by Tim Mead
"So you and that faculty fag made a scene at Adrian's Saturday night!" Boros was doing his righteous indignation act.
Grant wanted nothing more than to pound his fists into the Chief's red, lumpy face.
"No, we did not make a scene. And I can't help wondering what business it is of yours, whatever might have happened." He was hanging onto his calm by a thread. "Whoever your informant is, he's making things up."
"So you deny it all?"
"That you and your, uh, your goddamned queer, uh, paramour, caused a stir and then paraded out, attracting all sorts of attention."
Grant shook his head. "That's not what happened. There was a problem in the kitchen. Adrian Lynch apologized and said it would be a while before it was solved, and we opted to leave. There was no fuss. We didn't attract attention. It was all handled with calm and dignity."
"And just what was the problem in the kitchen?"
"Why don't you ask your spy?"
Boros glowered at Grant.
The man had never been particularly likable, but he'd become vicious since he assumed the Chief's stars. "I think I'm entitled to know just what I'm being accused of and who my accuser is. You weren't there. Where did you get all this misinformation?"
"My son's friend is a bus boy there. He told Devin and Devin told me. He was in the kitchen when the whole thing happened."
"Third hand information. The bus boy wasn't in the dining room when Adrian talked with us or when, just after that, we left. Weren't you a policeman once?" Grant asked.
It looked as if Boros was going to have a seizure.
"You're being disrespectful! I'll have your job for this!"
"I don't think so. But for the record, let me ask once more, what am I being accused of doing?"
"Bringing the Colby County Police Department into disrespect, for starters."
"Have you talked with anyone except the nameless bus boy about what happened?"
"I don't need to. I know about you and your fag professor friend parading around town."
"Having a gay friend isn't illegal or against any of the rules for county employees or in violation of department regulations."
"You fucking queers make the rest of us look bad!"
Grant stood. "This conversation is over. You aren't even rational. If you want to pursue this, talk with the county exec. Take it to the commission. Meanwhile, I am thinking seriously of charging you with violation of the anti-discrimination code. I may even seek legal advice."
"Go right ahead. Who do you think is going to side with a faggot?"
"I can't believe you!"
Boros leaned back in his chair. "You know, we all figured you were queer, Grant. And nobody said anything because you were good at your job. And you pretty much stayed in the closet, even while you were fucking that frog cook. But what you're doing now is too goddamned much. So talk to your fuckin' lawyer if you want to."
* * *
Grant and Jake were having supper.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to just dump all that on you."
Jake put down his fork and leaned forward. "Don't be silly. I'm here so you can vent when you need to."
Grant grinned. "Oh, you're here for much nicer things than that."
"Thanks, love. But seriously, what kind of wrongdoing did the bastard accuse you of?"
"That's just the thing. Apparently the kid, who was in the kitchen where Albert was having his moment, exaggerated everything. He had us making a scene and storming out. So Boros is claiming that I'm guilty of conduct that reflects badly on the Department."
"Son of a bitch! But, look, you can get Adrian and the waiter, Ferde, to explain what really happened. Or me."
"Jakey, from Al's perspective, that's all tainted evidence."
"You're all gay. Or at least, if my instincts are worth anything, Ferde is as gay as the rest of us."
"But this is all so insanely illogical. It's wrong to be gay? You can't trust gay people? You can't believe what gay people tell you? Who's going to listen to ranting like that?"
"The exec? The commission? I don't know what Boros is likely to do. I'd quit in a flash, but I don't know how to be anything but a cop."
"What would you think of a preemptive strike?"
"Is that like doing something wrong to someone before they can do something wrong to you?"
"Only on the international level. That's not what I had in mind."
"Okay. What did you have in mind?"
"You know Tyrese is an attorney."
"Do you know what kind of law he specializes in?"
"Not really. I know him mostly as Gautier's friend. But he's a litigator of some sort, isn't he?"
"Uh huh. He makes a pretty good living at it. But along with the jobs that bring in lots of dough, he also does some work for GLBT folk, too. You could talk with him."
"I can imagine he'd be an intimidating guy in the courtroom. Or even as a negotiator."
Jake grinned. "Oh, yeah!"
"I don't think I'm ready to seek legal advice yet, though."
"Maybe not, but you should think about it. Ty might suggest something for you to do to protect yourself."
"That's what makes me furious. I haven't done anything wrong. I shouldn't need to protect myself from a horse's ass like Al Boros."
"No, you shouldn't. But he's your boss. And he has connections in Colby that go back almost as far as yours. I doubt that he can get you fired. Maybe he's just hoping if he's nasty enough, long enough you'll just give up and resign."
For a few moments the room was quiet except for the sounds of mastication and the ticking of the case clock in the entry hall.
"I'm not married to this job, you know. It's not what I would like to be doing. I never thought of myself behind a desk. But I'm sure as hell not ready to retire, to sit around the house all day."
Jake grinned. "Not ready to be a house husband?"
"Well, lover, as you describe it, your work environment is pretty unpleasant these days. Maybe you should do something to force the issue?"
Grant finished his wine, stood up, and began clearing the plates from the table. When they were having coffee and carrot cake, he said, "Maybe that's exactly what I should do."
* * *
A few days later, Grant asked Ray Stonesifer to bring his coffee, come into his office, and shut the door.
"What's up, Captain? Am I in trouble?"
"Of course not. You know I admire the way you're doing your job."
The younger man grinned. "Yeah, you've told me that. So what's up, if I may ask?"
"I've been thinking that you'd be a good man to have in the plain clothes branch. As good as you are at what you're doing, I'd hate to see you doing it for too much longer. And riding around in a patrol car would be a waste of your abilities, too."
"Thanks, Captain. I really appreciate you saying that."
"Good. Now. In normal circumstances, I'd make a recommendation in your case, it would be approved by the Chief, and we'd get you into a new job classification and more training. But things being what they are at the moment, that might not be easy." He looked over his mug at Stonesifer.
"Yeah, I understand, sir."
"Ray, with your permission, I'd like to do it anyway."
"You can say `no,' and there'll be no problem. In fact, you might be smart to say `no'."
Grant grinned. "Okay, let me explain what I've got in mind."
* * *
That evening as they were cleaning up the kitchen, Jake said, "Sweetie, you've seemed worried ever since you got here. Has something else happened at work?"
"I may have done something really stupid."
"Come in by the fire and tell me about it."
They sat on the sofa, Grant's arm around Jake's shoulders, facing the fireplace. Grant explained what he'd proposed and Stonesifer had agreed to.
"Damn, Jim, you're really risking his career, you know."
"I'm very much aware of that. Of course I told him it was entirely his decision, no strings, no pressure."
"My impression is that he's a pretty sharp individual."
"He is. I think he understands exactly what might happen. But I gather he wants as much as I do to get things straightened out in the Department. The kid's got guts."
"So are you going to do it?"
"I'll ask Ray again first. If he's still willing, yes, I'm gonna do it."
"Captain Queeg will be livid, you know. This will really force the issue."
Grant chuckled. "He is a lot like Queeg, now that you mention it. Jeez, I haven't thought of The Caine Mutiny in years. Coming back to your point, yes, forcing the issue is the general idea."
* * *
The next morning Grant asked Stonesifer once more if he wanted to go ahead with the plan. Stonesifer grinned and gave his boss the thumbs up sign.
"I'm going out to the parking lot for a few minutes. But don't tell anyone where I am, okay?"
"You got it, sir!"
In the parking lot, Grant used his cell phone to have a long talk with Tyrese James.
A few days later things came to a head.
* * *
After everything got sorted out, Kris Anders and Ben Moss and their partners, Trent Williams and Toby Taba, were invited to dinner at the house in the country.
As they sat down to their meal, Kris raised his wine glass and said, "I think we should toast Chief Grant."
Grant shook his head, though he was smiling. "That's Acting Chief."
"So, here's to Acting Chief Grant." Kris said.
"Acting Chief Grant," the others echoed.
Once the centers were passed, Grant said, "You know I'm only in the job until we can find a successor."
Kris looked at Ben and they both grinned. "Jim, you're talking to two guys who know just about everything that goes on in the County government."
"Are you two gossips or something?"
"Come on, Chief," Toby said. "You know it's their job."
Grant grinned. "Yeah, I know."
"Guys," Trent said, "Ben and Kris may know everything, but I don't. Kris is very close-mouthed when it comes to County stuff. Would somebody fill me in on what happened?"
All attention was turned on Grant.
"Well, Boros was usually pretty careful not to make his homophobic remarks when he could be heard by more than one person, so it was always his word against that of a subordinate. The problem was how to bring him out into the open.
"I had wanted to get my PA transferred from the uniformed to the plain clothes branch anyway. I knew he was smart, gutsy, and gay. So I explained what I had in mind and he seemed happy to be involved. I wrote up a recommendation for the transfer and gave it to Boros, who nearly blew a gasket, as I had predicted. He called me in and ranted at me, accusing me, among other things, of trying to build my own gay empire in the detective branch.
"I told him that his only reason for refusing a perfectly justifiable request was his homophobia, plus perhaps his personal dislike for me. He sputtered and blustered, but he couldn't come up with anything close to a reasonable response. Then I told him that I expected his answer to my recommendation in writing as per department protocol, spelling out his reasons for refusing, or I'd go to the exec."
"Ballsy," Ben said.
"By then I didn't figure I had much to lose, but I worried about Ray Stonesifer's being a pawn in all this. And, sure enough, Boros called Ray in and unloaded on him, too. Told him his career with the CPD was over, even went so far as to tell him what he'd told me, that he didn't want fucking fags in his police department."
"Captain Queeg," Jake muttered.
"Yeah, the man is unhinged, I think," Grant said. "Anyway, I'd talked with Tyrese James, who gave me a lot of helpful advice. We now had two of us who'd been verbally abused and threatened by Boros because we're gay. He was even stupid enough to give me the written refusal with some allusions to homosexuality being a liability to the Department. Tyrese went out to Higgins and talked with the lieutenant in charge of that station about why Ray was transferred to Headquarters. Normally one cop will clam up when questioned about another. We stick together. But apparently not in this case. Tyrese even got Boros's PA to talk about what he'd overheard in the Chief's office. He's not gay, but he couldn't wait to tell about what a homophobe his boss is." He grinned. "Was."
Grant took a sip of his wine.
It was Jake who continued. "So the upshot was, the whole thing landed on the exec's desk. He showed it all to the County attorney, who nearly had apoplexy. Boros was told that if he didn't resign he would be brought up on a battery of charges. He chose to resign. The exec called my partner in and asked him to submit his name in the search for a new chief."
"But you refused?" Toby asked, looking at Grant.
"Yeah. I'm conducting the search for Boros's replacement. When the best person is found and hired, then I'm going back to being supervisor of detectives, I guess."
"What happened to the bastard Boros?" Trent asked.
Jake laughed. "He took a job in a little town in Alabama."
"Well, Chief" Kris said, "I think you're something of a hero!"
"Hear, hear," Trent echoed, and the others chimed in as well.
"You know," Grant said, "eight other people on the force, including two women, came forward and gave depositions about being verbally abused by Boros about their sexual orientation. I think they're the heroes."
"Yeah, babe," Jake said, "but nobody came forward until you stood up to the son of a bitch."
"Sounds to me as if the real hero in all of this might be your assistant, Ray," Trent said.
Grant grinned and raised his glass. "I'll drink to that."
"To Ray!" the others said.
* * *
Jake and Grant settled into a comfortable pattern, using Jake's condo as a pied a terre in Colby, getting away to Grant's house whenever they could, which meant most weekends. Archie had two homes. When no one was at Grant's house, he lived happily with Bobbi and Ricki.
One evening in early April Jake asked, "Jimmy, what would you think about having a party after Easter, the end of this month or early in May?"
"What kind of party?"
"I was thinking of inviting the group here. It's a perfect place to entertain, and we need to have more people in it."
"The group? You mean the Colby Queers?"
Jake chuckled. "You know a lot of the guys hate that name."
"I can imagine. Not too fond of it myself, especially if I'm to consider myself a member now."
"Grump! You need to loosen up."
"You wanna loosen me up? Come here."
Some time later, Grant said, "Let's do it."
"I thought we just did."
"No, I mean the party. But we'd better hurry and do the inviting. The later we get into the spring, the busier the university guys and, I suppose, Adrian will be."
"Hey, what would you think about inviting Albert?"
"I don't know how he and Adrian would do together socially, but if it's our party we can invite anyone we want."
"I don't give a shit about Lynch, the thing is, would you mind?"
"That question doesn't deserve an answer."
"I'd like to meet the mysterious Albert. So far as I know he never sets foot outside Adrian's kitchen. Besides, it'll be a big enough group that chef and boss won't have to fraternize if they don't want to."
"You know everyone in the group. If you'll make a list, I'll help with the invitations."
"Adrian and Tom usually organize these things. I'll check with them about the list to make sure we don't overlook anyone. I suspect we'd better do the whole thing by phone because of the time factor, and maybe they'll help."
"Sounds like a plan."
"To coin a phrase."
"Jesus, you professors!"
* * *
A few days later . . . .
"Who was that on the phone? Grant asked, putting down the mystery he'd been reading.
"That was Pinkie."
"Nielsen? What did he want?"
Jake grinned. "Seems Adrian told him he, that is Pinky, didn't have anything better to do than stay at home and monitor his investments, so he could call the group about the party. Would you believe they're all coming?"
"Really? How many does that make?"
"I dunno. But I've got the list. Let's count `em."
They sat together on the sofa and Jake put his hastily-scrawled list on the coffee table.
"Chicken scratchings. With handwriting like that, you should have been a doctor."
"I am a doctor."
"You know what I mean."
Jake sighed. "Must I read it to you?"
"No, I think I can make it out. I'm used to your writing by now."
The list was as follows:
Adrian Lynch, Jr.
Tom "Pinkie" Nielsen
"Okay, that's sixteen plus us. How'd they know to invite Albert and Ray?"
"I told Adrian to."
"Thanks, babe. I'm glad they'll be there. Now, who's James Agnello?"
"He is an interior designer, has a shop downtown."
"Oh, yeah. Never been in there. How about Horne?"
"Agnello's partner, econ prof at the university."
"I think I've met Schwartz. He's a botany professor, isn't he?"
"Yep. And Steve Watts is his partner, in the English Department."
Grant raised an eyebrow and grinned. "Can you imagine what Al Boros would think if he knew about this gathering?"
"Have an apoplectic fit?"
"No doubt. But it looks like an interesting mix of people. Some of them I don't know. I'll look forward to this."
"Are you going to announce your big news?"
"Oh, I don't think so. Don't want `em to think we're having the party just because of that."
"Well, the campus rumor mill being what it is, the profs may have heard already. Digby already knows, and I didn't tell him."
"Well, let's just see what happens."
"Oh, no. If you won't tell them, I will. Unless you really object, that is."
"Just don't make a big deal out of it, okay?"
* * *
It was late on Saturday, May 6. Actually, it may have been early on May 7. Grant and Jake were collapsed on the sofa, feet on the coffee table.
"That went well, don't you think?"
"Everybody seemed happy that you're leaving the CPD and will be teaching Criminal Justice at CSU this fall."
"Some of them weren't too surprised. And I have you to thank for the new job."
"Jim, Lou Archer was wetting his pants at the thought of getting someone with your experience who had a graduate degree. I just hope he's paying you what you're worth."
"Are you asking what my salary is?"
"No, of course not. I wouldn't do that."
"It's not as much as I was making with the County, but it's enough. I admit I'm nervous about teaching, but I'm so glad to get away from the Colby P.D. that I'm willing to take a bit of a cut in pay. Money was never the issue."
"So now you're gonna be Professor Grant. My colleague. That sounds nice."
"And Marlowe will be taking your old job?"
"I'd like to meet him sometime. He sounds like a good man."
"He is. Stop by the office some day and if he's around, I'll introduce you."
Jake wiggled his toes and sighed. "Man, I'm glad Adrian took care of everything this evening."
"Yeah, and I think he really gave us a break on the price. Those guys of his kept the food and drinks coming and then cleaned up everything. That's the way to live."
"You want to hire a couple of permanent house boys?"
"Nope. I only have eyes for you. And you give me all I need."
"Same here, lover. But you're an old softy, you know."
"Yeah. I saw you talking with Albert and hugging him."
"Jake, honest to God, it didn't mean anything."
"I know that. I thought it was sweet. You two have a past. I'm glad you're still on good terms. Or, on good terms again. And I enjoyed chatting with him. I thought he'd avoid me, but he seems to have gotten over that. He is a sexy devil, isn't he?
"I take the fifth on that."
They exchanged grins.
"I felt a little sorry for Ray," Grant continued. "He seemed to know the Cromer boy and his partner, the Cox kid, but he didn't know anyone else."
"Oh, I saw him having an animated discussion about something with Ben Moss and Kris Anders and their partners at one point or another."
"Good! I hope he finds somebody, especially since the new chief is committed to the non-discrimination policies of the County. Now, of course, Ray's become a part of the group. And maybe we can keep our eyes open for someone suitable."
"You old matchmaker, you!"
"Hey, if it hadn't been for that kid's guts, things could have turned out very differently."
"Yeah, that's true." He yawned. "Think it's about time to climb the stairs, lover?
As they were undressing, Grant said, "Oh, I have a bit of good news."
"Yup. This evening I arranged with Dave Cromer to keep the grass cut and the bushes trimmed around here this summer. He says he's got two really cute boys who are just finishing their freshman year at CSU who want to work together as one of his teams. One of them worked for him last summer."
"Maybe I know them. Did he tell you their names?"
"One of them is the son of that architecture professor who died about a year ago. Justin something or other."
"Oh, his name would be Quinn. The widow, the boy's mother, is an architect here in town, too. A damn good one, from what I hear. I think she and Dave have worked together on some projects."
"What's the other kid's name?"
"I can't remember."
"They're gay, of course?"
"Would Dave send us anybody else?"
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Again, thanks for Drew and Mickey for their encouragement, suggestions, corrections -- and most of all for their friendship.