By Mark Peters
is a fictional story which contains scenes depicting sexual acts between
males of different ages.
all those who are reading this story on Nifty I encourage you to visit
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~ Chapter Twenty-Eight ~
Tom and Beth were already on the boat and waiting for us
when we finally made it back to them, and I'm sure
they could see that we were all in a foul mood when we
arrived there, after my having relayed the details of my
conversation with Helen to the others.
`Is everything okay?' Beth asked as I climbed on board. `What has happened?'
For a moment I didn't reply, instead watching the two boys go about the business of untying the boat from the jetty and clambering over the side themselves.
`Rick!' Beth said firmly. `What did they do?'
How the fuck was I going to tell them that the man who had murdered their son had actually been in custody, but had been released?
`Don't worry, it wasn't anything the boys have done, Beth,' Adam said to her.
`I had a call from Helen,' I said, finally having snapped out of the daze I seemed to have been in.
`What about?' Tom asked.
`Corcoran. He was picked up last night for questioning over his involvement with Jarvis' operation,' I said.
`Oh my god!' Beth gasped, while grabbing hold of Tom's arm as she did so.
`Then why the long faces? Why do I sense a "but" coming on?' Tom asked.
`Because he was released without charge this morning,' I replied as calmly as I could, despite the fact I was still seething inside. `He's now going under the name of Cochran, and the officers who interviewed him weren't aware of the connection with Martin's death.'
`But why was he released? Why wasn't he charged over being involved with Jarvis?' Tom demanded.
`He was only picked up for questioning. They didn't have any evidence to charge him with anything at that point,' I replied.
`But what about that other boy . . . Casey, wasn't it? Surely he could identify him and tell them what he was doing?' Beth sniffed. `And what about the photo you sent them and him stalking you, and going to your place this morning and talking with the boy next door?'
`That all happened after he was released, Beth. They now have the evidence they need, as Casey has confirmed everything and given another statement, but at that point it was all too late to do us any good.'
Helplessly I watched Beth turn to Tom and be embraced by him, snuggling into his chest as his arms wrapped around her and held her tight. Tom stared at me, grim faced, as Beth's quiet sobs seemed to fill the air around us. For a moment I was fearful that they wouldn't understand the situation, and that they might in fact blame me for what happened, but when I saw Tom give me a slight nod, I knew that he understood what had gone on and why Corcoran had been released; not that that was any great comfort to any of us right now.
Turning away from them, giving them some space and time to deal with this in their own way, I found Adam and Jimmy and Shane all looking my way. They all knew that this wasn't something that would be easy for Tom and Beth to deal with and so they remained silent. I knew that we needed to do something, however, as at least that way we might be able to avoid any awkwardness around Tom and Beth, so I figured it was time we set sail once more.
`All right you lot,' I said to them quietly, after first confirming that everything from lunch had ben safely stowed away. `How about we get this show on the road? Boys, will you raise the jib and we'll point her towards home.'
There were no aye aye skipper calls this time. The boys both nodded and set about their task, quickly raising the jib and securing the lines. Almost immediately we felt the boat moving beneath us as we slowly edged forward, bumping along the tyres on the jetty and scattering a small flock of seagulls in the process, which had been bobbing on the water around us, no doubt hopeful of some food scraps being thrown their way.
As Tom helped Beth inside the cabin I spun the wheel and pointed the boat away from the jetty, just as a whiff of breeze seemed to fill the sail and take us forward. Jimmy and Shane quickly had the mainsail unfastened and ready for raising and within minutes of my giving them the nod the sail was in place and being secured, as we gained speed, easily cutting through the water and heading for home.
Adam had kept out of the way while we were setting sail, but once we were underway he came and sat down close beside me, with our legs and shoulders rubbing together, getting quite cosy.
`I'm sad that today got cut short,' he said, as he looked up toward where Jimmy and Shane were standing at the bow of the boat, hanging onto the mainstay and with Jimmy leaning into wind, arms outspread and laughing. `But I'm so glad we came out here today. I've enjoyed watching you and the boys in action . . . you're so at home here, and they seem to be fitting right in as well.'
`You noticed, huh?' I replied. `I can't tell you how much I've missed days like this, and of course, having someone to share it with.'
`Well, hopefully there will be many more of them,' Adam declared.
`Yeah, I think I'd like that,' I responded.
`And speaking of the future . . .' Adam ventured. `Have you thought yet about what we're going to do when we get back to the city? I mean, as far as the two of us?'
`Well, I was kind of hoping I could move in with you at some stage . . . but if you don't want . . .' I started to say, only to have him immediately cut me short.
`Of course I want you to, you fool!' he blurted out. `And the sooner the bloody-well-better, I say.'
`It'll take me a little while to get things packed up and give the real estate agent notice that I'll be leaving my apartment.'
`That doesn't matter,' Adam said excitedly. `We can do all that over the next few weeks. Of course, I'll need to rearrange things at my place to fit your stuff in . . .'
`There won't be much,' I promised him. `My biggest worry will be getting all this crap with Jarvis and Corcoran out of the way . . . and Mardi Gras is next weekend, so that'll be bound to cause a few disruptions, but after that it's all clear sailing ahead,' I added.
* * *
I felt for certain that what we were doing, getting the boys out of the city and away from the environment they had been in, was the right thing to do, and could only hope that we would also be able to do the same for Casey and any of the other lads who had been trapped by Jarvis. It pained me, though, that I was going to have to leave Jimmy and Shane here, just when I was really only beginning to get to know them both.
Still, having extracted promises from Jimmy and Shane that they would be on their best behavior, both Adam and I felt comfortable leaving, knowing that not only would the boys hold up their end of the bargain, they would also be in good hands with their new guardians. As for Adam and me, we both knew that there would be a challenging week ahead of us, and that heading back to Sydney to face the trouble we both knew was brewing was the only thing we could do.
It was mid-afternoon when we finally pulled out from Tom and Beth's home and pointed Adam's car south, after saying our farewells in their back yard where Adam had left his car overnight.
`Drive carefully,' Beth had said to Adam, before adding, `and you make sure you look after this boy for us, won't you?'
`Yes Ma'am,' Adam replied. `I fully intend to.'
Tom had said his goodbyes as well, then the boys hugged us both, before Adam put the roof down and we climbed into the car. Adam started it up and backed out of the yard, then we were off, with Beth and the boys were still waving while we followed the track behind the row of backyards and we turned the corner at the end and started toward the main road.
`Are you sure you want to do this tonight?' Adam asked as we stopped and waited for traffic to pass.
After just a few moments thought I said, `I'd really love to stay . . . but I just can't. We've got to get this bastard and I can't do that from up here . . . and besides, there's Brad and Nick to worry about as well now.'
`It's your call, babe.'
`C'mon, let's hit the road. It'll be bad enough us stopping to meet up with Stacey and her family . . . not that I mind, but it's going to slow us down a bit.'
`We'll be back in Sydney in plenty of time, so just relax. Now, where are we meeting Stacey?'
`There's a roadside service area with a diner, a couple of restaurants and a fuel station just near where all the freeways converge. They only live five minutes away, so I just have to call them once we get there.'
`Great. Let's hit the road then,' he said, as we pulled out into the light Saturday afternoon traffic.
Just a few minutes later we passed the cemetery and I couldn't help but take a look as we did so, knowing full well that even though my life was on the verge of having major changes taking place, a part of me would always cling to the memories of those I was leaving behind.
It was only when I felt the touch of Adam's hand on my knee I was snapped back to the present and turned to find him looking my way.
`We'll be back before you know it,' he promised.
`Yeah, I know it. It's just . . .'
`Rick, you don't have to say anything,' he said, as he reached for my hand. `I know you won't ever forget them . . . and I don't want you to forget them. But just remember that you've got your own life to live now, and that you have people in the here and now who love you. So while you need to remember your past, you also need to think of the present and the future, because no matter what happens over the next week, or however long it takes to wrap this up, you'll still have a lot of living to do after Corcoran has been caught and put away.'
For a long time I simply looked at him, as he repeatedly switched his gaze from me to the road and back again.
He was right, of course.
When I rolled my hand over, allowing our fingers to intertwine, he looked back at me and smiled. `It's going to be okay,' he said.
`With you here with me, I just know it will,' I replied, before lifting his hand and kissing it. `Thank you.'
`Anytime, Detective Cooper. Anytime at all. Now, whereabouts is this place we're meeting your family?'
`You just keep driving and I'll tell you which way to go,' I replied.
* * *
It was only about twenty-five minutes later when we pulled into the service centre, which was located right where the main roadways seemed to converge. The main coastal highway between Sydney and Brisbane went straight through the middle, while being joined by the New England Highway which headed inland and north. The remaining roadway led directly into the centre of Newcastle.
After pulling into a parking space shaded by a large eucalyptus tree I dialed Stacey's number. She picked up on the second ring.
`Are you already there?' she said, after I had said hello.
`Ready and waiting,' I replied.
`We'll be there in five minutes. What sort of car are you in?'
`A red BMW convertible,' I answered. `You won't be able to miss us. We're parked near the road and beneath a big gum tree.'
`We're on our way.'
While we were waiting we decided to wander over to the service station and grab a couple of drinks and snacks for the trip home. I also noticed some stuffed toys and other items, mostly aimed at tourists, but amongst them I found a stuffed tiger that looked quite cute.
`What do you think?' I asked Adam, holding it for him to see, and giving it a little jiggle.
`Did somebody lose their teddy-bear?' he cheekily teased.
`It's for Matthew, asshole!'
`I'm sure he'll love it,' he replied.
After paying for my purchases we walked back out to the car, arriving just as an older model white Ford pulled up beside us, with two people in the front and a child sitting in a booster seat in the back.
As I passed the bag of goodies to Adam, I realised that this must indeed be them, with my heart skipping a beat as I did so.
I don't quite know what I was expecting to see, but the two people who climbed out of the car definitely weren't it. I remembered Stacey as a skinny, dark-haired girl who always used to wear almost shabby clothes . . . in the eyes of many we were trailer-trash, as I recall, and we always seemed to fit that image.
The woman who now stood before me was far from that. It was unmistakably Stacey, but she had transformed herself into a stylish woman, now in her mid-twenties and with a glow about her which suited her. She was still slim, and had the same dark hair, which was now cut and styled, but the skanky trailer-trash look was long gone.
`Hello, Rick,' she said, as she closed the door of the car and came toward me. `It's been a long time, little brother.'
I stepped forward and met her, kissing her cheek and embracing her. For a long time we simply held each other, not saying a word, until eventually she pushed off me and held me at arms-length, looking me up and down.
`It doesn't look like I should be calling you my little brother any more,' she said.
She was right in some respects. I was now taller than her, and I was no longer the skinny kid that I had been back then either, but she would always be my older sister.
While we had been embracing each other I noticed that her husband had retrieved their son from the back seat of the car, and had come around to stand beside Stacey, nursing the boy on his hip while switching his gaze from me to Adam and then to the car.
Chris was one hell of a good looking guy, with short, dark blonde hair, deep blue eyes and a footballer's solid build, while the cutie that he was nursing was almost a dead ringer for him, except that his hair was much lighter and with what seemed to be an almost ginger tinge to it. The boy was wearing a kid size blue and red Newcastle Knights football jersey and looking at me rather warily with his big blue eyes from behind a long fringe.
`Now, I guess we had better do some introductions,' Stacey suggested. `Rick, this is my husband, Chris Price, and this little terror here,' she said, while reaching for her son, `is your nephew, Matthew.'
Once he had handed Matthew off to Stacey, Chris turned to me and reached out his hand. `It's good to meet you,' he said to me, before adding, `Flash car.'
`It's not mine,' I replied. `And it's good to meet you too,' I added as I shook his hand. His grip was firm and he looked me directly in the eye when he was talking to me. I immediately liked the guy. I then turned toward Matthew and attempted to pat his head, but the kid turned away from me, cuddling back into his mother.
Hearing a rustling sound beside me I turned to see Adam pulling the stuffed tiger from the plastic shopping bag and pass it to me, which I held up for Matthew to see.
`Look, Matthew,' my sister said to him. `Uncle Rick has got a present for you.'
That seemed to do the trick, as he faced me once more, with his eyes lighting up when he saw the toy.
`Hello, Matthew. I bought you a present. Do you like him?' I asked. The smile and the nod of the head told me all I needed to know, as he reached out for the tiger and I handed him over. It was only then that I realised I still hadn't introduced Adam, and so I grabbed him by the elbow and dragged him forward, from where he had been standing just behind me. `Guys, this is Adam Bennett, my partner,' I said. `Adam, this is my sister Stacey, and her husband Chris.'
For a moment both Stacey and Chris looked a little unsure of themselves, almost as if they didn't quite know what to do when being introduced to a gay man for the first time, but Stacey soon stepped forward, giving Adam a kiss on the cheek, while Chris reached out and shook his hand. It seemed like my sister had indeed come a long way since she had rejected her gay brother all those years ago.
`Why don't we head into the diner and sit down and catch up over a coffee or something?' Stacey suggested.
`That's a great idea,' I replied. `Although we do need to get back to Sydney before it's too late, so we're not going to be able to stay for too long.'
`That's alright, Chris has to go to work this afternoon as well . . . he works in the coal mines in the upper Hunter Valley and spends ten days on and ten days off, travelling back and forth at the start and end of each shift.'
Together we crossed the car park and headed for the diner that was attached to the service station, finding the tables almost empty when we went inside, although there were a few customers waiting at the counter.
We took a table near the window and sat ourselves down, while little Matthew decided he wasn't interested in sitting on a chair, preferring the black and white checked linoleum floor instead, while continuing to play with the tiger.
`Motherhood suits you,' I said to Stacey as we made ourselves comfortable. `You're certainly looking great.'
`Thank you. A bit different from the high school skank you remember, eh?'
`I wasn't going to say that.'
`Well, you mightn't have been going to say it . . . but it's true. I'm not the same person I was back then, Rick. I was so . . . I don't know . . . pissed off with the world, I guess . . . living in a dump of a caravan park . . . getting picked on by the other kids at school for being trailer trash . . . and then finding out I had a gay brother . . . that was just the end of it for me . . . especially when it came to facing my so-called friends.'
`I'm sorry you felt that way,' I said quietly. For a moment I found myself wondering if I had done the right thing in even agreeing to meet with Stacey, but when Adam and I exchanged glances and he reached across under the table and took my hand, I found the reassurance I needed.
`You shouldn't be,' Stacey said firmly. `The problem was me, not you! I didn't realise it until much later, but you were the only one in our family who actually knew who he was and what he wanted out of life . . . and it wasn't until I had come to that conclusion that I finally managed to figure it all out for myself.
`I'm so sorry for the way I treated you back then . . . especially after mum had died. You needed someone . . . we both did . . . but I was too stubborn, or too filled with anger, or too blind to see it.'
`You weren't to blame,' I offered. `We weren't exactly given the best example to follow, were we?'
`No, that's true, I suppose.'
`Have you ever heard anything from the old man, or anything about him?' I asked.
`No. He's long gone and forgotten about, at least as far as I'm concerned,' she replied.
`Yeah . . . I feel the same way.'
`I didn't ever tell you, but there was also another reason why I hated you back then,' she added.
`Yeah. It's a bit embarrassing to say it now, but I was jealous of you,' she revealed.
`You had what I desperately wanted, but couldn't ever find . . .'
`Which was?' I enquired.
`You had someone to love you,' she replied. `I was jealous of what you had with Martin . . . even if I hated the fact you were with a guy.'
`Well, if it's any consolation, I hated you too,' I laughed.
`And so you should have,' she replied, just as a waitress came over and asked if we wanted to order anything.
I turned to Adam and he said he could go a coffee, which Stacey and Chris also agreed would be good, so I ordered four cappuccinos, while Stacey added a milk shake for Matthew and a serving of hot chips, which would at least help to keep Matthew occupied.
`So, what is it that has brought you back after all this time?' she asked, once the waitress had left us.
`Well, it's kind of a long story,' I replied, before then starting to relate the events of the past week to them and how I come about finding shelter for two wayward kids, while also nearing closure with Martin's murder.
They listened intently, showing their surprise at how I had become involved in the case, yet clearly disgusted by what had taken place.
`I think I heard something on the radio this morning about that guy in Sydney,' Chris said. `Aren't there some crooked cops involved in it as well?'
`Yeah, right up to their eye-balls,' I replied. `They've arrested a couple of them, but their boss is the one who I really want to see locked up, especially after hearing first hand what he used to do to one kid, who we've also just managed to hide away.'
`Do you think that they will arrest him too then?' Stacey asked.
`It's only a matter of time. We just have to make sure we dot the I's and cross our T's and have everything watertight before we move on him. We're almost there, so it won't be long now.'
`And I can't believe it was Mr Corcoran who killed Martin. You're going to catch him too, aren't you?'
I didn't mention anything about him having been in custody and let go, I was still having enough difficulty in dealing with that myself, nor did I say anything about him approaching my neighbour's two boys, instead I simply replied, `We're doing everything we can to get the bastard and it'll only be a matter of time.'
It was around then that the waitress brought out our order, with Matthew quickly standing up and climbing up onto his mother's lap at the mention of there being hot chips on the table.
I had to laugh when Stacey handed him one of the tasty morsels and he found it too hot. He ended up tossing it from hand to hand and blowing on it until he was finally satisfied that it was okay to eat. I could remember doing the exact same thing when I was a kid as well.
For the next hour we let the past five years fall by the wayside, chatting about what we had been doing since, finding out a little about the people we were both with and how we had met, and marveling at how much my nephew could eat.
Before we knew it I found that it was approaching five o'clock and the day was rapidly escaping us. Adam and I still had around a three hour drive back to Sydney, which meant it would be after dark when we got there, so I wanted to try and get going as soon as I could.
Thankfully it was Stacey who suggested that we wind things up, at least for now, as Chris needed to get away for his job also. As much as I had enjoyed the afternoon and had been grateful for the chance to catch up with her and meet my nephew, there were things that still needed to be done so I was also grateful for the chance to be able to get back on the road before it got too late.
We said our goodbyes in the car park a few minutes later, with hugs and kisses and handshakes all round, along with promises of catching up again soon. I even scored a cuddle from Matthew, who was still clutching his new friend, now apparently named Tigga, before his mother took him and strapped him into the booster seat in the back of the car then gave me one last peck on the cheek, before climbing into the front passenger seat herself.
Chris started the car and backed it out of the parking space, then with one final wave they pulled out onto the road and headed for home.
We watched until they had disappeared from view, before Adam turned to me and asked, `That went well, don't you think?'
`Yeah,' I replied. `I'm glad that we took some time out to meet up with them.'
* * *
The trip back to into Sydney went by quite quickly, with the traffic being surprisingly light for a late afternoon on a Saturday. We drove with the top down, as it was quite warm, and the feeling of cruising along with the wind in my hair was simply exhilarating. All I needed now were some Beach Boys tunes playing on the radio.
Before we knew it we were descending Mount White and approaching the massive bridge over the Hawkesbury River once again. Not too far now, and with the sun beginning to disappear behind the ranges, seeing the river and surrounds bathed in a deep gold, with light being reflected from every shiny surface around the waterway, it was truly something to behold. Darkness wasn't far away, however, and I knew that once we climbed the rise on the far side of the bridge and passed between the cuttings where the freeway took us, the night would soon envelop us.
`Won't be long now,' Adam said, as he looked across and noticed me yawning.
`Yeah. In some respects I'll actually be glad to get back . . . it's been a big couple of days,' I replied.
`Hmmm . . .' he mused. `And bigger days to follow, quite likely.'
`You're not wrong there, babe,' I sighed, fully aware of the hurdles that were about to present themselves to me, and those I worked with.
As we drove on and the darkness began to settle around us, I started going over things in my mind, soon realising the enormity of what we were faced with. Aside from trying to find Corcoran, which was going to be something akin to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, we were still faced with trying to uncover the necessary corroborative evidence to finally put away the remaining players in Jarvis' operation, and that included Deputy Commissioner Barrett.
It was possible, of course, that Barrett's goons – Azzopardi and Ryan – may roll over on him, but we couldn't rely on that happening. They would be tough nuts to crack, I figured, so we needed something else, and the only thing that I could think of that would help us achieve that goal was to be able to round up some of the other boys and obtain statements from them; assuming of course that they hadn't all pissed off out of Sydney already, which was also quite on the cards.
Glancing across at Adam I could see him concentrating on the road, so I let my head fall back against the headrest, while studying the changing skies ahead.
After that I must have fallen asleep, as the next thing I knew it was totally dark and we were approaching the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The city was awash in colour, just as it always is at night, with buildings festooned with brightly lit signs and light reflecting from the water. It was a sight I never tired of.
`I'm glad you've decided to rejoin us,' Adam said as we crossed onto the bridge amidst a line of traffic. `Did you enjoy your little sleep?'
`I'd probably still be asleep if it wasn't for your driving,' I teased.
`And I probably would be too if it wasn't for your snoring,' he quickly countered.
`I'll remember that!' he laughed.
From a car you can barely ever see any of the harbour once you are on the bridge, due to the sides on the damn thing, but at least at night you can see some of the lights around the foreshores, then the high rise buildings of the city and the distant rows of houses on the far shores. Occasionally you can see the superstructure of some passenger liner or freighter as it approaches and then passes under the bridge. I guess if you are sitting in the cabin of a truck you might be able to see a bit more, but from where I sat now, in Adam's low-slung sporty machine there wasn't much I could see tonight.
`So, what do you want to do tonight?' Adam asked as we neared the end of the bridge. `Your place, or mine?'
`Mine, if you don't mind. I'd really like to check on Nick and Brad, and talk to their mother. Hopefully I can persuade her to take them away somewhere for a few days.'
`And if she can't . . . or won't . . . do that?'
`Your guess is as good as mine,' I grimly replied.
`I'm sure we'll think of something.'
`Let's hope so . . . and let's hope we're not too late as well . . .'
We had a pretty clear run once we left the bridge and headed south towards my apartment in Maroubra, with most of the traffic seemingly heading into the city rather than out of it, and before long we were pulling into my allocated, though seldom used, parking space.
I had looked around as we had pulled into the driveway, to see if I could spot the minders assigned to watch the apartment, but they were either gone, or well concealed.
`Home, sweet home, eh?' Adam said as he switched off the ignition and looked across at me.
`Well, to be honest, I've actually never been able to call this place home,' I replied.
`And it won't be long before you won't ever need to again,' he added, with a grin.
`No. And I think I'm beginning to like the sound of that,' I replied, as I leaned over and gave him a quick kiss. `C'mon, let's get upstairs. I want to check on the boys and then find something to eat.'
`You go. Just let me put the top up and I'll be right with you,' Adam announced.
`Okay, but don't take too long,' I remarked.
`Not a chance.'
After picking up my carry-all I left him there and started making my way up the stairwell toward my apartment. The lights, which were motion activated, obligingly came on and it wasn't long before I found myself arriving at the landing which was shared with the apartment in which Nick and Brad lived with their mother. Reaching into my pocket I brought out my keys, fumbling with them slightly and making a noise as I sorted through them, looking for the right one for the door. In a flash the neighbouring door was opened, to reveal the boys' mother, looking slightly worried.
`Oh, it's you, Rick. I thought it might have been Nick coming home,' she said. `He's been out all day and I haven't been able to get hold of him . . . he's not answering his phone.'
She was a woman in her mid-thirties, with straw coloured hair and tanned skin. It wasn't difficult to see where the boys got their genes from.
`What do you mean? Didn't he tell you where he was going?' I asked, immediately on edge.
`You know them boys . . . always off somewhere . . .'
`But they usually tell you what they're doing though, right?' I asked her, before quickly adding, `Where's Brad?'
`At a friend's house for the weekend. He left after lunch today.'
Shit, I thought.
`Nick rang me this morning. I'll give his phone a try, if you like.'
`Thank you. Maybe he's just ignoring my number?'
Silently I hoped that was the case, but the twitch in my guts filled me with foreboding.
Pulling my phone from my pocket I hit the speed dial button and it wasn't long before I could hear the rings at the other end.
One ring . . . two rings . . . three rings . . .
Eventually, on the fifth ring, it was answered.
`Hey, Coop!' Nick said, but in a hushed whisper, which immediately had me wary.
`Nick, where the fuck are you?' I demanded. `Mate, you've got people worried sick about you.'
I had wanted to yell at him, but thought better of it. Teenagers can be temperamental enough without adding resentment into the mix.
`I'm watching that guy. You know, the one from this morning.'
`You're what? Where the hell are you?'
`I'm down near the beach. He's been hanging around here all day. It's almost like he's waiting for something.'
Or someone, I thought.
`Jesus, Nick. Just stay there, will you. And for
Christ sake, stay out of sight. We're on our way.'
|To be continued...|
(c) 2015 Mark