This is a work of fiction and in no way draws on the lives of any specific person or persons. If there is any similarity to any real persons or events it is entirely coincidental. Some license has been taken with places as well.
The work is copy righted (c) by the author and may not be reproduced in any form without the specific written permission of the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.
Again I want to thank those of you who have written to me about the story. I hate that it has to be uploaded in pieces. I do hope that it keeps your interest.
Billy dialed Ralph's number but there was no answer. He dialed Doug's
apartment also; again it just rang. Not feeling a need to be out and about, he
left the bar and drove home. It would be good to get in early for a change Jimmy
was out on one of his work-related social functions, and wouldn't be home until
late. He'd have the place to himself
Billy dialed Ralph's number but there was no answer. He dialed Doug's apartment also; again it just rang. Not feeling a need to be out and about, he left the bar and drove home. It would be good to get in early for a change Jimmy was out on one of his work-related social functions, and wouldn't be home until late. He'd have the place to himself
John thought about his conversation with Billy as he drove back to his apartment. What kind of group am I involved with, he wondered? Was there more to it than it seemed?
Now that he'd been asked to investigate for the police department, he felt he had a reason to continue going, even if it wasn't what he thought it was. A sense of excitement regarding the whole affair went through him. He hoped that Jeff was still around when he got back. He needed a release from the tension that this situation had generated.
He dialed Jeff's number as soon as he got in.
Ralph ate at the small restaurant up the street from The Gulch. He sat at a table near the window where he could watch the traffic, the boys cruising up and down Polk Street. He actually hoped that he'd see Doug and have a chance to talk with him. But so far, he hadn't seen him. He knew that Doug didn't generally hang out on Polk Street so it didn't really surprise him that he hadn't seen him.
Doug step off the elevator and into the lobby of the palatial hotel just off Market Street at the far end of town. Two crisp one hundred dollar bills he stuffed into his pocket as he left were evidence that he still retained his ability to satisfy the needs of the most demanding of customers. Sometimes they were actually easier to entertain than those who paid less.
He had another appointment in an hour, but wished that he could cancel, but he also knew that it was not sensible to do so. Much of his business came from repeat customers, and once you canceled them, even for the best of reasons, they were reluctant to call again. So he did it only when there was a very good reason to do so, or if he didn't want them to call again. Sometimes that was the only way to keep them from calling again.
Doug walked hurriedly back to his apartment, as he needed to shower and change clothes before going to his next client. Freshness was another of his virtues. He found that very few of his clientele wanted him anything less than absolutely clean and fresh. Those who did, made their desires known ahead of time, by telling him to go to a gym and workout before coming, and skip the shower, was their way of telling him that they wanted him that way.
His next client was more fastidious than most. He used a special scented soap whenever he went to this man's room something the man had suggested. It was quite expensive, but it was worth it. He never left his room with less than three hundred dollars.
Alter showering he selected a silk and cotton combination shirt, and raw silk slacks, and wore his imported calfskin shoes. He took a cab back to the hotel where the man was staying, since he couldn't risk getting there late or to be perspiring from hurrying.
Ralph finished his dinner and walked into The New Bell Saloon that was just down the street. Lionel was at the keyboard of the huge Wurlitzer console organ blasting out one show tune after another for the customers who came there just to hear him play. Ralph enjoyed watching him play. He was envious of his talent, but not the job he had chosen. Entertaining drunks, Ralph thought, was a tremendous waste of his ability.
Lionel, on the other hand, didn't look at it the same way. His customers, who usually paid handsomely, deserved to hear whatever they wanted, played the way they wanted, with precision and flare. He gave them what they wanted, a show. He could camp with the best of them. The hours were good, he worked four hours per night, except Friday and Saturday when it was six, he was off on Mondays and Tuesdays, except during the summers, which this was, and the pay was good, five hundred a week plus his tips, which ranged anywhere from two to three hundred more per week, and when something special was going on in town, it was not uncommon for him to make more in tips than he made in salary.
The main drawback was that he couldn't take vacations during the holiday or tourist season, which meant that the only time he could get away, was February and March. As a result he'd generally go to South America on his vacation when the weather there was at it's finest.
He didn't have a lover, and didn't want one. He was still young enough and attractive enough to have almost anything he saw that caught his attention. If he saw someone in the crowd that struck his fancy, and the person looked as if he were alone or available, he'd send a prewritten note asking the person to stick around until his break if they were interested in getting together for something later.
Occasionally he'd get an obscene gesture or a remark which made him aware that he'd selected badly, but generally they'd wait, and at least apologize for not being able to stay, or to say that they'd be back later, or perhaps another time.
Ralph stood near the bar listening intently as the organ blasted out the strains of South Pacific, in a variety of rhythms and styles. Applause rose from the crowd as the last notes of Bali Hai echoed and faded from the room. He joined in and held his drink in salute as the organist bowed and scanned the crowd with his dark piercing eyes.
Lionel scooped up another request with his long handled basket, one that he'd purchased at the suggestion of a friend of his, from a liturgical supply store. It was smaller than the standard size and served his purpose admirably. He looked at the note and the ten dollar bill which accompanied it, winked at the elderly patron who'd put in the request, and broke out with a perennial favorite, and what was called by most, The Theme From Phantom Of The Opera, Bach's Toccata And Fugue in D Minor. Applause erupted as soon as the first notes emanated from the great organ.
The roving waiter came to the bar where Ralph was standing. He turned and looked at the organist who occasionally glanced up from the keyboards to acknowledge the audience. There was nod from his head and he returned his gaze to the keyboards before him.
The waiter tapped Ralph gently and handed him a small slip of folded paper.
Ralph took the paper and opened it.
Don't go away. I want to talk to you. Lionel.
How many of these does he hand out in an evening, Ralph wondered? Well, whatever it takes, I guess, he thought. Why not, he wasn't going anywhere anyway? He looked back at the stage. His listened and watched as the thunderous notes of the ancient music shook the giant speakers that were attached to the sound system. As loud as they had been, the next section was quiet. The only sounds in the places were those coming from the stage, even the bartenders who had heard it hundreds of times listened intently. As an especially flowery and easily recognized section was played a smattering of applause was heard and quickly died away.
At last the fight between the three keyboards and the pedals ended. An effusive ovation arose as the last notes sounded. With a flourish, a gracious wave of his hand, Lionel stood to accept his fans acclamation. He bowed several times before he took the microphone from it stand.
"Thank you, thank you, my friends. But it's well past my break time," he waited a moment and added. "Even I have to go potty sometime!" Cheers and laughter rose as he disappeared from the stage.
Ralph watched as the crowd turned to their drinks and conversation. It was a different crowd, and yet the same as that of any other Gay bar in the city. It was young in spirit, if not in body, lonely and yet appearing to celebrate each moment, intimate and yet fearing to get close because of the dread of rejection. They were rich and poor, more poor than rich, young and old, more young than old. None as young as they once were however, and alarmed at the prospect of changing decades, whether it was from the twenties to thirties, the thirties to the forties, and God forbid you should go from the forties to the fifties!
"Hello there," a lilting voice jolted Ralph back to the present. He turned and saw that Lionel was standing beside him.
"Hello," Ralph answered, "I'm Ralph. I enjoy you music very much."
"Thank you," Lionel said, accepting the compliment graciously. "I have but a moment before I have to go back. But I wanted to ask you if you would like to have a bite to eat with me after I finish."
Ralph looked him intently, and saw him as if for the first time. He was not a young, young man, and yet he gave the appearance of being barely in his twenties. His olive colored skin was smooth and polished, his eyes close up had the tiny lines at the corners, his hair a few wisps of gray among the otherwise shinny black wavy mass. Handsome? No. Pretty, definitely not. Good looking, oh yes!
"I'd be delighted," Ralph answered smiling.
"You're a dear," Lionel, like all the rest panicked at the thought of being turned down. He kissed Ralph on the cheek and vanished, only to reappear on the stage a minute latter.
It was someone's birthday. The familiar announcement was made on the sound system by the bartender.
"Let's all sing Happy Birthday to Mike, who is how old? My word! Well I just won't tell you!" Lionel hit and held the first note, as the crowd prepared to wish one of their own the curse of acknowledging another birthday. Lionel led them in the singing. And when they were through, he went only playing variations on the theme as written by the various composers. Laughter of recognition when a familiar composer's music was played to the tune of the happy birthday song bubbled through the crowd.
"Mike's friends have asked that I play some of his old favorites," and flicked off the microphone and broke into Let Me Call You Sweetheart.
"He's not that old!" Called the bartender. Laughter rolled through the bar.
Ralph smiled at the horseplay interchange, and sipped easily from his drink. When he finished it, another magically appeared complements of Lionel, the bartender informed him.
He looked toward the staged and tipped his drink, which brought a smile and flourish from the organist.
The balance of the evening Ralph stood hearing the music but not really listening to it. He had other thoughts on his mind. He couldn't help but think of Donna, wondering how she was doing, wondering if she were thinking the same things as he was. Thinking of how this all came about, how the years of marriage which had seemed so perfect were now on the verge of disappearing, dissolving because of an incident which occurred and seemingly no one could have prevented or foretold would happen.
"You waited," Lionel said as he came up to Ralph after he'd finished for the evening.
It was almost two, and Lionel was only a little tired. He was glad that Ralph had stayed; he needed someone to talk to, to be with, even for a little while.
"I'm ready," Lionel said, "Whenever you are."
Ralph smiled and set down his drink. They walked out of the bar and headed up the street.
Doug asked the doorman to call him a cab when he reached the lobby. His visit had been taxing, but very rewarding. He now had six hundred dollar bills. He needed to make a bank deposit on the way home, as no one would touch the large bills. He had enough money in smaller bills on him to pay the taxi driver, but he didn't want to carry that much cash. After a quick stop at the ATM and the short ride home, it was just after two o'clock in the morning.
Often he'd go out for something to eat before going to bed, but tonight he was just plain tired. He climbed the stairs and as much as he hated to take the time, he did hang up his clothes, they cost too much to just throw them over a chair or worse, on the floor, as he often did with some of his other more casual clothing. He stripped off his shorts and climbed into bed.
Ralph found Lionel interesting to talk with. He had traveled widely, and had amusing anecdotes to tell about most every place he'd visited. And what was good for Ralph, especially tonight, he liked to tell them. Ralph smiled and listened, nodding appropriately, but had to do little in the way of making the conversation go.
It seemed to Ralph as if Lionel had been cooped up with no one to talk to for months. In reality, he supposed, it was just since the last time he'd invited someone to eat breakfast with him. But being alone for the evening and the next two weeks allowed him the luxury of not being as critical as he might otherwise have been. His only constraint was that he did have to be at the office at least by ten.
Lionel talked on until he finally realized that he was monopolizing the conversation.
"I really must apologize for talking so much," he said a little embarrassed, "But you are such a good listener."
"Really," Ralph said, "Do go on, I'm enjoying what you were saying about the Nile. I've never done any traveling to speak of, so it's all interesting to me."
"You're sure?" Lionel asked.
"I'm sure," Ralph smiled.
"As I was saying," Lionel continued.
It was nearly three fifteen when they finished their meal, and walked out of the restaurant. Ralph was beginning to feel fatigued, but supposed that it was from the food, and from the fact that he hadn't slept all that well the night before.
The cool evening air revitalized him and by the time they walked the six blocks to Lionel's apartment on California Street, he was feeling much better.
They took the elevator to the sixth floor, the penthouse, where there were four units that shared a central patio and pool besides having a private garden that was screened from the patio by a high vine covered brick wall. A key was required to access the sixth floor button on the control panel as part of the security system.
Lionel gave Ralph a quick tour of the apartment, ending in the bedroom suite that was really two rooms in one, a room with the bed, and a small sitting room that had a five foot panel separating it from the bedroom. It was all tastefully decorated, and obviously expensive.
It looked like Lionel, was the thing that Ralph liked most about it. It was comfortable and elegant as well as functional. In the living room was his personal organ, with headphones for private practice. A large bookcase nearby held volumes of music all neatly cataloged for easy reference. There was in addition a small upright grand piano, an antique purchased at auction, Lionel told him.
"But enough talking," Lionel said as they walked into the bedroom portion of the suite. "It's time for something more interesting."
Ralph woke as sunlight streamed through the window. He peered at the clock on the nightstand across the bed. It was after eight. Lionel lay, partially uncovered, and sprawled diagonally across the extra large bed.
Ralph debated momentarily, and then slipped out of the bed and hurried off to the bathroom. He knew that he'd have to wake him before he left, and decided to shower while he gave Lionel a few extra minutes of sleep.
He dried off with the luxuriously extra large fluffy towels and peeked into the bedroom as he was finishing with his hair. He was surprised to see that the bed was empty, and could smell the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.
"Good morning," he called as Lionel appeared carrying a large mug of coffee, black just the way Ralph liked it.
"Don't good morning me!" Lionel protested playfully as he handed Ralph the coffee, "It's the middle of my night!"
"Thanks," Ralph smiled, "I do need this. You're not having any?"
"Me? Heavens no, I'm going back to bed as soon as you're out of here!"
Ralph began to hurry.
"No!" Lionel objected, "I'm just joking." He went over to Ralph and hugged him. "I had a perfectly delightful evening," he said.
"I did too," Ralph said kissing his upturned lips.
"You will come back again?" Lionel asked, "Soon?"
"Soon," Ralph said. He didn't want to commit to anything this early in the day. With his commitment to Billy's investigation, it was hard to plan day-to-day. "I'll stop in at the bar when I can get away."
Ralph finished dressing. He felt a little strange as he walked down the hallway with Lionel dressed only in a towel wrapped daintily about his waist. But he supposed that Lionel knew the schedules of the other residents of the penthouse or didn't worry about what they might think.
They kissed good-bye and Lionel let him into the elevator.
Billy was a little annoyed when he called Ralph's office at nine-thirty and was informed that Ralph had not come in yet. Then after he thought about it, was amused that he'd felt that way. Ralph didn't work for him, and Ralph wasn't responsible to him for any other reason, except as a friend.
He hadn't wanted anything special, he just wanted to chat. He quickly busied himself with reading reports that had been typed for his signature.
John was at his desk working when his phone rang.
"Hello, this is Darryl, Darryl Brackens." The voice was now familiar and he would have recognized him.
"Good morning, Darryl," he answered trying not to sound nervous.
"John," Darryl asked, "Can were get together this evening, perhaps around seven in my office?"
"Sure," John said.
"Good," Darryl said, "We've got lots to do. See you tonight."
John hadn't asked why they were getting together, perhaps he should have. Darryl didn't seem to think it odd, so why should he?
Ralph read the note left by his secretary from Billy. He wondered if it were something important. He didn't have time right now to call him; he'd have to wait.
Doug slept late this morning, relaxing in the realization that Monday night's efforts had gained him an edge on the whole week. A good weekend would put him well ahead of his monthly estimates.
Darryl watched as Turner busied himself in the computer room. He was a little jealous of the diminutive man who sat at a keyboard, his fingers flying as he read the list of names and addresses.
But why should I be jealous, he asked himself? He'd gotten to the man who was supposed to be in love with Turner, and he hadn't really tried, or even intended to. He could have anything he wanted, or even thought he wanted.
Darryl was surprised at how easily things were beginning to happen for him. All he had to do was just think that he wanted something, and it happened.
It had all begun recently, after the incident with the blonde boy, Tim, was that his name? Some power had come to him as a result of this, and he was just now realizing it. He went back to his desk, and made some notes to check out what he'd just discovered.
Jamison was glad that Tuner had not thought anything was askew when they met last night. He hoped that Turner would never find out about the incident with Brackens. It wasn't something that he was proud of. He hadn't intended for it to happen, and didn't really know why that it did.
Tuner looked up just as Darryl disappeared into his office. What had he been doing? It seemed that every time he looked up today Darryl was there hovering over him. What was going on? Was he going to get fired? Was Darryl having a hard time telling him? He tried to put the feeling out of his mind.
The day passed slowly for John, but finally it was over, and he headed back to his apartment. He was glad that Jeff was busy with some friends for the next few days. He didn't have to make excuses for not seeing him. He fixed himself a quick snack and hurried off to the city and his meeting with Darryl.
Ralph finally got around to calling Billy, who'd forgotten that he'd even called.
Billy suggested that Ralph come over for dinner that night, so he wouldn't sound as if he lost his mind completely.
"I'd like that," Ralph answered.
"Good," Billy said.
"Say, around six-thirty." Billy suggested.
"Sound good, see you then."
Billy dialed Jimmy's work number to let him know.
"Billy, really!" Jimmy said, "You know I have this dinner at the Ladies Club tonight. Oh well, you'll just have to manage by yourself."
Feeling stupid, Billy hung up the phone. He locked up his office and headed home, stopping at the market to pick up some things for dinner. It wasn't as if he couldn't get along cooking for himself, he just preferred Jimmy's to his own.
John found a parking space and hurried to Darryl's building. As he got to the entrance he saw Darryl hurrying down the street. He was carrying a brown paper bag, and wore the usual gray sweats.
He waited for Darryl to get to him before he opened the door. They went in together and rode the elevator, this time to the basement.
Darryl was going to explain the ceremony to John, and the ritual. It was better if that were done in the setting, rather than the abstract.
The brown bag contained his dinner, a salad, and a six-pack of beer.
"I hope that you don't mind if I eat while I explain a bit of the general theology and ritual, before we go into the initiation ceremony."
They sat on the lounge in the storage room that Darryl had set up for the occasion. Darryl began with a short history of the organization, and an overview of the theology.
From what little John knew of Satanism, this resembled it slightly. But instead of Satan being worshiped, it was Ba, the male essence, which was being made the deity. The cult, if one could even call it that, had begun in Egypt in ancient times. But it never really got off the ground. It's founder a virtually unheard of King had tried to start it, but before he could really develop it, died of a strange fever. The cult had apparently died with him. Writings discovered in his tomb centuries later, brought it back to life.
In modem times, the cult began again in France, traveled to England and then the United States first in New York then San Francisco. They all used the writings of one man as their guide. Most groups were not as formal as Darryl's was. None had the structure and ritual that he had developed.
Darryl, if John understood what he was saying, had uncovered the secret to the power. He had only recently learned this secret, and was still in the process of testing his theory. He didn't tell John what it was, but if what Darryl said was true, and what Billy told him was also, then John didn't have any problem figuring it out. The power was in a sacrifice of blood!
John's excitement grew as he listened to Darryl talk on.
As Darryl explained the ritual, he tried to recall what he had experienced and connect it with what he heard.
Recalling his religious training and dealing only in the abstract, the difference between this ritual and the Christian services, particularly the Church of England and the Roman and Greek Rites, was minimal. The words of course, were altered, but basically the format, the objects, and the intent were the same.
He watched as Darryl's eyes glowed with excitement as he explained his approach to ritual. It was as if Darryl were discovering it all for the first time. Perhaps, John thought, Darryl did not realize what he was doing; perhaps he truly didn't connect his new ritual with the historic Christian services. John saw the connection at once, but didn't bring up the point, preferring to see what developed as a result.
Darryl had by this time, finished his salad. He offered John a beer. He accepted it and they drank slowly as Darryl continued his explanation and plans.
"You see," Darryl continued, "An important part of every ritual, is the offering. The more innocent the offering; the more pleasing to Ba."
"Like Abraham's offering of his son?" John proposed.
"Exactly," Darryl said excitedly. "That is why I have secured the services for your initiation of a young man. He will do very nicely, if he shows up."
"You think he might not?" John asked probing.
"It is possible, but I have a replacement for him, just in case. Not as young, and not as innocent, but for the purposes, he will do fine.
"You don't know him, naturally, because you've always been blindfolded, but he was the one at the last service you attended, the first offering that night."
John's mind immediately registered, that would be Ralph
"How will this service be different from that one?" John asked.
"It will involve a new section which will be the testimony of faith, in this case yours. An opening of your eyes literally as well as figuratively, to your faith."
"You mean at some point in the service, my hood will be removed, right?" John asked hopefully.
"Yes," Darryl's eyes gleamed, "And you will then see Ba!"
John began to be as excited as Darryl was. There was something in the way he spoke, something in his eyes that intrigued him, pulled him towards him. A power, of sorts, to instill in others a belief in what he was saying. No amount of resisting on John's part could hold him back. His body tingled in expectation.
"Come," Darryl said putting down his empty bottle, "Let us go into the presence of Ba and worship." Let's see how ready he is, Darryl said to himself. Darryl led John to the door to one of the cells.
"Change into the clothing inside," Darryl instructed.
John went in and did as requested and emerged a short time later clad in sweats and socks. Darryl had unlocked the temple door and removed his own shoes. And together they went in.
It was John's first view of the inside. It was dark, except for flickering votive candles in the front and back. The two statues were covered, but he could now guess what the shrouds concealed.
"These also will be revealed to you," Darryl said his eyes still glowing, glistening in the semi-darkness. They walked to the front and stood silently.
Darryl bowed his headed, and John heard him begin to breath in a slow and rhythmic fashion. He felt a strange sensation come over him as he stood in the silent vault. The scent of incense hung in the stale air mixed with the smoke from the burning wax.
Darryl raised his arms holding them out, palms up slightly above his head. He moaned loudly reciting words that John could not understand. His voice was low in pitch and slow. It was the voice he'd heard during the service. Several times he heard the word 'Ba'.
As Darryl's voice trailed off at the end of which John guessed was a prayer of sorts, Darryl slowly removed his clothing and stood naked next to him.
In his normal voice, Darryl said, "Please join me."
Although reluctant, John did as Darryl asked; he also removed his sweatshirt and pants. The cold musty air wrapped his body, and his skin felt damp. He watched as Darryl turned again toward the covered image of Ba. Slowly Darryl began to exhibit an erection without his hands touching himself, and with his arms hanging loosely at his sides, his penis rose slowly until it stood straight out before him, throbbing, pulsing slightly up and down.
John became conscious of his own body responding in a similar fashion; although he guessed from the sight he was viewing. Darryl glanced at him briefly and turned his eyes forward once again.
"Now begin," Darryl said in his natural voice. Darryl began stroking himself slowly. John did the same, although he watched Darryl. He could see perspiration begin to bead on Darryl's body in spite of the cold.
"Close your eyes, John, and look forward." Despite his natural desire to see what was happening he did as Darryl requested. Gradually he began to feel a sensation of warmth enveloping him as he continued to stroke himself. Soon he became aware the droplets of sweat were forming and beginning to run down his body. The same feeling of passion that had overpowered him at the services now filled his body.
In the blackness of his mind he saw the patterns that his imagination created, he was overcome with a desire to ejaculate but did not. He heard Darryl's moan of passion and the sound of liquid hitting the canvas as he expelled his seed upon the floor. His own desire rose higher and higher until he too exploded sending spurts of sticky cum arcing across the room, some droplets striking the curtain that concealed the image of Ba.
When their breathing returned to normal, Darryl touched his arm, and he opened his eyes. He had not heard Darryl move, and yet there were no signs of the orgasms that they had experienced, it was gone!
Darryl led him from the room in silence. When he closed the door and had re-bolted it, he said. "You are very good. You worship well."
John feared to say anything.
"You can get dressed now." Darryl said with a slight smile.
John was relieved and somewhat embarrassed. He dressed hurriedly, anxious to be away from this place. Not from any fear for his safety, and not for any distress over the Satanism idea, but from the sense of lingering power which he felt certain came from the vault.
Billy and Ralph sat in the living room of Billy and Jimmy's apartment sipping coffee after the dinner that Billy had prepared.
Ralph had explained to Billy what had transpired the night before Donna decided to leave. A sense of relief came over him as he revealed to Billy how he felt about it.
"I think," Ralph said, "That I can come to terms with my situation now. I know that they're bound to be complications regarding it when she gets back and we start dealing with the real issues. And depending on how she takes it, some really emotional scenes.
"But I don't see any other way around it. I've got to tell her why I'm involved, and that means telling her that I'm into guys as well."
"I suppose," Billy sounded dejected, "I don't see any other way either. I wish there were. I just hate for her to be hurt like this."
"You think I don't?" Ralph asked. "I've lived with her and loved her all these years Billy. Really loved her."
"But still," Billy couldn't bring himself to say it.
"You mean," Ralph was almost accusatory, "In all the years you've been with Jimmy, you've never slept with anyone else?" He saw the hurt look in Billy eyes and quickly said, "I'm sorry, Billy. I didn't mean to say that. I had no right."
Billy didn't say anything. What could he say? It was true; he had slept with other men besides Jimmy.
"I'm sorry, too," Billy said, "I guess I don't have the right to accuse you of hurting Donna. It's none of my business.
"I guess I better get going," Ralph said. "I've got an early day tomorrow. I'll keep you posted on this Brackens thing."
"Okay," Billy said and got up to see him out, "And be careful, Ralph, there are all kinds out there."
"I'll try," Ralph said. They exchanged hugs and Ralph left.
Billy cleaned up the dinner dishes and straightened out the kitchen. He was about to get ready for bed when the phone rang.
"Hello?" he asked.
"I'm sorry to call you at home. This is John. I just came from Darryl Brackens' building. Can we get together to talk?"
"Sure," Billy said "When?"
"Tonight if it's not too late," John sounded anxious.
"Okay, give me a few minutes and I'll meet you outside of Sofia's, okay?"
"Fine," John answered, "I'll be there."
Billy pulled on a sweatshirt over the sport shirt he was wearing. After checking out his hair and adjusting the shirt collar hurried off to meet John.
As usual, he had to park some distance from the bar and walk. John was standing near the door holding a drink when he arrived. He was glad it was a Tuesday night and not a weekend.
They shook hands as they met and Billy picked up a beer at the bar before they walked to the back and sat at a table where they could talk privately.
John spoke softly as he told Billy of his meeting with Darryl. He was still embarrassed about the sexual aspects of the situation, but gave Billy most of the details.
"He didn't actually say Ralph's name, but I'm certain that was who he meant. I never let on that Ralph and I know about each other."
"What I'm wondering is," Billy said, "Who is the other person he was talking about?"
"He didn't say a name or anything," John said.
"Did he say how he was going to get him there?" Billy asked.
"No," John said, "All he actually said was that he'd be young and innocent."
"Okay, so this service is to be Friday evening, right?" Billy asked.
"Yes," John answered.
"And it's to be in the basement of that building?"
"Okay," Billy said thinking out load. "That means we've got almost three days to get ready for it. We've got to make certain that who ever this young man is that he's planning on using doesn't show up."
"How are you going to do that?" John asked.
"I don't know, but we've got to keep him from being part of the service, or he might just end up on a slab at the morgue like the other kid did." Billy didn't really know yet how he was going to manage that but there were several possibilities.
"And Ralph has to know what's going on too," John said.
Tomorrow the three of us will get together for a meeting and lay out a way of keeping everyone alive."
Billy was silent for a moment, and John kept silent too, preferring to let Billy lead in this matter. He didn't have sufficient information to formulate plans and didn't want to interfere with police business.
He saw himself caught up in the police investigation and being used to get at Darryl, who may or may not be actually involved in the killing of that boy. He didn't know how it was possible for Darryl to have done it; he didn't seem like that kind.
"I'll give you a call tomorrow, John," Billy said and they both got up and left the bar together. They parted at the door, each going their separate ways. John turned after he'd gone a few steps and looked back at Billy.
He watched as the handsome policeman took another step and turned likewise and looked back at him. John was embarrassed to be caught looking back, but decided to pass it off. He waved to Billy.
Billy felt silly when as he turned he saw John looking at him. He returned John's wave and went on.
Ralph climbed into bed and lay starring at the ceiling for a moment before closing his eyes. He saw in his mind a series of images of his recent past floating by. And as the image of Lionel playing gaily on the organ at the bar persisted, he slept.
Darryl climbed the steps to his apartment and paused a moment before going inside. He looked up at the sky and caught a glimpse of a meteorite as it p lunged to earth leaving behind its trail of exploding rock, looking like a skyrocket falling instead of rising. A sign, perhaps? He smiled and went on inside.
Doug saw the same sight as he walked down the street in another part of town. He paused momentarily as he watched the sparkling trail vanish into the darkness, forever lost from view, never to be seen again. He shivered and hurried on his way.
Billy said nothing to Jimmy about the meeting and what was coming up, but lay awake long into the early morning trying to figure out how to prevent another innocent young man from ending up at the morgue.
Late Wednesday afternoon Billy phoned both John and Ralph setting up a meeting for that evening. Since Donna was gone he suggested that it take place at Ralph's flat. Ralph readily agreed, and the meeting was scheduled for seven-thirty that would allow John time to eat before driving into the city.
Billy arrived first and he and Ralph sat talking casually as they waited for John to arrive. Traffic was heavier than usual due to a ball game at both ballparks that night, and he was twenty minutes late, arriving just before eight o'clock.
"I'm sorry I'm late," he said when he came inside, "Ball games."
Ralph nodded and they went into the living room where Billy sat with a note pad in his hand.
"Here's what I've come up with," Billy said and went into a discussion of his plan. "The night of the ceremony I'll tail Darryl where ever he goes. The object is to let him do whatever it is he wants to do, but if and when he meets someone. Wherever it is, and if he under thirty years old, this person will be detained.
"This way we can be certain that whoever it is he plans on using won't be there. This means that you. Ralph, will take his place. Darryl told John that it will be you, if the young guy doesn't show up."
"What going to happen after that?" Ralph asked.
"We don't really know," Billy said, "But we can guess that it has something to do with a blood sacrifice." For a long moment no one spoke. Just the idea of such a thing sent chills up all their spines.
"We'll just have to wait and see," Billy said. "Since John here is the one being initiated, it is likely that he's the one who was do the actual sacrifice, whatever it is." Billy looked at John, "Of course, if it is, he won't do anything serious to hurt you. I hope that it won't be necessary, but in case it is. I'll be hiding nearby. I don't know how, yet, but somehow I'll get into the storage room when Darryl's not there and at the appropriate moment during the service, if there's any danger, I'll take the necessary action."
To John it seemed like a workable plan, and he nodded as Billy spoke. He knew that no matter what, he wasn't going to kill anyone.
Ralph thought of what Billy was saying about a sacrifice. At this moment in time, he was prepared to do anything to catch who ever was responsible for killing Tim. He was glad that he was involved.
Billy sensed that the other two men understood was would be happening, and that there would be little risk involved. He hoped that he had calculated correctly about how Darryl was planning on getting his victim to the service. It was a feeling that he had that only Darryl would know who it was, and that this person didn't know where he was going to go, or what was going to happen.
The next day, Thursday, Billy got the necessary search warrants, one for Darryl's apartment, if needed, and one for the storage room and Darryl's office. He took the one to the office of the building manager and asked him to cooperate with the police by providing a key to the back door to the building, and to the storage room itself And asked the man not to contact Darryl in any way, warning him that he'd be charged with obstructing an investigation if he did. The man readily agreed, and provided Billy with the necessary keys and a floor plan of the building showing where everything was.
That night Billy phoned both John and Ralph telling them that he was all set with his end of the plan, and all they had to do, was wait.
Darryl, realizing that he'd forgotten to contact Ralph dialed Ralph work number early on Friday morning.
"Damn!" he said to himself as he waited for Ralph to come onto the line.
"Good morning, Darryl," Ralph said.
"I'm sorry to bother you, Ralph," Darryl said. "I've meant to call you earlier in the week, but it just slipped my mind.
"But we're having a service tonight, and I'd like you to be there. I do hope that you can make it."
Ralph had known that the call was coming, but was prepared to be reticent about accepting the invitation.
"Gee," he said, "I've really got other plans for this evening."
"Is there anyway that I can persuade you to change your plans?" Darryl sounded desperate.
"Well," Ralph said. "Perhaps I could change them."
"I'd be forever in your debt." Darryl sounded relieved.
"There's just one thing," Ralph bargained.
"Whatever it is, if I can."
"I'd like to see what's going on," Ralph said.
"I think that can be arranged," Darryl smiled; he'd gotten what he wanted. He could promise him anything, but he didn't really have to live up to it.
"Okay," Ralph said, "What time? And where?"
"Seven-fifteen, and the same place," Darryl said, "I'll meet you outside."
Ralph smiled as he hung up the phone. He'd get to at least see what was going on! He telephoned Billy's office and was told that Billy was out. He left a message and waited impatiently for the return call. While he was waiting, he called John's office.
They talked briefly using general terms about the meeting so that no one listening would understand. John told him that he had been instructed to be there at seven-thirty and the service was to be at eight, with the other members arriving promptly at seven forty-five.
Doug woke late Friday morning after another busy evening. He saw the red circle around today's date. He knew what it meant.
He was curious about what he might be getting into, if he decided to go. The lure of the money he'd make if he went was not part of his decision. It had been a more than adequate month so far, with promise to be even better this weekend.
He had until six-thirty to decide if he was going or not. He was scheduled to meet Ron at six forty-five at the bus terminal.
Billy returned to his office and found the message from Ralph. He dialed the number and waited nervously for Ralph to answer.
"Ralph, this is Billy. What's up?"
"I had a call from Darryl." Ralph explained what had transpired.
"Good, that'll make it a little easier for both of you, " Billy said. He wondered if Darryl would actually keep his part of the bargain, he doubted it, but didn't tell Ralph that. He reassured Ralph that he'd be near by tonight, and not to worry one way or the other.
Darryl rose early Friday morning and hurried off to his office. He wanted everything to be cleared up early so that he could concentrate on the evening's ceremony. He'd had a call late last night from Charles to let him know that he wasn't going to be able to attend, something about pressing personal matters.
He was disappointed and wondered what could be more important than this. He made his calls to the other members earlier in the week, and he was assured that at least six perhaps seven would attend.
Turner was busy at work by the time he arrived, and barely knew that he was there. Apparently Turner had plans for the weekend too, and they didn't involve working late that afternoon. Darryl was glad, the last thing he needed was someone dawdling about the office when he was trying to get away early.
John was anxious about tonight as he tried hard to concentrate on his work. He was glad that there was nothing pressing to get finished today.
Ralph was settled in to his schedule of meetings with clients for the day. His last appointment was at five, but it was a short tour of a building nearby his own place, so he'd be finished in twenty minutes or so.
To be continued ---
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