drawing again, without the glasses and stuff?" Chip nodded. "Okay, if you can make several of them. Then, tomorrow, I want to bring a couple of guys around to see you do what you just did."


Brian looked him square in the eye. "One. A good guy. Won't even ask your name, I guarantee it. The other's my editor. He'll bring a copy of your original drawing."

Chip looked at me.

"I think we have to, this time," I said.

Chip gave a dubious nod.

"Yes, you have to," Brian said. "If we can convince these people we should be able to get a warrant sworn out. A warrant to search Barnin's home and car. If we do, there'll be something, some clue that'll point to him. And then we'll have him." He looked at Chip with sad eyes, "And those young guys, they'll be a little safer." He paused for it to sink in. "So yes, you have to."

After Brian had gone Chip went into his study and sat working at his drawing table. I left him alone and went into my study to try and read. After ten minutes or so Chip came in and asked me if I would come and read in his room. I did but didn't get much reading done. Mostly I just sat there on his couch, watching him concentrate on drawing. About eleven he stood up and stretched.

"It's late," I said, "time for bed."

He nodded and pointed at the drawings. "I made four of them. Is that okay?"

I told him it was and we went into the bedroom. "You need a shower," I said. He sniffed his armpit and nodded. Then he came up to me and made a big production of sniffing me.

"So do you." He turned on his heel and went into the bathroom.

I sniffed my own armpit and agreed with him. We both smelled odd, smelled of fear. I undressed and waited my turn in the shower.

Once in bed he put his hand on my arm and pretended to go right to sleep, but I knew better. He was thinking about the crazy and about meeting with a cop tomorrow. I became drowsy, beginning to slip into sleep when I realized something was wrong. Chip was beginning to shake.

When I realized he was silently crying I pulled up on my side and gathered him into my arms. "It's going to be all right," I whispered. "All right." He clung to me, pressing himself against me and burying his head in my pillow. I rubbed his back and made what I hoped were calming noises.

When his breathing evened out he made no move to pull away from me, rather he put his arm around me and pulled himself closer, if that was possible. He gave a deep sigh and seemed to go to sleep.

I held him that way for most of the night. It was around five I think when I woke up to find one arm, the one under him, numb. When I moved it out so the blood could flow again he mumbled something and humped me a couple of times before he settled back into sleep. It was then that I realized we were both rigidly erect. I found the feel of his hard dick pressed against mine mildly sensual but at the same time not particularly erotic. It was Chip, a boy I loved deeply, a boy I would give up my life for but nonetheless a boy.

Chip awoke around seven. He opened his eyes, looked in my eyes and kissed me on the mouth. "Thanks, Dad," he whispered but made no move to pull away.

"It's what family does, Son." I kissed him and asked if he knew what time it was.

"Seven-thirteen, why?"

"Well, I don't know what time Brian and his editor will get here but I'm willing to bet it'll be early. We should probably be ready for them."

He slowly moved away enough to stretch and yawn. "I guess. I got to pee anyway."

He got out of bed, completely heedless of the fact that he was still more than half erect. As I watched him disappear into the bathroom my own words echoed in my mind: It's what family does.

Dressed--well I was dressed, he was wearing nothing but a pair of jeans--and in the kitchen he went to the refrigerator and got a Coke while I was pouring my coffee. He looked at the Coke, shook his head and put it back. "Can I have some coffee?" he asked, getting a cup from the shelf.

"Sure." I poured and he took it over to the counter where the sugar is. He reached for the sugar and then stopped, looking at me. "I guess that's why Bob doesn't think I should drink so much Coke. The sugar."

"And the caffeine. There's a lot more of it in that can of Coke than in that cup of coffee. Put some milk in it if it's too bitter."

He shook his head. "I'll drink it this way. Like guys do. What's to eat?"

He had some cold cereal and milk but didn't get to finish it before the door bell rang.

It was Brian and two other men, one older and dressed in a suit and tie, one looking to be around twenty-five and dressed in Western boots, tight jeans and a tee shirt celebrating Pablo Picasso. Brian introduced the older one as Mr. Wilds, his editor. The younger one introduced himself as Joe.

Chip came out of the bedroom where he'd gone to put on a shirt. His body language said frightened and his facial expression said defiant. Again, Brian introduced his editor and Joe introduced himself, holding out his hand for a shake. To my surprise Chip shook it. Then he looked him up and down.

"You the cop?"

Joe nodded. "Detective Joseph Miller, Jr." He saluted Chip. "At your service."

"You got a gun?"

The cop grinned and held his arms out from his body. "You see any gun?"

Chip looked squarely at the man's crotch. "I guess not."

Joe let his arms fall to his side and managed to look disappointed. "Not even a little one?"

Chip cocked his head and smiled. "Well, maybe a little one."

Mr. Wilds, who probably didn't see the point of Joe's little exercise, said, "Let's get on with it. We don't have all day.

Brian took charge. "Okay. Mr. Wilds, you brought the original drawing this man made of his attacker?"

Mr. Wilds produced a sheet of paper and handed it to Joe who studied it for a moment and then looked up expectantly.

Brian held up one of the sheets I'd given him when he came in. "This is a drawing of the man seen at the J.P, hanging around Pretty Boy." He passed the drawing to Mr. Wilds who looked and passed it to Joe."

"Hey, this is..." He stopped himself and looked at Chip and then at Brian. "He saw this man with that boy?"

Brian nodded and took the drawing from Joe and handed it to Chip. "Can you show us what your attacker looked like?"

Chip nodded and kneeled down at the coffee table. He took a pencil and began to draw on the sheet of paper, Joe standing over him and watching every pencil stroke. Before he was even finished Joe muttered, "Well I'll be damned. I never would have..."

Mr. Wilds went over and looked. "It is. It's Barnin. And we've been feeding him... Jesus!"

Joe straightened up. "Okay. I'm convinced. Now we have to convince Judge Harris." He looked at Chip who was just finishing. "Can you do that again? For the judge?"

"In a court? At that justice place?" He stopped, a look of panic on his face. "No."

Joe put his hand on Chip's shoulder. "That place scare you? It's all right. It scares me, too. A lot." He paused, thinking. "Okay, I tell you what. I know Judge Harris pretty well. Maybe, just maybe I can get him to come here. Could you do it for him here?"

Chip got himself under control and looked at me. I smiled and nodded.

"Okay. Yeah, I could do it that way."

Joe asked for the phone and I put him in my study. Then I made more coffee and dug some cookies that Chip hadn't found yet out of the freezer. Conversation was strained and quickly drained away. Mr. Wilds kept looking at his watch and finally wondered what was taking so long.

When Joe reappeared he was smiling. "Took some doing but I convinced the old bird. I'm going over to get him now." He looked at Chip. "Keep those drawing fingers limber, young man."

I saw the flash in Chip's eyes and wondered if we were in trouble. "My name is Chip, not young man."

Joe went to him and offered his hand. "Very pleased to meet you, Chip. I'll be right back."

Brian went and sat beside Chip. "Don't be mad at him. Like I said I would, I told him he couldn't ask you anything, even your name. He respected that, that's all."

While we waited, Chip went to sleep, Mr. Wilds read the paper and Brian amused himself by staring intently at my crotch. I had no idea you could do that but, against my will, I began to get hard. By the time the door bell rang I couldn't get out of the chair. Brian grinned and answered it for me.

Judge Harris was introduced all around and by the time he got to me I was able to stand up without tenting my pants. The judge was an affable old guy who, I later found out, was Joe's grand uncle. He was also very sharp eyed and shrewd. It didn't take long for Chip to show him how the man in the drawing and the attacker were the same man. In thirty minutes the search warrants were signed and everyone had left, Brian to the paper, Mr. Wild to a luncheon party, Judge Harris to a golf game and Joe to the police building where he would supervise the search.


The man awoke to the sounds of cars in the driveway. Instinctively he knew who it was. He got out of bed, took his gun from it's holster and crept up to the front window. He didn't bother to dress. He knew it was over and he wanted to go to God as he had come.

The men outside were pounding on the door. The man told them to stop or he'd kill them.

The phone rang. He answered and told them not to call back. When it rang again he yanked it from the wall and threw it through one of the side windows.

He went to the alter and prayed. God told him it was over, he'd done the work well and now would be taken into God's embrace. He laid his head on the alter and without warning the feeling came over him, the warmth in his gut. He looked down the barrel of the gun and when the eruption of pleasure began he pulled the trigger.


When I asked Chip what he wanted to do he had a one word answer, "Sleep." He went into the bedroom, took off his clothes and crawled into bed. He was asleep almost instantly.

Left to my own devices I tried to work on the book but couldn't concentrate. I kept wondering what was going on out there, what would the police find. I gave up on the book, rejected the notion of going to bed and ended up in the kitchen where I spent the rest of the day at the stove.

I watched the six o'clock news and they hinted at a major police action going on but they had no details. The phone rang a little after seven.

It was Brian and he sounded terrible. He asked if he could come over, tell us what happened. I said yes.

A sleepy eyed Chip came out of the bedroom. "Who was that?"

"Brian. He didn't tell me anything but he's on his way over."

Chip went back into the bedroom and then I heard the shower running. When he came out he was in this morning's jeans but with a clean tee shirt. Brian arrived shortly thereafter and looked as bad as he'd sounded on the phone.

I poured Brian a scotch on the rocks and made one for myself, lighter and with soda. Chip, bless his heart, went and got some grapefruit juice. We sat in the living room, Brian and Chip on the couch and me in my wing chair. After Brian had swallowed fully half his drink he told us the story.

"First of all," he said, "it was gruesome and horrible. I wasn't there at the beginning but Joe said it went pretty well. They figured Barnin was home because his car was there but when they knocked nobody answered. I guess they yelled out that they were the police or something. Anyway, Barnin was in there and he yelled through the door that he'd kill any man who tried to come through.

"The cops going through the car found a lot of poorly cleaned up blood stains especially under the front seat, right where a knife could be concealed and the driver could easily grab it."

Chip nodded. "That's where it came from."

Brian put his hand on Chip's shoulder. "This isn't easy for you, is it? I'm sorry but it gets worse." He looked back at me. "I guess they surrounded the place and spent a lot of time talking to him through the bullhorn. He wouldn't answer the phone and finally ripped it out of the wall and threw it through a window. Then, when they were getting ready to storm the place they heard a gunshot from inside. They kicked the front door in.

"I don't know all of what happened next but they finally went in. Joe said the place was a terrible mess. Then they found him and that was the worst part. That's the part I saw."

I got up and freshened his drink.

"How did you get to see it?" Chip asked.

"Joe called me, said I had to see it before it was all taken apart. It was the most terrible thing I've ever seen. The room was set up as a sort of chapel or shrine with lit candles all over the place and an altar against one wall. There was even a big crucifix and a photograph of some older guy who I guess was supposed to be God. The altar was covered with cloth, like a runner on a table only this was white silk. Not so white any more because it was covered with Barnin's blood. He'd knelt at that altar, with his chin on it I think, and shot himself squarely between the eyes. And, God help us, there was fresh semen on the floor. He shot himself while he was having an orgasm."

That knocked me over. The orgasm of death, the ultimate orgasm. I couldn't imagine it. "It must have been horrible, Brian, horrible."

Brian shook his head. "No, it was bad but nothing like what came next. That made me run outside and lose my cookies. See, all around this room, this shrine, were niches, lit from below. In the niches were... were these bottles of preserved genitals. All the... all the things he'd cut off of those boys."

Chip left the room and we heard him in the bathroom, throwing up. We were silent until he came back, his face white as the wash cloth he was carrying. "How many?"

Brian held his glass out. "Please?" Then he turned to Chip. "Thirty. Maybe more. I didn't count. This had been going on for a long time."

I poured and handed him his drink. "Those poor young men. How could anyone do something as terrible as that?"

"Someone very sick. So sick that every bottle had a name on it. Dawgie, Sly, Buzz, all of them named. And empty ones too, but with names, like he knew who the next ones were going to be. Joe showed them to me. Rod. Meat. Dusty."

Chip went back to the bathroom. I went in and held his head. "It's okay now, Chip. It's okay. It's over and he'll never be able to do it again." Chip began to sob and I held him close to me until his retching turned into hiccups. Then I got a wet towel and wiped his face When I helped him up he staggered and I had to support him. I tried to put him to bed but he insisted on going back to the living room and being with Brian and me.

We talked intermittently but mostly we stared as the floor, each of us lost in his own thoughts. Finally Brian looked at Chip and asked if he was hungry. Chip hesitated, probably thinking he shouldn't be, and nodded. It was then that I remembered the steaks that I had marinating and the special sauce I'd prepared that afternoon. But it was too much just then. I went into the kitchen, put everything in the refrigerator and dug around in the junk drawer for the Chinese take-out menu.

Brian paid the delivery man on the theory, he said, that he'd eventually get the steak dinner. It broke some of the tension and we actually chuckled. Chip laughed, but like he was on the verge of hysteria.

After dinner--and we ate all of the food--there seemed little of consequence to say that hadn't been said before. I asked Chip if he didn't want to go to bed. He nodded and left the room like a zombie. Brian gave me a weak smile. "He needs you, Dan. You'd better go with him." He paused for a long time and I could tell he had more to say. Finally, it came out. "Dan? Could I stay here tonight? I... I just don't want to be alone. On the couch?"

I told him he was welcome to be with us and went to get him some sheets and a blanket. When the couch was made up and he'd used the bathroom I kissed him goodnight.

When I got into bed Chip sleepily asked if Brian had left.

"No. He's on the couch. Like us, he didn't want to be alone just now. You mind?"

Chip settled into his pillow and put his hand on my arm. "No. But I'm glad you're here." He drifted off to sleep.

We both--actually all three of us--slept well that night, I think because we knew that particular danger was past. Chip was the first one up in the morning and both Brian and I woke to the best alarm clock in the world, the smell of fresh coffee. When I went out to the living room Brian was just getting out of bed. Chip looked him up and down.

"You don't have to do that you know."

Brian looked at him. "What?"

"Wear your clothes to bed."

Brian looked down at his stripped boxer shorts. "Well, I thought..."

Chip gave him that you-don't-know-anything look of his. "Look, guy, you don't have anything he," nodding at me, "hasn't seen before and I don't care." He dismissed the subject and went into the kitchen.

Brian looked at me and grinned. "Is he always like that in the morning?"

"Which do you mean? Naked or outspoken? Actually, most of the time around here he's both. It's him. Bother you?"

Brian shook his head and slipped his boxers off. "Not at all. It's the way I am most of the time around the house."

"Not when I came over. You were dressed quite nicely, at least for a minute there."

He leaned in and kissed me. "I thought if I answered the door naked you'd run like hell. I thought I was going to have to seduce you. Turned out I was wrong."

Chip saved him from my retort by coming out of the kitchen eating toast with peanut butter and jam.

And that was the real beginning, the tentative start of a family. In the end it worked out well for all of us.


We're going to leave them now, to let them live a more normal life. No life is completely made up of conflict and the stuff of novels; the body couldn't function with that much adrenalin sloshing around in it all the time. So Chip and Dan and Brian are going to build a family and a life that turns out to be kind of like most lives, full of little accomplishments, defeats, joys and disappointments. We'll leave them to it.

Thanks to everyone who took the time and trouble to write to me about this story. I'm glad you enjoyed it. There will be others.

Greg Bowden Net