Jesse stood by the bedroom window, looking out at the back yard. Mrs. Brill had an ingenious bird feeder. Made of steel, it had a counterbalanced perch. The smaller birds could sit on it and peck at the feeder tray. But as soon as something heavier, like a squirrel or even a mourning dove, climbed onto the perch, a flat piece of steel slid down and covered the tray. The chipmunks were small enough to climb into the tray itself, but the fat squirrels were literally baffled.
Mrs. Brill had told him that one of her former "boys" had installed that for her.
She liked to reminisce about her boys. First there had been Hank, who graduated and went off to a job in Atlanta. Then there was Brody. She said Brody was still in town, a student at CSU. He had been in the Marines in the Middle East, and now he was living with his partner, who owned a landscaping company. After Brody had come Joe, who worked for the same landscaper. It didn't seem to bother Mrs. B. that Joe was now living with his partner, a cabinet maker.
Since at least two of her three previous lodgers were gay, he wondered if she assumed he was gay.
He'd had his morning run, longer than usual because it was Sunday. He'd come home and stripped off his clothes before taking a shower. Realizing he was standing there naked by the window, he moved quickly toward the bathroom.
No point in giving the neighbors a free show. He was used to people looking at him, to being scrutinized and admired, but not when he was nude.
Later he was at the small kitchen table, where he'd had juice, yogurt, and a small bowl of Kashi. After glancing at the calendar he'd stuck on the fridge with magnets, he realized that Mother's Day had been the previous Sunday.
She'd always expected flowers and a phone call when they were apart, a meal at an expensive restaurant and an evening at a Broadway show when she was in New York.
He knew he should miss her. She'd been such an important part of his life. But he didn't, and that was that. It wasn't that he hated her. But he couldn't forgive her for robbing him of his teen years. Of the chance to be a boy, to go to classes, ball games, dances, to have a normal social life. Granted, she'd been responsible for starting his successful career. But had the career been worth it? Was it worth giving up all that time in order to work? To gratify her ambitions? The money had been good, sure. But she'd also kept everything he'd earned until he turned 21, spending a lot of it on herself and the lifestyle his work enabled her to maintain.
Oh, well, he thought. At least now I'm doing what I want to do. No reason not to make the most of it.
But two weeks into his first term at the university, he hadn't done anything about having a normal social life. Held back in part by his not wanting to be recognized, in part by natural shyness, he hadn't put himself out to meet people. He'd gone to his classes, eaten alone, whether in the apartment or a bar or restaurant, studied in the evenings.
He was enjoying the classes. But if he wanted to have friends, he realized he was going to have to put himself out there. But how to do that . . . ?
"It's nitty-gritty time, Stonesifer," Lt. Martin Havers said as he walked into Ray's cubicle.
Havers slapped a large-scale map of Colby County down onto Ray's desk, apparently unaware that there was a copy of the same map on the divider to Ray's right.
Pointing to a spot on the map, Havers continued, "A beat-up mobile home half a mile north of Hopkins Road on Township Road. Possible meth lab. You don't like spending your time at the computer, huh? Want some real police work, do you? Well, you're gonna be on stake-out."
"Okay." Ray didn't know how Havers had learned about his grumbling, but he resolved not to say things like that in front of his fellow officers any more.
"Look. You can't just sit in a car on the road in front of the place. You'd be spotted in a minute. See on the map? There's a woods that ends about 50 yards behind the house."
Ray noticed that there didn't seem to be any other dwellings marked within a quarter of a mile or so of the trailer.
"So the best place to watch is from the woods?"
Havers nodded. "Got it, Ace. Go home and get into some camos. Approach the woods from the west. Look, here's a place where you can leave your car. In fact, Turco's car is there now. He's been watching the place all morning. You relieve him as soon as you can get there. I'll send someone to relieve you about 20:00 hours. Be sure and take along a pair of binoculars."
"Yes, sir. You want to put me in the picture first?"
"We got a phone tip that there was something suspicious about the place. It was probably one of the neighbors, but whoever called wouldn't give her name. So we did some checking. The place is owned by an Evelyn Hendrix, who lives in Arizona now. Rents out the trailer. We haven't been able to get in touch with her yet. But the taxes are paid up. So are the utilities. I sent a guy out to check with some of the neighbors. Nobody lives close enough to the place to observe it, but one guy said he'd seen a man coming and going occasionally in an old truck."
"Seems like a lot of time and effort because of some busybody's suspicions."
"Yeah. It may just be the woman who called in is pissed because the place looks trashy, brings down the area. But if it is a meth lab, we want to shut it down."
Ray logged off his PC and went to his car. As he drove home, he thought, This is more like it. Catching someone running a meth lab is real police work. And at least it's a chance to be outside on a nice day instead of staring at the computer screen!
On the other hand, in his rush to follow Lt. Havers' orders, although he had grabbed a bottle of water, he had forgotten to bring along anything to eat.
When he arrived at the place where he'd been instructed to leave the unmarked car, he saw another car of the same sort parked there. He grabbed his binoculars and the bottle of water and headed for the woods that lay between him and the spot where he was to observe the mobile home.
He was startled when, as he came toward the east edge of the woods, someone said, "Jesus, Sarge! You scared the shit out of me."
It was Turco, looking decidedly uncrisp in his sweat-stained camos.
"Anything happening?" Ray asked.
"Not a fucking thing!"
"Well, then, take off."
"Thanks. Loo said to get cleaned up and come back in to the office. The bastard could have told me to take the rest of the afternoon off."
"Well, unless you take a really long shower, you're going to be clean and changed by 3:00. You still owe the County a couple of hours."
Ray grinned. "That's, yes, sergeant."
Grinning back, Turco said, "Yeah, yeah," and headed through the woods to his car.
By 16:00 hours he was less enthusiastic. It was hot in the camos. It seemed that all the flies in the county had decided to have a convention in the undergrowth where he was sitting. And he'd almost sat in a patch of poison ivy before he noticed the three-part leaves. After living slathered in calamine lotion for a week after a Scout outing when he was fifteen, he'd have felt like a damn fool if he'd brought that on himself again.
So here he sat, hot, sweaty, itchy, ass hurting from being in contact with terra excessively firma for hours. Nobody had entered or left the trailer as far as he could tell. Of course he was looking at the back of the place. Conceivably someone could have gone in the front door, but he didn't think so. Unless they approached on foot. He could see the road that passed in front of the place, and no car had even slowed down as it passed, much less turned into the rutted lane that led from the road to the trailer.
The place seemed neglected. A piece of metal siding had come loose in the back and dangled at a dispirited angle. A faded plastic swing set sat in calf-high weeds behind the place. So far as Ray could tell, no one was home. In fact he doubted that anyone lived there.
At about 18:00 hours his radio came alive. "Stonesifer, what's going on out there?"
"Not a thing, Lieutenant."
"Nothing?" Havers asked, a note of impatience in his voice.
"No, sir. I've been watching the weeds grow all afternoon."
"Well, we'll call it off for tonight."
"Will you be wanting me to pull surveillance tomorrow?"
"Come to the office and we'll see."
"No, regular civvies will do. Unless you hear to the contrary from someone overnight."
As he showered that evening, he asked himself, Am I just a malcontent? Is all police work boring? I was griping about all the time at the computer, but sitting on my butt swatting mosquitoes and flies with nothing but bites and heat rash to show for it is even worse.
Ray was supposed to be off that weekend. Before he left on Friday evening he checked with Lt. Havers to make sure he wasn't going to be called back for more stake-out duty.
Havers had said he had enough manpower to run the stakeout without Ray. Then he corrected himself.
"Fuck. I suppose I should say `person power' to be PC. Officer Miller will be doing her stint."
"Okay, lieutenant. I'm sure she'll do as well as any of the rest of us."
Havers grumbled something and hung up.
Jim Grant had called late that afternoon to invite Ray to a baseball game. The Higgiins Hammers were playing at home against the Sylvania Jolts.
"I'd like to see you and Jake," Ray said, "but why a baseball game? Are these guys any good?"
"It's strictly amateur, but you know Dave Cromer and Brody Cox. And there are a couple of CSU students who work for Dave in the summer. It's good fun."
Ray wouldn't mind seeing Cromer and Cox again. He knew they were partners and that Cox was a CSU student. Both were hunks.
"Sure. Is the game at the high school field?"
"No, it's at Barranco park. Do you know where that is?"
Ray had lived nearly all his life in the Colby/Higgins area. "Yes, sir, I sure do."
"Good. See you about 6:30 then."
Ray was pleased to see Blake Bellamy and Adam Craig there as well. Each of them was licking an ice cream cone. He'd known Blake for a couple of years, but he'd met Adam at a Colby Queers get-together a few months back. Blake noticed him, nudged his partner and said something to him, and both men waved. Ray waved back.
A crowd of perhaps 75 people had turned out for the game on that warm, early-June evening. Most of them, Ray surmised, were family and friends of the players. There were even a few wives, girlfriends, and little kids who'd apparently made the short trip from Sylvania.
It was Jake who explained that the Hammers had originally been sponsored by a local hardware store. When the firm was forced out of business by the big DIY chains, Dave Cromer had taken over sponsorship. Both he and Brody were members of the team.
"Dave didn't want to change the name to the Higgins Hemlocks or something more appropriate to his landscaping business, so they're still the Hammers."
In the third inning, the Hammers' shortstop made a brilliant catch and throw to second for a double play.
"Who's that kid at short?" Ray asked.
"That's Justin Quinn, " Jim told him. "And the second baseman is his boyfriend. Well, I suppose I should say his partner. I think they're pretty solidly paired up. They both go to CSU and they work together for Dave in the summers. The two of them take care of our yard work," he added, putting a hand on Jake's bare knee.
"So, they're family. It's a wonder Adrian hasn't invited them to the CQ events."
"I think it's because they're undergraduates and there are several faculty members in the group. Or maybe he just didn't think they'd enjoy getting together with all us old farts."
Ray thought about that for a moment. "You know, neither Adrian nor Tom said anything to me about bringing Blake to your house on New Year's Day. And Blake's an undergraduate."
"Well," Jake said, "I suppose he told you to bring a guest. Since he didn't put any restrictions on whom you could ask, it wouldn't have been fair to say anything at the party."
"Besides," Jim added, "although it was a CQ gathering, it was at our house. Maybe he didn't think it was his place to say anything."
Ray grinned. "Whatever. It worked. I think seeing Blake with me gave Professor Craig just the kick in the butt he needed. And I suppose, since they're together now, Blake will be a member of the CQ group."
"How'd you happen to know Blake?" Jim asked.
"I met him about a year or so ago at Nellie's. And after that we'd chat once in a while over a beer. Then he'd go off and hit on someone and I wouldn't see him for a month or so."
"You're about the same age, aren't you?"
"I'm a year or two older, I think."
"He's a good-looking boy. Woops, sorry. Man. I'm surprised you two didn't, well, um . . ."
Ray chuckled. "You mean `hook up,' I think."
"I'm no prude. I don't have anything against casual sex occasionally. But, first of all, there wasn't really any chemistry between Blake and me. He's a nice guy. Interesting. He's been around a lot more than I have. And he looks great. But we never even flirted with each other. Besides, I wasn't sure I wanted to get sexually involved with a guy who did as much cruising as Blake did."
"Well, he seems to have settled down now that he's with Adam Craig."
"Yeah. I don't know the professor very well, but I hope they'll be happy together."
Their conversation was interrupted when the visiting team's first baseman hit a home run.
The next day Ray went back to the station to work out. He envied the students and faculty of CSU the state-of-the-art exercise equipment available to them. There was a Gold's in Colby, but he had never felt able to afford that. So he did thrice-weekly workouts on what was available to the police, fire, and EMT personnel at the County Building.
He was always surprised by how many of his colleagues would get up early on a Saturday morning to work out. But at least there was something to look at as he mindlessly ran or pumped or lifted.
He knew most of the people he saw at the gym. The majority of them were friendly enough, but there were a few who were cool or who gave him a wide berth as if they feared he might come on to them. He wouldn't, of course. He wasn't very good at pickups. And he was smart enough to know this wasn't the place to do it even if he had been so inclined.
Those thoughts reminded him of how horny he was. Yes, he used his hand daily, but it wasn't the same. He needed to get laid.
After showering he did his weekly grocery shopping and other errands like getting his hair cut and going to the dry cleaners.
That afternoon he went home. It was a nice day, so he cut his parents' grass and edged the sidewalks, driveway, and flower borders. His mother maintained the beds of annuals and perennials, but his dad, who'd always done the other work, found it increasingly difficult with his arthritis. They'd said time and again that they could always call that nice Cromer boy and have him send someone over to do it.
The "Cromer boy" was a hunk. And he was nice. But Ray thought that it was the least he could do to help out with the yard work. His apartment was only twenty minutes away in Colby. No reason for his dad to pay anyone to do it.
When he was finished he took a shower and changed into the clean clothes he'd brought along. Since he had no other plans, he watched a Tigers game on TV with his father and stayed for supper when his mother pressed him.
Like many people their age, his parents ate early. So, stuffed with the brats Stonesifer senior had done on the backyard grill, potato salad, succulent garden peas his mother had picked up at a roadside stand, and strawberry shortcake, he took his leave at 7:00. They had asked him to come back for Sunday dinner, but he'd declined. Fortunately they didn't ask why. He had no reason.
When he got back to the apartment he was at loose ends. He switched on the TV, but the fare was terrible. Except for sports, there wasn't much use in having a television in the summertime. He went online, but his favorite gay story site hadn't done its weekend posting yet. He checked his email, but there was nothing there either. He didn't really have many on-line friends.
So, at 9:00, even though it was early for a Saturday night, he left the apartment and walked to Nellie's.
He'd lived in the Colby area all his life. He'd been coming to Nellie's since before he was old enough to buy a beer. He knew, by sight at least, a great many in the local gay community. That early-summer evening, however, most of the customers were people he either didn't recognize or didn't know well enough to speak to. Of course, many of the university regulars were gone for the summer, and some of the new faces, especially the younger ones, could belong to summer session students.
There were empty tables and booths, but he chose to sit at the bar.
"Hi, Ray. What'll it be?"
"Boston Lager, please," he said to Curly, the bartender. "Curly" because of his shiny bald head.
"Comin' right up."
After his beer arrived, Ray sat, people-watching, one of his favorite pastimes. He enjoyed inventing stories to go with the people, mostly men, scattered around the room. The two guys at the pool table in the back seemed all business. He suspected there was something important riding on the outcome of their play. Money, perhaps. Or who was going to top whom?
The four guys throwing darts, on the other hand, were noisy, taunting one another, enjoying themselves. And they'd obviously already had more than one drink.
Two women, not particularly butch-looking, were leaning toward each other in a booth having a serious conversation.
He was startled when someone slid onto the stool next to his and said, "Casin' the joint, copper?"
Turning, Ray recognized Bernie Caldwell. Probably a senior by now, the kid had shaggy, light-brown hair with blond highlights. He stood about 5'10" with eyes so blue he wondered if Caldwell had contacts. As usual, he wore expensive clothes. Nothing flashy. But you just knew that polo shirt and those khakis hadn't come from Target. Ray had seen him often at Nellie's cruising, usually leaving with someone.
"I might have expected to see you here. Looking for a victim?"
The young man grinned. Then he put a hand to his chest and pouted. "Moi? You wrong me, Officer Stonesifer."
He didn't correct the boy about his rank. "Maybe victim wasn't the right word. How about the guy du jour?"
Bernie chuckled. "Hey, what else is there to do in this town on a Saturday night in the summer? And the pickin's are friggin' slim, you know?"
"Tell me about it!" Ray was shocked that he'd said that. He'd more or less put himself on an even footing with the slutty undergraduate sitting next to him.
"Well, copper, we could console each other."
Bernie reached toward the hand Ray had wrapped around his beer bottle, but then withdrew it quickly. "Oops. I'd better not do that. You might have me on the floor pointing your piece at me." He'd emphasized piece slightly.
Ray couldn't help grinning. "I don't usually pack at times like this."
"Oh, Officer Stonesifer, I'll bet you're always packing a big piece. But I was referring to your backup, the one you keep in your sock."
"Not tonight. I'm not on duty so I'm unarmed."
"Except for your primary piece, that is."
A nice long tube seemed to be trying to escape the left leg of Bernie's khakis.
"You seem to be carrying a concealed weapon yourself this evening, Caldwell. Perhaps I should take you to the station."
"Oooh, and what would you do to me there, officer? A strip search, maybe? You never know what I could be concealing."
Ray knew the kid was, as he'd called him the last time he'd seen him in Nellie's, a slut. He was there regularly looking for some guy to pick up. Still, he was cute in a twinky sort of way. Nice ass. Apparently a big dick. And willing.
Ray sighed. He knew he might regret his decision later, but what the fuck?
"Maybe I should take you back to my place for that strip search. We'd not be bothered by all the drunks they'll be bringing in to the station later."
Bernie drank the last of his martini, set the glass on the bar, and said, "Oh, Officer, I know better than to resist The Law. Especially when The Law has red hair. I've got a special weakness for red pubes. How far is it to your place?"
Wondering whether he'd made a big mistake, Ray said, "We're within walking distance."
"I've got my car here. Don't want to leave it in Nellie's parking lot, so let's drive."
They made the short trip in Bernie's Yukon. Ray wondered why the kid would have such a macho car. Perhaps it was to help pick up butch guys?
When they got to his place, Ray asked, "Do you want a beer? Or something stronger?"
"Nah," Bernie replied, cupping Ray's balls, "Let's just fuck!"
Ray took him to the bedroom, where the younger man began to do a sensual striptease.
"You do want my bod, don't you, Ray?"
It was the first time Caldwell had called him by his first name. Which was appropriate, considering what they were about to do.
"Let's see it."
Ray, hard up and horny, became even more excited as he watched the removal of clothing and the gyration of Bernie's body. The detective had never been too much into the twink type, preferring more mature and hirsute men. But despite Bernie's having hair only in his pits and above his cock, Ray found himself aroused.
"Let's get you naked, too, copper," Bernie said, licking his lips and lowering his eyelids. He tugged Ray's polo shirt over his head. Casting it aside, he unbuckled Ray's belt, unbuttoned the waist of his khakis, and pulled down the zipper.
By the time Ray was without either pants or boxers, his dick was straining for the ceiling and dripping. He turned down his bed, bent over to get lube and latex from his night stand, and heard, "Showing me your cute ass won't make any difference, Officer. I'm a total bottom. Still . . ."
Ray felt a hand on his back, pushing him down on the bed. Then his legs were spread wide. After a moment's pause, his cheeks were pulled apart and he felt Bernie's breath on his butt crack.
"I've wanted to eat this ass since the first time I saw you." He proceeded to do just that, much to Ray's pleasure.
Bernie had said he was a bottom, but if he wanted to top, that would be okay with Ray. He was so desperate by that time he didn't care. "Whatever!" he said.
"God, I love your white skin. And the red curls around your hole. But I want to get at those pubes. Roll over."
Ray complied, his hard cock flapping against his lower abs.
"Oh, yeah. Nice!" Bernie said, nuzzling into Ray's red bush. When he was finished with that, he tore open a packet and put the condom on Ray's throbbing cock. Then, after applying lube to Ray and to himself, he climbed onto the bed and straddled Ray, lowering himself gradually onto the sheathed pole.
Ray closed his eyes and gave in to the sensations of a tight ass engulfing his cock. After a while, he didn't know how long, Bernie rolled them both over without dislodging Ray's member from its berth.
"Your turn to do the work, Officer Ray!"
He put his legs on Ray's shoulders and hunched his hips up onto Ray's dick. Ray took the hint and began pumping slowly in and out. When he looked down at Bernie, the younger man grinned back up at him.
"That's the idea. I think you may have done this before."
"What?" Ray asked, grinning back. "Did you think I was a virgin?"
"Well, I've seen you at Nellie's looking hopeful a lot. But this isn't a time to talk. Just shut up and fuck me, copper!"
When they were finished, Ray discarded the condom and went to the bathroom, where he wet a wash cloth with warm water. He took it back to the bedroom and cleaned up first Bernie, then himself. After returning the cloth to the bathroom, he climbed into bed. He was glad Bernie seemed willing to snuggle. But he was thinking of Spike as he drifted off to sleep.
What was that irritating noise? Ray was deep into someplace warm and cozy and he wanted to stay there. But the noise persisted. And persisted.
Somebody answer the fuckin' phone!
He rolled from his side to his back and opened his eyes. He was alone in the bed. Well of course he was. But he hadn't been. Where was Bernie? He looked toward the bathroom, but it was dark. He was alone. And the phone kept ringing.
"Stonesifer? This is Brawner at the station." Brawner was a uniformed sergeant.
"Oh, hi, Brawney. You got desk duty tonight?"
"Yeah. My lot in life, it seems. But look, that trailer we were surveiling blew up a while ago. Lt. Havers wants you there ASAP."
"What's wrong, Ray? You got somebody hot in bed with you?"
Not any more! "Tell the lieutenant I'll be there in half an hour."
To Be Continued
Emails encouraged at firstname.lastname@example.org Please put the title of the story in the subject line so I'll know it isn't spam. Thanks. --Tim