By Tim Mead
Grant was having dinner with Ben Moss and his partner, Toby Taba. He said, "You did say this guy you wanted to fix me up with is pretty much out to everyone, didn't you?"
"Yeah, Jake's never made any secret of it," Toby replied.
"Jake? You aren't talking about Dr. Jacob Handley, are you?"
"The very same. Why, do you know him?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do."
"Well, he's an excellent professor and a really nice guy." Toby looked at Ben and winked. "And sexy, too."
"And available," Ben added.
"He's a very nice man. I can imagine he'd be a fine teacher. I understand he has a good reputation on campus." He took a sip of water. "But, gentlemen, I'm sure Dr. Handley's capable of finding companionship on his own, and I don't really need to be fixed up."
Grant's hosts were tactful enough to change the subject, and the rest of the evening passed pleasantly enough despite the frostiness of Grant's comments about being "fixed up."
* * *
The next day Grant brooded about the evening with Moss and Taba.
He still worried that Ben had spotted him as gay from their first meeting in Boros's office. If he was that obvious, why hadn't he been found out years ago?
One possibility was that some of his fellow cops had indeed recognized he was gay and merely decided not to say anything about it. His subordinates might have chosen that path, some out of discretion, some even because it didn't matter. But Al Boros would have given Grant grief, most likely.
About five years older than Grant, Boros, who could have been a mentor, tended to see Grant as a rival. They'd stayed on friendly terms, but Grant had always suspected that Boros, who didn't have a college degree, worried that Grant would pass him by. Unlike Boros, however, Grant had been happy being an investigator. He hadn't had Al's ambition. Now as Chief, Boros was where he'd always dreamed of being. Free to let his prejudices show, though discreetly, of course. Boros was more crafty than really intelligent, but he knew how to work the system, play the game. He wouldn't do anything to catch the attention of the County Exec or the County Commission, but within the Force, he could make life difficult for those he disapproved of.
`So,' Grant asked himself, `what do you really want? This desk job isn't why you became a cop. Are you willing to live a lie to keep it?' He realized with his disability he'd never be able to transfer to some other force as an active investigator. So he was condemned to some sort of desk work until he reached retirement age. `But, Grant,' he said to himself, `you might find a job you're qualified for that would allow you to come out.'
`Yeah,' another internal voice answered, `slim chance of that.'
`But look, is your job really more important than your off-duty life? Is Jake Handley worth some sacrifices?' That was the question, one he'd never put to himself directly before. `Sacrifices, sure. Jake's special. I need him in my life. But I have to earn a living, so what am I supposed to do?'
And how did Jake feel about him? Really feel about him? Was he right to be jealous that Jake had taken the college kid home? Jake had sworn nothing had happened. Why shouldn't he trust him? On the other hand, Jake was free to do whatever he wanted. Grant realized that he was the one who was causing the problems by insisting that they keep their affair secret. Jake had been honest. He'd said he hated the constant need to sneak around so they'd not be seen together. `So, where do I go from here? Jake has every right to find someone else if he's looking. If he wants to sleep with some college stud, you don't have any right to object. He insists he didn't sleep with the kid. But next time he might.'
* * *
At work he chafed over the paper work. This was supposed to be the age of the paperless office, yet everything had to have a hard copy. Everyone was protecting his own ass. Even departmental memos came on paper, landing in the archaic "in basket" on everyone's desk.
Grant resolved that he was going to see if things couldn't be made more efficient by cutting down the flow of paper. He decided that he'd call the IT section and see if someone there could give him some suggestions on how to use the expensive electronic tools they already had to speed up communications within the Department. He knew his counterpart in the uniformed division, Carl Bongiovanni, was a troglodyte where computers were concerned, and he doubted that Boros would be much more sympathetic, but he decided to go ahead. If Carl didn't like it, tough shit. If Boros disapproved, he'd have to say so.
* * *
Since his breakup with Albert some years earlier, Grant had had only solo sex. Until he met Jake, that is. Now he missed not only Jake's companionship, but Jake's body. Their couplings had been good, making him feel like a young man again. Grant had always been a top by preference, but when he found out that Jake was too, he allowed his partner to be the "pitcher" most of the time. And he was content with that. More than content.
Since Jake was absenting himself, Grant had in fact searched through a closet to find a long-unused box of toys. Now his morning masturbatory sessions often involved a dildo or a vibrator.
It was in the middle of the week after his dinner with Ben and Toby that he really "discovered" Ray Stonesifer, who'd come along with the captain's job. The young man worked as receptionist, personal assistant, and general gopher for Al Boros when he'd been supervisor of detectives. A uniformed officer in his second year on the Force, Stonesifer, Grant remembered, had been transferred in about six months before from the Higgins station. The timing of the transfer suggested something unusual had occurred. Normally Stonesifer would have been assigned to Higgins for a couple of years before being rotated. And the move from normal duty to his current desk job was unusual, too. Stonesifer did excellent work. He was smart, efficient, and pleasant. He was a fast, accurate typist, and he understood computers. Perhaps someone recognized that and suggested the transfer.
At any rate, on that particular morning, Grant looked from a memo he'd been reading to see an impressive package covered by dark blue uniform trousers. Looking up further, he saw Stonesifer smiling down at him. Stonesifer of the boyish face. Stonesifer of the merry blue eyes. Stonesifer with the regulation short haircut whose red hair nevertheless showed a tendency to curl. Grant wondered about the younger man's pubes. His roommate freshman year had been a guy with reddish blond hair and red pubes. Since then Grant had had a thing for red body hair.
Normally a captain would call a man so far below him in rank by his last name, but because they worked so closely together, he'd called him by his first name when they were in the office alone.
"Here's your mail, captain."
"Thanks, Ray, just drop it in the basket."
"Go get yourself some coffee and then come back in here and sit."
The younger man grinned. "Am I in trouble, sir?"
Grant smiled in return. "Not at all. Go get your coffee." He handed up his mug. "And warm up mine, too, while you're at it."
When Stonesifer was back and seated, Grant said, "Seems to me since I wound up in this office we've been so busy that I've not had a chance to learn anything about you. I could look at your personnel jacket, I suppose, but I'd rather have you tell me."
Stonesifer looked uncomfortable, for reasons Grant couldn't fathom. "Uh, what do you want to know, captain?"
"Oh, the usual. Where you're from. How you wound up here . . . ."
Looking relieved, Stonesifer said, "I'm from Higgins originally. Went to Toledo for my degree in Criminal Justice and then the academy."
"Sounds as if you've always wanted to be a cop."
Why did he shift in his seat when he said, "No, sir"?
"Where do you live?"
"In Higgins. I, uh, live with my folks."
"I'll bet that puts a cramp in your social life."
"It sure as hell does. Sir."
"What do you do in your spare time?"
"I'm already studying for the sergeant's exam."
"Good man! But I meant what do you do for recreation?"
"I work out when I can."
`That shows,' Grant thought.
"I love to read, especially history. I minored in history at Toledo. And recently I've become a sudoku fanatic."
Grant smiled. "You like those things? They drive me crazy. Someone gave me a book of them, but I never got very far with it."
"Well, sir, they take my mind off the pressures of living at home, and things like that."
"Do you like your job here, Ray?"
"Frankly, sir, I wasn't too happy when I was transferred here. And I'd like to become an investigator some day. But yeah, I like this job. Especially since you took over the office."
"Thanks. Just for the record, you're doing a great job. And I suppose you'd better get back to it."
Stonesifer stood. "Thanks, captain. I'm glad you're satisfied." He picked up his mug, turned, and left the office.
Grant stared at the tight blue fabric stretched across a perfect ass and wiggled in his chair. `Damn! The boy obviously works on his glutes at the gym.'
Twenty-six or twenty-seven years old. Lives with his folks. Didn't say anything about a girlfriend. Does sudoku for fun? Mustn't stereotype, but maybe that's why he was transferred out of the Higgins station. But working in Al Boros's office? That didn't compute.
`Oh, well, he's smart, capable, eager to get on in the Department. Not to mention good to look at. But I'll have to be especially careful around him. If he's gay, he may catch on about me.'
* * *
Grant had a series of meetings with Ed Daniels from IT. The two had discussed ways the detective branch might cut back on the volume of paper that got sent around, and Daniels had come up with all sorts of promising suggestions.
Grant felt duty bound to tell the Chief about the experiments he hoped to put in place, so he made an appointment to see his boss. After he'd spelled it all out, Boros had leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head, causing his shirt to stretch tightly across his chest and stomach. `He should read the departmental guidelines for keeping fit and especially about body fat,' Grant thought.
"Jim, I don't understand computers. I barely know how to turn mine on. I guess I'm just an old-fashioned cop. Always hated the paperwork, though. So if you can improve efficiency in your branch, go to it! Keep me updated, of course. I'll try to understand what you're telling me. And if you have good results, we'll see about getting the Wop in the uniformed branch to put them in place, too."
"The Wop" was Boros's usual name for Carl Bongiovanni. When Boros was head of detectives, Bongiovanni had called him "The Greek." And he still did, to his back. But there was no rancor involved. So far as Grant knew, the two had been on good terms as long as they'd both been in the department.
"Okay, Chief." Grant stood. "Thanks. And I'll keep you posted."
Grant was on his way to the door when Boros said, "By the way. How are you getting along with the faggot?"
Grant turned to face his chief. "Pardon?"
"The faggot. Stonesifer."
"Stonesifer is doing excellent work, sir." Grant said, practically biting his tongue to keep from saying anything further. "I didn't know he was gay, and it really doesn't matter to me if he is."
"You'd better sit down again."
Grant sat straight, his back not touching the back of the chair.
"You know he was assigned to the Higgins station, right?"
"Yes, sir. I learned that recently."
"Well, some of the guys he worked with figured out he was queer and began to give him a hard time. O'Banion [the lieutenant in charge of the Higgins station] tried to get them to work it out. But then he called Schultz [Boros's predecessor], not long before he retired actually, and the Chief assigned him to me. He said the kid was supposed to have a lot of promise. Wanted me to keep an eye on him. I wasn't too happy to have a fag working in my office, let me tell you. I even tried to argue with Schultz, but you know what a pigheaded Kraut bastard he is. So I decided I'd keep a very close eye on Stonesifer. One screw-up, and he'd be history. We can't throw him out of the Force for being gay, dammit. But I was on the lookout for anything I could use against him to justify discipline or maybe a shitty assignment or to keep him from being promoted."
He cracked his knuckles. "But I wasn't there long enough. The kid's good at what he does. Couldn't catch him out at anything. But, Jesus, it made my skin crawl just having him in and out of my office all the time."
"Chief, are you ordering me to give this man a hard time?"
Boros grinned and held up his hands, palms out. "No, of course not. I couldn't do that. It would be totally against department and county policy, wouldn't it? I just wondered how you and the queer boy were getting along. And maybe giving you a warning, so you could keep your eyes open."
Grant stood again, feeling he'd been dismissed. "I hear what you're saying, Captain. But I have to tell you that if Stonesifer is good at his job, I'm not going to give him any trouble because of his supposed sexual orientation, which is none of my – or the Force's – business."
"Atta boy, Jim! Don't let anybody, even me, hear you saying anything against policy. Now, keep me posted about the computer shit."
Grant was practically gnashing his teeth as he strode back to his office.
"Everything okay, Captain?" Stonesifer asked, concern evident in his blue eyes. "You look upset."
"No, Ray, it's okay. Nothing for you to worry about."
* * *
In the days that followed Grant's meeting with Chief Boros, Stonesifer, who'd previously been invisibly efficient, became a distraction. Not because he had changed in any way. No, it was just Grant's awareness that had changed.
He wasn't in love with the young man. He knew he still loved Jake, whatever was – or wasn't – going on between them at the moment. But he clearly lusted for Stonesifer. Grant felt like a teen again. He had an erection several times a day as his assistant moved in and out of the office. His dick hardened and throbbed as he had fantasies about first rimming and then fucking that incredible ass. More surprising, perhaps, were his waking dreams of having his legs on Stonesifer's shoulders as he was being vigorously fucked, dreams that left his sphincter clenching and unclenching as he wiggled miserably in his leather desk chair.
And, of course, he had to hide all of that from his sexy subordinate.
`Jesus, maybe I'm having my mid-life crisis.'
* * *
At home in the evenings and on weekends Grant brooded over Jake. What was he doing? Did he miss Grant? With his usually sunny outlook, was he going about his life having decided what he and Grant had was an unfortunate fling? Perhaps not, since he called often to ask how Grant was. Was he fucking the kid he'd brought home from Nelly's, or had he even seen him since that night? Was he being bedded by his sexy musician friend, Digby Gautier, or was he at home each evening as lonely and frustrated as Grant?
At work Grant continued to be distracted by the presence of Officer Ray Stonesifer. Grant's nearly constant state of arousal wasn't something he was accustomed to experiencing, and it definitely affected his work -- and his mood while he was in the office. He'd even been brusque a couple of times when the young man had done nothing to merit it.
And it was all Jake's fault! No, not true, it wasn't Jake's fault. He had no right to criticize Jake, who said repeatedly that he loved Grant, but that he simply couldn't spend his life trying not to give away the fact that his lover was a highly placed police official. It was his own fault. He was cowardly, unwilling to come out, unwilling to tell his police colleagues he was gay and if they didn't like it to fuck off.
He wasn't feeling particularly good about himself when, late one afternoon he heard Ben Moss talking with Stonesifer.
"I'd just like to say hello."
"His door's open, Mr. Moss. That means he's available. You can go on in."
Then Grant heard Stonesifer say something else to Moss, though he couldn't make out what it was.
Grant stood up and walked around his desk. "Hi, Ben. Good to see you. What brings you to the Cop Shop?"
The two shook hands.
"Oh, Kris wanted me to hand carry some stuff to Chief Boros, so I thought I'd just stop in and say hello."
"Have a seat. How are you and Toby?"
"We're both great, thanks." He looked intently at Grant. "But, Jim, you're not looking so good. Something wrong?"
Grant looked down at his desk blotter for a moment. Then he took a deep breath and said to himself, `What the hell.'
"Ben, I need to vent to someone and, though we don't know each other very well, I think I can trust you and I'd value your advice."
Ben looked surprised, but he said, "Sure. Anything I can do to help."
"Would Toby be upset if I took you to dinner? Or do you two have plans?"
"We usually eat together, but he'd understand if he knew you wanted to talk with me."
"Then let's do it. You want to call him?"
"Yeah, I'd better."
"Okay, you do that. I'll make a call, too."
Grant asked Ray to get him Adrian's Restaurant. When he was connected, he made a reservation.
"Tobe says he understands and that he hopes things are okay with you."
"Thank him for me, please. I've got reservations at Adrian's. We can go right now and have a drink before we eat, if that's okay with you."
"Sure, but Adrian's is a bit pricey. Sure you want to go there?"
"The food's always worth the price, and it's the one place in town where I can be sure we won't be overheard."
Ben smiled and asked, "Sure you don't mind being seen with a gay guy?"
"That's a concern of yours, isn't it?"
"Well, yeah, but how did you know?"
"I dunno, Jim. I must have picked up on that when you were at our place."
Later, at the restaurant, Ben and Grant had JD on the rocks. When they'd told Bernie, their server, that they'd order later, he'd smiled, nodded and left them alone.
"So," Ben said, "you're not pissed with me?"
"No, why would you think that?"
"I was afraid after you were at our house for supper you weren't happy that Toby was trying to hook you up with Dr. Handley."
Grant shook his head. "I'm sorry I reacted the way I did, Ben. I'll be sure to apologize to Toby the next time I see him."
"He's not the kind of guy to hold a grudge or anything, but he'll be relieved if you do. Now, something's obviously bothering you. And you obviously need to get it off your chest. So spill."
"Shall we order, or would you like another drink? An appetizer, maybe?"
"Jim, I'm good. Are you having second thoughts about telling me whatever it is?"
Grant caught the waiter's eye and signaled he wanted another drink.
"How about you, sir?" the man asked Ben.
"No, I'm okay thanks. But I'd like a glass of water, please."
"Two waters?" he asked, looking at Grant, who nodded in return.
"Not really second thoughts. It's just hard to talk about this with anyone. I realize we don't know each other well, and, frankly, you're so much younger than I am. Yet I feel somehow that you know me pretty well. You're intuitive."
Ben finished his wine. "Actually, Toby's the intuitive one. But maybe I'm learning from him." He set down his glass, leaned back, and waited for Grant to continue.
"Okay, you know I'm gay. You figured that out right away. But I've been a cop here over twenty-five years and I've never come out. And I don't think anyone on the Force knows about me."
"So far as you know."
"Well, yes. If they knew, there'd be a big stink about it. Cops aren't gay. At least not in Colby County, Ohio. They'd find a way to hound me off the Force if they knew."
"Are you sure, Jim? I mean, there are clear County policies about non-discrimination. This is the twenty-first century, after all, and we're not in some southern backwater."
"I know. But my superior is a first class homophobe, for starters. And I could probably name a dozen others who are as bad as he is."
"So you're worried that you'll be outed. But Toby and I have already promised you we won't say anything to anyone. What's changed? What's different from the way it's been during the 25 odd years you've been on the Force?"
Grant looked across the room to find Bernie looking back at him. "Let's order our meals, and we can continue after he's gone."
Grant nodded to the waiter, who came and took their orders.
"What's changed? There's this guy I'm pretty sure I love."
Ben smiled and put his hand on Grant's. Grant instinctively pulled his hand away.
"Woops, sorry. I keep forgetting that you aren't out. You're in love? That's wonderful! But how's it a problem?"
Grant gave Ben credit for not asking who it was he loved. "The problem is that I've insisted we can only be together at my house or, very rarely, his. You see, he's openly gay, and if I were seen frequently with him, the word would soon get back to the Department, and I'd be outed."
Ben nodded. "And he doesn't like that sort of secrecy."
Ben chewed a piece of bread, looking thoughtful.
"You must think he really cares for you."
"He says he does."
"But you don't care enough for him to risk coming out in town and at work?"
That hurt, cutting close to the bone.
"Ouch. Putting it that way makes it sound so simple. I do care for the guy. I really miss him. I think about him so much I can't seem to get anything done at work or at home."
"So what's the problem?"
"So I have to choose between him and my job?"
"Come on, Jim! Is it really that bad? Surely no one's going to fire you because you come out."
"Not overtly, perhaps. But they could make my job untenable, make things so unpleasant I'd have to quit."
"You're sure of that?"
"Yeah, pretty much."
"Do you really love this guy?"
"Yes. I think so."
"You think so?"
"Young man, you really get to the point, don't you?"
Ben leaned back in his chair and raised his eyebrows. "You asked me here. I'll leave if you want me to."
"No, Ben. I'm sorry. You're doing exactly what I need you to do. And the answer is yes, I love him. I realize that more and more the longer we're apart."
"Have you thought about what you could do if you left the Force?"
"Yeah, but the options are fairly limited. I'm a cop. An old cop. There's not much else I can do."
"You're probably under-rating yourself."
"I doubt it. I'm good at what I do. Strike that. I was good at what I did. Anybody can do what I'm doing now, shuffling papers."
"So ideally you'd like to be using your years of experience as an investigator?"
"Well put. Yes."
"But you don't think you care enough about this guy to risk the job you currently have?"
"Well, when you put it like that . . ."
"Jim, I'm just listening and reacting. Telling you how it looks to me. That's why I'm here, right?"
"Yes, in part. But I'm beginning to think you have the makings of a good friend, Ben, despite your youth."
"Youth? I beg your pardon!" He laughed.
Grant laughed as well and changed the subject.
As they were working on their entrees, a tall man in a tuxedo came to their table and said, "Gentlemen, I hope everything is satisfactory."
"Adrian," Ben said, smiling, "good evening."
"Hello Ben. How are you? And how's Toby?"
"We're both fine, thanks."
Adrian turned to Grant. "Captain Grant, good to see you. I trust everything is okay."
"Yes, Adrian, thanks."
"I didn't realize you two gentlemen knew each other." His eyes were already sweeping the room. "Well, it's nice to see you both. Ben, say hello to Toby for me." And with that he was off to the next table.
As he and Ben finished their meal, Grant's thoughts went occasionally to Adrian Lynch, Jr. Lynch was at the center of a group of gay, mostly professional men in Colby. Grant had often wondered about the gossip that went around that circle. Would his having supper with Ben Moss soon be common knowledge among the "Colby Queers"? No. Grant was pretty sure that wasn't going to happen. Lynch had to be discreet, given the kind of establishment he ran. Adrian's wasn't a specifically gay restaurant. It was simply the best restaurant in town, but one where gay patrons were made to feel comfortable. Lynch wouldn't risk losing clientele by telling tales.
`God! I'm getting paranoid about this!'
"I'm sorry, Ben," he said, "what did you just say?"
To Be Continued
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