by Tim Mead
"So what did you say when he asked you that?" Jake wanted to know. He and Grant were having dinner at Damon's.
"I asked him what made him think you're gay. He replied that `everyone knew' you were."
Jake said, "Well, he's probably right about that. I've never made any secret of it."
"Have you ever met Boros?"
"If the two of you've never met, then why would he have any interest in you?"
"I hadn't thought of that. So what did you say next?"
Grant grinned. "I asked him if he was keeping secret dossiers on all the gay men in Colby."
Jake chuckled. "And?"
"So help me, he looked guilty! I think he actually may be doing something like that."
"What did he say?"
"He quickly assured me he wasn't. But then he asked again whether I was gay."
"Oh, shit, Jim! I'm sorry I got you into all of this. That's just what we didn't want to happen. What did you tell him?"
"I told him that my sexual orientation was nobody's damned business."
"And he said . . .?"
"He said he wasn't going to have any fucking queers in his department. I pointed out that it wasn't his department, that I'd worked there nearly as long as he had and that nobody had ever accused me of not doing my job properly. Then I reminded him of the county's non-discrimination policy. When I stood up to leave, he said, `You're not dismissed yet, Captain.' Not wanting to give him grounds for charging me with insubordination, I turned, saluted him, and asked, `May I be excused to get back to my work now, Chief?'"
Jake grinned. "And he said . . .?"
"He said `Get the fuck out of my sight, faggot.'"
"I stopped in the outer office and asked if Callahan, Boros's PA, had heard what he just said. Callahan grinned and said he sure had. I asked if he'd testify to that if necessary, and he said he'd never lie under oath. I don't think he likes Boros very much."
Jake put down the roll he'd been buttering. "I should never have called you after Pittston was in my office."
"Of course you should have. Though you do seem to have handled things pretty well on your own."
"You're the one who suggested he might have done it to someone else."
"True, but "
"But what I meant was that now you're more or less out to your boss and it's all my fault."
"You know what, Jake? I'm so pissed with Al Boros I don't care! Such a horse's ass! I've never liked the man much, but I don't think I ever knew what a bigoted jerk he really is."
"Yeah, but he's your boss."
"Fuck him! The only thing he's got against me is that he thinks I'm gay. And I'm not going to deny that any more. My record's good. He can make things unpleasant at work, but there's not much else he can do to me. And, you know, I'm sure a lot of gay men no, strike that gay people have had to put up with that kind of shit at work."
"But you were being so careful to keep that from happening."
Grant leaned forward. "Yeah, and I'm ashamed. Sexual orientation, as I told Al, isn't anyone's business. But I'm not going to take any crap from him because of it. So Colby County has a gay supervisor of detectives. Tough shit!"
"You know, you're probably not the only gay cop in town."
Grant smiled. "Yeah, there's always Ray Stonesifer. Maybe he'll feel better now, knowing his boss is gay, too. We all need allies."
"What about the long haul?"
"I don't want to retire yet. I'm not hurting for money, but I just don't want to be put out to pasture yet. Maybe I'll stay and fight Boros, just to keep bastards like him from making people's lives miserable."
Jake took a drink of wine, set the glass down, and looked into Grant's eyes.
"What does all this mean for you and me?"
"Before I answer that, I have a question."
Jake put down his fork and looked at Grant. "Okay."
"While I've been so paranoid about being outed at work, you haven't found someone else, have you?"
Surprised at the question, he said, "No way. You know that Digby and I have had sex from time to time, but we haven't done that since I realized how I feel about you."
"Yes, I'm sure. Would you mind telling me what prompted your question?
"Forgive me, Jake. I trust you. But I've been a mite worried when I heard about you having a rather friendly dinner with a guy in black."
Oh! Jake hadn't thought of that evening with Paul Michaels. He and the sexy Brit had clearly been attracted to each other, but nothing had happened. And the fact that nothing had happened had been mainly because he knew he loved Grant.
He leaned forward. "Sometimes this seems like a very small town. I don't know what you've heard, but the only `man in black' I've had dinner with was a visiting historian, on campus for a series of lectures. He was here for several days, and that evening my department head asked me to take him to dinner. He was a pleasant company, a charming guy, actually, and I enjoyed the time I spent with him. I walked him back to the University Guest House, wished him well, and that was it." Jake didn't think he needed to say anything about holding hands with Michaels or the chaste kiss with which they marked the fact that they'd probably never see each other again.
"Thanks, Jake. I knew it had to be something like that. Besides, the way I've been acting, you'd be perfectly justified in doing whatever you wanted with another guy."
"Idiot! Haven't I told you that I love you?"
"Yes, but you've also said you couldn't be my lover if we had to keep our relationship hidden."
"Which is precisely why I asked you what your recent set-to with Boros means so far as you and I are concerned. How it affects us."
Grant grinned. "You can't imagine how good it feels for me to say this: I want the whole world to know that you're my guy, that we are an us!"
"That sounds like the last line of a gay romance."
"You read gay romances? I'm shocked!" From the twinkle in Grant's eyes, Jake realized his lover was actually enjoying this. "Seriously, though," Grant continued, "life could be pretty rocky at work for a while. Boros can make things unpleasant, as I said. And you, dear man, have to deal with Pittston. Unless you want me to confront the little bastard."
"No, we've already talked about that. I'm seeing the Dean tomorrow. If she'll agree, Biedermeier, Entwhistle, and I will be in her office when Sean arrives. Just seeing the three of us together should make it clear to him the jig's up."
"It seems you read cheap detective novels, too, professor."
"Fuck you, copper!"
Grant grinned. "Let's think about that for later, okay? But, yeah, the three of you confronting the boy should shake him up. You sure you don't want the CPD involved?"
"Not if we can help it. As angry as I am with the little shit, I have to admit I feel sorry for him. I think that father of his must be a real piece of work, and I'd like to get that situation alleviated if possible. Unless Sean persists in his lie, I wouldn't want criminal charges brought against him."
"You're a good man, professor."
"And don't you forget it. Now, weren't we talking about fucking?"
"Oh, yeah! If I got up real early, I could slip out to the house and get some fresh clothes for tomorrow."
"What? Whatever do you mean?"
"Oh, I was thinking about spending the night at your place."
"It's still early. Why don't you go home, walk poor Arch, get a fresh outfit, and then come to my house? That way we wouldn't have to get up so early tomorrow."
"Oh, I can just see poor Stonesifer when you walk in there tomorrow with that `I've just been fucked' look on your handsome face."
Grant chuckled. "You think I'd be that obvious? Besides, who says I'm the one getting fucked?"
A passing female server gave them a look, giggled, and scooted on.
"Woops. Guess we'd better postpone that part of the discussion."
At breakfast the next morning both men still felt a warm, cozy glow from their activities in bed the night before. But it was Jake who was sitting carefully. Grant had been so masterful in talking about standing up to Boros that Jake had offered himself as a kind of congratulatory gift. `Or,' he thought, `maybe it was because I feel so guilty.'
"Penny," Grant said, smiling.
"Oh, I was just regretting that you've had to come out because of me. If I hadn't told you about Pittston, things would have gone on as usual."
"Mmm." Grant looked thoughtful as he chewed a piece of bacon.
"Mmm?" Jake echoed, grinning.
"First of all, professor, I'm glad you came to me. I want you to feel free to do that whenever you have a problem. If you hadn't found out about the other profs, Birdwhistle and what's his face, I might have been able to help in other ways."
"My colleagues are Biedermeier and Entwhistle."
"Sounds like a couple of gays who own an antique store."
"I don't think I'd better tell them you said that. Now, about helping in other ways, did you mean something like breaking Sean's kneecaps?"
It was Grant's turn to laugh. "Probably not. But the presence of a captain of detectives can be fairly intimidating, especially if said captain is pissed off."
"Well, let's hope we don't need you to do that."
"Oh, you won't. Even if he doesn't admit what he's done, your dean isn't going to believe his story when he hears from you and the antique store guys."
"You're impossible! You're also in a very good mood this morning."
"Yeah. That was going to be my penultimate reason. After all the worrying, I'm relieved that I'm coming out. It means you and I can be together whenever we want, and I don't have to pussyfoot around anymore."
"Honey, if you're okay with all this, I'm over the moon. I hated that we had to be apart. I felt guilty that we weren't together because I didn't like the sneaky business. And since yesterday I've been feeling terrible because, despite everything, you've been outed."
Grant smiled and shook his head.
"'Honey.' It sounds so gay."
"Get used to it, buster."
"Yes, dear," Grant said, still smiling.
"And your ultimate thought?"
"When I asked what you were thinking, you gave me a first thought, then a penultimate thought. So, there must have been something else on your mind."
"Oh, that," Grant said, still smiling. "I'm feeling especially good this morning. After last night. You must let me return the favor."
"Later, I'm afraid. You need to get to work. Oh, shit, what about Archie?"
"He's at the girls'. I left him there last night when I went after my clothes. With those gals he'll be happy as a pig in slop. And Bobbi said she'd walk him this morning."
After cleaning up the kitchen, they went their separate ways for the day.
* * *
When Sean returned to Jake's office as arranged, Jake handed the young man a slip of paper.
"This has the time and date of your appointment with Dean Anstruther."
"You made an appointment for me to see her?"
"Yes, so you can tell her your story."
Sean cleared his throat. "You want me to see her?"
"What if this isn't convenient for me?"
"It's Dean Anstruther we're talking about, Sean. I suggest you'd better be there."
Sean huffed, rolled his eyes, stuck the slip of paper in the pocket of his jeans, hitched up his backpack and left.
The date was a week hence, so Sean had plenty of time to think about this turn of events he probably hadn't anticipated. And Jake had time to chat briefly with each of his "antique store" colleagues before the meeting in the dean's office.
* * *
One afternoon Jake's office hour had nearly elapsed and he was thinking about going home, changing clothes, and driving to Grant's house in the country. Now that Grant wasn't avoiding being seen with him, now that he was spending several nights a week at Jake's, Jake looked forward to his evenings nights, actually at Grant's. Walking Archie, cooking together in the big old kitchen, snuggling on the sofa in front of the fire, sleeping together or not sleeping in Grant's big bed.
Nice, all of it. Though he understood that Grant was finding things tense at work.
His reverie was interrupted by the entrance of Digby, who flopped into one of the visitor's chairs. The big man made the chair look entirely too small.
"Digs! How've you been?"
"Been fine, Jakey. Question is, what's up with you?"
Jake put on a look of innocence. "Oh, things are good."
His grin dazzling, Digby said, "You're lookin' like the cat in the cream, baby. And I'm afraid I've lost my fuckbuddy."
"Yeah, Digs, `fraid so. But how'd you know?"
"Oh, word gets `roun', you know. I hear a certain highly-placed pohleesman been keepin' company with a well-known gay professor."
It was Jake's turn to grin. "Yeah, ain't that cool?"
"Cool for you. Maybe not so cool for your frien'."
"Why? What have you heard?"
"Nothin' much. But everybody knows Boros a homophobe. He the kind to make trouble for your boy."
"I was just thinking how Jim would react to being called `my boy'."
Digby's laugh rumbled. "I won't ask who tops, but I'd be surprised if the captain wasn't givin' it up for you."
"That's absolutely none of your business," Jake said, but he was smiling and nodding his head as he said it.
"Well, Jakey, I'm happy for you." Then he stuck his lower lip out like a little boy pouting. "But I'll miss you."
"Digs, we'll always be best friends. And I don't imagine your bed is too lonely since you and Tyrese have renewed your, uh, friendship." He smiled. "I'm seeing legs on shoulders, but can't quite make out whose are whose."
"Yeah, you enjoyin' the image! Perve on!"
"Ty's a good man. And from what I hear a formidable attorney."
"He all that! And a fine lover too." Digby stood, so Jake did, too.
Jake walked around the desk.
"Be careful, baby. There may be coppers who don't take kindly to havin' to work with folks like us."
"Thanks for your concern, Digs. But there may be more of our kind than we know about on the Colby force. And I rather think Grant can take care of himself."
"You probly right," Digby said.
The two hugged, and Digby left.
`Damn,' Jake thought. `I didn't even ask what was going on with him these days. Guess I'd better call him soon. Or maybe Grant and I could have him and Tyrese over for supper.'
It was past time to leave, so he made sure his class notes were ready for the next morning. He was glad he didn't have any work to take home so he could spend it all with Grant.
That evening he asked about inviting Digby and Tyrese to supper.
"Sure, that'd be great. A Saturday would be best for me, but doesn't Gautier perform most Saturdays?"
"Yeah, I think so. But I could check."
"Well, you know my schedule, so set it up whenever you can." He took a bite of asparagus. "Mmm, I love the way you fix this."
"Thanks. Glad you like it."
"About your friend."
"About the way he talks."
Jake grinned. "Oh, that."
"Uh huh. Sometimes he sounds just like you or me. Sometimes he sounds like a, well, like an African-American. What's that all about?"
"I asked him about that years ago. He told me he'd had a teacher back in Louisiana who'd stressed how important it would be for all of them, black and white alike, to be able to speak the standard dialect if they wanted to get ahead in the world, especially if they moved away from the South. So he did. Worked real hard on it, he said. Of course going to a northern music school helped, too."
"Okay, I get that. But why the lapses?"
"As he pointed out to me, when he goes into a jazz club to play, he doesn't want to sound like a professor of music. So he uses the old vernacular. And when he's around good friends, when he's relaxed, he just sort of uses whatever it takes to make his point."
"That makes sense. He's certainly an interesting guy. Let's go hear him play soon. It's been a while."
"Ready for some cheesecake?"
"Yum! I'll pour the coffee."
As they were scraping dishes and loading the dishwasher, Grant asked, "Isn't your meeting with Pittston and the dean coming up soon?"
"You'll call me when it's over?" Jake could read his lover's concern in his eyes.
Jake put his arms around Grant, and kissed him.
"It's gonna be okay. Honest."
* * *
Dr. Pamela Anstruther, Associate Dean of Students for the College of Arts and Sciences, was 5'5" and slender. Her perfectly-coiffed hair complemented her perfectly made-up face. She wore a pale green tailored suit and darker green pumps with two inch heels. Jake guessed her age at about 45. Dean Anstruther had the reputation of being something of a martinet, which was unusual among the deans of students Jake had known over the years, most of whom tended to cultivate a friendlier image.
He and his colleagues had arrived thirty minutes before Sean Pittston was told to arrive in order for the three of them to explain to her what had happened with the boy.
"I wish," she said, fixing her piercing gaze on Entwhistle, "that you had come to me at the time."
Entwhistle squirmed in his chair.
"If you had, these other gentlemen might have been spared all of this unpleasantness."
"But Dean," Jake began.
"Dr. Handley, I was talking to Professor Entwhistle."
Entwhistle sighed. "I simply assumed you'd believe him instead of me. That is usually the case, isn't it?"
She waited a beat or two before responding.
"Yes, the student or any younger person generally receives the benefit of the doubt. But I'm pretty good at reading people. I could have sorted him out."
The discussion turned, to the obvious relief of Entwhistle, about how to proceed when the boy arrived.
"What Pittston did was illegal. I hope, however," the dean said, "that you won't insist on bringing the police into this."
"But Dean," Biedermeier exclaimed, "he's blackmailed or more properly attempted to blackmail three of us since transferring here. I'd be interested in knowing if he tried it at his previous college."
"To what end?" Jake asked.
"So we'd know just what sort of nasty little bastard, oh, pardon me, Dean, what sort of person he really is."
"Tom," Jake said, "I'm afraid I agree with the Dean. I had the impression that the boy is under a lot of pressure to excel."
"Aren't most of our students under some sort of pressure to do well?"
"Well, yes, but I think this is a parental thing that has Sean really afraid. I'd rather see him get help than punishment."
Dean Anstruther turned to Entwhistle. "What about you, Professor Entwhistle?"
Looking at his shoes, the man replied, "Well, first of all, I'd like to apologize to my colleagues here because they had to endure the boy's threats." He looked up.
The other two faculty members nodded their acceptance of his apology.
"Having said that, I must agree with Dr. Handley. I don't like Pittston. But he doesn't belong in jail. He should be in therapy."
After further discussion, even though Biedermeier was at first reluctant, it was agreed that no legal charges would be filed and he could remain at the University if he agreed to certain conditions.
When the boy was brought in by the dean's secretary and saw who was present, Jake, sitting closest to the door, heard him mutter "Oh, shit!"
When he was seated, the dean asked him if he was prepared to make any sort of accusation against Jake.
The boy gulped and said, still trying to brazen it out, "It wouldn't do any good. You wouldn't believe me."
"Why is that?"
"You know." He was clearly losing his bravado.
She actually smiled at him! "I'd like you to tell me, Sean. No one is out to get you. We want to help."
"There's no way you can help! I know I'm in deep, uh, well, big trouble now. And when my dad hears about this, he'll yank me out of here."
Jake had to admire the way the at-first formidable dean worked with the boy. She told him that what he had done was both wrong and illegal, but that she was sure he knew that. Then she told him that they weren't going to get into the matter of parental pressure, that no one in the room was qualified to give him that sort of counseling. Then she made the offer they'd agreed to, that his record would be corrected, that he'd be allowed to stay on as a student on probation if he took and completed a course of counseling about his problems with his father. And she assured him his parents didn't need to know about any of this. "Unless you and your counselor decide at some point you need to talk with your father about the pressure he's putting on you."
Sean didn't seem like the boy who'd threatened him in his office, Jake thought. Now, nearly in tears, he seemed contrite and grateful.
At the conclusion of the meeting, they all stood. Sean shook hands with each of the professors and apologized. Entwhistle seemed embarrassed. Biedermeier was a bit stiff. Jake was on the verge of hugging the boy and telling him everything would turn out all right, but then decided that as the gay man in the room, he had better not. However, he did smile reassuringly at Sean and wish him well. After the shell-shocked Sean had left, the dean thanked the professors, who in turn thanked her.
"Dr. Handley, could you stay for a few minutes? There's something I need to ask you about."
Puzzled, Jake agreed to stay. The other men left.
"Sit down again, please. Would you like some coffee?"
"No, thanks. I'd like a stiff drink, but I'll have that at home. This sort of thing is very stressful. I don't know how you do it."
He was rewarded with the biggest smile he'd ever seen from Dean Anstruther, who wasn't much of a smiler.
"Maybe being a first class bitch helps"
Jake's initial look of shock was succeeded by a grin as he realized that the woman had a sense of humor.
Before he could respond, she continued, "I do have a serious question for you, though."
"Yes. I understand that a plain-clothes detective from the Colby Police was asking questions at the Registrar's Office not long ago about Sean's record. Do you know anything about that?"
"Uh, yes. Captain Grant is a close friend of mine. After Sean left my office, I nearly panicked. I didn't know what to do. If the boy did what he threatened and was believed, my career would have been finished. I told my friend about it. He's the one who suggested that if Sean had done this once, he might have done it more than once. So he stopped by the Registrar's Office, thinking that in his capacity as a policeman, he'd be allowed to look at Sean's transcript. He didn't know how these things work, and the Registrar turned him down."
"As well he should have," the dean commented.
"Yes. I agree."
She smiled again. "I can imagine how you found out about Professor Entwhistle and Dr. Biedermeier, but I don't think I want to know for sure. You understand, of course, that we have an obligation to Sean to keep all this confidential so long as he gets the treatment we've insisted on. I'll follow up on his compliance with our conditions. But are you sure you can trust this police friend of yours to keep his mouth shut?"
"Yes, Dean. I can absolutely guarantee my friend's discretion."
She seemed satisfied with that. They shook hands, and Jake left.
`Well,' Jake thought as he returned to his office, `that could have gone a lot worse'
When he got back to his desk he called Grant to let him know the results of the meeting.
"Captain Grant's office, Officer Stonesifer speaking. How may I help you?"
"God, you sound sexy when you say that!"
There was a pause. "Who's calling, please.?"
"Oh, Ray, I'm sorry. This is Jake Handley."
Ray chuckled. "Oh, hello, professor. You really shook me up for a minute there. How are you?"
"I'm just great, thanks. Tell me, are you a little more comfortable around the office these days?"
"I don't, uh, oh, sure, I see what you mean. Let's say I'm liking my job more and more. But things have changed around here in the last few days. I imagine you know what I mean."
"Yeah, I do, and I'm really sorry about that. I hope things improve for you and your boss soon."
"Ray, this isn't an official call. It's Jake, remember?"
"Not official for you, maybe, but I'm in the office. Would you like to speak to the captain?"
"Yeah, I would, if he's available. Nice talking to you."
"Yes, sir. I'll connect you with Captain Grant."
"Jake! How'd it go?" Grant asked.
"Well, Jim. Really well."
"Great. I was sure things would work out okay."
"You were more sanguine than I was. But now I feel like celebrating. Let me take you to Adrian's this evening."
"You don't need to do that."
"But I'd like to."
He could hear Grant take a deep breath and then exhale.
"Okay. Adrian's is good. Shall I stop by your place and we'll go from there?"
"Great. I'll call for a reservation. See you soon!"
Jake always enjoyed going to Adrian's. If ever a restaurant pampered its guests, made them feel special, it was this one. He enjoyed the tasteful dιcor, the attentive service, the excellent wines, and the fine food.
Grant wanted to know everything that had happened at the dean's office that afternoon, and Jake told the story between visits from their waiter, the removing of dishes from one course and the bringing of other courses. Grant listened carefully, nodding occasionally, and asking a question from time to time.
On the brief drive back to his condo, Jake said, "I'm sorry. I've practically babbled about what happened today. I've been insensitive. How was your day?"
Grant sighed. "Things are a little tense at the office."
After they'd done their nighttime routines and had gotten into bed, Jake said, "Your problems at the office are my fault, Jimmy, and I'm really sorry. If I hadn't gotten you involved in my issue with Sean, your life would be going along fine."
"Not really. I'd still be in the closet at the office, and we wouldn't be seeing each other. I hated that! I'll just deal with what's going on at work."
Jake put his arms around Grant and began to nuzzle his ear. "Maybe I can at least take your mind off your problems for a while."
Grant shivered. "You've already started, professor."
To Be Continued
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